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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 24th Aug 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pret ups loyalty play, increases Club Pret discount to 20% and launches worldwide: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed business, has announced an expansion of its subscription offer from 5 September that will see the discount for Club Pret double from 10% to 20%, which the brand said marks the next evolution of its loyalty and digital strategy. The company said subscribers will enjoy 20% off everything sold in-shop as well as up to five barista-prepared drinks per day for £30 per month, with new subscribers getting their first month half-price. It said the expansion of the scheme builds on the success of Club Pret since its launch in April, with 17.8 million redemptions in its first three months, up 31% year-on-year (year-on-year comparison with redemptions of the Pret coffee subscription for the same period in 2022). The brand said Club Pret transactions are also up 33% month-on-month since its launch in April, while one in five Club Pret transactions now include a purchase alongside the redemption of a barista-made drink. It said that on the back of its success in the UK, Club Pret will also launch in its first international markets, starting with the US in September and France in November, with plans to take the offer across all other global markets from 2024. The company said: “Club Pret is central to Pret’s digital transformation as the business continues to serve customers through more channels than ever before. Digital has been critical to Pret’s return to profitability, and thanks largely to Club Pret, revenue rose 20.2% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. This included record sales weeks in May and June, driven by the expanded subscription’s early success.” The business previously said that digital transactions accounted for 42% of transactions during the first half of 2023. Pano Christou, chief executive of Pret A Manger, said: “Club Pret was built on the idea of rewarding our most loyal customers, giving them more reasons to visit Pret and helping them enjoy everything our menu has to offer. Since we relaunched the subscription, we’re seeing more customers pick up their favourite baguette or croissant with their usual coffee fix, making the most of Club Pret throughout the day and sharing the benefits with their friends and colleagues. We’re now ready to take this even further, doubling the Club Pret discount and expanding this offer to customers outside of the UK. Club Pret has become a critical part of our growth strategy and we’re excited to bring it to more people than ever before, delivering great value in the process.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party fully booked, record numbers to attend: The Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party is now fully booked, with record numbers set to attend. Propel has now booked hotel rooms at five hotels in the vicinity to accommodate more than 400 delegates. The event takes place on Wednesday, 6 September, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Oxford Belfry. The all-day conference will focus on “new directions” and will be followed in the evening by the summer party, with a barbecue and five hours of live music, including a three-hour set from the famous house band at Piano Works. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We have seen exceptional demand for this year’s Multi-Club Conference and summer party, and a record number of people will be in attendance to hear from an outstanding line up of speakers – before we relax in the evening. The event gets more popular year-by-year.” Speakers at the conference will include Karl Chessell, director at CGA Nielsen, who will set out the current eating and drinking-out landscape, the key trends of the year and what will shape the next 12 months. Olivia FitzGerald, chief sales and marketing officer at Zonal, will talk to Mark Chapman, founder of Zero Carbon Forum, about how sector companies are saving money as they drive to achieve net zero. Verity Foss, co-founder of Oowee Vegan, and Lina Blythe, its operations director, will talk about the growth and evolution of the plant-based fast-food concept, how delivery has helped shape and develop the business, and how it will stay ahead of its growing competitor set. Asad Khan, founder of Snowflake Luxury Gelato, will discuss the creation of the concept, its crowdfunding campaign and its national and international expansion targets. Lisa Buckley, managing director of Leisure TV Rights, the experiential leisure operator, will talk about the development of the Ninja Warrior concept, working with TV-related formats, continual evolution of games and its expansion plans. Paula MacKenzie, chief executive of PizzaExpress, will talk to Propel group editor Mark Wingett about taking the helm at the iconic casual dining brand, challenges and opportunities her first year in the role have provided, evolving its offer and team, and her thoughts on the wider sector. Tom James, managing director of Bill’s, talks about evolving the all-day dining concept and how ramping up engagement across the brand’s teams has led to an uptick in performance and NPS scores. Heydon Mizon, joint managing director of McMullen, will talk about how the business is keeping the pub relevant to new generations of consumers, and the challenges and opportunities of being a regional operator. Tom Crowley, chief executive of Popeyes UK, will discuss the brand’s entry into the UK market, the evolution of its offer, its marketing strategy and its expansion plans. Jack Anderson, chief operating officer of Sessions, and Olivia Reid, its director of food and beverage, will discuss operating and licensing its own brands, investing in new concepts, deciding what operators to work with, and the future of food halls. Mark Selby, co-founder of Wahaca, will discuss the group’s evolution, the role its fledgling DF Tacos concept is set to play, a return to the expansion trail for its core brand and his views on the wider eating-out sector. Krishnan Doyle, managing director of COREcruitment, will lead a panel on the latest recruitment and retention issues being faced across the sector, featuring Thomas Stroppel, head of learning and development at Dishoom; Maureen Sandbach, people director at Honest Burgers; Rachel Masing, people director at ETM Group and Maven Leisure; Hattie Renshaw, head of talent at Sodexo; and Laura Mills, chief operating officer at The Ivy Collection.

Turtle Bay people director and equality, inclusion and wellbeing partner to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: Turtle Bay people director, Jo Cole, and equality, inclusion and wellbeing partner, Olajide Alabi, 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. Cole and Alabi will talk about the impact of the group’s Four Days at The Bay initiative and the investment the business has made in its equality, inclusion and wellness programme. 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.

July sees second month of delivery and takeaway sales growth for restaurant groups: Britain’s top managed restaurant groups achieved year-on-year growth in delivery and takeaway sales of 4% in July, CGA by NIQ’s latest Hospitality at Home Tracker shows. It is a second successive month of growth, following an extended post-covid fall in sales which saw the Tracker record 18 negative months in a row, as consumers returned to eating out rather than ordering deliveries and takeaways. Groups’ delivery and takeaway/click and collect sales were ahead by 6% and 2% respectively in July, but order volumes fell by 4% and 2%. This is an indication that trading growth is being achieved by higher menu prices rather than by increased consumer demand, the Tracker said. Combined delivery and takeaway sales accounted for 14% of restaurant groups’ total sales in July, while food and drink took shares of 91% and 9% respectively. Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “After the post-lockdown slump, restaurants’ delivery and takeaway sales may be settling into a new normal of modest year-on-year growth. This is a solid performance in the context of tight spending, but the ongoing drop in volumes suggests that price rises may be leading some people to reduce the frequency of their deliveries and takeaways. Until pressures on household bills ease, it will be difficult for many groups to achieve sustained delivery and takeaway sales growth above the rate of inflation.”

Almost 2,000 pubs in Ireland closed since 2005: Almost 2,000 pubs in Ireland have shut their doors since 2005, with Limerick suffering the highest decrease, according to a “stark” and “alarming” report. The analysis, which has prompted calls to reduce the “extremely high” alcohol excise tax, found that 1,937 pubs closed since 2002, with 108 closing in 2022 alone. The analysis, carried out by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), also found a “disproportionate” impact in rural communities, with areas in Limerick most impacted after a 32% decline in numbers since 2005, losing 153. Cork was the third worst-hit county by the percentage of lost pubs after Roscommon, declining by 30%. However, it lost the highest number of pubs nationwide at 365 in the same period. More than a quarter of pubs in Tipperary, Waterford, and Clare closed since 2005. Although all counties saw a decrease, Dublin remained relatively unscathed when compared with others, suffering a decline of 3.4% (27) since 2002. The rate of decline of pubs has accelerated since the pandemic, with an average of 114 pubs shutting their doors across the country each year before jumping to 152 per year since 2019. Some 450 have closed since the onset of the pandemic. The analysis has prompted calls on government to ease the cost burden on regional small and family-run businesses by reducing Ireland’s “extremely high” alcohol excise tax over the next two years. DIGI chair Kathryn D’Arcy said: “The majority of the almost 2,000 pubs cited in the report which have closed represent the closure of a small or family-run business, the loss of a livelihood and the disappearance of a high-street landmark.”

Businesses with debts under most pressure in 14 years due to high interest rates: High interest rates are putting indebted businesses under the most pressure since 2009, the Bank of England has warned. Half of all businesses with borrowings will be struggling to meet debt payments by the end of this year, the Bank said, up from 45% last year. The Bank warned in a blog post there was a growing risk that companies would default on their debts, which would impact “investment and employment sharply”. Medium-sized businesses – those with a turnover of between £10m and £500m – are particularly at risk, and 70% of those may struggle to meet repayments on their debts by the end of 2023, the Bank said.

Data watchdog cracks down on customers being pestered by takeaway drivers: A data watchdog has said it is cracking down on takeaway drivers pestering customers to have sex with them using contact details they provide for deliveries. Close to a third (29%) of 18 to 34-year-olds have been targeted by individuals who use personal information such as a phone number or email address given to them in a business context for a romantic or sexual proposition, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It said examples included delivery drivers asking customers out on dates or even sex after dropping off their order, using details the victims provided to the delivery companies. The watchdog has now started to crack down on the practice and has contacted “major customer-facing” businesses to ask what their safeguarding policies are and remind them of their legal duties. It has also launched a call for evidence, asking victims to speak out about their experiences to assess the scale of the issue. Companies can be fined up to £17.5m, or 4% of their global turnover, if they are found not to be properly enforcing data protection rules, the ICO said. Employees taking contact details provided in confidence to provide a service and using them for other means breach data protection laws and can be fined or even jailed. ICO deputy commissioner Emily Keaney said: “People have the right to order a pizza, or give their email for a receipt, without then being asked for sex or a date a little while later. They have a right to know that when they hand over their personal information, that it will not then be used in ways that they would not be comfortable with.” She added businesses had a responsibility to protect the data of their customers.

Waitrose launches first ever meal deal for £5: Waitrose has launched its first ever meal deal as it battles to win price conscious lunchtime customers. Shoppers will be able to buy a main, side and drink all for £5 once the scheme is introduced on 30 August. The new offer includes a range of sandwiches, sushi, salads and wraps, as well as fruit, cereal bars, crisps, juices and smoothies. Members of the supermarket’s loyalty scheme, myWaitrose, will also be offered a free cup of coffee whenever they purchase the deal. The £5 offer puts Waitrose at the more expensive end of lunchtime options, with standard meal deals offered by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all priced under £4. However, the price point aligns with £5 premium meal deals offered by some of these supermarkets, which provide lunch goers the choice of more deluxe items. Jennifer Moscardini, Waitrose food-to-go buyer, said: “We know lots of our customers are heading into our shops to grab something for their lunch, so to be able to offer them a convenient, high-quality and great value meal deal is really important for us.”

Job of the Day: COREcruitment is working with an innovative and well-respected business supplying the hospitality and foodservice industry which is seeking a procurement manager. The successful candidate will have strong project and stakeholder management skills and will be responsible for leading several procurement and supply chain projects for their clients. This is the perfect opportunity for procurement managers looking to take the next step in their career by joining an established business which can offer great exposure and genuine opportunities for career progression. The salary for the position is up to £55,000 plus benefits and the head office is in Hertfordshire. For more information, please contact mikey@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Vinoteca acquired out of administration for £305,000: London-based wine bar, shop and restaurant concept Vinoteca was acquired out of administration by investment firm Breal Group for a total consideration of £305,000, Propel has learned. The future of Vinoteca was secured earlier this week following a sale of the business and its assets to an entity owned by London-based investment firm Breal Capital, via a pre-pack administration. Founded in 2005 by Charlie Young, Brett Woonton and Elena Ares, Vinoteca operates five sites across London – in Borough Yards, Chiswick, Farringdon, Kings Cross and Bloomberg Arcade. Propel understands that the consideration paid for the assets of the company was £305,000 on completion plus £75,000 deferred, contingent upon lease assignments being £15,000 to each of the five trading leases. The business had been working with Interpath Advisory on its options after trading was adversely impacted by the pandemic, lower customer levels due to train strikes and an underperforming site in Birmingham’s Paradise development, which opened in July 2022 and closed in May. Propel understands that three interested parties submitted best and final offers on a business and assets basis which included: one offer on a pre-pack basis for all trading sites, one offer on a pre-pack basis for four of the five trading sites and one further pre-pack offer for two sites. One of the interested parties withdrew from the process on 8 August. Of the two remaining offers, the one received from Breal via a new vehicle Andrea Q was considered to provide the best outcome to creditors. It is thought that as part of the transaction, four members of Vinoteca’s current shareholders and senior management team – Young, Woonton, Caroline Le Filoux and Willoughby Andrews-King – are to be offered a total of 15% equity in the new vehicle. Earlier this year, the Breal Group, which describes itself as a multi-disciplinary equity, lending and advisory services group, acquired North Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery, as well as its shop and pubs, out of administration for a total consideration of £5.04m. It followed this up with the acquisition of London-based brewer Brick Brewery in a pre-pack deal for a consideration of circa £318,000. On its deal for Vinoteca, a spokesperson at Breal Capital said: “Vinoteca is a premier destination for wine enthusiasts, offering an exquisite collection of fine wines from around the world, complemented by an exceptional culinary experience. Beyond its outstanding collection of wines and delectable cuisine, Vinoteca distinguished itself through its commitment to education. The establishment will continue to host a series of events, workshops and tastings led by industry experts, allowing guests to deepen their appreciation and knowledge of the world of wine. Each bottle of wine has a story to tell, and we are delighted that Vinoteca can continue to share these stories.”
 
Coffee#1 – rate of openings back to pre-pandemic level, sees strong Q4 performance: Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has said its rate of new openings has now returned to the level seen prior to the pandemic, as it reported a strong sales performance in the three months to 31 May 2023. The fourth largest coffee brand in the UK said it saw robust trading for the final three months of its financial year, with like-for-like sales up 117% on 2019 levels. During the same period, Coffee#1 added new stores in Cheltenham and Portishead, taking its estate to 113 sites. It said it had also continued its expansion into the delivery segment of the coffee market, launching a partnership with UberEats to add to its existing presence through Just Eat. The quarter also saw an acceleration in customer adoption of the company’s app, with registrations exceeding 200,000. It said customer transactions made through the app exceeded 30% in a single week for the first-time during May. Coffee#1 managing director Bruce Newman said: “The excellence of the quarter four like-for-like sales is testament to the quality of execution by our now over 1,000 strong employee team. Our new summer drinks and food ranges, in particular iced coffee, which grew by nearly 400% on a volume like-for-like basis during May, landed extremely well and added to the healthy underlying performance. While the business is still facing strong inflationary pressure, we are confident that the brand is well placed to take advantage of movement in working patterns and our good value offer for those wanting to enjoy eating out. Our strong sales and the positive performance of all our new store openings gives me confidence our current strategy is the right one, and we will continue to expand our estate at the current pace, which will be supported by the exciting new product launches we have lined up for Autumn and the festive period, as well as the fantastic service provided by our store teams.”

JD Wetherspoon to open new sites at Heathrow airport and in Euston: JD Wetherspoon is to open two new sites, including a second at Heathrow airport called The Star Light. The new airport site, which will launch on 2 October, will open on the site of the former Carluccio’s in Terminal 4 (airside). It will be the company’s second trading unit at Heathrow and its eighth airport site in the UK. The company said it is spending £500,000 developing the new unit, creating up to 60 full and part-time jobs. The Star Light will have seating for approximately 140 customers and will be open from before the first flight until after the last flight each day. JD Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “We are looking forward to opening The Star Light. We have operated units at Heathrow airport since 1991 and are proud of our association with one of the world's largest airports.” The name of the new site refers to the fact that towards the end of World War II, land in and around Heathrow was requisitioned for an international airport. On 6 December 1945, Donald Bennett landed the first civil aircraft there, a 13-seat Avro 691 Lancastrian named Star Light. At the same time, the business is to start development work on a new pub in Euston on 11 September. Last week, it was granted a premises licence by Camden Council on the former Sophisticates site in Eversholt Street. Work will begin to convert the site to a new-look pub, which will be named The Captain Flinders, after the first explorer to circumnavigate Australia and who was found buried in an HS2 rail dig nearby. The pub opening will create 60 new jobs. Hutson added: “We are looking forward to starting development work on the new pub and we are confident it will prove an asset to the area.” At present there is no confirmed date for the pub’s opening. Etch acted on the Euston deal. 

Chopstix opens fourth site with franchisee Sparta Foods, eyes further growth across north west and north Wales: Fast growing quick service restaurant (QSR) brand Chopstix has opened its fourth site with franchisee Sparta Foods, as it works through a development pipeline of 25 stores over the coming years. The new site, located on High Street, Rhyl, follows openings across the north east of England and north Wales for the franchisee, having previously launched stores in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Warrington in 2022, and in Wrexham earlier this year. Chopstix said growth with Sparta Foods is part of an ongoing focus for the brand to increase its presence across north Wales, which has been identified by the business as a region where demand for its offering is “markedly high”. It said the success of Sparta Foods’ initial Chopstix sites, and the market mapping undertaken by the brand in the area, has emboldened the franchisee to lay out plans for further growth. Aaron Moore-Saxton, Chopstix franchise director, said: “The early success Sparta Foods has had with its Chopstix sites is highly encouraging. The units in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Warrington and Wrexham are all delivering impressive returns for the franchisee, and I have no doubt they will have equal success with the Rhyl store. The vast experience in the QSR space and excellent local knowledge of Sparta has been instrumental in Chopstix increasing its presence in the region, and we’re excited to see how the franchisee grows with the brand over the next few years.” Saeed Muhammad, managing director of Sparta Foods, added: “There is such momentum behind the Chopstix brand, and every new site we opened has been met with real excitement from locals. We’re looking forward to working with Aaron and the team to grow further across the north west and north Wales.” Already the largest Asian-inspired QSR brand in the UK, Chopstix has set its sights on becoming the largest Asian QSR on the continent, with expansion expected to ramp-up exponentially over the next five years. The long-term ambition of the founders, Sam Elia and Menashe Sadik, is to reach 500 sites.

Heavenly Desserts opens 50th UK site and fourth in Scotland: Dessert restaurant franchise Heavenly Desserts has opened its 50th UK site and fourth in Scotland. The business has continued its expansion into Scotland with an opening at 206 Union Street in Aberdeen. It comes a month after Heavenly Desserts, which was founded in 2008, opened its 50th site overall – including its overseas debut in Pakistan – in Tooting, south London. The company said it has two further Scottish openings in the pipeline, with a site in Glasgow Fort up next. Managing director Yousif Aslam added: “Welcoming Heavenly Aberdeen to the family. Many congratulations to our franchisee and thank you to all involved. Aberdeen marks our fourth restaurant in Scotland, 50th in the UK and 51st globally.”

Mowgli eyes Bury St Edmunds opening: Mowgli, the Nisha Katona-led, Indian street food concept, is looking to add a site in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, to its openings pipeline. The TriSpan-backed, 17-strong business is understood to be in talks to take on the former Bill’s site in the town’s Abbeygate Street. Earlier this month, Propel reported that the business had secured the former Byron site in Bond Street, Chelmsford, which closed earlier this year, 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.

Lucky Voice introduces gaming technology to build on customer experience: Lucky Voice, the social entertainment brand, has launched “I’m Feeling Lucky” – an interactive gaming function which it said adds an additional layer of engagement to guests’ experience. When entering a karaoke booth, guests now have the option to select “I’m Feeling Lucky” on the interactive kiosk and let the new software take charge of the experience, randomly selecting the songs and the singers, and pairing people up for duets. The company said that the technology, which has been developed following “significant investment”, is rolling out across all five of its UK sites in Soho, Holborn, Islington, Brighton and Liverpool Street following a successful trial this summer. Charlie Elek, managing director of Lucky Voice, said: “Our mission is to combine karaoke with great service, technology and F&B, and we’re constantly thinking about how to give people their favourite night out while ensuring our product is reliable, user-friendly, and up to date. Anyone can have an enjoyable experience at Lucky Voice, regardless of singing ability, and gamification feels like a natural progression to our current model.” Last year, Lucky Voice rolled out significant expenditure to improve its estate, with more than £400,000 invested in refurbishing venues, £160,000 in improving software and technology and £1.2m in the opening of a new site in London’s Liverpool Street – which the business said has been its best ever opening. It said 2022 was its best performing year ever and 2023 is set to be even stronger, with the business continuing to perform “ahead of expectations”.

Franco Manca teams up with Fleet Street: Franco Manca, the sourdough pizza concept, has teamed up with leading sector communications firm Fleet Street to help raise its brand awareness as it continues its expansion across the UK. Following a competitive pitch process, Fleet Street said it will provide Franco Manca with a 12-month nationwide programme of activity to help raise awareness and drive engagement, with stand-out activity being a dinner party for influencers and journalists hosted by food writer and cook, Sophie Wyburd. Tess Pennington, managing director of Fleet Street, said: “We’re over the moon to be working with one of our favourite restaurant brands, helping them reach the next level and drive engagement with guests all over the country.”

Karak Chaii set to open four new stores in coming months: Birmingham Indian street food concept Karak Chaii is set to open four new stores in the coming months, Propel has learned. The franchise company, founded by husband-and-wife team Sughir and Sara Javed just before covid, currently has 16 sites, with its most recent opening being in Bolton, Greater Manchester. Among the new locations in its immediate pipeline are stores in Coventry and in Tooting, south London. Strategic advisor Paolo Peretti told Propel in April that he expects the business to have grown to 25 sites by the end of 2023, and that it could “comfortably” open up to 80 more sites before exploring smaller formats.

Master Wei to open second eponymous site: Master Wei, the concept from one of the co-founders of Xi’an Impression in Highbury, is to open its second eponymous site in the capital, in Tower Hill, Propel understands. The concept, which specialises in dishes from Xi’an City in Shan Xi province in central China, is understood to have secured the ex-Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Tower Hill. Co-founder and head chef at Xi’an Impression, Wei Guirong opened the debut Master Wei in Bloomsbury in March 2019. Fellow Xi’an Impression co-founder Zhang Chao is behind Xi’an Biang Biang, the noodle-focused concept in Spitalfields and Covent Garden. Ben Martin at Etch acted on the Tower Hill deal.

Kent luxury hotel and resort owners set to open new experiential concept in London: The owners of a Kent luxury hotel and resort are set to open new experiential concept in London. The Cave Hotel & Golf Resort is co-owned by Johnathan Callister and James Tory and was opened in 2019 by chief executive Callister following a £12m pound investment in the grounds of the former Boughton Golf Course, near Faversham. It houses two restaurants – the Korean Cowgirl and the Firepit – as well as the Cowgirl Lounge, a golf club, gym and spa. The 41-room venue also has a penthouse which comes with its own butler, chef and cinema, while guests can also make use of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes S Class. The owners are now looking to open a new “social entertainment space” in Camden, north London, and are recruiting for a manager. “From the owners of the award-winning Cave Hotel and Golf Resort in Kent – we are bringing a brand-new, exciting concept to Camden,” said Sarah Hammond, people director at the Kent resort. “Open five days a week, we are launching a social entertainment space that will not only test your dart skills and karaoke talents, but also give your tastebuds a real tickle. As a manager of this exciting new venture, you’ll have the opportunity to get involved right from the start, creating a highly passionate team and a business to be proud of.” Hammond was previously UK head of people at both Yo! Suhsi and The Hush Collection.

London West African concept finds new home: London West African concept Chishuru is set to reopen in a new venue next month. Adejoké Bakare’s original restaurant in Brixton Village closed last year, since when it has operated as extended pop-up at The Globe in Borough Market. But the new Chishuru restaurant will open in its new Fitzrovia home, at 3 Great Titchfield Street, in mid-September. The 50-cover restaurant will use Bakare’s open fire cooking technique for dishes such as sinasir rice cake with white and brown crab and squash puree; cod fillet with mbongo tchobi (spiced black sauce) and wilted greens; and moringa soup with black sesame caramel and baobab meringue. There will also be a wine list and cocktails featuring West African herbs and spices. “It’s been a long time coming but opening this restaurant has been a life-long dream of mine,” Bakare said. “This new kitchen will allow me to explore even further the different cuisines of my heritage.” Richard Negus at AG&G acted on the Fitzrovia deal.

Team behind Dalston wine bar to open in Exmouth Market for second site: The team behind Dan’s wine bar in Dalston, east London, is to open a second site. Ken’s will launch in a former pharmacy in Exmouth Market next month. The space is much larger than the original so will have a bigger wine selection and food offering, reports Hot Dinners. The seasonal menu from chef-director Fergus Shields – who’s previously been at Sessions Arts Club, Noble Rot and Quo Vadis – will offer a selection of small plate and larger sharing dishes, with “plenty cooked on the Koro grill”. The wine selection will have a similar ethos to Dan’s with a focus on smaller producers.

The Inn Collection Group opens Post Office counter in North Yorkshire pub: The Inn Collection Group has opened a Post Office counter in one of its North Yorkshire pubs. It has stepped in to provide the service at The Black Swan in Helmsley after the village saw its last Post Office counter shut a year ago. The new counter has opened in a hallway of the hotel and pub following a campaign by local residents to restore its postal services, reports The Daily Mail. The counter will be open for three hours every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, providing full Post Office services, including cash deposits and withdrawals, until another permanent premises can be found. Andrew Robson, spokesman for the Inn Collection Group, which acquired The Black Swan in 2020, said the counter would remain for “as long as it takes”. He added: “It’s been a very smooth process and definitely something for other rural communities to think about.” The Black Swan dates from the 15th century, with different parts dating back to Elizabethan and Georgian times. The Inn Collection Group operates 36 sites across the north of England and North Wales, with its most recent acquisition being The Links Hotel in Seahouses, which it took on in March.

Origin Coffee secures debut site in Bristol: Cornish sustainable coffee roasters Origin Coffee, which operates five coffee shops in London and Cornwall, is to make its debut in Bristol next month. The business, which was founded in 2004 by Tom Sobey, will open on the former Friska site in the city’s Victoria Street. The B Corp accredited company promise “a dedicated space designed to share and celebrate world-class coffee with all”. The new coffee shop will include a training room, technical room and meeting room. An Origin spokesperson said: “Victoria Street is set to become a hub for people-led events and brewing courses, highlighting Origin’s continued commitment to make incredible speciality coffee easy and accessible to all. Offering a curated range of classic coffees and limited releases from Origin’s portfolio, visitors to Victoria Street can expect a batch cold brew on the menu, and an oat milk soft serve, ensuring an inclusive selection for all.” The business said it had a “number of new sites on the horizon”.

Coqfighter to take ex-Neat Burger site in Finsbury Park: Chicken and beer concept Coqfighter is to relocate its site in London’s Finsbury Park after securing the site formerly occupied by the Lewis Hamilton-backed Neat Burger brand. Coqfighter, which currently operates a site in Fonthill Road, will move to its new site in Wells Terrace. The business, which was founded by Troy Sawyer, Deacon Rose and Tristan Clough, currently operates five sites across the capital, including a site in Soho’s Beak Street, and a Deliveroo Editions unit in East Dulwich. Originally from Melbourne in Australia, Sawyer, Rose and Clough moved to London in 2013 and launched Coqfighter in 2015 as a pop-up in The Star By Hackney Downs. From there, they moved on to pop-ups and residencies in pubs across London before opening their own sites. Marc Rogers at MKR Property acted on the Finsbury Park deal.

Liverpool operator secures consent to convert former Bank of England building into new restaurant: Liverpool operator JSM Group has secured planning consent to convert a former Bank of England building in the city into new restaurant. The group, led by Jamie Motlagh, 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. Under the plans, the ground floor of the building, which dates back to the 1840s, will 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 company has a wide-ranging property portfolio, including hotel apartments, plus circa 34 pub, bar and nightclub venues.

Hertfordshire barbecue, cocktails and craft beer concept set to open second site: Hertfordshire barbecue, cocktails and craft beer concept Craft & Cleaver is set to open its second site. Owner Adam Richardson opened the first Craft & Cleaver at 62 Catherine Street in St Albans in 2015. It has now applied to take on the former Prezzo site, in a grade II-listed building at 15 Bancroft in Hitchin, which has lay empty since 2021, reports The Comet. Craft & Cleaver has also applied for a premises licence to serve alcohol. Richardson said his barbecue cooking style was inspired by trips to the US. “All of our meat is sourced in fresh to serve the best cuts from high welfare farms – we take great pride in that,” he said. “Many people don't realise, but barbecue is an art form, which is why our pitmasters are some of the most experienced barbecue chefs in the country.” Richardson also operates the White Horse gastropub in Welwyn.

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