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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 19th Oct 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Boxpark to invest circa £5m in making Midlands debut: Boxpark is to invest around £5m to open its first site in the Midlands, in Birmingham, Propel has learned. The LDC-backed, Simon Champion-led business has agreed a 15-year lease with landlords The Arch Company for a site at Floodgate Street Arches site in Digbeth. The site, which is scheduled to launch in 2025, sits under four 12-metre railway arches and was previously used for industrial purposes. Spanning nearly 17,000 square feet, the proposed plans will see it transformed into a food hall and events destination featuring a large, covered structure with around ten kitchen units and four internal bars set across two floors. In addition, there will be just over 10,500 square feet of external space to offer alfresco dining and events. The company said the new opening is expected to create about 200 jobs and drive a significant volume of footfall to the area, with more than a million people expected to visit each year. It said the new venue aims to champion local Birmingham businesses and talent with “fantastic opportunities for both independent and established food operators, as well as artists, creators and performers from the area”. Champion said: “We are delighted to announce the new location for our next Boxpark venture. Our team has searched extensively for sites in Birmingham since 2016, having considered multiple locations across the city. As a dynamic and fast-growing business, we hope Boxpark will be an exciting addition to Birmingham. The city’s food, drink and leisure scene has become known as one of the best in the country and we can’t wait to add to that.” Paul Thandi CBE, who was recently appointed non-executive chairman of Boxpark, added: “My experience in regeneration and transformation with the NEC Group, as well as my connection with the city, leads to me to have a strong belief that Boxpark Birmingham will no doubt drive footfall, customer choice, experience and, of course, unique entertainment into and around our fantastic site in Digbeth.” The launch will follow the opening of Boxpark Liverpool in spring 2024, which will be the first Boxpark-branded development outside the capital. Earlier this year, Boxpark also announced the roll-out of sibling brand Boxhall, a “high-end premium food and beverage concept”, with sites opening in Bristol and London’s Liverpool Street in 2024.

Industry News:

Next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage to feature 123 updated entries and 25 new companies, released tomorrow: The next Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage will feature 123 updated entries and 25 new companies when it is released to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Friday, 20 October), at midday. This month’s edition includes 752 companies and more than 203,000 words of content. The companies, listed in alphabetical order, will have their most recent results reported as well as broader information around Ebitda, plans and trading style available. The database merges Companies House information, interviews and other public information to provide an easy to reference and exhaustive guide to the sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. Premium subscribers are also to get access to the videos from this month’s Talent and Training Conference. They will be sent 13 videos on Friday, 27 October 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 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.
Panel on future of food delivery to be held at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, three free places per company for operators: A panel on the future of delivery will be held at the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2023, which takes place on Thursday, 16 November, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference, which almost 400 people have booked to attend, will focus on “progress in an era of strong headwinds”. The panel will feature Gabriella Overeem, head of partner management at Uber Eats; Joe Heather, general manager of UK & Ireland at Deliverect; Johnnie Tate, founder of Yard Sale Pizza; and Mark Murphy, founder of Burgerism; discussing what comes next as the sector continues to seek the best way of integrating a delivery model after the boom during the pandemic. For the full speaker schedule, click here. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing

Two in five hospitality workers still likely to consider career change despite sector job satisfaction levels increasing significantly: Two in five (42%) of hospitality workers are still considering a career change despite job satisfaction levels in the industry increasing significantly over the last 12 months, according to a new report from CGA by NIQ and workforce management tech firm Harri. The “Getting Retention Right: Insights to Navigating Hospitality’s Top Talent Challenge” report reveals operators and managers are looking at employee satisfaction with cautious optimism, while pay is up and well-being is a growing priority. Despite rising costs and staff shortages, 62% of industry leaders feel optimistic about prospects for their business over the next 12 months, and two-thirds (67%) of respondents agree “hospitality offers a good and worthwhile career”. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of employees in the sector feel satisfied in their current hospitality job role – an increase of 13 percentage points since the last survey in 2022 – and more than a quarter (27%) said they have actively chosen hospitality as their career path, which is four percentage points more than 12 months ago. A third (30%) of staff said their employer supports a good work-life balance, up from 19% a year ago. More than a third of employees said they look for honesty (41%), equality (35%) or mutual respect (34%) when searching for a job. Only a fifth (20%) of employees think their business’ technology for staff is very advanced. “It’s good to see that increasing numbers of hospitality professionals feel content and motivated – but with two in five considering a change of career path, job satisfaction in this sector remains precarious,” said Tristan Spencer, Harri’s senior vice-president, sales UK. Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, added: “High staff shortages and turnover have been a huge challenge for the hospitality sector in recent years, but our research shows businesses are making good progress on their engagement strategies. In time, this should help bring down turnover and overcome some negative stereotypes to finally earn hospitality the reputation it deserves as a great place to build a career.”
Turtle Bay – wellbeing not just a buzzword: Olajide Alabi – equality, inclusion and wellbeing partner at Turtle Bay – has said the culture at the Piper-backed business is built on a foundation where the wellbeing of its teams “is not just a buzzword”. Speaking at this month’s Propel Talent & Training Conference, Alabi said: “Imagine the foundation where the wellbeing of our teams is not just a buzzword. It’s a guiding principle and every business decision that gets made. Everything that happens within the business goes back to is it equitable? Is it inclusive? And how’s our team’s well-being going to be impacted by that decision? Over the past three years, we’ve poured our hearts and souls into creating a culture where differences aren’t just acknowledged, they are celebrated. We’ve embarked on a journey of innovation, always seeking out new ways to do what’s right. The secret sauce of doing what’s right is you listen to your people intently and with a willingness to want to actually change. That’s what we did, we listened. We’ve been listening for a long time and will continue to listen. Equality and inclusion workshops have become an integral part of our daily training routine. We’ve empowered our teams with the essential skills and language to be able to communicate and acknowledge each other’s differences, and it’s become part of everyday now. We championed anti-racism. We decided that as a company that is so close to black culture, it was important for us to understand what it looks like to be an anti-racist, and so, we decided to hit the road and do a road show. We hit all our 50 sites and facilitated conversations around what it looks like to be anti-racist and what it looks like to be racist – because not everyone knows what that looks like – and we found it really, really empowering for the teams to change the way they communicate.” Alabi’s presentation will be among those from the Propel Talent & Training Conference sent to Premium subscribers at 9am on Friday, 27 October. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
Licensing update: John Gaunt & Partners licensing solicitors has just published its latest licensing update. This month, there’s an article about preparing for England’s potential appearance in the Rugby World Cup final. The full update can be accessed here

Company News:

Whitbread CEO – restaurant revenues have only just returned back to pre-pandemic levels: Whitbread chief executive Dominic Paul has said that while companies branded restaurants enjoyed an uplift in sales versus the prior year in the first six months of 2023, with increases in both numbers of covers and spend-per-head thanks to a number of commercial initiatives, revenues have only just returned back to pre-pandemic levels. The business saw food and beverage sales increase by 10% versus the first half of FY23, driven by a return to year-on-year growth in covers and spend per head. It also said that total food and beverage sales were up 8% in the six weeks to 12 October 2023 versus FY23. Paul said: “High levels of occupancy in our hotels and a steady proportion of hotel guests taking breakfast and dinner provided a year-on-year boost to F&B sales that were up 10% versus the prior year. Food and beverage is important to our hotel guests and drives a revpar uplift in our hotels. While our branded restaurants enjoyed an uplift in sales versus the prior year, with increases in both numbers of covers and spend-per-head thanks to a number of commercial initiatives, revenues have only just returned back to pre-pandemic levels.” Paul did not comment on whether the business is still looking to dispose of circa 250 of its restaurants, which operate under brands such as Brewers Fayre and Beefeater. He said: “Given the impact of inflation, we are continuing to look at a range of options to help improve the performance and returns of our F&B business while ensuring that we safeguard the quality experience for our hotel guests and will provide further updates as we make progress.”
Sourdough South – trading proving resilient as customers trade down from mid-market competitors: Tim Hall, co-founder of Sourdough South, operator of the Three Joes concept and The Stable brand, has said the business is “proving resilient as customers trade down from mid-market competitors and repeat visits are robust”. Hall said the company, which operates 18 sites across its brands, “traded well” through the summer “despite the appalling weather in our coastal locations” and revenue year-to-date is approximately 5% ahead. He said: “The group is proving resilient as customers trade down from mid-market competitors and repeat visits are robust. A revised and improved menu across the summer has helped drive customer visits, and last week we launched our autumn winter menus across all three brands to general acclaim. We are under no illusions the winter is going to be long and challenging, but the Sourdough South offer is popular and contemporary and we look forward to a very busy 2023 Christmas period.” It comes as the business reported turnover of £16,614,724 for the year to 1 January 2023 (2021: £11,061,278), with a pre-tax loss of £1,334,284 (2021: (£889,158)). Hall said the business traded “robustly” through 2022, generating 50% revenue growth. He said: “Much of this significant increase was a function of the opening of new sites, with a particularly strong contribution from a full year of trade at Fistral Beach Bar in 2022.” In August, Propel revealed Sourdough South had secured the first site under The Stable brand since it acquired the business from Fuller’s in June 2020 – in Padstow, Cornwall. It recently reopened the ex-Bella Italia site in Bridge Street, Cambridge, as its sixth Three Joes site, and in the summer, the group completed a funding round to support the continued expansion of its brands.
Wetherspoon puts three Irish pubs on the market for €10m: JD Wetherspoon has put three of its pubs in the Republic of Ireland on the market for a collective €10m. The company, which has been operating in Ireland for the last ten years, has put An Geata Arundel in Arundel Square, Waterford; The Linen Weave in Paul Street, Cork; and The Tullow Gate in Tullow Street, Carlow, up for sale. A fourth property, the former Carbon Night Club at 19-21 Eglington Street in Galway, is not trading but has been granted planning permission for licensed premises and restaurant use. While €10m is the joint price for the portfolio, individual prices are available from the joint selling agents, CBRE and Savills. Dublin will now be the only county to have a Wetherspoon pub, with five locations across the capital, reports Kildare Now.
Cubitt House first-half lfl sales up 27.5%, increases bank facility to £5m: London gastropub operator Cubitt House, which is backed by funds managed by TDR Capital, the owner of Stonegate Group, saw its like-for-like sales increase 27.5% in the first half of 2023 compared with last year and 3.2% ahead of budget. The eight-strong business also said it had made “vast improvements” in its underlying Ebitda due to operational changes made during the period and reported like-for-like company Ebitda of £908,000 (2022: minus £325,000). It comes as the company reported turnover of £16,351,422 for the year to 1 January 2023 (2021: £7,837,917), and a pre-tax loss of £3,248,194 (2021: £1,739,825). The business said it began an ambitious plan during the period to enhance its product quality, invest in its teams and to grow the brand alongside its underlying performance. It also opened three new sites – The Builders Arms (Chelsea), The Princess Royal (Notting Hill) and The Barley Mow (Mayfair) – to bring its total number to eight. The wider group also successfully increased its banking facility to £5m. “During the period, the company undertook a number of strategic and operational initiatives to drive sales and profitability, ensuring the company is well placed to explore further opportunities when the market conditions allow,” it said. “However, the company has not been immune to the macroeconomic factors adversely impacting hospitality businesses. The energy crisis that saw costs increase directly for the business alongside impacting supply chains resulting in suppliers passing costs on has naturally impacted the business, however, the business has withstood these pressures and protected margins. The company also has invested in its employees with the development of the Cubitt House Academy. The company’s focus over the next 12 months is to continue to enhance its offering for guests. The directors believe the company is in a strong position to improve its existing estate on the back of withstanding economic challenges.” In September, the business disposed of its Beau Brummell site in Piccadilly. It has subsequently been reopened by the team behind Fallow under new fast-casual concept, Fowl.
Gaucho owner appoints new group marketing director, openings pipeline ‘remains robust’: Rare Restaurants, the Martin Williams-led operator of the Gaucho and M Restaurants brands, has appointed Mark Sansom as its new group marketing director. Sansom joins Rare, which operates 20 restaurants under the Gaucho brand, after more than four and a half years working on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants events, including 19 months as content director. Williams said: “I’ve had the pleasure of watching Mark’s passion, professionalism, personal appeal and brilliance for a decade or so while admiring his values, particularly in regard to mental health. Over the years, my learnings and ambitions have come from cross-sector inspirations, so although to some in our sector this may look like a curveball appointment, Mark’s pedigree at 50 Best Restaurants, 50 Best Bars, Men’s Health and as editor of Food & Travel, is what makes our ‘Rare Restaurant’ group best in class. I am excited by our next chapter and future marketing strategy, which I’m confident will keep our brands in the top spot and continue to see us drive excellence, while remaining the nation’s favourite premium restaurants.” Williams told Propel that the opening month for its most recent Gaucho launch, in Cardiff, has been “phenomenal”, achieving constant six figure weekly sales and far exceeding budget”. He said the group’s pipeline remains robust and “our appetite for continuing our growth strategy remains”. The business, which also operates three M Restaurants, laid out a five-year growth strategy at the end of 2022 which could see it opening up to 30 new sites across the UK. 
London better burger brand targets national expansion after securing eight-site deal for Birmingham: London better burger brand Amigos Burgers & Shakes has targeted national expansion after securing an eight-site franchise deal for Birmingham – its first foray outside the capital. Amigos was launched in Acton, west London, in 2011 by Waqas Siddique and Kasim Akhter and has since expanded to 19 sites across the capital – its most recent opening being in Norbury in July. The pair are childhood friends who were exposed to the sector from an early age as they hung around a fish and chip shop owned by Akhter’s father. Having first expanded with a second store in Shepherd’s Bush in 2015, their first franchise store followed in 2017, in east London. “We’ve gone from our first ‘desk’ (a table in the Acton restaurant) to having our own headquarters in the famous Park Royal Estate that hosts some of the biggest food brands and operators in the UK,” Akhter told What Franchise. “Amigos now boasts a 16-man team that ensures quality, freshness and service throughout the restaurants. We’re looking forward to driving down any high street and seeing our glowing logo, with the hard work in creating a long-lasting household brand having paid off. Amigos was always meant to be a fun, vibrant family-friendly brand, which is why it is still standing strong among the new wave of competitors. Our core values have never changed and will remain the same to take Amigos to new heights.” Amigos is looking for experienced franchisees and investors to help it grow and has signed up former Hero Brands franchise director Nil Naik as a consultant. Naik, who previously helped Doner Shack and Chaiiwala grow their franchise operations, recently set up his own consultancy. Naik said: “Amigos is expanding across the UK. Amigos has established itself within the boroughs of London, and while we are still looking to populate the entirety of London, we are also looking to take the brand nationwide.” Amigos features in the next Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 215 businesses. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription.
West Cornwall Inns owner to close pubs despite £2m turnover: Matt Ferguson, owner of West Cornwall Inns, has said he is being forced to close all four of his pubs due to the current economic climate, despite making a £2m turnover. He announced the pubs, which launched six years ago, will shut on Sunday (22 October), even though they enjoyed a busy summer. The Queen’s Arms in Breage, Henlys in Helston, the Fire Engine in Marazion and The Coldstreamer in Gulval will be closing. He said: “Due to the current economic climate, together with the spiralling costs of electricity, food and drink throughout this summer, we are not in a position to trade into winter, and it would be irresponsible to attempt it. The sad thing is we had a busy summer, and we’d like to thank each and every person who came to support us. Put simply, a £2m turnover is still not enough to make any profit, or increasingly even cover costs, as the outgoings in this industry are now just too high. Hospitality has gone very wrong, and we would urge those in positions of power to change that to act now, as we join a growing list of casualties. Our biggest regret is that we are forced to let down our wonderful, loyal staff – some of whom have been with us right from the very start, when we opened the Three Tuns in 2017. We are devastated the last six years have ended in this way. Thank you for being part of it while it lasted.”
Future of Maitre Choux in doubt after closure of remaining London sites: The future of Maitre Choux, the patisserie business specialising in choux pastry, in the UK has been placed in doubt after the concept’s three sites in London were closed. Chef Joakim Prat and business partner Jeremie Vaislic launched Maitre Choux in 2015. At one point it operated five sites in the capital and one in Bicester Village. Propel understands that Maitre Choux has now closed its remaining sites in Soho, South Kensington and Chelsea. Prat worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants including Mayfair’s The Greenhouse, where he was head pastry chef, and as executive pastry chef at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Covent Garden. The business still operates sites in Doha and Riyadh.
Ibiza ‘beach club’ brand set to make UK debut in London’s Shoreditch: Ibiza “beach club” brand Marlin Ibiza is set to make its UK debut in London’s Shoreditch later this year. The company, which operates beach clubs in the UAE and Mexico as well as Gran Canaria, will open Blue Marlin Ibiza London at The Mondrian Shoreditch London, part of Ennismore. The private members’ club will feature a rooftop lounge, Japanese fusion restaurant and cocktail bar, Ibiza-inspired nightclub, co-working space, 24-hour gym and a spa. Membership will provide a series of benefits across all Blue Marlin Ibiza venues internationally. Jelle Oomes, founder of Blue Marlin Ibiza, said: “The opening of Blue Marlin Ibiza at the Mondrian Shoreditch London is a significant milestone for our brand. We are excited to bring the unique atmosphere and energy of Blue Marlin Ibiza to London, providing a space where people can come together to relax and socialise while enjoying the best in food, drinks and music.” The new opening will take over the space currently occupied by The Curtain Club. William Aitken, founder and chief executive of ACRS Capital, brought the parties together and is also a business partner.
Park Lane hotel reports best ever trading performance but group losses increase, covid loans paid off: The 45 Park Lane hotel in London reported its best ever trading performance in the year ending 31 December 2022 but group losses increased. The hotel is one of two operated by Dorchester Hotel, including its eponymous site also located in Park Lane in London’s Mayfair. The 45 Park Lane hotel contributed £21m to the group turnover of £61,385,000, with £14m coming from rooms and £7m from food and beverage and other operations. “The hotel’s trading performance during 2022 was the best since it opened in 2011,” the business said. The hotel’s revenue was up 91%, by around £10.3m, from 2021, driven by room revenue, which increased by £8.5m, or 146%. Average room rate increased 17% from £1,113 to £1,308. Occupancy also grew, from 31.3% to 65.9%. Food and beverage also improved, helped by the opening of an outside area called Cut Out, with the resulting increased volume of covers being offset by a decline in average spend from £120 to £91. For the Dorchester, total revenue was £40m, with £21m from rooms and £19m from food and beverage and other operations. Although below pre-pandemic levels, its performance was up on 2021, with revenue up by about £10m (a 34% increase). This was driven by room revenue, which increased by £6m, or 42%. Average room rate more than 17%, from £793 to £926. Occupancy was impacted by a refurbishment programme but also grew versus 2021, from 21% to 25%. Food and beverage, although also affected by the refurbishment works, saw revenue increase by £3.5m. This was driven by an increased volume of covers, while average spend declined slightly from £85 in 2021 to £80. Group turnover of £61,385,000 was up from £40,854,000 in 2021. Its pre-tax loss grew from £14,371,000 in 2021 to £18,558,000 as costs shot up by more than £10m. This compares with turnover of £82,502,000 and a loss of £2,247,000 in 2019. Included in the 2021 figure is £3.4m of covid loans, which have now been paid off. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). The Dorchester’s three-year refurbishment programme still has two years to run, while a new sushi restaurant is being developed at 45 Park Lane.
Greene King launches menopause and menstruation support policy: Brewer and retailer Greene King is strengthening its well-being commitment to its team members with the launch of its menopause and menstruation support policy. The company said the policy is designed to “normalise the conversation” and provide guidance for team members and line managers so they can meaningfully support each other. Greene King’s female employee-led inclusion group, Greene Sky, has been instrumental in fast tracking the policy following a series of listening sessions. To kickstart the launch ahead of World Menopause Day yesterday (Wednesday, 18 October), Greene King pubs managing director, Clair Preston-Beer, hosted a panel discussion. This included Helen Tomlinson, who is the government menopause champion and head of talent and inclusion at Adecco. She spoke alongside Greene King’s chief financial officer Richard Smothers, Destination Brands marketing director Clare Vintner, operations manager Luke Tremlett, and general manager of Watergates Bar in Chester, Andria Pomeroy. Greene Sky’s listening sessions prompted a review of team clothing, and as a result, has seen investment in new menopause-friendly options that includes breathable workwear. In addition, there is scope to make reasonable adjustments, on a case-by-case basis, such as some flexibility on working times and regular breaks. Greene King chief people and transformation officer, Andrew Bush, said: “This is more than just a new policy as it is designed to signpost the support there is around team members’ well-being when it is needed, and build ongoing awareness to increase everybody’s understanding and normalise conversations about menopause.”
The Savoy sees strong improvement driven by return of North American market, forecasts strong year-on-year revpar growth and a steady rise in F&B demand: The Savoy hotel in London’s The Strand saw a strong improvement in the year to 31 December 2022, driven by return of key markets including North America. The business also forecast improvements continuing into 2024, with strong year-on-year revpar growth and a steady rise in food and beverage demand. “There was a strong improvement in performance during 2022 – in particular, room revenues outpaced pre-pandemic levels,” director Tareq Fontane said. “This was driven by a robust growth in average room rate compared with 2019, despite ongoing hiring challenges. The business benefited from strong transient demand, with key source markets such as North America returning during the second half, as well as a gradual return of corporate business. The directors expect the company’s performance to continue to improve during the remainder of 2023 and into 2024, with strong year-on-year revpar growth and a steady growth in food and beverage demand. Leisure demand is expected to continue to lead the recovery.” Fontane said food and beverage performed well, boosted by the return of the pre­ and post-theatre dining, but has been held back by staffing shortages. “The Savoy Grill in particular has performed above its incentive thresholds and has been a strong contributor to the business in terms of profitability,” he said. “Profitability has improved as a result of strong top-line demand and a legacy leaner cost structure, following the meaningful labour recalibration that occurred as a result of covid. Regular food and beverage pricing reviews have allowed the business to remain sensitive to market fluctuations while balancing both customer price sensitivity and inflationary pressures.” The company’s pre-tax loss narrowed to £12,044,000 from £32,831,000 in 2021 as turnover rose from £23,388,000 to £52,920,000. This compares with turnover of £64,462,000 and a pre-tax loss of £21,078,000 in 2019. Of the 2022 turnover, £34,903,000 came from rooms (2021: £13,530,000) and £15,251,000 from food and beverage (2021: £8,488,000). No government grants were received (2021: £1,064,000). No dividends were paid (2021: nil). Occupancy rate was up from 22% to 50.2%, with average room rate rising from £630.87 to £714.02 and revpar growing from £138.84 to £358.15. In the spring of 2023, shareholder cash injections of £30m were made to fund the partial paydown of a £220m senior loan facility and £50m mezzanine facility. The hotel is planning to begin a renovation project in 2024, with a two-year turnaround and performed in phases to minimise disruption.
Creams unveils hot offer in ‘first for UK dessert restaurant sector’: Fast-growing dessert parlour operator Creams Café has unveiled four hot desserts in what it said is a first for the UK dessert restaurant sector. The four puddings form part of Creams’ winter menu and the company said the offer marks “the start of a revolution in the dessert restaurant sector, with current offerings continuing to largely be cold, such as gelato and ice cream”. The four-strong range includes the Sticky Toffee Hot Skillet – sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel gelato; the Banoffee Hot Pocket – a hot crepe filled with milk chocolate, marshmallows and sliced banana, topped with toffee sauce and accompanied with vanilla soft serve. There is also the Spiced Winter Berry Waffle – a Creams waffle laced with winter spices, topped with black cherries, speculoos gelato, toffee sauce and white chocolate raspberry cookie dough and speculoos crumbs; and the Caramel Apple Skillet – a toasted doughnut with sticky toffee sauce and hot apple pie filling. Everett Fieldgate, chief executive at Creams Café, said: “While many consider dessert restaurants a summer destination, we’re setting out change perceptions. We’re proud to be leading the sector with our hot dessert winter range that taps into customer appetite for nostalgia and comfort and has been tailor made to offer customers familiar yet innovative treats to enjoy all year round, in all weathers.”
KFC, Costa and Pizza Hut franchisee reports ‘reasonably encouraging’ outlook for 2024 after profits and turnover fall: KFC, Costa and Pizza Hut franchisee SME Group has reported a “reasonably encouraging” outlook for 2024 after profits and turnover fell in the year to 31 March 2023. The group, led by Aly Esmail, owns and operates a wide portfolio of branded assets in the restaurant, hotel, gym and real estate markets, also having partnerships with companies including Holiday Inn, Comfort and the West London Golf Centre. Its turnover fell from £97,321,800 in 2022 to £88,053,260, with £84,788,468 coming from restaurants (2022: £95,079,592) and £3,264,792 from hotels (2022: £2,242,208). Its pre-tax profit dropped from £12,626,090 to £496,692, with no government grants compared to £175,705 in 2022. “The directors aim to continue with the management policies which has resulted in the group’s steady growth in recent years,” Esmail said. “The outlook for 2024 is reasonably encouraging, with the directors being optimistic that the current performance can be maintained.” No dividends were paid (2022: £40,000).
Caravan launches retail range in Waitrose: London-based restaurant, bar and coffee-roasting concept Caravan has launched a retail range of compostable coffee pods and premium coffee. Its first supermarket listing is now available in Waitrose stores across the country and online at Waitrose’s website. Among the range are Market Organic Coffee pods, inspired by the first Caravan restaurant and roastery on Exmouth Market, which will retail at £5 for ten pods. Also available for £5 will be ten Daily Blend Coffee pods, while 200g packs of No Boundaries and The Daily Blend can be bought for £7.50. Laura Harper Hinton, Caravan co-founder and chief executive, said: “We are so excited to see Caravan coffee stocked in Waitrose stores across the country and share our passion for good quality coffee. From creating signature blends fit for morning, noon and night in our very own roastery in North London, we want to make it easy for people to choose great coffee in local stores.” It comes after Harper-Hinton last month told Casual Dining 2023 that she is excited at the ten-strong concept’s expansion outside of London and is looking at what the next stage of investment might look like. Its latest site, and largest yet, is due to open in Covent Garden on Monday (23 October).
Property housing Quaglino’s placed on the market for £12m: The long leasehold of the property housing the D&D London-operated Quaglino’s restaurant, has been placed on the market with an asking price of £12m. CBRE is marketing 73-76 Jermyn Street and 18-20 Bury Street, the mixed-use corner building in the heart of St James’s. Offers in excess of £12m are being sought for the long leasehold, which reflects a net initial yield of 5.5%. First opened in the 1950s, Quaglino’s was relaunched by Sir Terence Conran in 1993, and is currently owned and operated by D&D London. The restaurant is currently on a rent of £125,000 per annum. 
Harbour Hotels reports turnover exceeds pre-covid levels but profit falls after ‘marked rise’ in costs: Harbour Hotels has reported turnover increased to £58,007,140 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £43,815,746 the previous year. Revenue also exceeded the £49,575,279 reported for the year ending 31 December 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax profit was down to £2,937,759 from £5,471,203 the year before following a “marked rise” in costs and reduction in government support (2019: profit of £400,819). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “As the first full year of uninterrupted trading since the covid pandemic, 2022 could loosely be described as a return to ‘business as usual’. With a 12-month trading result being reported for the first time since 2019, the figures make for positive reading and show significant year-on-year improvement in sales activity. In reality, it is unlikely ‘business as usual’ will return in the near future. The challenges faced by the hospitality sector appear relentless and ensure the group needs to remain agile in an ever-changing environment. Shifts in consumer behaviour, workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions represent just some of the issues faced, notwithstanding the instability witnessed in the UK economy over the past 12 months. Coupled with the removal of UK government-led support, the group has seen a marked rise in costs that will need to be managed even more closely.” The business received £78,667 in government grants (2021: £3,465,255). No dividend was paid (2021: nil). The company, which is owned by the Nicolas James Group, owns 15 hotels and spas in locations across the UK.
Liverpool hospitality veteran to open new ‘tikeasy’ bar tomorrow: Liverpool hospitality veteran Danny Cunningham will open a new ‘tikeasy’ bar – taking the best elements of a tiki bar and a speakeasy – tomorrow (Thursday, 19 October). The 35-cover Danny C’s has opened in the former Super Megabite site on Liverpool’s Seel Street, specialising in classic cocktails and new creations inspired by Cunningham’s extensive travels. Ireland native Cunningham was part of the opening team for GSG Hospitality venues Salt Dog Slims and 81 Ltd before working as an independent beverage consultant across the globe and opening his own bar in Singapore. As well as more than 100 cocktails, the venue will offer an extensive wine list and small plates from Bitter Social, plus a “luxurious” oyster menu and dessert options. Cunningham said: “We’ve been working incredibly hard behind the scenes on both the build and menu of Danny C’s and myself and the team are really excited to be opening our doors. We’ll be welcoming our guests into Liverpool’s first Tikeasy, where they can experience the exceptional service of a speakeasy, but in a relaxed, cosy setting.”
Italian restaurant and fast-casual brand makes UK debut: Italian restaurant and fast-casual brand Indigno has made its UK debut, in London’s Shoreditch. The brand’s first overseas site, at 104 Brick Lane, follows strong growth across its three locations in Bologna since the company’s formation in 2019. The brand specialises in the crescentina – fried dough filled with high-quality and fresh Italian ingredients. Co-founded by Andrea Liotta and Edoardo Malvincini and later joined by Marco Liotta, it has seen its turnover grow 187% between 2021 and 2022.

Esquires opens in Kettering as company looks to pass 60-site mark by spring of 2024: Esquires, the Cooks Coffee Company-owned business, has opened in Kettering for its 55th UK site and plans to pass the 60-site mark by the spring of 2024. The business, which earlier this year said it plans to double its UK estate over next three years, has opened in the town’s Newlands Shopping Centre. “The opening of our Kettering store marks yet another milestone in our journey of growth, proudly standing as our 55th store,” it said. “We are excited to share that our expansion continues, with plans to unveil another seven to eight stores in the next two quarters.” Last month, Cooks Coffee said it plans to appoint administrators to place its 11-strong Triple Two coffee franchise business into an insolvency process. It said Esquires continues to perform in line with management’s expectations and will not be affected by any Triple Two insolvency process.
Harrison Leisure UK reports ‘significantly improved financial performance’ as turnover, profit and Ebitda all increase: Holiday park operator Harrison Leisure UK has reported a “significantly improved financial performance” as turnover, profit and Ebitda all increased in the year ending 31 December 2022. Its pre-tax profit grew from £5,912,483 in 2021 to £6,917,438 off turnover of £30,011,488, which was up from £26,540,611 in 2021. Ebitda rose from £7.6m in 2021 to £9.5m. No government grants were received compared to £285,917 in 2021 and dividends of £631,000 were paid (2021: £384,000). Post year end, it acquired its ninth site and first outside of northern England, the Cakes & Ale Holiday Park in Suffolk, in August. The business, led by William Harrison, said at the time of the purchase that it is looking to expand nationally. Harrison, in his statement accompanying the accounts, said: “The strategic planning and recruitment implemented by the directors throughout 2021 and 2022 has resulted in the significantly improved financial performance of the company and strengthened our financial position. The directors are pleased with the financial performance and outcome of their strategic planning. 2022 has enabled the company to acquire an additional park and to invest £6.4m in the infrastructure of our parks and facilities.”
Midlands better burger brand set to open second Birmingham site: Midlands better burger brand Phat Buns is set to open its second site in Birmingham and 11th overall. Co-owners Hussein Sacranie and Ahtesham Moosa are preparing to open a site in the Lozells area of the city, adding to its Small Heath location. “We’re thrilled to announce that we’re expanding our presence in Birmingham with our second location in the vibrant Lozells area,” Sacranie said. “This marks our 11th site across the UK, and we can’t wait to bring our delicious Phat Buns to even more of you. Our team is hard at work, crafting the perfect space for you to enjoy our mouthwatering burgers and more.” Site number ten, which has not yet opened, will be Phat Buns’ London debut, in Bayswater, with a Slough site also in the pipeline.

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