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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 1st Sep 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Haven CEO – staycation trend here to stay, demand strong but price sensitive, occupancy rates at record levels: Haven managing director Simon Palethorpe has told Propel that the staycation trend is here to stay, with demand “strong but price sensitive”, and occupancy rates are at record levels. “We think staycations are here to stay,” he said. “We think the value for money sector plays to a quite a big audience, and the boom will continue for some time to come. We’ll be operating at full capacity for most of the year and occupancy rates are at record levels. We’re currently seeing really strong demand, albeit quite price sensitive as more than ever, people are looking for price certainty as well as value for money. People are shopping around, not only for their holidays but also when they get to the parks. They are really looking for value for money in a way we possibly haven’t previously. We spent a lot of last winter revamping our food and beverage offer, and it was all about things like kids eating for £1 or two main meals for £18. What we’ve seen, after a year where food and beverage was fairly stagnant, is significant growth this year as people see the offers are good value for money. Being able to explain to somebody before they come in that they can have two meals for £18 becomes more and more important as people work to a budget. It’s a psychological change within the consumer that may or may not be permanent, but it’s something we’ve had to react to.” It comes after Haven last week launched its newly renamed flagship Haven Kent Coast Park, formerly Haven Allhallows, following an £18m refurbishment. The investment has seen the addition of an outdoors “adventure village”, a state-of-the-art 1,200-seater Marina Bar & Stage and 100-seater terrace, and the addition of new Seaside Treats, Burger King, Papa John’s and Cook’s Fish & Chips restaurants. “This part of Britain is under-served with brilliant holiday destinations – it wasn’t a bad park but it was a fairly quiet park with limited facilities,” said Palethorpe. “The business thought there would be a market for something more there, so we invested £18m in new propositions, and could double that by the time we’ve added more pitches and further propositions. We’ve tested these concepts at other sites and now taken up the scale. Many of the ideas were in place before the pandemic, but the concepts have evolved and the staycation boom has given us the confidence to invest in those things at an even bigger scale. There are several parks around the country we think can be transformed, and I can list a good number where these concepts can be rolled out over a number of years. Our shareholder change in 2021 has led to a huge injection of cash in our business – we also just spent £11m significantly upgrading a park in Skegness we bought last year.” 
 

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. 
 
Gail’s to speak at Propel Talent & Training Conference, open for bookings: Jordan Moore, head of talent at Gail’s, 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. Moore will talk about Gail’s recruitment campaign based around enjoying working in hospitality while having a work-life balance, called “The Early Bird Never Works Late”. The conference will showcase examples of outstanding people culture among companies within the sector and how the industry is attracting talent. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers and can be booked by emailing kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Scottish Beer & Pub Association proposes new hospitality specific business rates multiplier: The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) is calling on the Scottish government to investigate a “new deal” for the nation’s pubs and bars on non-domestic rates, as the industry continues to rebuild from the pandemic while dealing with rising costs and staffing pressures. The trade body is proposing a new hospitality specific business rates multiplier (poundage) set at 35p in the £1. Currently, poundage ranges from 49.8p to 52.4p in the pound depending on the property. In the first half of 2023, 61 pubs shut in Scotland, more than the 56 in the whole of 2022. SPBA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Scotland’s pubs and bars continue to face a multitude of strong headwinds, which is preventing many being able to recover fully from the impacts of the pandemic. We’ve already seen more pubs close in the first half of this year, than closed in the whole of 2022. We desperately need to relieve pressure on these businesses and additional support on business rates continues to be the number one ask from pub operators in survey after survey. A new deal on business rates with a new hospitality poundage rate, set at 35p in the pound, would be a monumental step forward for Scotland’s pubs and bars.” Other recommendations from the SBPA include support for reduced VAT, official endorsement of low and no-alcohol products as ways to encourage responsible consumption, and recognition for the cumulative regulatory burden currently facing the sector. McClarkin added: “Our pubs and bars are a critical element of Scotland’s tourism offer, contributing more than £1.8bn to the economy every year, but we need better support for this to continue.”
 
UKHospitality launches ‘#FiveAsksForOfgem’ campaign, urges businesses to respond to consultation: Trade body UKHospitality has launched its “#FiveAsksForOfgem” campaign and is urging sector businesses to respond to its consultation on energy bills. It follows a recent member survey that showed 30% of businesses were fearful of failure in the next 12 months, and 94% of them linked this directly to energy prices. “The situation is critical enough that Ofgem did undertake a review into the non-domestic energy market, which took our feedback seriously and singled out hospitality as the worst affected sector,” said UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion. “It now embarks on a consultation on its recommendations. As a result of this, we launched our #FiveAsksForOfgem campaign. We’re asking businesses across the sector to come together to raise awareness of the issue by responding to the consultation. Doing so is, in our view, absolutely critical to getting meaningful change on this. Too much time has been wasted already, and every week that goes by means more and more businesses – small, medium and large – are either closing or getting dangerously close to shutting their doors for the very last time.” You can respond to the consultation by clicking here. Nicholls will share more of her thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published today (Friday, 1 September) at 11am.
 
NTIA calls for urgent modernisation of ‘outdated’ drug policy: Urgent modernisation of the government’s “outdated” drug policy has been called for by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). It comes after a report released by the Home Affairs Select Committee on Drugs said The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which forms the cornerstone of drug regulations in the UK, is now more than 50 years old and “ill-suited to the contemporary challenges posed by drug misuse and harm reduction”. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said the UK’s approach to drug policy “has lagged behind the progressive measures embraced by our European counterparts”. He said: “The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has served its purpose, but the landscape has evolved dramatically since its enactment. Our European neighbours have taken proactive measures to address drug-related challenges, prioritising harm reduction and public safety. It is high time for the UK to catch up and adopt a more pragmatic and modern approach.” The NTIA said this reform cannot be achieved solely through legislative changes and requires a collaborative effort involving all stakeholders, including industry players, policymakers, law enforcement and the public. Enhancing drug testing measures across festivals and nightlife businesses can significantly contribute to minimising risks and fostering a safer environment for patrons, Kill said. Furthermore, Kill stressed the importance of incorporating comprehensive drug education in schools and throughout the industry. “By providing accurate and unbiased information, we empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health and well-being,” he added. “Our goal is to ensure the UK remains a global leader not only in entertainment but also in the responsible management of the challenges our society faces. It’s time for a safer, more effective, and more modern approach to drug policy.”
 
Nick Nairn – ‘hospitality industry is not a great place to be, thought of cutting corners to save money is never far away’: Celebrity chef Nick Nairn has said the hospitality industry “is not a great place to be at the moment” and “the thought of cutting corners to save money is never far away”. Scotland’s youngest Michelin star winner, Nairn was a regular on shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Great British Menu and cooked for Queen Elizabeth II on her 80th birthday. He recently reopened Nairn’s at 28 Henderson Street in Bridge of Allan after its predecessor, Nick’s, burnt down two years ago. The restaurant will be followed next month by Cook by Nick, a retail outlet that will sell fresh produce and host masterclasses and demonstrations. “At the moment, the hospitality industry is not a great place to be,” he told The Herald. “We were always determined to reopen, but there were a few dark hours where we questioned the sanity of what we were doing. I’ve been trading as a restauranteur for more than 35 years and I’ve never seen a more challenging set of conditions. People used to work extra hours because of their passion, but after covid lockdowns, they don’t want to work the insane shifts that are traditional in our industry. With wage costs, food, materials and utilities, we’ve seen some staggering increases. The price of vegetable oil, for example, has virtually tripled in one year, and our energy bill is insane.” Having been at the forefront of a “revolution” in Scottish cuisine during his formative years as a chef, which saw people travel to the country for “the best restaurants, chefs and ingredients” and an “amazingly vibrant hotel and restaurant economy”, he said that has all changed now “thanks to this perfect storm of mounting pressures”. Calling for a reduction in VAT to “help stabilise the industry”, he added: “If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to lose a big chunk of our hard-won business. A lot of people are putting on a brave face and trading without making a profit in the hopes that things will improve. Instead of training chefs on the basics like making stocks or sauces, restaurants will soon have to start buying things in, which will inevitably result in a major de-skilling of the industry. The pressure is so intense that even for us, the thought of cutting corners to save money is never far away.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a pub company that is looking for an experienced area manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be directly responsible for up to 15 general managers, accountable for setting and achieving financial targets set by the directors, and generating additional revenue through precise controls and the training of your managers. You will be required to regularly report to the directors on all projects under their remit in addition to their standard procedures. The business remains in a strong financial position with expansion and redevelopment planned across the estate for the next few years.” The salary is up to £75,000 and the position is based in East Anglia. For more information, email stuart@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Pub People Company raises expansion target to 75 sites as backers open new investment bond: Midlands pub company Pub People has raised its expansion target to 75 sites as backers Downing open a new bond for investment. Propel revealed exclusively in September 2022 that investment manager Downing had acquired Pub People and merged it with its Autumn Pubs business for a combined estate of 49 sites. The business said in April that it aiming to build its estate to 60 locations but is now looking beyond that target. “We are pleased to announce that a new pub bond supporting the Pub People Company is now open for investment,” Downing said. “The bond will allow investors to earn a fixed interest rate of between 6% and 7.25% per annum for a period of up to two years. The initial tranche will close on 22 September 2023, with subsequent tranches closing on the 14th of each month. The pub bond provides an opportunity to support the growth of the Pub People Company, an experienced and proven operator of community public houses with more than 30 freehold pubs across the East Midlands. The group intends to acquire, refurbish and operate several freehold pubs over the next two years, with ambitions to grow the size of its existing estate of freehold pubs to more than 75, and with several further acquisitions in the pipeline. Downing has a strong relationship with the management team, having invested alongside it in various joint ventures since 2009 before taking majority ownership in September 2022. We believe the business is a best-in-class operator with a deep knowledge of its region. The management team has consistently demonstrated an ability to identify and turn around previously struggling pubs through modest refurbishments and operational improvements.” The minimum investment is £500, with fixed one-year and two-year terms available.
 
Patisserie Valerie set to reopen some of its stores as it reinvests proceeds from online growth: Patisserie Valerie, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, is set to reopen some of its stores as it reinvests proceeds from its online growth into its estate. The business, which once had almost 200 stores across the UK, has closed the majority of them over the last few years. It is now looking to reopen two sites by October, followed by more over the next few months, reports the Sun. Its branch in Cambridge will reopen next week after a refurbishment, while a store at Cribbs Causeway retail park in Bristol will start trading again in mid-October. Causeway Capital partner Matt Scaife told Propel: “It’s really nice to be able to start reinvesting the proceeds from our online growth back into the rest of the business. We served more than 100,000 online customers last year, which is amazing.” Patisserie Valerie collapsed into administration in 2019 and immediately shut 71 of its 193 stores, since when it has reduced its store count to just 29. It also has concessions inside around 400 Sainsbury's stores. Patisserie Valerie is currently recruiting for roles at the two sites reopening. Causeway Capital paid £5m for almost 100 Patisserie Valerie cafes in February 2019 before merging it with its Bakers & Baristas business the following year. In September 2022, it closed nine further sites, leaving an overall estate of 95 Patisserie Valerie and Bakers & Baristas locations.
 
Blacklock to make regional debut with Manchester opening: Skinny chops concept Blacklock is set to make its regional debut with an opening in Manchester early next year, Propel has learned. The Gordon Ker-led business, which currently operates five sites in the capital, is understood to have lined up an opening in the grade II-listed Freetrade Exchange building at 37 Peter Street in the city. Earlier this summer, the business opened its fifth restaurant, in London’s Canary Wharf. The site is based in a standalone warehouse under the railway tracks in the North Dock. At 4,000 square feet and with 120 covers, a ten-metre bar and outdoor terrace, the opening was Blacklock’s biggest restaurant yet. Blacklock also has restaurants in Soho (opened in 2015), the City (2017), Shoreditch (2018) and Covent Garden (2022).
 
Australian coffee and food franchise looking to launch in UK and seeking ambitious partner: Australian coffee and food franchise Funk is looking to launch in the UK and is seeking an “ambitious partner” to help do it. Established in Australia for 20 years with a network of 16 franchise partners, the company is ready to bring its “proven business proposition” to Britain in October as its first overseas venture. It will be exhibiting at the National Franchise Exhibition at NEC Birmingham on 6-7 October and has hired Ashtons Franchise Consulting as consultants. Funk offers freshly prepared cold meat cuts and freshly baked breads and rolls, using local suppliers, and ethically sourced Arabica coffee beans, ground and roasted to an exclusive blend. It is looking to open in high footfall areas and is hoping to attract a master franchisee or investor, who its food development department will work closely with to adapt the menus to local tastes. Funk will also support franchisees in finding the right outlet in the right location. Arthur Damaskos, managing director at Funk, said: “We are very excited at the prospect of launching in the UK as our first key overseas territory. We are looking for a dynamic individual who is hands on and will develop the brand throughout the UK. The franchise offers a real opportunity for an experienced investor to establish an innovative coffee shop brand in the UK. With excellent gross and net margins, the business will provide strong rates of return on investment.” 

Sweden-based Mexican fast-food franchise chain set to make UK debut after partnering with former Premier League footballer: Sweden-based Mexican fast-food franchise chain Zócalo is set to make its UK debut after partnering with former Premier League footballer José Fonte. Zócalo, which was founded in 2002, has since grown to 25 restaurants in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. Pritesh and Shivum Amlanu signed as master franchisees for the UK in April last year, with the aim of expanding and placing Zócalo “among the leading Mexican food concepts in the UK in the next few years”. The duo have now partnered with Andre Martin, formerly of Zuma and Roka, and Fonte, who played for Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Ham while winning 50 international caps for Portugal, to open the concept’s first site over here. Zócalo is set to make its UK debut at 21 Great Windmill Street in London’s Soho in September, reports Hot Dinners. It will offer burritos, bowls, quesadillas, tacos, nachos and salads alongside Mexican-inspired cocktails, wine, beer and soft drinks. On signing the Amlanus as UK master franchisees last year, the company said: “We at Zócalo are delighted to have found the perfect master franchisees for the UK. Zócalo is a modern and unique Mexican fresh food concept that we think will have a lot of success in the UK. We have multiple opportunities for regional, single and multi-unit franchises throughout the UK.”
 
The Wolseley Hospitality Group appoints new operations director: The Wolseley Hospitality Group has appointed Simon King as operations director. King, who joins the business in September and will report to group chief executive Baton Berisha, takes over from Robert Holland, who is leaving to pursue other opportunities. King has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. He started his career at The Ritz in London and, following several senior roles at Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Fat Duck Group and JKS Restaurants, he most recently acted as chief operating officer at The Birley Clubs group. Berisha said: “I have worked with Simon previously and know how much he will bring to the running of our business. It is an exciting time for the group as we look to grow the business with new restaurants and concepts planned both in the UK and overseas. Rob’s 20-year tenure with the business has been key in its success, and his leadership and experience as operations director has been invaluable to me and the wider team. Together we will be working to ensure Simon is onboarded and prepared for a smooth transition.” The appointment comes after the group reported revenue increased 60.7% to a record £53,674,320 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £33,398,704 the previous year. Adjusted Ebitda also hit a new record level of £5,735,000 (2021: £2,341,000). The group made a pre-tax profit of £4,111,677 compared with a loss of £2,072,246 the year before.

Tomahawk Steakhouse operator confirms September opening for York Rio Brazilian, four more to follow in 2024: North east operator Howard Eggleston, who owns the Tomahawk Steakhouse brand, has confirmed a September opening in York for the Rio Brazilian concept he co-owns with Rodrigo Grassi. Propel revealed in June that the pair had taken on the former Piccolino site in York’s Bridge Street, and it will now open on Saturday, 16 September. It will be a seventh opening for the concept, which was founded in 2019, and comes after Eggleston and Grassi reopened the former Tomahawk Steakhouse in Chester as a Rio Brazilian. The rebranded site went on reach number one on TripAdvisor in Chester just three weeks after opening. Grassi said: “We have found the Rio opening model to work well with our team, which is well oiled at new openings. The proof is in the awards and positions on TripAdvisor as every venue we have launched has secured the top spot in just four weeks. The response we had from Chester was huge, so as a group it was a good decision to rebrand from Tomahawk to Rio. We are fortunate as a group to have the facility where if one brand isn’t performing as well as first anticipated, we can flip it into the other in quick time.” Grassi added that the group is in negotiations with landlords on several locations to open more Rio sites, with at least another four to roll out in 2024. Eggleston also operates 11 Tomahawk Steakhouse sites and is working on a new “big name concept” for a former Tomahawk site in Ponteland, as previously revealed by Propel.
 
Din Thai Fung sees UK turnover boosted by new site opening but increased costs result in profit drop: Taiwanese dim sum brand Din Tai Fung, which operates more than 160 restaurants worldwide, saw its UK turnover boosted by a new site opening in the year ending 31 December 2022 but increased costs resulted in a drop in profit. The group opened its third UK site, which features robot waiters, in October 2022, at Centre Point in London. The opening helped turnover increase from £5,932,364 in 2021 to £9,137,427. Its pre-tax profit dropped from £1,141,692 in 2021 to £164,211,as costs increased by £1,189,525. It also received no government grants compared with £359,824 in 2021. Director Ben Elliott, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The increase in turnover is in line with expectations. In October 2022 another restaurant branch opened, contributing to the increase in turnover. With a full year of trading, costs also increased as expected, and has resulted in a decrease in operating profit for the year.”
 
Hagen and Rainbo to open sites in Leadenhall Market: Danish espresso bar concept Hagen and Japanese soul food restaurant Rainbo are to open sites in Leadenhall Market in the City of London. Hagen will open its 11th site in the capital on Monday (4 September). Born out of Copenhagen and founded in London, Hagen focuses on creating hygge (Danish for “comfortable conviviality”) spaces and serving premium specialty coffee in London’s affluent locations. The business is understood to be looking at further site opportunities in the capital and is also set to open a site in Borough Yards. George Collison, of Savills, acts for Hagen. Meanwhile, Rainbo will open the following week for its fourth site, adding to its Canary Wharf, Shoreditch and Hackney venues. Having started in 2012 as a food truck, Rainbo specialises in gyoza, katsu, bao and other Japanese soul food favourites. Initially open Monday-Friday from 11am-4pm, Rainbo will be launching an afternoon/early evening food and drink menu in the autumn. Greg Stalcup, partner at Levy Real Estate, managed the lettings for Leadenhall Market, which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation.
 
Gordon Ramsay Restaurants among new additions to UberEats platform: Gordon Ramsay Restaurants is among the new additions to the UberEats platform in London. UberEats has been growing rapidly in the capital over the past 18 months, with more than 300 restaurants previously using a single delivery platform now partnering with UberEats too, meaning it now has more than 20,000 restaurants available to order from in the capital. As well as Gordon Ramsay’s Street Pizza, Street Burger, Pizza East and Bread Street Kitchen brands joining the platform, other new additions include Neapolitan pizzeria Cinquecento, poke bowls concept Honi Poke, gourmet sandwich brand Yolk, Chinese restaurant YUN and Mexican-inspired Sonora Taqueria. Matthew Price, Uber Eats general manager UK and Ireland, said: “We’re delighted so many brilliant restaurants have joined UberEats in London. From Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurants to Cinquecento, Yolk and Honi Poke, customers have an amazing selection to choose from on Uber Eats, all at the touch of a button.”

Future of East London nightclub secured: East London nightclub E1 has been given the green light by Tower Hamlets Council to build a brand-new nightclub next door to its current site, in plans which will see its current home on Pennington Street, Wapping, demolished. As well as the new nightclub, a Big Yellow Storage facility and 114 flats will be built on the site after the local authority rejected an appeal against the £36m development. Yuval Hen, owner and founder of E1, told Mixmag: “We are excited to confirm that the development plans include a brand new bespoke purpose-built venue that will become our new home once the initial development is complete, with construction not due to begin for approximately five years. We are also happy to confirm that throughout planning, development and construction, E1 in its current form will remain open as it is now.” Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association congratulated all the parties involved for “brokering this unique agreement”. He added: “It’s vital that this agreement is taken forward as an example of true partnership working across the UK. This has the hallmark of a strategy for culture and residents across major cities to coexist and thrive, as we have seen in major European cities for many years.”

Claridge’s Restaurant to open this month: Claridge’s Restaurant will open at the luxury London restaurant of the same name this month. The contemporary British restaurant is now operated in-house by the hotel, with chef Coalin Finn, formerly of Inverlochy Castle, Davies and Brook and Sketch, heading up the kitchen. Previously known as Claridge’s Restaurant over 20 years ago, it will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 18 September, offering classically inspired dishes with modern twists and showcasing locally sourced ingredients. Dishes range from whole wild turbot with sauce emeline to share to grilled native lobster with crushed Jersey royals and sauce Américaine.
 
Government contracts help Midlands hotel group boost turnover, further growth expected in 2023: Government contracts helped Midlands hotel group Princeotels boost its turnover in the year ending 31 December 2022, with further growth expected in 2023. The group was formed in September 2021 when, as part of a restructure, Princeotels became the parent company to Prince Hotels, which operates three hotels in the Midlands, and Prince Hotels GmbH, which operates a single hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. Led by Prince Nasser, its UK sites are the Quality Hotels in Leeds and Birmingham and Stephensons Hotel in Birmingham. Turnover for the period was £7,990,088 versus £4,198,015 in 2021, although the prior period included only the three and a half months from 14 September to 31 December 2021. “In the UK, the introduction of government contracts in two of the hotels has been the main factor behind the growth in turnover, albeit one of those contacts only commenced very late in the year,” Nasser said in his statement accompanying the accounts. “Further growth is therefore expected in 2023.” Of the 2022 figure, £6,653,921 came from UK operations (2021: £3,368,374) and £1,356,167 from Europe (2021: £829,641). Its pre-tax profit was £1,569,672 versus £4,366,330 in 2021 to due to a cost increases of almost £1m, plus the 2021 figure being inflated by the sale of a second hotel in Germany. It also received no government grants compared to £824,262 in 2021. Group Ebitda was £2m versus a loss of £1.3m in 2021, while dividends of £300,000 were paid (2021: £1.1m).
 
Zip World plans attraction at Lake District quarry site: Adventure tourism operator Zip World is aiming to open an attraction at a quarry site in the Lake District. Elterwater Quarry in Great Langdale, Cumbria, is a working quarry operated by Burlington Stone. It is a long-established minerals site with a complex of underground caverns, quarry voids and waste tips. The application seeks planning permission for a tourism use on the site, referred to within the application as the Elterwater Experience. The applicant is Burlington Slate, a member of Holker Group. The application indicates Zip World, which has been backed by private equity firm LDC since 2018, will operate the attraction. The scheme proposes the introduction of a fixed line route connecting viewing platforms within a cavern – the “in-cavern explorer route” – using zip-wires to provide access to viewpoints and features of interest. Also included in the plans is the recladding of the former saw sheds and use of part of them to provide a larger visitor building, while alterations to an existing building would provide a second, smaller visitor building. The tourism experience proposed centres around an in-cavern attraction, using two caverns that were previously mined, reports Insider Media. Zip World provides visitors with experiences across its 29 attractions at seven UK sites. 
 
Oodles Chinese opens first Scottish site: Indo-Chinese concept Oodles Chinese has opened its first Scottish site, in Aberdeen. Propel revealed in January that the franchise brand was lining up its first Scottish location, and it has now opened at 206b Union Street on the Granite Mile, in a unit it will share with dessert brand Heavenly Desserts. The new outlet, which has more than 30 seats for dine-in customers and created around 15 jobs, has been opened in a former Sainsbury’s by franchise partners Naveed Sarwar and Ehsan Ul-Haq. “We are filled with excitement and confidence to open the first of its kind to the community of Aberdeen,” they told Aberdeen Live. “Oodles has implemented systems and support that are exemplary, and this is why we had no hesitation in signing a multi-unit agreement.” Oodles, which has circa 40 UK sites and is aiming to reach 100 by 2025, is also planning to open its first overseas location in the near future. In June, Subway franchisee Sharaz Rasul opened his first Oodles store, and the brand’s first in the north east, in Newcastle, and signed a multi-unit deal for three more.

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