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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 13th Apr 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Cambscuisine enters talks with investor, close to securing second Smokeworks site: Award-winning Cambridgeshire gastro-pub and restaurant operator Cambscuisine has entered talks with an investor as it seeks to expand the Smokeworks concept that it launched in Cambridge city centre last year. The company is also close to securing its second site for Smokeworks, also believed to be in Cambridge. Cambscuisine, led by Oliver Thain and Max Freeman, launched Smokeworks after six months of intensive research in the barbeque market. It launched the brand last July in the middle of Cambridge’s emerging restaurant quarter, paying a £110,000 premium to acquire the private lease on The Old Eraina Taverna site in Cambridge – a total of £220,000 was invested in the site. Thain told Propel at the time: “The strapline is ‘Slow-Cooked. Fast’. We’ve worked very hard on the menu in the last six months and have come up with a basic premise of 12 dishes under £12. The quality of the food is paramount. We are producing the food in a central kitchen, which suits this style of slow-cooked food.” Meanwhile, the company has placed its Crown and Punchbowl pub in Horningsea, two miles outside of Cambridge, on the market with agent Everard Cole to focus on Smokeworks and other opportunities. It is available as a freehold for £950,000 or on a £100,000 premium for a 15-year lease at £65,000 per annum rent. 

Industry News:

Krispy Kreme highest ranked sector company in Sunday Times private company profit tracker: Krispy Kreme is the highest-ranked sector company in The Sunday Times annual private company profit tracker. It placed 19th overall in the index of profit growth over the last three years. The company reported a 16% increase in turnover in the UK to hit £52,393,000 in the year to 2 February 2014 – turnover was £45,073,435 the year prior. Adjusted Ebitda before exceptional items of £9,419,000 (18% of sales) compared with £1.674,000 (4%) of sales in the previous year. Return on investment rose to 31.2% compared to 5.3% the year before. Pre-tax profit was £3,166,379 compared to a loss of £2,797,244 the year before. The company stated: “The business has made significant progress during the year increasing sales by 16%. The company opened new retail stores in Edinburgh and London Bridge and operated 50 retail stores at 2 February (2013: 51 stores).”

JD Wetherspoon starts Mexican night: JD Wetherspoon has launched a customisable Mexican food club on Mondays called Mexican Monday. The deal allows customers to choose a burrito, naked burrito or nachos before choosing one of six items to either fill or have on top – these include five-bean chilli with quorn, chilli con carne, BBQ pulled pork, shaved rib-eye steak (an extra £1.00), chicken breast strips or BBQ pulled pork and cheese quesadilla. The offer includes a drink. Last year, chief executive John Hutson said JD Wetherspoon’s menu strategy is to become “really good at a few core items”, which included burgers, steaks and fish and chips. He conceded that Wetherspoon pubs tended to offer a bit “of a variety menu”, but added: “We want to get better and better at the core items.” However, the company is mindful of key trends and had, for example, added pulled pork to it menu, he said. “If sales of pulled pork are as strong in ten years’ time as they are now, pulled pork would have become a core menu item,” Hutson added.

Publican calls time on ‘social enterprise’ restaurant with volunteer waiters: Inverness publican Kit Fraser has sold his pioneering restaurant The Joy of Taste, which employed paid kitchen staff but took on volunteer waiters with the aim of tackling urban loneliness and creating a type of friendship club, calling the social enterprise a ‘heroic failure’. The restaurant, on Church Street, Inverness, has been taken on by the owners of another Inverness venue – Charlie and Elaine Barbour who own the nearby White House bar and restaurant. Fraser, who also owns the award-winning city music venue Hootananny, and who started The Joy of Talk in 2011, told The Inverness Courier: “I kept it going but had to keep putting my hand in my pocket to bail it out every year. It turned out to be a classic Highland thing, a heroic failure.” A total of 60 volunteers had been taken on over the years and had not only made life-long friendships, but had created a happy place for customers, Fraser said. However, “with any business you need to balance the books”. The restaurant is still running under The Joy of Taste name but will be a commercial venture with no volunteers. The Barbours plan a refurbish and a rebrand in the near future. Charlie Barbour said: “The intention is that it will be more funkier version of The White House. We see it as an opportunity to strengthen our presence in the street.”

Prosecco sales overtake champagne sales in the UK: Prosecco sales overtook champagne sales in the UK for the first time last year, according to figures from research firm Kantar. Shoppers spent £181.8m on prosecco compared to £141.3m spent on champagne. Prosecco sells for an average of £6.49 a bottle compared to an average of £16.23 for champagne. Spending on prosecco doubled in 2014 compared to the year before.

Tom Kerridge backs NFU campaign to promote UK food as election priority: Two Michelin starred pub chef Tom Kerridge has backed a National Farmer’s Union (NFU) campaign to promote British food and farming as priority issues in the general election. The chef said he wanted the public to show its support for the farming sector by signing up to the union’s online campaign. He said: “I want to be able to trace back my food to where it has come from – provenance for me is hugely important. For me, British food has that little bit of heart and soul. The support we should give to the farmers on this small island of ours is very important. Not only is it about knowing where your food comes from, which I think leads to better quality and high standards, it will also ensure jobs. I am supporting my local farmers, which is key to a thriving food sector. We mustn’t take our home-grown food supply for granted.” The NFU published a report that showed that the country’s self-sufficiency in food had declined to just 60% over the past 30 years. The report forecast that if the decline continued at this rate only half of the nation’s food would be produced on British farms in the next 25 years.

Company News:

‘Tangible improvement in performance’ at Horatio Inns: Administrators have reported a ‘tangible improvement in performance’ at Horatio Inns, the company 99.92% owned by Marco Pierre White, which went into administration earlier this year, according to Insider Media. Horatio Inns’ subsidiaries own The Chequers Inn and The Lifeboat Inn in Thornham, Norfolk and The Wayford Bridge Inn and The Acle Bridge Inn on the Norfolk Broads. All four operate as traditional country inns with accommodation alongside a restaurant. A spokesman for the administrators, Nick Cropper, Fraser Gray and Anne O’Keefe of the restructuring firm AlixPartners told Insider Media that all four venues were still trading and that the administrators were still taking “expressions of interest for sale of the businesses”. A report to creditors in March revealed that Clydesdale Bank was owed £7.4m. The administrators said the level of return to creditors will depend on the outcome of the sale process. The businesses fell into administration after they experienced cash flow difficulties and were unable to meet the repayments of the cross-guaranteed debenture held with the bank.

Wrap it Up acquires three-strong Mexican Adobo: Wrap it Up, which is led by Mayub Mushtaq and is currently seeking £400,000 on Crowdcube in return for 6.25% of its equity, has bought the three-strong burrito business Mexican Adobo, which is expected to add £1m to annual sales. The sites will be rebranded. Turnover at Wrap it Up grew 54% to £3.1m last year and the company is planning its first opening outside of London in Manchester’s Deansgate in May. So far, 141 investors have pledged £285,830 on Crowdcube, which means it is 71% funded with 34 days left.

The Restaurant Group chief executive Danny Breithaupt paid base salary 27% less that predecessor: The Restaurant Group’s new chief executive Danny Breithaupt was paid a base salary 27% lower than his predecessor Andrew Page when he took over the role last September, the company annual report states. His base salary was set at £450,000. The report states: “While this reflected a low median base salary, the (remuneration) committee intends to increase his salary to market level over time as his experience in the role grows The first such assessment was carried out at the start of 2015, and, noting Danny Breithaupt’s progress to date, his salary, with effect from 1 January 2015, was increased from £450,000 to £480,000. The next such review will take place at the start of 2016.” Breithaupt’s total remuneration was £913,000 after the company’s long-tem incentive plan is included. Former chief executive Andrew Page earned a total of £4,559,000 (2013: £3,840,000) while finance director Stephen Critoph earned £1,649,9000 (£1,505,000) in the year.

San Marco Group acquires former Burnley pub: The Preston-based San Marco Group, operated by the Vragagnini family, has acquired a former pub on the edge of Burnley that has been closed for four years. The Bull and Butcher, on the A682, has been empty since it was last used as an Indian restaurant. Now San Marco, which runs a total of five Italian bars and restaurants in the Preston area, has purchased the building and is aiming to reopen the premises soon. Proposals have been lodged for a wholesale refurbishment, including a single-storey extension to the rear. Planning agent Hamaad Anwar said: “The Bull and Butcher building is locally listed and is a non-designated heritage asset and therefore great care and consideration has been taken in the design process to ensure the general character of the building is maintained throughout the refurbishment.” 

Starbucks UK offers Monument Valley app for free: Starbucks UK has been offering customers the chance to download the Monument Valley app for free. Monument Valley is a puzzle adventure game where users guide a lost princess through a series of environments. It features winding, intricate structures with geometry inspired by artist MC Escher. As of July 2014, one million copies of the game had been sold. It’s normally priced at £2.49. Apple made the game its iPad Game of the Year and handed it an “Apple Design Award” in 2014. Starbucks runs a pick of the Week offer – through the company’s own app, or printed codes, it releases weekly premium content, such as books, games, and music, free to customers.

Tesco hires former M&B marketing director: Tesco Hospitality, which runs the company’s restaurants division, has hired former Mitchells & Butlers strategy and marketing director Adam Martin as its commercial and marketing director. He will be responsible for “brand creation, marketing, commercial and IT activities in Tesco’s portfolio of out-of-home food and drink offers”. Martin worked for M&B for 15 years before joining foodservice supplier Brakes in November 2012 where he spent two-and-a-half years as category and pricing director responsible for the development of product range, pricing and services for Brake’s customers. The move reunites Martin with his former boss at M&B Adam Fowle. 

YO! Sushi yogurt supplier Lick nears half-way in crowdfunding: Lick, which supplies frozen fat-free natural yogurt to YO! Sushi and Whole Foods, is close to the half-way mark in a crowdfunding push on Crowdcube. It is looking to raise £200,000 in return for 6.25% of its equity – it has raised £99,000 from 179 investors with 19 days left. The Brighton-based company, which opened its first frozen yogurt shop in North Laine, Brighton in 2008, was founded by Owain Williams and Ky Wright. The company has forecast sales of £1,357,000 in the year to January 2016, producing Ebitda of £93,000. Sales are expected to hit £5,374,000 by January 2018, producing Ebitda of £960,000. Cash raised will be used to increase distribution and international expansion.

Chef Peter Gordon devises new fusion burger for Gourmet Burger Kitchen: Top New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon has devised a new fusion burger for Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Gordon, who created the original Gourmet Burger Kitchen menu back in 2001 when it opened our first restaurant on Northcote Road, Battersea, has created the duck confit burger which combines crisp confit duck layered with a creamy duck liver pâté, topped with Cheddar cheese, crispy shallots and a fiery ginger and apricot chilli jam. Gordon has also created a banana Biscoff milkshake, combining banana ice cream and Lotus Biscoff caramelised biscuits.

Handmade Burger Co opens 23rd site: Upmarket burger company Handmade Burger Co has opened at The Old Still in Queensgate, Peterborough – its 23rd site. The brand’s new 3,942 sq ft restaurant is set across two floors. The location, situated next to Queensgate’s Westgate Arcade, has been converted from its previous use as a pub. It marks the second site for Handmade Burger Co in the region. There is space for 130 covers in the new restaurant. Chris Sargeant, owner of Handmade Burger Co, said: “We are very happy to have opened at Queensgate and start welcoming people to our wonderful new location at The Old Still. The management at Queensgate have been very supportive in our project to restore the site, and with the high footfall that the area commands, it is set to become a prime location for our brand.” Guy Thomas, head of retail leasing at Lend Lease, added: “Handmade Burger Co marks another step forward in repositioning Queensgate, and Peterborough with it, as a major regional destination for leading brands. Rejuvinating The Old Still will drive footfall through adjoining areas and we are very pleased that Handmade Burger Co are the brand to be helping us lead this transformation.”

Burger King launches Party in the Park summer menu: Burger King has launched a Party in the Park summer menu. It sees the return of the mushroom Swiss steakhouse (a Whopper patty, sautéed mushrooms, two slices of Swiss cheese and a mushroom sauce) and two new burgers – the pulled pork BBQ Whopper (a Whopper with pulled pork and BBQ sauce) and ciabatta chicken tendercrisp (crispy chicken, topped with roasted tomato sauce and Swiss cheese in a ciabatta bun). The new Party in the Park menu will also include chicken fries and mozzarella sticks, and well as three new frozen drinks (frozen lemonade, frozen lemon limeade, frozen cherry berry lemonade) and a pina colada smoothie. New of the dessert menu is a Bounty fusion (vanilla ice cream with a chocolate and coconut Bounty sauce).

Gusto Glasgow opens: The latest in the Gusto chain of restaurants opened its doors in Glasgow on Saturday (11 April). The 150-cover restaurant, which includes an outdoor terrace space for 30, is based in the A-Listed former Clydesdale bank building on Bothwell Street. As well as 12 types of pizza and pasta dishes such as butternut squash ravioli and artichoke tortellini, there will also be a selection of exclusive main meals and specials which are only available at the Glasgow venue. The restaurant has a square central bar whose offerings include 100 different cocktails. Gusto’s business development manager, Gordon McGuire, said: “We’re very excited about Gusto opening. We see ourselves as more than just a restaurant and style bar; we aim to be a hub of social activity for the people of Glasgow.” Last year, Gusto Restaurant and Bar completed a management buyout from Living Ventures, funded by Palatine Private Equity. The chain currently has nine other outlets, seven in north west England and others in Edinburgh and Newcastle upon Tyne. The company said its growth plans include adding new venues across Scotland “in the coming years”.

Ed’s Easy Diner seeks Manchester outlet: Ed’s Easy Diner, the retro-American diner chain, is seeking planning permission to open in the former-Monsoon unit at 15 King Street in Manchester. The planned restaurant would occupy two levels of the Grade II-listed former retail unit with a total of 137 covers spread across 5,200 sq ft on the ground floor and basement levels. The chain currently has 31 outlets from Plymouth to Glasgow, with openings lined up and confirmed in Aberdeen, the Boucher Retail Park in Belfast, the Grosvenor Centre in Chester, Luton and Inverness. It has announced a target of 55 sites by the end of this year.

Travelodge lines up £1bn sale: Budget hotel chain Travelodge is lining up a £1bn sale, The Times has reported. The company, rescued from collapse three years ago, is set to report a 63% rise in underlying profit to £66.2m on sales up 14.9% to £497.2m, the newspaper reported. Owners Goldman Sachs, Avenue Capital and GoldenTree Asset Management are close to appointing advisers to consider strategic options, which include a flotation.

Birmingham restaurant opens second venue with own rickshaw: Pushkar Cocktail Bar & Dining in Broad Street, Birmingham has launched its second restaurant, in Edgbaston, under the name Praza Cocktail Bar & Dining. The new outlet is believed to be the first restaurant in Birmingham with its own rickshaw, which can transport diners from Pushkar and two nearby hotels, The Plough and Harrow and The Edgbaston. The new restaurant is based in a large Victorian building that was formerly JJ’s and The Rose Murree. It will serve a seasonal Indian menu with dishes changing every four months, featuring meats such as pigeon, rabbit and lobster on offer. The ground floor has two private dining rooms and room for 40 diners and a “tea and dessert corner”. The first floor has space for 80 more diners. Creative director Rai Singh said: “This is going to be Indian cuisine at a different level. We’re stepping away from the norm with a seasonal menu, changing every four months. Pushkar is very North Indian, decorated in gold and white, but Praza is sassy and edgy, in keeping with the Edgbaston feel.”

Telephone kiosk coffee shop company seeks permission for sites in Norwich: A company that turns iconic red telephone kiosks into kiosks selling coffee and ice cream is seeking planning permission to convert two kiosks in Norwich. The Red Kiosk Company opened the first two self-contained food and beverage kiosks within the shell of two former telephone boxes on New Road, near Pavilion Gardens in Brighton in June 2014, and it now has 11 other sites in Greenwich, Hampstead, Stratford and Camden in London, and Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth and Preston. The company, through its subsidiary Thinking Outside The Box, wants to strip out the telephone equipment inside two kiosks in Tombland, Norwich and turn them into kiosks selling the likes of coffee and ice cream. The kiosks would be staffed, with a drop-down seat and swivel-out basin. Opening hours would be 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, 8am until 7pm on Saturdays and 9am until 6pm on Sundays. In documents lodged as part of a planning application to Norwich City Council, architect Miles Broe said: “The concept of a public telephone box is now outdated, as the majority of people own a mobile phone. The proposed new use maintains their iconic appearance, but re-invents their use to suit the 21st century.” The kiosks were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V in 1935. Some 60,000 were installed across Britain, but only around 11,000 now remain.

Cote to open in West Bridgford on 20 April: Cote Brasserie is opening in West Bridgford, Nottingham on Monday 20 April after a £950,000 refurbishment of a former David Holmes shoe shop in Central Avenue. The restaurant will have 114 covers, with a pavement terrace of 30 seats on one side of the premises. The opening is creating 15 full-time and 35 part-time jobs. Joint managing director Harald Samuelsson said: “Trent Bridge attracts both local people and those from further afield into the area and we look forward to welcoming everyone, be it our neighbours or match-goers.”

Papa John’s rolls out bill-splitting tool: Papa John’s, the pizza delivery chain, has unveiled a bill-splitting tool in the United States called PayShare, which lets multiple customers split their pizza bill in an online or mobile order. Papa John’s founder and chief executive, John Schnatter, said: “In today’s ‘sharing economy’, customers split fares for car services and share their homes or vacation rental sites, so why not share the pizza bill, too. PayShare is yet another milestone for Papa John’s, which has a solid track record of digital firsts, including the first commercial pizza chain to allow system-wide online ordering in our traditional restaurants 15 years ago, and the first pizza chain (in the US) to account for 50% of all sales through digital and mobile channels.” The company also hopes that the new system gets people to rethink the cost of a pizza, and ensure that customers do not have to spend time worrying about getting repaid for a pizza they order with friends. Bob Kraut, Papa John’s chief marketing officer, said: “PayShare will change the mindset of our customers as they begin to think less of a $20 order and see it more as a $5 meal. The offering is a simple, digital solution that allows our customers to focus on enjoying their favourite pizza with their friends and family, not on how they’re going to get paid back. The group can even post its order on social media channels to let its community know what it ordered.”

Former Enterprise site in Brighton goes back of the market: A former Enterprise Inns site in Brighton has gone back on the market after plans to convert it into flats were rejected. Campaigners could now have the chance to buy The Rose Hill Tavern and keep it as a pub after the latest development fell through. Owner Joanne Harris, of Evenden Estates, told The Brighton Argus she was selling up after Brighton and Hove city councillors threw out her request to transform it into two three-bedroom flats. She bought the pub, in Rose Hill Terrace, Brighton, from Enterprise Inns which closed it in May 2014 after deciding the business was unviable. Harris said: “The councillors went against the officer’s recommendations on our application. I have decided to sell because our plans were rejected but I don’t believe that will affect the price. If the campaigners can raise the funds I don’t have a problem with it. But last time it was on the market no one was interested in it as a pub.”

York restaurateur branches out into Beverley: The son of a family running an Indian restaurant in York is to open his own establishment in Beverley in East Yorkshire. Sham Alom has helped run the family business, The Garden of India in York, for the past 20 years. He is now opening Rumi’s Restaurant on the first floor of the former Agricultural House in Walkergate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, the former home of the National Farmer’s Union (NFU). Alom told The Hull Daily Mail: “I have helped run the family business for many years but now I have decided to branch out as it has always been on my mind to. Originally I was looking for somewhere in York but a friend suggested Beverley to me. I came for a visit and fell in love with it. I viewed a couple of places but I kept coming back to the NFU building.” Rumi’s, which is expected to open in June after extensive refurbishment work to the building, will serve meals created from traditional family recipes as well as modern-day dishes. The restaurant is expected to cater for 80 people at a time and will also offer a takeaway service.

Lola Jeans searching Cardiff, York and Durham for potential sites: The couple behind the Lola Jeans bar and restaurants venues are looking for venues in two cities in the north of England and one in Wales as potential roll-out sites for their brand. Paul Sample, a former professional ice hockey player, and his fiancee Lindsey opened Lola Jeans in Tynemouth in 2011, following it with a second venue in Newcastle at the former Godfather restaurant in Market Street in November last year. Earlier this month the Newcastle venue was expanded with a speakeasy-style cocktail bar called Basement Speak. Now Sample has told The Newcastle Journal that the business is looking at Cardiff, York and Durham for potential sites as it seeks to expand the Lola Jeans brand.

Simpsons in Edgbaston to stay open during three-month refurb: Simpsons restaurant in Edgbaston, owned by the Michelin-starred chef Andreas Antona, is to undergo an extensive refurbishment that will extend the main dining area and update the decor in the Grade II listed building in Highfield Road that is its home. The refurbishment coincides with the Edgbaston restaurant having held a Michelin star for the past 11 years and has been organised by the building’s owner, Calthorpe Estates. The main dining area will move into what is currently the lounge and private dining room. Simpsons will remain open as normal during the improvement works, which are expected to last until early autumn. Antona said: “The refurbishment has been on the cards for a couple of years now, and during that time we have been working through plans to enhance the building in a manner that is sensitive to the building’s Grade-II listed status, while improving efficiency of service for the restaurant. It is a huge and exciting undertaking that will signal the beginning of a new era for Simpsons and underline our ambition to remain at the forefront of Birmingham’s dining scene.”

Former Orchid site to become Toby Carvery: A former Orchid Group pub, The Blackbrook Tavern on the Ilminster Road in Taunton, Somerset, has reopened, after a six-week refurbishment, as a Toby Carvery. The restaurant has seating for 172 people and has created 20 jobs. The pub was acquired as part of Mitchells & Butlers purchase of 173 Orchid sites in June 2014 for £266m.

Manchester music venue signs partnership deal with Warsteiner: The Manchester music venue Band on the Wall has announced a three-year partnership deal with the German beer brand Warsteiner. Band on the Wall, formerly The George and Dragon pub in Swan Street in the Northern Quarter, is one of Manchester’s best-known music venues and is run by Inner City Music, a registered charity. Warsteiner was distributed in the UK by Daniel Thwaites and will now be distributed by Marston’s. Gavin Sharp, chief executive of Inner City Music, said: “I am delighted to announce our partnership with Warsteiner. We share the same grown up passion and enthusiasm for music and talent, and the deal will help us develop our event programme both at the venue and at partner venues across the north of England.”

Premier Inn proposed for Middlesbrough car park: Plans have gone before Middlesbrough Council for a six-storey, 32,000 sq ft, 83-bedroom hotel, earmarked to be a Premier Inn, on the Gurney Street car park in Middlesbrough. The ground floor of the building will consist of the reception area, a restaurant and bar, and three bedrooms. The remaining floors will each have a similar layout of 16 bedrooms each. The hotel would sit alongside the existing Thistle Hotel. Thistle has raised concerns regarding the loss of an existing car parking area, although it does not own the land. A report from Middlesbrough planning and development committee said the proposal “represents the regeneration of a key site within the town centre”. The report continued: “It is apparent that a building of such a scale as proposed could be accommodated within the plot and would not be out of keeping with the surrounding area.” The proposal is part of the Gurney Street Triangle masterplan, which includes the development of a two-storey building housing both a 30,000 sq ft casino and a 2,500 sq ft restaurant unit, and the refurbishment and conversion of the vacant Gurney House into a 150-bedroom hotel.

Liverpool lapdancing club to relocate: The lapdancing club X in the City is relocating from its premises in Lime Street, Liverpool, after a compulsory purchase order as part of a £35m regeneration scheme. The club is moving to a building once occupied by the nightclub Fudge on Wood Street in Liverpool. The 5,000 sq ft location was being marketed at rental offers in excess of £80,000 on behalf of a private landlord. Colin Siebert, director, licensed and leisure for the Liverpool office of Colliers, who secured the letting, said: “The former nightclub premises are ideal for X in the City and I understand that they plan to open very soon.”

Former Middlesbrough Chicago Rock Cafe could reopen as nightclub: The building that once housed a Chicago Rock Cafe in Middlesbrough could reopen as a nightclub. The building, on Wilson Street, opened as a Chicago Rock Cafe in 1999, after £2.9m was spent renovating the site formerly known as The Venue. The upstairs at the premises was originally known as Liquid, but a £500,000 investment saw it reopen in 2005 as Lava and Ignite. In 2007, Chicago Rock Cafe and the upstairs night club, then known as Love2Love, were the first in the region to use swabs to test for cocaine use. It was later owned by 3D Entertainment, but closed after that company’s collapse into administration in 2010. Now an application for planning permission for the premises to be used as a centre for “various related functions” which include “a banqueting suite, weddings, parties, concerts, night club, events and all types of activities” has been submitted to Middlesbrough Council by a London-based company, Southmill Properties Group. The application adds: “It’s quite a generic description, there is no internal or external alteration.”

Franchisee loses fight to save KFC from demolition: The franchisee of a KFC restaurant in Leicester has lost a fight to stop his landlords from demolishing the building because they want something better-looking on the site. Planning officers have given permission for the demolition of the one-storey KFC on the St George’s Retail Park, off Humberstone Road, Leicester and its replacement by a new block of shops. The trustees of the St George’s Leicester Unit Trust say the KFC gives a “low impact, low offer” impression of the complex. They intend to replace it with a new “stunning” building as a focal point on the roundabout. A spokesman for the trustees said: “The team is clearly pleased to have secured planning permission as this forms part of an overall investment and improvement plan for the park.” The outlet is run by KFC franchisee Demi Power of Ruislip, North London, which has nine KFC outlets in the area, employing 260 people. Demi Power’s agent, Paul Jenkins, said his client fought to keep the St George’s branch open. He told The Leicester Mercury: “My clients were handed a notice telling them their lease would not be renewed when it expires on 24 March. They want to continue because it is a successful restaurant and it is well used. We find it a complete nonsense that the council and their planning team can allow the demolition of a well-known and popular drive-through site to be replaced with more edge-of-town retailing, taking more emphasis away from using the traditional town centre.” No dates have been set for when the KFC will close, when the demolition will take place or when the new building will rise.

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