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Pret brings further batch of EAT sites to market

Stocking up at Veggie Pret in ShoreditchPret A Manger, the JAB Holding-backed group, has placed a further batch of EAT sites on the market, Propel has learned.

The company, which acquired the 84-strong EAT business last year for almost £60m, placed 16 EAT units on the market, including 13 in London, last August. Propel understands property agent Brasier Freeth has been appointed to market a further eight sites, including the brand’s venue in Bluewater, Kent.

London sites in Old Broad Street, Cornhill, Cannon Street, Cheapside, Aldersgate Street, Great Eastern Street and Avery Road are also being marketed. A number of the original 16 sites that were marketed are under offer, including the ones in Tottenham Court Road, High Holborn and Farringdon Street.

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Domino'sEmily Somers has stepped down as chief marketing officer at Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland after only six months in the role, Propel has learned.

It’s understood Domino’s will announce a replacement for Somers, who joined Domino’s in August, in “due course”. Somers, who replaced Tony Holdaway when he left to join furniture retailer Dreams, was previously UK vice-president of marketing and food development at McDonald’s but left the company in November 2018 to set up a brand consultancy.

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Listo BurritoA north west-based burrito bar business is eyeing expansion after relaunching under a new name. Formerly known as Changos Burrito, the business has changed its name to Listo Burrito following a trademark issue with Chilango.

The business, which was founded by Roger Taylor in 2013, operates in Liverpool’s Dale Street and has restaurants in Manchester’s Oxford Street and at University of Manchester Students’ Union. Taylor said he was exploring opportunities for new sites around the north west at students’ union sites as well as the delivery market. On the back of the relaunch in early January, the business saw sales increase 5% year-on-year last month.

Taylor said: “Our burritos are booming. The relaunch was a huge success with queues lining the streets on opening week. Despite it being a short month for us because of the refurbishment and relaunch, we were thrilled to see our sales were actually higher than the same time last year. It’s important people know we’ve only changed our name due to trademark reasons.

“Nothing else about our operation has changed other than a slight ‘facelift’. Last year we launched our app, which has helped us engage with our customers by offering loyalty points, free items and access to discounts and deals. We’re currently approaching 10,000 downloads, which we’re really pleased with.”

wireless social logoWi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social has strengthened its board with the appointment of key industry figures. The company, which last month received a £1m investment from Imbiba, the specialist investor in the UK leisure and hospitality sector, has appointed existing non-executive director Clive Consterdine as chairman.

Meanwhile, Emma Causer has joined as chief customer officer. Sam Bourke, ETM Group sales and marketing director, and Nick Telson, co-founder of DesignMyNight, have been appointed non-executive directors and join long-standing non-executive director Ann Elliott, founder of Elliotts. Imbiba will be represented on the board by Andrew Stones, who joined last year after managing the sale of cocktail bar brand Be At One to Stonegate Pub Company.

Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross said: “We are entering the most exciting chapter in the history of Wireless Social. With such a breadth of skills and knowledge gained from working in the sector, their combined experience will help Wireless Social to innovate, grow and solve even more problems for our customers.”

TippingTipjar, the peer-to-peer tipping and tip-sharing concept, has completed its first round of funding, Propel has learned.

The company, which was founded by BrewDog retail director James Brown in 2018, closed the round at £200,000 for a 15% share in the company, giving it a resulting enterprise value of more than £1.3m.

On completion of the first round of funding, Tipjar will continue to heavily invest in advancing its technology as well as appointing Ben Thomas as chief executive and Anita Bodis as business development manager. Rosa’s Thai co-founder Alex Moore, who recently purchased Mesa Latina (Ceviche and Andina), and Paul Stancer, former head of innovation at online payment provider World Remit, were both seed investors and have reinvested in the recently completed friends and family round.

Brown said: “I am delighted to confirm we have closed the first round of investment. We are committed to investing these funds into further developing our technology and building a platform that’s a global leader in tip collection and distribution. Our goal is to grow this idea of revolutionising the way our industry collects and handles tips into a fully fledged fintech solution for hospitality businesses and workers.”

Moore, who is also chairman of Tipjar, said: “As well as investing in our technology we are growing our team, which includes appointing Ben as chief executive and Anita as business development manager to help onboard more restaurants and bars on to Tipjar.” The Tipjar system enables customers to give cashless tips while simultaneously “empowering transparent team-controlled distribution between workers”.

It is currently live in restaurants across the UK including Red’s True Barbecue, Crate Brewery, Howlin’ Hops, Libertine Burger Group, The Piano Works, Rola Wala and Honest Burgers.

Rowton Hall Hotel & Spa in Chester, which has been acquired by Anderbury off an asking price of £6.25mThe UK’s “wellness tourism” sector is forecast to grow 7.5% a year to hit 1.2 billion trips by 2022, according to a new study by Abta.

The figure is higher than the predicted 6.4% growth for overall tourism during the period. On the back of the research, travel platform Expedia Group said domestic and international visitors were increasingly seeking UK locations that were famed for their natural beauty, with more than two million UK holidaymakers planning to take a wellness trip in the next 12 months.

Areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Cotswolds, Lake District and Scottish Highlands all recorded near 25% year-on-year increases in tourism demand in 2019. Expedia’s data also underlined high growth in demand for countryside walks, spa retreats and other relaxing pursuits, with accommodation providers in south west England seeing an almost 20% year-on-year growth in demand. Bath enjoyed a 15% increase in demand in 2019, compared with the previous year, while the counties of Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset all experienced double-digit year-on-year growth.

Expedia Group director of market management Daniel Scharbert said: “Wellness tourism has become increasingly popular with the UK, ranking in the top ten wellness tourism markets globally. As travellers prioritise wellness in their everyday lives, even while travelling, this market is set to become even more valuable.”

3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler, has lined up its latest Ego site as part of its joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers (M&B).

The opening in Penarth, South Glamorgan, will mark the concept’s first site in Wales. Propel has learned the company will open Ego at The Schooner in April at a former Harvester site.

The group will open its next, and 21st site, The Pomeroy in White Lion Road, Amersham, on Thursday, 5 March. It will be the ninth site under the M&B partnership, while it’s understood the company is also in talks on a site in Essex.

Horler told Propel last year that M&B sites converted to Ego were seeing an average 80% uplift in sales. He said the business was aiming to add another two sites in the first quarter of 2020. M&B formed the partnership in August 2018 when it bought sector investor Luke Johnson’s minority share in 3Sixty.

Kate NichollsThe government’s proposed new immigration system will be “disastrous for the hospitality sector and the British people”, according to UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

She said: “Ruling out a temporary, low-skilled route for migration in just ten months’ time will be disastrous. Business must be given time to adapt. These proposals will cut off growth and expansion and deter investment in Britain’s high streets. It will lead to reduced levels of service for customers and business closures.

“Hospitality is already facing an acute labour shortage despite investing significantly in skills, training and increasing apprenticeships for the domestic workforce. We are facing record low levels of unemployment, a dip in young people entering the labour market and have the highest vacancy levels of any sector. This announcement fails to recognise hospitality is at the heart of every community in the UK.

“Damaging the hospitality sector will have a knock-on effect for schoolchildren and the elderly, who rely on the sector for their meals. The government says it is making allowances for staff in the NHS but it has totally ignored the catering companies that supply the meals to patients and staff. We understand the government’s desire to deliver on the referendum result and its aim of moving to a skills-based immigration system.

“We fully support the ambition to upskill the domestic population and provide opportunities for people in every part of the UK. These proposals fail to deliver on the government’s own objective of providing an immigration system that works for the UK’s economy and its people.”

PizzaLuxe, the Paul Goodale-led premium fast casual concept, is set for further expansion after securing new backing from Edition Capital, Propel has learned.

Edition, which also backs Incipio Group and Watch House Coffee, has committed up to £1.5m of equity investment in exchange for a minority share in PizzaLuze, which was previously wholly owned by Goodale, Harrods’ former director of food. The investment will be further supported by new banking facilities provided by NatWest Commercial in Manchester.

PizzaLuxe currently has sites in Leeds Trinity Kitchen and Manchester airport (with SSP), with second sites in both cities also now secured. The business is set to open in Halle Place, the new dining quarter at Manchester Arndale, this year along with a second Leeds opening at The Light and a refurbishment of its original Trinity Kitchen unit.

Propel understands the company plans to build a core estate in the north of England and will also explore new growth avenues, including a franchise model aimed at pubs. The new investment will also see a particular focus on growth in travel locations. The business operates an assisted counter-service model, which provides “fast service and staffing efficiencies”. Propel understands the company plans to capitalise on opportunities presented by this flexible format under the new deal.

Goodale said: “We have worked very hard over the past few years to develop a clearly differentiated food and service proposition in what is a crowded and challenging market. I am very proud of the food and drink we serve, the excellent customer feedback we receive and the teams that make this possible. Thanks to Edition’s support we are now well placed to take PizzaLuxe forward to its next stage of growth.”

Edition Capital Partner Harry Heartfield said: “We are delighted to have invested in such an innovative operator. We were immediately impressed by Paul’s vision and the unique business model behind the brand. We are excited to bring our experience and support to help grow the PizzaLuxe brand across the UK.”

SSP business development director Andy Webb said: “The first PizzaLuxe store opened with SSP in October 2018 in Manchester airport’s Terminal 1. We have been delighted with the performance of the unit in commercial and customer feedback terms. Paul and the team are excellent brand partners and we look forward to developing this relationship further.”

Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is to open its 45th UK restaurant, in Eastbourne, next week. The 47-cover venue will launch in Terminus Road in the East Sussex resort on Thursday, 27 February.

Taco Bell UK marketing lead Lucy Dee said: “Eastbourne is a place we’ve had our eye on for a while. The town has high footfall with people looking for entertainment and, of course, a bite to eat, providing us with the perfect spot to expand our portfolio in the area. We look forward to welcoming even more Taco Bell fans and first-timers through our doors.”

Last week Taco Bell submitted plans to open its second site in Kent, in Maidstone, close to rivals McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King. The other Taco Bell restaurant in Kent is at Chatham Dockside. The brand recently launched a “craving value” menu across its UK estate. The permanent menu offers eight items including a cheesy roll-up, fries or nachos with a nacho cheese dip for £1. The £2 options include a crispy chicken taco, while customers can opt for a £5 Chalupa Box, which includes a chalupa supreme, a taco, fries, cinnamon twists and a soft drink.

There are more than 425 Taco Bell sites across 27 markets outside the US, with the goal to expand the brand’s international presence to 9,000 restaurants by 2022.

Denny’s, the US diner chain, has appointed Hector Main, formerly of Loungers, as UK managing director.

Main joins the two-strong UK business after almost five years at Loungers, the Lounge and Cosy Club brand operator. For the past two and a half years he has been regional operations manager for the Nick Collins-led business, overseeing 22 sites in the south west.

Denny’s launched in the UK in early 2018 with an opening at Parc Tawe in Swansea. The company followed this with an opening at a former Toby Carvery near Intu Braehead in Glasgow. At the end of 2017, Denny’s franchisee Magic Brands Group, which is owned by Leon Esfahani, secured a seven-figure funding package from HSBC to help with the roll-out of the 24-hour diner brand.

Harold Butler and Richard Jezak founded Denny’s in 1953. It has grown to more than 1,700 restaurants worldwide.

CGI of The Sea, the fishmonger and delicatessen by day and seafood and champagne bar at night concept by Bonnie Gull co-founder Alex HunterAlex Hunter, co-founder and managing director of British seaside restaurant concept Bonnie Gull, has told Propel he is on the verge of securing a second site for his Chelsea fish shop, deli and seafood bar concept The Sea, The Sea – but it will have an “added dimension”. Hunter, who launched the concept last year, said it wouldn’t be a traditional restaurant. He added: “We are in advanced negotiations on a site in London and looking at this development for late summer. I can’t say too much for now but although it will have a restaurant element to it that won’t be the main focus.” Hunter spoke as he prepares to partner with The Sea, The Sea executive chef Leandro Carreira to launch Claro in the former Bonnie Gull premises in Bateman Street, Soho, in April. Claro will be loosely based on a modern Portuguese taberna and offer small plates and wine by the glass. Hunter said: “When we made the decision at Bonnie Gull to close the site we tentatively put it on the market. I thought ‘why am I letting the site go?’ so I put in an offer and here we are.” The 26-cover site will have an open kitchen featuring a wood-fired grill and a snug bar. Traditional Portuguese dishes will sit beside progressive plates inspired by Carreira’s travels around the world as a chef. A small wine list will change regularly featuring new and old world varieties with a lean towards organic producers. There will also be a short cocktail list and Portuguese beer on tap. In terms of further projects with Carreira, Hunter said: “I think we’ve got enough on our plates at the moment. There’s potential to do more with Claro, too, but it’s about nailing this one first.” Hunter and Danny Clancy founded Bonnie Gull as a pop-up in Hackney in 2011 before opening a permanent site in Fitzrovia two years later. The Soho site opened in 2016 before being shuttered last month. Hunter added: “We currently feel it’s better when we focus on one restaurant and it’s not diluted. At the moment, it’s about taking Fitzrovia to the next level.”

Nicholson’s Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is to open its latest Nicholson’s pub, The Observatory, in London’s The O2 this week as the brand continues to expand. The pub will be the 79th site for the brand when it launches on Friday (21st February). The Observatory will offer a “classic pub experience” with seasonal pub classics such as fish and chips and pies alongside cask ale, gin and whisky. Nicholson’s operations director William Prideaux said: “We are excited to welcome The Observatory into the Nicholson’s stable. This opening marks the start of the next stage of growth for Nicholson’s as we look to grow the estate further. We have identified a number of opportunities where we can evolve the next generation of great British pubs and look forward to bringing these to fruition.” Earlier this month, Nicholson’s pub The Philharmonic Dining Rooms in Liverpool became the first purpose-built Victorian pub in England to be given grade I-listed status. In the same week, M&B launched the third whisky showcase for Nicholson’s, with select pubs in the estate offering dedicated whisky zones.

Shoreditch Bar Group has acquired The Hoxton Pony in Hackney, east London, Propel has learned. The venue in Curtain Road has a capacity of 380 across two floors. The Hoxton Pony was previously operated by Calabrese House, the three-strong group led by Salvatore Calabrese that went into administration last year. Calabrese House management first put the lease of The Hoxton Pony on the market in a bid to clear trade supplier debt and return some funds to shareholders. The lease was initially valued at £1.5m. An offer was accepted in August but a winding-up petition was filed by HM Revenue & Customs before the sale could complete. With shareholders unwilling to provide additional funding, Calabrese House was put into administration to protect the value of the lease at The Hoxton Pony and the winding-up petition was subsequently rescinded. Davis Coffer Lyons had been appointed to market the lease of The Hoxton Pony. In June last year, Shoreditch bar Group bought the remainder of Novus’ late-night business, which incorporated five sites – Tiger Tiger London, Tiger Tiger Cardiff, Piccadilly Institute, Ruby Blue and Zoo Bar – as well as the company’s head office.

PuttshackIndoor mini-golf experience Puttshack is to continue its expansion in the US after signing leases for sites in Chicago and Miami while hiring a chief marketing officer. Puttshack will open its debut US site in Atlanta, Georgia, this year. The Chicago site will occupy 25,000 square feet in the Oakbrook Center leisure complex, with a scheduled opening in late 2020. Puttshack’s global headquarters is in Chicago and the company said there was “huge consumer appetite” for a site in the city. The company will also launch a 29,000 square foot site at Bricknell City Centre in Miami’s financial district in early 2021. The venue will include a terrace overlooking the city. Chicago and Miami will feature four and three nine-hole mini-golf courses respectively alongside food and drink and private events spaces. Meanwhile the company has appointed Susan Walmesley as chief marketing officer, based in Chicago. She joins from multi-site entertainment operator Pinstripes following more than a decade at Topgolf. Puttshack chief executive Joe Vrankin said: “Chicago is exciting as it’s the birthplace of Puttshack. Miami is a real first for us as it’s set to span three stories overlooking the iconic city skyline.” Puttshack, which completed a £30m equity raise with lead investor Promethean Investment this year, opened its third London site, at 1 Poultry Bank, in November. Adam Breeden, co-founder of Flight Club, Bounce and All Star Lanes founded Puttshack with Topgolf and World Golf Systems founders Steve and Dave Jolliffe, opening their first site, at Westfield London, in July 2018.

Peter Featherman and Stephen Greene, the former chief executive and chairman of Ed’s Easy Diner, are backing a new venture called Pizza Tribe, Propel has learned.

Propel understands Featherman and Greene are working with Russell Allen, the co-founder of Basilico, the wood fired pizza delivery business and director of The Wood Fired Pizza Company, on the new venture. It is thought the new business has lined up an opening in London’s Leonard Street, just off Old Street, for Pizza Tribe’s debut site.

Featherman, the ex-chief executive of Ponti’s, led a management buy-in of the then three-strong Ed’s Easy Diner in May 2009. The deal was backed by Rankvale, with Greene, executive chairman of the investment firm, becoming the new chairman of Ed’s and Andrew Guy joining the business as a non-executive director.

Featherman left Ed’s in 2012, with Guy becoming chief executive. Ed’s grew to a near 60-strong brand, but after a failed sales process and a significant downturn in performance, it collapsed into administration in 2016. Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), the owner of Giraffe, acquired 33 of the brand’s 59 sites out of administration in October of the same year.

Last year BRG confirmed 27 of its 70 Ed’s Easy Diner and Giraffe sites were to close as part of a company voluntary arrangement. Ed’s currently operates 13 sites.

Dirty BonesCokey Sulkin, chief executive of US comfort food and cocktails brand Dirty Bones, has told Propel there’s potential to expand its new concept, Dirty Vegan, alongside the core business.

Sulkin said he had received good feedback since launching the first permanent Dirty Vegan site, at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush in December, while he is keen to explore delivery options for Dirty Vegan to take the concept to a wider audience. Meanwhile, Sulkin said the introduction of a weekly pop-up at Dirty Bones Soho, in which the site becomes Dirty Vegan every Monday, would further assess the concept’s potential.

He added: “There’s potential to grow both Dirty Bones and Dirty Vegan. We want to keep them as separate venues, though, so there won’t be hybrid sites. There’s scope to expand inside and out of London. We’re looking at delivery with Dirty Vegan as we think that channel could have a lot of growth.” Sulkin revealed he first started looking at the idea of Dirty Vegan in 2017.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves and felt the plant-based trend was beginning to really take off and we wanted to be part of it,” he said. “We did 12 pop-ups and they all sold out. Then we took it on the road, which was so successful we knew there was a market. Since opening at Westfield it has been really positive. We had a great start and we’re getting good feedback from vegans and people just wanting to cut down on their meat intake.”

In terms of potential of a permanent conversion of the Denman Street site in Soho if the weekly pop-up takes off, Sulkin said: “It’s unlikely because it does so well as a Dirty Bones. We will use the weekly pop-up to further assess the potential of Dirty Vegan and take it from there. However, there could be another opening for us this year.”

The group operates five Dirty Bones sites – four in London and one in Oxford – along with The Black Dog pub in Vauxhall. Sulkin said: “We had a very good 2019 – we saw double-digit like-for-like growth – and that has been followed by a solid January. With Dirty Bones there are various opportunities for us to grow because it’s an established brand, while with Dirty Vegan it’s more a case of assessing its potential. But it’s clear the plant-based concept is not a fad – it’s here to stay.”

D&D London chief financial officer Alan ClarkTGI Friday’s UK, the Robert Cook-led chain, has completed the make-up of its new management team, with the appointment of Alan Clark as its new chief financial officer, Propel has learned.

Clark (pictured), who formerly worked with Cook at Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, has been chief financial officer at D&D London since the end of 2018. He was previously finance director for Malmaison and Hotel du Vin and Rocco Forte Hotels in the UK. In his most recent roles, Clark was chief financial officer for The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels and latterly group chief financial officer for Sandals Resorts International.

He will leave D&D London at the end of February, having managed the company’s finances through an important period of expansion both in the UK and the US.

At the same time, Propel has learned the Des Gunewardena-led D&D London has appointed Ben Coveney as its new finance director. Coveney joins D&D from The Walt Disney Company where he worked for more than 18 years, most recently as finance director of its stores in Europe.

A D&D spokeswoman told Propel: “Ben brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to D&D, joining the company at an exciting time with new restaurant launches planned in the UK and overseas.”

In October, four TGI Friday’s UK senior directors, including chief executive Karen Forrester, decided to step down. Chief financial officer Stuart Greener, HR director Jacqui McManus and operations director Cain Savazzi also decided to leave. Forrester left TGI Friday’s UK in December and was replaced by former Virgin Active chief executive Cook.

At the start of the year, Propel revealed TGI Friday’s had appointed Tom Sycamore, formerly of PizzaExpress, as it new chief operating officer. Sycamore’s appointment followed that of Dan Staples as chief marketing officer and Suzanne Peacock as people and culture director.

JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has said if he was prime minister he would call for everywhere to have a Pubwatch scheme. Speaking to 200 delegates at the National Pubwatch Conference in Cardiff, he backed Pubwatches as crucial to support licensees and tackle disorder.

“If I was prime minister I would say ‘Just get me Pubwatch everywhere’,” he said. “One of the things Pubwatch does is joined up thinking.” He highlighted the fact licensees can be vulnerable and alone, especially if there is an incident in their pub. He recalled a situation 40-years ago in his first pub which he described as a “terrible start in the licensed trade”.

Martin said: “It was new year and I said to someone in the pub that they had too much to drink. He picked up an A-Board and put it through the window. I played rugby for years, am six foot six inches and 17 stone and was a tough nut so I thought. But I never felt so intimidated than standing in a pub behind the bar.”

He also raised concern about “back-door” protectionism, claiming it is easier for licensees to tackle if they work together in a Pubwatch. He said: “If there is group of licensees acting together it’s better. It is a confidence builder and you have contacts with the police and local authority. What is not to like?”

Corbin & KingLondon restaurant operator Corbin & King is to launch an investment vehicle aimed at the leisure sector, Propel has learned. The company has set up Corbin King Capital Partners, with Corbin & King co-founder Jeremy King as the major shareholder. The amount of funds the new venture will have at its disposal has not been revealed but it’s thought the vehicle will target startup businesses across the food and drinks market. Propel understands the venture will be overseen in part by Ben Whitfield, general manager of Corbin & King’s Brasserie Zedel in Soho. Before entering the restaurant sector, Whitfield worked for Deutsche Bank and was head of hedge fund sales for the UK and northern Europe at Olympia Capital Management and Santander Asset Management. He joined Corbin & King as a senior management trainee in October 2014. At the end of 2017, Thai-based Minor Hotels acquired a majority shareholding in Corbin & King, which operates sites that include The Wolseley in Piccadilly and The Delaunay in Holborn, in a £58m deal. Minor took a 74% stake in the business, which last year saw a 2% increase in like-for-like sales in 2019. Corbin & King is set to open seafood restaurant Manzi’s in Soho this year and is also lining up a venue in Notting Hill Gate. King first went into business with Chris Corbin in 1981, when they bought Le Caprice in St James’s. The pair met in the 1970s when Corbin was manager of Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair and King was maitre d’ at American restaurant Joe Allen in Covent Garden.

GreggsFood to go retailer Greggs is set to open its first supermarket concession under a new partnership with Asda. Five stores – in Boldon, Corby, Huyton, Wigan and Eastlands – will initially house the new concessions, with the first opening in March. Raymond Reynolds, business development and property director at Greggs, said: “We are delighted to team up with Asda to trial in-store concessions. We know high-quality food on the go and convenience go hand in hand, and this trial gives us the opportunity to bring our range of products to more customers in new locations.” Preyash Thakrar, chief strategy officer at Asda, added: “Continuing our ‘test and learn’ approach to our partnership strategy, we’re pleased to kick off this year’s activity with Greggs in the first of a series of trials. We’re constantly looking for new ways to increase customer choice and, by partnering with brands such as Greggs that fit with our core values of great quality and great value, we’re excited to give our customers something new in-store we know they’ll love.” Earlier this year Asda announced it plans a number of partnership-led trials in 2020 with brands that complement its grocery range. This would enable the company to introduce new offerings in about 150 stores aimed at increasing customer choice. The retailer already works with KellyDeli brand Sushi Daily and Just Eat to provide food to go options for shoppers.

Jonathan Recanti, founder of Farmer JAll-day market concept Farmer J, which is backed by Imbiba, has appointed Mike Thorne as chief financial officer as its gears up to open four sites in London in the next 12 months. Thorne joins the four-strong group after being finance director of another Imbiba-backed business, Casper & Cole, which operates the Temper concept. Before that he worked in PwC’s corporate finance (M&A) team. Speaking this week at Propel’s Leadership Conference, Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati (pictured) said the business had four sites in the pipeline for openings in the capital. However, he ruled out an opening outside London for “at least another 18 months” as the company needed to “get the concept working the best it can in the capital”. In December Propel revealed Farmer J would open a site at London Bridge station. The company won a tender to take the last unit in the arches under the station to become a neighbour to Pizza Pilgrims and Honest Burgers. At the end of last summer Imbiba, the specialist investor in the UK leisure and hospitality sector, invested a further £2.5m into Farmer J. The new funds followed £1.9m Imbiba invested in the business in early 2019. Imbiba’s latest investment was joined by a further £250,000 cash injection from other existing shareholders to support Farmer J’s expansion plans.

Simon Anderson is to leave his role as chief creative officer of Market Halls, although he will continue to work with the business as a consultant. Anderson, who founded Market Halls with Andy Lewis-Pratt in spring 2018, is setting up a restaurant and brand consultancy offering expertise to food startups. Anderson said: “It has been one of the biggest honours of my career to take Market Halls from an idea on a piece of paper to the market leader it is today.” Lewis-Pratt said: “Simon has been integral to the development of Market Halls, helping it grow from a concept to the UK’s leading food hall business with sites in Fulham, Victoria and the West End. Since launching the business in 2018, it has served more than two million customers. His determination to make Market Halls stand out from the crowd saw him bring together some of the capital’s most exciting talent under one roof and help restaurateurs such as Roti King’s Sugen Gopal and Flank’s Tom Griffiths create unique offshoots. We would like to thank Simon for his vision, knowledge and experience of the sector, which have been central to the growth of Market Halls.” Before launching Market Halls, Anderson was one of the original backers of barbecue concept Pitt Cue Co.

Social Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has launched and is open for bookings.

The event features fresh content and insights for 2020, allowing companies to increase brand exposure, broaden their reach and ensure their digital marketing really delivers. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop, which will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy.

The event takes place on Friday, 3 April at One Moorgate Place in London. Sessions will include how to keep your knowledge up to date when marketing and technology change so rapidly, driving business via social media, and being super productive while looking after your mental health. Emma Dickinson, of London pub retailers Young’s, will also talk about what has and hasn’t worked for the company when it comes to social media marketing.

Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators who are non-members and £395 plus VAT for suppliers who are non-members. Places can be booked by emailing

The speaker line-up has been revealed for the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2020, which is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 5 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London.

Tim Martin, chairman and founder of JD Wetherspoon, will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about the realities of success in the pub trade and business, while James Spragg, chief executive of Casual Dining Group, will talk to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about making progress in a challenging market for casual dining operators.

BrewDog chief operating officer David McDowall will talk about the growth and development of the company’s bar network, franchising, USPs, training and plans, while Kerb chief executive Simon Mitchell will provide an overview of the UK’s food market scene including developing street food operators and the company’s first permanent street food site, in Covent Garden.

Crepeaffaire founder Daniel Spinath will talk about the genesis, development and potential of his brand, backing from the BGF, airport locations and franchising, while Simon French, of boutique management advisory and research firm Bixteth Partners, will look at major trends affecting the sector and what lies ahead.

Meanwhile, leading barrister Sarah Clover will examine the major legal challenges the sector faces and Andrew Gallagher, former marketing director at Cote and Ten Pin, will give his top ten tips to maximise the impact of your marketing budget. David Sweeney, UK head of business development at Dodo Pizza, will reveal how the company created a new pizza offer underpinned by innovative technology, while franchise industry veteran Ian Saunders will answer the question, should I take my UK business overseas and, if so, how?

Andrea George, head of retail and leisure at developer Bruntwood, will talk about the company’s foodservice incubation space Hatch, the importance of experiential dining, the rise of food halls, and the role of food and drink in creating a destination.

Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

More than 300 readers have now signed up to Propel Premium – while those joining the new-look Propel Premium Club can save money by receiving a pair of free tickets to one of four conferences in 2020.

Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses.

Meanwhile, subscribers to the new-look Propel Premium Club will be able to choose to use a pair of free tickets to one of the following conferences – The Delivery Conference (Tuesday, 21 April), The Finance and Investment Conference (Thursday, 14 May), The Casual Dining Summit (Monday, 12 October) or The New Concept Conference (Monday, 19 October). The normal cost of two tickets to these events is £490 plus VAT for operators and £690 plus VAT for suppliers.

An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email

Mark McCullochOperators can map their marketing strategy for 2020 through a video collection that features all sessions from the Social Media for Profit Masterclass. The videos reveal how to build sales and brands using social media and are taken from the social media boot camp hosted by Mark McCulloch (pictured), who has more than 20 years’ brand, marketing, digital and social media experience that includes senior positions at Pret A Manger and YO!

McCulloch reveals the hot trends and tips for 2020 and what social media strategists should focus on including channels, content and untapped areas you may be neglecting. He also reveals how businesses can grow their reach by creating a personal brand and using their most senior people to make that brand more human, relevant and accessible.

McCulloch is joined in the video series by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social, who has ten years of social media experience and is a Facebook-accredited trainer. She reveals the best way to use Instagram to drive bookings and the do’s and don’ts of working with influencers. She also reveals how to ensure your social media adverts are working successfully.

Meanwhile, Move Digital founder and managing director Geraint John reveals why voice activation is so important, what it can do for your business, where to start and how to build your voice strategy before you launch a new way to reach your customers that will leave your competitors behind. The full video collection is £295 plus VAT.

To order, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email

Propel has launched the Turning Data Into Strategy & Action Masterclass in partnership with hospitality data consultancy DataHawks, with the event now open for bookings.

The masterclass will take place on Tuesday, 25 February at Chartered Accountants Hall, One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. The event will look at why operators should be using data and address some of the common myths and language that surrounds it. Attendees will also learn how to use data to drive sales and long-term loyalty without sacrificing margin or brand credibility.

The morning session will see Dan Brookman, chief executive of Airship CRM, talk about knowing and understanding your customers to drive personalisation and conversion; and improving the effectiveness and ROI of local marketing. He will also reveal how to leverage sales data to create compelling bundle deals and where to focus marketing spend.

Meanwhile, DataHawks founder Victoria Searl will talk about building and optimising customer journeys, finding new customers and leads, and measuring the impact and effectiveness of offline marketing.

In the afternoon session Searl will reveal how to prepare for the unexpected by using data and tech; improve the impact and effectiveness of discounts, offers and rewards; retain revenue when closing sites; and what data to collect and why. The event will be followed by drinks at The Tokenhouse in Moorgate.

Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email


Leadership SummitPropel is launching the second Leadership Summit, which will see a select group of the sector’s most experienced bosses share their expertise on leadership. The full-day event, in partnership with Elliotts, will take place on Wednesday, 12 February at One Moorgate Place, London and is open for bookings. Ken McMeikan, Moto chief executive, will talk about creating a winning culture and making a difference to society; Alexa Reid, Noble Organisation managing director, will set out her approach to empowering individuals to create a cohesive team; Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom co-founder, will present on creating culture at Dishoom; Chris Jowsey, Admiral Taverns chief executive, will set out his thoughts on the importance of being open in a changing world; Emma Woods, Wagamama chief executive, will talk about the role of leadership in innovation; Jonathan Arana Morton, The Breakfast Club co-founder, talks about taking the legwork out of leadership; Jonathan Recanti, Farmer J co-founder, explains the importance of starting with a great idea; Alistair Darby, SA Brain chief executive, will provide leadership lessons from a Playbarn; Penny Manuel, Soho Coffee managing director, argues that women make better leaders than men; and Shane Kavanagh, Crussh chief executive, will set out the leadership lessons learnt from extensive change. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With the industry facing such challenging times, effective leadership has never been more important. This is an unmissable opportunity to learn from high-profile leaders in our sector.” Prices are £295 plus VAT for Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book, email:


Star Pubs & Bars

Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers
from Casual Dining Conference

Honest approach – Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers, talks about how the business has avoided getting caught up in the wider issues the burger category faces and how it has built its culture while bringing experience across its management team.

Click above to view

Propel Premium ~ New benefits for 2020

Propel Premium Club members can now save money by signing up for an annual subscription
An annual operator subscription costs £395 plus VAT and a supplier subscription costs £495 plus VAT
Subscribers now get a pair of free tickets to an event of their choice from below. (Normal cost for two tickets to these events is £490 plus VAT for operators and £690 plus VAT for suppliers)
The Delivery Conference
Tuesday 21 April 2020 ~ Butchers’ Hall, London
The Finance and Investment Conference

Thursday 14 May 2020 ~ One Moorgate Place, London
The Casual Dining Summit

Monday 12 October 2020 ~ One Moorgate Place, London
The New Concept Conference

Monday 19 October 2020 ~ One Moorgate Place, London
Other benefits:
  • Regular exclusive videos
  • Access to the Propel database of 1,500 multi-site companies, updated twice a year
  • Read Propel insight editor Mark Wingett’s weekly analysis column and City
  • Diary Discounts to attend other events
  • Plus insight from leading sector commentators from the UK and internationally

CONTACT: Anne Steele on

Propel Quarterly Winter 2019

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