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Mon 26th Jan 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Whitbread secures prime off-market hub double in Westminster for £80m: Whitbread has acquired two sites for its new hub by Premier Inn format, on Tothill and Dacre Street in Westminster, for circa £80m in two off-market deals. The site at 21 Tothill Street was acquired for circa £55 million from Welput, the single biggest asset purchase to date. Whitbread intends to redevelop both sites for its new hub by Premier Inn format, which launched on St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden in November 2014. A spokesman said: “We purchased both office buildings unconditionally and in off-market deals – and will now be working up planning applications for change of use and full refurbishment of the buildings in line with the innovative hub by Premier Inn design format. These two SW1 acquisitions boost the number of committed hub by Premier Inn sites to 13 – with ten secured sites in London (of which St Martin’s Lane is currently the sole trading hotel) and three in Edinburgh. Subject to planning consents for both properties – they will add a further circa 450 new bedrooms to the hub by Premier Inn development pipeline (Dacre Street circa 137 bedrooms and Tothill Street circa 316 bedrooms). These latest acquisitions also bring the total hub by Premier Inn development pipeline to approximately 2,500 bedrooms, taking Whitbread closer to our target of achieving 75,000 Premier Inn bedrooms open and trading by 2018.” Jo Moon, director of acquisitions for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, added: “Doing both deals quickly and off-market shows how the strength of our balance sheet is helping us to secure top quality opportunities and we anticipate many more during 2015.”

Industry News:

Steve Richards to appear at the next Propel Multi Club Conference in March: Steve Richards is to take part in the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 12 March, held at the Lancaster Hotel, London. Richards, chief executive of Tragus, talks about how the company has evolved to focus on its two re-energised drive brands, Café Rouge and Bella Italia. Operators of multi-site companies can book up to two free places by emailing

Company News:

Chestnut Inns secures third site: Chestnut Inns, the pub company started by the former banker and corporate financier Philip Turner, has acquired its third outlet, Ounce House, in Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds. It was purchased from Simon and Jenny Pott, the owners for more than 30 years, who ran Ounce House as a five-star rated guest house, via Whatley Lane Estate Agents. Chestnut Inns said work would begin immediately on a “significant” refurbishment of the property, with current plans being to provide a bar, dining, private dining, meeting room facilities and boutique accommodation, with a planned opening in the autumn. Turner said: “Bury St Edmunds was our logical next move. It is perfectly positioned in relation to the other businesses; close enough to be part of an operational support structure and yet far enough away to have its own customer base and target market.” The company’s other pubs are The Packhorse Inn, which opened in October 2013, in the village of Moulton, just outside Newmarket, and The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester, Cambridge, which opened in October 2014.

Mucho Burrito to open second UK outlet: Mucho Burrito, the Canadian-owned Mexican grill restaurant chain, is looking to open its second outlet in the UK, in the Chichester Gate retail park in Sussex. The chain has put in a planning application with Chichester Council for an empty unit next to Frankie & Benny’s. The unit has been empty for some time, following the closure of the U & Me buffet restaurant. Mucho Burrito opened its first UK outlet in Brighton in October 2013, after the company’s parent, the Montreal-based MTY Food Group, signed over a master development franchise licensed to W & W Burrito Development Ltd, which is operated by Hugh Wastnage and Martin Wylie. The chain has more than 80 locations across Canada. Its parent, MTY, was founded in 1979 and now operates or licences more than 2,500 restaurants under more than 25 different fascias.

Pizza Rossa hits crowdfunding target: Pizza Rossa, the artisanal pizza-by-the-square-slice concept with two City of London branches, has reached its crowdfunding target on the CrowdCube platform, receiving a total investment of £150,410 from 106 investors. There are another seven days left to the end of the campaign, which offers a 10.12% equity stake in the company. Pizza Rossa founder Corrado Accardi said: “We are delighted with the result. Our product, pizza-al-taglio, has a very strong foundation and we are growing steadily and according to plan. This is the second crowdfunding round for us, and each one has been a success.” The new capital will support expansion opportunities, including presence at street markets and food festivals, and the development of a franchised model.

Viva Brazil shuts Aberdeen venue after just seven months: The Liverpool-based Brazilian-themed brand Viva Brazil Churrascaria has closed its fourth outlet, in Aberdeen, after just seven months. The restaurant opened in July in a building in Golden Square, Aberdeen that had previously housed another Brazilian restaurant, Tropeiro, which announced its closure in June. In March last year Viva Brazil’s owner, Andy Aldrich, said the chain had ambitions to rise to five outlets in the near future. Its other restaurants in Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow remain open.

Reuters – Wagamama bond success shows renewed tolerance for small deals: Runaway demand for a bond from Wagamama shows that buyers are now returning to riskier credits, Reuters has reported. “Sterling high-yield was badly impacted at the end of last year, but the deal shows that investors are willing to put cash to work if the underlying credit is strong,” said Nigel Walder, managing director, high-yield and loan capital markets and syndicate, EMEA at JP Morgan, which led Wagamama’s deal. Early investor feedback for the £150m five-year non-call two-year senior secured deal had been in the mid to high 8% range. The company was able to price the bond at 7.875% last week, however, after more than 160 accounts, including some large US investors, placed orders. The noodle chain’s deal shows that the high-yield market is no longer completely held hostage by liquidity fears. Small Single-B bonds like Wagamama’s bore the brunt of last year’s sell-off, exposing their lack of liquidity. Mitch Reznick, co-head of Hermes Credit, pointed out that the bond came around 200bp wider than its closest comparable, the senior secured bonds issued by PizzaExpress last year. “This premium, and Wagamama’s simplicity, familiarity as a business and prospects for growth, clearly helped investors get over the line on a small illiquid deal from a company that lacks scale and free cash flow in operations,” he said. Wagamama is understood to have also lined up a loan deal as a back-up, but favoured a bond as it places fewer restrictions on its expansion plans.

Il Cudega completes crowd-funding campaign: Il Cudega, the Lombardy-focused Italian restaurant due to open this spring, has successfully completed a crowd-funding campaign, raising a total of £14,154. Il Cudega is part of FountLondon, a new destination of start-ups, retail brands and kiosks being created and developed within three railway arches in London Fields – funds raised through crowd-funding are to be used to develop a communal outdoor space. The outdoor area will provide a vibrant community hub, as well as gardens, bike racks and a greenhouse growing vegetables for the restaurant. Il Cudega aims to be connected closely with the surrounding community and everyone involved with project, from the gardener to the furniture designer, lives and works in the area. Run by Giovanni Brighi, a Hackney resident of 20 years, and his Milanese business partner Luca Gaggioli, Il Cudega will be open from breakfast through to dinner and will also serve take away meals from an outdoor stall.

New Moon Pub Company to open seventh site in Liverpool: New Moon Company, led by Paul Newman and David Mooney, will open their seventh site in Liverpool in May. The company has taken on The Old Blind School, on Hardman Street where the restaurant seats 280 diners. “We’ve been looking at Liverpool for the past 12 months,” Mooney told The Knutsford Guardian. “It’s right where we want to be and there are other shops, bars and things going on in the same area. You didn’t have to be a genius forecaster to figure out that Liverpool was where we would be going next. But we’re still looking at bringing a Beef and Pudding (currently one in Manchester) to Liverpool as well. The Old Blind School will very much be an ‘urban pub’, with really good homemade English food and really good cask ales.”
Second Steak of the Art opens in Cardiff today: The second Steak of the Art restaurant opens in Cardiff today. The 150-cover restaurant serves steaks alongside an art gallery that will showcase and sell quality affordable art. Located in Helmont House on Churchill Way, the 4,200 sq ft restaurant follows a venue that opened in Bristol 15 months ago and is based on the simple steakhouse restaurants of Paris and London but set within an artistically inspired environment that might be found in Barcelona. The second venue to be opened by classically trained chef and entrepreneur Steve Bowen. The vision is to have reasonably-priced and simple but delicious food served in a place that is exciting to dine in. Part of the restaurant’s appeal is its interior, which is an art gallery in itself and includes a series of bespoke ‘booths’. The booths sit up to six people each and have been made especially for the Cardiff venue. This includes a Roald Dahl inspired Willy Wonka booth, carved from one single tree trunk by Welsh-based champion wood carver Simon O’Rourke.

Marston’s hires new social media agency: Marston’s has hired a new agency, Shine Communications, to manage its digital strategy. Its social media was previously handled by the company’s PR agency, Vital. Shine will be responsible for development of the brand’s social media presence and the delivery of digital campaigns to support wider marketing initiatives throughout 2015. Key campaigns will include promoting Marston’s as the official beer of the England cricket team, its partnership with cricketer Jimmy Anderson and the brand’s newly launched New World Pale Ale. Gaynor Green, marketing manager at Marston’s, said: “With the addition of New World Pale Ale to our portfolio, digital platforms will be key to engaging a new, younger audience. Shine’s analytical and creative approach to social media and influencer identification will ensure that our digital activities are fully integrated with our marketing programme and help our loyal fans feel even closer to the brand.” Shine managing director Lawrence Collis said: “We’re really excited that Marston’s is joining our growing digital team, which now accounts for over 40% of our income. While we will be working closely with Marston’s other marketing agencies to ensure all aspects of its 2015 campaign are amplified through social media, we will also be helping it to create a database of key influencers to help inform and adapt its campaign in real time.”

Al Tayer opens third Momo cafe offshoot in the UAE: Al Tayer Group has opened its third ‘Almaz by Momo’, the contemporary North African luxury cafe, has now in the UAE, at The Beach opposite JBR, a new shopping complex located on the beachfront adjacent to Jumeira Beach Residence. Mourad ‘Momo’ Moraz opened Moo and Sketh in London more than a decade ago and the first Almaz by Momo opened in the Middle East in 2006. David Singleton, vice present of hospitality at Al Tayer, said: “We’re delighted to have collaborated with Mourad once again, at this remarkable location where our loyal customers can experience the amazing ambience, fresh food, live music and sea views. It promises to be a firm favourite for residents and visitors alike to come and enjoy the essence and generosity which has come to define ‘Almaz by Momo’.”

Whole Foods Market adding in-store bar and dining options at six new Chicago sites: Whole Foods Market is adding in-store dining and bar options at all six new sites it is planning in the Chicago area. “Simply put, we’re looking for ways to make the places more appealing,” said Michael Bashaw, president of Whole Foods’ Midwest region. “If bricks-and-mortar (grocers) are going to survive, they must offer a compelling experience to customers.” At its new store in the Streeterville neighbourhood, one of seven former Dominick’s locations Whole Foods is converting, the company is partnering with an outside operator, Raw Foods, to open a branded, in-store location featuring raw foods and vegan dishes. The store, scheduled to open on 28 January, will also have a full-service bar and an expanded coffee stand to cater to neighbourhood residents and workers. The brand is building off the success of its Lincoln Park mega-store, which with its three full-service bars was one of Whole Foods’ first to feature the amenity when it opened five years ago. The company has since expanded the idea to 110 of its 406 stores, and it is looking to do more. “Customer response has been very strong, and it’s a rapidly growing category for us,” Bashaw said. “Our customers have told us what they want by strongly patronising (the in-store bars). Given the response, we’re going to do more of that.”

Savoy Hotel looks to overhaul Simpsons-in-the-Strand: The Savoy Hotel is looking to overhaul Simpsons-in-the-Strand. The hotel has hired agent Davis Coffer Lyons to find a chef or brand willing to take over the site. Savoy managing director Kiarn McDonald said the hotel would like a new tenant to “revitalise this magnificent space and name”.

Café Carringtons goes into liquidation: Three-strong Cambridgeshire cafe chain Café Carringtons has gone into liquidation. The company has closed its sites in Cambridge’s Market Street and The Grafton shopping centre and one in Ely’s Cloisters shopping precinct. A statement on the company’s website said: “It is with great sadness that we have had to announce the closure of all three of the Café Carringtons restaurants. Thank you for your custom and loyalty.” It had traded for more than 30 years.

Solita launches 8,000-calorie ‘Manchester Wheel’ burger: Solita, the burger chain, has launched a £50, 8,000-calorie “Manchester Wheel” burger, made from a giant seeded bun containing a 1kg patty, 12 slices of cheese and eight slices of bacon. The giant burger, named after the city’s big wheel on Piccadilly Gardens, is on sale at Solita’s Northern Quarter and Didsbury restaurants. The burger, which is meant to be shared by six people, takes two chefs to flip and comes served on a giant wooden slate. Solita’s owner, Franco Sotgiu, said he was inspired to create the burger after spotting a picture of a one-off burger sliced into portions that Burger King created in New York. He told The Manchester Evening News: “It’s designed for sharing, although we expect some people might try it on their own. It has around 8,000 calories in total, which is the requirement for a Royal Marine on arctic training.” It is also the recommended adult calorie consumption for four whole days.

Greene King to open Farmhouse new-build on Teesside in April: Greene King is to open a new-build Farmhouse Inn, The Anson Farm, on the outskirts of Ingleby Barwick, in Spring, creating 80 jobs. Work began on the new-build restaurant, on Teesside Industrial Estate near to the A174, in September. A range of pub classics, fresh cakes and a traditional daily carvery will all be on offer when the new Farmhouse Inn opens. The restaurant will have a contemporary design inside with an ice cream parlour, an interactive play area for the children and a large external seating area on a patio.

Las Iguanas and Cosy Club sign up for Coventry scheme: South American brand Las Iguanas and Loungers’ Cosy Club have signed up to the new-look restaurant and bar quarter opening in Coventry’s soon-to-be revamped Cathedral Lanes area Broadgate this year. It is rumoured that Wagamama is also on the verge of signing a deal. The shopping mall was sold late last year in a deal worth £5.5 million to London-based firm Shearer Property Group. The new owners say they plan to have the first phase completed and all bars and restaurants open in time for Christmas.

Californian craft brewers tells BrewDog it can recommend locations on the East Coast: California-based Stone Brewing company has offered to introduce BrewDog to key brewing locations on the US East Coast where it came close to an opening itself. Via the company’s Facebook page, founder and chief Greg Koch offered to connect Columbus and fellow runner-up Norfolk, Virginia, sites where it considered opening a brewery, with BrewDog, “Our good friends at Scotland’s BrewDog are potentially looking for a US spot to locate a production facility, tasting room and perhaps even a restaurant,” Koch wrote. “I told them that I’d be more than happy to make an introduction to the good folks at the ‘Top Three’ locations we considered.”
City Pub Co to shut Delaney’s in Norwich for five months and reopen as food-led offer: City Pub Co West, the EIS-backed company headed by Clive Watson, is to close Delaney’s, the pub it acquired in April last year, for five months for a refurbishment that will include a larger kitchen and a micro-brewery on site. When it was acquired, the Delaney’s site was originally planned to trade as a wet-led venue after its refurbishment was complete, while City Pub Co’s other Norwich outlet, The Georgian Town House will focus more on food trade. However, the planning application for the refurbishment, which has been approved by Norwich City Council, included comments that the pub was “heavily focused on drinking” and the new proposal was for a “more food-led offer”. The Grade II listed building dates to the 19th century with 20th century alterations. It was known for nearly a century as The Festival House, and in the past couple of decades the pub has changed hands many times. It first became an Irish pub in 2001.
Aberdeen’s ‘£1,200 for one booth’ nightclub shuts after two months: A nightclub that opened in Aberdeen last November, with one of its “golden” booths costing £1,200 a night for up to 15 people, has closed, and will now be turned into a “Quaglino’s-like” restaurant. Effervescent Venues, a new entertainment company founded by Russell Davidson, who has more than a decade of experience in running high quality entertainment venues around Scotland, secured the leasehold on 150 Union Street, formerly trading as the Society bar, and 1 Diamond Street, formerly the Mint nightclub, and announced that the bar was going to become Aberdeen’s first champagne bar and the former club would be run as “more of a late night lounge than a conventional nightclub”. Davidson has now announced that One Diamond Street has closed and will become a 180-cover restaurant “similar” to Quaglino’s in St James’s, London, and is due to open in early April.

Ex-Morrell’s Brewery boss shuts Oxford real ale pub after 13 years: Charles Eld, the former managing director of Morrell’s Brewery in Oxford, is shutting the pub he runs in the city, Far From the Madding Crowd, saying it was no longer economically viable to run. Eld said the pub had been struggling since 2011 and he made the decision to close after failing to negotiate a deal on the rent. Eld said: “It is a very sad day but the support we have received from our customers on Twitter has made a difficult time more bearable. I’m getting old now and I don’t think at my age I’d consider reopening the pub in another location. The culture of drinking has changed too, and we can’t compete with supermarket pricing of alcohol.” Far From the Madding Crowd was opened in 2002, four years after Eld was sacked as managing director of the brewery his family owned, Morrell’s, after opposing plans to close it. After establishing itself as a place for a multitude of locally-sourced ales, it was awarded the Campaign for Real Ale’s Pub of the Year Award in 2009, 2011 and 2012. The building in Friars Entry is owned by the Strathclyde Pension Fund, which also owns the nearby Randolph Hotel. It is not known whether the premises will remain a pub.
Mary-Ellen McTague opens pop-up at the Cuckoo in Prestwich: Mary-Ellen McTague, who suddenly closed her fine dining restaurant Aumbry in Prestwich, Manchester earlier this month, has taken up a three-month food residency at the Cuckoo bar in the town. The move echoes the successful Northern Quarter pop-up restaurant 4244 she established before Christmas. The menu will be high quality and affordable bistro-style food, with a particular focus on locally sourced produce. Dishes will reflect the simple style of cooking that put Aumbry on the culinary map five years ago. McTague said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be continuing my culinary presence in Prestwich by taking on the kitchens of Cuckoo. The team and I are really excited to get started and we hope to build on the success of 4244 in this new location, which is particularly close to my heart.” Dave Rigby, the owner of Cuckoo, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Mary-Ellen and her team back to Prestwich. Cuckoo and Mary-Ellen share a common philosophy and we hope this partnership will bring a fresh offering to our patrons, while also attracting some new faces to the venue.” The former Aumbry site has been acquired by the Manchester restaurant Solita, which also purchased the adjacent Bombay Restaurant to create a huge new Solita, due to open in May.
Work starts on Shaker Group’s Gas Street Social restaurant in Birmingham: Work has begun on Gas Street Social, the £750,000 bar and restaurant due to open in the former Bar Room Bar premises at Birmingham’s Mailbox retail and leisure centre in March. The restaurant will be run by Shaker Group, which is based in Birmingham, where it runs training courses and a consultancy arm that works with bars and restaurants around the world. It is the group’s second retail outlet, after Shaker & Company, a cocktail bar in Hampstead Road, near Regent’s Park, north London. The Mailbox, a former Royal Mail sorting office in Birmingham city centre, is home to more than 20 bars and restaurants, and Shaker Group, which is working with Breakfast Group, the bar, nightclub and restaurant operation founded by Eric Yu, said it fought off “strong competition” from several leading restaurant chains for the 4,300 sq ft venue. The interior of Gas Street Social has been designed by Spencer Swinden, an award-winning Birmingham-based interior design company, and includes “sharing tables”, booth areas, an outdoor terrace and a “snug” area. Adam Freeth, managing director of Shaker Group, said: “As a Birmingham-based company, we’re excited to be opening this venue on home soil.”
Permission sought for demolition of former Stones brewery: A demolition contractor is seeking permission to demolish the former Cannon brewery in Sheffield, home of Stone’s beers until it closed 1999. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Stones was the UK’s highest selling bitter, with a million barrels sold every year, but later suffered a steep decline. The company had been bought by Bass in 1968 and after Bass exited brewing, the brand was acquired by Molson Coors. In an application to Sheffield Council to demolish the brewery, the buildings on the 0.7 hectare plot are described as being of utilitarian design and of no historic or architectural significance. The application says the site is not effectively marketable in its current state, especially as the high cost of demolition and potential decontamination, particularly from asbestos, are a deterrent to developers.
Couple acquires Winchester freehold for third site: Paul Tickner and Jo Bartlett have acquired a freehold in Winchester, The Albion on Stockbridge Road, for their third pub. The couple also own The Flower Pots Inn in Cheriton and The Wheatsheaf in Shedfield. Its previous owners, Paul and Hester Soulsby, took over the property in 2011 but closed the doors last Friday. Tickner said he jumped at the chance to take over the business when he was contacted by the previous landlord. “To get a free house in Winchester is a dream come true,” he said.

Belushi’s Bars unveils AFL Europe partnership: The six-strong Belushi’s Bars business, part of Bed and Bars, has become official 2015 partners with AFL Europe. The partnership comes in the wake of a successful relationship during the 2014 Euro Cup. In addition to promoting all AFL Europe fixtures, the new partnership will involve exclusive team socials, tournaments, and celebrations. Sophie Herbert, Belushi’s marketing manager UK said: “After the great success of hosting the AFL Axios Euro Cup in 2014, it seemed only natural to build on this solid partnership and become official 2015 partners. We’re thrilled to continue hosting post match parties, in addition to offering accommodation through our sister brand St Christopher’s Inns – but we’re also looking forward to some brand new projects. As the home of international sports and epic burgers, this is a great opportunity for the Belushi’s bars across Europe to further support local sports teams, and bring all the sporting action to our customers.” The 2015 partnership will make Belushi’s bars the host of the AFL Europe Champions League in Amsterdam, where all the teams will come together to compete. Belushi’s will also host a number of AFL Europe events outside of the regular sporting calendar, in partnership with suppliers and brands. Belushi’s Bars operate sites in Edinburgh, Bath, Newquay, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

Maxxium managing director steps down: Maxxium UK’s long-standing managing director Huw Pennell is leaving the company to take up a newly created role with Edrington, one of Maxxium’s shareholders, the company has announced. Pennell will assume his new role as Edrington’s European regional managing director effective 1 April 2015. An announcement will be made on his successor in due course. Pennell has worked with Maxxium UK for 16 years and has led the company as managing director for the past ten, playing an integral role in its successful development. He has over 28 years’ experience in the drinks industry and was previously marketing director at Maxxium. Pennell sits on the Executive Board of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association and was awarded Scottish Marketer of the Year in 2007. Pennell said: “I am immensely proud to have been a part of this business from the very beginning. Maxxium UK houses a portfolio of great brands and a strong team of talented and experienced people that will continue to deliver exciting plans across the portfolio and ensure the company’s continued success.” Edrington Group commercial director Scott McCroskie added: “This new role will deliver a new level of focus on this large and complex region whilst creating a management structure consistent with the rest of the world. Huw’s knowledge, experience and leadership style will be of great benefit to Edrington. We are excited to welcome him to the business and look forward to building on the success of our company.”

Analyst – Whitbread’s new hub format is impressive: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has described Whitbread’s new hub by Premier Inn budget hotel format as ‘impressive’ after undertaking a tour. He said: “Whitbread hosted a tour of its new “hub by Premier Inn” hotel in Central London, the first to open since the concept was announced in 2013. Hub rooms are 45% smaller than Premier Inn rooms, with a 20-30% lower price point, and 25% lower operating and build costs. This allows it to access a different customer segment, as well as buildings that could be too complex or expensive for Premier Inn. For example the new hub has 163 rooms, but would have had only 91 under a Premier Inn format, so even on a lower price point, sales and profits should be higher, and ROCE similar given the more expensive land. The hotel is very high tech and has been running at over 80% occupancy with encouraging TripAdvisor feedback. Whitbread has another 12 hubs in the pipeline, all in London and Edinburgh, of which it owns eight. Taking its ROCE and unit profit guidance suggests these should generate a combined circa £36m Ebit at maturity, or 4-5% of group profit. Nearly all of this comes from the eight freeholds, and while chunky, the 13% Ebitda ROCE guidance is lower at 8% post tax and maintenance capex / depreciation. This would give Whitbread 2,400 hub rooms open by 2018 (3,000 target in sight), which are included in, not additive to, its 2018 75,000 UK room target. And although it recently reduced its London room target from 20,000 to 18,000, hub seems on track, with Premier Inn being harder to expand given escalating property prices. December UK RevPAR rose an impressive 11.8%, the strongest month of the year, within which room rate was up 6.3%, with many hoteliers taking a price increase in November. We currently assume Premier Inn RevPAR of 5% in its Q4 (Dec-Feb), a slowdown on its nine month run-rate of 8.7% due to tough comps. If we were to assume say 9% in Q4 (Premier Inn has been underperforming the market somewhat), and assume 140bps H2 Ebit margin expansion versus its 90bps guidance (given the higher rate mix), it would add circa £5m or 1% to our FY15 £480m PBT estimate, which we are not changing at this time.” 
Wok & Go opens to open first site in North Wales: Wok & Go will be opening its first North Wales branch in spring, following the Autumn opening of a branch in Cardiff. The noodle chain serves a fusion of Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese food. There are currently 18 branches in the UK and Middle East, with further plans to expand throughout 2015. Des Pheby, managing director of Wok & Go, said: “Bangor is a fantastic location for Wok & Go and we can’t wait to open. We’re proud to offer healthy, good value food that’s freshly cooked in minutes.”

Multi-site site companies sign up for Professor Chris Edger’s Multi-Site Management Masterclass: A host of multi-site companies have signed up for Professor Chris Edger, Multi-Site Management Masterclass, being held in partnership with Propel, on Tuesday 24 February at One Moorgate Place, in the City of London. They include: Wahaca, Boston Tea Party, Burger & Lobster, Paul UK, Beds and Bars, Columbo Group, McMullen, McManus Pub Company, Meatailer, Intertain, Eddie Rockets, Amber Taverns, City Pub Company, Jamie Oliver, Rhode Island Coffee, My Lahore, Little Gems Country Dining, Porkys, Antic London, Star Pubs and Bars and Bill’s. Professor Edger, who has just published his latest book, Leading at a Distance in Multi-Unit Enterprises, will focus on how area managers can create organic growth through the three-step process of engagement, execution and evolution. Professor Edger currently teaches at City University, Birmingham, where a number of the sector’s leading companies send their general managers to be taught. Darren King, last month’s winner of 2014 ALMR Operations Manager award, graduated from its post-graduate Level 7 Multi-Unit Leadership and Strategy course in 2014 – as did the 2013 ALMR Operations Manager winner Barrie Robinson in 2013. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel, said: “This is a great chance for multi-site companies to refresh their thinking – and the thinking and expertise of key staff – as 2015 gets under way.” Tickets are £295 plus VAT for ALMR members and £345 for non-ALMR members. CLICK HERE for more details or email to book.

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