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Fri 22nd Aug 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Transport for London eyes fine dining experience on London Underground: Transport for London (TfL) is looking to set up a fine-dining experience on the London Underground using an antique coach and a 90-year-old locomotive. TfL acquired a heritage coach in 2010, the last one on which the entire Royal Family travelled together. The company said: “TfL is now considering an option to fully restore the kitchen and dining facilities and to turn it into a fine dining experience which would operate across the London Underground.” The coach would be pulled by ‘Sarah Siddons’, an historic fully restored electric locomotive originally built in 1923. TfL is now seeking a partner with experience in fine dining to assist with the restoration and to operate the dining services. The partner will need to have “appropriate knowledge, skills and experience in this niche market, together with the capability and capacity to operate within TfL’s operational parameters”. To register an interest, companies are invited to apply online by 12 September 2014.

Industry News:

HMRC cancels Machines Games Duty late payment penalties after computer mistake: HMRC is cancelling all penalties issued to date for late filing of Machine Games Duty (MGD) returns and late payment of MGD itself because many of the penalties have been issued incorrectly by its automated system. HMRC will also refund any penalties that customers have already paid. Where a customer has asked HMRC to review their penalty or appealed against it, the review/appeal is now closed as HMRC has cancelled the penalty. In a statement, it said: “HMRC wants to provide their customers with good service and for them to have certainty about their MGD affairs, and HMRC are sorry for any worry their mistake has caused. For a short period HMRC will not issue any new automated penalties for late filing of MGD returns and late payment of MGD. HMRC will restart issuing automatic penalties as soon they can be sure that their systems are working properly.”

Local authority gives developer £300,000 to turn pubs into flats: South Lakeland Council has revealed it has provided £300,000 in grants to a private landlord to help him convert two former pubs in Kendal into flats. The authority said the cash has been made available under a scheme to support owners of non-residential properties who want to turn them into affordable housing. Grants up to £25,000 per new home are on offer. In return, rents must be set at affordable rates for a minimum of five years and tenants selected from the council’s housing register. Remaining costs are met by the owner. The aim is to help regenerate town centres by reducing empty properties and encouraging people to live in them at rents significantly below open market rents. Last year SLDC granted £150,000 to landlord Bob Hogben to help him develop six affordable flats at the former Victoria Tavern in Longpool. Now Hogben has been given a further £150,000 to develop five one-bedroom flats and one two-bedroom flat for use as affordable housing at the former Prince of Wales Feathers in nearby Wildman.

Blackpool Pubwatch looks to shape alcohol strategy by conducting own research: Blackpool Pubwatch is trying to shape alcohol strategy in the town by conducting its own research on the night-time economy. Chairman Craig Southall, who runs the Yates’s in Blackpool on behalf of Stonegate Pub Company, told Propel: “After the Early Morning Restriction Order in Blackpool, a working group has been set up to decide the alcohol strategy within the town. Research is being undertaken by the council, more specifically their public health arm, into problems with the night-time economy that predominantly focus around pubs. As these groups can sometimes be biased, Blackpool Pubwatch has set up an online survey to go out to users of the night-time economy to get their opinion of what the issues are, possible solutions and general questions on what is happening within the industry. After the first day of being released, we have had over 200 respondents and some of their replies have been quite interesting – especially as 95% of them feel that “the pub is an essential part of the British community” and a worrying 39% think that the minimum price is a good idea.” The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XRTKND9

VisitEngland – 5.1 million Britons plan an overnight trip this Bank Holiday weekend: VisitEngland’s Bank Holiday Trip Tracker Survey reveals today that 5.1 million Britons, 10% of the adult population, are planning an overnight holiday trip in the UK this August Bank Holiday weekend, with four million people (8%) planning on taking an overnight trip in England. This is likely to generate some £1.2bn in tourism spend for the UK economy, £940m of which will be spent in England. The seaside is the most popular destination for those planning to take a day trip (44%), followed by planning a trip to a countryside/village destination (34%), then a trip to a large town or city (21%), while 18% of people plan a visit to a standalone attraction such as a theme park or stately home. James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive, said: “There are four million Britons planning a holiday trip in England this weekend, which is testament to the fantastic product on offer in England. The resulting £940m of spend likely to be generated demonstrates the importance of tourism to the UK economy. With an enormous amount going on this weekend at our world-class indoor and outdoor attractions and a host of events and festivals happening across the country, there is still time to plan a last minute short break or day trip in England to enjoy, whatever the weather.”

Company News:

New steak and lobster brand to debut in Southend next month: A new brand offering ‘affordable luxury steak and lobster’, Bourgee, headed up by a renowned Great British Master Chef Mark Baumann and James Welling, will open in Southend next month. The first Bourgee venue will be a £1 million flagship situated on Southend’s seafront – other venues are already in development and are set to open in 2015. Southend was picked because of the large amount of footfall and current amount of investment in the borough. Steak will be cooked on a Josper grill. Bourgee’s beef is from Northern Spain and lobster is UK-sourced. Baumann said: “We are thrilled to finally see our vision of the Bourgee concept launch in the UK and are confident that our innovative menus, sumptuous and vibrant destinations coupled with our sensible pricing strategy will strike a chord with diners across the country - and prove that there is no reason why superb product, service and venues should not be available to everyone.”

Marylebone Leisure Group to launch cocktail bar concept Barsmith: London operator Marylebone Leisure Group, led by Ben Avigdore and Lawrence Santi, is to launch a new cocktail concept called Barsmith at 18-20 St John Street, Farringdon early next month wit hopes of a roll-out across London. This all-day bar will specialise in house-infused spirits and cocktails, each crafted and created by a team of leading London mixologists. The infusions which include chilli gin, ginger and honey rum, orange tequila and white chocolate vodka are all created in a custom built laboratory in central London. Barsmith also offers a wide range of specially selected craft beers and ales. An evolving concept, Barsmith is aimed at “pushing the boundaries of cocktail innovation”.

Just Pubs and Dining makes £600,000 co-investment with Punch: Just Pubs and Dining, the company led by Justin Wallace and backed by Roger Payne, has re-opened The Honor Oak in Brockley, south-east London after a £600,000 co-investment with Punch. The investment has completely transformed the site, replacing the upstairs kitchen with new toilets and converting the old below ground function room into a gallery kitchen and restaurant. The old first floor office space has been opened into a private dining room and a large function ‘Whisky Room’ as well as creating an enclosed front terrace and rear decked garden space with a small children’s play area. Punch Taverns senior partnership development manager Nick Rowland-Hill said: “My original vision was to open up the rather disjointed floor plan into a large open space but still with distinct zones for eating and drinking and have interesting outside spaces In order to deliver the vision, we needed to find the right calibre of business partner and Justin and Roger are exactly that. This is the epitome of a true business partnership and one we are very excited about.” Justin Wallace and Roger Payne have previously worked together on a number of projects including The Cuban bars in Camden, Bristol and Canterbury and also the large African themed restaurant Shaka Zulu in Camden.

Scottish promoter launches crowd-funding to turn Thames fort into nightclub: The Scottish promoter Minival has launched a crowd-funding campaign via Go Fund Me to raise money to purchase and renovate No 1, the Thames, a 19th century fort off the Isle of Grain, Kent, at the mouth of the Thames estuary, and turn it into a nightclub. The enormous building is completely surrounded by water during high tide, leading Minival to speak of a “Berghain in the middle of the sea”. The fort is for sale at £500,000 and the ambitious project is asking for £750,000 in order to secure the purchase and use the rest of the money to turn the fort into “a safe venue and ready to use for our desired purpose”. The campaign page says: “150,000 people donating £5 each would deliver us this fort from the party gods. Every single donator would be a fort member for life.”

White Brasserie Company brand to open second pub in a month next week: The Brasserie Bar Co, which also owns Brasserie Blanc, will open its second White Brasserie Company branded pub in just over a month next week as part of a plan to open 20 new pubs within three years. The company will open The British Queen in Orpington, Kent, a Spirit leased pub that has seen a major investment to create a new-build dining room and open kitchen to the rear of the premises. The Orpington site follows the opening of The Hare in Harrow Weald, Middlesex last month – The Sun Inn in Chobham will follow towards the end of the year. The pub expansion plan follows new funding from ESO Capital six months ago. The White Brasserie Company already operates two pubs, The King’s Head in Teddington and The Queen’s Head in Weybridge, both of which have shown consistent like-for-like growth from opening.

Bunnychow to open first site in Soho next month: What is claimed to be the world’s first restaurant selling the South African street food bunny chow is due to open in Soho, central London next month. Bunny chow, a hollowed out loaf filled with meat, vegetables and sauces and topped with slaw and pickles, was developed in Durban in the 1940s. Entrepreneur Atholl Milton has been running a Bunnychow truck and pop-up at Boxpark, Shoreditch, East London for more than a year and is now opening a Bunnychow restaurant in Wardour Street with seating for 16. The operation will sell a selection of six bunnys each day from 7am, priced between £4.50 and £6.50, including the Monkey Gland Bunny, meatballs with monkey gland sauce, a traditional South African barbecue-style sauce with peppers and fresh chili; the Bangcluck Bunny, chicken and beansprouts in a Thai ginger sauce; and the Full English Bunny, a brioche loaf with mini Cumberland sausages, bacon, black pudding and baked beans, crowned with a poached egg.

Fitch affirms Greene King finance notes: Fitch Ratings has affirmed Greene King Finance’s class A, AB and B notes at BBB+, BBB and ‘BBB-, respectively. The outlooks on the notes are stable, Fitch said. It said the affirmation reflects the solid performance of the borrower’s total estate over the past year with 52-week May 2014 (FY14) earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rising 4.2% to £198.2m and outperforming the Fitch base case by 4.1%. This is mainly driven by the managed division, with Ebitda rising 10.4% due to both increasing like-for-like sales, up 4.1% between FY13 and FY14, and the addition of 45 pubs during the year, including the conversion of 15 tenanted pubs. On a per pub basis, annual ebitda increased 3% to £209,200, still marginally below Marston’s at around £216,000 and Mitchells & Butlers at around £250,000) The stable outlooks reflect Fitch’s expectation that Greene King’s fairly high quality estate and proactive management will continue to deliver solid performance over the next two years.

Marston’s wins new-build go-ahead in Leek: Marston’s plans for a new-build pub restaurant in Leek, Staffordshire have been given the green light by planners. The company has been given permission to redevelop land at the former Churnet Works, off Macclesfield Road, which is home to the town’s Sainsbury’s supermarket. It comes after the chain withdrew a previous application, which was set to go before members of the planning applications committee in July.

Brokers advise caution on SSP after strong performance: Two leading brokers have advised caution on the shares of the transport hub foodservice specialist SSP after a strong performance since it floated. Goldman Sachs and Jefferies both started coverage of SSP with neutral ratings. Goldman issued a note stating that though SSP can deliver 10% cent earnings growth a year to 2018, a valuation of nearly 19 times current-year earnings suggests the price already reflects the potential. Jefferies, argued that SSP’s 15% discount to Compass looked fair given the latter’s record of hitting targets. Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Merrill Lynch and Barclays all started coverage with buy ratings. The stock, which has climbed 15% since its flotation in June, closed up 1.2% at 245p.

Cote to open in Teddington: Cote, the French brasserie chain owned by the private equity firm CBPE, is to open in Teddington, Middlesex next month on the site of a former bar called the Royal Oak, at the eastern end of the town’s High Street. Recruitment ads for staff say the chain is planning a minimum of 12 new openings in the coming year. The chain is currently up to 53 outlets, concentrated in the South East of England, with other openings planned in Cobham in Surrey, Dorchester’s Brewery Square development and Muswell Hill in North London.

Robinsons reopens pub with premium offer and addition of orangery and fibreglass cow: Frederic Robinson, the Stockport-based brewer and pub retailer, has reopened The Farmer’s Arms in Poynton, Cheshire after a “substantial” 14-week refurbishment that has seen the arrival of a new orangery, ten square metres of wall-mounted flowers, 2,900 multi-coloured butterflies and a life-size fiberglass floral cow. Robinsons’ director Neil Robinson-Stanier said: “The last major refurbishment took place around 32 years ago, and although we have carried out minor design changes over the years, the pub needed an overhaul to meet the retail design expectations of a pub in 2014. The plan was to design a scheme that was full of fun, theatre and interest.” The bar has been rebuilt in walnut with a new back bar area displaying more than 30 connoisseur spirits chosen to complement The Farmer’s Arms’ new premium offering.

Former EastEnders actor takes over Folkestone site: A former EastEnders actor has opened a bar in Folkestone, Kent to which he hopes to attract a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender crowd. Stuart Antony, who played Simon White in the BBC soap, has taken over the former Rokanrolla premises. Bar 24, in Rendezvous Street, promotes itself as “Folkestone’s brand new LGBT venue”, and Antony said: “I’m really optimistic. People have taken really well to it and it’s nice to socialise with them. I’m trying to get a bit of London down here, a Soho vibe. We are hoping to attract a LGBT crowd.”

Spirit Pub Company to invest in former Orchid pub: Spirit Pub Company is to invest in a former Orchid pub, the Fox and Pheasant pub in Gerrards Cross Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire that came under its control on Thursday last week. The company plans to improve the pub’s appearance in October but keep it operating as a carvery. Tom Koasinski, the holding manager, told the local newspaper: “We are definitely going to remain as a pub and a carvery. That will definitely happen and we are also looking at a big investment into the revamp to make it better and nicer.”

Bristol nightclub partners music promoter to open live music venue: A new music venue will be added for Motion nightclub in Bristol, staging music, comedy, theatre and cinema. Named the Marble Factory, it will have a capacity of 550, and will be added to the nightclub’s complex of buildings on Avon Street, behind Temple Meads station. The club has partnered with the South West-based music promoter MJR Group to complete the new venue. Michael Jones of the MJR Group said: “We’re incredibly pleased that we’re now working with Motion to build on the incredible club business that they already have in place. It’s a really special venue with a completely unique atmosphere and I can’t wait to see more great live events take place there. Bristol is thriving at the moment and hopefully working with Motion we can add even more to it.”

Mystery over the future of Marco Pierre White pub site: Mystery surrounds the Pear Tree Inn, Whitley, Wiltshire owned by the celebrity chef and entrepreneur Marco Pierre White, with claims that he has sold it. White, who has owned the pub since 2011, closed the Pear Tree at the start of the month. It was believed the restaurant was undergoing a refurbishment. Wiltshire councillor Terry Chivers, who represents Melksham Without North and lives in Whitley, told ThisisWiltshire: “What I’ve been told by a good source is that the lease has been sold. Over the last week everything has been removed and the whole place has been gutted.” All the Pear Tree’s staff have left the business with its website claiming that it is temporarily closed for the summer and is expected to reopen at the end of next month.

New cocktail concept planned for Reading: A new cocktail bar and nightclub concept, Matchbox, is planed for Reading, occupying the former Bed Bar site in Friar Street. The leisure designer 44th Hill, which designed the Rum Kitchen in Carnaby Street, central London, and Ping, in Earl’s Court Road, Kensington, West London, has been given a blank canvas to create an innovative look described as “industrial New York with a modern twist”. Jack Wrigley, general manager of Matchbox, said: “We want this to be an over-21s weekend-driven hangout and nightclub. The walls of Matchbox will be decorated with a mixture of materials, street art, prints and mirrors. And there will be an element of ‘upcycling’, using items such as old cast iron window frames and French-style street lights.” Customers will have a choice of booths and VIP tables where they will receive waitress service and relaxed seating areas. Matchbox will open in mid-September.

Tom Aikens – ‘I won’t follow in Jamie Oliver’s footsteps on expansion’: Chef-entrepreneur Tom Aitken, who opened his fourth site in St Katharine Docks, by Tower Bridge in London, this week, has insisted he will not follow in the footsteps of Jamie Oliver with a big site roll-out, not least because of the intense competition for good sites. He told the London Evening Standard: “The market is very thin for sites in London, it’s very tricky to land a good location with good footfall. When one comes up, there are probably 15 restaurant groups looking as well, which is why people are moving out of central London. It is so jam-packed, we will see more restaurants filter out to the further parts of London. I don’t want to make it into a cookie-cutter, roll-out restaurant, because I think then you lose your specialness. We’ve been doing, on average, not even one a year, so we’ll just see when sites come up, and if they’re good we’ll look at it.”

Whitbread to expand Brewer’s Fayre site six months after opening it: Whitbread has won planning permission to expand at Brewer’s Fayre site in Barrow, Cumbria alongside a Premier Inn expansion, six months after opening the venue in February this year. The company wants to extend on to the area presently used as an outdoor patio and landscaped area. Under the plans, Whitbread will take on two more full-time members of staff and another six part-timers. The statement submitted to the council said: “Whitbread has prior approval for the phase two development of the Premier Inn. The site would benefit from a likewise extension of the Brewers Fayre, as it provides restaurant, bar and lounge facilities for guests.”

Property firm withdraws Asset of Community Value appeal before tribunal hearing: A property company has withdrawn an appeal against a decision to list a pub as an Asset of Community Value ahead of a hearing by the First-Tier Tribunal’s General Regulatory Chamber. Red Star Estates had appealed to the tribunal against a decision of Walsall Council to list a pub known as the Magic Lantern as an ACV. But just before the hearing was due to take place, Red Star withdrew its appeal. Walsall Council then applied to the tribunal for the costs order. A decision letter issued by the tribunal said the judge could “understand any irritation or frustration which Walsall staff might feel”. But he concluded that he did not consider that Red Star “acted unreasonably in bringing or conducting the proceedings” and the application for costs should be refused.

Odd Group sells Manchester site to coffee chain to allow investment in estate: The Manchester-based Odd Group has sold its Odder Bar student site on the city’s Oxford Road to an unnamed coffee house chain to allow investment in its three other sites. Owner Cleo Farman told Manchester Confidential: “The bar was actually doing all right. It is difficult down there, the area has changed and the student pound has become harder to get hold of. We made changes, putting on more gigs and DJs, and that worked but the bar was creeping away from what I wanted it to be. When the offer came along it seemed like the right time and we couldn’t refuse. I do feel slightly guilty selling to a coffeehouse but this offer will allow us to carry out some new and exciting plans for the brand.” Farman intends to refurbish all three of her other units, expand and rebrand the Blue Pig in the Northern Quarter and put in place plans for something completely new. “We’re refurbishing all the units and completely renovating the interior and exterior of Oddest in Chorlton,” Farman said. “We’ve been looking at expanding Blue Pig for some time now. We want to open out the basement to create a larger bar and event space. I’ve also got something completely new in the pipeline, turning something that isn’t a bar into a bar. I’ve got to keep my cards close to my chest on that one.”

Jack Daniel’s dragged into Russia’s political campaign against Western brands: Brown-Foreman’s Jack Daniel’s brand is the latest to be dragged into tit-for-tat political claims that a Western brand is not meeting Russian consumer standards. Brown-Forman will challenge accusations by Russia’s consumer protection watchdog that the American whiskey violated quality control and marketing standards and must be taken out of stores. In the middle of Russia’s clash with the West over Ukraine, and its campaign against Western-made products, the Sverdlovsk branch of Russia’s state food safety watchdog , known for unveiling violations in goods from countries out of favour with Moscow , claimed to have found “chemical substances not common to whiskey” in certain Jack Daniel’s products last week. Yesterday, four McDonald’s sites in Russia were ordered to be closed after supposed contraventions of Russian food standard laws.

Starbucks introduces cult US drink early: Starbucks has made an early introduction of its cult Pumpkin Spice Latte across the United States. The drink is normally released for autumn. Customers have purchased more than 200 million cups of the drink since Starbucks introduced Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003. The espresso and steamed milk latte includes cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove and is finished with whipped cream and pumpkin spice topping. The seasonal favourite has also gained more than 56,000 Twitter followers through the new social media account @theRealPSL on Twitter. Alexandra Wheeler, vice-president of Starbucks’ global digital marketing, said: “The fanaticism for Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is extraordinary. There’s an incredible love for the sweet and spicy taste of this beverage that’s distinct to Starbucks. Its arrival signals the beginning of fall for PSL super fans.”

Carlsberg UK’s Premier Sports Club goes online: Carlsberg UK’s Premier Sports Club live sport support package for the on-trade has been launched online, allowing members to create customisable digital marketing materials to drive footfall by promoting live sport at their venue. The online platform allows members to create professional quality content for their digital channels, including websites and social media accounts. Members access the site and select the fixtures they want to promote and create Facebook and Twitter content using Carlsberg branded templates. The first phase of the site development allows members to promote Barclays Premier League fixtures at their business. Over the next few months, further sports competitions will be added to the site including the Aviva Premiership, England National Team fixtures and the Tetley’s Challenge Cup. Additional marketing tools will also soon be added to the website allowing members to create email marketing, web banners and content for digital screens. Since launching 12 months ago, close to 4,000 members have joined Premier Sports Club from free-trade, leased and managed operators including Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers, Enterprise Inns, Admiral Taverns, Spirit, Punch Taverns and Stonegate. Kathryn Purchase, director of customer marketing at Carlsberg UK, said: “With increasing numbers of on-trade businesses using social media to promote their outlet, it’s important that suppliers provide trade marketing support that meets their digital aspirations. The key benefit to Premier Sports Club members is the provision of a quick, easy and free to create customisable and professional quality content to promote live sport at their venue.”

Meantime launches ‘Botanical Beer’ in collaboration with Chase Distillery: The London brewer Meantime Brewing Company and Chase Distillery have joined forces to create a one-off collaboration that claims to be the UK’s first modern craft beer to replace hops with a unique blend of botanicals from Chase’s GB Gin. Rich Myers, marketing director at Meantime Brewing said: “The ethos at Meantime is one that draws on the sense of adventure that innovation instils, something we feel is strongly shared by Chase’s team of master distillers who, like us, pride themselves on pushing the boundaries and breaking new ground. Our shared passion for flavour has resulted in the creation of ‘Botanical Beer’ – something we are certain will delight the drinker by offering them a truly unique and full-bodied brew that stands as the perfect example of how far modern craft has come.”

Vapiano to run in-house Olympics: Vapiano, the Italian fresh casual dining group, is to stage its own in-house Olympics for 200 staff across its three London restaurants. The Vapiano Olympics is being organised by restaurant manager Alex Poynter with the dual aim of driving standards and building on teamwork among staff. It will run from 1 September to 30 September and involve daily and weekly challenges for individual staff members and also for the entire staff of each restaurant. The challenges will include using fresh ingredients in the recipes to produce great-tasting pizza, pasta and salads to Vapiano standards as part of a team, with marks awarded for taste and presentation. The Olympics will test each Vapiano team in their recipe knowledge as well as ensuring recipe standards are consistently delivered accurately and quickly. Among the other challenges will be pizza dough tossing and best latte art (drawing with milk foam in coffee). In addition, a Vapiano fan, selected by Twitter, will be asked to review each restaurant individually with points awarded to the restaurant which receives the best review. Vapiano staff members will be asked to create their own recipes, with the opportunity to have their recipe feature on the specials menu across the three London restaurants. There will also be a prize for the winning restaurant ,to be shared among its staff. The competition will be judged by Vapiano’s UK and US managing director, Phil Sermon, and other senior management.

El Capo launches Mexican street food restaurant: The El Capo bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter launches its South American street food restaurant today. The Cellar Cantina, which has 42 covers and will be open Monday to Sunday, picks up on the Mexican theme of the Tariff Street bar with traditional dishes such as Macho Nachos (£5/£8.50) and Chimichangas (£7.75-£10) served alongside tapas dishes such as the pan seared cow’s heart (Mi Corazon, £4.75), and unique desserts of chocolate rice pudding (Manila Galleon, £4) and tequila sorbet (helado, £4).

Five Guys trials customisable milk shakes: The better burger brand Five Guys is testing customisable milkshakes at select locations in the United States Starting with a vanilla shake, guests can add up to ten items, including salted caramel, malted milk, strawberries, bananas, chocolate, coffee, peanut butter, cherries and Oreo cookies.

TLC Inns adds two sites in £1.7m expansion: TLC Inns, the award-winning pub and restaurant operator led by Steve and Jo Haslam, has added two new sites in an £1.7m expansion drive that will see the company grow to ten venues by the end of this year from its current seven. The company, which has produced ebitda of £500,0000 in the first four months of its financial year, has secured the commercial lease on the former Glasshouse, a 5,000 sq ft site in Colchester. It will see a £250,000 investment before re-opening as the company’s fourth Grand Central Bar and Grill in about six weeks’ time. Propel previously reported that the company has invested £640,000 on a site in Ipswich that will see a further £750,000 investment before opening at the end of a year as a Grand Central. TLC’s first Grand Central in Basildon, Essex is currently achieving 30% like-for-like sales growth more than two years after it opened on the site of a former Outback Steakhouse. Haslam said: “Grand Central in Basildon is still seeing phenomenal growth, even though it’s a couple of miles away from the Festival Leisure site in the town. It’s also climbed to third on TripAdvisor.” Meanwhile, TLC Inns has also added its first Charles Wells site to the estate, a former Orchid site, in Ely, Cambridgeshire called the High Flyer, which has 120 covers. There will be a £100,000 co-investment before it re-opens as a carvery. It will be TLC Inns’ third site in the city. Haslam said: “The eating-out market in Ely has exploded. It’s very eclectic with lots of different offers but it doesn’t have a family pub.” Last month, Haslam reported TLC Inns expects sales for its Grand Central brand to exceed an annualised £5m once it reaches four units this summer. He said: “We are planning to double in size Grand Central in the next two years, to at least six units. In addition, we are still actively looking for good pub opportunities.” TLC Inns was founded with three Enterprise Inns sites but has since added two freeholds and free-of-tie leases.

Whitbread expands Whitbread Inns local format to five sites: Whitbread has expanded its Whitbread Inns community-focused pub pilot scheme to five sites, it has emerged. The brand was quietly launched earlier this year but now has its own website, www.whitbreadinns.co.uk. The “local” pub format comes eight years after the company sold 239 stand-alone pub sites to Mitchells & Butlers to focus on sites co-located with Premier Inns. The last new brand launches from Whitbread were the eat-all-you-want buffet brand Taybarns, which grew to seven sites and a re-brand of existing sites to Table Table. The Whitbread Inns template is being tested at five sites across the country, The Bridgewater Arms, Shrewsbury, The George and Dragon, Marlow, The Hobbs Boat, Lympsham, The Globe, Christchurch and The Roundstone, Littlehampton. Menu prices are pitched at the upper value end with starters priced from £2.99, a choice of a dozen pub classic menu items, including a Marston’s Pedigree Steak and Ale pie, priced below £10 and a choice of gourmet burgers. The sites offer a two course evening meal for £9.99, a £4.99 day-time deal and the chance for mothers to eat for free after 2pm on Sundays. Marketing Week magazine, which noted the decision to use the corporate name in the branding, said: “Each location aims to reflect its local surroundings, the business claims, with seasonal cask ales and food positioned as quality alternatives for good value prices. A website has been set up for the brand, allowing visitors to access pictures, menus and contact details for each inn as well as book a table.” A spokeswoman for the business told the magazine: “Whitbread Inns are aiming to bring the classic pub and restaurant feel back to the local community. With five sites across the country, the new Whitbread Inns give locals the chance to experience fantastic great value food and drink full of seasonal flavour and a friendly atmosphere.” The Hobb’s Boat site was formerly a Table Table. At its launch, Matt Kenley, regional manager for Whitbread Inns, said: “We’ve really challenged our thinking with Whitbread Inns. We recognise that sometimes a national brand isn’t what’s needed so we’re giving the Hobb’s Boat back to the local community. We’ve created a fun an inclusive local business whilst retaining the support and security of a big international company.” 

 
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