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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 7th Jul 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate places 11-strong investment package on the market: Stonegate Group, the David McDowall-led, TDR Capital-backed business, has placed an 11-strong investment package of freehold pubs based in London, with a combined value of circa £16m, on the market, Propel has learned. Propel understands that Coffer Corporate Leisure has been instructed to offer the sale and leaseback of the 11 freeholds, which are let to Stonegate on new 25-year leases. The portfolio, which is being marketed under the name Project Capital, features pubs situated on corner sites, with on average of circa 5,000 square feet of space, with average rent per property of circa £79,000 per annum. The sites included in the investment portfolio are understood to include The Grosvenor Arms in Wandsworth, The Libertine in Borough, The Britannia in Clerkenwell, The George on the Isle of Dogs and The Fox Inn in Keston. Reports earlier this year said that Stonegate is looking at the possibility of selling between 700 and 800 pubs from its circa 4,500-strong estate as it considers ways of cutting its £3bn debt. It is understood to have hired Eastdil Secured to advise on options, although sources close to the situation insisted that no decisions had yet been taken, and that if it does look to sell, it may do so in two or three tranches. A Stonegate spokesperson told Bloomberg last month that the business continually evaluates options to maximize shareholder value, and the disposal of some pubs remains one of a number of options. A spokesperson said: “Any disposal will be subject to market conditions and won’t necessarily be in one tranche. The group remains well financed and is performing well with encouraging trading momentum as more normalized conditions return.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – HEINEKEN UK launches Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry on draught: HEINEKEN UK has launched Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry on draught. Old Mout’s Pineapple & Raspberry flavour already is the number one exotic premium flavoured cider in the market and has now launched in the new format to continue to drive growth across flavoured draught cider in the on-trade. After the successful debut of Old Mout Berries & Cherries on draught, which has since delivered £12,000 per tap, the new offering is the next step in the brand’s ambitions to delivering “thirst quenching, tasty cider”. Rachel Holms, cider brands director at HEINEKEN UK, said: “Old Mout is famous for its exotic flavours among cider drinkers and is known for offering something a little different. By making Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry available on draught, as well as bottles, we are broadening the accessibility of the hugely popular flavour. With 38% of Generation Z and Y cider drinkers looking for new and premium flavoured options, this launch will appeal to younger drinkers looking for different flavours on draught. Premium flavoured cider is also the second biggest cider segment (after mainstream apple) and accounts for 25% of category value.” To find out how to stock Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry on draught, click here. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com.

Next edition of The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, to show details of 48 new sites, 3,000-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 48 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published today (Friday, 7 July), at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features growing restaurant and bakery brands, niche cuisine, and expanding experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 3,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to all the videos from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference featuring the sector’s finest female leaders and entrepreneurs. Premium subscribers will be sent 11 videos next Friday (14 July) at 9am, where female sector leaders share the lessons they have learned and moving forward. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; 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 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.

Zero Carbon Forum to launch directory to connect sustainable suppliers with operators: The Zero Carbon Forum is launching Marketplace, a “first of its kind” new services directory designed to connect supply chain businesses with brewing and hospitality operators to help them reach net zero faster. Marketplace is open for applications and will provide a “one stop shop” for hospitality and brewing operators to source the essential products and services they need to help reduce their carbon emissions. The directory will be published in the fourth quarter of 2023 following a review of applications. Suppliers already on board include soft drinks company Britvic and regenerative flour brand Wildfarmed. Zero Carbon Forum chief executive Mark Chapman said: “Up to 90% of hospitality and brewing emissions are from the supply chain, and 35% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food and drink. We in hospitality are the biggest industry to be affected, therefore we must act. We can’t reach net zero without engaging suppliers, and Marketplace has been conceived to provide operators with innovative sustainable services and solutions that help accelerate the transformational change we need to make. We look forward to working with more suppliers of all shapes and sizes as we grow Marketplace and make it the definitive resource for the hospitality and brewing industry.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a branded hotel in Birmingham that is seeking an experienced general manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will manage ongoing profitability of this property, ensuring revenue and guest satisfaction targets are met and exceeded while developing the team to ensure career progression and effective succession planning within the group. The business is looking for someone who is hands-on and dynamic, with good sales experience and a commercial mind. You will be able to review and implement procedure and continually improve the business, allowing it to thrive in a culture of development. You will have a keen eye for detail and constantly drive the highest standards and proactively seek opportunities and ways to maximise revenue and develop the service offered.” The salary is up to £100,000 and the position is based in Birmingham. For more information, email lara@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Moto turnover passes £1bn for first time, raises £835m through refinancing: Moto, the motorway services operator, has reported turnover passed £1bn for first time in the year to 28 December 2022. Revenue was up from £791,282,000 in 2021 to £1,058,407,000. This compares with £780,763,000 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 25 December 2019. Pre-tax profit rose from £35,386,000 in 2021 to £38,124,000 (2019: loss of £116,777,000). Adjusted Ebitda increased to £96,200,000 from £84,500,000 (2019: £106,700,000). Net assets were £19,377,000 (2021: £193,797,000) following dividend payments of £199,092,000 (2021: nil). It received £266,000 in grant income (2021: £5,049,000). Chief financial officer Claire Catlin said: “The trading performance of the group has showed a robust recovery post covid. Traffic levels have returned to circa 97% of 2019 levels. The group successfully refinanced its debt during the year, raising £835m with a tenure of seven-15 years, across UK institutes and US private placements, locking in at preferential interest rates prior to the market increases.” The group spent £51.1m to redevelop six sites and roll out ten new trading units across KFC and Pret A Manger, alongside acquiring land at two locations, both of which have full planning permission. Catlin added: “Investment will continue in the transformation strategy, rolling out new brands and improving our customer experience and colleague efficiency via the investment in new technology infrastructure. The group is well-placed to benefit from a recovery in the UK economy and remains focused on long term growth. The long-term strategy of the business remains unchanged, we will continue to improve our product and facility offerings in order to attract more customers and realise our growth potential. During 2023, the business will continue to invest significant capital into site redevelopment and technology, as well as investing in the opening of 12 new trading units, providing a higher and more assured returns. The group expects to continue benefiting from current trends in the market, which include the increase in preference for branded food outlets.” The group operates a national network of 69 sites. Moto features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £1,058,407,000 is the 11th highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Chaiiwala plans to expand Canadian estate by more than 50 sites over next three years: Indian street food franchise Chaiiwala plans to expand its Canadian estate by more than 50 sites over the next three years. The brand made its debut in the country in 2021 and now has six sites over there. Co-founder Sohail Ali said: “More than 50 more locations coming to Canada over the coming 12-36 months, with aims to employ more than 1,000 people.” In April, Chaiiwala’s international business director Simon Hooper told Propel the initial success of the brand in Canada, and the levels of interest generated there, has provided the company with confidence it will succeed in the US, where it is looking to launch next. He said: “The sheer volume of inquiries from Canada was too big to ignore. When we started to meet people from there and looked at their levels of commitment and passion, it was hard to say no to launching the brand there, especially as there are a lot of similarities to the UK market. And the beauty is we now have got a number of partners who are so happy with the brand and are now identifying spots over the border they wish to trade in.” Chaiiwala has grown to circa 85 UK sites since launching in 2016 and has said it is “conservatively” looking at a further 500 stores here.

Essex McDonald’s franchisee falls to loss due to ‘significant’ cost pressures: McDonald’s franchisee CGN Restaurants, which operates ten restaurants in Essex, has reported “significant cost pressures” resulted in the business reporting a pre-tax loss of £872,200 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with a profit of £2,425,820 the year before. Turnover increased to £48,144,730 compared with £41,645,648 the previous year. Gross profit margin fell to 64.72% from 69.46%. During the period, the company opened a site at the Turner Rise retail park in Colchester. In his statement accompanying the accounts, owner Craig Newnes stated: “Despite an improvement in turnover, significant cost pressures have led to a fall in margins and an operating loss.” Net assets stood at £1.2m (2021: £2.4m). Dividends of £430,293 were paid (2021: £448,505). Newnes was previously an operations manager in the Essex area for McDonald’s before becoming a franchisee in 2013.

Boparan Restaurant Group opens first Slim Chicken international concessions site: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), the owner of the Giraffe, Carluccio’s and GBK brands, has opened its first international concessions site under its partnership with US brand Slim Chickens. The business, which is rolling out the brand in the UK, has opened a Slim Chickens site in Istanbul Airport, Turkey. BRG already operates sites under its Giraffe and Carluccio’s brands through its international concessions business. This week, BRG opened its latest UK site under the Slim Chickens brand at Trinity Leeds, on the ex-Carluccio’s site in the scheme. The venue has large sports screens as well as internal and external seating that can seat more than 100 diners, including two large double-sided kiosks. BRG chief executive Satnam Leihal said: “Trinity Leeds is set to be a prime location for us and we’re proud to be in the heart of the city in such a stunning setting.” BRG currently operates circa 40 sites under the Slim Chickens brand in the UK, including under its The Restaurant Hubs format with Sainsbury’s. BRG plans to operate 350 restaurants in Britain under the US brand in the next few years.

Black Sheep Coffee secures Chichester site: Speciality coffee shop operator has secured a site in Winchester for a new store. Terms were agreed for a new 15-year lease without a break, subject to five yearly rent reviews which are index linked at a commencing rent of £100,000 per annum. Flude represented the freeholder, a private property company, and Prime Retail Property represented Black Sheep. Last month, Black Sheep opened its 70th store, in The Sidings, the new destination space within the former Eurostar terminal at London’s Waterloo station. The company has more than ten sites confirmed for its openings pipeline in the UK, including sites in London, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester, Warrington, Cardiff and Colchester. It is also set to open a site at Luton airport.

Ben & Jerry’s seeking franchisees for last three UK territories: Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is seeking franchisees for its last three remaining UK territories. Through franchise partner Platinum Wave, it is looking for multi-unit franchise partners for the north, north west and south east of England. Its “scoop shops” offer an extensive range of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream alongside sundaes, shakes, desserts, ice cream cakes and more. In November last year, Atul Pathak, formerly the UK’s largest McDonald’s franchisee, became Ben & Jerry’s first franchise partner in the UK, as part of the company’s new franchise programme. It followed McDonald’s completing a deal to buy out Pathak’s shares in Appt Corporation, which he founded in 2003 and grew to 43 sites. At the time, Ben & Jerry’s said: “As part of an exciting new journey for both the franchisee and Ben & Jerry’s, Atul plans to open more stores in London and the surrounding areas. There are also plans for more partners to join as franchisees.”

Nelson Hotels & Inns reports turnover exceeds pre-covid levels: Cheshire hotel and gastropub group Nelson Hotels & Inns has reported turnover increased 69% to £15,716,321 for the year ending 30 September 2022 compared with £9,296,212 the previous year. Revenue also exceeded the £13,406,382 reported for the year ending 30 September 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. The company, which opened its fifth site in March this year – The Manor at Greasby in Greasby, Merseyside – saw pre-tax profit rise to £2,246,053 from £1,841,613 the year before (2019: profit of £1,247,862). Gross profit margin was down to 79.1% from 81.1% the year before. The business did not receive any government grants (2021: £595,628). A dividend of £255,000 was paid (2021: £165,000). The company also operates The Pheasant Inn in Burwardsley, The Fishpool Inn in Delamere, The Bear’s Paw in Warmingham and the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa in Pulford.

XP Factory to open first overseas Boom Battle Bar this month: XP Factory, owner of experiential concepts Boom Battle Bar and Escape Hunt, will open its first overseas Boom Battle Bar site this month. It will launch at Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence waterfront community on Saturday, 15 July. It already operates several Escape Hunts overseas, both franchised and owner operated. A Boom Battle Bars spokesman said: “Next stop Dubai! Our first venue outside of the UK and we’re buzzing about it! Epic games, banging drinks and delicious street food all under one roof.” The games will include augmented reality darts and axe throwing, beer/prosecco pong and “crazier” golf. In May, XP Factory reported strong first quarter trading, with like-for-like sales in its Boom sites up 44% on last year, and its Escape Hunt owner-operated estate up 32%. The group said it has three Boom sites and one Escape Hunt currently in build, “with a developed pipeline underpinning site roll-out targets for the year”. It has 27 Boom sites in the UK – 11 owner operated and 16 franchised – and 23 UK Escape Hunt sites.

Stay Original Company emerges from covid ‘in strong position’, fixes bank loan for five years to mitigate exposure to interest rates: South west boutique hotel and pub group Stay Original Company has said it has emerged from covid in a strong position. The company, which has six freehold trading properties, reported a pre-tax loss of £22,366 for the year ending 30 September 2022 versus a profit of £132,000 for the 16 months ending 30 September 2021. This compares with a loss of £33,692 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 May 2019. Turnover was £8,787,717 versus £7,498,565 for the previous 16-month period (2019: £5,744,271). It received £38,144 in government grants compared with £1,380,652 the year before. The company ended the year with net liabilities of £402,642 but has since fixed its bank loan for five years to mitigate its exposure to interest rates. “The directors believe the company has emerged from the pandemic in a strong position, despite the severe impact on the hospitality industry,” director James Brooke-Webb said. “In a challenging economic environment, the company has enjoyed a successful year. Since the financial year end, the company has sought to mitigate its exposure to rising interest rates by moving its existing loans with Cynergy Bank on to a five-year fixed rate.” The year also saw a further eight bedrooms added to the King’s Arms in Dorchester, with a further seven to come, while 16 were added to the Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury, which “now makes an important contribution to the company's performance”. Planning consent has been obtained to add a further four bedrooms to the Swan in Wedmore. Brooke-Webb added: “The company has continued to strengthen operational teams and is well positioned for further growth. The directors are confident trading will continue to benefit from a demand for quality and will increase as the economy strengthens.”

Fulham Shore adds to The Real Greek and Franco Manca openings pipelines: Fulham Shore, the Toridoll and Capdesia-backed business, has secured three new sites for its Franco Manca and The Real Greek brands. The David Page-chaired group is set to open sites under the Franco Manca brand on the ex-Laura Ashley site in Solihull, and in a unit opposite Wagamama in St Albans. At the same time, Propel understands that the business will open a site under The Real Greek on the opposite corner to Wildwood at the Freeport Outlet Village in Braintree. It is also set to move its The Real Greek site at Westfield Stratford near the end of this year/start of 2024, to a new site “two doors nearer the shopping centre”. Last month, shareholders of Fulham Shore backed the £93.4m takeover of the business by Great Sea Kitchens, a newly incorporated company established on behalf of Toridoll Holdings Corporation. Toridoll, which is a global food company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange with circa £1bn consolidated net sales and a current market capitalisation of approximately £1.5bn, set up a new company called Bidco to oversee the acquisition of the 97-strong Fulham Shore. It partnered with restaurant sector specialist fund Capdesia on the acquisition.

Snowfox rolls out Snowfruit concept to 850 kiosks in the US, explores UK launch: Snowfox Group, which owns the YO!, Panku, Bento and Taiko brands, has rolled out its new Snowfruit concept to more than 850 franchised kiosk locations across the US. The rollout comes as Propel understands Snowfox is currently exploring the opportunity to launch Snowfruit in the UK. Snowfruit, which was founded in February 2022, features on-site franchisees cutting fresh fruit and vegetables daily for US grocery retailers. Emma Deabill, vice president of Snowfruit, said: “The growth of Snowfruit over the past 18 months is testament to the relevance of our consumer offer, the strength of our customer relationships and the brilliance of our franchise partners. We are hugely encouraged by the response to our innovative new offer, and our future growth will continue to be built around providing quality and responsibly sourced products, cut freshly each day on-site. While we have reached over 850 sites, there is plenty more to go for and we look forward to working with new and existing franchisees and customers as we target further kiosk sites across the US.” Last month, Snowfox was acquired by Japanese foodservice company Zensho Holdings in a deal valued at $621m (£494.5m).

Badiani to open three sites in as many weeks this month: Italian gelato brand Badiani will open three sites in as many weeks this month. The company, which currently operates 11 sites in the UK, will start by opening its Balham site, in Hildreth Street, in mid-July. It will then open in Windsor’s High Street on Wednesday, 26 July, and in Westfield White City on Monday, 31 July. The White City location will be a flagship site for the company, located next to The Square entrance on the shopping centre’s ground floor. The 861 square-foot site will have 20 covers inside and will also offer grab-and-go. The Windsor site will be slightly larger at 984 square feet and will have a small number of seats. “We are thrilled to bring the Badiani experience to Westfield London and to the historic town of Windsor,” said Badiani chief executive Massimo Franchi. “Both openings mark a significant step in our expansion throughout the UK. We hope that locals and tourists alike will enjoy an authentic Italian experience.” Badiani recently opened sites in Brighton and Lakeside and told Propel in May that it plans an eventual UK estate of up to 40 sites. Founded in Florence in 1932, Badiani still has its original shop in the Italian city as well as two in Spain. It is opening three more Spanish stores this year and will enter its third international market with an opening in Japan. 

Little Houses Group appoints Sam Wignell as operations director: Little Houses Group, the nursery, soft play and cafe concept from Incipio Group co-founder Charlie Gardiner, which earlier this year received backing from serial sector investor Imbiba, has appointed Sam Wignell, formerly of Marston’s Boparan Restaurant Group and Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), as its new operations director. At the start of the year, Wignell stepped down as operations director of premium food at Marston’s after a year with the business. Wignell previously spent more than two years as chief customer officer at S4labour. He joined S4Labour after three years at Boparan Restaurant Group, where he was brand operations director. He also previously worked at M&B and Tesco Family Dining. He spent more than ten years at M&B, including the last two and a half as a retail director. While at Tesco, he spent a time as chief operating officer of coffee brand Harris + Hoole. Last November, Gardiner, who founded Incipio in 2016, opened Jaego’s House in Kensal Rise as the first venue for his new vehicle, The Little Houses Group. Branded as a club for all the family, it features a jungle gym, crèche, child-minding service and kids’ cinema for children, plus a co-working office, gym, treatment room and library for adults. The 20,000 square-foot also features a restaurant and waterside cafe, seating 85 inside and 24 on a canalside terrace. The business will open a second site – Jesse’s House and Parsons House Nursery on Heathman’s Road, near Parsons Green tube station – early next year. 

Six by Nico confirms Welsh debut with Cardiff opening: The team behind the Six by Nico restaurant business has confirmed it is to open its debut site in Wales with an opening in Cardiff. As revealed by Propel last month, Six by Nico has acquired the ex-Zizzi restaurant in the Castle Quarter Arcades in Cardiff. The new site, which will be the 12th under the concept, will open on Monday, 14 August, creating up to 50 jobs. Founded by chef Nico Simeone, Six by Nico offers diners a six-course tasting menu inspired by a theme, destination or concept. The creative tasting menu changes every six weeks, each with a different theme – inspiring the name Six by Nico. Simeone said: “We have been lucky enough to grow our concept, since opening a small 30 cover restaurant in Glasgow in 2017. Cardiff marks a huge milestone for us, as this will be our first location in Wales. We are excited to bring our ever-evolving experience to the community of Cardiff and Wales – it's a special moment for me and the team who have been here since the beginning.”

Frankie & Benny’s offers summer meal deals to help families during cost-of-living crisis: Frankie & Benny’s, the Italian American restaurant owned by The Restaurant Group, has announced two summer meal deals to help families during the cost-of-living crisis. Frankie & Benny’s is offering two “always on” promotions, which are available until the end of August. The first is a weekday offer available Monday to Friday after 7pm, allowing guests to have two main courses of pizza, burgers and or pasta dishes for £20. Frankie & Benny’s said this will give a saving of up to £15. The second offers two for the price of one main meals all day on Sunday, which it said will give a saving of up to £21.90. Frankie & Benny’s marketing director, Andreia Harwood, said: “We recognise the cost-of-living crisis is hard on us all, but we wanted this summer to be about our customers still being able to enjoy great meals out with the family. These summer savings are all about Frankie & Benny’s putting our customers at the forefront of everything we do.”

Stamford hotel sees pre-tax profit exceed pre-covid levels: Poste Hotels – which owns The George in Stamford, Lincolnshire – has reported pre-tax profit exceeded pre-covid levels in the year ending 27 October 2022. It reported turnover of £7,797,880, up from £5,550,643 in 2021. This is only slightly less than the £7,941,418 reported in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 27 October 2019. Pre-tax profit rose from £648,976 to £924,056 (2019: £775,837). It received £11,880 in government grants compared with £841,392 in 2021. Dividends of £652,107 were paid (2021: £651,618). Net assets at 30 October 2022 stood at £15,364,317 (2021: £15,265,052). The company said: “With no restrictions imposed this year due to the covid-19 pandemic, we have enjoyed a full year of trading for the first time since year ending October 2019. As a result, the company’s turnover increased by £2,247,237, an increase of 40.5% (2021: increase of 1.0%) on the performance in the prior period. We have a committed workforce who we encourage to share ideas for improving the business and its processes.” Lawrence Hoskins, who ran the hotel for 50 years, working alongside his wife Andrea, passed away in March, aged 82. A statement issued by the hotel at the time said: “It would be his foremost wish that The George of Stamford continues to flourish in safe hands in his wake, echoing his passion for the hotel and all those associated with it. His pride in owning such an iconic establishment was immeasurable. So, business as usual, and onward and upward.”

Cornwall resort reports strong demand and promising performance in 2023: Cornwall resort Tregenna Castle has reported strong demand and a promising performance so far in 2023. The St Ives resort – which includes a hotel, self-catering accommodation, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and outdoor pool – gave the update in its accounts for the year ending 31 October 2022. “Post year-end performance has been promising; demand at the hotel continues to be strong and is expected to remain strong for the rest of the year,” the company said. It comes as the company reported turnover of £6,113,961 for the period, down from £8,137,410 in 2021 (which included £2,680,845 in property sales). This compares with £7,309,554 in the last full year before covid, ending 31 October 2019. Pre-tax profit fell from £2,596,857 in 2021 to £758,299 (2019: £899,542). The company received no Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments (2021: £390,118) and £6,000 in business support grants (2021: £40,125). A dividend of £20,000 per share (2021: £12,500) was declared, with the total dividend paid being £2m (2021: £1.25m). The company added: “The change in sales mix on the prior year, coupled with the impact of Castle Village unit sales, has led to the gross margin falling to 48.8% (2021: 51.2%). Part of this decrease is also attributable to the increase in administrative costs including wages and light, heat and power costs.” The company has net current liabilities of £4,9963,343 (2021: £3,187,058). It has outstanding loans of £6,033,540 (2021: £4,559,490) but no bank debt. In order to help mitigate against the rising cost of living, it has installed a solar farm.

Hertfordshire better burger concept opens tenth site, five more planned this year: Hertfordshire better burger concept Brim has opened its tenth site, with five more planned this year. It has opened a 22-cover site in the former Earth Spirit site at 197 St Albans Road in Watford. Owner Maany Iqbal told the Watford Observer: “We don’t have frozen meat, it will all be fresh smashed burgers every day and fresh buns. I’m friends with the owner of the franchise and I have always wanted to come on board, but I had to find the right location. I think Watford needs a place like this.” Brim was launched by brothers Amad and Jwad Hassan in 2021 after they were forced to close their Toraabs Karahu House in Hemel Hempstead during the pandemic. As well as its UK locations, it has a single overseas site in Lahore, Pakistan.

Glasgow operator C&C Restaurant Group opens new Mediterranean concept: Glasgow operator C&C Restaurant Group has opened a new Mediterranean concept in the city. Founders Kevin Campbell and Toni Carbajosa operate a portfolio of international restaurants across the city including Bibimap (Korean cuisine), Halloumi (Greek/Cypriot mezze), Mezcal (Mexican street food), Picked Ginger (Japanese food), Kilmurray & Co (brunch bistro) and Roberta's Italian (Italian/wood-fired pizza), plus coffee shop Off the Rails and multi-unit dining and entertainment venue Cranside Kitchen. They have now launched Santorini in the premises that operated under their tapas and wine bar concept, Rioja, at 1,116 Argyle Street, reports the Glasgow Times. Santorini offers “cocktails, live music and a variety of iconic Mediterranean dishes”.

Wolverhampton golf complex sees footfall increase 20% after adding adventure course: The 3 Hammers Golf Complex in Coven, near Wolverhampton, has increased its footfall by 20% after adding a new adventure course. Owner Ian Bonser used funding from Lloyds Bank to create a Jurassic-themed adventure golf course, which features life-sized, animated dinosaurs. Bonser said the increased headcount has resulted in the need to hire 20 additional staff. “We’re over the moon with the launch of Jurassic Creek,” he added. “We’ve seen a huge rise in staycations over the past few years, with demand for local activities like golf in all its formats really benefiting us as a business. We’re off to a great start and look forward to what we expect to be a busy summer.” Bonser has run the centre for more than 30 years, owning it from the age of 25 after having learned to play golf there as a youngster. He has invested more than £1m in the centre, and in 2019 was given a lifetime achievement award by England Golf.

Cornish sourdough bakery opens bigger site with cafe: Cornish sourdough bakery Gorse has opened a bigger site complete with a cafe in the newly developed business space at Lanteague, near Zelah. Gorse opened in 2021 on the outskirts of Newquay, where owners Nat Galliano-Hale and Anna Gerrans started producing sourdough for cafes and restaurants across Cornwall. They then opened a weekly counter at the site, selling a variety of baked goods, before accepting a bigger space was needed. Galliano-Hale said: “Since we started Gorse just after lockdown, it’s always been our dream to have a bigger location and invite customers to sit in. We’ve now been able to grow as a business to get to this milestone, as well as creating six jobs. Our vision is to create a space that visitors come to enjoy superb quality baked goods, as well as tasty coffee. From the seating area, visitors can also see behind the scenes of life as a baker, which we hope will inspire more people to learn about the craft.”

Liverpool hotel launches new restaurant concept: Liverpool city centre hotel The Sir Thomas has launched a new restaurant concept, The Sir T Gastronomy. It is led by executive chef Christina Konstantopoulou and feature dishes such as shrimp popcorn, beef fillet, and black truffle arancini. The venue, which has been operating in the city for the past 18 years, is housed in the former Bank of Liverpool building, dating to 1882. Konstantopoulou, who has spent the past 20 years devising menus at some of the region’s leading hospitality spaces, said: “We want to bring something fresh to the city while offering a range of dishes to suit all tastes. It’s exciting to be able to write the next chapter of such an iconic Liverpool institution.”

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