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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 10th Nov 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – The Piano Works to take up residency within Nightcap Covent Garden following relocation: Live music concept The Piano Works is set to take up residency within the Covent Garden venue of Nightcap – owner of the Cocktail Club, Adventure Bar Group, Dirty Martini and Barrio Familia group of bars – following a relocation. The Piano Works is reopening its West End venue within the Gillian Lynne Theatre on the corner of Drury Lane and Parker Street, as it partners with Nightcap for the residency within its Covent Garden Lyceum venue. Starting from Thursday, 16 November, The Piano Works, which also has a venue in Farringdon, will be the first audience-requested, live music concept to be offered at a Nightcap venue. Nightcap chief executive Sarah Willingham said: “I’m looking forward to working with the talented team at The Piano Works, to bring another fantastic concept into a Nightcap venue. Our customers will love it, and our teams will work together to make sure people have the best night out over this busy Christmas period and into the new year.” Earlier this year, The Piano Works applied to Westminster Council to increase the licensed capacity at its current Leicester Square venue, in Parker Street, from 400 to 700 people. This was rejected, despite support from statutory bodies, which it said made operating within Westminster untenable and led a search for a new West End premises where a larger capacity was possible. Alan Lorrimer, owner of The Piano Works, formerly owned and operated the Gillian Lynne Theatre site under Brazilian concept Guanabara from 2004 to 2012. “Returning to the Gillian Lynne Theatre location has always been a dream of mine, and I have always felt it would be the perfect spot for a Piano Works location,” he said. “When our West End capacity licence request was rejected, I approached the team at Nightcap and was delighted it agreed to this exciting opportunity to partner with us in such a collaborative way.” Morris Greenberg, of CDG Leisure acted on the relocation. Nightcap operates 36 venues. Nightcap features in the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage, the latest version of which will be released to premium subscribers next Friday (17 November). It is the first database where full profiles of 780 of the UK’s top food and beverage operators are available in one place. 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. 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.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Toggle launches weekly masterclasses to maximise sales over Black Friday and Christmas: Toggle, the hospitality gift card platform, has launched weekly masterclasses for maximising sales over Black Friday and Christmas. It is forecasting that £27m of Toggle gift cards will be bought in November and December 2023. With more than 500 hospitality brands now selling gift cards, experiences and merchandise through the platform, the 2023 festive period is set to significantly exceed all previous years, Toggle said. Toggle has reduced all of its data from the past six years into six top tips for all brands this Black Friday and Christmas. It is running a weekly masterclass each Tuesday morning at 11am, sharing insights and statistics from 2022, and demonstrating how to implement best practice for this year. You can register for any of their masterclasses here. For any hospitality brands not yet offering gift cards, you can be live on Toggle within 48 hours, and it integrates with all commonly used EPOS providers. If you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email

Next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book to be released today: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will be sent to Premium subscribers today (Friday, 10 November), at midday. It now features 789 companies that are turning over a total of £56.9bn. A total of 536 companies are making a profit while 253 are making a loss. The profit being made by sector companies is now outstripping losses by £1.82bn. The Blue Book shows the total profit of the 789 companies in the list is £3,754,189,462 and losses are £1,935,831,027. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Meanwhile, for the first time, Propel group editor Mark Wingett has chosen the best videos from the Propel conferences in 2023, picking out a selection of talks and interviews that resonated with delegates from across the breadth of the hospitality sector. The 12 videos will be made available to Propel’s Premium subscribers at 9am on Friday, 24 November. 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 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 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 Mark Wingett.

Mojo Bars MD – late-night sector being impacted by change to an entire demographic segment: Martin Greenhow, managing director of Voodoo Doll, the company behind the Mojo Bars business, has argued the UK’s late-night sector is being impacted by “subtle yet profound changes in behaviour”. He claimed that is leading to a change to an entire demographic segment with 18 to 25-year-olds an “awful lot less socially prevalent than they were in 2019”. Greenhow believes that alongside the well-publicised difficulties the sector has faced – from interest rates to train strikes, high street inflation to global energy crisis – other factors are in play. Writing in today’s (Friday, 10 November) Propel Premium, Greenhow said: “I put forward we are seeing a change to an entire demographic segment. The segment that, at least for the late-night city centre bar and nightclub sector, are vital. The student/young professional segment, or to put it another way, those 18 to 25 years old who, simply put, seem to be an awful lot less socially prevalent than they were in 2019. Those who could be coerced into employment seemed to struggle with basic social skills. Why are these challenges seen in employment relevant? Because largely the demographic pool we were recruiting from is exactly the same pool we are currently seeing a downturn in trade from! Young people 18 to 25 years old simply aren’t showing up in the numbers of old.” Greenhow will share more of his thoughts in today’s Premium Opinion, which will be sent to Premium subscribers at 5pm. 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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo to upgrade your subscription.

McDonald’s UK CEO summoned to parliament over sexual assault claims at fast-food chain: The UK boss of McDonald’s is to face questions from MPs amid growing claims of abuse and harassment at the fast-food chain. The Telegraph reported the Business & Trade Committee has summoned Alistair Macrow for questioning on Tuesday (14 November) after more allegations of staff mistreatment emerged. It comes after the BBC revealed that it had received more than 160 complaints from McDonald’s employees, just months after the broadcaster first revealed claims of sexual abuse at the chain. The latest raft of allegations includes sexual harassment by managers and claims that a senior manager was openly racist. Lawyers at Leigh Day said it had been contacted by staff in the wake of the investigation and is now looking at legal action on their behalf. Kiran Daurka, a partner in the Leigh Day employment team, said: “It is clear the McDonald’s empire relies upon a young and inexperienced workforce, and it is vital they have a safe place of work. Some of the stories reported by the BBC, and some of the stories that we have been told directly of sexual abuse and harassment, are disturbing. Young crew members, many of whom will be in their first job, are unlikely to know what steps to take when they feel physically or psychologically unsafe at work. It is our view that they have recourse to legal action.” McDonald’s employs more than 170,000 staff across 1,450 restaurants, the majority of which are franchised.

New campaign launches to save Scottish hospitality: The Scottish Hospitality Group has launched a new campaign that warns the Scottish government that it has just five weeks to save the country’s hospitality industry. Save Our Scottish Hospitality calls for the Scottish government to use its Budget to provide emergency support for the industry and a new long-term deal to support the sector. It said the covid-19 pandemic, the cost of rising inflation and energy prices have disproportionately hit hospitality – more than any other sector of the Scottish economy. According to the Scottish government’s own survey, three in five hospitality businesses have seen production, suppliers or both affected by higher energy prices, and almost half have been forced to pass these higher costs on to consumers. The campaign wants to see an emergency 75% business rates relief to match that in England and Wales; the creation of a new hospitality category for business rates that would recognise the unique challenges faced by sector businesses; and a government pledge to develop a plan to grow Scotland’s hospitality industry and address the challenges it faces. Stephen Montgomery, director of the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “We can’t go on like this. Without government support, there will be higher prices for consumers, a loss of jobs, and many of our best-loved hospitality businesses closing their doors forever. A new, fairer deal on business rates would be one step the government can take in the Budget to give our hospitality industry a fighting chance. A freeze in rates or the status quo won’t be enough, we need both emergency support and long-term reform. This is an SOS – we need help to make sure Scottish hospitality can survive.”

Rugby World Cup delivers knock-out drinks sales: Pubs and bars scored double-digit growth in drinks sales during the final stages of the Rugby World Cup, CGA by NIQ’s On Premise Measurement service shows. Five of the six knock-out matchdays delivered a boost of 16% or more against the average equivalent day over the rest of 2023. Growth by value peaked at 23% during England’s quarter-final with Fiji, thanks in part to an afternoon kick-off and a second quarter-final afterwards. The narrow semi-final defeat to South Africa helped total on premise drinks sales to rise 16%, while the bronze match with Argentina helped trigger an 18% uplift. But the tournament’s impacts were not limited to England’s game days. Sales rose 16% when Wales played Argentina and Ireland took on New Zealand in the quarter-finals, while the final saw a 18% upswing. Across the last six games of the World Cup, growth averaged 15%. This followed a 16% increase during the group stages of the tournament. “These excellent growth figures show how fruitful big sporting occasions can be for pubs and bars,” said Paul Bolton, client director, GB Drinks at CGA by NIQ. “While Halloween footfall and other sport helped, it is clear that millions of consumers want to enjoy big games in the company of others in pubs and bars. Matches were a particularly important boost for beer brands, and the tournament will hopefully prove to be a good springboard into their festive season.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a wholesale services business that has a diverse group of members – made up of on-trade, foodservice, retail, and specialist wholesalers – that is seeking a trading controller. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for sourcing, ranging, negotiating, and managing the trade terms across the impulse channel. It is imperative you build successful commercial relationships with key stakeholders in the business. This is a fantastic opportunity to join a market leading business who can offer genuine opportunities for progression and involvement in key business decisions to develop your skills and grow.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in South Yorkshire. For more information, email

Company News:

Admiral Taverns CEO – we are converting one site a week to Proper Pubs, will eventually make up 20% of estate: Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns, has said the 1,500-strong business is converting one site a week to its operator managed division Proper Pubs, which he thinks it will eventually make up 20% of the group’s overall estate. Earlier this week, the Proprium-backed business reported “strong underlying trading” in the year to 28 May 2023, helped by a “notably strong performance” from its 177-strong Proper Pubs division. Jowsey told Propel: “October has been okay, it met expectations. I don’t think it was as strong as September obviously, and that was partly weather driven. It’s probably been slightly stronger for Proper Pubs than leased and tenanted. That might just be timing, but Proper Pubs is continuing to perform, which is great. We’ve been very disciplined about where we apply the Proper Pubs model. We’re investing about £250,000 every time we convert a pub to Proper Pubs, but the returns on that are really strong. I’ve always been clear I thought Proper Pubs would make up probably about 20% of our entire estate in the long term, and I haven’t changed that view. By Christmas, it will be at about 200 sites. We’re converting roughly one a week at the moment. I still think that the overall estate will be 80% tenanted by the time we finish that growth. That probably means we’ll have around 300 Proper Pubs in our estate. We’re not going to take a pub off a tenanted operator if they want to stay as a tenanted operator, but there’s always opportunities there to convert in the right way.” As for whether there will be some sector consolidation in 2024, Jowsey said: “That’s the million-dollar question. I was hopeful of growing again in the summer, but nothing really came to market that was of interest to us. We’ve always been clear with our sweet spot, which we think is about 1,500 to 2,000 pubs, so we’ve still got headroom there. There doesn’t seem to be very much coming on to the market. I guess people are nervous about putting things on the market when interest rates are high. If interest rates start to come down in the middle of next year, which I think is what a lot of economists are now saying, then obviously that would help. I also think that kind of real pressure from a cost line point of view is not as bad as it was a year ago.”

Giggling Squid – building 2024 pipeline, focus on lunches generating circa 25% sales uplift: Andy Laurillard, co-founder of Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by the Business Growth Fund, has told Propel it has already exchanged on three sites for its 2024 pipeline and that is has a “long way to go” when it comes to roll out potential in the UK. The 46-strong business will open its next site in Shrewsbury in December, which will be followed by openings in Mermaid Quay in Cardiff, and in Muswell Hill (a former Bill’s), in the first quarter of next year. It has also exchanged on sites in Exeter – taking space in the Waterstones facing on to Cathedral Green; Leeds – a former bank site in Park Row; and in Richmond, south west London. It is also in legals on four more sites. Laurillard told Propel the company should do eight new openings next year. He also revealed the business explored a smaller format, going as far as trademarking the Giggling Go, but that has now been put on the backburner indefinitely. He said: “We don’t really need another growth engine because we’ve still got quite a long way to go with this format – we’re only at 46. How many can we do? I spoke to someone in the industry recently who said they reckoned we could do 200 sites in the UK. I don’t know if it is 200, but it’s not just 100, because we have sites generating sales now, which would be way down that second hundred list.” A focus on attracting more lunchtime custom is also paying dividends. Laurillard said: “We’ve got half a dozen sites where we have got more lunch customers coming in then we have in the evenings, and they are our most profitable sites, because they have this extra serious revenue stream. We are in that consideration set for people going out looking for something different, something special for lunch. We’ve just done some work on the lunch menu, and we’ve managed to get quite a lot more sales per head at lunchtime. We are 25% up at lunches across the estate, and this has changed our property strategy. When we are looking at cities now we are making sure we are in the foot flow rather than looking at those more destination/off-pitch sites.”

Emerald Hospitality Group to explore expansion outside of London: The founders of Emerald Hospitality Group have told Propel they are exploring expansion outside of London, with Manchester a city of particular interest. Founded by twin entrepreneurs Arian and Alberto Zandi, the group owns restaurants in London. These include Mayfair duo El Norte, a high-end Spanish restaurant, and Riviera, inspired by the south of France; and Kensington pair Zuaya, a Latin American fusion, and Como Garden, an Italian restaurant inspired by Lake Como. This will be followed soon by a newly announced Greek concept, but the group is also looking to spread its wings outside the capital. “In 2024, our primary objective is to introduce our next concept in London. But there are some cities in the UK such as Manchester that have a very interesting restaurant scene that we think some of our concepts would fit in well, and we will explore these opportunities in the near future,” the founders told Propel. “The launch of Riviera has been quite successful – bookings have shown consistent growth since its opening [in April] and customer feedback has been positive. Regarding our forthcoming Greek concept, we are currently in the finalisation phase, and while we can’t divulge many details at this time, news of the opening will be coming very soon.” The founders said El Norte, Zuaya and Como Garden have also been trading well. “Despite the challenges posed by Brexit, the covid-19 pandemic, and ongoing geopolitical issues resulting in inflation, interest rate fluctuations and a scarcity of labour, these three concepts and their respective teams have performed exceptionally well,” they added. “We achieved an average year-on-year growth of 15% and maintained a healthy cash flow under these complex circumstances. We anticipate that by the fourth quarter of the upcoming year, inflation is likely to ease, along with a stabilisation of interest rates. These developments should have a positive impact on consumers’ cash flow, ultimately leading to increased spending within the hospitality sector.” In April, the group said it had forecast a 122% increase in turnover by 2025, in line with its upcoming new restaurant launches, which is set to project the group’s revenue from £9m in 2022 to £20m-plus by the end of 2024. It also said it plans to take each of its concepts international by 2030, to cities “with similar synergies to London”, including Dubai, Miami and New York.

Pub groups showing interest in taking on Paulaner franchise: A number of established pub groups are among those who have expressed interest in taking on a franchise of Bavarian-based brewer and operator Paulaner in the UK, Propel has learned. Propel revealed earlier this year that Paulaner Franchise & Consulting, a subsidiary of Paulaner, the Bavarian brewery established in 1634 in Munich, was looking to launch its restaurant and bar concepts in the UK. The original Paulaner Bräuhaus opened in Munich in 1989 and the business has grown to circa 40 sites, with venues as far afield as Singapore, Shanghai, Indonesia and Azerbaijan, along with seven sites across Germany. The business teamed up with property adviser Christie & Co as it looked to secure a number of “ambitious hospitality entrepreneurs” or investment groups that can open up to ten sites throughout the UK in the next few years. Simon Chaplin, senior director – pubs, restaurants and franchise at Christie & Co, told Propel that initial interest has come from existing pub group owners, including those with up to 100 pubs already. Paulaner is focusing on launching two concepts here – the Bräuhaus with its on-site micro-brewery; and the Bierhaus, a traditional Bavarian pub model. The former is a more premium format, with a 60/40 food to drink sales mix, which is thought to have generated the most interest. Chaplin told Propel: “There has been really good reaction to the opportunity, especially from existing pub groups. They know the brand and have sites that could potentially be converted. There is also increasing acceptance of exploring the franchise route across the sector.” Hans Neumaier, director of business development at Paulaner Franchise, said that with quality becoming a bigger issue post-covid, potential franchisees and consumers are attracted by the brands’ ability to deliver “continuously good quality”. Neumaier said the business was focusing on London for its initial UK launch, where “average cover numbers are up to 25% higher”. However, it is keen on other major UK cities “as the quality of the franchise partner is key to a successful UK launch”, and it was confident of having a first franchisee signed up in the first half of 2024.

Camm & Hooper continuing to fundraise as it looks to add further three sites in 2024, CVA not expected to end before spring 2025: Imbiba-backed events and hospitality group Camm & Hooper is continuing to fundraise as it aims to add a further three sites to its portfolio in 2024. The company said the business has now “stabilised” following its company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which it anticipates won’t come to an end before spring 2025. It added the group was also now free of bank debt. The details were revealed in the company’s accounts for the year ending 29 August 2021, which included details of the CVA arrangement. It showed unsecured creditors have been promised 55p in the pound and a share of a profit share fund equal to 20% of the amount (if any) by which the Ebitda of the company for the 2023 financial year exceeds £2m. In addition to the CVA, as a direct result of the pandemic, the lease with Battersea Power Station went through multiple variations before being terminated by the landlord. In September 2023, Camm & Hooper entered into a partnership with Jeru Mayfair to add three new event spaces and expanded its portfolio with the addition of 26 Leake Street, an 11,000 square-foot space located in London’s South Bank, after raising £1m from existing and new shareholders via a rights issue and open offer. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The new management team has been in place for 22 months. In that time, it has stabilised the existing business while also building a pipeline of new venue spaces to add to the portfolio. The business continues to fundraise to support further business acquisitions and venue lease reassignments, with strong indications of a further three sites being brought on in calendar year 2024. In March 2023, as a result of a landlord renegotiation on one lease, the business secured sufficient funds to pay off the bank loan in full. In June 2023, the business closed the bar/restaurant at one of the venues and converted it to pure events space, allowing management to focus on what it is best at and drive further profitability from the space.”

Domino’s CEO – loyalty scheme ‘not be all and end all’, on track for 2024 launch as app users up 55% year on year: Domino’s chief executive Andrew Rennie has said a loyalty scheme is “not the be all and end all” but confirmed it is on track to launch next year. The business said in August it was planning a loyalty programme after consulting with customers, and it has now confirmed the e-commerce platform to enable it will be ready by the end of 2023. Speaking to investors, Rennie did not confirm exactly when the programme would launch in 2024 but said the business will do “whatever it can” to drive consumer frequency, which would “invariably” involve the loyalty scheme. “I don’t want to just jump into a loyalty programme because people expect it and think it’s going to change the world,” he said. “We don’t want to rush it. Promotions are a nice way to help the consumer and bring them to us, but they’re not the be all and end all.” It follows interim chief executive Elias Diaz Sese telling investors in August he was “very excited” by the potential of the loyalty scheme. “We’re probably the only company in the industry right now that doesn’t have a strong loyalty programme,” he said. The business said the new e-commerce platform will introduce improved digital capabilities for the brand, enabling agility across promotional and marketing activity. The most recent quarter saw it grow to 8.7 million active app users, a 55% increase versus the same period last year. Reaching new customers is also a key focus for the brand, according to Rennie. He said Domino’s can currently reach around 85% of households in the UK, meaning there is plenty of room for it to reach new consumers. Stores in new locations have seen very high sales upon opening, he said, demonstrating how “people are calling out” for access to the brand.

BrewDog co-founder blames council inaction for delays to Durham site ‘that’s been ready to open for well over a year’: James Watt, co-founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has blamed local authority inaction for delays to the company’s Durham site “that has been ready to open for well over a year”. Watt said the company signed a lease for a new location in the city’s Milburngate development in August 2021. It completed the construction and was ready to open the bar in 2022, with all relevant consents and permits in place, but was told by the council that its opening would be delayed until January 2023. Watt said. “We hired and trained a full team and even had food and drink on the tables in preparation for opening, but the council once again delayed our opening. The developer of the entire project, Tolent, went into administration in February 2023. It was developing the project on behalf of the council. Since then, it has been almost radio silence as to when we can open. The council is set to become our landlord, but it won’t even let us know when that is happening. Everyman Cinemas and Premier Inn are in the same boat, with fully completed venues. At a time when the UK needs jobs, investment, and economic rejuvenation more than ever, this is almost beyond comprehension. Our economy is missing out on hundreds of jobs, the government is missing out on valuable tax revenue and the good people of Durham are missing out on brilliant entertainment options. We still have no idea when we can open our doors, despite the site being ready for well over a year now. If we need a stark example of why the UK is falling behind other countries in terms of economic prosperity, look no further.”

Vegan and vegetarian restaurant brand Herb secures Leamington Spa site for second UK venue: Vegan and vegetarian restaurant brand Herb, which focuses on the cuisine of the Kerala region of India, has secured its second UK site. Having made its debut here in Leicester, the business is now opening in Leamington Spa. Herb has completed a combined purchase that involved a vacant restaurant in a double unit at 5-6 Lunn Poly House. The property was sold off an asking price of £745,000. Also in the deal was the adjacent retail unit at 4c Lunn Poly House, currently let to London Camera Exchange for £15,000 a year, reports Insider Media. Bond Wolfe acted on the deal. As well as the Leicester site, Herb has another 12 venues internationally.

Tap & Tandoor lines up fourth site: Indian gastro-pub operator Tap & Tandoor has lined up a fourth site, in Portsmouth. Propel understands that the business, led by husband-and-wife team Ajay and Shivani Kenth, has lined up the ex-Coast to Coast site in Gunwharf Quays, which closed three years ago, for an opening in January next year. Tap & Tandoor already operates venues in Peterborough, Solihull and Southampton. The latter opened on the former CAU restaurant site in the Westquay scheme in March. David Muslin, of Ecliptic, is understood to have acted on the Portsmouth deal.

Milton Keynes McDonald’s franchisee makes a loss due to increase in VAT, volatile supply chain and rising costs: Seven-strong Milton Keynes McDonald’s franchisee Kaizen Restaurants made a loss in the year to 31 December 2022 due to an increase in VAT, volatile supply chain and rising costs base. It saw a pre-tax profit of £1,803,944 in 2021 turn into a loss of £531,370 as costs rose by £1,8m. Turnover rose from £27,379,387 in 2021 to £30,222,419. This compares with turnover of £21,336,621 and a profit of £313,311 in pre-covid 2019, when the business operated six stores. No government grants were received compared with £115,875 in 2021, and dividends of £83,000 were paid, the same as in 2021. Director Ken Tomkins, a former McDonald’s UK vice-president who established Kaizen in 2011, said: “The company currently operates seven stores, employing more than 850 staff in Milton Keynes and its suburbs. Store and delivery sales profitability, although strong in the first half of 2022, has been impacted in the second half of the year by among other things the increase in VAT within the hospitality sector back to the standard rate of 20% from 1 April 2022, a volatile supply chain and rising costs base. Given the direct link between our approach to pricing, the external environment, and our success in relation to our customers, we will continue to remain close to understanding this relationship and look constantly to evaluate how our internal actions are impacting our customers. The financial position of the company is healthy with the balance sheet showing net assets of £1.37m, decreased from £1.84m in 2021.”

Northern Ireland hotel group unveils strategic plan and new leadership structure as it targets £60m turnover: Northern Ireland operator McKeever Hotel Group has revealed its strategic three-year plan, which aims to increase turnover to £60m, and a new leadership structure. The plan includes the growth of its operation on an all-island basis and across its existing hotels in Northern Ireland and Donegal. The strategy, which coincides with the group’s 30th anniversary, is underpinned by McKeever’s recent £3m capital expenditure across its five hotels. This includes a significant refurbishment and upgrade of Dillon’s Hotel in Donegal and further investment in the group’s flagship Dunadry Hotel & Gardens in Antrim. To deliver on the future-focused strategy, the McKeever Hotel Group has also reorganised its board structure and announced changes in its leadership team. Eugene McKeever, who established the business in 1993 when he bought Corr’s Corner in Newtownabbey, will move from managing director to chair of the group. His son Eddie, who was formerly operations director, has been appointed group managing director, while his sister, Bridgene Keeley, becomes company secretary and director of governance. McKeever’s wife, Catherine, with whom he co-founded the business, remains a director and has also been appointed chair of environmental, social and governance. Victoria Walton joins the board as director of finance while Martin Toner, who has more than 30 years of experience as general manager across the group portfolio, is the new director of people. Eugene McKeever told Insider Media: “The journey to this important new phase in our development has been both challenging and exciting, and I’m so pleased that our travels continue, albeit with a new captain in place.” The business, which turned over £13,567,633 in the year ending 30 September 2022, has also set aside £250,000 for investment in the training and development of its 300-strong workforce.

Timothy Taylor’s invests £9m into brewery expansion: Keighley brewer and retailer Timothy Taylor’s has received the go-ahead for a £9m expansion of its brewery. The company is growing its Knowle Spring Brewery site, where it has been based for 160 years. The company, best known for its Landlord and Boltmaker beer, said it needed to increase brewing capacity to “meet current market demands”. New plant machinery and brewing equipment will be installed as part of the work, planning documents revealed. The company described the move as a “significant moment for the brewery, with the money set to be invested in the site over the next five years. Tim Dewey, chief executive of Timothy Taylor’s, said: “While the plan provides for increased capacity at the brewery, it will also enhance our resilience, health and safety and ability to deliver quality beer. It will significantly upgrade our facilities, including additional storage for our Knowle Spring water, yeast care and cleaning.”

Seren Collection reports record turnover as it continues to invest in estate: Seren Collection, which operates five luxury hospitality venues in Wales, has reported turnover increased 35% to a record £6,704,530 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £4,957,436 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £402,088 from £1,208,192 the year before as the group continued to invest in its properties. The business operates boutique hotel, The Grove of Narberth; Coast and The Kiosk Cafe, both in Saundersfoot; the Beach House in Oxwich Bay and the Penmaenuchaf hotel in Penmaenpool. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group reinvested heavily following the success of 2021, spending north of £1.6m on capital expenditure, excluding the new hotel, Penmaenuchaf. Key projects included eight bedrooms remodelled and refurbished at Grove; the addition of a significant double extension at Beach House, to provide a lounge area, private dining suite and much larger facilities back-of-house; housekeeping centre, linen store and substantial group wine store at Grove; and the installation and relocation of a new waste treatment plant at Grove. There are several exciting projects to come following the opening of Penmaenuchaf in 2022. The focus is to unlock the profit potential in this acquisition.” The business, which filed full accounts for the first time, received government grants of £14,143 (2021: £122,949). A dividend of £97,000 was paid (2021: £158,200).

Former Zanna Hospitality Group operations director opens Manchester cocktail bar for debut solo venture: Ben Reilly, former operations director at north west operator Zanna Hospitality Group, has opened a cocktail bar in Manchester for his debut solo venture. He has teamed up with friend and business partner Fran Cruse to open Stray in the former Atkinsons Coffee Roasters unit in Eagle Street, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Ingredients are locally sourced where possible, spirits are infused in-house, while cordials are homemade. Drinks include Tomato Margarita (Tomato Vine tequila, mezcal, Helios tomato, agave, acid blend and lime oil; Rhubarb & Pine Gimlet (gin, rhubarb and pine cordial, Pineau des Charentes and lime); and Fig Leaf Pisco (Pisco, fig leaf, pear, orange blossom, lime and fizz). There is also a carefully curated list of low and non-alcoholic cocktails. Reilly, who spent just under two years with Zanna, was formerly bar operations manager at Beautiful Drinks and bar manager at Victorian Chop House Company. Cruse, meanwhile, works in marketing and public relations, with recent clients including Hawksmoor, Soho House, San Carlo, Graffiti Spirits Group, Six By Nico and Rola Wala.

Former River Café senior sous chef to lead kitchen at new Italian restaurant in London’s Soho: Former River Café senior sous chef Harry Faddy will lead the kitchen at a new Italian restaurant in London’s Soho. Faddy, who is also a former head chef at Aquavit London, will perform the same role at Dear Jackie, which has launched at the Broadwick Soho townhouse hotel at 20 Broadwick Street. Dishes include seared hand dived scallop with Champagne, trout roe and finger lime; roast veal with tonnato, capers and crispy shallot; and grilled veal chop with lemon capers and sage. There will also be a carefully curated wine list with a focus on Italian wines. The restaurant takes its name from the mother of its founder, Noel Hayden, who spent his childhood years living at his family’s hotel, Mon Ami, in Bournemouth. Hayden said: “I am paying tribute to the legendary and flamboyant Jackies of our past, present and future. Everybody has their Jackie – a personal icon that embodies fun, fabulousness and joy.”

December opening confirmed for Georgian-inspired small-plates restaurant and cocktail bar in London’s Fitzrovia: A December opening has been confirmed for Georgian-inspired small-plates restaurant and subterranean cocktail bar Kinkally. The brainchild of Diana Militski, it will launch on Wednesday, 6 December at 43 Charlotte Street – comprising of restaurant Kinkally and cocktail den Bar Kinky. It is inspired by Georgian cuisine, in particular a local dish called khinkali: a dumpling traditionally filled with beef, pork or lamb and a touch of parsley. Chef David Chelidze, of Hedonist, will create versions featuring wagyu beef, jonjoli and umeshu sauce; langoustine, tarragon and matsoni; and pheasant and chestnut in a wild mushroom broth, among many others. Alongside this will be small plates inspired by Georgia’s ancient food culture, while Bar Kinky will offer “inventive” cocktails from Andrew Pruts, part of the team behind Insider.

Jupiter Hotels reports turnover exceeds pre-covid levels as it boosts profit following sales: Jupiter Hotels, which is owned by S Hotels and Resorts and currently operates 28 UK sites under the Mercure and Holiday Inn brands, has reported turnover increased to £83,008,000 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £56,544,000 the year before. Revenue also exceeded the £81,895,000 reported for the year ending 31 December 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax profit was up to £17,220,000 from £2,871,000 the previous year after the company disposed of the Mercure Burton on Trent for £2,000,000 and the Mecure London Watford for £16,000,000, resulting in a gain on disposal of £10,270,000. Gross profit margin fell from 56.2% to 54.4% as a result of increased cost pressures due to inflation across the whole cost base. Average daily rate was up 27.5% to £77.66 (2021: £60.92) and occupancy was up to 67.9% from 53.6%, while repair rose 61.4% to £52.76 (2021: £32.68). During the first quarter of 2023, the business began a programme of refurbishment of its hotels that will last throughout the year. No dividend was paid (2021: nil).

US themed events company opens Friends experience in Dublin: US themed events company Original X has opened its experience based on hit TV show Friends in Dublin. The Friends Experience, which has enjoyed successful runs in the US as well as Paris and Brussels, launched in the UK at NEC Birmingham in July. It has now opened at Dublin’s Theatre Of Light, giving guests the chance to explore the show’s history and recreate their favourite scenes, starting at €20 for adults. Original X was previously known as Superfly X and was also responsible for The Office Experience and Harry Potter: Magic at Play.

Waterside Holiday Group sees profit and turnover fall, rebrand sets up business for future growth: South west operator Waterside Holiday Group, which operates four holiday parks in Dorset and Cornwall, saw its profit and turnover fall in the 12 months to 31 December 2022 following an “exceptional” year in 2021. Its turnover was down from £32,735,721 in 2021 to £29,239,226 while its pre-tax profit dropped from £6,734,290 to £4,264,227. No government grants were received compared with £289,088 in 2021. Ordinary dividends of £1m were paid and the directors do not recommend payment of a further dividend. Although the business dates to 1963, when Ralph and Esther Jacobs first founded Waterside Holiday Park in Weymouth, it has only been filing full accounts since 2020, so there is no pre-pandemic comparison. Director Miranda Harris said: “Off the back of what was an exceptional year after covid lockdowns, trade restrictions and government support, 2022 saw new challenges. With the global economy impacted by the Ukraine/Russian War, Brexit and the UK government trying to balance repaying debt with rising inflation, costs skyrocketed, and the business navigated these to end 2022 strongly.” The group underwent a rebrand in January, which Harris said “will set us up for future growth” and “allow us to invest further in our parks, our teams and our local communities in the future”. She said the parks at Bowleaze, Chesil and Tregoad all outperformed expectation for the year, and that 2022 saw the business make it biggest capex investment to date. This included a 31-pitch expansion at Bowleaze incorporating high-end lodges and a natural wildlife area. “The Waterside brand remains strong, and the board are confident that the operational model can flex accordingly to any change in the market,” Harris added. “We continue to look to add to our park portfolio and have invested at all our sites to strengthen the core business, create further pitch growth and enhance our leisure and activities offering. In 2023, Waterside Holiday Group was ranked second by Which? Magazine in its survey of holiday parks across the UK, scoring five stars in all its categories.”

Northern Ireland operator sees turnover and profit fall: Wine Inns, which is led by Patrick Hunt and runs bars and nightclubs in Belfast as well as operating a wine merchant business, has reported turnover fell to £12,740,412 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £13,927,574 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £191,052 from £580,255 the year before. Gross profit margin remained at 30%. No dividend was paid (2021: nil).

PPHE Hotel Group confirms March opening for art’otel Hoxton: PPHE Hotel Group has confirmed its art’otel in London’s Hoxton will open in March 2024. Following the launch of art’otel London Battersea Power Station earlier this year, it will be a second UK opening for the brand, which also has sites in Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Zagreb and is also set to launch in Rome. It will offer 357 art-inspired bedrooms and suites alongside destination bars and restaurants with outdoor terraces. There will also be an indoor swimming pool, a spa with four treatment rooms, a sauna and a steam room, plus a skyline gym on the 26th floor. The hotel will host a programme of cultural and artistic events, with opportunities for both up-and-coming and established artists to create on site. PPHE Hotel Group, an international hospitality real estate company with a £2bn portfolio, owns the art’otel brand, a collection of premium lifestyle hotels, each inspired by a signature artist.

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