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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 14th Dec 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Rekom UK – people spending less on a late-night out, being less spontaneous, consuming less alcohol: For the first time in over a year, people are spending less on a late night out, according to the quarterly survey by late-night operator Rekom UK. The company’s latest Night Index – which surveyed a sample of 2,252 18+ year olds, including 1,000 18-21 year olds and 500 students, from 13 to 17 November 2023, revealed that total spend on a night out has decreased by 2.1% to £73.19 per person on average, more in line with expenditures in autumn last year (October 2022: £73.36). Despite this, pricing remains the top concern for nearly half (44.9%) of consumers when deciding to go on a night out. The Index also found that while students used to go out during the week, for over two thirds (67.9%) of students, Saturday has pipped Friday to be the most popular day of the week to go out. At the same time, it found that low- or no-alcohol offerings are increasingly prominent as nearly half of those surveyed (45.9%) regularly go on a night out without consuming alcohol. This was particularly prevalent for those aged 25-34 (54.3%), while over half (52%) said that they now consume less alcohol on a night out compared to a year ago. This rose to 59.7% for 25-34 year olds, and among students it was 48.5%. Additionally, the survey found that social media platforms are fast becoming the go-to for many customers in how they choose a night out, with a quarter choosing Instagram (25.1%) and TikTok (24%). For students, TikTok was the most popular platform. Peter Marks, chairman of Rekom UK, said: “Over the past year or so, there has been a clear and fundamental shift in people’s socialising habits, as a direct impact of the cost-of-living crisis. People are still going out less and spending less money. The high rents, which haven’t adjusted for the tough economic conditions affecting businesses across the sector, make for difficult trading. We have had to think prudently about our business decisions, whether that’s choosing to no longer open early midweek to focusing our efforts on the bar sector, which offers an extended trading timeframe and appeals to a broader demographic.” The survey also found that pre-drink spend decreased by 2.5% to £12.97 (July 2023: £13.31), transport spend by 5.5% to £12.77 (July 2023: £13.51), entry fee spend by 6.2% to £10.81 (July 2023: £11.53), and drinks in venue by 1.2% to £18.92 (July 2023: £19.16). Food spend was the only category to increase, by 2.6% to £17.72 (July 2023: £17.26). Pricing remains the most important factor for respondents (44.9%), largely unchanged from 45.1% in July 2023, while 58% go out at least once a week, an 8.9% decrease from 66.9% in July 2023. Amongst 18-24 year olds, this is 69.2%, a 5.7% decrease from 74.9% in July 2023.  Russell Quelch, operations director at REKOM UK, added: “We’re adapting our offering accordingly to meet these changes in consumer demand, and we are prioritising our bars where the space is multi-functional. By providing areas for dining, drinks and dancing, we can accommodate a diverse range of preferences and cater to everyone’s needs.”

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2024 open for bookings: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its sixth edition, and tickets are now on sale. The event is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, aiming to build a community, promote the sharing of ideas, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference, as the centrepiece of the January event series, taking place on 23 and 24 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The conference will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, diversification of revenue streams and how brands are adapting to the new normal. It is designed for marketing, development and innovation teams, as well as senior executives and investors wanting to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. Day one speakers include: Andreia Harwood, marketing director – EMEA at Wingstop; Sam Bourke, marketing director at Fuller’s; Sarah Collins, head of marketing at the Rick Stein Group; Jessica Wight, marketing director at Bistrot Pierre; François Blouin and Claire Diemer, chief executive and director of qualitative studies respectively at Foodservice Vision; Katy Moses, managing director at insight consultancy KAM; Lina Olea, marketing director at Wireless Social; Jack Jolly, senior marketing manager at Mission Mars and founder of H!JACK; Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford; Amanda Mason, head of marketing at Roadchef; James Coldrey-Mobbs, sales and marketing director at East Coast Concepts; Anthony Pender, co-founder of Our Yummy Collection; Natalie Waldron, of Natalie Waldron Design; Dan Burns, of Natural Selection Design; Matt Preisinger, marketing and brand director at Brewhouse & Kitchen; Thom and James Elliot, co-founders of Pizza Pilgrims; Siobhan Lloyd, marketing manager at 200 Degrees Coffee; Julius Wiesenhütter, founder at GetViola; Megan Burton-Brown, marketing director at Tortilla; Simon Potts, chief executive of the Alchemist; and Natasha Sideris, founder and chief executive of Tashas Group. For the full schedule, click here. A one-day ticket for operators is £295 plus VAT while a two-day ticket is £550 plus VAT. Supplier tickets are £395 plus VAT for one day and £700 plus VAT for two. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Jo Charity at Propel on jo.charity@propelinfo.com.


Premium subscribers to receive ten videos tomorrow from up-and-coming operators as they explore ‘white space’ opportunity: Premium subscribers will receive ten videos tomorrow (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 kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Welsh government urged to provide £50m rates relief lifeline: UKHospitality Cymru has called on the Welsh government to give beleaguered pubs, hotels and restaurants in the country vital business rates relief in next week’s Budget. The trade body is asking finance minister Rebecca Evans and the Welsh cabinet to at least replicate measures introduced for English businesses in the recent autumn statement. It said without any action to extend relief and freeze the multiplier, the Welsh hospitality sector faces an additional £50m in costs. David Chapman, executive director for UKHospitality Cymru, said: “A constructive package of business rates relief for the sector will be the difference between survival and closure for many – and between investment and stagnation for others. Freezing the multiplier and extending 75% relief of business rates will offer our businesses a lifeline in the current economic environment. Inaction would mean an average pub facing around £10,000 in additional business rate payments, which could shut for good and stop pints being pulled. High energy costs, food and drink inflation and the squeeze on the cash in our customer’s pockets and purses are having their effect, and any help our hard-pressed businesses can get right now would be invaluable.”

Sadiq Khan: plans to cut migration will trigger London recruitment crisis: The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned that ministers’ plans to cut legal migration will lead to a “full blown recruitment crisis” in London, with vacancies in hospitality alone still higher than they were pre-pandemic. The Guardian reports that net migration boosted the UK population by 672,000 in the year ending June 2023, with about half of the country’s foreign-born population (48%) living in either London or the south-east of England. Last week, the government announced measures to bring the net migration figures numbers down through an increase in the “general” salary threshold that needs to be met for those seeking long-term work visas and for partners of British nationals or settled people who wish to emigrate to the UK. Both thresholds will increase to £38,700 from £26,200. Ministers are yet to publish an assessment of the economic impact on the British economy, but, according to an analysis by the Greater London Authority, key sectors of the London economy worth billions to the exchequer could be left heavily understaffed. Of the 1 million people working in hospitality, healthcare, arts and construction in the capital, about 46% are non-UK nationals, according to the assessment, and nearly half a million of them are expected to be affected by the changes. More than half (58%) of London’s hospitality workforce are non-UK citizens, the analysis suggests. Khan described the policies as “misguided”, with the failure to train up the domestic workforce likely to leave many London businesses without the staff they need in the years to come. He said: “Migrants are absolutely integral to our economy and public services, whether running our care homes and our bars and restaurants, or helping power our world-leading arts and creative sector. It is vital that more is done to train up British workers with the right skills, but the government needs to realise that these latest immigration policies will lead to a full-blown recruitment crisis. This will have severe consequences for public services and the economy, not just here in London but across the UK.”

Hospitality gift card sales set for record-breaking festive period: Hospitality gift card sales via e-commerce platform Toggle are set to top a record-breaking £16m between now and the end of the year. New data from Toggle indicates that over 40% of all hospitality gifting happens in the month of December, and last year, Christmas Eve was the biggest single day of spending recorded on the platform during the entire year. It also revealed that Christmas morning is the highest converting day part, with 50% of all visits to a Toggle shop on the day in 2022 resulting in a purchase. Experiences for two are the highest selling in the month of December, including 75% of all gift cards sold on Christmas Eve last year. Dan Brookman, chief executive of Airship & Toggle, said: “We recently had a record-breaking Black Friday, where we sold more than £5m worth of hospitality gift cards in a single day. We are expecting similar results over the festive period for full price hospitality gift cards and experiences being bought as presents. But the Boxing Day sales also offer a big opportunity to boost revenue during the quieter post-Christmas period.”

Sacha Lord offers to pay entire bill at Manchester fish and chip shop on Sunday: Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has offered to pay the entire bill at a local fish and chip shop this Sunday. It means customers at Frankies Fish Bar in Blackley can redeem a free chippy tea at the venue on the day, between 3-7pm, with Lord footing the bill. The Hill Lane restaurant, which offers eat in or take away, has been run by Scott O’Connor and his fiancée, Emma, since 2021. “We opened a couple of years ago but fish and chips run in our family as my dad and his wife have owned one called Harry’s on Moston Lane for ten years, and his wife has worked in chippies for over 30 years,” O’Connor told the Manchester Evening News. “It was a very hard time to open a chippy and we have struggled at times, so it means a lot that Sacha has picked us for this initiative. We’ve had a lot of support from the community in Blackley. It’s not the wealthiest of areas so we try to keep our prices as low as possible so everybody can afford to come down, but the cost of everything really did go up over the last few years. We did have to raise our prices, but it’s so hard to do that when everybody else out there is also struggling too. Our margins kept getting tighter and gas and electric went up too, so it’s been a bit of a battle really. The country has lost a lot of chippies sadly, and that’s hard because they are such a big part of our culture.” In August, Lord also paid for customers’ meals at the Thirsty Korean restaurant in Chorlton.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a well-recognised branded restaurant group that is looking for a central operations manager role. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will be working closely with the operations director in a head office role and help to build new initiatives and deliver on projects. This role will see you personally manage the projects. You will link in with procurement, compliance, and facilities management; look at systems and process; contribute to launches and drive the business as a brand ambassador. This is an all-encompassing role and demands a highly competent and organised person. The company is looking for someone who has come from an operations background and has some project experience.” The salary is up to £65,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email max@corecruitment.com.

Company News:

Megan’s set for record year with revenue on track to exceed £30m and Ebitda £5m, relaunches in Parson’s Green ahead of four openings in 2024: Megan’s, the fast-growing cafe and deli concept, has said it is set for record year, with revenue on track to exceed £30m and Ebitda £5m, as it relaunches in Parson’s Green. The 19-strong business closed its original site in the south west London suburb, Megan’s by the Green – which was the brand’s second restaurant when it opened in 2017 – due to its limited capacity. It has now reopened in the former Le Pain Quotidien site on Parsons Green Lane, directly opposite its original home, which is now a second venue for Ollie’s House, the new concept from former Gail’s operations manager Oliver Norcliffe. The site has 150 covers, including a 22-person private dining room and 24 covers outside. “It’s great to be back opening more sites, especially in an area we know and love,” said finance director Gill Clements. “This larger more spacious site will allow the team to deliver the full Megan’s experience – a seamless day to night concept open from takeaway coffee in the morning and brunches through to romantic late-night dinners, celebrations and parties. Our return to Parsons Green comes as we are set for another record year of profitable revenue growth and on track to exceed £30m of annual revenues and £5m of EBITDA across the group.” The Megan’s team, led by operations director Bridget Lambert, who joined from ETM in June, has built a pipeline of four new site openings in 2024 – including locations in Farnham, Twickenham and Weybridge. Megan’s features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £22,700,869 in the year to 31 March 2022 is the 343rd highest in the database, while its pre-tax profit of £870,979 is the 379th highest. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Stonegate Group close to completing Apollo-backed refinancing: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, is close to completing a circa £610m refinancing of a circa 1,000-strong pub portfolio, with debt set to be provided by US private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Propel understands that a deal, which was first flagged up by React News, could be completed within the next week, with Apollo in exclusive talks over the proposed deal. It was reported earlier this autumn that Stonegate, which is backed by private equity firm TDR Capital and operates circa 4,500 sites in total, was proposing splitting off the group of about 1,000 sites into a special-purpose vehicle and using it to raise debt from outside parties. It is thought that the assets will not now be placed into a separate special purpose vehicle. If successful, the refinancing would put the David McDowall-led business on a more stable financial footing. The Slug and Lettuce and Be At One owner currently has debts of almost £4bn, of which half will be maturing in July 2025. Talking to Propel last month, McDowall, chief executive of Stonegate Group, said the business was in talks to “strengthen the balance sheet” but was under “no extreme time pressure” to find the route towards a refinancing event. Stonegate appointed Sapient Corporate Finance and EastDil Securities to advise on its options, with Barclays advising on its broader corporate debt strategy. All parties declined to comment. Apollo is set to complete the circa £500m acquisition of Wagamama-owner, The Restaurant Group, later this month. 

Pret to make debut in Greece: Pret A Manger has entered into partnership with Fraport Greece and SSP, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, to launch in Greece for the first time. The first shop under the new partnership will open this month in Thessaloniki airport. As part of the agreement, Pret will open three more shops across airports in Mykonos, Kos and Zakynthos in time for the start of the 2024 summer season. Pano Christou, chief executive at Pret, said: “We are excited to bring the Pret brand to Greece. Greek cuisine is famous all over the world for its many beloved local dishes, many of which have inspired the products we offer at Pret. In partnership with SSP and Fraport Greece, we can’t wait to bring the first Pret shop to Greece in Thessaloniki airport.” Mark Angela, chief business development and strategy officer, chief executive of India, EEME at SSP, added: “We are pleased to announce the opening of the first four Pret A Manger units in Greek airports. The addition of a much-loved brand such as Pret enhances our position in this important market and elevates the passenger experience. SSP Hellas has operated in Greece since 1999 and grown its presence to eight airports across the country (Athens, Thessaloniki, Corfu, Zakynthos, Rhodes, Chania, Mykonos, and Kos).” Pret now operates in 16 markets on three continents and expects to have 700 shops worldwide by the end of 2023. Last month, Pret announced the opening of its first sites in Barcelona, as part of plans to open 70 shops in Spain and Portugal over the next decade.

Cosmo launches new smaller casual dining brand, set to roll out five more sites in 2024: Buffet brand Cosmo has launched a new smaller casual dining brand, Umami World Kitchen, and is set to roll out five more sites under the concept in 2024. The first location has opened in the former Cosmo restaurant in Corporation Street, Coventry, which will act as a flagship for the concept. Following a £1m refurbishment of the former Cosmo unit, a 900 square-foot Umami has opened on the first floor, with retail units on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor. Next up will be an 8,000 square-foot unit in Telford’s Southwater centre in the spring, with sites in Blackpool, Colchester, Leeds and Newcastle also planned. Cosmo operations director Kan Koo said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce the creation of a completely new casual dining brand. The last three years have been extraordinarily difficult for everyone in hospitality, but we feel the tide is turning within the pan Asian dining scene. Although Umami is an entirely new brand, we think Cosmo customers, families and students in particular will love our offering because nowhere offers such a wide range of dishes for all tastes and ages.” Diners will pay one price for the all-you-can-eat buffet at Umami and will be able to choose from a range of 100 different cuisines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and bottomless soft drinks. Like Cosmo, Umami will operate from eight different food theatres, where chefs cook and serve the food in front of diners. It comes a year after Cosmo launched its smaller-scale Little Cosmo concept, in the former Lau’s 202 Buffet House in Newcastle’s Newgate Street. It is not clear whether or not Umami has replaced this concept, although the venue is still listed as a Little Cosmo on the company’s website. Cosmo currently has 21 locations, including one in Leeds which is temporarily closed, and lists sites in Cardiff, Northampton and Preston as “coming soon”. The Northampton site – in the town’s former Balestra nightclub – has had planning permission since 2019 but has now been put been put back on the market for £2.25m, according to the Northampton Chronicle.

Crêpeaffaire to launch first drive-thru site: Crepe concept Crêpeaffaire is set to launch its first drive-thru site, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Daniel Spinath founded Crepeaffaire in 2005, since when it has expanded to 14 UK sites as well a 15 in the Middle East and one in the Netherlands. It also launched its smaller footprint Crepe & Roll concept, which originally operated as a food truck in London’s Old Spitalfields Market, in 2022. “Crêpeaffaire’s business model is as versatile as their signature products,” the business said. “In another first for the brand, Crêpeaffaire will be opening a Crepe ‘n Drive street-side store in Riyadh. Given that this concept has already proven to be incredibly flexible, with locations all around the world and in a huge variety of formats, we can’t wait to see the success of this new venture!” It follows Crêpeaffaire opening its first unit within a Tesco store in August, at the Tesco Extra in Shenley Road in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Spinath said at the start of the year that he is targeting 300 sites over the next five years as he aims to make it “a global business”. 
 
Redemption Roasters plans to reach 27 sites by 2026: The world’s first prison-based coffee company, Redemption Roasters, which is close to reaching its crowdfunding target of £1.2m, plans to add 17 new sites in London to its current ten-strong estate by 2026. 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. Earlier this week, it launched a crowdfunding campaign through Crowdcube, with a target of raising £1.2m. It has so far raised £1,177,560 from 106 investors. The majority of the proceeds of the investment round will go towards financing the opening of new outlets. The business is offering 5.17% of equity and has a pre-money valuation of £22m. The company reported net sales of £8.1m over the last 12 months, with Ebitda of £372,000 and year-on-year growth of 43%. It said its annual revenues are forecast to exceed £25m by 2026. The company, which has recorded a 78% rise in monthly sales growth since 2019, plans to open four new sites in 2024. The company is also developing a new app to boost business-to-consumer revenue by an estimated 15% and is focused on further expanding its wholesale customer base. The company also operates a roastery inside HMP The Mount where resident “trainees” benefit from working alongside Redemption Roasters’ team. The company also provides coffee training inside and outside of prison with direct pathways to long-term employment. Through 14 partnerships with UK prisons to date, more than 1,500 individuals have taken part in these programmes, with participant reoffending rates sitting well below half the national average. Dubiel said: “As a purpose-driven business that has achieved phenomenal growth, we are very excited about this next chapter in our journey. This current investment round includes a crowdfund, enabling those who share our ethos to join us on our journey. The proceeds will drive further growth of our brand and help us achieve even greater profitability through scale.”

State of Play Hospitality to open Flight Club in Washington DC: State of Play Hospitality is to open its eighth site in the US under the Flight Club concept next summer, in Washington DC. The new 8,500 square-foot venue will be located in the Mount Vernon Triangle mixed-use development on New York Avenue. Toby Harris, chief executive of State of Play Hospitality, said: “We’re very excited to be able to bring the joy of Flight Club Darts USA into the heart of DC next year. We’ve been looking for the right opportunity in the capital for several years and the site is a great fit for Flight Club both aesthetically and geographically. It’ll be our third East Coast venue and we can’t wait for it to be open!" The business also recently secured a site in Philadelphia. The new 7,000 square-foot venue will be located in the original Philadelphia Stock Exchange building at 1417 Walnut Street and will also open next summer. The Washington DC site will be the 13th venue overall for State of Play Hospitality. Flight Club, the darts concept owned by Red Engine, has also lined up openings in the UK, in Liverpool and Oxford. It is taking over the former Boujee restaurant at Kenyon Steps within the Liverpool One scheme, which closed last summer, for an opening in the autumn of 2024, and will open a site at the Westgate scheme in Oxford.

Little Houses Group promotes Sam Wignell to managing director: Little Houses Group, the nursery, soft play and cafe concept from Incipio Group co-founder Charlie Gardiner, which earlier this year received backing from serial sector investor Imbiba, has promoted Sam Wignell, formerly of Marston’s Boparan Restaurant Group and Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), to managing director. Wignell joined the business earlier this summer as its new operations director. At the start of the year, Wignell stepped down as operations director of premium food at Marston’s after a year with the business. Wignell previously spent more than two years as chief customer officer at S4labour. He joined S4Labour after three years at Boparan Restaurant Group, where he was brand operations director. He also previously worked at M&B and Tesco Family Dining. He spent more than ten years at M&B, including the last two and a half as a retail director. Last November, Gardiner, who founded Incipio in 2016, opened Jaego’s House in Kensal Rise as the first venue for his new vehicle, The Little Houses Group. Branded as a club for all the family, it features a jungle gym, crèche, child-minding service and kids’ cinema for children, plus a co-working office, gym, treatment room and library for adults. The 20,000 square-foot also features a restaurant and waterside cafe, seating 85 inside and 24 on a canalside terrace. The business will open a second site – Jesse’s House and Parsons House Nursery on Heathman’s Road, near Parsons Green tube station – early next year.

Brazilian steakhouse brand set to make Scottish debut: Brazilian steakhouse brand Rio is set to make its Scottish debut with an opening in Edinburgh. The brand, co-owned by Rodrigo Grassi and Howard Eggleston, will open in the new year in the former Jamie’s Italian site in the Assembly Rooms on George Street. The 150-cover, set-price venue will offer various meats continually carved at a central table, a central sushi bar, an unlimited gourmet salad bar and an “authentic Brazilian Churrasco dining experience”. Founded in Jesmond in November 2019, it will be an eighth Rio Brazilian Steakhouse, adding to its locations in Jesmond, Newcastle Quayside, Durham, Middlesbrough, Warrington, Chester and York – with Sunderland also “coming soon”. Grassi said: “We are thrilled to announce that Rio Brazilian Steakhouse will be opening in Scotland for the first time early next year. A milestone moment for us, we can’t wait to bring the delicious South American flavours to Edinburgh – one of the UK’s most exciting foodie cities – and look forward to introducing our unique offerings to the Scottish market.” Co-owner Eggleston is also behind the 11-strong Tomahawk Steakhouse brand and told Propel in September that he intends to open four more in 2014. 

Simone Remoli to open largest site yet in Bromley: Simone Remoli, the chef-founder behind the Pasta Remoli restaurant business, is to open his largest site to date next year after closing two sites over the past 12 months. Remoli currently operates three sites in London, in Wembley Park, Ealing Broadway and Westfield Stratford. The business is set to open the new site in Bromley next February. Remoli said: “In 2023 we closed two restaurants, Finsbury and St Pancras, as it was the right move for a much larger expansion plan. In 2024, we embark on a new chapter, opening our largest restaurant with 140 seats. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Remoli Bromley South 4.0.” The St Pancras International site was the first under a grab-and-go concept for the business and was named simply “Remoli”.

More than 30 Star Pubs & Bars tenants receive new MRO agreements following PCA action: More than 30 tenants at Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars have received new market rent only (MRO) agreements following action by the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA). The PCA launched an investigation in 2019 which found that Star had committed 12 code breaches in respect of the inclusion of stocking terms in its free of tie proposals between July 2016 and July 2019. After setting out a series of recommendations, the PCA also fined Star £2m, which was reduced to £1.25m in April. The PCA said that at the time of its last update, in November 2022, Star was still concluding several agreements for tenants who had received new MRO offers under one of its recommendations. These tenants had not yet completed the MRO process, with some choosing to go free of tie at the end and others agreeing new tied deals. Some deeds of variation were also being completed with tenants who were already operating under non-compliant MRO agreements. These cases have now all been concluded, resulting in 32 new MRO agreements, 21 tied rent reviews and 13 new tied leases. In additions, seven tenants have surrendered their leases, while one has been disclaimed and one has continued its existing tied lease. “This brings the PCA’s monitoring of Star’s compliance with the recommendations to an end,” it said. “The PCA welcomes the progress Star has made since the investigation and its cooperation in complying with the recommendations. The PCA will continue to work with Star to ensure tenants’ code rights are respected and that it continues to embed a culture of compliance across its business.”

Ellen Chew partners with Singapore government to launch new London restaurant: Singaporean restaurateur Ellen Chew has partnered with a Singapore government agency to launch a new restaurant, Singapulah, in London in February. Located at 53 Shaftesbury Avenue, the 100-cover site, spread across four floors, will showcase Singaporean cultural heritage and flavours through unique food products from Singaporean food manufacturers, many of which have never been available in the UK until now. Singapulah’s menu will celebrate the culinary landscape of Singapore, bringing together 13 different Singaporean brands and food manufacturers. The concept is supported by Enterprise Singapore, a Singapore government agency which focuses on enterprise development, along with the Singapore Brand Office, Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Global Network. The featured food manufacturers and partner brands will rotate every six months, showcasing Singaporean ingredients and dishes as they should be served. The selected brands will also have consumer products available to buy in the restaurant’s retail spaces. Chew, founder and director of the Chew on This Group, says “Singapulah is a completely fresh restaurant concept. It will be a vibrant restaurant in the heart of London that celebrates the best of Singaporean food, culture and design. This concept will also give us the chance to work with the best of Singaporean food products previously unavailable in the UK, introducing the authentic taste of the Straits.” It comes five months after Chew partnered with London’s Empire Casino for a new Chinese kitchen concept. 7th Cat Dim Sum Bar. Chew, who launched Singaporean restaurant Rasa Sayang in London’s Chinatown in 2008, opened second Shan Shui and Arome Bakery sites and a third Mrs Chew’s Chinese Kitchen location in 2022.

Duo behind The Oystermen to open third Covent Garden venue: Rob Hampton and Matt Lovell, who are behind Covent Garden seafood bar and kitchen The Oystermen, are to open a third venue in the area. They will open bar and restaurant thirty7, at 37 Bedford Street, in February, joining not only The Oystermen, which opened in 2017, but also wine shop and bar Bedford Street Wines, which launched in 2021. The duo also opened neighbourhood bar Walter’s Bar & Kitchen in West Dulwich in March 2022, but it has now closed, reportedly after suffering several break-ins.

Blank Street Coffee lines up second Manchester opening: US coffee chain Blank Street Coffee, which made its regional debut in the UK this week, in Manchester, has already lined up a second site in the city. The company, which made its UK debut last summer and currently has 23 stores in London, opened on the former Caffe Nero site in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens earlier this week. It is understood that the brand has also secured the ex-EAT site in Manchester’s Cross Street for a further opening in the city. 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. It is also thought that Birmingham and Cardiff are also on its radar for future openings. 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.”

Chipotle makes investments in next-gen farming: US brand Chipotle Mexican Grill is making new investments into next-generation farming through its $50m Cultivate Next venture fund. The business is investing in Greenfield Robotics, which is described as a company founded with the vision of making regenerative farming more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable by leveraging advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and sensing technologies. Chipotle is also investing in Nitricity, which is described as a company seeking to tackle greenhouse gas emissions by creating fertilizer products that are better for fields, farmers, and the environment. The size of the two investments were not disclosed. Chipotle chief customer and technology officer Curt Garner said: “The work of Greenfield Robotics to build out a tech forward alternative to herbicides plays an important role in ensuring a more sustainable future for the agricultural industry. We will help Greenfield Robotics scale its robotic offerings and explore how its robots can be deployed on farms within our supply chain.”

Admiral Taverns considering future of Hampshire pub on site of Jane Austen’s former home: Admiral Taverns, the circa 1,500-strong, Proprium-backed business, is considering the future of a Hampshire pub located on site of novelist Jane Austen’s former home. It comes after The Juniper Berry in Southampton shut its doors on Sunday, just three months after reopening. New landlords John and Tracey Horrocks said the building had electrical and plumbing faults as well as no hot water, which could not be fixed due to asbestos in the loft. Mr Horrocks said the asbestos was found when the firm installed a new boiler for the pub's opening in September. He told the BBC Admiral Taverns was considering the landmark pub’s future as it was not prepared to fund the removal of the dangerous material. Mrs Horrocks said: “The roof was leaking in the living quarters. The water was tripping the electrics. We’ve had the electrician out every week since we’ve been here. No heating, no hot water. It was minus two the other week. Awful living conditions.” The mock Tudor building has a plaque on an external wall saying Jane Austen lived on the approximate site of the pub from 1807 to 1809, two years before her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, appeared.

Freehold site let to Brunning & Price sold for £1.1m: The freehold investment in a Shropshire-based pub let to Brunning & Price, The Restaurant Group (TRG)-owned business, has been acquired by a private investor for £1.1m. Coffer Corporate advised AEW UK on the disposal of The Woodbridge Inn – a freehold public house dating back to the 18th century in Ironbridge, close to Telford. The pub, situated on the banks of the River Severn, is let to Brunning & Price on a long inflationary-linked lease. The purchase price reflected a net initial yield of 5.45%. Jack Higgitt, investment surveyor at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said “Where the fundamentals are strong, the investment market remains robust. Brunning & Price are an excellent operator, and this is a well invested property with attractive lease terms. This is ultimately driving investor appetite and, consequently pricing – even in the regions – with a lull in the supply of high-quality assets.” Savills represented the purchaser.

German Doner Kebab ordering app sees 270,000 downloads in first five months: A new online ordering app from German Doner Kebab (GDK), owned by Hero Brands, has seen 270,000 downloads in the five months since launching, with a current run rate of 10,000 per week. The app was launched in July after being developed by online ordering technology provider, Hungrrr. It works across GDK’s estate of more than 150 restaurants across the UK and worldwide, as well as integrating delivery services from Uber Eats. GDK chief executive Simon Wallis said: “Our collaboration with Hungrrr ensures we can continue to provide the highest level of service while expanding our presence in the UK and internationally.” Mike Callachan, chief executive and founder of Snappy Group, the parent company of Hungrrr, added: “We are excited to be part of GDK’s growth journey and look forward to supporting its plans for further expansion.”

Nottingham operators partner again for third site together: Nottingham operators Jacque Ferreira and Dan Lindsay have partnered once more for their third site together in the city. The duo, who are behind Bar Iberico in Carlton Street and Iberico World Tapas in The Shire Hall, have opened Mexican restaurant Taquero in Hockley. It has opened in the former Oriental Mart at 6-8 Heathcoat Street following 14 months of renovations. It offers frozen margheritas, tequila and tacos with fillings such as pork, pineapple and salsa verde, and lamb shoulder, onions and coriander with a house salsa. Other tacos come with the fish of the day, spiced prawns or octopus, while vegan options include mushroom and avocado and plantain and refried beans. There are also small plates such as tuna tostadas on a tortilla disc, chicken taquitos, chorizo quesadilla and fish ceviche. Dining is over two floors, with the ground floor having seating for 55 and a further 25 in the basement, and come the summer, there will be tables for a further 50 on the street. Lindsay, who also owns World Service Restaurant in Castle Gate, told Nottingham Live: “I don’t think a lot of people know what good Mexican food is in Nottingham. They think it’s nachos and burritos, but there’s a lot more to it. I think we’re filling a bit of a gap in the market, and from the feedback we’ve had so far, people feel the same.”

Leisure and fitness business opens third site following funding deal: Leisure and fitness business GymWorks has launched its third site after securing a six-figure investment with the support of the Royal Bank of Scotland and asset finance provider Lombard, part of the NatWest Group. The launch of the Skelmersdale location was a long-standing goal for co-founders Peter Guy and Craig Winstanley, who have been able to accelerate their expansion plans through the £380,000 deal. Through ongoing financial support from the NatWest Group, GymWorks has been able to extend its presence, starting with its first branch in Preston in 2013 and followed by the launch of a second branch in Chorley in 2017. Royal Bank of Scotland contributed £230,000, while Lombard provided a loan of £150,000, which helped secure and renovate the Skelmersdale branch. Guy and Winstanley said: “We wanted to create a business that we’re passionate about and in communities that we care about. We already have the knowledge of the fitness industry, but the challenge was to launch and grow a business.” The duo aim to open more branches in the future, with plans to expand the Skelmersdale site by a quarter in size and introduce additional facilities, such as a dance studio.

New Asian street food concept launched at Belfast International airport: A new Asian street food concept called Hawker has launched at Belfast International airport. Set in the airport’s Northern Quarter, Hawker is from Mount Charles, one of Northern Ireland’s largest independent catering, events and facilities management companies. Trevor Annon, Mount Charles chairman, said: “Having already developed a close working relationship with Belfast International airport over the last number of years, we are excited to launch our latest venture in Hawker, which we believe will elevate the dining experience for the airport’s customers and service users.” Graham Keddie, managing director at Belfast International airport, added: “Hawker is an exciting new concept and we are delighted to welcome this new Asian street food addition to the departures concourse.” Hawker offers “a variety of different flavours, ranging from spicy Schezwan sauce to mild Korean kimchi”, reports Insider Media.

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