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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 6th Dec 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Big Table Group opens pop-up site focused on fast-casual concepts, Banana Tree to trial breakfast offer: The Big Table Group – the operator of Las Iguanas, Banana Tree, Café Rouge and Bella Italia – has opened a short-term pop-up in London’s Victoria to test fast-casual versions of three of its brands, Propel has learned. Located in the ex-Café Rouge site in Victoria Place, the pop-up features versions of the company’s pasta delivery concept Super Nonna, its Las Iguanas brand with a focus on burritos, and its Banana Tree brand. Propel revealed in October that the company was to test fast-casual versions of its existing brands, through the launch of a number of pop-ups. It is thought the testing could also include some of the “dark” brands that the business inherited from its acquisition of The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) leisure division, which completed in October. Chief executive Alan Morgan told Propel: “I’m hopeful we’ll have a location fairly soon where we might try two or three pop-ups in it, to help us understand what would happen if we did a fast casual version of Banana Tree, Las Iguanas or Super Nonna, and put all three next to each other for the consumers to choose. Equally, I’ve got some strongly performing dark brands coming over from TRG, which include Stacks and Bird Box. We’ll create these pop-ups to just test if the customer is presented with all of these at once, what would be their first choice. There is a market at present where short-term leases on units are available to try this. At this stage, it’s purely research while we’re waiting to decide if we buy something else and what we evolve.” It comes as Banana Tree begins trialling a breakfast menu at its recently opened site in Greenwich, serving both traditional and Pan-Asian versions of a full English breakfast, as well as traditional South-East Asian favourites. The trial will roll out to further Banana Tree sites in the next few months, including Covent Garden, O2 Arena, Windsor and Birmingham. Anne Chow, managing director at Banana Tree, said: “There are so many wonderful breakfast dishes across South-East Asia, so we’ve always been curious to explore what a Banana Tree breakfast offering might look like, and I’m thrilled with the menu we’ve developed. Breakfast could open up a new daypart for us, and this trial will help us to understand whether this is something we could roll out across our estate.” The brand has opened nine new sites this year, all Café Rouge conversions, including three in the last few weeks, taking its estate to 18 sites.
 

Industry News:

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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Next Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 829 largest sector companies turning over total of £60.2bn, up from £56.9bn last month: The next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Monday (11 December), shows 829 of the largest sector companies are turning over a total of £60.2bn – up from £56.9bn the previous month. A total of 564 companies are making a profit while 265 are making a loss. The profit being made by sector companies is now outstripping losses by £1.87bn. The Blue Book shows the total profit of the 829 companies in the list is £3,826,075,567 and losses are £1,952,918,651. 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. Premium subscribers are to also receive access to ten videos from up-and-coming operators as they explore the “white space” opportunity for their concepts. The ten operators, who presented this year at our Multi-Club Conference series, show that there is always uncrowded and unexplored areas of the UK food and beverage scene – where innovative operators can chart new territory with a fresh concept. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “These ten operators prove what an exciting sector this is – they have brilliant new ideas and are tapping into novel parts of the market.” The videos will be sent on Friday, 15 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. 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.

London night czar urges ministers not to close hospitality industry off from rest of world: London’s night czar Amy Lamé has warned of the hugely damaging impact that the government’s new immigration plans will have on the capital’s night-time industries. Lamé has warned the plans to raise the minimum salary needed for skilled overseas workers from £26,200 to £38,700 will cause significant long-term damage to a hospitality industry already struggling to fill vacancies. There were 8,500 hospitality visas issued last year in the UK and the majority of these are likely to have been based in the capital, but analysis from UKHospitality has shown that around 95% of those would no longer be eligible under these plans, despite being offered competitive salaries. Lamé said: “Our capital’s life at night is the best in the world, but our hospitality industry has been facing significant pressure following the impact of the pandemic and ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Businesses are already experiencing staff shortages and challenges to fill vacancies since our departure from the EU, and these plans from government will only make this worse and risk hugely damaging this vital industry. It will almost certainly lead to more businesses closing their doors for good. There is no doubt that more has to be done to provide British workers with the right skills, but we simply cannot close this industry off from the rest of the world. Our hospitality businesses need more skilled workers right now. I urge ministers to urgently reconsider their plans and recognise the value and importance of our hospitality industry to help drive our economic recovery.”
  
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a multi-faceted hospitality concept that is looking for a head of finance. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will join at an exciting time of growth and ambition and bring confidence, aptitude and diplomacy alongside professional skills and expertise. Taking this position at this stage of the group expansion will offer great career opportunities of progression to the right candidate.” The salary is up to £60,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email oliwia@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

 Heavenly Desserts franchisee launches brand’s first kiosk-style location, seven new sites lined up in first quarter of 2024: A Heavenly Desserts franchisee in Scotland has launched the brand’s first kiosk-style location, as the dessert restaurant franchise lines up seven new sites in first quarter of 2024. The new format, which the brand has labelled “Pico” restaurants, has opened within the Livingston Designer Outlet’s Food Quarter, in West Lothian. It is Heavenly Desserts’ fifth location in Scotland, among a UK estate of 50-plus sites, and its final launch of 2023. Yousif Aslam, co-managing director of Heavenly Desserts, told Edinburgh Live: “Our latest opening at Livingston is one that we’ve all been looking forward to with great anticipation, due its new kiosk-style format being the first of its kind for our brand. We decided to term the new kiosk format Pico, as this takes inspiration from the Spanish word to show a smaller quantity. One of the key values of Heavenly Desserts is to be an innovator and trendsetter in the world of premium desserts, and our launch in Livingston is emblematic of that ethos.” The kiosk, which has been opened by a new franchisee for the brand, the Hundal family, takes over the former SpudULike unit in the centre. A spokesman for the franchisee said: “Heavenly Desserts is an innovative brand with a professional approach to its products and service, and one we’re really pleased to be partnering with to launch its first ever kiosk. Although this is our first franchise experience with Heavenly Desserts, our belief in the brand and its values led us to establish a longer-term partnership with Yousif and his team, and we are really excited to be opening a number of additional Heavenly Desserts restaurants in Scotland soon.” New menu options include the brand’s first ever vegan croffle, a cinnamon monkey bread and a cheesecake encased in chocolate. Heavenly Desserts’ landmark 50th opening, back in August, was also in Scotland, in Aberdeen’s Union Street. Propel understands the brand will close in on the 60-site landmark in the first quarter of 2024 with seven new openings, including another in Scotland, at Glasgow Fort. Two will be in Birmingham – at Sutton Coldfield and Shirley – with further sites in Milton Keynes, Bedford, Middlesborough and London’s Elephant & Castle. Heavenly Desserts features in the Propel UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database, which features 225 companies either franchising or looking to franchise in the UK. 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 are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Mark Wingett.
 
Marston’s – trading ‘consistent through the week’, plans to ‘edge up’ prices in second quarter of 2024: Marston’s chief financial officer Hayleigh Lupino has told Propel that trading is “consistent through the week” and the business should see improved margins following its cost efficiency programme and the continued evolution of its partnerships. The business, which will see former Merlin Entertainments chief strategy officer Justin Platt take over from Andrew Andrea as chief executive in January, plans to “edge” up prices in the second quarter of 2024. Marston’s said cost growth is abating, and the group is targeting 90 basis points of margin expansion in FY24 and a total of 200 basis points in “two to three years”. Speaking following the company’s full-year results, Lupino said the company continues to pay above the national minimum wage, while the national living wage increase will add about £2m to its staff costs, which it expects to mitigate through technology and other measures. She added: “Our like-for-like sales have outperformed the market right across the year and we’ve also reduced our debt. We’ve worked hard to simplify our model, providing great food quality, speed of service and guest satisfaction. We have also worked hard to maintain margin in the face of rising cost headwinds. Those costs are now starting to abate, and with the cost efficiency programmes in place, we are starting to see those benefits. People quite clearly want to go out and socialise, and because our pubs are community based, we have limited exposure to that volatile city centre environment. We are seeing consistent trade throughout the week. It’s about creating a great pub business – people are always welcome to simply have a drink and we have invested heavily in our outside spaces.” Marston’s has fixed its electricity costs for the current financial year, while gas charges are fixed until March 2025. The business has upgraded its disposal forecasts to £50m, but Lupino said there would be no large packages going on the market and all sites earmarked to be sold are “non-core” assets. Disposals so far have been above book value. She added: “We have a strong platform for growth and we look forward to 2024 with confidence.”
 
Snowflake FY revenue up 41%, planning five new openings in 2024: London premium gelato brand Snowflake has reported that its group-wide revenue has increased 41% this year to £5.1m, as it plans to open five new sites over the coming 12 months. The 11-strong business, which is led by founder Asad Khan, said its group-wide Ebitda pre-HQ was £808,000, a 16% increase on 2022, while store revenue from equity-owned outlets totalled £4.2m, “meeting the revised forecast and showing a 3.8% decrease compared to the initial budget”. The company’s systemwide franchise sales were £1.1m, representing 20% of its overall store revenue. It said it is planning to open an additional five units in 2024, as “part of our ongoing commitment to expand our footprint”. Earlier this year, the business strengthened its presence in the north west, with two new openings in Manchester’s Trafford Centre. The business said: “Our Trafford locations have all been very well received and demonstrated strong sales performance, underscoring our effective brand execution.” Speaking at Propel’s Multi-Club Conference in September, Khan said the business is aiming to grow to 160 sites in the next five years, with a strategy for international expansion focused on the Middle East and Far East before turning its attention to Canada and the US.
 
Loungers executive chair – we want to play a very significant role in the transformation of high streets: Alex Reilley, executive chairman of café bar operator Loungers, has said that the business wants to play a “very significant role in the transformation of high streets” but can’t “take our role on high street for granted”. He said: “I was most struck by our rent to revenue ratio of 4.4%. That’s come down quite a bit in the last two or three years, and I think it is clearly not just an indicator of our like-for-like sales growth, but also the fact that the property market is very stagnant at the moment. The level of rent that landlords can be asking for and the lack of a rent review uplift is obviously only working continually in our favour. We continue to play and want to play a very significant role in the transformation of high streets. High streets have been rather beaten up over the last few years, and we are strong believers in that their demise is rather overstated in the mainstream media. But we can’t just take our role on the high street for granted. We believe that engaging with the local community, being good neighbours and encouraging people to use the high street is going to be more relevant in terms of how our business is viewed and the success we might enjoy in the future.” Reilley also said that in terms of expansion, there was still “so much more” for the business to go for. He said: “The 650-plus sites that we believe are out there that could become either a Lounge or a Cosy Club, we genuinely believe is quite conservative. I was on the road with our property team last week. In fact, Nick (Collins, chief executive) was on the road at the same time, and we went in completely opposite directions. Nick went to Kent, and I went to South Wales. Just when you think that in South Wales there can’t be any more opportunities, I think we’ve identified another seven. There are very established geographies that we’ve traded in for a number of years that are still giving, and I think it proves, particularly with the Lounge business in smaller towns, that it opens up yet another level of potential opportunity for us.”
 
M&B begins Arrowsmith’s rollout, concept makes Castle division debut: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), the Harvester, All Bar One and Browns operator, has ramped up the rollout of Arrowsmiths, its new competitive socialising darts concept, with the addition of three new sites, including a debut for the concept in the company’s Castle division, Propel has learned. The interactive darts experience was launched in the group’s O’Neill’s site in Solihull last September. It features six individual booths for groups of up to 12 people. Guests can book 90-minute sessions for £7 per person, which includes electronic scoreboards and table service. A second site featuring the concept opened at the O’Neill’s in Watford at the start of the year. Propel understands that M&B has now added the concept to the O’Neill’s in Leicester, plus two Castle sites – the Brass Haus in Bournemouth and the Shipping Forecast in Liverpool. Earlier this year, M&B said the concept was providing a “strong return from secondary space”. Talking to Propel last year, M&B chief executive Phil Urban said the company saw Arrowsmiths “as being a neat solution for our pubs that have unused capacity”.
 
Knoops plans double Edinburgh opening: Luxury hot chocolate shop brand Knoops is planning to open two sites in Edinburgh early next year. The business, which completed a £8.3m fundraising last month, will open on the former Starbucks site on the corner of George Street and Castle Street in the Scottish capital’s New Town. It will also open on Victoria Street, in the city’s Old Town. The business, which recently opened in Chester and Guildford, currently has 15 branches, including seven in London, with plans in place to take the number of outlets to 20 nationally by March, including new openings in Leeds and Exeter. After the fundraising, the business said it will now press ahead with its pipeline of an additional 20 openings from March 2024, targeting major cities and university towns, with medium-term ambitions for 200 stores across the UK.
 
Snowfox Group launches new kiosk concept in partnership with Tesco: Snowfox Group, which owns the YO!, Panku and Taiko brands, has launched a new kiosk concept in partnership with Tesco, aimed at the supermarket chain’s smaller format stores, Propel has learned. The new concept was launched at the end of last month, in the Tesco Express site in Manchester’s Market Street, with a further opening set to come online soon in Nottingham. Good Eats, which will be aimed at Tesco’s Express and Metro store formats, will offer “nutritious food to go options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a range including ‘build your own’ slides to warming bowls, salads, hot flatbreads and breakfast wraps – all of which will be made fresh in the Tesco store”. Last month, Snowfox opened its 500th kiosk in the UK, in the Tesco Express in Tooley Street, London. It followed the recent news that YO! had opened its 300th sushi kiosk in Tesco stores. At the same time, the company’s Panku brand now has almost 150 kiosks in Asda stores. Since opening its first kiosk, Snowfox said it has created more than 1,000 jobs for chefs in the UK, and it plans to continue this expansion throughout next year. Carl Webber, UK retail director, said: “Reaching 500 in-store kiosks with our retail partners is a real milestone. It serves to reiterate the strength of our partnership with the UK's biggest retailers, while underlining the appeal of our healthy, fresh and affordable Japanese food offer. As demand for convenient and freshly made sushi continues to grow, we believe our offer and instantly recognisable brands leaves us strongly placed.” In total, Snowfox operates more than 2000 kiosks and 60 restaurants globally. In September, Japanese foodservice company Zensho Holdings completed its acquisition of the Snowfox Group, which also operates 52 restaurants under the YO! brand in the UK, in a deal valued at $621m (£494.5m).
 
Six by Nico plans to open ‘upmarket fish and chip restaurant with takeaway’: The team behind the Six by Nico restaurant business is planning to launch an “upmarket fish and chip restaurant with takeaway” on one of its existing sites in Glasgow. The company has applied to convert its Six by Nico site in the city’s Argyle Street to the new venture. Propel understands that if successful in its application, the converted site will reopen under the name Sole Club. Last month, Propel reported that Six by Nico was planning to open a further eponymous site in Glasgow, and its first in the city centre. The business, which also operates sites in the city’s Byres Road and Southside, is planning to open on the former Gandolfi Fish site in Merchant City, in Albion Street. It also operates bakery concept Valaria in Glasgow’s West End, which opened in the spring. At the end of last month, the company opened two restaurants on the same day, in Birmingham and Manchester. The Manchester launch was its second in the city. The restaurant, the group’s 15th, opened in the city’s Deansgate area, underneath the Yotel hotel in John Dalton Street, on 30 November. It also opened a site in Birmingham on the same day, in the Chatwin Building in Colmore Row. Having launched in Finnieston in 2017, Six by Nico now has locations in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Leeds, Cardiff, Belfast, Dublin, and Aberdeen.
 
BrewDog opens at Gatwick airport for first UK site in partnership with SSP, further travel hubs launches to follow: Brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened at Gatwick airport for the first UK site in its partnership with SSP, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide – with further travel hubs launches to follow. The opening, at Gatwick’s North Terminal, follows the first overseas launch in the partnership, a BrewDog bar at Amsterdam Centraal Station, which was the first of its kind in a travel location in mainland Europe. The new bar will offer 20 lines of draft craft beer, including a BrewDog Gatwick exclusive, Flight Squad. Also on offer will be curated guest beer taps, cocktails, spirits, ciders and wines, as well as BrewDog’s “Press for Beer” button. Food-wise, it will also offer wings, burgers, loaded flatbreads and smoothie bowls, with vegan and vegetarian choices and a children’s menu. It will also feature Zoom rooms for quiet calls, a photo booth and a game-zone with a selection of PlayStation and Xbox games. James Watt, BrewDog co-founder, said: “We’re so pleased to open our epic new bar at London Gatwick, with our brilliant partners SSP. Opening at airports and transport hubs is a key part of our growth plans to reach a wider global audience and ultimately make everyone as passionate about craft beer as we are.” Kari Daniels, chief executive SSP UK & Ireland, said: “Following the successful opening of our first BrewDog in Amsterdam, we know it’s a brand that travellers absolutely love. Our shared ambition and combined expertise means we and BrewDog have been able to create something really special here at London Gatwick.”
 
Moma Group set to open first international outpost for Mediterranean concept in London: Moma Group, the French hospitality company, is set to open the first international outpost for its Mediterranean concept, Mimosa, in London. Mimosa London will open early next year in The Langham, taking the space once occupied by Roux at The Landau. Mimosa first launched in Paris’s Hotel de La Marine in 2021, celebrating the “produce and heritage of France” and offering Mediterranean-inspired menus by chef Jean-François Piège. Stefan Soennichsen, managing director of The Langham, said: “With Mimosa London, we have the opportunity to work with one of France’s greatest restaurants, to bring the spirit of the Riviera to our central London hotel, and we can’t wait to introduce both hotel guests and diners from across London to the restaurant.” Benjamin Patou, founder and chief executive of Moma Group, added: “I am very happy to be opening a restaurant in The Langham. I have always loved the hotel and look forward to bringing our finest Riviera cuisine to London.” Roux will continue to oversee other food and beverage outlets at The Langham, including The Wigmore, Palm Court, Artesian and Sauce by The Langham. Moma Group’s portfolio of 30-plus restaurants and event venues are largely located in Paris, with several more in other French destinations and one other in London, Café LApérouse at the OWO. Restaurant Property acted on The Langham deal.
 
Caffè Nero plans new Birmingham store: Caffè Nero has applied to transform a listed building in Birmingham into a new outlet for the coffee chain. It is seeking listed building consent to convert the site of the grade II-listed 87 New Street, Ladywood, reports Insider Media. In October, founder and group chief executive Gerry Ford told Propel that the company doesn’t currently have a cap on its store growth in the UK, and that it expects to open its first drive thru site next spring. It came after Caffè Nero reported UK sales were up 13.5% for the three months to 31 August 2023 compared with last year, with group level growth of 19%. During the period, the group opened 18 new stores across its ten different territories, with nine of those coming in the UK. The group now operates more than 1,000 stores across ten countries, including in excess of 620 sites here.
 
Ottolenghi-backed chef to launch new Belfast venture: Yotam Ottolenghi is supporting the launch of a new deli shop, café and restaurant in Belfast from chef Carlos Capparelli. Capparelli, who spent 12 years working in some of London’s top kitchens, including Ottolenghi and Gordon Ramsay, is to open the new venture in autumn/winter 2024 after the renovation and restoration of the 250-year-old Dundonald Old Mill in the Northern Ireland capital. The project is being supported by Ottolenghi and Paddy Bamford, the co-founder and chief financial officer of Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out the Wingstop brand in the UK. Capparelli spent nine years working with Ottolenghi across several of his London restaurants, including as head/executive chef of Nopi in London’s Soho. Ottolenghi said: “Carlos was one of the most gifted chefs that worked for me, and as soon as he found his own restaurant, I knew I wanted to be involved. As a regular visitor to Northern Ireland, I am really looking forward to mentoring him on his own journey, and of course, visiting when it opens!” Jack Blakiston Houston, of BH Estates, owners of the Dundonald Old Mill site and investors in the project, added: “We are confident the substantial restoration will breathe new life into the old mill, retaining the heritage of the site but also enhancing it and creating a new food and drink destination. The original building will be transformed in a project that combines the old and the new and fits perfectly with the local setting.”
 
Padel operator to open debut site this month, in Manchester: Padel concept Club de Padel is to make its debut this month, in Manchester. Launching in Owen Street, in the city’s Deansgate area, with four new courts, Club de Padel aims to establish an “inclusive and thriving Padel community in the city with social matches, coaching, tournaments and corporate events taking place throughout the year”. The venue will open on Tuesday, 19 December. Manchester cafe and bar concept Federal will be offering its range of coffee, snacks and a selection of drinks in the evening. Club de Padel co-founder David Blake said: “Since we first encountered padel in Barcelona several years ago, we have been desperate to bring this amazing sport to Manchester. It’s great fun, hugely sociable and easy to pick-up, so we know it’s going to be a smash at Deansgate Square.” 
 
SSP piloting carbon labelling on menus: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, is piloting carbon labelling on menus at two of its new units within Abu Dhabi International airport. It has partnered with Klimato, which specialises in helping restaurants calculate, communicate and track the climate impact of their food, for the two-month pilot, within the Ritazza and Camden Food Co brands at the airport’s newly opened Terminal A. The carbon impact of recipes will be displayed on the menus, while point of sale materials explaining the labelling will be prominently displayed in both outlets. It will be the first time Klimato carbon labelling has been employed in a travel location and, if successful, SSP will roll out carbon labels more widely across its menus. Mark Angela, chief executive of SSP EEME and India, said: “This new carbon labelling initiative takes a science-based, data-driven approach to decarbonising our menus, and the associated communications campaign will drive customer awareness to help passengers make more informed and considered food choices.” Ollie Judge, chief marketing officer at Klimato, added: “We are delighted to partner with SSP in their commitment to addressing climate change and promoting sustainability – their dedication to calculating, communicating and reducing their food’s environmental impact is commendable.”
 
Vietnamese street food concept to open second London site: Nam Nam, the Vietnamese street food concept, is to open a second site in London, in Shoreditch. The concept, which is the brainchild of Tam Nguyen, will open on the former Neds Noodles site at 21 Pitfield Street. The site is currently undergoing renovations for an opening in the new year. While the concept’s first site in Lower Road, Surrey Quay, is small and aimed at kerbside pick-up, the Shoreditch site will have approximately 20 covers for dining in as well. Emma Wright at CDG Leisure acted on the Shoreditch deal.
 
Italian gelato brand Amorino opens 23rd London location, 24th to follow this month: Italian gelato brand Amorino has opened its 24th London location – at 40-42 Greenwich Church Street in Greenwich – with a 24th to follow shortly. Its next site, at 38 Buckingham Palace Road, is due to open later this month. With sites also in Cambridge, Cardiff and Leeds, Amorino currently has 26 UK sites altogether, with Buckingham Palace Road to be its 27th. Amorino said earlier this year that it is working towards a planned estate of 50 by 2025.
 
Giant croissant cafe concept set to open third London site: A cafe concept which offers giant croissants for £25, which have to be pre-ordered, is set to open its third London site. Philippe Conticini UK, which also offers normal-sized French pastries and cakes, from Paris Brest to Saint Honore tarts, is preparing to open in the former Rudy’s Vegan Diner spot at 206 Upper Street, Islington, on Friday (8 December). It also has sites at 24-25 Cromwell Place, in the heart at the London’s French district in South Kensington, and at 192-193 Camden High Street, within Buck Street Market. There are also plans for the Islington site to open in the evenings further down the line, reports Hot Dinners.
 
Leisure climbing business set to open its largest UK site yet, in Crawley: Leisure climbing business Clip ‘n’ Climb is set to this month open its largest UK site yet, in Crawley. Spread over 9,832 square feet, the newly built centre will feature 33 climbing challenges and will be the first in the world to feature Clip ‘n’ Climb’s new climbing challenge, Velocity, which combines traditional outdoor climbing techniques with a turbo-charged timed twist. There will also be a spacious soft play area, a café and dedicated party rooms. Franchisees Robin and Sarah Cook, who also run the Fitness CrossFit Gym in Crawley, told Sussex Live: “We are excited to be bringing Clip ‘n Climb to Crawley. We’ve been to numerous birthday parties with our young children and found ourselves driving more than an hour to different centres and wondering why there isn’t one closer. We liked the fact it has a positive impact on fitness and mental health and can be experienced by all abilities, from young starters to experienced climbers.” The venue will be an 84th in the UK for Clip ‘n’ Climb, which said it achieves annual turnover of around £25m. It has more than 360 locations in 50 countries worldwide and first came to the UK in 2011, with an opening in Exeter. It comes as the business looks to ramp up its UK expansion by bringing more franchisees on board, offering packages with a total investment amount of between £250,000 and £500,000. It operates out of large commercial premises, ranging in size from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet in size, with high ceilings a major requirement.
 
North east hotel group turns a loss, ‘market continues to be competitive and challenging’: North east hotel group, The Squirrel Group, turned a loss in the year to 29 September 2022, as the market “continues to be competitive and challenging”. The four-strong group, trading as North of England Estates, saw a pre-tax profit of £72,239 in 2021 turn into a loss of £183,093 during the period, as costs rose by almost £2m. Turnover rose from £4,372,538 to £7,652,674. Director Donald McKeag said: “The hotel and leisure market continues to be competitive and challenging. Occupancy rates and increased average room rate remain a focus of attention as this is a key driver in the sector. Further investment across the group has continued throughout the year. The directors have managed financial risk by maintaining sufficient levels of cash liquidity and working capital to ensure the company can manage both short term and longer-term development of the portfolio. The company has a significant asset base with a value well in excess of external financing needs and the directors are confident about the company’s financial future under its present management.” The company operates The Netherwood in Grange over Sands, The Morritt in Durham, Hall Garth in Darlington and The Bells in The Forest of Dean.

Metro Inns puts Newcastle site on market: A 63-bedroom Metro Inns hotel near Newcastle city centre has been brought to market. Christie & Co is marketing the Kenton Bank venue, which belongs to a small group of hotels operated by Metro Inns for 15 years, with profits of more than £300,000, reports Insider Media. David Lee, regional director hotels north at Christie & Co, said: “We are pleased to bring to market the Metro Inns hotel near Newcastle. With its central location and numerous income drivers that help to maintain healthy profits, the hotel is a real asset that is sure to be snapped up.”

Hotel group refinances after turning a loss: Hotel group QN Hotels, owned by Qamar and Nabeel Ahmed, has refinanced after turning a loss in the year to 31 December 2022. “The group successfully obtained a refinanced bank loan agreement post year end, extending the repayment date to 23 November 2027 from 29 November 2022,” the business said in its accounts for the period. At 31 December 2022, its borrowings amounted to £5,762,305 (2021: £6,319,858). It comes after the business saw a pre-tax profit of £1,273,771 in 2021 turn into a loss of £817,769, as costs grew by just over £1m. Turnover increased from £6,355,333 in 2021 to £9,999,173. No government grants were received (2021: £1,488,825). No dividends were paid (2021: nil). “Overall, the group has traded well during 2022,” Qamar Ahmed said. “Revenue increased substantially. Despite the inflationary pressures, the Ebitda has increased substantially. Group revenue has increased by 57.3% and group gross profit margin has increased to 60.3%. The company is planning to refurbish the Ashford hotel within the next 12 months. The group aims for occupancy of 70% and average room rate of £60 a night.” The group operates Holiday Inns in Ashford (Kent) and Newport (Wales), as well as a Ramada Plaza by Wyndham in Wrexham.
 
ASK Italian opens in Merry Hill shopping centre: Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian has opened a new restaurant at the Merry Hill shopping centre in the West Midlands. The 14-cover, the 3,350 square-foot site serves a selection of Italian-inspired classics, including fresh pasta dishes and stone-baked pizza, as well as a range of speciality mains. Corinne Prior, marketing director at ASK Italian, said: “This year we’re celebrating 30 years of ASK Italian and of bringing the best of Italy to our customers. Our new Merry Hill site perfectly adds to our family of restaurants and will be a place where everyone's welcome to enjoy great Italian meals.” JLL and Time Retail Partners represented Merry Hill while ASK Italian dealt direct.

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