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Vagabond Wines founder to launch new concept Mamma Pastrama

Stephen Finch, founder of VagabondStephen Finch (pictured), founder of Vagabond Wines; Kieran Sherlock, director of sector investor Imbiba; and chef Jay Morjaria have teamed up to launch new concept Mamma Pastrama, Propel has learned.
The concept will feature both traditional and modern reinterpretations of classic pastrami-based sandwiches. Propel understands a debut site near Carnaby Street has been secured for an opening later this summer. Morjaria joins Mamma Pastrama as co-founder and executive chef. In addition to his residency, JAE, at Untitled Bar in Dalston and his 15 years of food and beverage consulting work, Morjaria was featured on BBC2’s Million Pound Menu programme as a winning contestant.
Finch founded the now ten-strong Vagabond in 2010, while Sherlock is currently also a non-executive director at Pizza Pilgrims. Tessa Whitehead will head up the Mamma Pastrama team as managing director, following 12 years of experience across The Restaurant Group-owned Wagamama, Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca and, more recently, the Imbiba-backed Vagabond.
Mamma Pastrama said: “Seeking to reinvent the feverishly revered pastrami, Mamma Pastrama will use a secret curing process and proprietary spices and rub to render a pastrami that nods to tradition while embracing the future.
The new concept will feature both traditional and modern reinterpretations of classic pastrami-based sandwiches, as well as introducing some Mamma Pastrami originals such as the Pastrami and Kimchee toastie.
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Nicola SturgeonMass vaccinations for all over-18s would end Scotland’s ongoing “crippling” lockdown measures, claim Scottish operators, who are calling for first minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) to “move up on jabs and down on levels”. Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) members have offered to close their businesses to enable staff to get vaccinated en masse at suitable times when vaccine centres may be less busy.

The offer has come after walk-in vaccinations for over-18s became widely available in England. However, in Scotland drop-in vaccination centres for over-18s are limited to select health boards. Scotland’s hospitality sector supports a workforce predominantly under the age of 25, who are having to self-isolate under the current restrictions if they test positive.

As a result, hundreds of Scottish pubs and restaurants and wider businesses are having to close, which SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery claimed “would be entirely preventable if we caught up with the vaccination programme in England”. He added: “More jabs not only protect the NHS and lives, but also jobs and Scotland’s economy. The data shows that case numbers are soaring among young adults and falling in older age-groups, which is a clear sign of the vaccination programme’s success.”

Buzzworks managing director Kenny Blair added: “If the Scottish government can’t or won’t offer proper financial support for businesses that can’t trade viably, then mass vaccinations are the answer. We would happily shut all of our premises for the day if that meant we were adding another layer of protection both for our teams and our customers, so our staff could get the jab.” Sturgeon has said from 19 July all of Scotland will move to level zero “if the data allows”, with the intention to remove all restrictions on 9 August.


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Brewhouse & Kitchen's site in Milton KeynesBrewhouse & Kitchen, the 23-strong brewpub group, has launched “vaccine time” – an employee perk whereby any of its team choosing to get the covid-19 jab can take paid time out from their shift for their appointment – and is encouraging other operators to do the same. While the company is not mandating the jab, it is encouraging its team to book their vaccination as soon as they can, “to support ongoing efforts to protect all team members, guests, combat the virus and unlock the economy”. The company will also pay the cost for any team members who choose to have the flu jab this autumn. Brewhouse & Kitchen chief executive Kris Gumbrell said: “We encourage other companies to do the same to protect our teams, our communities and give hospitality the best chance of recovery.”

Ginza St James’sEnhanced Hospitality, the Roger Payne-led operator of the We Are Bar business and Shaka Zulu in Camden, has opened a new Japanese restaurant in London called Ginza St James’s. Opened on the former Matsuri site in Bury Street, the new restaurant “offers an authentic and exclusive Japanese dining experience”. The venue features a main dining area, two private dining spaces, dedicated counters for Teppanyaki, and Edomae Sushi, and “one of the most extensive sake lists in London”. Payne, who also owned and operated The Cuban and Chicago Rib Shack brands, is believed to have also lined up a further opening in the capital, this time in Mayfair. It is thought Payne is set to take on the Mitchells & Butlers’ former Browns site in Maddox Street, for a yet unknown new venture. It is thought Enhanced Hospitality is also planning to open a new restaurant in Bath and a new members club, restaurant, bar and workspace in Canary Wharf.

Jonathan NeameKent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has begun rolling out the latest investment in its pub estate – bespoke stretch tents, for alfresco drinking. The company is investing £300,000 on the installation of stretch tents at 30 of its sites. They have already been completed at four pubs across the south east – The Albion Taverna, Faversham; The Spitfire, King’s Hill; The Juggs, Lewes; and The Vine, Tenterden. Each shelter will be festooned with outdoor heating, lighting and solar-powered fairy lights. Director of retail and tenanted operations Nigel Bunting said: “The British weather can be unpredictable, and we want to ensure customers can enjoy our pubs at any time of year, rain or shine. We recognise that despite the return of indoor hospitality last month some customers still prefer to sit outside, so these new structures allow them to enjoy our pubs in a protected outdoor environment. Also, with current covid social distancing restrictions extended into July, these new stretch tents allow us to safely extend our capacity and welcome more customers in a safe way.”
Shepherd Neame features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is now available to Premium subscribers. Shepherd Neame turned over £123,619,000 in its most recent year, making it the 38th highest out of the 215 companies featured. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors earnings and highest paid directors. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Fledgling plant-based concept Kojo is to open its second site in London, in the City. The concept, which is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Ryan and Alina Jones, will open its second site – a grab and go format – in Liverpool Street. The first Kojo opened last December, on the former Carluccio’s site in Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead. Kojo’s menu is free of dairy, gluten and refined sugar and influenced by a “variety of Asian cuisines”. It is overseen by head chef Michael Paul. 

Mcdonalds logoMcDonald’s is planning to launch its loyalty programme in the US next month after running tests in various markets. Customers will have to interact with the app to collect points and receive perks once the scheme is launched on Thursday, 8 July. MyMcDonald’s Rewards will give 1,500 points to customers at sign up and 100 points for every dollar spent – 1,500 points is enough points for a free chicken sandwich, cheeseburger or ice cream cone. The company’s loyalty programme is highly anticipated by investors hoping it can generate the same sort of positive attention as the schemes at Chipotle, Starbucks and Panera. The loyalty programme arrives with McDonald’s executives confident on consumer demand for dine-in and takeout fast-food.

Simmons Cocktail Chain Comes to CamdenSimmons Bars, the London-based, Lonsdale Capital Partners-backed group, has secured five new sites, Propel has learned. The company is also nearing completion on neighbouring properties at two of its existing venues, with an eye to expanding the current trading spaces. The new acquisitions will take the bar group to 20 sites with an intention to have a 30-strong estate in the next 12 to 24 months. The openings will take place over the next four months with openings in Bank, Brick Lane, Putney, Tottenham Court Road and Old Street. Chief executive Nick Campbell, who founded the group in 2013, told Propel: “The industry has just been through its toughest period in history. We were stopped in our tracks with little support from the government and no real idea where we were headed next. We had successfully opened three sites in 2019 so we wanted to continue the positive momentum coming out the other side of lockdown. I really want Simmons to be an integral part of getting London’s nightlife scene back to a state of normality so hopefully by providing new venues, new employment and new opportunities for everyone we currently work with we can give back to an industry that has given us so much. We’ve got a strong, resilient business and a great team of people so I feel confident that 2021 will end on a positive note.” The first new site to open was Simmons Old Street, in the former Craft Beer Company premises, which will be closely followed by Brick Lane in late July. Campbell said the group is actively looking for further opportunities and acquisitions.

Simmons Bars features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is now available to Premium subscribers. Simmons Bars had a pre-tax profit of £1,702,000 in its most recent year, making it the 53rd most profitable company of the 215 companies featured, converting 16.6% of turnover to pre-tax profit. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors earnings and highest paid directors. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Emailjo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Richard CaringSerial sector investor Richard Caring (pictured) has applied to open a site under his fledgling Ivy Asia concept in Brighton, Propel has learned. Caring is understood to have applied to open on the same site currently housing his The Ivy in The Lanes restaurant in the city’s Ship Street. The serial sector investor currently operates two Ivy Asia sites – in London’s St Paul’s and Manchester – and is thought to be looking at further opportunities to expand the concept, either as stand-alone sites or adjacent to existing Ivy Collection restaurants. Propel understands locations in Guildford and Richmond are also being considered for Ivy Asia sites. He will open a third site in London under his Ivy Asia concept, in Mayfair, in August. Caring, who earlier this month confirmed he was opening an Ivy Asia in Chelsea after taking over the former Le Pain Quotidien premises in King’s Road, which is next door to the Ivy Chelsea Garden, will open a 9,418 square foot Ivy Asia in North Audley Street. It will open in the former Princess Garden of Mayfair site, which he acquired in 2016 and had previously been earmarked for a Caprice Cafe concept.

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate NichollsUKHospitality has urged the government to delay its plans for mandatory calorie labelling on menus in the out-of-home sector for at least six months, stating the additional cost threatens to derail the industry’s recovery from the pandemic. New calorie labelling rules are due to come into force in April 2022 and will apply to business with 250-plus employees. However, UKHospitality argued the current timeframe will badly damage the sector at a time when the focus must be squarely on recovery. The trade body has written to public health minister Jo Churchill, calling for the delay, giving sector firms “valuable breathing space and the best possible chance to get back on their feet” following 16 months of closure and severely disrupted trading. A delay would also allow businesses the time to fully engage on the detail and have systems ready in place. UKHospitality said the new requirements, along with necessary additional staff training, will cost some affected businesses millions of pounds. Chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “The vast majority of operators are in survival mode and will be for the foreseeable future. We therefore urge the government to consider delaying the implementation of this legislation rather than layering on new costs for businesses in a sector that has been hardest hit by the pandemic and risks damaging business’ ability to invest and create jobs. The out-of-home sector supports government efforts to increase healthier eating habits, as demonstrated by the proactive actions already in reformulating menus to reduce calories and increase transparency and choice for customers. But with the burdensome requirements of allergen labelling for pre-packed food also coming into effect in October this year, this new legislation adds further costs at the worst possible time. A delay would help ease the pressure and allow the sector to play its full role in the UK’s economic recovery.”

Subsidiary companies of Massarella Gelaterie, which operated 32 cafes housed in House of Fraser department stores, have acquired 15 sites out of administration. Propel understands the subsidiary companies, including Massarella Catering Group and Massarella Restaurants, acquired the 15 sites for £94,000 plus VAT. The cafes rescued in the deal included Wild Mint in Manchester, Café Zest in Nottingham, Dingles in Plymouth, and Caffé Botanic in Sutton Coldfield. Massarella Gelaterie was placed into administration last year with all 32 of its cafes closed. Director Daniella Massarella said at the time the administration came after the cafes, which employed circa 340 staff, closed on 20 March under government guidelines. She said staff wages, holiday pay and redundancy payments would be covered by the government. A spokesman for administrators Redman Nichols Butler said: “Regrettably due to the current health and economic crisis, Massarella Catering Group was left with no other option other than to appoint administrators over Massarella Gelaterie. Massarella Catering Group can confirm it and its remaining subsidiary companies are unaffected by this administration.” Massarella Catering Group is a family-run company that traces its origins to an ice cream business founded in 1864 by Italian émigrés to Sheffield. Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, the group operated more than 120 cafes and restaurants throughout the UK.

Peter BackmanSector analyst Peter Backman (pictured) has argued automation and training might be two of the keys that will allow hospitality to move away from its low-pay structure. In a weekly note, he stated: “A headline in the Financial Times (FT) last week immediately got my hackles up – ‘Hospitality pays for low-value view of labour’. Where, in this headline, is the recognition that hospitality merely sits on the border of unprofitability? There is a lot of hospitality about (because, for example costs of entry are low, and lots of people want to do it) and it’s inefficient (delivering hospitality relies on people, who want to do things their way, and it requires lots of customers who have many different needs and many expectations). That means in order to ‘deliver hospitality’ much money is spent on managing people, dealing with special situations, putting things right that have gone wrong and so on. But limited profits sorely constrain the opportunities to develop something better. There is a limited amount of money in the hospitality ‘system’, but lots of people spending what there is. That means people in hospitality are not paid much. Is this really a sign of low value being placed on their efforts? It is more likely a sign there is no money available to reward them more – despite the high value placed on their efforts. Hence my hackles on reading the FT headline. But there are ways to lessen the costs of inefficiency and thus provide the flexibility to raise the price put on the value of the labour employed. Some examples: train, educate, think about making life easier (close the business on Monday when nobody comes in anyway, and give the workers the day off), invest in automation (to reduce inefficiencies – and to employ fewer people, leaving more money to reward those who are employed – it is not the job of hospitality to solve the unemployment situation so there is no need to be squeamish about reducing the numbers of employees), reduce churn (through using all of the above). And of these, the most significant are train and educate.”

McDonald'sMcDonald’s has unveiled plans to hire 20,000 more workers and open up to 150 high street restaurants in the UK and Ireland. The company is set to open 50 new outlets in 2021 and another 100 over the following two years according to UK chief executive Paul Pomroy. McDonald’s race to expand comes amid widespread doubt over the future of urban areas, with many workers saying they are not keen to return to offices full time and high streets already struggling due to the rise of the internet. McDonald’s has a big footprint in traditionally high traffic areas such as train stations and shopping hubs, but there are questions over how busy these will be when covid restrictions are lifted. Pomroy said the company was now looking at more regional locations. He said: “People are using their local high streets in a different way, because they’re working from home at the moment, and I think local high streets will continue to be part of the fabric of the UK. It’s up to us to make sure there are reasons for people to visit.” Pomroy admitted it was “getting harder and harder to recruit”. McDonald’s has also sought to move past criticism over the culture within its restaurants, in particular allegations of harassment and bullying. McDonald’s in April said all its two million staff would have to take anti-harassment training. Pomroy said: “We’ve got an amazing track record of doing the right thing. But there are moments in anyone’s life where something happens that lets an individual down and that’s not right.” A significant proportion of McDonald’s products are sourced in Ireland and the company buys about 40,000 tonnes of Irish beef every year. Its cheese is also Irish. Pomroy said there had been no impact from ongoing customs issues between the UK and Brussels over the Irish Sea. He said he was hopeful a deal to allow for frictionless trade would be struck, adding: “I still believe that eventually common sense will prevail.”
McDonald’s features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is now available to Premium subscribers. McDonald’s is the most profitable company in the database with a pre-tax profit of £405,000,000 in its most recent year, converting 28.9% of turnover to pre-tax profit. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up. The Blue Book provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranks companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors earnings and highest paid directors

Starbucks Intu Milton KeynesStarbucks received a tax credit worth £4.4m in the UK because of losses in 2020, despite the coffee chain’s US parent company making a profit during the same period of $1.2bn (£870m). The loss comes after a year in which Starbucks was forced by the pandemic to temporarily close all of its 935 UK shops, leading to a steep fall in revenues. Starbucks uses a complex corporate structure in Europe, and it has faced heavy criticism for its lack of transparency from tax campaigners. Its UK arm made cumulative losses after tax of in excess of £100m between 2010 and 2020. In only four out of 11 years did it report a profit. The UK arm of Starbucks reported it lost £41m during the year to the end of September 2020, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The UK accounts show a “gross profit” of £32m for the year, but then count unspecified “administrative expenses” of £70m. The loss translated into a “negative tax charge” of £4.4m, Starbucks said, meaning it can claim back taxes previously paid on profits. Starbucks’s UK arm paid £1.9m in UK corporation tax in the 2019 tax year, and £4m in 2018. The company said the losses were down to lockdown restrictions. Starbucks was forced to suspend trading, although it did not furlough any of its 4,300 workers or opt to use any government support. The business made no redundancies throughout the period and has subsequently hired 400 new staff. UK revenues for the year dropped to £243m, down almost a third on the year before. Starbucks Corporation, the US parent company, made profits before tax of $1.16bn (£830m) in the year to 27 September 2020, on sales of $23.5bn. Starbucks’s European business paid a dividend worth $183m to the US parent company. Dividends between companies in the same group are not subject to tax. UK coffee shops are run by Starbucks Coffee Company (UK), but it pays royalties to Starbucks EMEA, another UK registered company, which collects earnings from subsidiaries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Heydon Mizon, McMullen’sHertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen is set to open six more sites this year following the launch of its latest venue, in London’s Fitzrovia. The company has reopened the historic Kings Arms after a two-year development. The revamped pub now features five boutique bedrooms along with an Undercroft bar in the basement. The site is the latest development for McMullen following the £2.1m investment to the Old Bank of England in Fleet Street where a classic Routemaster double decker was craned into the courtyard behind the pub. The new but historic cellar bar at the Kings Arms came to existence by misadventure. While exploring the recent purchase, a small exploration hole revealed a hidden vaulted space that extended under the street. Unfortunately, further investigation also revealed significant bomb damage sustained during the blitz. With “a little labour and a lot of love”, it has introduced for the first time The Undercroft. McMullen joint managing director Heydon Mizon (pictured) said: “Hospitality and the team within it are awesome, every problem was embraced with a smile.” McMullen is working on six other developments including an ex-JD Wetherspoon in Whitehall and sites in Trinity Square in London, St Andrews Street in Cambridge, and in St Albans. It is also planning newbuild sites at Campbell Wharf marina in Milton Keynes and in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire. The company said it continues to seek “good quality” freehold and long leasehold property in London and the south east.

Sri Lankan street food operator Coconut TreeSri Lankan bar and restaurant group The Coconut Tree is to open its eighth site, in Reading, later this summer, Propel has learned. The new restaurant is on track to open in the former Zizzi site in the town’s Kings Road. It follows hot on the heels of the group’s most recent opening in Bath, last month and joins its other sites in Cardiff, Bristol, Oxford, Cheltenham and Bournemouth. Brand director Anna Garrod said: “Though trading conditions have been incredibly tough over the past 12 months or so, demand for what we do is still strong. After the wonderful reception to our new Bath opening earlier in the spring, we feel now is the right time for us to keep pushing The Coconut Tree forwards. We are delighted our eighth restaurant will be located in Reading, which has a thriving student population and vibrant community feel. In the UK, Sri Lankan food is not as widely available or understood as say, Indian or Chinese cuisine, and we want to help change that; we want to be the ones to make it mainstream.” The Coconut Tree was originally founded by five Sri Lankan friends living in Cheltenham. Praveen Thanginah, Dan Fernando and Shamil Fernando are the head chefs and oversee the food side of things; while the board of directors is made up of financial director Mithra Fernando, operations director Rodrigo Rashinthe and Garrod.

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate NichollsA new strategy is needed to help bolster the “ailing” hospitality and tourism sector that is now being forced to wait four more weeks to fully reopen, according to a new report. Research by the Federation of Small Businesses has highlighted the “devastating” impact of the pandemic on the UK’s tourism and hospitality sector and its supply chain. The report, A Menu for Recovery, called on the government to develop a new hospitality and tourism strategy, overseen by a minister, “to focus on the underrepresented small businesses in the sector and help lay out future support plans”. The business group has also called for urgent action to extend the hospitality VAT rate reduction to 5% until March 2022, and 100% business rates relief throughout the full financial year for businesses in England. It also wants to make the process easier for businesses that sell food and drink to apply to their local authority for a pavement licence, and maintain the right for pubs, cafes and restaurants to operate as a takeaway. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “Smaller and independent hospitality operators have suffered greatly during the pandemic and the four-week extension of restrictions creates greater uncertainty about their future. These businesses provide valuable jobs across all regions of the UK and really are the lifeblood of the sector. This important report echoes many of our asks as to how the government can best support small businesses to recover from the devastating effects of the crisis. Critically, we must see a publicly-stated commitment that such support will be in place giving businesses much-needed reassurance after what will be 16 months of closure and significantly constrained trading. Otherwise the government risks jeopardises the return on investment that hospitality will offer if given permission to trade freely.”

James Watt, BrewDog Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has announced plans to launch an independent review into allegations of a “rotten culture” at the business, with co-founder James Watt (pictured) apologising for a series of mistakes saying it was “100% my fault”. Watt, the main target of a critical open letter from former employees, which described a “culture of fear” at the company, said the business would appoint an independent agency to review “our culture and people practices to ensure we can make positive and inclusive change”. In a letter to staff, subsequently posted on Linkedin, Watt said: “I know the events from the past few days have caused a lot of pain for all of our team members and our community and I can only apologise for that. I am ultimately responsible for the culture of our business. The letter that ex-colleagues wrote to us is 100% my fault. To all of the signatories and to all of our team and community who were affected by the letter, I am sorry. I want to be very candid about some mistakes that I have made that have detrimentally impacted our culture. In the hard and fast environment of high growth, I have all too often neglected many important people elements of our business. Furthermore, despite surviving covid-19 due to a phenomenal effort from our amazing team I had to make some very hard decisions to ensure our survival and these decisions have taken a considerable human toll on our business and had a negative impact. Additionally, some PR mistakes that I have made in our past have also had a detrimental impact on culture. I can promise I will not make these mistakes again. I can’t possibly have all the answers at the moment but my commitment to our team is that I am going to throw my heart and soul into working with them to fix these issues. We can and will get better as an employer and here are the first steps we are taking on that journey. We’re going to start by listening to everyone. We’ll conduct an anonymous staff survey to paint a comprehensive picture of the BrewDog culture at every level. We are also very close to appointing an independent agency to conduct a review of our culture and people practices to ensure we can make positive and inclusive change at all levels of our business. We’ll share the high-level findings of the review internally and externally before the end of the year and as part of the process and we will also reach out to the people who signed that letter to give them a voice. We will move quickly, but we also want to take the time to get this right. We are finalising action plans with each team on the output and feedback from the anonymous Times Top 100 survey, our plan is to share the key themes with our teams in the next week or so, and to be very clear on the specific actions we are taking in the areas highlighted for improvement. It is clear there are some areas of our business where we are too lean. We are conducting a full review with each department head of team structures over the coming weeks, to identify the key pinch points, and to put a plan in place to properly resource these areas. There are some elements of our package and benefits that due to complexity and regulatory issues, we have struggled to ensure are in place in all international parts of our business. We are actively resolving these issues as we speak and we will update our international teams directly on progress. Exit interviews will be sent to all leavers from the past 12 months, this will happen in the next 14 days. Exit interviews will be introduced for every single leaver moving forward also. We intend to listen better to every voice and welcome all feedback as an opportunity to improve. Our annual salary review from January was postponed as a result of the ongoing impact of the covid lockdown at the start of the year. We are now scheduling for this to happen, with our aim to have changes in place for the 1 July. We are pulling together plans to form an employee representative group. Designed to ensure that moving forward our employees have a clear voice, and a connection directly to those in the business making strategic decisions about the future direction of BrewDog. To ensure we have the correct resource and guidance in this area, to make it very clear how our teams can progress and develop their careers in BrewDog, and to set a clear learning and development strategy for the months and years ahead, we have started recruitment for someone to lead this area within the HQ Beer part of our business. We have also recently appointed a head of training for our bars business, who will soon join us also. These are just the first steps, and we’ll keep everyone updated with further actions that result from this listening and learning phase. The correct way to approach this situation, is to focus all our energy on how we can use this as a platform to think differently, challenging ourselves to build a team and company that we can all continue to be very proud to be a part of. Although this situation hurts a lot I am determined to ensure that we use it as a catalyst to become a better business.” The open letter, from a group of former employees calling themselves Punks with Purpose, accused Watt of propagating a culture of fear that had left many former workers “burnt out, afraid and miserable”. In response to Watt’s latest statement, it said: “While we hope this statement can bring some measure of closure to former staff, we have seen hollow apologies in the past. We are not going away.” The number of former BrewDog staff who have signed the open letter has grown from 60 to more than 300 since it was first published last week.

Za’ta, the London-based Lebanese fast food concept founded by Lebanese national, Francis Zahar, and former Pret A Manger and EAT executive Ed Grimes, is aiming to grow to a ten-strong estate in the next year – and has its sights on eventually growing international. The concept launched in Baker Street in September last year and is inspired by the recipes of Zahar’s mother, Nadia. The menu includes a selection of hot and cold mezzes, meat and vegetarian and vegan dishes as well as breakfast snacks, fair trade organic coffee and sweet treats with a focus on the famous Lebanese man’oushe. And despite the interruptions caused by the pandemic, Zahar and Grimes have just started looking for a second site for the concept, which they believe has the format for a rapid rollout. Grimes told Propel he hopes a new site will open in September and is eyeing the City as well as the Gloucester Road and Kensington areas of the capital. He said: “Because we offer a more grab-and-go format, serving people who are in a bit of a hurry, Za’ta can work in a variety of locations. As workers return to the office, the City really appeals to us and we can have a similar set-up to what we have in Baker Street. We are also looking at the outlying London suburbs where we can catch those people who are working from home, or are out and about, and want good food, quickly. We think we can open ten sites in the next year – we have the platform in place that will allow us to move quickly. While our immediate focus is on London, we very much think there is a market for us outside the capital and, in the future, internationally.” Zahar, who met Grimes in London three years ago, said: “The food we serve is the food I eat at home and we treat our customers the same way I would treat people who were coming to my home. We’re serving complicated food but in a fast way and at an affordable price. This is unheard of in the market we are operating in.”

Premium casual dining group, Gusto Italian, has appointed Ann Elliott to its board as a non-executive director. The Matt Snell-led brand, which currently has 12 sites across the UK, said Elliott would work with the board on driving strategy and growth. Snell said: “We’re delighted Ann is joining our board as a non-executive director, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience from the industry. Ann will support us in our expansion plans and in our aim to redefine the landscape of Italian casual dining. Ann’s main role will be to act as the voice of the guest across our board and make sure that we stick to our strategy of owning special occasions and delivering premium experiential food.” Elliott, founder of Luminary Talent and co-founder of Plan B mentoring, also sits on the boards of Wireless Social, Hall & Woodhouse and Tossed. She said: “Gusto is a brilliant brand that I have admired for many years, with an exciting future ahead of it. I’m so pleased to be part of it and support it in its growth.”

Gusto features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is now available to Premium subscribers. Gusto turned over £32,353,000 in its most recent financial year, making it the 102nd highest company turnover in the sector. Gusto has turned over an average of £26,805,400 in the past five years.

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Kanada-Ya is opening the third site in the capital for its eponymous brand, in IslingtonLondon-based ramen concept Kanada-Ya is set to open its fourth restaurant in the capital, in Ealing. Propel has learned that Kanada-Ya, which is led in the UK by Tony Lam and Aaron Burgess-Smith, has lined up an opening in the Filmworks Walk scheme, with Neat Burger rumoured to also be taking a site there. Earlier this year, Kanada-Ya announced it planned to open three new sites in London this year, including two new restaurants. The brand launched a delivery kitchen site in Greenwich in March. The group currently operates restaurants in Covent Garden, Haymarket and Angel. Founded in Japan, Kanada-Ya opened its first site in the UK in 2014. It also has locations in Spain and Hong Kong. Lam and Burgess-Smith also operate the Machiya restaurant in Soho.

James ShaplandJames Shapland, the co-founder of Coffee#1, the Caffe Nero-owned brand, has lined up the first opening in England for his new coffee concept, Coffi Lab. The business, which is led by former SA Brain finance director Hannah Gillard, has secured the former HSBC in Marlborough High Street for an opening later this summer. Propel revealed last week Coffi Lab would launch its debut site this summer on the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Monnow Street, Monmouth. Propel understands the fledgling business has also applied to open a further site in the High Street of the Llandaff area of Cardiff. 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.

Gail's BakeryTom Molnar, chief executive and co-founder of Gail’s Bakery, has told Propel the business has seen “strong interest” as it looks for a new investment partner to help drive it forward. Last month, Sky News reported sector investor Luke Johnson was set to make a fresh attempt to sell Gail’s, having backed the business for ten years. But Molnar said it was not a “sales process” – but an opportunity to “reset the investor group”. He said: “We’ve had ten years with the same investors and now it’s time to provide them an exit and identify new investor partners aligned with our team’s plans for the future. The management team has a large stake in the business – and that is not going to change. For us to be successful, we need to have a strong management team working with an evolving set of value-adding investors. We have had great support from Luke and Risk Capital Partners but it is the right time to make changes to set us up well for the next ten years. I started looking early in 2020, but covid disrupted the plans and we had to put all of our energy into the immediate needs of the business. Over the past two months, we decided it was the moment to push forward again. There’s strong interest in the business but I need to make sure we find a good match with our ambitions and beliefs. We believe there is a lot of opportunity to improve the quality of baking in the UK, celebrate some great local producers and build more sustainable food supply chains. The UK consumer deserves to have access to the best food, coffee and baking in the world and we have a strategy to help deliver this.” Gail’s has just opened a site in Reigate, Surrey, for its 69th site to date. The outlet is located in the former Lloyds Bank premises in High Street. Gail’s has also secured a property in nearby Godalming and is set to open the High Street site, which was previously vacant, in the next couple of months. The company was founded in Hampstead in 2005 and is run by Molnar and managing director Marta Pogroszewska. Johnson invested in the business in 2011 and has previously looked at the possibility of selling his stake on at least two occasions.

Gail’s features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book database, which is now available to Premium subscribers. It is ranked the 32nd most profitable hospitality company with a profit of £3,489,000 in its most recent year, converting 3% of turnover to pre-tax profit.
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Chipotle is set to further add to its UK presence with an opening in Canary Wharf, Propel has learned. The company, which recently opened new restaurants in Chiswick and Clapham, is understood to have lined up the former Caffe Nero in Jubilee Place, for an opening later this year. It will become the brand’s 12th opening in the UK, and fourth in 2021, as the business looks to ramp up its expansion plans here. In February, Propel reported that Brian Niccol, chairman and chief executive of Chipotle, said the company was ready to move forward with its UK business. Speaking after the company’s fourth-quarter update, Niccol said: “We’ve got some plans in place for places that we already have our foot in the door. So, think of the UK, France specifically. And so, you’re going to see us starting to really use our stage-gate process to move those markets along.” Since then, the business has opened new sites in Chiswick and Clapham, while it has also launched its second delivery kitchen in London in conjunction with Foodstars, in Bermondsey. Talking at a US conference last week, Niccol again touched on the brand’s ambitions for the UK and Europe. He said: “I’m very excited about what our learning plans are for Europe. I feel like we’ve now put the digital system into Europe, which gives us a new tool as part of our opening approach. And now we also have varying formats, you know, from small to the traditional size Chipotle that you’ve seen – as small as a dark kitchen, only all the way to a full Chipotle. We just opened a restaurant, I guess it was about two weeks ago in Chiswick, and then we’re about to open a new one in Clapham. Our plan was to do this about a year ago to have these things built and already have a year of learning in it but, you know, we’re probably 18 to 24 months out before we get great learnings from the sites we’re opening, but I think it’s the right disciplined approach. We’re a week or two into some of these openings and they’re off to a good start.”

Sports bar operator Rileys has seen sales at its core portfolio of 13 sites grow 9% in the three weeks since reopening against 2019 levels – and is 33.7% ahead of target, Propel has learned. Prior to reopening and during the third lockdown, Rileys completed the refurbishment of its Victoria and Coventry clubs. In 2020, Rileys refurbished its site in Swansea. In addition, Rileys refurbished its clubs in Liverpool, Harlow and South Benfleet prior to 2020. As a result, half of Rileys’ estate is now refurbished. Rileys said it intends to continue to invest in its estate to grow the business. The recently refurbished clubs include English and American pool tables and snooker. They are also the first Rileys sites to include electronic dartboards. Comprising four lanes, players can choose from a selection of games. Chief executive Craig Mayes said: “We have made significant changes to our operating model, which, in turn, is generating strong sales levels. The third lockdown presented a one-off opportunity to make a significant investment in our two flagship clubs in London Victoria and Coventry. These clubs were our best-performing sites so to see them delivering further growth demonstrates the untapped potential in Rileys. This, together with strong year-on-year performance in the rest of the business, is fantastic restart post-lockdown for our investors, customers and team members.” In addition, Rileys, which is owned by Weight Partners Capital, shows live sport on HD screens around the club, as well as offering a dedicated sports zone serving food with a large cinema-style HD projector. Competitive sport also happens within the clubs by hosting local and national pool, snooker and darts competitions including the Professional Darts Corporation qualifiers.

The Rhumshack Group, the company led by Chris Singham, the owner of the Cottons Caribbean Rum Shack concept, is set to open a new all-day venture in London’s Camden, Propel has learned. Called Camden Social, it will be located in Jamestown Road, on the former Byron site. Expected to open next month, it will be a new all-day dining and brasserie concept. Singham launched Cottons in 1985, and it currently has sites in Camden, Notting Hill, Shoreditch and Vauxhall. The group recently opened Tai Pan Alley (pictured) in Camden, which is a collection of independent outlets, showcasing “the very best of Asian home-style cooking”.

Thai street food concept Thai Express has lined up three new openings, including its first in Scotland, Propel understands. The company, which was founded in Canada and made its UK debut in 2012, currently operates seven sites in the UK, including a site within bowling alley, ping pong and karaoke concept, Lane7, in Leicester. Propel understands Thai Express, which is headed up in the UK by Uzma Pattani, has lined up an opening in the Edinburgh St James Quarter scheme, in the St James Square area. It is thought it could, like its Leicester site, be opened at a potential Lane7 site in the scheme. Thai Express, which operates more than 200 sites worldwide, is also thought to have openings lined up in Camden and at the Fosse Park, Leicester.

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