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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 10th Mar 2015 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

BrewDog receives £1.5m grant from Scottish government to expand: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to expand its brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire having been awarded £1.5 million in Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) grants from Scottish Enterprise, which it said would anchor more than £20 million in new expansion investment. The company plans to increase staff numbers at Ellon from 90 at present to 220. Deputy First Minister John Swinney, on a visit to the Ellon facilty, said: “BrewDog is a remarkable Scottish success story, beginning with Martin and James’ passion for quality craft beer in 2007 and growing into a major award-winning company. I am delighted to support this growth through today’s RSA award which will create a further 130 jobs in the north east.” BrewDog announced plans last October to add a new 4,500 sq mt building onto its existing facility at Ellon to add a new 300 hectoliter (HL) brew house. The expansion was part of a wider plan to add up to 300 new jobs across the UK in the next three years, which will include expanding its portfolio of pubs. BrewDog said it was increasing capacity at Ellon as consumer demand meant its recently opened brew-house at the site was “likely to be maxed-out by the end of 2015”. The £7 million Ellon facility, opened in September 2013, increased production capacity from 25,000HL to 250,000HL a year, and includes a bottling line with capacity to process 15,000 bottles per hour. The company is also planning to add a new tank farm at the Ellon site, with the brew-house and tanks expected to be installed and operational by the start of 2016. BrewDog also recently entered into an exclusive agreement to import beers from American craft brewer, Stone Brewing Co with the launch of its new UK import and distribution division. The company said it was also currently in discussions with “several craft breweries in Europe and USA” and expects to announce “further import and distribution deals throughout 2015”.

Industry News:

Host of companies sign up for Propel Social Media Masterclass: A host of leading sector companies have signed up for the Propel Social Media Masterclass being held in partnership with Digital Blonde’s Karen Fewell. They include: Spirit Pub Company, Cabana, Pub People Company, Charles Wells, Bill’s Restaurants, JD Wetherspoon, Admiral Taverns, Young’s, Camerons, Ignite Group, Hall & Woodhouse, Loungers, Luminar, Burning Night Group, TCG Management Services, Chilled Pubs, Hickory’s Smokehouse, Good Life Diner, Anglian Country Inns, Yummy Pubs, Trust Inns, PubLove, Oakman Inns and Restaurants and Bulldog Hotel Group. The Social Media Masterclass provides a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media (CLICK HERE to see the programme). Tickets are £295 for ALMR members and £345 for non-members. Email to book.

SIBA launches Manifesto for British Beer:
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has launched a "Manifesto for British Beer’, calling on prospective parliamentary candidates to pledge their backing for the thriving local brewing sector and the thousands of jobs it supports. SIBA’s manifesto sets out four key areas: supporting local brewers; backing community pubs; making beer tax work; and maintaining and extending Small Breweries’ Relief. Would-be MPs are being encouraged to sign up to the manifesto via a dedicated website. The manifesto sets out the case for British beer, highlighting the contribution of independent brewers to their local economy, bringing investment and generating jobs, particularly among young adults. Mike Benner, SIBA's managing director, said: “The growth of the British brewing sector means there is now at least one brewery in almost every constituency in the country, bringing investment and jobs to the area, creating great beers and supporting local pubs.

Spain moves ahead of France as world’s largest wine exporter: Spain has outstripped France and Italy to become the world's biggest wine exporter, exporting 22.8m hectolitres in 2014, a 22% rise on the previous year, The Guardian has reported. The newspaper said: “However, because much of it was bulk sales with small margins, the Spanish wine industry's profits were down 2.2%. France is now the biggest buyer of Spanish wines, importing and bottling – often as French wine – 5.8m hectolitres in 2014, 40% more than the previous year. A hectolitre is the equivalent of 133.3 bottles. It is cheaper for the French to import the wine than to grow it themselves. The next biggest buyers after France were Germany, Portugal and Russia. The situation mirrors in many respects the Spain's olive oil industry. About 40% of Spanish production is exported in bulk to Italy, where it is rebottled and sold as estate-bottled Italian olive oil.”
Intertain to donate £350 to charity after hosting EDL marchers at Walkabout site: The Walkabout bar on Quay Street, Manchester, owned by Intertain, is donating £350 to charity after it hosted a crowd of right-wing English Defence League supporters before a march and rally in the city. Scores of people criticised the bar on Twitter for allowing the EDL members to drink before they set off on their march. However, the bar said police asked it to allow EDL members in. Followers of the @WalkaboutManc Twitter account were told: “As a result of today’s EDL protest, GMP requested that they gather protesters at Walkabout to help minimise or prevent crime and disorder. Reluctantly, we agreed to this request and this resulted in an increase in trade. Walkabout will not seek to profit from this and as a result will donate £350 to our chosen charity.” The bar said the cash will be sent to the Niamh’s Next Step cancer charity. Police told the Manchester Evening News that having EDL members in one place helped maintain order as part of a huge security operation around the demonstration in Albert Square, as well as a rally by members of Unite Against Fascism. Chief Superintendent John O’Hare told the newspaper: “Greater Manchester Police has a strong record of working in partnership with licensees to keep Greater Manchester safe and would never force licensed premises to hold an event against their will or place undue pressure on them. The ability to accommodate the protesters in one identified location played a significant role in ensuring the event passed off peacefully and we appreciate all the support provided to us by Walkabout.”

Agent – we’ve secured £10m in business rates refunds: The property agent Fleurets has revealed that more that £10m has been saved in business rates refunds for its clients over the duration of the 2010 Rating List. Commercial property occupiers pay business rates that are based on the rental value of the property as at 1 April 2008, as set by the Valuation Office Agency. Recent proposed legislation change means that occupiers now only have until 31 March 2015 to claim any business rates refunds backdated to April 2010. Ben Peers of Fleurets London said: “From then, the maximum refund will cover just two years, rather than the current seven. Given the technicality of this imminent proposed change, it’s essential occupiers take action as soon as possible to ensure they don’t lose money. We count approximately 500 successful business rates reductions over the last five years. Just in 2014, we managed to allow our client to save over £1.5m, as well as to count almost 100 successful rates reductions.” Clients include Fuller Smith & Turner and Punch Taverns.
Oddbins opens beer-only shop: Then drinks retailer Oddbins has launched an outlet dedicated entirely to beer, Drink Business has reported. The shop, in Blackheath, South East London, t stocks move than 300 craft beers. Of this range, 75% come from the UK, the country of origin that currently accounts for nearly half of Oddbins’ beer sales. Ayo Akintola, who has been managing director of Oddbins since its takeover by European Food Brokers Group in 2011, said the move was a sign of the retailer’s commitment to supporting UK suppliers. He said: “We are currently enjoying a golden age in British brewing. There are a multitude of smaller craft ale producers who have completely reinvigorated the market. We are committed to working with all our suppliers to support this grass-roots industry at a time when our customers are rapidly discovering the joys of tasty, locally made craft beers.”

Company News:

TGI Friday’s set for Newport leisure development, celebrates 100th apprentice: TGI Friday’s has become the latest brand to sign up to the Friars Walk development in Newport, South Wales, which is due to open in November. The company is the tenth restaurant to take up a spot in Usk Plaza, Friars Walk’s leisure section. Other brands that have taken space in the development are Prezzo, Le Bistrot Pierre, Nandos, Las Iguanas, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Loungers. David Carroll, property director for TGI Friday’s UK, said: “We are delighted to be bringing the TGI Friday’s unique experience to the outstanding Friars Walk retail and leisure development in the heart of Newport.” Queensberry Real Estate, the company behind the city centre project, revealed last week that the 390,000 sq ft retail and leisure centre would be opening at 10am on 12 November. The developer estimates that Friars Walk, which is currently 65% let, will attract around ten million visitors in the first year alone. Meanwhile, TGI Friday’s is celebrating its 100th apprentice completer. Christopher Grand is the 100th team member to complete his TGI Friday’s apprenticeship, at the chain's Norwich outlet. Before taking his Level 2 Kitchen Services qualification he was a cleaner at TGI Friday’s. Jacqui McManus, the chain's director of culture and people development, said: “Our apprenticeship programme is in its second year and is proving extremely successful. It’s a great achievement to see the 100th completer pass through, all of them proving to be vital members of the Friday’s team. With the extra support from our training academies, the scheme has helped not only to build the confidence of young people, but also give them a career goal to aspire to.”

Streaky Gin starts roll-out with Soho site: JP VIP Holdings, the company behind the emerging bar concept Streaky Gin, has secured popular late-night bar Match! on Margaret Street in Soho, Central London, through the property agent Davis Coffer Lyons for the brand’s flagship venue. The ground floor and basement unit, which has been acquired from New W1 Ltd for a substantial premium, is just off Regent’s Street and let on the remainder of a 25-year lease from 1999 at a rent of £225,000 a year. It is the second site for Streaky Gin, after Palace Gardens, Kensington, West London. The space will be completely refurbished creating a new bar at the front with a late-night restaurant and bar to the rear, with further plans being developed. The brand is now looking for up to three further sites this year 2015 as part of a roll-out in the capital. In addition, JP VIP Holdings has opened a high-end late night operation Bonbonniere on Orchard Street in Marylebone, Central London and is also due to launch Hotel Chantelle, a rooftop restaurant, at the same site later this year. Jonathan Moradoff, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Gin is going through a major resurgence at the moment and operators like Streaky Gin are catering to this growing demand. Securing a site like this is a clear indication of the brands aspirations and we look forward to helping them roll out to further sites as the year progresses.”

Smith & Wollensky hires UK operations director ahead of June launch: Smith & Wollensky, the American steak restaurant chain, has hired Nathan Evans as its UK operations director.  He will oversee the launch of Smith & Wollensky London, which opens just off the Strand this June, when it will be the group’s first steakhouse outside the United States. He will be responsible for all operational aspects of the business including acting general manager during the opening phase of London, creating a satellite office in the UK, the hiring of all staff and overseeing day-to-day duties. Before his appointment, Evans was deputy managing director and business development director for the Boisdale Group. He said: “I first ate at a Smith & Wollensky restaurant in the late 1990s and fell in love with it like, so many others before me. Despite the other operators that have entered the London market since, I have never been more certain that the brand will succeed. Quality runs through everything that Smith & Wollensky does, from the dry-aging and butchering of USDA prime beef on-site to the incredible wine lists.” Michael Feighery, chief executive of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, said: “We’re hugely excited to have someone as talented and passionate join our team. As we welcome Nathan on board, his experience and respect for the company provides Smith & Wollensky with a true ambassador to guide us through this exciting opportunity. He’s a great asset who will ensure Smith & Wollensky London is everything diners expect it to be, and more.” Smith & Wollensky London will be in the Adelphi Building on John Adam Street, Central London.
Marston's sees 50% growth in contract bottling as volumes grow 15%: Marston's has seen a 50% volume growth in contract bottling in the first year of its new bottling plant at Burton upon Trent, with 15% growth in beer volume overall. The £7.4m bottling line, which opened in January 2014, moved up to three shifts a day over a five-day working week before Christmas, and that has only just recently reduced back down to two shifts in the post-Christmas slow-down. Hector Macdonald, Marston's bottling and packaging manager, told the Burton Mail newspaper that the firm has also won new business from three "significant" brewers in the UK and, with its new sterile filtration capabilities, , is also producing more bottle-conditioned ales both for Marston's brands and for contracted brands. Hector said: "We have seen double digit-growth here at Marston's for the last five years, which has stimulated our investment but in the last year that has continued apace. Our bottling function has grown by around 15%, and this year we will bottle in excess of 100 million bottles." Marston's director of supply chain, Emma Gilleland, told the Mail that the investment had driven new contract brewing volumes and bottling which in turn had driven greater efficiencies through the company's distribution fleet. She said: "Contract bottling has seen a 50% volume growth and a proportion of that has brought new contract brewing business as well. This means we are working our entire supply chain at much greater capacity."
Barburrito hires property chief as it targets 20-strong estate: Barburrito has hired Jim Bishop, previously with Scottish & Newcastle, Barracuda, and J Sainsbury, as its head of property.. His primary focus will be new store acquisition but he will also oversee the broader property function. Bishop said: “I am absolutely delighted to have joined the team at Barburrito and look forward to the next phase of the company’s expansion. We will be looking for sites in a variety of locations with flexible size requirements and believe we can offer landlords and developers a fantastic brand and a great investment”. Barburrito operates 11 outlets in five cities and plans to grow the business to more than 20 venues in the next two years. The search for new outlets will target high-footfall locations including major city centres, shopping centres and travel hubs. The chain's chief executive, Morgan Davies, said: “We started the great burrito race, opening the UK’s first burrito bar back in 2005. With Jim on board as our new head of property, and with secured funds in place from the Business Growth Fund, we are now ready to ramp up our expansion plans. We put a lot of effort into recruiting the right person for this role and I am delighted that Jim has joined the team.”
Freehold let to Thorley Taverns set to go to auction: The freehold of the Pavilion in Broadstairs, Kent is to go to auction later this month , as the venue is put up for sale by the local authority. The venue is being offered freehold with a guide price with a guide price of £250,000 to £260,000 and is currently let to Thorley Taverns for £20,000 a year. It is being offered as an investment and, therefore, Thorley Taverns is unaffected. Thorley Taverns operations director Phil Thorley told the Isle of Thanet Gazette the firm would be interested in securing freehold of the site. He said: “We would be definitely interested in purchasing the freehold, it is one of the sites that we have been running since the late 1990s. We have spent a lot of money developing it, last year we spent £300,000 on the conservatory. We have got a long lease on the premises as it stands at the moment. The council are continuing to look to release some value from their assets and as their tenants we would definitely be interested.” Kevin Gilbert, auctioneer and familiar figure on BBC's Homes Under the Hammer, said: "The venue is well known in the area and is a popular place among locals and tourists for concerts, weddings and other events.” The auction takes place at the Clive Emson Conference Centre, Kent County Showground, Maidstone, at 11am on Monday 23 March.
PizzaExpress reports like-for-likes up 6.8% in first half: PizzaExpress has reported first half like-for-like sales growth of 6.8% with turnover up 9.14% to £231m from £211m in 2014, and 11 new UK restaurants opened in the 28 weeks to 11 January 2015.The business reported that ebitda was up 15.8% to £55m, and it also saw strong cash generation of £47.2m in free cash flow. Richard Hodgson, the chief executive of PizzaExpress, said like-for-like growth was largely driven by an increase in both covers and average spend per head, as well as record trading during the two weeks over Christmas, with like-for-like growth of 11.2%. He said: “We have continued to innovate to ensure that we delight our customers. We launched a new menu in the autumn, which has been well received. We are also investing in future growth, with 11 new restaurant openings in the first half. PizzaExpress has a clear strategy to drive organic growth in our UK estate, continue the roll-out of sites both in the UK and internationally and to further develop our retail business. All of these strategic priorities remain on track.” Hodgson warned that tougher comparatives in the second half means that like-for-likes are expected to be slightly lower than the year-to-date performance. PizzaExpress opened seven international restaurants during the financial period, five in China and two in India. The company also reported strong trade in its retail business, thanks to product launches.

Street food brand Wham Bam Tikki debuts at Southampton leisure site: Wham Bam Tikka, the Indian street food brand, has chosen WestQuay, Hammerson’s flagship regional shopping centre in Southampton, for its first permanent kiosk. Its 130 square foot kiosk is situated on Above Bar mall. Part of the Taste of India catering company, Wham Bam Tikka is a family-run business local to Southampton, led by brothers Ken and Himat Bhakar. The menu for the street food brand includes wraps and salads, ‘street curries’, and hot and cold drinks. The brand launched five years ago at Glastonbury. Commenting on the opening of Wham Bam Tikka at WestQuay, Sarah Fox, head of restaurants and leisure at Hammerson, said: “Brands like this keep the dining offer fresh, and further drive the demand amongst other leading restaurateurs looking to benefit from WestQuay’s significant regional appeal.” Wham Bam Tikka is the first of two innovative catering brands to launch at WestQuay, with Crepes & Co making its UK debut at the centre later this month, along with Boost Juice Bar. This news follows the recently announced brands, Nando’s, Five Guys, Wahaca, Zizzi and Byron, to open at WestQuay Watermark; the mixed-use leisure led development adjacent to WestQuay. Due to be complete in autumn 2016, the development is set to become Southampton’s new city centre leisure and dining hub.

Gring & Co hires W ahead of expansion: Grind & Co, the London-based all-day and late-night Espresso and Cocktail bar, has appointed agency W to handle launch activity to support its 2015 expansion. Shoreditch Grind was born four years ago as a boutique, ultra high-quality coffee cafe with music at its heart, beating from its East London recording studio. Since then, it has successfully opened sites in Soho and Holborn. David Abrahamvotich, co-founder of Grind & Co, said: “We have big ambitions for Grind & Co in 2015 and we knew immediately that W would be the right partner to help us deliver on them.”

Anglian Country Inns named among 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain: Gastro-pub and restaurant operator Anglian Country Inns has been identified as one of London Stock Exchange’s 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain. The report is a celebration of the UK’s fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium sized businesses. To be included in the list, companies needed to show consistent revenue growth over a minimum of three years, significantly outperforming their industry peers. James Nye, managing director, said: “This is phenomenal recognition. Inspiration comes down to one thing and that is people so this is testament to the amazing people we have working at Anglian Country Inns. Amongst the other great industry we have in the UK it is an honour to be flying the flag for the food and drink sector.”

National Trust seeks experienced operator for Bankes Arms: The National Trust is seeking an experienced operator for The Bankes Arms, a 16th century public house with letting bedrooms in the historical centre of Corfe Castle, Dorset. The National Trust is offering a new free-of-tie lease on the property through agent Fleurets at a guide rent of £45,000 per annum. The property provides a large bar plus restaurant for approximately 100 covers and in addition has ten letting bedrooms plus owner’s accommodation. There are also extensive external trade gardens, patios and customer car park. Kevin Conibear, who is handling the letting on behalf of the National Trust, said: “This is a superb opportunity for an experienced operator to take a new FOT lease benefiting from food, drink and accommodation income streams in one of the most historic and picturesque locations in the UK.”

Wetherspoon promised 'mother of all fights' by social housing chief over plan to open fifth pub in Brighton: A proposal to open a pub in London Road, Brighton by JD Wetherspoon will provoke "the mother of all fights", according to the chief executive of the Brighton Housing Trust. The company has submitted a planning application to Brighton and Hove Council for what would be its fifth pub in Brighton and Hove, in the old Co-op on London Road. However, at a meeting of the London Road Area Local Action Team, Andy Winter, chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, who oversees shipping container social housing near by, said: “Can we all agree that it will be the mother of all fights if they try to open a Wetherspoons in the Co-op? To have a large vertical drinking outlet in London Road would set us back all the gains we have made in recent times.” The action team was told that a representative of Wetherspoon had offered to come to the meeting to discuss any application.
London Fields Brewery out-sources production: London Fields Brewery beer will now be brewed at sites outside London, the London Evening Standard has reported. It comes amid a round of job cuts at the brewery’s site in Warburton Street, Hackney. Brewing arrangements have changed since the company's owner, Jules de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson, was arrested in a tax probe in December. The brewery, set up in 2011, sell some seven beers. Tom Wood Beers in Barnetby, Lincolnshire has a contract to provide beer to the London company. Owner Tom Wood told the newspaper: "I am currently brewing some beer for them. We do provide a contract service. I have done some work for them in the past as well." A spokeswoman for the brewery said: "London Fields Brewery remains an operational and growing business delivering fantastic beer. We look forward to a busy 2015 not just in terms of beer sales but also at our events space and Taproom."

Greene King applies to open Hungry Horse in Leigh, Lancashire: A planning application has been submitted to Wigan Council by Greene King to open a Hungry Horse in Unit 5 at  Leighbrook Way, Leigh (population: 43,000). A Greene King spokesperson said: "We can confirm that we have submitted a planning application to Wigan Council to build one of our family-friendly Hungry Horse pubs. Should planning permission be granted, we would be delighted to support the development of this area and hope to open the pub by Christmas 2015.”

Dunkin' Donuts agrees to phase out titanium dioxide from powdered sugar: Dunkin’ Donuts has agreed to phase out the use of titanium dioxide, a controversial "nanoparticle" whitening agent used in powdered sugar, after pressure from an activist consumer group in the United States called As You Sow. Danielle Fugere, president and chief counsel of As You Sow, said: “This is a groundbreaking decision. Dunkin’ has demonstrated strong industry leadership by removing this potentially harmful ingredient from its doughnuts.” Nanomaterials are substances engineered to have extremely small dimensions, so small that some say they could be toxic to humans, potentially causing chromosomal damage, organ damage, inflammation, and genital malformations, according to As You Sow. The group says that US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate nanomaterials. However, Fugere said: “Engineered nanomaterials are beginning to enter the food supply, despite not being proven safe for consumption. Dunkin’ has made a decision to protect its customers and its bottom line by avoiding use of an unproven and potentially harmful ingredient.” Dunkin’ Brands chief communications officer, Karen Raskopf, said: “The ingredient used in our powdered doughnuts does not meet the definition of ‘nanoparticle’ as outlined under FDA guidance. Nevertheless, we began testing alternative formulations for this product in 2014, and we are in the process of rolling out a solution to the system that does not contain titanium dioxide.” Titanium dioxide, E171, is used in paints and plastics, as well as toothpaste and foodstuffs.

Prezzo to open Chimichanga in Glasgow this week: Prezzo is to open a Chimichanga site in Glasgow this Friday, 13 March. Twenty jobs are being created at the Tex-Mex restaurant, which is opening at the Silverburn shopping centre. The restaurant has cost £600,000 to develop over the past ten weeks. It has seating for 100, including seats in the mall itself. Chimichanga will be open from 12 noon until 11pm throughout the week. It will feature a children’s menu.

Clarkshaws opens 'co-operative brewery' and taproom: Clarkshaws, the brewery founded in Dulwich, South London by Ian Clark and Lucy Grimshaw in 2013, has moved to Loughborough Junction, near Brixton, to open a "co-operative brewery" in conjunction with the nearby London Beer Lab. The move comes after Clarkshaws, which specialises in vegetarian beers made from ingredients sourced solely in the UK, ran out of space at its original home. Grimshaw said: “Our aim is to let other small microbreweries share our space and equipment, minimise waste and gain economies of scale, and therefore more easily compete with larger breweries. We’ll be looking for additional breweries to join the co-op over the coming months and their beers will also be available through the brewery taproom.” The taproom, at Arch 283, Belinda Road, Loughborough Junction, which runs under the name The Beer Hive, will be open every Saturday afternoon from 12pm to 6pm. It will feature a range of beers from both Clarkshaws and the London Beer Lab, based in Nursery Road, Brixton, which runs "brew it yourself" sessions as well as making its own beer.
Douglas Jack issues 'hold’ recommendation on Cineworld ahead of full year results: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a hold note on Cineworld shares, with a target price of 480p, ahead of full-year results on Thursday, 12 Marc). Jack said: "Our forecasts, which are in line with consensus, anticipate PBT being up 54% largely due to the acquisition of Cinema City, with earnings up 7%. We recently upgraded 2015E forecasts by 5%, and believe forecast risk remains on the upside due to easy market attendance comps and a strong film slate. In 2014E, UK and Ireland market box office rose 0.1% in a market that fell 2.9%. With prices up 4.0%, Cineworld UK’s admissions were down 3.7%, ahead of a market that fell by 5%, aided by subscriptions, broader film range, superior online infrastructure and above-average estate investment. UK retail rose 2.3% and Other Income rose 14.8% in 2014E. Retail spend per head rose circa 6%, driven by Starbucks and Baskin Robbins expansion. We believe the H2 surge in Other Income, up from a 3.2% rise in H1, reflected strong advertising and, to a greater extent, the successful reintroduction of booking fees in early July. This should continue to benefit LFL Other Income in H1 2015E. Our 2015E forecast (PBT £86.3m; consensus £86.7m) equates to 18% earnings growth, based on Box Office, Retail and Other Income growth assumptions of 6% in the UK and just 1% in mainland Europe, as well as expansion increasing the number of screens by 10%. Aided by £5m of forecast acquisition synergies, strong self-financed expansion and attractive LFL admission prospects, we forecast 18% earnings growth in 2015E and 12% in 2016E. The December 2015E EV/ebitda rating appears full, at 10x, but forecast risk remains on the upside, in our view."
Electric Social to close at the end of the month: Electric Social, in Acre Lane, Brixton, South London is closing on 28 March after being bought by the Colombo Group, which operates the East London venues Xoyo, The Nest and The Blues Kitchen. The owners of the venue said plans are in place to move to another site where they can host their own branded clubnights. The bar also provided a space for community events, dance classes, open mic nights and Sunday roasts. Tommy Butters, the Electric Social's general manager, said: “The overall highlight is, every single week from the last three years we have been busy. We have kept the customers happy. When the place was opened it was there to be a community hub. It is going to be sad not to have our little home in Brixton. We are very much looking for a new home to take the brands we have had and place them elsewhere.”

Living Ventures to open Glasgow Botanist: Living Ventures has confirmed it plans to open a Botanist in Glasgow. The company already operates branches in Alderley Edge, Chester, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. A spokesperson for the Living Ventures Group said: "We can confirm that there will be definitely be a new Botanist coming to Glasgow. At the moment we cannot yet confirm an address or opening date. However the pub will have the same offerings as our other venues."

Admiral Taverns unveils apprenticeship partnership: Admiral Taverns has unveiled a partnership with LearnDirect, the UK’s largest provider of skills, training and employment services, it says will enable its licensees to offer "best-in-class apprenticeships". The enhanced programme, which has launched nationwide, will enable Admiral licensees to provide the BIIAB Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships in licensed hospitality, and offer their staff recognised professional qualifications designed specifically for pubs, delivered by industry specialists. Suzanne Smith, head of recruitment and people development at Admiral Taverns, said the development was the latest example of the company’s unique approach to tailoring support and training for their licensees and pubs. She said: “We are excited to be building on the work we have already undertaken in apprenticeships on behalf of our licensees, now with LearnDirect. They have impressed us with their approach and we believe this partnership will deliver fresh momentum, with increasing numbers of licensees deciding to implement apprenticeship programmes. This new relationship builds on the success of the scheme after its launch in 2013. We’re delighted to have received such strong interest from our licensees and expect this momentum to grow as word spreads across the business.”

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