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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 13th Dec 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Number of London sites in Harden’s Top 100 restaurants falls to all-time low as ‘destination dining in scenic locations’ triumphs: The number of London sites in Harden’s Top 100 restaurants has fallen to all-time low, with only 36 entries in the 2024 edition. It follows Harden’s reporting last year that the capital had seen the lowest level of new restaurant openings in more than a decade, and arguing last month that the London restaurant scene is in “tepid” state of growth. It said London is usually expected to make up 45-50% of its final rankings of the UK’s best restaurants. “London’s grip on the Top 100 list is the weakest that we have ever recorded (the lowest previous figure was 41 in the 2020 guide),” said Harden’s co-founder, Peter Harden. “While 12 months is too little data for firm pronouncements, this swing to the shires may reflect the increasing excellence of dining out across the country.” However, the guide notes that it is not regional cities driving any swing away from London, but destination dining in scenic locations such as this year’s winning entry, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria. “Unlike in other European countries, our greatest cities still tend to lack depth when it comes to quality restaurants at the top end,” Harden added. “The closest any city comes to London’s 36 in the Top 100 is Edinburgh and Cambridge with just three apiece. England's largest cities, like Birmingham and in particular Manchester, have a large number of total entries in the guide, but proportionately fewer at the top end in the Top 100 or Top 500. With eight entries in the Top 500, Brighton beats either location in this department. Top dining in the sticks is often just that, with Top 100 restaurants outside London often to be found in leafy touristic locations such as this year’s winner, L’Enclume in The Lake District; or the number two on the list, Outlaw’s New Road in scenic Port Isaac.”  Last year’s winner, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, slips to third place in 2024. L’Enclume has featured in the Harden’s Top 100 every year since the list first launched in 2011 but this is the first time it has reached the top spot. Harden added: “L’Enclume has always been consistent in its top quality offering. Coming in at £300-plus including drinks and service, it’s certainly one of the higher priced restaurants in our listings, but we see none of the resistance from diners with regards to paying those prices that we’ve witness as other top establishments. Those who’ve made the pilgrimage think it’s money well spent.”

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 £395 plus VAT for one day and £700 plus VAT for two. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Jo Charity at Propel on
Premium subscribers to receive ten videos on Friday from up-and-coming operators as they explore ‘white space’ opportunity: Premium subscribers will receive ten videos on Friday (15 December), at 9am, 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. 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. Premium subscribers also receive access to six databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Managed operators see like-for-likes up 4% in November for 14th consecutive month of growth, London sales slower than rest of UK for first time in 2023: Britain’s leading hospitality groups achieved year-on-year sales growth of 4.0% in November, the new CGA RSM Hospitality Business Tracker reveals. Restaurant, pub, and bar groups have now achieved 14 months of like-for-like sales growth in a row, while November’s figure marks an increase from 3.2% in October and is close to the current rate of inflation in the UK, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The tracker, produced by CGA by NIQ in partnership with RSM UK, indicates an equally solid month for pubs, where like-for-like sales were 5.0% ahead of November 2022; and restaurants, where growth reached 4.9%. However, sales in bars were 6.9% down year-on-year. For the first time in 2023, total sales growth in the tracker was slower in London than the rest of the country. Groups’ sales within the M25 in November were 3.5% up on last year, slightly behind the increase of 4.2% elsewhere. Karl Chessell, director hospitality operators and food EMEA at CGA by NIQ, said: “November’s solid growth raises hopes that consumers are starting to spend a little more freely, and that hospitality might move into consistent real-terms growth in 2024. However, with the sector still besieged by relentlessly high costs, conditions will stay challenging for some time to come. Christmas trading can make the difference between a modest year and a good one, so all businesses will be hoping that consumers’ celebratory mood translates into confident spending on eating and drinking out.”
Railway station catering market ‘not working as effectively as it should be’ and needs ‘greater competition’: The railway station catering market is “not working as effectively as it should be” and needs “greater competition” to “drive better value”, a new report has found. The sector is being investigated by The Office of Rail and Road (ORR), a non-ministerial government department responsible for the economic regulation of Britain’s railways. The ORR believes a more competitive market would not only provide better options for passengers but allow for more investment in the railways. Its report found that outlets can stay in the same hands for extended periods because leases are protected, and those who run stations are not sufficiently incentivised to invite competition for outlets. Even when unprotected leases come up for renewal, the most common practice is to roll over or extend the lease without an open competition, it said. This is a crucial factor as nearly half of all stations (47%) with retail space have just one outlet, the study added. It also found that features of the market may contribute to an average 10% price premium at stations compared with the high street. Its investigation is ongoing and will next focus on what recommendations should be made to improve the functioning of the market. Will Godfrey, director of economics, finance and markets at ORR, said: “The railway station catering market isn’t working as effectively as it should be. More competition between companies to operate at stations would bring real benefits to passengers and taxpayers. Because money earned from leases at stations ultimately makes its way back to those who operate railway stations and infrastructure, this is money that could be invested in improving services for passengers or reducing the need for taxpayer support.” Station catering retailers earned total revenue of around £700m in 2022-23, while station operators earned a little over £100m in rental income from leasing outlets for catering services in the same period. SSP, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, is the largest single player in station catering, with its share of all outlets larger than that of the next six largest players combined, the report said.
NTIA CEO questions true value of covid inquiry without industry representation: Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, has questioned the true value of the covid inquiry to taxpayers without industry representation. 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 and has so far heard from MPs including former prime minister Boris Johnson and current prime minister Rishi Sunak, as well as Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, among others. But Kill has said the inquiry must include representation from the hospitality and cultural sectors to “truly address the questions and issues that people are seeking answers to”. He said: “Without a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by businesses in these sectors, the inquiry risks falling short of providing meaningful insights. Omitting representation from the nightlife and cultural industries would not only undermine the credibility of the investigation but also render it a futile exercise, ultimately wasting taxpayers’ money. It is surreal to witness the celebration of initiatives like ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ as saviours of the industry and job creators when, in reality, they failed to encompass the diverse landscape of businesses within our sector. The scheme’s narrow scope marginalised wet-led establishments and late-night venues, offering disproportionate support and leaving many businesses unsupported. The lack of consideration for scalability in the financial models used during the programme has resulted in a broad-brush approach, burdening numerous businesses with debts that will linger for years to come. For a comprehensive and effective inquiry, it is imperative to include voices from all sectors affected by the pandemic, ensuring a nuanced understanding of the challenges faced by businesses in the hospitality and cultural realms. Failure to do so not only risks perpetuating misconceptions but also compromises the inquiry’s ability to deliver the answers and solutions our industry urgently needs.”
Small firms bound by ‘straitjacket of harsh banking practices’: The small business trade lobby has lodged a “super-complaint” with the City’s senior financial regulator over “harsh” banking practices imposed on entrepreneurs. The Times reports that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) told the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that banks were demanding personal guarantees for commercial loans which can become a “straitjacket on business growth” and force company bosses to put their assets, including their homes, at risk. Under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, a super-complaint allows consumer bodies to complain about features of the financial services market and the authorities have 90 calendar days to respond, explaining how they will deal with the complaint. The FSB’s super-complaint – the first to be received directly by the FCA, although it has previously worked on other super-complaints submitted to the Payment Systems Regulator and Competition and Markets Authority – asks the City watchdog to evaluate how widespread the practice is of asking for personal guarantees, and to then request that the Treasury updates its rules to ensure that personal guarantees balance the interests of borrowers and lenders. Martin McTague, national chairman of the FSB, said: “It is no wonder that many small business owners in that position are telling us they are choosing to avoid external funding, which they could be using to capitalise on new opportunities. Small firms are by definition the ones with the most potential to grow and to go from start-up to scale-up. The FCA needs to find a balance so that lending is neither over-cautious nor reckless.” The regulator said: “We will consider the complaint carefully, in line with the relevant legal framework, and respond.”
Ten new sector operators join Zero Carbon Forum: Better burger brand Five Guys UK is among ten new sector operators to join the Zero Carbon Forum. The circa 160-strong brand features as part of a new wave of incoming members to join the forum that includes Ballie Ballerson, Drake & Morgan, ETM Group, Houston and Hawkes, Manorview Hotels & Leisure, Mission Mars, Purity Brewing Company, The Hummingbird Bakery and Tossed. The businesses will sit alongside more than 60 operators who are pooling resources and sharing learnings to accelerate emission reduction and adapt to the impacts of climate change. All have pledged to work collaboratively to reach sustainability targets faster and more cost effectively than acting alone, and to reach net zero emissions by 2030 on their own operations, and 2040 across their supply chain. Bob Gordon, director of Zero Carbon Forum, said: “Building on the great work we have achieved this year, we’re thrilled that such a wide and diverse range of new members have joined the forum and pledged to make the crucial difference needed to achieve systemic change through collaboration.” 

More than 220 hospitality and leisure businesses in Westminster supported to attract new talent through innovative recruitment scheme: More than 220 hospitality and leisure businesses in Westminster have been supported with recruitment and retention of new talent a year on from the launch of an innovative scheme. The first of its kind in the UK, the initiative created in partnership by Step Ahead, New West End Company, Knightsbridge Partnership and AttisTowns, and funded by Westminster City Council, attracted interest from more than 7,000 potential employees in the first six weeks. To date, more than 150 people have been placed in new roles, all at London Living Wage rates or above. Westminster is home to more than 3,700 restaurants, bars and cafes and a further 4,000 leisure businesses supporting around 120,000 jobs. Operators that have signed up to the scheme include Caprice Holdings, food hall dining experience Arcade and London restaurants such as Balthazar and Scott’s Mayfair. One of the ways Westminster Works is adapting to the needs of businesses in a changing labour market is by attracting a “new, diverse range of high calibre applicants to the roles via a bespoke training service run by Step Ahead”. Candidates are first enrolled in a level 2 certificate in understanding excellence in customer service for hospitality, upon completion of which they are offered guaranteed interviews with selected employers in the Westminster Works scheme. Candidates can then go on to take either a level 1 course in employability skills or a level 1 in personal and social development, with each lasting seven days and being completed fully remotely. There are currently more than 120 live vacancies as part of the Westminster Works programme for a diverse range of hospitality roles.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a procurement organisation in the north west of England that operates across various industries and is looking for a category manager to join its team. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be responsible for managing the dried, frozen and ambient food categories by implementing procurement strategies, managing supply base, negotiating the best deals, and seeking opportunities to increase and improve the categories. This is a fantastic opportunity for a talented category manager or experienced buyer to join a brilliant business that can offer an enjoyable working environment and genuine progression opportunities.” The salary is up to £65,000 and the position is based in Manchester. For more information, email 

Company News:

Swingers venues ‘performing strongly’ and business ‘well placed for growth’ as turnover increases to record £36m: Competitive Socialising, the owner of crazy golf concept Swingers, has said its venues are performing strongly and the business is “well placed for growth”. It comes as the group, which earlier this year raised $52m to support expansion through to 2026, reported turnover increased to a record £36,160,072 for the year ending 25 December 2022 compared with £14,357,054 the previous year. Revenue from UK operations was up to £17,203,242 (2021: £10,230,530) while US revenue rose to £18,956,830 (2021: £4,126,504). Pre-tax losses increased to £7,862,824 from £6,705,190 the year before as the business, which last week revealed it was set for a record-breaking festive period, continued its growth plans. Exceptional items in the form of restructuring costs totalled £128,733 (2021: £128,128). Co-founder Matt Grech Smith told Propel: “Company trading is good. Next year is our Dubai franchise and our Vegas flagship launch – both big projects, and further sites are planned for 2025.” In his report accompanying the accounts, Grech-Smith stated: “In June 2022, the group opened its fourth global venue, in New York City. This site, together with the two London venues and Swingers’ first Washington DC venue, continue to perform strongly. In March 2023, the group opened its second venue in Washington DC. In December 2022, Swingers completed the lease for its flagship Las Vegas venue, opening in the autumn of 2024 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. In May 2023, Swingers agreed to open a new location on Bluewaters Island, Dubai, which will be Swingers’ first franchise, in partnership with Daud Investments. It will open in spring 2024. In May 2023, Competitive Socialising completed its Series-C $52m growth capital raise to fund its expansion through to 2026. This investment was part funded by Jampurchaseco, which followed on its Series-B investment of 2018. It was joined in the round by a number of third party institutional investors. The board continues to manage the group’s cost base despite significant macroeconomic cost pressures but is well placed for growth over the coming years.” The business did not receive any government grants (2021: £678,785) or insurance payouts (2021: £437,658). No dividend was paid (2021: nil).

Urban Baristas launches franchise offer, plans 30 additional stores over next three years: Aussie-inspired coffee concept Urban Baristas has launched its first franchise offer as its look to add 30 additional sites to its current 12-strong estate over the next three years through a “strategic franchising approach”, Propel has learned. Urban Baristas, which was founded in 2016 by Huw Wardrope and Jono Bowman and started out in a small kiosk in Bounds Green, north London, has signed its first franchisee, Manny Singh, who the company described as “a seasoned and highly experienced entrepreneur with a background in franchising”. For the past ten years, Singh has been a franchisee with gym brand Anytime Fitness. Urban Baristas said: “We are proud to announce a significant milestone as we welcome our very first franchisee, Manny Singh, to the Urban Baristas family. This strategic partnership marks a big step forward for both Urban Baristas and Manny as we join forces to bring the distinctive Urban Baristas coffee experience to new neighbourhoods.” Wardrope said: “Having been a franchisee myself, I am dedicated to ensuring that our franchisees succeed and work together to bring epic coffee to the UK. This moment marks an exciting chapter in Urban Baristas’ journey as we extend our commitment to delivering unparalleled coffee experiences.” The business, which takes its influence from the laidback vibes of Bondi Beach culture, operates sites in locations including South Kensington, Wapping, Middlesex Street and London Dock. It also offers a wholesale range, through its Urban at Home offer. Urban Baristas will feature in the next Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK 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.

Valiant Pub Co acquires four sites from McManus Pub Co: Valiant Pub Company, which was co-founded by Hawthorn Leisure co-founders Gerry Carroll and Mark McGinty at the start of 2021, has acquired four pubs from McManus Pub Company, Propel has learned. Located across Northampton, the properties are The Lord Byron, The Fox & Hounds, The Golden Horse and The Foundrymans Arms. The sale of the pubs leaves McManus with 18 sites. Gary McManus, managing director of McManus Pub Company, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a group of pubs that has been with us for many years. We would like to thank all of our guests that have supported us through the years. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of our teams, past and present, for their hard work and dedication and we wish them all the best for the future. It is the right time in our journey to reduce our liabilities and establish more solid foundations for the business. It gives us confidence to refocus our growth and explore exciting opportunities in bedrooms, wet-led and neighbourhood venues, both locally and regionally. Tom McManus, strategy and operations manager, will lead future acquisitions of suitable leasehold and freehold pub opportunities across Northamptonshire, Essex and surrounding counties.” In October, Valiant, which is backed by investment firm Njord Partners, reached the 50-site mark and told Propel it had the firepower to triple that number if “the right opportunity” came along. Carroll told Propel at the time that Valiant was taking a steady approach to its expansion plans, happy to pick off single site opportunities, but was ready to move on bigger portfolios if the right ones presented themselves. On the McManus deal, McGinty said: “We are very happy to acquire these high-quality pubs and look forward to welcoming them to the Valiant family.” Neil Morgan, senior director – pubs and restaurants at Christie & Co, brokered the deal.

Amber Taverns adds four new sites to 2024 opening pipeline, pre-Christmas trading strong to date: Amber Taverns, the 170-strong, wet-led, freehold community pub operator, has added four new sites to its opening pipeline for next year, as it said pre-Christmas trading had been “strong to date”. The new sites expand the company’s presence to four new locations, namely Derby and Bridgend, as well as Airdrie and Motherwell in Scotland. All four sites will undergo extensive investment and refurbishment before reopening next spring. The Derby site was previously a Lloyds No 1 bar while the other three are all former retail premises. A total of £4.5m will be invested in the locations, including freehold acquisition. In addition, following a major refurbishment, Amber opened its seventh pub in South Wales last week, in Caerphilly, under the name The Railway, further consolidating its footprint in that region. Work has also commenced at the company’s recently acquired site in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. In addition to ongoing organic investment in the existing estate, Amber said it continues to build an “encouraging pipeline of good, new site opportunities” in pursuit of its aim to add about 15 new pubs to its portfolio each year. The company said it has consistently achieved historic high returns of more than 20% on new freehold acquisitions and has lots of target towns within its existing geography to continue to expand its geographic footprint with “well invested pubs at the heart of their communities with broad appeal across the UK”. It said trading remains “encouraging” with like-for-like sales ahead of the CGA tracker, while the company’s beer volumes continue to outperform the market. James Baer, chief executive of Amber Taverns, said: “We continue to see attractive opportunities in a variety of locations and the four new site acquisitions gets our 2024 expansion ambitions off to an encouraging start. It is noteworthy that all four are situated in locations where Amber isn’t yet represented. While we remain disciplined in our approach to acquisitions and the strict returns criteria we seek, we are confident that good quality, well-invested pubs that provide their local communities with comfortable surroundings, reasonably priced drinks and a warm welcome, will continue to thrive and prosper. This reinforces our confidence in our growth plans for 2024 and beyond.”
Jonathan Kaye opens fifth Storia site: Ex-Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye has opened the fifth site for his fledgling Italian restaurant business, Storia. Kaye, who was also the ex-chief executive of Dining Street – the formerly listed Richoux Group, which was the company behind the Richoux, Friendly Phil’s, Villagio and The Broadwick restaurant brands – has opened his latest Storia site on the ex-Prezzo unit in Woodford Green’s Johnston Road. It comes two months after Kaye opened a Storia site on the former Prezzo in Shepperton’s High Street. Propel revealed in July that Kaye was to double the size of the Storia estate after acquiring three sites previously operated by his former brand. He has also lined up an opening in Redhill, Surrey, in February 2024. The sites were part of the 47 restaurants that Prezzo closed earlier this year, as part of its restructuring plan. Kaye, who grew Prezzo to circa 250 sites before it was acquired by US investment firm TPG in November 2014 for circa £304m, launched Storia in 2021. Storia made its debut at the former Prezzo site in Tring High Street, before a second site opened on the former The Broadwick outlet in Radlett. Last summer, he opened a third Storia on the former The Broadwick site in Bridge Street, Maidenhead. Kaye launched the concept with business partner, and former Prezzo director, Mehdi Gashi.
Kerb to focus inKERBator programme on woman-owned concepts: Street food collective Kerb is to dedicate its inKERBator programme in January to eight women-owned street food businesses. It said: “We’ve got 140-plus amazing Kerb members, but only 32% of those currently represent women-owned businesses. It’s time to flip those stats and more opportunities for women in food and fill the markets with diverse and representative entrepreneurs. This January, we’re turning up the volume on women in food, giving them a stage to dish up their mouth-watering creations. The inKERBator programme is our one-of-a-kind programme built for early-stage street food business start-ups. It’s a chance to get hands-on, with three weeks in the classroom at Kerb headquarters before businesses hit our central London markets with a six-week residency. The Kerb+ team is by their side throughout with tips, advice and support. We help them to develop their brand, dishes, service, operations, staffing and more. At the end of the programme, there’s a chance to graduate and become a fully-fledged Kerb member. Kerb membership unlocks incredible trading opportunities across our London lunch markets, at Kerb at the National Theatre, our flagship food hall Seven Dials Market and at Kerb events across the country.”
Ex-Bill’s COO to open second site for fledgling Japanese concept: Graham Ford, formerly of Bill’s, Carluccio’s and Benito’s Hat, is to open a second site under his fledgling Japanese restaurant and bar concept, Kinjo, Propel has learned. Ford, who was previously chief operating officer at Bill’s and commercial director at Carluccio’s, opened the first Kinjo site last autumn at 46 Station Road East, Oxted. The concept, which Ford co-founded with Purna Gurung, is set to open a second site in Cobham, next spring. Ford, who was also previously chief executive of Benito’s Hat and is managing director of kebab restaurant concept BabaBoom, said: “After a successful first year of trading at Kinjo in Oxted, I’m delighted to share news of our second site opening in Cobham spring 2024! Super excited to be bringing our high-quality Japanese food and drinks to this fantastic location.” Kinjo is described as a “Japanese restaurant, bar and grill offering daytime and late-night dining and cocktails”. 
Team behind Maray adds Liverpool neighbourhood bar and restaurant to portfolio: The team behind Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant and cocktail bar concept Maray has added a Liverpool neighbourhood bar and restaurant to its portfolio. QVO Hospitality, the parent company of Maray, which operates three sites in Liverpool and one in Manchester, has agreed an operating partnership with Jonathan and Miles Falkingham to take over the management of Buyers Club, in Hardman Street. Specialising in fresh, daily made pasta and natural wine, Buyers Club has operated in the site of the former The Picket bar and music venue since 2015. QVO, run by founders James Bates and Thomas White, has also operated The One O’Clock Gun pub at the Royal Albert Dock since 2021. For Buyers Club, White and Bates have been joined by new shareholders Lucy Noone Blake and Tom Stanley, both long term board members of the company. White said: “We love Buyers Club. We’ve been regulars there for years, and so when this opportunity arose, we jumped for it. The team in place is great, it’s doing a brilliant job, and we can’t wait to work with it to take Buyers Club into the new year.”
Prezzo appoints Beatrice Vears as new CMO: Prezzo, the Cain International-backed Italian dining group, has appointed Beatrice Vears, formerly of Sodexo Live! and Whitbread, as its new chief marketing officer, Propel has learned. Vears joins the circa 95-strong Prezzo after nearly two years as managing director of HDY Agency – the independent brand, performance and content agency. Prior to that, she spent more than two and a half years as marketing director at Sodexo Live! and five years as head of brand marketing at Premier Inn. Last month, Propel revealed that Prezzo had appointed George Hebditch, formerly of Pret A Manger, as its new commercial director. It follows Prezzo, which is led by Dean Challenger, launching a new online benefits platform called Prezzo Perks, a new one-stop-shop for “all our team members to view and choose their benefits available as part of their role at Prezzo”. 
Redemption Roasters nears crowdfunding target as it looks to ‘scale our impact’: The world’s first prison-based coffee company, Redemption Roasters, is close to reaching its crowdfunding target of £1.2m, with the funds set to be used to enable the business to “expand our retail and e-commerce sales channels and scale our impact”. Max Dubiel, who previously founded Black Sheep Coffee, launched Redemption Roasters with old university friend Ted Rosner in August 2015, and has since expanded the business to ten sites across London and 200-plus wholesale clients. The business reported net sales of £8.1m over the last 12 months, with Ebitda of £372,000, and year-on-year growth of 43%. The company has so far raised £1,167,340 from 80 investors, with ten days remaining in the raise. The business, which is crowdfunding through Crowdcube, is offering 5.17% of equity and has a pre-money valuation of £22m. Investors include Barrow Cadbury, Rothschild’s venture philanthropy arm, and the Treebeard Trust. Asked about a future exit strategy for the business, Dubiel said: “We are treading a fine line between business and charity and above all, we want to lock in the purpose and not turn it into a gimmick. We’re exploring strategies for doing this with how the charity and the private company operationally and legally interact. We have had interest from a number of private equity and venture capital firms at this raise already but believed it was too early to part with control. A most likely short-term exit scenario would be a secondary exit at our next raise in 2026.” At the start of the year, Redemption had worked with 14 prisons to date – at Highdown HMP, more than 1,500 people have been supported through Redemption’s barista training programme. 
OHH Pub Company MD hands control of Cotswolds site to operations manager to focus on steak restaurant concept: Mark Warburton, managing director of West Country operator The OHH Pub Company, has handed over control of The Old House at Home in the Cotswolds village of Burton to his operations manager as he focuses on his steak restaurant concept The Cow & Sow. Warburton told Propel that Connor Beazer, who has been operations manager for the past five years, had always wanted to have his own business – and has given him a helping hand. Warburton remains the landlord of the pub. He told Propel: “Connor came to me as a junior general manager five years ago at The Bear & Swan. The pandemic made me look at the business from a different perspective and I took the opportunity to launch my Cow & Sow concept. With that came the decision to think outside the box, having sold two pubs to Butcombe/Liberation in May 2022. Connor always made it clear he wanted his own pub business, so we spent the past two or so years building towards this, and he’s now the successor of 40 years of my family reign. As I remain the landlord, he also has an option on the freehold and we will continue to work closely together to ensure the success of his venture.” Warburton launched The Cow & Sow in the former Graze restaurant site in Bristol’s Queens Square last year and followed that up with an opening in the former Cowshed premises in Whiteladies Road in the city.
Travelodge targeting 40 new hotels across south west: Travelodge is targeting 40 new hotels across the south west of England. The company has retained Hartnell Taylor Cook to find new sites across the region. Travelodge is looking for development and conversion opportunities in locations including Bath, Bristol and Gloucester. The expansion programme will create multimillion-pound investment opportunities for third party investors and hundreds of new jobs, it said. Tony O’Brien, UK development director at Travelodge, said: “The south west is a key growth area for Travelodge, as the region is attracting record visitor numbers but there is a shortage of good quality and good value accommodation. To help fill this growing demand from business and leisure travellers, we have identified 40 locations across the region where we want to open a Travelodge hotel.”
Blank Street Coffee makes regional debut: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its debut in the UK last July, has opened up its first regional site, in Manchester. The company, which currently has 23 stores in London, has opened on the former Caffe Nero site in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. Propel revealed last month that Blank Street, which hopes to have more than 30 sites in the UK within the next year, was planning to launch in Manchester. Ignacio Llado, UK managing director of Blank Street, told Propel: “2024 is going to be an exciting one for Blank Street. We are seeing more and more demand from customers and landlords to open up in new neighbourhoods in London and beyond. We will be looking to expand our footprint in London, alongside exploring other UK cities. London is a huge market, with almost 2,000 coffee shops. More than 75% of these are owned by major chains; some of these have upwards of 400 stores! However, these dominant players have made limited changes in terms of customer experience or innovation over the last few years. At Blank Street, we saw this as an opportunity to redefine what it means to be a coffee chain in today's high street, challenge the status quo and raise the bar.”
Team operating historic Salford pub eyes expansion after taking over ownership: The team that has operated a historic Salford pub for the past two years has taken over its ownership and is now looking to add further sites. Developer Salboy and construction company Domis originally redeveloped The Black Friar, which reopened in 2021 after two decades and a £1.4m restoration. Now they have handed over full ownership to the pub’s managing director, Neil Burke, who has led the Black Friar over the past two years, with the support of head chef Ben Chaplin. The Blackfriars Road pub now employs 45 staff and has more than doubled its weekly covers from 700 to 1,500 since the pandemic. Under the new ownership, Burke plans to expand the business with the ambition of redeveloping and bringing other “iconic and landmark” pubs back to life around the north through sister company Bigger Boat Hospitality, with the aim also to grow the catering and off-site events arm of the business. Burke said: “It’s a dream to take over the ownership of the Black Friar and take the pub to the next level. Without the support of Domis and Salboy in seeing us through the notoriously difficult first 12 months of business, we would not be here standing proud. When the team asked me to work with it to open the pub it was my ambition to create an inclusive space that became known as one of the best pubs in Manchester. Now it’s about the future, growing on what we have already created, not sitting still and continuing to love our guests.”
SSP appoints Paula Brady as new trading director: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has appointed Paula Brady, formerly of Tesco, as its new trading director. Brady joins SSP after 18 years with Tesco, including the last year and a half as the retailer’s group head of non-food brand and seasonal propositions. She also spent a year as the company’s group head of brand proposition. Last week, SSP reported like-for-like sales up 22% over the last two months driven by passenger recovery, and said it is aiming for like-for-like sales growth of 6%-10% in 2024. At the same time, Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog opened at Gatwick airport for the first UK site in its partnership with SSP, with further travel hubs launches to follow.
Liverpool operators to open second site for Italian coffee chop concept: Liverpool operators and brothers, Paulo and Donato Cillo, are opening a second site in the city for their Italian coffee chop concept, Gran Caffè. Offering authentic Italian coffee, freshly baked Italian pastries, sandwiches served on homemade sourdough bread and gelato that’s made in house daily, the venue will open in Duke Street later this month and seat up to 30 people. Gran Caffè has been serving its Italian delicacies in Williamson Square for more than ten years. Originally opening as P&D Deli, the venue underwent a renaissance “to reflect the finest quality ingredients used as well as the varied selection of traditional Italian coffee served within the venue”. Donato said: “After more than a decade, it’s now the right time to expand Gran Caffè with our second site in Liverpool city centre. We’re very excited to be opening in Duke Street in the heart of the Ropewalks district, introducing authentic Italian coffee, pastries and gelato to the other side of town.” The Cillos have operated venues such as Brunchin, Hey Farina and Antonietta Cakes and Gelato in Liverpool’s Italian quarter since 2010. Donato, originally from Potenza in Basilicata, previously had his own restaurant in Italy. He originally came to Liverpool a few times a year as a consultant to train staff at the Il Forno restaurant in Duke Street, before deciding to start his own business in the city.
Sale e Pepe to reopen in February following renovation to mark 50th anniversary: Sale e Pepe, the historic Italian restaurant in London’s Knightsbridge, will reopen in February following a renovation to mark its 50th anniversary. Original owner Toni Corricelli opened the restaurant on Pavilion Road in 1974 and continued to manage it for over 45 years, serving the likes of Rod Stewart, Sir Roger Moore, Priscilla Presley and Ringo Starr. In June 2022, he retired and handed over ownership to restaurateur Markus Thesleff, which operates fellow London venues Los Mochis and Viajante87. The group said it will both “preserve the essence that has enchanted its patrons for all these years and reimagine its identity for the next generation”. The menu will be updated to reflect the Italian “famiglia” style of sharing primi and secondi, with Sale e Pepe classics such as the Vitello Milanese and Linguine all’Aragosta reimagined into larger dishes for the whole table. Thesleff said: “We feel privileged to carry on Toni’s legacy and serve the loyal patrons of this iconic restaurant. It will be equal parts exhilarating and intimidating to unveil the new Sale e Pepe. Our aim is to breathe new life into the restaurant while also paying homage to its rich history. We’re confident that Toni and his customers will be as thrilled as we are with the transformation.”

Wingstop opens second Edinburgh site: Lemon Pepper Holdings, the company behind the rollout of Wingstop in the UK, has opened a second site for the brand in Edinburgh. The business, which opened a site at the city’s St James Quarter scheme in December 2021, has launched at Fountain Park, just west of Edinburgh city centre. It marks Wingstop’s third dine-in site in Scotland, having opened in Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre last month. Tom Grogan, co-founder of Lemon Pepper Holdings, master franchisee, Wingstop UK, said: “The Scots are really embracing our wings, and we are looking forward to sharing the authentic and customised Wingstop experience with diners visiting Fountain Park.” Earlier this week, Propel reported Wingstop will open its largest site yet – at Westfield Stratford City in London, in early 2024. Propel understands Wingstop has taken over the ex-Home Run House site previously operated by Passyunk Avenue until 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 more than 160 covers.

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