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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 27th Apr 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fuller’s to transfer 23 pubs from managed to tenanted: Fuller’s is to transfer 23 of its managed pubs across to its tenanted division, Propel has learned. Propel understands three pubs have already moved and a further 20 will transfer over in the coming months. The pubs include The Builder’s Arms in Croydon, The Castle in Ealing, The Queen’s Head in Chesham, The Five Bells in Leighton Buzzard, The Fisherman’s Haunt in Christchurch and The King’s Head in Guildford. At the end of the transfer process, which will take a few months to complete, Fuller’s will have 180 managed pubs and hotels and 197 tenanted inns. A Fuller’s spokesperson told Propel: “Operating both managed and tenanted pubs has always been a key tenet of Fuller’s strategy, and the company has always holistically curated its pub estate, operating individual sites under the business model that worked best for the pub and best for Fuller’s, and moving sites between the two. These moves normally happen on an individual site basis, but following 12 months’ trading free of restrictions, and in light of the changing economics of running a pub, we have undertaken a strategic review of the whole estate. As a result, we have decided to move a number of our pubs into our award-winning tenanted inns division. We believe these pubs will thrive under an entrepreneurial tenant, with the support of our excellent tenanted team, and deliver a better financial return for the pub and for Fuller’s. It will put Fuller’s in the strongest possible position to continue building, growing and enhancing our pub estate – as reflected in our recent acquisitions of The Willow in Bourton-on-the-Water and The Rising Sun in the New Forest, the reopening of The Admiralty on Trafalgar Square and the current refurbishment of The Sanctuary House by Westminster Abbey.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – six F&B opportunities available at East Bank in London: This month, CF Commercial and P-Three had a launch event in the ArcelorMittal Orbit, for the new Stratford Waterfront commercial units at East Bank in London. A breakfast was on offer, followed by a presentation and an opportunity to go down the world’s longest slide! A CF Commercial spokesperson said: “East Bank will be a vibrant and dynamic destination, with Sadler’s Wells opening a new 550-seat theatre, operating at least 100 performances a day; BBC will be the new home for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC singers with recording facilities and access to the public for performances; UAL’s London College of Fashion, a state-of-the-art campus, will be accommodating 6,500 students; the new V&A museum will display 73,000 square foot of world-famous collections; and UCL is creating a new campus for circa 4,000 students. East Bank has six new food and beverage opportunities, ranging in size from 850 square feet to 3,500 square feet, plus external seating/terrace areas. Some units can also be combined. Please see the brochure here for information.” Anyone interested and wanting further information can contact Gabi Drury at CF Commercial at gabrielle@cfcommercial.co.uk. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Former The Restaurant Group chairwoman among speakers at Propel Multi-Club Conference featuring all-female line-up of leaders: Debbie Hewitt, former chairwoman of The Restaurant Group, will be among the speakers at the second Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, which takes place on Thursday, 29 June, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington. Hewitt, who talks about her career in business, was appointed chairwoman of the Football Association in June 2021 and is the first woman to hold the post. The all-day conference, which is organised in conjunction with Ann Elliott, will feature an all-female line-up of sector leaders on learning lessons from the pandemic and moving forward. More than 300 people have already booked a place this week alone. Multi-site operators can book up to three free places each by emailing paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
One day to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, 23 businesses being added: A total of 23 new multi-site companies, operating 181 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released tomorrow (Friday, 28 April) at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional restaurant operators, growing café brands and expanding hotel operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 2,000-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,832 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 5 May, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 5,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: 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 £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. 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 Rising helps boost appeal to work in sector: New research from sector recruitment initiative Hospitality Rising, in partnership with research consultancy KAM, has demonstrated a positive shift in the way the industry is perceived. More than one-in-three (35%) UK adults now consider hospitality an appealing industry in which to work, up from one-in-five just a year ago. Progress has been driven by activity across the industry – from operators, trade bodies and suppliers – plus the positive impact of the Hospitality Rising initiative and its #RiseFastWorkYoung campaign. The research also highlighted that, of those who currently don’t work in the industry, the consideration to work in hospitality has increased from 52% to 81%. When benchmarked against other industries, such as education, retail and construction, hospitality has experienced the biggest increase in consideration to work over a 12-month period. The success of the inaugural “Rise Fast, Work Young” campaign, which recently hit 105,000 job applications, is such that nearly half (46%) of the target 18 to 30-year-old demographic had seen and remembered the campaign and 76% of this group said the campaign would encourage them to work in hospitality. Encouragingly, the results were similarly high for slightly older job seekers with 75% of 31 to 40-year-olds saying the ads would encourage them to work in hospitality too. Mark McCulloch, founder of Hospitality Rising and campaign director, said: “It is incredible to see this transformation in the way hospitality careers are perceived in less than six months of launching our first campaign. We are so proud of what the Hospitality Rising team have achieved, proving the power of what we can achieve as an industry when we truly come together to tackle important issues. This is why we will continue to champion the hospitality industry far and wide. Without new talent coming into the industry we will continue to struggle. The needle on total vacancies will take time to move, so we are calling on all operators big and small to invest in the campaign for year two, starting in September. We’ve come so far in six months with 300 investors imagine what we could do with 1,000. Let’s not take a step back but keep up momentum and build on this fantastic start.”
 
Food inflation dips amid boom in cut-price brands: Grocery inflation dipped slightly in the past month but the price of groceries is still 17.3% higher than last year, new figures showed. The Times reported inflation in prices at the supermarket fell slightly from 17.5% recorded in the month to mid-March, according to statistics published by Kantar, the data analytics company. Consumers are increasingly turning to own-brand products, which are typically cheaper, as the cost-of-living crisis squeezes budgets. Sales of own-brand lines rose by 13.5% in the month to mid-April, according to the Kantar data. Sales of value products rose by 46% compared with the same period in the previous year. As prices continue to rise, bargain retailers are growing their market share, with Aldi and Lidl hitting new record market shares over the past 12 weeks. Aldi accounted for 10.1% of supermarket share and Lidl took 7.6% of sales in the market. Tesco accounts for 27% of the market, while Sainsbury’s and Asda account for 14.9% and 14%, respectively. The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates again next month after inflation failed to come down by as much as expected in March.

Tax raid costs Britain more than £3bn as tourists flock to France: The UK will miss out on more than £3bn of tourist spending this year as “Europe eats Britain’s lunch” after a tax raid on travellers by prime minister Rishi Sunak, new data suggested. The Telegraph reported figures show that spending by visitors from the US and Gulf states has surged in France and Italy while barely reaching pre-pandemic levels in the UK after the government-imposed VAT on their purchases of goods. Separately, official figures showed the government has £13bn of headroom for tax cuts after public sector borrowing came in lower than expected. The data comes amid a growing political backlash against the VAT rules, which were introduced by Sunak in 2020, imposing a 20% sales tax on tourists visiting Britain from outside the European Union. Priti Patel, a former cabinet minister, said: “Britain should be open for business and bringing back tax-free shopping, which will attract tourists to spend money here. The chancellor must look at this policy as it would make our country more competitive, boost our economy with billions of pounds more being spent in Britain and tens of thousands of jobs would be created.” Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, added: “The removal of the tax-free shopping scheme is a self-inflicted wound on the British economy. Without the scheme, we are lagging behind the rest of Europe – look at the spending of the American and Middle Eastern visitor in Paris compared with London and it is very clear the UK is being left behind when it comes to the recovery of international tourism.”

Home Office arrests 60 delivery drivers in crackdown on illegal workers: The Home Office has arrested 60 delivery drivers working for major firms on suspicion of working in the UK illegally. The Home Office said the drivers were working for a number of major delivery companies. Those arrested worked for firms including Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats. They were arrested across London and the south for offences including illegal working and possession of false documentation. The government department said the week-long crackdown led to the seizure of items suspected of being linked to criminal activity. They included imitation firearms, weapons and more than £4,500 in cash. Of those arrested, 44 were detained by the Home Office, pending their removal from the UK, with the remaining 16 being released on immigration bail. Employers can be jailed for five years and pay an unlimited fine if they are found guilty of employing someone they knew or had “reasonable cause to believe” did not have the right to work in the UK. A Deliveroo spokesperson said: “All Deliveroo riders must have the right to work in the UK, in order to have an account with the company. Deliveroo takes a zero-tolerance approach towards any rider who fails to meet their legal obligations when working with us.” An UberEats spokesperson added: “There is no place for illegal work on our platform, and we take these allegations extremely seriously. All couriers who use the UberEats app are required to pass a criminal background check, be over the age of 18 and hold a valid right to work in the UK.” A Just Eat spokesperson said: “We have high standards and a robust criteria in place for couriers delivering on behalf of Just Eat. This includes ensuring couriers are over the age of 18, carrying out basic criminal checks and making sure they have the right to work in the UK. If we find our high expectations are not met, we will investigate and immediately take action.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a technology and telecommunications company that has built its business in the hospitality and commercial space that is looking for a business development manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will have at least two years’ sales experience and some technical and hospitality knowledge. You will be speaking to IT leaders about their IT and telecommunications needs and must be confident and knowledgeable. You will be generating new business, from existing leads and ones you have sourced yourself, growing existing accounts and meeting partners face-to-face. Due to the nature of this role, a full UK driving licence is necessary.” The salary is up to £50,000 plus car and commission and the position is based in London. The company also offers a range of benefits including remote working, healthcare, quarterly well-being time and increased annual leave with service. For more information, email hayley@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Wasabi completes re-organisation with appointment of new CFO and manufacturing MD: Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain backed by Capdesia, has appointed John Buckingham as its new chief financial officer and David Dunne as its new managing director of manufacturing, Propel has learned. Both join the business as part of the re-organisation of the group into three distinct business units – Restaurants, Grocery and Manufacturing – to “dial up the focus in each of these key areas”.  The company said that this will “further leverage the unique value of Wasabi’s multi-channel and vertically integrated business model”. Buckingham has extensive experience across manufacturing, FMCG and retail and joins Wasabi from Walgreens Boots Alliance, where he was global chief financial officer for No7 Beauty Company. Prior to this, he held senior leadership positions in PepsiCo and the Pepsi Lipton JV across the UK and Europe. He said: “I am excited to join the Wasabi team at such a pivotal time for the company. The blend of the Restaurant, Grocery, and Manufacturing business units, underpinned by passionate employees, puts Wasabi in a unique position to achieve our present and future goals.” Dunne joins Wasabi from Pilgrim’s Food Masters where he was director of operational excellence, having had a long and successful career with Kerry Foods, culminating in leading the manufacturing and supply chain functions across five chilled ready-meal sites in the UK. He said: “I am delighted to join such a vibrant and ambitious business. Having spent quality time with Wasabi team members at all levels across our integrated supply chain, I am really excited about the opportunities we have to drive the business forward.” Henry Birts, chief executive of Wasabi, said: “I am delighted to welcome both John and David to the Wasabi team. They are joining at an exciting time following our recent round of investment. The depth of experience in their respective careers, combined with their individual skill sets, mirrors the needs of our unique model to fulfil our aspirations for the future. We are now set up with the right structure and team to take Wasabi to the next level.” Last month, Capdesia, which acquired a minority stake in Wasabi in 2019, partnered with Elliott Advisors (UK) to lead a recapitalisation of the business. It said the new funding positioned Wasabi for future growth while also strengthening its balance sheet.

Chipotle – our UK business has got great momentum: Brian Niccol, chief executive of US brand Chipotle, has said the company’s UK business has got “great momentum” but “we’re going to take our time because we want to get it right”. Speaking after the brand’s latest trading update, Niccol praised Jim Slater, Chipotle’s chief international officer, for the “great job” the business was doing in the UK, where it currently operates 14 sites. He said: “Our UK business has got great momentum. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of inflation in the P&L there, and we have not priced for it because we think a lot of it is temporary, and we’re still establishing ourselves in those markets. And I’m optimistic, because if you can get the top line, usually the rest works itself out. And we’re putting in place the digital system, the operational excellence and the great culinary offer. I’m optimistic we’re going to get where we’ll move this thing out of the stage gate process, but we’re going to take our time because we want to get it right. That’s what the team is after and they’re making great progress.” Chipotle increased its presence in London “villages” with an opening in Twickenham last Friday (21 April). The business, which operates 13 sites in London and one in Watford, opened in the former Caffe Nero in London Road. The business has also been linked with an opening in East Dulwich. Chipotle UK features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £11,125,312 for the year ending 31 December 2021 is the 421st 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 £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Mikos Gyros founder – franchising is a great space to be in, planning 20 sites by end of 2024 and international expansion: The founder of Greek farm-to-table grill brand Mikos Gyros has told Propel franchising is “a great space to be in” as he plans for 20 sites by the end of 2024 and eventual international expansion. In a recent Propel Premium Opinion, David Roberts, head of the leisure practice at international law firm CMS, argued the maturing of the UK’s food and beverage franchising market is set to provide greater opportunities for international growth. Hugo Ushida, who launched Mikos Gyros in 2017, said: “The franchise model works really well for us. The sector is really exciting and growing, and it’s a great space to be in. I have seven franchisees and am in talks with an eighth – and I had none this time last year, so it has really taken off these last six months – and that’s with the state the economy is in.” The brand currently has eight sites and has this year opened in Manchester (delivery only but soon to be bricks-and-mortar), Birmingham (delivery only) and London’s Walthamstow (bricks and mortar). A site in Epsom is currently in negotiations, while the company is also actively looking at sites in Bristol. It has also closed its central production unit in Norbury, south London, and is looking to open one in Leeds instead. “We’re looking to break into Scotland, the north of England and Ireland, reach the 50-site mark and then go abroad,” Ushida said. “We’ll look at going into New Zealand, Australia and the US, where there is a great demand for high quality with good pricing – and no other Greek operator can beat us on price. We’re about to work with the largest Mediterranean importer in the UK, which will also help with pricing. We’re on track to have ten sites by the end of the year and 20 by the end of 2024.” Ushida said his immediate pipeline will include openings in London’s Wood Green and New Barnet, as well as Leeds and Coventry, while sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow are “in discussions”. Mikos Gyros features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which this month celebrated its first anniversary since launching. In that time, it has doubled in size from an initial 100 companies to 200 in the latest edition, which was released last week. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

McDonald’s global CFO – Raise Your Arches prime example of marketing excellence in action: Ian Borden, global chief financial officer of McDonald’s, has said that the company’s recent Raise Your Arches campaign in the UK was a prime example of the fast-food chain’s marketing excellence in action. He said: “This campaign did not feature our food or our restaurants. Yet, by illustrating a simple gesture, the raising of eyebrows, our customers instantly recognised the semblance of the golden arches, and the engagement was remarkable. In fact, within the first weekend alone, Raise Your Arches reached millions of people, and our customers reacted on social media more than 30,000 times. As the campaign quickly scaled to more than 30 markets across the globe, Raise Your Arches drove brand affinity around the world and once again proved the true power of the McDonald’s brand. This is an example of how one singular idea can drive impact when shared across our markets. MyMcDonald’s Rewards is yet another example of how we’ve tapped into our marketing engine to deploy our loyalty platform throughout the system. Now in 50 markets, loyalty is building even stronger relationships with our customers, and the results continue to shine. In our top six markets, digital sales now represent almost 40% of system-wide sales, or nearly $7.5bn growth of more than 30% over the last year. We have nearly 50 million 90-day active members across these top markets, and our relationship with them continues to grow. We’re learning when they visit, how they visit and what they buy.”

Coca-Cola reports strong Q1 performance for Costa: The Coca-Cola Company has reported a strong performance for Costa Coffee in its first quarter, driven by increased sales in the UK and China. The company, which acquired Costa for $5.4bn (£3.9bn) in 2018, said its coffee unit volume grew 9% in the three months 31 March 2023, primarily driven by the strong performance of Costa in the UK and China. When talking about its global ventures arm, which includes Costa, the company said: “Net revenues declined 3% and organic revenues (non-GAAP) grew 5%. Net revenues included an eight-point currency headwind. Revenue performance benefited from the strong performance of Costa Coffee in the UK and China.” The company operates circa 2,700 Costa sites in the UK and more than 12,800 Costa Express coffee machines.

EL&N signs partnership agreement to launch in India: Cafe and lifestyle brand EL&N has signed a franchise partnership agreement to launch in India. It has agreed a franchise deal with Reliance Brands to open sites in the country, which will become its eighth market globally. Earlier this month, Reliance Brands opened the first Pret site in India, in Mumbai. In February, EL&N, which operates 25 stores across Europe and the Middle East including ten in London, signed a deal with Lagardère Travel Retail to launch franchise sites in travel locations. Last month, the business, which was founded in 2017 by Alexandra Miller, confirmed it will add to its regional UK estate with an opening in Birmingham’s Bullring. EL&N, which made its UK regional debut in Scotland at the end of last year, recently opened a second site outside London, in Manchester’s Trafford Palazzo. 
 
Acai Berry strengthens presence in London with Royal Exchange opening: Brazilian superfood brand Acai Berry has strengthened its presence in London with an opening at the Royal Exchange. The company, which was founded by Marcus Carmo and Renato Damiano, opened its seventh site in the capital earlier this week. The concept focuses on acai – a staple in Brazilian and US daily diets – in bowls and as snacks or smoothies. It also offers protein balls, brownies and organic coffee. The brand began as a stall in Brick Lane and has grown to permanent sites in locations including Argyll Street, Carnaby Street, Chelsea and Oxford Circus. Bruce Gillingham Pollard acted on the Royal Exchange deal.

Tossed to open two new flagship London stores: Tossed, the healthy eating brand owned and led by Neil Sebba and Angelina Harrisson, is set to open two new London stores. They are the 1,200 square-foot former Vision Express unti at 120 Cheapside, and the 1400 square-foot ex-Benugos store at 54 Victoria Street. Managing director Neil Sebba said: “These are two hugely exciting new locations for us. They present opportunities to place Tossed on the map in two of the busiest streets in London and are both locations that we have long sought. Cheapside is fitting out now, and both stores will be opening for the summer. We are excited to be bringing food to make you feel good to more Londoners and optimistic about what we can do in these locations.” Two existing stores will close to make way for the new locations, meaning the company will continue to operate 11 locations across the capital. Mark Segal from Braiser Freeth advised Tossed on the deals.

Afrikana prepares for Scottish debut, three territories sold in country: African restaurant concept Afrikana is preparing to make its Scottish debut, with three territories sold in the country. The franchise concept is set to open its first store there in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street and has also lined up a second Glasgow site and one in Edinburgh. Propel reported earlier this month that Afrikana had struck a ten-site multi franchise deal with a French operators Habibur Rahman and Osman Prince, as it targets a 20-strong estate by the end of 2023. Afrikana currently has nine sites open and is set to launch this year in Mile End, Hounslow, Ilford, Manchester, Leeds, Coventry and Bradford.

Kingdom Taverns sees rise in turnover and profit but both still behind pre-pandemic levels: Scottish pub company Kingdom Taverns reported an increase in turnover and profit for the year ending 31 July 2022, but both are still behind pre-pandemic levels. Turnover was up from £1,857,824 in 2021 to £4,703,180 but below the £5,703,016 reported in the last full year pre-covid, ending 31 July 2019. Pre-tax profit grew from £329,624 in 2021 to £613,282 but was still down of the £1,193,301 reported in 2019. Net assets increased from £3,121,460 in 2021 to £3,618,748. No dividends were paid. Average employee numbers grew from 62 to 82 during the year. Director Edward Melville said the group is well placed to take advantage of opportunities that may arise during the year. Founded in 1991, Kingdom Taverns manages and leases an estate of 27 pubs across Scotland.

Starbucks certifies first five UK ‘greener stores’: Starbucks has certified its first five “greener stores” in the UK as it commits to certifying 100 outlets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa this year. The branches are London’s Battersea Power Station, Birmingham Selly Oak, Dartford Prospect Place, Beckton Gallions Reach and Cardiff Capital Shopping Park. The recent additions will bring the multinational chain closer to its aim of operating 10,000 “greener stores” globally by 2025. Starbucks has certified more than 3,500 stores across the world with many of them in the US. To become a “greener store”, each outlet needs to meet a set of 25 requirements that include standards around energy efficiency, the management of waste and water as well as the use of more sustainable materials. Starbucks also has targets to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, as well as cut the amount of water it uses in its global operations and the amount of waste it sends to landfill. Starbucks chief sustainability officer Michael Kobori said: “I’m so proud to see our ‘greener stores’ framework continue to scale for good globally. The programme we have created will continue to move us closer towards our resource positive goals.”

New pan-Asian restaurant concept to open in London’s Chinatown: A new pan-Asian restaurant concept is opening in London’s Chinatown. YiQi, which is the brainchild of Kevin Cheong, will launch in Lisle Street in the summer. The YiQi menu will celebrate different cuisines from across the east and south east Asia (ESEA) region. This includes fragranced south east Asian delicacies, regional Chinese favourites, Korean classics and Japanese art-like dishes. YiQi’s debut will employ innovative cooking methods, from sous vide to teppanyaki and binchotan, a form of grill cooking “using the most revered charcoal in the world”. The recipes and techniques at the 2,000 square-foot restaurant have been created by chef Lum Wah Cheok, who has worked for Hakkasan and Yauatcha. Cheong said: “YiQi brings together a variety of authentic ESEA dishes within one beautiful setting, brought to life by the exceptional and renowned chef Lum Wah Cheok. Launching our restaurant in an environment where east Asian culture is represented and celebrated is particularly important to us, and we can think of no better place than Chinatown London.”

The O2 to launch new members club: London’s The O2 is to launch ‘The Residence’, an exclusive VIP members club with a 300-person capacity. Opening late in 2023, the club will offer members a “premium experience with panoramic views of the stage and a first-of-its-kind retractable viewing platform”.  The £7m 300-person venue will be set over 1,150 square metres and located on Level Three, directly opposite the arena stage. Prices for tickets will start between £15,000 and £16,000. The new space will feature intimate lounges and booths and a range of premium bars – including a cocktail bar and a ‘floating’ champagne bar – and a 50-seat restaurant with an open kitchen. Matt Botten, senior director premium seating at The O2, said: “We’ve seen a real shift in recent years of premium customers craving more shared spaces and immersive experiences. The Residence will be the most exclusive new member’s club at the world’s best venue, and we’re sure it will become the hottest ticket in town for enjoying live entertainment.”

JKS Restaurants-owned Michelin-starred Indian restaurant launches retail range: JKS Restaurants-owned Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana, in London’s Mayfair, has launched its own retail range. Gymkhana Fine Foods will feature restaurant-quality cooking sauces, marinades and chutneys. Available to pre-order online this week, it will be created in small batches, using all natural ingredients, with no artificial colours or added preservatives. The initial range features eight products, including four sauces, two marinades and two chutneys. Karam Sethi, co-founder of JKS restaurants, said: “The creation of Gymkhana Fine Foods has been driven by the same ambitions we had when pushing the boundaries when opening Gymkhana ten years ago. We want to offer an elevated Indian dining experience that represents the true flavours of India for consumers at home. We believe this range will lead the way in defining a new category of premium at-home products.” The products will be available to buy at a price range between £6-£8 via Gymkhana’s retail website before hitting stores later this year.

New Italian restaurant focusing on small plates opens in Edinburgh: A new Italian restaurant focusing on small plates has opened in Edinburgh. Assaggini, in Rose Street, uses a blend of Scottish and Italian ingredients, with the pizza and pasta dishes created to be shared. The restaurant is spread across two floors and can accommodate more than 160 people, with private dining and event spaces in the downstairs area. The menu includes Paccheri Piccante pasta in a mascarpone and ‘nduja sauce; and pizza with mortadella, pistachio and burrata. Side dishes include spicy ‘nduja fries, and a Parma ham and buffalo mozzarella focaccia. The wine list features “the best of Italian wine” alongside an extensive list of classic cocktails.

Marugame Udon opens debut UK regional site: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon has opened its first regional site in the UK. Propel revealed in July 2022 that the company, which is led by Keith Bird and backed by Capdesia in the UK, had secured a former Pizza Hut unit at the town’s The Oracle scheme for its first opening outside of the capital. It has now opened the 5,952 square-foot restaurant, which features 148 covers as well as click-and-collect kiosks. The company last month opened its tenth UK location, in London’s The Strand, and plans to grow to 25 sites here by the end of the year. It is understood to have lined up an ex-Carluccio’s restaurant in Milton Keynes for its second regional opening, and is in legals on a number of other sites both inside and outside London.

Mission Mars confirms July opening for third Rudy’s site: Mission Mars has confirmed its third Birmingham site under its Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana brand will open in July. Propel revealed last month that Rudy’s had secured the ex-Hawkshead Tap House and the barber shop next door in Harborne’s High Street. Neal Bates, managing director of Rudy’s, said: “Birmingham has been incredibly welcoming to the Rudy’s famiglia since we first opened here in 2019, and we can’t wait to expand our sites in this city. Harborne, with its audience of young professionals and families, is a great location for Rudy’s, and we can’t wait to open in the summer.” Propel also revealed, earlier this month, that Mission Mars will house a new hospitality academy and a relaunched bake-at-home business at its latest Rudy’s site, in Manchester, opening this spring. As part of its three-year plan, the business will look to open six to eight Rudy’s sites per year. It currently operates 17 Rudy’s locations and has several others in legals.

Shake Shack opens in Camden: US better burger brand Shake Shack has opened its new site in Camden, north London. Propel reported in February that the brand would further increase its UK presence with an opening at the ex-All Saints site at 287 Camden High Street, facing Regent’s Canal, for its 13th location here. The three-storey site has now opened, offering the signature ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries and ShackMeister Ale as well as the Camden Crunch, which is unique to the site and features vanilla custard, fudge sauce, ChinChin Labs bee pollen honeycomb and brownie cookie. Shake Shack Camden will donate 5% of sales of its Camden Crunch to Camden Food Bank. Shake Shack is also set to open its 14th UK location, and first south of the River Thames, later this year in the former Barclays site at 188 Clapham High Street. Since opening in New York in 2004, it has expanded to more than 430 sites, including in excess of 140 international locations.

Taiwanese bubble tea franchise expands to Essex for second UK site: Taiwanese bubble tea franchise Milksha, which operates more than 300 stores worldwide, has expanded to Essex for its second UK site. The new location, in Head Street, Colchester, will open on May 13, offering a variety of Taiwanese cafe drinks and bakery goods including its popular bubble tea, reports Essex Live. It will be Milksha’s second UK cafe after it opened its first in London’s Chinatown last October. The brand recently launched its first UK franchise opportunities, at the London International Franchise Show. “It has been fantastic to see the response to the London opening, both from avid Milksha fans and those new to the brand,” said Suhail Hanif, franchising director for Milksha UK. “Already a proven franchise model across six countries, we want to share the success and continue with the brand’s UK growth through our franchise programme.”

Leicestershire distillery set to wind down operations after failing to attract buyer following appointment of administrators: Leicestershire distillery Union Distillers is set to wind down its operations after failing to attract a buyer following the appointment of administrators. Simon Stibbons and Geoffrey Rowley, of FRP Advisory, were appointed as joint administrators to Union Distillers on 21 April and The British Honey Company on 25 April. As a subsidiary of The British Honey Company, Union Distillers was a producer of artisan gin, vodka, and absinthe operating from a distillery in Market Harborough. Due to a decline in sales and key customer contracts coming to an end, it was no longer able to meet financial obligations and was placed into administration. Although a sale process has been undertaken, no interested parties wished to take the business forward. The joint administrators are now in the process of winding down operations with an anticipated end date of mid-May, with the redundancy of all employees. Stibbons said: “Union Distillers had been trading since 2012 and introduced a new simplified business model to drive sales through more bespoke and no-alcohol brands. However, changes to some of its key client contracts resulted in a decrease in sales and, without sufficient working capital, Union could no longer trade.”

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