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Tue 10th Nov 2015 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Novus boss – ‘we’re transforming customer experience’: Novus Leisure has unveiled an industry-first system it hopes will revolutionise customer experience within the 45-site business. Novus, which turns over circa £95m per annum, has 30 sites with a 3am licence. Its 22 landmark nightclubs produce a turnover of £55.1m, with 57% of revenue post 9pm and pre-booked sales accounting for 45% of turnover. Chief executive Toby Smith said the company has now launched a real-time customer feedback and interaction platform that will transform customer experience. He told the Propel Multi Club Conference: “We have big venues, a captive audience, often and one of the opportunities for us is to link the fact we have great locations, 3am licences and a brilliant, proven sales model with completely revolutionising the customer experience within that. One of the issues for us is the Net Promoter Score. That doesn’t work for us in that the majority of our customers are aged between 18 and 28 – they do not fill-in online surveys two days after they visited to win a £20 voucher for two. It’s not Vintage Inns. What they do is Tweet, Facebook and use Instagram – they use social media to tell you about their experience there and then. The issue for us is: if we only build capability to measure that and review it two or three days later and then make a difference, we’re only as good as everybody else in our industry. So we have built a real-time customer experience feedback model. It’s mobile, all information comes into one place – all of the data sources. The key is that social feedback comes in a real-time to a mobile platform. It builds a data history and information, therefore, is at the fingertips of any user within the Novus business. If you are a pre-booked customer, you have a customer record within our CRM system that will tell us your name, your email address, the last time you booked and what you ordered. The system also now tells us what you said on social media when you were on-site. We have that attached to that customer record. That gives you real-time insight into how to make that customer experience better there and then. We can pick up any information on TripAdvisor, Square Meal, Design My Night, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with key words about one of our venues. Tiger Tiger, London, on a Saturday evening after 9pm, gets over 400 individual pieces of data. The reality is how you deal with 400 pieces of data – it’s just too much to get your head around and take action and make that experience better. The next stage for us has been to build a real-time dashboard – and the key is to respond in seconds to that customer. We now have the ability to respond to a customer that Tweets in seconds.” (See company news for a story on Novus Leisure’s new approach to capital expenditure)

Industry News:

Propel and Elliotts partner for Advanced Marketing Masterclass: Propel is partnering leading sector public relations and marketing firm Elliotts for the inaugural Advanced Marketing Masterclass. The event takes place on Thursday, 14 January at One Moorgate Place in London. It will provide an insight into all aspects of marketing across the sector including how to develop and deliver effective digital initiatives and the best ways to recognise and tell a brand’s story to maximise its PR or social media potential. There will also be the latest insight into consumers’ behaviour to help companies develop marketing strategies around their customers as well as how to brief and work with an agency effectively. The event will feature contributions from Novus Leisure and Brazilian barbecue restaurant Cabana about some of the marketing initiatives they have used to improve results for their business. Elliotts strategy and development director James Hacon will also lead a panel discussion with marketing directors from leading brands. Tickets are priced at £295 for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 for non-ALMR members and are available by emailing Adam Dickinson on adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Beany Green hits 200% of crowdfunding target in four days: Coffee shop chain Beany Green, the Australian-inspired concept founded by Prue Freeman and Tom Onions, has hit 200% of its mini-bond target in four days on Crowdcube. It achieved its £300,000 target with a four-year bond paying 11% interest in a day. Yesterday (Monday, 9 November), it passed the £600,000 mark thanks to 173 investors – the offer still has 39 days left. The pitch states: “Our business has experienced solid top line growth over the last three years with net revenues (after VAT) increasing from £70,000 in FY13 to £1.7m in FY15 to £3.0m September 2015 run rate. We believe that our current five locations will continue to demonstrate strong growth over the next three years, delivering net revenues of £3.9m by FY18. We expect this growth to be capex light and to come through several planned new product offerings (weekday evenings at our location in Little Venice, an additional take away coffee outlet at Broadgate already agreed, increased lunchtime product offerings and minor reconfigurations at Regent’s Place). Our forecasts also assume that we add two additional locations in 2016 which together we expect to generate net revenues of circa £2.6m by FY18.”

BrewDog co-founder – ‘our £300m valuation is fair, just compare us to Fever-Tree’: Co-founder of BrewDog James Watt has hit back at claims his Scottish brewery, maker of Punk IPA, has been overvalued. “We’ve been the fastest-growing drinks company in the UK for the past three years,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “We’ll hit £100m in revenues by 2017.” In April this year, the brewery launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £25m in growth capital from fans of the business. The company made 526,316 shares available with a minimum investment of £95 for two shares, valuing the business at more than £300m. Commentators have since claimed a price/earnings ratio of 116 was extremely high for a technology start-up, let alone a physical brewery. Watt, who confirmed £13m has now been raised from 40,000 investors through the company’s landmark Equity for Punks scheme, which also comprises a four-year mini-bond issue, said the market had thrown its weight behind the company’s valuation. He argued the £306m market capitalisation was fair. “We would tell [critics] to look at Fever-Tree, which is valued at more than £450m,” he said. “If you compare our growth rate and fundamentals, I’ll think you’ll find we compare very favourably.”

Caffeine Informer survey reveals varying caffeine content across coffee offers at four brands: An investigation conducted by trade publication Caffeine Informer has revealed varying caffeine content across four major chains. Out of the four chains surveyed Starbuck’s coffee, which is the most expensive at £2.60 for a medium cappucino, was found to contains 75mg of caffeine whilst McDonald’s cappuccinos contains only 71mg but costs nearly £1 less, coming in at £1.69. The same drink at Caffe Nero costs £2.30, 30p cheaper than Starbucks, but contains 5mg more caffeine than its high street rival. Costa’s medium cappucino contains the most caffeine out of the four – a generous 185mg for £2.45.

Soho House acquires second Los Angeles site for $18.5m: Soho House has bought a second Los Angeles site for £18.5m – the six-storey 62,000 square foot Arts District building, a 1917 warehouse located at 1000 S Santa Fe Ave. Developer Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality, which helped create the Ace Hotel, will spearhead the renovation of the building. Soho House will include a market, restaurant, bar, spa, salon, gym, screening room, performance space, rooftop pool and 16 hotel rooms. It is scheduled to open in 2016. There are now 15 Soho House venues around the world, including one in West Hollywood.

Company News:

Loungers boss – ‘we’ve learnt from our mistakes in the north west’, made shift to regional operations structure: Loungers managing director Nick Collins has said the company has learnt from the mistakes it made when launching in the north west of England. The company opened four sites in quick succession in late 2013 and Collins admitted it took nearly a year to undo the errors. He told the Propel Multi Club Conference: “Whilst we delivered the sites on time, the openings weren’t slick operationally and this was soon reflected in the sales. It took us the best part of a year to undo this and the principal reason for the failure was the absence of the Loungers culture in the north west. There was no base from which new employees could learn what our values were as a business, to whom general managers could turn to for support and nowhere local for them to see what really good looks like. A move into a new area is now phased with considerable experienced resource so the business should open as we expect it to.” Of the company’s expansion, he added: “It’s been one hell of a learning curve but for the most part it’s been well thought through. Critically, the acceleration of the roll-out has been well controlled. We’ve gradually increased the amount of openings each year building on the knowledge we’ve gained. There’s been some mistakes but as a board we’ve reflected and made sure we learnt from them.” The company has also changed its set-up over the past 12 months with a shift to a regional operational structure to help the senior executive team “let go” of direct control of the sites. This has also included the introduction of operational chefs to give the food side of the business “the focus it requires”, said Collins. The company is also looking at the possibility of recruiting its first HR manager. He added: “For many larger businesses this will seem to be relatively common place but for us it’s been a massive shift, fundamentally around us letting go of the direct control of the sites and trusting others to step in. Over the last 12 months the regional structure has bedded in and I think it’s been one of our biggest achievements.” Collins said culture and community was at the heart of the business but it had also improved its overall package, including announcing the early adoption of the National Living Wage ahead of its introduction next April. About a year ago it also set up “Glue Crews” – small groups formed to help “embed the culture of the business”. Collins said: “They are new and old Loungers who meet on a regular basis. The sessions are to feed-back on what we are doing right and wrong and where we can improve and are critical to us knowing what is going on within the business.”

Brakspear opens first managed pub in London: Pub operator and brewer Brakspear has opened its first managed pub in London, the Pocket Watch in Shepherds Bush, which transfers across from its tenanted estate following a major refurbishment. The pub, formerly called the British Queen, will became Brakspear’s seventh managed site when it reopened yesterday (Monday, 9 November). Brakspear has redeveloped it as a “neighbourhood local”, offering relaxed drinking, dining and entertainment for the growing number of young professionals living and working in Shepherds Bush. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “The demographic of Shepherds Bush has changed dramatically over recent years, creating an exciting opportunity for us. We’ve reinvented the pub from traditional boozer to ‘third place’, where customers can enjoy a drink or a quick bite, chat with friends and maybe watch some live sport. It’s a community pub with a modern twist and we’re confident it’ll quickly become a favourite place to spend time in Shepherds Bush.” The pub’s traditional Victorian interior has been given a contemporary “edge” by Brakspear’s in-house design team. Elements reflecting its heritage, such as the etched glass windows and period colour palette, contrast with modern lighting and industrial chic furniture to create a uniquely stylish and welcoming environment. Super-fast broadband and ample charging points allow customers to spend time on laptops or tablets. The Pocket Watch is the third pub to join Brakspear’s managed division this year, following the acquisitions of the George Hotel in Shipston-on-Stour in May and the Church Street Townhouse in Stratford-upon-Avon in October.

Novus reports new approach to capital expenditure: Novus Leisure chief executive Toby Smith has revealed the company has adopted a new approach to capital expenditure. Smith told the Propel Multi Club Conference: “The issue for us is that with big sites and large rents, it’s very difficult for us to undertake capital expenditure in the normal way because it’s really expensive for the business. So we put some new fundamentals in place as to how we approach our capex programme. We want a proven general manager in place so we’re investing behind people we know. Wherever possible we pick sites that are trading in growth. I’m not a big believer in using capex to reverse decline unless you really have to – or if you’ve run out of sites in growth. Taking somewhere that’s doing well and has a good customer following and then triggering it on to the next level is best practice for us. We’ve done seven capex schemes in 2015. We’ve now paused because at Christmas as our business goes into a completely different dimension. At our Balls Brothers business in Berry Court next to the Gherkin, the last capex we did, we shut for just three days and invested £150,000 – historically the business would have shut for two-and-a-half weeks. The refurbishment started on a Sunday and it reopened on a Wednesday night so nearly zero closure costs and it is in 17% growth post reopening. At Tiger Tiger, London, our biggest taking site, we spent just over £800,000 and closed for ten days. Tiger Tiger, London, had never been completely closed before. Last week, the site did £202,000 net – the only time it’s ever done more than £200,000 outside of December.”

Starbucks extends college benefits to veterans and military spouses: Starbucks has announced it has hired more than 5,500 veterans and military spouses, surpassing the halfway mark to reaching its commitment made in 2013 to hire 10,000 by 2018. Additionally, to better address the needs of employees who are active duty or reservists in the US armed forces or National Guard, Starbucks announced a new pay-for-service-benefit, which will cover up to 80 hours of pay each year for service obligations. Starbucks, which already offers a tuition-free education to eligible US partners through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, also announced it is providing employees who are current or former members of the US armed forces with an additional tuition-free education to extend to a spouse or child. More than 4,000 employees already take advantage of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan education benefit in partnership with Arizona State University to earn a bachelor’s degree with 100% tuition coverage. “We have a responsibility as a nation to honour our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice, but it goes beyond saying thank you – we must put our thanks into action and collectively help those who are making the transition from military to civilian life,” said Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz.

Restaurant planned for historic Hillingdon House: Grade II-listed Hillingdon House, the former military hospital and home of the RAF, nearby to the Battle of Britain Bunker on the site of the former RAF Uxbridge, has been acquired by Hillingdon House (UK), which will pursue plans to deliver a 6,000 square foot restaurant and office space. Hillingdon House is a former military hospital and was once home to RAF Bomber Command. The original house was built in 1717 as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Schomberg but was destroyed by fire and the present house was built in its place in 1844. Tim Seddon, regional director for St Modwen, welcomed the sale: “This is another significant step forward in delivering a mixed-use community at the very edge of Uxbridge town centre and opening up the once closed site with much needed new homes and a new school, leisure and recreation facilities, including a new pubic park, and opportunities for over 1,000 jobs from the commercial space.”

Ged Lynch to reopen Beluga as Public Market: Cheshire-based restaurant operator Ged Lynch has acquired Beluga in Bramhall and will convert the site into a new concept called Public Market in time for Christmas. The new concept will be open all day, seven days a week serving breakfast, light snacks, artisan cakes, salads, pizzas to eat in or take out and oven baked pasta dishes from the wood-fired pizza oven. He said: “We are very excited to have acquired this site and hope to build on the legacy of Beluga. We aim to create an open plan multi-functional space where all age groups can interact. We have taken great care to source the finest quality ingredients and are keen to support local suppliers wherever possible. Our pizzas will be made from a slow rising sour dough base from a closely guarded Neapolitan recipe creating a light and moreish pizza unlike anything you’ve tried before.” The heartbeat of the restaurant will be the wood fired pizza oven, which will cook 95% of the venue’s menu. The oven reaches temperatures of 500 degrees centigrade meaning a pizza can be freshly cooked in just 90 seconds.
 
Beetroot Restaurants to close Aberdeen site to open barbecue restaurant: Beetroot Restaurants is to close its well-known The Courtyard site in Aberdeen on 31 December to open a barbecue menu concept called Cue. The group, which owns The Adelphi Kitchen, will partner with hot sauce producers Angus & Oink for the new restaurant, which will be at the same site on Alford Lane. Cue will include a bar serving Southern American and Southern US themed drinks, as well as an area for live music acts. Beetroot boss Chris Tonner said: “The recent popular barbecue trend has taken the UK by storm, so we have decided to be one of the first establishments to bring this new dining experience to the city. We want the new business to be one of the leading eating destinations in the city so we have decided to pull away from the fine-dining aspect and offer customers an authentic barbecue experience.” Cue opens in February.

Greene King donates further £15,000 to Pub is The Hub: Greene King has made a donation of £15,000 to Pub is The Hub’s Community Services Fund in order to help to support rural pubs who want to diversify their services for the benefit of their communities. This is the third year Greene King has given to the fund, bringing the total donated to £45,000. The Community Services Fund, which has been available since April 2013, aims to offer funds to licensees who are looking to broaden their services to the wider community but are unable to find suitable funding from other sources. With grants available of up to £4,000, applicants have to demonstrate they will be offering a new service or replacing a service that has already been lost to the local community, such as a local shop or a library. In addition, for every £1 that is invested in the Community Service Fund by Pub is The Hub, a further £1 is matched or invested by public funding or private investment. Rooney Anand, Greene King’s chief executive, said: “Pubs have always played a really important role in the community and by supporting the Community Services Fund means we can help pubs to provide other services in their local area. It is great to see licensees offer their locals something more than a pie and a pint, such as a library in a pub or providing a postal service when the local post office has closed down. I look forward to seeing the progress and positive impact the Community Services Fund will make again this year.”

Douglas Jack reduces Enterprise Inns price target: Numis securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has reduced his price target on Enterprise Inns shares ahead of results later this month. He said: “Enterprise is well placed to at least meet expectations when it announces its Prelims on 17 November. We forecast PBT growing by 1%, with the impact of a 2.4% decline in Ebitda being fully offset by a 4.1% reduction in net debt. Like-for-like net income rose by 0.6% over the first 44 weeks (ahead of our 0.5% FY forecast), and should remain positive in Q4. We expect Enterprise to post its ninth consecutive quarter of like-for-like net income growth in Q4, supported by reasonable trading conditions in July and September as well as softer comps. This year, the quarterly performance breaks down as 0.3% vs 0.5% comp in Q1, 0.9% vs 1.5% comp in Q2, 0.6% vs 2.1% comp in Q3 and with a softer comp of 0.5% in Q4. Like-for-like net income is being supported by: increased growth capex; enhanced operational support (40 vs 55 pubs per regional manager); and a 23% reduction in the number of business failures (to c.8% of the estate pa). Licensees are also benefiting from discounts on Wi-Fi, Sports TV packages, food offerings (with menu advice and support), training and marketing (at a H1 cost of £3m to ETI). Enterprise was slightly ahead on implementing its new strategy as at 1 August 2015, with: 22 pubs converted to managed (vs our forecast of 30 by 30 September); and 206 commercial leases (ahead of the previous 30 September 2015 target of 205). We expect expansion to be slower for Managed Expert (its first pub opened in October) and Bermondsey, than for the Craft Union (franchised) pubs, even though we believe ETI has received around 50 expressions of interest from multi-site operators. We expect c.250 pubs to have been sold for c.£75m. This alone should have been sufficient to finance the company’s c.£70m capex plans, of which c.43% should have been growth-orientated (achieving an average ROI of 19% in H1). However, we forecast net debt/Ebitda of 7.8x, only slightly down on 2014’s 8.0x. We like the company’s new strategy. Even if it falls behind in its managed pub conversions, it should undermine the number of Market Rent Only conversions, which should be the company’s primary objective. Our main concern remains the book value of the assets, with the NAV equivalent to 12.5x EV/Ebitda. Our recommendation remains ‘Buy’, but we are cutting our target price to 130p from 160p.” 

Douglas Jack – Fuller’s outperformance to continue: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast Fuller’s recent outperformance will continue when it announces interim results, due on 20 November. He said: “We forecast profit before tax being up 6% to £20.8m. The company achieved 5.7% managed pub and hotel like-for-like sales and 4% tenanted like-for-like profits over the first 16 of H1’s 26 weeks. We expect to at least hold our forecasts, with the Rugby World Cup possibly bringing an extra boost in recent trading. Managed pub/hotel like-for-like sales rose 5.7% during the first 16 weeks (against a 7.3% comp) in a London managed pub market that was up 1.9% over the same period (source: Coffer Peach Business Tracker). We believe Fuller’s should have continued its outperformance in Q2 (when the London managed pub market slowed to 1.5%), reflecting its investment in amenity, food and drink range, service and digital marketing. We believe our full year assumption of 2.5% is cautious. In Q1, one managed pub (The King’s Head, Earls Court – freehold) and two Stable Pizza restaurants (Plymouth and Bath) were added. In addition, the freeholds of two existing leasehold sites were purchased. Our forecasts assume the opening of just two new managed pubs and six new Stable Pizza restaurants in 2016E. Tenanted like-for-like profits were up 4% during the first 16 weeks (against a 3% comp). Fuller’s has a strong track record for growing like-for-like profits, driven by: investment in multiple areas; a south-east England-orientation; as well as improved training and support. Our FY forecast assumes 2% like-for-like profit growth. Beer and cider volumes were level during the first 16 weeks against a tough +7% football World Cup-related comp. We estimate they rose by 3% over the second seven weeks, and forecast volumes to grow by 1% over the full year, supported by increased advertising and a possible benefit from the Rugby World Cup. We believe forecast risk remains on the upside due to trading and expansion momentum. With net debt/Ebitda at 2.8x, there is also scope for our expansion assumptions to be exceeded.”

Zonal partners with ‘Fed it Back’ to complete the guest journey: Zonal Retail Data Systems has teamed up with customer feedback specialist Feed It Back to extend its guest insight service. Feed It Back now fully integrates with Zonal’s Aztec EPOS system and completes the guest journey, starting with website and online bookings right through to payment, loyalty and now feedback. What makes Feed It Back so beneficial to operators is that it’s the only system to combine the guests’ feedback with live EPOS data providing information such as what they bought, what they spent and who served them. This means the feedback can be tailored to a guest’s individual experience. Zonal’s chief executive Stuart McLean said: “We are really excited to be working with Feed It Back, which is one of the fastest growing guest insight companies for the hospitality industry in the UK. By combining real time EPOS data with engaging and personalised guest surveys, we can give our customers authentic insights that lead to better guest experiences and an improved bottom line. Understanding what makes a guest tick is becoming ever more important in an increasingly competitive marketplace, especially when it costs five times more to acquire new guests than keep existing ones. By working with Feed It Back, we are able to offer a truly integrated solution.” The solution works with guests being given a unique code printed on their receipt for them to complete the survey. The survey is based on real-time EPOS transaction information, which enables the questions to be personalised to their visit. The survey questions and sequence are completely customisable by the operator. On completion, the guest is presented with a single-use reward voucher to encourage a return visit and build loyalty.

Hull-based Caribbean cocktail bar and restaurant concept Roots set to start expanding with second site: Hull-based Caribbean cocktail bar and restaurant concept Roots is set to start expanding by opening its second site. The concept, founded by Alonzo Goulbourne, is opening in Beverley in New Walkergate on the site of the former The Shed bar and restaurant, creating ten jobs. The venue, which has two floors, is expected to accommodate in the region of 80 diners. The menu features traditional Caribbean meals, such as jerk chicken and Jamaican patties, while the bar will serve extensive selection of classic rum cocktails. Head of marketing Dean Wedgner told the Hull Daily Mail: “From the research we have done and from speaking to people, we think this restaurant and bar will really take off in Beverley. It’s something that has never been in the town before. We have one in Hull, but we don’t want to saturate the city. Beverley is a prime location for us.” Goulbourne’s other Roots venue in Newland Avenue, west Hull, opened last year.

Debenhams opens second Chi Kitchen, this time in London: Chi Kitchen, a new pan-Asian restaurant, has launched its second site on the ground floor of Debenhams’ flagship store in Oxford Street, London. Debenhams has enlisted restaurateur Eddie Lim, owner of Mango Tree restaurant in Belgravia to develop the concept. Chi Kitchen serves a diverse all-day dining menu influenced by Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine, guiding guests on a culinary journey through south east Asia. The Oxford Street restaurant has 68 covers and a range of seating options including deep upholstered window booths and high stools at a dining counter, which doubles as a sushi bar. Lim said: “We are absolutely delighted to be collaborating with Debenhams on this exciting new project, Chi Kitchen. Our aim is to build a brand exclusively to Debenhams, which is going to offer not only good pan-Asian food but also good energy to Debenhams loyal and new customers. The food will be exotic, colourful and incredibly tasty.” Debenhams UK director of space planning Mark Jordan added: “We are delighted to be broadening our food offer and partnering with a fantastic, unique brand such as Chi Kitchen to offer our customers an exceptional, new dining experience. We are very proud to be working with Chi Kitchen exclusively on this new concept and look forward to introducing it to our customers in the coming months.” The dining concept and brand, which are exclusive to Debenhams, opened its first site in Birmingham in September.

Greene King’s Chef & Brewer brand invites customers to vote for favourite vegetarian dishes: A Greene King-owned pub restaurant brand is inviting foodies to take up the opportunity to vote for the vegetarian starter and main dishes to feature on its menu. Chef & Brewer, which has more than 130 pubs across the UK, has launched the voting stage of its Bring-it-to-the-Vege-table PR campaign, where ten guest-inspired vegetarian dishes go head-to-head for the chance to win a Le Creuset kitchen set and a place on its spring 2016 menu. The dishes, available to vote for until 22 November, is the final stage of the brand’s Bring-it-to-the-Vege-table competition, which asked the public to suggest new veggie-inspired dishes to join the menu in 2016. After hundreds of entries, the judges at Chef & Brewer narrowed it down to ten favourites, with five starters and five mains for the public to choose from. Caroline Gallimore, brand manager for Chef & Brewer, said: “We’re looking to strengthen our vegetarian offering after finding out 46% of people now eat less meat than they did ten years ago. All ten of our final dishes are more than worthy of a place on our spring 2016 menu but the decision lies firmly in the hands of our guests on which they vote to keep.” Guests can vote for the new dishes until Sunday, 22 November via the website at www.chefandbrewer.com

Amir and Limor Chen plan to open Strut & Cluck: Amir and Limor Chen are to open Strut & Cluck, with turkey as the hero ingredient, in Shoreditch in spring 2016. Strut & Cluck will serve dishes inspired by eastern Mediterranean home cooking, with turkey served in new and exciting ways alongside seasonal ingredients. Dishes will include Josper-grilled turkey drumstick marinated in the family spice blend with roasted vegetables and herbs, tahini, pomegranate molasses and schug, slow-roast turkey thigh on a bed of caramelised red onions and sweet potatoes; and Turkey Sandwich Reinvented, grilled sourdough with hand-pulled turkey, pickled onion mayo, pickled eggs and feta-stuffed peppers. Strut & Cluck’s free range turkeys are sourced from carefully selected farms in East Anglia, where their diet is mostly made up of cereals grown at the farms. The turkeys are marinated for 24 hours with flavours inspired by the Chens eastern Mediterranean heritage. Limor Chen started cooking turkey for her family as a healthy alternative to chicken and quickly discovered the versatility and flavour of this superfood. Strut & Cluck will launch a pop-up at Shoreditch House for Thanksgiving 2015, with a selection of the Chens’ turkey and sharing dishes available to members from 25-28 November.

Bar Justice owners in Sunderland to open specialist gin bar: The owners of Sunderland’s Bar Justice are to open a specialist gin bar. Gin & Bear It will be serving up more than 40 varieties of the spirit when it opens its doors in Sunniside later this month. Renovation work is ongoing at the former 200 High Street pub, which closed four years ago, in order to transform it into the city centre’s first gin bar. As well as gin, it will be serving craft ales. Helen Davies, manager at Bar Justice, said: “We’ve had our eyes on it for a while, it’s a great bar which runs over two floors. In many ways it’s similar to the building we have here at Bar Justice. It’s actually in good enough condition to open as it is, but we want to give it its own personality and will be going for an industrial look with a large scaffolding back bar and beer keg tables.” Davies added she’s noticed a surge in demand for gin in the past few years. “Even in the last year we’ve gone from having two main ones at Bar Justice, to eight,” she said. “Gin & Bear It will have more than 40 to start, but we’re looking to expand upon that. We’ll be stocking local brands, like Durham Gin, as well as the major ones. It will be the full gin experience with botanicals and a variety of different tonics. We want to keep it as having a different identity to Bar Justice.”

Merlin Entertainments appoints new non-executive director: The board of Merlin Entertainments has announced the appointment of Yun (Rachel) Chiang to the board as a non-executive director, with effect from 1 January 2016. Chiang’s appointment will add further breadth to the board’s existing sector, geographic and governance experience, with particular expertise in the property, consumer and e-commerce sectors within the Asian markets. Chiang is currently partner and founding member of the private equity activities of Pacific Alliance Group (PAG), one of the region’s largest Asia-focused alternative investment managers with over $11bn in funds under management across private equity, real estate and hedge funds. She currently holds non-executive positions with Hong Kong-listed Sands China (a majority-owned subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands) and Hong Kong-listed Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD), which specialises in the development and management of premium property and infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific region. Sir John Sunderland, chairman of Merlin Entertainments, said: “I am delighted to welcome Rachel to the board of Merlin Entertainments. Rachel brings with her a wealth of experience of the Asian consumer and property markets which will prove invaluable as Merlin increasingly focuses its resources and efforts in to this region.”

ALMR National Restaurant Association Study Tour to Chicago opens for bookings: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2016 Chicago Study Tour is now open for bookings. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training and Sky, takes place between Thursday, 19 May and Monday, 23 May 2016. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions at the NRA show. It also involves two tours of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show combined with our tour of Chicago is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com

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