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Wed 30th Nov 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UKHospitality CEO meets with rail union chief to seek suspension of ‘devastating’ festive train strikes as operators report wave of cancellations: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has met with Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) general secretary Mick Lynch in an attempt to get the festive train strikes that will prove “devastating” to the sector suspended. It was announced last week industrial action will be held across four 48-hour periods on 13-14 and 16-17 December, and 3-4 and 6-7 January – which UKHospitality has said could cost sector businesses £1.5bn in lost sales and other impacts. “We are here at the Park Plaza Hotel launching the industry catering guide but also, on the back of it, having various meetings with ministers, and with Mick Lynch at the RMT union, to try to push the case for the devastating impact the rail strikes will have on the hospitality sector in the run up to Christmas,” Nicholls said in a video update on Tuesday (29 November). “We’re working flat out to make sure we get all sides around the table, resolve the issues and hopefully get a suspension of those strikes ahead of Christmas so that we don’t cost the hospitality sector £1.5bn of lost revenue.” Meanwhile, a joint letter has been sent by the British Beer & Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping, Night Time Industries Association, Association of Town and City Management and the mayor of the West Midlands to both Lynch and Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail. It said: “It is not our wish to assign blame or responsibility in this dispute, but the longer we go without a resolution, the more uncertainty and damage builds for businesses and their staff. The last three years have been a monumental struggle for the hospitality industry, and this winter was already set to be the toughest yet. The prospect of strikes in such a critical phase of trading only exacerbates this. Make no mistake – businesses will be forced to close as a result of this, and for some, it may be the last time they do so.” It comes as London pub boss Charlie Baker, who operates two Fuller’s pubs through his Epic Taverns business – The George & Vulture in Shoreditch and The Stonemasons Arms in Hammersmith – said he has lost an estimated £200,000 in cancellations since the strikes were announced. “Customers are generally very sorry – we’ve seen parties of up to 150 people cancelled,” he told the BBC. “I totally understand the cost of living is going up, and empathise with the rail workers, but it’s really tough for us too.” Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, was one of several industry leaders to put their name to a letter to Lynch on Friday (25 November) urging for a resolution. He warned staff who rely on hours and tips over the festive could suffer if there is a wave of cancelled bookings. “It’s been a challenging two or three years, and these train strikes are going to impact the hospitality sector, but more importantly, hospitality workers,” he told the BBC. “They will probably have hours cut, see tips significantly reduced if these train strikes still happen.” UKHospitality launches updated good hygiene practice guide – see Industry News
 

Industry News:

Searcy’s to speak at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit 2023, open for bookings: Aimee Gouk, marketing manager at Searcy's London, will speak 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. Gouk will discuss how Searcy’s is staying relevant as a timeless brand. More than 50 industry and agency leaders will take to the stage over two days, representing brands including Cornish Bakery, Hawksmoor, Burger King UK, Loungers, The Alchemist, Hall & Woodhouse, Gail’s Bakery, 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, Chotto Matte, Ping Pong, Nobu, Gusto Italian, BrewDog 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.
 
Two days to go before next edition of The New Openings Database release, to show details on 164 new sites, 9,000-word report included: The next edition of The New Openings Database will show the details of 164 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches for Premium subscribers when it is published on Friday (2 December) at midday, including which company has opened a site or its plans to open one in the future. It will have details on what type of site it is and its location, and there will also be a website link to the businesses. The database is published on a monthly basis, and the next edition features growing restaurant and bakery brands, niche cuisine, and expanding experiential concepts. Premium subscribers will also receive a 9,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database, produced in association with Virgate; the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, 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 today (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 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.
 
Building back in 2023 – Tortilla’s Richard Morris: In a new series of videos in partnership with Fourth, leading industry provider of inventory and workforce management solutions, Propel group editor Mark Wingett talks with leading sector operators about how they see the next 12 months playing out, the challenges they will face and the trends that will shape the market. In the latest video, he talks to Richard Morris, chief executive of Tortilla, about how the company plans to take stock in the first part of 2023 after opening a record 18 sites this year, how it is looking to work with suppliers to further negate costs, and the evolving role that delivery continues to play for the business. The video will be sent today (Wednesday, 30 November) at 9am.
 
HVS – London hotel room rates set to weather high inflation: Growth in hotel average daily rates (ADR) tends to outpace inflationary growth, even in times of high inflation, according to new research. HVS tracked the link between ADR growth and inflation over the past 50 years, focusing on hotels in London. This period included times of economic prosperity as well as downturns to help predict what hotel room rates are likely to look like going forward. The study found during periods of high consumer price growth, as currently being experienced, hotels are able to raise room rates, effectively passing on rising costs to consumers. On average across the period, daily rates were shown to grow 0.75% above inflation per year, with large jumps in room rates proving acceptable during high inflation and more measured changes during periods of slower growth. More recently, while hotel room rates in London took a substantial knock during the pandemic, they have since shown a stronger recovery than following previous economic crises, according to the research. This is partly due to increased consumer demand prompted by two years without spending on commuting, dining out and travel; the fact consumers have higher levels of savings because of the lockdowns; and consumers’ willingness to spend on holiday packages to make up for missed travel. Research co-author Sophie Perrett said: “Going forward we expect a number of London hotels will be able to retain the ADR uplift they have gained during 2022 and to mostly compensate for inflation in their 2023 pricing strategies. ADR is likely to continue to grow ahead of inflation so broadly protecting margins, maintaining the trend of the last few decades.”
 
Hospitality leaders come together to discuss achieving net zero while managing cost-of-living crisis: Hospitality leaders came together as part of the Zero Carbon Forum roundtable to discuss how the sector can decarbonise while the industry is facing multiple crises. Leaders from 25 businesses discussed and debated how to build more resilient, profitable and sustainable businesses in a time of crisis. The key topic of discussion was on how to maintain the long-term strategic focus on net zero, while managing the short-term energy/cost-of-living crisis. Attendees were in wide agreement the current crises facing the sector has made sustainability a higher immediate priority, while demonstrating the importance of adopting more sustainable practices over the longer term. The group collectively discussed and debated the importance of continuing to provide healthy menu options and a fantastic customer experience while significantly reducing the impact of the sector's products and services, particularly the food served. It was widely agreed customer education is a huge part of this. The session debated two themes – the connection between business transition and survival and the importance of reducing impact and building resilience collaboratively. In just under two years the Zero Carbon Forum has brought together more than 40 operators in hospitality and created and shared a plan to achieve zero emissions through its roadmap. The forum has identified and prioritised 150 initiatives, provided climate action plans to all members to take individual action and created action groups to take collaborative action across the sector. 
 
Liverpool to become first UK city to launch accommodation BID: Liverpool is to become the first UK city to launch an accommodation Business Improvement District (BID). It follows a vote by the hotel and serviced accommodation sector that was 84% in favour of the scheme. With a £4.3m investment, the accommodation BID is designed to provide security both for the industry and for visitors, helping to continue to attract major events to the city. Alongside other measures, the new BID will see the establishment of a subvention fund, focused on attracting small, medium and large conferences to the city, that convert into hotel stays. Liverpool BID Company will also seek a new five-year term for the retail and leisure BID in 2023. Liverpool BID will also increase the rateable value from which an organisation will begin paying a levy to £45,000, meaning small and independent businesses within the BID area will no longer need to pay an annual levy, while still benefiting from its services. The new BID area will also be extended, including Hardman Street, Hope Street and potentially the Knowledge Quarter. Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, said: “The pressure on the public purse is acute, and a larger BID area means a greater level of investment into the whole city centre, vital if we are to attract investment, support the visitor economy and maintain the public realm.”
 
UKHospitality launches updated good hygiene practice guide: UKHospitality has launched an updated good hygiene practice guide for the industry, in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS). The guide, sponsored by Food Alert, is the only recognised document for hygiene standards for the catering sector used by both industry and enforcement. It sets out advice and guidance for caterers on how to comply with their legal obligations and continues to be applicable across the entire UK, meaning there can be a consistent and simple approach for operators and environmental health officers. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Maintaining our high standards of food safety and hygiene is a top priority for all hospitality venues, and this industry guide is the gold standard for industry to get their advice and guidance on complying with legislation. As the rules and regulations continue to change, it was important for us to review, update and relaunch the guide. Making this guide work for all four nations was a real priority, and this consistent approach should make complying with legislation easier and ensure we continue delivering the high standards our customers expect.”
 
Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury services provider based in London that is looking for a global head of training and development. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The business is planning to double in size over the next three years and has just had a significant change of ownership that will allow massive investment and expansion. It is looking for someone who is a talented and motivated learning and development specialist. This role will focus on global contact centre operations, remote workers and their extensive business-to-business and business-to-commercial sales team. Ideally this position will be based in London but for the right candidate an element of remote work and relocation package would be available.” The salary is up to £250,000. For more information, email lara@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Little Caesars Pizza plans around 20 UK openings in 2023: Little Caesars Pizza, the world’s third-largest pizza chain which has announced it is to make its UK return next month, expects to have around 20 locations open here by the end of next year, Propel has learned. The brand, which currently operates in 27 countries and territories, will open in Derby in late December, followed by two sites in London and an outlet in Liverpool early next year. The Derby site – located in Riber Drive, Chellaston – will offer Little Caesars’ signature hot-n-ready 12-inch pizzas, including pepperoni, margherita and Italian sausage and bacon. Little Caesars Pizza previously operated in the UK but pulled out of the market in 2000. On the timing of its return to the UK, a spokesperson for the brand, which operates more than 5,000 sites globally, told Propel: “When we determine entering a new market, we look at a variety of factors including having the right franchisee partner, and we are highly confident in each of our partners that we have signed so far. Additionally, and importantly, the UK is a highly influential market, and now is a good time to launch as its hospitality industry gains stability. Additionally, in today’s economic climate, the Little Caesars model of offering high-quality products at an everyday value will be especially appealing.” Jeremy Vitaro, chief development officer for Little Caesars Pizza, added: “We are seeking additional franchisees who are interested in entering into area developer agreements in London as well as other regions, including southern England, Scotland, and Ireland.”

Ramsay adds Street Pizza concept to three existing sites, opens Bread Street Kitchen on the River: Chef Gordon Ramsay has added his Street Pizza concept to three of his existing sites, Propel understands. The chef has opened the pizza concept at the Bread Street Kitchen sites in Liverpool and Ealing. He has also added a Street Pizza to his offer at Victoria Place in Woking, where the chef operates a Street Burger site and academy. Ramsay recently opened the first regional site under his Street Pizza concept, in Edinburgh’s Henderson Row. Ramsay will launch a Street Burger site in the Scottish capital, at the St James Quarter scheme, on Friday (2 December). Last week, Ramsay reopened his The Narrow pub site, which is situated on the Thames near Limehouse, east London, under his Bread Street Kitchen concept, with the new name of Bread Street Kitchen on the River.

Fazenda out-performing pre-pandemic trading levels, director calls for stronger government measures to prevent industry casualties: Premium casual South American operator Fazenda has said it is out-performing pre-pandemic trading levels, reporting positive like-for-like (lfl) growth in the third quarter of 2022. Over the past eight weeks, Fazenda has been running at +11% lfl compared to 2019, putting it ahead of the restaurant average reported by CGA Peach for September (+5.4%) and October (+4.9%). Director Tomas Maunier said that while the company is on track to reach £20m turnover for the year, its profitability has reduced by two-thirds in comparison to  before the pandemic due to “significantly increased operating costs”. The company reported overall sales of +40% lfl to date compared to last year, and +5% lfl against 2019, despite a difficult summer of sales. Pre-booked December reservations sit at 15% ahead of Christmas 2019, with a notable surge in recent weeks. “Despite the unstable financial climate we face, we are seeing that people are still seeking high-quality experiences,” Maunier said. “It’s imperative we stay at the very top of our game as consumers become hyper-focused on value on both a monetary and experience level, though this alone is not enough. Difficult times are ahead, with yet more colossal challenges presented due to rapidly rising inflation and a 9.5% increase in the National Living Wage. I fully support the increase and believe it’s the right approach for the industry, though along with many other financial pressures, it is inevitable we must pass on these increases to our guests. Energy prices are at a record-high, and with government support finishing at the end of winter, it’s time to re-think our business infrastructure with a longer-term view. We should be calling for equality with our European counterparts when it comes to permanently lower VAT rates. Mazars recently reported an increase of 59% of hospitality businesses entering insolvency versus last year – what is the government doing about this? I fear that without a long-term plan and the government making the right calls, some businesses will survive, but many will fall.”

North west Costa franchisee to open debut I am Döner site under multi-site deal: Optimum Group, the company behind the franchise of Costa Coffee and Kaspa’s in Merseyside, is to open its first I am Döner kebab store next month as part of its multi-site franchise deal. The store will open in Bootle, Liverpool. The 1,200 square-foot Stanley Road site will be I am Döner’s fifth outlet and is the brainchild of chef Paul Baron, who was inspired to make the döner kebab “more than just a guilty pleasure”. Optimum Group currently operates 25 Costa Coffee stores throughout Merseyside and the north west of England, together with two Kaspa’s stores in Liverpool city centre and St Helens. Optimum Group chief executive Dave Connor said: “We just knew from the start we had to bring this brand to Liverpool. I am Döner offers something that is different, and it’s a concept we’ve never seen before in the city, so we’re keen to showcase just what it has to offer.” The Bootle site will seat 40 people as well as operating a takeaway delivery service. Propel revealed in July that Optimum Group has signed the multi-site franchise deal with I am Döner, which is backed by Think Hospitality and has opened stores in Headingley, Harrogate and Leeds city centre as well as Silicon Oasis in Dubai.

McDonald’s former largest UK franchisee signs Ben & Jerry’s deal: Atul Pathak, formerly the UK’s largest McDonald’s franchisee, has become Ben & Jerry’s first franchise partner in the UK, as part of the ice cream brand’s new Franchise Programme initiative, as it looks to open more Scoop Shops across the country. Propel revealed in April that McDonald’s had taken control of its largest UK franchisee, the Appt Corporation, after completing a deal to buy out founder Pathak’s shares. The Appt Corporation was founded in 2003 by Pathak and grew to 43 sites, which stretched from north to west London as well as into Berkshire. Pathak has since signed franchise deals with Itsu and German Doner Kebab (GDK). The ice cream brand said: “Together, Ben & Jerry’s and Mr Pathak have a joint goal; to open more Scoop Shops and allow more fans to enjoy Ben & Jerry’s chunky and swirly ice cream out of home. As part of an exciting new journey for both the franchisee and Ben & Jerry’s, Mr Pathak plans to open more stores in London and the surrounding areas. There are also plans for more partners to join as franchisees, bringing even more ice cream, lovingly made with Fairtrade ingredients and Open Chain cocoa, to even more Ben & Jerry’s fans.” The company said that recruitment for other territories within the UK had begun.

Lane7 founder sells last pub to Trust Inns to focus on bowling alley chain and new family entertainment concept: Lane7 founder Tim Wills has sold his last pub, The Corner House pub in Sedgfield, County Durham, to Trust Inns to focus on his bowling alley chain. It is the third pub Christie & Co has sold on behalf of Wilks following The Fox Hole at Piercebridge in October 2019 and The Pickled Parson, also in Sedgefield, in December 2021. Wilks said in August that he plans 15 openings over the next 18 months for Lane7, which operates 11 bowling alleys across the UK. The company also last month launched a debut site for its family entertainment centre concept, Level X, in Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre. Wilks said: “We are pleased to have sold the last of our three pubs as it frees up a good amount of head office resource and allows us to focus on the continued expansion of Lane7.” Wilks had acquired The Corner House, formerly The Black Lion, through Christie & Co in 2018 and it has since undergone a significant refurbishment. It is a tenth acquisition of the year for new owners Trust Inns, the north west pub company owned by the family interests of the late Trevor Hemmings, after last month taking on the Watermill in St Ives, Cornwall. A Trust Inns spokesman added: “We are delighted to have purchased The Corner House and are working with an experienced multiple operator to re-position the site on the high street. We will be undertaking an investment, with the initial works completed prior to Christmas. This is the ninth pub we’ve acquired through Christie & Co in the last three years, and we hope to continue working with them on our expansion trail.”

McWin enters into master franchise agreement to develop Burger King and Popeyes in Eastern Europe: Food industry entrepreneurs Henry McGovern and Steven Winegar, who have backed brands including bakery concept Gail’s and pasta chain Vapiano, have entered into a master franchise and development agreements with Restaurant Brands International to develop Burger King in Czech Republic, Poland and Romania, and Popeyes in Czech Republic and Poland. The pair’s investment firm, McWin, through its newly established Rex Concepts CEE platform, plans to open 600 restaurants in the region over the next ten years. David Shear, president International of Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King and Popeyes, said: “We’re thrilled to have reached this milestone with McWin, and we are confident that their strong experience in developing businesses will translate to successful expansions of our iconic brands in Eastern Europe. This is a big step in our ambitious expansion journey for these brands, and we’re excited to keep growing our footprint across Eastern Europe.” McGovern said: “We are excited to continue to strengthen McWin’s leadership position in Europe, where we see significant growth opportunities and incorporating strong premium brands in our 1,300 growing restaurant portfolio, such as Burger King and Popeyes. Following the acquisition of BK SEE Poland S.A. in August, this is the second investment made through our €525m McWin Restaurant Fund, and demonstrates our commitment to helping brands reach the next level with operational excellence.” Earlier this week, White Rabbit Projects, the hospitality incubator, secured a “significant capital injection” from McWin to invest in new projects. Propel understands the Chris Miller-led White Rabbit – which has helped launch brands including Island Poké, Kricket and Lina Stores –secured a multimillion-pound investment, believed to be in the “tens of millions”, from McWin. Ali Aneizi at Tamweel acted on the White Rabbit deal.

Michelin-star food delivery box company to launch £600,000 fundraise: Michelin-star food delivery box company, Chefs for foodies, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise £600,000 to scale up its operation. Launched during the pandemic, the company works with the UK’s top chefs and best loved food brands to develop luxury meal kits that can be cooked and eaten at home, following expert video tuition. It has already delivered 3,400 recipe kits to customers across the UK. The chefs involved so far have included MasterChef winner Steven Wallis and Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai. The business is launching its funding drive via Seedrs to bring more chefs on board and create an even larger variety of boxes, as well as recruit more staff to help with fulfilment. The company is offering 10% equity in return for the investment, giving the business a pre-money valuation of £3.5m. Chefs for foodies founder and chief executive, James Hill, said: “We’re excited about this latest funding drive as it will really take Chefs for foodies to the next level as well as help us achieve our true potential as a business. We already work with some incredible names in the food industry, but a new cash injection will enable us to expand this offering further, helping us reach an even wider audience.”

Sixes to open new site in Leicester: Sixes, the cricket-based competitive socialising concept from the founders of Mac & Wild, will open its seventh site before the end of the year, in Leicester. The competitive socialising concept has teamed up with two local business partners, Neer Modha and Ravi Mashru, to launch in the city. The new site will launch next month in the premises formerly occupied by restaurant 19 Gale, in Halford Street, in the city’s Cultural Quarter. The business currently operates four sites in London, plus venues in Birmingham and Manchester. Modha and Mashru said: “We had heard about Sixes Social Cricket and visited the London venue. As soon as we tried it, we were hooked. It’s a fun concept, which brings together friends through sport and hospitality. We knew we wanted to bring the venue to Leicester and can’t wait to open our doors in December.” Sixes is backed by several former professional cricket players, including ex-England captain Sir Andrew Strauss. Will Biggart, of Torridon, acts for Sixes.

Asian street food concept Chi plans Derby opening, makes London debut: Asian street food concept Chi, which has plans to grow to 20 sites by 2025, has lined up an opening in Derby. The concept, which is the brainchild of Aidan Tjinakiet and Lamen Reddy, plans to open a site in the Derbion Shopping Centre in Derby. It would become the ninth site for the business, which recently made its debut in London, with an opening on the ex-Ichiryu unit in New Oxford Street. The company currently operates four sites under its larger restaurant format in Bournemouth, Huntingdon, Rushden Lakes and London. It also operates four sites under its smaller grab-and-go format in Basingstoke, Cambridge, Norwich and Watford. The business is working with Bruce Gillingham Pollard to find sites between 1,000 and 1,750 square feet for its smaller format, and between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet for its larger restaurant concept. Chi was launched at The Grafton shopping centre in Cambridge in March 2019, with a second site opening at Intu Watford in December of that year. The concept offers “Asian street food with a modern twist served on a base of bao, banh mi, noodles or rice with a wide range of snacks and sides”.

New World Trading Company appoints Rod McKie as new executive chairman: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) has appointed Rod McKie, the ex-chief executive of Welcome Break and Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, as its new executive chairman. McKie, who is also currently chairman of cafe and deli concept Megan’s, spent nearly 16 years as chief executive of roadside services operator Welcome Break. He was also previously managing director of Coffee Republic and an operations director at Pret A Manger. McKie, who will lead and support the existing management team at the 35-strong NWTC, said: “It’s a great time to join the organisation, which has an exciting pipeline of openings already in progress for 2023. I’m looking forward to working with the team to further strengthen the business as we remain focused on industry innovation and delivering great customer experiences.” McKie replaces Justin Ash, who stepped down as non-executive chairman of NWTC earlier this summer after six years in the role. Earlier this summer, Jesper Friis stepped down as chief executive of the Graphite Capital-backed NWTC to return to his homeland of Denmark and spend more time with his family. Last month, the company said it expects to continue opening new venues at a rate of between five and eight per year, with sites in Edinburgh, Durham, Sunderland, Barnsley and a second site in Chester – which will feature new concept North Light – already in progress for 2023. It has also applied to open a site under its The Botanist brand inside Bobby’s shopping centre in Commercial Road, Bournemouth. 
 
Searcys lands catering deal for Westminster events venue: British restaurateur and events caterer Searcys has signed a seven-year deal to provide catering to event and conference venue, Church House Westminster. The grade II-listed building, part of The Corporation of Church House charity, is set across three floors and features 19 meeting and conference spaces, along with a virtual studio. Searcys will provide catering across the venue, from meetings and banquets to receptions, wedding breakfasts, awards and events. With menus showcasing the best of British seasonal produce, Searcys will also support Church House in its mission to become a net-zero building by 2030. Paul Jackson, managing director at Searcys, said: “As we round-off our 175th year celebrations, we look forward to working with the team to develop the event side of the business and deliver the expert catering for which Searcys is renowned for.” Stephanie Maurel, chief executive of The Corporation of the Church House, added: “With a proven track record at generating revenue and new business, we are delighted to have Searcys onboard for a long-term partnership founded on shared vision and culture.”
 
BrewDog to open its biggest bar yet on Friday, in Las Vegas: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will open its biggest bar yet on Friday (2 December), covering 30,000 square feet in Las Vegas. Set over two floors at 3,767 Las Vegas Boulevard, it will feature 96 beer taps pouring the largest selection of beers in BrewDog’s US network, as well as a ten-barrel brewhouse for creating exclusive small-batch brews. The food menu will include lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, tacos, oak-fired chicken and The Flying Scotsman – an 8oz beef patty with haggis, red onion rings and peppercorn sauce – as well as a $150 Wagyu Burger which arrives in a treasure chest. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Las Vegas is a city like no other, so we had to pull out all the stops. With nearly 100 taps of craft beer and killer views, this oasis in the desert is the biggest BrewDog Bar we have ever opened. It must be seen to be believed.” It follows the opening in August of BrewDog’s former largest site, and biggest in the UK, which covers 26,500 square feet in London’s Waterloo.
 
Gusto Italian to open new £1.8m Oxford site this week: Premium casual dining restaurant group Gusto Italian will open its new £1.8m restaurant in Oxford on Thursday (1 December). Propel revealed in July the Matt Snell-led business had secured the historic Mitre Hotel building in Oxford’s High Street for its 14th site. The 10,000 square-foot restaurant and bar will have a 150-cover dining room with an open-plan theatre kitchen as well as a cocktail lounge and bar serving Gusto’s signature drinks and classic cocktails. Upstairs will be a private 60-cover dining room available to hire. Snell said: “It has been a labour of love, and from the outset, we have taken our responsibility as custodians of this historic building seriously and placed significant weight on preserving the listed features, while introducing design elements that have made Gusto Italian so popular.” The Oxford opening represents a significant step in Gusto Italian’s two-year growth strategy, as the company looks to expand its footprint and make substantial upgrades to its core estate, having already redeveloped its Edinburgh and Alderley Edge locations this year as part of a self-funded £2m capex programme. The company said customer scores have reached record levels, with an average net promoter score in the high 80s, compared with an industry average of 55, and an average among other leading casual dining operators in the high 60s.
 
Bruntwood seeks hospitality partners for £93m Manchester development: Commercial company Bruntwood has received planning approval for a workspace and leisure destination in Manchester and is seeking hospitality businesses to collaborate with on the £93m development. The Alberton will offer opportunities for hospitality operators to become part of the development, servicing the building’s office occupiers as well as becoming an anchor tenant. Its publicly accessible ground floor will create a connection and gateway between the Trinity Bridge walkway and St Mary’s Parsonage, featuring a hospitality offering across the entire floor, including a full-service restaurant, bar and coffee shop. On the 17th floor, there will also be a landscaped panoramic roof terrace with views across the city, as well as a gym and pool, event space and hospitality offering. The existing Alberton House, situated in St Mary’s Parsonage, will be demolished and replaced with a new 18-storey property, with works due to begin later this year and finish in 2025. Charlotte Wild, head of retail and leisure at Bruntwood, said: “With The Alberton, we are taking workplace wellness to the next level, and a big part of that experience will be the hospitality offering. We’re actively seeking the right hospitality partners to help us realise our vision and join us on this exciting journey.”

 
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