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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 11th Dec 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fireaway set to launch crowdfunding campaign, looking to raise £2m to aid further growth, plans 30 openings in 2024: Fast pizza brand Fireaway, the Mario Aleppo-led business, is to launch a crowdfunding campaign later this month, to expand its central operations and brand reach and enhance its technology platform. Propel understands that the business, which will end the year with 161 sites, is looking to raise £2m in return for 9% of the company. The raise through Crowdcube will launch on Monday, 18 December. The business said it already has an external investor committed to £200,000 and wants to give the “opportunity back to our family of loyal customers to invest alongside them”. It said: “We have a track record of year-on-year growth in franchise sales, HQ profits and new store openings. We have generated annualised franchise store sales of £59m and a head office turnover of circa £14.5m. In 2022, we opened 39 stores and are on track to open 31 this year, having already opened 27 and with four under construction, taking the total tally of stores to 159. We expect this growth to continue for next year. We want to spread the fire to more people in more places.” Propel understands that the business, which was launched in south London in 2017, plans to open a further 30 sites next year. Aleppo told Propel that in terms of international expansion, sites in Portugal and Turkey are under construction and will be open in January. Fireaway, which made its international debut with a site in Amsterdam last spring, previously said it was also lining up openings in Dubai and Turkey. Earlier this summer, the brand increased its presence in Northern Ireland with an opening in Belfast’s Lisburn Road, as part of the country’s biggest independent halal food court. The brand secured investment from six new backers in October last year and plans to have 500 sites within the next five years. Fireaway 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 225 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.

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; Paul Flatters, chief executive of insight agency Trajectory; Victoria Page, purpose and ESG lead at Fleet Street; 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; Dan Brookman, chief executive of Airship and Toggle; Ben Webb, managing director at 3Stories; Joel Robinson, digital and technology director at Azzurri Group; 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
Premium subscribers to receive next Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book and ten videos from up-and-coming operators as they explore ‘white space’ opportunity this week: Premium subscribers will receive the next edition of Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book and ten videos from up-and-coming operators as they explore the “white space” opportunity for their concepts this week. The next Blue Book, which now features 829 companies, will be sent today (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 will then receive the ten videos from up-and-coming operators on Friday (15 December) at 9am. 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. The videos will feature: Verity Foss, co-founder and Lina Blythe, operations director of Oowee Vegan; Asad Khan, founder of Snowflake Luxury Gelato; Lisa Buckley, chief executive of Leisure TV Rights, the experiential leisure operator; Laura Mimoun, co-founder of Kaleido Rolls; Shereen Ritchie, chief operating officer of Buns from Home; Yolk founder Nick Philpot; Sanjeev Sanghera, co-founder of Döner Shack; Razak Helalat, founder of Black Rock Restaurant Group; Meriel Armitage, founder of Club Mexicana; and Simon Hooper, international business director at street food cafe franchise Chaiiwala. 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.
French law making McDonald’s use reusable cups and bowls, company sees them as ‘problematic’ and keen not to roll them out: Sustainability laws in France have forced McDonald’s to serve chicken nuggets in plastic bowls, fries in durable containers and soda in washable glasses. But the company is not keen on introducing them to the US and views the reusable packing as “problematic”, arguing it is inconvenient for customers and even worse for the environment. A US shareholder advocacy group has called for the company to consider bringing the reusable containers to America, reports the Wall Street Journal. However, McDonald’s head of international government relations has argued against it and does not want France to be the template for other countries around the world. Those dining in French McDonald’s drop their packaging into a bin once they have finished, where they are washed, dried and reused. There is an assortment of 21 different cups, containers for fries and bowls which are different sizes. This has proved to be costly and complex for McDonald’s and some of its restaurants have not yet complied with the requirements, with the deadline at the end of this year. Similar laws could be introduced in Portugal, Sweden and Poland, while in Germany and the Netherlands, it already has to comply with laws offering reusable cups to those who ask and pay a deposit. “We don’t want France to be the template because we strongly believe that this doesn’t work,” McDonald’s head of international government relations Serge Thines said. “It’s very problematic.” A proposed EU-wide law which would require fast-food restaurants to offer reusable containers was rejected last month. McDonald’s has worked on alternatives to single-use plastic, has trialled plastic-free cups and said it mainly uses paper packaging for its food. However, environmentalists and recycling industry executives say paper, when used for food, is hard to recycle. McDonald’s says around 92% of its reusable containers are returned and used for an average of 29 times before being damaged, thrown out or taken by customers. It has argued that using reusable containers would increase plastic packaging waste and greenhouse-gas emissions. But non-profit organisation Zero Waste Europe says reusable systems could cut emissions when better developed.

Gove defends Rishi Sunak over Eat Out to Help Out scheme: Michael Gove has defended Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme as the prime minister prepares to appear before the Covid Inquiry on Monday (11 December). The scheme, which Sunak introduced while chancellor, offered discounts of up to 50% on restaurant meals in the summer of 2020, when hospitality venues reopened after the first lockdown. Sir Patrick Vallance, the former chief scientific adviser, told the inquiry last month that Eat Out to Help Out was “highly likely” to have increased covid deaths in the UK. It prompted another adviser to call Sunak “Dr Death the chancellor”, while Professor Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, is claimed to have nicknamed the initiative “Eat Out to Help Out the virus”. Asked about Sir Patrick’s remarks, Gove told Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “That’s Sir Patrick’s view, and I have enormous respect for Sir Patrick, having worked for him closely. However, I think it’s important to say that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was announced a month before it was implemented, and in the period pre-announcement and post-implementation, it was not the case that there was a public critique of it. It was an effective way of ensuring that the hospitality industry was supported through a very difficult period, and it was entirely within the broad outlines of rules about social mixing that prevailed at the time.” Pressed on whether Eat Out to Help Out was indeed likely to have caused excess covid deaths, Gove insisted he would not “pre-empt” any potential conclusions of the Inquiry. “One of the things about covid is that distinguished scientists came to different conclusions at different times about the efficacy of particular policies,” he said. “That’s not to criticise them, quite the opposite. That’s to make the point that they’re making – that ‘the science’ is not a monolithic body of unchanging truths. It is an evolving response to a virus, a novel virus, which was devastating lives across the world.”

Pubs cheer as working from home revives the office Christmas party: Pub bosses say that working from home has sparked a surge in Christmas bookings as lonely workers flock to office parties to be reunited with colleagues. The Sunday Times reports industry chiefs say that Christmas bookings are the strongest since 2019, after which the following three festive seasons were skewered by covid lockdowns and last December’s industrial action. “There’s nothing like an office jug-up,” said Clive Watson, executive chairman of the City Pub Group, which operates in 54 locations across southern England and Wales. Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021 — followed by strikes by train workers, doctors and teachers a year ago — had left some pubs wondering if the Christmas booking surge would ever return. Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, insisted that “office parties have come back in force this year… This is going to be our first proper Christmas since 2019.” He added: “We are seeing really strong bookings from early on. There used to be an expression in the industry that Christmas is getting later and later, but I think it has come earlier this year.” Watson said partygoers are willing to splash their cash despite an uncertain economic outlook. He said: “Spend per head has gone up from about £33 to about £37.” Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, sounded a note of caution, however. While fairly optimistic, Urban said that strong advance bookings are “only an indicator” of a good Christmas. “There have been years where bookings have been very strong, but overall, Christmas has been poor, because it is the walk-in business that dictates whether you are going to have a good festive season,” he said. M&B is benefiting from many companies shunning set-piece Christmas parties. “What we are seeing less of is those big marquees that go up for Christmas,” said Urban. “What people are doing is, rather than the whole company going out, departments are going out. And we are far more able to take that size of booking than the mega booking.”

NTIA welcomes cross-party support on spiking proposals: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has welcomed cross-party support on new proposals to make spiking a specific offence. The Backbench Business Committee, led by Judith Cummins MP, will be heard on the 14 December in Westminster Hall, addressing urgent issues around crime categorisation. It follows evidence given by NTIA chief executive Michael Kill at the initial Home Affairs Committee on Spiking. The call for a specific spiking offence has received widespread support, with 33 MPs from five political parties endorsing the application. Kill emphasised the need for robust data to combat the crime effectively, a requirement not met by the existing legislative framework. “The absence of spiking being recognised as a distinct crime appears almost surreal, given its impact on thousands of people’s lives,” he said. “With the support of the cross-party backbench committee and the incumbent home secretary, there is a renewed confidence that a new opportunity will arise to address the legislative shortcomings. The goal is to establish spiking as a separate category, which will streamline the process to track this crime and strengthen intelligence and profiling of perpetrators, in a drive to reduce the exposure to this crime within society.”
GigRealm and Uber team up to provide safe transportation for live entertainers: Music booking platform GigRealm has partnered with Uber to offer free trips for live entertainers from across the country to get home safely after gigs. The initiative will enable venues that use the GigRealm platform to offer free rides to entertainers performing at their sites. Tom Brady, chief executive of GigRealm, said: “By offering free Uber credits to our acts, we aim to alleviate some of the logistical and financial burdens they encounter, ensuring they can concentrate on what they do best – delivering outstanding live performances. This initiative is particularly crucial for supporting the safety of women and LGBTQIA+ entertainers, who may be more vulnerable late at night, especially in unfamiliar towns and cities. It also aids our venues and operators we work with, in building stronger relationships with their acts by offering free credits that don’t add to their overheads and costs.” Andrew Brem, Uber’s UK general manager, added: “Safety is a key focus for us, and with millions of trips taking place every day, we want to help everyone get home as safely as possible.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association and GigRealm non-executive director, added: “This initiative will benefit performers and assist pubs in building strong relationships with them, ultimately enhancing the live music ecosystem and benefiting the high street.”

Company News:

Benito’s returns to expansion trail under new ownership, to open franchise site at Luton airport: Benito’s, the Mexican restaurant brand, is to return to the expansion trail, under the new ownership of Elangeni Hospitality, a new vehicle led by the brand’s former chief executive Michael Pearson, Propel has learned. Elangeni Hospitality has agreed a new franchise agreement with Airport Retail Enterprises UK (ARE) to launch a Benito’s store in London Luton airport (LLA). The 750 square-foot unit is to be located in the Departures Lounge of the airport and is expected to open later this month. The new store will be the first franchised unit for Benito’s, which continues to operate a company-owned site in Oxford’s Westgate scheme. Benito’s, formerly Benito’s Hat, was acquired by Pearson, through Elangeni Hospitality, at the end of 2022 and has since been repositioned with an updated look and feel, self-service kiosks and a branded breakfast offer called “Love Breakfast”. The company said Benito’s is growing its presence across the UK and is actively seeking high street franchise partners nationally, as well as new locations for company stores across the Midlands. Elangeni Hospitality also operates boutique cafe bar concept, Moko, which opened its debut site in November 2022 in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Pearson told Propel: “We are aiming for at least one more company store and one further franchise for Benito’s in 2024. Moko will be looking to add site two and three in 2025.” On the new Luton airport site, Pearson, chairman of Elangeni. said: “We’re incredibly excited about opening our first franchised Benito’s store with our franchise partners, ARE. Our relationship with the ARE team has developed over a number of years and the Benito’s store in London Luton is the culmination of a great deal of work on both sides. We have worked hard to reinvent the Benito’s brand over the last 12 months since we acquired the business and the introduction of our ‘Love Breakfast’ morning branding gives us the perfect platform for fast paced travel hubs like LLA.” ARE Director John Butts added: “We are thrilled to be bringing Benito’s to London Luton airport’s passengers and hope this to be the first of many UK airport sites for this high-quality Mexican brand.” Benito’s Hat was founded in 2008 and grew to eight sites before undergoing a restructure in 2020 that saw half of the business acquired out of administration. It was subsequently placed on the market in autumn 2022.

Azzurri Group takes significant step toward launching Boojum in England: Azzurri Group, the ASK Italian, Zizzi and Coco Di Mama operator, is to take a significant step towards launching its Boojum brand in England with the opening of a central production kitchen (CPK) in Leeds, Propel has learned. Propel revealed earlier this summer that the Steve Holmes-led business was to broaden its portfolio and enter the Mexican-themed fast-casual restaurant market with the acquisition of Boojum, the Belfast-based burrito chain. It acquired a controlling interest in the then 14-strong business from Renatus Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum, with the intention of looking to help the David Maxwell-led business grow both in Ireland and the UK. Alongside continued growth in Ireland – the business has recently opened a site in Liffey Valley – a focus was to be on opening sites in the north of England. The business currently has a CPK in Dublin which makes all its food, which is then delivered to the stores. Holmes told Propel: “It’s integral to the offer to ensure the distinct recipes and high-quality food. We only buy raw ingredients, then all salsas, guacamole etc are made every day in-store. In fact, several times a day to ensure freshness. We want to replicate that in Great Britain.”

Wingstop UK secures largest site to date, plans to exceed 2023 openings mark: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out the Wingstop brand in the UK, will open its largest site yet at Westfield Stratford City in London, in early 2024. Propel understands that the business has taken over the ex-Home Run House site previously operated by Passyunk Avenue until earlier this summer. Located on the first floor opposite the scheme’s World Food Court, the site is circa 5,000 square feet and will comprise over 160 covers. Wingstop UK currently operates 39 sites and has opened 11 new sites this year, and Propel understands the business intends to exceed that openings figure in 2024. It already has openings for next year lined up in Hounslow, Wood Green, Clapham, Croydon Leisure Park and Merry Hill. It is thought to have several more due to exchange or complete over the next two months. It expects revenues to reach about £65m this year, with like-for-like sales growth in double digits. Tom Grogan, co-founder of Lemon Pepper Holdings, said: “It has been great to work with the team at Westfield Stratford City to make this happen. As our largest site to date, we are excited to offer hungry shoppers our delicious Wingstop signature wings and variety of bold flavours and seasonings.” Kate Orwin, leasing director UK at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, added: “Following a year of strong growth for the food and beverage sector across our two London centres, we are excited to welcome Wingstop as the latest addition for 2024.”

Go-karts on track for £100m deal: Britain’s biggest indoor go-karting operator is gearing up for a sale that could fetch £100m. The Sunday Times reports TeamSport has hired investment bank Harris Williams to explore options ahead of a potential auction. It operates 35 racing tracks across the UK, including in London, Cardiff and Newcastle. It is expanding abroad, opening its first in Europe in Mönchengladbach, Germany, last year. The business was acquired by London private equity house Duke Street Capital in 2017 in a £40m deal. Surrey-based TeamSport opened its first track in Guildford in 1992. Its indoor tracks range from 400 metres to 1,000 metres and feature ramps and chicanes. City sources said bidders had been sounded out by advisers although a formal sale was yet to be kicked off. Duke Street is best known for overseeing the expansion of Wagamama, turning the brand into one of the most popular dining outlets in the UK.

Danish espresso bar concept Hagen opens new Mayfair site: Danish espresso bar concept Hagen has further increased its presence in central London with an opening in Mayfair. Born out of Copenhagen and founded in London, Hagen focuses on creating hygge (Danish for “comfortable conviviality”) spaces and serving premium specialty coffee in London’s affluent locations. The business, which has opened its latest site, its 12th, on the corner of New Bond Street and Brook Street, is understood to be looking at further site opportunities in the capital and is also set to open a site in Borough Yards. George Collison, of Savills, acts for Hagen.

Soho House shuts to new members following complaints its clubs are too busy: Soho House is shutting its doors to new members in London, New York and Los Angeles, following complaints that its city centre clubs have become overcrowded. In a letter to members, Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, said the business “continues to be very focused on improving service, as well as making sure our Houses don’t feel too busy”. He said: “Over the last 12 months, I have been spending a lot more time in our Houses. Stepping back from the day to day running of the business has meant that as founder, I’ve had the space to focus more attention on the clubs themselves. Two personal highlights have been opening Soho House Mexico City – our first House in Latin America – and Soho House Bangkok. I’ve been talking to our members and the teams in all our Houses, which I’ve really valued. We continue to be very focused on improving service, as well as making sure our Houses don’t feel too busy. For that reason, next year, we’re closing the doors to new members across our Houses in London, New York and Los Angeles, and will only be accepting members in locations where we have capacity. We have also introduced new local House menus, better choice in member events, upgraded our gyms and wellness facilities and made it easier to book via the Soho House App – all as a direct result of what members have been telling us. More improvements are on their way, and you should notice them soon. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.” Between October this year and last year, the company took on 21% more members. By 1 October 2023, it had 184,542 Soho House members, up from almost 118,000 two years earlier. Jones said the business was excited about upcoming Houses in São Paulo (Brazil), Portland (US) and Manchester (UK) – and “something new and quite special in Mayfair, London”. Propel revealed last month that Soho House is to open a new venue in London’s Mayfair after acquiring the iconic Hush restaurant site. The sale of the townhouse site in Lancashire Court, which was owned by the Jamie Barber-founded Hush Collection, was sold on the 24th anniversary of its opening.

Moonglow Trading secures funding to expand Black Sheep Coffee franchise business: Retailer Moonglow Trading has secured a seven-figure funding package to open up to four new coffee shops through a franchise agreement with Black Sheep Coffee. The company, which previously built and sold a 30-store network of Flying Tiger Copenhagen retail stores, said the new funding deal with HSBC UK would enable it to expand its hospitality offering by opening up to four Black Sheep Coffee franchises, including in South Gate House in Cardiff and on the High Street in Oxford. Jonathan Edwards, director of trading at Moonglow Trading, said: “Becoming a franchisee for Black Sheep Coffee has allowed Moonglow to use its experience in the retail and catering space to work with a unique coffee business with an upward growth trajectory. The move also fits with our aim to work alongside businesses which are shaking up traditions, using innovative tech for growth, as well as allowing us to explore opportunities outside London. HSBC UK was a great support throughout covid, and the bank continues to show it’s keen to invest in businesses with a unique proposition.” Black Sheep Coffee, which operates in excess of 70 outlets, has more than ten sites confirmed for its openings pipeline in the UK, and is also set to open a site at Luton airport. It is set to make its debut in the US next year, with two openings in Texas. Propel revealed in May, that the company had signed a franchise deal with Al Farran Investment to expand into the Middle East, with four sites already secured.

Turtle Bay makes Scottish debut: Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay has opened its first site in Scotland. Propel revealed in July that the brand had lined up the former Barrhead Travel unit at 130 St Vincent Street for its debut in the country. It has now opened its doors, offering “Caribbean inspired dishes, tropical rum cocktails and reggae beats”. To celebrate the restaurant’s arrival in Scotland, Turtle Bay has created the “Bru & Stormy” cocktail, featuring Irn-Bru paired with RedLeg spiced rum, bitters, and falernum – a Caribbean syrup made with ginger, lime and cloves. It has also launched a Christmas deal whereby guests can enjoy two courses for £24.50 or three for £29.50, with a free welcome cocktail, over the festive season. Gemma Lewis, operations manager at Turtle Bay said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to open our doors and welcome the people of Glasgow into our Caribbean paradise! This is the first Turtle Bay restaurant to touch down in Scotland and we’re so excited to meet new faces and celebrate in Caribbean style.” It is Turtle Bay’s 57th UK location, and chief executive Nick Crossley told Propel earlier this year that he expects it to open up further opportunities in Scotland for the brand. “I think we could operate three sites in Glasgow alone, as we do in Manchester,” he said. “There is probably room for two in Edinburgh, and single site opportunities in Aberdeen and Dundee.”

Chopstix introduces value deals and doubles reward points on its app, two new equity sites to open in January: Fast-growing, quick service restaurant brand Chopstix has introduced value deals and doubled certain reward points on its app as part of its “Stixmas Value” campaign. It said with the cost-of-living still effecting people over the festive season, rather than invest significant sums in Christmas advertising, it has chosen to focus on delivering great value for customers. The campaign sees Chopstix introduce new products such as its first ever family bundle, which feeds a family of four for under £25. This has been rolled out alongside multiple festive meal deals, while Chopstix app users will be eligible to earn double reward points on selected meals throughout December. It comes after Chopstix earlier this year reported a 40% rise in system sales in FY23 versus FY22, with co-founders Menashe Sadik and Sam Elia identifying its value offer as important to its continued growth. Elia said: “We’re very aware that many of our customers are facing a challenging winter, with our research showing one-third of UK consumers are planning on spending less this Christmas compared to previous years. We know one of the main reasons customers dine with us is because we consistently deliver great value, so we’ve doubled down on value with this campaign. Every element of our Christmas campaign is true to this proposition, and everything has been developed with the core aim of ensuring our customers are getting more for their money when they dine with us.” The  Chopstix  Group includes more than  100  Chopstix  sites, ten operating as Yangtze and 25 franchises under the  Chozen  Noodle brand. It is set to start 2024 with two new equity site openings in January.
Group behind Lake District hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant introduces dynamic pricing to mitigate rising costs: Lake District leisure group Casterton Leisure has begun using dynamic pricing to mitigate rising costs and has seen a “significant” drop in occupancy levels as the staycation boom tails off. The group now operates the Forest Side, on the outskirts of Grasmere, under the Wildsmith Hotels name, and the site has a Michelin-starred restaurant. The group previously owned The Ryebeck, on the outskirts of Bowness, which closed in November 2021 and was subsequently sold in October 2023 for £2.8m. The business also closed its Hipping Hall hotel on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales in July 2023 and put it on the market for £3.3m. The property remains unsold. Casterton Leisure reported turnover was down 19% to £3,116,683 for the year ending 24 February 2023 compared with £3,824,634 the year before. The group made a pre-tax loss of £338,729 compared with a profit of £663,685 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The year proved to be challenging in many ways with further price rises in both food and drink, the return to 20% VAT and continued inflation generally. An analysis of how best to mitigate these challenges led to us exploring dynamic pricing strategies to optimise the annual recurring revenue as well as evaluating sustainability initiatives impacting both cost savings and our environmental responsibility. After the increased occupancy levels that followed from the covid-19 pandemic, the business seems to have stabilised once again and the drop in occupancy levels has been significant. The business received government grants of £6,000 (2022: £256,064). No dividend was paid (2022: nil). The Forest Side’s restaurant maintained the Michelin star it regained in 2021 after first being awarded the accolade in 2016.
London hospitality investment and management business to launch Oxford destination venue for ninth UK site: London hospitality investment and management business EQ Group is set to launch a destination venue in Oxford for its ninth UK site. It has partnered with property develop Reef Group for The Store, which will launch in 2024 in the city’s Broad Street, in the historic former Boswells department store. The venue has been reimagined as a hotel, restaurant, rooftop bar, co-working bar and spa, arranged over seven floors and two interconnected buildings, with 101 rooms. The restaurant, Treadwell, will offer sustainably sourced produce from local suppliers and “bring multicultural influences to quintessentially British dishes”. These include chicken tikka masala pie with gunpowder new potatoes and makhani jus; and a cheeseburger with double smoked applewood cheddar, Cotswold chorizo, jalapeno jam, pickles and seasoned fries. The Bar at The Store, located on the ground floor, will offer coffee and cocktails in multi-use space, from co-working to leisurely lunches and evenings drinks, while The Roof at The Store will be a bar and terrace offering views over Oxford as well as classic cocktails, champagne, wine and beer, and a range of pop-ups residences themed to the season. The Spa at The Store will offer state-of-the-art facilities and treatments as well as private treatment rooms and studio space. EG Group’s portfolio includes Doubletree by Hiltons in Kingston and Swindon, Hilton Metropoles in London and Birmingham, Courtyard by Marriott in Didcot, The Gate and Blakes in London, and Hilton Garden Inn in Sunderland. It also owns eight hotels in France, three in Spain and one in Belgium.
Livingstone brothers’ hotel company sees turnover exceed pre-covid levels as it rises to £512m: London & Regional Hotels, which owns and manages an extensive hotel portfolio with more than 23,000 bedrooms across the UK, Europe, US and Caribbean, has reported turnover increased to £512m for the year ending 31 December 2022 compared with £223m the year before. Revenue also exceeded the £447m reported for the year ending 31 December 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Of the £512m turnover figure, £139m was from UK operations, £205m from the US, £72m from Spain, £37m from Greece, £22m from Italy £16m from Barbados, £15m from the Cayman Islands and £6m from Barbados. The business made a pre-tax profit of £68m compared with a loss of £18m the previous year after making a profit of £76m on the disposal of two sites, in the UK and Monaco. During the period, the company also acquired two hotels in the USA. No dividend was paid (2021: nil). London & Regional Properties, the original founding company of London & Regional Hotels, was created by billionaire brothers Richard and Ian Livingstone in 1990. It has become one of Europe’s largest privately owned property companies, with a worldwide investment and development portfolio of approximately £9bn.

Silverstone to launch new immersive experience with clubhouse, luxury short-let apartments and ‘destination’ restaurant: Formula 1 circuit Silverstone is set to launch Escapade, a new immersive experience featuring a clubhouse, luxury short-let apartments and a “destination” restaurant. Due to open in the spring, the 60 apartments will offer a mixture of trackside views, countryside views or both. The clubhouse offers a gym, swimming pool, sauna and treatment rooms on the ground floor, alongside a first-floor restaurant, bar, private dining room and roof terrace with views across the Silverstone estate. The restaurant will led by Adam Bateman, formerly head chef at Virgin Limited Edition and Le22 by Crock No Name, and executive chef at Green Kitchen in Singapore. A Silverstone spokesman said the business is looking to build on the popularity of of Formula 1 and the success of Netflix series “Drive To Survive”. He said: “The circuit is capitalising on this opportunity via investment in its facilities, diversified event offerings and increasing its capacity to become a year-round destination. To date, for those looking for higher-end accommodation for all events at Silverstone, Oxford or London have been the nearest options. Escapade Silverstone challenges that and brings an exceptional lifestyle experience to the very heart of the UK’s ‘Motorsport Valley’.”
Wagamama opens restaurant in Stockton: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, has opened a site at Teesside Park in Stockton. The venue has 126 internal covers and 26 external. It is Wagamama’s 159th UK restaurant and created 70 jobs. Alongside its traditional offer, the site has the new Korean-inspired menu, including Korean street food favourite k-dogs, made with a vegan twist and a crunchy noodle crumb, and Wagamama’s first hot pots. Meanwhile, Wagamama has reopened its Aberdeen restaurant following a refurbishment. Located in Union Square, the restaurant offers an additional 80 covers and created 20 more jobs. 
Britvic hires new independent NED: Britvic has hired Georgina Harvey as an independent non-executive director and chair of its Remuneration Committee, effective from 26 January 2024. Harvey was previously managing director regionals at Trinity Mirror Group, Wallpaper Group and IPC Advertising. After stepping down from her executive career in newspapers, she has built a career as a non-executive director, with a particular focus on remuneration committee chair roles. She is currently the senior independent director at Capita and serves on the board of Superdry as non-executive director. Harvey has previously served on the boards of McColl’s Retail Group, Big Yellow Group and William Hill within the last five years. She will replace Sue Clark, who will remain as a non-executive director before stepping down in 2024, as chair of the Remuneration Committee. Clark was appointed to the role in 2017, having first joined the board in 2016 as an independent non-executive director. Britvic Chairman Ian Durant said: “Georgina brings with her a wealth of talent and experience from her many non-executive director roles and her extensive executive career in media. I would like to thank Sue very much for the outstanding contribution she has made to Britvic over the past six years.”

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