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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 28th Sep 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Shepherd Neame CEO – London pubs seeing record trade, sector M&A activity will be quiet in near future as operators focus on inward investment: Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame, has told Propel that some of its London pubs are experiencing record trading and the capital is now “normalising” again after covid. Speaking following the company’s full-year results where Shepherd Neame reported record revenue of £166.3m, Neame also said he believes there won’t be much activity in the M&A market in the near future because many companies are concentrating on their own operations as they build back from the pandemic and deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Full-year retail like-for-like sales inside the M25 were up 30.6%, driven largely by increased momentum in the return to offices, and Neame believes there is still more to come. “Some of our London pubs are reporting record figures,” said Neame. “A lot of this is being driven by tourists. We’re seeing US visitors returning, but there are still parts of the world – China for example – where that hasn’t really happened yet. So, while we have some real momentum at our sites in the capital, we think there’s still more to come. Trading between Tuesday and Thursday is very resilient and Fridays are coming back, and it’s now a four-day working week rather than three. The weekends are busy as well. We’ve recently refurbished the Tom Cribb in Panton Street and trading has been fantastic.” Neame said across the estate, overall volume is “quite stable”, but footfall has not yet returned to pre-covid levels. While he admitted the business has had no choice to put up prices due to the rate of inflation, he is mindful of the impact on consumers and said the company has done a lot of work to mitigate costs. He said the business had expected energy costs to be about £5.7m, but they had in fact come in at £8.9m. Neame said the business has worked hard on its food options, where like-for-like sales were up 3% on last year, to offer more choice and seasonal dishes and improve presentation. While the business remains open to acquisition opportunities, Neame said the focus was on inward investment and believes the same could be said for most of the industry. “I think most operators, including ourselves, are concentrating on building some momentum after the past few years,” he said. “We’ve got a good pipeline of refurbishments and think there’s loads of untapped potential in our existing business. Over the next two to three years, I think we’ve got plenty to keep us busy.” Looking ahead, Neame added: “I think it will be another year of steady progress. We’ve not seen that softening in consumer behaviour that others have. What we’ve not had in quite a few years, because of one thing or another, is that great Christmas period, but hopefully we will this year.”
 

Industry News:

Yolk founder Nick Philpott to speak at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: Yolk founder Nick Philpott 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”. Philpott will discuss the development of the “fine fast food” concept, and how it is looking to muscle into the Pret, Itsu and Greggs space. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Premium subscribers to receive updated Database of Multi-Site Companies and conference videos tomorrow: The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, will be sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Friday, 29 September), at midday. It will include 55 new multi-site companies operating a total of 621 sites, taking the number of companies featured to 2,982. The 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. Premium subscribers will also receive access tomorrow to all the videos from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party. They will be sent 12 videos 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.
 
Sector vacancies fall 33% as workforce strategy delivers success but ‘plenty more to do’: Sector vacancies have fallen 33% with the help of UKHospitality’s workforce strategy – but “there is plenty more to do”. Commitments made in the strategy, launched in May 2022, have helped bring down hospitality vacancies by 57,000 at its peak. In a significant update on the strategy’s progress since its launch, the sector now boasts record levels of employment in accommodation and foodservice, with 2.7 million people employed, according to the Office for National Statistics. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “High levels of vacancies have plagued hospitality for years, and what this update shows is that huge progress had been made to reduce the overall vacancy rate. We can’t kid ourselves that the work is complete because there is plenty more to do, but what we can and should do is recognise the achievements driven by our Workforce Strategy. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m confident we’re on the right path to making hospitality’s offering top of class across the economy.”
 
Zonal – most popular day to make Christmas Day bookings is 11 October: The most popular day for people making reservations for Christmas Day is 11 October, followed by 5 October, according to new research by hospitality technology supplier Zonal. For Christmas Day, the average booking size is for five people, while the average booking size over the entire festive period is for ten guests. When it comes to larger festive bookings, the most popular dates on which to make a reservation are 29 November, followed by 28, 27 and 22 November, according to data from 2022. A third of consumers now use social media to book tables. Olivia FitzGerald, chief sales and marketing officer at Zonal, said: “With December being the most important time of the year for many hospitality businesses, promoting Christmas bookings and juggling table plans to maximise availability will help operators make the most of the festive period.”
 
Cask ale seen as essential by four in five drinkers: Cask ale is seen as essential to the UK’s pub culture by four in five (80%) drinkers, according to a new survey. The study, conducted by brewer and retailer Greene King in support of Cask Ale Week, showed that despite the rise in prominence of alternative drinks such as lager and cider, the vast majority of British beer fans still believe cask ale plays a vital role in the UK pub landscape. Almost half of respondents (43%) believe a pint of cask ale is the freshest drink you can order at the bar, more so than a pint of lager (36%) and notably more than a pint of coke (14%). Aside from wanting to expand their choice of drinks, almost three in ten (27%) respondents drink cask ale because they value the brands that brew it, while more than a quarter (26%) enjoy drinking cask because of its superior taste. Cask Ale Week runs until Sunday (1 October).
 

Company News:

Exclusive – The Big Table Group appoints Debbie Husband as MD of leisure division: The Big Table Group, the operator of Las Iguanas, Banana Tree, Café Rouge and Bella Italia, has appointed Debbie Husband, formerly of Rank Group and Travelodge, as managing director for the leisure division its recently acquired from The Restaurant Group (TRG), Propel has learned. Earlier this month, TRG agreed the sale of the division, which includes the Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands, to The Big Table Group for £1. The group said it had entered into an agreement for the sale of the business, comprising 75 trading sites and associated restaurant and management team employees. As part of the transaction, TRG said it would pay a cash contribution of £7.5m. Husband, who will join The Big Table Group in October, most recently held the position of managing director at the Rank Group, having joined the business as national director of operations in 2017. Before that, she spent 15 years at Travelodge, holding several senior operational roles in her time at the hotel company. At the same time, James Pidduck will be taking on the finance director role for the division. Pidduck will retain his current role of finance director for Bella Italia, covering the finance director responsibility across both brands. Alan Morgan, chief executive of The Big Table Group, said: “Debbie is an outstanding operator and I’m delighted that she has decided to join at an exciting time for our business. We’re looking forward to welcoming her to The Big Table team.” Also included in the division are the Firejacks, Coast To Coast, Filling Station and EST brands. The deal is expected to complete at the end of next month, taking The Big Table Group to operating over 220 restaurants across the UK.
 
BrewDog CEO – we’d have been in real trouble if Vegas had failed but we’d love to do more large-scale locations, further hotels also part of future plans: James Brown, chief executive of brewer and retailer BrewDog, has said the business would have been in “real trouble” if its Las Vegas site had failed – but they’d love to do more large-scale locations. At 30,000 square feet, the site, which opened in December 2022, is BrewDog’s largest bar globally, beating its flagship Waterloo site, which opened four months earlier, by 3,000 square feet. “Without being dramatic, we spent $20m on this,” Brown told Casual Dining 2023. “It was so big that if it failed, we’d have been in real trouble as a company. I’m pleased to say it’s been very busy, but it was such a big risk. Waterloo was also a big risk as we signed the lease in 2021, just coming out of covid, but we believed people still wanted to spend time with each other, and hospitality was the best place to do that. We’d love to do more BrewDog Waterloos and we’re actively looking for big sites both in major cities internationally, and more in London if we can do them.” Among BrewDog’s immediate pipeline are openings in Amsterdam and Hong Kong over the next month, followed by Gatwick airport in November, and then Denver either late in 2023 or early in 2024. The first of a nine-bar deal in Dubai could also see a new beach bar concept make its debut. Having grown to 126 sites globally, BrewDog also operates three UK hotels and wants to add more to its estate. “We’d love to do more hotels,” Brown added. “We have some in the pipeline we can’t talk about yet, but we’re talking to people about hotels. We locked in a format of 15-20 rooms, but we think we’ve got an opportunity to take two or three floors of a bigger hotel and make a separate BrewDog reception, so we think we can work with larger format hotels too.” Among the mistakes BrewDog won’t be repeating, however, is the “community dive bar” concept in Homerton, London, which Brown said was “a disaster” and closed within five weeks of opening.

Mizon – we’re not averse to taking on debt if it’s for the right opportunity, keen to add rooms: Heydon Mizon, joint managing director of McMullen, has said the Hertfordshire brewer and retailer is not averse to taking on debt if it’s for the right opportunity and is desperate to add more rooms to its estate. Mizon said the company owns the freeholds to nearly all its estate of 84 managed pubs and smaller tenanted division – but joked “it has taken us nearly 200 years”. Speaking at this month’s Propel Multi Club Conference, Mizon said: “We generally operate with no or low amounts of debt – we’re not averse to taking on debt if it’s for the right opportunity, but it’s not our constant companion. All our recent acquisition and investment has been from profit, and most of our profit comes from our managed pub estate. Working to the cash we have is our model, but that was too slow for the growth we wanted to see, so we’ve churned our estate really hard and paid for well over half our acquisitions with disposals.” McMullen currently has 40 rooms in its estate, consisting of a 35-bedroom hotel and five above a pub in Fitzrovia, “which are tiny but have 100% occupancy”. Mizon said: “We would love more rooms. We applied for some in Soho and were turned down twice, but I think we’ll get them eventually. We applied for some in Covent Garden which again got turned down, but I think we’ll get them eventually. We are under-roomed but we’re desperately hopeful.” With an estate which grew out from its Hertford base to take in “Cambridge to Hampshire and everywhere in between”, Mizon said retaining some form of local knowledge gives the company an advantage in acquisitions – with its current pipeline including pubs in Brentwood, Epsom, Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Watford and two in London. “We’re often competing with residential developments and end up paying full price,” he said. “But sometimes when you’re local you know a little bit more about an area than someone further away. My local village pub had been closed on and off for ten years and was about to become a care home, but we’ve turned it into a £400,000 Ebitda pub. We also had someone on our team point out a site which had planning permission for a pub which hadn’t been built – it wasn’t going to work, but we suddenly saw loads of applications for housing going in, and it’s now a £650,000 Ebitda pub for us. It’s just having that little bit of local knowledge.” Mizon added that operating McMullen pubs over several brands “allows us to get maximum market share out of pubs that may not be that great otherwise and means we can acquire a wider variety of properties”. He said: “If we ran 84 pubs with similar menus it would still be busy, but it wouldn’t be quite as complex as running several brands – but it does give us an opportunity in terms of acquisition and investment.” Mizon’s presentation will be among the videos from the Propel Multi-Club Conference that Premium subscribers will be given exclusive access to tomorrow (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.

Dishoom MD – we’re starting to feel the joy in hospitality again but Christmas train strikes could nail the sector, excited but nervous for launch of new all-day café concept: Brian Trollip, managing director of Indian restaurant group Dishoom, has said we are “starting to feel the joy” in hospitality again, but that Christmas train strikes could “nail the sector”. He told Casual Dining 2023: “It’s been difficult trying to get on the front foot again, but it feels like the ground is starting to firm up under our feet. Everything seems to have stabilised and we’re starting to feel the joy in hospitality again. However, more train strikes could potentially nail the sector this Christmas, and a lot of independent restaurants may not come out the other side. We lost 3,500 bookings last Christmas. We need to get everybody around the table to have a conversation, but it looks like it will just get kicked down the line again, which is worrying.” Train strikes will not, however, change Dishoom’s strategy of targeting city centre over suburban sites, as “we want to be where the buzz is”. Trollip also said he is “excited but nervous” for the launch of Dishoom’s new all-day café concept, Permit Room, which will open in Brighton at the start of November. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for ten years but it’s the first new thing we’ve done at Dishoom in 13 years, so I’m excited but nervous,” he said. “It will be an all-day experience where you can come and have some amazing cocktails in the evening, then we’ll cure your hangover with an amazing breakfast, and you could still be there three or four hours later with your laptop and a cup of chai. There will be no restrictions and it should be a really fun place.” Trollip added that in January 2020, he was in the US exploring possible international expansion, but after covid hit, the focus returned to “what we were already doing”. He said: “It’s not off the cards, but we’ve got young families now, and it would have to be something really exciting to make up for the sacrifices to family life.”
 
PizzaExpress unveils biggest ever revamp of its retail range: PizzaExpress has unveiled the biggest ever revamp of its retail range, including the launch of a new premium range called “Restaurant Favourites”. The Paula MacKenzie-led business, which operates circa 360 sites in the UK and Ireland, said retail is a critical component of the brand’s strategy, with circa £110m retail sales value. PizzaExpress is sold in over 4,000 supermarkets across all major outlets, with Tesco the biggest partner. The business said the 18-month transformation, its retail channel’s first in eight years, incorporates new and improved recipes, new packaging designs and refreshed displays in store. A new tiering system also focuses on the brand’s everyday ‘Icons’ pizzas and the new premium ‘Restaurant Favourites’. PizzaExpress’ retail director Rich Mills said: “For the first time, we’re showing up to our customers more cohesively in line with our wider brand – better utilising our distinctive assets – from our flavours (we literally invented the ’American’ pizza), to our iconic filagree – we’ll be standing up and standing out on the shelves. While we might be the original branded pizza in stores, we have no intention to stop innovating and delivering for our customers, with our omnichannel focus offering us more opportunities to grow the PizzaExpress brand.”

Young’s acquires further pub from Marston’s, first in New Forest: Young’s has acquired a fourth freehold pub from Marston’s and its first in the New Forest, Propel has learned. The Huntsman of Brockenhurst joins the now 41-strong Young’s Rooms collection and follows the acquisitions from Marston’s of the 260-cover, 4,227 square-foot Libertine in Bournemouth; the 73-cover, 11-room White Hart in Chippenham; and the 149-cover, 15-room White Lion in Tenterden earlier this summer. All four pubs were part of Marston’s Revere Pub Company division. Located on Lyndhurst Road, The Huntsman of Brockenhurst dates to the 18th century and is home to a bar, dining area, covered outdoor terrace and garden along with 13 bedrooms, including nine in a converted former stable block. Simon Dodd, chief executive at Young’s, said: “Following our recent acquisitions of three freehold Marston’s pubs, The Huntsman offers us a fantastic opportunity for growth in an area where Young’s is yet to have a geographical presence. The Huntsman is a traditional country inn steeped in history, which matches Young’s expansion strategy to celebrate British pubs with heritage, and we will be working closely with the excellent team to further develop their premium food, drink and rooms offering.” Young’s now operates 231 premium pubs 
and 831 bedrooms in total.

Trejo’s Tacos secures debut UK site, plans European roll out: Trejo’s Tacos, the US taco concept from actor Danny Trejo, has secured its debut site in the UK, in London’s Notting Hill, as part of plans to roll out the brand across Europe over the next five years. The brand, which operates seven restaurants in the US, including Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts, will open on the former Fiend restaurant site at 299-301 Portobello Road later this year. The concept will occupy a two-storey, 3,000 square-foot site that will have space for 70 covers inside and a further 30-cover capacity on an outdoor terrace. It will have a cocktail bar as well as an underground “speakeasy” featuring DJs for the after-dinner crowds. As revealed by Propel last year, the London-based venture will be led by restaurateur Jerome Armit, former chief operating officer of food and beverage consultancy firm Truffle Hunting and advisor to Shiva Hotels, Bourne Capital and InterContinental Hotels Group, alongside film producer and financier Sean O’Kelly. The advisory team includes Yianni Papoutsis, co-founder of Meatliquor. Last year, the business launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £1m to fund the opening of a flagship site in central London and is thought to be looking at further sites in the capital. Armit said: “We knew there was a huge gap in the market here in the UK for authentic and healthy Mexican Food, and we could not be more excited to be working with Danny and Ash to bring this world-leading brand to the UK. The diversity and cultural hub of West London’s iconic Portobello Road is the perfect home for our first site.” Nick Garston, of the Found Agency, acts for Trejo’s Tacos, while Guy Marks acted for landlord NorthStar Capital on the Notting Hill deal. 
 
Butlin’s becomes first place in Europe to offer Papa John’s as buffet option: Butlin’s has become the first place in Europe to offer Papa John’s as a buffet option as well as takeaway. Butlin’s guests in Minehead are able to tuck into an unlimited choice of fresh pizza, pasta and salad. In addition to Minehead, Butlin’s will add Papa John’s to the menu at its Skegness resort next month. Belinda Reed, operations director at Butlin’s said: “We’re delighted to be opening two new Papa John’s restaurants in Minehead and Skegness. This now means Butlin’s is the only place in Europe that you can enjoy a Papa John’s buffet offering unlimited fresh pizza, pasta and salad. We’ve been serving Papa John’s as a takeaway to our guests in Bognor Regis for many years now and it’s been a firm favourite.”
 
Bread Ahead appoints franchise and business development director: Independent bakery and baking school Bread Ahead has appointed Richard Mudie as its franchise and business development director, Propel has learned. Mudie has a wealth of experience in the franchise and business development world, having held senior leadership roles in the Middle East, South Africa and now the UK. He has facilitated franchise partnerships with leading international brands across industry segments including food and beverage, fashion, home, footwear, accessories and beauty and has worked across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, Europe and the UK. Bread Ahead, founded by Matthew Jones, made its international debut in June last year in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The opening was a joint venture with the Bugshan family. Bread Ahead’s second international outlet opened at The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and will be followed by the launch of a flagship outlet in the Saudi capital Riyadh in October. The Bugshan family has signed a master franchise agreement that will also see Bread Ahead open sites in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco. Jones said: “Following our successful master franchise agreement for the MENA region, Richard will drive our international development strategy as we source and secure global franchise partnerships for Bread Ahead.” Bread Ahead also operates six sites in London. In February, Jones told Propel the business was looking to open 40 sites over the next three years.
 
Hydes has ‘strong trading momentum’ as it reports record turnover: North west brewer and retailer Hydes has said it has “strong trading momentum” as it reported turnover increased to a record £34.1m for the year to 2 April 2023 compared with £28.3m the previous year. The business, which is marking its 160th anniversary, also made an operating profit of £2.2m, increasing marginally on the previous year, which was boosted by government support in the form of grants and rates relief (£1.2m), plus VAT reductions on food and soft drinks. Hydes was impacted by significant cost increases in food and consumable goods. Staff recruitment, particularly in kitchens, also presented a challenge, resulting in higher payroll costs across its managed pub estate. Chairman Richard Lancaster said the foresight to fix energy costs and negotiate long term supplier contracts allowed the business to limit sales price increases throughout the year. The Jolly Thresher in Lymm and The John Millington in Cheadle Hulme both underwent extensive refurbishments, with The Jolly Thresher performing strongly throughout the year to exceed all expectations, while sales following the John Millington refurbishment have been “exceptional”. Further investments were made at various other sites including the Sam Brooks in Sale, The Golden Lion in Rossett and Alfred’s in Macclesfield. All managed public houses in the estate are now fully Hydes branded. In October 2022, Hydes completed its first freehold acquisition since September 2015, purchasing the former police station in Heswall. The Harry Beswick has seen more than £3.6m in investment and is opening in November this year. Two disposals from the tenanted estate took place during the year, with the Carlton Tavern in Chester sold to existing tenants for £175,000 and The Eagle Hotel in Buxton sold for £170,000. Lancaster said: “In a year marked by unprecedented challenges in the hospitality industry, Hydes has demonstrated remarkable resilience, innovation and customer loyalty, resulting in a record-breaking turnover in its 160th year of operation. We enter the new financial year with strong trading momentum and confidence we will continue to deliver on our strategy.” Hydes operates nearly 50 pubs.
 
Samyukta Nair to take Jamavar and MiMi Mei Fair to Dubai: Restaurateur Samyukta Nair is to take two of her concepts to Dubai. Launching this winter, Nair, who runs the LSL Capital hospitality group with her father Dinesh, will introduce its Michelin-starred pan-Indian restaurant Jamavar and its Chinese dining destination MiMi Mei Fair to Dubai’s dining scene. “Dubai is renowned as a worldwide destination for the gastronomic connoisseur, and we are delighted to be introducing Jamavar and MiMi Mei Fair to such a dynamic culinary stage.” Nair said. Jamavar Dubai will be the third site for the concept. Having opened the first in Mayfair’s Mount Street in 2016, the restaurant received a Michelin star within the first year of its opening and was followed by the launch of Jamavar Doha in 2021. Jamavar “showcases the rich and diverse culinary traditions of India, with a bespoke menu of pan-Indian flavours using authentic techniques and local, seasonal ingredients to match”. Mimi Mei Fair was launched in Curzon Street in London’s Mayfair in September 2021. The menu pays homage to Empress MiMi’s travels and fuses flavors and recipes from China, Hong Kong and Singapore “in a luxurious celebration of China’s rich culinary heritage with creative cocktails and a noteworthy wine offering to match”.
 
Five Points Brewing Company co-founder to open food and drink hall in Leeds: The team behind Whitelock’s Ale House, the oldest pub in Leeds, have acquired a city centre site for a new food and drink hall. Ed Mason, who is also a co-founder of The Five Points Brewing Company in London, is transforming White Cloth Hall ahead of opening in early 2024. Originally built in 1775 as a market for merchants to sell undyed or “white” cloth; White Cloth Hall has hosted numerous Leeds businesses over the past 250 years. The Whitelock’s team will be taking on all three existing units, which most recently housed PizzaExpress, a BrewDog bar and a hairdresser – returning the premises to a single, unified space. Mason and his Whitelock’s team took over and relaunched Whitelock’s in 2012 and most recently opened The Meanwood Tavern in 2022. He said: “This is such a beautiful and iconic building – we’re really excited about taking it over. At Whitelock’s, we celebrate and support local independent breweries and food and drink suppliers – and we’re looking forward to doing the same at White Cloth Hall, on an even bigger scale.”
 
Chipotle confirms East Dulwich opening: US brand Chipotle has confirmed it will further increase its presence in London “villages” with an opening in East Dulwich. Propel revealed in May that Chipotle, which operates 16 sites in the UK – 14 in London, one in Watford and one in Guildford – will open in the former Hisar restaurant site in Lordship Lane. Chipotle has now revealed the restaurant will open on Thursday, 5 October. Jacob Sumner, director of European operations at Chipotle, said: “We are always looking for new communities to expand access to our real, fresh ingredients and Lordship Lane is the perfect venue. As an innovator in the food industry, our fast-casual offering and purpose to cultivate a better world complement the dynamic pace of the destination.” Chipotle is the only company of its size that owns and operates all of its restaurants in North America and Europe and told Propel in July that would continue to be the business’ approach.
 
Malta-based fast-casual concept Eeetwell makes UK debut, eyes further expansion here through franchising: Eeetwell, the Malta-based, health-focused, fast-casual concept, has made its UK debut in London’s Notting Hill and is eyeing further expansion here through franchising. Propel revealed in June that Eeetwell, which was launched in Malta in 2015 by Ammar Soltan, had secured the ex-Clean Kitchen site in Portobello Road for its debut UK site. The business, which operates circa 25 sites across Malta, Belgium, Italy and the UAE, has now opened at 172 Portobello Road. The 20-seater venue offers salads, warm bowls, wraps juices and smoothies, as it “aims to promote healthier habits both in eating and sourcing food”. Its menu changes four times a year in line with the seasons, to ensure all ingredients are “harvested at their prime, for the highest levels of flavour and nutrients”. Included on its debut menu will be the Brooklyn Green bowl – featuring spiced chicken thighs, chevre cheese and roasted sweet potato on a bed of brown rice, crushed almonds, shredded kale and diced apples and maple balsamic vinaigrette. Soltan said: “Launching our first UK venue is a huge moment, and finding a place in London, the capital and forefront of the nation’s food scene, is something we have worked so hard to achieve. We can’t wait to show London what we’re all about and help more people see the true power of food. We have already set our sights on further expansion across the UK, offering franchise opportunities and more chances to become part of the Eeetwell family.”
 
Family behind Norfolk bakery acquire Michelin-listed hotel and restaurant: The Ellis family, which owns Norfolk-based bakery Bread Source, has bought its first hotel business. The family has acquired the Dial House in Reepham. The eight-bedroom hotel and restaurant, which is grade II-listed, was sold by Hannah and Andrew Jones. They bought The Dial House five years ago and refurbished the property, setting about establishing a strong food and beverage offer – securing a spot in the Michelin Guide earlier this year as well as three AA rosettes. The restaurant and drinking areas have 126 covers as well as private dining rooms. The hotel also houses a spa room and beauty salon, as well as an independent clothing store. Josh Sullivan, associate director in the hotels agency team at Colliers, handled the sale.
 
MasterChef: The Professionals winner Dan Lee to launch new venture as he secures permanent spot at Birmingham’s Hockley Social Club: MasterChef: The Professionals winner Dan Lee is to become a permanent street food vendor at Hockley Social Club in Birmingham. Following his four-month residency at the venue, Lee, who won the BBC show in 2021, will launch his new venture “Dai Pai Dong” on Thursday, 5 October. The term originates from Hong Kong and is used to describe a type of open-air food stall. The menu will showcase new dishes such as barbecue Szechuan lamb flatbread, soy steamed chicken with jasmine rice and salt and chilli chicken wings. Lee said: “These past four months at Hockley Social Club have been exciting. I’ve felt such a close connection to our guests and built a strong bond with the team. Sharing my initial Asian-inspired dishes has been a dream, and the team and I can’t wait to serve up our new Dai Pai Dong menu.”
 
Swindon brewer to kick off flurry of openings at Gloucester Food Dock: Swindon brewer Hop Kettle is set to kick off a flurry of openings at Gloucester Food Dock. The brewery’s fourth taproom – which will sit alongside its two Swindon locations and another in Cirencester – will open at the destination on 13 October. Set over three floors, it will offer Hop Kettle’s range of beer alongside residencies and partnerships with local street food businesses. Hop Kettle owner Tom Gee said: “We were attracted to Gloucester by what the city has to offer. The location and these amazing buildings and have worked exceptionally hard to create a unique space that does them justice.” Hop Kettle will be followed by Bella Mia Pizza @ No.1 and Wholly Gelato in early November, and then by Strip Steak Bar, Elote, Chuck, Hetty’s Place and Our House later in the month. Food Dock co-founder Ken Elliott added: “It is wonderful to be opening the Food Dock and exciting to see the finishes going into these restaurant and bar spaces. Hop Kettle have created an amazing venue, and we will be announcing more new names for the Food Dock before the end of the year.” The development sits on Commercial Road at the north end of Victoria Basin, at the edge of Gloucester city centre. 
 
Gareth Bale and The Depot to double capacity of Par 59 in Cardiff with upstairs bar and games room: Mini-golf bar and restaurant concept Par 59, which is backed by former footballer Gareth Bale, is set to double the capacity of its Cardiff site with an upstairs bar and games room. Shuffles, which will open in November, will offer three new interactive shuffleboards and five interactive dart boards, along with a second bar area featuring booth seating. The expansion will take capacity at the St Mary Street venue from 250 to more than 500 covers across 22,000 square feet. Par 59 was established in March 2022 through a partnership between Bale’s Elevens Group and entertainment brand The Depot. A second site has since opened in Bristol.

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