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Mon 1st Dec 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fluid Group founder David King is named Star Pubs & Bars Retailer of the Year: North east bar entrepreneur David King, who sold Fluid Group in 2013, has been named Star Pubs & Bars Retailer of the Year. His new company Bar Hound made a £250,000 joint investment this year with Star Pubs & Bars to transform a former Head of Steam site in Newcastle, LYH, to City Tavern, a landmark food-led bar and open kitchen descried as the city’s “most sumptuous venue”. City Tavern is the first site for Bar Hound which, as well as running bars, is a licensed trade and leisure design company. His previous business Fluid ran Newcastle city centre coffee houses, gastro-pubs and bars, such as Barluga, Central Bean, Perdu and Fluid Bar. At the time of opening earlier this year, King said: “Situated right in the heart of Newcastle, and with capacity for 450 people, City Tavern is a multi-level venue, a great destination for people to meet for excellent coffee and cask ale and to enjoy some of the best locally-sourced home-cooked food in the city. As well as a place that people will want to eat and drink in it will be a showcase for Bar Hound’s design expertise.” It is currently averaging above four out of five on TripAdvisor with 69 “excellent” reviews out of 97 posted. At the time of opening, Chris Jowsey, trading director of Star Pubs & Bars, said: “We’re delighted that David, with his wealth of experience of running successful bars, restaurants and coffee houses, has taken on City Tavern and that together we are investing in its long-term future. Pubs like this need ongoing investment to ensure they continue to appeal to customers and their fast-changing tastes and needs.” Also a finalist was Carlos Maidana, who in June launched a new smokehouse concept, Blue’s Smokehouse, which is set to expand to five sites by early 2016. It launched at a Star Pubs & Bars site, The Red Lion in Bracknell in June this year after a £250,000 co-investment – the site is taking £30,000 a week. Now Maidana is to open a second site at the Twickenham Tavern in February 2015, a former Grand Union site, after a similar co-investment – it’s also a Star Pubs & Bars site. Maidana also operates a Star Pubs & Bars gastro-pub, The Grouse and Ale in Lane End, High Wycombe. Jowsey told the Star Pubs & Bars awards night on Thursday that the company will go-ahead with all planned investments in the estate in 2015 despite the parliamentary vote in favour of the market rent option, which will create “uncertainty” in the tenanted market. The company has pledged £75m of investment in the 1,200-pub estate over five years – its beer volumes are currently up by 4%.

Industry News:

Government publishes factsheets on personal licence renewals: The government has published two fact sheets for personal licence holders and licensing authorities on the renewal process for personal licences, until the repeal of the requirement to renew personal licences comes into effect next Spring. Although the application form has yet to be published, it will need to be sent to the licensing authority no earlier than three months and no later than one month before the expiry date of the personal licence. John Gaunt, of solicitors John Gaunt, said: “Of particular note are the following: A form will need completing, but the form cannot be produced until secondary legislation is approved, so we have not a definite timescale. It may not be necessary to send your original personal licence to the Licensing Authority as part of the process, but this is an individual decision for each licensing authority. No council fee will be charged for the renewal process. No new photographs will be required. There is still much detail that needs to be provided on the process, but what we cannot stress too strongly is that all should make preparations to deal with renewals, certainly for those licences due for renewal in the early/middle part of 2015 – and perhaps beyond.” Licensing update: licensing solicitors John Gaunt & Partners produce a useful monthly summary of topical issues and the latest can be accessed here: LINK

Mitchells & Butlers signs e-cigarette deal: Mitchells & Butlers has signed an exclusive deal with e-cigarette company Nicolites to offer guests an alternative to traditional tobacco products at 514 sites. Nicolites will be available in approximately 514 Mitchells & Butlers sites. Nicolites managing director Nikhil Nathwani said the deal included “high footfall pubs and restaurants” including Sizzling Pubs, Ember Inns and some Vintage Inns and other M&B pubs. He added: “Mitchells & Butlers will only be allowing over 18s to buy e-cigarettes for consumption outside their businesses. Nicolites will be available to hundreds of thousands of drinkers, continuing the trend of e-cigarettes becoming more and more mainstream.”

Luminar backs Preston “red zone” clamp on new openings: Luminar has backed the controversial ‘red zone’ in Preston city centre, which shifts the burden of proof to new applicants to prove their application will not adversely affect crime and disorder in the area. The red zone, bordered by Ringway and Glovers Court, was introduced by the authorities after a rise in offences in flashpoints like Church Street. Tony Gorbert, regional director for Luminar, which runs Cameo & Vinyl in Market Place, inside the “red zone”, said: “What it does imply is that there are enough late night licences in the area and that the council and the police don’t want to see more licences that could bring crime and disorder with them. I understand it is difficult for individuals to get new licences, but we’ve all got to abide by it. As for the impact on bringing new business into the area, the more that are introduced, the harder it becomes for everybody – the cake doesn’t get bigger, the slices just get smaller.”

Company News:

Entrepreneur David Bruce set to raise £4m for West Berkshire expansion, Clive Watson joins the board: West Berkshire Brewery (WBB), chaired by David Bruce, is to raise £4m through a tax-efficient Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) to build a new brewery. WBB plans to address the challenge of growing beer volumes with a larger brewing facility replete with visitor centre, cafe and a brewery shop, as well as state-of-the-art bottling, kegging and canning lines. The firm will also purchase its first freehold pub to serve as a showcase for its beers. The plan follows a period of strong sales growth for the company and comes amid the appointment of two industry heavyweights to the WBB board – Bruce’s partner from both the City and Capital pub companies, Clive Watson, and former Fuller’s national account controller, Simon Robertson-Macleod. Based on its current increasing growth in sales – with like-for-likes up 17% in the six months to September 2014, and growth of approximately 20% each year since 2000 – WBB is expected to outgrow its current brewery within two years. In addition to the new site, WBB aims to use the new funds to purchase a freehold pub in a nearby urban location. The new money will also be utilised for working capital as the company seeks to strengthen its sales and marketing teams. The EIS succeeds last year’s fundraising venture, when WBB raised £1.23m.

Red Hot World Buffet to feed the forces for free in December: Members of the emergency services will be well fed this Christmas as Red Hot World Buffet Nottingham is keeping a table reserved throughout December for those working long hours to keep Britain moving. The all-you-can-eat buffet venue is keeping a table free in each of its seven venues throughout the festive period as part of its ‘Feed The Forces’ campaign. Individuals that work for the police, fire service, NHS or armed forces, will have a chance to eat for free with their family by registering interest on the Red Hot World Buffet website. “Those who work for the emergency services do a great job over the busy festive period,” said Kieron Bailey, manager at Red Hot World Buffet Nottingham. “There will be thousands of people working out in the cold at special times such as Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve – we just wanted to show our appreciation for the hard work they put in to keep everyone safe.” The ‘Feed the Forces’ Campaign is being run across all seven Red Hot World Buffet venues – Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Nottingham.

First ever KFC in Britain to close after almost 50 years: The first KFC outlet in Britain, which opened in Fishergate, Preston in May 1965, is to close after almost 50 years. The BlogPreston website has revealed that KFC has chosen not to renew its lease on 92 Fishergate, and an A-board above the site declares the restaurant space will become available to let. Originally KFC occupied half of the unit it does now, but it bought out the former Popinere cafe next door – itself a former Wimpy Bar – and expanded. There are three other KFCs in Preston at the Docks, Deepdale Shopping Park and at Lostock Hall. When it opened, the restaurant was known as the “Kentucky Fried Chicken Take Home Shop”, and special offers included a whole chicken reduced from 14 shillings and ninepence (74p) to eight shillings. 

Mitchells of Lancaster slashes debt: Mitchells of Lancaster (Brewers) Limited, the pub operator led by Jonathan Barker, has reported that debt reduced from £16.8m in February 2013 to £10.8m last month. The company stated: “Negotiations are continuing with the bank and loan note holder, both of which continued to support the company, and formal agreement has recently been put in place with the bank until June 2015. This will be predicated on a further property disposal programme which we are confident will be achieved. When the programme is complete the group will be leaner with far less gearing. This will enable the group to generate funds for the benefit of the business rather than its funders. The company has continued its debt reduction strategy and reinvested wherever possible to maintain the quality of its assets.” The company thanked its staff for their commitment and “in particular Carlsberg UK for its support and innovation over many years”. It added: “Within our managed houses we have seen strong growth in food, more so at our destination pubs where spend-per-head has increased. We are also delighted by the performance of our fledgling Tap House craft beer concept which we believe has the potential for roll-out.” Turnover rose 5.1% to £9.5m in the year to 26 February 2014 and pre-tax profit was £659,000 compared to £754,000 the year before. 

Private equity funds compete for Gordon Ramsay stake: The Sunday Times has reported that as many as five private equity firms are competing to buy a 50% stake in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant business, which is worth circa £80m. Among those in contention to buy a 50% stake are Searchlight Capital, Primary Capital, which has previously backed YO! Sushi, and Equistone, the buy-out firm previously owned by Barclays. Ramsay appointed BDO as adviser last month to help find an investor who would fund the expansion of the business.

Wetherspoon plans for 52-bed hotel above Barrow pub: JD Wetherspoon has applied to redevelop the vacant space above its pub The Furness Railway in Barrow, Cumbria into a 52-bedroom hotel. The pub, which opened in 1998, would be extended and rooms would be created on the ground, first and second floors, if the plan is approved by Barrow Council. The majority of the building, in Abbey Road, has been empty since the old Co-operative store closed in 1996. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “Subject to the necessary permissions being granted, we aim to invest more than £3m developing the hotel. The project would take four months to complete. The hotel would feature a mix of double and family rooms, as well as those for people with disabilities.” The application comes as Barrow looks forward to the arrival of a £300m investment in BAE Systems’ submarine shipyard in the town, a redevelopment that paves the way for the Successor submarine project, which could replace the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent system.

Nene Valley Brewery opens Tap & Kitchen restaurant: Nene Valley Brewery has opened a new waterside restaurant, the Tap & Kitchen, in Oundle – the brewery is also located at Station Road, Oundle Wharf. The restaurant aims to source as many of its products as is possible locally, and the chefs make as much as possible themselves, from preserves to puddings through to chutneys and sauces, and even the home-made bacon, sausages and beans it will serve at breakfast. Daily service covers morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, bar food and dinner, as well as breakfast at the weekend.

Cafe inspired by Dishoom concept opens in Cheltenham: A new venture inspired by the Dishoom “Bombay cafe” chain in London has opened in Cheltenham. East India Cafe, which has opened on the Promenade in Cheltenham and is run by four friends from Bangladesh, Mohiuddin Litu, Rina Sasia, Rasel Mahmud and Maz Rahman, has a food and drink menu based on the days of the British Raj. The Dishoom chain, which was founded by Shamil Thakrar in 2010 and is now up to three sites, recreates the Irani cafes that were formerly a feature of life in Bombay. Mahmud said he and his friends were inspired to create their own restaurant after eating in Dishoom in Shoreditch. He told The Gloucestershire Echo: “I think the people of Cheltenham will love it. This is the right place for a concept like this. We don’t call ourselves a traditional Indian restaurant. It’s not food eaten by Indians on a day-to-day basis but it used to be food for the lords and ladies who went to India to rule. We serve seabass, steak and lamb chops. They are very English foods. However, the way we prepare it is traditional.” The restaurant will serve other Anglo-Indian delights such as the classic gin and tonic, and kedgeree. East India Cafe is open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.

Well-known north-west chef opens first venture: Well-known north-west chef Paul Faulkner has opened his first restaurant, the 48-cover Brassica Grill, in Heaton Moor. He previously worked at Albert Square Chop House, which his cooking won a place on the shortlist for food pub of the year at this year’s Manchester Food and Drink Festival awards. He said: “It was something I’d always thought about doing and I like Heaton Moor.” The menu is mainly modern British but with a few twists, using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.

Stonegate Pub Company invests £126,000 converting Missoula site in Newcastle: Stonegate Pub Company has invested £126,000 converting a Missoula site in Newcastle High Street to The Kiln. It’s a site the company secured in the acquisition of the 333-strong Mitchells & Butlers wet-led estate – and has traded as Stones, Edward’s Bar and Dakota. General manager Jay Derrick said: “We have organised extended opening hours at peak times, enabling customers to celebrate the party season until 3am and we will have entertainment arranged too, such as live music.”

Freehold of largest purpose-built Indian restaurant in the world on sale for £1m: The freehold of The Jaipur restaurant and Orchid lounge in central Milton Keynes, supposed to be the largest purpose-built Indian restaurant in the world, is being marketed by agent Christie + Co at “offers in the region of £1m”. The main two-storey Jaipur restaurant, founded in 1988, can accommodate up to 200 people, and its architectural features including a curved staircase, a chandelier and a raised domed roof light. There is also an ornate veranda and a number of balcony areas. The sister restaurant, Orchid Lounge, is a 120-cover lounge on the first floor serving Thai dishes. Both are housed in what is described as “a remarkable mini-Taj Mahal-style building” a short walk from Central Milton Keynes railway station and the Hub complex of shops, cafes, restaurants and offices. Carl Steer, of Christie + Co’s London office, said: “This is a rare opportunity to obtain a stunning landmark property in Milton Keynes – a thriving business centre and the fastest-growing city in the UK. The business benefits from its excellent location and reputation as one of the area’s finest places to eat and drink.”

Cozy reopens ex-Marco Pierre White pub: Cozy Pubs reopened The Angel in Lavenham, Suffolk on Friday, three weeks after taking over the remainder of the lease from the celebrity cook-entrepreneur Marco Pierre White. He had sold it after some locals began to boycott the historic pub over the changes he made since he took it on in 2011, when he had declared that: “This is now not a local boozer – it’s a hotel.” Refurbishment work was continuing last week, but by 7pm on Friday the pub had been repainted inside and out, with the accommodation, which had been heavily criticised on TripAdvisor, redecorated and a new, “comfy” bar area incorporated into the building. Traditional pub food, such as sausage and mash, steak and fresh fish, are back on the menu, accompanied by a range of draught ales and lagers. Cozy Pubs director Leanne Langman said: “We are taking it back to being a community pub serving good food.” Cozy Pubs has three other sites, all in Essex.

American-style diner Celebz plans second outlet in Birmingham: Celebz, an American-style diner that launched at St Modwen’s £1bn Longbridge development earlier this month, has announced that it is already planning a second outlet, on Corporation Street in Birmingham. The company’s first outlet occupies a 1,720 square foot unit in the centre of Longbridge, overlooking Austin Park. Shakeel Asghar, managing director of Celebz, which claims to be one of the few “build your own burger” operations in the UK, said: “We opened Celebz in Longbridge because it’s a unique eatery and Longbridge is a unique place. It fits into the area perfectly as there’s nothing else like it here. Celebz appeals to the local community, students, office workers and visitors because it’s a fun place to be.” Asghar said the second branch in Birmingham, near Aston University, will open in the new year.

Marston’s bids for pub-restaurant in Hastings: Marston’s looks set to be given planning permission on Wednesday (3 December) to build a pub-restaurant on the site of a former school in Hastings, East Sussex. The company wants to develop the old Hurst Court site on The Ridge into what is believed to be its first outlet in the area. Hurst Court was built in 1863 and used as a prep school, a youth trust residential facility, and a language school, It closed in 2002, and in 2009, it was demolished after a number of arson attacks which left it in a dangerous state. Under Marston’s plans, the half-acre site would include a flat for the manager, a car park and a play area. The plans will go before the borough council’s planning committee on Wednesday with a recommendation for approval subject to conditions and a legal agreement securing a footpath along the site’s frontage, despite several letters of objection. 

North east’s ‘largest small brewery’ looks at share issue: The company that describes itself as the north east of England’s “largest small brewery” is looking at a share issue early in 2015 to raise further expansion money. Jarrow Brewery, which was established in 2002, now sells its beers to Punch Taverns, Sir John Fitzgerald and Wear Inns, among others. In 2013, it won funding of more than £220,000, including £80,000 from Reward Capital and £140,000 through the government-backed Regional Growth Fund, which enabled it to move into a 5,000 square foot, 40-barrel plant on the Bede Industrial Estate in Durham, where it makes more than 21,000 hectolitres of beer a year. The company is now looking at installing a kegging line, and exporting to the eastern seaboard of the US, as well as raising money through a share issue. Mike Berriman, the brewery’s sales and marketing manager, said: “Technically, we are now the largest small brewery in the north east. There is real potential for us to increase our sales and our workforce significantly over the next three to five years. The north east is our heartland trading area and by far the most important market for us. Outside of that our plans are to sell into the national market place and then to look at export markets.”

Creditors to receive between 8.5p and 9.5p in the pound owed for Waverley TBS collapse: Creditors owed a total of £64.5m in the collapse of wholesaler Waverley TBS will be paid between 8.5p and 9.5p in the pound owed, administrator Deloitte has reported. The pay-out occurs this month – just over two years after the company’s collapse. Deloitte reported that a total of £7.3m in cash was realised during the administration, including a sum of £282,000 held in a back account as part of a guarantee agreement with HMRC – the guarantee was not called upon by HMRC, which was owed around £11.8m in VAT, duty and PAYE, and the “amount was refunded when the time period elapsed”. Trade creditors were owed £40.5m after the collapse.

C&C drops Goldman Sachs after failed Spirit bid: C&C Group, the owner of the Magners cider and Tennents lager brands, has dropped Goldman Sachs as its joint corporate broker, a month after the rejection of the drinks manufacturer’s takeover bid for Spirit Pub Company, which was advised by the US bank. In a statement yesterday, C&C said it had appointed Investec Group as a joint corporate broker alongside existing broker Davy. Investec is replacing Goldman Sachs, which is also an adviser to Spirit. In October C&C, advised by Rothschild, made an approach for Spirit, days after the Spirit board agreed to recommend a £773.6m takeover deal with Greene King, with Goldman Sachs acting as Spirit’s lead financial adviser for the deal. Goldman Sachs has been advising C&C Group since its failed listing in 2002, when the business was known as Cantrell & Cochrane Limited. The bank was then appointed as a bookrunner on C&C’s second attempt at a float, which proved successful in 2004.

Southampton hospital accused of hypocrisy as it seeks to shut Burger King branch but opens Ronald McDonald house: Southampton General Hospital has rejected accusations of hypocrisy as it seeks to close a Burger King outlet at the hospital while preparing to open Ronald McDonald House, a charity offshoot of McDonald’s, at the site in the next few weeks. The hospital announced in November that it had no plans to renew the lease of the Burger King franchise when it expires in 2016, declaring that the outlet no longer fitted with the “healthcare environment” it was trying to create in its main reception area. However, the hospital has been accused of hypocrisy by commentors on The Daily Echo newspaper website, with one saying: “Do you see the hospital turning the Ronald McDonald funds away? Bit hypocritical that you will take the monies raised from a fast food outlet but not let one in the building.” University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, insisted there was a clear difference between working with the charity and allowing a commercial business to operate in the hospital. The £7m Ronald McDonald House will provide 53 beds for families of children being treated at the hospital. The charity was set up in the UK in 1989.

Whitbread wants to build Premier Inn and Beefeater on site of derelict Blackpool Yates’s: Whitbread is looking to open a 150-bedroom Premier Inn on the site of the former Yates’s pub in Talbot Square, Blackpool with a Beefeater pub-restaurant on the ground floor. The historic Yates’s building was destroyed in a fire, which caused £20m of damage on 15 February 2009. The site already has planning permission for a two-storey development which was to have included a Tesco Express on the ground floor and a branch of the Pan Asian banquet chain Cosmo on the first floor. However, work stopped on that development in February this year, and a new planning application has now been submitted by the Shlomo Memorial Fund Ltd, a London-based organisation that receives income from its investment properties. Nick Johnston, acquisition manager, north west and Wales for Premier Inn, said: “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to bring a new Premier Inn to Blackpool seafront and, subject to planning permission, to regenerate this important site for a brand new Premier Inn and Beefeater Grill.” Premier Inn already has four hotels in Blackpool – on Yeadon Way, Squires Gate Lane, Whitehills Park and Devonshire Road, Bispham, with the last home to The Red Lion Beefeater restaurant. 

Nottingham centre to refurbish more restaurants after makeovers at Revolution and Nando’s: The Cornerhouse centre in Nottingham, home to more than a dozen restaurants and bars, has forecast refurbishments to more of its outlets after £3.5m of investment in five venues in the past eight months, including refurbishments at the Revolution bar and Nando’s restaurant in the centre. The updates also included a new eating area added to Rocket@Saltwater and renovations for parts of the Chiquito and TGI Friday’s outlets. The outdoor area in Trinity Square has also been revamped to encourage al-fresco dining. Centre manager Suzanne Green, said: “Over the coming months, Pizza Hut will be having a really big makeover to make it one of the chain’s flagship venues, and The Slug and Lettuce is also having a major revamp.”

Gloucester pub begins making own cider: A pub in Gloucester that is part of the Cafe Rene Group is making its own cider, pressing 15 tonnes of apples over the past two weeks on a vintage fruit pressing machine brought from Austria. The pub, the Cider Press at The Coach and Horses, in St Catherine’s Street, Kingsholm, already sells 34 ciders and perrys from around the UK. The owner of the Cafe Rene Group, Paul Soden, who started his 38 years in the pub trade as a brewer, said: “It’s great to be making something of our own and we wanted to bring the concept of making cider to the city. People have been really interested to find what’s going on and they want to know about the cider-making process itself.” The cider is being brewed in a restored coaching shed in the pub’s grounds that has been empty for five years. The finished cider will be available next year in The Coach and Horses, Cafe Rene and The Old Bell in Southgate Street, Gloucester, and Soden is also hoping to offer it to pubs across Gloucester. 

Empty Enterprise Inns bar to reopen as restaurant: A former bar in Brunswick Road, Gloucester owned by Enterprise Inns is due to reopen as a restaurant. The bar, which was known as Voltage, and before that as Sloane’s, closed earlier this year, and its manager, Marcus Watts, had a bankruptcy order brought against him in Gloucester County Court in October. The premises have now been taken over by Gloucester businessman Yusuf Rahman. He said: “I already run two businesses but I thought, ‘Let’s try something different.’ I am hoping to open the venue very soon.” Work to refit the building, a former printers known as Caxton House, is well under way. A spokesman for Enterprise Inns said: “We are pleased to confirm that Voltage is currently undergoing some internal work and will be reopening as a restaurant. We hope that members of the local community in Gloucester will visit when it commences trading to enjoy the new dining experience and show their support.”

PizzaExpress opens Doncaster branch in time for Christmas menu: PizzaExpress has opened its newest restaurant, next to the Vue Cinema at Lakeside in Doncaster, in time for the Christmas menu. The new restaurant can seat 116 and has created roles for ten pizzaiolos (pizza makers) and 25 waiters and waitresses. The chain’s new Christmas menu features two new starters, two festive pizzas, including one with duck, and two new desserts, Mince Pie Cheesecake and Chocolate Tartufo, as well as Snowball Dough Balls.

Ten million Dunkin’ Donuts customers download in-store payments app: Dunkin’ Donuts has seen ten million downloads of its app that allows customers to pay in-store with their phones. The US company, which launched its app in 2012, has joined coffee chain Starbucks in seeing its app as a key part of its business model for the future. Customers can pay for food, coffee and other merchandise in stores by scanning their DD cards, stored in the app. In addition, the company has reached two million DD Perks Rewards loyalty members. The scheme was launched in January. John Costello, Dunkin’ Brands’ president of global marketing and innovation, said: “Providing our guests with new levels of speed and convenience so that they can (order) more quickly than ever is an important part of our growth strategy.”

Brasserie Bar Co reports Ebitda rise: Brasserie Bar Co, the company behind the Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie Company, has reported turnover grew by over 7% to almost £33m and restaurant Ebitda rose by 4% to almost £5.2m for the 12 months to 29 June 2014. During the period Brasserie Bar Co completed a major refinancing, securing £13.5 million of new funding to support the planned three-year roll out of the White Brasserie pubs, and the refurbishment and new brand-positioning of the Brasserie Blanc sites. Since the period end, the group has opened two further White Brasserie pubs and completed the rebranding of three Brasserie Blanc sites. Mark Derry, chief executive of Brasserie Bar Co said: “We will look back at 2014 and see it as a pivotal year for the group. The major refinancing completed in February created the platform for the transformational developments we have seen since the year-end. The White Brasserie pub expansion has been received exceptionally well, and we are now seeing an average weekly turnover across the four sites comfortably exceeding £30,000. Equally, the response to the refresh of Brasserie Blanc sites has been very encouraging and we plan to rebrand the rest of the Brasserie Blanc estate over the next two financial years. Both concepts are set for a successful, planned roll-out.”

Wigan Council unveils £12m boutique hotel plan to boost tourism: A £12m plan to transform Haigh Hall and Country Park in Wigan into a tourist destination and four-star boutique hotel has been announced by Wigan Council. The new ‘Haigh Woodland Park’ will be turned into a tourist destination, which will include a partnership with Contessa Hotels for a £6m restoration of the Grade II listed hall into a 30-bedroom boutique hotel, featuring a fitness centre and spa. Wigan Council hopes that the Haigh Woodland Park will boost the local economy by £30m and increase visitor numbers to 500,000 per year. The country park will be provided with a new play area, featuring a high ropes area and an adventure golf course. Coun David Molyneux, deputy leader of Wigan Council and cabinet member for the economy, said: “Today is probably the most exciting day since the council bought the hall almost 70 years ago. The plans we have unveiled will put Haigh on the list of the top visitor attractions in the north west, creating jobs and restoring the hall for future generations to enjoy.”

Singapore restaurant customers to be served by robots: Restaurant customers in Singapore can expect to be served by autonomous flying robots – the world’s first commercial attempt – by the end of next year. Infinium-Serve, the autonomous flying robotic waiters, will be first launched at one of Timbre Group’s five outlets in Singapore. Infinium Robotics chief executive Woon Junyang estimated the project to cost a “low seven-figure sum” for the five outlets. Infinium Robotics signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Timbre Group on 31 October. Both companies are seeking productivity-related government grants to help offset deployment costs. Woon said he is confident that such robotic solutions will help alleviate the Singapore’s labour crunch.

McDonald’s Canada release ‘Fry Defender’ app in promotional stunt: McDonald’s Canada has released the Fry Defender, an app that turns your phone into a motion sensor. If you activate the Defender, a loud alarm will go off if someone is stealing a chip while you’ve gone to get more ketchup. A photo will capture the fry theft, which you can then report via #stopfrytheft on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The app is available on both iOS and Android systems. In a YouTube video explaining the Fry Defender, McDonald’s claims 99pc to 100pc of Canadians have been, or will be, victims of fry theft in their lifetime. Hope Bagozzi, senior director for creative and digital innovation at McDonald’s Canada, told Canadian publication Marketing that the idea for a fry security system came after monitoring social media. “We found that there were both a lot of mentions around loving McDonald’s fries and people stealing them – hence creating the need for Fry Defender,” she said. Bagozzi also admitted that the campaign is mostly an opportunity for sharable content.

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