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Thu 4th Sep 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UK alcohol consumption falls again to lowest this century: Alcohol consumption in the UK fell again in 2013, and is down 18% in the past decade, new figures in the Stats Handbook from the British Beer & Pub Association show. UK alcohol consumption is now at lowest level this century. In 2013, alcohol consumption per capita was down 1.7% on 2012. The new handbook shows a strong downward trend in consumption in the past decade, with per capita consumption down a substantial 18.1% since 2004. The handbook also sheds light on the renaissance in British craft brewing in recent years, with many small local breweries opening. There are now 1,442 breweries in the UK, up 190 on 2012 and almost three times as many as in 2000. The handbook’s detailed section on alcohol-related harm shows falling trends in several key indicators. Drinking by young people has fallen. In England in 2013, 39% of 11-15 year olds had ever drunk alcohol, down from 43% in 2012 and 61% in 2001. Among 11-15s who had had a drink in the past week, average weekly consumption is 8.2 units, down from 12.5 units in 2012 and 9.8 units in 2001. The handbook’s taxation section shows that Britain’s beer taxes remain very high compared with neighbouring countries; three times higher than France, five times higher than Belgium, and an astonishing 13 times higher than Germany. The international section also shows that the UK’s consumption of alcohol is lower than the EU average, 25% less than Germany and 15% less than France, for example. The BBPA's chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, said: “It’s great to see trends in alcohol harms coming down, showing that investment by the industry and partnership with government, through targeted measures, is having a positive impact. There are certainly positives for beer in the data, with greater beer choice for beer drinkers than ever before. But despite the recent cuts in beer duty, Britain’s consumers are still subject to some of the highest tax rates for beer in the EU. Let’s hope we see another tax cut next year.”
 

Industry News:

Allegra names UK and Ireland finalists for best coffee chain award: Allegra has unveiled the short-list of brands competing for the title of the UK and Ireland’s best coffee shop chain in the European Coffee Awards 2014. More than 400 senior executives will gather for a night of celebration on 25 November at the InterContinental, Istanbul where the winners will be honoured during a black-tie gala dinner and ceremony. The finalists are: Benugo, Caffe Nero, Coffee#1, Costa Coffee, Gail's Artisan Bakery, Harris & Hoole, Insomnia Coffee Company, Le Pain Quotidien, Pret A Manger and Starbucks.
 
Eatfirst service promises 'a meal at your desk within 15 minutes': A new food delivery service which launched yesterday in the City of London promises its customers a meal delivered to their desk, home or street location within 15 minutes of the order being placed. Customers access EatFirst through an iPhone app or its website, and choose from a daily-changing menu of two meals, freshly prepared by one of EatFirst’s professional chefs, paying the £7 charge with a credit or debit card through the app. Rahul Parekh, co-founder of EatFirst, which is backed by Rocket Internet, the world’s largest internet platform outside China and the United States, said: "In a vibrant and fast-paced city like London, eating well and eating fast is a constant struggle and more often than not, the only alternatives are unhealthy, low-quality take-aways. With EatFirst, we aim to revolutionise the food delivery market by not only providing healthy meals, but also delivering them faster than your average service.” EatFirst plans to launch in other markets outside the City in the near future.
 
Brighton and Hove voted best UK city for restaurants and bars:
The readers of Condé Nest Traveller magazine have voted Brighton and Hove the best UK city for restaurants and bars – higher than London. Readers voted for they place they love to eat and drink in in the magazine’s annual travel awards. Brighton and Hove placed first because of its variety of bars and choice of places to eat out. It also nudged into the world’s top 100, which feature luxurious destinations across the globe. Brighton and Hove’s award was presented to the city’s mayor, Brian Fitch. He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to have pushed London into second place and it’s a real achievement for the bars and restaurants in the city, demonstrating their diversity and the excellence of their offer."

Didix acquires Tastecard: The restaurant discount card operator Tastecard, which offers users deals at chains including PizzaExpress, Zizzi and Ask Italian, has been acquired by a Dutch promotions specialist that is expanding fast in the UK. Tastecard, a subscription-based diners' club with more than 1.5 million members and 7,000 partner restaurants, gives members half-price dining at participating restaurants: either 50% off or two-for-one across all courses. It has been bought by Didix, the market leader in the Netherlands and Belgium in gift cards and leisure promotions, which made two other acquisitions in the UK in April, Gourmet Society and Restaurant Choice. The Gourmet Society is one of the largest and most successful subscription-based dining clubs in the UK with more than 500,000 members and 7,000 affiliated restaurants. Restaurant Choice is the first open-loop restaurant gift voucher scheme in the UK and is welcomed at more than 1,500 restaurants throughout Britain. Boudewijn Jansen, founder of Didix, said: "Tastecard is a well established consumer brand and will strengthen our competitive position in the discount leisure market in the UK and Europe against the likes of Groupon." Matt Turner, founder of Tastecard, said: "Didix has grown rapidly in Europe and is fulfilling its ambition to become Europe's leading dining club. We look forward to being part of Didix to achieve its international goals."
 
Dunkin' Donuts launches first dark roast coffee: Dunkin’ Donuts is adding its first dark roast to its coffee line-up, in what the chain's parent company, Dunkin’ Brands Group, called its most “dramatic” new coffee in a decade. The chain, which is known for a smooth, light-roast coffee, has introduced the new brew in two new California locations, Modesto and Santa Monica. It will be available hot or iced nationwide starting 22 September, and priced the same as other brewed coffee. Dunkin’ Brands' president for global marketing and innovation, John Costello, said: “This new launch is a big step in our growth and reinforcing our position as a coffee leader, and the brand offering one of the largest varieties of coffee choices for busy, on-the-go people.” The company's executive chef and vice president of product innovation, Jeff Miller ,said the new roast was “a unique blend that offers a bold taste with a smooth finish without bitterness or burnt taste, which really sets it apart from other dark roasts.”
 

Company News:

Coal Grill on target for 16 branches by end of 2015: Coal Grill and Bar is on target to be operating 16 branches by the end of next year, the chain has revealed. Coal Bar, led by founder and chief executive John Gater, opened its eighth outlet at the end of last month in Gloucester Quays, and is due to open two more restaurants, in Telford and Swindon, later this year, taking the total number of units to ten. There are "further sites on the horizon", with the company "comfortably on target" to be operating 16 branches by the end of 2015, and sites already in discussion for 2016 and 2017, it said. The Gloucester Quays outlet has more than 100 covers, plus a cocktail bar. The chain takes its menu inspiration from the southern and south-western United States, plus pizzas and pastas. Gater said: “The brand continues to trade well, with strong like for like sales. We continue to please the customer with our policy of over delivering on quality and value.”

Stringfellow’s reports rise in operating loss: Stringfellow’s nightclub in London has reported a pro rata 5.3% decline in turnover to £8.05m in 2013 from £12.72m in the 18 month period the previous accounts covered. Operating losses increased to £292,000 from £145,000 in the previous longer period. The highest paid director earned £249,000, up from £199,000 for the period before. The company said that the drop in turnover was related to the “prevailing economic conditions, which is also in line with the performance of other businesses in the leisure industry.” It added: “However, group net assets remain strong.”
 
Caffe Nero secures second Dublin site: Caffe Nero has secured its second Dublin site, replacing the former Furama restaurant at Eirpage House in Donnybrook. It follows the recent opening of a coffee shop at Merrion Square in the heart of the Irish capital. The company expects to have six outlets operational by the end of the year. Local media reports suggest the rent is about €55,000 for the 148sq m (1,593 sq ft) shop opposite Donnybrook stadium. Shane Cahir of CBRE handled the letting. Aidan McDonnell advised the tenant.

Five Guys plans Cardiff opening: The American burger chain Five Guys is planning an opening in Cardiff towards the end of the year. The company is currently recruiting a general manager and assistant manager for a Cardiff branch, but no details of the premises have been revealed yet. Five Guys started in Virginia in the United States in 1986 and has now grown to more than 1,000 locations in the US with more than 1,500 units in development. It arrived in the UK last summer and now has 12 outlets open, with more openings planned in Cambridge, Harlow, Bristol, the O2 Arena in London, and Glasgow.
 
Businessman competes with Wetherspoon to buy Forfar site: An anonymous businessman is seeking to thwart JD Wetherspoon's attempts to buy Angus Council offices in Forfar (population: 13,500) for its second Angus outlet. The local newspaper revealed that a prominent Angus businessman has lodged an offer for the property at the Cross which was the subject of a special closed doors meeting last week at which councillors agreed the authority should proceed with private negotiations with the pub chain. Wetherspoon has been in secret talks with the council over buying the town centre building. The businessman behind the new bid said it was a “genuine offer” which had been made after discovering the prominent town centre property had not been placed on the open market. He instructed solicitors to make the offer, for an undisclosed sum, and that was lodged with Angus Council at the end of last week.

Be At One reports store Ebitda up 30% to £4.2m: The London-based cocktail bar brand Be At One has reported turnover up 44% to £16.7m in the year to 30 March 2014. Like-for-like sales growth was 9%, the second consecutive year of 9% growth. Store-adjusted Ebitda rose 30% to £4.2m while company-adjusted Ebitda increased by £800,000, or 51%, from £1.6m to £2.4m. Cash flow generated from operating activities increased 31% year-on-year from £1.6m to £2.1m. Expenditure on fixed assets was £3.4 in the period. New facilities were agreed with Lloyds Bank that will allow the company to continue its planned roll-out over the next two to three years, it said. Five new sites were opened in the period. Gross profit margin was stable at 71%. Pre-tax profit was £371,000, up from £331,000 the year before. Pre-opening costs rose to £516,000 from £288,000. Exceptional costs rose to £204,000, with a fixed asset write-off of £193,000, up from £68,000
 
Four brands sign up for Walsall scheme: Four brands, PizzaExpress, Bella Italia, Chiquito and a Greene King Hungry Horse, will open at the Walsall Waterfront complex in the West Midlands. The scheme is a £12m town centre leisure development, which is led by a cinema, as the developer confirmed work is to start within weeks. Light Cinema was confirmed for the canalside complex earlier this year and the developer, Kier Property, has now revealed the names of the national food and drink chains signed up for the scheme. Around 230 jobs will be created during the first phase of the town centre regeneration project which is expected to be completed next summer. More units are expected as part of second phase. Phil Dove, general manager for Light, said: "These four brands complement the Light's ethos and concept of community engagement and we look forward to seeing this exciting next phase of development come together." Marc Ward of PizzaExpress said: "We have been keen to open a restaurant in the Walsall area for some time and therefore signing up to the Waterfront development is a significant and exciting opportunity for us."

Bill's to open in Bluewater: Bill’s Restaurant is to open a 3,195 sq ft outlet at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent next month. The new restaurant will be at the entrance to Bluewater’s Winter Garden, on the lower Rose Gallery. Russell Loveland, portfolio director at Land Securities, the owner of Bluewater, said: “Bill’s has been seeking a presence at Bluewater for some time, so we are delighted to have been able to create the ideal location.  Their offer, environment and experience complements Bluewater’s, with their breakfast to bedtime positioning a perfect match to how guests spend their time at Bluewater.” Scott Macdonald, co-managing director of Bill’s, which was created by Bill Collison and is now backed by Richard Caring, said: “As we are open from early in the morning until late at night, it’s important we choose locations that will deliver customers, and Bluewater really fits the bill for us. The restaurant is in a prominent location, with high footfall throughout the day, and it’s an opportunity for us to create a really lovely restaurant with plenty of Bill’s sparkle. We’ll be adding something a little different to Bluewater and can’t wait to open our doors.” Land Securities declared a very strong summer for Bluewater’s dining brands, with catering sales up by 16.2% in July compared to the same month in 2013.

Irish rugby stars open new Dublin bar: Ireland and Leinster rugby stars Rob and Dave Kearney, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien have opened a new bar in Dublin. Called The Bridge 1859 it is in Ballsbridge, south Dublin and was formerly known as Bellamy's. The four have gone into partnership with Noel Anderson, who also owns the Grafton Lounge in the capital, and will be open for business by the end of September. The bar is located in the middle of Dublin’s rugby-playing area, close to both the Aviva Stadium and the RDS.

Vanessa Hall – sharing our strategic priorities has been a major change since I joined YO! Sushi: YO! Sushi's chief executive, Vanessa Hall, who is celebrating her first year in the job this month, has told Propel that sharing the companies strategic priorities with staff has been a major change since she joined t company. In an interview in Propel Quarterly magazine, out this week, she said: “YO! Sushi is in great shape, it's had an amazing leadership, an amazing team of people for the past 15 years, but what we're trying to do is align the talent that we have, and the structure that we've got, the business structure, to our strategic priorities. So we're done a bit of work on that: we've had conferences bringing all the general managers together for a half-year business review, we've had all the chefs together for a chefs' conference, we've had all the assistant managers together. We're really starting to share our strategic priorities, and how we see YO! growing over the next couple of years. We're also planning a little bit more for the future, so we set one day aside in the month to talk about future growth. Sometimes you can get locked in the day-to-day. So there's now one day a month planned in to say, 'Are we still on track? Are we taking the right steps for future growth?”
 
York baker plans artisan bakery with room for fellow artisan pop-ups: The York baker Al Kippax is to open a new bakery, restaurant and artisan food shop, the Bluebird Bakery and Rattle Owl cafe and restaurant, in the former Blake Head Book Shop in Micklegate. The small unit on the left of the double fronted shop, which forms part of the Grade II listed building, will become the Owlet – a “pop up” shop for local artisan food producers. Plans have also been submitted to the council to excavate the cellar of the property which is believed to be sitting on top of a Roman road, with hopes of incorporating it into the current building design and allowing it to be displayed. The plans are being spearheaded by Clarissa O’Callaghan who wanted to create a new restaurant that champions local produce.

BrewDog pop-up bar at Tate Modern marks end of Matisse exhibition: BrewDog, the Scottish brewer and bar operator, is marking the end of the Henri Matisse cut-outs exhibition at the Tate Modern in London this weekend with a pop-up bar in the museum's great Turbine Hall. The bar will be open to the public from 6pm to 10pm on Friday, 5 September, 10am to midnight on Saturday and 10am to 10pm on Sunday, 7 September. It is the latest in a number of collaborations between the museum and BrewDog, which include last year's Lichtenstein Pale Ale, brewed to mark the Tate Modern retrospective on the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, with Lichtenstein artwork on the label, and a tenth anniversary ale for the museum in 2010.
 
Nick Batram – we’re recommending buying Spirit shares: Peel Hunt's leisure analyst Nick Batram has issued a buy note on Spirit shares after yesterday’s fourth quarter trading update. He said: “Another quarter of outperformance means the group will exceed current market expectations. Pleasingly, both managed and leased are performing well, while the increased financial flexibility is reflected in the acquisition of 11 pubs during Q4. We like the management story, the underlying estate and accelerated expansion potential for managed, none of which is reflected in the rating. Solid end to the year and upgrade to numbers: Q4 was another period of market outperformance, for both the managed and leased divisions. Despite tough comparatives, managed LFL rose 2.1% in Q4 (food up 2.0% and drink up 2.3%), leaving the full-year figure at 4.4% higher versus our circa 4% increase. Eleven new pubs were acquired in the quarter; this was better than we expected, and a reflection of the increased financing flexibility coming through. Leased LFL net income accelerated to 4.8% growth in Q4, giving 4.2% growth for the full year. There is no comment on margins. While the upgrade may not be material, the performance of the business is clearly promising, as are the number of pubs acquired in Q4. We very much like the management story, the quality of the existing estate and the increased financial flexibility. Given this, the prospective FY2015 PE of <11x represents excellent value and makes Spirit our core buy in the sector."

Hall & Woodhouse reports turnover and profit boost: Dorset brewer and pub retailer Hall & Woodhouse has reported turnover up 6.2% to £102.9m in the year to 25 January 2014. Pre-tax profit was up 11% to £7m. Pre-exceptional operating profits climbed 8% to £9m. It saw the third consecutive year of growth across all its divisions and a second year of more than 10% profit growth. Operating margin grew from 8.6% to 8.8% and return on invested capital grew from 8.1% to 8.5%. There were property sales of £5.6m (2012: £4.8m) as it took “the opportunity of an improving property market” to sell underperforming pubs. The company opened a new-build pub this summer, The Milk Churn Pun and Restaurant in Melksham, Wiltshire.
 
Kentucky Fried Chicken reports UK turnover and profit boost: Kentucky Fried Chicken, led by Martin Shuker in the UK and owned by Yum! Brands, has reported a riser in turnover of 5.5% to £446.4m in the year to 1 December 2013, from £423.35m the year before. Pre-tax profit rose to £40.11m from £39.14m in 2012 The company said: “Operating profit of 9.5% has declined slightly when compared to the previous year (2012: 10.1%) due to increased administrative expenses of £8.6m to £174.3m (2012: £165.6m) driven primarily by increased labour costs (£9.3m) in line with the increase in average staff headcount and depreciation (£4.1m) due to continued investment in new stores, store remodels and equipment. This has been offset by cost-saving initiatives implemented across the business during the year under review and as a result we have delivered operating profit of £42.5m (2012: £42.9m)." KFC had net assets of £132.6m at the end of the 2013 financial period. It said: “A key element of our ongoing strategy is to review our estate to identify where franchise ownership represents greater potential for the brand in our market. This is a positive indication of our plans to focus our resources for future growth and to enable franchisees to grow and add value, especially where there are synergies with adjacent ownerships and assets.”
 
Gastro-pub invests £120,000 in stand-alone fish and chip shop: The Angel Inn, a gastro-pub in Corbridge, Northumberland, has invested around £120,000 in converting and refurbishing one of the 260-year-old pub’s outbuildings to create an upmarket fish and chip shop. Angelfish will open from Tuesdays to Saturdays through the year. A range of Angel wines will be on offer to accompany meals, along with beers from Wylam Brewery of Northumberland, which is also supplying ingredients for the batter in which the fish will be fried. The operators of the Angel also opened the family-friendly Little Angel Cafe in the Queen’s Hall in Hexham at the end of 2013 as part of moves to extend the Angel brand outside Corbridge, and has its next cafe lined up for Darras Hall, the upmarket estate just outside Newcastle upon Tyne. Kevin Laing, managing director at the Angel Inn, said: "We started planning this new venture two years ago, and took the time to talk to a lot of the leading operators in the industry about what we were planning. The ideas we’ve developed after speaking to them has helped us create something really special, and the support we’ve had from them, as well as from our suppliers and existing customers, has been fantastic. Our aim is to build a reputation for The Angel’s fish and chip shop as a cut above the norm, with the quality of the ingredients used, the way they are prepared and the service provided combining to create a experience comparable with any of the best-known fish and chip shops around the country.”
 
McDonald’s forced into compromise on golden arches M sign: A McDonald's site in Arizona has become the first of its kind after scrapping the company's Golden Arches in favour of a turquoise letter M on the side of the building. The move came about after officials in Arizona said the restaurant would not be allowed to open unless the corporation came up with a compromise. Strict laws in the city of Sedona say that no building is allowed to ruin the views of the state's surrounding desert. The idea for the turquoise sign was raised and subsequently approved to hang on the side of the restaurant, which also abides by a strict colour code having been built using orange and red materials.

Award-winning restaurant fights back against foie gras protesters: An award-winning restaurateur has hit back at the animal rights campaigners who are planning to protest outside his country pub on Saturday because he sells foie gras. Alvin Michaels, one of the directors of the Bricklayers Arms in Flaunden, Hertfordshire, accused them of blackmail in a statement yesterday. He said the group has pursued the Bricklayers Arms through a negative campaign on social media, threatening phone calls and demonstrations outside of the restaurant. Michaels said: “I thought that this issue deserved some serious thought as foie gras raises some interesting moral and philosophical questions. For every study that says it is harmful to feed waterfowl through tube-feeding, there seems to be equal evidence that states that it isn’t. I am puzzled that I have been singled out when foie gras is widely available on the shelves of many supermarkets, restaurants and local stores all over the UK." Michaels said the Bricklayers Arms was "passionate" about sourcing products from local farmers and suppliers who recognise and respect the humane treatment of their animals. The country pub, which dates back to the 18th century, features in this year’s Michelin Guide and won the AA’s Rosette 2014 and Best Herts Pub awards. It was named Restaurant of the Year by the Foodie Square Guide and Hertfordshire’s Dining Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide. Foie gras production has been illegal in UK since a 1998 European Commission scientific study held that the production causes unnecessary suffering to the ducks and geese involved.

Geof Collyer – we expect flat profit before tax at Greene King but still recommend buying shares:
Deutsche Bank's leisure analyst Geof Collyer has issued a buy note on Greene King shares, with a price target of 1005p, ahead of its first quarter trading update on 10 September even though he forecasts flat profit before tax. He said: “We are looking for flat PBT this year, as dilution from the tenanted disposal compounds a sluggish summer for Retail. Numbers should go up once the proceeds are reinvested in better returning assets. Ahead of the Q1 IMS, we have adjusted our FY’15 forecasts down by 1.7% at the PBT and 0.9% at the EPS levels. This is to reflect (i) a lower margin on the Hawthorne disposal beer contract, (ii) shaving 50 bps off our Retail lfls for the year, and (iii) a £1m non cash impact from IAS 19 on the net finance cost. The knock-on impact for FY’16E is half of the impact for FY’15E. We remain buyers, though expect the stocks to drift off a little next week, if our lfls estimates prove accurate. The industry lfls data (Coffer Peach Business Tracker) was relatively flat for May [up 0.2%], June [up 0.4%] and July [up 2.2%] – a quarterly average of 0.9% higher. Latest industry commentary suggests that food-led pubs and restaurants in particular have had a better trading performance over the summer (having struggled during last year’s heat wave), with a reduced impact from London, which has been a traditional source of competitive advantage for Greene King. Backing this view up, on 29 August, the Restaurant Group reported current trading lfls that implied nearly 7% growth for July and August. We also expect 3% lfls growth for Whitbread’s restaurants for its Q1 (Jun-August), due to report on 9 September. Against this backdrop and a strong comp (up 5.8%) in the summer of 2013, we see the latest ten-week period of Retail lfls due to be reported on 10 September as broadly flat. The sell-off of around one-quarter of the Pub Partners estate at the start of the new fiscal year should mean that the average Ebitda/pub should be up significantly – we estimate by over 9%. Greene King has now chosen to report lfl net income for its tenanted estate (a decision that may not be entirely coincidental to the timing of the bottom-end disposal). We forecast a modest slowdown in the rate of growth here, but interestingly ahead of retail lfls. Brewing should be helped by a strong start to the quarter.”

Former Oxford Hotels and Inns site in Norfolk set to re-open with shop after multi-million refurbishment:
The Old Brewery House in Reepham, Norfolk, a former Oxford Inns and Hotels site, will re-open on 26 September after a multi-million pound refurbishment. It is now owned by Iain and Clair Wilson, who also operate the bed and breakfast business Byford’s, the King’s Head in Holt, the Pigs in Edgefield and a cake business, The Sponge. The restaurant will have 60 covers inside and 40 outside, including a mixture of garden and terrace seating, and will offer British-style locally sourced food. The site will also feature an interior and home decorating design shop called Lambert and Tribe, selling products such as high-end paint, floor tiles and Agas, plus quirky objects and antiques. The shop will open alongside the restaurant.

Planners recommend approval for McDonald's next to Newcastle's biggest school: Planning officers have recommended that Newcastle City Council approves the building of a McDonald's drive-through restaurant next door to the city's biggest school. The plan for the restaurant, on the site of the old Crofters Lodge pub in Kenton Lane, has hit considerable local opposition, with the council receiving 221 written objections, and two online petitions against it gathering almost 600 signatures. The objections are that it will lead to increased traffic on an already busy road, as well as increased litter, noise and anti social behaviour. In addition, opponents claim, many of the 2,000 students at Kenton School students pass the site on their way to and from school and will be tempted to buy food and drink from the restaurant. Sarah Holmes-Carne, the head of Kenton School, said the school's major concerns were about road safety and health issues regarding obesity linked to the eating of fast food: “If they agree to this they are agreeing to putting young people in danger.” However, Newcastle's planning officials say litter teams, acoustic screens and control of opening and delivery times will keep noise and litter issues under control. They say the existing highway network will be able to cope with increased traffic while the council’s "Draft Core Strategy" which seeks to control the location of, and access to, unhealthy eating outlets do not justify refusing the proposal on public health grounds. McDonald’s says the scheme will help create 75 jobs and generate £1.9m for the local economy.

Last-minute restaurant deals app targets nationwide expansion: A start-up that sells last-moment opportunities for food and drink deals at independent restaurants, getawriggleon, has hit its latest crowd-funding target of £130,000 and now hopes to move into new markets nationwide from Bristol. Wriggle founder Rob Hall said: “Wriggle acts as a platform for high-quality saleable commodities such as restaurant tables, theatre tickets, bowling alleys, hot-air balloon rides, supper clubs, which, if unsold, are wasted assets. The app focuses on opportunities, not offers, since even the best businesses sometimes have spare capacity at the last moment. This difference enables a sale to be made without damaging the brand by publicly discounting.”
 
Liverpool One scheme reports 10% boost to catering sales as Tortilla confirms opening: Tortilla, the Mexican restaurant brand, is to open its first restaurant in the North West at Liverpool One. It will open mid-November in a 2,200 sq ft site over two levels on Lord Street,. The largest fast-casual Mexican restaurant group in the UK and Europe. Tortilla launched in London in 2007 selling California-style Mexican cuisine, and was awarded Zagat’s "Best Buy" and "Top Mexican Restaurant" in 2013. It currently trades from 18 locations across the UK with plans to have 21 sites by the end of the year. Miles Dunnett, head of asset management at Grosvenor Liverpool Fund, said: “Tortilla is an excellent addition to Liverpool One’s great mix of dining brands, which provide a varied selection of cuisine from across the globe. The selection of Liverpool One by Tortilla to launch their first North West restaurant is a testament to how important the destination is as a landmark for brands expanding across the UK.” The announcement comes after a record year for Liverpool One’s restaurants and cafes, with catering sales up by 10% year-on-year. Other new dining additions in the past six months included Ed’s Easy Diner, the first outlets for Bill’s and TGI Friday’s in Liverpool, and the first Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Cafe-Bar in the North West of England. Performance has also been strong for the first six months of the year, with sales increasing by 4.6% overall. The trend continued in July, with sales up by 6.7%, after the BRC revealed that retail sales nationally had fallen by 0.8%.

Brains brews 'Barack Obeerma' ale for Nato summit: The Cardiff brewer SA Brain has made three special brews to mark the arrival in Wales of the US President, Barack Obama, for a conference of Nato heads of state, which are due to be served at a drinks reception for the world’s media at Tredegar House in Newport today (Thursday). The strongest is Obeerma, a 6% abv IPA, named for the president himself, while the other two, Merkale, named for the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Beer Cam, named for the prime minister, David Cameron, are 4.3% and 4.2% respectively. A limited number of beers are being given away on the brewery’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Bruce Newman, head of marketing at Brains, said: “It’s not very often you get 67 heads of state and government descend on Wales so it’s great to be able to showcase our brewing credentials to a global audience."

Restaurant plans £500,000 expansion to add 100 covers and private dining room: A restaurant in the Yorkshire Wolds is planning a £500,000 expansion that will add 100 more covers, as well as a second-floor private dining room with bar and roof terrace and an outdoor dining area. Mark Ciuffetelli, who took over the Millhouse Restaurant and Bar in Skidby, East Yorkshire 20 years ago, said: “We know that there’s demand for extra seating in the existing restaurant, but we also wanted to create a plush private dining area that larger parties or corporate clients can have to themselves." Last year Ciuffetelli spent £250,000 to add a cocktail bar at the restaurant. He said he has seen bookings improve dramatically as the recession faded away: "In the past two or three years, we've seen a massive upturn. Last year was one of our best years yet and this year looks like it's even better. Bookings are thick and fast for the next two years."

Salvatore’s named on TripAdvisor as London’s top cocktail bar: The Playboy Club in Mayfair, London is celebrating after its bar, Salvatore’s, was named London’s favourite nightspot out of 1,176 different venues in the city on the ratings website TripAdvisor. Salvatore’s Bar, which is named after cocktail legend Salvatore "The Maestro" Calabrese who heads it, opened in 2011 and won “Best Bar” at the London Lifestyle Awards. Calabrese said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the bar and my wonderful, dedicated team. Our mission at Salvatore’s Bar is to provide the ultimate bar experience in London from the warm and elegant atmosphere to the attentive service and of course our well-considered and award-winning drinks list. This accolade is a testament to the hard work that goes into achieving this.”

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