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Wed 17th Feb 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pub and restaurant like-for-likes up 1.9% in January, London ‘essentially flat’: Britain’s pub and restaurant groups have reported a solid start to 2016, with collective like-for-like sales in January up 1.9% on the same month last year, according to latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. “January is a slow trading month, so not too much should be read into these figures, but the sector will be pleased to have started what looks like being a challenging year on a positive note,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM and UBS. Total sales for the month among the 31 companies in the Tracker cohort were up 5.4% on the previous year, reflecting the impact of new openings and the continued investment in sites, particularly among restaurant groups outside London. Companies trading away from London saw the best of January’s sales uplift too, with collective like-for-likes outside the M25 up 2.4% on last year, while London sales were essentially flat, registering just a 0.4% increase. “Generally, casual dining brands also outperformed pubs and bars, with January like-for-likes up 3.6% nationally and 4.7% outside of London,” added Martin. “The capital was a tougher trading environment for all in January. This January’s pattern was similar to last year’s, when overall the market was up 1.4% on 2014, and with restaurants outstripping pubs, perhaps reflecting the continued impact of ‘Dry January’. The weather also always plays its part. Although it has been extremely wet, it hasn’t snowed to any large degree and rain does not have the widespread disruptive effect that winter snow can have on people’s decisions to go out.” The long-term trend shows sector like-for-likes ahead 1.8% nationally for the 12 months to the end of January against the previous 12-month period. David Coffer, chairman of The Coffer Group, said: “The January like-for-like sales figures for inside London reflect, to some extent, the emotional sentiment Londoners experienced as a result of the November Paris atrocity. It is comforting to note the apparent small rebound in January. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues onwards through to the summer. The superior like-for-likes for outside London are no surprise and confirms the trend of expansion away from an ever more expensive London market – in terms of property acquisition, and indeed consumer prices. This trend is expected to continue. The very high cost of London living is seeing the boundaries of Greater London extend to the provinces with many now commuting on a daily basis from provincial cities. This trend will also continue and further enhance trade outside of London.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: “The figures show yet another month of like-for-like outperformance from sites outside of the M25, which reflects the growing maturity of the wave of new site openings regionally over the past 12 to 24 months. This steady but slow overall growth is positive against the backdrop of highly volatile global equity markets. Although the volatility may have dented many pension portfolios, it has failed to impact the consumers’ ongoing appetite for eating and drinking out.” 
 

Industry News:

Propel partners with Digital Blonde for Advanced Social Media Masterclass: Propel is partnering with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass, building on last year’s Social Media Masterclass with all-new content. The event takes place on Wednesday, 20 April at One Moorgate Place in London and will provide a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media. Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell will share research into the importance of social media in customers’ lives as well as insight into the psychology of food and drink marketing in order to produce persuasive social media activity. The day will also include advice on using storytelling techniques to achieve stronger results in marketing and social media campaigns as well as how to use analytics to develop a social media strategy. There will also be a first-look at Digital Blonde’s “Love, Lust and Trust” research, which will unveil the best loved pub and bar brands and what can be learned from their social strategies. Tickets are £295 for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers members and £345 for non-members. To book email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Sazerac buys UK distribution company Hi-Spirits: US-based spirits company Sazerac is understood to have bought UK distribution company Hi-Spirits, which has distributed its Buffalo Trace bourbon for many years and was founded by Jeremy and Sue Hill. Sazerac bought Tuaca and Southern Comfort from Brown-Forman last month – Southern Comfort derives 12% of its global volumes in the UK. Of the deal to buy Southern Comfort, Euromonitor analyst Jeremy Cunnnington said: “The key gain will be Southern Comfort. The majority of its sales are in the US and the UK, with 63% and 12% respectively of its global volumes generated in those two markets. This equates to 0.5% and 0.7% volume shares of US and UK spirits, respectively. It also enjoys relatively high volume sales in a number of international markets, such as Australia and South Africa.” Prior to the deal, 99% of Sazerac’s global 169 million litre sales occurred in the US, with the remaining 1% sold in Canada. Hi-Spirits has reported turnover rose to £16,455,440 in the year ending 31 March 2015, compared with £15,054,704 the year before, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Pre-tax profit was also up to £122,868, compared with £94,369 the previous year. According to Companies House documents, Sazerac president and chief executive Mark Brown has become a director of Hi-Spirits. A senior spokesman for Sazerac declined to comment.
 
STR Global – London hotel market still feeling effects of Paris terrorist attacks: The London hotel market is continuing to feel the effects of the terrorist attacks in Paris with occupancy levels at their lowest level for January since 2013. STR Global’s preliminary January 2016 data for London showed negative performance when compared with the same month last year. It reported an increase in supply (2.8%) and a decrease in demand (1.1%). There was a 3.8% decrease in occupancy to 66.6%, a 1.7% decrease in average daily rate to £121.68 and a 5.4% decrease in revenue per available room to £81.04. STR Global analysts said the market is continuing to feel the effects of the November terrorist attacks in Paris. Negative revpar performance has been reported across all segments, and the steepest declines have come with group and contract travellers. 
 
McDonald’s to serve draft beer in South Korea: McDonald’s will open an outlet in South Korea this month serving Asian draft beer. Located in Seongnam, a satellite city of Seoul, the restaurant will seat 90 and, if successful, serve as inspiration for similar outlets in the trendy Sinchon and Gangnam areas of the nation’s capital. The company has been experimenting with formats of late. Last October, the company introduced all-day breakfast in the US, which drove like-for-like sales up 5.7% in the fourth quarter, after years of poor performance. The previous month it announced it would transition its Canadian and American egg supply to cage-free eggs over the next ten years. This year McDonald’s has given its branding and packaging a radical new look.
 
JD Wetherspoon to ‘unexpectedly’ close Luton pub: JD Wetherspoon is to “unexpectedly” close the London Hatter pub in Luton on Sunday (February 21). The company said it has made a “commercial decision” to shut the Park Street site, which was not among the pubs it put up for sale last year. JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Luton News: “We can confirm that The London Hatter is closing on 21 February. We understand that the pub’s loyal customers will be disappointed with the decision, however, Wetherspoon has made a commercial decision to close the pub. Staff at the pub will be re-employed at other Wetherspoon pubs. The company operates other pubs in Luton and hopefully The London Hatter customers will choose to go to those.” The London Hatter opened in 2011 following a £960,000 refurbishment of the former Legends nightclub.

Last-minute restaurant deals app Wriggle hits £350,000 crowdfunding target for scalable UK launch: Last-minute restaurant deals app Wriggle has reached its £350,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to prepare its technology for a scalable launch across the UK. The company, which was launched in Bristol in 2014 by Rob Hall, acts as a restaurant discovery tool and offers users same-day discounts to fill excess capacity. It is offering an 18.97% equity stake in return for the investment and so far 255 investors have pledged £351,098 and it is now “overfunding”. The pitch states: “Wriggle is monetising a huge and largely untapped market within the restaurant, bar and cafe sector – with a revolutionary approach to efficiency and discounting – by repackaging empty tables and surplus stock from quality businesses as exciting, time-sensitive opportunities for thousands of potential local customers. It’s simple – local businesses reduce the price of their products to reach Wriggle customers, who make cut-price last-moment purchases over Wriggle in a couple of taps. These customers are provided with location and time-relevant offers from businesses tailored to their preferences – through a variety of channels. Having proved our market with 440 local businesses signed up across Bristol and London (with Brighton now launched), and 35,000 downloads, this investment is about preparing our technology for scalable growth, and turning our user-figures into revenue. The opportunity is for Wriggle to be the comprehensive platform for local businesses to fill capacity, market themselves and get bums on seats.” Wriggle previously crowdfunded on Seedrs in 2014 when it raised £160,000 from 200 investors.

Company News:

Wagamama links up with BT as it plans new loyalty and CRM strategy: Wagamama has linked up with BT’s specialist retail arm as it plans a new loyalty and customer relationship management (CRM) strategy. The company has asked BT Expedite to integrate its Single Customer View (SCV) solution across its EPOS terminals, take-out app, pay-at-table app, customer feedback system, website, email service provider and Wi-Fi data. Wagamama’s relationship with BT Expedite is a new one, and it is looking for the SCV to be integrated with its existing technology partners. In a separate arrangement, Wagamama will be making use of BT Expedite’s CRM and loyalty offering. Wagamama chief information officer Richard Tallboy told Essential Retail: “BT Expedite came recommended to us, and we were impressed with their grasp of our business goals and their years of experience in implementing SCV, CRM and loyalty solutions with a strong track record.” The Wagamama-BT deal marks a step change in the restaurant company’s approach to customer engagement, and it hopes the new arrangement will improve understanding of customer behaviour and provide an underlying infrastructure to a host of new marketing and business development strategies in the coming months.
 
TGI Friday’s to open third Newcastle site: TGI Friday’s is to open its third Newcastle site at the Metrocentre at the end of March. This new addition to Newcastle’s dining scene also brings 90 job opportunities for local residents, which TGI Friday’s is recruiting for now. Inspired by the new flagship restaurant located in the heart of London, the décor will be based on the fun, energetic and vibrant aesthetics of the Leicester Square branch. David Carroll, property director for TGI Friday’s UK, said: “It’s great to see that there is such an appetite for Friday’s in Newcastle, and we’re very excited about opening our third restaurant in the area to welcome even more local residents into our restaurants – and importantly, create new jobs in the area. We’re on the hunt for some fun, talented individuals to join our Friday’s family, who can help us bring the unique, Friday’s atmosphere and experience to Newcastle’s Metrocentre. Get in touch – we can’t wait to meet you!”

Novus builds platform to put power of promotions into customers’ hands: Bar and restaurant operator Novus Leisure has developed its own customer-focused digital communications platform to “put the power of promotions into the hands of its customers”. Novus said the aim of its bespoke technology was to give businesses the power to monitor and manage its own promotions. Customers will be made aware of offers via email, social media and Novus websites, with people encouraged to share details of promotions with friends to create their ultimate night. Each time an offer is redeemed online, the booking will update live on the specific venue’s reservations dashboard. The promotion aims to tempt customers on to the Late Night London or Tiger Tiger websites, where the promotion will feature eight online sale sessions (two per week). The operator will “sell” a limited number of bespoke offers per venue, per session, updated through a countdown. Customers can also view the time remaining to purchase an offer while also purchasing multiple offers. Toby Smith, Novus Leisure chief executive, said: “We are actively embracing digital communication with our latest initiative, which may be an age-old mechanic traditionally delivered through a first party, but due to our sheer scale of operation we’ve been able to custom-build the technology to our bespoke requirements, which we are confident will continue to drive loyalty.”
 
Drake & Morgan appoints new sales and marketing director: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group backed by Bowmark Capital, has appointed Pooja Sharma-Jones as sales and marketing director. Sharma-Jones will support the next level of growth for the business by creating and implementing a marketing strategy that drives awareness, secures market position and increases sales across the company’s nine sites. She will also direct strategic marketing efforts, new campaigns and PR strategy, working alongside Drake & Morgan’s retained agency Roche Communications. Dylan Murray, Drake & Morgan operations director, said: “Pooja brings with her a wealth of experience and a fresh approach that will support Drake & Morgan’s continued growth.” Sharma-Jones said: “The company is highly respected in the hospitality sector and has great culture and values. I’m bringing many years of working with established brands to the table and am excited to be working alongside the forward-thinking and innovative management team in further growing the business.” Sharma-Jones joins Drake & Morgan from Soho House & Co, where she was head of UK marketing for two years. She has also held PR and marketing roles at Harrods, Selfridges and GRI Retail. 
 
Friska opens new site in Birmingham – first outside Bristol: Independent healthy eating brand Friska has opened a new site in Birmingham -– its first outside of Bristol. The company, founded in 2009 by Griff Holland and Ed Brown, has launched the outlet in Eleven Brindleyplace. The opening is Friska’s first outside its native Bristol, where it has six stores. The new venue covers 1,700 square feet across the ground and first floors where it employs six staff and serves food such as soups, burritos and sandwiches. Holland told the Birmingham Mail: “We picked Birmingham to expand to as it has the biggest population of young professionals outside London. There are lots of restaurants in Brindleyplace but people working there don’t want to dine out every lunchtime. We are geared up for the takeaway trade but we have 60 seats too.” Last month, the company told Propel it was targeting three or four stores in Birmingham as it looked to build a cluster of sites in the city. It is also looking to move into Manchester and Leeds next year as part of nationwide expansion plans.
 
Thai Leisure Group to open Thaikhun site in Guildford in May, first Surrey venue: Thai Leisure Group (TLG) will open a street food restaurant in Guildford in May under its Thaikhun brand as part of the company’s major expansion this year. The Thai restaurant operator has yet to reveal the exact location of the Thaikhun venue, the first in Surrey, but told Get Surrey diners could expect a “distinct interactive dining experience with an authentic, rustic restaurant design combined with tasty street food”. Last week, TLG announced it passed £30m turnover last year and was looking to open eight to ten restaurants in 2016 via its newly formed openings division. TLG has 15 restaurants across its four core brands – Thaikhun, Chaophraya, ChaoBaby and Yee Rah – including six Thaikhun sites, with another opening at Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead at the end of March. TLG is jointly owned by Thai chef Kim Kaewkraikhot and British entrepreneur Martin Stead. The company’s first restaurant opened in Leeds in 2004.
 
JD Wetherspoon starts work on first pub and stand-alone hotel in Huntingdon, gets go-ahead in nearby St Ives: JD Wetherspoon has started work on its first pub and stand-alone hotel development, located in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire (population: 23,372). It is converting the Old Post Office and George Hall and will open later this year. The company bought the site in George Street in 2013 and originally intended to have the pub and its 20-bedroom hotel open by 2014. It was announced last month the delay in work starting on the listed properties came after the company wanted to “take into account” the history of the buildings. It is likely a lot of the originally features from the two buildings will aim to be saved and used in the pub. To create the pub, coined Sandford House, the company will invest £4m that will see it link the 4,623 square foot grade II-listed Old Post Office to the George Hall, which sits on the corner of the site, to create a single large pub and dining area covering about 3,500 square foot. The pub’s name Sandford House was chosen by the company after it was revealed it was the name for the Old Post Office when it was a private residence. Meanwhile, a new pub for JD Wetherspoon has been given the go-ahead in nearby St Ives town centre, despite concerns over the impact of noise from a beer garden on nearby residents. Councillors insisted an outdoor sensor be fitted, along with an acoustic fence at the rear of the building, in a bid to prevent noise. Approval for the pub was given by Huntingdonshire District Council’s development management panel on the day work started on the new pub and hotel in Huntingdon.

Revolución de Cuba venue to open on Stafford riverside site, £1m refurbishment planned: Revolution Bars Group plans to spend £1m to transform a former pub in Stafford town centre into a Revolución de Cuba. The Litten Tree in Riverside, closed since 2012, has been taken over by the group, which operates 60 bars across its Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands. The group has applied to extend the premises into a next-door shop, with cafe-style tables outside to provide a seating area beside the river. Planning consultant Mark Mason told the Express & Star the scheme would create ten full-time and up to 40 part-time jobs. He said: “The bar sits within a large office and council office complex with car parking for customers and local businesses.” The Riverside area of Stafford is undergoing a £70m redevelopment, which will include retail units, a 1,000-space multi-storey car park and a six-screen cinema, which will open at the end of this year. In September, Revolution Bars Group chief executive Mark McQuater told Propel the company had identified 40 towns where it would like to open a Revolucion de Cuba, which currently has eight sites.
 
Urban Pubs and Bars’ Bat and Ball to host ping-pong pop-up parties: Urban Pubs and Bars will host a weekly residency of ping-pong party brand Pongathon at The Bat and Ball pop-up bar and cafe in Westfield, Stratford City. The ping-pong parties will take place at the 12,000 square foot venue every Wednesday from 9 March, from 6pm to 10pm. Regardless of ability, players can “Challenge The Pro”, where Pongathon hosts take on all-comers playing with mobiles, frying pans and “virtually the kitchen sink”, while in the “Pongbot Challenge”, players take on a ping-pong robot in a 60-second dual. All attractions will be free to enter, with prizes to be won and guest DJs. The Bat and Ball has a deli counter and offers cocktails, draught beers and a range of 40 bottled craft beers. The venue also provides add-ons for 20 to 300 people over two floors, including the exclusive gaming room for private parties up to 50.
 
Peterborough-based brewery set to open new cafe/bottle shop/bar concept in city: Peterborough-based Bexar County Brewery is set to open a new cafe/bottle shop/bar concept in the city. The brewery’s parent company Page and Saldana Hospitality has applied to the city council to launch The Stoneworks on the former site of Ladbrokes in Church Street. The intended use is a three-phase split into morning/afternoon/evening trade, according to a licensing application, reports Peterborough Today. In the morning it will be a coffee house, in the afternoon it will become a bottle shop and in the evening a small bar. The main offering there will be craft beer served out of a keg – opening with ten different keg lines – to provide a large selection of craft beer from many different breweries. It will also sell a small range of bottled and boxed cider, wine by the glass (about six variations) and an even smaller offering of original 1920s vintage cocktails. Food-wise, it will serve bar snacks along with cheese, meat and bread platters.
 
Turtle Bay to open second Liverpool site next month: Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay will open its second Liverpool site next month. The company, which launched its first venue in the city in Victoria Street in November, is opening at Liverpool ONE in Hanover Street on Friday, 25 March. The restaurant and bar, covering 3,030 square feet, will seat 138 covers and create 50 jobs. Founder Ajith Jayawickrema told Click Liverpool: “The response to the opening of our first venue in Liverpool has been incredible. When we heard about the possibility of a site in Liverpool ONE, it was an opportunity we could not turn down.” Turtle Bay will join Busaba Eathai, Jones Bar Group’s Roxy Ballroom, Red’s True Barbecue and Wahaca as part of Liverpool ONE’s expansion. Liverpool ONE estate director Chris Bliss said: “We’re looking forward to adding Turtle Bay’s vibrancy to Hanover Street. The new addition will join our ever evolving selection of places to dine in Liverpool ONE as we continue to introduce fresh and exciting venues for our visitors to enjoy.” Turtle Bay, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, has 26 sites across the UK.
 
Town & Country Inns to start expanding Fleet Street Kitchen brand with three new sites this year: Town & Country Inns is to start expanding its Fleet Street Kitchen brand by opening three new sites this year. The company said it would be launching venues in Leamington Spa, Mere Green (Sutton Coldfield) and Lincoln. Managing director Mark Jones told The Business Desk: “If you are persistent you can achieve anything. If you are consistent, you’ll keep it. Excellence is not an act, it’s a habit.” Town & Country Inns opened the first site for the brand in Fleet Street on the edge of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter in 2012. Last year, the company announced it was planning to open six Fleet Street Kitchen venues having sold two of its Apres outlets in Solihull and Lichfield to Walkabout operator Intertain.
 
Café Rouge closes Colchester site after lease runs out: Café Rouge, the brand owned by Casual Dining Group, has closed its restaurant in Colchester, Essex. The company shut the High Street site on Sunday after its lease ran out. Café Rouge managing director James Spragg told the Daily Gazette: “We have sought to agree new terms with the landlord of this restaurant. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach any agreement with the property owner and therefore the lease on our Colchester restaurant has come to an end. We are sad to be leaving. However, Café Rouge recently embarked on an ambitious expansion and investment programme that will see us open many new restaurants in the next three years – creating hundreds of jobs. As part of this opening programme, we hope to identify a new restaurant site in the Colchester area, and look forward to being able to return as soon as possible.” Last week, Spragg told Propel Café Rouge would return to site growth in 2016 and plans to open five sites a year. He said it was also on track to refurbish all 90 of its current restaurants by 2017. 
 
Rick Stein reveals further details about new Marlborough restaurant: Celebrity chef Rick Stein has revealed further details about his new restaurant opening in Marlborough – his first venture in Wiltshire. He has been granted permission to transform Lloran House in the High Street into the self-titled Rick Stein restaurant, which will have 102 covers and employ about 40 staff. Stein told the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: “When I first saw the building in High Street I thought what a perfect restaurant it would make. For the menu I’m thinking a strong element of local meat and game, but with many of our favourite seafood dishes from Padstow too. I’m very much in favour of local food and we’ll be looking to highlight some of the best produce in Wiltshire.” Stein’s business partner and ex-wife Jill added of the design: “It will be inspired by Marlborough’s rich heritage and the beautiful old building and location will be key. It will be different from our other restaurants, more traditional with warmer colours, but we’ll still have a few subtle nods to our coastal roots.” Stein also has restaurants in Sandbanks, Dorset; Winchester, Hampshire; and Porthleven and Fistral in Cornwall. A date has yet to be set for the Marlborough opening.
 
Bistro Qui to open two new venues in Liverpool: Bistro Qui, the Liverpool-based restaurant company, is adding two new venues to its portfolio. The company, led by Mark Friend and Stephen Slater, is launching The Refinery, a world tapas/bar concept, and Chicha, a Peruvian street kitchen, after agent Hitchcock Wright & Partners secured two new city centre units. It will be the seventh and eighth sites for Bistro Qui, which runs the French-themed Bistro Pierre, Franc and Jacques restaurants as well as The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen and Button Street Smokehouse in Liverpool. It also operates a Bistro Jacques in Shrewsbury. The first of the two new sites, The Refinery, will occupy a 4,476 square foot ground floor unit on the corner of Hope Street and Myrtle Street, within a new student accommodation development. The second site, which will house Chicha, is a 3,131 square foot site in Bold Street, which was formerly occupied by fashion shop Ran. Bistro Qui has signed a 20-year lease on both units and premises licences and planning permission have been granted for both sites. Friend told Bdaily: “We have spent years creating a restaurant brand that is focused on great value dining and fresh food. It has long been our plan to grow and expand, so we’re excited to announce the two new restaurants in Liverpool city centre, which are an exciting start to 2016.”
 
MasterChef finalist pushes boundaries with Norse restaurant in Harrogate: Murray Wilson, a former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist, is pushing culinary boundaries with his Scandinavia-inspired Norse restaurant, which opens in the evening in a cafe in Harrogate. Dishes include squirrel croquettes, smoked eel with beetroot sorbet, and pig’s head with cod sperm, The Northern Echo reported. Murray has worked in Claridge’s under Gordon Ramsay and L’Atelier26 in London, as well as being Frances Atkins’ sous chef in Michelin-starred The Yorke Arms. The restaurant opens in Scandinavian cafe Baltzersen’s in Oxford Street run by Paul Rawlinson, who designed the bare wood Scandinavian style interior inspired by cafes and bakeries in Oslo. Rather than serving starters, main courses or sides, the menu provides a choice of eight small, savoury dishes and two sweet (diners are advised to pick three each) or a tasting menu of six dishes selected by Wilson. The restaurant uses a lot of pickled, cured, fermented and dehydrated ingredients to capture the flavour of fresh products out of season.
 
Shoryu ramen bar confirms Manchester opening, first venue outside London: Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in Kyushu cuisine, from the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, will open a venue in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens, the Manchester Evening News reported. It will be the company’s first opening outside London, where it has sites in Soho, Carnaby, Regent Street and Liverpool Street. Set to open in April, the brand specialises in tonkotsu-style noodle soup, made with a thick, rich pork broth. Last week, Indian street food kitchen and craft beer bar Bundobust applied for planning permission for a unit in Piccadilly Gardens, with an opening expected in the spring. Owner Tak Tokumine launched Shoryu Ramen in November 2012.
 
Novus carries out £1m upgrade to Sway Bar nightclub in Holborn: Bar and restaurant operator Novus Leisure has completed a £1m refurbishment of its Sway Bar nightclub in Great Queen Street, Holborn, giving it a cool “New York vibe”. Three of the venue’s five rooms have undergone a major technical and design overhaul – the basement Cocktail Bar (previously Crystal Bar) and Club Room (a conversion of the former Groovy Wonderland), as well as the ground floor bar and upstairs kitchen. Graeme Sutherland, Novus Leisure project manager, said the aim was to bring a traditional 1980s-style disco into the modern age and give the venue greater flexibility, with the ability to host third-party conferences downstairs as well as up. He told EtNow.com: “This is a big, multi-room venue in a strategic location. It’s a lot more open than previously, with a realigned entrance, and the new refurbishment will certainly benefit the customer experience.” The new decor was conceived by Terri Naylor, of Dakota Design.
 
New Indian street food cafe concept opens in Bath: A new Indian street food cafe concept has opened in Bath city centre. Niraj Gadher has launched Chai Walla in Kingsmead Square on the site of former vegan restaurant Beyond the Kale. The shop serves a range of freshly made Indian foods such as falafel wraps, samosas, onion bhajis and daal. Gadher told the Bath Chronicle: “My mum tells me how to cook everything. After years and years of cooking on her behalf, I kind of cheated and learned from her.”
 
Nottingham-based Arabic restaurant to start expanding by opening all-day Moroccan and Lebanese eatery: Nottingham-based Arabic restaurant Marrakesh is to start expanding by opening an all-day eatery selling Moroccan and Lebanese “fast food”. Marrakesh Express, which is opening eight doors down from the restaurant in Chapel Bar, will specialise in flatbread sandwiches, tagines and salads, with plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. The 35-seater cafe and takeaway will also open for Arabic breakfasts, reports the Nottingham Post. The premises, which used to be a noodle bar, are currently being converted and are due to open on Thursday, February 25.
 
Street food concept Hang Fire Smokehouse to open first permanent restaurant on Barry Waterfront next month: Award-winning Cardiff-based street food concept Hang Fire Smokehouse will open its first permanent restaurant – Hang Fire Southern Kitchen – at the Pumphouse in Barry Waterfront retail park on Wednesday, 9 March. The concept is the brainchild of Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn, who have become renowned on the Welsh culinary scene for southern American-inspired ribs and smoky signature flavours. Guinn told Wales Online: “We love doing the pop-ups but you get people standing in the rain or waiting in long queues – the time is right to open a restaurant.” The venue will seat 70 to 80 people over two floors, with a main dining room and craft beer bar upstairs and a New Orleans-inspired cocktail bar downstairs, which will also be available for party hire. Hang Fire Smokehouse was named “Best Street Food” at BBC Radio Four’s Food Awards last year.
 
New all-day cafe and food store concept The Larder opening in Fitzrovia today: A new all-day cafe and food store concept is opening in Fitzrovia, London, today (Wednesday, 17 February). The Larder, based in Pearson Square, has 35 covers and will use seasonal ingredients from sustainable sources, reports Foodpedia. The menu, which is available to eat in or take away, includes toasted breakfast sandwiches, fresh salads and baked goods. A wide selection of wine from smaller growers, and beer from craft breweries Freedom and Crate, will also be available by the glass or bottle. The food store will sell items including freshly made pasta, olive oils, charcuterie and jams as well as organic and biodynamic wines. 
 
Liverpool restaurateur to open third site in city this week: Liverpool restaurateur Rosaria Crolla will open her third site in the city this week, this time a bakery. Crolla, who runs the Italian Club restaurant and Italian Club Fish cafe, both in Bold Street, is launching the Italian Club Bakery in nearby Newington Street. She revealed it was her ambition to launch three business ventures as part of one group when she began almost ten years ago. Crolla told the Liverpool Echo: “Since we began, we’ve always wanted a cafe-bar and restaurant devoted to Italian cuisine, another more formal version of a traditional Scottish Italian cafe dedicated to a fish-inspired menu plus a retail-led bakery. I was losing count every week, how many people having coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner with us in one of our restaurants kept asking when are we going to open our own bakery? It’s been a long time in planning and we’ll be focusing especially on celebration cakes, Millefoglie with its thousand layer pastry, and the finest breads – all produced of course with love and Italian-style baking.”

New micro-brewery planned for Bristol: A new micro-brewery could open in Bristol in the summer if councillors back a project that has been developed by a former chief brewer at Australia’s Little Creatures brewery. Lost and Grounded Brewers, through agent Aspect 360, has submitted an application for a lawful development certificate for a site on Whitby Road. The plans cover the proposed micro-brewery as well as associated external work, including an enclosed refrigeration unit and flue. The project has been backed by Made by HAND, an investment vehicle from the founders of Australia’s Little Creatures Brewing. Lost and Grounded Brewers has been founded by Alex Tronsoco, a former chief brewer at Little Creatures, and could be operational by June. The unit is currently occupied by Chapple and Jenkins and is used for storage and distribution (class B8), however the company is moving to larger premises later in the year. Consent was granted for the current use in 2010, giving the unit dual consent for the B8 use as well as general industrial (B2) use that would cover the brewery. A 25-hectolitre German-designed brewhouse has been purchased for use in the facility. According to the application, the beer produced would be sold to the trade with no plans for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises. A planning statement submitted alongside the application said: “The applicant, Lost and Grounded Brewers, is a new business, which has chosen Bristol as a result of its connections with London and the north, along with Bristol’s reputation for being a creative hub within the UK. The application site, being in a designated industrial area with good proximity to the M32, M4 and M5, is highly suited to their needs and they are keen to move into the premises and be operational by June 2016.” Lost and Grounded is currently recruiting for a head brewer for the project.

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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