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Mon 8th Jun 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

British beer sales continue to grow but support still needed: Beer sales are continuing to grow year-on-year, with sales at the end of Quarter One of this year rising 1.5% over the past 12 months, according to the latest ‘Beer Barometer’ from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). This continued growth follows nine consecutive years of decline, which saw beer sales slide by a startling 24% – 6.7 million fewer pints sold, per day. The BBPA says that huge tax rises were the major culprit, with a devastating beer duty hike of 42% from 2008 to 2013, under the disastrous beer tax ‘escalator’ policy. This sent the typical duty on a pub pint (plus the VAT on the duty) from 38p to 56p. The period saw 7,000 pubs close, with 58,000 jobs lost. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the figures highlighted the need for continuity from the Treasury in its tax policy for beer, which has seen a historic hat-trick of beer duty cuts that have hugely helped to stabilise the sector and safeguard the future of many of Britain’s pubs. Simmonds added: “The market is still fragile as the industry continues to recover from the damaging beer duty escalator and UK beer duty rates remain among the highest in the EU. That is why we need the right tax policies so we can continue to boost jobs and create investment in an industry that employs 900,000 people and is worth £22 billion to our economy.”

Industry News:

BT to charge customers for Uefa Champions League matches: The Daily Mail has reported that BT is set to charge customers to watch Uefa Champions League matches after it secured the rights for £897m. The newspaper claims that BT is set to ask customers to pay £5 a month to access its premium range of sports programmes whilst its existing channels will remain free to its broadband customers. An analyst claimed BT could charge Sky customers £15 a month to watch Champions League matches.

Andy Murray joins crowdfunding platform Seedrs in advisory role: Tennis star and hotel owner Andy Murray has signed a long-term partnership with Seedrs, the UK-based equity crowdfunding platform. The arrangement will see the sportsman joining the Seedrs Advisory Board to provide advice to the firm on businesses working in the health, sport and wearable technology spaces. Murray will also be investing regularly in startups and other early-stage businesses through Seedrs and helping Seedrs to grow its brand in the UK and internationally. This partnership represents the first time a major public figure has teamed up with an equity crowdfunding platform in this way, and it heralds a significant milestone in the development of the equity crowdfunding industry. Murray said: “I’ve always been interested in investment, and being able to get involved in an innovative way to help support British startups really appealed to me. Equally as important was working with people I trusted and who fully understood the huge responsibility of handling people’s money. I’m looking forward to working with Seedrs and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.” Matt Gentry, who runs Andy’s management company, said: “Andy is a keen investor, with his own management agency alongside a property portfolio, which includes a hotel.”

Lynx Purchasing urges operators to trial new menu ideas: The combination of quality home-grown produce and low food inflation means the time is right for operators to trial new dishes and menu ideas, advises buying specialist Lynx Purchasing. The call to use seasonal produce to ring the menu changes comes in the newly-published Summer 2015 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast. Lynx managing director John Pinder said: “Inflation is at a historically low level, and as we move from spring into summer the availability of UK meat, seafood and fresh fruit and veg is generally very good, quality is high, and value for money is excellent. As the same time, there’s a strong consumer appetite for new flavours and innovative dishes. We are continuing to see new smokehouse and barbecue concepts rolling out, and this trend coincides with an upsurge in slow-cooked dishes and under-used meat cuts such as brisket and pork shoulder appearing on menus. It’s not often these factors come along together, and so it’s a real opportunity for restaurants, pubs and hotels to refresh their menus. We’re not suggesting that operators drop their best sellers, but they should be speaking to suppliers about which produce is best value, and using specials boards and dish-of-the-day promotions to try new ideas.”

Company News:

Greene King attracts bearish hedge funds: Hedge funds taking a short interest in Greene King climbed to 12.6% of outstanding shares at the beginning of June. A total of 11 managers are currently betting that Greene King’s stock will fall, and the largest shorts are held by Sandell Asset Management, Cheyne Capital, Carlson Capital and Alpine Associates. The UK’s consumer discretionary sector is currently seeing the most concentrated of short bets. Supermarket retailers have especially been the focus of hedge funds. The most shorted among these companies is Wm. Morrison Supermarkets, where 13% of its shares are out on loan. William Morrison is followed by Greene King, and short interest in major retailers like Sainsbury’s and Ocado Group is also high. Meanwhile and in contrast, in an update from JP Morgan Cazenove, Greene King was placed on its European Analyst Focus List with an ‘Overweight’ rating on the stock. JP Morgan has a price target of 920p with analyst Alexander Mees arguing that Greene King’s prospective acquisition of Spirit Pub Company poses an upside risk to Greene King’s earnings. In JPM’s estimate. it will provide a 6% increase to FY2017 Earnings Per Share. The report also said that Greene King is easily the most well-positioned company in the pub industry of UK, with better margins and higher return on capital.

Road Chef boosted by McDonald’s openings and Costa refurbishments: Motorway service station company Road Chef, the UK’s third largest player with a 21% market share, acquired last year by European fund Antin Infrastructure Partners, has reported the opening of two McDonald’s sites (after five opened the year before), the upgrading of Costa sites, and the success of its new in-house brand Fresh Food Cafe produced like-for-like growth of 11.1% in the year to 6 January 2015. The total number of transactions in its retail and catering outlets increased to 26.3m from 23.8m. “The increase in transactions is being driven by the strength in popularity of the franchise partner offerings in place,” it stated. Average spend per transaction rose to £4.70 from £4.66. Grocery offerings at select sites are being trialed in 2015. The company reported 46 million visits with recent investment in the catering offer reducing the level of non-conversion to a spending customer by between 10% and 15%, with 78% of visitors now spending during a visit. Total turnover was £181.4m (2013: £181.9m) producing operating profit of £7.7m (2013: £9.5m).

Hook Norton reports decline in turnover and profitability: Oxfordshire brewer and retailer Hook Norton Brewery had reported turnover dropped to £7,128,489 in the year to 30 September 2014 from £7,461,035 the year before. Pre-tax profit declined to £294,215 from £401,955 in the year prior. The company has two pubs under offer for sale. It stated: “It is increasingly difficult to sustain some smaller village pubs and we have, in the past, been too willing to keep persisting where local demand is no longer sufficient to retain a pub, to the detriment of the company. We will therefore be disposing of some further sites in the next two years and looking to invest the proceeds back into the long-term estate and potentially buying other pubs that meet our criteria. While the results are satisfactory, much still needs to be done. The essence of achieving success in the future is increasing the volumes of cask beer produced to dilute the fixed costs of the brewery and ensuring we have a sustainable good quality estate, with the right pubs in the right locations. (The) market rent only option does not directly affect our business, (but) it will affect our business as much of our volume goes to large pub groups. The legislation, once inacted, will result in more pub closures and rather than increase customer choice, may well have an opposite effect. We remember only too well the unintended consequences of the 1989 Monopolies and Mergers Report.” 

Keuken hits crowdfunding target on Crowdcube: Keuken, offering a convenient way for Londoners to buy healthy, nutritious meals via a wall of self-service machines, has hit its fund-raising target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, raising £115,000 from 118 investors – it had sought £100,000 in return for 17% of its equity. The pitch states: “It is our plan to build a strong and recognisable brand and to set up four shops over the first five years, resulting in a projected valuation of £7.2m at the end of year five. In addition, we will explore options to franchise Keuken across the UK. Due to our low forecasted running costs and high profit margin, Keuken should be able to compete against the major players in the industry, our Ebitda is planned to reach £1,031,371 on the exit year. Keuken is all about saving Londoners time while offering healthy, nutritious take away meals to bring back to their offices, take to meetings or to enjoy in the park during lunch time. Our wall of machines installed directly in front of our kitchen means customers can grab a quick meal by simply tapping their card or mobile device on the machine and taking their food with them on-the-go. To the best to our knowledge and based on our research of UK and European markets, we will have a first mover advantage which we believe will allow us to generate sales of nearly £200,000 by the end of the first year, reaching £300,000 by the end of the third year. A similar concept has reached market penetration of 35 stores in the Netherlands. The funds raised from Crowdcube should allow us to set up a store near Old Street station in Shoreditch, London.”

Stonegate acquires 15 Maclay Group pubs out of administration: Stonegate Pub Company has reported that ‘efficient estate planning’, with the disposal of a number of sites over the past two years, has seen proceeds reinvested into a ‘quality portfolio’ of 15 Maclay Group pubs – the company went into administration earlier this year. The pubs are situated in prime locations including St Andrews, Glasgow’s West End and Edinburgh University district. Chief executive Simon Longbottom said: “The prudent reviewing and planning of our estate has enabled Stonegate to invest in a high quality, predominantly freehold business that further strengthens our portfolio within Scotland. We look forward to welcoming the teams in situ into the Stonegate family.” Completion is expected early July. 

Locals oppose JD Wetherspoon Quaker town pub plan: JD Wetherspoon has met with strong opposition to a plan to convert an original Welwyn Garden City house into a pub. Heritage campaigners, councillors and residents have united to oppose a planning application submitted by JD Wetherspoon for 22 Parkway, a three-storey 1920s house that once housed the Maynard Gallery. Claude Hitching of Asquith House, a nearby block of retirement flats, told the local newspaper: “Ebenezer Howard and his colleagues who designed and developed our lovely town were all devout Quakers who believed in total abstinence from alcohol, and one can imagine them spinning in their graves if they could hear of this current preposterous proposal. It is ridiculous. We will be kept awake late at night.” The building was most recently used for mental health services, but is currently boarded up.

Viva Brazil lines up fourth and fifth site: Brazilian restaurant chain Viva Brazil is lining up its fourth opening in Newcastle this summer, involving a £750,000 investment. The new site will be located on Grey Street, seating 140 guests and creating 30 new jobs. Viva Brazil is an authentic-style Brazilian steakhouse where professional passadors move from table to table, hand-carving a selection of slow-cooked meats from large skewers in front of customers. Owner and managing director of the chain, Andy Aldrich, said: “Following the success of Viva Brazil in other UK cities, we are thrilled to announce the arrival of our award winning concept to Newcastle where we are confident that people will also fall in love with the brand, our offer, and the personal service which we give.” Viva Brazil first opened in Liverpool in September 2010 with sites in Glasgow and Cardiff opening since. A fifth site is planned in Birmingham later this year.

Fuller’s makes £1.5m investment in brewery: Fuller’s is making a £1.5m investment in expanding capacity at its Chiswick brewery after sales of its Frontier craft lager grew sales by 250% in the past 12 months, The Times has reported. The craft lager is now Fuller’s second largest brand overtaking ESB and behind London Pride.

Rick Stein chooses IBS for EPOS solution across nine sites: Intelligent Business Systems has installed EPOS and business management solutions at nine Rick Stein food outlets in the UK. IBS originally installed EPOS solutions at Rick Stein’s retail outlets three years ago and was successful pitching for the expanding group’s diverse range of hospitality outlets, which include restaurants, fish and chips shops, a cafe, pub and cookery school. “We have a broad range of operations and we want them all to be able to communicate with each other and provide data for the management teams. There are also numerous cross-selling opportunities across the business so we want to develop loyalty and gift card schemes to reward and thank our customers. As a growing multi-site operator, we wanted to ensure that we selected the right systems solution partner to support our business goals,” said Martin Glinski, Rick Stein’s head of operations. “The business is very diverse, combining fish retailing, food-to-go and high level dining as well as hotel accommodation. One of our primary tasks was to join up all aspects of the business using one system, which also incorporates table reservations and loyalty and gift cards across the business,” said IBS managing director, Gareth Powell.

Prezzo set to open in former pub in Bridgnorth: Italian restaurant brand Prezzo is set to open in a former pub in Bridgnorth in Shropshire. The £750,000 scheme will see the 500-year-old Swan Inn, a Grade II-listed building in the High Street, converted into a restaurant. Prezzo has taken the premises on a 25-year lease from owner, Greg Hipkiss, who bought it from the Charnwood Pub Company last year, and he has spent £50,000 renovating the front of the building as part of the deal, reports The Shropshire Star. The plans include completely refurbishing the building, adding new kitchens and renovating the former beer garden.

Royal Caribbean returns to a cover charge at Jamie Oliver restaurant: Cruise ship company Royal Caribbean has returned to charging customers a fixed cover charge at the Jamie Oliver restaurant aboard its Anthem of the Sea ship. After a brief experiment with a la carte pricing, a cover charge of $30 per person has been reinstated. Jamie’s Italian, the first at-sea restaurant spearheaded by Jamie Oliver, first debuted with a $25 cover charge on Anthem’s fleetmate Quantum of the Seas in 2014. But when Anthem launched April 2015, the pricing structure at the restaurant had changed to per-item fees. At the time, Royal Caribbean said the decision to switch to a la carte pricing was driven by Oliver’s team. Passengers complained about how expensive the restaurant was with the new a la carte prices.

New part-owned Steven Gerrard restaurant to open this month: A new cafe and cocktail bar co-owned by former Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard is to open its doors in the city on 22 June. The Vincent Cafe and Cocktail Bar is co-owned by Gerrard’s friend Paul Adams. The duo recently sold their restaurant The Warehouse in Southport, opposite Adams’s hotel The Vincent, while preparing the new outlet at Exchange Flags in Liverpool. It will be 190 cover 6,000 sq ft restaurant serving a mixture of British and international dishes, including Gringo Sushi – a meat alternative to fish.

Tiger Bill’s set for Coventry after licence dispute is settled: The owners of the Earlsdon Cottage site in Coventry can now press ahead with a deal to bring popular restaurant chain Tiger Bills to Coventry under franchise after a local authority dispute was settled. The Cottage has been at loggerheads with council chiefs for the past few years over noise complaints, which culminated in the bar being stripped of its licence last year. But, after returning to court last week, an agreement has finally been reached which means The Cottage will remain open, although it will have to reduce its opening hours. The bar will now have to stop selling alcohol from 11pm and close the building at 11.30pm Sunday to Thursday, with no alcohol sales after 12.45am, and close the doors at 1.15am Friday and Saturday. This is a reduction of 30 minutes Sunday to Thursday and 15 minutes Friday and Saturday. However, retaining their licence means that the Carvell family, who own the bar, can now press ahead with plans to bring Thai and Tex-Mex chain Tiger Bills to the Earlsdon venue, in a deal which they say will create around 35 jobs.

Molson Coors launches £6.2m Coors light Frozen Pint campaign: Molson Coors has launched a major new £6.2m Coors Light ‘Frozen Pint’ campaign. The ‘through the line campaign’ will be activated in both the on- and off-trade and will be supported by social media and above the line media activity. A key element of the campaign is the ‘Stay-Cold’ coaster giveaway – inspired by Coors Light’s most recent TV ad. The ad sees Jean Claude Van-Damme inside his Ice Bar ‘Doing the Damme’ before enjoying a ‘Damme Cold’ Coors Light which is so cold it freezes to the icy bar top. Coors Light wanted to recreate this experience for its consumers by introducing ‘Stay-Cold’ coasters to keep their beers cool. 450,000 ‘Stay-Cold’ coasters will be given away to consumers across the on- and off-trade and there are three different colours to collect.

Subway joins list of food companies dropping artificial ingredients: Subway is joining the list of food companies to drop artificial ingredients from its menu. The sandwich chain plans to remove artificial flavours, colours and preservatives from its food in North America by 2017, reports Associated Press. Some of the changes include using banana peppers that are coloured with turmeric instead of Yellow No. 5 and for its turkey, replacing a preservative called propionic acid with vinegar. Subway’s director of corporate responsibility Elizabeth Stewart said ingredient improvement has been an ongoing process over the years while chief marketing officer Tony Pace noted the chain is already seen as a place for low-fat options, but needs to keep up with changing customer attitudes. The company follows businesses such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell in announcing they are dropping artificial ingredients from some or all of their products.

Starbucks set to go head-to-head with Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero in Maidstone: Starbucks is planning to go head-to-head with two of its biggest rivals in Maidstone in Kent. The company has lodged a planning application with Maidstone Borough Council to open in Colman’s Parade just two doors down from Caffe Nero, on the corner of Wyke Manor Road and King Street, and directly opposite Costa Coffee. The proposal by applicant Cobra Restaurants Ltd would see Starbucks share the two storey, 2,884 sq ft unit – previously occupied by plus sized women’s clothes retailer Evans – with another unnamed shop, reports Kent Online. Starbucks plans to open the branch every day from 7am-10pm if its application is successful.

Restaurant owner doubles up in Eton High Street with new fish and chip outlet: A restaurant owner has doubled up in Eton High Street with a new fish and chip outlet that allows customers to pull their own craft beers. Tarek Elawadi has opened his Fishcraft restaurant that features a range of fresh seafood on the site of his former Moroccan eatery Ayoush. Elawadi also owns The Flaming Cow restaurant close to the River Thames bridge and told The Windsor Express he hopes his new venture will continue to contribute to trade in Eton. He said: “By opening Flaming Cow and now Fishcraft we’re hopefully drawing more people down the High Street. I hope that we’ve brought a lot of people over the bridge. We’re kind of reviving Eton and I’m proud that that’s the case to be helping and contributing because trade along Eton High Street is tough.”

Distillery to launch new vodka range: A Northamptonshire distillery has developed a new range of British vodkas in a bid to challenge perceptions of homemade produce. Jelley Distilleries, based in Desborough, will launch its debut elderflower flavoured vodka this week (12 June). It plans to release further flavours supplying bar and restaurant owners in the region. Distillery owner Ben Jelley said: “There’s a bit of family history when it comes to vodka. My dad achieved quite a coup when he ran an exporting company in the 1990s by selling vodka to the Russians. Now I’m hoping to go one better by establishing a successful vodka that’s made in England. Why should Russia have the monopoly on producing vodka, Jelley Distilleries is about challenging the status quo. We make spirits the British way, with style, class and character. Our new vodka is a celebration of our great country – a homemade product based on heritage and patriotism.”

Hammerson plans two roof-top restaurants in Leeds: The developer behind the £150m Victoria Gate scheme in Leeds is to seek permission to extend the scheme to introduce a new roof level dining area. Work began in April 2014 on the retail development, which is due to open in late 2016 and will house one of the largest John Lewis stores outside of London. The detailed designs also include a casino, a multi-storey car park for up to 800 cars, Victoria Gate arcade with 30 stores, restaurants, cafes and leisure space. Now, Hammerson has outlined its hope to extend the southern block of Victoria Gate to create two restaurant units at roof level. A new permission is required as the proposal involves increasing the height of the block by one level, introducing external cladding materials that are new to the wider Victoria Gate development and adding a further restaurant use to the phase one site. The two restaurants, measuring 7,150 sq ft and 4,200 sq ft, would form part of the Victoria Gate scheme and be accessed via a large shared spiral staircase connecting the ground floor of the arcade to the upper floors.

JD Wetherspoon applies to retro-fit another terrace: JD Wetherspoon has applied to retro-fit another roof terrace to a land-locked pub. The company has submitted an application to Reading Borough Council to build the rooftop terrace at The Baron Cadogan in Prospect Street, giving customers a place to enjoy food or drink outside. The pub does not currently have an outdoor seating area for its customers although there is standing room to the rear of the building in the Chester Street car park. If approved, the terrace would be 1,497 sq ft with fixed seating over raised timber decking and astro turf. A small canopy would also provide a covered area. As well as the new terrace the plans include details to build a general access staircase and a fire escape staircase.

Gusto to open third “grand cafe” site in Leeds next month: Gusto is to open its first Leeds city centre restaurant in July. The company is investing more than £1m in the 6,700 square foot restaurant and bar, which will be the third to feature Gusto’s new “grand cafe” design and menu following recent openings in Manchester and Glasgow. Refurbishment work is already underway at the new 160-cover venue, which is located in Pennine House, Greek Street, occupying what was formerly Henry’s Bar. It will be the second Gusto restaurant for Leeds and follows the success of its Cookridge venue, which opened in 2008. Gusto managing director Sue Crimes said: “Leeds city centre’s restaurant scene is in a period of enormous growth and we felt the time was right to introduce Gusto to the city. The casual dining sector is well-catered for in Leeds, so we feel there is definitely room for a high-quality, sophisticated venue, particularly on Greek Street where we expect to see a lot of interest from the business community.” In 2014 Living Ventures sold a majority stake in Gusto to Palatine Private Equity. It plans to add 15 new sites to its portfolio over the next four years, including a move into the London area for the first time.

Wildsmith Hotels welcomes new operations director: Cumbrian hotel group Wildsmith Hotels has welcomed Tom Lewis as new operations director. Lewis, former general manager at the Swinton Park hotel in North Yorkshire, will oversee all three properties in the group – The Ryebeck, Bowness on Windermere, Hipping Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale, and The Forest Side restaurant and hotel in Grasmere that is due to launch in September. Company owner Andrew Wildsmith told The North West Evening Mail: “Wildsmith Hotels is currently celebrating ten successful years and with a third hotel launch underway, it was time I brought in a right hand man to help me across all the properties.” Lewis, who has a wealth of experience at top establishments including the Dorchester and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, said: “The three hotels are brimming full of individuality, character and charm, each property has a fantastic team of staff, who are committed to ensuring the highest quality guest experience possible, an ethos close to my own heart, and one which we will continue to build on together.”

Norfolk pub boosts community support with Pub is the Hub help: The Mermaid Inn in Elsing, near Dereham, has unveiled a new disabled access, disabled toilet and tea room. The historic venue, which dates back to the 1500s, also now boasts internet access and will host IT training. Licensee Helen Higgins and her partner Kevin Wills have been at the pub for the last 13 years serving the community. The Mermaid, which is home to a number of village groups, was awarded a grant from Pub is the Hub and £4,000 from Norfolk County Council’s Community Services Fund to improve disabled access and facilities. It is hoped the tea room and internet provision will help to combat isolation for those who live nearby. Higgins, who used to work in IT, said: “Since taking on the pub 13 years ago we have witnessed the decline of services in the area for our community practically leaving us as the last business standing.”

Grand Union reports 8.1% like-for-like sales growth in latest year: Eight-strong London bar group Grand Union, has reported sales of £7.1m in the year to 29 March with like-for-like growth of 8.3% and site Ebitda of £1.3m. The operator, led by chief executive Adam Marshall and backed by industry investor Luke Johnson, reported encouraging progress for the nine weeks up to 30 May 2015 with sales 21.9% ahead of last year. This includes a very strong improvement following the re-launch of their Wandsworth venue. The restyled “Pleasure Garden” outdoor space saw sales increase 50.7% in the first nine weeks of the financial year. Like-for-like sales in the rest of the group were up 17.1% in the same period. Marshall said: “We have started to gain significant momentum in our estate as a result of several initiatives, which of course included investment in our Wandsworth site. In addition we have upgraded our drinks and food offering, and are implementing a people-focused strategy designed to recruit, train and develop every member of our team to the highest standard. Luke and I are firmly of the opinion that group expansion will be the focus for the future”. Grand Union is now actively assessing potential new site opportunities in selected London locations.

Esquires Coffee launches new menu and packaging in UK stores: Franchised coffee chain Esquires Coffee has launched a new menu and packaging in its 24 UK stores. The company has added new sandwich lines including a jerk chicken with pinto beans flatbread, mushroom cheddar and Gruyere croque and falafel wrap with harissa and houmous. The new range also includes fresh packaging designed with the focus on creating a modern, artisanal look, made up of greaseproof paper wraps. It is illustrated with quirky designs and the tagline: So lovingly made for you, as well as featuring Esquires Coffee’s tagline of Great Coffee Helps.

McDonald’s expands pilot scheme in America allowing customers to use automated kiosks to customise their burger to Los Angeles: McDonald’s has expanded a pilot scheme in the US that allows customers to use entirely automated kiosks to fully customise their burger to Los Angeles. The company is testing the programme – called Create Your Taste – at 18 restaurants in the country. Customers use touch screens at individual kiosk stations to make their order and can customise every part of their burger, including the type of cheese and bun as well as the topping. Once the order is complete, the customer receives a pager to let them when their meal is ready and the order is delivered to their table. Meanwhile in Japan, McDonald’s, as part of a campaign to restore customer trust, is inviting children to learn to cook burgers in its restaurant kitchens. The “McAdventure” programme is designed to promote a new product called the Mogu Mogu Mac – a healthy chicken burger that includes vegetables such as carrots, corn and soybeans. The campaign runs from 9 June to 29 June and will see about 650 restaurants open their doors to children and their families eager to learn burger-flipping skills. Children will have the chance to wear the McDonald’s uniform and, under staff supervision, cook the burger.

Wagamama opens at Glasgow Fort today: Wagamama opens a new site at Flasgow Fort today. The 170-seat venue brings 40 new jobs to the area. The Fort restaurant is part of a new design that encourages interaction with chefs as they prepare your meals. Chef Garry Rae was previously working at the company’s Silverburn site before coming to the Glasgow Fort branch. He said: “The food is so fresh and no one else offers what we do at the Glasgow Fort. What we cook, we prep that day and serve that day. The integrity of the food in second to none in Wagamama.”

Work starts on Exeter dining quarter: Aviva Investors have awarded ISG the contract to create a unique dining destination in the heart of Exeter. The £12 million project sees the redevelopment of the neo-classical Guildhall in the city’s cultural quarter into a series of high-specification restaurants, as well as the reconfiguration and improvement of public space. Further strengthening ISG’s existing relationship with Aviva Investors, this latest scheme involves the transformation of the 36,500 sq ft site, which encompasses the iconic 19th century Queen Street façade of the Guildhall, the 13th century St Pancras Church and the impressive barrel-vaulted Queen Street Ambulatory. Queen Street Dining at Guildhall is an ambitious development that builds upon the success of Exeter’s burgeoning cultural quarter and will act as the catalyst for further investment in the city’s evening and night time economy.

Propel Conference on 2 July at the Oxford Belfry: Multi-site operators can book up to two free places at the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 2 July at the Oxford Belfry, followed by the summer party by emailing jo.charity@propelinfo.com. Cyril Lavenant, of NPD Group, looks at the current performance of the UK foodservice market, areas of growth and how the UK is performing within a European context. Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGem, talks about what operators can learn from listening to their customers and how it can drive sales. Berry Casey, founder of pioneering better burger brand Hache, celebrating its tenth birthday, talks about the better burger market, evolving and staying ahead in the increasingly crowded better burger market. Corrado Accardi, founder of Pizza Rossa, talks about transforming the pizza offer, creating an award-winning business plan, going through two rounds of successful crowdfunding and planning to expand the company. Keith Knowles, chief executive of Beds and Bars, explains how the company’s food beverage and accommodation performance has been transformed in the past 18 months. Giggling Squid founder Andy Laurillard, who was previously head of brand strategy and innovation at TUI, talks about his company’s steps towards becoming the first UK national Thai restaurant brand. Industry consultant Eddy Passey provides his top ten operational tips gleaned during a career that has spanned working at high volume beds, bars and buffet businesses. Darren Tristano, vice president of research and insights form Technomic, provides an overview of the most interesting and innovative new concept launches in the United States in the past year. Jamie Barber talks about how his Brasilian barbecue brand Cabana brand was developed from scratch, its birth, evolution and future prospects. James Hacon, managing director of Elliotts, talks to about the future of sector marketing with Georgia Hall, brand and marketing manager for Café Rouge, Kate Cargill, group marketing manger Hix restaurants and Tim Foster, head of being awesome at Yummy Pubs. Sector investor and Patisserie Valerie executive chairman Luke Johnson sets out the ten key steps in turning Patisserie Valerie into a national brand. 

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