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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 1st Dec 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Greene King to trial two new concepts as it continues to create a balanced portfolio: Brewer and retailer Greene King is trialling two new concepts as part of its continuing plans to create a balanced brand portfolio, Propel has learned. The Nick Mackenzie-led business has begun trialling Seared – a pub concept, with a “freshly grilled, globally-inspired menu”, and Everly, a boutique hotel offer, positioned as “affordable luxury”. The trials and continuing investments in the group’s existing and fledgling brands, including Crafted and Hickory’s, is part of the group’s long-term strategy to create a balanced brand and asset portfolio, broaden the range of customers it is reaching and stretch into different occasions. The first Seared site will open on The Castle in Droitwich, Worcestershire, early in the new year. It will be positioned “slightly higher than Hungry Horse”. Mackenzie said: “Hungry Horse remains really important to us – we’ve still got 230 sites under the brand and we're still investing in those businesses and evolving that brand – but this sits slightly above it. Seared is something we’ve been working on for a little while now. It is very much about maximising our position in the value segment of the market. Seared is about staying as a pub but putting in a really good value for money, well executed food offer focused around freshly grilled food, with a little bit of an international twist to it.” The first Everly site will open at the Three Horses site in Rottingdean, East Sussex. The site will have 32 bedrooms and 290 covers, with a food menu focused on local produce. Mackenzie said: “We think there is a really good opportunity in the leisure/break market with Everly. It’s affordable luxury and in a premium part of the market we have not been in before.” The company will open the sixth site under its premium pub offer, Crafted, next Thursday (7 December), with The Prince of Wales in Esher, Surrey. Mackenzie said: “We continue to hone them, but we’re really pleased with where they’ve got to, and customer scores are really good. We will take our time with Crafted, we need to make sure we get the sites right as we evolve them.” Earlier this month, the business opened its fifth Hickory’s site since it invested in the brand last autumn, in Wrexham. Mackenzie said: “The Hickory’s management team uses a really rigorous approach to site selection and to how they open a business, and we've been really impressed by that. So far, the openings have been really strong, and got stronger as we've gone on. We’ll start to ramp up again a little bit more next year, and then we'll start to plan what happens after that.” He said the business continues to invest in its existing brands, such as Chef & Brewer, which has seen more than 60 investments in the last few years, which are gaining traction. He said: “We are investing to build a hospitality business that will deliver sustainable growth over the long term, and the evolution of our brand portfolio is key to this.”

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to receive next New Openings Database and videos from Propel Multi-Club Conference today: Premium subscribers will receive the next New Openings Database today (Friday, 1 December), at midday. The database features a number of restaurant openings including the 2020 Great British Menu winner Tom Barnes, who is making his restaurant debut in Manchester with Skof. Huzefa Sajawal, co-owner of Fatt Pundit, has partnered with his wife and brother-in-law for a new family-run Italian restaurant in the capital called Capilungo. Meanwhile, the Danieli Group has unveiled plans to bring its pan-Asian restaurant and cocktail bar concept, The Muddler, to Sunderland. 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 today. 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
Last chance to book for Propel North American ski trip: Today (Friday, 1 December) is the last chance to book for the Propel ski trip to North America. The trip – overseen by Myles Doran, managing director of Hospitality Inc and former commercial director of Revolution Bars Group – takes place from 5-9 February and includes four days’ skiing in the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and four nights’ accommodation at the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa. There will also be three hosted dinners. The single occupancy price is £3,250 and twin occupancy is £2,950. The price also includes flights, ski passes, breakfast each day and luxury transfers. Propel manager director Paul Charity said: “This is the chance to ski in one of the most breath-taking landscapes in the world while experiencing top-class hospitality.” For more information or to book, email or call 07710 783485.

Consumers loosen purse strings on high tempo occasions but quality and atmosphere key: Consumers are ready to spend freely on high tempo occasions in the on premise, but only if they get high quality, new experiences and great atmosphere, according to CGA by NIQ’s Evolving High Tempo Occasion Report. On consumer intercepts for the research, nearly half (47%) of high tempo on premise users said they hadn’t budgeted for their spend, while another 13% said they probably wouldn’t stick to their budgeted amount. Only a fifth (19%) thought they would adhere to the money they had allocated themselves. Nearly nine in ten say new or innovative experiences are now either essential (41%) or nice to have (45%) on their high tempo occasions. While bars and drinking pubs are still the most common destinations (visited by 28% and 26% on their last high tempo occasions), other channels include pubs with a food focus (22%) and casual dining restaurants (15%). In total, food-led venues now account for 30% of all high tempo visits. Just under two thirds (64%) of high tempo consumers say they like visiting event spaces and creative venue complexes, and half (49%) of these think the atmosphere there is better than in traditional outlets. “Consumers’ decision-making on high tempo visits is more complex than some might think,” said Paul Bolton, CGA by NIQ client director. “The range of channels they use now goes well beyond conventional late-night venues, and they are more sharply focused on atmosphere and quality. These consumers are ready to spend heavily and trade up to premium options, but with disposable incomes under pressure, they want to be sure they’re getting good value for money and memorable experiences.”
RMT pay deal gives ‘degree of certainty’ over Christmas, Aslef urged to follow its lead: The pay deal for rail workers agreed by the RMT union gives the hospitality sector a “degree of certainty” over Christmas, UKHospitality has said, but the trade body warned we are “not yet out of the woods”. The RMT has agreed to an offer from 14 train companies, which means its members will no longer be involved in industrial action until at least the spring of next year. However, train drivers represented by the Aslef union will still strike over the next week. Members will take part in a “rolling programme” of walkouts from tomorrow (Saturday, 2 December) until Friday, 8 December, while drivers will also refuse to work any overtime from today (Friday, 1 December) until Saturday, 9 December. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses will be breathing a sigh of relief that the critical festive period will be protected from strikes from RMT members. Businesses, workers and the public now have a degree of certainty when it comes to their Christmas plans. We are not out of the woods yet, with strikes by Aslef set to cause significant disruption. I would urge Aslef to follow the lead of the RMT and commit to holding no further strikes in December and the new year. Any further strikes would decimate the essential Christmas trading period for businesses, prevent millions from working and interrupt families’ festive plans.” A Night Time Industries Association spokesperson added. “The consequences of this industrial action extend beyond mere inconvenience; they pose an existential threat to countless businesses that form the backbone of our economy. The cumulative toll on night-time economy businesses is reaching unprecedented levels, with the stark reality that many will not survive this hugely challenging trading period. It is imperative that unions and relevant authorities recognise the severity of their actions and work swiftly to find a resolution that doesn't compromise the livelihoods of hardworking individuals and the very fabric of our night-time economy.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business that is gearing up for a new period of growth and development that is seeking a director of finance. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The business is turning over circa £30m a year and has strong opportunities to substantially grow this figure. This position is very much seen as a key hire in the senior leadership team and it feels the addition of a director of finance will help support people leadership, process and systems, long-term strategy and financial growth.” The salary is up to £110,000 and the position is based in Surrey. For more information, email

Company News:

M&B boss – we’re hopeful we are two years away from getting back to a pre-covid profit position: Phil Urban, chief of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), the All Bar One, Toby Carvery and Harvester owner, has said margin percentages are “not something that we obsess about” but is focused on how quickly the business can get “back to and beyond the cash profit that we were making pre-covid”. Speaking to Propel after the company reported a 9.1% increase in like-for-like sales for the 53 weeks ended 30 September 2023, Urban said: We were in volume growth last year. In the first half of the year, we were probably flatlining a bit. I'm always cautiously optimistic, and you have to remember that before covid, the industry was in a very slow, structural volume decline. We’re working hard to maintain our volumes and we’re doing that through a lot of guest-obsessed workshops that we do as part of our Ignite programme. In terms of margins, we were something like 14% pre-pandemic. It’s not something we’re that obsessed about. It’s the quantum we’re more interested in, because we probably won’t get back to pre-covid levels of margin. Once you’ve got a living wage going up by 10% and others cost burdens, then by definition, unless you really pass all of that on, you’re not going to maintain your percentage ratios. Plus, every time we convert a Harvester to a Miller & Carter, we’re sort of making a conscious decision to sacrifice percentage margin for cash margin. So, the way we view it is how quickly we can get back to and beyond the cash profit that we were making pre-covid, and we are hopeful that is only two years away.” Urban said Christmas bookings have started a lot earlier than recent years and was “really encouraged” by their levels. However, he said a “good or bad Christmas will absolutely be dependent on the walk-ins you get”. In terms of sector consolidation or acquisitions, Urban told Propel: “If I look in the crystal ball for M&B and the journey we are on, first and foremost, we want to get our profit back to where we were pre covid. Once we’ve done that, we’re going to be a highly cash generative business, the pension liability will have disappeared, and the end of the securitisation will not be in the too distant future. The optionality for M&B then becomes big, because we can do a number of things. But that is sort of tomorrow. In between times, opportunistically, if we felt something was on the table that was of interest, then we would make a call.”

Nando’s plans further expansion as sales jump beyond pre-pandemic levels: Nando’s has said it will continue to expand with new UK restaurants, despite the uncertain economic backdrop putting pressure on consumer spending. The company said it plans to open 14 new sites in the UK in its current financial year to the end of February 2024, with ten of these already opened. It came as the restaurant chain’s business, excluding South Africa, revealed it returned to profit for the first time since the pandemic in its latest set of full-year accounts to 26 February 2023. The company swung to a £17m operating profit for the year, compared with a £1.2m operating loss a year earlier. It said sales jumped by almost a fifth to £1.27bn for the year, up from £1.06bn a year earlier. The company said sales jumped beyond pre-pandemic levels as it was boosted by a strong recovery in UK consumer demand, as well as further restaurant openings. However, it still fell to a £86.2m pre-tax loss for the latest year after exceptional items. Nando’s said cost inflation has remained “at elevated levels” into the current financial year. The group said it has managed the impact of cost pressures but still expects these to “remain a significant drag” for the rest of 2023-24. Rob Papps, group chief executive, said: “The macroeconomic outlook for 2024 remains uncertain but we are continuing to invest for the future with further menu innovation, enhancements to our digital capabilities and new restaurant openings planned in all our markets, including 14 in the UK. The 2023 financial year saw Nando’s deliver a steady recovery to pre-pandemic sales and a return to operating profit, driven by strong consumer demand for our flame-grilled peri-peri chicken, supported by our brand and customer proposition. Despite the improved sales performance, cost pressures including higher energy, labour and food prices remained a challenge.”

Indian high-end sports bar concept looking to come to UK: Indian high-end sports bar concept, The Studs Sports Bar & Grill, is looking to come to the UK. Established in 2017 and based in Mumbai, it currently operates ten franchises, offering a “European-style sports bar concept restaurant and pub with high-quality food and premium alcohol”. Established Indian food and beverage firm Ambros World Foods, which is behind the concept, stated London and Manchester as its preferred locations, alongside other high profile cities worldwide. “The high-end sports bar concept is prevalent in the UK, and Ambros World Foods brings this concept into the Indian market, a market with a strong sports fan base,” it said in a pitch on investment banking platform Smergers. “We have 12 such outlets across Mumbai, Bangalore, Navi Mumbai, Nainital, Ranchi and Kolkata and have served 1,000,000-plus lakh guests, clocking revenues of more than INR 6 crore in 12 months. We primarily franchise under the franchise owned, company supported model, supporting the franchise partner every step of the way to ensure the quality of service and a breakeven period of two years.” The company said investment from franchisees would be £191,000 to £232,000, including a £30,000 brand fee, with 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of space required for sites. Expected monthly sales are £50,000, with a 30% profit margin and royalty fees of 10%.
Nightcap CFO steps down: Toby Rolph has stepped down as chief financial officer at Nightcap – owner of the Cocktail Club, the Adventure Bar Group, Dirty Martini and the Barrio Familia group of 46 bars. Rolph has been involved with Nightcap since its initial public offering (IPO) nearly three years ago and will remain with the business for the coming months to ensure a smooth handover. He has already stepped down as a director of the company, which has appointed Richard Haley as interim chief financial officer. Haley most recently held the role of deputy group chief financial officer of Delinian, formerly Euromoney Institutional Investor (a FTSE 250 company). He previously held senior financial roles at Future, Tesco, William Hill and Halma, and spent the early part of his career at KPMG. Rolph said: “Having been involved with Nightcap for nearly three years, I am really proud of the growth and expansion that we have achieved over a relatively short period. Following publication of the latest annual results, I feel that now is an appropriate time to pursue other opportunities.” Nightcap chief executive, Sarah Willingham, added: “Nightcap has evolved considerably since its IPO in 2021 as we pursue our goal of becoming the UK's leading bar business, and we are grateful for the key role that Toby has played. We are also excited to welcome Richard Haley as interim chief financial officer, as we continue our focus on integrating and consolidating our business in readiness for the next phase of growth.” Nightcap last month reported like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 1 October 2023 were down 16.7% compared with 2022 due to the impact of additional rail strikes and warm weather throughout September. This after the group reported revenue for the 52 weeks ending 2 July 2023 increased 29% to £46.4m (2022; £35.9m). Adjusted Ebitda on an IFRS 16 basis was up to £6.6m (2022: £6.0m) and it made a pre-tax loss of £4.9m (2022: profit of £0.2m). 
Trust Inns acquires Cheshire pub: Trust Inns, which is owned by the family interests of the late Trevor Hemmings, has acquired a pub in Cheshire. In a deal brokered by agent Fleurets, Trust inns has bought the Nags Head in the village of Bunbury for a figure in excess of the asking price of £375,000, following a competitive bidding process. Henry Cunningham, the sitting tenant, said: “I worked successfully with Trust Inns many years ago at other pubs, so when I found out it might be interested, I was delighted. The sale process brought a brief period of uncertainty, but I'm now looking forward to renewing my relationship with Trust Inns and to ensuring the Nags Head continues to thrive.” Mark Brown, managing director at Trust Inns, added: “This was an investment sale with a free of tie tenant. However, we feel that this is a classic pub and it made long term sense to purchase it while it was available. Henry is well known and liked by us and we are happy to see him continue his good work at the Nags Head.” It follows the acquisitions of the Gordon Arms Hotel in West Linton, Peeblesshire, and the The Bear Inn in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in recent months. In August, Trust Inns also acquired three pubs from Glasgow hospitality group Dundas Heritable – the Park Bar and the Brass Monkey in Glasgow and the Scarecrow in Kilsyth.
Pret to take roadside estate past 40-mark: Pret A Manger is to take its estate of roadside sites past the 40-mark in the first quarter of 2024, with four new openings with Moto. The company currently operates 36 roadside sites with the likes of Moto, Welcome Break and Motor Fuel Group. Propel understands that the four new openings with Moto will be at Hilton Park, Knutsford, Reading and Cobham services. Last year, Pret said its new Moto sites were taking 25% more in sales than its usual locations, beating all expectations. Speaking in September, Guy Meakin, shops and franchise director at Pret, said the brand hoped to open a further 100 sites in 2024. Meakin said: “We’ve now got more than 130 shops outside London, which is great, but we want many more, and I see us having well over 500 outside of London.” The business recently launched its first store in the Lake District on a Motor Fuel Group forecourt. Meakin said it is looking to expand to other parts of the UK which have similar opportunities, such as Cornwall, Scotland, North Wales and Cheshire.
France-based, high-end karaoke concept Bam to make UK debut next spring: Bam Karaoke Box, the France-based, high-end karaoke concept, has confirmed it will make its debut in the UK next year. As revealed by Propel in the summer, the business, which was founded in France in 2014 by Arnaud Studer, will open the capital’s Victoria Street next spring. Bam, which stands for Boîte à Musique (music box), said that at 10,000 square feet, the new site will become the largest karaoke venue in Europe and feature 22 private karaoke rooms, a bar, outdoor terrace and a live music stage and DJ booth, holding a late-night licence until 1:30am some nights of the week. Each private room will also have its own distinct identity, style and name. Arnaud Studer, founder of Bam Karaoke Box, said: “The opening of BAM Karaoke Box in London is a significant milestone for our brand. We are thrilled to bring the unique atmosphere and energy of BAM to London, providing a new concept where people can come together to have fun and socialise, whilst enjoying the best in food, drinks, and music.” The business currently operates eight sites across France and Spain, including five in Paris and two in Madrid. It is thought that it will look to open further sites in the UK.
Bagel Factory opens new flagship London site: Grab-and-go brand Bagel Factory, which is owned by Cremonini Group, one of the largest European food operators, has opened a new flagship site in London. The company has opened the new site – its ninth in the capital and 24th in England – by Liverpool Street Station, at the Elizabeth Line entrance. The site is the group’s fourth opening of 2023 and follows its most recent launch at Westquay in Southampton. The 770 square-foot venue in the food court of the scheme marked the brand’s first opening in the south of England, outside London. The business, which was acquired by the Cremonini Group in summer 2012 in a deal believed to be worth in the region of £2m, revealed plans earlier this year to more than double its estate by 2025. The brand also operates 18 sites in Ireland.
I am Döner makes London debut for sixth UK site: I am Döner, the award-winning better kebab brand backed by Think Hospitality, has made its London debut for its sixth UK site. It has opened at 44 Chalk Farm Rd in Camden, joining its sites in Bootle, Datchet, Harrogate, Headingley and Leeds city centre, plus an overseas location in Dubai’s Silicon Oasis. The new restaurant has 35 seats over two floors plus a dedicated takeaway and delivery service. It will serve I am Döner’s Christmas dinner doner, including turkey doner meat and all the trimmings, from Brussels sprouts to stuffing. Alongside its range of kebabs, salads, rice bowls and street cart fries, the store will offer a range of milkshakes and draught beer on tap. Each dish can be customised with tens of thousands of combinations, including four levels of chilli sauce, ranging from mild to some of the hottest on the market. I am Döner was founded by Paul Baron, a former Michelin experienced chef whose aim is to transform the kebab from much more than just a late-night guilty pleasure. Earlier this year, the business said it was in talks to open in airports and universities, and would soon be announcing a major international franchise partnership.
Former TGI Fridays UK head of safety and risk joins Food Alert: Food safety business Food Alert has appointed Sioned Hatcher-Evans as a new technical director. Hatcher-Evans was previously head of safety and risk at TGI Fridays UK and has also acted as an environmental health practitioner. Food Alert said she brings a wealth of experience in the regulatory field of environmental health and maintaining compliance within food and hospitality organisations. During her seven-year career, Hatcher-Evans has led projects to fully digitalise and upgrade safety-related management systems within the hospitality sector to ensure they meet operational demands. David Bashford, managing director at Food Alert, said: “Food Alert is poised to support clients with changes to regulatory enforcement as the industry continues to evolve. Sioned has a unique insight into the challenges faced by food businesses, and I’ve no doubt this experience will contribute towards further growth and development for the organisation.” 
SSP America opens collection of restaurants and bars at Midway International airport: SSP America, a division of SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has opened a new collection of restaurants and bars at Midway International (MDW) airport in Chicago. SSP America has operated at MDW since 2017 and now operates more than 30 restaurants there. “The Central Market is at the heart of Midway Partnership’s $75m transformation of the airport’s eating and shopping experience,” said Sammy Patel, chief executive of the Midway Partnership, a joint venture between Vantage Airport Group, SSP America and Hudson. “Our successful collaboration with SSP is built around ensuring community benefit, showcasing Chicago, and doing our utmost to collaborate with and support people and local businesses in the community.” The newly opened restaurants are: White Sox Bar & Grill, Reilly’s Daughter, America’s Dog & Burger, Connie’s Pizza, Big Bowl, M Burger, Tall Boy Taco’s, Beechers Handmade Cheese and Dunkin.
Admiral Taverns commits further £800,000 to sustainability roadmap: Admiral Taverns, the circa 1,500-strong, Proprium-backed business, has unveiled phase two of its sustainability roadmap, announcing a further £800,000 investment into reducing carbon emissions across its estate. This builds on the group's £1m investment in September 2022 to install energy saving equipment in 750 of its pub's cellars and bars, saving circa 1,500 tonnes of carbon per year. The roadmap ensures reducing environmental impact underpins Admiral's long-term sustainability plan. As part of the group's progress against its five-year sustainability strategy, it will continue its partnership with Technik2 to install energy saving equipment in cellars and behind bars across an additional 200 pubs. Admiral said this has been introduced at no charge to licensees and can deliver savings of up to £5,000 per pub. Andrew Hallam, head of property at Admiral, said: “Sustainability is at the core of everything we do here at Admiral, and I’m extremely proud of the progress we’ve made over the last 12 months. We pride ourselves on our exceptional licensee support, and this additional investment should help the most energy inefficient pubs reduce both their costs and carbon emissions, ensuring they can continue to thrive in the long-term and remain at the heart of their communities.”
Family-owned Kent beer supplier completes MBO: Family-owned Kent beer importer and distributer Cave Direct has completed a management buyout (MBO) which it said “heralds a new era” for the business. The company, which was founded in 1979 and is based in Larkfield, has also appointed a new board of directors. It said the MBO not only secures its long-term future, but also ensures its continuity as a family owned and run business. The new board will consist of Neil Kitching as managing director, Laurence Smale as sales and marketing director and Micheal Rochester as operations director. Current owners Colin Gilhespy and Louise Smale will remain in the company as chairman and director respectively. Gilhespy said: “Putting in place a succession plan that ensured continuity for our staff, customers and suppliers alike was crucial in implementing this new structure. After our very humble beginnings all those years ago, I am thrilled that Cave Direct can now continue in the same vein and has a very exciting future in the hands of our new shareholders and board members while retaining the family involvement. The board would like to thank Colin and Louise for their dedication and drive during the last 40 years to make Cave Direct what it is today.”
South African boutique cafe group Tashas opens UK debut site: South African boutique cafe group Tashas has opened its debut UK site, in London’s Battersea. Founded by Natasha Sideris and her brother Savva in 2005, the brand – which operates 15 sites in South Africa and six in the UAE – has launched a 150-cover site and 45-cover terrace at the Battersea Power Station development. The dishes take inspiration from Natasha’s travels around the world, with locally sourced produce and ingredients featuring in a menu of all-day dishes, with nods to her South African roots. These include the Texas salad – with corn, feta, cherry tomatoes, olives, basil and rocket with a light basil pesto and lemon dressing; and the Mediterranean lemon chicken – with lemon butter and rosemary sauce. New dishes created exclusively for Battersea include the sweet toast – a play on French Bostock with homemade almond frangipane, apricot jam and spiced syrup-soaked brioche; and the cornflake pork schnitzel – a cut of pork loin, coated in cornflakes and served with a creamy potato salad and fresh slaw. There is also a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, plus wines from South Africa, alongside a selection of matcha drinks, smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. Natasha said: “At Tashas, we are passionate about curating memorable moments with great food in beautiful environments. We can’t wait to bring the Tashas brand of hospitality to London.”
Roxy Leisure confirms February opening for York site: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room concepts, has confirmed its Roxy Ball Room in York will open in February. The site, in the city’s The Stonebow development, will feature a range of activities including duck pin bowling, karaoke, crazy pool, American pool, tech darts, ice-free curling, shuffleboard, ping pong and a batting cage, alongside the brand’s premium food and beverage offering. The group currently has 18 sites across the UK, following its most recent launches in Liverpool and Cheltenham. Roxy Ball Room York will be its first launch of 2024. Joel Mitchell, Roxy Leisure’s sales and marketing director, said, “York is rich in history and home to a thriving hospitality scene that we’re excited to be a part of. With our first Roxy Ball Room on Boar Lane in Leeds marking its tenth anniversary this month, we have plenty of reasons to celebrate our next opening in Yorkshire!”
Adventure golf operator Lost City to open second Belfast site for fourth UK venue: Adventure golf operator Lost City is to open a second Belfast site. The company is opening in Odyssey Place after agreeing a deal with landlord Matagorda 2. Lost City will occupy a 15,000 square-foot unit and include two indoor golf courses “with an apocalypse branding and concept”. It will be the second site in Belfast for the adventure golf business, which has operated from Belfast's Cityside Retail Park since 2017, and fourth in the UK, having established its Nottingham site in 2013, and more recently, one in Hull in May 2021. Alice Carr, marketing manager for Lost City, said: "With fit out underway, we are excited to open our fourth site, at Belfast’s dominant leisure centre, Odyssey Place, and cultivate a new Lost City team just in time for Christmas.”
International games room operator set for first standalone site, in Reading: International games room operator FunBox Entertainment is set to open its first standalone site, in Reading. FunBox operates out of 13 entertainment centres across the UK, including Gravity Southside in Wandsworth, and one in Germany. It has now applied to open a standalone centre in a trio of vacant units, 49-52, at Reading’s Broad Street Mall. The proposed maximum capacity of the venue would be about 400 people. Proposed activities include duckpin bowling, electronic games rooms, interactive sports games, augmented reality darts, remote control cars, a supercar stimulator, virtual reality, carnival skills games, American pool and skeeball games. The application has been recommended for approval by Reading Council.
Company behind London’s The Cavendish Hotel undergoes refinancing ahead of planned refurbishment, reports return to profit: The company behind The Cavendish Hotel in London has undergone a £130m refinancing ahead of a planned refurbishment of the hotel and reported a return to profit. It comes as the hotel, which was bought by Singaporean investor CapitaLand Ascott Trust along with The Temple Bar Hotel in Dublin for a combined £275m in August 2023, saw turnover increase to £14,038,000 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £4,477,000 the previous year. Revenue remained below the £16,976,000 reported for the year ending 31 December 2019 – the last full year before covid. The business made a pre-tax profit of £2,655,000 compared with a loss of £730,000 the year before (2019: profit of £4,465,000). Occupancy was up to 67.07% from 26.83% the year before while average daily rate rose to £250 from £198. On 31 August 2023, the company refinanced its loan with the Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation for a further five years. As well as the £100m loan, an additional £30m uncommitted facility was made available to part fund the planned renovation of the hotel, which is due to start in late 2024 and is expected to last 18 months. The company did not receive any government grants (2021: £182,000). No dividend was paid (2021: nil).
JD Wetherspoon applies to add additional storey and 25 rooms to £15m Wolverhampton pub plans: JD Wetherspoon has submitted an application to add an additional storey and a further 25 hotel rooms to its proposals for The Moon Under Water pub in Wolverhampton city centre. The business was granted planning approval by City of Wolverhampton Council in September for its £15m redevelopment of the Lichfield Street venue, which will generate about 70 jobs. Permission is already in place for the establishment of a heritage centre in the basement, plus the conversion of the first, second and third floors into a 71-bedroom hotel, along with the creation of a refurbished and enlarged pub on the ground floor and a first-floor rear garden terrace and new shop front. If approved, the revised proposal will also see the creation of an additional 21 rooms in a newly built fourth storey, plus a further four rooms in an extension over an existing flat roof, reports Insider Media. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “The hotel is a major part of the development. We are pleased to have increased the number of rooms that we are hoping to offer in the hotel.”
Ricky Gervais invests in North Yorkshire distillery Ellers Farm: North Yorkshire distillery Ellers Farm has announced that actor and comedian Ricky Gervais has become a co-owner. Ellers Farm began production at its multimillion-pound facility in March 2022 and secured B-Corp certification earlier this year. Gervais said he had been looking for an opportunity to partner with a “sustainable and ethical” spirits business and agreed to become a part of Ellers Farm after learning about the ethos and workings of the company. The deal initially focuses on the company's leading brand, Dutch Barn Orchard Vodka, but also covers Ellers Farm's gins, liqueurs, and English single malt whisky. Gervais will take creative leadership for the business and lead global brand awareness and marketing efforts. Chris Fraser, founder and chairman of Ellers Farm, told Insider Media: “Ricky will be an integral part of the business going forward and will help shape how Dutch Barn is seen around the world and helping us make Dutch Barn a global success.” Based outside Stamford Bridge in North Yorkshire, Ellers Farm produces spirits including Dutch Barn Orchard Vodka, Y Gin, an English Whisky collaboration with Theakstons, and a range of small batch spirits. AIG Holdings, a global talent brand incubator, advised and invested in Ellers Farm as part of the transaction.
Gino D’Acampo executive chef to open Italian restaurant in Sunderland: Vittorio Farigu, executive chef at Gino D’Acampo’s restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside, will launch Vito’s Osteria in Sunderland’s £3m Sheepfolds leisure venue when it opens in the spring. The restaurant will not serve the traditional Italian staple of pizza but will instead focus on small plates, including homemade bread, cured meat and charcuterie. Farigu, who was born in Lake Garda and is now based in the north east, said: “The idea is a concept I have been thinking about for a long time and is inspired by the atmosphere of a family dinner. The values of the north east – a love of a family and friends – feel the same as home. I think that’s what excites me about opening a restaurant in Sunderland – Mackem people have a strong sense of family and friendship and a deep attachment to their city. That love and passion is something I want to tap into – the whole experience I am creating in my restaurant is about family.” The venue with operate at Sheepfolds alongside cocktail bar Yem; street food concept Propa, by Hairy Bikers star Si King; whisky and cigar lounge Spey Snug, Asian inspired restaurant Ember, I Scream for Pizza and The Calabash Tree, which will serve food inspired by the traditional tastes of Trinidad and Tobago, reports Insider Media.

Welsh independent pub and restaurant added to Michelin Guide just eight months after opening set to relocate: Welsh independent pub and restaurant Hiraeth, which was added to the Michelin Guide just eight months after opening, is set to relocate. Hiraeth was originally founded in the village of Llysworney by chefs Lewis Dwyer and Andy Aston, securing a spot in the Michelin Guide and receiving recognition from The Good Food Guide and two AA Rosettes. From February, it will move to Bridgend’s Court Colman Manor Hotel, where Hiraeth will be taking over the stately manor hotel’s 65-cover restaurant. The Hiraeth team will exclusively cater to the restaurant, while weddings and events will continue to be managed by the hotel’s dedicated team. The relocation comes after the landlord of its original site chose to put the 400-year-old building up for sale. Although unexpected, the move “opens new possibilities for Hiraeth” as the hotel’s extensive gardens will host its kitchen garden. Dwyer and Aston said: “It goes without saying that we were gutted about losing our first venue – especially as we’d just been recognized by AA, The Good Food Guide, and Michelin – all within a matter of weeks! But after speaking with the team at Court Colman and seeing the opportunities here, we couldn’t be more excited. It’s a fantastic site and it’s really going to allow us to expand on what we do.” Sanjeev Bhagotra, co-owner at the Court Colman, added: “We know that we are handing the keys over to an exceptional establishment, and those that dine there are truly in for a culinary adventure. We should know, as we were big fans in their original incarnation! This will also allow us to bring our focus back solely to the hotel and create an exceptional experience for everyone who walks through the door.” Hiraeth will continue to trade at its existing site until New Year’s Eve.

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