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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 23rd Aug 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Five Akhi’s wants to ‘grow as big as Fireaway’ following investment from fast-growing pizza brand’s owner: Five Akhi’s director Ravi Parmar has told Propel the business wants to “grow as big as Fireaway” following investment from fast-growing pizza brand’s owner. Propel reported earlier this month that Mario Aleppo, who founded Fireaway in 2017 and has since grown it to more than 150 sites in the UK as well as spreading overseas, has invested in Five Akhi’s, which launched in 2020 and has two sites (one company-owned and one franchised), in Milton Keynes. Aleppo bought a 5% stake in the gourmet and smashed burger concept, with the hope that both his investment and expertise will help Five Askhi’s follow Fireaway in becoming a national and, eventually, international brand. “We met Mario at a franchising convention at London ExCel last year and had a conversation,” Parmar told Propel. “We actually found out he was already a customer of ours as Fireaway’s head office is also in Milton Keynes, so he knows the brand and loves our food and concept, and we’ve got a similar model to him. Mario is so humble and knowledgeable and easy to get on with, and although we weren’t thinking about giving away any equity, we didn’t hesitate with Mario. He’s grown Fireaway to a business worth £20m with more than 150 sites, and we’re aiming to grow as big, if not bigger! We’re launching a franchise programme soon and looking to open three more franchise stores next year, grow to perhaps 15 sites in year two and 30 in year three, and go from there. We’re looking to build our franchise base in the short term, grow nationally in the medium term and internationally in the long term. We launched an express format for franchising as, like pizza places, they’re easier to grow, and we’ll probably eventually have a 90-10 split of express sites to restaurants.” Five Akhi’s was founded by four friends, or “brothers in Islam” (Akhi meaning “brother” in Arabic), who grew up in Milton Keynes together. Once joining the business, the partners (Abul Housan, Jubir Hussain and Mohammed Hussain are the directors alongside Parmar and Aleppo) had a vision to become the “halal version of Five Guys” in the way the brand is recognised, Parmar said. He added that its point of difference from other similar brands is the use of fresh ingredients and quality meats, prepared daily, as well as homemade sauces and custom-made buns. He also said its level of service stands out, with staff getting to know customers on a personal level, which has seen diners come to Milton Keynes from as far as Glasgow, Manchester and Bradford to eat there.

Industry News:

Two days to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, 62 businesses being added: A total of 62 new multi-site companies, operating 323 sites, have been 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, includes regional coffee shop operators, growing restaurant brands, and expanding experiential concepts. 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 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.

The Alchemist talent and culture director to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: The Alchemist talent and culture director Hannah Plumb 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. Plumb will talk about the opportunities and challenges of building a people culture in a different country. 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

Hospitality sales grew 8.7% year-on-year in the latest 12 weeks, headline year-on-year inflation ‘appears to be softening’: Hospitality sales grew 8.7% year-on-year in the latest 12 weeks, according to analysis from HDI, the provider of card spending insight and pricing data to the UK hospitality sector. Fast food and takeaway, coffee and sandwich and pizza delivery continued to be the best performing sectors in the 12 weeks ending 8 August 2023. Branded pub restaurants were the best performer in the pub sector, while casual dining continued to see the lowest levels of year-on-year growth, according to analysis of HDI’s panel of 10.2 million unique customers. Mark Bentley, business development director at HDI, said: “The hospitality sector is seeing relatively stable performance now, with the pattern of sectors enjoying the strongest and lowest levels of growth being reasonably predictable month to month. The changes to Alcohol Duty from 1 August, including two new reliefs for small producers and products sold on draught, are something we’ve been watching closely. There’s been a variety of different responses to these changes; some operators have taken price increases on packaged beer and cider and spirits in line with duty changes, whereas other operators haven’t yet moved their prices. Headline year-on-year inflation appears to be softening, with average prices now up 10.0% on food and 7.4% on drinks from our tracking of more than 165,000 like-for-like site/item combinations in pubs & bars.” HDI’s panel tracks more than 160,000 individually identifiable hospitality venues across 350 different brands and formats.

SSP – digital, wellness and sustainability are essential for F&B customers in travel: SSP, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has said its latest study has revealed the essential role of digital, wellness and sustainability for food and beverage customers in travel. The company’s ‘Food Travel Insights Survey’, the largest customer survey in the company’s history, was based on interviews with 18,000 guests across 25 markets. Time pressure, the need for convenience and value for money came out as the top concerns driving customers’ choices when they travel. Wellbeing and sustainability are also growing in importance, but price, convenience and quality remain stronger drivers to actually purchase. Consumers are increasingly reliant on digital, expecting to receive information instantly and for things to happen seamlessly. The research also pinpointed seven key customer segments, defined by unique attitudes and behaviours. These groups, which exist across all geographical markets and channels, range from aspirational foodies who seek to explore new options while keeping an eye on what they are spending, to mainstream fans who look for well-known brands that provide value for money and something the whole family will enjoy. The research also found that over half (52%) of leisure customers see eating and drinking at an airport as an essential part of their holiday experience. Furthermore, as travel has returned to “normal”, 83% of travellers now say they’re more likely to purchase food and beverage in the airport.

Pubs see significant World Cup final sales boost as licensing laws are shown to need change: The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) is calling for an amendment to the Licensing Act 2003 to reflect the need for blanket licensing changes during national moments like Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final, which despite national licensing difficulties, caused a “double-digit revenue increase for pubs across the country”. The BPPA said early indications from pub businesses were that Sunday’s event saw trading increases of between 14% and 28%. It said: “These increases were achieved despite many pubs facing major restrictions on when they could serve alcohol at the start or even during the game, with many having to wait until the second half to be able to start serving a beer to their customers. It was clear from working with government last week in trying to achieve a blanket order allowing pubs to serve beer and other alcoholic drinks before the match started and their prescribed licensing hours that the Licensing Act 2003 is far too prescriptive in permitting urgent one-off measures to be taken.” Meanwhile, Boxpark said 2,500 tickets to watch the final at its London venues sold out in just eight minutes. Head of marketing Tom Johnson said: “We do see a different vibe to the men's games but no less passionate or exciting, and all our venues were full for England games. Tickets for the final sold out at all three of our London venues within just eight minutes; and in the end we saw up to 1,500 in Wembley, 900 in Croydon and 500 in Shoreditch. We saw a healthy boost of trade for our food businesses, especially during the lunchtime games, with over £55,000 worth of food purchased across our venues. At the weekend matches which had a slightly later kick-off time, we sold nearly 8,000 pints on one Saturday game. It was great to have packed venues and see high footfall in what are usually our quieter trading periods.”

Job of the Day: COREcruitment is working an innovative and forward-thinking events business, with fantastic food and great experiences at the heart of what it does, seeking an operations director to oversee and develop day to day operations. They will be responsible for identifying, implementing and developing effective methods across the business so it runs to its maximum productivity. The ideal candidate will have strong experience in large scale, outdoor and sporting events. The salary is up to £80,000 per year, plus bonus and benefits, and based in London. For more information, please contact 

Company News:

The Chesterford Group see 30% rise in H1 revenue, strong trading across all brands: The Chesterford Group, which operates circa 40 sites under brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, and was the inaugural Pret A Manger franchisee in the UK, saw revenue increase by 30% to £15.2m in the first half of this year, as it opened three new sites and saw “particularly strong trading across all of its brands”. Chief executive James Lipscombe told Propel that the business, which operates six Pret sites across Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire, had been helped by the “excellent relationships we maintain with our suppliers” in helping maintain its gross profit margin. He said: “We have seen revenue growth on a like for like basis across every aspect of our business. In the first half we have opened two new Pret A Manger shops, which are both performing to budget, and we acquired a busy fish and chip restaurant and takeaway in Market Deeping, which is exceeding our trading expectations since completing the transaction in May. Thanks to the excellent relationships we maintain with our suppliers in our fish and chip business, we have secured extremely favourable rates across our key commodities of fish, potato and cooking oil, which has helped us to maintain our gross profit margin in the face of spiralling inflationary pressures. The effects of the hot summer on last year’s potato crop meant potato prices increased significantly in the second quarter for our competitors, causing them to put their prices up significantly. This, culminating with the excellent value for money offers we have introduced, meant our Ebitda on a like-for-like basis has increased by 27% compared to the same period last year. It is just over a year since we signed our franchise contract with Pret and purchased our four shops and we are very pleased with the performance in both the existing business and our new shop openings. We are currently working with property agents on a variety of new shop openings and acquisitions for next year both across our fish and chip and Pret business.” It comes as the business reported turnover of £27,399,681 for the year to 31 December 2022 (2021: £24,101,829), with Ebitda of £1.179m (2021: £2.918m), which was impacted by high rates of inflation and rising energy and food costs. The Chesterford Group features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly and sent to Premium subscribers. Its turnover of £27,399,681 for the year ending 31 December 2022 is the 260th 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 £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription.

Eggs-centred concept Yolk reports record sales in July as fundraise draws to a close, discussing travel hub franchises with SSP: Eggs-centred concept Yolk has reported record sales in July and is discussing the potential for travel hub franchises with contract caterers SSP, Propel has learned. The company said July was a record sales month across its five sites, with average weekly takings up 10% on its previous record. It added that “productive discussions” are ongoing with SSP over the potential launch of Yolk franchises in locations such as Euston station and Heathrow airport within 18 months. It comes as Yolk’s latest fundraise draws to a close, with final reservations being accepted until 1 September. The Nick Philpott-led business launched the £1.75m fundraise in May as it looks to expand across London, with three more sites due to open in the second half of 2022. These sites have now been confirmed as being in Victoria, The Strand and New Oxford Street, with landlord agreements in place and the openings on track. “While initially focusing on the day trade for office workers, Yolk’s flexible model can also be adapted to different locations and customer types (tourists, residential, transport hubs and more), with its extended opening hours and a new dinner menu already helping to broaden Yolk’s appeal even further,” the company said. “The company’s expansion plans, which involve targeting 30 sites in the next three years, are intending to capitalise on falling commercial rents, strong property supply and competition that has shifted to cost control rather than quality. The company is targeting an exit in 2026, with this Series A raise offering the prospect of circa seven-times money return (after tax reliefs).”

Gong Cha strengthens management team with CMO and CPO appointments: Gong Cha, the fast-growing bubble tea brand with over 2,000 locations across 23 countries, has strengthened its management team with the appointments of Tamera Campbell as chief people officer and Bahar Kiransa as global marketing director. Campbell joins the business after seven years with Nando’s, where she was responsible for its environmental, social and governance strategy. She was previously chief people officer for the brand in India, Middle East and Africa and North America. The company said Campbell will be based at Gong Cha’s head office in London but will travel widely across all its markets to “develop and implement people strategies that will attract, retain and grow world-class talent”. The company said Kiransa has amassed over 15 years of experience in marketing and brand development at some of the world’s largest consumer goods corporations, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Kraft Heinz. At Gong Cha, she will collaborate with the brand’s team to “drive customer engagement with its delicious tea ranges in both current and future markets”. Paul Reynish, global chief executive of Gong Cha, added: “At Gong Cha, we are proud that 66% of our total group is currently female. By setting the standard for female representation across our stores, corporate headquarters and regional offices, we recognise the vital role that women play in inspiring our success. This year, we plan to significantly bolster our presence in Europe, including doubling our footprint in the UK, and Tamera and Bahar’s insights and knowledge will prove invaluable as we realise the potential of our ambitious international expansion strategy.” In June, Reynish said 500 stores was “a good number” for the fast-growing bubble tea brand here, and that the UK is “ripe for franchising”. The UK-headquartered brand is aiming for 21 sites in the UK by the end of 2023.

Nick Orrin appointed managing director of Costa Coffee UK & Ireland: The Coca-Cola Company has appointed Nick Orrin as managing director of Costa Coffee UK & Ireland. Orrin, who has been with the brand in several roles since 2012, has been interim managing director since February 2023, following the departure of Neil Lake. Among his roles, Orrin has been operations director for both Costa Express and Costa Enterprises, the latter of which operates the brand’s Proud to Serve corporate partner coffee bars. Prior to joining Costa, Orrin spent a year as a business director at Compass Group. He was previously with Whitbread, the former owner of Costa, for nearly 18 years. On his new role, he said: “I am privileged to be leading a great brand supported by a great team, and I am excited about our future.” Last month, the Coca-Cola Company reported a strong performance for its coffee segment in its second quarter, driven by increased sales for Costa Coffee in the UK and China. The company, which acquired Costa for $5.4bn (£3.9bn) in 2018, said its coffee unit volume grew 5% in the three months to 30 June 2023, primarily driven by the strong performance of Costa in the UK and China. The company operates circa 2,700 Costa sites in the UK and more than 12,800 Costa Express coffee machines.

BrewDog launches scheme which sees price of lager drop in line with outside temperature: Brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched a scheme which sees the price of a certain lager in its bars drop in line with the outside temperature. The Beerometer, which launched yesterday (Tuesday, 2 August) and runs until Monday (28 August), is a “cost-saving initiative aimed at helping Brits make up for the miserable, rainy July” in its bars across England and Wales. With a base temperature of 20°C, 25p will be knocked off the price of a pint of BrewDog’s Cold Beer lager for every degree it gets hotter. Should temperatures match the peaks of last summer (40°C), a pint of Cold Beer could be enjoyed for as little as £1.85 in parts of the country, a saving of over 70%. BrewDog founder James Watt said: “The hot weather can get pretty unbearable, so we want to make sure people can cool down with a refreshing pint and do so in a cost-effective way. So, instead of complaining that it’s now too hot, why not sit back with a cold beer in the safety of our shaded bars and take advantage of the savings on offer?” The price reduction will vary dependent on the location and local Met Office weather reports, with the starting prices for beers posted daily at each respective bar.

Canada pancake brand to open largest UK site to date: Canadian pancake brand Fluffy Fluffy is to open its largest UK site to date, in Reading. The Japanese souffle-style pancake brand, which first launched in Toronto in 2018, made its UK debut in October 2022 with a site in Manchester’s Whitworth Street. It more recently launched a second site in Leicester. Opening on 26 August, the new site in Reading’s The Village on King’s Street, will feature a two-storey layout with a signature open kitchen concept. Hussein Umar, development lead at Fluffy Fluffy UK, said: “We are delighted to announce our opening date for Fluffy Fluffy Reading. We’re working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that our pancakes are the fluffiest ever. This is our first ‘double decker’ store and we’re going to be trying out some new dishes here in Reading – we can’t wait to show off all our exciting new creations as well as our super classic souffle pancakes.” Earlier this month Umar told Propel the concept is aiming for 25 UK sites by 2025 as it works towards an eventual estate here of 100-plus. Further regional expansion will see sites open in eastern parts of the country in early 2024, and it has also submitted plans to open another venue in the north west this year. The company will also look to make its London debut next year. “We’re looking to have at least five sites open by the end of 2023 and 25 by the end of 2024, and we could easily go to 100-plus in the next few years,” Umar added.

Greene King invests £500,000 in latest Hive pub transformation: The Ainsty in York has reopened as a Hive Pub after a £500,000 transformation by owner Greene King. As part of its transformation, the pub has new seating, benches, lighting, interior design and a new bar. It will be operated by franchisees Simon and Avan Brind, who are husband and wife, and both have over 20 years’ experience each in the hospitality sector. Both also live locally and know a lot of the community who will use The Ainsty. Aimed at those with experience of running a pub, the Hive Pubs franchise agreement gives licensees a ready-to-trade pub for £5,000 ingoing cost. Franchisees get a minimum guaranteed income of £20,000 as well as a percentage of food and drink sales and a share of the profits in their pub. Greene King now has circa 40 sites under the Hive banner.

Mildreds appoints Lukas Strikas as new operations director: Vegan restaurant group Mildreds has appointed Lukas Strikas, formerly of Be At One, as its new operations director. Strikas joins the company, which recently opened a second site for its fledgling vegan concept Mallow, in London’s Canary Wharf, after a decade at the Stonegate Group-owned Be At One, where he was area manager and brand lead. The company opened its debut Mallow site in Borough Market in November 2021. Situated in Wood Wharf, the new restaurant serves 150 covers – 100 inside across two floors and 50 across an outdoor terrace. Mildreds currently operates six sites under its eponymous brand across London and is understood to be in talks on a further opening in the capital for later this year.

Turkish Starbucks franchisee to open first London restaurant and second venue in capital: Zeren Group, which owns the franchise rights to Starbucks in Montenegro, is set to open its first London restaurant and second venue in the capital. It will next month launch 42 Holborn, in a grade II-listed building at the address of the same name. It joins Italian street food grab-and-go concept Beboz, which Zeren already operates at 6 Gracechurch Street, in the City. The Turkish multi-sector group, led by chief executive Mustafa Yigit Zeren, also operates within the energy, logistics, media, trading and manufacturing industries. 42 Holborn will offer a Mediterranean-inspired menu featuring dishes such as croquettes vegetarian, Tuscan chicken and Spanish lentil stew. Adnan Özkara, formerly of Hakkasan, Park Chinois, and Jeru Mayfair, has come on board as food and beverage director, while executive chef Erdal Atas has 20 years of culinary experience. Zeren said: “I’m excited to welcome guests to 42 Holborn, which will be a melting pot of flavours, textures and aromas that reflect the vibrancy of this magnificent city. I have a huge passion for human connection, and launching the group’s first restaurant in London is something I am immensely proud to be a part of.”

Vaulkhard Group gears up to launch Sunderland site: Vaulkhard Group, the Newcastle-based leisure firm, is gearing up to launch its first site in Sunderland, the Keel Tavern. The company will open the new site this November, beneath the new Keel Square Holiday Inn. The venue, which will create circa 30 jobs, will be Vaulkhard’s 16th in the region and first south of Tyneside. In June, the business acquired two pubs after securing a £4.5m funding package, and is seeking further acquisitions. The group used the cash injection from HSBC to purchase two further pubs in the Newcastle – Town Wall and Bridge Tavern. It is now looking to make further acquisitions in the north east over the coming years as it grows its portfolio.

Vigour and Vice founder joins Green & Fortune: Catherine Johnstone, the founder of sector management consultancy firm Vigour and Vice, has joined independent restaurant and hospitality company Green & Fortune as its new interim director of operations. Johnstone founded Vigour and Vice in summer 2017 before securing backing from Edition Capital, which backs Incipio Group, Watch House and Club Mexicana, at the start of 2021. Johnstone has also been a consulting head of operations at the Edition-backed Morty & Bob’s and recently had a brief stint as an operations manager at Gaucho. Greene & Fortune, which is led by John Nugent, operates cafes and events across several London venues, including Kings Place in King’s Cross, Sea Containers on the South Bank, Rose Court on the South Bank and Central Hall.

South Yorkshire brewery acquired by Sonas Capital: The Acorn Brewery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, has been acquired by Sonas Capital, a Manchester company specialising in developing successful small businesses. Launched in 2003 on an ex-Firkin plant, Acorn then moved to a larger brewery in Wombwell and has annual turnover of some £1m. Directors Dave and Christy Hughes have now decided new ownership is needed to take the business forward. The sale has preserved the jobs of the seven-strong brewery team and a general manager will be recruited. Dave Hughes will continue in a consultancy role while Christy will take retirement due to recent ill-health. Dave Hughes said: “We have enjoyed 20 successful years since launching in Barnsley with just my late first wife, Judy, and our current brewer, Steve Bunting. In recent years, with Christy heading marketing and sales, we have continued to drive the brewery forward, despite being badly hit by the pandemic. We recovered quickly, but now we feel we have taken the business as far as we can, and we are handing it on in very good shape to Sonas.” Sonas founder Brendan Fitzpatrick added: “Acorn has an outstanding reputation for their product quality and great service and we see the business as a perfect fit for our portfolio. We are dedicated to empowering companies through investment and strong marketing to realise their full potential. Dave will move to a more technical and creative role alongside the brewing team whilst the Sonas team will focus on the development and growth of the business in what are challenging times for the industry.” Brian McCann and Angela Downey from Shareholder Strategies and Ryan Marr from Jolliffes Solicitors acted for Acorn, while Sonas was advised by Guy Bartlett from Fidelis Advisory and Tom Sutcliffe from Excello Law.

Lima Group to relaunch Covent Garden restaurant with new name and concept: Lima Group will relaunch its Covent Garden restaurant, formerly known as Floral by Lima, with a new name and concept next month. The group, which also operates Lima in Fitzrovia, will rename the 14 Garrick Street site Lima Cantina, which it said will “bring a modern twist to traditional cuisine in a more convivial, vibrant space while retaining the core ethos of quality, accessible Peruvian fare”. The centrepiece of the new menu will be the “Pollo a La Brasa” Peruvian rotisserie chicken, which sees whole chickens cooked in a newly installed “rotombo”, the only Peruvian charcoal-rotisserie oven in London. Its unique design allows the smoke to directly penetrate the meat while leaving the skin perfectly crispy, while being marinated in a blend of Peruvian herbs and spices and accompanied by the signature Cantina sauce. There will also be other Peruvian sharing dishes, such as sea bream ceviche and prawn causa nigiri. The renovation will also see the addition of a bar in the upstairs area, with increased space for dining between the two floors.

Marc Wilkinson reopens Michelin-starred restaurant at new, smaller site: Chef Marc Wilkinson has reopened his Michelin-starred restaurant Fraiche at a new, smaller site in Shropshire. Wilkinson closed the one-man restaurant concept, which had just 12 seats, in the Merseyside village of Oxton last year, having opened it in 2004. He has now relaunched it in Oswestry, in an even smaller venue offering just eight seats, and diners are invited to bring their own bottles while a wine list is being developed, with no corkage fee. The new Fraiche is open for dinner three nights a week, from Thursday to Saturday, with bookings taken on the first of each month for the following month. There is also one double room for diners who want to stay, including breakfast the following morning. “The tasting menu will be priced at £120 per person and the experience is to take place in the converted ground floor of my home,” Wilkinson told Hardens. “Confirmed bookings will be, of course, given details of the address and assistance with directions. This is to keep my information as secure as possible.”

Total Fitness makes two appointments to executive board as part of restructure: Health club chain Total Fitness has made two new appointments to its executive board as part of a restructure of the business following a recent £6.5m refinancing. Kerry Curtis and Tom Rayner have both been promoted internally and appointed to the roles of brand development director and chief financial officer, respectively. It follows last month’s successful application for a loan from OakNorth Bank to support the refurbishment of several more clubs in the estate. Refinancing the business was Rayner’s first success in his new role as chief financial officer, and he will contribute significantly to the brand’s ongoing success and growth, while Curtis will develop and elevate Total Fitness’s brand strategy. Sophie Lawler, chief executive of Total Fitness, said: “Kerry Curtis is a bright talent and I have no doubt of the value she will add to our team and the strategy beyond. It’s also with great delight that I appoint Tom Rayner to CFO to support me into our next chapter and beyond. He’s been instrumental in our sector-leading growth to date and fundamental in establishing firm foundations for their next phase of growth.” Total Fitness operates 15 health clubs across the north of England and Wales.

New cocktail and wine bar opens in Bicester in collaboration with Diageo: A new cocktail bar and wine shop has opened at the Graven Hill development in Bicester, in collaboration with Diageo. Wine Valley has taken on the lease of the unit to launch Wine Rack and Wine Valley Cocktail Bar, which will sell a variety of wine, spirits and beer. Wine Valley director, Pradeep Thangaraj, said: “There are hundreds of people now living on site, which meant Graven Hill was the perfect location to launch this new concept. We are proposing a high end, friendly and cosy bar and shop which is in keeping with this high-quality development on the edge of Bicester. We are working closely with global drink brand company Diageo on this prototype venture, and Graven Hill is the perfect launch pad.”

Harrogate brunch spot to double up with Leeds site: Harrogate brunch spot Farmhouse is set to open its second site, in Leeds. The independently owned restaurant will open in the former ASK Italian unit on Lands Lane, with owner Jordan Aspinall, a chef of more than 14 years, working across both sites. Dishes, with a focus on fresh Yorkshire produce, will include Farmhouse benedict with poached eggs, crispy halloumi and turkey bacon, and chilli scrambled egg with bacon and parmesan. There will also be a vegan duck stir fry with chilli jam and a surf and turf with bavette steak, Argentinian prawns and lobster hollandaise sauce. “We are super excited to open in Leeds and can’t wait to bring our unique take on world foods to the city, without being tied down to any specific style of cuisine,” said Aspinall. “We originally looked for a restaurant in Leeds in 2019 when we opened in Harrogate, so this has been in our minds for quite some time, and I’m confident we’ve found the perfect site for our second Farmhouse.”

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