Popeyes UK strengthens management team as it aims to open debut site this autumn: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the US fried chicken quick service restaurant brand, has strengthened its UK management team with three new appointments as it gears up to launch its first restaurant here this autumn. Propel understands the company has appointed Tom Byng as its chief development officer, David Carey as chief technology officer and Neil Williamson as chief operating officer. The brand’s UK chief marketing officer and head of people are expected to be appointed imminently. Byng joins from Fulham Shore, owner of Franco Manca and The Real Greek, where he was instrumental in growing the group to more than 70 sites nationwide in five years. He was previously director of acquisitions and estate management at Itsu for seven years. At Popeyes UK, Byng will spearhead the sourcing of its first restaurant in London and, thereafter, will be responsible for the creation of a rolling programme of acquisitions. Carey was digital director at The Restaurant Group, where he was responsible for brands including Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito. He will lead on all restaurant and consumer tech, building systems to simplify operations, enable frictionless guest experiences, and understand and analyse guest data. Carey will oversee the creation and rollout of Popeyes UK’s dedicated app, which will have its own delivery service from which guests can order directly. Williamson joins the business from Farmstand, where he was also chief operating officer. Prior to that, he held senior operations roles within Krispy Kreme UK and McDonald’s. He will have responsibility for the operations and people team. UK chief executive Tom Crowley said: “I’m incredibly proud to reveal this team of talented people who will lead Popeyes UK as we land with a bang in the UK market. The buzz around our arrival is the envy of every restaurant business and our proposition is unlike anything else on offer here currently. We’ve assembled exactly the right blend of progressive, forward-thinking minds to bring it to life in a way which will be completely unique for UK guests.” The company announced plans in April to enter the UK this year, with the goal of opening 350 new restaurants in Britain over the next ten years.
Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars interested in Young’s tenanted estate: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is one of the parties interested in acquiring Young’s tenanted estate, Propel understands. The circa 2,500-strong leased and tenanted business, which is led by Lawson Mountstevens, is understood to be one of the bidders for the 63-strong tenanted division, which Young’s confirmed it was in talks to sell last month. It has been working with Savills in connection with a possible sale of its tenanted estate. Known as Ram Pub Company, the division is understood to have a book value of £56m. Both Star Pubs & Bars and Young’s declined to comment. Last month, Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis told Propel if a sale of its tenanted division did go ahead, “every penny” would be ploughed into either the existing business or towards potential acquisitions – and not used to pay down debt. Dardis said: “We look at the strategy every year and a possible sale of the tenanted business has always been on the agenda. It’s a fantastic little business but it’s a declining area in terms of site growth. However, these are prized assets that would sit at the top of most tenanted pub company businesses and, following a review of everything, we feel now is the time to test the water. If we do a deal, and that is an ‘if’ because we don’t need to, it will add further firepower to invest in our existing estate and potential acquisitions.”
Burger King UK to launch first regional dark kitchen site, in Cambridge: Burger King UK, the Bridgepoint-backed fast-food chain, is to open its first regional dark kitchen site, with Deliveroo in Cambridge, Propel has learned. Propel understands the Alasdair Murdoch-led, circa 530-strong business will launch in the Deliveroo Editions site in the city’s Coldham’s Common in the middle of next month. Last month, Propel revealed the company was 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. The Kentish Town site launched last month with Foodstars, which provides kitchen space for food companies. Propel understands the group’s debut dark kitchen site is trading in line with expectations. If the trial sites are successful, it is thought Burger King will consider using further delivery kitchen units.
Gravity founders to open £6m multi-attraction experiential site in Wandsworth:The founders of trampoline park operator Gravity are to open a new multi-attraction experiential site in London. Gravity Southside Wandsworth will offer eight immersive experiences under one roof. Gravity and partner Landsec have put £6m into the venue – a pilot space “that will hopefully come to shape other Gravity openings in London in the coming years” Gravity Southside Wandsworth will be set over three floors, covering 100,000 square foot and with capacity for up to 1,000 people. Taking over the former Debenhams store in Wandsworth High Street, the site will contain the UK’s first multi-level high tech electric go-kart racetrack. There will also be a 14-lane bowling alley with augmented reality, urban street golf, a digital darts zone, augmented reality shuffleboard, an Electric Gamebox hyper-immersive 60-minute adventure, e-sports gaming areas and arcade zone. There will also be three bars – a sports bar, a New York loft-style cocktail and a Japanese street bar and noodle kitchen. Co-founder Michael Harrison said: “This project takes active entertainment to the next level with loads of immersive experiences and UK firsts. By day, it’s the perfect half-day experience for the family or a great place to host a party. By night, we will dim the lights, speed up the e-karts, ramp up the music with live performances and let the adults take over. There’s not a location in the UK where you can access all these activities under one roof. The high street is evolving and this project is at the forefront of that evolution. We cannot wait to welcome people in the summer.” In 2018, Gravity’s founders Harvey Jenkinson and Harrison received a £3m investment from Guinness Asset Management to expand into other areas of experiential leisure. Guinness Asset Management had previously invested £5m in Gravity, which opened its first trampoline park in 2015 and operates circa 15 sites across the UK.
Adventure Bar Group appoints Robb Harris as finance director: Robb Harris, formerly of Upham Inns, has joined Adventure Bar Group, the Nightcap-owned business, as its new finance director, Propel has learned. Harris spent six and a half years as finance director at Upham Inns, the 15-strong, Hampshire-based operator, which is chaired by Kevin Todd. Propel revealed last month the David Butcher-led company had appointed David Jeffery to head its finance department because Harris was leaving the business in early June for another role in the sector. At the start of last month, Nightcap announced it had acquired the nine-strong Adventure Bar Group, which operates sites under the Tonight Josephine, Bar Elba, Luna Springs and Blame Gloria brands.
Gymbox founder Richard Hilton and sector investor Paul Campbell to launch new competitive socialising concept: Richard Hilton, the founder of Gymbox, and sector investor and non-executive director Paul Campbell, are to launch a new competitive socialising concept in London, Propel has learned. The pair have teamed up to launch the new venture, which Propel understands will be backed by BGF – the current backer of Gymbox. Hilton founded fitness club chain Gymbox in 2003, which launched in Holborn and now operates 11 sites across London. Campbell is an investor in several companies and holds the position of either chairman or non-executive director at Hawksmoor, Vinoteca, Hickory’s, Blacklock, Tortilla and The Alchemist. He is also a former finance director of PizzaExpress and owner of Clapham House, which used to own Gourmet Burger Kitchen and The Real Greek brands. He is also currently the chairman of Gymbox. It is thought the new concept is close to signing on a flagship site in central London.
State of Play Hospitality to launch bingo concept Hijingo later this month: State of Play Hospitality, the Toby Harris-led, US and UK experiential leisure operator, is launching its futuristic new bingo concept Hijingo on Thursday, 24 June. The company has confirmed the 8,000 square foot venue in Worship Street, Shoreditch, which seats 200 players will open later this month and offer an “exhilarating, tech-enabled bingo experience”. Each game will give players the opportunity to win three prizes, including a short-break holiday within the UK or Europe through a randomly selected game, once a day. Harris said: “We’re so excited, finally, to be launching Hijingo and to be able to introduce London to the future of bingo. Hijingo is an immersive, fast-paced, unforgettable experience that redefines the game of bingo. We’ll be giving away a range of great prizes every game and we’ve added a short break holiday into the mix, which we all need after this past year.” Bookings are now being taken and the venue has launched an opening offer for a two-game session and a drink for just £20. Prices at Hijingo start from £11 for a single game or £16 for a full-game session.
Bob & Berts reveals expansion plans including two more sites in north of England: Northern Ireland-based coffee company Bob & Berts has revealed plans for new sites, including two more in the north of England. Founded in Portstewart in 2013 by Colin McClean, Bob & Berts, which is backed by BGF and employs more than 400 staff, has 14 stores across Northern Ireland as well as five sites in Scotland. Last month, the business opened its first English outlet, in Lancaster, and confirmed two further stores will open in the north of England during the summer – first in Kendal in June and then in Preston in July. More openings are also planned in Scotland and Northern Ireland before the end of the year. McClean said: “We’ve been shaking up the coffee shop industry everywhere with our simple commitment to serving customers proper coffee and great food. We carefully select each of our locations and we’re confident the people of Lancaster will love what we have to offer.”
Indian hotelier to open UK restaurant: Indian hotelier Roop Partap Choudhary is to open a restaurant in the UK. Choudhary, who is behind hotels including The Jewels hotel in Karnal, India, is launching Colonel Saab in London’s Holborn. Colonel Saab is opening in the former Holborn Town Hall building has been home to various restaurants over the past few years, including Burger & Lobster and – most recently – Gezellig. Colonel Saab is described as a “progressive Indian restaurant with a bar and private dining rooms”. The restaurant will be linked to Choudhary’s Hotel Noor Mahal in Karnal and serve dishes “from India’s royal kitchens”. Choudhary told the Economic Times: “We look forward to bringing the legendary Indian hospitality to Colonel Saab.”
Ramsay to open largest Street Burger site to date at The O2: Chef Gordon Ramsay is to open the biggest site to date under his fledgling Street Burger brand at The O2. The new site will open in The O2’s main Entertainment District next month and will become the sixth opening under the burger brand. Andy Wenlock, chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, said: “The O2 is a perfect location for our Street Burger brand. This new site is our biggest Street Burger yet, with seating for 175 guests spread across two floors and incorporating a patio terrace right in the heart of the very popular destination.” Speaking on behalf of Waterfront Limited Partnership, the joint venture between AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners that owns Icon Outlet and the Entertainment District at The O2, Alistair Wood, executive vice-president of Real Estate and Development at AEG Europe, said: “We have made great strides throughout lockdown [by] enhancing and varying our tenant mix. We are delighted with the addition of Gordon Ramsay’s Street Burger.” 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. Last month, 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, earlier this week, 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.
New World Trading Company confirms The Botanist opening in Ipswich: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company (NWTC) has confirmed it is bringing its The Botanist brand to Ipswich. The company has agreed a lease with Ipswich Borough Council for the vacant Old Post Office in Cornhill, subject to listed building consent being obtained. The venue is expected to open prior to Christmas. NWTC chief operating officer Natasha Waterfield said: “Bringing our unique concepts to new cities and towns is one of the most exciting parts of my role. The Cornhill is such a stunning location and I can’t wait to open the doors.” Council leader Cllr David Ellesmere added: “NWTC’s decision to open The Botanist in Ipswich is a great vote of confidence in the town and will further enhance the range of hospitality venues available to the public. We have worked hard to secure a quality operator for this location and one that would sensitively fit with this important heritage asset.” NWTC has announced several new locations in recent months, including Cardiff, Plymouth, Sheffield and Lincoln. Propel revealed, in November last year, NWTC was in talks on opening a site in Ipswich.
Twickenham Green Taverns opens eighth pub: London-based operator Twickenham Green Taverns has opened its eighth pub. The company has launched The Magdala Tavern in South Hill Park, Hampstead, which is opposite Hampstead Heath station. Twickenham Green Taverns has acquired a new free-of-tie 15-year lease on the ground floor and lower ground floor of The Magdala Tavern, which has been closed for seven years. The pub offers a variety of beer, cider, wine and spirits alongside food, including beef fillet tartare with capers, olives, shallots and mustard sauce; and Sunday roasts. Twickenham Green Taverns owner Dick Morgan said: “I was born and grew up in Hampstead, and my grandad lived opposite the Magdala Tavern, so reopening the pub is a real homecoming. We’ve been really careful to add a few modern details while keeping the old pub’s heart alive.” Twickenham Green Taverns also operates The Lyric in Soho, The Express Tavern in Kew Bridge, The Sussex Arms in Twickenham, The Corner House in Windsor, The Albion in Kingston, The Antelope in Surbiton and The Watermans Arms in Barnes. Davis Coffer Lyons acted on behalf of the landlord Mulberry One Capital on The Magdala Tavern deal. The property last operated in 2014 as a traditional public house with a significant food serving and became famous as the pub where Ruth Ellis, the last women to be executed in Britain, shot her partner in 1955.
Cumbria-based multi-site owner permanently shuts Kendal restaurant due to staff shortage: Cumbria-based multi-site owner Richard Berry has been forced to closer his Little Italy restaurant in Kendal due to a shortage of staff. The restaurant, in Stramongate, closed on Friday (4 June). “It was a very successful restaurant but I just can’t staff it,” Berry told the Cumbria Crack. “We got to the bare bones with really good-quality staff and getting new staff when people leave is almost impossible.” In recent weeks, Little Italy had nine, mainly full-time, staff members but needed about 15 to operate most effectively. Eight of the nine staff members have moved to other parts of the business while the other has decided to leave. Berry said Little Italy – formerly known as Gianni’s – had been closed on and off during the covid-19 lockdowns. He took on the site about two and a half years ago and said the premises were now available to rent or to buy. Berry also owns The Horse & Farrier restaurant in Carlisle, gastropub Romneys in Kendal and The Lakeside Hotel and Spa in Bowness-on-Windermere.
New immersive cocktail experience to launch in August: A new immersive cocktail experience is launching in London this summer. Mr Tipsy’s Down the Hatch has been created by Nick Olivero, the creative force behind San Francisco experience The Speakeasy. Olivero has now set his sights on London with Mr Tipsy’s Down the Hatch launching in August in One America Square in Tower Hill. Guests will sip their way through seven themed bars from across the world, each dedicated to a different spirit and “filled with interactive theatre, song, dance and visual surprises”. Each guest is greeted with one “mini pour” or tipple every time they enter a new themed room and bar – the equivalent of two complimentary cocktails throughout their journey. During the 70-minute tour, groups of up to 20 will travel round the world, with scripted scenes involving live actors, props and games. Olivero said: “Mr Tipsy’s sprung from my passion of fine spirits and meaningful social interactions. It blends theatre with multiple themed bars and is crafted specifically for post-lockdown groups looking to reconnect with friends in a fun, safe environment. It is going to put a lot of smiles on people’s faces and we can’t wait for the spectacle to begin.”
Greggs appoints new independent non-executive director: Food-to-go operator Greggs has appointed Mohamed Elsarky as an independent non-executive director. He will join on Monday, 21 June, while Peter McPhillips will retire as an independent non-executive director at the end of July. Elsarky is an experienced international food manufacturing executive, who has held senior positions at Kellogg’s, Danone and Godiva Chocolatier. He is currently executive chairman of Artisan du Chocolat, and has previously held non-executive director positions including at Nomad Foods – a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Elsarky will join the audit, remuneration and nominations committees on appointment. McPhillips joined the Greggs board in March 2014 and has provided support to the supply chain team during the extensive operational changes that have taken place since then. Greggs chair Ian Durrant said: “Mohamed brings with him extensive international food manufacturing and supply chain experience gained within businesses owning significant consumer brands. We wish Peter well as he steps away from the Greggs board and thank him for all of his support.”