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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 28th Nov 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Kbox Global had net liabilities of £15.7m when it was placed into administration: Kbox Global, the host kitchen business, had net liabilities of £15.7m and cash at bank and in hand of £200,000 when it was placed into administration last month, Propel has learned. Founded in 2015, Kbox was a brands and performance food tech business. The company operated via a cloud kitchen, or “dark kitchen” model, utilising spare kitchen capacity in restaurants, hotels and pubs, and licensing a suite of delivery-only brands to its client base. The company also provided a one-stop solution platform for training and performance management. Nick Holloway and Will Wright, of Interpath Advisory, were appointed joint administrators of Kbox Global on 11 October 2023. They said the business had experienced trading difficulties that led to pressure on its liquidity. In an administrators report, Interpath said: “Kbox was funded by convertible loan notes totalling £12.6m throughout 2020 and 2021. These loan notes were converted to equity in December 2022. A separate £5m equity raise was undertaken in the fourth quarter of 2020. A further £2.6m was invested by shareholders via the parent company, Kbox Holdings, between December 2022 and May 2023. The company does not have any third-party loans and there are no charges registered over the company. The latest statutory accounts filed at Companies House show the company ended the financial year to 26 December 2021 with net liabilities of £17.4m and cash at bank and in hand of £8.1m. The statutory accounts for the year ended 26 December 2022 were not due at the time of our appointment. Per the latest management information available at 31 August 2023, the company had net liabilities of £15.7m and cash at bank and in hand of £200,000, including the convertible loan notes. The directors have not included the convertible loan notes as creditors within the statement of affairs. The company has been loss making for a number of years, exacerbated by the hospitality sector being severely impacted by covid-19. A year-on-year drop in turnover in 2022, combined with rising operating costs, led the company to experience significant liquidity issues. The company therefore engaged Interpath on 25 July 2023 to explore the company’s investment, refinance and sale options. While a number of parties undertook detailed due diligence, the process did not provide any deliverable solvent solutions from either existing investors or external parties. In light of this, and with a deteriorating liquidity position, the directors concluded there were no reasonable prospects of avoiding insolvency and placed the company into administration.”

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to receive next New Openings Database and videos from Propel Multi-Club Conference on Friday: Premium subscribers will receive the next The New Openings Database on Friday (1 December), at midday. The database will feature a diverse set of hotel openings including Kinsfolk & Co, the hospitality management company from Paul Brackley, the former managing director of Corbin & King’s Beaumont Hotel, who will launch its first hotel next year in London’s Fitzrovia. Due to launch in winter 2024, The Newman will open in Charlotte Street. Z Hotels is to open a new flagship site in London’s Leicester Square, refurbishing a five-storey office building into a new 85-room hotel. Meanwhile, real estate investment firm Wirefox has acquired the Ducks Inn in East Lothian, Scotland, as part of its Marram hotel collection, expanding its leisure portfolio across the UK and Ireland. The database will show the details of 142 site openings, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis and Premium subscribers will also receive an 8,500-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. Premium subscribers will also receive all the videos from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference on Friday. They will be sent 12 videos at 9am. Premium subscribers receive all the videos from Propel conferences each year – around 100 in total. 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 Mark Wingett.

S4labour – NLW increases 9.8% but true cost is 11.5%: The 9.8% increase to the national living wage (NLW) announced by chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week will mean an increase of 11.5% to costs for operators when considering the weighted impact of age distribution in the industry, according to new data from people, productivity and payroll system, S4labour. It said the new wage of £11.44 will apply to employees over 23, who make up 70% of the hospitality workforce, as well as the 9% of workers who are 21 to 22 years old. The statistics also reveal that 14% of industry workers fall into the 18 to 20 bracket with their new wage rising by 14.8% to £8.60. Under-18s, who make up 7% of the industry’s workforce, will see a 21.2% increase in pay. Assuming all workers are paid at minimum wage, these increases will bring hourly labour costs up 11.5% for operators, S4labour said. Chief executive Alastair Scott added: “The headline rate at 9.8% was going to be tough enough to manage, without factoring in the high proportion of young people working in our industry. This makes it an even bigger challenge, just when we thought we might be able to get back on to an even keel.”

Hospitality sales grew 5.6% year-on-year in the latest 12 weeks, maximising spend per occasion increasingly important for operators: Hospitality sales grew 5.6% year-on-year in the latest 12 weeks, according to analysis from HDI, the provider of card spending insight and pricing data to the UK hospitality sector. Pizza delivery, fast food and takeaway, and coffee and sandwich were the best performing sectors, all seeing double-digit growth over the 12 weeks ending 31 October 2023, with delivery sales close behind with growth of 8.2%. Pubs and restaurants saw low single-digit growth, with casual dining sales declining by 2.2%, according to analysis of HDI’s panel of 10.2 million unique customers. Mark Bentley, business development director at HDI, said: “We’re continuing to see headline inflation easing, with average prices versus six months ago up by 3.4% on food and 4.6% on drinks from our tracking of more than 165,000 like-for-like site/item combinations in pubs and bars. However, it’s been very notable that average transaction values have typically not increased at the same rate as headline inflation, with consumers managing their own personal inflation rates very effectively. With further inflationary pressures still to come, maximising spend per occasion through optimising price, mix and menu architecture is more important than ever for operators.” HDI’s panel tracks more than 160,000 individually identifiable hospitality venues across 350 different brands and formats.

King – a lot of groups fail because they’re under obligation to roll out concepts and force inappropriate ideas on buildings: Jeremy King has argued a lot of restaurant groups fail because “they’re under obligation to roll out concepts and force inappropriate ideas on buildings”. The co-founder of Corbin & King and doyenne of London’s dining scene said he once turned down a unit in the newly rebuilt World Trade Centre, telling his flabbergasted agent that making “a shedload of money” just “wasn’t reason enough”. “I never know what a restaurant is going to be until I go into the premises and spent time just thinking about it,” he told this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference. “A lot of groups fail because they’re under obligation to roll out concepts and force inappropriate ideas on buildings. I have the luxury that the building can speak to me as nobody is telling me I have to open five, ten or 50 a year. The closest I got to a roll out was I was going to take The Wolseley to New York, and I’ve tried in Edinburgh. Now that I’m back to creating these restaurants, it would be inappropriate to go to New York or places and set up because I need to be there and be a part of the making. It’s easier if you have a brand, and I probably should have, but it’s never really appealed to me.” King’s return to the London restaurant scene will see him open Arlington in the former Le Caprice site in the West End in late February, followed by “grand cafe” concept The Park in Bayswater in late May, and recent acquisition, Simpson’s in the Strand, next autumn. “Over 20 years I’ve been looking to acquire Simpsons on The Strand, probably the last grand dame restaurant there is at about 20,000 square feet, which is right up my street,” he said. “A grand cafe is a fascinating project. A grand cafe for me is one person having a cup of coffee, the next person having a full meal, another having champagne and caviar and another having tea and cake.” Unlike his other new ventures, however, King will not be going down the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) route to funding. “What I like about the EIS is it’s immediately attractive to people because of the tax relief and capital gains freedom after three years and so on,” he added. “It won’t work for every project and only works for new businesses, so I can’t use it with Simpsons. But Mr Caring did me a favour by depriving me of the name Caprice, because I can now make that an EIS and fund it that way!” King will provide further insight in his video from the Propel Multi-Club Conference. Premium subscribers will receive access to all 12 videos from the conference on Friday (1 December) 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. 

Extended Euro 2024 hours ‘essential’ for pubs and bars: Allowing extended opening hours during next summer’s Euro 2024 football tournament will be “essential” for pubs and bars, UKHospitality has said. The government has launched a consultation on extending licensing hours in England and Wales for certain matches (specifically the semi-final and final) during the event, which takes place from 14 June to 14 July, in Germany. The extension would be contingent on England, Wales and/or Scotland reaching those stages of the championship and would not take effect should none of these teams reach those stages. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Euro 2024 is set to be a huge event for hospitality businesses next summer as fans pack pubs and bars to cheers on the home nations. We support the Home Office proposals to extend licensing hours for the semi-finals and final, should we reach that stage of the tournament. Major sporting events provide a huge revenue boost and extended hours are essential to allow venues and fans to take full advantage. This sort of advance planning benefits fans, businesses and the government, and is exactly the type of approach we have been advocating for in our engagement on this issue for many years. I’m pleased the Home Office is consulting well in advance, acting on our calls on behalf of the sector.”

Cloud kitchen retail concept launches ‘in first for high street’: Cloud kitchen concept The Co-Kitchens has launched, in Dalston, east London. The space currently houses eight food concepts that operate from cloud stations and a front of house that allows customers to collect takeaways from automated lockers. The Co-Kitchens said the concept is the first of its kind to land on the high street and aims to “empower and bolster” small, but established, local businesses looking to expand their food business in the heart of the London takeaway market. The business said its concept takes the ghost kitchen “a step further” by building a tech-enabled retail environment, where customers can order online directly with food concepts or via the kiosk digital menus. Founder Shahzad Bhatti said: “Cloud kitchens are establishing themselves as a billion-dollar industry, but most of them are located in industrial areas or on the outskirts of towns where there are only options for delivery drivers. We’ve created an innovative new concept in the heart of east London on a busy, vibrant high street that not only allows us to have eight food concepts operating from our kitchen, but also features a front of house, which allows delivery drivers and customers to come in and efficiently pick up their order from our automated lockers.”

‘Rewarding social network of food’ app launched: A new app has launched in Manchester – ahead of national rollout in 2024 – that looks to incentivise food lovers for sharing photos and provide a fresh marketing channel for restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels. YumTuc – “rewarding social network of food” – was conceived to reward foodies for sharing their content and help eateries find and attract new guests. The business said it’s a “friendly and supportive platform for foodies to display their encouragement, enjoyment and appreciation of food in all forms”. The idea is the brainchild of George Thwaites, a former national newspaper journalist, who developed the idea during lockdown in 2020 when he and his son vowed, the moment restrictions ended, to “dine around the world without a passport” by exploring new local eateries every week. The app is free for foodies and currently free for eateries, though a chargeable service will be introduced next year (including additional features such as geo-targeted posts and promotions and a self-serve ad inventory). Foodies can contribute food photos from anywhere at any time – meals out, home-cooked plates or takeaways. Not only can they share photos but they can also pose questions about their posts for others to answer. All engagements gain points and the highest scorers win prizes. Operators already signed up to the app include GSG Hospitality, Gusto Italian and Lovely Food Group. The team behind the app includes Zoe Lawrence, former global marketing director at Meta, and Tom Hopkins, former chief people officer at Experian. It is chaired by industry veteran Stuart Rose, former managing of The Body Shop, chair of Hamleys and director of Giraffe Restaurants. Thwaites said: “Millions of us have been taking and sharing wonderful food photos without getting anything back – until now. YumTuc is a fun, positive and creative place to showcase and celebrate food. From Michelin-starred dishes to home-cooked beans on toast, it’s a community where every plate and style of food are welcome.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury hospitality brand that has a growing multi-site portfolio that is looking for a HR manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This role is operationally led, and the successful candidate will be someone who relishes being hands on and supporting the wider management teams within the business. The HR manager will be the first point of call for all HR matters, providing advice and guidance. You will challenge poor practice and behaviour and champion effective, proactive people management; manage and support on recruitment campaigns; lead, manage and provide guidance on all employee relations matters; oversee and drive the performance review process, ensuring managers have the skills to have meaningful conversations and more.” The salary is up to £50,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Domino’s opens four new Belfast stores to reach 50-site landmark of UK & Ireland openings in 2023, set to almost double the number from 2022: Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland has opened four new stores in Belfast to reach the 50-site landmark of new openings in 2023 – and is set to almost double the number it launched in 2022. Sarcon & Karshan Groups, the biggest Domino’s franchisee in Ireland, has opened three of the stores – at Newtownabbey, Dunmurry and Ballyhackamore. The fourth store, in Holywood, has been opened by fellow Domino’s franchisee Racz Group, which also operates Costa Coffee, Grounded Kitchen and Anytime Fitness franchises alongside its own brands, including Black Olive, The Man Cave and Head Quarters. A Domino’s spokesperson said: “We’ve reached another milestone for this year! We’ve just opened our 50th store across the UK and Ireland. We’re on track to open a total of at least 60 stores before the end of the year – that’s almost double the number of stores we opened in FY22. Our newest store is in Holywood and it’s the fifth store we’ve opened in Northern Ireland this year. Congratulations to Racz Group and Sarcon & Karshan Groups for opening these new stores. The quadruple store opening in Belfast will be delivering 125 new roles.” George Bertram, chief executive of Sarcon & Karshan Groups, said: “We’re thrilled to see Domino’s grow and become such a favourite across Northern Ireland.” Mike Racz, chief executive of Racz Group, added: “As a group, we are passionate about enhancing the local areas we cover; providing not only delicious pizza but also fantastic career opportunities.” Meanwhile, Stephen O’Connell has been appointed as senior acquisitions manager at Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland. He joins after five and a half years with multi-franchisee Adil Group, which he helped build to an estate of 74 KFCs, 54 Costa Coffees, 32 Taco Bells and 17 Burger Kings.

Three Thistles pub group puts entire estate up for sale: Scottish pub group Three Thistles pub has put its entire estate of seven licensed premises up for sale. It has instructed Shepherd chartered surveyors to sell its “long-established portfolio” that stretches across Scotland’s central belt. The properties include Dram!, The Clockwork Beer Co and The West Side Tavern in Glasgow; The Steading in Edinburgh; The Laird and Dog in Lasswade; Telfords in Paisley; and The Dog House in Balloch. Six of the seven properties are held on a freehold basis, while The West Side Tavern is held on a leasehold basis. The portfolio is available to be sold as one or as individual units. It comes two weeks after Three Thistles gave a trading update in which its unaudited numbers for the year to 30 September 2023 confirmed turnover of £4m compared with £4.1m in the previous year, and an operating loss of £0.1m compared with an operating profit of £0.2m. Chairman David Low said in the update that since the directors committed to prioritising an exit strategy for all shareholders earlier this year, trading conditions have “remained difficult”, although its balance sheet remains strong and its had repaid it Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme debts. “As regards an exit strategy, during the year, we received an approach for the company’s assets, but we were unable to agree on a value and talks had to be terminated,” he said. “We also received an approach from a company whose shares are traded on the Alternative Investment Market. The proposal involved a share exchange but was dependent upon the estate being sold prior to any offer being made. Having consulted our advisors and core shareholders, these talks were ended as well. Given the commitment the directors made in February to provide a direct exit option, we can confirm that we have appointed Shepherd as the exclusive agent to market the whole estate for sale. Having taken professional advice, it is the director’s current intention to convene a general meeting once the assets have been sold, with a resolution asking for shareholder approval for the appointment of an insolvency practitioner.”

Pret to launch in Northern Ireland next month, bringing Club Pret subscription to France: Pret A Manger will open its first site in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, next month. Based in Donegall Square West, the site – which will open on Thursday, 7 December – will be Pret’s fifth shop to begin trading on the island of Ireland within the last 18 months and is part of the brand’s commitment to open 20 Pret shops across Ireland within the next decade, creating around 40 jobs. Clare Clough, UK & Ireland managing director at Pret A Manger, said: “Our first Northern Ireland shop is a huge moment for Pret. We know the community in Belfast have long been calling out for a local Pret shop, so to be opening in the heart of the city brings us a lot of joy. We are delighted to be working with our longstanding franchise partners Carebrook, which has a proven track record of excellence operating Pret shops in the UK. We’ve got big plans to keep growing in Ireland and look forward to bringing our freshly made food and organic coffees to new customers across Belfast.” The Belfast shop opening is part of a partnership between Pret and Carebrook, one of its longest serving franchise partners, which has overseen many shops in London, including Camden, Belsize Park and Finchley. Gerard Loughran, chief executive at the Carebrook Partnership, added: “This is an exciting milestone in our expansion of the Pret brand on the island of Ireland with the grand opening of our first shop in Belfast.” At the same time, Pret has announced the launch of its subscription service Club Pret in France. It follows launches in the UK in April and US in September. The business said that subscribers have saved an average of €70 per month on barista-made drinks alone since the Pret Coffee subscription launched in France in 2021. Meanwhile, Pret has announced an expansion of its bake-at-home frozen croissant range with the addition of two new savoury croissants, launching this week in nearly 300 Tesco stores across the UK. The company said that the new croissants – ham and cheese and mozzarella and tomato – “have become firm breakfast favourites in Pret’s shops, and will now be available to bake and enjoy at home for the first time”. Clough was among the speakers at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference and Premium subscribers will receive access to all 12 videos on Friday (1 December) at 9am

Frozen yoghurt concept Snog brought to market: Snog, the London frozen yoghurt brand, which at one point had ten sites across the UK, has been put up for sale. It is one of three brands – the others being Beltane & Pop, and Biju Bubble Tea Room – which have been placed on the market by Hilco. Snog previously operated sites in Soho, Covent Garden, South Kensington and Westfield (White City). Hilco said the combined businesses, which have “historically traded successfully from various locations in London”, operated from four retail locations and eight delivery/cloud kitchens. The revenue split for the combined business is 80% digital/delivery and 20% retail with a current run rate of circa £5m per annum. Turnover in 2021 for the combined business was circa £6.7m (2020: £2.7m), with Ebitda of £415,000 (2020: £470,000). The brands are available individually or as a whole and certain locations/equipment may also be available.

Lina Stores lines up South Kensington opening: Delicatessen brand Lina Stores is set to add its estate in London with an opening in South Kensington. Propel understands the White Rabbit Projects-backed company is set to open a site on the former Le Pain Quotidien site in Exhibition Road, next spring. A company spokesperson told Propel: “Anchoring Exhibition Road and Thurloe Place, the restaurant promises to be a welcome addition to the west London community. The corner store will feature its signature pasta bar, with 90 covers inside and a further 40 covers on a wrap-around heated terrace. The restaurant will bring its signature antipasti, beloved pasta dishes and indulgent dolci to the west London neighbourhood for the first time.” It will add to the six restaurants and delis Lina Stores currently operates across London, the latest having opened in Clapham in June. The business is also set to open a site at 180-182 Shoreditch High Street. Last month, Lina Stores opened its third site in Japan, and its first in the Kansai region. The business, which launched in Japan in 2021, in Tokyo, opened a site in Kyoto Takashimaya, on the first floor of the specialty store zone T8. The company also recently opened a “hidden aperitivo bar” at its site in London’s Soho. Bar Lina opened underneath the Lina Stores deli at 18 Brewer Street.

Imbiba-backed Ninja Warrior operator appoints new MD: Leisure TV Rights, the Imbiba-backed experiential leisure operator, has appointed Dawid Kaminski as its new managing director, as part of a wider expansion of the senior team. It comes as Leisure TV Rights gears up to launch a new “The Chase” interactive experience, in partnership with ITV Studios, next year. Kaminski has been promoted to managing director, after joining Leisure TV Rights in 2022 as people and operations director. The former operations director at Côte Brasserie and Wagamama will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and continued growth in people, results and new concepts. Kaminski said: “The months ahead are going to be incredibly exciting, and I am looking forward to overseeing the various projects we’ve got in our pipeline, ensuring that we’re delivering the best experience and service possible.” Additionally, Hector Oladipo has been appointed as head of central operations, after holding a number of different roles working with Leisure TV Rights’ Ninja Warrior UK adventure park brand. Oladipo’s responsibilities will include training, recruitment and development, overseeing the growth of the company’s Ninja Warrior sites, and strategic business planning. The business said the expansion of the senior team will enable chief executive Lisa Buckley to focus on more strategic areas of growth for the company, with new concepts and openings in the pipeline, including “The Chase” interactive experience, in partnership with ITV Studios, set to launch in 2024. Buckley said: “There’s no better feeling as a leader than being able to promote great people within the business, and I’m delighted to have both Dawid and Hector installed in their new roles. Both appointments are testament to their hard work, dedication and commitment to ensuring Leisure TV Rights continues on its exciting growth journey, bringing the nation’s favourite TV programmes to life for guests all across the UK. We’ve got lots in the pipeline, and ensuring we’ve got the right people in place is incredibly important, so that we can achieve our goals and bring about further success.”

Berenjak makes international debut with Dubai launch: Berenjak, the Persian-influenced concept founded by Kian Samyani and JKS Restaurants, has opened its first international site, in Dubai. The new restaurant is based in Dar Wasl. Berenjak’s first location opened in 2018 in the heart of London’s Soho, and was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2019, which it has held since. The second location opened in London’s Borough Market in 2022. The Dubai site has seating for 54 indoors, 40 outdoors, and a private dining room for up to 12. The company said: “The Dubai menu features Berenjak’s most iconic dishes from its London locations. The menu will include mazeh such as black chickpea hummus and Kashk E Bademjoon, coal cooked kebabs including Berenjak’s popular Jujeh Kabab and Kabab Koobideh, all served with signature Taftoon and Sangak bread. In addition, there will be a number of dishes exclusive to the Dubai menu including the Shishlik Omani, succulent lamb chops marinated in dried lime, saffron and strained yoghurt.” Samyani said: “We are thrilled to bring the spirit and flavours of Berenjak to Dubai. With our unique approach to Persian cuisine, we aim to deliver an unforgettable dining experience that captures the high energy feeling of our original London Soho location. We can't wait to share our passion for Persian food with the people of Dubai.”

Iberica appoints Caroline Hoyle as new operations director: Spanish restaurant group Iberica – which operates six restaurants in London and Leeds – has appointed Caroline Hoyle, formerly of Marston’s and Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), as its new operations director. Hoyle joins Iberica after 14 months at Marston’s where she was operational lead for its premium food division. Previous to that she spent nearly seven years at BRG, including five years as operations director for its Carluccio’s and Fishworks brands. She also spent six years at Mitchells & Butlers, including four years as a retail business manager for Premium Country Pubs and Nicholsons Pubs. This summer, it was revealed that former Premier League footballer Gaizka Mendieta was an investor in Iberica. The former Spanish international, who spent four years with Middlesbrough between 2003 and 2007, is part of a group producing high quality cuisine from his homeland, reported City AM. Mendieta is one of several investors in Iberica, which works with Michelin-starred chef Nacho Manzano. He is also a backer of paella-focused London concept Arros QD, as well as a third venture, Mercado Central in Cambridge.

Malaysian café chain PappaRoti makes UK debut: PappaRoti, the Malaysian café chain, which operates circa 450 sites worldwide, has made its UK debut with an opening in Manchester. The brand, which was founded in Malaysia by Rasha Al Danhani in 2003, has opened a site in the city’s Tib Street. It is being operated in the UK by franchisee PR Holdings UK. The brand, which specialises in offering freshly baked roti buns, currently operates kiosk and cafe sites in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Australia, Egypt, Singapore, Dubai, Canada and the US.

Oche concept owner secures approval for Edinburgh opening: The Social Gaming Group, the company behind gastro-gaming entertainment brand, Oche, which made its UK debut last summer, has secured approval to open a site in Edinburgh. The company is set to open its second UK Oche site, at 80 George Street in the city. It made its UK debut last summer, with the launch in The Strand, in London. Earlier this year, the business agreed a new franchise partnership with UAE-based hospitality company RMAL Hospitality as part of its continued international expansion plans for Oche. The brand’s first site in the UAE will be the seventh market for Oche, with other sites already situated in the UK, Singapore, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden and Australia. The company said the move into the UAE is part of a multi-venue deal to grow the brand across the region and will see Oche expand into “desirable, city centre entertainment hubs”, with a debut site set to open in Dubai. Troy Warfield, chief executive of The Social Gaming Group, told Propel last year that the company aims to eventually grow to 100 bars worldwide.

Neighbourhood private members’ club concept secures first site: The Dally, a new neighbourhood private members’ club concept, is to launch its first site next spring, after securing a site in London’s Islington. The company has secured a 4,000 square-foot site at 181 Upper Street, which will feature a restaurant, lounge and bar and will offer a programme of events. It will be the first of five planned openings under the concept, which is the brainchild of Caroline Baldwin and Claire ilardi-Crow. Membership will be £65 per month and the target is for five clubs in the first five years. Areas being looked at include Dulwich and Wimbledon. Baldwin said earlier this year: “Claire and I are on a mission to revolutionise the private club industry by creating stylish and inclusive clubs where members can connect, focus and socialise without having to leave their neighbourhood. We have big visions and plans for The Dally that we look forward to sharing with you. We’re on the brink of successfully closing our first investment raise.” 

Midlands smashed burger franchise opens 13th site: Midlands smashed burger franchise Burger Boi has opened its 13th site, at 50 St George’s Street in Birmingham city centre. This will be followed shortly by further openings in Dudley and in Shoreditch, east London, taking Burger Boi to its stated aim of 15 sites by the end of 2023, “with many more to come in 2024”. The new Birmingham location will be operating as a delivery-only kitchen and will exclusively be available via Uber Eats. Burger Boi’s longer-term aim is 50 UK sites by 2026, as well as building on its debut overseas site, which is due to open in Toronto late this year or early next year. The business was founded by Surge Bassi in 2020 and launched the following year in Wolverhampton.

Lake District Hotels reports drop in turnover and profit as trade starts falling back in line with pre-pandemic levels following ‘staycation’ boom: Family-owned Lake District Hotels has reported a drop in turnover and profit in the year to 31 March 2023 as trade started to fall back in line with pre-pandemic levels following the “staycation” boom. Turnover dropped from £27,255,019 in 2022 to £25,836,420 while its pre-tax profit fell from £11,246,802 to £5,349,434. This compares with turnover of £19,535,796 and a profit of £3,853,990 in the year to 31 March 2020, when the last few weeks of trade were affected by the pandemic. Of the 2022 figure, £10,577,791 came from accommodation (2022: £12,094,873), £8,161,756 from food (2022: £9,050,602), £5,146,587 from drink (2022: £4,980,161) and £1,950,286 from spa income (2022: £1,129,3830. Director Charles Graves, who founded the business in 1983 with wife Kit Graves following the purchase The Kings Arms Hotel in Keswick, said: “In the prior period, and the start of this financial year, the hotels benefited from a surge in UK staycations and business was exceptional. Trade is starting to fall back in line with pre-pandemic levels as restrictions on travelling abroad have now been lifted. The UK is also now experiencing a cost-of-living crisis caused by surging inflation and interest rate hikes. Therefore, customers do not have as much disposable income as before. Nevertheless, the Lake District remains a very sought-after tourist destination. The Kings Arms and the Borrowdale Hotels have undergone major refurbishment and the Inn on the Lake has benefited from a refurbishment to the outdoor lakeside terrace. Heat and light costs have increased by 136%. Gas and electricity prices have soared in the past 12 months. The company has purchased a hydro electric generator and is investing in new LPG generators at the Lodore Falls and the Borrowdale Hotels, which will be operational in 2023-24. The company remains in a strong financial position with net assets of £60.7m, which is an increase of 6% on 2022.” Dividends of £550,198 were paid (2022: £300,000). No government grants were received (2022: £584,571). 

Starbucks to form new ESG oversight committee: Starbucks has announced plans to create a new environmental, partner and community impact (EPCI) board committee, to improve transparency and accountability for its environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives. The EPCI committee will assist Starbucks’ board of directors in responding to shifting regulations and standards compliance while overseeing internal and external reporting tools and assessments. This includes Starbucks’ annual global environment and social impact report, which details progress across ESG initiatives. The committee is led by Beth Ford, currently a Starbucks board member and chief executive of US agricultural cooperative Land O’Lakes. Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive of Starbucks, said: “Over the past year, we have been singularly focused on ensuring that we are well positioned for mutual success with all of our stakeholders. Living our new mission and upholding our new set of promises and values every day is paramount to achieving this mutual success. This committee will keep us accountable and push us forward.”

Mowgli confirms plans to open in Newcastle next year: Indian street food brand Mowgli has confirmed it will open a site in Newcastle next summer. The 21-strong business, which will open in Bristol’s Corn Street next month, will take on part of the former Cafe Royal, in Newcastle’s Nelson Street. Mowgli founder Nisha Katona said: “I’m so excited to have found our home in a city that I have been desperate to get to for years! We will be at number 8 Nelson Street and aim to open summer 2024. The people of Newcastle remind me so much of the people of Liverpool. It is a city full of the biggest hearted, straightest talking, cheeriest soul huggers.” Earlier this month, Katona told Insider Media there are “no boundaries” when it comes to expanding Mowgli and intends to open up to five sites annually. The business is set to open in the former Two Seasons store in Lincoln’s High Street next year, and a site in Knutsford’s King Street is also in the pipeline. Looking ahead, global expansion is very much on the cards, and Katona has considered cities such as New York, Amsterdam and Dublin for new restaurants. “International growth is something that is looping in my mind,” she said. “The food is fresh and good for you, and I think places need food like that. There are no boundaries to where I would look.”

PPHE Hotel Group gets green light to develop new hotel in London’s Victoria: PPHE Hotel Group has gained planning permission to develop a new hotel within the Park Plaza Victoria in London. The group will convert 6,500 square metres of predominantly subterranean space into a new 179-room hotel with a separate and dedicated entrance. The current 299-key Park Plaza Victoria London hotel will continue to operate as a standalone in its current form. On completion, the group will operate a dual-branded hotel consisting of the “upper upscale” Park Plaza Victoria London and a “midscale lifestyle” product, for which the brand is yet to be announced. Boris Ivesha, PPHE’s president and chief executive, said: “This property will further enhance our London portfolio and broaden our accommodation proposition, enabling us to tap into a new guest demographic while maximising returns. The strategy here is consistent with the group’s longstanding approach to building long-term shareholder value through the measured use of its balance sheet and tactical capital investment.” PPHE, an international hospitality real estate company with a £2bn portfolio, earlier this month confirmed a March 2024 opening for its art’otel in London’s Hoxton.

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