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Thu 4th Jun 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Lifestyle Hospitality plans Burgerfest number two, looks at 30-strong chain: Lifestyle Hospitality Group, owner of the Tiger Bills chain of Thai restaurants, is opening a second outlet for its "retro-style" gourmet burger concept Burgerfest in Taunton, Somerset, after the first outlet, in Torquay, "well surpassed expectations" in its first month of operation. The second outlet is opening in late June or early July in an old furniture showroom in Bridge Street, Taunton, after a £200,000 refurbishment, as a 130-cover restaurant with a "retro arcade" at the back filled with games machines from the early 1980s, such as Space Invaders, and ping-pong tables. James Eyre, chief executive of Lifestyle Hospitality, said Burgerfest "is a bit like a Nando's for burgers”. He said: “You go to the bar and order your burger, and then you sit down and it's all done for you. But it's all done in a very retro style, it's very family-friendly, very raw, very cool, the environment is very different from anything you will see in the market at the moment, not Americanised at all." The first Burgerfest outlet, which opened on 1 May in Torquay Marina, has “well surpassed our expectations of the volume" Eyre said and if the concept works as well as expected, the brand roll-out will be a combination of Lifestyle Hospitality opening its own outlets and franchising, as with Tiger Bills. With franchising, "it could grow in the next three years to 30 outlets" Eyre said. Meanwhile, Lifestyle Hospitality is opening a joint-venture hot dog outlet called the Kennel with the one-star Michelin chef Simon Hulstone, who runs the Elephant brasserie and fine-dining restaurant in Torquay. Eyre said: "We met though a mutual friend and got talking. He knew what we were planning to do with Burgerfest and he said he had a very unique idea to develop a hot dog restaurant with a number of unique and different fillings. He came up with the idea of Kennel and we've worked together to develop a range of speciality dogs, and the Kennel will be opening in about a week or 10 days' time in an old 2,000 sq ft cafe site on the Strand in Torquay. It's a research project, for want of a better word, and if we think it's got mileage it's something we'll support him to grow in the future."
 

Industry News:

Hospitality venues stand to lose £4.32bn in sales because of outdated payment systems, report warns: Licensed hospitality venues could lose £4.32bn in sales because of outdated payment systems an industry report published today (Thursday 4 June) has warned. While consumers are becoming more and more flexible with their payment methods, the report found that to date only 59% of licensed venues are accepting contactless and other payment systems. The Always On Trade report by the mobile ordering app Orderella was created in partnership with the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and examines the role of technology in licensed hospitality venues in the UK. A rise in expectations around using technology in licensed venues means 38% of 18 to 34-year-olds would walk out of a pub if it did not accept their preferred payment choice while 45% of consumers would try new methods of payment to get served quicker, the report found. Orderella's chief executive, Dennis Collet, said: “It’s not surprising that younger generations want more from technology in the hospitality industry; they are the ‘always on’ generation. This demand for new, cutting-edge technology can’t be ignored if the industry wants to prosper. It’s this younger generation that will be frequenting their doors over the next 30 to 40 years on their nights out.” The survey found almost one in five (19%) of consumers have used contactless to pay for food and drinks when they are out and this increases to almost a third (31%) in the 18-24 year old age group. In addition, the use of payment via smartphone or tablet is also increasing, with 7% of consumers using their phones to pay for food and drinks. Collet said: "The rise of contactless and mobile payments has also meant that they don’t expect to have to carry around loads of cards or cash with them either. If licensed venues want to be able to compete for this generation’s business, they need to adapt too. Although only 7% of consumers have currently used an electronic device such as a phone or tablet to place an order, this will grow at a rate that is much faster than technology has been previously adopted by licensed operators. It’s time to take action now so they don’t get trapped in the past.”
 
London tops list of global cities, with £13bn tourism spend: Foreign visitors to London will spend more than £13bn in the capital this year, making its booming tourism industry Britain’s eighth-biggest “exporter”, ahead of huge manufacturing sectors such as aerospace and chemicals. The record-breaking scale of spending in London’s shops, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions means that it has once again topped the league table of 132 world cities. An estimated 18.82 million international visitors spending £13.15bn will visit London in 2015, according to the latest Global Destination Cities Index, compiled by Mastercard. It is the fifth time in seven years that London has topped the index for visitor numbers and maintains London’s status as the world’s pre-eminent global city, according to the survey. The visitor total is up 6% on last year and puts London slightly ahead of second-placed Bangkok, with Paris third and fast-growing Dubai fourth.
 
FSA sets out five-year food safety plan: The Food Standards Agency has set out a five-year plan to ensure increased consumer confidence in food safety. It plans to work with the food industry, local authorities and other parts of government, and with scientists, consumer and community groups and other stakeholders. The plan also outlines the approaches the FSA will take when carrying out its work. These include: using science, evidence and information both to tackle the challenges of today, and to identify and contribute to addressing emerging risks for the future; using legislative and non-legislative tools highly effectively to protect consumer interests and deliver consumer benefits – influencing business behaviour in the interests of consumers; being genuinely open and engaging, finding ways to empower consumers both in policy-making and delivery, and in their relationship with the food industry.
 
Chipotle starts new protein option trial: The American restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, which is known for rarely changing core menu items, has begun a trial of a new chorizo protein option in 33 restaurants in Kansas City. The operator has been working to develop a chorizo menu item for years. It tested a version of chorizo in 2011 at restaurants in New York. Chipotle's corporate chef, Nate Appleman, told the Kansas City Star that chorizo was one of the first products he worked on, and that he has been “beating the drum for five years” to move toward a rollout of the new protein option. Chipotle’s last addition to the protein lineup was the tofu-based Sofritas in 2014. Steve Ells, Chipotle's founder, chairman and co-chief executive, said. “While we have never been opposed to adding to our menu, we will only do so when we think there’s an opportunity to add something that is really unique within our overall menu, and where we can find ingredients that meet our high standards.”
 

Company News:

Charles Wells and Chris Gerard to open second Apostrophe Pubs outlet next month: The Bedford brewer and retailer Charles Wells and Chris Gerard of Innventure are to open a second outlet under the Apostrophe Pubs name on 13 July. It follows the success of their first venture, the d’Parys in Bedford, a £1.3m 14-bedroom boutique hotel. The Merlin’s Cave in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, will create 40 jobs, with Gerard employed once again on a consultancy basis. Craig Mayes, director for Apostrophe Pubs, said: “We are growing a collection of individual pubs which celebrate the history of their locations and the people they serve, so you can expect to see chalk and oak from the Chilterns, open fires, patinas and ochre within the design at the Merlin’s Cave.” The pub's new head chef Peter Wallace, has cooked for the royal household, as well as a number of gastro pubs and restaurants across the country.
 
Canaccord Genuity – M&B is 'rediscovering its mojo': Mitchells & Butlers is “rediscovering its mojo”, according to analysts at Canaccord Genuity, which repeated its 'Buy' investment rating and £5 price target. The broker said that was its "key insight" gleaned from an away day with M&B around part of the company's estate in Hertfordshire and north London. "We are pleased to see that M&B's management team is back focused on growing the business and not pre-occupied with boardroom battles or balance sheet woes," Canaccord said. "Slowly but surely the current strategy is translating into positive momentum."
 
Northcote Group finance director to move across to Luke Johnson companies: Julie Leigh, the finance director at Northcote Group and Ribble Valley Inns, is joining the board of Luke Johnson's Buffet Restaurants, the parent company of Red Hot World Buffet and 3Sixty Restaurants, both of which are run by James Horler, as finance director. Leigh is working for three days at week at the two Luke Johnson-linked companies this month while completing a handover at Northcote, before joining full-time next month. She replaces Mat Powell, who has left to become finance director at Hickory's Smokehouse. Leigh has worked at Northcote for two years, before which she had spells as chief executive for Mitchell's Pub Management Services and finance director at York Brewery.
 
First overseas Tiger Bills franchise to open in Kiev this summer: The first overseas franchise for the “wok and grill” dining concept Tiger Bills is due to open in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, this summer, James Eyre, chief executive of the brand's owner, Lifestyle Hospitality Group, has revealed to Propel, with a second overseas opening due in Dubai in the UAE later this year. The news came as Lifestyle Hospitality announced that Jason Allan Scott has been appointed "global brand ambassador” for Tiger Bills. Eyre said: “Jason has succeeded in a variety of roles throughout his impressive career with numerous high performing brands within events, lifestyle and hospitality, it is an exciting time for our business and we are thrilled to have Jason join us and further strengthen our senior management team as we seek to further grow our successful business globally.” Tiger Bills currently has international agreements for master franchises in Bangladesh, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the Indo-Pacific territories, as well as Ukraine and the UAE, while talks are continuing with investors in North Africa, the Mediterranean and the United States. The chain, which started in 2007, currently has eight outlets in the UK from Whitley Bay to Exeter, with the latest, in Hammersmith, west London, having opened in December 2014.

Carluccio's debuts in US: Carluccio's opened its first store in the United States in the Alexandria district of Washington today. Simon Kossoff, Carluccio's chairman, said the company looked for locations up and down the East Coast, but chose to launch in Alexandria because of the area’s similarities to home. Kossoff said: “In the end, we preferred the demographic in Washington. For somebody coming from the UK, it feels quite European. This is the biggest opportunity we’ve tried.” The chain's US chief executive, Cory Waldron, said there would soon be a take-away lunch option, with a menu of Italian sandwiches. Diners can choose to sit on the more casual first floor of the restaurant, or the second, which includes eight seats at the bar of the open kitchen and a mural wall of Florence’s skyline. A second location at the Pike and Rose development just outside Washington is due to open in the autumn.
 
YO! Sushi to launch six months of limited edition mash-ups: YO! Sushi is to launch a limited edition "Yolo" menu item mash-up each month for the next six months. The company will begin with a Japanese-inspired "J-dog" – essentially a Japanese hot-dog, featuring a Japanese pork arabiki sausage served in a brioche bun, topped with crispy shallots, sesame seeds, spring onion, crunchy nori, tangy misotchup and sweet teriyaki sauce. The J-dog, available from Tuesday 9 June, will come with a mini sriracha sauce key-ring. Future "Yolo" dishes could include curry doughnuts, noodle bread and furikake (a Japanese rice seasoning) fries.
 
Flour Pot Bakery expands with sandwich shop opening: The Brighton-based artisan bakehouse Flour Pot Bakery has opened its third site in a year, this time a sandwich shop. The venue, in Jubilee Street, Brighton, joins the company's two bakery plus grab-and-go sites, one in Sydney Street in the North Laines area of Brighton and the other in the Elm Grove area.

Costa UK boss – our first solar power coffee shop could transform the way we build stores: Jim Slater, managing director for UK and Ireland at Costa Coffee, has called the chain's first solar-power coffee shop at the Wrekin Retail Park in Telford a breakthrough that could transform future builds. He said: “This is an exciting first for coffee shop and retail design here in the UK and has the potential to transform not just how we build new stores at Costa but the industry far more widely.” EH Smith supplied photovoltaic (PV) panelling for the roof of the building, which also contains a host of other eco-friendly technologies. Andy Oram of EH Smith said: “Costa are looking to do this for their new build projects in the UK. Telford is a pioneer project. Somewhere at the top Costa has had a moment where it decided this is the right thing to do for both business and environmental reasons. It has obviously got its Fairtrade coffee supply chain and now it is looking at lower impact buildings for its customers. It has also got a heat recovery system for recycling waste heat to further reduce running costs but it is difficult with solar panels on their own to get to 100% usage. But as the technology progresses we will get battery power so companies can be completely off the energy grid.” Meanwhile, Costa has sold one million cups of its new limited edition roast, Old Paradise Street Limited Roast No 7. The new roast, which launched at the start of May, is the third in the Old Paradise Street range and is the first single origin roast, created with 100% Sumatran beans.
 
Harbour Hotels secures Brighton site: Harbour Hotels is expanding into Brighton with a champagne bar and the city's only rooftop pool. Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa will open in summer 2016, in a landmark 1850s period minutes from Brighton Pier. The company currently has five waterfront venues around the country, each with restaurants with menus created by award-winning and local chefs, offering fresh and seasonal dishes. The Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa has a crustacean bar. The Brighton venue and also one in Southampton will bring the portfolio to seven in total.

Eataly signs for fourth US opening: Eataly, which is rumoured to be opening in partnership with Selfridges in London next year, has signed a long-term lease with Boston Properties to build a $20m Italian food emporium at the Prudential Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. Eataly is a hybrid of fresh produce and grocery stands, food counters, and restaurants. The concept was introduced in Turin in 2007 by businessman Oscar Farinetti, who partnered with the chef Mario Batali and others to bring the idea to Manhattan in 2010. It will be the fourth in the United States when it opens in September 2016. The 44,000 sq ft food market will take over the existing food court at The Shops at Prudential Centre.
 
Ed's Easy Diner launches visually-impaired-friendly app across estate: Ed’s Easy Diner has partnered with the Good Food Talks app, making its American-inspired menus completely accessible to visually impaired and dyslexic customers. The app is a free platform using text-to-speech software, colour inversion and adjustments to print size and screen brightness for smartphones and other devices to assist those with limited vision. There is also an option to view menus in an OpenDyslexic font for dyslexic customers. Matt Wadsworth, founder of Good Food Talks, said: “We are delighted to be making Ed’s menus accessible for visually impaired and dyslexic diners. We are inspired by how Ed’s operates as a company, and we look forward to adding continued value to the business.” Ed’s Easy Diner also launched a gluten-free menu in March 2015, available across all of the company’s UK diners, offering 85% of the same dishes on the regular menu and accredited by Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Andrew Guy, chief executive of Ed’s Easy Diner, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Good Food Talks and feel passionate about making the Ed’s experience as easy as we can for everyone.”
 
Jamie’s Italian opens first Indonesian restaurant in Bali: Jamie’s Italian has ventured into Indonesia for the first time with the opening of a restaurant in Bali. The company has partnered with Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) to open a 220-seat venue in Kuta Beach. The restaurant employs a 125-strong team led by general manager Made Sukadana and head chef Alex Barman. Oliver said on his website: “I’m really excited at the prospect of bringing Jamie’s Italian to Kuta Beach in Bali. We’re thrilled to be working with HPL again, who are absolutely fantastic partners. Beautiful food and some really amazing cocktails coupled with sun, sand and sea – what’s not to love?”
 
Jason Atherton to open seventh site next Tuesday: The chef-entrepreneur Jason Atherton will open his seventh site, Social Wine & Tapas, on James Street in Marylebone, Central London, next Tuesday, 9 June. The 70-cover bar and restaurant will offer fine wines accessibly priced alongside a tapas and snacks menu, created by head chef Frankie Van Loo, formerly of Social Eating House. The ground floor will house a wine shop and tapas bar, which will have an open kitchen with a dining counter; banquet seating for up to nine covers, and an elevated wine tasting table for 10. A narrow staircase will lead to a basement wine bar, with additional seating, a second tasting area, a corner bar and a preparation kitchen counter.
 
Harry Ramsden's to mark National Fish and Chip day with 1,000 free portions: To celebrate National Fish and Chip Day tomorrow (5 June), Harry Ramsden’s will select 1,000 customers nationwide to enjoy free samples of Harry's fish and chips. The chain's chief executive, Joe Teixeira, said: “With almost 400 million portions sold annually, fish and chips are the UK’s number one takeaway and within our UK restaurants and takeaways, it remains the most popular meal across every age group, so we wholeheartedly support this special day. In addition, and with Harry’s having been recognised as one of the nation’s top brands, we will be using the day to thank our growing customer base for their loyalty, as well as encouraging new customers to sample the nation’s favourite for themselves.” Harry Ramsden’s is the UK’s largest fish and chip operator, with almost 40 branded outlets currently operating across the country and more scheduled to open later this year.
 
£1-an-item cafe opens in central London with plans for branded chain: A cafe where everything on the menu costs £1 has opened in central London, with the owners planning to launch the concept as a branded chain if it proves a success. Caffix, in Newman Street, sells sandwiches, pastries, cakes, salad pots and hot beverages all at £1 each. If the idea takes off, then further cafes are planned across London and the UK, the Evening Standard said. A description on the Caffix website said: “We have used our extensive experience to develop a menu of freshly prepared food for breakfast and lunch, including our own baked cakes. The difference with our menu is, every item is sold at a single low price of £1. You now have a greater choice in how much you spend on your meal and what that consists of.” There is one small catch: the sandwiches and baguettes are sold in half portions while the quinoa, falfel and hummus come in small pots. However, the owners say this gives customers the chance to mix and match. The website said: "Low price does not mean cheap. We have carefully sourced great ingredients to bring you a quality coffee and food experience.”
 
Three Cheers Pub Company buys two Punch freeholds: The Three Cheers Pub Company, formerly known as Renaissance Pubs, has acquired the freeholds for the Stonhouse in Clapham, South West London and the Rosendale in nearby West Dulwich from its landlord, Punch Taverns. The seven-strong group of south London pubs, owned by Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, also includes the Avalon and the Abbeville in Clapham, the Bolingbroke and the Latchmere in Battersea and the Tommyfield in Kennington. The partners had previously held the leasehold for the Stonhouse and the Rosendale for nine and four years respectively. Fleurets acted for the Three Cheers Pub Company as agent for both freehold purchases. Reynolds said “We are delighted to have converted two of our previously tied sites to freeholds, which strengthens our position as a business as we look forward to an exciting future.” After buying the freeholds, the Three Cheers Pub Company is concentrating on a major transformation of the garden at the Stonhouse to create an all-weather outside space, which can be used throughout the year. The Three Cheers Pub Company has undergone a total rebrand after to a trademark dispute a month ago.
 
Four brothers to launch Shropshire venue: Four Shropshire brothers, Reuben, Josh, Ben and Adam Crouch, are to launch CSONS, a cafe/restaurant specialising in globally inspired, locally sourced seasonal food and drink, which will be opening on Milk Street, Shrewsbury in mid-June. Reuben Crouch is and will remain the commercial director of Hobsons Brewery and was formerly general manager of the award-winning Ludlow Food Centre. Josh Crouch, head chef at CSONS was Clive Davies’ right-hand man at the Michelin-listed Green Cafe in Ludlow. Ben Crouch, manager at CSONS, previously worked as head chef at the Pavillion Cafe in East London under Brett Redman. Adam Crouch, front-of-house at CSONS, has worked at number of well-known high street brands.

Tasty to open Wildwood in Plymouth's Royal William Yard:
Tasty is to open a Wildwood plus deli at Royal William Yard in Plymouth. The restaurant chain, which opened a branch at Derry’s Cross earlier this year, has taken a 3,554 sq ft unit at the site. A spokesman for Wildwood said: “We are delighted to be joining the diverse mix of businesses already at the yard. The scheme represents a unique opportunity and we hope that our restaurant and deli will not only fit in well with the beautiful array of listed buildings but will enhance and complement the food offer already available. We are really excited to be opening our newest venue and we hope people will enjoy our exclusively imported products and freshly prepared salads, breads and cakes in the deli as well as our grills pizzas and pasta in the restaurant.”
 
Spirit enlists help of 12 children to shape Fayre & Square menu: Twelve children from across Derbyshire and Staffordshire have helped build a new children’s menu for Spirit Pub Company's Fayre and Square family pub brand after winning a competition. The group of children were nominated by their parents after Fayre & Square called for 12 "little leaders" to help shape its new menu. The children, who were chosen out of more than 60 entries for their enthusiasm and charisma, spent the day at the brand’s head office in Burton-upon-Trent where they worked with food chefs to decide what dishes made it through. Carol Rhead, senior brand manager for Fayre & Square, said: “We had a fabulous day working with the Little Leaders on our menu, they definitely weren’t shy about making their opinions known which is exactly what we were after. We’ve seen real benefit in bringing our guests in to the menu decision making process; our last children’s menu – which was also created by kids – was not only our most successful, but also received an industry innovation award from MIDAS, Menu Innovation & Design Awards.” As well as helping to make the all-important decisions about the new menu, each of the children also received a Wacky Warehouse gold card, entitling them to a year’s free play at any Wacky Warehouse, and a goodie bag of gifts and sweets.
 
Nando's opens in Harrogate: Nando’s opened a site in Harrogate, Yorkshire yesterday. The restaurant has created 32 jobs with the opening of a 3,000 sq ft 102-seater venue in the town’s newest restaurant quarter on Parliament Street. Nando’s is the latest big name restaurant to come to the town, joining Jamie’s Italian and Bar & Grill at the Harrogate House site. Paul Reason, regional managing director of Nando’s, said: “We’re thrilled to finally open the doors to our new Harrogate restaurant. Parliament Street is a great location, and will offer shoppers, cinema goers, locals and visitors a fantastic Nando’s experience.”
 
Brown-Forman to build $50m Irish whiskey distillery: The American spirits company Brown-Forman has bought Slane Castle Irish Whiskey and plans to invest about $50m to build a distillery and visitor centre at Slane Castle, about 30 miles north of Dublin. Brown-Forman did not disclose how much it paid for the brand. The distillery will be built on the Slane Castle Estate in County Meath, which is home to Henry Conyngham, the eighth Marquess Conyngham. Brown-Forman expects to open the distillery in late 2016 and introduce new Irish whiskeys in spring 2017. Initially, the company will use whiskey purchased from other Irish distillers and finished to Slane's specifications. Meanwhile, it will mature whiskey made at the new distillery. The distillery will produce blended, pot still and single-grain Irish whiskeys.
 
McDonald's franchisee to open 9th site: McDonald's franchisee Kenny Russell will open his ninth site near the Five Ways Roundabout on the A11 at Mildenhall and Barton Mills in Suffolk. The restaurant is due to open its doors for business on 8 July. Russell is looking to recruit up to 80 new staff members for the new eatery. He said: “I’m keen to ensure steady investment in the area and I’m very pleased to be able to offer exciting employment opportunities.”
 
Singer Neil Young hits out at Starbucks over GMO link: The Canadian songwriter and environmental activist Neil Young has taken aim at Starbucks and its relationship with the agricultural giant Monsanto in his latest song. Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop is part of Young's campaign to highlight Starbucks' association with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Young has criticised Starbucks for being part of an industry group that has filed a lawsuit against Vermont, the first US state to pass a law requiring labels on GM products. “Hiding behind the shadowy Grocery Manufacturers Association, Starbucks is supporting a lawsuit that's aiming to block a landmark law that requires genetically-modified ingredients be labelled,” Young has written on his blog. Starbucks, which is an “affiliate member” of the GMA, has said it does not support the lawsuit and denies participating in it or aligning itself with Monsanto on the issue.
 
Lake District hotel owner buys second restaurant, plans chain: Colin Monk, owner of the Howbeck & Retreat hotel and the Caffe Riva bar restaurant in Windermere, has bought a second restaurant in the Lake District, Sutherlands, in Bowness on Windermere. Monk now intends to carry out a full refurbishment of the restaurant later in the year before a formal relaunch in spring 2016. He revealed on LinkedIn that he plans to open a chain of restaurants in the south Lake District area, adding: "Exciting times!" The acquisition was part funded by a £150,000 finance package from Santander Corporate & Commercial, with a total commercial investment of about £300,000. Monk said: “We have enjoyed a successful relationship with Santander over many years and have come to value their advice and expertise with regards to our business plans. The acquisition of the lease of Sutherlands is an exciting prospect for us as we continue to expand in the region.”
 
Spirit calls on public to suggest food challenge dishes: Spirit Pub Company is encouraging the public to create their ultimate challenge dish for its Flaming Grill brand, which operates 145 pubs. The company is calling for the nation to suggest a new dish to sit alongside its existing challenges such as the Trash Can Challenge, the 1kg Flaming Challenge Burger and the new Fire Extinguisher Wings. Entrants will be encouraged to be as creative as possible, and from a yard and a half of onion rings to eating a trashcan of peas with chop sticks, all ideas will be considered it said. The overall winner will win £500 in cash and see their suggestion on Flaming Grill menus next year. Michelle Fisher, brand manager for Flaming Grill, said: “We’re famous for our fun and theatrical food challenges, so I’m sure that many will jump at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design their own fantasy feast. We expect there are some incredible ideas out there and we want to hear them all; no idea is too big or too odd to be put forward.”
 
Easyhotel report sales and profit rise: Easyhotel has reported sales up 104% to £2.59m in the six months to 31 March. Profit before tax, excluding corporate office expenses was up 122% to £1.35m from £610,000. Adjusted Ebitda before one-off items was up 6% to £520,000. Profit before tax was up 7% to £370,000). Total operating hotel rooms increased by 12% since 30 September 2014 with Easyhotel Croydon (103 rooms) successfully opened in November 2014 and running according to plan. The acquisition of a freehold building in Liverpool after the period end should increase owned rooms by 17%, with the hotel expected to open in spring 2016. The company said: "Several opportunities [are] currently being assessed to expand our owned hotel portfolio in the UK and continental Europe. A franchised hotel in Frankfurt opened in January 2015 and the pipeline includes Easyhotel Prague, due to open on 5 June 2015. The group has a number of ongoing discussions regarding new franchise contracts. A new multilingual and responsive website launched and improved marketing initiatives implemented, with specific focus on digital marketing strategy, as well as improvements in customer service processes.” Chief executive Simon Champion said: "Easyhotel has continued to perform well, with a doubling of revenue year on year driven primarily by an increase in the capacity of our owned hotel portfolio. Profit growth has been dampened this year because of the additional costs incurred by being a public company, as well as the group investing to meet significant development targets. Our expansion strategy is progressing well. In addition, there has been an ongoing commitment to marketing and enhancing our customer experience, with a new website launched in March 2015 and a focus on improved customer service. Trading for the year ending 30 September 2015 continues in line with the board's expectations and we remain confident that we can secure properties in the UK and key European gateway cities and continue to expand our franchised hotels elsewhere, delivering a high return on investment for our shareholders."
 
Just Eat takes 10,000 sq ft of office space for technology hub: Just Eat, the online takeaway ordering service, has taken a ten-year lease for the 10,057 sq ft second floor at Broad Quay House in Bristol to be used for its technology innovation hub. The business launched its Bristol technology innovation hub in July 2014, initially at the Engine Shed in Station Approach. The department is due to move into its new home on Prince Street in Bristol early this month. Last month Just Eat revealed that total orders increased by 51% in the first quarter over the same period in 2014. The company has more than eight million users and more than 45,700 takeaway restaurants signed up to its service.

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