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Thu 5th Feb 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Franchise acquisition sparks fresh Costa demerger speculation: There is fresh speculation that Whitbread is considering demerging its Costa Coffee business after the company moved to buy one of its largest franchisees. Whitbread has always played down the idea of demerging Costa but analysts have claimed the move to buy Life Coffee Cafés suggested that it was preparing the way for an eventual spin-off. The Times has suggested that Whitbread paid between £11 and £12m to buy Life Coffee Cafés, which operates 16 Costa stores located in the south of England. The owners, who established the business in 2004, are Simon Berry, a former managing director of ski centre operator Xscape and Mark Upton, a former Pizza Hut UK and Ireland head of acquisitions. Whitbread has insisted the move has no broader implications and that the company continued to “believe in the mixed business model of franchise and equity stores”. The spokesman told The Times: “The business had been put up for sale and we took the opportunity to purchase it as it is focused on the retail park and drive-thru sectors – a key priority for Costa’s continued growth.” Whitbread acquired Costa in 1995 for £20m when it had 41 stores. It has since grown to over 3,000 stores with £130m Ebit forecast for this year, and it is valued it at circa £3bn. Taking franchised stores back into direct management is a way of showing more profit in the Costa business, assuming it provides the necessary return on capital. Last month, Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo stated: “Costa appears ubiquitous in the UK, with over 9,000 points of consumption, meaning there are three times more Costas per person in the UK than Starbucks in the US. At some point a demerger of Costa seems plausible to us, even though Whitbread sees it as a core business. It is self-funding, well understood by investors, and able to stand on its own two feet.” In December, City Index analyst Ken Odeluga also backed a Costa demerger. He said: “With the group trading at a discount to the sum-of-parts, we regard a potential Costa Coffee de-merger as a way of providing investors with a better way of assessing the value of perhaps the group’s prize asset, at least in terms of potential for international growth.”

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. CLICK HERE to see the full programme and timings. Operators of multi-site companies can claim two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Starbucks reports first UK profit: Starbucks recorded a profit of £1.1m in the year to September 2014, the first profit it has recorded since arriving in Britain in 1998. This compared to a £20m loss in the previous year. Gross profits rose 24% to £98.8m. The coffee chain said it had achieved growth by closing stores with expensive rent, and by moving to cheaper locations. “The company’s strong performance is the result of a turnaround strategy that has focused on engaging with our employees, giving customers more, growing the business and improving our model by rebalancing the store portfolio and carefully managing costs,” said Starbucks UK managing director Mark Fox. Starbucks has closed 67 unprofitable stores and opened 121 new stores in more profitable locations and formats in the past three years, taking its total number of stores to 791. It has also pioneered franchise, opening 100 franchised sites in two years. The company has also introduced “drive-thru” stores and currently has 34 drive-thrus across the UK – Starbucks had announced in 2011 that it planned to open 200 over the subsequent five years.

Research supports case for third duty cut: New research has found a compelling case for a third, historic cut in beer duty in the Budget, with 870,000 jobs dependent on British beer and pubs and almost half (44%) those workers under 25. The new report, by economic experts at Oxford Economics for the British Beer & Pub Association, also found that the industry adds almost £22bn to the economy each year, and already pays £10bn in headline taxes. The industry brings “significant economic benefits to the national economy”, the report said. It found that brewing itself sustains more than 100,000 UK jobs, but it was in pubs where the jobs impact was most felt, with 770,000 jobs supported by the nation’s 48,000 pubs. The report also showed a tax haul from the industry, of £13bn a year, through beer and other excise duties, VAT, income tax, corporation tax, and business rates. Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “Our sector supports 870,000 vital jobs, and it is particularly important that we can go on boosting employment, especially for younger people. Two historic beer duty cuts have brought huge benefits. In 2014, beer sales rose, after years of decline, and employment was boosted by 16,000. The Chancellor has a great opportunity to build on this success in the Budget on 18 March, with a third duty cut.” 
 
'Closure epidemic' hits gay bar scene say observers: Britain's gay bar scene is being hit by an epidemic of closures as venues suffer from soaring property prices, particularly in London, according to observers. Cliff Joannou, who edits the London gay listings magazine QX, told the Guardian newspaper he estimates that a quarter of venues catering for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans customers have closed in the capital since the recession, including the superclub Area in Vauxhall, south London, the lesbian institution Candy Bar in Soho and Madame Jojo’s, also in Soho. In Manchester two gay-friendly bars have just closed, Taurus, and the Eden Bar and restaurant on Brazil Street, in the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village, which shut after owner SDB Bars went into liquidation. Chris Amos, whose venue Manbar on Charing Cross Road in Central London closed recently after a dispute over noise levels, told the Guardian “I think they’re trying to do what they did in New York and homogenise the tourist centre. There’s more money in property than having gays in there drinking.” He is opening a new restaurant-bar-performance space in Southwark, called Atmos, but describes it as “gay-friendly” rather than an LGBT venue.
  
BrewDog hails Propel managing editor Martyn Cornell: BrewDog has hailed Propel managing editor Martyn Cornell in it lists of outstanding beer bloggers. Cornell, who has won category awards at the British Guild of Beer Writers for the past four consecutive years, is a published beer industry historian and a regular contributor to Propel Friday Opinion. In a section called “historicos”, BrewDog names Cornell’s writing, which also appears on his website, zythophile.wordpress.com, as one of two beer writers with an eye for historical context that it follows closely. The company says: “A look into the past, through the scribbling of long dead brewers and drinkers, historicos are fascinated by knowledge gained through studying archives and ledgers. People who read them feel exactly the same way, and share the burden of preserving our brewing legacy. For historicos, it’s a hobby more than anything – you get the feeling they would continue blogging even if there were nobody around to read it. Which would be a shame, as their writing has genuine importance.”

Wendy’s to turn another 500 managed sites to franchise: The American hamburger restaurant chain Wendy’s is to sell another 500 company-owned restaurants to franchisees by mid-2016 in an effort to reduce corporate ownership of restaurants to 5% of its 6,500 outlets. Wendy’s chief executive, Emil Brolick, said: “As we look to 2015 and beyond, we plan to continue improving the quality of our earnings by growing same-restaurant sales, expanding margins and evolving our plans for system optimisation.” The company could sell restaurants to franchisees for $400m to $475m while reducing capital expenditure requirements, he said. The latest refranchising effort comes less than a year after the company finished selling more than 400 restaurants to franchisees at the start of its “system optimisation” initiative. Wendy's said selling the restaurants to franchisees will speed efforts to remodel locations under its "image activation" programme. It usually requires franchisees to remodel restaurants as a condition of their purchase. This year, Wendy’s and its operators plan to reimage 450 locations and build 80 new outlets. Since it owns fewer company restaurants, Wendy’s revenue fell 15.3% in the fourth quarter ending 28 December, to $502m. Adjusted ebitda rose 20.3% to $107.1m. Like-for-like sales rose 1.9% at company restaurants in the fourth quarter and 1.6% at franchise locations. Company-operated restaurant margins rose 50 basis points, to 16.8%. Higher sales were offset by an increase in commodity costs of 160 basis points, Wendy’s said, largely due to higher beef costs.
 

Company News:

Bar Sport to open fifth franchise in Derby, seven more to follow: Bar Sport, the business, founded by the entrepreneur and former boxer Scott Murray in 1998, is opening its fifth franchise in Queen Street, Derby on Friday 12 February, with seven more planned for 2015. Bar Sport's current other outlets are in Braintree, Cannock, Maidenhead and Newbury. However, according to Scott Murray's LinkedIn page, more openings are planned this year in Nottingham, Watford, Crawley, Southampton, Portsmouth, Maidstone, and Livingston in Scotland. The Derby bar will be run by franchisee Akin Tahsin and his son-in-law Mustafa Uruncuoglu. Tahsin said: “Mustafa is a huge sports fan and wanted to look at the possibility of setting up his own sports bar. When we heard about the franchise opportunity being offered by Bar Sport it appeared to be an excellent opportunity for both of us. I have experience running my own electrical business and I am providing financial support. However, Mustafa will be managing the venue on a day-to-day basis." The bar, which is creating more than 20 full and part-time jobs, will have more than 30 television screens as well as a large projector showing live sport. It will offer regular music and entertainment during the week and weekends including DJs and will host themed nights. It will be decorated with sport memorabilia and serve an American-style menu. The building to be occupied by Bar Sports in Derby was at one point an American-themed bar called the Rhode Island Diner. After it closed, it had various incarnations as a restaurant. but over the past couple of years it has stood empty.

Wagamama hires Inkling to handle marketing and public relation brief: Wagamama has hired the creative marketing agency Inkling to handle its consumer PR, an account that has been held by Kazoo since 2009, PRWeek has reported. Inkling will work with the in-house team to create a campaign that aims to bring Wagamama to life for consumers, tapping into its stories and heritage. The agency will also manage day-to-day press office activity, promote new openings and menu launches and oversee ad-hoc projects, the magazine reported. Simon Cope, global marketing and property director at Wagamama, said: "With lots of brand development, including a new menu and a new flagship restaurant opening over the next six months alone, we needed a strategically driven and creative agency to understand the brand and hit the ground running. Inkling ticked all those boxes and more." Laura Burch, head of PR at Inkling, said: "At Inkling, we love working with authentic brands that have a story to tell. The rich history of Wagamama, together with new developments later this year, gives us so much to work with."
 
Maclay Group administrator hires agent to sell 15 sites: Administrators acting for the collapsed Scottish pub company Maclay Group have appointed the agent CDLH to find a buyer for its 15 sites. Ernst & Young (EY), which supplied the administrators, confirmed that significant interest has been shown in the pubs, which include the Three Judges in Glasgow, the Rule in St Andrews and Balloch's Tullie Inn. A spokesman for EY said it was too early to say whether the outlets will be sold as a package, in bundles or as individual units. He also said no timescale as been set by EY for the administration process.
 
Chipotle reports 1,783 restaurants have average sales of nearly $2.5m each: The American fast-casual food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill saw net income rise 52.3% during the fourth quarter ending 31 December, with like-for-like sales up 16.1%, driven by an increase in customer visits, as well as a nationwide menu price increase taken last summer. Revenue for the quarter rose 26.7%, to $1.07bn. Chipotle opened 60 new restaurants during the quarter, to bring its total to 1,783 outlets, including 17 locations outside the US – six in London – and nine ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen venues. For the full financial year, the chain reported net income of $445.4m, an increase of 36%, with like-for-like sales rising 16.8%. Steve Ells, Chipotle’s chairman and co-chief executive, said: “We continue to make significant progress on our important journey to change the way people think about and eat fast food. Consumer trends are changing, which we believe is a great result of people becoming more discerning about where their food comes from, how it was raised, and how their meal was prepared. The continued loyalty we see from our customers, as well as third party research, and the growing number of concepts imitating Chipotle, all point to the relevance of our vision and the impact we are having on food culture.” Chipotle expects to open 190 to 205 new restaurants in 2015, while like-for-like sales are expected to increase in the low to mid-single digits.
 
Drake & Morgan opens eighth site with deli: The bar and restaurant group Drake & Morgan is to open its eighth site, the Refinery, in Regent’s Place, just off the Euston Road in Central London next month. It is a return to the name of Drake & Morgan’s first opening on Bankside, and will include a dining area, bar, deli and outdoor terrace. It will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering an all-day menu with a choice of seasonal dishes, wine, premium spirits, beers and cocktails. The 3,000 sq ft venue near Regent's Park seats 108, with 56 al fresco covers. The interior has been designed by Fusion Design and Architecture, with floor-to-ceiling windows, reclaimed brick flooring and a colour palette of caramels, tan and mocha and a "statement" bar made from stacked oak sleepers. The large outdoor terrace offers blankets and outdoor heaters for cooler months. Jillian MacLean, managing director of Drake & Morgan, said: “Regent’s Place is a great location for us, the 13-acre site is occupied by nearly 16,000 workers and residents. The launch of the Refinery is part of Drake & Morgan’s continued growth, with many more opening in the pipeline.”
 
Spirit advertises to locate new Taylor Walker sites: Spirit Pub Company is advertising to locate new sites for its Taylor Walker chain, with a finder’s fee of £30,000. The company said it was looking for 5,000 sq ft sites, likely to be in the heart of cities close to transport links and main attractions, with existing pubs, conversions and new units all considered. Its target list of cities includes Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Central London, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow Harrogate, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Winchester, Windsor and York.
 
52-bedroom hotel for Wetherspoon pub approved: Plans for a 52-bedroom hotel to be opened at a JD Wetherspoon pub in Barrow, Cumbria have been approved by local councillors. Wetherspoon, which opened the Furness Railway in Barrow in 1998, applied to redevelop the vacant space above the pub, a former department store, into a 52-room luxury hotel in a £3.5m scheme. Barrow Council’s planning committee has now agreed with planning officer Barry Jesson's recommendation that they approve the plan for the three-storey Victorian building in Abbey Road, the majority of which has been empty since the old Co-operative store closed in 1996. Councillors were told that the main objection was from Cumbria Highways, which said a minimum of 60 off-road spaces would be needed to make the development acceptable. But Jesson’s report said planning policy stated that within Barrow town centre, private parking provision was not needed for a commercial development such as this. It said: “While no parking spaces are provided, links to public transport and existing public car parks ensure a sustainable use, which will promote economic growth with up to 20 equivalent full-time jobs being created. Making active use of the building will hopefully secure a long-term future for the building, which makes an important contribution to the conservation area and the overall street scene.”
 
Former Marco Pierre White pub in Wiltshire to be reopened by Punch: The Pear Tree Inn, Whitley, Wiltshire, which was run by Marco Pierre White as a gastro-pub from 2011 until August last year, when it closed suddenly, is to reopen in May, owner Punch Taverns has announced. The news comes days after Melksham Without Parish Council said it was going to apply for the pub to become a community asset after fears over its future. Punch Taverns said: “We can confirm that we are at an advanced stage of negotiations with interested parties regarding letting the Pear Tree in conjunction with undertaking a significant refurbishment. We hope to be able to re-open to the general public in May.” Melksham Without councillor Terry Chivers told the This Is Wiltshire website: “I am pleased to say that out of the blue I received a call from Punch confirming that in fact they are intending to reopen the pub this May after a complete refurbishment. They confirmed that the pub will serve good pub food with locals very welcome. I think we can call that a result.” White ran the site with business partner Paul Clark as one of six pubs from the Maypole Group, which went into administration. He was criticised for removing draught lagers from the bar and stocking one lager costing £4.20 a bottle.
 
Celebrity chef Theo Randall to open first restaurant outside UK: Celebrity chef Theo Randall is to open his first restaurant outside the UK at the InterContinental Bangkok in Thailand. His new Italian concept, Theo Mio, will open in the second half of the year and will focus on seasonal menus created from local ingredients as well as Italian produce. Randall’s relationship with IHG began in 2006 when he opened Theo Randall at the InterContinental at the InterContinental London Park Lane. Randall said: “Italian food is all about celebrating the ingredients and preparing dishes that allow diners to explore and enjoy a culinary journey in an environment that is fun and relaxed. At Theo Mio, I want to give guests the opportunity to sample some truly exciting dishes.”
 
Dishoom named by Yelp readers as best place in UK to eat: The Bombay-style cafe Dishoom in Covent Garden, London has nabbed the top spot in Yelp's Top 100 places to eat in the UK list. It knocked the former winner Regency Cafe, a popular greasy spoon in Westminster, London, to second place, and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal to third. The Yelp list is created by analysing the places that were most popular with ordinary people using the website. More weight was given to recent reviews, while older reviews had less influence on the list. Affordable and everyday eateries dominated the list. Homeslice Pizza in Covent Garden, London was voted fourth while other low-budget restaurants in the top 50 included Burger and Lobster, Baked Potato Shop and Monmouth Coffee.
 
Blumenthal’s Fat Duck opens in Melbourne: Heston Blumenthal has opened his Fat Duck restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. For Aus$525 (£268), diners enjoy a four-hour sitting to eat a 15-course culinary experience. More than 89,000 people entered an online ballot system to try to secure one of the 14,000 reservations. The restaurant features a huge 19,500 piece jigsaw, eight metres long and two metres high, that will be gradually completed throughout the stay. The Mad Hatter's theme will also be brought to life with a giant clock that will measure the hours and minutes until The Fat Duck returns home to Bray.
 
HBO to open Game of Thrones pop-op restaurant: HBO has announced that a Game of Thrones pop-up restaurant will open in London this month, themed around a clandestine meeting of the Small Council in King's Landing. The Wandering Chef will be creating the menu for the "one-of-a-kind banquet", which will feature courses including poached veal tongue with beetroot, horseradish and oldtown mustard. Other "delicacies and cocktails fit for kings" will be on offer during the banquet, held over three days from Friday 13 February. Fans can enter for a chance to win a seat at the table on the HBO website. The event is being held to promote the Blu-ray release of Game of Thrones season 4, with season 5 starting on Sky Atlantic on 13 April.
 
Grilla opens in Liverpool with £34,500 grant: A new restaurant offering contemporary European-inspired cuisine has opened on Hardman Street in Liverpool with £34,500 backing from the Merseyside Special Investment Fund. Grilla has been set up by Giorgos Kaliviotis who moved to Liverpool two years ago from his native Greece. He runs the company alongside co-directors Ktoris Ktori and Nikolaos Fylladitakis. The menu includes speciality "grilla" spit-roast meats but also includes Northern European recipes. Kaliviotis said: “Grilla is a fusion of European cuisine. I wanted it to have a fresh and contemporary feel which is reflected in the décor and the recipes. As well as the restaurant, we also offer take away. The food is the same, so you can buy a nice healthy meal to take home which costs 50% less than eating in the restaurant.”
 
Sixth Botanist set to open in Birmingham: The sixth Botanist site is set to open in Birmingham’s business district. The brand, owned by Living Ventures, is opening at Cheltenham House on Temple Street, which has undergone a £1.2m refurbishment. It will open in March, creating about 100 jobs. The nearby Midland Bank building is becoming a Cosy Club and 130 Colmore Row is to become a new Lasan restaurant. The 5,000 sq ft pub and restaurant will serve botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales along with deli and rotisserie-inspired food. The Birmingham venue is the company's sixth Botanist outlet and will mark the Living Ventures' expansion into the Midlands, alongside its offerings in Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Chester and Alderley Edge.

Zero waste restaurant in Brighton hits crowdfunding target:
Silo, the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant, which promotes a pre-industrial food system that generates zero material waste, has just reached its target for its equity crowdfunding campaign with Crowd2Fund.com. A total of 11 investors decided to commit themselves in the £40,000 project, which will pay for a zero-waste coffee roasting system, with an overall will to further Silo’s mission statement by sourcing non-native products such as green coffee beans, red wine and cacao. Wherever possible, the business plans for these products to be transported to the restaurant by boat, in order to use only the wind as energy. The 11 investors acquired 5% of Silo. The restaurant, based in Brighton, was co-founded by Douglas McMaster, a chef by trade, who has worked for a number of well-known restaurants such as St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields, London. He tested his zero-waste concept in Sydney and Melbourne, where he ran a pop-up restaurant called Wasted.

Jeremy King opens second restaurant: Norfolk restaurateur Jeremy King has opened his second restaurant, East Twenty Six, in a long-vacated building on Exchange Street, Norwich. East Twenty Six offers a fresh take on traditional tapas. The menu is influenced by foods from the Mediterranean, North Africa and further afield. Jeremy King also operates the Iron House. He said: “We had always wanted to turn the space into another restaurant, but felt the impact needed to come from the boldness of the architecture, as well as the very different style of food of that we offer at the Iron House. Some of the features we wanted to implement include charcoal cooking to make the food smokier and have a more glazed feel to it. We’ve made a bigger bar to encourage counter dining, and we increased the size of the building so that hopefully, in the future, we can encourage events such as live music.”
 
Plan submitted for whisky bar in Liverpool: A former bank in Liverpool city centre is set to be transformed into a specialist whisky bar and restaurant. Plans for the old HSBC on the corner of Leece Street and Rodney Street have been submitted to the council. The bar proposal is the latest in a series of regeneration plans for the area as the Leece Street and Hardman Street area continue to capture the imaginations of entrepreneurs and developers. The latest proposal is to turn the ground floor of the former bank into a “public house, restaurant and bistro”, with the upper floors being converted into self-contained flats. A spokesman for the project said that if planning permission is granted the bar could open in April. He said: “It’s going to be a whisky bar, that’s what we are going to do, with craft ale, cask ale, US and German beers, and we are going to have about 200 malt whiskies. With it being empty for so long it’s a good project and it will enhance the area a lot.”
 
Red Mist Leisure picks up sixth site: Red Mist Leisure has taken over the lease of its sixth site, the Headley Hills in Headley, Surrey. Operated by Julian Clarke, Mark Robson and Mark Williams, the company has closed the property to carry out an extensive refurbishment. The pub, which will open under its original name, the Cock Inn, in March, will feature an open kitchen and offer the same fresh, local, seasonal food, craft beers and seasonal ales found in the group’s other five pubs in Surrey and Hampshire.
 
Red’s True Barbecue launches in Nottingham: Red’s True Barbecue has opened its new £1.4m restaurant in Nottingham, in the Old Post Office in Queen Street. The 160-cover restaurant is designed to create "a post-apocalyptic trailer park" look. The take-away pick-up point is a corrugated iron shack, a private dining zone is presented as a tattoo studio and in the centre is a raised roll-out stage surrounded by railings and wire, a nod to the Patrick Swayze film Road House and the need to protect musicians from rioting drinkers.

Plans submitted for Hull city centre’s first boutique hotel: Plans have been submitted for a new city centre boutique hotel in Hull. Subject to planning permission, the scheme would see an existing row of shops and offices directly opposite Holy Trinity Church in the city's Old Town being converted into overnight accommodation. The project has been put forward by the Hull-based commercial property development firm Allenby Commercial. The company's recent work has included converting the former Regent House office in Osborne Street, Hull into a new city centre police station. Under the hotel scheme, the property in North Church Side will be converted into up to 30 short-stay apartments. Georgia Allenby, the company's design co-ordinator, said: "As soon as planning is approved, we would be looking to start on site. The idea is to be open by March or April next year, giving us an almost full trading year before 2017 and the City of Culture year. 2017 has been a big inspiration for us because if you have family or friends visiting Hull there isn't really any accommodation like this in the city centre at the moment. Most other city centres have boutique hotels, but not Hull."
 
Seven different offers to buy Fuller's pub fall through: Seven different offers to buy a pub in Bletchingley, Surrey put on the market by the London brewer and retailer Fuller Smith and Turner have fallen through in a year, it has been revealed. The Prince Albert pub in Outwood Lane closed in November 2013 and went on sale with the estate agency Savills for £500,000 for possible "suitable alternative use". A £425,000 offer to convert the site into two homes was never proceeded with and a £220,000 bid last year to reopen the building as a pub was rejected. In a report to Tandridge Council, Nick Lyell of Savills said: "We had limited interest from parties looking to continue to operate the Prince Albert as a pub. The majority of interest received was from developers looking to redevelop the site to housing. The lack of interest from the pub industry has come about due to the business being unable to provide an operator with a viable and sustainable return." The report accompanies a planning application submitted by Fuller’s to Tandridge Council seeking change of use to convert the former pub to a single residential dwelling.
 
Star Pubs and Bars invests £75,000 in 1,000 training days: Star Pubs & Bars, the 1,200-strong tenanted pub company owned by Heineken, is investing £75,000 in a new suite of retail skills workshops for its lessees, which it anticipates will deliver 1,000 days of free training for lessees and their staff in 2015. The initiative is part of the company’s 2015 focus on supporting lessees' retail skills. The topics have been selected based on feedback from lessees on areas where they think they need additional support. Five courses will be offered, covering social media, merchandising and retail standards, customer service, drinks quality and pre-refurbishment planning. The workshops will run alongside the on-line training that Star Pubs & Bars offers to its lessees via CPL Training. The courses will be open to both lessees and their staff. They are also intended to help meet the staff training needs of multiple operators who want to ensure service standards remain consistently high as they expand. Chris Jowsey, trading director Star Pubs & Bars, said: “The leisure industry is extremely competitive with customers looking for premiumisation in every area. We are investing significantly in the fabric of our pubs to ensure quality offers that meet customers’ expectations. Our new training programme is designed to build on this, helping operators deliver truly exceptional experiences to their customers by focusing on retailing best practice. In compiling the course content, we have not only looked at the most outstanding operators in the hospitality trade but have also looked outside the industry at the UK’s very best retailers for inspiration.”
 
Halal steak house chain to open seventh site: Steakout Meat House, which serves halal steak, burgers and milk shakes and was founded in 2008, is to open its seventh site, in Slough high street, this Saturday (7 February). The restaurant will offer 130 covers. Other sites are in Luton, Norbury, Woking, Tooting, Leicester and Harrow.

Stonegate site closed after underage drinking failure:
A Stonegate Pub Company bar and nightclub in Cardiff City Centre was temporarily shut down by police because it served alcohol to underage drinkers, it has emerged. Varsity in Greyfriars Road was subject to a notice of closure by South Wales Police after failing two “test purchasing operations” on the availability of alcohol to children, a force spokesman said. The venue was ordered to close for seven days and a hearing about the case has been scheduled for later in February. A South Wales Police spokesman said: “In December 2014 South Wales Police conducted an intelligence-led alcohol test purchase operation in central Cardiff focusing on the availability of alcohol to children. Varsity failed two test purchasing operations and as a result South Wales Police served a closure notice on the venue which has resulted in the premises closing for seven days. Review papers have been served against the venue with a hearing scheduled with Cardiff Council later this month.” It is understood the club has been closed since the beginning of February but plans to reopen tonight (Thursday). Propel wrongly reported the site belonged to Parity Bars. We’d like to apologise for the mistake.

Top-end restaurant set to open in neglected Manchester shopping street: A new top-end restaurant, Quill, is heading to a vacant shop unit on Manchester King Street, amid plans to reinvigorate the city shopping street with a greater mix of businesses. On the Wall, the team behind Chalk Bar and Grill in Didsbury, have acquired a site at 20/22 King Street, formerly a Duo store, for the new restaurant venture. A “luxury restaurant and exclusive cocktail bar” with a menu focused on British fine dining is promised. It comes amid a rethink of the business mix on King Street, which has suffered in recent years with a number of empty shops. A host of empty retail units on the street are now being eyed for restaurant, cafe and bar offerings, with Quill the first deal to be made public. Chris Longmate, chief executive at On the Wall, said: “Over recent months there has been a great deal of discussion in the city about turning King Street into a food and drink hub, as the market continues to thrive, and we’re really excited to be bringing the highest quality of British fine dining to the area – there is a real gap in the market for what Quill has to offer in this area of Manchester. Every week there are new names arriving in the city centre, which illustrates just how much of an appetite there is for quality venues in Manchester, and we are leading the way at King Street with Quill."
  
Marston's launches 'Help for Heroes' beer created by three injured veterans:
Marston's has launched a draught beer designed by three injured ex-servicemen to raise money for the charity Help for Heroes. It has been brewed at the Burton upon Trent Marston's brewery to a recipe worked upon by Pete Dunning, Dan ‘Baz’ Whittingham and Simon Brown, who were all injured in action while serving for the British Forces. Six pence from the sale of each pint will go to Help for Heroes, which supports injured members of the Armed Forces and their families. Participating pubs will be displaying a collection tin, a display box with Help for Heroes wrist bands and a banner. Richard Westwood, managing director of Marston’s Beer Company said: “We are enormously proud to be associated with Help for Heroes. We hope that the beer will raise awareness for the work done by the charity as well as raising some money through beer sales and donations.”

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