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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 24th Jul 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Stonegate moves to simplify structure after strategic review: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub group, has moved to simplify its structure after undertaking a strategic review, which may lead to up to 260 roles being made redundant, Propel has learned. The David McDowall-led, TDR Capital-backed company is understood to have been working with AlixPartners on the review, which the circa 4,500-strong business told Propel had resulted in it making the decision to “re-structure our central functions and operations management teams”. A Stonegate Group spokesperson told Propel: “Over the last couple of months, we have been undertaking a strategic review of the organisation in order to ensure that we are best able to win in the current environment. This review has resulted in us making the decision to restructure our central functions and operations management teams. Regrettably, this means we will enter into a consultation process on proposals which may result in up to 260 roles being made redundant. These are difficult decisions to take, and our priority over the coming weeks will be to consult with affected colleagues and to continue to look after their wellbeing. Wherever possible, we will avoid redundancies by finding people alternative roles and will ensure that those colleagues who are made redundant are fully supported by the business. The group is confident this strategy will best position us to deliver profitable growth.” Last week, the company reported like-for-like sales across its managed estate increased 6.1% in the 28 weeks to 9 April 2023, as it agreed a new £50m credit facility. The leased and tenanted division generated a 5.3% increase in like-for-like sales over the same period. It 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%. Talking to Propel in May, McDowall said: “We run a pretty simple business. We want people to come and visit our pubs, bars and venues whatever the operating format and leave feeling that they’ve had a great time and feeling better about themselves. And that’s what we need to focus our time and energy on.”

Industry News:

Number of pizza concepts set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of pizza concepts are among the 17 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday (28 July), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features Bocconcino Pizzeria, the high-end pizzeria concept led by Moscow restaurateur Mikhail Gokhner, which has a site in London’s Mayfair and has plans to open a second, in London’s The Strand. Also added this month is German pizza and pasta chain L’Osteria, which was founded by Klaus Rader and Friedemann Findeis and has more than 150 restaurants across eight European countries, including two in the UK. In addition, South Yorkshire pizza concept The Rustic Pizza Co, which was founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife team Lee and Sian Ogley and operates two sites in the UK, will be featured. Premium subscribers will also receive a 1,300-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,883 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 4 August, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 2,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; 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.
Tom Crowley to speak at Propel summer conference and party, three free places per company for operators: Tom Crowley, chief executive of Popeyes UK, 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. Crowley will discuss the brand’s entry into the UK market, the evolution of its offer, its marketing strategy 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
European baristas and au pairs could return to UK under government scheme: Thousands of young European waiters, baristas and au pairs could be allowed to come to the UK for two years under plans to plug gaps in the British workforce. The Sunday Times reports that the Home Office has begun discussions with some EU countries after being asked by Downing Street to agree more youth mobility schemes to help improve the economy without raising record levels of net migration. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, and Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, have proposed deals to several of their European counterparts in recent months. In particular, ministers are understood to be looking at France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland for deals involving workers aged between 18 and 30. Any agreements would be reciprocal, meaning young Brits would find it easier to travel and work in other countries. The schemes are likely to be tailored to each country and could vary in age criteria, length of stay and the types of roles applicants could undertake. Industry leaders have for months been pushing for visa schemes to help fill a million job vacancies. Many have complained that filling them has become harder since Brexit, the pandemic and the introduction of a points-based migration system. A source said: “The way you solve everything to do with the Brexit unfairness that some young people feel is to say that everyone under a certain age can travel and work for a period of time. This is the one way that you can restore some of the things the younger generation felt were ripped away from them as well as boosting the economy.”
No-shows and late cancellations lead to a fifth of restaurant owners coming close to shutting for good: A fifth of restaurant owners have come close to shutting for good due to no-shows and last-minute cancellations, according to new research. A study of 200 restaurant owners found a third have been given less than one hours’ notice for cancellations. Owners claim no-shows are up 40% and cancellations are up 35%, and for every customer who doesn’t turn-up, it costs operators an average of £89. In fact, late cancellations and no-shows are among the biggest challenges the restaurant industry currently faces, according to 23% of owners. Kirsty Morris, managing director for payments provider Barclaycards Payments, which commissioned the research, said: “The hospitality industry has faced many challenges in recent years and is continuing to feel the strain against the backdrop of the cost-of-living. While diners are becoming increasingly picky about the venues they choose to spend their hard-earned cash at, it’s really important this doesn’t translate to indecisiveness and negatively impact restaurants through cancellations.” The study also found many owners have already introduced, or are considering introducing, measures to help prevent cancellations and no-shows. More than a third (34%) now take card details when taking bookings and charge a fee if a customer does not turn up, while 37% plan to introduce this measure in the future, and 35% take a deposit before they’ll reserve a table.

David Lloyd Leisure pleads guilty to health and safety failings following toddler’s death: Health and leisure business David Lloyd Leisure has pleaded guilty to health and safety failings following a toddler’s death five years ago. Rocco Wright, three, was found at the bottom of the pool by his father, Steven Wright, at a David Lloyd Leisure centre in Moortown, Leeds in April 2018. An inquest heard the only lifeguard on duty on the day was a 17-year-old with less than three months experience. It also heard the visibility was an issue from where the lifeguard’s chair was positioned, and that a second lifeguard would have ensured full visibility. A statement from the family said it was devastated to hear the facilities manager give testimony that lifeguard numbers had been cut at the pool due to what he stated was ‘staff optimisation’ in line with budget cuts, despite concerns being raised. “This, in our opinion, proves David Lloyd put profit before safety,” they added. The firm last week entered a guilty plea at Leeds Crown Court to a “serious” health and safety breach at the club. It initially entered a not-guilty plea when the prosecution was first brought in November 2021. Representing David Lloyd Leisure, barrister Simon Antrobus KC read out an apology from the company's director in which he said: “We simply did not do enough.” He went on to say the company bears responsibility for the way its club performed, but insisted it was a case of “failure of implementation” rather than systems not being in place. Judge Simon Phillips KC adjourned the case until 1 August.
McDonald’s introduces several price hikes as cost of Big Mac goes up by almost £1: McDonald’s has raised the price of many of its UK menu items, with the price of a Big Mac shooting up by almost £1. The Daily Mail reports that the iconic burger has gone up from £3.69 to £4.59, while a portion of 20 Chicken McNuggets has increased by 80p, from £4.99 to £5.79, and milkshakes have been raised by 50p, from £1.29 to £1.79. Vegan dishes have been hit by the hike too, with the Vegetable Deluxe increasing from £3.59 to £4.19 and the McPlant jumping from £3.69 to £4.29. A McDonald’s spokesperson said prices varied across the country, adding: “We’re a franchised business so prices will vary from restaurant to restaurant, as well as between in-store and delivery.” McDonald’s businesses are putting the price hikes down to an increase in the cost of ingredients and running their restaurants, including higher energy bills and staff wages.

Company News:

Activist investor plots to break up TRG: An activist investor is plotting to break up Wagamama-owner, The Restaurant Group (TRG), as pressure grows on the company. The Daily Telegraph writes that TMR Capital is considering a swoop for two of the four divisions at TRG. The British Virgin Islands-based investor is eyeing a bid for the company’s Brunning & Price pub division and its casual dining chains, which include Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito, the newspaper said. The two divisions operate more than 150 sites across the UK. No price has yet been discussed, with TMR Capital pushing for more detailed financial information ahead of a possible formal bid. City analysts have said a “knockout” offer would be around £200m. A sale of the pub and dining divisions would leave TRG with just Wagamama and its travel hub-focused Concessions business. TMR, which has built up a 1.75% stake in TRG, argues that the sale would help to reduce the company’s debt burden and allow Wagamama to grow faster. The activist has approached its board about its early-stage proposals. A TRG spokesman told the newspaper the company would “continue to review our wider strategic options” but wouldn’t comment on speculative approaches. The plot to break-up TRG adds to pressure on the FTSE 250 company, which has spent the year under siege from activists. TMR and three other activist investors have all separately built stakes and heaped pressure on the business, led by Andy Hornby. Hong Kong-based hedge fund Oasis and New York-based groups Coltrane Asset Management and Irenic Capital have all argued that TRG should sell off its pubs and ailing casual dining chains to focus on growing Wagamama as a standalone business. Derek Vago, TMR’s chief, said he has lined up unnamed partners for his proposed bid, adding: “We have a couple of parties that we always work with. This one’s bought, owned and sold and amalgamated pubs before.” Vago previously led the asset finance group of investment bank Nomura International, which was heavily involved in the pub trade in the early 2000s, including the 1,200-strong group Inn Partnership. 

Jeremy King planning two further openings, raising £7m for comeback opening: Jeremy King, the co-founder of Corbin & King who confirmed earlier this month that he is to make a return to the capital’s dining scene with an opening in Hyde Park, plans to open two further restaurants in London’s West End next year. Earlier this month, King announced plans to launch The Park, a 215-capacity restaurant serving modern European cuisine, in Kensington in April next year. On the West End openings, the FT reports he has viewed the grade II-listed former NatWest bank on Piccadilly — just across the road from The Wolseley — according to three people familiar with the matter. King did not disclose the West End location but said the plans are at an “advanced” stage. The newspaper said he is now tapping investors for close to £7m of funding for The Park, with the majority of the investment channelled through an Enterprise Investment Scheme. Among those in discussions with King about investing are New York-based Knighthead Capital Management, the investment firm that financed his failed bid to keep Corbin & King. King said he wanted to avoid having a “dominant partner”, stressing that he wishes to work with a wide pool of investors – as many as 20 in total – “in a very independent way”. The restaurateur is still bruised from the boardroom saga that resulted in him being ousted in April last year from Corbin & King, which he co-founded in 2003, adding that he would not dine at The Wolseley as it would be “uncomfortable for everybody”. King defended his record running businesses but conceded he and new owner Minor had struggled with competing visions. “The lesson learned is that we didn’t…agree on what the future of the company was close enough…so we were slightly at cross purposes,” he said, adding that the pandemic “drove us apart rather than brought us together”. He is optimistic that food and drink inflation is “coming down” and that demand for upscale dining remained. “The restaurant trade will transcend these problems,” he added. “I think the industry will always resist whatever attacks are made on it.” 

Reilley – our positive impact on towns gives me greatest sense of achievement: Alex Reilley, executive chairman of café bar operator Loungers, has said that the positive impact his business can have on a town “gives me the greatest sense of achievement”. Next month, café bar operator Loungers will launch its first site in the north east when it opens Muro Lounge on the former Argos site in Hexham, Northumberland. Earlier this month, the business opened its 195th Lounge (and 232nd site overall) in Harlow, with the Novo Lounge. Reilley said: “There’s so much to enjoy about expanding our business and I, for one, find growing Loungers very addictive! Bringing ‘lounging’ to new locations, seeing new customers through our doors and creating jobs is both exciting and extremely gratifying. However, for me, the positive impact we can have on a town, its high street and the local community gives me the greatest sense of achievement. We live in an age where we’re constantly told the high street is dying, which I simply don’t think is the case. We need to reimagine our high streets and think creatively about new uses that will help support our shops. In Hexham it’s great, and very humbling, to see that our forthcoming opening is being seen as a positive catalyst for the town. As always, we will work hard in Hexham to earn our place on the town’s high street and will do what we can to help the vision for the town to become a reality – it’s a great town with lots of new potential.”

Uzbek Food concept OshPaz secures Piccadilly Circus site: OshPaz, the Uzbek food concept, is to open its first bricks-and-mortar site in London’s Piccadilly, Propel has learned. The business, which is led by chef Muzaffar Sadykov, will open a site at 7 Regents Street, this September. The concept, which has previously operated out of Kerb’s Seven Dials Market and the Mercato Metropolitano in Newington Causeway, offers Uzbek dumplings (manti), “aromatic Pilaf and sizzling Shashlik”. Matthew Englender at Cushman Wakefield and Ed Pearse Wheatley at Café Ventures acted on the Piccadilly deal.

Harvey’s makes ‘faster than anticipated’ recovery but city centres not fully back, dearth of staff left some pubs unable to trade fully: Brewer and retailer Harvey’s, which operates 45 pubs across the south east of England, said it has made a “faster than anticipated” recovery but city centres have not fully returned. Turnover in the year ending 31 December 2022 rose to £22,462,656 from £15,348,255 in 2021. The 2022 figure is back to that of the last full year before covid, ending 31 December 2019, of £22,462,745. Its pre-tax profit was up from £1,897,309 in 2021 to £2,893,056 (2019: £3,284,575). It received no government grants (2021: £642,863). Director Hamish Elder, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The close matching of 2022 figures to those of 2019 might suggest a recovery to an identical position in the first full year of company trading, but there are some significant nuances to the shape of Harvey’s post-covid activity. It had been difficult to know what to expect, but most commercial indicators at the end of 2021 suggested the company’s trade should gradually recover. Aged debt became minimised as the hospitality economy required immediate liquidity and credit terms were suspended. From the viewpoint of our pub customer base, geographically, it was the city centres that were slowest to return, and much of hospitality based on office workers never fully recovered as administrative staff increasingly work from home. However, it was a dearth in pub staff that very quickly developed, and shortages in all areas became evident early in the year. Chefs were commonly drawn to highest pay and tenancy applications were much suppressed. Many pubs were unable to trade fully, with some kitchens closed for two or three days in a typical week. Less surprising were the inflation trends of 2022. Despite the challenges in pub commerciality, the company took on two additional managed houses in 2022, bringing the total to ten. These may take some time to bring into individual profit. The directors are very grateful to all staff, all have coped well and diligently with the faster than anticipated rate of recovery.”

Padel operator secures debut site in Manchester: Padel concept Club de Padel is to make its debut later this summer in Manchester. Launching on Owen Street, in the city’s Deansgate area, with four brand new courts, Club de Padel aims to establish an “inclusive and thriving Padel community in the city with social matches, coaching, tournaments and corporate events taking place throughout the year”. Co-founder David Blake said: “Ever since we first encountered Padel in Barcelona several years ago, we have been desperate to bring this amazing sport to Manchester. It’s great fun, hugely sociable and easy to pick-up, so we know it’s going to be a smash at Deansgate Square.” Co-founder Matt McKinlay added: “The city centre location is ideal for both residents and professionals looking for a new way to socialise and network. We want everyone from school kids to young professionals to older residents to come along and give Padel a go.”

Chilled Pubs set to open seventh site: Chilled Pubs, the award-wining group of Derbyshire pubs that was founded by Richard and Loren Pope, has acquired its seventh site. It has added The Bulls Head in East Leake’s Main Street to its portfolio. The pub has been closed since the summer of 2022. The company will add an extra 170 covers to the current restaurant’s capacity with the addition of a marquee, an extended kitchen and new outdoor seating area. It said: “East Leake is the perfect setting for a Chilled Pub, and we have had overwhelming support from the local community, which has been fantastic. We are excited to bring our fresh food offer and authentic woodfired pizzas to the area. We have an extensive drinks range, including our own homemade lemonade, and we are building a new cocktail bar to deliver our quirky range of cocktails and mocktails. We can’t wait to give everyone a warm and friendly welcome when we reopen the doors of this wonderful pub.” Work on the extension has already started and the doors will open in late August, creating 80 jobs.
Heavenly Desserts opens landmark 50th site: Dessert restaurant franchise Heavenly Desserts has opened its landmark 50th site. The site, at 48 Upper Tooting Road in Tooting Bec, south London, is also the brand’s fifth new restaurant of the year following launches in Brighton, Beckton in east London, Hull and Leamington Spa. Managing director Yousif Aslam said: “Once upon a time, 50 seemed like a huge number. Today, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough! Congratulations to all our team, franchise partners and the wider network of supply chain partners both past and present for your input in us reaching this fantastic milestone at Heavenly Desserts UK. We’ve only just scratched the surface and I’m excited to see the journey ahead as we grow our footprint.” The company added: “We opened our doors for the first time in 2008, in a little city that sits in the centre of England, otherwise known as Derby. Fifteen years on and probably half a million waffles later, our love for desserts has spread like wildfire over the UK and even spilled overseas all the way to Toronto, Canada! With exciting times ahead, we’re soon to be popping up in all corners of the world, including the USA, Pakistan, UAE and some of your favourite European cities. Our dream of being an international superstar is mirrored in our desserts, which take inspiration from all over the globe, from Turkish baklava to American waffles and Middle Eastern kunafeh to Japanese mochi.” Following in the footsteps of Tooting soon will be sites in Aberdeen and Slough. These will be followed by five more sites in the third quarter – Milton Keynes, Burnley, a second Manchester site, a third Birmingham store and a third Glasgow location.
Marugame Udon operations director leaves to set up hospitality consultancy business: Stephen Phillips, European operations director at Marugame Udon, has left the international udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand to set up a hospitality consultation business. Phillips had been with Marugame Udon for almost three years, initially holding the role as head of operations, and was previously operations director at Busaba. Previous to that, he was head of operations at Levi Roots Caribbean Smokehouse and also held area manager positions at Gourmet Burger and The Restaurant Group. Phillips, who also worked as a voluntary NHS responder during the pandemic, has now founded Unami Consulting. He said: “After over 30 years in the hospitality industry, I have decided that my passion and knowledge for all things hospitality, restaurants food and business can be shared with so many more people and organisations, and now is the time to take the plunge. I guess I am the typical hospo story, starting from washing dishes at 14, through catering school making my way to a head chef, over to front of house and onto director roles. I have worked as key parts of large businesses and instrumental in two start-up companies. I am passionate about helping businesses maximise their operations quality and improve their bottom line.”
Former Fifteen chef to lead new small plates restaurant in London’s Portobello Road: Former Fifteen chef Peter Breckon will lead the kitchen at a new small plates restaurant in London’s Portobello Road. Breckon learned his trade working with the likes of Heston Blumenthal, Mark Hix and Terry Laybourne, and at Jamie Oliver’s flagship Fifteen restaurant. He is now executive head chef at Angel above Portobello, which has opened on the first floor of the four-floor The Distillery at 186 Portobello Road. The 34-cover restaurant offers à la carte dining and small plates, with a focus on local produce and an intimate dining experience. Dishes include tea smoked salmon, roasted hispi, and leek mosaic terrine, with six small plates costing £66, mains from £19 and sharing plates from £55. Ged Feltham, owner of The Angel above Portobello, said: “We look forward to welcoming diners, inviting them to sample a unique gastronomic experience in Peter’s exciting and distinctive menu. With a focus on sustainability, we’re committed to delivering genuine excellence through our food, ambience and service.” As well as housing a gin distillery, The Distillery is also home to a bar, a private dining room and three guest lodgings.
Chipotle makes Surrey debut: US brand Chipotle has made its Surrey debut with an opening in Guildford. Propel revealed earlier this month that Chipotle had secured the ex-Next site in the town’s White Lion Walk scheme. It is the third venue Chipotle has opened this year, following Westfield White City in June and Twickenham in April, taking the brand’s UK estate to 16 locations. “Given the rising popularity of Chipotle across nearby London, our expansion in the UK remains a top priority for our international strategy,” said Jacob Sumner, director of European operations. “This new location will increase the Guildford community’s access to real, fresh food.”
Glasgow Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant pulls the plug after six years: A Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in Glasgow has closed after six successful years of running. Monadh Kitchen, located in New Kirk Road in Bearsden, has announced it would be closing with immediate effect. The restaurant, which specialised in local Scottish cuisine, informed customers it would no longer be opening following financial difficulties. It said on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the closure of Monadh Kitchen. The financial burden of the world we live in has forced us to close with immediate effect. Managing through covid to then head into a cost-of-living crisis has been the most difficult challenge for all small independent businesses, so please continue to support local. We have given it everything we possibly could, however it is no longer enough. Our health, and the well-being of our family, can no longer be sustained under these pressures. We are devastated to be leaving such a wonderful area and customers we now consider friends after the past six years.”
SSP opens Soul + Grain site at Newcastle airport: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has opened a Soul + Grain site at Newcastle airport. The restaurant, in the departure lounge, provides a range of vegan, vegetarian and nutritionally balanced food options, including raspberry and chia seed soya yoghurts; goat’s cheese, sweet potato and roast cauliflower salad; katsu chicken and rice hot box; and hummus and marinated vegetable focaccia. It displays detailed nutritional information, has seating for up to 60 guests and free charging points. Kari Daniels, chief executive UK & Ireland at SSP, said: “Soul + Grain has been very well received, and as our second UK airport opening for the concept, this launch at Newcastle airport is a great next step in its development. Travellers are increasingly wanting balanced menu options that provide both healthy as well as indulgent choices and Soul + Grain fits this bill perfectly.” It comes as the airport makes “significant” investments in its food and beverage provisions over the next 18 months. SSP Group already operates Bar 11, Cabin Bar, Quaystone and Beerhouse in the airport’s terminal, as well as a Starbucks.
Montpeliers launches new immersive cocktail bar: Edinburgh pub and restaurant business Montpeliers has launched a new immersive cocktail bar in the city. The team behind Tigerlily, Rabble, Candy Bar, Indigo and Eastside has opened Tigerlily in George Street. It offers a range of cocktails, priced from £5, alongside draught beer, wine, slushies and spirits. There will also be a “carnival of musicians” and “bespoke energetic and interactive performances” each evening. General manager Darren Downing said: “We are thrilled to bring something new and exciting to Edinburgh. Our goal is to create a space where everyone can enjoy a casual drink with friends or a high-energy night out. We have put a lot of thought and effort into creating a properly fun experience for our guests.”
Manchester pasta concept set to open fourth site: Manchester pasta concept Sugo Pasta Kitchen is set to open a fourth restaurant in the city. Sud Pasta, formerly known as Sugo Pasta Kitchen, opened its first restaurant in 2015 and launched a second, in Ancoats, in 2018. Co-owners Mike and Alex De Martiis opened their third restaurant, in Sale, in 2021. “We’re opening a new kitchen in central Manchester,” the company posted on Instagram. “Undisclosed location. Undisclosed menu. Week commencing 21 August.” The business was forced to change its name earlier this year following a legal dispute with a Glasgow restaurant also called Sugo Pasta – despite the fact that the latter only opened in 2019.
Birmingham bubble tea concept to open first franchise site this week: Birmingham bubble tea franchise Mowchi will open its first franchise site next week. The business was founded last year by Syeda Kayanath, brand and marketing director at Midlands-based African restaurant concept Afrikana, opening its debut site at 363 Ladypool Road, Birmingham. Its second site, and debut franchise location, will now open at 57 Great Horton Street in Bradford on Friday (28 July). Kayanath told Propel in January that she is looking to expand the concept nationally through franchising, with other target locations including Manchester and Liverpool. Afrikana recently launched its tenth site, at 81-83 Wilmslow Road in Manchester, and will return to London for its next opening, its second in the capital, in Mile End.
Scottish family-run leisure company returns to pre-pandemic levels of turnover and profit: Scottish family-run leisure company Visitor Centres returned to pre-pandemic levels of turnover and profit in the year ended 31 October 2022. The company – which operates Landmark Forest Adventure Park in Carrbridge, Camera Obscura World of Illusions in Edinburgh and Inveraray Jail in Argyll – reported turnover of £10,279,766, up from £7,211,488 in 2021. It was also a slight increase on the £10,078,850 reported in the last full year before covid, ending 31 October 2019. Its pre-tax profit rose from £1,868,257 in 2021 to £2,264,479 (2019: £2,194,518). Dividends of £220,000 were paid (2021: nil). The company received £76,100 in government grants compared with £923,162 in 2021. In the previous year, it had received £250,000 in insurance claims (2022: nil). Director David Hayes, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The company had a better year due to being able to open all year for the first full year since 2019. All covid-19 restrictions over, the market continued to recover, although Landmark and Camera Obscura were still working with reduced capacities, partly due to smaller volumes of people on-site at once, corresponding with a better visitor experience. However, in Landmark’s case, reduced capacity was also a result of the recruitment crisis, which particularly affected rural areas. The company's financial position at the year-end remained strong, with net assets at 31 October 2022 totalling £10,368,093. The cash reserves retained by the company rose by £1,855,603 and still provide security against the risks of a bad year as a result of external factors such as adverse weather or economic conditions. A strong level of cash reserves also allows the company to invest in its attractions and ensure the high quality of the visitor experience and services we offer are maintained.”
Hollywood Bowl appoints independent non-executive director: Hollywood Bowl, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has appointed Rachel Addison as an independent non-executive director. She will join on Friday, 1 September and be a member of the audit, remuneration and nomination committees. Addison has circa 30 years of finance and operational management experience. She has held a number of senior leadership and board positions across media and technology businesses, including as chief financial officer at Future and T1 Media and senior roles at a variety of business including Reach, Local World, Northcliffe Media and Boots the Chemist. She is a chartered accountant, having started her career at Arthur Anderson. Addison holds a number of non-executive director roles including at Watkin Jones and Wates Group. Hollywood Bowl chairman Peter Boddy said: “Rachel will bring significant financial and operational experience, including in digital media, which will be of great value to the board and the company.”
Mojo Bars to move Liverpool venue to new site: Voodoo Doll, the company behind the Mojo Bars business, has confirmed it will be moving its Liverpool venue to a new site in the city. Following 15 years at Back Berry Street, it will be moving to a new unit in the Liverpool ONE complex. Opening in late August, the new site will be a larger, two-storey venue spread over 3,500 square feet, and with longer opening hours. Managing director Martin Greenhow said: “Our team have carefully crafted a venue right in the heart of the city centre that will continue Mojo’s legacy of music for the people, food for the soul and good times forever. We can’t wait to welcome long-time regulars and new guests to the new venue and the new era of Mojo Liverpool.” Voodoo Doll is also set to open a site in Edinburgh’s Rose Street. It also opened a new bar at The Gate in Newgate Street, Newcastle, in April.

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