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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 21st Sep 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Imbiba-backed Ninja Warrior operator set to launch The Chase concept as it heads for London before going global: Imbiba-backed Ninja Warrior operator Leisure TV Rights (LTR) is set to launch an experiential concept based on ITV’s The Chase, as it heads for London before going global. Lisa Buckley, the former Wagamama UK operations director and Côte Brasserie managing director who was appointed LTR’s chief executive in February 2022, made the revelation at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference. At the end of her presentation, Buckley showed a short video titled “What’s coming next”, showing scenes from an immersive experience focused on the hit quiz show hosted by Bradley Walsh. Before showing the video, Buckley said: “We’re coming to London in 2024, I can’t say much more than that, although when we hit that, and we will nail it, the opportunities are endless. Going global is our aspiration, but always with feet on the ground and eyes on the stars. We’ve got lots to do, but we’re hugely committed to deliver real excellence. Coming together and group activities and memories have never been more desired or needed, and it’s on this basis of connection and fun that we base both our team and our guests, so we are resolutely going to grow. Sarah Hogg, the author, said different is better than better, and I can promise you this is going to be different.” It comes after Buckley told Propel in June that LTR is set to launch at least two new exclusive experiential concepts based around ITV programmes, with the first set to be up and running by next summer. Founded by entrepreneurs Mike and Jack Anderson, LTR is one of several Ninja Warrior UK operators, running sites in Leeds, Walsall, Liverpool and Bristol, and it is set to add two more Ninja Warriors by the first quarter of 2024. Buckley said it could potentially double its current Ninja Warrior estate but the main focus is to innovate and develop “exciting new concepts”. Buckley’s presentation will be among the videos from the Propel Multi-Club Conference that Premium subscribers will be given exclusive access to on Friday, 29 September at 9am. 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. 
 

Industry News:

David McDowall to speak at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, 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”. McDowall will discuss evolving the UK’s biggest pub business during a cost-of-living crisis, simplifying its structure and providing it the right tools to continue to thrive. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com. 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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Hotel operators among 56 new businesses joining updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: Hotel operators are among the 56 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 29 September, at midday. The updated database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features A Curious Group of Hotels, which was founded by Peter and Jessica Frankopan and currently operates two sites in the UK, the Drakes Hotel in Brighton and The Portobello Hotel in London. RAD Hotels, which operates eight hotels in Scotland and is owned by Robert and Vivien Kyle, is also featured. Anderbury – which operates the St George’s Hotel in Llandudno, Hatherley Manor Hotel near Gloucester and Rowton Hall in Chester – is also included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 4,000-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,983 companies. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to all the videos from this month's Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party. They will be sent 12 videos on Friday, 29 September at 9am. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database; and the Who's Who of UK Food and Beverage. 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. 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.

UKHospitality – sector facing almost billion-pound business rates bill due to stubborn rate of inflation: The sector is facing an almost billion-pound business rates bill due to the stubborn rate of inflation, UKHospitality has warned. The trade body said hospitality businesses will be “incredibly concerned” ahead of next month’s crucial figures, which determine the annual rise in business rates. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed inflation fell 0.1% to 6.7% in August while inflation in the UK hotel and restaurant industry fell from 9.6% in July to 8.3% in August. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Inflation slowing at a glacial rate will leave hospitality businesses incredibly concerned ahead of next month’s crucial figures, which determine the annual rise in business rates. In the current economic climate, rates rising with inflation, coupled with reliefs ending, would be catastrophic for businesses. It is unthinkable for the government to press ahead with its current plans, which will mean an almost billion-pound bill for the sector. A commitment from the government to freeze the business rates multiplier and commit to an extension of business rates relief is needed as soon as possible. In the short-term, implementing Ofgem’s recommendations for action in the business energy market would see energy bills fall and help rapidly cut inflation.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill added: “The drop in inflation is not telling the true story on the ground, with consumer and business challenges being exacerbated by the government grinding out a long-term strategy while ignoring the critical issues happening within key sectors today. Rising operational costs, coupled with reduced consumer spending, have created an even tougher environment for this vital sector within the UK economy.”

Retail and leisure openings at second highest level in nine years but independent hospitality sector sees ‘troubling net losses in first half of 2023: Retail and leisure openings are at the second highest recorded level in nine years, but the independent hospitality sector saw “troubling net losses” in the first half of 2023. A new report from the Local Data Company, which covers the performance of the UK retail and leisure market over the first half of 2023, shows 27,504 units closed, representing an 11% year-on-year increase. But the number of openings reached 23,504, the second-highest level since the first half of 2014. Retail parks were the only location type to record more openings than closures across the six months, with a net increase of 0.6% units, while retail park vacancy reached its lowest point since the first half of 2019 (8.1%) thanks to strong leasing momentum. Despite overall negative trends in high street performance, with a 0.7% net decline in units and only a 0.1% year-on-year decrease to vacancy rate over the period, the report said there is an underlying story of redevelopment. The percentage of high street units vacant for more than three years reached 5.1%, but the second quarter of 2023 marked a halt in this increase thanks to the ongoing redevelopment of space for non-retail uses. Overall, shopping centre vacancy fell from 19.4% in the first half of 2021 to 17.8% in the same period in 2023 – driven by rebased rents, reduced company voluntary arrangements and administrations, and the redevelopment of former department store units. Occupiers have also been consolidating their portfolios to focus on fewer, but larger and more prominent stores, the report said. Lucy Stainton, commercial director at the Local Data Company, said: “Net closures for chains have reached their lowest level since 2017, which is a testament to the recovery efforts of retailers and landlords, and some sectors of the industry – particularly retail parks, food categories and supermarkets – have continued to strengthen. That said, the picture for our independent retail and hospitality operators in the first six months of this year is unfortunately less positive, with a significant swing from record growth in the first half of last year to troubling net losses in the first half of 2023. As government support lessened and the energy crisis hit, we saw this disproportionally impact sectors like pubs.”

London restaurant ups service charge to 15% as customers claim US tipping culture taking over UK: A London restaurant has been slammed for upping its service charge to 15%, with customers saying it’s the latest sign of American tipping culture taking over the UK. L’Escargot, in Soho, charges 15% to customers on top of their regular bill, reports The Daily Mail. The French restaurant recently charged a £7.65 tip on a £51 bill, leading to one customer posting their receipt to social media platform Reddit, with others frustrated that such service charges are becoming commonplace in the UK. Unlike in the US, where hospitality workers rely on tips to survive, staff in UK restaurants are paid a living wage, and tips are traditionally only added to exceptional service. Wait staff in London will make a minimum of £11.95 an hour, whereas tipped employees in the US can make as little as $2.13 (£1.72) an hour before tips. However, discretionary service charges have become commonplace in British restaurants, particularly in London and tourist hotspots, with the average in the capital now reaching 12.5%, the newspaper said. While not mandatory, the charge is placed on a customer’s receipt before it is handed to them. The newspaper has approached L’Escargot for comment. One Reddit user said: “15% is crazy high”, while another added: “Yeah I’d probably let 10% slide but I’m asking for 15% to be removed.” Another posted: “We mock America for their awful wages and tipping culture, but service charge is basically the same concept in disguise.”

Food delivery companies able to sue NYC over food delivery commission cap: Food delivery companies DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats can sue New York City over a law limiting how much they can charge restaurants for their services, a US judge has ruled. Reuters reported that US District Judge Gregory Woods in Manhattan ruled that the plaintiffs, which also include Caviar, Seamless and Postmates, had adequately alleged that the commission cap violates the US Constitution and New York State Constitution by denying them their right to contract with the restaurants and forcing them to operate in the city at a loss. He said the city’s goal was “economic protectionism for local mom and pop stores and antagonism toward out-of-state, wealthy third-party platforms”. The delivery cap, which was introduced during the pandemic in March 2020 and made permanent in August 2021, aims to help small businesses by limiting restaurants’ third-party delivery commissions to 15% of the total order and all other charges, such as advertising, to 5%. However, the three food delivery services argue the cap undermines their contracts with restaurants. A DoorDash spokesperson said: “We are encouraged by this promising decision and remain steadfast that these price controls are harmful to New Yorkers, unnecessary, and unconstitutional. We stand with the New York City customers, merchants and communities that we serve as we will continue to litigate this matter in court.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a retail brand that specialises in the sale of coffee machine equipment across Europe, which is seeking a finance manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be given a significant degree of autonomy and thus will need to be a self-starter with confidence, resilience and initiative. This new position in the company will require an initial set-up of controls and processes.” The salary is up to £50,000 and the position is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire. For more information, email fabian@corecruitment.com.
 
Licensing update: John Gaunt & Partners licensing solicitors has just published its latest licensing update. This month, there’s been the confirmation that the off-sales exemption found in section 172F of the Licensing Act 2003 will continue until 31 March 2025. The full update can be accessed here.
 

Company News:

Ten Entertainment Group CEO – plenty of white space available for us to go after: Ten Entertainment Group chief executive Graham Blackwell has told Propel there is plenty of white space for the business to go after – both in terms of acquisitions and new-build opportunities. Speaking following the company’s interim results where year to date like-for-like sales to 10 September were up 4.7%, Blackwell said the property market was providing “significant” opportunities, with four sites already secured for 2024. He said: “In July, we opened a new centre in Milton Keynes on the site of a former Staples, and we’re delighted with the early trading. We understand our markets well, and this is a great example of a large city that does not have enough bowling lanes for the population. By creating a new and exciting space for customers, we can generate significant demand, even with a Hollywood Bowl just down the road. Given the population of the city, I think we could put in another one. In August, we opened our 51st centre, in Dundee, on the site of a former Toys‘R’Us. Unlike Milton Keynes, despite its large population, the leisure offering in Dundee is somewhat limited, and the opening weekend at the end of August was our most successful in the group’s history. When you think the UK population is around 70 million and there’s only about 300 bowling centres, there’s significant opportunity for us in the UK and plenty of white space available. In terms of acquisitions, we are always looking at opportunities.” Blackwell said all areas of the business were showing growth, with food and beverage seeing particularly strong sales. He added while the business now looked to change its menu quarterly, it recognised its customers mostly wanted “bowling friendly food” such as burger and chips and pizza. Seven refurbishments have been carried out so far this year at a cost of just over £5m. The number of karaoke rooms has doubled from 22 to 44 in the past year, while 12 centres now have Houdini escape rooms. The business has also added soft play areas at two sites. Blackwell said: “The key thing is to continually innovate, provide a great customer experience and value for money and look after our staff and we’re being rewarded with really strong sales. We’re giving our customers a reason to return, and that’s showing with the footfall performance, which is up 4.4% in the period, and we’re also increasing dwell time. Spend per head is slightly down at £15.73 from £15.90, but we have more than offset that by the growth in volume. We’re on track for another excellent year’s performance.”

Mollie’s Motel and Diner to open third site early in 2024 as potential pipeline of future venues identified, parent company loan increased by £15m as £8m drawn down: Budget motel concept Mollie’s Motel and Diner will open a third site early in 2024, in Manchester. It has also identified a potential pipeline of future venues, while its £10m parent company loan has been increased to £25m to help with the expansion plans, with £8m having been drawn down. The concept was launched early in 2019 with a debut site in Buckland, Oxfordshire. Director Darren Sweetland, in his statement accompanying the company’s first full accounts – for the year to 1 January 2023 – said: “The company’s largest site to date is currently under development in Manchester and is expected to open in early FY24. The company has made good progress on its immediate expansion plan, with target locations earmarked and a number of potential sites being explored with a view to securing its future pipeline of openings. In June 2023, the parent company of Mollie’s Motels increased its interest-free loan facility from £10m to £25m. At the date of the signing of the financial statements [6 September 2023], the company has drawn down £8m from this facility, which is being used to provide working capital and allow the company to expand across new sites.” It comes as the business reported its second site, in Bristol, has become Ebitda profitable following its first full year of trading. Group turnover was up from £4,666,172 in 2022 to £8,253,836 but its pre-tax loss grew from £2,032,910 to £2,224,141. Adjusted Ebitda stood at a loss of £1,341,217 compared with a loss of £1,072,324 in 2022 as the company invested in readying for its expansion. “An increase of 77% (in turnover) was principally driven by the full year effect of our second site opening in July 2021, Mollie’s Bristol, and the return to normal trading conditions,” Sweetland added. “The loss for the year represents the investment in the people, systems and infrastructure necessary to meet the company’s future expansion plans.” Government grants of £12,000 were received compared with £158,503 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). Mollie’s was conceived by Nick Jones, founder and chief executive of Soho House, and initially launched under the Soho House brand umbrella, but was spun-off as an independent entity in 2020. It is backed by a “strategic shareholder cohort” including majority shareholder Javad Marandi, who is also an investor in Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, along with co-shareholders David Elghanayan, co-founder and managing partner at investment firm Nema Capital, and Sweetland, former EMEA finance director of Soho House.

Buzzworks looking to explore new growth opportunities with trading ahead of expectations, three sites under offer: Scottish independent restaurant and bar operator Buzzworks Holdings is looking to explore new growth opportunities after being buoyed by strong trading results across its entire portfolio of 20 venues. The company said its confidence for expansion follows hot on the heels of the opening of its flagship new restaurant, Scotts in Greenock, which saw a record number of visitors and sales in its opening weeks. The company said it has three sites under offer and is trading “ahead of expectations”, with projected sales growth up more than 25% on the previous year. It said its newest offerings on the east coast – Herringbone Abbey Hill and 30 Knots – have contributed to the success. It added that Outboard in South Queensferry has also helped expand its customer base by bringing in a new audience with its dog friendly offering. Managing director Kenny Blair said: “It’s been a challenging climate for hospitality operators for some time and we’ve not been immune, but the tailwind of opportunity is here and we plan to catch it. Based on insights from across our portfolio, as well as our detailed understanding of the market, we believe there is an opportunity for significant growth in Scotland. You have to look for the opportunities and adjust – the best companies always do, and that’s what will drive us forward at pace. We have a successful format and vision that we won’t compromise on. When we open in a new location, our commitment is to invest in more than bricks and mortar. It’s not just opening a bar or restaurant to us. It’s about community, and if we can make living in a town just that little bit better, we’ve done our job. This year, we rolled out our biggest expansion to date in the east coast, and we’re already seeing the success of that. Our in-house development team has decades of experience and is fired up, and growth is on the horizon, with three new sites currently under offer. Our commitment to communities and our people is stronger than ever and we are confident that the good momentum we are seeing will put us in the best possible position to bring the Buzzworks buzz to more towns and suburbs in Scotland in the months and years ahead.”

Ivy Collection launches premier awards app: The Ivy Collection, the Richard Caring-backed restaurant chain, has launched a premier awards app with two tiers of free membership. Members can earn points to the equivalent of 5% of their spend across The Ivy Collection and The Ivy Asia portfolio, with other benefits including double points on their birthday (or the week prior/following), priority reservation services and a pass to The Ivy Club. Guests can earn points every time they dine at The Ivy Collection, The Ivy West Street, The Ivy Club, The Ivy Asia and Granary Square Brasserie, and use them to pay further balances at participating restaurants across the group, including private dining rooms. Starting off as a “Green Membership”, guests who make ten or more visits in a 12-month period will be automatically upgraded to a “Gold Membership”, where added benefits include a pass to The Ivy Club for two people each year and access to priority reservation services. Laura Mills, managing director of The Ivy Collection, said: “Here at The Ivy, we’ve always strived to exceed our guests’ expectations, and we’re excited to introduce The Ivy premier rewards app, designed with you in mind. It’s not just an app; it’s an invitation to an elevated dining experience through exclusive rewards and seamless reservations.” As a limited time launch offer, until Wednesday, 4 October, app users can order a robata grilled rump steak with wild mushroom sauce, truffle and Parmesan chips for £14.95 and earn double points at The Ivy Collection restaurants, excluding The Ivy Dawson Street Dublin and The Ivy West Street. In addition, guests who have downloaded the app – until Thursday, 21 December – will be entered into a draw to win an exclusive private dining experience for ten people.

Good Egg Restaurants returns to London for fourth site: Good Egg Restaurants is set to return to London for its fourth site. The concept, which combines Tel Aviv food culture with exceptional British produce, was launched by Joel Braham, Alex Coppard and Oded Mizrachi in Stoke Newington in 2015. A second site in Soho opened in 2017, and while both locations survived an administration process in 2019, the Soho venue has since closed. A deli in a separate part of Stoke Newington to the restaurant opened in 2022, and earlier this year, the concept moved out of London for the first time when it opened a restaurant in Margate, Kent. It will now open its fourth site in Camden Stables, at 732-736 North Yard off Chalk Farm Road, on Monday, 2 October. The 70-cover restaurant (40 inside and 30 outside) will offer both dine-in and takeaway options. Like its sister sites, the independent all-day restaurant will serve up dishes inspired by the flavours of the Middle East, the cuisine of Tel Aviv’s street food stalls and the food sold in the classic Jewish delis, grand cafes and bagel bakeries of New York and Montreal. A new menu will see the introduction of Knafeh Ka’ak – a Middle Eastern speciality consisting of crisp kataifi pastry with thyme, orange syrup and cheese served in a sesame coated bagel – which cannot currently be found elsewhere in the UK. There will also be a selection of cocktails and natural and biodynamic wines with a changing by-the-glass offering. Mizrachi said: “We are excited to bring The Good Egg to Camden. Like the other restaurants, Camden will offer a fun, relaxed service and a menu full of bright, bold and colourful sharing-style dishes, inspired by our heritage, our travels and our upbringing.” 

Collins – rising food costs have forced prices up, no shift in consumer behaviour: Nick Collins, chief executive of café bar operator Loungers, has said rising food costs had forced the company to put up prices by 8% across its 238-strong estate over the last year. He told the BBC: “In normal years, we’d increase our prices by around 1.5% or 2%.” However, Collins said he had seen “absolutely no shift in customer behaviour” and people were not “tightening their belts”. He said: “If they were you’d see fewer people out at the start of the week. You’d see less spending as you approach payday...We haven't seen any of that.” Last week, Loungers opened the 200th site under its Lounge concept and said it expected to create in excess of 1,000 jobs in the current year. The business said each new Lounge opening results in an investment of nearly £1m into the local high street and the creation of up to 30 jobs, on average. Loungers recently stated its firm belief that there is scope for at least 600 Lounges across the UK. It intends to open 34 new sites across its three brands – Lounge, Cosy Club and Brightside – in its current financial year alone.
 
Uber Eats to introduce new ‘money and time saving’ features: Uber Eats is to introduce what it has said will be several new “money and time saving” features to its app. Launching “later this year or in 2024”, they will include an artificial intelligence assistant, which consumers can chat with to explore new dishes and cuisines, find deals and easily reorder favourite meals. It is also introducing the Uber Eats Sales Aisle, which combines promotions and deals into one easy-to-find space, saving consumers the hassle of long searches through the app. Both features will launch in the UK as well as the US, while two others will launch only in the US. These are geared towards American recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and healthcare benefit payments.
 
US whiskey distillery to bring immersive drinks experience to London: US whiskey distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, is set to bring an immersive drinks experience to London. Launching in December at 32-33 Long Acre in Covent Garden, Buffalo Trace Distillery London will be the first time the distillery has expanded outside of the US. Featuring “an immersive, sensorial experience that brings a taste of Kentucky to London” guests will embark on “a narrative journey culminating in an exclusive tasting experience” at one of two bars. “Buffalo Trace Distillery London is the first home for our American whiskeys outside of Kentucky, and we are honoured to put down roots in the UK,” said Jake Wenz, the distillery’s chief executive and president. “Many spirits consumers are more familiar with bourbon’s global whiskey counterparts, and Buffalo Trace Distillery London aims to offer a space to learn more about – and hopefully fall in love with – our bourbon whiskey.” Guests can select from one of two tasting experiences, which range in price depending on selection, up to £29.99. The 2,000-square-foot space will also include a retail store, and while walk-in guests for the experience are welcome, pre-booking is advised. “For more than 200 years, our distillery has been defined by a dedication to one craft: making the finest American whiskey,” said Andrew Duncan, global brand director. “Our London location will bring that genuine, authentic experience to a new generation of global fans.”

London West African takeaway concept set to open fourth site: London West African takeaway concept Alhaji Suya is set to open its fourth site in the capital, in Brixton. Nigerian owner Aliyu Dantsoho opened the original Alhaji Suya at 15 Peckham Park Road in Peckham in 2018, followed by a second site, at Unit 15 Angerstein Business Park in Greenwich’s Horn Lane, in 2020. Site number three, at Arch 210 Carter Place off the Walworth Road, opened in 2021, and the latest will launch next month at Kiosk 9 in Brixton’s Station Road. Among the dishes on offer will be suya, kilishi and jollof, reports Hot Dinners. “If you’re new to Hausa cuisine, we recommend you start by trying our tozo suya, or beef suya, topped with yaji, a special spice blend,” said Dantsoho. “We’re excited to bring our signature food and flavours to Brixton.”

Chopstix launches degree programme: Fast growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix has bolstered its programme of employee development with the launch of two new learning programmes. The company said its “Chopstix Degree” programme and “Pick ‘n’ Mix Diploma” will further upskill its team of 1,300 employees and help fast track staff to senior leadership roles. The business said it has an “industry leading” 90-day retention rate of more than 90%, and believes these two study programmes will be fundamental in maintaining and improving on this figure. The Chopstix degree launches this year, in partnership with Arden University, with the business expecting 50 Chopstix colleagues to register for the programme in the first year. The three-year course will be open to all Chopstix staff meeting length of service criteria, and provide them with an opportunity to gain a recognised qualification in chartered management. Chopstix said it will be investing back into the cohort, with those enrolled in the course given the opportunity to present their work to the brand’s board and receive feedback from leaders in their field. The diploma, meanwhile, is purely funded by the business, in partnership with IBAT College Dublin. Equivalent to a level 6/7 qualification, it will offer Chopstix employees the chance to study across 45 different modules so that each employee can tailor their development to their own interest and career goals. The business said 184 positions were filled last year via internal promotions, and it hopes investing in staff development will improve progression rates even further, with its people team setting the target of filling 90% of vacancies internally. 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.

Roop Partap Choudhary to open second Colonel Saab site: Indian hotelier Roop Partap Choudhary is to open a second restaurant in London under his Colonel Saab concept. Choudhary, who is also the executive director of the Jewel Group of Hotels and managing director of Hotel Noor Mahal in Karnal, launched the Indian restaurant concept in London’s Holborn in 2021. He has now acquired the former Les Deux Salons restaurant site in William IV Street, Covent Garden, which most recently was home to the Jones Family Affair. The new Colonel Saab site will offer a bar, lounge, mezzanine and dining area, as well as two private dining rooms. The concept has been dubbed a “love letter” to his family and India, with the name Colonel Saab originating from his father, Colonel Manbeer, who served in the Indian army. Choudhary said: “We opened Colonel Saab two years ago to celebrate India’s diverse cultures and introduce the capital to the authentic flavours and textures, which are lovingly prepared at homes, street markets and royal kitchens across India. We are humbled that our Holborn restaurant was welcomed so enthusiastically by the capital, that we are now able to open a second Colonel Saab, near Trafalgar Square.” DCL acted on the William IV Street deal.

Hakassan owner opens first UK site for coastal Italian concept: Hakassan owner Tao Group Hospitality has opened the first UK site for its coastal Italian concept, Lavo. The flagship restaurant in London’s Marylebone has launched at The BoTree hotel – the latest London property from large scale independent hotel chain Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Lavo joins Tao’s London portfolio that includes the Michelin-starred Hakkasan at Hanway Place and Mayfair, as well as Yauatcha, the Cantonese dim-sum tea house with sites in Soho and the City. The menu, created by group chief culinary officer Ralph Scamardella, includes signature dishes such as Tagliatelle al Limone infused with marjoram, sweet butter and Kaluga caviar; whole grain, single-source flour pizzas; and a Wagyu meatball topped with whipped ricotta. The BoTree Bar offers dishes including oyster on the half shell with limoncello mignonette; a caviar sandwich with egg salad, caviar and homemade chips; and truffle grilled cheese with hot honey. Noah Tepperberg, co-chief executive for Tao Group Hospitality, said: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with The BoTree on this new dining and entertainment concept and excited to grow our London footprint with this addition to the West End’s fine dining scene. Introducing Lavo to the city represents an exciting chapter for Tao Group and our development globally.” The 199-room BoTree, offering 30 suites, several bars and two restaurants, is a sister venue to Covent Garden’s Middle Eight hotel and Westminster’s The Guardsman.

Clermont Hotel Group makes two new senior appointments: Clermont Hotel Group has made two new senior appointments. Mark Saunders has taken up the newly created role of sales and marketing director, while Stuart Yeates has been hired as group revenue and M&E director. Saunders has spent more than 20 years working in marketing roles across the hospitality, consumer goods, retail and leisure industries, with senior roles at JD Wetherspoon, Greene King, The Big Table Group and, most recently, Splendid Hospitality Group. Yeates joins the business with more than 17 years’ experience in revenue management, having worked across Travelodge, InterContinental Hotels Group, Amaris Hospitality and, most recently, Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland. Gavin Taylor, chief executive of Clermont Hotel Group, said: “Both roles are fundamental to strengthening our brand, marketing and digital strategy as we build on last year’s record financial results. Their expertise will be invaluable as we continue to drive the business forward, reinforce our position as the largest hotel owner-operator in London, and explore the potential for future growth and expansion.” Saunders and Yeates will join the group – which has a portfolio of brands including The Clermont, Thistle, The Cumberland and new food and beverage concept space SOUND – at the end of September.
 
SSP’s net-zero targets rubber-stamped: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has had its net-zero targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the global body for validating emissions reductions targets. SSP first set out its net-zero ambition in December 2021, with several SBTi-approved near and long-term targets. These include reducing absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 60% by 2032, from a 2019 base year, and absolute Scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services and capital goods by 35%, within the same time frame. It also wants to reduce absolute Scopes 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions by 90% by 2040, again from a 2019 base year. SSP has already made tangible progress in delivering Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions reductions with a 36% decrease by the end of 2022. For Scope 3 emissions, which represent nearly 90% of its footprint, SSP is working in collaboration with its clients, brand partners and suppliers. It is also designing healthier and more sustainable recipes and menus and increasing its range of plant-based offerings. By the end of 2022, 33% of SSP’s own-brand meal offerings were plant-based or vegetarian, and 85% of its own-brand coffee units in its North America, continental Europe and UK & Ireland regions were offering non-dairy milk alternatives. Patrick Coveney, chief executive of SSP Group, said: “Reaching net-zero will be a challenging undertaking and not something that we can do in isolation. We have a clear roadmap for the next decade and beyond and, with the strength of our commitment, strategy and partnerships, we believe we can, together, drive positive change across the food travel sector.”

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