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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 30th Nov 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Falling foodservice price inflation ‘now a clear trend’: Inflation, as measured by the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index (FPI), decreased for the fifth consecutive month in October, dipping below 20% year-on-year at 16.7%, its lowest level since August 2022. There remains, however, a marked contrast between FPI and the measure of supermarket pricing (CPI), which is now rising at roughly half the rate (8.5%) year-on-year. October also marked the first month-on-month fall in the FPI since September 2021. In October, the FPI saw just one category (oils and fats) perform below 10% inflation at 4.0%, but this was in stark contrast to vegetables, where inflation remained extremely high at 30%. Overall, inflation within the FPI has fallen 6.2 percentage points since its peak of 22.9% (year on year) in December 2022. The UN FAO Food Commodity Index (the overall measure of international food commodity prices) averaged 120.6 points in October, down 0.7 points (0.5%) from September, continuing the downward trend and standing 14.8 points (10.9% below its corresponding value a year ago. Brent Crude has eased after a September spike in price. Further inflationary pressure may be felt in the months ahead as sterling has been weaker since the summer against both the dollar and the euro, while UK wage inflation remains around 8%, acting as a brake on the rate of inflation reduction. Shaun Allen, Prestige Purchasing chief executive, said: “The FPI has risen by 40% over the past 24 months, and with inflation still at 16.7%, the compound effects of these continued high numbers need to be carefully monitored and managed. As of today, the journey down to normal levels of inflation (about 1% to 3%) is only about one-third complete.” James Ashurst, client director at CGA by NIQ, added: “The downward movement in foodservice price inflation is starting to build momentum, and we can be optimistic that pressures will ease further for businesses and consumers alike in 2024. Nevertheless, rates remain very high and continue to put strain on prices and profits. The long-term outlook for those in the foodservice chain remains good, but we are not out of the woods yet.”
 

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to receive next New Openings Database and videos from Propel Multi-Club Conference tomorrow: Premium subscribers will receive the next The New Openings Database tomorrow (Friday, 1 December), at midday. The database features a number of openings by pub groups such as Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which has opened the Henry Tudor House pub in Shrewsbury, under the new name Henry Tudor Inn 1429. Meanwhile, Joseph Holt has acquired a new pub in Alkrington, near Rochdale, for close to £1.5m. 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 tomorrow. 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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com 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.
 
Sector investor Chris Miller – it will be 2025 before we’ll see many more transactions but this is the time to grow: Chris Miller, founder of specialist hospitality incubator White Rabbit Projects, has said it will be 2025 before we’ll see many more transactions, but this is the time to grow. “We’ll definitely see more deals next year, but I still think it’s 2025 before we’ll see many more transactions,” he told the investment panel at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference. “Uncertainty is holding back a lot of decisions and a lot of growth. There’s been chaos in the market, and the opportunities we see at site level is huge. If you can get growth capital into your business and get a deal over the line, this is the time to grow. Given what’s gone on with Brexit, covid, inflation rises and interest rates, you have to expect disasters now and chaos in the market, so unit economics are so important. Multiple revenue streams and internationals have become interesting parts of our investment cases. It’s not about what’s hot and what’s not – competitive socialising has been very hot for a couple of years but there’s great businesses in there and terrible businesses – it comes down to actual great businesses. The bars market might not be sexy at the moment, but we’ve got businesses within it doing incredible Ebitda numbers.” Craig Rachel, director at business advisory specialist AlixPartners, added: “We’re seeing increased desire to invest in things that are good quality and value for money, or experiential and top end. It’s that squeezed middle that is more challenging, but I wouldn’t say there’s any areas off the table. We’re seeing a lot of desire to invest in quick service restaurants because there’s a lot of growth in that area, and quality pubs and something that has additional growth drivers around accommodation. What we need is some stability and the ability to lock down some forecasts. We’re starting to finally see operators forecast market expansion over the next 12 months or so, and that’s what really going to unlock some of that deal activity.” Miller and Rachel will provide further insight in their video from the Propel Multi-Club Conference. Premium subscribers will receive access to all 12 videos from the conference tomorrow (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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 
Surrey gourmet chicken concept owner sets up new trade body to represent independent takeaways: Imran Mamud, owner of Surrey gourmet chicken concept Rooster Shack, has set up new trade body to represent independent takeaways. Mamud opened his first Rooster Shack in 2016, in his home town of Woking, and has followed that with further branches in Aldershot, Birmingham, Stockport and Godalming. After setting up his own franchise, he said he “realised how lonely and difficult it is” and is now collaborating with Jonathan Lord, the MP for Woking, to try to help more independent chicken and burger businesses. “There are 48,000 takeaways across the nation and only 15% are chains, meaning that the majority of revenue is coming from independents – and yet independents get no support or help,” Mamud told the Woking News & Mail. His National Fast Food Association venture will go live next month, offering membership at £100 per year, with the aim of “helping takeaway businesses with every aspect of their business”. Mamud is also hoping to meet chancellor Jeremy Hunt to talk about how VAT is crippling independent takeaways, and to arrange a meeting with the Food Standards Agency to get standardised criteria with which councils can inspect. Lord said: “I commend Imran on his efforts to create a trade body that would support independent fast food outlets with advice, additional training and a strong voice on matters that affect this trade sector. Starting a small business is always a tough challenge, but starting an independent fast food restaurant or chain while navigating all the relevant health and safety regulations must surely be daunting. I look forward to supporting his efforts.” Earlier this year, Mamud said Rooster Shack had more stores in the pipeline and was targeting 80 new sites over the next decade.

KAM and SISU to launch inclusivity and wellness in hospitality report: Consultancies KAM and SISU have partnered for a comprehensive survey to understand and enhance diversity, inclusion and wellbeing within the hospitality industry. It follows research revealing that less than three-quarters of sector employees feel their company has a diverse workforce, and a third of saying their current role negatively affects their mental health. It also found many employees feel they have been treated unfairly due to either their gender (32% of females), age (22%), ethnicity (6%) or sexuality (14%). Released early next year, the Hii (Hospitality’s Inclusivity Insights) Report will seek to explore how factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, cultural and religious beliefs, as well as physical disabilities and neurodiversity, influence experiences in the hospitality workplace. It will establish benchmarks, offer a comprehensive understanding of each sector within the industry and supply data to inform on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. KAM founder Katy Moses said: “Research KAM has carried out over the last year suggests we have a long way to go to truly being an inclusive industry to work in. But quite simply, we don’t know enough about where we currently stand as an industry to really deliver purposeful change.” Olajide Alabi, co-creator of SISU, added: “The hospitality industry is a space I’ve grown up in and learned so much from. There is a need to ensure every voice is heard, every barrier to senior roles is broken, and every individual’s story shapes the narrative.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an owner-operator with two sites in London that has a new opening coming up in January/February and is looking for a general manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be actively involved on the floor. The business is looking for a confident, hands-on individual, who will establish a strong working relationship as the company expands. This concept will be set within a five-star luxury setting. The business is looking for someone with upmarket experience in London.” The salary is up to £80,000. For more information, email stuart@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Pizza Punks owner assesses funding options for next stage of growth, strengthens management team: Hell Yeah Hospitality Group has appointed advisors to help assess its funding options for the next stage of growth for its eight-strong Pizza Punks brand. The business, which also operates the Mamasan concept, has appointed FRP Corporate Finance to assist in raising new funding, as founder Brad Stevens looks at the next stage of the restaurant group’s growth journey. Pizza Punks said it has spent six months consolidating following four new openings in 2022 – in Leicester, Nottingham, Durham and Liverpool. It said it now sees the potential to grow into a UK-wide business, with plans to expand into Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham in 2024, plus four other major university cities to follow. Stevens said: “We are extremely excited about where Pizza Punks is at, both as a brand and a business, and the opportunities it has for significant further growth. We’ve seen very strong sales across the entire Pizza Punks portfolio, which has driven record sales for us recently. This has come off the back of exceeding our budget expectations, as well as getting our labour and cost of sales into a healthy position during our last financial year. We have reviewed our options for expansion and have identified the next cities we are keen to bring the Pizza Punks experience to, working closely with FRP to identify funding options for our next stage of growth into Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham. We are feeling really positive about what the future holds for Pizza Punks.” At the same time, the business has strengthened its senior team. James Richardson, ex-head of operations for The Apartment Group, joins Hell Yeah in the newly formed role of director of operations and people, while David Moffat, previously of Stonegate Group, Gondola Leisure and Hero Brands, is the new commercial director. Finally, Louise McCabe, who has been with the company for seven years, steps up into a new role of sales, marketing and brand director. She was most recently the company’s group operations director. 

John Eckbert – Five Guys plans to open 50 new European sites in 2024, lack of great brand execution can set you back two years: John Eckbert, chief executive of Five Guys Europe, has said the business plans to open 50 new sites next year. Talking at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference, Eckbert said in 2024, the business would open 20 sites in the UK, ten in France, 16 in Spain and four in Germany. He said: “We’re going to open up to 50 sites across the joint venture next year. Every country has a big ambitious goal to open, but most importantly, you’ve got to develop human beings to open these restaurants and staff them and be ready to serve customers from opening. If you don’t have great brand execution when you open, it is a disaster and you’re going to set yourself back probably two years in that market. Having the in-store leaders to be able to open a new site and new market is particularly challenging. There’s a lot of site selection and construction, but even more importantly there’s human development, so that when you’ve got a queue around the block and you’re doing £100,000 a week in your opening sales, you are actually delivering a fantastic customer service experience.” Eckbert said his biggest fear for the brand, which operates 155 sites in the UK, was that “we would lose the passion, intensity and concentration of people who believed in something”. He added: “That was kind of my waking fear for the first few years that we grew. What really overcame that for me is that we’ve gotten stronger with every hire. We now have 8,300 people and they are as intense and as passionate as ever. We brought talent into the business who believed in what we were doing.” Eckbert 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 tomorrow (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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Kricket co-founder – we want to kick on with a focus on driving more covers, Soma playing an important role: Rik Campbell, co-founder of Indian restaurant group Kricket, has told Propel the business wants to “kick on next year” and is looking at further growth opportunities for its eponymous brand and for its cocktail bar concept, Soma. Earlier this week, the business secured new funding ahead of opening a fourth London site in Canary Wharf next spring, which will include an adjoining Soma bar. The business, which was founded by Campbell and Will Bowlby in 2015, secured the new round of funding from existing backer White Rabbit Projects (WRP), alongside additional funds from the founders. The company, which currently operates three Kricket sites in the capital, launched its debut Soma bar, next door to Kricket Soho, earlier this year. Campbell told Propel: “Trading is generally strong across all sites. We want to kick on next year with a focus on driving more covers and try to hold our prices, and perhaps cut prices where possible and drive covers instead. Canary Wharf is the only confirmed site we have for next year but we are looking at other opportunities. We want to grow organically and target the best locations, particularly in London. The capital is still our focus for the next 18 months. There’s still plenty of high traffic areas in London for our brand. Pre-covid, we were looking at opportunities abroad, but we have gone full circle as there are far too many good opportunities at home.” He said that Soma is playing a “very important role for the business” and that it had been a bigger success than expected. “It really sits beautifully alongside Kricket, he said. “I think we’ve done something unique down there. We’re really excited about developing that concept further, and if we can find sites where we can do both Kricket and Soma variations side by side, that’s what we'll look to do. Could we do a standalone Soma site? Potentially if the right opportunity arises. We have seen opportunities recently to do them on their own, but it’s very much dependent on the site itself and the right licence being available.” Campbell added that the business was “really conscious of still remaining affordable”. He said: “We are now actually seeing areas where we can reduce pricing. One of the things we’re going to be doing going forward is designing each site differently, so, each site is a different experience. We want to be fun, affordable and accessible to all.”
 
Stonegate boss – we’re in talks to strengthen the balance sheet: David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, the UK’s biggest pub company, has said the business is in talks to “strengthen the balance sheet” but was under “no extreme time pressure” to find the route towards a refinancing event. Speaking at this month’s Propel Multi Club Conference, McDowall said: “The most important thing that me and the team can do, day in and day out, is try to drive profitable growth in the business. We’ve got a clear strategy that is designed to significantly increase our runway earnings over the next year to 18 months or so, and that’s starting to pay off. At the same time, we’re speaking to some people about what comes next in terms of strengthening the balance sheet. We feel we’re in the right spot with that.” McDowall said the business is very proud of the performance of its Craft Union Pub Company division, and that the business was opening “eight or so a month” under the format. He added: “The model is very simple and straightforward. It relies on great local entrepreneurs who are at the heart of the communities that we serve and are operating in. The model is working well and we’re at circa 560 at the moment. There’s quite significant growth still. Craft Union is about value, sport and community. When we get that right, and when we select and partner with the right operator, the model is an absolute dream. We’re very excited about continuing to do more. The great thing about the integration of the two businesses (Stonegate and Ei Group) is although that happened a few years ago, there’s still plenty in the conversion pipeline for us to go after. We don’t really need any more pubs. There’s lots and lots of assets to continually optimise, and we’re seeing a fair chunk of that when you look at the right pub and the right format – quite often right now, the answer is Craft Union.” McDowall was among the speakers at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference and Premium subscribers will receive access to all 12 videos tomorrow (Friday, 1 December) at 9am.
 
ETM Group and Maven Leisure – a year of significant profit growth and increased site opportunities: ETM Group and Maven Leisure have both reported years of “significant growth”, as the latter secures a new flagship sports venue in the heart of London’s West End, Propel has learned. ETM Group is a collection of ten award-winning venues, including rooftop bar and restaurant Aviary and premium sports bars including Greenwood and Redwood. For the year ended 26 February 2023, the business reported “strong year-on-year growth”, delivering revenue of £27.9m versus £21.6m in 2021/22, with like-for-like sales up 16% and Ebitda of £2.5m (2022: £1.5m). During the period, ETM also refinanced with alternative lender Thincats. The company said its current year’s performance “continues to be encouraging”, in particular the like-for-like sales growth for the 12 weeks to 1 October of 16%.  The company said: “Christmas trading is also expected to be strong, despite the announced rail strikes, with the bookings pipeline already significantly up on the previous year.” The company’s newest site, Marlowe, opened in October at the Montcalm East hotel (the group’s third collaboration with the Montcalm Hotel Group and sixth hotel site). The business said it will continue to consolidate its position as the “leading operator of London rooftops” with the addition of “an iconic venue for London” in 2025. At the same time, the business has promoted Steve Kirby, who joined ETM in 2018 as operations manager, to chief operating officer, while Simon Gaske, formerly of Novus and Stonegate, has been appointed as chief commercial officer. Maven currently operates four bars and restaurants in central London, its most recent being Northwood in Islington. Its turnover for the year ended 26 February 2023 was £6m, with Ebitda of £100,000 versus a loss of £900,000 the previous year. It has seen current like-for-like growth of 46.7% for the 12 weeks to 1 October. It is to continue to grow with the opening of sports venue Blackwood in the West End in the first half of 2024. Ed Martin, chief executive of ETM Group and Maven Leisure, said: “I am very pleased with these results, and most importantly, I’m incredibly proud of our teams that delivered them. Their continued strength and resilience, along with the consumer demand for our offer, means both businesses are well positioned and are on an exciting journey of expansion and innovation. 2024, with the Euros in June, will provide a tantalising platform for the business to outperform. We have very exciting plans for the coming year.
 
Jollibee reports robust third quarter growth in UK: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, has announced robust third quarter 2023 growth for its 12-strong UK business. The company said it achieved UK growth of 50.5% in systemwide sales and 44.3% in like-for-like sales for the quarter, driven by “significant transaction count growth and higher consumer demand”. Dennis Flores, Jollibee Group president for Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, told Macau Business: “Our strong third quarter results affirm our efforts towards providing great-tasting, craveable, and excellent value-for-money food offerings to UK consumers. We are grateful for the continued patronage of our customers across the UK, with more and more new customers coming in to discover our menu items. We look forward to serving their Jollibee favourites at our restaurants, or via delivery across the country.” The business said strong marketing campaigns for its bestsellers also contributed to “stellar growth”, accompanied by partnerships with major UK aggregators that drove strong delivery sales. It said: “Collaborations with popular content creators AJ Clementine and Michelin-background chef Whyte Rushen have further bolstered the brand’s popularity and appeal to local British consumers, who now comprise 80% of Jollibee’s customer base. The brand has likewise made significant efforts to ensure consistency in customer experience and product quality, reflected in all of its 12 stores having Google ratings of four and up, which is above average compared with quick service restaurant industry benchmarks.”
 
Flat Iron adds Hammersmith site to 2024 opening pipeline: Flat Iron, the Piper-backed affordable steak concept, has added to its openings pipeline for next year by securing a site in London’s Hammersmith. Propel has learned the 13-strong, Tom Byng-led business is to open on the ex-Wing Wing site at 18 The Broadway, after an extensive refurbishment. This week, Flat Iron, which made its regional debut this summer in Cambridge’s Market Street, will open in Leeds, on the ex-Byron site in the city’s Lands Lane. Flat Iron, which told Propel earlier this summer that trading since its year end has been “consistently strong”, will also open in Manchester’s Deansgate at the start of next year. Jacob Haftel, of John D Wood, acted on behalf of the private landlord on the Hammersmith deal, while Oli Marcroft, of KLM Real Estate, acted for Flat Iron.
 
Bodean’s founder lines up first site for new subs concept: André Blais, founder of American barbecue diner-deli brand Bodean’s, has lined up a first site for his new Gerry’s Hot Subs concept. Blais has secured an opening at 50 Exmouth Market, in London’s Clerkenwell, for the new concept, which he previously piloted out of the Foodstars kitchen in Battersea. Propel reported last year that Blais was to begin fundraising for the concept. It subsequently launched a campaign through crowdfunding platform Seedrs, where it was looking to raise £276,001, offering 18.63% in equity, which gave it a pre-money valuation of £1.2m. The dark kitchen unit was launched with a £35,000 seed investment, and over its six-month run, sold circa 7,000 hot subs. The initial plan for the concept, which offers six and eight-inch subs, was to secure a bricks and mortar site in Soho’s “high-footfall pedestrian area, next to commuter stations”. Longer-term, the business previously said it planned to open 11 sites over the next five years. Bodean’s currently operates sites in Covent Garden, Soho and Tower Hill.
 
Franco Manca secures Plymouth site: Franco Manca, the sourdough pizza concept backed by Toridoll Holdings and Capdesia, has strengthened its 2024 openings pipeline after securing a site in Plymouth. The brand will open a site next February in the city’s The Barcode scheme, which also houses a 14-screen Imax cinema, plus operators including BrewDog, Zizzi, Nando’s, Las Iguanas, Cosy Club, Boom Battle Bar, Kaspa’s and Paradise Island Adventure Golf. Spinners, the competitive socialising concept, opened at the scheme last month. The original Franco Manca site in London’s Brixton Market, which opened in 2008, is to close and relocate having finally outgrown its original location. Franco Manca described the closure of the restaurant as “soon” and said it is relocating to a much bigger site “just down the road”. The brand is also understood to be in talks on a site in Sheffield. Matthew Englender, of Cushman & Wakefield, acted on behalf of landlord British Land on the Plymouth deal.
 
Ex-Wear Inns estate brought to market: The old Wear Inns business, which was placed into administration earlier this month, has been brought to market. Avison Young and Watling Real Estate have been appointed to market the 25-strong business by administrators Ryan Grant and Howard Smith, of Interpath Advisory. Peter Constantine, managing director of the leisure team at Avison Young, said: “This presents a rare opportunity for an operator to take on an established portfolio of strong performing pubs within a fairly tight geographic area. We anticipate strong demand for the pubs, both as one or a couple of lots and on an individual basis.” Emma Turnbull, associate director at Avison Young, added: “With the company in administration, this will be a full open sale process. We will be gathering information in the forthcoming weeks with a view to launching a full marketing campaign in the new year.” Propel revealed earlier this month that the old Wear Inns business, which was purchased by real estate investment company Aprirose five years ago, had been placed into administration. Aprirose acquired the managed operator, which operated 25 pubs across the north east and Yorkshire, in August 2018 for £22.4m. Ryan Grant, joint administrator and managing director at Interpath Advisory, said: “The joint administrators continue to trade all 25 pubs while we seek a buyer for the business and its assets.” The list of sites include: Black Bull, East Boldon; Black Bull, Morpeth; Dirty Habit, Wickham; Dirty Habit, Whitley Bay; Lambton Arms, Chester Le Street; Old Courthouse, Barnsley; The Priory, York; The Victoria, Whitley Bay; and the Whistle Stop, Beeston.
 
Three Cheers Pub Co reports record turnover but profit drops due to inflation and costs: Three Cheers Pub Co, led by former schoolfriends Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, reported a drop in profit in the year to 31 March 2023 due to inflation and costs. The nine-strong business saw a pre-tax profit of £1,883,877 in 2022 fall to a profit of £1,113,398 during the period. Turnover was up from £10,924,992 in 2022 to a record £12,246,253. This compares with turnover of £10,735,903 and a pre-tax profit of £1,225,559 in the year to 31 March 2020, only the last few weeks of which were affected by covid. No government grants were received (2022: £498,928). Dividends of £708,671 were paid (2022: £795,398). At the balance sheet date, the group had net assets of £4.7m. Fox said: “Operating profit before depreciation for the year ended 31 March 2023 is £1.67m (2022: £2.48m), a drop of 32%, which is directly linked to inflationary rise in direct and indirect costs. During the period, sales have continued to grow. However, the current cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has driven up energy and food prices in particular, has continued pressure on consumers and the trading environment. Additional costs are being offset as much as possible by price rises, menu engineering and operational productivity.”
 
Lane7 to open debut London site next week with food offer from Patty& Bun: Boutique bowling company Lane7 will open its debut London venue next Tuesday (5 December), featuring a food offer from Patty&Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossmann. The site, within The Zig Zag Building in Victoria, will feature multiple ten-pin bowling lanes, an “Instagram worthy” 18-hole golf course, interactive darts and a “risqué” arcade hall in the basement, specifically designed for over-18s. In addition to the line-up of games, Patty&Bun will offer a menu “tailored to the Lane7 crowd”. The drinks list will feature cocktails, wine, craft beer and a range of soft and non-alcoholic drinks. Tim Wilks, owner and founder of Lane7, said: “London has always been a destination for us; however, we’ve waited a long time to ensure we found the right site. We didn’t want to undersell ourselves, or the Lane7 experience. After many years of looking, we have finally found the right site in London Victoria. Finding such a premium site is not only a momentous occasion for us, but for the emerging market of social entertainment too.” Earlier this month, Propel revealed Lane7, which has 12 UK sites, is set to make its German debut. Ten years after the opening of the first Lane7 in the UK, the brand is launching in The Playce at Potsdamer Platz for its first international site, at the start of 2024.
 
Former Culpeper Family Hospitality Group MD and head chef set to launch new neighbourhood bistro in Leeds: Sandy Jarvis, former managing director and head chef at pub operator The Culpeper Family Hospitality Group, is set to launch a new neighbourhood bistro in Leeds. Launching at 4-6 Town Street in Horsforth in February, Bavette is the first venture from Jarvis and his husband, restaurant manager and sommelier Clément Cousin, formerly of Brawn and The Buxton. The seasonally-led bistro menu will feature classically-inspired dishes such as pork belly rillons, frisée salad and ravigote sauce; and halibut, vin jaune sauce and buttered leeks. The wine list will feature wine from Cousin’s family’s vineyard, as well as other low intervention bottles from across Europe. Having opened the Culpeper, where he led the kitchen during the first 18 months as head chef, in 2014, Jarvis became a partner and joined the Culpeper Family Hospitality Group as operations director in 2017, before becoming the group’s first managing director a year later.
 
Birmingham bubble tea concept set to triple estate size in 2024 and make southern debut before Christmas: Birmingham bubble tea franchise Mowchi is set to triple its estate size in 2024 and make its southern debut before Christmas, Propel has learned. The business, founded last year by Syeda Kayanath, brand and marketing director at African restaurant concept Afrikana, made its debut earlier this year in Birmingham’s Ladypool Road. Its second site, and first franchise location, followed in September, in Bradford’s Great Horton Street. It is now set to come south with an opening in the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, opening in December. Mowchi will follow this with six further openings in 2024, Propel understands. “We’ve kept this a secret for some time but we’re ready to share the news – Mowchi is coming to Lakeside shopping centre,” the business said. “Enjoy delicious, delectable bao buns, bao-gers and bubble tea. Located in the food court, we’re ready to make it bubbly.”
 
Multi-site operators open fourth site after extending Shepherd Neame partnership: Multi-site operators Gordon and Sharon Thompson have opened their fourth site after extending their partnership with Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame. The Thompsons, who have four decades of experience in the industry, are now running the Woolpack Inn in the Kent village of Chilham. The pub has reopened after a two-month refurbishment with a new food offer and extensive drinks menu, while there are plans to renovate the 14 bedrooms at the property next year. Sharon Thompson said: “Over the years, the many businesses we have owned and refurbished has brought us to this point – taking on The Woolpack. Our expectations are very high of the finished results, but with our experience coming together, we are confident this is the best that we have done.” The Thompsons’ other sites are The Abbey Hotel in Battle, East Sussex; and The Castle Hotel in Eynsford and The White Horse Inn in Maldon, both in Kent.
 
Essex pub company sells Woodham Walter site: Essex pub company Gray & Sons has sold The Queen Victoria in the village of Woodham Walter to an unnamed buyer through Christie & Co. The large pub features a public bar and lounge, a dining area for 30 guests and a garden, with room to extend. Family-run Gray & Sons, based in Chelmsford, currently operates an estate of 49 tenanted pubs across the county, with a focus on drink sales. It decided to sell the freehold property, in addition to the Rose in Burnham earlier this year, as it felt “it was time to pass them to owners looking to breathe new life into the venues”. Liana Gatier, business agent for pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, said: “This was a great opportunity to acquire a closed freehold free house for under £400,000. Pubs in the Essex area always generate good interest and we wish the new owners well in their endeavours.”
 
Greggs partners with Fenwick’s for first fine dining bistro pop-up: Food-to-go operator Greggs has partnered with department store Fenwick’s for its first fine dining bistro. Bistro Greggs, a “Parisian-inspired” pop-up within Fenwick’s Newcastle department store, will serve an à la carte, multi-course menu of “enhanced interpretations” of Greggs’ bakes and sweet treats. Greggs said the cordon bleu menu, created in collaboration with Fenwick’s executive chef Mark Reid, would “elevate Bistro Greggs into one of the hottest new restaurant openings this Christmas”. The all-day restaurant’s menu highlights will include the Greggs festive bake served alongside duck-fat roasties, smoked pancetta, chestnuts and sprouts, while steak bakes will be accompanied by truffled dauphinoise potatoes, green beans and almonds. Guests will also be able to opt for a “high tea” for two of a three-tier sharing brunch, with peach melba and yum yum bites alongside a croissant, pain au chocolat, sausage roll and sausage, bean and cheese melt. The bistro opens tomorrow (Friday, 1 December) and will run through to New Year’s Eve, with tables bookable in advance and some tables reserved for walk-ins. Greggs customer director Hannah Squirrell said: “The launch of Bistro Greggs marks a watershed moment as we take our first step with Fenwick into classic French-inspired fine dining. Showcasing popular favourites across our menu, we’ve created an accessible menu featuring eloquent dishes with a Parisian twist, elevated through Fenwick’s gastronomic excellence and expertise.” Leo Fenwick, strategic partnerships director at Fenwick, added: “Fenwick and Greggs are two brands at the heart of the local community with a commitment to doing good and we are thrilled to be partnering with a much-loved brand.”
 
Apple Butter Café concept to open second site in London: All-day-dining concept Apple Butter Café is to open its second site in London, in Westminster. Owned by Qatar-based hospitality company Adara Group, Apple Butter Café launched its first site in London, in Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, on the former Balans Soho Society site, in 2020. Apple Butter Café has now secured a site in Langham Place for an opening next year. Founded by brothers Saleh and Mohammad Alayan alongside Faycal Abdel Khalek, the concept offers “signature blend of speciality coffee, gourmet delights, and Middle Eastern-inspired desserts”. The Adara Group also operates a number of coffee shops in the Middle East. Zack Azulay, of Restaurant Property, acted on the Langham Place deal.
 
Jamie Oliver makes return to UK restaurant scene: Jamie Oliver has returned to the UK restaurant scene with the opening of Jamie Oliver Catherine Street in London’s Covent Garden. It is the chef’s first domestic site since the collapse into administration of his restaurant empire in 2019 – since when his portfolio has been restricted to a collection of franchised restaurants overseas. Head chef Chris Shaill previously worked alongside Oliver for eight years at Barbecoa, while pastry chef Emma Jackson joins from Soho Farmhouse and Petersham Nurseries. Championing independent producers and suppliers, the menu features main dishes such as a sharing dish of roast Sutton Hoo chicken with stroganoff sauce, shoestring fries and baked wild mushroom rice; fish stew of day-boat fish, prawns, hand-dived scallops, Dorset clams and Welsh mussels in a shellfish tomato sauce with garlic mayo toast; and venison ragu made from slow-braised Royal Windsor Park fallow deer, with hand-cut pappardelle and Berkswell cheese. A wine list curated by Filipe Bhering focuses on new and old-world wine, by the glass using the Coravin system, alongside cocktails from Jay Rivera. Diners enter through a courtyard garden with a high ceiling and exposed brick walls covered in vines, wisteria and trees, while the main dining room features a mahogany bar with art-deco-inspired detailing and a marble countertop. Oliver said: “The emotion of food, family and home is what I want to bring to life in our Catherine Street restaurant. We want every single guest to feel cherished and welcomed, knowing they will be tucking into incredible food, made from the best ingredients, prepared with love and served in an inviting and comforting space.”
 
Pret franchisee doubles its initial estate with eighth opening: Pret franchisee K&Z Holdings, a family-run, multi-unit franchise business, has doubled its initial estate with the brand with its eighth opening. The business, which also operates 11 KFC outlets, became one of Pret’s first UK franchisees in November 2021 when it took on four stores – in Guildford, Bournemouth, Basingstoke and Woking. It has since then opened further sites in Reigate, Staines and Weybridge, and has now launched store number eight, within Milton Keynes railway station. K&Z came into being in 2006 when Shahaz Nanji, having spent three years in the banking sector after completing a Masters in consulting, took an opportunity to invest in a single-unit KFC franchise. The business had initially been founded in 1986, when it opened its first KFC restaurant in Hastings, but rebranded as K&Z in 2006. K&Z reported turnover increased to £15,166,438 for the year ending 31 March 2022 compared with £12,191,051 the previous year. Pre-tax profit rose to £1,403,231 from £1,010,038 the year before.

London restaurant group Maginhawa launches new Soho site: London restaurant group Maginhawa has launched its new Filipino restaurant, Donia, in Soho’s Kingly Court. It is the latest venture from Omar Shah and Florence Mae Maglanoc, who are also behind Panadera Bakery, Bintang, Mamasons, Ramo Ramen and Moi Moi Island. Offering modern Filipino cuisine combined with British techniques and ingredients, and taking inspiration from Filipino street food favourites, Donia occupies a space on the top floor of Kingly Court. A curated menu of snacks and smaller plates progresses into larger sharing dishes for both lunch and dinner. These include chicken offal skewers, prawn and pork dumplings, pork belly roasted Léchon-style and chicken inasal. Wine is the main focus of the drinks list, looking predominantly to Europe for by-the-glass and bottle options, alongside a selection of cocktails. Maglanoc said: “Transforming the narrative of Filipino food in the British culinary landscape is what we envision with Donia. By harmonising authentic Filipino flavours with contemporary culinary artistry and the richness of British ingredients, we’re bringing to life a menu that’s both comforting and adventurous.” Founded by Shah and Maglanoc in 1987 with the launch of Bintang in Kentish Town Road, the company now operates seven sites in total across the capital, including two Ramo Ramens.

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