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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 13th Jul 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Tim Martin – right size for JD Wetherspoon is about 1,000 pubs, we’ve done everything we possibly can to mitigate costs: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel he believes the right size for the business now is about 1,000 pubs. Wetherspoon has closed, sold or surrendered to the landlord 28 sites in its financial year, leaving it with a trading estate of 827 pubs. Meanwhile, 22 pubs remain on the market or are under offer. Speaking following the company’s pre-close trading update, Martin said there was still room to grow the business to about 1,000 pubs. He added: “We used to say 1,500 but that’s probably too optimistic.” Martin said the business had “slowed up its acquisition strategy a bit waiting for a sales recovery, and we’re looking over the parapet a bit now”. Wetherspoon reported a continued improvement in sales, with like-for-likes for the first ten weeks of the final quarter of the financial year up 11.0% on 2019, and with year-to-date sales increasing 7.4% compared with pre-covid. Martin said there was “no single factor” behind the momentum. He said: “We’ve had an improvement in real ale sales and food has also picked up. Coffee was slow and is now improving. Craft beer like Punk IPA and Shipyard and Session lager like Carlsberg and Carling are also improving. We’ve also got outstanding pub and kitchen manager retention.” Martin also claimed the business has done “everything it possibly can” to mitigate costs, and with alcohol duty going up next month, he said that would have a significant impact on margins. He added: “The industry is wildly overtaxed, making it uncompetitive with supermarkets. Wetherspoon lost £30m in our last financial year and it, customers and staff paid a total of half a billion in taxes. Who’s supporting whom?”

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
Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature updated figures for 45 companies: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will feature updated figures for 45 companies. Premium subscribers will receive the next edition of the Blue Book tomorrow (Friday, 14 July), at midday. It now features 745 companies that are turning over a total of £48.1bn. A total of 504 companies are making a profit while 241 are making a loss. The profit being made by sector companies is now outstripping losses by £511m. The Blue Book shows the total profit of the 745 companies in the list is £3,272,517,901 and losses are £2,761,785,504. 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 last month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference featuring the sector’s finest female leaders and entrepreneurs. Premium subscribers will be sent 11 videos tomorrow 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.
Simple discounts now not enough for loyalty schemes: Simple discounts are now not enough for loyalty schemes, according to new research. The national survey of 300 UK adults by KAM, in partnership with marketing agency Ignite, showed young consumers are less driven by offers and prefer loyalty apps, while older consumers like to be rewarded for visits and prefer physical loyalty cards. It said people aged 18 to 34 years, who are less bothered by offers than other age groups, instead want to be made to feel special for being a member. The 35 to 54-year-olds are much more offer-led, with 48% signing up to special offer schemes and 73% saying they like being rewarded for every visit. Those aged 55 and above care more about simplicity, with 64% saying they like loyalty schemes that are easy to use. Almost a third (30%) of the same age group said a physical card would make them use the scheme more, while the same number of the youngest group said an app would do the same for them. An overwhelming majority (90%) of all respondents said they would be happy to share personal information, dietary requirements or preferences if it meant they’d get more personalised offers and perks. Just over half (52%) added they would like to get discounts on certain menu items, while other popular perks included surprise rewards on arrival, priority booking and member-only offers. KAM marketing director Katie Jenkins said:. “In the current climate particularly, driving loyalty is absolutely critical for hospitality brands. Loyalty schemes are evolving fast, and this research confirms that a simple discount isn’t enough to keep most customers engaged with your brand and coming back for more.”
UKHospitality – extension of late-night levy powers ‘frustrating’, renews calls for abolition: UKHospitality has called the Home Office’s extension of late-night levy powers “frustrating” and renewed calls for the scheme’s abolition. The law around late-night levies has been adapted so they can apply only to specific geographic areas rather than a whole council area as at present. Local authorities will also be able to apply the levy to businesses offering late-night refreshment like cafés and takeaways, as well as to those serving alcohol. “It’s really frustrating the Home Office has proceeded with this extension of late-night levy powers, particularly when the evidence base is seven years old and horribly out of date,” said UKHospitality chief executive Kat Nicholls. “Introducing more powers for local authorities to implement the levy and making more venues eligible to pay is a damaging blow to the late-night economy. Given the challenging economic circumstances businesses face, the government should be focused on reducing regulation and easing cost burdens. I would continue to urge the government to show that it’s on the side of businesses and abolish the levy as soon as possible.” Nik Antona, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), added: “These changes are a step in the right direction, allowing councils to make sure they can apply to a smaller area like a city centre rather than penalising business across the whole council area. However, CAMRA is still calling on the government to abolish the unfair scheme completely due to its detrimental impact on well run and responsible pubs, social clubs and taprooms. The best way to tackle the problems of safety in the night-time economy is for councillors, the police and hospitality business to work closely together to tackle local issues – not through a punitive and blunt measure that applies to businesses even if they don’t open late into the night or aren’t a source of anti-social behaviour.” 
Majority of consumers prefer to use technology in venues compared to minority pre-pandemic, tech-savvy guests both going out and spending more: A majority of consumers now prefer to use technology in venues compared with a minority pre-pandemic, new research has shown. The latest GO Technology report from Zonal and CGA by NIQ reveals 71% of people now prefer to use technology, either exclusively or in tandem with human interaction, when eating or drinking out. In comparison, in 2020, just 43% of consumers had used apps or other solutions to order and pay in the months following hospitality’s post-lockdown reopening. This was double the number who did so before the pandemic. The survey of more than 5,000 UK adults also highlighted the fact 55% of consumers think striking a balance between human interaction and technology provides the best experience in venues. Of those who prefer a tech presence in venues, 41% eat out at least weekly and spend, on average, £24 a month more on eating and drinking out than those who prefer human interaction. The report also showed demand for technology in hospitality is focused on the pre-dining stage such as booking reminders (60%), cancelling a booking (51%) and pre-visit enquiries (35%). When asked about the benefits of technology, 50% said speed, followed by convenience (49%), ease of use (40%), feeling less pressured (38%) and accuracy (24%). However, nearly three in five still want to place orders and settle bills face-to-face, and have their food and drink prepared by people. Olivia FitzGerald, chief sales and marketing officer at Zonal, said: “The role of technology in hospitality is clearly growing rapidly in a post-pandemic market, but this doesn’t mean that we all want hospitality that’s all about robots and automated processes. In fact, it’s more important than ever not to underestimate the importance of human connection.” Karl Chessell, director hospitality operators and food EMEA at CGA by NIQ, added: “It is clear many people now want the option to use digital solutions at every step, and the number will only grow.”

Live sport boosts pub spend, dwell time and loyalty: Live sport increases spend and dwell time in pubs, and loyalty to such venues, new research from Sky Business and CGA by NIQ shows. The survey of 500 consumers who watch live sport revealed 87% stay out longer when a live game is on and 75% watch with a bigger group than they’d normally socialise with. Furthermore, people who watch live events spend 36% more on eating and drinking out per month than those who do not, and 89% are more likely to revisit a venue if they know it screens sport. The report also features an in-depth survey of pub landlords, managers and owners, with 82% believing some guests would go elsewhere if they stopped screening games, while 48% plan to screen more games over the next few months. Andy Dean, CGA by NIQ’s client director – hospitality operators and food, said: “With businesses and households alike facing major cost pressures, it’s more important than ever to provide compelling reasons to eat and drink out, and investing in live sport is an excellent way to keep people coming through the doors.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a restaurant group in London seeking a general manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will work with committed investors, and they will provide all the necessary support. They are looking for a commercially savvy general manager who can look at holes in the operation and make changes, and lead and inspire the team with the freedom to build your team around you and create an experience. You will run the business almost like it’s your own – the site has the potential to take more money. You will need to show real ambition and have a strong background of floor and bar management and lead from the front.” The salary is up to £100,000 and the position is based in central London. For more information on the role, email

Company News:

Middletons Steakhouse & Grill explores options: Gastro Pubs, the parent company of the Middletons Steakhouse & Grill, has appointed advisors as it explores options for the business, Propel has learned. The Stephen Hutton-led company is understood to be working with advisors at Interpath on its options, which is thought to include a possible sale of the business. The company opened its first Middletons Steakhouse and Grill in King’s Lynn in 2010. Its other sites are in Chelmsford, Colchester, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Norwich and Peterborough. Earlier this year it closed its site in Leamington Spa, just over a year after its launch. The opening marked a debut in the West Midlands for the business when it opened on the former Gusto Italian site in Regent Court last February, after a £500,000 investment. More recently, it closed its site in Cambridge’s Bridge Street. The company reported turnover for the year to 1 May 2022 of £11,120,310 (2021: £4,394,409), and a pre-tax loss of £659,678 (2021: loss of £38,740). Gastro Pubs and Interpath declined to comment. Middletons features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £11,120,310 for the year to 1 May 2022 is the 445th 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 to upgrade your subscription.

Morgan – we will continue to review targets for acquisitions, won’t rule out a standalone Super Nonna site: Alan Morgan, chief executive of The Big Table Group has told Propel the business is one of the best capitalised restaurant groups in the UK and it will continue to review targets for acquisition. It comes as Morgan said the group, was “really pleased” with how Banana Tree, the fast-casual pan-Asian brand that the business acquired last September, is performing. Morgan told Propel: “We’re one of the best capitalised restaurant groups in the UK, so we’re always open to hearing about potential opportunities. We’re not in any hurry, but we will continue to review targets for acquisition. That said, we’ve already got some great brands that we feel still have really good potential, both in terms of sales growth and site growth, so this is our major focus. We’re really pleased with how Banana Tree is performing. The pan-Asian offering and wide range of meat-free options aligns well with key consumer trends, and we’re excited about the opportunity to grow the brand. Our initial approach has been to identify sites in our existing portfolio that we think will have a bigger upside operating as Banana Tree, and we’ve converted sites in Covent Garden, The O2, Haywards Heath and Reigate so far. We will evaluate the performance of our conversions to understand future rollout options, and the early indications from the trial are very positive.” Following a successful test last year, the company, which also operates Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, has rolled out its pasta delivery brand Super Nonna into more than 60 of its sites. It will be fully rolled out to more than 80 sites this summer. Morgan said: “We built this brand to take advantage of a gap in the delivery market as well as make our existing kitchens more efficient. While it’s unlikely we will open a standalone site soon, I wouldn’t rule it out.” Earlier this week, the company reported an “encouraging” performance in the first half of its current financial year to April 2023, with sales up 9% year-on-year (excluding prior year VAT benefit). The Epiris-backed company said trading Ebitda is “well-ahead of the prior year and ahead of expectations, even after accounting for significant additional energy costs”.

Loungers has scope to further accelerate roll out but it’s about ‘having the people in place’: Nick Collins, chief executive of café bar operator Loungers, has told Propel there is scope to further accelerate its roll out, but it’s about “making sure we can deliver operational excellence” at each venue. The business is set to expand its opening rate from 29 sites to 34 next year and had identified potential for at least 600 Lounges across the UK. Speaking following the company’s full-year results where it delivered record turnover of £283.5m, Collins said it has the capability to increase the opening rate further but “it’s about having the people in place”. Towards the end of the year, Loungers restructured its site salaried team’s pay, transferring some cash away from potential bonus awards and increasing salaries across the board, resulting in an average 11% salary increase. For hourly paid staff, the company said it continues to pay “slightly above average rates” and maintain its appeal through benefits. The year also saw a record number of promotions from people working at site level into its operations team. Collins said: “It’s because of our teams that we are able to deliver these industry-leading figures and we want to make sure that is recognised. The great thing about Loungers is that it works in so many different places. Seven of our top ten performing sites are in coastal locations, but our venues are delivering across the board, and that’s because we continue to evolve the business. Looking at that 600 number and how we get to it – all those locations we’re targeting are definite for us, so there’s every possibility we could go beyond that figure.” Collins said the nature of the Cosy Club format has seen the business revise its estate target from 100 to between 50 and 65 sites. “The business is performing very well and makes up 22% of overall sales,” he added. “It’s suited to city centre locations and larger market towns, and we just feel those numbers are more realistic. But we’re still looking to double the size of the current estate. We’ve got Oxford opening soon and we’re confident that will trade really well.” Collins said its two openings under roadside concept Brightside at Exeter and Saltash are trading well after a slow start and he is excited about their prospects as the summer holidays approach. He added: “We’ve learned the local community trade is just as important as the passing motorist. There has also been some legacy loyalty to the brand [Route Restaurant Group] that operated there previously, which caught us a bit by surprise, and was a bit more of a value-based proposition. Speed of service is something else we’ve had to learn to grasp, and offering pizza for the first time has been a steep learning curve.”

Bone Daddies MD – on track for another record-breaking year of top line revenue: Steve Hill, managing director of Bone Daddies Group, has told Propel that the business is on track for “another record-breaking year of top line revenue in FY23, as well as an improved bottom line conversion”. Hill said the company, which operates seven sites under its eponymous brand across the capital along with Shack-Fuyu and Flesh & Buns, planned further openings. The group said it is in advanced legal proceedings for a new Bone Daddies in Leicester Square, slated to commence trading in September, and is “actively seeking out new sites to add to its 2024 pipeline”. Hill said: “We are still very happy with current trading, particularly the ramen arm of our business, which is enjoying amazing growth beyond even our positive expectations on covers and net sales. Like-for-like the business overall is in double digit growth for sales and covers, so we are on track for another record-breaking year of top line revenue in FY23, as well as an improved bottom line conversion. As a London-centric business, there are 12-plus months of strikes baked within these numbers, which makes them all the more pleasing. There has been an improvement on staff turnover, which is circa 10% lower year to date than FY22, as well as material improvement around retention of one-year plus service and the percentage of probationers we are retaining. All indicators suggest we have made great inroads from our recruiting and retention strategies, which we believe are the underlying driver of the positive results. Food quality and innovation remains firmly at the front of our teams’ minds, giving our guests good reason to visit versus the temptation to try to discount through a tough trading environment. There is no doubt more disruption is around the corner, and the focus will remain on what is right for our team and guests, which I’m confident will help overcome whatever is thrown at our industry.” It comes as the business achieved record revenue of £17,319,850 for the year ending 30 September 2022, which represented a 57.54% increase on the £10,993,919 reported in FY21. Pre-tax losses in the period narrowed from £528,378 to £348,378. The company said it saw “another year of positive Ebitda” despite the significant challenges throughout. It said: “Our three brands enjoyed consistent demand throughout the financial year as we successfully adjusted to the new cost pressures. During the year, we opened Flesh & Buns Kensington, but it became apparent quickly post launch that the location was better suited as a Bone Daddies, so we took an early decision to rebrand and are pleased to report the site is now performing to expectation and gaining momentum each week.”
200 Degrees MD – first quarter like-for-likes up 12%, landlords acknowledging customers want something different than the bigger players: Stephen Fern, managing director of 200 Degrees, the Foresight-backed coffee roaster and retailer, has told Propel that the business has seen a 12% increase in like-for-like sales in the first quarter of its current financial year as it gears up to open its 20th site. The business, which is looking to open five sites in its current financial year to the end of next March, will open in West Bridgford next Saturday (22 July). It is rumoured to have fought off several larger chains to secure what will be its fourth shop in Nottingham. Fern told Propel: “We’ve just finished the first quarter of our current financial year and we are 12% up on last year in terms of like-for-likes. That’s a combination of both transaction volume being up around 9% and average transaction value being up around 3%. As with a lot of coffee shops, when it’s 25 degrees or above, people choose not to drink hot coffee, but July has started pretty well as the weather has cooled a little bit. Our wholesale business is going from strength to strength. We’ve got 12 machine installs in July already, and the coffee volumes continue to grow. Online coffee sales and subscriptions continue to grow, which is really positive, and with our barista schools, we are at around 200 places a month. The newest one in Chester has started really well. Our cost base is still being impacted, but from a trading perspective, things are going well.” In terms of expansion, Fern said the business has two more sites in the pipeline for this financial year. He said: “Hopefully one of them will happen in terms of opening before the end of this year, and the other one early next year, and then potentially a fifth before March as well. We have also got two more deals lined up for our next financial year, and one of them will be the furthest north we have so far been. We’re looking to expand in the north west, Yorkshire, the Midlands and then move down the M5 corridor a little bit and the East Midlands. I am off to Market Harborough later this week and we’ve looked at Milton Keynes. We would never say never to any location, but one of the key things is how easy is it to operationalise? How far is it from the head office and how do we make sure we can embed the culture and the values of the business and oversee it from a geographical distance? Thankfully, more and more landlords are acknowledging that customers want and deserve something slightly different and slightly better than the bigger players in the market, and we offer that.”

Kaspa’s gearing up for Morocco launch: Dessert franchise concept Kaspa’s in gearing up to launch in Morocco – its second overseas market – in the next fortnight. Kent-based Costa franchisee Goldex Investments, which last year become the first UK-based Costa franchise to develop the coffee chain abroad by signing for a site in Marrakesh, will operate the site, which will be in the same city. As with its Costa operations in the country, Goldex will then take Kaspa’s to Casablanca too. Kaspa’s founder Azhar Rehman said: “Here we come Morocco. It has been a real challenge to get this over the line (almost one year), but learnt so much from it and hopefully better prepared for the launch of the second site in Casablanca in the coming months.” Bud Hemachandra, head of operations at Goldex Investments, added: “Kaspa’s is opening the first store in Morocco very soon! If you are visiting Marrakech, it’s going to be located next to our Costa Coffee store in Menara Mall.” Kaspa’s entered its first overseas market in 2020 with an opening in Islamabad. It has grown to more than 100 UK sites since being founded in 2013. In December, Rehman told Propel he sees a runway for up to 500 UK sites, with his next rollout focused on smaller stores and kiosks.

Former Premier League footballer invests in Iberica, backs two other restaurant ventures: Former Premier League footballer Gaizka Mendieta has been revealed as an investor in Spanish restaurant group Iberica – which operates six restaurants in London and Leeds – as well as backing two other sector ventures. The former Spanish international, who spent four years with Middlesbrough between 2003 and 2007, is now part of a group producing high quality cuisine from his homeland, reports City AM. Mendieta is one of several investors in Iberica, which works with Michelin-starred chef Nacho Manzano. He is also a backer of paella-focused London concept Arros QD, as well as a third venture, Mercado Central in Cambridge. “I saw the business opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in something that was real. I love not only the food, but the learning. I try to be involved as much as I can in the projects, from selecting venues, how we design the space – not so much on the chefs – but I like to have input. I’ve always been intrigued by business. With food, I was a client of Iberica, and over time I got to know some of the shareholders. The opportunity came there and I took it. The food took me to the business, but I love both. People from Valencia who live in London come and congratulate us. Believe me, for Valencia people to do that means a lot. I’ve grown up with paella. I never thought it would be part of my business life eventually, but there you are.” In January, Iberica managing director Marcos Fernandez Pardo told Propel he is looking to secure funding to open 25 restaurants in Spain over a five-year period.

McGinty’s Group increases turnover but makes a loss: Aberdeen operator McGinty’s Group increased its turnover but made a loss in the year ending 30 September 2022. The eight-strong group, founded in 2009, reported turnover for the period of £7,925,868, up from £5,494,980 in 2021. But a pre-tax profit of £529,692 in 2021 turned into a £80,049 loss. It is only the second year that the group has filed full accounts, so no pre-pandemic comparison is available. The group received £59,900 in government grants compared with £1,057,233 in 2021. Net assets dropped from £1.2m to £1.14m, but loan repayments during the year saw bank borrowing decrease from £3.2m to £2.9m. Co-owner and founding director Allan Henderson said: “The loss before tax has decreased in comparison with last year, mainly due to decreased covid funding. Overhead and interest costs have increased by 25.4% from £4.43m to £5.55m. This percentage increase is an acceptable level given the above increase in trading.” In June, the group received the green light to again put up its No 10 Bar and Restaurant summer marquee in the public park at Aberdeen’s Queen’s Terrace Gardens, despite some objections.
Ellen Chew partners with London’s Empire Casino for new Chinese kitchen concept: Singaporean restaurateur Ellen Chew has partnered with London’s Empire Casino for a new Chinese kitchen concept. 7th Cat Dim Sum Bar is named after the number seven serving as a prosperous symbol for gaming and gambling in China. It provides customers at the Leicester Square casino with authentic Asian comfort cuisine “right on the casino floor”, serving a wide variety of dim sum alongside favourites such as Cantonese aged roast duck and pork belly. Chew said: “There is such variety and depth to Chinese food – at 7th Cat, we are giving people the highlights of the favourites we have come to love over generations. 7th Cat is designed for vibrancy and for a quick-fix unique sensory experience.” Chew, who launched Singaporean restaurant Rasa Sayang in London’s Chinatown in 2008, oversees the Chew On This restaurant group, which has a growing portfolio of contemporary halal Singaporean and Chinese eateries. In a busy 2022, she launched second Shan Shui and Arome Bakery sites and a third Mrs Chew’s Chinese Kitchen location.
London chicken and vegan wings concept to open fifth site tomorrow, plans to double estate by end of 2023: London chicken and vegan wings concept WNGZ is set to open its fifth site tomorrow (Friday, 14 July) and plans to double its estate by the end of 2023. It will open at 365 Mile End Road, which has previously been home to Doner Station and Mama’s Pizza & Grill. WNGZ, led by co-founders Arif Ahmed and Zahirul Islam, already has outlets in Stratford, Poplar, Camden and Clapton – the latter site having only opened in March. As well as halal and American-style grilled chicken and wings, it also offers cauliflower and jackfruit options, with each portion accompanied by one of WNGZ’s signature sauces. A spokesman for the concept told BDaily: “WNGZ has garnered a loyal customer base within the London culinary scene a little over a year after its inception. With further expansion with the WNGZ Mile End launch, the team aims to bring its extraordinary flavours to new communities across the busy city.”
Maki & Ramen lines up second site in England, in Leeds: Edinburgh-based, Japanese restaurant concept Maki & Ramen is lining up a second opening in England, in Leeds. Propel understands that the eight-strong business, which was founded by Teddy Lee in 2013, has lined up an opening on the ex-Pret A Manger site in the city’s Bond Street. Earlier this year, the company made its debut south of the border when it opened a site in York Street, in Manchester’s Piccadilly area. It most recently opened a second site in Glasgow, in the city’s Renfield Street, on a former Cook and Indi’s World Buffet unit. Maki & Ramen also currently operates five sites in Edinburgh and another in Glasgow. The business bills itself as “Scotland’s favourite Japanese dining experience”.
Rosa’s to open Oxford site next month: Rosa’s Thai, which is backed by TriSpan, will open its new site in Oxford next month. As revealed by Propel in May, the Gavin Adair-led company is opening in the former Busaba premises in the city’s George Street. The 80-cover restaurant will launch on Saturday, 5 August. Adair said: “We’ve just celebrated our 15th anniversary and what better way to keep the party going than by opening this beautiful restaurant. We’re so happy to be joining the vibrant food scene in Oxford.” The circa 35-strong Rosa’s will open its latest site on the former Bill’s unit in Leamington Spa this month. The company has also secured the ex-Hungry Buddha site and a neighbouring retail unit in Guildford’s Friary Street,for a further opening later this year. Rosa’s also recently confirmed it also had openings lined up in Reading at the Jacksons Corner scheme. Propel understands Rosa’s has also secured a site in Edinburgh and is in talks on a site in Bristol, as it continues to grow its national presence.
Aparthotel operator Roomzzz reports trading environment remains ‘somewhat challenging’ as turnover exceeds pre-pandemic levels: Aparthotel operator Roomzzz, which operates 11 sites across the UK, has said the trading environment remains “somewhat challenging” as it reported revenue exceeding pre-covid levels. The company reported turnover increased 49% to £14,891,207 for the year ending 30 September 2022 compared with £9,998,209 the previous year. Revenue also exceeded the £12,010,777 reported for the year ending 30 September 2019 – the last full year before the pandemic. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £770,405 from £999,963 the previous year (2019: profit of £417,411). In his report accompanying the accounts, director Nadeem Ahmed stated: “The overall environment is improving but still remains somewhat challenging, driven by a systemic reduction in business travel since covid as well as more recently the cost-of-living crisis and near term prospects of a recession. However, the business is resilient and will adapt as necessary with measures including, but not limited to, its mix of short stay and long stay custom.” At the end of the period, Roomzzz owed £210,558 that was borrowed under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (2021: £250,000). The company did not receive any government grants (2021: £354,357). No dividend was paid (2021: nil). The business opened its 11th site, in Edinburgh, in April this year.
Chef Richard Corrigan opens National Portrait Gallery restaurant: Chef Richard Corrigan has opened his new restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery. Corrigan has partnered with restaurateur and events caterer Searcy’s to launch The Portrait Restaurant. The top-floor 70-cover venue features a six-seater kitchen counter, open kitchen and bar area. Dishes include sweet and sour tomato scarpinocc; a reinvention of the classic vol-au-vent but filled with haddock and brown crab; and a prawn cocktail and clam ceviche with pickled ginger and lime. The bar area offers a concise wine list and classic cocktails alongside an all-day snack menu, including a smoked fish and charcuterie selection.
Plans to develop Hard Rock Café alongside aparthotel in York receive approval: Plans to develop a Hard Rock Café alongside an aparthotel in York have been given the green light. Property developer North Star announced in May 2022 that it had secured the rights to bring the Hard Rock Café brand to Yorkshire. It plans to redevelop a former TK Maxx unit in Coney Street to include a Hard Rock Café and Rock Shop on the ground floor, with the upper floors becoming a 64-bedroom aparthotel operated by Room2. City of York Council’s planning committee has now voted to approve the applications, reports Insider Media. In January, Hard Rock Cafe UK said it is aiming to return to pre-pandemic levels of revenue by 2024. Accounts for the UK arm of the business showed that in the year ending 31 December 2021, turnover rose from £8,287,000 in 2020 to £12,733,000 but is still some way off the last full pre-pandemic figure of £30,762,000 in 2019. Pre-tax losses grew from £10,409,000 in 2020 to £18,249,000 (2019: loss of £1,154,000). Hard Rock Cafe has UK sites in London, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Edinburgh hotel and serviced apartment group returns to profit as revenue increase 107%, agrees new banking facilities: Edinburgh hotel and serviced apartment group CSG Commercial returned to profit in the year to 30 June 2022 as revenue increased 107% and it agreed several new banking facilities. The group, led by Christopher Stewart and which also has a property development portfolio, turned a £234,242 pre-tax loss in 2021 into a £267,074 profit. This compares with a loss of £927,587 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 30 June 2019. Turnover rose from £6,652,447 in 2021 to £13,796,972, “largely to do with the coronavirus restrictions easing” (2019: £6,378,293). The 2022 figure included £7,447,176 from food and beverage sales, £3,503,042 from room sales and guest services and £1,945,349 from property management and consultancy services. The company received £157,044 in government grants compared with £1,388,155 in 2021. No dividends were paid. Rooms sold increased from 8,384 in 2021 to 12,719, with average room rate up from £163.98 to £264.88. Occupancy rates rose from 45.94% to 69.69%, with revpar up from £75.33 to £184.61. During the year, two new facilities for £7.6m and £4.6m were agreed for two group companies, with drawdowns commencing. A group company that is developing an AC by Marriott Hotel in Glasgow continued drawing down on its £16.5m RBS facility, while a further £6m was drawn down from a sale and leaseback agreement entered into in 2019. The Bon Vivant Group companies renegotiated the payment terms on its government backed loans, extending the repayment schedules out to 2030 and 2031. Stewart said: “The group traded well in the year, with all group trading companies continuing to recover from the effects of the pandemic and several development projects ongoing.” In June 2023, CSG Hotels and Apartments purchased the share capital of subsidiary company St Andrew Square (Property) for a market value of £2.

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