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Thu 18th Dec 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

M&B – more than one million people set to dine out on Christmas Day: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has released research that found more than one million people are due to dine out on Christmas Day – and it is seeing a 20% increase in bookings this year compared to last year. The company reports it has 72,000 turkeys, 2,500 tonnes of potatoes, 235 tonnes of Brussels sprouts and 103,000 mince pies on order. Of the 250,000 meals already ordered at M&B brands, sales of chocolate brownies are outselling the traditional Christmas pudding, and at Harvester, its largest brand, nearly 50% of the meals set to be served will not be turkey. The company reported that the average family spends £178 to cook at home on Christmas Day and that it takes an estimated nine hours to prepare, cook and clear away a traditional Christmas Day feast. A spokesman for M&B stated: “It’s no wonder that Brits across the country have made the decision to ditch the dish cloths this year – the pressure of serving multiple courses to the extended family means chefs at home could be cooking up a lot of stress.” M&B said its top ten booking hotspots are Birmingham, London, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool, Sheffield, Sutton Coldfield, Glasgow, Nottingham and Coventry. The gift of Christmas dinner is also increasing in popularity with M&B reporting that sales of gift cards that can be used within its pubs and restaurants expected to attract £500,000 in sales, up 34% from last year. Catriona Kempston, marketing director at M&B added: “We are a nation of bakers, but now more than ever time spent with our loved ones is coming first and though the tradition of cooking at home is still prevalent, the hours that can be given back by dining out this Christmas is outweighing it.”
 

Industry News:

UK consumers embrace mobile payments: Almost half (47%) of mobile phone users in the UK would like to use their device to pay for goods and services, equal to more than 23m people interested in mobile payments, a survey has revealed. According to the results of a poll of 1,000 UK adults by Oxygen8, the integrated mobile solutions provider, 5.3m people in the UK (11%) would stop using their credit and debit cards if they could pay with their mobile phone. A further 17.9m people (36%) would like to use both cards and mobile phones as payment options. Taken together, the report said this meant 23m Britons would be interested in using their mobile device "to purchase anything, anywhere". British men were also much more likely to buy a coffee via an app because they made up 70% of the 1.54m UK consumers who used the Starbucks app.
 
Stricter controls have moved Newcastle upmarket says councillor: A Newcastle upon Tyne councillor has claimed stricter control in the city, including the late-night levy, is moving the city’s nightlife upmarket. The authority’s licensing team said it had seen dramatic improvements since minimum unit pricing was introduced. Stephen Powers, deputy cabinet member for community safety for Newcastle City Council, said: “We are an internationally recognised and attractive city which is why we are getting high-end operators to the city and multi-million pound investment. Due to the fact that money is being spent, other bars are also wanting to keep up their standards so it’s a knock-on effect. We are keeping out premises that we don’t want to see operating here. Cheap trebles bars are not really welcome in this city and our licensing policy is reflective of that.” Money from the controversial late-night levy charge has also helped introduce new safety measures, including the computerised screening of customers at Tiger Tiger and Perdu nightclubs. The levy also pays for taxi marshalls, street pastors and the city’s "safe haven" point, used by revellers who need assistance on a night out.

Heineken meets Greg Mulholland to discuss 'market rent only’ plan: Heineken, which owns the 1,200-strong Star Pubs and Bars business, has held a meeting with the Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland over the “market rent only" clause in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to become law, which would threaten the pub tie. Mulholland said: "It was a useful meeting with Heineken discussing the Small Business Bill and the market rent only option. Heineken’s particular concern was their right as brewers to continue to sell their own beer in their own pubs. I made clear that it has never been the intention of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign to prevent brewers selling their own beers in their own pubs, which is precisely why I included the part of the clause that allows them to do so, even with the market rent only option in place. I made it clear to Heineken that I and we are willing to work with them and look forward to continuing discussions about this.” Jeremy Beadles, corporate relations director, at Heineken, said: "Greg Mulholland, on behalf of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign, provided welcome clarity that it is not the intention of the Bill and Clause 42 to stop brewers being able to sell their beers in their own pubs. We have agreed to work together to seek to ensure that this important principle is included in the legislation."
 
Online beer sales treble as consumers demonstrate their thirst for craft beer: A leading online beer retailer, Ales by Mail (ABM), has released figures that show consumers placed twice as many online orders for craft beer during November compared to last year, with sales values up by 300%. Ales by Mail's managing director, Paul Kruzycki, said: “These latest figures reveal the growing importance of e-commerce to craft brewers as well as the increase in demand from consumers. We’ve seen a steady rise in online craft beer sales year on year, but there’s no doubt that as we’ve reached the latter stages of 2014, we’ve witnessed a real tipping point. We’re trusted to deliver the online sales logistics for some great craft breweries, including BrewDog, Meantime and Tiny Rebel and will shortly be working with Hall and Woodhouse, but we’re also taking enquiries from other breweries on almost a daily basis.”
 

Company News:

Tom Sellers opens first pub, former DJ Chris Evans site: The chef Tom Sellers, whose Restaurant Story in Bermondsey, South London won its first Michelin star just five months after it opened, has re-opened the long-closed Lickfold Inn, near Petworth, in West Sussex, previously owned by the DJ Chris Evans. Sellers said: “I want to bring back The Lickfold with big impact, introducing some of my own cooking style but still respecting the legacy of a real, proper pub.” Sellers has appointed Graham Squire, who previously worked at Trinity and Bistro Union with Adam Byatt and before that was at Claridge’s for seven years, as head chef at The Lickfold Inn. The inn, which was closed for four years, reopened with the ground floor as a “proper pub” serving craft and local beer, a range of modern and traditional cocktails, and snacks, including Scotch eggs, pork pies and charcuterie. Upstairs is a dining room with capacity for 36, which will be open for lunch and dinner from Monday through to Saturday, and lunch only on Sunday. It will serve a modern British menu using local suppliers. Evans bought The Lickfold Inn in 2007 for more than £1m, but closed down the pub in 2010 after it struggled to make a profit.

Yummy Pub Company reports 56.7% like-for-like growth in first 20 weeks: Yummy Pub Company, led by Tim Foster and Anthony Pender, has reported 56.7% like-for-like sales growth in the first 20 weeks of its financial year. Foster said: “The magic 50% mark has been well and truly smashed. It also marks the period, in just 24 months, where we have now doubled turnover in the pubs with only adding one new site to the fold 16 weeks ago. Average weekly sales are being reported in six digits, week in week out. Are we making a bundle? Nope. But we’ve put ourselves in a position to grow into 2015 with new sites coming in quick succession. The pipeline is built [and] the strategy is agreed. What’s not to love in the pub game?"
 
Whitbread hits sustainability targets early: Whitbread has reiterated its commitment to green growth with a 2014 corporate social responsibility report that shows significant progress with its sustainability initiatives. The company has already exceeded its 2017 target for water reduction and looks well set to hit targets for energy and waste. Whitbread said it was now developing new reduction programmes and targets for all three areas, due to be announced next year. In relation to energy consumption, for example, Whitbread is targeting a 25% reduction in carbon emissions by 2017 and 10% carbon reduction in its supply chain. Relative to sales, Whitbread's carbon emission efficiency has improved by 10.3% year-on-year while the company opened 3,540 new bedrooms, 114 coffee shops and eight restaurants. The firm has achieved a 32.8% reduction in carbon intensity from its 2009 baseline, hitting its target three years early. Whitbread's existing estate contributes more than 200,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. Since 2010, the company has spent more than  £20m on energy efficiency projects across its entire portfolio. Since 2009, the company has doubled the amount of renewable energy purchased to 32% of all the energy it buys, reducing Whitbread's dependency on fossil fuel-generated electricity. In 2010, Whitbread opened two of the UK's greenest budget hotels, in Burgess Hill and Staffordshire. On average, the two properties use 40% less energy and water than Premier Inns of a similar size. The company said it was now taking the lessons from these new-builds to apply across its existing estate of 670 Premier Inns and 40-plus restaurants.
 
Irish Times – high-profile Irish publicans lobbied Heineken over Wetherspoon pricing:
The Irish Times has reported that a number of Dublin publicans lobbied Heineken over the pricing of its beer at JD Wetherspoon's Dublin pub before the high-profile fall-out between the brewer and the British pub chain last week. Wetherspoon delisted Heineken products from its 926 pubs this week after a row over the supply of beer to its new Forty Foot pub in Dun Laoghaire. The company had been selling Heineken’s premium lager brand for €2.95 a pint in its only other Irish pub, the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock, before the row, undercutting the price typically charged in Irish pubs by more than 40%. The Irish Times reported that several high-profile Dublin publicans have contacted Heineken in recent weeks directly or through its sales reps in relation to Wetherspoon’s pricing policy. Dublin publican Charlie Chawke confirmed to the newspaper he had contacted Heineken Ireland recently to enquire if Wetherspoon was receiving a preferential rate from the brewer. Chawke, who owns seven Dublin pubs, including the Orchard in Rathfarnham and the Bank in College Green, said Heineken assured him the product was being sold at the same price to all customers. Asked about Wetherspoon’s pricing policy, he said: “I couldn’t sell it at that price and make a profit and pay my rates, my bank charges, my staff and everything else.”
 
Restaurant Group unveils dates for Northampton double opening: The Restaurant Group has unveiled opening dates for two new restaurants in Northampton. The town's first Chiquito restaurant will open at the end of May next year. The company is also planning to open a Coast 2 Coast restaurant on the same site, near to Cineworld, in June. The two new restaurants would create about 60 new jobs, and a spokeswoman said the Restaurant Group would be recruiting in the next few months. The restaurants will go on the site of the former Red Hot Buffet restaurant, which was destroyed in a fire on December 18 last year.

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar launches third site at Whole Foods store: Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, led by Ross Shonhan, has opened a third site, this time in the Whole Foods Market on Kensington High Street in West London. The restaurant is open all day, from 11am, for lunch and dinner within store hours and incorporates a bar and a cocktail menu. Shonhan said: “Bone Daddies High Street Kensington is an honest, no-nonsense, accessible approach to the various casual dining options found in Japan. It made perfect sense to partner with Whole Foods, a brand which, like Bone Daddies, has great integrity when it comes to food and satisfying customers.”
 
Dylan’s secures government funding for second site: The Anglesey-based restaurant company Dylan’s has secured Welsh government funding for its expansion plans in Gwynedd. The owners of the seafood restaurant in Menai Bridge announced last month they were to open a second site at Criccieth. Now Wales's deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism, Ken Skates, has announced tourism investment support funding of £140,000 for the development at the Morannedd site on the seafront in Criccieth. It is hoped that the building will be ready by May 2015 with the potential to create up to 30 jobs in the first year. Skates said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support this exciting development for Criccieth, this building is such an iconic spot for the area and having its long-term future secured is excellent news for the community, the economy and for the tourism industry in Wales."

Kout Food Group reports operating loss on its eight KFC franchises: The Kuwait-based Kout Food Group, which bought the Little Chef business last year and on Costa Coffee franchises, has reported that its eight KFC franchises turned over £10.2m in the year to 31 December 2013 and made a loss before tax of £280,000. The 74-week period to the end of 2012 saw turnover of £15.5m and a pre-tax profit of £787,000. The company reported sales of the brand were affected in the year because of supply chain issues and two restaurants being closed for eight weeks for refurbishment. The most recent year saw an operating loss of £174,000. Parent company support function costs were charged at £299,000. Accounts filed at Companies House stated: “The company’s medium to long-term plan is to expand through acquisitions.”

BrewDog opens Helsinki site: The Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened a site in Helsinki, Finland, in one of the city’s old bank buildings. The bar, with a capacity for 90 people, will have 18 beers on tap from breweries all over the globe. Cheese and meat platters and Finnish sweet dishes will be available. The new Helsinki bar is BrewDog’s 12th bar launch in 2014. This year the company has opened bars in Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Sheffield, Gothenburg, Dundee, Florence, Cardiff, Ellon, Clapham Junction, Liverpool and Bologna. A new Barcelona bar is opening shortly, and there are plans for a Berlin bar early next year.
 
Plans approved for Wimbledon brewery: The Wimbledon Brewery Company has received planning approval from Merton Council in South London to open a 30-barrel brewery at College Fields, Prince Georges Road, Wimbledon, with one of London's most experienced brewers slated to be in charge of production. The brewery, producing cask and keg beers, will be launched in spring 2015. Mark Gordon, a 46-year-old entrepreneur and Wimbledon resident, has founded the new brewery in partnership with Derek Prentice, a former brewer with Fuller Smith & Turner and before that Young's of Wandsworth and Truman's of Brick Lane, who will be head brewer. Gordon said: “The combination of Derek’s expertise and experience together with ingredients of the highest quality will ensure an exceptional product. We aim to be the preferred choice for discerning beer drinkers.” Prentice said: “I am very much looking forward to working with Mark to bring brewing back to Wimbledon. It is an exciting opportunity for me to be in at the very early stages of concept and design so that we can incorporate some of the best features of traditional brewing with modern materials and ideas.” The first Wimbledon Brewery Company was established in 1832 in Wimbledon Village, opposite what is now the Dog and Fox pub. A five-story tower brewery, it was the tallest building in Wimbledon, until it was consumed by fire in January 1889.
 
McMullen pays bonuses to more than half of tenants: The Hertford-based brewer and pub retailer McMullen has paid over half of its tenants bonuses for driving tied sales above expectations in what has been a good year for the firm and its tenants. The largest of these bonuses was nearly £10,000, with the average bonus being more than £4,000. The bonuses are available for almost all 40 tenants running McMullen pubs across the Northern Home Counties, and are determined by the amount above target that is reached, taking into consideration past performance and geographical area/customer base. Gavin Mansfield, McMullen's tenancy operations manager, said: “While we provide discounts off national list price to all tenants to assist them to price their products in accordance with local market conditions, we are also keen to acknowledge those tenants that exceed our expectations. There were some stellar performances out there this year and it has been a pleasure to return some pretty sizable cheques to our partners.” Tom McMullen, the firm's company secretary, said: “At the end of our financial year we will have returned 26% of our tied income to our tenants by way of discounts and 5% by way of performance bonuses. The tie remains critical to the way we support small pubs outside our predominantly managed business. These arrangements also reflect our desire to protect our 187-year-old brewing heritage and the associated jobs.”
 
London Zoo restaurant wins design award: The £4.6m Terrace Restaurant at London Zoo, which opened a year ago, has won a gold award in the hospitality category at the inaugural London Design Awards. The venue has a double-height 40ft ceiling spanning the dining area and is overlooked by a mezzanine level that leads onto an upper terrace deck designed to give views across the Zoo. The overall seating capacity is 700 covers, which makes it one of the UK’s biggest day visitor restaurants. The Terrace Restaurant includes a clay pizza oven, and an indoor/outdoor coffee bar. SHH designed and oversaw the renovation of the restaurant, which is run by the catering company Ampersand on behalf of ZSL London Zoo.
 
Masterchef finalists launch Asian takeaway in Cardiff: Masterchef finalists Dale Williams and Larkin Cen have launched an Asian takeaway brand, Hokkei, in their home city of Cardiff. The pair said the takeaway experienced a phenomenal start, having to close after 48 hours because of extremely high demand for orders. Williams said: “I plan day by day but in terms of Hokkei we’ve got grand plans to turn this into a chain. I got into business when I was 23 – entrepreneurship is my passion and will continue to be so.”
 
Mitchells & Butlers – we’re working on re-opening franchised pub: Mitchells & Butlers has stated it is working on re-opening the Leg of Mutton and Cauliflower in The Street, Ashtead, Surrey, which shut earlier this month after its operating company, WPC Inns, went into administration in September. The pub is part of M&B’s 62-strong franchised division. The administrator, Menzies, had been running the business but took the decision to close it. An M&B statement said: "We are waiting for the administration process to complete so we can take legal possession of the property back. In the meantime we are working on plans to re-open the pub and have already spoken with operators who are interested in investing in the business." WPC Inns operated the site and five other pubs, in Windsor, Eton and Datchet, before going into administration.
 
Loungers opens 56th site: Loungers, the Bristol based all-day cafe/bar operator, has opened its 56th site, in Peterborough. Argo Lounge opened yesterday (Wednesday) on Bridge Street in the centre of Peterborough after a £550,000 conversion of a former cafe and a neighbouring NatWest mortgage centre. The 4,700 sq ft site has seating for 200 covers split over the ground floor and basement. With the Peterborough opening, the group has reached its target of opening 15 sites in 2014. It plans to open 20 sites in 2015. Loungers' managing director, Alex Reilley, said: "The Stroud and Peterborough sites are both cracking sites in great pitch and we are expecting strong sales from both. We've had a really great run of openings this year and have seen the 2014 sites perform nicely above the average for the group. We're on site in three of the 2015 openings so will hit the ground running next year as we look to exceed our initial target of opening 70 sites by 2017 with 15 months to spare.” It is understood openings in the first half of next year will include Lounge outlets in Sutton Coldfield, Trowbridge, Admirals Quay in Southampton, Bishops Stortford, Frome, Cirencester, Falmouth, and Epsom, with Cosy Club sites due to open in Birmingham and Manchester. An opening at a former bank in Birmingham Road, Sutton Coldfield is set for 14 January. It comes after the opening of Verdo Lounge in Wylde Green, Birmingham. The Sutton Coldfield site is getting a £550,000 refurbishment and its opening will create 25 new jobs.

New brand My Cookie Dough launches in Cardiff: My Cookie Dough, an "on-the-go "dessert brand, has made its debut at St David’s, Cardiff, the largest shopping mall in Wales.  My Cookie Dough serves a range of desserts, led by its cookie doughs, which are baked freshly on site and served warm with ice cream.  Other products include "dough shakes" and sundaes, with recipes developed by the team.  Customers will be able to see their products being made, and collect loyalty points using a fingerprint scanner. The St David’s launch heralds the beginning of a nationwide roll-out for My Cookie Dough, with the founders planning to open five more outlets in 2015. The company will also offer franchising opportunities towards the end of next year. Richard Isom, mall retail and brand partnerships manager at Land Securities, said: “We are continually delivering innovative retail concepts and are delighted the first ever My Cookie Dough has launched at St David’s. We have worked closely with the founders to find the right location, and to provide marketing support to help launch the brand.  We are confident My Cookie Dough will be a success, and are already discussing further opportunities to support the brand’s growth.” Air Dvareckas, director at My Cookie Dough, said: “The team at St David’s has been very supportive, providing advice and expertise, as well as the ideal location. We have had a great start and are looking ahead to 2015 with much anticipation."

Starbucks in US expects to smash Christmas card record:
Starbucks' operations in the United States is predicting record purchases of Starbucks cards on 24 December, citing the trend for customers to push their gift card purchases later and later. Last year, more than two million Starbucks Cards were purchased in the US and Canada on Christmas Eve, equal to nearly 1,500 cards purchased per minute. Ryan Records, vice-president of Starbucks Card, said: "More so than ever before, we have an unprecedented variety of Starbucks Cards available to our customers, ranging from the premium Sterling Silver Starbucks Card all the way through monogrammed cards, which can be purchased for $5. One in every eight American adults received a Starbucks Card last holiday season, and we’re well on track for another record performance in Starbucks Card sales, as we celebrate our 14th year of offering Starbucks Cards.” Since Starbucks Card launched 13 years ago, more than $20bn has been loaded on the cards in the US and Canada alone, with $4bn of that in the past year. Starbucks Cards are now available in 29 countries worldwide with further expansion planned in 2015.

Triyoga opens 8,000 square foot site with Nectar café: London’s leading yoga and wellness group Triyoga, has opened a new 8,000 square foot site on Jamestown Road, Primrose Hill. Originally built as a piano factory, the new home for Triyoga was secured by agent Shelley Sandzer. It has been converted to include a wide range of high quality facilities for Triyoga, including a signature café, which will trade under the name Nectar and will be run by Katia Phillips. Nectar café will offer cold press juices created by The Herball, loose-leaf teas from Postcard Teas and wholesome, delicious food, prepared daily in partnership with the fantastic Chriskitch. Healthy soups and organic, savoury and sweet treats will also be on offer. 
 
Street food operator eyes roll-out: The founder of a new Manchester street food brand, Fat Annie’s Quality Hot Dogs, is eyeing a roll-out. James Stock, a former local authority worker, said: “I worked at Manchester council for the past 10 years and was a senior manager in mental health commissioning. Then voluntary redundancy came up. Even though I liked my job I knew it was the time to do it. In April I left and pretty much flew straight to New York on a man versus food mission, eating at 20 places that were meant to be the best in New York. I brought loads of ideas back with me and knew Manchester needed to start catching up with the likes of London when it comes to street food. I found the butcher that I wanted who could do smoked sausages, as I wanted quality. And I have a cart which can be moved around after a full day in the Northern Quarter. I’m trying to build a classic brand that can rollout into other areas but I’m at the start and doing well. I would love to become an institution in the Northern Quarter. And I would love to expand into other cities and one day have my own establishment.” The cart is currently located opposite the clothing outlet Oi Polloi in Manchester city centre.
 
Retreats Group plans boutique conversion of Welsh hotel: Retreats Group is to convert the former Windmill Twr y Felin Hotel in St David’s, Pembrokeshire, West Wales into a boutique hotel. Once complete, it will have 20 en-suite bedrooms, a restaurant and bar and will be available for exclusive hire for incentive breaks and teambuilding activities in the surrounding Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. The hotel is part of the Retreats Group, which also owns the nearby Roch Castle Hotel and Penrhiw Hotel. As part of the relaunch, Twr y Felin will join a select group of UK Art Hotels, featuring a collection of more than 100 pieces of art and sculpture.
 
Michelin launches premium maps in the US to find the best restaurants: Michelin has created a new series of premium maps to quickly find the top-rated restaurants listed in the latest editions of the US Michelin Guides. The first in the series of this collection, the New York City Map of Great Places to Eat 2015, has gone on sale, and versions for San Francisco and Chicago will be launched the second week of January 2015. The price is $9.95 for each map. Alice Searcy, director of marketing for Michelin Travel and Lifestyle in North America, said: "Consider this new map a shortcut to the shortlist of Michelin-recommended restaurants. This product is designed to give busy residents, business travellers and tourists the quickest route plus vital tips and information to New York City's best restaurants. For the culinary enthusiast, it is one more great resource." The map for New York City uses an A-to-Z index to list Michelin's Bib Gourmand and Michelin-starred restaurants in all five of the city's boroughs. Diners can choose restaurants based on cuisine, price, neighbourhood, and even ambiance and comfort levels. The map also includes street addresses, cross streets and the nearest suggested subway stops.

Flaming Grill serves up festive feast for homeless people: The Spirit Pub Company brand Flaming Grill has delivered a festive boost to residents at two homeless centres in Manchester and Birmingham in the run-up to Christmas. The chain organised for its mobile food van, Blaze, to visit Salvation Army centres in Manchester and Birmingham to serve up Christmas-themed burgers to homeless and vulnerable people living in the two cities. The brand manager for Flaming Grill, Michelle Fisher, said: “The Salvation Army do a fantastic job helping to transform the lives of homeless people in the community. We believe that Christmas should be a time for giving and are pleased that we have been able to offer a helping hand to the two centres.”

McDonald’s in Japan introduces chip rationing:
McDonald's in Japan is having to ration French fries, despite having airlifted in more than 1,000 tonnes of potatoes, as restaurants grapple with a crippling chip shortage. Industrial disputes on the United States West Coast are restricting exports of French fries, leaving Japanese restaurants scrambling to secure fresh supplies. McDonald's said it has already flown in tons of potatoes and has an emergency shipment underway via an unusual sea route, but for now it will only serve small portions of chips. The Japanese arm of the fast food giant said it has "airlifted more than 1,000 tonnes of potatoes as an emergency measure and also shipped 1,600 tonnes by sea from the US East Coast, but this is not enough to offer a stable supply to customers". We will temporarily change our product lineup until a stable supply of potatoes is in sight. It is difficult for us to get potatoes in a sustainable manner due to lagging labour negotiations on the US West Coast," it said in a statement.
 
UK-based Hakkasan set for Las Vegas expansion: Hakkasan Group, the UK-founded restaurant and nightclub company, is buying the Light Group in the United States, which operates 22 nightclubs, day clubs and restaurants. Light Group's owner, the New York-based Morgans Hotel Group, is selling its 90% stake in the company in a deal expected to complete next month. The remaining 10% owned by the Light Group's founders is also part of the $36m acquisition price. Hakkasan Group's chief executive, Neil Moffitt, said the deal would make his company the largest non-gambling entertainment enterprise on the Las Vegas Strip. “The acquisition of a majority stake in The Light Group is another step forward in our ambitious investment strategy to deliver exceptional guest experiences,” he said. Hakkasan operates eight nightclubs and day clubs and seven restaurant brands worldwide. The purchase will add another 22 nightclubs, day clubs and restaurants to Hakkasan's portfolio, including the Light Group's 1 Oak in the Mirage and Light at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Most of the Light Group's nightclubs and dining outlets are inside the Aria, Mirage, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. All of them are MGM Resorts International properties. The casino and hotel company combined forces with Hakkasan earlier this year to form MGM Hakkasan Hospitality to develop and manage hotels with the casinos worldwide.
 
Enterprise Inns chief executive sees annual bonus treble: Enterprise Inns' chief executive, Simon Townsend, earned £880,000 in the year to 30 September, up from £620,000 the year before. His basic salary rose to £434,000 from £384,000 the year before. His annual bonus increased to £308,000 from £111,000 in 2013. Finance director Neil Smith earned £756,000 in 2014, up from £581,000 in 2013. His basic salary was £368,000, up from £355,000, with his bonus increasing to £269,000 from £110,000 the year before. Former chief executive Ted Tuppen earned £480,000 down from £1,024,000 in 2013. Tuppen retired from the board on 6 February 2014, and these earnings relate to this period. After his retirement from the board, he continued as an employee of the company until 19 May 2014. Since then he was paid in lieu of notice on a monthly basis. For the period from 6 February 2014 up until the end of the 2014 financial year, Tuppen’s remuneration consists of £416,000 of salary or salary in lieu of notice, together with benefits of £30,000, salary supplements in lieu of pension contributions of £104,000 and a bonus of £150,000. The bonus related to the period up to 19 May 2014 only. The two sets of payments, those made while he was on the board and those since he stepped down, meant Tuppen’s total earnings were around £1,186,000.
 
New generation coaching inn wins Les Routiers Hotel of the Year: The coaching inn operator Bulldog Hotel Group has been awarded the prestigious Les Routiers Hotel of the Year 2015 award for its Talbot Hotel, Eatery and Coffee House in Oundle, Northamptonshire. The 35-bedroom Grade One listed hotel is designed as an evolution of the traditional coaching inn, with modern design and an offer that combines quality bedrooms and a mix of elements of pub, restaurant and coffee shop – the venue has a Patisserie Valerie-style serving counter that offers made-on-the-premises cakes, muffins, Danishes and other pastries. It has been given the Les Routiers award, based on performance, customer feedback, reviews and recommendations, after a £1.3m refurbishment programme in 2012. Bulldog's managing director, Kevin Charity, said: “Our aim is to be the best independent operator of regional hotels in the country and this award is testimony to the success of our continued investment programme and dedication to the highest standards of customer service. The Talbot was given an extensive facelift recently and the feedback from our customers and staff has been tremendous.” The hotel, a former coaching inn owned by Greene King, and acquired by Bulldog in 2009, has welcomed guests since 1626. It holds TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence and a top-rated venue accreditation from the wedding planning website weddingdates.co.uk. Les Routiers’ Tina Griffiths said: “Hotel of the Year is awarded to members who consistently demonstrate exceptional levels of service and quality. Based on performance, customer feedback, reviews and recommendations, it is a mark of excellent cuisine, warm hospitality and value for money.” Bulldog Hotel Group has seven individually styled hotels in the UK, with a total of 230 bedrooms and run-rate turnover of more than £10m. The group plans continued acquisition and investment to expand its portfolio of quality coaching inns. Charity said: “2014 has been a fantastic year for the business, and follows a period of consistent and profitable growth. Our plans for 2015 are to continue this development, and as such we are currently exploring numerous opportunities to expand our estate.” In September, Propel reported Bulldog turnover rose to £8,284,000 in the year to 31 March 2014 from £5,999,000 in 2012/13. Pre-tax profit climbed to £271,000 from £55,000 the year before. The current financial year will see a full-year contribution from the 62-bedroom Three Swans in Market Harborough and the Old Bridge Inn and Coffee House in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, which saw a “transformational” investment in March this year. Ebitda across the company's seven sites is forecast to hit £1,860,000 in the current financial year with pre-tax profit of around £750,000.

 
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