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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 18th Aug 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Managed group sales rose 7.8% in July for tenth successive month of year-on-year growth: Britain’s managed restaurant, pub and bar groups overcame widespread challenges to record a ninth successive month of year-on-year sales growth in June, the new Coffer CGA Business Tracker shows. The Tracker, produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM UK, reveals total like-for-like sales increased by 7.8% in July. Pubs have been the market leading segment since May 2022, when year-on-year tracking recommenced post-covid-19, with the past couple of months of sunshine providing an extra boost to sales growth. However, the stagnant temperatures and wet weather throughout July moved consumers back indoors, and pubs performed below the market average at 7% sales growth. Bars have continued to hold a similar position as seen in recent months, with like-for-like sales down 7.1% on last year. While a slightly negative period for pubs and bars, restaurants took up the redirected trade, boosting their like-for-like sales growth to a market leading 12.2% in July. Growth was steady across the country in July, with the performance gap between London and the rest of the country continuing to narrow. The Tracker shows managed groups' like-for-like sales growth within the M25 were unchanged from June, at 8.1%, whilst growth outside the M25 has risen again to 7.7%. Karl Chessell, director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said: “As the hotter weather declined in July, the effect this has had on drink-led outlet sales has come as no surprise, especially considering the positive results from the more favourable weather we had in June. Whilst its disappointing to see the weather have a negative effect on drink-led outlets, the positive period for restaurants is encouraging, especially considering the negative results from last month’s Tracker and the continuing rising cost challenges the sector is facing.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “The mainstream eating and drinking out sectors are performing better. Consumers are continuing to go out and the outlook whilst challenging is looking better. We see optimism amongst many operators and are cautiously positive for the coming months.”

Industry News:

Latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage released today: The latest Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 64 updated entries and 12 new companies when it is released to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 18 August), at midday. This month’s edition includes 726 companies, listed in alphabetical order, which 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 received a new database this week – the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database, which 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 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 features 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, have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around the company’s background, site numbers and board make-up. 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.

Panel of operators to explore why people data is a barrier to industry growth at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: A panel of operators will explore why people data is a barrier to industry growth 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. The panel will feature Adam Dilks, group people director at Nightcap; Beth Anderson, people director at Revolution Bars Group; Chantal Wilson, people director at NQ64; and Jon Cotterill, director at the Columbo Group. 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.

Tips Bill ‘will be seen as further cost pressure’, businesses ‘must be prepared’: The Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA) has warned that a new tipping Bill will be seen as a “further cost pressure” by businesses already struggling with rising costs, and that companies must be prepared for the new legislation. HOSPA said from a legal perspective, the new laws, which are expected to come next spring, have not yet been tested and remain open to interpretation. Much of it not set to come into force until secondary legislation is established and a code of practice is released. As it stands, operators will have to pay 100% of money earned through tips to staff, and it will be the duty of the employer to fairly allocate them. Employers must have a written policy on the subject, which is shared with all employees, and must keep a record of how every tip has been dealt with for a period of three years from its payment. Workers can ask for information every three months as to how their employer is fairly allocating tips, and the tips are taxable, whether through self-assessment or a tronc arrangement. HOSPA chief executive Jane Pendlebury said: “In short, 100% of all income from gratuity tips and service charges has to go to the employee. Hospitality businesses must prepare for further change, as with the code of practice pending, it remains to be seen how it will emerge definitively. There is concern that the consultation won’t reach as far as operators, and that the final code will fail to take into account their concerns. Additionally, there’s concern that, if agency workers are receiving higher wages as well as tips, this could cause a problem. With hospitality businesses across the UK already experiencing serious cost pressures through the rising cost of living and stoc, and staff shortage, this bill will be seen by many, especially those who use tips to boost revenue, as another cost pressure – with the threat of tighter guidelines and greater penalties for poor compliance.”

Peel Hunt – Wetherspoon right all along about tax burden: Analysts at Peel Hunt estimate JD Wetherspoon has increased drink prices by 10% in the past year. A note stated: “That is the problem with over-taxing the hospitality sector: it creates price inflation, undermining volumes, growth and job creation just when the economy is going to need the opposite. Wetherspoon has led the sector in presenting the case for reducing the tax burden; and it was right all along.”

Proposed rates relief schemes will incentivise Welsh businesses to improve carbon footprints: Proposed rates support and relief schemes will incentivise Welsh businesses to improve their carbon footprints, UKHospitality Cymru has said. The Welsh government plans to support ratepayers making sustainable improvements to their non-domestic properties by providing relief from the effect of any resulting rateable value increase for 12 months. It also wants to make machinery for onsite renewables and electric vehicle charge points exempt from property valuations so businesses are not unfairly penalised for any increase in value of their property. David Chapman, UKHospitality Cymru executive director, said: “Incentivising business to make sustainable improvements to their venues is a win-win, and I’m pleased the Welsh government has recognised the benefits these exemptions and reliefs can deliver. I’d encourage them to go a few steps further by making the renewables proposal permanent and extending the proposed relief period for buildings improvements from 12 months to 24 months.”

Licensing update: John Gaunt & Partners licensing solicitors has just published its latest licensing update. This month, there’s a tribute to Laura Mateer, one of the longest-serving partners at the company, who has passed away aged just 41 following an illness. The full update can be accessed here.

Company News:

Chick-fil-A begins site search as it gears up to “enter the UK with purpose”: US fast food brand Chick-fil-A has begun reaching out to landlords and seeking to secure sites as it gears up to make a return to the UK market, Propel has learned. Propel has seen a site requirement brochure for the brand, which states that international expansion is “a strategic priority for Chick-fil-A, and the UK will be the first market we enter outside of North America with concepts tailored with the customer and specific location in mind”. The company, which has more than 2,800 restaurants in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, is understood to have retained property firm Newmark Group, which acquired Harper Dennis Hobbs in 2019, to help it with its expansion in the UK. Under the heading “entering the UK with purpose”, the business is seeking high street sites between 2,000 and 5,000 square feet; “free-standing restaurant with drive-thru” sites between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet; and mall/food court sites that are 1,000-plus square feet with remote storage. The requirement brochure also touches on Chick-fil-A’s commitment “to helping foster connections that strengthen communities and enhance people’s lives”. It states: “While our UK corporate social responsibility programmes are being developed ahead of opening, we will match our commitment in the United States and are excited to make a positive impact on a new market.” One of its initiatives in the US sees the brand donate $25,000 to support a local food bank in that community every time it opens a new restaurant. Earlier this year, the brand said it was planning to invest $1bn to open restaurants in Europe and Asia, following an unsuccessful foray in the UK three years ago. The company said it planned to open restaurants in Europe and Asia by 2026, with locations in five international markets by 2030. Andrew Cathy, the company’s chief executive, said Chick-fil-A had plenty of room to grow in the US, but that an international presence is necessary as the family-owned business charts its future. He said: “We feel like it’s time to continue to innovate and try and test how we will do in international markets so that we can learn.” In 2020, the chain closed its UK locations – in Reading and inside the Macdonald Aviemore Resort in the Scottish Highlands – just six months after opening, amid protests over its history of donating to anti-LGBTQ political causes. Chick-fil-A subsequently said it no longer contributes to political causes.

Pizza Hut Delivery franchisee boosts estate with pair of acquisitions: Exultant Group, the Mizan Syed-led company, has boosted is Pizza Hut Delivery estate with the acquisition of two former Pizza Hut franchise businesses out of administration. Propel understands that Exultant has taken its Pizza Hut-branded estate past the 30 sites mark after acquiring the majority of the former Sania Ltd and Dhoke 1 Ltd businesses out of administration. Sania Ltd operated nine Pizza Hut sites across Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. It is understood that Exultant acquired seven of these for a total consideration of £356,000. Separately, Exultant acquired three of the four Pizza Hut sites previously operated by Dhoke 1, which were based in the Midlands. Exultant acquired three of the sites, plus the equipment located in the fourth, for a total consideration of £100,004. Earlier this year, Syed, who in 2019 won Franchisee of the Year for Pizza Hut, became the franchisee for Pret A Manger in Yorkshire. Pret divested its Sheffield Meadowhall site over to Exultant in January, and in February, it added a second site when it opened a Pret on the first floor of the Merrion Centre in Leeds’ Arena Quarter. It has since opened a third Pret site, in the unit formerly occupied by Tiffin Coffee Grande, which sits on the corner of Charles Street and Market Street in Bradford.

Putt Putt Noddle eyes London flagship site: Putt Putt Noodle, the crazy gold concept from We Do Play, which also operates the Flip Out brand, is lining up the opening of a flagship site in central London, Propel understands. The business, which currently operates three Putt Putt Noodle sites, is believed to have applied to open a site at 530 Oxford Street, with the site set to undergo a circa £3m investment. Putt Putt Noodle, which combines “adventure golf with exquisite Asian street food”, is still a relatively new concept, making its debut in Norwich in December 2021 before joint sites with Flip Out were launched in Poole and Telford. The group told Propel earlier this year it is aiming for 40 Putt Putt Noodles and 20 more Flip Outs by 2026. It said it had further openings for the crazy golf concept lined up in Bedford, Basingstoke and Colchester.

Cote hires Amanda Underwood as new people director: Côte, the French brasserie chain backed by the Partners Group, has hired Amanda Underwood, formerly of PizzaExpress, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants and Rhubarb, as its new people director, Propel has learned. Underwood, who will take up her new role at the start of next month, joins the 84-strong Cote from the Norwegian-based The Social Gaming Group, where she has been chief people officer since June 2021. Prior to that, she spent more than two years as chief people officer at Rhubarb and three years as group HR director at Westbury Street Holdings. She also spent five years as HR director at PizzaExpress and two years in the same role at Gordon Ramsay Restaurants. In May, Cote said it was “excited” by its recent progress after seeing sustained improvements in guest satisfaction, operational controls and labour turnover. It came as the business reported turnover of £144.9m for year-ended September 2022 (2021: £72.7m), with adjusted Ebitda of £3.6m (2021: £0.3m).

Mowgli secures Chelmsford site: Mowgli, the Nisha Katona-led, Indian street food concept, has added to its openings pipeline after securing a site in Chelmsford. Propel understand that the TriSpan-backed, 17-strong business has secured the former Byron site, which closed earlier this year, in Bond Street, with the aim of opening before Christmas. The business will open its latest site at the end of this month in Beverley. A long-anticipated site in Bristol’s Corn Street is due to open in November, while a site in Knutsford’s King Street is also scheduled to open this year. The company has also applied to open in the former Two Seasons store near the House of Fraser site in Lincoln’s High Street. Katona said: “We have found a perfect spot for Mowgli Chelmsford. It’s a town I have wanted to be in for a while and hunted and hunted, but Bond Street near the river feels just right. So, we will start building in the autumn with an aim of opening before Christmas. Also, an update on our highly anticipated Mowgli Bristol. Well, she will open her doors in November. Brizzle Chat Bombs away!” Propel revealed in January that TriSpan was to back the continued expansion of Mowgli after acquiring a stake in the business, which Katona founded in 2014, in Liverpool. P-Three and Jamieson Mills acted for the landlord on the Chelmsford deal.

Ole & Steen strengthens management team: Danish bakery concept Ole & Steen has strengthened its management team with the appointment of a new operations director and a head of people, Propel understands. The business has appointed Stuart Cockburn, formerly of Costa Coffee and TGI Fridays, as its new UK operations director. Cockburn, who was most recently a regional director for Reed in Partnership, spent more than 12 years at Costa, including three years as its operations director in China. He also spent over 17 years at TGI Fridays, including 12 months as its UK operations director. At the same time, Ole & Steen has appointed Beth Clarke, formerly of Wagamama, as its new head of people. Clarke previously spent nearly two years as head of people development at Wagamama. In May, David Campbell, the former chief executive of Wagamama and PizzaExpress, was appointed chairman of Danish Bake Holding, the parent company of Ole & Steen. Campbell was previously chief executive of PizzaExpress, The Ivy Collection and Wagamama. In addition, Campbell, who stepped down from leading PizzaExpress in October 2021, has extensive board experience from the hospitality sector – including Hospitality Rising, Pacha Group, Formula One and Bill’s Restaurants. He succeeded Henrik Brandt as chairman of Dane Bake Holdings, which currently operates 26 sites in the UK under its Ole & Steen brand.

EL&N to open in South Africa: Cafe and lifestyle brand EL&N, the 32-strong London-based business, is to make its debut in South Africa later this month. The business will open a site at the Mall of Africa in Johannesburg next Thursday (24 August). The new site will take EL&N’s global presence to ten countries and represent its third new market this year following debuts in Bahrain and Malaysia. Propel revealed earlier this month that the business is seeking an investment partner to aid its ambition to grow to 200-plus sites globally over the next five years. The company said it was exploring the potential to raise capital “through divestment of equity” in its holding group. The business, which was founded by Alexandra Miller in 2017, expects to grow organically throughout 2023-24 by investing in its existing product range, and by developing new products and opening new sites. It said: “The EL&N brand growth strategy is to expand via a combination of corporate store models within the UK and selected cities in Europe and a franchising model internationally.” The group expansion strategy is to operate 200-plus units globally over the next five years. 

Jamie Oliver to steer clear of challenging mid-market in London return: Jamie Oliver will steer clear of the UK casual-dining sector because of the “huge pressures” on mid-market restaurants, according to the chief executive of the chef’s business interests, as he prepares for a return four years after his Italian chain collapsed into administration. Kevin Styles, who took over as chief executive of Oliver’s business empire last year, told the Financial Times he would “not try to replicate” the rapid expansion of the Jamie’s Italian chain, which grew from a single Oxford restaurant in 2008 to 25 sites before it collapsed into administration in 2019 with £85m of debts. Jamie Oliver Catherine Street, a new upmarket restaurant offering from the chef and the first owner-operated UK site since the administration, is slated to open in London’s Covent Garden in November. “We’re going to be very strategic and targeted about what we do in the UK restaurant space,” said Styles. “We’re not trying to execute a 30-40 site restaurant chain.” Justifying his decision to set up a restaurant pitched at a higher price point than Jamie’s Italian, Styles said: “There’s going to be huge pressures in the mid-market, there always is when an economy is flagging. The mid-market, casual-dining sector has hit some significant issues in terms of competition, in terms of rent, in terms of [business] rates, in terms of energy, all that sort of stuff. That’s been a perfect storm not just for [Jamie’s Italian] but for many other businesses as well.” In a turnaround since the collapse of Jamie’s Italian, which led to more than a 1,000 job losses and which Oliver described as “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do”, his business empire of 70 franchised restaurants worldwide announced on Wednesday that it had posted a pre-tax profit of £7.7m in 2022, up from £6.5m the year before. Sales were up 8.1% to £29.7m. Oliver and his wife Jools paid themselves a dividend of £6.8m off the back of a jump in revenues, not only from restaurants but also from TV shows, about two million cookery books sold and Oliver’s London cookery school. The dividend paid to the couple increased 21% compared with a year earlier.

BaxterStorey introduces new employee benefits including enhanced maternity leave: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has introduced a new set of employee benefits including enhanced maternity leave. In an industry-first move, BaxterStorey has introduced a “ground breaking” maternity package, offering 24 weeks of fully paid leave so new mothers can balance the demands of work and family. The same 24 weeks of paid leave will be offered to team members involved in surrogacy or adoption processes, plus four weeks of full pay for each period of fertility treatment. The company has also replaced its paternity leave policy with a more inclusive secondary carer leave, meaning new parents, regardless of gender, can enjoy four weeks of paid leave to support their partners. Further benefits include three days of paid grandparent leave, allowing team members to spend quality time with their grandchildren, and access to the Aviva Wellbeing Hub, which allows team an annual health check and access to digital GPs. Arran McDowell, people director at BaxterStorey, said: “We’ve listened to the needs of our people and what matters to them, and our enhanced benefits package is another huge step forward for us in championing an inclusive workplace culture. We hope it drives positive change in the industry, creating a more equitable workplace to support talent attraction and retention.”

Nottingham McDonald’s makes loss as costs increase despite 14% increase in turnover: Nottingham-based McDonald’s franchisee Blades Restaurants made a loss in the year ending 31 December 2022 as costs increased, despite reporting a 14% increase in turnover. The 11-strong business, founded by Jerry Nicholls in 2008, saw a pre-tax profit of £2,819,390 in 2021 turn into a loss of £243,000 during the period. This despite an increase in turnover from £37,767,289 in 2021, which had exceeded pre-pandemic levels, to £43,138,916. “Turnover for the year increased by 14%, with an increase in gross profit of 6% compared to the previous year,” Nicholls said in his statement accompanying the accounts. “However, in common with many other similar businesses and industries, both labour costs and utility costs increased considerably along with other overheads, with the result that the year's trading produced an operating loss. The director believes the trading environment in which the company operates will continue to be challenging but remains optimistic regarding future trading and is committed to increasing both future turnover and profitability, and to continuing the company’s reinvestment program. The company has continued to invest in the business and in the development and training of its employees, as well as continued investment in IT and store equipment.” The company received no government grants compared to £290,301 in 2021. An interim dividend of £200,000 was paid (2021: £140,000).

Knoops looking to expand north west operations with Chester store: Luxury hot chocolate shop Knoops is looking to expand its north west operations with its first store in Chester. It is lining up a November opening in the former Blackstocks fish and chips shop at 33 Northgate. It will be Knoops’ third site in the region, with two in Manchester, and 13th overall, following an opening in London’s Notting Hill earlier this month. Chester Live reports that Knoops has been welcomed to Chester on Twitter by Chester BID, which said: “New opening coming to Northgate Street. See you soon.” The business, which is also lining up an opening in Bath, plans to open more than 120 sites in the UK, and 3,000 globally, within the next seven years. Blackstocks had stood in the city centre since 2012 but closed last year, with owners Gareth and Kelly Gordon citing rising costs and a reduction in footfall.

Bowland Inns & Hotels gets green light to develop former school into luxury hotel and spa: Lancashire hotel, pub and restaurant operator Bowland Inns & Hotels has been given the go ahead to convert a former school into a luxury hotel and spa. It has secured planning permission for a change of use at the grade II-listed building on the outskirts of the Lune Valley village of Wennington, which closed as a school last summer. Detailed plans for Wennington Hall, which will operate under the James’ Places brand, will now be drawn up and will include the addition of 37 bedrooms. “Wennington Hall will be a fabulous addition to our family of remarkable buildings and businesses,” said chairman James Warburton. “There is so much potential here, not just in the Hall itself but in the extensive collection of buildings once useful to the school but now in need of fresh ideas.” James’ Places already operates five north west weddings and events venues and operates Holmes Mill in Clitheroe, on behalf of parent company Bowland Inns & Hotels. The business said it is on the lookout for further opportunities in the Lancaster, Lune Valley and South Lakes regions. Earlier this year, Propel revealed that Bowland Inns & Hotels had appointed advisors as it looks at its funding options for its next stage of growth. It came after the business reported strong trading in 2023, with Ebitda 75% up on pre-covid levels.

Robinsons invests £1.25m across trio of tenanted sites: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons invested £1.25m in July on three refurbishments across its tenanted estate. Last month saw the refurbishment of three tenanted pubs in Cheshire – The Hawk Inn in Haslington, The Unicorn in Congleton, and The Swan & Chequers in Sandbach. The company said the investment saw the re-opening of a previously closed business, generating additional jobs within the region. Robinsons said it also welcomed two new business partners onboard to operate two of the restored pubs and celebrated more than 30 years of partnership with its business partner at The Unicorn. It said it has invested the highest amount of capital expenditure across its pub estate this year, with 17 investment projects completed in 2023 so far. William Robinson, managing director (Pub Division) at Robinsons, said: “The investments we are making across our pub estate reflects dedication to our business partners and the communities they serve.”

Rare Restaurants to open first Gaucho in Wales next month: Rare Restaurants, the Martin Williams-led operator of the Gaucho and M Restaurants brands, will open its first Gaucho restaurant in Wales next month. Propel first revealed in August 2022 that the Martin Williams-led operator was planning to open a restaurant under the Argentinian steak brand at The Hayes, in Cardiff city centre. It will now open on Friday, 1 September, set over two floors and a terrace. The ground floor restaurant and bar will seat up to 118 people, with the top floor restaurant having 76 covers. The terrace will have space for up to 20 people, and there will also be an exclusive private dining room for a group of up to 26 on the top floor. It will be the 20th Gaucho opened by Rare Restaurants following an opening in Covent Garden in June, its first London launch in more than a decade. The previous month, the group reported record-breaking full-year results and a "strong" start to the first quarter of 2023. It reported turnover of £73.5m for the year ending 1 January 2023, up 38% from 2022 and up 29% from 2019. Group Ebitda (before pre-opening costs) was £9.7m, 13.2% of revenue, while like-for-like sales up were up more than 30% compared with the previous year. The group said strong trading has continued post year-end, with first quarter like-for-like sales above 2022's first quarter.

Boparan Restaurant Group set to open Slim Chickens in Swindon: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) is set to open a new restaurant under its US brand, Slim Chickens, in Swindon. Although the location has not yet been revealed, The Swindon Advertiser reports that a job advert for a general manager was posted online for a store in the town, for which the company is no longer taking applicants. BRG already operates a restaurant under another of its brands, Giraffe, in Swindon's Designer Outlet, which is set to close at the end of this month. It is expected that the new Slim Chickens will open in this location after Giraffe departs, the newspaper said. Last month, Propel revealed that BRG is looking to expand Slims across Europe and is looking to secure partners to open up new territories in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. BRG operates circa 40 sites under the brand in the UK, including under its The Restaurant Hubs format with Sainsbury's.

Nando’s opens in Battersea Power Station: Nando’s has opened its latest site, on level one in the newly restored Battersea Power Station. Guests can enjoy the newly launched sunset slushies, “PERi-cante” frozen cocktails and fully loaded chips, and select their favourite sauce from a new format PERi-PERi sauce pump. The new restaurant has 120 covers and also offers click and collect and takeaway. Restaurant manager Keidison Machado said: “We’re so excited to be opening the doors to our stunning new Battersea Power Station restaurant! It’s an amazing space in London’s exciting new retail, leisure and cultural destination and we can’t wait to welcome our new customers.”

Island Poke to strengthen presence in the City: Island Poké, the White Rabbit Projects and Hero Brands-backed business, is to strengthen its presence in the City of London later this month with an opening in Fenchurch Street. Opening on 23 August at 155 Fenchurch Street, it will be the 19th site overall for the business and 16th in the capital. Already this year, the business has grown its regional estate, with openings in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Brighton. It is also set to open a site in Queens Road, in Bristol’s Clifton area, later this autumn. Island Poké founder James Gould-Porter said: “With a few Islands already thriving within the Square Mile, we are thrilled to shortly be opening on Fenchurch Street. We’re excited to be joining such a buzzing city location to deliver the full flavour factor with our healthy, nutritious and poké bowls, bao and all new hot bowls.” Last year, the company said it had sold more than 80 locations across the UK due to open over the next five years, plus a further 150 potential locations identified but yet to be sold. It also operates ten sites in France.

Joël Robuchon International to relaunch Mayfair site as L’Atelier Robuchon: The Joël Robuchon International group has announced it will be relaunching its Mayfair restaurant as L’Atelier Robuchon London next month. The restaurant, which will relaunch on 15 September, will be a counterpart to the starred international L’Ateliers in Hong Kong, Miami, Taipei, Las Vegas and Geneva. The relaunch is spearheaded by executive chef Andrea Cofini, who joined the Robuchon brand in 2014, serving at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris, and more recently, Robuchon Shanghai. The business said Cofini has worked alongside group executive chef David Alves to ensure L’Atelier Robuchon London adheres to the group's incredibly high standards. The site will include a newly created bar area at the entrance, which leads into the open restaurant area, seating 74 diners.

White Rabbit Projects to launch new restaurant and bar at Scottish Highlands hotel: White Rabbit Projects, the restaurant investment and advisory service founded by former Soho House Group commercial director Chris Miller, is set to launch a new restaurant and bar at a Scottish Highlands hotel. The Golden Gorse Restaurant and Bar Ross will open at the Dornoch Station hotel, a Marine & Lawn Hotel & Resorts venue, on Sunday, 28 August. The Golden Goose will offer a seasonal, all-day a-la-carte menu, afternoon tea and a Sunday roast, with dishes including a hot Highland seafood platter for two with whole lobster, grilled Cumbrae oysters, seared scallops, blue shell mussels, garlic butter, samphire and crispy potatoes. Bar Ross will offer an all-day dining menu including its own Highland Platter, with game terrine, local cheeses, radishes, celery, grapes, chutney and sourdough. Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts, an Adventurous Journeys Capital brand featuring hotels and resorts set along some of the world’s finest golf courses, acquired Dornoch Station in 2022.

North west operator opens seventh site after bringing leased business back under its management: North west operator Darwen Bars and Leisure has opened its seventh site after bringing a leased business back under its management. The company, operated by Sarah and Gary Perkins, has been leasing The Taps Bar, in Darwen's Railway Road, to another business for the past year, but it has now come back under its management and reopened as Tiki Taps. “The Taps Bar before was open for around six or seven years, and for around 12 months we leased it out to another business owner, but this didn't work out,” Sarah Perkins told the Lancashire Telegraph. “We have decided to bring it back into our management company and reopen it as a tiki bar. That bar is like our baby as it was the first one we opened. We were just brainstorming ideas, and when ‘Tiki Taps’ was mentioned, I just fell in love with the idea. While there are some quirky cocktail bars in the area, there isn't a tiki bar. I thought it would be perfect and bring something exotic and different to the town. Since we announced this on Facebook, the post has blown up. Everyone is really happy that it is back under our management.” The business also operates pizzeria Eddie’s Pizza, late-night venue The Vault, sports bar Spitfire, The Dog Inn and gym Jubilee Fitness in the town, plus restaurant Poulton FY6 in Poulton le Fylde. The company also runs the Darwen Food & Drink Festival.

Public House Group launches second site: Public House Group, the umbrella company from the team behind The Pelican in London’s Notting Hill, has opened its second site, in Oxfordshire. The company, which is led by James Gummer and Phil Winser, reopened The Bull in the village of Charlbury last month. The pub features ten ensuite bedrooms. The business, which is understood to be backed by French entrepreneur Olivier Van Themsche, opened The Pelican in All Saints Road, Notting Hill, last year. It is also currently operating a pop-up in the nearby ex-Pizza East site. Propel understands that the business has also lined up two further pub openings in the capital. Gummer’s career in hospitality began at The Smile in New York, followed by roles at The Wolseley and the Santa Cruz group’s Isabel in Mayfair. Fellow founder Winser returned to London from New York, where he spent the last 12 years operating the Silkstone Group and The Fat Radish (including co-writing The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries).

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