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Thu 23rd Jun 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fridays to introduce live sport and expand alfresco dining, Fridays and Go ‘ahead of expectations’: Fridays, part of Hostmore, is focusing on al fresco dining in its next roll-out and is also looking to introduce live sports on big screens. Both moves have proved to be a hit at its latest restaurant, which opened in Chelmsford, Essex, last month. The company was left with a large outside space after the neighbouring unit was acquired to grow the site’s footprint from 5,500 to 8,500 square feet. “With the weather we’ve had, the external space has been really great,” Robert B Cook, Hostmore’s chief executive, told Propel. “It’s like a conservatory area with bi-folding doors. We’re really focusing now on al fresco dining, so exterior patios are really important. We’ve invested a seven-figure sum in a total of 20-plus stores around the UK where we had space with opportunity. We see it as the way forward, and we wouldn’t look at a store now without it. Barnsley, which is opening in the fourth quarter, will have 52 outside seats, and Durham, which opens just after, will have 70. We also think the way forward is to really embrace sport, so we’ve got big screens around the bar and will be showing live sports. When the Premiership season launches, we’ll be up to about 20 stores with live football on. There are places we’ll do sport and places we won’t. We’re looking at the demographics, I would say it would get to between 15-25% of the estate.” The Chelmsford opening followed the debut some two months earlier of the company’s first ‘fast casual’ Fridays and Go restaurant, in Dundee. It still intends to roll out to around 30 more of those, with the next such restaurant likely to be in the autumn. “It’s going really well, ahead of expectations, although we expect July and August to be a bit quieter as football stops, given there are two big teams in Dundee, and the university students are on their summer break,” said Cook. “We’ve seen a bigger level of delivery than expected, and seen people spend more ordering on screens. We’re keen to roll that out as we see this as being a real game-changer for Fridays, it can go where the full stores can’t go. Village London is a big target for us, plus smaller towns with a decent demographic, and we see it fitting into shopping malls and motorway services. We found a really good retail unit in Clapham, but when we came to costing it, it was just too much, so we’re looking at what I call ‘other people’s problems’ – converting stores with kitchens rather than retail units.” Hostmore’s other big recent concept launch was cocktail bar 63rd+1st, which is set to have a fourth site open on 8 July, in Edinburgh. “Glasgow and Cobham have gone well, while Harrogate has an older demographic and is taking a little longer, and we maybe need to reset that,” said Cook. “We think Edinburgh will be a great one for us. We’re actively looking at university towns with that more affluent demographic. It’s doing 65-70% drink to 30-35% food, and the small plates are working great. The original roll-out rate is probably too high now, but it will grow as quickly as we find the deals to grow, and we’re very disciplined about what we want to spend.” Cook also said the company is considering two other sites for full Fridays stores at the moment – one in Kent and one in the north west. “We’ve got an obligation with our franchiser, TGI Fridays US, to open a further eight stores by the end of 2024, and we expect we’ll meet that quite easily,” he added.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Rileys backs Hospitality Rising, invest today: Craig Mayes, chief executive of sports bar operator Rileys, is backing Hospitality Rising, but will you? The initiative aims to unite the industry by asking it to invest in and back its plan to change the perception of hospitality for the better, in the biggest sector recruitment advertising campaign the UK has seen. Mayes said: “Having spent the last three years turning around Rileys to now be on a firm footing to enable us to aggressively expand our footprint across the UK, we are acutely aware the biggest single thing that will stop us growing our business and providing opportunities for our people, our suppliers and our investors is our ability to attract new people to work in our wonderful hospitality industry, and as a result, contribute to our country’s growth through taxation. Hospitality Rising is an ambitious project to change the perception of our industry to attract new talent, but also re-engage those that may have left to pursue other opportunities where they will have learnt new skills which they can bring back to help hospitality to grow. I see the opportunities in hospitality as boundless.” Invest in Hospitality Rising now from just £10 per employee here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email
Number of pub operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-site Companies: A number of pub operators are among the 45 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 1 July, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features Anchor Taverns, which is owned by Hertfordshire-based operator Scott McGarvie, and includes the Anchor Tap & Bottle taproom in Croxley Green and The Old Shepherd in Chorleywood in its portfolio. Also added this month is Artfarm, a hospitality company owned by Iwan and Manuela Wirth which operates the Fife Arms in Scotland, Somerset’s Roth Bar & Grill and will relaunch The Audley in Mayfair this autumn. In addition, award-winning chef Dominic Chapman, who opened The Beehive in the Berkshire village of White Waltham in 2014 and is now taking on The Crown at Burchetts Green for his second site, will be featured. Meanwhile, North Yorkshire multiple operator J&S Pub Company, which is owned by James and Stacey Durham and now operates seven sites in its portfolio, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 3,800-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. It features more than 2,000 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 8 July, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 16,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to another database – the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly and was sent to Premium subscribers last Friday (17 June), provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers have also been given exclusive access to a new database. The UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and will be updated every two months. The second edition featured 120 companies, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. The second edition provides almost 47,000 words of content. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Mark Wingett. In this week’s Premium Opinion, serial sector investor Luke Johnson says he fears the life cycle of typical restaurants is getting shorter, and that the sector should look to the pub business for lessons on how to survive.

Parogon Group MD to speak at Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party, two free places each for operators: Richard Colclough, managing director of Parogon Group, will be among the speakers at the Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party, which takes place on Wednesday, 31 August, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Oxford Belfry, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “prospering in a post-pandemic world” and will be followed in the evening by the summer party, with a barbecue, live band and more. Colclough will discuss the Staffordshire pub group’s plans to grow out of its heartland, its finder’s fee initiative and the ethos behind the award-winning group. Operators can claim up to two free places each by emailing A room can also be booked for the evening for £120.

Johnson – ‘I fear the life cycle of typical restaurants is getting shorter’: In this week’s Premium Opinion, serial sector investor Luke Johnson writes about how he fears the life cycle of typical restaurants is getting shorter. He also discusses why he suspects the industry is about to enter a period of what might be called “creative destruction”, and how the sector should look to the pub trade for lessons on how to survive. Premium Opinion will be sent to Premium subscribers at 5pm on Friday (24 June). Email to upgrade your subscription.

Katona – ‘if we start hiking our prices up mercilessly, we will not have the customers we need to keep us afloat’: Nisha Katona, founder and chief executive of Mowgli, the Indian street food concept, has said that the industry has to absorb costs as best it can. “We need people to keep coming to our restaurants,” Katona told Radio 4 Today’s Programme. “To do that, we need to be reasonably priced. It’s very similar to the conversation previously with the people at the supermarkets. People are making their choices at the shelf – they are either going online or they’re going to, a discounted competitor. It’s the same with restaurants. If we start hiking our prices up mercilessly, we will not have the customer that we need to keep us afloat.” On prices, Katona said she had seen a 30% increase in chicken, and that oil has doubled in price. She said: “The electricity hike is going to be tremendous once the fixed rates end. It really makes us look at all of those pillars that sustain restaurants. For instance, we are people, we are products, we are places. Some of those are sacrosanct, so there’s nothing that we do with our people. You need to pay them well – this is an industry that sustains so many jobs. It’s really important that we remain that kind of beckoning industry that invites people to come and work for us and stay as a career, so there’s nothing you can do there. But with products, you can get a little bit clever. For instance, we look at our supply chain, and we look for that competitive tension. And you can also get a little bit clever with menus. What’s a happy coincidence is that the nation is looking to eat more plant-based dishes, so that’s one way in which you can just flex a little bit more with menus.” In terms of the sector support, Katona added: “During covid, we could go cap in hand to the government and say please help us, and they did in many, many ways. This is the first time we feel as though this is down to us. Yes, they could help perhaps by looking at the VAT rate. It’s gone back to 20%, and it could be that it’s dropped before time, but that just feels like a little pie in the sky. We’d love to think that was a possibility. This time, the buck kind of stops with us. It stops with the consumers who need to get back out there, keep eating out. You can make choices in different parts of your life, but it seems this discretionary spend, this passion that people have for eating out, remains. We just have to be, as restaurateurs, as fair as possible.”

Sacha Lord to launch Hospitality Hour campaign: Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, is launching a Hospitality Hour campaign this summer. Starting this weekend, the campaign is being launched to thank Mancunians for their support for the sector throughout the past two years. Lord will launch Hospitality Hours in each of the city-region’s ten boroughs over the summer months, where he will provide an hour’s free drinks for punters. The scheme kicks off this Sunday (26 June) at the newly opened Adelphi Lads Club in Salford, with the free drinks taking place between 5pm and 6pm. Lord said: “This is all about getting together and thanking the people of Greater Manchester for their support over the past two and a half years. As a city region, we suffered tougher restrictions than any other during the pandemic, and now with the difficult economic environment, our operators are once again at the precipice of closure. It’s about time I bought everyone a pint, and what better way than to launch a summer hospitality hour across our ten boroughs. I’m looking forward to being at each one to personally thank landlords and staff and the punters who have kept our sector going.” The nine remaining Hospitality Hour dates and venues will be announced by Lord on twitter throughout July and August.

Crerar Hotels CEO appointed new UKHospitality Scotland chairman: Chris Wayne-Wills, CEO of privately-owned luxury Scottish hotel group Crerar, has been appointed the new chairman for UKHospitality Scotland. His 25 years in senior management positions in the industry include spells as general manager at the Roxburghe Hotel in Edinburgh, regional managing director at Macdonald Hotels, regional general manager for QHotels and cluster general manager for Marriott International. He said: “I look forward to playing my part in supporting hospitality move towards recovery. Our businesses are bearing the brunt of the current economic challenges, but collectively we are resilient, innovative and determined to succeed. Our sector is one of Scotland’s greatest economic success stories, and there has never been a more important time for our sector to speak with one voice.” Wayne-Ellis said his priorities will include pushing to end staffing challenges by promoting hospitality as a career of choice, and pressing for a reform of business rates to make them fairer for sector businesses. He takes over from Calum Ross, owner and proprietor of the Loch Melfort Hotel in Argyll. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, added: “For almost 11 years, our previous chairman, Calum Ross, worked tirelessly, making the case for our members and sector – in particular providing vital leadership during the pandemic. With Chris now at the helm, we move to securing the recovery for hospitality. Scotland’s sector is crucial to the UK’s hospitality and tourism offer, and I am certain that Chris, working with our executive director for Scotland, Leon Thompson, will deliver the results our businesses need in order to recover and thrive.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a high-volume, high-end event and venue business in the leisure and hospitality sector looking for a managing director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The purpose of the role will include being accountable for developing and driving the strategy and growth of the this established yet growing business. They will deliver sales and profit through digital development, build sales capability and empower and enable an engaged workforce to effectively respond to changing market conditions. The role will also own and develop key customer and wider business relationships to enable the greater group to meet its business objectives. It will also encompass financial and budgetary responsibilities, with full P&L responsibility for total overheads including headcount, marketing, property and supply chain costs. The business’ turnover approaches £15m.” The salary is up to £130,000. For more information, email 

Company News:

Liquidators appointed to company behind Scottish operator Macmerry 300: Liquidators have been appointed to the company behind the 11-strong Dundee-based hospitality business Macmerry 300, which has ceased trading. Blair Nimmo and Geoff Jacobs from Interpath Advisory were appointed as joint liquidators of Macmerry300 on 21 June 2022. The company, which was incorporated in April 2014, operated 11 bars located in Dundee and Glasgow. The Macmerry 300 group, which was led by Phil Donaldson, a former professional footballer with Dundee FC, included Dundee-based venues Fly South, Bird & Bear, Draffens, The King of Islington, Still not Dead and pasta bar Frank. Propel understands that the process does not include The Abandon Ship sites in Glasgow and London’s Covent Garden, or The Bull in Glasgow, which are operated under different companies. The Covent Garden site opened earlier this year on the former Pix Bar site in Neal Street. Interpath said: “Due to the detrimental impact of covid-19 restrictions upon trading performance, cost pressures and recent reports alleging mistreatment of staff, the company incurred losses, which resulted in substantial liabilities being accrued. With significant financial pressure being faced by the company, in early June 2022 the director resolved that the company was insolvent and should be wound-up voluntarily. The company instructed Blair Nimmo and Geoff Jacobs to convene the necessary meeting of members and to assist with the creditors’ decision to place the company into liquidation. It is understood that a transfer of certain assets took place in May 2022; accordingly, with no available funding and certain of the company’s assets having been sold, regrettably, the Joint Liquidators had no option but to make all of the company’s 63 staff redundant upon appointment.” Nimmo, chief executive of Interpath Advisory and joint liquidator, said: “This is unfortunately a further example of a business within the hospitality and leisure sector being unable to withstand ongoing testing trading conditions, as the re-emergence from covid-related restrictions continue against a backdrop of accumulated debt.” As mentioned by Interpath, it is believed that the group’s assets were transferred to another company, Belford, in May, before MacMerry300 was placed into voluntary liquidation. Belford was previously run by Donaldson and Richard Davies, the graphic designer behind fashion brand Abandon Ship, when it served as a vehicle for an Abandon Ship bar in Dundee. It is now run by AJ McMenemy, Donaldson’s business partner.

Costa franchisee Sim Trava adds 17 sites with £7m funding package: Altrincham-based Costa franchisee Sim Trava has added a further 17 sites to its estate after securing a £7.1m funding package from HSBC UK. Business Live reports that the company, which was founded by Simon Vardy in Northwich in 2005, has added four drive-thru branches, three retail parks and ten high street outlets to its now 57-strong portfolio of Costa stores spread across the north of England. The business said it is anticipating an 80% increase in turnover over the next 12 months. Vardy, managing director at Sim Trava, said: “Funding from HSBC UK has facilitated immediate growth for the franchise and allows us to focus on providing the best possible experience for our customers, while supporting our existing Costa Coffee teams currently in place. This investment will bring a boost for local communities across the north west. We look forward to welcoming more visitors to Costa Coffee across our new branches for many years to come.”

Putt Putt Noodle expansion plans include pairing concept up with Flip Out under same roof: The team behind adventure park franchise Flip Out and interactive crazy golf concept Putt Putt Noodle is looking to put both concepts under one roof in its next pipeline of openings. It has signed for Flip Out and Putt Putt Noddle sites at the same venues in Telford, Shropshire, and Poole, Dorset – both set to open in December. While Flip Out is a more established brand with 27 UK locations – including its most recent opening, in Hounslow, west London – new concept Putt Putt Noodle only made its debut in December and currently operates from just the one site, in Norwich. There are big plans for both, however, with 40 property agreements currently in negotiation across both concepts. “We’re opening Flip Outs and Putt Putt Noodles next door to each other in Telford and Poole in December,” director of operations Matt Melling told Propel. “Often you’ll see bowling operators paired up with cinemas – we believe our leisure concepts complement each other well. We’re looking at large former department stores, with a view to putting in a number of our offerings to create a leisure hub. Putt Putt Noodle has been trading well since it opened, and we are excited to start rolling them out. There will be a mix of company owned and franchised sites – we will start generating some real momentum early next year.” Flip Out owners MFT Capital acquired the brand’s entire global intellectual property portfolio and paid down all its debts in November last year, including £1.44m from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This was funded by the sale of Boom Battle Bars to XP Factory, formerly known as Escape Hunt, for £17.38m. XP Factory said in April it expects to have 27 Boom Battle Bar sites open by the end of 2022, making an enlarged estate of six owner-operated and 15 franchise venues.

Chop’d acquired out of administration for £30,000: Salad bar chain Chop’d was acquired out of administration for £30,000, Propel has learned. Last February, the then 12-strong business was acquired by Inc Retail Group, which is led by Dan Shaw. A new vehicle, Chop’d Holdings, which also has Shaw as a director, acquired the business and five of its remaining sites out of administration earlier this spring. The business was sold for £30,000 on a deferred payment basis. As previously reported by Propel, the company reopened eight of its London-based sites last year, but its sites in Westferry, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester remained closed. Those four sites have now been closed permanently, along with the brand’s units in Canary Wharf, City Point and St Pancras. The group continues to operate sites in Long Acre, Mark Lane, St Paul’s, Curzon Street and at the ExCeL centre. 

Other Side Fried to double up in London: Chicken burger concept Other Side Fried is to double its presence in London with an opening in Clapham. Propel understands that the business, which was founded by Matt Harris and Tommy Kempton, has secured a site at 97 St Johns Road for an opening later this summer. The company opened its debut permanent site at the end of 2019, in Brixton, south London. The concept began operating from the back of a converted British ambulance before going on to operate long-term residencies at Pop Brixton and Peckham Levels, as well as a kiosk in Cranbourn Street. Its debut bricks and mortar site opened in a converted railway arch in Atlantic Road.

Ole & Steen plans Henley-on-Thames opening: Danish baker Ole & Steen, which recently opened its 20th site in the UK, is set to open its third regional site, in Henley-on-Thames, Propel has learned. The company is understood to be taking on the ex-Superdrug site in the Oxfordshire town’s Market Place. The business, which recently opened sites in London’s Seven Dials and Clapham, is gearing up to open its second regional site in Windsor. The business, which already operates a site in Oxford’s Westgate scheme, will open a site in Kings Edward Court, in the Berkshire town, later this summer. The company is also believed to be in talks on an opening in Guildford. RAB Retail acts for Ole & Steen.

Hydes plans ‘premium dining and social destination’ on the Wirral: Hydes, which operates 31 managed and 16 tenanted pubs in the north west, is planning to open a new “premium dining and social destination” on the Wirral. The company, which is led by Adam Mayers, plans to transform the former police station on Telegraph Road in Heswall into the new venue, which is set to create up to 35 jobs. The company reported turnover decreased 71% to £8.5m in the year to 28 March 2021. It produced an operating loss of £4m and saw a reduction in Ebitda from £3.7m to minus £1.9m. The company sold four tenanted pubs during the year, with sale proceeds of £1.3m and a profit on disposal of £1.1m. Its own brewed cask ale volumes reduced by 75.7%.

Taster arrives in Bristol after securing first franchise partner, launching in Birmingham: Delivery-only kitchen concept Taster, which was founded by early Deliveroo executive Anton Soulier, has arrived in Bristol after securing its first franchise partner in the city. Two new brands from Taster’s delivery-only portfolio are available to order in the city – Korean fried chicken from Out Fry, and dirty vegan burgers from A Burgers. The food will be prepared and delivered by the team at Whiteladies Road venue Brace & Browns, and will be available through Deliveroo and UberEats. Taster is the UK’s first “delivery-first” restaurant group and uses a modern franchise model to partner with restaurateurs and kitchen owners. Taster is already operating out of 50 major cities in Europe including Paris, Madrid and Brussels. In the UK, it already has kitchen partners based in London, Brighton and Reading, and is also launching in Birmingham in the next few weeks. The business is expanding fast having secured $37m in investor funding last year. Soulier said: “The food delivery scene in Bristol is huge. We’re already having positive conversations with kitchen owners across the city who are excited about the opportunity around food designed specifically for delivery.” According to Taster, its average franchise partner has revenue of between £15,000 to 30,000 per month, with those outside of London hitting the higher end of that scale. In Paris, Taster’s restaurants are the third largest by value on Deliveroo, behind McDonald’s and Burger King. Dave Brown, owner of Brace & Browns, said: “We’re excited to be bringing Out Fry and A Burgers to Bristol alongside our existing business. After 12 years of trading, we are looking to diversify and add growth after a tough few years. We know that food delivery is a booming market, and we want to be part of it.”

L’Escargot partner to make Suffolk pop-up of Soho restaurant’s seaside spin-off permanent: George Pell, a partner in L’Escargot in London’s Soho, is to make the pop-up of the seaside spin-off of the French restaurant in Suffolk permanent. L’Escargot Sur-Mer will reopen as The Suffolk in August following a refurbishment of the historic building in Aldeburgh. The Suffolk will become home to a 60-cover restaurant named Sur-Mer, with rooftop terrace complete with sea views, bar, 12 and 24-seater private dining rooms and six bedrooms. Pell, who has spent the last 15 years working in some of London’s most renowned members clubs and restaurants including Soho’s L’Escargot, where he will remain a partner, will lead front of house. Pell said: “I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring the sense of life and purpose back to this great building and make it, once again, the heartbeat of Aldeburgh. For me, this is the realisation of a childhood dream to have a restaurant beside the sea.” The seafood focused menu at Sur-Mer will be led by head chef James Jay and champion Suffolk produce. Jay joined the team in March to run the Sur-Mer pop-up at New Street Market in Woodbridge with Pell, and was head chef at the Anchor, also in Woodbridge, for ten years. The bar and rooftop terrace will have smaller plates designed for sharing including lobster sliders and a selection of grilled flatbread with toppings. The wine list will feature mainly French wine, while cocktails will also be available.

London operators take on fourth Shepherd Neame pub: London pub operators Darren and Janet Wellman have taken on their fourth pub with Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame. The couple are the new licensees of the Spanish Galleon in Greenwich. The pub, in Church Street, has just reopened following a three-month redecoration project, with the upstairs function room renamed the Crow’s Nest in keeping with the nautical theme of the area. The Wellmans first began running Shepherd Neame pubs when they took on the Princess of Prussia in Prescott Street, close to Tower Bridge, in 2011. Next came the Rugby Tavern in London’s Great James Street, with the White Swan in Aldgate following. Greg Wallis, director of tenanted pub operations at Shepherd Neame, said: “Darren and Janet are fantastic licensees and we are delighted to be working with them on their fourth Shepherd Neame pub. We are confident with their skills and experience, they will ensure the Spanish Galleon goes from strength to strength.” The couple ran their first pub together for London pub operator Young’s, in Kensington. Janet said: “We’d go in so many pubs and we’d think ‘we could do better than this’ so we decided to do it! We are pretty busy, but we like to be involved and find time for them all. All our pubs are very close to each other.”

Star Pubs & Bars negotiates improved energy deal for licensees: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has negotiated a new energy supply deal with British Gas for its licensees to help mitigate the energy crisis. Star licensees have been reporting they can only get contracts with premium prices, lengthy terms, high security deposits and hidden extras that add up to 60% to their bills. The company said licensees are also concerned about the security of getting their supply from lesser-known operators. Star’s energy scheme, which is run by Inspired Energy, is designed to address these issues. Under the programme, Star will bulk and forward buy energy from British Gas on behalf of its pubs at times when the market is lowest to ensure competitive prices. Licensees sign up to a one-year agreement to cushion them against the anticipated surge in energy prices in the autumn, while giving them the flexibility to renegotiate their contracts in autumn 2023, when prices are expected to fall. There are no additional charges and – subject to approval on a pub-by-pub basis – deposits are not required. To help licensees track and reduce their energy consumption, participating pubs will have access to an online portal showing their usage. Mark MacDonald, head of pub services with Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Energy is a pub’s second biggest cost after wages, so the current energy issues are a major challenge for the trade. The energy market is complex, and people need expertise to navigate the terms and conditions of the different agreements. Some of the four and five-year contracts available look attractive now but could prove very expensive when the market corrects. Our aim is to simplify the process of securing a good energy deal for our licensees by creating a transparent agreement built around their best interests.” The majority of Star’s 2,400 pubs are leased out to small businesses and entrepreneurs, with around 140 operating on its Just Add Talent managed operator model.

Vapiano opens two more delivery kitchens in London: Vapiano, which is owned by the Mario C Bauer-led consortium Love & Food Restaurant Holdings, has opened two more delivery kitchens in London. The brand has opened the kitchens, in Nine Elms and Brent, bringing dishes such as the Gamberetti e Spinaci to south west and north London. Vapiano opened its first delivery kitchen last summer, in Kentish Town, in partnership with Foodstars. It has also been announced as the official restaurant partner for the 11th annual National Film Awards, which takes place at The Porchester Hall in London on Monday, 4 July. There, it will be the official sponsor of the Best Drama category. Vapiano UK operates four restaurants in London and one each in Edinburgh and Manchester. It is set to open a fifth London restaurant this year “in a central location”.

Gordon Ramsey’s first Malaysian restaurant to open this month: Chef Gordon Ramsey’s first Malaysian restaurant, the Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill at Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, will open later this month. It will feature three private dining rooms, a grand dining room with semi-private seating booths and a cocktail bar, with covers for 150. A Savoy Grill-inspired menu will include Ramsey classics such as spiced beef tartare with egg yolk confit, Arnold Bennett twice-baked cheese soufflé with Mornay sauce, and Dover sole with Grenobloise capers sauce. Cocktails with Malaysian-inspired flavours will also be available alongside a host of premium wines and spirits, while a dedicated wine cellar will include a private room for tastings. Ramsay said: “This is a concept that was born in London and exudes the British sophistication created out of its original Mayfair setting. However, we always wanted to introduce Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill to an international setting once we had found the perfect partners and the perfect location. Malaysia is a wonderful country with a rich heritage and an exciting future, and I am confident that local guests and international visitors will have an exceptional dining experience in our beautiful new restaurant.”

Plans submitted to move Cargo scheme in Bristol to new permanent home: Plans to remove Cargo, the network of converted shipping containers housing independent shops and eateries on Bristol’s harbourside and replace it with a 12-storey high permanent building have been submitted. Plans for the new development at Wapping Wharf North include shops, restaurants, takeaways and workspaces. The proposals, by developers and owners Umberslade, will see the businesses housed in the containers moved to a new, permanent home. Stuart Hatton, managing director of Umberslade, owners and developers of Wapping Wharf, said: “There’s a very special character to Wapping Wharf which you won’t find anywhere else in Bristol, and this is in large down to the cluster of independent businesses that have helped create the strong sense of community here. When we set up Cargo, it was really a temporary innovation – an experiment, if you like – and a way of bringing some life to the place as we knew it would take a long time to develop out the whole site. While quirky and distinctive, in reality, the shipping containers can be challenging for a business to operate in. But Cargo has become such a success that we need to provide a permanent and better home for our businesses that they tailor as they want.”

Restaurant branding agency MD to launch Japanese concept in Marylebone: A new Japanese concept is opening in London’s Marylebone next month. Manga Banga, which is the brainchild of Guy Holmes, managing director of restaurant branding and marketing agency Captivate Hospitality, takes its cues from izakaya’s, the informal Japanese bars that serves alcoholic drinks and snacks. The venue, in Lisson Grove, will bring together “delicious Asian small plates, bao, inventive cocktails and manga – Japanese comics and graphic novels developed in the late 19th century”. The concise menu, designed to be shared, will include crispy baby squid with yuzu kosho mayo and spicy tuna tacos with scorched chilli salsa. Baos with a range of fillings will also feature. The 50-cover restaurant will include a feature wall covered with more than 100 manga magazine covers.

Ascot Brewing Co hits £150,000 crowdfunding target to open series of new taphouses: Ascot Brewing Co has hit its £150,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to help fund the opening of a series of new taphouses in Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey. The brewer, which was founded in 2007 and acquired by local businessmen Chris Davies and Mike Neame in 2018, is based in Camberley, Surrey, where it has an 8,500 square-foot brewery and taphouse. It was offering 6.95% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2m. So far, £150,200 has been raised from 220 investors, with a week of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “With your support, we will explore opening several similar units to the TapHouse – same appearance, décor and vibe – within a 20-mile radius of our Camberley headquarters.” The company said its quarterly revenue increased 230% post-lockdown versus pre-covid. It has launched three campaigns on Crowdcube in the past – the most recent a £150,000 bid to expand its brewing capacity, address export enquiries and add a small canning line in 2020.

West Midlands restaurateur opens cafe in Solihull for third site: West Midlands restaurateur Carmine Sacco has opened a cafe in Solihull for his third site. Sacco has launched Emporio Artari Cafe at the Touchwood shopping centre. Italian celebrity chef Aldo Zilli has helped design some of the menu, including new signature dishes for upcoming seasonal menus. Sacco is also behind the Lucarelli Restaurants in the Mailbox in Birmingham and West Bromwich. A team from Thursfields Solicitors, led by commercial property director Robert Pettigrew, advised on the lease for the cafe venture. Pettigrew said: “It is great to help bring such an exciting concept to life, and we look forward to advising as the concept expands into new areas.” CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang acted for the landlord, and Cushman & Wakefield were the letting agents.

New soft play concept to make debut, in Cwmbran: Treats N Play, a new soft play concept from local businesswoman Jemma Cantelo, will next month make its debut, at the Cwmbran Centre in Cwmbran. Cantelo has signed a ten-year lease with landlords LCP to open the venue in a 2,528 square-foot unit at 19-25 The Parade. It will include a children's soft play centre, mini role-playing village, gaming room, sensory room, party room and café. “I’m excited to be given the opportunity to open my new business venture in my home town where I grew up,” Cantelo told the South Wales Argus. “Cwmbran Shopping Centre is transforming, and seeing so many new businesses given a chance is fantastic. I can't wait to be part of it.”Another local business coming to the centre is Plump Cakes Retro Tearooms, which has taken on a five-year lease at 4 The Arcade. The six-year-old family business, run by Emma Plumpton and husband Mike, is moving from Market Village so it can sell a wider range of bakes, foods and drinks. “Cwmbran is our local shopping centre and we have always liked to wander around the great shops here,” said Emma. “We are looking forward to now being one of those shops.” Fit out is under way, and Plump Cakes Retro Tearooms hopes to open in a few weeks’ time. It follows the recent signings of The Loungers group, which will be opening the Carro Lounge in the former Square Inn, and cafe and console concept Geek Retreat at the centre.

Bubala confirms July opening for second restaurant: Middle Eastern vegetarian concept Bubala, which opened its debut site in Spitalfields in 2019 following a string of pop ups and supper clubs, has confirmed a July opening for its second restaurant, in Soho. Propel reported in January that founder Marc Summers would be launching a 50-cover restaurant on Poland Street, including an open kitchen and private dining room. Opening on 11 July, it will feature a fully vegetarian menu from executive Chef Helen Graham, designed for sharing and centred around the flavours of the Middle East. The new menu will include a mixture of favourites from Bubala Spitalfields as well as a selection of new dishes. Mains will include cauliflower, bkeila and velvet tomato with yogurt; and braised hispi with seaweed, dried orange and sesame. Among the drinks will be cocktails, house sodas, a homemade seltzer and natural low-intervention wines, including five on tap.

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