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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 9th Aug 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Flip Out owner signs master franchise agreements in Europe and India: We Do Play, the owners of the UK’s largest adventure park operator Flip Out, has signed two new master franchisor agreements to support its international expansion strategy, Propel has learned. We Do Play has signed two major master franchisor relationships in India and Europe, as well as initiating the construction of a site in a new shopping mall in Kuwait. The Kuwait site, in the Al Jawhara Mall, is a first site for regional franchisor Kuwait Flip Out. The master agreement in India is with Fran Global, which has introduced numerous leading global brands to the Indian market and has committed to a minimum of 20 sites over the next five years. The Flip Out opportunity was showcased at the recent New Delhi franchise show and recognising the immense potential in the Indian market, We Do Play said it is “making a substantial commitment in resources to bolster its presence in the region”. In Europe, master franchisor FEC has secured first-stage funding through a combination of private equity and finance. This will enable FEC, which is led by Flip Out’s original master franchisor from 2014, Jon Inwards, to aggressively pursue its current pipeline of its first ten family entertainment centres across five European countries. The inaugural site, set to begin construction this month in Odense, Denmark, will be closely followed by a second site, in Sweden. It is FEC’s ambition to open 20 sites over the next three years. We Do Play owner Richard Beese, who acquired the UK master right for Flip Out from Inwards in 2018 before going on to purchase the global rights, told Propel: “In India, our counterparts have committed to a minimum development schedule of 20 sites over the next five years, but we believe it has the capacity to scale that up tenfold. Meanwhile, in Europe, we see it as an untapped market for Flip Out-style family entertainment centres. It has always lagged behind the UK in terms of innovation and product mix. The strength of the Flip Out Brand, both in the UK and Australasia, is unrivalled.” In June, Propel revealed We Do Play, which also operates crazy golf concept Putt Putt Noddle, is set to open Europe’s biggest family entertainment centre later this year as it debuts its new Mexican bowling concept, Guacabowlé. The location for the circa 130,000 square-foot site, which is due to open in December, has yet to be revealed but will feature a Flip Out and Putt Putt Noodle alongside Guacabowlé, under one roof. We Do Play has already opened joint Flip Out and Putt Putt Noodle sites in Poole and Telford this year. While Putt Putt Noodle is still a relatively new concept with just three sites, Flip Out now has more than 30 UK sites. The group told Propel earlier this year it is aiming for 40 Putt Putt Noodles and 20 more Flip Outs by 2026. Putt Putt Noodle and Flip Out feature in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 210 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 

Industry News:

The Pig to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: Steve Rockey, group people director at The Pig, will be among the speakers at the Propel Talent & Training Conference. The all-day conference takes place on Tuesday, 3 October at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Rockey will talk about the group’s chef academy and how it is a little out of the norm, with beekeeping, foraging, gardening, pickling and animal husbandry part of its initiatives to recruit and retain staff. 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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Next Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 745 largest sector companies turning over total of £50.6bn, up from £48.1bn last month: The next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (11 August), shows 745 of the largest sector companies are turning over a total of £50.6bn – up from £48.1bn the previous month. A total of 509 companies are making a profit while 236 are making a loss. The profit being made by sector companies is now outstripping losses by £1.33bn. The Blue Book shows the total profit of the 745 companies in the list is £3,272,517,901 and losses are £2,761,785,504. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; 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 will be released on Wednesday, 16 August and 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com 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.
 
UK cost-of-living crisis ‘coming to an end’ as inflation looks set to fall behind pay growth: The cost-of-living crisis “appears to be coming to an end” as inflation looks set to fall behind pay growth, an economist has claimed. Ashley Webb, of Capital Economics, predicted last month’s inflation figure, which stood at 7.9% in June, would “fall below” the pace of wage growth when official figures are published next week. Wages rose around 6.9% year-on-year between March and May, not too far behind inflation. But this is expected to reverse, with Capital Economics predicting inflation will have fallen to 6.5% in July while average earnings for the three months to June will accelerate to 7.4%, reports The Daily Mail. Webb added inflation was expected to remain below pay expansion for the rest of the year, meaning households would finally begin to recover some spending power after almost a year of crippling price rises. He said: “Overall, based on the real growth rate of earnings, the cost-of-living crisis may end as soon as July this year. But the levels of real household disposable income and real wages may not recover until 2025.” The assessment came as the Bank of England’s chief economist Huw Pill warned in a question and answer session hosted by Citizens Advice that supermarket food prices would still remain high, even if inflation begins to fall.
 
FSB calls on Welsh government to rethink tourism tax as overseas visitors drops by a third in three years: The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Welsh government to rethink its planned tourism tax after new figures revealed overseas visitors to the country dropped by a third in three years. Legislation allowing local authorities to introduce a levy is expected to put to the Senedd within the next two years following a consultation earlier this year. But data from an International Passenger Survey, released by the Welsh government, shows there were 33% fewer inbound visitors to Wales in 2022 than in 2019, and the amount they spent dropped by 24%, reports the BBC. “We feel now isn’t the time for another barrier to be added in circumstances where we’re seeing far lower numbers visiting Wales,” said FSB Wales policy chair Ben Francis. Businesses said while wet weather could be deterring holidaymakers, a bigger factor was the cost-of-living crisis. Sean Taylor, founder and president of Zip World, based in Llanrwst, said the six-week school summer holiday was “absolutely essential” for the business. He said: “The 49 days of summer holidays, including the Scottish holidays, accounts for about 55% of our turnover during the year – it’s that important. We’ve had 13 consecutive interest rate rises – it’s going to hit people in the pocket. We were forecasting probably a 10% [increase] on last year, but at the moment, if we can come in where we were last year, it will be a real result,” Taylor said the business, which employs around 850 people across centres in Wales and England, has seen people still spending on its rides but cutting back on spending in its cafes and shops. He added the poor weather has meant a reduction in day-trippers. Roland Rees-Evans, director of Penrhos Park holiday park in Llanrhystyd, and chairman of Mid Wales Tourism Cymru, said there was “no doubt” he had seen “a bit of a slowdown”, and while bookings were on a par with last year, “people are looking for the bargains”. 
 
MrBeast countersued by the company behind his virtual burger: Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast, is being sued by Virtual Dining Concepts, the ghost kitchen company that operates his virtual restaurant chain, MrBeast Burger. Variety reported Virtual Dining Concepts and Celebrity Virtual Dining are suing the YouTuber and his Beast Investments for failing to honour his contractual obligations, as well as intentional tortious interference. Damages are alleged to exceed $100m. The suit is in response to Donaldson suing Virtual Dining Concepts and its parent company last month, seeking to terminate the deal for his restaurant chain, alleging, among other things, that the burgers it served were called “disgusting”, “revolting” and “inedible” and damaged his reputation. Last week, Virtual Dining Concepts fired back, calling the YouTuber’s lawsuit “meritless” and “ill-advised,” claiming Donaldson had breached his agreement with the virtual restaurant company and recently attempted to negotiate a new deal “to serve his own monetary interests” and “give up more of the brand to him to terminate his “existing contractual obligations without cause”. The Florida-based company partnered with Donaldson to launch the food-based venture back in 2020, using storefronts of other existing restaurants to cook up the sandwiches. 
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an international beer brand looking for a revenue manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The company prides itself on the quality of the product and its message to ‘go green’. The revenue manager will be responsible for driving sustainable profitable growth for the business through pricing and promotion strategies as well as steering the company’s product mix management.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email fabian@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

New World Trading Co appoints Amber Wood as new COO: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) has appointed Amber Wood, formerly of Loungers and Novus Leisure, as its new chief operating officer, Propel has learned. Propel revealed in July that Wood was to step down as managing director of the Loungers-owned, 35-strong Cosy Club brand. Wood joined Loungers in August 2015 as a regional operations manager for the Lounge brand before moving to managing director of Cosy Club in summer 2017. Prior to joining Loungers, Wood spent nine years at Novus including two years as head of operations. The 33-strong NWTC said Wood brings with her a “wealth of industry experience with expertise in strategic management and brand expansion”. It said she will lead and support the operations team as well as overseeing brand and marketing activity at NWTC as its portfolio grows, with development currently underway for new openings in Sunderland, Durham and Bournemouth. Wood’s appointment comes as the business launched its latest The Botanist venue, a flagship site at the St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Rod McKie, executive chairman at NWTC, said: “Amber has a wealth of experience in leading operations and has been instrumental in the success story of Cosy Club. She is a talented leader and will be an invaluable asset at NWTC as we continue to strengthen and evolve the business. We’ve had a great start to the year and are looking ahead to an exciting pipeline of openings while remaining focused on industry innovation and delivering great customer experiences. A bold new world is ahead of us!” Earlier this year, the business secured approval to open a site under its The Botanist brand in Brighton’s Churchill Square. 
 
Roadchef seeing further improved trading in 2023 despite ‘multiple external shocks’: Mark Fox, chief executive of motorway services operator Roadchef, has told Propel the business is seeing further improved trading in 2023 despite the “multiple external shocks”. He said the business intends to continue to roll out its McDonald’s drive-thru lanes and Leon restaurants and is “very pleased” with the performance of its new Coco di Mama outlets and its new hotel brand, Super 8 by Wyndham. “The first Super 8 in the UK opened at our Chester services in July and we’re well on with planning our second,” said Fox. “We are continuing to invest behind our mission to de-stress and delight Britain’s road users and ensure our roads are a safer, happier and greener place. There’s lots going on, and the motorway services sector, together with the Roadchef business, continue to demonstrate they are very robust despite the multiple external shocks. Overall, we are very happy with the performance and we’re seeing continued improvement year to date in 2023.” It comes as the business, which was acquired by Australian financial services group Macquarie in a £900m deal during the period, reported turnover increased 21% to £219m for the year ending 1 January 2023 from £180.9m the previous year. Ebitda was £40.3m (2021: £43.5m) due to the reduction in government support year-on-year and the “significant inflation we experienced in the second half of 2022 especially in energy”. It made a pre-tax loss of £6.6m (2021: profit of £14.2m). No dividend was paid (2021: nil). Fox said: “The performance was underpinned by a gradual return of traffic on the strategic road network which, by the year’s end, was almost back to pre-pandemic levels and, indeed, ahead in some areas of the country. 2022 saw the business change ownership and we refinanced the business shortly after acquisition to enable us to maintain our investments to continually improve facilities and add new offers.”
 
Boparan Restaurant Group to open second Spanish location as part of five-site franchise deal: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) is to open its second Spanish location with the launch of a Giraffe World Kitchen in the new Yootoo dining and retail complex at Barcelona airport. The restaurant, situated airside in Terminal 1, is part of a wider five-site franchise deal with Lagardère Travel Retail and will open alongside the brand’s sister grab-and-go counter service concept, Giraffe Stop. The Giraffe World Kitchen site will span more than 4,400 square feet and accommodate 210 covers, and will also make use of an artificial intelligence service robot to take orders, deliver dishes and engage with guests. The menu will offer freshly prepared authentic dishes from around the globe plus small plates, burgers, drinks and desserts. Satnam Leihal, chief executive at BRG, said: “We are delighted to continue working with Lagardère on the Spanish expansion of Giraffe World Kitchen. As experienced multi-unit franchisees, it is the perfect partner to represent the brand as we continue to grow internationally.” The opening follows the Giraffe World Kitchen franchise from Lagardère at Malaga airport and is the brand’s 11th airport site. Others include Heathrow, Birmingham and Gatwick, as well as Dubai International and Bangalore, with additional international openings to be announced later this year. Javier Cagigal, chief executive of Lagardère Travel Retail Spain & Portugal, added: “We’re very happy with the performance of Giraffe at Malaga airport and are confident it will have the same success in Barcelona. We’re looking forward to exploring new business opportunities with BRG in new locations.” One of the two divisions of the Lagardère group, Lagardère Travel Retail operates more than 5,000 stores, including foodservice, in airports, railway stations and other concessions in 42 countries.
 
Odeon UK reports ‘year of recovery’ as revenue and attendance remain below pre-covid levels: The UK arm of cinema operator Odeon has said 2022 was a “year of recovery” for the business as revenue and attendance remained below pre-covid levels. The business, which operates 110 cinemas across the UK, saw turnover increase 48.3% to £202,851,000 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £136,799,000 the previous year. However, revenue was still down on the £246,425,000 for the year ending 31 December 2019 – the last full year before the pandemic. Food and beverage revenue was up to £53,944,000 from £37,464,000 the year before (2019: £65,547,000). Pre-tax losses were down slightly to £36,805,000 from £37,199,000. (2019: profit of £10,780,000). Odeon said attendance levels remained “significantly” behind pre-pandemic levels. A total of 15 million people visited its cinemas in 2022 – up from 9.5 million in 2021 but still behind the 21.4 million in 2019. Average ticket price dropped from £8.03 to £7.95 while average food and beverage spend was down to £3.46 from £3.94. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors said 2022 can be “viewed as a year of recovery” following the pandemic. “Industry attendance continued to be impacted by the pandemic,” they said. “The resultant production backlog resulted in fewer film releases during 2022 than typical pre-pandemic years, and industry attendance did not fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. A more robust slate of major movie releases is scheduled during 2023, which has generated optimism that attendance and revenue levels will continue to improve.” During the period, the company refurbished one site to its Luxe format, taking the total number of venues to 25. As previously reported, parent company AMC Entertainment refinanced a $500m loan during the period to provide additional financial support. The business did not receive any government grants (2021: £7,590,000). No dividend was paid (2021: nil).
 
Italian Job MD launches food hall above north London market: Simone Moroni, managing director of Italian craft beer pub concept The Italian Job, has launched a new food hall above the Nag’s Head Market in Holloway, north London. The Upper Place features a mix of vendors alongside a central bar from The Italian Job and a standalone wine bar, Rolling Grapes, all spread over 9,500 square feet. Among the vendors are gourmet Italian burgers brand Dez Amore, premium barbecue experience Smoketeers, British beef steak concept SteakHAUS, Italian restaurant Pasta Mood and pizzeria Paneria, which is from Moroni’s Empire Vision business. There is a central seating area for up to 130 plus bookable private areas, a meeting room, a games room and a community kitchen for those looking to learn new culinary skills. Moroni co-founded Empire Visions in 2018, operating businesses in both the UK and Italy including The Italian Job, which has sites in Hackney Wick, Canary Wharf and Elephant & Castle, the latter two in partnership with marketplace concept, Mercato Metropolitano. Its original Chiswick site, which opened in 2015, closed two years ago, while its second site, in Notting Hill, which opened in 2017, is listed as being temporarily closed.
 
Shropshire McDonald’s franchisee sees turnover rise to £40m but profit down as costs rise: McDonald’s franchisee BCR Restaurants, which operates nine restaurants in Shropshire and east Wales, has reported turnover increased to £40,146,706 for the year ending 30 September 2022 compared with £37,111,351 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £970,024 from £3,715,640 the year before due to increased costs. Gross profit margin was “in line with expectations due to the turbulent times of late” at 67.3% (2021: 70.9%). No government grants were paid (2021: £69,419). Dividends of £240,000 were paid (2021: £190,000).
 
Heartwood Collection opens Warwickshire pub for 20th Heartwood Inns site: Heartwood Collection, formerly Brasserie Bar Co, has opened its latest pub acquisition, The Black Swan in Henley-in-Arden, following an extensive refurbishment. The grade II-listed Tudor-fronted building has become the Alchemy Partners-backed group’s 20th Heartwood Inns pub site and 34th overall, alongside 14 Brasserie Blanc restaurants. A seasonal menu includes dishes such as a twice-baked cheese souffle with Coastal Cheddar sauce; Provençal lamb roulade with confit onion and herb stuffing; and a zesty lemon tart with Normandy crème fraiche. This is complemented by cask ale and a curated wine and cocktail list, while the pub has a dog friendly area. Managing director Richard Ferrier said: “The Black Swan marks our 20th Heartwood Inn and we are delighted to bring this historic and characterful pub back to the local community.” Propel revealed in June that Brasserie Bar Co had rebranded as Heartwood Collection to reflect its “ambitious plan” for growth in freehold premium pubs and pubs with rooms. It is on track to grow to 61 sites and up to 500 bedrooms by 2027 and last month secured £100m of funding to support its growth plans, including £50m from OakNorth Bank and £50m from Alchemy Partners.
 
Popeyes gearing up for Scottish debut: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, is gearing up to make its Scottish debut. Propel first revealed in December that the business had secured a drive-thru site at the Barrhead Retail Park in Glasgow, since when it has also been linked with the former Tower Records site in the city’s Argyle Street. But it is the Barrhead site which is set to be the brand’s first in Scotland, launching later this year, although an opening date has not yet been set, reports The National. It will accommodate around 56 diners indoors as well as 16 outdoors and will be the latest addition to the £16m leisure destination, which opened earlier this year. Tom Crowley, chief executive at Popeyes UK, said: “Opening restaurants in Scotland has been key for us since we first landed in the UK, and we’re looking forward to opening across the country, starting with a drive-thru in Barrhead. Our recent openings have been some of the biggest to date, not just in the UK but for Popeyes globally, and we are confident that our launch in Scotland will prove just as popular.” Popeyes, which is planning a move into franchising in the UK, currently operates 19 restaurants and eight delivery kitchens. As well as Barrhead, it has sites in Kilburn, Croydon, Wembley, Cardiff, Sheffield, Barnsley and Manchester “coming soon”.
 
West Midlands operator reports turnover exceeds pre-covid levels, pays off bank loans: West Midlands operator Lovely Pubs, which operates seven country pubs and restaurants in the region including Mortons Kitchen Bar & Deli in Solihull, exceeded pre-covid levels of turnover in the year ending 31 October 2022. Turnover increased from £5,930,415 in 2021 to £9,353,173. This compares with £9,077,009 in the last full year before the pandemic – ending 31 October 2019. Ebitda was up from £2.1m in 2021 to £2.4m (2019: £2.05m). A pre-tax profit of £1,860,513 in 2021 grew to £2,253,180 (2019:  £1,755,294). Dividends of £1,212,200 were paid during the year (2021: £1,182,000). The company received £27,150 in government grants compared with £962,916 in 2021. It received a rates refund of £59,175 relating to its Solihull site, and in the previous year, received £135,199 through renegotiating the gas supply at the same location. It had no bank borrowings compared with £300,000 in 2021 and £2.5m cash in hand (2021: £3.2m).
 
Humdingers opens fourth London bakery: London catering firm Humdingers has launched its fourth bakery, opposite Exmouth Market in Rosebery Avenue, Islington. It joins the Humdingers sites in Hoxton, Hornsey and Highbury – the latter having opened in March – and continues the brand’s ethos of giving back to the community. Having operated a soup kitchen at Hoxton during the pandemic, its new site will offer free freshly made soup to anyone who needs it. It will also sell fresh pastries, bread, cakes, cookies and sandwiches alongside freshly ground coffee from Pact and a range of soft drinks. Founder Robert Hunningher, whose efforts during the pandemic earned him a British Empire Medal, said: “Humdingers is my life, and with every new site, we have an opportunity to help more people. Giving out free soup is not a gimmick. We don’t care if it’s people who are homeless or businessmen in tailored suits, we won’t judge. You can take as much hot soup as you need for your family.”
 
Prosecco Caffé plans Soho opening for second site: Prosecco Caffé is to double its presence in London,with an opening in Soho. The business, which already operates a site in Westfield Stratford, has secured a new lease on the former Blade Hair Salon, in Frith Street. Prosecco Caffé said it offers an “authentic Italian experience at any time of the day – with an expansive coffee and Prosecco menu, as well as cocktails served with Italian liquors and a food menu with snacks, nibbles and desserts”. The concept aims to provide a “convivial environment open to all age and income groups and is inspired by the architecture, colours and lifestyle of Venice”. Louie Gazdar, of Davis Coffer Lyons, acted on behalf of the landlord, the Adil Group, on the Soho deal.
 
Badiani opens biggest UK site to take estate here to 14: Italian gelato brand Badiani has opened its latest site, at Westfield White City in London, to take its UK estate to 14. The new flagship store is the brand’s biggest yet and is located on the ground floor of the shopping centre. It is open for grab-and-go, eat in or delivery, offering more than 20 artisanal gelato flavours alongside waffles, crepes, coffee, pastries and Badiani’s recently launched gelato burger. It is the third of three openings in recent weeks, with Badiani launching in both Balham and Windsor at the end of July. Badiani, led by Massimo Franchi, told Propel in May that it plans an eventual UK estate of up to 40 sites. Founded in Florence in 1932, Badiani still has its original shop in the Italian city as well as two in Spain. It is opening three more Spanish stores this year and will also enter its third international market with an opening in Japan.
 
London wine bar concept set to open fourth site: London wine bar concept Must Wine, founded by chief executive Mike Nuttall in 2018, is set to open its fourth site. It will open at 2-4 Camden Passage, at the junction with Pierrepoint Arcade in Islington, in the autumn. Having opened the first Must site in St Albans in 2019, Nuttall has since launched bars in Hampstead (November 2021) and Wanstead (June 2022), offering wine tastings and serving more than 70 wines by the glass. There will also be a menu centred around sharing plates of cheese, pate and charcuterie, reports Hot Dinners. Nuttall’s past positions include advisory roles for Apollo Leisure Group and Dreamland Margate, and managing director of international retail and casinos at Ladbrokes.
 
Hakassan owner confirms September launch for first UK opening of Italian-American concept Lavo: Hakassan owner Tao Group Hospitality has confirmed a September launch for the first UK opening of its Italian-American concept, Lavo. The flagship restaurant in London’s Marylebone will open at The BoTree hotel – the latest London property from large scale independent hotel chain Preferred Hotels & Resorts. It will joins Tao’s London portfolio which includes the Michelin-starred Hakkasan at Hanway Place and Mayfair, as well as Yauatcha, the Cantonese dim-sum tea house with sites in Soho and the City. The menu, created by group chief culinary officer Ralph Scamardella, will include signature dishes such as Tagliatelle al Limone infused with marjoram, sweet butter and Kaluga caviar; whole grain, single-source flour pizzas; and a Wagyu meatball topped with whipped ricotta. The BoTree Bar, also launching in September, will offer dishes including oyster on the half shell with limoncello mignonette; a caviar sandwich with egg salad, caviar and homemade chips; and truffle grilled cheese with hot honey. The 199-room BoTree, offering 30 suites, several bars and two restaurants, will be a sister venue to Covent Garden’s Middle Eight hotel and Westminster’s The Guardsman.
 
North east pizza company to open new site in Sunderland: Independent north east pizza company, Scream for Pizza Group, is to open a new site in Sunderland next year. The business will launch its I Scream for Pizza concept at leisure venue Sheepfolds Stables, adding to its first outlet, which opened in Newcastle Quayside two years ago. The grade II-listed former stables, which is due to complete next year, will provide 11 distinct spaces, with other businesses moving in including a new street food concept from “Hairy Biker”, Si King. I Scream for Pizza was founded by Victoria Featherby in 2021 following the success of its street food and events business, which launched in 2014, and its original Scream for Pizza restaurant in Newcastle, which has been trading for the last four years. I Scream for Pizza focuses on New York-style slices and homemade soft serve ice cream. The new venue will be the group’s largest restaurant, providing 80 covers and serving food all-day. Featherby said: “It’s an exciting time for the city as it undergoes significant regeneration and investment, so we’re looking forward to being part of that transformation.”
 
Amber Taverns given green light for Airdrie opening: Amber Taverns, the wet-led, freehold community pub operator, has been granted permission to open a new bar in Airdrie. It has been given the green light to convert a former Farmfoods store in Stirling Street, creating up to 20 jobs. A planning statement read: “Amber Taverns is seeking to expand on its existing Scottish portfolio of pubs that includes Paisley, Coatbridge, Kirkcaldy, Kilmarnock and Dumfries, with applications recently submitted in Falkirk and Motherwell, which are currently awaiting determination. It is a private company funded by private equity and has a credit agreement for future expansion with the aim to purchase ten-15 sites a year. These are mainly community locals in busy towns as well as city centre venues, with 70% of its pubs located in former retail units. It ensures buildings to house its pubs are refurbished to very high standards with the average development budget for the renovation of each building sitting at £600,000.” It follows a trio of openings in June – The Leopard in Chester’s Foregate Street, The Water House in Durham and The Northern Way in Irvine, Ayrshire. The company operates 165 pubs throughout the north east, north west and Midlands in England, Wales and Scotland, focusing on a hybrid “operator-managed” business model, and earlier this year reported net sales of circa £96m.
 
Birmingham hotel returns to profit following ‘unexpectedly strong recovery’ but reports related pressure on staff recruitment and operations, forecasts 20% turnover increase: Edgbaston Park Hotel – owned by the University of Birmingham – returned to profit in the year ending 31 July 2022 following an “unexpectedly strong recovery” from covid, but said this had resulted in pressure on staff recruitment and operations. The company turned a pre-tax loss of £709,000 in 2021 into a profit of £1,344,000 off turnover of £8,103,000, up from £1,816,000 in 2021. It received £14,000 in furlough payments (2021: £723,000). No pre-pandemic comparison is available as the company first filed full accounts in 2021. “The recovery from the covid pandemic has been unexpectedly strong, which placed pressure on staff recruitment, in all areas of operations and sales in the hotel,” said director Erica Conway, in her statement accompanying the accounts. “Operational departments were heavily reliant on agency staff to assist in service delivery.  The hotel also experienced supply challenges relating to product availability and noticeable price increases in the beginning of the year, with the former easing over the year and latter remaining on an upwards trajectory. The upturn in business has been encouraging. The hotel hosted both Team England and Wales during the Commonwealth Games, which was a welcome boost to all revenue streams, occupancy and room rate and provided a positive platform for future growth.” Rent payments increased from 5% to 7.5% of total turnover for the year ending 31 July 2023, after which market rate rental reviews will be engaged. Current annual forecasted revenues for 2022-23 exceed budget by 4.5% (£417,000) and last year by 19.6% (£1.6m).

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