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Wed 29th Jan 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

More than 60 Newcastle restaurants to take part in Restaurant Week this week after 43% uplift in sales last time: More than 60 restaurants in Newcastle are taking part in Restaurant Week this week, which produced a 43% uplift in sales last year. The event developed from an idea picked up by celebrity chef Terry Laybourne after a visit to New York. It was fine-tuned and is now held twice a year in January and August. Laybourne said Restaurant Week, which started in 2010, leads to a large increase in trade. “No individual or business could have delivered the initiative on their own. Not only would it have been too time-consuming to organise but they would not have had the marketing clout or budget to invest in making it happen. The results speak for themselves. Over 60 of the city’s top restaurants now participate in the event and experience an average 43% increase in sales. As well as the tangible commercial benefit for the participating restaurants, it creates an incredible buzz in the city centre and its restaurants during what were the quietest times of the year.” Just 13 of Newcastle’s restaurants took part in the first Restaurant Week. It offers diners the chance to try new eateries across the city for fixed price menus of either £10 or £15. Sean Bullick, chief executive of local organising agency NE1, said: “Newcastle has a vibrant restaurant scene and hosting events like NE1’s Restaurant Week adds extra vibrancy to the city and helps increase business for these restaurants at traditionally quite times of the year. By working together the restaurant industry has helped grow the market and stimulate trade.” He said figures showed some people visit restaurants in the scheme more than once during the week.

Industry News:

Abokado’s Mark Lilley to present at the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2014: Mark Lilley, founder of the healthy eating brand Abokado, which plans ten openings in 2014, will present at the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2014. He will examine healthy eating trends and what sets the Abokado offer apart in a crowded market. The event will be held on Thursday 13 March at the Lancaster London Hotel, Lancaster Gate, central London. Multi site pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can claim up to two free places each. E-mail to reserve places.

Company News:

Whitbread extends bank facility: Whitbread has extended its £650 million bank facility by two years to November 4, 2018. The deal includes an option for the Premier Inn and Costa Coffee operator to extend the facility by another two years beyond that date, subject to consent of the banks. The pricing of the financing arrangement is unchanged. “[The] continuing support of our core relationship banks for this maturity extension of our loan facility together with our private placement notes meets the medium term funding needs of the group to support our growth programme,” Nicholas Cadbury, finance director, said.

Burningnight Group reports 32% like-for-likes in December, seeks outside investment: Burningnight Group, which operates multi-branded large units in the North of England, saw a 32% increase in like-for-like sales in December. Total sales of £1,275,000 in the month compared to £650,000 for the same month the year before – the figures include a newly-opened 20,000 square foot unit in Manchester Printworks. The wet-led operator offers three brands – Shooters Sports Bar, authentic Bavarian Bierkeller and Around the World in 80 Beers (ATW) – under the same roof. EBITDA for the three units in the financial year to 31 July 2014 is forecast to be £2,550,000. The business is pursuing “aggressive expansion plans” and is seeking outside investment to roll-out the multi-branded bar concept across the UK. Managing Director Alex Hazzard said: “We are destination venues where we create the theatre of the authentic Bavarian Bierkeller alongside an exceptionally polished audio visual experience in our sports bars. Our Around The World brand has proved very successful, offering over 150 world beers, food and entertainment. We estimate that given our offer, average dwell times in our bars is in the region of three hours on weekend evenings”.

Luminar in negotiations to extend Ashford lease: Nightclub company Luminar is in negotiations to extend the lease on its Liquid and Envy nightclub in Ashford, which is nearing its end. The nightclub is located in the 113 year-old flour mills on East Hill and the freehold is owned by neighbours Ashford School. A spokesperson from Luminar said: “This is a popular nightclub and we are currently talking to the landlord about extending the lease.”

Former Wetherspoon acquisitions director and City Bars and Restaurant founders set up property consultancy: Kevin Norman, former director of acquisitions at JD Wetherspoon and Novus, and Terry Pullen, the founder of City Bars and Restaurants, have set up a new out-sourced property acquisitions and consultancy firm, Substantia. The firm is already working for La Tasca and Gail’s Bakery. A website,, launches today.

Peach Pub Company raises £7,000 for Kenyan game reserve project: Peach Pub Company has raised £7,000 for a project aimed at protecting the Masai Mara game reserve. The company has raised money for the project by donating a percentage of takings from dishes on its menus and by doing activities such as sponsored cycle rides. When customers order Caesar Salad, 25p goes towards the fund. This week managers fly to Kenya in a week-long effort to plant a forest to the north of the reserve. The project is being undertaken because thousands of acres of grazing land and forest on the edge of the Mara are being lost every year. By planting 20,000 new trees and building a fence the group hope to reverse some of the damage done. As well as planting trees, they will be taking part in activities to promote sustainable farming, forestry and tourism in Kenya. This will include digging fence holes, building a game-viewing platform, ear-tagging and milking cows.

Boston Tea Party to open venue number 14: Boston Tea Party, the fast-growing Bristol-based coffee shop chain, has signed up to open its 14th venue, and the first in Cheltenham. The new cafe will be at 45-49 Clarence Street, a 3,150 sq ft leasehold space next to Cheltenham’s new museum and art gallery. James Woodward of the property consultancy Sanderson Weatherall, who acted for Boston Tea Party, said: “This acquisition is particularly notable, as Cheltenham has been a key requirement for so long, but without the right building ever coming up.” Sam Roberts, Boston Tea Party’s managing director, said: “James has worked hard to put this deal together and, with the resources of Sanderson Weatherall, I am looking forward to a year when the Boston Tea Party expansion plans continue to gain momentum.” The Boston Tea Party estate now stretches from Barnstaple to Birmingham. 

Micro-pub planned in former Blockbuster shop in Bedfordshire: The first ‘micropub’ in Bedfordshire could open in a former Blockbuster video store in Henlow if planning permission is granted. Under plans submitted to Central Bedfordshire Council, the site in Hitchin Road would be converted into “The Old Transporter Ale House”, 48sqm of drinking space, operated independently of any major brewers. A document submitted alongside the application states: “The British pub as we know it is slowly but surely dying out. All over Great Britain, public houses are closing their doors for the last time at an alarming rate. Sadly, most of the buildings that were public houses will never re-open as a pub again and a lot of them will perhaps be converted to a house or demolished altogether and housing or offices built in their place. To date there are now more than thirty micropubs scattered around the UK, each selling a variety of real ales.”

Marston’s boosts online communication for franchisees: Marston’s has developed its online communications tools to offer greater support to its franchisees. This month sees the launch of a quarterly video news update service and also an online forum for Marston’s franchise members, both housed on Marston’s central communications system. Celene Normoyle, franchise development manager for Marston’s, said: “Our video news programmes provide a round-up of the key news and developments from within the franchise estate and wider business. Internal communication has a fundamental role to play in strengthening our franchise relationships and we wanted to do this in a fun and engaging way. Of course, this doesn’t take away from our daily communications with franchisees, but we were keen to be creative and move away from more traditional channels such as newsletters and emails. Going forward the video news programmes will be released on a quarterly basis and will include such things as key trading results, new franchisees into the network, franchisee achievements and recognition for creative sales activity, as well as updates from a range of support departments including menu development, marketing services and training. The online forum will enable franchisees to communicate more freely with one another, irrespective of location, with a representative for the franchise management team actively participating in discussions and answering questions where required.”

Great British Menu chef reveals plans for pub: Winteringham Fields restaurant owner Colin McGurran, who has appeared several time in BBC Two’s Great British Menu, has revealed plans for an historic pub he has taken over. Having spent £100,000 on buying the venue, McGurran now plans to turn the entire plot of land into accommodation with a £900,000 investment seeing additional dwellings erected around the current structure. Eight units will be built for accommodation, with plans for them to be rented on a short and long-term basis. He said: “The pub is basically a shell and will be stripped out, but it is on a big piece of land. An archaeological dig is going on at the moment to make sure there are no problems with building on it. I am going to fill the plot of land, because only 15% of it is being used at the moment for the pub. It is good, because it will give a lot of my staff the chance to live closer to the restaurant. I have staff from France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and this will mean they can live just round the corner from work.” Meanwhile, Winteringham Fields is undergoing a £1.5-million refurbishment and expansion. A total of £250,000 is being spent on the refurbishment and around £400,000 is being spent on four new rooms for guests – to add to the 11 existing rooms attached to the restaurant.

Pho secures tenth site: Isis Equity Partners-backed Vietnamese street food operator Pho is to open its latest restaurant in Chiswick after agent Davis Coffer Lyons acquired a new site on Chiswick High Road. The fast-casual chain led by Stephen and Juliette Wall has taken a 2,540 sq ft unit on a new 20-year lease at a rent rising to £75,000 per annum. Rob Meadows, of DCL, said: “Pho is on a major expansion drive at the moment as it looks to achieve its aim of 25 sites within four years. Chiswick will be its first restaurant in a suburban location - something we expect to see more of as the chain grows. The new restaurant will be an exciting addition to the Chiswick scene and will benefit greatly from its proximity to a new Picture House cinema which is due to open a couple of doors away later this year.” MJ Finn Commercial represented the landlord.

Chopstix opens in Milton Keynes – another ten sites planned this year: Chopstix Noodle Bar has opened in Milton Keynes’s Midsummer Place. The brand, which started in 2001, has 40 sites nationwide and has a further ten planned this year. It offers a mix of freshly prepared rice or noodles with a selection of over 12 toppings from hot and spicy Malaysian chicken to Thai-style chicken. Kris Kmita, Chopstix area manager for Milton Keynes, said: “We are delighted to be in Milton Keynes and we are very pleased with the start to our new year so far. Chopstix is perfect for people looking to grab a bite to eat or take a carton back to their office desk. We are very proud of the food we serve and it is delivered at an incredible value for money.”

Loungers beat “strong competition” for new Western Road, Brighton site: Cafe bar concept Loungers, backed by Piper Private Equity, beat off “strong competition” for the former Rock n Roller site on Brighton’s Western Road, agreeing a leasehold assignment deal through agent AG&G. “Though the previous encumbants didn’t succeed the unit previously traded very well as a Pinxto People restaurant,” says AG&G director James Grimes. “It’s not only in a beautiful listed building designed by the renowned Regency architects Busby and Wilds but also in an up and coming pitch between Brighton and Hove. A revamped branch of Waitrose across the road is also proving to be a big draw.” Loungers Western Road, will open in March under the branch name Verano. A second site in Brighton will also open in March – Alcamp Lounge on the former Blockbuster site in the city’s London Road.

Costa Coffee gets consent to open next to a KFC in Blackpool: Plans for a new Costa Coffee outlet in Blackpool have been approved despite fears the development could spark parking problems in surrounding streets. Blackpool Council has approved a planning application for the scheme on the KFC drive-through car park alongside the junction of George Street and Devonshire Road. The development will lead to the loss of 14 car parking spaces. The application, which will see a single storey building constructed on the land, was approved by planning officers using delegated powers. It will be operated as a Costa Coffee franchise.

UK’s best breakfast providers are named: A Liverpool “Mexican barbecue” restaurant’s full English has been named the UK’s best breakfast in the first Farmhouse Breakfast Awards. Tavern Co restaurant in Liverpool was named the place to eat the country’s best breakfast after it secured the highest number of public votes. The restaurant’s full English also won the best hot breakfast award. The Farmhouse Breakfast Awards – part of the 15th annual Farmhouse Breakfast Week – is open to cafes, restaurants, canteens, B&Bs, food vans, pubs and hotels. Other winners were: B&Bs and guest houses: Our Lizzy, Malvern, vegan breakfast (innovative); Cafe, coffee shop or farm shop – Penny’s Café, Wolverhampton, full English (hot); Canteen – Beretun Restaurant, Canterbury College, Kent, full English (hot); Food van/stall – Brownings the Bakers, Kilmarnock, roll with Scottish sausage (hot); Hotels – Lancers House, Salisbury, No. 53 Herbie fully loaded on toast (hot); Pubs – The Bear Inn, Brighton, full English (hot).

Former US Pret A Manger boss plans vegan grab-and-go concept: Martin Bates, who was formerly Pret A Manger’s chief executive in the US, is launching a vegan grab-and-go element, including hot food, at Organic Avenue, the New York fruit juice concept he currently runs. “Our goal is to become the definitive destination for organic breakfast, lunch and cold-pressed juices, which gives us endless possibilities for expansion in key metropolitan markets around the country,” he said. “During my years at Pret A Manger, I watched as New Yorkers became more discriminating and the demand for healthier breakfast and lunch options grew. People wanted to know what was in their food and why. Organic Avenue takes health to a new level, providing a delicious solution for New Yorkers looking to raise the bar on their health and wellness.” The launch is scheduled for this Spring.

Famous Sheffield live music venue set for a gay future: The former Boardwalk live music venue in Sheffield city centre is due to reopen in the spring as a nightclub and bar that will be “a new home of Sheffield’s gay scene”. After being closed for more than three years, the upper section is being turned into Fuel, which revives a club that closed six years ago in Eyre Street, near Moorhead. The lower section will be a bar called Twist. Operations manager Jason Turner, said: “We’re delighted to be turning this two-floor gem of a venue into the new home of Sheffield’s gay scene.”

Itsu founder launches Miyuki’s Kitchen: Itsu co-founder Miyuki Sedohara has launched a Japanese catering and cookery services company, Miyuki’s Kitchen, in the Cotswolds. The business, based in Fox Furlong, Upper Oddington, was set up in response to the lack of high-quality Japanese cuisine in the Cotswolds. Sedohara said: “My mother has been the biggest influence on my journey through food. From an early age, she taught me to recognise the quality of freshly-prepared food. And this is something that’s so important here at Miyuki’s Kitchen – Japanese food tastes best when it’s fresh. Whatever your event, or whatever you want to learn how to cook, we can make it happen.”

De Vere Hotels switches to craft stout: The De Vere Hotel group has switched to serving Marston’s Oyster Stout in a move to appeal to the growing demand for craft beer in the UK and extend the key partner role with Marston’s in supplying cask beer for De Vere Hotels and Urban Village Resorts. All pouring points for stout across its 60 UK-wide hotels will now offer the 4.1% abv keg stout replacing a market leading brand. Since winning the Best Oyster Stout award in 2012 at the World Beer Awards, Marston’s Oyster Stout has gone from strength to strength, seeing 44% year-on-year growth. This is set to continue with De Vere’s new opening programme in 2014 for their Urban Village Resorts concept with sites in Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Robert Cook, chief executive of De Vere Hotels, said: “We have a real passion for serving great beer in our hotels so there is no better partner than Marston’s for their authentic range of craft brews. Their range of ales and their passion for perfection mirrors our desire to make our bars better places to drink and enjoy the real ale renaissance.”

Nobu Hospitality to open second hotel: Nobu Hospitality, which opened the first ‘chef-focused hotel’ in Las Vegas, is to expand into Asia with the opening of a 321-room hotel in City of Dreams Manila in the middle of this year. The Nobu Hotel opens as part of an integrated casino resort in City of Dreams Manila at Pagcor Entertainment City. The hotel will feature a Nobu restaurant within an “idyllic setting, including an outdoor cabana-styled dining terrace on an exclusive platform deck with views of Manila Bay”. Nobu Hospitality has opened 27 restaurants. Its first hotel in Las Vegas was recently named as one of the 25 most innovative luxury hotel brands by Robb Report.

Spirit to re-open fire-hit Chef & Brewer on Saturday: A Spirit Pub Company pub which closed after a fire on Christmas Eve will re-open on Saturday (1 February). The bar and ceiling of The Griffin, a Chef & Brewer site, in Church Road, Caversham were destroyed in the blaze, which is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault. Spirit had hoped to re-open the business this month but repairs have taken longer than they expected. 

Chipotle to launch TV series on Hulu: Chipotle Mexican Grill is to launch an original comedy series on Hulu, the on-demand website offering ad-support on-demand streaming. The programme is designed to convey the chain’s stance on industrial agriculture without any explicit branding - “Farmed and Dangerous”, a four-episode series that takes a satirical jab at the evils of corporate agribusiness, is scheduled to debut on 17 February. The series follows a fictional industrial giant called Animoil that develops a new petroleum-based animal feed called PetroPellet. The product promises to reduce factory farm dependence on oil by eliminating the need to grow, irrigate, fertilise and transport vast amounts of feed needed to raise livestock. There’s only one downside: the cows that eat the pellets have a tendency to explode (with cheap but amusing special effects).

Drake & Morgan trials Q App: London bar and restaurant group, Drake & Morgan is trialing Q App’s mobile ordering platform at The Drift in Heron Tower, Bishopsgate from 10 February. As well as improving the customer experience, The Drift’s staff will benefit by being able to process more orders, gather rich insight into their customers’ behaviour, cross-promote and up-sell additional products and even run special offers in real time, while also directly tapping into Q App’s existing user base, in addition to their regular customers. Jillian MacLean, managing director of Drake & Morgan, said: “We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of the cutting edge bar scene and trialling Q App is all part of this process. Our bars can become extremely busy and our hand-made cocktail selection is very popular - any way to alleviate the queuing process will not only increase customer satisfaction but it will also increase productivity, it makes good business sense.” 

French Tarte plans expansion to five sites: Surbiton boulangerie and patisserie The French Tarte plans to open five outlets in Surrey before 2017. Its second site is to open mid-March, in Teddington and will mark the start of the expansion plan by the family-owned company. The French Tarte is sistered with The French Table Restaurant, also located in Surbiton. Cakes, pastries, savoury dishes and sandwiches will be centrally prepared on the business’ kitchens in Surbiton and then delivered to the Teddington branch daily.

Colliers sets out Ego pub property requirements: Property agent Colliers International has set out the property requirements for 3Sixty Restaurants Ego restaurant brand. The company is targeting pubs in the Midlands and North West. The group, led by James Horler and backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, has retained Colliers to source pubs in affluent market towns and suburbs across the two areas. Ross Kirton, director, licensed and leisure at Colliers International said: “The Mediterranean-inspired concept with its upmarket and sophisticated feel, has already proven successful and as part of an evolution of the concept, we are seeking character-led pub properties across both town centre and ‘destination’ suburban locations with potential for around 120 covers.”

Jackson & Rye in talks to take over Chiswick Union Jacks site: Richard Caring’s Jackson & Rye brand is understood to be in advanced talks to take over the Chiswick site of Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack’s. The Chiswick site has been closed alongside sites in Winchester and Holborn. A spokesman for Oliver said: “The Union Jacks site in the Piazza in Covent Garden is trading well and will remain fully operational. The group is confident in being able to deliver a robust performance in 2014 and is looking forward to a number of restaurant openings, in the UK and internationally. This will include developing the successful Trattoria model which is doing well in its first location in Richmond.”

Second Bonnie & Gull seafood shack to open: A second Bonnie & Gull seafood shack is to open after the success of the first site in Fitzrovia. The second venue will open in Exmouth Market in April, occupying the former Kolossi Grill site. The second Seafood Shack will be bigger than the first and offer “a more informal 1960s British seaside cafe feel”. There will also be a take-away option of “shells” (oysters, cockles, smoked mussels or langoustines served on newspaper) and “rolls” including fish finger sandwiches, lobster and crab rolls.

McMullen invests £90,000 in community pub as former JD Wetherspoon manager takes over: McMullen, the family brewer based in Hertford, has invested over £90,000 in an extensive refurbishment of The Steamer, a community pub occupying a prominent position on the main road through the village in the south of Old Welwyn, Hertfordshire. The Steamer also welcomes Dan Tubbs, who has previously managed pubs for JD Wetherspoon for nine years, as its new landlord. He said: “I’m really enjoying running my own pub, particularly one that has the potential to become a true cornerstone of the community. The Steamer has been given a new lease of life thanks to its extensive refurbishments, and the feedback we’ve received from customers to date has been incredibly positive.”

Stonegate to open second ‘premium’ Missoula on 14 February in York: Stonegate Pub Company, which owns and operates eight licensed premises in York and employs over 244 people in the city, will be investing over £240,000 in the city on its second ‘premium’ Missoula – Montana Bar & Grill opening. The York opening is a conversion of a Living Room site – and follows the first conversion of a Living Room site to the upmarket Missoula template that opened in Milton Keynes before Christmas. There will be seven world beers including Shipyard American pale ale and Anchor Steam, 14 classic cocktails, 11 signature cocktails. Vince Williams, from Stonegate, said: “We are delighted to be bringing Missoula – Montana Bar & Grill to York. Through years of operating successful businesses within the city, we know that there is a real demand from the residents and visitors of York for a quality drinking and dining experience that offers exceptional customer service and fantastic food.”

Essex entrepreneur opens fourth restaurant: A chef who already runs three restaurants in Essex with his family is taking on a fourth, converting a former ironmonger’s in Westcliff-on-Sea into 60-cover Italian venue called Il Palazo. Servet Kilic, whose family already runs the Lemon Tree restaurant in Southchurch Road, Southend, the Olive Tree near the Cliffs Pavilion, Westcliff, and The Palm Tree in Leigh, said: “We will have an Italian menu, catering for people before and after shows at the Palace Theatre, but it will also be for local people to enjoy. We are talking to builders at the moment. I’m expecting the work to take a couple of months but we hope to be open in the spring.” The prominent site, which has been empty for nearly a year, originally went on the market for £225,000. It was later put up for auction but it failed to reach its reserve price. Gerard Biagioni, of estate agent Dedman Gray Commercial, who handled the sale to Kilic, who bought the shop after getting planning permission to convert it into a restaurant from Southend Council, told the Southend Echo: “It had been allowed to decay so it’s lovely to see such a nice building brought back and lovingly restored.”

Mystery of the missing Thwaites letters: There was embarrassment for Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn late last week when an electrical fault hit the illuminated sign on top of the brewery building, knocking out the h, i and e in the company’s name, just as darkness fell. Within 20 minutes, however, the problem had been spotted by the company and the entire sign turned off for repairs to be made. The problem came after Thwaites announced that it would be making up to 60 workers redundant. A spokesman for Thwaites told The Lancashire Telegraph newspaper that on being alerted, the brewery turned the lights off and launched an investigation into what had happened. He said: “When made aware of it, all the lights were immediately switched off. It’s not clear what happened, whether there was a fault or other problem but only a few people have access to that part of the building.”

McMullen lets Baroosh site to Five Guys: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen has let its Baroosh freehold bar site in Uxbridge to better burger brand Five Guys on a 15 year FRI lease. The Baroosh will cease trading today. “The bar has traded profitably since its purchase 12 years ago but the property is not meeting its potential and it is felt that a different concept is better suited to the local market,” said retail director Heydon Mizon. “Many of our team will be offered positions elsewhere should they wish to relocate.” McMullen stated it will continue to invest in its estate as a whole, build new pubs and seek out quality acquisitions, including other appropriate high street sites for the successful Baroosh concept.

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