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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 8th Dec 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Morgan – we can get Banana Tree to a Las Iguanas-sized business in 18-24 months: Alan Morgan, chief executive of the Big Table Group, has told Propel he believes the company can grow its fast-casual pan-Asian brand Banana Tree to a “Las Iguanas-sized business in 18-24 months”. The Bella Italia and Café Rouge operator currently operates 50 sites under its Las Iguanas brand. Last September, the Epiris-backed Big Table Group acquired Banana Tree and has since grown the brand from nine to 18 sites, with recent Café Rouge conversions in Henley, Bath and Greenwich. Morgan told Propel: “High on my importance list is to continue to grow Bella, continue to grow Las Iguanas, and continue to open more sites at a decent pace with Banana Tree, because I think that is a business that probably has the biggest, immediate success story. I reckon we can get Banana Tree to a Las Iguanas-sized business in 18-24 months. And that will be a mix of new sites, which we are looking for at the moment, and conversions.” On the original six Café Rouge sites that the business converted to the Banana Tree brand, Morgan said: “There is one out of the six we originally converted that is only just hitting business case, but it’s doing okay. The rest are significantly outperforming the growth levels produced by those sites previously.” Earlier this week, Propel revealed that the Big Table Group has opened a short-term pop-up in London’s Victoria to test fast-casual versions of three of its brands. 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. 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.
 

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 to feature 829 companies, released on Monday: The next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book will feature 829 companies. Premium subscribers will receive the next edition of the Blue Book on Monday (11 December), at midday. The 829 companies 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 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.
 
UKHospitality – Ofgem rogue supplier’ protection proposals can’t come soon enough’: UKHospitality has said Ofgen’s proposals for protecting businesses from “rogue” energy suppliers are “can’t come soon enough”. The energy regulator has announced plans to expand its existing rules on Standards of Conduct to all businesses, increase transparency for businesses when using brokers and expanding who can access the energy ombudsman. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The treatment of hospitality businesses by some energy suppliers has been nothing short of disgraceful throughout this crisis. These proposals are much needed and will provide some essential protection for businesses. Bringing all businesses under the umbrella of the Standards of Conduct will ensure a level playing field in the business energy market and, crucially, mean action can be taken when certain standards are not met. I would urge Ofgem to go further in their plans to expand the energy ombudsman and allow all businesses to have the ability to take complaints to it. Improving the transparency of broker fees is very positive and will put a stop to instances where businesses had been misled or unfairly treated by some brokers, which had become increasingly prevalent. It’s imperative that these proposals are formally introduced as soon as possible – enhanced protections for businesses can’t come soon enough.”
 
Eat Out to Help Out scheme not a ‘gamble’, Boris Johnson tells covid inquiry: The Eat Out to Help Out meal subsidy scheme in the summer of 2020 was not presented as “a gamble” that would lead to a rise in covid-19 cases, Boris Johnson has told the public inquiry into his government’s response to the pandemic. The former prime minister on Thursday (7 December) suggested it had been logical to take advantage of the decision to open up the hospitality industry via the scheme. But he admitted he heard Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, describe it as “Eat Out to Help Out the Virus” in September 2020. The programme, which was pushed by then chancellor Rishi Sunak, subsidised meals in restaurants in the summer of 2020. It has been blamed for increasing covid transmission rates after the first lockdown ended in June. But Johnson said he had not perceived the scheme as a “gamble”, adding: “It certainly wasn’t presented to me as such, nor am I confident that there is very substantial evidence that it did indeed add to the [reproduction number] R.” Johnson, who was in office between 2019 and 2022, added: “I must emphasise, it was not at the time presented to me as something that would add to the budget of risk.” According to estimates from the UK Treasury, 100 million meals were eaten at an interim taxpayer cost of £522m by the end of August 2020. The inquiry has heard how senior scientific advisers were not consulted before the programme was introduced. Johnson said he could not “understand how something as well publicised as that could have been smuggled past the scientific advice, I don’t see how that could have happened”. Last week, the inquiry heard that Matt Hancock, former health secretary, had been privately critical of the scheme. In a message shown to the inquiry, Hancock told Sir Mark Sedwill, cabinet secretary between 2018 and 2020, that Eat Out to Help Out was causing “serious” problems and argued “very strongly” against extending it. The inquiry is examining the government’s response to covid-19, including the UK’s preparedness when the disease struck in 2020 and senior decision-making. It is due to run until the summer of 2026. Sunak, now prime minister, will give evidence on Monday (11 December).
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a casual dining business that is looking for a payroll manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will lead the processing of multiple payrolls for more than 6,000 staff and manage a team of three people. You will co-ordinate department workload and maintain the monthly work calendar, including ensuring timely payment and reporting of payroll reports. The ideal payroll manager will have extensive experience in end-to-end payroll processing, managing small teams and new systems implementations.” The salary is up to £50,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email fabian@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Sky News – Azzurri Group to begin testing buyers appetite for a deal next year: Azzurri Group is to begin testing buyers’ appetite for a deal next year in a move that could see chains such as ASK Italian, Zizzi and Coco di Mama changing hands. Sky News reported that Azzurri Group, which is owned by Towerbrook Capital Partners, has begun talks with investment bankers about an auction that would launch sometime next year. Azzurri operates around 220 sites across the UK, and earlier this year acquired Boojum, an Irish-based restaurant concept. One source said Rothschild was in the running to be appointed to handle the process. Towerbrook took control of the business at the height of the pandemic in 2020, when the business – like many others in the sector – went through a pre-pack administration. The brands had previously been owned by Bridgepoint. Towerbrook and Azzurri declined to comment. Earlier this week, Propel reported that Italian food-to-go brand Coco di Mama had 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. The brand opened its first roadside services site, at Roadchef’s flagship Norton Canes service area on the M6, earlier this year. Propel also revealed in June that Azzurri Group was entering the Mexican-themed fast-casual restaurant market by acquiring a controlling interest in Boojum from Renatus Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum. It is looking to help the David Maxwell-led business grow both in Ireland and Great Britain. Boojum opened a new site, its 15th in total, in Dublin’s Liffey Valley shopping centre, in October. Azzuri Group features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £235,900,000 in the year to 26 June 2022 is the 42nd highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. 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.
 
Stonegate expands Peckwater Brands tie-up to 250 sites: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has extended its partnership with virtual food brands operator Peckwater Brands to more than 250 of its sites across the country, Propel has learned. Last year, Propel revealed that Stonegate had invested £4m to acquire a minority stake in Peckwater. It came on the back of a trial that had seen Peckwater’s brands – mostly Seoul Chikin and Flip the Bird – made available for delivery out of 30 of Stonegate’s managed sites. By October last year, the partnership had expanded to circa 100 sites. David McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, told Propel: “We’re in 250 locations now with them. It is still a relatively small part of our business overall, but it is exactly in the sweet spot of what we should be doing, which is thinking differently about how we use these assets and creating new revenue streams. We’re continuing to roll out more of those and the relationship with Peckwater is strong.” Earlier this year, Peckwater Brands acquired eatclever, the virtual delivery brand market leader in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). Peckwater operates delivery-only food brands from more than 500 locations across nine countries: the UK, US, France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Czechia and UAE. Peckwater took over eatclever’s operations in almost 100 restaurants across the DACH region, expanding its presence into three new countries across Europe.
 
Ex-Adventure Bars MD joins Windmill Taverns as it looks to rollout Mc & Sons concept: London independent operator Windmill Taverns has appointed Tom Kidd, formerly of Adventure Bars and Nightcap, as a non-executive director as it looks to roll out its Mc & Sons pub concept. Kidd co-founded Adventure Bar Group, and as managing director, oversaw its sale to Nightcap in spring 2021. He took on the position of commercial director at Nightcap before stepping down earlier this year to launch his own consultancy business. Windmill Taverns was founded by brothers John and Ryan McElhinney and their father, Jack, in 1998. The company, which already operates five pubs in south west London, including the Kings Arms and the Ring, recently purchased the freehold of the Royal Oak in Vauxhall to open the second site under the Mc & Sons concept. It also operates a site under the concept in Borough. Kidd told Propel: “I’m super excited to be helping to drive this business as it starts to spread the unique Mc & Sons spirit around London. The business is just what I like, beautiful customer-focused venues with a lovely business model and a proven track record of profitability.”
 
Pret confirms Club Pret subscription not available in Northern Ireland after opening first store in country: Pret A Manger has confirmed its Club Pret subscription is not available in Northern Ireland after opening its first store in the country. Ahead of the opening in Belfast city centre, Pret had been advertising its Club Pret discount offer, which allows customers up to five barista-made hot drinks a day, with 20% off its entire menu, for £30 a month and with the first month costing just £15. But some customers, including BBC Northern Ireland weather presenter Barra Best, were caught out as the store opened at Donegal Square West, reports Belfast Live. He tweeted: “Word of warning for anyone thinking of buying the monthly coffee subscription from @Pret as it opens its store in Belfast – subscriptions only apply to stores in Britain. I found out the hard way. #PretBelfast.” In response, a Pret spokesman said: “Club Pret isn’t available currently, but it is something that we are exploring for our Northern Irish customers as we expand in the future.” Pret has four other stores on the island of Ireland, all based in the Republic, in Dublin. The Belfast shop is part of a partnership between Pret and Carebrook, one of its longest serving franchise partners. Club Pret has already launched in the UK and US and is also set to launch in France.
 
Benihana reports turnover boost at UK restaurants but revenue remains below pre-covid levels: Benihana, the worldwide Japanese teppanyaki restaurant chain that operates two restaurants in London and franchise venues internationally, has reported turnover from its UK operations increased to £5,567,949 for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £4,673,648 the year before. Revenue remained below the £6,900,256 reported for the year ending 31 December 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax profit was down to £997,972 from £1,436,381 the previous year (2019: loss of £658,478). The business did not receive any government grants (2021: £72,787). No dividend was paid (2021: nil). Benihana operates restaurants in London’s Chelsea and Convent Garden. It also has franchised operations in countries including Canada, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
 
Loungers and PureGym sign for sites at Washington shopping centre: Cafe bar operator Loungers and PureGym, Britain’s biggest health and fitness club operator, have signed for sites at The Galleries shopping centre in Washington. Loungers has agreed a 15-year lease for a 3,919 square-foot space, while Pure Gym is taking over 10,812 square feet of space. Work to transform the units is expected to commence in February. Simon Eatough, director for landlord and tenant at LCP, part of M Core, which owns and manages the shopping centre, said: “Attracting two significant national brands to The Galleries is a major coup and will help with our plans to further improve the popular centre and we are looking forward to them opening.” Loungers, which also operates Cosy Club and roadside dining concept Brightside, opened its 207th Lounge – and 246th site overall – earlier this week, in Penrith. PureGym has 576 corporate-owned sites, with further franchise outlets.
 
German Doner Kebab launches first motorway services site and breakfast menu: German Doner Kebab (GDK), owned by Hero Brands, has launched its first motorway services site. It has opened the restaurant at Unit 9 in the Baldock Services on the A1, in Hertfordshire, creating 30 jobs. GDK chief executive Simon Wallis said: “It’s hugely exciting to be launching our motorway services concept as we continue on our journey of reaching more consumers throughout the country, demonstrating the flexibility of both our product and our restaurant format.” The opening coincides with GDK’s launch of the UK’s first doner breakfast menu, featuring a doner egg brioche and a big breakfast wrap. The breakfast menu will be trialled at Baldock Services as well as at its restaurant in Southampton Row, in London’s Holborn. Wallis added: “GDK has been revolutionising the kebab across the UK and it is a huge moment for the brand to be making our game-changing kebabs available at breakfast. The doner egg brioche and big breakfast wrap are a whole new taste experience for breakfast. Who’d have thought it? A kebab for breakfast!”
 
Glaswegian coffee shop concept set to make airport debut for seventh site: Glaswegian coffee shop concept Tinderbox Espresso Bar is set to make its airport debut for its seventh site. It will open a pop-up store in the main departure lounge of Glasgow airport next April, employing ten new members of staff. It will add to its sites in Byers Road, Merchant City, Princes Square, Charing Cross Mansions, the Waterloo Street Ibis, Queen Street station and Glasgow Fort. Craig Norton, Glasgow airport’s retail manager, said: “We are forecasting a considerable increase in passenger numbers next year and are keen to ensure we have plenty of catering options available. The airport is well-served in terms of places where passengers can get their caffeine boost with retailers such as Starbucks and Pret a Manger within the terminal, but we also wanted to bring in a local concept and Tinderbox was the ideal choice. Opening in spring 2024, this new pop-up store will continue to strengthen our retail offering to our customers and in Tinderbox we have a concept that loves Glasgow as much as we do.” Carlo Ventisie, owner of Tinderbox Espresso Bar, added: “Tinderbox has been Glasgow’s best-loved coffee concept for more than 25 years. We are proud to be part of the fabric of the city, and it has always been important to us to stay Glaswegian – our unique, and much-loved, coffee blend is expertly roasted right here in the south side of the city. We are thrilled to bring Tinderbox to Glasgow airport so that passengers can enjoy their favourite coffee and visitors can get a taste of real Glasgow culture as part of their journey.”
 
Family-run hotel group eyes expansion as turnover increases to £5.1m: Family-run hotel group JDP Hotels has reported turnover increased 34% to £5,136,328 for the year ending 31 March 2023 compared with £3,836,396 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £344,159 from £478,817 the year before. Gross profit margin was 81.88% (2021: 83.88%). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group looks to the future with optimism and with a continuing plan to expand into more hotels.” The business did not receive any government grants (2022: £255,048). No dividends was paid (2022: nil). The group, which operates the Beaufort Park Hotel in North Wales and the Best Western Guide Post Hotel near Bradford city centre, only began filing full accounts in 2020. 
 
New pay-as-you-train fitness destination to open in London’s Kensington: A new pay-as-you-train fitness destination, Studio FIX, is set to open in London’s High Street Kensington in early 2024, with three studios offering six different class concepts. The 7,500 square-foot space will be one of the first locations in London to offer Lagree Megaformer classes, a patented exercise machine that offers a high-intensity, total-body workout while being low-impact. Other class concepts will include yoga, boxing, high intensity-style conditioning and strength-based lift. Classes will vary between 45 and 60 minutes, with pricing from £25. There will also be a lounge offering shakes, smoothies and coffee. Najeeb Abunahl is the founder of the concept. After a quad biking accident left him temporarily in a wheelchair with the advice to lose weight or never recover, he struggled to find accessible gyms with adaptive training for the general public. With a desire to open a business he was passionate about, Abunahl founded Studio FIX and has invested heavily on ensuring the location is wheelchair accessible, and the boxing class is fully adaptable to wheelchair users.
 
Owner of Park Lane hotel refinances, company returns to profit following trading boost driven by return of international travel: The owner of the Como Metropolitan Hotel in London’s Park Lane has refinanced the business and extended two secured bank loans which were due to mature in June 2023. It comes after the business returned to profit during the year to 31 December 2022 following a trading boost driven by the post-covid return to international travel. A pre-tax loss of £3,316,658 in 2021 turned into a profit of £517,507 during the period, while turnover was up from £7,096,715 to £18,843,676. This compares with turnover of £20,013,012 and a pre-tax profit of £479,281 in the last full year before covid, ending 31 December 2019. Of the 2022 turnover, £16,804,704 came from room sales (2021: £6,180,416) and £1,205,427 from food and beverage sales (2021: £441,331). The company received £6,000 in government grants compared with £590,439 in 2021. No dividends were paid (2021: nil). Director Andrew Roberts said: “The improvement in financial performance during the financial year reflects a surge in hotel bookings as a result of international travel restrictions no longer enforced especially to the UK hospitality industry that the company operates. Post balance sheet, the company is confident that it will continue to improve its financial performance and maintain operating at a profitable level as it is better placed in the market to compete with other hotels operating in the vicinity with similar high standard of guest hospitality service on having completed all the refurbishment works to re-modernise on its business premises during the financial year 2022.”
 
Adam Handling to open Frog for extra days in December for hospitality workers: Chef Adam Handling is opening his Michelin-starred flagship restaurant, Frog by Adam Handling, for extra days in December to allow his industry colleagues the opportunity to visit on their days off. It will be open for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays for the next two weeks – on 11, 12, 18 and 19 December. Handling owns the Adam Handling Restaurant Group which operates venues across the country, including Frog by Adam Handling and Eve Bar in London; The Loch & The Tyne in Old Windsor; and Ugly Butterfly in Cornwall. Earlier this year, Handling opened a new staff training and well-being centre for his employees, in London’s Covent Garden. It features a dedicated space for training at all levels; a full kitchen and dining room for the team; and chill-out rooms to use between and after shifts.
 
Nottinghamshire operators open new cafe and bistro: Nottinghamshire operators James and Jennifer Aspell have opened a new cafe and bistro. The husband-and-wife team, who runs late-night tequila and cocktail bar 400 Rabbits in Nottingham city centre, have launched French-themed Le Petit Vert in the village of Farnsfield. Everything on the menu at the Main Road venue can be adapted to make it vegan. The couple put a French spin on the cafe because Farnsfield is twinned with Andouillé in the north west of France. They also run Sherwood Glade, a wedding venue in a woodland with tipees off the A60 at Arnold, and Casa Agave, a company importing tequila and mezcal to the UK. The cafe came about because James’ parents, Lynn and Lance, own the building near their home. It became vacant when the tenant, a furniture restoration business, bought a property across the road. James told the Nottingham Post: “My mum came to me and said we’ve got the space, do you want to do something with it, and so we thought we’d make something nice for Farnsfield. We wanted to do something green and sustainable. It’s similar to when we did 400 Rabbits. We did it ad hoc, ideas came and went, and this is what we ended up with.”
 
Cambridge bakery opens third site: Cambridge bakery Fitzbillies has opened its third branch in the city, at 15 King’s Parade. It comes only two months after Fitzbillies opened a shop at 53 Trumpington Street, while its other site is in Bridge Street, reports the Cambridge Independent. Owner Alison Wright said: “We’re delighted to have opened a new branch of Fitzbillies in this most beautiful and iconic of all Cambridge locations – opposite King’s College Chapel. We’re looking forward to welcoming locals and visitors alike. We’ll be serving simple savoury food like breakfast baps, sausage rolls and toasties, along with all our cakes, coffee and Chelsea buns.”
 
Freehold of restaurant in Kent let to Tasty goes up for auction: A freehold restaurant investment in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, is going to auction. The four-storey venue at 99-101 Mount Pleasant Road is wholly let to Tasty until February 2036, with no breaks. Currently trading as Havet, the Turkish restaurant has two other branches, in Bromley and Tonbridge. The site is being advertised with a guide price of £1.25m, reports Insider Media. David Margolis, of Acuitus, said: “An asset of this size, situated in the affluent town of Royal Tunbridge Wells will be a real draw for investors. We previously sold this asset in 2014 for £1.87m, showing the long-term growth potential of this asset alongside the strong rental income from the tenants.” The auction will take place on Wednesday (13 December).
 
Sunderland gym owners open second site: Sunderland gym owners Holly McBride-Donaldson and Jennie Moyse have opened a second site in the city. McBride-Donaldson and Moyse, who run the female-only gym Club Zest together, have partnered with Brent Gilpin, who is behind physio business Finding Function, for The Cell. Located in the basement of Sunderland's former Gilbridge police station, it offers spinning, bootcamps, yoga and pilates, reports Insider Media. McBride-Donaldson said: “The Cell is inclusive of all genders, and we offer bespoke fitness classes for people who want to reconnect and be part of a friendly community that champions one another. We also have Brent offering physio treatments, sports massages and wellness support, and there will be a variety of workshops available to attend on the weekends.”
 
Gather & Gather refreshes brand proposition as it marks tenth anniversary: Catering business Gather & Gather has refreshed its brand proposition as it marks its tenth anniversary. At the heart of the refreshed proposition are Gather & Gather’s ideals: “We’re Brave & Bold”, “We Stand Together” and “We Do Good Things”, supported by five focus pillars that shape its commitment and creativity around food, coffee, technology, connections and interactions and sustainability. Today, Gather & Gather turns over more than £215m. Managing director Matt Symonds said: “The reimagination of the Gather & Gather brand reflects our remarkable journey so far, the changing catering landscape and our goals for the future. It continues to drive a point of difference between us and the competition, it competes even better with the high street and gives our teams a sense of belonging. And, importantly, it recognises that the needs of our clients and customers have materially shifted over the past few years. It’s been an amazing process and we’re so excited to now share the fruits of our work with everyone.”
 
South Tyneside deli owners open bar and restaurant in 1920s former tram shelter: South Tyneside deli owners Jonny Dryden and Christopher Lowden have opened a bar and restaurant in a 1920s former tram shelter. The duo, who run Blacks Corner deli in East Boldon, have opened the venue in Seaburn, Sunderland, after winning the council’s tender to find an operator two years ago. Work to transform the seafront shelter has taken nine months after listed building consent was approved in 2021, and Lowden constructed the restaurant by hand, starting work in February this year and finishing in late November. “This is something we felt we could breathe some life into,” he told the BBC. “All of this adds to what were once the Roker and Seaburn twin resorts, which I think have been forgotten about over the last 50 to 70 years.” The shelter fell into disuse when Sunderland Tramways stopped operating in 1954.
 
Nottinghamshire Indian restaurant operators open second site: Nottinghamshire Indian restaurant operators Suraj and Raman Pathak have opened their second site. The father-and-son team have opened Lagan in Nottingham in the premises previously occupied by French-inspired restaurant, Paris, which went into liquidation earlier this year. The 108-seater restaurant in High Pavement is open all-day and offers a full desi breakfast. It is also the first Indian restaurant in Nottingham to offer a bottomless brunch, available daily. Main dishes include lamb chops, chicken tikka, Rajasthani chicken on the bone, salmon dill tikka and seabass with Goan sauce. Wraps with chicken, paneer, king prawns or a mix are served with chips. The father and son also run Lagan Indian Tapas in Beeston, in the town’s former Post Office, but the city centre restaurant “offers much more”. Suraj told Nottinghamshire Live: “The difference is we do breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lagan in Beeston operates in the evenings.”
 
Team behind north east restaurant open new venture in Gosforth: The team behind north east restaurant Lovage has opened a second site. Lovage opened in St George’s Terrace, Jesmond, less than a year ago, offering Mediterranean-style food. Headed up by chef Kleo Tabaku and front of house manager Lisa Hide, the pair joined forces with hospitality entrepreneur Stuart Young, of Northern Bar Management, to create a restaurant that was inspired by Tabaku’s upbringing. Now the partners have added another venue, with Osters, in Gosforth’s High Street. The restaurant, in what was formerly Stock Gosforth, focuses mainly on seafood and fish.
 
Manchester bakery opens second site: Manchester bakery La Chouquette has opened a second site in the city. Couple Mairead Deignan and Florent Verove launched the original store in Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, in 2020, selling pastries and cakes including sourdough loaves, cinnamon buns, pain de chocolat and almond croissants. It has now opened a second branch, in Clumber Road in Poynton. “It was by chance that we’ve ended up in Poynton,” Deignan told the Manchester Evening News. “We were always looking for somewhere to open a second store and this just came about. We really didn’t expect people to be queuing up outside when we opened at 7am, so to open the blinds and to see lines of people outside was really a big surprise for us, and we sold out of our first batch of 100 pretty much within the hour. We really thrived during the pandemic and that really helped us set up our concept in Didsbury. We’ve got an incredible team at both sites and have become known for the quality of our products.”
 
Coventry award-winning chef opens sister site in North Tyneside: Award-winning chef Jay Alam, who runs the Turmeric Gold restaurant in Coventry, has opened sister site Amaze Gourmet Spice in North Tyneside. Alam, who has collected multiple awards and earned the praise of Michelin star chef Glyn Purnell, has opened the fine dining restaurant in Cauldwell Lane, Whitley Bay. Designed by the chef himself to offer guests “the ultimate experience of the Indian palaces”, it offers dishes such as duck mango glazed shashlick with anorosh – with a blend of pineapple, Kashmiri spice, green peppers and mango glaze; and Malai drumstick korma with puff bread – a curry flavoured with roasted ginger, garlic, coriander, mint, coconut and almond. As well as a main menu and a separate wine menu, guests can also choose from a five-course, seven-course or ten-course menu to sample a wider range of dishes. Alam, whose brother-in-law runs the Jashn restaurant in Gateshead, opened Turmeric Gold in 2001. “For more than two decades, Turmeric Gold has been a labour of love where every day we strive to continue improving our offering and create a true, authentic Indian experience,” he told Chronicle Live. “Already, Amaze has been really well received by the people of Whitley Bay, and we are looking forward to replicating the success we have had with Turmeric Gold.” 
 
Lake District hotel owner reports trading falling back in line with pre-covid levels following staycation boom: The owner of Lake District luxury hotel Armathwaite Hall has said trading has started to fall back in line with pre-covid levels having previously benefited from the surge in UK staycations. It comes as the venue, owned by the Graves family and located in Keswick, reported turnover fell 14% to £6,063,280 for the year ending 31 March 2023 compared with £7,055,818 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £460,098 from £2,251,034 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “In the prior period and the start of this financial year, the company benefited from a surge in UK staycations following the coronavirus pandemic and business was exceptional. Trade is starting to fall back in line with pre-pandemic levels as restrictions on travelling abroad have now been lifted. The directors seek to maintain the hotel to a very high standard, placing it in the luxury end of the market. Costs of repairs and maintenance have increased this year by £27,000 to £623,000. In addition, the company has invested £871,000 upgrading the garden spa bedroom suites and committed a further £259,000 to the project. Heat and light costs have increased by 53%. Gas and electricity prices have soared in the past 12 months. The company is investing in a new LPG generator at the hotel that will be operational in 2023-24.” The business did not receive any government grants (2022: £109,372). No dividend was paid (2022: nil). Armathwaite Hall is owned separately by the Graves family to their Lake District Hotels portfolio, which includes Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa in Derwentwater, Inn on the Lake in Ullswater and Keswick venues Borrowdale Hotel, Inn on the Square, Skiddaw Hotel and Kings Arms Hotel.

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