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Thu 29th Jan 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

English executive Steve Easterbrook takes top job at McDonald’s: McDonald’s global marketing boss Steve Easterbrook, who is English and ran McDonald’s in the UK, will be the next president and chief executive of McDonald’s, replacing Don Thompson, who is retiring after 25 years with the brand. Easterbrook also ran Wagamama and PizzaExpress for around a year each before returning to McDonald’s in April 2013. Easterbrook is widely credited with turning McDonald’s UK around during his tenure. Easterbrook is currently senior vice president and chief brand officer for McDonald’s, which operates or franchises the chain’s 36,000 locations worldwide. In that role, he has led McDonald’s’ efforts to elevate marketing, advance menu innovation and create an infrastructure for digital initiatives. He started working at McDonald’s in 1993 as a financial reporting manager in London and has held several, key leadership roles throughout the business, including president of McDonald’s Europe. “Steve is a strong and experienced executive who successfully led our UK and European business units and the board is confident that he can effectively lead the company to improved financial and operational performance,” McDonald’s non-executive chairman Andrew McKenna said. Easterbrook takes over the top job on 1 March. The executive shuffle is part of a number of management changes that McDonald’s announced following one of the most difficult years in its history. Pete Bensen, the company’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, has been promoted to a newly created role as chief administrative officer. Kevin Ozan, currently senior vice president and corporate controller, will succeed Bensen as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Both Bensen and Ozan will take their respective positions on 1 March.“McDonald’s is an outstanding company with talented employees and these management changes are aimed at speeding the company’s movement to its next phase of innovation and growth,” McKenna added. The announcement came just days after McDonald’s reported a 0.9% decline in global like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter of 2014. The company is facing problems throughout the world, including Asia, Russia and Europe, but its problems were most acute at home in the US – where the chain reported a 1.1% decline in domestic system sales, the first such decline in at least 30 years.

Industry News:

Full Propel Multi Club Conference speaker programme unveiled: The full speaker schedule for the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 12 March at the Lancaster Hotel, London has been unveiled. See the bottom of this email to see the full programme and timings. Operators of multi-site companies can claim two free places by emailing

Crowdcube names two sector businesses among best launches of 2014: Crowdcube has named two sector crowdfunding launches as among the best of 2014 in its Crowdcube Awards 2014. Backed by celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr, Zero Carbon Food was named Pitch of the Year. It utilises redundant underground spaces in London to produce leafy greens, herbs and micro greens using LED lights and hydroponics and raised £580,810 from 482 investors. The judges commented: “Zero Carbon Food exhibited all the qualities of a fantastic crowdfunding campaign, pitching an innovative idea and bringing it to life through a cohesive and well-executed marketing campaign. (It was) an outstanding pitch which ignited the imagination and interest of the crowd.” Chilango, which raised £2,035,000 from 709 investors in a mini-bond, was named Coolest Brand of the Year. The judges commented: “With a brand, team and business ethos that would be the envy of many others, Chilango was always a favourite for our coolest brand of 2014.”

US restaurant industry forecast to grow by 3.8% this year: The US restaurant industry is expected to grow by 3.8% this year, but competition for staff will intensify, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has stated. Its ‘Restaurant Industry Forecast’ predicts US restaurant sales will grow for the sixth consecutive year in 2025, reaching a record high of $709.2 billion. Sales will grow by about $26 billion, 3.8%, or 1.5% in inflation-adjusted terms. That would be the strongest rate of growth in three years, according to the forecast. “With the economy slowly improving and national employment trending upward, signs are pointing in the right direction for restaurant industry growth,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA, in a statement. “Certain components of the business climate remain a challenge, accelerating industry sales in some regions and putting a damper on them in others, but the overall industry is definitely in a better place now than several years ago.” The NRA expects the number of people employed in the industry to grow by 3.2% in 2015, to 14 million. About one in ten employed Americans will work in a restaurant this year, Riehle noted.
Sector entrepreneurs back Gatwick expansion: Sector entrepreneurs are among a group of 19 business founders who have pledged their support for expanding Gatwick. They include sector investor Luke Johnson, John Stapleton, co-founder of New Covent Garden Soup and Little Dish and Duncan Cheatle, founder of The Supper Club and co-founder of Start-Up Britain. They have signed an open letter to the Airports Commission highlighting the importance of maintaining a competitive network of airports in the south-east to sustain choice when accessing overseas markets. Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, speaking on behalf of the signatories, said: “Enabling startup businesses to go global is vital to the future of the UK economy.”

Rich Melman to receive the US restaurant industry’s greatest accolade: Fabled Chicago restaurateur Rich Melman is to receive the James Beard lifetime achievement award this year – the US industry’s greatest accolade. The award, to be presented in his home-town of Chicago this May, is given to a person in the restaurant industry who has had a “positive and long-lasting impact” on food consumption in America. Melman is the founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You , which owns more than 100 restaurants across the US. Many industry observers regard him as the most versatile branded restaurant originator in the sector with 70 different branded concepts to his name, varying across the range in price and theme from quick service better burger to a la carte. The restaurateur began his career in 1971, when he opened better burger brand RJ Grunts in Chicago. “I was surprised. I’m so immersed in what I’m doing that I rarely think about honours, but I was absolutely thrilled,” Melman told the Chicago Tribune. Melman opened his two latest restaurants last month at Chicago’s Navy pier – Big Bowl Chinese Express and Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice, serving pizza by the slice, individual pan pizzas, hot sandwiches and frozen lemonade. Melman recently opened Beatrix in Chicago, an updated comfort food format that combines a cocktail bar, wine bar, coffee concept and bakery.

80 restaurants take part in Newcastle Restaurant Week: A total of around 80 restaurants have taken part in the ground-breaking Newcastle Restaurant Week, a twice-yearly event that offers customers fixed price meals and other deals to entice them out. The most recent Restaurant Week ended at the weekend (25 January) and saw an estimated 25,000 additional customers take advantage of offers. The event launched five years ago when just 13 restaurants took part. Ollie Vaulkhard, managing director of Fluid Group, told the Newcastle Journal: “We look forward to Restaurant Week and have been involved since the event was launched. It gives people something to look forward to in January and creates a great buzz in the city with more people dining out mid-week.”

Morrisons opens 400th cafe, turning over £225m: Morrisons has joined the UK’s top rank of foodservice businesses by opening its 400th store cafe in Milton Keynes this week. Its 400 cafés now serve 800,000 customers with 35 million meals a year, turning over £225 million, putting Morrisons’ foodservice business in the top ten largest by turnover and seventh largest by the number of locations. Darren Smith, of Morrisons cafe customer planner, said: “Morrisons has the most popular supermarket cafes. The opening of our 400th cafe ranks us as the seventh largest UK operator. Our formidable reputation is testament to our sound menu offer, helpful staff and loyal customer base.” Last September, Morrisons launched a new cafe concept, which will be in all new stores and introduced in existing ones. Footfall in trial cafes has increased by 25%.

Allegra – one in six adults ate out on Christmas Day: Research by Allegra Foodservice, conducted through its Eating Out Panel, which tracks eating out behaviours, has revealed that one in six UK adults ate out on Christmas Day 2014, equating to circa eight million meals. The report also revealed that over a quarter of UK adults have never eaten out on Christmas Day, but nearly half would consider doing so. Pubs operators were most successful, with over a third of consumers eating out on Christmas day choosing to eat at pubs. Hotels and local restaurants also attracted significant Christmas day trade, at 18% and 16% of the total respectively. The report highlighted that the principle reasons for eating out on Christmas day are due to being invited out by friends or family and to avoid the hassle of entertaining at home. However, very few consumers choose to eat out on Christmas day for better quality food. Gareth Nash, Allegra Foodservices’ head of consumer insight, said: “Venues should really focus their Christmas day messaging on providing a stress free sociable occasion for consumers on Christmas Day.” The research showed that the majority of diners eating out at Christmas were under-35s and from London. While some consumers have a tradition of cooking their Christmas Day meal at home, there is more scope to influence the new younger and time-poor generations into going out to eat. Nash added: “Nearly half of consumers will consider eating out in the future on Christmas Day so there is an opportunity there for operators to increase footfall further and convert these ‘considerers’ into actual visitors.”

Company News:

Greene King Hungry Horse brand to celebrate 20th birthday this weekend: Greene King’s value-brand Hungry Horse, which is currently trading at circa 220 sites, the company’s biggest brand, is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend. The brand was originally launched by Michael Cannon’s Magic Pub Company, which became a Greene King acquisition. Industry sources have claimed the brand has been suffering soft sales in recent quarters, a drag on overall Greene King managed division like-for-likes. A HTML to Hungry Horse customers stated: “In 1995 Toy Story was released, the first episode of Hollyoaks aired, the Playstation was launched in the US and more importantly the first Hungry Horse pub opened! So join us for our 1990s themed birthday weekend and let us take your mind back to the days when Cotton Eye Joe was being played on the radio, Boyzone battled it out with Take That in the charts and it seemed like Bryan Adams would stay at Number One forever.”
Britvic shareholders in AGM revolt: One-fifth of Britvic shareholders have voted against re-appointing Ernst & Young as the company’s auditor. A further 35% voted against a motion that allows Britvic’s directors to set the pay of the auditors. Some 11% voted against the re-appointment of Gerald Corbett as chairman. The vote came after Ernst & Young’s bill for non-audit work exceeded its audit bill, a situation not regarded as best practice.

Coal Bar & Grill opens tenth site, posts 6% like-for-likes in December: Coal Bar & Grill, led by John Gater and backed by private equity firm Beringea, is to open its tenth site tomorrow, this time located at Swindon’s new £100m Regent Circus development. Ruby Hawley, who has joined the company as its new group marketing and public relations manager, said: “This brings the group to ten nationally spread restaurants and is a very welcome step for us into Wiltshire. We now successfully operate in the North and South Regions and plan to continue to roll out the brand right across the country. Five additional new sites will be opening later this year and each branch creates on average 30 full and part-time jobs. We saw an impressive 6% growth in our like-for-like sales for December and the group continues to trade strongly.”
Hot Chip founders seek £250,000 for expansion: The entrepreneurs behind Hot Chip, launched in Norwich, have unveiled ambitious plans to turn their concept into a national brand. Within a year of opening, it won the accolade of best chip shop in Norfolk at the National Chip Week awards. The pair, Lord Somerleyton and Hugh Crossley, are seeking £250,000 of investment, either from a regional entrepreneur or through a crowd-funding platform, to embark on the second phase of developing their idea of a menu based on Norfolk potato chips fried in Norfolk rapeseed oil. Their plan is to open a further two sites, including a possible second one in Norwich called Hot Chip Saloon – a contemporary bar serving their menu late into the evening – as a stepping stone to national growth. Lord Somerleyton said: “Before we can appeal to venture capitalists, who will be able to support us in turning Hot Chip into a national brand, we know we need to have between three and five successfully trading sites.” In addition to opening a new shop and their first Hot Chip Saloon, the pair hope the £250,000 of investment will also cover the cost of a Hot Chip van. The partners are eyeing possible new sites in Cambridge, Peterborough, Ipswich and seaside towns such as Great Yarmouth. The idea for Hot Chip came from visiting Yarmouth’s chip stalls and seeing the success of chips as a meal in themselves on the continent. Lord Somerleyton said: “We went around 30 to 40 fish and chip shops in East Anglia and found as much as 50% of their sales were in portions of chips.”
Research stresses popularity of Italian food: The popularity of Italian food shows no signs of dwindling according to research carried out by OnePoll for food brand Sacla that revealed that 92% of UK consumers enjoy eating Italian food and 42% of them prefer to enjoy it out at a pub or restaurant. The research, which polled 2,000 UK adults, showed eating out remains a big leisure activity for UK consumers with 63% of the adult population eating out at least once a month and 9% eating out once a week. Testament to the significant role Italian food has to play in the eating-out market, 49% of respondents said they had eaten Italian food out-of-home in the last month, while 22% of respondents said Italian food was their favourite cuisine – coming second only to the English roast. The study showed that the popularity of Italian food is partly down to its versatility with 65% of consumers saying they know there will always be something everyone likes, while 25% cited its affordability as a plus point. Italian food is also maintaining its reputation for romance, with 51% of respondents saying an Italian meal would make the perfect meal for a romantic date. Managing director of Sacla Clare Blampied said: “Many other studies well-publicised in the press recently have shown that children often call the shots when it comes to eating out choices for families, and our OnePoll research showed parents believe Italian food is the most popular with children (25%), followed by 21% who’d choose burgers, and 15% who’d prefer a Chinese meal.” Sacla, the company behind the UK’s No 1 pesto brand in grocery retail, launched into the UK hospitality market this week.
Hakkasan signs exclusive three-year deal with Calvin Harris to develop “new experiences and event concepts”: Restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group has signed an exclusive three-year partnership with Calvin Harris. The DJ will hold residencies at three Hakkasan venues, splitting his time at Hakkasan Nightclub, Wet Republic at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, which is scheduled to open this spring. Harris will also act as music consultant for the Hakkasan brand, ‘curating its global sound’ as it moves from restaurants and nightclubs into the hotel space. He will also be working closely with the senior team at Hakkasan Group to develop new experiences and event concepts over the next three years. Neil Moffitt, chief executive of Hakkasan Group, said: “We are excited to continue our partnership with Calvin Harris as he extends his exclusive residencies with Hakkasan Group. He is a truly sensational artist and we look forward to what he will bring to our most acclaimed venues over the next three years.” Harris said: “Hakkasan Group’s venues are some of the best in the world for dance music and the opportunity to be part of the wider group as it develops into other markets and sectors is a really exciting prospect for me as an artist. We have some great ideas up our sleeves.”

Mitch Tonks reveals more details on Brixham opening: Chef Mitch Tonks has revealed more details on his proposed Rockfish opening in Brixham, due to open in the port on 14 April. He said: “We want to create a destination which will attract seafood lovers from all over the world who will ultimately enjoy and spend time and money in our town and community. I have a real belief the fish is the best in the world so to be able to share that is just brilliant.” The first floor of the building will provide 130 covers in the restaurant along with a private dining room. The ground floor will be turned into a takeaway frying the day’s Brixham fish, and in the morning the café will serve fish breakfasts from 7am to 11am with dishes like scallop and bacon rolls and smoked haddock on the menu. Customers can even bring their own fish from the morning’s market. The area next to the takeaway will be used to prepare fresh Brixham fish for Tonks’s other restaurants in an open facility so visitors can see the fish being prepared and packed. The site will also house a Rockfish academy where staff will be trained on cooking, ethos and service skills. 

JD Wetherspoon has lodged plans to convert Belfast Methodist Church into a pub: JD Wetherspoon has submitted plans to convert a former Methodist church in Belfast, purchased last October for a reported £1.2m, into a pub. It’s one of two new pubs the company is set to open in Belfast over the coming months. Spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “The scheme proposes to utilise all of the existing features in this listed building. The interior design intends to enhance the buildings original features and will retain the original galleries on three sides, all existing leaded light windows (currently covered up) will be repaired. The building had been left empty for a number of years and considerable damage has been caused during that time due to water ingress. JD Wetherspoon will invest heavily in the repair of the building envelope. And the outside of the property will see the creation of three smoking areas, and the restoration of some damaged parts of the building. The exterior of the property will be repaired and restored using like-for-like materials. The external garden areas are currently severely overgrown, these will be brought back into use and external seating will be created on all three sides of the building.”

Busaba Eathai to open first international site in March: Busaba Eathai is eyeing a March opening for its first international restaurant in Dubai, with Ikram Group, the foodservices arm of Al Mana Group, as the local partner. Busaba Eathai chief executive Jason Myers told local media: “We like our partner a lot. It wasn’t just about a normal franchise arrangement, it was much more about a partnership and working with them. Wissam [Al Mana] who heads the business has got great local connections. He’s good to work with, and we like what they’re trying to achieve with the company in the region. We like their ambition. They really add the right recipe to make this work. Working through this process with them over the last year has been a really positive thing.” Myer added to Propel yesterday: “I’m just here in Dubai finalising – looks like it will be (opening) in early March.” 

PubLove’s sixth site acquired off guide price of £100,000: PubLove, the boutique hostel and pub operator led by Ben Stackhouse, acquired its sixth site, the Exmouth Arms in Starcross Street, Euston, an Enterprise Inns venue, off a guide price of £100,000 for the leasehold interest, agent AG&G, which acted for the vendor, has revealed. The ground floor will remain a traditional pub with a London-focused product range, and will include PubLove’s pop-up Burger Craft operation, known for creating one of London’s top five burgers. The upper parts will be converted into boutique tourist accommodation, which will provide 60 bed spaces with commercial facilities. Award-winning design and build experts Concorde BGW is undertaking the refurbishment “This new site is the realisation of everything we’ve been working towards and marks the next step in our evolution,” PubLove’s founder Ben Stackhouse has previously told Propel. AG&G’s Panayiotis Themistocli added: “PubLove specialises in giving historic pubs a new lease of life and this is an imposing building in a great location that will sit well within their portfolio.” The site is expected to reopen the week commencing 2 February.

Danish entrepreneur to open second backpacker’s hostel in Nottingham: Danish-born entrepreneur Bettina Kristiansen is to open a second backpackers’ hostel in Nottingham city centre. The 87-bed hostel will open in Wheeler Gate in May. It will also feature a camper van on the second-floor roof terrace, which can sleep up to four people. “It’s going to be the most unusual and quirky accommodation there is in Nottingham,” she said. Kristiansen took over the running of Igloo Backpackers Hostel, in Mansfield Road, in 1997 and eventually went on to buy the business in 2006. Since then she’s developed the hostel, adding further rooms in the form of an Igloo Annex and Igloo Pods, which are also in Mansfield Road. She said: “We are growing every year and in the last four years, since we became a limited company in 2009, we have seen a 118% increase in occupancy rates. There is a desperate need for us to expand. People are tired of bog-standard hotel rooms. Nobody wants to stay in a room and just look at a TV screen. With a hostel you can go to the kitchen, or lounge and you can mix with other people in the same boat. The feedback we get is incredible. We have a lot of people who say they would never use a hotel again.” Kristiansen said 50% of her guests are from the UK, with the rest visiting from overseas. The hostel, annex and pods – catering for backpackers, tourists, weekenders and families – sleep 46 people across 14 rooms. Rates start from £18 a night for a dormitory bed to £100 for a room for a family of five.

Sky News – Costa Coffee sandwich supplier close to being acquired: Costa Coffee sandwich supplier Adelie Foods is close to being sold to HIG Capital as it capitalises on the growing number of Britons eating on the move, Sky News has reported. Sources told Sky News that HIG has entered into a period of exclusive talks to buy Adelie Foods in a deal valuing the company at several hundred million pounds. Adelie is owned by India Hospitality Corp, which acquired the business in 2012. The company is the UK’s second-biggest sandwich-maker behind Greencore. Details of the precise valuation attributed to Adelie and the size of the stake being acquired by HIG were unclear, although previous reports suggested that the discussions were focused on a new investor buying out other shareholders including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and Hayground Cove, a New York-based hedge fund. The value of many food-to-go manufacturers has risen sharply in recent years as consumers eat a growing proportion of meals while in transit.

Filmore & Union to quadruple size of Harrogate restaurant: Healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union is to invest £250,000 relocating its Harrogate cafe to bigger premises, creating 30 new jobs for the area. A new two-floor restaurant and cocktail bar is undergoing extensive renovation before it opens on Station Parade in March, replacing Filmore & Union’s current cafe at Station Square. Since moving to Harrogate in July 2012, the 14-cover healthy eating cafe has struggled to meet high customer demand which has led to the company’s decision to move. The new restaurant will seat up to 84 people at any one time and will also feature an outside dining area. Filmore & Union’s new site will follow the same business model as their York, Wetherby and Skipton restaurants and will be open for evening dinner serving a 100% gluten free a la carte menu as well as freshly prepared healthy breakfasts and wholesome lunches alongside organic coffee, fresh juicing and smoothies and homemade gluten free cakes, all made with seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers. Founder and director of Filmore & Union, Adele Ashley, said: “We’ve completely outgrown our current cafe so it’s been a long time coming! It’s a great start to what we hope will be a very successful 2015.” The expansion comes shortly after the healthy eating company, which has seven cafes and restaurants across Yorkshire, opened up in Skipton in November before relocating their head office and production kitchen to a bigger unit on Sandbeck Park in Wetherby two weeks later. The company is expected to announce more plans to expand across the country later this year.
Beer & Buns to operate pop-up above K10 site: Beer & Buns, offering hirata buns and Japanese craft beer is to operate a pop-up at K10 in Appold Street on London’s Broadway. It will be open Monday to Friday from 5pm. Owner is Julian Bartlett who has been in the industry for nearly 20 years and the person behind some of London’s most successful Japanese concepts.
Renaissance Pubs raises £14,000 for Syrian refugees: Award-winning Renaissance Pubs, together with customers, have raised an £14,000 to help feed Syrian refugees in four weeks. In December 2014, it launched a ‘Feed a Family of Four for £1’ campaign where patrons were asked to donate £1 at the bottom of their bills. If the donation was made, Renaissance Pubs then doubled the amount. Tom Peake, co-owner of Renaissance Pubs, said: “We knew we wanted to make a difference but the result of this campaign has been immense. We raised £4,000 more than we expected to which is all down to the amazing generosity of our customers.”
Tragus re-opens flagship Café Rouge in Birmingham with new menu: Tragus’s Café Rouge brand has debuted a new look in Birmingham following the refurbishment of its flagship restaurant at the Bullring. The site has re-opened with a menu that is currently exclusive to Birmingham Bullring and just a handful of other Café Rouge locations in the UK. Brand director Georgia Hall said “Café Rouge has created a new menu which will soon be available right across the UK.” Café Rouge at Birmingham Bullring re-opened this week and manager Chris Taylor has already welcomed a record number of customers through his door. Last year, the site sold over 75,000 glasses of wine and 50,000 plates of steak frites.
Young’s brings hospitality suites to six pubs for RBS Six Nations: London pub retailer Young’s has created Six Nations VIP Hospitality Suites at six select pubs in and around London for the forthcoming RBS Six Nations. The company states: “They include private plasma screens, fully stocked Heineken fridges or private bars, plus Six Nations slider platters inspired by the countries participating and a dedicated waiter – the ultimate must-do for any sporting enthusiast.”
Bulmers launches socially-led ‘Live Colourful’ website: Cider brand Bulmers has launched a new social media-led website which collates consumers’ posts and pictures about the brand to fuel the content of the website to provide the latest Bulmers information, updates and activities. As the first brand site for Bulmers, it reflects the brand’s ‘Live Colourful’ ethos and has been designed to be the online hub for all of Bulmers’ social media activity, providing consumers with fast-moving content.
Swansea’s Escape nightclub closes its doors: Iconic Swansea nightclub Escape, which opened in 1995, has closed for the foreseeable future. The club, situated on Northampton Lane in the city centre, made the announcement on its Facebook page. It stated: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Escape Swansea will be closing. For the past few weeks we have been trying to rectify the situation to salvage the Escape Club. But it’s with extreme sadness that the Escape Club will be closed for the foreseeable future.” One customer Chris Barker said: “Very sorry to hear this but when I was there on New Year’s Eve in a cold club with only one room open and not even half full, it was a sad reflection on the glory days of Escape which we all loved so much.”
Sharp’s looks to tap into Brits longing for adventure: Research from Cornwall based Sharp’s Brewery has revealed that 61% of Brits would re-live the last ten years and make them more adventurous given the chance. The findings coincide with the launch of Sharp’s ‘There’s an Adventure Brewing’ campaign, which aims to ‘reignite Britons’ lost sense of adventure’. The research shows that more than half (54%) of Brits would like to live more adventurously, and 63% would feel happier and more fulfilled if they were able to do so. The three biggest factors holding Brits back from living life more adventurously are financial restraints (37%), family pressures (18%) and nervousness (16%). Stuart Howe, director of brewing, Sharp’s Brewery, said: “Being based on the Cornwall Atlantic coast, adventure is part of our everyday lives at Sharp’s – whether it’s surfing, rowing or living out our passion to create new and exciting beers. We have a really special energy here in Cornwall, and wanted to bring that vitality to the rest of the UK.”
Shepherd Neame enhances historic features at one of London’s oldest pubs: Shepherd Neame has given one of London’s most historic pubs, The Rose & Crown in Blackfriars, a makeover to enhance its historic features. The pub dates back to the 16th century, and was among a small number of buildings to survive the Blitz bombings of the Second World War when much of the surrounding area was flattened. Its traditional features have been accentuated by a two-week refurbishment carried out by the company, which included exposing historic wooden panels and removing carpets to reveal the original wooden floors.

Hall & Woodhouse new-build wins award for best pub sign in the country: A pub sign hanging outside the Milk Churn in Melksham, a new-build Hall & Woodhouse pub that opened last year, has been voted the most attractive in the country. The hand-painted pictorial sign, which reflects the town’s dairy farming heritage and shows a sign painter decorating a milk churn, was chosen as the best of 2014 by the Inn Sign Society. The sign also shows a Spitfire in the background as the pub in Commerce Way is opposite the former RAF base. Neighbouring Trowbridge was also a centre for aircraft production during the war.

Ragga to open third Liverpool site, biggest yet: Liverpool Caribbean brand Ragga is to open its third site in the city, this time located on Bold Street. The brand, which already has sites on Smithdown Road and Lark Lane, is expanding with its biggest site yet. “This one is the two other restaurants combined,” said Ragga director Gareth Griffin. “I think people will be very pleased. We have all the jerk chicken, the salt fish and the curried goat, but there’s more too. We are doing breakfast for the first time – the full English, the American and the Caribbean versions – it’s a day and night venue.”

Historic Stratford nightclub on market: Agent Fleurets has brought the former Rex Nightclub in Stratford to the market on behalf of the landlords, the London Borough of Newham. The building has seen many uses over the years including as a bingo hall, cinema and, most recently, a nightclub. Arranged over five floors totalling nearly 40,000sq ft, the building provides a main auditorium with tiered seating and stage along with numerous bars, lounges and a large dance floor. Fleurets are now seeking a tenant to take a new lease of this landmark property and bring it back into use. Said Rosie Hallam of Fleurets: “This property has a lot of potential and we are confident that its proximity to the former Olympic village and the Uni­versity of East London, Stratford Campus will be a great benefit to the ingoing tenant.” Rental offers are invited for the leasehold interest on the basis of a new 15-year lease with no premium payable. 

Carlsberg adds to cask ale range: Carlsberg UK has extended its portfolio by partnering with eight additional breweries to introduce new beers to its 2015 Tapster’s Cask Ale range, each available to order this month. The new partnerships will broaden the variety of beers available to its UK on-trade customers. New for 2015 are beers including Business As Usual from Derby Brewing Company, Double Dragon from Felinfoel Brewery, Gower Gold from Gower Brewery, Rivet Catcher from Jarrow Brewing Company and Jaipur IPA from Thornbridge Brewery. The Tapster’s ‘permanent’ range consists of 55 ales available nationwide, all year-round. The 30 brewers featured in the 2015 range include Tetley’s, Adnams, Camerons, Fuller’s, Greene King, Hook Norton, Marston’s, Robinsons, St Austell and Thwaites, amongst others. The Tapster’s ‘Extra Choice’ range comprises nearly 100 additional ales available on bi-monthly rotation and catering to experienced cask ale drinkers looking for something different.

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