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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 31st Aug 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – TOCA Social aiming for 20-30 UK sites as it confirms Westfield White City opening, footfall already past 2022 levels as business ‘just scratching the surface of demand in London’: Alex Harman, president of TOCA Social, has told Propel the interactive football bar concept is aiming for 20-30 UK sites as it confirmed an opening in Westfield White City, with construction set to get under way next year. The business, which launched at London’s The O2 Centre in the summer of 2021, will open its second site, in Birmingham’s Bullring Centre, early next year. Propel revealed in June that it had also been linked with an opening at the former Debenhams site in Westfield White City, and TOCA has now confirmed it will open in a 35,000 square-foot site there. “I think it’s going to be between 20 and 30 venues in the UK, that’s roughly what we’re thinking of,” Harman said. “I think we’re going to ramp up to several openings a year by the time we’re fully on track. We feel we’re just scratching the surface of demand in London, so we were keen to build a second venue there, which will have 25 game boxes versus 17 at The O2. We might look at smaller sites for smaller markets, but for the big cities – London, Manchester, Birmingham – we’re looking at bigger locations to meet market demands. We’re actively on the hunt for other UK locations too and we’re looking at all the markets you’d expect us to be looking in – Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and so on.” Propel reported in June that doubts had arisen over a launch in Edinburgh’s St James Quarter, and Harman confirmed the plan had changed. “We had some technical challenges with the Edinburgh site and so made a collective decision with St James Quarter to cancel the project, but we are still very committed to the Edinburgh market and are looking at alternative venues,” he said. “We’d love to go into Scotland, that’s why we looked at Edinburgh originally, and we’re looking at Glasgow as well.” TOCA also said this year that it had signed deals to launch in Mexico and the US as it looked to make its international debut. “The Mexico franchise will probably be our next one – they will be opening in early to mid-2024 in Monterey,” said Harman. “I think football has unstoppable momentum in the US at the moment and we anticipate a lot of interest there, and we’re working on other markets too.” The idea behind TOCA, in fact, came from former US international footballer Eddie Lewis, who played for Fulham, Preston, Leeds and Derby over here. “Our founding technology was developed by Eddie, whose would use a tennis ball machine to perfect his ball control after training every day, and when he retired, he developed a ball machine for football,” Harman said. “One thing led to another, and he set up training centres in the US, and in 2018 we came up with the idea of adapting these machines for TOCA Social.” Harman added 50% of TOCA’s guests do not consider themselves football fans and about 40% are female, and the business is already “significantly up” on last year’s footfall figures of 300,000 guests. He said it will continue to add new games and has a menu change coming up, adding: “The food and beverage is about half of our business, and we knew that if we wanted to get non-fans in, the food and beverage offer would need to be strong.” DCL acted for TOCA Social on the Westfield White City deal. 
 

Industry News:

Variety of exclusive benefits available for Propel Premium subscribers: A variety of exclusive benefits are available for Propel Premium subscribers, including six comprehensive databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and 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. This exclusive database will be sent out bi-monthly, including new entries and updates to existing entries. 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. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 
KAM to present exclusive research at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: KAM managing director Katy Moses will be among the speakers at the Propel Talent & Training Conference. The all-day conference takes place on Tuesday, 3 October at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Moses will share exclusive research on the key trends impacting the sector’s ability to recruit and retain staff. 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 hereTickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers and can be booked by emailing kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Almost a quarter of UK employees work from a coffee shop once a week: Almost a quarter (23%) of UK employees are working from a coffee shop at least once a week, according to new research. The findings by comparison site Broadband Genie revealed three in five (60%) named Coca-Cola-owned Costa Coffee as their favourite place to work, ahead of Starbucks (38%) and Caffè Nero (26%). The most common reason given for working in a coffee shop was to be around other people (34%), while a quarter (27%) claim it improves their productivity. One in seven workers (16%) said they pick a coffee shop to work from as they prefer its atmosphere to their office. Meanwhile, 15% said they work there to try to save money on their energy bill.
 
Plans for central London zero-emission zone shelved: Plans to introduce a zero-emission zone in central London from 2025 have been shelved. The scheme, which was detailed in the London mayor’s 2018 transport strategy, proposed a charge be introduced for all petrol and diesel vehicles. The existing Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was expanded to include every borough in London on Tuesday (29 August). The proposal laid out in the 2018 strategy was to “implement zero-emission zones in town centres from 2020 and aim to deliver a zero-emission zone in central London from 2025”. The strategy also proposed a zero-emission zone for inner London by 2040 and a London-wide zone by 2050. But a spokesperson for Sadiq Khan told BBC London the mayor was now focused on achieving net-zero emissions in the capital by 2030. Earlier this week, The Night Time Industries Association slammed the expansion of London’s ULEZ scheme. Its midnight threshold, coupled with the removal of day travel passes, shows a shocking lack of consideration for the city’s workforce, the trade body said. Scottish hospitality leaders have also joined a fight against a ban on older vehicles being enforced through Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone, highlighting a “damaging consequences on businesses, customers and staff” arising from the scheme.
 
West End landlord Shaftesbury plans £100m sell-off of Fitzrovia properties: West End landlord Shaftesbury Capital has decided to sell all of its properties in Fitzrovia in a deal valued at more than £100m. Most of the buildings that have been put up for sale are let to pubs, bars and restaurants, including Inception Group’s the Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals cocktail bar, the Duke of York pub and Norma, the Sicilian restaurant. Agents from CBRE are expected to handle the sale of the assets, which are just north of its main estate in and around Covent Garden and Soho, reports React News. In total, Shaftesbury owns about 100,000 square feet of property in the Fitzrovia area, which is made up of 28 hospitality and leisure units, 11 offices, seven shops and 56 flats. Most of the buildings are on or near Goodge Street and Charlotte Street. Shaftesbury’s most recent accounts show the properties are valued at about £118m and generate £5m in rent each year. Ian Hawksworth, Shaftesbury chief executive, said its collection of properties in Fitzrovia “does not meet our investment criteria” as he confirmed the buildings were up for sale. Shaftesbury Capital was formed by the merger this year of two of the West End’s biggest landlords, Shaftesbury and Capital & Counties. The enlarged group owns £5bn of shops, offices, flats and hospitality units in London’s theatre district. Shaftesbury’s valuers have estimated there is the potential for the landlord to increase its rent roll in Covent Garden, Carnaby and Soho by more than £40m a year. In Fitzrovia, they see potential for less than £1m of rent increases. Of the areas where Shaftesbury owns property, only those buildings in Fitzrovia recorded a decrease in their valuations in the first half of this year, by 6.8% on average. The Fitzrovia properties will be the first tranche of a capital recycling programme. Hawksworth said this month that even in Shaftesbury’s “prime locations” of Carnaby Street, Soho and Covent Garden, “there are assets that we don’t necessarily think are going to meet our investment criteria”.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a late-night bar in London that is seeking an experienced general manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This role is one day shift and four late nights (until 3am-4am). You must be passionate about cocktails and have excellent beverage knowledge.” The salary is up to £55,000 plus bonus. For more information, email kateb@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

KellyDeli looking to expand brand portfolio to offer different concepts and introduce new product ranges as turnover increases but profits fall: KellyDeli, the owner of international sushi franchise Sushi Daily, has said it is looking to expand its brand portfolio to offer different concepts and introduce new product ranges, as turnover increased but profits fell in the year ending 31 December 2022. Turnover was up from £56,426,035 in 2021 to £58,892,185 as the company grew from operating in 154 UK stores to 162 at the year-end. Its pre-tax profit fell from £2,487,852 in 2021 to £1,826,340. Dividends of £1,745,832 were paid compared with £1,517,427 in 2021. Director Ian Roberts called it a “robust performance in challenging conditions” in his statement accompanying the accounts. “The company remains committed to growing and developing the core business model while continuing to invest in diversification and new sources of growth,” he added. “The core business will focus on the fundamental principles of bringing the best of Asian cuisine to the world. To achieve this, the company will look to expand its brand portfolio to offer different concepts to allow greater flexibility for retailers and customers. Furthermore, we will leverage growth out of our existing network through new product ranges and food concepts that are complementary to our existing offer.” KellyDeli’s portfolio of Asian food brands includes Sushi Daily, which was the first business in Europe to introduce kiosks offering ready-to-eat sushi into the grocery retail space. It also includes Kelly Loves, a range of Asian grocery products, and Happy Tokyo, a Japanese high street kiosk business. Founded by South Korean Kelly Choi, the company said it has achieved sales growth every year since it was founded in 2015 except for 2020. Choi owns 60% of parent company Jimiki, which oversees circa 1,000 franchised stores across Europe and Mexico. Choi was denied access to high school through lack of family funds and instead moved to Seoul, where she funded her own night school tuition. She later moved to Japan to immerse herself in Japanese culture – and sushi in particular. KellyDeli UK is included in the latest Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £58,892,185 is the 132nd 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 
Puttshack draws down $90m of new $150m debt facility as further US growth forecast: Indoor mini golf experience Puttshack has drawn down $90m of its new $150m debt facility as it forecasts further growth in the US. The $150m growth capital round was secured in October 2022, from funds managed by BlackRock and continued support from Promethean Investments. “As of the date of signing [11 August 2023], only $90m of the facility has been drawn,” director Logan Powell said in his statement accompanying the company’s accounts for the year to 31 December 2022. “This has been achieved with the assistance of the final 1% of the previous convertible loan note holders converting into equity immediately prior to the new debt being closed. The business drew $30m from the facility in October of 2022, and an additional $60m during the first and second quarter of 2023.” Earlier this month, Propel reported Puttshack had grown its US pipeline, with 13 new openings lined up. The company, which operates four sites in the UK, currently has nine sites in the US, with venues in Dallas and Nashville projected to open in late 2023. It said its US expansion has helped boost its revenue from £21.2m in 2021 to £55.4m. “This increase in revenue was the result of annualised increases in revenue from prior year openings in the US and UK and opening three new US venues, reflecting the new global strategy that developed during 2021,” Powell said. Of the 2022 turnover, £23,792,710 came from the UK (2021: £12,695,730) and £31,591,526 from the US (2021: £8,464,128). In total, £25,777,325 came from golf revenue, £9,736,697 from food and £19,545,442 from food. Pre-tax losses grew from £9,544,791 in 2021 to £12,357,130). It received no government grants (2021: £883,114). No dividends were paid (2021: nil). “2022 produced an increase in loss for the financial year driven by site pre-opening expense in the US and the planned and required infrastructure cost to support future growth plans in the US,” Powell said. “The main business focus continues to be growth, based around a venue pipeline being created for future sites in the US. The business anticipates further sites opening in the US in 2024, and the speed of expansion is contingent on external factors, including but not limited to, financing options available to the group. The focus of the business is growth; however, use of the BlackRock facility proceeds is also allowable for working capital requirements, research and development, and general corporate purposes within the US. Any UK expansion would need prior agreement with BlackRock before funds could be released.” At the end of June, the group underwent a corporate reorganisation where the newly formed Puttshack International Holdings became the parent company, with no material impact on the accounts.
 
Rosa’s Thai – dine-in like-for-likes ‘are running at 20%-plus’: Tsara Taylor, financial director at Rosa’s Thai, has told Propel the company’s dine-in like-for-like sales are “running at 20%-plus”. Taylor also said the Trispan-backed business remains on track for the outlined eight openings in this fiscal year. It comes as the 36-strong Rosa’s Thai reported turnover increased to £35,580,690 for the year ending 26 March 2023 compared with £27,228,826 the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda was up to £3,159,192 from £2,986,644 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £374,462 from £608,208 the year before. Taylor said: “FY23 saw us build some great momentum in the second half especially, which has carried into the new financial year where our dine-in like-for-likes are running at 20%-plus, well ahead of the CGA tracker. We remain on track for the outlined eight openings this fiscal year with two sites having already opened (Leamington and Oxford), our first Scottish site (Glasgow) imminent and a further two expected before Christmas. We have several already committed sites for FY24.” In May, the business secured a £10m bank facility from Barclays to help fund its ongoing openings pipeline.
 
Domino’s franchisee opens first Amorino in Wales, more to follow: Domino’s franchisee DP Shayban has opened the first site in Wales for Italian gelato concept Amorino, with more to follow. The group, led by Shayban Alibrahim, has opened the store in a former William Hill bookmakers at 11 St John Street in Cardiff. “So, as they say, good things come to those who wait, and I am very proud to say we have opened our first Amorino gelato in Cardiff,” Alibrahim said. “It is the first store in Wales, and there is more to come in the near future.” Alibrahim founded DP Shayban in 2012, having first become a Domino’s franchisee in 2001, and has since grown the business to more than 40 sites across England and Wales. In October 2021, it launched Domino’s first dark kitchen site, in Pontypool, South Wales, and in January 2023, it opened the 1,200th UK Domino’s store, in Newtown, Wales. It has recently added Amorino, which has 22 UK locations among more than 200 outlets in 18 countries, to its franchise portfolio. As well as other regional locations in Cambridge, Leeds and Windsor, Amorino has 18 sites in London. The brand said earlier this year that it is targeting 30 UK sites by the end of 2023 as it grows towards a planned estate of 50 by 2025.
 
Chamdal – Cake Box paid almost £13m back to shareholders since IPO, ‘right platform in place to accelerate growth over coming year and beyond’: Chief executive Sukh Chamdal has said Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has paid almost £13m back to shareholders since its initial public offering (IPO) and has the “right platform in place to accelerate its growth over the coming year and beyond”. Chamdal gave the update following Cake Box’s recent trading update, in which it said it was “on track to deliver year-on-year revenue growth” following a 6.8% like-for-like sales increase in the second half of its financial year. It also reported franchisee store like-for-like sales increasing 6.8% for the first 17 weeks of the financial year ending 31 March 2024 – an increase from 5.4% like-for-like sales growth for the first 11 weeks of the new financial year reported in June. “Since our IPO in 2018, we have increased our revenues to £72m (from £30.7m in 2019), with a 138% growth in franchise sales,” Chamdal said. “During the same period, our franchise stores have gone up from 113 to 205, which is 81.4% growth. Since the float, we have paid almost £13m back to shareholders in dividends (from 3.6p per share in 2019 to 8.125p in 2023). For me, it is personally gratifying that our brand is growing, and our capabilities are expanding. Our main goal is to help our family of franchises fulfil their potential and grow their businesses. We continue to develop new products to maintain our momentum, increasing sales. This, in conjunction with investments we have made in our marketing and ecommerce capabilities, positions us for even more sustainable growth. I’m confident we have the right platform in place for the company to accelerate that growth over the coming year and beyond. We are on track to grow year-on-year revenues in line with market expectations. Our strong balance sheet, underpinned by our highly cash generative business model, gives the board confidence in the company’s ability to deliver shareholder value in the short to mid-term.” Chamdal added the business has started the recruitment process to find a successor to non-executive chairman Nilesh Sachdev, who last week announced he will be stepping down in November.
 
Greene King extends rollout of reverse mentoring programme: Brewer and retailer Greene King has extended the rollout of its reverse mentoring programme following the success of the initiative with senior leaders. Reverse mentoring flips the traditional top-down, learn from your leaders mentoring method on its head. Instead, leaders partner with colleagues from across the company’s diverse community groups to see and hear their views and experiences. It allows leaders to gain a new perspective on the business, to witness and have a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities there are for people from under-represented backgrounds. Over the past 18 months, 30 partnerships of the executive board and senior leaders and their mentors have completed the programme. The company said it has proved so successful in driving meaningful understanding of inclusion that it is being rolled out to the wider leadership team with the fourth cohort starting this month. Mentors of all ages and experiences and from all backgrounds can volunteer to take part in the programme, which is open to all divisions of Greene King. Garry Clarke-Strange, head of inclusion and diversity, said: “This is part of our ongoing inclusion and diversity work and a brilliant way for the under-represented, diverse communities that we have in Greene King to have an influence on our leaders. This training has changed the way our leaders manage people and interact with those in their personal lives too.” Greene King’s inclusive leadership training is also being rolled out to all managers as part of the ongoing drive for everyday inclusion.
 
Aqua Restaurant Group to open Italian seafood restaurant in Chelsea for seventh London site: Hong Kong-based Aqua Restaurant Group, the David Yeo-founded business that operates a portfolio of restaurants across the globe, is to open an Italian seafood restaurant, in London’s Chelsea. The launch of Azzurra in Sloane Street this autumn will be the company’s seventh venue in the capital. Azzurra is the culmination of Yeo’s extensive travel through Italy over many years, and his love for the culinary culture centred around Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. Aqua said the restaurant will celebrate Yeo’s “boat to table” philosophy, “using the very best seafood, sourced sustainably from the waters of the British Isles, and prepared with Italian elegance and simplicity”. Azzurra will include a raw bar offering fish and seafood, a cocktail bar and a pizza counter. The kitchen, overseen by executive chef Andrea Mura, a Sardinian native, will include seabass salt baked with salmoriglio sauce; and swordfish grilled with fennel and orange salad and Bronte’s pistachio pesto. Yeo said: “From a personal standpoint, Italy, and in particular the Amalfi Coast, has long held a fascination with me – some of my happiest memories feature that glittering, perfect blue of the sea, candy-coloured towns perched on rugged cliffs and, of course, spectacular food – always prepared simply but with love. We want to bring the essence of the Amalfi Coast’s culinary passion to Sloane Street, with the very best British seafood elevated with Italian cooking techniques and flavours.” Aqua also operates Shiro, Aqua Shard, Hutong, Aqua Kyoto, Aqua Nueva and Luci in the capital. DCL acted for landlord Cadogan on the deal.
 
Bone Daddies confirms Leicester Square opening for eighth site: Bone Daddies Group – which comprises the eponymous ramen restaurants Shack-Fuyu and Flesh & Buns – has confirmed it will open a site in London’s Leicester Square for its eighth venue. The new Bone Daddies, opposite Leicester Square tube, will be split across two floors and offer 80 covers in total, with the interior design marking a more industrial feel than its other ramen bars. Tom Moxon, who was head chef at the very first Bone Daddies when it launched in Soho in 2012, and appointed group head chef in early 2022, will oversee the menu at the site, which opens in late-October. Bone Daddies managing director Steve Hill said: “Our tremendous Bone Daddies team is preparing to move in to our new home, as we continue to strengthen the Bone Daddies brand from our exciting new location in Leicester Square. I’m proud to see the Bone Daddies Group driving positive results and enjoying continued growth. Despite difficulties for the industry as a whole over the last few years, our team has stayed with us – some for almost a decade – which is pretty humbling, so we feel very positive about our future in hospitality, both in London and perhaps beyond.” Etch acted for Bone Daddies on the deal while DCL represented landlord Shaftesbury Capital.
 
Chopstix opens new shopping centre location, more to come: Fast growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix has opened a new shopping centre location, in Croydon, with more to come. The launch in the town’s Centrale Shopping Centre brings the total number of shopping centre locations in its estate to 34, following an opening at Brent Cross site in March. Chopstix opened its first shopping centre location in Lakeside, and its best performing shopping centre venue is in Westfield Stratford City. Encouraged by the performance of these sites, it has invested further in shopping centres to support the company’s growth plans, with significant opportunities for expansion identified in the category. Managing director Jon Lake said: “We’re thrilled to have arrived in Croydon, and I’m sure the site’s bold design will stand out to customers and help make Chopstix a hit in the town. Our versatility makes us a really attractive proposition for shopping centre landlords, and we’re looking forward to growing our footprint further in the near future.” The Chopstix Group consists of more than 100 Chopstix sites, in addition to ten operating as Yangtze and 25 franchise sites under the Chozen Noodle brand, which the group acquired earlier this year.
 
East London Pub Co owner to open brasserie-style restaurant in London’s Spitalfields: East London Pub Co owner Patrick Frawley is set to open a new brasserie-style restaurant in London’s Spitalfields. Frawley – who is also behind the Cornerstone restaurants in Cork and Limerick, plus Aubars Bar & Nightclub and Paddy Frawley’s Bar in Limerick – will launch 65a on Brushfield Street on Tuesday, 12 September. It will offer “an elegant yet uncomplicated menu of classic dishes peppered with French inflections” while hiring and training local staff and working predominantly with nearby traders. Executive chef Maura Baxter will serve up dishes such as whole grilled native lobster and free-range rotisserie chicken alongside small plates including hand-dived coquilles St Jacques, salade chèvre chaud and fillet steak with Café de Paris butter. The 155-cover restaurant, which features a terrace for al fresco dining, will also offer a French-led wine list and classic cocktails.
 
Manchester operator acquires rooftop bar within ME London hotel: Manchester-based Upmarket Leisure, which owns and operates a portfolio of restaurants as well as providing services to hotel owners and brands, has acquired Radio Rooftop, a bar within the five-star ME London hotel, in The Strand. The deal cements Upmarket Leisure’s relationship with Meliá Hotels International’s ME brand, with which it also owns and operates premium Italian restaurant Luciano by Gino D’Acampo. Mat Cunningham, managing director of Upmarket Leisure, said: “We’re delighted to further extend our valued partnership with Meliá Hotels International with the acquisition of Radio at ME London, together with providing our specialist food and beverage services.” Garry Fortune, UK director of operations at Meliá Hotels International, added: “Upmarket Leisure is a trusted and much respected partner with a proven track record for delivering on performance.” Among the other venues Upmarket Leisure provides investment, management and advisory services to are Gino D’Acampo in Newcastle, Leeds and Liverpool, Gino D’Acampo 360 Sky Bar and First Street Bar & Kitchen in Manchester.
 
Aston Manor reports performance impacted by ‘unprecedented supply chain inflation’: Cider-maker Aston Manor has reported “unprecedented supply chain inflation” impacted its full-year performance. While turnover nudged up from £139m to £142m for the year to 31 December 2022, Ebitda was slightly down from £5.7m to £5.4m. The company stated: “During the year we continued to trade effectively and made progress on our strategic objectives, including the development of new products in a range of categories. The considerable price increases in materials, logistics, and other costs prompt an almost immediate adverse impact on manufacturers, including Aston Manor. While the business moved to mitigate this challenge with some success, overall financial performance was impaired.” Chief executive Gordon Johncox said: “During 2022 and since, we have continued to develop our contract packing operation and our ability to produce non-alcoholic drinks for customers. We remain committed to making investments in our production capability and capacity to support our ambition to participate in profitable sectors, exiting low margin business, alongside providing exceptional product quality and great service. We achieve this by the expert allocation of resources to uphold our track record of outstanding continuity of supply to both our customers and their consumers. The introduction of a new duty regime at the start of August has added both cost and complexity to our business – in both instances, counter to the claims made by the UK government.” The business said it also made progress on becoming even more sustainable, which included new nitrogen generators at its sites in Aston, near Birmingham, and Tiverton, in Devon. This has reduced the volume of carbon dioxide required by the business.
 
Burger King told to halt misleading claims over burger sizes: Burger King has been making misleading claims on advertisements about the size of its burgers, according to a group of customers. In a ruling published last week, a US judge rejected the company’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 20 customers, who said it “materially overstates” the size and amount of beef in many of its burgers on in-store menus. The customers claimed that a side-by-side comparison of Burger King’s pre-2017 Whopper advert with the present Whopper advert showed the burger had increased in size by about 35% and the amount of beef rose by more than 100%, reports The Times. The claimants asked for “monetary damages fully compensating all individuals who were deceived as a result of purchasing overstated menu items”, and a requirement for Burger King to provide “corrected advertising”, or even discontinue the items affected. Burger King and its parent company, Restaurant Brands International, contested the claim, which was filed in Miami, saying that “reasonable consumers” do not “expect every handmade burger to look exactly like a photo”. In its written defence, Burger King also argued that food in adverts “is and always has been styled to make it look as appetising as possible. This lawsuit unreasonably pretends otherwise.” Judge Roy Altman dismissed the breach of contract claim when it came to TV and online advertising, agreeing with Burger King that these could not reasonably be interpreted as a binding offer. But he said in-store boards, which list price information and item descriptions, set a higher bar. Other fast-food brands have faced similar claims. McDonald’s and Wendy’s are defending against a lawsuit in New York.
 
Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs to relocate London Stock restaurant: Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs Assem Abdel Hady and Andres Bernal are to relocate their London Stock restaurant. The duo – who have worked at as worked at two Michelin-starred restaurants such as Umu and Dinner by Heston, and one-starred restaurants Nobu, Pollen Street and Hind’s Head – opened the original London Stock in the Ram Quarter development in Wandsworth in January 2020. They will now move the fine dining concept to 6 Sackville Street in Mayfair, with the restaurant opening on Wednesday, 4 October. Alongside their seasonal eight-course tasting menu (£85), the restaurant will offer an à la carte three-course lunch (£40), a three-course pre-theatre menu (£50) and four-course set menu (£60) in the evening. The kitchen will be run by head chef Sebastian Rast, previously of Above at HIDE, who will use a zero-waste kitchen approach using quality fresh produce. A wine and drinks list by head sommelier Lazaros Engonopoulos will include a wine flight for the signature eight-course tasting menu. The main restaurant will feature an open kitchen, while downstairs will be a private dining room for 12, with its own bar, in the old wine cellar. Hady said: “We are thrilled to have this beautiful space for the next chapter of London Stock in the heart of Mayfair. We very much look forward to offering a dining experience that surprises and delights, with our guests leaving with truly unforgettable memories.” Marc Rogers, of MKR Property, acted on behalf of London Stock in the acquisition of the Mayfair location and is currently marketing the existing Ram Quarter location on an assignment basis.
 
San Carlo to open Signor Sassi restaurant in Dubai next month: San Carlo Restaurant Group, the north west-based operator, is to open the first site in the UAE, under its Signor Sassi brand next month. As previously reported, the company is teaming up with UAE-based operators Sunset Hospitality Group (SHG) to bring the restaurant brand to the St Regis Gardens, the new dining destination on the rooftop of Nakheel Mall. Opening on Monday, 25 September, initially just for dinner, the venue will be the third Signor Sassi in the Middle East, with the brand already operating sites in Riyadh and Doha. Signor Sassi Dubai will be spread across an indoor and outdoor bar, a restaurant and a terrace. The menu will include antipasti, pasta, meat dishes, and seafood. San Carlo operates circa 25 sites.
 
Tom Kerridge among four chefs offering new cuisines at Harrods’ relaunched food hall: Michelin-starred Tom Kerridge is among four chefs offering new cuisines at Harrods’ relaunched food hall. From October, Kerridge – along with Masayoshi Takayama, Neha Mishra and Athanasios Kargatzidis – will showcase their individual talents at The Dining Hall. Kerridge, formerly of The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, will be offering ethically-caught seafood and deep-fried cockle popcorn from the 22-seat Tom Kerridge’s Fish & Chips. “Harrods Dining Hall is an iconic destination for foodies from all over the world and we are excited to be on this culinary journey,” he said. “Only the finest day-boat caught fish from the coast of Cornwall is on the menu and it’s prepared by a skilled team of chefs with dedication and passion.” Takayama, of MASA, Bar MASA and Kappo Masa, all in New York City, will oversee Sushi by Masa at the centre of the dining hall, with 40 seats. It will offer his signature sushi and hot dishes on both omakase and à la carte menus, alongside cocktail, sake and Japanese spirits collections. Mishra will bring her Kinoya Ramen Bar concept over from Dubai, offering authentic nose to tail Japanese dishes such as shio paitan (duck ramen), wagyu tsukune, yakitori and tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen. Kargatzidis, who is behind Baron Beirut in Lebanon and à la grecque in Dubai, will be responsible for Assembly Mezze & Skewers, which focuses authentic eastern Mediterranean dishes while taking inspiration from Levantine flavours, for a sharing menu. Ashley Saxton, director restaurants and kitchens at Harrods, said: “This new evolution of the Dining Hall, one of the most iconic spaces within Harrods, will introduce an array of phenomenal new restaurants for guests to enjoy alongside exceptional cocktails, as well as live music and entertainment.”
 
Lanesborough reports ‘outstanding recovery year’ as return of US travel market drives increase in turnover to pre-pandemic levels: Luxury London hotel The Lanesborough has reported an “outstanding recovery year” ending 31 December 2022, with the return of the US travel market driving an increase in turnover to pre-pandemic levels. Turnover was up from £14,912,844 in 2021 to £34,035,252. This compares to £33,032,517 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 December 2019. Pre-tax losses narrowed from £16,037,355 to £11,248,003 (2021: £8,220,104). No dividends were paid (2021: nil). The company received no government grants compared to £893,370 in 2021. “2022 has been an outstanding recovery year for The Lanesborough,” director Khalifa Abdulla Butti Obaid AlShamsi said in his report accompanying the accounts. “Revenue for the year has been positively influenced by the strong return of the US market once the travel restrictions were lifted, as well as an increase from the Middle East business, predominantly driven by the UAE. To date, these two markets represent 65% of our room sales. The reduction of revenue from the Russian market, which traditionally made up 7% of our business, and the reduction of turnover from the Saudi and Kuwait markets meant we had to find other markets to replace these volumes, which traditionally have been strong at The Lanesborough. Our continued focus on the domestic market has seen growth to 8% of our room sales, with other positive growth from the Indian and the Stan markets.” Average daily rate was up from £995 to £1,231, while occupancy rate was up from 24.40% to 53.20%. The year also saw the launches of The Lanesborough Grill and Bridgerton Afternoon Tea, which have been “well received”, with” the new menu concept cultivating a twist on modern British cuisine”.

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