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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 15th Sep 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sandbox VR UK co-founder – we could do more than 30 sites now, Birmingham outperforming London already: Sandbox VR UK co-founder Andy Scanlon has told Propel the concept could do more than 30 sites here now and that its new Birmingham Bullring & Grand Central site is already outperforming its debut venue in London. Scanlon co-founded VR Entertainment with university friend Jake Wilmot-Sitwell three years ago to take on the UK & Ireland master franchise for the virtual reality gaming concept. He came across the original Sandbox VR – which was founded by Steve Zhao in 2016 and has grown to 47 venues globally – while living in Hong Kong. The first UK Sandbox VR opened in London in 2022, followed by a second in Birmingham earlier this summer, at which point Scanlon set his sights on 30 UK sites. “It could be more than 30 now,” Scanlon told Propel. “We’re now thinking it could be more like 50. We’ll be opening in Dublin in the first quarter of 2024, then Bristol, Newcastle and a second London site next year too. We can definitely put this in smaller towns too – there’s one in Germany in a town of 16,000 people that is doing great numbers – but we want to hit the big cities first. London has been trading phenomenally, with 65,000 people through the doors so far, which has exceeded all expectations. Over the last few days, we’ve had more people coming into the Birmingham site than London. Because it’s a shopping centre site we get a tremendous number of walk-ins, 40% compared with 8% in London. We’re also seeing a ten-week ramp-up, whereas we were expecting more like nine months. We’re confident of doing well anywhere and we’re getting a lot of support from landlords to go into schemes.” VR Entertainment was Sandbox VR’s third international franchise following ones in Canada and the US, and Scanlon insisted it would not franchise any sites out itself. While a robotic barman in the style of a fairground grapple hook machine greets thirsty guests after their virtual reality experience, there are no plans to introduce a food offering. “Everyone needs a drink after 45 minutes of shooting zombies, but perhaps not a meal,” Scanlon said. “It’s also harder to do food than drink in the style we’re going for.” Guests can choose from seven different experiences, all of which are funded centrally by the various franchises, meaning they all have access to them. Next in line to be added is a link up with Netflix to produce a Squid Game experience. “I think we were moving towards more immersive experiences before covid, but the pandemic amplified it,” Scanlon added. “People want to spend more time with those they are close to and are willing to spend on the experiences they have.”

Industry News:

Jeremy King to speak at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Jeremy King, the co-founder of Corbin & King and doyenne of London’s dining scene, will be among the speakers at the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023. The conference takes place on Thursday, 16 November, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “progress in an era of strong headwinds”. King will talk to Propel group editor Mark Wingett about making his return to the sector, what he plans to do differently, and where he sees the restaurant market in the capital going. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing Meanwhile, the Talent and Training Conference takes place on Tuesday, 3 October at One Moorgate Place in London. 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
Premium subscribers to receive all videos from Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party on 29 September: Premium subscribers are to receive access to all the videos from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party. Premium subscribers will be sent 12 videos on Friday, 29 September at 9am. The videos will include: Karl Chessell, director at CGA Nielsen; Verity Foss, co-founder, and Lina Blythe, operations director of Oowee Vegan; Asad Khan, founder of Snowflake Luxury Gelato; Lisa Buckley, chief executive of Leisure TV Rights; Paula MacKenzie, chief executive of PizzaExpress; Mark Selby, co-founder of Mexican brand Wahaca; Heydon Mizon, joint managing director of Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen; Tom Crowley, chief executive of Popeyes UK; Jack Anderson, chief operating officer of Sessions, the growth platform for food brands and food hall concept operator, and Olivia Reid, its director of food and beverage; and Tom James, managing director of Bill’s. Olivia FitzGerald, chief sales and marketing officer at Zonal; Mark Chapman, founder of Zero Carbon Forum; Heydon Mizon; and Maria Hunter, owner of the Pigs Head, Clapham; discuss how sector companies are saving money as they drive to achieve net zero. Krishnan Doyle, managing director of COREcruitment, leads 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. Premium subscribers receive all the videos from Propel conferences each year – around 100 in total. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “This is a great way to keep you team abreast of what’s happening in the sector.” Meanwhile, Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage today (Friday, 15 September), at midday. This month’s edition includes 730 companies and more than 195,000 words of content. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers 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.
‘More operators should follow Stonegate in being creative with pricing’: More operators should take a leaf out of Stonegate’s book and be more creative with pricing – although perhaps be a bit better at communicating it than Britain’s largest pub company has been. So says Glynn Davis, a leading commentator on retail trends, following the recent revelation about Stonegate’s “dynamic pricing”. The Telegraph reported earlier this week that Stonegate is upping the price of a pint when its venues are busiest to help cover the cost of washing glasses, extra staff, supplying plastic cups and putting bouncers on the door. Stonegate initially brought in additional charges during major sports tournaments but has since made them permanent during “peak trading” and introduced “dynamic pricing” at some 800 sites across the country. The move attracted criticism on social media, and then from Campaign for Real Ale chief executive Tom Stainer, who feared it could drive people away from pubs. But Davis, writing in this week’s Propel Friday Opinion, defended the move and said more businesses should experiment with pricing – whether through reductions to drive volumes or increases to bump up margins. “One company that is certainly having a go is Stonegate,” said Davis. “It’s disappointing to see so much pushback against the company’s actions, but it should have possibly taken greater care with communicating these moves and maybe offset the new increases by knocking 20p off prices during quieter times. Despite the misstep with its approach, it’s great to see Stonegate experimenting with dynamic pricing, and I hope its actions will give other businesses the confidence to follow its lead and combat the vocal naysayers. Maybe now is the time for some bold thinking and greater thought being put into playing around with price across the hospitality industry.” Davis will share more of his thoughts in this week’s Friday Opinion, which will be published today (Friday, 15 September) at 11am. See Company News to read about a fluctuating price initiative on drinks at Incipio Group’s latest bar.

UKHospitality calls for visitor levy cap in Scotland: UKHospitality has called for a cap on any visitor levy introduced in Scotland. It said proposed plans, like Edinburgh’s, to impose a visitor levy of up to 7% will hit consumers in the pocket. Responding to the local government, housing and planning committee’s consultation on the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill, UKHospitality Scotland said a cap would mitigate the impact a levy would have on Scotland’s appeal as a leading visitor destination. It has called for the number of nights that can be charged to be set at five nights in the same accommodation, and for businesses to be reimbursed from the levy for their costs in implementing and administering the scheme. It also wants a guaranteed commitment that revenue raised through a levy will be exclusively used to develop, support or sustain tourism-related services and facilities, and for local authorities to consult with industry groups and businesses ahead of implementation – and then regularly where a levy is introduced. UKHospitality Scotland executive director, Leon Thompson, said: “Some of the proposals for the visitor levy are incredibly worrying, with major implications for competitiveness and costs for our businesses charged with collecting and administering the scheme. With no upper limit on the charge or ring-fencing of funds in legislation, there is a real risk that the introduction of a levy could see the costs to visitors spiral, reduce investment by accommodation businesses and hit the wider visitor economy.”
Almost a fifth of pub-goers check if pubs are environmentally friendly: Almost a fifth of pub-goers now check a pub’s green credentials before a pint or bite to eat, while also taking into account food waste levels and recycling rates, according to new research by Heineken UK. According to the research, almost half (48%) of Generation Z and Millennials would be more inclined to visit a pub if it was “eco-friendly” and took part in sustainable initiatives, and nearly half want more information about carbon footprints on menus, with 41% saying it would influence their order. Almost half (49%) would be more inclined to buy goods or services from a sustainable business over one that isn’t, with 38% willing to pay extra for more sustainable options. Yet 53% are unaware of the environmental impact visiting a pub, bar or restaurant would have and don’t know how to improve it. Avoiding single-use plastics, keeping social events local and walking to a venue were the top ways respondents would be open to being more sustainable. Chelsey Wroe, head of sustainability at Heineken UK, said: “Brits are passionate about sustainability – and this extends to pubs, bars, and restaurants. There are many ways pubs can be more environmentally conscious – through the products they sell, how they operate and being more energy efficient. Ordering a pint at the bar is something millions of us do, but do we ever think about how that beer gets into the glass?”

Company News:

Baer – the ideal scenario is to open 50 sites over the next three years, planning process frustrating: James Baer, managing director of Amber Taverns, the 165-strong, wet-led, freehold community pub operator, has told Propel that in an ideal scenario, the business would open 50 sites over the next three years, and has recently seen more pub opportunities coming to the market. Earlier this week, Amber reported current like-for-likes sales across its estate are up 12.5% compared with 2022 as it continues to look to add 14-16 sites to its estate a year. Baer told Propel that trade is “holding up well” after being “very strong” across the summer. On further expansion, he said: “In an ideal scenario we’d like to open say 50 pubs over the next three years, maybe more. But I think the key thing for us is always that they’re the right sites. So, rather than chase towns or chase numbers, are they going to be good sites? If you start chasing numbers, and you get one that isn’t performing as you wish, it’s not just the financial hit, it also becomes a huge distraction and waste of management time. Ultimately, there’ll be consolidation in the sector. But for us, the key is to keep growing, getting the right sites, keep investing in our core state and doing a good job for our customers and operators. We have invested a lot of money over the last year in our core state, which the shareholders and our lenders have been very supportive of. And it again goes back to the value point – value isn’t just the price of the pint, it’s the environment you're drinking it in.” On picking up more retail sites than pub sites over the past 18 months, Baer said that he still thinks that’s the case, but added that more pubs become available recently, and it has had offers accepted on those. He added: “The biggest frustration for us is the snail’s pace planning departments move at. We opened the pub in Chester in June, which we’re very pleased with. It was a Bonmarche shop that was closed, and it took ten months to get planning for an existing building on a high street that’s lying empty. It stopped us from investing and creating jobs. There were no objections, it was just the pace at which the planning departments work. I think that’s a much bigger issue for UK plc than just our industry.” On pricing, Baer added: “We have had to put some prices up, but I think as ever, the consumer is realistic and recognises that prices have gone up in supermarkets as well, and if the prices are seen as fair and reasonable and the offer is good, then there’s been no real resistance or negative feedback.” 
Roasting Plant Coffee secures sixth London site: US coffee shop concept Roasting Plant Coffee, which earlier this year secured $7m (£5.7m) of new funding, has secured its sixth site in London, in the City. Propel understands that it will open in the ex-Starbucks site in Gracechurch Street later this autumn. The business is understood to be close to securing a further site in the capital’s West End. At the same time, the business has lined up three new sites in the US, in Washington DC, for openings before the end of the year. Earlier this year, the company said the new funding would help in part with it goal of opening 345 new sites over the next five years in the UK and US. Propel understands the new investment was secured from Roasting Plant Coffee’s existing investor base, such as former Marks & Spencer chairman Lord Stuart Rose, and from new backers, including a number of high-net-worth individuals from New Zealand. Chief executive Jamie Robertson told Propel that the business planned to open three new sites in the UK this year before ramping up its expansion plans from the start of 2024. He said: “Of the 345 new sites we believe we can target, I would imagine a third will be in the UK, and the majority located in London. We will look to add three sites in both countries this year, and then we’ll push when we’re ready to do one a month, and then the next year follow that with two a month. It’s just making sure we get the right sites, because with our tech, we can do high-volume locations. What we’ve gained from the last three years is great data about what the business is capable of, so it just gives us more stretch in terms of locations.” Joshua Rose, of Raven Rose, acted on the Gracechurch Street deal.
Incipio Group to open new neighbourhood bar in London’s Angel today, drink prices to fluctuate with popularity on Wednesdays: Incipio Group – operator of venues including Pergola on the Wharf, The Prince and Lost in Brixton – will open its new neighbourhood bar in London’s Angel today (Friday, 15 September). The 400-capacity 411 will open in the Angel Building, at 409-411 St John Street, offering New York City-inspired food, cocktails and atmosphere. It will also be launching “Wall Street Wednesdays”, where the venue transforms into a bustling stock market for the evening. The drinks menu becomes “stock”, and as drinks become less popular, their price falls, and vice-versa. It will offer an extensive American-inspired cocktail list plus craft beer and wine. Among the food available will be a “Philly” cheesestake, meatball subs, pizza, burgers and salad. At the weekend, brunch options will include eggs benedict, French toast and waffles, alongside bottomless pizza and picantés on Saturdays for £40.
Ukrainian artisan bakery and restaurant chain to make UK debut: Khlebniy, an “artisan bakery and all-day breakfast restaurant” chain based in the Ukraine, is set to make its UK debut in London’s Notting Hill, Propel has learned. The Kiev-based business, which is led by Dima Zakhodiakin and Alina Kosichkina, operates circa 30 restaurants in the Ukraine. The company has secured the former Le Pain Quotidien site at 81-85 Notting Hill Gate for its UK debut, with plans to open further sites here. Last month, Propel revealed that Le Pain Quotidien’s parent company pumped £9.3m into the UK business before it went into administration. A statement of administrator’s proposal report by Sarah Rayment and Philip Dakin, of Kroll Advisory, said Le Pain Quotidien’s UK business sustained losses in each financial year since its incorporation in 2020 until they were appointed as administrators in June 2023. These losses, the report said, were funded by the parent company to the tune of £9.3m over the period. Towards the end of 2022, the company took steps to reduce its cost base by exiting loss-making restaurants and hiring a franchise consultant to find a franchise partner to take the business forward, but none was found. It closed two restaurants at the end of 2022 and three more in early 2023 and also entered into discussions with a Ukrainian based company to take over four of these restaurants. “However, due to the impact of the war in Ukraine, just prior to exchanging on these restaurants, the party advised that they would be unable to complete the transaction,” the report said. Propel understands that Khlebniy had also shown an interest in the ex-Le Pain sites in Victoria and Tottenham Court Road. Seb Howard Property acted on the Notting Hill Gate deal.
Howard Schultz steps down from Starbucks: Global coffee chain Starbucks has announced that Howard Schultz, the company’s founder, and former chairman and chief executive, has stepped down from its board of directors as part of a planned transition. Schultz previously stepped down as chief executive in March. Schultz transformed Starbucks from a small company selling only whole beans to one with more than 36,000 stores in 86 markets around the world. Schultz said: “As I reflect on my 41 years with the company, a foundation of love and creative, passionate customer experience has been built by more than five million partners (employees) around the world who have worked in the company. My gratitude to them and the millions of stakeholders and customers that have helped Starbucks endure is beyond measure. I look forward to supporting this next generation of leaders to steward Starbucks into the future as a customer, supporter and advocate in my role as chairman emeritus.” Mellody Hobson, independent Starbucks board of directors chair, added: “Howard’s vision, courage and deep love and responsibility for partners and this company created a blueprint for us all in how to lead through the lens of humanity. He put partners and shareholders above himself when he returned to Starbucks as chief executive in 2022, working tirelessly. On behalf of the board, I offer my deepest thanks and appreciation to him as he steps down.”
JD Wetherspoon makes student pricing offer available to all: JD Wetherspoon has made its student pricing, which comprises discounts across 30 drinks and 30 food items, available to all of its guests. Until Wednesday, 11 October,  products and categories at the group’s pubs will receive further discounts. These include Budweiser (draught), Corona (draught), classic cocktails (espresso Martini, strawberry daiquiri and Tommy’s Margarita), coffee/tea/hot chocolate, the company’s breakfast muffin deal, and 11-inch pizzas (full range). JD Wetherspoon head of marketing Jon Yates, said: “We are pleased to offer a superb range of food and drinks, at excellent prices, to all of our customers – not just students.”
Bob & Berts targeting six more sites across north of England in next 12 months as it prepares for Yorkshire debut: Cafe brand Bob & Berts is targeting six more openings across the north of England in the next 12 months as it prepares to make its Yorkshire debut. The opening in Wakefield on Monday, 25 September will be the Business Growth Fund (BGF)-backed company’s 28th UK store, creating more than 30 jobs. Situated in the city’s open-air Trinity Walk shopping centre, the 3,000 square-foot unit will have 120 covers – 92 inside and a further 28 outside. Founded in Portstewart in Northern Ireland in 2013 by Colin McClean, Bob & Berts now has seven sites in England and reported 58% sales growth in the 12 months ending 30 June 2022, reaching £17.8m. The company recently appointed former PizzaExpress operations manager, Dave Rayner, as its regional operations manager for England. He will lead the operations team to oversee the company’s roll out across the country as part of its strategic growth plan. McClean said: “We see Yorkshire as a key growth area for us and Dave’s experience of both branded and independent operations will prove extremely valuable in helping us to reach more communities across England.” Co-owner David Ferguson added: “We’ve seen great success across England over the past 12 months and we’ve identified a strong pipeline of new sites as part of our continued expansion and short-term objective of being a 50-plus site brand. Our roll out across England remains our focus for the next 12 months and we’ve identified six stores to open, with potential locations including Rochdale, Burnley, Southport, Warrington and Liverpool, to maintain our successful momentum.” Bob & Berts has a long-term goal of 70 stores.
Rare Restaurants opens first Gaucho in Wales: Rare Restaurants, the Martin Williams-led operator of the Gaucho and M Restaurants brands, has opened its first Gaucho restaurant in Wales. The restaurant has launched at The Hayes, in Cardiff city centre, and is set over two floors with a terrace. The ground-floor restaurant and bar seats up to 118 people, with the top-floor restaurant having 76 covers. The terrace has space for up to 20 people, and there is also an exclusive private dining room for a group of up to 26 on the top floor. It is the 20th Gaucho opened by Rare Restaurants following an opening in Covent Garden in June, its first London launch in more than a decade.
Former London McDonald’s franchisee switches to south coast operation, turnover up but profit down: Former London McDonald’s franchisee Luma Restaurants has switched to operating in the south coast region. It now operates ten restaurants in and around the Southampton area. Although it is not clear how many restaurants it was operating immediately before the switch, in 2019 it had a portfolio of five McDonald’s in central London. Director Jose Calaza Pernas, in the company’s accounts for the year ended 31 December 2022, said: “Since the balance sheet date, the company has relocated from its previous base in central London to operate ten restaurants on the south coast in and around Southampton.” It comes as the company reported turnover of £17,463,159 for the period, up from £12,205,212. Its pre-tax profit fell from £1,346,564 in 2021 to £727,086 as costs rose by £3,831,886, and government support dropped from £349,043 in 2021 to nothing. This compares with turnover of £15,232,900 and a profit of £321,700 in the last full year before covid, ending 31 December 2019. “Following the previous year’s positive trading experience, the year ended 31 December 2021 proved to be more challenging with the removal of the rates relief and reduced VAT for businesses in the hospitality sector,” Pernas added. “Turnover increased by 43% but gross profit margin reduced from 48% to 42% due to a combination of the aforementioned VAT rate increase and an increase in the costs of raw material. In common with many other businesses and industries, the director believes the trading environment in which the company operates will continue to be challenging but remains optimistic regarding future trading and is committed to increasing both future turnover and profitability and continuing the company’s reinvestment programme.” An interim dividend of £250,000 was paid (2021: £170,000). The business was incorporated in 2016 and Pernas is its sole director.
Heineken UK appoints new on-trade sales director: Heineken UK has appointed Will Rice as on-trade sales director following the departure of Stephen Watt. Rice has been with Heineken since 2013 in a number of commercial roles in the on-trade, off-trade and Star Pubs & Bars. For the last five months, he has been acting as interim on-trade sales director. Rice will be responsible for growing the on-trade together with customers and the continued growth of eazle, the company’s new business-to-business platform. Boudewijn Haarsma, managing director, Heineken UK, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Will officially to the management team. His long tenure with Heineken across many aspects of our business brings a huge breadth of knowledge and leadership experience, which together with his energy and passion for the industry, means he is best placed to lead the on-trade team.” Rice added: “Growing in partnership with our customers’ businesses and ensuring our customer experience continues to excel are key. Additionally, I’m excited about helping to build my exceptional team’s skills and capabilities and continuing to drive people’s growth.”
North Yorkshire hotel and spa pays back CBILS loan in full: North Yorkshire hotel and spa Swinton Park, in Ripon, paid back its Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme loan in full during the year ending 31 January 2023. The original loan amount was £500,000 and was due to mature in June 2024. It comes as the company reported turnover increased from £6,694,271 in 2022 to £6,638,885 in the period. But its Ebitda was down from £1,015,513 to £747,608 and its pre-tax profit fell from £723,216 to £431,163. This compares with turnover of £4,485,798, Ebitda of £331,225 and a pre-tax profit of £434,000 in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 January 2020. It received £6,000 in government grants compared with £319,542 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil).
New brewery opens with 100% solar powered brewing: A new brewery in Surrey is set to launch its first beer brewed using 100% solar power generated on site. One Planet Brewing will brew all its beer in this way, using the latest photovoltaic solar panels, which will generate enough electricity to power all its brewing. One Planet Brewing is a 15-hectolitre, electric brewery that has been launched with an initial investment of £250,000 from Hogs Back Brewery and will be based on the same site in Tongham, near Farnham. It will be run semi-autonomously, with an ambition to work with new investors and collaborative partners once trial brewing and marketing are completed. One Planet Brewing will also use home-grown hops wherever possible, grown adjacent to the brewery. Most of the beer will be sold in fully reusable kegs, mini kegs or glass flagons, with some going into 440ml aluminium cans. Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said: “Our investment to launch One Planet Brewing is an evolution of the ambitious sustainability agenda that has been fundamental to Hogs Back from the outset, and we are proud to have been the founding investor behind this new venture. It is, we believe, the first UK brewery to make the commitment to brew using only solar power generated on site.” One Planet Brewing’s mission is to “only take out what we put in”, and its brewing capacity will be limited by the amount of solar energy it can generate. 
Brixton baker opens debut site: A Brixton baker who started her business from her own home during the pandemic has opened her debut brick and mortar site. Maya Manwaring, who trained at the prestigious Ballymaloe Cookery School, started baking sourdough and buns during the pandemic, and it wasn’t long before the business was too big for her south London home. Following a successful crowdfunder, she has now opened Maya’s Bakehouse at 37 Tulse Hill, reports Hot Dinners. “I’ll be baking delicious sourdough bread made with carefully sourced flours and monthly seasonal speciality breads,” she said. “There will be all sorts of sweet bakes – all my classics like cookies, Basque cheesecake and brownies, but also all my new creations like nectarine custard crumble cake and chocolate custard babkas.” There are also future plans to branch out into sandwiches.
Balvenie completes first sector student scholarship programme: Balvenie, a collection of single malt whiskies crafted by David Stewart, has completed its first sector student scholarship programme. The scheme, in partnership with Westminster Kingsway College was launched in May – offering third year students at the college three simultaneous month-long placements at The Balvenie Distillery across three sector disciplines – chef, pastry chef and front of house. The students learnt about all aspects of whisky making, and as a paid placement, worked alongside distillery staff on a day-to-day basis. Two of the students already have roles lined up as commis chef at Core by Clare Smyth and commis pastry chef at the House of Commons. Ian Whitaker, luxury hospitality team leader at The Balvenie Distillery, said: “This programme has been incredibly well received by students and The Balvenie alike. Given the success of this year’s programme, we’re exploring extending this scholarship to become an annual commitment, building on our existing partnership with Westminster Kingsway College.”

Southern Chinese concept goes from pop-up to permanent: Southern Chinese concept Hainan House is set to go from pop-up to permanent. Having operated at pop-ups and supper clubs throughout the year, it is now preparing to open its debut bricks and mortar location, at the former Street Greek site in Upper Street in Islington. Hainan House showcases the cooking founder Sunny Wu grew up eating, taking its main influence from the Qiong cuisine of southern China, reports Hot Dinners. Opening on Saturday, 23 September, dishes include steamed aubergine with black vinegar dressing and fermented chilli; tiger skin quail's eggs with papaya, red chilli and coriander; and house-style poached poussin with pickled pineapple, ginger and garlic. There will also be a short list of wine and beer alongside green and black loose tea and coconut milk.

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