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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 23rd Mar 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King – household spend on eating out grows 7% year-on-year in February, seventh consecutive month of growth: In February, the average British household spent £196 on leisure, down 4% versus the same time last year but an increase of 7% compared to January, the Greene King Leisure Tracker has found. But eating out and drinking out increased by 7% and 2% respectively in February while ‘other leisure’ spend decreased by 15%. Drinking out increased 13% compared to January, as people’s abstinence from alcohol weakened. 18-24 year olds are the most optimistic for the coming year, with 87% expecting their household’s financial situation to remain unchanged or improve. The least positive age group are the over 55 year-olds, with only 23% of the age group feeling better off now than they were in 2010. The Greene King Leisure Spend Tracker reported a 4% decrease year-on-year in total leisure spend to £196, down 7% compared to January. Growth in eating out, up 7% year-on-year, continues as British households spend grew for the seventh consecutive month. Greene King marketing director Fiona Gunn said: “February’s spending patterns mirror January, as eating out saw considerable growth. Drinking out held its ground and ‘other leisure’ spend declined significantly compared to the same month last year. The gap in leisure spend between London and the south east and rest of Britain has reduced in recent months, so it is interesting to see a slight reverse in that trend in February. Maybe we can put that down to London and the south east households being more romantic, as during Valentine’s week, we saw a spike in eating out spend in this region compared to the Rest of Britain.” Meanwhile, British women are more downbeat about their finances than their male counterparts. When Brits were asked whether they feel their financial situation is better or worse than five years ago, 6% more women than men responded negatively, with only 29% of women feeling better off than they were in 2010. Gunn added: “Women have been victims of the recession, losing jobs more frequently and still reportedly earning, on average, less per hour than men. Women also tend to err on the side of caution when opening their purses, so it is unsurprising that the latest Leisure Spend Tracker found that women are less optimistic about their prospects for 2015 and that they still feel worse off than five years ago.”

Industry News:

NPD Group – British consumers have rediscovered their confidence, 2014 saw growth in foodservice visits: As British consumers rediscover a sense of confidence about the future, they have started to eat out more. Research and insights firm NPD is forecasting that the British foodservice market will grow by 1.1% in 2015 and 1.5% in 2016. The NPD Group said momentum is well underway following the 0.9% growth in out-of-home (OOH) foodservice visits in Britain 2014, the first rise in many years. “This is our first-ever complete forecast for the British eat-out foodservice market,” said Cyril Lavenant, NPD’s director of foodservice for the UK and France. “Ranked on spend growth to the end of 2016, we are predicting six ‘star’ players – casual dining, quick-service operators serving chicken, pizza/Italian, burgers and coffee, and the hotel channel.” NPD said three key important consumer trends are impacting the foodservice industry. First, thanks to a brighter economy, consumers are looking to treat themselves and their kids. Second, they want more choice and diversity and are much more willing to try something new. Third, when consumers go out to eat, they want a ‘full experience’ and the sense of a ‘social or family occasion’. These trends will impact foodservice channels in different ways with the branded channels enjoying better growth potential than the independents. Meanwhile, pubs are set to overtake the full-service restaurant channel, driven by the branded chains. Pubs will notch up 1.29 billion visits by the end of 2016 against 1.18 billion visits for FSR. NPD Group is also bullish about the entire casual dining segment because the segment is “exceptionally well-positioned” to meet core consumer needs for something that combines “newness and diversity” with the opportunity for a “family-oriented treat”. Casual dining will outgrow all other channels and achieve spend of well over £5 billion by the end of 2016, finishing 3.7% ahead of the casual dining spend recorded end of 2014. The NPD Crest Foodservice Forecasts 2015-2016 is in PowerPoint format and runs to over 80 pages using data from the Crest consumer panel. You can obtain a free summary of the deck and scope of the study from The NPD Group – email or The full report is on sale at £4,900.

Liberis up for Alternative Lender of the Year Award: Hospitality funder Liberis has been short-listed for the finals of the Alternative Lender of the Year – Commercial Award, part of the Credit Today Awards. One of five companies to be short-listed in the category, Liberis had to satisfy 18 judges from across the industry in areas including innovation, customer satisfaction, contribution to the sector, good management and processes. Chief executive Paul Mildenstein said: “We’re extremely pleased to be in the finals. We’ve seen a 100% increase in demand for business funding over the last year and 70% of our customers return for more.” Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 14 May. 

CAMRA celebrates 600 pubs receiving Assets of Community Value status: CAMRA launches Community Pubs Day today (23 March), a new ‘national celebration day to highlight and promote the 600 pubs that have so far been listed as Assets of Community Value’. The celebration day marks new laws to protect pubs listed as Assets of Community Value (ACVs) in England coming into effect on 6 April. CAMRA members are being urged to visit their local Asset of Community Value pub today to mark this occasion. CAMRA chief executive Tim Page said: “Thanks to the efforts of the thousands of CAMRA members who lobbied their local MP, from 6 April when a pub is listed as an ACV in England it will receive full planning protection, ultimately giving communities a say in what happens if the owner wishes to demolish the pub or convert it to another use. This is a powerful step towards protecting our valued community pubs. All it takes is a local group or 21 locals to start the process of having a pub listed as an ACV, so let’s push the number of listed pubs from hundreds to thousands.” 

Greenwich Tex-Mex restaurants loses licences: Two family-run Tex-Mex restaurants have lost their licences after a crime gang turned an upper floor into a drug-dealing “clubhouse”. Desperados and High Chapparral in Greenwich have been ordered to close after police told council officers that gangsters were using the premises “unchallenged”. The venues are run by brothers Yavuz and Cuneyt Ozborme on separate floors of a two-storey building just yards from the Cutty Sark. Julian Skeens, acting for the Ozborme brothers, told a licensing hearing: “Sorry, sorry and sorry again. These premises have not been run to the standard the licensees themselves want to run them. Clearly what happened is this organised crime gang came to these premises and took them over.” Asked why the gang had been allowed to use the venue, he said his clients had been “scared”. The owners have 21 days to appeal against the ruling to revoke their licences, during which time they remain open.

Company News:

Pizza brand Peter eyes estate of ten and plans Enterprise Investment Scheme: Pizza brand Peter is eyeing an estate of ten sites after opening its second restaurant in Leicester’s Welford Place, a year and a half after opening its first in Loughborough. The company has recently attracted investment from Henry Weldon, experienced operator of country house wedding venues, through his company Maverick Venues. Weldon, acting as finance director, will be running an EIS fundraising over the coming months. He said: “We are actively discussing crowdfunding with platform providers, as it fits really well with our ethos of engaging widely with our customers and stakeholders.” The company plans to open eight further restaurants in the next four years, before seeking private equity investment for funding the next stage of development. The brand offers authentic Neapolitan sourdough pizza from its own design of wood-fired ovens. Founder Raffaele Russo, who designed and built the restaurants using many up-cycled fittings and curiosities sourced from eBay, said: “We aim to be a local social club for anyone and everyone who wishes, like us, to cure the injured name of pizza in the UK. We travelled to the world’s very first pizzeria – L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which is still going in Naples – for our inspiration, and ferment our dough for 20 hours. Our pizzas are simple but delicious, using the best ingredients from Italy. We like derelict buildings with history that we can bring out – for example our first restaurant is in a converted boozer, while our Leicester restaurant is in the old Conservative Club. We don’t mind being off the beaten track, as we use social media engagement to draw our customers in, as if to a secret location.”

Mangham steps down at Mountain Range Restaurants: Industry veteran Greg Mangham has stepped down as managing director of Mountain Range Restaurants, the four-strong pub and restaurant operator chaired by Stephen May, Propel understands. The company had been planning to grow to 15 sites within the next 18 months to two years, either through individual or group acquisitions. Mangham is now understood to be working on gaining funding to support a plan to build a group of country taverns. He is working with funding specialists through his consultancy Resolution Leisure.

City Pub Company reports sales up 76%: City Pub Company, founded by Clive Watson and David Bruce, has reported sales grew 76% to £15.2m, in the most recent year with Ebitda up 125% to £2.1m, The Daily Telegraph has reported. The company grew its pub estate to 18 pubs and has recently exchanged on two more, taking it closer to its target of 25 sites. It also reported a phenomenal Christmas. Watson and Bruce sold their previous business, Capital Pub Company, to Greene King for £93m. They founded City Pub in 2012 along with John Roberts, a former board director of Fuller, Smith and Turner. The trio have raised £7m towards a third pub business and hope to have £25m by the end of April. They hope to raise a total of £75m and leverage £25m of debt to buy up to 50 unbranded pubs. Last week, Watson said Capital Pub Company would donate £25,000 to the Coalition in the wake of the decision to cut beer duty for an historic third consecutive time.

Intertain acquires first new site after restructuring, its former venue in Brighton: Walkabout operator Intertain has confirmed it is to open its first new venue since its formation in 2009, following exchange of contracts on a new lease for the site in West Street, Brighton it previously ran. The transaction is due to complete on 31 March. This acquisition follows the announcement last week that Intertain had completed a restructuring of its main debt facilities, which included the granting of new long term funding arrangements. A stone’s throw from the sea front, the Brighton site – currently trading as “Bedrock” – will open this summer as a ‘new-style’ Walkabout. The company will be investing over £600,000 in the refurbishment of the 850-capacity venue, creating 20 new permanent bar, kitchen and management jobs in the process. Chief executive John Leslie, said: “This is a landmark moment for Intertain, and we’re very excited about this opportunity. The funding platform we now have enables us to build a pipeline for the future. This is a great location and we are very happy to be going back into Brighton with our new style Walkabout, after an absence of over five years.” The current venue will remain trading as Bedrock for the first few weeks, before closing for refurbishment. Walkabout will have a strong focus on food, offering customers light bites, main meals, sharing dishes and party plates.

Beefeater introduces unlimited chips: Whitbread’s Beefeater brand has introduced a range of new burgers and unlimited chips. New on the menu is a triple burger, a cheese and mushroom burger and a buffalo chicken burger. Customers are also being offered unlimited skinny or triple-cooked chips. “Our chips are unlimited so you can keep coming back for more,” the brand states.

Jamie Oliver opens third Trattoria today: Jamie Oliver is opening the third site for his Jamie’s Trattotia sub-brand today (23 March). The new site is located in Tunbridge Wells, occupying a site at 46-50 High Street. The first two Trattoria sites are in Chelmsford and Richmond. The sub-brand is positioned as a cheaper, more rustic version of Jamie’s Italian. When he launched the brand in Richmond in 2013, Oliver said: “We are returning back to the traditional trattoria where you would find tool boxes on the floor, kids and old age pensioners. We have brought a touch of humour and a touch of nostalgia and being a parent myself I know what my wife wants from a kids’ menu and facilities.”

Hall & Woodhouse to develop Poundbury pub in joint venture with Duchy of Cornwall: The Duchy of Cornwall and Hall & Woodhouse are jointly developing a brand new inn on Queen Mother Square in Poundbury, Dorset to open in early 2016. At the suggestion of HRH the Prince of Wales, Hall and Woodhouse will call their new inn ‘The Duchess of Cornwall’ in honour of Her Royal Highness. In Poundbury Hall & Woodhouse are working closely with the Duchy of Cornwall’s architects, Quinlan & Francis Terry, to ensure that ‘The Duchess of Cornwall’ will be a ‘beautiful adornment’ to Queen Mother Square. The inn will sit at the heart of the Prince of Wales’ visionary Poundbury development. There will be twenty bedrooms and restaurant facilities as well as the traditional pub offerings. Anthony Woodhouse, Hall & Woodhouse’s managing director, said: “It’s a great privilege to be entrusted by the Duchy to develop this prestigious site. Our inn will blend with and mirror Poundbury’s architecture and His Royal Highness’s vision. The Duchess of Cornwall’ is being designed with reference to our flagship site in Bath. We are delighted to have received planning permission for 20 beautiful bedrooms.” Simon Conibear, the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate director at Poundbury, added: “We have been particularly impressed with (Hall & Woodhouse’s) new establishments in Bath, Portishead and Lulworth and believe they can bring the expertise we require for this important building and facility in Queen Mother Square. There has been growing demand for both guest rooms and another pub in Poundbury, and we think it will be popular with local businesses, residents and the thousands of people who visit Poundbury every year.”

Wetherspoon begins £3.5m Barrow hotel project: Work by JD Wetherspoon to redevelop a former department store in Barrow into a hotel has got under way. The company has been given permission to change the space above The Furness Railway pub, in Abbey Road, Barrow, into a 52-bedroom hotel as part of a £3.5m scheme. Workers went on site on Monday and the project is scheduled to take around 20 weeks. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are looking forward to opening our hotel in Barrow and believe it will complement our existing pub perfectly. We also believe it will be a great addition to the town.”

McDonald’s launches Golden Chances Monopoly with £10m prize pool: McDonald’s UK has launched its new Golden Chances Monopoly game with a £10m prize pool. The game runs in all restaurants for six weeks and features a number of new elements, with a strong digital focus developed by The Marketing Store (TMS). Additionally, McDonald’s has worked with TMS to create the first-ever Monopoly game for McDonald’s 100,000 restaurant employees, which will run in parallel with the consumer promotion. Customers will also see a bigger than ever presence in McDonald’s restaurants – the prize pool includes McDonald’s food, five cash amounts of £100,000, Mini Cooper cars, VIP experiences and family holidays. Golden Chances Monopoly will build on the success of last year’s Prize Vault Monopoly game, which awarded a record 9.2m prizes and reached 17.3m online entries, 46% of which were via mobile. Steve Howells, head of marketing at McDonald’s, said: “Monopoly is a firm favourite among our customers and we are delighted to bring it back bigger and better than ever before for its tenth year. Promotional menu items like the Big Tasty and Creme Egg McFlurry return with the added incentive of the chance to win millions of prizes. We’ve worked with our agencies including TMS to make this our most engaging Monopoly promotion yet, with customers able to win prizes by collecting Golden Chances Monopoly property sets, instant win prizes and millions of online chances to win cash. Every year, participation in the game grows and we continue to look for partners who can offer us prizes that really excite our customers. I’m delighted to be offering prizes from brands such as Easyjet Holidays, Samsung and alongside instant win cash and food prizes.”

Harvester adds 14 new dishes to spring menu: Harvester, the 220-strong Mitchells & Butlers brand that serves 30 circa million meals a year, has added 14 new dishes to its spring menu. They include a ‘I want it all’ sharing platter – rotisserie chicken, chargrilled chicken thighs, gammon steak, chorizo and half rack of ribs, with fresh grilled pineapple and a kapia pepper, the Harvester 83 combo – half rotisserie chicken & half a rack of BBQ ribs, seasoned fries, Harvester slaw and BBQ sauce, a duck wings combo platter – chargrilled duck and chicken wings, half rack of ribs, grilled pineapple, a kapia pepper and a range of fully loaded burgers – beef, chicken, veggie or pork ‘n’ chorizo burgers with toppings.

Fatburger eyes 20 UK sites after June launch: US better burger brand Fatburger is eyeing 20 UK sites within five years of its UK launch in Camden this June, The Sunday Times has reported. Fatburger, led by Andy Wiederhorn, already operates 50 sites outside of North America, with venues in China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. The company was founded in 1952 and has circa 150 stores in the US and Canada. 

Soho House secures fifth Chicken Shop site: Soho House has secured a new location for Chicken Shop, its rotisserie chicken dining brand – located at 7a Chestnut Grove, Balham, Chicken Shop will open its new 2,000 sq ft ground floor restaurant this summer. Chicken Shop currently has four UK sites, the most recent of which opened beneath The Hoxton Hotel in High Holborn in September last year. Casey Phillips at Shelley Sandzer, which acted on behalf of Soho House, said: “Chicken Shop already has a loyal following in south west London from its Tooting restaurant, and so Balham was an ideal next step. The area is home to many cool young professional families, with a great mix of affluence and ‘hip’ that the Soho House brand thrives on. We are delighted to have once again been able to use our knowledge of London to find the perfect location for such a great brand.”

Hostels group to develop bars: The hostels group Hatters Property is to develop bars at three of its hostels in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, as part of a growth plan supported by a new £6m banking facility. The finance secured from Barclays will enable Hatters Property to purchase the freehold assets of its four Hatters Hostels, support the recent rebranding of the business and help fund a capital expenditure programme to upgrade the existing hostels, including the development of new bar facilities in Birmingham, Liverpool, and at its Hilton Street, Manchester branch. Karl Kinsella, managing director of Hatters Property, which was founded in 2003, said: “The last decade or so has been an incredible journey developing four quality hostels in three fantastic cities. We have built a strong relationship with Barclays over the past 12 months and have been extremely impressed by their sector focus as well as their pro-activity and willingness to lend.” Barclays relationship director Sean Askham said: “With their vast experience in the sector, the Kinsella family have a developed a strong and successful business. Through our support, Hatters Property can now take the business to the next level, investing in their existing portfolio to make their fantastic hostels even better, and fulfilling their ambition to open more Hatters Hostels in other city centre locations over the next few years.”

HRH Group hires Michelin-starred chef to launch York restaurant: HRH Group, which runs pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels in Yorkshire, has hired the North Yorkshire chef Adam Jackson as its launches a restaurant in York. Jackson developed his skills at The Black Swan in Oldstead, North Yorkshire, where he won three AA Rosettes in 2010 and a Michelin Star in 2012. He has now taken on his own restaurant, The Park, at Marmadukes Hotel in St Peter’s Grove, York. Jackson said: “To be part of HRH Group is incredibly exciting and I am thoroughly looking forward to getting started. We will be opening our doors to the public at Marmadukes Town House Hotel and I genuinely cannot wait to introduce our guests to our beautiful new surroundings.” Philip Barker, chairman of HRH Group, said: “We are delighted that Adam has chosen to join us. He is extremely committed to delivering first-class product-driven food, which has earned him a strong reputation, loyal followers and rave reviews. This is a very exciting time for Marmadukes Town House Hotel and Adam is a very big part of what is to come.” 

Scoff & Quaff set to open sixth site, Marston’s leased pub: Worcester-based pub operator Scoff & Quaff is set to open its sixth pub, an historic country inn near Stourport-on-Severn. The company has taken on a five-year rolling lease for The Old Beams, a Grade II listed 16th century building situated just outside the Worcestershire market town. Scoff & Quaff plan to re-open the pub, which has been leased from Marston’s, on Friday 3 April following a £150,000 refurbishment that will see The Old Beams turned into a 130-cover gastro-pub with a newly designed terrace and a £5,000 pizza oven. The refurbishment will all see an overhaul of the pub’s interior and will create up to 30 jobs. Nick Mossop, director of Scoff & Quaff, said: “The Old Beams is a landmark in Stourport and our aim is to re-establish it as a country inn that locals and visitors to the town can’t wait to visit.” Mossop co-owns the company with fellow directors Stephen Ballard and Brian Hulme.

Domino’s launches “customisable” digital platform: Domino’s UK has launched a new digital platform to offer customers a unique way to personalise their pizza. Pizza Legends takes the concept of ‘create your own’ to new heights, transforming a functional decision-making process into an ‘engaging, entertaining and shareable experience’. Through the platform, pizza lovers can build their own ‘Pizza Legend’ by selecting from a range of bases, sauces and toppings. Users are invited to name their creation, which is then transformed into a short animated video. Pizza lovers can choose to share their Pizza Legend with friends on Facebook and Twitter and enter it into the League of Pizza Legends – whereby anyone can view, ‘like’ and even order other people’s pizza masterpieces. The most popular and creative entries in the league will win their Legend free for a year. All customers receive 30% discount off every Pizza Legend ordered through the platform. Simon Wallis, marketing director at Domino’s Pizza UK said: “Customers love to make things their own, and that doesn’t stop at pizza toppings. We wanted to make the personalisation process as fun and engaging as possible – with a competitive twist. Combining a ‘fantasy pizza’ experience that you can share with friends online as well as order in real life – Pizza Legends takes innovation and fun to the next level.”

Work begins on demolishing Marston’s Wolverhampton HQ: Work has begun on the demolition of the four-storey 1960s office block that is the Wolverhampton headquarters of Marston’s, in readiness for its replacement by a modern building on the same site. Contractor Carter Lauren has been appointed to carry out the project. Up to 500 of the firm’s employees are currently housed in temporary accommodation at nearby Coniston House. They are due to move into the new Marston’s House in February 2016. Ralph Findlay, Marston’s chief executive, said: “The start of construction marks a new phase of Marston’s House and also signifies a crucial step in future-proofing our place as one of the country’s leading pub retailers and brewers.” As Bank’s brewery originally, the business has been based at the site for almost 140 years.

Greg Wallace creditors receive 38p in the pound: Unsecured creditors of Wallace & Co, the restaurant previously operated by Gregg Wallace in Putney, south-west London, has paid 38p for every pound owed, The Mail on Sunday has reported. The restaurant closed last year owing creditors £150,000. Wallace himself is owed £293,000. It was Wallace’s third closure within a year – Gregg’s Bar and Grill in Bermondsey, east London and West Veg greengrocers, trading as Secretts Direct, also closed. 

Bridge approval powers development of new restaurant quarter on site of Courage brewery in Bristol: Councillors in Bristol have granted planning consent for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge spanning the city’s Floating Harbour, which will enable the development of the new Finzels Reach scheme, on the former Courage Brewery site, into a 168-bed hotel, 420 new residential apartments, shops, craft bars and restaurants. Insight Retail Consulting has been retained to secure retail and leisure operators for the development. Henry Lang of Insight said: “Finzels Reach is part of the wider regeneration of the Redcliffe area of Bristol, which from 2017 will include the city’s new £90m arena to host live concerts and sporting events. As part of this, the bridge will be the gateway to the new eating out quarter and will be one of the greatest feats of engineering in Bristol in recent times. The key to the scheme has always been the bridge, which means the area will be just a couple of minutes from the centre of Bristol and also the fastest route from the centre to Temple Meads station.”

Stonegate asks locals to rename Yates’s in Tamworth: Stonegate Pub Company is asking locals in Tamworth, Staffordshire, to choose the new name of the town’s Yates’s outlet in Lower Gungate, ahead of a de-branding and relaunch of the venue in May. The pub is closing in April for a refurbishment, and Pete Finch, general manager of Yates’s, said: “The refurbishment gives us the opportunity to create a new pub and name with a nod to the town’s heritage. We love the idea that the people of Tamworth, including our existing customers, should be the ones to decide the pub’s new name. So, we have picked four names which all have links to Tamworth and the site of the pub and we wait eagerly to see what voters decide.” The four names selected for people to vote for are: The Penny Black – the pub is located in the site of a former post office; The Mercia – Tamworth was once the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia; The Ginger Pig – Tamworth pigs have a distinctive ginger coat and are considered Britain’s oldest pure breed of pig; Thomas Guy – Thomas Guy founded almshouses in Tamworth in 1678 and also built Tamworth Town Hall in 1701. Each voter will be entered into a draw to win a VIP booth for them and five friends during the pub’s launch night in May, including drinks and sharing platter.

Raffles Restaurant Group sells Pinocchio’s in Norwich: Raffles Restaurant Group has sold its Pinocchio’s Restaurant on St Benedicts Street in Norwich to Italian brothers Andrea and Gonario Vilia. The Vilias have spent 20 year running restaurants in the UK and Italy. Jayne Raffles, co-owner with her husband Nigel of the firm, which also runs the St Benedict’s Restaurant and The Library on Guildhall Hill, Norwich, said: “Nigel and I want to continue running our other sites but also pursue other business interests, so now is the perfect time to move on and explore our ideas. The lanes, where Pinocchio’s is situated, is positively buzzing at the moment with the Great British High Street award and general feel good factor, so despite the huge emotional attachment we have with all our businesses, we are definitely leaving on a high.” 

Costa joins La Tasca and Ed’s Easy Diner at Barclaycard Arena: Costa Coffee has taken an outlet occupying more than 1,700 square foot at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. George Abuaita, spokesman for the Costa Coffee franchise, said the new outlet would be ready for customers at the end of this month. The chain joins Ed’s Easy Diner, which opened at the arena in December, and La Tasca, which is returning to the city after the closure of its only outlet in Birmingham in 2012. Five new retail units have been added along the canal-side of the arena as part of the £26m redevelopment to increase the catering provision for visitors as well as provide a link between the venue and city centre for passers-by.

Multi-site couple get flying start at Star Pubs & Bars outlet: Brian and Michelle Proud, who run The King’s Head in Lanchester and The Jolly Drovers in Leadgate, County Durham, both Punch Taverns pubs, have taken over the lease of a Star Pubs & Bars outlet, The Blue Bell Inn at Stanley in County Durham, and been given a flying start. Within four days of advertising an introductory offer of half price food, more than 800 reservations were made. Michelle Proud said: “The Blue Bell Inn already has a strong reputation and we want to build on that. Our focus is serving high-quality food which is both locally sourced and as fresh as possible.” The pub has been closed for the past week during the refurbishment, which includes the installation of a carvery area and new kitchen. It will be staffed by a team of 25, some of whom worked there under the previous management. Michelle Proud said: “We’re working hard to continue the success of our current three pubs. Perhaps in six months time we’ll be considering further expansion.” 

Brooklyn Social better burger concept to open in Derby: A unique new kitchen and bar space, Brooklyn Social, is set to open in Derby taking influences from dive bars stateside and the ‘best watering holes in the east end of London’. Work is underway to breathe new life into a Grade II listed building in the heart of the city’s Saddler Gate area and to transform its three floors into The Brooklyn Social. The new space is set to open at the end of April, serving premium cocktails and a selection of beers from across the globe. The food will be focused on prime locally sourced burgers. The project is the work of Derby businessman Tom Warner, who dreamed of bringing the inspirations he picked up on his travels, back to the city he grew up in. The 27 year-old’s time in America opened his eyes to the culture of dive bars and the casual, relaxed establishments popular in the US. These influences, mixed with a love of watering holes in Shoreditch, Hackney and east London, are being combined by Warner to create a vibrant place to eat, drink and socialise any time of the day. He said: “The Brooklyn Social is bringing something a little bit different to the heart of Derby’s independent Cathedral Quarter. A host of the building’s original features are being brought back to life and will be mixed with a colourful backdrop of neon lit street art, antiques and vintage furniture. We are building a stunning new bar, an exposed working cellar and we’re installing a vintage Photobooth.”

‘Gourmet grilled cheese’ sandwich shop to open in Soho: An all-day gourmet grilled cheese sandwich shop called Melt Room, using artisan and locally sourced ingredients, to offer a range of meat and vegetable combinations plus juices and beverages, is opening in Noel Street, Soho, Central London. The menu at Melt Room will include slow and low-roasted lamb shoulder with mustard greens and melted Swiss and meat from free-range native breeds from Gloucestershire. Founder and grilled cheese aficionado Andrey Datsenko said: “I spent the better part of my youth studying hospitality management in New York and very quickly became addicted to the delicious and hearty grilled cheese sandwiches the city had to offer. I am very excited to launch Melt Room, not only to fix my own grilled cheese cravings, but to offer Londoners a gourmet American-inspired version of this much-loved snack.” The shop will open from 7am for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with 12 seats available for sit-down customers to enjoy a quick meal and what Datsenko called “cheesy tunes”. A local delivery service will also be introduced.

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