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Thu 24th Nov 2022 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Connell – London bouncing back while some regions soften, experiential businesses trading really strongly: Darrel Connell, partner at sector investor Imbiba, has said London is starting to bounce back after a couple of tough years, while some regions have begun to soften after two strong years. Speaking at this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference, Connell said: “What we’re seeing in our portfolio is outside of London over the last two years has been trading very strongly, but since September we’ve seen London bounce back really aggressively and softening in some regions, particularly during the week. It’s the mid-market, family-focused casual dining that will find it hardest in the regions, that will be the toughest place to be. Experiential businesses are trading really strongly and are doing huge numbers, and if we look at the next 12-18 months, I think the corporate pound is a very resilient pound during recessions, so that’s an area we’ll continue to look at. We’ve also been looking at boutique hotels and pubs with rooms. The good thing about competitive socialising businesses is they drive a huge amount of their sales from doing the activity – if you’re paying £15 to play crazy golf, that’s a 100% gross margin versus if you’re serving food.” While there have been calls from some in the sector for a return to the reduced rate of VAT, what Connell would like to see from the government is something to combat rocketing energy costs. He added: “There is an argument that business failures over the last ten years have been minimal in the sector, and there’s been a lot of government support. And there is a Darwinian argument there should be a bit of a clear out because there are quite a few zombie companies, as there are in every sector. On the flip side, there’s the human side of that – jobs, livelihoods and families – so nobody likes to say that. Inevitably, there will be a clear out next year. I think businesses are continuing to trade quite well, certainly from a top-line perspective, but it’s in the first quarter and second quarter of next year we’ll start to see the realism kick in. Our view is the good businesses will survive and thrive, and not-so-good businesses will have a really tough time. If you’ve got a good business in this sector and you’re offering a great product, you can keep your top line and work through your P&L and margins, and there’s plenty of examples in previous recessions of great business being built.” Connell’s presentation will be among the videos from the Propel Multi-Club Conference that Premium subscribers will be given exclusive access to next Wednesday (30 November) 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.
 

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Toggle launches video campaign with X-Factor’s Chico Slimani: Last year, Toggle, the hospitality commerce platform, enlisted the help of Chico Slimani to promote its “Its Toggle Time” campaign. This year, it has partnered with X-Factor’s Chico once more, as well as The Botanist, Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana and Zizzi, for its “It’s Toggle Time 2” campaign, by shooting a commercial with the production company OD Content, to help push the gifting message. The campaign supports hospitality businesses by helping them generate revenue through the sale of gift cards, experiences, retail products and more. With 60% of all hospitality gift card sales happening in November and December, Toggle Time is now. Watch the commercial here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

Kurt Zdesar among speakers at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023, open for bookings: Kurt Zdesar, founder and owner of Chotto Matte and Ping Pong, will be among the speakers at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023. The event is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, aiming to build a community, promote the sharing of ideas, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference as the centrepiece of the January event series, taking place on 24 and 25 January at One Moorgate Place in London. Zdesar will talk about the importance of awards. More than 50 industry and agency leaders will take to the stage over two days, representing brands including Gail’s Bakery, Hawksmoor, Burger King UK, Loungers, The Alchemist, Hall & Woodhouse, BrewDog, East Coast Concepts, Press Up Hospitality Group, Krispy Kreme, Mission Mars, Inception Group, New World Trading Company, MJMK, Caprice Holdings, Hakkasan, KellyDeli, Tattu Restaurants, Red Engine, Vapiano, The Cocktail Club, Hilton, Elior, Flat Earth Pizzas, Lollipop, Lego Restaurants, Cornish Bakery, Gusto Italian, Searcy’s and Six by Nico. Day one themes will be consumer and sector trends, start-ups, concepts and creativity and digital evolution, while day two focuses on purpose and responsible business, strategies for growth and communication and culture. Tickets for operators for the two days are £600 plus VAT and £350 plus VAT for one day. Tickets for suppliers are £950 plus VAT for the two days and £525 plus VAT for one day. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Jo Charity at Propel on jo.charity@propelinfo.com.
 
One day to go before release of updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, 23 businesses being added: A total of 23 new multi-site companies, operating 111 sites, have been added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released tomorrow, (Friday, 25 November), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, includes regional restaurant and bar operators, growing entertainment concepts, and expanding franchise operators. Premium subscribers will also receive a 2,000-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. The database now features 2,722 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 2 December, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes an 8,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides from this month's Propel Multi-Club Conference. The videos will be sent on Wednesday, 30 November, 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com 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 Propel group editor Mark Wingett.
 
Rail strikes to cost pubs and restaurants £1.5bn in run-up to Christmas: Rail strikes in the crucial weeks leading up to Christmas will cost pubs and restaurants as much as £1.5bn in lost sales, industry chiefs have warned. Hospitality bosses told The Telegraph the impact of walkouts by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union just days before Christmas would be “devastating” for companies which are already facing soaring costs and labour shortages. Union bosses unveiled plans on Tuesday (22 November) for strikes on 13, 14, 16, and 17 December, as well as several days in January. The lead up to Christmas is one of the busiest periods of the year for pubs, bars and restaurants. Over the equivalent week on which the strikes are set to take place in 2019, pubs alone across the UK took 25% of their December sales, equivalent to £582m, according to data from the British Beer & Pub Association. London pubs took 27% of their December sales, worth an estimated £62m. UKHospitality estimated the sector could stand to lose as much as £1.5bn as a result of the industrial action. Paul Pavli, non-executive director at pub and restaurant group The Yummy Collection, said the announcement of the union action had already torpedoed £70,000 of bookings during the weeks of the strikes across two of its London sites. Pavli said: “This is a killer. It’s the week everyone’s out having parties. We have an apartment on the top floor that was booked every single day that week for £500 per night. The end of that week is the World Cup final. It couldn’t be a worse week.” Many hospitality businesses rely on strong Christmas sales to see them through January, when shoppers tend to have less cash to spend on going out and other non-essential purchases. Pavli said: “In a normal year, December keeps businesses going until Easter when better weather comes in.” While bigger businesses would likely be able to weather the strikes, he suggested some smaller businesses could be forced to close altogether.

October delivery and takeaway sales double pre-covid levels but stall year-on-year: Deliveries and takeaways now account for nearly a quarter of all sales at Britain’s leading restaurant groups, having doubled since the start of the pandemic. CGA by Nielsen IQ’s new Hospitality at Home Tracker shows sales by value in October 2022 were 97% higher than in October 2019, the last comparable month before covid. Takeaway and click-and-collect sales have grown 55%, but deliveries have soared 236% as consumers switched to the convenience of third-party ordering platforms. Deliveries and takeaways accounted for 24% of the total sales of groups contributing to the tracker in October 2022, with eat-in sales making up 76%. However, the tracker indicates growth has stalled since the end of covid restrictions. Combined delivery and takeaway sales were down by 7% on October 2021, the 11th consecutive month of year-on-year decline. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director hospitality operators and food EMEA, said: “Deliveries saved many restaurant businesses during covid lockdowns, and consumers continue to be attracted by their convenience. The plateauing of sales since the end of restrictions is a positive sign that some people have reverted to eating out rather than ordering in over the last 12 months, but it may also reflect increasingly cautious spending as the cost-of-living crisis mounts. Sustaining sales and protecting margins will be major challenges as the squeeze on disposable incomes tightens.”
 
Raymond Blanc – parents must see the potential of sector to help tackle jobs crisis: Raymond Blanc, chef patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, has said parents must see the hospitality industry as a place they want their kids to work in. Blanc also believes in order to attract young people into the industry, managers must also provide support, care and patience along the way. He is throwing his weight behind Hospitality Rising’s “Rise Fast, Work Young” initiative, launched in a bid to help fill the industry’s 400,000 vacancies. Speaking on the latest Hospitality Rising podcast, Blanc said now is one of the most important times for opportunities to be made within the industry and urged parents to teach their kids it’s a great place to work. He said: “It’s a great time to be bringing young people to our industry and to show them how exciting, and how extraordinary the industry can be. You’re talking about working in a very smart, elegant environment that is all about beauty and refinement, and making people happy. And because of the changes and the revolution we’re creating in our industry, I hope every parent would think one day, yes, I would want to put my son or my daughter in this industry. It’s up to us to change the industry, which is about people, training, supporting the young, and caring for them.” He added: “Food, it sounds easy, but it’s a skilled craft. This business today can offer any young person, or older person, avenues where you can be everything you wish. Through this craft you can travel anywhere across the world, create your own business and pass it on to other young people. It’s up to us to change the industry. People say ‘oh the young, they don’t want to work’. I believe this is wrong – give them a good manager, a patient manager – and believe me, that young person will grow into someone who is going to be a great success for himself in his life and will enjoy it.”
 
Williams – London restaurants like mine need EU workers to succeed: Martin Williams, chief executive of Gaucho and M Restaurants, has said a lack of foreign hospitality workers will mean increased costs, “unavoidably one day passed on to our guests”, and will result in a “lack of diversity in our kitchens”. Writing in the Evening Standard, Williams said: “My 30-year love of London stems from its international, diverse, liberal, tolerant culture. Now I am lucky to lead a team filled with European and global talent at my M and Gaucho sites, which operate across London and the UK. Diversity sustains us. And yet, since leaving the EU, hospitality has suffered a well-documented chronic staffing crisis: respected operators including Jason Atherton have publicly said they’re on the verge of ‘mothballing’ their restaurants due to staff shortages. In monetary terms, it is estimated as a loss of £25bn in income to restaurants and £7bn lost contributions to the Treasury. On Tuesday (22 November), I was in the House of Commons with sector colleagues trying to explain the situation to detached MPs. The reluctance to support immigration from the EU apparently doesn’t take the hospitality sector’s huge contribution to our economy and communities seriously. To be clear: it is impossible for restaurateurs, hoteliers and publicans to operate either functionally or profitably without EU immigration. Sensible immigration reform is vital to make London’s restaurants function. The current points-based system deems our world-class chefs and bartenders to be ‘low skilled’, while a ‘right to work’ visa granted to managers or head chefs costs up to £19,000 each in sponsorship, a cost many operators cannot afford. A lack of foreign hospitality workers will mean increased costs, unavoidably one day passed on to our guests, and will result in a lack of diversity in our kitchens. Multicultural hospitality workers, who often demonstrate both an inspiring commitment and work-ethic, tend to complement and raise the game of British workers such as myself. It is time for our national politicians and the mayor of London to support the hospitality sector and stop hiding behind their napkins.”
 
More than half of small businesses believe outlook over next six months will be challenging: More than half (56%) of small hospitality and retail business owners have said the outlook for their business over the next six months would be “challenging”, while in excess of a third (36%) said they were “optimistic” and one quarter (27%) “excited”, according to new research. The survey on behalf of American Express and Small Business Saturday found the vast majority (90%) agreed it was important to support other local, independent businesses, with 85% saying they actively promote other suppliers and small businesses local to them. A similar number (83%) said they always tried to work with these suppliers where possible. Recognising the vital contribution their businesses make locally and the need to support fellow entrepreneurs, three quarters of respondents (74%) agreed there was a strong sense of community among small businesses in their local area. The research also reinforced some of the biggest rewards of running your own business. Three fifths (59%) of respondents said the top benefit was “being their own boss”; 45% cited “job satisfaction”; and a quarter (26%) pointed at “having a positive impact on the local community”. 
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a business that is looking for a (sales) account executive. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The company is at the forefront of hospitality trends and knowledge and uses these insights to provide businesses with innovative research, media content and marketing plans. The company already works with some of the industry’s leading businesses and the successful account executive will add to this portfolio and manage existing accounts. You will be managing a portfolio of accounts within the hospitality sector, mine these accounts for new business through relationship development, knowledge, and skill at the job. You will be the first point of contact for the business within these organisations and develop a trusted advisor relationship – not to be afraid of steering a client in a different direction if needed.” The salary is up to £85,000 and the position is remotely based. For more information, email hayley@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

D&D London marketing seven UK sites, continues to strategically review its portfolio: Restaurant operator D&D London, which owns and operates more than 40 restaurants across the UK and internationally, has placed seven of its UK-based sites on the market, Propel understands. It is thought the seven sites being offered for sale include four in London – 100 Wardour Street, Soho; Avenue in St James Street; and Cantina and the Blueprint Café, which are both based in Butlers Wharf. The other three sites being marketed are Klosterhaus in Quakers Friars, Bristol; and Issho and East 59th, which are both in the Victoria Gate scheme in Leeds. In September, the LDC-backed business appointed its co-founder, chief operating officer and deputy chairman David Loewi, as interim chief executive, after Des Gunewardena left the company to pursue other ventures. Loewi and Gunewardena co-founded the business in 2006 from Conran Restaurants, where they worked together. Loewi has since held the role of deputy chairman and chief operating officer, and he will continue to lead D&D London with the support of the existing management team. In October, the company opened its first venture in Birmingham. Orelle is an 88-cover modern French restaurant, cafe and bar located on the 24th floor of 103 Colmore Row. Low said: “Our restaurants continue to trade well, achieving an overall combined £17m Ebitda for the 15 months since reopening post-lockdown. We own and operate high-profile, unique premises, so we often get approached to ascertain if we would be willing to sell or joint venture. Like all businesses in the hospitality sector, we continue to strategically review our portfolio. We are extremely proud of our latest opening. The new site, which opened only a month ago, is trading very well, exceeding our revenue projections.”
 
Burgerism in discussions on first licence agreement, aims to become number one delivery burger brand in UK: Burgerism, the fast-growing smash burger concept from Foodomnia, is in late-stage discussions on its first licence agreement, with co-founder Mark Murphy telling Propel the company’s goal is to become the number one delivery burger brand in the UK. Propel understands Burgerism, which next week will open its first “on street” site, in Stockport, is understood to be in talks with a well-capitalised operator regarding the licensing agreement, which could add three to ten sites over the next three to five years. It is thought the business has had a number of approaches in the last two years but has opted to build out the Burgerism brand further before partnering with a licensee. Speaking at Propel’s Multi-Club Conference this month, Murphy said the group was targeting opening 12 Burgerism sites in 2023 to add to its current four-strong portfolio, with a further 20 expected to come online in 2024 and another 30 in 2025. The company believes the total market opportunity for Burgerism could well be more than 1,000 units in the UK alone, made up of a blend of delivery kitchens, takeaways and flagship bricks-and-mortar locations. Murphy said: “We are very happy to be in suburban UK, and I think the at-home market is maybe a competitor of hospitality, but it’s a friend of ours. We’re very happy to be servicing customers who perhaps work in the city but live in suburbs, and who want a better at home experience. Stockport is an interesting format. It is that Domino’s format that perhaps we’re leaning towards. We see that as a very good growth path for us, where we convert old takeaways into a more modern fulfilment type hub. Our goal is very, very lofty – to become the number one delivery burger brand in the UK. Where does that stem from? Burgers are the most delivered product in the UK, yet there are no go-to brands in people’s minds like there is pizza. If you ask someone what’s your go-to for delivery pizza, the majority of people will say Domino’s, so we look at Domino’s a lot. I think they’ve got a fantastic business model, which in times like these really does stand up. In terms of our growth, we’re 77% year on year. We’ve had our best month ever in October on a like-for-like basis, so I think delivery is a very good place to be going into the current climate.” The business has also put in place its first dessert partnership for all its sites with Leeds group Get Baked. Murphy added: “We haven’t offered dessert before, but we ran a trial over Hallowe’en and found one in four orders added a dessert option.”
 
City Pub Group acquires Newport site: City Pub Group has added the Potters in Newport, Wales, to its portfolio, Propel has learned. The company has acquired the freehold in an off-market deal brokered by Drake & Company. It is one of the few original pubs left in Newport, situated in the heart of the city centre adjoining the Friars Walk shopping and leisure complex. The Potters joins The City Pub Group’s growing portfolio of 49 sites across the southern half of England and Wales. 
 
Team behind Thai concept Som Saa plans new opening near Borough Market: The team behind Thai restaurant Som Saa is planning to launch a new site near London’s Borough Market, Propel understands. It is understood Som Saa founders – MasterChef finalist Andy Oliver and fellow chef Mark Dobbie – are set to take a unit in Park Street for a new restaurant, which has the working title Nok. Having operated as a pop-up in London Fields, Som Saa opened its debut permanent site in Spitalfields in April 2016 after raising £700,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. At the end of 2019, it launched a further £200,000 fundraise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to open a second London site and build a platform from that to explore “future concepts such as food halls, grab-and-go sites and takeaway brands”.
 
Loungers secures first purpose-built site for new roadside concept Brightside: Cafe bar operator Loungers has secured a fourth site for its yet-to-be-launched roadside concept Brightside. The Nick Collins-led business has signed a lease for the biggest unit at Godwin Developments’ new roadside retail development, Ram Jam Services, on the northbound section of the A1 in Rutland. When delivered, the 4,500 square-foot unit will be the first purpose-built Brightside restaurant, which will serve circa 41,500 vehicles passing the site daily. Loungers announced the launch of Brightside, which it hopes will “reinvigorate roadside dining in the UK”, earlier this month with the acquisition of three sites from the Route Restaurant Group, which operates the Route 5, Route 38 and Route 303 roadside locations in the south west. The first Brightside is set to open on the A38, south of Exeter, in February 2023. Further sites will open on the A38 near Saltash, and on the A303 near Honiton, in the spring. Propel understands Sarah Hills – who was previously managing director of Bill’s, Wagamama, and most recently Megan’s – is heading up and overseeing the opening of the first three sites under the new concept, which will sit alongside Loungers’ existing brands, Lounge and Cosy Club. Loungers said it believes there is scope to develop a “truly national brand” and has ambitious plans to roll out Brightside to all corners of the UK in the coming years. It is envisaged sites will be situated predominantly on A-roads and will focus on bringing “genuine hospitality back to a sector that has been dominated by drive-thru and quick service restaurant concepts in recent years”. 
 
Kaleido Rolls launches crowdfunding campaign with plans to grow to 25 sites by 2025: Healthy food concept Kaleido, which specialises in salad rolls/rice paper rolls, has launched a crowdfunding campaign with plans to grow its existing six-strong, London estate to 25 sites by 2025. The business, which was launched five years ago by wife and husband team Laura Mimoun and Denis Dahan, launched the funding campaign through Seedrs, with a target of £400,010, offering 6.68% of equity, with a pre-money valuation of £6m. It is already overfunding with £429,923 raised so far from 26 investors, including £199,996 from an anonymous investor. The business, which has sites in locations such as Harrods, St Pancras and Soho, plans to split the funds raised as follows: 60% will be allocated to opening new stores and sites, 20% will be invested in wider marketing opportunities and a bespoke new packaging, and 20% will help strengthen its head office function. The business said it is backed by key investors from the industry including Marcel Khan, formerly of Five Guys, Nando’s and Thunderbird Fried Chicken, who is a non-executive director. It said its turnover from October 2021 to September 2022 exceeded £1m, with the third quarter of 2022 its record quarter to date at £377,000, a 140% increase versus the previous year. The company said it currently produces more than 3,000 Kaleido rolls each day. Kaleido was previously one of the 27 businesses across the UK selected for the Next Level NatWest Accelerator Programme.
 
Mark McQuater-chaired Deckhouse concept to open debut site next month: Deckhouse, the new all-day dining cafe and bar concept chaired and backed by Mark McQuater, the former chief executive of Revolution and Barracuda, will open its debut site in Somerset next month. As previously revealed by Propel, the concept, which has a target of having 18 sites within five years, will launch on the ex-Bill’s site in Cheapside, Taunton. The new business will officially launch on Friday, 2 December with a goal of providing the “best of British at Deckhouse” and “support local and national British businesses and provide customers with a quality experience”. It is thought the business is already in talks on a second location, with a site in Sevenoaks mooted. In September, Propel revealed Deckhouse had initial funding of £2m in place, with a plan of initially developing two sites this year, three to four sites in 2023 and 18 sites within five years. The business is targeting towns with “more than 20,000 people or higher quality smaller demographics”. The concept, which “combines coffee, restaurant and bar culture”, plans to serve “affluent under serviced quality market towns and suburbs in the south of England, Home Counties and the southern Midlands”. Alongside McQuater, who is also currently chair of Roxy Leisure, the Deckhouse management team comprises Tom Cullen, former director of property at Barracuda Group, who has also held senior positions in Mitchells & Butlers and Greenalls, as property director; Dominic Doherty, formerly of Revolution de Cuba and Ivy Collections, as operations director; and Nick Morgan, formerly chief financial officer at Barracuda Group and Port Haven Care Homes, as finance director.
 
Chef Jake Finn to open second Cinder site: Chef Jake Finn, who previously worked at London restaurants including La Petite Maison, Coya and The Ritz, is to open a second site under his Cinder concept. The new, bigger second site for Cinder will open in St John's Wood High Street in the first week of December. Cinder II boasts 46 covers upstairs as well as a private-dining room/speakeasy space in the basement, which can seat up to 12 private diners or 20 seated for drinks at the bar. The first Cinder site opened on the first day the lockdown lifted in 2021, in Belsize Village. Cinder II will offer set menus as well as the standard à la carte menus for larger group bookings, in an attempt to avoid wastage and ensure revenue. The menu will feature dishes including cedar plank salmon, chicken thighs with confit lemon and garlic, and grilled mastelo with kalamata glaze and oregano.
 
Boxcar Brewery to launch first craft beer, blockchain-based membership in UK: Boxcar Brewery, the east London premium craft brewery co-founder by Vagabond Wines founder Stephen Finch, is launching what it claims is the first craft beer, blockchain-based membership in the UK. The business said membership is the first step of an “experiential consumer-focused strategy to elevate the craft beer drinking experience”. The “Boxcar Collective”, as the new membership is called, grants members £120 worth of free beer, early access to new beer releases, invitations to collaboration parties, discounts and free Boxcar Collective merchandise. Boxcar Collective members also get to design four beers each year that Boxcar will make, released first through its taproom and then for broader distribution. The business said: “Like many industries, hospitality is starting to recognise the positive impact technology can have on customer loyalty, experience, customer insights and new product development.” A total of 600 Boxcar Collective memberships went on sale on Wednesday (23 November), each priced at a one-time £225. The company said proceeds will go towards rewarding members, building a community, expanding distribution, and launching a new physical craft beer concept. Funds will also support the brewery’s longer-term project to work with select British farmers to grow the ideal malting barley for its beer as part of its mission to source as many ingredients hyper-locally as possible. Projects for later phases include a series of craft beer taverns governed and owned by Boxcar Collective members and a nascent craft beer decentralised autonomous organisation that will focus on innovative technology solutions for the craft beer sector and hospitality.
 
Trio of east Asian concepts open at Elephant Park development: Cyber e-sports cafe SideQuest, Asian fusion restaurant Oisoi and YiFang, the Taiwanese tea specialist, have opened sites at the £2.5m Elephant Park development in south London. The three east Asian concepts have taken an inter-connected unit facing on to New Kent Road, spanning more than 6,000 square foot. SideQuest, formerly known as Wanyoo UK, has opened its sixth site in Britain. The space seats up to 36 players at single computers, with a room available for private hire. Oisoi, a restaurant serving authentic Asian cuisine with a modern twist, including signature dim sum and Szechuanese dishes, has opened its third site – and largest to date. A kiosk from YiFang specialises in Taiwanese tea with a menu featuring pure tea, fruit tea, fresh milk tea, and the YiFang specialty selection. Nash Bond, CF Commercial, and Shelley Sandzer represent Lendlease, which is delivering the regeneration project.
 
Antoinette Hotels returns to profit as it builds back from pandemic: Antoinette Hotels, which operates three sites in London and the New Forest, has reported turnover increased to £4,164,735 for the year ending 31 March 2022 compared with £1,307,956 the previous year. However, turnover still remained below the £4,659,625 reported in 2020 when the final month of trade was impacted by the covid pandemic. The business saw a pre-tax profit of £1,272,713 compared with a loss of £104,711 the year before (2020: pre-tax profit of £266,103). The company received £278,068 in government support, including payments through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (2021: £879,087). No dividend was paid (2021: £40,000). Antoinette Hotels operates its eponymous site in Wimbledon and Hotel Bosco in Surbiton along with The Crown Manor House Hotel in Lyndhurst in the New Forest.
 
Rockfish to offer free fish and chips to under-11s for three months: Rockfish, the nine-strong seafood restaurant group led by Mitch Tonks, will be offering a free kids portion of fish and chips to all children under the age of 11 from Thursday, 1 December to March 2023. The company said community is one of its central values and something it wants to promote through all aspects of the business – whether through supporting local fishermen or offering a free meal to youngsters. The offer, which must accompany an adult ordering a main course meal, will be available at all restaurants. Tonks said: “We believe in the value of memorable family meals. Our aim is to bring families together this winter to enjoy the amazing local, sustainable seafood on our doorstep. We’re hoping our initiative might inspire others in the industry to take a similar approach. Convivial dining being such a key aspect of hospitality, family life and the values reflected in our business ethos.”
 
Rio Brazilian Steakhouse to open in Warrington for fifth site this weekend, more set to follow: North east multi-site operator Howard Eggleston will open the fifth site for his Rio Brazilian Steakhouse concept, in Warrington on Saturday (26 November). Eggleston is launching the venue in Golden Square, and more are set to follow. Founded in Jesmond in November 2019, Rio also operates sites in Newcastle’s Quayside, Middlesbrough and Durham city centre. The concept offers a set price of non-stop meat and an unlimited salad bar with authentic Brazilian sides such as Feijoada. A coloured coaster system informs the server if a customer wants more meat – green for go and red for no. Eggleston said Rio has traded strongly and continues to see growth “even in tough times” and new sites are under negotiation for opening in 2023. Eggleston also operates the Tomahawk Steakhouse and Pollo concepts. The group, which currently has turnover in excess of £35m, is rapidly expanding and is set to have 25 sites by the end of the year. 
 
The Craft Beer Co to open in Paddington next week: The Craft Beer Co will open a site in Paddington next Thursday (1 December). As reported by Propel in June, The Craft Beer Co, which was founded in 2011 by Martin Hayes and Peter Slezak, has secured a new lease on the former Cork & Bottle site in Spring Street, for what will be its seventh site in the capital. The venue is being relaunched as The Bear and will offer a range of beer, wine and spirits alongside homemade burgers, pork pies and scotch eggs. The Craft Beer Co also operates a site in Brighton. Cork & Bottle continues to operate a site in Leicester Square. David Kornbluth, of CDG Leisure, acted on behalf of the landlord on the Paddington deal.

 
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