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Tue 14th Sep 2021 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Holmes – Coco Di Mama has got some exciting opportunities ahead with licensing and franchising: Steve Holmes, chief executive of Azzurri Group, the operator of the ASK Italian, Coco Di Mama and Zizzi brands, has said the group’s Coco Di Mama concept has some “exciting opportunities” ahead with licensing and franchising as a delivery brand. The brand began the crisis with 30 bricks and mortar sites in central London, but was turned into a delivery brand, which is now available from circa 130 Zizzi and ASK kitchens across the country. Speaking at Propel’s recent Multi-Club Conference, Holmes said: “We effectively licenced Coco Di Mama to a Zizzi or an ASK kitchen. The kitchen teams there can make Coco Di Mama food and sell it on the delivery platforms and pay a licence fee, as they are separate businesses. It worked for both parties. We did it with some trepidation because you had a London-centric brand, which had a high profile in the capital but no awareness outside of it. But we thought we had nothing to lose. It has amazed us. Our highest Coco Di Mama delivery area is South Woodford, then Southampton. There isn’t really a national pasta brand as such. People order delivery by cuisine types and pasta is quite low on that list. There are lots of independent Italian restaurants and national brands that sell pasta, but even in ASK and Zizzi we sell more pizza. But here comes Coco Di Mama, which is effectively a quick-service restaurant pasta brand, which can be sold on delivery platforms and through delivery kitchens and it works very well. It’s a great margin, it’s incremental revenue on a fixed-cost base, it travels really well, it’s app rating is strong, it is easy to do operationally and so it has been a tremendous commercial success for us as a group and for Coco itself. So that leads to two opportunities, now we have got higher brand awareness nationally. It gives us the opportunity to open bricks and mortar sites in other city centres. We have also set up a national supply chain for the brand that we didn’t have before, which gives us the flexibility to do that. It also gives us the opportunity to licence Coco to other third parties. We have had quite a few discussions with interested parties looking for the opportunity to licence a brand like Coco, to be able to sell it in their kitchens. There might be some wet-led businesses – which have kitchens that are underutilised – that like the idea of taking Coco as a licenced delivery brand and selling it out of their kitchens and then increasing their revenue by a few thousand pounds a week. I think Coco has got some exciting opportunities with licensing and franchising, and there is quite a bit of interest in the latter, in places like airports.”

Industry News:

Sponsored message – S4labour seeks CFO as part of continued and ambitious growth: S4labour is growing both in its customer base and range of offerings. An S4labour spokesman said: “For the next phase of our exciting trajectory, we are looking for a commercially-minded chief financial officer. This talented individual will be responsible for overseeing accounting and finance for the S4labour business, while also playing a key role in developing a number of finance-led products: including new forecasting and benchmarking technology. Hospitality is at the heart of S4labour, therefore, the role will suit someone who is confident in networking with like-minded individuals within the industry; as well as playing an active role in the leadership team. S4labour is currently working with operators such as Oakman Inns, Brunning & Price, City Pub Group, Mowgli, Bistrot Pierre and many more highly respected businesses and is excited and ambitious about the future.” To find out more and apply, click here. If you have a sponsored story you would like to see featured in this newsletter position, email paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book now available to Premium subscribers: The latest edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, is now available to Premium subscribers. A further 62 companies have been added, taking the number of UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators featured to 408, with a total turnover of £30.7bn. The Blue Book, which is updated every month – on the second Friday of the month – has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 200 companies reporting a profit and 208 reporting losses. The Blue Book provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. 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 insights editor Mark Wingett. 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 regular 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.

Bums on Seats to host three-hour webinar helping operators maximise Christmas sales opportunities: Bums on Seats, the strategic sales and business development experts, is to host a three-hour webinar about maximising sales opportunities this Christmas. Founder and chief executive Amber Staynings will be joined by members of the Bums on Seats leadership team to provide six modules of between 20 and 40 minutes each followed by a 30-minute panel discussion. The webinar, which will be held on Monday, 18 October from 10am, will help with every step of the process to allow operators to make the most of the festive season. The sessions will provide research and analysis to support the Christmas sales strategy, and advice on booking system optimisation to maximum revenue. In addition, there will be sessions on customer communication across all channels, optimising internal processes for a speedy customer response time and using value-added offers to beat the competition. The webinar will also look at building genuine, personable rapport with customers and looking at new routes to market. Staynings said: “This Christmas our industry is battling against significant consumer changes in behaviours, we are battling against a recruitment crisis so operational delivery is a risk and we are battling against reduced footfall with increased competition. There has never been a better time to upskill and build relationships with your customer through trust and rapport, not forgetting that crucial guest experience piece for repeat visits and loyalty.” Tickets are £245 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing paul.charity@propelinfo.com

Food and drink prices will continue to rise sharply: The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index predicts further inflation in the months ahead and highlights operators’ need for help from suppliers. Chronic labour shortages, insufficient manufactured stocks and post-Brexit challenges on imports are combining to create disruption and inflation across the sector, the latest Index revealed. The monthly report showed problems intensified throughout food and drink supply markets in July, with shortages of HGV drivers a particular concern. It indicates further year-on-year inflation in prices in most food and drink categories during the month and forecasts more increases over the rest of 2021. Hospitality’s return towards pre-pandemic trading levels, wage inflation throughout the supply chain and further Brexit impacts are all likely to feed through the chain into higher prices. Many food businesses are also experiencing difficulties in securing chef labour, while some are also setting up their own central production kitchens to take pressure away from individual sites. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “Our 12-month rolling forecast predicts an increasingly strong rise in food and drink prices, and many operators are now intensifying their focus on the management of their supply markets and the simplification of their food production. With the removal of the VAT reduction and a wide range of rising costs, the balancing act of menu pricing and cost management to deliver optimum cash will be tougher than ever.” James Ashurst, client director at CGA, added: “The foodservice sector is bouncing back well from the turmoil of covid, and consumer demand for hospitality remains strong. But labour shortages and price inflation are threatening the recovery, and it is particularly frustrating most of the challenges are out of businesses’ own hands. With few solutions in sight, they are going to have to be agile and resourceful in their purchasing and supply arrangements in the run-up to the Christmas period.”

Raising tax on businesses will kill off investment, CBI says: Higher taxes on business will suffocate investment and damage economic growth, the head of the country’s biggest employer group has warned in a stinging criticism of the £12bn increase in national insurance. Tony Danker, director-general of the CBI, said he was “deeply worried the government thinks that taxing business is without consequence to growth”, reports The Times. Unless firms are given the incentive to invest, Britain risks falling further behind other leading nations, he warned. Last week the government outlined plans to raise £12bn a year from an increase in national insurance contributions and dividend income to pay for health and social care. About £6.5bn of the revenue would come from employers’ national insurance contributions, dubbed a tax on jobs, which follows the £16bn increase in corporation tax unveiled in the March budget, when the rate was raised from 19% to 25% from 2023. Danker said: “We in business believe we should pay our fair share to tackle the debts of covid. That is why many accepted the jaw-dropping tax increase in March. But there is a real risk the government will keep turning to business taxes to carry the load and it misses a smarter way to view business taxation – to flip it on its head. If we want to kick-start the growth capital we need for the next decade, we should do so by rewarding those businesses who choose to invest.”
 
Covid vaccine passports can still help defeat winter wave, Downing Street insists: Downing Street has insisted vaccine passports are still a “first-line defence” against a winter wave of covid-19 after health secretary Sajid Javid said plans to introduce them had been scrapped. Downing Street said checks on the vaccine status of people going to nightclubs and other crowded events remained a crucial part of the government’s winter covid plan due to be unveiled by the prime minister on Tuesday (14 September), reports The Times. They will no longer be introduced automatically at the end of this month, however, after pressure from Tory MPs and the hospitality sector. When he outlines options to deal with a potential third wave this winter Johnson is expected to warn mandatory face masks could be reintroduced and work from home guidance reinstated. He will also make clear checks on vaccine status could still be a legal condition of entry to large events. The prime minister will say the government’s central strategy is to implement a vaccine booster campaign for the over-50s and vulnerable groups to prevent a surge in hospital admissions. In an interview with Times Radio on Sunday (12 September), Javid described vaccine passports as a “huge intrusion into people’s lives”. Javid said with more than 80% of the population vaccinated he was not sure it was a necessary tool to increase uptake. Downing Street insisted, however, vaccine passports remained an integral part of the government’s plan to reduce transmission in the winter if hospital admissions continued to rise.

London hotel market continues recovery but performance still well below pre-pandemic levels: London’s hotel market saw its highest occupancy and revpar levels in August since February 2020 as the sector continues its recovery from the pandemic, according to the latest data from STR. Occupancy stood at 56.8% while average daily rate was £112.58 and revpar was £63.97. However, performance remained well below the pre-pandemic comparables from August 2019 where occupancy was 86.2%, average daily rate was £150.39 and revpar stood at £129.59. 

Company News:

Oakman Group to launch innovative finance ISA offer to fund freehold expansion plans: Oakman Inns, the Dermot King-led pub-restaurant operator, is to launch an innovative finance ISA offer aimed at its existing investors, allowing them to earn tax free interest while backing the group’s freehold expansion plans, Propel has learned. The company is understood to be building its own bespoke funding platform for the offer, as it looks to further cement its relationship with its customers. The innovative finance ISA works by participants lending money to borrowers in return for a set amount of interest. The offer will be solely aimed at existing investors in the business, and will see the company cut out third-party platforms. The company invests an average of about £4m per freehold investment and is looking to add four to five freehold sites a year to its estate. It will look to raise £12m to £15m a year through the innovative finance ISA offer, which will be offered on a site-by-site basis. It is thought the first such offer will be for £3.2m and used to fund the development of a site in Buckingham. Steven Kenee, chief investment officer at Oakman, told Propel: “The single most important thing to consider when taking on investment is to ensure the interests of the investor and investee are aligned. In the case of Oakman this means taking on investment from investors who want to see the business to do the right thing by its staff and to grow and prosper for the long term rather than maximising the value of an exit in three to five years’ time and I can’t think of anyone who is more aligned with this strategy than our customers. The launch of the innovative finance ISA, along with our equity programme, which has raised more than £6m and added more than 500 of our customers to our shareholder base over the past nine months, will not only allow our business to continue to grow in a sustainable way but also allow our customers to benefit from this growth.” Earlier this month, Propel revealed Oakman was to re-register as a plc to widen its investor group. Last December, the business said it was set to tap into its customer base as it looked to raise £4.5m toward its next phase of growth, with an eventual aim of doubling the size of its then 27-strong estate by 2026.

The Breakfast Club to return to expansion trail with Chelmsford opening: All-day concept The Breakfast Club is to return to the expansion trail with an opening in Chelmsford, Propel has learned. The 12-strong business has secured the former Cafe Rouge site in Moulsham Street for an opening near the end of this year. Chelmsford will be The Breakfast Club’s 13th “caf” and only its third outside of London after Brighton and Oxford. Propel understands The Breakfast Club, which earlier this year appointed Steve Locke, co-founder of the Be At One cocktail chain, as its interim managing director, is currently in talks on two more sites for its openings pipeline, as it looks to triple in size over the next five years. The Breakfast Club was founded by the brother and sister-in-law team, Alison Rooney and Jonathan Arana-Morton, in Soho in 2005. The company said: “Our first new caf after covid was always going to be a huge decision. Businesses that survived the pandemic can’t afford to make mistakes. We’ve been spending a huge amount of time in the city these past few months since the seed for a caf in Chelmsford was planted. The more time we spent here, the more we were convinced this thriving, vibrant city centre was a perfect location for The Breakfast Club.” Arana-Morton said: “I am in equal parts nervous and excited about our new caf in Chelmsford. Excited because it’s our first big step post-pandemic – a new beginning in an incredibly vibrant city. Nervous because you can never take anything for granted. We’re starting from scratch in a new city and we have a reputation to build and Chelmsford’s approval to earn!”

Creams set to reach 100-site mark, appoints new property director: Dessert parlour operator Creams is set to hit the 100-site mark in the UK, with two new openings in London. Creams Cafe Marble Arch, which will open its doors in Edgware Road on Friday, 15 October, is a 3,045 square foot site with 82 covers over two floors, including an outdoor terrace. It will be followed by the Royal Wharf cafe, which will open on Monday, 15 November and will have 56 covers across 1,678 square feet. It will also feature an outdoor terrace. The company recently opened a site in King’s Cross, which has 52 covers spread across the ground floor and a mezzanine. Creams chief executive Adam Mani said: “To have reached our 100th store is a momentous achievement, particularly given how challenging the past 18 months have been. It’s a true testament to the hard work of the entire Creams family that we have been able to continue to expand, bringing our delicious desserts to more and more people across the UK.” Meanwhile, Propel has learned Creams has appointed Julian Reilly, former of JPR Property Consultants, Gondola Group and Asda, as its new property director. 

Café Brera plans Hampstead opening: London-based Italian cafe and bakery concept Café Brera is to return to the expansion trail with an opening in Hampstead, Propel has learned. The company, which operates four sites in Canary Wharf, and one each in Battersea and the City, is set to replace the Kurt Geiger unit in Hampstead High Street. Established in Canary Wharf in 1991, Café Brera has secured £212,000 in funding through NatWest and business finance company Lombard Asset Finance in 2019 to fit out a central kitchen in Wandsworth as part of its growth strategy. In 2017, Daniil Khodurskiy, backed by private equity investors, acquired the business with the aim to double that number by 2022. 

Arusha Group leases fifth north west London pub, looks to double portfolio: The Arusha Group has set its sights on at least doubling its north west London pub portfolio after securing a lease on a fifth site in the capital. The company has partnered with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, the third such tie-up between the two, to pour £475,000 together into refurbishing The Bear on the Barge in Uxbridge. Arusha Group co-founder Sandy Bhambra said: “Subject to availability of suitable leased sites, I can envisage growing to a group of ten or more venues. Pub companies own a lot of the best pubs in this area and leasing from them works perfectly for us as we can expand more quickly.” The move forms part of Star Pubs & Bars’ £38m investment into 700 pubs across England and Wales by the end of 2021, announced last month. This latest scheme will revamp the canalside bar and restaurant, located on the banks of the Grand Union, and works will start this month with a view to an early December opening. A new 30-seater cafe-style patio will be added at the front of the pub, along with a stretch tent for all-weather dining in the 600-seater waterside garden, and a kitchen overhaul will see a new menu specialising in wood-fired oven pizza introduced. Star Pubs & Bars area manager James Hulston added: “We’re delighted to be joining forces with Arusha Group again and to be investing in such a high-profile site with it. The garden is stunning and has proved a fantastic asset over the pandemic. The investment will premiumise the pub to complement the outdoor space and provide further solid income streams.”

BrewDog hires Allan Leighton as chairman: Former Asda boss Allan Leighton has joined the board of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog as independent non-executive chairman with immediate effect. In addition to his role as chairman, Leighton will act as mentor to BrewDog chief executive James Watt, providing “experienced counsel on leadership and governance matters” as the firm enters its next phase of growth, in particular expanding its international footprint. Leighton replaces Blythe Jack, who was appointed chair earlier this year and a BrewDog director since 2017. As part of her role, Jack was tasked with overseeing the recruitment process for a fully independent chairman. She will remain on the board as deputy chair and will also continue to oversee the previously announced culture review. Leighton’s positions have included chief executive of Asda and Pandora, and non-executive chairman of the Co-operative Group, Royal Mail, Entertainment One, Element Materials Technology Group and The Restaurant Group-owned Wagamama. He said: “BrewDog has built an incredible market position and brand in a short space of time. It continues to quickly grow all over the world, has a fantastic team of people, and an outstanding sustainability story to tell. I look forward to playing my role in ensuring the company has the right governance in place to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.” Watt said: “[Leighton] brings immense experience and a phenomenal track record to BrewDog. I have no doubt we will all benefit from his insight and leadership. As we continue to build our business and implement a range of initiatives to become the best business we can be, Allan’s mentorship and personal guidance will be invaluable. I would like to thank Blythe for her continued support. Her advice has been hugely appreciated and I am so pleased she will continue to sit on the board.” Jack added: “This is an exciting time for the business as we build on the momentum from recent success to reach our full potential. We are thrilled someone of Allan’s calibre has agreed to lead the business through its next phase of growth.”

Manorview announces ‘real living wage’ boost for staff: Scottish independent hotel group Manorview has committed to paying every team member the “real living wage” as minimum pay. In addition, anyone working at Manorview will now benefit from a commitment to abolish zero hours contracts, and anyone previously on one has been offered a new contract with guaranteed hours. The move means any Manorview employee aged 23 and over will benefit from a 6.6% wage increase while there will be a 13% increase for 21 and 22-year-olds working within the business. Additionally, because Manorview said it is committed to paying to every single member of the team the real living wage, for those aged 18 to 20 it is an increase of 45%, which the group hopes will make the lives of its young workforce better and also encourage staff retention and performance. Under the new pay structure, under-18s will also be paid the real living wage, resulting in a 105% pay increase. The group employs 500 people working across nine venues, as well as its head office and remote facilities teams. The move makes Manorview the 100th Scottish hospitality business to sign up to the voluntary scheme, and the largest Scottish hotel group so far. Manorview Hotel Group managing director David Tracey said: “This is an extremely proud moment for the business. We have been working closely with Living Wage Scotland for many months to become an accredited employer, and we’re 100% committed to paying the real living wage to every single member of our team. Quite simply, each time the living wage increases, our wages will too. We have spent a huge amount of time over the past year talking to and listening to our team, and due to the pandemic, it became very clear that job security is a key concern. We hope these steps will give our team more piece of mind.” 

Loungers to hit 180-site mark this week with two openings: Cafe bar operator Loungers will hit the 180-site mark this week with two openings. The company will open a site for its Cosy Club brand in Chelmsford on Tuesday (14 September). The venue in The Meadows marks the first Cosy Club in Essex. This will be followed by the opening of Claro Lounge in Ripon, North Yorkshire, on Wednesday (15 September). Loungers has further Lounge openings lined up in Basildon, Colchester and Ealing, while it also plans to open a Cosy Club site in Chester.

Cynergy Bank provides Cameron Hotels with £5.875m of loans: Suffolk-based Cameron Ventures Group (CVG), which owns four hotels in the East Anglia region and is owned by Brian and Kelly Keane, has received a £5.875m loan from Cynergy Bank. Of this sum, £5m is through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), while the remainder was lent through the Recovery Lending Scheme (RLS). The funds were used to refinance a loan from CVG’s existing lender and fund the purchase of a central office. While the government guarantee is for six years, Cynergy were able to structure the loan to include a significant interest-only period and 23-year repayment profile. Brian said: “As a growing hotel group, it was the right time for us to partner with a forward-thinking bank and to carry on our growth journey.” Cynergy relationship director Steve Crosswell added: “I’ve known Brian for a couple of years and in that time he and Kelly have continued to carefully expand their business, focusing on underperforming hotels with strong growth potential. They’ve proven their model. The pandemic could have been devasting for them, however, they very quickly pivoted the business and have traded through the last 18 months extremely well.” All four hotels in the group’s portfolio are members of the Best Western Affiliation, but independently owned and run by CVG, which was established in 1999. Cynergy Bank, founded in 2018, reached a significant milestone earlier this year, passing the £200m mark in loans to small and medium-sized businesses through the CBILS and RLS. In July, it provided Prospect Pubs & Bars, owned by Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, former owners of Redcomb Pubs, with £1.6m to help it open three pubs across the Home Counties; and Stay Original Company with £8.7m to help refinance multiple loans and support its capital expenditure plans. CVG was advised by Roger Fenwick, of Mantra Consultancy & Capital, and Zoe Johnston, of Taylor Vinters. Cynergy Bank was advised by Richard Greenwood, of Colliers, and Georgia Doyle, Beth Finnie and Jim Garton, of Hill Dickinson.

Odette and Dominic Gibson to open bourbon bar in east London: Odette and Dominic Gibson, the mother-and-son team behind a string of London pubs including The Angel of Bow, will open a bourbon bar this week. The pair have transformed the 1,750 square foot site of an old Italian restaurant in Bow, east London, into The Bourbon. Set to open on Wednesday (15 September), the bar by Victoria Park will have more than 40 bourbons alongside cocktails, wine and American beer. Ex-Ivy sous chef Sam Gordon will run the kitchen, focusing on smokehouse-style barbecue dishes inspired by his years spent working in Australian bourbon bars. Odette said: “East London’s certainly got its fair share of old-school dive bars, but with our focus on bourbon and bar food that is worth the hype, you might plan on ‘stopping-by’, but you’ll stay for the whole night.”

Former Drake & Morgan director Taskin Muzaffer rebrands his South London restaurant: Taskin Muzaffer, the former operations manager and business development director for Drake & Morgan, has relaunched his Peckham bistro. Originally opened as Pedler in 2014, the venue has reopened further up the Queens Road as Pedler Good Fortune, offering dishes from across the Asian continent. Upstairs is a gin bar serving co-owner Tim Moore’s Little Bird Gin, made in-house by its own distilling team, among other gins and cocktails. Highlights from the dinner menu include a crab and green mango salad, while the brunch menu promises popular early morning dishes with an Asian twist, like Japanese egg pancake with cabbage, leek, dashi, That Sauce and kewpie. Muzaffer also previously founded the Johnson Collective with fellow Drake & Morgan alumni Pru Clarke and Gareth Crosby, which in 2019 expanded its London bar and restaurant portfolio with the purchase of Porthtowan pub Unicorn on the Beach, in Cornwall. The previous year, he again teamed up with Crosby and Cru to launch the Pedler Cru concept at the former Battersea Power Station.

Roxy Leisure secures ex-Red Hot World Buffet site for Leeds relocation: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Lanes and Roxy Ballroom concepts, is to relocate one of its three sites in Leeds, after securing a new unit in The Light scheme. The company is closing its site in the city’s Bond Street straight after Christmas to move into a new venue on the former Red Hot World Buffet site in the city centre scheme. Last month, Propel reported Roxy Leisure had lined up an opening for a bowling alley in York. The Leeds-based company has applied for a premises licence at the former Topshop at 3 St Mary’s Square in the Coppergate Centre. Earlier in the same month, it was reported Roxy Leisure was lining up a site in Princess Street, Edinburgh, which would see the site’s basement converted to include six bowling lanes, two duckpin bowling lanes, ten American pool tables and five ping pong tables.

Former Roti King duo to launch south Indian street food concept in Hackney: A new kiosk-style concept serving up south Indian street food by ex-Roti King executive chef Prince Durairaj and operations director Glen Leeson will open at the new Hackney Bridge development later this month. Tamila, which aims to champion Tamil-style cooking from the sub-continent, will launch on Friday, 24 September. Durairaj, a chef of 15 years who has worked in various kitchens in the capital including Euston-based Chinese and Malaysian restaurant Roti King, will be using the recipes from his Tamil Nadu homeland that he’s been cultivating over the past two decades. Traditional south Indian curries including paneer butter masala, chana masala, and flaky roti will be at the heart of the menu. Joining him is head of operations Leeson, who was general manager both at Bao and Patty & Bun before linking up with Durairaj at Roti King. Also new in Hackney is the Tokyo-style noodle cafe Koya, which this week opened its third restaurant in the Broadway Market, and Supper club Supa Ya Ramen, which opened its debut permanent restaurant in Kingsland Road earlier this month.

Gladwin Brothers confirm plans for Richmond opening: The Gladwin brothers – Richard, Oliver and Gregory – have confirmed they are planning to open a fifth site in London, in Richmond. As revealed by Propel last month, the brothers will open a new lounge bar and dining venture just off Richmond High Street on the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen site in Hill Rise. The new venture will be called The Fat Badger. It will be an extension of the company’s “Local & Wild” concept with a “distinct countryside-luxe style serving modern farm-to-fork food in an atmospheric, sprawling space overlooking the Richmond riverside”. The founders’ rural life in West Sussex has so far inspired four distinct sites across London – The Shed in Notting Hill, Rabbit in Chelsea, Nutbourne in Battersea and Sussex in Soho.

The Conduit opens its doors, followed next month by the hub’s ‘sustainable and ethical’ restaurant: London-based social enterprise The Conduit has opened at a Mercer’s Company site in Covent Garden, with its restaurant following suit in October. Spanning six floors, The Conduit is a community committed to social, environmental and economic change, and will provide a space for members to connect and share ideas about creating a sustainable future. As part of a phased launch, The Conduit will be opening its own dedicated restaurant, The Rooftop, next month, which will host 80 people inside and up to 40 outside. Available for public and member use, the ground-floor restaurant will serve seasonal, sharing-style dishes and will have a strong emphasis on sustainability and ethical hospitality. Based on the site of a former fruit and vegetable market, it will also display a range of sustainable and ethical products on shelves for sale. The restaurant will, in turn, be followed by the opening of a rooftop terrace next spring, to complete the launch, and which will have its own range of food and beverage options. The Conduit chief creative officer Paul van Zyl said: “Based on the impact of covid and the growing global challenges we all face, like climate change, The Conduit is needed now more than ever. We look forward to reconvening and reenergising our community of members in Covent Garden, and opening our public-facing restaurant in October.” Mercers’ Company property director Simon Taylor added: “We are thrilled to welcome The Conduit to the community, particularly as their core ethical values and emphasis on sustainability reflect those of the Mercers’ Company, which makes this an ideal partnership.” The Conduit represented itself and the Mercers’ Company dealt direct.

Former Palomar and Machneyuda chefs set to open Middle Eastern steakhouse in London: Chefs Shiri Kraus and Amir Batito’s Middle Eastern steakhouse concept will be the latest eatery to open at Camden’s Hawley Wharf development later this month. Black Cow comes from Kraus, formerly of Palomar and The Barbary, and Batito, previously of Machneyuda, who say they want to mix an American steakhouse-style grill with Middle Eastern flavours. The Wharf, a mixed-use development, was launched last month by property investment company LabTech, featuring a whole host of food and beverage operators. The 580,000 square foot canal-side development features a series of Asian dining spots, including Thai and Malaysian concept Ekachai, which operates four restaurants and a delivery kitchen in the capital; and a second site for Cantonese concept Bun House. The Mediterranean offering includes a debut site for Greek dessert concept Stilvi and Italian grab and go concept A’do’re Fritto. Also signed up are American barbecue restaurant HotBox, adding to its flagship site in Spitalfields and operations at the Market Hall sites in Fulham and the West End. At the heart of the scheme will be a 4,000 square foot outdoor market for independent traders brought by The Spread, the London-based market operator.

Wildes Group set to launch Chester’s first exclusive private members club next summer: Hotel and spa operator the Wildes Group is planning to open Chester’s first exclusive private members club after taking a long-term lease on a grade I-listed building in Watergate Street. The group hopes to open “W” late next summer if it gains planning permission, and an application is currently being prepared. The plans feature a cinema, casino, private meeting rooms, co-working space, cocktail bar and cutting-edge gym, all set in an historic former townhouse previously known as Booth Mansion. Wildes Group chief executive Paul Wildes said: “We feel Chester is crying out for a premium venue for like-minded individuals to not only connect and share ideas, but to relax, rewind and escape the city.” Meanwhile, Wildes Group has begun work on the grade II-listed building opposite for Wildes Chester, a luxury boutique hotel, spa and fine-dining restaurant, set to open next July. The 18-bedroom venue will be only the city’s second five-star hotel. The grade II-listed building dates to 1892, and the £5m refurbishing will seek to retain some period features. Wildes said: “Just opposite our five-star hotel, Wildes Chester, ‘W’ is set to complement the hotel offer and make a stay in the city one to remember through excellent food and drinks, premium facilities and unrivalled service. With Chester’s hospitality scene going from strength to strength, we can’t wait to add another facet to the city and put Chester truly on the map.”

Beavertown Brewery opens debut pub: Beavertown Brewery has launched its first pub, Corner Pin, located in Tottenham, north east London. A pub has stood on the Tottenham spot for generations and held the name “The Corner Pin” since the 1970s, but was more recently used as Tottenham Hotspur FC’s former ticket office. The Beavertown restoration of Corner Pin has seen the site returned to its former glory. Set over three floors and with a beer garden, the venue will shortly introduce a food menu alongside its Beavertown beer. Founder Logan Plant said: “We’re thrilled to open our first pub in Tottenham, the place we call home.” Plant previously said he was keen to open a chain of Beavertown pubs, which he dubs “Beaver Beacons”, around UK cities if the venture proves successful.

Clarification: In Monday’s (13 September) newsletter, we ran a story about television chef and restaurateur Simon Rimmer. We would like to clarify the period he was referring to about almost going bankrupt after opening a restaurant “in the wrong place” related to the 1990s and not while running The Viking pub in West Kirby. We apologise for any misunderstanding caused.

 
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