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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators
Fri 23rd Feb 2024 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Exclusive – Gong Cha relaunching franchise programme and looking to bring more franchisees on board to help realise ambitious UK expansion plans: Gong Cha, the fast-growing bubble tea brand headquartered in the UK, has told Propel it is relaunching its franchise programme and looking to bring more franchisees on board to help it realise its ambitious expansion plans here. Founded in Taiwan in 2006, Gong Cha operates nearly 2,100 stores in 24 countries and has plans to scale up to 10,000 stores by 2032, including 500 in the UK. Having launched here in 2019, it currently has 13 UK stores through master franchisee Gong Cha England but is keen to ramp up its expansion through new partners. “We’re looking to expand beyond our master franchisee and bring in more multi-site operators,” said Justin Goes, who was appointed Gong Cha’s UK & Ireland development director in November after helping grow Subway to 5,000 sites in Europe. “It has a ceiling of about 20, so our longer-term term play is to keep our master franchisee at that level and continue our development through a direct franchising model with other multi-site operators. We have five territories here lined up and are confident we will fill them in 2024 – we are in discussions with two strong groups with large quick service restaurant operations. It will require a lot of time to build it up, but we are already starting to see the fruits of our labour.” Openings lined up for 2024 include Southampton and Norwich with its existing master franchisee, plus expected plans to open in Northern Ireland and South Yorkshire with new partners. Openings later in 2024 will also see the UK debut of Gong Cha’s new store design, which is due to be rolled out first in Saudi Arabia. New format stores will also be available to those who come on board for the next phase of growth. “Our typical store is 600-900 square feet, but we’ve now got 100 square-foot kiosks that can go into places like shopping centre corridors or train or tube stations,” Goes said. “We’re also looking to go into airports, motorway services, hospitals and universities. We also just launched our biggest site yet, in Morocco, which is 2,150 square-feet and has a wider range of food offering, which we have only done in Japan and Korea before. A small grab-and-go food offering focused on sweet treats is an area we’re developing as we speak. We’re looking at all kinds of food options, both sweet and savoury, and will be led by guest trends and market research to determine the best menu line up in the UK.” One area Gong Cha won’t be actively developing here is dark kitchens, having launched its first in February 2023, in London. “Dark kitchens work in some areas with high density populations but don’t work everywhere,” Goes said. “During covid, we saw them grow, and we’ve seen they are less popular now that consumer footfall is bouncing back and people are eating and drinking out. It’s not a particular focus – we’re more about an immersive in-store experience.” As for why the company chose London as its global headquarters, Goes added: “London is time zone friendly, is at the centre of European food and beverage trends and says something about the brand.”
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – let Nory Tips handle the pain of managing your tips: Managing tips means assigning tronc masters, creating complex point systems and making manual payroll amendments. And on top of all that, there’s a complete lack of visibility for front-line teams on the amounts they’re due. Enter Nory Tips. A spokesperson said: “Our revolutionary platform is designed to take the headache out of tip management. By automating the entire process, we ensure fairness, transparency and ease for both operators and your teams. No more spreadsheets, no more disputes, just a straightforward solution that works. Businesses switching to Nory Tips have seen staff earnings increase by 10% in just six weeks. That’s not just changing the game; it’s making everyone a winner. Ready to ditch the old, cumbersome systems and embrace a brighter, more profitable way of managing tips? Nory Tips is the future of fair and efficient tip distribution, ensuring your team is rewarded for the great service they provide. We’re pumped to speak to you and make your processes better. Are you ready to take the pain out of tip management? Put more money in the pockets of your staff with Nory Tips. To find out more, click hereIf you have a sponsored message you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
Sir Tim Martin to speak at first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2024, open for bookings: Sir Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, will be among the speakers at the first Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2024. More than 350 people have booked for the conference, which takes place on Thursday, 21 March, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s Kensington, and is open for bookings. Sir Tim talks to Propel’s editorial advisor Katherine Doggrell about the current state of the UK pub market, the continued growth of Wetherspoon, and the evolution of its offer. They will also be joined by Emma Gibson, one of the company’s “employee directors”, to discuss the group’s approach to corporate governance. Operators can book up to three free places per company while Premium Club members who are operators can book up to four free places. To book, email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com.
 
Pub and bar companies among 14 new businesses joining updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies being released today: Pub and bar companies are among the 14 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released to Premium Club members today (Friday, 23 February), at midday. The database, produced in association with Virgate, has now grown to include 3,061 multi-site operators, which operate 71,344 sites. The database has been redesigned so Premium Club members are able to search the data segmented into key industry sectors. This new straightforward segmentation allows users to search quickly in key categories such as pubs and bars, cafe bakery, quick service restaurants, casual dining, fine dining, hotel and experiential leisure. The 14 new additions include Crazy Rabbit Inns, founded by Yorkshire entrepreneur Collette Sunderland, with plans to create a portfolio of luxury pubs across the north of England, and The Cocktail Trading Company, created by friends Olly Brading, Andy Mil and Elliot Ball, who run three cocktail bars in London. Premium Club members also receive access to five other databases: the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, the New Openings Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database and the Who’s Who of UK Hospitality. Plus, all Premium Club members will be offered a 20% discount on tickets to five Propel paid-for events – The Excellence in Pub Retailing Conference (14 May), Social Media for Profit (18 July), the Talent and Training Conference (1 October) and Restaurant Marketer and Innovator (two days in January 2025). Operators will also be able to send up to four members of staff to each of our four Multi-Club Conferences for free. Premium Club members receive their daily Propel Info newsletter 11 hours earlier than standard subscribers, at 7pm the evening before. They also receive videos of presentations at eight Propel conference events two weeks after they are held. This represents around 100 videos of industry insight over the course of the year. Premium Club members will be sent a dedicated monthly newsletter that will highlight key updates in the sector and direct them to all the vital content their membership offers. Premium Club members also receive exclusive opinion columns every Friday at 5pm, which include the thoughts of Propel group editor Mark Wingett and a host of industry leaders from across the sector. A Premium Club subscription costs an annual sum of £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Premium Club for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com today to sign up.
 
Purple Story to host exclusive webinar for Propel subscribers to help them empower their teams to mitigate the national minimum wage increase in five easy steps: Entrepreneurial performance consultancy Purple Story is to host a webinar exclusively for Propel subscribers to help them empower their teams to mitigate the national minimum wage increase in five easy steps. Led by Purple Story chief executive and founder Karen Turton, the webinar will allow viewers to discover battle-tested strategies from an ex-operator and industry leader that can be actioned today, ensuring your team stays ahead of the curve. Turton will help you understand the tangible return on investment of implementing Purple Story’s “simple and smart” five-step approach to mitigate the impact of the minimum wage increase. She will reveal how to empower your team to mastermind their own action plan, and be accountable for it and show you how by challenging your team to manage the solution, your time will be free to lead and inspire. To view a preview of the webinar, click here. The webinar will be sent to subscribers at 9am on Tuesday (27 February). Email kai.kirkman@propelinfo.com to register.
 
UKHospitality – new tipping rules strike the right balance: UKHospitality has said proposed new tipping rules “strike the right balance” and offer “the right level of flexibility for businesses”. The government published its long-awaited code of practice on tipping, which will come into effect on 1 July 2024, in December, and it is currently subject to a consultation. In its response, UKHospitality said the code enables businesses to reflect on their operations without being too prescriptive and burdensome and that the vast majority of the sector will already be operating in the spirit of the new legislation. A number of areas have been highlighted for improvement, in particular agency workers. The current legislation requires businesses to include them in tip distribution, but this could cause significant administrative difficulties and reduce tips for contracted workers, UKHospitality said. It comes as the trade body launched new guidance that takes businesses through the detail of the new rules and what they need to adhere to. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “Tips are a valued bonus for our staff and are an important way in which guests can show their gratitude for brilliant service, high-quality food or enjoyable experiences. Instilling fairness and transparency around tipping processes has been a focus for the sector over a number of years and I have no doubt that the sector is overwhelmingly already operating in the spirit of the new legislation. It’s absolutely critical that businesses familiarise themselves with the requirements under the new legislation and ensure they’re adhering to all its requirements. Our member-only guidance will enable businesses to do just that, and I’d encourage all members to read it in detail ahead of 1 July 2024.”
 
Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats drivers plan to strike every Friday over pay: Thousands of delivery drivers are set to launch fresh strikes over pay. The Metro reported that each Friday from 5pm to 10pm, delivery workers from Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats will not deliver as they strike for better wages. The protest was organised by Marcio Silva, a training accountant who works part-time for Uber and Deliveroo. He told The Metro the idea formed a few months ago when he and a few of his other friends decided to take action. He said: “Drivers cannot make it on the minimum salary. And we are trying our best to see if they can see us and increase our salaries, because for the past three years they have paid the same amount of money with no increase.” He explained that as part of his strike, he is campaigning for a base fee of at least £5 per order per delivery – but Uber pays only £2.80, and Deliveroo pays £3.15 currently. “If you don’t do anything, you’re not going to get anything – it will stay the same,” he said. “They’ve increased the percentage they take from restaurants but are not paying the drivers. So, we decided to take this strike to see if they do anything.” Strikes are currently taking place in almost all major UK cities, Silva said, but have also spread to some areas in Portugal and even New York City. A Just Eat spokesperson said: “We take the concerns of all couriers on the Just Eat network extremely seriously. Their welfare is important to us, and we welcome their feedback. Our data shows that couriers delivering for Just Eat earn, on average, significantly over both the London and national living wage for the time they are on an order. We provide a highly competitive base rate to self-employed couriers and have a good relationship with the vast majority of couriers across our network. In addition, we offer regular incentives to help them maximise their earnings and continue to review our pay structure regularly.” 
 
McCain invests further £46,000 in aspiring street food market entrepreneurs to break into industry: McCain Foodservice Solutions has invested a further £46,000 into aspiring foodservice entrepreneurs after they demonstrated their skills through the Streets Ahead programme, in partnership with social enterprise Kerb+. The scheme aims to support the foodservice industry by creating an immersive programme that looks to upskill and create opportunity for less advantaged individuals keen to break into the sector. Together, over the past 18 months, McCain and Kerb+ have nurtured the skills and street food business ideas of more than 200 participants. Seven more participants have shared an additional £46,000. The winning concepts included vegetarian Nigerian street food, homestyle Bengali cuisine, gourmet mac ‘n’ cheese, authentic Iranian charcoal-smoked potatoes, “BolTaiFan” Chinese clay pot rice, Welsh tacos and traditional (vegan and vegetarian) Lebanese cuisine. Two participants received the maximum investment of £10,000, with the remaining five participants each receiving between £2,000-£6,000. Each winning participant invested in by McCain FS will receive further coaching from Kerb+ to support them into the world of street food. The seven winners follow on from the 12 street food businesses that last summer received a share of £100,000 through the Streets Ahead programme. They are now popping up at street food markets across the country. Four winners of £10,000 went on to Kerb’s Inkerbator programme to become fully fledged members that now serve at its central London lunch markets. They include Hind Danoun, who is behind Syrian and Palestinian street food concept Utopia and has recently ventured into pop-up evenings at the Bonnington Centre in Vauxhall.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxurious and well-established hotel group located in Italy that is looking for a HR manager. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will play a crucial role in cultivating a positive workplace culture and nurturing the professional development of staff. This opportunity is perfect for an experienced HR professional with strengths in talent management, employee relations, and HR strategy. The group is looking for a fluent English and fluent Italian speaker.” The salary is up to €80,000 (£70,000) and the position is based in Italy. For more information, email maria@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News:

Snowfox Group launches second phase of UK kiosk franchising programme: Snowfox Group – which owns the YO!, Panku, Bento and Taiko brands – has launched the second phase of its franchising programme for its circa 500-strong kiosk estate, Propel has learned. Last autumn, Snowfox opened its 500th kiosk in the UK, in the Tesco Express in Tooley Street, London. It followed the news that YO! had opened its 300th sushi kiosk in Tesco stores. At the same time, the company’s Panku brand now has almost 150 kiosks in Asda stores. As previously revealed by Propel, Snowfox launched the first phase of the franchising programme last year. Over the last nine months, more than 150 of the company’s kiosks have been taken on by new franchisees. Now in phase two, it is looking for new partners to take on the remaining circa 350 kiosks under a franchise licence. The business is looking for franchisees who will either act as owner/operators themselves or would like to own and operate multiple locations. The company said: “The cost of buying into your own Snowfox sushi kiosk, either as YO! in Tesco, or Panku Street Food in Asda, is variable depending on the existing sales of that kiosk. We will discuss the exact cost with you when you contact us about the location you have in mind, but you can expect to pay a rate from: £20,000 plus VAT for a site turning over up to £3,000 per week, £25,000 plus VAT for a site turning over £3,000-£4,000 a week, and £30,000 plus VAT for a site turning over £4,000-£5,000 per week. There are some sites doing more than £5,500 a week and they will be priced accordingly. The initial franchise agreement lasts for three years, which is renewable subject to certain criteria being met by the franchisee and in agreement with the franchisor.” In December, Snowfox, which was acquired by Japanese foodservice company Zensho Holdings last year, launched a new kiosk concept in partnership with Tesco, aimed at the supermarket chain’s smaller format stores. Good Eats was launched the Tesco Express site in Manchester’s Market Street, with a second site subsequently opening in the Tesco Express in Nottingham’s Victoria Centre. Good Eats, which will be aimed at Tesco’s Express and Metro store formats, offers “nutritious food to go options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a range including ‘build your own’ sides to warming bowls, salads, hot flatbreads and breakfast wraps – all of which will be made fresh in store”.
 
East London smashed burger concept set to open first franchise branch as it seeks multi-site partners: East London smashed burger concept Chicos is set to open its first franchise branch as it seeks multi-site partners to help it grow. Founded by Mohammed Iqbal, Chicos opened its debut site, in East Ham, in December 2019 a few months prior to the pandemic, followed by a second branch, in Aldgate East, early in 2022. A third branch will follow in Leyton in the next few months, followed by a first franchise site, and first outside the east of the capital, in south London later this year. “Always having the dream to open a restaurant, my food journey started in 2016 where we opened an American-style diner in East Ham, but our landlord took the premises back,” Iqbal told Propel. “I grew up in the area and knew there was a gap that needed filling with the latest comfort food trends that locals like me would love, which is a modern quick service restaurant with a range of items such as smash burgers, loaded fries, Nashville hot chicken, grilled chicken, homemade desserts and more, all done correctly at affordable prices. We opened our first site and then the pandemic came along just a few months later. We didn’t have our delivery platforms set up as we initially wanted to focus on our dine-in customers, but we had no choice during lockdown and had to get it up and running. It worked out well for us as the world shifted more towards takeaways, which is now a huge part of what we do. We are having a few conversations now but we’re ready to expand and want to get the ball rolling. We’re looking at places like Wembley, Harrow and Hounslow in London as well as Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh outside of London. We want to cover the whole of the UK but at our own pace – we’d rather have 50 sites with five franchisees than ten sites with ten different franchisees.” To find partners to help it grow, Chicos has partnered with Charlie Mander at Presman & Colard International Advisory.
 
Old Mill Brewery to sell four pubs, plans future acquisitions: East Yorkshire brewer and retailer Old Mill Brewery, based in Snaith, is set to sell four of its pubs. Established in 1983, Old Mill Brewery is a small, independent family-owned brewery, housed in an 18th century former corn mill and maltings. In addition to its brewery, the business also operates 18 pubs, the freeholds of four of which have now been brought to market by agent Fleurets. “The four properties no longer fit into our portfolio as we look to concentrate on our food and accommodation offerings”, said Old Mill Brewery tied estate manager Nick Waugh. “Our future plans do include further acquisitions as well as refurbishments to some of our current sites that are in line with our new goals for Old Mill Brewery. Our estate of pubs are community locals, many of which have been in our portfolio since 1983. We are proud to be a pillar of so many neighbourhoods and hope to find new owners that will carry this on.” The four properties on the market are the Bridge Inn in Rotherham, The Falcon in Mexborough, the Red Lion in Chesterfield and the Dove Inn in Barnsley. The Bridge Inn is a live music venue with two band rooms in addition to a private three-bedroom accommodation. The town centre operation is on the market at £295,000 plus VAT and has 100% wet-led sales. The Falcon is also a wet-led town centre pub with trade largely based around karaoke/disco and some live music at weekends and is on the market at £295,000 plus VAT. The freehold offers vacant possession, but subject to a lease, on a takeaway unit that is leased out until January 2025, producing a rental income of £7,800 per annum. The Red Lion is a short walk from Chesterfield Panthers RFC and Chesterfield FC and enjoys match day trade, but with the majority of trade typical community-based business. It also offers a three-bed private accommodation and is available for £195,000 plus VAT. The Dove Inn is close to both Barnsley town centre and Barnsley FC and is available for £175,000 plus VAT.

K10 to open fifth site: K10, the London sushi concept, is to further add to its presence in the City with an opening near the Bank of England. Propel understands that K10, which is led by Reuben Todd, will open a site at 74 Coleman Street next week. The business returned to the expansion trail in summer 2022 with an opening in Old Broad Street. It followed this up by taking on the former Poncho 8 site in Queens Head Passage. Propel understands that K10, which at one time operated five sites in the City before undergoing a restructure in the summer of 2020, is looking to grow steadily and is exploring further opportunities in the capital. Founded in 1999, K10 also operates sites in Fetter Lane and Queen Street.
 
Loungers applies to open on site of former Michelin-listed restaurant in Whitby: Cafe bar operator Loungers has applied for permission to open on the site of a former Michelin-listed restaurant in Whitby. It has applied for a premises licence for the property in Langborne Road in Whitby, which was once home to The Star Inn The Harbour. The restaurant closed in November 2022, with owners blaming a “lack of support” during the covid pandemic. Loungers earlier this month secured approval for plans to add bedrooms above its site in Llandudno, North Wales. It followed the launches of Verraco Lounge in Bromsgrove and Pontio Lounge in Chepstow, taking its estate past 250 sites. Loungers features in the Premium Club Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has grown to 875 companies and is available exclusively to Premium Club members. Its turnover of £283,500,000 for the year ending 16 April 2023 is the 42nd 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 Premium Club 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.
 
London chicken and vegan wings concept seeking new franchisees with pipeline of stores planned: London chicken and vegan wings concept WNGZ has said it is seeking new franchisees and has “a pipeline of new stores planned”. The five-strong business, led by co-founders Arif Ahmed and Zahirul Islam, has outlets in Stratford, Poplar, Camden, Clapton and Mile End. WNGZ was founded in 2021 with a mission to “take the guilt out of guilty pleasures” by redefining the fast-food experience using premium ingredients and “unique cooking processes”. Ahmed said: “WNGZ is actively seeking new franchisees to join our growing family. We’re on the lookout for passionate entrepreneurs who are ready to embark on a rewarding journey with a growing brand. With a pipeline of stores already planned, now is the perfect time to become a part of the WNGZ success story.”
 
Serious Fraud Office makes four arrests in Signature Group investigation: The Serious Fraud Office has arrested four people as part of its investigation into Liverpool property business Signature Group. The company, which operated for seven years, predominantly redeveloped historic buildings into luxury hotels and residential apartments and office spaces and had a portfolio that included the Shankly Hotel and Dixie Dean hotel in Victoria Street, Liverpool. Thousands of UK and international investors loaned money to Signature Group or purchased a hotel room, apartment or office space in one of its properties, with promised returns on their investment of between 8% and 15%. The business collapsed into administration with losses of up to £140m. Nick Ephgrave, director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “The scheme offered attractive returns and used much-loved local landmarks to lure investors. We have people up and down the country left out of pocket, and buildings left derelict at the centre of our cities. These arrests and searches will help us reconstruct exactly what happened. This is now an active criminal investigation.”
 
Sleeperz acquisition helps hotel group return to profit, refinances and takes out new £11m loan, planning new London and Edinburgh sites: Resident Hotels – which operates five hotels in London and Liverpool as well as four sites under the Sleeperz and Cityroomz budget brands – has refinanced a £9.50m bank loan and £1.18m Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme loan and taken out a new bank £11m loan. It follows a previous refinancing of its subsidiaries’ £53.8m bank loans that had been due for repayment in full in November 2022 but are now due in November 2027, with the size of the loan facility increased. This previous refinancing was recognised in the company’s accounts for the year ending 31 December 2022, while the latest process, with Coutts, occurred post year-end. The company, which is due to open a new Edinburgh hotel this year and has a further hotel in London’s Farringdon in the pipeline, acquired the Sleeperz and Cityroomz brands in 2022 – helping it return to profit during the period. A restated pre-tax loss of £3,088,000 in 2021 turned into a profit of £1,867,000 while restated turnover of £6,812,000 grew to £25,701,000. At the date of signing the accounts, 13 February 2024, director Sir John Mactaggart said that since the acquisition, Sleeperz Hotels and its subsidiaries have generated turnover of £7,652,000 and a loss after tax of £104,000. He added: “The improved financial performance for 2022 is further attributable to the acquisition of Sleeperz Hotels and its subsidiaries in May 2022. As a result of this, an additional four trading hotel companies were brought into the group, resulting in increased turnover and profit after tax. The group will explore opportunities to identify and secure new sites or properties in target locations with a view to adding to the portfolio of hotels in accordance with the directors’ strategy to grow the business. As part of this strategy, in February 2023, the group established a new company, The Resident Farringdon, in order to purchase and develop a hotel property in Farringdon, London.”  The company received government grants of £37,000 (2021: £454,000). No dividends were paid (2021: nil).
 
Knoops confirms May opening for Midlands debut: Knoops, the luxury hot chocolate shop brand, has confirmed it will make its Midlands debut in May. Propel revealed last week that a site in the city’s Clumber Street was among the 2024 pipeline for Knoops as it grows towards a stated aim of 200 UK stores by 2027. Knopps will now open in a former Paperchase unit, which has been vacant for more than a year after the company went into administration, in May, reports Nottingham Live. “We are excited to be increasing our expansion with our first Midlands store,” a Knoops spokesman said. “Nottingham is a vibrant city, perfect to explore with a Knoops in hand. We’re looking forward to bringing something new and different to the food and drink scene, welcoming students, and local residents alike.” Knoops currently has 15 sites here and is set to open two locations in Edinburgh next month – in the former Starbucks site on the corner of George Street and Castle Street, and in Victoria Street – and in Leeds’ Trinity scheme. It comes after Knoops’ executive chairman and chief executive William Gordon-Harris told Propel there is “phenomenal momentum across the business” as it enjoyed a record start to the year. Knoops, which completed an £8.3m fundraising last November, saw store revenue increase by 23% on a like-for-like basis in January, which came off the back of a best-ever Christmas.
 
Wye Valley reports busiest ever year of trading and highest volumes of beer brewed and sold: Herefordshire brewer and retailer Wye Valley Brewery has reported its busiest ever year of trading and highest volumes of beer brewed and sold. A second successive year of record turnover saw it grow from £14,367,018 in 2022 to £17,544,926 in the year ending 30 April 2023. This included £17,539,242 from the UK (2022: £14,354,808), nothing from Europe (2022: £2,214) and £5,680 from the rest of the world (2022: £9,996). But record pre-tax profit of £2,460,519 in 2022 took a slight dip to £2,281,224. The company received £19,680 in government grants compared with £26,447 in 2022. Dividends of £88,000 were paid (2022: £86,800). Director Vernon Amor said: “Wye Valley Brewery enjoyed its busiest ever year of trading, with record volumes of beer brewed and sold. Our flagship brands, HPA and Butty Bach, both consolidated their positions in the UK’s top ten best-selling cask ales. Our keg lager, 1985, experienced strong growth of more than 35%, while our rebranded keg stout, Nightjar, increased sales volumes by 105% compared with the previous year. As a result, the company’s turnover reached a new high of £17.5m, with pre-tax profits of £2.3m. During this year we made record levels of capital investment, primarily in a new bottling and canning facility, which has more than doubled our previous capacity. Our medium to long-term plans are for continued growth through all our current routes to market, with further investments in brewing capacity and energy efficiency.” The business also operates seven pubs.
 
North Yorkshire operators put last remaining pub business up for sale: North Yorkshire operators Rob and Edward Fawcett have put their last remaining pub business up for sale. They have instructed Christie & Co to bring to the market the 120-cover pub and restaurant The White Swan in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire. The Fawcetts, whose family have been closely involved with the pub since the 1980s, used to also own The White Horse in the same village and the Fairfax Arms in Gilling East. Rob Fawcett said: “Edward and I sadly lost our late brother, Tony, and sister, Joanna, and since their passing last year, it’s given us an unwelcome opportunity to reflect on life. I moved down to Northamptonshire a few years ago and sold my motorhome sales and rentals business, and I now want to fully retire. We sold one of our other businesses, the Fairfax Arms over at Gilling East, in 2021, and knew then that we wouldn’t keep the Swan forever, but the time feels right for us to move it on. Edward and I also still own Studford Lodges down the road, which is a busy business itself, with Ed spending more and more time there. We have a good team of staff at The White Swan though and it will be business as usual until such time we do sell.” David Cash, regional director for pubs and restaurants (north) for Christie & Co, said the property presents an opportunity to acquire a well performing freehold asset that is trading well and which would suit a either a multi-site operator or owner-operator. The freehold interest is being offered for an asking price of £850,000.

Hotel group forecasts growth in turnover and profitability, makes £1.65m from sale of Oakham venue: Hotel group Brook Hotels has forecast growth in turnover and profitability in its current financial year after its profit increased in the year to 25 March 2023. It also made £1,651,296 profit from the sale of the Whipper-in in Oakham, which it sold to businessman Ryck Turner for £3m in the summer of 2022. The sale left the group, which is chaired by Umesh Ummat, with three sites – in Chester, Colchester and Sutton Coldfield. The business made a pre-tax profit of £234,464 in the period – including £240,597 from discontinued operations – up from £166,739 in 2022. Its turnover was down from £3,204,718 in 2022 to £3,144,551 – including £246,110 from discontinued operations. The company received no government grants compared with £71,900 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). “It is well documented that the general economic climate has continued to be extremely challenging for most businesses, and we are therefore pleased with the core trading results for the year, both in respect of turnover and profitability,” Ummat said. “Maximising room occupancy continues to be the focus, and this has resulted in the fairly consistent turnover for the company. We will continue to focus on maximising hotel occupancy and closely managing operating costs. It is expected that growth will be achieved in both turnover and profitability for 2024.”

Owners of Northumberland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant set to open second venue: The owners of Northumberland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, Hjem in the village of Wall, are set to open a second venue. Chef Alex Nietosvuori, from Sweden, and wife Ally plan to restore the walled garden of Close House, a Georgian mansion in the Tyne Valley, to build a new restaurant-with-rooms alongside the garden. Named Freyja, after the Norse goddess of love, fertility and battle, the Scandi-designed restaurant overlooking the walled garden promises “a unique garden-to-fork experience” and the “precise and bold techniques of New Scandinavian cooking”. The duo opened Hjem in 2019 and it gained a Michelin star 18 months later. Prior to opening Hjem, Alex Nietosvuori gained experience working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Malmo. They have partnered with business partner Charlie Watkins for the new venture, reports Chronicle Live. It is anticipated that work will start on the restaurant in July 2024, with an opening date in late 2025.

Worcestershire Italian restaurant opens new site: Worcestershire Italian restaurant Benvenuti has opened a new site. It has launched in the former All’angelo’s Italian restaurant unit in Queen Street, Droitwich, adding to the company’s debut location, in Belle House in Bridge Street in Pershore. While the new restaurant gets up and running, the Pershore branch will be closed for 18 months following a fire there in December. “We have been looking for quite a while – we saw the Droitwich building and took the chance,” owner Luca Gallito told the Worcester News. “After last year’s unfortunate situation [at the Pershore branch], we had staff keen to stay on and start a new venture.”
 
Bristol Japanese street food business secures £100,000 funding to establish first bricks-and-mortar premises: Bristol Japanese street food business Eatchu has secured £100,000 in funding to establish its first bricks-and-mortar premises. The cash injection, from South West Investment Fund (SWIG) Finance, will fund a new fully fitted dine-in and takeaway premises in Clifton. Owners Guy and Victoria Siddall began trading in 2016 and soon became a permanent trader at Bristol’s St Nicholas Market. They established a food preparation kitchen in St Philips in 2019 before expanding further in 2022 with a street food unit providing the food at Wiper and True’s 500-capacity brewery taproom in Old Market. Guy Siddall said: “Having successfully navigated our way through the pandemic, we are really pleased that demand for our street food is still strong. This new takeaway premises will widen our customer base quite significantly. However, the costs are high, and so without SWIG support, this round of growth may not have been possible.” SWIG’s senior business manager, Nicola Parker, added: “What Guy and Vic have achieved through Eatchu is a great example of how to start and scale a business. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, this business continues to grow at a rapid pace.”

Welsh hotel and spa owners get green light for new health complex: The owners of a Welsh hotel and spa have gained planning permission for new health complex. Lanelay Hall Hotel and Spa in Pontyclub – which features 19 individually designed bedrooms, a luxury spa and fine dining restaurant – was acquired by Edwards Investments, led by local entrepreneur David Edwards, in 2015. Edwards Investmentswill now build a health complex and venue with associated amenities at Ty Maelwg, Ynysmaerdy. A report to Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning and development committee said: “The application would allow for the expansion of an existing hospitality business that would enhance the tourism offer of the local area and wider county borough.”
 
Ebbw Vale Costa drive-thru gets green light: A Costa Coffee drive-thru in Ebbw Vale has received planning permission. The proposals for the land adjacent to KFC in Waun-Y-Pound Road were unanimously voted through by Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council's planning committee. There is extant permission on the site for a similar drive-thru Greggs bakery that was approved at committee last year. Access would be gained off Waun-y-Pound Road to the east of the site and then via an internal road to the west.

 
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