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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 2nd Oct 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Burger & Lobster “actively looking for new locations outside of London”, FY turnover tops £32m: Burger & Lobster, the nine-strong London restaurant group, is actively looking for new locations outside of the capital after reporting a strong 2022, with turnover in the year increasing 43% to £32.7m, Propel has learned. The Misha Zelman-led business said it was “responding to continuing demand and opportunities in key cities around the UK and Europe”. It also operates a further 11 restaurants in New York, Singapore, Bangkok, Genting, Kuwait City, Hong Kong and Doha. It said that its UK restaurants also doubled the 2021 Ebitda to £2.4m. It said: “During 2022, in an effort to streamline the organisational structure of the business, B&L Restaurant Group acquired their supply chain business into the group. This meant that total revenue for the group sits at £36.5m. Despite various economic headwinds, the group increased its total gross margin from 37% to 38%. Total restaurant contribution totalled 15.8% of its revenue. Burger & Lobster are in a stable and strong financial position coming out of 2022 recording £9.2m of cash in the bank.” In October 2022, the business began a refurbishment programme at its flagship Soho site. It said: “Investment into the business continues in 2023, with all London restaurants having completed their refurbishments by April, which was funded internally for £4.4m.” Managing director Dino Sura said: “The 2022 results were a great indication of the strength of the brand following the turbulent covid years. We began investing in consolidating our supply chain into the business, started our restaurant-wide refurbishment programme and kept the focus on our people to now report an average length of service of two and a half years”. The business said 2023 is set to be even stronger for the group. Zelman added: “The future for the business is extremely exciting and we are looking forward to building on what we have achieved so far.” Burger & Lobster features in the next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage, one of five databases available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The latest edition features full profiles of 730 of the UK's top food and beverage operators, listed in alphabetical order. The companies 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. 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:

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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.

Premium subscribers to receive new edition of New Openings Database on Friday featuring 894 site openings: Premium subscribers will receive the new edition of the New Openings Database on Friday (6 October), at midday. The database will show the details of 894 site openings, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis and Premium subscribers will also receive a 44,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Booking.com leaving hoteliers unpaid: Travel website Booking.com has left many hotel operators and other partners across the globe thousands of dollars out of pocket for months on end, blaming the lack of payment on a “technical issue”, according to the Guardian. The issue is widespread in Thailand, Indonesia and Europe among hoteliers who are venting their frustrations in Facebook groups, as rumours swirl about the cause of the failure to pay. Usually, if a customer makes a booking through Booking.com and elects to pay upfront, the site takes the payment and passes it on to the hotel operator, minus a commission. Booking.com’s partners have reported issues receiving payments since July, and in some cases, months earlier. While Booking.com has continued taking payments from customers, the company has not always passed on the amount owed to hotel operators and others. A spokesman for Booking.com said: “We understand the frustration of the accommodation hosts and owners that have been unduly affected by an ongoing technical issue and can confirm that the system errors that affected the payments have now been corrected, and the transactions of most of our partners processed.”

Restaurant promotions evolving from discounts to innovative strategies: Promotions in the foodservice market are becoming increasingly important but are moving away from discounting to focus on delivering unique value propositions and enhancing the overall dining experience, according to data from Meaningful Vision. In the midst of economic uncertainty and consumers facing sharply rising costs, restaurant promotions have increased by 9% in the first eight months of 2023, it said. Among the UK’s top 100 foodservice chains, including fast food brands, coffee shops, casual dining and pubs, price offers constitute nearly 70% of all promotional efforts this year. However, at the beginning of the year the share was even higher, at 80%. Price promotions take various forms, with special price offers applied to specific items leading the way at 47% in August 2023. Discounts, normally applied to the whole menu or a category of items, follow closely, making up 24% of the promotional landscape. These strategies are applied universally by both foodservice venues and delivery aggregators and are linked closely to loyalty programmes, “which encourage repeat orders and larger purchases”. In the food delivery sector, discounts dominate compared with special price offers at 42% versus 10%, followed by free delivery, which is gaining popularity in 2023, the data showed. Delivery aggregators have begun using this technique twice as often compared with the same period last year, and now every fifth delivery promo offer contains free delivery. For dine-in and takeaway, special prices are the main promotional technique, especially in fast food, with 80% of all promotions run in this format, while the share of discounts is less than 10%. The most important trend here is the share of promotions offering a free product for a certain amount spent, or an extra product like “buy one, get one for free”, has increased by 30% and now accounts for almost 13% of all promo activities, the data showed. Meaningful Vision’s chief executive Maria Vanifatova stressed the growing importance of promotions in the face of rising living costs. She argues that, while restaurants struggle with increasing expenses beyond their control, innovative promotions are essential to enhance the perception of value for customers and set businesses apart from competitors. She added: “Restaurants and delivery aggregators are trying to shift from discounting to free offers as consumers may become accustomed to discounts and not see the value proposition behind them. Careful monitoring of competitors and selecting the most effective promotional methods are key to meeting the challenges brought by current market conditions.”

McDonald’s youngest ever female franchisee introduces well-being programme as free benefit to all employees: McDonald’s youngest ever female franchisee has introduced a well-being programme as a free benefit to all her employees. Laura Wilder, a former business strategy manager with Aldi, became a McDonald’s franchise two years ago and took over the Fishponds branch in Bristol earlier this year. Operating as Marmalade Restaurants, she employs more than 120 people and serves 45,000 guests a month. She has become the first McDonald’s franchisee to launch the Move-Assure well-being programme, which was co-founded by former Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcy Bussell. “This week marks an exciting moment for Marmalade Restaurants as we introduce the transformative Move-Assure well-being programme as a free benefit to all employees,” Wilder said. “This programme comes at a crucial time, when last year, mental health services in England received a record number of referrals. As an employer to more than 100 people, I want to do all I can to support my own team and to look after each employee’s physical and mental well-being, so am really excited by the launch of this amazing programme. I am so proud to be the first UK franchisee to offer the Move-Assure programme as a free benefit to my employees.”

Festive trading boost as large uptick in median year-on-year fourth quarter revenue forecast: Hospitality businesses could receive a festive trading boost, with a large uptick in median year-on-year fourth quarter revenue forecast. Customer data from sector bookings and event management platform Tripleseat, in partnership with KAM, showed a median revenue increase of 41% year-on-year between the fourth quarters of 2021 and 2022, and that there could be a similar increase again in the fourth quarter of 2023. The study, which worked with 150 operators, also showed the median volume of events increased by 21% between the fourth quarters of 2021 and 2022, with another similar level of increase expected. However, Tripleseat said businesses must be prepared, with 34% of venues currently only manually recording their bookings and spending, on average, 9.32 hours a week managing bookings and events. It said 43% of venues it spoke to are not tracking customers and prospects, with only 15% using only an online automated booking process, and 77% of venues not using any platform to support bookings and event management.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with is a wholesale services business that is looking for a category controller. The business has a diverse group of members, made up of on-trade, foodservice, retail, and specialist wholesalers. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will help drive the growth strategy across all areas of the business. You will be responsible for managing category and store layouts, supporting supplier negotiations and developing initiatives to improve compliance. There is an opportunity for progression and involvement in key business decisions to develop your skills and grow.” The salary is up to £60,000 plus benefits and the position is based in South Yorkshire. For more information, email mikey@corecruitment.com.  
 

Company News:

Amber Taverns set to again explore possible sale: Amber Taverns, the 165-strong, wet-led, freehold community pub operator, is set to again consider its funding options, including a sale of the business. The Sunday Times reports that the business has hired investment bank Rothschild to explore strategic options, which could result in a £250m sale of the business. A sales process, which is only one of several options under consideration, would not start before next year, say City sources. Propel revealed last April that the company was reviewing its options, with Punch Pubs and Admiral Taverns linked to the business. Amber is owned by MxP, an investment vehicle set up by Michael George, the former controlling shareholder in Weetabix. He sold the family stake in Weetabix to US private equity for £650m in 2003. Rothschild has been working with Amber since earlier this year as they explore options for the business, which also include refinancing debts of £160m or taking on new equity investment. Managing director James Baer recently told Propel that in an ideal scenario, the business would open 50 sites over the next three years. Earlier this month, 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 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.”

Heartwood secures two further freeholds, could have 200 rooms within a year: Heartwood Collection, formerly Brasserie Bar Co, has acquired two new freehold sites, which will add a combined 69 bedrooms to its “burgeoning pub with rooms division” Heartwood Inns, Propel has learned. The business said it is on track to grow to over 60 inns and brasseries by June 2027, with an estate of over 500 bedrooms, with executive chairman Mark Derry saying it could possibly have 200 bedrooms toward that target within a year. The two new inns are The Rope & Anchor (formerly the Brookfield Hotel) in Emsworth, Hampshire, which has 43 bedrooms; and The Coat & Bear in Newbury, Berkshire, which has 26 bedrooms. The two acquisitions are added to the group’s openings pipeline, which also comprises the Plough & Harrow in Long Ditton, which is due to open in December 2023; The Quill & Scholar in Lichfield, which is due to open late January 2024; The White Horse in Dorking, which will feature 56 bedrooms and is due to open in late February 2024; and The White Hart in Lewes, which will feature 26 bedrooms and is due to open in late Summer 2024. Richard Ferrier, managing director, Heartwood Collection, told Propel: “The acquisition of these two fantastic sites serves to underline our ambition as a group and the momentum we are building. When added to the pubs with rooms we have already acquired, this takes us to over 150 bedrooms in the group. We are continuing to look for further freehold pubs and pubs with rooms to add to Heartwood Inns with our ambition being to reach 500 bedrooms by June 2027. It’s an incredibly exciting time for us, with 2024 set to be a transformational one for the group.” Speaking at Casual Dining 2023, Derry said: “In the next year, we are modestly going to open 150, possibly 200 bedrooms. We’ve never done it before, but it will be a huge benefit to the business and a very profitable part to it if successful. We’re doing it really carefully, but we can’t throw every resource at it because we’ve got a £70m business we need to protect." Derry also said the company had a good track record of staff retention and that the average tenure for regional chefs is 13 years, head chefs seven years and general managers our years. “100% of the people in the business have a career pathway,” he added. “We currently have one vacancy across the business, for a junior sous chef.”

Camerons Brewery sold 26-strong tenanted freehold portfolio for £8.25m; trading on an ‘upward trajectory’: North east brewer and pub operator Camerons Brewery sold 26 freehold tenanted pubs earlier this summer to FB Taverns – the pub vehicle backed by high-net-worth individual Alexander Embiricos and co-founder of the US-based virtual office provider Remotion – for a total consideration of £8.25m, Propel has learned. Propel revealed last November that Camerons had placed the majority of its 43-strong franchise/leased and tenanted estate on the market. The business said the disposal of its tenanted estate was part of a strategic move to support growth across its brewery and managed pub division. Following the disposal, Camerons continues to operate circa 45 pubs across the UK, including its flagship Head of Steam brand. Camerons said the proceeds of the disposal were used to repay a temporary overdraft facility plus bank debt. The Chris Soley-led business said: “This transaction has enabled the group to significantly reduce its gearing levels and provides a much stable platform to now grow from.” However, the business said the sale of the 26 pubs resulted in a book loss of sale, leading it to book an impairment charge of £4.2m in the year to 1 January 2023. In the year to the end of 2022, the business posted turnover of £62m, compared with £49.3m for the eight months to 2 January 2022, with underlying Ebitda of £3.6m, up circa £400,000 on the previous 12 months. Pre-tax loss in the 12 months to the end of 2022 stood at £5.51m (2021: £495,958). The company said it expects to sell two further freehold properties before December and this will “largely complete our disposal programme of disposing of non-core sites that we embarked on during 2022”. On trading since its year end, Camerons said: “Trading, and in particular Ebitda levels, have continued an upward trajectory during 2023, and we are very pleased with the progress made. We continue to face unprecedented inflationary price pressures, coupled with cost-of-living crisis and trade disruption from rail strikes, but have managed to maintain a resilient trading performance in the face of these adversities.”

Dabangg Hospitality launches new concept, secures ex-D&D site in Leeds: Dabangg Hospitality, the company behind the Estabulo Rodizio brand, has launched its new premium fusion concept, Ikaro, in Manchester, and lined up a second site in Leeds. The business, which is led by Zack Isaak, has launched Ikaro, which offers a Japanese, Portuguese and Brazilian fusion of food concept, on the ex-Panacea nightclub site in Manchester’s John Dalton Street. The new hybrid restaurant dining concept is based on the group’s already established restaurant chain, which has different styles of eateries across the north of England. Ikaro will be similar to the group’s Sakku Samba but will be more “upmarket fine dining complemented with entertainments and live performers”. Dabangg has secured the former East 59th restaurant, previously operated by D&D London, on the rooftop of Victoria Gate in Leeds for an opening before the end of the year. The two new sites take Dabangg’s portfolio to 20 restaurants, including ten under the Estabulo brand and two Sakku Samba sites. It also operates the Casa Peri Peri concept and a charitable coffee shop operation, Caffe Noor.

Honest Burgers crowdfunding passes £2m mark, could look to raise a further £5m if new QSR format is a success: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed business, has passed the £2m mark on its crowdfunding campaign, with nine days left of fundraising. The 40-strong company, which had already raised £1m from Active before the campaign began, had, as of Sunday morning (1 October), raised £2,027,551 from 1,962 investors. The company plans to use the new funding to return to the expansion trail and launch a new premium quick service smashed burger concept called Honest Smashed. The business is understood to have earmarked the former YO! at 5-14 St Paul’s Churchyard, in London, for the first site under the new format. It confirmed that the first location under the new format is centrally located in a site of circa 2,300 square feet. It said: “We’ve designed this concept to be as simple and efficient as possible to make the customer experience easy and frictionless, but also to make the operations easily scalable for growth, both in the UK but also with the potential for international expansion, which may involve franchising in the future.” It said the sites for Honest Smashed will be higher profile/higher footfall locations and in settings such as travel hubs and shopping centres. It said: “For the same reason, there weren’t any natural conversion options in our existing estate (which we did consider). We hope and expect the new format to be very adaptable and to work in different locations and footprints. However, we are expecting a typical site to be larger than our current restaurants, with a layout built around the customer flow to make the order/pick up as smooth and efficient as possible. Digital ordering will also be a key feature.” In a question on the crowdfunding, it was pointed out that there is “£5m additional investment earmarked for year ending January 2025”. The business answered: “We have estimated this as an appropriate further amount to raise in order to enable the roll out of our new format, assuming successful proof of concept from this raise. We haven’t taken any decision at this point on whether we would go back to the crowd for this, but that is clearly a possibility.”

Bread Meats Bread secures seventh site: Scottish burger brand Bread Meats Bread has secured a seventh site, and fourth in Glasgow. The business will take over the unit formerly occupied by Stack & Still in the Silverburn shopping centre. The company operates two sites in Glasgow’s city centre and west end, and another at the Glasgow Fort shopping centre. Its other three sites are located in Edinburgh. Bread Meats Bread group director Luli Avdyli said: “It’s been an incredible journey since we opened our first Bread Meats Bread in Glasgow city centre ten years ago. We’re thrilled to unveil our newest gem in Silverburn. This milestone not only strengthens our presence in Glasgow, but also completes our culinary compass, with our restaurant now serving all four corners of the city. Silverburn offers a superb setting for us to continue delivering exceptional food to the bustling south side of Glasgow. We look forward to welcoming the local community as we open our doors to the public in autumn.”

Hostmore CEO – first half was a transitional period for the business, more diversified view on consumer base: Julie McEwan, chief executive of Hostmore, the parent company of TGI Fridays, has told Propel that the group’s first half was a “transitional period” for the business and that the brand’s guest satisfaction metrics have all gone “from strength to strength”, while drink sales are now above 2017 levels. Last week, Hostmore reported its like-for-like revenue between 2 July 2023 and 24 September 2023 was up 2% after building “a leaner and more focused organisation”. McEwan said: “For me, H1 was basically a transitional period for TGI Fridays. What we had to do was cement the senior leadership changes, and that then gave us a platform and a clear focus on improving the shareholder value. We’d already been working on internal staff realignment, and it fostered greater functional communication. Where at one time we may not have had that unity, we’ve definitely got it moving forward. The results are starting to come through, and guest satisfaction metrics have all gone from strength to strength over an 18-month period, with a considerable uplift over the last six months. Value scores have gone from under four to 4.2, so it shows we’re putting the guests at the heart of the business. In the first half, we’ve built a leaner and more focused organisation, which is clearly coming through. Everything we’re doing in terms of the cost reductions is paying dividends and I think we’re well placed for the remainder of 2023.” The TGI brand was known for its cocktails, but drinks as a share of revenue declined from circa 26% in FY19 to circa 14% in 2022. McEwan said: “If you go back to 2017, our drink sales were at a high. If we come into the current trading environment, we are actually better than 2017. We focused back then purely on families, now we’re having a more diversified view. We’re going after the Gen Zs and the millennials too, so, we’re making sure those trough time slots are filled with the right demographic. We started off last year with 35,000 drink cocktails sold, and I think we’ve plateaued in half one at 61,000 per week. We are attracting a different audience to fill those trough time slots, which I think is important.” McEwan didn’t rule out further disposals for the business, which is “clearly focused on our core state”. She said: “We’ll ensure we’ve got the best possible units in those locations.” On looking to the end of 2023 and festive bookings, she added: “All I can say is they’re in a more positive position than they were this time last year. We are really looking forward to a great December.”

JD Wetherspoon opens second Heathrow site: JD Wetherspoon has opened a new venue at Heathrow airport (Monday 2 October), launching Star Light on the site of the former Carluccio’s in Terminal 4 (airside). It is the company’s second trading unit at Heathrow Airport and its eighth airport unit in the UK. Wetherspoon spent £500,000 developing the new unit, creating up to 60 full and part-time jobs. Star Light has seating for approximately 140 customers and will be open from before the first flight until after the last flight each day. Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “We have operated units at Heathrow airport since 1991 and are proud of our association with one of the world’s largest airports.” The name refers to the fact that towards the end of World War II, land in and around Heathrow was requisitioned for an international airport. On 6 December 1945, Donald Bennett landed the first civil aircraft (a 13 seat Avro 691 Lancastrian), named Star Light.”

KFC and Starbucks franchisee looking to expand UK estate, with priority target areas in Home Counties and north: Soul Foods Group, a multinational quick-service restaurant franchisee with almost 400 sites across the UK and Canada and among the top three largest KFC and Starbucks franchisees, has said it is looking to expand its UK estate, with priority target areas in the Home Counties and the north. “We have ambitious growth plans for our Starbucks, KFC and Taco Bell brands across the UK,” said Soul Foods property acquisitions manager Stuart Kiddle. “We will consider opportunities on a leasehold, long leasehold or freehold basis, including freehold land and development opportunities.” Although other locations will be considered, Soul Foods said its main target areas include Yorkshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Durham, Humberside, Northumberland, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire. It comes a year after Soul Foods said the investment it received from a consortium of leading institutional investors would be used to double its portfolio over the next five years. The business made a loss in the year ending 26 June 2022 following high staff turnover and supply chain issues but said a restructure following the investment will provide additional funding for its expansion. It saw turnover drop slightly from £109,158,226 in 2021 to £108,231,815, while a £10,623,919 pre-tax profit in 2021 become a £42,637 pre-tax loss.

West Midlands McDonald’s franchisee sees turnover near £90m but costs hit profit levels: West Midlands McDonald’s franchisee Wright Restaurants has reported turnover increased 8% to £89,517,366 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £82,939,974 the year before. The company, which is owned by Douglas Wright and operates circa 25 sites, saw pre-tax profit fall to £91,033 from £5,239,328 the previous year. Gross margin was down to 40% from 45% the previous year with a “lot of money” being spent on electricity and food costs increases. In March 2023, the company sold two of its restaurants – Lichfield and Wall Island – to a new franchisee. In June, Wright Restaurants added two sites its portfolio – Chester Road and Chelmsley Wood – and in July 2023 another three restaurants were purchased – Coseley. Bilston and Bilston delivery kitchen. No governments grants were received (2021: £218,820). A final dividend amounting to £200,000 was recommended (2021: £180,000) and ordinary dividends amounting to £596,000 were paid (2021: £542,000). Wright started at McDonald’s as a cleaner at its Bedford restaurant at the age of 16. He rose through the ranks and was managing his first McDonald’s restaurant, in Oxford, at just 20, the youngest in the UK to do so. After a car crash that saw him paralysed for months after breaking his neck, Wright was given a new role at the company’s regional headquarters in Sutton Coldfield after they were impressed by his dedication. He worked there for 14 years and then took on his first franchise in Lichfield.

Japanese sando concept aims to build eight-strong estate by 2025 as it prepares to open flagship Birmingham restaurant: Japanese sando concept Shokupan is aiming to build an eight-strong estate nationwide by 2025 as it prepares to open a flagship restaurant in Birmingham. The independent business said it is also exploring franchising opportunities to further grow its portfolio. It comes as Shokupan prepares to open its new restaurant in Birmingham city centre on Thursday (5 October). Shokupan, which has rebranded from Gupshup, has used a five-figure funding package from HSBC UK to fit out the 2,128 square-foot restaurant in Birmingham’s Grand Central, above New Street station. The quick service restaurant, which aims to serve lunchtime customers within two minutes of ordering, will seat up to 35 diners.  The funding has also allowed Shokupan to open a new bakery near Birmingham Science Park Aston, which it will use to bake the bread for the sandos it will serve. Wasi Taj, brand founder at Shokupan, said: “Demand for our sandos surprised us. We were selling out at our Colmore Row site by 2pm, so it was clear we needed to move to bigger premises and invest in our own supply chain. We are excited to drive the growth of our business with this new restaurant and London as the next stop.

Big Fang Collective launches new karaoke concept in Liverpool: Big Fang Collective, the Imbiba-backed entertainment venue operator that owns the Golf Fang brand, has launched its new immersive karaoke concept, Big Fang Karaoke, in Liverpool. The new site has opened at 29-31 Parliament Street, next to the company’s Big Fang Golf site in the city. It offers four karaoke rooms, which cater for between four and 25 guests, as well as private rooms for parties. Drinks include ice cold “Smoking Cryo” shots and self-pour “Nitro Serve” cocktails, while Big Fang’s new in-house pizza concept, “Nothing Cheezy”, has also launched and will be available for both Golf Fang Liverpool and Big Fang Karaoke customers alike. New York style slices or 18-inch pizza will be available with a range of toppings, including pepperoni and BBQ chicken. BigFang Collective, which was founded by Kip Piper and Daniel Bolger, has said it plans to open six more sites by 2025, with Chris Morgan having recently returned to the business as chief executive to lead the expansion.

Chilled Pubs sees only small dent in profits due to cost control and opening of new site, latest acquisition begins trading: Chilled Pubs, the award-winning group of Derbyshire pubs founded by Richard and Loren Pope, saw only a small dent in its profits in the year to 1 January 2023 due to cost control and the launch of a new site. Its pre-tax profit dipped from £1,471,928 in 2022 to £1,142,409 after costs increased by £1,560,521. It also received only £29,000 in government grants compared to £662,085 in 2022, and the previous year’s figure also included a £206,389 insurance pay out. Turnover rose from £10,538,632 to £14,966,152 following the acquisition of The Blue Stoops in Dronfield from True North Brew Co in October 2022. Post year end, it also acquired The Bulls Head on East Leake, which has now commenced trading. Richard Pope said: “The group’s turnover increase of 42% is in part the result of the previous period still experiencing a reduction in demand from the covid-19 restrictions, and Chilled Pubs (Dronfield) commencing to trade during the current period. The group achieved a profit before tax which demonstrates that they continue to control costs well in light of the increased cost of living and inflation.” Dividends of £180,000 were paid (2022: £255,000).

Origin Coffee opens debut Bristol site for seventh outlet: Cornish sustainable coffee roasters Origin Coffee, which operates coffee shops in London and Cornwall, has made its debut in Bristol for its seventh site. The business, which was founded in 2004 by Tom Sobey, has opened in the former Friska site in the city’s Victoria Street. The B Corp accredited company promises “a dedicated space designed to share and celebrate world-class coffee with all”. The coffee shop includes a training room, technical room and meeting room. Sobey said: “Bristol is a big move for us, but we’re really excited to finally open. It’s our first café outside of London and Cornwall, and this city feels like the perfect place to open. We love to be surrounded by like-minded, sustainably conscious businesses and people. As well as creating a beautiful coffee shop for the Bristol community to enjoy, our new site will 
act as an education and technical hub, allowing us to offer a great level of service to our wholesale customers in the west.” 

Bone Daddies to open Leicester Square site next month: Bone Daddies Group – which comprises the eponymous ramen restaurants Shack-Fuyu and Flesh & Buns – will open a site in London’s Leicester Square next month. The new Bone Daddies – opposite Leicester Square tube and its eighth venue – will be split across two floors and offer 80 covers in total, with the interior design marking a more industrial feel than its other ramen bars. Tom Moxon, who was head chef at the very first Bone Daddies when it launched in Soho in 2012, and appointed group head chef in early 2022, will oversee the menu at the site, which opens on Friday, 20 October. Etch acted for Bone Daddies on the deal, while DCL represented landlord Shaftesbury Capital.

Aqua Restaurant Group to open Italian seafood restaurant in Chelsea next month for seventh London site: Hong Kong-based Aqua Restaurant Group, the David Yeo-founded business that operates a portfolio of restaurants across the globe, will open its new Italian seafood restaurant, in London’s Chelsea, next month. Azzurra in Sloane Street will be the company’s seventh venue in the capital and will now open on Thursday, 19 October. Azzurra is the culmination of Yeo’s extensive travel through Italy over and his love for the culinary culture centred around Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. Azzurra will include a raw bar offering fish and seafood, a cocktail bar and a pizza counter. The kitchen, overseen by executive chef Andrea Mura, will include seabass salt baked with salmoriglio sauce; and swordfish grilled with fennel and orange salad and Bronte’s pistachio pesto. Aqua also operates Shiro, Aqua Shard, Hutong, Aqua Kyoto, Aqua Nueva and Luci in the capital. DCL acted for landlord Cadogan on the Chelsea deal.

Team behind Thai concept Som Saa to open new London site next month: The team behind Thai restaurant Som Saa will open its new site, in London’s Borough Market, next month. Propel revealed in November 2022 that MasterChef finalist Andy Oliver and fellow chef Mark Dobbie would open a restaurant in Park Street, which originally had the working title Nok. Now called Kolae after a cooking style from the south of Thailand where ingredients are coated in a curry-like coconut marinade before being grilled over open flames, it will open on Friday, 27 October. Main dishes will include the Kolae mussel skewer with calamansi lime and seasonal fish, seafood and vegetarian specials, all cooked using a similar technique. There will also be salads, wine, beer, cider and cocktails made using fresh Thai ingredients. Housed inside an old London coach house, it will offer 75 covers split over three floors, including a small courtyard dining area, as well as a private dining room for up to 16 set among the rafters. Etch acted on the Borough Market deal.

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