Leon co-founder John Vincent and Lucky Beach’s Mike Palmer developing new concept Strong Ron’s Lucky Drive Thru: Leon co-founder John Vincent and Mike Palmer, co-founder of the Brighton-based Redroaster, Pike & Pine and Lucky Beach brands, are developing a new concept called Strong Ron’s Lucky Drive Thru, Propel has learned. The new concept is described as a drive-thru and drive-to experience, featuring “indulgent Southern US-style comfort food”, and includes double hamburgers with heritage dry-aged beef, triple-cooked loaded fries, plant-based shakes, botanical softs and free-range nuggets. Propel understands that Or Golan, formerly of Ottolenghi, is overseeing operations for the new project that is now seeking roadside sites across the UK. The new concept is understood to be seeking drive-thru sites, prime and secondary roadside properties between 1,750 and 4,000 square foot in size. Priority locations include Oxfordshire and the M40 corridor, Cambridgeshire and the M1/A1 corridor and the Gloucestershire area. Palmer, an ex-Mitchells & Butlers executive, who formerly consulted on Flat Iron and John Salt, also operates Thai barbecue restaurant concept Lucky Khao in Brighton. Vincent left Leon earlier this year after Mohsin and Zuber Issa, the brothers behind Asda, acquired the brand through their EG Group business, in a £100m deal. Propel revealed earlier this year, he had partnered with Australian entrepreneur Dennis Turner and former Deliveroo global head of restaurant strategy Cengiz Rahmioglu to launch a Thai-focused concept called Burning Rose in Balham’s Chestnut Grove.
Greene King to offer 1,000 jobs to young people as part of the Kickstart scheme:Brewer and retailer Greene King is to offer 1,000 jobs to young people as part of the government’s Kickstart scheme with vacancies available across the UK from this month. The company has created a new role, Hospitality Services Team Member, specifically for the scheme. Candidates will have the opportunity to work in front of house, kitchen and, where possible, reception and housekeeping. Graham Briggs, head of apprenticeships and employability programmes at Greene King, said: “We’re really pleased to be part of the Kickstart scheme and to be able to offer 1,000 placements across the UK. We see Kickstart as a great way to create more opportunities for young people, alongside our already successful apprenticeships and other social mobility programmes, and we can’t wait for more young people to join us through the scheme.” The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit. The company said that those who gain permanent employment at Greene King would have the opportunity to take part in its award-winning apprenticeship programme.
Chestnut Group boss – we’re shutting on Christmas Day and Boxing Day because it’s more important we have a team in January than money in the bank, raises £7m to support expansion plans: East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group is shutting its sites on Christmas Day and Boxing Day with founder and managing director Philip Turner telling Propel: “It’s more important we have a team in January than money in the bank.” The company, which has also raised £7m to support its expansion, said it was making the gesture in recognition of the upheaval its 450-strong workforce has suffered over the past 18 months. Turner said the decision would cost about £250,000 in lost trade but said he was “hedging his bets” the company would be able to make up the difference between now and December. He said some of its sites are up 100% on a like-for-like basis against 2019 levels and believes the 13-strong company will benefit greatly because of the location of its properties. He added: “People are the centre of our business and all we are trying to do is give something back to the team and put out the message the hospitality sector looks after its people. From the reaction of our teams when we told them, I know this is the right thing for us to do. Not everyone in the sector will be in the position to do something similar but because we are small, nimble and privately funded, we can make these decisions. We’ve decided to do it now to give everyone enough notice and the response from the customers who had booked has been fantastic – they’ve been so understanding. I’m not saying it will be a permanent thing, but then who thought we would be providing experiences where people eat in a car park in a teepee or be offering finish-at-home products.” Chestnut, which is looking for about 50 additional staff, is also funding an Employee Assistance Programme, in conjunction with Hospitality Action, which includes a round-the-clock hotline for employees and their families, as well as counselling sessions to be used as the employee sees fit. The £7m of funding, which follows the injection of capital from a range of private investors, will support a comprehensive upgrade programme and fuel the acquisition of an additional six assets in the region, which begins this week with the completion of The Maltings Hotel in Weybourne, Norfolk. Turner told Propel that Chestnut has a pipeline of sites to the value of £20m to £25m and hopes there will be an announcement on a “couple” of sites in due course. Turner also said the company has also seen a change in demographic of its customers. While the company’s core base has been the over-55s, he said the business was now seeing more 18 to 35-year-olds. Meanwhile, 18% of its customer base now comes from outside East Anglia. Looking ahead, Turner said: “We are building a brand that not only offers a great experience but where people are at the heart of the business. We are very much on a journey and I’m not ready for that to end yet. Our shareholders have been enthusiastic in supporting the next phase in our development as we look to capitalise on the increasing confidence and opportunities for the Chestnut brand in the region.”
Giggling Squid lines up debut north west site in Manchester: Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand backed by BGF, is to make its debut in the north west, with an opening in Manchester, Propel has learned. The 38-strong company, which has secured seven new sites in total, will open on the former Carluccio’s site in the city’s Spinningfields area. At the same time, the business has secured openings in Chelmsford (ex-Loch Fyne), Hornchurch (ex-ASK Italian), Maidstone (ex-ASK Italian), Mere Green (ex-Gusto), West Bridgford (ex-Gusto) and Welwyn Garden City (ex-Zizzi). The Mere Green site will open at the end of this month, with the West Bridgford site opening toward the end of August. Propel understands Giggling Squid has another four sites in legals and is looking at locations in Liverpool and the north west, with Harrogate, York, Newcastle and Durham previously mooted as possible destinations for the brand. In terms of trading, the company is believed to have seen like-for-like sales up by more than 50% last week on the same period in 2019. On confirming it will open in Hornchurch High Street later this year, Giggling Squid co-founder Andy Laurillard said: “Thai meal times are energetic, informal, adventurous and where food is celebrated. It’s relaxed and there’s no standing on ceremony. We simply want people to have a great time over something tasty. Every Giggling Squid has its own personal touch to it and this restaurant is no different – it’s a beautifully designed space that we hope will bring a lot of pleasure to our guests. We can’t wait to welcome everyone.” BGF invested in the business in 2015. Laurillard told Propel in May he expects Giggling Squid to undergo some sort of process next year, with an initial public offering thought to be a possibility.
Administrators of Authentic Alehouses sell second pub: The administrators of the once seven-strong Authentic Alehouses have sold a second site, Propel has learned. The Wakey Tavern in Wakefield has been sold for £260,000, which is above the revised RICS valuation of £185,000. The administrators – Simon Bonney and Michael Kiely, of Quantuma – put the entire portfolio back on the market in January last year. They previously sold The Crown Inn in Addingham for £260,000. Although pubs were forced to close due to covid-19, The Ponty Tavern in Pontefract reopened on 12 April and The Albert Hotel in Hull welcomed customers back on 29 May. Since reopening, both pubs are now trading back at pre-covid levels. The Countess of Rosse in Shipley remains closed due to a lack of outdoor space but is due to open on 19 July. The reopening of the Fountain Inn in Barnoldswick is currently unclear due to needing to replace the manager. The remaining two sites – the Crown Inn in Addingham and The Red Lion in Driffield – are still shut. The update was revealed in an email to investors by secured creditor Crowdstacker, which has been seen by Propel. It stated: “The proceeds from these sales are likely to be utilised to pay for the accrued costs of administration and operations of the pubs, including the needed refurbishments required for pubs due to deteriorations over covid-19. We are proactively searching for buyers on all the pubs and have had a few more offers and site visits from prospective buyers. Given the more promising outlook for hospitality, we expect to now accelerate the sale of the remaining assets and start returning funds back to investors.” Allan Harper-led Authentic Alehouses entered administration in March 2019 despite raising £6.4m in peer-to-peer loans via Crowdstacker. Authentic Alehouses launched in July 2017 with a £5m crowdfunding campaign on Crowdstacker that was later doubled. Harper also led Burning Night Group, which went into administration in October 2018 after raising £7.5m on the same platform. Two months later, Burning Night Group was bought out of administration by a special purpose vehicle created by turnaround specialist Access Commercial Finance, which was a secured creditor of Burning Night Group.
JD Wetherspoon set to expand Irish pub estate with £9m deal for Dublin office building: JD Wetherspoon is set to expand its pub estate in Ireland after purchasing an office building in the heart of Dublin. The company paid €9m for the building in Aston Quay, close to Temple Bar. Wetherspoon aims to spend a further €4m developing the site into one of its pubs, subject to planning and licensing permission being granted. The pub would be set over three floors and have a large roof terrace. At present, the company has seven pubs in the Republic of Ireland and is to open Keavan’s Port in Dublin city centre as soon as covid-19 restrictions allow. Keavan’s Port is a €33m project, featuring a pub and 89-bedroom hotel. Wetherspoon is also set to start development work at another site in Dublin, The South Strand, Hanover Quay. Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: “We have enjoyed great success in the Republic of Ireland and are continually on the lookout for new sites. The investment highlights our commitment to Dublin.”
SSP Group to make West Indies debut and bring first Starbucks to island: UK-based travel hub foodservice company SSP Group has secured its first contract at an airport in the West Indies, with Société Aéroport Martinique Aimé Césaire. As part of a major redevelopment project, the airport’s food and beverage space will be expanded, with the number of units increasing from three to eight. SSP will operate all of the new outlets, five of which will be landside and three airside. The new offer will include a tailor-made blend of local casual food outlets including burger and grill restaurant Elizé; Ti’Plage, a beach-themed bar offering a selection of cocktails and aperitifs; and Pressé, a fresh juice bar. A concept created in partnership with Martinique-based chef Nathanaël Ducteil will serve cuisine that combines the best of Caribbean terroirs and global creativity. There will also be a selection of international brands, including the first Starbucks in the West Indies, which is due to be open in July 2023. SSP will begin operations with three existing units at the airport later this month. The renovation project is due to start in October this year and is scheduled to complete in 2023. Gérard d’Onofrio, managing director of SSP France, Belgium and Luxembourg, said: “As a popular tourist destination with more than two million passengers passing through its gates in 2019 and ambitious plans for expansion, Aéroport Martinique Aimé Césaire faces a bright future.”
Welcome Break launches fuel deal for customers spending in its food courts:Motorway service operator Welcome Break is offering customers who spend £10 or more in its food courts 10p off per litre of fuel. The “Fill Up While You Fill Up” offer will run throughout summer and comes amid the anticipated boom in staycations due to the ongoing international travel restrictions. The new fuel offer is available at brands including Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, Waitrose, PizzaExpress and Pret, all of which are now open for customers. Welcome Break is also recruiting for a large number of jobs across the country as its service areas return to full capacity. Chief executive John Diviney said: “We are delighted to be supporting this great British staycation summer by helping holiday-makers fuel up for less.”
Vimto Out of Home signs Slush Puppie deal: Vimto Out of Home, supplier of soft drinks brands for hospitality and leisure, is set to revive the Slush Puppie frozen drink brand in the UK, following a significant new agreement with the brand’s US owners, J&J Snack Foods. The long-term agreement gives Vimto Out of Home, part of Nichols, the rights to manufacture, manage, distribute and sell the Slush Puppie brand across the UK, Ireland, and Europe. The company is planning to refresh the brand and give the “pup” a new lease of life when it relaunches. Nick Yates, commercial director at Vimto Out of Home, said: “Slush Puppie is a brand that is extremely well-known in the UK and we are delighted to be able to offer our customers an even wider choice of frozen drinks brands.” Dan Fachner, president and chief executive at J&J Snack Foods, added: “Given its track record of success within the frozen category, we know Vimto Out of Home is very well positioned to take the Slush Puppie brand to the next level in this market.” Slush Puppie will join other frozen brands in the Vimto Out of Home portfolio, including Icee and Starslush.
Rose Thirteen to open ramen restaurant next week: Leeds-based operator Rose Thirteen will open a ramen restaurant and bar concept called House of Fu in the city next week. The company, which is behind Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall, Headrow House and Ox Club, is launching the concept in the city’s The Headrow area. After beginning life in 2014 as a pop-up at Belgrave Music Hall, House of Fu was awarded the title “Best of the Best” at that year’s British Street Food awards. The concept’s first permanent site will comprise a 50-cover, ground-floor restaurant, five first-floor karaoke rooms and a second-floor cocktail bar. The restaurant will open next week with the cocktail bar and karaoke rooms following in the autumn. The outdoor yard will open alongside the restaurant with space for 60 drinkers. The restaurant will focus on traditional ramen, poké bowls and home-made dumplings, including an extensive plant-based range, all paired with specially selected cocktails, sake and wine. The company, which is led by Ash Kollakowski and Simon Stevens, also owns the Beck & Call, a former Mitchells & Butlers pub, in the city’s Meanwood area.
Rudy’s makes London debut: Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, which is owned by Mission Mars, has opened its debut London site. As previously revealed by Propel, the Roy Ellis-led company has launched in the former Wahaca site in Wardour Street, Soho. General manager Megan Bews said: “We’re very much part of the furniture up north, so being able to spread a bit of Rudy’s love in London is huge.” Rudy’s makes its dough on-site each day, taking 24 hours to double ferment and 60 seconds to cook. It operates two sites in Manchester, as well as one in each of Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sale and Stockton Heath. Mission Mars, which is backed by BGF, also operates the Albert’s Schloss concept.
Plonk opens site in Camden Market: Crazy golf brand Plonk has opened a site in Camden Market, north London. Tucked away inside the historic arches, the site features a nine-hole course with obstacles such as big ramps and huge quarter pipes. The venue also has a bar serving a range of drinks. Plonk currently operates three other sites in the capital – in London Fields, Peckham and on the South Bank at the newly opened “Between The Bridges” space.
Asian-inspired food concept Ling Ling’s to provide dining at late-night bar and music venue: Asian-inspired food concept Ling Ling’s has opened at late-night bar and music venue Tola Peckham. Ling Ling’s offers a changing small plates menu at the Peckham High Street venue in south London. Diners will be able to eat at the site’s rooftop and ground-floor lounge bar, and can expect dishes such as mushroom and waffle, miso gingery noodles, Taiwanese fried chicken and spring rolls with house tonkatsu. Ling Ling’s also offers a bottomless lunch menu on Sundays for £35 with unlimited sweet and spicy Korean Gochujang chicken wings and dry rub Chongqing chicken wings, both available in cauliflower for vegetarians and gluten-free, with beer or prosecco from 2pm. While on Wednesdays, it teams up for collaborative supper clubs with partner chefs; the first of which is with Indonesian home-cooked concept, Spoons, taking place on Wednesday (7 July). This first event sold out in 24 hours with the next one taking place on 18 August and tickets go on sale soon. Ling Ling’s founder Jenny Phung said: “It’s so important that the second generation takes their food culture into their own hands to change perceptions of the cuisine. Gone are the days that Chinese food is considered as gloopy, sweet, battered food – it’s so much more diverse than that. We are now more educated, with an understanding that we need to change the language of food.”
New Mediterranean restaurant to open in Brixton this month: A new Mediterranean restaurant is opening in Brixton, south London, this month. Architecture business Squire & Partners is behind Bellefields, which will launch on Monday, 26 July. The 120-cover restaurant, courtyard and bar will be located on the ground floor of the Department Store Studios workspace in Bellefields Road. The owners have drawn inspiration from years of treasured holidays to the region, with dishes including grilled octopus, butter beans and spinach; and pork souvlaki, tzatziki and pickles. Drinks will feature a selection of Mediterranean wine, beer, cider, spirits and cocktails.