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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 4th Dec 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

‘Gail’s Artisan Bakery the most profitable part of our business’ as it averages one opening a fortnight over two years: The parent company of Gail’s Artisan Bakery, which also runs a wholesale business called The Bread Factory and The Bertinet Bakery, has described the retail part of the business as its most profitable and fastest growing afte it opened 28 retail bakeries in the year to 28 February 2023. A similar number of new openings are planned in the current financial year. Chief executive Tom Molnar said earlier this year that people are constantly asking the brand to move into their locality, but that new site locations are decided initially through a “postcode algorithm”. Turnover rose to £135,304,422 at Gail’s Artisan Bakery compared to £45,487,272 in the five months to 28 February 2022. Wholesale sales rose to £70,243,808 compared to £25,250,895 in the same periods. Total sales stood at £181,779,242 compared to £62,089,571 (after intercompany sales are eliminated) in the period before. Gross profit margin fell by 6% over the year due to cost pressures, in respect of butter, flour and sugar in particular. Loss before tax was £15,401,000 compared to £11,222,000 in the five-month period to 28 February 2022. Adjusted group ebitda jumped to £31,876,000 compared to £3,816,000 in the previous period. The company stated: “Trading performance in the financial year is strong and business generated net cashflow amounting to £30m from operating activities during the year.” External bank loans of £109m are not repayable until 2028, with a fixed rate swap meaning interest costs are largely fixed.

Industry News:

Next edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 68% of companies in profit, up from 60% six months ago: The next Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, to be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (8 December), shows 68% of the 829 largest sector companies are now in profit, up from 60% six months ago. The Blue Book shows 564 companies in profit and 265 reporting losses. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2024 open for bookings: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its sixth edition, and tickets are now on sale. The event is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, aiming to build a community, promote the sharing of ideas, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference, as the centrepiece of the January event series, taking place on 23 and 24 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The conference will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, diversification of revenue streams and how brands are adapting to the new normal. It is designed for marketing, development and innovation teams, as well as senior executives and investors wanting to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. Day one speakers include: Andreia Harwood, marketing director – EMEA at Wingstop; Sam Bourke, marketing director at Fuller’s; Sarah Collins, head of marketing at the Rick Stein Group; Jessica Wight, marketing director at Bistrot Pierre; François Blouin and Claire Diemer, chief executive and director of qualitative studies respectively at Foodservice Vision; Katy Moses, managing director at insight consultancy KAM;  Lina Olea, marketing director at Wireless Social; Jack Jolly, senior marketing manager at Mission Mars and founder of H!JACK; Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford; Amanda Mason, head of marketing at Roadchef; James Coldrey-Mobbs, sales and marketing director at East Coast Concepts; Anthony Pender, co-founder of Our Yummy Collection; Natalie Waldron, of Natalie Waldron Design; Dan Burns, of Natural Selection Design; Matt Preisinger, marketing and brand director at Brewhouse & Kitchen; Thom and James Elliot, co-founders of Pizza Pilgrims; Siobhan Lloyd, marketing manager at 200 Degrees Coffee; Julius Wiesenhütter, founder at GetViola; Megan Burton-Brown, marketing director at Tortilla; Simon Potts, chief executive of the Alchemist; and Natasha Sideris, founder and chief executive of Tashas Group. For the full schedule, click here. A one-day ticket for operators is £295 plus VAT while a two-day ticket is £550 plus VAT. Supplier tickets are £500 plus VAT for one day and £945 plus VAT for two. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Jo Charity at Propel on

Business leaders report HMRC is clamping down on time to pay arrangements: Honest Burgers, the Active Partners-backed business, has said it has become the latest company to have had HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) stick a winding up petition on it with no notice. As first reported by the Sunday Times, business leaders report that the taxman is clamping down on time to pay arrangements, which give firms more time to settle their tax bills. Many of the debts are a legacy of the pandemic, when HMRC used such arrangements to avoid forcing companies into bankruptcy. Honest Burgers was plunged into a row with HMRC after pleas for more time to pay a tax bill fell on deaf ears. Honest Burgers was faced with a winding-up petition by the taxman last week after talks to agree a “time to pay” arrangement collapsed. The 40-strong business, which employs about 700 staff and recently raised close to £3m through a crowdfunding campaign, said it was shocked by the speed at which HMRC launched legal action that could have resulted in the company being liquidated. Honest Burgers paid the outstanding tax bill last week. Propel understands the bill was covered via an additional working capital facility and the crowdfunding money is unaffected. A spokesperson for Honest Burgers told Propel:  “If we could deliver burgers half as quickly as HMRC delivers petitions, our like-for-like sales growth would be even higher than the 20% we are seeing now. Like many hospitality businesses, Honest Burgers has benefited from ‘time to pay’ agreements and was negotiating a renewal with HMRC, supported by expert advisers, to maximise cash flow. We asked for a renewal, they said no. We paid in full two days later, despite being told we had six weeks before they’d actually post a petition. The petition was removed. We’re now back growing our business following a recent successful £3m crowd raise.”

Scottish Greens deal major blow to hospitality sector: Hopes held by the hospitality industry for a cut in business rates at the Scottish Budget this month look to have been dealt a major blow. The Herald reports that Lorna Slater, Scottish Greens MSP for Lothian (Region) and minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, has declared that her party “cannot support a new relief from non-domestic rates for businesses in the hospitality sector”. The Scottish Greens are the junior partners in a power-sharing agreement with the SNP at Holyrood, meaning the SNP relies on its support to pass key legislation such as the Scottish Budget. Groups representing the hospitality industry and other sectors have been urging the Scottish government to provide more relief from business rates next month as businesses continue to feel the pressure from a surge in overheads and the cost-of-living crisis. Those calls have ramped up since Jeremy Hunt, announced a one-year extension to the 75% relief from business rates that firms in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors in England and Wales benefit from at the autumn statement last week. However, hopes for a similar cut in Scotland look to have been dealt a significant blow. In correspondence sent by Slater to one of her constituents, seen by The Herald, the minister acknowledges the “serious impacts of the pandemic, Brexit, and the cost-of-living crisis on the sector, and the consequences of these on staff and their families”. “However, the Scottish Greens cannot support a new relief from non-domestic rates for businesses in the hospitality sector,” she said. “There is already a broad spectrum of reliefs from NDR on offer, ranging from the small business bonus scheme to hardship relief, business growth accelerator relief, and rural rate relief.”

Samuel Smith’s – we are having great difficulty as a small brewery: The Sunday Times magazine has published a lengthy feature that highlights the many foibles of the Tadcaster-based Samuel Smith’s brewery. The company, led by 79-year-old Humphrey Smith, has circa 200 pubs but many are closed, with the company insisting on directly managing all sites overseen by a live-in couple. The article also highlights the large number of non-pub buildings it owns that are currently deteriorating. In a statement, the brewery said the pandemic, labour shortages, onerous regulation and rising maintenance costs have all taken a heavy toll on its pubs: “We are having great difficulty as a small brewery,” it said. “We are trying very hard to remain independent and get through the current financial situation. We do not see why we should not be left in peace.” It was claimed by Peter Aklexander, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale for Rochdale, Oldham and Bury, that as many as 120 Smith’s pubs are currently closed. A pint of Alpine Lager at Samuel Smith’s Royal Oak in Tadcaster costs £2.40.

Mark Wingett reflects on the challenge for new Marston’s boss Justin Platt after ‘brutal’ departure of Andrew Andrea: Propel group editor Market Wingett, writing in his Friday Premium column, has outlined the challenges facing new Marston’s boss Justin Platt in the wake of the “brutal” departure of Andrew Andrea after 20 years. He wrote: “With investment funds expected to return to the market as 2024 progresses, operators with his experience will always be needed as new management teams are created, especially if the acquisition targets are not so highly leveraged. A sector recalibration certainly feels like it is on the cards. It will be interesting to see what Platt has up his sleeve. Like his former colleague at Greene King, he has some good assets to work with. He now needs to find the right strategy and formats to generate bigger and faster returns – all the time knowing that Marston’s current bank and private placement debt facilities run to the end of January 2025. He may have to pull more than one rabbit out of his hat.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a sector company that is seeking a head of operations. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The company has a growth strategy for the next few years and this role will involve managing an established team. Reporting directly to the managing director and board members, this role involves overseeing five area managers, making it essential for candidates to possess exceptional leadership skills and a deep understanding of London’s commercial landscape. The ideal candidate will have substantial experience within the UK hospitality industry and a proven track record of successful leadership. This role requires someone who can lead from the forefront, steering the team with strategic direction and industry expertise.” The salary is up to £130,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Costa launches first trial in-store touch screen ordering and mobile ‘order to table’ features in UK: Costa Coffee, the Coca-Cola Company-owned chain, has launched its first trial in-store touch screen ordering points and mobile phone “order to table” features in its UK & Ireland estate, Propel has learned. They were launched at a new Costa store in Plymouth’s New George Street on 30 November, and at a refurbished store in Dorchester’s Cornhill the following day. “Centred around convenience, for customers on-the-move, the uplifted store now features touch screen ordering, completed with a dedicated collection point,” the company said. “For those staying in, a new mobile ‘order to table’ feature, using a QR code scannable on the Costa Club app, allows customers to enjoy the ease of their products being served at their table. Costa Coffee’s skilled baristas continue to cater to customers who prefer the personal touch of counter service.” Nick Ridley, Costa’s retail propositions director, added: “We’re thrilled to introduce a fresh approach to experiencing Costa Coffee at the revitalised store on Cornhill, Dorchester. Featuring a brand-new bakery selection, innovative ordering methods leveraging technology, and a revamped interior, the uplifted store is poised to become your go-to destination. We’re also delighted to unveil a new way to Costa at the refreshed store on New George Street. With a new bakery range, new ways to order via the latest technology and a fresh interior for the community to come together, the uplifted New George Street store will be the place for you. We can’t wait to hear what our customers think about the new features we’re testing.” A Costa spokeswoman told Propel that feedback from customers on the trialled features will inform the business on its future store designs across the UK.

Red Oak Taverns refinances debt: Red Oak Taverns, the national pub operator founded by Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell in 2011, has announced it has refinanced its debt. The 227-strong company said it had renewed its relationship and refinanced its debt with OakNorth Bank. OakNorth previously financed the business for six years, ahead of Red Oak moving to Hayfin in March 2022. Grunnell said: “When we refinanced OakNorth early last year, we left them on good terms, and the opportunity has arisen for us to renew our relationship. The new deal allows us to reduce our cost of capital, while retaining our acquisition firepower. I would also like to put on record our thanks to Hayfin, who have supported us through the successful acquisition of 31 pubs over the past 18 months, including packages from Marstons, Everards, McMullens and, most recently, St Austell. Like OakNorth before them, we leave them on good terms, and with appreciation for what they have helped us to achieve in a challenging acquisition environment.” The company’s estate is made up of both tied and free of tie pubs. It has completed seven acquisitions so far this year and said it “continues to seek out and secure business opportunities on an individual and package basis”. In October, Red Oak acquired 17 pubs from St Austell Brewery’s leased and tenanted estate for an undisclosed sum. The deal included sites across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.

Itsu plans 20 new sites in 2024, appoints Jason Cotta as first chief growth officer: Itsu, the circa 85-strong, healthy Asian food chain, is set to open a further 20 sites next year, as it announces the appointment of Jason Cotta, formerly of Ole & Steen and Costa Coffee, as its first chief growth officer. The business opened its “biggest and boldest site so far”, in London’s Bishopsgate, last month. The 2,200 square-foot, 59-cover site at 150 Bishopsgate served almost 1,000 customers on its opening day. It has also signed on a site in Oxford Street, and founder Julian Metcalfe told Propel the brand has “about eight great sites in the pipeline but needs ten more”. He added that the business had some “beauties next year” in its opening pipeline. Cotta will lead Itsu’s restaurant openings and partnerships divisions. Cotta, the former managing director UK and Ireland for Costa Coffee, was previously group chief executive of Ole & Steen, which operates 26 sites in the UK. He left the bakery concept in October after four years with the business. He had been with Costa since 2010 and also spent time as managing director of its international business, which operated through a network of 750 company-owned and franchise stores. He has also held senior executive positions at Travelodge and TGI Friday’s. Metcalfe said: “I’m thrilled Jason has arrived as our first chief growth officer. With the cost-of-living crisis, food and labour inflation, it’s now harder than ever for all of us in the restaurant industry to provide outstanding quality and value for money. Itsu Bishopsgate is a perfect example of how innovation, passion and listening to our customers’ needs delivers extraordinary results. Jason joining us marks the first time in our history we've been able to dedicate serious resources and skill to our growth in this way.”

KFC franchisee names target locations as it lays out path to 100 sites: KFC franchisee Adil Group has named its target locations as it lays out the path to an estate of 100-plus sites with the brand. The group, which was founded in 1969 when Mohammed Adil opened his first Wimpy restaurant, currently operates more than 80 KFCs, alongside circa 33 Taco Bells and 17 Burger Kings. Having started its KFC journey in 2004 with the acquisition of 11 existing stores from a franchisee, it is now looking to add dozens more, focusing specifically on drive-thrus. It has instructed WSB Property Consultants to seek 2,000 to 3,000 square-foot sites with a drive-thru lane in retail/leisure parks or main arterial roads with high visibility. Priority towns are: Glasgow Maryhill, Kirkintilloch and Leith Docks (Scotland); Hexham, North Shields and Whitley Bay (north east); Bilston, Birmingham Star City, Ryton and Sedgley/Coseley (West Midlands); Cheshunt, Hertford and St Albans (home counties); Beverley, Brighouse and Selby (Yorkshire); Kendal, Lytham and Salford (north west); Daventry, Hucknall, Luton North and Hucknall (East Midlands); and Kingston North, Lakeside, North Orpington and Redhill (London). Adam Mobley, partner as WSB, said: “Latest openings include, Bedford, Berwick, Willerby (Hull), Peterlee, Spalding, Scarborough and Hemsworth. With over 80 KFC restaurants open and trading in the UK, our clients are looking for more drive thru sites in specific areas across the country We will consider opportunities on a leasehold, long leasehold or freehold basis, including freehold land and development opportunities.” Adil Group also recently opened a new Taco Bell, at 1 Gladstone Avenue in Wood Green, north London.

Soho Coffee Co reports narrowing losses: Soho Coffee Co, which has 28 managed sites and a franchised business with stores in the UK, Europe and the Middle East, has reported pre-tax losses of £2,974,553 in the period ending 29 January 2023 (period ending January 2022 has loss of £3,020, 355). Turnover rose to £16,168,162 (compared to the pandemic-affected previous year, when turnover was £8,766,710). Of the total loss in the most current year, £800,000 is attributable to net interest accrued on shareholders loans, £900,000 to depreciation and £500,000 to the accounting impact of adopting FRS16 in the year. Sam Shutt took over as chief executive in February this year after co-owners Chris Cooper and Penny Manuel sold their last 25% stake. The company has recorded a fixed asset impairment of £260,000 against a single unit in Queen’s Road, Bristol, which is currently being marketed for disposal. Of total income, commissions receivable rose to £573,415 in the year (2022: £329,500). The company received nothing by way of government support compared to £1,386,981 in 2022. The ultimate owner of the company is Business Trading Company, incorporated in Qatar.  

Coco di Mama extends Roadchef partnership: Italian food-to-go brand Coco di Mama has extended its partnership with motorway service area operator, Roadchef, which will see it open a further eight roadside sites across the UK by the end of January 2024, Propel has learned. Earlier this year, the Azzurri Group-owned business opened its first roadside services site, at Roadchef’s flagship Norton Canes service area on the M6. The pasta counters serve Coco di Mama’s customisable pasta range including 12-hour beef ragu, ham hock carbonara and spicy pollo. Coco di Mama now has over 200 points of distribution nationwide across multiple channels, from its London based food-to-go stores, over 140 delivery kitchens nationwide and its retail partnership with Sainsbury’s. The partnership with Roadchef continues the brands expansion into the travel sector, alongside its recent opening at Liverpool Street railway station and roadside trials with MFG. Joe Gilbert, head of business development at Coco di Mama, said: “After successful trials, we are delighted to expand our partnership with Roadchef to offer our iconic, generous and wholesome pasta pots to roadside customers served at speed. We first opened our doors in London in 2011 and have been building up our ‘food-to-go’ stores, delivery kitchens and grocery channel partnerships ever since, with further expansion into the travel nationwide our next priority to bring Coco to new customers and occasions, in new ‘on the go’ locations.” Howard Lockwood, catering and brand development director at Roadchef, added: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Coco di Mama, adding a touch of Italian flair to our motorway service areas. This partnership not only expands the array of exciting food options available to road users but also complements the existing offerings seamlessly. Roadchef is delighted to be rolling out this collaboration across eight of our sites, playing a key role in extending Coco di Mama's reach beyond London and bringing their culinary delights to customers across the rest of the UK.”

Temper – sales are strong as we move into our busy period, set to launch new concept: Temper, the Imbiba-backed, Sam Lee de Lagonell-led modern barbecue concept, is set to launch a new concept earlier next year, as it told Propel sales are strong as it moves into its busy period. It comes as it reported turnover for the year to 26 February 2023 of £8,734,735 (2022: £6,377,190), with a pre-tax loss of £40,749 (2022: profit of £739,201). The company said: “The business continues to perform well post-covid with an underlying company Ebitda of £268,000. We expected margins to be tightened this year mainly driven by the change of VAT back to 20%. We celebrated opening our fourth site in Shoreditch and our plans are to expand the portfolio. The pressures within hospitality continue to impact us, so it is satisfying to note that the brand has stayed strong amongst our peers with the restaurants all trading well.” Temper will launch its fifth London site, in Paddington, this week. The business, which launched in 2017 and is operated under the Casper & Cole umbrella, will open on the ex-Kupp site, in Merchant Square, by the end of next month. The new site, which has 120 covers internally and 70 covers externally, will become the group’s first “all-season restaurant”. Last September, Temper opened its most recent site after taking on the former Jones Family Project site in Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch. It also operates sites in Soho, the City and Seven Dials. Lee de Lagonell told Propel: “We made money last year, and due to the ever-increasing utilities, food cost and staffing costs, it’s impacted on our profit this year. That said, as we move into our busy period, sales are strong. We open Paddington this week and launch a new concept in January, so very positive.” Lee de Lagonell did not give any further details on the new concept, but it is not thought to be linked to the name Tiny Temper, which the business previously trademarked.

JAB’s Panera Brands files confidential IPO paperwork: Panera Brands, the casual dining group owned by investment group JAB, has filed confidential paperwork for an initial public offering in the US, according to people familiar with the matter. The FT reports the Missouri-based group is aiming to go public next year, in the latest sign that the market for new listings could regain momentum after a two-year slowdown. JAB, which also owns Pret A Manger, tried to sell the company to itself via a continuation fund earlier this year but could not garner support, according to three people familiar with the matter.  The European-based group eventually decided in mid-November to take Panera public, they added. Earlier in the month, Panera announced plans to lay off 17% of its 1,800 strong workforce, a move intended to streamline the business and boost its financial performance in preparation of an IPO, those people said. JPMorgan Chase is lead underwriter. Panera, JPMorgan and JAB declined to comment. Rising interest rates, falling valuations and the terrible performance of recently listed companies’ shares have combined to cause a sharp slowdown in listings over the past two years. Companies have raised just $20bn in US IPOs so far this year, according to Dealogic, an improvement over a dismal 2022 but down almost 90% compared with 2021. A number of large listings in the autumn, led by chip designer Arm, had raised hopes that the market was beginning to normalise, but their poor post-listing performances led most bankers to push back hopes of a full revival until 2024. However, a recent rally in stock markets and growing expectations that the Federal Reserve will soon start cutting rates have renewed confidence. “Talk of interest rate cuts by the summer alongside a really good November rally in the market bode well for talking about IPOs,” said one listings specialist. JAB took Panera private in a $7.5bn deal in 2017. The bakery chain agreed a deal to return to public markets in 2021 through a combination with a special purpose acquisition company set up by acclaimed restaurateur and Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer but scrapped those plans last year. In addition to its eponymous chain, Panera Brands owns Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros Bagels.

Queensway Coffee Houses appoints new head of property as it looks to more than double its estate: Starbucks franchisee Queensway Coffee Houses has appointed Oli A’Court as its new head of property to lead its aggressive growth strategy to more than double its portfolio over the next three years to more than 60 sites. A’Court has a strong background in leasehold and freehold acquisition having worked at Welcome Break, Applegreen, Starbucks UK and Sainsbury’s. The company said this, coupled with his experience working at Starbucks and at Welcome Break (franchisees of the Starbucks brand), makes A’Court the “ideal candidate to lead Queensway Coffee Houses into unprecedented growth”. Karim Jivraj, managing director for the Coffee Houses business, told Propel: “We are delighted to welcome Oli to the Queensway family. With his exceptional skills and passion for the industry, we are confident in Oli’s ability to elevate our property ventures to new heights.” A’Court added: “I am thrilled to join Queensway Coffee Houses and join a team that is renowned for its commitment to growth and real family values. I am excited about the opportunity to drive the business’s growth at pace.”

Restaurant chain ceases trading in Jersey: A Jersey restaurant chain has gone out of business. BBC News reports Nude Food Beach and Nude Food Dunes, which operates Nude Beach and Nude Dunes, made the announcement, citing the rising cost of living as one of the issues. The chain opened in 2016 with a site in St Helier and expanded with two other locations, in St Aubin in 2019 and St Brelade in July. The HideOut cafe, which shared the La Pulente slipway with Nude Dunes, closed in October after it was no longer able to operate due to lease agreements. Nude Town closed during the pandemic and its owners said they had “done everything” to avoid closing its final two restaurants. The company said the “rising cost of living, high levels of inflation, increasing supplier costs, costs to recruit and cost of accommodation” had caused “disastrous consequences”. The owners said: “We have invested all that we have over the last seven years to make our dreams a reality and to bring healthy and sustainable dining options to Jersey’s hospitality sector. We did everything we could to avoid closing our business. Our priority for now is to provide our team members and everyone who has been impacted by what has happened with all the support and care that we can.”

Greater Manchester better burger brand set to almost triple estate in first quarter of 2024: Greater Manchester better burger brand Side Street Burgers is set to almost triple its estate in the first quarter of 2024. Founded by Josh Ryan in 2020, Side Street Burgers has sites in Rochdale, Manchester, Bonnyrigg (Scotland), Reading and Upton Park, plus a delivery kitchen in Walthamstow. Propel revealed last month that the concept is preparing to launch a new franchise programme and is seeking multi-unit investors to launch in various concepts, including bricks and mortar sites and ghost kitchens. “With several successful franchise stores operating in the UK, I am pleased to announce that Side Street Burgers will be expanding to nine further locations within the first quarter of 2024, all through multi-unit franchise operators,” said franchise consultant Krishma Vaghela, giving an update. “Ahead of our official franchise relaunch next month, we have already received interest from entrepreneurs waiting in the wings to find out more. The on-trend and hip Side Street franchise opportunity is a lucrative one, with an evolving halal menu, strong Ebitda and five figure weekly turnover. Not forgetting the success of our Reaper Challenge that has had fans sweating, even bathing in milk whilst attempting to conquer it!”

Miss Millie’s set to make Scottish debut with fourth MFG roadside site: South west operator Miss Millie’s is set to make its Scottish debut this week, through a fourth roadside site with Motor Fuel Group (MFG). It will form part of a new “enhanced roadside offer” at the Old Craighall Services, between the A1 and the Edinburgh City Bypass in Musselburgh, alongside a Costa and a Greggs. The previous buildings, belonging to a BP petrol station, a Little Chef and Burger King, have been demolished. Miss Millie’s opened its third store in partnership with MFG last week, in Newquay, following previous launches in Wellington and Eastbourne. A Miss Millie’s spokesman said: “We have been expanding rapidly over the last year in partnership with MFG. It’s been a busy first week in Newquay, but the team has done a brilliant job. Next stop we head north, with Miss Millie’s opening its first store in Scotland. The new store will open on 7 December in Musselburgh.” Last week, Carl Traill said he is stepping down as managing director of Miss Millie’s after five years to pursue new challenges. Traill, the former director of operations at Burger King UK, joined the business at the start of 2019 and will step down on 22 December. Under his leadership, the business, which is backed by HBM Investments, has grown to 16 sites, launched a franchise offer the partnership with MFG.

PureGym reports lfl revenue increase of almost £20m in last quarter, group Ebitda up more than £10m: PureGym, Britain’s biggest health and fitness club operator, has reported a like for like revenue increase of almost £20m in the last quarter, with group Ebitda up more than £10m in the same period. Revenue grew to £137.7m for the three months to 30 September 2023, up from £118.9m in the same period of 2022, while group reported Ebitda increased to £59m from £46.5m the previous year. In the first nine months of the financial year, revenue has grown to £409.3m from £351.7m, with Ebitda increasing to £169.7m from £139.3m. PureGym was boosted by a 14.9% increase in members to 1.92 million during the period, together with the opening of 13 new corporate-owned sites. In total, 35 new corporate owned sites have been opened in the nine months to 30 September 2023, taking the group’s total to 576 corporate-owned gyms, with a further franchise sites. PureGym said it had benefitted from “increasing momentum driven by ongoing recovery of base membership and revenues, good cost control, and robust growth from the predictable maturation of new site openings in 2022 and 2023”. It follows PureGym securing a £805m refinancing in October to support its expansion plans over the next five years, including ongoing significant expansion in the UK, Switzerland and Middle East.

JD Wetherspoon to close Holloway pub this week, to be retained as a pub: JD Wetherspoon is to close The Coronet in Holloway Road, Holloway, next Sunday (10 December). Wetherspoon announced in September 2022 that it was making a “commercial decision” to list the pub for sale. The pub has been bought by David Nourani, the chief executive of DN Property London, for an undisclosed sum. More than 30 pubs in London have been sold to the property tycoon, including former Wetherspoon pub The Tollgate in Turnpike Lane. Nourani said: “The Coronet is steeped in so much history that it would have been scandalous if it had been allowed to close. My intention is that it will continue as a public house, with exciting plans for a delicate and sensitive renovation.” The Coronet, designed by architect William Glenn, first opened its doors as the Savoy Cinema in 1940 before becoming a pub in 1983.

Karma Kitchen reports 300% growth in 2023: Karma Kitchen, the Crosstree Real Estate Partners-backed dark kitchen operator, has announced over 300% growth to the business in 2023. It said this has come through the completion of three new sites, alongside new brand partnerships, senior hires and the creation of a new financial product, Karma Credit. Since the start of the year, Karma Kitchen has fully launched sites in Bermondsey and Sydenham, more than trebling the total number of kitchen units in operation. When the sixth site, in south-west London, launches in the new year, Karma Kitchen will have more than quadrupled in size in just 12 months. It has also created a lending product designed to make set-up and scalability easier for the businesses that take its spaces, with Karma Credit helping kitchen tenants spread initial capex over a longer period of time. Partnerships with Deliverect and Marketman have added to the support package on offer for tenants. Eccie and Gini Newton, co-founders of Karma Kitchen, said: “It has truly been a landmark year for Karma Kitchen, we’re so proud to end it nearly four times bigger than we started it. That growth has allowed us to do more as a business, meaning more operators are able to start and grow with us, with better targeted support. With more sites coming online in 2024, we have a great 12 months ahead of us, and we’re really excited by the planned growth and developing relationships with even more brilliant hospitality brands.”

Rowe’s Cornish Bakers posts record profit for third successive year, expanding supermarket concessions roll-out: Rowe’s Cornish Bakers has posted record profits for the third successive year and said it is expanding its supermarket concessions roll-out. The Falmouth-based baker currently has 19 stores and operates 38 supermarket concessions with Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. It reported a pre-tax profit of £2,033,509 in the year to 1 July 2023, up from £1,933,267 in 2022. Turnover rose from £27,837,614 to £36,498,891 while Ebitda was up from £2,552,829 to £2,587,360. Interim dividends of £1,025,000 were paid (2022: £902,500). No government grants were received (2022: £11,172). Director Kerry Lynch said: “The year delivered a record pre-tax profit of £2,205,386 (excluding exceptional re-structure costs), a 14% growth on last year. Turnover increased by 31% (retail 42%, wholesale 26%); wholesale benefitting from new customers as we increased production capacity through investment in new lines and shift patterns. A significant expansion of retail outlets in supermarkets continued through the year, with our brand travelling far beyond Cornwall and Devon by quarter four, and this trend continues at pace. Whilst production capacity was increased, both labour and machine utilisation were also improved, resulting in the continuation of a 38% gross profit margin. Our roll out of supermarket concessions in the south west region continues in quarter one 2024, and the funding is in place for further targeted an controlled concession expansion in quarters two to four.”

New flagship Patisserie Valerie reopens in Bristol: Patisserie Valerie, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, has reopened its store in Cribbs Causeway, Bristol. The group said the relaunch is “a significant milestone” as it looks to start reopening some of its once 200-strong estate, the majority of which closed following its collapse into administration in 2019. The refurbished store will offer afternoon teas, served with a glass of bubbly or a specialty blend coffee, and festive treats such as a black forest hot chocolate, a turkey-and-all-the-trimmings baguette, and a yule log and candy cane cake. Patisserie Valerie chief executive, James Fleming, said: “We are thrilled to unveil the newly redesigned Patisserie Valerie store in Cribbs Causeway. The whole team have worked hard to bring to life a next-generation patisserie experience, with our lovingly handmade cakes and specialty coffee still sitting at the heart of it. We’re sure this new store and menu is going to be a big hit with customers.” Cribbs Causeway centre manager, Alessandro Petrone, added: “We are delighted Patisserie Valerie have chosen Cribbs Causeway to design and open their first flagship store. Having worked with the team on this new concept, we truly believe this will be a destination in its own right for people wanting to enjoy a sweet treat and coffee with friends, as well as a place to stop and refresh for those here visiting other outlets.” As well as circa 30 shops, Patisserie Valerie also has concessions inside around 400 Sainsbury's stores.

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