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Thu 28th Jan 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Restaurants fastest growing sector in Scotland last year, new research reveals: Restaurants were the fastest growing sector in Scotland last year, according to new research by insolvency trade body R3. The research showed there are 4,067 active restaurants as of January 2016, an increase of over 330 from the same time last year. All of the ten key sectors tracked by R3 saw an increase in the number of active companies. The other most popular industries for start-ups were professional services, pubs and retail. Tim Cooper, chair of R3 in Scotland, told Business Quarter: “The hospitality sector remains a popular choice for those interested in starting up their own business. The increase in new companies may be a result of people finding themselves unemployed and needing to create their own livelihood, or taking the opportunity to pursue a dream of opening their own tea shop or family restaurant.” The figures are from R3’s latest insolvency risk tracker. The tracker is compiled using Bureau van Dijk’s “Fame” database and measures the proportion of businesses across selected sectors that have a heightened risk of entering insolvency in the next year. 

Industry News:

Horizons – UK dining out at three-year high in 2015: The number of consumers eating out hit a three-year high in 2015 – at 72% – insights firm Horizons’ latest Eating Out-Look report, released this week, has revealed. A snapshot of the report also said the average frequency of eating out rose to 2.04 times per fortnight, with Italian the favourite choice. Average spend dropped to £14.07, with the 18-24 age range eating out the most but spending less. Health and lifestyle are key factors affecting choice and the main reasons given for eating out were meeting friends and convenience, while the time of day for dining continues to evolve, the report also stated.

Starbucks transactions now 21% on mobile, says Schultz: Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz has revealed 21% of Starbucks transactions in the US and Canada are now made via smartphone – either in-store at point of sale or via Starbucks’ Mobile Order & Pay app. During peak hours, Mobile Order & Pay accounted for 10% of all orders, Schultz revealed during the company’s first quarter earnings call. He said: “We have just scraped the surface. We have bigger aspirations for our digital plan and we are expanding our digital agenda across four key pillars.” On the Mobile Order & Pay front, Starbucks is now seeing six million transactions a month in the US and Canada, and the app was rolled out to 300 stores in the UK last week following a four-month run in London. Schultz sees China as another great potential market for the Mobile Order & Pay service. He said: “We just can’t wait to introduce Mobile Order & Pay in China. It’s going to be a runaway success.”

KFC to roll-out new fast-casual-inspired design across its US restaurants: KFC, which is owned by Yum! Brands, is to roll-out a new, fast-casual-inspired design across its restaurants in the US. The brand began testing the new look in 2014 and said 70% of its 4,300 sites will be updated by the end of 2017. The new design is intended to modernise the chain’s appearance, with a cleaner and bolder look, reports Business Insider. The revamped locations include stark red-and-white walls, furniture, and decoration. In addition to traditional tables, the restaurants will feature counter chairs and a semi-circular booth. The exterior will have red-and-white stripes, capital letters spelling out the chain’s “world famous chicken” tagline, and an illustration of Colonel Sanders’ face. The prominence of Colonel Sanders goes hand-in-hand with KFC’s recent efforts to refocus customers’ attention on the Colonel with an ad campaign starring comedian Norm MacDonald. Last week, KFC announced it is rolling out its Nashville Hot Chicken across the US after becoming its most successful product test in recent history.
 

Company News:

PS The Pub Company expands Star Pubs & Bars partnership with third Blues Smokehouse: Multiple operator PS The Pub Company and Heineken’s leased pub business Star Pubs & Bars have started the £600,000 renovation of The Assembly in central Slough to turn it into a Blues Smokehouse. The site, closed for a number of years, will reopen in late April, creating 50 full and part-time jobs. It will be the third Blues Smokehouse for PS The Pub Company, with sites in Twickenham and Bracknell and negotiations are under way for a fourth venue. The look of the restaurant will resemble other Blues Smokehouses – American Deep South with a mix of booth and freestanding upcycled seating. An open servery will allow customers to view the preparation and smoking of fresh produce and a coffee bar and bakery will double as an Italian/American ice cream bar. Sauces and rubs are prepared to recipes created by executive chef Jackie Weight, with meat cooked using authentic American smokers, along with grills and rotisseries. Weight plans to give masterclasses on barbecue cooking as well as tours of the kitchen. Carlos Maidana, director of PS The Pub Company, said: “The location in the heart of Slough is ideal for a Blues Smokehouse and we are excited to be at the start of the £1bn regeneration of the town. Unlike our other sites where we’ve been restricted by the buildings’ layouts, we’ve started with a blank canvas at The Assembly, enabling us to create a real wow factor. Our rubs and sauces have proved so popular we are now producing them to sell direct to customers and will launch a retail brand. We’re looking to expand further and we’re already negotiating on a fourth site.” Chris Jowsey, trading director of Star Pubs & Bars, said: “The Assembly in Slough has been vacant for many years. It needed a visionary licensee to take it on. Carlos and his team have made a great success of their Blues Smokehouses in Bracknell and Twickenham, also Star Pubs & Bars sites, so we are delighted to be partnering with them again.”

Hummus Bros steps up MoreFit partnership: London-based restaurant company Hummus Bros has expanded its partnership with MoreFit to open a second personal training and yoga studio, in the basement of its Exmouth Market site. MoreFit already runs a studio at Hummus Bros’ venue in Cheapside, and more venues are planned to open throughout the year. Christian Mouysset, co-founder of Hummus Bros, said: “We partnered with MoreFit because of the fit between our visions of a healthier world. Many of our customers have joined MoreFit and, vice-versa, many grab a healthy bowl of hummus after their gym or yoga session.” Hummus Bros has five permanent sites in London and last year took its pop-up to 350 locations across the capital as well as Berkshire. It plans further pop-ups this year, including at sites in Surrey and Sussex. MoreFit runs five personal training centres in total.

New deli and pizzeria concept opens in east London, owners already eyeing expansion: A new deli and pizzeria concept has opened in Forest Gate, east London, and its owners are already eyeing expansion. Misty Cudahy and Bethany Chellingworth have launched Corner Kitchen in Woodgrange Road, which will operate as a deli during the day and a pizza restaurant by night, creating 20 jobs. Chef Sophie Downer makes everything on site using produce from local suppliers. Cudahy told the Newham Recorder: “We felt the high street was missing something so put our heads together and came up with the concept. It’s based on the original corner shop idea, where after the [Second World] war they became places for the community to go out to and meet during the day.” Chellingworth added: “We’d like to get this perfect, then we’ll be on the hunt for another prime corner location in Newham.”
 
£100,000 crowdfunding campaign to revive former Brighton pub hits target after increasing equity stake: A crowdfunding campaign to revive a former Brighton pub and prevent it becoming a Burger King has hit its target after increasing its equity stake. Bison Beer was looking to raise £99,999 in return for a 6.66% equity stake to bring 80 East Street back into use as a pub called the Bison Arms. It has now hit its target having increased the amount of equity on offer to 7.21%. So far 300 investors have pledged £108,788 and it is now “overfunding” with six days remaining. The pitch states: “We aim to revive 80 East Street, Brighton, as a pub specialising in craft beer, local beer, championing the best of what’s local including trades, artists, illustrators, writers and chefs to help us create this community-based business. A real alternative to Burger King’s plans to open another franchise in this period property. We aim for it to be a modern pub with no ties showcasing the best of local cask and keg beers displayed in our ‘Tap Room’, the first in Brighton.” Bison Beer has received a boost in its bid to take over the site after city council planning officers refused an application by Burger King to convert the property. Award-winning restaurant 64° is in talks with Bison Beer to provide the food at the proposed pub.

Galvin brothers open first pub: Galvin Pub Co, which is run by multi-site operator brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, has opened its first pub. The Galvins have launched HOP, described as a “Galvin Pub de Luxe”, on the site of Galvin Café A Vin in Spitalfields Market, London. HOP, based in Spital Square off Bishopsgate, offers fresh unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell tank beer delivered weekly from the Czech Republic, a range of craft beers, a new menu featuring classic pub dishes and a range of premium hot dogs. The menu at HOP features pub dishes made with seasonal ingredients cooked using a mixture of classic and modern techniques. As previously reported, Galvin Pub Co will open its second site, Green Man in Chelmsford, this summer, and if all goes to plan, the brothers hope to have as many as 20 sites in five years’ time. They also run Michelin-starred Galvin Restaurants, which launched in 2005 and has seven sites in London and Edinburgh.

MasterCard pay-at-table app to go live at Zizzi on Monday, Carluccio’s next to adopt system: Diners at Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi restaurants will have the option to pay their bill via a MasterCard mobile app from Monday (1 February). The Qkr! with MasterPass app is already used at Wagamama and Zizzi’s sister company ASK Italian restaurants. Diners can use the app to search for nearby Zizzi restaurants and, on arrival, will be prompted to “check in”, which generates a four-digit code. Customers share this code with waiting staff when they order their meal. Diners can view the items they have ordered on their phone and pay when ready. For diners wishing to split the bill, they can input the same code into their phone, view the whole order, and select and pay for what is theirs. Doug Wooten, head of IT for the Azzurri Group, said: “Our customers at ASK Italian are already enjoying the app so this is a natural step to bring Zizzi on board. It’s the little details that keep customers happy at mealtimes, whether they’re a young family or a group of work colleagues in a hurry. The benefits of Qkr! are easy to see for both our diners and our staff.” Diners can register any payment card, not just a MasterCard. MasterCard said Carluccio’s would be the next chain to adopt the payment system. There are more than 135 Zizzi restaurants in the UK.

Thai pop-up Som Saa to launch permanent London site in March: Thai pop-up Som Saa will launch a permanent site in March, in Spitalfields, London. Former Masterchef finalist Andy Oliver and head chef Mark Dobbie raised £700,000 on Crowdcube last year for the site having operated as a pop-up in London Fields since October 2014. Oliver told the Evening Standard: “It’s great to have our own place at last. We’ll be able to cook things that we weren’t able to before because all we had was a grill.” The new restaurant will serve regional dishes, including curries featuring fresh coconut milk made on site, and stir fries made with a mix of Thai and seasonal British ingredients. There will also be a number of larger dishes for sharing, including hot-and-sour soup with whole deep-fried pork hock. Several of the pop-up’s most popular dishes, such as whole deep-fried fish, will also feature, as will coconut milk puddings and cocktails. Oliver said: “Running pop-ups and residencies is a really good way to develop your style and learn lessons. We’re lucky to have been able to test dishes, get to know what the customer likes, push boundaries and make a few mistakes.” There will be no reservations at the restaurant except for tables of six or more.

Nando’s opens third Belfast restaurant: Nando’s has opened its third restaurant in Belfast – its fourth in Northern Ireland. The company has launched the 108-cover venue at the new retail park in Boucher Crescent in the south of the city, creating 32 jobs. The restaurant’s interior has splashes of colour including chilli red, providing a backdrop to original art from emerging and established South African artists, in homage to Nando’s heritage. Nando’s regional managing director Lorcan Feely told the Belfast Telegraph: “The location is in close proximity to Windsor Park football stadium, which will be perfect for sport supporters, shoppers and fans to get their peri peri fix.” Nando’s, which operates more than 1,000 restaurants globally and almost 300 in the UK and Republic of Ireland, has two other restaurants in Belfast – in Victoria Square and Dublin Road – and a further outlet in Derry.

Bar Soba to become latest company to adopt National Living Wage early: Scottish-based cocktail bar and pan-Asian street food restaurant concept Bar Soba is to become the latest company to adopt the National Living Wage early. The company, which currently has five sites, is aiming to become a UK-wide brand and build a 30-strong estate in the next three to five years with venues in Liverpool and Manchester in the pipeline for 2016. Managing director Brad Stevens said its team is key to the expansion plans and as a result will start paying the National Living Wage, which comes into effect on April 1 and will see people over 25 paid £7.20 an hour, from Monday (1 February). He told the Evening Times: “My ambitions for Soba are relentless and can only be achieved with one vital ingredient. That ingredient is the ‘team’, from our kitchen porters to our general managers, our people are the heart and soul of the brand, and we cannot make this happen without the commitment and desire of everyone involved. Part of the process in taking Soba forward as a company is to adopt the National Living Wage early. We want to be leaders, not followers and we want to entice, encourage and reward our people who are helping us in our quest to be a leading light in this industry.” The company said it recognised some of its hardest working staff are under the age of 25 and they will also be offered the wage increase based on their experience. Under 25s who are new to the industry will be placed on a training and development plan that will allow them to achieve the increase before they reach 25.

London-based butcher and cookshop Hill & Szrok opens first pub: The team behind London-based butcher and cookshop Hill & Szrok, located in Broadway Market, has opened its first pub. Alex Szrok, Tom Richardson Hill and Lucas Mathiszig-Lee have launched Hill & Szrok Public House in Old Street, east London, reports The Handbook. The focus of the pub is on slow grown, free range and sustainable English meat. Beef is aged on site and displayed for diners to see in large fridges. Chef Szrok’s menu regularly changes as different cuts are used up and spit roasts and charcoal grills are used to cook the meat. There is also a bar snack menu featuring Hill & Szrok’s own pork pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and pork scratchings and seasonal sandwiches at lunch times. The drinks menu includes wines, beers and spirits.

East Yorkshire-based restaurateur to open sixth site: East Yorkshire-based restaurateur Alonzo Goulbourne is to open his sixth site with the launch of a “cool” bar and restaurant concept in Beverley. Goulbourne is opening the new venture on the site of the former Farthings Bar and Grill in North Bar Within. He is keeping details of the concept under wraps but said the site is expected to open in March. He told the Hull Daily Mail: “It will be a restaurant and bar but it will be cool and different. We are getting everything ready now but I’m not going to say anything about the type of food or anything else until we’ve got it 100% right. It’s a beautiful building with a great garden and we want to fit with the heritage and history of Beverley.” Goulbourne’s portfolio consists of Caribbean cocktail bar and restaurant Roots, which has venues in Beverley and Hull, along with Mexican-themed El Chupitos, Fish and Chip Kitchen and Aunt Bibby’s Smokehouse, all in Hull. He added: “People look at what sort of restaurants there are in other major cities but we want people in those cities to be looking at what we have in Hull and Beverley.”

Roosters Piri Piri heads west with new Exeter venue: Roosters Piri Piri, which has more than 30 restaurants, mainly in the south of England, has applied to the city council for planning permission to open a restaurant and takeaway in Exeter. The venue in Sidwell Street, previously occupied by Korona Deli, will be by far the furthest west for the company, with the closest Roosters branch being in Bournemouth. Roosters Piri Piri, founded by Khalid Mirza in 2003, serves halal fried chicken and has more than 40 outlets, including Walthamstow, Wood Green and Shepherds Bush.

JD Wetherspoon takes High Wycombe pub off market: JD Wetherspoon has decided to take The William Robert Loosley pub in High Wycombe off the market – one of 19 sites it put up for sale last July. Chief executive John Hutson told The Bucks Free Press: “The William Robert Loosley was one of a number of pubs across the UK that we recently put on the market. However, after consideration, we have decided that it will remain as a Wetherspoon pub. We know that management and staff at the pub are happy with this decision and believe the pub’s loyal customers will welcome the decision too.”

Bukhara to open third British-Asian restaurant, focus on banqueting: Bukhara will launch its third British-Asian restaurant in April with the opening of a venue in Manchester. The restaurant, which will be housed in Old Cheetham Town Hall in Cheetham Hill Road, joins Bukhara’s other venues in Samlesbury, near Preston, which opened in 2004, and Rumi, which opened in Liverpool in 2014. The new restaurant, Bukhara Manchester, will be launched simultaneously with events company Bukhara Banqueting, with the venue hosting weddings, parties, birthdays, anniversaries and mehndis, with a capacity of 550 guests. Corporate meeting facilities and a children’s room will also be included. Bukhara’s Faruk Patel told Asian Image: “Manchester is renowned throughout the UK for its cultural vibrancy, so it was only fitting that our expansion was in the heart of this iconic city. We deliver a cuisine that reflects the best that our British-Asian culture has to offer. Bukhara Banqueting is a continuum in our journey. Whilst there are many wedding and mehndi venues in the region, I am confident that Bukhara Banqueting will have guests talking about their event for years.”

Monmouthshire-based Castles Brewery to open first pub tomorrow, eyes further sites: Monmouthshire-based Castles Brewery will open its first pub tomorrow (Friday, 29 January). The family-run company will open the King’s Head in Welsh Street, Chepstow, having taken over the lease last month. The Micic family, which brews and sells its beers on the Severn Bridge Industrial Estate in Caldicot, will also sell its White Knight, Portcullis, King’s Reserve and Court Jester ales at the pub. It will run the pub under its new Monmouthshire Inns umbrella, which it has set up in view of opening others sites around the county. The brewery has ambitious plans for the King’s Head, including renovating the second and third floors. On the third floor will be a multi-function room, which will be hired out for fitness classes, while on the second will be a cocktail bar. Nathan Micic, who runs the brewery, told the Free Press: “It’s great. The option arose and before we knew it things were just kicking off and I have been every almost every day, just trying to get things in place.” The brewery usually makes up to 50 casks of real ale – about 3,600 pints – a week and sells it to wholesalers as far afield as Cheshire.

Greggs to open first site in Belfast city centre: Greggs has submitted plans and design specifications for a venue in Royal Avenue, which will be its first in Belfast city centre. Greggs is adding at least a dozen stores in Northern Ireland this year, and hopes to launch 50 stores in total across the country. Its first stand-alone store in Belfast will open at the new retail park in Boucher Road, which is some distance from the centre of the city, in March. The company opened its first Northern Ireland store at the Applegreen service station on the M2 in April last year. Greggs has 1,670 stores across Great Britain.
 
Living Ventures takes three Birmingham units: Living Ventures, the company behind bar and restaurant The Botanist, has secured three retail units on Birmingham’s Colmore Row. The group has taken space at the grade II-listed Grand Hotel building in a deal struck with Hortons’ Estates, which is restoring the property along with ten commercial units. Living Ventures will transform units eight, nine and ten, which total 10,000 square foot. More than 5,000 square foot will be occupied by a Gusto restaurant, with cocktail bar The Alchemist taking up the remainder. The lettings follow Living Ventures’ expansion into Birmingham last year with the opening of The Botanist on Temple Street. Jeremy Roberts, chief executive of Living Ventures, said: “We have had our sights on Birmingham for some time; finding the right locations is always key. Colmore Row is the city’s most prestigious street and The Grand undoubtedly its most iconic building. The Botanist, which we opened in April, has been popular from day one. We look forward to bringing two different but equally exciting brands to the city.”
 
Wrapchic to open Milton Keynes site: Wrapchic has secured a site in Milton Keynes as the fusion fast food business pushes on with its “ambitious” expansion plans. The brand will launch in the town on Friday, 5 February, little more than a month after opening its Merry Hill premises in the West Midlands. The retail unit in Milton Keynes was secured by Harris Lamb. The property consultancy was retained at the beginning of 2015 by Wrapchic founder Mahesh Raikar and tasked with identifying and acquiring suitable premises in key locations across the UK. Wrapchic was founded in 2012 and has grown from one site in a central Birmingham mall to having a presence in the Bullring, on high streets, in hospital food courts and on university campuses. Raikar said: “Wrapchic’s expansion is very exciting and we are delighted with the diverse range of locations that we are establishing a presence in. 2016 is set to be an important year for us as we drive Wrapchic forward and we’re keen to secure a presence in Cambridge, Nottingham and central London, to name just a few sites on the hit-list. I’m confident that Harris Lamb’s understanding of the business will lead to more complementary sites in our portfolio.” David Walton, head of retail at Harris Lamb, added: “Wrapchic enjoyed a very successful year with the launch of prominent new sites in Birmingham, Bradford and Merry Hill, and 2016 will see the business forge a further presence across the country. The response to the outlets to date has been immense, and we’re confident that a presence within Milton Keynes shopping centre will boost awareness and footfall for the brand even further and aid its UK growth this year.”

Faversham-based pub operator submits plans to open wine bar next door: Faversham-based pub operator David Thompson has submitted plans to open a wine bar next door. Thompson, who runs The Vaults in Preston Street, has applied to Swale Borough Council to convert the neighbouring former fancy dress shop into the new venture called Frogley’s. Thompson, who is also director of the town’s Hop Festival, told Kent Online: “We are hoping for a decision by March. If all goes through, we hope to offer a selection of high end wines, a few soft drinks and lagers, as well as a few nibbles. It is a fantastic building and we believe there is a niche in the Faversham market for something like this.”

New coffee shop concept opens in Plymouth: A new coffee shop concept has opened in Plymouth. Deanna Yates and Michael Pendlebury have launched Finla Coffee, with Finla standing for Fall In Love Again, in the suburb of Plympton. They decided to open the venture, which has created 11 jobs, in an empty shop in St Stephens Place having enjoyed great coffee while travelling for seven months in India and south east Asia. The couple said their USP is selling reasonably priced but high quality coffee sourced from Brazil, India and El Salvador. They put up half the funding for the business with NatWest lending them the rest. Pendlebury told the Plymouth Herald: “You can buy a cup of coffee anywhere, but we hope people will fall in love with it again after visiting Finla.”

OpenTable names Jeff McCombs as chief financial officer: Online restaurant reservations provider OpenTable has appointed Jeff McCombs as chief financial officer. The former Flipboard chief financial officer and Facebook global head of ad business operations will lead OpenTable’s financial operations strategy worldwide. Christa Quarles, OpenTable chief executive officer, said: “Jeff is a dynamic executive with a strong track record of leading financial and business operations on a global scale. As we innovate on OpenTable’s mission of connecting restaurants and diners in more ways and locations around the world, Jeff has a great blend of entrepreneurial spirit and drive with the operational excellence needed to scale our business.” McCombs said: “As a long-time fan of the OpenTable brand and the value it delivers to diners and restaurants, I’m excited to work with Christa and the executive team to build on the company’s success.” McCombs has held senior executive roles at Yahoo and began his career as an investment banker at firms including Credit Suisse First Boston and Lehman Brothers. The OpenTable service is available throughout the UK as well as Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the US.

Intertain reopens Walkabout in Birmingham following £450,000 refurbishment: Walkabout operator Intertain has reopened its Birmingham site following a £450,000 refurbishment. The project, which resulted in the Broad Street venue being closed for a fortnight, has resulted in new bookable booths, VIP areas and new bars, all with the contemporary feel of “new” Walkabout and created ten additional jobs. A new food menu has been introduced, which includes modern classics such as pulled pork burgers, as well as Australian-led dishes such as Walkabout’s Roo burger. The new drinks menu focuses on a wide selection of beers and wines, as well as innovative cocktails. General manager David Hancocks told the Birmingham Mail: “We’ve always been famous for legendary party nights, fun, live music, sport and great food, but now we’ve got a totally transformed venue to make things even better.”

Marco Pierre White to open Steakhouse Bar & Grill at DoubleTree by Hilton Islington, fourth venue in partnership: The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill will open at DoubleTree by Hilton Islington next month, the fourth partnership between the hotel chain and celebrity chef. The restaurant will offer 140 covers on the ground floor of the 372-bedroom hotel in Pentonville Road. Guests can expect a selection of English and French classics, including a selection of White’s childhood favourites such as chicken Kiev, alongside a range of 28-day-aged, native-breed steaks. Nick Taplin, chief executive officer at Black and White Hospitality, the celebrity chef’s franchise restaurant group, said: “We are delighted to bring the Steakhouse ethos to this corner of London. Our guests will appreciate that they can visit us not only for a very good meal but also an excellent evening out.” Peadar McFadden, DoubleTree by Hilton Islington general manager, said: “We are confident of delivering a high quality product that can become a real destination for local food-lovers and help us achieve genuine stand-out appeal to customers booking hotels in the area.” Operated under licence from Marco Pierre White’s Black & White Hospitality, this latest opening is the group’s 12th Steakhouse Bar & Grill restaurant, taking its national restaurant portfolio to 26. DoubleTree by Hilton also hosts a Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Chester, Bristol and Cambridge. 

Hotel and spa sold off £4.25m guide price: A 128-bedroom hotel and spa set in a converted 18th century farmhouse near Bolton has been bought off a guide price of £4.25m. Christie & Co acted for Amaris Hospitality in the sale of the Mercure Bolton Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa in Bromley Cross to an unnamed buyer described as one of the UK’s largest private property development groups. The property remains open and will continue to trade under the Mercure brand following the transaction. The hotel contains 14 conference and banqueting suites, with the largest seating 700 delegates. Alex Campbell, who brokered the deal on behalf of Christie & Co, said: “By means of an off-market campaign, we were able to source a cash purchaser who was keen to own this very famous trading business. The Last Drop really does have all that a hotel requires – 128 guest bedrooms, extensive conference and banqueting facilities and a modern spa. In addition to the facilities and geographical location, the hotel sits in an extensive site which will allow the new owner to consider future growth and development.”
 
Greg Dyke’s hotel company returns to profit: A Yorkshire hotel group owned by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has returned to profit following a year of expansion. Saxon Hotels owns three establishments in the Sheffield area including wedding and event venue Whirlowbrook Hall, the Best Western Plus Mosborough Hall Hotel, located in a 12th century manor house, and the Best Western Cutler’s Hotel, based in Sheffield city centre. In the year to 31 March 2015, Saxon Hotels posted a pre-tax profit of £21,031, up from a £76,344 loss in 2013/14, on sales that rose from £1.9m to £2.3m. The opening of Whirlowbrook Hall had contributed to the loss in 2013/14. In a report filed at Companies House, the future prospects of the business were said to have been “significantly enhanced” following further investment during the year. Redevelopment work at Mosborough, Saxon’s first hotel, which it acquired in 2004, was now converting into enhanced revenues, while the business said it had high hopes for Whirlowbrook Hall, bought in 2014, as the venue became more established. The Cutlers Hotel, bought for more than £1m at the end of 2014 from the administrators of Meridius, was also backed to add to the group’s earnings potential.

North Yorkshire hotel goes on the market for £1.1m: The Burgoyne Hotel in Reeth, North Yorkshire, has gone on the market for £1.1m. The 18th century ten-bedroom hotel and restaurant is being marketed by Colliers International on behalf of owners Mo and Julia Usman, who acquired the grade II-listed building in 2011. Colliers International director Peter Bean told The Business Desk: “The Usmans have worked hard to continue the Burgoyne’s reputation as a traditional fine dining hotel and enjoyed much repeat business. Now, due to one half of the duo having a separate career which entails a move in the medium term, this gem of a hotel has come to market.”
 
Director of top curry restaurant banned: The owner of Raval restaurant in Newcastle, once named North East Restaurant of the Year at the British Curry Awards, has been disqualified from acting as a director for seven years after failing to maintain adequate records. Abdul Malik, the entrepreneur behind Raval Restaurant, was a director of both M & M Leisure (UK) and Seama Group. He has been banned for failing to maintain, preserve and/or deliver accounting records for the companies. An investigation by the Insolvency Service found there was confusion as to which company was actually trading as Raval Restaurant. The investigation also discovered the two companies only had one bank account between them and more than £50,000 of sales income was not banked. Furthermore, more than £25,000 of expenditure in cash and cheque payments could not be explained.
 
Full speaker programme for Propel Multi Club Conference on 16 March unveiled: The full speaker programme for the Propel Multi Club Conference on Wednesday, 16 March at Congress Hall, London, has been unveiled. Multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice operators can book up to two free places by emailing Adam Dickinson on adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com. The conference series is the best attended in the sector. Speakers are: Nicola Knight, analyst at insights firm Horizons, investigates the key trends in the UK foodservice market, including major menu trends, growth areas and discounting – and looks ahead to the key trends of 2016 and beyond. Adrian Blair, chief operating officer for Just Eat, provides an overview of the company’s role in the takeaway market, current key trends and future potential for operators to develop revenue. Steve Kenee, partner at investment firm Downing, talks about the firm’s long term investment partnership with Antic London, developing an estate of more than 30 London pubs, the businesses USPs, the risks and rewards of operating near the leading edge of urban regeneration and the development of non-licenced premises. David Singleton, vice-president of hospitality for Al Tayer Group, provides an overview of the foodservice landscape in the United Arab Emirates, the brands that are winning, the potential for UK brands and his company’s approach to growing sales. Punch Taverns chief strategy director Neil Griffiths outlines the company’s evolved strategy, involving as much as £300m of investment over five years, developing operator and trading agreements, expanding its fledgling concepts and brands, taking greater control of its retail offer and realising additional value from its property portfolio. Simon King, managing director of Burger & Lobster, talks about the progress of Burger & Lobster in London and elsewhere, the unique thinking and philosophy behind the brand, sourcing quality ingredients, recruiting and training staff, evolving the offer, expanding outside of London and international prospects. Phil Sermon, managing director of Vapiano, talks about progress in the UK as well as the company’s fresh approach to recruitment, training and development of its people and interaction with its guests. David Mooney, co-founder of New Moon Pub Company, arguably the UK’s most versatile food pub operator, talks about the company’s approach at country and city pubs, its Beef and Pudding concept, New York-influenced The Bronx brand, its pizza concept Casa Matta, evolution and future plans. Roberto Morretti, chief operating officer of Bill’s, talks to Elliotts managing director James Hacon about the brand’s USPs, trading all-day, developing a retail dimension and staying true to the brand founder’s vision. Henry Dimbleby and Jonathan Downey, co-founders of London Union, set out their progress in creating neighbourhood food markets based on experiential food discovery, crowdfunding, their plans to create the world’s greatest food market and the development of 12 London neighbourhood markets.
 
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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