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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 13th Dec 2023 - Update: Christmas trading, The Breakfast Club, Ottolenghi, Olive Tree
UK hospitality has mixed feelings about Christmas cheer and what comes next: Christmas – normally the busiest period for UK restaurants, bars and pubs – has been the source of little festive cheer for the hospitality sector in recent years. But Martin Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants, owners of Gaucho, told the FT this year was different. It has “not been very golden” since coronavirus hit, he explained, but this time “Christmas has got off to a bang”. Table bookings for December across Rare’s 23 sites nationwide were up by 21%, compared with last year, as of early December, Williams said. Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, said his restaurants were “heaving” at the moment, with bookings up as much as 30% on last year. Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, said the adoption of hybrid working by many employers had led to them viewing Christmas office parties as a means to bring colleagues together, resulting in a rise in corporate bookings. “The larger corporates are coming out and booking those Christmas functions again,” he said. Unlike the bullishness from the bigger restaurant groups, Tony Rudd, the patron chef of the Copper & Ink restaurant in south-east London, said December bookings had disappointed and were 30% down on last year. “2023 has been a year of cost pressures,” said Charlie Gilkes, who runs the Inception Group. “We’re seeing some improvements [in input costs] but I don’t think it’s time to celebrate. The big question in all of our minds is what happens to sales and what happens to consumer spending next year.” Like other larger chains, Gilkes said his 14 venues across London, were busy. Event bookings for December are 10% ahead of this time last year, with strong demand from both corporate and private clients. But the fear is that after splashing the cash in the run-up to Christmas, consumers will tighten their belts even more dramatically than usual early in the new year. “I think January and February are going to be awful,” said Alan Morgan, chief executive of the Big Table Group, which owns Bella Italia and Café Rouge. “People are feeling the pinch… and there is no evidence that Christmas spending is slowing so history suggests it will bite straight afterwards.”

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.

The Breakfast Club to make train station debut: All-day dining concept The Breakfast Club is to make its train station debut next year, at London’s St Pancras Station, Propel has learned. The business is partnering with SSP Group to launch a site at the station. Earlier this year, the business partnered with SSP Group to launch its debut travel hub site, at Gatwick Airport. It recently launched a new site in London’s Covent Garden. The business opened an 894 sq ft “caf” at 55 Neal Street Seven Dials. It became the 15th opening across the country for the brand.

Ottolenghi opens in Hampstead: London restaurant and deli operator Ottolenghi has opened in Hampstead for its sixth deli and eighth location overall. It has opened a dual-entrance site in the former Carluccio’s unit at 32-34 Rosslyn Hill, with one door leading to a casual deli for coffee, pastries and take away items, and another opening into a large dining room welcoming guests from breakfast through to dinner. Breakfast items include green eggs and ham with za’atar and feta scone, while among the lunch options are lamb shawarma kofta with bulgur and caramelised pomegranate onions. An á la carte dinner menu features small plates and larger sharing dishes such as roasted lamb shoulder with clementine glaze, Aleppo chilli and radish salad and turmeric roasted cauliflower with plum dressing. A list of natural and biodynamic bottles includes the recently released Ottolenghi own-label wine. There are also pre-packaged treats to take away, including festive items such as panettone and mince pies. Founder Yotam Ottolenghi said: “It’s a scandal it has taken us so long to arrive in Hampstead, but now that we’re here, it feels just right. I’m happy we managed to open a restaurant and a takeout deli, doing everything we love doing in a beautiful site.”

Olive Tree Brasserie opens in Leeds: Mediterranean restaurant brand Olive Tree Brasserie has opened in Leeds for its fourth site. Propel revealed in October that the Dean Wilson-led business would open at 8 South Parade, behind the ex-Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House site, adding to its sites in Lytham, Chester and Stockton Heath. It has now opened, following a £700,000 investment, offering Mediterranean favourites such as lamb kleftico, moussaka and dolmades, alongside lesser-known Greek dishes such as honey pastourma, which is a Greek cured beef sausage. Available from Monday to Friday, a meze lunch offers three meze dishes for £14.95, including truffle houmous, harissa falafel and spinach and feta arancini, while at weekends, a bottomless brunch offers 90 minutes of unlimited food and drink for £37.95. Drinks include Greek beer, coffee and spirits alongside a bespoke cocktail menu. Executive chef Aaron Thomas said: “We’re so excited to open, it’s been a long time coming with planning and fantastic to see our vision come to life. The feedback and response so far has been incredible and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to experience Olive Tree Leeds.”

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