Propel Morning Briefing Mast Head CPL Learning Link Paul's Twitter Link Greene King Banner
Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 2nd Mar 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pret A Manger to give staff third pay rise in 12 months: Pret A Manger has announced a third pay rise in 12 months for its 7,870 UK shop staff, which it said would further support its workforce amid the high cost of living. From 1 April 2023, team members, baristas and shop managers will receive an additional 3% pay increase, on top of the 5% increase that came into force in December 2022. Average base pay for shop staff will increase by 19% in the year to April, while average entry level pay will have increased by 15% year on year to above £12, including the brand’s Mystery Shopper Bonus, which is above the UK National Living Wage and inflation. The latest pay increase will be applied to shop employees irrespective of age, although some differences may apply depending on role, experience, and location. The company said that team members will see a pay increase from between £10.30 and £11.55 per hour to between £10.60 and £11.90 per hour depending on location, or between £11.85 and £13.15 per hour with Mystery Shopper Bonus. At the same time, baristas pay will increase from between £10.85 and £12.50 per hour to between £11.20 and £12.85, depending on location and experience, or between £12.45 - £14.10 per hour with Mystery Shopper Bonus. The company said that it has also launched a new discounts portal, which provides staff with access to fresh food and other essential items from major supermarkets and other businesses at a lower cost. This new portal builds on Pret’s existing benefits package, which includes free food and drink while on shift (including breakfast and lunch) and a 50% discount for all staff otherwise. Guy Meakin, interim managing director at Pret A Manger UK & Ireland, said: “We’re proud to be making another significant investment in our people’s success and wellbeing. Whether it’s paying above the National Minimum Wage, providing career development opportunities, or leading the industry on Barista pay we’re committed to making Pret a rewarding and supportive place to work for all our teams and paying the best we can afford to. Our people work incredibly hard to make Pret such a well-loved place on the high street, and we wanted to thank them for their continued energy and commitment. As the cost of living continues to rise, we hope this latest increase in pay, and our expanded benefits package, goes some way in providing further support for our hard working teams.”

Industry News:

Black Rock Restaurant Group founder Razak Helalat to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Razak Helalat, founder of Black Rock Restaurant Group, will be among the speakers at the first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023. The conference takes place on Thursday, 23 March, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “challenges and opportunities”. Helalat will discuss how the Coal Shed and Burnt Orange operator oversees a number of different concepts across two cities, the ideas behind the company’s diverse offer and where it goes from here. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing

One day to go before the next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details on 165 new sites, 8,000-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 165 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published tomorrow (Friday, 3 March), at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features growing restaurant and bar brands, niche cuisine, and expanding experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 8,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from group editor Mark Wingett.

Strong fourth quarter for contract catering but sales still lag pre-covid levels: Contract caterers’ sales grew in the fourth quarter of 2022 thanks to a covid-free Christmas and a steady return to workplaces but trading remains below pre- pandemic levels. The latest Contract Catering Tracker from CGA by NielsenIQ and Bidfood reveals that sales from October to December 2022 were 27% higher than in the same quarter of 2021, when caterers were impacted by growing concerns about the Omicron variant of covid-19. Caterers’ sales in the private sector were up 32% year-on-year as more people switched back from home-based working to offices. However, sales in the last quarter of 2022 were 7% below the equivalent period in 2019, when businesses were trading as normal. After adjustments for inflation, sales are significantly further behind the levels of three years ago in real terms. The number of outlets served by contract caterers has fallen by about 14% since late 2019. The Tracker shows signs that contract caterers’ sales are gradually returning towards pre-covid levels. The three-year comparison of -7% represents the smallest shortfall of sales of all four quarters of 2022, but rising costs for businesses and consumers mean trading conditions will remain difficult in 2023. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Contract caterers have battled back well from the havoc of covid-19 and lockdowns, and sales have steadily grown since the end of restrictions. But sales and margins are now under intense pressure from the soaring energy and food costs that face both caterers and the places they serve. Real-terms growth will be difficult in 2023, and all businesses will be hoping for respite on inflation as the year goes on.” Debra Morrell, business development controller at Bidfood, said: “It’s good to see that on the face of it, the sector is creeping back towards its pre-covid-19 levels, although we believe value sales (due to inflation) may mask the true picture in terms of meals served. It’s also difficult to factor in the difference that train strikes, the cold weather and the cost-of-living crisis may have had on this quarter’s results. We are certainly seeing operators respond proactively through innovation in terms of exciting concepts, and social or sharing offers to encourage uptake and spend. With the right offer, there is always opportunity to compete with the high street.”

February like-for-likes show little growth: February sales in hospitality showed little growth as year-on-year increases sat at 1.6%, despite low 2022 statistics that were affected by Omicron, according to data from S4labour, the people, productivity and payroll system. It said like-for-like growth has slowed significantly throughout 2023 so far. December 2022 saw an increase of 17%, followed by 4.1% in January and 1.6% in February. The research also shows that there was a slight increase in the proportion of sites trading seven days a week this year compared to last year. Richard Hartley, chief growth operator at S4labour, said: “It’s concerning to see little growth despite high rises in prices, indicating that volumes are down as consumer confidence continues to come under strain.”

UKHospitality – record employment figures show hospitality’s growth potential: Sector trade association UKHospitality has highlighted the significant job creation taking place in the industry and its potential to go even further. It said a record 2.6 million people are now employed in accommodation and food service, with the sector creating one in five new jobs, all despite crippling vacancies and staff shortages. Speaking at the association’s inaugural Workforce and Skills Seminar, attended by Kevin Hollinrake MP, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Business and Trade, chief executive Kate Nicholls said that even with vacancies 64% higher than pre-pandemic levels, the sector continues to offer employment opportunities for all. She said hospitality can continue its strong record on employment with the right action at the spring Budget. UKHospitality is asking the chancellor to reform the apprenticeship levy to enable funding to be used for other forms of training and to change its operation to offer greater flexibility; and implement minor, short-term immigration reforms to counter the sales being lost due to labour shortages. Nicholls said: “The ability of hospitality businesses to create more than 20% of new jobs in the past year, in the face of extraordinary cost pressures, is testament to its resilience and ability to battle against the odds. Employing a record number of people is something we should all be proud of, especially when those figures don’t include the hundreds of thousands employed in broader contract catering, leisure and visitor attractions. If we can do this now, just think what we can do in calmer economic times. We can be the engine behind significant job creation and economic growth, offering everyone opportunities to enter the workplace, further their career or return from being economically inactive. I’m pleased that we have the hospitality minister joining us today, and I hope he leaves convinced that if the government helps our sector in the Budget, it will be empowering a sector that is ready to deliver many times over for the nation.” The day coincided with Hollinrake issuing an update to the government’s Hospitality Strategy, which launched in 2021 to help the sector’s post-covid recovery. Nicholls added: “The Hospitality Strategy was a seismic shift in the way government sees hospitality, as was the development of a minister with specific responsibility for the sector. This update shows the substantial progress that has already been made in the sector’s recovery and towards a more resilient future, despite the massive external shocks we have faced. The work following the publication of the strategy shows the clear value in government working together with industry on key issues within the sector, but there is still more to do to meet our mutual objectives.”

Restaurants and bars in northern cities leading hospitality resurgence amid big challenges: Cities in the north of England are leading the resurgence of the UK hospitality market despite the impacts of multiple challenges including covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, according to new research. The “State of the North” research from Northern Restaurant & Bar and CGA by NielsenIQ reveals restaurant and bar sales growth since 2019 has been ahead of the British average of 4.1% in most key northern cities. York claimed the top spot in the north, with average sales per venue in the city 16.0% higher in 2022 than in 2019, and growth in Newcastle (14.2%), Chester (10.5%) and Manchester (6.9%), also outstripped most cities – including London, where sales dropped by 6.5% versus 2019. The new CGA Outlet Index data also shows the resilience of the sector in northern cities. While there has been a net decline of 15.8% in the number of restaurants and bars in Britain since 2019, the drop has been less than half of that in northern cities, with Liverpool affected the least (minus 2.4%), followed by Newcastle (minus 5.8%), Chester (minus 5.8%), Manchester (minus 6.3%) and Sheffield (minus 7.9%). London, by contrast, has seen a net decline of 17.7% of pre-covid licensed premises. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, added: “These figures emphasise the strength of the restaurant, pub and bar scene in the north of England. Businesses here have dealt superbly with the triple whammy of covid-19 restrictions, high inflation and rail strikes, and consumers clearly remain as attracted to venues as ever, despite the pressure on their disposable incomes.” Chris Brazier, group event director of Northern Restaurant & Bar, added: “While challenges remain, it’s encouraging to see operators being innovative and looking to the future. It offers a much needed burst of positivity to see so many new concepts, sites and launches, and to see discerning but happy consumers flooding through the doors.” 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury hotel group in London looking for a cluster hotel general manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will be responsible for all day-to-day operations, business performance, and lead the management team to continuously improve quality, efficiency, and profitability of two hotels. Working within the group matrix structure, the role will also work collaboratively with the functional support areas of reservations, procurement and development, and sales and account management. You will ensure the business is adequately resourced, that company standards and reporting are met, and all legal and regulatory matters are complied with.” The salary is up to £150,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Scottish bagel brand planning global growth through franchising, launches immersive hotel experience: Scottish bagel brand Bross Bagels is planning global growth through franchising and has launched an immersive hotel experience. Founded by Canada-born Larah Bross in 2017, Bross Bagels has four sites, all based in Edinburgh. “We have a couple of new company stores in the pipeline, which will be both inside and outside of Scotland,” Bross, who came to Edinburgh in 2006 after meeting her Scottish partner while travelling, told Propel. “We’re also hoping for global expansion through franchising. There’s no real global bagel brand, so we see that as a real opportunity for us. We also have a dark kitchens deal with Sessions and will be doing pop-ups around the UK. I come from Montreal, where bagels are famous. They often get overlooked by New York bagels, but Montreal-style ones are different in shape and process. For me, Montreal will always be the best place for bagels, but we’re hoping Edinburgh becomes a close second!” Bross has also launched a “HOLEtel” in the premises above her Portobello site, which is also the brand headquarters, and is expecting to welcome her first guests next month. Guests will take part in a series of immersive experiences such as learning how to make bagels, bespoke bonfire dinners on the beach, theatre tickets and VIP tables at the Casablanca Cocktail Club. Bross said: “It will be a cool package for people coming to the city, but it’s aimed at the influencer/foodie market, with bookings by application only. We’ve had a lot of requests and are just going through them now. Bross Bagels has always been about sharing my passion with others, but the HOLEtel is taking it to the next level, offering up an opportunity to not only experience the ‘hole’ of Bross Bagels, but a unique weekend in the city I love.” Bross Bagels has also used a “ShareHOLErs” campaign to raise funds in the past, offering members, for a one-off £1,000 fee, a package including an annual £100 in vouchers, an experience voucher for two, invites to events, discount offers and money fully refunded in four years. “We ran it for two years and got 130 shareholders signed up, which helped us get a lot of our bakery equipment,” Bross added.

Morgan – Banana Tree acquisition performing well: Alan Morgan, chief executive of Big Table Group, the Las Iguanas and Bella Italia operator, has told Propel that Banana Tree, the nine-strong fast-casual pan-Asian brand which the business acquired last September, “is performing well”, and the company is “excited about the new sites” set to open under the concept. As previously revealed by Propel, Big Table Group has lined up four Café Rouge sites to be converted to the Banana Tree brand. The first site to be converted will be the ex-Café Rouge site in Wellington Street, Covent Garden. This will be followed by the Café Rouges at the O2 Arena, and then sites Reigate and Haywards Heath. Morgan said: “Banana Tree is performing well and in line with what we expected when we purchased it. Anne and the team have fitted in brilliantly with the wider Big Table team and we are excited about the new sites we are opening soon.” Morgan was speaking after Banana Tree posted a record turnover of £13,551,895 in the year to 30 April 2022 (2021: £7,983,034). Adjusted Ebitda for the year grew by 81% to £2,214,722 (2021: £1,220,660), while restaurant Ebitda grew by 64% to £2.856,322 (2021: £1,738,105). Pre-tax profit stood at £1,508,598 (2021: £1,152,171). Banana Tree said: “Delivery sales progressively decreased during the year since the height of lockdown but stabilised at a level 66% higher than pre-pandemic. The increase in eat-in sales, however, more than compensated the delivery sales reduction, which materialised into a record turnover for the company. As a result of this performance, the business continued to use its own funds for its operating expenses and generated surplus cash flow. It therefore didn’t need to use the £1m CBILS facility it had received in 2020 and started repayment of the loan in September 2021. Outstanding total bank debt at year-end was £883,333 (2021: £1,000,000). Following the long period of uncertainty that spanned the covid pandemic years, Banana Tree has, therefore, emerged from the crisis as a strong performer, cementing its credential as a robust and nimble business, apt at tackling threats and taking advantage of opportunities in an ever-challenging sector.” In July 2022, Banana Tree repaid NatWest the remaining balance on the CBILS Loan given available cash and improved trading performance. It added: “This enabled the business to become debt free and to avoid the impact of the upcoming interest rates rises.”

Wendy’s plans to have 45 UK sites by the end of 2023, signs master franchise agreement in India: Todd Penegor, chief executive of Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, has said he expects the brand to have 45 sites in the UK by the end of this year. On its plans for expansion in Europe, Penegor said that the business intends to “lean in on our strong start in the region by continuing to grow the UK market alongside traditional franchisees and entering Ireland and Spain with experienced master franchisees beginning in 2024”. On the UK, Penegor said: “You look at the last several years on our international business, we’ve had a lot of momentum around same-restaurant sales and a lot of momentum around profit, which gives folks confidence to continue to grow around the globe. We’ve hit the end of 2022, we had 12 UK company restaurants. We had 29 restaurants in total, which included 16 REEF and one traditional franchisee. We do think by the end of 2023, we’ll be 45 restaurants strong across that portfolio. That will give us the kind of home base to continue to drive growth into Spain and into Ireland. We got the supply chain in place. We’re working on partners. We’ve got master franchise arrangements. We’re trying to get in place to really accelerate that growth in 2024 and beyond.” The business also announced that in India, it has signed a 400-restaurant commitment over the next ten years, with Rebel Foods as its master franchisee. A Rebel Foods spokesman said: “We are humbled and proud to share that we at Rebel Foods, an internet restaurant platform, have acquired the exclusive rights to become the master franchisee of the iconic Wendy’s brand in India. This one of its kind partnership will enable Rebel Foods to be the first Indian foodtech company to expand a major global QSR through both cloud kitchens and traditional restaurants. Through this groundbreaking partnership, we will continue to leverage our expertise in delivery, automation and innovation to hyper-scale the brand’s reach and extend the world-class Wendy’s experience to Indian customers.”

Punch reports performance remains strong as it delivers quarterly Ebitda of £23.9m and turnover of £92m: Punch Pubs & Co has reported performance has remained strong for the 16 weeks to 4 December 2022, delivering £23.9m of underlying Ebitda. Revenue increased to £92.0m compared with £86.2m in the prior year period, with the conversion of pubs from leased and tenanted over to its management partnerships estate contributing to the increased revenue. Underlying Ebitda for the 52 weeks to 4 December 2022 was £82.0m, up from the £76.0m of adjusted underlying Ebitda from the wider Punch group in the year to August 2019, being the most recent financial year prior to the covid pandemic. The size of its management partnerships estate increased by five pubs in the quarter to 333 pubs, which includes Laine Pub Company, with a further £11.5m of capex invested in the period, largely focused on its management partnerships estate. The total net book value of properties at 4 December 2022 amounted to £902.2m, which the business said compared favourably to the full estate property valuation undertaken ahead of the high yield bond launch in May 2021 at £849.7m. Punch said the increase in property values largely reflects the purchase of the leased and tenanted pub estate from Young’s in 2021, continued investment in the estate, less a small number of pub acquisitions and disposals. Punch disposed of two pubs in the quarter generating proceeds of £1.1m, at £0.2m above book value. The group generated a net cash inflow from operating activities for the period of £17.1m compared with £12.9m the year before. Punch said liquidity remains strong with £16.0m of cash and £40.0m of available revolving credit facilities at the quarter end. At the end of the quarter, the group owned 1,269 pubs, of which 98.5% were open and trading at the quarter end – 1.4% were closed and 0.1% were undergoing investment following conversion to management partnerships.

Vagabond appoints Rupert Clevely as new chair, to launch two sites at Gatwick Airport: Imbiba-backed wine bar business Vagabond has appointed Rupert Clevely as its new non-executive chairman, Propel has learned. Clevely, the founder of Geronimo Inns and Hippo Inns, takes over from Karen Forrester as the company’s new chair this week. Vagabond founder Stephen Finch told Propel: “I’m incredibly excited that Rupert is joining Vagabond as our new chairman. He brings an unrivalled depth of experience not just in the wet-led sector, but as a successful entrepreneur in this sector too. This is an incredibly rare and valuable thing. I really look forward to working with Rupert on this next chapter in the Vagabond journey.” Last month, Propel revealed that Vagabond, which opened a site at Heathrow airport last year, had secured a flagship site in Gatwick airport’s South Terminal for an opening later this year. It can now confirm that the 11-strong group has secured the ex-Jamie’s Diner unit at the airport, after winning an extremely competitive tender process. Finch said: “It’s 7,000 square feet and widely regarded as the prime-most unit at Gatwick. This will trade as Vagabond. We also acquired the former London Bar unit nearby, giving us an additional 950 square feet of prime South Terminal space.” Finch has created “an exciting new brand” for this unit called "South Downs”. He said: “It will be a sparkling wine bar championing English wines and British produce, with a signature large beech tree ‘sprouting’ from the bar, a much-loved tree prevalent in the South Downs. We expect to do circa £15m in annual turnover once Gatwick is back to 2019 passenger levels. Despite the pandemic, Vagabond has gone on to acquire prime units at Heathrow and now Gatwick, opening up another major growth avenue for the business — international airports.” Talking to Propel earlier this year, Finch said the group’s Heathrow site had been a “game changer” for the business, and that it had a major new site in the works that will be “the equivalent of five typical Vagabonds”, which is the Gatwick opening.

Wingstop UK appoints new head of marketing: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out Wingstop across the UK, has appointed Mallachy O’Keefe as its new head of marketing. O’Keefe joins from Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho, where he served as marketing manager. O’Keefe brings more than ten years of marketing experience to his new role at Wingstop UK. During his five and a half years at Pho, he supported the restaurant group to successfully roll out its estate across the UK and launch into Wales and Scotland. He will use his skills and experience to support Wingstop UK’s growth strategy, which includes a focus on reaching Generation Z customers through targeted marketing efforts. Tom Grogan, director of Lemon Pepper Holdings, said: “Mallachy’s experience and expertise will be invaluable as we continue to expand our brand across the UK. We believe his deep understanding of consumer behaviour and his ability to execute creative marketing campaigns will help us connect with new audiences and increase our brand presence in the market.” Wingstop has been steadily growing in the UK since it made its debut in 2018 and operates circa 30 sites across Britain. Last year, the business opened 11 new locations and it said it expects to exceed 2022 development numbers with several new locations already secured for the year. Propel understands Lemon Pepper Holdings is in talks on its first site in Wales, in Cardiff. 

Pizza GoGo plans to expand franchise operations in the north, profits and turnover exceed pre-pandemic levels: Pizza GoGo has said it plans to expand its franchise operations in the north, as it reported profits and turnover exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The group, which was founded in 1987 and has more than 100 branches, predominantly in the south east, reported turnover of £37,297,007 for the year ending 31 May 2022, up from £34,821,276 in 2021. This was also an increase on the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 May 2019, when it reported turnover of £30,961,136. Pre-tax profit rose from £2,544,498 in 2021 to £2,672,312 (2019: £1,406,634). Group Ebitda rose from £3,087,912 in 2021 to £3,231,132. A dividend of £1.2m was paid during the year. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Homayoun Aminnia said: “The company and the group have performed well against a backdrop of challenging business conditions and market uncertainty. Our financial strength, long-term relationships with suppliers and customers as well as the hard work of employees and stakeholders will no doubt ensure another successful year within current and newfound constraints. The company and the group will continue the path of organic growth by expanding its franchise outlets in the north of England and in the production of cheese. Additional resources have been added in the production department. This increase in overhead will support the growth of the business.” Pizza GoGo will feature in the next edition of the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription.

Nando’s launches new brand platform: Nando’s has announced the launch of This Must Be The Place, a new brand platform and national campaign that it says celebrates the “uniqueness of the Nando’s experience”. Teased earlier this week on the brand’s social channels, This Must Be The Place has launched with a film by British director Jonathan Entwistle. Nando’s has also unveiled its first ever sonic logo (an audible version of a brand logo). Inspired by Nando’s Southern African heritage and Afro-Luso music playlists, the company has created an “infectious new sound” which will run in-restaurant and through advertising and internal communications.  The campaign will roll out in restaurants through digital takeovers, and each restaurant and employee will be invited to participate. Nando’s head of brand, Hannah Smith, said: “We’re excited to launch This Must Be The Place – our new creative platform that will inform all brand activity moving forwards. We’re so proud to be able to offer such a unique experience as a restaurant – whether it’s trying a new spice on the PERi-ometer or telling your mates about a first date you had – everyone has a Nando’s story, and that’s what This Must Be The Place represents. It’s a message that we will be championing throughout the business, and we have a heap of activity planned throughout the year.” This Must Be The Place is Nando’s first national campaign since it launched delivery in 2020.

Busaba set to open in Essex for second site outside London: Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, is set to open in Essex later this month for its second site outside of London. It will open in the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock on Wednesday, 15 March, offering a secluded terrace for alfresco dining “while enjoying the heady and vibrant flavours of Thailand”. Menu highlights will include the signature wok-tossed calamari in ginger and green peppercorn sauce (which has been on the menu for more than 20 years); classic pad Thai with tamarind sauce; and green curries infused with coconut milk, lemongrass, chilli and ginger. Busaba will also be offering a lunch deal of any pad Thai or rice bowl for £11 until 4pm from Monday to Friday. Neve Rabbou, marketing director at Busaba, said: “We are so excited to be opening another Busaba outside of London at Lakeside and can’t wait to introduce the Busaba brand to new guests.” Busaba’s other out-of-London site is in Oxford, having closed its Cardiff site in January. This followed the closures of other regional sites in Manchester, Liverpool, St Albans and Bicester. It also operates nine restaurants in the capital. In January, Propel revealed that private equity firm Tnui Capital, which has backed Busaba since 2020, has acquired Essex-based steak and lobster business Bourgee, which would be operated separately from Busaba. 

Whitbread secures first Cambridge city centre site for Premier Inn: Whitbread is bringing its Premier Inn hotel brand to the heart of Cambridge city centre, at the Lion Yard Shopping Centre. Whitbread has agreed a lease with investment and asset manager Abrdn to convert vacant office space above the shopping centre into a 125-bedroom Premier Inn hotel. When it opens, the hotel will be Premier Inn’s first in the centre of Cambridge and its fourth across the city. Paul Smith, acquisitions manager for Whitbread, said: “We have an excellent track record of converting former office spaces into vibrant and successful Premier Inn and hub by Premier Inn hotels. This acquisition will allow our business and leisure customers to stay in a unique location in the very heart of historic Cambridge. We are looking for other similar opportunities across the country as we grow our network towards our target of 125,000 Premier Inn and hub bedrooms.” Work to convert the space will start this month, with the hotel expecting to welcome its first guests in mid-2024. As it does so, the hotel will grow Premier Inn’s network in Cambridge to more than 425 bedrooms. MP Real Estate acted on the deal.

Capco – demand for hospitality space has been ‘strong’: Capital & Counties (Capco), which owns the majority of London’s Covent Garden, has said demand for hospitality space has been “strong”. Food and beverage represents 26% of Capco’s portfolio by value and the business said Covent Garden “continues to introduce high quality innovative food concepts that have been central to the dining strategy”. In its results for the year ending 31 December 2021, Capco stated: “With limited vacancy across the estate, the food and beverage accommodation has attracted multiple potential occupiers. Argentinian restaurant Gaucho will open in James Street later this year. Stereo, a new late-night live music and dining venue by international hospitality brand Experimental Group, opened at The Piazza. Chestnut Bakery has opened in Floral Street while WatchHouse will open on Southampton Street in the coming months. At 31 December 2021, there were three restaurants available to let, over 8,150 square feet.” Capco said its alfresco dining scheme – which offers 1,000 outdoor dining seats across 55 restaurants, spanning six pedestrianised streets as well as the Piazza – “continues to be popular with consumers”. Chief executive Ian Hawksworth said: “There is positive momentum across the Covent Garden estate with strong demand, high occupancy levels and rental growth across all uses, which has continued into 2023.” Capco also reaffirmed its £3.8bn merger with fellow West End landlord Shaftesbury is expected to complete on Monday (6 March).

London social enterprise coffee shop concept partners with sustainable brewer for new cafe and taproom experience: London social enterprise coffee shop concept Change Please has partnered with sustainable brewer Toast Ale for a new cafe and taproom experience. Good Company has opened at 17-19 Triton Street in the Regent’s Place campus, offering breakfast and cakes by Breadwinners, a social enterprise helping refugees. Lunch and dinner includes a selection of sandwiches, salads and hot pies by B Corp business Pieminster, which has 16 UK locations, and there is also food collaborations on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The drinks menu includes beer from Toast, which uses surplus bread in its brewing, and coffee from Change Please, which has seven London sites and ploughs 100% of its profits into helping the homeless. Good Company also hosts regular events, with customers invited to help shape the schedule. Cemal Ezel, chief executive at Change Please, said: “The space not only provides the area with award-winning coffee, food, beer and fresh entertainment, but gives back so that every visitor makes a positive difference to society and the planet.” Louisa Ziane, chief operating officer at Toast Ale, added: “We’re excited to be opening Good Company, where Toast’s ‘Bread Quarters’ will be based. We’ll also be hosting events to bring sustainability and social responsibility to life, making the space a hub for progressive businesses.”

SSP brings Vietnamese QSR chain NamNam to Singapore airport: SSP Group has partnered with Les Amis Group to bring Vietnamese quick service restaurant concept NamNam to Changi International airport in Singapore. Founded in 2012 by Nam Q Nguyen, and with four locations across Singapore, NamNam’s menu puts a modern spin on classic Vietnamese street favourites, including pho enhanced with a slow-cooked broth and banh mi with crispy baguettes. There are food options for all dayparts, including a breakfast menu specially developed for the airport, which features kaya toast, alvis banana and peanut butter and luncheon meat with salted egg mayo toast. Located in Terminal Three, the 82-cover restaurant features open cooking stations, self-order kiosks and a digital queueing system. Nguyen said: “We are glad to see NamNam being so well received by travellers transiting through Changi airport. We hope our partnership with SSP Group, which has a stellar record managing food and beverage concepts at iconic travel destinations across the world, will help bring NamNam to a more diverse and widely travelled audience in the future.” Jonathan Robinson, chief executive officer at SSP Asia Pacific, added: “The opening of NamNam could not have come at a better time. Air travel in the region is quickly returning, and we’ve recruited a strong team to bring the essence of NamNam to life for Changi’s passengers.”

Better burger brand Boo set to open in Derby, plans to double UK footprint in 2023 and make first overseas opening: Better burger brand Boo is set to open in Derby, as it plans to double its UK footprint in 2023 and make its first overseas opening. Boo started the year with five venues – two in its home town of Leicester plus one each in Loughborough and Nottingham, and its first franchise site, which opened in Preston in December. It is aiming to add five more this year, and having kicked off its 2023 pipeline with an opening in Birmingham’s Alcester Road last month, it will this month open in the former Burton and Dorothy Perkins store on the corner of Victoria Street and St Peter’s Street, Derby. “We saw the regeneration under way in Derby and that made it the perfect fit for us,” co-founder Mohammed Suleman told Derbyshire Live. “Our new premises is in a beautiful building, and we strongly believe what Boo has to offer will really help to encourage more footfall to that end of Derby city centre. We provide something different – freshly prepared, high-quality food and drinks at an affordable price point and in a fantastic setting – and we’re confident it will appeal to the people of Derby.” Boo also has a third Leicester site in the pipeline, in Gallowtree Gate, as well as one in Manchester’s Circle Square. It is also set for an international debut this year, with a site in the Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.

Return to Archive Click Here to Return to the Archive Listing
Punch Taverns Link
Return to Archive Click Here to Return to the Archive Listing
Propel Premium
Quickpad by Pepper Banner
Growth Partners - Find out More Banner
Santa Maria MEXI-GO Banner
Quickpad by Pepper Banner
Contract Furniture Group Banner
Bizimply Banner
BrewDog Black Heart Banner
Heineken Silver Banner
Peppadew Banner
Propel Banner
Quickpad by Pepper Banner
Access Banner
Christie & Co Banner
The Licensees Association Banner
Airship – Toggle Banner
Libeo Banner
COREcruitment Banner
Hospitality Rising Banner
Cynergy Bank Banner
John Gaunt Banner
Zonal Banner
HGEM Banner
Bums on Seats Banner
BrewDog Black Heart Banner