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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 21st Jul 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Our Yummy Collection to begin rollout of new British seafood concept: Our Yummy Collection is to begin the roll out of its new British seafood-focused concept with an opening in London’s Hammersmith, with plans to open five sites in the capital over the next four years, Propel has learned. The business, which is led by Anthony Pender, has been trialling the concept, which has the strapline “fresh fish for all”, at The Victoria, in Mile End. It will now begin the roll out of the concept, which comes under the name Faber, derived from the John Dory fish and Latin for the name Smith, with an opening later this summer, on the ex-Villagio site in Hammersmith Road. Every aspect of the concept will come from British coastal towns, and it will also give key staff an equity share in the business, with each site having its own investor base. Pender told Propel: “During lockdown we created this takeaway fish business, with the idea of very British, very sustainably caught, premium, coastal seafood and shellfish. We then introduced it into an East End pub, where it works incredibly well. So, we just wanted to wrap it up and take it all the way, where literally every aspect of the business is coming from British coastal communities – that goes for the food and drink. It really is about promoting our coastlines and sustainable use of our coastlines. It is not just about being accessible to the guests, it’s about being accessible to the staff and allowing the team to share the success as well as the shareholders. It’s also encourages entrepreneurship.” The business said with every venue, a percentage of the equity goes towards the key people. Pender said: There will be opportunities to grow through the business as it grows. The concept is already tried and tested. We have processes in place and we’ve got a head office function that has been developing the concept and ethos over the last six months. We’ve got five sites in four years as the initial target to get the business established, and over the preceding three years, we think we can increase that to eight to ten sites. We will focus on London. We’re testing Hammersmith first because it’s got substantial offices, loads of residential and three theatres.” Former Punch Pubs managing director Paul Pavli, who became a non-executive director in the business last year, said: “Everyone is committed to the investment in Hammersmith, and we have already fulfilled the funding round. We want to be in a position to have the second new site secured by the end of this year.” 

Industry News:

Latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage released today: The latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 76 updated entries and 21 new companies when it is released to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 21 July), at midday. This month’s edition includes 714 companies and 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. 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. 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. 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.
Heydon Mizon to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Heydon Mizon, joint managing director of Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen, 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. Mizon will talk about how the business is keeping the pub relevant to new generations of consumers, and the challenges and opportunities of being a regional operator. Three free places per company for operators can be claimed. A room can also be booked for the evening. For more details, email
Hospitality sales grew 8.6% year-on-year in last 12 weeks, still seeing significant levels of inflation coming through in the sector: Hospitality sales grew 8.6% year-on-year in the latest 12 weeks, according to analysis from HDI, the provider of card spending insight and pricing data to the UK hospitality sector. Fast food and takeaway, coffee and sandwich and pizza delivery were the best performing sectors in the 12 weeks ending 11 July 2023. Within pubs, pubs and bars once again slightly outperformed branded pub restaurants, while casual dining saw the lowest levels of year-on-year growth, according to analysis of HDI’s panel of 10.2 million unique customers. Mark Bentley, business development director at HDI, said: “It’s encouraging to see hospitality sales continuing to grow. However, these figures need to be seen against the backdrop of inflationary pressures. We’re still seeing headline year-on-year inflation of 10.1% on food and 8.0% on drinks from our tracking of more than 165,000 like-for-like site/item combinations in pubs and bars. That’s an extra £1.03 added to the average cost of a main course and an extra 28p added to the average cost of a drink.” HDI’s panel tracks more than 160,000 individually identifiable hospitality venues across 350 different brands and formats, with the customer spend analysis providing unique insight into how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting hospitality. Bentley added: “We’re still seeing significant levels of inflation coming through in the hospitality sector when comparing things on a year-on-year basis, although prices have been relatively flat month-on-month. It will be interesting to see what happens next month when changes to alcohol duty take effect, including two new reliefs for small producers and products sold on draught.”
Requirements of pub leaders have changed, hiring CEOs from outside the sector is not without risk: Emerging pub leaders today are typically narrower in their approach than previous generations of pub leadership, Elliott Goldstein, managing partner at sector recruitment firm, The MBS Group, has argued. Writing in today’s (Friday, 21 July) Premium Opinion, which will be sent to Premium subscribers at 5pm, Goldstein claimed while pub leaders necessarily have a firm grasp on their specific area or function, pub executives today are less likely to have a deep understanding of the rest of their organisation than those who trained in generalist graduate schemes. He argued: “This means the ‘ready-made’ pool of potential chief executive candidates from within the sector is smaller today than in previous years. The industry has evolved considerably since graduate schemes had their heyday, and different kinds of leadership qualities are required. Success today means thinking carefully about customer insight, harnessing technology, and doing right by your people. In this way, pub leadership has become more closely aligned with hospitality leadership more broadly, creating prime conditions for leaders to move from restaurants, cafes and even retail into pubs.” He also believes hiring chief executives from outside the pub sector is not without risk. He said: “While pubs share characteristics with retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, the pub sector has a very specific set of operational and commercial nuances.” Goldstein sets out the qualities that candidates need to have and includes contributions from the likes of Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, and David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group. This week’s Premium Opinion will also feature Mark Stretton, managing director of sector communications firm Fleet Street, exploring the reputational challenges facing McDonald’s UK and in this ever-expanding era of “responsible business”, the issues every hospitality leader and business must navigate. 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. 
Beckett – we might be big and ugly enough to survive the strikes, but smaller spots need your support: Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, has said while there may be good reasons for the train and tube strikes, there is also plenty of collateral damage for the hospitality sector. Writing in the Evening Standard, Beckett said: “The rail strikes alone are reported to have cost the hospitality sector £3bn since the start of the disputes in 2022. This isn’t to say the strikes don’t affect other industries, or people at home, or indeed the strikes shouldn’t go ahead. But the action does hit an industry hard that has been suffering since 2020. Hawksmoor isn’t immune from these strikes – but as my grandfather used to say, we’re big enough and ugly enough to look after ourselves. The impact on small businesses  – especially in city centres, which rely on the work crowd – is much more severe, as it is on hundreds of thousands of hard-working people in hospitality. These problems then ripple through the wider economy. When restaurants are quiet, they buy less meat, fish, vegetables, wine, and beer. They pay fewer taxes. Perhaps some can do something about it. At Hawksmoor, for instance, we’re running an offer for steak frites for £15 on strike days. But many won’t be able to do likewise; for countless businesses, margins are already so thin they can’t discount. In fact, it’s harder than that. They’re caught between the desperate need to raise prices and the laudable desire to keep them low and keep people coming through the doors. Or, perhaps, they don’t have enough staff to be able to be significantly busier. Many restaurants’ reaction to quieter or more volatile times is to cut back on costs, and staff is one of the options. That, in turn, feeds another worry: that people won’t look at so much of hospitality as the wonderful place to work that it is. Instead, they’ll choose other industries that can more clearly offer stability. I like to think Hawksmoor is one. I hope people move their rumps and get to Hawksmoor for cheap steak frites, but I also hope they flock to small, independent restaurants.”
Disappointment as government fails to make temporary licensing restrictions permanent: UKHospitality has said it is disappointed that the government has chosen not to make temporary licensing restrictions introduced during the pandemic permanent. Downing Street has been consulting on regulatory easements to the Licensing Act 2003. These include selling alcohol for takeaway without the need for an amended licence, and an increase in the amount of temporary events notices a licensed premise operator can have. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “There’s no doubt that this is disappointing news for hospitality businesses. The temporary measures introduced during the pandemic were practical and enabled businesses to generate additional sales. This decision will raise questions among hospitality businesses about how serious the government is about reducing red-tape for businesses, particularly when this would have been a low-cost, high-reward change. I would continue to urge the government to consider measures like these as prime targets for change, as part of its focus on deregulation.”
BII launches campaign urging pubs to gets MPs on board in fight for survival: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has launched a campaign urging pubs to gets their MPs on board in their fight for survival. The #MyPub campaign calls on pub operators to write to their MPs and invite them to visit the businesses at the heart of their constituencies. While many pubs are seeing turnover return to pre-pandemic levels, sky-high energy costs, multiple price rises and continued staff shortages, have meant a huge drop in profitability, the BII said. “Our members need investment to power their growth and are simply asking for the playing field to be levelled,” BII chief executive Steve Alton added. “For the longest time, they have shouldered the burden of unfair taxes when compared with other high street venues or online businesses. We are calling on government to reduce the tax burden on our members and pubs across the country by providing longer term structural support, with a priority to reduce VAT, as well as a continuation of the current business rates relief for a further three years. The #MyPub campaign will see operators inviting MPs to visit their incredible pubs over the summer, showing them just how important their venue is.”
Restaurants get stuck into solving chef shortage: Hospitality companies are having to become more creative to attract and retain staff. The Times reported that when Pizza Pilgrims founders Thom and James Elliot went to their board to tell them they planned to hire someone dedicated to keeping their chefs happy and engaged, the response was one of bemusement. “It was like: ‘That’s a nonsense job’,” said Thom. “We convinced it to do it and it’s the best thing we’ve done because we have no head chef gaps in the company.” David Abrahamovitch, founder and chief executive of Grind, the London chain of restaurants and coffee shops, said he had faced significant challenges recruiting since covid. “Finding suitable staff has been especially difficult due to reduced immigration after Brexit and shifts in job preferences,” he said, adding that chef recruitment had been the most difficult. Grind has taken several steps to try to become a more appealing employer, including putting wages up by 20% in the past two years, increasing its staff discount to 60% for all employees and giving existing staff “new hire” referral bonuses of up to £300. As it has grown, Pizza Pilgrims has also needed to become more inventive to attract staff. It was founded in 2013, had sales of £21m in the year to June 2022 and now has 24 outlets and 600 staff. “It’s been the toughest time ever to hire people [since the lifting of covid restrictions],” Thom said. “We’ve always put a lot of effort into people but we’ve had to double and triple down on it.” Part of this has been developing its own training academy in Camden, north London, and investing more time and energy into development plans for all employees. It also makes sure it is always paying above the national minimum wage, Thom said, adding all staff received the same hourly rate despite the fact they could legally pay under-18s less. “It has to be a meritocracy,” he added. “If you’re 17 and you’re an amazing, engaging, brilliant waiter, why would I pay you less than a 25-year-old who’s not good at being a waiter?” He said that with tips, “no one is on less than £13 or £14 an hour”.
US court awards mother of child given second-degree burns by McDonald’s McNugget $800,000: A Florida court has awarded a mother $800,000 from McDonald’s after her daughter received second-degree burns from a piping hot McNugget that fell on her lap in 2019. The jury reached the verdict after less than two hours of deliberation, allotting $400,000 in damages for the past four years and $400,000 for the future, reports the Daily Mail. Attorneys for the fast-food chain argued Olivia Holmes’ pain and discomfort ended when her wound healed, which they argued took three weeks, and said $156,000 would be sufficient. In May, a different jury determined McDonald’s and Upchurch, the franchisee of the drive-thru where the offending nugget was purchased, were to blame for Olivia’s burn. Mother Philana Holmes testified she purchased Happy Meals for her daughter and son and passed the food to them in the back seat before driving away. She said she was not warned that her food might be unusually hot. When Olivia began screaming in pain, Holmes pulled into a car park, where she saw the burn. Jurors heard testimony from medical experts, as well as Olivia’s parents, who said that in the weeks following the incident, the burn was bright red and painful. It eventually transformed into a small, raised scar that does not cause the child any physical pain. However, her attorneys argued the pain has turned into emotional suffering. The incident is similar to the 1994 case where Stella Liebeck was burned by hot coffee from McDonald’s. In that case, McDonald’s was ordered to pay nearly $3m, but the exact figure was later settled during appeal. Since then, coffee cups have come with a warning label.
Hatch Mansfield wine director Philip Tuck passes away: Philip Tuck, wine director at UK premium wine specialist Hatch Mansfield, has passed away. Patrick McGrath chief executive at Hatch Mansfield, said: “It is with great sadness that we report that Philip Tuck MW, wine director at Hatch Mansfield, has passed away this morning. Philip was involved in a cycling accident abroad and suffered a major injury from which he did not recover. More details at this early stage are not known and we ask that his family’s privacy is respected at this time.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a contract caterer company that operates within hospitality for a variety of high-volume venues, arenas, and destinations that is seeking a senior finance business partner. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The role reports to the head of commercial finance and is part of the commercial finance team. The role will predominantly be field based, supporting the operations teams to drive performance across the contract portfolio. You will provide actionable management information and deliver on added value initiatives. You will ideally be a qualified accountant and you must have previous commercial experience within a relevant sector. You will be a confident communicator, have experience managing senior stakeholder relationships and can develop and drive initiatives.” The salary is up to £55,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Pret – breakfast and iced drinks driving weekend growth, taking learning from Panera: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has told Propel that breakfast and iced drinks are driving growth across its estate at weekends, with “people seeking a bit more indulgence”. Earlier this week, the business reported first-half sales increased 20.2% to £429.9m as it returned to profitability for the first time since 2018. It said more than half (55%) of new Pret shops that opened since January 2022 have been outside of London. This shift is reflected in Pret’s growing weekend trade. Sales on weekends have increased by 271% since 2021, with more than 70% of Pret shops now open on the weekend, up 85% on 2021. The company told Propel: “Breakfast in particular has gone up, with people seeking a bit more indulgence over the weekend, and we’re also seeing a big uptick in iced drinks. We think this is partly down to some operational changes we’ve made, for example, extending our opening hours, investing in new ice machines across our shop estate and introducing our new iced drinks range of shakers and coolers. All in all, this has made Pret more accessible for different preferences.” Pret said it also continued to learn lessons from “stable mate” Panera Bread, the US brand, which is also backed by JAB Holdings, but was also sharing insights from its own innovation. It said: “We took a lot of inspiration for our coffee subscription from Panera, seeing how it was able to drive loyalty and repeat customers through its beverage subscription. It’s always invested heavily in its digital capabilities and we’ve been able to take learnings about data, personalised offers and loyalty when building our own. We’ve now gone a step further by giving people access to not only drinks, but also a discount on food through Club Pret, so we’re sharing insights with Panera too on how this is all working.” Earlier this week, Pret said its business growth had also been supported by the ongoing popularity of Club Pret. First launched in 2020 as a coffee subscription, offering subscribers up to five-barista prepared drinks a day for a monthly fee, it expanded into food with a 10% discount on everything sold in-shop. The subscription generated 57.9 million redemptions globally in 2022, up from 34.7 million redemptions in 2021, and sales per Club Pret transaction are close to 30% higher than those without a subscription.
Norwich-based Starbucks franchisee acquire nine-strong business, targets 100 sites: Norwich-based Starbucks franchisee KBeverage has acquired the nine-strong GK Coffee Group business, which sees it expand into the south east and east London for the first time. The company used a seven-figure funding package from HSBC UK to purchase GK Coffee Group and take over the franchisee’s nine Starbucks stores, increasing KBeverage’s total number of sites to 44. The new stores, located in Lewisham, Ilford, Epping, South Woodford, Chatham, Sittingbourne, Deal and Hornchurch, support KBeverage’s ambition to expand into areas outside of its east England base and own 100 stores by 2026. It also coincides with Starbucks’ plans to invest £30m to open 100 new locations in the UK this year after the company reported a 37% increase in sales in 2022. Alok Yadav, director at KBeverage, said: “Our expansion into London with nine new stores has been an important milestone in our growth plan. By broadening our reach beyond the east of England, we’ve tapped into a sizable customer base and taken a big step towards our goal of owning 100 stores by 2026.” After arriving in the UK from India at age 19 in 2007, Yadav started his career at Domino’s, where he worked his way up from a cleaner who spoke no English to Manager of the Year within five years. He then became the youngest franchisee to open a Pizza Hut, which he launched with his wife Rachael. Three years later, the couple became the youngest franchisees to open a Starbucks when they launched their first store in Newmarket in 2015 at ages 27 and 26. Nicholas Young, head of business banking in East Anglia at HSBC UK, said: “With nearly 20% of KBeverage’s London revenue coming through UberEats, it’s fantastic to see how the business has adapted to meet this shift in customer demand.”
Jonathan Kaye acquires three ex-Prezzo sites to double Storia estate: Ex-Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye is set to double the size of his fledgling Storia restaurant business, with the acquisition of three sites previously operated by his former brand, Propel has learned. Kaye, who was also the ex-chief executive of Dining Street – the formerly listed Richoux Group, which was the company behind the Richoux, Friendly Phil’s, Villagio and The Broadwick restaurant brands – is understood to have lined up openings on the former Prezzo sites in Shepperton (September 2023), Woodford Green (November 2023) sand Redhill (February 2024). The sites are part of the 47 restaurants that Prezzo closed earlier this year, as part of its restructuring plan. Kaye, who grew Prezzo to circa 250 sites before it was acquired by US investment firm TPG in November 2014 for circa £304m, launched Italian restaurant concept Storia in 2021. Storia made its debut at the former Prezzo site in Tring High Street, before a second site opened on the former The Broadwick outlet in Radlett. Last summer, he opened a third Storia on the former The Broadwick site in Bridge Street, Maidenhead. Kaye launched the concept with business partner, and former Prezzo director, Mehdi Gashi. Earlier this month, the now Cain International-backed Prezzo received approval from the High Court for its restructuring plan, which it said brought to an end “the strategic reshaping of the business” that the company announced this spring, including the closure of 47 sites. Prezzo said it would allow the business to focus on securing a long-term, sustainable future across its now 97-strong restaurant estate. Brandon Elmon, of Genius1Group, is understood to have acted for the landlords of the ex-Prezzo sites.
Cake Box confirms takeover offer rejected: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has confirmed it has rejected a takeover offer. Sky News reported on Thursday (20 July) that The Cheesecake Shop has tabled a 160p-a-share proposal to buy Cake Box. In response, Cake Box stated; “The company confirms that it received an unsolicited approach from [The Cheesecake Shop owner] River Capital to acquire the entire issued and to be issued share capital of the company. The indicative approach was made in early June and with an indicative price of 160p a share. The board unequivocally rejected the indicative approach as materially undervaluing the company and no further discussions with River Capital have taken place.” Cake Box trades from about 230 stores across the UK, and floated in London in 2018 at a price of 108p-a-share. Last month, Cake Box set out plans to almost double its number of shops to 400, despite profit falling amid a “unique set of macroeconomic pressures”. The company said trading continued to be “robust”, with franchise like-for-like sales up 5.4% since the year end. Revenue rose to £34.8m for the year ending 31 March 2023 (2021: £33.0m), but amid high inflation – especially for food items – pre-tax profit fell by 28.6% to £5.4m (2022: £7.7m).
Latvian restaurant and craft beer concept secures debut UK site: Two More Beers, a Latvian craft beer bar and restaurant concept, has secured its debut site in the UK, in London’s Islington, Propel has learned. The concept, which is backed by AmberStone Hotels, already operates a site in the Latvian capital of Riga. It has now secured the ex-Radicals & Victuallers site in Upper Street, Islington, which was formerly operated by Mitchells & Butlers under its Castle Pubs division, for an opening of a flagship UK venue later this year. It is thought the business has plans to open further sites in the capital. Salvatore Di Natale, of CDG Leisure, acted for Two More Beers, while Brandon Elmon, of Genius1Group, acted for the landlord.
Incipio Group to open new neighbourhood bar in London’s Angel: Incipio Group – operator of venues including Pergola on the Wharf, The Prince and Lost in Brixton – is set to open a new neighbourhood bar in London’s Angel. The 411 will open in September in the Angel Building, at 409 – 411 St John Street, offering New York City-inspired food, cocktails and atmosphere. Ed Devenport, chief executive of Incipio Group, said: “Inspired by the transformation of New York’s Soho district, The 411 captures the essence of creativity and energy, offering an unparalleled experience in a brilliant setting.” In January, Incipio Group said it would be opening several new sites in 2023, having seen out 2022 by launching The Palm House in Victoria’s Nova scheme and The Libertine in The Royal Exchange in the City. The new openings will be overseen by former Young’s operations manager Cormac Rawson, who was appointed as Incipio’s operations director in January.
Nightcap shuts Watford Barrio after just nine months to ‘evolve offering’: Nightcap – owner of the Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group, Dirty Martini and the Barrio Familia group of bars –  has shut its Barrio in Watford after just nine months to “evolve the offering”. The venue at 107-115 The Parade was the first Barrio – of which Nightcap operates five sites in London – to open outside the capital when it launched in the former Bosleys pub in November. Nightcap chief executive Sarah Willingham confirmed to the Watford Observer that the site had closed but kept the door ajar for a potential new offering at the site. “Watford Barrio is currently closed for the summer,” she said. “In the past nine months, we have gained a greater understanding of the vibe of the town and are now taking some time to evolve our offer to serve the needs of local customers. We look forward to updating everyone on what's next for the location.” Willingham would not confirm if the company would reopen a new-look Barrio there or look to run something else in the spot.
Sukho Group eyes Manchester opening for Zaap Thai concept: Sukho Group is planning to open a new site under its Zaap Thai concept in Manchester. The restaurant group, which comprises the Zaap Thai and Sukhothai brands, is understood to have applied to open a site under Zaap Thai in the Lincoln Building in Brazennose Street, which is part of Lincoln Square in the city. The company operates six sites under the Zaap Thai name in Newcastle, York, Leeds, Nottingham, Headingley and Sheffield, the latter of which opened last year. At the start of the year, the business said it was in advanced talks to open two new northern sites.

Chotto Matte attempts to combat train strikes by offering to ‘pay for guests’ cabs home’: Chotto Matte, the Nikkei cuisine concept founded by Kurt Zdesar, is attempting to combat the current train and tube strikes by offering to “pay for their guests’ cabs home” – in the form of a discount. Customers at the brand’s Soho and Marylebone restaurants will get 25% off their total bill when quoting “strike lucky” when booking or on arrival. The offer runs through to next Friday (28 July) for a maximum table size of eight people. It is valid for guests dining for lunch or dinner but is not valid on drink-only bookings or during “Chotto Hour”. It comes after steakhouse concept Hawksmoor revealed plans to run a £15 deal during the industrial action, running to Monday, 31 July, and on every rail or tube strike day “for the foreseeable future”. The RMT, which represents members across the industry, will stage another strike tomorrow (Saturday, 22 July) and the following Saturday (29 July). Walk-outs will also take place on London Underground all next week except for Monday (24 July). James Watt, chief executive of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, earlier this week said train strikes have cost the business £3.5m as he called on the government to “sort this mess out”.
TV star shuts three of his F&B ventures: Television star Adam Thomas, who has appeared in Emmerdale and Waterloo Road and is being lined up for the next Strictly Come Dancing, has closed three of his food and beverage ventures. Earlier this week, it was revealed that his Manchester restaurant The Spinn, which opened in September 2019 but was blighted by covid lockdowns, had been put into administration. His Gatley Bar and Grill firm, set up in the same year to handle the finances for the loss-making business, now has debts of £293,996, including £71,423 owed to the Inland Revenue. The Sun reported Thomas has now pulled the plug on two other ventures. He set up vegan food firm Plant Pizzas in 2020, but it was struck off the register after it failed to file legal documents relating to the running of the firm. A mobile catering venture linked to The Spinn called Gatley Road has also been dissolved. On the closure of Spinn, Thomas said: “We did what we had to do with The Spinn and we learnt so much building our first venture, and more importantly, we had an absolute blast. But after three years, we felt the time was right to move on.”
Foodco opens largest Jamaica Blue in UK and second in Belfast, plans further expansion across Ireland: Foodco has opened its largest Jamaica Blue outlet in the UK and second in Belfast, as it plans further expansion across Ireland. The site, in Belfast’s Corn Exchange, it its second Jamaica Blue in the Northern Ireland capital and 20th overall in the UK. The £450,000 investment has created 20 jobs and is one of 170 Jamaica Blues that Foodco operates globally, in seven different countries. The opening is part of a wider expansion in Ireland for Foodco, with further Jamaica Blue openings planned across the island in the months ahead. It is also planning to open a Belfast location for Jamaica Blue’s sister brand, Muffin Break, which currently has 64 UK sites.
Wagamama relaunches Noodle Lab concept in new Soho home: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, has relaunched its Noodle Lab concept. Previously housed in Dean Street, Soho, the concept has relaunched in the brand’s Great Marlborough Street restaurant, and will be the “hub of food innovation and trends in the UK” for the business. The company said: “Noodle Lab will act as the chef’s playground, a space for endless recipe and idea testing, allowing Wagamama to tap into the cultural conversations, experiment with cutting edge sustainable solutions, ground-breaking and talk worthy dishes. In the coming months, Noodle Lab will also host a series of collaborations with some of the country's most exciting food innovators. Kicking off the new home of Noodle Lab in Soho style, Wagamama introduces, for the first time, its version of vegan K-dogs, the Korean street food favourite. Also fresh on the Noodle Lab menu is the Japanese classic with a plant-based twist, vegan ‘pork’ tonkatsu.” Wagamama global executive chef Steve Mangleshot said: “My team is taking on the challenge to cement Noodle Lab at the centre of the UK food landscape by serving relevant, sustainable and creative dishes.”
Chef Thomas Straker set to open new concept in London’s Battersea: Chef Thomas Straker, previously of Elystan Street and Casa Cruz, is set to open a new concept in London’s Battersea. He will open Flat Bread at JKS Restaurants’ Arcade development on the first floor of the Boiler House in Battersea Power Station on Wednesday (26 July). It will offer several flatbread options including pecorino with leeks, pangrattato and lemon zest; tomato, stracciatella, basil and olive oil; tomato and fennel butter, anchovy and chives; Nduja, smoked burrata, honey and lemon; and confit duck leg and pickled onion, reports Hot Dinners.
Chapel Down toasts ‘highly successful’ half year: Chapel Down has been buoyed by a “highly successful” half-year performance, with its focus continuing to be on significant growth. In an update for the six months to 30 June 2023, the company reported net sales revenue of £8.37m compared with £6.94m the previous year. Total wine volume increased 6% to 732,000, with growing conditions in 2023 having so far been “positive” and the vines “developing ahead of seasonal averages”. Elsewhere, Chapel Down's newest vineyard plantings have been completed at Boarley on the Kent Downs, which has added 118 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Planning is well underway for its 2024 plantings, which will take its total acreage under vine to more than 1,000 acres. Chief executive Andrew Carter said: “Our focus remains on delivering significant growth in sparkling wine sales, margins, profits and cash flow, so we are extremely pleased with the powerful momentum of the business in the first half of the year. We are continuing to deliver on our growth plans by building our leadership position in the fast-growing English sparkling wine category to deliver long-term shareholder value. Consumers' love for Chapel Down continues to grow as more people at home and abroad learn about our brand and our wine, and this is fuelling strong and profitable growth across all our distribution channels. We have a world class team in place, are successfully executing our premiumisation strategy to support and grow our margins, and have a strong balance sheet to enable us to meet our target of doubling the size of our business by 2026.”
Megan’s closes Parsons Green site ahead of relocation: Megan’s, the fast-growing cafe and deli concept, has closed its site in Parsons Green, south west London, ahead of its relocation. It is now in active negotiations for a much larger site nearby. Megan’s by the Green was the brand’s second restaurant when it opened in 2017 and it has since opened a further 18 restaurants. As Propel revealed earlier this month, the site will be used as a second London location for Ollie’s House, the new concept from Oliver Norcliffe, a former operations manager at Gail’s. Gill Clements, finance director at Megan’s, said: “While we absolutely adore our little Parsons Green home, this site just doesn’t fit the Megan’s model anymore. The Megan’s concept today is very much about catering to multiple different experiences in one restaurant. To be able to do what we do right, we need large expansive restaurants, and our existing Parsons Green restaurant does not fit that model. Parsons Green is an area we know, love and trade successfully in, and we look forward to returning to the area in the very near future. While it is goodbye for Megan’s for now, we are excited to announce that our ‘little brother’ concept, Ollie’s House, will be opening in our old location in Parsons Green, meaning that we can allow a new and exciting independent concept to flourish.” Megan’s plan to open in Farnham later this year, followed by Twickenham and Weybridge in early 2024.

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