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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 25th May 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Badiani plans five openings in 2023 as it eyes eventual UK estate of up to 40 sites: Italian gelato brand Badiani plans to open a total of five new sites this year as it eyes an eventual UK estate of up to 40. The company has just opened its first regional site, at the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, which will be swiftly followed by one in Brighton at the end of May, as previously reported. This is set to be followed by a further regional site, in Windsor (June), then back to the capital for Westfield White City (July) and a further London location in August – bringing its footprint to 14 sites. “We have already covered where we want to be in central London and are looking to go a little bit outside before we expand,” chief executive Massimo Franchi told Propel. “Central London is very international, so I want to test the water and see if we’re ready to expand to the rest of the UK. We’re still a small company, so we’re not thinking about hundreds of shops, but London area about 20, and outside London another 20, more or less. Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool are places I’d love to go, and we receive delivery orders from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leeds, so there is opportunity.” Founded in Florence in 1932, Badiani still has its original shop in the Italian city as well as two in Spain. It is opening three more Spanish stores this year – two in Barcelona and one in Costa Brava – and in July will enter its third international market with an opening in Japan. “We had no intention to expand until I travelled to the UK and found a virgin gelato market – there were a lot of brands, but none had the heritage we have,” Franchi said. “I moved over in 2014, first with a small lab to supply restaurants and hotels to see if there was demand, then in 2016 we opened the first shop, and it was a great success. When I started the economy was booming, then we went through Brexit, but I still think there is space for a real premium offer. The UK is a great market – it’s difficult to come now from overseas, but if you are in the market already, it’s very easy to grow. The UK was our first overseas experience, and we learnt a lot of lessons that have made the company stronger. When we were part of the EU everything was easier, then suddenly I had to learn about import visas, bringing workers from overseas – all things I learnt from Brexit – so in the end it was good it happened.” Franchi added like-for-like sales are up 12% since March 2022 and digital, which launched just before the first lockdown, accounts for around 20% of total sales “and is increasing”.
 

Industry News:

One day to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, 21 businesses being added: A total of 21 new multi-site companies, operating 144 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released tomorrow (Friday, 26 May), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional restaurant operators, growing café brands, and expanding franchise operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 1,300-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 2,853 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 2 June, 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.

Sector leaders warn industry still suffering despite suggested drop in inflation: Sector leaders have warned the industry is still suffering despite a suggested easing in the rate of inflation. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the inflation rate has fallen to 8.7%, mainly driven by gas and electricity costs remaining stable in April, but food price inflation is still more than 19%. Kate Vacovec, chief financial officer of Pizza Hut UK & Europe, said: “With inflation from food prices alone coming in at 19.1% compared with 19.2% in March, this is barely enough of a drop to give the hospitality industry room for respite, delaying any prospect of a much-needed economic boost for the industry. Additional relief on bills will allow businesses like ours to better balance the multiple cost burdens we are facing – helping UK hospitality to deliver growth to the economy and value to customers.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “It is worrying food and drink inflation remains stubbornly high. This continued inflationary pressure shows there is a long way to go in this crisis yet. Food and drink are part of the core hospitality offering and it is becoming impossible for many to continue to absorb these costs.” Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “Even the governor of the Bank of England cannot say with confidence this inflationary U-turn will not come with further monetary tightening if the economic position persists, meaning interest rates could still go up. We need the government to listen to the calls from industry to cut taxes, in particular VAT.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, added: “These conditions have wiped out profits for pubs and brewers and completely stagnated opportunities for growth across our industry. Soaring energy costs have further squeezed profit margins, and we are still calling on the government to instruct energy suppliers to offer fairer terms to business locked-in to sky-high rates to help with this.”
 
Sector ‘in great position’ to benefit from £165m local skills fund: UKHospitality has said the sector is “in a great position” to benefit from a new £165m government local skills fund. Downing Street has launched the Local Skills Improvement Fund to help communities transform skills training in their area and get more people into jobs closer to home. Further education providers can apply for cash to renovate facilities with up-to-date equipment, help upskill teachers and deliver new courses in key subjects such as green construction, carbon capture and cyber security. UKHospitality skills director, Sandra Kelly, said: “Additional funding to help training providers and colleges further invest in their skills and training is exactly the approach needed from government. Hospitality has excellent examples of how close relationships between education providers and local employers can help plug skills gaps, and this significant investment can help expand that even further to allow more people to pursue a career in hospitality. Through UKHospitality’s work with local authorities, the majority of Local Skills Improvement Fund plans include hospitality and puts the sector in a great position to benefit from this announcement.”
 
Brandon Lewis – it’s crunch time for hospitality, let’s not leave a post-covid comeback to chance: MP and former Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis has said at a time “when we desperately need growth in the UK economy”, creative thinking is required to promote more investment into the hospitality sector. Writing in The Telegraph, Lewis said: “Working more closely with energy suppliers could see energy costs for businesses come down and stabilise. Pubs and hotels could be far more price-competitive, matching some European nations. Perhaps support through the tax system could help them to keep costs down and grow more freely. Other tax incentives could involve business rates reform, online versus offline, and so forth. I welcome new legislation following the business rates review; this area of governance must be allowed to develop in line with the needs of business, to ensure the regulatory environment in which they operate allows them to prosper and remain resilient in the face of economic challenges as they arise and impact the sector. As well as keeping costs down, I hope the government continues to support the sector by incentivising employee retention. Key to this will be ensuring the apprenticeship system operates in a way that benefits everyone in the hospitality industry. This might include making changes so more seasonal workers are captured by the system, streamlining the system of transfers, or even allowing the levy to pay for modular apprenticeships, much like building credits on a university degree.” Lewis said the government should be commended for the support it gave to hospitality businesses during the pandemic, with hospitality one of  biggest beneficiaries of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. He added: “But there has never been a more important time to ensure this sector is properly supported. Ultimately, the way forward for a Conservative government committed to growth must be focused on creating a fiscal and regulatory environment where hospitality, which remains the fourth-largest employer in the UK, can thrive and grow.”
 
Cornwall holiday destination considering ‘tourist tax’: Cornwall holiday destination St Ives is considering introducing a “tourist tax”. Mayor Johnnie Wells said the local authority is pondering a voluntary levy as a compulsory charge would require a change to the law. He said it was getting “harder and harder” for the small town to maintain facilities for 540,000 day-trippers and 220,000 staying visitors every year. “We are only 11,500 people and we only get the money for those people,” Wells told BBC News. “And yet, during the summer, we’re providing facilities for hundreds of thousands of visitors when every budget we have is being reduced. It makes it very difficult as a council to make ends meet.” He added: “We need to figure out a way of making people feel like they are contributing to St Ives – by paying a bit of extra money towards the town, to get them around and provide them with recycling facilities and nice beaches and a better experience.” In April, Manchester became the first UK city to launch a visitor charge, in which people face an extra nightly charge of £1 per room for their accommodation. The Welsh government also said earlier this year it is moving ahead with plans to introduce a visitor levy in the country.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a pub company that is seeking a general manager for a site in the City of London. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This is a ‘new-ish’ pub that should be hitting between £40,000 to £70,000 a week in sales. The business is looking for a leader to move this business forward as this is a key site for the company.” The salary is up to £80,000. For more information, email stuart@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Bettys & Taylors reports record sales of £260m but profits dip following ‘difficult trading conditions’: Family-owned Bettys & Taylors Group has reported record sales of £260,585,000 for the year ending 31 October 2022. The Harrogate company, which is still owned by its founding family, was launched in 1919 as Bettys before adding the Taylors business in 1962. It comprises five Bettys Café Tea Rooms, Bettys Craft Bakery, Bettys Cookery School, mail order service Bettys by Post and tea and coffee merchants Taylors of Harrogate, which produces Yorkshire Tea and a range of speciality coffee and tea. The record turnover comes a year after the business reported revenue passing the £250m for the first time (2021: £252,656,000). Of the 2022 figure, £240,634,000 came from UK operations (2021: £236,245,000), £11,129,000 from the US (2021: £10,389,000) and £8,822,000 from the rest of the world (2021: 6,022,000). However, pre-tax profit fell from £10,316,000 in 2021 to £9,870,000. It received no government grants, compared with £200,000 in 2021. In her statement accompanying the accounts, director Clare Morrow said: “2022 has been a year heavily impacted by the macroeconomic environment, with ongoing uncertainty and difficult trading conditions significantly impacting the performance of the group. In addition to experiencing an increase in the cost base, the strength and value of the pound reached all-time lows during the year, both directly impacting our tea and coffee business. Despite this, overall turnover grew by 3.1% (2021: 8.8%).” Morrow said the company continues to invest in the business “to ensure we remain able to satisfy demand for our products and to successfully navigate the challenging times ahead”, with new systems and processes put in place. She added: “In line with the trading performance of the business, the return on capital employed for the year reduced to 5.5% (2021: 6.1%). At the year-end, the group had cash balances of £12.0m, an increase of £200,000 in the year, while total shareholders’ funds increased by £6:5m to £138.5m.”
 
TRG shareholder fears ‘deadlock’ between activists and management unless an asset sale happens soon: A shareholder in The Restaurant Group (TRG), has said he fears there could be a “deadlock” between activists and the Wagamama-owner’s management unless an asset sale happens soon. On Tuesday (23 May), shareholders approved TRG’s remuneration policy despite almost a third voting against the plan. A total of 65.06% were in favour, while 54.46% approved the remuneration report. In the run-up to the annual meeting, a number of shareholders, led by activist hedge fund Oasis, criticised chief executive Andy Hornby’s “disproportionate” £674,450 base salary and said the board’s remuneration policy “fails to deliver value and should not continue”. However, some of TRG’s biggest investors came out in support of the management team. Shareholders also approved the re-election of chairman Ken Hanna (76.94%), while Hornby was backed by 84.18% of investors. Orkun Kilic, founder of Berry Street Capital, which owns about 1% of TRG shares, told the Financial Times (FT) the board “has no respect for shareholder and stakeholder value”. Kilic said a sale of some of TRG’s assets was “so obviously needed”. Kilic, who previously undertook an activist campaign alongside Oasis focused on manufacturer Premier Foods, said he feared there could be “deadlock” between activists and management unless an asset sale happened soon. Daniel Wosner, managing director at Oasis, told the FT he was “very pleased” the shareholder base had “come out in force to share their discontent (over executive pay)”. Activists control between 15-20% of TRG’s stock, according to Hanna. Speaking at the meeting, Hanna described the activist funds as “a vocal minority”. Fund manager Columbia Threadneedle, TRG’s biggest shareholder, has publicly backed management. However, Hanna signalled management might be receptive to some of the activists’ demands, saying “in due course, we will make some public announcements on our strategy”. A TRG spokesperson told Propel: “While we are pleased all resolutions passed, we acknowledge the significant vote against certain proposals, particularly in relation to our remuneration report, and we will continue to consult with shareholders to find an appropriate solution. We remain firmly focused on executing our margin accretion plan and building on the strong momentum demonstrated in our recent trading update.”
 
Chipotle to open at the O2, further sites under offer: US brand Chipotle is to further increase its presence in the UK with an opening at the O2, in Greenwich, Propel has learned. Chipotle, which operates 15 sites in the UK – 14 in London and one in Watford – has secured a new lease on the former Benito’s Hat unit at the O2, Peninsula Square. Earlier this week, Propel revealed Chipotle, which operates more than 3,000 sites in the US, will further increase its presence in London “villages” with an opening in East Dulwich. It will open on the former Hisar restaurant site in Lordship Lane later this summer. Chipotle paid a premium for the Lordship Lane site. It is thought the business has a number of other sites currently under offer and is seeking further outlets in high footfall locations and London neighbourhoods. Last month, Chipotle opened its latest UK site on the former Caffe Nero site in London Road, Twickenham. Louie Gazar, of Davis Coffer Lyons, advised Chipotle, while Ruvan Sangra, of Lunson Mitchenall, acted for the landlord on the O2 deal.
 
Genting – performance strong despite cost-of-living pressures, acquisition of three casinos ‘important step in expanding group’s offering’: Casino operator Genting has said its venues performed strongly in the year ending 31 December 2022, despite the effect of cost-of-living pressures and tighter regulations on customers spend. While attendance rose by 70% to 2,366,000, average casino spend per customer fell from £116 to £104. Genting reported revenue of £275.2m for the period, up from £117.1m in 2021. This was split into segments of high end (high roller casinos) – £117.7m; core (other UK casinos) – £125.8m; RWB (Resorts World Birmingham) – £30.8m; and corporate (other non-casino properties/activities) – £900,000. A further segment of online operations was discontinued. Included in the turnover was gaming revenue of £44.4m from Egypt, with all the rest generated in the UK. Pre-tax profit fell from £16.1m in 2021 to £10.9m. The company received no government grants compared with £13.6m in 2021, while gaming duty rose from £26.6m to £40m. No dividends were paid. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Rt Hon Lord Kenneth Baker said: “Upon reopening in 2021, our UK casino divisions performed strongly, with a rapid return of revenues and increased profitability. This performance has continued throughout the current year despite the recent cost-of-living pressures on customers discretionary spend and the tightening of the regulatory environment in relation to customer affordability. In London, player volumes were robust, despite ongoing international travel restrictions. RWB continued to perform strongly, recording its most profitable year since opening in 2015. The Genting Hotel was the market leader in the area, and the introduction of new leisure offerings has helped drive profitable growth at the resort. The longer-term focus will be on increasing market share in both the core and London premium/mass markets. The group will also focus on growing revenue and profitability of RWB by expanding its leisure offering.” During the year, Genting acquired Casino 36 – which consists of three casinos, located in Wolverhampton, Stockport and Dudley – for £6.2m. “This is seen as an important step in expanding the group’s land-based offering,” it said. The group also made a £3m gain on a £19.2m claim made to HM Revenue & Customs the previous year, based on historical VAT paid on gaming machine takings, which was settled for £22.2m. At the year-end, Genting owned 59 of the 154 operating UK casino licenses, in addition to a casino in Cairo. It is a subsidiary of Malaysia-listed Genting Malaysia Berhad, which has confirmed it will cover the group’s net current liabilities of £73.4m (2021: £7.1m). Genting features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £275.2m is the 32nd highest in the database. Its pre-tax profit of £10.9m is the 42nd 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.
 
Grind makes transport hub debut: Coffee brand Grind has made its transport hub debut with an opening at St Pancras International station. The David Abrahamovitch-led business has replaced Nespresso Boutique at the station for its 15th site in total, and eighth under its coffee shop format. Earlier this year, the business completed a £15m investment round, which was used in part to complete the acquisition of ready-to-drink coffee company, Bottleshot Coffee. The investment round, which valued Grind at £70m, was led by existing investor Richard Koch, who also led a £22m investment round into Grind in 2021. The new capital will also be used to accelerate growth in the company’s direct-to-consumer coffee business and add further Grind high street coffee shops. Last September, Grind opened its first international location, with a coffee shop and bar within Soho House’s venue in Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles. Grind has had a presence in the US since 2020 due to its partnership with Soho House, for whom it is exclusive coffee supplier.
 
Greene King becomes first pub operator to sign up to government-backed safety and welfare scheme: Brewer and retailer Greene King has become the first pub operator to sign up to a government-backed safety and welfare scheme. It has partnered with Best Bar None to deliver best practice in customer and team members’ wellbeing across its 1,600 managed pubs. Greene King helped develop the new multi-site operator accreditation model, which allows operators to become accredited even if they are not situated in one of the 54 towns and cities running a Best Bar None scheme through a local partnership. Assad Malic, chief communications and sustainability officer at Greene King, said: “We want everyone to be able to socialise safely in our pubs, and by working with Best Bar None, this national accreditation offers customers that added reassurance. We are pleased to lead the way with this, and it will be good for the whole industry as it is rolled out further.” Other benefits of the accreditation include ensuring compliance with the Licensing Act, encouraging closer monitoring of sites by area managers and ensuring venues are managed to a consistently high standard. Full accreditation of all Greene King’s 1,600 managed house venues is on track to be completed by spring next year. The company has already undergone a full assessment of its head office procedures and policies, and on-site checks of its managed pubs will ensure these are put into practise.
  
The Secret Pub Company gears up to open fourth site: Nottinghamshire operator The Secret Pub Company is to open a fourth “village gastropub” in the region. The Lambley, located in its namesake village of Lambley in Nottinghamshire, is due to open in mid-June following a significant investment. It sees the company, which is led by David Hage and Mark Osborne, who were named British Institute of Innkeeping Licensee of The Year in 2019, again link up with Star Pubs & Bars. The Secret Pub Company also operates The Railway in Lowdham, The Radcliffe in Radcliffe-on-Trent and The Plough in Normanton on the Wolds. The company opened The Railway in Lowdham in 2017 following a £400,000 refurbishment with Star Pubs & Bars. The companies joined forces again in 2019 with a £450,000 refurbishment of The New Trent in Radcliffe-on-Trent, which reopened as The Radcliffe with a new bar and a 75-cover dining space including an eight-cover chef’s table. The Secret Pub Company acquired The Plough in spring 2021.
 
Liverpool operator Harrison’s Bar Group to open second site for Irish American themed bar concept: Liverpool operator Harrison’s Bar Group is opening a second site for its Irish American themed bar concept, Scruffy Murphy’s, in the city. The concept was launched in July last year in Harrington Street, providing live music, sports and pool tables. A second venue is now opening in Mathew Street this summer. Business development manager Nicola Halton said: “The success of the first Scruffy Murphy’s has really exceeded even our high expectations, and so as a team, we are delighted to be opening a second Scruffy Murphy’s. This new location is very special as it is on possibly the most iconic music-based street on the planet, and we feel honoured to be a part of that legacy.” The group’s other venues include Abbey Road Bar & Kitchen, Dwntwn and Harrison’s Bar & Kitchen & Aparthotel.
 
Tavern Propco places 14-strong pub investment portfolio on market: Tavern Propco, which acquired the circa 370-strong commercial properties estate from Ei Group in 2019, has placed a 14-strong pub investment portfolio on the market. The properties, which are being marketed by Savills, are located throughout England and are being offered for sale individually or in small packages. The properties have an average unexpired lease term of 11.25 years and average rent of £57,072 per annum. Many of the leases are subject to five-yearly open market rent reviews as well as annual uncapped Retail Price Index increases. The occupational businesses are unaffected by any sale. The 14 properties comprise the Boars Head, Crowborough; The Chequers, Old Loose Hill, Loose; The Crown, Newbury Road, Kingsclere; Draughts, Eltham High Street, Eltham; Great Gatsby, Division Street, Sheffield; Horns, Bramfield Road, Datchworth; London Trader, East Beach Street, Hastings; New Inn, Parson Lane, Clitheroe; Olivo’s, St Thomas Square, Newport; Ship Inn, Burcombe Lane, Burcombe; Spice Merchant, Holloway, Malmesbury; Theobalds Arms, Kings Walk, Grays; Horns & Horseshoes, Foster Street, Harlow; and the Royal Oak Hotel, Town Lane, Neston. In March, Propel revealed Tavern Propco, which was backed by Davidson Kempner and Global Mutual in its £348m acquisition of the circa 370-strong estate from Ei Group, had placed a 16-strong pub investment portfolio on the market, with a combined value of circa £12.6m. Stuart Stares, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, said: “On the back of a successful launch of 16 properties for our client earlier this year, we are delighted to be bringing a further 14 pubs to the market, which are located throughout England and let to good quality independent tenants.”
 
Scottish pub and hotel company agrees new long-term facility and repays bank loans: Scottish pub and hotel company Caledonia Inns has agreed a new long-term facility and repaid its bank loans. In its accounts for the year ending 31 March 2022, the company said it had a net current liability position of £5,990,314 (2021: £7,046,570), with bank loans of £3,507,887 (2021: £4,852,431) due for repayment within one year. “Subsequent to the reporting date, a new long-term facility has been entered into and the bank loans have been fully repaid,” the company said. “In addition to this, the director has provided written confirmation he will provide financial support as required. This includes not seeking repayment of the director loan balance of £1,934,931 (2021: £1,868,953) until the company is in a financial position to facilitate repayment.” It comes as the company reported turnover of £3,389,365 for the year, up from £1,018,187 in 2021. For the year ending 31 March 2020, when the last few weeks of trade was affected by the pandemic, the business turned over £3,897,630. The company also made its first pre-tax profit since reporting full accounts, turning a loss of £358,312 in 2021 into a profit of £528,258 (2020: loss of £312,766). It received £82,750 in grant income (2021: £219,101) and £38,584 in furlough payments (2021: £487,222). Ebitda increased from £150,203 to £708,966. Director William Lowe, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said despite the continued impact of covid, “the business has traded well” and he is “happy with the progress made”. No dividends were paid (2021: nil).
 
Fred Sirieix’s The Right Course opens third restaurant run by prison inmates: The Right Course, the charity set up by Fred Sirieix to teach prisoners how to run restaurants, has opened its third site within a prison, at HMP Lincoln. The restaurant, named Bertie’s, will be the first in the country to allow inmates to be joined by their families to share a meal during visiting hours. Through The Right Course, Sirieix has already opened two similar teaching restaurants, in HMP Wormwood in west London and HMP Isis in south London. He said he planned to open five more by the end of 2023, teaching inmates the “ABC of restauranting” in the process. In February, Propel reported Charlie McVeigh, the founder of Draft House and chairman of Butchies, had joined The Right Course as a trustee, as it looks to expand across the UK. A further opening is planned at HMP Berwyn, in Wales. Organisations involved in the charity to date include Gaucho, Galvin at Windows, Hilton, Greene King and Hawksmoor.
 
Esports competitive socialising concept launches debut bricks-and-mortar site, in Liverpool: Esports competitive socialising concept leveltap has launched its debut bricks-and-mortar site, in Liverpool. The 6,500 square-foot location, at Liverpool ONE’s Hanover Street, will cater for a wide range of gamers, with a library featuring all genres, from sports and racing to strategy and party. It will broadcast live events from around the globe, such as Call of Duty League and League of Legends’ World Championship. The two-storey location features ten custom-built console stations, all containing a Nintendo Switch and either a PS5 or an Xbox Series X, along with two racing simulators and 20 PCs. A mezzanine space also allows streamers and competing teams to broadcast their gameplay onto projectors around the venue. On the ground floor is a lounge area with bar and dining tables, alongside “arena” seating more than 100. It will offer gaming-themed cocktails alongside other drinks, pizza slices, sides and snacks. Adam Rydings, leveltap founder, said: “Whether you are a seasoned Esports competitor, an avid spectator or just enjoy immersing yourself in the atmosphere with an Esports-themed cocktail, leveltap Liverpool ONE is the only place to be for gaming in the city.” Metis and Starka acted for Liverpool ONE while leveltap dealt direct.
 
New multi-purpose venue with street food market to open in Milton Keynes: A new multi-purpose venue with a food and beverage offer is to open in Milton Keynes. Unity Place will launch in July, with the building creating new spaces both as a “green” workplace and as a visitor attraction. The venue will house an urban food market featuring local street food vendors, while Toast Microbrewery will be offering a range of craft beer. Social enterprise coffee shop concept Change Please will be opening an outlet, while a rooftop venue, the Unity Sky Lounge, will offer panoramic views and its own menu. Alongside being the new headquarters for Santander UK, the building will also house working space from flexible workspace provider x+why.
 
Newcastle ‘super club’ ceases trading following financial investigation into separate firm owned by director: Newcastle “super club” The Lofts has ceased trading after being drawn into an ongoing Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigation involving a separate business owned by director John Dance. Dead Vibey Leisure launched The Lofts, and adjoining pub venture The Hustle, less than two years ago, in the former Tiger Tiger site in Newgate Street. Co-founders Rob Seaman, Dance and Marty Smith created around 80 jobs when the 1,500 capacity site opened in August 2021. Now, however, the club has closed for good, and all 79 staff have been made redundant, following the appointment of FRP Advisory. The company said Steven Ross and Allan Kelly were appointed as joint administrators to Dead Vibey Leisure on 15 May due to issues relating to an ongoing investigation by the FCA. In April, a company founded by Dance, called WealthTek LLP, was ordered to cease operations immediately in a move the FCA said was taken to protect consumers amid “serious regulatory and operational issues” coming to light. Dance was chief executive of WealthTek LLP, which trades as WealthTek, Vertem Asset Management and Malloch Melville. Joint administrators of Dead Vibey Leisure are now in the process of marketing the business and assets for sale and will be liaising with all creditors.
 
Fazenda confirms August opening for first London restaurant and biggest yet: Premium casual South American operator Fazenda, which operates five regional sites across the UK, has confirmed its first London restaurant will open in August. Spanning across two floors in the 100 Bishopsgate Tower, the 170-cover restaurant, set to be its biggest yet, will open on August 2. It will feature a standalone bar with al-fresco tables for summer drinking and three private dining rooms. Offering traditional cuisine from the Pampas in Argentina and Southern Brazil, served in authentic Rodizio style (grilled meats carved at the table), the restaurant will also see the launch of Fazenda’s new à la carte menu. “We’re beyond excited to bring a taste of our roots to London for the first time,” said co-founder Tomás Maunier. “This is our most ambitious site yet and will be much more than a Rodizio. Guests can expect a truly authentic experience of South American top-class hospitality.” There will also be a large selection of Argentinian, Brazilian, Chilean, and Uruguayan wines, alongside a South American-inspired cocktail menu. Earlier this month, Fazenda reported 37% year-on-year revenue growth in FY23, with sales passing £20m for the first-time in the 13 years it has been trading.

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