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Fri 5th Feb 2016 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Former Punch Taverns director becomes chairman of Gala Bingo: Former Punch Taverns chief operating officer Adrian Fawcett has become chairman of Gala Bingo. The bingo operator, acquired from Gala Coral by Caledonia Investments for £241m at the end of last year, has more than £550m of revenues and earnings of circa £50m. Fawcett told Propel: “There is opportunity, taking it out of the corporate group, to energise and develop an ever more engaging customer offer. As the bingo sector leader as well as, on paper, being the planet’s largest machines operator with over 20,000 gaming terminals – it is a business that regularly directly touches the weekly and monthly social lives of over 1.5 million people every year. With Gala Bingo there is now a real opportunity to create the UK’s leading omni-channel community gaming club. I am pleased to see some of our competitors recently reporting good results and have their own strong market place sentiment. With Caledonia backing and strong capital structure, it allows us the real opportunity to accelerate our investment in the offer and the people. We plan significant development and investment in the company over the years ahead. We have already managed to make some swift decisions about drinks supply, started tackling food and snacking offers as well as investing in supporting digital activity, machines and site development. If nothing else, (we are) starting to provide operational clarity to what must have been a very, very frustrating period for the team and the business as they sat in the departure lounge with the previous owners for so long.” Fawcett is also chairman of Park Holidays UK and Silentnight Group.
 

Industry News:

Bargain-hunters force closure of 25p-an-item easyFoodstore: The easyFoodstore has been forced to shut its doors after bargain hunters emptied its shelves. The discount supermarket in Park Royal, north west London, which was offering goods for just 25p as an introductory offer, has had to close until stocks can be replenished. It took less than two days trading for the no-frills store, which bears the slogan “No expensive brands. Just food honestly priced,” to sell out of supplies. The outlet, which has been set up by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, offers a range of 76 basic items including sugar, tea, pasta, biscuits, and cleaning products at “rock-bottom prices”. Although prices are expected to rise after the promotion ends at the end of February, they are still expected to remain very cheap. A spokesman for easyFoodstore said: “The level of interest has been completely overwhelming. The last people through the door today had travelled up from Canterbury. We anticipated we had enough stock to last a couple of weeks but it has just gone in a day and a half.” It is expected to reopen this morning (Friday, 5 February), once shelves have been restocked.
 
Rebuilt historic Sydenham pub goes on the market: A historic pub in Sydenham, south London, that was illegally demolished three years ago, has now been rebuilt and put on the market. The Greyhound in Kirkdale was unlawfully bulldozed by Bromley-based developer Purelake in 2012. The rebuilt pub has now been made available for sale or to let through agents Acorn. It has been priced at £720,000 freehold or £47,500 to let, reports the South London Press. It has permission for either restaurant or pub on the ground floor with the agents marketing it as “ideal for an eating establishment/gastro pub”. It also has planning permission for a ground floor single storey glazed extension and has an external terrace area to the front and side. A public house has stood on the site of the Greyhound since 1719 and it is Sydenham’s oldest pub. During the 1980s, the Greyhound hosted the Rub a Dub club, where performers including Hale & Pace, Reeves & Mortimer and Jo Brand appeared. Purelake pleaded guilty to the unlawful demolition of the pub at Bromley Magistrates’ Court in 2012 and was fined £5,000 after magistrates took into account the developer intended to rebuild the pub using original materials.
 
Subway opens site within Kia car dealership: A Subway has opened within a Kia dealership located on Concorde Way in Stockton, Teesside, operated by managing director of Jennings Motor Group Nas Khan. Khan said: “We are delighted to launch the new Subway store at our Kia dealership in Stockton, which is also creating nine jobs for local people. It is the perfect venue and indeed location for such a successful brand and will be a great complement to our dealership.” It will cater for staff, local people, businesses and passing trade. 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 make it a perfect fit for these style locations, in this case for dealership customers and those visiting the store.” The new store is open 7am-9pm Monday to Thursday, 7am-10pm Friday and Saturday and 7am-7pm on Sunday.
 
Technomic survey shows booming foodservice at US supermarkets: A survey by Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Technomic has found supermarket foodservice in the US has grown in value by $15bn over the last eight years. The study suggests most stores (64%) witnessed 2014 prepared foods category growth of 9% or higher. Technomic’s Wade Hanson said: “62% of supermarkets participating in this research now offer customers made-to-order stations along the store perimeter, but select supermarkets have incorporated limited service or full-service restaurants into their physical footprint. Importantly, and as FMI has defined in its consumer research, supermarkets are catering to the changing preferences of shoppers and their demands for customisation.”
 
Jascots presents key wine insights and trends for the on-trade in 2016: Jascots Wine Merchants hosted its inaugural industry insights panel in central London this week, presenting key wine and food trends for the on-trade in 2016. Jascots based the research on its client base of London hospitality venues, providing “insight into a traditionally data-poor sector but one that is growing rapidly and driving and influencing industry-wide trends”. The research found 74% of polled operators were optimistic about the prospects for eating and drinking out in 2016, with wine the top accompaniment to food when dining out. Jascots also quizzed 500 London restaurant-goers, with the majority surveyed preferring wine served in 125ml or 175ml glasses. Jascots also revealed serving wine on tap has become acceptable and even preferred in some settings. Jascots also noted a trend for new wine drinkers entering the market via softer wine options such as fruit wine and sangria.
 

Company News:

Giggling Squid appoints Camilla Katté as marketing director: Thai restaurant business Giggling Squid has made its first senior appointment since its £6.4m investment from BGF (Business Growth Fund) in November, with Camilla Katté joining as marketing director. She has ten years’ PR and marketing experience, most significantly a four-and-a-half year term at Carluccio’s, which saw the Italian restaurant group more than double in size and launch internationally. Katté joins from Strada Restaurant Group where she was head of marketing for both Strada and new-to-market Coppa Club. “We are gradually assembling an exciting group of people committed to seeing Giggling Squid reach its full potential of around 150 sites in the UK,” said Giggling Squid managing director Andy Laurillard. “Camilla’s experience at Carluccio’s and subsequent projects, as well as her strong all round marketing skill set made her the ideal candidate.” Katté was introduced by Giggling Squid’s new chairman Simon Kossoff, chairman and former chief executive of Carluccio’s. “I am absolutely delighted Camilla is bringing her talent and experience to the team. Giggling Squid has tremendous potential and this is a real step in realising the potential of this exciting and wonderful young brand,” said Kossoff. Katté is based at the company’s new 1,500 feet head office in the Old Print Works opposite Guildford Station in Surrey. Giggling Squid is also recruiting for a finance director, a training and development manager, a health and safety manager, and a number of additional area managers, as part of its continued expansion. Their target is to reach a roll out rate of ten sites per year over the next three years. The company has a portfolio of 14 sites across the south of England and the Midlands, with advanced plans to open in Bury St Edmunds, Berkhamsted, Farnham and Warwick, during the first half of 2016. With no central kitchen, all meals at Giggling Squid will remain freshly prepared from scratch, on site, by skilled Thai chefs.

Mitchells & Butlers hires Chris Griffin as head of culinary education: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has hired Chris Griffin as head of culinary education. He will head up the central kitchen training managers team based at M&B’s Watford Skills Academy. 
Griffin has worked for M&B previously before moving on to Compass Group and more recently River Cottage. He was responsible for setting up a successful chef academy for River Cottage, working directly for food writer, broadcaster and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In his new role at M&B, Griffin will be developing innovative solutions and training programmes to help grow food capability across the business. Susan Martindale, group human resources director, said: “Chris has a real passion to inspire the next generation of chefs, and to share his food knowledge and commercial experience on a wider scale. Moreover, he has a genuine emotional desire to return to the business which gave him his first career opportunities.” Griffin rejoined M&B last month.
 
Europe’s first all-vegan Italian restaurant launches in Brighton: Europe’s first all-vegan Italian restaurant has opened in Brighton. Purezza has launched in St James’s Street where all food and drinks are 100% plant-based and cruelty free. It offers more than 20 types of pizza toppings and three types of pizza base – including a gluten-free one and one stuffed with melted cheese, which its owners, who are both vegan, said is a world first, reports the Metro. Purezza’s chefs mainly use a soya-based cheese for pizza bases, but on its four cheese pizza, it uses coconut, almond and cashew-based cheese as well. Purezza also sells vegan coffees, cakes, croissants and pastries as well as salads, sandwiches and five desserts. 
 
The Stable, 51% owned by Fuller’s, tipped for Kingston site: Artisan pizza and cider brand The Stable, which is 51% owned by Fuller’s, has been named as the preferred bidder for Kingston’s iconic Market House. The landmark building in Market Place currently hosts several craft sellers and a tea room. Kingston Council collects £30,000 to £45,000 a year in rent. However, a brochure distributed last year showed the authority hopes for £150,000 a year in rent by moving in an established retailer. Abigail Perry, The Stable marketing co-ordinator, said the company was actively looking for sites in Kingston but, as yet, had nothing confirmed. The company now has 13 Stable pizza restaurants open with the brand due to make its London debut in Whitechapel in April followed by an opening in Kew Bridge.
 
Le Bistrot Pierre enjoys 44% surge in family diners following Menu Enfant launch: Independent French restaurant group Le Bistrot Pierre has enjoyed a 44% rise in families dining at its venues since the launch of its new children’s menu and activity pack in October. The Menu Enfant activity pack contains 14 French-themed puzzles, games, stories and “Ou est Pierre?” – a French twist on “Where’s Wally?”. The company commissioned research to find out what was important to families when eating out, with 57% citing “quality family time together” and 63% preferring restaurants that offer a children’s activity pack. Rob Beacham, Le Bistrot Pierre co-owner, said: “Quality family time can be hard to factor in at home so we felt a meal out together would be the perfect time to put away phones and tablets and enjoy each other’s company. That’s why we chose to invest in our younger customers to create something really special – and the figures speak for themselves.” Menu Enfant includes a number of children’s dishes, such as roasted chicken breast, fish goujons, macaroni cheese and mini burgers.
 
Tiffin submits plans for £750,000 venture to transform vacant Enterprise Inns pub in Clevedon: Clevedon-based cafe company Tiffin has submitted plans to transform a vacant seafront pub in the town into an “exciting” new venue. The company, led by Nick Wring, which already runs a site at The Beach on Clevedon seafront and a restaurant in Jersey, has applied to refurbish Campbell’s Landing in The Beach, which is owned by Enterprise Inns and has not been used since 2014. The venture is expected to cost about £750,000 with an opening date set for the first week in August following a three-week refurbishment, reports the North Somerset Times. The plan involves refurbishing the building by creating a new roof terrace and installing a new kitchen, which will allow it to cater for up to 200 diners at a time. A heritage design and access statement said the building is in need of “substantial investment” to make it useable again but the proposed work will turn it into a “modern, versatile facility”. The statement added: “A local business, Tiffin, is seeking to redevelop the site and bring the hotel back into use with a modern, versatile function and dining facility that will cater for the business and domestic community.” Tiffin, which is also set to open a restaurant in Clevedon Pier’s new visitor centre in April, secured the lease from Enterprise Inns last year.
 
Charles Wells lines up fourth Apostrophe Pubs opening: Charles Wells has lined up a fourth site for its Apostrophe Pubs managed segment, a premium offer that the company has developed. The company has applied to add a single-storey and first floor rear extensions to the Old Cock Inn, High Street, Harpenden and has asked St Albans district council for approval to create ten bedrooms, refurbishing six existing bedrooms and adding four. The planning application includes other alterations and an extension to the roof. Craig Mayes, director at Apostrophe Pubs, said: “Harpenden is a thriving town with so many businesses and tourists, and following the closure of two hotels nearby, local people are telling us they are crying out for accommodation. We’re really excited about the potential at the Old Cock Inn.” The scheme is still being considered, and a district council committee is expected to make a decision soon. A spokesman for Charles Wells said: “We hope to create 35 new kitchen, serving and housekeeping jobs. All being well we hope to open the new look Old Cock Inn in summer 2016.” Apostrophe Pubs operates d’Parys, Bedford, Merlin’s Cave, Chalfont St Giles and Cox’s Yard, Stratford upon Avon.
 
Distinct Group buys Islington freehold pub: North London-based Distinct Group has bought the freehold of The Quays pub in Holloway Road, Islington, from independent operator Finbar Holian through agent Savills. The Quays is equidistant to the underground stations of Archway and Holloway Road and is less than a mile north of the London Metropolitan University and Arsenal’s Emirates stadium. The 6,500 square foot (604 square metre) grade II-listed venue is set over two storeys, has a late alcohol licence and customer capacity in excess of 400. Chris Bickle, director of licensed leisure at Savills, said: “Freehold public house assets outside of Zone 1 are generating unprecedented levels of interest as Central London values are reaching some of the highest levels seen. The sale of The Quays was a rare opportunity to acquire a public house in the area that is undergoing a fair amount of investment and we were pleased to agree a deal with the Distinct Group after a short off-market campaign.” Distinct Group recently extended its portfolio by acquiring the 76-bedroom Cromwell Hotel in Stevenage town centre – its first site outside the capital. It also operates the Prince Albert in Camden, the Adam & Eve in Mill Hill Village and the Three Compasses in Hornsey. Distinct Group manager Gareth Leakey said: “Following an extensive refurbishment, the pub will open all day every day and late Fridays and Saturdays, offering a fresh food menu including breakfast at weekends and our award-winning traditional Sunday roast. All backed up with an extensive wine list, selection of ales, cider, lagers, cocktails and craft beers, and an exciting line up of events, offers, and entertainment that all Distinct pubs have become well known for in their communities.” 
 
Pickled Radish opens second restaurant in Wales: The owner of The Pickled Radish in Bridgend will open a second venue – in Llandaff, Cardiff – on St David’s Day (1 March). Owner Nick Collins said: “We don’t want to be in the city centre, we want to be a destination restaurant. It was very important for us to open in an area that suits our style. We feel that we’re going to be very different to what’s on offer in Cardiff.” The food will be locally sourced with one favourite dish being Celebration of Chicken box for two, containing a roasted spatchcock Glamorgan chicken rubbed with herbs and spices, mini chicken and morel mushroom pie, Kiev bites, lentil and bacon stewed beans, skinny fries and chicken gravy. Every breakfast dish, except the vegetarian option, will contain bacon. The restaurant’s interior will be rustic “with a touch of elegance”. The first Pickled Radish opened last May.

London Union opens venues for hire: Street food market company London Union, the parent company of Street Feast, has opened its venues for hire and is building an events team. The company has appointed Sammie Ellard-King to the role of sales and event manager, who will work across both the corporate and private events market. Emma Howe, director of sales at London Union, told Event the company opted to enter the events market last year, after it started to receive large event enquiries. “This prompted them to appoint a sales director to establish and develop the events side of the business,” she said. Howe, who joined in October, is forming a dedicated events team. She said: “I built a strategy to raise awareness of the venues London Union had to offer with a clear understanding of the evolving events landscape and client demands. There are currently four [employees in the team] – two in the central event sales team and two event managers in our venues, and growing. London Union plans to open more venues this year and over the summer, and the new sites will have a dedicated events manager. In conjunction with this, I am growing the central event sales team as they receive more enquiries throughout the year.” Howe added the company has a clear growth strategy in place for 2016. “It will require a number of new appointments to the central events team and in venues,” she said. “At this stage we haven’t confirmed specific roles but we are looking for rising talent and entrepreneurial spirit.”
 
Synek hopes to spark beer revolution in UK with vacuum-packed doggy bags: A US company that sells a counter-top dispenser that lets people take draft beer home in a doggy bag so they can tap it themselves later is aiming to start selling machines in the UK in March. Launched on Kickstarter in the US in 2014, Synek provides gallon-capacity, vacuum-sealed bags, called cartridges, which can be taken to participating breweries and bars. Using a snap-in-place fill kit, a bartender can pour beer into the bag without exposing it to oxygen. Once home, the drinker can snap the bag into Synek’s carbonated, temperature-controlled dispenser and pour. Synek claimed the beer would keep for about 30 days as opposed to a couple of days after opening a growler. The dispenser keeps the beer at a chosen temperature and carbonation. Synek said it recently acquired distributors in the UK and aims to start selling machines here next month.

ASK Italian to open site at Intu Eldon Square in Newcastle city centre: Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian is the latest operator to sign a venue at Intu Eldon Square’s £25m dining zone regeneration in the centre of Newcastle. Azzurri has applied for a premises licence for a ground-floor unit in the Grey’s Quarter, which is bringing 20 restaurants to the shopping centre. Half of the 20 operators have been unveiled as having signed leases, including The Restaurant Group’s Chiquito and Frankie & Benny’s brands, Tapas Revolution, Handmade Burger Co, TGI Friday’s, Ed’s Easy Diner, Tesco-owned Giraffe and Casual Dining Group’s Bella Italia, with the rest due to be named by Intu in the coming weeks, including the key restaurant name taking on the prized rooftop area. This week, Living Ventures announced it would open a branch of The Alchemist cocktail bar and restaurant in the development, having signed a 25-year lease on a 6,600 square foot unit.

Former Tesco store manager launches licensed coffee shop concept in Yarm: A new licensed coffee shop concept has opened in Yarm, North Yorkshire. Steve Ashman, who previously worked for Tesco managing its stores, has launched Mint Hobo in the High Street, creating four jobs. It has an alcohol licence until 10pm and late opening hours, serving beer, wines and spirits as well as coffee and locally sourced light food. Ashman told Gazette Live: “We visited places from The Attendant, which is a former gent’s urinal, to coffee shops in Brixton – and learned that businesses in London are very clever in the way they use space and get their offer right. For all it’s a mega metropolis, your customers might be very local and things can change within half a mile. From the extremes of the capital, we wanted to bring some of that back to Yarm. When you come to ours, you know you’ll get a lovely cup of coffee – all we want is for people to leave and say ‘you know what, that was really nice’.”
 
Consortium buys stake in Middle Eastern foodservice franchisee Kuwait Food Company: A consortium of Gulf Arab investors has agreed to buy a majority stake in Middle Eastern food firm Kuwait Food Company, which operates regional franchises of KFC, Krispy Kreme and other well-known Western brands. The investor group Adeptio said in a statement posted yesterday (Thursday, 4 February) on the Kuwait stock exchange it has agreed to buy a stake in the company currently owned by the Al-Khair investment company. Al-Khair said Adeptio is led by Mohamed Alabbar, who is also chairman of Emaar Properties, developer of Dubai’s record-breaking Burj Khalifa skyscraper. Financial details were not disclosed. Kuwait Food Company is better known as Americana. Founded in 1964, its portfolio includes Mideast franchises of Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden. It also produces packaged food sold under its own brands.

Stonegate wins top HR award for third consecutive year: Stonegate Pub Company has scooped a top HR Distinction Award for a third consecutive year. The 2016 Distinction for ‘Innovative use of Digital or Social Media’ was awarded at Birmingham International Conferencing Centre, adding to previous Distinctions for People Development and Innovative Use of Technology. The award was given for the success of ‘Albert’s App’, launched in August 2015, already used by 40% of the company’s 12,500 employees. Judges recognised the transformation in employee training and engagement, through real time, digital communication. The app hosts all company information, training videos and individual training programmes amongst other features. Chief executive Simon Longbottom said: “It’s a great honour for Stonegate to have been recognised at the HR Distinction Awards for three successive years. It reflects both the commitment we have to developing our people, and the outstanding efforts that our managers put in to identifying and nurturing talent.” Jon Perkins, success coach for Stonegate, also achieved highly commended as HR Rising Star of the Year. Perkins has created the company’s successful accelerator programme for high potential deputy managers.
 
Ale House owners open second Dorset micro-pub: The owners of micro-pub Wight Bear Ale House in Southbourne, Dorset, will open a sister venue in neighbouring Christchurch after their plans were approved. Saxon Bear Ale House will move into a former residential lettings office. Owners David and Nicola Holland said the focus would be on real ale, locally produced drinks and cold snacks, with no television, gaming machines or hot food. There will also be no late licence or happy hour. The Hollands told the Bournemouth Daily Echo the Saxon Bear would be aimed at the mature, responsible drinker and anyone who wanted to try something a bit different to the typical pub. Christchurch Borough Council planning officers said the change of use would make a “positive contribution to the urban environment, adding to the vitality and viability of the locality”.
 
£100,000 crowdfunding campaign to revive Brighton pub exceeds target by more than 50% at closure: A crowdfunding campaign to revive a former Brighton pub and prevent it becoming a Burger King has closed with it exceeding its £100,000 target by more than 50%. Bison Beer was looking to raise £99,999 on Seedrs 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 closed the campaign with £158,547 having been raised, which will allow it to carry out phase one of its plan. This involves securing the lease, redesigning and refurbishing the ground floor, and building a “tap room” with view to launching the pub in March or April. The pitch stated: “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. 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.” City councillors refused an application by Burger King to convert the property at the end of last year. Award-winning restaurant 64° is in talks with Bison Beer to provide the food at the proposed pub.
 
M&B makes Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager available on draught in 114 pubs: Montezuma’s Chocolate Lager, the world’s first chocolate-flavoured lager, brewed by Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey, will be available on draught in 114 Mitchells & Butlers pubs in time for Valentine’s Day. Hogs Back developed the lager with Montezuma’s Chocolate and it contains a natural essence from the artisan confectioner’s Lordy Lord dark chocolate bar. Rupert Thompson, of Hogs Back Brewery, said: “All beer lovers will appreciate the craft lager, brewed with five different hops, while chocoholics will be won over by the chocolate aroma and taste.” Montezuma’s will also be sold in bottles at some supermarkets, including selected Tesco and Booths stores.
 
Graham’s The Family Dairy to exclusively supply milk to Starbucks’ Scotland stores: Graham’s The Family Dairy has signed a deal to exclusively supply milk – including whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, plus whipping cream – to all 68 Starbucks stores in Scotland, with immediate effect. Robert Graham, managing director of the Bridge of Allan-based dairy, said: “This new partnership is not only positive for our business, it also benefits the Scottish dairy sector generally. We value highly the relationships we have with our 98 farmers, and this deal is beneficial for all involved. We had an excellent year in 2015 and we were delighted to be named Scotland’s favourite dairy brand as well as showing strong growth and developing our product range.” Ian Cranna, vice-president marketing and category at Starbucks EMEA, said: “We’re committed to partnering with the best local suppliers to give our customers the best experiences in store. Lattes are our most popular drink, so it’s important we use the finest local milk available.”
 
Leeds hotel owner buys city site leased to Individual Restaurants and Arc Inspirations: The owners of the Quebecs Hotel in Leeds have bought the Old Post Office building in the city that is leased to Arc Inspirations and Individual Restaurants. They have acquired the City Square site from property company Highstone Estates, which is owned by businessman Paul Sykes, reports The Business Desk. The building is home to Individual Restaurants’ Restaurant Bar and Grill as well as Greene King’s seafood restaurant Loch Fyne, the leasehold of which has transferred to Arc Inspirations, which is opening a £1.5m Banyan Bar & Kitchen on the site. Highstone Estates invested £8m in the refurbishment of the building in 2006. It has owned the City Square site since 1987 when it was still being used as a post office. It was built in 1869, and is a grade II-listed property.
 
Cleethorpes bar and restaurant owner lodges plans for new venture: Cleethorpes bar and restaurant owner Brett Smith has lodged plans for a new venture in the Lincolnshire town. Smith, who owns People Bar and Kitchen in Cambridge Street, has applied to North East Lincolnshire Council to convert a former phone and repair shop in the same road. He said the proposed new restaurant would be a completely separate entity, with a different team behind it. He told the Grimsby Telegraph: “It has been on the cards for a while but we have waited for an opportunity to do so. Due to the right premises becoming available now is the right time. This is categorically nothing to do with People Bar.”
 
New operators to relocate Newcastle bar Idols under new name: The new operators of Newcastle bar Idols have found it a new home – but they won’t be transferring the name. Idols’ current site at Newgate Street shopping centre is earmarked for redevelopment, leaving 25 bar jobs at risk. New operator Damian Conway stepped in to help its manager Adam Waugh save the day and will relocate the bar to the City Vaults site in the Bigg Market, which shut last month, and is currently being refurbished. But any suggestion of a “new Idols” surprised Colin Stuart, managing director of Blackwater Bars, which owns Idols and has copyright of the name. He told Chronicle Live: “It certainly won’t be called Idols. We’d like to use the name again. It’s a great name and an established name in Newcastle and we want to keep it.” Conway and Waugh are now thinking up a new name for the bar, which is set to open on Wednesday, 24 February with Idols closing its doors three days beforehand. Conway said: “We want a name that combines the best of everything in Newcastle and the best of Idols. We want to find something that embodies that kind of party spirit.”
 
Costa to open venue in Liverpool’s Queen Square development: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee has been revealed as the second operator to open a site at the former Rat and Parrot pub in Queen Square, Liverpool, following Five Guys, which opened a branch in December. Costa has signed a ten-year deal for a 1,800 square foot unit, making the building’s ground level fully let. Developer Promenade Estates is delivering a £1m refurbishment at the 14,500 square foot site, alongside DK Architects and building firm WH Snow. Daniel Hynd, Promenade Estates director, said: “Costa Coffee is a strong brand and the fact it is the second-largest coffeehouse chain in the world means it is a great addition to the cafe culture of Queen Square and will serve the millions of visitors to this area of the city. We’re excited for the year ahead as we prepare to announce the final tenant at Queen Square, which will see our vision for the Rat and Parrot building come to fruition.” The Costa venue will open on Saturday, 13 February.
 
London Dungeon opens Tavern pub for corporate events: Merlin Events London has opened the Tavern pub at London Dungeon in Southwark as part of the attraction’s corporate package. The Tavern experience includes a drink on arrival, an actor-led tour of the Dungeons, a visit to Mrs Lovett’s pie shop, and a bottle of gin fizz in the Ten Bells Pub. Rustic platters will also be served in the Tavern, including a selection of pub-classic bowl-food options and dessert canapes, developed by Food by Dish. Delegates will meet “scoundrels, villains and working girls” and become part of a story told by an East End landlady and landlord, with rumours of a ghost and tales about the Great Beer Flood. Gareth McTiffin, marketing and events manager at Merlin Events London, told Conference & Incentive Travel: “The Tavern is a great addition to our corporate offering, allowing guests to interact with the actors as well as each other. It certainly becomes a talking point for visitors. We’re always looking to improve our delegate experience, and the Tavern is a fun, unique end to an evening at the London Dungeon.”
 
Buffalo Wild Wings reports like-for-likes slowdown in fourth quarter: Buffalo Wild Wings has reported like-for-like sales rose 1.9% at company-owned restaurants in the fourth quarter ended 27 December while franchise same-store sales rose just 0.1%. Sales increased 19.9% in the quarter, to $490.2 million, from $408.9 million the previous year. “Same-store sales growth in the fourth quarter did not meet our expectations, though they continued to outpace the casual-dining industry,” Buffalo Wild Wings chief executive Sally Smith said. The company said like-for-like sales rose 0.3% in January at company-owned locations, but fell 1.5% at franchise locations. Like-for-like sales increased 12% in January 2015. For the year, like-for-like sales rose 4.2% at company locations and 2.5% at franchise locations. “The Buffalo Wild Wings brand is strong and vibrant, and we continue to invest to drive sales and deliver earnings growth for our shareholders,” Smith said.

Historic Devon pub snapped up by local investors offers free-of-tie lease: A 15th century village pub, purchased by local residents to keep it in the community, is offering a free-of-tie lease in the hope it will be snapped up by an experienced operator. The grade II-listed Monks Retreat in Broadhempston, Devon, dates to 1456 and the sellers have been investing heavily in the property after purchasing it in 2014. The pub comprises a ground-floor lounge bar, restaurant, function room and kitchen, with four en-suite rooms on the first floor. Matt Bettesworth, who acted for the buyers, said: “Our clients are under way with a renovation of the property and we are marketing a new, free-of-tie lease on favourable terms, looking for an experienced operator to fulfil the untapped potential of this lovely pub.”
 
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-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 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 ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls 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 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 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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