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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 16th Aug 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Döner Shack repositioning ‘almost complete’ and ‘already yielding great results’: Sanjeev Sanghera, founder of Berlin fast casual kebab concept Döner Shack, has “almost completed” its repositioning and it is “already yielding great results”, Propel has learned. It comes six weeks after the Döner Shack completed the acquisition of three restaurants and several territories from its franchisees as it switched to a focus on company-owned expansion. Sanghera said it would be wrong to force ambitious development on franchisees “knowing returns are much slower than anticipated” in the current climate. Giving an update on the process, he said: “We're thrilled to share that our brand repositioning of Döner Shack is almost complete. Our focus had been to create a look, feel, menu and price point that resonates with a wider demographic while improving margins. Although it was a tall ask, our cost of sales has decreased since the start of the year thanks to some tough negotiations with suppliers and some clever menu re-engineering. Our strategy, focused on the customer, has already yielded great results. A snapshot in June and July 2023 showed an impressive year-on-year sales increase of 37% at Döner Shack Manchester Arndale and 11% at Döner Shack Trinity Leeds. Plus, after just four weeks of taking over Döner Shack Silverburn, we've seen an impressive increase in sales of 22%. Labour for the same period was also sub 26% (as low as 23%) at each of the sites. There is still a bit to go over the next few months as we implement further changes, but we do so with the confidence that our brand will continue to thrive and grow.” Sangehra last month said he is also planning to relaunch his enlarged bar in Manchester Corn Exchange, taking over the Döner Haus restaurant site there. Sanghera and business partner Laura Bruce own Döner Haus as well as Döner Shack, but while Döner Shack has grown to five UK locations, Döner Haus has been restricted to two sites. Garten Bar, which the pair operated alongside Döner Haus in the Corn Exchange, is now set to take the Manchester site and grow more than six-fold in size. Propel will today (Wednesday, 16 August), 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to receive two databases this week including new UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database today: 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 today (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 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.
 
Asma Khan to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: Indian-born British chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Asma Khan, of Darjeeling Express, 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. Khan will talk to James Hacon about the journey to opening her first restaurant, operating an all-female brigade of talented amateur chefs, paying everyone equally and what hospitality means to her. 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.
 
Industry vacancies fall for fourth consecutive month but ‘challenges to recruit remain’: Industry vacancies have fallen for the fourth consecutive month but the challenges to recruit critical roles “continue to restrict sector businesses from operating at anywhere near their full capacity”, UKHospitality has said. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed there are 124,000 current vacancies in accommodation and foodservice activities. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It’s positive vacancies in hospitality have fallen for the fourth consecutive month but it remains the case that levels are still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels and that average hours worked were down on the previous three months. Critical roles, like chefs, remain challenging to recruit and that continues to restrict hospitality businesses from operating at anywhere near their full capacity. Significant investment to attract and develop our own talent continues, through apprenticeships and training, but we urge the government to open up new immigration routes, such as widening the Youth Mobility Scheme and Shortage Occupation List, to help the sector reach its potential.”

East London local authority to launch new hospitality training institution focusing on world cuisine and sustainability: An East London local authority is set to launch a new hospitality training institution focusing on world cuisine and sustainability. The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Council is now seeking industry views to help shape the offer of the new “food school”, which will launch in partnership with food sustainability business Sustainable Kitchen Consultants and Barking & Dagenham College. Council leader councillor Darren Rodwell said: “London’s food market includes a global cuisine – with innovative food inspired by diasporas from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean – but the capital’s training offer is geared heavily towards traditional, Cordon Bleu food. Nutritional education is typically Eurocentric, meaning our youngsters do not see their own cultures reflected in what they eat unless they are at home. Only 12% of head chefs in Michelin-starred restaurants are from a Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and only around 15% of London’s chefs are female. We are working with local schools to develop an approach to food education that reflects the borough’s population – which is one of the most diverse in the UK – including efforts to inspire the next generation to get into a career in food. The new food school will also seek to support the capital’s food sector to cope with climate change and other pressures – from strategies to minimise the impact of supply chain disruption by sourcing more local ingredients to reducing costs by adopting more sustainable practices and reducing emissions and waste. The new food school is in the early stages of development – but our vision is to create a food offer that places London above Paris, New York and Singapore for the diversity and sustainability of its cuisine. The relationship with the wholesale food markets alongside London’s restaurants and other food businesses creates an opportunity of a lifetime to support the capital’s ambitions to be a world leader.”

WiHTL and Diversity in Retail announces details on annual summit: WiHTL and Diversity in Retail (DiR) – the collaboration communities devoted to increasing diversity and inclusion in the hospitality, travel and leisure and retail industries – has announced its annual Inclusion Summit will be held on World Inclusion Day on Tuesday, 10 October at the London Hilton in Park Lane. The summit aims to celebrate best practice and showcase the latest thinking from leaders across the sector, with WiHTL and DiR also sharing research on how the industry is progressing. The headline keynote speaker will be June Sarpong OBE, the TV presenter, award-winning author and former director of creative diversity at the BBC. Tea Colaianni, founder and chair of WiHTL and DiR, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming colleagues from across the industry for what promises to be an exciting and informative day. The importance of diversity and inclusion in building successful, dynamic businesses is overwhelming and our summit provides the perfect platform for sharing best practice and ensuring that we maintain momentum on this critical subject.”
 

Company News:

Soho House CEO – Manchester to open next year, membership applications ahead of expectations, Glasgow opening: Andrew Carnie, chief executive of Soho House & Co, has said the construction delays the business is experiencing with opening in Manchester has not put off membership applications, which are ahead of expectations. The opening in the old Granada Studios development has now been pushed into next year. Carnie said: “It was built in the 1950s, it’s got expensive structural work and it’s just taking a bit longer because we go in more historical buildings. We’re not new builds, and sometimes we have some lumps and bumps along the way. The project is progressing well now and it hasn’t impacted membership applications. Our membership applications continue to grow and are actually ahead of our expectations on Manchester. Manchester moves into next year, and the current plan of five to seven openings is still the plan for 2024.” Carnie said the company's businesses in the UK and Europe both had their strongest quarter since the pandemic in the three months to the end of July, both in terms of spend per visit, aided by the return of US tourists, and improvements in the company’s food offer. He said: “While our checking data suggests Europe and the UK are benefiting from Americans traveling overseas again, as we said last quarter, we were quicker to introduce new initiatives in these regions, and that approach is bearing fruit. We also recently did another surveys across all our members, and what they’ve noticed in the last six months is that we really improved food, which is one of the things they really wanted us to do. They’ve noticed the food becoming more local, with different houses offering different offers and becoming more seasonal.” According to reports in Scotland, the business is also expected to make its debut north of the border next year as part of a redevelopment of a city block beside Glasgow’s City Chambers. Last week, Soho House reported revenue at the group rose by 19% to $288.9m in the three months to 2 July 2023.
  
Workplace café operator Caffe Kix acquired out of administration: Caffe Kix, the workplace cafe operator, has been acquired as part of a pre-pack administration process for a total consideration of £75,000, Propel has learned. Caffe Kix, which was launched at the end of 1998, operated 23 workplace cafes, the majority under its eponymous name. Propel understands that 18 of its sites have now been acquired by a new company called BTP Foodservice, which includes Caffe Kix’s founder, Rupert Warburton, as a director. In 2019, the company’s turnover was £5.3m, with the business delivering a pre-tax profit of £266,685, with zero debt. However, due to the impact of the pandemic and working from home, sales fell to zero in late March 2020. A statement from administrators Hudson Weir said: “A minority of cafes opened briefly between August and November 2020 before being forced to close again. By April 2022, 20 cafes had reopened, trading at circa 30% of pre-pandemic level. Sales developed slowly during 2022 as workers did not return to the office in anticipated numbers. Stressed commercial landlords reduced subsidies, closed workplace cafes or failed to honour contracts, triggering write-offs and bad debts. In the first quarter of 2023, total sales reached circa 50% of pre-pandemic levels. The post-pandemic workplace cafe market has fundamentally changed: lower office occupancy means fewer customers within the cafe, but higher expectations for food experiences that bring teams together wherever they work. Multiple actions were taken by the director from the fourth quarter of 2022 to April 2023 to reduce the risk of potential insolvency, including cost reduction, cafe closure, price increases, new products and services, change of suppliers, payment plans with creditors, legal action against debtors and capital injections by the director. These delivered a consistent and significant increase in profitability in 2023 but have been insufficient to support the legacy debt payment plans.” BTP Foodservice said the future business will be remodelled to “suit post-pandemic work patterns, with an adjusted cafe portfolio and a commercial model that is less dependent on traditional landlord subsidies”. This will include a “smaller core of workplace cafes in business parks, where margins are strong and landlords are supportive, offering high quality and engaging food experiences”.
 
Pret builds presence in North America: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has continued to build its presence in North America with new openings in New York and Canada. Last week, Pret opened a new site in the Hudson Yards development in New York, in partnership with franchisee Dallas Holdings. The site marked the first of three Pret shops opening in New York in the next few months and is the first US site to open under the new franchise partnership with Dallas Holdings, which Pret signed last December. Dallas Holdings, which is also a franchise partner for Pret in the UK, where it operates circa ten sites, has intimated that further sites will follow in California, with Los Angeles and Orange County slated as potential locations. Pret entered the US market with a store in New York in 2000. In its accounts for the 52 weeks to 29 December 2022, the brand’s US business posted revenue of £60.468m (2021: £26.181m), with adjusted Ebitda of £7.356m (2021: (£12.948m). It also reported an operating loss of £6.208m in the year, down from £52.64m the year before. It currently operates circa 65 sites in the US – the majority of which are based in New York, and around 15 are franchised. In line with the brand’s overall plans, the company’s US business has made a strategic shift to grow its franchise partnerships and is looking to further expand across North America and Canada that way. Last summer, Pret opened its first site in Canada under its agreement with A&W Food Services, in Vancouver. The deal to bring Pret to the country over an initial two-year trial phase began with the brand opening a store-within-a-store model in the A&W site at Marine Gateway. Propel understands that Pret has since grown its Canadian presence to eight sites, with a target of having “12-15 Pret pop-ups” up and running over the next 18 months.

Carlsberg lifts 2023 profit forecast on solid first-half: Brewer Carlsberg has raised its 2023 profit forecast following a “solid” performance in the first half of the year. The Danish group said its operating profit grew 5.2% in the first six months of the year, ahead of analyst expectations of 0.5%. The company said like-for-like revenues grew 11.2%, while like-for-like sales volumes grew 0.8%. The world’s third-biggest brewer said it now expects organic operating profit growth this year of between 4% and 7%, versus a previous range of minus 2% to plus 5%. The company said: “Based on solid business performance year to date and our expectations for the remainder of the year, we are upgrading our full-year earnings expectations for 2023.”
 
London Pakistan-inspired cafe looking to more than double footprint in next six months including first site outside capital: London Pakistan-inspired cafe concept Naan Staap is looking to more than double its footprint in next six months, including its first side outside of the capital, Propel has learned. Founded in 2018 by Zohaib Shahnawaz, Naan Staap – which offers freshly baked stuffed naan, cakes, cookies and chai – has five sites in the capital, including its first franchise site, which opened in Gants Hill last year. It now has six further London sites lined up to open in the next six months, including locations such as Islington, Harrow and Wembley. It also plans to this year open its first regional site, in Bradford. Shahnawaz told Propel in December, following the launch of its franchise offer, that it had 20-plus more stores and territories signed for and set to open over the next three to five years.

Team behind Biryani Kebab Chai and Coupette concepts secures Soho sites: The owners of the London-based concepts Biryani Kebab Chai (BKC) and Coupette have secured new sites for both, in Soho, Propel has learned. The company has taken on the sites at 8-9 Moor Street for openings later this year. BKC, which focuses on Awadhi cuisine and currently has a site in Marble Arch, will open its second location. Coupette, the award-winning cocktail bar concept which launched its debut site in Bethnal Green in 2017, is expected to launch Atelier Coupette on the new site. The company is currently fitting out the two adjacent sites. Emma Wright, of CDG Leisure, acted on the Soho deals. 
 
Platform plans Bloomsbury opening: Gaming restaurant/bar concept Platform is lining up a third opening in London, in Bloomsbury. Propel understands that Platform, which earlier this year opened a site in Canary Wharf, has applied to open on the ex-Argos site at 106 New Oxford Street. Earlier this year, the business, which was co-founded by Tomaso Portunato, Nicolò Portunato and Lucas Weintraub, said it planned to open two new venues in 2023, with further expansion both inside and outside of London planned for 2024 and 2025. It opened its debut site in 2019, in Shoreditch. Opened earlier this spring, the concept’s 4,780 square-foot site in Canary Wharf – at Unit 40, 1 Crossrail Place – offers “a unique competitive socialising experience, complemented by an impressive food and drink offering, including creative cocktails inspired by retro games”. Set over two floors, it accommodates up to 250 guests in 24 immersive console gaming booths, each kitted out with ninth-generation consoles. Last spring, the business closed a £1.5m equity round led by Actium AG, a Swiss investment firm.
 
KFC UK appoints new CMO: KFC UK & Ireland has appointed Monica Pool, marketing director at Taco Bell UK & Europe, as its new chief marketing officer. Pool will take over from Jenny Packwood, KFC’s chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer, who has been interim chief marketing officer since the departure of Jack Hinchliffe earlier this year. KFC stated: “Monica is no stranger to the business, having started her journey with KFC South Africa in 2009, where she was integral in driving step-change advertising through innovative creative work. In 2012, she joined KFC UK & Ireland’s marketing team in innovation before being promoted to marketing director. Her tenure had a monumental impact across the business in the UK and Ireland, helping to shape the creative vision for KFC and strengthening brand transformation. Having joined Taco Bell in 2020, Monica has grown the brand health of the business, increasing media and marketing effectiveness to bolster sales, while dealing with a range of complex issues facing the quick service restaurant sector. She has also championed the franchisee model, working collaboratively with business owners to help grow and support their businesses and those in developing markets.” Pool said: “It’s an exciting time as we continue our journey to evolve the brand experience to deliver industry-leading results, all while making a positive impact on the communities we serve. KFC has always been a great brand and will continue to be. We’re lucky to have a brilliant team of fun, passionate, smart marketers who have delivered some powerful and award-winning work in recent years. I’m excited to help continue the legacy of this iconic brand alongside its inspiring people.” Pool will rejoin KFC UK & Ireland in the early autumn.

Gail’s opens in Epsom: Fast-growing bakery brand Gail’s has opened its latest site, in Epsom. It has launched a 5,958 square-foot unit, spanning three floors adjacent to the East Square entrance at the town’s Ashley Centre. Louisa Butters, head of retail asset management UK at landlords CBRE IM, said: “As a much-loved brand across London, Gail’s is a fantastic addition to the Ashley Centre. Its opening marks another key step to achieving our long-term strategy for the centre by strengthening the quality of our F&B offering and enhancing the calibre of brands.” GCW & Cushman and Wakefield represented the Ashley Centre, while Forty Group acted on behalf of Gail’s. Gail’s has circa 110 sites in the UK but has recently been focusing on its expansion in the north west.

Amber Taverns adds to Scottish estate with Bozz Co Inns site deal: Amber Taverns, the wet-led, freehold community pub operator, has further strengthened its presence in Scotland with the acquisition of the Belmill Hotel in Lanarkshire, from local operator Bozz Co Inns. The hotel features four bedrooms, a bar and restaurant with an adjacent function room, an outside seating area and a car park. Sam Frankland, property director at Amber Taverns, said: “The Belmill’s location was perfect for Amber Taverns, and following a refurbishment, we will reopen this autumn. The Belmill extends our geography in Scotland and when opened, it will be our seventh trading pub, with another four progressing through planning and due to open in 2024. We hope to further expand in Scotland over the next few years given the warm reception our pubs have received from their local communities.” Earlier this month, Amber was granted permission to open a new bar in Airdrie. It was given the green light to convert a former Farmfoods store in Stirling Street, creating up to 20 jobs. The company operates circa 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. Brian Sheldon, regional director at Christie & Co, acted on the Belmill Hotel deal.

Robinsons become first carbon literate brewer and pub company: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has said it has trained 40 of its 116 head office employees in carbon literacy, with plans to have its entire central team carbon literate within a year. It said it is the first brewer and pub company to have made a commitment to becoming a carbon-literate workforce, with a dedicated training workshop certified by the Carbon Literacy Project. The training has been introduced as part of the business' Net Zero roadmap across its brewing, bottling and pub estate business, achieving 40 certified employees and becoming a Bronze Carbon Literate Organisation in the first six weeks. Carbon literacy is defined by The Carbon Literacy Project as "an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis”. Ben Robinson, director of tenanted operations and the lead on Robinsons’ sustainability project, Target Zero, said: “We’re delighted that 90% of our directors are now carbon literate, including both our managing directors. The course has equipped our leaders with the knowledge they need to drive positive climate action throughout our business and their teams. We have now successfully trained every department within the business at a management level and continue to roll out the workshops to the rest of our workforce.”
 
Little Dessert Shop partners with better burger company for two concepts under one roof: West Midlands dessert franchise Little Dessert Shop has partnered with better burger company Betsy’s to launch both concepts under one roof. The new store, which will be known as Betsy’s X Little Dessert Shop, will open at 1 and 1a Bore Street in Lichfield on Monday (21 August). The launch is being led by Mu’azzam Ali, whose MSZ Brands business encompasses several brands over multiple sectors. He is a director of Betsy’s as well as being director of marketing, branding and franchising at Little Dessert Shop. “We’re thrilled to announce the upcoming launch of Betsy’s X Little Dessert Shop’s X Model store in Lichfield, bringing together two beloved culinary worlds,” he said. “This innovative location offers gourmet burgers from Betsy's, known for its urban, Brooklyn-themed style, and viral desserts courtesy of Little Dessert Shop. With a trendy urban design and a menu that covers everything from breakfast to dinner, we're redefining dining experiences.” Kamran Hussain, head of franchising for MSZ Brands, last month told Propel that Little Dessert Shop, which then had 44 UK sites, was aiming to hit 50 locations by the end of 2023 as its sets out a roadmap to an eventual UK estate of 150-200. It has since opened site number 45, at 12 Chertsey Road in Woking, with an opening in Wilmslow Road, Manchester, up next. Betsy’s, meanwhile, has stores in Hanley (Stoke-on-Trent) and Wednesbury, and has previously said it has signed for more than 20 other territories as it looks to expand through franchising.
 
Jack & Alice launches Farnham site: Jack & Alice, the all-day dining and wine bar concept from Mark and Vanessa Hall, has opened its second site, in Farnham, Surrey. Propel revealed earlier this year that Jack & Alice was returning to the expansion trail, after securing the ex-The Botanist site in Town Hall Buildings in The Borough. It is understood that the business plans further expansion over the coming years. Founded in 2015 with a pop-up in Fitzrovia, Mark Hall opened the first site in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, later the same year, quickly being recognised with several industry awards. The Halls have partnered with Tony Gualtieri, former managing director of Cubitt House, previously at Green King and Mitchell & Butlers, who joined Jack & Alice as co-owner and director. It is understood additional funding has been secured from a number of sector-focused individuals to aid the expansion of the business. Mark Hall was previously group operations director at Splendid Restaurants and retail director for Mitchell & Butlers, while Vanessa Hall, who was previously chief executive at YO! and Vapiano SE, is currently a non-executive director of Rare Restaurants, the Gaucho brand owner.
 
Utopia Leisure reports record trading as turnover exceeds £30m but increased costs and end of government support sees profits decrease: Utopia Leisure saw record trading for the year ending 2 April 2023 but increased costs and the end of government support saw profits decrease. The company, which owns and operates five luxury hotels across the south east of England, reported turnover of £30,373,090 for the period, up from £27,176,814 in 2022. This compares with £24,974,012 in the last full year before covid, ending 29 September 2019. Its pre-tax profit was down from £6,420,584 in 2022 to £5,331,078 (2019: £2,623,548). No dividends were paid (2022: nil) and no government grants were received (2022: £480,389). Director Deborah Hinchcliffe, in her statement accompanying the accounts, said the directors are “delighted with the current year's performance” and said that while the profit is slightly down on the previous year, it still shows “a strong post-covid recovery”. She said the rise in turnover was driven by increases in the number of rooms available and occupancy rates, but the net profit margin decreased due to the removal of government incentives and increased costs. She added: “The company will look to increase both turnover and net profit in the coming year. The company continues to invest in its hotels with an ongoing programme of refurbishment.”
 
KRO Hospitality to open new Manchester hotel this week: North west operator KRO Hospitality will open its new Manchester city centre hotel, Forty-Seven, on Friday (18 August). The company acquired the freehold of 47 Peter Street in 2018 with plans to create a boutique hotel within the upper floors of the building. Now the group is opening the 32-bedroom Forty-Seven hotel, which will also see Indian restaurant Asha’s reopen at the venue after KRO Hospitality became a franchise partner when it acquired the branch as part of the freehold deal. The hotel will also be home to The Peterman, a bar inspired by the area’s rich history, including the Peterloo Massacre and the Suffragettes. The new hotel will be led by general manager Ryan Thompson. KRO Hospitality’s other Manchester city centre venue is the Velvet Hotel, Bar and Brasserie while it also operates the Samlesbury Hotel in Preston.
 
Ascona Group reopens North Wales service station following £3m development: Independent forecourt operator Ascona Group has reopened Machynlleth service station in North Wales following a £3m development. The project marks Ascona’s largest investment in Wales, and in line with its strategy to “develop the next evolution of roadside retail destinations”, the redevelopment has expanded the site’s existing Nisa retail store, which spans 3,500 square feet and now offers an extended range of products and food-to-go offerings. As part of the group’s commitment to sustainability, Ascona is exploring suitable EV charging solutions that are expected to be installed in the next month. Chief executive Darren Briggs said: “The upgraded site will provide a high-quality roadside retail destination. The redevelopment and modernisation of existing forecourts is at the core of our strategy, and we continue to explore other redevelopment opportunities across multiple sites in our portfolio with another two significant projects planned in Wales for 2024.”
 
M&S launches new-look coffee shop: Marks & Spencer has launched its new-look coffee shop with the opening of its new store in Liverpool ONE’s South John Street. The new concept offers a transformed menu with a selection of freshly made sandwiches and pastries, chilled drinks – including Colin the Caterpillar and Percy Pig slushees – plus cakes and treats. The store will also feature a market-style food hall offering daily-baked bread and pastries and a dedicated wine shop. The opening completes the evolution of the former Debenhams unit and follows the recent opening of Gravity MAX on the remaining upper two floors, marking Gravity UK’s biggest investment (£10m) and largest site (100,000 square feet) to date.

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