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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 27th Jun 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Putt Putt Noodle and Flip Out operator set to open Europe’s biggest family entertainment centre as it debuts Mexican bowling concept: Putt Putt Noodle and Flip Out operator We Do Play is set to open Europe’s biggest family entertainment centre later this year as it debuts its new Mexican bowling concept, Propel has learned. The group, led by Boom Battle Bar founder Elliott Shuttleworth, will once again put a Putt Putt Noodle and Flip Out under the same roof for the opening, following a pattern that has seen it recently open joint sites for both concepts in Poole and Telford. Joining them in the new site, which will cover more than 130,000 square feet, will be Guacabowlé, its new Mexican-themed bowling with a food offering to match, which Propel revealed in January that We Do Play was planning to launch. Although the location for the mega site has not yet been revealed, the aim it to open it in December. The company said the new centre comes following strong year-on-year revenue growth for the group. “This has been driven by new stores, new franchisees coming on board and massive refurbishments of our bigger stores like Glasgow, Chester and Brent Cross, which are incredible looking venues,” Shuttleworth told Propel. “The biggest one in Europe is going to have Flip Out, Putt Putt Noodle, Guacabowlé and more, over 130,000 square feet of fun!” While Putt Putt Noodle is still a relatively new concept with just three sites – making its debut in Norwich in December 2021 before the joint sites with Flip Out launched in Poole and Telford – Flip Out now has circa 30 UK sites and is looking to expand its overseas footprint too. “On the back of opening two supercentres in May, Flip Out continues to report increased consumer appetite, adding both franchised and managed sites to our portfolio,” the group said. “With more than 30 sites across the UK and almost 90 globally, we are the undeniable market leader for indoor family entertainment centres. The Flip Out brand has gone from strength to strength since our first UK store opened in 2014 and we are rapidly expanding its offering into new markets and regions, including India and Scandinavia.” Shuttleworth told Propel earlier this year that he is aiming for 40 Putt Putt Noodles and 20 more Flip Outs by 2026. Putt Putt Noodle and Flip Out feature 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 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:

Oowee Vegan co-founder and operations director to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Verity Foss, co-founder, and Lina Blythe, operations director of Oowee Vegan, 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. Foss and Blythe will talk about the growth and evolution of the plant-based fast food concept, how delivery has helped shape and develop the business, and how it will stay ahead of its growing competitor set. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email 
Three days to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, 16 businesses being added: A total of 16 new multi-site companies, operating 99 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday (30 June), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional pub operators, growing restaurant brands, and expanding franchise operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 1,300-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,869 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 7 July, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 2,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; 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 are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

London’s hospitality sector stabilises in first quarter following return of office workers and tourists, could return to site growth by third quarter: Central London’s hospitality sector is “back on its feet” after suffering hundreds of closures of licensed premises during the turmoil of covid-19, and could even return to site growth by the autumn. The latest Hospitality Market Monitor from CGA by NIQ and AlixPartners showed central London saw a net decline of 540 licensed premises in the three years between March 2020 and March 2023, 15.6% of the city’s pre-covid total and equivalent to one closure every two days. The heavy toll reflected London’s dependence on commuters and domestic and overseas tourists for hospitality visits. With millions of people working from home and international travel severely restricted in 2020 and 2021, many pubs, bars and restaurants, especially independents, became unsustainable. However, the return of office workers and visitors since 2022 means the downward trend may be bottoming out, according to the monitor. It indicated London saw a net decline of only 1.0% of its licensed premises in the first quarter of 2023, after a dip of just 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022. This improving picture is reinforced by figures from the Coffer CGA Business Tracker, which has shown that year-on-year sales growth for managed operators within the M25 has been around twice as high as in the rest of Britain over the first few months of 2023. London’s city centre is by far hospitality’s most concentrated and significant market in the UK, with nearly 3,000 licensed premises, more than Britain’s six next biggest city centres put together. Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners, said: “This stabilisation of such an important hospitality market is encouraging and clearly underpinned by a return of significant footfall to central London. We may see ongoing closures as more vulnerable and indebted businesses succumb to the demanding trading environment. However, we know London remains a highly attractive market in the longer term, for strong operators with well-defined and differentiated propositions. As inflationary cost pressures ease, we would expect to see the capital return to site growth, possibly as soon as the third or fourth quarter of this year.” Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, added: “London businesses still face some daunting challenges including high inflation and labour shortages, and more closures can be expected, but it’s clear the sector is back on its feet.”

Price of a pint jumps by 50p in 12 months: The price of a pint of beer has jumped by about 50p in just over 12 months, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Taking into account regional variations, the average price of a pint of lager in May was about £4.56. The same drink was around 47p cheaper a year ago in May 2022, at £4.09. Month on month, draught lager saw a 0.5% rise from £4.54 in April 2023, meaning the average price tag of a pint has jumped 11% over the last 12 months, reports The Daily Mirror. Last month’s figures from the ONS showed the cost of a lager had gone up by 46p, again 11%, in the year from April 2022 to April 2023. This is the second consecutive month draught lager prices had risen by 11% year-on-year. In the same time period, the price of a draught pint of bitter rose from £3.50 to £3.80. If the trend continues, the average price of a pint of lager in the UK could surpass £5 by next year. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) national chairman Nik Antona said data was “worrying” and that “households will struggle to afford a night out at their local pub, social club or taproom”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “Businesses want to keep their prices as reasonable as possible but the cost of doing business is forcing these prices up.”
Scottish sector businesses urged to respond to visitor levy consultation: Sector businesses in Scotland have been urged to respond to the Scottish parliament’s visitor levy consultation. If passed, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill would allow councils to tax accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs and holiday lets based on a percentage of the accommodation cost, with each rate left to individual councils. After the consultation period, which runs until September 1, a report will be published and MSPs will decide whether the Bill should proceed. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “The introduction of the visitor levy represents yet more red tape being forced upon hospitality, at a time when businesses are under pressure across the board from increasing regulation and rising costs. I would urge businesses to take the time to respond to the Scottish Parliament's consultation and outline the impact this will have on their businesses and the local tourism economy. It’s critical that hospitality’s voice is heard and that politicians understand just how detrimental this levy could be to Scotland’s reputation as a tourist destination.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury five-star hotel in London that is seeking a director of people and development. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The key focus will be on delivering the people and development strategy, ensuring team engagement that meets or exceed the needs of employees and enabling business success. The HR strategy should promote a healthy, thriving business to allow growth in the overall people strategy and on-site presence to drive a proactive culture – not just be a reactive HR advisory service.” The salary is up to £80,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Georgel – managed like-for-like sales up 20% in recent trading, significant headroom in funding to pursue acquisitions: Kevin Georgel, chief executive of south west brewer and pub company St Austell Brewery, has said in the four weeks of trading to 10 June 2023, the group’s like-for-like sales across its managed estate increased 20%. The company said sales in its 41-strong managed pub estate have seen “very strong growth in 2023 so far, with momentum steadily building”. In the 23 weeks to 10 June 2023, like-for-like sales were up 12% with growth “accelerating in recent weeks”. This comes after the business said it achieved record sales in 2022, despite significant economic headwinds including increased energy costs, high levels of inflation and rising interest rates. The company’s annual turnover grew 34% to £209.2m – surpassing pre-pandemic sales by 10%. The business also reported an increased underlying operating profit of £11.4m in the 52-week period to 31 December 2022. Georgel said: “Our underlying operating profit across the group was also ahead of the previous year. The fact we have increased profitability, despite the headwinds, is testament to our teams and our tenants. I would like to thank them all for their continued hard work and commitment. We remain committed to ensuring a visit to one of our pubs, or drinking one of our beers, represents good value for our customers and does not become an occasional treat. Therefore, we have sought to mitigate the cost increases as best we can and improve the overall experience. However, the withdrawal of government support and the increase in taxation and regulation is adding to the already escalating cost of doing business, which disincentives investment. Having successfully completed our refinancing in March, we continue to have significant headroom in our funding. This will allow us to continue investing in our business and pursuing attractive acquisition opportunities. However, we urge the government to work harder to create conditions that incentivise investment and support businesses that are committed to growth. In summary, we are confident our financial performance compares strongly with the market and builds on our recovery from the pandemic. We remain focused on unlocking the full potential of our business and taking advantage of growth opportunities that lie ahead.”
Bill’s MD – we have surpassed all our first half financial targets: Tom James, managing director of Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant group, has said the business has surpassed all of its first half financial targets and achieved its “best ever NPS and mystery guest results”. James, formerly of Jamie’s Italian, Strada and Coppa Club, was appointed managing director of the 48-strong Bill’s last October. He said: “This year we set a simple goal at Bill’s – ‘everyone leaves happy’. This goal wasn’t solely about the guest, but every interaction we make as a team member at Bill’s. Regardless of whether we’re interacting with a guest, our colleagues, suppliers, delivery drivers or even a prospective candidate, we aim for each and every individual who comes into contact with a member of our team at Bill’s to leave happier. Yes, the guest experience is central to the success of any hospitality business, but it crumbles to mediocrity without a happy and engaged team, a supportive head office and a dedicated network of suppliers and business partners. I was determined after 28 years in the industry to set a non-financial goal, based on the fundamentals of hospitality (and the reason so many people, including me, fall in love with the industry)! I was confident if happiness was achieved, at such a challenging time for the industry, the numbers would follow. It is so inspiring to deliver our first six months of 2023 surpassing all our financial targets, and achieving our best ever NPS and mystery guest results. Not only that, our team engagement scores are at an all-time high, based on this simple principle. We have a way to go (and we don't get it right all the time), but it's striding in the right direction and I'm excited about the future.”
Imbiba-backed Ninja Warrior operator set to launch new ITV programme experiential concepts, former Côte MD relishing new challenge: Imbiba-backed Ninja Warrior operator Leisure TV Rights (LTR) is set to launch at least two new exclusive experiential concepts based around ITV programmes, Propel has learned. Founded in 2021, LTR is one of several Ninja Warrior UK operators, running sites in Leeds, Walsall, Liverpool and Bristol. It is set to add two more Ninja Warrior by the first quarter of 2024 but is also branching out into new experiential concepts, which it aims to have up and running by next summer. “We’re now working with ITV on other concepts,” Lisa Buckley, the former Wagamama UK operations director and Côte Brasserie managing director who was appointed LTR’s chief executive in February 2022, told Propel. “And having proven ourselves as competent operators, we have the prospect of exclusivity, which is exciting. The plan is to take iconic TV programmes and emulate that magic, live. These are much-loved brands with millions of fans, and our challenge is then to make it a really top-level all-round experience. We’re very close to signing on two properties with two different concepts and we're hoping to have the first one open within the next nine months, and both open by summer 2024. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be working in the experiential space at such an exciting time, and getting stuck into some new stuff was a big draw in coming across.” Given the success of LTR’s Ninja Warrior venues, Buckley feels it could potentially double the size of its current estate, but the ultimate aim is to innovate and develop “exciting new concepts”. LTR was founded by Mike and Jack Anderson, owners of construction company Innovation Leisure, which builds all Ninja Warrior parks. “Because of the expertise that Mike and Jack have, we can evolve each site pretty quickly, so we continue to innovate at quite a pace with new features in each one,” Buckley added. “The format remains similar from site to site as we’re a brand, but we will add different features in, and most recently we’ve added a mini ninjas format, which allows us to appeal to an even younger market. As a parent, I’ve sat in many a grim soft play centre, so when you see parents and grandparents in a lovely clean environment with great coffee and happy children, it warms your heart.” Earlier this month, LTR reported its best ever quarter, with sales up more than 40% to more than £3m for the three months to 30 April 2023. Its latest site, which launched in Bristol in December, has gone on to post sales of more than £2m, making it the fastest growing and best performing park on LTR’s books.
Cake Box sets out plans to double estate to 400 sites amid ‘robust’ trading: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has set out plans to double its number of shops to 400, despite profit falling amid a “unique set of macroeconomic pressures”. The company said trading continues to be “robust”, with franchise like-for-like sales up 5.4% since the year end. Revenue rose to £34.8m for the year ending 31 March 2023 (2021: £33.0m), but amid high inflation – especially for food items – pre-tax profit fell by 28.6% to £5.4m (2022: £7.7m). Chief executive Sukh Chamdal said the group was approaching the target it had set of 250 shops, and as a result, it has set a new target of 400. He added: “We have continued with our steady store opening programme to add to the 205 Cake Box shops we had at year end. As we approach the 250 target number of stores we set ourselves at our initial public offering almost five years ago to the day, we continue to look to stretch ourselves with a new target of 400 and new ways to provide the UK consumer with our unique egg-free fresh cream cakes.” He said the group hoped to reach more customers through an improved website. Chaamdal added: “During the year we have continued to innovate to meet the needs of our customers, worked on improving our operational infrastructure despite facing a unique set of macroeconomic pressures and continued to grow sales and margins. We are looking at new ways to reach our customers and the new website offers many new marketing opportunities. The market outlook is improving, our capabilities have been expanded, and the Cake Box brand is stronger than ever. We have the right platform in place for the group’s development to accelerate over the coming year and beyond.”
You Me Sushi appoints Allan Cook as new MD: You Me Sushi, the London restaurant and takeaway concept, has appointed Allan Cook, formerly of Boom Battle Bars, Chop’d and PizzaExpress, as its new managing director, Propel understands. Earlier this year, Cook stepped down as head of operations at Boom Battle Bars after nearly three years with the business. Prior to that, he spent 14 years as operations director at Chop’d. He also spent almost five years as an operations manager at PizzaExpress. Earlier this year, You Me Sushi opened its 19th site, at 26 Greenwich Church Street in Greenwich. Founded in 2008, the company made its regional franchise debut last summer, opening in a former STA travel shop in Friar Street in Reading. It was also the company’s first site outside of the capital and it has since opened a second, in the former Stagecoach Travel shop in High Street, Cheltenham. The business is looking to expand its franchise operations in partnership with Seeds Consulting and said in February it is aiming for an eventual estate of 70 sites, with half of them to be open this year. The next site will open in Hackney later this summer.
The Big Table Group ramps up expansion of pasta delivery concept Super Nonna: The Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Banana Tree, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, has significantly ramped up the expansion of its pasta delivery brand Super Nonna to circa 70 sites, Propel has learned. Propel reported in March that Big Table Group had expanded the delivery brand to 18 sites across England and Scotland, with Super Nonna operating out of its Las Iguanas and Bella Italia restaurants. This was after the Alan Morgan-led business had begun a trial of the delivery brand out of five sites at the end of last year. It is now available out of 74 sites across Britain, across the Bella Italia and Las Iguanas brands. The company said in March that it had been “very encouraged by the start” it had made. A Big Table Group spokesperson told Propel: “We’re testing it out in a range of locations, and so far, the feedback has been great.” The delivery concept, which is available through UberEats, Just Eat and Deliveroo, offers pasta dishes like creamy carbonara, Nonna’s famous meatballs, simply bolognese and a chicken Kyiv special, with prices ranging from £7.25 to £9.50. There is also a selection of specials including mac ‘n’ cheese (£9.25), feta pasta (£8.75), sides, desserts and drinks. Propel understands that Daniel Land, the co-founder of Italian food-to-go brand Coco di Mama, has been working on the concept. Propel revealed last year that Land was working with Big Table Group on its pasta delivery options. Land founded Coco Di Mama in 2011 with Jeremy Sanders. The business grew to six sites in London before it was acquired by Azzurri Group, the Zizzi and ASK Italian owner, in 2015 for an undisclosed sum. Land left the business two years later.
Fallow strengthens operations team as it gears up for expansion: London restaurant concept Fallow has made two new key appointments as it gears up for further expansion. The business, which hopes to open its second restaurant in the capital later this autumn, has appointed Paul Robinson-Webster as its operations and projects director. Robinson-Webster will join from Petersham Nurseries, where he oversees operations, having also held senior roles at Corbin & King, where he spent more than five years. The hospitality professional has spent more than two decades in the industry. At the same time, Propel has learned that Fallow has appointed Jon Bowring, formerly of the Rick Stein Group and head chef of two Michelin-starred Dinner by Heston at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, as its new executive chef. Fallow, the concept from James Robson, Jack Croft and Will Murray, opened its first permanent site in London’s St James’s Market, in November 2021. It previously operated a pop-up in Heddon Street. Earlier this year, Robson told Propel the business saw “the well-publicised economic turmoil as an expansion opportunity, where the environment makes it a more level playing field between nimble independents and the chains”. Robson said the company had signed heads of terms on a second site in the capital and “may add a third within the year”. Robinson-Webster said: “I am delighted to be joining the Fallow team as its gears up to open its second restaurant and explores further expansion opportunities.”
Loungers secures Morpeth site: Cafe bar operator Loungers has secured a site in Morpeth for a new opening under its Lounge concept. It is currently fitting out the former Laura Ashley store in the Northumberland town’s Sanderson Arcade shopping centre, with an August opening planned. Gemma Irwin, community manager at Loungers, said: “We’re so looking forward to opening the doors of Martino Lounge. We hope our family friendly environment and top-notch food and drink offering will prove popular. We’re passionate about integrating genuinely into the communities we serve so we’re looking forward to meeting everyone and to playing our part at the heart of Morpeth’s food and drink scene.”
Northern Ireland pub group looking for opportunities to expand after posting record profits: Northern Ireland pub group W&R Holdings – parent company of the Granny Annie’s brand – has said it is looking for opportunities to expand after posting record profits in the year ending 31 March 2022. Its pre-tax profit of £1,124,517, up from £70,503 in 2021, is the highest the group has recorded since first filing full accounts in 2018. Turnover was up from £1,629,692 in 2021 to £5,789,756 but still behind the £10,330,104 recorded in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 March 2019. The company received £1,018,991 in government grants compared with £2,301,119 in 2021. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Ryan McLoughlin said: “Turnover increased significantly due to the fact that covid-19 closure restrictions were in place during the previous financial year. The gross profit margin has remained stable at 73% and the company generated a profit after tax margin of 15%. The company has a healthy balance sheet with net assets in excess of £1m. The company has performed well in light of challenging economic and industry conditions. The company also significantly reduced its gearing during the current financial year. The company’s future developments include maintaining and improving its bars and to look for any potential opportunities to expand its network of businesses.”
Gordon Ramsay set to take Street Pizza to Malaysia for its SE Asia debut: Chef Gordon Ramsay is set to take his Street Pizza concept to Malaysia for its south east Asia debut. Scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2023, the site in Kuala Lumpur will be situated in the Sunway Pyramid shopping mall, reports RPI. Established in London in 2018, Street Pizza is known for its unlimited sourdough pizzas with a variety of toppings and sides, including hot wings, dirty fries and cocktails.

Woodhead Restaurant Group confirms 64 Goodge St plans: Woodhead Restaurant Group, the London business led by Will Lander and Daniel Morgenthau, has confirmed it will open its latest site in the capital, in Fitzrovia, this summer. As revealed by Propel in January, Woodhead Restaurant Group, which owns and runs the Clipstone, Portland and The Quality Chop House sites, will open a venue at 64 Goodge Street, under the addresses’ name. The new 1,595 square-foot restaurant promises “excellent quality food in a relaxed setting, channelling bistro spirit with a lack of pretension, and an experience that centres around head chef Stuart Andrew’s ‘outsider’s perspective’ on French cuisine; an interpretation of his time spent cooking in Paris at some of the most exciting restaurants of the last 20 years, before joining the group for Portland’s first service in 2015”. Woodhead Restaurant Group, which also owns a wine bar and a shop in the capital, opened Portland in Great Portland Street at the start of 2015 and secured a Michelin star in September of the same year. In August 2020, the business closed its Emilia at Bonhams restaurant in Mayfair after just 15 months of operation. Davis Coffer Lyons acted on behalf of landlord Shaftesbury Capital on the Goodge Street deal. 
Star Pubs & Bars invests £6.8m developing premium outdoor areas: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is investing £6.8m in developing premium outdoor areas and revamping pub exteriors in 2023, benefiting 220 pubs. Some 70 pubs will be given upgraded outside eating and drinking areas with new garden layouts to expand the number of covers. Following a trial in 2022, £1m is being allocated to branding 50 of the gardens with one of four Heineken products – Inch’s, Moretti, Beavertown or Heineken – that best complements each pub’s style. Meanwhile, £5.5m will be spent improving the kerb appeal of 150 pubs. The outside of the buildings will be redecorated and new lighting, planting and signage highlighting each pub’s offer will be installed. Entrances will also be improved to enhance access. Chris Moore, Star Pubs & Bars’ property director, said: “Many people invested in their own gardens during the pandemic and their expectations are higher than ever when it comes to sitting out at the pub. Customers want a fantastic outdoor space and to feel they’re having a treat. The cost-of-living crisis is fuelling the demand for quality; with less disposable income, pubgoers are more selective about where they spend their money. First impressions count, and a great looking exterior is key to attracting people.” The £5.8m of Star’s outdoor expenditure is part of its £40m investment in pub upgrades in 2023. The £1m branded gardens project is an additional investment.
Papa Johns opens at Hunters Quay Holiday Village, new facilities added: Papa Johns has opened a new site at Hunters Quay Holiday Village in Dunoon, Scotland. The new restaurant is situated by the main entrance of the venue, which is part of Argyll Holidays Group, owned by Cove UK. Chris King, head of development at Cove UK, said the company has also added some new facilities for visitors: “Over the winter, we have been working to complete a huge upgrade to enhance the fabulous facilities at Hunters Quay,” he added. “This includes a new accommodation village and a brand-new Hunters Arena, which is a modern entertainment venue with bar and a state-of-the-art stage. A new family entertainment centre includes an arcade and sports bar, while the restaurant development now has extended terraced dining. A new adventure golf course, internal kids activity centre, including galleon ship, a castle plus soft play areas and belay climbing walls means there is something for everyone! Local residents will also now also be able to order a takeaway Papa Johns pizza when they visit.”
Midlands hotel and spa reports profits ‘much higher than forecast’, increased wages among challenges in 2023: Midlands hotel and spa resort Moor Hall Hotel reported profits “much higher than forecast” for the year ending 31 December 2022 and said increased wages are among the challenges it is “working hard to control” in 2023. The Sutton Coldfield venue, which dates to the 1500s and has been owned by Michael Webb since 1961, said its greatest challenge during the period was a lack of skilled staff, and it has expanded its HR department to offer more support to employees. It also benefited from weddings and dinners postponed during covid and introduced new concepts and packages as “it was clear people had money to spend and wanted experiences”. “As a result, we had a very good year with a substantial increase in turnover and good control of wages and margins,” Webb said in his statement accompanying the accounts. “There was a fairly large increase in expenses, particularly in the latter part of the year when we saw the first signs of increases in the cost of living, particularly in food. Overall, the operating profit came in much higher than we had forecasted and provided us with a good platform to start 2023, which has started with some challenges. Turnover has increased positively but wages are showing a large increase and we are working hard to control these elements.” It comes as the company reported turnover of £6,845,712 for the period, up from £4,393,547 in 2021 and £6,010,375 in the last full year before covid, ending 31 December 2019. Pre-tax profit was up from £473,313 in 2021 to £1,064,488 (2019: £614,092). It had net assets of £6,819,472 at the year-end. Dividends of £192,000 were paid (2021: £170,400). Moor Hall Hotel is part of the Webb Hotel Group, which also operates The George Hotel and The Cathedral Hotel, which are both in Lichfield, The Gables Hotel near Bristol and The Red Lion pub in Newborough.
Michelin-starred Ynyshir Restaurant Group opens new site: Michelin-starred Ynyshir Restaurant Group has opened a new site following support from the Development Bank of Wales. Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, Eglwys Fach, is the only restaurant in Wales to have held two Michelin stars. Multi-award winning chef Gareth Ward has led the kitchen at Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms since 2013, earning five AA rosettes and scores of accolades. Now, following a £100,000 loan from the bank, the group has opened Gwen, an eight-seat restaurant in Machynlleth offering a communal dining experience, led by chef Corrin Harrison. The loan, provided from the Wales Flexible Investment Fund, allowed Ynyshir to refit the former bistro for a new restaurant and wine bar. Named after Ward’s mother, Gwen has a wine bar offering carefully sourced wine and craft beer from around the world. The menu makes use of the same ingredients used at Ynyshir, including A5 Wagyu beef, British lamb and fish. Amelia Eiriksson, creative director for Ynyshir Restaurant Group, said: “We’ve been looking at potential expansion for ages, but we wanted to make sure that we got the right venue that could convey the atmosphere we wanted. Gwen will be more of a casual and relaxed dining experience than at Ynyshir, and the new venue fits that smaller, more communal dining vision we had in mind.”

Chopstix invests more than £1m into renovation programme: Fast growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix has invested more than £1m into a programme of renovations of its existing estate. With stores in Nottingham, Reading and London’s Oxford Street having recently undergone refurbishments, its Peterborough store in Long Causeway is the latest to undergo a £100,000 facelift. Over the next year, 12 further sites are scheduled for redevelopment. Rob Burns, Chopstix’s marketing director, said: “It is clear there is significant momentum behind the Chopstix brand in terms of site openings, but it is also vital to us that all of our existing stores receive the investment needed to fully represent our identity, and facilitate the strongest possible revenue growth at an individual site level. All new and newly refurbished stores feature state-of-the-art digital screens and striking interiors, delivering such a strong brand proposition and one that has helped our awareness and recognition sky rocket over the past 18 months. We’re delighted to have upgraded our Peterborough store and look forward to bringing these changes to further sites soon.” The Chopstix Group currently consists of more than 100 Chopstix sites, ten operating as Yangtze and 27 sites under the Chozen Noodle brand, which the group acquired earlier this year.
Heartwood Collection awarded top three-star Food Made Good rating by SRA: Heartwood Collection, formerly Brasserie Bar Co, has been awarded a three-star rating under the Food Made Good Standard from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), the highest possible score awarded to businesses paving the way to a more sustainable industry. The business was specifically credited for its “responsible and sustainable food sourcing and the impact this has on the livelihoods of communities and higher standards of agricultural practices”. Richard Ferrier, managing director of the Heartwood Collection, said: “We are honoured and proud to have been awarded with a top three-star rating from the SRA. Sustainability and locality underpin everything we do – from sourcing and menu development to the way we run each one of our pubs and restaurants – and we’re delighted to receive recognition for our ongoing efforts. This result couldn’t have been achieved without the hard work and dedication of our talented people who work hard to implement our sustainable vision at every single one of our pubs and brasseries across the UK.” The business currently operates 20 premium pubs and 14 Brasserie Blanc restaurants across the UK, with a further five pubs under offer.
Leon enhances summer dining offer: Natural fast food brand Leon has enhanced its summer dining offer with three new dishes. It has added a fish finger wrap with tangy gherkins and tartare sauce served with a portion of waffle fries (£7.49); loaded Mexican fries topped with black beans, smashed avocado, drizzled chilli sauce, aioli, crispy onions and fresh mint and parsley (£7.49); and a chicken and bacon BBQ big smoke burger with chargrilled chicken thigh, barbecue sauce, creamy garlic pink slaw, bacon, gherkins and pink kraut (£8.49). They will all be available for takeaway, delivery and collection from tomorrow (Wednesday, 28 June).
Michelin-starred chef set to open new restaurant in historic York building: Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern is set to this summer open a new restaurant in an historic York building. York Minster Refectory will open in a former school next to the cathedral, serving dishes “rooted in the best produce from Yorkshire, celebrating its abundant moors and coastline”. The grade II-listed building will offer private dining space for up to 40 guests in an upper-level room featuring a huge arched window overlooking the cathedral, while an outdoor terrace will offer a further 150 covers. The menu, developed by Pern alongside executive chef Joshua Brimmell, previously of Minster Mill, will include chargrilled loin of Yorkshire venison with haunch and black pudding potato pressing, new season turnip and sauce grand veneur; bouillabaisse of roasted stone bass with Shetland mussels, crispy squid, king scallop, Whitby crab rouille toast and coastal pickings; and Yorkshire Wolds chicken breast with Lyonnaise potatoes, spenwood shavings, torched gem and pancetta. Penn, who also operates The Star Inn The City and The Star Inn At Harome, said: “I have grown up here and seen my York develop into a key destination for both history and incredible dining experiences. The opening of York Minster Refectory plays tribute to the best Yorkshire has to offer – across the produce and menus we serve and the incredible location we are lucky to be set in.”

Roxy Leisure opens Leicester venue: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room concepts, has opened a new Roxy Ball Room venue in Leicester. Located on the city’s Humerstone Gate, it will offer activities including ten pin bowling, ice-free curling, batting cages for baseball and cricket, karaoke rooms, shuffleboard, American pool, deck shuffle, ping pong, crazy pool and beer pong. It will also serve the brand’s new food menu which features premium Italian focaccia pizzas and Roxy Dogs made with bratwurst sausages and brioche buns, alongside cocktails, spirits, wines, draft beers and more. Next up for the 17-strong group will be a Roxy Lanes site in Cheltenham, which is due to open in August. It is aiming to open a further five venues in 2024.

Michelin-starred Brazilian chef set to open late-night bar above his London restaurant: Brazilian Michelin-starred chef Alberto Landgraf is set to open a late-night bar above his London restaurant, Bossa, which only opened last month at 4 Vere Street. Landgraf, chef patron of Oteque in Rio de Janeiro, will launch Maroto in the space above Bossa on Thursday (29 June). It will open every Thursday until 3am, and on Fridays and Saturdays until 5am, with musical director Shane Mac curating a line-up of DJs in conjunction with DOC Records Brazil, including performances by Vintage Culture Mochakk, Gui Boratto and Coppola. Maroto will offer cocktails and spirits alongside Brazilian dishes such as crab pastel with açaí dip, white and brown crab meat and roasted shallots in a deep-fried pastel with an acai dip. Landgraf worked with Tom Aikens and Gordon Ramsay in the early 2000s before returning to Brazil in 2006 to first open Epice in São Paolo, which won a Michelin star, before launching Oteque, which was awarded one Michelin star soon after opening, followed by another a year later.

Independent Cornish bakery Nile’s expands with six-figure funding package: Independent, family-owned Cornish bakery Nile’s Bakery is expanding its portfolio with a six-figure funding package from Barclays. It has opened a purpose-built 8,000 square-foot baking facility along with a cafe on newly acquired land at St Austell Enterprise Park, St Austell. Established in 1955 by Leslie Nile and his wife Chrissie, the business is now run by third and fourth generation family members. The company employs more than 100 staff across six shops and three cafes, located in St Austell, Fowey, and Newquay. Director Chris Nile said: “This investment will help us to secure our future, and that of our hard-working employees, and we look forward to continuing to create delicious products at an affordable price to be enjoyed by all.”

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