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Thu 18th Sep 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Gondola Holdings to put Ask and Zizzi on the market with £300m price tag: Gondola Holdings is set to put its Ask Italian and Zizzi brands on the market, The Times has reported. The sale is the next step in the dismantling of Gondola’s restaurant business – it has already sold PizzaExpress to Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital for £900m and Byron for £100m to Hutton Collins. Ask Italian, which operates 110 sites, is two-thirds of the way through a rolling refurbishment plan that was launched in 2012. Meanwhile, Zizzi operates 133 sites, the majority have been refurbished in recent times. It has an average spend-per-head of £19 compared to £15 at PizzaExpress and £18 at Ask Italian. The Times reports that the two businesses have underlying Ebitda of £27m, which is a rise of 50% in two years with a run-rate Ebitda of about £30m, which suggests a total value of £300m or more. Both brands are currently seeing strong like-for-like sales growth. The owners of a raft of fast casual dining brands, including Ed’s Easy Diner, YO! Sushi and Las Iguanas, are currently considering their options in an active restaurant mergers and acquisitions market. Meanwhile, Hugh Osmond’s Sun Capital Partner has already secured exclusivity in a deal to buy Strada for £40m from Tragus Group. One market rumour last week was that Osmond may try to combine Strada with Ask and Zizzi.

Industry News:

TLC Inns founder to present at next Propel Multi Club Conference: The founder of the award-winning TLC Inns is to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 November at the Lancaster Hotel in London W2. Steve Haslam looks at the lessons learnt in developing a fast-casual dining brand, Grand Central Bar and Grill, alongside a pub business, training, property selection and negotiating with tenanted pub companies. Operators can book up to two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Deadline looms for sector benchmarking survey: This is the final week for operators to take part in the haysmacintyre Propel Benchmarking survey, which has a deadline for entries of Monday 21 September. Propel is partnering the chartered accountant and tax advisor haysmacintyre to produce the most comprehensive benchmarking survey ever undertaken in the hospitality sector. Those taking part will have access to the full results. Propel’s managing director, Paul Charity, said: “We think the results will prove invaluable in allowing sector businesses to understand how they compare to industry averages in key areas of the business. All information provided to us will be treated in strictest confidence, and the results go straight to haysmacintyre without Propel seeing them. However, we would like to list the companies who took part in the study (if you wish to be kept totally anonymous please tick the box at the end of the survey).” To take part in the survey go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZKBXRRR

Barclaycard trials contactless payment wristband: Barclaycard is trialing a wearable contactless wristband “wallet” in London. The system is called bPay and lets anyone with any bank make payments without cards. If the trial is successful the device will be rolled out nationwide next year. The bands are pre-loaded with money and can be automatically topped up .They can be used for purchases of up to £20 for a single item. The same technology can pay for a cup of coffee or a sandwich when the wristband is waved across a high street till terminal. Initially, the bands will be made available to 10,000 commuters in London. However, there is a plan for a national launch next year, presenting them as an alternative to cash for small purchases.

McDonald’s looks to boost flagging sales in the US with two weeks of free coffee: McDonald’s is looking to boost flagging sales in the United States with free coffee for a fortnight, the second time it has done this. The national Free Coffee Event started two days ago and runs until 29 September. The company will give guests a free small McCafe coffee for a two-week period during regular breakfast hours. Greg Watson, the McDonald’s executive who oversees menu innovation, said: “We know our guests are busy, especially during the morning, and a free cup of coffee goes a long way in helping get their days started.” Meanwhile, the company is making its McCafe ground coffee available in Canadian grocery stores this month, part of its campaign to win market share in a country long dominated by rivals such as Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

Restaurateur beats Westminster stress area ban: The restaurateur Will Ricker has won an appeal against Westminster Council to allow customers at his Soho restaurant, La Bodega Negra, to purchase alcohol without food. After the council’s initial refusal, Ricker instructed the leading licensing law firm Poppleston Allen and the barrister James Rankin, to appeal against the decision and seek permission to allow up to 24 customers to purchase drink, without food, at the venue. Lisa Sharkey, a partner at Poppleston Allen, said: “Our client was looking for a little flexibility in his trading to allow customers, many who regularly use the venue to dine, to stop by for a drink, without committing to ordering food. As a venue that has been, without exception, trouble-free, we were confident that the request would be looked upon favourably. Despite the initial refusal, I’m delighted that on appeal, the judge found in favour of our client and has allowed the change in conditions, albeit the venue is within a recognised ‘stress area’.”

Company News:

Wetherspoon lines up ninth site in Edinburgh: JD Wetherspoon is planning to open another Edinburgh city centre bar after unveiling a scheme to take over the high-profile Jimmy Chung’s buffet site on Waverley Bridge. Proposals for another venue in Victoria Street in the heart of the Old Town have also been submitted, meaning the company could end up with nine sites in Edinburgh. Critics said plans for Waverley Bridge marked a “sad day” for the city, and that the proliferation of pubs was a “failure” for planners. A 13-metre long bar would serve more than 200 drinkers while two beer garden areas would be opened up on either side of the building at the Jimmy Chung site. Wetherspoon is also pushing forward with plans for a multi-storey bar in the former Khushi’s Indian restaurant in Victoria Street, its eighth site. With a population of 495,000, nine sites in Edinburgh would mean JD Wetherspoon has a pub for every 55,000 residents. Douglas Rothwell, a property surveyor and consultant for the Jimmy Chung’s chain, said that the restaurant was not under immediate threat of closure, but could shut within six months if plans are accepted. He said: “The Jimmy Chung’s restaurant group has agreed to collaborate with Network Rail, who are the landlords of this property, and JD Wetherspoon, who are developers of leisure premises, in order to look at possible ways to improve the appearance of this cornerstone building at the station entrance.” Wetherspoon’s chief executive, John Hutson, told journalists at last week’s results meeting that the company has 68 pubs in Scotland, adding: “We’ve seen lots of sales growth in Scotland in the last few years.” An analysis of Wetherspoon’s latest full-year results shows that the company has taken 12 years to double its sales to £1.41bn from £601.2m in 2002. Pre-tax profit has risen more slowly, from £53.5m in 2002 to £79.3m this year. However, earnings per share have risen almost 300%, from 16.6p in 2002 to 47p this year.

Laine Pub Company set to open Battersea site: Laine Pub Company, led by Gary Pettet and Gavin George, is set to open its first pub since receiving investment from Risk Capital Partners a few months ago. The company will open The Four Thieves in South London next Thursday (25 September) on the site previously known as The Battersea Mess and Music Hall. Earlier this year, chief executive Gavin George said: “The possibilities for the development of this site are very exciting, given its size and layout. The area known as the Music Hall was the original home of Jongleurs in the 1980s so deserves a scheme with the creativity and originality necessary to bring back an operation with a similar cultural impact.”

Gordon Ramsay to open ‘pub’ in Atlantic City: The chef-entrepreneur Gordon Ramsay has unveiled plans to open an outpost of his Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Atlantic City in New Jersey, where guests will dine on traditional British fare such as bangers and mash and fish and chips. The restaurant will take over from the space currently occupied by the Mia restaurant, and be designed to reflect the pub’s British heritage with decor inspired by red telephone booths and a bar featuring 30 beers on tap. The venue will seat 250 diners and is scheduled to open in early 2015.

Black Dog to open Day of the Dead-inspired Mexican bar: Black Dog Ballroom Group, the company behind the Manchester bar Black Dog Ballroom, is to open a new Mexican bar, Xolo, at its New Wakefield Street venue. The Mexican-themed tequila den will take over the space previously occupied by the basement nightclub Underdog. The venue has been designed by Cheeky Tiki, which was also behind the unique look at the Liars Lounge at Black Dog’s newly opened sister bar Cane and Grain in Thomas Street. The 400-capacity underground late night venue will be a “Day of the Dead” inspired emporium of all things Mexican, Black Dog said. The bar is due to launch this week. Ross Mackenzie, the owner of Black Dog Ballroom Group, said: “We like to keep our venues exciting and different and wanted to create something new for this season’s fresh wave of students in our Black Dog Ballroom on New Wakefield Street. Xolo, meaning the Mexican bald dog, is all about tequila, frozen margaritas and late-night party tunes.”

‘Soho House Two’ to open in Soho next year: A new Soho House site, Soho House Dean Street, is to open yards from the original Greek Street location in central London to mark its 20th anniversary. The company has invested more than £10m restoring one of Soho’s finest Georgian townhouses, which was almost destroyed by fire five years ago. The new Soho House outpost will open in the spring, when the Greek Street building will shut down for two months for a major refurbishment. Founder Nick Jones, who is chief executive of Soho House and a 20% shareholder, told the London Evening Standard: “With each and every House we open internationally, our growing number of new members always like to visit the original club in London, our birthplace, at 40 Greek Street. In our 20th year we wanted to celebrate Soho House by giving our members another club in Soho to work, create and socialise in. Doing this in London and bringing this Georgian building to life has been a personal labour of love for me. It brought back fond memories of opening Greek Street and the journey I and the team have been on.” The restoration of Soho House Dean Street has already taken almost a year.

Stonegate launches ‘More’ loyalty card: Stonegate Pub Company has launched a loyalty card across 50 sites that it clams gives customers “more”. The scheme offers all customers ten points for every £1 spent on food or drink and can be redeemed at the bar when 200 points have been reached, with a value of £1 for every 100 points. Richard Bruce, Stonegate Pub Company’s marketing director, said: “Our loyalty card gives our customers exceptional value, in fact ten times more return than they would get from other schemes in the retail market such as Nectar or Tesco Clubcard. And unlike others in the pub industry, we are allowing spending on drinks as well as food to be included.” The “More” loyalty scheme is available as a card, or as a mobile app via Android or the app store. Customers who sign up for the free-to-join More scheme, will be rewarded with 100 points for registering, a further 50 points for providing their twitter handle and five points for each tweet. Every customer who joins will receive complimentary gifts and bonus points over the first eight week, after which a regular e-newsletter will be sent out containing points balances, free giveaways and the opportunity to earn bonus points. The launch of “More” comes after a summer investment of £2.3m across Stonegate’s student business, which now stands at 13 outlets.

Intertain rebrands Wolverhampton Walkabout as Stone House: Intertain has spent £250,000 rebranding its Walkabout venue in Queen Street, Wolverhampton as the Stone House, a nightclub open from 10pm until 3am, Tuesday to Saturday. Over the past two weeks the venue has been given a total makeover, with every trace of green and gold painted over. It will reopen as The Stone House on Saturday, with the final touches put on the refurbishment this week to prepare for the grand opening. The Stone House will feature nightly drinks specials and deals for students, as well as local DJs. Downstairs will play more commercial music, while the Penthouse upstairs will be an R’n’B bar. Assistant manager Ross Blunt told The Wolverhampton Express and Star that The Stone House would be the first big R’n’B club in the city. Intertain runs 32 bars and comedy venues in the UK, and has one other outlet called The Stone House, a bar/nightclub in Hertford open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A spokesman for Intertain said the rebranding had been carried out because the Wolverhampton Walkabout did not trade like the other outlets in the chain – “daytimes are not so great” – and so it was now “going down The Stone House route” and concentrating on evening and weekend openings in a similar way to the Hertford Stone House. There were no plans to make similar conversions anywhere else in the estate, he said.

Chapel Down hits £2.75m crowd-funding mark: Wine maker Chapel Down had raised £2.76m on the crowd-funding website Seedr by yesterday lunchtime. The sum is more than one and a half times the original target of £1.67m. The fund-raising remains open, with the company accepting up to £3.96m in crowd-funding investment.

Jamie Oliver sets opening date for Chelmsford site: Chef-restaurateur Jamie Oliver is to open Jamie’s Trattoria in Chelmsford, Essex in mid-October. The new Jamie’s Trattoria will create 40 new jobs, and will open from 7am to midnight Monday to Thursday, and 7am to 12.30am Friday to Saturday. The company is now advertising vacancies for chefs to work at the restaurant on High Street, Chelmsford a few months after an application for a change of use of the former Barclays bank was submitted to Chelmsford City Council planners. The first Jamie’s Italian Trattoria, which are smaller and more rustic than the Jamie’s Italian outlets, opened in Richmond, Surrey in July last year. A third Trattoria is lined up for Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Feng Sushi and Loch Fyne sign up to sustainability and sourcing scheme: The restaurant chains Feng Sushi and Loch Fyne have signed up to a scheme to make the labelling and sourcing of sustainable fish clearer and more consistent for shoppers that will be unveiled by the industry and retailers this week, and which is backed by the “Fish Fight” campaign set up by the chef-entrepreneur Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Two new voluntary codes of conduct from the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC), whose supermarket and supplier members account for over 80% of fish sales in the UK, should mean “consumers will be able to shop safe in the knowledge that [sustainability] claims are meaningful and harmonised across products, retailers and brands,” the SSC said.

Luxury tearoom brand opens second outlet in UK: The tearoom and gift shop franchise Creams British Luxury is to open its second UK outlet, in Leeds, in a 4,000 sq ft unit at the Core Shopping Centre, after a £350,000 refurbishment. The new outlet, which will include sit-down dining, take-away and a gift shop selling macarons, luxury chocolates and the like, will be on Lands Lane, close to a newly launched Byron Burger outlet. Creams, which was set up by AKN Solutions directors Mohammed Kamran, Muhammad Ali Butt and Nisar Hussain, opened its first franchise in the Kingsgate shopping centre in Huddersfield in November 2012. A third UK franchise is planned for Manchester, while a branch is also planned for Dubai. Afternoon tea, including sandwiches, scone, jam and clotted cream and cakes and patisserie, is £12.95. The tearooms sell eight different kinds of tea, and four kinds of coffee. The Core Shopping Centre is undergoing major works to create a new food cluster for Leeds.

Bristol Zerodegrees reopens after £350,000 refurb designed to widen appeal: The Bristol branch of the four-strong restaurant/brewpub chain Zerodegrees has reopened after a £350,000 refurbishment designed to soften the venue’s industrial, masculine feel and make it more welcoming. The dining room moved to the top floor and an “expansive”, flexible drinking and dining space created downstairs. The new Zerodegrees will seat 230 people; with expanded seasonal seating in a walled garden. A “forest of globes” now provides overhead lighting and more comfortable furnishings have been introduced. Owner Dipam Patel said the refurbishment was extensive. “We are beautifying what is already a stunning building, not one wall remains untouched,” he said. “We also recognise that eating habits have changed. People like to have less formal dining, to share plates of food or gather in groups and have more choices. At our heart we are still a craft brewery, and we are unique in being able to offer the sight, smell and sounds of a working brewery dedicated to producing great beers – a real theatre of brewing – but we are widening our appeal.” Zerodegree’s other outlets are in Cardiff, Reading and Greenwich, South East London.

Geronimo Inns to re-open Betjeman Arms this month: Geronimo Inns is re-opening The Betjeman Arms, situated in Grade I listed St Pancras International Station, this month following an extensive renovation. The pub now features a much larger bar, illuminated by floor to ceiling windows and overlooking a re-designed internal terrace with a greatly extended range of craft beers. The pub is also creating a ‘London Ale Festival’ from 29 September to 5 October, with a line-up of London beers and the first 100 pints poured on launch day being ‘on the house’. Ed Turner, managing director, Geronimo Inns said: “Geronimo has remained true to the intrinsic design of this remarkable station: this is an extensive piece of renovation on one of our pubs that just adds to the beauty of the station. The travellers are not as twitchy as those in airports – checking their passport is still there again! But the success of The Betjeman Arms has always been down to the fact that travellers are put at ease by the fact that this is also well used by the local creative types.”

Greene King donates £15,000 to Community Services Fund: Greene King has donated £15,000 to Pub is The Hub’s Community Services Fund for the second year running to support rural pubs who want to diversify their services for the benefit of their communities. The Community Services Fund’s aim is to provide funds to licensees who are looking to broaden their services to the wider community and cannot find suitable funding from other sources. With grants of up to £4,000 available, applicants must demonstrate that they will be offering a new service or replacing a service that has already been lost to its local community.

Bunzl Lockhart sources global food and drink trends: Operators looking to drive revenue, maintain loyalty and increase customer value can take advantage of an innovative new brochure from Bunzl Lockhart Catering Equipment. ‘Trend Set’ aims to provide operators with valuable insight into the latest global trends in the art of food and drink presentation. The brochure is complemented by a broad range of product examples to enable operators to easily recreate any ideas that inspire them within their business. The business has created a global trend spotting team, manned by professionals who work for the best catering supply manufacturers in the world, and either live in or regularly visit the key gastronomic capitals of the world. The trend spotters are tasked with evaluating food, drink, cultural and economic changes across the globe and then assessing how these will influence the UK consumer eating out market. Each of the main trends are then married to a specific sector of the hospitality industry.

Severn and Wye Smokery looks to expand restaurant operation: The Severn and Wye Smokery, which supplies quality fish products to the likes of Harvey Nichols, The Ritz, Wimbledon and the Ryder Cup, has submitted a planning application to Forest of Dean Council to expand its operation in Chaxhill, near Westbury-on-Severn, with a new restaurant, shop and education centre. Owner Richard Cook told the Gloucester Citizen: “The current retail and restaurant facilities have become so busy that it is difficult to cater to the needs of our customers.” The expanded facilities would be housed in a redundant stone barn on the site. Cook said: “It makes sense to move our operation into the stone barn and develop it in such a way that it becomes not just a place for people to shop and dine but for them to learn as well.” The education centre would include a filleting school and workshops on how to smoke fish. It would also host a cookery school specialising in local produce and fish. A storage building would be demolished to provide 57 car parking spaces.
 
Marketing Week – Guinness to tap into craft trend with variants: Guinness is planning to tap into the growing popularity of craft beer with the launch of two new variants, backed up by a £5m marketing campaign, as it embarks on a quest to grow the Guinness brand through innovation, Marketing Week has reported. The two new beers, named Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter, are both available in pubs and clubs as bottles and on draught, and in stores. They are being supported by a campaign that will run across outdoor, social media and point-of-sale and which highlights the brewer’s history and the beers’ flavour.

Shikumen secures second London site: The Emerging high-end Chinese and Japanese restaurant concept Shikumen will open its second site at Hotel Xanadu on Bond Street in Ealing, West London after the property agent Davis Coffer Lyons secured the letting on behalf of Dorsett House Group. Shikumen, which is one of a number of brands owned by John Woo’s JRC Group, opened its first restaurant at the Dorsett Shepherd’s Bush in West London earlier this year. The 3,500 sq ft restaurant will provide the hotel’s complete catering offer, from a full breakfast menu, lunch and dinner, for both residents and non-residents, as well as room service, which will be served until midnight. Rob Meadows, leisure property consultant at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Letting restaurant space within hotels is very different to traditional sites and requires a strong understanding of the unique trading environment such a space provides. Shikumen is an excellent operator that understands the challenges an almost 24-hour operation presents. We are confident it will be incredibly popular with both hotel guests and local people alike.”
 
Blue Mango expands into Brighton: An emerging new restaurant chain, Blue Mango, which has four sites, is to open in Brighton marina at the end of the month, creating up to 50 jobs. The new restaurant will offer fine Indian cuisine to 150 diners as well as providing 50 new jobs. Blue Mango Brighton will have chefs including Rakesh Kumar, who is known for using a mortar and pestle to grind his own special secret spices.

Floating nightclub returns to Bristol after refurbishment: The floating Bristol music venue Thekla is back at her normal mooring after going into dry dock for 13 weeks for refurbishment. The ship, owned by DHP Family, which operates venues including Bodega and Rock City in Nottingham and Oslo in Hackney, North London, has been painted black and grey instead of the previous dark green, with a new red and grey logo and red illuminated sign. The inside has been completely refurbished in an effort to revitalise the ship, which has been a fixture in the city’s Harbour since the 1980s. The bar in the top deck has been moved to make more of a feature of the ship’s windows, with patrons now able to sit in booths looking out into the harbour. In the bottom of the ship, known as The Venue, which regularly hosts live music, new soundproofing has been installed. Manager Michele Phillips said this was to help the ship be a better neighbour to nearby residents. “We are also working with the council’s environmental health team to see if it could mean we could play louder music on Fridays,” she said.

Charnwood Brewery to begin brewing in late November: Charnwood Brewery, set up by the former Batemans sale director Andrew Reed, will begin brewing in late November. Reed told Propel: “After almost 20 years working with Stuart Bateman at Batemans I decided the time had come to follow one of my passions – beer! I’m setting up Charnwood Brewery in Loughborough with my wife Andrea, who will be the brewer, or brewster, to be precise, and our 19-year-old son, George.”

Individual Inns mixes it up for Cask Ale Week: The six sites operated by the award-winning company Individual Inns will be mixing it up for National Cask Ale Week at the end of the month. Marketing manager Sarah Brookfield-Lewis said: “We are doing a local beer ‘swap’ and offering customers in each of our six inns the chance to try a regional favourite from one of our other inns. There will be two special guest beers in each inn, so, for example, Ilkley Brewery fans can try Hawkshead beer at the Wheatley in Ben Rhydding, and Swan Blonde regulars can enjoy some Hetton Pale Ale for a change at the Wheatsheaf in Brigsteer.”

Multi-site operator warns Dundee could be left without major nightclubs by next year: Dundee could be left without any major nightclubs next year as a result of decisions made by the city’s licensing board, a prominent multi-site operator has claimed. Jimmy Marr, of Park Leisure, who owns the Deja Vu nightclub along with several pubs across the city, says he will “definitely pull the plug” on the Cowgate club in the new year unless the licensing board takes steps to help the situation. Marr said the other two large-scale clubs, Fat Sams and Liquid, are also struggling to attract customers through their doors because of the lack of a “level playing field”. Deja Vu only operates on Fridays and Saturdays, Fat Sams is open for just four hours a week on one night (Saturdays) and Liquid on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and Marr blames the “dire” situation on decisions made by the licensing committee over the past few years which, he said, have allowed the nightclub trade to be largely taken over by late-opening pubs and the casino. Marr points to a change in the licensing hours policy in the city, which now allows venues providing musical entertainment to open until 2am, while non-music pubs can stay open until 1am.

Manchester restaurant Solita opens branch in Didsbury as start of planned roll-out: The hip Manchester burgers-and-steaks restaurant Solita is opening a branch in the suburb of Didsbury, in the start of a planned roll-out which will include Liverpool next year and another potential site in Manchester. The original restaurant, in Turner Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, was opened in 2012 by Franco Sotgiu and Simon Pogson with the intention of being “an American grill with a dash of Italian flair”. It was recently voted “second best burger in Manchester” by readers of the Manchester Evening News. Its giant burgers, including The Big Manc and the $12.90 Manc-hattan, which includes black pudding, pastrami and Lancashire cheese, will feature on the new Didsbury menu, alongside an extended grill selection of steaks and fish dishes and other Solita favourites such as deep-fried macaroni and cheese. Sotgiu told the Manchester Evening News: “We found that a lot of our customers were travelling to us in the city centre from Didsbury, Chorlton and Burnage, so we believe there’s an appetite for what we do here. Didsbury has been crying out for a good, independent, burger and steak place and we’ve tailored things here to cater for the market. So we’ve added extra items to the grill, while keeping all of the popular items from Manchester too.” The new restaurant includes booths and banquettes, with seating for 140 over two floors, including an al fresco dining terrace. The premises are on the site of the former Italian restaurant Cibo in School Lane, Didsbury.

Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s and Subway confirmed for Kent development: Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s and Subway are among the big names coming to Hempstead Valley mall in Gillingham, Kent. The brands are set to move into a new unit being built at the shopping centre. The mall, which opened in 1978, is being given a £16m makeover. The former car showroom next to the centre, which over the years has also housed a McDonald’s and a travel agent, has been knocked down to make way for a modern building with six units. It will be occupied by five food outlets and a building society. Another kiosk-style unit and the largest restaurant unit, which measures 4,500 sq ft, are still to be let but development manager TDH Estates said it was in talks with a “Frankie & Benny’s-style” restaurant. Brad Critcher, from TDH Estates, said: “The idea is that people can get anything from a coffee and a roll, to a sit down lunch so they can make a day of their visit to the centre.”

Blumenthal unveils Melbourne opening date with $525 set menu and booking by ballot: Chef Heston Blumenthal will open the temporarily relocated Fat Duck in Melbourne, Australia, on 3 February 2015. He has unveiled a A$525 (£290) set menu and a ballot system for diners to book a place at his Fat Duck restaurant in Melbourne. The Fat Duck, will offer a 15-course meal and “four hours of pure food theatre”. Blumenthal said the new restaurant has been “overwhelmed” by booking inquiries. His Fat Duck eatery in Britain takes 30,000 calls a day. Heston said the fairest system to book a seat at the Fat Duck Melbourne was by ballot. The ballot will run from 8 to 25 October on the Fat Duck and Crown Resort websites. “After that we will hand it over to an independent third party who will randomly select the reservations,” Blumenthal said. The chef previously announced that he would relocate the three-Michelin-star restaurant to a 50-seat restaurant at the Crown Tower Resorts in the city’s Southbank district while the original site in Bray, Berkshire, undergoes a refurbishment. Blumenthal said that Australia’s response to the news that the Fat Duck would make Melbourne its home for six months has been “absolutely overwhelming”. “I am utterly humbled by the reception,” he said.

Luke Johnson – fast-growing private companies typically hold the best board meetings: Sector investor Luke Johnson has claimed that dynamic smaller companies tend to hold the best board meetings in his experience. In his Financial Times column, he wrote: “Probably the most efficient board meetings I take part in are those with just four or five participants – the typical format in fast-growing private companies. The mood is more informal, the structure flexible, the atmosphere less political. Moreover, there is nowhere to hide: if mistakes have been made, they will be found out. It reminds me of the rigour of the tutorial system of teaching at Oxford: if you had not done the work, you were held to account. Board meetings swing between the mundane and high drama. While the former might be boring, incidents of the latter indicate trouble – for staff and shareholders. Challenge is fine, but open conflict is a sign of a poorly managed entity and bad leadership. When it descends into frequent disputes requiring a show of hands, then you can be sure the board is highly dysfunctional. The worst rows happen when the chair and the chief executive are at war. When that happens, one or both need to depart. The best board meetings have good directors present who believe in substance over form, prefer action over hot air, and deal honestly and openly. Bad boards are riven with subterfuge and cumbersome protocol, emphasise process over results, and achieve little when they meet. Lord save us from such wasted hours.”

Love Drinks founder Kirsty Loveday named Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year: Kirsty Loveday, the founder and managing director of Love Drinks, an importer and distributor of premium hand-crafted and family-owned spirits and beers, has been named Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year at the Women 1st Shine Awards. She said: “It’s a real honour to be given this award and it means a great deal to me. I set up the company seven years ago because I knew that there was a gap in the market for an importer of premium, quality drinks and the business has gone from strength to strength. The company’s successes have beaten my expectations and I’m sure that will continue. The award also gives me the perfect opportunity to thank my team, along with the people that have supported and advised me over the years, making Love Drinks the success that it is today.”

Upham Brewery signs three-year deal with London Irish: London Irish Rugby Club, which plays home games in Reading, has agreed a new three-year sponsorship with the Hampshire-based Upham Brewery. The brewery, which will be the club’s official cask ale sponsor from the 2014/15 season, will lead the sponsorship with its flagship brand of ale, Punter. Since officially launching in 2009, Upham Brewery has achieved significant growth, with production of its three staple ales, Tipster, Punter and Stakes, increasing by more than 200% in the last year alone. The brewery has also built up a portfolio of ten pubs across Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Sussex, and has plans to increase that to 30 pubs over the next two years.

New cafe venture opens first outlet in Northern Quarter: A new cafe operation that is a joint venture between an interior design firm and a gym operator has opened its first outlet in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, with plans for further roll-outs. The Foundation Coffee House has taken a 3,500 sq ft ground floor unit at the newly refurbished Sevendale House in Lever Street. The Foundation Coffee House is a joint venture between the interior design firm NoChintz and Adam Chapman, founder of the QDos Fitness gym in Heald Green, Stockport. So far the partners have invested more than £400,000 in the business, with the intention of rolling out the brand to other locations. Before the opening, No Chintz’s website creative director, Natalie Gray, said: “We’ve visited some of the world’s best cafes and social spaces – taking the lead from those in New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen and London. This has helped us fuse new ideas with concepts already established internationally. I can’t wait to unveil the completed space.”

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