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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators
Mon 20th Nov 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Farmer J secures backing from Edition Capital: All-day market concept Farmer J has secured new investment from Edition Capital, which will aid its plans to expand in London and across the UK, Propel has learned. The level of investment from Edition, which has also invested in Incipio Group and Club Mexicana, in the ten-strong business was undisclosed. Earlier this year, Farmer J opened new sites in Piccadilly and Fenchurch Street and is gearing up to open its first south west London site, in Victoria, a 3,000 square-foot site in the Orchard Place development. Jonathan Recanati, founder of Farmer J, said: “We’re excited to have Edition on board as a partner. Their investment will enable us to supercharge our growth and bring our delicious, wholesome food to even more people.” Speaking to Propel about further site selection earlier this summer, Recanati said: “Generally, we were still looking for seven-days-a-week sites, but our five-days-a-week ones are also doing really well, which gets you thinking because they’re converting well, we should also be looking for those types of sites. We are still aiming for mixed-use types of location where you get workers, a bit of retail, and in some cases, residential. But for the right rent, we can make money from five-days-a-week sites. The last two years have been all about improving efficiency and improving conversion, and now that sales are back up, you can really see all the hard work coming to fruition.” Speaking last year on plans for a regional site, Recanati said the business was looking at affluent areas across the UK – with Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester on its target list.

Industry News:

Premium subscribers to this week receive three databases and access to the best Propel conference videos of 2023: Premium subscribers will this week receive three databases and access to the best Propel conference videos of 2023. First up, at midday today (Monday, 20 November), will be the next edition of the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. This month’s edition includes 784 companies and more than 211,000 words of content. There are 83 updated entries and 34 new companies. This will be followed at midday on Wednesday, 22 November, by the next UK Food & Beverage Franchisor Database. There will be ten new entries, taking the total to 225 companies either franchising or looking to franchise in the UK. And on Friday, 24 November, the next edition of the Multi-Site Database will be sent out at midday. An additional 37 companies, which operate 246 sites between them, were added during November 2023, meaning the database has now grown to include 3,060 companies, which operate 71,189 sites. Before that, on the same day, at 9am, for the first time, the 12 best videos from Propel conference in 2023 will be sent out. Selected by group editor Mark Wingett, they will feature a selection of talks and interviews that resonated with delegates from across the breadth of the hospitality sector. Premium subscribers also receive access to five other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the New Openings Database; and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also being given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. They also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Mark Wingett.
Tax cuts still on the table for autumn statement: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has not ruled out cutting income tax in Wednesday’s autumn statement, as he insisted economic growth was his priority. Hunt is finalising his statement, which will set out government spending plans, and is known to be considering reducing taxes on income, inheritance and businesses. But he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg his speech would focus on removing barriers to growth. The chancellor said he wanted to put the country on “the path to lower taxes” but would “only do so in a responsible way” that does not “sacrifice the progress on inflation”. When asked if he would cut income tax, he said he would not comment on a decision ahead of the statement, adding: “Our priority is growth.” Tax levels in the UK are at their highest since records began 70 years ago and are unlikely to come down soon, according to a leading think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Ahead of the autumn statement, Tory MPs have been urging the chancellor to announce tax cuts. Hunt has previously said tax cuts are “virtually impossible” given the state of the economy and stressed bringing down living costs was his priority.
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an international beer brand that is looking for a field sales manager to join its growing team. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “You will ultimately be responsible for leading a team to achieve growth within its sales area and drive the business forward. You will need to forecast and budget accordingly while ensuring productivity among a team of six. The ideal field sales manager will have a strong background in trade and a proven track record in leadership.” The salary is negotiable and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News:

Subway gears up to launch self-serve kiosks in UK stores: Global sandwich chain Subway is gearing up to launch self-serve kiosks in its UK stores, Propel has learned. The kiosks have been a feature of the brand’s stores in the US since 2017. Large-scale Subway franchisee Daljo Group has been trialling the equipment ahead of its roll out, although no date has yet been given for their introduction into stores. “Subway is gearing up for an exciting future with the upcoming introduction of kiosks,” the franchisee business said. “Team Daljo, along with franchisees, recently had the pleasure of checking out the equipment. The anticipation is building, and we’re eager to witness these kiosks in action at some of our locations soon.” Daljo Group is responsible for the growth and development of Subway in East Anglia, the west country and south west – covering the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Somerset. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and the Channel Islands. It supports circa 340 stores and more than 100 franchisees. It is led by father a son team, Bob and Liam Dalgarno, and Adrian Johnson. The Dalgarnos opened their first Subway franchise in 2004 before becoming regional development agents for Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex in 2011, while Johnson started as a Subway store manager before working with the Dalgarnos as a field consultant. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that Gavin Lilley, formerly UK managing director of Papa John’s, had joined Subway as its new director of operations and learning and development. It comes after Subway announced it had agreed a deal, believed to be valued at circa $9.5bn (£7.52bn), to be sold to US-based firm Roark Capital, which already owns restaurant brands such as Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, in the summer. Subway currently has nearly 37,000 outlets in more than 100 countries, including more than 2,300 restaurants in the UK and Ireland. Subway features in the Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. The next edition, featuring 225 companies, will be sent to Premium subscribers on Wednesday (22 November). Daljo Group will feature in the next Propel UK Food and Beverage Franchisee Database, which is also available exclusively to Premium subscribers. 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.
Emeny – we have platform to gain further market share on food, appoints food and drink director: Simon Emeny, chief executive at Fuller’s, has told Propel that the company’s strong food sales performance has given the business a “platform to gain further market share on food”. Last week, Fuller’s reported that its current like-for-like sales, for the 32 weeks to 11 November, were up 11.7% on the same period in 2022, and that it was primed for a strong Christmas, with bookings already 11% ahead of last year. A significant part of that strong performance was driven by a 15.5% increase in food sales and accommodation sales being up 13.4%. Emeny told Propel: “Occupancy across the business was 85% in the first six months, it’s the strongest it’s ever been. It’s a really significant part of our business now. But I think the other thing that’s really pleased me is that all three categories – drinks, food and accommodation – are in strong like-for-like growth, and the star performer has been food. I don’t think that there’ll be many companies reporting 15.5% like-for-like food growth. We certainly think that now gives us a platform to gain further market share on food, because there’s certainly evidence that companies, because kitchens are quite expensive to run, are cutting back a bit on food.” To aid that food push, the company has recently appointed Carrie Joslin as its new food and drink director. Joslin, who was head of commercial at Greencore for more than two and a half years, has been appointed to add “value to the company’s supply chain and further enhance menu development”. Emeny also highlighted the trend of people going out earlier, which is “clearly impacting late night bars now”. He said: “It’s probably one of the things that’s helped drive our sales, with people staying longer in pubs but going out earlier, and then not moving on to nightclubs.” He also said that the premiumisation trend was continuing, adding: “Spend per head has increased and customers expect the best experience, a premium food and drink offer, in a high-quality location.”
McDonald’s opens first new restaurant in Republic of Ireland for five years, second to follow shortly: McDonald’s has opened its first new restaurant in the Republic of Ireland for five years, with a second to follow shortly. The new restaurant is in Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim, at the Attifinlay roundabout on the Dublin Road, creating 90 jobs. It is also a 95th McDonald’s in the country, employing more than. 7,000 staff. “Five new restaurant openings this week takes us to 32 openings for the year,” said Gareth Hudson, McDonald’s UK & Ireland development officer. “Incredible work from the entire development/tech and ops teams, and our supportive suppliers and contractors, to drag some of these over the line. First new restaurant in ROI for five years at Carrick-on-Shannon, and good luck to the restaurant teams at Carrick, Lowestoft, Basildon, Motherwell and Aberdeen. Another busy one next week will see another four openings and our second in ROI in two weeks.” The Carrick-on-Shannon restaurant is operated by franchisee Elaine Sterio, who also runs McDonald's restaurants in Navan, Monaghan, Dundalk, Drogheda and Balbriggan. “This major investment in Carrick-on-Shannon reflects McDonald’s commitment to growing its business in Ireland and I’m pleased to confirm our new store has already created significant levels of employment, both directly and indirectly through the agri-food and manufacturing supply chain,” she said. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has received planning permission for a second restaurant in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, on land at Asda on the Ring Road. The scheme promises to create around 120 new jobs and would represent a significant investment of around £4m. McDonald’s provides over 3,200 jobs in its 33 restaurants across Northern Ireland. 
Roxy Leisure eyes London debut for Roxy Ball Room brand: Roxy Leisure is eyeing a London debut for its Roxy Ball Room brand, Propel has learned. The operator of the Roxy Lanes and King Pins concepts is understood to have lined up an opening in Exchequer Court, St Mary Axe, in the City. Last week, Propel revealed that Roxy Leisure is planning to open a second site in Manchester for its King Pins family bowling concept, in the Arndale centre. The company opened its debut site under the concept in Manchester’s Trafford Palazzo this summer, offering 15 lanes of ten pin bowling and four lanes of duckpin bowling alongside shuffleboard, ice free curling, a batting cage, karaoke and arcade games. It also recently secured a site in the Silverburn scheme in Glasgow for the fledgling concept. So far this year, the company has opened Roxy Ballroom sites in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leicester and Cheltenham, with a further opening lined up in York.
YO! to make Spanish debut as SSP extends presence in country with three airport contracts: YO!, the Snowfox Group-owned suhsi brand, is set to make its Spanish debut as SSP extends its presence in the country with three airport contracts. SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has won contracts to operate 11 new bars and restaurants across AENA’s network of airports. As part of the deal, it will bring YO! to Spain for the first time with the opening of a unit in Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airport. Located in Terminal 1, the unit will offer the brand’s hand-rolled sushi, classic hot bowls, street food and other fusion dishes. The restaurant will be SSP’s ninth outlet at the airport and will feature digital self-checkout technology. SSP will also be operating six new units at Palma de Mallorca airport. It will bring the first Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant to a Spanish airport, along with an Olé Foodmarket and an O’Leary’s sports bar. Passengers will also be able to enjoy two SSP-owned favourites, Camden Food and Upper Crust. There will also be gourmet burgers from Spanish brand Goiko, which will feature a digital order and collect system in multiple languages. SSP already operates three outlets at Palma and will also be bringing four new brands to Menorca airport. Enrique Tomás, which is renowned for its fine quality ham and is now found at over 100 locations in Spain and beyond, will offer a selection of cured meats, wine, and cheeses. La Boutique Italian Food will serve a selection of Italian classics, while a Pannus Café will provide a range of sandwiches, coffee and pastries. A specially created brewery concept called Factory will also serve a selection of beers and ciders. Blanca Ripoll, managing director of SSP Spain, said: “Over a number of years, we’ve built strong relationships with the teams at AENA across Spain. These new spaces at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona El-Prat Airport and Palma de Mallorca Airport see us continue to strengthen our presence at these major international travel hubs, and our return to the island of Menorca is an exciting next chapter in the development of our business in the region.”

Be At One co-founder Steve Locke secures second site for Lockes concept: Steve Locke, co-founder of Be At One, the cocktail bar chain acquired by Stonegate in 2018 for circa £50m, has secured a second site in London for his neighbourhood cocktail bar concept, Lockes, Propel has learned. Locke has secured a new site situated at the top of Battersea Rise by Clapham Common, with an opening planned for January. The site is a few doors down from where Locke opened his first bar in 1998. He launched the first Lockes in Covent Garden in September 2019. Talking to Propel in September 2021, Locke said he believed there was every opportunity to do the same thing with Lockes as he did with Be At One. Locke co-founded the Be At One business in 1998 with Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller, and sold it to Stonegate after it had grown to 33 sites. Speaking on Propel’s Friday Wrap series, Locke said: “I would love Lockes to be the same size as Be At One, although maybe there are differences in how the businesses are perceived. With Lockes, we have lengthened the offer a bit, to make it a more all-day concept, as well as a late-night concept. One of the things I learned with Be At One was it was so targeted at a small part of trade in the day, and so with Lockes, I wanted to elongate that and to be able to squeeze more out of these sites.”
Chesterford Group boss credits sponsorship scheme for helping business ‘succeed and grow’ with overseas workers, seeking to expand Pret operations: James Lipscombe, owner of The Chesterford Group, which operates circa 40 sites under brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, has credited a government sponsorship scheme for helping his business “succeed and grow” with the help of overseas workers. “We have a wide family at The Chesterford Group, and have recently welcomed managers from Oman, Nigeria and India to join our family through the government’s Certificate of Sponsorship license initiative,” he said. “This allows businesses who meet the criteria to employ skilled overseas workers, employed by a UK business, meeting strict employement criteria. We are one of only 2% of businesses in the UK who are licenced by the Home Office, and it has, without doubt, made a massive difference to the recruitment challenges we were facing in our business. The energy, enthusiasm and experience these people have bought have helped our business to succeed and grow, with many of the managers smashing their sales records and mystery shopper scores this year. No matter the challenges you face to grow your business – whether they be finding great people, accessing funding or even finding locations – never, ever, ever give up. Entrepreneurs always find a way.” The group was also the inaugural Pret A Manger franchisee in the UK and has now opened five locations under the brand – two in Cambridge plus one each in Chelmsford, St Albans and Bishop’s Stortford. Having recently appointed an operations manager for its Pret business, operating as Joy Brands, the group is now looking to take it into new parts of the country. “We are actively seeking new locations for both our fish and chip business and our Pret business in the south, south east and south west of the UK,” Lipscombe added. “I couldn’t be prouder of Tomasz Bojko, our newly appointed director of operations for our Pret A Manger franchise business, Joy Brands. Tomasz joined us in May last year after spending 12 Years with Pret as a team member, area manager, general manager, and finally as an operations manager, looking after a host of shops and airports in the south east. He is, without doubt, one of the best operators I have ever met and an exceptional leader. I am proud to have him as part of The Chesterford Group family and I am looking forward to continuing to grow our Pret business.”
Pub in the Park event collapses owing £3m: The event organiser behind chef Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park music and food festivals has collapsed, leaving the taxman £1m out of pocket. The Sunday Times reports that local councils were also among creditors owed £3m as, unbeknown to tens of thousands of fans, the event organiser, Brand Events TM, fell into administration in June, halfway through the festival’s summer tour. Kerridge has been Pub in the Park’s public face since it launched in 2017. Claiming to be “the biggest food and music festival tour in the UK”, Pub in the Park was one of five festival ideas launched by Brand Events TM, a joint venture between Chris Hughes and Trinity Mirror, the listed group now called Reach that owns the Mirror and Express newspaper titles. Kerridge was entitled to 20% of Pub in the Park’s profits and owned 20% of its intellectual property. He was not a shareholder in Brand Events TM, a spokeswoman for the chef said. She said he had not taken a penny out of Pub in the Park since 2020. “Tom Kerridge worked with other investors and the administrator to save his popular festival business,” she added. Filings for Brand Events TM showed HM Revenue & Customs was left £1m out of pocket. Southwark Council and Warwick District Council were owed £140,000 and £14,000 respectively. Representatives for Pub in the Park said they had publicly disclosed the insolvency of the events company behind it.
Mosaic Pub & Dining – remaining 20 pubs will continue to be owned and operated independently under the brand following Young’s £162m offer for City Pub Group: James Watson and Pete McDonald, joint chief executives of Mosaic Pub & Dining, have said its remaining 20 pubs will continue to be owned and operated independently under the brand following the £162m offer for City Pub Group from Young’s. City Pub Group bought a majority stake in tranche one of Mosaic, which consists of nine sites, in June this year. These pubs would transfer to Young’s as part of the deal once completed. However, the other 20 Mosaic pubs (tranche two) will remain under their current ownership.
Chopstix to open in Basingstoke: Fast-growing, quick service restaurant brand Chopstix is set to open a new site in Basingstoke, Hampshire. It will open at the town’s Festival Place shopping centre, in a unit formerly occupied by Mountain Warehouse, in January, reports the Basingstoke Gazette. A spokesperson for Chopstix said: “The store will be opening in early/mid-January, an official date will be confirmed in due course. Chopstix will be employing 25 staff for the new store in Basingstoke.” The Chopstix Group consists of more than 100 Chopstix sites, in addition to ten sites operating as Yangtze, and 25 sites under the Chozen Noodle brand, which the group acquired earlier this year. In September, chief executive Jon Lake said the business was on track to report systemwide sales of close to £100m in its current year, and that it continuing to look at new formats – whether that be drive-thrus, a smaller express concept or opening in supermarkets – as part of its evolution.

Scottish peri peri chicken franchise exploring launch in China: Scottish peri peri chicken franchise Black Rooster is exploring launching in China after presenting to potential investors in Shanghai. Black Rooster was founded by Mick Kennedy and Kevin Bell in 2017 and has since grown to 19 locations across Scotland, with its latest opening in Stenhousemuir earlier this month. The business has already said it is looking to expand to England, Ireland and mainland Europe through franchising, but has now set its sights further afield. “Last week, myself and the team were fortunate enough to be invited by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce to attend the sixth annual Chinese International Import Expo in Shanghai, with the aim to introduce Black Rooster's products and restaurants to the Chinese market,” co-founder Bell said. “An amazing week full of exciting discussions, positive meetings and new connections made, and I can’t wait to see where this opportunity takes us. I also wanted to personally thank Rachel Bradshaw (head of marketing) and Paulo da Silva (head of franchise) for their contribution, not only for coming on the trip and helping to represent Black Rooster overseas, but for their help and support over what has been a phenomenal few years for Black Rooster. Myself, Rachel and Paulo have worked tirelessly to make Black Rooster the success story it is, and we have so much more still to come.” Bell’s co-founder, Mick Kennedy, last month told the Glasgo podcast that he and Bell had set up Black Rooster after initially looking to open a Pepe’s Piri Piri in Glasgow, only to find the master franchisee already had four in the city.

Thorley Taverns reports trading ‘very solid’ but ‘unknowns’ of business rates and energy costs ‘causing frustration’: Kent pub operator Thorley Taverns has reported “very solid” trading in the first quarter of its current financial year, with bookings for the festive period “looking good”. But director Philip Thorley told Propel “question marks” remain over how 2024 will pan out, with the “unknowns” over the extension to business rates relief and energy prices. “Clearly customers are continuing to come out, and the pub remains an affordable treat,” said Thorley. “The issue is these unknowns – business rates, which will be a ‘significant number’ for us, and energy, which is fixed until next September, but is now double what it was pre-Ukraine. These are things outside our control, and that’s the biggest frustration. We’ve 400 staff who all work very hard and we will keep on doing the best we can.” It comes as the company, which operates 18 sites, of which 14 are owned freehold, saw its pre-tax profit fall from £403,752 to £256,204 for the year ending 30 June 2022. There was a slight uptick in turnover, from £13,415,915 to £13,738,569. Of the 2022 turnover, £13,042,441 came from food, drink and gaming machine income (2022: £12,401,187) while £741,128 came from accommodation (2022: £1,014,915). The company received no government grants (2022: £123,453) and £13,515 interest income (2022: £720), while rent receivable (£226,239) was broadly the same as in 2022 (£226,422). Ordinary dividends of £1,314,800 were paid (2022: nil) and the directors did not recommend a final dividend. Thorley said: “The company continued to invest in the development of its outlets to ensure Thorley’s venues are known for the excellence of their premises and of the goods and services they supply. Expenditure on repairs, renovation and development for the year totalled £611,000. The company had a good cash position at the end of the year while continuing its investment in the repair, renovation and development of its outlets. The current assets to current liabilities ratio is 1.1 for the current year. The company had funded all investing and financing activities in the year without recourse to further borrowing.” Thorley Taverns was founded in 1971 when Frank Thorley acquired his first pub, The Angel, in the City of London. It remains a family-owned company, run by Philip and George Thorley along with Craig Knight.
Simon Rogan alumnus to make restaurant debut in Manchester as part of Umbel growth plan: Simon Rogan alumnus and 2020 Great British Menu winner, Tom Barnes, is set to make his restaurant debut, in Manchester. Skof will open as a 36-cover restaurant in the Noma neighbourhood in Manchester city centre in the spring of 2024. After 12 years with Simon Rogan at Umbel Restaurants, notably as head chef at Rogan & Co when it received a Michelin star and executive chef at L’Enclume when it gained its coveted third star, Barnes will be moving away from The Lakes but will remain closely linked to the group. Skof will be owned and operated by Barnes but will form part of the next iteration of Umbel restaurants, where the group will support talented individuals in opening their own restaurants and businesses. He will continue to work closely with the team of growers at Our Farm, Rogan’s regenerative farm in the Cartmel Valley, and will receive regular deliveries from The Lakes, allowing him to use its ingredients grown with minimal environmental impact. Skof will be situated within the Hanover building, built by the Co-operative Wholesale Society as a drapery warehouse in 1904. Barnes said: “I am so excited to be opening my first restaurant in Manchester. It feels like the right place for me. The food scene is changing so frequently, and everyone I’ve met has been incredibly welcoming. Growing up in Barrow-in-Furness, I knew I wouldn’t want to be too far from my childhood home and my family, so it’s the perfect place. I am so grateful for Simon’s support, and I plan on utilising all the skills that he has taught me over the many years that we have worked together.” Rogan added: “It’s moments like these that make me so happy, and it’s so special to be able to help a chef who has worked with me for so long go on to realise his dreams. I’m so proud of Tom and everything he has accomplished. We’ve been working towards this moment for a while now, and I can’t wait for him to be able to show the world what he can do.”
Lancaster pub business ‘trading well’ despite rapid raw material and wage cost increases putting pressure on margins: Lancaster pub business, Lancaster Brewery Company, has said it is “trading well” despite rapid raw material and wage cost increases putting pressure on margins. The company operates Lancaster Brewery and its taproom, The Sun in Lancaster, The Duke of Edinburgh in Barrow-in-Furness, The Mill in Ulverston and The Tile & Locke in Lancaster, as well as owning the freehold to The Palatine in Morecambe. Turnover grew from £5,844,990 in 2022 to £6,783,515 in the year to 31 January 2023, but its pre-tax profit dropped from £467,921 to £285,875. The company received £22,450 in government grants compared to £497,805 in 2022. Dividends of £217,757 were paid (2022: £279,130). Director Paul Simpson said: “The business has traded well in 2022 and this has continued into 2023, although rapid raw material and wage cost increases put pressure on margins throughout the period. The Brewery and Tap performed well in 2022, with impressive growth in turnover and profit, despite the many economic headwinds. The Tap continued its good performance from the previous year and demand for the brewery products remained strong. The Sun had a strong year. A shortage of quality hotel accommodation has meant it has been exceptionally busy. Food and drink sales were strong throughout the covid period and have continued on a similar footing into 2023. The Duke has been the slowest part of the business to recover fully from the pandemic. Working from home remained a common feature for the major local industries, and this had a knock-on effect. Again, The Mill was affected by the slower return to onsite working in Cumbria. Towards the latter end of 2022, we noted a slow return to normal hospitality activity in the region, promising a much better 2023. The Tile and Locke is a new bar on Lancaster Station which opened in April 2022. It has proved to be very popular both with locals and travellers. Over the last 18 months, a distillery has been installed on the brewery site to manufacture gin, vodka and whisky. There is considerable growth potential in this area, and the directors aim is to develop the distillery steadily over the next few years. Overall, the directors are satisfied with the performance of the business after a challenging few years.” The company is owned by former university friends, Phil Simpson and Matt Jackson, who started out by acquiring the Water Wich in Lancaster in 2002. They also invested “hundreds of thousands of pounds” into the brewery itself – which Jackson had started with some friends in the 1990s but was “struggling with consistency and investment” – and turned it into “probably the fourth or fifth largest brewery in the north west”.
Paddy & Scott’s co-founder joins board of Suffolk coffee business as it looks to expand operations: Paddy Bishopp, co-founder of independent coffee shop operator and wholesaler Paddy & Scott’s, has joined the board of Suffolk coffee business, Combat2Coffee, as it looks to expand its operations. Founded by armed forces veteran Nigel Seaman in 2018 – using coffee as a vehicle to drive positive mental health conversations among former armed forces personnel and people from the uniformed services – Combat2Coffee currently has stores in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. It has now recruited Bishopp and Tiptree Patisserie managing director Daren McGrath to help with its growth plans. They will form an advisory board alongside veterans Will Anderson MBE and Paul Botterill. Bishopp said: “My background is in coffee, and I’ve always admired what Nigel is doing in the community. His attitude is infectious, and I love how he devotes his life to helping others. It is great to be back in the coffee industry again, and I look forward to helping make Nigel’s ambitions for the business a reality.” McGrath said: “I first met Nigel by chance and was immediately charmed by his commitment to supporting veterans. My wife and I are involved in a lot of events at Colchester Garrison and recognise the importance of supporting our armed forces community.” Seaman added: “These past few years have been incredibly exciting for Combat2Coffee – and it is amazing to see how many veterans and families we have helped as a result of our work. Our new directors and the experience they bring are invaluable to us, and I am hugely grateful to have them on board.” Combat2Coffee has seen continuous growth since starting out as a coffee caravan providing outreach and support. Today, as well as the cafes in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, it supplies coffee to companies including Vertas and AXA. Through roasting and up-skilling programmes, it provides training and development services to veterans and others in custody. Combat2Coffee also supplies Ipswich Town Football Club with its own special coffee roast.
Greenhalgh’s makes a loss after experiencing energy bill rises of up to 400%, hopes to open three new stores by end of 2023: North west craft baker Greenhalgh’s made a loss in the year to 30 January 2023 after experiencing energy bill rises of up to 400%, and said it hopes to open three new stores by the end of 2023. The 46-strong business saw a pre-tax profit of £648,285 in 2022 turn into a loss of £489,360, as costs increased by almost £4m. Turnover was up from £22,186,708 in 2022 to £25,208,327. This compares to turnover of £23,842,218 and a loss of £1,198,517 in the last full year before covid, ending 20 January 2020. The company received no government grants compared with £252,944 in 2022. No dividends were paid (2022: nil). Director David Smart said: “The company closed the year with net current assets of £5.193m (2022: £5.962m) and shareholders’ funds of £14,116m (2022: £14.522m) which, in a volatile financial climate, the directors consider to be satisfactory. The company bakes off the vast majority of its savoury products within the retail outlets themselves, and the electricity contracts for these shops witnessed an approximate 400% rise in September 2022. The two manufacturing sites were left to the vagaries of the spot market as a new fixed contract at that time was regarded as particularly vulnerable. Even though the government has stepped in and provided some support, it is still correct to say that the single biggest cost difference between the two years' results is utilities costs with an increase of some £750,000 (48%). These prices have now receded somewhat but are still virtually double the pre-covid 19 level.” Smart said the majority of those stores which did not reopen after the pandemic have now reached the end of their respective leases and are no longer within the company’s portfolio. He said it did not open any new shops during the period, mainly because the developers did not complete the relevant schemes. He added: “We do have plans to open new shops within this current financial year and leases or agreements for lease have already been signed in respect of two further premises in the Bolton and Aspull regions. There are a number of active negotiations concerning other outlets in place and we are hopeful that as many as three new retail outlets will be opened before December 2023. Shopfitting is almost complete in Aspull and is predicted to commence in Wigan Road, Bolton, in October. The company invested £1.25m during the year in capital expenditure, a return to its normal pre-covid levels.”
Flight Club opens in Edinburgh: Flight Club, the darts concept owned by Red Engine, has opened a site in Edinburgh. The venue in the city’s St James Quarter scheme marks the 15th UK opening for Flight Club and the second in Scotland, closely following the opening of Flight Club Glasgow in October. It features ten oche playing areas and – in a hat tip to the city’s heritage – a model Victorian railway running throughout the height of the bar. Chief executive Steve Moore, said: “We can’t wait to welcome everyone, Edinburgh is such an incredible city. We’re really proud of the venue and look forward to showing it off in all its glory!" In September, Red Engine, which is also behind Electric Shuffle, said it had seen “strong trading” across its venues in 2023 and expects group revenue to exceed £68m this year. The business said there are “exciting years ahead” but “need to balance our short-term growth plans with market sentiment”. Looking ahead to 2024, the Red Engine team has confirmed openings for Electric Shuffle in both New York and Manchester, with a number of additional sites yet to be announced.
Cheshire Indian restaurant chain takes over former Italian restaurant for sixth site: Cheshire Indian restaurant chain Eastern Revive has taken over a former Italian restaurant for its sixth site. It will be launching soon in the former site of family-run Turturici, in the Cheshire village of Davenham. Turturici had been a mainstay of the village, in Church Street, for almost two decades. Eastern Revive, which started back in 2007, already has sites in Knutsford, Stockton Heath and Wilmslow in Cheshire, as well as a takeaway premises in Hale, and most recently opened a venue in Didsbury, Manchester. Signs in the windows of the property in Davenham state that the new restaurant is “opening soon” and that Christmas bookings are being taken, reports Cheshire Live. Turturici, released a statement earlier this year confirming its “incredibly sad” permanent closure “after 17 steadfast years”. The post on its Facebook page added: “We will miss this beautiful community and all the wonderful people we have come to know here. Thank you wholeheartedly for all the love, encouragement and support you have shown us over the years.”
Former Brat and Kerridge’s chef launches £20,000 fundraiser to open Hackney restaurant: Whyte Rushen, former chef at Tomos Parry’s Michelin-starred Brat restaurant in Shoreditch and Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge’s restaurant group, has launched a £20,000 fundraiser to open a restaurant in Hackney. Rushen, who also worked at Ramael Scully’s Scully St James’s and has been running pop-ups at places like Quo Vadis and Jollibee, has so far raised £1,190 on gofundme, from 38 doners. “So, I’ve kept this a bit quiet – but after a long, long road travelled, years of pop ups, events and takeovers, working with an insane roster of chefs, restaurants, brands and establishments all while serving the masses, and hopefully having made a few people happy along the way – we’re finally settling down,” Whyte said on his gofundme page. “It’s with a mix of every emotion humanly available – excitement, pride, anxiety, fear, joy and all the rest – that I can finally announce we’ve found a site, a restaurant, a hub, a home. At the moment, it exists as a shell, a blank canvas, a clean slate, a box of potential. To create the space we’ve always dreamed of is obviously going to cost a few quid, so this is not only an announcement, it’s a call to arms. I’ve tried to always give and support and navigate my way through this industry with my head held high, so for everyone that’s been there with me through the years, through the trenches – I ask you with the most thanks imaginable in advance to, if you can spare it, donate to help make this a reality for us all. At this point, every penny counts, and even if you can’t, just give it a share for me and spread the word.”

Poke House launches first roast dinner poké bowl range: Poke House, Europe’s largest poké restaurant chain, has launched what it claims to be a first poké bowl range based on roast dinners. Its Roast Beef House Bowl sees roast beef paired with wholegrain brown rice, cherry tomatoes, fresh hass avocado, beansprouts, greek feta cheese, aromatic herbs oil, tartare sauce, almonds and sesame seed. It is also offering Roasted Salmon Fillet, Roast Sweet Potato, Warm Courgettes with Parsley and King Prawn House bowls as part of its festive range. Rob Wickenden, Poke House country head UK, said: “We’ve seen a demand for more unconventional takes on the classic poké bowl this year and the festive period presented us with the perfect opportunity to create just that. The new winter menu items have been inspired by Brits’ love of a traditional roast dinner.” The business, which has more than 160 sites in nine countries globally, opened its tenth London site in October, at 32 Maddox Street in Mayfair. It is also looking to expand into regional UK locations, with Cambridge earmarked as a starting point.

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