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Wed 8th Mar 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Marston’s places 61-strong freehold pub package on the market: Marston’s has placed a 61-strong portfolio of freehold pubs on the market, Propel has learned. The assets, which are a selection of Marston’s non-core properties, include a mix of leased, tenanted, retail and managed pubs and are available to purchase individually, in small groups or as a group package. Judith Rafique, head of estates at Marston’s, said: “Following a routine review of our estate we have taken the decision to offer to market a varied range of property types. This enables us to focus on our strategic objectives and maximise returns from our core estate.” The company has instructed business property adviser and pub specialist Christie & Co to market the portfolio of pubs. The pubs, which are understood to be being marketed under the project name “Project Aramis”, are spread across England and Wales. Noel Moffitt, senior director – corporate pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for individuals and multiple operators to acquire established successful public houses across England and Wales. The pub sector has been very resilient over the last few years and has adapted well to the challenges and despite interest in the sector there is a lack of properties on the market. This portfolio offers new entrants and existing operators a wonderful opportunity to acquire investments or operate their own businesses.” It is thought the package will attract interest from the likes of Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, and Valiant Pub Company, the Gerry Carroll-led business. Both companies have acquired pubs from Marston’s over the past 12 months.

Industry News:

Peter Marks to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Peter Marks, chairman of Rekom UK, the UK’s largest nightclub operator, 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”. Marks will talk to Propel group editor Mark Wingett about the evolution of the business, its expansion plans in the UK and internationally, and what the impact of the past three years has had on the late-night sector. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing
Next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 709 largest sector companies turning over total of £40.2bn: The next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (10 March), shows 709 of the largest sector companies are turning over a total of £40.2bn – up from £39.4bn the previous month. A total of 455 companies are making a profit while 254 are making a loss. 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. 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 are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
Hospitality bosses urge chancellor to ‘unshackle’ sector: The bosses of 155 hospitality businesses have signed an open letter urging chancellor Jeremy Hunt to “unshackle” the sector and “unleash the potential” of hospitality in his spring Budget. The letter, co-ordinated by UKHospitality, demands reforms of the Apprenticeship Levy, licensing and planning regulations and the business rates system. It states: “These measures would unshackle the inflation and debt pressures that are holding back growth in our sector, warding off the spectre of further business failures and job losses. In doing so, it would allow us to rapidly deliver growth and investment, bringing many more people back into work and creating prosperity in communities right across the country.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “If the chancellor puts his faith in hospitality, the sector will repay it many times over. I hope the collective voice of hospitality is enough to convince the chancellor that his actions on 15 March will, quite literally, be make or break for many venues across the country.”

Only A Pavement Away launches female mentorship programme: Only A Pavement Away, the industry charity aiding prison leavers, veterans and those facing homelessness find employment in the hospitality sector, has launched a Women in Hospitality campaign and mentorship programme, A Seat at the Table. The campaign has been created to champion the hospitality industry as inclusive and a great career option for women facing homelessness. For its part, Only A Pavement Away has committed to supporting at least 250 women into purposeful careers in hospitality this year. The mentorship programme, A Seat at the Table – Women Mentoring Women, is open exclusively to women placed into employment by Only A Pavement Away. It will match mentees with inspiring female leaders from across the industry to support them in achieving their respective career goals, and help mentees tackle barriers in the way of them gaining senior leadership roles. It will initially pilot with four mentorship partnerships, with each mentor committing to spending six sessions this year with their mentee, under the guidance of Only A Pavement Away career coach, Will Andrews. The mentorship programme will form part of Only A Pavement Away’s broader Seat At The Table campaign, launched to champion the hospitality industry as a safe and welcoming place for women facing homelessness and increase the charity’s support specifically for women and their needs.
Institute of Licensing extends chairman’s tenure by three years: The Institute of Licensing (IoL) has extended chairman Daniel Davies’ tenure by a further three years. Under his leadership, the IoL will continue regular engagement in industry led forums and events, alongside supporting various stakeholder groups. IoL vice-chairman Gary Grant said: “Dan has been an extraordinary force pushing forward the institute’s mission to promote excellence in licensing and serve as an umbrella organisation for regulators and the trade. The board looks forward to working with Dan over the next three years to build on the institute’s achievements under his chairmanship.” Davies added: “I am delighted to have been confirmed as chairman for a further three-year term. This is an important role for me, and I look forward to continuing the excellent work with the IoL, which is centred around excellent licensing practice, partnership and collaborative working in all areas of licensing law and practice.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury hotel in the West Midlands that is looking for a general manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for the effective operational management of the property, exceeding the revenue and guest satisfaction targets, managing multiple projects across the hotel, and developing and coaching a team. You will have at least two years’ experience in a senior/executive management position in a luxury hotel or resort, have strong leadership skills to effectively manage and motivate the team to achieve high levels of performance and be passionate about the operation with a hands-on attitude.” The salary for the position is negotiable. For more information, email

Company News:

Greggs could reach 4,500 shops in UK, planning trial of 24-hour drive-thru: Roisin Currie, chief executive of food-to-go retailer Greggs, has said the business could conceivably grow to around 4,500 shops in the UK. Currie was talking after the brand’s full-year update, where it said it had grown its estate to 2,328 shops as at 31 December 2022 and its ambition was to have “significantly more than 3,000 shops across the UK”. Currie said: “We delivered 147 net new stores last year and we believe in the short term we can continue to open around 150 net new openings, so that gives you an idea of the pace at which we can go at. In terms of the change from at least 3,000 shops to significantly more than 3,000 shops, we are an integrated business and therefore what we have to do is grow the capacity of both our logistics and our manufacturing in line with that ambition. Hence, we are now setting ourselves up to make an investment over the next five years that will take us to beyond 3,000 shops. If I use a little bit of an analogy around how many shops can we have in the UK, and look at the density that we have currently got in locations such as Newcastle and Glasgow, we've got approximately one shop to 15,000 people in those locations. And if you were to play that out across the UK, that actually could mean that we could reach an estate of around 4,500 shops. Our ambition will be to keep growing the estate as quickly as we can, but making sure it stays as profitable as it is currently.” The company said during 2023, it planned to extend opening hours in 300 shops to 9pm and trial 24-hour drive-thru shops. Currie said it had not yet decided where the 24-hour drive-thru trial will take place. There are 17 Greggs drive-thru locations across the country and the business is planning to open a further eight to ten of them this year. Currie said: "We like drive-thrus because they can serve the click-and-collect customers and people wanting to sit in too. They do take a little bit longer to build because you need planning and to build from scratch.” Greggs 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.

Pitcher – Revolution’s core customer base hit hardest by cost-of-living crisis but expects improvement in second half of financial year, group facing £4m increase in energy costs due to ‘closed’ market: Revolution Bars Group chief executive Rob Pitcher has told Propel he expects trading at its core brand Revolution to improve in the second half of the year as the economic outlook improves. Pitcher said the 48-strong brand’s core customer base – the under-25s, who are in their “first or second job” – had been hit harder by the cost-of-living crisis than other consumers, which had meant trading for the brand had remained “challenging”. But he felt with inflation falling, the cost of energy coming down and rail strikes abating, there was “light at the end of the tunnel”. Speaking following the group’s interim results, Pitcher said: “Our net promoter score at Revolution is up at 80% so we know people enjoy coming to our venues when they visit. Saturdays are still as strong as they have ever been, but our core customers haven’t been able to afford to go out more than once a week given what they need to spend on essentials. Now costs are coming down and also with the National Minimum Wage rise coming next month, we expect those consumers to have a bit more money to go out more again. Older customers – the 25 to 40-year-olds who visit Revolución de Cuba and those 40-plus, who are our main customers at Peach – took longer to come back after covid, but have more spending power.” Pitcher also revealed the group was looking at a £4m increase in its energy costs when its fixed contact comes to an end this month despite the wholesale price having halved since Christmas and the business having reduced its energy consumption 37% since 2017. He said this was a result of the impact of the market being “closed” with energy companies reluctant to supply hospitality business and called for the government to intervene. “We’re in the final stages of finalising deals and it’s looking like the cost will go up from £2.5m to £6.5m,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to reduce our energy consumption, but because of the way the market is we are still facing a substantial increase in our costs.” Pitcher would also like to see a reduction in the VAT rate for hospitality to 11% – similar to what has happened in Ireland – “to help the industry through this period”. Pitcher said over the next three to six months, the group would start to see the benefits from the integration of the Peach business, particularly with food and drink procurement costs, and would be ready to grow the 21-strong gastropub brand “at the appropriate time”. “Like-for-like sales were up 9.9% in the first half of FY23 and we’ve seen these strengthen further since the turn of the year and we’re loving what we’re seeing with the brand,” added Pitcher. “We know there are plenty of attractive sites available and we are regularly offered opportunities by landlords. Our focus is paying down the debt associated with this deal but we are ready to grow the business once the economic outlook improves. That goes for our other two main brands – our latest Revolution sites in Exeter and Preston are performing very well.” 
Tomahawk Steakhouse Group owner gearing up to launch new coffee shop concept: North east multi-site operator Howard Eggleston, owner of the Tomahawk Steakhouse Group, is gearing up to launch a new coffee shop concept. The group, which currently operates 13 Tomahawk Steakhouses, five Rio Brazilian steakhouses and one Pollo Chicken shop, has applied to open a new coffee shop called Rio Cantina in Middlesbrough. It wants to open it in the empty unit next door to its Rio Brazilian steakhouse it owns in Albert Road, and has lodged an application to extend its premises licence to include the property. As well as coffee, it will serve breakfast, lunch and other drinks, reports Teesside Live. Eggleston said: “It will be open from 8am, serving Brazilian coffee and breakfast, and then at lunchtime, it morphs into doing the Brazilian sandwiches, like the hot beef, the pulled pork, the roasted lamb with all of the vegetables and salads, available to sit in or to go. It will go on serving coffee, bottled beer and wine for the afternoon. It’s encouraged us the way Middlesbrough has grown and the way we have done so well there, meaning the investment into doing a Brazilian coffee bar is worth it.” No firm closing time has been confirmed, but it’s expected the site would remain open until around 6.30pm. If it gets the green light from Middlesbrough Council, work should start in May, with the new spot opening in mid-July. Propel revealed in December that the group had four sites in legals, and its website lists locations in Harrogate, Morpeth and Sunderland as “coming soon”. Eggleston told Propel at the same time he expected turnover of just under £40m for 2022 and forecast a rise to £50m in 2023.
Sticks’n’Sushi eyes Kingston opening: Sushi chain Sticks’n’Sushi is planning to enhance its presence in London, with an opening in Kingston-upon-Thames. Propel understands that Sticks’n’Sushi, which opened its tenth UK site at the end of last year at Westfield in London, has applied to open a site across ground and first floor in The Bentall Centre, Wood Street. In January, the company said its next phase of growth will be to add further restaurants in Greater London and continue to explore further delivery-only kitchens in key strategic areas, as its posted full-year turnover of more than £44m in the UK. It said: “We believe we have a very strong portfolio of restaurants, which consist of a good variety of larger and smaller restaurants within London and outside the city. We are continuing exploring further opportunities for both new restaurants and delivery kitchens in London in 2022-23. The first phase of the strategy plan was to build a strong business platform in and outside London, with planned opening of ten to 15 restaurants. Hereafter, the next phase of growth will be to add further restaurants in Greater London and continue to explore further delivery-only kitchens in key strategic areas. Internationally, we opened our third Berlin restaurant in October 2022, with a plan to add another to add further restaurants in Berlin in the near future.”
Matt Prior steps down as Prezzo CFO: Matt Prior has stepped down as chief financial officer of Prezzo, the Cain International-backed Italian dining group, Propel has learned. Prior joined the circa 150-strong Prezzo in summer 2021 from Pret A Manger where he was finance director for its UK business, comprising more than 400 sites. Prior trained as a chartered accountant with KPMG and held several roles in Pret before his promotion to finance director. A spokesperson for Prezzo told Propel: “We can confirm Matt Prior has decided to step down as chief financial officer. Matt played an important role in strengthening the business during a challenging time for the industry, we thank him for his dedication throughout his time with Prezzo and wish him all the best for the future. Prezzo chief executive Dean Challenger will serve as interim chief financial officer, working alongside the industry-leading management team the brand has attracted over the last year to build upon its success as one of Britain's best loved restaurant groups.” Challenger, who was promoted to chief executive of Prezzo last May, was previously chief operating officer of the company having joined in 2018. He was initially appointed finance director before becoming chief operating officer in 2021. Last month, Propel revealed Prezzo had appointed Andrew Davill, formerly of David Lloyd Leisure, as its new chief operating officer.
Burger King UK gaining good traction from ‘urban box-style’ concept: Burger King UK, the Bridgepoint-backed business, is gaining good traction from the “urban box-style” format it launched last summer. Propel understands Burger King has now opened ten sites under the smaller format. It is thought learning already taken from the openings is some seating is still needed – ideally 15-30. Chief executive Alasdair Murdoch previously told Propel the business could look to open “ten-20 a year across the whole system” under the new format if successful. The business, which is eyeing an additional 200 restaurants in the UK over the next four years, launched a trial of the new smaller concept last year in Norwich’s Brigg Street, which featured less than ten covers. The brand is looking to open 800 to 1,200 square-foot sites under the format, which will have a rent of sub-£50,000 and provide a strong delivery sales mix. A source close to the business said: “We will benefit from the lower high street rateable value and the obvious benefit is the smaller square footage and vacancy rates are driving lower rents.”

Dodo Pub Company secures first site in Bristol: Oxford-based operator Dodo Pub Company is to open a seventh site, and first in Bristol. The company, which is chaired by Patrick Henchoz, who set up the Esporta rackets and gym chain, has taken in the Cross Hands in Fishponds, Bristol. The All Inn, as the pub will be renamed, will reopen on Staple Hill Road in Fishponds, in May. Co-founder Leo Johnson said: "We've been wanting to find the right place for a Dodo pub in Bristol for several years now.  Two of us lived there for a while and we all love its vibrancy and the feeling of inclusion that seems to permeate the city.  It's got a great mix of pubs, bars and restaurants, and we firmly believe that our neighbourhood vibe will fit right in." The company was founded in 2009 by Johnson and Chris Manners. Johnson has previously said the company is looking to open ten to 15 pubs in the Home Counties by rescuing “run-down and unloved pubs”.

Big Mamma Group to open fifth London site with Marylebone launch: Big Mamma Group, the operator behind London restaurants Gloria, Ave Mario, Circolo Popolare and Jacuzzi, will open its fifth site, in Marylebone in May. Propel revealed in June last year Big Mamma Group has submitted plans to convert the former Natural Kitchen site in Marylebone High Street to a restaurant spread over ground and first floors. The restaurant will be called Carlotta and will offer Big Mamma’s “famiglia-style Neapolitan and Sicilian classics with a retro Italian-American twist”. The menu will include penne alla vodka with Cornish crab; lamb arrosticini skewers; and a giant ten-tiered choco fudge cake. Drinks will feature an extended whiskey list, cocktails and wine. The group, which operates circa 20 restaurants across France, England and Spain, also operates pizza delivery concept, Napoli Gang, which last year opened a debut bricks-and-mortar site in London’s Ladbroke Grove. Over the past four years, the company has created more than 1,000 jobs with 75% of restaurant management positions coming from internal promotion. Big Mamma has also succeeded in getting below the 2% mark for food waste.
Healthy bowl concept Atis to open near London Bridge: Healthy bowl concept Atis is set to open a fifth site in London, near Borough Market. The business – which was launched by husband-and-wife team Phil Honer and Eleanor Warder, with operations director, Connor Arnette, in Shoreditch in 2019 – is set to open a site in the Borough Yards scheme, this spring. The company said: “We cannot wait to start pumping out some bowl love south of the river. We have some of our favourite old-time haunts nestled within Borough Yards and so we couldn't be happier that we will be opening up among them.” The business opened its fourth site last November, in Canary Wharf’s Canada Place. It also operates sites in Old Street in Shoreditch, Eccleston Yards in Belgravia, and Pembridge Road in Notting Hill. The concept’s build-your-own bowls options include roasted umami aubergine, grilled mushrooms, roasted squash and hot toppings, including blackened chicken thighs and pesto salmon. House bowls include Azteca, which contains chopped romaine, baby spinach, charred corn, crumbled feta, avocado and other ingredients, doused in lime coriander dressing; and the Miso Hungry, with shredded kale, wild rice, edamame, charred lemon broccoli, crispy shallots with a miso lime and ginger dressing. Distrkt represents Borough Yards.
Costa launches new brand platform including more personalised app and exclusive plant-based milk: Costa Coffee has launched a new brand platform that will including a more personalised Costa Club app and a new plant-based milk exclusive to the company. Called Made A Little Better, the launch of the platform, which will also include a growing range of at-home and retail products, coincides with Costa’s new spring menu. Included in the spring menu are chocolate muffins with KitKat bunnies (£2.50), mini egg cookies (£2.25), iced bunny gingerbread biscuits (£2) and iced easter egg shortcake biscuits (£2). It comes as Costa was voted favourite UK coffee shop for the 13th year running in a poll conducted by the World Coffee Portal. Nick Orrin, Costa’s interim UK&I managing director, said: “This would not be possible without the hard work and passion of our talented baristas and the ongoing support of our franchisees, partners and suppliers. Over the last 12 months, we have continued to invest in our UK business, including our store propositions, installing the first Costa Express’s hot and iced drinks self-serve machines as well as launching innovative new food and drink menus.” 
Picturehouse founder explores deal to buy chain from Cineworld: The founder of Picturehouse, the boutique cinema chain, is hatching a plan to buy it back as part of a potential break-up of Cineworld. Sky News reported Lyn Goleby, who established Picturehouse nearly 35 years ago, has held discussions with Vue International about its offer to buy large chunks of Cineworld. It was unclear whether Goleby and Vue had reached any form of agreement about the terms of a collaboration. Vue is among a number of suitors for Cineworld, which is listed in London but has seen its shares collapse after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. A sale of Picturehouse could aid Vue from a competition perspective given its status as one of Britain's biggest cinema operators. Cineworld is running a formal auction of its assets, although it said last month that any sale of its assets was unlikely to realise any value for its shareholders. "The company has now received non-binding proposals from a number of potential transaction counterparties for some or all of the group's business," it said in a stock exchange announcement. None of these proposals involves an all-cash bid for the entire business.
Lakedown strengthens team ahead of new brewery opening: East Sussex-based Lakedown Brewing Co has appointed James Cuthbertson, formerly managing director of Dark Star Brewing Co, as a partner ahead of the opening of its new state of the art brewery later this year. Cuthbertson, who stepped down as managing director of Dark Star Brewing Co in summer 2019, oversaw the sale of the craft brewery to Fuller’s. He returns to the brewing industry after a four-year break. Situated in Burwash, Lakedown’s new site is an addition to the Roger Daltrey owned Lakedown Fishery. The new brewery is very much a family affair, with Roger, his son Jamie and two sons-in-law’s, Des and Chris, all involved in the day-to-day running of the business. Cuthbertson said: “A lot has changed in the industry over the past four years, not least the impact of the pandemic and an eye-watering rise in costs. However, the guiding principles still hold true, like never compromising on the quality of ingredients, being in a constant state of innovation and ensuring consistency remains a key focus. When I was approached about the role, met the team and saw the vision, it was a no-brainer to join what I know will be an incredible journey.” Lakedown Brewing Co managing partner, Chris Rule added: “James is a great addition to our team and brings with him a wealth of experience that will be vital to us as we establish ourselves in the UK brewing scene.”
Adam Handling Restaurant Group opens new staff training and well-being centre: The Adam Handling Restaurant Group, owned by chef Adam Handling, has opened a new staff training and well-being centre in London’s Covent Garden. It has taken the entirety of a four-storey building in Maiden Lane, near the Frog by Adam Handling restaurant and Eve Bar, to launch a venue that is open to all employees, as well as housing an office. It features a dedicated space for ongoing training at all levels; a full kitchen and dining room for the team; and chill-out rooms to use between and after shifts. Handling said the “significant investment” in the site would “far exceed the amount it would need to spend to hire more staff in to cover additional days off”. He added: “Our group’s first priority is the well-being of every member of the team. Unlike many restaurateurs who feel that offering fewer working hours is the answer to stronger mental health, we’re sure that enriching the working week is the real way to go for team happiness and growth. We’ve launched annual employee awards, to incentivise hard work and give back to team members, with the chance to win up to £5,000 in prizes. We invest in our team members and always promote from within the company when possible.” In addition, the group has introduced incentives to encourage staff to look after their physical and mental well-being, including an extra week off a year for those who do not smoke or vape and subsidising gym memberships. “We may have a controversial attitude to staff welfare compared with others in the industry, but we have an incredibly loyal and motivated group of people who love to be at work, contributing to our success,” Handling said.
Cumbria operator puts two hotels up for sale for more than £3m: Cumbria operator Lucidity Group has put two hotels up for sale for a combined total of more than £3m. It has instructed Savills to bring Dunes Hotel and The Townhouse, both in Barrow-in-Furness, to the market. Dunes Hotel is based over two floors and was fully refurbished in 2018. It comprises 40 bedrooms, two bars and a restaurant, wedding and event facilities, treatment rooms, a conservatory, garden and large car park. Offers of more than £1.85m are invited. The Townhouse is a boutique hotel arranged over a basement and two upper floors that was also refurbished in 2018. It comprises 13 en-suite bedrooms, a bar and restaurant, private dining facilities, meeting and event space and a nearby car park available on separate negotiation. Offers of more than £1.5m are invited. Lucidity Group was founded in 2017, with The Townhouse its first opening. According to its website, it also operates the Stagger Inn in Stainton Adgarley, the Castle Inn in Hornby and the Live Arts Basement in Barrow-in-Furness. The group was acquired by Ken Wilson, chairman of Catalyst Development, in 2018. Following the £2.5m takeover, Wilson said he would invest an additional £3.5m into the group to “accelerate the rejuvenation of the wider Furness area” and “establish Lucidity Group at the forefront of local hospitality”.
Stonegate adds Lambeth site to Chapter Collection estate: Stonegate Group is to add The Duke of Sussex pub in London’s Lambeth to its fledgling premium food-led format – The Chapter Collection. The Duke of Sussex will reopen on Wednesday, 29 March with an upgraded look and new menu. Situated in the heart of Waterloo in Baylis Road, the 360-cover, 2,034 square-foot venue includes a main dining room and four private dining spaces. Propel understands there are now five fully converted Chapter Collection sites, and while there is no set target of how many Stonegate plans to open, the company is looking to grow the number of sites within London over the coming year. Last November, then Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom told Propel the business was pleased with the progress of its fledgling premium food-led format and that it would roll the format out with “care and at a sensible pace”. The new format was launched last year with the opening of The Clerk and Well pub in London’s Clerkenwell Road. 

Work under way on new £250m 28-acre indoor water park in Manchester: Work has started on a new £250m 28-acre indoor water park in Manchester. Theme Manchester was first confirmed back in 2020, with the company already operating a site in Bucharest. The resort is being built on the former EventCity conference centre, which has since been demolished, next to the Trafford Centre. The venue, which is roughly the size of 19 football pitches, will feature 25 swimming pools for all ages, as well as a wave pool. The pools will have 35 water slides as well as water fitness classes. An adult-only section will have swim-up bars, water lagoons and more than 30 steam rooms and saunas.
Former Wagamama and Pret CFO joins nutrition food brand: Former Wagamama and Pret A Manger chief financial officer David Di Cello has joined nutrition food brand Huel, where he will perform the same role. Propel revealed in January that Wagamama had promoted Matt Crumpler from financial controller to chief financial officer to replace Di Cello, who joined The Restaurant Group-owned brand in 2020 from Pret. Having led Wagamama’s high growth international and retail businesses and played a key part in creating the overall business strategy, Di Cello left to pursue a new venture. He has now joined Huel, which recorded its best-ever monthly sales in January 2023, following £144m of revenue for the year to July 2022 and a successful £20m funding round led by Highland Europe, which completed in December. Di Cello said: “I’m excited to be joining Huel at such an important time for the business and I look forward to working with all of the team on this next stage of growth.”

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