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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 10th Jul 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Jeremy King gears up to make return to London’s restaurant scene: Jeremy King, co-founder of Corbin & King and arguably the best-known figure in London’s upmarket dining scene, is gearing up to make a return. King left Corbin & King last April, after Minor International acquired 100% of the business after it was placed into administration, having held a 74% share since 2017. The acquisition saw King leave the business, which changed its name to The Wolseley Hospitality Group last summer. Rumours have circulated since then that King would make a full return to the capital’s restaurant scene. Propel understands that his non-compete clause with Minor International is drawing to a close, and that he is gearing up a new restaurant project. King has now set up new companies – Park Restaurant Holdings and Park Restaurant Trading. He has also been linked to the Park Modern development, which will offer a “spectacular dual frontage restaurant” looking into Hyde Park. The site at 123 Bayswater Road will be 6,100 square feet. Asked whether things were moving up a gear, King told Propel: “They are indeed but not quite able to divulge anything just yet – hopefully in a couple of weeks.” In May, Propel revealed that King had joined the Jamie Oliver Group as a non-executive director. He is a non-executive member of the company’s main board and has a wide range of duties, including, but not specifically, helping oversee its restaurants division.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – know your pricing landscape and boost your value proposition: As consumer spend is under threat and inflation remains high, future menu price decisions will be critical. As brands prepare for the autumn/winter menus, key information and data-driven insights are needed to enable confident and profitable pricing decisions. A Pearson Ham Group spokesperson said: “As pricing experts, we have developed unique market price intelligence reports designed to help brands: identify areas of opportunity in terms of over and under-pricing versus your competitors; understand customer behaviour, brand preference and price expectations; and have a clear view of your key competitors’ pricing strategies. Our reports use two unique sets of data; site level competitor menu pricing/architecture and the latest consumer insights from our comprehensive survey of UK diners. Not only can brands see what key changes their competitors are making in terms of menu and prices, they’ll also understand how consumers feel about pricing and any behavioural trends we observe. Plus, you can gain an understanding of what customers really think about the value for money each brand offers. The reports also highlight potential revenue opportunities based on brand positioning versus your competitors, current market inflation, customer willingness to pay – as well as where regional and menu variances present an opportunity for your brand to gain a competitive advantage.” For more information, click here. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 68% of companies in profit, up from 67% last month: The Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, to be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (14 July), shows 68% of the 745 largest sector companies are now in profit. The Blue Book shows 504 companies in profit and 241 reporting losses. This is slightly up as last month, when 67% of companies were reporting a profit. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. 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 on 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 New Openings Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email 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.
Panel on the latest recruitment and retention issues facing the sector to be held at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: A panel on the latest recruitment and retention issues being faced across the sector will be held 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. The panel will be led by Krishnan Doyle, managing director of COREcruitment, with Thomas Stroppel, head of learning and development at Dishoom; Maureen Sandbach, people director at Honest Burgers; Oli Cavaliero, group head of talent at Gail’s and The Bread Factory; Rachel Masing, people director at ETM Group and Maven Leisure; Hattie Renshaw, head of talent at Sodexo; and Laura Mills, chief operating officer at The Ivy Collection. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email
Scoffs Group head of people – we need quotas to ensure more women on boards, inclusivity starts at the top: Amanda Smyth, head of people of Scoffs Group, the largest Costa Coffee franchisee in the UK, has called for an Australian-style quota to ensure more female representation on company boards. The Australian Council of Superannuation last month said 97 listed companies with male-heavy boards face a vote against male directors unless they show how they intend to bring more women on board. In the UK, Greene King announced earlier this year its target of having women make up 50% of its senior management roles by 2030. “I am, at this point, a believer in quotas,” Smyth told the Propel Multi-Club Conference. “I never used to be, I used to believe glass ceilings were a figment of people’s imaginations. But I’m now at the point, like the Australian system, where it’s enforcing a quota. Somebody said to me do you really want to be in a position because you’re a statistic? After 36 years (in the industry), yes. I’m satisfied there’s enough talent in the ecosystem that it will pull through, but there’s still too many boards not choosing people who should have been in chief executive positions too long ago. The reality of the culture in Greene King is it will happen because the board is led by a leader who has always committed to hitting those markers, and that’s not about Greene King but about the person – Nick [Mackenzie] is trying to act as a beacon for other leaders. My issue with the sector is with other big-hitting companies. There are no women there at all, and that needs to change. It’s not enough in this day and age to be delighted that one person is doing it.” Smyth also pointed to Lewis Capaldi’s Glastonbury set, which the singing superstar cut short as he struggled with the effects of Tourette’s syndrome, as symbolic of society’s changing attitudes to inclusivity. “Never have I been as moved about inclusivity as I was watching Lewis Capaldi’s Glastonbury set,” she added. “There wasn’t a HR person on the stage saying ‘come on everybody, we need to get behind this’. There wasn’t a business leader, a founder or an owner – it was the power of the people. That was so heart-warming to see, that we have bred that in our people. We need to do that in our businesses, and that starts from the top.”

Mintel – competitive socialising participation up 13% since 2019, Generation Z more likely to choose sector over the pub: Competitive socialising participation has seen a 13% increase since 2019, and the industry should continue to perform resiliently amidst the cost-of-living crisis thanks to its diverse range of options at different price points, according to a new report from Mintel. The report found three quarters of Brits plan to get involved in a competitive socialising activity in the next 12 months, with traditional activities such as bowling and crazy golf “firm favourites”. Seven in ten (71%) of UK consumers have taken part in a competitive socialising activity in the past 12 months. Competitive socialising activities remain popular with younger generations, with 93% of Generation Zs taking part in an activity in the last 12 months. Jennie Bryans, leisure and travel analyst at Mintel, said: “Generation Zs are now more likely to participate in a social entertainment game than they are to go to the pub for drinks. Generation Zs are growing up more sober-curious than past generations, and as such, are constantly seeking new and varied activities that provide a sense of adrenaline, but don’t necessarily involve consuming alcohol. Leisure brands are well placed to continue offering new and exciting experiences, particularly as the market evolves in line with technological advancements as portrayed by the roaring success of F1 Arcade this year.” However, the report found many consumers remain cost-conscious when it comes to socialising, with the majority not spending more than £20 on a competitive socialising activity. The report said: “If the economic downturn continues, it will be vital for competitive socialising brands to promote affordable options or provide value for money through annual passes and loyalty points.” The report also found that when asked about future interests, young women aged 16-34 were more likely to stick to traditional activities, whereas young men of the same age are keen to try new activities such as virtual reality gaming bars and social cricket. It said: “Operators offering novel and innovative experiences should look at ways to encourage women to try such activities. To encourage more women to participate, these venues could hold female-only nights to make women feel more comfortable in these environments.”
Tunbridge Wells neighbourhood restaurant named best local by The Good Food Guide: Tallow in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, has been named best local restaurant by The Good Food Guide. Tallow is operated by Donna and Rob Taylor, who previously ran Kent gastropub The Compasses Inn, in Crundale. It topped a list of 100, whittled down from more than 37,000 public nominations, all inspected by The Good Food Guide inspectors. Donna Taylor said: “What an unexpected and humbling acknowledgement for the whole team at Tallow, and such a privilege to be considered alongside restaurants we love and respect. We’re proud to receive confirmation from our guests that Tallow has become what we had hoped, an accessible, relaxed dining experience that they wish to enjoy over and over again.” The Good Food Guide’s editor, Elizabeth Carter, added: “Tallow stood out, head and shoulders above what is a very strong list this year. For a chef of this quality to be so happily focused on running a neighbourhood restaurant is extraordinary. There's a level of commitment here that would sit happily in many top restaurants. Everything is beautifully thought through, from food you really want to eat – delicious, simple, seasonal – to the remarkably at-ease service and the care of customers. The menu offers choice (à la carte or tasting), is affordable, completely changes each month, including the bread and the snacks.” Other regional winners were Les 2 Garçons (Crouch End) in London, The Sparrows (Manchester) in the north west, Homestead Kitchen (Whitby) in the north east, The Kinneuchar Inn (Fife) in Scotland, Seasonality (Maidenhead) in the south east, Wild Artichokes (Kingsbridge) in the south west, Rocket & Rye (Cowbridge) in Wales and Tropea (Birmingham) in central and the east of England.

New charity with sector backing launches to tackle poverty and unemployment: A new charity, which is supported by serial sector investor Luke Johnson and Inception Group co-founder Charlie Gilkes, has been launched that will use the power of business to tackle poverty and unemployment. The Jobs Foundation brings together business leaders to form a council able to train and support people in deprived communities. The charity will also be studying companies that have helped people from disadvantaged backgrounds and designing regional strategies to combat poverty. The group hopes to have 1,000 business leaders signed up by 2024. Polling commissioned by the Jobs Foundation and conducted by YouGov last week confirmed a third of people in the UK think businesses should currently prioritise creating jobs (31%), paying tax (30%), and training staff (22%). The independent charity is headed by an advisory council of business leaders from a range of sectors, locations and sizes, all uniting behind the message that a successful society requires successful businesses.  Those on the advisory council include Johnson, Gilkes and Prue Freeman, co-founder of restaurant group The Daisy Green Collection. Georgiana Bristol, chief executive of the Jobs Foundation, said: “There are lots of charities running brilliant schemes to help tackle poverty and to support people into employment. But the biggest and most effective engine to tackle poverty is the business community. By creating the jobs that take people out of poverty, offering training to help people fulfil their potential, and funding public sector jobs through taxation, businesses offer an economic and social infrastructure for the country and help reduce poverty.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a pub company that operates 35 sites and is planning to add another ten within the next year that is looking for a strong operations director. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will oversee the expansion plan, and manage the day-to-day operations of the pubs, ensuring excellent customer service, efficient business operations, and a positive working environment for employees. The business requires someone with great financial and commercial backgrounds and a keen eye for detail. You will report to the managing director of the company and will need to have held a similar senior position in a comparable business.” The salary is up to £175,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Esquires plans to double 50-plus UK estate over next three years, set to launch eight more stores in next quarter: Esquires, the Cooks Coffee Company-owned business, has said it plans to double its 50-plus UK estate over next three years and is set to launch eight more stores in the next quarter. The company said: “Our UK stores are developed using a regional developer system, leveraging local knowledge to select the best locations and prospective franchisees. We take great care in choosing the right franchisees and provide comprehensive training to ensure they can deliver warm and welcoming café experiences to their local communities. Currently, we operate 50-plus stores in the UK, with eight new stores set to launch in the next quarter. Our long-term goal is to expand strategically and potentially double the number of stores within the next three years, while maintaining our emphasis on sustainable and responsible sourcing practices, high-quality products, and excellent customer service.” Esquires is set to launch store number 54 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. It will replace the former Chai Naturally Healthy vegan cafe at 8 Market Place, although no opening date has been confirmed. Owner Lucy Fisher closed Chai Naturally Healthy last month to focus on bringing up her children. It follows opening for Esquires earlier this year in Southend, Godalming, Houghton Regis, Corby and Dublin. The company added: “All our coffee is grown by Fairtrade farmers as part of the forest and existing ecosystem, and we demonstrate our commitment to sustainability by partnering with the first coffee roastery in the world to achieve the gold carbon-neutral standard. To further support green initiatives, we have implemented the use of recyclable and compostable coffee cups, recyclable takeaway boxes and bags, serviettes and straws to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our business.”

Various Eateries appoints Rebecca Tooth as MD of Coppa Club: Various Eateries, the Andy Bassadone-chaired business, has appointed Rebecca Tooth, formerly of Cote and Bill’s Restaurants, as managing director of its Coppa Club brand, Propel has learned. Tooth stepped down as chief operating officer of Bill’s, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant business, at the end of last year. Tooth joined Bill’s in October 2021 following 12 years at Cote, where she had stints as its central operations director, operations director and regional director. Various Eateries currently operates 12 Coppa Club sites, after launching in Guildford earlier this year, the brand’s second townhouse offering. The business, which also operates fledgling concept Noci, has Coppa Club openings lined up in its current financial year in Cardiff and Farnham. Speaking to Propel at the end of last month, Various Eateries chief executive Yishay Malkov said the business was having to work harder than ever to make sure sales translate into a “decent return”. It came after the company’s chairman, Andy Bassadone, said the scale of the squeeze on margins was unprecedented in his 35 years’ experience in the industry.

Jerry Brunning acquires North Wales pub from Thwaites for fifth site: Jerry Brunning, co-founder of Brunning & Price, has acquired a fifth site under his Pubs Limited vehicle. Brunning, who founded Brunning & Price with Graham Price, has bought the historic Druid Inn in Gorsedd, near Holywell, from north west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites with plans for a “careful renovation” before relaunch, now planned for early 2024. Presently closed, the Druid is said to date to the 12th century. It marks a return to North Wales for Brunning, who was born in Bangor and educated in Colwyn Bay and has strong links with the region and its pubs sector. Brunning said: “The Druid fits in well with our philosophy on village pubs and I look forward to returning to North Wales. What we are aiming to create here with a careful renovation is a simple but good village local.” Dining at the Druid will see modern menus mix traditional classics with contemporary dishes. A wide selection of hand pulled cask ale will be kept, often from brewers in Cheshire, North Wales and Shropshire alongside the group’s exclusive house JPA. A range of craft beer and cider from independent producers will also be on offer together with Pubs Limited’s own tap dispensed house wine. The group also includes the Black Bear in Whitchurch, the Hare in Farndon, Chester’s Henry Potts and the Swan in Marbury cum Quoisley, near Nantwich.

Canadian brand Mary Browns Chicken targets UK launch: Canadian fast food chain Mary Brown’s Chicken is targeting a launch in the UK and Ireland this year. According to property firm CBRE, the brand is actively seeking opportunities across Northern Ireland and has agreed leases at several locations. Founded in 1969, the Ontario-based Mary Brown’s Chicken is one of the fastest growing franchises in Canada. It currently has 236 units worldwide, with aims to grow by expanding into the UK and Irish market in 2023. It is targeting having an overall estate of 270 sites by the end of this year. Meanwhile, CBRE’s latest industry report, which analyses the state of Northern Ireland’s commercial property sector during the second quarter of 2023, also confirmed Pret A Manger has agreed terms for a unit in Belfast city centre, which will be its first outlet in Northern Ireland. It’s just over a year since Pret announced plans to open 20 sites in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic over the next decade. Pret has already opened two sites in Dublin since last year.

Itsu back to building ‘temples’ and achieves record sales week: Julian Metcalfe, the founder of Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, has told Propel the business is “back to building temples” again, as it opened “major sites on corners”. The 85-strong brand plans to open ten new sites this year, with outlets recently opened in South Kensington, Bishopsgate, and in Oxford Street, and new openings in King's Cross, Windsor and Exeter set to follow soon. Metcalfe told Propel: “The executive team is doing a great job and we are opening ‘temples’ to healthier fast food again – major sites on corners. We've just had our best week in our history last week. The Itsu group is not far off a £4m run rate. The response from our customers is giving us the confidence to push further forward with our expansion plans.” Earlier this year, the business appointed Justin King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, as the new non-executive chairman of its grocery arm. The company said the “king of retail” King joined forces with “high street legend” Metcalfe in a “powerful” new partnership to “turbo charge” the brand’s £60m supermarket business, Itsu [grocery], into a £100m-turnover company within two years.

Palmers sees profits fall in ‘challenging year’: Dorset family-run brewery and pub company Palmers – which operates 53 pubs in Dorset, Somerset and Devon and has been trading since 1794 – saw its profits fall in what it said was a “challenging year”. Pre-tax profit dropped from £2,250,290 in 2022 to £1,515,748 in the year ending 31 March 2023. This compares with a profit of £1,817,574 in the last full year before covid, ending 31 March 2019. Turnover rose slightly from £9,528,589 in 2022 to £9,736,675 (2019: £10,059,720). Of the 2022 figure, £7,256,898 came from sale of goods and £2,479,777 from rental income. Dividends of £9,750 were paid (2022: £9,750). Net assets increased from £36,442,000 to £37,703,000. Director John Palmer, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The year under review was a combination of stabilisation following covid and new challenges for our team. The company had rebounded to reasonable trading levels in 2022, despite Omicron uncertainties during the festive season. 2023 has however continued to be challenging for our industry, due to the impact of high inflation and interest rate rises on both consumer behaviour and our licensees cost base. Our performance during the year reflects the continuing challenging economic environment and we report a fall in operating profit compared with the previous year. The balance sheet, however, remains strong with an increase in cash and net assets. Our dedicated and committed team at the brewery continue to work hard to strengthen and sustain the business through this challenging phase. The estate remains in good repair, well positioned to benefit from any improvements in demand that we may see over the next year.”

Frontier Pubs like-for-like sales up more than 20%, looking forward to further expansion: Frontier Pubs, the London partnership between Stonegate Group and the Karen Jones-led Pioneer Hospitality, has told Propel it has “performed strongly” over the past ten months, with like-for-like sales up by more than 20% over that time. Peter Myers, co-founder and chief executive of Frontier, said: “Alongside the significant organic growth, we have acquired three more pubs, the Hare & Hounds, The Cherry and the Talbot. We now operate 13 pubs (with 25 hotel rooms) around London in two formats, we have a great team and we look forward to further expansion over the next year with our partners Stonegate.” It comes as the business reported revenue of £6,622,000 in the 52 weeks ending 25 September 2022 (2021: £3,424,000). Operating profit before depreciation and amortisation for the then ten-strong business was £75,000 (operating profit before depreciation, amortisation and profit on disposal of property, plant and equipment for the 52 weeks ended 26 September 2021 is £383,000). The loss before tax for the 52 weeks amounted to £411,000 (2021: £19,000). The company said: “During the period sales have continued to recover well since reopening last year, despite the impact from covid-19 on the Christmas trading period. The current cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by the war in the Ukraine, which has driven up energy and food prices in particular, has continued pressure on consumers and the trading environment. Additional costs are being offset as much as possible by price rises, menu engineering and operational productivity.” The business is chaired by Jones, who is also the chair of Mowgli and Hawksmoor, with a management team headed up by Myers and Jo Cumming, the team behind the successful growth and subsequent sale of Food & Fuel.

Cinema operator Empire goes into administration: Independently owned cinema operator Empire has collapsed into administration with the immediate loss of 150 jobs. Six cinemas in the chain have closed, with a further eight under threat. Administrators BDO said the impact of the covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis had “significantly affected the companies' business”. The Empire cinemas that have closed are in Bishop's Stortford, Catterick Garrison, Sunderland, Swindon, Walthamstow and Wigan. Meanwhile, the remaining sites in Birmingham, Clydebank, High Wycombe, Ipswich and Sutton, and the two Tivoli-branded venues in Bath and Cheltenham, will continue to trade as the administrators look for a buyer. BDO said the cinemas employed a total of 437 staff across England and Scotland. It said gift cards, ticket e-codes, guest passes and readmission tickets will continue to be valid at trading cinema sites. Advance ticket purchases at sites that have closed will be automatically refunded. Empire Cinemas was founded in 2005 following the mergers of Odeon and UCI, and Cineworld and UGC. The Office of Fair Trading ruled that both new groups should lose a number of their cinemas, which created an opportunity for Empire to be created.

Honey & Co team eyes Fitzrovia opening: The team behind Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co is planning a new opening in London’s Fitzrovia. Propel understands that husband-and-wife duo Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich have applied to open a restaurant on the ex-Co-op site in Store Street, under the name Honey & Co Daily. Last summer, the pair closed their original site in London’s Warren Street, but subsequently reopened a new Honey & Co at 54 Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. The new site holds more than double the number of diners – with 55 covers as opposed to 25 – than the original, which they opened 11 years ago. The duo also run Honey & Smoke in Great Portland Street and deli Honey & Spice in Warren Street.

Oliver trademarks new name for comeback Covent Garden opening: Chef Jamie Oliver has trademarked the name Jamie Oliver Catherine Street, leading to speculation that it will be the name for his upcoming restaurant opening in London’s Covent Garden. In the spring, Propel reported the chef is to make his return to London’s restaurant scene with the opening of a new “landmark” site later this year. The new restaurant, situated in Drury Lane’s Theatre Royal, which is operated by Andrew Lloyd Webber's LW Theatres, will celebrate “everything that's wonderful about Britain's rich and diverse food culture with a seasonal menu that champions the best of British produce”. The site in Catherine Street will come with a higher price point than the chef’s former Jamie’s Italian brand and the business hasn’t ruled out opening more sites, although it is focused for now on “just concentrating on getting this one right”. The new site is yet to be named. Earlier this year, Propel Premium’s Diary revealed Oliver had trademarked the name Clover Yard for restaurant use, but that his name could still end up being over the door.

Stuart Broad reveals plans to scale up pub company to ten sites after reopening fire-hit venue: England cricketer Stuart Broad has revealed plans to scale up his Cat & Wickets Pub Company from two sites to ten over the next decade. He said the “positive approach” encouraged by England head coach Brendon McCullum has helped his business survive and thrive after a “devastating” fire last year. Broad has run the Cat & Wickets Pub Company alongside former Nottinghamshire teammate Harry Gurney since 2016. But the group’s growth plans were struck a blow in June 2022 when the Tap and Run, in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was almost entirely gutted by a fire, forcing it to close until finally reopening last week. Having been kept busy by the ongoing Ashes series, Broad is yet to drop in at the reborn Tap and Run, but has booked in dinner plans at the conclusion of the third test, which England won on Sunday (9 July). He had planned to visit sooner, Broad said, but the pub was fully booked on a Monday night – with no exception for shareholders. Broad and Gurney were inspired to start the business by a shared love of food and wine, bearing in mind Broad's “pet hate” of “paying a 300% mark-up on a bottle” at restaurants. He told the Daily Mail: “It started out as a bit of fun, really – I thought I'd be grateful to have somewhere to have a lovely Sunday roast or a nice glass of red.” Following what began with the Griffin Inn in Swithland, also in Leicestershire, and expanded with the launch of the Tap and Run, Cat & Wickets is plotting further growth in the East Midlands. It now also has the support of Lee Cash, who recently invested after selling Peach Pubs to Revolution Bars Group last year. Broad said: “We’ve learned a huge amount since 2016. We love the industry, we love the people involved in the industry. But, ultimately, if you just have one village pub it's quite tricky to really make money or grow. Something I’ve learned from Brendon McCullum, who’s really positive all of the time – he says to us ‘run towards the danger’. And that’s certainly something we’ve taken with us into the culture of the pubs as well.”

Manchester leisure group to launch Europe’s first Nerf entertainment centre, plans UK roll-out: Manchester leisure group Rocafella Leisure will launch Europe’s first Nerf entertainment centre this summer ahead of a planned UK roll-out. Nerf Action Xperience (NAX) will launch in August at Manchester’s Trafford Palazzo, under licence from toy and game company Hasbro and in partnership with entertainment discovery platform Fever. The family-friendly experience will also provide adult groups with competitive play with Nerf Blasters. The experience will also include the UK’s first Nerf dedicated retail store, an 8,000 square-foot shop, and will be the first location in a UK-wide rollout over the next five years, reports BDaily. Chris Hayes, chief executive of Rocafella Leisure Group said: “We’ve worked exhaustively with our partners Hasbro to curate and deliver what we know will be a first-class venue for highly active, fun-filled, and adrenaline-packed activities and challenges for all the families and adults. The UK hasn’t seen anything like this before so we simply can’t wait for people to join us and see what’s in store. It’ll be an unparalleled experience full of action and thrills for everyone.” Rocafella is also behind the Total Ninja in Manchester’s Trafford Park, while Hayes launched the first site for the now seven-strong trampoline park Jump-INC.

Majestic Bingo goes into administration: Independent bingo operator Majestic Bingo, which runs eight clubs in England and Wales, has been placed into administration, putting 143 jobs at risk. Interpath Advisory, which has been appointed to handle the administration, told The Times while Majestic had been profitable, it had been hit badly by the pandemic and its business had never fully recovered. In addition, a profitable club in Spalding, Lincolnshire, suffered a serious fire in 2021 and had not reopened. The administrators said they would continue to trade the venues as a going concern while they explored options for a sale of the business and its assets. Majestic Bingo Online is a separate entity that is not in administration. Majestic was set up by sector investor Luke Johnson. In 2014 it acquired nine bingo clubs from Top Ten Holdings. Among the clubs placed in administration are the Hippodrome in Bishop Auckland and the Apollo in Rhyl. Last month, The Business Desk reported Majestic Bingo had posted a notice of intention to appoint administrators via Irwin Mitchell solicitors.

Former Gail’s ops manager secures ex-Megan’s site for Ollie’s House concept: Oliver Norcliffe, a former operations manager at bakery and café concept Gail’s, has secured a second site in London, for his fledgling pan-Asian, all-day concept Ollie’s House. Propel understands Ollie’s House has secured the ex-Megan’s site in Parsons Green for an opening later this summer. Norcliffe, who spent more than four and a half years at Gail’s, launched the Ollie’s House concept on the former Cote site in Fulham Road, Chelsea, last year. The concept is described as being inspired by “Bali resorts with a pan-Asian menu featuring noodles, curries and more”. The company said: “Ollie's House is somewhere that welcomes you for brunch, lunch, takeaway, cocktails, dinner and much more. Serving house-made fresh flavours, nourishing ingredients, and well-travelled world favourite dishes with some fun modern Asian influences throughout.”

Papa John’s opens two new Haven sites: Papa John’s has opened two new sites at Haven holiday parks. It has opened a full-size restaurant at the new Haven park in Skegness, Lincolnshire, as well as a modular pod at the existing Haven site in Marton Mere, Blackpool. The Skegness park was acquired by Haven from Richmond Holiday Parks last year and has undergone a transformation including a Marina Bar & Stage, restaurant, new arcade, kart hire and bungee trampolines. Lucy Greene, national new openings manager at Haven, said: “Having our valued franchise partners on board with us as we welcome guests to Skegness for the first time this summer is exciting. Marton Mere is a wonderful park, but we were missing pizza from our hot food offering, so we selected the location at the end of last year and the Papa John’s modular pod went into build.” Amit Pancholi, business development director at Papa John’s UK, added: “We now have 30 Papa John’s across Haven holiday parks across the UK, ensuring guests can enjoy a tasty pizza takeaway on park or from the comfort of their holiday home.” Last month, Papa John’s announced a shift in its UK strategy with the acquisition of 91 sites previously operated by the M25 division of Drake Food Service International to form portfolio of company-owned restaurants. It followed the company reporting turnover passing the £100m mark in the UK for the first time in the year ending 26 December 2021. 
Manchester’s £200m St Michael’s development to feature pub for which operator being sought, phase two works to begin this summer: Manchester’s £200m St Michael’s development will feature a new pub for which an operator being sought, with phase two works set to begin this summer. Plans for the scheme – a collaboration between Gary Neville’s Relentless Group and a number of stakeholders including Salford property developer Salboy and global investment firm KKR – were first unveiled five years ago. Work on phase one – which comprises 185,000 square feet of office space across nine floors, public space and a new rooftop restaurant – began in early 2022. Chotto Matte, founded by Kurt Zdesar, later signed for the rooftop restaurant, agreeing a deal for the 20,000 square-foot unit for its first UK restaurant outside of London. Neville has now shared an update, including plans for a pub called The Sir Ralph Abercromby, and is currently seeking an operator. A brochure for the site mentions that it will serve an “ever evolving range of craft beer”, and the food offering will include “stove top butties”. Neville also said works on phase two will begin later this summer, with construction of a 41-storey tower that will host a 162-bedroom five-star international hotel brand and 217 luxury residences.

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