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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 4th Aug 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Papa John’s CEO – we’re confident we can improve sales and profitability within our UK market: Rob Lynch, president and chief executive of Papa John’s, has said while the business knows there will be macroeconomic challenges ahead, it is “confident we can improve sales and profitability within our UK market”. Earlier this summer, the business, which operates more than 500 sites here, announced a shift in its UK strategy with the acquisition of 91 sites previously operated by the M25 division of Drake Food Service International to form a portfolio of company-owned restaurants. Lynch said: “Our international business is a long-term growth driver for Papa John’s. We’ve recently established a corporate-owned restaurant portfolio in the UK, our largest international market, allowing us to build a similar success model to the one we’ve created in the US. This model accelerates our ability to scale our company’s capabilities with franchisees in the UK, and worldwide, to grow like-for-like and new unit development. While we know there will be macroeconomic challenges ahead, particularly in the short term, we’re confident we can improve sales and profitability within our UK market, and in our international segment overall.” It comes as the business reported a 1.6% decline in total revenues to $514.5m in the second quarter of 2023 compared with the previous year. Excluding the impact of purchasing the 91 international stores in 2023, total revenue decreased 1.9% compared with the year before. It said the revenue decline was driven by lower North American commissary revenue, driven by lower sales volume and decreased commodity prices in 2023 as compared with 2022. The decrease was partially offset by like-for-like sales growth from domestic company-owned restaurants. In the quarter, global systemwide restaurant sales were $1.22bn, up 2% from a year ago. The company said the increase reflected higher equivalent units from net restaurant openings primarily in its international markets. International like-for-like sales were down 1% from a year ago but up 5% on the first quarter. Papa John’s UK features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £102,339,000 for the year ending 26 December 2021 is the 75th 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.

Industry News:

Host of companies book tickets for Talent and Training Conference: Large number of companies are booking places at the forthcoming Talent and Training Conference, with many booking in their entire HR teams. Among those booking are: City Pub Company, Shepherd Neame, Mission Mars, New World Trading Company, Steamin Billy, Wagamama, Burgerism, Comptoir Group, Cote, Paskin, Stonegate Pub Company, Coaching inn Group, WatchHouse Coffee, Mildreds, Nightcap, MeatLiquor, Big Table Group, Yard Sale Pizza, Paskin, Inception Group, Brakspear, McMullen, Simmons Bars and many more. The all-day conference takes place on Tuesday, 3 October at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. The conference will showcase examples of outstanding people culture among companies within the sector and how the industry is attracting talent. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers and can be booked by emailing

Next edition of The New Openings Database to be sent to Premium subscribers today, to show details of 108 new sites, 6,000-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 108 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published today (Friday, 4 August), at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features growing restaurant and café brands, niche cuisine, and expanding experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 6,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. This month, Propel will 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. 

Hospitality sales up 1.4% in July as food drives growth: Hospitality sales saw an overall year-on-year increase of 1.4% in July, according to the latest data from people, productivity and payroll system S4labour. Food sales were responsible for growth, with an increase of 5.8%, whereas drink sales were down 2.0% compared with last year. London fared much better than the rest of the country, seeing sales 2.9% ahead of 2022, while sites outside the capital experienced a decline of 4.3%. Richard Hartley, chief growth officer at S4labour, said: “July has been a much slower month than we would have liked, as sales have likely suffered due to bad weather, with less people going out for drinks throughout the month. Though these numbers indicate growth, they still lag behind inflation levels. However, as we move into August, we are hopeful the summer holidays, as well as the bank holiday, will help towards offsetting this.” 

UKHospitality – yet another interest rate rise ‘only exacerbates the financial challenges many are grappling with’: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has warned yet another interest rate rise “only exacerbates the financial challenges many are grappling with”, and again urged the government to take urgent action to bring down the cost of doing business. It comes as interest rates went up 0.25% to 5.25% – the 14th consecutive rise and to their highest level for 15 years. The Bank of England warned interest rates will remain high for at least two years but ruled out the prospect of a recession. Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses are particularly exposed to further rate rises, due mainly to the covid loans many were forced to take out during the pandemic. Yet another rise in interest rates only exacerbates the financial challenges many are grappling with, alongside high energy costs, food and drink inflation and labour shortages. The inflationary pressures we’re facing as a nation are supply, not demand, led so we need to see urgent government action to bring down these business costs. A good starting point would be to rapidly implement the recommendations made by Ofgem last week to mitigate the energy crisis. We would also urge flexibility on loan repayments, including extension to terms, options to move to interest-only payments or delay altogether, and flexible arrangements from HM Revenue & Customs for tax payments.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill added: “Our industry can play a big part in supporting the government in bringing down inflation if we are given the platform to trade. The government needs to tackle some of the short term barriers to investment and growth.”

Just 10% of Brits feel a pint is affordable: Just 10% of Brits feel a pint is affordable, research commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has shown. Drinkers in Scotland felt the most out of pocket, with just 6% saying a pint was affordable. Despite having some of the steepest prices in the UK, a high of 15% of Londoners said they found a pint affordable. CAMRA has long called on government to level the playing field between regulated, community venues like pubs and social clubs, and off-licence venues like supermarkets, which face far lower levels of regulation and tax. Additionally, CAMRA said the beer tie and other exclusive purchasing agreements mean many publicans are locked into contracts that mean they must buy beer and cider at higher than market prices, further increasing prices at the bar. CAMRA national chairman Nik Antona said: “This data shows how vital it is that government takes action this autumn and uses its planned fiscal event to reassess the huge financial burden it places on the trade.” 

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a growing environmentally focused group that is seeking an energy company obligation (ECO) contact delivery manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will have significant working knowledge of the government’s ECO/ECO4 schemes. You will work alongside the energy services director to oversee the administrative activities that facilitate the smooth running of the team that makes up the managing agent services department. Ideally, you will have worked for another managing agent or energy supplier.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in Berkshire. For more information, email 

Company News:

Wingstop UK – exciting roadmap of openings ahead, flagship achieves £100,000-plus sales record: Lemon Pepper Holdings, the company behind the rollout of the Wingstop brand in the UK, has told Propel it has an “exciting roadmap of openings ahead”. The company said it was seeing strong performance across its 35-strong estate, including record £100,000-plus weekly sales at its flagship site in London’s Cambridge Circus. The business confirmed it had posted £100,000-plus (approximately $128,000) in record weekly sales at its original flagship location in Shaftesbury Avenue, which opened nearly five years ago, which it said reflected the “unwavering commitment and consistent efforts of the entire Wingstop UK team”. Tom Grogan, director of Lemon Pepper Holdings, said: “From Scotland to Wales to Birmingham to Manchester; we're incredibly proud to witness strong performance across the entire estate. Looking forward, Wingstop UK has secured an exciting pipeline of new store openings that stretches into 2024. With strategic locations planned across the country, the brand is well-positioned to continue its expansion to bring the Wingstop experience to even more communities. Our success at our original flagship location is just the beginning. We have an exciting roadmap of new store openings ahead to add to our portfolio, and we are confident our signature flavours will continue to win the hearts and taste buds of our customers nationwide.” Lemon Pepper Holdings recently secured its second standalone site in Scotland, in Glasgow, adjacent to Nando's at the St Enoch shopping centre. The brand, which already operates out of a Deliveroo Editions site in Glasgow, also operates a restaurant at the St James Quarter scheme in Edinburgh. Last month, Propel revealed Lemon Pepper Holdings had added a site in Southampton to its 2023 openings pipeline. It has taken on the ex-Bok Shop site in the West Quay scheme. Propel revealed in June that Lemon Pepper Holdings had further strengthened its openings pipeline as it looks to reach 40 sites and a revenue of more than £60m by the end of this year. New restaurants will also be opening this year in Islington's Upper Street, Birmingham's New Street and London's Wood Green. It is understood to also be in discussions to bring restaurants to Hounslow, Clapham and another to Edinburgh this year.

Gordon Ramsay signs partnership to launch in Canada: Chef Gordon Ramsay is to ramp up his presence in North America, after signing a new partnership deal to introduce multiple dining experiences to the Canadian market. The chef has signed the partnership with Great Canadian Entertainment, Canada's leader in gaming and hospitality. Under the partnership a Gordon Ramsay Burger is set to open at Hard Rock Casino Vancouver this autumn, and Gordon Ramsay Steak will follow next year at River Rock Casino Resort, marking the introduction of both brands to the Canadian marketplace. Ramsay said: “We're thrilled to partner with Great Canadian Entertainment to bring our dining concepts to the vibrant Canadian dining scene. Canada has a strong culinary market, and we can't wait to welcome guests into our new restaurants in the coming months.” Matthew Anfinson, chief executive at Great Canadian, added: "We are thrilled to bring Gordon Ramsay's extraordinary gastronomic vision to our properties. This partnership represents a monumental moment for our company as the addition of Gordon Ramsay Burger and Gordon Ramsay Steak in British Columbia will offer our guests an unrivalled dining experience, and we are eager for the opportunity to introduce additional Gordon Ramsay brands at other Great Canadian destinations in Canada.” In 2019, Ramsay signed a deal with private equity firm Lion Capital to expand his restaurant concepts across the US. He currently has 24 restaurants across Las Vegas, New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Connecticut, Indiana, Orlando, North Carolina, Atlantic City, Baltimore, Lake Tahoe, Southern California and Kansas City, several of which are in partnership with Caesars Entertainment. He also operates 53 international restaurants in the Gordon Ramsay Restaurants portfolio worldwide.

South African bakery concept Okja plans UK launch: Okja, the South African bakery and café concept, is planning to make its debut in the UK, and has begun a search for sites in London, Propel has learned. Born in Cape Town, the plant-based Okja has been serving coffee and sweet treats from its bakeries since 2019. It was founded by Rui Esteves and Dave Chait, two serial entrepreneurs who have decades of experience building “exciting concept food brands”. Esteves, creative director, is “uncompromising when it comes to product”, and hired an ex-Michelin-star restaurant pastry chef “to commandeer Okja’s in-house recipe development”. The concept is now looking for locations in London for its bakery concept where it can produce “proper plant-based pastries and dish them up with some dazzling deliciousness”. It is understood P-Three is retained to find locations for Okja.

Patty & Bun founder to relaunch south west London pub: Joe Grossmann, founder of better burger concept Patty & Bun, is to reopen a pub in Barnes, south west London. Grossman is to relaunch The Watermans Arms in Lonsdale Road next month. The waterside pub had been closed for a year, but will reopen with Sam Andrews, former head chef of the Camberwell Arms, running the kitchen. He will be joined by manager Simon Walsh, who used to be at the Anglesea Arms in Hammersmith. Alongside a pub menu that includes lamb ribs with yoghurt and honey, there will be an à la carte menu featuring seasonal dishes such as hake, mussel, tomato and bread stew; and spit roast chicken with chicken fat polenta. Drinks will include local ale and cider alongside a carefully curated collection of wine and classic cocktails. Grossmann, who grew up locally, said: “The Watermans Arms has been a long-time dream of mine. The bones of the place are incredible with high ceilings, beautiful original windows and doors along with a balcony overlooking the water. There are not many locations like it in London, it’s unique and iconic. It's in fantastic hands with Sam and Simon spearheading the project – two absolute legends who I’ve known for a while and always greatly admired. We want to build a place that people cherish and come back to again and again.” Shelley Sandzer acted on behalf of the landlord on the deal. 

Big Easy reports trading ‘exceeds forecasts’ as it recovers from covid: Big Easy, the London barbecue concept, has said trading for the year ending 31 July 2023 has “exceeded forecasts, resulting in materially higher revenue and Ebitda”. It comes as the company, which operates five sites, reported turnover increased to £24,880,000 for the year ending 31 July 2022 compared with £5,041,033 the year before. For the year ending 28 July 2019 – the last full year before the pandemic – the business turned over £20,595,992. Group Ebitda increased to £ 1,659,308 from £813,000 the previous year despite a number of its restaurants not fully opening until November 2021. In his report accompanying the accounts, founder Paul Corrett said: “Food and beverage and associated costs amounted to 31.9% of turnover compared with 40.1% for the comparative period, and net staff costs amounted to 34.4% of turnover compared with 23.8% for the comparative period, which resulted in a gross profit margin of 33.7% compared with 36.1% for the comparative period. The group’s restaurant that operates under the Clos Maggiore concept is now owned and operated in a separate group company from its Big Easy branded restaurants, which will allow the group to commercially develop further the brand successes of both Clos Maggiore and Big Easy independently as opportunities arise. The board is confident in its trading brands and continues to invest in its operations and future talent to strengthen the executive team. During the period following mandatory closures as a result of the covid-19 pandemic the group continued to meet its leasehold obligations and continued to meet all overhead and costs. While cognisant of the economic challenges in the current climate, we continue to remain optimistic and expect the group to achieve reasonable profitability in the forthcoming year and beyond. The group continues to look at opportunities and future new openings will be considered based on market conditions.” The business received government grants of £3,525 (2021: £946,299). No dividend was paid (2021: nil).

Moscow-based Japanese concept to make UK debut: Cutfish Sushi Bistro, the Moscow-based Japanese restaurant concept, is to make its UK debut with opening in London’s South Kensington. The business, which is led by Alexander Oganezov, is set to open at 96 Draycott Avenue. Cutfish Sushi Bistro operates four restaurants in Moscow, at Bolshoi Kozikhinsky 17, Lesnaya 5, Petrovka 12/1 and Presnenskaya Embankment 6/2. The concept, which looks to “celebrate the world of izakaya dining”, comprises two main menu sections with the first devoted to fresh sushi and rolls. The second section uses a Josper grill that smokes and grills simultaneously. Featuring vegetables, beef, duck, chicken, all dishes are served as small plates for sharing. The menu is finished off by fresh simple salads. Restaurant Property founder David Rawlinson, who acted on the deal, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming Cutfish Sushi Bistro to South Kensington. Draycott Avenue is an enviable location and the restaurant will be in good company with nearby stores including Chanel and The Conran Shop. We’re so pleased to have sold this premium location to this cutting-edge new concept restaurant.”

Ego adds Greater Manchester site to openings pipeline: The Mitchells & Butlers (M&B)-owned Ego brand has added a site in Greater Manchester to its openings pipeline for this year. Propel understands the James Horler-led business has lined up the Hartshead Inn in Ashton-Under-Lyne for an opening in mid-November. It will be a further Vintage Inns conversion for the business. The next Ego opening will be The Wyke Lion, near Bradford, which is due to open this month. It will be followed by the Flying Fox in Woburn, near Milton Keynes, which is scheduled to open at the end of September. Both will be Vintage Inns conversions. Earlier this week, Horler told Propel he believes there is potential to have more than 80 sites across the UK. Ego currently operates 26 sites. Horler told Propel: “We've had conversations about the potential size of the business. I mean, it's not something I am focused on because we only have 26 currently. Do I think we can have 80 sites in the UK? Absolutely, no question. I think there is a huge capacity for Ego across the UK. Over the next 12 months growth will be within our current geography, and I want to focus on developing our people ready for a greater speed of expansion. And then the following year, we will push on and that will bring us into the south east, the south coast and then potentially into Scotland.” He said the business had “pretty much agreed” on five further sites to take the business through until September 2024, all of which will be conversions.

Metcalfe – headwinds have been more ferocious than ever before, plans US return: Julian Metcalfe, the founder of Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, has said headwinds have been “more ferocious than ever before in our industry”, as he hinted at a return to the US for the brand. Talking to Bloomberg, Metcalfe said: “A great many customers are feeling it because the prices are going up. Often, if your business is inefficient, really inefficient, the only way to handle it is to put your prices up. Our prices have gone up a tiny bit. We've moved our menu a lot over to more hot food and it's taken years of work to be able to create these products.” Metcalfe said the return to office is “happening slower than we thought”, but the business was becoming “much less dependent” on the office lunch market. However, he said the brand plans to open “one of the biggest Itsus in history soon, right in the City…so we're still absolutely dedicated to serving our city and our office worker”. Itsu closed its only site in the US, in New York, during the pandemic. He said: “We'll go back and open in America but probably not in New York. I think we'll probably open in Washington and Boston and then Atlanta and go south. We'll do that when we're ready.” He also confirmed the business is continuing to look at UK opportunities outside London. Metcalfe said: “I think one of the most successful openings we have had to date was in Aberdeen, and Edinburgh and Manchester's thriving, Leeds is doing well. So, no, Itsu was not a London thing. I believe passionately that people – all of us – have the ability to taste and see value in food. So as long as you can keep the prices low, there's no reason why Itsu can't thrive right across the country.” On future openings, he said: “We're opening in Exeter very soon. We're opening in Glasgow. We're opening in Liverpool. We're opening in Newcastle. And many of our out-of-town northern Itsus are immensely successful. I think one of the most successful Itsus in the world is in Bristol.”

Costa’s partner in Japan sets out the first wave of openings: Sojitz Royal Café, which earlier this year signed a franchise agreement to help Costa Coffee make its “full-scale entry” into the Japanese branded café market, has set out the first three openings under the partnership. The business will open its first Costa store in Japan today (Friday, 4 August) in Tokyo’s Shibuya shopping district. The joint venture between the Japanese conglomerate and restaurant group Royal Holdings Co will open a second Costa outlet in Tokyo’s Otemachi district on Friday, 1 September before launching a flagship store in the upscale Ginza district the following month. It said it will gradually expand locations primarily in the Kanto region and plans to grow the franchise across Japan, with the aim of establishing Costa as one of the country’s main coffee chains. It said: “Sojitz Royal Café will introduce Costa Coffee’s authentic, high-quality coffee, hand-brewed by baristas, and expand store locations in Japan to meet the diversifying needs of café customers, enrich people’s lives, and realise sustainable growth.” Costa already has a presence in Japan through Costa Express, which launched in the country three years ago.

New York Peruvian restaurant Llama Inn to make UK debut: New York Peruvian restaurant Llama Inn, which opened in Brooklyn in 2015, is to make its UK debut. The concept, led by Juan Correa and chef Erik Ramirez, will launch a rooftop restaurant at The Hoxton in London’s Shoreditch next month. The opening is a partnership with Carte Blanched, Ennismore’s in-house restaurant studio responsible for the food and beverage concepts in the company’s global portfolio of hotels, including The Hoxton. Llama Inn London will be “in the spirit of the Brooklyn original”, with a menu that draws inspiration from Ramirez’s Peruvian-American background. Llama Inn London will initially open for lunch and dinner, with a weekend brunch offering to be launched later in the year. The kitchen will be headed up by Marcin Maliczowski, who has worked at famed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio’s Barcelona restaurant Yakumanaka. The menu will include small and large plates such as Arroz con mariscos, with tortillas, huacaina, and chalaca; and quinoa, bacon, avocado and cashew. The drinks menu will include cocktails and a wine list that features bottles from small, independent growers across the world, from South America to southern Europe. The restaurant will have its own entrance in Willow Street.

Liberation Group appoints David Kelly as new chairman: Channel Islands and West Country brewer and retailer Liberation Group has appointed David Kelly as its new chairman with immediate effect. The company said Kelly brings with him significant experience from his executive and non-executive career that has included chair of several businesses including Forest Holidays, and non-executive at others like The Gym Group and Holiday Extras. He has also held various senior leadership positions at eBay, Amazon and Rackspace. Kelly succeeds Richard Grainger, who recently stepped down as Liberation’s chairman after seven years in the role. Jonathan Lawson, chief executive at Liberation Group, said: “I am delighted and excited to welcome David to Liberation Group. From our initial meetings it was clear he will bring a huge amount to our board and our business. David has already actively engaged in the business, and I think he will be particularly impactful in assisting the development of our accommodation business, which is a key strategic objective for Liberation.” Kelly added: “This is a very exciting time to be joining the board of Liberation Group and I look forward to working with Jonathan and the rest of the team. The business is performing well yet there are some clear opportunities for us to grow over the next few years and I believe I can offer significant value and assist in the unlocking and driving of these areas.” Earlier this week, the company reported an 8.1% rise in like-for-like sales for the first half of its financial year across its UK business, as it said it had “set its sights firmly on becoming the leading provider of premium accommodation in the south of England”.

Côte brings back set menu deal: Côte, the French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has brought back its Prestige set menu “featuring high quality French dishes at affordable prices”. The menu has been designed by Côte executive chef Steve Allen who has previously worked alongside Gordon Ramsay at his Michelin-starred restaurants including Claridges and Petrus. Prestige will be available Monday to Friday from 7pm at its London restaurants in St Martin’s Lane and Covent Garden along with Chester, Manchester, Liverpool, Cirencester, Winchester and Dorchester. The set price menu will be trialled throughout the summer and if it proves successful it will be considered as a permanent fixture. The menu ranges from £18.95 for two courses and £22.95 for three courses (prices may vary). Main courses include Sea Bass Rouge, Confit Pork Belly, Squash Taboulé, Poulet Grillé and an 8oz sirloin steak (£3.50 surcharge). A Côte spokesperson said: “In France almost every restaurant offers a set menu prix fixe and we wanted to showcase our fine French cuisine at affordable prices. At Côte we believe in life’s little luxuries and the Prestige menu was loved so much by our guests that we decided to bring it back.”

Inception Group launches escape room-style experience in Battersea: Inception Group, the London hospitality group behind Mr Fogg’s, Maggie’s, Bunga Bunga and Cahoots, has teamed up with Bacardi Martini to launch an immersive escape room-style experience. The company said the Escape The Power Cut at Control Room B has been launched to feed into the increasing consumer demand for experiential offerings from hospitality brands. The company said: “Held behind the original dials of the Control Room, guests are asked to embrace their inner engineer, donning lab coats before being treated to a welcome cocktail, also available in non-alcoholic form. Following a briefing, teams of five will decipher cryptic clues, unveil mysteries, and complete problem-solving conundrums against the clock. A particular clue will also unlock engineers' second cocktail or mocktail. Escape The Power Cut features batteries, padlocks, hidden compartments, ultraviolet clue, symbols and dials, ensuring every member of each team can play to their strengths”. Co-founder of Inception Group, Charlie Gilkes, said: “There's an increasing appetite from our customers for more experiences in our collection of immersive bars. Launching Escape The Power Cut at Control Room B with Bacardi we hope to offer a deeper dive into the 1950s, through the themed 'escape room', tailored drink offering and era-accurate narrative, adding a further layer of immersion for our guests behind the dials at the heart of Battersea Power Station.”

AB InBev holds forecast as China offsets US Bud Light backlash: AB InBev beat quarterly earnings forecasts and held its 2023 guidance as a post-covid recovery in China helped offset the impact of a backlash in the US against Bud Light over a transgender promotion. Reuters reported AB InBev, which makes around a quarter of all beer drunk globally, said second-quarter volumes fell 1.4% despite growth in most markets. Average prices were up 9% year-on-year due to price hikes and as consumers shifted to more expensive drinks. The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona said Ebitda for the April-June period rose 5% year-on-year on a like-for-like basis to $4.91bn, against expectations of a 0.4% increase. In China, AB InBev sold 11% more beer by volume and more than 20% more higher-priced “premium” beer, pushing revenue and profit there above pre-pandemic levels. The company said revenue and profits were also higher in major markets Brazil and Mexico, where profit margins rose sharply, as well as Colombia and Europe. The opposite was the case in the US, normally the company's biggest market, where Bud Light lost its top spot to Constellation Brands' Modelo Especial following a backlash over a social media promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Bud Light US sales through retail stores have fallen by 25% or more since April, but the company said they had now stabilised, with a survey showing about 80% of consumers favourable or neutral towards the brand.

Peckham rotisserie chicken operator looks to kickstart expansion: Rotorious, the rotisserie chicken operator in Peckham, is looking to kickstart its expansion. The business is working with TwentyRetail to secure its second site. Rotorious is seeking 1,000 square-foot-plus sites in areas such as Dalston, Leyton, Hackney, Clapton and Brixton but will consider “any busy footfall locations”. Kitchen extraction is required, or the ability for it to be installed. The preference is for corners sites and outside seating. Rotorious uses free to roam chickens reared in Kent, and also has falafel alternatives. It serves quarter, half and whole rotisserie chicken along with wings, chicken subs, chicken salad and poké bowls. Sides include coconut rice, purple slaw and fries while the business is known in the area for its homemade “Peckham Punisher” hot sauce.

SSP Group opens new food court at Helsinki airport: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has opened a new food court at Helsinki airport in Finland. Of the six units, three are bespoke brands, created by SSP Finland. Among them is free-flow restaurant and café, Café Tori, a concept that has been at the airport since 2011. Café Tori is open 24 hours a day, offering a menu that includes a selection of Finnish traditional homecooked food, fresh pastries, and healthy options. “Asian Corner” brings the experience of the best food stalls in Asia to the terminal. The menu is full of flavours from across the continent, and is changed regularly to reflect current tastes and trends. At Pala Pizza Bar, dough is rested for 48 hours and baked with fresh toppings before being served from a counter to speed up service. The food court also features New York-style burgers with a Scandinavian touch while Middle Eastern-style Finnish brand, Fafa’s, offers filled pitas, mezes and salads with vegetarian and vegan options. Finnish chain Robert’s Coffee has also opened a site in the food court. Elena Heiska, managing director of SSP Finland, said: “These openings are a reflection of the hard work of our team, the efficiency of our operations at the airport, and our long history as a trusted partner at Helsinki.” 

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