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Thu 22nd Oct 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

ALMR – legislation on tipping not necessary: Rules on tipping need updating and strengthening, with the emphasis on clarity and transparency, but new legislation is not necessary to deliver best and fair practice. That’s the conclusions from an Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) survey of members on tipping practice that were presented in a meeting with government earlier this week. More than 85% of companies responding to the survey have a written tipping policy that mirrors the existing Government Code of Practice. Discussing the findings, ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is important to remember that the government has issued a call for evidence on this issue and so it is vitally important that we have hard facts and detailed information to take to them. With one in five of our members’ outlets now drawn from casual dining, this is an area where we have a lot of information to help ministers make a decision on next steps and to understand the implications on investment, recruitment and pay. This is a complex issue and clarity and flexibility will be key to getting it right. There is appetite for practical reform to update the Code of Practice to reflect the increased use of credit cards and the changing consumer and employment culture – and over two thirds of our members were supportive of proposals to strengthen the Code. But we have not found any evidence which suggests new regulation is required to deliver that. Businesses are aware of their responsibilities regarding tipping and we should not forget that they are carrying out their obligation to ensure that tax is properly collected. Any revisions by made by the government to tipping guidelines should make this point clear. In our meeting with officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, we have emphasised the need to ensure flexibility for businesses and to ensure that there is greater transparency for our teams and our guests. In a competitive market place, that will deliver best practice more effectively than legislation. A one-size-fits-all approach will fail to recognise the pressures that small businesses in particular are facing. Additional costs to businesses already facing tightening margins have the potential to disrupt investment and future job creation. We have therefore updated our draft policy on tipping and will continue to discuss issues of best practice with our members.”

Industry News:

Jamie’s Italian ranked top for children’s food and service, Prezzo most improved: Jamie’s Italian came top in the Soil Association’s Out To Lunch annual survey of child-friendly food and service, with marks of 64 out of 80. M&B’s Harvester came second with 45 out of 80, followed by Giraffe (44), JD Wetherspoon (43), Wagamama (40), Prezzo (38), PizzaExpress (37), ASK Italian (35) and Frankie & Benny’s (33). Of Jamie’s, the Soil Association stated: “Jamie’s Italian tops the league table once more, offering a creative menu, well sourced ingredients, a healthy choice, and a family friendly dining experience – fantastic.” Prezzo was the highest climbing brand. Prezzo’s marketing director Christian Poole said: “Working alongside the Out to Lunch campaign, we’re proud to deliver a greatly improved children’s menu and are really pleased to be the highest climber in this year’s league table. Our new menu includes fresh fruit and organic fruit lollies for pudding, and we provide fun activities based around healthy eating. We have big ambitions for our children’s menu and will continue to innovate to provide tasty, healthy and fresh food for little ones.” Richard Cox, operations director for Harvester, said: “We are delighted to have performed so well in the Soil Association’s league table. We know that healthy eating is important to our Harvester guests, and we provide a place where parents can balance wholesome goodness with a treat occasion, and not feel guilty about what they’re feeding to their children.”

McDonald’s US plans two for $2 to re-assert value credentials: McDonald’s US is asking franchisees to approve a long-term value strategy to attract customers that have left the brand over the past three years, Nation’s Restaurant News has reported. The company is planning to offer a “Pick 2” menu for $2 that includes some items that had been on the company’s Dollar Menu in the past, including the McDouble, McChicken and small fries. The deal is expected to be a long-term value offer, rather than a limited-time offer. It is expected to start by the end of the year or in January. Sources told the magazine that franchisees will vote on the promotion by the end of the month.

Starbucks to appeal tax ruling: Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler have been told they must pay back between €20m (£15m) and €30m (£22m) in taxes after European tax deals were ruled illegal. Tax deals that Starbucks had with the Netherlands and Fiat’s financing firm had with Luxembourg were state aid, European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. The Netherlands and Luxembourg disagreed with the Commission. Starbucks said it would appeal against the decision. The Dutch government said it was “surprised” by the decision and that it was convinced its arrangement with Starbucks was in line with international standards. A Starbucks spokesman said: “Starbucks shares the concerns expressed by the Netherlands government that there are significant errors in the decision, and we plan to appeal, since we followed the Dutch and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rules available to anyone.”

Fair Deal for Your Local campaign highly commended at PR Week Awards: The campaign for pub reform – Fair Deal for Your Local – has been highly commended at this year’s PR Week Awards. It was awarded the accolade in the public affairs category, which was won by Diabetes UK for its online campaign Dan! The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign, which the Licensees Supporting Licensees was a founding member, introduced legislation for a statutory code of practice to tackle the “unfair business model” of large “pub cos”, which leased pubs out to tenants and obliged them to buy beer and other products and services through them at inflated prices. The PR Awards website stated: “This was to be an extremely challenging campaign due to the fact that the well-connected large pub-owning companies and their very well-funded lobbying organisation, the British Beer and Pub Association, were lobbying hard against the campaign’s aim and also due to the fact that senior Conservative ministers were opposed to the idea. However, this small budget campaign went on to upset the odds, spark rebellion on the government benches and win the legislative change it was seeking. The amendment passed into the Small Business Bill on November 18 2014 and would be the coalition government’s only defeat on a legislative vote, making the campaign’s victory even more remarkable.” Licensees Supporting Licensees own role in the achievement was acknowledged as “the most concerted lobbying campaign of MPs on social media that we have ever seen in this country”.

Bradford named Curry Capital of Britain for fifth year running: Bradford has been named the Curry Capital of Britain for the fifth time in a row. The city, which won its six title in total, pipped Glasgow – curry capital of Scotland – to win the prize as part of National Curry Week while Brighton was third. Leicester came fourth ahead of self-styled curry capital Birmingham with London South and London Central joint sixth. On a points system, judges score teams of four restaurants on health and hygiene, public votes, a council submission and charitable fundraising events. Peter Grove, founder of National Curry Week and co-editor of The Real Curry Restaurant Guide with his wife Colleen, said: “Winning Curry Capital of Britain is a long and arduous process, and all the restaurant teams have to be commended on their efforts. Unfortunately, some councils take the event more seriously than others, which means fewer points in the final analysis. The underlying concept of the event is community cohesion through curry – not necessarily which city has the best restaurants.” The 18th National Curry Week took place from 12-18 October.

Inquest into nightclub deaths to take place four years after incident: An inquest into the deaths of two young women who died in a crush at the former Lava & Ignite nightclub in Northampton will take place next month. It has been four years since Nabila Nanfuka, a 22-year-old student from, Neasden, north London and Laurene-Danielle Jackson, a 19-year-old student from Shepherd’s Bush, died after suffering fatal injuries when hundreds of people surged to the exit during a Wickedest Wickedest club night. Last October, Northamptonshire Police and Northampton Borough Council confirmed that, following a lengthy investigation into the deaths of the two young women, no criminal charges were to be brought against anyone involved in the incident. At the same time, the Crown Prosecution Service said it had been looking into possible charges relating to the club’s general manager and security manager since June 2014, but there was not enough evidence that either was at fault to bring the matters to court.
Wagamama founder cooks meal for Chinese president before fish and chips at pub: Wagamama founder Alan Yau cooked a meal for Chinese president Xi Jinping at a Downing Street lunch yesterday (Wednesday, 21 October). The president has reportedly requested a meal of fish and chips and a trip to a traditional English pub during his visit to the UK this week. President Xi is expected to visit a pub near Chequers today (Thursday, 22 October) and wants to try fish and chips. A source involved in negotiations over the trip was quoted by The Sunday Times as saying: “The Chinese are desperate to order fish and chips. They’ve asked about it repeatedly. I don’t know if they know something we don’t about the Chequers kitchens. It’s all part of the president’s view of himself as a man of the people.”

Anheuser-Busch to pay $28m to settle Becks mislabelling class action in the US: Anheuser-Busch will pay up to $28m to settle a class action lawsuit over Beck’s brand labelling that consumers said falsely led them to believe the beer was brewed in Germany under an agreement approved in Florida federal court on Tuesday. Lawyers for the affected consumers estimated about 1.7 million households purchased the beer products in question between May 2011 and June 2015. Anheuser-Busch agreed to pay 50 cents per six-pack, $1 for each 12-pack, and $1.75 for each 20-pack of 12-ounce bottles. Total payments will be capped at $50 for households with proof-of-purchase, and $12 for those without. Some 60,000 claims have been filed, and more are expected, said plaintiffs’ attorney Tucker Ronzetti at a court hearing. Anheuser-Busch also agreed to add labels identifying the Beck’s brand as having been made in the United States for the next five years, and to make similar changes to its website.
CAMRA publishing new ‘beer expert’ book today: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is publishing its new book “So you want to be a beer expert?” today (Thursday, 22 October). The book, written by acclaimed beer writer Jeff Evans, explores the variety of beers now available in pubs, beer festivals, specialist retailers and even supermarkets. The novelty of this book – and its key point of difference with other beer titles – is that it doesn’t just relate to the facts but helps readers reach conclusions for themselves. A key element is formed by the interactive tastings that show readers, through their own taste buds, what beer is all about. Evans said: “The book is deliberately designed to cater for all levels of knowledge. If you are a beginner there’s an easy track to fast knowledge; if you are more experienced, there are more detailed sections that will take your understanding rather further; and, for all readers, there are loads of taste offs, experiments, tips, recommended visits and other snippets of information to make learning about beer both easy and great fun. The inspiration for this book comes from the many talks and beer tastings I host each year. I love explaining how beer is made; discussing how important each ingredient is to the colour, aroma and flavour of the beer in the glass, and relating the history of various styles of beer. Giving people the knowledge and the inspiration to learn more about beer has always been hugely enjoyable and this book captures what I set out to do in my presentations.” Meanwhile, the fully revised sixth edition of 101 Beer Days Out, also published by CAMRA and authored by Tim Hampson, is released today. The book highlights ale trails, brewery visits and beery destinations and has been fully updated to include the best beer days out across the UK.

Company News:

Harry Ramsden’s signs Costa Coffee and Pizza Hunt franchisee for Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire: Fish and chips brand Harry Ramsden’s has signed a new franchise agreement for a further territory in England. The brand has awarded the franchise for Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire to Bobby Khangura and Lacky Sohal of Larentia, who already have extensive experience operating within the UK food and beverage franchise sector with Costa Coffee and Pizza Hut. Under the terms of the new agreement, 28 Harry Ramsden’s outlets will open across the region within the next six years, bringing with them approximately 200 new jobs. A number of sites in the area are currently being assessed for their suitability, however it is anticipated that the first new outlet will open in Southend, Essex, early in 2016. Joe Teixeira, chief executive of Harry Ramsden’s, said: ‘‘As a result of the brand’s successful repositioning, our franchising proposition is continuing to attract high levels of interest both at home and abroad. That we have now signed seven major agreements in a relatively short space of time is testament to the undeniable appeal and longevity of Harry Ramsden’s.” Khangura said: “We have watched the resurgence of the Harry Ramsden’s brand with great interest over the past couple of years and are delighted to now be part of the brand’s ongoing evolution.” Sohal added: “Our team has over 15 years’ experience within the franchising sector and we are all familiar with our selected territory, so we are entering into this new partnership with great confidence.” To date and as a result of recent franchising agreements, 18 Harry Ramsden’s openings have taken place across the Welcome Break network and new outlets are also trading well in Yorkshire, Scotland and Sussex with more UK openings expected within the next few months. Internationally, as part of franchise agreements for Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the first new overseas Harry Ramsden’s outlet opens imminently at The Pearl in Doha and the brand is set to open its doors once again in the KSA, after a ten-year absence. Teixeira is currently in discussions with a number of other interested parties both at home and abroad.

YO! Sushi to open third US site on Monday: YO! Sushi will open its third directly managed site in the US on Monday (26 October), located at the International Plaza, in the Westshore business district of Tampa, Florida – the second site in the state for the brand. The sushi restaurant has a presence in Sarasota’s Mall at University Town Center (UTC). Both Mall at UTC and International Plaza are owned by Taubman, an international mall operator. “The first YO! Sushi restaurant opened in London in 1997, and there are locations all over the world, including London, Dubai and Copenhagen,” said Vanessa Hall, YO! Sushi’s chief executive. “With the success of our Sarasota location at The Mall at UTC, we’re excited to open at International Plaza.”

Burger & Lobster opening 15th site next to the Old Bailey tomorrow, aims to raise £25,000 for Movember: Burger & Lobster, the brand owned by Goodman Restaurant Group, will open its 15th site tomorrow (Friday, 23 October), this time next to the Old Bailey in London. The company is launching the bar and restaurant in Old Bailey Street, Ludgate, – its ninth in the capital. The venue will be open every day from noon until 10.30pm Monday to Wednesday, 11pm Thursday to Saturday and 5pm on Sundays. Meanwhile, Burger & Lobster is aiming to raise 25,000 for the Movember campaign, which raises awareness for men’s health during November. It will donate 50p from every burger sold as well as holding activities at each of its restaurants. Movember targets awareness of prostate and testicular cancer as well as mental health and physical inactivity.

Coffee Republic signs new international franchisee: Coffee Republic has opened its 20th international franchised site, this time opened by master franchisee Al Masar Technology at the Avenue Mall, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. The brand’s existing international presence includes Pakistan with sites in Lahore and Islamabad, ten venues in Kuwait, Romania, Barcelona International Airport terminal one, Lanzarote Airport, Fuerteventura Airport, and Doha, Qatar. There are also two stores opening soon with its franchisee in the Kingdom of Bahrain. In the UK, five new franchised sites are scheduled to open before Christmas, meaning the company is on track to double its estate in 2015.

BrewDog signs deal for first site in East Anglia: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has struck a deal to take over the grade II-listed premises on Queen Street, Norwich, which were previously leased to the Hideout bar, according to property agents Arnolds Keys. The company currently has 23 bars in the UK, and a further 11 overseas, in locations ranging from Helsinki to Sao Paulo. This launch will mark the first BrewDog bar in East Anglia, with the nearest venues being in London and Leicester. “We are really pleased that we have been able to attract such an eclectic brewery to Norwich, and bring important bar premises back to life,” said Arnolds Keys partner Craig Knights. “The building occupies a prominent position on Queen Street in one of the city’s best night-time activity areas, close to a number of other bars and restaurants. BrewDog offers something different, which will complement the other bar offerings, and bring something genuinely new to Norwich.”

Craft Beer Co names November for City debut: Craft Beer Co will make its City debut when it opens its seventh pub in London next month. The company, founded by Martin Hayes, is launching Craft Beer Co St Mary Axe in Mitre Lane, in the shadow of the Gherkin building on Wednesday, 11 November. The former Trident Bar and Restaurant is being refurbished to transform the site into “one of the City’s greatest beer destinations”. Hayes said he believes the area is “hugely under-provided for in terms of craft beer”. He added: “We’ve always wanted to take the business into the City, but until now, we haven’t found the right site. I always said that opening in Covent Garden last year would represent a ‘tipping point’ for the business, and I’m happy to have been proven right. The Craft Beer Co St Mary Axe, as we’re calling it, will have all the hallmarks of our other sites – great cask and keg beer on tap, backed-up with an amazing selection of bottled beers from around the globe. We will be bringing a ‘world class’ line-up of beers to the City.” Craft Beer Co currently operates five pubs in London and one in Brighton.

MasterChef the Professionals winner to open first restaurant: MasterChef the Professionals winner Jamie Scott is to open his first restaurant. Scott, who won the title on the BBC2 show in December, is transforming part of the former Newport Hotel in Newport-on-Tay, Scotland, into a top-class restaurant and bar. He plans to spend more than £50,000 fitting out the kitchen alone, which he has also designed to meet his own demands. Scott told The Courier: “Dundee is on the up and up and Newport is overlooking it all. It’s going to be over four floors – two restaurant floors, the bar and the kitchen above. I want to make Newport a favourite destination for people from all over.” Scott, who will run the restaurant with his wife Kelly, plans to open the venue towards the end of the year or in January.

Freehold of Birmingham's Jam House offered for £3.2m-plus: The freehold of Jam House in Birmingham, the live music venue operated by former Luminar boss Stephen Thomas, has been put up for sale by Birmingham Properties Group (BPG) with offers of more than £3.2m being invited. The company has stressed that the process will not affect the running of the venue. The three-storey building on St Paul’s Square is fully let and comprises 13,336 square foot of floor space. The Jam House has 18 years remaining on the lease. John Bunce, manager of The Jam House, said: “We want to assure our customers that it will be business as usual during and after the sale of the building in which we are housed. We remain committed to providing people with a great night out with live music, good food, and dancing at our Jewellery Quarter premises.” Oliver Forster, of BNP Paribas Real Estate, who is handling the sale on behalf of BPG, added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to buy a piece of Birmingham history in the city’s popular Jewellery Quarter. Not only is this a very attractive building in an old part of the city centre, it is home to a very well-established and successful live music venues and will be sold as a transfer of a business as a going concern.” John Tebbutt, managing director of BPG, said the sale of The Jam House would enable the company to reinvest in other development projects.

Bristol-based steak brand The Ox opening second site in Cheltenham tomorrow: Bristol-based steak brand The Ox will open its second site tomorrow (Friday, 23 October), this time in Cheltenham. The concept, which launched in 2013, is opening the 100-seat restaurant in Cambray Place in the basement of the building that is home to hairdresser Vanilla’s. It specialises in prime cuts of steak, which are cooked in the restaurant’s Josper oven in order to give the meat its distinctive charcoal flavour. Diners can also expect charcuterie, seasonal small plates, desserts and Sunday roasts, while the drinks menu features craft beers, cocktails and wine. Managing director Nathan Lee told SoGlos: “We’re bringing to Cheltenham our ethos of simple, yet interesting food made using top quality local produce, served in a relaxed, informal and bustling environment.” Lee set up Bristol bars Hyde and Co and The Milk Thistle with two business partners five years ago before launching The Ox in Corn Street in November 2013.

Ed’s Easy Diner opens first department store site with more to follow: Ed’s Easy Diner has opened its first site in a department store with more set to follow. The company has partnered with Debenhams to open a restaurant within its store in Manchester, creating about 30 jobs. That will be followed by two further Ed’s Easy Diner’s openings in Debenhams – in Basildon, Essex, on Monday (26 October) and Westfield White City in November. Ed’s Easy Diner chief executive Andrew Guy said: “We are delighted to be partnering up with Debenhams – it has a great reputation and stores in fantastic locations for us. Our target guest profile fits perfectly with theirs.” The new openings form part of Debenham’s strategy to provide new and exciting ways of enhancing the customer experience, including a more vibrant food offer, with new and established brands, including Costa and Patisserie Valerie. Debenhams UK director of space planning Mark Jordan said: “Broadening our food offer will see a number of fantastic new brands join our portfolio and offer our customers a variety of options for casual dining. For some food brands it will be their first outlet in a town where they do not already have a presence and we are confident that this will be a key footfall driver.”

Premier Inn exchanges contracts for new 107-bedroom hotel in Caterham: Whitbread-owned Premier Inn has exchanged contracts for a 107-bedroom hotel and Beefeater restaurant in Caterham, Surrey. The company has struck a deal with developer Co Plan Estate to build the hotel on the former Rose and Young garage in Croydon Road. CoPlan, which is Tandridge District Council’s preferred developer for the site, expects to submit a planning application in early 2016. Premier Inn acquisition manager Louise Woodruff said: “We are pleased to be working with CoPlan Estates to bring forward our proposed 107-bedroom Premier Inn hotel and Beefeater restaurant in Caterham. A new Premier Inn would deliver £12m in fresh investment, as well as creating 40 year-round jobs and attracting more visitors to the local area.” CoPlan Estates director Colin McQueston added: “We are delighted to have signed these two key legal agreements, which represent a significant step forward towards the long awaited development of this site.”

Chipotle reports slowing like-for-likes: Chipotle Mexican Grill has reported increased footfall primarily contributed to a same-store sales increase of 2.6% in the third quarter ending 30 September. That increase, however, is a big drop on the 19.8% like-for-like sales growth of a year ago. It also indicated a slowdown in sales compared with the 4.3% like-for-like sales increase in the second quarter this year. The Denver-based operator’s net income grew by 10.8% to $144.9m, or $4.59 per share, during the quarter, compared with $130.8m, or $4.15 per share a year ago.

Work on £5m Dudley leisure scheme to start next month: Work on a new £5m development that will bring three big brands and up to 80 jobs to Dudley is expected to start next month. Dudley Council has given the green light for a Greene King pub, KFC and Costa Coffee to be built on vacant land behind the Premier Inn on Castlegate Drive. A fourth unit is expected to be built speculatively for use as a restaurant. Dominic Stokes, director at Birmingham-based developers Stoford, said: “This is an exciting project which supports the development of Castle Hill and Dudley town centre by providing complementary visitor facilities. We expect work to begin on site in November and the businesses could be trading by summer 2016.”

Britannia Hotels reports profits boost: According to its latest set of accounts, Britannia Hotels’ pre-tax profits rose by 441% to £14.2m in the year ending 31 March 2015. Operating profits increased by 162% to £15.2m over the same period. Meanwhile, turnover rose by 7.8% to £79m. Most of this was generated by its hoteliers business (£69.7m), followed by hotel management services (£9.2m) and rental income (£112,000). In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors said: “As a result of the hotel acquisitions in the current and previous year, sales show growth of 7.8% for the year.” They added: “The directors recognise that the environment of increased competition in the UK hotel industry has placed additional demands on the business. In order to sustain and enhance our position in the market, we have endeavoured to improve the standard of our product both in terms of facilities and levels of service. The group have made strategic acquisitions of hotels during the year and has also added two additional properties since the year end.” Founded in 1976, Britannia Hotels now has more than 50 hotels and holiday parks across the UK offering a combined total of in excess of 9,000 bedrooms.

Doncaster’s largest nightclub set to reopen as Kooky: A Doncaster nightclub that has already opened and closed three times in the past few years is set to bounce back into life once more. The Trilogy club, in Silver Street, is currently undergoing a major refurbishment and is set to reopen as Kooky Nightclub. The club, Doncaster’s largest nightclub, originally closed in 2010 after seven years in business. However, it then briefly reopened in the winter of 2012 under new management for a few weeks before shutting down once again. Under fresh ownership, the club reopened again in March last year, but closed once more. The club originally shut in 2010 due to a slump in trade and was snapped up in 2012 by a new consortium, Yorkshire Bars. At the time, the company announced ambitious plans for the venue, creating 100 jobs and installing state-of-the-art sound and light systems at the 3,000-capacity building – before promptly shutting down again after just three weeks. A statement posted on Kooky Nightclub’s Facebook page said: “Leave reality at home and enter the world of Kooky Nightclub, coming soon to Silver Street in Doncaster. We are currently transforming the old Trilogy nightclub into Kooky Doncaster with amazing sound and lights, awesome DJs, lasers, fireworks, dry ice cocktails, an epic 3D digital wall with built-in podiums and stage for the Kooky entertainers.”

Viva Brazil to launch 110-cover pop-up restaurant in Liverpool today ahead of flagship city centre site reopening: Brazilian restaurant Viva Brazil is launching a pop-up restaurant in Liverpool today (Thursday, 22 October) ahead of reopening its flagship site in the city that was damaged by fire. The 110-cover “Espiritio de Brazil by Viva Brazil” is opening in Liverpool’s Metquarter at the former Cafe Rouge site until the new year. Owner and managing director Andy Aldrich has decided to open the pop-up while work continues to refurbish the Castle Street restaurant, which suffered extensive damage in a blaze at the beginning of August. The Castle Street site will reopen on Monday, 26 November with the pop-up continuing to operate. Aldrich said: “Getting the Castle Street restaurant back up and running as soon as possible was always our number one priority. We do not want customers to miss out so while work continues on our expansive refit, the pop-up will operate as our main hub. It will give customers choice as they will also be available to book the pop-up for their private Christmas parties.”

Five-star hotel plan for Bristol looks set for go-ahead: Plans to turn the historic grade II-listed Guildhall in Bristol, formerly the city’s court buildings, into a five-star hotel look set to be given the green light by the council at a meeting next week. The Osborne Group has submitted plans to convert the Guildhall and the grade I-listed adjoining building that was previously the Bank of England’s Bristol branch into a 91-bedroom luxury hotel. The plans also include a spa, restaurant and conference facilities as well as the installation of a swimming pool on the building’s roof. The Guildhall was originally built in 1843 based on designs by Richard Shackleton Pope. Frontage on to Small Street was added in 1868. The building was adapted for use as courts in the early 20th century and a series of alterations made in the 1940s and 1960s. A report to be considered at a meeting of Bristol City Council’s development control committee next Wednesday (28 October) has recommended full planning consent for the scheme. This is subject to conditions designed to preserve the building’s historic features.

Wagamama launches new takeaway design: Wagamama has launched new takeaway packaging. The packaging, designed by creative agency Pearlfisher, comes in a series of stackable bowls. According to the agency, each “bowl” comes as a complete package and is housed in a belly band, which indicates the particular contents of each order (and also contains the chopsticks). The packaging labels each order from a list of the full Wagamama menu. The use of inserts enables the constituent parts of a dish to be stacked in a single container.

Robinsons family receives special recognition in home town: The Robinsons family, who have been at the helm of the award-winning Robinsons Brewery in Stockport since 1883, have received the Special Recognition Award at this year’s Stockport Business Awards. The Stockport Business Awards were set up by Stockport businesses in 2012 to highlight and celebrate business excellence in the region; which is rapidly building a reputation as one of the fastest growing commercial centres in the north of England. The judges chose to break from tradition this year and present the Special Recognition Award, for the first time, to the entire Robinsons family rather than an individual as recognition for over 177 years of business in Stockport and also as part of Robinsons’ commitment to reinvest in the business for future generations and for Stockport as a whole.

Hastings Hotels gets go-ahead for £30m hotel and restaurant plan for Belfast: Hastings Hotels has been given permission for a £30m investment that will create more than 150 jobs for Belfast. The company has been granted consent by Belfast City Council’s planning committee to transform the 122,000 square foot Windsor House into a 24-storey 200-bedroom hotel. The four-star property will also include 16 serviced apartments, a restaurant and bar, and office accommodation. The new venture, which will be called the Belfast Grand Central Hotel, is set to open in 2018.

Virgin Trains creates its own beer with Rudgate Brewery: Virgin Trains has created a new ale christened “Hop on Board”, available to those on east coast routes. To coincide with its launch, Virgin is trialling a new glass – the “Hoptimist” pint glass – that is forever “half full” to celebrate the new beer’s arrival. The glass has been hand blown by craftsmen so that it always appears that it’s half full. It will mean that customers travelling on Virgin Trains routes between London King’s Cross, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh will be able to sit back and enjoy a full-bodied ale as they travel. The ale has been created exclusively for Virgin Trains, which expects to sell more than 55,000 bottles this year. “Hop on Board” combines traits of both a bitter and a pale ale with the expectation that it will excite both seasoned ale drinkers and the growing number of pale ale fans. The name “Hop on Board” was chosen by Virgin Trains staff and created by York-based Rudgate Brewery and Virgin Trains.

Speaker programme for Propel Multi Club Conference: The full speaker programme for the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday, 5 November at the Lancaster, London, the best-attended conference series in the sector, has been unveiled. Ian King, presenter of the Sky News show, Ian King Live, and former Business and City editor of The Times, looks at the key economic trends over the past 12 months and the 12 months ahead and gives his views on their impact on the hospitality sector. Peter Hansen, founder of leading mergers and acquisitions advisory Sapient Corporate Finance, which has advised on sector transactions worth more than £2bn in the past five years, looks at the key sector trends in 2015 for those buying and selling businesses. Andrew Ball, of accountancy firm haysmacintyre, offers his top tips on tax minimisation for multi-site operators. Paul Harbottle, commercial director of Enterprise Inns, talks about building an 800-strong managed pub estate and investment and progress in the leased and tenanted part of the business. Toby Smith, chief executive of Novus Leisure, explains how the company is evolving its food, drink and entertainment offer, along with digital capability, to stay at the forefront of the late-night market in London and the regions. Martin Wolstencroft, founder of Arc Inspirations, arguably Yorkshire’s most successful independent bar and restaurant operator, talks about running multiple concepts, overcoming challenges, best-in-class profit conversion, innovation and expanding over the Pennines in the company’s 15th year. Scott Shaw, founder and chairman of marketing and information analysis business Fishbowl, explains how US restaurant businesses are using guest information to drive marketing and sales. He is joined by data expert Mike Lukianoff, founder of Czar Metrics, now owned by Fishbowl, who will talk about the ground-breaking work his company is doing in the US with a host of well-known restaurant brands, using data to shape menu and price engineering, media efficiency and trade area analytics. Nick Collins, managing director of Loungers, talks about evolving the brand, maintaining company culture, fulfilling growth ambitions, new trading locations and stepping into the shoes of founder Alex Reilley. Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, co-founders of Brewhouse & Kitchen, talk about how they have developed the UK’s largest brewpub chain, food quality, recruiting brewers, brewing experiences, EIS funding and the market potential for the company. Ann Elliott, chief executive of leading sector public relations and marketing firm Elliotts, presents the findings of a survey of senior industry executives on the subject of “outstanding leadership”. Elliotts strategy director James Hacon talks to former Spirit chief executive Mike Tye, Thorley Taverns operations director Phil Thorley, Ego Restaurants chief executive James Horler and Ann Elliott about the principles of high quality leadership.

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