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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 18th Jul 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate first half managed like-for-likes up 6.1%, agrees new credit facility: Stonegate Group saw like-for-like sales across its managed estate increase 6.1% in the 28 weeks to 9 April 2023, as it agreed a new £50m credit facility, Propel has learned. The David McDowall-led, TDR Capital-backed, group’s leased and tenanted division generated a 5.3% increase in like-for-like sales over the same period. The company, which operates circa 4,500 sites, said Craft Union, its fast-growing, operator-led business, which reached the 500-site mark earlier this year, “continues to impress and delivered a standout performance” with like-for-like sales up 14.7%. Total revenue for the period was £904m (2022: £827m) versus £1.61bn in the 52 weeks ended 25 September 2022. Of the £904m, its managed segment contributed £545m (28 weeks 2022: £504m, 52 weeks 2022: £976m), while its leased and tenanted pubs contributed £215m (28 weeks 2022: £214m, 52 weeks 2022: £416m) and its operator-led segment contributed £144m (28 weeks 2022: £109m, 52 weeks 2022: £219m). During the period, the business reported adjusted Ebitda of £182m (28 weeks 2022: £195m, 52 weeks 2022: £400m) and operating profit of £139m (28 weeks 2022: £152m, 52 weeks 2022: £118m). Pre-tax loss for the period was £30m (28 weeks 2022: loss of £1m, 52 weeks 2022: loss of £130m). During the half year, the group spent £86m (2022: £49m) on expansionary, conversion and maintenance capital. It disposed of 29 trading sites, six non-trading sites and two non-licensed properties for net proceeds of £18m. At 9 April 2023, the group had net assets of £89m (10 April 2022: net assets of £235m, 25 September 2022: net assets of £109m). Group cash at the quarter end was £83m, of which £23m is held within the Unique securitisation, and it had access to a further £67m from its revolving credit facility (RCF) and a further £25m overdraft facility. The company said: “On 7 March 2023, the group agreed an additional £50m RCF A facility, the terms being consistent with the existing facility expiring in September 2024. The group also agreed, on 16 March 2023, an extension of the £23m RCF B facility to September 2024 in line with the A facility.” McDowall said: “Our pubs continue to demonstrate their resilience in the current economic environment, achieving good levels of like-for-like revenue growth across all of our trading formats. We continue to see attractive returns from our capital investment programme within our organic estate and the pub disposals we have undertaken have achieved strong multiples ahead of expectation. The cost inflation experienced over the last 12 months is beginning to abate, particularly energy, and we are seeing improving momentum in group profit performance. In addition, we have identified opportunities to deliver further Ebitda growth and have a number of initiatives underway to deliver this over the coming months. Overall, the group is trading well and continues to grow market share. We have a great business with the scale and operational excellence to succeed, sufficient liquidity and one of the most capable teams of talented, driven and passionate people in the sector to deliver on our objectives. We have made good progress in the first half and remain confident of delivering future growth and excited about the opportunities ahead for Stonegate Group.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Airship launches ‘Airship Loyalty’ allowing hospitality brands to create a digital profile for all their guests without the need for an app: Airship, The hospitality CRM, has launched its second booster of The Booster Brigade series: “Airship Loyalty”. A spokesperson said: “It works as a digital profile accessible across all your consumer’s devices without the need for an app. It brings together all of the vouchers, gifts, discounts and promotions available to them in connection with your brand. Airship Loyalty is automatically created for each customer upon sign-up to a brand’s marketing database, meaning all customers can be targeted with ‘surprise and delight’ loyalty, not just a chosen few.” Airship Loyalty is half price until 31 August. Click here to find out more. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Leisure TV Rights MD Lisa Buckley to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Lisa Buckley, managing director of Leisure TV Rights, the experiential leisure operator, 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. Buckley will talk about the development of the Ninja Warrior concept, working with TV-related formats, continual evolution of games and its expansion plans. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email
Latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to feature more than 187,000 words of content: The latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature more than 187,000 words of content when it is released to Premium subscribers on Friday (21 July). The database now features 715 companies, and this month’s edition includes 22 new additions and 75 updated entries. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; and the 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.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a beer brand that also has a third retail site in the pipeline, which is looking for a part-time group financial controller (25-30 hours per week). A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will have great numeric knowledge matched by an incredible personality to join this fast-moving and exciting project to oversee its financial functions.” The salary is up to £55,000 (pro rata) and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Morris – London continues to be extremely vibrant, we feel costs have plateaued: Richard Morris, chief executive of Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, has told Propel that London “continues to be extremely vibrant” and that the business is “performing incredibly well in the capital”. Morris was speaking after the 85-strong Tortilla reported “resilient trading” for its half year ended 2 July 2023, with group like-for-like revenue increasing by 8.4% during the period. He told Propel: “Our business is performing incredibly well in the capital and it is underlining our purchasing of Chilango, because the concern around working from home and all of those things really seems to have eased. It feels like its three and a half/four day-week now rather than a three-day week. Monday and Friday numbers have picked up, while our Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday numbers are very big. If you stripped out the disasters of train strikes and the like, which do have an impact on us, that performance would have been storming. We are really pleased that London has been very resilient and has come out of the whole covid thing in a really strong place. Outside of London, it has been more difficult. We continue to trade well, but if you’re comparing it to London, it’s slightly less in terms of sales on a like-for-like basis. Unsurprisingly, when you have all these huge costs that are having an impact, there are certain parts of the country that are more seriously affected than others. We notice that but overall, we’re encouraged by the topline.” Morris said the company “definitely feel that costs have plateaued”. He said: “We have done some good work with our supply chain and we have a couple of things launching over the next couple of months which will help us further, just clever ways of buying and working closely with suppliers. On costs, nothing has gone up, but nothing really materially has come down. You have to find ways around it and become a little bit more creative.” At the same time, he said the business was in talks to open further franchise sites with SSP, with its site at Bristol airport “literally breaking records every week”. He said: “On the overall market, we don’t think things are going to change dramatically in the short term. I think it’s going to be quite challenging. But people are still travelling, so however tough it is, we don’t want to cancel our holidays, and I think that’s interesting. People will still want to get away, but there’ll be a lot of tourists in the UK because of the strength of the pound. We’re doing incredible numbers at Bristol airport, Gatwick is exactly the same. We’ve just opened one in Manchester Piccadilly train station, and that’s doing more than we anticipated it would do.” 

Harrison – starting Tossed again following administration made us super-focused and hyper-dynamic, only recently knew it would work: Tossed brand director Angela Harrison has said starting the healthy eating brand again following administration has made its owners “super-focused and hyper-dynamic” and they “only recently knew it would work”. Founded by Vince McKevitt and Neil Sebba a decade ago, the then 16-strong brand went into administration during covid before being bought by Sebba and Harrison, who were previously managing director and commercial director. It has since grown back to 12 stores, having opened two new flagship London locations in April. Harrison said she went from managing a team of five in a head office of 18 to managing nobody in a head office of five, and doing all the work she used to sign off. “In some ways, it’s refreshing, and it’s made us all incredibly efficient because if something’s not worth doing, we don’t, as we don’t have the time or capacity,” she told the This is my Playbook podcast. “It’s made us super-focused and hyper-dynamic in terms of what we do, and the goal of getting the business to a place where it’s sustainable going forward. To be honest, that moment where we knew it was going to work was only fairly recently. If we’d known in August 2020 that a year and a half later we’d only just be coming out of restrictions, would we still have made that decision? Probably, but it wasn’t in our plan.” Harrison said the change in London’s working patterns made it difficult for the old company to survive when the effects of covid became clear. “It became apparent that London was a very different place, and that what Tossed needed was people coming through the doors, which tended to be people working in offices,” she said. “We did the work to reopen stores, got the team members and food in, and it became apparent rather quickly that the business we’d built up wasn’t going to survive in its current form, which was devastating. We tried to do everything we could to rescue it, but if you don’t have the people coming through the doors, you can’t pay your bills or your team. Neil then phoned me up and said, to paraphrase, ‘I’m not having this’. He said he thought there was still a future there for the brand, buying it and starting again from scratch, so that’s what we did. I was at a time in my life where I was able to take a risk, so I invested my redundancy package back into the business and we did it.” Tossed features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 210 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription.
Wingstop says its UK target market is Generation Zers who like boxing and Love Island: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out Wingstop across the UK, has said it gets around 70% of its sales from Generation Zers and Millennials aged between 16 and 34. In an interview with Business Insider, the company, which recently opened its 35th UK site, at Grey’s Brewery Yard in Chelmsford, said its target market is young men who like boxing and the leisure store JD Sports, and young women who watch dating show Love Island. The chain is “leveraging youth culture”, including music, sport, influencers, and TikTok, to create an image of a “Generation Z-esque aspirational lifestyle”, Tom Grogan, one of Lemon Pepper’s co-founders, said. Grogan said Wingstop UK did engage in some paid partnerships, but focused on “curating authentic experiences”. The brand’s reputation in the US has made conversations with UK talent “easier”, he added. Grogan and his co-founders credited Wingstop’s success in the UK to their efforts to engage with British youth culture. When they brought Wingstop to the UK, they wanted to elevate the brand and remove its focus on combos and value deals, the executives said. They said they positioned the UK brand as a premium quick service restaurant for chicken, above KFC but below Nando’s and on the same level as Five Guys. The average order size is £13.50 (about $17) in store, and £21 (about $27) for takeout and delivery, they said. Its menu doesn't differ much from the US one. It sells bone-in wings, boneless wings, tenders, and burgers with a choice of ten flavours, the most popular being Spicy Korean Q and Hickory Smoked BBQ. The brand sells roughly the same number of boneless and bone-in wings, the executives said. Wings and fries make up 92% of its sales, they added. The company is looking to reach 40 sites and a revenue of more than £60m in the UK by the end of this year. 
EL&N makes its debut in Asia, opens second site in Italy: Cafe and lifestyle brand EL&N has made its debut in Asia, with an opening in Malaysia. Propel understands EL&N has opened a site in the Pavilion Mall, Kuala Lumpur. It is its 30th opening overall, with sites located in the UK, France, Italy and the Middle East. Last month, the brand opened its first store in Bahrain, at The Avenues Mall. At the same time, it opened its second site in Italy, and second in Milan, at the Piazza Gae Aulenti. In the spring, the business signed a franchise partnership agreement to launch in India. It agreed a franchise deal with Reliance Brands to open sites in the country, which will become its eighth market globally. In February, EL&N, which operates ten sites in London, signed a deal with Lagardère Travel Retail to launch franchise sites in travel locations. The business, which was founded in 2017 by Alexandra Miller, is set to strengthen its regional UK estate with an opening in Birmingham’s Bullring. EL&N, which made its UK regional debut in Scotland at the end of last year, opened a second site outside London, in Manchester’s Trafford Palazzo, in April.
Pizza Pilgrims lines up Leeds opening: Pizza Pilgrims, the pizzeria brand, has lined up an opening in Leeds, Propel understands that Pizza Pilgrims plans to open in the city’s Boar Lane, on the former Beer Hawk site, later this year. Pizza Pilgrims opened its latest site, in Queens Park, earlier this month and is now looking to further build its openings pipeline both in and outside the capital. Managing director Gavin Smith told Propel last week: “When we were only operating in Oxford, the challenge was in demonstrating the relevance of Pizza Pilgrims outside of London, but having opened in Brighton, Cambridge and Nottingham, we can see that picture clearer now. They are all trading well ahead of expectation, growing and being very well received locally. We are also looking for interesting sites in cities such as Bristol, Cardiff and Edinburgh, and we have just confirmed a location in Leeds, which we hope to open later this year.” Propel understands Pizza Pilgrims is also in talks on sites in the Battersea Power Station development, Paddington Square and King’s Cross. It will also invest more than £1m this financial year in refurbishing some of its existing sites. AG&G is understood to have acted on the Leeds deal.
Alan Armstrong steps down as group marketing director at Nightcap: Alan Armstrong has stepped down as group marketing director of Nightcap – the owner of The Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group, Dirty Martini and the Barrio Familia group of bars. Armstrong joined Nightcap last spring as marketing director of its Adventure Bar Group business before being promoted to group marketing director at the start of the year. He joined Nightcap after 13 years at Stonegate Group, including two different director of marketing roles. Last month, Nightcap entered into an agreement to acquire the ten-strong Dirty Martini business, plus Tuttons British Brasserie in London’s Covent Garden, for a consideration of up to £4.65m. The acquisition, which is made up of £4.15m in cash on completion and a further £500,000 payable based on certain conditions being met, is being undertaken as part of a pre-pack administration process of Dirty Martini’s parent companies.  
Turkish chef Burak Özdemir to bring restaurant brand to UK: Turkish chef Burak Özdemir is to bring his restaurant brand CZN Burak Gurme to the UK. Özdemir, known as Smiley Bae and CZN Burak, has a following of 72 million on TikTok and 48.9 million on Instagram. Now, the UK’s first franchise of CZN Burak Gurme will open in Bradford’s Great Horton Road. Inspired by authentic flavours of the Middle East, the menu includes breakfast and dinner options, reports the Bradford Telegraph & Argus. The 200-seater Bradford restaurant will be designed in the same way as CZN Burak Gurme in the Dubai Mall and will open towards the end of the summer. CZN Burak Gurme first opened across the Middle East and central Asia. Born in Hatay, Özdemir started his culinary career aged 13 by working at his father’s restaurant, Zeytindalı, in Istanbul.
Neighbourhood private members club concept lines up first site, targets five venues by 2028: The Dally, a new neighbourhood private members club concept, is to launch its first site later this year in London’s Islington. The Evening Standard reported the 4,000 square-foot site in Upper Street will feature a restaurant, lounge and bar and will offer a programme of events. It will be the first of five planned openings under the concept, which is the brainchild of Caroline Baldwin and Claire ilardi-Crow. Membership will be £65 per month and the target is for five clubs in the first five years. Areas being looked at include Dulwich and Wimbledon. Baldwin said: “Claire and I are on a mission to revolutionise the private club industry by creating stylish and inclusive clubs where members can connect, focus and socialise without having to leave their neighbourhood. We have big visions and plans for The Dally which we look forward to sharing with you. We’re on the brink of successfully closing our first investment raise.” Atif Amin, a former managing director of the Creams dessert cafe chain and ex-finance director at Big Easy Restaurants and Ping Pong, has also joined the business as its finance director. 
Calcot Health & Leisure uses proceeds of hotel sale to pay off majority of loans: Hotel and leisure group Calcot Health & Leisure said it has used the proceeds from the sale of the Barnsley House hotel in November 2021 to pay off the majority of its loans. The company, which also operates the Calcot Manor and Painswick hotels in the Cotswolds and The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel in Northumberland, sold the Cotswolds property, Barnsley House, to furniture brand Timothy Oulton for £1.4m in an off-market sale. In its accounts for the year ending 31 December 2022, the company said it used the proceeds to “repay all bank loans and non-bank loans, with the exception of a £6.5m loan, taken out in 2015 and payable by 2026, with a fixed interest rate of 3.322% per annum”. It comes as the company saw its pre-tax profit fall from £2,363,843 in 2021 to £376,649. In its accounts for the previous year, it said the “exceptional but nonetheless welcome” 2021 figure was due to “favourable conditions in the UK leisure market” alongside government grants and a reduced rate of VAT. The 2022 figure sees a return to pre-pandemic levels of profit, with £371,014 reported in the last full year before covid, ending 31 December 2019. Turnover of £13,003,317 was slightly down on £13,403,698 in 2021, but the 2021 figure included income from the hotel now sold (2019: £17,788,325). Director Richard Ball, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The result reflects the slightly less favourable conditions in the UK leisure market than 2021 which experienced travel restrictions, a staycation boom and favourable VAT rates. 2021 had also included the results of Barnsley House operations, which were sold in November 2021.” He added the company has moved to reduce its cost base by combining the two restaurants at Calcot into one unit.
Heineken invests £25m in sustainable technology at Manchester brewery: Heineken has invested £25m in new sustainable technology at its Manchester brewery. The investment will support Heineken’s global ambitions to reach net zero emissions across scopes 1 and 2 by 2030, including its UK production sites in Manchester, Tadcaster and Hereford. The cash, which includes a £3.7m government grant, will be used to install technology to capture heat from various sources, including on-site refrigeration units, and reuse it to power other brewing stages. Until now, gas has been used to generate the heat needed for parts of the process, and once completed, the installation will result in a circa 45% reduction in gas use at the site. Boudewijn Haarsma, managing director at Heineken UK, said: “We’ve been around for 150 years, and if we want to be here in another 150 years, we need to act now to deliver on our sustainability ambitions. In short, we want to brew a better world. With the city of Manchester’s ambition to reach net zero by 2038, we want to play our part in this journey for the city and share the learnings we gather along the way.” The work is due to complete by the end of 2024. Heineken’s Manchester brewery employs 240 people.
David Lloyd Leisure to invest £6.5m into relaunching Fulham site under new high-end concept: David Lloyd Leisure will invest £6.5m into relaunching its site in Fulham Broadway, west London, under its new high-end concept. An eight-month programme of works is underway to add a state-of-the-art gym, bespoke group class studios, kids’ areas, a refurbished 20-metre indoor pool and a spa retreat with five experience rooms to the 38,000 square-foot site. A new-look clubroom will also offer freshly cooked meals and drinks as well as a business lounge area. Kristen Westwood, general manager at David Lloyd Fulham, said: “There’s a huge buzz around this transformation, only our second concept design to be developed. The new club will be a luxurious and highly premium destination.” GCW and Nashbond acted for Fulham Broadway landlords CBRE Investment Management while David Lloyd dealt direct. It comes after David Lloyd earlier this month said it is eyeing overseas expansion as its owners explores its options, including a possible sale. Russell Barnes, chief executive of the brand, which has 130 outlets in nine countries, said his ambition is to increase the number of clubs, “particularly on the continent”. The group’s owners, private equity group TDR Capital, has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to look at its options, with a sale price of £2bn upwards being speculated. The business lost £51m before tax in 2021, less than half of the £108m the previous year, and Barnes said there been an “extraordinary” bounce-back, with membership back up to 730,000 – a 25% increase on pre-covid numbers.
Nando’s to open new London site this week: Nando’s will this week open a new site in London. It will open at The Sidings development at Waterloo station on Thursday, 20 July. CBRE acted on the deal.
Scottish hotel reports huge revenue boost and narrows losses following £9m loan and opening of 68 additional rooms: Cameron House Resort has reported a huge revenue boost and narrowed its losses in the year ending 31 December 2022 following a £9m loan from its parent company plus the opening of 68 additional rooms and banqueting space. The venue, on the banks of Loch Lomond in Balloch, Scotland, saw turnover rise from £8,384,000 in 2021 to £22,845,000. This compares with £4,682,000 in the last full year before covid, ending 31 December 2019. Its pre-tax loss narrowed from £6,769,000 in 2021 to £3,849,000 (2019: loss of £12,057,000). Director Stephen Walker, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The hotel traded as a 140-bedroom resort until October 2022 when an additional 68 bedrooms and significant banqueting space was added. The hotel extension project was funded by contributions from the company’s parent and through increased banking facilities from the company’s lender. The company has achieved strong average room rates and an increase in group business with the extension fully open. During 2022, the company’s parent made funding loans to the company totalling £9,482,000. The net assets of the company at 31 December 2022 were £23,022,000 (2021: £25,114,000).” Parent company Monroe Offshore Holdings provided funding in December 2022 and June 2023, with the final amount required “dependent on future trading performance”. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). No government grants were received (2021: £534,000). The venue fully reopened in September 2021 following a fatal fire in 2017, and pre-opening costs for the period came to £412,000 (2021: £660,000). Other exceptional costs of £317,000 included fire insurance claims (2021: nil). 
Roxy Leisure opens first King Pins site: Roxy Leisure has opened the first site for its King Pins family bowling concept. The operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room concepts has opened the site in Manchester’s Trafford Palazzo, offering 15 lanes of ten pin bowling and four lanes of duck pin bowling alongside shuffleboard, ice free curling, a batting cage, karaoke and arcade games. It also offers pizzas from PLY and Asian street food from Little Bao Boy alongside its own dessert kiosk, Royal Treats. A full-service bar serves a large selection of bottled and draught beer, including from Salford brewery Seven Bro7hers, alongside cocktails, alcohol-free options and homemade slushies. Prices for ten pin bowling start at £8 per adult and £6 per child, with duck pin bowling from £6 per adult and £4 per child. Prices for the karaoke, batting cage and ice-free curling begin at £16, and shuffleboard from £8, per 30 minutes. James Travis, brand manager of King Pins, said: “We’re excited to open and welcome people into King Pins at Trafford Palazzo. The venue has been in the works for a while, and we can’t wait to showcase everything we have on offer.” In April, Roxy Leisure managing director Matt Jones told Propel the company had another four King Pins sites in major cities and shopping centres in legals and would target six sites within the next two years. 
Crieff Hydro strengthens senior management team: Crieff Hydro, the eight-strong Scottish hotel operator led by Stephen Leckie, has strengthened its senior management team with three new appointments. The group has brought in Gavin Edwards as head of learning and development and promoted Ryan Gourlay to IT technical manager and Niall Kelly to IT operations manager. Edwards, who joins from Klarent Hospitality, will focus on employee retention, including an overhaul of the group’s onboarding process. He will also build on the company’s existing training and employee development programmes, reinvigorate its apprenticeship offering and further developing its manager and high-potential programmes. Gourlay joined Crieff Hydro in 2014 as an IT support technician after previously being apprentice at Microspec Computer. Kelly joined Crieff Hydro in 2016 as an IT support technician and will now oversee IT operations for its full family of hotels. Crieff Hydro chief executive Stephen Leckie said: “We are certain these key appointments will bring continued success to Crieff Hydro. We are proud of the fantastic employee culture we have created across our portfolio of hotels, and with the appetite for staycations remaining strong, there has never been a better time to pursue a career in Scotland’s hospitality sector.” Crieff Hydro reported turnover more than doubled from £12,101,867 to £28,653,594 in the year ending 28 February 2022 and is almost back to the pre-pandemic level of £32,944,315 (year ending 29 February 2020). A pre-tax loss of £3,246,089 in 2021 turned into a £3,122,956 profit, which was also up on the last pre-covid year (profit of £1,189,981). Leckie said the business was in “remarkably good shape” and “traded well whenever we could” but added that he saw FY22 as “a high point in the middle of a ‘W’ shaped recovery” and that it would be “hard pressed to even get close to 2019 levels of profitability” in FY23.
Sri Lankan concept secures first permanent site: Sri Lankan concept Karapincha has secured its first permanent site, in London’s Canary Wharf. The ten-cover, 350 square-foot site, located within Canary Wharf tube station, will open in August. It is owned by identical twin sisters Vasanthini and Dharshini Perumal, who gave up Canary Wharf-based careers in finance in 2018 to follow in the entrepreneurial foodie footsteps of their parents. The pair currently operate Karapincha from food markets at Spitalfields Market, Elephant & Castle’s Mercato Metropolitano and Market Place Vauxhall. Dishes will include kothu roti, paratha, rice boxes and devilled chicken, plus the group’s first breakfast offer, featuring French toast, Ceylon tea and ham and cheese-stuffed roti. “We are thrilled to be taking the next step in Karapincha’s journey at Canary Wharf”, said Vasanthini. “This more permanent site is a significant milestone for us, and the location itself carries such personal significance as our former workplace, where we spent so many years being the commuters walking through the tube station to whom we will now be serving delicious authentic, homemade Sri Lankan dishes. Family traditions are central to our business – we serve the dishes that our mother loved to cook – and we hope that, when they walk through our doors, Canary Wharf shoppers, office workers and locals will feel like they are being welcomed into our home.”
Five Star Kitchen winner launches new Caribbean restaurant at The Langham in London: Dom Taylor, the winner of Channel 4’s Five Star Kitchen, has launched Caribbean restaurant The Good Front Room at The Langham hotel in London. Taylor was crowned the winner in the programme’s grand finale, which aired over the weekend, and which having been judged by the hotel’s culinary director Michel Roux Jr, sees the winning chef awarded their own restaurant there. The Good Front Room, located in The Langham’s Palm Court, showcases Taylor’s cooking style influences, from his Caribbean heritage to his south London upbringing, while its name is influenced by his great aunt Myrtle, whose front room was “always immaculately set up to receive very special guests”. Dishes include curry goat with fried breadfruit and roti; dark rum-glazed pork belly with pickled raisins and cho cho, charred hispi cabbage and thyme salt crackling; and banana leaf-baked sea bream with lemongrass, pimento and ginger. Among the drinks are world wine and Caribbean-inspired cocktails. Roux Jr said: “With Five Star Kitchen,  we set out to find a hidden gem of a chef with an original vision to revolutionise five-star dining and to launch an exciting new restaurant at The Langham. Dom’s concept is personal, it’s what makes it unique.” Taylor added: “It is a dream come true to open a restaurant at such a prestigious address as The Langham. The modern Caribbean menu we are serving brings something new to the world of five-star hotel dining in London.” The Good Front Room will be open for six months until January.
Bristol operator Bianchis Group closes debut restaurant: Bristol operator Bianchis Group has closed Pasta Loco, the debut restaurant it opened in 2016 before going on to launch others including Pasta Ripiena, Bianchis and Cotto. Owners Ben Harvey and Dom Borel warned in February they would have to raise prices or close sites, saying their landlord at Pasta Loco originally demanded a 70% rent increase, which they fought down to 40%. At Bianchis, they said energy bills had increased from £1,500 per month to £4,500 per month. But the pair also blamed council bureaucracy for the closure, saying a local pedestrianisation scheme has been “poorly managed”. In a statement, they said: “It is with a heavy heart we are closing Pasta Loco. We will cease trading immediately and seek help through an insolvency company in the final matters of our business. It is well known the difficulties that our industry is facing. The final nail in the coffin is the manner in which the city council has conducted itself with the Cotham Hill pedestrianisation scheme. Initially, two years ago, we were all for the scheme. Permission to extend the dining area has, without doubt, been a protective factor for our business. However, the entire process from then until now has been poorly managed, terribly communicated and littered with awful decision making. Finally, to be notified the scheme will complete over the summer and all retailers are to take down their external structures and remove seating at the busiest time of the year, is the death knell for us. We know the loss in covers would mean letting go of nearly half our staff. Ultimately, this option was unacceptable to us, so we have taken the hard decision to close and take our business elsewhere.” They added: “One door shuts and another will open. Pasta Loco, our first restaurant, has laid a very special foundation; we will rise and build on we have learnt, loved and created.”
Mellors Group returns to profit, Urban Playground trading successfully and providing group with ‘exciting growth and diversification opportunities’: Mellors Group – which operates theme parks, attractions and entertainment businesses including Skegness Pier and Fantasy Island – returned to profit in the year ending 30 September 2022. It said its debut competitive socialising venue, Urban Playground, which opened in Manchester in February 2022, has traded successfully, providing group with “exciting growth and diversification opportunities”. A pre-tax loss of £1,550,000 in 2021 was turned into a profit of £3,127,000 in the period. This compares with a profit of £970,000 in the last full year before covid, ending 30 September 2019. Turnover rose from £665,000 to £2,222,000 (2019: £8,657,000). Director Edward James Mellors, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The company has returned to profitability, as expected, for the year under review. As planned, the group has continued the development of its competitive socialising venue concept during the year, having secured a number of prominent city centre sites in the UK to build out and trade from in previous periods. The group opened its first competitive socialising venue during FY22, which has traded successfully and provides the group with exciting growth and diversification opportunities. At the year end, the company had shareholders’ funds of £3,486,000 (2021: £359,000) with no long-term debt.”

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