Tim Martin – we will review mask policy with staff, coffee sales down but premium lager doing well: Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, has told Propel the business will review what its policy on masks will be in the next two weeks, and while Test and Trace has caused great pressure on the company, it hasn’t, as yet, had to close a site because of it. Martin said: “The highly respected Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke has made the most sense in the pandemic. A year ago, he said only three things are proven to work. First: wash hands. Two: social distance (if you don’t get too close to someone, you won’t catch the virus). Three: trust the people – they will do what’s in their best interests. The Swedes have mostly stuck to that and outperformed the UK, whereas the UK has been on a magical mystery tour of almost weekly changes. I personally doubt either face masks or Test and Trace works, but will review with pub teams in the next fortnight. Test and Trace pings have caused great pressure but we haven’t yet had to close, due to Herculean efforts by pub and area managers, yet again, during the pandemic.” On trends he is seeing from returning customers, Martin said: “Real ale under great pressure. Premium lager doing well. Coffee (of all things) down a lot, and I have no idea why.” In its latest trading update, the company said once it had completed its current pipeline of 75 projects, it plans to invest about £750m on a similar range of projects, in the following ten years, which may result in the creation of about 20,000 jobs. Martin said “about two thirds” of this investment would be on existing sites. In a broker note on Wetherspoon’s update, Peel Hunt sector analyst, Douglas Jack, said: “Like-for-like sales have been down an average of almost 30% since 12 April, with the company passing on the benefit of the VAT cut. Net debt is also in line. With the government removing restrictions on 19 July, Wetherspoon will now press ahead with its increased investment plans. We are retaining our 1,350p target price and ‘Hold’ recommendation on valuation grounds.”
Five Guys lines up fifth Manchester opening: Five Guys, the fast-growing burger concept backed by Sir Charles Dunstone, is lining up a fifth opening in Manchester. Propel understands the circa 120-strong business has applied to open a site on the former Carphone Warehouse unit at Trafford Retail Park. It already operates sites in the city’s Trafford Centre, Arndale scheme, Parrs Wood Entertainment Centre and University Green. Last month, Propel revealed the company had secured a new flagship site in the City of London. It is set to open on the former Wasabi site at 186-190 Bishopsgate, which is located on the east side of Bishopsgate at the corner with Victoria Avenue. It will be a circa 4,000 square foot site spread over ground and first floors. The company opened its latest UK site last month in the Edinburgh St James scheme. The brand’s next opening – at the former Chiquito restaurant at Teesside Park – is set to be its first UK drive-thru location, followed by sites in the East Midland Designer Outlet and on the Jarman Leisure Park, Hemel Hempstead. In May, Five Guys UK chief executive John Eckbert said the brand was going to open up to 50 new sites in Europe this year, including up to 25 in Britain.
Parched London completes £1.175m deal for fifth site: Parched London, the team behind The Montpelier and White Horse pubs in Peckham, has completed the acquisition of its fifth site in the capital. The company, which is led by Isaac Tooby, Michael Robinson and Shane Ranasinghe, has acquired the freehold of The Grove House Tavern, in Camberwell, from Young’s, for £1.175m. The company said: “We are excited to be part of the local community with our sister pubs in Peckham, The White Horse and The Montpelier nearby; The Roebuck in Borough; and The Railway in Streatham. The Grove House Tavern is a welcome addition to our south London family of pubs.” Paul Tallentyre at Davis Coffer Lyons acted on the Camberwell deal.
Chef Mark Greenaway and Gentlemen Baristas to take space in new Covent Garden venture: Scottish chef Mark Greenaway, former Asia de Cuba chef Louis Pous and fledgling coffee chain, Gentlemen Baristas, are to take space in a new venture in London’s Covent Garden. As first reported by Eater London, all three will open at 3 Henrietta Street, which is a new project being spearheaded by hospitality investor and consultant Simon Wright. Pous will open El Ta’koy, his “Hawaiian-inspired” street food operation from Miami, New York, and Riyadh, in the basement of the property. The Gentlemen Baristas will open a circa 50-cover site on the ground floor. Greenaway, who recently opened a takeaway concept, Greenaway’s Pie & Mash in London’s Villiers Street, will open the 34-cover Pivot on the first floor. The new restaurant is described as one “that totally reinvents itself every month. The food, the wine and the cocktails will all totally change in line with seasons and trends, keeping everything fresh and current, and 100% in season”. The second floor will be a preparation kitchen. This kitchen will provide a space for food preparation and also for new recipes and menu concepts to be tested. An ancillary seating area will also be provided for chefs to discuss new menu concepts and as a breakout area. This area will also be used for private dinners and events. DCL advises Covent Garden landlord Capco on its F&B strategy.
Gino D’Acampo to launch new restaurant Luciano in London this month: Chef Gino D’Acampo has announced he is to open a new restaurant called Luciano in London, later this month. Named after his 18-year-old son Luciano, the new restaurant will be located at the ME London hotel on The Strand. Opening on 26 July, it will be the chef’s fourth collaboration with hotel group Meliá Hotels International and the first with ME by Meliá. The open-plan restaurant will comprise 100 covers, while an outside terrace opens up alfresco dining opportunities for a further 100. Heading up the kitchen will be executive head chef Lorenzo Minini who has worked at StreetXO, C-London Cipriani and Osteria San Lorenzo. D’Acampo said: “I’m incredibly excited to announce the launch of Luciano, my new upmarket Italian restaurant at the ME London hotel. We have been looking for the perfect central London location in which to develop this new five-star concept for some time and, in ME London, in the heart of the West End and a stone’s throw away from Covent Garden, we have found it. To have the opportunity to work together with my son Luciano on this amazing development, and after whom the restaurant is named, is incredibly special. I cannot wait to open the doors.” The opening is Gino’s second new restaurant to launch this year, with a third new opening in Liverpool this August.
Fazenda owner passes on VAT reduction savings to staff through bonus scheme:Southern Wind Group, the team behind South American rodizio brand Fazenda, is rewarding all team members with an ongoing 10% pay bonus, passing on savings from the government VAT reduction. As part of the government’s support package for hospitality, VAT rates were cut to 5% on food and non-alcoholic drinks. The shareholders of Southern Wind Group have decided to give savings from this back to all team members as a thank you for their commitment, loyalty and hard work in successfully opening the restaurants. The first payment of the VAT Bonus Scheme went into June’s wages and will see the Fazenda teams all receive an extra 10% in their salaries every month until the end of September – a bonus that will also be added for any new starters joining Fazenda as the restaurants reopen fully. Southern Wind Group said, more than ever, career paths in hospitality need to be celebrated and the VAT Bonus Scheme was a way to shine a spotlight on the sector. Fazenda has restaurants in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, with further expansion plans lined up for the next 12 months. The restaurant brand employs more than 330 people. Southern Wind Group chief executive Terence Langley said: “The teams we have across the UK are the reason we have been able to build our brand and such a great reputation. From first walking through the doors, to making drinks, cooking the food and serving our guests, our teams are the lifeblood of Fazenda.” Managing director Tomás Maunier added: “While the past 12 months have been hard, we now want to look to a positive future. We want to use our VAT Bonus Scheme as a thank you to our team for their dedication, and as an assurance we are committed to helping them as best we can. Hospitality is integral to our economy and our lifestyles, and we want to make sure people are rewarded, and that it remains an attractive career choice for so many.”
Papa John’s targets small towns as part of expansion strategy: Papa John’s has opened double-digit new stores in the year to date and is now targeting small towns as it looks to reach more communities. The company has recently launched in towns such as Daventry and Totton this year, with up to ten more stores set to open in newly defined, more compact territories before the end of 2021. Amit Pancholi, UK director of business development, Papa John’s UK, said: “We are finding many customers’ first taste of Papa John’s is while they are on holiday. We are now bringing our ever-growing presence in the UK’s leading holiday parks ‘back home’ so customers can enjoy our pizza as locally as possible too. We are one of the fastest growing quick-service restaurant brands in the UK, in terms of new store openings. As a big brand now also delivering to small towns, our aim is to give our valued customers choice. As well as our high street locations, we continue to partner with a range of leading leisure and sports venues, in addition to holiday parks, looking to add a quality food proposition through a leading global brand.” Papa John’s has more than 450 sites in the UK, and 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.
Trof Group founders to launch wood-fired concept in Manchester: Joel Wilkinson, Adelaide Winter and Dan Mullen, founders of the Trof Group, are to launch a restaurant that uses a wood fire to cook and bar concept in Manchester. Firehouse will open in an abandoned warehouse, neighbouring its Detroit-style pizzeria, Ramona, which launched earlier this year. The Firehouse will take its inspiration from the US west coast, bringing to life the owners’ love for slower-paced, relaxed destinations such as California and Ibiza. The venue will be cooking rustic dishes over a wood fire for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Guests can expect coal-roasted, charred and blistered dishes. The technique will be signature to the venue – inspired by the slow-burning production technique of agave – with a chef’s table seating six. The Firehouse will specialise in the wild spirits of Latin America – including tequila, mezcal, pisco, rum and cachaça. The spirits will also make up the core of the venue’s cocktail menu. There will also be wine and craft beer, as well as coffee. Winter told Secret Manchester: “The Firehouse has been an idea of ours for a long time, inspired after spending summers in California and Ibiza. The sort of places that we just never wanted to leave – intimate, yet epic and all lovingly made – where everything is enticing, the welcome, the food, the music, the drinks. We just wanted to open somewhere that gives the sort of experience we’re after when we go out.” The trio joined forces with Revolution founders Neil McLeod and Roy Ellis to form hospitality group Mission Mars and launch the Albert’s Schloss concept but have since left the business.
Subway to shut US restaurants early on Monday ahead of major menu evolution: Subway will close its US restaurants at 6pm on Monday (12 July) for the next-day debut of its “Eat Fresh Refresh” menu and new digital offering. The company is accompanying what it calls one of “the biggest changes in the brand’s history” with a sandwich giveaway as it updates bread recipes, offers new toppings and returns choices such as roasted chicken and roast beef to the menu. The brand is also updating its app with a new dashboard, improved ordering flow and insight into out-of-stock items. Trevor Haynes, Subway’s president for North America, said: “Subway has been serving freshly made, customisable and better-for-you sandwiches for more than 50 years, and we wanted to give our guests more new and improved flavours. Our new culinary team is delivering monumental updates to the entire core menu.” There will be new recipes for the Artisan Italian and Hearty Multigrain breads, deli-thin sliced ham and turkey, hickory-smoked bacon, smashed avocado and mozzarella. New chef-recommended sandwiches include the Turkey Cali Fresh, Steak Cali Fresh and All-American Club. The company said Subway Delivery is rolling out in select areas and allows guests to place delivery orders through the app and website. Subway has almost 40,000 restaurants in 100 countries.
New all-day cocktail bar, bistro and live music venue launches in Covent Garden:A new all-day cocktail bar, bistro and live music venue has opened in London’s Covent Garden. Nick Zuppar, who created The Monster and other entertainment events, has launched Mrs Riot in Henrietta Street and takes inspiration from the iconic Kitty Clive, a pioneering feminist and performer – Mrs Riot is the name of the most famous character she ever played – who transformed the London scene in the 1700s. Spread over two floors, plus as outdoor terrace, Mrs Riot offers an extensive cocktail menu including the Kitty’s County House – lemon, basil, St Germain, Roku gin, peach and jasmine tonic. The food offering centres around a line-up of sharing boards, spreads and snacks, include a giant burrata with truffle oil. There is live music every night across the two stages.
East Midlands-based restaurateur brothers banned for hiding sales: Three East Midlands-based restaurateurs have been banned from being company directors after concealing earnings. Brothers Abul Azad, Abul Ashraf, and Abul Khaled, from Melton Mowbray, operated three Indian restaurants – Apurba, Bombay Brasserie and Tandoori Knights – through their company A & A (Melton Mowbray). Investigators found they “deliberately or recklessly destroyed or removed sales records” in their company accounts in order to avoid paying the full VAT and corporation tax amounts that were due. In total, £566,749 was owing to HM Revenue & Customers (HMRC) when the brothers placed the company into liquidation in August 2018. Azad and Ashraf have been banned from acting as company directors for seven years while Khaled has been banned for three-and-a-half years. They signed disqualification undertakings accepting that they caused or allowed the company to suppress its sales to the detriment of HMRC. Throughout the Insolvency Service investigation, the brothers sought to discredit and place blame on the company’s accountant, despite receiving written warnings from the accountant in successive years that the company had inadequate record keeping processes in place and that it was obvious that cash and sales records were going missing. In some cases, sales identified solely through card payment data were found to be more than their total reported sales, which also included cash payments. Cassandra Dowthwaite, deputy head of insolvent investigations (north) at the Insolvency Service, said: “This ban should serve as a warning to other directors tempted to conceal sales and withhold taxes, which are needed to fund vital public services, for their own benefit.”
Belfast hotel investors back Signature Living owner’s recovery plan: Investors in a stalled hotel project in Belfast city centre have united in their support of the developer’s efforts to finish and open the site. Renovation work on the George Best Hotel in the Scottish Mutual Building in Donegall Square stopped in April 2020 when the hotel’s owners, Bedford Hotel, a subsidiary of aparthotel hotel operator and developer Signature Living, was placed into administration. However, following a series of meetings with Signature Living’s owner and co-founder, Lawrence Kenwright, the 50-strong group of investors are unanimously collaborating with him to save and rejuvenate the development and protect their investment. Kenwright has invited the group to become part of the George Best Hotel property company, with the belief their combined weight will make it easier to gain new funding to complete and open the hotel. The group, chaired by County Antrim businessman Stephen Kearney, will now oversee refinancing and development work with Kenwright acting as chief executive. The George Best Hotel investor group has also been advised by another Northern Ireland businessman, Thomas Scullion, himself a Signature Living investor, who chairs UK Accommodation Group (UKAG), which he and fellow investors set up to restructure Signature Living’s operations in September last year. UKAG and Kenwright will imminently lodge a company voluntary arrangement with Signature Living’s administrators, which has the backing of 95% of investors and funders. Since covid restrictions eased in England in April, Signature Living said its venues have been trading well under current guidelines. Additionally, despite the impact of the pandemic, Kenwright has opened two new hotels, The Dixie Dean in Liverpool, and Rainhill Hall in St Helens, while the Kingsway House residential development in Liverpool city centre has been progressing.
England’s third oldest coaching inn sold off £1.35m guide price: England’s third oldest coaching inn has been sold off a guide price of £1.35m. The Ostrich Inn, based in the Berkshire village of Colnbrook, has been acquired by a private buyer in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. Dating to 1106, the two-storey High Street building comprises a main bar, a restaurant space serving traditional British fare with a focus on local produce and an adjoining private dining room, all with original features including exposed timber beams, brickwork and a large fireplace. A function room featuring a large, vaulted ceiling and its own bar servery with capacity for 40 guests is also located on the first floor, while the rear of the inn features a south-facing terrace with outdoor seating and large car park. Tim Widdows, who handled the sale, said: “The property attracted a large amount of interest due to its character and historic appeal. It is a thriving part of the local community in Colnbrook and I am happy to see it go to an enthusiastic new operator.”
Christie & Co is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
Ramsay opens largest Street Burger site to date at The O2: Chef Gordon Ramsay has opened the largest site to date under his fledgling Street Burger brand, at The O2. The new site has launched in The O2’s main Entertainment District and becomes the seventh opening under the burger brand. The restaurant has seating for 175 guests across two floors and incorporates a patio terrace. Propel previously revealed the chef was in talks to take the former Byron site in Upper Street, Islington, as he looks to open ten sites in the UK by this summer, with “dozens” of locations under review. In May, he opened Street Burger branches at the former Byron site in Kensington High Street, west London; on the ex-Gourmet Burger Kitchen venue in Covent Garden; and in Woking. Propel reported last month, the chef and restaurateur had applied to open a site under the name Bread Street Cafe on the former Limeyard unit in Ealing High Street.
Mahiki bar and club owners seek new premises after exiting Dover Street venue after 16 years: The owners of London’s iconic Mahiki bar and club have announced the closure of its Dover Street site after 16 years and have launched the search for a new venue. David Phelps and Piers Adam, are seeking a “new, bigger site” that will give them more space to expand on Mahiki’s “Tiki cocktails and Polynesian vibe”. Mahiki also has locations in Marbella, Sardinia, and Sweden, and its own brand of coconut rum. Co-owner Phelps said: “After 16 years in our original location, now is the right time for us to find a new home for Mahiki. We are looking for somewhere we can really make the most of what people love best about our Mayfair spot – the Lanai lounge bar, the cocktails, and the sense of pure escapism that had people wanting to dance on the tables every night.” Mahiki has also recently signed a partnership with motorsport venue Silverstone to open The Mahiki T1 Enclosure, which overlooks the first corner of the famous race circuit. It will be used to host a Friday launch party, Saturday night session and official Sunday after-party for the Formula One British Grand Prix, which takes place in August.
MeatLiquor opens Forest Hill pub: Scott Collins-led concept MeatLiquor has opened its first pub, the Dartmouth Arms in London’s Forest Hill. The 11-strong company has taken a new lease on the pub from Stonegate Pub Company, a deal that sees Collins return to the pub sector and the brand return to its roots. The first incarnation of MeatLiquor ran as a pop-up above a pub in New Cross in its early days in 2011. The residency was so successful it led to the opening of the first MeatLiquor restaurant on Welbeck Street in London’s West End that same year. Collins previously worked for, and was shareholder in, the Clive Watson-led Capital Pub Company. At Capital, his role was to source, buy, design and run pubs, including The Clarence in Balham, south London. The Dartmouth Arms has three bars and a 30-space car park and serves the full MeatLiquor menu. Customers will also be able to order fish and chips on Fridays from the end of the month and Sunday roasts in August.
Matcha-inspired coffee shop and dessert bar opens in Marylebone: New coffee shop and dessert bar, How Matcha, has opened on Blandford Street, Marylebone, London. It aims to introduce matcha as an “accessible and unique alternative to the average London high-street coffee shop”. How Matcha offers a range of drinks including the Matcha tropical on ice, which is made with matcha lemonade, pineapple and white peach; and matcha bubble tea. There are also a selection of matcha-infused cakes and pastries alongside breakfast dishes such as Honey Trap – organic matcha honey on sourdough toast. How Matcha’s food and drink is also available for delivery on Deliveroo and UberEats.
New coffee and food concept Co London opens in Knightsbridge: Coffee and food concept Co London has opened its debut site in Knightsbridge. The business was founded by Hussein Aziz and Lee Ahmetaj, who were inspired to start Co London after finding “a lack of inspiration in the current coffee scene”. The Park Close site features single origin coffees from both local and world-leading roasters alongside a menu that has been “designed meticulously by a Michelin-starred chef”. Dishes include eggs royale with wasabi hollandaise and saffron-poached free-range chicken salad. Guests can also opt for a range of sandwiches, including miso emulsion salmon, pickled kohlrabi, kimchi butter and sesame, or salads, such as torn burrata, Heritage tomatoes, sourdough croutons with sun-blushed tomato dressing. Supplying partners to Co London include Hedone Bakery and Northiam Dairy.
Birmingham-based gourmet burger and steakhouse concept Bun & Steak to double up with Coventry launch: Birmingham-based gourmet burger and steakhouse concept Bun & Steak is to double up with an opening in Coventry. The company, established in 2017 in Hall Green, is launching the new venue in Earlsdon Street. Owner Khaleeq Hafiz decided to expand after noticing customers were travelling from Coventry to his Birmingham venue. It will operate primarily as a takeaway option with about ten seats inside and is set to open in August. Hafiz left a corporate job in 2017 to set up Bun & Steak to meet a gap in the market for “good-quality meat restaurants for the Asian community, particularly those who eat halal”, reports Coventry Live.
Non-alcoholic drinks brand Crossip secures £500,000 for next phase of growth:Crossip, the non-alcoholic drinks brand, has revealed plans for expansion after securing almost £500,000 of seed investment. The cash injection will be spent developing the brand’s UK presence, scaling up production, growing the team and expanding Crossip globally. Launched in 2020, Crossip comes in three flavours – fresh citrus, dandy smoke and pure hibiscus. The flavours were designed by mixologist Carl Anthony Brown who, along with drinks industry expert Tim Blake, founded Crossip. Investment has come from a mix of angel investors led by strategic EIS investors, including Said Rahmani, who is taking a seat on the board. Rahmani is a serial entrepreneur and successful investor in a number of fast-growing start-ups turning unicorns. He co-founded Pathlight Technology in 1995 in the US and has since founded several venture capital firms. Brown said: “It’s exciting to have finalised this investment with some fantastic strategic partners. This really secures our beliefs that the non-alcoholic spirits category has so much more to give.”