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Mon 6th Mar 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Floozie Cookies targets up to 100 US sites over five years after striking franchise partnership deal: Floozie Cookies, the all-vegan stuffed cookie concept founded by Kimberly Lin in 2020, has targeted up to 100 US sites over five years after striking a franchise partnership deal. The concept, which is backed by Game Changers Investments and sector consultancy firm TGP International, launched in London’s Covent Garden in December 2020 before expanding to Dubai, then returning to London for a pop-up near Harrods. In November, it revealed plans to expand internationally and in the UK under a franchise model, with an aim of 180 stores worldwide by 2027, including 35 in the UK. It is now set to scale up its ambitions in North America, having secured a deal with franchise development team Oakscale to bring the brand to the US and Canada. “This is a powerful partnership,” said Oakscale founder Joshua Kovacs. “TGP is an expert at turning food and beverage brands into successful restaurant concepts and has made great strides with Floozie Cookies in England and other international markets. We excel at selling franchises in the US. By combining our efforts, we can build on the great foundation that Floozie Cookies has established overseas and bring an exciting new offering to cookie-loving consumers and franchise investors seeking an out-of-the-ordinary concept.” Ryan Durishin, a veteran restaurant franchise salesman, is leading Oakscale’s efforts to develop Floozie Cookies in North America. “The global cookie market is growing at a rate of 5.3% annually and is expected to surpass $44bn by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research,” he said. “Consumers are always looking to try unique concepts, and we believe the outstanding concept that Kimberly has created will do very well throughout the country.” The first deal to bring Floozie Cookies to the US is near completion and will involve development in southern California. Lin added: “I’m thrilled to continue growing our footprint, working with new partners internationally, and continue developing the brand.” Floozie Cookies features in 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.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – driving sales Inch by Inch: David Smith, bar manager at the University Arms in Sheffield, explains how customers in his pub are making more sustainable choices and why Inch’s Cider is meeting the needs of those drinkers. The traditional-style pub, which serves food, offers a wide range of real ale, lager and cider. Smith said: “We decided to stock Inch’s due to its ethics and background. It uses all of its apple waste and turns it into green energy, which is a great way to ‘waste-not-drink-not’.” The venue, which is based within the university campus, has a five-year sustainability strategy, using local producers where possible,and baking bread fresh for dishes to ensure less food waste. The University Arms encourages its staff to be less wasteful by ensuring any equipment not in use is turned off, the correct recycling procedures are being followed and working with brands that are conscious of their environmental impact. Smith said: “Our customers see Inch’s not only as a refreshing cider, but as a sustainable choice. Inch’s green credentials and background really appeals to the younger generation of drinkers. Its balance between sweet and dry means it has great taste credentials and is perfect for our pub.” For more information on Inch's and other Heineken UK brands, click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Karen Turton to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Karen Turton, founder and chief executive of entrepreneurial learning consultancy Purple Story and former director of Nando’s and Turtle Bay Restaurants, 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”. Turton will talk about how businesses can improve their performance through a leadership step-change and where chief executives and managing directors should focus as they inspire their teams through the next 12 months and beyond. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing
Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 64% of companies in profit, up from 62% last month: The Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profit, to be sent to Premium subscribers this coming Friday (10 March), shows 64% of the 709 largest sector companies are now in profit. The Blue Book shows 455 companies in profit and 254 reporting losses. This is an improvement from last month, when 62% of companies were reporting a profit. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. 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 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.
Government looking into allowing more hospitality staff to come from abroad: Ministers are looking at bringing in annual health checks for workers and allowing more hospitality staff to come from abroad in an effort to deal with labour shortages. The Guardian reports plans could involve giving companies subsidies for occupational health services to prevent workers going off long-term sick, as part of the government’s review of the workforce to be unveiled alongside the budget this month. Ministers have also asked the Migration Advisory Committee for advice on whether the hospitality, construction and retail industries should be on the list of sectors where there is a shortage of workers, helping them recruit from overseas. It is thought hospitality workers are the most likely to be put on the list, which makes it easier for staff to get jobs from abroad. Jeremy Hunt ordered the workforce review amid concerns the economy is being held back by shortages of workers that have emerged since the pandemic and Brexit.
Hancock ridiculed Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme: Rishi Sunak’s flagship scheme to rescue restaurants was ridiculed by Matt Hancock, who called it “eat out to help the virus get about”. The Telegraph’s Lockdown Files – more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent between ministers and officials – show the then health secretary’s disdain for the initiative and his private concerns that it was spreading covid. The messages obtained reveal the deep concern over Eat Out to Help Out, part of a package of measures launched by Sunak, then the chancellor, in the summer of 2020. Hancock also lobbied Simon Case, at the time the permanent secretary in Downing Street in charge of the civil service response to covid, to ensure the scheme – which ran for a month in August 2000 – was not extended. The health secretary told Case he had “kept it out of the news” that the scheme was driving up covid cases in some of the worst hit areas and that the problems it was causing were “serious”. Eat Out to Help Out offered diners 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks on Mondays to Wednesdays, capped at £10 per head. The final total cost to the taxpayer was £849m – far in excess of the £500m original forecast by the Treasury.
Pubs allowed to stay open until 1am on King Charles’s coronation weekend: Pubs will be allowed to stay open until 1am on King Charles’s coronation weekend. People will be able to enjoy an “extra pint or two” between Friday, 5 May, and Sunday, 7 May, home secretary Suella Braverman said. Extending closing time for two hours beyond the normal 11pm was backed by 77% of the public who took part in a month-long consultation. Braverman will lay an order before parliament today (Monday, 6 March), using section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, which allows longer opening hours to mark occasions of exceptional significance. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the extra hours were a “timely boost for the pub industry”.
Drinks are on UK services sector after six months in the doldrums: The UK’s dominant services sector made a robust return to growth for the first time in six months in February as input costs eased and business confidence grew. The closely watched purchasing managers’ index (PMI) jumped from 48.7 in January to 53.5 in February, well above the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction. City economists had predicted a rise to 53. A turnaround in client confidence, driven by greater political stability and a fall in cost inflation to its lowest level since June 2021, boosted the sector, which accounts for some 80% of the UK economy. The latest figures, which are based on the survey responses of 650 service providers between 10 and 24 February, represent the strongest growth since June last year in the index, which is compiled by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply and S&P Global, and monitored by the Bank of England as an early indicator of business activity. In a sign of a sustained boost in activity, orders for new work returned to expansion territory amid a rise in export sales. Tim Moore, economics director at S&P Global market intelligence, said: “UK service providers moved back into expansion mode in February as fading recession fears and improving business confidence resulted in the strongest rise in new orders since May 2022. However, elevated borrowing costs and stretched household finances remained constraints on growth.” He added that there was clear evidence that inflation in costs for companies had peaked. “Service sector firms commented on lower fuel bills and transportation costs, alongside a gradual easing of broader inflationary pressures due to falling wholesale gas prices,” he said. “However, many businesses also noted historically strong wage inflation and sharply rising food costs, especially those operating in the hotels and restaurants sector.”
Indie cafe in Brixton takes on hedge fund-backed coffee chain over name: A family-run vegan cafe in Brixton has launched a legal challenge against the London expansion of a big US coffee chain seeking to rival Starbucks, claiming its “highly similar” brand was causing reputational damage to its “indie vibe”. The trademark dispute sets south London’s Blank Coffee, owned by Warner Newman and Samantha McKinson, against Blank Street, a New York brand whose owners are funding their expansion plans with the help of venture capital. Blank Street Coffee moved into the UK last year, saying it wanted to acquire 25 locations to add to its 50-plus stores in the US, as part of a global expansion funded by $60m (£50m) raised in 2021. The company wants to make London its “second city” after New York. The founders of Blank Street Coffee, Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha, say they wish to challenge Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. The US company has, however, run into a legal row with Blank Coffee. The independent cafe in south London, founded in 2015 by Newman and McKinson as a cart catering to City workers, expanded into a cafe in Brixton in 2018, offering a plant-based menu. The owners are formally opposing the registration of the Blank Street Coffee trademark in the UK, claiming it would “amount to a misrepresentation likely to lead to confusion as to the origin of their goods”. The couple’s statement of grounds for their opposition to the trademark registration, claims the 11 Blank Street cafes in London are already “causing actual confusion and are damaging the opponent, in that customers are querying the inferiority of the Blank Street product and, assuming the opponent has sold out, complaining about it”. They add of recent press reviews: “Blank Street coffee has been reported as being insipid and weak.” In a separate legal letter, Newman and McKinson said they believed the US coffee chain, established in 2020, had in effect copied their name and their cafe’s “distinctive mint green/white/black livery, simple lettering … and were endeavouring to copy the indie vibe”. The US firm denied this. Blank Street denied claims of copying and said the couple’s lawyers had been guilty of “huge inaccuracies” in their correspondence.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury hotel and spa group with two hotels located in the Midlands and is looking for a group HR manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This role is to provide HR to all management and staff, to minimise staff turnover, and maximise career development potential. Duties include developing, implementing and being accountable for delivering the HR strategy for the business to drive employee engagement and high performance; managing informal and formal employee relations including dispute resolutions, disciplinary matters, grievances, absence, family leave, retirement and redundancy; supporting the management team in all recruitment processes; managing the HR budget; monitoring relevant legislation, ensuring the business operates accordingly; and managing and supporting moral and inspiring the teams." The salary is up to £60,000. For more information, email

Company News:

Greene King sets out its ambition to have 50% of women in senior management roles by 2030: Ahead of International Women’s Day 2023, Greene King has set out its goal for a more even gender split within its senior management teams, along with its plans to work towards achieving them. The business is working towards having women make up 50% of its senior management roles by 2030 – an ambition set by Greene King’s executive board – which forms part of its wider diversity and inclusion strategy and is supported by Greene Sky, its women’s focused employee-led inclusion group. Greene Sky said its ambition is to “help more women shape the future of the business and is composed of women and allies across all levels of the company”. As well as advising on current issues faced by team members, its role is to encourage female empowerment and inclusion across all of Greene King. On the back of initiatives already in place, including reverse mentoring, female mentoring and inclusive leadership training, and the introduction of a new maternity policy, Greene King is now committing to further action. It said more programmes are underway which will focus on developing and nurturing existing talent to aid better succession planning, as well as introducing inclusive hiring training aimed at driving more women into its recruitment pipeline. Clair Preston-Beer, managing director for Greene King pubs and Greene Sky’s executive board sponsor, said: “We recognise that we’re on a journey to everyday inclusion, where all our people are embraced and valued for who they are so that they can reach their full potential and thrive. This pledge is the first step in the right direction to working towards delivering greater gender parity and our ambition to have 50% of senior management roles filled by women by 2030. With our ongoing inclusion activity, developing existing and attracting new talent, along with further policy improvements, I believe we have solid plans in place to make change become a reality. Although International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to highlight the fantastic female success stories within Greene King, supporting and developing women is a constant, ongoing focus for us.”   
Goldman Sachs arm and TDR Capital among bidders for $10bn Subway: An arm of the Wall Street behemoth Goldman Sachs is among the suitors hoping to acquire Subway, the global sandwich chain, which has been put up for sale with an estimated $10bn (£8.2bn) price tag. Sky News writes that Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) is one of at least a handful of parties which tabled indicative offers for Subway this week. People close to the process said on Saturday that Bain Capital, TDR Capital – which jointly owns Asda, Stonegate Group and the petrol forecourts giant EG Group – and TPG had also lodged their interest. TSG Consumer Partners, which counts BrewDog among its investments, was also monitoring the situation. The array of suitors for Subway has emerged weeks after the chain said it was exploring a sale. In a statement last month, Subway confirmed that its shareholders were “exploring a possible sale of the company”. Bankers at JP Morgan are overseeing the sale process, with a number of other bidders also said to have expressed an interest. At $10bn, a takeover would be too large for some of the initial bidders to execute alone, meaning some may seek to team up with each other, or with investors in their private equity funds.
Activist Oasis pushes for sell-off of Wagamama owner TRG’s pubs: The activist investor targeting Wagamama’s owner The Restaurant Group (TRG) wants the company to look at selling its Brunning & Price pubs and airport concessions business in an attempt to cut its debt pile. The Sunday Times writes that Hong Kong-based Oasis is understood to be pushing for TRG to unveil divestments on Wednesday, when it reveals the results of a strategic review of its business alongside its full-year results. Oasis launched a public campaign against TRG last month, attacking its board for overseeing a “long-term decline in market value” while tapping investors for cash three times in the past five years. Oasis, which says it owns a 6.5% stake, criticised TRG for failing to update on its trading in the past six months and said it is “markedly underperforming sector peers”. A source close to Oasis said: “They should at least be looking to divest the pubs and concession businesses to see if that can accelerate net debt pay down and resumption of the dividend”. TRG, led by former HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby, owns 80 Brunning & Price pubs and 30 food and drink concessions mostly at airports. Net debt at TRG stood at £158m at the time of its last update in September. TRG hit back at Oasis: “We have performed strongly compared to the sector in recent years. Wagamama and Pubs have consistently outperformed the market, Leisure has been carefully restructured to maximise cashflow and we have successfully re-sized Concessions so it is well placed to benefit as air travel recovers.” Analysts at the investment bank Singer said that it expected TRG to unveil “a cogent strategic plan to rebuild profitability” but would stop short of the “radical action” favoured by Oasis. Analyst Sahill Shan from Singer Capital Markets expects the group’s management to be on the front foot. He wrote: “Key here will be any plans around organic growth, capital allocation and cost efficiencies. We show that a significant c.£17m/£44m (17%/37%) of the FY22/FY23 EBITDA downgrades in the last 12m was due to unprecedented cost inflation. Any meaningful easing of cost pressures (or deflation around food costs), coupled with LFL outperformance (12% EPS sensitivity to 1% LFL) will not only drive upgrades but lower leverage. We expect current trading to be satisfactory, with limited exposure to train/tube strikes. Muddling along is clearly not an option given a depressed share price (-60% since Jan’22) and Hong Kong based activist investor, Oasis, wanting radical action. Whilst we do not anticipate any major strategic reset, we do expect to hear plans around strengthening the top-line and possibly cost efficiencies. Given favourable property opportunities, we see scope around more Wagamama openings in secondary UK towns based on recent success in these locations. Barburrito aspirations may also be lifted but not pubs given high valuations.”
Dishoom eyes Brighton restaurant opening: Indian restaurant group Dishoom is eyeing a restaurant launch in Brighton, Propel has learned. The nine-strong, award-winning business is understood to be in talks to take on the former Socialite Restaurant and Bar site in Brighton’s East Street and has applied for a license to operate at the site. The business has been operating out of the nearby Deliveroo Editions site in Hove since the end of 2020. Since launching in 2010, Dishoom has grown to nine cafes, comprising six in London, plus restaurants in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh, and a dozen delivery kitchens. It most recently opened in Canary Wharf’s Wood Wharf, five years on from its last opening.
Parogon MD – neighbourhood operators boosted by train strikes as with covid: Neighbourhood operators got the same kind of trading boost from the recent train strikes as remote working provided during covid, Parogon managing director Richard Colclough has told Propel. Parogon operates an estate of nine pubs and restaurants, mainly in small towns across Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire. “I have huge sympathy for city centre operators, but we were a beneficiary of the train strikes,” he said. “It was similar to covid and people working from home, which we got a boost from. Nobody goes on trains to visit our sites, they’d normally be getting on trains to go to Manchester or London. It’s a similar pattern to other cycles, where people are more discerning and you need to deliver, and that’s where we did quite well. Christmas was strong and we were up on all the key dates from the previous year. After a slow start the first few weeks of December, we then had an extremely busy three weeks or so, and we didn’t experience any January drop-off. In fact, we’re 10% ahead of budget, so we’re pleasantly surprised. Midweeks have softened, as you find during recessions, but weekends we’re at capacity, so we’re cautiously optimistic. As frequency drops, we find spend-per-head goes up.” The next big worry for hospitality operators will be when government support with business energy bills is reduced from April. “We’re fortunate that most of our sites are still in contract, so we're not as exposed,” Colclough added. “But even those that have come off contract, the rates have come down significantly these last few weeks. We’re still looking at a probable 100% increase in prices, but not quite the 1,000% we were seeing when we tested the market last year.” Colclough told Propel last month that Parogon is looking to appoint an experienced non-executive chair to help with its “aggressive expansion” plans, as its refinancing frees up a £5m pot for new sites.
Heavenly Desserts eyes Indian expansion, approaches 50 UK sites with two new openings: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts is eyeing expansion in India after entering into a franchise partnership deal, as it approaches 50 UK sites with two new openings. Having made its international debut in December with a restaurant in the district of Mississauga, near Toronto in Canada, it is working with franchise consultants FranGlobal to enter India, reports Restaurant India. A FranGlobal statement said: “UK fine dining desserts restaurant Heavenly Desserts is all set to embark upon its franchising journey in the Indian market. With a strong and successful business model ensuring high returns and customer outreach, FranGlobal brings to you an amazing franchise opportunity.” Propel reported last month that Heavenly Desserts, which has also sold master franchise rights in the US, Pakistan and Denmark, will launch its second international market in the second or third quarter of 2023 with an opening in Karachi, Pakistan. Closer to home, openings in Brighton and Beckton, in London’s Docklands, mean it now has 46 UK locations and will pass the 50-site landmark later this year. Added to its 2023 pipeline will be a site in Hull, following a £100,000 government grant secured by a franchisee. The cash injection, a Levelling-Up Fund grant, has been matched by applicant Umada, with work expected to begin this spring on the currently empty unit at 48-50 Paragon Street.

Thorley Taverns reports turnover exceeding pre-pandemic levels: Kent pub operator Thorley Taverns has reported turnover exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the year ending 30 June 2022. The company, which operates 19 pubs, restaurants and hotels – of which 15 are owned freeholds – reported turnover of £13,415,915 for the period, almost double that of the 2021 figure of £6,717,396. It also exceeded the figure of £12,679,667 reported in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 30 June 2019. Pre-tax profit was down from £1,098,523 in 2021 to £403,752 but remains above the last pre-pandemic figure of £365,705. The company received £123,453 in government grants compared with £2,542,065 in 2021. It spent £298,000 on renovations and repairs and said it benefited from long-term agreements with key suppliers. In his report accompanying the accounts, director Phil Thorley said: “The company had a good cash position at the end of the year while continuing its investment in the repair, renovation and development of its outlets. The company funded all investing and financing activities in the year without recourse to further borrowing.” Employee levels rose from 392 to 431, while an in-house mental health councillor “kept a close check” on team members and offered support to those perceived to be struggling. “It is recognised that any business is only as good as the people it employs, so the company has a clear strategy of recruitment and training to make certain that a highly skilled team is able to ensure customers receive only the best service,” Thorley added. “These teams have been retained, despite the extremely challenging conditions of the past year.” Thorley Taverns appears in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £13,415,915 is the 337th highest in the database, while its pre-tax profit of £403,752 is the 386th highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. 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.
Inn Collection Group operations director departs: David Campbell has stepped down as operations director at The Inn Collection Group, Propel has learned. Campbell joined The Inn Collection Group in June 2021 from The Coaching Inn Group, where he was operations director. Campbell, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the sector, was also previously part of the senior teams at brewer and retailer Greene King and Mitchells & Butlers. A spokesperson for The Inn Collection Group told Propel: “We thank David for his contribution during his time with the group and we wish him the very best for the future. There has been no new appointment to the role with managing director Sean Donkin assuming the responsibilities previously overseen by David.” The Inn Collection Group operates 35 sites across the north of England and North Wales.
Gousto plunged into governance storm after slashing valuation: Gousto, the food delivery service backed by Joe Wicks, the celebrity fitness instructor, has become embroiled in a bitter corporate governance row after excluding long-standing investors from a deeply discounted share sale. Sky News reports that Gousto slashed its valuation from $1.7bn (£1.4bn) just over a year ago to less than $300m (£250m) last month when it secured £50m of new funding from some of its biggest shareholders. The fall in valuation represented a cut of about 80% in 13 months, according to insiders. Gousto has also secured another £20m in debt financing as part of its efforts to shore up its balance sheet, according to insiders. While steeply discounted capital-raisings have become commonplace during the technology downturn of the past year, Gousto’s decision to shun investors holding just under 10% of its shares has sparked uproar. The row has prompted several smaller shareholders to lodge complaints with the company’s board, which is independently chaired by Katherine Garrett-Cox, the former Alliance Trust chief executive.
McDonald’s franchisee – ‘lower footfall in city centres may never change, but we’ll always be a part of the high street’: McDonald’s franchisee Roger Khoryati has said lower footfall in city centres may never change, but the brand will always be a part of the high street. The Lebanese-born former insurance worker joined McDonald’s as a trainee business manager in 1990, and nine years later was one of 25 staff members offered the chance to own their own restaurant. He remortgaged his house to raise the £200,000 to open his first branch in Wandsworth, south London, before growing his London empire to four restaurants. He was offered the chance to relocate to Manchester in 2008 and now operates 11 branches in the city. In January, his company, MCD Manchester, reported turnover of £32,181,939 for the year to 31 December 2021, with a profit before tax of £3,760,009. This compared with turnover of £31,559,579 and a pre-tax profit of £1,267,000 in the last full year before the pandemic. Despite this return to pre-covid levels, Khoryati said reduced high street footfall, combined with higher city centre business rates, has made it tough to achieve the profit margins of previous years. “Footfall in the city centre is still way lower than before covid, and that may never change,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “We are lucky in Manchester that we have a lot of footfall generated from events, football and theatre, but what will the future hold for the high street? Who knows. Whichever way you look at it, McDonald’s will be part of it.” Khoryati said he had “sleepless nights” during the pandemic, especially when he found his accounts overdrawn for the first time in his 20 years of business, but found his banks to be supportive. Current headaches include average utility bills of £7,000 rising to £20,000 for some sites, which added to cost inflation, has made it all the harder to remain a value brand. Nevertheless, he pays all his staff above the minimum wage and last year took 21 people, including members of staff and their families, to Orlando, to visit a worldwide convention for the brand.
Wagamama opens in Hatfield, launches ‘student hubs’ programme: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned brand, has opened a new site in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Located at The Galleria outlet centre in Comet Way, the restaurant has 130 covers inside and an extra 24 outside and is Wagamama’s 156th site across the UK. It comes as Wagamama launches its “student hubs” programme, which will provide students with a safe space to connect with their peers throughout this month. On Monday and Tuesday each week, students from 22 UK locations who are members of the noodle union will be able to make use of Wagamama’s hubs to study and socialise. The hubs will have space for 25 students at a time, on a first-come, first-served basis, with each student eligible to redeem a free side and drink with the purchase of a main meal. The first ten students to arrive each day will also receive a student care package, filled with exclusive Wagamama goodies.

SSP Group strikes Scandinavian airline deal: SSP Norway, a division of UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP Group, has secured a contract to provide in-flight meals to Scandinavian airline SAS at Bergen airport. As part of the deal, SSP’s team will be producing 3,000 meals per week on-site at Bergen. SSP is managing every stage of the production and delivery process – from sourcing ingredients to loading the specially packed meals on to planes. In line with SSP's wider sustainability goals, SSP Norway has developed tailored in-flight menus with a focus on healthy food options, locally sourced raw materials wherever possible and stringent processes to reduce food waste. Bente Brevik, managing director of SSP Norway, said: “We have worked with SAS for a number of years, and the provision of new in-flight services at Bergen airport is an exciting next step in our relationship.” SSP is now looking to expand its operations at the airport. It aims to maximise the use of its production processes kitchen facilities to produce food items for sale across the terminal. SSP will also be using its facilities in Bergen to provide catering on trains in the region later in 2023, and also has aspirations to expand provision of in-flight meal services across Norway in the future.

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