Story of the Day:
Casual Dining Group chairman Martin Robinson – the sector will see category blurring: Martin Robinson, who chairs Casual Dining Group and Center Parcs, has argued that the sector will see an increasing blurring of foodservice segments in the future. Addressing nearly 200 colleagues at the annual Arena Savoy Lecture last night, he said: “I think there will be a blurring between what we call casual dining and what we currently call quick-service restaurants, QSR – and even, probably, coffee shops as well. If we look at what Pret is doing in introducing more hot food, at what Patisserie Valerie is doing putting restaurants on top of their coffee shops, if you look at what Jamie Oliver is doing putting little grab-and-go places next to his restaurants, I think there is a blurring of identity between the different categories. That’s something that is very prevalent in the US and has been for a number of years.” Robinson also predicted that the branded eating-out market in the UK would continue to grow: “Even though there is some debate about whether it will grow at 5% a year or 7% a year, and whether the UK will catch up with the United States on the number of times a week people go out to eat, putting all that to one side, the main argument as to why the industry will grow is the number of new sites everybody is opening.” Robinson said Casual Dining Group’s Cafe Rouge French bistro brand “had been spectacularly under-invested, and allowed almost to go to seed over the years”. He added: “Actually underneath all of that still a very good brand, because it is differentiated in the market and people know what it stands for.” Robinson argued that “increasingly, differentiation is key” in the sector. He said: “If you look at, for example, the Italian casual dining market, where there are five or six reasonably sized brands, three or four of those are very well differentiated from each other, and those will be the ones that do well. A couple of the others are much less well differentiated, and those will be and are the ones that are suffering. Wherever you are in the market, you’ve absolutely got to make sure that you own that part of the market. I’ve been involved in various deals over the years buying and selling restaurant businesses, and the ones you always want to sell are the ones that are not directly differentiated.”
Halfords hires McDonald’s boss: Halfords has hired Jill McDonald, the chief executive of McDonald’s UK and president of its North West division in Europe, as its new chief executive. She will take over the position from Matt Davies, who has been poached by Tesco to head the supermarket’s UK operations. She is due to start the new position with the high street retailer, which has more than 450 stores and 11,000 employees, on 11 May, when Davies leaves. McDonald said: “Halfords is a business and brand that resonates with me and the UK public and I am delighted to be joining the company. Halfords has already made significant progress in delivering its service-led growth strategy and I look forward to joining such a strong team to continue to build on that success.” Halfords chairman, Dennis Millard, said: “I’m really excited that we have attracted someone of Jill’s calibre who will build on what we’ve achieved over the past few years and we all really look forward to working with her. She always wanted to be a FTSE 100 top dog. She recognises that we are midway through a strategy and agrees with it. McDonald’s are in the top ten companies to work for in the UK, and we hope she can bring that colleague engagement ethic with her to Halfords.” She joins with a £495,000 golden hello in shares paid out over three years, along with a pay packet worth up to £1.25m with bonuses – the same as her predecessor. Before joining McDonald’s, in 2006, McDonald spent 14 years at British Airways, rising to head of global marketing. She is the first female Halfords boss and one of eight women chief executives in the FTSE 250.
Howard Schultz tells Starbucks staff – ‘we expected flak over race initiative’: Starbucks founder Howard Schultz has written to his staff to stress that the company expected to receive flak over its initiative in the US to start a conversation over race issues, but that the move is still worthwhile. In the letter to staff, he stated: “While there has been criticism of the initiative – and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you – let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise. The heart of Race Together has always been about humanity: the promise of the American Dream should be available to every person in this country, not just a select few. We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most. We are learning a lot. And will always aim high in our efforts to make a difference on the issues that matter most. I want to thank those of you who took time this week to share what you were seeing, hearing, feeling and thinking as we rolled out Race Together across the country. An issue as tough as racial and ethnic inequality requires risk-taking and tough-minded action. And let me reassure you that our conviction and commitment to the notion of equality and opportunity for all has never been stronger.”
US retail body bans members from selling powdered alcohol: The Neighborhood Market Association (NMA) based in San Diego has banned its 2,600 members from selling a newly approved powdered alcohol in their stores, a San Diego newspaper has reported. Last week, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, which people can turn into a cocktail by mixing with water. It comes in rum, vodka, cosmopolitan and margarita flavors. Palcohol owner Lipsmark, based in Arizona, said it has not set the price for the powdered alcohol yet. NMA members consist of independently run convenience stores and grocery markets throughout California, Nevada and Arizona, including more than 800 in San Diego County. “In good conscience, I cannot risk selling this item because it poses a risk to our children, and neighborhoods,” said NMA president Mark Arabo.
Pub is the Hub receives £100,000 cash injection: Pub is The Hub has announced a £100,000 injection of funding for its Community Services Fund that will go directly to pubs who are looking to diversify. The Department of Communities and Local Government has confirmed that it will continue its support for Pub is The Hub’s Community Services Fund for local services projects with a further contribution of £100,000. This initiative set up by Pub is The Hub was first launched in April 2013 as a ‘fund of last resort’ to help pub licensees wanting to diversify and provide essential services within their local communities. The fund was initiated by the Department of Communities and Local Government with a donation of £170,000 with further donations from Diageo, Greene King and Marston’s. Then, in 2014, Norfolk County Council supported the fund with a donation of £30,000 for Norfolk-based projects while Greene King and Marston’s made a second donation each to maintain their support. In just under two years, the Community Services Fund has supported more than 40 projects from Yorkshire to Cornwall and Norfolk to Herefordshire, generating new services such as shops, post offices, community centres, libraries, IT support and Wi-Fi access for over 53,000 local people.
BBC – thousands of security staff could be working illegally: Thousands of licensed security guards could be working in the UK fraudulently after buying qualifications for cash, a BBC investigation has found. Jobseekers must sit mandatory exams to get a Security Industry Authority card. But undercover researchers found colleges happy to sit or forge exams for untrained students for a fee. Keith Vaz MP called it “a major scandal” and “one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in all the years I’ve chaired the Home Affairs Select Committee”. Industry insiders had told the BBC large numbers of colleges were willing to help students cheat security exams. One former SIA employee, speaking anonymously, said a large number of colleges were breaking the rules. He added: “Thousands of people [are] working in the industry illegally, having obtained accreditation illegally.”
Crowdcube launches scheme for seed-stage businesses: Crowdfunding platform Crowdcube is launching a dedicated scheme to help British seed-stage businesses secure funding. The Sprint Programme is aimed at businesses looking to raise between £20,000 and £150,000. It is intended to help start-ups by making the funding route more cost-effective and timely. The news follows the recent Beauhurst report that reveals seed-stage deals completed on crowdfunding platforms increased six-fold between 2011 and 2014 – up from 5% to 30%. One company that has already raised funds through the new programme is The Pressery. The producer of almond milk drinks reached its £150,000 target in under two hours. In total 58 people from the 150,000 strong Crowdcube community backed the business – including one individual investment of £30,000.
FSA welcomes first prosecution over 2013 horse meat scandal: The Food Standards Authority (FSA) has welcomed the conclusion of the first prosecution brought as a result of the investigation into the horse meat scandal in 2013. Peter Boddy was yesterday fined £8,000 at Southwark Crown Court after he admitted failing to comply with food traceability regulations. He had admitted to selling horses for meat but failed to keep proper records to show who bought them. David Moss was given a four-months suspended prison sentence for falsifying an invoice. They were each asked to pay costs of more than £10,000. Jason Feeney, chief operating officer at the FSA, said: “We are pleased with the successful conclusion of this prosecution. The rules on food traceability are there to protect consumers and legitimate businesses. Criminal activity like this across Europe contributed to the horse meat incident. Consumers need to know that their food is what it says it is on the label. The FSA continues to support the ongoing investigations into the incident.” In addition to the on-going investigation, the FSA and other government departments have been implementing the recommendations from the Elliott Review into the integrity of the UK food chain. This includes the establishment of the Food Crime Unit, which is giving greater focus to enforcement against food fraud by analysing intelligence, initiating investigations and liaising with other criminal and regulatory enforcement agencies. Andy Morling was announced yesterday as the Head of the Food Crime Unit, starting in his role this week.
Jubo Korean Canteen secures second site: Jubo Korean Canteen has secured it second site after agent Davis Coffer Lyons sold the lease of the former GB Pizza Co site in Exmouth Market to the company for an undisclosed sum. Building on the success of the first Jubo, in the lobby to the Bedroom Bar on Rivington Street in Shoreditch, the two-storey restaurant will serve its range of Korean fried chicken, steamed buns, BBQ meats and rice bowls. GB Pizza Co will continue to operate its award-winning restaurant in Margate, Kent. The team also plans to open a second restaurant in the town, keen to invest in the seaside resort’s regeneration. Rob Meadows, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Exmouth Market is very popular because of its quaint feel and proximity to Islington and Farringdon. Premises that come to the market attract interest from quality independent operators. Restaurant premises like this, where the upper parts are still incorporated, are unusual but do provide excellent sites for start-ups or new entrants to the market as they provide valuable owners or manager’s accommodation. We believe Jubo will be an excellent addition to Exmouth Market’s exciting dining scene.”
UK Special Situation Fund – Mitchells & Butlers is a good example of a self-help share but the market has been slow to recognise it: Derek Stuart, who has managed the £1.2bn UK Special Situations fund since it launched in March 2000, has argued that Mitchells & Butlers is a good example of the kind of self-recovery share his fund is looking for – even though the market has been slow to recognise the company’s potential. He told FT Adviser: “It’s only in the past year that the shares have done anything. Sometimes the market takes longer to jump into those stories than we do. We are trying to identify companies where the internal change is the driver for the rerating opportunity. So it’s typically a company that has got itself into difficulty for various reasons – it’s in too much debt or done the wrong acquisition – [and] the incumbent management team leaves, a new management team comes in and addresses the issues. We are trying to identify situations that are as independent of the macro environment as possible. I tend to have more faith in company management teams than I do in central bankers and politicians. It’s all about spending time meeting management teams, understanding what [they] are going to do to improve the quality of the businesses and then we take a view on their ability to do that.”
Whitbread head of education – apprenticeships help plug hospitality skills gap: Employers should use an apprenticeship strategy to support the sector’s future growth, according to Whitbread head of education Sandra Kelly. Speaking to HR magazine at an event on hospitality careers run by education charity Believe in Young People, Kelly said there is “evidence that shows investing in a structured apprenticeship programme can have a significantly positive impact”. Using Premier Inn as an example, she said: “Employees who were previously apprentices are 45% less likely to leave the organisation than non-apprentices. The commitment demonstrated by the company through the investment in apprenticeships is mirrored by the commitment of those apprentices.”
Thorley Taverns buys Broadstairs freeholds at auction: Kent multi-site pub and hotel operator Thorley Taverns, led by Frank and Philip Thorley, has acquired the freeholds, from Thanet District Council, of both the Pavilion on the Sands and the adjacent Yorkgate House in Broadstairs. The company has successfully tenanted the Pavilion for over 15 years, and recently added a new beach fronted conservatory with a retractable roof. The pair thanked NatWest Bank for its support in securing the freeholds – the company has banked with National West for over 48 years. The freeholds were acquired at the Clive Emson Auction held yesterday at the Kent County Showground. A total of £460,000 was paid for the freehold of the Pavilion, where Thorley Taverns currently has 36 years left to run on a 50-year lease. A further £620,000 was paid for the adjacent Georgian building, which comprise three flats and ground floor office and storage space.
Hungry Horse names Firecracker the UK’s top takeaway: Online takeaway order site Hungry House has rated Firecracker in Westminster, a modern Chinese restaurant-cum-karaoke-bar, the top takeaway in the UK. Firecracker was voted number one takeaway in the UK amongst 10,000 restaurants. With consistent 5-star ratings, the highest customer return rates over the last 12 months, and five star hygiene standards, Hungry House’s algorithm analysed millions of customer reviews to give Firecracker the top spot. Two further East Asian restaurants located in London made the top ten, Noodle Street and Slurp. Handmade burger brand Smoque Grill in Brighton placed second, and Get Stuffed, a fast food outlet in Halifax, came third.
Thai Leisure Group expands into south, eyes multimillion-pound investment: Thai Leisure Group, which runs restaurants under the Chaophraya, Thaikhun and Yee Rah fascias, is on the verge of sealing a multimillion-pound investment as it prepares for its first openings in the south of England. The new sites, which will operate under the Thaikhun fast casual brand, which is inspired by the street food stalls of Bangkok, are in Oxford, due to open in April, and Cambridge, which will open in May. Financial director Christian Hall told a local newspaper: “As a business we are well-positioned in a market which is very buoyant. As well as securing a number of new sites, we are also on the verge of securing a multimillion-pound investment. With a 9% increase in like-for-like sales and a healthy pipeline for the next three years, we are in a strong position to be able to push forward with new openings, so watch this space.” The company expects to hit the £26m turnover mark in its current financial year. Other cities marked for the roll-out of the Thaikhun brand include Guildford, Nottingham and Glasgow. The group said its ultimate aim was to push out from its current Scotland and north of England locations, southwards towards London. Thai Leisure Group also runs the ChaoBaby brand, designed specifically for shopping centres, with ChaoBaby restaurants currently in the Trafford Centre in Manchester and in the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.
Fayre Table opens fourth Daniel Thwaites pub: The multi-site pub-restaurant operator Fayre Table has opened its fourth pub in partnership with the Blackburn brewer and pub owner Daniel Thwaites, the Hunters, in Walton-le-Dale, Preston, Lancashire. The pub closed in December for a £500,000 refurbishment that includes a new bar and a state-of-the-art kitchen three times the size of the previous one. The Hunters, formerly the Welcome Tavern, also has a new menu with classic pub fare and “tapitizers” and a new cocktail menu as well as Thwaites’ beers Wainwrights and Lancaster Bomber.
TCG invests in its coffee offer: Managed pub and bar operator TCG is investing in its coffee offer with a range of new varieties and fresh flavours for the spring, as well as a repeat of its successful Barista of the Year competition, first staged last year. The new drinks include vanilla mocha, hazelnut latte and three iced frappés in coffee, vanilla and almond flavours. The recipes have been created exclusively for TCG by its coffee partner Cafeology, and will be available in 40 pubs and bars, supported by POS that promotes the new range as light, refreshing drinks for spring. At the same time, the Barista of the Year 2015 competition is underway, inviting staff to submit a recipe for a new seasonal coffee or hot chocolate drink. Staff sending in the best paper suggestions will be invited to make their drink in front of judges, with the winner added to the TCG summer drinks menus. As well as the prestige of seeing their drink rolled out, the winner, and one runner up, will receive a Nespresso machine. TCG chief operating officer Nigel Wright said: “Our coffee offer has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, as we have sought to equip our pubs and bars to compete with High Street coffee shops, as part of the overall strategy of building our daytime trade. Our partnership with Cafeology gives us an interesting, quality hot drinks range with frequent seasonal changes and new flavours to offer variety. We’ve also invested seriously in training to improve our staff teams’ knowledge and skills so that they can deliver a consistently high-quality serve to customers.”
Mitchells & Butlers converts former Orchid pub in Islington to Castle segment: Mitchells & Butlers has converted a former Orchid Pub Company site, The Angel on Islington’s City Road, to its Castle segment of landmark pubs with a premium offer. The Angel now boasts dual-level bar areas, with the ground floor decked out like a traditional pub and the airy first floor offering ample space for lounge-style drinking and dining. Brooklyn Lager and Camden Hells are among the speciality draught beers available, alongside a quartet of cask ales.
Nick Batram – Domino’s Poland results amount to promising delivery: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Nick Batram has hailed full-year results at Domino’s Poland as a “point of inflection”. He said: “We have always been confident Poland had the right ingredients for a successful Domino’s Pizza roll-out. It was largely a question of how long it would take to achieve, and how much capital would be required. After a tough few years, 2014 looks like being a point of inflection for DP Poland and this has rightly been reflected in the share price. There is still much to do, but we believe the risk profile has reduced and this leads us to upgrade our fair value to 35p.”
Residents fight Upham Brewery’s new brewery plan: Residents have formed an action group to fight Upham Brewery’s move to a greenfield site at Bishop’s Waltham. Upham Brewery submitted plans in January to build a new state-of-the-art facility at land between Ashton Lane and Winchester Road, having outgrown its current property at Stakes Farm. But residents have voiced concerns over planning policy and traffic, arguing such a move would decrease the value of their homes. Said protest group founder Libby Cleaver: “They are outside the new settlement and therefore are inside the national park. We just can’t think why they would have gone for a site that’s not permitted.” The brewery says it is vital to remain nearby to its current site for access to the area’s unique water taste.
Intu Lakeside signs Travelodge, room for 7,850 square foot restaurant below: Intu Lakeside has signed a 25-year agreement for a lease with the UK’s largest independent hotel brand, Travelodge, for a brand new, 74-room hotel at the southern end of the lake that gives the shopping centre its name. The five-storey Travelodge hotel is to be built on land at one end of Alexandra Lake, which will be overlooked by its first floor Bar Café. The ground floor will be let separately by Intu, and could accommodate a family-friendly restaurant of 7,850 sq ft, including a mezzanine. Neil Short, Travelodge development manager, said: “We are delighted to be opening a new Travelodge hotel at one of Europe’s biggest shopping centres. With all of intu Lakeside’s fantastic retail, leisure and restaurant facilities on the hotel’s doorstep, this will be a superb place for our business and leisure customers to stay and will enable us to offer the best value accommodation in the area.”
Eclectic Hotels to open King Street Townhouse with Tavern and rooftop infinity pool: Eclectic Hotels, owned by Eamonn and Sally O’Loughlin and operating four destination hotels in Manchester, will open King Street Townhouse, located on Booth Street in the Upper King Street conservation area, in late Summer 2015. The venue will offer guests Manchester’s first hotel rooftop infinity pool as well 40 bedrooms and The King Street Tavern, a bar, restaurant and afternoon tearooms. The group currently comprises of Great John Street Hotel, the former Atherton Street Old School House, Didsbury House Hotel & Eleven Didsbury Park Hotel, both previously Victorian villas, and also The 7th Member’s Club at MediaCityUK.
Fever Bars set to launch in Exmouth: Fever Bars is set to open an eponymous nightclub, Fever, in Exmouth, with accompanying Boutique and Kukui bars, after a £400,000 refurbishment. Fever – described as “three rooms, two levels, triple the party” – is located at the former Pulse premises on Exmouth’s Parade. It opens tomorrow (Wednesday, 25 March) with an official launch weekend on Friday, 26 March and Saturday, 27 March. Fever Bars operates circa 20 sites around the UK.
Canteen co-founder opens Brassica: Canteen co-founder Cass Titcombe and his interior design expert Louise Chidgey have opened a new venue, Brassica in Beaminster, Dorset. The menu is produce-led using seasonal food grown, raised, caught or collected in Dorset and the south west. The menu has been designed to encourage an informal way of eating – customers can share main courses, order a selection of starters or just have a glass of wine and a plate of charcuterie. “I love food and have always been interested in its provenance. The area around here is rich with growers and makers, and the quality of the produce is outstanding. Combining local goods with a few imported favourites makes me one very happy cook,” said Titcombe. In 2005, Titcombe co-founded Canteen, which went on to win the Observer Food Monthly Best UK Restaurant Award in 2007. He is the co-author of recipe book Canteen: Great British Food. Chidgey has developed brand and products as senior buyer for The Conran Shop and the Conran Collection worldwide.
Tom Kerridge receives Cask Marque accreditation for second pub: Two Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has received Cask Marque accreditation for his recently opened second pub, The Coach in Marlow, an Enterprise Inns site. The award was handed to Kerridge by Enterprise regional manager Stephen Folbigg and Cask Marque national account manager Roger Clayson. Kerridge said: “I’m very proud of the whole team at The Coach having achieved Cask Marque for our real ales and cellar management. We are proud to serve real ales and we love and look after them in the same way as our food. They make a perfect match.” The pub, which is the second of Tom Kerridge’s two venues in the town, is open seven-days-a-week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its sister two Michelin star gastropub, The Hand & Flowers, is just down the road.
Spirit’s Chef & Brewer brand launches 18 new dishes, including competition-winning pudding: Chef & Brewer, the 130 strong country pub brand owned by Spirit, has launched its spring menu featuring a new pudding suggested by the winner of its Proof is in the Pudding competition. Stephanie Silk, from Glasgow, entered the competition – which was supported by Great British Bake-Off contestant Richard Burr – with her salted caramel banoffee cheesecake suggestion. After making it through to the final five, her pudding came out on top after a Facebook vote and will now feature on the menu in pubs across the UK when it launches today (24 March). Caroline Gallimore, brand manager for Chef & Brewer, said: “With every menu refresh we look at new ways to develop and innovate what we offer – we’ve had some real success in bringing our guests into the decision-making process and there was strong support to see Stephanie’s dish included as one of our new puddings.” As well as the introduction of 18 new dishes, the brand has also spent time in creating alternative versions of more than 20 of their dishes to offer a separate non-gluten containing menu. Gallimore added: “Too often guests who suffer with allergies or intolerances are left with minimal or uninspiring choices when dining out – with this menu we sought to change this by investing resources to deliver a wide range of dishes that can provide a non-gluten containing option in all menu categories; from starter, main and pudding, through to our evening and lunch deals. This is just the starting block for us as we hope to continue to further develop our offering and cater to the varying tastes and requirements of our guests.”
Date set for Marco’s New York Italian opening in Kegworth: Friday 3 April has been announced as the opening date for the latest in Marco Pierre White’s Marco’s New York Italian chain of restaurants, at the Best Western Premier Yew Lodge Hotel in Kegworth, Leicestershire. The hotel’s former Orchard Restaurant, has been completely demolished and redeveloped with a New York Italian theme. Yvonne Hyde, the hotel’s manager, said: “This is big news for the locals in Kegworth, as well as our neighbouring towns and villages, as nothing else in the area competes with this style of restaurant without having to drive into the cities. The beauty of the restaurant is that it’s designed with every customer in mind, delivering excellent service and fantastic food at an affordable price to suit all budgets.” The 134-cover restaurant, close to East Midlands Airport, is the second opening for the chain in Leicestershire in two months, after another Marco’s New York Italian opened at the Mercure Leicester hotel in Granby Street, Leicester in February. The chain is run by Black and White Franchising.
Greggs beats Starbucks and Costa in consumer poll: Starbucks and Costa has been beaten by Greggs in a poll to find the UK’s favourite hot beverage. Greggs scored highest for value in a national poll of 4,500 people, ranking second on friendliness of staff, speed of service and store cleanliness. Overall, Greggs performed better than Caffe Nero, Costa and Starbucks, beaten only by Pret A Manger, according to the Market Force Information survey, which asked consumers about their satisfaction in eight categories at a range of coffee shops and whether they would recommend the brands to others.
Taco Bell to open second Sheffield store: Taco Bell is to open its second store in Sheffield, on Devonshire Street, next Sunday, 29 March. The opening comes almost exactly a year after the chain, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, launched its first “new model” high street store in the world on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. Taco Bell currently has three other outlets in the UK, at the Manchester Arndale Centre, the Eastgate Shopping Centre, Basildon and the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. The new store is close to a PizzaExpress restaurant and Sheffield’s BrewDog bar.
Wetherspoon set to open largest airport pub: Pub operator JD Wetherspoon is to open its brand-new pub at Stansted Airport’s new-look terminal, on Monday, 30 March. The pub, The Windmill, will replace the Wetherspoon pub of the same name, which has been at the airport since May 2003. The company has spent £2.7 million developing the outlet, located airside (after security) and just 50 metres from the old pub – it offers the company’s first ever rotisserie. It is Wetherspoon’s biggest airport outlet and is the only pub at Stansted Airport. The Windmill, which will continue to be managed by Michael Wilkins, who has worked there since 2007, employs 175 staff. The new-look Windmill is double the size of the former site, offering more than 7,000 square feet of customer space on a ground-floor and mezzanine level.
Eight brands sign with guest experience management company HospitalityGEM: Eight brands have signed with guest experience management expert HospitalityGEM, growing its revenue by £135,000 in three months. In addition to new contract wins, HospitalityGEM achieved growth through extensions to contracts with existing clients, including Tesco Cafés who have introduced monthly GEM visits to ensure consistency across the estate. Boston Tea Party, the ethical café brand, has increased its GEM visits to weekly to increase the level of insight into the developing brand. HospitalityGem’s new clients include ramen specialist, Shoryu Ramen, which has introduced GEM visits across its four sites to ensure consistency. Bath Ales, the Bristol-based brewery will be utilising GEM visits across all eleven sites and GEMdirect to gather feedback from its expanding market of real ale drinkers. To support its brand message of British comfort and cuisine, The Epicurean Collection has introduced monthly GEM visits to each of its 15 sites and quarterly overnight stays. Hampshire-based pub company Ideal Collection has introduced GEM visits in all six of its sites to make sure the local feel of each is preserved. In an expanding international market, Dubai-based Reform & Social Grill, based on the gastro-pub concept of its sister site in London, has introduced GEM visits to audit the pub and ensure service standards remain high. Fine dining restaurant group, Lima, has also introduced GEM visits to ensure standards are maintained. HospitalityGEM has also been hired by London-based Noodle House to guarantee food quality is of the highest standards with GEM visits twice a month. To ensure West London based cafe, Megan’s, can uphold quality through its diverse offering, weekly GEM visits at different times of the day have been introduced.
Las Iguanas launches new menu: Las Iguanas has launched a new menu with nine new dishes today (24 March). New menu items include a cranberry and avocado salad and with Camarão A La Criolla – prawns cooked in one of the 30 speciality home-made sauces with no less than nine distinctive but complementary flavours. New desserts include Tembleque, a mix of creamy coconut with mixed berries and mango puree. The new menu also features 13 new cocktails, and a host of new wines, ciders and beers. Las Iguanas’ “Happy Hour” has also been extended to include a wider range of cocktails.
Cat cafe fully booked for opening two weekends: Nottingham’s first cat cafe, which was due to open on Saturday (21 March), is fully booked for its first two weekends. Twenty cats will be roaming around Kitty Cafe while visitors are having drinks and snacks. The cafe is opening in the former Prudential offices in Friar Lane after owner Kate Charles-Richards scrapped earlier plans for a venue in Goose Gate, Hockley, since it did not have access for disabled visitors. Charles-Richards told The Nottingham Post: “There is a huge amount of interest. We’ve had people coming up to us in the street and saying what a brilliant idea they think it is and social media has been amazing – I think we’re close to 4,000 likes on Facebook at the moment.” Customers will have to sign a set of rules before being admitted to the cafe to ensure both their own safety and that of the cats. Strict hygiene regulations are in place and the kitchen is sealed. Homemade cakes, sandwiches, panini and a range of drinks will be served. Charles-Richards, who is employing 15 staff to cover the seven-day shifts, sad: “We are going to expand on that but we thought we’d start off small to give ourselves time to get into the swing of things.”
Premier Inn buys Holiday Inn Banbury: The Holiday Inn Express in Banbury, Oxfordshire has been bought by Whitbread’s Premier Inn Hotels after the administration of Lewis Property Holdings, which owned and managed the hotel. The business was one of six associated companies in the Lewis Property Group. No other entities in the group are in administration. Roger Hale and Robert Lewis, of Price Waterhouse Coopers, were appointed as joint administrators of Lewis Property Holdings on 26 February. After the administration, the hotel was sold to Premier Inn and all 40 employees were transferred to the new owner. Joint administrator Roger Hale said: “We are delighted to have secured the sale of the hotel and that all employees have been transferred under this agreement.” The nearest Premier Inn to Banbury was at Silverstone, 14 miles away.
SIBA recognises lifetime achievements of Roger Protz and George Philliskirk: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has given Lifetime Achievement Awards to beer writer Roger Protz and to George Philliskirk, former director of the Beer Academy. The Awards were presented at SIBA’s BeerX event in Sheffield by chairman Guy Sheppard, who said: “We are delighted to recognise the enormous contribution made by both Roger and George to British beer and brewing. Over the course of their long careers, they have been tireless ambassadors for beer, sharing their knowledge and passion with countless others within and outside the brewing and pubs industry. It is no exaggeration to say that their work has helped to restore beer’s place in the national consciousness.”