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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 19th Jun 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

McDonald’s UK CEO – ‘Britain’s bloated planning rules are wrecking our expansion plans’: McDonald’s’ British expansion plans are being scuppered by bureaucracy and planning red tape, the boss of the fast-food chain has said. UK chief executive Alistair Macrow said the company was facing waits of up to three years to open new restaurants because of delays at local council levels and excessive bureaucracy. Macrow told The Telegraph: “The planning timeline in this country for us has on average increased by 55 weeks since covid. Today it takes us pretty much three years from the moment that we approve a new site to open. Of those three years, only 43 weeks are within our control.” Macrow’s frustration comes as McDonald’s undertakes a significant investment campaign in Britain. The company is planning to invest around £280m in the UK over the next four years aimed at making its restaurants more efficient. Plans include the addition of features such as separate waiting rooms for delivery drivers and “smart” scales in kitchens that can tell if items have been left out of a bagged order. The investment comes as McDonald’s battles to keep costs down during the worst inflation crisis in 40 years. Last year, the company was forced to raise the price of a cheeseburger for the first time in 14 years, putting it up from 99p to £1.19. Macrow, who has been at the company since 2007, said: “In my days as UK marketing director, I was really excited about launching our saver menu – 2 January 2009, I still remember the date. We launched the Mayo Chicken, that was our new ‘hero product’, 99p. It was still 99p at the start of this year... we’ve had to move that now to £1.19.” Prices of some items on the menu have risen for the first time in some cases as the cost of everything – from energy, to wages, to potatoes – has surged. He refused to rule out further price rises but argued the chain still represents good value compared with rivals. It is hoped investment in cost-saving technologies will also help keep price rises to a minimum. “Inflation is inflation – we can’t change that,” he said. “You can have a hot burger, fries and a drink served to your table for £3.99. I don’t know too many [businesses] able to do a better job.”

Industry News:

Sessions COO and director of F&B to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Jack Anderson, chief operating officer of Sessions, the growth platform for food brands and food hall concept operator, and Olivia Reid, its director of food and beverage, 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. Anderson and Reid will discuss operating and licensing Sessions’ own brands, investing in new concepts, deciding what operators to work with, and the future of food halls. 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.

Ten new companies added to UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database, released on Wednesday: Ten new companies will be added to the UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database when it is sent to Premium subscribers on Wednesday (21 June). Among them are Canadian quick service restaurant franchise chain Thaï Express, KellyDeli-owned multi-concept food market Kelly’s Market; better burger brand Boo and US gourmet breakfast and lunch concept Blu Jam Cafe. The database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK, is updated every two months. 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 Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers 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.

Ban on two-for-one junk food deals delayed again over cost-of-living crisis: A ban on two-for-one junk food deals is to be delayed by the government for a further two years in the face of the cost-of-living crisis. Prime minister Rishi Sunak has deferred again the planned ban on multi-buy promotions on products high in fat, sugar or salt to avoid restricting consumer options while prices remain high. The buy-one-get-one-free ban, which formed part of the anti-obesity strategy, had already been pushed back to October 2023, fuelling speculation that it could be dropped completely. It has now been put on hold until October 2025 while the government continues to review the impact it would have on shoppers and businesses, Downing Street said. Sunak said: “I firmly believe in people's right to choose – and at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers. It is right we carefully consider the impact on consumers and businesses, while ensuring we're striking the balance with our important mission to reduce obesity and help people live healthier lives.” Obesity costs the NHS around £6.5bn a year and is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer. Around a quarter of adults and children aged ten-11 years in England are living with obesity. The government point out it has already imposed restrictions on the placement of less healthy products in stores and supermarkets. Calorie labelling in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways has also been introduced.

Company insolvencies jump to new monthly high: Company insolvencies in England and Wales last month rose by 40% year-on-year to the highest level since monthly records began in January 2019. Data from the Insolvency Service showed 2,552 companies were declared insolvent last month, overwhelmingly through creditors’ voluntary liquidations, in which a company’s directors agree to wind up the business without a formal court order. However, the government agency said there had also been a 34% increase in compulsory liquidations, partly due to more requests from tax authorities to recover funds from companies unable to pay their tax bill. Insolvencies in the UK were low during the pandemic because of an £80bn business loan programme and a temporary bar on court-ordered liquidations. Numbers have risen since, reaching a 13-year high in the final quarter of 2022 and staying close to that in the first quarter of 2023. “Given that trading conditions remain extremely challenging, the number will likely continue to climb through the second half of the year,” David Kelly, head of insolvency at the accountants PwC, told The Times. PwC said construction and retail were the hardest-hit sectors, and the number of food manufacturers in trouble was also increasing. About 99% of liquidations featured companies with annual sales of under £1m, it added. Lindsey Cooper, a restructuring advisory partner at RSM, said: “With the continued increase in interest rates it is becoming more and more difficult for some businesses to refinance and we expect more failures among those businesses which are already in a vulnerable cash position. Administrations, which also allow a restructuring of a business, have also increased and we expect to see more management teams making use of these corporate rescue tools in the coming months.”

Rail regulator begins study into station catering prices: Britain’s rail regulator has put caterers on notice to ensure consumers get a fair deal as it announced a market study of railway station catering. The Office of Rail and Road noted food and drink sold at stations was often more expensive than on the high street, while lack of investment can cause low satisfaction rates. Analysts told The Times the study by the regulator was “not helpful news”. Shares in SSP, the dominant player in UK stations, fell 5¼p, or 1.9%, to 269p, reflecting expectation of only limited fallout. The regulator said it had started to gather intelligence on the structure of the market, the effectiveness of competition and possible barriers for new entrants. It called on interested parties to submit evidence by Friday, 7 July. Grahame Horgan, head of competition at the regulator, said with consumers being hit by the rising cost of living, it was important they had access to affordable food and drink. While prices were generally higher at all types of transport hub, including airports, the regulator noted this was not specific to catering and was also prevalent among retailers. UK rail accounts for only about 15% of SSP’s business. That is forecast to fall to about 10% over the next few years as it focuses on airports, particularly in America. The study noted that in some cases lease contracts can hamper a caterer’s ability to improve the quality of the offering. In other cases the nature of a lease can hinder a station operator’s ability to sign new tenants and inject competition, which could indirectly hit station funding. The report concluded there may be factors affecting competition, but it did not yet have grounds for taking specific action. An SSP spokesperson said: “We will participate fully in this process. We have always been, and will continue to be, committed to meeting the needs of consumers in this sector and providing them with value, quality and choice.”

Mixture of nostalgia and convenience drives ice-cream parlour openings: A mixture of nostalgia and convenience is driving an increase in the number of ice-cream parlours in Britain. The number of parlours on high streets in England, Scotland and Wales has soared in the past two years, with the tally rising by more than 200 to 1,015, according to analysts the Local Data Company (LDC). The charge has been led by independents as local neighbourhoods benefit from more custom after working and shopping patterns were altered by the covid pandemic. With colourful sundaes well-suited to Instagram, social media and expansive menus had helped make visits less weather dependent, LDC analyst Kate Rosser told The Guardian. Katy Alston, president of the industry group the Ice-cream Alliance and owner of the Pinks Parlour in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, said the venues were popular because the “experience” could not be replicated in a supermarket or online. “We’re not seasonal anymore because not everyone wants to go out for big meal,” she added. With businesses and consumers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, the rate of parlour openings has slowed this year. However, restaurant industry consultant Peter Backman said the rapid rise of the Kaspa’s and Creams chains suggests parlours will continue to increase in popularity. “Kaspa’s and Creams have each got about 100 outlets, and I could easily see them doubling, tripling or even quadrupling if demand is there,” he said. “I can see ice-cream parlours becoming quite [a big thing] on the high street.”

Former Merlin Entertainment CEO and UKHospitality president Nick Varney knighted as part of King’s birthday honours: Nick Varney, the former chief executive of Merlin Entertainments and until recently president of UKHospitality, has been knighted for services to the visitor economy in the King’s birthday honours. Varney, who stepped down as chief executive of Merlin last year after 23 years of leading the business, said his knighthood showed the “importance” of the hospitality sector to the UK. He said: “Having worked in the tourism and leisure industry for more than 30 years, I have had the privilege of helping to build Merlin from a small British business to the global company it is today. This enormous honour is shared with all those at Merlin both past and present, who were part of that amazing journey. Following the difficulties the hospitality and tourism industry experienced during the pandemic, this knighthood reinforces the importance of our sector to the UK, one which contributes more than £130bn each year to the British economy. I’m proud to have played my part in that and will continue to champion and support this amazing industry.” Hilton's Simon Vincent, VisitEngland director Andrew Stokes and chef Robert Thompson were also among those recognised. Vincent, who has been executive vice-president of the hotel chain Hilton and led its business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 2007, received a CBE for services to the tourism industry. Stokes was awarded an OBE for services to tourism. Thompson, chef patron of Thompson's restaurant on the Isle of Wight, was recognised with an MBE for services to hospitality, tourism and charity.

COREcruitment and Ten Health & Fitness to host women’s health breakfast: COREcruitment has partnered with Ten Health & Fitness to host a breakfast networking session with discussions around women’s health at work. The session will take place on Thursday, 29 June at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel from 7am and cover various topics including pre and post-natal health, menopause and pelvic health. Part of the session will include discussing the results of its women’s health at work survey. To register, email Rose@corecruitment.com. This event is being held in conjunction with the Propel Multi-Club Conference but registration is separate. The all-day conference, which is organised in conjunction with Ann Elliott, will feature an all-female line-up of sector leaders on learning lessons from the pandemic and moving forward. There is now a waiting list in place for operators who wish to attend.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an experiential travel brand that operates globally and is looking for an experienced marketing director to lead it through its next growth phase. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “Some of the responsibilities will include ownership and development of brand, tone of voice and messaging across all channels; leading, developing and executing all digital (out the box) acquisition and retention strategies; and planning, designing and executing of marketing campaigns and promotions across social media, email, ATL, digital marketing (PPC, SEO, display) and in-club material, etc. Your experience will ideally include global multi-brand exposure in the travel or entertainment sectors and knowledge of the US market is desirable.” The salary is up to £110,000 plus bonus and the position is based in London. For more information, email gemma@corecruitment.com.

Company News:

The Hummingbird Bakery planning growth outside M25 through franchising, eyes international expansion: US-style cupcake concept The Hummingbird Bakery has told Propel it is planning growth outside the M25 through franchising and is also eyeing international expansion. The company, which was founded in 2004 and acquired by Acropolis Capital via a pre-pack administration two years ago, has since grown to five sites in London and is planning further launches this year. In the long term, it sees expansion outside of the capital and wants to reignite its international growth, which saw three sites open in Dubai a decade ago. “We have more openings to come in central London, including malls and transport hubs, along with additional boroughs, to expand our footprint and delivery reach,” operations manager Simone Tasker told Propel. “We are looking at four to five openings per year over the coming two years within the M25, and we are also on the lookout for franchise partners beyond the M25. Other plans include international franchising, for which we have been preparing for the last couple of years, and now we’re entering conversations.” Tasker added the business has seen London footfall recover and that current trading is strong. She added: “We have seen a major increase in customers visiting our locations, offsetting the expected drop in delivery post confinement. As with everyone in the space, we are trying to be creative in reinventing our business model without compromising on quality, or on baking fresh every day, by centralising skills and costs, optimising production and delivery and always looking at increasing the top-line to help us cover our fixed costs. This includes product innovation and menu expansion to more than just cupcakes, including pies, cheesecakes, brownies, ice-cream and cookies, and becoming the go-to brand for every celebration.” It comes after The Hummingbird Bakery reopened its biggest site, the 2,300 square-foot Spitalfields location, which also houses its flagship bakery, where the majority of the orders are freshly baked daily on site. Visitors can watch the bakers in action through the open plan kitchen and counter while waiting for their order. New additions include Eton Mess red velvet ice cream and ice cream cupcakes, exclusive to Spitalfields. 

Italian casual dining concept selects Milton Keynes for debut here, focusing franchise growth on UK: Italian casual dining franchise concept Ci Gusta has selected Milton Keynes for its debut here and is focusing its future franchise growth on the UK, Propel has learned. Propel revealed in January that Ci Gusto – which was founded in Italy in 2011 by Dario Rabboni and has since expanded to 17 countries – would open its first UK site this year. And after visiting the British & International Franchise Exhibition at London’s Olympia earlier this month, it has decided to channel its efforts on UK expansion. “Ci Gusta returned from London with many interesting contacts that projected our franchising more and more towards the UK,” it said. “The two-day exhibition was filled with meetings that allowed us to forge new business relationships that laid the foundations for growing our business on the other side of the Channel. In addition to listening to our proposals, interested parties were also able to taste some of our products, to immediately test the quality of the delicacies that can be enjoyed in our restaurants. A great amount of them were so pleasantly surprised to hear about the first Ci Gusta opening in the UK. This venue will be located in Milton Keynes.” Ci Gusta 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 featuring 210 businesses will be sent on Wednesday (21 June). 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.

Timothy Taylor CEO – 2023 will be a ‘very tricky year’, bottom line being hit hard: Tim Dewey, chief executive of Keighley brewer and retailer Timothy Taylor, has told Propel that 2023 will be a “very tricky year” as the industry awaits to see whether the current high-cost environment is here to stay. Dewey said the bottom line is being hit hard but said the company, which operates 19 pubs – 17 tenanted and two managed – would remain profitable in the current financial year. He said: “Sales are holding up well but at a profit level we are running significantly down on last year. Some of our tenants are finding it tough and are choosing not to open some days or close earlier in the evening. We are being flexible with them where we can, but it has to make commercial sense. Our flagship managed site in Keighley – Taylor’s on the Green – is going to be loss-making this year because of the high costs of staff, particularly kitchen staff. It’s going to be a very tricky year. I feel the government has been lulled into a false sense of security. That much-needed support we got during covid has gradually dropped away but we’ve been hit by significant cost increases. We’re still struggling to get quotes on energy, for example. The question is whether these high costs, across the board, will come down or are they here to stay? Like everyone else in the industry, we don’t know the answer yet. Our main income is through our cask ale production so we are reliant on the pub trade for our living. But, despite the challenges, we continue to invest in our brewery and are managing to grow our cask ale sales in a difficult market.” Dewey said the business was open to acquiring more pubs but said there weren’t many opportunities on the market currently that would fit into the portfolio. Dewey spoke after Timothy Taylor reported turnover increased to £30,292,690 for the year ending 30 September 2022 compared with £17,053,807 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £3,318,177 from £3,092,560 the previous year. A dividend of £1,622,394 was paid (2021: £351,246).

Competitive socialising concept backed by ex-professional footballers gears up for launch: Ballerz, a new competitive socialising concept backed by ex-professional footballers including Rio Ferdinand and Bobby Zamora, is planning to launch its first site later this year, Propel has learned. The project, which includes Nick Weir, of sector property advisor Shelley Sandzer, as a co-founder, also includes backing from former West Ham United captain Mark Noble, the Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos and DJ Mark Knight. Ballerz will be a “special space, housed in a purpose-built dome with world class 5G pitch, mini stadium bench, tech-laden skills zones, plus an eatery and bar, perfectly combining competitive socialising with professional, lifestyle and fitness training”. The new concept plans to launch its first venue by the end of this year at Bluewater in Kent. At the same time, it is understood the business is set to launch a crowdfunding campaign to aid its launch and subsequent expansion.

Oasis ups stake in TRG: Oasis Management, the hedge fund that has been the Wagamama-owner The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) chief critic, has upped its stake in the Andy Hornby-led business. It comes off the back of the liquidation of public company holdings by Odey Asset Management, the crisis-hit hedge fund, which has gathered pace with the sale of a multimillion-pound stake in TRG. Sky News reported Odey sold roughly 2% of TRG at the end of last week to Oasis, which has been pushing for an overhaul of the casual dining chain operator. The purchase takes Oasis' stake in TRG to about 14.5%, according to insiders. Last month, shareholders approved TRG’s remuneration policy despite almost a third voting against the plan. A total of 65.06% were in favour, while 54.46% approved the remuneration report. In the run-up to the annual meeting, a number of shareholders, led by Oasis, criticised Hornby’s “disproportionate” £674,450 base salary and said the board’s remuneration policy “fails to deliver value and should not continue”. However, some of TRG’s biggest investors came out in support of the management team. Shareholders also approved the re-election of chairman Ken Hanna (76.94%), while Hornby was backed by 84.18% of investors.

Urban Pubs & Bars secures ex-JD Wetherspoon site in Islington: London operator Urban Pubs & Bars has secured its third site in as many weeks, after securing an ex-JD Wetherspoon pub in Islington. Propel has learned the circa 40-strong business has acquired The Junction in Upper Street. Formerly called The Angel when owned by JD Wetherspoon, the site is set to undergo a five-week refurbishment programme and will be opening as one of Urban Pubs & Bars’ “modern British pubs”, similar in style to its previously converted Wetherspoon site, The Cyclist, in Balham. Last week, Propel revealed that Urban Pubs & Bars is set to make its transport hub debut, with an opening at Waterloo train station. The business will open The Victory, which will feature a “premium pub offer”, in the ex-Sports Bar & Grill site plus an adjoining unit, on the first floor in the station’s concourse. It will be the group’s first project with Network Rail. It is also set to further strengthen its presence in the capital with an opening in Putney. It secured the circa 12,000 square-foot, ex-Revolution site in Upper Richmond Road, which closed last month, for an opening later this year.

Junkyard Golf Club confirms August opening for £2m Camden location: Crazy golf brand Junkyard Golf Club has confirmed its new £2m Camden location will open in August. The site, which the company said “marks a major milestone in Junkyard Golf Club’s expansion plans”, will be located in the former Shaka Zulu restaurant in Camden Market. The 19,500 square-foot will be the company’s largest yet and will create 100 jobs. It will feature four nine-hole courses, each with a unique theme, including Mexican wrestling bears and pirate speedboats; disco balls and a UV disco room; fairground attractions like the Ferris wheel and hall of mirrors; and an acid electric chair within an abandoned warehouse, which guests are “dared to sit in”. It will also feature a dedicated corporate space with a bar, and a full floor devoted to a further bar area with a new cocktail menu. It will be the first Junkyard Golf Club site to open under the company’s new rebrand, to “evolve the brand from pop-up to grown-up”, and first to be built under its commitment to being carbon neutral, paving the way for all future openings. Managing director Sam Jones said: “We are thrilled to be opening our seventh venue, in Camden. This will house our largest venue to date, allowing us to provide a unique and unforgettable experience for everyone who visits. We can’t wait to bring our brand of crazy golf to this culturally rich and diverse area of London, that sees more than 100,000 visitors each weekend.” Junkyard Golf Club also has venues in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Oxford and Shoreditch, and told Propel in January it is planning sites in Birmingham and Las Vegas ahead of “modest UK growth and aggressive US expansion”. 

Daily Mail questions whether Salt Bae’s restaurant empire is starting to crumble: The Daily Mail has questioned whether Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gökçe’s restaurant empire is beginning to crumble with his London site continuing to face a deluge of bad reviews and one of his New York branches set to shut. Gökçe went viral on social media in 2017 for his theatrical salt-sprinkling antics that have earned him more than 38 million followers on Instagram. But with the New York restaurant closing, The Daily Mail questioned if the London dining room has had its day and will shut too, as it has been heavily criticised since opening. Since launching in 2019, the Instagram-favourite experience has been inundated with negative reviews and hit the headlines over its pricey menu. Two years after the Knightsbridge restaurant opened, the eatery had received a slew of bad reviews on TripAdvisor, ranking it at number 20,491 out of 23,811 in all of London. Gökçe currently has 17 restaurants in his chain. He has often been spotted slicing meat for customers in his London restaurant, where specials include a Golden Giant Tomahawk steak for £1,450, Golden Giant Striplion for £1,350 and Golden Kafes for £500, and regularly posed for snaps with customers. Despite the backlash, the Nusr-Et restaurant made a reported £7m in sales in its first four months. Salt Bae Burger New York opened at 220 Park Avenue South, near Union Square Park, just a month before the pandemic closed restaurants to indoor dining. In 2020, Nusr-Et's chief executive Al Avci said there was “no problem whatsoever'” at the company's restaurants.

Former The Scotsman Group director of food operations joins Buzzworks as head of food: Scott van der Hoek, former director of food operations at The Scotsman Group, formerly G1 Group, has joined Scottish independent restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks Holdings as its new head of food. “Buzzworks has a great reputation, and its aspirations to really grow the business while maintaining its high standards caught my attention,” he said. “It also truly values its people, and that’s something I deeply respect as it ties in with my core values. My vision is to create the ultimate dining experience for our customers. We will start by really perfecting our staples and then move on to crafting dishes with seasonal local produce that burst with flavour and innovation. I love creating dishes that are well-presented yet uncomplicated.” Van der Hoek will also head up a recruitment drive and is looking for aspiring chefs “who would be interested embarking on the unrivalled chef training journey that Buzzworks has to offer”. Buzzworks will this month open its fourth Scotts venue, at the top of the new £19m Greenock Cruise Ship visitor centre on the banks of the River Clyde in Greenock. 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.

Former Domino’s worker who built portfolios with Pizza Hut and Starbucks takes on first franchise with the chain: A former Domino’s worker who went on to build portfolios with both Pizza Hut and Starbucks has taken on his first franchise store with the chain he started out with. Alok Yadav has opened the first Domino’s store in the Norfolk village of Swaffham. Although it is Yadav’s first Domino’s site, he formerly operated seven Pizza Hut delivery franchises and now owns 42 Starbucks sites, including 15 drive-thrus, through his company KBeverage. But Domino’s has a particular attraction for Yadav as he taught himself English by studying Domino’s pizza menus while working as a cleaner at one of its stores. Yadav, who is originally from India, arrived in the UK in 2007 speaking little or no English, and landed the cleaning job while studying for a university placement. He spent his free time outside of work role-playing with colleagues until he learned enough English to answer the phone and take orders. He was soon promoted to store manager and then area manager, and after leaving to grow his ambitions elsewhere, has returned to open his own franchise through the company’s Homegrown Heroes programme. “I knew I had to learn the language quickly if I wanted to progress, but it was really hard,” Yadav told The Daily Mail. “I’d only heard of onions and tomatoes, so I had to learn the names of the other toppings and how to say them. My colleagues were great in helping me learn and I was determined to do it as I really enjoyed working in Domino’s. We spent hours in the flat above the shop going through the phone greeting and working on the toppings, so that was how I learned English.” Dan Maund, franchise development manager at Domino’s UK & Ireland, added: “Alok’s entrepreneurial mindset and determination developed through his time at Domino’s has empowered him to open several successful businesses over the years. We’re proud to have Alok come the full circle and open his first Domino’s store.”

McMullen opens new St Albans site: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen has added the Saint & Sinner pub in St Albans to its “High Street Premium concept” division. The opening follows the recent trading pub purchases in Stevenage and Whitechapel and the extensive redevelopment of the Salisbury Arms Hotel in Hertford. The group’s High Street Premium arm is a “bespoke group of vibrant high street pubs ¬– diverse, fun and informal”. Heydon Mizon, joint managing director, said: “We are proud to have purchased this historic building during lockdown and, despite some planning challenges and the difficulty converting a bank into a pub format, we are delighted to be open. Many of the team were recruited for an earlier opening date and have worked in our sister pubs across Hertfordshire and central London, it is wonderful to see them in their own pub finally.” The company said it continues to seek excellent quality freehold and long leasehold property in London and the south east, either current trading pubs and hotels, new build opportunities or property conversions.
 
Buns from Home opens ninth site: London independent bakery business Buns from Home has opened its ninth site, at 118 Baker Street. It is the first of four new openings the company has lined up for this quarter, with two due to launch in Canary Wharf and one in Fulham. The business, which started out as a pandemic project for west Londoner Barney Goff, last month appointed Shereen Ritchie, former chief operating officer of Irish healthy fast-food brand Sprout & Co and ex-managing director of Leon, as its new chief operating officer. It followed the appointment of Rebecca Rose, formerly of Nightcap and Various Eateries, as its new people director that same month.

Foodco opens Muffin Break in Exeter, fit-out on Harrogate due to begin shortly: Foodco has opened its 64th Muffin Break in the UK, with fit-out on the 65th due to begin shortly. The latest Muffin Break has opened at the Guildhall shopping centre in Exeter, while the next will be in Harrogate. Foodco earlier this month opened its 19th UK Jamaica Blue coffee shop, in The Quadrant in Richmond, south west London, with the fit-out due to begin on number 20, in Belfast’s Corn Market. Propel revealed in December that Foodco planned up to 14 new UK stores in 2023 – including at least eight Muffin Breaks and four Jamaica Blues.

Cineworld’s top team to share $35m as lenders take over: Cineworld’s boss and his top management team will be paid a combined $35m to leave the cinema operator after it emerges from Chapter 11 proceedings next month. Chief executive Mooky Greidinger, his brother and deputy chief Israel Greidinger, chief financial officer Nisan Cohen and chief commercial officer Renana Teperberg will get the money in consulting fees and to smooth their exit from the business. Cineworld expects to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July but it has made clear that a debt restructuring would not provide any payout to equity shareholders. After the recent decision to scrap the sale of its operations, the cinemas group is pressing ahead with a debt-for-equity swap that hands control of its assets to lenders, together with an equity raising of $800m and $1.46bn in new debt financing. Its debt pile will fall by $4.5bn. Cineworld, founded in 1995, operates almost 750 sites in ten countries. It floated in 2007 but a debt-fuelled expansion left it near to collapse and it was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in America last September.

Adnams draymen complete BII cellar management training: A dozen draymen from Suffolk brewer and retailer Adnams have completed a British Institute of Innkeeping cellar management qualification. The course, delivered by Cask Marque training manager Annabel Smith, taught them how to advise customers on storing, handling and dispensing cask ale. It is the first time that draymen have been enrolled in the course. Gary Stacey, Adnams’ transport manager, said: “Our draymen are frequently asked about cellar issues – now they can feel confident in answering questions and giving advice.” Cask Marque, a not-for-profit organisation that champions beer quality, is currently placing its focus on cellars. Pubs will need to gain a four/five-star rating to hold a Cask Marque award, and by the end of 2023, more than 8,000 will have a cellar rating. Cask Marque director Paul Nunny added: “Good cellar practice delivers better yields and better beer, thus helping pub profitability. The star rating system will drive up standards that will not only benefit the pub, but also the consumer.”

Milan restaurant to make UK debut in Old War Office development: Milan restaurant Langosteria will this summer make its UK debut in the Old War Office (OWO) development, in London’s Whitehall. The seafood-focused concept has locations in Paris, St Moritz and Paraggi, as well as its original Milan site. It will join the likes of Mirazur’s Mauro Colagreco, fellow Milan restaurant Paper Moon, the Parisian Cafe Laperouse and Endo Kazutoshi’s rooftop restaurant at the OWO, reports Hot Dinners.

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