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Tue 8th Jun 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Boxpark secures debut site outside London with launch of new F&B concept BoxHall: Boxpark has secured its first site outside London with the launch of sibling concept BoxHall, in Bristol. The group has just agreed a lease for the harbourside location at the regeneration of Welsh Back Bristol’s O&M’s sheds, which is being delivered by Cordwell Property Group. Unlike Boxpark developments that focus on placemaking and creating spaces, BoxHall sites will be located in existing buildings within town and city centres across the UK. Opening in June 2022, BoxHall Bristol is a new and premium food and beverage-led concept with a modern food hall structure, set to offer “high-quality product ranges and carefully-selected, authentic cuisine” from local, independent street food traders and restaurant operators in Bristol. Alongside the food offer, BoxHall Bristol will also provide a diverse, community-led programme of events in collaboration with local homegrown talent and partners, as well as unique gaming experiences. The 20,000 square foot venture will feature seven kitchens. There will be two external terraces overlooking the waterside. Opportunities for prospective tenants include turn-key kitchen solutions with turnover-only licences. Boxpark will commence tenant marketing in the later part of 2021. Boxpark chief executive and founder Roger Wade said: “It has been an incredibly difficult year but we remained optimistic during the pandemic and used the time to progress our expansion plans. Our team has worked extremely hard to secure our first site outside of London and this is a huge milestone for the Boxpark family. This new development demonstrates our investment in continuing to evolve both the brand and the sites we build and operate in.” BoxHall is part of Boxpark’s wider expansion plans to roll out a mixture of sites both inside and outside of London. Boxpark’s portfolio currently includes three London sites – Croydon, Shoreditch and Wembley – and BoxHall will be a new addition, with further locations to be announced later this year.

Industry News:

Sponsored message – Cawston Press launches new sparkling range for on-trade: Cawston Press, the expert in pressed juice, is shaking up the category with the launch of its new sparkling range in 250ml glass bottles, available now to hospitality and the on-trade. The range is available in three quintessentially British and much-loved flavours – the best-selling Sparkling Rhubarb, Sparkling Cloudy Apple and Sparkling Elderflower Lemonade. Each variant has been created simply using 100% pressed fruit and sparkling water. A Cawston Press spokeswoman said: “Tailored specifically for the hospitality industry, the new premium format offers restaurants and bars an elevated pressed juice soft drink option for consumers returning to establishments over the summer and beyond. Perfect enjoyed on their own over ice, used as a mixer for a signature cocktail or as a fruity twist on classic serves. In line with all Cawston Press drinks, the range contains no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no colourings, no preservatives and are never from concentrate. All three drinks are 60 calories and under, and the glass bottles are 100% recyclable.” Each flavour is available to the trade in cases of 12. Plus, for a limited time, Cawston Press is running a launch promotion – buy three cases of Cawston Press Glass Bottles and receive a box of six Cawston Press-branded hi-ball glasses for free (T&Cs apply, subject to availability). Contact ben@cawstonpress.com for details. If you have information you would like to feature in a sponsored message, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com
 
Three days before Propel Premium subscribers receive first edition of new sector turnover and profit database, 40% of companies making a loss: The first edition of a new database for Premium subscribers, The Blue Book, to be released at midday on Friday (11 June), shows 40% of the 215 companies included making a pre-tax loss. The number of loss-making companies reflects the impact of the pandemic but also companies investing heavily before the pandemic. It also shows tough trading in parts of the sector. The Blue Book shows McDonald’s has been the most profitable company in the UK for the past five years by some distance. The company has a total pre-tax profit of £1.7bn in its five most recent years. In its most recent full year, it made four times more pre-tax profit than any other company in the UK. The new database, which will be updated and expanded each month, ranks the top 215 sector operators by turnover and then by profitability. It also has a five-year overview of turnover and profit and shows what percentage of turnover is converted to pre-tax profit – or otherwise. Each month, Propel will be expanding the scope of The Blue Book – we want to add any company either turning over more than £5m or making a £1m pre-tax profit. Email paul.charity@propelinfo.com to add your company to The Blue Book universe. Charity said: “The Blue Book will start to show the devastating impact of the pandemic on company profitability but, in due course, will chart the sector’s bounce back. It’s a fascinating document.” Propel Premium subscribers have just received their monthly update to the multi-site database, which has had 108 companies added since the last release at the end of May. They not only received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 14,000-word report on the businesses added during May. The go-to database, which now features 1,822 companies that collectively operate 59,197 sites, 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. A single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.
 
Three quarters of pubs trading at less than 75% of 2019 levels: Three quarters (74%) of pubs are trading at less than 75% when compared to 2019 figures – highlighting the effect restrictions are having on the sector. The survey of British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) members also showed without restrictions fully lifted, enabling them to trade freely and fully from 21 June, 11% of businesses will fail, 43% will be loss-making and will continue to take further debt, while 34% will only manage to break even with current regulations in place. Staffing continues to be one of the main challenges, with 53% saying they cannot recruit enough staff to cope with the additional workload created by covid restrictions, and 35% said they have lost staff as soon as they have returned from furlough. More than two thirds (67%) said a lack of public understanding about the constantly changing rules and regulations for indoor versus outdoor visits has put more pressure on staff to effectively communicate and manage customer visits. Almost 60% said they have had to take a Bounce Back loan to survive and 24% still have unpaid rent debt that they are now also facing. Almost 50% have pandemic specific debts of more than £20,000 per pub and despite using their reserves, in many cases using their savings and borrowing from their own pensions, half of these have debts of between £40,000 and £80,000 per pub. A total of 56% said they will need more than two years to repay the debts accumulated in the pandemic, and half of those will still be paying off those debts over a minimum of five to ten years. BII chief executive Steven Alton said: “We are calling on government to now deliver against its roadmap, allowing our pubs to begin their long road to recovery, before it’s too late.”

Spending on staycations in May rises by more than 25% versus 2019, pubs and bars take advantage of indoor rules relaxation: Spending on staycations grew by 25.5% in May versus the same month in 2019 while bars and pubs also enjoyed a reversal of declines against April 2021. The research from Barclaycard showed more holidaymakers either embarked on or booked staycations in May 2021, with resorts and accommodation showing strong growth of 25.5% from 2019 with spend from those aged 50 to 64 up 40.5%, compared with a 13.1% decline among 16 to 24-year-olds. One in five (20%) people say they’ve already made plans to go on a staycation in the weeks following 21 June, when all restrictions in the UK are planned to end, and 18% intend to go on more holidays in the UK, even after international travel restrictions have been lifted. Meanwhile, the move to open indoors dining and drinking on 17 May saw bars and pubs enjoy respective declines of 53.2% and 19.4% for May overall, these were marked improvements on the 74.4% and 67.2% contractions in April. In fact, spending on bars and pubs saw a 1.4% growth among 16 to 24-year-olds, as younger consumers returned to socialising at the earliest possible opportunity. Barclaycard head of consumer products Raheel Ahmed said: “It is reassuring to see signs of recovery for the entertainment and hospitality industries, both of which have faced significant challenges over the past year. While international holidays continue to be hampered by restrictions, staycations in the UK are providing a welcome boost to the travel sector, as May saw more holidaymakers, particularly in the older age groups, book or embark on trips.”

SHG calls for pub closing times rule change to avoid threat of violence towards staff: Forcing pubs to evict customers during the Euros football matches will put staff at risk of physical attacks and waste police time, according to the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG). The trade body said the current rules on closing times in the sector are “unworkable” while most of the country’s central belt remains in level 2 and the risk remains that other local authorities could be moved up a level at very short notice. SHG has called on the Scottish government to introduce flexibility for closing times and allow local authorities to decide when last orders will be. SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “We saw in the Europa League final that the game went on to extra time and then 22 penalties. If the Scottish government doesn’t give some flexibility to the current rules, we could end up in a situation where people can watch the group stages but, when it comes to the knockout round, hospitality staff are going to be forced to ask fans to leave right in the middle of all that.” Current restrictions dictate bars and restaurants in level 2 can stay open and serve alcohol until 10.30pm and, in level 1, they can stay open until 11pm. Montgomery added: “I’d like to see the officials and ministers who came up with these rules try to enforce them. Hospitality staff have taken enough punishment over the past year and should not be forced to then ruin someone’s evening and potentially face a backlash. And you can easily see how trouble could start on the streets, meaning the police get called, which is a complete waste of their time. All that needs to happen is to tweak the rules so people can finish their drink and watch the end of the game. It’s as simple as that – and it should be up to local authorities to decide what time pubs and restaurants in their patch close.”
  
BrewDog signs first partners to Planet First Locals scheme in bid to cut carbon emissions: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has signed the first partners to its Planet First Locals scheme to help cut carbon emissions. The first businesses to join include Brewhouse & Kitchen, Pub Love, High Spirits Leisure, Picture House Cinemas, Urban Village Pubs and Market Halls. The initiative was launched by carbon-negative BrewDog in April to businesses that have pledged to reduce emissions by at least 15% during the next 12 months. Through Planet First Locals, BrewDog is working directly with pubs and bars that serve two or more of its draught beers to reduce and remove carbon emissions, with the ultimate target of becoming carbon neutral, supported by third-party partner, Small World Consulting. The brewer will provide support to estimate the venue’s carbon footprint then put in place a carbon reduction plan and remove all remaining calculated emissions from the atmosphere via its Lost Forest and Dark Forest Projects. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “We are the world’s only carbon-negative brewery, but we also want to be the catalyst for wider change. By encouraging them to make small changes and working in partnership to offset all their calculated carbon emissions, we aim to give people more planet-friendly places to hang out”. Andy Lewis-Pratt, chief executive and founder of Market Halls, the London-based food market hall operator, said: “The hospitality industry is crucial to the change we need to make, and we try our hardest to limit our impact on the environment, but our knowledge and resources are limited. With the support of BrewDog to not only develop a plan for change, but also offset our outstanding carbon emissions, we hope to become carbon neutral within the next year.”
 
Third of all new US jobs in May come in eating and drinking-out sector as operators offer interview incentives but hospitality workforce still down 15% on pre-pandemic levels: A third of all new jobs in the US in May were in the eating and drinking-out sector as operators offer interview incentives and special applicant days. However, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 2.5 million, or 15%, from its level in February 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The nation’s unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points, to 5.8%, from April, the bureau said as the foodservices and drinking sector added 186,000 of the 559,000 positions gained in the month. Eating and drinking establishment employment is in the bureau’s larger leisure and hospitality category, which added 292,000 jobs in the month “as pandemic-related restrictions continued to ease in some parts of the country”. Restaurant companies have announced employee applicant incentives and special hiring days as they deal with staff shortages. Wayback Burgers, which has more than 166 sites, said it was offering a free side of regular fries to job applicants at a national hiring event this week. The goal was to hire 5,000 new employees at its 135 US locations in 31 states. President Patrick Conlin said: “Realising the hiring game is a competitive marketplace, we at Wayback Burgers wanted to entice our applicants in a way that gives them a true taste of our brand.” The Independent Restaurant Coalition, which has advocated for increased assistance for restaurants struggling because of restrictions, said restaurant and bars in May still employed almost 1.5 million fewer people than before the pandemic. Executive director Erika Polmar said. “After 15 months of lost revenue, restaurants and bars are barely hanging on by a thread. They are struggling with rising prices, consumer hesitancy and a pile of debt that will soon come due.”
 
Business investment in sector falls by almost 14% in 2020: Business investment in hospitality fell by 13.7% last year, according to business tax relief specialist Catax. Its analysis of Office of National Statistics data showed investment in hotels and restaurants fell by £621m in 2020, dropping from £4.6bn in 2019 to £3.9bn. The figures showed the hospitality sector underperformed UK industry as a whole in 2020 with all sectors recording a collective 10.2% fall last year compared with the previous year. The sector also recorded a big slump in the fourth quarter of the year. Total business investment in the final quarter of 2020 only reached £898m, which was 22.2% (£256m) down year-on-year. UK gross domestic product shrank considerably last year due to the consequences of covid, declining 9.8% compared with 2019 – the worst annual performance on record. Catax chief executive Mark Tighe said: “It was a particularly difficult year for the hospitality sector and no surprise that its business investment figures trailed UK industry as a whole. However, consumers have a huge nest egg of accidental savings that will make itself felt as covid restrictions fall away this summer. Hospitality is one of the key sectors primed to benefit strongly from an opening of the floodgates and we expect to see a dramatic improvement in the level of business investment this year.”
 
Ireland reopens outdoor hospitality as wet-led pubs in Dublin welcome customers for first time since pandemic began: Ireland has reopened hospitality venues with wet-led pubs in Dublin welcoming customers again for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Hospitality venues can serve food and drinks outdoors, while gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres are now allowed to facilitate individual training. The lifting of restrictions will see more than 50% – about 4,000 – of Ireland’s pubs reopen for outdoor service, with an estimated 25,000 bar staff returning to work. Indoor hospitality is set to return in July. Cinemas and theatres can also welcome customers, while outdoor amusement and theme parks can also reopen. The number of people allowed to attend a wedding has increased to 25, while outdoor sports matches can also resume. The maximum number of people allowed to attend an organised outside event now stands at 100. A number of pilot events with larger crowds will also take place in the coming weeks, with one of the first events taking place on Thursday (10 June). The first concert in Ireland since the pandemic will be at Iveagh Gardens, where up to 500 people will be allowed to attend. Publicans have reported strong bookings for the first day back.
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with an internationally successful, tech-backed hospitality business that is creating innovative and unique foodservice and restaurant solutions. As the business begins its European expansion, it is looking for a head of operations/operations director to look after the account and operations responsibility for one key brand. The US brand is looking to re-enter the UK market and is exclusively working with COREcruitment’s client to deliver store rollout and delivery. The operations director will lead the account, report into the US brand team, drive UK brand strategy, lead openings and implement great systems, process and people plans. The position would suit someone with extensive knowledge of the quick service restaurant, food retail and restaurant food delivery sector, with good multi-site experience. The position is paying circa £85,000, plus 12% bonus. Anyone interested can email Hollie@corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 

Company News:

Pringle – Wendy’s UK launch has been a two-year process: Wendy’s chief development officer Abigail Pringle has told Propel the brand’s launch in the UK comes after a two-year process focused on understanding the market here. The third-largest quick service restaurant chain in the US made its return to the UK with an opening in Reading on 2 June. The company hopes the site in Friar Street will be the first of up to 400 it could eventually open here after retrenching from the UK at the turn of the century. Pringle said the response to the launch has so far “been very positive” and the business was looking forward to opening even more locations in the UK this year. She also said there are a “few big differences” in this launch versus the brand’s previous one here. She told Propel: “First, we have a very healthy and strong brand at home in the US and this allows us to be better positioned to invest and grow overseas. Case in point, we have now dethroned Burger King and are the number two hamburger brand in the US. Second, we have done our homework. This has been a two-year process focused on UK market and consumer research, building a top talent team on the ground, being diligent on-site selection and economics, and designing a customer experience that stands out from competitors. We think we have a winning proposition with company restaurants and recruiting franchise leaders who want to grow our beloved brand alongside us all across the UK.” Propel revealed last month, the company had appointed Paul Hilder, who has been with Wendy’s for 25 years, to oversee its return to the UK. The group has confirmed it will open sites in Oxford and Stratford, east London, in the second half of this year. Propel previously revealed Wendy’s had lined up its first out-of-town site for its UK return, in Essex. The company, which plans to open five sites in the UK this year, with a target of eventually operating about 20 company-owned branches in Britain, is understood to be in advanced talks on taking a site at Thurrock Shopping Park. It is thought it could be the location of its first UK drive-thru. The company plans to enter the UK with company-owned and operated restaurants in 2021 and, in its second phase, will launch in priority areas with multi-unit franchisee operators. It recently applied to open a site in Croydon, and Propel understands Wendy’s is in talks on sites in Camden and Brighton. In March, the company said it plans to open ten sites in the UK in 2022, and that it had secured multiple locations and was engaged with several potential franchisees.

Ramsay plans Bread Street Cafe launch in Ealing: Chef Gordon Ramsay hopes to open a new site in London’s Ealing, Propel has learned. The chef and restaurateur is understood to have applied to open a site under the name Bread Street Cafe on the former Limeyard unit in Ealing High Street. Ramsay currently operates two Bread Street Kitchen sites in Southwark and Bread Street, in London. He recently opened his fifth Street Burger site in Covent Garden, on the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Maiden Lane. Propel previously revealed the chef was in talks to take the former Byron site in Upper Street, Islington, as he looks to open ten sites in the UK by this summer, with “dozens” of locations under review. Last month, he opened a Street Burger on the former Byron site in Kensington High Street, west London.
 
The Breakfast Group to open at least two more sites this year following The Last Talisman launch: The Breakfast Group, the Eric Yu-founded restaurant and bar company, is to open at least two more locations in London this year as it demonstrates its confidence in the capital bouncing back from the pandemic, Propel has learned. The company will launch a “members’ cocktail lounge” called Martinez this month followed by an Asian restaurant and cocktail bar, Lucy Wong’s, in October, both in Soho. The openings will take The Breakfast Group to eight sites. Yu said he has also had another project in mind, which he is looking to launch at the end of this year or the start of 2022. Yu told Propel. “London has always been robust, and it will bounce back. The City will take a bit longer than the West End, but it will happen. After these latest openings, I’ll probably look to carry on the same policy of picking up sites I think are too good to pass by. Importantly, now with Ross Palmer firmly ensconced within the company as managing director, I feel far more confident we can march on without compromising standards.” The group has just opened The Last Talisman in Bermondsey Street, which Yu described as an “Asian restaurant and bar meets art house”. The central bar and restaurant area, which can cater for up to 150 guests, serves a small plates-style food menu with a focus on skewered meat, fish and vegetables cooked on a Japanese hibachi grill, under the guidance of chef Tim Ross-Watson. He brings knowledge and experience from his ten years of working in kitchens across Singapore and the Far East. The separate tropical cocktail bar, Mala Madre, which translates as “Bad Mother”, has capacity for up to 70 guests and is the brainchild of mixologist Dré Masso, who has been a long-term collaborator with The Breakfast Group. The Last Talisman has worked with Sammy Forway of the Wild Beast Art Agency to host a mix of fine art, photography, sculpture, graphic art, urban art and illustration that will be displayed and rotated every 90 days. 
 
Taqueria to open second site in London: Neighbourhood taco concept Taqueria is to open its second site in London, after securing a venue in Exmouth Market, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded 16 years ago and is owned by Trent Ward and Daniele Benatoff, is understood to have secured the ex-Grind site for an opening at the end of this month. The business, which started life as Cool Chile Co stall on Portobello Road, currently operates a site in Westbourne Grove. Operations manager Ismael Munoz said: “Taqueria started life as a stall on Portobello Road until the owners decided to get a roof over their heads in 2005. Since then, we’ve built a loyal fan base of foodies in west London and now we believe the time is right to take the next step. We have a fantastic corner position in Exmouth Market with 30 covers outside and 70 inside so we’re ready for a fabulous summer of welcoming friends new and old.” Long-standing executive chef Adam Pawlak, with 12 years’ experience in the Westbourne Grove restaurant, will head the Exmouth Market kitchen. Both Taquerias use only free-range chicken, organic prawns, line-caught fish and locally farmed beef and pork to create their authentic Mexican dishes, including Al Pastor Pork Quesadilla, Sea Bass Ceviche Tostada and Roadside Chicken Tacos. The restaurant also boasts an extensive collection of margaritas, mezcals, tequilas and micheladas. Sammy Weinbaum at CDG Leisure acted on the Exmouth Market deal. 

Italy-based ice cream and gelateria brand Anita to make UK debut: Italy-based ice cream and gelateria brand Anita is set to open its debut UK site. Anita Avital and her youngest son Nir have built their small ice cream parlour into an international brand, now with branches in Sydney, Barcelona, New York, Tel Aviv and Puerto Rico, as well as a specialist production factory in Italy. Now they have agreed a deal with Shaftesbury to bring the brand to Seven Dials in London. Anita has signed for a 1,000 square foot site in Upper St Martin’s Lane and the outlet is set to open in early 2022, offering ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt in more than 150 different flavours, with an array of toppings available. Anita will be joined by Edition Capital-backed coffee concept WatchHouse, which as previously reported by Propel is set to open in Seven Dials. WatchHouse has secured a 1,200 square foot site in Upper St Martin’s Lane with the two-storey venue launching in August. It forms part of WatchHouse’s plans to open six more sites by the end of this year – doubling its estate. For the WatchHouse deal, both Shaftesbury and WatchHouse dealt directly. For the Anita deal, Hanover Green Retail, Nash Bond and Cushman & Wakefield acted for Shaftesbury, while Stonebrook represented Anita. 
 
Camile Thai to launch in US: Dublin-based healthy food delivery company Camile Thai is to launch in the US after signing an agreement with ghost kitchen operator Kitchen United. The first Camile Thai location under the agreement is in Kitchen United’s newly opened Chicago Loop Kitchen Center at 205 West Wacker Drive, and will serve made-to-order, plant-forward dishes, with a sustainability-focused ethos. The Camile Thai and Kitchen United expansion will continue throughout 2021, with new locations opening in Chicago River North, Pasadena and Austin. Since opening its first restaurant in 2010, Camile Thai, which is chaired by former The Restaurant Group chief executive Andy McCue, has expanded to 40 locations in the UK and Ireland. The company currently serves more than 10,000 healthy meals every day to consumers across its network of franchised and company-owned locations. Camile Thai chief executive Brody Sweeney said: “We are excited to bring our concept to the US and work closely with Kitchen United, given its definitive leadership position in the ghost kitchen industry, along with an impressive list of existing and prospective operator partners. The rise of the on-demand economy has driven a monumental shift in traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant service. Last year saw the most significant adoption of technology in our industry’s history with volume digital food ordering and delivery at its core, and Camile Thai has been a first-mover in Europe. Additionally, we offer operator partners a flexible franchise model to position them for sustained success.” Atul Sood, chief business officer at Kitchen United, said: “Kitchen United is constantly evaluating new and innovative ways to support our restaurant partners, and working with Camile Thai to present licensing opportunities to operators within our kitchen centres looking to establish a delivery-only business, or build a new segment of their existing portfolio, is a perfect illustration of that.” Kitchen United has plans to open more ghost kitchen locations this year, expanding to and in existing markets including Los Angeles, Austin and New York City.

CPL Learning launches new development platform: Training company CPL Learning, owned by software firm Access, has launched its new learning and development platform, Campus. Campus offers a “more intuitive and personalised experience” to team members. Jamie Campbell, director of learning – hospitality at CPL Learning, said: “We have developed Campus to deliver a personalised learning experience that empowers learners and puts them in control of their professional development. Campus utilises a variety of learning methods, discoverable content curation and practical tools to motivate, inspire and engage learners.”
 
Barkby Group acquires award-winning Cotwolds pub for seventh site: Cotswold Premium gastropub operator Barkby Group has acquired an award-winning Cotswolds pub for its seventh site. The company is taking over The Ebrington Arms in Ebrington, near Chipping Campden, which, last year, was named the Best Pub for Food in the UK by The Telegraph and Sawday’s. The pub has been run by Jim and Claire Alexander for almost 15 years since they moved from London. Announcing the change of ownership on Facebook, the couple said: “We were approached a while ago and it felt like the right time so we can focus on The Killingworth Castle, our other pub up the road, and our family.” Barkby Group operates a number of pubs nearby, including The Five Alls in Filkins, The Plough Inn in Kelmscott and The Bull in Fairford.
  
NQ64 to make Scottish debut: NQ64, the immersive retro-arcade bar concept, which received backing from hospitality investor Imbiba earlier this year, is to make its Scottish debut. The company is opening in the former Badabing bar in Edinburgh’s Lothian Road this summer. NQ64 was founded by Matt Robson and Andy Haygarth, with the concept described as an “underground drinking den filled with retro arcade games and classic consoles”. It currently operates sites in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Robson said: “We can’t wait to get our Edinburgh site open. I love the city and I hope people are going to love our new bar.” In February, Propel revealed Imbiba had invested £1.4m in NQ64 to aid its further growth plans. As part of the investment, David McDowall, chief operating officer at BrewDog, became its new chairman, with Andrew Stones, ex-managing director of Be At One, representing Imbiba on the company’s board. NQ64 is also set to open a site in Newcastle and a second bar in Manchester after securing the former Club Liv unit in Peter Street.
 
Crerar Hotels commits £1m to recruitment drive, staff benefits include compulsory birthday day off and pet bereavement leave: Scottish hotel operator Crerar Hotels has committed to spend £1m in a recruitment drive towards “attracting, retaining and developing the best talent”. The company, which operates Loch Fyne Hotel & Spa, Thainstone House, Oban Bay Hotel, Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa, Golf View, The Glencoe Inn and Deeside Inn, is offering employee benefits that include contributions towards driving lessons, paid time off for the day their children start primary school, a compulsory day off on employees’ birthdays and pet bereavement leave. As well as investing in recruitment and people development – through the launch of the Crerar Academy – the group is keen to help employees develop their skill set and gain qualifications through working in the hospitality industry. Chris Wayne-Wills, chief executive of Crerar Hotels, which is seeking 35 new staff members, said: “There’s no doubt the hospitality industry is in crisis when it comes to availability of skills. We’ve accelerated our plans that are focused on not only becoming an employer of choice within the Scottish hospitality industry, but to become a first-choice employer regardless of sector. As a privately owned company, we are committing more than £1m to our people development plans at a time like this because we know there is nothing more valuable than our people.” Wayne-Wills added: “As well as supporting long-term career progression, we also want to develop and nurture the next generation of hospitality talent through our apprenticeship programme.” In March, the group reported a 130% leap in booking revenues following the announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown.

L’Atelier Du Vin owner Steve Pineau to open second site in partnership with Xavier Rousset: Bar owner Steve Pineau has again teamed up with restaurateur and master sommelier Xavier Rousset for a new site in London’s South Kensington. Pineau, who owns three L’Atelier Du Vin sites in Brighton, and Rousset, are launching prohibition bar, Nocturne, below their wine and cheese bar, Old Brompton. The 70-cover Nocturne bar will open on Friday, 18 June, and have a series of interconnected rooms. In the main room, a piano will take centre stage and allow for special open piano evenings. A bookable blackjack and poker room, as well as a private dining room, complete the space. In a nod to the hidden drinking dens of the prohibition era, Pineau has created a cocktail list that reflects the drinks served at that time. Nocturne will also offer a selection of rare spirits, wine and champagne. Complementing the drinks list will be a selection of 70 different artisan cheeses and charcuterie. Pineau said: “Nocturne was actually a bar Xavier and I used to go to in Bristol about 20 years ago when we met. It was owned by [trip-hop music group] Massive Attack, and it was our favourite after-work spot, as well as our inspiration today.” 
 
Travelodge opens seven hotels in one day after £70m investment: Travelodge, which operates almost 600 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain, has expanded its UK estate with the opening of seven new hotels on Monday (7 June) after an investment of about £70m, creating 150 jobs. The hotels, which are in locations including Boston, Bristol, Poole, St Albans and Witney are part of 17 hotels the group announced earlier this year it plans to open in 2021. Travelodge chief executive Craig Bonnar said: “We are delighted to mark the start of the summer holiday season by extending our UK hotel network by officially opening seven new hotels in one day. These seven new properties not only extend our UK network to 578 hotels but also offer even more great value choice to business and leisure customers while playing a pivotal role in supporting local economies. With more Britons holidaying on British shores this year, we are well-placed to support the nation with their staycation break.”
 
JD Wetherspoon to open Headingly pub almost seven years after plans first submitted: JD Wetherspoon is to open its new pub in Headingley, Leeds, on Tuesday (8 June), creating 70 jobs – almost seven years after first tabling plans for the site. The company has spent £3.2m developing the outlet, on the site of the former Elinor Lupton Centre, in Headingley Lane. The pub, which is called The Golden Beam, is managed by Chris Donoghue. The grade II-listed building that houses the pub was originally designed for the First Church of Christ Scientist, by local architect William Peel Scofield, as a church/Sunday school and was finally completed in 1934. Just over 50 years later, the building was purchased by Leeds Girls High School, when it was renamed the Elinor Lupton Centre, with the church auditorium being used as a theatre and concert hall, until the school vacated in 2010. The pub has retained the original auditorium as the main ground-floor bar area. The existing church organ facade has been re-purposed as a feature fireplace. There is an outdoor terrace, with seating screened from the road, at the front of the building. Wetherspoon has been attempting to open a pub at the site since late 2014 and revised the scheme a number of times following protests from residents and a subsequent licensing application being rejected by the city council. 
 
Former Hawksmoor group wine buyer launches bar concept in Islington: Stuart Hudson, former group wine buyer at Graphite Capital-backed steakhouse concept Hawksmoor, has launched a wine and bar concept in Islington, north London. Hudson, who runs his own drinks consultancy company, has launched Bar Liber in St Paul’s Road. Occupying the former St Paul Islington coffee shop premises, Bar Liber is named after the Roman god of wine, viticulture, fertility and freedom. Bar Liber showcases an ever-changing list of wine and a range of spirits and beer, alongside wine cocktails. The food menu features a range of sandwiches, bar snacks plus meat and cheeseboards. Hudson has more than 25 years’ experience in the industry and has also worked for Milk & Honey as head bartender, Sake No Hana as head sommelier and Viajante as beverage manager.

 
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