Burger King UK to trial delivery kitchen sites: Burger King UK, the Bridgepoint-backed fast-food chain, is to begin a trial of a delivery kitchen site within the next few weeks, Propel has learned. Propel understands the Alasdair Murdoch-led, circa 530-strong, business is looking to open delivery kitchens across three locations, including Kentish Town and Wandsworth, with all set to come online before the end of the summer. It is thought the Kentish Town site will launch first. It is understood Burger King will team up with Foodstars, which provides kitchen space for food companies, for the Kentish Town and Wandsworth sites, but the third trial site will be with Deliveroo. If the trial sites are successful, it is thought Burger King will explore doing further delivery kitchen units. At the end of 2019, McDonald’s opened its first “dark kitchen” in order to establish how to meet increasing demand for delivery. The brand’s first kitchen-only location opened in Hanworth, west London, as part of a “wider trial to test varying restaurant formats”. Propel understands Nando’s also trialled its own dark kitchen site in an unnamed location, which has since closed.
Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees secures £17m funding package to support expansion: Starbucks’ first UK franchised business partner, 23.5 Degrees, has secured a £17m funding package from HSBC UK to expand its portfolio. The injection will allow 23.5 Degrees to open more cafes across the country, including drive-thru sites in Sunderland, Bradford and King’s Lynn. The company is planning to open seven new outlets in the next four months and aims to have 300 stores and 6,000 employees by 2027. Finance director Luca Contardo said: “During the pandemic, we were able to open nine stores, which led to 200 jobs around the country. Fitting out new stores is very capital-intensive, with each opening costing upwards of a six-figure sum, but HSBC UK has enabled our continuous growth to run smoothly.” 23.5 Degrees opened its first store in Liphook, Hampshire, in 2013, and now operates circa 80 sites. The business aims to reach 100 stores by March 2022.
Des Gunewardena – our City restaurants are leading a remarkable recovery: Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, has said its City restaurants are leading a remarkable recovery for the business. Gunewardena said such had been the demand, the company had been extending terraces, creating new ones and also decided to operate its restaurants all day rather than just for lunch and dinner. He told City AM: “Our plan was to reopen 20 terraces with a total of 1,100 seats, of which some 800 were bookable. Within no time, we’d taken 50,000 bookings with several thousand more coming in every day. By the end of the first week of reopening, we had boosted seating capacity by some 40% to about 1,500. And in that week, instead of serving 20,000 customers as expected, we served about 40,000. It was quite remarkable. When we announced the creation of a new 50-cover terrace on the roof of our 14 Hills restaurant in Fenchurch Street, our booking lines were jammed taking 600 to 700 bookings a day. Similarly, when we sent out an email about extending our roof terrace at Madison, our reservations lines went ballistic with several thousand trying to book on the day of announcement.” Gunewardena said what had also been striking in the first month of trading has been the significant jump in average spend, which in the first week was up 60% on expectations. He added: “It was also heartening and significant to see the sparkling performance of our central London venues. Last summer, it was our restaurants in Manchester, Leeds and Bluebird in Chelsea that were our busiest. This time around, our City restaurants led the way. The City may not be back in numbers in terms of attendance at offices but our City restaurants were all packed to the gunnels. We are not getting carried away. Only our terraces have reopened and we need restaurants indoors and outdoors to remain busy when we are fully open from 17 May. But I am optimistic.”
Fino Tapas owner eyes UK growth as he plans £2m investment in four new sites across north west: Mark O’Rourke, the restaurant entrepreneur behind Spanish tapas restaurant Fino Tapas, is eyeing UK growth as he prepares to expand the concept with a £2m investment. The funds will see two new Lancashire sites, in Lytham and Blackpool, due to open this summer, and a further two sites, in Kendal and Chester, set to open towards the end of the year, creating a total of 250 jobs. Since opening in Preston in 2018, Fino Tapas has gone from strength to strength and, last year, moved from its original site in St Winifred’s Street to larger premises in Guildhall Street to meet the demands for more socially distanced dining and the Fino Delivery service. O’Rourke said: “We’re excited to be extending the Fino Tapas brand across Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire. Both Lytham and Blackpool have benefited from multimillion-pound investments and look set to see a boost in staycations, as people look for traditional seaside breaks.” The new Lytham restaurant is due to open in June in the former Gusto building in Dicconson Terrace while the Blackpool restaurant will launch in August in the ex-Bella Italia in Church Street. In Kendal and Chester, Fino Tapas will breathe new life into grade II-listed, town centre pubs. O’Rourke said: “After the challenging year we’ve had in hospitality, it feels good to be introducing a new brand and our authentic taste of Spain to these popular north west town centres. The aim is to develop the Fino Tapas brand in more sites across the UK.”
Thunderbird Fried Chicken appoints new head of operations, four sites in pipeline for opening this year: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, has appointed Nick Moule as its new head of operations. Moule brings a wealth of operational experience, after holding senior roles at both Mitchells & Butlers and more recently Stonegate, where he headed up the Common Room and Sports Bar & Grill. Moule represents the final member within the Thunderbird senior executive team, and will be tasked with driving operational excellence, alongside building a motivated and cohesive team to deliver its five-year plan. Thunderbird, led by Paul Gilchrist, reopened its restaurant at The O2 last week, and has four new locations in the pipeline for opening this year. Last month saw the business launch a branch in Earl’s Court, unveiling a mini rebrand.
Black Sheep Coffee secures debut site in Scotland, plans more: London-based speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee is to make its debut in Scotland, in Edinburgh, with further sites planned for the country. Black Sheep Coffee, which operates 36 sites in the UK – with the majority in London, has secured a site at the St James Quarter development in Edinburgh for an opening later this year. Propel understands Black Sheep Coffee, which in 2019 raised £13m in new investment towards its expansion, has also applied to open a site in the former Body Shop unit in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. Black Sheep’s coffee co-founders Gabriel Shohet and Eirik Holth, who are St Andrews University alumni, said: “Our first shop in Scotland is long overdue and will be the first of many this year in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews. We have tons of customers up north who regularly order our beans online and who kept asking us to open closer to home, so it was just a matter of time until we found the right spot at St James Quarter.” The business also operates four sites in Manchester and one in Oxford in the UK, plus two in Manila, in the Philippines. In 2019, it added eight sites to its London estate with the purchase of the former Taylor St Baristas estate.
Mission Mars plans to open Albert’s Schloss sister site in Birmingham: Mission Mars, the north west bar and restaurant operator led by Roy Ellis, is planning to open a sister site to its successful Albert’s Schloss concept in Birmingham. The business has applied to open a 13,000 square foot site at One Chamberlain Square, as part of the city’s Paradise development. Ellis told Propel: “It will be in the Schloss family – so similar but not identical to Manchester. Live music and entertainment will be a massive feature as will tank Czech Pilsner and all the Munich lagers. Favourites like push for prosecco button, photo booth and our bakery are going to be there plus big fires and a great 150-cover restaurant. We’ll be adding a coffee roastery, a juice bar and a first floor Schnapps distillery and tavern with a few Alpine games like shuffleboard.” The company hopes to open the new site in October. It will be the sister site to the company’s flagship Albert’s Schloss housed on the ground floor of Manchester’s historic Albert Hall. Ellis told Propel last October that Mission Mars, which also operates pizza concept Rudy’s, was lining up six Albert’s Schloss openings, with the first planned for Liverpool. Ellis said the company was looking at four sites in London, of which two will hopefully be developed, plus sites in Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle.
Papa John’s reports like-for likes up 26% in first quarter: Papa John’s has reported its seventh straight quarter of growth, with a 26% increase in North American like-for-like sales for the first quarter ending 28 March 2021. The company said the growth was driven by menu innovation, including the continuing popularity of the Papadias and the new Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza, introduced in December. Papa John’s added 68 net new stores in the first quarter – the highest quarterly unit growth the company has seen in 20 years. In addition to physical growth, the company also reported significant digital growth, with delivery encompassing about three quarters of its business, and about half of those transactions came from Papa John’s loyalty programme members, the number of which has almost doubled in two years, to 20 million. Chief executive Rob Lynch said: “Over the past 18 months, our strategy, which is focused on innovating up against all of our business platforms, including our culinary offerings, our consumer-facing and back-of-house technologies, our customer experience and our delivery capabilities, has been a significant contributor to our sustainable long-term comparable sales and margin growth. We have brought in 11 million new customers over the past year in our digital channels and we’re seeing about half of those enter into our loyalty programme. Our loyalty members are higher frequency, higher value spenders.” Delivery has been a major growth driver for Papa John’s, with sales through third-party delivery partners increasing fivefold year-on-year, contributing to the acceleration of like-for-like sales growth, particularly in North America. For the first quarter, Papa John’s saw revenue increase to $511.7m from $409.9m the previous year.
Fletchergate Industries applies for licence to open eighth site: Fletchergate Industries, which is behind Nottingham venues including The Hockley Arts Club and Das Kino, is set to open another venue in the city centre. The company has applied to the city council for a licence to launch The Blind Rabbit in the former Belgo building in Weekday Cross, reports The Business Desk. If approved, it would be Fletchergate Industries’ eighth site. Belgo closed last July when owner Casual Dining Group called in administrators.
The Bok Shop lines up Hastings opening: The Bok Shop, the Brighton-based premium fried chicken concept, is to open a site in Hastings, East Sussex. The three-strong company, which earlier this year secured £1.2m of new funding as it looks to add ten new sites over the next two years, is understood to have lined up an 80-cover site at The Source Park on Hastings seafront. Founded in 2017 by Jamie O’Mara, Howard Kaye, Saul Burman and Matthew Dimmack, The Bok Shop secured funding from an unnamed private equity firm. The company currently operates sites in Brighton, Croydon and Eastbourne. It will start its roll out with the opening of a 100-cover site in Southampton’s West Quay this summer. Future sites will range from 30 to 100-cover restaurants to counter-style takeaway and delivery sites.
Kudu Collective announces opening of third site: South African restaurant brand Kudu Collective is set to launch a braai restaurant in Peckham in early July. Kudu Grill will open in Nunhead Lane in the south London borough of Southwark and will offer a menu using open-fire cooking. Parent company Kudu Collective is owned by Amy Corbin, daughter of Corbin & King co-founder Chris Corbin, and her partner Patrick Williams. Kudu Grill has taken over the former Babette site, which was the Edinburgh Castle pub before that. Kudu Collective said on Instagram: “As South Africans, we can’t resist a good braai so open-fire cooking will be the central feature of this menu.” Kudu Collective operates Kudu restaurant and cocktail bar Smokey Kudu, both in Queen’s Road, Peckham, and was also set to open tapas restaurant and wine bar Curious Kudu on the same road before the pandemic struck.
Pasta Evangelists to open debut restaurant, at Harrods: Pasta delivery start-up Pasta Evangelists is to open its debut restaurant. The company is opening the venue within the Dining Hall at Harrods on Monday, 17 May. The restaurant will offer a modern Italian menu, exclusive to Harrods and curated by Pasta Evangelists’ head of food, Michele Rodelli. The restaurant will seat 20 covers with social distancing measures in place. The main courses will showcase regional pasta delicacies from Italy with specials including Lasagne Cupcake with a velouté, British asparagus and Parmesan cream; and Lobster Tortelloni with a lobster and vine tomato butter and sautéed artichokes. Pasta Evangelists founder and chief executive Alessandro Savelli said: “We hope to see the Pasta Evangelists restaurant become the pinnacle of the pasta dining experience.”
Greene King keeps furloughed teams engaged with talent show ahead of indoor reopening: Brewer and retailer Greene King has celebrated the hidden talents of its pub and brewery teams as part of a three-month-long project to keep people who were furloughed engaged and ready to reopen pubs across the UK this month. In a virtual event, hundreds of Greene King entrants from across the country were whittled down to three category winners, with Megan Chambers and Nicola Myers, of The Roebuck pub in Richmond, crowned the overall winners in a live vote and taking away the £5,000 prize. Almost 2,000 people tuned in for the event presented by TV and radio presenter Rezzy Ghadjar and Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie, who said: “There has been little to celebrate and we have worked hard to keep people’s spirits up even when things have been at their bleakest. This was an amazing way to end what we hope is our final lockdown.” With 99% of Greene King’s 40,000 workforce furloughed during the lockdowns, the company was on the lookout for ways to keep people engaged ahead of pubs reopening. The talent show had three categories – pets, variety and music for people to enter, with the winner of each category winning a £1,000 prize. Chambers and Myers, who won the music category, received 38% of the vote. Runner-up was pets category winner Rani Rodrigues, of the Spyglass & Kettle in Bournemouth, and her dog Barney with 32% of the vote and third with 30% of the vote was Lloyd Scarsbrook, from Greene King’s Sunrise House support office, who won the variety category.
Sticks ‘n’ Sushi alumni open debut restaurant: Two former employees at Danish sushi concept Sticks ‘n’ Sushi have launched their own sushi restaurant in Brixton. Aidan Bryan and Tom Blackshaw have opened Sushi Revolution for their debut venture. The restaurant name comes from the offer at the Ferndale Road site where the pair serve classic sushi and “The Revolution” menu, which includes sushi with their own twist added. Dishes on The Revolution menu include: Futomaki revolution roll – seared fish, cucumber, mangetout, avocado, spicy mayo, teriyaki, sesame; Kaburimaki tuna revolution – tempura prawn, spicy mayo, tuna, tonkatsu; scallop Kataifi with black garlic aioli; and panko popcorn shrimp with chilli mayo chives and parmesan. The drinks menu includes a short cocktail, beer and wine section. Sushi Revolution will open fully later this month in line with the easing of restrictions.
Leicestershire-based meeting and venue operator appoints former Whitbread operations director as new chief executive: Leicestershire-based meeting and venue operator Imago has appointed Spencer Graydon as its new chief executive. Graydon was most recently at Whitbread as operations director and previously with gastropub operator Peach Pub Company and Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian, where he has been instrumental in rolling out national brands. He replaces Kay England who has stood down to set aside time for her family. England has been with the company since it started in 1991 as Loughborough University’s Short Course Centre, trading as Burleigh Court. In 2002, she became chief executive and oversaw the expansion from a 100-bedroom conference centre to the multimillion-pound venue portfolio it operates today. Graydon said: “Following Kay’s extremely successful tenure, over such a long and stable period, building on her legacy and taking the business forward will be a huge challenge. But I relish the opportunity to build on Imago’s high standards and customer service excellence.” Imago provides meeting spaces, venues and accommodation, along with sports and leisure facilities. Its portfolio includes Burleigh Court Conference Centre and Hotel, Holywell Park Conference Centre, The Link Hotel, the Elite Athlete Centre and Hotel, and Loughborough University campus.
Deliveroo applies to open a first Editions site in Scotland: Deliveroo has applied to open its first Editions site in Scotland, in Glasgow. The Will Shu-led business wants to use a vacant commercial building in the city’s Scotland Street, near West Street, with the premises to be split into nine kitchen pods. Propel revealed last week Deliveroo has applied to open an Editions site that will house five kitchen units in Ormside Street, Southwark. Propel reported earlier this year Deliveroo was seeking leasehold sites at regional locations and also in central and Greater London for its Editions brand. At the start of this year, Deliveroo said it planned to expand into circa 100 new towns and cities in 2021 across the UK as well as more than double its number of Editions sites globally.
Hilton to launch trio of nature-inspired dining concepts following £3m refurbishment of Heathrow hotel: Hotel company Hilton will launch three new dining outlets at its Heathrow airport site following a £3m refurbishment. Inspired by nature and “agricultural heritage”, the spaces are the Oxbo Cafe, Oxbo Kitchen and Oxbo Bar. Each venue will have its own distinctive food offering, with Oxbo Cafe offering both dine-in and takeaway options. The menu includes pastries, salads, tray bakes and breakfast goods. Oxbo Kitchen will have a buffet breakfast, followed by an a la carte menu during the day, including a “feasting” menu that allows people to share a variety of dishes. Meanwhile, Oxbo Bar will offer drinks and casual dining options. Guests are also given a plantable seed card with their bill, which they can take home and grow. Hotel general manager Oliver Stockland said: “The Oxbo experience not only fits with the new look we have given the hotel but also incorporates elements we know are important to today’s guests and visitors – like locally sourced ingredients and a nod to nature and our planet.” The Oxbo dining outlets will launch on Monday, 17 May, in line with the reopening of indoor hospitality.
Food delivery service serving small and rural towns raising funds to expand nationwide: A food delivery service serving small and rural towns in the West Midlands and Wales is raising funds to expand nationwide. Shrewsbury-based Zoom Food – whose partners are a mix of local, national and international operators, including Subway and KFC – is embarking on a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs. The company, founded in 2017 by Kevin Williams and Dave Hamlet, was aiming to raise £200,000 and offering 3.17% in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £9.3m. It has so far raised £304,000 from more than 90 investors and the campaign is “overfunding” with 38 days remaining. The pitch stated: “Zoom is a hyperlocal, last-mile, delivery service delivering food, convenience and retail goods within one hour. Currently operating in the West Midlands and Wales, and having experienced rapid growth throughout 2020, we have big plans for a national rollout in 2021. We feel we are perfectly poised to expand across the UK’s underserved rural towns and cities and shake up the on-demand delivery industry. We are raising funds to invest throughout the business. This includes expanding the size of our fleet for our 2021 rollout, increase marketing budget to expedite customer acquisition and order growth and expand the sales team to grow store onboarding.”