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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators
Wed 25th Jan 2023 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Food inflation ends 2022 at record high 24%: The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index (FPI) ended 2022 at record highs, with the food basket nearly one quarter higher than December 2022, at 24%. The FPI full basket, which includes beverages, ended slightly below this level at 22.9%. December 2022 marked the 11th consecutive month of double-digit inflation. All ten categories of the index recorded inflation of at least 10% in December, with more than half topping 20%. The oil and fats category led the surge, with year-on-year inflation jumping to 47%. Going into 2023, the Index reveals mixed signals from supply markets on future pricing. Oil and exchange rates, the two leading upstream influencers on food prices, are more benign than during most of 2022, and the UN’s FAO Food Price Index fell by 1.9% in December 2022 – a ninth consecutive month of decline to take it to 1% below its value a year ago. However, energy costs continue at extremely high levels against a background of tightening government support, while higher labour costs across supply chains show few signs of relief. With a significant easing in prices only likely to begin with an end to conflict in Ukraine, the outlook for 2023 remains volatile. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “The next step on our inflation journey will be when the current 2% to 4% month-on-month increases start to slow down. We expect this to start to happen in the months ahead, but we are likely to experience an extended period where prices continue to go up, but just more slowly. These market conditions provide an opportunity for some suppliers to increase prices ahead of market.” James Ashurst, client director at CGA by NielsenIQ, added: “Businesses up and down the foodservice supply chain were besieged by inflation in 2022, and as we enter 2023, there is little respite in sight. Alongside the cost-of-living crisis for consumers, soaring food and drink prices are piling enormous pressures on hospitality, and sustained government support is needed to protect businesses and jobs in this vital sector of the UK economy.”

Industry News:

Number of McDonald’s franchise operators to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of McDonald’s franchise operators are among the 51 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday (27 January), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features I&A Restaurants, which is led by Ismail and Ann-Marie Anilmis, and operates 18 stores across Bedfordshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire. Also added this month is Capital Arches, which operates 30 McDonald’s restaurants across London, and is led by managing director Claude Abi-Gerges. In addition, Lambtrad, which operates 12 sites across Somerset, and is led by managing director Tim Lamb, will be featured. Meanwhile, White Rose UK, which operates 13 restaurants in the south west of England, and is led by David Wynne, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 3,200-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,769 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 3 February, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 12,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases – the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage, which was sent to Premium subscribers for the first time this week. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and 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.

Trade bodies call for urgent inquiry into poor conduct by energy suppliers: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) have urged the government to begin an immediate inquiry into the energy sector and potential instances of profiteering. The BBPA has written to Harriett Baldwin and Darren Jones, chairs of the treasury and business select committee respectively, following reports from publicans and brewers about sharp increases in non-energy costs being layered on to bills, harsh new terms and conditions and requirements for enormous up-front security deposits. Introduced in October, the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme was intended to bring down energy costs for millions of businesses, but the BBPA said there has been little positive impact for the brewing and pub sector. The trade body is reporting countless examples of price hikes and poor practice, which in many cases have meant the impact of government support “is effectively nil” and has led to suspicions of profiteering on the back of taxpayers’ money. Meanwhile, the NTIA said energy costs are still on average between 200-300% of previous years’ bills, while oil and gas prices are lower than the period prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “The spiralling cost of energy has been our members’ number one concern for close to a year now and remains so. Now, multiple reports of poor practice have compelled us to speak up on behalf of suffering businesses and make this urgent call.” NTIA chief executive Michael Kill added: “While government is talking about a long term strategy for the economy and growth, the sector is dealing with a crisis that is happening today, not in three to six months’ time.”
Sector staff want to see more diversity and inclusion training in the workplace: Sector staff want to see more diversity and inclusion training in the workplace, according to new research from HIT Training. The apprenticeships and vocational training business undertook a survey with employers and employees in the hospitality industry. When asked what more their workplace could offer to enhance its benefits package, responses from employees included training in areas such as diversity and inclusion of ethnic minorities (19.8%), LGBTQ+ inclusion (17.6%) and understanding the impact of menopause (19.4%). The study also revealed 85.8% of employees would be more likely to leave a job if there was no obvious support for employee well-being, and when seeking new jobs, more than 83% said they are attracted to an organisation with a progressive company culture. Some 69.1% of employees are keen to see measures put in place to create a positive work-life balance, while first aid for mental health was a priority for 45.3%. “It’s clear to see employees around the country, but especially those in hospitality who have faced a tremendously difficult few years, are focused on the benefits that come with working for an employer invested in their well-being,” said Jill Whittaker, managing director of HIT Training.

Friska founders launch climate tech platform: Ed Brown and Griff Holland, founders of Bristol healthy eating brand Friska, have launched Zedible – a climate tech SaaS platform. The duo said Zedible addresses “the environmental elephant in the room for the sector”, namely 90% of carbon emissions originate from the ingredients it serves, known as scope three emissions. The platform provides relevant carbon insights by analysing purchasing data at an ingredient level, thereby spotlighting the unique carbon drivers for each business. Brown said the seed for Zedible was planted in 2021 “when we read about how the sector wanted to be part of the climate solution”. He added: “The more we looked into it, the more we understood that for our sector and its supply chain to play a positive part in the transition to a low carbon world, operators would need to understand what was driving their carbon footprint at an ingredient level, because quite simply, the carbon is on the plate.” Brown said “all too often operators are shooting in the dark when it comes to environmental, social and governance and carbon reduction” and Zedible “highlights what really matters to each business and then allows operators to see the relationship between action and impact in terms of carbon output and intensity and commercial bottom line”. Holland said: “As operators, we can see while our industry wants to play a key role in the climate challenge, it's very easy to feel ‘lost at sea’ when it comes to driving change. It’s with this operators mindset that we built Zedible, the map and compass to help our sector achieve its carbon reduction goals.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a casual dining brand that is rolling out a new quick service restaurant concept and looking at franchising and is seeking an operations director. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “It is looking for someone with a great pedigree who understands process but can make things happen at pace. You will inspire the operations team and general managers and develop and coach them to become future business leaders. There is a lot of structure in this business, but people engagement and relationship building are paramount. You will need to be ambitious – this role has the legs to move into chief operating officer in the next three years.” The salary is up to £120,000 and the position is based in London. For more information, email

Company News: 

Clive Watson – M&A market won’t turn until third quarter, more people pre-booking and Fridays ‘much stronger’: Clive Watson, executive chairman of City Pub Group, has told Propel he believes it won’t be until the third quarter of this year until the M&A market turns in the sector. Speaking following the company’s full-year trading update, Watson said he was aware of a lot of operators “who were sitting on their hands” waiting for conditions to improve. And while City Pub Group’s focus will be on improving the core estate in 2023, Watson added the company had the firepower to react to acquisition opportunities when they arose. “We’ve got £30m immediately available so if we want to move on something very quickly, we can,” he said. “We’re delighted with our latest acquisitions. The Potters in Newport is a real community pub, and there’s a few learnings from that we think we can take into the rest of the estate to increase dwell time as we continue to raise the bar. The Bridge in Barnes has eight wonderful bedrooms and further enhances the portfolio.” Watson said he had been “pleasantly surprised” by the level of trade in January, with people still looking to go out and enjoy themselves while more customers were pre-booking before their visit. “We’ve not seen the lull this month to the extent that we normally do,” Watson said. “Fridays are also much stronger than they were nine months ago. We’re finding people are still working from home on a Friday but then coming out to meet with their work colleagues and enjoy a few drinks. I think one of the things we’ve really improved on in the past quarter is planning for events and that whole customer journey. While walk-ins are of course the main part of our business, we’re finding more people are booking before their visit, and that’s sometimes happening weeks in advance. Outside of December and January, those bookings have gone up about 5%. We’re getting better at marketing ourselves, and having Richard [Myers] come in (the group’s first chief marketing officer) will only improve that further.” Watson said the company’s staff bonus scheme has been helping with recruitment and retention and added the business now has a really strong head office team “with a great blend of experienced heads and youngsters coming through”. Meanwhile, the business is slightly repositioning its Damson & Wilde site to “focus less on cappuccinos and more on negronis”, concentrating on the things the group is good at – “creating a fun environment for people to have a few drinks”. Watson added: “Covid meant a lot of stopping and restarting, but we feel we’re going into 2023 with some real momentum behind us.”

Pitaya eyeing up to 150 UK sites, looking to accelerate expansion here through franchise model: Pitaya, the fast-growing Thai fast casual brand based in France, has told Propel it is eyeing up to 150 UK sites and is looking to accelerate its expansion here through a franchise model. The brand, which currently has a worldwide estate of 180 restaurants, secured its debut UK site, in London’s The Strand, in January 2020 – which opened in September 2021 following delays due to covid. Jérémie Dupuy, Pitaya’s international development manager, earlier this month presented to more than 120 franchise groups in London, with a view to accelerating its UK expansion. Dupuy told Propel. “We signed our first development plan for London with a franchisee we met at a Meet The Brand event. In 2022, we had the chance to introduce our concept to a number of franchisees, and we’re looking for a master franchisee profile to sign a major development plan for all the UK. A master franchise agreement negotiation is a long process, but we are now making really good progress. We are expecting between 100 and 150 restaurants in the UK in the next eight years through a master franchise model. We want to stay focused on Greater London for the moment. We are looking for our second and third locations in London to open in 2023, then continue our expansion in London and develop outside of London in a second development phase.” Dupuy also said sales at Pitaya’s original London site reached the expected levels of trade towards the end of last year, with better results hoped for this year. “2020 and the first half of 2021 was a bit complicated for food and beverage businesses in central London,” he added. “Sales were down compared with expectations, but we are seeing real progress month after month since last summer. Our sales are in line with original expectations for the fourth quarter of 2022 and we are looking forward to seeing even better results for 2023.” Dupuy said Pitaya is also looking to expand in other European markets and is anticipating 60 to 70 openings worldwide in 2023. Groupe Betrand, the multi-brand restaurant operator, which is the franchisee for Itsu in France, completed its acquisition of the Pitaya brand earlier this month.

Peggy Porschen confirms first permanent Middle East locations: Peggy Porschen has confirmed the first permanent Middle East locations for her London bakery brand. Speaking at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, Porschen, founder and creative director of her eponymous parlour cafes, said the brand’s international development plans, first announced in Propel in October, were moving fast. “We’ve achieved serious franchising interest since sharing our intentions for the brand,” she said. “We are now at deal stages in Doha and Jeddah, which we hope to see opening later this year. Discussions are ongoing in Dubai and other parts of the region – expect to hear more news soon.” This follows a successful pop-up parlour at Abu Dhabi’s MOTN Festival in December, which was extended by two weeks due to unprecedented demand. Porschen credits this as “a pivotal moment in the brand’s journey”, and one which she says led to it attracting the attention of experienced operators. The brand, founded by Porschen in 2003 as a bespoke cake business, opened a debut brick-and-mortar site in Belgravia in 2010 followed by a second, in Chelsea, in 2019. Since last year it has been exploring opportunities for growth in the Middle East, with David Singleton, founder of Dubai-based strategic advisory practice Oraculi, appointed as its advisor on global growth.

McWin acquires majority stake in L’Osteria: Food industry entrepreneurs Henry McGovern and Steven Winegar, who have backed brands including bakery concept Gail’s and pasta chain Vapiano, have acquired a majority stake in German pizza and pasta chain L’Osteria, which has two UK sites. The pair’s investment firm, McWin, has become L’Osteria’s majority shareholders in a deal that values the Italian-themed restaurant chain at around €400m. The move is aimed at driving the chain’s growth across Europe, with McWin investing alongside L’Osteria founders, Klaus Rader and Friedemann Findeis, and management. The exact size of the stake was not disclosed, but it is the first time there has been a change in ownership since the company was founded 24 years ago. “We are big believers that excellent businesses like this one outperform in turbulent times,” said McGovern. Founded in 1999, L’Osteria has more than 150 restaurants across eight European countries. The company made its UK debut in 2016 with an opening in Bristol, followed by a restaurant in Southampton a year later. McWin has holdings in more than 1,500 restaurants across Europe. The investment follows an auction process and has been made via McWin Restaurant Fund, which launched in August 2022 and totals €525m.

WatchHouse appoints former Planet Organic head of operations as first MD: Edition Capital-backed coffee concept WatchHouse has appointed former Planet Organic head of operations Caroline Ottoy as its first managing director. Reporting directly into chief executive and founder Roland Horne, Ottoy joins the business at a key time following the successful fundraise of nearly £3m in September and record growth in 2022. Her remit will be to drive growth for the business by focusing on operational excellence and expanding the growing e-commerce offering while continuing to raise the levels of customer experience. Horne: “I’m delighted to welcome Caroline into the WatchHouse family, and I am very much looking forward to working with her as we enter a pivotal period for the business growth. With her proven track record scaling businesses and over two decades of experience in senior leadership roles within the hospitality and retail industry, I’m excited by what we can achieve as we take our modern coffee offering to more people in more places across the UK and internationally.” Ottoy added: “I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to join WatchHouse and to lead the business as it scales. I have always been a huge fan of the WatchHouse brand, the fantastic offering and exciting business model, and I am really excited to join this special team and deliver the next stage of expansion.” WatchHouse’s latest London venue is scheduled to open next week, on New Cavendish Street in Marylebone, with WatchHouse Covent Garden set to open in April, on Southampton Street. It has also put to paper on its first international site, with Brookfield Properties in New York’s Fifth Avenue, to begin its US expansion. 

Blacklock to open in Canary Wharf for fifth site: Skinny chops concept Blacklock is to open its fifth restaurant this spring. The restaurant will be based in a standalone warehouse under the railway tracks in the North Dock of London’s Canary Wharf. At 4,000 square feet and with 120 covers, a ten metre bar and outdoor terrace, it will be Blacklock’s biggest restaurant yet. Guests can expect never-before-seen dishes including Blacklock’s first bar food menu that will feature pig’s head nuggets and lamb scratchings. Founder Gordon Ker said: “2022 was another tough year to navigate, but our team was brilliant and showed immense resilience. We’re all excited to bringing Blacklock to Canary Wharf. We’ve loved this part of town for a long time, with its links to Billingsgate and the old docklands, so when we were asked our thoughts on an old warehouse under the railway tracks, we knew it was the perfect home for Blacklock.” The company opened its original restaurant in Soho in 2015 before adding sites in the City, Shoreditch and Covent Garden.

Newcastle pan-Asian restaurant and bar plans UK expansion after securing ‘significant investment’: Pan-Asian restaurant and bar Geisha, based in Newcastle, has secured “significant investment” for expansion. The venue, in Sandyford Road, has a Japanese garden inspired interior that includes lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It posted on social media: “We’re extremely happy to announce Geisha, the most Instagram-able restaurant in the north east, has secured significant investment from private equity to open restaurants and venues throughout the UK! We plan to give the rest of the country the full Geisha experience.” Geisha began operating as a takeaway service during the third covid-19 lockdown in 2021 and opened the bar and restaurant in April that year. It launched a “home experience” delivery service from a location in Benton in September 2022.

Lina Stores set to open second Japanese site: Delicatessen brand Lina Stores is set to open its second site in Japan in March. The White Rabbit Projects-backed company, which opened its first site outside the UK in Shibuya, Tokyo, in the summer of 2021, will open a second site in the Japanese capital, in the district of Nihonbashi Muromachi. An Instagram post from Lina Stores Japan said: “The second new store in the country will open this March at the popular commercial facility Koredo Muroran 1 in Nippon’s Sapporo! The location, on the first floor of the corner where Central and Back Street intersect, is an all-day dining room that serves every scene.” Lina currently operates five restaurants and delicatessens in London, with a site in Clapham’s The Pavement also due to open this year. Propel understands the company is targeting a further site opening for later this year in the country.

Gong Cha begins Belgian expansion as it plans 50 Benelux stores by 2030: Gong Cha, the fast-growing bubble tea brand headquartered in the UK, has expanded its footprint in Belgium. The company’s master franchisee in Benelux, Mad Vision Group, has opened two new sites, in Mons and Antwerp. Its first store in Brussels, which launched last year, has served more than 20,000 consumers. The latest openings are the first in plans to scale up to 50 stores in Benelux by 2030. Adlane Draou, founder and chief executive of Mad Vision Group, said: “We’re excited to launch our new stores in Mons and Antwerp, building on our success to date in Belgium. With an existing portfolio of leading quick service restaurant brands, Gong Cha has added significant value to our business and offers exciting, long-term growth opportunities thanks to its scalable operating model and strong operating framework.” After expanding overseas for the first time in 2009, Gong Cha has grown significantly and has more than 1,900 locations across 22 countries, including the UK, USA, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, and Portugal, which launched in December 2022. Paul Reynish, global chief executive of Gong Cha, said: “Gong Cha is on a mission to open a store a day in 2023 and thanks to Adlane and the team, we are well on our way.”

Chopstix app hits 150,000 downloads in first six months, increases investment in digital channels: Fast-growing quick service restaurant brand Chopstix’s app has recorded more than 150,000 downloads in the six months since it launched. The group, which is undergoing a period of rapid expansion having opened 26 sites last year, said its app users spend £1 more per transaction than non-users. Spend from app users was markedly high in December, delivering an 8% increase in average transaction value across the month, driven by a campaign encouraging consumers to trade up to a large box. This initial success has prompted Chopstix to increase investment in its digital channels. Chopstix marketing director Rob Burns said: “We were confident the app would be successful as our customers have consistently demonstrated how keen they are to engage with the brand, but these download numbers have exceeded our expectations. It’s been exciting to see the impact the app has had both in terms of growing the brand and in driving revenue. We’re expecting another year of significant expansion, and no doubt the Chopstix app will be a vital resource in building a loyal customer base across all new sites.” 

Rhode Island Coffee opens in Chorley for eighth site: Rhode Island Coffee, the north west independent coffee group, has opened its eighth site. The company has launched the flagship venue in the Lancashire town of Chorley. The outlet in New Market Street offers Rhode island’s house blend coffee, which comes from five different countries and regions – Brazil, Central America, east Africa, Ethiopia and India – to create a medium dark roast. 

SSP America opens new steakhouse restaurant at LaGuardia airport: SSP America, a division of UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP, has added a branch of steakhouse restaurant Hunt & Fish Grill to its growing portfolio at LaGuardia airport’s new Terminal B in New York City. SSP America operates 12 restaurants at the terminal, with two more in development. In addition to Hunt & Fish Grill, brand highlights include the Shelly Fireman’s Brooklyn Diner, Eli’s Essentials inspired by delicatessen Eli Zabar, and Mulberry Street, a concept created in partnership with chef Marc Forgione. Senior vice-president of development and airport retention at SSP America, Paul Loupakos, said: “Our focus has always been on bringing a ‘taste of place’ to the airports we serve. We’re excited to bring another New York brand to the travellers of LaGuardia airport so they can enjoy a final ‘taste of place’ before departure.”

Scottish hotel company returns to profit as revenue increases 172%: Scottish hotel company Inverlochy Castle returned to profit in the year ending 31 March 2022 as its revenue increased 172%. The company, which comprises the Inverlochy Castle Hotel and Rocpool Reserve Hotel, both in Inverness, turned a pre-tax loss of £199,667 in 2021 into a pre-tax profit of £281,173. This compares to a £84,985 profit in the last full year before the pandemic. Revenue increased from £1,517,483 on 2021 to £4,126,054. This almost represented a return to pre-pandemic levels, with the last full figure pre-covid being £4,375,473. It received £6,936 in government grants (2021: £13,872). No dividend was paid. The company said it intends to invest further in its existing facilities and has an ongoing marketing programme to maximise revenues and occupation levels throughout the year. It is managed by Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI), which manages 14 boutique hotels across Scotland, including Andy Murray’s Cromlix House Hotel. Following the year end, ICMI has launched a Michael Roux Jr restaurant at Inverlochy Castle and restored a stable block to create eight new bedrooms.

Whitbread appoints new non-executive director: Whitbread has appointed Dame Cilla Snowball as a non-executive director. The company said Dame Cilla, who will also join the audit committee, has a wealth of advertising, marketing and digital experience, having served as group chief executive at Abbott Mead Vickers BDDO, and on the BBDO Worldwide board, and chair of both the Advertising Association and the Women's Business Council. Whitbread chairman Adam Crozier said: “As a senior advertising executive, with experience of leading a people business and a strong understanding of branding, digital and technology, Dame Cilla will be a great asset to the Whitbread board.”

Punch joins Zero Carbon Forum: Punch Pubs & Co is the latest member to join the Zero Carbon Forum as the industry works together to reduce energy, cut carbon and costs. Sustainability forms a key part of Punch’s “Punch Promise” as it works with diverse communities to build an inclusive, resourceful, responsible and environmentally friendly business. Acknowledging the impact of Punch’s footprint on the environment, and its commitment to a circular economy, various carbon reduction initiatives are already underway throughout the estate and at its head office in Burton. Chief executive Clive Chesser said: “As a modern and progressive pub company, we have a responsibility not only to manage our own impact on the economy, society and environment, but also to lead the way in understanding, improving and innovating our publicans and management partners towards achieving sustainable hospitality.” Mark Chapman, founder and chief executive of the Zero Carbon Forum, added: “Power in numbers and collaborative action is what the Zero Carbon Forum stands for and by working together, it's our belief we can and will reach our net zero target as an industry to avoid a climate catastrophe.”

Mission Mars to open second Rudy’s site in Birmingham next month: Mission Mars will open the second Birmingham site under its Rudy’s Pizza Napoletana brand next month. As previously reported by Propel, Rudy’s will launch in the former Cielo premises in Oozells Street. The new 90-cover restaurant will open on Monday, 6 February, adding to its other site in the city, in Bennetts Hill. Rudy’s is set for further expansion with a third Leeds restaurant while Missions Mars said this month the brand has four other sites in legals. 

Experimental Group to open new live music venue and cocktail bar next month: Paris-based Experimental Group will next month open its new live music venue and cocktail bar in London’s Covent Garden. The 500-capacity Stereo is located in the former Roadhouse site at 35 The Piazza, featuring a central island bar, raised stage and 40-cover restaurant. Inspired by the late-night cultures of New York and London, Stereo will offer a different music programme each night, showcasing up-and-coming bands and artists on special one-off evenings as well as hosting a weekly industry night focused on providing a platform for up-and-coming DJs. Chef-restaurateur Andrew Clarke is consulting on a menu offering American classics with a French influence, while drinks will come from South Bermondsey microbrewery Partizan and Thames Distillers, as well as the likes of Biercraft and The Lakes Distillery. Experimental Group operates four cocktail club bars in Paris, London, Venice and Verbier; three wine bars, in Paris, London and New York City; and ten restaurants and beach clubs. It also operates eight hotels and last year acquired Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds for its first UK site outside London.

Heavenly Desserts has five more stores in fit-out as it approaches 50-site landmark: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has five more stores in fit-out as it approaches the 50-site landmark. The brand, which has 44 UK stores, said last month it was aiming for a 2023 pipeline of 20 more. Among the new sites being fitted out is one in Aberdeen, which will be its most northernly store and first in Scotland outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh. A third Glasgow site is also in fit-out, at The Fort, as is a sixth London site, at Gallions Reach. The other two stores currently in fit-out stage are in Brighton and Leamington Spa. The franchise brand has also concluded deals for sites in Milton Keynes, Slough, Hull, Manchester city centre, Burnley and Tooting in south London. Meanwhile, co-founder Yousif Islam has said covid was “one of the best things to happen to the business”. “Yes, we were shut and couldn’t operate, but we were already set up as a delivery business and trading with the likes of Deliveroo,” he told BBC Radio Derby. “A lot of businesses had to go through the process of pivoting and adjusting their models, but we were already set up for it. We were only really operating a kitchen with no front of house, so that saved on labour, which combined with the government support meant it was a really good period for us. Over the two years of covid, we actually saw our biggest growth, opening 16 new stores during 2020 and 2021.”

Caprinos Pizza to open four new locations in coming weeks: Pizza concept Caprinos Pizza is set to open four new locations in the coming weeks. First up will be a site in Buxton, Derbyshire, followed by further stores in Alton, Hampshire, and Daventry and Brackley, both in Northamptonshire. The new openings will take the franchise brand, which is set to next month relaunch its franchise offer, to circa 85 UK sites.

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