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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 20th Mar 2015 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Luminar boss – Permitted Development Rights are a nightmare for the sector: The chief executive of the nightclub operator Luminar, Peter Marks, has argued that the threat to existing pubs, bars and nightclubs since the introduction of Permitted Development Rights allowed homes to be built  nearby is turning into a nightmare for the sector, putting long-standing businesses at risk and discouraging investment. Writing for Propel Friday Opinion, Marks said: “Over the past three years Luminar has invested over £20m in transforming our nightclub estate. We have some fantastic venues in great locations, but we can’t do it on our own. We want to see a healthy economy in our town centres but if we are the ‘last man standing’ it’s a bad place to be and it’s often only a matter of time before we too may need to close. A new or invested nightclub can often boost a town or city centre far better than any other single cafe, bar or pub because we have the capacity, the marketing budgets and the expertise to bring people back into town. When a nightclub ceases trading the local night-time economy usually follows a downward spiral. No one picks up the trade, the town gets quieter. Things are getting better and most of us remain cautiously optimistic. The latest CGA Peach report also shows that confidence is the highest for years. But just when you think the worst is over, we have another issue to deal with – Permitted Development Rights (PDR), introduced in May 2013. Put simply, a vacant office block, often having laid empty for several years, can, without any input from the planning officer, now be developed into residential premises. On the face of it, it’s a great idea. It helps the housing issue, revitalises town centres, and makes use of unwanted office space. So what’s the problem? Because it doesn’t matter if you have had 30 years in a site as a bar, restaurant, club or live music venue, a new resident has the ability to complain about the noise from the venue or other public nuisance and restrict hours or even revoke your licence. That’s it. Trade gone. No compensation. With Luminar, our Yeovil landlord has, on appeal, won the right to put in several apartments above us, in the same building! Can you imagine any of us going to a planning committee with an application to remove the ground floor of an apartment block and put in a pub or club? I think the residents may have something to say! Yet the opposite can, and is, happening.”

Industry News:

SIBA launches its first strategic plan for future of British beer: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), the trade organisation that represents 800 independent brewers, has launched a strategic plan setting out its aims for the next three years. The plan, called Delivering the Future of British Beer, sets out SIBA’s vision to "become the voice of British brewing". SIBA's managing director, Mike Benner, presented the plan to an audience of hundreds of brewers and other industry delegates at BeerX, SIBA’s annual conference and exhibition in Sheffield. The plan includes aims such as developing support for members to export and to start pub estates; protecting and extending small breweries’ tax relief; introducing new benefits for members and, possibly, new membership categories; and developing a range of financial, training and other measures to develop SIBA’s capability. Benner said: “The independent brewing sector is in excellent shape, with volume growth, investment and job creation. SIBA is uniquely placed to represent this thriving industry, and this feels like the right time to be launching our first ever strategic plan, to help us take our organisation forward over the next three years." SIBA’s British Beer 2015 report, also launched at BeerX, shows production by SIBA members grew by an estimated 15.8% in 2014 to 2.99 million hectolitres, or 526 million pints. Added to the 9.4% increase in 2013, this broadly translates into a 25% rise in production since the Beer Duty Escalator was abolished in March 2013. From 2011 to 2012, before the duty cuts, production grew by only 5.7%. The report estimates that 1,600 jobs were created at SIBA-member independent breweries during 2013 and 2014 and an additional 840 new jobs will be created in 2015. British Beer is based on survey responses from 270 SIBA brewers, around 35% of SIBA’s membership, and was written by Dr Ignazio Cabras of Newcastle Business School at the University of Northumbria.
Three Supreme Champions unveiled at SIBA's BeerX: Three Supreme Champions and 60 medal winners were announced at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) National Beer Competition 2015, part of the BeerX celebration of British beer in Sheffield. Top honours and the Supreme Champion titles went to: Brass Castle Brewery of Malton, Yorkshire for Burnout in the national cask beer competition; St Austell Brewery for Big Job in the national bottled beer competition; and Wild Beer Company of Evercreech in Somerset for Madness IPA in the National keg beer competition. The Supreme Champions were selected from the Gold medal winners in their competition. SIBA chairman Guy Sheppard said, “With close to 800 brewers now members of SIBA, competition for our awards is fierce and all our winners can be very proud of their achievement. We congratulate them on brewing beers that have been judged as the best in the country and wish them every success within the vibrant, innovative British brewing industry.”

Whitbread signs to send Premier Inn area managers to Birmingham City University:
Whitbread has become the latest company to send staff to Birmingham City University to study for a two-year MSc qualifications. Cluster general managers from Premier Inn, the company’s fast-growing budget hotel chain, have begun their two-year MSc in multi-unit leadership and strategy at Birmingham City Business School. They join multi-site managers from Mitchells and Butlers, Rank, Greene King, St Gobain, Marston’s, Stonegate Pub Company and other smaller multiples on the post-graduate course. To date, around 800 managers from leading multi-site companies have undertaken the course. Graduates from the MSc programme have won the ALMR Operations Manager of the Year  competition in the two most recent years. Professor Chris Edger, director of the academy, said: “We are relishing the opportunity to work with top multi-site managers from one of Britain's most admired companies.” Professor Edger leads an annual multi-site management master class in partnership with Propel.
McDonald’s and Burger King push chicken products in the US as beef prices climb: Both McDonald’s and Burger king have focused on pushing chicken products in the United States as beef prices climb. Both companies have both re-introduced past chicken menu casualties: Burger King re-introduced Chicken Fries, while McDonald’s brought back Chicken Selects. Beef prices are not expected to ease until next year at the earliest. DeWayne Dove, vice-president of risk management for a food buying cooperative, SpenDifference, said: “We’re seeing it across the industry. The margins you can get from pork and poultry are advantageous, especially versus beef. The markets are more stable. And you get higher profit.”

La Favorita hits crowdfunding target: The pizza delivery company La Favorita Delivered, which has attracted a £50,000 personal investment from the founder of Better Capital, Jon Moulton, has hit its £200,000 fundraising target this week on the crowdfunding platform Investing Zone. A total of 40 investors have pledged the cash in return for 5% of the business. It is now overfunding, offering another 5% for the same money, and £212,000 is the total current amount raised. The company was born out of a long-established Edinburgh Italian restaurant group in 2011 and has grown since then to four stores. It is currently focused on opening two stores in Glasgow, with plans to eventually open 50 stores throughout the UK. In addition to receiving shares in the company, investors in La Favorita Delivered receive vouchers to the value of 10% of their investment that can be used when ordering from any of the company's pizzerias.

Company News:

Le Bistro Pierre reports turnover up, profit down as it invests: Le Bistrot Pierre, led by Robert Beacham, has reported turnover of £20,047,000 in the 18 months to 30 June, 2014. The previous 12 month period saw turnover of £11,061,000. Pre-tax profit was £639,000 for the 18 months, against £889,000 in the previous 12 months. The company said: “Turnover increased by 19% in the 12 months to December 2013 and by 10% in the six months to June 2014. During the period, the company opened two new sites – Plymouth and Cardiff – and undertook a refurbishment of its oldest restaurant in Nottingham, which opened in February 2014. The period also saw considerable investment in strengthening central management and facilities so as to be better able to support the growing estate. The company balance sheet reflects the considerable investment of £2.9m in fixed assets in the period. This spend was financed mainly by re-investing profits supplemented by bank facilities.” Le Bistrot Pierre committed an investment of around £1m in fixed assets for the new Torquay opening in September 2014.
Fuller’s to open latest new-build pub by the Thames: The London brewer and pub operator Fuller Smith & Turner will open its latest new-build pub, the Blue Boat, on Fulham Reach in West London next Monday (23 March). The Blue Boat, on the banks of the Thames, is part of the new Fulham Reach development by the property company St George. The pub will have a large, south-facing terrace with views towards Hammersmith Bridge and Harrods Furniture Depository. Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Fuller’s Inns, said: "The Blue Boat is a fantastic addition to our portfolio. It is set to be one of our flagship sites and I am looking forward to seeing this pub gain in popularity, especially on The Boat Race Day.” Nick Hutchings, managing director of St George Central London, said: “St George is delighted to welcome the first bar and restaurant to its award-winning riverside development, Fulham Reach. The Blue Boat will be an important part of the new community at Fulham Reach.”
Alan Yau’s long-awaited Duck & Rice to open this month after another slight delay:
Alan Yau’s long-awaited Duck & Rice site in Soho, Central London will open later this month,12 or so days later than scheduled. The venue, a Chinese gastro-pub, will open on the site of the former Endurance pub in Berwick Street. A clue to its opening date has came from Miller Brands UK, which had announced it will be serving Pilsner Urquell "tankovna" tank beer at the site from 18 March. This date has now been changed to 31 March. It is thought the venue, which is owned by Enterprise Inns, will occupy both the ground and first floor with the ground floor used as a bar area. The new upstairs area becomes a dining area, with counter dining and a couple of private rooms. The opening of Duck & Rice was first announced in autumn 2013, and hoardings have surrounded the site for much of the time since.
Local authority confirms Wagamama commitment to open in Bedford: Bedford Council has confirmed that Wagamama is committed to opening in Bedford despite local media reports about the brand having second thoughts. A spokeswoman said: "Wagamama has decided to back Bedford and the Riverside North development in the strongest possible way, by committing to open a brand new restaurant and by signing a 20-year lease."

Nando’s becomes first brand to sign for Eastbourne’s Arndale Centre leisure extension: Nando’s has become the first restaurant to sign up for the £85 million extension to the Eastbourne Arndale Centre in Sussex. The brand will be one of seven restaurants that will open on the same floor as the multi-screen digital cinema. The announcement by Legal & General Property, owner of the Arndale Centre, comes after the news that Next, H & M and Cineworld have also been signed up for the 170,000 sq ft scheme, which will contain an additional 22 retail units. Neil Crawford, retail development manager at Legal & General Property, said: “It is great news for the extension, and for the town generally, that Nando’s has signed up. It’s a hugely popular restaurant that will really complement the local eating experience. We will be announcing more great restaurant names over the coming months, so watch this space.”

YO! Sushi partners with SSP to open at Oslo station: YO! Sushi, has partnered with SSP to launch a restaurant in Oslo’s Central Station in Norway. Propel reported last week that a second site had opened in Copenhagen airport in partnership with SSP. Vanessa Hall, YO! Sushi's chief executive, said: “We are really excited to be working with SSP again, and together we can bring a slice of urban Tokyo to all travellers at two of Europe’s busiest transport hubs.” Lucy Knowles, chief marketing officer for SSP, said: “We have developed a great relationship with YO! Sushi in the UK and overseas and we are very proud to be their partners. We are confident it will bring the YO! Sushi brand to an even wider audience in a fun, energetic way and we are looking forward to building on this launch.”
Multi-site operator signs Spirit Leased turnover-based agreement: Multi-site operator John Whelan has signed a Spirit Lease turnover agreement to operate a pub in Beckenham, Kent, the Elm Tree, which has re-opened after a joint £300,000 investment. The venue, previously known as the William IV, has been transformed into what Whelan said was a quality local pub that its community can be proud of, with a revamped and refreshed external area, as well as its new frontage bearing the pub’s new name. Spirit Leased Pubs' managing director, Chris Welham, said: “We’re delighted that John has taken another pub with us on a turnover agreement. The investment combined with John’s experience as a quality pub operator will really put the Elm Tree on the map, securing a great future for this pub.” Whelan now operates two Spirit Lease sites, five with Star Pubs and Bars and two Enterprise Inns sites.
Cote to open in ‘vibrant’ Chislehurst next week: The French brasserie chain Cote is to open a new site next week in Chislehurst, Bromley, Kent. It will open on 23 March, creating around 40 new jobs, at 43-45 High Street. A total of £1m has been invested to renovate a 150 year old building which had been empty for five years. Managing director Harald Samuelsson said: "Chislehurst is a vibrant town and the High Street is home to a great mix of places to eat and shop, which draws people to the area. We’re looking forward to being part of an already thriving eating out scene, embedding ourselves in the heart of the local community and getting to know our local friends."

Hop Back moves into profit, plans to reduce brewery size: Hop Back Brewery of Salisbury, in Wiltshire, has reported that it has moved into profit for the year to 30 September 2014. It saw a pre-tax profit of £174,000, a turnaround from a loss of £97,000 the year before. Turnover rose to £3,882,000 from £3,551,000 the year before. The company said: “The main reason for the great improvement in performance is the transfer at the end of the last financial year of two tenancies into managed pubs. We have developed a three-year plan to increase the pub estate and also to make our brewery smaller but more efficient with a consequent reduction in overheads and a reduction in our prime cost – duty. We have begun the next financial year with the acquisition of a high-volume cask ale pub, the Harp Hotel, Albrighton, Shropshire. We expect that the cost of implementing the investment in our estate this year will naturally depress profits in this financial year but we are firmly of the opinion that this is the right way to go.” The company said that the year had seen a 30% increase in gross profit, a 5% reduction in brewery sales compared with the preceding year as against a 65% increase of profit on those sales, and an increase of profit on the tied estate of in excess of 500%.
New Dundee nightclub takes flak over 50p vodka deal: A new Dundee nightclub has been criticised for selling vodka shots for just 50p each. Beau nightclub, in the Cowgate, is offering the deal on Friday nights. Bottles of beer, alcopops and other spirits are also advertised at just £1 on the venue’s Facebook page. The club, formerly Deja Vu, opened its doors for the first time on Friday. A Facebook post says that the club operates a “smart drinking policy”. Owner Tahir Ramzan said: “Nobody is served more than two glasses at a time, we don’t do doubles as part of the offer, and it is up to staff to decide not to serve a person if they feel they have had too much to drink. Who supervises all of the people who are pre-loading before they come to the club? No one. I’m disappointed that, instead of being positive about us employing people, they are judging us before they know what we do. We are in control – not the customer.”

Second Laundrette to open in former Bar Sport site in Wilmslow: The Laundrette brand is to expand to a second site with a new opening in Wilmslow town centre in Cheshire. The Laundrette opened originally in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester in August 2014. The second site will be in the former Bar Sport site on Parsonage Green in Wilmslow, which has been empty since it was repossessed on behalf of the landlord in May 2014. The Laundrette, which focuses on cocktails and pizza, has submitted a planning application for an external deck at the front with perimeter planters and guard rails to form an external seating area. The proposed works also include adding timber cladding to the facade, a fixed weather awning and three fascia signs. The proposed opening hours are 8am to 2am Monday to Saturday and 8am to 11pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. The Laundrette is expected to create ten full-time and eight part-time jobs. The deadline for submitting comments on the planning application is 8 April and a decision is expected to be made by 30 April.

Star Pubs to sell pub where licensee sold fake vodka to Amber Taverns: Star Pubs and Bars, owner of the Coach and Horses in Consett, County Durham, is planning to sell the venue to Amber Taverns, which intends to invest up to £500,000 to make the venue into a community pub. The pub came close to losing its licence this week after the licensee, Sukhdev Singh Gill, had been found selling fake Kommissar vodka bottles that contained potentially lethal iso-propanol, methanol and t-butanol. They also had an alcohol content of just 29%, against the expected 40%. Amber Taverns told a meeting of Durham County Council's licensing committee that was reviewing the licence of the pub that it will complete the purchase of the Coach and Horses and, subject to planning permission, aims to have it revamped, up and running by July. Sergeant Tim Robson, of Durham Police, said that the police and Trading Standards officials will carry out a full criminal investigation into the sale of the fake vodka, which he described as "screen wash" in his initial report. Andrew Cochrane, a solicitor from Star Pubs and Bars, told the committee that Gill, who has now given up his drinks licence, was the tenant and designated premises supervisor. He said: "Obviously it's immensely regrettable that Mr Gill has chosen to go down that line stocking vodka that was substandard and dangerous. I am aware as part of the investigations carried out that Mr Gill fell on his sword."

PizzaExpress confirms fifth Milton Keynes site: PizzaExpress has confirmed it is opening a fifth site in Milton Keynes, this time at The Hub. The brand already has premises at MK1, Xscape, Centremk and CBX. The company said it hoped to have the place open by the end of May. The open date is dependent on whether builders stick to their deadlines, it said.

Derby brewery takes on Admiral Taverns Burton pub: The Wentwell brewery in Derby, which runs two micropubs in the town, has taken on its first "proper" pub, the Derby Inn in Burton upon Trent. The Derby Inn, bought by Admiral Taverns from Marston's some years back, closed earlier this year after the former licensee left in October. The pub is now being taken on from the third week in April by George Lambert and Walter Scott, owners of the Wentwell Brewery, which opened in 2011. Lambert told the Burton Mail newspaper that the pair planned to reopen the pub in the first week in May. He said: "When we went in, it was sad to see – a lovely little pub was dying. If we can't turn it round, it's done – but we really believe we can turn it round. We simply want to make it a good little traditional pub again. We really didn't intend to have another pub, but we'll give it our best shot and hope that people appreciate it."
Douglas Jack - licensed retail prospects remain reasonable: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued that Wednesday’s Budget can only add momentum to sector progress. He said: “Favourable government budgets, improving consumer cash flow and corporate self-help have contributed towards managed sector LFL sales being positive in each of the last 23 months. In our view, [the] Budget can only help to maintain this recent positive trend, even though macro trends are clearly helping the premium operators more than the discounters. The Budget is also encouraging in relation to disposable income abolishing National Insurance for under 21s and young apprentices from April 2016; as well as increasing the National Minimum Wage and the personal [tax] allowance. Companies should also benefit from the falling corporation tax rate and possibly from the review of business rates system. On average, EV/ebitda valuations are circa 15% above historical average (14% below average peak valuations). Although the scope for a further re-rating is limited, we are still positive on leading premium operators that generate above-average returns and growth, in particular The Restaurant Group (buy, 860p) and Domino’s Pizza (buy, 850p), both of which will be at our sector conference on 21 May."
Starbucks criticised over race relations campaign: Starbucks has been accused of capitalising on racial tensions in the United States after launching a campaign that will encourage its baristas to chat about race with their customers, as part of the company's "Race Together" campaign, a message to be written on each coffee cup. The initiative was borne of a series of open forums at select Starbucks stores since last December, in which employees of different backgrounds shared their stories about race. Chief executive Howard Schultz, in a company video, called the experience, "emotional, heart-breaking … The trust partners have had to share their stories [and] be vulnerable was incredible." Schultz was inspired to take the campaign public, in an effort "to create more empathy, more compassion, more understanding. Perhaps we can do something that can be catalytic for the country." Schultz had previously said employees who were uncomfortable about the project were free to "bow out", and if any patrons complained, they can be given another cup.

More details emerge on Soho Farmhouse: More details have emerged on Soho House’s Oxfordshire development, Soho Farmhouse. The site, expected to open in June, has 93 acres of grounds and will offer 40 cabins of one, two and three beds, located next to two lakes. The farmhouse itself will have seven bedrooms, and there will be a five-bedroom cottage. There will be a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, two tennis courts, a five-a-side football pitch, crazy golf, stables, and a cinema, a deli and a cookery school, and vegetable gardens providing produce for the kitchens.

Brazilian restaurant chain Cabana raises £15,000 through Trash film promotion: To celebrate the release of the film Trash about a story of survival and hope for children living next to a Rio garbage dump, 90,000 Cabana customers donated 50p to their bill over the last two months to help ABC Trust protect, empower and inspire children through Brazilian community projects. ABC Trust works to ensure every child has the right to, and the reality of, a safe childhood, a good education and opportunities to reach his or her potential. Cabana co-founder David Ponte said: “Since we opened our first Cabana in 2011 we have looked to support ABC Trust as much as we can, and we were thrilled when the opportunity arose for us to create such a great campaign with our friends at Universal. The response to the promotion has been tremendous and we hope we can find even bigger and better ways to support ABC in the future.”
Giggling Squid plans two more in Surrey: The Giggling Squid chain of Thai restaurants is planning two more restaurants in Surrey by the end of 2015, to take it to four outlets, after the success of its Reigate venue, opened in 2013. The chain already has a second outlet in the county lined up in Chapel Street, Guildford, which will open on the site of the former Cafe Rouge, between Cote and Loch Fyne, later this year, after major refurbishments. It will seat 90 people and offer lunchtime tapas. It also has planning permission for a third outlet in Farnham, while a deal for a fourth restaurant in an as-yet un-named town in the county is also on the way, according to co-founder Andrew Laurillard. He told Get Surrey: “Customers from Guildford visiting other branches have been pushing us to open here for some time. We are very happy in Surrey and the locals love our fresh, rustic take on Thai cooking. Our Reigate branch is going great guns and is one of the group's most successful venues, which is why we plan to have four Surrey venues by the end of the year.” Giggling Squid now operates ten restaurants, with two more openings, in Salisbury and Bristol, this month.
Masterchef winner develops dishes for Centerplate at new Brighton landmark: Brighton i360, the 162-metre high observation attraction and exhibition/conference/events venue being built on Brighton Beach, has appointed the US-owned hospitality provider Centerplate, which runs the catering at more that 40 stadiums, museums, theatres and other venues across Britain, to manage and develop all aspects of the catering and hospitality services at the new venue which is due to open in summer 2016. When finished, Brighton i360 will include a tower and observation pod that will accommodate up to 200 guests; events facilities for up to 800 guests; a heritage tea room in the West Pier toll booth, built in 1866; and a beach-level 400-seat full-service brasserie. Centerplate is providing capital investment in the venture through the funding and installation of the i360’s kitchen and dining facilities. The menus have been developed in partnership with Steven Edwards, a MasterChef The Professionals winner and a former Sussex Young Chef of the Year, and will highlight ingredients from the Sussex Downs and coastal waters. The brasserie restaurant will be open through the day and evening, serving breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with lunch-time menus focusing on family-friendly meals and a bistro/brasserie-style menu in the evening. Eleanor Harris, chief executive of the Brighton i360, said: “Our goal in creating the destination brasserie is to offer the best of Sussex. We will serve the superb ingredients that are reared, grown, caught and brewed within the 26 mile viewing radius that you can see from the i360.”
New chicken rotisserie restaurant to open on Liverpool's crowded Bold Street: A new chicken rotisserie restaurant is to open on 3 April in Bold Street, Liverpool, which is already home to more than 30 other eateries, cafes and bars. The new venue, Le Coq, is next to the Kasbah Cafe Bazaar on Bold Street, in the former vintage shop Little Red. The restaurant will seat up to 50 people and the menu will include free-range chickens, whole, halved or quartered, home-made gourmet burgers, corn on the cob, grilled sweet potato wedges, green and quinoa salads, and homemade coleslaw, with takeaway options. The arrival of Le Coq comes after a new fish and chip shop, Johnny English Traditional Fish & Chips, opened on Bold Street last Saturday, 14 March, with another new opening on the street, the Japanese restaurant Miyagi, due in May.
City champagne bar to host street food residencies: The Voltaire champagne bar at the Crowne Plaza London – The City in New Bridge Street, close to Blackfriars in the City of London, is hosting a series of street food residencies starting on 25 March. The first, on Wednesday to Friday evenings, from 5.30pm to 10pm until 10 April will be by The Cheese Truck, which sells cheese toasties such as Cropwell Bishop Stilton, sweet cure bacon and pear chutney, and Rosary goat’s cheese, honey and walnuts with rosemary butter, both for £7, fondue fries for £5, triple cheese croquettes with TCT chilli and chorizo jam for £6 and sweet Stilton, dark chocolate and walnut brownies with vanilla ice cream for £4.50. All food will be paired with Pommery’s Falltime Blanc de Blancs Extra Dry Champagne. The second, starting on 15 April and running to 22 May, again on Wednesday to Friday evenings, from 5.30pm to 10pm, will be Bill or Beak, which will sell toasted brioche buns filled with either duck (bill) or chicken (beak) and toppings such as spring onions, coriander, mint and a Vietnamese dressing with tempura shallots and Caesar anchovy dressing topped with tempura capers, rosemary croutons and fresh Parmesan, all £5 for one bun or £9 for two. The champagne pairing this time will be Pommery Summertime Blanc de Blancs Champagne. The final residency will be Randy’s Wing Bar, from 6 to 22 May, once again (Wednesday to Friday evenings, 5.30pmto 10pm. The menu will be American-style chicken wings such as Buffalo Wings with blue cheese and celery and Asian Wings sprinkled with crushed fried peanuts and toasted sesame seeds, all £4.50 for 4. The champagne pairing will be Pommery’s Springtime Brut Rosé Champagne.
Red Mist reopens sixth site Cock in Headley, Surrey: Red Mist Leisure, the pubco founded by Mark Williams and Mark Robson, has reopened the 17th century Cock in the Surrey village of Headley, near Epsom, after a £450,000 refurbishment. The company took over the lease of the pub in February. The pub now has an open-plan kitchen, where head chef Mark Evans and his kitchen team prepare a menu including home-smoked duck salad with blueberries, orange and hazelnut dressing, steaks of aged beef from local farms, and homemade Bakewell tart with almond and raspberry ice cream. Red Mist said the Cock Inn will take every measure to ensure suppliers come from the South East of England wherever possible and to support small British producers. The pub is the company's sixth outlet, will all venues in Surrey or Hampshire.
Fishmore Hall hires Michelin-experienced head chef: Fishmore Hall, a Regency-style hotel on the outskirts of Ludlow in Shropshire, has hired a new head chef with Michelin-star kitchen experience, Andrew Birch. He was previously senior sous chef of the three-AA Rosette and Michelin-starred Montague Arms in Hampshire. Birch said: "I’m really excited about being at Fishmore Hall. I think that the hotel and restaurant have a great reputation already and is an ideal starting platform for me to build upon.” Birch, originally from Swansea, Wales, has previously won the titles of Welsh Chef of the Year in 2004, Young Chef Apprentice of Britain in 2005, Young Chef Apprentice of Europe in 2005, and was a finalist in the Roux Regional Scholarship in 2006.

Yorkshire brewery produces beer in honour of William Hague: The North Yorkshire Brewing Company has produced a special beer in honour of the politician William Hague, who is retiring from politics at the general election in May. The brewery describes the beer, which has a picture of Hague on the label, as an "extra smooth porter brewed with a particularly smooth Yorkshireman in mind." Hague, born in 1961, has been the MP for Richmond in Yorkshire since 1989, and was the leader of the Conservative Party from 1997 to 2001, Foreign Secretary from 2010 to 2014 and Leader of the House of Commons since 2014. The beer was brewed at the Pinchinthorpe Hall brewery, which was itself established in 1989 by head brewer John Warnock. Hague told the House of Commons yesterday during Business Questions that he had already tasted the beer.

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