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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Tue 15th Apr 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Gondola chairman – ‘we’ve had a strong first half to our financial year’: The chairman of the Gondola Group, Chris Woodhouse has reported good progress across the company’s key brands in the first half of its current financial year. Gondola, which owns PizzaExpress, Ask Italian and Zizzi, and is owned by the private equity firm Cinven, does not produce interim results but does publish a half-year update. Woodhouse said: “PizzaExpress has strong positive momentum, with 497 restaurants now trading across the world (433 in the UK and Ireland, and 64 internationally). This includes the opening of 11 new sites in the UK and nine internationally during the first half of the year. Following our successful debut in Mumbai in December 2012, we celebrated our one-year anniversary with the launch of another two sites in the city; and in Hong Kong and mainland China we now have 20 restaurants operating successfully, with our first restaurant in Beijing due to open later this year. We also opened our first restaurants in Bali and Saudi Arabia, providing further evidence of the fact that PizzaExpress is rapidly developing into a truly international business. The evolution of the Zizzi brand is almost complete, resulting in a stunning portfolio of over 130 restaurants and an offer that is well-defined. Zizzi opened four restaurants in the first half of the year and has an exciting pipeline of future openings. ASK Italian is also well on the way to realising its long-term vision; over half of the estate now reflects the brand’s fresh new look. The transformed sites, 17 of which were recently completed during the period, are delivering excellent returns and we are applying learnings from these restaurants to the brand’s new openings. In the broader economy there are now stronger signs of recovery, and this, with a consistent strategy, an excellent pipeline of new openings in the UK and overseas, as well as a highly experienced and motivated management team across each of the three brands, provides a solid platform for the continued growth of the Gondola Group.” The interim report states that 20 PizzaExpress sites were refurbished in the first half and 31 million pizzas are sold each year now through retail channels.
   

Industry News: 

Dutch firm buys Gourmet Society: The Gourmet Society, operator of a diners club that offers members discounts at more than 6,700 partner restaurants in the UK, has been acquired by the Waterland Private Equity-backed Dutch company Didix. The business, which is based in Stockport, was founded by entrepreneur Simon Leonard in 2003. The consideration was not disclosed but the deal sees Leonard become a board member and shareholder of Didix and he will stay with the firm along with its 40 employees. Leonard will head the UK operations as well as seek to expand the Gourmet Society operation across Europe, building on the existing European operations of Didix. The Gourmet Society will continue to trade under the same name. The deal also sees Didix acquire The Restaurant Choice, which has been run by Simon Leonard with business partners Jenny Goddard and Ged Cuthbert. The Restaurant Choice sells vouchers which can be redeemed in a large number of independent and chain restaurants nationwide, including Nando’s and PizzaExpress. Leonard said: “It’s an exciting development for the Gourmet Society and will take our strong offer into Europe. We are already working with over 6,700 partner restaurants across the UK, offering diners superb value, and this deal will pave the way for rolling out the model far and wide.” The Gourmet Society’s typical offers at participating restaurants give members a choice of offers such as two-for-one meals; 50% off the food bill; or 25% off the total bill including drinks.
   
Domino’s adds first new menu item since 2012 in the US – chicken: Domino’s Pizza has added speciality chicken to its menus in the US – the first new menu item since Handmade Pan Pizza in September 2012. The boneless chicken product features a combination of toppings, sauces and cheeses layered over 12 bites of lightly breaded, 100% whole breast white meat chicken. The four flavours are: crispy bacon & tomato, spicy jalapeno-pineapple, classic hot buffalo and sweet BBQ bacon. Russell Weiner, Domino’s chief marketing officer, said: “Our new speciality chicken is one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had. Our pizza chefs have taken chicken to a whole new level, using our unique ingredients to create these four bold flavours. There’s nothing quite like Domino’s Speciality Chicken on the market today. We are proud to be known as a pizza company, but Speciality Chicken shows we are not afraid to step out of our comfort zone and take risks – something that is truly part of our brand fabric.” Speciality Chicken is available as part of the chain’s $5.99 mix and match deal. 
   
Stonegate owner TDR Capital raises €2bn: UK-based private equity firm TDR Capital has closed its third European buyout fund at €2bn euros (£1.65bn) ahead of schedule. The fund will focus on mid-market buyout investments around Europe. The TDR team is one of the largest investors in the new fund, with a commitment of over 175 million euros, in line with previous funds. Stephen Robertson, founding partner of TDR, said: “We are delighted with the strong support from TDR’s new and existing investors, which has allowed us to close ahead of schedule. With TDR III we have enhanced our global investor base, which includes leading public and private pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies and endowment funds, from all of the key geographies.” 
   
FSA to start new round of horsemeat testing: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed details of a new round of tests of beef products for horsemeat contamination. The tests have been requested by the European Commission as part of the follow-up to last year’s horse meat incident, where a number of beef products sold across Europe were found to have been deliberately adulterated with horsemeat. This new round of EU testing should give additional reassurance to consumers across Europe that the food chain is being checked for potential problems. The testing is not based on any new intelligence about food fraud but has been requested as part of the on-going work to ensure the problems discovered last year do not reoccur. 
   
Chinese province-sanctioned restaurant to open in Epping Forest: The first restaurant of its kind in the UK to be sanctioned by the Chinese state is to open in Epping Forest. Huaiyang food, which is eaten in China’s Jiangsu Province, will be served at a new eatery in Phoenix Epping Hotel on the A414 in North Weald. The hotel is owned by the Chinese company PPM International. Huaiyang is one of the four traditional Chinese cooking methods, alongside Cantonese, Sichuan and Shandong. It tends to be slightly sweeter and not as spicy as the others. Typical dishes include steamed dumplings, wild vegetable steamed buns and tofu noodles. The restaurant will open later this month and is the only one in the UK to be approved as authentic by state authorities in Jiangsu Province, China. 
   

Company News: 

Five new restaurants, including Five Guys, to open in Phase Two of Whiteley shopping centre: Hundreds of new jobs will be created as five new restaurants, including a Five Guys site, are revealed for a new £18m cinema complex at the Whitely shopping centre. The nine-screen cinema and five restaurants – Nando’s, Five Guys, PizzaExpress, Coast to Coast and one as yet unnamed – are being built as phase two of the development of Whiteley Shopping Centre, which opened last May. The latest addition to the centre will add to its existing 14 cafes and restaurants. Shopping centre manger Nail Carter said: “The first year has been absolutely amazing. Our sales and footfall have been above expectations and the feedback we have received has been very positive. We think phase two will make us the best in the area.” 
   
Harry Ramsden’s to expand Blackpool site amid restaurant boom: Harry Ramsden’s is to expand its Blackpool site, taking capacity from 153 covers to 165 by acquiring a next-door unit on the Promenade. Plans have been submitted for a new high-volume fish and chip restaurant in the town as well. Meanwhile, the Basrai World Buffet moves into one of the ground floor units in the Talbot Road multi-storey car park. Eileen Ormand, manager of the Blackpool Town Centre Business Improvement District, said: “Blackpool is becoming firmly established as a ‘foodie’ town and these new restaurants are very welcome and will increase the food offer into the town centre even further. A bigger variety of restaurants with a wider choice of food will give people even more reasons to come into Blackpool town centre in the evenings.” Plans for both the fish and chip schemes have been submitted to the council. Robert Newman, of RDJ Creative, the agent for the new fish and chip restaurant scheme on Church Street, said: “The developer is proposing to make a significant investment in order to create a high-quality fish and chip restaurant which will have the capacity to seat around 100 people.”
   
G1 Group nightclub in Glasgow ordered to stop serving alcohol at 3am: A G1 Group nightclub with a 6am licence in Glasgow has been told to stop selling alcohol at 3am because of police concerns over violence, disorder and drunkenness. A report by officers to the licensing board on the Corinthian nightclub in Glasgow said that, of 222 incidents in the year to February, 90 were reported between 3am and 6am. These resulted in 29 arrests, including 12 for assault. Incidents in the report included allegations that a man sexually assaulted four women on the dancefloor and claims that a thug tried to stab stewards with a knife he found on a table in the venue’s Brasserie Bar. The Corinthian had a 6am licence because it is also a casino. But as a result of the report, the G1 Group has been told to stop serving drink at 3am from Monday. Glasgow City Council’s licensing board also ruled that toughened glasses must be used after midnight. The Corinthian’s core hours will be 11am to 3am, Monday to Saturday, and 12.30pm to 3am on Sundays. A board spokesman said: “Alcohol may only be served beyond those hours for pre-booked gaming functions held in the gaming rooms on the upper floors until 6am.” 
   
PaperPlanes starts site search in London: PaperPlanes, the Australian concept by the hospitality team Barge8 which offers modern Asian cuisine combining flavours from China, Japan and South East Asia, is looking for London sites. The concept is based on “creating a multi-sensorial experience for the diner, blending contemporary Asian cuisine, cutting-edge music and a carefully curated sake, wine and cocktail list.” The first store launched in Bondi Beach, Sydney where it has received numerous accolades for its interiors and menu. The company is now looking for 1,500 sq ft to 4,000 sq ft sites in, in order of preference: Soho, Covent Garden, West End, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Islington, City of London, Kings Cross, Charing Cross, Strand and Mayfair. Suitable opportunities should be sent to dominic@restaurant-property.co.uk 
   
Provenance Inns re-opens Black Bull with help from William Hague: Provenance Inns, led by Michael Ibbotson and Chris Blundell, has opened The Black Bull Inn at Moulton, in North Yorkshire, with help from the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who revealed that this was where he proposed to his wife. Hague also revealed that he once spent much time at The Black Bull Inn with his “great friend” Lord (Sebastian) Coe, the athlete who helped bring the 2012 Olympics to London. The pub, once renowned for its seafood, closed in 2012. Blundell said: “Often the demise of the village Inn is talked about. Even this week Camra talked about 38 pubs closing every week – a trend that’s been happening for ten years. But in the right position, with the right investment, the village inn can be a really important addition to the local community. We will be developing 16 guest rooms that will give us a business model to make us successful for the future.” 
   
Hare and Tortoise secures sixth London site at former Strada outlet: The Asian restaurant chain Hare and Tortoise has acquired a sixth site in London, the Strada leasehold site in Chiswick High Road, West London which closed at the weekend, through the property agent AG&G. Richard Negus of AG&G, who represented the vendor, said: “It’s a prime site in a fashionable part of town and will complement the restaurateur’s other premises in Bloomsbury, Ealing, Putney, Kensington and Blackfriars very nicely.” Hare and Tortoise sells “reasonably priced”, freshly-prepared sushi, noodle and Asian-influenced dishes. It paid a premium for the leasehold interest of its new Chiswick property, a fully fitted restaurant with first-floor flat, which runs until June 2023. 
   
Meatliquor to target regional growth: Meatliquor, the London and Brighton-based meat and cocktail concept headed by Scott Collins and Yianni Papoutsis, is to begin expanding to regional cities with Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow, and Newcastle on the target list, Collins has told The Daily Telegraph. The business currently generates annual revenue of £10m. Collins told the newspaper: “Britain has lost its appetite for pretension. We wanted to do a burger and a drink for £7.50 each.”
   
Eagle and Child named Thwaites’ top pub for 2014: The Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom, near Bury, has been named top pub in the Thwaites Awards for Excellence 2014. The pub has been run by Glen Duckett, 35, since 2011 and is known for its locally sourced and home-cooked traditional food. Duckett and his team beat out more than 300 pubs from across Thwaites’s estate to take the title, fending off competition from almost 20 other finalists. 
   
Simply Fish launches home delivery service: Simply Fish, located in Shoreditch and Camden, London, has launched a home delivery service to tap into demand for better quality takeaways. Customers choose their favorite type of fish, and specify how they want it cooked and what sauce and side dishes they want. The new home delivery service is available within a three-mile radius of the two sites. Simply Fish is headed by chef Sherif Hassan, who has worked for Brian Turner, Marco Pierre White, Terence Conran and, more recently, Sketch and Kensington Place. Hassan told Propel: “Time poor, cash rich Londoners dine out a lot; but occasionally they do prefer to go home to eat! After a long day at work, plus a commute, the last thing they want to do is cook, which is why we decided to offer a home delivery service, as they still want to eat restaurant quality food. As more and more restaurants offer a takeaway service, it makes sense for us to take it a step further and offer delivery from our Camden restaurant. Londoners are demanding more from their takeaways than just kebabs and pizzas and we are happy to oblige!” 
   
Ex-army major opens sixth Papa John’s site: Ex-army major Dan Wilkinson, who joined Papa John’s as a franchisee just a few months ago, has opened his sixth site, this time in Harrogate. He has already taken over two Papa John’s in Aberdeen, two in Liverpool and has recently opened in Durham. Wilkinson said: “My goal is to open between ten and 20 Papa John’s in the north and Scotland over the next few years. In order to achieve my business plan, I am currently building up my team of support staff. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of some of the fantastic franchisee incentives that Papa John’s is currently offering and this will be key in enabling me to open further outlets.” Anthony Round, business development manager at Papa John’s said: “Dan’s operational background, gained from a successful 19-year career in the army, plus his excellent leadership skills, make him well placed to drive the success of multiple Papa John’s stores.” 
   
BrewDog launches ‘staff exchange’ scheme: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched a staff exchange scheme that allows brewery staff to meet customers in its Aberdeen bar. The company said: “We already bring all new bar staff up to Ellon to brew with us, to give them first-hand experience of how we do what we do at HQ, and now we’re flipping it around so the bars are hosting our headquarters teams. Regulars in Aberdeen may have already recognised some unfamiliar faces knocking about behind the bar. These are some of our brewers, packaging team, laboratory technicians and ops folks, and they’re all putting some time in behind the bar to get to know (customers).” 
   
89-year-old UK man claim to be Europe’s oldest McDonald’s staff member: A Second World War veteran aged 89 is laying claim to be Europe’s oldest McDonald’s worker. Bill Dudley, who was awarded the Arctic Medal last year for his service on convoy ships during the Second World War, work two shifts a week at the Connah’s Quay, North Wales McDonald’s restaurant. Franchisee Stewart Williams said: “Bill is an inspiring member of the team, who engages with our customers on every visit. All our staff are incredibly proud to work alongside him and he is a very valued member of the team. He has been working at McDonald’s for over six years now as a part-time customer care assistant. We look forward to celebrating his 90th birthday here next year.” 
   
Plymouth pub saved by Localism Act to re-open as brew-pub: A 150-year-old Plymouth pub saved by community action is to open its doors tomorrow as a brew-pub. The Hyde Park Hotel in Mutley Plain was going to be converted into an estate agents before a campaign headed by former regulars and landlord saw it listed a community asset under the Localism Act. Emma Pope, director of the company HP Micro Brewery, which is running the operation, said the pub would be open for the first time in more than 15-months tomorrow (Wednesday). She said the revamp of the pub had tried to capture some of the 1970s spirit, a boom time for the venue, with the help of Plymouth historian Chris Robinson. It will operate as a micro-brewery after the pub teamed up with Dartmoor Brewery which has trained the staff to create their own concoctions. Pope said: “Mutley Plain used to be the place for pubs, but that has faded a bit over time. We want it run like it was in the 1970s, when it was most popular.” The pub will employ around 15 bar and kitchen staff, she, said and will offer gastro-pub style meals with locally sourced produce including sausages coming from Hyde Park butchers Voisins. 
   
Subway considers F1 sponsorship: The US sandwich chain Subway is considering a ground-breaking sponsorship deal with Formula One which could see several of the sport’s teams and superstar drivers teaming up to promote the brand. Subway was founded in the US in 1965 by Fred DeLuca ,but the UK and Ireland has become its biggest market outside the United States since the company opened its first store across the Atlantic in 1994. Its sponsorship strategy centres on athletes such as the English boxer Anthony Ogogo and Holly Bleasdale, who holds the British pole vault record. Zak Brown, chief executive of JMI, which handles Subway’s motorsport sponsorship, said that F1 would be the “perfect” fit. Brown told The Daily Telegraph: “I took the Subway chief marketing officer to meet Bernie [Ecclestone, F1’s chief executive] in Montreal last year, and I would say they have been exploring it for a year. They are all about the consumer, they are massive media buyers so they would look at a sport and see if it stacks up from a media point of view and Formula One does.” 
   
Liberation Group – we’ve grown our database seven-fold: Liberation Group has reported that it has grown its customer database seven-fold with the help of the business analysis company Tahola. Chief executive Mark Crowther told Pub and Bar magazine that using Tahola analytics gives the group intimate consumer insight, providing data on what its customers are buying, when, what time of day, the pub they frequent the most, and also what else they may buy in any one transaction. This enables Liberation to target specific promotional activity according to each pub. Crowther said: “I’d say it’s bang up there in terms of technological advancement in the on-trade – I’m not aware of a UK on-trade business to have the same sort of insight through a loyalty card. It works well for us and, going forward, we’re going to get deeper into the information it’s giving us and use it to greater effect.” 
   
Canning Town nightclub closed after licence revocation: The owner of a nightclub in Canning Town, East London, Guvnor has insisted he will re-open after his licence was revoked. Guvnor’s owner, Stephen Kakooza, has promised to appeal against Newham Council’s decision. He said the authorities refused to work collaboratively to minimise issues and warned that troublemakers will just move on to another venue. Members of Newham Council’s licensing sub-committee say a stabbing at the club, in North Woolwich Road, in February prompted them to decide that the venue should be closed on the grounds of public safety and to prevent crime and disorder. The Metropolitan Police have received 17 reports of assault at the venue since April 2011 as well as a masked robbery. Kakooza, who employed 25 people at the venue, says he offered to rename the club, change the music to appeal to different customers and introduce an entry scanning system to try to alleviate the sub-committee’s concerns. 
   
Black Sheep Brewery launches new-look beer: Black Sheep Brewery has unveiled the first of its beers to get a new look designed to try to broaden its appeal among drinkers. The label of Black Sheep Ale, which is the Yorkshire brewery’s flagship bottled brand and was its first bottled ale when the brewery was founded in 1992, has been revamped, and Black Sheep’s other bottled beers are set to follow suit. Black Sheep Ale sells more than 3.5m bottles a year in the UK and has been in double digit growth year-on-year. Bottles featuring the new label will be in pubs in early May. Jo Theakston, Black Sheep’s sales and marketing director, said: “We are very excited about this bold and aspirational new look for Black Sheep Ale. In a busy and diverse category, it’s all about standing out, and the new design shouts loud from behind the bar. We are confident this change will help us build on the strong growth we have seen from the brand.” 
   
Yum! Brands opens first Pizza Hut in Iraq: Yum! Brands has opened the first Pizza Hut in Iraq, with franchise partner Al Kout Food Company. The new restaurant is in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, in the Majidi Mall in Erbil. The restaurant features a “youthful” design and seating for 120 people. The menu is in Kurdish and offers appetisers, pizzas and flatbreads, pasta, salads, desserts and drinks. Al Kout Food Company plans to open four more Pizza Hut restaurants in Iraq this year, three in Erbil and one in Sulaymaniyah. 
   
McDonald’s chief executive saw 2013 package drop 31%: Don Thompson, chief executive of McDonald’s, saw his total 2013 compensation package drop 31% to $9.5m, in a year when the company saw lacklustre sales. Thompson, who became chief executive in mid-2012, did receive a 20% salary increase in 2013, to $1.2m. He was also granted $4.6m in stock awards, more than seven times the $660,000 granted in 2012. But since McDonald’s revenue grew 2% to $28.1bn last year, that was only enough for Thompson to receive 70% of his annual incentive payout. 
   
Surrey hotel bought by Singaporean businessman for more than £20m: The Brooklands Hotel in Surrey has been sold to a Singaporean tycoon for a reported sum of more than £20m, after its owners went into administration. Tan Boy Tee’s Bestford Capital has bought the 120-bedroom hotel, next to Mercedes-Benz World, with Westmont Hospitality Group, from administrators BDO. It is said to generate £7.5m in turnover a year. Julian Troup, head of UK hotels agency at Colliers International, who completed the sale, said: “The hotel’s unique location at the world-famous birthplace of British motorsport generated interest from a number of domestic and overseas investors.” 
   
Lap-dancing club become a burlesque venue to stay open: The owner of a former lap-dancing club in Oxford has said it plans to stay open as a burlesque bar until December. Al Thompson, who runs The Lodge, in Oxpens Road, took his fight against the city council’s decision to refuse his venue a new licence to the High Court last year, but lost. Objections against the sex entertainment licence came from Oxford Feminist Network, among others, and the group carried out a survey of women in the area, some of whom claimed they had been “harassed” by customers leaving the club. A burlesque club does not need a sexual entertainment venue licence. 
   
TGI Friday’s launches hand-crafted burger range: TGI Friday’s has launched a seven-strong handcrafted burger range. As well as traditional flavours such as the Cheeseburger Deluxe and Classic American, Friday’s has introduced the French Dip, a “wet burger” which comes with garlic, caramelised onions and a “pour-it-all-over” beef sauce. The range also offers the Bruce Lee Burger, served with Asian slaw, jalapenos, red chilli, Srirachi hot sauce, toasted sesame seeds and crispy noodles. The BBQ Pulled Pork Burger combines Friday’s signature burger with pulled pork and pickled red onion, Colby cheese and Hickory BBQ sauce. Development chef Terry McDowell said: “Burgers are one of the most popular dishes to order when dining out in the UK, so to continue to lead the way we’ve come up with some real game-changers for our new menu.” 
   
Fuller’s acquires two freehold riverside pubs: Brewer and retailer Fuller’s has completed the purchase of two new freehold sites on the banks of the River Thames. A site in Fulham Reach will open later in 2014 and a second new site in Greenwich will open in early 2015. The Fulham Reach site is part of a new development and will include a large, south-facing terrace with views over Hammersmith Bridge and the Harrods’ Depository. It will be called The Tideway and will open before Christmas 2014. The pub will provide a second Fuller’s site on the historic Boat Race course – joining The Dove in Hammersmith. The Greenwich site is located close to the Cutty Sark and is Fuller’s second site in Greenwich. It is part of the New Capital Quay development and will be called The Sail Loft. It is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2015 and will include riverside terraces with views over the River Thames and across to Canary Wharf. Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny said: “Combined with the opening of One over the Ait on Kew Bridge, which will open later this year, we will have at least three new riverside pubs along the Thames in the coming financial year. Waterside pubs always prove popular – as illustrated by the success of Cams Mill, on the Fareham Creek Estuary in Hampshire, which we opened in late 2013. We are delighted to acquire these freehold sites and, by Spring 2015, anyone travelling by boat from Greenwich to Kew will pass six Fuller’s riverside pubs – The Sail Loft, The Banker, The Tideway, The Dove, The Bell & Crown and One over the Ait. The Fuller’s acquisitions team has been doing a fantastic job. Combined with The Admiralty on Trafalgar Square, which will open this autumn, London’s Pride at Heathrow T2 in June and One over the Ait, we have five very high profile sites opening this year. It’s an exciting time for Fuller’s and we will continue to seek out new acquisition opportunities in the coming months and years.”

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