Sessions confirms cancellation of Manchester project as it ‘moves away’ from food halls

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Sessions confirms cancellation of Manchester project as it ‘moves away’ from food halls

Related tags Sessions Dan Warne Shelter Hall Delivery & takeaway Manchester

Sessions has pulled out of a deal to open a huge food hall in Manchester and closed its Islington food hall Neighbourhood as the business ‘consciously moves away from large capex projects with high operational intensity’.

The food brand licensing platform will retain its original Shelter Hall food hall on Brighton seafront,​ which it says has achieved record revenues and profit over the 12 months to September and remains ‘an important content engine for Sessions’.

Sessions had been due to launch a 30,000sq ft food hall​ in Manchester’s upcoming St. John’s development just past the city’s Spinningfields area that was set to have around a dozen traders. 

The group’s Islington site launched in 2022 as a ‘mini food hall’ with four different brands trading from a single kitchen. 

Six months later it was rebranded to Neighbourhood to host often high-profile single food concepts including Ivan Orkin’s brothless-ramen concept and Eddie Huang’s BAOHAUS.

Towards the end of last it reverted to its previous model, showcasing four Sessions in-house brands. 

An asset light, tech-enabled strategy

Sessions says that neither Manchester or Islington fit in with its ‘asset light, tech-enabled strategy’ pointing to its success with its core business of food licensing. 

In fewer than three years of operation, the Sessions Platform has grown to more than £47m in annualised sales after 300%+ growth in the latest quarter, the group says. 

The Sessions platform identifies food brands and scales them by launching them into existing kitchens under a franchise-like arrangement. 

Unlike traditional dark kitchen models, it adopts a multi-channel approach to licensing, making its brands available on delivery platforms and to consumers in physical venues.

Raising more funds

The group has raised £3.25m from Virgin Money as it seeks to invest further in the development of its technology, while acquiring and scaling more brands. The raise represents additional capital following a £8.1m Series A closed in 2022.

Sessions - which launched in 2019 - says this omnichannel approach, along with supporting 'real authentic concepts' has proved ‘fundamental in its ability to drive consumer sales'. 

“We have always believed in two foundational principles,” says Sessions founder Dan Warne. “Firstly, we support real, authentic food concepts from engaged and passionate founders. Just because a brand might derive most of its sales on delivery, the quality and provenance is just as important as in the physical world; there needs to be a story. Consumers don’t want to buy a brand that’s built in a box.”

“Secondly, we’ve always believed that anchoring our concepts in the physical world breathes life and brand equity into them faster than relying purely on delivery, where you’re at the mercy of the algorithms. We believe these two principles are starting to prove themselves as fundamental, as there is wider acceptance that pureplay dark kitchen models are very challenging.”

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