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Wed 3rd Feb 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Neil Rankin to launch new barbecue restaurant and wine bar concept with backing from Imbiba Partnership, targets seven sites in London in next five years: Chef Neil Rankin is to launch a new barbecue restaurant and wine bar concept with backing from investment fund Imbiba Partnership and is targeting seven sites in London in the next five years. Rankin, who has pioneered high-end barbecue cooking revealed his plans for “Project Celsius” at the Imbiba Partnership Investor Conference at the Banking Hall in London yesterday (Tuesday, 2 February). He said it would be the “fastest steak restaurant in the world” and feature a wine bar and counter seating. Rankin told investors: “The food will be the best of Texan and Argentinian barbecue with great quality fresh produce and vegetables served in a great hospitality environment. It will have counter dining, which means it needs less space. There will be a wine bar for people to drink in. It will have smokers and firepits and fresh fish will be cooked right in front of your eyes. It has a name but for now it’s being called Project Celsius. We are looking to have six or seven sites in central London in the next five years. If we can provide the right locations it can go on to be one of the best restaurant groups of its time.” Rankin, who has worked at Barbecoa as well as being head chef at Pitt Cue and John Salt, is also executive chef at Noble Inns, which operates five pubs and restaurants in London.

Industry News:

North Hop craft beer festival goes on tour for 2016, four events in four cities: North Hop, which began as a small festival in the Highlands, will go on tour this year, with four events in four cities. Organisers are billing North Hop as Scotland’s biggest celebration of craft beer culture, and hope to attract up to 8,000 festival-goers. The events bring together independent craft brewers, gin distillers, street-food producers and up-and-coming music acts. The tour starts on 5 March at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms and heads to Aberdeen, from 30 April to 1 May, Glasgow on 18 and 19 June, and finishes at a Highland location to be announced soon. The Edinburgh event will take place across two sessions, with a selection of cask, keg, bottled and canned beers from 13 Scottish brewers. The festival will also feature a cocktail lounge and street food, including Scottish-sourced dishes from Fresh Revolution. Tickets for each festival are £17.50 per person. North Hop said it would also co-ordinate pop-up and taster events in its home city of Inverness throughout 2016. North Hop founder and organiser Michelle Russell said: “What started as a wee festival in the Highlands has now evolved into a year-round, nationwide programme celebrating the very best that craft beer culture in Scotland has to offer.”

Tennent Caledonian rebrands Wallaces TCB as Tennent’s, implements price freeze for Scottish independent on-trade: Tennent Caledonian, which is owned by C&C Group, is changing the trading name of its sales and distribution company from Wallaces TCB to Tennent’s. C&C Group, which has owned Tennent Caledonian Breweries since 2009, acquired Scottish drinks wholesaler Wallaces Express in March 2014. The combined business has until now traded as Wallaces TCB and has successfully integrated the sales and logistics functions of both businesses. Tennent’s has also implemented a 12-month price freeze for the Scottish independent on-trade as part of a raft of new measures designed to further support Scotland’s hospitality industry. Tennent’s managing director Alastair Campbell said: “We’ve listened to our customers and will be placing the iconic Tennent’s name back at the heart of our business. With Wallaces Express trading since 1875 and Tennent’s since 1556, we have a proud shared heritage of serving Scotland’s independent on-trade and we look forward to continuing this.”

Everards team creates ‘micropub’ within a pub: Andrew Leatherdale and Paul Gaukroger, who run The Sun Inn at Cottesmore, Rutland, have worked with Everards Brewery to create Django’s Beer House & Bottle Shop – a beer-focused ‘micropub’ within a pub. Django’s, which Everards has granted free-of-tie status, used to be a function room but has been transformed at a cost of about £45,000. The micropub is 50 square metres in size. Leatherdale said: “The idea sprang out of our regular get-togethers with Everards. We were discussing what to do with the old function room and the topic of micropubs came up. Micropubs are growing in popularity so we talked about installing one to create a pub within a pub. The idea grew and we all visited some Nottingham micropubs to get some inspiration. It was great fun and before long we were planning the design in detail.” The leading feature of Django’s is a set of beer casks illuminated behind glass. The beer lines are transparent so you can view the colour of each ale. A total of 40 beers are available with the plan to frequently change the range of cask and bottled brews. Simon Godson, Everards operations director, said: “We’re constantly looking for creative ways to add value to under-used spaces in pubs – and this fitted the bill.”

Company News:

Di Maggio’s reports 25% increase in pre-tax profit on record turnover, plans further expansion: Scotland’s largest independent restaurant chain Di Maggio’s has reported a 25% increase in annual profits on record turnover of more than £30m as it plans further expansion. The company, founded by Mario Gizzi and Joe Conetta in 1985, saw underlying pre-tax profits rise to £4.73m in the year to April 30 2015, compared with £3.78m the year before, benefiting from the Commonwealth Games being staged in Glasgow in 2014. The figure excludes directors’ remuneration, which increased to £1.769m from £1.174m the previous year. The company said it was confident of further growth in profits and turnover on the back of its launch of the Atlantic Bar and Brasserie in St Vincent Place in Glasgow and the opening of its Spanish tapas restaurant brand Cafe Andaluz in Aberdeen last year. These ventures have been backed by investment totalling about £3m, with further openings in the pipeline. The company has 17 full-scale restaurants and its portfolio includes the Amarone and Barolo brands as well as the Italian-American Di Maggio’s restaurants and Cafe Andaluz outlets. It also operates The Anchor Line bar and grill in Glasgow, which is located above the 120-seat Atlantic Bar and Brasserie. Gizzi said: “We’re reaping the benefits of having confidence in our team and in our customers, who like what we’re doing. The new format of the Andaluz in Aberdeen, with its cocktail bar, has been a winning formula for us and is something we’re looking to replicate in future openings.”

Geof Collyer – Tim Bridge seized the opportunity to transform Greene King: Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer has said outgoing Greene King chairman Tim Bridge seized the opportunity to transform the company. Bridge will retire on 1 May, to be succeeded by Philip Yea who joined the board yesterday (2 February) as non-executive director. Collyer said: “Bridge is the last family member to run the company, having joined Greene King in 1970, becoming chief executive in 1995 when the market cap was just £220m, and chairman in 2005 when the market cap was £840m. He has overseen the transformation of what was once a small, independent family brewer into the UK’s biggest – and more importantly – most profitable pub group, taking Ebitda from £33m in 1995 to £540m in FY17E (the first full year of the Spirit deal). On last night’s close, Greene King’s market cap was £2.8bn. One would never guess from his self-effacing nature but, more than any other chief executive in the leisure sector, Bridge seized the opportunities provided by the 1989 Beer Orders to expand the group’s geographical scale and sphere of influence. As chief executive, he presided over at least three transformational deals (Magic Pub in 1996, Morland in 1999, Laurel in 2004) plus one as chairman (Spirit in 2015) that each increased the group’s scale by 40-60%. As a result, Greene King was taken out of its narrow regional confines and transformed into a national player. He proved family ownership did not have to equate to underperformance nor that it should imply that strategy was geared to minimising the inheritance tax liabilities of the grandchildren. For us, though, probably the key skill Tim utilised during his time was in improving the gene pool of the group, bringing in key people from outside the industry. It is this, more than maybe the significant mergers and acquisitions programme, which has transformed Greene King (Bye bye; ‘Buy’).”

M&B to place 500 digital gaming machines across estate: Mitchells & Butlers will place up to 500 digital gaming machines across its estate through a deal with Regal Gaming and Leisure, a wholly owned subsidiary of ADP Gauselmann UK. John Appleton, director of electronic leisure at Mitchells & Butlers, said: “Our current experience of this product has proved its suitability for our market, and I look forward to increasing our digital offering in the coming months. These machines will showcase how Mitchells & Butlers is using digital technology to innovate its established gaming portfolio and ensuring it continues to be attractive to the thousands of guests visiting its pubs and restaurants each year.”

Hickory’s Smokehouse to add bar at fifth site: Hickory’s Smokehouse, backed by Piper Private Equity, have unveiled plans for their an evolved version of the brand to be situated at its fifth site, the former Peeping Tom pub in the village of Burton Green just a short drive from Kenilworth. The site , which was formerly operated by the Star Pubs & Bars, will see the introduction of a neighbourhood bar, allowing the site to remain a hub for the locals. The 7,000 square foot site is set to open in the early summer and will also offer a cinema area and large outside area. Hickory’s Smokehouse spokesperson Jennie Grimes said: “We are delighted to be launching our latest restaurant and neighbourhood bar in Burton Green. We have been working closely with the locally community to ensure we get their feedback. We will be starting our recruitment in mid March with our first recruitment day at Warwick University and are looking to recruit 60 team members.”

New pizza and craft beer concept launches in Clerkenwell: A new pizza and craft beer concept has launched in Clerkenwell. Wedge Issue Pizza + Beer in Clerkenwell Road serves Napoli-style pizzas using a New York-style thin crust base and a sauce made solely from San Marzano tomatoes. Darren Atwater and Martha Gall, the husband-and-wife team who launched the concept, are offering bespoke pizzas with a choice of regular or gluten-free bases and a wide range of toppings. Lunch customers can choose from six house pizza styles, four bespoke pastas, and three salads. Home and office delivery is available widely through Deliveroo and Jinn. The venue also serves beer by London brewers Weird Beard, Anspach and Hobday, Pressure Drop, and East London Brewery, plus hand-made soft drinks from Karma Cola and Square Root London. For Valentine’s, Wedge Issue Pizza + Beer is offering heart-shaped pizza with Nutella, chocolate and strawberries.

Batemans buys third managed pub: Batemans, the family brewer based in Lincolnshire, has bought its third managed pub, The Fairways in Brinsworth, between Sheffield and Rotherham, South Yorkshire. The Fairways forms a key part of the brewer’s 2016 acquisition strategy; to focus on acquiring main road pubs with strong food offerings and letting rooms available to their customers. Batemans intends to trade the venue in its current format and has re-appointed the manager, Adele Goode, prior to takeover. With The Fairways, Batemans plans to build on the success of its first two managed houses, the Olive Bar & Grill in Doncaster and The Game Bird in Beverley. The Brewery is intending to continue to acquire additional pubs in 2016. Linda Green, retail director for Batemans, said: “The purchase of The Fairways is an excellent site for Batemans to add to its portfolio, with the opportunity to extend the reach of its beers even further.”

Pub/restaurant company 006 Pubco to start expansion with second site in Leicester: Leicester-based pub/restaurant company 006 Pubco will open its second site in the city as the company starts expansion. The company, which runs the Taps bar in Guildhall Lane, has agreed a 25-year lease with the city council to convert Leicester’s oldest surviving house – 15th century Wygston’s House – into its next venue. It beat competition from three other companies to secure the site of the medieval timber-framed hall in Applegate, near Jubilee Square. 006 Pubco director Geoff Thornton told the Leicester Mercury: “This is a really exciting opportunity to create something special in a unique building. Wygston’s House is going to be a new, family-friendly destination for dinner or a drink, but we also hope to serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea and plan to host wedding receptions and private functions too. As we did at Taps, our intention is to carry out a sympathetic conversion, which we hope will include restoring the basement vaulted ceiling to reveal the building’s original brickwork.” 006 Pubco launched the Taps bar in 2008, believed to be the first UK pub to have beer taps built into the tables. 

BrewDog opens Hong Kong bar: BrewDog will open a bar in Hong Kong tomorrow (4 February). The venue is in Hollywood Road in the Central District of Hong Kong Island. BrewDog Hong Kong will offer a wide range of hand-prepared food such as burgers, French dip sandwiches and other snacks prepared using beer as an ingredient. The bar will also run Beer Schools for those keen to learn more about craft beer. BrewDog Hong Kong is close to the Escalator/Walkway system, the world’s longest covered escalator system. The bar will open at 4pm every day.

Leeds Brewery to triple weekly production following £50k loan: Leeds Brewery will triple weekly production after a £50,000 loan from Finance Yorkshire helped pay for extra tanks at its brewhouse. Two tanks in its newly tiled production facility will help the company meet growing demand. The independent brewery was founded in 2007 by university friends Sam Moss and Michael Brothwell. It is now the largest independent in Leeds with a turnover of about £9m a year. Moss said: “We have been close to capacity so we needed to invest in extra tanks. This investment gives us the confidence to push ahead with our expansion plan. The new tanks mean we can triple our capacity from 70,000 to more than 200,000 pints a week. We are putting the foundations in place to grow the business over the longer term.” The brewery produces Leeds Pale, Leeds Best, Yorkshire Gold and Midnight Bell, alongside keg beers such as Leodis lager and Monsoon. Moss said: “Competition is fierce and getting fiercer but our business strategy hasn’t changed – we want to brew beer in Yorkshire for Yorkshire people to drink.” John Ellis, of Finance Yorkshire, said: “The ale market is going through a renaissance and Leeds Brewery’s beers are highly popular with drinkers.”

Casual Dining Group reopens three revamped Cafe Rouge venues in three weeks: Casual Dining Group will reopen its third rebranded Cafe Rouge venue in less than three weeks – in Strand-on-the-Green, near Kew Bridge, on Friday (5 February). Kew Cafe Rouge has undergone a makeover in time for Valentine’s Day, with a ‘Love Bridge’ as a nod to Pont des Arts in Paris, known as ‘Love Lock Bridge’. Diners can secure padlocks on the bistro’s first-floor balcony, which can host 20 couples and be hired for private parties. The new branding at the Bistro also incorporates artwork depicting well-known Paris bridges and romantic scenes. The Kew Bridge relaunch follows the reopening of Cafe Rouge Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire on 17 January, with a ‘Petit Paris’ design theme including bespoke vintage artwork, and Cafe Rouge Cheshire Oaks, near Ellesmere Port, on 29 January, with a theme celebrating Parisian fashion. More venue makeovers will follow this year. All three bistros serve an all-day ‘Best of the Best’ menu created by executive chef Duncan McEwan, with dishes including Paris snails, confit de canard and seabass en papillote. The rebrand comes as Cafe Rouge celebrates its 26th anniversary this year, with Casual Dining Group hiring LightBrigade to lead a consumer-focused public relations push for the bistro brand.

New tea house concept Kanuka to launch in St Albans this month, eyes expansion: A new tea house concept specialising in quality, classic and contemporary teas will launch in St Albans, Hertfordshire, this month, with the owners eyeing expansion. John Hesler and wife Bethany will open Kanuka in Christopher Place on 15 February. Taking its name from a tree native to New Zealand and Australia, the 54 square metre tea house showcases a pigeon-holed counter offering more than 40 loose teas from around the globe. They are organised into three categories: classic, which includes Darjeeling, well-being, which features Brazilian Mate Focus, and naughty featuring strawberries and cream. Customers can view, smell and learn about each of the teas on offer, as well as purchase gift items and tea accessories both in-store and online. The tea house will have 25 covers indoors, with a further eight outside, and a light menu offering gluten-free produce and cakes. John Hesler said: “We look forward to showcasing and sharing everything we have discovered over the last two years. Tea is growing in popularity and has so many positive attributes to explore and we want to educate people on the wide variety available. We have ambitious plans to expand.”

Revolution Bars Group in Sunday Times ‘top 100 best companies to work for’ list for ninth year running: Revolution Bars Group has been included in The Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Best Companies to Work For’ list for the ninth year in a row. Revolution has also been awarded an ‘outstanding’ two-star accreditation level, an improvement on its 2015 rating. The group said the key to its success had been its investment in ensuring employees developed throughout their time with the company, with every role having a career path. Revolution also offers its employees educational trips in the UK and abroad. Fiona Regan, people development director at Revolution Bars Group, said: “We want people to work for us with the understanding there is room for them to grow and develop. It is very important for us to promote internally and to have been recognised for this huge honour.” Revolution Bar Group’s final ranking in the list will be revealed at an awards ceremony on 25 February. The group operates 60 bars across its Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands and employs about 2,400 staff.

Whiting & Hammond’s ninth pub to open in March, heated ‘tiki’ huts to feature in garden: Whiting & Hammond will open its ninth pub – for which it raised £200,000 in 24 hours on peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle – in March. The Rose & Crown in Green Street Green, Kent, is a Young’s pub located within the M25. Whiting & Hammond managing director Brian Whiting told Gastro magazine the pub had been taken back to its “bare bones”, with more than 50 tonnes of concrete removed. As well as a new oak-framed extension and expanded kitchen, the venue will feature four heated ‘tiki’ huts in the newly landscaped garden. Whiting said: “One can take up to 20 people, another between ten and 12, and the other two between eight and ten. You’ll be able to book them for a small charge and they come with their own waiter. You press a button in your hut and they’ll appear like a genie.” The menu will change daily, using seasonal, local foods from artisan suppliers, and the pub will serve six real ales as well as a range of lagers and craft beers. The venue is busy recruiting for staff, ranging from head chef to part-time maintenance people. Whiting & Hammond opened its eighth site last August – the Blue Ball in Walton on the Hill, Surrey.

Michel Roux Jr celebrates 25 years at helm of Le Gavroche, looks to next generation: Michel Roux Jr is celebrating 25 years at the helm of Le Gavroche in Mayfair. The celebrity chef will host a series of celebratory events throughout 2016, while looking to the next generation of the Roux family – his daughter, Emily. Roux Jr said: “I’m immensely proud of everything I have achieved but I couldn’t have done it without my fantastic team. They have been instrumental in our success, so it’s really important for me to continue to nurture younger talent in the industry and aid them in achieving the same success – starting with my daughter Emily.” During his time at Le Gavroche, Roux Jr has trained some of the UK’s most respected chefs, including Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay and Monica Galetti.

Britain’s oldest surviving pub has sale price cut, deadline set for bids: Britain’s oldest surviving pub has had its sale price cut, with a deadline set for bids. The Cridford Inn at Trusham, near Newton Abbot, is a former longhouse dating to 825. Having bought the business in 2007, the owners have put the pub up for sale at a reduced price of £295,000 for the freehold. Jon Clyne, director at Charles Darrow, which is handling the sale, said: “A real opportunity exists for a hands-on operator to purchase an outstanding freehold in a popular part of South Devon. The Cridford Inn represents a typical village freehouse, with much opportunity to develop the trade further and create a real destination inn.” The pub has a thatched roof and slate floors throughout. The ground floor has a lounge bar, restaurant and function room, with four bedrooms on the first floor. The venue also has a stream-side beer garden.

Living Ventures to open The Alchemist in Newcastle, first in north east: Living Ventures will open a branch of The Alchemist cocktail bar and restaurant at the Intu Eldon Square shopping centre in Newcastle, the company’s first foray into the north east. The company has signed a 25-year lease on a 6,600 square foot unit to open in the Grey Quarter – the complex’s new £25m dining zone. The venue is double-fronted, facing in towards the mall and out to Nelson Street. The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts told Chronicle Live: “We are really looking forward to bringing The Alchemist to Newcastle and to being part of the fantastic restaurant space at Intu Eldon Square. Our designers are working on eye-catching plans for the venue that will reflect the rich history of this fantastic city and we look forward to wowing guests with our molecular mixology and creative food offering later this year.” Intu regional director Kate Grant added: “We’re focused on bringing new brands to our centres and pleased to be The Alchemist’s first choice for their venture into the north east.” The Alchemist, which launched in Manchester in 2010, also has sites in Leeds and London and is set to open a venue in Birmingham.

End of the line for Friends tribute cafe chain Central Perk, new concept takes over Liverpool sites: Central Perk, the New York-style coffee bar chain inspired by US TV show Friends, has closed its venues, with American-style coffee shop and cafe concept Ameriesko to take over its sites in Liverpool. Central Perk’s site in Chester closed last month, while its two Liverpool venues in Bold Street and Hatton have already reopened under the new brand. Steven Hesketh, Ameriesko owner, said his brand combined American interior styling and flavour with a distinctly Liverpool personality. Liverpool’s Joe Blacks has created two coffee blends – The Brooklyn Blend and the Yankee Blend – while Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory will also have items on the menu. Both venues reopened after a week-long refurbishment. Hesketh said: “Ameriesko celebrates everything that makes Liverpool such a vibrant and unique city and hopes to find some music and comic talent over time – whilst celebrating American TV Sitcoms and classic American music too.” Central Perk sold the chain’s Friends replica items and other stock via an online silent auction, which ended on Sunday (31 January). 

Famous Surrey pub sets up wine club: The Barley Mow in Tilford, Surrey, has set up a monthly wine club. The pub, recently purchased by motorsport enthusiast Martin Overington, is a well-known destination for those interested in cricket and motoring but Overington also plans to make the pub an important destination for those interested in good food and wine. He said: “The Barley Mow was a popular destination for Mike Hawthorn, the motor racing driver. It has been known to cricket and motoring enthusiasts for years. We want the Barley Mow to be the focal point of the village and to attract people from far and wide with a variety of activities they can engage in and enjoy. The pub has an excellent wine list and attracts those interested in trying something different, so we decided to set up the Barley Mow Wine Club.” Nina Cerullo, a lecturer for the Wines and Spirits Education Trust, will run monthly tastings, with the first on 11 February, from 8pm to 10pm. There is an initial £25 joining fee with a monthly £20 fee on attendance. Each month there will be eight wines to taste and a new topic for discussion.

Agent Fleurets offers site opposite Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge football stadium: Agent Fleurets is offering a leasehold site opposite Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge football stadium. Kona Kai has a guide price of £250,000. James Davies, of Fleurets, said: “Kona Kai is sandwiched between Riley’s bar and Brogan’s, which are both similar leasehold assignments we have dealt with recently in Fulham and Chelsea. Both achieved in excess of £250,000 as a premium so I expect demand to once again be strong.” 

Harry Ramsden’s to open in £2.4m development at Blackpool Tower: Fish and chip restaurant brand Harry Ramsden’s is set to open in a £2.4m development at Blackpool Tower. The company is committing £2m to the venture, with Blackpool Council contributing £400,000 towards building works. The restaurant and quick-service outlet will be located in the space previously occupied by the Tower Lounge bar, complemented by a further eatery within the Blackpool Tower complex, which is operated by Merlin Entertainments. The venture is expected to create 100 jobs and safeguard another 30 when the company’s restaurant in the Promenade closes. Harry Ramsden’s chief executive Joe Teixeira said: “With the town continuing to attract record numbers of visitors, we believe the time is right to further invest in Blackpool. We are delighted that, as a result of this decision, not only are jobs being secured but new jobs are being created. We are especially pleased that so many of the people currently working on the project are locally based, this in itself gives an immediate boost to the Blackpool economy.” Kate Shane, head of the Merlin Blackpool cluster, said: “This is a hugely exciting event for Blackpool Tower and the resort as a whole. The new restaurant and eatery perfectly complement the Tower attractions, will enhance customer experience significantly and, of course, complete the ground-floor refurbishment of this special building.”

JD Wetherspoon ‘100% committed’ to Ramsgate venue plan: JD Wetherspoon has quashed rumours it is set to pull out of plans to convert Ramsgate’s Royal Victoria Pavilion into one of its largest pubs. Questions were raised in recent weeks over the future of the proposed development but Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Isle of Thanet Gazette the chain was “100% committed” to the project. Gershon said the company was waiting to resolve issues surrounding its planning application submitted to Thanet council. Wetherspoon signed a deal to take on the grade II-listed former casino and dance hall in November 2014, before submitting a planning application in September last year. The pavilion in Harbour Parade has been derelict since 2008 and suffered serious fire damage in 2011. It was listed on The Victorian Society’s ‘at-risk register’ in 2013. Wetherspoon plans to invest more than £1.5m to bring the property back into use, including refitting some original features and creating a community space capable of staging food markets and other events. Thanet council announced in December it required additional information from Wetherspoon before a planning application could be considered.

Light Cinemas signs for Sittingbourne scheme: The Light Cinemas has agreed to join the £57m Spirit of Sittingbourne regeneration project by opening an eight-screen cinema in the town centre. The new 24,000 square foot venue is planned alongside six family restaurants as the centrepiece of the new leisure quarter, which will sit between the high street and Sittingbourne train station. Current plans expect construction of the cinema to start in October 2016, with completion set for early 2018. The scheme is being developed by U+I, Swale Borough Council and Quinn Estates. Keith Pullinger, chief executive of The Light Cinemas, said: “We are delighted to be part of this important town centre initiative and we look forward to working with Swale Council and U+I to deliver this eight-screen cinema. The Light has a commitment to working with local communities to ensure that the cinema is seen as a valuable amenity in the town.” Richard Upton, deputy chief executive of U+I, said: “This deal with The Light Cinemas demonstrates our commitment to the regeneration of Sittingbourne and will create a real social hub for the community once completed. We anticipate that this landmark deal will have a positive knock-on effect in attracting other interesting and exciting businesses to both the scheme and the town centre.” Mark Quinn, managing director of Quinn Estates, said: “This is a pivotal moment for Sittingbourne and Swale. We are really excited to be part of this regeneration project and believe getting The Light as an occupier is a real boon for the area that will transform Sittingbourne’s town centre. I feel that with the dedication and hard work of the Spirit of Sittingbourne team, we can deliver the benefits that this town needs.”

Geoff Collyer – M&B underperforming but not as bad as market feared: Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer said that while Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is underperforming, it is not as bad as the market feared. Following the company’s interim management statement for 2015 quarter one, Collyer said M&B’s lack of exposure in London and the sale of its drink-led estate in 2010 were hurting the company compared with its rivals. He said: “Managed pub like-for-likes were -1.0% in the period. Despite the relatively poor like-for-likes, the shares have responded positively, reflecting some market relief that things were not worse for a group that has been a recent underachiever, leading to some short covering. M&B shares are -13% over the past quarter versus FTA-All Share, more in line with JD Wetherspoon (‘Hold’, 677p) and better than Restaurant Group (‘Buy’, 533p) – both of which are trading at close to double the price-per-earnings ratio multiple of M&B. The Coffer Peach Tracker sector like-for-likes for the six weeks to 2 January 2016 were +1.8%, with the festive two-week period +4.8%, although this was more driven by drinks-led pubs. We estimate that M&B’s sales are about 25% of the industry sample, so we see the relative underperformance as being driven by M&B’s sale of its drinks-led estate in 2010 as well as less London exposure compared with Greene King (‘Buy’, 874.46p) (reporting quarter three 2016 interim management statement on 10 February). The outlook statement is a bit bland, although comparables get softer from here. We have nudged down our profit before tax and earnings per share forecasts by about 2%, as well as shaving 2% from our target price. We have also nudged up our margin expectations.”

New vegan-only restaurant concept to open in Liverpool: A new vegan-only restaurant concept will open in Liverpool next month. Give Kitchen, currently an online delivery service which supplies fresh vegetarian, vegan and plant-based food, is launching the venture in Harrington Street, Brunswick Dock. Co-founders Paul Hampson and Dario Curcillo, who launched the company last June, aim to offer a “refreshing and varied menu to those looking for a new vegan dining experience”. Hampson told JMU Journalism: “We are really excited to launch our new venture. We want our visitors to leave feeling fulfilled, inspired and full.” The business will operate on the basis that for each dish bought, a meal will be donated to a homeless person, working in partnership with the Whitechapel Centre charity.

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 company’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-licensed 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 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 ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls about the brand’s USPs, all-day trading, 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 open for bookings: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2016 Chicago Study Tour is open for bookings. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training and Sky, takes place between Thursday, 19 May and Monday, 23 May. 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 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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