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Wed 3rd Sep 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Michelin-starred restaurateurs to launch pizza brand: The owners of the Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant Casamia are to open a new pizza concept called Pi Shop in Portishead, Somerset this winter. The 60-seat family-oriented restaurant and bar will open at an undisclosed location in the town’s marina area in December. The award-winning chef brothers Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias will devise the menus for the restaurant, including a sourdough base for the pizzas, which will have seasonal toppings using local produce as much as possible. The restaurant, which will have an open-plan kitchen and wood-fired pizza oven, will operate seven days a week and open all day, serving coffee and cakes in the morning. Jonray said: “We’ve had the idea for a pizza restaurant for a couple of years and we did look at central Bristol, but we both live in Portishead, we love the town and the restaurant scene there is really coming up. Casamia is a fine-dining experience, but we wanted to create a stripped-back, relaxed pizza restaurant for families and a wider audience. We wanted to create the sort of place where we can take our families on our days off. We want Pi Shop to complement other restaurants in the town but also complement Casamia."
 

Industry News:

Crowdcube launches latest accelerator programme: The crowdfunding platform Crowdcube is now accepting applicants for its accelerator programme. The programme is looking for companies that expect to raise capital in the next few months. Selected companies will get assistance in prepping their business to become investment ready, and an opportunity to list on Crowdcube. The last Accelerator programme was held in June, when 20 businesses attended workshops and presentations given by Crowdcube, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. From the 20 young companies, six were selected and fast tracked to go live on the Seedrs platform in July. The crowdfunding offer launch coincided with an event held at the Royal Institution where the companies pitched to a live audience of 100 high-net-worth individuals. To date, two of these businesses have reached their targets, raising a total of £380,000. For the next Accelerator group, Crowdcube will pick 15 companies, with five finalists selected to pitch to investors at event to be scheduled in November.

Draft House founder takes swipe at BrewDog:
The founder of the Draft House chain of bars, Charlie McVeigh, has taken a swipe at BrewDog which is launching a lager today (see bottom of the newsletter) amid a barrage of rhetoric against “mass-produced lagers”. McVeigh said: “It is difficult not to be riled by the latest intemperate emanation from BrewDog Towers. So our friends in Aberdeen are now going to teach the world about lager? Try telling that to the Czechs and Germans who invented clear, golden effervescent beer hundreds of years ago and have continued to do so with a ferocious commitment to quality and consistency ever since. We have launched Tank Beer at our Seething Lane site. This involves Pilsner Urquell (brewer of the very first true lager) delivering weekly fabulous fresh unpasteurised beer from their Plzen brewery for the enjoyment of our customers. Dare I say it but THIS IS LAGER. I am not sure that the Czechs would be impressed by the claim that lager is "a beer style that has for so long been defined by shallow, listless beers undeserving of the name”. While I am sure they would recognise a recipe which contained "100% Malt" would they find a beer with "ten times the hops" to their taste? Would that even be lager? Or just another unbalanced, over-hopped 'craft beer'? I love the fierce attitude that BrewDog brings to the debate, and I even like some of their beers. I am always impressed by the knowledge and commitment of their staff. But I think a little respect for the lager drinker and the original creators of lager is in order.”

Former Tesco executive – Tesco should close businesses not breaking even after 12 months: A former Tesco executive, Bruno Monteyne, now a retail analyst, has written an open letter to the new chief executive, Dave Lewis, setting out five ways that company’s fortunes could be revived. He argued that efforts to branch out and become another Amazon or Google are taking up "way too much time and money. All businesses that can't prove their worth after 12 months should be closed or sold." Monteyne argued this should also apply to businesses Tesco has recently acquired, including the restaurant brand Giraffe and the Harris & Hoole coffee shops.
 
Liquor magnate declared wilful defaulter: Vijay Mallya, the Indian liquor magnate, was declared a "wilful defaulter" by the state-owned United Bank of India on Monday, throwing doubts over his ability to remain as chairman of United Spirits, now owned by Diageo, and United Breweries, part owned by Heineken, the Financial Times has reported. UBI, which is owed a total of about $66m by Mallya's failed carrier Kingfisher Airlines, says it believes the businessman had the capacity to repay an emergency overdraft it had extended to him, but deliberately opted not to, fulfilling the Reserve Bank of India's criteria for being a "wilful defaulter".
 

Company News:

Geof Collyer – M&B shares are still lagging their peers so we’d buy: Deutsche Bank's leisure analyst Geof Collyer has issued a buy note on Mitchells & Butlers shares with a price target of 590p. He said: “In our last M&B note (‘Late flowering opportunity’, published 25 July 2014, just after the Q3 IMS) we argued that there seemed to be little in the multiples for management getting anything right. Since the Q3 IMS low point, the share price has risen 12%, but the relative rating still stands at a significant discount to the peer group. Part of this discount is down to the lack of dividend (the reinstatement of which we estimate has been deferred due to the investment in the recent Orchid acquisition), part of it is the underperformance of the group’s like-for-likes relative to the peer group. We expect to see more evidence of the M&B supertanker turning the corner in the year-end IMS (expected late September), which should further stimulate share price outperformance versus the peer group. Performance at Q3 stage was still lagging the peer group. At the 42 week stage, like-for-likes were up 0.7%; in Q3 (14 weeks to 19 July), like-for-likes were flat, marginally below the market. We estimate that like-for-likes for the last nine weeks of Q3 were  down 1%, implying that M&B had underperformed the industry by circa 1%. Q4 should have seen reasonable progress versus a soft comp. The industry like-for-likes data (Coffer Peach Business Tracker) was up 2.2% for July 2014, with pubs & restaurants outside London up 2.6% and food-led pubs and branded restaurants outside London up 4.1%. This category struggled during last year’s heat wave (July ’13 like-for-likes for restaurants were down 2.5%, with Outside M25 down 5.4%, and flat in August & September). This year there was a reduced impact from London, which has been a source of relative competitive weakness for M&B. Backing this view up, on 29 August, The Restaurant Group (also small within London) reported current trading that implied nearly 7% like-for-likes growth for July & August. We also expect 3% like-for-likes growth for Whitbread’s Restaurants for its Q1 (Jun-Aug), due to report 9 September. Against this backdrop and a weak M&B comp (down 1.0%) in the summer of 2013, we see the latest nine-week period of retail like-for-likes due to be reported on 10 September as running up around 2%.

Wetherspoon eyes fifth site in Brighton and Hove:
JD Wetherspoon is eyeing its fifth site in Brighton and Hove, this time considering a conversion of the Co-op building in the city’s revived London Road. It would join several pubs which have either opened or been refurbished in the past few years, as well as new restaurants, cafes, a theatre and the Old Market. The old department store has been demolished and replaced with housing for 350 students, with commercial units available on the ground floor. Permission for the development, now known as Abacus, was granted on the condition that the facade of the 1930s building was kept. The first students are due to move in this week. Wetherspoon operates two pubs in the city centre, one in Brighton Marina and one in Hove.

Las Iguanas to open third Scottish venue: Las Iguanas has announced it will open its third Scottish branch by the end of this month, on the corner of George Street and Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, in a former travel agents' offices. Lucy Harwood, Las Iguanas's head of brand, said: “We’ve been looking for a cracking site in Edinburgh for several years and were delighted when the opportunity came up to combine two existing premises on historic George Street, which has developed into a fantastic and vibrant hub for eating and drinking. We’ve created a great space in a prime location overlooking Charlotte Square surrounded by some of the most stunning architecture in the city." The Edinburgh outlet comes after the chain's Glasgow branch, which opened earlier this year. It also has a restaurant in Aberdeen. The Edinburgh restaurant has been designed by Martin Brudnizki Design studio and will be spread across two levels. Alongside the ground floor restaurant will be a cocktail bar, outdoor terrace and basement dining.

Newcastle entrepreneur backs new cocktail bar established by former Diageo executive: A new cocktail bar opens this month on the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne after an investment by local entrepreneur Steve Grainger. The bar, called Tiger Hornsby, is being started by former Diageo executive Rachael Frame. Grainger, who is managing director of the digital agency Enigma Interactive, has invested in Frame's start-up leisure business, Tiger Hornsby Events Ltd. He said: "When I first met Rachael, I was bowled over by her professionalism and vision, and I’m convinced she will make a huge success of Tiger Hornsby." Frame said: "Tiger Hornsby will be a completely fresh take on the cocktail bar experience – it is taking the greatest cocktails back to basics, all made with the finest ingredients, fantastic service, in a completely friendly and un-pretentious atmosphere. Securing the investment has enabled us to transform the venue into a unique space where we can deliver a truly fantastic experience for our customers." The new venue will be on the site of the former Julie’s nightclub on Newcastle’s quayside and is due to open at the beginning of this month, creating an initial 15 jobs.

Bella Italia plans first four new openings, converts first central London site to new look: The Tragus Group-owned Bella Italia has converted its first restaurant in central London to the chain’s new look. The Irving Street restaurant, near Leicester Square, which has reopened as part of Bella Italia’s on-going expansion and refurbishment project, is also the first in the capital to offer the "Fabulous and Amazing" Gelato concept, which will allow diners to create their own combinations of ice cream and toppings. The next 12 months will see around 20 restaurants refurbished, and another 15 to 20 new sites opened across the country. In addition to Irving Street, the project has seen sites at Reading Oracle, Xscape in Castleford, Intu Lakeside Shopping Centre and Manchester Piccadilly refurbished during August. September and October will see the openings of new sites in York Clifton Moor, Telford, Peterborough and Milton Keynes. This will be alongside the refurbishment of sites in Bristol (Cribbs Causeway and Cabot Circus), Manchester Arndale Centre, Leicester Meridian, Cambridge Grafton Centre, Windsor and Cranbourn Street in Soho, London. Nick White, Bella Italia's managing director, said: “We’re delighted to be introducing the new look of Bella Italia to our first restaurant in London. The capital is a key area for us and we fully expect the bright and bold look of Bella Italia and our offering to go from strength to strength as we continue to develop and expand our brand.”

Escher Group wins contract with Ireland’s largest coffee shop chain:
Escher Group, a UK-based provider of digital point-of-service solutions, has won a new contract to supply Insomnia Coffee Company, Ireland's largest coffee retail chain, with a mobile wallet solution in Insomnia's 81 locations across Ireland as a fully managed service. The solution delivers interactive loyalty, coupons, mobile payments and iBeacon technologies. The contract, awarded in July, went live in Insomnia stores last week. Escher's mobile wallet solutions have been deployed to more than 60 high street retailers throughout Ireland and the UK, including Finnbees Coffee House, Green and Baker, and Just Falafel. In April, Escher was awarded Best Loyalty System in the Visa-sponsored Contactless and Mobile Awards in London. Liam Church, chief executive of Escher, said: "We have established ourselves as a leading digital point-of-service provider. Our award-winning mobile wallet solution will deliver an innovative and easy way for Insomnia customers to receive coupons and pay for Insomnia goods at a wide range of locations nationwide."
 
Whitbread chief executive joins Dunelm board: Whitbread's chief executive, Andy Harrison, joined the board of the homeware retailer Dunelm Group on Monday. Harrison, who has been at the helm at Whitbread since 2010, was named as a non-executive director earlier this year and formally took up his seat on the board yesterday. Harrison, a former chief executive of EasyJet and also ex-chief executive of Lex Service, previously chaired the audit committee at the publisher Emap as a non-executive director between 2000 and 2008. Dunelm, founded in 1979 as a market stall business selling ready-made curtains, now operates 143 stores in the UK and is ranked as the market leader in the £11bn UK homeware market.

Restaurants take part in 'ginger discount' promotion: Restaurants in an Aberdeen shopping centre have taken part in a weekend offer that gave red-haired people a 10% discount. The move is in tribute to Aberdonian Richard Macrae who hit the headlines this week after receiving a handmade "ginger discount" card as a joke for his 30th birthday. He racked up savings in the region of £200 from stores and eateries around Aberdeen. Taking inspiration from his scheme, Union Square let all redheads take advantage of a 10% discount across outlets, including Nando’s. Union Square promised to extend the discount to those without red hair, as long as they arrive in the centre wearing a ginger wig. In order to claim a discount, customers asked for "ginger discount" at the tills of participating retailers.

Giggs and Neville to open Hotel Football in December: Former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville will open their Hotel Football in Manchester on 8 December. Their company, GG Hospitality will open the 133-bedroom hotel opposite Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium. It comes after the opening in December 2013 of GG Hospitality’s first venture, Cafe Football, in Westfield Stratford. The hotel will have a Cafe Football Manchester outlet, which will serve dishes that have proved popular at its London counterpart, including the Boss Burger and the Cafe Football Sausage Roll. The bedrooms will provide a 40-inch smart TV with a full Sky package, free wi-fi and a retro mini bar. The hotel will be home to the Old Trafford Supporters Club and will also have a rooftop football pitch, which will host events for up to 200 people. A further six meeting and event rooms will accommodate up to 500 guests.

Two YO! Sushi sites to open in US by December: Two YO! Sushi restaurants in the United States are now under construction and will open by December, while two more sites confirmed for 2015. Vanessa Hall, chief executive of YO! Sushi, said: “With three further leases signed, our ambitious US growth plans are really taking off. We will have two restaurants now fully operating in the US by the end of this year. The eating out market in the US is the biggest in the world and the fastest growing part of that is fast Asian. So it’s no wonder we plan to have 50 restaurants there in the coming years. YO! Sushi thrives alongside retail; almost half of our restaurants in the UK sit within fantastic shopping developments. Our format is very adaptable and no one restaurant is ever the same. Our ability to serve quality food at a fast pace, prepared from scratch in front of our customers’ eyes, hits all the right notes in terms of today’s casual dining trends. And that translates globally.”
 
Myhotel plans music venue at central Brighton site:
Myhotel has submitted plans for a new underground music venue underneath its site in Jubilee Square, in a space currently occupied by the hotel car park. The proposal is part of a wider plan to extend the Jubilee Square hotel building which would see 14 new hotel rooms, extensions to the attached restaurant and the Small Batch Coffee cafe and a new penthouse apartment with roof-top garden and beehives. The plans, drawn up by the Brighton-based Chalk Architects, were formally submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council last week. A decision is expected on 13 October. Setting out the proposal to the council, the company said: “Myhotel is ambitious to remain at the forefront of hospitality service in Brighton and Hove. The building is operating at maximum capacity (the hotel is regularly booked to 80% occupancy which places it as the local market leader) and there are clear indications that demand for the hotel’s services are increasing. As part of the hotel’s ongoing strategic business review certain adaptations to the hotel building and its infrastructure have been targeted for updating and improvement.” On the ground floor there are plans to expand the existing award-winning Chilli Pickle restaurant with a new pavilion to provide room for 30 extra covers as well as a private dining room, chef’s studio and dry stores.

London and Strategic Estates acquires Wahaca freehold:
Coffer Corporate Leisure has acquired the freehold of 68-69 Upper Street, Islington, North London on behalf of London and Strategic Estates, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sapcote Group, which includes a Wahaca Mexican restaurant occupying the ground and basement levels with residential apartments above. The asset was acquired for £3.75m, a net initial yield in excess of 5%. James Millar of Sapcote Group said: “This is another exciting addition to our ever expanding leisure and retail portfolio.” Jack Silvani of Coffer Corporate Leisure said: “The Central London investment market is very hot right now, particularly for leisure occupied property. Investors are attracted to the long leases and significant rental growth prospects. Upper Street is one of London’s prime leisure pitches. There is strong occupier demand for the location, which we believe offers excellent long-term growth potential. In H1 2014 we observed very sharp net initial yields of sub 4% being paid on Upper Street, including the O’Neills, which sold for 3.93%, and the Slug and Lettuce, which sold for 3.73%. The market for leisure assets is exceptionally buoyant right now, it is a great time for long term property owners to strike while the iron is hot and dispose of assets for big prices.” Alex Neil of Allsop acted for the vendor, a private client.

Starbucks to open North Staffordshire drive-through in plan for 200 UK drive-throughs: Starbucks will create 50 jobs as part of a plan to open North Staffordshire's first Starbucks drive-through. The company will open the cafe at Wolstanton Retail Park, Newcastle under Lyme in November in a drive to open 200 drive-throughs nationally. News that Starbucks is opening comes after Marks & Spencer announced it was opening a £40m branch at the site. A spokesman said: "We can confirm that a new Starbucks drive-through store will be opening at Wolstanton Retail Park in November. There will be 50 employees in this new store team, creating up to 20 full-time jobs for the local area. We are really excited to be a part of the retail park's regeneration, bringing great coffee and exciting employment opportunities to the North Staffordshire community."
 
Leading beer duo to hold tasting at Fuller’s pub this month: Top Australian beer writer Kirrily Waldhorn and the British beer expert Roger Protz will host a joint tasting and talk at a Fuller Smith & Turner pub, the Tokenhouse, Moorgate, in the City of London on Monday 22 September at 6.30pm. The two beer aficionados will guide the audience through a selection that will include Fuller's Chiswick Bitter as an appetiser followed by beers from Fuller’s, Sierra Nevada in the United States, Little Creatures from Australia and Chimay from Belgium. Protz said: “I’m delighted to be hosting this event with Kirrily. We met in Melbourne when we did a series of beer tastings at Beer Expo and she then joined me at the Great British Beer Festival for two sell-out beer talks. She has a remarkable palate for beer and has done a brilliant job in Australia in publishing the joys of beer and in particular reaching out to women drinkers. As she says, a Pilsner is as good as a Pinot at the dining table.”
 
Entrepreneur opens seventh Indian restaurant: Entrepreneur Arfan Ali, whose family has been in the restaurant business for 60 years, is opening his seventh Indian eaterie, in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The as-yet unnamed restaurant will occupy the premises of the former Ashbourne Bookshop in Dig Street, next to The Coach and Horses. When refurbishment is completed, the restaurant, which is due to open on 29 September, will seat up to 100 diners and will also include an upstairs function room with an additional 60 seats. It will have LED mood lighting, white leather seating and glass panelling, to create a “ modern, luxury dining environment”. Ali said he spent seven years searching for a suitable place in Ashbourne and was glad to be finally close to opening after applying for planning permission eight months ago. Getting official permission was “not easy”, Ali said, with concerns raised over the need for a third Indian restaurant in the town.
 
Kout opens Subway next to Little Chef in Dorset: Kout Food Group has opened a Subway store next door to its Little Chef outlet in Bere Regis, Dorset. The store, just off the A31 in Zelston, will create around eight new jobs. Kout's operations manager, Karen Evans said: “We are delighted to bring a Subway store to Bere Regis, and it is ideally placed just off the A31, which enjoys a high volume of passing traffic." The opening is part of plans by Kout to unveil new Subway stores at roadside locations next to or inside Little Chefs, including at the Whitemare Pool Service Area on the A194 near Gateshead, at Markham Moor, Nottinghamshire, in Rugeley, Staffordshire, in Ramsgate, Kent and in Saltash, Cornwall.
 
North East of England entrepreneur opens fourth site: Sunderland entrepreneur Syed Khalid has opened his fourth restaurant, a site in Hartlepool called Mumbai, in the basement of the Grand Hotel on Victoria Road. Khalid has spent more than 40 years in the restaurant business and also owns the Mumbai restaurant in Haswell Plough in County Durham, the Goa restaurant in Sunderland and Khalid Caterers in Sunderland and Spennymoor. He came to England from Bangladesh in 1972 and lives in Sunderland, where he is also the chairman of the Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre.
 
Douglas Jack – strong sales and weak margins to continue at Wetherspoon: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack, issuing an "add" recommendation with a 900p price target, has forecast that strong sales and weak margins are to continue at JD Wetherspoon. He said: “For the final results, due on 12 September, we forecast PBT up slightly to £77.4m (consensus: £78.0m). We estimate the 60bps fall in margins offsets all the benefit from LFL sales rising 5.4% (after 49 weeks) and some of the benefit from the estate growing by 4.5%. Our "add" recommendation reflects estimates of circa 15% earnings growth in both 2015E and 2016E, aided by swap costs falling by £12.5m over the next four years. 45 new pubs should have opened in 2014E; and there should also have been five closures. 70% of the openings should be freehold and a similar ratio is expected for 2015E versus a 45% company freehold average. As a consequence of this, a negative working capital movement and circa £23.5m of share buy-backs, net debt should have increased by almost £100m in 2014E. We expect to hold our 2015E forecasts due to: the strength of food sales growth; a small recovery in machine income; easy current trading comps; and already low margin expectations, in addition to which 2014E freehold acquisitions should add circa 10bps to margins, through rent reductions. We believe our forecast of 15% earnings growth in 2015E is based on achievable assumptions of: 35 new sites; 3.5% LFL sales growth; 20bps margin decline; and a £5m benefit from swaps maturing, giving £86.5m PBT (consensus: £87.8m). Our 900p 12-month target assumes minimal change in a P/E rating that could improve (the 10-year historical peak is 21x vs. 15x average) if margins were to stabilise/grow.”

Innserve celebrates tenth birthday: Innserve, the UK’s leading drinks dispense service provider, is celebrating ten years as an independent company. The company, based in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, employs more than 550 people countrywide and offers a full range of support services to national and international brands in the drinks industry including Heineken, Carlsberg, C&C and Britvic. Since launching in 2004, Innserve technicians have completed more than three million visits to licensed and non-licensed premises, while the company’s customer service centre currently receives more than 700,000 calls a year.

CG Restaurants and Bars secures flagship City site: The London leisure operator CG Restaurants & Bars has acquired a prime City site for its flagship Dirty Martini brand. As part of a major expansion strategy for the award-winning bar group, CG has secured a site at Monument, taking the total number of bars in the group to four. The acquisitions are in line with CG’s stated strategy of opening 15 sites by the end of 2016. CG has acquired Clause in Lovat Lane, Monument from Swizzlestick Bars, which it expects to open in October, after a £1m comprehensive refurbishment and rebranding. Monument will complement Dirty Martin’s other City site at Bishopsgate, which opened late last year and has already delivered an impressive return on its investment. Like-for-like sales across the group for Dirty Martini are up more than 17% year to dat,e putting the brand on track to deliver a record year for the group. Chief executive Scott Matthews said: “This is an exciting time for our company; the success of our Bishopsgate and West End bars has been significant and we’re certain the new site will enhance our presence, profile and profits across premium areas of the capital’s business district. We have already identified our next key target areas for growth and plan to add several more units in the near future.”
 
Adnams asks public 'Please send us your hops': The Suffolk brewer and pub owner Adnams is asking for donations of wild and garden hops to help create its new Wild Hop beer, due to be launched this autumn. The recipe for the new beer, an amber pale ale, requires hops that are freshly picked and that have skipped the drying process. Adnams wants the public to let them know if they have hops growing in their garden which they are willing to donate, or if they know where wild hops are located. To ensure a truly fresh green hop beer, the collected hops will be frozen until the brewing date and will be mixed with a few tamed garden and commercially grown hops. There will be just one brew of the Wild Hop beer, which will be in pubs in the autumn. Fergus Fitzgerald, head brewer at Adnams, said: “We are very excited about this new beer as it is the first time that we’ve used wild and green hops. By sourcing hops in this way, there will be an unknown mix of varieties to work with and each is likely to be grown in varying soil types – which means it’s all slightly unpredictable, but that’s what makes it so interesting." Anyone who has hops on their land or has seen them growing in hedgerows can contact the Hop Spot team at Adnams by emailing belinda.jennings@adnams.co.uk or tweeting @Adnams.
 
Whitbread Table Table pub hit by armed robbers: Masked raiders threatened staff at one of Whitbread's Table Table chain of pub-restaurants with a gun before escaping with cash, police have revealed. Detectives say three men wearing balaclavas walked into the Paul Pry pub restaurant, in Lincoln Road, Walton, Peterborough at about 10.30pm on Sunday. The intruders went straight into the cash office, where they threatened a male and female member of staff with a gun. The raiders stuffed an unspecified amount of cash into a holdall before making their getaway in a car left nearby. A police spokesman said: “They demanded money from the safe. They were given cash, which one of the men put into a black holdall. They made off in a dark blue vehicle. No one was injured." A Whitbread spokesperson said: “An incident took place late last night at the Paul Pry Table Table site in Peterborough that involved an armed robbery. All staff members were thankfully unhurt, however are understandably shaken and we are ensuring that they receive any necessary assistance at this time. We are cooperating fully with the police to try and identify the assailants."

Restaurant Group pushes back opening for Exeter Chiquito's: The Restaurant Group has announced that it has pushed back the opening of a new branch of its Chiquito's Mexican chain at the Marsh Barton trading estate, Exeter until next year. The restaurant is due to open in a new complex on the junction of Alphington Road and Marsh Barton Road alongside another Restaurant Group chain, Frankie & Bennys, and drive-through outlets for Starbucks and KFC. The development is on the northern perimeter of the trading estate, opposite the Stone Lane Retail Park, where occupiers include McDonalds' and Costa Coffee.

Amended plan for 21 bars and restaurants in Huddersfield ski slope scheme submitted:
A £100m scheme for the development of HD one, a new leisure complex in Huddersfield, has seen a minor amendment to the plan submitted. Modified plans have been submitted to Kirklees Council to amend the location of a snow slope on Kilner Bank, which forms part of the plans. Sir John Harman, chairman of Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd, said the revised application showed the company was moving forward with major regeneration and investment in the area. HD One will mean 51 acres of land around the stadium developed into a huge complex including 147 apartments, a 144-bed hotel, an air chimney, a ski slope, a casino, 21 bars and restaurants, a surf simulator, a 10-pin bowling alley, two nightclubs, a music venue, offices and a bingo hall.
 
Six brands confirmed for Darlington as leisure scheme begins: Six restaurant and pub brands are confirmed for a new leisure development in Darlington, where funding has now been secured. The Feethams Leisure development is in Darlington town centre is expected to create hundreds of jobs. Developer Terrace Hill has announced that funding for the scheme is in place and that building work will begin before the end of the month. A number of national chains have been attracted to the site, including Vue Cinemas, which will operate the nine-screen cinema, and Premier Inn, which will open an 80-bedroom hotel. Restaurant chains confirmed are Nando’s, Bella Italia, Prezzo, a Greene King Hungry Horse, Chinese Buffet and Yarm’s Purple Pig. A 65-week build schedule has been put in place by Terrace Hill, with Feethams Leisure set to be open to the public by Christmas next year.
 
Inn with rare gallows sign for sale for £825,000: A country inn with what is believes to be one of only four surviving road-spanning gallows inn signs in the country is on the market with planning permission for a motel and ten log cabins is on sale for £825,000. The Magpie Inn in Stonham Parva, near Stowmarket, Suffolk, was originally on sale for £950,000 but has now been reduced in price. Alternatively, buyers can pay £325,000 for the pub, £275,000 for land earmarked for ten log cabins or £225,000 for the motel land. Andrew Brown, from the estate agency Maxwell Brown, which is handling the sale, said the new reduced price should entice prospective buyers. “The pub is Grade-II listed and features the iconic gallows sign across the A140 which is owned by the pub,” he said. “Apparently there are only about four of them in existence in the country and allegedly when it was first put up there was a cage with a live magpie which used to live there. It’s very well known – if you say to people it’s the one with the arch across the road, they know straight away." In January, when the application for the motel was heard, there were concerns it would create a “major visual impact” next to the pub. But Mid Suffolk district councillors unanimously voted through the application, believing it could boost the area’s economy.
 
Kew Green picks up 19 more Holiday Inns: Kew Green Holdings has bought 19 Holiday Inns hotels from LRG Holdings, bringing its portfolio of Holiday Inns to 38 and making it InterContinental Hotels Group's largest franchise partner for the brand in Europe. The hotels are located throughout the UK in prominent cities and commercial centres. They will continue to trade under the Holiday Inn brand as part of a new franchise agreement and will all undergo refurbishment over the next few years. Paul Johnson, founder and chief executive of Kew Green, said: "This is an exciting acquisition for us which will enlarge our portfolio to 53 hotels with almost 6,700 bedrooms in total." Christie & Co advised the seller and Savills advised the buyer. The hotels being purchased are in Ipswich, Leeds Brighouse, Norwich, York, Haydock, Stoke-on-Trent, Washington, Lancaster, Taunton (M5 jct 25), Colchester, Runcorn, Ashford Central, Rugby Northampton (M1 jct 18, Rochester Chatham, Birmingham (M6 jct 7), Chester South, Warrington, Leeds Wakefield (M1 jct 40), and Derby/Nottingham (M1 jct 25).

BrewDog to launch lager with free tasting at bars today: The Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has set its sights on obliterating what it says is the "insidious culture around lager drinking" cultivated by decades of mass marketing by launching a beer that it claims takes the lager style back to its roots. The strangely named This. Is. Lager. (sic), launching today, will be a 4.7% ABV pilsner that BrewDog says is designed to offer lager drinkers a craft beer alternative to “the mass-produced lagers that still dominate the UK market”. The company said: “This. Is. Lager. is brewed with 100% malt and ten times the hops of most industrial lagers." BrewDog is offering free one-third pint tasters of This. Is. Lager. at all of its UK bars from 12 noon to 12 midnight today, Wednesday. James Watt, co-founder at BrewDog said: “This. Is. Lager. redefines a beer style that has for so long been defined by shallow, listless beers undeserving of the name. For years, global breweries have spent millions convincing the British public that lager is a beer style best served as fizzy, tasteless liquid cardboard propped up by snappy straplines, glamorous advertising or counterfeit stories of foreign provenance. We hope to perpetuate a movement of craft breweries blazing a new trail for lager, proving it’s a misunderstood, neglected beer style. Lager is often demonised or derided as the choice drink of chavs and louts, which is the result of laddish marketing that diverts attention away from taste and enjoyment and undermines the potential of lager as a creative and artisanal beer style. If we can redefine lager in the UK, we will redefine our relationship with alcohol. We can actually start to reverse binge-drinking trends currently being tackled by toothless and misguided legislative proposals unlikely to ever see the light of day anyway. With the volume-driven industry leaders trying to pull the wool over drinkers’ eyes and the government trying to legislate their way out of a media-disaster cul-de-sac, it’s time we treated drinkers like adults and gave them an alternative to stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap beers with no soul or taste. Gone are the days of lager being synonymous with extra-cold taps, lads on tour, fake Aussie accents, Burberry baseball caps and pot bellies. That is not lager. This. Is. Lager.”


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