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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 4th May 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Giggling Squid has 21 sites in legals or under offer: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by the Business Growth Fund (BGF), has 21 sites across the UK in legals or under offer, Propel has learned. The 46-strong Giggling Squid has already lined up five new openings for 2023 – two in Cardiff, plus sites in Muswell Hill, Shrewsbury and Bracknell. It has also secured the ex-Bill's site in Epsom, Surrey, for an opening in 2024. Propel understands Giggling Squid has also secured the ex-Loch Fyne site in Knowle High Street, Solihull, as it looks to build its openings pipeline. The business will open in Cardiff and Bracknell next. Propel understands that the openings will be financed through cash flow and support from the company's bank, Barclays. Earlier this year, Giggling Squid relaunched Lime Squeezy Thai Kitchen, the fast-casual concept from co-founder Pranee Laurillard, as a virtual delivery concept. Laurillard, who founded Giggling Squid with her husband Andy in 2009, launched the concept in 2021 on the former Wahaca restaurant in Chichester, West Sussex, before opening a second site in Brighton. Both sites have since closed. However, Lime Squeezy has been relaunched as a virtual delivery concept, and is currently available out of 11 Giggling Squid sites, including those in Chichester, Harborne, Horsham, Norwich, Tunbridge Wells and Wokingham. It is expected to be rolled out across the majority of the group's estate in time, and is thought to contribute on average circa £2,000 a week in sales per site. The company is also currently focusing on making some “non-site capex investments” across its supply chain. At the end of last year, Laurillard said the business was “well resourced” and intended to continue its “measured expansion as desirable sites become available in our target locations”. It came as the business reported company Ebitda of £11.1m for the year ending 3 April 2022 compared with £5.5m the year before, while turnover broadly doubled to £65,878,079 from £33,887,227 in the prior year, which also included lockdown closures. Pre-tax profit increased to £8.57m from £3.99m the year before. Like-for-like sales performance remained positive through the year as the company benefited from the structural increase in demand for food delivery services and the shift to working from home in the regions where Giggling Squid restaurants are predominantly located. Giggling Squid features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £65,878,079 is the 103rd 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.

Industry News:

Membership panel discussing how sector organisations are helping women progress and grow to feature at Propel Multi-Club Conference featuring all-female line-up of leaders: A membership panel discussing how organisations are helping women progress and grow within their different sectors will feature 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. 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. The panel will feature Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, chair of the London Tourism Board and chair of ACC Liverpool; Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association and chair of the Worldwide Brewing Alliance; and Katariina Reissaar, chair of the Institute of Hospitality’s Youth Council. More than 300 people have already booked a place. Multi-site operators can book up to three free places each by emailing paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

One day to go before the next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details on 90 new sites, 4,000-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 90 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published tomorrow (Friday, 5 May), at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features growing restaurant and bar groups, niche cuisine, and expanding experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 4,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £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.

Lamb prices rising rapidly, pork and beef prices show no sign of slowing: Lamb prices in the UK have started to rise rapidly, which has increased the price competitiveness when compared with mainland EU, according to analysis by catering butcher Birtwistles. Its latest market report said following a period of lower lamb prices due to seasonal trends and reduced demand, the UK has now seen demand fall in line with availability. New season lamb and cuts are available but “at a price that is prohibitive to most, and those who want to have it on the menu are challenged with supply”. UK prime cattle prices continued to exceed historic levels in March, with the all-prime deadweight average measure moving up to an average of 485.5p. This was up 16% versus the same period last year. The week ending 1 April saw prices reach an average of 488p, a jump of 4.5p throughout the month. Deadweight pig prices have continued climbing to new highs, bringing the average price for the EU spec standard pig price to 219p/kg, with monthly increases of 2.9% and a year-on-year percentage change of 43.79%. Poultry has seen a long and sustained period of consistent price levels both in the UK and EU, with no real signs of any easing in the market, the report said. Demand remains strong in the casual dining sector, especially for thigh meat and fillets.

Hospitality like-for-like sales up 3.3% in April, strong May being forecast: Hospitality like-for-like sales in April were up 3.3% against last year’s levels, according to data from S4labour, the people, productivity and payroll system. It said although April’s statistics are still below the rate of inflation, its rate is the second fastest so far in 2023, which it said is “good news for the sector”. Looking ahead, May is set to bring a big uplift in trading across three bank holidays – including the King’s Coronation – and warmer weather. The Queen’s Jubilee weekend in 2022, which could act as an indicator for this coming weekend, brought a 14% increase to week-on-week sales. Richard Hartley, chief growth officer at S4labour, said: “Amidst what is a tough period for the industry, these figures are positive. With three bank holidays in May, operators across the country will have much stronger trading as consumer interest in eating and drinking out is set to spike, particularly if the weather is good.”

Gaynor Mary Warren-Wright passes away: Gaynor Mary Warren-Wright, who was Propel’s diversity, equality and inclusion advisor, has passed away. One of the UK’s leading commercial lease arbitrators, Gaynor was a former senior director at CBRE. She left in April 2020 after 18 years, having been senior director responsible for the London mid-town (including Covent Garden) and Southbank lease advisory teams, and became the sole principal of Warren Wright Associates. She was also part of the team representing the RICS in discussions with the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy over the Commercial Rents (Coronavirus) Bill 2022, now enacted. Gaynor was also responsible for the roll-out of the legislation to the arbitration communities for the RICS and educating the markets. An advocate for diversity, equality and inclusion and the trans communities in the UK, she was also the first transgender arbitrator appointed by the RICS Dispute Resolution Service. Gaynor became Propel’s diversity, equality and inclusion advisor earlier this year as the team sought to deepen its understanding of inclusivity issues. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “Gaynor knew the sector inside out and we are very sad to hear the news of her passing. She gave me many hours of her time and offered her personal views and insights on a range of diversity issues and are grateful for all the support and advice she has given us. Our prayers and thoughts go out to Gaynor's family.”

Rising cost of ingredients drives up price of Britain's favourite takeaway: A plate of fish and chips will now set you back £9 after the price of the classic British takeaway soared by a fifth. The Telegraph reported the cost of fish and chips rose by 19% in the year to March, a new breakdown of inflation data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed. The takeaway now costs £9 on average, the ONS said, up from £7.56 a year ago. Fish and chips has seen the largest price rise of any major takeaway over the last year, with the cost of all its ingredients climbing rapidly. The cost of potatoes, fish and batter have risen sharply, as have cooking oil and energy prices. A kilo of potatoes now costs 27% more than a year ago, while a battered white fish is up by nearly a third. The cost of oil has jumped by almost 50%. The National Federation of Fish Friers has warned scores of shops could close because of rapidly climbing costs. Andrew Crook, the president of the organisation and owner of a fish and chip shop in Lancashire, said he believed soaring costs would speed up the closure of around a third of businesses in the industry. Crook said: “I speak to several members. One is having his house valued because he's going to have to sell that. He's [also] trying to offload his shop but people are struggling to sell businesses as well, and you know, you feel trapped. It's just a matter of trying to get through this period and hopefully things will be brighter.” Other takeaway foods that have seen large price rises include burgers, kebabs and pizzas, which have all seen double-digit percentage price rises. A pint of lager in a pub has risen by 7% in a year, while liqueurs such as amaretto have seen the biggest price increase of any alcohol, rising 11%.

COREcruitment to host female leaders networking event: COREcruitment has partnered with LABS for a female leaders networking event, which will be held at LABS House in Bloomsbury Way, London, on Thursday, 11 May. The guest speaker will be Linda Riley (she/her), publisher of LGBTQI women and non-binary people magazine DIVA, and founder of Lesbian Visibility Week. Spaces can be reserved by clicking here.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a leisure consultancy based in Oxford that is looking for a financial controller. The company works with leisure and events businesses across the UK to support performance and growth. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The business is in growth and looking at expanding its international client base as well as international offices. In order to thrive, it is looking for a senior accountant/financial controller with strong knowledge of the venues and events, attractions and leisure sector who can support finance operations and stakeholder management as well as strategy and long-term planning. This role would suit a collaborative, hands-on financial professional who has both excellent technical skill but also strategy and leadership skills.” The salary is up to £70,000. For more information, email hollie@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

KFC UK system sales up 5% in first quarter: Yum! Brands has reported KFC system sales in the UK rose 5% for the first quarter ended 31 March 2023, compared with the previous year. The UK accounts for 7% of KFC’s system sales worldwide. Globally, KFC like-for-like sales in the quarter increased 9%, with US like-for-like sales up 2%. System sales worldwide rose 4%. Operating margin was up 0.3 percentage points, and operating profit was up 5% to $305m. KFC opened 385 gross new restaurants in 47 countries during the period. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut system sales in Europe, including the UK, were up 3% – the continent accounts for 14% of Pizza Hut’s system sales globally. Pizza Hut sales were up 6% globally, with like-for-like sales increasing 7%. US system sales, which account for 41% of global sales, were up 10%. Operating margin was down 0.9 percentage points, while operating profit increased 2% to $104m. Pizza Hut opened 271 gross new restaurants in 31 countries during the period. Taco Bell like-for-like sales increased 8% and system sales were up 11%. Operating profit increased 10% to $204m. Taco Bell opened 79 gross new restaurants during the period in 16 countries. Yum! Brands’ total revenue in the quarter was up 6% to $1,645m.

The Vurger Co placed into administration: Vegan fast-food concept The Vurger Co has been placed into administration, Propel has learned. It is understood that Jo Watts and Andrew McTear, of McTear Williams & Wood, and Chris Newell, of Quantuma Advisory, were appointed joint administrators of The Vurger Co at the end of last month. The company’s sites in Shoreditch, Brighton and Manchester continue to trade, but its site in Canary Wharf has closed. In January, Propel revealed that The Vurger Co had appointed advisors to help review its options. The company, which was founded in 2016 by Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts, was working with advisors at FRP on its funding options going forward. A spokesperson for FRP told Propel at the time: “The business is not in administration and is currently looking for new growth opportunities to capitalise on the strong following it has built up over the past seven years of trading. FRP Corporate Finance is supporting the business to identify suitable investment options to drive this growth.” Last year, the company was backed by former Manchester United and England footballer Chris Smalling in its latest investment round. Smalling invested through his venture capitalist consultancy ForGood, adding to his portfolio of plant-friendly investments. The Vurger Co said the funding, including Smalling’s investment, would enable it to expand both in the UK and abroad.

Sticks ‘n’ Sushi to open in Shoreditch: Japanese restaurant group Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is to add to its presence in London, with an opening in Shoreditch. The 200-cover restaurant and bar will open this summer in Shoreditch High Street, next-door to One Hundred Shoreditch. The opening in Shoreditch will mark the group’s first new restaurant this year and its 11th in Britain since the brand’s first UK restaurant in Wimbledon in 2012. It is understood to be in talks on adding a further site in the capital, in Kingston’s Bentall Centre. Andreas Karlsson, group chief executive at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, said: “The new Shoreditch Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is a fantastic addition to the local area, being the ideal location for after-work dinners, drinks, celebratory meals, and business lunches centred on authentic Japanese fare. The area is brimming with bars, restaurants, and atmosphere – and I believe we will become a great addition to the local community." In March, Propel reported that the group’s backers Maj Invest Equity had appointed advisors to assess options for a sale of its stake in the Japanese restaurant group. The Copenhagen-based private equity firm, which first invested in Sticks ‘n’ Sushi at the start of 2013, is understood to be working with advisors at Deloitte to oversee the process. The investment firm currently holds a circa 80% stake in the 25-strong restaurant group. The business, which was founded in Denmark in 1994 by brothers Jens and Kim Rahbek and Thor Andersen, currently operates 12 restaurants in Copenhagen, ten in the UK and three in Berlin. 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. 
 
Electric Star Pubs owner – what we’ve lost in central London footfall we’ve partly made up in the suburbs: Electric Star Pubs owner Rob Star has said what his company has lost in central London footfall it has partly made up in the suburbs. The eight-strong business, which will this month reopen the former Roadtrip in east London as The Star in Shoreditch, has sites ranging from central locations such as King’s Cross and Liverpool Street to outer areas of the capital like Leyton and Leytonstone. “We’ve got some central sites where Wednesdays and Thursdays have picked up, and while Fridays haven’t, Saturdays are extremely busy,” Star told Propel. “There’s obviously been changes in the way people go out, but what we’ve lost at our more centrally located sites we’ve gained back in our sites further out. The train strikes also killed our central sites – not just on strike days but also days when they said they were going to strike but didn’t, and people have already decided to stay at home.” Having taken 15 years to get up to eight sites, Star insisted growing to large numbers “doesn’t appeal” and that ten is “an ideal number”. He said: “We’ve had investment offers with people saying they’d put £5m-£10m in and grow it to 30-50 sites, but that doesn’t appeal. We’ve kept it small and grown organically with the cash we generate. I want a business where I know all the staff and all the regulars in the pubs. I’d do another couple, and then someone else from within the business might decide to take it on. We could go a bit further into the city or West End, or a bit further north and east – we lost one in south London during the pandemic – but I’d like them to stay within an area I can get to on my bike within 15 to 20 minutes.” Star added that trading is good but inflationary pressures are starting to bite, with his utility bills going up “four to five times” when he renewed last summer. “We’ve already put our prices up this year so we can’t pass the costs on – we’ll just have to take a hit to the bottom line,” he said.
 
Heavenly Desserts appoints first head of learning and development: Dessert restaurant franchise Heavenly Desserts has appointed Mimi Elias, former learning and development manager at The Ivy Collection and Ivy Asia, as its first head of learning and development. Elias, who has also worked for Gaucho, Jackson and Rye and The Royal Academy of Arts in London, said: “I’m over the moon to have been appointed as the first dedicated learning and development senior team member at Heavenly Desserts. The future of the industry lies in providing our people the necessary tools to take charge of their own learning, and I will implement processes and training schemes that champion this method.” Heavenly Desserts managing director Yousif Aslam added: “As we continue to expand internationally and look to build our presence in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and America, we felt it was the perfect time to expand the skill set of our senior team, to allow us to train our staff and franchise partners to maintain the brand’s impeccable standards. We are passionate about giving customers the same, best-in-class service no matter the location – whether it's at one of our 48 UK restaurants, or our first location in Canada.” Heavenly Desserts features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. The latest edition, which was sent to Premium subscribers last month, featured 200 companies and more than 93,000 words. 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.

Grounded Kitchen makes casual dining debut, further roll out planned: Korean-inspired restaurant Grounded Kitchen has opened its first casual dining restaurant for its 12th site, with a further roll out of the format planned, Propel has learned. The concept’s 11 previous sites have been takeaway and quick-service restaurants. But the new store, in High Wycombe’s Eden Shopping Centre, sees the business offer table service, alcohol, glassware and cutlery for the first time. The new format is set to rolled out further as the company looks to expand through franchising, franchise director Ralph Llanwarne told Propel. The company, which launched in Leicester in 2017, spent £550,000 on converting the 3,500 square-foot unit into a restaurant, which has 90 covers and has created 35 jobs. Llanwarne added: “We pride ourselves on delivering meals so tasty that people forget that our basic focus is on a healthy balance, and we are delighted that the local community will now be able to experience our Korean nourish bowls for themselves.” Alongside the made-to-order nourish bowls, with fresh vegetables and aromatic sauces, the menu includes bulgogi, with options to make it spicy, vegetarian or vegan depending on taste and dietary requirements. Customers have the option to eat in or take away through collection or Deliveroo. In August last year, Grounded Kitchen said it is aiming to open 50 new UK sites in a £15m investment and is looking to sign up franchise partners for up to 25 sites at a time.

Oxygen strengthens leadership team: Indoor family activity brand Oxygen has strengthened its leadership team with three new appointments. Michael McAuley has joined as chief marketing officer to support the company’s long-term plans for growth, focusing on enhancing the customer experience across its growing portfolio. He has worked in senior marketing roles for brands including Premier Inn, TUI, Brighthouse Group and Carphone Warehouse. Bradley McNamara joins as IT director following a previous role at Itsu and will help develop efficient systems across the business, while Peta Young has joined as head of people and brings a wealth of expertise from a retail background. McAuley said: “Oxygen is both a consolidator and an innovator in the leisure sector and recognises the importance and power of branding to engage consumers to drive loyalty and growth. That makes it a very exciting time to come on board. The strength of Liberty Capital’s support cements Oxygens plans, our investment in the future and a qualified team to realise our long-term strategy.” It follows Oxygen’s acquisition of Jump Evolution in March and RedKangaroo in November last year. Stärka has been appointed to act on the brand’s behalf as it looks to expand to prime sites throughout the country.

Parched London completes £1m-plus deal for sixth site: Parched London, the team behind The Montpelier and White Horse pubs in Peckham, has completed the acquisition of its sixth site in the capital. The company, which is led by Isaac Tooby, Michael Robinson and Shane Ranasinghe, has acquired the freehold of the Telegraph at The Earl of Derby, in New Cross, off a guide price of £1,050,000. The business also operates The Grove House Tavern, in Camberwell, The Roebuck in Borough and The Railway in Streatham. Paul Tallentyre, of Davis Coffer Lyons, acted for Parched on the New Cross deal, while David Gooderham, of AG&G, acted for the vendor.

St Austell Brewery acquires Kingsbridge pub: South west brewer and pub company St Austell Brewery has acquired a Devon pub to bring the total in its managed estate to 41. It has taken ownership of the Crabshell Inn, situated on the quayside overlooking the Kingsbridge estuary in the South Hams, formerly operated by Simon and Sonja Harrow. Andrew Turner, chief operating officer at St Austell Brewery, said: “The Crabshell is a fantastic addition to our managed estate and a great fit for us. It’s a family-friendly destination that is right on the water’s edge, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Simon and Sonja have been running the site for more than 13 years, and during this time have built a very successful business, which is very popular with the local community and visitors to the area.” The Harrows added: “We’re confident that St Austell Brewery, a business which shares our vision and has hospitality at its core, is the most suitable guardian for the Crabshell. It’s a company that we’ve enjoyed a strong trading relationship with, and we know the team there will nurture the pub and help it evolve for the future.” 

Sky News – Black Sheep Brewery sets rescue bids deadline: Black Sheep Brewery, the award-winning Yorkshire brewery and pub operator, has given bidders until the end of this week to save it from collapse. Advisers to Black Sheep Brewery have asked a number of interested parties to table offers on Friday (5 May), just days after it filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators, reports Sky News. Black Sheep Brewery has lined up Teneo Financial Advisory as administrator, although it could seek to delay its formal appointment if a rescue deal becomes viable. Brewing industry sources said a range of financial and strategic investors were expected to show an interest in acquiring Black Sheep Brewery’s assets. Until last month, it had been running a sale process to find a buyer for the company itself. Charlene Lyons, Black Sheep Brewery's chief executive, said earlier this week that the company remained hopeful of finding a saviour. “The business has been hit very hard by the pandemic and the sudden rise in all costs,” she said. “It has been the perfect storm, but the team is confident that with a new structure, Black Sheep Brewery will thrive and grow as the team set course in a new direction.” Founded in 1992 by Paul Theakston, Black Sheep Brewery operates four pubs – Foley’s Tap House and Black Sheep Tap & Kitchen in Leeds, and The Three Legged Mare and The Last Drop Inn in York.

Remaining Handmade Burger Co site closes: The future of the Handmade Burger Co has again come under doubt, after its remaining site in Sheffield’s Meadowhall closed. The Handmade Burger Co name was resurrected in 2021 after the company behind Thai chain Lemongrass acquired the intellectual property for the brand. The business fell into administration for the second time in three years at the start of 2020. Aspirational Brands, the growth vehicle behind brands including Thai brand Lemongrass and Japanese Canteen, had previously spoken about reopening further sites under the once 18-strong burger brand across the UK, plus opening new restaurants in places such as The Beacon shopping scheme in Eastbourne, and the St Enoch Shopping Centre in the heart of Glasgow. Last month, Handmade Burger Co was placed into liquidation. At the same time, Aspirational Brand’s Bothwell House site in Glasgow has also closed. It still operates St Martin’s House in London’s Covent Garden.

Arc Inspirations to open largest Box site yet with Birmingham launch next month: Arc Inspirations, the Martin Wolstencroft-led business, will open its largest Box venue to date, in Brindleyplace, Birmingham, next month. The group currently operates 18 bars across the Midlands and the north of England, under Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Manahatta and Box. The new 10,000 square-foot venue will hold 575 guests and is spread over two floors, featuring an upstairs bar and private dining room. The ground floor will feature an open kitchen, an island bar, and be surrounded by 32 TV screens showing live sport. The venue, which will create 70 jobs, will also feature two 18-foot European shuffleboard tables and electric dart boards. The opening will add to Box sites in Leeds city centre, Headingley and Manchester. Box Brindleyplace will be Arc Inspirations’ second venue in Birmingham, following the launch of Manahatta in Temple Street in 2021, and fits into the business’ “cluster strategy” of operating complementary brands in close vicinity to each other in major cities. Wolstencroft said: “We’re thrilled to be opening our biggest venue ever. We love Birmingham and we’re confident Box will quickly become a popular addition to the incredible nightlife and bar scene here, just like Manahatta has. Box has been a huge hit in major cities like Leeds and Manchester, and this is the right time to bring the brand to the West Midlands.” The opening follows a period of strong trading for Box, where like-for-like sales in the six weeks to the end of 2022 were up 22% year-on-year, and the Deansgate site in Manchester posted a company record gross sales week, turning over more than £200,000 thanks to two England games in the Fifa World Cup and the Tyson Fury versus Derek Chisora boxing fight. Another Box venue is set to open in Nottingham while a Manahatta site is planned for Newcastle.

Mitchells & Butlers gears up for season of celebration to commemorate 125th anniversary: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is gearing up for a season of celebration to commemorate 125 years. A range of activities have been planned to reflect the achievements of the business since its formation in 1898, coupled with outlining commitments for continued innovation, growth and sustainability within the hospitality sector. Formed by Henry Mitchell and William Butler when two Midlands family brewers joined forces, M&B has grown to operate 1,700 pubs and restaurants across the UK. As part of the anniversary celebrations, M&B will be engaging with employees, past and present, for a season of celebration with a host of activities planned across the year, including a city-wide treasure hunt hosted by historian Dr Carl Chinn in the group’s heartland, Birmingham, as well as a special party in June. Three of M&B’s brands are marking their anniversaries too. Pub brand Nicholson’s, which joined the M&B family in 1958, will also be turning 150 this year marking the occasion with a limited-edition gin fizz spritz; while Harvester and Browns celebrate their 40th and 50th anniversaries respectively. M&B chief executive Phil Urban said: “After a tough few years, we really wanted to take a moment to celebrate and thank our colleagues, guests and communities, both past and present, for enabling M&B to play our part in serving up a great hospitality industry experience. As well as recognising achievements from the past, being committed to our future is an important part of this anniversary activity; ensuring sustainability is a key focus of our mission, both to help the health of our hospitality sector but also society from an environmental and social perspective.”

HIT Training moves to employee ownership: Training and apprenticeships provider HIT Training has created an employee ownership trust. The company said the move will benefit employees across its three divisions – HIT Training, Connect2Care and the Executive Development Network. The shares will be owned on trust for the employees as beneficiaries, meaning each tax year current employees can participate in up to £3,600 of profit share, as a tax-free bonus. This will be given to all employees equally, with part-time staff receiving the benefit on a pro-rata basis. It comes as John Hyde announced he is stepping down from his role as executive chairman of HIT Training after 40 years spent in work-based learning. He co-founded HIT Training, and has seen it grow to become one of the largest providers of apprenticeships in England. Hyde said: “It is fantastic the employee ownership trust will see all our hard-working employees benefit from this company’s success for years to come, a lasting legacy I am honoured to leave.”

The Wolseley Hospitality Group to relaunch north London restaurant: The Wolseley Hospitality Group is set to relaunch its neighbourhood restaurant, Bellanger, in Islington Green, north London. Opening in June, it will offer an evolving seasonal menu of south Mediterranean cuisine and a revitalised cocktail bar. The site was originally closed in 2019 before reopening as a pop-up the following year. Following a complete refurbishment, it will also offer evening entertainment and a private dining room. The once split-level floor has been transformed into a grand single restaurant area running the entire length of the building. The menu will include the likes of dressed Dorset crab with salmon roe caviar and lemon; grilled Loch Duart salmon with crushed jersey royals and a watercress velouté; and flat-iron steak frites’ with Café de Paris butter. Weekend brunch will include pancakes three ways, an all-day eggs selection and sandwiches, along with à la carte favourites. The new cocktail bar will feature DJs during weekend evenings and a new snacks menu, as well as cocktails “celebrating ingredients from the Provence region and the southern climes of Europe”, plus southern Mediterranean and new world wine.

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