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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 5th Jun 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Yard Sale Pizza appoints advisors as it plans further expansion: Yard Sale Pizza, the restaurant and delivery business that has sector investor Paul Campbell as non-executive director, has appointed advisors as it looks to secure new backing to ramp up its expansion plans and capitalise on the “growth opportunity it is facing”, Propel has learned. The ten-strong business, which was co-founded by Johnnie Tate and Nick Buckland in 2014, is working with Dow Schofield Watts London (DSW) on reviewing its options, as it looks at the next stage of its growth journey. It comes after the business told Propel last month that it sees the potential to grow into a UK-wide business. Tate told Propel: “We're extremely excited about where Yard Sale is at as a business and the opportunities it has for growth. We've seen very strong sales across our new and mature shops, which have driven record sales for us recently, off the back of exceeding our budget expectations for our last financial year. As we begin to review options for what growth could look like with the team at DSW, we're feeling really positive about what the future holds for Yard Sale. We believe through our continued focus on pizza quality, the strength of our marketing and the in-house delivery service that is key to our success, we can bring London's ultimate delivery pizza across the rest of the capital and eventually the UK.” The company recently opened its tenth shop in London, in Tottenham, which had record sales for a new opening. Last month, Tate told Propel: “We're hoping to open at least another one, potentially two, later this year. We're trading well up on last year, all the shops are profitable, and overall, I feel the business is doing really well. We believe there's still a lot of opportunity inside London, especially in neighbourhood areas, which we target, but we're also talking about outside of London as well, as we feel there's a lot of opportunity outside the capital. Brighton always comes high up in the conversation because we feel it's a natural next step, but we'll see. We talk a lot about the satellite towns around the outskirts of the M25, there's a lot of opportunities there, but we also get excited about finding sites in Manchester and Birmingham. We feel strongly that Yard Sale has the potential to grow to more than 100 locations and become a UK-wide business, and we envisage that's where it is going.”

Industry News:

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 67% of companies in profit, flat from last month: The Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, to be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (9 June), shows 67% of the 736 largest sector companies are now in profit. The Blue Book shows 493 companies in profit and 243 reporting losses. This is the same as last month, when 67% of companies were also reporting a profit. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. 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 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.

Business confidence rising despite inflationary pressures but 25% of companies operated at loss in first quarter: Optimism among the leaders of Britain’s top hospitality groups has risen since the start of 2023, according to the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA by NIQ and Fourth. The quarterly poll shows more than half (54%) of leaders feel optimistic about prospects for their business over the next 12 months – an increase of seven percentage points from the January survey, and well over double the number (22%) who feel pessimistic. The proportion of leaders feeling confident about the eating and drinking out market in general has risen even more sharply quarter-on-quarter – by ten percentage points to 40. Leaders remain more optimistic than the independent market, where confidence in general (23%) and in their own business (33%) are lower, influenced by lower profits and higher rates of closure. However, all figures remain below the levels seen before the pandemic, and the survey also reveals the ongoing impacts of inflation on hospitality. A quarter (25%) of leaders said their business operated at a loss in the first quarter of 2023, while 32% said their profitability has been below last year’s levels. There are also signs some businesses that were weakened by covid remain at risk. More than a quarter (28%) of leaders said they now have less than three months’ worth of cash reserves, and one in seven (14%) said their business is at risk of failure in the next 12 months – a figure that is unchanged from the January survey. Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “These figures highlight the impressive resilience of pubs, bars, and restaurants despite the enormous challenges of covid and the cost-of-living crisis. All our research shows consumers remain eager to eat and drink out when they can, and business leaders are rightly confident about the long-term outlook for hospitality. Nevertheless, the relentless rise in bills for businesses and consumers alike leaves many firms and jobs extremely vulnerable. Until inflation finally eases conditions will remain very difficult, and hospitality deserves targeted government support to mitigate costs.” 

Pubs forced to close after owners demand full rent for lockdown: The Wellington Pub Company, owned by David and Simon Reuben, has been accused of pushing pubs into bankruptcy after demanding tenants pay full rent owed from the months during the covid lockdowns. The Guardian reported The Wellington Pub Company offered its estimated 850 tenants a covid discount on condition they extended their leases for five years. To take on Wellington, about 250 tenants formed a pressure group, led by Nick Holden and Kate Ahrens, of the Geese and Fountain pub in Croxton Kerrial, near Grantham in Lincolnshire. These tenants refused the company’s deal, and arbitrators have now ruled many of them will have to pay rent in full. As a result, the Geese and Fountain would close permanently today (Monday, 5 June) Holden said, describing it as one of the “many victims of a combination of the UK’s exceptional economic collapse and a failure to support businesses trying to recover from the covid pandemic”. He said: “To say we are devastated is an understatement. The Geese and Fountain has been our home, our business, our whole lives for the past eight years. We have poured thousands of pounds of our own money, and that of our families, into this place, because we loved it, and we wanted it to succeed. But another fight with Wellington, coming on top of three of the most difficult years in the pub trade and with rising energy costs and inflation running rampant, is one we cannot hope to win. We have to accept defeat.” Paul Michelmore, a sole trader and licensee of the Harrison in King’s Cross, London, was told he must pay £99,086.12 in rent. He said the arbitrator had made factual errors and had confused profits with turnover, saying in the decision that he could afford to pay an extra £5,000 a month to pay back the pandemic rent. “We make about £30,000 profit a year,” he said. “And with inflation, our costs have skyrocketed.”

Pork prices reach new highs: Pork prices are still on the move and reached new highs last month, according to analysis by catering butcher Birtwistles. The EU-spec standard pig price (SPP) increased by a further 0.33p to reach 220.48p/kg during the week ended 20 May, as tight supplies and strong EU prices drove the price to new highs, having gained momentum throughout the first quarter. The latest rise follows the previous week’s increase of 0.62p, taking the price index above 220p/kg for the first time, and continues the unbroken upward movement in 2023. The SPP has now risen for 18 consecutive weeks since the start of the year, gaining more than 20p in the process, and it currently stands at 45.5p ahead of a year ago. Beef prices remain “exceptionally high” as warmer weather and the barbecue season approaches, with tight supply and good retail demand, and an uptick in trim prices for mincing has reflected the seasonal trend for burgers and steaks. British deadweight steers were up 55p/kg on the same week last year to average 493.9p/kg for the week ending 20 May, while heifers averaged 491.1p/kg. Sales of this year’s lambs have got off to a good start, with prices at auction markets up more than 10% on the year to average 7.45p/kg deadweight. The forecast for the rest of the year is that the 2023-24 lamb crop could be broadly stable versus a year ago, while prices for spring lambs have rocketed. The UK market for poultry “continues to be on supply versus demand for all casual dining lines such as wings in all forms and boneless thigh meat”, while indications are there will be less UK turkey available this year from the major suppliers, and they will be prioritising retail ahead of foodservice.

Activity in mergers and acquisitions in UK at lowest level in seven years: Activity in mergers and acquisitions in Britain is at its lowest level in seven years as dealmakers remain cautious about the economic outlook. The total value of mergers and acquisitions involving UK companies has more than halved to $89bn in the first five months of the year, and the number of deals announced has dropped by 29%, according to the deals intelligence team at the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG). The mergers and acquisitions market has not experienced such a quiet start to the year since 2016, reports The Times. The City had been hopeful of a more sustained increase in merger activity after an initial flurry of take-private deals were announced in April. The value of private equity-backed deals jumped from $1.8bn to $8.8bn during that month, but the pace of deals has cooled off and the value of deals dropped back to $480m in May. The total value of deals announced globally declined by 42% year-on-year to $1.1tn in the first five months of the year, according to the LSEG. The pandemic year was the only five-month period in the past decade to record a lower total. The number of deals dropped by 14% to a three-year low of 21,301. In Europe, the value of deals dropped by 57% to a decade low of $191.4bn. Lucille Jones, an analyst at the LSEG, said: “Geopolitical tensions, volatile stock markets, interest rate hikes and the banking crisis have shaken boardroom confidence, [which was] already dented by fears of recession.”

Net zero ‘grocery tax’ will push shopping bills up by £4bn: Green levies due to be imposed from next year will increase food prices within months, pushing up total shopping bills by up to £4bn a year, retailers have warned, as senior Tories urged prime minister Rishi Sunak to drop the “nonsensical” plans. In an open letter to The Telegraph, the British Retail Consortium suggested a scheme to charge retailers and manufacturers for the cost of councils recycling their packaging will increase the cost of household goods when it is rolled out from April next year. The levy was devised by Michael Gove during his time as environment secretary and billed as helping the UK to reduce waste and meet its net zero target, alongside a separate scheme to introduce a returnable deposit system for the purchase of drinks bottles and cans. Taken together, the schemes could increase household shopping bills by up to £140 per year, based on the consortium’s estimate of an overall £4bn cost. But the government’s official impact assessments of the two schemes – seen by The Telegraph – acknowledge the entire cost due to fall on retailers could simply be passed on to consumers. The scheme – formally called the Extended Producer Responsibility – would “most likely” increase household bills by £40 a year, or up to £48, according to an official assessment produced in February 2022, before soaring inflation that will have increased those figures even further.

Cadogan Estates orders tenants to pay more: Cadogan Estates, landlord of the King’s Road in Chelsea, is demanding tenants sign inflation-linked leases and put down hefty deposits as it reasserts itself after covid. The Sunday Times reported tenants on the 93-acre estate, which encompasses Sloane Square, the King’s Road and Sloane Street and is home to luxury brands from Tom Ford and Dior to Louis Vuitton, are being asked to sign leases with upward-only rents linked to the retail price index, which currently stands at 11.4%. On top of that, the landlord wants tenants to put down a year’s rent as deposit on new deals. Fashion retailer AllSaints recently closed its King’s Road store as a result of the demands. “It is expecting the retailer to take a lot of the risk … but it comes down to supply and demand really — we can always walk away,” said one Cadogan tenant. Cadogan Estates is controlled by the family of Charles Cadogan, the 8th Earl Cadogan, which has a net worth of £5.6bn, according to The Sunday Times Rich List. The opulent buildings on its £4.8bn estate provide 3,000 homes, 300 shops and more than 30 restaurants, cafés and bars. Cadogan collected £164.5m rent in 2021. “We have sought to develop a sustainable leasing model with generally minor inflationary rises rather than significant rent reviews every few years,” a Cadogan spokeswoman said. The estate provided more than £20m of support to tenants during the pandemic.

Michelin Young Chef winner – ‘there’s no money in owning your own restaurant business’: Michelin Young Chef winner Kray Treadwell has said “there’s no money in owning your own restaurant business”. Treadwell, who trained under Glynn Purnell, opened 670 Grams in the Custard Factory development in Digbeth, Birmingham, in 2020, and the following year was named Best Young Chef at the 2021 Michelin Guide awards. “There’s no money in owning your own restaurant business, you get double taxed,” he told Birmingham Live. “You buy alcohol from a supplier, pay VAT on it, and then when you sell it, you pay VAT again! It’s insane. People think restaurant owners earn loads of money but it's not true. I could go and get a job now at a hotel, pick my shifts, have two weekends off a month, not have to do paperwork and I’d be on more money than I’m on now, with no stress. But I won’t learn anything, I’d just become part of the production line.” Treadwell is currently in the process of knocking through the wall to 670 Grams’ neighbouring property, which used to house Roberto’s Bar and Tasting Club until it shut in October. He has taken over both floors in a move that will extend his restaurant from 12 covers to 22. The restaurant will remain upstairs, and having toyed with the idea of opening a bar downstairs, will now “wait and see what Digbeth needs”. Another recent departure at the Custard Factory is pizza chain Crazy Pedro’s, which has shut its Digbeth site but still operates three others – in Manchester and Liverpool. “I love independent businesses, but I think it’s possible to be too independent – I’d love a Tesco’s or a Greggs in Digbeth,” Treadwell added. “There’s no footfall for independents in Digbeth, it’s just a destination, that’s why it’s so dead in the week.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury accommodation rental brand that is looking for a director of sales. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will report to the chief operating officer and oversee a team of UK/international based sales managers and co-ordinators. You will have the responsibility to build a sales plan for multiple properties and specifically be responsible for securing key accounts and driving those relationships forward to ensure the return of business. You will have previous sales and marketing experience at group level across different regions, preferably within Europe; a great knowledge of revenue management systems and business analysis tools; and also extensive experience managing hotel accounts at corporate level.” The salary is up to £80,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Foodstars places ten of its kitchens on the market: Foodstars, which provides kitchen space for food companies and is backed by former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick, has placed ten of its sites in London on the market, Propel has learned. Foodstars, which was founded in 2015, is understood to have appointed property advisors Hay Hill Property to explore the sale of ten commercial units spread across London, which house more than 110 fitted kitchens, including sites in Chiswick, Shoreditch and Wandsworth. They include customised kitchens for central production unit use and delivery of food and beverage. Foodstars operates 17 sites in total, including kitchens in Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. The company works with a number of leading sector brands including Burger King and Chipotle. However, the likes of Azzurri Group and Vapiano have recently stopped operating out of Foodstars sites, with more and more operators having reassessed their delivery strategies, including the use of delivery kitchens, since emerging from the last of the lockdowns. Foodstars leases kitchen space to restaurants that sell food through delivery apps. City Storage Systems, which trades as Cloud Kitchens in the US, quietly invested in Foodstars in 2019, according to documents filed at Companies House. The investment marked Kalanick’s first expansion outside the US. Hay Hill Property declined to comment.

Stonegate promotes Melissa Wisdom to chief commercial officer: Stonegate Group, the David McDowall-led, TDR Capital-backed business, has promoted Melissa Wisdom to the new role of chief commercial officer. The role combines Wisdom’s current brief as sales and marketing director with a broader commercial remit following the announcement of Suzanne Baker’s retirement as commercial director and appointment as a non-executive director. In her new role, Wisdom continues to report to McDowall, and is promoted to the company’s board. She joined Stonegate in August 2021, initially leading the development of the group’s premium food offer, before moving to the role of sales and marketing director last March. Wisdom joined Stonegate from Diageo where she held the position of commercial director for the on-trade. Prior to Diageo, having read law at Cambridge, she held a number of senior positions in retail and manufacturing with both national and global brands. Wisdom said: “I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity at this exciting time in the group’s evolution. Bringing our marketing and commercial teams together affords us the opportunity across the group to deepen our partnerships across the customer agenda, as we continue to evolve our market leading brands and formats to reflect the changing expectations of our customers.” McDowall added: “Melissa has already added enormous value to our business over the last 18 months, and this is a well-deserved promotion. I know she will go from strength to strength as we bring our marketing and commercial teams together.”

Mikos Gyros founder launches new Asian QSR concept, aims to open first franchise site by end of year ahead of UK roll-out: Mikos Gyros founder Hugo Ushida has launched a new Asian quick service restaurant (QSR) concept and aims to open its first franchise site by the end of the year, ahead of a planned UK roll-out. Ushida, who founded Greek fast-casual band Mikos Gyros in 2017 before growing it to eight sites, has launched Bayani’s, which offers barbecued Filipino burritos, rice bowls and salads. The first site opened last week at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, in London’s Shoreditch, a few doors from one of his Mikos Gyros branches. “It was actually at a Propel conference that I had the idea,” Ushida said. “The managing director of one of the largest Asian QSR brands was speaking about how great it is – and as somebody from Asia, I though pizza and burger brands have got better, why not Asian QSR? I was essentially looking at stir fries and chips, and it was obvious to me it could be improved with better brands. I did taste testing in my kitchen at home and an opportunity came along that ticks all the boxes, so I took the plunge. The launch was a success – we were busy straight away and there were queues for hours. I now need to get the DNA right for six months or so before we franchise it. I know through Mikos Gyros that franchising it a great way to grow, and I hope to have the first franchise by the end of the year – we’ve had interest already. If I could open a Mikos and a Bayani’s in every town from Inverness to Bristol, I’d be a happy man. You get a certain synergy with two QSR brands, especially if you can get a large site and divide it between the two. The challenge with franchising is the margins have to be good, and there are real challenges ahead, but I’ve drawn up my business plans with them in mind.” Ushida will this week open the latest Mikos Gyros site, a franchise store in Bermondsey which will be operated by one of his former staff members who has been with the business for several years. Mikos Gyros features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 200 businesses. 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 to upgrade your subscription.

Tomahawk Steakhouse closes Ponteland site in preparation for new ‘big name’ concept, Morpeth site off to flying start: North east multi-site operator Howard Eggleston has closed his Tomahawk Steakhouse in Ponteland, Northumberland, in preparation for a new “big name” concept, Propel has learned. Eggleston opened the steakhouse, just off the A696, in July 2019 after it took over the site of the former Catch seafood restaurant. It has now shut, following the opening of a new Tomahawk Steakhouse in nearby Morpeth last month, but the site has been earmarked for a new concept from Eggleston, who also operates the Rio Brazilian brand. “We have recently opened a site in Morpeth just a few miles away, and it was always in the plan to close Ponteland just after this new opening,” he told Propel. “We are overwhelmed by the fantastic response we have had from the people of Morpeth and been very busy since opening, with it becoming our second highest performing venue. However, for Ponteland, we’ve got a really exciting new brand partner coming to replace Tomahawk. We are still in final talks for agreeing the finer points and are excited and looking forward to bringing such a huge name to the area – we can’t say any more at this time but it’s definitely a ‘watch this space’.” It is not the first time Eggleston has switched brands at his sites. Earlier this year, he closed his Tomahawk Steakhouse in Chester six months after opening to convert it to a Rio Brazilian, which will reopen on Friday, 16 June. The group now operates 12 Tomahawk Steakhouse and six Rio Brazilian locations, with sites secured for Rio Brazilians in Sunderland and York to open this year.

Heavenly Desserts eyes Scottish expansion with three openings lined up: Dessert restaurant franchise Heavenly Desserts is planning further expansion in Scotland, with three new locations in the country lined up this year. The brand already operates two sites in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh, with Aberdeen next on its list, opening this summer, followed by Livingston and a third Glasgow site. “A refreshing few days in sunny Scotland visiting our franchise partners and discussing growth opportunities,” managing director Yousif Aslam said. “With three stores operating and another three opening this year, we’re excited about our expansion in this small but powerhouse part of the UK. We’ve got some exciting things happening this year, from cost reductions within our supply chain to International growth and some super brand collaborations.” Heavenly Desserts has 46 UK sites, with further openings planned this summer in Leamington Spa, Hull and Tooting, south London. Openings in Milton Keynes, Manchester and Slough are also in the pipeline. Having made its international debut late last year, in Canada, Heavenly Desserts plans to launch in a second international market this year, Pakistan, and is also working with franchise consultants FranGlobal to enter India.

Canada-based Mediterranean concept set to make UK debut, three more planned in coming months: Canada-based Mediterranean concept Villa Express is set to make its UK debut, with three more sites planned in the coming months. The brand, founded in 2013, will open in Derby’s Derbion shopping centre in July, with three more set to open across the Midlands in the near future. Avi Virk, managing director of Villa Express, told The Business Desk: “We’re thrilled to be opening our first UK location at Derbion, and are really looking forward to sharing our delicious Mediterranean menu. We can’t wait to introduce our brand to the people of Derby.”

Camile Thai founder – we hope to go back into the UK market in a year or two: Brody Sweeney, the founder of the Camile Thai takeaway brand, has said he hopes to return to the UK market over the next couple of years and said the group maintains a foothold there despite the closure of several restaurants in recent months. In April, Propel revealed Camile Thai had failed in its attempts to expand into England and had placed its UK managed operations, which comprised three sites in Northern Ireland and one in Clapham, south London, into liquidation. In 2021, the business announced plans to open seven new UK sites taking the total to 13. Those sites subsequently closed, although three outlets are still in operation under franchise. Sweeney told The Irish Times the decision to wind up the UK companies was part of a strategic refocus on Camile’s “flagship” business in Ireland, which continues to expand its footprint and will open its 50th restaurant there by the end of the year. “We’ve got to protect our position here in Ireland,” he said. “We have a decent business here and we want to hang on to that and the UK is tougher than we thought it would be.” Camile first entered the UK market seven years ago, starting in London, which Sweeney said was “a mistake from our point of view”. He said: “Companies like Deliveroo and Just Eat are much stronger in London than in Ireland. They charge very high commissions for businesses, and for a business like ours, which is delivery focused as opposed to dine-in focused, that’s a really big impact for us.” Sweeney said the decision to put the companies into liquidation “was really about getting rid of our leases”. He said: “It’s a failure of the business model, rather than people didn’t like our Thai food.” In Ireland, where the Camile Group directly operates seven restaurants, with the remaining 40 or so outlets operated under franchise by independent groups and individuals, Sweeney said he expects group revenues to top €40m this year, up €10m from 2021. Chris Tate and Robert Young, of Azets, were appointed voluntary liquidators of company’s UK arm, Camile Thai UK. The business owes £4,604,547, including more than £3.5m to its parent company Camile Thai Kitchen.

Chinese street food restaurant Noodlee to invest €3m on expansion plans: Chinese street food restaurant Noodlee has announced it plans a €3m investment across Cork city and county, with the ambition of opening 15 new sites in the coming months. Noodlee offers an extensive array of Chinese dishes that have been slightly modified to appeal to Irish and European taste pallets, with extensive vegan and vegetarian options available. The decision to expand the concept further afield comes following the initial success of two sites – one located in Avenue De Rennes in Mahon, and a flagship store in Cork’s Western Road. Three additional stores in Carrigaline, Fermoy and Mallow will open in the coming weeks. It is expected Noodlee restaurants will open in Douglas, Ballincollig and Middleton shortly after their newest stores open, followed by an additional three stores in Blackpool, Mayfield and Cobh, with discussions continuing for other locations. Owner Song Ye told the local press the long-term goal for the concept is to become an international franchise – with one Noodlee restaurant already in the UK, in Nottingham.

Leicester pan-Asian concept opens first franchise site as it pivots towards delivery and takeaway: Leicester pan-Asian concept Wok Indo has opened its first franchise site as it pivots away from full-service restaurants towards delivery and takeaway. Wok Indo was launched by husband-and-wife team Illesh and Reenku Amlani in 2017, opening its first site in Leicester’s Belgrave Road. It then opened a second site in the city, in the Highcross shopping centre, followed by a collection and delivery-only site in Birmingham’s St George’s Street. A second collection and delivery-only site has just opened, in London’s Brent Cross centre, which is also the concept’s first franchise venture. “Experiencing the excitement of opening any business is something in itself,” Reenku said. “Growing it from the ground up and opening number three was beyond my imagination, especially being my first franchise. I dreamed about selling my own franchise one day, and here it is.” The new opening has coincided, however, with the closure of the concept’s Highcross branch, which the owners said was due to a drop in footfall as well as uncertainty surrounding Highcross’ future after it went into receivership in March. Illesh and Reenku now see collection and delivery-only sites as the way ahead. “From a broad perspective, we have decided to come out of the service industry and concentrate more on the delivery/takeaway market instead as this promotes faster growth and helps us to facilitate the overall goal of introducing our delicious food into multiple cities,” the pair told Leicestershire Live. “We discovered takeaways and deliveries in Leicester outweighed walk-ins due to a continuing drop in footfall in the city centre.”

Acai Berry set to add four sites to London estate: Brazilian superfood concept Acai Berry is to further strengthen its presence in London with four new openings. Propel understands the eight-strong business, which was founded by Marcus Carmo and Renato Damiano, has secured a site in the Orchard Place development, in Victoria, and a site in Kensington, with a further two sites set to be completed on later this month. In April, the business opened its latest site in Royal Exchange. 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 concept began as a stall in Brick Lane and has grown to permanent sites in locations including Argyll Street, Carnaby Street, Chelsea and Oxford Circus. Taylor Gershon, of CBA Leisure, acts for Acai Berry.

Salt Brewery adds first ‘traditional pub’ to taproom estate following £1m investment: West Yorkshire operator Salt Brewery, part of Ossett Brewing Group, has added the first “traditional pub” to its estate of taprooms following a £1m investment. It has followed the opening of ten taprooms around London and the north by launching The Bingley in Horbury, a 19th century former coaching inn formerly known as The Bingley Arms. Propel revealed in January that Salt had taken on the historic site, which has since undergone extensive refurbishments and will officially reopen on Friday, 23 June. It is also the first collaboration between Salt and its sister company Ossett, with the pub based just two miles from the Ossett Brewery. Situated between the River Calder and the Calder & Hebble canal, the pub’s 100-cover beer garden offers views of both waterways, including a decked area directly overlooking the canal. An open-plan street food kitchen will offer Asian cuisine from franchise partner Baobros23, known in West Yorkshire for its award-winning steamed buns. The pub will also offer craft beer from Salt, traditional cask ale from Ossett, wine and cocktails on tap. Owner Jamie Lawson said: “The reopening of this once extremely popular pub is a key post-covid investment for our two breweries, Salt and Ossett. We are excited to put this landmark pub back on the map after an exciting facelift, which will inject new life into the Horbury Bridge community. The plans were put on hold by the pandemic, but after six months of hard work we are ready to open.” Propel also revealed in January the group had secured new private shareholder investment and bank funding after its profits passed pre-pandemic levels.

Cubitt House appoints head of hospitality: London gastropub operator Cubitt House has appointed Joe Warwick as head of hospitality. Warwick will work with chef director Ben Tish to further improve the guest experience across the group’s portfolio of nine pubs, as well as helping develop the team’s current food and beverage programme. Warwick has worked in hospitality, from a kitchen porter to a restaurant manager, his career later taking in journalism as an editor, food writer and restaurant critic, for publications including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Olive and Metro, Post-pandemic, Warwick returned to front-line hospitality in London at Sola, which gained a Michelin star while he was restaurant manager, and more recently he worked at the French restaurant, Bouchon Racine, in the capital. Warwick said “We’ve got some fantastically stylish sites in great locations – with more to come – and the kitchen, bar and front of house talent to make them special. I’m here to help deliver quality hospitality at our pubs, from the bar to the dining room, to complement the impact Ben has already had on the food offering.”

Dalata acquires fifth London hotel in £53.4m deal with Apex: Irish hotel operator Dalata has acquired its fifth London hotel, for £53.4m. It has taken on the long leasehold interest of the Apex Hotel London Wall from Apex Hotels. Apex owns the long leasehold interest, with 107 years remaining on the lease of the hotel at 7-9 Copthall Avenue. The sum will be payable from Dalata’s existing facilities and the deal is expected to complete in early July. The four-star facility currently has 89 bedrooms and suites, a gym, ground floor lobby and contemporary restaurant and bar. The property, with expected Ebitda of approximately £4.5m in 2024, will require “minimal initial investment”, and on completion of the transaction, Dalata will rebrand it as Clayton Hotel London Wall. The company said the acquisition “further demonstrates our ability to increase our footprint in London, a major global hub for both business and tourism”. It will bring the total number of Dalata bedrooms in London to 877, once Maldron Hotel Finsbury Park opens in June 2023 and Maldron Hotel Shoreditch opens in 2024. Dermot Crowley, chief executive of Dalata Hotel Group, said: “London is one of the world’s great cities. Securing existing hotels or sites to develop new hotels is very challenging as a result. I am delighted we have managed to secure two new hotels in the city in the space of just four months. It demonstrates our ability to re-invest the funds that we generate from our existing hotels.” Shane Casserly, corporate development director at Dalata Hotel Group, added: “London remains a key development market for us, and we remain focused on securing future opportunities for the portfolio.”

Burger & Sauce set to open sixth Birmingham site and 13th overall: Burger franchise concept Burger & Sauce is set to open its 13th site – and sixth in Birmingham. The site, at the junction of Oak Tree Lane and Bristol Road in Selley Oak, will be opened by a new franchisee in mid-June. The concept, founded by Saad Masood during the pandemic, is aiming to reach 20 sites by the end of 2023. Its pipeline includes sites in Wolverhampton, Sheldon, Coventry, Liverpool and Sheffield, plus two more Birmingham locations, in Acocks Green and Longbridge.

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