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Thu 30th Apr 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Fast casual brands dominate US growth list: Fast-casual brands in Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report increased their collective annual sales in the United States by 12.8% to $30bn in 2014, a growth rate nearly double the next-largest increase from any other restaurant segment. The market research firm's annual ranking of the 500 largest chain restaurants revealed that fast casual's one-year growth rate exceeded its five-year compound annual growth rate of 11.7%, suggesting that the sector still has ample momentum for sales and unit expansion in the US. Darren Tristano, executive vice-president of Technomic, said: "Whether they offer the customisation of a build-your-own format or just their made-to-order signature dishes, fast-casual chains clearly hit the sweet spot with consumers. The winning formula of high-quality menu items in upscale settings, with high-touch service at prices between fast food and casual dining, can be applied to any kind of food and is powering growth in segments from burgers and barbecue to sushi and pizza. We'll continue to see fast casual drive much of the sales growth in the restaurant industry for years to come." Four of the five fastest-growing brands of the past year came from fast casual, including the first build-your-own pizza chain to crack Technomic's annual ranking of the 500 largest restaurant chains, Pieology. The customisable pizza concept increased its annual sales 230% year-on-year, to $44.6m in 2014, when its restaurant count nearly tripled to 42 locations. Fellow fast casual chains PDQ and BurgerFi each more than doubled their annual sales, with increases of 119% and 111% respectively, and finished No 2 and No 3 on the fastest-growing brand ranking. Del Frisco's Grille followed with a 58% sales increase for 2014, and the newly public "better burger" brand The Habit Burger Grill placed No 5 with a 46% gain. Technomic said each rapidly growing brand faces stiff competition within its peer set for the same property and management talent, let alone for the market share they all hope to take from limited-service and full-service rivals, so they all look to differentiate in meaningful ways. Pieology, for instance, offers unlimited toppings on its pizzas for one set price, while PDQ touts the complete absence of freezers and microwaves in its family-friendly restaurants. BurgerFi cultivates an eco-friendly reputation with chairs made from recycled soda bottles and buildings made from other recycled materials. Fast casual also dominated sales growth among larger restaurant chains with at least $200m in annual system-wide sales, Technomic found. In that group, Jersey Mike's Subs increased its sales 30% to $523m in 2014, ranking just ahead of Dickey's Barbecue Pit, which recorded a 29% gain and $426m annual sales. Even off a ten-figure base, Chipotle Mexican Grill increased annual sales 28% to $4.05bn.

Industry News:

Elliotts managing director James Hacon to host marketing panel at Propel summer conference: The managing director of leading sector marketing and PR agency Elliotts, James Hacon, is to host a marketing panel at the Propel conference at the Oxford Belfry on Thursday 2 July, which is followed by Propel’s summer party. Hacon talks to Georgia Hall, brand and marketing manager at Cafe Rouge, Kate Cargill group marketing manager at Hix Restaurants, and Tim Foster, head of being awesome at Yummy Pubs, about the future of marketing in the digital age. Operators can book as many as two free places by emailing
Manchester bloggers test Pret informal rewards scheme: Two bloggers in Manchester have followed the lead of the London Evening Standard in putting Pret A Manger's informal rewards strategy to the test after chief executive Clive Schlee has revealed that staff are allowed to give likeable or regular customers free items. Schlee said this week he thought the policy was a simpler alternative to the loyalty-card scheme. Bloggers Alex Hibbert and Katie Butler went into five stores in Manchester city centre, at Piccadilly Station, Piccadilly Gardens, Cross Street, Deansgate and Spinningfields. They were given free items at three of the five stores. Hibbert said: “It’s really important to engage with the person who is serving you, as well as other people around you. I think that’s the message Pret are trying to put out, that being friendly is better for everyone. And I got free cups of coffee.”

Daily Telegraph columnist – Whitbread shouldn’t demerge Costa Coffee: The Daily Telegraph business columnist Allister Heath has argued against the de-merger of Costa Coffee by Whitbread. He wrote: “Demergers do often make sense: they give investors more choice and allow them to allocate their capital exactly as they see fit, rather than having to follow the diktats of conglomerates. But this doesn’t mean they make sense in every case: Whitbread, for some reason, has developed a great feel for both coffee shops and hotels. It has a great cadre of senior managers who have stumbled upon a great model. Breaking up the company would undoubtedly endanger this intangible know-how, and damage one or both businesses. Let us hope the next CEO comes out against a demerger. The next boss should also be allowed to proceed with ambitious growth plans, even if they appear costly to some: genuine out-performance is a rare commodity in business, and the loss of the CEO is a big enough blow already. Whitbread is a great British success story. It ain’t broke, so don’t try to fix it.”
Nespresso launches pilot cafe in Vienna: Nespresso has launched a pilot Nespresso Cafe in Vienna, as part of a joint venture with the super-premium food caterer DO&CO. The new cafe boutique, in Mariahilferstrasse, combines a premium coffee shop and take-away service with the Nespresso Cube, an automatic coffee vending machine. Jean-Marc Duvoisin, chief executive of Nestlé Nespresso, said: "The Nespresso Cafe is the latest in our pipeline of retail and service innovations. It is a true embodiment of our brand. Not only can consumers indulge in the Nespresso experience, they will also be able to purchase our Grand Cru coffees through our automated boutique, the Nespresso Cube. Our partnership with DO&CO is highly complementary in terms of their expertise in providing super premium food expertise to enrich the experience." The cafe serves Nespresso Grand Cru coffees and more than 20 permanent and seasonal coffee recipes prepared by baristas. It also serves savoury and sweet items, including salads, macaroons and pastries.

Diet swap experiment shows dangers of Western diet: A two-week diet swap experiment has hinted at just how damaging a Western diet might be to our guts. Researchers asked people in Africa and the United States to switch diets for two weeks: 20 US volunteers moved to a low-fat, high-fibre diet, while 20 volunteers from rural Africa were asked to eat more "junk" food. Although the swap was brief, its impact was visible, Nature Communication says. The Americans benefited from less bowel inflammation, while the African volunteers' bowel health deteriorated. It is not possible to make any firm conclusions based on such a small study, experts say. But the findings do support the belief that modern Western diets, which are high in fat and sugar and low in fibre, are unhealthy.
Bojangles sets IPO terms: Bojangles is the latest restaurant chain in the United States to head for a public listing, having set terms for its upcoming initial public offering, pricing shares at a range of $15 to $17. The quick-service chicken operator plans to sell 6.3 million shares, and could raise as much as $123m if its stock is priced at the peak of that range. The peak price would give Bojangles a market cap of $610m. Bojangles restaurants have average unit volumes of $1.8m, thanks a strong breakfast business that is unique among chicken chains that serve primarily bone-in chicken. Almost two fifths of its sales come before 11am. The company said like-for-like sales have increased for 19 straight quarters, including 7% growth in the fourth quarter of 2014. Revenue has grown an average of 12.8% per year between 2011 and 2014, from $299.9m to $430.5m.

Belfast E coli outbreak restaurant Flicks fined £110,000: The company that ran a Belfast restaurant involved in a major E coli outbreak has been fined £110,000. At least 140 people contracted E coli in an outbreak at Flicks restaurant, based at Yorkgate shopping centre, Belfast, three years ago. It was described at the time as the worst outbreak of E coli in Northern Ireland's history. Earlier this month the owner of the Yorkgate Movie House, Michael McAdam, pleaded guilty to 11 food hygiene breaches. More than £300,000 has already been paid out in compensation to victims of the outbreak. They have received payments ranging from £3,000 to £12,000. Speaking after the sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, McAdam said his company "fully accepts" the fine. "I am personally devastated that any business of mine could have caused people to become ill," he said.

Deschutes Brewery wins hat-trick in brewing competition: Brewers and cider makers from all over the world gathered at London’s Guildhall yesterday for the unveiling of the Championship winners in the International Brewing and Cider Awards 2015. Trophies were awarded to nine beers and one cider, with US brewer Deschutes scoring a ‘hat trick’ with three Championship titles. The ceremony, which marked the end of the 2015 competition, was attended by more than 400 people. As well as the presentations to the ten Championship winners, Bronze, Silver and Gold medals were given to more than 100 brewers and cider makers. Deschutes took an impressive three Championships and UK-based Marston’s picked up two, while Oakham Ales, also from the UK, took the Champion Cask Conditioned Ale title again, having won it in 2013.

Company News:

Operating losses increase at Cha Cha Moon: Operating losses increased to £497,000 at Cha Cha Moon, the Chinese noodle restaurant off Carnaby Street in Soho, Central London set up by Alan Yau and owned by Kout Food Group. The losses in the year to 31 December 2013 increased from £206,000 the year before. Turnover dropped by 8% to £2,086,000. The company said: “Cha Cha Moon performed well despite recessionary trading conditions. Total sales were down by £170,000 to £2,086,000. The company’s longer-term plan is to expand the brand as opportunity arises.” Yau is still a director of the company. Cha Cha Moon owes its parent company £12.04m.
Wagamama publishes list of 13 priority London locations: Wagamama has published a list of 13 of its priority London locations in Property Week magazine, offering a £40,000 introduction fee to non-retained agents. The priority sites are: Cowcross Street, Farringdon; One New Change, St Paul’s; York Way, Kings Cross; Euston Road, Euston; Irving Street and Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square; Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Garden; Marble Arch; The Cut and Baylis Road, Waterloo; Tooley Street, London Bridge; and Brompton Road, Knightsbridge.
Farm Girl Cafe to open next month: A new concept, Farm Girl Cafe, will open next month on Portobello Road, West London. The cafe is inspired by founder Rose Mann’s childhood growing up on a rural farm outside Melbourne, and will serve "nutritious yet substantial food". Dishes will include Farm Girl Porridge, made with jumbo oats, chia seeds, Himalayan salt and coconut oil, served with a choice of yoghurt, berries or avocado; roast beetroot salad, made with feta, purple sprouting broccoli, coriander, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds; and a "vegan BLT", made from coconut bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and cashew chilli guacamole. The cafe's "signature drink" will be Coconut Drip, cold-brew coffee, prepared with toasted coconut, served with ice and homemade coconut milk or almond milk on the side. Other highlights from the drinks list are fresh juices and cold-pressed juices, and a "superfood smoothie" menu.
Carlsberg launches 'do your own direct marketing' guide for pubs: Carlsberg has added a "build your own direct marketing campaign" section on its website for licensees, to help pubs promote themselves to current and prospective customers. Licensees can take an on-line course via the website which shows them how to collect and manage their own database of customers, purchase prospect customer data specific to their local area and target market, and create their communications, from flyers to emails to text messages. The initiative, according to James Lousada, chief executive of Carlsberg UK, is part of "a whole series of bundles of activity" now available through the website, ranging from training on how to manage a pub cellar to lower costs for accessing BT Sports, so that "a licensee doesn't just get their beer from us but they get access to these other packages." Lousada told Propel: "We see ourselves as a genuine partner for licensees in building their business. We're not simply about turning up as a wholesale proposition saying, 'here's your beer, here's your wine.' It's, 'here's Carlsberg, and by the way I can help you with all these other areas of your business.' That differentiates us."
Thai Leisure Group lines up Cambridge opening for Thaikhun brand: Thai Leisure Group is to open a Thaikhun site in Cambridge on 5 June. The opening, on the city's Quayside, has more than 500 likers on Facebook already. The brand, which promises street food, salads and soups as well as grills, stirfrys and curries, already has a branch in Manchester. The opening means an Oxbridge double, with an Oxford site due to open imminently. The restaurant will offer Thai cocktails alongside its menu, which has a range of meat and vegetarian options. A separate takeaway menu is also available.

Cereal cafe owners to open a second site: The owners of London’s first cereal cafe are set to open a second site in Camden, North London after the runaway success of their first venture. The Northern Irish twins Alan and Gary Keery opened Cereal Killer Cafe in Brick Lane, Shoreditch, East London last November. The new cafe will open on 14 May in Camden Stables. It will be open every day from 9.30am to 7.30pm, serving an array of different cereals. Customers will be able to buy similar treats to the east London venue, including American brands, cereal cocktails as well as cereal merchandise. There will also be a takeaway option.

Fatburger set to open in Camden next month: The American chain Fatburger, known for its 2,500-calorie XXXL burger, is to open its first UK branch in Jamestown Road, Camden Town, North London next month. The new outlet is taking over a unit formerly occupied by YO! Sushi, next to Byron. Fatburger is hoping to open 20 restaurants across the country once it has launched in Camden. It was founded in the late 1940s. The chain's chief executive, Andy Wiederhorn, said: “We’re excited to bring our Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express international expansion to Europe, and we believe that London is a great place to start. The city is an exciting melting pot of various foods, people, and experiences, and we know that our all-American cuisine will fit in nicely with the diverse culture.”

Kent operator Charles Smythe open fifth pub, in Whitstable: Charles Smyth has opened a fifth pub, the Smack Inn in Whitstable, a Shepherd Neame site that has seen a £100,000 investment. It was originally a pair of fisherman’s cottages built in the 1800s, and a more rustic feel has been created in keeping with the pub’s heritage, by exposing the brickwork in the bar area and stripping the wall panelling back to natural wood. The garden has been given a major revamp, with a new beach hut-themed covered seating area as its centrepiece. The pub’s exterior has been repainted with handpainted signwriting, and a swing sign has been erected. The space at the front of the pub has also been converted from a parking area to customer seating. Smythe said: “We have already had some great feedback about the Smack’s new look, and with its fantastic location just a short stroll from the beach, I’m confident it will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Restaurant Group to open two brands on site on former Red Hot World Buffet site in July: The Restaurant Group will open Chiquito and Coast to Coast restaurants in Northampton in July. The Restaurant Group is currently building a new outlet on the site of the former Red Hot World Buffet in Sixfields and another one next door to it. The Red Hot World Buffet site burned down in December 2013 and the chain's owners decided against rebuilding the site. A spokesperson for the Restaurant Group said: "The restaurants in Sixfields are anticipated to open for business in early July."

Cafe Rouge re-opens in Liverpool with a Beatles theme: The Cafe Rouge outlet in Liverpool One has re-opened after undergoing a Beatles-inspired makeover. The restaurant has a Fab Four ‘"All you Need Is Love" theme, which pays homage to both Parisian romance and Liverpool’s Merseybeat heritage, with bespoke artwork and "statement pieces". David Ledwith, the restaurant's manager, said: “This is an exciting moment for us. The whole team can’t wait to reveal this new look, one that is particularly personal to us here in Liverpool, and of course the fabulous new menu. Cafe Rouge is over 25 years in the business and this feels like a great way to celebrate that!”

Carluccio’s lines up Beverley opening: Carluccio's has unveiled plans to invest more than £500,000 in converting a building in Beverley, East Yorkshire into its latest venue, creating 35 jobs. The company is looking to open a 90-seat restaurant, cafe and foodshop at the former Burton store, which has stood empty in Toll Gavel since last August. It is inviting people to visit the premises on Thursday, between 9am and 4pm, to give their views on the plans for the property. Simon Kossoff, the chairman of Carluccio's, said: "We want to show the people of Beverley what Carluccio's is, what it does and what they should expect in terms of the design and development of the building." Kossoff decided Beverley would be the ideal location for Carluccio's after he visited the historic market town earlier this year. He said: "It is a wonderful town. As soon as we visited, we thought it was a great location." Beverley has a reputation as the dining capital of the East Riding, with two latest venues opening this month, at Lazo in Toll Gavel and Cosmo's in Wednesday Market.

Design agency wins award for work on Hydes flagship opening: Manchester-based Jam Creative has won a Drum design award for its work on Hydes Brewery’s boutique hotel and pub the Abel Heywood in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The site was opened in December 2014 ,with Hydes taking a derelict building, investing more than £1 and turning the business into what it claims is one of the highest-quality pubs and boutique hotels in the Northern Quarter. The acquisition was part of Hydes’ strategy of focusing efforts on high-quality, managed houses. Hydes turnover increased by 9.4% to £18.5m in the 2013 to 2014 financial year. The company’s 2014 to 2015 results are expected to be released in July.

Prezzo secures Rickmansworth site: Prezzo has secured a new site on the High Street, Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire. It has taken a new 25-year lease from the private landlord for the 3,700 sq ft ground and first floor having paid a premium to the previous leaseholder pizzeria Remo’s Piazza. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Restaurant Property agency director and founder David Rawlinson who advised Prezzo said: “Rickmansworth has been in Prezzo’s sights for a number of years. It’s more like a country town than the suburbs and it’s a commuter hot spot. This is the right site, a convenient, prominent location that previously was home to a popular family restaurant. With Prezzo’s winning formula we expect this new restaurant to trade very well.” Lever Charles Granger acted for the previous tenant.
Fake Krispy Kreme Facebook page gets Dublin doughnut fans excited with spoof opening announcement: A Facebook page set up in the name of "Krispy Kreme Ireland" has excited Dublin fans of the doughnut chain by claiming that it will be opening an outlet in the St Stephen's Green shopping centre in the heart of the city at the end of this month. Twitter was swiftly hot with excitement, with one tweeter saying: "Just heard that @krispykreme are launching in Dublin any day now.*faints", and another declaring: "It'll be a two-hour round trip for me to go to Dublin to get them, but it's worth it." However, the Facebook page directs to a website that is “not available”, and as the tweets grew, Krispy Kreme issued its own tweet saying: "Unfortunately, that is a fake page. We are working to remove it from Facebook. We're very sorry for any confusion." Twitter user Elle Carroll summed up the feelings of many by tweeting: "I have just gone from ecstatic to devastated in 0.2 seconds … Dublin needs you #krispykreme." The company did provide a glimmer of hope, however, supplying a link for Twitter users to its page explaining how to apply for a franchise.
Whitbread to make multi-million pound investment in digital: Whitbread is planning to improve its customer offer with a multi-million pound digital investment. The company said: “We are focused on continually improving our customer propositions. In February 2015, we launched our free upgraded wi-fi offering and in 2015/16 we will increase the number of full room refurbishments to around 4,500 rooms, complete the roll out of our 'best ever' bed and install around 2,300 air-conditioning units. We will also continue to increase our revenue investment in technology and process improvements as we grow our digital capabilities and evolve our systems to support future growth. These revenue investments will amount to approximately £15m incremental spend in 2015/16."

Stonegate to open Penny Black tomorrow: Stonegate Pub Company will open the Penny Black on Lower Gungate in Tamworth, Staffordshire tomorrow. The name was chosen by the people of Tamworth in a competition and reflects the pub's site, on the former Post Office. It will open as a traditional town centre pub offering value food, cask and craft ales, sports viewing and music-led entertainment at weekends. It will open daily from 8am with a new food and drink offer including breakfast selections such as porridge served with fruit, maple syrup or jam, a breakfast wrap of sausage, bacon, fried egg and hash browns and pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, while main course options include fish and chips, steak and Bombardier ale pie, a choice of ten different burgers, grill dishes, salads and lower-calorie choices and sharing platters.
BHS signs deals with Booker and Compass: BHS, sold last month for £1 by the tycoon Sir Philip Green, has agreed new contracts with Compass, the canteen operator, and the cash and carry operator Booker. BHS said that the deals would “lead to an improved and enhanced customer experience in stores”. It said Booker will now be its exclusive food supplier under plans to roll out convenience food to a further 20 stores by the end of the summer. This would create 250 jobs, and BHS aims to expand its food offering to other stores later in the year. It currently has 171 department stores. The chain said the new owner is pursuing a multi-million pound project to upgrade BHS’s cafes and restaurants, the running of which will be taken over by Compass. Darren Topp, chief executive of BHS, said: "This strategic alliance with Britain’s best food-service company will lead to greater investment in BHS stores, upgrading and improving the dining options for our customers. This frees up my team to focus on what we do best: sourcing and selling great home products and clothing at great prices, while allowing BHS to expand into the new areas.”.
One Delivery signs 50th franchisee: One Delivery Franchise, which delivers food from McDonalds, KFC and others, has gained its 50th franchisee in the UK, Wayne Malyon of Oldbrook, Milton Keynes, The franchise uses battery-powered heated bags to keep food as hot as possible. Customers log online at, enter their postcode and choose from desired favourite menu, and then pay via credit card. The new 1DMK has delivered more than 200 orders in its first month alone. Malyon, who has since bought five more territories, said: "I never had any doubts it would be successful in Milton Keynes. I had been looking at business opportunities for a while and had considered a few. However once I came across One Delivery I knew this was the business for me. If someone else had brought this idea to Milton Keynes I would have been one of their best customers – this confirmed to me that it was a risk worth taking. I decided to invest in a One Delivery franchise as I saw an opportunity to give my young family a better future."
Windsor nightclub to change operating format after licence threat: A nightclub in Windsor will reopen under a new name and become a restaurant, bar and cabaret after its licence was varied rather than revoked by local councillors. Thames Valley Police had called for the licence of Mantra in Windsor to be revoked after it was suspended for 35 days last summer. It came after what police said were repeated failures to prevent crime and disorder and public nuisance in and around the venue. Windsor and Maidenhead Council agreed a number of variations. Mantra will have to close by 1am on Friday and Saturday nights, while the council and the venue's owners agreed it will change its focus and become a restaurant, champagne-cocktail bar and late-night cabaret venue.
Fires hit Deep Blue Restaurants profits, as price of cod rises 30%: Deep Blue Restaurants, which operates 19 fish and chip restaurants, has reported turnover dipped by £43,000 to £5,101,000 in the year to 30 September 2014, a fall it said was caused by fires at three outlets. The fires also had a negative impact on Ebitda, which fell to £451,000 from £609,000 the year before. Two of the three insurance claims for business interruption and fire damage, involving in excess of £300,000, were repudiated by the company’s insurer. Deep Blue has appealed against the repudiations. Gross margin for the year was 70.6%, up slightly compared to 70 in 2013. Profit after tax was £851,000, a turnaround from a loss of £468,060 in the previous year. The improvement was due to the exit of the Rapid Realisation Fund’s investment. The company said that the price of cod increased by around 30% in January 2015. It said: “This increase has impacted on the company’s gross margin but, despite the increase, through a combination of price rises and operational efficiencies, which do not impact on the company’s brand integrity, the company is still managing to maintain a gross margin of circa 70%.”
Two Punch pubs in Cornwall open village shops with Pub is the Hub support: Two Punch Taverns licensees in Cornwall have brought essential local services back to their communities with the addition of village shops to their pubs. With the support of Pub is the Hub, the Miner’s Arms in Mithian, near St Agnes, and the Lion and Lamb in Ashton have both opened self-contained shops inside their village pubs. Reg Clarke, regional advisor for Pub is The Hub. said: “Anouska House at the Miner’s Arms and Graham and Elaine at the Lion and Lamb have both done a tremendous job. In common with many other fantastic licensees they have placed themselves at the heart of their community. We were delighted to give them a grant to open the shop and will continue to offer them support and advice where we can.”
Mayfair hotel to invest £14m, host Shaun Rankin restaurant: Flemings Mayfair, the boutique hotel in Half Moon Street, London W1, is investing £14m in a refurbishment plan due for completion in the first quarter of 2016. Work has already begun on the family-owned, hotel, part of the SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the World) consortium, which will see 129 bedrooms, suites and apartments renovated, alongside a tea lounge, bar and new restaurant by the Michelin-starred chef Shaun Rankin. The hotel has been privately owned by the same family for more than 40 years. A new restaurant will launch in March 2016, with Rankin at its helm. the 80-cover restaurant and 40-cover bar will offer a modern British menu focusing on Rankin’s Jersey heritage,, along with a chef’s table and two private dining rooms. It will run alongside Rankin's own current restaurant, Ormer, in Jersey.
AB InBev apologises over Bud Light advert slogan: AB InBev has admitted it "missed the mark" after being accused of using an advertising slogan in the United States that appears to promote rape. Its Bud Light brand provoked a storm of criticism by printing the message "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night" on some of its beer bottles, alongside the hash tag "#UpForWhatever". The company issued a statement to say it regretted the message after complaints. A spokesman said: "The Bud Light Up for Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In this spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage spontaneous fun. It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behaviour."
Batemans launches Big Week of charity activity: Batemans, the family brewer based in Lincolnshire, has unveiled plans for a "Big Week" of activities across its 60 pubs with the aim of raising £20,000 for the Lincolnshire learning disability charity Linkage Community Trust. The Big Week will take place between 25 and 31 May. Pubs across the Batemans estate will be involved, with each landlord deciding for themselves what activities they will be holding to support the cause. As an added incentive, the Batemans pub that raises the most money will win an award for Charity Pub of the Year at the brewery’s annual Rewarding Success lunch. In addition, Batemans will be introducing a new beer for the week, Mr George’s Golden Ale, named in honour of George Bateman, the former head of the brewery and father of the current managing director, Stuart Bateman, who formed the long-standing family connection between the brewery and Linkage, and was chairman of the charity for 25 years. Money from every pint of this beer sold will go directly to the charity, further boosting the amount raised. Linda Green, retail director at Batemans, said: “I’m incredibly pleased to announce the launch of our inaugural Big Week, which we plan to make an annual event going forward. It’s an incredible opportunity to raise a huge amount of money for Linkage’s work, supporting hundreds of people across the county with learning disabilities, and encourage our tenants to give back to the community while having fun with their customers.”
Giggling Squid secures Bath site, eight more in legals: Thai brand Giggling Squid has secured a new site in Bath and has eight more in legals. The latest acquisition takes the group’s portfolio to 13 sites. The company, which introduced the “Thai Tapas” dining concept to the UK in 2009, is on a quest to have the UK’s first nationwide chain of 70 restaurants within seven years. Giggling Squid is also in advanced legal negotiations to acquire eight more sites – five in the Home Counties, one in Essex, one in East Anglia and another in the Midlands. After the successful launch of new restaurants in Salisbury and Bristol in March, the company, led by husband-and-wife team Andrew and Pranee Laurillard, is now hitting an Ebitda run rate of around £2m. The Bath site is in Bluecote House in Saw Close, a converted schoolhouse opposite the Theatre Royal. It will reopen as a Giggling Squid with around 200 covers, once major works to the square in front of the theatre are finished in 2016. Other new operators to be included in the square will be Zizzi, Byron, a new hotel and, it is understood, a super casino. Giggling Squid will invest about £200,000 refitting the restaurant and create around 30 new jobs. Andrew Laurillard, managing director of Giggling Squid, said: “We achieved critical mass some while ago and each new launch is more successful that the last, as we fine-tune the business mode. We’re very happy with our latest opening in Bristol – it’s busy every night, ahead of budget, with great customer feedback. Bath has been in our sights as one of the key provincial market towns and small cities in which to carry the brand forward. Both Bristol and Bath have an affluent, well-travelled audience that knows what it wants and appreciates very good food at the right price.” Barclays Bank has granted a doubling of its loan facility to £4m to fund growth. Giggling Squid has appointed the accountancy firm Grant Thornton as its commercial adviser, as part of its strategy to secure further finance for continued growth by the end of 2015. Pranee Laurillard said: “Ultimately, we’re a food-led business and are still having great fun. We are immensely proud that our customers compliment us for still having the welcoming feel of a one-off independent, which is why people think of us as a family of restaurants rather than a chain, while critics love the authentic street food-style dishes.”

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