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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 21st Dec 2023 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pizza Pilgrims experiences three consecutive weeks of record sales during ‘exceptional’ December, appoints new operations director to support growth plans: Pizza Pilgrims, the pizzeria brand, has experienced three consecutive weeks of record sales and appointed a new operations director to support its next stage of growth, Propel has learned. Pizza Pilgrims managing director Gavin Smith said December trading has been “exceptional” in both sales and covers terms. He said: “We have seen three consecutive weeks of record sales (up 35%) and covers (up 21%). Our exciting new menu continues to deliver spend growth. London has felt pre-pandemic all through December with huge footfall, strong bookings and all timeslots at capacity. It has been wonderful to see and rewarding for our exceptional teams who have worked passionately all year. It is crucial to recognise the role of our pizza academy in Camden. Now in its fourth year, we have graduated 160 managers in that time and have no vacancies currently. This has facilitated the ability to take the revenue when it exists.” He said the company’s Leeds outlet, which is in its fourth week of operation, was trading 50% ahead of budget. The 24-strong, Imbiba-backed business is launching in London’s Euston in May and has “multiple other exciting locations agreed”. To support its next stage of growth, Pizza Pilgrims has appointed Tom Smith as an operations director, starting in February. He joins from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick-service restaurant brand, where for the past two years as head of operations he has overseen the opening of multiple restaurants. Tom Smith has previously held senior roles at Tesla, Papa John’s, Starbucks and Greene King. Gavin Smith said: “Tom brings a wealth of experience, skill and energy that will support the continued growth of Pizza Pilgrims. His obsession for talent development, operational excellence and commercial savvy marries perfectly with the culture and team at Pizza Pilgrims and we are super excited to have Tom join and support him in the next stage of his career.” Pizza Pilgrims features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £21,012,364 for the year ending 26 June 2022 is the 373rd highest in the database. 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.

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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com.

Hospitality sales up 7.0% year-on-year in latest 12 weeks: Hospitality sales grew 7.0% year-on-year in the latest 12 weeks, according to analysis from HDI, the provider of card spending insight and pricing data to the UK hospitality sector. Fast food and takeaway, coffee and sandwich and pizza delivery continued to be the best performing sectors, all seeing double-digit growth over the 12 weeks ending 21 November 2023, with delivery sales not far behind with growth of 7.7%. Pubs and restaurants saw mid-single-digit growth, with casual dining sales declining by 2.4%, according to analysis of HDI’s panel of 10.2 million unique customers. Mark Bentley, business development director at HDI, said: “Headline inflation continues to ease, with average prices versus six months ago up by 3.5% on food and 3.9% on drinks from our tracking of more than 165,000 like-for-like site/item combinations in pubs and bars. Hopefully, we’re on track for a strong Christmas period, which will be our first ‘proper’ Christmas trade since 2019 and we can enter 2024 with optimism for the year ahead.” HDI’s panel tracks more than 160,000 individually identifiable hospitality venues including in excess of 350 different brands and formats, with its pricing data covering circa 15,000 hospitality venues and all major grocers. 

UKHospitality – sector ‘continuing to feel the pain’ despite rate of inflation dropping to lowest level in more than two years: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has said sector businesses are “continuing to feel the pain” despite the rate of inflation dropping to its lowest level in more than two years. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the rate of inflation fell to 3.9% in November, down from 4.6% in October, and the lowest level since September 2021. However, Nicholls said: “Consistent reductions in the overall rate of inflation is good news for the economy but it will feel far from reality for hospitality businesses. Venues continue to feel the pain of energy, food and drink costs that continue to rise at a far higher rate. This will be compounded in April when business rates rise yet again for the vast majority, putting further pressure on consumer prices and risking an unwanted inflationary spike. We’re urging the government to reconsider its decision to put up business rates by more than 6% in England and instead use the forecasted April rate of inflation of 3%, which would relieve some pain for businesses.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, added: “While the news of overall inflation continuing to fall is positive, the hospitality sector is still not feeling the benefit of this. Across our supply chain, and especially for food and energy, our costs continue to rise. We need to see inflation continue to fall, in all areas of the economy, in the next quarter to ensure that all of Britain’s pubs can reach profitability and, therefore, stability in 2024.”

Propel subscribers to receive bonus episode of Tipjar webinar series to help understand the complexities of new tipping legislation today: Cashless tipping platform Tipjar is giving Propel subscribers exclusive early access to a webinar series to help understand the complexities of the new tipping legislation poised to make waves in the hospitality industry next year. The “Fair Tips Talks” series, presented in partnership with The Tronc Advisor, offers expert insight and actionable strategies. Propel subscribers will receive access to a bonus episode today (Thursday, 21 December) at 9am. The episode sees Tipjar chief customer officer, Dan Hawkie, and tips and tronc expert Andy Hamman dissect the initial responses of operators to the draft code of practice unveiled by the government on Friday (15 December). This code holds significant importance in establishing the criteria for fairness within the hospitality sector concerning tips and tronc and the new legislation due to come into effect in July 2024.

Michelin Guide adds 18 venues including two pubs in same Oxfordshire village: A total of 18 pubs and restaurants have been added to the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland this month. Among the variety of venues joining the selection are two pubs in the Oxfordshire village of Charlbury. It may only have a population of around 3,000, but Charlbury also has both The Bull and The Bell – one minute apart, and now both in the guide. Also added this month is L’Atelier Robuchon, which saw the Joel Robuchon International group relaunch its restaurant in London’s Mayfair under the concept in August. The capital had two other new additions – Dovetale and Empire Empire. Elsewhere in England, Five Little Pigs in Wallingford, Oxfordshire; Mark Poynton at Caistor Hall in Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk; Tern in Worthing, West Sussex; Harbour House in Flushing, Cornwall; The Clifton in Bristol; The Mulberry in Falmouth, Cornwall; Updown Farmhouse in Deal, Kent; Hearth in Hull; and Wilks in Bath were included. In Scotland, Lyla in Edinburgh joined the guide while there were three additions from Ireland – Alumni Kitchen Table in Rathangan and Lottie’s and La Gordita, both in Dublin.

Licensing update: John Gaunt & Partners licensing solicitors has just published its last licensing update of the year. The entire team at John Gaunt & Partners wishes all Propel readers a prosperous Christmas and a successful new year and “looks forward to supporting you in a thriving 2024”. The full update can be accessed here.

Company News:

Stonegate completes £638m refinancing: Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has completed a £638m refinancing of a 1,034-strong pub portfolio, with debt provided by US private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Stonegate stated: “The portfolio comprises 944 leased and tenanted and 90 free-of-tie freehold pubs outside the unique securitisation group, delivering £77m of Ebitda for the 52 weeks ended September 24, 2023. The portfolio is predominantly weighted towards the south of England and generates the majority of its revenue from drink sales, with a mid-market focus and a strong bias towards well-populated, suburban locations. The portfolio will be acquired by newly incorporated, wholly owned unrestricted subsidiaries of Stonegate Pub Company. As part of the transaction, Stonegate will enter into agreements with New PubCos on an arm’s length basis to provide the portfolio with certain management and procurement services. In consideration for the transaction, Stonegate and/or its restricted subsidiaries will receive upon completion (i) £609m cash proceeds, funded via a secured whole-business loan newly advanced by third party financing providers to New PubCos and (ii) a £201m promissory note issued to Stonegate.” Chief executive David McDowall said: “This transaction marks an important step in achieving the group’s long-term balance sheet goals and is the result of a competitive process that saw significant interest. We are pleased with the result of this attractive financing arrangement, and our ability to preserve the option of retaining the portfolio within the group.” 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. The Slug and Lettuce and Be At One owner currently has debts of almost £4bn, of which half were maturing in July 2025. Talking to Propel last month, McDowall 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. Apollo is set to complete the circa £500m acquisition of Wagamama-owner, The Restaurant Group, this month.

Anglian Country Inns trading 15% ahead of previous year and set for further expansion: Gastro-pub operator Anglian Country Inns, led by James Nye, is trading 15% ahead in its current financial year compared with the previous year and is set for further expansion. It comes as the ten-strong business reported revenue growth of 25.8% to £18m for the year ending 30 March 2023 (2022: £14.3m), which was in part driven by price increases to offset inflationary costs with the majority coming from increased footfall and uplift in activity from existing sites. The company stated: “The business benefited from refurbishments including the expansion of Hermitage Rd Coffee & Bagel Bar in Hitchin in August 2022 as well as a sunny summer period. The directors were happy with the top line performance in what had been expected to be a difficult year against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and anticipated wane in demand after the post-covid year. There were challenges around recruitment. However, sites were able to deliver a quality experience without restricting trading hours. The business placed a lot of focus on improving working conditions and staff welfare, including the creation of a new head of people role. By the end of the year, staff retention had improved by 10% and employee engagement scores had risen significantly. Inflation put pressure on food margin and it was difficult to secure stable pricing, yet most of the cost increases were mitigated. Wet margins remained strong and with a higher proportion events and accommodation, the overall gross profit of the business was maintained at 74.2% (2022: 74.2%). Other admin expenses increased significantly in the period to 25.8% of turnover (2022: 21.3%) due to a combination of inflationary costs rises and increasing the central support team for further expansion. Part of the increase was a higher level of repairs and maintenance throughout the group as the directors invested in the infrastructure of the sites. Site Ebitda for the year was £3m (2022: £3.9m), an 11% increase when compared with the previous year without the government support. Many of the improvements were carried over from the previous year and funded through free cash generated by the business.” Nye said: “We are really pleased to have successfully navigated the plethora of challenges the year threw at us – rife inflation, talent availability, new post-covid trading patterns to name a few. We have shown great resilience and come out stronger as a business for it, paving the way for further expansion.”

Better burger brand Amigos Burgers & Shakes outlines plans for 100-strong estate in next five years: Better burger brand Amigos Burgers & Shakes has outlined plans for a 100-strong UK estate in the next five years. Amigos was launched in Acton, west London, in 2011 by Waqas Siddique and Kasim Akhter and has since expanded to 20 sites across the capital with a further eight stores planned for Birmingham. The brand said expansion was driven by increased demand from franchisees with potential new locations being discussed for cities up and down the country. It hopes by growing the chain’s presence across the UK, it can become the new “go-to location for people who want a quality burger”. A spokesperson from Amigos told Bdaily: “We’re incredibly proud of our brand’s growth over the years to become one of London’s most loved independent food outlets. Now our goal is to showcase what’s made us so popular to the rest of the UK. We hope this expansion will allow Amigos to be spoken about in the same conversation as the biggest names in the burger industry.” Siddique and Akhter are childhood friends who were exposed to the sector from an early age as they hung around a fish and chip shop owned by Akhter’s father. Having first expanded with a second store in Shepherd’s Bush in 2015, their first franchise store followed in 2017, in east London. At the time of the signing of the Birmingham deal in October, Propel reported Amigos was targeting national expansion and was looking for experienced franchisees and investors to help it grow. The business signed up former Hero Brands franchise director Nil Naik as a consultant to aid its expansion plans.

Buns from Home COO – business has ‘lots of synergies’ with my former company Leon but is ‘more scalable’: London independent bakery brand Buns from Home has “lots of synergies” with Leon but is “more scalable”, chief operating officer Shereen Ritchie has said. Ritchie spent almost four years as managing director with natural fast food brand Leon, overseeing two record-breaking years before covid hit, and then spent a year and a half as chief operating officer at organic farming business Sprout & Co before arriving at Buns from Home as chief operating officer in May. “There’s a lot of synergies with Buns in terms of being a lifestyle brand,” Ritchie said. “But I think we’re much more scalable than Leon. A Leon fit-out was £500,000 back in the day. Buns is a simpler concept, and being simple is hard. A lot of leaders spend a lot of time trying to be simpler, but we’ve already got that. A big part of our success has been our property strategy, as we can go into a 100 square-foot unit to around 1,000. Hubs, capex-wise, you’re looking at £90,000 all in, whereas kiosks, you’re looking at £20,000-£25,000. I’m a big believer in lifestyle brands, and I think we can be so much more than bricks and mortar. We’re launching three cook books and going into retail through merchandise and ambient, while chilled and frozen lines are on the map. We will also be bolstering the corporate side of the business next year, which will be an area really important to our business model.” The brand, which started as a lockdown project for Barney Goff, will open its 13th site, in London’s Victoria, “at the end of this year or the beginning of next”. Ritchie said the brand’s first offering, cinnamon buns, remain its best seller at 36% of sales, and that every weekend it launches a special, available for 48 hours only, which has “created an amazing social following”. She said: “We punch above our weight on Instagram without having a marketing team. For 12 stores we have 140,000 followers; 2,302 average likes per post; a 1.28% engagement rate; and 87,925 was our most liked post. We’re a little bit humble and rough around the edges and I think we always will be, I don’t think we ever want to be too polished.” Ritchie also said she is passionate about sustainability and would like to see an industry-wide effort in helping ensure a better future for generations to come. “When you look at how the whole industry came together almost overnight during the pandemic through things like Feed the NHS, I think we need to do the same thing with sustainability,” she added.

Tortilla shares tumble 9.5% as high street sites struggle: Shares in Tortilla, the UK’s largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand, fell 9.5% to 50p after it warned that sales at its high street locations have been hit by low consumer confidence and footfall. The group said in a trading update on Wednesday (20 December) that total revenue is expected to rise to £65.7m this year, but underlying profits will be between £4.5m-£4.6m – slightly below expectations. Tortilla said its London, shopping centre and travel sites continue to perform well, but demand at high street and smaller town locations is being impacted by economic uncertainty. Cost-cutting measures have been implemented, although the full benefit will mostly be felt in 2024. Chief executive Richard Morris said Tortilla remains confident in its long-term growth potential, with new openings continuing. But he added: “We are taking proactive actions to adapt to the changing market environment.” The shares have now dropped 42% year-to-date.

Former Blackrose MD acquires brand: Daren Knipe, former managing director of north east pub company Blackrose, has successfully acquired the company name and goodwill following its recent insolvency by its former owners. Knipe said the acquisition marks a significant turning point for the 15-strong Blackrose, allowing it to trade independently and “charting a new course beyond its former structure”. The business said Knipe, with his extensive industry experience, will “continue to bring a wealth of knowledge and a fresh perspective that is poised to reinvigorate the Blackrose name and position it for sustained success”. Knipe said: “I am thrilled to announce the acquisition of the Blackrose name and the opportunity to lead the previously successful brand into a new era. Under the new structure, Blackrose will operate as an independent entity. Having already successfully secured the continuation of previous management contracts, we are now also thrilled to be able to take on new clients within the private investment sector and hospitality industry. This move ensures that we can adopt a more agile approach while placing greater emphasis on our clients and their investments. We will also continue to develop our pledge towards complete transparency and honest relationships with our new and existing partners alike. Our amazing people are the backbone of Blackrose, and we are committed to developing an already positive and collaborative work environment as we move forward in our new venture.” Knipe said the change in ownership was anticipated to bring about exciting developments in product innovation, customer engagement, and overall business operations. The company will also be “exploring valuable avenues for growth and expansion, guided by a strategic vision that aligns with the evolving needs of the industry marketplace”. 

Jeremy King – hotels are the pinnacle of hospitality: Jeremy King, the co-founder of Corbin & King and doyenne of London’s dining scene, has said hotels are “the pinnacle of hospitality”. King confirmed in the summer that he was returning to the capital’s dining scene. He will open Arlington in the former Le Caprice site in London’s West End in early 2024, along with a New York-inspired “Grand Café” called The Park in Bayswater, and last month confirmed he is taking on Simpson’s in the Strand. “It’s just London for me at the moment, and ideally, I’d go back and get another hotel,” King said. “I think hotels are the pinnacle of hospitality. I want to go back as in a restaurant, we get people for two to three hours, but in a hotel we get people for up to 24 hour a day and for days on end. The challenges and opportunities are there, hotels have become so homogenised now. I did look at a pub recently up near Regents Park called York & Albany. That came up and I was very tempted but thought I’d be taking too much on, so I backed away.” King said being driven by money can restrict restaurants, but he believes he will make money by “showing people a good time and making them feel valued” – and that is “not happening enough in the trade at the moment”. He said: “A lot of the most interesting people in any given restaurant are the less affluent ones. You have to have a balance as if you go for only the very top end spenders and are driven by that, you end up with a boring restaurant, which in time will disappear. I work on the basis of giving people the opportunity to spend but not making it mandatory. At Brasserie Zedel, which we opened in 2012, soup was £2.25. You could have a three-course meal with wine and water for under £20. I think generosity is an absolutely essential element in hospitality. An investor told me 18 months after we opened Zedel it was a vanity project that was never going to work and that would drive the company into the ground, but it worked, even with linen napkins at that price. I see some restaurants charging up to £50 for a main course with paper napkins and I don’t understand that. People may not complain about that, but they will complain subliminally.” King added that hospitality is the “best career in the world” but we “don’t recognise it”. He said: “In this country, it seems to be a subservient, servile, demeaning job to serve people. But it’s not, and we have to learn that if we’re going to encourage people back into the business.”

Lincolnshire holiday park operator reports record turnover of £24m as it benefits from staycation boom: Lincolnshire operator Coastfields Leisure has reported turnover increased to a record £23,769,495 for the year ending 30 November 2022 compared with £20,887,796 the year before as it benefited from the staycation boom. The company, which operates seven holiday parks as well as a pub and hotel and a golf and country club, saw pre-tax profit fall to £3,540,153 from £4,242,815 the previous year. Gross profit margin was down to 30% from 36% the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The 2022 season has been another strong year as a result of the continued boom in the British holiday industry. The company has continued to invest in both expanding its holiday fleet capacity and in further developing other infrastructure around its parks to capitalise on this over the coming years.” The business received government grants of £61,335 (2021: £817,042). A dividend of £555,000 was paid (2021: £751,500).

Thai restaurant concept to open third Manchester site for sixth outlet: Thai restaurant concept My Thai is set to open its sixth site, and third in Manchester. The company is opening the outlet in West Didsbury. My Thai has been granted permission by the city council to launch in Burton Road in the premises previously occupied by The Chippy fish and chip shop, reports the Manchester Evening News. The opening, in early 2024, will add to My Thai’s existing sites in the city, in John Dalton Street and the Northern Quarter. The company also has two sites in Leeds and one in Bradford.

PizzaExpress closes Perth restaurant: PizzaExpress has closed its restaurant in the Scottish city of Perth. The outlet in South Methven Street shut permanently on Sunday (17 December). A notice on the door said: “To all PizzaExpress customers, PizzaExpress Perth is now closed. Thank you for your custom over many years. The nearest PizzaExpress sites are St Andrews and Stirling. They look forward to welcoming you.” A spokesperson for PizzaExpress told The Courier: “We’ve loved serving up great pizza and great experiences at our Perth pizzeria, and customers can continue to visit us at other locations across the region including St Andrews and Stirling.”

North east Mexican restaurant concept to open in Whitley Bay for fourth site: North east Mexican restaurant concept Lobo Rojo is set to open its fourth site. The company opened its first site five years ago on the Fish Quay in North Shields before adding “Little Lobo” outlets in Tynemouth and Sandyford. Now the business is set for further expansion, with an opening in Whitley Bay. It comes after North Tyneside Council granted permission for a variation in the premises licence for Lobo Rojo’s new site in Countess Avenue, in the former Cullercoats coffee shop. Lobo Rojo’s owners, John Good and Robert Beveridge-Pearson, are investing about £240,000 in the restaurant, which will have capacity for about 35 diners, reports the Northumberland Gazette. 

Family-run Scottish hotel group sees continued revpar improvement and confident business will remain profitable despite rising costs as it reports record revenue: Solley Hotels, which operates three sites on the east coast of Scotland, has said it has seen a continued improvement in revpar and is confident the business will remain profitable in its current financial year despite increasing costs. It comes as the business reported revenue increased to a record £7,990,440 for the year ending 30 April 2023 compared with £6,619,470 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £295,852 from £612,180 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The results since the year end have seen a continued improvement in revpar and we are confident the business will remain profitable in the coming year.” A dividend of £119,995 was paid (2022: nil). The family-run business owns the Pitbauchlie House Hotel in Dunfermline, the BW Kings Manor Hotel in Edinburgh and the BW Balgeddie House Hotel in Glenrothes.

Company behind four-star Hampshire hotel in negotiations to refinance debt as it reports turnover exceeds pre-covid levels: The company behind the four-star Langstone Quays Resort hotel in Hayling Island, Hampshire, has said it is in negotiations to refinance its debt. It comes as the company reported revenue increased to £5,399,979 for the year ending 30 November 2022 compared with £3,937,950 the year before. Revenue also exceeded the £4,844,276 reported for the year ending 30 November 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax losses were up to £354,597 from £168,588 the previous year (2019: loss of £247,849). In her report accompanying the accounts, director Paula Walker stated: “During the period under review, the company has seen the first full year of trading since the covid-19 restrictions have lifted. During the year, the refurbishment programme has included the executive and family bedrooms. The improvements saw average room rate increase over pre-covid levels, driving overall revenue £550,000 ahead of 2019 for the year. The significant increase in utility costs and the resultant cost-of-living crisis during 2022 had an impact on profit, although revenue remained strong with budgets for the year being exceeded. The company is negotiating with financial institutions to refinance its debt.” The business did not receive any government grants (2021: £329,245).

London conference venue reports 17.3% revenue increase after ‘exceptional’ year: 30 Euston Square, the London conference, meetings, and events venue, has reported a 17.3% in revenue after an “exceptional” year. Since the start of 2023, 30 Euston Square has hosted 1,056 events with 43,000 guests, seeing a booking increase of 13% in comparison with last year. The venue attributes its success to the pent-up demand for events, with an increase in large conferences and events being booked by international companies looking to expand their market in the UK and Europe. This year also marked the appointment of new executive chef, Alessandro Negro, who has developed the event packages and private dining menus “with a focus on the finest seasonal, British ingredients”. Luiz Mazzari, general manager at 30 Euston Square, said: “We are incredibly delighted to exceed our targets with a record number of bookings this year. Looking ahead to 2024, we are optimistic that conference and event bookings will continue to grow as organisers continue prioritising face-to-face interactions, while we are also predicting a further increase in large events, including full venue hire, along with experience-led packages for corporate bookings.” The venue offers a wide variety of event and conference spaces across seven floors, including its 300-seat auditorium, 41 boutique bedrooms and a rooftop terrace.

Vue Islington to reopen early in 2024 following refurbishment featuring luxury recliner seats: Cinema operator Vue International’s venue in Islington, north London, is set to reopen early in 2024 following a refurbishment that will include the introduction of luxury recliner seats. It will install 788 leather seats that are capable of reclining fully back and come complete with a fold-away tray and cup holder. The 51,085 square-foot, ten-screen site will also get a refurbished foyer with the latest Coke Freestyle, Lavazza Coffee and Tango Ice Blast machines. Manuk Asatryan, general manager of Vue Islington, said: “We look forward to unveiling our new look site in the new year. Our customers can expect to enjoy the very best in big screen entertainment including the latest blockbusters, classic titles and the best in live music, sport and theatre, all while they sit back and relax in our signature recliner seating.” The upgrades are being made in a joint investment with Angel Central landlords, CBRE Investment Management. Earlier this year, Propel revealed that Vue, which operates circa 88 UK cinemas in a worldwide estate of more than 220, was accelerating its flexible pricing roll out.

Pasture achieves top three-star SRA rating: Steakhouse and late-night bar group Pasture has secured a three-star “Food Made Good” rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). The group comprises two restaurants in Bristol – Pasture, which opened in 2018 and Radius, which opened last year; and two in Cardiff – a second Pasture, which opened in 2020, and Parallel, which opened earlier this year. In 2024, chef-owner Sam Elliott will also be opening Prime by Pasture; a butchery, deli, cookery school and burger joint in the Redcliffe Quarter, Bristol; and Pasture Birmingham at Fifteen Colmore Row in Birmingham city centre. Pasture scored exceptionally highly in all three categories assessed by the SRA for its “Food Made Good” rating – environment, sourcing and society. Elliott said: “My vision for Pasture was always to champion the best possible produce made in the best possible way, so it feels great to have our efforts recognised.” In September, Elliott told Propel that the business “will not become another chain”, with each site “very individual”.

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