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Thu 12th Nov 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Rugby and half-term boost October pub and restaurant sales, London outperforms rest of UK: Britain’s eating and drinking-out sector saw sales pick up in October, according to the latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Collective like-for-like sales for managed pub and restaurant chains were up 2.5% against the same month last year, an improvement on the 1.2% growth seen in September. “It looks like a combination of the school half-term break and the final stages of the Rugby World Cup lifted sales, with London overall benefitting most,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM (formerly Baker Tilly) and UBS. London saw like-for-like sales up 3.8% on last October, while outside the M25 the increase was 2.1%. Total sales, including the impact of new openings, were ahead 6.1% nationally. “Managed pubs overall enjoyed a 2.7% like-for-like increase, with London contributing most of that with a 6.2% jump, compared to a more modest 1.6% gain outside,” said Martin. “Much of that will undoubtedly be down to the rugby. Drink-led pubs did a bit better than food-led establishments, but even then both drink and food sales benefitted. The story for casual dining brands was almost the reverse, however, with national like-for-likes up 2.2%, and with London flat and the rest of the country up 3.4%. It looks like school holidays were a driver there.” Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “These like-for-likes are exceptional, when you consider the enormous impact the Rugby World Cup has had on the eating-out market. Despite very low undying inflation we are seeing eating and drinking-out operators trading well and the market expanding. The next few months, as consumers enjoy the festive period, will be crucial for the leisure industry and we expect further growth on last year’s spending levels, with operators continuing to outperform inflation.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: “October has provided an excellent set of numbers for eating and drinking-out operators, again demonstrating the sector’s robust demand profile in the face of an increasingly uncertain world economic outlook. Availability of sites in prime locations continues to be challenging although the past few months has seen a wave of commercial and transport development schemes reaching completion in cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. This has provided opportunities for operators with deeper pockets who can manage longer site maturity profiles and who will prove to be the likely winners over time.”

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

Technomic predicts five key food trends for UK in 2016: Insights firm Technomic has outline its five key sector predictions for 2016: They are: Fast-casual fever: The UK is due for a fast-casual revolution. The centre of industry growth in the US, the limited-service fast-casual segment attracts consumers – especially millennials – with modern settings, higher quality and better-for-you fare while maintaining affordable cheque averages. As US fast-casuals like Smashburger and Chipotle continue to migrate to the UK, expect to see more British operators launch their own fast-casual concepts – while operators in other segments stay on trend by adopting fast-casual elements, like build-your-own meals and smaller, more focused menus; Global hybrids: Chefs are infusing a range of global flavours into modern cuisine to create something entirely new. Ingredients and culinary techniques sourced from the Middle East, South America and south east Asia will inspire hybrid dishes and fuel more menu mash-up innovation. Look for fusion preparations like tacos stuffed with Korean-inspired fillings and dumplings that pair Asian with European ingredients for an unexpected take on the familiar; Move over, meat: Vegetables are claiming a starring role in the centre of the plate. Playing into the well-entrenched movement around local British foods, regionally grown vegetables are more likely than ever to be presented as the full meal. Watch for main-course salads, eclectic interpretations of superfoods like kale, and heartier veggie-centric preparations to delight guests in search of meatless mains that are healthful yet flavourful; Off the clock: The old meal paradigm is shifting, as dining patterns and eating-out occasions are starting to reflect an ever-evolving consumer sensibility. Consumers aren’t sticking to strict mealtimes these days; instead, they’re increasingly gravitating toward food and service formats that can seamlessly integrate into their rapid-fire lifestyle. Expect snacks like bar bites and shareable fare to drive appeal during the hours after dinner, while grab-and-go platforms will expand across segments to make eating on the run easier any time of day; Potent potables: The desire for deeper, more complex flavour profiles is driving the ongoing influx of bolder drinks. Trends point to robust-flavoured cold brews as the next big thing in coffee, while behind the bar, house-made bitters, sour IPAs and lesser-known cocktails will spur on this renaissance for flavour potency in beverages.

Subway opens first site in car dealership: Subway has opened its first store within a car dealership in the UK and Ireland. The new store, which opened earlier this month, is within the Skipton Ford dealership in North Yorkshire and is owned by Subway franchisees Mark and Ed Bentley. It caters for the dealership’s customers and staff as well as nearby businesses and passing trade. There are currently over 500 Subway stores open in non-traditional locations, including within convenience stores, petrol station forecourts, universities and hospitals. The brothers are experienced franchisees with the brand, with a Subway store in Garforth near Leeds, alongside owning and running three car dealerships, including the one in Skipton. Greg Madigan, area development manager for Subway UK and Ireland, added: “Non-traditional locations are a key area of growth for the Subway brand in the UK and Ireland. The simple operations that are involved in running a Subway franchise and the convenience offer makes it a perfect fit for these style locations, in this case for dealership customers and those visiting the store.”

Gladwin brothers to launch urban foraging society: Richard and Oliver Gladwin, the brothers who operate wild food restaurants The Shed and Rabbit, are to create their own urban foraging society, aimed at educating city dwellers in foraging both in the city and countryside. Meeting at regular intervals, the society will arrange foraging trips as well as ensuring produce foraged in London ends up on the tables of both their popular restaurants. The Shed and Rabbit both recreate the Gladwins’ rural way of life in the heart of the city. They supply the restaurant with produce and award-winning wines from the wild and their family farm and vineyard Nutbourne in West Sussex. Oliver Gladwin said: “We can’t wait to start showing Londoners where they can find wonderful things to put on their plate which are right on their doorstep. We always find that, as the seasons change, in the town or country, what grows together, goes together.”

Contracts signed to build £40m Plymouth leisure scheme featuring 14 restaurants: Contracts have been signed to build a £40m complex with 14 restaurants anchored by a 12-screen Cineworld cinema in Plymouth. Developer British Land has agreed a deal with Plymouth City Council to redevelop Bretonside with a 100,000 square foot leisure scheme called Drake Circus Leisure. There will be 14 restaurants in the complex including a Skybar rooftop restaurant. British Land said it has received huge demand from restaurant operators for the proposed units, many of which currently have no presence in Plymouth. Retail development director David Pollock told the Plymouth Herald: “Once complete, Drake Circus Leisure will be the most significant leisure scheme in the south west and we are delighted to be one step closer to delivering the project. The recent letting to Cineworld and interest from restaurant operators has allowed us to accelerate our plans, and we are excited to be working with the council to enhance the city centre.” The redevelopment, which is next to Drake Circus Shopping Centre, is due to start next summer and is expected to be completed by July 2018.
 
Budget hotels making up more than half of UK’s development pipeline, overall revpar growth lowest since 2013: Budget hotels are making up more than half of the UK’s development pipeline for the first time as the popularity of low-cost rooms continues, according to a new report. More than 1,500 budget rooms have been added to the sector’s pipeline in quarter three of this year alone, according to the latest Hotel Bulletin published by HVS, AlixPartners and AM:PM. HVS chairman Steve Kett said: “The low-cost budget sector continues to be popular with both leisure and corporate guests who appreciate their emphasis on the basic necessities of a decent bed, quality shower, free Wi-Fi and a TV. While the economy is now much stronger, cheaper hotel stays have become the new norm and guests are reluctant to go back to spending more. Budget hotels are popular with operators as they are cheaper to build and run.” During quarter three, Whitbread added over 500 bedrooms to its Premier Inn brand, taking it to over 60,000. Travelodge opened three hotels during the same period, some 260 bedrooms, while budget hotel group Tune Hotels, backed by chairman of Championship football club QPR Tony Fernandes, opened its eighth UK hotel, the 100-bedroom Tune Hotel Liverpool City Centre. The bulletin also revealed overall revpar growth has decelerated year-on-year with the average rate of growth now at 3%, the lowest since quarter one of 2013. Of the 12 cities reviewed, Cardiff was top with revpar growth of 17% followed by Birmingham (12%). Aberdeen was worst with a 22% fall. Kett added: “More hotel supply in the market means that future growth will come in the form of achieved average room rates, rather than occupancy as we move forward. The change in the mix of hotel types with more emphasis on budget accommodation means we are unlikely to see high levels of growth in revpar.”

Frogpubs to open third better burger site, demand outstripping supply for its craft beers: Frogpubs, the French brewpub and restaurant operator founded and led by Englishman Paul Chantler, is to open its third better burger site in January 2016. The company is opening a 45-cover FrogBurger in Neuilly, the business and upscale residential district in the west of Paris. It will serve ‘Genuinely Good’ burgers and the company’s award-winning craft beers – Tha-wack! won best black IPA in the world at the recent World Beer Awards. Chantler told Propel: “It’s a great way to end a busy year, alongside the commissioning last week of two new 50 hectolitre fermentation vessels, which will help us meet the demand for our beers We’ve been refusing all new orders since September as the demand for our FrogBeers has completely out-stripped our ability to brew them. If anyone has a spare 25HL or 50HL brewhouse that they want to sell us, we’re interested.”

Company News:

JD Wetherspoon buys Dublin church for €1.475m compared to €400,000 guide price: JD Wetherspoon has bought a former church on Lower Abbey Street in Dublin’s north inner city for €1.475m at an auction, substantially more than the €400,000 guide price. The company will be able to amalgamate the acquisition with the former TSB bank at 12B Lower Abbey Street, which it bought earlier this year for €1.5m. JD Wetherspoon is expected to run the two buildings as a gastro-pub. Auctioneer Iain Finnegan of Finnegan Menton recorded no fewer than 77 bids in all and when the figure reached €1.2m it was a straight battle between JD Wetherspoon and Irish Life, owners of the adjoining office centre. The two-storey corner building has an overall floor area of 394 square metres (4,240 square feet) including a light-filled church extending across the entire width of the building with an overhanging balcony wrapped around the hall. There are additional rooms to the front and rear at ground and first floor levels.

Red Hot World Buffet operator reports turnover of £21.5m, Ebitda of £1.26m: Red Hot World Buffet operator Buffet Restaurants, owned by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, has reported turnover of £21,561,071 in the first full year of ownership to 31 January 2015. Ebitda was £1,261,530, according to accounts filed with Companies House. There was an operating loss of £1,405,696 and interest payments of £910,306 to take its pre-tax losses to £2,316,000. The company stated: “During the year, the business successfully launched a new restaurant in Leicester and sold the lease of an old site in Northampton for a substantial premium. The results for the year are stated after significant exceptional costs incurred in these two transactions. Significant investment was made through the P&L in improving controls and the fabric of the estate. We launched a new loyalty scheme and initiated a real focus on customer engagement with significant increases in our own database and a much bigger engagement through social media.” The accounts report a £370,914 gain arising from its insurance claim of a fire-damaged site in Northampton, which has been re-let to The Restaurant Group.

Thwaites reports profit boost in first half of year: Brewer and retailer Thwaites has reported an “excellent first half of the year” with operating profit matching 2014 despite the disposal of a large part of its beer division to Marston’s. Turnover for the period was £45m, down from the 2014 figure of £71.1m as a result of the sale of its beer wholesaling, supermarket and national pub company business in a deal worth £25.1m. Turnover grew by 4% across its continuing business. Profit before tax for the period increased by 217% to £5.7m from £1.8m in 2014. And the sale to Marston’s allowed the company to reduce net debt to £29.1m from £59.4m the previous year. Thwaites said it now had money available to fund acquisitions and has completed three deals, two of which completed following the period end. These were the purchase of the Crown in Pooley Bridge in the Lake District, the Royal in Heysham on the Lancashire coast and the Boot and Shoe located to the south of Lancaster.

Five Guys and Tapas Revolution take Meadowhall sites: Five Guys and Tapas Revolution have signed to take units at the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, occupying 3,160 and 2,000 square foot sites respectively. Richard Crowther, asset manager of site owner British Land, said: “This impressive list of new lettings is further evidence of how investing in our assets yields results, and is testament to our strong relationships with retailers. The success of the Park Lane refurbishment gives us confidence that the centre wide works will further position Meadowhall as a leading shopping destination and will ensure we meet the evolving needs of our occupiers and shoppers.”

The Bottle Shop opens craft beer bar in Newcastle, first of five planned in north of England: London-based craft beer company The Bottle Shop, which stocks rare beers from around the world, has opened a new site in Newcastle. The company has launched The Bottle Shop Bar and Kitchen in Waterloo Square at the former Electric East restaurant, creating ten jobs. It is the first of five venues the company plans to open in the north of England in the next five years. The bar features 12 draft lines – ten keg and two cask – and more than 40 bottled beers and a selection of wines and spirits. The food menu, which changes daily, features a selection of tapas dishes, with recommended beer pairings, and bar snacks, such as bacon and smoked cheese doughnuts with maple syrup. Manager Jamie Oliver told Chronicle Live: “Craft beer is becoming increasingly popular in the north east and we’re really proud to bring a high-end craft beer bar to the heart of Newcastle. We provide a unique experience in the sense that customers can choose from a huge range of beers that are simply not on offer anywhere else.”

Hotcha signs deal with multi-site operators to open ten stores in north west of England: Hotcha, the Chinese takeaway franchise, has signed a deal with multi-site operators Chris Wright and Keith Janion to open ten stores in the north west of England. The brand, founded by James Liang and Andrew Emmerson, will open in the Liverpool and Cheshire area with the possibility of further expansion in the future. Wright and Janion have extensive experience as franchise owners with a portfolio of outlets in the fuel and retail sector and have also working for pub, restaurant and fast-food companies. Hotcha said it chose Wright and Janion because of their “quality, experience, integrity, financial and business acumen, vision, ambition and great leadership”. Hotcha currently operates ten stores across the south west and aims to open another 22 sites in the next three years as part of its ambition to become the first nationwide chain of Chinese takeaways.

Coaching Inn Group reports 50% boost to coffee sales as it invests £100,000: The Coaching Inn Group is investing £100,000 in developing a top quality coffee offer across its estate as early results show a 50% increase in sales. Working with specialist fresh coffee company Bewley’s, whose award-winning baristas are providing extensive training for The Coaching Inn Group staff, the new-look coffeehouse and eatery concept has been launched at six of its properties and will be rolled out across the rest of the group next year. “Working with Bewley’s, we have seen daytime coffee and patisserie sales increase 50% and received tremendous feedback from customers for our new coffeehouse and eatery concept,” said Kevin Charity, managing director of The Coaching Inn Group. “Providing a high quality full day offer to increase local as well as visitor and business trade, is a key part of our development strategy for all our hotels and there is a strong and still growing demand for great coffee as part of that offer.”

Cornerstone Inns takes on sixth site, eyes 20-strong estate: Cheshire-based multi-site operator Cornerstone Inns has taken on its sixth venue and first with Star Pubs & Bars. Cornerstone is reopening The Bowling Green in London Road, Northwich, today (Thursday, 12 November) as part of plans to build a 20-strong estate in the area. The Bowling Green, which is the oldest pub in Northwich, is the company’s first site in the town. Managing director Damon Horrill told the Northwich Guardian: “A development plan is being finalised, which will see a significant investment in the site early next year and the Bowling Green’s full launch as a quality food-led pub. In keeping with Cornerstone’s ‘Pub Hub’ model, this pub is in the heart of the Weaver Valley, within five minutes of the other five pubs in our estate – The Red Lion, De Bees Music Bar, The Gate Inn, The Prince’s Feathers and King’s Lock Inn – allowing for the company’s core team to manage all areas of business beyond delivery service. The plan is to expand this Weaver Valley ‘hub’ to 20 sites within and around the towns of Winsford, Northwich and Middlewich. We are focused 100% on the customer experience, and are progressing with the formation of an employees’ benefit trust across the company, and we ultimately plan for the company to be wholly employee-owned.”

Great Portland Estates – vacancy rates in the West End at record low: London property landlord Great Portland Estates, which owns 3.6 million square foot of space in central London, has reported record low vacancy rates. Chief executive Toby Courtauld said: “Fundamental to our continued success is London’s economic prosperity. Despite elevated levels of economic uncertainty since the summer, the employment intentions of the capital’s businesses remain expansionary and their space needs are following suit. Vacancy rates are now at record lows in the West End and, with much of the inventory of space under development already pre-let, we can look forward to further increases in rents. In our investment markets, there remains a surfeit of buyers over assets for sale but we expect macro concerns to reduce investors’ appetite for lesser quality assets, particularly where prices have run ahead of the rental growth on offer. Demand for prime properties remains robust. In the context of these supportive market conditions, we expect to continue delivering significant organic growth across the business; our 1.2 million square foot committed and near-term development programme is the largest we have ever undertaken and includes some of the West End’s most exciting projects; our flexible future pipeline contains a further 1.3 million square foot of enticing prospects stretching well into the next decade; and with reversionary potential of 32%, off average office rents of only £47 per square foot, and plentiful low-cost financing, we have much to aim for and maintain our confident outlook.”

TGI Friday’s launches first festive menu and cocktail range: TGI Friday’s has launched its first festive menu and cocktail range – including a Christmas burger. Devised by head chef Terry McDowell, the #JingleEffect Christmas menu features unique festive mash-up items. This includes the Stuck in the Chimney Stack Burger, which mixes traditional Christmas favourites like sage and onion stuffing, chicken and gravy – all infused with Jack Daniels glaze – with a 7oz beef burger, Swiss cheese and caramelised onions packed between two burger buns. The menu also features mozzarella parcels, Jacks Christmas dinner – with not one but two chicken breasts coated in Jack Daniel’s glaze – and Jack Daniel’s mince pie sundae. A limited edition cocktail range, developed by head of bar Adrian Astley, includes the Rudolph Hardshake – made with Frangelico, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, cherries and whipped cream. McDowell said: “We wanted to make this the tastiest Christmas ever for our guests by adding a little Friday’s Jingle to our menu this festive season. Forget tired turkey and soggy sprouts – our limited edition dishes and cocktails are full of big, bold Christmas flavours.”

Prezzo gets green light for Malvern site: Prezzo has been formally granted permission to open in Malvern town centre. The firm is planning to convert adjacent units on Belle Vue Terrace into a restaurant. A planning application was submitted in March and approved in July, but Prezzo did not confirm its involvement in the proposal until the end of October. Malvern Hills District Council’s planning authority has now approved a change of use application to convert it from retail and financial services use into the restaurant. Listed building consent was also given by Malvern planners for alterations to be made.

Asian restaurant pioneer invests £2m in three-floor curry centre: A Bradford-based Asian restaurant owner has invested about £2m rebuilding a new venue on the site of the original. The new Clifton Restaurant complex in Manningham has created 30 jobs and its owner hopes it will inspire other entrepreneurs to invest and create local employment. The original restaurant was opened in 1968 by Abdul Rashid as one of Bradford’s first curry houses. The new venue has three floors catering for about 500 diners. Its lounges are named after mountain ranges in the Gilgit Balistan region of Kashmir. The ground floor houses the Gilgit Lounge, the Hunza Lounge is on the first floor while the Astore Lounge on the second floor offers panoramic views of Bradford. Rashid has recruited four top chefs specialising in Kashmiri cuisine.

Former regular now managing latest Bermondsey pub: Manager Liz Moore has moved from one side of the bar to the other and taken the helm at Knutsford’s new-look Cross Keys. It is the latest Enterprise Inns managed pub to reopen under the Bermondsey Pub Company banner. Moore was a customer at the 17th century King Street pub for years before becoming manager earlier this year, and is now welcoming back regulars following a major refurbishment. “I’ve had experience of working for a national brewer and wine supplier to the hospitality industry and always wanted to run a business like this,” she said. “As I know the pub well, I’m really excited and passionate about ensuring customers have a brilliant time. It was too good an opportunity to miss, and I’m really pleased I moved from one side of the bar to the other.” The Cross Keys is currently seeking Cask Marque accreditation.

Brewhouse & Kitchen names December for first Midlands opening in Sutton Coldfield: Brewhouse & Kitchen will open its new site in Sutton Coldfield – its first in the Midlands – on Monday, 14 December. The company, founded by Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, is currently converting the former Cambraz restaurant in Birmingham Road – its tenth venue. The entire interior has been removed and among the changes will be seven large brewing kettles, each weighing a ton, which will be placed on concrete bases. Gumbrell told the Sutton Coldfield Observer: “We are on site and the project is progressing really well, we are expecting to have the pub back from the developers in early December. We have an experienced management team now in place and we will be ready to give the local market something a bit different when we open.”

Coffee Republic launches 28th UK site in Romford, five more planned in coming weeks: Coffee Republic has launched its 28th UK site in Romford, Essex. The company has opened the 140 square metre outlet in South Street with franchise partners Ezra MB, which has extensive food and beverage retail experience. The opening compliments the company’s plans to double its UK estate in 2015 with five new franchise openings planned in the coming weeks. Coffee Republic currently operates four company owned sites, including at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, which has just reopened after a £100,000 refurbishment, along with 24 franchises. The international estate continues to grow with the recent opening in Muscat, Oman, at the Avenue Mall bringing the number of overseas venues – all franchised – to 20 with two new stores due to open shortly in Bahrain.

Bath hotel and resort sells for £8.95m: A hotel and golfing resort near Bath, featuring a mansion that is referenced in the Domesday Book, has been bought from a guide price of £8.95m. Tracy Park Hotel and Golfing Estate has been sold by Knight Frank on behalf of a private investor to Martin Shaw, part owner of Eagle Resorts. The estate, which extends over 220.98 acres, is located near the village of Wick, approximately five miles from Bath and eight miles east of Bristol. The grade II-listed Jacobean and Georgian mansion forms the centre of the estate and is recognised as a building of historical importance, dating back to its reference in the Domesday Book in 1086. It now features a hotel with 42 en-suite letting bedrooms and suites, as well as extensive conference, banqueting and wedding facilities, a bar, drawing room, restaurant, staff offices and 290 parking spaces. The grounds include two championship 18-hole golf courses; a 6,201 yard, par 69 course and a 6,157 yard, par 71 course with streams, lakes and United States Golf Association specification greens. Henry Jackson, partner in the Knight Frank hotels team, said: “There was strong competition from both UK and international buyers and we received multiple offers for the hotel and golf courses.”

BrewDog application for alcohol licence at York site set to be determined today: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is set to find out today (Thursday, 12 November) whether it will be granted an alcohol licence for a proposed site in York. The company wants to open the 2,500 square foot craft beer bar in Micklegate on the site of the former Portfolio Studios. But its plans face opposition from both North Yorkshire Police and York City Council because the site falls inside the Cumulative Impact Zone set up to stop anti-social behaviour caused by drinking in the city centre, reports the York Press. As well as pubs and shops, Micklegate is also a residential area and the building directly above BrewDog’s site houses 13 flats. BrewDog wants a licence to sell alcohol from 10am to midnight Sunday to Thursday, and until 1am on Friday and Saturday. It has already come to an agreement with the council’s environmental health department over ways it can prevent noise nuisance, litter, and disturbance from people in the smoking area or leaving the venue late at night.

Muffin Break opening 59th UK store today: Artisan bakery Muffin Break continues to expand its offering in the UK with the opening of its 59th store in a brand new shopping centre in Newport. The new store opens its doors today (Thursday, 12 November) at the recently opened Friars Walk Shopping Centre and will create 18 jobs in the area. The cafe bakery will have a rustic, yet modern interior that is designed to seat about 82 people. Muffin Break’s recently launched Grab and Go counter will also be available at the new cafe bakery, where on-the-go snacks can be purchased. General manager at Muffin Break Lisa Brook said: “We are delighted to be opening a store in this exciting new development in Newport – it is yet another example of our drive for growth for the brand. Muffin Break continues to deliver significant growth, even through tough periods for retail, and we have several new stores due to open before the end of the financial year – including two in December. 2016 will definitely be an exciting year for us.”

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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