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Thu 22nd Sep 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

WatchHouse launches crowdfunding campaign to aid further expansion, more than £2m raised already: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept WatchHouse has launched a new crowdfunding campaign, to aid further expansion in the UK and online, which has already raised more than £2m. The business, which recently opened its tenth site in London’s Mayfair, has launched the campaign through Crowdcube. It was looking to raise circa £1m (although this may now stretch to £3m), offering 12.02% of equity, which would give it a pre-money valuation of £15m. It is already overfunding after raising more than £2m since the campaign’s launch yesterday (Wednesday, 21 September). At time of going to press, it had raised just over £2m from just under 600 investors. The new funding would allow the Roland Horne-led business to continue to scale across London and other UK locations, and online through its at-home bean and pod subscription service. WatchHouse plans to open five new London Houses alongside its first House outside of London, in Bath, and a flagship US debut on New York’s iconic Fifth Avenue, scheduled for next year. In terms of the London openings, Houses in Covent Garden, Marylebone, Notting Hill, Marble Arch and Fenchurch Street are in development. The business said it has sold one million-plus coffees in the last 12 months, with sales growing 93% in the year to the end of July 2022. Revenue for the year stood at £6.4m, with House Ebitda £600k, and group Ebitda of -£697k. Horne said: “We have been presented with a number of growth opportunities of late and are committed to developing these as part of a controlled and profitable expansion of our core business. Our focus remains our home market with a regional roll out across the UK underway starting with Bath. However, at the same time, we are very excited to be working with Brookfield Properties to open our first international flagship House in New York with Brookfield Properties on the iconic Fifth Avenue.” To coincide with the launch of its latest House, Hanover in Mayfair, the company announced the launch of the world’s first rare coffee menu, replicating the exact judging experience at the World Coffee Championships. Customers can enjoy a collection of the world’s most exclusive and innovative rare coffees frozen at the point of roasting, thus capturing exquisite quality to be enjoyed years later.

Industry News:

The Chesterford Group founder James Lipscombe to speak at final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, three free places per company for operators: James Lipscombe, founder of The Chesterford Group, will be among the speakers at the final Propel Multi-Club Conference of 2022, which takes place on Thursday, 10 November, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London, and is open for bookings. The all-day conference will focus on “new ways of working”. The Chesterford Group operates circa 40 sites under brands including Churchill’s and Bankers Fish & Chips, and is also a Pret A Manger franchisee, and Lipscombe will discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by both businesses. Operators can book up to three free places per company by emailing

Several healthy eating concepts included in fourth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, released on Friday: Several healthy eating concepts are among the 15 new franchisors expanding in the UK and abroad featured in the fourth UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (23 September), at midday. The fourth edition will feature 155 companies and almost 70,000 words of content, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. Among them is Icelandic superfood bar concept Ísey Skyr Bar, which has a presence in Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Estonia and is looking to expand to the UK. Also featured is Romanian lifestyle-based healthy food concept Salad Box, which was founded in 2011 and has grown to more than 70 outlets in 21 countries, including the UK. Grounded Kitchen, the Midlands-based restaurant founded in Leicester in 2017, which focuses on flexitarian, vegan, vegetarian and plant-free options and now has ten sites, is also featured. Premium subscribers also receive access to The New Openings Database; the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group. Premium subscribers will also be given exclusive access to the recording of the Propel Multi-Club summer conference on Friday, at 9am. 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 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. They 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Toby Smith – energy price cap gives businesses the certainty to plan but VAT reduction is ‘the big one’: Toby Smith, chief operating officer of City Pub Group, has told Propel the energy price cap gives business the certainty to plan, but the “big one” remains a reduction in VAT. Speaking following the company’s interim results, Smith said the business had also now completed its disposal programme, meaning it now has a strong portfolio of sites in clusters within specific geographical points, and is in the strongest financial position it has ever been. Smith said: “The important thing to give certainty, and this is what this energy announcement has done. The devil will be in the detail, and it will take a little while to crunch the numbers to see the exact benefits for the business. We have already put measures in place to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption, and that work needs to be continued. Looking ahead to the mini-Budget, a reversal in the national insurance contributions would be great, but the big one we hope for is a reduction in VAT – even if it is for a short period of time and on a staggered basis.” Smith said the business was now focusing on consolidation before turning its attention to building the company again “when the time is right”. He added: “We have the Bath Cider House opening shortly, and then we’re focusing on driving sales and efficiencies in our current sites. Our pre-booked sales for Christmas are already looking strong, and we expect that to build with the return of the corporate market, the World Cup and the first ‘normal’ Christmas in two years. If opportunities come along, we will of course look at them, but we will have the Mosaic sites coming under our control next year, which will add 11 pubs to the portfolio.” Smith said the business was still taking learnings from its Damson & Wilde site in in Bury St Edmunds and was now reshaping its menus for the autumn and winter period. Some of the premium cocktail and wine offer has been rolled out to the rest of the City Pub Group estate, along with a few of the food items.

Lord – only time will tell if government has gone far enough with new energy scheme: Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has said that only time will tell if the government has gone far enough with its proposed Energy Bill Relief Scheme. Lord said: “I’m pleased that the economic importance of pubs and the hospitality sector is finally being recognised, and that support is being pledged beyond this initial six-month period. Businesses need to be able to plan ahead and forecast expenditure as a basic feeder of growth and investment, and these plans may go some way to staving off the redundancies we have been expecting across the sector. However, only time will tell if the government has gone far enough. Even with this help, businesses will still be paying more than they’re used to, and off the back of the pandemic, the real concern is whether they can afford to continue trading even with the support being offered. The hospitality sector is the fourth biggest employer in the UK and its importance needs to be reflected in the support it is given. We are still pushing the chancellor to offer wider support in his fiscal statement on Friday, including a reduction in VAT and business rates relief, both measures that will undoubtedly offer a lifeline to the sector.” Nicolas Burquier, managing director Pizza Hut Europe & Canada, called the bill a step in the right direction but insists more needs to be done. “At Pizza Hut, we’re pulling all the levers of our bulk brand influence to minimise the pressure on our franchisees, including significantly higher supply chain and labour costs,” he added. “But there’s only so much we can do before we have to pass those costs onto customers. While the current proposal from government will help small businesses continue operating as we head into the Christmas period, we hope the chancellor’s statement on Friday will set out a clearer road map as to what will happen beyond the six-month plan. UK hospitality needs to be recognised as a vulnerable sector in need of longer-term support. Only then can hospitality truly plan and ensure it’s there for its customers for many decades to come.”

Wales considers tourism tax: Visitors to Wales could face a tourism tax if government proposals are supported in a public consultation, the Senedd has said. The consultation will consider if overnight visitors should pay a levy, which the Welsh government said would support “sustainable tourism”. But some in the leisure and tourism sector fear it would put off visitors already cutting back due to rising bills and costs. Under the consultation, councils would choose whether to introduce the charge “according to the needs of their communities” but does not say how much the charge could be. It also says the tax would apply to any visitor, regardless of whether they live in Wales, and any sort of accommodation. It is understood the legislation may not be introduced until 2024. Welsh finance and local government minister Rebecca Evans said: “By asking visitors to make a small contribution towards maintaining and enhancing the place they are visiting, we will encourage a more sustainable approach for tourism.” But Richard Workman, a director at Shell Island campsite in Gwynedd, told the BBC: “Getting people across the border into north Wales is the hardest thing. If there’s another tax on top, they’ll go to the east coast of England.” Welsh Conservative shadow tourism minister Tom Giffard added: “This policy will put livelihoods at risk as one in seven jobs – 200,000 rely on the tourism industry. What’s more, there has been no guarantee that this tax would see any improvement to tourism offers in local communities.” Earlier this month, it was reported that Edinburgh could be the first UK city to tax overnight visitors, with the Scottish government set to give local authorities the power to impose the levy.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a branded restaurant group seeking a nationwide operations manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The business is looking for candidates from a quality casual dining background. As operations manager, you will be managing up to eight sites and reporting to a regional director. You will have full accountability for your patch in terms of finances, sales, team development and guest experience. This role is about working with a successful brand and bringing in new service points and elevating the offer – this is where your experience will be invaluable. It is looking for a for a resilient and adaptable leader, one that can happily help businesses transform and has some experience in terms of change.” The salary is up to £70,000 and it is a nationwide role. For more information, email

Company News:

Cook – we have put a pause on looking at acquisition opportunities, Fridays and Go ‘a game changer’: Robert Cook, chief executive of Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays, 63rd+1st and Fridays and Go, has said the company has “put a pause on exploring the acquisition of fledgling brands”. He said: “The organic growth of our existing brands is the primary focus for our business with Fridays, Fridays to Go and 63rd+1st. While we still believe in exploring the acquisition of fledgling brands, we’d like to put a pause on that for the obvious reasons around the economy, but also we feel what we have looked at has been over priced in the marketplace. But our longer-term ambition, and I stress longer term, is to acquire those smart, disruptor brands, leveraging off our back office. That will only happen when the trading environment stabilises.” Cook said the business sees delivery as “coming off its peak across the market” but said it remains an important channel, although not one it’s reliant on. He said: “We’ve always been pretty consistent in that view, given the quality of revenue delivery provides us, given the aggregator costs. We have, however, contracted and signed with Uber Eats. So, we’re now with the three main protagonists of aggregators in the UK in the delivery space. We do see delivery going backwards, and average order value has also gone backwards, so while we are in that market, we’re not relying on it, and I think we are in the right place given the business we have and the style of food we produce.” The company launched QSR concept Fridays and Go in Dundee in March, and Cook said it has returned to its initial strong trading after a summer lull caused by the closedown of schools, universities and football in the city. “Since all that has come back again, we’re beginning to see that pick up, and it’s given us the numbers we want,” he added. “It’s a trial, and we were learning a lot. We feel to really flesh out the trial, we need to try it in a motorway service station environment, potentially a shopping mall environment, which we are keen to do, and we’re under negotiations on some sites to do that. We do see this as a game changer and a great place for us to fill the gaps in terms of our expansion strategy.” The company is also collaborating with Sky Sports to trial live sports TV coverage in a small number of its stores. Cook said: “This development ties in with our move to a more focused ‘local’ store approach, with associated pay-per-click and paid search spend being made on a store-by-store basis.”

Ten Entertainment Group to keep holding prices at pre-pandemic levels despite rising costs, staff to get 70p an hour pay rise: Ten Entertainment Group chief executive Graham Blackwell has told Propel the business will keep holding prices at pre-pandemic levels, despite increasing costs. Staff at its 48 venues will also be rewarded a pay rise of 70p an hour from the start of October – in line with the expected increase in the National Minimum Wage from April. Speaking following the company’s interim results, Blackwell said the business was seeing the benefits of working patterns changing since the pandemic and families spending more time together. Footfall across its venues is up 42% on last year, with Blackwell believing the value for money and variety of activities it offers are key to that success. “We think it’s important to maintain price, particularly in the current economic climate, and make sure we continue investing the estate and our staff,” he said. “Happy staff means happy customers and higher retention rates, and with the added costs they face, we’ve decided to make this pay increase now. We’ve invested £16m in the estate so far this year, with more refurbishments planned in the remainder of the period.” Openings are lined up in Crewe, Dundee, Milton Keynes and Walsall, which are all self-financed, and Blackwell said the aim was still to open four to six sites a year, with the business having the firepower to make more substantial acquisitions if the opportunity arises. “We’ve got no debt, strong headroom and a growing business – it’s the holy grail,” he added. Blackwell said the company would see “little benefit” from the energy cap, with its prices fixed until 2024, but welcomed the support it offered to the wider sector. He added the group continued to work on energy saving initiatives, which would be more helpful in the long run. Looking ahead to the government’s mini-Budget on Friday (23 September), Blackwell said a VAT reduction “would be wonderful” along with business rates relief.

Eataly secures €200m of new investment to aid further expansion: Italian food market and restaurant chain Eataly is set for further global expansion after securing €200m (£174m) of new investment from private equity firm Investindustrial. The investment sees Investindustrial become Eataly’s majority shareholder (52%), with existing investors including the Farinetti family and Italian private equity firm Tamburi Investment Partners collectively owning the remaining share. The investment will allow Eataly to “retire net financial debt and pursue its global expansion plan through the opening of more flagship stores”. Eataly, which was founded in 2003 by Oscar Farinetti, currently has 44 shops in 15 countries. It opened its first UK site close to London’s Liverpool Street station last year. Nicola Farinetti, the son of Eataly’s founder Oscar Farinetti and current chief executive officer, will take on the role of chairman of the company. A new chief executive is to be announced in due course. Farinetti said: “The agreement we signed launches a strategic partnership that propels Eataly into a new phase of its history, by accelerating its international growth. This partnership will allow us to strengthen our unique format worldwide, promote innovative projects related to innovation and enhance our capabilities.” Andrea C. Bonomi, chairman of Investindustrial's advisory board, said: “Thanks to the vision and entrepreneurial ability of the Farinetti family, Eataly represents a unique and innovative player that has led the revolution of the concept of high-quality Italian food all over the world. We look forward to supporting Eataly by leveraging our deep experience in helping companies grow globally with the highest ESG and sustainability principles.”

SSP UK & Ireland brings in former Pret global property director among senior appointments: Transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has appointed former Pret global property director Graham Woods as its new UK & Ireland property director. In 13 years at Pret, Woods helped grow the business internationally and played a key role in the acquisition of EAT. Woods’ appointment, which is effective from 26 September, is one of several appointments to the SSP UK & Ireland executive team. Fi Butcher, who has worked across both SSP’s marketing and commercial teams for the past eight years, most recently as UK&I commercial and marketing director, has been promoted to managing director for Dublin. Butcher has had great success in introducing new concepts and openings at Dublin airport over the past 12 months and will continue to oversee functions including food and brand development and concept creation. Business development director Andy Webb will be promoted to the new role of commercial director and take responsibility for the commercial and supply chain and procurement teams. He will also continue to lead the Rail Gourmet business as managing director. Replacing him as business development director will be Cathy Granby, SSP’s former operations director for air. All promotions will take effect from 3 October. Richard Lewis, chief executive of SSP UK&I, said: “I’d like to wish Fi, Cathy, Andy and Graham all the best in their new roles, and I look forward to working together as one team over the months ahead to execute our strategy and accelerate our growth. Our team has been doing a fantastic job and I can’t wait to see what we will achieve in the coming months.”

Gravity Fitness returns to profit, turnover higher than pre-pandemic levels: Gravity Fitness returned to profit in the year ending 31 December 2021, with turnover more than doubling and rising above pre-pandemic levels. The company, which operates leisure and fitness activity parks under the Gravity Active Entertainment brand, reported a pre-tax profit of £386,920, compared to a £2,528,685 loss in 2020 and a loss of £165,536 in 2019. This included covid-related government grants totaling £1,708,991 (2020: £1,757,159). Turnover was £14,274,414, compared to £6,768,421 in 2020 and £11,476,303 in 2019. This represents 110.9% revenue growth on last year and is also 24.4% higher than the pre-pandemic results. Ebitda for the period was £1,781,830 (2020: £1,217,643), while net assets are £6,172,997, an increase of £2,323,746 on 2020 (£3,849,251). The company said: “After a strong 2021, the board continues to focus not only on protecting the business, but also on identifying further opportunities to enable the group to continue to grow. We remain focused on strengthening our core business with our trampoline park offering, while also expanding our ‘big box’ developments, with Liverpool One and Westfield Stratford set to open in Q1/Q2 2023. Gravity remains one of the leading UK leisure businesses, and we are dedicated to reinvigorating the sector with our wide range of activities.”

Judy Joo to launch Seoul Bird concept in US: Chef Judy Joo is to launch her fledgling Korean concept, Seoul Bird, in the US, with an opening in Las Vegas later this year. The chef, who currently operates two Seoul Bird sites in London, will open a site in Proper Eats, a 24,000 square-foot food hall on the second level promenade of ARIA Resort & Casino. Seoul Bird was created by Joo and Andrew Hales, who have worked together for more than ten years to create a number of restaurant concepts. The first Seoul Bird opened in Westfield London. Joo, who founded the concept with former Jinjuu head chef Hales, opened a second Seoul Bird site, in Canary Wharf, last year, on the former Radio Alice site in Jubilee Place. Earlier this year, she spoke about opening her first regional site under the concept, in Birmingham. The concept specialises in crispy, double-fried, Korean-style chicken inspired by Joo’s Korean-American heritage. Joining Seoul Bird at Proper Eats will be the first Wexler’s Deli site outside of Los Angeles; New York’s breakfast-centric Egghead by Tao Group Hospitality; and Clique Hospitality’s newly created Temaki concept, serving fresh, innovative hand rolls and other modern sushi dishes. ARIA president and chief operating officer Anton Nikodemus said: “The addition of Proper Eats to ARIA’s food and beverage portfolio will deliver a fun and lively communal dining experience to our resort. Every detail has been carefully curated – from creative concepts to venue design – bringing together a first-class culinary epicentre that is approachable with a variety of options to choose based on preference, taste, or mood. This, along with the collaborative partnership of visionaries at Clique Hospitality and Studio Munge, will elevate our food hall into a memorable destination for guests to return to time and again.”

McDonald’s UK appoints Tamara Griffin as people director: McDonald’s UK & Ireland has appointed Tamara Griffin, formerly of Burger King, Nando’s and Leon, as its new people director, Propel has learned. Griffin previously spent two years as people and culture director at Burger King. Previous to that, she spent short stints as interim head of people at PizzaExpress and people director at Leon. She was also head of learning and development at Nando’s for more than three years. Last month, McDonald’s said it had begun a recruitment drive to hire more over-50s, amid a scramble by businesses across the country to fill jobs with retirees. It is among companies launching fresh recruitment campaigns targeting older workers, with adverts posted by McDonald’s showing a grey-haired worker who “isn’t the retiring type” enjoying a job with the chain.

Splendid Hospitality Group secures new £27.4m loan to support refinancing: Splendid Hospitality Group LLP, the owner and operator of 22 hotels across England and Scotland, has secured a new £27.4m loan for its subsidiary Supreme Hotels LLP. The funds, provided by Cynergy Bank, will support the company’s refinancing and repayment of a larger facility to nine mostly branded hotels. The purpose of the refinancing loan was to assist Supreme Hotels LLP to achieve its aim of diversifying as it focuses on new opportunities for continued growth. The loan was structured with an initial 24-month interest only period, followed by a 23-year repayment profile. Steve Crosswell, relationship director at Cynergy Bank, said: “We are delighted to work with Splendid Hospitality Group LLP on this loan, which enables the group to achieve one of its strategic aims of diversifying their lender panel as they focus on opportunities for continued growth.”

Aston Manor reports £15m drop in revenue, has ‘no option but to increase prices’: Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor has reported a £15m drop in revenue in 2021, down to £139m from its record-breaking year of £154m in 2020. Its net profit is also down to £400,000 from £1.6m in 2020, in what the company has described as “the most difficult trading period in decades”. Chief executive Gordon Johncox said while steps have been taken to combat supply chain issues and rising costs, the company has had no choice but to increase it prices. “Very many businesses and commentators suggested that 2020 was exceptionally challenging, though our assessment is that 2021 was every bit as difficult, if not more so,” said Johncox. “Our response was exceptional, and driven by the commitment of our people and sustained investment in our capability over several years, we maintained a focus on continuity of product availability to our customers. We are not immune to supply chain issues and the seemingly relentless increase in input costs with the shortening of notification periods. We have taken steps to mitigate the impact as far as possible, though we have no option to increase our prices and review elements of our product mix.” The business said it took the “necessary strategic decisions” to withdraw from sub optimal sales agreements and noted that the cost of materials and energy all increased significantly during the year, while vital resources were at times either very scarce or unavailable. It will continue to invest in enhanced capability and the increased sustainability of operations and has also introduced employee wellbeing programmes. It also noted that proposed changes to alcohol duty need to better reflect the circumstances of the sector.

Cake Box reaches 200-store milestone: Cake Box, the specialist retailer of fresh cream cakes, has reached the 200-store milestone in the UK. Founded in 2008 and expanding through a franchise model, it’s landmark 200th opening was in Sneinton, Nottingham. In June, Cake Box reported full-year sales were up by 50%, with revenue up to £33m for the year ending 31 March 2022, compared with £21.9m the previous year. Pre-tax profits also grew 83.3% to £7.7m, with a 41% growth in online sales. That same month, Richard Zivkovic stepped down as chief operating officer at Island Poke to take up the same role at Cake Box.

New World Trading Co launches under £10 lunch offer: Pub restaurant group the New World Trading Company (NWTC) which operates The Botanist brand, has launched an under £10 lunch offer in response to the cost-of-living crisis. All items on the new lunchtime menu have a fixed price of £9.95, with diners able to choose from a wide range of dishes and flavours at the same low cost. The menu is available Monday to Friday from 12 noon until 4pm. James Scott, executive chef at The Botanist, said: “People see our venues as their sanctuary, and we want them to feel they still have somewhere to come for respite, to forget about their day-to-day worries for a few hours, especially during this extremely tough time. Our new lunch menu offers the same home-cooked comfort food that diners have come to know and love when visiting our restaurants, at a fraction of the cost of our main menu items – giving them value for money but the same fresh, quality, seasonal ingredients.” Natasha Waterfield, chief operating officer of NWTC, added: “We’re continually looking at ways to innovate and ensure the public still feel excited about coming out to spend time in our amazing venues, even through the hard times.  We’ve recently launched a weekly line-up of activities and offers in our sites, including a musical Botanist Bingo event every Wednesday which has been so well received by our customers.” 

Casa do Frango, Five Guys and Change Please confirmed for Victoria openings: Casa do Frango, the Portuguese piri-piri chicken concept from hospitality group MJMK, and Change Please, the social enterprise coffee business, have been confirmed as new openings in London’s Victoria. As revealed by Propel earlier this year, Casa do Frango will open a 4,500 square-foot site on the unit formerly occupied by Jason Atherton’s Hai Cenato restaurant. Change Please will take 560 square feet at Cardinal Place. The award-winning coffee company uses 100% of its profits to help people experiencing homelessness by training them to become specialty coffee baristas and supporting them with everything that they need to turn their lives around. Five Guys is also opening a 4,000 square-foot restaurant in Cardinal Place, on the former Balans site.

The Wolseley Hospitality Group promotes David Stevens to group executive chef: The Wolseley Hospitality Group has promoted David Stevens to group executive chef. Stevens, who was head chef at The Wolseley, will not only oversee the launch of Manzi’s and The Wolseley City in 2023 but will continue to play a pivotal role in mentoring and developing the next generation of senior chefs through the company and supporting the head chef team. Born in Brisbane, Australia, where he had his initial training, Stevens came to Europe in the 1990s and gained experience at Michelin-starred venues Fleur de Sel (Haslemere, Surrey); Chateau de Montreuil (France); Dolder Grand (Zurich); and the Four Seasons Hotels (London/Dublin/Houston/San Francisco). He joined Caprice Holdings as pastry chef at The Ivy in 1998 before leaving to start his own business – Proof is in the Pudding – which he operated for eight years. He joined The Wolseley Hospitality Group in 2013 as head pastry chef at The Wolseley before becoming head chef in 2017.

C&C Group joins with Big Issue for three-year social enterprise partnership: C&C Group has joined with Big Issue for a three-year social enterprise partnership. A key priority will be identifying opportunities for Big Issue vendors, and others who face barriers to employment, to find internships or permanent employment with C&C, and across the wider hospitality industry. C&C and Big Issue Group will together deliver four wide-reaching social programmes and projects, including sheltered pitches and on-street support for vendors; practical mentoring, training and skills development; an employability programme; and collaboration on joint marketing campaigns. Richard Hayhoe, corporate affairs and communications director at C&C, said: “Our colleagues can’t wait to get involved in this exciting initiative. Seeing all elements of this partnership come to life – whether that’s through connecting with vendors, transferring skills to support others and working together to identify opportunities for people to secure employment in the hospitality industry and beyond – is set to be extremely rewarding and will have a real impact and improve livelihoods.”

Kuro duo to expand concept with new restaurant and bakery: Julian Victoria and Jacob Van Nieuwkoop, the duo behind coffee house Kuro in London’s Notting Hill, are expanding the concept to include a new restaurant and bakery. Occupying several sites on the corner of Hillgate Street, the Kuro founders are extending their offer, designed to further serve the community through the day. Kuro Eatery will be joining Notting Hill’s dining scene in October as a 30-cover all-day dining restaurant. The new opening will be headed up by chef, Andriannos Poulis, who is originally from Greece and whose CV spans stints at Rovi in Fitzrovia, Cornerstone in Hackney and Mazi in Notting Hill. Inspired by Poulis’ Greek heritage and a particular love of fish, the menu will showcase a variety of international and Mediterranean flavours. Plans are afoot to transform the existing Kuro Kiosk – currently an independent magazine store – in Notting Hill High Street into a bakery, offering baked bread and pastries made fresh each day. The bakery will be headed up by Nicolas Ruty, who joins from The Savoy, where he was head baker. The Kuro Coffee site, which opened last year, will remain but also open as an aperitif and wine bar in the evenings. In 2023, the team are planning to redevelop the rooftops of their sites to incorporate working beehives and vegetable beds.

Ownership of north east hotel was transferred for £1 before going into administration with debts of £200m: The ownership of a north east hotel was transferred for £1 – 18 months before it went into administration with debts of £200m – a new report has revealed. The Sea Hotel in South Shields went into administration earlier this summer, and the property was put up for sale last month with a £1.65m price tag. A report by administrators RSM has now revealed that the hotel was transferred in December 2020, for the sum of £1, from High Street Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Newcastle-based High Street Group, to the One Collection Group, a company initially run by High Street boss Gary Forrest but which later passed to his daughter and a business associate. High Street Group, a development company which also ran several bars, hotels and restaurants around the north east, and which went into administration last year with estimated debts of more than £200m, had acquired the hotel for £1m in 2018. “The hotel incurred losses of approximately £123,000 between January 2022 and June 2022,” the report added. “Operational changes have been made to limit any losses, and trading between July and December is expected to be better as it captures the summer months and Christmas period. To assist with trading, a facility of £75,000 has been secured from Fresh Thinking Partners. This will be repaid as an expense of the administration.” The report also revealed £1.1m is owed to Assetz Capital Trust, along with £415,000 to HM Revenue & Customs and other smaller amounts to several north east firms. The hotel also features the 60-cover Maritime restaurant, the 45-cover Maritime bar, the Bramall Suite function room, the Bar 52 sports bar, oriental restaurant Buddha, a fish and chip takeaway and an ice cream kiosk.

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