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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 20th Jun 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Gourmet chicken concept opens fourth site and targets 80 new stores over next decade: Gourmet chicken concept Rooster Shack has opened its fourth site and targeted 80 new stores over the next decade, Propel has learned. Founded in 2016 by Imran Mamud, Rooster Shack built a customer base of more than 6,000 from a single store in Woking before expanding to Aldershot, in Hampshire, and then Birmingham. It has now opened site number four, at 133 Buxton Road in Stockport, Greater Manchester, with “many more to come”. Mamud said: “When we started out in 2016, I wanted to create a menu, brand and atmosphere that was for everyone, but it all starts with the menu. Many starting out work the other way around and try to get the look and feel of the store right but neglect the most important part of a restaurant – the ingredients. Seven years on we are four stores strong with more in the pipeline. I see many concepts expand rapidly, and this approach is good short term but may cause problems long term. Having multiple stores in the same towns and cities will only cause you issues with your partners and can result in your franchisees becoming frustrated. The most important element of franchising is to ensure your partners are successful throughout their journey, enabling them to become multi-store partners. Our plan over the next ten years is to open 80 stores across the UK. This will ensure every major city is covered as well as small towns, and at the same time, ensuring each partner has a large enough patch to succeed.” Rooster Shack offers a franchise package starting at a £120,000 investment, for locations as little as 500 square feet, which it said means a smaller rent percentage. Having won the Good Food Award for Takeaways in 2020, 2021 and 2022, it is now celebrating being named Recommended Restaurant of the Year by online food guide Restaurant Guru. Rooster Shack will feature in the next Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK. The latest version will be sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Wednesday, 21 June) and feature 210 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription

Industry News:

Mark Selby to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Mark Selby, co-founder of Mexican brand Wahaca, 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. Selby will discuss the group’s evolution, its work on sustainability, the role its fledgling DF Tacos concept is set to play, a return to the expansion trail for its core brand and his views on the wider eating-out sector. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email
Latest UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database to feature 210 companies, released tomorrow: The UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database will feature 210 companies when it is sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Wednesday, 21 June). Among them are third-generation family fish and chip business Beks, independent piri piri and grilled chicken QSR brand Rooster Shack, and Dutch vegan junk food concept Vegan Junk Food Bar. 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 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. 
One-third see discrimination in hospitality: A third of people in hospitality have experienced discrimination while working in the sector, according to the latest report by not-for-profit Be Inclusive Hospitality.  The third edition of the Inside Hospitality Report 2023 report, which surveyed 3,120 hospitality workers across the UK, found that just under 85% (84.1%) of respondents at the director level have witnessed discriminatory behaviours. The report found that one-in-three overall have ‘witnessed and experienced’ discrimination at work. For Black and Asian respondents who answered “yes” to witnessing discriminatory behaviour, 62.4% of Asian and 62.6% of Black respondents cite racial bias as the most prevalent form of discrimination. Higher proportions of respondents in nightclubs, pubs and bars reported experiencing and witnessing discrimination, with 43% saying they have “low levels of confidence” in the company’s ability to address discrimination in the workplace. This is especially the case for ethnic minorities. Only 52.4% of participants who encountered discriminatory behaviour in their workplace had the opportunity to report this. Meanwhile, only a third of respondents who did file a complaint were satisfied with the handling of this complaint. The report also found that there remains a perception that the industry is “less fair” when it comes to race, age, and disability. Lorraine Copes, founder and chief executive of Be Inclusive Hospitality, said: “Over the last three years, we have seen the number of respondent numbers increase from over 300 in 2020 to over 3,000 today. I believe that this increase positively marks a growth in awareness and support for the work that we do. What is concerning is that the results surrounding discrimination, education at all levels, and the building of trust have remained stagnant. With this robust data set, my hope is that leaders now take heed and take action.” 
Home Office oversight leaves void in counter terrorism strategy, says NTIA: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said a Home Office oversight is leaving a void in the UK’s counter terrorism strategy. It said the recent refusal by Downing Street to implement business licensing within the private security sector will weaken the ability to protect the public from potential terrorist threats. An estimated 4,000 front-line security supply companies working within the hospitality and night-time economy will be untraceable by the regulator and key government departments, it said. With Martyns Law currently under scrutiny, there is a concern that front-line security for thousands of businesses will not have the appropriate standards of vetting, insurance and basic training required to keep people safe within public spaces. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill: “Following the recommendations from the Manchester Arena inquiry, the refusal by the Home Office to implement a business licensing scheme for all private security businesses is a considerable oversight. The home secretary and security minister have little or no grasp of the issues faced by the sector, particularly one that is on the verge of implementing a new duty to protect premises accessed by the public from a potential terror threat. It is glaringly obvious that a limitation in control of companies that supply security resource, and don’t follow a strict vetting procedure will leave a considerable void in the overarching counter terror strategy for businesses on the ground.”
Overtime ban by Aslef train drivers to bring further rail disruption: The train drivers’ union Aslef has announced a week-long overtime ban at the start of July, which will further disrupt much of Britain’s railway. While the union has stopped short of calling fresh strikes in the long-running pay dispute, the industrial action by about 12,000 drivers across the 16 English train operators contracted to the Department for Transport is likely to cause more headaches for passengers. The effects of the overtime ban – running from Monday, 3 July until the end of Saturday, 8 July – will vary for different operators. Trains will continue to run normally within Wales, Scotland and London, where drivers are not in dispute, but intercity cross-border services will likely be affected.
Chef-owners say tasting menus increasingly offer sustainability and financial stability during cost-of-living crisis: Chef-owners at several top restaurants have said tasting menus are increasingly offering sustainability and financial stability during the cost-of-living crisis. Pre-covid, they had “reportedly been consigned it to the food recycling bin of history” by a mixture of street food, small plates and casual dining, reports The Guardian. But the ongoing effects of Brexit, covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have led restaurants to begin to re-examine the financial stability that tasting menus offer. To the extent, said Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner, that they are now “ubiquitous in certain places”, and that in Edinburgh, “it seems the default for a restaurant of any ambition is a tasting menu”. But creating a sustainable business is about removing variables, said Alex Rushmer, who opened Vanderlyle in Cambridge in 2019: “Chiefly, not knowing how many people are coming and what they’re going to order,” he added. In December, Edinburgh’s Eleanore moved from a small plates menu to a set £55 menu consisting of seven dishes served over five courses, with optional extras. Owner Roberta Hall-McCarron said she wouldn’t call it a tasting menu but said: “It was the best option to not waste money and time. The menu requires one less chef per shift, and those chefs work fewer hours.” Josh Overington, who later this month opens Myse in Hovingham, Yorkshire, said: “The hours are a big thing. If you’re going to do four days a week, as I am, [a tasting menu] is easier to organise. It has a million benefits.” Chet Sharma, of BiBi in London, admitted “there’s some bad branding around the phrase ‘tasting menu’,” and pointedly serves a “chef’s selection” instead. “He added: “Conducting the kitchen, if everybody is on the same menu, you’re more in control. Great for us, but also for overall guest experience.” Wimbledon’s Black Lamb serves a £48 menu of five courses plus snacks, which not only increases guaranteed spend, said co-owner Richard Gladwin, “but offers better value than ordering five à la carte courses”. At Manchester’s Higher Ground, Joseph Otway said half of his customers choose the £45 set menu. “It’s the best value we can offer, and the best way to show a curated snippet of everything we’re about,” he said.
Daily Mail – high street sushi can be even saltier than two Big Macs: High street sushi can be even saltier than two Big Macs, analysis from The Daily Mail showed. It audited dozens of options sold at Wasabi and Itsu, with Itsu’s vegan sushi collection found to contain roughly 5.8g of salt. This is almost all of an adult’s daily recommended allowance and around two-and-a-half times what is found in McDonald’s hallmark burger (2.2g). Similarly high levels of salt were found in Wasabi’s spicy salmon roll (5.4g) and its harmony set (5.3g). Adults are advised to eat no more than 6g of salt per day. Hannah Whittaker, a registered dietician in Liverpool, said the sushi itself can be beneficial for our health but it is added sauces people must look out for. “One significant part of sushi packs is the small bottle of soya or other sauces that are provided to generally add flavour,” she told the Mail. “However, it is important to consider the salt content of this tiny packet and the impact on our health. Opt for low-sodium soy sauce. These options can help reduce overall sodium/salt intake while still providing flavour. Even better, omit the soya sauce.” Nutritionist and campaign lead at Action on Salt, Sonia Pombo, said: “Most of our salt intake is already in the food we buy, and we simply can’t take it out once it’s been added.” A Wasabi spokesperson said: “Across the Wasabi range, we have a large number of low salt, low sugar and low fat dishes, freshly prepared in Wasabi stores every day. Our nutrition team is constantly exploring ways to reduce salt and saturated fat content in certain dishes without affecting the flavour that our customers love.” The Mail asked Itsu to comment.
Heineken UK launches £3m sustainability support scheme for pubs: Heineken UK has launched a £3m energy performance certificate (EPC) support scheme to help pubs make sustainable changes. Working in partnership with an independent energy consultancy, the initiative will see Heineken cover the cost of all qualifying venues’ first energy saving audit as well as funding up to £5,000 towards the cost of any improvements needed. It comes after new legislation requires commercial premises, including hospitality venues, to reach an EPC rating of C from April 2027 and B in April 2030, with non-compliant outlets in line to receiving a fine of up to £150,000. Will Rice, interim on-trade director at Heineken UK, said: “Faced with rising costs, the need to reduce energy usage and be more efficient has never been more important for pubs and bars, and we want to play a part in supporting operators to be more sustainable. The launch of this fund will help make those improvements and drive efficiencies. We appreciate, however, that this is not an easy task, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so this initiative is important to help our customers make sustainable changes.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a premium beverage brand that supplies venues in the UK and abroad that is seeking an operations manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for identifying operational needs, implementing new processes and structures to enhance efficiency and scalability.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in Bristol. For more information, email

Company News:

Zia Lucia co-founder – labour biggest challenge facing hospitality, appoints Colin Doyle as MD: Zia Lucia co-founder Gianluca D’Angelo has told Propel that labour is the biggest challenge facing hospitality. “Obviously there’s been a cost increase in every part of the P&L, and we’re not going to compromise the quality to save the cost, but the thing that remains most challenging is the cost of labour,” he said. “We already pay above the National Minimum Wage, but when it goes up there’s a spiral effect, and there’s also a shortage of quality labour for specialised roles like pizza chefs – that’s the biggest pressure. I can accept losing certain margin percentage until the market stabilises – I’m keener to guarantee the quality of the product, and to do that I need the people. I’m happy to trade profit versus stability and quality, and that’s where the industry is facing the biggest challenge in my view.” D’Angelo told Propel last month that it was aiming to open its first regional site in the next 12 months, and the nine-strong brand has targeted ten new openings by 2026. Being located for now in London’s neighbourhoods means it has been well placed to take advantage of work-from-home trends. “We have more weekday trading than before covid,” he said. “We trade less at lunchtime because of where we’re located, so we saw a little pick up in the lunch trade, and evening has been a constant, so we saw some benefit. But the biggest shift we’ve seen is the delivery fraction of sales has increased – it seems a sustainable trend post-covid.” Good delivery figures during a previous Deliveroo kitchen trial in Swiss Cottage also convinced D’Angelo that the latest Zia Lucia site, in West Hampstead, will be a success, adding: “Trade was really good there without a physical restaurant, so it should be a good area for a flagship shop.” Its previous opening, in Canary Wharf, saw Zia Lucia launch its first cocktail bar – something D’Angelo is keen to expand. “We’d like to push that angle a bit more, depending on location – creating rotating cocktail menus and joint ventures with famous barmen/women,” he added. “For one of the sites in our pipeline, the bar could be a big selling feature, so we will explore that as well.” It comes as Zia Lucia appoints Colin Doyle as managing director following nine years as operations director and interim managing director at The Breakfast Club. D’Angelo, in a joint statement with co-founder Claudio Vescoco, said: “As we plan out our next phase of growth and the UK roll out expansion, we are so thrilled to have brought onboard an accomplished professional of the calibre of Colin. We believe Colin has the right level of skillset, mindset and experience to help bring Zia Lucia to a different scale.”
Team behind Estabulo Rodizio plans new premium concept launch: The team behind Brazilian all-you-can-eat steakhouse brand Estabulo Rodizio Bar & Grill is planning to launch a new premium fusion restaurant in Manchester. Propel understands the business, which is led by Zack Isaak, plans to launch Ikaro – that will offer a Japanese, Portuguese and Brazilian fusion of food concept – on the ex-Panacea nightclub site in the city’s John Dalton Street. Panacea, which became a hotspot for soap stars, footballers and Manchester’s celebrities, closed in 2020. The new hybrid restaurant dining concept will be based on the group’s already established restaurant chain, which has different styles of eateries across the north of England. Ikaro will be similar to the group’s Sakku Samba but will be more “upmarket fine dining complemented with entertainments and live performers”. The business plans to open a further site under its Sakku Samba concept, in Barnsley. It plans to open a circa 300-cover site in the town’s The Broadway scheme, in Charles Street, which had previously been earmarked for an Estabulo. Isaak, who also operates Sakku Samba in Leeds, is set to open a further site under the Sakku Samba concept, an Estabulo Rodizio, and a second Caffe Noor site at Rotherham’s Forge Island development. The first Sakku Samba – a mix of Japanese and Brazilian cuisine and influences – opened in the former Artisan and Manchester House sites in Spinningfields, Manchester, last year. Earlier this year, Estabulo opened its first site in Scotland and 11th in total under the steakhouse brand, in Aberdeen’s Union Square.
One of TRG’s biggest investors ups shareholding: Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), one of The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) biggest investors, which has recently given its support to the Wagamama owners and its board, has upped its stake in the business. Royal London Asset Management (RLAM) has increased its stake in the Brunning & Price owner from 4.77% to just over 5.3%. Last month, RLAM voted in favour of TRG’s board on all resolutions including directors’ re-election and remuneration, at the company’s AGM. Its backing added to that of Columbia Threadneedle Investments, which holds a 19% stake in TRG. Last week, Oasis Management, the hedge fund that has been TRG’s biggest critic, upped its stake in the Andy Hornby-led business. It came 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 took 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. 
West Sussex McDonald’s franchisee reports turnover boost after opening two new restaurants but profits dip: West Sussex McDonald’s franchisee J5C Management has reported a turnover boost in the year ending 31 December 2022 after opening two new restaurants. The company saw turnover rise from £22,739,790 in 2021 to £26,892,077 during the period. However, pre-tax profit dipped from £2,915,415 to £1,294,709. The company received no job retention scheme payments (2021: £403,808) but did receive £22,480 in insurance claim income (2021: nil). Dividends of £20,000 were paid (2021: nil). The company said: “This [turnover] increase is due to the company experiencing a full year of sales across six stores as two were brought in during the prior year. Government support options related to the covid-19 pandemic were not available this year and the company has been impacted by rising food and utilities costs. As a result, the company’s operating profit has decreased by £1,613,256 (2021: increase of £2,122,156) and the operating profit margin this year has decreased to 4.95% (2021: increased to 12.95%).” The company is owned by John O’Dwyer, who after rising through the McDonald’s ranks and ending up in charge of 235 restaurants as regional south east manager, went into franchising in and around his native Crawley in the mid-1990s.
Suffolk hotel group looking to refinance following strong current trading, reports record sales and ‘strong profit progression’: Suffolk hotel group The Hotel Folk has said it is looking to refinance following strong current trading. In its accounts for the year ending 30 September 2022, the company said it has “enjoyed a successful first six months of trading during financial year 2022-23”. It said it is “looking to refinance the long-term loans in December 2023 and feels in a strong position to do so following the previous three years trading performance”. It comes as the company, founded in 1996 and operating six hotels – as well as a country club, spa and several restaurants within its premises – reported record sales and “strong profit progression” for the period. It reported turnover of £15,441,457, up from £10,188,012 in 2021, while pre-tax profit grew from £666,290 to £1,089,347. “The business delivered record sales never seen before in the company’s trading history,” said director Joan Whyman, in her report accompanying the accounts. “Despite inflationary pressures, largely in food costs, the business has also enjoyed strong profit progression. While the benefit of a full year’s trading was anticipated in the budget, the business was able to outperform it’s targets by 15.76%, with growth driven by accommodation also allowing secondary revenue streams such as food, liquor and golf to mutually benefit.” During the year, the business reintroduced the role of a training and development manager and opened a training centre in Thorpeness, complete with a mock training kitchen, restaurant and bedroom, and to date, 210 new employees have undergone inductions there. A “double tip” initiative introduced during the summer season of 2021, whereby the company matched every gratuity given by a guest pound-for-pound, was repeated at Christmas 2021 and again in April 2022 – when the £28,666.67 raised was donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Bonus schemes were also in place for head chefs and general/hotel managers. The company received £52,000 in government grants compared with £1,771,509 in 2021. It paid £200,000 in dividends (2021: nil).
Sky News – Pinewood-owner Aermont joins list of Center Parcs suitors: The investment firm that controls the Pinewood film studios empire has joined the list of bidders circling Center Parcs, the upmarket chain of holiday villages. Sky News reported Aermont is expected to table an indicative offer for Center Parcs, which could cost a buyer more than £4bn. A deadline has been set for today (Tuesday, 20 June) for initial bids. Aermont’s interest adds it to a list including Singapore’s Government Investment Corporation, which has teamed up with KSL Capital Partners, a private equity investor; and CVC Capital Partners, the buyout giant. Blackstone, Center Parcs UK’s former owner, and Antin, an infrastructure fund, are also considering bidding. 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. The company 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.
Tom Kerridge gears up to bring Butcher’s Tap and Grill to London: Chef Tom Kerridge is gearing up to bring his Butcher’s Tap and Grill concept to London’s Chelsea. As revealed earlier this year by Propel, the chef will open his first pub site in the capital on the former Queens Head site in Tryon Street. The new site, which is scheduled to open in a few months’ time, is currently searching for a head chef to lead its new kitchen. It will be bringing a “butchers’ counter stocked full of award-winning 100% British cuts, and a 120-seater restaurant serving our guests with prime cut British steaks and chops, our classic burgers and old-fashioned dogs”. The Chelsea site will become the second to open the Kerridge’s Butcher’s Tap & Grill concept. Kerridge told Propel last year that the concept “might be something we look at rolling out”. The original Butcher’s Tap was launched in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, in November 2017 as part of a joint venture with brewer and retailer Greene King. The site functions as a butcher’s shop and bar until 5pm, after which the space operates a simple meat-led menu with beer on tap, wine, spirits and community nights. Kerridge told Propel: “The Butcher’s Tap is probably the one that's bucking a trend because it’s slightly more value led. It might be something we might look at rolling out.” 
Neapolitan pizzeria concept Napoli on the Road to open second site with Richmond launch: Neapolitan pizzeria concept, Napoli on the Road, is to open its second site, in Richmond, south west London. The concept, which specialises in unique seasonal spins on the classic dish, is launching the outlet in Red Lion Street. It adds to the venue that founder and head chef Michele Pascarella opened in 2019, having previously mainly sold his creations at farmer’s markets from his three-wheeler Ape Piaggio. The ever-changing menu will include the Cheesewick – topped with buffalo mozzarella DOP, ricotta cheese, stracciatella di bufala, blue stilton, parmesan chip and piennolo cherry tomato jam; and the Ricordi D’infanzia, which translates as childhood memories, and made with 12 hours slow-cooked ragu napoletano and 24 months Parmigiano Reggiano cream. Pascarella said: “This is a really exciting launch for us – it’s incredible to be opening a new pizzeria in Richmond, which is all down to the support of our loyal customers.”
Nutritics brings in former JW Lees marketing chief: Foodservice technology company Nutritics has appointed Jonathan Lloyd, former head of marketing at Manchester brewer and retailer JW Lees, as its new marketing director. Lloyd spent more than ten years with JW Lees, where he oversaw digital, retail and brand marketing across several divisions, and also spent five years at Morrisons in various roles, including trade marketing manager. His most recent role has been as marketing lead for Hospitality Rising, where he has helped the sector-wide recruitment campaign attract new commercial partners. Stephen Nolan, chief executive of Nutritics, said: “Jonathan is a commercially minded and well-connected marketer, and he joins at a very exciting time for Nutritics. We’re delighted to have him on board and know he’ll make a real impact on our business.” Lloyd added: “Sustainability is key not only in environmental but also economic terms and striving for this will continue to dominate forward-thinking operators’ agendas. Nutritics has a fantastic opportunity to be a trusted partner to our sector, and I’m delighted to help grow this exciting business.” Nutritics recently opened its new office and client showcase venue in London’s Liverpool Street and launched a new sustainability consultancy arm, Knowledge Labs.
Greene King Pub Partners receives BFA accreditation: Greene King Pub Partners, the leased, tenanted and franchise business unit of brewer and retailer Greene King, has received accreditation from the British Franchise Association (BFA), becoming a member in the process. The pub company launched its Hive Pubs franchise concept in 2021 and has since grown it to more than 30 pubs. Greene King said a Hive Pub franchise agreement offers a ready-to-trade pub within a proven branded concept for just £5,000 ingoing cost, while franchisees can expect a minimum guaranteed income of £20,000 as well as a percentage of food and drink sales and a share of the profits in their pub. Through its BFA accreditation and membership, Greene King Pub Partners “will commit to best practices, transparent operations and the welfare and success of its franchisees”. Dan Robinson, managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, said: “This accreditation underlines our commitment to work with our Hive Pubs and franchise partners to grow successful pub businesses together. While we remain a leased and tenanted pub business at our core, this is an exciting development as we continue to grow Hive Pubs and our franchise offer.”
Tom Sellers to open new restaurant at 1 Hotel Mayfair next month: Two-Michelin starred chef Tom Sellers will open his restaurant at the new 1 Hotel Mayfair in London next month. As previously reported, Sellers will be opening a venue in the 181-bedroom hotel, which will be global hotel group 1 Hotels’ debut European property. Called Dovetale, the restaurant – which launches on Thursday, 13 July – will be “rooted in a deep respect for seasonal produce, with an à la carte menu bolstered by a dedicated offering from the grill, a raw bar and expansive wine programme”. It will also have a knickerbocker glory trolley and an adjacent cocktail bar. The nine-storey hotel will house a café and a bespoke fitness and wellness centre too.
Chef Richard Corrigan confirms July opening for National Portrait Gallery restaurant: Chef Richard Corrigan has confirmed his new restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery, The Portrait Restaurant, will open on Wednesday, 5 July. Corrigan is partnering with restaurateur and events caterer Searcy’s for the top-floor 70-cover restaurant, which also features a six-seater kitchen counter, open kitchen and bar area. Dishes will include sweet and sour tomato scarpinocc; a reinvention of the classic vol-au-vent but filled with haddock and brown crab; and a prawn cocktail and clam ceviche with pickled ginger and lime. The bar area will offer a concise wine list and classic cocktails alongside an all-day snack menu, including a smoked fish and charcuterie selection. Corrigan said: “For as long as I’ve been in London restaurants, this iconic building has stood there proudly, offering access to world class portraits for free, and as an avid lover of art, I’ve always enjoyed visiting the place. So, it’s with great pride that I can bring my passion for cooking, utilising the best of British and Irish produce, into this national institution.”
Gunpowder co-founder launches disco-themed Indian restaurant: Harneet Baweja, the co-founder of home-style Indian kitchen concept Gunpowder, has opened his new disco-themed Indian restaurant Empire Empire in London’s Notting Hill. The 40-cover Empire Empire has opened in All Saints Road and serves food rooted in the Punjab region on the Indian subcontinent with dishes such as chicken malai curry and lobster dum biryani. The drinks menu features natural wine, beer and cider. The venue also plays “Bollywood bangers” from a custom-made jukebox. Baweja said he wanted to create a restaurant that celebrates the “golden age of Indian music”. He said: “When disco became big in India, my dad would put on his silk floral shirt and bell-bottoms and hit the town – often eating, drinking and dancing all under one roof. This is my personal inspiration for Empire Empire. We wanted to bring the golden age of Indian music, art and food together in one place, and hope this makes for a unique spot in Notting Hill.” At the end of last year, Gunpowder opened its first international site, in Lisbon, Portugal. The first Gunpowder restaurant opened in London’s Spitalfields in 2015, with a second site overlooking Tower Bridge launching in 2018, followed by a Soho site in September 2021. Jamie Harvie-Austin, of Austin Commercial, acted on the Notting Hill deal.
Fat Hippo to open Edinburgh restaurant next month: Better burger brand Fat Hippo will open its new site in Edinburgh next month. The company will launch the venue in George Street on Friday, 7 July. It will offer its full menu of its signature beef and buttermilk chicken burgers, which come with hand-cut chips as standard. Michael Phillips, the company’s managing director, who founded Fat Hippo in 2010, said: “Location is key to the success of new restaurants, research and great planning from our team allows us to continue to expand across the UK, ensuring we maintain our top quality food and high standards of service. There’s been so much buzz around our expansion, with messages flooding our social media team from followers asking when we will be opening in their cities, it’s always just a matter of finding the right location!” Fat Hippo previously said it has “exciting plans to continue growing, with further sites being established over the next year, including in Cambridge”. The company, which previously said it planned to open six sites across the UK this year, has also been linked to openings in Chester, Bath and Reading.

Masala Zone in London’s Piccadilly to open today: MW Eat – owner of Michelin-starred Amaya, Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy – has confirmed the new restaurant under its Masala Zone brand, in the former Criterion site in London’s Piccadilly, will open today (Tuesday, 20 June). The 150-cover restaurant will initially open for lunch and dinner but will soon also offer afternoon tea, followed shortly by breakfast. The restaurant, the group’s seventh, will also offer private dining in the form of the 32-cover “The Leopard Room”. Dishes will include sprouted lentil bhel, vada pao sliders and gourmet grills including Lucknowi lamb biriyani and paneer tikka, alongside regional curries and traditional thalis. There will also be classic cocktails with a Masala Zone twist, such as chai-infused negronis and rose and cardamom-infused almond sours, alongside wine and beer. The business also operates Masala Zone sites in Covent Garden, Soho and Earl’s Court.

Italian steak brand Macellaio RC confirms July opening for new seafood concept: Italian restaurant group Macellaio RC has confirmed its new seafood concept in London’s Canary Wharf will open next month. Propel revealed in July 2022 that the Roberto Costa-led group would be launching a new venture which would “bring fish and game together”. Fish Game will now open on 10 July, offering “a pared-back seasonal changing menu of the UK’s best game and fish”. Dishes prepared by executive head chef Matthew Colk, formerly of The Roast and The Gun, will include rabbit croquettes with marjoram mayonnaise and lemon zest; native oysters, crab and pork bao with curry sauce; and sea bream butterfly with datterino tomato, taggiasca olives and pine nuts. There will also be a  tequila bar, a wine list with a large focus on small artisan producers, and classic cocktails “with a twist”. Costa said: “Fish and Game represent the most important elements for us, sea and sky, brought together by fire in our brand-new concept. Quality has no boundaries, and as an Italian restaurateur who has been working with Italian products since the beginning of my career, since I came to the UK, I fell in love with the land, and I want to bring to my guests table the best English products.”

Team behind Thai concept Som Saa confirm autumn opening for new London site: The team behind Thai restaurant Som Saa have confirmed their new site, in London’s Borough Market, will open this autumn. Propel revealed in November 2022 that MasterChef finalist Andy Oliver and fellow chef Mark Dobbie would open a restaurant in Park Street, which originally had the working title Nok. Now called Kolae after a cooking style from the south of Thailand where ingredients are coated in a curry-like coconut marinade before being grilled over open flames, it will open in October. Signature dishes will include the half kolae chicken, marinated in a sauce of lemongrass, fresh turmeric and black pepper; and seasonal fish, seafood and vegetarian specials, all cooked using a similar technique. There will also be salads, wines, beers, ciders and cocktails made using fresh Thai ingredients. Housed inside an old London coach house, it will offer just under 80 covers split over three floors, including a small courtyard dining area as well as a private dining room set amongst the rafters. Oliver said: “The concept for Kolae has been in the works for a long time, and this feels like an exciting new direction for us. It will be a celebration of some very special dishes, ingredients and techniques that excite and inspire us.” Etch acted on the Borough Market deal.

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