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Fri 19th Jun 2015 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Living Ventures signs £6m deal to open two sites and training academy in Liverpool: Liverpool City Council has signed a deal with Living Ventures which will see world class restaurants and bars opening at the Cunard Building on the Pier Head. The agreement will see £6 million invested on the ground and first floors of the Grade II listed building, creating approximately 150 new jobs. Living Ventures will bring two different world dining and drinking experiences to the Cunard Building, Australasia, with Michelin-starred chef Aiden Byrne overseeing the second site, Cunard House, as well as a training academy. Tim Bacon, Living Ventures chief executive, said: “We are delighted to introduce Australasia and Cunard House to Liverpool, it has always been a city very close to my heart and I am sure people will love these two new dining experiences – each will bring something totally new and dynamic to the Liverpool dining scene. Aiden is also very excited to be returning to his home town, Cunard House will be a showcase for the amazing food Aiden produces and the training academy will give him the opportunity to pass on his knowledge and experience to aspiring young chefs who could not ask for a better mentor.” Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “I am delighted that we are able to announce the investment by Living Ventures in Cunard Building. It will breathe new life into the Cunard Building and the wider Pier Head, complementing the recent investment the council has made. It will provide a world class dining experience for residents, tourists and office workers in this part of the city and be a catalyst for further investment in the Pier Head area. We know there is a huge demand for dining at the Cunard Building, demonstrated most recently through the success of the Aquitania pop-up restaurant during the Three Queens visit. It is also a great economic deal for the city, creating a significant number of jobs and economic spend, and will generate business rates and rental income for the city council which we can reinvest in essential services.” On the ground floor, Australasia will serve modern Australian cuisine combining Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition. It will also have a bar serving cocktails and music from resident and guest DJ’s. On the first floor, Cunard House will have a team led by Aiden Byrne – the youngest chef to ever win a Michelin Star and former head chef of the Grill Room at the Dorchester Hotel in London. It will offer fine-dining in an informal atmosphere. It will be accompanied by cocktail bar and training academy for young chefs to train under Aiden. Subject to planning approval, the deal – which has been organised by John Hyland of Astutus Strategy Ltd – Australasia is expected to open in April 2016 on the ground floor and Cunard House in September 2016 on the first floor.

Industry News:

McDonald’s to shrink in the US this year for the first time in 40 years: For the first time in more than 40 years, McDonald’s has reported that its US estate of restaurants will shrink this year, with plans to close more restaurants in the US than it opens this year. The estate shrinkage is the first since at least 1970, according to an Associated Press review of McDonald’s regulatory filings. A McDonald’s spokeswoman declined to provide a specific figure but said the reduction would be minimal compared with its 14,300 US locations.

Waitrose unveils ‘worldwide first’ marketing initiative: Waitrose has revealed plans to roll out what it described as a “worldwide first” marketing initiative. The company said the “Pick Your Own Offers” scheme “puts customers in the driving seat”, allowing them to choose the products they’d like to save 20% on. Customers will be able to select ten items from a list of almost 1,000, from everyday or frequently bought items to special treats. The company described the initiative as “pioneering” and “game-changing”. The move follows a 23% fall in Waitrose’s operating profits in the 53 weeks to 31 January 2015. The company blamed the decline on a “highly competitive and deflationary market”. Managing director Mark Price said: “This is a ground-breaking move giving customers the power to choose the offers they want. We know from the success of myWaitrose that customers like straightforward deals they can trust that are relevant to them. ‘Pick Your Own Offers’ goes one step further by putting them in control.”

EC launches plans for EU common tax rules for multi-nationals like Starbucks: The European Commission has re-launched plans on Wednesday to introduce common tax rules for multinationals, saying that public anger over tax avoidance and a new approach should win over EU member states that blocked the idea four years ago. The Commission, the European Union’s executive, said it wanted a “common consolidated corporate tax base” (CCCTB) to prevent “aggressive” tax planning measures such as artificially shifting profits to the country where rates are lowest. “What we are doing is part of a trend,” economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a news conference. “During the crisis our citizens have had to contribute a lot. What they don’t want to see is that corporations, because they have sophisticated legal advice, can juggle between administrations.” Corporate taxes have remained in the headlines because of the way multinationals can legally reduce their bills by basing themselves in low-tax centres. The EU is already investigating the tax arrangements of Starbucks among others.

US restaurant industry added 9,022 venues in 2014: The US restaurant industry added a net 9,022 venues in 2014, an increase of 1.4% and representing the fifth consecutive year with gains of at least 7,000 locations. The quick-service segment registered its largest unit expansion since 2006, while growth in the full-service segment slowed in 2014, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy. The 2014 expansion was an improvement over the net 7,562 locations (+1.3%) added in 2013, and represented the fifth consecutive year in which the industry grew by at least 7,000 establishments.

Nottingham City Council gives go-ahead to Intu Broadmarsh plan to boost eating options: Nottingham City Council has approved plans for the proposed transformation of the Intu Broadmarsh shopping centre in Nottingham that will see increased eating options. A planning application was submitted in April 2015 for the creation of a remodelled shopping centre for customers to shop, eat, relax and socialise throughout the day and evening plus an improved new route through the centre forming a new southern gateway into the city centre. The redevelopment would bring new retail brands, restaurants and leisure activities creating a more contemporary shopping centre experience. In particular, proposals include an increased range of places to eat, from grab-and-go to sit-down restaurants, and a multi-screen cinema giving additional reasons for customers to visit more often and stay for longer.

Company News:

Moto Hospitality reports operating profit increase: Motorway service station operator Moto Hospitality has reported operating profit increased by £13,090,000 to £57,600,000 in the year to 24 December 2014. Adjusted Ebitda grew 13%, a total of £10,900,000, to £90,800,000. Turnover declined by £36,620,00 to £803,409,000, a 4% drop related to fuel turnover. Non-fuel turnover increased by 7.8% with the number of transactions increasing to 51 million from 47.4 million the year before. Losses were £72,899,000 (2013: £77,586,000) after interest payments of £130,669,000 (2013: £122,159,000). The company has loans amounting to £952,725,000.

Tokyo Industries boss reports successful festival launch: Aaron Mellor, founder of the UK’s third largest nightclub company, Tokyo Industries, has reported that its festival launch, the 15,000 capacity Lost Village event, held in Lincolnshire at the end of May, was a “great” success. Mellor told Propel: “To sell out any festival in year one is virtually unheard of in the modern festival market, but do it with such great customer and industry feedback is massively exciting for us. We’re looking forward to year two, extending the occupancy and the scale of quality boutique food and drink providers and already looking for talent for next year’s event, which will take place on the same site on the second May Bank Holiday weekend next year.”

Antic to open new Brixton bar: Antic London, the 35-strong London pub operator, is opening a new bar in Brixton next Thursday (25 June). The company, led by Anthony Thomas, is launching Ekcovision, an “all day and all night venue”, in Atlantic Road, previously home to Atlantis and Brixton Bar & Grill. A spokesman said: “The 11am – 6am licence means it will assume a multitude of different guises. It will be a place where one can enjoy a coffee and bite to eat during the day, beer and cocktail of an evening, a late night solace when the rest of Brixton has closed its doors where one can dance and drink into the wee small hours, and then do it all again the next day.”

JD Wetherspoon plans second Hull hotel development, to open third Dublin pub next week: JD Wetherspoon is stepping up its drive to convert empty space above its pubs to hotel bedrooms by submitting a second application in Hull. The company has submitted an application for a change of use to turn vacant office space above the William Wilberforce pub, in Trinity House Lane, into the hotel. There is no indication yet of how many rooms or what type of hotel will be established. The proposal will be considered by Hull City Council’s planning committee in August. It follows a similar application submitted by the pub chain to turn vacant rooms above the Admiral Of The Humber in Anlaby Road into a hotel with 20 rooms. The William Wilberforce occupies the grand former Barclays Bank Hull headquarters, which closed in the 1990s. The venue was initially converted into Lloyds No 1. Meanwhile, JD Wetherspoon is to open its third pub in Dublin, this time in Blanchardstown, on Tuesday, June 30, with the creation of 120 new jobs. The number of new jobs is more than twice the Wetherspoon new pub average suggesting budgeted turnover of around £75,000 per week. A source said: “This is a very big pub in a very, very busy shopping centre.” The company has spent £2.82 million (€3.87 million) developing the outlet, on the site of the former Light Nightclub, in Westend Shopping Park, Westend Commercial Village. The pub, which will be called The Great Wood, will be managed by George Collins. Much of the present-day area of Blanchardstown and Coolmine was once covered by an ancient forest, known as the Great Scaldwood, hence the name. The new-look pub, which is on two floors, will feature two bars, as well as two meeting rooms. There is a beer garden to the front and side of the pub, where smoking will be permitted in a designated area. The company already runs two pubs in the area – The Three Tun Tavern in Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, and The Forty Foot in The Pavilion Centre, Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire. A fourth pub, located in the Swords area of Dublin, is due to open on 21 July. Wetherspoon’s fifth Republic of Ireland pub is scheduled to open in Cork in early September.

BrewDog co-founder – we’ve chosen a site outside of Columbus, Ohio, that gives us plenty of room to grow: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has revealed that its planned US brewery in Columbus sits outside the city itself in central Ohio to provide room to expand in future years. The company is close to closing on a 42-acre site outside of the city where it will build a 100,000 sq ft plant. The site has not been disclosed, the company says, because incentives and other pieces of the deal need to be finalised. Watt told Columbus Dispatch: “We have big plans for our USA operation, so we wanted to ensure we had room to expand from the outset. With the brewery, restaurant and tap room we’re going to need a bit of space. We’ve been continuously expanding our operation in northeast Scotland as fast as we can build, so for our USA operation, we’re setting up where we have room to grow. The new site will be accessible by rail, road and cycle path too, so it will be really easy to get there. We want to create an awesome craft-beer destination where people can come and get the full BrewDog experience and get excited about all things beer. From offering tours around the brewery and learning more about the process, to introducing people to beer and food pairings in our planned restaurant. We want to give people an awesome beery experience they will never forget.”

M&B non-executive Stewart Gilliland to replace Richard Rose as Booker chairman: Wholesaler Booker Group has announced Mitchells & Butlers director Stewart Gilliland will replace Richard Rose as chairman next month. Rose, who also chairs online retail group AO World, has been in the role since 2006. Gilliland joined the Booker board in 2010 as a non-executive director. He is also a director of Vianet Group, and holds non-executive roles at C&C Group and Sutton and East Surrey Water. Previously, Gilliland was chief executive of Muller Dairies UK and Ireland, and held senior roles with several other firms, including Whitbread and Interbrew. Gilliland said yesterday the new role was a “privilege” and added: “Richard Rose has been an excellent chairman. Booker has come a long way in the past few years.”

Agent Shelley Sandzer confirms 8,000 sq ft Bath site for Burger & Lobster: Agent Shelley Sandzer has confirmed a new site for Burger & Lobster within Milsom Place, Bath, which is due to open at the end of the summer. The 8,000 sq ft site will be the group’s first in the south west and its third outside of London, having recently opened in Cardiff and also securing a site in the Ship House Canal building in Manchester. The Milsom place scheme was recently sold to TIAA Henderson Real Estate with plans to convert the mixed-use shopping centre into a predominantly leisure destination. In addition to Burger and Lobster, existing dining brands within the scheme include, Colonna & Hunter, Cote Brasserie and Jamie’s Italian. Burger & Lobster will occupy the Grade II-listed Octagon Chapel, which was originally constructed in 1767. The lion’s share of the two-storey space will feature Burger & Lobster’s tried and tested dual dish combo, while the basement vaults will feature a 60-cover cocktail bar, rumoured to be a collaboration with mixologist pioneers, Soul Shakers. Casey Phillips, acquisitions agent for Shelley Sandzer, said: “The beautiful, historic and affluent city of Bath is well represented by many fast casual groups and we are pleased to have used our nationwide leisure expertise to secure such a unique building for Burger & Lobster. It is also fitting that the Octagon Chapel was fashionable in the 1800’s, attracting distinguished visitors and described as a venue to ‘see and be seen’, should now be occupied again with the same aspirations, by one of the most exciting concepts in the sector.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen to open sixth venue, this time in Highbury, on Monday: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the micro-brewer and pub operator, will open its sixth site in Highbury on Monday. The company, led by Simon Bunn and Kris Gumbrell, has transformed a former tram shed next to Highbury & Islington Tube and Overground station and features a large craft micro-brewery. The venue, which includes a long, sweeping bar, has room for 350 people and a front garden that can hold 80. It will also offer regular beer master classes and tutored tastings. The food menu features its signature beer-can chicken, rib-eye steaks, pan-fried sea bass, Sunday roasts and vegetarian dishes. With a team of on-site brewers at each pub, it offers beers named after the local area with the Highbury line-up including No Fly Zone, No 19, The Goalscorer and Peasant’s Revolt. The company, which has received backing from private equity firm IW Capital for its expansion under the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, is due to open three more brewpubs before the end of this year in Bournemouth, Southbourne in Dorset, and Gloucester Quays.

Nick Batram – Just Eat’s Australian acquisition has little room for error: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Nick Batram has argued that Just Eat’s acquisition of Australian firm Menulog has little room for error. He said: “The Australian acquisition was consistent with the Group’s stated strategy and we do believe that it will be earnings-enhancing. However, there is little room for error and our longer-term concerns about the robustness of the pricing model remain. Our favoured valuation metric is a DCF-based sum of the parts and then risk-weighting bull, base and bear cases. Doing this, we arrive at a fair value of 418p (351p). The key assumption in our base model is that UK commission rates stay at 12% until 2016 and then move down to 11% thereafter (although this is offset by cost reductions). Our stance has not changed, in that we recognise the strong current momentum in the business but we remain concerned about the long-term sustainability of the pricing model. The valuation allows no room for disappointment or the potential threat from a disruptive model or even branded fast food companies getting into the act.”

Brothers opening third tapas restaurant today in Cardiff: The brothers behind tapas restaurant Bar 44 are opening their third outlet in Cardiff today (Friday, 19 June). Tom and Owen Morgan have converted the former Feather and Bone restaurant in Westgate Street into a venue for 120 diners. It has two kitchens, including an open kitchen offering a Spanish pantry menu and private function space for group and corporate dining and event bookings. A large bar will Spanish wines, cocktails, beer, cider and sherry, which comes straight from the barrel – and is one of only two places in the UK where this is available. Two new menus have being designed specifically for the new venue. Owen Morgan said: “With ambitions to put Wales on the map for our contemporary twist on Spanish cuisine, opening a restaurant in the country’s capital city seems like a natural progression.” The Morgans also have restaurants in Cowbridge and Penarth in Wales.

Five Guys submits Leicester application: Five Guys has put in a planning application to turn the former Santander branch in Leicester’s Cheapside into its fourth restaurant in the Midlands, with branches already in Nottingham, Birmingham and Solihull. The building, opposite the Highcross shopping centre, has been empty since January 2014 and is on a prominent corner, close to the Clock Tower. In documents sent to Leicester City Council, the chain’s agents said: “Five Guys is an originally family run burger restaurant which has been operating for 29 years. Since it was first set up in 1986 in Washington DC it has become the fastest growing ‘fast-casual’ restaurant with 1,200 locations and 400 stores in development globally.” The planning application states that Five Guys has been voted number one burger for the last 11 years in the United States in the Zagat Fast Food Survey, as well as being named best burger in the US Market Force Consumer Study in 2012.

Dessert brand Kaspa’s lines up 17th opening for Canterbury: US-style “dessert parlour” chain Kaspa’s has submitted plans to Canterbury City Council to create a new branch in the High Street, its 17th site. Jade Colfer-Coleman, a spokesman for Goldex Investments, the developer for Kaspa’s, confirmed the plans for the new branch. She added: “We are looking to open an exciting new ice cream parlour, which offers the very best waffles, speciality ice creams, milkshakes, smoothies and crepes. With many local ties to the Canterbury area we are so excited to become immersed in the Canterbury community. We will be looking for both part time and full time staff and will offer 20-25 new jobs.”

Coffee shop that doubles as wine-tasting venue and store opens in Copthorne: A coffee shop that doubles as a wine-tasting venue and store has opened in Copthorne, West Sussex. Olivers Coffee and Wine Shop in Borers Arms Road allows people to sample up to 24 wines before deciding what to buy. Customers receive a card they can put cash on and use it to pay for samples of wine from a row of help-yourself dispensers that give 25ml, 50ml and 125ml measures. Prices start at 30p and the variety of wines is changed regularly. The company had previously traded for ten years as a wholesalers and has operated a small shop from its warehouse for about three years. It decided to expand the retail wine idea to include a coffee shop because the village “didn’t have one”. Managing director Paul Oliver told The East Grinstead Courier & Observer: “The idea was to have a place that develops during the day – breakfast and tea or coffee in the morning through to lunches and then in the late afternoon and early evening people can still have tea or coffee and cake, but also top up a card and try some wines.”

Wasabi opens latest restaurant in Cambridge with first 25 customers receiving free sushi for a year: Wasabi launched its latest restaurant in Cambridge yesterday (Thursday, 15 June) with the first 25 customers through the doors receiving free sushi for a year. The company has opened the 80-seat venue in the Petty Cury pedestrianised shopping street, a few feet from rival YO! Sushi. A Wasabi spokeswoman said: “With its large student population and vibrant business community, plus a busy tourist destination, Cambridge city centre was an ideal location to expand the Wasabi’s offering.” The company, led by Dong Hyun Kim, operates more than 30 sushi and bento outlets in central London, and also has stores in shopping hubs outside the capital, including Kent, Essex, Leeds and even New York.

Pizza Hut UK begins new marketing campaign to encourage customers to grab life by the slice: Pizza Hut UK has begun a new marketing campaign that encourages its customers to dispense with formalities and overly strict table manners via its Taste Freedom ad campaign, Marketing Magazine has reported. The cinema ad, which is being aired during the general release of Jurassic World this weekend, will be supported by outdoor, digital and in-store activity. Taste Freedom will initially target 28 UK locations, before rolling out nationally in September. The campaign is part of Pizza Hut Restaurants’ £60m business redesign programme, which has so far led to overhauled exteriors and interiors at 82 of its restaurants. Kathryn Austin, Pizza Hut Restaurants UK’s marketing director, said: “Whether it’s eating with your elbows on the table or ditching the knife and fork, we want our customers to relax, sit back and enjoy themselves to the maximum whenever they visit any of our Huts. Taste Freedom is about food with attitude. It’s about making the most of what we enjoy and grabbing life by the slice.”

Hakkasan to open Ling Ling in Mykonos next month: UK-based restaurant and nightclub operator Hakkasan is opening Ling Ling on 1 July in Mykonos, Greece. Located in the centre of the old town in Mykonos, Ling Ling is inspired by the Izakaya concept, and encourages customers to discover Hakkasan’s cuisine differently. Reinvented presentations of smaller plates provide the opportunity to share and try a variety of the Cantonese-style dishes. A spokesman said: “The sound design is being mastered and perfected by Hakkasan London resident DJ, Pathaan, bringing eclectic, high-energy beats to the island and its late night party scene. The Ling Ling experience is designed to evolve throughout the night taking you from dining, to drinking to dancing, in no particular order. The Mykonos location is the perfect setting for this fluid escapism compromising an open-air restaurant and bar, private dining and lounge.”

Kitty Fisher’s added to Uncover app roster of restaurants: Kitty Fisher’s, the restaurant with a reputed three-month waiting list, is the latest venue to join Uncover, the free app that allows Londoners to book last minute tables at London’s hottest restaurants. Uncover curates a shortlist of top London restaurants based on user location and preferences, only shows those that have guaranteed tables, and allows users to book them in seconds. Uncover has more than 275 restaurant partners to date, with more being added every week. Last minute cancellations at Kitty Fisher’s are now bookable on Uncover, with tables available up to one day in advance.

Rank begins consultation on closure of New Brighton Marine Point casino: Rank has begun a consultation on the closure of its Grosvenor G Casino at New Brighton’s Marine Point, the new leisure development that also houses Greene King, Prezzo, JD Wetherspoon and Loungers sites. A spokesman said: “We never take the decision to close a club lightly, but we are seriously considering closing our casino in New Brighton and have started the consultation process with the team at the casino. Should we take the decision to close the club, we will make every effort to help them find alternative employment within the Rank Group.” The firm has 57 casinos in the UK – it estimates customers to its clubs spend £45.60 per visit.

LateRooms.com reports pressure on conversion to bookings in the wake of technology switch: LateRooms.com has admitted the trend for customers to use mobile devices rather than desktops has put pressure on conversion rates as sales remained flat. The hotel booking website, which has been put up for sale by owner TUI, has also recorded a £5.5m exceptional administrative expense relating to the closure of a sister operation that meant pre-tax profits fell by almost a quarter. According to its latest set of accounts, LateRooms generated a turnover of £56.3m for the year ending 30 September 2014 compared to £57m a year earlier. The company also reported pre-tax profits of £2.3m during the period, down by 24% year-on-year, while operating profits also fell by 24% to £2.2m. Both figures include the impact of exceptional items. In February 2015, a decision was made to close the operations of sister company AsiaRooms. LateRooms owned and maintained certain shared web and IT platforms on behalf of AsiaRooms, which, as a result of the closure, are deemed to no longer have any value. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors said: “The company operates in a fast-paced e-commerce environment which has seen a rapid switch from desktop to mobile and tablet technology to research and book hotels, putting pressure on conversion rates. The cost of acquiring customers through paid channels has also increased. The company has responded to these challenges by investing £8.9m in technological developments, brand building and optimising other distribution channels. The company also maintained tight control over the overhead cost base in order to generate an operating profit before exceptional administrative expenses of £7.7m for the year ended 30 September 2014.”

Bars and restaurants to open pop-ups in shipping container for Brighton’s Big Screen: Bars and restaurants will be opening pop-ups in a shipping container on the beach in Brighton this summer. The Chilli Pickle is among the restaurants that will be setting up in the makeshift hospitality bar area at this year’s Big Screen, which will be located next to the pier. Visitors will be able to enjoy food and drink from the likes of Simply Ice Cream, Soul Food and a beachside charcoal barbecue while watching movies on the big screen between 14 August and 13 September. A Big Screen spokesman said: “We’ve teamed up with bar experts CNTNR to make this year bigger and better than ever. Specialising in repurposing shipping containers into cutting-edge modern bars, this year we are introducing a brand new contemporary style beach bar; perfect for an evening in the sunshine.” There will be more than 90 films shown on the Big Screen with hospitality packages starting from £7.

CGA Peach research shows increasing importance of online reservations and mobile payments: New research from CGA Peach and Zonal Retail Data Systems shows just how far online reservations and mobile payments have infiltrated the eating-out market. A new generation, topped by Londoners and the young, are strikingly at ease with booking and paying with their devices. The research also shows that operators don’t have long to prepare for big occasions like Father’s Day. Over 40% of people tend to book at least a week ahead for a special occasion, with 31% of consumers preferring to book either via a restaurant’s website (18%), third-party website (10%) or mobile app (3%). Not surprisingly, more men than women leave it to the last minute to book a table for a special occasion with 16% booking a day or less in advance and some only two hours beforehand. Fortunately for dads, looking to visit their favourite restaurant this Father’s Day, the vast majority of women tend to book at least a week in advance (85%). And, when it comes to people in the capital, 48% of Londoners prefer to book online, way up on the national average (31%). With Google reporting that restaurant-related online searches are up 17% year-on-year and 80% of people who research a venue online want to make a booking there and then, operators can’t afford to miss out. “With the sharp growth in online commerce, consumers expect to have instant access to all purchases, including dining out and with 30% of online table bookings made when a venue is closed, a responsive online booking facility is vital if operators want to get a larger slice of the cake,” said Zonal’s marketing and sales director Clive Consterdine.

Executive head chef takes 50% stake in Oaklands Hall Hotel in Lincolnshire: Oaklands Hall Hotel executive head chef Steven Bennett has taken a 50% stake in the Lincolnshire venue, which he has played a major role in transforming after it was bought out of administration four years ago. The operations director has bought out John and Caroline Lawson, of Sotby Farming Company, Market Rasen, one half of the consortium that rescued the hotel in February 2011 for an undisclosed amount. They transformed the property in Laceby, near Grimsby, into a quality independent hotel, launching the Comfy Duck as a public restaurant within the 19th century premises. The entire property, besides three rooms, has also now been revamped. Bennett told the Grimsby Telegraph: “I have been here for three-and-a-half years, and we have brought it from the ashes, it was in administration. The Comfy Duck was the first thing we did, and the biggest thing we had to do, in terms of creating trade.” The Lawsons said: “The time was opportune for Steve to take on our 50% share of the business, ensuring with his enthusiasm and ambition that the hotel will continue to progress.” Bennett and remaining partner Nigel Underwood plan further improvements including refurbishing the junior suite and adding two further bedrooms.

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 & 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 Brazilian barbecue brand Cabana was developed from scratch, its birth, evolution and future prospects. 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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