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Fri 15th May 2015 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the day:

Center Parcs closer to float or sale as Martin Robinson is replaced as chairman by Vagn Sorensen: Center Parcs has announced that Vagn Sorensen, who helped to steer SSP, owner of the Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza chains, to the stock exchange last year in an IPO, is to be its new chairman, replacing Martin Robinson, chairman for the past 16 years. The move is seen as a precursor to a £2.5bn stock market listing or sale to private equity of Center Parcs by its owner, the private equity company Blackrock. Sorensen, a former chief executive of Austrian Airlines and chairman of the Dutch telecoms company TDC, which listed in Copenhagen in 2010, will take over next month from Robinson. Sorensen has been chairman of SSP since 2006. According to media reports, Blackrock had been preparing for a summer IPO for Center Parcs led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and Deutsche Bank, but is also looking at a possible trade sale and has asked Rothschild to handle a formal auction. There are said to be three bidders in the running, two Canadian companies, Canada Pension Plan and Brookfield, a property group, and a consortium of CVC Capital Partners and the American investment group Starwood Capital, a big leisure and hotel sector investor. CVC is reported to be holding talks with GIC, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund, about gaining its backing for a Center Parcs takeover. The attraction for private equity firms is the steady nature of Center Parcs’ business, with occupancy levels rarely below 99% and likely assured growth after the announcement last month of plans for a new €200 million village in Ireland. A sale would also enable Blackstone to take out all its money in one go. Martin Dalby, Center Parcs’ chief executive, paid tribute to Robinson’s contribution since he became chairman in 1999, saying: “I will miss his vigour and passion for the business.” If Blackstone decides to pursue a listing, the appointment of Sorensen as chairman is expected to be followed by the recruitment of another two or three independent non-executive directors.

Industry news:

Too few cooks leaves city with hundreds of catering vacancies: The explosion of cafes, pubs and restaurants in Bristol has left businesses facing a shortage of skilled workers, according to the man in charge of the restaurant and catering department at City of Bristol College. Adrian Kirikmaa, RWE and Restaurant manager at the college, told the Bristol Post: "I get chefs calling me up on a daily basis asking if I have apprentices who might want to go and work for them. There must be upwards of 200 jobs available in food and front of house in the city and no one to take them. I have around 30 apprenticeship spots free. I don't think it's necessarily because people don't want to do the course, it's more because people don't know that the opportunity is there." Kirikmaa said that despite jobs in the industry being traditionally seen as a low-income role with unsociable hours, he believed that the industry has changed for the better over recent years. "I think there are roles to suit everyone who wants to work with food out there. If you want to work in a top restaurant, then obviously you are going to have to work hard and long hours – but often the people who want to do that are very driven to reach that level and thrive on that environment and top chefs can earn upwards of £50,000. But for those who want more regular hours they can work in catering for big firms or schools or in cafes – it can be a flexible job." City of Bristol College runs several catering and front of house courses which teach students basic skills including meat preparation, stocks and soups alongside advanced shellfish techniques, patisserie and game cooking.

Hooters-for-women 'chestaurant' Tallywackers 'could become one of hottest concepts to hit industry in years' says magazine: Tallywackers, the Hooters-for-women restaurant with hunky male servers due to open in Dallas later this month, could become one of the hottest concepts to hit the industry in years, according to Restaurant Hospitality magazine. The magazine said that Tallywackers owner Rodney Duke has fielded multiple unsolicited inquiries about franchising, sight unseen, after the concept generated a ton of publicity and buzz on social media. Journalist Bob Krummert wrote: "Not a believer in the power of social media to give a restaurant instant visibility? Consider what happened with Tallywackers. All the attention flows from a single 'help wanted' ad that appeared on Craigslist on April 18. That quickly led to an interview on a morning radio show in Dallas. Next Tallywackers got a mention in a [comedian] Jimmy Fallon monologue, quickly followed by an article in USA Today. The free publicity binge has continued from there. The place is just an abstract idea at this point, yet it has attracted 21,000 ‘likes' on Facebook, although there is technically nothing to 'like' until the opening. There are just plenty of people who think Tallywackers sounds like a winning idea." Images on the restaurant’s Facebook page depict bare-chested servers, but those are models posing for publicity photos and actual servers will be clad in tight T-shirts and “boxer-brief-style shorts”, Krummert said. "Will that be enough beefcake to create the intended atmosphere? Duke is betting it will, and thinks there are plenty of patrons who crave a breastaurant-type experience that speaks to their gender preferences. He’s sitting on a gold mine if he’s right. The evidence so far suggests it could become one of the hottest concepts to hit the industry in years."

Can makers launch canning advice website: The Indie Beer Can Advice website has been unveiled by the Can Makers, the industry trade body representing UK manufacturers of drinks cans. The site launches at a time of increased interest in canning by the UK’s independent small brewers. It acts as an advisory service for those exploring the opportunity to put their product in a canned format for the first time and introduces small brewers to the advantages of putting their beers in can, the range of affordable and low-volume canning options available to purchase, and mobile canning lines for hire. The site will be regularly updated with the latest information and industry contacts offering guidance, services and advice. Martin Constable, chairman of the Can Makers, said: “There are nearly 1,300 indie breweries operating in Britain and Ireland right now – we can boast more breweries per head of the population than any other country in the world. Indie Beer Can Advice will help brewers explore the new packaging opportunities opening for them, and start canning, perhaps for the first time."

Company news:

Intertain begins hunt for new Walkabout sites: Barely two months after closing six venues as part of its restructuring programme, Intertain has announced it is hunting for new sites for the Walkabout chain. The company has put together a comprehensive property requirements brochure that will be available to property agents, owners and developers. Its chief executive, John Leslie, said: “We’re looking for additional sites in prime locations across the UK, preferably with an existing late licence. While we’ll consider shell units and existing retail space with conversion opportunities, we’re ideally looking for existing bars, pubs and clubs.” The announcement comes a week before Intertain opens its first new Walkabout venue since its formation in 2009, albeit a site it had run previously, in West Street, Brighton, which has its opening day next Thursday, 21 May. In February, Intertain gained approval from its creditors to restructure its main debt facilities, which included the granting of new long-term funding arrangements, enabling the business to restart a major investment and expansion programme, since when it has spent £900,000 revamping its Bristol and Newquay Walkabouts and £600,000 turning the Brighton venue into a "new-style" Walkabout, designed to be "contemporary, vibrant and aspirational" and reflecting modern day Australia. According to the company, the redesign has resulted in a broader demographic appeal and had a dramatic positive impact on the profile of the customer base. Intertain said Walkabout now attracts a more discerning customer and has seen a 20% increase in female clientele, while according to recent research, the brand is now perceived as a “cool”, “modern” and “authentic” venue to be seen in. Leslie said: “This is a tremendously exciting time for Walkabout. The evolution of the brand has resulted in Walkabout being seen as an invigorated, sustainable and valuable asset to UK high streets." Intertain is backed by Jon Moulton’s Better Capital.

Itsu plans first Northern outlet in Leeds: Itsu, the rapidly-expanding chain of Japanese-inspired fast food shops and restaurants established by Julian Metcalfe,  co-founder of Pret A Manger, is seeking to open its first northern outlet, with plans to for a store in the heart of Leeds' shopping district. The company hopes to open a shop at 36-38 Commercial Street, on the junction with Trinity Street and on the approach to the Trinity Leeds shopping centre, in premises formerly occupied by the shoe shop Barratts. A planning application sent to Leeds Council drawn up by the architects' practice and planning consultancy Rolfe Judd, seeks consent to adapt the interior of the listed building to fit in with the design of its outlets. It also wants to erect signage and new large ground-floor glazing panels finished in materials and colours "universal to the Itsu brand". The entrance would be relocated from its current corner location to Commercial Street, near to the original entry to number 38. So far the furthest "north" from London the chain has ventured is Oxford, more than 140 miles from Leeds.

La Favorita declares expansion plans 'on track' after strong Glasgow opening
: La Favorita Delivered, the Edinburgh-based pizza delivery operator backed by the private equity financier Jon Moulton, which raised more than £200,000 through the crowdfunding website InvestingZone, has declared its expansion plans "on track" after its first new store opened in Glasgow on schedule with strong sales. La Favorita Delivered, which was founded by the Edinburgh restaurateur Tony Crolla,  already had four restaurants in Edinburgh, and opened an outlet on Gibson Street in the west end of Glasgow last month after its crowdfunding bid hit the initial target of £200,000 for 5% of the company's equity, with more than 40 investors putting up money. The new outlet has takeaway and delivery options and 30 seats for people wanting to eat in, as well as a separate space which can be used for private events. Tables are adjustable to change the heights for younger diners. A fleet of 10 branded delivery cars is guided by satellite navigation in the vehicles that links up to till points to ensure drivers know quickly where they have to go next. According to Stephanie Yapp, La Favorita Delivered's marketing manager the plan is for "four or five" outlets in Glasgow, with the south side the next area under consideration. Longer-term, the aim is for 50 outlets around the UK with the Glasgow expansion being seen as a "proof of concept" in a second city for potential investors. La Favorita is now looking to raise another £200,000 via InvestingZone to enable it to open the next store before taking "significant institutional investment" that will allow it to expand south into England, as per plan.

Nick Batram – top-line progress at M&B 'frustratingly slow': Peel Hunt's leisure analyst Nick Batram, speaking after the release of interim results by Mitchells & Butlers yesterday that showed revenues for the first half of the year up more than 9%, said top-line progress at the company "continues to be frustratingly slow". In a note to clients, Batram said: "Mitchells & Butlers' revenue grew 9.5% to £1,113m (PH estimate: £1,050m) supported by LFLs up1.7%, driven largely by food volumes (up 2.9%) in a competitive market backdrop, where peers have posted similar LFL growth (JD Wetherspoon Q3 IMS up 1.7%, Spirit H1 IMS up 1.5%, Greene King up 0.4%). Operating profit grew to £153m from £147m in HY14, with margins decreasing by 0.8% due to the integration with the lower margin Orchid business and product mix. PBT came in at £75m, just shy of our expectations at £76.2m (HY14 £72m), with EPS up 5.9% to 14.4p. The group ended the period with net debt of £1,917m. Orchid contributed £6m to operating profits and the integrations is on track against management expectations; 14 conversions completed at the HY, the head office closed and rollout of epos terminals integrated in all Orchid sites. Management expects to generate c£6m of annual cost savings post conversion of all Orchid sites. The volume and price mix presents a contrasting challenge to the pub sector, with food volumes recovering 2.9% matched with a marginal increase in spend per head. Drink volumes remain challenging, with HY15 volumes down 2.2% offsetting the recovery in average spend per head, which grew 2.7%. This reflects the broader trend of customers trading up when they do spend on leisure. We maintain our 'Hold' rating, as HY results came in line with our bottom of the range forecasts. We do not expect to make material changes to our forecasts until we get more evidence of the recovery in the sector and better quantum of the level of synergies with Orchid. Also, given the extent of the opportunity at M&B, top-line progress continues to be frustratingly slow. The shares are not overly expensive but remain range-bound, and we do not see this changing anytime soon."

Enterprise cites Urban Pubs' fifth site as example of new approach to property development: Enterprise Inns is partnering with property development experts to maximise under-utilised property assets. It pointed to the Wheatsheaf in Tooting, South London, re-opened a fortnight ago on a free-of-tie lease as the fifth pub for Urban Pubs and Bars, the company run by Realpubs founders Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap. Enterprise's chief executive Simon Townsend said the ground floor and first floor function room has been let to Urban Pubs and Bars while the rest of the property has been retained by Enterprise with a view to a residential development scheme. Townsend also cited Alan Yau's Duck & Rice Chinese gastro-pub in Berwick Street, Soho, Central London , a high-turnover, free-of-tie business achieving a very attractive rental value, as the sort of property that would become part of Enterprise's 1,000-strong commercial property division by 2020.      

Enterprise chief executive – we're already talking to other managed experts: Enterprise Inns' chief executive Simon Townsend has revealed after news of its deal with Rupert Clevely that the company is already "in a number of conversations" with other managed pub experts with a view to developing more joint venture managed pubs. Townsend said the company was talking to operators at the moment who had not considered tenanted and leased pubs. He told City analysts that he thought that company's new "managed expert" model would appeal to a number of existing  multi-site operators within the estate who would view the opportunity as a good way to use its existing central overhead costs more efficiently. Enterprise's first joint venture is with Clevely, the founder of Geronimo Inns, now run by Young & Co, at a pub in an as yet unnamed London suburb that is expected to open this summer. Clevely has a 25% stake in the joint venture and is already paid a base salary.

Esquires Coffee to launch in Egypt: Esquires Coffee, the New Zealand-owned cafe chain that is the seventh largest coffee house operator in the UK, has agreed a master franchise for Egypt, boosting the group's Middle East expansion plans. The agreement with Egyptian food service entrepreneurs Yasser Hamed and Samy Nada runs for ten years with a further right of renewal. It envisages the development of 30 stores in Egypt, helping the brand's owner, Cooks Global Foods, to achieve its target to lift global store numbers from 71 to 125 by the end of the 2016 financial year. Esquires Coffee already operates 20 stores in the Middle East including seven in Saudi Arabia and four in the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile the company said its new brand and store design formats are driving increases in same store sales, with the rebranded and upgraded Esquires Coffee store in Durham seeing a 19.2% uplift in same store sales over the 29 weeks since it re-opened. The chain, originally founded in Canada in 1993, has 25 stored in the UK and five in the Republic of Ireland, as well as others in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and China.

Tennent's launches lower-alcohol lager in Scottish on-trade after new drink-drive law hits profits: Tennent Caledonian Breweries has launched a new low-alcohol draught lager, T2, with an ABV of 2%, at the same time as the brewer's parent company, C&C Group, said the new, lower drink-driving limit introduced in Scotland from the beginning of this year had hit its profits. Tennent's said T2 "provides an extra choice for consumers who are looking for a lower ABV product or who are keen to moderate their alcohol intake. The brewery is also pleased to be responding to increased demand from the on-trade for lower ABV options." Yesterday C&C Group, which is based in Dublin, reported that operating profits in its Scottish business were up by 1.8% to €39.2 million in the year ending February 28, as revenue from the business grew by 31% to €332.2m, saying that its Tennent's brand "remains in robust health" in the on and off trades. However, it said, profits would have been stronger without the change to the drink drive law, reducing the maximum legal alcohol level to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood from 80mg per 100ml, and the move caused conditions to be "challenging in the fourth quarter". Last week Greene King, owner of the Scottish brewer Belhaven, said its Scottish results were continuing to be hampered by the change. A survey by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association in March which showed most bars had seen drinks sales fall by least 10% since December. C&C's chief executive, Stephen Glancey, said "there is no doubt" the lower limit was having an impact. Glancey said: "If you look at what Paul Waterson at the SLTA said, and he represents a lot of free trade customers, it has had an impact, particularly in rural areas, golf clubs and out-of-town restaurants. As a brewer we have to accept what the Scottish government has done, in terms of the CSR [corporate social responsibility] agenda we have no issue with it – but clearly it has deterred people from drinking." He said C&C has adjusted to the change by introducing lower alcohol and alcohol-free beers.

Shake Shack sees revenues rise 56%: Shake Shack, the American "better burger" chain that is opening its second restaurant in the UK this month, has reported a 56.3% increase in revenue during the first quarter of 2015, to $37.8m, as the New York-based company added new locations and saw like-for-like sales rise 11.7%. The company reported a net loss for the three months to 1 April 2015 of $12.7m, which included $13.2m in after-tax expenses associated with its IPO. Operating profit rose 78.3% to $9.3m in the quarter. Operating profit margin rose 270 basis points, to 25.7%. The higher profits were due largely to higher sales. Shake Shack's chief executive, Randy Garutti , said the chain was on track to open at least ten new company-owned restaurants in the United States. this year, and five in international markets. Shake Shack currently has 68 locations, including 34 company-owned outlets in the US and another five licensed outlets in the US. The company recently opened restaurants in New Jersey and Austin, Texas. The company went public in January, more than doubled in value on its first day of trading and has seen its stock price mostly rise since then. By 5 May Shake Shack’s stock price had nearly quadrupled from its IPO price of $21 per share, to $78.36. It has since fallen 12% to just more than $68 a share, still triple its offering price.

Omar Allibhoy introduces 'buncadillos' to Tapas Revolution menu: The Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy is introducing "buncadillos", a Spanish take on hamburgers, to the menu at his Tapas Revolution on Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, East London. Part of a new lunch menu at the restaurant, the buncadillo is a take on the traditional bocadillo, the Spanish version of the British sandwich, with the crusty bread replaced with a soft brioche bun. Allibhoy has designed five Spanish burgers for the menu using traditional Spanish ingredients and flavours: the Chorizo – grilled chorizo sausage, rocket and honey sauce; Calamares – deep fried squid with alioli and rocket; the Tortilla – Spanish omelette, rocket and alioli; the Huevo Frito – fried egg, crispy smoked bacon with a spicy, sweet and sour mojo dulce; and the Morcilla – black pudding, roasted peppers and fried egg. All buncadillos are available Monday to Friday, from 12pm to 5pm for £7.95 including beer, wine, sangria or soft drink. The new lunch menu also includes a "Menu Del Dia" (menu of the day) that will change both daily and seasonally, and from Monday to Thursday the main course of the day is served with salad, bread and alioli for £10. The Menu Del Dia dishes include Suquet de Pescado – Catalonian fish and potato stew with saffron and hazelnuts – on Tuesdays and Patatas a la Riojana – chorizo and potato stew flavoured with dried nora peppers and pimenton – on Wednesdays. Tapas Revolution in Shoreditch opened in February as a sister venue to Allibhoy's two Tapas Revolution outlets in the Westfield London and Bluewater shopping centres.

PS The Pub Company eyes third and fourth Blue’s Smokehouse sites: PS The Pub Company, led by Carlos Maidana, is in talks to open a third Blue’s Smokehouse sites, with sites in Staines, Middlesex and Slough, Buckinghamshire being considered. The sites are a former retail unit and a pub that has been closed for a while, Maidana told Propel. The brand's fourth site will be located in either Swindon or Oxford, Maidana said. The company opened its second Blue’s Smokehouse in Twickenham, Middlesex in February, The Twickenham Tavern on London Road, after a £300,000 investment in partnership with Star Pubs and Bars. Meanwhile, the company is talking to Star pubs and Bars to extend its first Blue’s Smokehouse, which launched in Bracknell, Berkshire in June 2014. "It continues to exceed all expectations," Maidana said. The Blue’s Smokehouse investment includes two smoking ovens imported from the United States, each with a capacity of 120 kilos of meat.

National restaurant brand touted for prime Huddersfield site: A well-known national restaurant brand is rumoured to be taking over the site of the Cotton Factory gastropub in King Street, Huddersfield. A source close to the owner of the premises told the Huddersfield Examiner that a big-name “cool” brand restaurant was set to move in, creating a high-class destination restaurant. It is understood the chain, which has restaurants in cities such as Manchester and Newcastle, targets up-and-coming towns and cities. The Cotton Factory had been a mainstay of the town centre pub and club scene for many years but its popularity had waned in recent times, the newspaper said.

Emerging Irish coffee chain grows to eight sites:
The emerging Irish coffee chain Bob and Berts will open its eighth site in July, this time in Limavady, County Londonderry, creating 30 new jobs. Bob & Berts' managing director, Colin McClean, said: "Unemployment in Limavady has been pretty rife over the last number of years but with Ballykelly being turned into the headquarters of DARD [the Northern Irish Department of Agriculture and Regional Development] and hopefully that will create a few more jobs which along with ourselves will mean a bit more money in the town."

Burger & Lobster opens ninth site: Burger & Lobster, the restaurant chain founded by the Russian entrepreneur Mikhail Zelman, which launched its first outlet in Clarges Street, Mayfair, London in 2011, is opening its ninth site next week in Threadneedle Street in the City of London. The new venue is in the premises formerly occupied by Orchid Group's Pacific Oriental restaurant.

TGI Fridays marks International Families Day with team members' family stories: The TGI Fridays chain is marking International Families Day today (Friday) with prizes for the most inspirational stories from TGI Fridays team members. In the lead up to International Families Day, team members were asked to write about an inspiring member of their Fridays Family, and what that person had done to support and nurture them during their time with Fridays. Team members could then upload their stories to Pulse, the TGI Fridays internal social media platform, with the most inspiring story in each region winning a special Virgin Experience Day for both the teller and their nominee. Fridays team members are also being encouraged to take the time to visit or call their actual family to let them know just how important they are to them, and blog about why their family are so special on Pulse. The chain will reward team members with a meal on TGI Fridays and the chance to spend some quality time with their family. Dawn Cheetham, head of culture development at TGI Fridays UK, said: “We have a unique culture at Fridays where team members become more than just colleagues – they become family. That’s why we wanted to find a way of allowing team members to recognise family members that have made a real difference to their own journey at Fridays. Team members have already begun uploading their stories to our social platform ‘and they are genuinely heart-warming – a real reminder of the very special culture we have at Fridays.” The chain is also celebrating a year of its training academy, which has already seen 250 leaders and 200 managers recruited.

Pret and McDonald's supplier find £200,000 over worker death: A fresh produce company which supplies salads and fruit to food giants including McDonalds and Pret A Manger has been ordered to pay more than £200,000 after a worker died when he came into contact with a live electrical cable. Bradley Watts, a 21-year-old sub-contractor, was lagging pipes in the loft space of Natures Ways Foods' premises in Chichester, Sussex on 2 June 2011. He came into contact with a 240V live electrical cable and was electrocuted. According to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation, the live cable was part of an old system that had been removed by Natures Way Foods in 2008, but was not identified in any way, and its existence and "live" nature was unknown to the business. Natures Way Foods had "plenty of opportunity" to deal with redundant cables but it was always assumed they were not live, the HSE said.

North East of England multi-siters rebrand Yarm site: The North East of England multi-site pub and restaurant operators Craig Beadnall and Paul Eastwood have rebranded their Starters venue in Yarm, North Yorkshire as 99 The Grill, with a focus on steaks. Other options available include chicken, king prawns, king scallops, fish and lobster. The Middlesbrough branch of Starters continues to trade in its current format.  The patisserie segment of Starters will also be staying at the new Yarm concept. Beadnall and Eastwood also operate the Treebridge Hotel in Nunthorpe, Midlesbrough and Y’Thai in Stokesley, North Yorkshire. Beadnall said: “We’ve travelled around for inspiration – to Leeds, London and Manchester. We will be selling different cuts of steak,  8oz, 10oz and even a 20 oz cote de boeuf. But we’re not just a steak house. We will sell fish, chicken and do a Sunday lunch menu.”

Bleecker Street Burger to have pop-up on South Bank: The award-wining burger truck operator Bleecker Street Burger, which secured its first permanent site in Old Spitalfields Market in the East End of London last summer, has announced a summer pop-up on the South Bank in London, which will run from 23 May until the end of September. The operator has converted a shipping container into a temporary home and found a spot for it near the Golden Jubilee bridges.  The pop-up restaurant will serve the full Bleecker Street menu as available in Spitalfields. The South Bank already houses a Wahaca restaurant in a shipping container. Bleecker Street Burger, named after the street in New York that connects the East Village to the West Village, was founder by the American entrepreneur Zan Kaufman in 2012.

Travelodge plans 14-site port expansion: Travelodge plans to expand into port locations ,with 14 hotels at a cost of £84m, on the back of growth in the ferry and cruise markets. The planned expansion, which is expected to create 350 new jobs, was unveiled at the opening of the budget chain's new Southampton West Quay hotel. The company is looking at sites in Portsmouth (three hotels), Liverpool (two hotels), Harwich, Hull, Newcastle, Plymouth, Haverfordwest, Newhaven, Grimsby and Greenock, as well as seeking an additional property in Southampton.

TCG lowers gangplanks on Tattershall Castle after £1.8m refurbishment: The Tattershall Castle paddle steamer, the former ferry used as a floating bar on the Thames in Central London for more than 30 years, has welcomed customers back on board after the completion of a £1.8m refurbishment. The 81-year-old ship, which is back  at its moorings at Embankment, opposite the London Eye, is owned by TCG – original full name the Tattershall Castle Group – which runs 65 managed pubs and bars around the country. The Tattershall Castle closed on 1 January and then journeyed to Hull, the city where it spent 39 years as a passenger ferry across the Humber, for repairs, repainting and an interior redesign. It returned to its berth opposite the London Eye in April. he main lounge area – now called the Wardroom – has been redesigned, creating cabin-style booths that can be booked for drinks or meals. The main bar has been refurbished to accommodate an extended drinks range, the original engine room has been restored and made visible, allowing enthusiasts to view it more clearly and the function space, now named Steamers has been upgraded for private events and performances of the Boat Show Comedy Club. The food offer includes a lunch and dinner menu, now shortened to improve service at peak trading sessions; weekend brunch; a children’s menu; a buffet selection; and an al fresco menu for the Burger Shack located on deck.

Prima Hotels venues go into administration: A number of four-star hotels owned by the Cheshire-based operator Prima Hotels Group have entered administration. The hotels are, the Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow, where Prima has its head offices; Nunsmere Hall Hotel in Northwich, Cheshire; the Quorn Country Hotel in Leicestershire; and Hellaby Hall Hotel in Rotherham. Ryan Grant, Lee Causer and Catherine Williamson from AlixPartners have been called in as administrators. A further appointment has been made over the Royal Terrace Hotel in Edinburgh. The administrators said they would continue to trade the hotels while "exploring all options". The hotels will be operated by Legacy Hotels and Resorts. Grant said: "We will continue to trade the hotels on a 'business as usual' basis and intend to honour all bookings made prior to our appointment. We believe the businesses are attractive to a range of potential buyers and welcome expressions of interest from third parties to acquire any or all of the sites. We would also like to thank the staff for their continued support and professionalism during this process." Prima Hotels also runs the Holiday Inn, Manchester.

Campari reports strong first quarter: Campari, the world's sixth-largest premium spirits maker by sales, said it expects to achieve a positive result this year after reporting a 13.4% sales rise in the first quarter, helped by a stronger dollar. The company said total sales reached €327m. Sales grew 4.2% on a like-for-like or organic basis, while there was an additional 6.6% gain from foreign exchange swings and 2.6% from an acquisition. The company also reported a 73% jump in pre-tax profit to €35.8m.
 
Pizza Hut seeks to open in former McDonald's: Planning documents have been submitted to create a Pizza Hut Delivery store in one of the vacant units in the former McDonald’s restaurant site on Market Street in Chorley, Lancashire. A Pizza Hut spokesperson told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We can confirm that we have applied to open a new Pizza Hut delivery outlet at 102 Market Street in Chorley. As the planning process is ongoing we’re unable to comment further at this stage.” The site was left derelict for several years after McDonald’s relocated. It has since been refurbished at a cost of £363,000, but attempts to fill the vacant units have been difficult, with only the Bubble ’n’ Shake cafe and a nail bar currently occupying the site.

Molson Coors launches new Cobra campaign: Molson Coors has launched a new Cobra campaign, "Win Smooth", which will run in the on-trade until the end of June. Consumers can win luxury prizes each valued at £3,000, including a British or Spanish Grand Prix experience, a private jet to Dublin with a trip to an exclusive tailor and a helicopter ride to a Scottish castle for dinner. It also sees the return of Cobra’s brand character, "The Boss". Consumers purchasing a pint of Cobra will receive a "business card" from The Boss with a unique reference number and will be able to find out if they have been successful by going online and visiting the competition website.
 
Bid to turn former Little Chef into Subway branch: Agents acting for Subway have applied for planning permission to turn a former Little Chef restaurant on the A90 in Dundee into a branch of the sandwich chain. The premises, just off the eastbound carriageway of Kingsway West, most recently operated as MJ’s Coffee House and Diner, which closed in January 2014 after a one year of trading, with the owners blaming financial pressures as the reason for the closure. The building was purpose-built to house a branch of the Little Chef restaurant chain, and MJ’s took the property on when Little Chef’s owner decided to close the branch as part of a cull of 67 under-performing outlets. Drawings attached to Subway’s application show a large restaurant area looking out on to the busy A90. If the application is successful, the Kingsway outlet will be the fifth Subway store in Dundee, with branches already operating in the Wellgate Shopping Centre, Overgate Shopping Centre, Brook Street in Broughty Ferry and Happyhillock Road. Last year, Subway opened an average of five stores a week in the UK and Ireland.

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