Patisserie Valerie appoints Hughes-Ward as new finance director: Patisserie Valerie, which is backed by Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, has appointed Jenni Hughes-Ward, formerly of sofa.com and Links of London, as its new finance director, Propel has learned. Hughes-Ward, who spent over two and a half years as finance director at sofa.com, replaces Richard Purvis, who left the business earlier this year. Purvis joined Patisserie Valerie in summer 2019 from Tulip Food Company, where he spent more than two years as finance director. Last year, Causeway merged Patisserie Valerie and Bakers + Baristas to create a “high-quality patisserie and coffee group” with more than 125 locations in the UK and Ireland. The new entity is led by group chief executive James Fleming. Causeway Capital said the merger would enable both businesses to benefit from shared baking, coffee and customer service resources as well as new product development.
Prezzo promotes Challenger to chief operating officer: Prezzo, the Cain International-backed restaurant chain, has promoted Dean Challenger to chief operating officer, Propel understands. Last March, Karen Jones-led restaurant chain Prezzo expanded the remit of the finance director Challenger, under the new role of chief services officer. He already had IT, procurement, risk and finance reporting to him, with the new role adding property to his remit. Challenger joined Prezzo in 2019 after 13 years with David Lloyd Leisure, including stints as group financial controller and head of finance. Prezzo was acquired out of administration for circa £5m earlier this year by Cain International, the privately held investment firm operating in Europe and the US. The deal, which was supported by the company’s material secured creditors who held circa £56m of secured debt, saw Cain acquire 156 of the Karen Jones-chaired Prezzo’s 178 sites, with the remaining 22 restaurants closed. The £5.04m deal price comprised cash of £2.64m and debt of £2.4m.
Itsu promotes Ganan Kanagathurai to UK chief executive, launches ‘build you own’ app feature: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain, created by Julian Metcalfe, has promoted Ganan Kanagathurai to UK chief executive, Propel has learned. Kanagathurai, formerly of Tesco Ventures, joined Itsu as its UK chief financial officer in 2016. Kanagathurai has also previously held roles at Disney and ABC television, and advised retail technology start-ups in San Francisco. Metcalfe told Propel: “I’m thrilled to say Ganan has been made chief executive of the UK business after five tremendous years as chief financial officer. Itsu awaits the great return to work as lockdown finally ends. We are eternally grateful to our courageous teams and leaders for sticking with us and getting through this awful year. It’s been an honour to support them.” The promotion of Kanagathurai came as Itsu launches a “build your own” feature on its app. The company said it was in response to the “abundance of popular dietary trends and growing appetite for personalised options”, and strengthened the brand’s digital customer experience. Customers can build bespoke hot and cold Itsu dishes – from rice and noodle bowls, right through to sushi boxes – and features more than 1,000 different combinations. The function will also limit contact in store, making it a safer environment for both consumers and restaurant staff. Kanagathurai said: “The function is the next step in Itsu’s journey to further innovation, bringing us closer to becoming the better future for fast food. In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in customer requests to go ‘off menu’. Allowing customers to pepper in more protein, cut the carbs and dial up flavour, reinforces our ethos to ‘eat beautiful’ – whatever way that works for you.”
 
Small Batch Coffee plans new bar & kitchen concept in Brighton: Small Batch Coffee, the Brighton-based company backed by the former owners of Coffeesmiths Collective, is planning to open a new coffee and dining concept in the city, Propel understands. Small Batch Coffee, which currently operates six sites in Brighton and one in Worthing, has applied to open a Small Batch Bar and Kitchen at 7 Duke Street. The new concept will be centred around “great food, great coffee, great cocktails and great times”. Several businesses run by Coffeesmiths Collective, including Filmore & Union Restaurants, were placed into liquidation, last year. Small Batch Coffee was moved to a newly incorporated company still overseen by a number of former Coffeesmiths Collective directors. Coffeesmiths also operated the likes of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Baker & Spice, Roasted Rituals, Nordic Bakery, La Bottega Milanese, Spring Espresso and CoffeeWorks Project.
Coffee#1 co-founder eyes debut site for new coffee concept Coffi Lab: James Shapland, the co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has lined up a debut site for his new coffee concept Coffi Lab. It is understood the company, which is led by former SA Brain finance director Hannah Gillard, has submitted a planning application to occupy the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Monnow Street, Monmouth, and convert it to a coffee shop and cafe. In line with the growth of Coffee#1, Shapland is seeking sites for the new concept in neighbourhood centres and high street market towns across south Wales and the south west. Coffi Lab, which is working with property adviser EJ Hales to find suitable sites, plans to be “a heart-warming, authentic retail coffee brand in a neighbourhood setting”. Shapland co-founded Coffee#1 in 2000 and went on to grow it to 15 sites across Wales and the south west, with an annual turnover of £5m a year, before selling it for an undisclosed sum to SA Brain in 2011. Caffe Nero paid almost £30m to acquire a majority stake in Coffee#1, which now operates more than 100 sites, in February 2019.
Hickory’s to take on former Marston’s pub near Nottingham: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s Smokehouse, which is backed by Piper, plans to open its next site near Nottingham. The 12-strong company has agreed to take the lease for a site currently called “Oldmoor Lodge” in Nuthall, a former Marston’s pub. The property will undergo a complete refurbishment in the coming months – with outdoor dining sheds, barbecue smokers, fire pit and a landscaped garden among its features – and is due to open in late summer. The site is expected to create 80 jobs. There are currently 12 Hickory’s Smokehouse restaurants across the north west and Midlands, which operate alongside “Hickory’s At Home”, a nationwide delivery service launched during the pandemic in 2020 that has gone on to sell more than 20,000 boxes. Hickory’s opened its 12th site in Wilmslow, Manchester, last June, and said it was actively looking for more locations as the group’s growth continues. Managing director John Welsh said: “In such a challenging year for us all, we’re delighted we’ve been able to open our outside areas to guests again and we’re thrilled to sign the lease on this new restaurant in Nuthall. We work very hard to find places with a rich history and culture where we feel confident we can make a positive and lasting impact on the community at large. The site in Nuthall is a brilliant location.”
Just Eat to create more than 1,500 jobs in Liverpool as it expands new worker model: Just Eat is planning to create more than 1,500 jobs in Liverpool by the end of the year as part of its expansion of the new UK agency worker model for couriers. Liverpool is the third city in the UK in which Just Eat is offering the new model, following its launch in London in November 2020 and Birmingham in February. The move has already created almost 2,000 jobs and will continue to be rolled out to further cities. All couriers contracted through this model are entitled to hourly pay, minimum/living wage, pension contributions and certain statutory benefits including holiday pay and sick pay. Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny said: “We recognise our responsibility to provide couriers with the best possible opportunities and we’re delighted almost 2,000 jobs have already been created as part of our worker model.” Couriers will have the option to operate from a central hub, a space that they can also use to take breaks. Before heading out on their shifts, they will be provided with branded clothing and equipment to boost brand visibility. Just Eat Takeaway.com operates this model across 150 European cities.
Just Eat is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Marston’s launches gamification training: Marston’s has launched an app with gamification training to mark pubs reopening. The app, called Marston’s Skills, has been created with gamified simulation company Attensi to help “transform the way employees and pub retail partners engage with learning and career development”. Through the app, each player is greeted by 3D avatar team members, who introduce the player to a series of mini games and challenges to complete, all of which are based on real-life pub scenarios. The interactive mobile-first app combines gamification through a 3D virtual world with the science behind tried and tested learning methods. Marston’s HR director Liam Powell, said: “The partnership with Attensi demonstrates our determination to invest in and grow our people and our business. As we move forward as a focused pub company, we see this platform being an game-changer to helping our teams grow their knowledge, experience and careers with us.” Marston’s will continue to develop the platform in partnership with Attensi, building modules to support key business initiatives.
The Inn Collection Group to create 200 jobs: The Inn Collection Group is creating 200 jobs across its north of England venues. The operator is offering full and part-time permanent positions across its expanding portfolio of inns in Northumberland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, Wearside and County Durham. Positions ranging from front of house to kitchen and housekeeping are being offered as part of the group’s INNtelligent recruitment initiative, which champions flexible working opportunities, above average wages, free online training and employee benefits for staff while promoting hospitality as a career with professional development opportunities. The announcement comes as the group prepares to reopen its sites on Monday, 17 May, ahead of an expected staycation boom due to the current international travelling restrictions. Managing director Sean Donkin said: “We are delighted to be in a position where we can open up such a great number of permanent jobs across our sites. There’s a myth that working in hospitality means long, unsociable hours and low rates of pay. We believe in flexibility with wide-ranging, pivotal career opportunities and overturning the one-size fits all approach.” The group, which already employs more than 500 people, has appointed Cath Bellhouse in the newly formed recruitment manager role to lead the hiring process. The Inn Collection Group, which is backed by private equity firm Alchemy, operates 20 sites.
Cheshire-based Italian restaurant operators unveil plans for third site: Cheshire-based Italian restaurant operators Alberto Halluni and Salfatori Suad have unveiled plans for their third site. The duo are opening an Italian restaurant and cafe at The Loom in Leigh, Greater Manchester, in June. Don Alberto’s @ The Loom will occupy the former The Restaurant Group-owned Frankie & Benny’s unit, offering more than 120 seats for both indoor and outdoor dining, as part of an investment worth almost £100,000. Halluni told The Business Desk: “The Loom is a great mixed-use development and offers us the chance to establish a restaurant in an already very popular location. The existing retail mix at The Loom also means we can realise the dream of opening a full Italian ristorante and cafe here, with a menu that will evolve throughout the day to meet the changing clientele.” Halluni and Suad already run Don Alberto in Holmes Chapel and Il Padrino in Middlewich.
Bubble tea concept Bubblycious doubles up with Merry Hill opening: Bubble tea concept Bubblycious has doubled up, with an opening at the Merry Hill shopping centre in Dudley. Founded in 2019 by Rameez Syed and his family, Bubblycious set up its first store in Northampton. Bubblycious offers a selection of Taiwanese fruit-infused and milk-based bubble tea. Syed said: “Merry Hill is the perfect place to open up our first store in the region, bringing our colourful fruit and milk-based bubble tea flavours to the West Midlands.” Duncan Burns, marketing manager at Merry Hill, said: “The sweet treats and fruity brews available at Bubblycious is yet another exciting addition coming into the centre.” Bubblycious is on the lower mall of the shopping centre.
Administrators of Signature Living-led Belfast hotel considering completing project: The administrators of the George Best Hotel in Belfast are still considering potentially completing the project on behalf of the creditors. Duff & Phelps were appointed to Bedford Hotel in April 2020 after being called in by finance firm Lyell Trading. The secured creditor is owed about £7.2m in relation to the incomplete hospitality venture, which was initiated by Liverpool-based aparthotel operator and developer Signature Living. Another £12.2m is owed to a list of unsecured creditors, including about £4.2m raised from individual “bedroom investors”, who bought the hotel’s 59 rooms on the basis of a generous return. A report from the administrators last year put the book value of the incomplete hotel at about £6.6m. While rescuing the company as a going concern has been ruled out, the administrators said in their latest progress report they may be able to achieve a better result for the creditors if the hotel development is completed and subsequently commences trading. But the administrators said efforts have been hampered during by the pandemic and resulting government restrictions and work may begin in the first half of 2021.
New restaurant and bar opens in former Shoreditch power station: A new restaurant and bar has opened in Shoreditch, east London. Housed within the former Victorian “Great Eastern Light” power station, Hackney residents Morten Jensen, Darren Collins and chef Johnnie Collins launched outdoor dining at The Light Bar earlier in April with indoor dining to follow in accordance with government guidelines. Set across three floors in Shoreditch High Street, it features a ground-floor bar and restaurant, the cocktail-focused Copper Bar on a new mezzanine level and a dining area and events space on the top floor. The menu focuses on “modern” British cooking, with dishes featuring Swaledale roast chicken with curry sauce; and sourdough flatbread, Desiree potatoes, Ogleshield cheese and wild garlic. Drinks include beers on tap, wines and cocktails. The site was first converted into a bar in 2000 by previous owners Oliver Williamson, James Goff and Ben Chesterfield, but the venue was forced to close in 2014 when redevelopment plans threatened to tear it down. After a successful campaign led by Williamson and supported by thousands of people, including artist Tracey Emin, the building is now protected as part of Hackney’s Shoreditch Conservation Area. Jensen said: “This was a venue that resonated with Londoners and we want to keep that nostalgia and also celebrate the original history of the building but without directly recreating any of the past.”
Compass launches dedicated Welsh division and offers at least 50 apprenticeship opportunities: Contract caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland has launched a distinct Welsh division – Compass Cymru – and announced at least 50 new apprenticeship opportunities this year. Headed by managing director Jane Byrd, Compass Cymru operates in more than 60 sites across Wales. Central to the new Compass Cymru business is a commitment to people; supporting development and the creation of jobs for Wales with a genuine focus on well-being and skills development. As part of the launch, Compass Cymru has announced at least 50 apprentice places within the next 12 months. Byrd said: “We offer meaningful jobs with inclusive growth, which will be supported by our newly refreshed apprenticeship programme.” Compass Cymru has partnered with chef Bryn Williams as its culinary ambassador. Williams will contribute to the apprenticeship and training programme. Williams said: “I believe hospitality remains an exciting career choice and announcing the apprenticeship programme for Compass Cymru demonstrates its commitment to home-grown Welsh talent, and that opportunities are available to those who seek them.”
North Wales-based caravan park operator adds fifth site to portfolio: North Wales-based caravan park operator, the Bodafon Group, has added a fifth site on the Isle of Anglesey to its portfolio. The company has acquired the 40-acre Rhos Farm Caravan Park after a £3m investment supported by Barclays. The site offers 115 static holiday caravan pitches, seasonal touring pitches and camping. Plans include introducing mains gas supply and upgrading the shower block. Bodafon Group director Robert Roberts said: “Rhos Farm is a welcome addition to our existing portfolio and reinforces our commitment to securing local jobs and attracting holidaymakers who make a vital contribution towards a thriving local economy benefiting our excellent circle of suppliers and tradesmen as well as the local community. As part of this acquisition, we have been able to take on additional staff as the needs of the business grows.” Bodafon Group also operates the Bodafon, Melin Rhos, Ty’n Rhos and Glan Gors caravan parks. Jamie Herbert, of Bone and Payne Solicitors, worked on the deal.
Melia to open third UK Innside hotel in August with Liverpool launch, two more in pipeline: Spanish group Melia Hotels will open its third UK Innside hotel, in Liverpool in August – and has a further two sites in the pipeline. The 207-bedroom hotel will have a 140-capacity destination restaurant, panoramic sky bar, expansive conference and event space and fitness gym. The former Echo and Daily Post building is being repurposed and, situated on the 18th floor, guests will discover the double-heighted 360-degree Sky Bar, which will host music from resident DJs. The debut UK Innside hotel opened in Manchester in 2015 with its second, in Newcastle, launching this spring. Innside Liverpool is set to open on 16 August.
Sheffield-based gym operator opens third site: Sheffield-based Firehouse Fitness has opened its third gym in the city. The company, which was founded in 2013, has taken a 12,000 square foot unit at Archer Road Retail Park in Millhouses. The gym is the latest addition to the firm’s Sheffield portfolio alongside its bases at Meadowbrook Park in Halfway and in Hillsborough. A six-figure-plus investment has seen the former PureGym site transformed into six exercise zones with the latest covid restrictions allowing the 2,000 signed up members to get back into their fitness regimes. The Millhouses zones are Engine House for strength and conditioning, and free weights; Drill Yard, which is a large group functional high-intensity training zone; cardio zone with treadmills, bikes and stairmills; small group functional training zone; Spin Zone with 16 Life Fitness spin bikes; and a yoga room with space for 15 people. Firehouse Fitness managing director Shane Beard said: “This expansion comes when many leisure and retail businesses are reducing their estates. With our new location on a retail park, now substantially refurbished, we have an important role to play in helping to sustain the park as it adapts to new uses and by bringing a sense of normal life and healthy routine back into people’s lives.” Wake Smith Solicitors acted for Firehouse Fitness on the lease of the building.
Bespoke Hotels to operate grade II-listed Cotswolds site after acquisition and redevelopment completes: Hotel management company Bespoke Hotels will operate grade II-listed Dumbleton Hall Hotel in the Cotswolds after a redevelopment that will add rooms and improve its star rating. US-based property developer Chatham Park Development has secured funding for the acquisition and redevelopment of Dumbleton Hall Hotel from OakNorth Bank. Built in the mid-1800s as a stately home, Dumbleton Hall became a hotel after World War II that offered 39 rooms, event spaces and 19 acres of gardens, woodland and lake. The redevelopment of the hotel, which is on the border of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, will see it upgraded from a three star to a four star-plus establishment, as well as the addition of five new rooms and more event space. Marcus Hook and Steve Mitchell, directors of debt finance at OakNorth Bank, said: “There is pent-up demand in the UK for both staycations and weddings. Given its popular location, its upgrade and the fact it will be operated by a leading hotel group, Dumbleton Hall is in a prime position to maximise on these trends.” Chatham Park Development was advised on the transaction by David Grant of Axis Commercial Finance.