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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 19th Dec 2023 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Giggling Squid – site Ebitda margin back to pre-pandemic levels, turnover tops £73m: Andy Laurillard, co-founder of Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by the Business Growth Fund, has told Propel that the group’s site Ebitda margins have returned to pre-pandemic levels and that the business has just experienced a record week of trading. It comes as the 48-strong business said it has “enjoyed another excellent year” to 2 April 2023, with like-for-like sales materially ahead of pre-pandemic levels. It said restaurant turnover increased 11.3% to £73.3m, up from £65.9m in the prior year. The group said its “robust cash generation” was partially used to fund three new Giggling Squid restaurants – in Maidstone (Kent), Winchester (Hampshire) and Alderley Edge (Cheshire), although the latter has since closed. Post year end, it said like-for-like sales have remained strong and restaurant Ebitda margins have returned to pre-pandemic levels. The group has also opened another two Giggling Squid restaurants, in Cardiff (St David’s) and The Lexicon (Bracknell), both of which it said are “trading significantly above expectations”. It said: “Barclays Bank and investors, the Business Growth Fund, both continue to be extremely supportive of the business. Giggling Squid remains well financed and is looking to acquire high quality restaurant and retail units across the UK to add to an already exciting pipeline of new openings.” As previously revealed by Propel, Giggling Squid, which recently opened in Shrewsbury, has already exchanged on three sites for its 2024 pipeline – in Exeter, taking space in the Waterstones facing on to Cathedral Green; Leeds – a former bank site in Park Row; and in Richmond, south west London. It is also set to open in Mermaid Quay in Cardiff, and in Muswell Hill (a former Bill’s), in the first quarter of next year. Laurillard said: “FY23 was quite tough with post-pandemic challenges affecting all of the main lines of hospitality sector P&Ls – a frightened customer retrenching, double-digit food inflation, labour cost and availability issues, energy spikes and the withdrawal of government support. We dealt with all of that and are heading into the back half of FY24 with our strongest ever numbers and our happiest ever customers. It is great to see site Ebitda margins return to pre-pandemic levels, with them moving sharply into a more positive place. We’ve also just had a record trading week.” Last month, Laurillard told Propel that there was a “long way to go” when it comes to roll out potential in the UK for the brand. He said: “How many can we do? I spoke to someone in the industry recently who said they reckoned we could do 200 sites in the UK. I don’t know if it is 200, but it’s not just 100, because we have sites generating sales now, which would be way down that second hundred list.” Giggling Squid features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its revenue over the year to 2 April 2023 of £73.3m is the 127th highest in the 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

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, sales and marketing director at Urban Pubs & Bars; Hannah Clark, UK head of marketing at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi; Romy Miller, global brand director at KellyDeli; Sarah McDermott, marketing director at BrewDog Bars; Mark Stretton, co-founder and managing director at Fleet Street; Pret A Manger chief executive Pano Christou; Elior chief executive Catherine Roe; Emma Banks, vice-president of food and beverage strategy at Hilton UK & Ireland; 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 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 next UK Food & Beverage Franchisee Database tomorrow: The next edition of the UK Food & Beverage Franchisee Database will be sent to Premium subscribers tomorrow (Wednesday, 20 December), featuring ten new entries and updates to existing entries. The database is updated every two months, and the latest version features 120 businesses and almost 50,000 words of content. Among the new entries are multi-brand franchisees KBeverage, which owns 48 Starbucks and this year also became a Domino’s and Slim Chickens franchisee, and Racz Group, which operates 59 Domino’s and 18 Costa stores and is also a franchisee for Grounded Kitchen. Also included are RTL Enterprises, which operates nine Chopstix sites across London, and Square Burgers, which became Wendy’s first franchise partner when it relaunched in the UK in 2021. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. 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.

Deliveries up, takeaways down in November as consumers’ ordering habits evolve: Delivery sales at Britain’s top managed restaurant groups rose 4% year-on-year in November, CGA by NIQ’s latest Hospitality at Home Tracker shows, but takeaway sales fell 6%. The contrasting trends show how consumers have changed their at-home ordering habits in recent years, moving away from the collection of meals in favour of delivery to the door, the report said. Deliveries in November accounted for 61% of restaurant groups’ orders, up from 52% just 12 months ago. Takeaways and click-and-collect orders attracted 39% of spending. Combined, the value of managed groups’ delivery and takeaway sales in November was 2% ahead of the same month in 2022. It is the sixth month of like-for-like growth in a row but marks a slowdown from the figures of 7% and 4% in September and October. The volume of total orders in November 2023 was down by 6% year-on-year. CGA’s Hospitality at Home Tracker also shows that deliveries and takeaways accounted for around 15 pence in every pound that consumers spent with managed restaurants in November. Food attracted 90 pence per pound of this spending, with 10 pence going on drinks. Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “After surging during covid lockdowns and falling afterwards, a new normal is emerging in restaurants’ at-home sales. With deliveries now so easy and fast, takeaways have become a thing of the past for many consumers. But with sales by value virtually flat and order volumes down, it’s also clear that the only growth in this channel recently has come from increased menu prices. Sustaining delivery sales while protecting margins is going to be big challenge for all restaurant businesses in 2024.”
NTIA disappointed in government’s new drink spiking measures: The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has expressed its disappointment in the government’s new drink spiking measures. The trade body has been leading calls for spiking to be made a specific criminal offence, but the government’s new measures instead focus on more training for door staff and funding for testing kits. Police operations will also focus on key weeks when spiking tends to be prevalent, while an online tool will be rolled out making it easier for people to report spiking anonymously. NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said the omission of spiking as a specific crime “falls significantly short of expectations, considering the gravity and far-reaching impact of this criminal activity”. He added: “Drink spiking is a serious and prevalent issue that poses a threat to the safety and well-being of individuals within our community. The government's failure to designate spiking as a distinct crime is disheartening and does not reflect the need to address this growing concern. To effectively combat drink spiking, we need a comprehensive and dedicated approach. The absence of a specific crime category undermines our ability to gather accurate data and develop targeted strategies to tackle this menace.” Kill urged the government to reconsider its stance and collaborate with industry stakeholders to put “adequate measures” in place to protect the public from drink spiking. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “The safety of customers is a top priority for hospitality businesses, so highlighting and informing measures to prevent spiking is important. Education and proper training are essential and hospitality businesses continue to work tirelessly to prevent spiking. We’re committed to working with sector partners to provide venues with up-to-date advice and guidance on best practice to prevent spiking, as well as with the Home Office on measures like these.”

Company News:

Grind eyes expansion to Middle East: Coffee brand Grind is planning to launch in the Middle East and has begun the search for franchise partners in the region, Propel has learned. The David Abrahamovitch-led business is working with the Gulf Franchise Group to find luxury retail or premium food service operators in the Gulf Cooperation Council region to grow and develop the brand. Abrahamovitch said: “I’m incredibly excited to bring Grind to the Middle East, one of the world’s leading coffee cultures. After building the brand in the UK and now having gained some traction in the US, the Middle East is the next major frontier for Grind, and our next key focus. We already see significant demand in the region for Grind at Home, and we can’t wait to launch the brand into the region and bring the Grind coffee experience to the people of the Middle East.” Earlier this year, Grind opened new sites in Cabot Place, Canary Wharf, and at the Ashford Designer Outlet. This spring, the company made its transport hub debut with an opening at St Pancras International station. The business, which currently operates 14 sites in the UK, replaced Nespresso Boutique at the station. Earlier this year, Grind completed a £15m investment round, which was used in part to complete the acquisition of ready-to-drink coffee company, Bottleshot Coffee. The investment round, which valued Grind at £70m, was led by existing investor Richard Koch, who also led a £22m investment round into Grind in 2021. Last year, it opened its first site in the US, inside Soho House’s Soho.Home.Studio in Los Angeles.
East Midlands McDonald’s franchisee sells 11-strong portfolio for £10.8m and ceases trading: East Midlands McDonald’s franchisee CM Restaurants has sold the 11 sites it operated in the region for £10.835m and ceased trading. Franchisee Martin Cuthbert said he is intending to liquidate the company through a members voluntary liquidation process. The details were revealed in the company’s accounts for the year ending 31 December 2022, which showed turnover increased 6.72% to £51,621,678 compared with £48,372,588 the year before. The business made a pre-tax loss of £1,098,805 compared with a profit of £3,075,664 the previous year. Gross profit margin was down to 64.42% from 66.97%, which was “in line with expectations”. The business did not receive any government grants (2021: £532,155). A dividend of £4,000 was paid (2021: £200,000).
Tel Aviv concept to open in London: Tel Aviv-based restaurant and bar concept Basta is to open a site in London’s Islington. The business, which operates a site in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, has secured the former Little Viet Kitchen site in Chapel Market, for its UK debut. The new restaurant will open next year. Salvatore Di Natale, of CDG Leisure, and Etai Page, of Stonebrook London, acted on the deal.
Chicken concept Wingmans saved through pre-pack administration: London chicken concept Wingmans has been acquired through a pre-pack administration, for a total consideration of £240,000, Propel has learned. Founded by David Turofsky and Ben Ford in 2015, the business grew to three sites, in Shoreditch, Soho and Kilburn. A new vehicle F&B Opco, set up by Gary Sacks, who is the ultimate beneficial shareholder of the insolvent company, acquired the business out of administration and continues to operate the Soho and Kilburn sites. However, the site in Curtain Road, Shoreditch, has been closed. The business and assets of Wingmans Chicken were sold to F&B Opco on 27 October 2023 for £240,000, with £100,000 received to date. A statement from joint administrators Parker Andrews said: “With Shoreditch rent being £155,000 per annum and facilitating a similar amount of covers to Soho, the company’s targets anticipated much higher sales volumes, but the restaurant experienced an extremely slow start when it opened. During 2022-2023, the company started to experience cash flow issues. While trade remained consistent, the catch up of back dated creditors, maintaining staff and supplier payments, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) liabilities and loan repayments to City and Docklands Management, resulted in the company enquiring into time to pay agreements for PAYE and VAT following advice from government portals. The time to pay agreements with HMRC were kept to. However, following the slow trading quarter of the fourth quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, the time to pay outgoings were not allowing sufficient cash to facilitate new monthly liabilities for PAYE and VAT. While time to pay direct debits on both PAYE and VAT were always paid as scheduled, the new liabilities continued to stack up initially leaving two outstanding months of PAYE due and a VAT liability of approximately £200,000 at the beginning of 2023. Throughout this period the company kept in constant communication with HMRC to keep them updated on the situation and circumstances. With the industry-wide expectation of a busy fourth quarter of 2022/Christmas period, the company attempted to trade out of its debt. However, the trading in that period did not live up to those expectations and, furthermore, the beginning of 2023 experienced an extremely poor trading period.”

Scottish family bakery reports second successive year of record turnover: Scottish family bakery Baynes has reported a second successive year of record turnover. Revenue grew from the previous high of £25,942,438 in 2022 to £35,157,187 in the year to 31 March 2023, as the Fife-based firm’s estate rose from 62 to 63 stores. Its pre-tax profit dipped slightly from £2,387,650 in 2022 to £2,189,928 as costs rose by more than £3m. The company received £6,528 in government grants compared to £31,834 in 2022, when it also received a £66,319 insurance payout. Dividends of £100,000 were paid, the same as in 2022. Average monthly employee levels rose from 641 in 2022 to 769 during the year, including a rise in retail staff from 462 to 553. Managing director John Bayne said: “The business has increased the number of retail shops in recent years. The business strategy is to expand the business through the acquisition of more shops and to re-fit existing stores on a cyclical basis. New product development is essential to the future of the company, and we are continually updating our existing products and developing new products to adapt to customer trends. Having traded for over 60 years, the need to build strong long-standing relationships with both our customers and suppliers is paramount to the success of the company and its longevity.”
Team behind Afrikana lines up first sites for French taco concept: The team behind African restaurant chain Afrikana has lined up the first two sites for French taco concept Tacosmash. Propel revealed in October that Afrikana managing director Omair Ali is also the managing director of City Restaurants Group (CRG), which was looking to bring Tacosmash to London. Tacosmash, which offers smash burgers, French tacos and a range of sides and milkshakes, has a site in Paris’ Rue Jussieu. Ali has now announced that the first UK Tacosmash will open in London’s Mile End in February, with a further site to follow in April, in Birmingham. The Mile End site is set to include an arcade space. “Allo London! It’s almost time for the #tacosmashtakeover,” CRG posted on social media. “From the bustling streets of Paris to the heart of London, Tacosmash is here to take over the UK. Original French tacos, insane smash burgers and mad milkshakes. But wait, there’s more! A whole arcade!” Afrikana operates 14 sites under its Afrikana and Lil’ Afrikana concepts, its most recent opening coming in London’s O2. Afrikana’s brand and marketing director Syeda Kayanath, who is also behind bubble tea concept Mowchi, told Propel in January that Afrikana was targeting 20 UK sites by the end of 2023.
Dubai Greek and Mediterranean concept makes UK debut, in London: Dubai Greek and Mediterranean concept Gaia has made its UK debut, in London. Located in Mayfair, at the junction of Dover Street and Piccadilly, the 154-cover restaurant is from Evgeny Kuzin and chef Izu Ani, building on their sites in Dubai, Monte Carlo and Doha. Guests are invited to choose fish from the restaurant’s selection of freshly caught produce at the counter – served in various ways including raw, grilled, pan-fried with aromatic harissa or salt-baked. Mezze dishes include smoked cod roe and lemon zest, Taramosalata, and Melitzanosalata, while larger dishes include Kritharaki (tomato sauce of seafood orzo studded with freshly caught calamari, prawns, and clams) and Paidakia Arnisia (lamb cutlets served with tzatziki and freshly baked pita).
Stange & Co reports strong current trading with forecast Ebitda well ahead of 2023, open to expansion opportunities: Stange & Co, which operates ten venues in Merseyside and North Wales, has said current trading is “strong”, with forecast Ebitda for the year “well ahead” of 2023. “Trading in the current year remains strong, with both established and recently refurbished pubs trading ahead of prior year,” director Daniel McLennan said in his statement for the year ending 28 February 2023. “Costs continue to increase but are certainly slowing from where they were and continued efficiencies have allowed us to mitigate some of that cost. We are currently maintaining gross margin and wage percentages. Forecast Ebitda for the year is well ahead of prior year. With the headwinds identified above, the hospitality sector remains challenging. It is likely that more pubs will come to the market as some people move out the industry or businesses fail, creating opportunities for us to expand, presenting opportunities for the development for our teams and reducing competition for those talented individuals in our industry. While we do not have a magic number of premises that we wish to get to, from a financial and central support point of view, the addition of one or two pubs a year feels comfortable. Customer demand remains remarkably resilient.” It comes as the business reported turnover of £13,669,027 for the year, up from £10,722,758 in 2022. Its pre-tax profit fell from £1,120,822 in 2022 to £571,401. No government grants were received compared with £467,337 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). McLennan said the turnover growth was partly down to refurbishments of The Glengower in Aberystwyth and The Ship in Parkgate, which have seen sales uplifts of 22% and 60% respectively since reopening. He said group sales were up £2m (17%) on pre-covid levels but Ebitda has fallen from £1,732,018 to £1,363,202 due to “costs on all fronts rising dramatically”. He added: “The group's electricity and gas costs for the year nearly doubled from £238,000 to £430,000. Our main products, food and drink, have both seen double-digit inflation. The national living wage increase of 9.7% places a significant upwards pressure on pay rates across the industry. We have managed to pass some of these price increases on to our customers, and the remainder we have attempted to mitigate through tighter controls.” McLennan added the group’s loans were “fixed a number of years ago at favourable rates and remain fixed until 2030”. Among them are two loans under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which totalled £460,206 (2022: £601,236) and £17,989 (2021: £200,000) at the year end.
Brewhouse & Kitchen reports record 48% lfl growth in gift card sales: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, has reported record growth of gift card sales in November, up 48% on a like-for-like basis. The group said it has developed its gifting offer over the past 12 months, with the introduction of a new whisky and beer pairing experience plus several food focused packages. Matt Preisinger, marketing and brand director for the group, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for us on the gifting side, the strong growth we have achieved is due to the continued development of our offer and taking on board the learnings from activities such as Black Friday over the past few years. This, matched with our ability to segment and target our audience through a well-executed digital campaign supported by excellent comms and our teams, whose passion for our experiences have really helped drive this, has made it all possible. We look forward to making the most of the further opportunities in the final run up to Christmas.”
South Wales McDonald’s franchisee turns a loss due to increase in VAT, volatile supply chain and rising costs: South Wales McDonald’s franchisee Yash has said it made a loss in the year to 31 December 2022 due to an increase in VAT, volatile supply chain and rising costs. The company, which operates five restaurants in the region, saw a pre-tax profit of £1,619,570 in 2021 turn into a loss of £235,153. Turnover fell slightly from £23,534,487 in 2021 to £23,079,017. It received no government grants compared with £9,307 in 2021. Dividends of £396,000 were paid (2021: £204,000). Director Jane Blackwell, who spent nine years with the police force in South Wales before becoming a McDonald’s franchisee, said: “In-store and delivery sales profitability, although strong in the first half of 2022, has been impacted in the second half of the year by among other things the increase in VAT within the hospitality sector back to the standard rate of 20% from 1 April 2022, a volatile supply chain and rising costs base. The financial position of the company is healthy, despite the balance sheet showing net assets of £1.42m compared with £2m in 2021. Sales for the year amounted to £23m, a decrease of £455,000 from 2021 giving an overall sales decrease of approximately 1.94%. This is mainly due to the rate of VAT within the hospitality sector being put back the standard rate of 20%. The gross profit margin is 63.59% compared with 66.55% in 2021 and is in line with expectations.”

Filipino street food operator set to open second site: Filipino street food operator Filishack is set to open its second permanent site, in South London’s Elephant Park. Launched by brothers Jonathan and Justice Cacho in 2014, Filishack operated purely out of food trucks until 2021, when they secured a first bricks-and-mortar site in Peckham. The siblings have now secured a 611 square-foot site on Sayer Street for its second permanent location. Set to open in January, Filishack’s Elephant Park restaurant will serve an all-day menu where customers can build their own rice boxes, burritos and salads, with Filipino street food favourites such as grilled chicken inasal and beef adobo. Jonathan Cacho, co-founder at Filishack, said: “To be opening our second Filishack location at the beginning of a year that marks the brand’s ten-year anniversary is a milestone moment for us and we can’t wait to open our doors on Sayer Street. A lot of time went into finding the perfect spot for our next site, and with its focus on independents, local businesses and second-to-none community feel, Elephant Park is the ideal location for us.” Guy Thomas, head of retail and place assets at landlords Lendlease, added: “When choosing brands to take space within Elephant Park, we are always on the lookout for London heroes and concepts that match the neighbourhood feel we have curated. Filishack is a vibrant brand that is both a South London community favourite and an independent business with a unique local identity.”
Uzbek Food concept OshPaz opens debut bricks-and-mortar site: OshPaz, the Uzbek food concept, has opened its first bricks-and-mortar site, in London’s Piccadilly, with plans to open more. The business, which is led by chef Muzaffar Sadykov, has opened the site at 7 Regents Street. The concept, which has previously operated out of Kerb’s Seven Dials Market and the Mercato Metropolitano in Newington Causeway, offers Uzbek dumplings (manti), “aromatic Pilaf and sizzling Shashlik”. Matthew Englender, of Cushman Wakefield, and Ed Pearse Wheatley, of Café Ventures, acted on the Piccadilly deal. OshPaz is understood to be working with Pearse Wheatley on further expansion plans in the capital.
Team behind London venues Mnky Hse and Beach Blanket Babylon to open Parisian-inspired restaurant and ‘after-hours lounge’ in Mayfair: The team behind London venues Mnky Hse and Beach Blanket Babylon is to open a new Parisian-inspired restaurant and “after-hours lounge” in Mayfair. Mistress will launch in February in St James’s Street, taking over the space that used to be R&B club Aura. The food is described as “refined French cuisine for a modern Mayfair”, reports Hot Dinners. The offer will include oysters, fillet mignon, caviar, truffle and lobster rolls, as well as a roaming Champagne trolley. Funk, soul and disco music will play until late with the venue becoming a members' bar after 11pm.
Hard Rock Cafe makes senior marketing appointment for international division: Hard Rock Cafe has promoted Elena Alvarez to senior vice-president of marketing and brand partnerships for Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International, which includes the UK. In her new capacity, Alvarez will spearhead the development of “innovative brand activations while seamlessly integrating assets” across its diverse portfolio, spanning hotels, cafes, retail and casinos. Her responsibilities extend to the creation of new revenue-generating platforms. Alvarez will continue her oversight of global marketing initiatives for the cafe division of Hard Rock International. Her journey with Hard Rock began in 2005 as a sales and marketing manager for Hard Rock Cafe Barcelona, and she has since held key sales and marketing roles across Europe, the UK and the US. She was previously vice-president of global sales and marketing for the cafe division, managing marketing endeavours across more than 150 locations. Jeff Hook, executive vice-president of marketing/chief marketing officer of Seminole Hard Rock support services, said: “Elena is an essential senior marketer with a proven track record elevating the Hard Rock brand for our cafe division.”
Bristol chef opens third site: Bristol chef Freddy Bird and his wife Nessa have opened a third site together, in the city’s Clifton area. 1 York Place is named after its address and takes over the premises occupied by Italian restaurant Rosemarino for 13 years until its closure in July. The Birds also run Little French, a neighbourhood bistro in nearby Westbury Park, and the Little Shop pastry and bakery outlet in Henleaze, reports Harden’s. Freddy trained under Phil Howard at the Square in Mayfair and also worked for Sam Clark at Moro. He then returned to Bristol to head the kitchen at the Lido before launching Little French in 2019, following up with Little Shop two years later. “1 York Place – both our name and our address – is a 46-cover restaurant showcasing the best European produce and wine (and a few from further afield),” the couple posted on Instagram. “It really is such a treat to be doing this again.”
Scottish hotel and wedding venue operator sees profit fall as revenue remains below pre-covid levels: Scottish hotel and wedding venue operator Gretna Green has reported turnover increased to £12,774,121 for the year ending 26 February 2023 compared with £10,225,532 the year before. Revenue remained below the £15,331,980 reported for the year ending 28 February 2020 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. The company, which operates the Gretna Hall Hotel, Smiths at Gretna Green Hotel and Gretna Hall, saw underlying Ebitda fall to £799,542 from £1,457,925 the previous year (2020: profit of £1,557,266). Pre-tax profit was down to £269,859 from £925,024 the year before (2020: profit of £1,064,628). The business received £5,072 in government grants (2022: £674,647). A dividend of £92,480 was paid (2022: £106,470).
Conrad Hotels & Resorts hires new F&B director for its London hotel: Conrad Hotels & Resorts, the US multinational brand of high-end luxury hotels and resorts owned and operated by Hilton Worldwide, has hired a new director of food and beverage at its London hotel. Joan Rull Moreno has taken up the role at Conrad London St James, joining from Canopy by Hilton Madrid Castellana, and following extensive leadership roles across hotel companies in Spain and Belgium over the past decade. His appointment follows significant investment in food and beverage at the hotel in recent years, culminating in the opening of the Blue Boar Pub and fine dining restaurant The Pem with chef Sally Abé in 2021, along with a revamped lounge and cocktail bar, The Hedgerow. A new afternoon tea experience is also being launched in the Orchard Room in early 2024. Moreno said: “Our primary goal is to establish ourselves as a gastronomic icon in town, offering a 365-degree experience for everything from unique fine dining to meetings and luxury events. Conrad London St James is in an incredible location, at the heart of major British institutions from royalty to government, and we want to reflect this sense of Britishness at every level.” Conrad Hotels & Resorts has a portfolio 52 locations in 24 countries, with Conrad London St James its only UK site.
Cornwall restaurant owners open second site: Cornwall restaurant owners Del and Natasha Crookes have opened a second site. The duo have launched Kernow Dine & Deli next door to their original restaurant Kernowine in Falmouth, which opened two years ago. The new addition to Killigrew Street serves charcuterie, pasta, cheese, as well as homemade focaccia, freshly baked croissants and fresh salad boxes. By night the space transforms into a fine-dining restaurant with a monthly changing menu of small plates from head chef Gabriel Verdi. Natasha Crookes told Business Live: “It seems like yesterday that we opened Kernowine, but thanks to the fantastic support we’ve received from our local community and visitors alike, we’re delighted to throw the doors open to our second shop and restaurant. Kernow Dine & Deli prides itself on selling award-winning produce that showcases the UK’s incredible food supplier scene. We then convert into a cosy restaurant in the evening, where guests can taste the best of Cornish produce with French and Italian inspiration.”
Britvic non-executive director steps down: Britvic has announced Euan Sutherland has stepped down as a non-executive director with immediate effect. Sutherland has been a non-executive director and served on the audit committee throughout his tenure. In order to maintain the required number of directors on that committee on his departure, the board has appointed Hounaïda Lasry to the audit committee, effective immediately. Britvic chairman Ian Durant said: “On behalf of the board and management team of Britvic, I would like to thank Euan for the outstanding contribution he has made to Britvic over the past almost eight years. He has brought a wealth of experience and insight from his long and distinguished career, and we wish him all the best for the future.”
London plant-based filled-pitta concept opens permanent site: London plant-based filled-pitta concept Pockets has opened a permanent site. Pockets had a stall at Netil Market until July this year and its new venue has opened in nearby Mentmore Terrace. The menu includes its falafel pitta – falafel with cabbage slaw and fried potato – while sauces include tahini, humous and zhug. The venue is takeaway-only, reports Hot Dinners.
Plymouth DJ opens cocktail bar: Plymouth entrepreneur and DJ, Warren Jones, has opened a new cocktail bar in the city. Located in Old Town Street, Bar Koda has replaced Hush Café. The lease has been taken over on a five-year term and more than £25,000 has been invested to transform the venue, reports Insider Media. Jones said: “I am so excited to be moving forward with this new venture. Currently Bar Koda is only open in the evenings, but we are fully licensed for daytime opening, which I hope to introduce as we build our client base. With live music, a strong vibe and a varied drinks menu, I have no doubt that visitor numbers will increase as word spreads.”

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