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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 7th Dec 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Wendy’s UK MD – kiosk usage sees 30% uplift to 90% since introduction with 18% higher spend than at the counter, aiming for 50-50 split of drive-thru and in-line stores: Wendy’s UK & Europe managing director Michael Clarke has told Propel that kiosk usage is up 30% since they were introduced last year, with an 18% higher spend than at the counter, and that the business is aiming for a 50-50 split of drive-thru and in-line stores. Although Wendy’s has only been back in the UK market for two and a half years, in terms of self-serve kiosks, it has had a head start on brands such as Subway and Costa, which have only launched them into their UK markets these last few weeks. “When we introduced self-serve kiosks, the take-up of customers using them was 60%. That has now risen to 90%,” Clarke said. “We have also seen 18% higher spend through kiosks than ordering at the counter, so we’re looking to introduce more of them.” In terms of drive-thrus, Wendy’s currently has four in its UK estate of circa 31 stores, although its next opening, in Hull – which will be its furthest north site yet – will be its fifth. “We see lots of opportunity for drive-thrus in the UK,” Clarke said. “Our aim is for an eventual 50-50 split of drive-thrus and in-line stores, and at the moment it’s about 80-20. Each time we have opened a new drive-thru we have broken the record for daily and weekly sales.” In terms of expansion in 2024, Clarke said the company doesn’t have a number but is “looking aggressively”, both for company stores and franchise openings – with a fourth franchisee set to come on board next year. “We have a good pipeline of franchisees but we 100% want to bring more in, and our existing ones have all increased their development agreements,” he said. “We will open anywhere and everywhere, and in 2024 you will start to see a very different footprint. We want to bring in more franchisees to take on regions where we don’t have a presence.” Clarke also said Wendy’s will introduce wraps and “frostychinos” to its menu in the second quarter of next year and is looking to open more dark kitchens with Reef. He added that since returning to the UK in 2021, the business has been “above and beyond where we expected to be”, which has been reflected in its franchisees as “they will only sign up for something worthwhile”. In terms of what it will do differently this time, he added: “This time is we have skin in the game with our company restaurants. We wanted to get the model right and test it before franchising it, which allows us to innovate before things go out to the franchise community. We want to role model what our expectations look like, and you can only do that with a company footprint. This time we’re here forever!”

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 two speakers include: Jenny Packwood, chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at KFC UK; Andre Johnstone, chief growth officer at Côte; Hannah Clark, UK head of marketing at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi; Romy Miller, global brand director at KellyDeli; Sarah McDermott, marketing director at BrewDog Bars; Emma Banks, vice-president of food and beverage strategy at Hilton; Jonathan Doughty, managing director at Viklari Consulting; Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food & Drink; Mikala Kofoed Rasmussen, senior manager at Wonderful Copenhagen; Marta Pogroszewska, managing director at Gail’s Bakery; Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy; Eljesa Saciri, general manager at The Zetter Marylebone; Michael Ingemann, chairman of Think Hospitality; Hilari Voorthuis, global food and beverage manager at Fairmont Hotel & Resorts; Sven Sallaerts, co-founder of Younique Concepts; Marcus Denison-Smith, chief marketing officer at Honest Burgers; Tom Patrick, marketing director at Banana Tree; Libby Andrews, marketing director at Pho Restaurants; Ali Alt Recanati, co-founder and brand and marketing director at Farmer J; Maya Orr, managing director at Connect Management; Rameez Al Aghbar, brand partnerships – quick service restaurants and travel lead at TikTok; Anthony Knight, sales and marketing director at Incipio Group; Lynsey Benton, brand and franchising manager at I am Doner; Myles Doran, former commercial director at Revolution Bars Group and managing director at Hospitality Inc; and Supersonic founder Mark McCulloch. 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

Next Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book to feature updated figures for 87 companies: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will feature updated figures for 87 companies. Premium subscribers will receive the next edition of the Blue Book on Monday (11 December), at midday. It now features 829 companies that are turning over a total of £60.2bn. 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 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.

UKHospitality urges Scottish government to use additional funding to introduce 75% business rates relief for sector: UKHospitality is campaigning for additional funding handed to the Scottish government following the autumn statement to be used to introduce 75% business rates relief for hospitality businesses and to freeze poundage rates. Without these measures, Scottish businesses would find themselves at a competitive disadvantage to their English counterparts for the second year running, the trade body warned. An inflation-linked increase in the poundage would also cost the sector almost £20m, it said. UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “With just under two weeks to go to the Budget, now is the time for Scotland’s hospitality sector to come together and impress upon politicians the urgent need for action on business rates. It was deeply disappointing that the Scottish government chose not to reciprocate business rates relief last year and that undoubtedly left businesses worse off. It was a mistake not to use funds to support businesses that are vital to the health of our cities and towns; driving growth and employing millions. Ignoring the burning issue of business rates once again would compound that error and cement the fact that operating a business in Scotland is now unquestionably more difficult than in the rest of Britain. We’re hearing from businesses that their pubs in Scotland are at least £10,000 worse off than a pub in England. This discrepancy not only makes business survival more challenging but it also means almost zero investment in the future, which stunts any economic growth or job creation. Implementing 75% business rates relief and freezing poundage rates would provide a lifeline for our sector, amid challenging economic times, and allow businesses to invest and grow. I would encourage every business to write to your MSPs and make your voice heard on this critical issue.”

Mediterranean cuisine top option for workplace lunches as midweek in-office working returns: Mediterranean cuisine jumped to top spot as the most popular lunchtime option for office workers in 2023, closely followed by American cuisine, according to new research from Just Eat for Business. Classic lunchtime options also made a comeback this year, with soup orders having increased by 52%, wraps by 45% and sandwich orders by 32%. The research also found that almost three quarters (72%) of orders were placed midweek, pointing to midweek in-office working patterns. Pop-ups also increased by 40%. Two in five orders (42%) were made by east London workers in the likes of the City and Canary Wharf. At the same time, 94,676 slices of pizza were consumed during the year, a 17% increase from last year's 80,000. Vegetarian orders from Just Eat for Business increased by 10% from 2022, while salad orders climbed by 12%. Matt Ephgrave, managing director at Just Eat for Business, said: “This year's order data confirms that food remains a valuable tool within the workplace to encourage collaboration, create meaningful connections and offer a chance to try new and exciting dishes. It's great to see London workers' love of variety remain, with orders spanning 35 different world cuisines on our platform in the past year, and I can't wait to see what 2024 brings.”

Michelin Guide GB & Ireland 2024 ceremony to take place in February: The Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2024 ceremony will take place on Monday, 5 February at Manchester's Midland Hotel. The event will see the announcement of not just the Michelin stars, but also the green stars, which recognise pioneers in the field of sustainable gastronomy. A range of special awards, celebrating outstanding industry professionals, will also be presented on the night. Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, said: “We are honoured to be bringing our celebration of the finest British and Irish gastronomy to the welcoming and ever-evolving city of Manchester. The historic Midland Hotel – a long-standing jewel in the city's architectural crown – is a venue befitting of the occasion. The Michelin Guide team is busy preparing an event that will do justice to the exceptional skill, dedication and hard work found across our industry.”

BBPA appoints Nick Mackenzie as chairman: Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of brewer and retailer Greene King, has been elected the new chairman of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) at the organisation's annual general meeting. Having served as vice-chair since late 2020, Mackenzie replaces St Austell Brewery chief executive Kevin Georgel, who had held the position since 2021. Mackenzie, who has been chief executive at Greene King since May 2019, started his career in pubs at Bass and Allied, and subsequently went to a successful career at Merlin Entertainments, including holding the position of managing director at Midway Attractions. Mackenzie said: “This industry has a huge role to play in creating jobs, growing the economy and despite the challenges our industry faces, I see a very successful future for beer and pubs and I am looking forward working with the BBPA to help shape the long-term future for the sector.” Georgel added: “I stand down with the association in good health, as it continues to modernise and evolve to meet the needs of pubs and breweries nationwide. Going into 2024, we have a refreshed, positive strategy and a strong, experienced board that I know will continue to support [chief executive] Emma [McClarkin] and the team.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a restaurant group that is seeking a company executive chef. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will head up the culinary direction for all restaurants and food outlets within the business. You will be the driving force in maintaining the integrity of the company’s food philosophy, and foster a culture of learning by encouraging chefs from commis to senior roles within this dynamic kitchen environment.” The salary is negotiable and the position is based in the south west of England. For more information, email

Company News:

McDonald’s sets out plans for unprecedented growth over next four years: McDonald’s expects to open nearly 10,000 restaurants over the next four years, the fastest period of growth in the company’s history. Ahead of a day-long event for investors, the fast-food chain said that it aims to have 50,000 restaurants in operation worldwide by the end of 2027. The brand had 40,275 restaurants at the start of this year. This will mark the fastest period of growth in the company’s history, with an expected run rate of 1,000 gross openings across the US and its international operated markets, which includes the UK, over the next four years. The company also said that it planned to increase the user base of its loyalty programme to 250 million customers by 2027, putting it on track to deliver $45bn in annual sales. The programme currently has 150 million active users, who generate more than $20bn in system-wide sales. The business said that to ensure McDonald’s restaurant teams are able to deliver the “speed, convenience and freshness customers expect when they place a mobile order”, it will expand its US pilot of its Ready On Arrival initiative across its top six markets by 2025. This initiative enables crew members to begin assembling a customer’s mobile order prior to their arrival at the restaurant to “expedite service and elevate customer satisfaction”. The company also announced a partnership with Google Cloud, which it said will help it accelerate automated services and reduce complexity for its employees. Customers can order delivery within the McDonald’s mobile app in five of the company’s top markets and the brand said it is scaling this capability, expecting 30% of delivery orders to originate in its mobile app by 2027. For 2024, McDonald's said it expects nearly 2% growth in system-wide sales from new restaurants, on a constant currency basis, compared with the 1.5% growth it expects for 2023. Operating margins next year are estimated to be in the mid-to-high 40% range. Ian Borden, McDonald’s global chief financial officer, said: “Over the past decade, we’ve evolved our business model significantly, enabling us to allocate the majority of our resources to the areas of the business with the greatest stability, returns and opportunity for growth. This has resulted in a more durable business model that yields a consistently strong total shareholder return algorithm that is expected to grow. It’s clear that our Accelerating the Arches strategy has delivered exceptional results and we’re operating from a position of strength. The goals we’ve outlined further our competitive strengths, and our ability to continue to identify new platforms for growth puts us in the best possible position to maximise the opportunities in our strategic plan and provide long-term profitable growth for all stakeholders.” McDonald’s features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is available exclusively to Premium subscribers. The database is updated every two months and the latest version features 215 businesses. 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.

Knoops launches ‘next generation app’, 2024 to see the start of international roll out: Luxury hot chocolate shop brand Knoops has launched a “next generation” app that will enable customers to tailor and pre-order their favourite bespoke chocolate drinks on their smartphones. Propel understands that the app has been designed with international functionality as next year will also see the start of the international roll out of the brand alongside its UK expansion. Knoops said that as it continues to grow at pace and moves from start-up phase into scale-up, the app will help grow the “brand’s multi-channel offering and further expand its addressable market”. It comes as the group recently recorded its biggest online day of the year on Black Friday in November and has seen “encouraging overall trends online for several weeks” as it approaches one of the busiest gifting periods. The next stage in the brand’s development comes after it announced plans to 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. Knoops, which completed a £8.3m fundraising last month, 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 Edinburgh, Leeds and Exeter. William Gordon-Harris, chief executive of Knoops, said: “As the creators of a category in the food and beverage space, the Knoops user experience and resultant customer satisfaction is the most important metric for us. So many brands simply install self-service kiosks but forget that technology should first and foremost enhance the customer journey. We believe by allowing our customers to configure and order drinks on their phone, there will be a much smoother progression towards the adoption of electronic ordering in store.”

South west Papa John’s franchisee leaves trail of debt: A company that ran takeaways in Plymouth and across the south west left debts of more than £400,000 after going bust. Renz Restaurants controlled ten Papa John’s pizza takeaways, including three outlets in Plymouth, but has appointed liquidators and been wound up voluntarily after “under-performing”. The Plymouth Herald reported that documents filed at Companies House reveal Renz Restaurants left £36,000 in assets but this will not satisfy huge debts, including in unpaid taxes. It is estimated creditors will be left short of £378,359. The Plymouth-based sites in Mutley Plain, Woolwell and St Budeaux, as well as seven others in the south west, are now under a new franchisee after Renz Restaurants fell into difficulties. The three in Plymouth and others in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Newquay, Exmouth, Paignton and Torquay are all trading after the takeover, and an outlet in Barnstaple is due to reopen early in 2024. Renz Restaurants’ statement of affairs revealed the company owed HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) £158,785 in unpaid VAT, and £40,105 in income tax and national insurance contributions. It also owed HMRC £21,197 in employers' national insurance contributions and £6,757 in interest and charges. In addition, Papa Johns (GB) is claiming £70,000.

Zizzi appoints brand and customer experience director: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi has appointed Katy Lomax as brand and customer experience director, Propel has learned. Lomax brings a wealth of marketing experience to Zizzi, having previously held senior marketing positions at a range of well-known brands, across a diverse range of industries including fast moving consumer goods and telecommunications. For the last ten years, Lomax has worked predominantly in financial services at Capital One, but earlier in her career she headed up the marketing for the McCain chip portfolio. Zizzi managing director Harry Heeley said: “We’re delighted to welcome Katy to our leadership team and the hospitality sector. She has years of valuable marketing and brand experience, and she joins us at a pivotal time in our growth. I look forward to working with Katy and supporting her as she takes our brand and customer experience to the next level.” Meanwhile, Zizzi won the Italian restaurant chain category at the PAPA Awards for the second consecutive year running. The brand, which has 138 restaurants across the UK and Republic of Ireland, is also running its festive menu where customers can have a three-course Christmas set menu from £25.95. Dishes include the festive Formaggio and Prosciutto rustica pizza, beef brisket and venison stufato, and five cheese shiitake Creste Di Gallo. 

Swingers set for record-breaking Christmas at UK sites: Competitive Socialising, the owner of crazy golf concept Swingers, has said it is set to deliver a record-breaking Christmas in the UK. Brand director Gemma Keegan said: “We’ve had the highest pre-booked sales we’ve had in December since opening. All key Christmas dates are fully booked and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone into the venues for a celebration to remember. Group sales bookings are up 6% versus 2022 and up 12% versus 2019.” In July, Competitive Socialising co-founder Matt Grech-Smith told Propel that next year could be a “transformational” one for the business, where it could cement its position “as a global hospitality brand”. The company secured $52m (£40.2m) of new funding to aid its further expansion, which will include new openings in Las Vegas and Dubai, with the latter being its first franchise site. The company already operates two sites in London, two in Washington DC and one in New York. It comes as a survey of 2,000 UK adults, conducted by premium tonic and mixer brand, Double Dutch, revealed an estimated £7.4bn is expected to be spent on Christmas parties this year – a significant threefold increase compared with the previous year. Brits are planning to spend up to £200 on their festive outings, the research revealed. More than 44% of consumers are prioritising visits to hospitality venues, surpassing other spending categories like clothing (28%), home improvements (27%) and holidays (27%).

Jamie Oliver Group opens first site in Kuwait: Chef Jamie Oliver has opened his first site in Kuwait, under his Jamie’s Italian brand. In partnership with franchisee Apparel Group, the Jamie’s Italian has opened in the Warehouse Mall. It is the seventh Jamie’s Italian that the Apparel Group has opened in the GCC region. Jamie Oliver’s restaurant business currently comprises more than 70 sites and its longer-term goal is to have more than 200 international sites by 2027. In October, the business opened its first 100% vegetarian restaurant in India. Oliver's international business opened the new site under its Jamie Oliver Kitchen brand in Ahmedabad. The site joined the 24 other restaurants operated under the chef’s different concepts across nine cities in India by franchise partner Dolomite Restaurants.

Heartwood Collection invests £3m on latest opening: Heartwood Collection, formerly Brasserie Bar Co, has opened The Plough & Harrow (formerly The George Evelyn) in Long Ditton, Surrey, following a £3m refurbishment programme. The opening marked the 21st pubs site for the Alchemy Partners-backed business. The Plough & Harrow features 139 internal covers, double-sided fireplace, a large bar and dining room to the rear with bifold doors looking out on to the newly landscaped garden that will accommodate a further 100 covers together with an outdoor bar. Richard Ferrier, managing director, Heartwood Collection, which also included the 14-strong Brasserie Blanc business, said: “We are delighted to have opened The Plough & Harrow in Long Ditton and are looking forward to restoring it to its place at the heart of the local community. We are very proud of the team that has done such a good job in ensuring the successful opening of the pub and we wish it the very best. We would also like to extend our thanks to the Long Ditton community, which has welcomed us with open arms.” Heartwood Collection is aiming to more than double its turnover by 2027, as it plans to reach 90% of site Ebitda from freehold sites. The Alchemy Partners-backed business is currently turning over circa £66m, with a site Ebitda of £12m. Its 20 pub sites are currently generating £45,000 in average gross weekly sales, and £405,000 average site Ebitda. Propel revealed last month that Heartwood Collection has also acquired The Sun Inn in Reading as part of its ongoing plan to grow Heartwood Inns. Heartwood Collection is on track to grow to more than 60 inns and brasseries by 2027, with circa 45 of those sites set to be pubs. The Quill & Scholar in Lichfield is due to open early March 2024, while the White Horse in Dorking is due to open early 2024 and will be Heartwood Inns’ first “pub with rooms”, with 56 bedrooms.

Popeyes opens in Lewisham: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service restaurant brand, has opened in Lewisham Shopping Centre, in south east London. Located in the East Mall, the 1,186 square-foot restaurant offers the brand’s signature Louisiana chicken, chicken tenders, hot wings and southern biscuits with gravy. It also offers the Popeyes breakfast menu, including the new big Cajun roll. Tom Crowley, chief executive at Popeyes UK, said: “We are thrilled to be opening Popeyes Lewisham and bringing the spirit of New Orleans to the main shopping centre. Our most recent openings have been some of the biggest to date, not just in the UK but for Popeyes globally. Lewisham has always been a target location for us so opening a store at the front of the main shopping centre gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase our famous Louisiana chicken.” Popeyes has also lined up openings in Ilford, Exeter, Doncaster and Bishop Auckland and has applied to build a drive-thru in Stoke Bardolph, on the outskirts of Nottingham.

Cinema operator PDJ Management set to bring Wolverhampton venue back into use for fifth site: Cinema operator PDJ Management is set to bring a venue in Wolverhampton back into use. City of Wolverhampton Council has chosen PJD as its new preferred operator for the city centre cinema within the grade II-listed Chubb Buildings. The operator was selected as the successful bidder from a group of eight that submitted formal expressions of interest in the Fryer Street venue. The Light House closed in November last year, after more than 30 years in operation. Following financial struggles, around 15 staff lost their jobs at what was the only independent arts venue in the Black Country. PDJ already runs four cinemas – in Worthing (The Dome Cinema), Romford (Premiere Cinema), King’s Lynn (The Majestic Cinema) and Lytham St Annes (Island Cinema) – and has put forward a proposal to convert the 6,625 square-foot council-owned space from an outdated two-screen venue to a newly refurbished four-screen cinema. The council and PDJ will be making a £2m joint investment in the refurbishment and fit-out programme and entering into a 30-year lease. James Jervis, director at PDJ, said: “We are enthusiastic about the potential of the venue at the Chubb and excited to be bringing cinema back to the city centre of Wolverhampton. We see this as a significant step for our independent, family run, group of cinemas, opening a site in the Black Country, more than 100 years after our family started its association with cinema in the region. We hope to see this luxury yet affordable venue prove very popular with the city and we plan on engaging with the local arts community to showcase the best creative talent of Wolverhampton alongside the planned core offering of major, first run releases.”

Former estate agent who took up baking to help recover from life-threatening illness eyes being ‘the Krispy Kreme of cinnamon buns’ as he opens second site: A former London estate agent who took up baking to help recover from a life-threatening illness has opened a second site for his vegan buns business. Benjamin Michael became ill with Gastroparesis – a disease of the muscles of the stomach or the nerves controlling the muscles that cause the muscles to stop working – during the covid pandemic. He lost six stone, and at one point was told by doctors that he would have to be put on a drip or he would be dead within a week. Over the period of his illness, he couldn’t eat, leading to PTSD and developing an eating disorder. As part of his self-healing process, Michael started baking cinnamon rolls, which went down such a storm at work that he started selling them at market stalls in west London. He then handed in his notice to focus on baking, opening a bakery shop in his home town of Ealing in 2022, Benji’s Buns, which has now been followed by a second site, in Notting Hill’s Pembroke Road. “I packed in my job and went solo and turned my love of baking into a business,” he told MyLondon. “I spent months doing recipes and making sure I had the right product to pitch to investors. I pitched my business to angel investors that I found by connecting with them on LinkedIn and put together a pitch. We want to be the Krispy Kreme of cinnamon buns and we’ve got ambitions to open more stores next year. I’m living proof that if you want something, you shouldn't stop trying.”

Georgian-inspired small-plates restaurant and cocktail bar in London’s Fitzrovia to open next week: Georgian-inspired small-plates restaurant and subterranean cocktail bar Kinkally will open next week. The brainchild of Diana Militski, it will launch on Tuesday (12 December) at 43 Charlotte Street – comprising of restaurant Kinkally and cocktail den Bar Kinky. It is inspired by Georgian cuisine, in particular a local dish called khinkali: a dumpling traditionally filled with beef, pork or lamb and a touch of parsley. Chef David Chelidze, of Hedonist, will create versions featuring wagyu beef, jonjoli and umeshu sauce; langoustine, tarragon and matsoni; and pheasant and chestnut in a wild mushroom broth, among many others. Alongside this will be small plates inspired by Georgia’s ancient food culture, while Bar Kinky will offer “inventive” cocktails from Andrew Pruts, part of the team behind Insider.

Greene King commits to offering £250,000 worth of free Christmas meals to combat loneliness: Greene King is committing £250,000 worth of free Christmas meals, the equivalent of around 5,500 meals, to customers that might be on their own this festive season. General managers from participating pubs (including the company’s Flaming Grill and Hungry Horse sites) will be inviting six people from their local community, who are planning to spend Christmas by themselves, to enjoy a three-course meal on the house. The offer is part of the company’s Christmas Community Tables initiative and follows research from Greene King that found six million or one in seven (14%) people across the UK will go through Christmas Day without a face-to-face conversation this year. At the same time, it found that 22% of people across the UK said that they will be cutting back on Christmas socialising this year, compared with last year. Greene King said it hopes that these free meals will help to combat the feeling of loneliness this time of year, which is likely to be compounded for many by the cost of living. Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: "Pubs are at the heart of communities across the country, bringing people together from all walks of life. I'm pleased that we can play our part by bringing festive joy to as many as 5,500 people, who may otherwise be spending Christmas alone.".

Farncombe Estate extends loan facility to help purchase adjacent land for £5m, trading margins in 2022 ‘improved when compared with pre-pandemic years’: Farncombe Estate – which operates three award-winning hotels on one Cotswolds estate – has extended its loan facility to help purchase some adjacent land for £5m. The acquisition, which was completed in April 2023, was part funded by an extension to the group’s third-party loan facility to £9.1m, which is repayable in December 2026. An additional revolving facility of £500,000 is also available on the same conditions, according to the group’s accounts for the year ending 31 December 2022. Although the documents did not specify what the land would be used for, the group has since opened a new wellness spa. It comes as the group reported an increase in turnover for the period, from £10,523,000 in 2021 to £15,205,000. Its pre-tax loss narrowed from £2,843,000 in 2021 to £2,364,000. Hotel occupancy was down slightly from 80.6% to 75.6%. The development of luxury self-catered properties on the estate continued during the year, with the repurposing and renovation of Farncombe Hill House. Director Andrew Fuller said that despite operational and financial pressures, “good cost control and close demand management has meant that trading margins achieved in 2022 have improved when compared with the pre-pandemic years”. He added: “The group continued to see appetite for bookings but with a much shorter lead time and with a trend in more in-month volatility. It is clear the investment in the development of self-let accommodation and activities has been well received, but demand is starting to soften, leading to shorter lead times. However, the good quality country house market is still the most sought after. The group has continued to see high demand for hotel rooms, resulting in strong room rates. Profitability has increased significantly over recent years, but large-scale capital projects and the high running costs of the Farncombe Estate continue to require shareholder funding.” The company also brought forward its annual pay increase by five months to help alleviate pressures on employees during the winter months. No dividends were paid (2021: nil).

Dundee brewery expands with new restaurant and bar: The team behind Dundee independent brewery, 71 Brewing, has expanded its portfolio by opening a restaurant and bar in the city. The company has opened The Maker in Perth Road as part of the company’s strategy to “bring together creative communities and to boost the cultural offering in Dundee”. It follows the brewery announcing the redevelopment of the upper floors of its premises at Bellfield Street to create an arts and events venue with a capacity of up to 350, with a permanent jazz and blues club also planned for the basement. 71 Brewing managing director, Duncan Alexander, said: “Dundee has come a long way in recent years but we think there is still a need for what we are offering. We want to be an integral part of the story of this city’s regeneration. Obviously, we want to keep building a successful business, but we also want to be part of Dundee’s journey. If we spot a gap in the market for a service or investment that would be good for the business and good for the city then we will go for it if we can. The menu will be pitched above pub grub but it’s not fine dining. We want people to feel comfortable either eating or just having a drink and knowing that they are going to get innovative food and a consistent quality.” Alexander founded 71 Brewing in 2016, following a career in IT, when he realised that the city had had no working brewery for more than 50 years, reports Bdaily.

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