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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 22nd Dec 2023 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – WatchHouse secures $10m funding as it targets more than 500 sites globally by 2033: Specialty coffee concept WatchHouse has completed a $10m (£7.9m) Series A fundraising round to continue the company’s rapid growth in the UK and US over the next 36 months, Propel has learned. Led by WatchHouse founder and chief executive Roland Horne, and advised by Bosham Capital Advisors, funds were raised from a “high-quality” mix of family office and high-net-worth investors in the UK, Europe, Asia, South America and the US with existing follow-on support from venture capital backers, Edition Capital. The funds will primarily be deployed to drive continued expansion of its estate in the UK and New York with the business targeting more than 500 outlets globally by 2033. The funds will also be used to expand WatchHouse’s e-commerce platform. WatchHouse is forecasting 60% year-on-year growth in FY24 with turnover forecast to exceed £20m, increasing to £40m by FY25. Projected house Ebitda by FY25 stands at £8.4m. In the recent quarter, the company experienced several weeks of record-breaking sales. WatchHouse said it is the largest accredited London Living Wage employer within the sector while the low rate of team turnover, at 31%, is more than half the industry average. Following on from the pre-Series A funding led by Edition Capital in 2019, this funding round will be used for further expansion, with WatchHouse extending its footprint both domestically and internationally. The company plans to open its inaugural overseas WatchHouse in New York in 5th Avenue in early 2024, with three more sites in the US pipeline. Additionally, WatchHouse is on track to expand operations in London with outlets in Hampstead, Fitzrovia, Marble Arch and two in Canary Wharf all secured and due to open in 2024. Horne said: “We want to be the global best and we are absolutely fixated on scaling quality specialty coffee and café experiences that are second to none. Our take on modern coffee, being a premium product, exceptional places, passionate people and motivating profit allows us to sustainably take a different approach to the well-trodden path of those who have gone before. The opening of our brand in the US, and the subsequent scaling in the UK will provide a great foundation for our growth through the years, towards our ten-year target of operating more than 500 WatchHouses across the globe by 2033.” Adrian Faure, managing director of Bosham Capital Advisors, added: “Not only does WatchHouse have an even stronger capital position from which to execute its growth plan from, but it has also welcomed a very high quality investor group in a transaction that was upsized by 20%-plus due to excess demand in a very short time frame.”

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

Mark Wingett – long-term structural shifts are reshaping the late-night sector: Long-term structural shifts are reshaping the late-night sector, Propel group editor Mark Wingett has argued. Writing in the final Premium Opinion of 2023, he pointed to Revolution Bars Group’s deal for Peach Pubs and Rekom UK’s focus on the growth of its bar brands as examples of how businesses previously focused on the post-10pm market are having to adapt. Wingett said changes in social habits caused by the covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, the impact of train strikes as well as the rise of the competitive socialising market have changed the landscape for the late-night sector. Wingett will share more of his thoughts in today’s (Friday, 22 December) Premium Opinion, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm. 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

Foodservice price growth eases as Christmas menu prices show minimal increase: Foodservice price growth has eased towards the end of the year – dropping from 16% in January to a peak at 19% in June and finally settling at 11% in November, according to analysis by market intelligence platform Meaningful Vision. The trend is observed both in restaurants and delivery, with delivery costs increasing on average by 4% more than restaurant meals throughout the year. Notably, the price hikes for Christmas menu items were more restrained, experiencing an 8% increase. Analysing the disparity between delivery and in-store prices, delivery costs predictably rose slightly faster, at 11%, in contrast with the 7% increase for in-store dining. Breaking down Christmas menu products in fast food, Meaningful Vision's research revealed the following delivery price increases for popular items in the category: hot drinks saw the highest growth at 13%; cookies and cakes increased by 11%; and sandwiches exhibited the lowest price rise, with a 9% growth in delivery prices. For all categories consumed in-store or ordered for takeaway, the price growth was more modest, ranging from 5% to 7%. Maria Vanifatova, chief executive of Meaningful Vision, said: “The overall trend towards slowing price growth, especially in Christmas menus, gives hope that holiday traffic will be better than the figures of previous months. In times of shrinking household budgets, the promise of good value is essential to keep consumers interested, providing the opportunity to dine out while Christmas shopping, for example, on a budget that suits everyone.”

MPs back UKHospitality’s calls for card payments on gaming machines: The culture, media and sport committee has backed UKHospitality’s calls for card payments to be permitted for use on gaming machines. The committee said it supports the introduction of cashless payments but also highlighted that customers who prefer to pay by cash should be able to do so. In the autumn, the government consulted on whether to allow cashless payments on gaming machines, which UKHospitality supported. The sector awaits the government’s final decision. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “This is yet another show of support to bring gaming machines into the modern age, with MPs joining united calls from the sector. Amusement machines have been long-standing fixtures in pubs and are a valuable revenue stream for venues, as well being enjoyed by customers. Cashless payments would help protect this part of their business and we look forward to the government’s conclusions on taking this forward, following an extensive consultation in the autumn.”

UKHospitality Scotland – preparation and cost recovery of visitor levy must be resolved with legislation: UKHospitality Scotland has warned businesses must be given maximum time to prepare for the introduction of a visitor levy and be able to recoup expenses associated with administering the scheme – and this must be written into legislation. It comes as a Bill to enable councils to invest more in local tourism facilities and services through a levy on overnight stays was published. If passed by the Scottish parliament, the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill will give councils the power to apply a levy on stays in overnight accommodation based on a percentage of the accommodation cost. All money raised would have to be reinvested locally on facilities and services substantially for or used by visitors, enhancing the tourist experience and benefiting local communities and their economies. It has been suggested the 18-month period set aside for businesses to prepare could be reduced to 12 months, but UKHospitality Scotland warned this was “simply not long enough”. Executive director Leon Thompson said: “The introduction of the visitor levy will represent a huge change for both hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses, as well as local authorities, so it is essential that the Scottish parliament properly scrutinises the legislation. The visitor levy will come with significant costs to businesses implementing new, or upgrading existing IT and payment systems, as well as identifying dedicated human resource to manage the charge. There is also the issue of businesses paying commission on bookings and credit card transactions. As things stand these are to be borne by businesses, while councils look to recover their costs. The legislation must provide for businesses to recoup expenses associated with administering the scheme, on behalf of local authorities. Furthermore, the report pushes expectation to resolve outstanding issues on to the expert working group and the guidance that will be created. This is not good enough, as the guidance will not be statutory, leading to a variety of approaches in implementing this tax in different parts of the country. It appears that business-critical issues raised during the consultation and at the committee’s evidence sessions are being swept under the carpet. If we are to learn lessons from previous failed initiatives, like the Deposit Return Scheme, all these issues must be resolved in legislation. That is the only way to provide certainty to businesses.”

Company News:

Terry Harrison to step down as Busaba MD: Terry Harrison is to step down as managing director of Busaba, the ten-strong Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, and will leave the business next March, Propel has learned. Harrison, a former director at Gondola Group, was appointed managing director of the Tnui Capital-backed Busaba in the summer of 2017. The brand went through its own restructure in 2020, where it looked to exit sites in Oxford Circus, Reading, Manchester and St Albans. It returned to the expansion trail in 2021, with openings in Cardiff and Oxford, and earlier this year launched a site in the Lakeside scheme in Essex. It is believed Harrison maintains an interest in the business and will continue to support the board at Busaba. Harrison told Propel: “It has been an incredible journey and a privilege to lead such a unique and established brand, with an authentic culture that I will always remain in awe of. There have been some scary times (a lot of people were reading the last rites on the business when I joined) but we came through them stronger and wiser. I've operated under three interesting and very different owners in my time at Busaba and worked alongside so many truly incredible people. I feel now it is the right time to go. The business is in a good place and it's important things don't end up being run on autopilot. I think both myself and the business will benefit from this decision. I'm going to take a well-earned breather before deciding what's next. I will truly miss the business and I am so proud that I got to play a small part in the history of Busaba.”

Sky News – Richard Caring considers Ivy Collection sale that could see business valued at up to £1bn: Richard Caring is considering selling a big stake in The Ivy Collection in a deal that analysts believe could see it valued at around £1bn. Sky News reported Caring has begun exploring the sale of a chunk of his hospitality empire in the coming months. He has appointed bankers at HSBC, which is a big lender to his companies, to advise on the process. Sources cautioned that it was not certain that Caring would decide to sell a controlling stake in The Ivy and Ivy Asia concepts. His other restaurants, which include London's Scott's, Sexy Fish and J Sheekey, are understood to be excluded from the prospective process. The private members' clubs owned by Caring, which include Annabel's and Mark's Club in Mayfair, are also not included. The Ivy was founded at a site near Leicester Square in 1917 by two friends, Abel Giandolini and Mario Gallati, with the latter then going on to open Le Caprice. Caring took over Caprice Holdings in 2005 in a deal that included many of London's most prominent restaurants. He has since embarked on expansion of The Ivy brand, taking it to dozens of locations across London and the south of England. Branches of The Ivy have also opened in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and York, as well as cities in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Caring has also focused on expanding The Ivy Asia. Latest accounts filed for Troia (UK) Restaurants for the period ending 1 January 2023, which comprises The Ivy Collection, showed record turnover of almost £303m, and adjusted Ebitda of £54.8m, which was also a record. In 2019, Caring sold a 25% stake in Caprice Holdings to Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar, in a deal reportedly worth £200m. Caring did not respond to requests for a comment while Caprice Holdings declined to comment.

Roxy Leisure creates new division to support expansion into family market, Colin Sadler to head with three sites set to open in 2024: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room concepts, has created a new division, Pins Leisure, to support its expansion into the family market. The division is being headed by Colin Sadler, who joins as managing director. He was previously managing director of Pitcher & Piano, Lost & Found and the Revere Pub Company at Marston’s. The creation of Pins Leisure follows the opening of King Pins at the Trafford Palazzo, Manchester. The division has been formed to focus on further expansion into family-led competitive socialising. A further three King Pins sites are set to open in 2024 – at Manchester Arndale, Bristol’s Cabot Circus and Glasgow’s Silverburn scheme. King Pins showcases both ten-pin and duck-pin bowling lanes, along with a range of games such as ice-free curling, batting cages, shuffleboard, air hockey, and next generation arcades. There is also a bar, food vendors and a sweet treats “emporium”. Roxy Leisure co-founder Matt Jones said: “Following the success we have seen with the expansion of Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ball Room, I am excited by this new growth opportunity, giving our business a broader consumer appeal. Pins Leisure will use all the knowledge we have gained over ten years’ experience in competitive socialising to develop multi-format gaming venues targeted at families. We already have a strong growth pipeline and will be accelerating our search for new sites across the country. I am delighted that Colin Sadler has agreed to join us to head up our new Pins Leisure division. Colin has experience creating and scaling leisure retail brands nationwide, which will prove to be particularly useful in the next phase of our growth.” Earlier this week, Roxy Leisure, which operates 18 sites, revealed it is aiming to grow to a 40-strong estate in the next five years.

Sukho Group like-for-likes up 3.1% and plans further expansion after reporting record full-year sales of £16m: Sukho Group, which operates the Sukhothai and Zaap Thai concepts, has seen like-for-like sales increase 3.1% in its current financial year as it plans further expansion, Propel has learned. Sukho Group marketing manager Greg Callaghan said: “December has been very positive and last week we had record weeks at Sukhothai Leeds city centre, Zaap Nottingham and Zaap Leeds, and as a group it was our second best ever week.” It comes as the group reported revenue increased 18% to a record £16m for the year ending 31 March 2023 compared with £13.5m the previous year. While Ebitda for the year decreased slightly from £3.1m to £3.0m, the business highlighted the 2022 figure included government assistance of circa £1m. The group expanded its footprint with the opening of its sixth Zaap site, in Sheffield, which contributed £1.6m in sales during its first partial year of operation. Despite challenging trading conditions marked by inflationary cost pressures, Sukho Group said it remains proactive in addressing challenges including direct imports of ingredients from Thailand to mitigate rising food prices and the repayment of outstanding loans. The group has an agreement secured to lease a site at The Riverwalk scheme in Durham for its seventh Zaap restaurant with “ongoing discussions” taking place on additional sites in key target cities. Callaghan told Propel: “We’re looking at places such as Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham and a few others. We’re planning at least one or two more Zaap openings in 2024 as well as Durham.” As well as Zaap, which operates in the casual dining space, the group has three sites under its Sukhothai concept, which operates in the fine dining sector. Sukho Group features in the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £16m is the 454th 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 to upgrade your subscription.

York drinks emporium eyes expansion of mini golf concept with plans to launch 11 further sites over next five years: A York drinks emporium is eyeing expansion of its mini golf concept with plans to launch 11 further sites over the next five years. Founded by Ben Fry and Phil Pinder, The Potions Cauldron initially sold drinks under its magic-themed branding, offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails which glitter, sparkle, and bubble when served. It previously featured on Dragon's Den, declining an offer from Peter Jones. The Potions Cauldron was impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, losing the entirety of its wholesale arm of the business. Fry and Pinder realised The Potions Cauldron needed to diversify if it was to survive future seismic changes. Investment from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) allowed the duo to expand a new business arm – following a first magic-themed mini golf site in York, with The Hole In Wand in Blackpool opening in June 2022 and The Potions Cauldron in Rose Street in Edinburgh launching in June 2023. The business is now looking to expand to other tourist locations like Keswick in 2024, with plans to launch ten further sites over the next five years. The magical drink range is now stocked in 120 HMV stores across the UK and is distributed to major retailers in the US. It is currently seeking a European distributor and has plans to export to the Middle East. The company has increased its turnover from £1.4m in 2022 to an expected £4.5m in 2024. Fry said: “The Potions Cauldron brand has grown to great heights over the past few years, which has been springboarded by the NPIF investment. Our business is now growing at a faster rate than ever before, expanding across the UK and reaching across the Atlantic to future partnerships with US brands. We're excited to see how our growth unfolds.”

Castle Rock – operations have returned to a semblance of normality, energy costs up 60%: Nottingham brewer and retailer Castle Rock Brewery has said operations have “returned to a semblance of normality” but has seen a 60% increase in energy costs. It comes as the business, which operates 22 pubs, reported turnover increased to £9,616,835 for the year ending 31 March 2023 compared with £7,671,794 the previous year. Revenue remained below the £10,683,010 reported for the year ending 31 March 2019 – the last full year before the covid pandemic. Pre-tax profit was up 58% to a record £1,063,714 from £596,486 the year before due to “certain one-off provisions created during the pandemic that have been reversed”. In his statement accompanying the accounts, director Colin Wilde said: “We can cautiously say that our business operations have returned to a semblance of normality. Yet, it is evident that each of our sites has undergone some changes, some positive and some lagging behind our initial projections. In terms of brewery sales into our company's estate, we have maintained a solid performance. However, the industry's excess capacity and oversupply to the free trade market and changing customer preferences have made delivering sales growth a challenge with margins also under pressure. The past year brought forth a set of challenges, including higher supply chain costs, inflation, and increasing interest rates, which have all dampened consumer confidence. Nevertheless, our company has strived to keep our retail points competitive and deliver a high value proposition to our consumers. Our company benefited from a fixed energy contract until September 2023. However, the renewal presents a substantial increase of approximately 60% going forward. The inflationary increase in national minimum wage leads to a significant upward movement in people costs for the current year. The company has diligently repaid debt, and now reaps the rewards of this through lower interest payments. Looking ahead, the coming years promise to be intriguing, especially with the impending expiration of our brewery lease term in 2027. Our landlords are evaluating their options given our location in a burgeoning building development hotspot. We must be prepared for the possibility that these leases may not be renewed. Our directors are actively engaging with all stakeholders to chart the next chapter of our company’s story.” The business did not receive any government grants (2022: £599,001). A dividend of £99,999 was paid (2022: £25,000).

Sheffield bakery and cafe business rescued from administration: Sheffield bakery and café business Forge Bakehouse has been rescued from administration. Stephen Beverley and Ryan Holdsworth, of Leonard Curtis, were appointed administrators of Forge Bakehouse, which has a café in Abbeydale as well as further outlets in Kelham Island, Beauchief, Lodge Moor and at Sheffield station. The company has now been restructured, with CPLG, headed by original Forge Bakehouse owner Craig Guest, at the helm. The deal has safeguarded 47 jobs. Guest said: “It is absolutely correct that we experienced operational difficulties in the past few months caused in part by the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy costs but we are now confident that we have placed this difficult period behind us. We took the decision to enter into administration and restructure only after looking at all the different routes available and listening to the advice of the Leonard Curtis team. It was important to us and we're proud that we always paid our employees and our suppliers and maintained good relationships even during this extremely difficult period for us. Our programme of growth is now set firmly in place and we opened new premises in Lodge Moor in November. We are looking forward to further expansion in 2024 and to the creation of even more jobs.”

North west bakery and retailer Waterfield’s sees turnover increase to record £13.6m after completing CVA: North west bakery and retailer Waterfield’s has reported turnover increased to a record £13,588,428 for the year ending 5 April 2023 compared with £12,404,298 the previous year. The company, which completed its company voluntary arrangement in June 2022, saw pre-tax profit fall to £52,340 from £301,611 the year before. Gross profit decreased from 48.4% to 46.6% due to “significant” increases in ingredient costs. During the period, the business opened a new site, taking its total to 38 across the region. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Both retail and wholesale sales continue to grow strongly. The company has secured new wholesale business with significant growth potential. Energy and vehicle fuel costs have also increased in line with global trends, with significant increases where long-term contracts have expired, but the company has maintained tight control over its other overhead costs. Capital investment during the year has been substantial, with an extension of the bakery, production equipment being upgraded, and a large new retail site being fitted out.” The family-run business, which has traded since 1926, did not receive any government grants (2022: £272). No dividend was paid (2022: nil).

Wingstop adds Lakeside site to 2024 pipeline: Lemon Pepper Holdings, the company behind the rollout of Wingstop in the UK, has lined up an opening in the Lakeside shopping scheme, Essex, for next year. The 39-strong company, which recently opened a second site for the brand in Edinburgh, has taken a unit, which forms the corner of a newly created food and beverage area on the ground floor of the scheme, opposite anchor tenants such as JD Sports. Earlier this week, Propel reported Wingstop will open its largest site yet – at Westfield Stratford City in London, in early 2024. Propel understands Wingstop has taken over the ex-Home Run House site previously operated by Passyunk Avenue until this summer. Located on the first floor opposite the scheme’s World Food Court, the site is circa 5,000 square feet and will comprise more than 160 covers. Wingstop UK has opened 11 new sites this year, and Propel understands the business intends to exceed that openings figure in 2024. It already has openings for next year lined up in Hounslow, Wood Green, Clapham, Croydon Leisure Park and Merry Hill. It is thought to have several more due to exchange or complete over the next two months. It expects revenues to reach about £65m this year, with like-for-like sales growth in double digits.

North east London and Essex McDonald’s franchisee falls to loss despite record revenue of £34.6m: McDonald’s franchisee Loizou Restaurants, which operates eight branches in north east London and Essex, has reported turnover increased to a record £34,584,333 for the year ending 31 March 2023 compared with £32,888,917 the year before. The business fell to a pre-tax loss of £381,618 compared with a profit of £2,609,778 the previous year due to a “significant” increase in costs. Gross profit margin was down to 64.1% from 69.6% the year before. In his report accompanying the accounts, franchisee John Loizou stated: “The company continues to substantially invest in its restaurants as part of a programme to upgrade their look and feel with new enhanced equipment and thereby improve the customer and employee experience.” A dividend of £385,486 was paid (2022: £395,440). Loizou opened his first site in 1999, in Barkingside, with a high street McDonald's restaurant. He continued over the years with drive-thru stores – such as Marks Gate, Brimsdown, Waltham Abbey, Chingford, Newbury Park and Enfield Retail Park – gradually creating and expanding the group to its current shape and size, most recently with the opening of a McDelivery kitchen in South Woodford.

BrewDog to open two more venues in UK travel hubs as it extends SSP partnership: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to extend its partnership with SSP Group, which operates food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, with two more UK venues opening in early 2024. A new BrewDog bar will launch at Edinburgh Waverley station and a new “BrewDog pub” will open at London Waterloo, which will be a “modern take on the traditional commuter pub”. Located within Waterloo’s main concourse, the pub will have 16 taps of craft beer and a range of spirits and cocktails. On the food menu will be a range of pub classics, as well as BrewDog’s signature wings and burgers. The venue will enhance BrewDog’s presence at Waterloo station – which already includes the brand’s landmark bar and restaurant at The Sidings, serving more than 15,000 people per week. The two new locations follow openings at London Gatwick’s North Terminal and Amsterdam Centraal station in 2023, as part of BrewDog’s growth plan. The business’ portfolio now spans more than 100 bars and hotels across the world, with plans to open another 200 venues in key markets across the globe over the next seven years. James Watt, BrewDog co-founder and chief executive, said: “We’re excited to be opening two more fantastic travel locations with our partner SSP. Waterloo is already a special place for us, and the new pub will take elements of the classic pub we know and love, but add a BrewDog twist. Opening at key transport hubs, like Edinburgh and London, is a big part of our growth plans and we look forward to opening more locations in the years ahead.” Kari Daniels, chief executive of SSP UK & Ireland, added: “Following the successful openings in Amsterdam and Gatwick, we’re pleased to be opening more BrewDog venues at key UK travel locations. Our understanding of the travelling consumer means we’re confident both will be a big hit with those travelling through Edinburgh and Waterloo.”

North west holiday park operator Holgates reports turnover increases to record £20.6m: North west holiday park operator Holgates has reported turnover increased 5% to a record £20,591,761 for the year ending 28 February 2023 compared with £19,506,207 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £4,791,490 from £7,446,643 the year before. The business received £6,000 in government grants (2022: £241,674). A dividend of £250,000 was paid (2022: £250,000). Operating holiday parks since 1956, Holgates is a family-owned business with ten holiday parks located across the Morecambe Bay coastline and the north west, with locations across Lancashire, Cumbria and the Ribble Valley.

Louie Louie owner – going into existing venues is the way ahead as it ‘takes some of the risk away’: Chris Greenwood, owner of the five-strong Louie Louie cafe concept, has said going into existing venues is the way ahead for his business because it “takes some of the risk away”. Greenwood, a former nightclub and festival operator, and his wife Lena had to shut their debut site in Walworth, south London, in October after seven years – blaming the closure on a landlord demanding 100% rent throughout the covid pandemic. He struck back immediately after the closure by launching Saint Louie Bakery – a bakery and cafe by day and supper club by night – in the crypt of nearby St Peter’s Church Walworth, and will next month expand outside London for the first time with Louie on Sea, a cafe and restaurant within the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate. This adds to the couple’s three other sites – cafe/bars Little Louie in Elephant Park, Low Line Louie in London Bridge and South London Louie in Peckham. “What happened with Louie Louie just hammered it home for me – borrowing money and setting up restaurants is risky, especially in London,” Greenwood said. “Only the chains can afford to roll out really, and liquidation is not a pleasant process. Borrowing £200,000-£300,000 is scary when you don’t know what’s around the corner, and it’s hard to be hospitable when you’re up all night worrying about the rent. Going into existing venues takes away some of the risk – something which is set up already but needs the hospitality. There’s a lot of churches sitting empty for most of the time, or art galleries that need another revenue stream – it’s like restaurants in residence, and if something doesn’t work, we can move on to the next thing without the pressure of a large capex to recoup.” Opening on Saturday, 20 January, Louie on Sea will take over the former Staple bakery unit within the Turner Contemporary and has partnered with local chef Julian Brown for the venture. “It’s a big move, but we keep grabbing opportunities when they come,” Greenwood added. “After this we’re looking to consolidate, but if we can tap into the gallery market and perhaps go into galleries in other towns, then great.”

Leicester leisure scheme sells in £25m deal: A leisure scheme in Leicester that is anchored by cinema operator Vue and Hollywood Bowl has been acquired in a deal worth £25m. Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) has sold Meridian Leisure Park to Greenridge Opportunities. It extends to 155,071 square foot across a 19.8-acre site off the Leicester Ring Road (A563), with occupiers also including David Lloyd, Nando's, better burger brand Five Guys, Burger King, Pizza Hut and The Restaurant Group-owned brand Frankie & Benny's. Bik Bhuptani, partner at Greenridge, said: “We are excited about the addition of Meridian Leisure Park to our portfolio. This acquisition perfectly aligns with our strategy of investing in high-quality, income-generating assets. The park's robust tenant mix and prime location underscore our commitment to identifying and capitalising on unique opportunities in the leisure sector. We see significant potential for value creation and look forward to enhancing the park's offering, further cementing its status as a key leisure destination in the East Midlands.” The park has been owned by LGIM's leisure fund since 2002. Andrew Ferguson, senior fund manager of the leisure fund at LGIM, added: “The leisure sector has been tested over the past few years in the face of wider economic challenges, particularly within the cinema market. However, good quality, well managed leisure schemes in prime locations continue to remain resilient; Meridian Leisure Park is testament to this.” Montagu Evans advised LGIM and Savills advised Greenridge in the off-market transaction.

Birmingham pub to reopen as Indian restaurant: A pub in Birmingham city centre once used by the BBC as “The Garrison Tavern” in Peaky Blinders is set to reopen as an Indian restaurant. The Bulls Head is a grade II-listed terracotta pub built at 38 Bishopsgate Street around the corner from Broad Street on Westside in 1901. In October 2017, the exterior was dressed up as “The Garrison Tavern” for the opening photocall of the fourth season's premiere of Steven Knight's Peaky Blinders. The pub, which was sold to an investment fund in February 2022 and has been closed since, will reopen as an Indian desi restaurant in 2024, trading under the name of the Peg And Grill. Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, said: “We're thrilled to be welcoming The Bulls Head back to Westside's trading businesses, albeit under its new name of the Peg and Grill. What a wonderful addition to the area this will be in 2024.”

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