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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 19th Jul 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Rising prices pile pressure on sector with one in seven businesses at risk of failure in next 12 months: Hospitality’s post-covid-19 recovery is threatened by rising prices in multiple key areas, leaders have warned in the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA by NIQ and Fourth. More than a quarter (28%) of leaders in the quarterly survey said they currently have less than three months’ worth of cash reserves, and one in seven (14%) said their business is at risk of failure in the next 12 months. Half (50%) of senior-level operators are now very concerned about inflation in food and drink prices, with 33% concerned, 16% moderately concerned and just 1% unconcerned. Around four in five leaders have seen increases in the price of eggs (85%) and chicken (80%), and nearly as many have experienced hikes in the cost of beer (79%) and red wine (74%). Leaders have raised pay for both new and existing staff by an average of 11% in the last 12 months – ahead of the rate of inflation over that period. Rises have been driven by increases in the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage from April, which have concerned around two thirds (65%) of business leaders. Rising labour costs are also being fuelled by widespread staff shortages. Across hospitality, 9% of roles are now vacant and open for application, and only half (49%) of leaders feel confident about recruitment over the next 12 months. Four in five (79%) leaders are very concerned or concerned about energy prices and contracts, while more than half feel the same way about business rates (59%) and VAT (54%). To mitigate costs, leaders told the survey they have raised food menu prices by an average of 13% in the last 12 months. The soaring costs are holding down hospitality leaders’ confidence. While just over half (54%) of them now feel optimistic about prospects for their business over the next 12 months, this figure is well below pre-covid levels. Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “This is a resilient and resourceful sector and businesses have steadily built back from the turmoil of covid-19, but relentless inflation means many of them are now operating on extremely tight margins. Rising prices and enforced increases in pay levels have left few companies unscathed, and some are now very fragile.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Santa Maria launches new solution to drive footfall and increase spend per head: Santa Maria, the out-of-home food provider, has launched a new solution to drive footfall and increase spend per head in your pub. Santa Maria’s taste creator, Barnaby MacAdam, said: “Loaded – a range of dirty and decadent downloadable recipes – has a range of irresistible loaded recipes that are oozing with flavour. Based around three core categories – burgers, fries and nachos – chosen for their popularity among consumers, operational simplicity and versatility for ‘loading up’. With one of the main appeals of loaded dishes being the additional revenue opportunity they present as operators can charge more for them than regular, plain dishes, Loaded helps deliver a great dining experience for consumers and also strong profits that directly benefit operators’ bottom line.” To download the Loaded solution or to book a free demo of Santa Maria’s famous cheddar cheese sauce that features in many of the recipes, click here. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Propel to launch UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database next month, sixth major database for Premium subscribers: Propel will next month launch the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database – the first time that profiles of 100 of the top food and beverage franchisees have been available in one place in the UK. The go-to database, which features many of the big franchise operators running Costa Coffee, McDonald’s and Domino’s sites, brings together a wealth of information on an increasingly important part of the market, and the first edition will feature more than 32,000 words of content. The sixth major database exclusive to Premium subscribers, it will be sent out bi-monthly, including new entries and updates to existing entries. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around the company’s background, site numbers and board make-up. It will complement Propel’s UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which launched last year and now lists more than 200 franchisors already operating in or looking to expand into the UK. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “Franchising is an ever-growing and increasingly important part of the food and beverage market, and it is the first time an invaluable guide to those companies which franchise with major brands has been available in the UK. It is the perfect complement to Propel’s UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which focuses on those companies offering franchises, and which in its first year, doubled in size from an initial 100 listings. Together, they will provide the most detailed and insightful guide to the franchising market in the UK.” Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database and the Who’s Who of UK Food & Beverage. The latest Who’s Who will feature 715 companies when it is released to Premium subscribers on Friday (21 July). This month’s edition includes 22 new companies and 75 updated entries as well as more than 187,000 words of content. 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.Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They 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.
Paula MacKenzie to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Paula MacKenzie, chief executive of PizzaExpress, 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. MacKenzie will talk to Propel group editor Mark Wingett about taking the helm at the iconic casual dining brand, the challenges and opportunities her first year in the role have provided, evolving its offer and team, and her thoughts on the wider sector. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email
McDonald’s must ensure franchisees are following labour law: McDonald’s must ensure its franchisees are following labour law, the chair of the Business and Trade Committee has said. MP Darren Jones said claims of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying by current and recent UK staff from the fast-food chain were “some of the most appalling” he had seen. McDonald’s has “deeply apologised” and admitted that it had “fallen short”, reports the BBC, which has been investigating working conditions at McDonald’s since February. Most McDonald’s workers are not directly employed by the company as it uses a franchise system, meaning individual operators are licensed to run the outlets and employ staff. Jones told the BBC’s Today programme that the chain must answer questions over how employment laws were being obeyed in its franchises and if such policies were in its contracts with local restaurants. “I am sure bosses go in and check the quality of its burgers and whether customers are happy with the quality of their milkshakes,” he said. “But are they going in and talking to the staff and making sure that they are being treated fairly and in line with the law? It sounds like they are not.” A spokesperson for McDonald’s said its franchisees are required to sign an agreement, including a stipulation they will comply with UK law.
Rent holidays help Dorset high street boom again: Kingland Crescent was like many provincial high streets across the country before the covid-19 pandemic struck, blighted by empty retail units and boarded-up shopfronts. The Times reports the high street in Poole, Dorset, has now experienced a remarkable turnaround after its landlord offered two years rent-free to independent businesses willing to take on one of the ten empty shop units. “It’s becoming a destination again,” said Steve Wyatt, whose furniture restoration business was operating from his back garden before he took on one of the shops. I remember walking down here six years ago and you had a Trespass, Toni & Guy, Tui and Millets, and every other unit was empty. It was a street you walked down and didn’t look to the left or right, you just looked down at the pavement. Having a row of independent shops is making this a destination now.” Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), which also owns the adjacent Dolphin shopping centre, began the pilot project in early 2021 and the street is now filled with businesses paying it rent and bringing increased footfall to the area. Denizer Ibrahim, head of retail and futuring at LGIM, said plans for the project began in 2019 but the pandemic had accelerated a cultural shift to “nomadic working” in towns and the public’s desire to support independent shops. In its first year, the Kingland project generated an additional £2.2m of spending across the Dolphin shopping centre and had created more than 30 jobs. Ibrahim said there had been a 16% increase in total footfall compared with the pre-covid trend.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a premium restaurant business in London that is looking for a recruitment manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will support the HR manager across these functions. You will supervise the recruitment campaigns and build the employer’s brand, support the operations in all aspects of recruitment and onboarding. You will be brilliant at strategically thinking of new ways to bring in top talent, manage and negotiate contracts with recruitment agencies, deliver succession planning, and proactively analyse the workforce to prioritise vacancies. Parts of your responsibilities will also include being numbers driven and enjoying working in a target driven environment.” The salary is up to £55,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email 
Licensing update: John Gaunt & Partners licensing solicitors has just published its latest licensing update. This month there’s an article on new tipping laws, along with information around the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and ensuring your licensed hours cover the matches. The full update can be accessed here.

Company News:

Crossley – there is still plenty of locations for Turtle Bay to go after: Nick Crossley, chief executive of Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper, has told Propel that there is plenty of locations for the 49-strong business to go after in the UK, and reiterated his belief that the business could eventually grow to 120 sites here. The company will open its 50th site in Camden next month, with an opening also lined up in Lincoln. It will make its debut in Scotland in November, in Glasgow’s St Vincent Street, and Crossley expects that to open up further opportunities for the brand. He told Propel: “I think we could operate three sites in Glasgow alone, as we do in Manchester. There is probably room for two in Edinburgh, and single site opportunities in Aberdeen and Dundee. As for England, we aren’t in cities like Cambridge, Reading and Brighton, and I think there is still opportunity for us to grow further in London, as witnessed by our opening in Hammersmith earlier this year, and the upcoming site in Camden. We will be patient and wait for the right sites, but it seems that we are one of the few brands that are in site acquisition mode at the moment.” Earlier this week, the company reported a second record sales year in a row, posting sales of £90.1m in the year ended 2 April 2023, up 5.5% on the prior year. The brand said it had seen sector-leading three-year like-for-like growth of 32.6% compared with 2019, while like-for-like sales compared with last year were up 1.1%. Crossley said that trading in May had been slow, not helped by the train strikes and the additional Bank Holiday. He said: “We saw a bounce back in June, and July has started strongly. We remain laser-focused on maintaining the consistency of our offer and making sure we continue to give consumers something different. It is a challenging environment, and I don’t think any other sector chief executive would say anything different, but you have to make sure you are on top of every aspect of the business. That relentlessness about consistency is key.” Turtle Bay features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £90.1m is the 85th 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.

Chipotle rules out franchise approach in the UK, signs partnership deal to launch in the Middle East: Chipotle has signed an agreement with the Kuwait-based Alshaya Group, its first-ever franchise partner, to open locations in the Middle East next year. The brand currently has just over 50 locations in Canada and Europe, including 15 in the UK. All are company owned and operated, as are its circa 3,200 US locations. The Alshaya agreement marks the first time Chipotle has enlisted a local franchise retail operator as it moves into a new market. The company will initially open new restaurants in Dubai and Kuwait early next year before expanding further across the region. Chipotle chairman and chief executive Brian Niccol said: “Leveraging Alshaya’s market expertise will enable us to quickly gain access to these vibrant economies. We are excited to offer guests in the Middle East our responsibly sourced, classically-cooked real food, and look forward to furthering our purpose to cultivate a better world in this new territory.” Chipotle plans to open more than 255 new restaurants this year, with a long-term target of 7,000 locations in North America. The business will open three further sites in the UK this summer, starting with a location opening this Friday (21 July) at White Lion Walk Shopping Centre in Guildford, Surrey. In August, it will open at The O2’s Entertainment District. It also plans to further increase its presence in London “villages” with an opening in East Dulwich later this year. On the possibility of franchising in the UK, a Chipotle spokesperson told Propel: “Owning and operating Chipotle restaurants in the US, Canada and Western Europe will continue to be our approach.”
Bob & Berts – we’ve identified a strong pipeline of new sites, opens in Blackpool: Cafe brand Bob & Berts has said it has identified a strong pipeline of new sites, with a special focus on the north of England, as it opened its latest site in Blackpool. The BGF-backed business opened its 27th site in total at the Houndshill Shopping Centre in the heart of Blackpool, creating more than 30 jobs. The business has transformed a 3,500 square-foot unit into a coffee shop that reflects Bob & Berts’ “relaxed, family-friendly style”. The store’s 130-cover layout is split across two levels, with an external dining area offering further seating for up to 24 covers. It comes as the business is set to make its debut in Yorkshire after securing a site in Wakefield. It is also set to open an outlet in Glasgow later this year. Founded in Portstewart in Northern Ireland in 2013 by Colin McClean, Bob & Berts is known for its “distinctive style, quality offering and community-focused approach”. Following a £2m investment from BGF in 2017, the business is growing across the UK and reported 58% sales growth in the 12 months ending 30 June 2022, reaching £17.8m. David Ferguson, co-owner of Bob & Berts, said: “The Blackpool store marks our 27th opening in the UK and our sixth store in England alone. We’ve identified a strong pipeline of new sites as part of our continued expansion and will be opening our first site in Yorkshire in Wakefield this September, followed by new sites in Belfast city centre and Glasgow. We’re currently looking at other locations across the north of England including Rochdale, Burnley, Southport, Warrington and Liverpool as part of our strategic growth plan to reach 50 stores.” Earlier this month, Ferguson said the business had a long-term goal of 70 stores.
Civerinos aiming for UK expansion with ‘site in every student city and town’, targets £10m turnover by end of 2024: Edinburgh pizza concept Civerinos is aiming to expand across the UK, with a “site in every student city and town”, and is targeting turnover of £10m by the end of 2024. Owner Michele Civiera, who said he sold his car and rare sneaker collection to start the business in 2016, announced plans earlier this year to expand out of Edinburgh, where it has four sites (including a delivery kitchen), into Glasgow. It will open in the former Le Petit Conchon site in Radnor Street in September, followed by further locations in Glasgow’s Southside and city centre. “We have plans in the works to open eventually in every student city and town in the UK,” Civiera told The Herald. “We want to become a household name and build a brand that stands the test of time. We are firmly established in Edinburgh but that’s just the beginning. We’re already planning for our next move after Glasgow, and the goal is to operate nationwide in cities across the UK. We also want to be the best place to work possible. Hospitality is a great career, but it’s been given a bad name. We are trying to redefine global perceptions of the Scottish food industry in how we present ourselves, how we treat our staff, our food, service and overall customer experience. We are growing week on week, and versus last year we are in double digit [percentage] growth. We continue to combat price increases by creating smarter menus and working closely with suppliers. We have invested in our operations team, which comes as a large expense to the business, but means it runs with greater efficiency and savings. All of this is designed to make us run as efficiently as possible so we’re ready to scale while still providing the same quality and standards that people expect.” Civiera added that turnover was £6m last year, with the company on course for £7m this year and aiming for £10m by the end of 2024. It has a team of 160 people and is recruiting 30 more for its Glasgow expansion. It has also just invested in a food truck. Civiera said: “I was a huge fan of New York-style pizza after spending a lot of time out there and thought there was a gap in the market, so I bit the bullet, sold my rare sneaker collection and car to fund our first venue, and the rest is history.”
Taiwanese bubble tea brand Chatime expanding into food offering to stave off impact of covid, secures £150,000 loan: Taiwanese bubble tea brand Chatime is set to expand into a food offering to stave off the impact of covid and has secured a £150,000 loan to help it do so. Chatime is one of the world’s largest teahouse franchises, with more than 2,500 outlets in 38 countries, including more than 30 in the UK. It launched here 11 years ago, seven years after being founded in Taiwan, and operates both company-owned and franchised sites across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The company secured the loan from First Enterprise – Enterprise Loans through the Big Society Capital Community Investment Enterprise Facility, which is backed by the Recovery Loan Scheme. Founder Peter Wong said: “Since founding the business in 2012, we’ve successfully established the Chatime bubble tea brand as a UK market leader. However, covid stagnated our growth and we were potentially going to experience a decline. We needed to rethink our strategy and concluded that there were many opportunities post-pandemic. We’re therefore excited to put the funding to good use, starting by investing in stock purchases to support store production and improve customer experience in a highly competitive market.” 
Harrods to open first private members’ club, in Shanghai: Harrods will open its first private members’ club, in Shanghai at the end of this year. The Residence Shanghai will offer members access to the “most sought-after spirits” and an exclusive Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Located on the second floor of the 20th century Cha House, the club will feature a refined bar and spacious lounge, private dining rooms and outdoor terraces. The retailer said the club will “epitomise Harrods’ quintessential British luxury, creating a destination committed to the finest hospitality for an exclusive membership community”. Harrods managing director Michael Ward said: “The Residence is Harrods’ very first private members’ club and is being created to serve a curated community of discerning members. Membership is a unique proposition in Shanghai, offering not only world-class dining and spirits with a like-minded network but also unlocking exclusive Harrods international lifestyle and concierge services to create unparalleled experiences for every member.”
FiLLi preparing to open second UK site, in Manchester: FiLLi, the fastest growing chai and Indian street food business in the United Arab Emirates, is gearing up to launch its second UK site, in Manchester, Propel has learned. The concept, founded by Rafih Filli in Dubai in 2004, has since grown to more than 40 fast casual stores across eight countries. It made its UK debut last summer, opening in a 2,000 square-foot store in Harewood Avenue, in London’s Marylebone. The business said at the time it was in negotiation on stores in Luton, Leicester and Manchester, with plans to open up to ten new UK stores over the next two years through franchising. It is now set to open at 496b Wilbraham Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a suburb of Manchester. “Bismillah – breaking news,” Filli posted on social media. “Yes, Filli brewing soon in Chorlton, Manchester, England. What a fantastic city! See you soon.” FiLLi has developed a series of franchise formats – designed for high street, shopping centre, business parks and event locations – ranging from 500 square-foot kiosks up to 2000 square-foot stores, catering for up to 80 customers indoors with additional outdoor seating. Its trademark is now registered in 48 countries in addition to the Gulf locations.
SSP completes refinancing, opens new food court at Dublin airport: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has completed the refinancing of its syndicated banking facilities. The previous facilities consisted of £338m of term loans and an undrawn revolving credit facility of £150m due to mature in January 2025. The term loans have now been repaid. The new financing consists of a £300m four-year term loan and a currently undrawn £300m revolving credit facility provided by a syndicate of banks comprising BBVA, Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Commerzbank, Rabobank, Fifth Third Bank, HSBC, Lloyds, Mizuho, Royal Bank of Canada, SEB, Bank of China, Citibank, Credit Lyonnais and Mediobanca. Lloyds also acted as co-ordinator for the transaction. The group said its £329m existing fixed coupon US private placement notes remain in place, with maturities between 2025-2031. Jonathan Davies, deputy chief executive and group chief financial officer of SSP Group, said: “We are pleased to complete this refinancing, which strengthens our balance sheet, extends our maturity profile and maintains our high level of liquidity. We have benefited from strong support from our banking partners, enabling us to secure the new facilities on improved terms. The refinancing will support the ongoing delivery of our strategic priorities, including rapid growth in North America and Asia Pacific. As previously stated, we anticipate the resumption of ordinary dividend payments for the 2023 financial year.” Meanwhile, SSP has opened a new street food-style unit, The Mezz, in Terminal 2 at Dublin airport. It features six new offerings including Camile Thai, Handsome Burger, Badger & Dodo, Erin’s Kitchen and Ancho Hancho. Guests can use digital kiosks to order from any of the brands in one place, while a large digital banner will showcase all the different menu options. SSP has also partnered with coffee roaster, Cloud Picker Coffee, for a new coffee shop that will open on Thursday, 27 July, with more to follow. 
Village Hotels to pursue ‘acquisitive growth strategy’ after reporting Ebitda 7% up on pre-pandemic levels, restructuring allows repayment of £11.9m debt to parent company: KSL-backed Village Hotels, which operates 33 hotels and leisure clubs across the UK, has said it will pursue an “acquisitive growth strategy” after reporting Ebitda 7% up on pre-pandemic levels in the year ending 31 December 2022. It also said a previously reported £456m restructuring in March 2022 has allowed for the repayment of an £11.9m debt to its parent company. “Despite the impact of covid-19 on the hospitality sector during 2020 and 2021, the group remained committed to the expansion of the Village brand,” said director Stephen Walker. “The group is now benefitting from this foresight, as can be seen in its improvement in profit margins year on year. The group is also pursuing an acquisitive growth strategy focused on developing new hotels throughout the UK. The group was able to retain some of its cost savings in 2022 to help mitigate the lower revenues earned in the first quarter, and these cost efficiencies contributed to the impressive delivery of Ebitda 7% above 2019 levels (£58,596,000).” Of the refinancing, he said all related party debt with KSL Capital Partners was repaid, which had risen to £11.9m, and a fixed cap interest hedge put in place running to 25 March 2024. It comes as the group reported turnover of £227,650,000 in 2022, up from a restated £139,963,000 in 2021. Its pre-tax profit of £17,878,000 compared with £40,932,000 in 2021, with the latter figure including a gain on revaluation. The directors valued the group’s hotel property portfolio at £704,050,000 at year-end (2021: £647,550,000), while the group had cash of £35,292,000 (2021: £29,079,000) and bank borrowings of £465,000,000 (2021: £405,727,000). The group received no government grants (2021: £9,767,000). It made dividend payment of £17,822 in the year (2021: nil). The group said meetings and events numbers grew through the year as confidence returned, but weddings and banqueting were slower to recover. Food and beverage performed well without recovering to pre-pandemic levels, and since the year-end, it has launched a new menu focused on quality, local sourcing and sustainability. Health and wellness membership exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with 112,000 members being 12,000 more than it had at the end of 2019.
Growing Leicestershire coffee shop set to open three new sites in as many months: Growing Leicestershire coffee shop Jenno’s Coffee House is set to open three new sites in as many months. The Jenno family first opened Coffee Cosmo at 21 Leicester Road in Blaby in 2016, before rebranding to Jenno’s Coffee House two years later. It will this week open a second site, at Everards Coffee House in Everards Meadow, Cooper Way, Leicester. Following that, in August, it will operate a cafe from the grounds of the new Leicester Tigers RFC club shop, beneath the Brooklyn Hotel in Welford Road, which will face out on to Aylestone Road. And in September, it will open a further branch at Brocks Hill Country Park, sitting alongside the new Oadby and Wigston Borough Council office. Paul Jenno, founder and owner of Jenno’s Coffee House, said: “We were flattered when Leicester Tigers approached us regarding the hospitality offering in the new location at the base of the Brooklyn Hotel. Leicester Tigers is clearly a progressive business with an innovative brand and we are delighted to be a part of this latest development. We are also delighted to have been chosen by Oadby and Wigston Borough Council for the hospitality opportunity at Brocks Hill Country Park. We aspire to repay its faith in us by creating a high quality, friendly and clean coffee house. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers who have supported us over the years and through the pandemic, without you we wouldn't be able to undertake this next stage of our development.”
Total Fitness secures £6.5m loan to refinance and support expansion plans: Health club chain Total Fitness has secured a £6.5m loan to help it refinance and support its expansion plans. The group, which was established in 1993 and now has almost 100,000 members and 15 health and fitness clubs, has taken the loan from OakNorth Bank. As well as refinancing an existing loan facility and supporting the refurbishment of several clubs, the transaction includes “a debt accordion to support future growth opportunities beyond the core health club business”. Total Fitness is led by Sophie Lawler, the first female chief executive in the UK’s private health club sector. “We operate superscale health clubs in the north of England and Wales, although our ambitions expand way beyond that model of club, and we’re delighted to have OakNorth partner with us for the future,” Lawler said. Tom Rayner, chief financial officer of Total Fitness, added: “This refinancing has enabled the business to invest in its future and will be the underpin for further growth in our member base and rich, varied offering.” In February, Total Fitness said it had turned its first profit in seven years in the year to 30 June 2022. The company reported a pre-tax profit of £961,000 compared with a loss of £8,518,000 in the 18 months to 30 June 2021, while turnover rose from £26,630,000 in 2021 to £36,085,000. The company went through a company voluntary arrangement in 2021 after losing 20% of its members, but during the year it restored its member base on a like-for-like basis to pre-pandemic levels, joining “a record number of new members”.
Team behind Sheffield neighbourhood bistro and bar set to open cocktail, craft beer and natural wine bar: The team behind Sheffield neighbourhood bistro and bar Bench is set to open a new cocktail, craft beer and natural wine bar in the city. Jack Wakelin and Tom “Ronnie” Aronica will open The Pearl in August, in the city’s newly regenerated Park Hill development. The 1960s estate was once home to four pubs, and The Pearl is the first drinks-led venue to open on the site since its regeneration, which began in 2004 and is nearing completion. Wakelin and Aronica first worked together in 2017 at Public, the cocktail bar within a converted public toilet in Sheffield city centre, before opening Bench in 2020. “We are proud of the drinks programme at Bench, and the opportunity to do something even more drinks-led, harking back to our formative days at Public, is a prospect we are excited about,” Aronica said. Mark Latham, regeneration director at Urban Splash, which is behind the regeneration at Park Hill, added: “We’ve been working hard with the brilliant Bench team for a long time behind the scenes to turn this dream into a reality, and the opening of The Pearl marks the long-awaited return of a local to Park Hill.”
Norfolk operator acquires third site: Norfolk operator Tom Ginn has acquired a third site by reopening the former Frank’s Bar in Norwich. Frank’s Bar, in Bedford Street, shut in January, with owners James Wingfield and Ella Williams blaming the cost-of-living crisis for the closure of the business they had run since 2008. Ginn, who also operates brunch spot Toast Kitchen and soft serve dessert concept Milk Kitchen, both in Yalm, has now reopened the site as Dick’s Bar, along with business partner Andy Pitt, reports the Norwich Evening News. The premises originally consisted of three cottages at the back, belonging to Ginn’s uncle Dick, and a jewellers in the front, belonging to the council. Ginn said: “I have always loved Frank’s and had early dates with my wife in here. So, after a three-and-a-half-minute call with my uncle Dick, we were proud owners. Dick’s is whatever you want it to be. Food will change throughout the day to complement drinks and there is a big American undertone to what we are doing here, making the feel of backstreet Brooklyn speakeasies.” Ginn also operates Bread Hospitality Group, which offers “a full circle support arm to the hospitality industry”, and is a non-executive director with The Feed, a social enterprise with a mission to prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness in Norwich.
Cornish family theme park goes into administration: Family theme park Camel Creek in Tredinnick, Cornwall, has gone into administration. Guests have been told the park, which covers 11 acres and has more than 40 rides, will remain open. Kroll, the administrator called in, said it was working to secure the future of the site, with Geoff Bouchier and Benjamin Wiles appointed as joint administrators. Wiles told Cornwall Live: “Camel Creek family theme park will continue to operate as normal, with all future bookings fulfilled. With the support of Camel Creek’s lender, we will work to secure further investment and the long-term future of the park for the benefit of all stakeholders. Camel Creek is looking forward to welcoming lots of families over the summer holiday season and into the future.” Terry Sandling bought Trelow Farm and opened the property to the public in 1989 as The Shire Horse Centre before the property was sold to Crealy Great Adventure Parks in 2004. Following an acquisition in 2015, John Broome purchased Crealy and rebranded it as Camel Creek Adventure Park. It was subsequently bought by Royale Life. At the same time as purchasing the park, Broome also purchased nearly 200 acres of adjacent land and announced plans to turn the venue into the UK’s first six-star resort. After planning permission was granted in October 2016, work was expected to complete in 2022, but little progress was made. The park’s website is operating as normal and customers are able to purchase tickets.
North Wales operator acquires Conwy Italian restaurant for third site: North Wales operator Richard Reynolds has acquired an Italian restaurant in Conwy for his third site, supported by a six-figure loan from the Development Bank of Wales. Reynolds has bought Alfredo’s, in Lancaster Square, from retiring owners Pete and Christine Scaletta – who have run and owned the restaurant for more than 30 years. Reynolds said: “Alfredo’s has been a well-known and fondly regarded destination for visitors to Conwy for decades, and I’d like to thank Pete and Christine not only for all of their work in building up Alfredo’s reputation in the last 30 years, but also for their support and advice during this transition. Taking on Alfredo’s has been smooth thanks to their help, meaning we’ve been able to hit the ground running as we look to a busy summer season.” Reynolds also owns Bodnant Welsh Food, a B&B, restaurant, bar and tearoom in Tal-y-Cafn, and Tribells fish and chips in Llandudno.
Former DRS workers lodge compensation claim: More than 40 former employees of the collapsed company behind Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) are launching a compensation claim. The staff lost their jobs when Circularity Scotland went into administration last month after the scheme’s launch was delayed for a second time. Solicitors at Thompsons are lodging a “protective award” claim with the Tribunals Service on behalf of the workers, reports the BBC, claiming the staff were dismissed without proper statutory consultation. If successful, the claimants could each receive several thousands of pounds from the Insolvency Service. Circularity Scotland collapsed after the scheme was delayed until 2025 and most of its 60 staff were made redundant with immediate effect. Last month, the chairman of the state-owned Scottish National Investment Bank said he expected to lose more than half of a £9m loan given to Circularity Scotland. Scotland’s DRS was due to start in August but was first pushed back to March 2024 and then delayed further to at least October 2025.

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