Fuller’s buys Trafalger Square flagship pub: Albannach, the Scottish-themed restaurant, bar and late night venue in London’s Trafalgar Square, has been acquired by Fuller’s for its Pie & Ale concept and will be renamed The Admiralty. The site was sold by agent Christie + Co on the instructions of Trevor Binyon and Tim Dolder from Opus Restructuring LLP, joint administrators of AB Trafalgar Square Limited. Set over three floors overlooking Admiralty Arch and Cabinet Offices, Fuller’s latest acquisition offers a prime site adjacent to London’s best known landmark. Simon Chaplin, director and head of restaurants for Christie + Co, said: “The acquisition of Albannach by Fuller’s emphasises once again that prime London sites continue to attract a large number of bids and the highest premiums. Though this was only put to the market in January, we received swift and significant competitive interest from bar operators, restaurateurs and fast food chains — all looking to secure a site opposite one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions.”
Cafe bakery segment leader unveils technology changes to improve customer experience: Panera Bread, which led sales growth in the US cafe bakery segment last year, has unveiled a radical technology initiative, called Panera 2.0, to improve customer experience. A two-pronged plan will see the addition of “Rapid Pick-Up” mobile and online ordering in some sites, and for others an in-store kiosk ordering system. Panera will invest $42 million on technology alongside franchisees, who operate about half of the company’s 1,777 units, at a cost per unit of per bakery-café unit of circa $125,000.“Panera 2.0 is a vision how we evolve the guest experience at Panera,” said chief executive Ron Shaich. “It’s how we care for the individual needs, the specific needs, of our to-go customers, of our eat-in customers and those customers who want it wherever they are, not where we are.” Rapid Pick-U iOS mobile or web ordering allows customers to order, select a time and pick up from shelves. Enhanced To-Go and Eat-In involves in-store kiosk ordering. Shaich said in test units that 20% to 30% of orders are through the kiosk, Web and mobile platforms. “The numbers out of the kiosks are something we are extremely excited about,” chief technology officer Blaine Hurst said, indicating guest frequency has increased. “All of this is without mobile, which is just starting to roll out to the market.” Sales can reach $2,000 an hour in Panera locations and the new systems allow workers to focus and reach those levels. In addition, Panera has created a “kiosk ambassador” to help customers unfamiliar with the technology. In addition, Shaich said the technology helps increase order accuracy, which in many restaurant operations can have one out of seven orders coming out wrong.