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Mon 29th Sep 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

JD Wetherspoon extends pulled pork offer, adds BrewDog lager: JD Wetherspoon, which reported 12% like-for-like food sales growth earlier this month, is to launch a new menu on Wednesday (1 October), that builds on the success of US items, particularly pulled pork. The company stated: “Since its launch this time last year, the BBQ pulled pork sandwich and BBQ hot dog have both proven an absolute hit, as the appetite for classic American dishes and styles seems to gain in popularity.” The company is to add a BBQ hog burger, a Wetherspoon burger served with pulled pork inside as well. In addition, there is a pulled pork and rocket wrap added to the deli sandwich range and nachos topped with pulled pork. Pulled pork is also available as a “gourmet option” on the chicken breast burger. Meanwhile, the “phenomenal success” of eggs Benedict since launch in March 2012 will see the addition of egg royale (salmon swapped for ham). Smoked salmon has been added to the deli range with the addition of a smoked salmon, cream cheese and rocket bagel. Wetherspoon will also extend its classic US menu items with the launch of a Philadelphia cheese-steak sandwich. On the drinks menu, an American IPA, brewed by Marston’s in collaboration with US craft brewer Devil’s Backbone, is now on tap at every Wetherspoon pub. BrewDog’s This.Is.Lager is to be made available on tap at 200 Wetherspoon sites from Wednesday. Three bottled craft beers have also been added, two from the US: Lagunitas IPA (from California), Rogue (from Oregon) and Jack Brand Crystal IPA (by Adnams). Three new ciders will be added: Aspall Draft Suffolk Cyder, Orchard Pig Truffler and Angry Orchard Crisp Apple (from Ohio). Three canned beers have also been added: Budweiser Budvar, Sagres and Vedett. At company results earlier this month, chief executive John Hutson said JD Wetherspoon’s menu strategy is to become “really good at a few core items”, which included burgers, steaks and fish and chips. However, the company is mindful of key trends and had, for example, added pulled pork to it menu. “If sales of pulled pork are as strong in ten years’ time as they are now, pulled pork would have become a core menu item,” added Hudson.

Industry News:

Toby Smith steps down as chief executive of Stonegate: Stonegate Pub Company chief executive Toby Smith stepped down on Friday, six months after he first informed the board of his intention to leave the company. He is being replaced by Simon Longbottom, who previously headed Greene King’s tenanted division but has been on gardening leave since he was unveiled as Smith’s replacement in March this year. Smith joined Stonegate in June 2011 after the acquisition of the Town and City Pub Company, which he had led since 2008. Ian Payne, chairman of Stonegate, said in March: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Toby for the massive contribution that he has made towards the success of Stonegate, and on a personal basis thank him for his friendship over the eight years that we have worked together.” Meanwhile, Stonegate’s Britain’s Biggest Pub Tour event reached its finale on Friday with the Slug and Lettuce at St Katherines’s Dock at London’s Tower Bridge, the final stopping point for a 614-pub tour. Warwick Davis, actor and TV presenter, presented the Giant Pledge Passport that has toured the country and been signed by every pub manager, to Toby Smith. A total of £275,000 has been raised for Variety, the children’s charity through the efforts of all the pubs, their staff and customers on the tour.

Allsop lines up biggest auction since 2005: Allsop, the UK’s leading commercial auction house, is lining up its biggest auction since 2005. The auction will offer 281 lots over two days, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 October, at Claridges in London. There are 37 lots with a guide price over £1m and total rental income of £16.5m. There are 21 leisure properties for sale. The most expensive guide price for a leisure property £2.8m plus for the Koa Kai cocktail bar in London’s Fulham Road, where Enterprise Inns is the head lessee paying a rent of £150,000 per annum on a 35-year lease that started in April 2010 – the site is sub-let to Apollo Bars. 

Company News:

Hugh Osmond acquires Strada business: Hugh Osmond has acquired 43 Strada sites for £37m through a new subsidiary SCP Sugar Limited. The sale will allow Strada owner Tragus to complete a refinancing and embark on the next stage of its growth, with plans centred on expanding Bella Italia to circa 300 sites and Café Rouge to around 200 units. Of his plans for Strada, Osmond told The Sunday Times: “If we get this right, when we open the (new-look) a single female customer should feel able to come in for flat white at 10am on a midweek morning. Why should Starbucks and Costa have the market to themselves? I don’t think we are going to build a conglomerate. It’s hard to be doing lots of different things. If you want to get a restaurant offer really right, it needs a lot of focus. We will be putting in place a plan so we don’t rely on discounting.” Osmond is expected to work with the existing management team, led by James Spragg. 

La Sala to open Chigwell site on 13 October: Iconic Spanish restaurant La Sala, which operates four sites in Spain, will open its first UK site in Chigwell, Essex with a VIP party on 13 October. It is backed by a host of big names from the world of football, including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Stephen Carr. The first La Sala location in the UK will be a prominent site on Chigwell Road formerly occupied by The White Hart Inn. Chairman James Horler, who made his name building La Tasca restaurants into a nationwide success story, before selling the chain for £135 million in 2007, added: “We will be looking to roll out a second site within 12 months, with a third to follow, maybe in West London.”

Rick Stein restaurant business reports profit boost: The six-strong restaurant business owned by Rick and Jill Stein, Seafood Restaurant (Padstow) Limited has reported pre-tax profits of £986,000 in 2013 up from £148,000 the year before. Turnover climbed 3.2% to £15.1m. Gross margin improved by 0.8% to 69.9% “due to the benefits from a central warehouse and better cost reporting”. As a result, the operating profit improved by £824,000 from a profit of £284,000 in 2012 to a profit of £1.1m in 2013. The company reported that the first 21 weeks of 2014 had seen “the profit and loss position better than budget by £60,000”. The company’s bank loan reduced from £3.3m to £3.1m during the financial year. The company is set to open its first site outside Cornwall, a seventh site in total, in Winchester this autumn. 

Bulldog Hotel Group reports five-fold increase in profits, eyes expansion: Bulldog Hotel Group, the operator of seven coaching inns led by Kevin Charity, has reported a profit increase in its last financial year. Turnover rose to £8,283,773 in the year to 31 March 2014 from £5,999,120 the year before. Pre-tax profit climbed to £271,248 from £54,799 the year before. The current financial year will see a full-year contribution from the 62-bedroom Three Swans in Market Harborough and The Old Bridge Inn and Coffee House in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, which saw a “transformational” investment in March this year. Ebitda across its seven sites is forecast to hit £1,860,000 in the current financial year on turnover of £9.7m. Pre-tax profit is set to rise to £751,000, up from £288,000 in 2013. The company is currently enjoying 24 months of consecutive like-for-like sales growth, with the most recent four months producing like-for-like sales growth of 19.4%. Charity said: “The most recent full financial year was our last transitional year from a period when we operated 25 largely wet-led pubs. Our estate is now made up seven very high quality coaching inns and the most recent financial year was the last in that process, allowing us to make the investments required to reach the stage where each site offers the amenity levels we want to provide. The Old Bridge, for example, has performed beyond all expectations since it received major investment at the start of this year. The evolution of the company means that 40% of turnover now comes from food, accommodation produces 32% of turnover and wet sales account for 28%, producing overall GP of 80%. Three of the seven sites now have a coffee shop and patisserie, which has really enhanced our all-day offering. We are very much now looking to expand the business and are in discussions with various parties.”

Gaucho reports increase in operating profit: Gaucho Holdings, owner of the Gaucho steak and CAU brands, has filed Companies House accounts that show an increase in operating profits to £1,593,930 for 2013, up from £868,698 the year before. Turnover rose to £55,506,997 from £53,760,178 the year before. Loan notes interest results in loss before tax of £13,834,341 compared to £13,228,132 the year before. The company has 18 restaurants in the UK, one in Holland and one in the UAE – a franchisee runs two other sites in Kuwait. Of the total turnover, £3.3m comes from the Netherlands site and £3.1m from Kuwait. 

Sharp’s to boost Doom Bar to 350,000 barrels a year: Sharp’s Brewery is set to expand capacity to enable it to brew up to 350,000 barrels (570,000 hectolitres) of Doom Bar, an increase of 40% from the current 250,000 barrels. The company has appointed the Midlands-based project management business FMA to carry out the work, which began this month. FMA’s business development manager, Martin Hobbs, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to increase the brewing capacity of such an important UK brewhouse.” Sharp’s, based in Rock, Cornwall, was formed as a microbrewery in 1994 and bought by Molson Coors in 2011. In accounts filed for the year to 31 December 2013, Sharp’s posted revenues of £36.9m, a 16% increase on the £31.8m posted in 2012. Pre-tax profit rose to £2.3m from £1.6m a year earlier, with average staff numbers climbing to 110 from 105. Sales of Doom Bar grew at an average rate of 45% over the three years from 2011 to 2013. 

Juice bar owner seeks crowd funding to open raw food restaurant: The owner of a juice bar in Swindon is using Kickstarter, the online global crowd-funding platform, to try to raise enough money to open a raw food restaurant, expand the bar and build a theatre kitchen. Kris Talikowski, 31, opened The Core in Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon in March 2013. He told The Swindon Advertiser that he had been testing the demand for a specialised restaurant by hosting a number of sell-out evenings of raw food, which uses uncooked ingredients for dishes, and aims to preserve the vitamins and minerals. Talikowski said: “We had seven raw food pop-up events, and now we want to expand into a restaurant.” He is looking to raise £10,000 through Kickstarter. He added: “I think that using Kickstarter was the best way to do it because we wanted to say we’d raised the money in an ethical way and we have developed such a strong community it gives an opportunity for them to get involved and be a part of it. I’m pretty confident we’ll have managed to raise all the money in the next month.” In the first two days, the campaign had raised just over £500.

Wagamama launches new campaign: Wagamama is launching a new radio and in-store advertising campaign designed to ‘highlight the brand’s unique story and range of dishes’. The work, created by agency 101, is now live on radio and throughout Wagamama restaurants, including placemats and A-boards. Four 30-second radio spots will feature the voice of Huey Morgan, of Fun Lovin’ Criminals and BBC Radio 2 fame. They celebrate the unique aspects of the Wagamama experience, such as the dishes coming at different times because they’re made fresh to order, or the fun to be had with pronouncing their names. The print work, meanwhile, was photographed by Gareth Sambridge and features side-on views of woks and ramen bowls which have been cut in half to showcase the ingredients of key dishes including prawn raisukaree, firecracker chicken and chilli beef ramen in all their glory. Simon Cope, global brand director at Wagamama, said: “The campaign represents the freshness and fun qualities of our brand. We hope the advertising and creative execution will encourage people to embrace their adventurous side over the cooler months and understand a little more about what makes Wagamama so special.” 

Starbucks talks to agencies about its UK CRM: Starbucks is in talks with agencies about its UK CRM account. Campaign magazine said the coffee chain began contacting below-the-line agencies earlier this month. Kitcatt Nohr has held the business since 2011, when it won a competitive pitch against Havas EHS (which was called EHS 4D at the time). It was Starbucks’ first dedicated UK CRM agency and works with the company on its loyalty card and reward scheme. BBDO has been Starbucks’ global creative agency of record since 2008, when it won a pitch and replaced Wieden & Kennedy. BBDO, part of Omnicom network, runs the account from New York. The My Starbucks Rewards card allows customers to collect stars each time they buy a drink and offers free coffees for every 15 stars. Campaign said both Kitcatt Nohr and Starbucks declined to comment.

Upmarket doughnut maker Dum Dum Donutterie seeks venue in Essex: Dum Dum Donutterie, which currently has outlets at Box Park in Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, East London and in Harrods’ Food Hall in Knightsbridge, West London, is looking for an outlet in Essex. Paul Hurley, the man behind the brand told The Brentwood Gazette: “I think we would come to Essex in the future. It’s where we produce and logistically it would be easy. It’s just finding the right space.” The company bakes its doughnuts in a bakery at Dukes Park Industrial Estate in Chelmsford, Essex, and Hurley added: “We were very close to opening in Essex at one of the major shopping centres but it just seemed like it was a little bit large for us. We try and blend the style of the comfortable doughnut shops of the US with European patisseries. We came up with Dum Dum and opened up in Shoreditch in February this year. We do fresh products every day and it is all natural ingredients. We do not even keep it for a second day. We were courted by Harvey Nichols and Harrods – and we came into our spot in Harrods in May this year. We are the only doughnut supplier in there at the moment.” The donutterie – a word invented by Hurley to combine doughnut and patisserie – has run a pop-up stall at Westfield, and created a strawberries and cream doughnut for Wimbledon. As well as normal-sized doughnuts, it also sells eight and ten-inch varieties and has even produced one with Ferrero Rocher for a client.

Enterprise in talks to sell 27-bedroom hotel: Enterprise Inns is in negotiations to sell the 27-beroom Rock Hotel in Holywell Green, Calderdale, West Yorkshire. The hotel has been on sale for £600,000 although earlier this month it had been on the market through Fleurets for £725,000. An Enterprise Inns spokesman said: “We are in negotiations concerning the sale of The Rock Hotel, but are unable to say more at this stage due to the confidential nature of those negotiations.” The hotel, also known as The Rock Inn, is currently closed.

‘Picasso of patisserie’ to open third outlet in London: The upmarket macaron and chocolate maker Pierre Hermé, sometimes dubbed ‘the Picasso of patisserie’, is to open a third London outlet in a 596 sq ft standalone store at 38 Monmouth Street in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, Central London. The store is due to open in November. The Paris-based chain currently has one outlet in Lowndes Street, Belgravia and another in Selfridge’s in Oxford Street. It also has 14 stores in France and others in Qatar, the UAE, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Orchard Street buys Hull retail complex with four restaurant outlets: Orchard Street Investment Management has completed the purchase of St Andrew’s Quay Retail Park, the Hull out-of-town retail complex that is home to four restaurant chains, for £95.6m, reflecting a net initial yield of 6.1%. The park is anchored by a 100,000 sq ft B&Q, while the restaurant chains leasing space are Frankie & Benny’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Subway.

Costa wins Pangbourne permission despite opposition of village and council officers: Costa Coffee has won permission to open a cafe in Pangbourne, Berkshire despite opposition from both the village and planning officials. The new venue will replace the former Premier Pet Store on Reading Road in a village that already has four coffee shops. Objections were raised by Pangbourne Parish Council and local residents, who set up a petition that gathered 220 signatures. At a meeting of West Berkshire Council last week, planning officer Andrew Herron, said: “The site lies in a conservation area and more importantly lies in the primary shopping frontages. This could be harmful to the vitality of the retail shopping area. The development is unacceptable.” However, Matthew Phillips, who was speaking on behalf of the applicant, Bristal Investments, said: “Coffee shops are now a significant driver in maintaining and improving the high street. They encourage people to spend money and spend their time there.” One councillor, Richard Crumly, said: “Costa is a successful enterprise. Wouldn’t it bring people to Pangbourne and so more people visiting the shops and around the village?” Another, Alan Law, said: “I recommend approval on balance. Shop 1 was devised in 1991 when there wasn’t a coffee culture; the whole idea of retail has changed a lot since then. People who come to visit will be attracted by the coffee shop. I make a proposal to accept.” Councillors then voted unanimously to approve the change. 

Second Koh Noi opens in Christchurch: The second Koh Noi Thai tapas bar opened in Christchurch, Dorset on Sunday, the Kho Thai chain’s seventh outlet overall. Since the success of the first Koh Noi bar in Poole, Dorset, the company has been looking to expand the concept, saying: “The Koh Noi concept as a Thai tapas bar is so versatile we are currently negotiating on around seven or eight sites which we feel could fit the brand perfectly. Excitement is in the air for the whole group at the moment.” Sites believed to be under consideration for the concept are believed to include Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Oxford, Cheltenham and Southampton. The company now expects to open two Koh Noi sites for every larger Koh Thai Tapas site it opens. It is planning to add one more site this year and four in 2015, and to have 21 by 2018. Cocktails at the Koh Noi outlets are £7.95 each, and the menu includes chicken satay at £5, spring rolls at £5, crispy squid at £6, Dim Sum at £6, fried chicken at £7, crispy beef at £7, duck and cucumber roll at £8 and 24-hour ribs at £8.

Bill’s sets opening date for Newbury: Bill’s, the restaurant chain owned by sector investor Richard Caring, has announced Monday 27 October as the opening date for Bill’s outlet in Newbury, Berkshire. It is based in the former Carter Jonas estate agent’s office, at 16-18 Market Place, and will be open from 8am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 10.30pm on Sundays and bank holidays. Bill Collison, founder of the Bill’s chain, said the site was “bang in the middle of town”. He added: “The restaurant has a pretty terrace at the back, as well as some seating to the front for sunny days. Inside is a mix of salvaged materials, quiet booths and sharing tables, perfect for any time of day. We are very much hoping we will be a hit with the locals.”

Brewers urged to register new .beer web addresses: The Brewers Association, the American trade group, has urged brewers to register a .beer web address after the domain name was made available to the general public last week. The association said the new so-called “top level” domain name, introduced as part of a shake-up of the internet’s naming structure, can help small and independent brewers firm up their online representation. The association has registered its own .beer address, alongside Seattle’s Elysian Brewing and California’s Bear Republic Brewing. Generic addresses such as, and have already been snapped up, according to the registry operator Minds & Machines. New .beer domain names start at about £15 a year. About 1,000 new top-level domains will be introduced onto the internet over the next 18 months.

Beer festivals cheer pub group: The Newcastle upon Tyne-based pub operator Malhotra Group has been so cheered by the success of the beer festivals it held at two of its pubs that plans have already been made to repeat them next year. The Runhead Bar and Grill, Holburn Lane, Ryton and The Sandpiper, Farringdon Road, Cullercoats ran festivals for two and three days respectively with beer from local breweries including Firebrick Brewery at Blaydon, Anarchy Brew Co, Morpeth and Matfen-based High House Farm Brewery. In addition, drinkers had a choice of five ciders at the Runhead festival and three at the Sandpiper event. The Sandpiper saw more than 1,115 pints served in two days, and The Runhead sold 1,685 pints of beer and cider in three days. Atul Malhotra, director of the Malhotra Group, said: “We had never tried anything like this before. But not only were the festivals a great commercial success, they have led to a continued increase in the popularity of the drinks we showcased. Both the Sandpiper and The Runhead are at the heart of their communities and the feedback from local residents and first time visitors alike has been excellent, so much so that we are now making plans to ensure next year’s festivals are even better.” The Malhotra Group runs five other restaurants and bars in Gosforth, Jesmond and Newcastle city centre.

Roomzzz to build sixth aparthotel in Chester: The Leeds-based Roomzzz Aparthotel group is to create a 64-room aparthotel in a former office building close to Chester Race Course. The project, which also includes a penthouse floor, is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2015. Chester will be the sixth location for Roomzzz Aparthotel whish converts existing buildings into aparthotel use. The design for the new aparthotel has been created by the Sheffield architectural practice Coda Studios. Coda’s managing director, David Cross, said: “This is an extremely important project for us and we are delighted that Roomzzz have chosen to work with us. The Chester project is, we hope, going to be the start of a long and fruitful partnership on both sides and one that will ultimately see us designing a Roomzzz Aparthotel for Sheffield as well as other cities across the UK, given Roomzzz’s planned expansion programme.”

Pub-owning Warburton brothers buy Bowland Brewery: The Bowland Brewery Company in Clitheroe, Lancashire, whose cask ales include Pheasant Plucker, has been bought by brothers James and Andrew Warburton for an undisclosed sum. The two have extensive experience in the pub and beer trade. James runs the James’ Places group of companies, which include The Emporium in Clitheroe, Mitton Hall in Mitton, Whalley, The Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green, Clitheroe and The Waddington Arms in Waddington, Clitheroe, while Andrew has been the owner and manager of The Lower Buck in Waddington for the last seven years. Andrew Warburton said: “We have always had the upmost respect for Richard Baker, founder of the Bowland Brewery Company, and the head brewer and genius behind Hen Harrier and Sawley Tempted. Creating such a strong brand, with great products, from scratch is a minor miracle. We now want to continue to work with Richard to move the brewery on to the next stage and fulfil its undoubted potential. As soon as we knew the brewery may be for sale we knew we had to do the deal. Bowland beers have been on our bars for almost as long as Richard has been brewing them.” Bowland Brewery’s core cask beers include Pheasant Plucker, Hunters Moon, Sawley Tempted, Bowland Gold, Devils Rock, Hen Harrier, Bowland Dragon and Admiral. The brewery was founded in 2003, and currently brews 50 barrels a week.

Soho Grind wins alcohol licence in Stress Area: The Soho Grind espresso bar, part of the Grind & Co chain, has been awarded an on-licence for alcohol sales by Westminster Council, despite being in the West End Stress Area. The coffee bar, in Beak Street, Soho, can now sell alcohol Monday to Thursday 10am to 11.30pm, Friday to Saturday 10am to midnight and Sunday 12 noon to 10.30pm. Westminster Councils local licensing area sub-committee granted the licence with conditions including one that said that to avoid the appearance of a bar, the dispensary area for alcohol would be in the basement of the 50-cover venue. Grind & Co, founded by Kaz James and David Abrahamovitch, runs three other sites in London, in The Hoxton Hotel on High Holborn, the original Shoreditch Grind and the underground pop-up Piccadilly Grind. 

Wolfgang Puck rolls out three new fast-casual concepts: The celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who has one outlet in London, the steak restaurant Cut, is rolling out three new fast-casual restaurant concepts aimed at airports. Puck, the first high-profile chef to enter the limited-service arena, has already launched five Wolfgang Puck Express restaurants in the United States, alongside more than 25 full-service restaurants around the world from London via Dubai to Singapore. The first new chain is Wolfgang Puck Fresh Express, a limited-service concept whose flagship store opened in Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta in June. It offers a lighter version of Wolfgang Puck Express’s signature menu, with a focus on prepared-to-order soups, salads, and sandwiches. New locations are scheduled to open in terminals inside Cancun International Airport in Mexico, Calgary International Airport in Canada, and Dubai International Airport in the first quarter of 2015. A pizza version of Fresh Express and a yet-to-be-named market-style concept that will include stations featuring freshly prepared sandwiches, soups, salads, and baked goods, in addition to coffees and specialty teas are also lined up to be launched early next year. Joe Essa, president and managing partner of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, the restaurant operations and licensing arm of Puck’s empire, said: “Our operating plan is to keep it simple: buy better ingredients and do less with them. [Puck] has always felt a responsibility as a culinary leader to bring quality food to all markets.” Outside the fast-casual category, Puck continues to develop full-service, casual brands, such as Wolfgang Puck Wine & Pizza Bar, which will offer craft beers and artisanal wines, and his Pizza Bar concept, which has already gone international with locations in Japan.

TPG Capital joins fight to buy giant Middle East KFC and Pizza Hut operator: The Texan investment firm TPG Capital is looking to acquire Kuwait Food Co, which operates about 1,500 KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants and also TGI Friday’s in the Middle East and North Africa, according to reports by Bloomberg. It is competing with CVC Capital Partners Ltd and KKR & Co. Kuwait Food Co, also known as Americana, has a market value of more than $4bn, and a leveraged buyout of the company would rank as one of the largest ever in the Middle East. 

Gourmet Burger Kitchen names opening day for Aylesbury outlet: Gourmet Burger Kitchen will open its doors to customers in Aylesbury, Bucks on Friday 10 October. Work started on fitting out the interior and exterior at the premises, which sit between a Nando’s and a Wagamama in The Exchange, next to the Odeon Cinema, in July. Steven Evans, development director at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, said earlier: “I think the arrival of Nando’s and Wagamama has proved that there is definitely a market for casual dining in Aylesbury. The theatre and the cinema also lend themselves to our brand of eating out.”

Discounting to generate cash helps bring down Manchester aparthotel group: Blue Rainbow Apartments, which ran more than a hundred serviced apartments in Manchester and Edinburgh, has gone into administration after room rates were discounted to generate revenue to prop up the Edinburgh business, which was struggling because of difficult local trading conditions. The 79 serviced apartments in Commercial Street and Jordan Street, Manchester, will continue to operate after the assets were sold to directors Will Hannah and Jason Abbott through a new company called City Space Hotels. However, the group’s Edinburgh venture, which had 30 apartments, has closed down after its trading company, Blue Rainbow Hotels (Edinburgh), went into voluntary liquidation with the loss of eight jobs. Administrators at FRP Advisory in Manchester said cashflow at the Manchester operation came under pressure after room rates were discounted to generate revenue. This led to operational losses for the Manchester business, which, coupled with rises in other overheads led to severe cash-flow pressures and the subsequent administration and sale. Late last year, Blue Rainbow launched the Tea 42 “alternative tearoom experience” outlet in Manchester city centre.

ETM Group wins design ward: ETM Group’s One Canada Square venue has won the ‘Best Restaurant or Bar in a Retail Space’ at the sixth annual Restaurant and Bar Design Awards. One Canada Square restaurant and bar is located in the lobby of the iconic building from which it takes its name – One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. Highlights of the 60-cover restaurant, with interiors designed by David Collins Studio, include a grand staircase and three imposing columns that separate the bar and restaurant and link it to the 40-cover Mezzanine floor. Tom Martin, co-owner of ETM Group, said: “This is great recognition for One Canada Square and we are delighted to have won this award. It was a pleasure to work with David Collins Studio on the project and we hope that One Canada Square continues to bring delight to many people.” 

Oakman Inns to make £1.25m co-investment with Punch Taverns: Oakman Inns and Restaurants is to make a £1.25m co-investment in The White Hart in Ampthill, Bedfordshire with owner Punch Taverns. The White Hart is an 18th Century Grade II Listed coaching inn in the centre of the town. Oakman Inns has agreed a new 25-year lease and it is expected that the premises will re-open in Spring 2015. Oakman chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “Ampthill is the kind of prosperous market town we want to trade in and The White Hart is the best building in the town. It has been a little unloved in recent years and we want to restore it to its former glory. We’re delighted to have agreed this deal with Punch Taverns – a deal that is based on a joint investment and a free-of-tie commercial lease. They are clearly a business in the process of reinventing itself and has demonstrated a willingness to take a more progressive approach to leasing. Both parties have made a serious financial commitment and this is a genuine alliance. We strongly believe that this deal will create huge value for both Oakman and Punch.” Julian Searle, Punch Taverns business development manager, said: “We are keen to develop business relationships with the very best operators and, in particular, those with strong covenants and who are prepared to make a significant capital investment alongside our own. Oakman clearly fit those criteria and we are confident that The White Hart will be a huge success.” The eighth Oakman Inn, The Beech House in St Albans, opened on 10 September. Oakman recently acquired The Kings Inn in Ongar and last week entered a joint venture with Downing Capital to purchase the freehold of The Cook and Fillet near Aylesbury. The White Hart will be the eleventh Oakman site when it opens next spring. Borg-Neal added: “It’s been a busy few weeks for us but, in reality, what appears to be a flurry of activity on the outside actually represents a serious of initiatives that we have been working on for quite some time. We have also agreed terms on a twelfth site and hope to exchange contracts shortly.”

Bob Senior says it’s ‘business as usual’ after Utopian pre-pack: Bob Senior, the former chief executive at Ultimate Leisure, has said it is ‘business as usual’ after his Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based nightclub, restaurant and bar company Utopian Leisure Group went through a pre-pack administration. Of Utopian Leisure’s assets, Sam Jacks in Newcastle, Loveshack in Durham and Box in Belfast have been sold to a new company, Ulysses Leisure Ltd, while the two Fat Buddha outlets in Newcastle and Durham are now owned by Hot Buddha Ltd, with all 220 of Utopian Leisure’s employees transferring across to one of the two purchasers. Senior said some shareholders within the Utopian Leisure Group no longer wanted to be involved with the bars operated by the firm. As a result, administrators at Deloitte were appointed to handle the sale of the assets to two separate firms, both involving Senior, who said it was business as usual at all the venues and none of the 200-plus staff at the venues were at risk of redundancy. He told the local newspaper: “Hot Buddha Ltd was set up by me and other shareholders two years ago to set up Fat Buddha in Newcastle, at Swan House roundabout. We set it up because we fundamentally couldn’t borrow the money at the time, so we had to use our own funds and a friendly builder who waited until he could be paid. Hot Buddha has four shareholders out of the area and three in the area, including myself as managing director. Some shareholders of Utopian Leisure no longer wanted to be involved in the bars, and are only interested in restaurants, so a new business, Ulysses Leisure Ltd replaces Utopian Leisure Group to solely look after the bars. The other shareholders wanted to buy Fat Buddha in Durham, but they only want to be involved in restaurants, which is why we appointed Deloitte. They have come into a restaurant business and aren’t interested in anything else. Nothing changes at the units themselves.” Daniel Butters and Clare Boardman of Deloitte were appointed joint administrators of Utopian Leisure. Butters said: “We are pleased to have completed a sale of the trading entities of the Utopian Leisure Group. The structure of the transaction allows the trading subsidiaries and the licensed venues to operate as usual and all employees to be retained. The trading performance across the venues had been poor due to a number of venue specific issues combined with challenging market conditions. These include restrictions on discretionary consumer spend, new entrants into local market with ability to fund capital expenditure investment and capital expenditure requirement for some of the group’s existing units.”

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