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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 15th Jun 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

The Vurger Co founders paid £80,000 to acquire business in pre-pack administration: Vegan fast-food concept The Vurger Co was acquired by a new company set up by its founders via a pre-pack administration process for £80,000, new documents have revealed. Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts, who founded the business in 2016, acquired the business through new vehicle The Vurger Co Holdings. The company’s sites in Shoreditch, Brighton and Manchester continue to trade, but its site in Canary Wharf was closed. A statement of administrators report revealed the business was severely impacted by the pandemic and “due to hybrid working and changes to working from home post-covid”, the Canary Wharf struggled to reach the same number of customers it previously had. The business was approached in 2021 by a Canadian investment firm, which specialised in investment and public listings for smaller companies, and which was “excited by the brand”. The report said The Vurger Co spent “substantial” amounts of money on legal fees on the premise of raising approximately $15m in investments. Unfortunately, the Ukraine/Russia war meant stock markets plummeted and only around 10% of the investment expected was raised, with a substantial part of that being spent on the associated legal fees. In September 2021, trading conditions remained difficult and The Vurger Co took out a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for £487,000. In spring 2022, the company spent about £400,000 to open the Manchester restaurant. However, economic headwinds persisted and the company “found it difficult to find further investors”. The company expected to close an agreed funding round in December 2022, but investors pulled out “at the last moment”. The business approached FRP to assist with marketing the business and assets for sale. The report showed at least 18 expressions of interest and two offers from external third parties. An offer of £80,000 was accepted but the buyer pulled out of the deal in March this year. Jo Watts and Andrew McTear, of McTear Williams & Wood, and Chris Newell, of Quantuma Advisory, were appointed joint administrators of The Vurger Co on 28 April 2023, and Hugh and Potts acquired the business the same day for £80,000. 
 

Industry News:

Heydon Mizon to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Heydon Mizon, joint managing director of Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen, will be among the speakers at the Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party on Wednesday, 6 September, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Oxford Belfry. The all-day conference will focus on “new directions” and will be followed in the evening by the summer party, with a barbecue and five hours of live music, including a three-hour set from the famous house band at Piano Works. Mizon will talk about how the business is keeping the pub relevant to new generations of consumers, and the challenges and opportunities of being a regional operator. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to feature 40 updated entries and 13 new companies, released tomorrow: The latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 40 updated entries and 13 new companies when it is released to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Friday, 16 June). This month’s edition includes 693 companies and more than 180,000 words of content. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; 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 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.
 
Labour pledges to revive high streets as 6,000 pubs forced to close: Labour has launched a renewed focus on saving and reviving the British high street. The pledge by shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds comes as new analysis from Labour shows more than 6,000 pubs have shut since the Conservatives took power. In the south east, 1,000 pubs have been lost since 2010, while the south west saw 730 pub closures. London, the north east and Northern Ireland had the least closures, losing 330, 110 and 220 respectively. Labour said UK high streets have been “battered” by a “perfect storm” of rising costs and outdated business rates. Reynolds told the UKHospitality summer conference: “Hospitality is where people spend their hard earned money and use the services we value in our day-to-day lives. Keir [Starmer’s] mission to make the UK the highest sustained growing economy in the G7 won’t be judged by us by looking at figures on a spreadsheet. It will be judged by how our high streets look and feel, by working people having more money at the end of the month to treat themselves and their families, and by pubs, shops and restaurants thriving, investing and growing.” Reynolds renewed Labour’s pledge to reform business rates, which he said are an “outdated, archaic system”. He promised to “rebalance the burden between bricks and clicks”, ensuring online tech companies pay their fair share in order to create “vibrant high streets people want to socialise in”. According to Labour’s analysis, plans to reform business rates for small businesses would save the average pub or cafe £2,600 each. Reynolds has previously set out that Labour would increase the threshold for small business rates relief in 2023-24, paid for by raising the digital services tax paid by online giants like Amazon.
 
BBPA makes plea for government action after bars and pubs recognised for ‘significant part’ in GDP boost: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has made a plea for government action after bars and pubs were recognised for playing a “significant part” in the UK’s GDP boost. The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed a 0.2% rise to the economy in April, with visits to the on-trade among the factors highlighted as key to the marginal increase. ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said bars and pubs had a comparatively strong April as the GDP bounced back from a weak March. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “It is positive to see the UK economy start to return to growth, with pubs across the country playing a leading role in that. These figures demonstrate that even when times are tough, people want to enjoy a visit to their local pub. As an industry, we consistently contribute to the economy, and despite a tough few years, have continued to support jobs and livelihoods on high streets and in towns, villages and cities across the country. Despite this, and ongoing support from the public, profits are being stripped away by high inflation and pubs trying to keep costs low for customers. The government must take meaningful action to bring inflation down and ensure we can continue to invest, grow and support our economy.”
 
Northern Ireland council calls for lower rate of VAT as businesses reach ‘point of no return’: A local authority in Northern Ireland has called for a lower rate of VAT as businesses in the region reach a “point of no return”. Newry, Mourne & Down District Council has agreed a motion to lobby the chancellor to bring VAT in the country more in line with the Republic. Its current rate of 20% is more than double the 9% businesses face in the Republic. The motion was presented by Rowallane SDLP councillor Terry Andrews, reports Amargh I. “Costs have doubled and tripled from where they were a few years ago,” he said. “Here in Newry, Mourne & Down we do pride ourselves on our food and drink offerings, but the majority of these businesses are at the point of no return. We are in regular discussions with cafe and pub owners and the message is always the same, ‘we are in major trouble’. We are one of only three countries in Europe that doesn’t offer a reduced VAT rate for tourism. There is only so far that businesses can increase their costs before customers walk away and the businesses shut up shop. We know that during the pandemic VAT on hospitality was just 5%, then in October 2021 it increased to 12.5%, and we are now at 20%. The Republic of Ireland is sitting at 9%, and this makes being competitive impossible. Without intervention, our high streets will be empty and the social fabric of our communities will disappear.”

London hotel revpar at highest level in seven months: Hotel revpar in London was at its highest level in May since October 2022, according to preliminary data from STR. Revpar was up 23.1% year-on-year, to £164.54. Meanwhile, average daily rate was above £200 for the first time this year, up 18.9% year-on-year, to £204.52. The occupancy level of 80.5%, which was up 3.5% on last year, was the city’s highest since November 2022. London’s occupancy peaked on 23 and 27 May (92.5%), which was one of the three UK bank holiday weekends that month. The market also saw three consecutive days of occupancy above 90% (16-18 May), which coincided with the only full business week during the month. The market’s daily occupancy levels remained above 60% throughout the month, except on 8 May, when it stood at 57.7%.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an international hospitality company that is seeking a group finance controller. The business has been operating for almost 60 years, and as well as sites in the UK, it also has a strong presence in Europe, with an array of pubs, bars and accommodation. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “As the finance department looks to expand and make process and structural updates, the finance director is looking for a financial controller who they can work with collaboratively and share leadership responsibility with. You will manage a team spread across Europe and provide financial information to the group finance director for presentation to the board and external parties. You will be responsible for the internal control environment and integrity of the group’s financial records. You will assist with the medium and long-term financial strategy for the group in accordance with the business strategy.” The salary is up to £75,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email fabian@corecruitment.com. 
 

Company News:

Italian coffee house brand aims for 30 UK outlets over next decade, new franchisee takes on existing sites after previous operator goes into administration: Italian coffee house brand Caffè Barbera is aiming for 30 UK outlets over the next decade, while a new franchisee has taken on its existing sites here after the previous operator went into administration, Propel has learned. The company, which operates circa 35 sites across the globe – predominantly in Africa and the Middle East – was brought to the UK in July 2022 when its debut site opened in Station Road in Cobham, Surrey. The site was opened by Leicester-based multi-unit franchisee Sania Group, which also operated 15 Pizza Hut, You Me Sushi and German Doner Kebab sites across England and Wales. In April, after experiencing cash flow difficulties, Sania and connected company Sania PH appointed Springfields Advisory as administrators, and the following month, eight of its Pizza Hut sites were sold through a pre-pack administration. However, managing director Elio Barbera told Propel it is far from the end for Caffè Barbera in the UK, with not only its existing sites safe (a second location is due to open in Barnes, south west London), but plans for expansion in place too. “The existing Caffè Barbera Cobham and the upcoming Caffè Barbera Barnes (expected opening in September) are managed by a new operator who will develop five outlets in the Surrey area,” he told Propel. “We expect to open 30 outlets all over the UK in the next five to ten years between Caffè Barbera mini (25 square metres) to Caffè Barbera standard unit (70-120 square metres). We are looking for mainly area developers, so groups interested in expanding more than one unit in a specific region/city of the UK.” He added: “We are also entering new markets including Palestine, Phillipines, Malaysia, Greece, Georgia and Bangladesh, and we will continue expanding in existing markets, such as the UAE and Middle East, as well as the UK. Unfortunately, Caffè Barbera Kiev did close due to the war (Russian invasion of Ukraine), but we hope to reopen once the situation improves.”
 
Caprinos Pizza set to make international debut as it closes in on 100 UK sites, eyes further overseas expansion: Pizza franchise Caprinos Pizza is set to make its international debut, as it closes in on 100 UK sites. It is preparing to open its first oversea location next month, in the DHA Lahore development in Pakistan. The business, co-founded by Khalil Rehman and Gul Mawaz in Didcot, Oxfordshire, in 2014, currently has 88 UK locations. “I am thrilled to announce the first international branch opening of Caprinos next month in DHA Lahore Pakistan,” Rehman said. “This is not only a major milestone for Caprinos, but also a nostalgic moment for me and Gul, as co-founders, to bring the brand to our birthplace. We expect to expand in another international territory too this year, while marking more towns with the Caprinos brand stamp in the UK. We enjoy every bit of this astonishing success of Caprinos, with a lot of turbulences and hurdles. I thank everyone who trusted in us, and the amazing team working tirelessly for what we have accomplished.” Caprinos has opened sites in Cannock in Staffordshire, Droitwich in Worcestershire and Biggleswade in Bedfordshire in recent weeks as it also grows its UK footprint. Caprinos 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 
Vaulkhard Group acquires two pubs following £4.5m funding package, seeking further acquisitions: North east leisure firm Vaulkhard Group has acquired two pubs after securing a £4.5m funding package and is seeking further acquisitions. The group, which already operates several sites in Newcastle, has used the cash injection from HSBC to purchase two further pubs in the city – Town Wall and Bridge Tavern – taking its total number of trading sites to 15. All 59 members of staff across both pubs will be retained, seeing the group reach a total of 350 employees. It is now looking to make further acquisitions in the north east over the coming years as it continues to grow its portfolio. Craig Bell, who joined Vaulkhard Group as finance director in February, said: “There was a slowing of investment into hospitality businesses throughout, and in the aftermath of, the pandemic. We saw this dip in the market as an opportunity to invest in premium sites and we will continue to search for similar opportunities in and around the north east as we look to further grow the business. HSBC UK was always on hand with clear and direct support that has enabled us to grow, and we are thankful for that support.” Vaulkhard Group reported revenue of £5,947,446 for the year ending 30 September 2021, around half of what it was turning over pre-pandemic, but reduced its pre-tax losses almost six-fold to £290,786. Its latest accounting period was extended to 31 December 2022.
 
Starbucks franchisee Cobra Coffee sees turnover increase but profit drops: Starbucks franchisee Cobra Coffee saw its turnover increase but its profit take a hit in the year ending 31 January 2023. The company reported revenue of £28,827,789 for the period, up from £20,844,087 in 2021. But a pre-tax profit of £1,553,442 in 2021 was reduced to £492,837. The company said both it and parent group, Southern Co-op, have a “solid balance sheet and significant cash balances” and it is “well placed to manage its business risks successfully, despite the current uncertain economic outlook”. The company currently has an estate of 66 Starbucks stores, with its most recent opening being in Lewes, East Sussex, earlier this month. It has also opened stores in Brighton and Bradley Stoke in Gloucestershire since the year end.
 
Madre to open Manchester restaurant this weekend: Madre, the taco restaurant and bar concept from the founders of the Liverpool restaurants Belzan and Volpi and London’s Breddos Tacos, will open a permanent site in Manchester on Saturday (17 June). As revealed by Propel last year, the Mexican concept will open in the city’s Chorlton Street, as part of the Kampus scheme. The 90-seat site will offer tacos, wood grilled seafood, steak and an iced raw bar, featuring freshly shucked oysters and seasonal ceviches, alongside a cocktail menu that celebrates agave. Co-founder Nud Dudhia said: “For us, Madre Manchester’s inception and vibe come from a long love of Mexico City’s people, food and culture. Our hope is to bring to Manchester a taste of the generosity and spirit we have experienced on our adventures, and to welcome guests back time and time again.” The Madre collaboration started in 2018, when Belzan founders Sam Grainger, Owain Williams and Chris Edwards hosted a collaboration event with Dudhia and Chris Whitney, of Breddos Tacos in Liverpool, which sold out in less than an hour. Since then, Madre has been operating at the Escape to Freight Island food hall and entertainment complex in Manchester.
 
Sky News – Singapore state fund to lodge £4bn bid for Center Parcs: A Singaporean sovereign wealth fund has joined the list of suitors vying to take control of Center Parcs. The Government Investment Corporation (GIC) is in talks to table a joint £4bn bid for Center Parcs with KSL Capital Partners, the private equity investor, reports Sky News. GIC is one of Asia’s biggest sovereign wealth funds and expressed an interest in Center Parcs in 2015, when it teamed up with CVC Capital Partners to make an offer. CVC is also bidding in the latest auction, with indicative offers due to be tabled next week. Center Parcs trades from six sites in the UK and Ireland and has enjoyed buoyant trading since the lockdowns triggered by the covid-19 pandemic. A number of infrastructure funds, including French-based Antin, have also been exploring whether to make offers for the company. Center Parcs has been owned by Brookfield Property Partners, the Canadian property giant, since 2015. Brookfield has hired Bank of America, Barclays and Eastdil Secured to manage the sale. Brookfield bought Center Parcs from Blackstone in a deal reported to have been worth £2.4bn, and Blackstone is also said to be considering whether to bid to buy Center Parcs back. Center Parcs’ UK and Ireland operations are owned separately to the European business that also trades under the brand. KSL declined to comment.
 
Decker pays back CBILS loan in full, shows ‘strong recovery’ and 60% uplift in sales but ‘higher costs eroding increases’: Decker Hospitality Group has paid back its Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan in full and said it showed a “strong recovery” in the year ending 30 September 2022, with a 60% uplift in sales, but that higher costs are “eroding those increases”. The group – which operates The Royal Toby and Genetta Ristorante in Rochdale, and Armisteads Cocktails & Ales in Chesterfield alongside wholesale and events operations – said its directors entered into an interest rate cap for £2m of the group’s debt. “This gave the group greater visibility and stability of its costs, with the base rate capped at 2.5% for this element of debt,” it said. “Due to the speed of the group’s recovery, the directors repaid the CBILS loan in full and all postponed VAT has been brought up to date. This has resulted in a reduction in the cash position.” Revenue increased from £21,486,532 to £34,560,426 in the period but is still behind that of the last full year before the pandemic, ending 30 September 2019 (£46,792,212). The majority of turnover came from wholesale operations, with £5,339,334 coming from its hotels and pubs. It also returned to profit, turning a £39,245 loss in 2021 into a £356,736 profit (2019: profit of £540,749). The company received £24,000 in government grants compared to £811,404 in 2021. Dividends of £25,000 were paid (2021: nil). Consolidated net assets increased to £5,333,000 (2021: £4,635,000), partly due to a reversal of the impairment of the Royal Toby Hotel. This followed a revaluation in April 2022 after its swift recovery post-pandemic. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Maxwell Brierley said: “The group produced a good performance in a challenging industry. In line with the recovery of pubs and restaurants, the group showed a strong recovery and uplift in sales of 60.8%. The hotel bedroom trade continued to rebuild throughout the year as businesses were more confident in travel and face to face meetings. The Royal Toby Hotel had an excellent year, with turnover well above pre-pandemic levels. Trading conditions remain challenging. Sales revenues are up but higher costs are eroding those increases.” As well as the interest rates cap, the company also has fixed rate energy contracts across the business and has secured a £400,000 “green loan” with HSBC to help reduce its environmental footprint.
 
Oxygen acquires former Base Jump site in Essex: Indoor family activity brand Oxygen has acquired the former Base Jump site in Rayleigh, Essex, and will now inject £1m into a six-week refurbishment. The overhaul of the 34,433 square-foot site will see Oxygen install an excite tunnel, giant inflatable obstacle course, six new climbing challenges, interactive sports pitch, toddler play, interconnecting trampolines and tiered seating. Steve Wilson, managing director of Oxygen Activity Parks, said: “Oxygen currently has 12 sites nationwide, with each and every one of them moving the dial on what consumers can expect from an indoor leisure park, and Rayleigh will be no exception. Building on the great success of Base Jump, this significant investment is a huge commitment to ensuring a unique and fresh experience for the community of Rayleigh and south Essex.” Oxygen Rayleigh opens on Wednesday, 19 July. It follows Oxygen’s acquisition of single-site Essex trampoline operator Jump Evolution in March, and three-strong regional trampoline operator Red Kangaroo in November last year. 
 
Glasgow operator launches fundraise to help open London’s first Scottish deli: Glasgow operator Gregg Boyd has launched a £40,000 fundraise to help open London’s first Scottish deli. Boyd launched Auld Hag with Maddi Simpson in 2021 after moving to London and finding it difficult to locate true Scottish produce. Having started out delivering haggis by bicycle, operating pop-up residencies and catering for the Scottish government, the pair are now looking to open Shoap, in north London, which will “showcase small Scottish producers”. Boyd said: “When I moved to London I couldn’t believe Scottish food wasn’t readily available. Where could I get a roll and square sausage or a Scotch pie or a can of Tennents? Where was all of our incredible produce like cheese, soft fruit, seafood and beef? This is where the idea of Auld Hag was born. After a series of weekend markets and pop-ups, we realised there was more to it. There was a need to support the suppliers we had forged relationships with and, in turn, find new ones.” If it reaches its £40,000 target on Kickstarter, £15,000 will go towards kitchen and retail equipment, another £15,000 to fitting out the main deli area and basement, and £10,000 to purchase initial stock from suppliers.
 
Former Petrus chef opens community-supported hotel and gastropub in Dumfries and Galloway: Christoper Dougan, a former chef at Michelin-starred Petrus in London, has opened a community-supported hotel and gastropub with rooms in Dumfries and Galloway. The Kenmuir Arms has opened in the village of New Luce following a community buyout that funded its complete refurbishment. Chef patron Dougan showcases “the very best Scottish fayre” while “exploring flavours inspired by his global travels”, focusing on organic produce from local suppliers. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some outstanding kitchens around the world, but launching The Kenmuir Arms is my most exciting challenge yet,” he said. “We’ve worked closely with New Luce Community Trust and could not be more grateful for its continued support – The Kenmuir Arms is the culmination of a lot of hard work.” An eight-course tasting menu is available from Wednesday to Saturday, with the option of a matching wine flight, while there are also an à la carte menu and Sunday lunch options.
 
Camino group founder opens UK’s only Rioja bar: Richard Bigg, founder of Spanish restaurant group Camino, has opened the UK’s only Rioja bar. The venue is in Varnishers Yard in London’s King’s Cross, in the premises previously occupied by the group’s Bar Pepito. Bar Rioja serves more than 40 Rioja wines by the glass, spanning all the Spanish region’s zones and styles. Bigg said: “I love Rioja, I love the wine and the people, and I wanted to recreate a bit of it right here in London. It’s been a joy putting the list together and we’ve got something for everyone, from entry level lines right up to show-stopping varieties at £180 a bottle. The idea is to have them all available by the glass – in taster and 75ml and 125ml – so customers can really see and taste the diversity that Rioja has to offer.” Bar Rioja also serves pincho-style food reminiscent of Calle Laurel, the famous tapas street in Rioja’s capital Logrono.

Midlands pizza operator opens fifth site, eyes further expansion: Midlands pizza operator Pizza Triangle has opened its fifth site, in Nottingham’s £30m Teal Park development, and is eyeing further expansion. The concept, which cooks pizza in less than 90 seconds, has opened at the site off Magenta Way. It is the latest branch for the company which first began in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, in 2018, and also has locations in Hackney, Solihull, Stoke-on-Trent and Walsall. There are plans to expand further north to Manchester, as well as opening more in Nottinghamshire, reports Nottingham Live. “We are planning to open two more in Nottinghamshire,” said operations manager Sapa Nur. “This place was a new development when we came here, nothing had been built. We needed to start from somewhere in Nottingham, and we have plans to expand in Nottinghamshire but don’t have locations yet.” Of the concept’s offering, he added: “It cooks for just 90 seconds. It’s very flavourful and we import everything from Italy – flour, cheese and tomatoes for the right taste of Italy. We filled a gap in the market, changing the perception of pizza from the American-style ones with lots of cheese and toppings. This one is the right ratio.” It also offers vegan options and gluten-free bases, while sides include focaccia, potato wedges, salads and Italian gelato.
 
Bristol brewer set to open fifth venue in city: Bristol brewer Left Handed Giant is set to open a fifth venue in the city. The company, which was founded by former BrewDog director of operations Bruce Gray in 2015, has taken spaces on either side of a central arch on the ground floor of The Carriageworks development, which has remained empty for decades. Gray said the new bar will be serving beer from other breweries alongside its own, as well as food from an as-yet unnamed independent Bristol food venture. Left Handed Giant also operates Small Bar in King Street, its brewery and taproom in St Philip’s, Brewpub in Finzels Reach and The Old Bookshop in North Street. “We are going to go in there and create something unique to everything else that we’ve done,” Gray told Bristol24/7. “We are not taking Brewpub over there and recreating it – it’s a venue that has an independent character.” 
 
German Doner Kebab to open in Wolverhampton: German Doner Kebab (GDK), owned by Hero Brands, is opening a site in Wolverhampton this month. The restaurant in Queen Street will create 35 jobs. Simon Wallis, chief executive of GDK, told the Express & Star: “GDK is revolutionising the kebab across the UK and I am confident we will continue this trend in the West Midlands area.” Last month, GDK opened its 150th store worldwide, as it aims for 400 globally by 2030. The landmark store, at 90-92 High Street in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was also the brand’s 128th in the UK. 
 
Midlands Thai food concept opens fifth site: Midlands Thai food concept Sabai Sabai has opened its fifth site, in Station Road in Solihull. The 90-seater restaurant is a first opening in their home town for owners Torquil and Juree Chidwick, who met at Bradford University before opening their debut site, in Molesey, in 2003. It would be almost a decade before the husband-and-wife team opened their second site, in Harborne, in 2012. This was followed by a Stratford-upon-Avon site in 2016 and a Birmingham city centre location the following year. “We are thrilled to introduce Sabai Sabai to the wonderful community of Solihull,” Torquil told Secret Birmingham. “We have always wanted to open one in Solihull, where we live, and have been waiting for the right site for a long time. Being an independent family-owned business, this is a huge West Midlands success story. Our aim is to offer an upmarket and chic restaurant that the local community will love.”
 
Taco Bell opens in former Frankie & Benny’s in Coventry: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has opened in a former Frankie & Benny’s unit in Coventry. The drive-thru and restaurant is at Cross Point Business Centre in Gielgud Way. It is the first Taco Bell in Coventry and 131st UK restaurant for the brand, reports Coventry Live.
 
West Midlands gym brand secures £100,000 funding package to open seventh site: West Midlands gym brand Fitness Worx has secured a £100,000 funding package to open its seventh site. The launch of its new location, in Stratford-upon-Avon, follows support from BCRS Business Loans via the Community Investment Enterprise Facility and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. Managing director Jack Gibson said the opening was part of “ambitious growth plans” for the company, which was founded in 2014. “We want to be the market leader in our sector, so opening our new premises helps us deliver the next phase of our ambitious growth plans,” he told Insider Media. “As one of the largest family-owned independent gym groups in the UK, the latest launch is another step towards realising our business goals. The new premises represent our biggest opening to date and it is the sort of area where we have succeeded so far, so we believe we can make a positive impact. Like all gyms, the pandemic caused challenges to our finances, so it was great to get the support of the team at BCRS.”
 
North west Chinese buffet and bubble tea brand opens third site: North west Chinese buffet and bubble tea brand KungFu has opened its third site, in St Helens. The concept came about two years ago when Kai Wan, who was running Chinese restaurant Mr Wang’s in Wigan, decided to launch a new business that slimmed down its food menu and followed the growing bubble tea craze. With a buffet-style selection of Chinese meals and a focus on bubble tea, milkshakes and ice cream, KungFu launched in Wigan before adding a second site, in Warrington. It has now opened site number three, in Bridge Street in St Helens town centre. “The Wigan shop has been so busy, so we took it to Warrington and decided to take it to St Helens as well,” Wan told the St Helens Star. “At Mr Wang’s, we have a broad range of food. It is a smaller menu here, but customers get their food more quickly and at cheaper prices. People love the food but the most popular thing has been the bubble tea – this is what everyone comes for.”

Norwich coffee shop brand set to open third site and first with bakery: Norwich coffee shop brand Folks Coffee Co is set to open its third site, and first with a bakery, in Heydon. The venue, an old blacksmiths that previously operated as a pizza and bakery, will be the first Folks site to offer baked goods and pastries and also supply to its other sites. Twin brothers Jack and Harry Vergerson, along with friend Jack Edwards, launched the first Folks site in Yalm’s Royal Arcade, complete with a cocktail and espresso bar, in November 2022, before opening a second branch in April, in Blakeney. The new site should be open in early July, reports the North Norfolk News. “People always used to buy pizzas from the old bakery in Heydon and we really want to bring this back,” Jack Vergeson said. “We’re going to really focus on being a bakery first and foremost, and we really want to fit nicely into what’s already available in Heydon.”

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