Story of the Day:
Star Pubs & Bars looking to add 100 more Just Add Talent pubs by 2026: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is looking to add another 100 pubs to its Just Add Talent (JAT) managed operator business by 2026. It wants to increase the JAT model from its current 150 pubs to 250 over the next three years, which will see it make up around 12% of the company’s 2,400 pub estate. The move is on the back of robust trading and the popularity of the JAT model among applicants for pubs, Star said. The model is particularly attractive in a high inflation environment as it covers energy and overheads, other than staffing costs, and offers a high level of support for operators. Star creates the retail offer centrally, including promotional offers, with operators free to arrange activities and entertainment within set parameters. Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs & Bars managing director, said: “Our JAT pubs are great sites which have real appeal to operators and local communities. Although JAT pubs currently make up only 6% of the Star estate, 28% of applicants for our pubs are for JAT pubs. Our JAT pubs are a core part of our overall business and provide an invaluable source of business insight for the wider leased and tenanted estate and Heineken. It allows the company to trial new products and evaluate consumer trends, with learnings from JAT estate and JAT supplier deals rolled out to our leased and tenanted estate.” The JAT estate was set up by Star in 2016 and saw Punch’s Falcon estate pubs converted to the JAT model when Star took on the Punch pubs in 2018. One pub that has benefited from becoming a JAT pub is The Reiver on Holmrook Road, Carlisle, which reopened in April, thanks to a £265,000 refurbishment, after being closed for two years. Aaron Selby, the new licensee, said: “My partner, Sophie, and I come from the community, and so realised how much everyone missed having a great local on their doorstep as there are no other pubs in walking distance. The response to the upgrade and pub reopening again has been overwhelming. For us, the low ingoing costs and support the model provides has given us an opportunity which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. It offers a great first step on the ladder for someone wanting to run a pub.”
Number of hotel operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies:
A number of hotel operators are among the 62 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday (25 August), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database,
which is produced in association with Virgate, features south east family-run hotel group Castlewood Hotels
, which is led by managing director Angelo Sangiuseppe, and operates three Best Western-branded hotels – in Folkestone, Canterbury and Eastbourne. Also added this month is Hazlitt’s Hotels
, which is owned by Peter McKay and Douglas Blain, and operates three sites in London. In addition, Suffolk hotel group Gough Hotels
, which is run by Robert and Claire Gough, and operates The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, Salthouse Harbour Hotel in Ipswich and Southwold Pier in Southwold, will be featured. Premium subscribers will also receive a 4,000-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,943 companies. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the New Openings Database
; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book
; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database
; and the Who
’s Who of UK Food and Beverage
. Premium subscribers have now received the new 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 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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Dishoom operations director and people director to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings:
Dishoom operations director Nina Panayiodou and people director Andrew O’Callaghan will speak 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. Panayiodou and O’Callaghan will be interviewed by Sixty Eight People's Abi Dunn about the culture that everyone is talking about. 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 email@example.com.
New calls to freeze business rates: Jeremy Hunt has been urged to freeze business rates again, amid warnings that a multi-billion hike in bills could dent investment and leave many small firms “on the brink”. The Sunday Times reports that last autumn, the chancellor announced a major support package worth £13.6bn to help businesses still recovering from the pandemic. It included freezing business rates, which usually increase annually, as well as increasing the discount for retail hospitality and leisure businesses from 50% to 75% 12 months, capped at £110,000 per firm. However, business rates are now set to increase again next April under the government’s “multiplier”, which is pegged to inflation in September, as measured by the consumer price index. An analysis by UKHospitality, shared with The Sunday Times, suggests that increasing business rates by inflation could increase bills for the hospitality sector by £220m next year. This would come on top of an additional £630m cost from rates relief ending, leaving restaurants, pubs and cafés facing an additional bill of £850m in the new financial year. It would mean that a restaurant with an average rateable value of £51,000 that would have benefited from £19,500 in relief this year could be facing an annual business rates bill of £26,000 next year. The industry argues that government support this year was vital to keeping many businesses afloat during the energy and cost of living crisis, and that ending this could see many smaller firms closing. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The looming business rates hike facing hospitality businesses is a ticking time bomb that has the potential to cause as much damage next year as the energy crisis. We need to see urgent action from government to avoid this upcoming bill, with firm commitments that there will be no inflationary increase to the total sum of business rates, and that business rates relief will continue for hospitality businesses. Inaction is the difference between firms scaling up, investing and driving economic growth and recovery, or accelerating price rises for consumers — or even worse, businesses shutting their doors for good.”
Jamie Oliver on returning to UK restaurant industry – ‘I am trusting my gut’: Chef Jamie Oliver said trusting his instincts to return to the UK restaurant industry is “the right thing to do” because he is not fully happy or complete without an eatery. Oliver recently announced plans to relaunch a restaurant in London’s Catherine Street in November, after his restaurant empire which included Jamie’s Italian, Barbecoa and Fifteen, collapsed into administration in May 2019. He still has franchised restaurants in countries around the world, including in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and Jamie’s Deli in Europe – but since 2022, his only new outlet in London has been a pop-up in Soho. He told You magazine: “I wasn’t planning to do it for a couple of years. But through having probably the best mid-market restaurant group on the planet for seven years, then losing it over four years and everything involved in that, I think trusting my instinct and my gut is the right thing to do. The Naked Chef is naked without a restaurant. Without it I’m not fully happy, I’m not fully complete.” Oliver said “yes of course” when asked if he wished he had done things differently during the reign of Jamie’s Italian. He said: “But I have become quite philosophical about failure or things that were wrong. Often, we don’t learn or evolve until we’ve felt pain; we don’t try to think about things differently until getting it wrong has resulted in pain.”
Job of the Day: COREcruitment is working with a charity based in south London looking for a financial controller. Reporting to the finance director, the role is integral to the successful operations of the charity and ensures sound financial control, reporting and responsibility for both day-to-day accounting and payroll, as well as strategic reporting, budgeting and compliance with relevant statutory regulations. The post holder is also responsible for the management of the outsourced IT function and includes the management of two experienced team members. Hospitality/leisure experience is a plus. The salary for the position is up to £50,000 and based in Surrey. For more information on the role, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leon co-founder John Vincent invests in plant-based cookie concept: John Vincent, co-founder and former chief executive of Leon, the healthy fast-food chain, has invested in plant-based cookie concept The After School Cookie Club, as its looks to further expand in London. Originally launched as Humble Dough by founder Jesse Jenkins, the business rebranded in 2019 and launched into Boxpark Croydon and Boxpark Shoreditch. It recently opened a site in Borough Yards and has a further opening lined up in Victoria. It is understood that the business is in talks on a further site in the capital and that it will eventually explore growth via franchising. It is thought that Vincent has taken a major stake in what is described as “first vegan and gluten free cookie brand”. The After School Cookie Club is Vincent’s latest investment following the £100m sale of Leon, the healthy fast-food chain he co-founded alongside Henry Dimbleby and Allegra McEvedy in 2004, to Asda-owners EG Group in 2021. Earlier this year, Vincent invested in and become an executive partner of Invyted, the tech platform that “transforms how brands and influencers collaborate”. He joined Invyted, which was founded by 22-year-old food blogger turned entrepreneur Asti Wagner, as it was readying to officially launch. The company began a trial phase initially focusing on hospitality at the end of last year under the name Inbited but has now rebranded as Invyted. The platform allows brands and influencers to collaborate in real-time and enables brands to continuously track the impact of any campaign. In May, Vincent told the Sunday Times he was planning to build a brand, AVA, that becomes synonymous with plant-based products. It will start with entertainment-led department stores that will act as incubators for businesses that develop the AVA brand. “Our aim for AVA is to be the Nike of plants,” he said. He is looking for like-minded executives, scientists, engineers, poets and investors to join him.
Rileys confirms £2.3m of new funding and actively seeking sites in six major cities, with Cardiff in legals, H1 lfl sales up 9.8%:
Sports bar operator Rileys has confirmed it has £2.3m of new funding and is actively seeking sites in six major cities. Propel exclusively revealed in March that Rileys had secured further funding to grow the business after reporting a first profit in six years and sales growth almost 50% up on pre-pandemic levels. It has now confirmed the receipt of £2.3m from Triple Point Private Credit, with some of this money already being used to complete the refurbishment of its Nottingham city centre site, which reopened in June. The renovated site has introduced augmented reality darts, shuffle board and air hockey for the first time, alongside 32 pool and snooker tables. The company is now actively seeking new sites in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow, with a Cardiff site in legals. Finance director Tom McMahon, said: “Raising money in this economic environment was not easy, but we were able to demonstrate to the Triple Point Private Credit team Rileys’ strong track record of sales and profit growth post covid. The loan has enabled us to refurbish Nottingham and will relocate the Rileys in Chester this autumn to a more prominent location in the city.” It comes as Rileys reports for like for like sales growth of 9.8%, up £395,000 to £4.4m, for the first six months of 2023. Ebitda was £625,000. Chief executive Craig Mayes added: “These positive results and a significant commitment to invest in Rileys will allow us to continue to premiumise our existing estate. We have now completed six refurbishments, each one performing better than the last. We have secured a location in Cardiff which is in legals, so we are looking forward to opening our first new site and the second Rileys in Wales.” Rileys, which is owned by Weight Partners Capital, went into administration in July 2020, immediately closing four sites to take its estate to 13. It last summer said it was ready to hit the expansion trail once more, as it hunted “multiple sites” to grow its portfolio. Rileys will feature in the next Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. For the year ending 1 January 2023, the business turned over £8,438,875, which will be the 555th highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email email@example.com to upgrade your subscription.
BrewDog appoints Chris Webb as global finance director: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has appointed Chris Webb, formerly of the Azzurri Group and Cream Group, as the new global finance director of its bars division, Propel understands. Webb spent the past year and a half as group chief financial officer at nightlife entertainment and hospitality business the Cream Group. Prior to that, he spent a decade at the Azzurri Group, including almost three years as finance director of its Ask Italian brand. Last month, BrewDog announced ambitious plans to expand its global bar estate, targeting 300 bars by 2030. The company currently operates more than 100 bars and hotels across the world and has announced plans to open another 200 venues in key markets across the globe over the next seven years. These include new openings this year in India, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, the US and Thailand – as well as the opening of the first US franchise location in Denver, Colorado. In the coming years, new locations are also planned in China and South Korea. Within the next five years, the craft brewer anticipates its total system revenue from bars (which includes its owned bars and franchise locations) to exceed £1bn. Later this autumn, the business will open its first bar in a transport hub in mainland Europe. The company has partnered with SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, to open the venue at Amsterdam Centraal station.
Red Engine to open Electric Shuffle site in New York: Red Engine, the team behind Flight Club, is to launch a flagship site in the US under its Electric Shuffle concept, in New York. Propel understands the Steve Moore-led business will open the site, its third in the US under the Electric Shuffle brand, next year on Broadway and 30th in New York City. It currently operates Electric Shuffle sites in Austin and Dallas in the US, two in London, plus a regional site in Leeds. Propel revealed earlier this year that Red Engine is planning to launch its Electric Shuffle concept in Manchester. It has applied to open on the existing Evans Cycles site in the city’s Deansgate area. Evans Cycles is set to move to a new location in the city. Flight Club will open its latest site, and first in Scotland, in Glasgow, this October. The brand’s 11th site overall will open in a grade-II listed building in the city’s George Street. It will feature 15 playing areas and a bar area, with the site catering for up to 325 guests. The darts concept is set to follow its debut site in Scotland with an opening in the St James Quarter scheme in Edinburgh. It has also been linked to an opening at the Westgate scheme in Oxford.
Firezza business set to be wound up: Firezza, the pizza delivery and takeaway business which was once owned by PizzaExpress, is set to be wound up after the failure to find a buyer for the business. Propel revealed earlier this summer that the future of Firezza had been thrown into doubt after it was placed on the market. Marriott & Co, the valuer and auctioneer, was marketing the ten-strong business, which operates sites across London and the Thames Valley, including venues in Battersea, Canary Wharf, Islington and Wimbledon. It is thought Marriott & Co was looking for offers in “very short order”, and that the business was “currently distressed” and “expected to enter an insolvency procedure”. Propel understands that a winding up order has been placed against the business and all of its sites are now closed. Firezza was founded by Edin Basic in 2001 before he sold the business to PizzaExpress in 2016 for circa £4.7m. It was then acquired by Net Gold Star in November 2017. Firezza, which at one point grew to 20 sites, specialises in rectangular stone-baked pizzas in a classic Neapolitan style.
Bross Bagels boss promises to rise again after financial woes revealed: Bross Bagels sandwich chain founder, Larah Bross, has hit out at claims that the business has been placed into administration. However, she did reveal the group, which has four Edinburgh outlets, has undergone a restructuring against a background of difficult trading conditions and is committed to securing all jobs. The Edinburgh Reporter reports that the brand’s suppliers had been notified that the bagel specialist had gone into administration – a formal process which recognises a business is insolvent – on 3 August. An email sent from the company’s finance department told suppliers, who had been pressing the company for payment, that Bross Bagels was in administration and that the administrator would be in touch directly to discuss the best way forward regarding outstanding debts. But Canadian entrepreneur and comedian Bross told the newspaper her company suffered a “massive breach of data protection” in recent weeks and that Police Scotland had been informed of the situation. She said: “I think everyone is aware of how hard it’s been for the hospitality sector over the last few years and things continue to be tough, but we are working tirelessly just to keep ourselves trading. We have taken professional advice and a restructure has allowed us to safeguard all jobs. The good news is it’s business as usual for bagel lovers.” According to Companies House, Bross Bagels’ latest annual accounts, to 30 June 2022, showed the business had net liabilities of £546,339, compared to just £99,270 in 2021. Short term liabilities – money due to creditors within one year, totalled £770,062 – more than double the 2021 sum of £300,140 – the largest of which was £402,944 due to “other taxation and social security”, while trade creditors at that date were due £157,270. Founded by Canada-born Bross in 2017, Bross Bagels has four sites, all based in Edinburgh. Earlier this year Bross, told Propel. “We have a couple of new company stores in the pipeline, which will be both inside and outside of Scotland. We’re also hoping for global expansion through franchising. There’s no real global bagel brand, so we see that as a real opportunity for us. We also have a dark kitchens deal with Sessions and will be doing pop-ups around the UK.”
Itsu lines up Liverpool opening: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain founded by Julian Metcalfe, is set to further strengthen its regional presence with an opening in Liverpool. Propel understands that the brand’s franchisee Heart with Smart Group – operator of Pizza Hut Restaurants – has lined up an opening on the ex-Kingdom of Sweets site in the city’s Paradise Street. The Heart with Smart Group, which is led by Jens Hofma, currently operates Itsu sites in Aberdeen, Chelmsford, Edinburgh and Reading. Earlier this month, Metcalfe confirmed Itsu was continuing to look at UK opportunities outside London. Metcalfe said: “I think one of the most successful openings we have had to date was in Aberdeen, and Edinburgh and Manchester’s thriving, Leeds is doing well. So, no, Itsu was not a London thing. I believe passionately that people – all of us – have the ability to taste and see value in food. So, as long as you can keep the prices low, there’s no reason why Itsu can’t thrive right across the country.” On future openings, he said: “We’re opening in Exeter very soon. We’re opening in Glasgow. We’re opening in Liverpool. We’re opening in Newcastle. And many of our out-of-town northern Itsus are immensely successful. I think one of the most successful Itsus in the world is in Bristol.” The 85-strong brand plans to open ten new sites this year, with outlets recently opened in South Kensington, Bishopsgate and Oxford Street, and new openings in King’s Cross, Windsor and Exeter set to follow soon.
Indian Tiffin Room lines up Liverpool opening: Indian Tiffin Room is set to open its fourth site later this year, in Liverpool. The business, which was founded in Cheadle ten years ago, is set to open at InterContinental Hotel Group’s Halyard Hotel in the city’s Duke Street. The business, which is led by Suresh Raje Urs, also operates restaurants under the India Tiffin Room name in Leeds and Manchester. The concept is known for its geographically diverse menus that feature flavours inspired by regions across India, as well as “their message of spreading the word of how joyful trying authentic street food can be”.
Popeyes plans Exeter opening: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service brand, is set to further add to its openings pipeline with a site in Exeter. Propel understands that the business has lined up a site in the city centre, in the High Street. The business has already opened a site in nearby Plymouth. The brand, which will open its third UK drive-thru later this month, in Cardiff, will open its first site in Scotland later this year, a drive-thru site at the Barrhead Retail Park in Glasgow. It has also been linked with the former Tower Records site in the city’s Argyle Street. Popeyes, which is eventually planning a move into franchising in the UK, currently operates 19 restaurants and eight delivery kitchens. As well as Barrhead, it has sites in Kilburn, Croydon, Wembley, Cardiff, Sheffield, Barnsley and Manchester “coming soon”.
Chinese tea chain makes UK and European debut with London launch: Chinese tea chain Heytea has made its UK and European debut with a launch in London. Heytea, which operates more than 1,000 stores in China alongside four outlets in Singapore, where it launched in 2018, is located at 93-107 Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho. It will offer the brand’s signature cheese tea range alongside bubble, fruit and milk-based teas. Heytea was founded on Jiangbianli Alley, Guangdong, in 2012, with the founding principle of using only real ingredients and no artificial flavours or colourants.
Liverpool operator planning to convert former Bank of England building into new restaurant: Liverpool operator JSM Group is planning to convert a former Bank of England building in the city into new restaurant. The group, led by Jamie Motlagh, has applied to change the use of the grade I-listed property, which has been vacant since the 1990s, at 31 Castle Street into a restaurant and bar. If the plans are backed, the ground floor of the building, which dates back to the 1840s, would be used as a restaurant and bar, with customer toilets and rooms for staff on the first floor. The second and third floors are to remain unused, while the rear enclosed yard is also set to be converted into restaurant and bar space. The application will go before Liverpool’s planning committee this week, with a recommendation for approval, reports Insider Media. The company has a wide-ranging property portfolio, including hotel apartments, plus circa 34 pub, bar and nightclub venues. These include Black Rabbit, Camel Club, Einstein Bier Haus, Heaven, Kaiserkeller, Moloko, Sgt. Peppers and The Old Bank.
East Midlands burrito franchise plans three opening next month to reach ten sites, more to follow: East Midlands burrito franchise Plan Burrito is planning three openings next month to take its estate to ten sites, with more to follow. Propel revealed earlier this month that the seven-strong concept was lining up an eighth location, at 21 Timber Mill in Norwich. It is now due to open there in September, along with further sites in Shrewsbury and Canterbury, as the brand continues its rapid expansion in 2023. Having started the year with just three sites, the business, founded by Stephen Hopper in 2015, opened four sites in as many months between April and July – in Hitchin, Guildford, Leamington Spa and Ramsgate. It also has sites in Loughborough, London’s Southampton Row, and in Whitburn, in the Scottish district of West Lothian. “It has been a very busy few months for us,” Hopper told whichfranchise. “Our aim is to be the leader in the Tex-Mex street food segment in any chosen local market, and with the opening of these stores, we are on track to achieve this. We are excited about the direction the brand is going in and it is great to see Plan Burrito opening in more key towns and cities across the UK.”
Indian street food concept set to open seventh site: Indian street food concept Tikka Nation is set to open its seventh site, in Preston, Propel has learned. Founders Sumit Jain and Vikas Narula opened their first Tikka Nation in Dorking, Surrey, in July 2020. This has been followed by sites in Uxbridge in west London, Watford, Sutton Coldfield, St Albans and Manchester. The business is looking to expand through franchising with the assistance of franchise consultant Paolo Peretti, former managing director at Patisserie Valerie. Peretti earlier this year told Propel the brand, described as a “fast-food venue but selling authentic Indian street food and speciality drinks from the country”, had eight new sites in the pipeline. It currently has two franchised and four company-owned stores.
Old Spike Roastery plans to open two more London cafes this year: Social enterprise Old Spike Roastery plans to add two more London cafes to its four-strong estate this year. The company, which was founded by Richard Robinson and Cemal Ezal, who went on to found Change Please, most recently opened a café in Fenchurch Street at the end of February. Launched in 2014, Old Spike also operates a cafe and roastery at its headquarters in Peckham as well as cafes in Piccadilly Circus and Elephant & Castle. Recruiting for an area manager to assist the expansion, group operations director Matthew Heather said: “We have four awesome cafes in central and south east London and are looking to open two more this year. 2024 will be another great year of growth, so we need a brilliant area manager to help drive our expansion and increase our impact on people and the environment.” Each site serves Old Spike’s specialty coffee alongside baked goods, and reusable coffee silos will be available to encourage refills.
Vintage railway-themed café concept opens fourth site: Vintage railway-themed café concept Centenary Lounge has opened its fourth site, in Bicester. Centenary Lounge opened its first cafe in 2009 at Birmingham Moor Street, on the centennial anniversary of the station's opening by the Great Western Railway, from which it took its name. In 2012, the company expanded its offering with a kiosk at Birmingham’s Snow Hill station based on a 1920s Empire fruit stall. Centenary Lounge Worcester followed in early 2019, its biggest location to date, spread across two floors of a grade II-listed Georgian building and with an art deco theme. It has now opened its latest shop on platform two at Bicester North station, reports The Oxford Mail. Founder Aasia Baig first began “her railway journey” in 2001 when she and her husband opened a retail store at Solihull station. “In 2003, Birmingham Moor Street station reopened after extensive restoration by Chiltern Railways, and when Aasia visited the station looking for an empty unit where she could open a quality cafe, she fell in love with the charming quaint station,” the company said. “This encouraged her to learn about the history of the railways and the refreshment rooms, and thus the idea of recreating a 1930s Great Western Railway-inspired refreshment room was born.”
XP Factory to open two new Boom Battle Bars in as many months: XP Factory, owner of experiential concepts Boom Battle Bar and Escape Hunt, is set to open two new Boom Battle Bars in as many months. It will open the concept’s first Kent site, at Canterbury’s Riverside complex, on Friday, 22 September. This will be followed by a site in Southend in October, covering around 10,500 square feet over two floors in the citys Victoria Centre. Richard Harpham, chief executive officer at XP Factory, said: “We’re delighted to be opening bookings for our epic-new Canterbury venue. Located in the heart of the city, this prime location will be packed full of our most sought-after games, house an incredible bar and even features a covered drinking terrace. We are excited to be bringing the Boom experience to Southend. We can’t wait to welcome crowds to play games from axe throwing to prosecco and beer pong and sing in our boom box private karaoke booths, with cocktails, street food, live sport on large screens and DJs spinning.” It will be a 28th and 29th UK Boom Battle Bar for XP Factory, which last month opened its first overseas site under the concept, at Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence waterfront community. It also operates 23 UK Escape Hunt sites. Earlier this month, XP Factory reported double digit like-for-like sales growth across both its concepts in the first half of the year. Group turnover climbed 131% to £18.8m (2022: £8.1m) in the period. Boom Battle Bar saw like-for-like sales increase 19% in the 26 weeks to 2 July 2023, while Escape Hunt saw a 20% increase. Boom franchise sites in Chelmsford and Ealing were acquired in June.
Searcys and Benugo partner with AVLA: Searcys and its sister brand, Benugo, have announced that they have partnered with The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). ALVA members consist of more than 2,200 locations from gardens and galleries, castles and cathedrals through to heritage sites and historic houses, hosting over 119 million visitors each year. Its aim is to represent its members to government, the broader tourism industry, business and the media. Both caterers said they would provide ALVA members with industry insight, thought leadership and support members in enhancing their visitor experience. Paul Jackson, managing director at Searcys, said: “We are delighted to be further cementing our close relationship with the ALVA. We look forward to working closely with the ALVA members, providing an open dialogue to make sure that we all deliver the best possible customer experience.”
Glasgow internet coffee house concept set to open third site: Glasgow internet coffee house concept iCafe is set to open a third site. It has applied to turn the Seven Ways pub at 621 London Road into a café offering food, drinks, retail coffee, internet and events space. Owner Umer Ashraf Malik also operates iCafes at 72 Ingram Street and 250 Woodlands Road in the city. He also previously operated sites in Sauciehall Street and Great Western Road, as well as its first location outside of Glasgow, in Kilmarnock’s King Street. Plans submitted to the city council stated there has been a “change in customer habits” and the “business model” for a pub on the site “no longer exists”, reports the Glasgow Times. “This proposal would see the premises converted to a coffee shop serving tea and coffee and associated pastries,” the application added. If the application is approved, the new cafe would operate from 8am to 10pm daily. Malik, who founded iCafe as a university project in 2005 to offer something different to “boring and soulless internet cafes”, is also technical director at specialised coffee, tea wholesaling and cafe consulting business, Purple Lime. In 2012, he secured £80,000 from Duncan Bannatyne on TV’s Dragons’ Den with the aim of expanding his iCafe business.
Birmingham bubble tea concept to open third site next month: Birmingham bubble tea franchise Mowchi is set to open its third site next month, Propel has learned. The business was founded last year by Syeda Kayanath, brand and marketing director at Midlands-based African restaurant concept Afrikana, opening its debut site at 363 Ladypool Road, Birmingham. Its second site and debut franchise location opened at 57 Great Horton Street in Bradford last month. This will be followed by site number three, in Solihull, in September. Kayanath told Propel in January that she is looking to expand the concept nationally through franchising. Meanwhile, Afrikana will this Friday (August 25) open its latest site, at 231 Mile End Road in Mile End, east London. The 160-cover restaurant is its 11th locations, with several more in the pipeline. These include 40 Moor Street in Coventry, 430 Sauciehall Street in Glasgow and in Peninsula Square at London’s O2 Arena.