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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 8th Jun 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Dutch ‘vegan junk food’ concept aims to make UK debut in 2023, with hopes for eventual estate of 25 sites here: Dutch “vegan junk food” concept Vegan Junk Food Bar (VJFB) is aiming to make its UK debut in 2023, with hopes for an eventual estate of 25 sites here, Propel has learned. Founded by Edwin Streep in 2017, VJFB opened its first snack bar that same year, in west Amsterdam, followed by its first full-service restaurant, in a more central location of the Dutch capital. Two further Amsterdam stores opened in 2018, followed by a Rotterdam restaurant in 2019 and a first overseas location, in Barcelona, in 2020. Post-covid, it launched its first franchise site, in Eindhoven in 2022, followed by its second overseas market with a further franchise location, in Cologne, Germany. It is in the process of launching its first limited-service restaurant, for which it will return to Barcelona. And with that site, its ninth overall, due to open in mid-June, the company feels the time is right to expand to the UK too. “The UK is the next step for us,” Wendy Kooijman franchise development manager, told Propel. “For the UK, we would like to find area developers who can open at least five locations in an ambitious timeline. At least 25 outlets are possible, we think, and we hope to have the first open six months from now. We see a similar opportunity in the other overseas markets. We’re in talks in Belgium, Denmark, Poland and Sweden, and had a lot of interest from the Middle East. We’ve also had talks in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Thailand – we’re on a vegan takeover mission to conquer the world! We would like to connect with franchise partners to grow their market for us so we can focus on product innovation and keeping a great concept. We are expecting to expand in the Netherlands as well.” Kooijman said the company’s point of difference from rivals in the growing vegan market is its “junk food” offer. “Normally, a lot of vegan restaurants offer just healthy food, but we are really into junk food,” she said. “We took hamburgers, chicken burgers, fries, nachos, kebabs and croquettes and veganised them. We’re busy creating a milkshake as well to complete the package. We’ve got two types of stores – full-service restaurants with a bar serving a variety of cultural cocktails with funky names, and we also have a limited service, which is more a quick service restaurant setting. Of our clientele, 80% are actually flexitarians and not just vegans. The founder used to be a chef in a hotel who wanted to serve some decent vegan food, and everyone thought he was crazy. He just kept on developing the product in his own kitchen at home, and when he launched the first VJFB, people went crazy for it. Coming to VJFB bar is also an experience, we’re totally Instagram-able and Tik Tok-able. We develop our own products and have a wholesale offering too.” VJFB will feature in the next Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK, when it is released on Wednesday, 21 June. The database, available exclusively to Premium subscribers, 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – think bigger with a Just Add Talent management agreement: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is offering the chance to be part of the team running its Just Add Talent pubs. A spokesperson said: “With a Just Add Talent management agreement, you can rest assured knowing that not only are your ingoing costs lower, but the lengthy decisions are taken care of, leaving you to think bigger and focus on managing the pub experience you've always dreamt of. Just Add Talent is centrally driven by Star Pubs & Bars and locally executed by you. We provide the menus, the fantastic brands and cover many of the pubs running costs, including utilities, business rates and marketing. We will support you in several ways, from investment and food training right through to financial and health and safety guidance. We’ll be by your side, providing the perfect balance of support and freedom to ensure the pub operates as a success. If you’re driven and ambitious, you’re exactly who we’re looking for. Our operators are passionate about delivering a great offer and providing genuine hospitality that they would expect from great pubs and bars.” To find out more, click here. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Latest edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature updated figures for 31 companies: The latest edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will feature updated figures for 31 companies. Premium subscribers will receive the next edition of the Blue Book tomorrow (Friday, 9 June), at midday. It now features 736 companies that are turning over a total of £46.2bn. A total of 493 companies are making a profit while 243 are making a loss. Sector companies are making a collective profit for the first time since covid. The Blue Book shows the total profit of the 736 companies in the list is £2,834,963,916 and losses are £2,774,327,505. 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 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.
 
UKHospitality calls for ‘joined up approach’ following third delay of DRS launch in Scotland: UKHospitality has called for a “joined up approach” following a third delay to the launch of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS). The recycling project was first due to go live in August before first minister Hamza Yousef announced in April that it would be put back until March 2024. Circular economy minister Lorna Slater has now announced a delay until at least October 2025, saying the Scottish and UK governments had been unable to agree the details of the scheme. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “Hospitality businesses across Scotland will be breathing a huge sigh of relief hearing this news. The DRS, even before recent UK government interventions, was not ready to launch in March, and businesses had made that clear to the Scottish government. This is the third delay to the scheme, and it is imperative that there is now a joined-up approach from all governments. Businesses are not against a recycling scheme – hospitality already has one of the best recycling records in the economy – but a DRS needs to work for businesses. It cannot be yet another piece of red tape that is costly and burdensome – it’s time to work on a scheme that can genuinely achieve the environmental and sustainability ambitions we all have.” David Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland, which will administer the scheme, insisted the scheme would have been ready in March: “This is clearly a disappointing outcome, which will have a significant impact on investment in Scotland,” he said. 
 
Live entertainment still valued by UK consumers but many see cost as prohibitive: Live entertainment is still valued by UK consumers but many see the cost as prohibitive, according to new research from Surreal. The booking platform conducted a survey of 65,000 people in partnership with product intelligence team Vypr, with 72% saying they go out to see live entertainment and 61% saying an entertainment offering positively affects which venue they choose. But despite 56% saying they value live events more following the pandemic, 40% said they see cost as prohibitive, and when asked their biggest concern with the live entertainment industry, 46% said it is too expensive. Asked how much they would pay on average, the top answer was £20-£29, with only 16% saying they would pay £50 or more and just 2% said they would pay nothing. Asked what would encourage them to go to live entertainment, 56% said special ticket prices including early bird discounts, while drinks promotions and meal/drink and ticket packages both scored 39%. The top reason for watching live entertainment is the live experience for 66% of people, while 54% said the atmosphere or vibe would make them stay longer, followed by the music (50%) and entertainment (43%). Around half (49%) also said a unique experience would help them form an emotional bond with a venue. Jeremiah Siemianow, co-founder and chief executive of Surreal, said: “Live entertainment is interwoven into the fabric of UK society, and from our experience delivering tens of thousands of live events through our platform, we know customers want to build a relationship with venues. To achieve this, general managers and larger brands need to develop an exciting and consistent entertainment offer, build partnerships and incentives, and demonstrate their support for artists and the community.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a workplace experience and facility management company that is looking for a workplace experience operations lead to join it on a key global account. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This is a newly introduced management level across global operations and will be the key central point of connection between multiple operations in place in countries around the world. You will lead a pioneering workplace experience programme and develop engaging platforms and content for colleagues around the world while supporting a fully integrated service model.” The salary is up to £85,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email sheila@corecruitment.com. 
 

Company News:

Watson – staycation sector less buoyant, in a few cases we have reduced prices: Clive Watson, executive chairman of City Pub Group, has said the staycation sector is less buoyant, while in a few a cases, the business has been able to reduce its prices. Speaking to Propel after the company reported like-for-like sales had improved by 13% in the 23 weeks ended 4 June 2023, Watson said: “What we noticed in Easter in particular was that the staycation bubble hadn’t necessarily burst, but it was less buoyant compared with last year. I think it is tailing off. What we have also noticed is that with people working over Zoom, they are maybe visiting our sites like the Hoste Arms a day earlier, so coming up on a Thursday night, making it a three-day stay, which has been helpful.” When asked where the company’s growth was coming from, Watson said it was “probably 50/50 volume and price”. He said: “We have been very ‘unpunchy’ on price. In a few cases, we have actually reduced our prices because we felt the price escalation since covid had gone a bit too far. Broadly, we are 5% increasing our prices across the board.” On food inflation, he said: “I think the rise in food costs has probably peaked but is still going up. Fortunately, we are not that exposed to food. About 22% to 23% of our sales are food, therefore while it is a nuisance, it is not the end of the world for us.” In terms of improvements the business could still make, Watson said: “I think Young’s does its internal marketing and merchandising very well, and we need to get up to its level. In terms of our entrepreneurial culture, that’s where hopefully we will win through. We’ve got the sales bonus, where we’ve evolved the staff promotions over the years, so now if they beat budgets, they share 10% of the excess among themselves. That really helps with retention and productivity.” Watson said the rationalisation of the company’s estate had been completed and that he expected no further disposals. He said: “We are looking at further acquisition opportunities, but we are in no rush, we are enjoying driving volume growth from our estate. There are some individual operators who want to get out but haven’t realised that interest rates have gone up, and that is dampening purchasers’ ambitions. Mosaic is a big thing for us, but because we have the same suppliers, the integration should be straightforward. We’re in good shape, we have low gearing. Obviously, there are challenges on the macro side of things, but I think where our estate is placed mainly in those large cities in southern England and south Wales, I think we’re in good shape. When it comes to those what we call big beasts in our estate, when the sun shines, that’s the opportunity to make hay.”
 
The Chesterford Group acquires Lincolnshire fish and chip shop, in ‘strong position to take advantage of growth opportunities’: The Chesterford Group (TCG), which operates 39 sites under several brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, has added a Lincolnshire fish and chip shop to its estate and said it is in a “strong position to take advantage of growth opportunities”. It has acquired The Boundary in Market Deeping, which offers its “sustainably sourced fish and chips” for dine-in, click-and-collect, home delivery and takeaway. TCG managing director Paul Goodgame said: “The previous owner Bill Shaw has agreed to stay on as a consultant for the next six months to help with the smooth transition of this award-winning business. We are proud of purchasing such a historic successful business and we are fortunate to have inherited a fantastic team who live and breathe fish and chips. The hospitality sector has come under tremendous pressure over the last two years with soaring food costs, along with huge increases in energy costs and labour shortages. We have been prudently navigating these challenges and chosen to slow down our fish and chip growth over the last 18 months. With rising inflation and an increase in restaurant prices, we have seen customers trading down to buying fish and chips, and we have without doubt benefited from that trend. With a series of operational changes and shrewd buying, we are in a strong position to take advantage of the growth opportunities the sector presents this year and in the future.” The Chesterford Group employs 750 people and is also a Pret A Manger franchise partner, with the territories of Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. In February, it opened a fifth Pret location and said it has four more in legals. TCG features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £23,599,708 for the year ending 31 December 2021 is the 248th highest in the database. Its pre-tax profit of £1,488,018 is the 287th 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.
 
BrewDog co-founder invests in Clean Kitchen: James Watt, co-founder and chief executive of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, is an investor in Clean Kitchen, the fledgling plant-based, fast-food concept. Watt revealed he was an investor in the two-strong business, which is led by Mikey Pearce and Verity Bowditch, in the build-up to speaking at a networking event being held at the brand’s flagship site in Battersea Power Station. Propel revealed last summer that Steve Easterbrook, the ex-chief executive of McDonald’s, PizzaExpress and Wagamama, had invested in the company, which is chaired by Clive Sharpe, the ex-chairman of Quorn. Clean Kitchen, which also operates a site in Camden, is aiming to open two or three more sites in London this year before taking its offer abroad under a franchise model. Pearce told Propel in February that its restaurant at Battersea Power Station, which opened at the end of last year, would form the blueprint for future launches. The business aims to next open a 4,000 square-foot site “in the busiest part of London”, believed to be close to or in Oxford Street. Pearce said: “At Clean, we are on a mission to revolutionise the quick service restaurant industry. Many people see fast food as unhealthy with uncomfortable seating. At Clean, we want to bring the glamour, excitement and energy back to the industry and aim to build experience-led venues that have the wow factor of an Apple Store. That is why our next store is a 4,000 square-foot site in the busiest part of London where we can bring that vision to life.”
 
Popeyes to open drive-thru sites in Barnsley and Cardiff: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, is to open drive-thru sites in Barnsley and Cardiff. The company, which opened its first UK drive-thru restaurant, at Parkgate Shopping Park in Rotherham, last month, will open further drive-thru sites later this year at Cardiff Bay Retail Park and the Peel Retail Park, Barnsley. The business has also lined up a drive-thru site on the former Buddies Diner unit in Northampton, and at Barrhead Retail Park, Glasgow. The company is set to announce further drive-thru locations as part of its plans to open 20 new sites this year, and is believed to have applied to open drive-thru sites in Tyneside, Bere Regis, Glenrothes and Nottingham. The brand is also set to strengthen its footprint in London, with sites lined up in Kilburn and Woolwich, while it is also set to open in Sheffield’s Meadowhall scheme. It currently operates 25 sites in the UK – 17 restaurants and eight delivery kitchens.
 
Wendy’s and Costa Coffee to open sites at Rutland roadside scheme: Wendy’s, the third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US, is to open a site at the Ram Jam Services in Rutland. Godwin Developments is developing four new units at the site on the A1(M). Wendy’s franchisee Blank Table has agreed a deal with for a 3,305 square-foot unit, while Coca-Cola-owned Costa Coffee has taken a 1,788 square-foot unit at the scheme. They will join café bar operator Loungers, which recently signed for a 4,500 square-foot site for its new concept, Brightside. Construction of the scheme is expected to commence in the third quarter of 2023. Wendy’s opened its debut UK drive-thru site in Cambridgeshire, operated by Blank Table, the brand’s second UK franchisee. Blank Table has since opened a site in Wisbech, with further openings in Cambridge and Peterborough to follow. Shakespeare Martineau acted for Godwin Developments on the Ram Jam deal. The one remaining unit at the development is being marketed by Ogle Properties.
 
Coffi Lab increases presence in Cardiff: Coffi Lab, the dog-friendly coffee shop concept, is to further increase its presence in Cardiff after securing its fifth site in the Welsh capital. The business, which was launched in 2021 by Coffee#1 founder James Shapland, has begun fitting out 8-10 Wellfield Road, in the city’s Roath area. The large double unit will comprise circa 80 covers internally and 20 externally. The company operates seven outlets and is currently in talks to take a site in central Cardiff. Last month, Shapland told Propel the business was demonstrating the ability to take share from the larger chains and that the growth opportunity for the concept “is significant”. He said the company’s site pipeline is strong, adding: “We are due to start drip feeding a number of large, well-positioned Labs from the second half.” In terms of trading, he said: “It is exceptionally strong across both our small town and neighbourhood formats. Our concept is clearly resonating and we’re demonstrating the ability to take share from the larger chains. The growth opportunity for Coffi Lab is significant.” The company has a long-term target of 50 Coffi Lab sites over the next five years.
 
Loungers to launch second Brightside site, concept has been ‘incredibly well-received’: Café bar operator Loungers will open the second site under its roadside concept Brightside today (Thursday, 8 June) near Saltash, Cornwall. Following the launch of the debut Brightside just outside Exeter in February, the new site will open on the A38 at Trerulefoot. The former Route 38 site has been transformed over the past four months, taking inspiration from the 1970s and 80s, caravan interiors, classic road trip movies and memories of roadside dining and “from a bygone era”. Alex Reilley, founder and chairman of Loungers, said: “Brightside Saltash has been a labour of love and we can't wait to finally welcome customers. Summer holidays are just around the corner, so we hope locals and travellers on the way down to Cornwall will enjoy our reinterpretation of roadside dining. Since launching Brightside Exeter in February, we’ve been incredibly well-received, confirming our thoughts that roadside dining needed reinvigorating and travelling shouldn’t just be about the final destination, but the journey itself. Our expertise in high-quality, great value all-day dining through our other brands means we’re confident Brightside will bring proper hospitality back to roadside dining.” Loungers believes there is scope to create a national brand and has ambitious plans to roll out Brightside to all corners of the UK. This includes a launch at Honiton in July, plus further future sites so far confirmed at the Ram Jam Services, on the northbound section of the A1(M) in Rutland, and off the A11 near Thetford.
 
Mango owner opens new all-day dining Indian restaurant concept in south east London: Sorowar Khan, owner of Mango Indian restaurant in Borough, south east London, has opened a new all-day dining Indian restaurant in nearby Elephant & Castle. Kachori has opened in Ash Avenue in Lendlease’s Elephant Park, with the 2,850 square-foot restaurant focusing on north Indian cuisine. Executive chef Brinder Narula, formerly of Benares and Gymkhana, has created dishes inspired by the cooking of the Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab regions. His menu features small plates such as Bikaneri Raj Kachori and Truffle and Matar ki Kachori, as well as larger plates including Malay Meen Cod Loin and Keralan Beef Chilli Ulathu, alongside beer, spirits, cocktails and mocktails. The 132-cover space has indoor and outdoor seating, overlooking a two-acre public park. Khan said: “Elephant Park stands out for its curation of diverse food and drink operators, and we are thrilled to open this debut concept at the scheme, introducing a contemporary taste of north India that is rarely found anywhere else.”
 
Pieminister’s Nottingham site becomes first to rebrand with cocktail, coffee and brunch offering: Pie and mash restaurant operator Pieminister’s Nottingham site has become the first to rebrand with a new cocktail, coffee and brunch offering. The site, at 57 Long Row, has reopened under the same management but been renamed Long Row Social and “evolved” to offer more than just gourmet pies. It is now a mix of a restaurant, cafe and bar, with a full alcohol licence and amended opening hours. It has also added sofas inside and pavement tables outside, plus a photo booth and pool table out the back. As well as Pieminister’s pie range, it now offers brunch from 9am including beans on toast, doorstep sandwiches, granola and pastries. It will stay open until 11pm each day expect for Friday and Saturday, which both have an extension until midnight. Head of marketing Ginny Payne, who came up with the new name, said Nottingham is the first of the chain’s 16 restaurants to have a rebrand. “This is our first new concept,” she told Nottingham Live. “We have been toying with the idea here to make use of the amazing space. It’s been a pie restaurant for so long we all wanted to get our teeth into a new concept and try something out. If it proves successful, we might think about doing it elsewhere. The skeleton is still the same but we’ve breathed new life into it. The price point is going to be really good as well to encourage that morning trade.” It comes after Pieminister opened its first franchise location earlier this year, in Bath, which is set to be followed by a second this summer, in Derby. 
 
Mooboo opens in Letchworth: Mooboo – one of the largest bubble tea operators in the UK with more than 100 locations – has opened a new site, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. The business, founded by Eric Khaw in 2012, has opened in the former Joyce Family Butchers site at 5 Arena Parade. Mooboo offers more than 1,000 different varieties of bubble tea, including vegan and vegetarian options.
 
Buzzworks confirms June opening for Greenock site: Scottish independent restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks Holdings has confirmed its new Scotts venue in Greenock will open this month. The seafront venue – which will be Buzzworks’ fourth Scotts restaurant, joining ones based in Troon, Largs and South Queensferry – will be at the top of the new £19m Greenock Cruise Ship visitor centre on the banks of the River Clyde. The restaurant, which will specialise in locally landed seafood, will open on Friday, 16 June. Kenny Blair, Buzzworks’ managing director, said: “Opening the doors to Scotts Greenock will be a real milestone as our first venture into Inverclyde, and as part of the continued growth.” Buzzworks operates 19 venues in Scotland across its Scotts, House, Lido, Vic’s & The Vine, The Duke, Thirty Knots, The Bridge Inn, The Fox and Herringbone concepts.
 
Dakota eyes Newcastle location for sixth site: Boutique hotel brand Dakota is planning to transform a vacant building in Newcastle’s quayside for its sixth site. It wants to convert St Ann’s Wharf at 112 Quayside into a 115-room boutique-style venue, complete with a ground floor bar and grill area. A formal planning application is expected to be submitted to Newcastle City Council this summer. “This is a prestigious project that will create jobs, prosperity and deliver a big boost to an important city centre location,” a spokesperson for Dakota Hotels said. Dakota also has sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Motherwell, Leeds and Manchester. Founder Ken McCulloch opened the first Dakota hotel In 2004, in Nottingham, which closed in 2008. He also founded the Malmaison hotel brand, and in 1986 opened what is considered to be Scotland’s first boutique hotel, One Devonshire Gardens.
 
Tamatanga confirms June opening for first site outside the Midlands: Indian street food restaurant Tamatanga has confirmed a June opening for its first site outside of The Midlands, in Leeds. Propel revealed in January that the three-strong concept had lined up an opening in The Headrow, in The Light scheme in the city. It will now open its doors on Friday, 16 June, with its offer including its signature Tamatanga Thali – a large variety platter offering the choice of one or two different curries from the menu – and Tama Chips, with a crisp coating and secret blend of spices. As well as its original site in Nottingham, the Aman Kular-owned business also operates venues in Birmingham and Leicester. 
 
Cornish brewery Skinner’s set to reopen next month after being bought out of administration: Cornish brewery Skinner’s is set to reopen next month after being bought out of administration. The business announced in October that it was going into administration after 25 years, blaming rising costs and sales being hit by the pandemic, also closing its taproom. In March, fellow Cornish brewery Goodh Brewing Co, which is owned by Louis Simpson and which also runs The Old Print Works in Truro, acquired the business – promising to preserve the brand. The brewery will now reopen on Saturday, 1 July, with the Skinner’s Facebook page saying: "Skinner’s Brewery & Goodh Brewing Company are joining forces to bring you the ultimate venue for beer, food, music and events.” Skinner’s was started by husband and wife team Steve Skinner and his then-wife Sarah in 1997, and was solely owned by Steve from January 2022. It comes after research from tax advisory firm Mazars earlier this week revealed the number of UK breweries going out of business has tripled in the past year. In total, 45 breweries entered insolvency in the 12 months ending 31 March, compared with 15 in the previous year, Mazars said. A model to stem the tide of brewery closures – in tomorrow’s Propel Friday Opinion.
 
South Indian vegetarian restaurant brand opens third UK site with Harrow launch: South Indian vegetarian restaurant brand Adyar Ananda Bhavan has opened its third UK site. The brand’s origin dates three decades, established by the late KS Thirupathi Raja in the Indian city of Chennai, with branches opening throughout the city and internationally, including the US, Australia and Canada. Now the third UK outlet has launched in Harrow, adding to its sites in Wembley and East Ham. The new restaurant in Alexandra Avenue offers the brand’s range of dishes including hot dosas, Andhra Gobi Fry and Channa masala, reports Harrow Online.
 
Kent operator opens fourth site: Kent operator Mark Babins has opened his fourth site in Folkestone. Babins, who also operates Harbour Coffee Company, Sole Kitchen and The Fish Shack in the town, has also opened Sail Box at its recycled shipping container development, Folkestone Harbour Arm. Sail Box currently focuses on an “inventive brunch and lunch menu” but will be exploring an expanded menu of seaside pub classics as well as roasts. “I like to offer food of a quality and standard that I would want to eat if I were going out, so that’s my plan, and it seems to be working,” Babins told Kent Online. Hastings-based Brewing Brothers is also set to open a large site at Folkestone Harbour Arm this month. The unit, which takes in seven shipping containers, is its first in Folkestone and adds to its three sites in Hastings – The Imperial, The Courtyard and Taproom.
 
West London aparthotel operator set to launch fourth UK site for ‘hometel’ brand and first outside England: Aparthotel operator Lamington Group is set to launch a fourth UK site for its “hometel” brand Room2, and first outside of England. The family-owned property company currently operates Room2 venues in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Southampton. Its latest site, set to launch later this summer, will be at 32-38 Queen Street in Belfast. It will consist of 175 rooms across nine floors as well as a café, tea room, meeting and event spaces, gym, bar, restaurant and lounge. Michelle Thomas, Lamington Group’s new openings manager, told Insider Media: “We are excited to expand our portfolio and open our biggest hometel to date in the vibrant city of Belfast. We want it to provide a place of comfort for both locals and tourists, further making our mark in the ‘hometel’ sector of the hospitality industry.”

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