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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 14th Aug 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Purezza aiming to raise up to £5m to expand in London and explore international growth, brings in Dishoom co-founder as NED: Vegan pizzeria Purezza has told Propel it is aiming to raise up to £5m in a new funding round to expand in London and explore international growth. Launched in Brighton in 2015 as Europe’s first all-vegan pizzeria, Purezza had grown to five sites by 2021, although its Bristol and Hove locations have since closed, leaving its restaurants in Brighton, London and Manchester. “We’ve got plans to open another site in the next year, a second London site, and Dishoom co-founder Amar Radia has joined us as non-executive director to help develop the concept,” co-founder Tim Barclay told Propel. “We want to open a few more sites in London and get a solid base there before we spread our wings internationally. We’re currently looking to start an investment round to raise funds to grow both in the UK and abroad. We’re hoping to raise between £3m and 5m. We did an investment round in 2020 with a lot of angel investors, all of whom approached us directly. We’re finalising the brand evolution and getting the right site in London and will then take it to investors in next six months. We’re also working to nail down the best route to international expansion but have got options all over Europe, the US and UAE.” It comes as Purezza looks to also scale up its wholesale and retail operations, having last week secured a deal for its vegan cheese to be used in the pizzas at all 38 UK Everyman cinema sites. “From day one, we’ve tried to create different cheeses to try to replicate traditional mozzarella, and having last year opened a factory in Brighton, we are looking to outsource the cheeses and sell them to third parties,” Barclay said. “We never had the capacity to explore wholesale before, but now we can produce at scale, it’s a good time to test the market. We’re approaching restaurants and supermarkets and we’re open to any opportunity. The retail side is probably to come, but for wholesale, we’re in talks with big customers. Cheese is the last missing piece in the vegan world and an area that hasn’t really been challenged, so we’re hoping to come in as experts in the field as we’ve been making it for years. There’s been an influx of vegan restaurants in the last few years, so the market is fairly saturated, and customers are now looking for best quality in terms of vegan food.” The Everyman deal was led by Mitch Lee, who has been brought in as head of sales.

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to receive two databases this week including new UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive two databases this week, including the new UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. It is 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. Premium subscribers will also receive the next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage on Friday (18 August). A total of 12 companies have been added to the database, which now features 726 companies. This month’s edition also includes 64 updated entries. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. 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.

Gail’s to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: Jordan Moore, head of talent at Gail’s, 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. Moore will talk about Gail’s recruitment campaign based around enjoying working in hospitality while having a work-life balance, called “The Early Bird Never Works Late”. 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

King – the best way to run restaurants is from the floor, not the boardroom: Jeremy King, the co-founder of Corbin & King who confirmed earlier this summer that he is to make a return to the capital’s dining scene with an opening in Hyde Park, has said the best way to run restaurants is “from the floor, not the boardroom”. Talking to The Telegraph about falling out with investors. King conceded that his perfectionism may have been less helpful upstairs than on the restaurant floor. “I’m passionate,” he said. “I’ve always maintained my maxim that the best way to run restaurants is from the floor, not the boardroom.” King, who will launch The Park, a 215-capacity restaurant serving modern European cuisine, in Kensington next April, said that while “there will be casualties” he remains optimistic about the British economy, and the beauty of hospitality as a career. He said: “Rather than national service, what would really do everybody good is if they were forced to work six months as front of house. It teaches you so much about life, communication, teamwork, dispute, reconciliation, organisation, and to look people in the eye and communicate.” As well as The Park, King has consulted with Jamie Oliver and Claridge’s. He won’t be drawn on other projects, but there are rumours in the trade he might be in discussions with another London restaurant, one with a potentially explosive proximity to one of his former sites. Wherever it is, King has only confirmed that it’s at an advanced stage. He added: “I don’t always thrive on taking the safe route. I’m not averse to taking risks.” Alluding to his time running the Beaumont Hotel in London’s West End, which came to an end in 2018, he said: “I still want to go back into the hotel world. There’s unfinished business there. I think hotels are the ultimate expression of hospitality. And each time I move on, I learn more about myself, I learn more about the business, and I get a yearning to do things better than before. I don’t think I’m going to retire, I’ll just carry on.”

Mexican and Malaysian under-30s to fill vacancies in hospitality: Under-30s from at least 15 countries are set to fill UK hospitality vacanices as the government looks to expand its youth mobility schemes. Last month, it was revealed that the Home Office had begun approaching a number of EU countries, and The Sunday Times has obtained a list of countries the UK has begun targeting. It reveals the government’s ambitions are far bigger than originally thought and expand significantly beyond Europe. The newspaper stated: “At least 15 countries are being sought to agree such schemes, which typically involve workers aged 18 to 30. Those eligible can travel and work in Britain without needing a sponsor or meeting other requirements, such as salary thresholds. The countries include Taiwan, Argentina, Chile, South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia and Singapore. EU countries who could be involved include Sweden, Germany, Poland, Czechia, Luxembourg and Denmark, with non-member states Norway and Switzerland also on the list. The UK has reciprocal deals with ten other countries, including those negotiated as part of post-Brexit trade deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Many of the countries have already been approached, either through their embassies or through direct discussions.”

Rishi Sunak steps in to save takeaway pints: Pubs will be allowed to carry on selling take-away pints to help them boost income. They were due to lose the right to so-called “off sales” when alcohol lockdown alcohol rules expire next month. But prime minister Rishi Sunak is reported to have personally stepped in to allow them to carry on.  It means pubs and bars will not need to complete a separate application for the extra licence needed for off-site sales. A No 10 source told The Sun: “Takeaway pints and al fresco drinks are not just a much-enjoyed addition to pub menus, but also a welcome source of income for businesses recovering from the impacts of the pandemic. The PM will always back British pubs. He’s listened to the industry and heard them loud and clear — now is not the time to call last orders on takeaway pints and the boost to business that they bring.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill commended the decision as “a display of common sense prevailing” and said it will “maintain continuity in trading for businesses that have relied on off sales for the past three years”.

Company News:

Bubblewrap secures Fitzrovia site, plans 25-strong UK estate: Bubble waffle brand Bubblewrap has secured its fourth site in London, as it looks to grow to a 25-plus estate in the UK within the next five years. The business will open a site later this summer at 35 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia. It will join its other sites in the capital, in Westfield Stratford, Chinatown and Old Spitalfields Market. It has also lined up its first international site, in Qatar. The business is working with Seeds Consulting on its expansion plans, with a target of 25-plus UK locations over the next five years, via franchise partnerships with qualified new and existing operators. Founder Tony Fang started Bubblewrap as a university project at Imperial College in 2015, wanting to put his creative spin on the traditional Hong Kong street food snack, remarketing it to a new UK audience. Fang adapted the simple Hong Kong staple by wrapping it into a cone and filling it with an assortment of homemade gelato, with flavours including vanilla, dark chocolate, matcha, strawberry cheesecake and hazelnut, with customisable toppings and sauces. Last summer, he told Propel that Bubblewrap had signed a developer agreement with a Qatari company to open three stores there over the next few years.

Burger King UK franchisee in talks to extend partnership: The owner of Burger King’s UK operations is in advanced talks about a new franchise deal that will cut the number of new restaurants it is obliged to open each year. Sky News reported that Bridgepoint, the London-listed private equity firm, is close to striking a long-term deal with Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the US-based owner of the Burger King brand. Sky added: “City sources said that under a new master franchise agreement (MFA) that would run until about 2034, the owner of Burger King UK would be required to invest in at least 20 new openings annually, rising to close to 40 over time.” A deal is likely to be announced within weeks, they added. It follows talks between Bridgepoint and RBI in which the private equity firm is said to have expressed unhappiness about the financial returns it was seeing amid a highly inflationary cost environment.

Neat Burger opens site with Co-Kitchens in Dalston, hints at new expansion strategy: The Lewis Hamilton-backed plant-based concept Neat Burger has returned to the expansion trail with an opening in London’s Dalston, and hinted at a new growth strategy. The business, which operates nine sites in the UK, plus one each in Dubai and New York, has opened at The Co-Kitchen site at 584 Kingsland Road. It said: “This is the beginning of a fresh new concept for Neat, with the new location offering a grab-and-go style service. Not only is it super quick and convenient, it means we can bring Neat Burger to lots more places around London and the UK (watch this space).” Earlier this year, the business upped its valuation to $100m in a new funding round aimed at fuelling its US expansion. The company, which opened its first US site in April, in New York, raised $18m from new investors including boutique bank LionTree and Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The new investment was part of a Series B round led by B-Flexion, the family office of Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli. Existing investors, including Hamilton and SoftBank’s Rajeev Misra, were also involved in the latest funding round, which increased the valuation of the business by 40% compared with two years ago. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who invested in the Series A round, did not participate this time. Neat Burger said at the time that it planned to use the money to open another US site and up to three more in London by 2025.

Soho House reports strong Second Quarter: The owner of Soho House has nudged up its annual forecasts after its quarterly net losses narrowed dramatically and as memberships for its clubs continue to grow. Revenue at the group rose by 19% to $288.9m in the three months to July 2, its second quarter. However, it reported a net loss of $2.64m, although that was down from a loss of almost $82m during the same period of last year. Shares in Soho House & Co rose by 91 cents, or 14.9%, to close at $7.03 in New York on Friday. The stock has risen by almost 50% this year. It started July with 248,071 total members, up 28.2% on the year, of which 176,305 were members of Soho House. It expects the latter group to swell to 191,000 by the end of this year. Soho House & Co narrowed its forecast for annual revenue from between $1.1bn and $1.2bn to between $1.12bn and $1.19bn. This would be a step up from revenue of $972m last year. It forecast that its adjusted earnings would more than double, from $61 in 2022 to between $126m and $134m in 2023. The waiting list for membership grew by 6,000 quarter-on-quarter to reach 95,000. The UK and Europe sites had the strongest quarter since the pandemic.

Cleeves Palmer retires from Palmers after 43 years of service: Cleeves Palmer has retired from regional brewer and retailer Palmers after 43 tears of service and handed over responsibility for the Free Trade business to Josh Palmer Ramus. The company has acquired all of his shares. John Palmer, chairman and managing director, said: “We are proud to announce this deal to take Palmers into the next chapter of (our) 229-year history. A huge thank you to our staff, licensees and customers for their longstanding support, this is at the heart of what it means to us to be a family business. My daughter, Emily, and I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure Palmers is successful for generations to come.”

McDonald’s launches new discount portal including access to days out: McDonald’s has launched a new discount portal to help parents entertain their families this summer, with trips to theme parks, zoos and the cinema on offer. Those signed up to My McDonald’s Rewards will get access to McDonald’s Days Out, which will give back to customers with discounted day trips, reports The Daily Mail. Meanwhile, people ordering through the app will be treated to two weeks of discounts on their favourite meals from today (Monday, 14 August). Each day will see a different item with a slashed price, with a McChicken Sandwich and a six-piece Chicken McNuggets both reduced to £1.49 on certain days. McDonald’s said: “Customers will earn points when they purchase one of these deals by opting into My McDonald’s Rewards. Every penny spent equals one rewards point, redeemable against free food and charity donations all year round.” Rewards will also include artificial intelligence-powered audiobooks in the shape of McDonald’s Audio Journeys.

SushiDog to further strengthen London presence with double opening: Quick service sushi roll restaurant SushiDog, which earlier this year secured new investment to aid its ambition to grow to a 25 to 30-strong business over the next five years, has lined up two new openings in London. Founded in 2017 by Greg Ilsen and Nick Goldstein, the business will open at an ex-BetFred site at 107 Baker Street on Tuesday, 29 August, followed by an opening at the ex-Hotel Chocolat unit at 78 The Strand at the end of September. As well as the confirmed new central London sites, SushiDog said it is working on a pipeline of further stores, targeting an additional four locations in 2024. The two new takeaway restaurants will join the four-strong group, which currently operates in Soho, Covent Garden, Bishopsgate and Westfield. All the new sites will offer the concept’s new menu which launched last week, featuring a selection of Asian-inspired salads and new “build your own” options such as sticky soy cauliflower and yuzu sour cream. Ilsen said: “We are excited to bring our rolls, bowls and salads to two new central London locations. We can’t wait to start this next chapter in our journey, while we continue to thrive and seek out opportunities for future growth.” In April, the business secured investment from Middleton Enterprises, a family-owned business. Middleton Enterprises led a funding round of £612,000 in SushiDog, with a view to providing a longer-term investment that offers financial and strategic support.

Former Salt Beer Factory MD opens debut site for cold coffee bar business, looking to grow UK market for concept: Former Salt Beer Factory managing director, Dr Nadir Zairi, has opened the debut site for his new cold coffee business and is looking to grow a UK market for the concept. Zairi is still a non-executive director at Salt Beer Factory, one of several concepts operated by Salt Brewery founder Jamie Lawson. Zairi has now formed a new venture, Hubb, which has just opened its first site, and which he hopes will see nitro cold brew coffee become as popular in the UK as it is abroad. Hubb’s first site is in the F Mill Courtyard Building at Dean Clough, a mixed-use destination and historic mill complex on the outskirts of Halifax. Serving up craft coffee, soft serve ice cream and fresh baked goods, Zairi plans to open more coffee bars in due course. “Cold coffee consumption is growing exponentially, especially in locations such as the Far East and USA, where it now outsells hot coffee by a considerable mile,” he told Insider Media. “Having completed our research in brewing techniques, we are ready to seize the opportunity for growth in the UK market with an exceptional cold brew experience. Evidence also shows that young people are drinking less alcohol, with one in three being teetotal. The coffee shop boom is now a main substitute for the pub occasion, and we are delighted to have formulated some extraordinary cold craft drinks combinations with theatrical preparation at Hubb. Having been involved with the creation of Salt Beer Factory to achieve zero to £7m revenue in just five years with national distribution, trade partnerships and export into 13 countries worldwide, we are well versed in successful fast moving consumer goods brand building.” Lawson told Propel in November that he is planning up to five new openings in 2023 under his Salt Beer Factory and Salt Tap concepts, as well as converting the last of the former Stew & Oyster sites he acquired last year.

UK arm of Motel One expands to Ireland as it reports losses narrow and exceeds pre-covid trading levels: The UK arm of Motel One has expanded to Ireland, as it reported it narrowed its losses and exceeded pre-covid trading levels in the year ending 31 December 2022. The Munich-headquartered business – which also operates hotels in London, Manchester and Newcastle – has opened Motel One Dublin in the north of the city. Inspired by James Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses, which is set in Dublin, the design of the 310-room hotel reflects the narrative of the book. Daniel Müller, co-chief executive at Motel One, said: “We’ve seen great success with our hotels in Europe and especially our growth in the UK, and we’re proud to be in a position where we can branch into Ireland for the first time. We’re passionate about embedding our hotels in the culture of each and every city we are in, so Motel One Dublin is no different.” It comes as the UK business reported it narrowed its pre-tax losses from £4,864,065 in 2021 to £2,467,646 in the year to 31 December 2022, with adjusted Ebitda also recovering from a loss of £4,538,706 in 2021 to a profit of £310,360. In the previous year, the business said it was confident of returning to pre-pandemic levels of trade in 2022, and it reported turnover of £23,575,353 for the period. This was up from £6,433,018 in 2021 and £20,623,026 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 December 2019. Occupancy rate was up from 22.5% in 2021 to 59.4%, while yield per room decreased slightly from £88.11 to £87.02. No dividends were paid (2021: nil) and no government grants were received (2021: £238,044). In their statement accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “After a somewhat slow start in January 2023, demand has already stabilised in the first and second quarter and we expect a good development for the year as a whole, particularly driven by a continued increase in business and leisure demand. Financial year 2023 is expected to bring an increase in revenues.”

Buns from Home opens 12th site: London independent bakery business Buns from Home has opened its 12th site, a kiosk within Canary Wharf. It is a fourth opening in three months for the concept, having also opened a store in Canary Wharf, as well as further stores in Fulham and Baker Street. The business, which started out as a pandemic project for west Londoner Barney Goff, appointed Shereen Ritchie, former chief operating officer of Irish healthy fast-food brand Sprout & Co and ex-managing director of Leon, as its new chief operating officer in May.

Eden Hotel Collection makes a loss as ‘staycation bubble bursts’ and government support ends, directors confident in return to future profitability: Eden Hotel Collection made a loss in the year ending 31 March 2023 as the “staycation bubble burst” and government support ended, but its directors are confident in a return to future profitability. The business, which operates six luxury hotels across the Midlands, Cotswolds and south west, saw a pre-tax profit of £789,506 in 2022 turn into a loss of £2,668,193. This compares with a loss of £7,756,523 in the year ending 31 March 2023, when only the final few weeks of trading were affected by the pandemic. Turnover rose slightly from £16,026,575 in 2022 to £16,460,257 (2020: £19,471,507). The company received £3,181 in government grants compared with £456,456 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). Director Sir Peter Rigby, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The long-term impacts of behavioural changes during covid continue to be felt, with less predictability in booking patterns and the bursting of the staycation bubble, particularly in the south west, reducing demand. The directors recognise the removal of the various government support schemes has negatively impacted the business results versus the prior year. Additionally, disruption from refurbishment works at the Greenway Hotel and Spa, plus the commencement of the kitchen refurbishment at Bovey Castle, were significant in the final performance. The directors remain confident in the underlying trade and returning to future profitability.” The period saw the group launch in-house supervisor and management training programmes, building on its existing Spa and Chef Academies, plus Eden Extras, an employee benefits programme.” Eden Hotel Collection is a subsidiary of the Rigby Group, a family-owned business operating across Europe in technology, airports and real estate as well as hotels. Founded in 1975, it has grown to be the 12th largest family business in the UK, employing more than 8,000 people and with a consolidated turnover of more than £3bn.

Syrian chef relaunches restaurant in larger space in London’s Soho: Syrian chef Imad Alarnab has relocated his Imad’s Syrian Kitchen restaurant to a bigger site in London’s Soho. Alarnab opened his first permanent site for the concept two years ago after a fruitful crowdfunding campaign. Now is he has relaunched the restaurant in a larger space in Kingly Court. The 70-cover restaurant continues to pay homage to Alarnab’s homeland, while introducing new dishes and launching a breakfast offer for the first time. The menu offers mezze and Alarnab signature falafel, alongside dishes such as lamb biwa, a burger of minced lamb baked in the oven and served with onion, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, parsley, and chives, topped with cherry tomatoes and Turkish peppers. The wine list showcases low-intervention wine, “celebrating the best of eastern Europe and the Levant Basin”. Alarnab previously ran two restaurants plus several juice bars and cafes in Damascus before the restaurants were destroyed in the Syrian war, and he was forced to flee in search of safety for his family.

ICMI takes on management of Glenfinnan House Hotel: Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI), which manages 14 boutique hotels across Scotland – including Inverlochy Castle, Greywalls Hotel, Fasque Castle and Andy Murray’s Cromlix House Hotel – has taken on the management of Glenfinnan House Hotel, on the shore of Loch Shiel in the Socttish Highlands. Under its new management, the venue is set to undergo an extensive refurbishment and reopen in the spring of 2024, including renovating the property’s 14 bedrooms and a new bar and restaurant concept. ICMI is also creating a space for lochside food stalls to display local produce. Jane MacFarlane, owner of Glenfinnan House Hotel, said: “Thanks to ICMI’s expertise, we will bring Glenfinnan House into a new chapter where we are open all year round.” Norbert Lieder, managing director of ICMI, added: “We are delighted to add Glenfinnan House Hotel to our family, and we can’t wait for the partnership to develop.” Last September, ICMI expanded into Asia with the opening of the Hotel Telegraph in Singapore, for which it will manage all front and back-of-house services.

National Trust-owned hotel group sees pre-tax profit more than double but turnover remains below pre-covid levels: Historic House Hotels, which operates three sites and is owned by the National Trust, has reported turnover increased to £7,428,576 for the year ending 24 February 2023 compared with £5,736,772 the previous year. However, revenue remained below the £8,808,297 for the year ending 28 February 2020 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax profit more than doubled to £577,818 from £280,930 the year before (2020: profit of £306,157). A total of 15,444 hotel bedrooms were sold, compared with 12,073 in the prior period, while restaurant cover numbers totalled 58,916, up from 43,058 the year before due to fewer mandatory closures caused by the pandemic. Revenue from accommodation increased to £3,422,043 compared with £2,125,401 the previous year while turnover from food and beverage was up to £2,864,471 from £2,250,251 the year before. Net assets at the end of the period remained at £17,934,676. The three Historic House Hotels are Hartwell House in Aylesbury, Middlethorpe Hall in York and Bodysgallen Hall in Llandudno. In September 2008, Historic House Hotels and all its interest in the three sites became the property of the National Trust, by donation, with all profits henceforward benefiting the houses and the charity.

Vapiano signs up to ‘Better Chicken Commitment’: Vapiano, which is owned by the Mario C Bauer-led consortium Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, has signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment for businesses committed to higher welfare practices. Founded in 2016, The Better Chicken Commitment works to ensure leading food companies commit to better welfare, sustainability and food safety for its chicken. This includes tracking animal welfare practices and rearing processes, adopting higher welfare breeds, improving environmental standards and eliminating cruel practices. Vikki O’Neill, global marketing director at Vapiano, said: “Vapiano is proud to be known for its fresh and innovative approach to food, within the hospitality sector. We recognise that to remain at the forefront, we need to interrogate our practices from end to end, and we’re delighted to be joining the Better Chicken Commitment as part of this.” Vapiano operates four restaurants in London, alongside several delivery kitchens, and one in Manchester. It last month shut its Edinburgh restaurant, which was its last remaining one in Scotland following the closure of its Glasgow branch in 2020.

County Durham four-star hotel reports ‘robust levels of confirmed business’ as revenue exceeds pre-covid levels: County Durham four-star hotel Beamish Hall has said it has “robust levels of confirmed business” as it reported turnover increased 79% to £5,325,751 for the year ending 31 October 2022 compared with £2,975,771 the year before. Revenue also exceeded the £4,627,258 reported for the year ending 31 October 2019 – the last full-year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax profit was up to £1,160,379 from £554,529 the previous year (2019: profit of £295,874). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “2022 was a very positive year both in terms of turnover and profitability. Albeit there have been significant challenges in terms of availability and cost of labour, severe increases in cost of sales and utilities, the company was successful in navigating these challenges and capitalising on an increased demand in the marketplace. Our wedding business exceeded pre-pandemic levels in this financial year. This had a positive impact across all key areas, including accommodation and food and beverage. The ‘staycation’ trend also yielded strong occupancy levels for leisure stays accompanied by a healthy appetite for upsells and additional spend. The short and medium term outlook remains very positive with robust levels of confirmed business. Throughout what was a difficult time for the industry, we delivered a high standard of service and facilities that cemented our place as one of the top hotels and venues in the region and maintained consumer confidence in the brand at an elevated level. Workforce disruption and shortages, costs increases, inflation and a reduction in demand are the main challenges facing our industry and business in the immediate future and perhaps beyond. We are continually assessing how we operate and pursue efficiencies through innovation, new technologies and training to maintain the growth and strength of the business and our brands.” Dividends of £395,553 were paid (2021: nil). 

London wine focused experience set to open second site, third to follow later this year: London wine focused experience Grays & Feather is set to open its second site, with a third to follow later this year. Opening in September at Unit 89 in Granville Arcade, off Coldharbour Lane in Brixton Village, wine bar Finch will offer a “curated selection of world wine, focusing on small and experimental winemakers”, reports Hot Dinners. The 178 square-foot, 12-cover venue, which will also have 18 seats outside, will offer snacks too, including meat and cheese boards and fresh Maldon oysters. Also on offer will be seasonal Brixton-inspired cocktails using local fruit and spirits, alongside Grays & Feather’s own beer, Feral. Grays & Feather, founded by Andrew Gray, opened its first site, Plume, in Covent Garden in 2018. A third avian-themed wine bar, Peregrine, will open at Leadenhall Market later this year. The company also operates street market, festival and events concepts Golden Boy, Spirit Animal and Bubbly & Oysters, alongside Feral Brewing and a wine delivery club. Gray said: “2023 is set to be an exciting year for the company and we hope to bring more wine bars to the city, with a focus on great wine, delicious food and a sense of theatre that sparks conversation.”

Pepe’s Piri Piri opens landmark 175th store: Flame-grilled piri piri chicken brand Pepe’s Piri Piri has opened its landmark 175th store. The franchised business opened the new store at 1 Wood Lane in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. Its next opening is set to be in the former Coral bookmakers premises in Knaresborough Road, Harrogate. Pepe’s Piri Piri operates restaurants across the UK, as well as Pakistan and the UAE, offering a range of grilled food such as wraps, burgers, burritos, quesadillas, wings and platters.

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