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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 21st Nov 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

London champagne and cheese concept targets up to 15 UK sites ahead of overseas expansion: London champagne and cheese concept, Champagne + Fromage, is targeting up to 15 UK sites ahead of overseas expansion. Stefano Frigerio founded the company in 2011 and has grown it to two London locations – in Covent Garden and Greenwich – alongside sister brands Cheese + Fizz in Brixton and Comptoir + Cuisine in Bath. It recently launched a two-pronged franchise scheme – through partnerships whereby pub, restaurant and deli owners introduce the Champagne + Fromage offering into their existing setup, and through franchisees opening their own stores. The first partnership launched in October at The Milford Arms in Isleworth, west London, with more pubs following from the beginning of next year. With regards to the franchising, the first site will open next spring. “I don’t think we will be looking to go mainstream as we’re a niche concept that won’t work everywhere, but we’re looking at ten to 15 sites in the UK in the long term,” Frigerio told Propel. “We’re looking at five in London and ten in the rest of the UK – in cities like Bristol, Exeter, Cardiff, Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge. These are cities with similar demographics to Bath, where we have our Comptoir + Cuisine site. It will probably work better in the south than the north, but it could definitely go into cities like Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. We’re also looking to go abroad in a couple of years – countries like France, Belgium, Italy and Germany, where champagne consumption is similar to the UK. Year one will be London, years two and three the rest of the UK, and then abroad.” Frigerio will use the concept’s Greenwich site – which opened in 2015, four years after its debut Covent Garden location – as a blueprint for expansion. “We want to work off the Greenwich model, which has one floor with no kitchen or chef,” he said. “It means less complexity and reduced cost of labour, which is an appealing format. With no extraction, it will also be easier to find locations. As far as London goes, we don’t have the locations yet, but we’re looking for high footfall areas like Carnaby Street in Soho. We’re identifying franchisees and we’re looking to launch the first in April, and then open one every quarter.” Frigerio said the impact of train strikes this year has been “massive” and hopes another Christmas won’t be ruined by them. “We’re a big celebration concept, and Christmas brings in double of our average month,” he added. “It will be very painful for everybody if we get more strikes, but we’re expecting a good Christmas. We are 30% up on last year already, with a lot of tourists from Asia and the US, and we’re expecting to return to return to pre-covid figures in 2024. Business rates could have a massive impact on profitability though if they go up – sales are good, but profits are ever more difficult.” 

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to this week receive two more databases and access to the best Propel conference videos of 2023: Premium subscribers will this week receive two more databases and access to the best Propel conference videos of 2023. They will already have received the next edition of the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage, sent out on Monday, featuring 784 companies and more than 211,000 words of content. This will be followed at midday tomorrow (Wednesday, 22 November) by the next UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database. There will be ten new entries, taking the total to 225 companies either franchising or looking to franchise in the UK. And on Friday, 24 November, the next edition of the Multi-Site Database, in partnership with Virgate, will be sent out at midday. An additional 37 companies, which operate 246 sites between them, were added during November 2023, meaning the database has now grown to include 3,060 companies, which operate 71,189 sites. Before that, on the same day, at 9am, for the first time, the 12 best videos from Propel conference in 2023 will be sent out. Selected by group editor Mark Wingett, they will feature a selection of talks and interviews that resonated with delegates from across the breadth of the hospitality sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the New Openings Database; 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.
Customer footfall shows decline in third quarter, fast-food visits up by as much as 15% this year in biggest city centres: Customer footfall to foodservice outlets showed a decline in the third quarter of 2023, according to the latest data from Meaningful Vision. Overall customer footfall to foodservice outlets has increased 0.2% in the first nine months of 2023 but is down 1% on a like-for-like basis. The report showed a decline in consumer traffic for the top 100 chains – which includes fast food establishments, coffee shops, casual dining and pubs – in the third quarter. Footfall in the first quarter of the year was up 2.3% but was down 1.7% in the third quarter of 2023. However, some areas of the market are experiencing significant growth in footfall, with fast-food, bakeries and sandwich shops showing 7% growth in the first nine months of the year. In contrast, restaurants and pubs have seen footfall drop 5% over the past nine months, according to the data. The growth dynamics show significant variation across regions and cities. Visits to fast-food outlets are up by as much as 15% in some of the biggest city centres. Maria Vanifatova, chief executive of Meaningful Vision, said: “Traffic data allows us to understand the dynamics of foodservice chains, free from the influence of inflation. This is especially crucial in the current environment of high and uneven price increases. Despite the overall declining traffic trends, there are still growth opportunities that vary from city to city and depend on various factors, including competitor penetration and pricing policies.”

Deliveries and takeaways worth 15 pence per pound of restaurant spend after October growth: Delivery and takeaway sales at Britain’s leading managed restaurant groups rose 5% year-on-year in October 2023, CGA by NIQ’s Hospitality at Home Tracker shows. It is a fifth month of like-for-like growth in a row and continues a steady recovery in restaurants’ at-home sales in 2023. This follows a long decline after the end of covid-19 restrictions, which had led to a surge in consumers ordering food to their doors. It means that deliveries and takeaways now account for just under 15 pence in every pound spent by consumers with restaurants contributing to the Hospitality at Home Tracker. However, October’s year-on-year growth of 5% marks a slowdown from September, when combined sales were 7% higher than the same month in 2022. It means growth has dipped slightly behind the rate of inflation, and the increased revenue is the result of higher menu prices rather than extra orders. The Tracker also highlights consumers’ ongoing preference for deliveries over takeaways. Year-on-year growth in delivery sales reached 6% in October, while takeaway and click-and-collect revenue was 2% down from October 2022. Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Managed groups’ delivery and takeaway sales took a sustained hit after the end of covid lockdowns, but growth is now on a par with in-restaurant sales. The convenience of ordering platforms and lower prices suit some consumers’ habits at the moment, and the new balance of eating-out and at-home sales that is emerging will satisfy many operators. Organic growth in both channels while avoiding cannibalisation of sales will be a top priority for all restaurants in 2024.”

One fifth of night-time economy businesses ‘facing collapse in new year without substantial tax reductions’: One fifth of night-time economy businesses are facing collapse in the new year without substantial tax reductions in the autumn statement, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has warned. A flash poll of its members revealed 20% of are facing potential closure in January without government support, while 72% are either barely breaking even or losing money. Furthermore, 95% of those polled called for a VAT cut for the sector, and 78% requested an extension of business rates relief. The NTIA said an absence of government support in tomorrow’s (Wednesday, 22 November) autumn statement “threatens to plunge the sector into an abyss, with far-reaching consequences for businesses, employees, and the broader economy”. Chief executive Michael Kill said: “Without swift and decisive action from the government, we are on the precipice of witnessing the collapse of the night-time economy and creative industries. The extension of business rates relief and a VAT cut are not only necessary for immediate survival, but are crucial for the survival of businesses, but also in laying the foundation for future growth and job creation. The NTIA remains committed to working collaboratively with the government to develop and implement effective policies that will safeguard the future of these vital industries. The time to act is now, and NTIA urges policymakers to prioritise the hospitality, night-time economy and creative industries in the autumn statement.”
Propel subscribers to receive fourth episode of Tipjar webinar series to help understand the complexities of new tipping legislation today: Cashless tipping platform Tipjar is giving Propel subscribers exclusive early access to a webinar series to help understand the complexities of the new tipping legislation poised to make waves in the hospitality industry next year. The “Fair Tips Talks” series, presented in partnership with The Tronc Advisor and hosted by KAM managing director Katy Moses, alongside tips and tronc expert Andy Hamman, offers expert insight and actionable strategies. The fourth episode will be released today (Tuesday, 21 November) at 9am. The episode dives into the intricate landscape of non-compliance with the latest tipping legislation. Moses and Hamann will be joined by Charlie Barnes (head of employment legal at RSM UK), Olivia Lord (finance director at the Athenaeum Hotel) and Ben Thomas (chief executive and co-founder at Tipjar), as they explore practical insights for operators navigating risk, gain perspectives on prevalent non-compliance areas, and discover solutions for the ever-shifting terrain of tipping practices. They will also provide guidance on maintaining compliance and securing your brand’s integrity within legal boundaries.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a restaurant business that is looking for a head of marketing. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be a self-starter and will embrace the chance to play a key role within this business expanding across the UK. You will be creative, innovative, and agile in your approach. You will be pivotal in ensuring proposition is always seen as exciting and relevant to customers. Reporting into the managing director, you’ll work closely with all functions of the business and restaurant teams to ensure vision of the brand is executed across the entire business. This role will develop a long-term brand strategy and tactical marketing plan that enable the brand to grow successfully.” The salary is up to £100,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Blank Street Coffee lines up first regional UK site: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its debut in the UK last July, has lined up its first regional opening, in Manchester. Propel understands that the business, which currently has 23 stores in London, is planning to open on the former Caffe Nero site in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. Propel revealed earlier this month that Blank Street, which hopes to have more than 30 sites in the UK within the next year, was planning to launch in Manchester next year. Ignacio Llado, UK managing director of Blank Street, told Propel that the business was “seeing more and more demand from customers and landlords to open up in new neighbourhoods in London and beyond”. It is thought that Birmingham and Cardiff are also on the brand’s radar. Llado told Propel: “2024 is going to be an exciting one for Blank Street. We are seeing more and more demand from customers and landlords to open up in new neighbourhoods in London and beyond. We will be looking to expand our footprint in London, alongside exploring other UK cities. London is a huge market, with almost 2,000 coffee shops. More than 75% of these are owned by major chains; some of these have upwards of 400 stores! However, these dominant players have made limited changes in terms of customer experience or innovation over the last few years. At Blank Street, we saw this as an opportunity to redefine what it means to be a coffee chain in today's high street, challenge the status quo and raise the bar. We want to bring fun and energy to the market, offering both high quality specialty grade coffee and innovative drinks, in beautiful modern spaces.” Last month, the company said it was on track to reach profitability in London next year and was looking to bring its loyalty programme to the UK market. Blank Street Coffee features in the Propel Multi-Site Database. The next edition will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday, 24 November. The comprehensive database, which is produced in association with Virgate, now features 3,060 companies. 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.  
Buns from Home hires Claire Kennedy as people director, secures Victoria site: Buns from Home, the London independent bakery brand, has further strengthened its management team with the appointment of Clare Kennedy, formerly of Creams Café and Leon, as its new people director, Propel has learned. Kennedy joins after spending the past year at Creams, where she headed up its people and culture strategy across company-owned and franchised sites. Previous to this, she was people director at Sprout, a Dublin-based, healthy food-to-go brand. Kennedy was also head of people at Leon Restaurants from 2020 to 2021, where she worked alongside Shereen Ritchie, who was appointed chief operating officer at Buns from Home in May this year, and John Brooks, who was last week announced as its new operations director. Ritchie said: “I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with Claire a few times throughout my career, and there’s no one I trust more to live our values and truly embed a positive culture. She’s a people person through and through and exactly what Buns from Home needs.” The bolstering of the leadership team comes as Buns from Home lines up its 13th site, in Buckingham Palace Road in central Victoria, which will open in January 2024. One of its largest sites, the Victoria store and bakery will act as a hub for its smaller kiosk units, with all deliveries being made from electric bikes. Earlier this month, the company said it planned to open 15-20 new sites within the next year.
JD Wetherspoon plans to open Waterloo station site: JD Wetherspoon has applied to open a new pub at Waterloo station. The business has submitted plans to open a site across four units on the upper ground floor of The Sidings, the new shopping and leisure complex that occupies the space below the platforms of Waterloo’s former Eurostar terminal. According to the licence application, the pub will be called The Lion & the Unicorn. The station is already home to BrewDog’s 26,000 square-foot flagship site, which opened in August 2022. This summer, BrewDog said it would be adding to its presence at Waterloo station by opening a BrewDog pub concept in the station, building on bars like the Duke of Battersea and Birdcage.
Dubai Greek and Mediterranean concept set to make UK debut, in London: Dubai Greek and Mediterranean concept Gaia is set to make its UK debut next month, in London. Located in Mayfair, at the junction of Dover Street and Piccadilly, the 154-cover restaurant will showcase Grecian culture via its fish display, salad bar and wooden oven, having previously agreed a deal with landlord Crosstree. Guests will be invited to choose their fish from the restaurant’s selection of freshly caught produce at the counter, served raw, grilled, salt baked or pan-fried with aromatic harissa. Mezze dishes will include smoked cod roe and lemon zest, taramosalata and melitzanosalata, while larger dishes will feature kritharaki (seafood orzo with freshly caught calamari, prawns and clams) and aidakia arnisi (lamb cutlets served with tzatziki and freshly baked pita). It will also offer cocktails such as Theo (olive oil-infused tequila, basil, bergamot and mastika) and Talos (orange gin, beetroot and dry fig). Co-founder Evgeny Kuzin said: “With Gaia’s debut in London, we hope to create a home away from home for Londoners. It is a key cosmopolitan city, one of the world’s leading cultural hubs, it’s imperative that Gaia has a home in London.” Established in Dubai in October 2018, Gaia also has sites in Monte Carlo (2019) and Doha (2022), with Marbella and Miami also in the pipeline for 2024. Chef Izu Ani added: “We first opened five years ago and have built a strong foundation across three beautiful countries. In London, we aim to ensure the essence of Gaia remains as authentic as it was when it first opened, as it becomes embedded within the local community.” CBRE and Nash Bond are Crosstree’s retail and leisure agents.
Park Holidays repays all senior debts and gains access to £500m RCF following takeover by US investment trust, draws down £16m: Holiday park operator Park Holidays UK has repaid all its senior debts and gained access to a £500m revolving credit facility – of which £16m has been drawn down – following its takeover by an US investment trust. The business, which now operates 56 holiday parks in the south of England, was sold to Sun Communities for £950m in April 2022. In its accounts for the year ending 31 December 2022, the business said: “The purchase resulted in the repayment of the group’s senior debt and all PIK notes, and a term loan is now in place from the ultimate parent undertaking. In addition, the group now has access to a £500m revolving credit facility from Sun Communities, of which £16m was drawn at the year end. While the term loan is not repayable during the going concern assessment period, the revolving credit facility, which the group utilises from time to time for short-term working capital purposes, and potentially for future acquisitions, is due on demand.” The business said several acquisitions made during the prior year contributed to a rise in revenue from £222,869,000 in 2021 to £286,642,000 in 2022. These included Bay View Holiday Park in Pevensey and the nine-strong Bridge Leisure business. “The Bay View Holiday Park contributed a profit of £221,000 to the group’s profit in the period from purchase date to 31 December 2022,” it said. “If the park had traded for a full year, revenue would have been an estimated £448,000 and Ebitda would have been an estimated £221,000. The nine Bridge parks contributed £8,174,000 of Ebitda. If the Bridge group had traded for a full year, revenue would have been an estimated £31.5m and Ebitda would have been an estimated £8.6m.” Overall group Ebitda grew from £79,579,000 in 2021 to £91,768,000. But its pre-tax profit fell from £66,277,000 to £64,903,000 as costs rose by just under £35m. At year-end, the company had total assets less current liabilities of £16.4m (2021: £108.2m) and a cash balance of £9.8m (2021: £85.5m). It received no government grants compared with £2,077,000 in 2021. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). Director Chris Ling said: “The future of the company is driven via an expansion strategy of new park acquisitions, land acquisitions adjacent to current parks and, where possible, the development of current park facilities. With customer demand for UK holiday options likely to continue to increase, it is the company’s strategy to meet these higher levels of demand both in terms of holiday sales and in caravan sales, while maintaining its existing relationships with holiday homeowners and stakeholders.”
Ottoman Bar & Grill secures second site, plans further expansion: Ottoman Bar & Grill, the north west restaurant concept, has secured its second site in the region and said it plans to expand further afield in the future. The company, which opened its debut site in Chorley, will open a new restaurant and bar in Manchester early next year after agreeing a lease at the Affinity Living Riverside residence near Salford Central station. Ottoman Bar & Grill expects to open in February 2024 after completing a £500,000 fit out of the unit, which will seat up to 120 diners for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant’s opening is set to create 30 jobs, and the company said it plans to create more Ottoman restaurants in Birmingham and London in the near future. Ottoman joins independent bakery and coffee shop Loaf MCR at the Affinity Living scheme. Ugur Ansin, director at Ottoman Bar & Grill, said: “We’ve built a solid reputation in Chorley for providing the best quality, delicious meat that we cook to perfection alongside a second-to-none service. Food will be cooked fresh on site from cold mezzes to hot bread. We’re so excited to bring this to Manchester at Affinity Living Riverside. My team has invested its decades of experience as butchers and from working in Turkey’s top restaurants into Ottoman – creating a truly authentic dining experience. Manchester was the natural next step for us in opening a second restaurant, and we’ve got big plans to take our dining experience nationwide in the next few years.”
Hand Picked Hotels appoints new CEO: Hand Picked Hotels, a collection of 21 country house and spa hotels located throughout the UK and the Channel Islands, has appointed Ignace Bauwens as its new chief executive. He replaces Julia Hands, who is stepping down as chief executive but remains as chair. Bauwens, who joins next month, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business, including the implementation of several core initiatives at individual hotel level. He joins Hand Picked Hotels with more than 30 years’ experience in notable senior roles across a number of international hospitality groups. He joins from Corinthia Hotels, where he was chief operating officer. Previous to this, he has held positions including chief operating officer of Roya International in Dubai, and regional vice-president of the Middle East, Eurasia and Africa at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Bauwens has also had spells at InterContinental Hotel Group and Accor Hotels. Bauwens said: “The business has tremendous potential to become the leading destination hotel group in the UK, and it will be part of my responsibility to harness its existing talent and drive the ongoing initiatives. I look forward to working with Julia and the team to take Hand Picked Hotels to the next level.” Hands added: “I am confident Ignace will guide the business in its ambitious objectives to provide an elevated, upscale service offering, as we continue to transform Hand Picked Hotels into an exceptional hotel group.”
Wholesaler Kitwave acquires family-run drinks distributor: Listed wholesaler Kitwave has strengthened its north west presence with the acquisition of a family-run drinks distributor. Kitwave, based in North Shields, has snapped up wholesaler WLG (Holdings), which trades as Wilds of Oldham and was established more than 25 years ago. Supplying the on and-off trade, Wilds of Oldham has 35 employees and 11 fleet vehicles that deliver to customers within a 50-mile radius of its warehouse in Oldham. In the year ended 30 September 2022, the business had a turnover of £10.2m. The acquisition will be incorporated into Kitwave’s existing foodservice on-trade business HB Clark & Co (Successors). Kitwave chief executive Paul Young said: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Wilds of Oldham, which will assist in the distribution of HB Clark’s alcohol and soft drinks products throughout the north west. Wilds of Oldham is a proven, successful business that will make a strong addition to our foodservice division. We are looking forward to working closely with the Wilds of Oldham team and integrating the business into the group’s foodservice division.”
Oakman agrees 35-year lease for historic St Albans building, multimillion-pound investment planned: Oakman Group, the award-winning pub-restaurant operator, has agreed 35-year lease to revive an historic building in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and turn it into a new bar, restaurant, hotel and events venue. It has struck a deal with owners St Albans City & District Council to redevelop Batchwood Hall. It was built in 1874 as a manor house for Edmund Beckett, who co-designed the iconic “Big Ben” clock at the Houses of Parliament. The building and surrounding estate was acquired by the council in 1935 but it has lain empty since the pandemic. Oakman’s chief executive, Peter Borg-Neal, said work to restore the hall is scheduled to begin next year, with the venue likely to open for business in 2025. He said: “We are committed to making a multimillion-pound investment into the hall’s redevelopment to create a beautiful space with a restaurant, bar and function room for the people of St Albans to come together to enjoy our hospitality in an outstanding setting. We also plan to establish the hall as a premier local venue for weddings and other events, and a top destination with luxury hotel rooms for those visiting and staying in the city.” Oakman was chosen as the preferred operator following a selection process during which council officers visited its The Woburn pub, restaurant and 48-room hotel in Bedfordshire. Suzanne Jones, the council’s strategic director for customer, business and corporate support, added: “We are very excited that this magnificent building is being brought back into use to become a St Albans landmark once again. We have worked hard to find an outstanding partner in Oakman, which shares our vision for this project.” Propel revealed earlier this month that Oakman had appointed advisors as it gears up to consider options available to facilitate a liquidity event for shareholders next year. It comes after the 42-strong business reported it had seen its most profitable quarter since December 2021, with group sales for the financial year to June 2023 8% ahead of the prior year at just under £70m, and like-for-like sales for the core Oakman Inns business up 4.1%.
Stonegate celebrates energy reduction strides across sites: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub group, is celebrating the huge efforts made by its general managers, Craft Union operators and teams in reducing energy usage in their pubs, bars and venues. As part of the company’s sustainability journey, an energy reduction incentive has run over the past nine months, resulting in Stonegate saving energy equalling 5 million kWH– enough to power a small village for a year. To recognise this, 150 of the most energy-conscious general, area and regional managers and operators each received a ticket to attend a special ball and prize-giving event. David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, said: “This initiative is a part of Stonegate Group’s sustainability journey and we have made some amazing strides towards energy reduction across all our sites since we launched this programme. I am very proud of what we have achieved so far as one team, and it was important to recognise the significant efforts made by our managers, operators, and teams.” 
Roxy Leisure opens third Liverpool site: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room concepts, has opened its third site in Liverpool. Roxy Lanes Liverpool School Lane focuses on ten-pin bowling alongside American pool, shuffleboard, ice-free curling, tech darts, karaoke, beer pong and more. It has added to the company’s Roxy Ball Room Hanover Street and Cavern Quarter locations, which are both over-18s only, while the new Roxy Lanes is open to under-18s during selected times. There is also an updated food menu featuring premium Italian focaccia pizza and signature drinks. Joel Mitchell, Roxy Leisure’s sales and marketing director, said: “We love Liverpool, and School Lane has been designed to offer guests a new Roxy experience, with a focus on ten-pin bowling, and the fact both families and adults will be able to visit the venue every day of the week.” The opening marks the 18th site for the group, which Propel revealed this week is eyeing a London debut for its Roxy Ball Room brand. Roxy Leisure is understood to have lined up an opening in Exchequer Court, St Mary Axe, in the City. Last week, Propel revealed Roxy Leisure is planning to open a second site in Manchester for its King Pins family bowling concept, in the Arndale centre. It also recently secured a site in the Silverburn scheme in Glasgow for the fledgling concept, while it has a site lined up in York for Roxy Ball Room.
Merlin Entertainments to publish UK social impact report: Merlin Entertainments is to publish a report on its social impact in the UK. Set to be published in the first quarter of 2024, it will explore Merlin’s people and community focused initiatives and help identify gaps where access to opportunity is limited, and where Merlin will be able to further aid social mobility. With a portfolio spanning 140 attractions in 24 countries, Merlin is also the UK’s largest attraction operator. Matt Jowett, chief corporate officer for Merlin Entertainments, said: “As a business made up of over 30,000 teammates globally, we recognise that we have the collective ability to create lasting change that benefits society and our planet well beyond the doors of our attractions and resorts. As a business, we have consistently looked to positively contribute to the local communities in which we are based. We are looking forward to finding new ways to support social mobility and the wider levelling up agenda in the UK.”
Team behind Tyneside restaurant concept Blacks Corner to open third site: The team behind Tyneside restaurant concept Blacks Corner is to open its third site. The grade II-listed Seaburn Tram Shelter in Sunderland has undergone a major transformation and is now set to open on Friday, 1 December. Lofthouse and Partners handled the lease of the building, which has benefited from a share of £850,000 investment from Sunderland City Council and The Coastal Communities Fund. The site marks the third location for Blacks Corner, building on its East Boldon flagship restaurant and its sister delicatessen. Jonathan Dryden, co-founder of Blacks Corner, said: “This is a unique space, and we were absolutely determined when we took this on that we would deliver a venue of outstanding quality. We very much see ourselves as custodians, and maintaining the integrity of a structure that has such history has been central to this restoration. We’re absolutely delighted with the results.” The venue, which will champion local and home-grown produce, will create 25 jobs. Cllr Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member of Sunderland City Council, added: “The Tram Shelter was a stunning structure, but the care, respect, attention and imagination that has gone into creating this beautiful new hospitality venue is clear to see.”
Northern Ireland McDonald’s franchisee reports increased turnover but profits fall due to rising costs: Northern Ireland McDonald’s franchisee North West Restaurants reported increased turnover in the year to 31 December 2022 but said profits fell due to rising costs. The eight-strong business saw turnover grow to £33,816,145 from £30,620,814. But a pre-tax profit of £3,426,470 fell to £795,925 as costs rose by £2,728,180 and Ebitda dropped from £4,221,000 to £1,591,000. The company received £130,000 in government grants compared with £405,487 in 2021. Dividends of £120,000 were paid (2021: £110,000). At the year-end, the company had net assets of £6,782,019 (2021: £6,290,786). Director Annette McIvor said: “The directors consider the results for the financial year and the position of the company at the year-end to be satisfactory and in line with expectations. North West Restaurants’ sales increased by 10% when compared with 2021, however gross profit and operating margins were adversely impacted by higher food, utility and labour costs. Revenue will increase in 2023, with gross profit and operating margins expected to improve as the increases in food, utility and labour costs experienced in 2022 are expected to be less in 2023. The company continues to invest in its long-term relationship with McDonalds, its supply chain and other key stakeholders to ensure that it is sufficiently well placed to mitigate against any unforeseen circumstances.”
Kindred Concepts opens second UK site for F1 Arcade concept following £6m fit out: Kindred Concepts has opened the second UK site for its F1 Arcade concept, in Birmingham, following a £6m fit out. It is the latest hospitality tenant to join the city’s £1.2bn Paradise estate, offering customers the chance to try state-of-the-art Formula 1 simulators and watch live racing. The 11,000 square-foot space on the ground floor of Two Chamberlain Square will create 137 jobs. It features 53 separate F1 racing simulators, a large cocktail bar called Octane and even an upside down F1 car attached to the ceiling. The computer racing machines, which cost around £30,000 each, offer an immersive F1 racing experience and have motion and audio-visual effects, with five skill settings to suit all abilities. It follows the group’s first F1 Arcade venue, which launched a year ago in London’s St Paul’s. Co-founder and chief operating officer Diane Jervis told Business Live: “When we set out to develop this concept, we were very clear that we wanted to surpass every other competitive socialising venue that exists. We have had a bit of success in the past in this field, which is why Formula 1 approached us about this. Our London venue has been so well received, the audience is so broad, and we frame it as the best night out in London. Hopefully, it will be the same in Birmingham if we can establish ourselves in that way. We have always found Birmingham a really natural place following London to look at. We kept the research pretty tight in terms of the UK, and Birmingham was always number one for where we wanted to go based on the amount of growth. Birmingham is a great market – this was an absolute no brainer for us.” Last month, Kindred Concepts announced that revenue at its debut site in London reached £6.48m for the seven months to July 2023, with around 200,000 consumers visiting the venue. Earlier this year, the group secured a debut site in the US for the concept, due to open in Boston in March 2024, and plans 20 venues over there in the next five years. It also plans 30 more global openings by 2027 and secured £30m of new funding to fuel the next phase of the concept’s international growth.
Cardiff operators to open second site for pizza concept as part of two new launches: Cardiff operators Sophie Pascoe and Benito Martinez are to open two new restaurants in the city, including a second site for their Ballers pizzeria concept. The couple, who also operate The Priory hotel and restaurant in Caerleon, will launch Bodega wine bar and restaurant alongside the Ballers site in the suburb of Lakeside on Friday, 1 December. Bodega, seen within the family as the little sister restaurant to The Priory in Caerleon, will specialise in small plates cooked using smoke and fire. The menu will be a homage to Spanish heritage, bringing in influences from across the Mediterranean, and there will also be a chefs table. Dishes will be complemented by a curated selection of wine available by-the-glass. Adjacent to Bodega, Ballers will build on its Heath outpost, which is currently outdoor only. Martinez is the son of Galician-born Benigno Martinez, who opened Cardiff restaurant Le Monde in the mid-1980s, which is still going to this day and is now independently managed by Martinez’s brother. Pascoe is also the owner of Studio Severn, an interior design agency specialising in bars, restaurants and hotels. Martinez said: “It’s a chance to build on what we’ve already created at The Priory and introduce a new Cardiff audience to the kind of food we love to eat.”
Liverpool Mexican concept set to open second site: Liverpool Mexican cuisine concept Listo Burrito is set to open its second site in the city. Owner Roger Taylor opened his debut site, in Dale Street, in 2017, offering made-to-order burritos and rice boxes at lunchtime on weekdays. It will tomorrow (Wednesday, 22 November) double up with an opening in the city’s Baltic Market, complete with a new menu featuring potato pops and nachos with a variety of toppings. Baltic Market co-founder, Oliver Press, said: “Listo Burrito is hugely popular with daytime customers in Liverpool city centre – you only have to see the queues that regularly spill out on to Dale Street to know that. At Baltic Market, we try to bring together traders who showcase really great quality street food from all over the world, so we’re looking forward to Listo Burrito joining us to bring fantastic Mexican food to their existing fans and to a whole new night-time audience.”
Barton Grange reports revenue boost as leisure venue turnover rises: Barton Grange, which operates a leisure and entertainment venue in Preston along with a garden centre, has reported turnover increased slightly to £25,935,672 for the year ending 31 January 2023 compared with £25,655,432 the previous year, as the business enjoyed a full year’s trading following the covid pandemic. Revenue at the entertainment and leisure venue rose to £5,635,003 from £3,114,408 the year before. During the period, the company disposed of its landscaping business, which generated turnover of £2,307,672 in its six months of trading and a profit on disposal of £2.5m. As a result, pre-tax profit was up to £4,316339 from £3,301,328 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Our leisure and entertainment facility opened in August 2018. After the major disruptions caused by covid it was pleasing to return to a wholly open full year’s trading with turnover significantly greater than £5m and, despite increased costs, trading profits of £1.5m. Dividends of £5,361,760 were paid, which were “particularly high for personal reasons and we do not expect to be repeated” (2021: £1,197,553).

David Guetta invests in UK non-alcoholic spirits brand: French DJ and music producer David Guetta has invested in UK non-alcoholic spirits brand Lyre’s. Guetta – who has sold more than ten million albums and 65 million singles globally, alongside 14 billion streams – has partnered with the brand as part of an equity deal. Lyre’s, which is also backed by D Squared Capital and Morgan Creek, was founded in 2019 and is now available in more than 40 markets across the globe. Carl Hartmann, Lyre’s co-founder, said: “I’m excited and privileged to announce our partnership with David Guetta. As one of the greatest DJs and producers of all time, and with more than 100 million engaged fans worldwide across all social networks, I can think of no one better to help us on our mission to change how the world drinks. With David’s following worldwide, performing at top nightclubs and festivals, I’m looking forward to working together to introduce Lyre’s on to menus at venues globally. This will allow people to have better-for-you options when they are out watching their favourite artists perform and always have the option to feel included.”

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