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Tue 23rd Feb 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Beds and Bars boss – we will relocate to Europe if we leave the EU, calls on BBPA to tackle unfair business rates: Pan-European hostel and bar operator Beds and Bars boss Keith Knowles has told Propel his company will relocate its headquarters from the UK to Europe – with Holland and Germany the most likely candidates – if the UK votes to leave Europe in the forthcoming referendum. Circa 60% of the company’s sales now comes from sites in mainland Europe. Knowles told Propel: “We are drawing up plans to relocate (if the UK votes to leave) – the majority of our revenue derives from Europe. It’s a dysfunctional organisation but is the biggest club in the world and although it’s not perfect we are better off involved rather than being on the outside looking in. The UK would survive leaving the EU but the move would create a year of trauma and uncertainty.” Meanwhile, Knowles has challenged claims by Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), tax duty cuts are being passed on from brewers to retailers and called on the BBPA to tackle the unfairness of the current business rates system. Knowles said: “Any tax cut is a good thing in principle, better still, when the monies are reinvested back in the UK and remain in the UK, which is a benefit to all. Whenever there has been a duty reduction, the brewers have reacted with an above-inflation price increase. I would have thought there has been a reduction in production and distribution cost with falling oil prices, yet we have seen no reductions.” Knowles said the pub sector wanted a “business rates reduction and to be treated the same as any other business”. He gave the example of a site in Camden closing where it had a rates payable bill of £40,000. Knowles said: “It closed and became a Tesco, which pays £10,000 business rates, sells alcohol at below cost and has no responsibility as to who consumes it. The BBPA should be campaigning for the reduction in business rates. There is no argument that this is a benefit to us all, rather than a few.” In response, Simmonds said: “We are working very hard on business rates and our case is clearly articulated within our Budget submission, but since decisions have already been made on the system for another year from March, I am not expecting much more that will help pubs in the immediate future, or indeed be announced in the Budget. We have, however, requested that the Treasury reconsider its decision not to continue with retail relief.” Knowles’ call came after Simmonds refuted a claim by the leaders of eight multi-site operators in an open letter to the Chancellor the BBPA’s Beer Duty Campaign was “morally-flawed”. In the letter, the leaders claimed brewers impose “increases every January on retailers and then ask the government to reduce duty in March”. Simmonds responded duty cuts were being passed on, pointing out according to a report by the Centre of Economics and Business Research in February last year, commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale, the average pint of beer, currently £3.04, would cost £3.20 if not for these measures.
 

Industry News:

Propel readers can buy Chris Edger and Tony Hughes’ new book Effective Brand Leadership at discount price: Propel readers can get their copy of Professor Chris Edger and Tony Hughes’ new book, Effective Brand Leadership – Be Different. Stay Different. Or Perish, at the discount price of £17.95. The recommended retail price is £22.95. Readers should visit www.libripublishing.co.uk and quote promotional code EBL. Hughes is senior independent director of The Restaurant Group and has been described as the UK’s most “influential foodservice brand builder over the past 30 years”, while Edger is the UK’s “leading expert on multi-site retail management”. Packed with key insights from the founders and leaders of some of the most dynamic and established foodservice brands (including Hughes, Berry Casey Jillian McLean, Russel Joffe, Karen Forester and Jens Hofma) this book is essential reading for aspiring or ambitious foodservice leaders. The book provides comprehensive advice on how brand leaders can ensure their brands are different – and stay different. The foreword is written by Propel Info managing director Paul Charity. He said: “Effective Brand Leadership is an invaluable guide for anyone involved in the foodservice sector. It breaks new ground in mapping out the architecture of brand creation and the key crucial stages that follow – brand growth and evolution.” The website also offers a full review of the book. 
 
£400m leisure scheme for Derbyshire moves forward: Cabinet members at Derbyshire County Council are set to approve plans by the authority to take control of vital infrastructure works for the proposed Peak Resort. The £400m leisure destination has been in the pipeline for more than two decades and could bring thousands of jobs to the region. Peak Resort will be located on a former opencast mine at Unstone, near Chesterfield, that also includes an 18-hole golf course, which opened in 1992. It will comprise 300 acres of woodland, 600 holiday apartments, a hotel, hostel units and 250 woodland lodges. When complete, the destination will employ 1,300 staff, with additional jobs expected to be created in the three-and-a-half year construction period. Two universities are also considering providing student facilities on the site for its health and leisure programmes.
 
Colliers International instructed to enhance leisure and casual dining offer at Hemel Hempstead shopping centre: Agent Colliers International has been appointed to enhance the leisure and casual dining offer at the Riverside shopping centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. The centre, owned by Aberdeen Asset Management, is an open-air scheme offering 288,000 square feet of retail and leisure space. The centre also boasts a 350-space multi-storey car park in addition to a Whitbread-owned 110-bedroom Premier Inn hotel and a mix of restaurants and bars. Colliers International head of UK leisure agency Ross Kirton said: “We will be looking to bring in brands which will attract local residents to spend their evening and weekends at Riverside, increasing dwell time and improving the evening economy which will in turn further aid the retail offer. The leisure sector continues to prosper with a variety of new and activity-driven concepts entering the market. Landlords and investors are increasingly looking towards the leisure sector as it remains a strong footfall generator for mixed-use schemes.” Aberdeen Asset Management asset manager Richard Wilson added: “Riverside has transformed Hemel Hempstead by creating a prime retail scheme for local residents to enjoy. Almost 53% of Riverside’s shoppers are an ABC demographic. We are looking forward to working with Colliers International and bolstering Riverside’s dining and leisure offer.”
 
Sysco buys Brakes: Sysco, the US food manufacturer and distributor, has bought UK company Brakes for £2.2bn. The US company, which had a takeover of a US competitor blocked by authorities last year, said the deal for Brakes will bolster its presence in the UK and Europe. Bain Capital, the US private equity firm that’s owned Brakes since 2007, is getting a multiple of about 12 times the UK company’s Ebitda. Bill DeLaney, the chief executive of Sysco, said: “We expect to retain key members of Brakes Group’s talented leadership team and to experience little distraction from integration given the minimal overlap of the businesses.” Brakes generated circa £3.5bn of revenues last year.
 
Deliveroo moves into Northern Ireland market with Belfast launch: London-based start-up Deliveroo, which delivers high-quality local restaurant meals to customers’ doors, has moved into the Northern Ireland market by launching in Belfast. So far, the company has 12 restaurants on its books including Wagamama, Prezzo and YO! Sushi, which all have premises in Victoria Square. The move is part of the company’s rapid international £17.25m expansion plan. It has launched with an initial nine contracted “drivers” but will recruit a total of 50, who will deliver meals to customers within a 2.6 kilometre radius of the restaurant. Oliver Dewhurst, Deliveroo’s general manager in Ireland, told the Belfast Telegraph: “With our app, we offer a range of high-end restaurants that normally don’t do delivery and customers can see at a glance when their order has been received by the restaurant, when it has been dispatched, and when it is close to delivery. We have a few new exciting restaurant partners coming on at the beginning of March and we will be continuously adding four to five new restaurants each week over the foreseeable future.”

Tahola launches industry’s first seven-day data support service: Business analytics company Tahola has become the first data solutions provider in the UK hospitality industry to offer a seven-day support service to clients. The “Premium” level of cover has been introduced following increased demand for Tahola’s services after the launch of its Sunday cover service two years ago, the company said. Tahola’s team will now be available to premium clients from 9am to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 2pm on Saturday and Sunday, allowing clients to capitalise on data generated, analysed and distributed during the peak weekend period. Simon Blackbourne, Tahola commercial director, said: “Hospitality operates seven days a week, 365 days a year – so why shouldn’t we? Providing data from peak Friday night, Saturday and Sunday shifts can now be analysed almost straight away, providing immediate results. Within the next couple of years, we will also look to extend our service further into the evening to accommodate international clients.”

PizzaExpress acquires Firezza: PizzaExpress has comfirmed its acquisition of London’s leading gourmet pizza delivery company Firezza. It was founded in 2001 after its founders realised a long held ambition to deliver fresh, quality Neapolitan pizza to food lovers. Today, the company has 17 sites around London, including Islington, Notting Hill, Chelsea and Clapham. Richard Hodgson, chief executive of PizzaExpress, said: “With its dedication to delivering beautifully crafted pizza using quality ingredients, Firezza has established itself as a leading player in the gourmet food delivery sector. I see great potential for us to build on the strong momentum behind the brand and further grow its reach. I’m delighted that Edin Basic, who co-founded the business, will continue to lead Firezza and its expansion.” PizzaExpress has 460 restaurants across the UK, and last year announced the launch of its new delivery service, Delivered, which will see the opening of 150 dedicated delivery sites across the UK. The first is due to open in Exeter, in March. Since its launch in October 2015, Delivered has been successfully serving a number of areas in central London out of two existing PizzaExpress restaurants.

Company News:

Intertain ends Jongleurs relationship in favour of Comedy Loft partnership: Walkabout operator Intertain is to sever its links with Jongleurs in April having signed a new partnership with comedy producer Just The Tonic, hosting its comedy club each weekend at a new comedy offering called “The Comedy Loft”. Its two-year partnership with Jongleurs is due to end on 30 April. From 1 May, Just the Tonic will run shows every weekend at Intertain’s “Comedy Loft” venues in Camden, Birmingham, Reading and Watford. The new relationship will allow Intertain to provide a significantly enhanced comedy offering. Just the Tonic has a reputation for sourcing the finest comedians in the industry, taking some of the biggest names in comedy to the Edinburgh Fringe each year before they become famous. In the past, the producer has taken Sarah Millican, Jason Manford and Jon Richardson to the festival, where it co-ordinated 120 shows a day last year. In the past few months alone, it has worked with comedians such as Johnny Vegas, Tom Stade, Reg Hunter, Ross Noble and Seann Walsh. As part of the move, Intertain will also be looking to maximise its purpose-built venues, making them a home to weeknight comedy, as well as touring shows for both big-name, established acts and breakthrough comedians. The launch of The Comedy Loft will also see the introduction of a new food and drink menu, further enhancing the customer experience. Simon Kaye, chief operating officer at Intertain, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for us. The move is designed to help the business grow its name for comedy and therefore its potential to expand, increasing the number of acts we put on. Just the Tonic is well-known within the industry for putting on quality comedy nights, and we’re excited about the potential this partnership has to enable us to attract the best talent, and provide the best experience for our customers.”
 
Corney & Barrow launches ‘all-day’ food offering as business moves back into operating profit: Corney & Barrow Bars (C&B Bars) is launching an all-day British menu as part of a “brand evolution”. Previously, C&B Bars only served bar snacks and platters after 3pm but the new menu will be on offer from midday to 9.30pm. The menu has been created with the assistance of Nellie Nichols, former head of food at Pret A Manger, and features dishes such as a West Country lamb shank with spring greens, Hereford minute steak with garlic butter, and homemade cinnamon doughnuts with lemon curd and chocolate dipping sauces. Vegetarian options include truffled asparagus and spinach risotto. Breakfast will also be available from 7.30am. All meat comes from award-winning butcher Aubrey Allen, with core ingredients sourced as locally as possible. Ed Gardner, C&B Bars managing director, said: “Nellie Nichols has helped us create a menu that is seasonal whilst being simple and has a great emphasis on quality of ingredients. It is particularly significant that we unveil this new menu at a time when, after a number of difficult years, the business has moved back into operating profit. Having completed a number of refurbishment schemes on the core estate in the last 24 months, the business is actively looking for opportunities to grow through either new sites or acquisitions.” C&B Bars operates ten venues in the UK.
 
JD Wetherspoon unveils opening schedule for six new pubs and three hotels: JD Wetherspoon is opening two new pubs in East Kilbride (The Hay Stook) and Portishead (The Posset Cup) today (Tuesday, 23 February). In addition, it has started development work on a pub and 12-bedroom hotel in Northolt, north west London, and a pub in Chatham, Kent. A further four pubs and two hotels go on site on Monday (29 February). They are located at Largs, North Ayrshire; Wellington, Somerset; Okehampton, Devon; and Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. The Okehampton pub will feature a 20-bedroom hotel and the Huntingdon pub a 22-bedroom hotel. Each of the six pubs and three hotels will open between late June and mid-September 2016. JD Wetherspoon will also be opening new pubs in Beverley, East Yorkshire; Newton-le-Willows and Formby, both in Merseyside; and Edinburgh between April and June 2016.
 
Zizzi plans ten openings this year, to debut in Ireland in April: Leading Italian restaurant chain Zizzi is to add four new sites to the UK in just one month and announced its entry into Ireland in April. The new openings bring the total number of sites to 143 across the UK and Republic of Ireland, with the brand on track to open a total of ten this year. All five new sites – Broadway Bradford, Leeds Birstall, Friar’s Walk in Newport, Brindleyplace in Birmingham, and Dundrum Town in Dublin – are continuing Zizzi’s expansion in high footfall areas. The first Zizzi restaurant to open in Ireland, occupying 2,800 square foot of space, is situated in a prime location between Nando’s and Counter. The new restaurant, which opens for trade on Wednesday, 6 April, will accommodate 90 internal covers, with a further 16 in an outdoor seating area. Steve Holmes, chief executive of Azzurri Group, said: “We’re delighted to be expanding our estate significantly across the coming weeks, continuing a steady period of growth for Zizzi. The restaurants are all in fantastic locations and we’re excited to open the doors to a host of new visitors, allowing us to showcase the full Zizzi offering including our spring menu which launches on 15 March. We are delighted with the performance of Zizzi; this is an exciting time for the brand, continuing its steady pace of roll-out. We’re expanding quickly, with four new openings in a month plus entry into Ireland in April which will bring our estate to 143 in total and 145 by the end of the financial year.”
 
Harry Ramsden’s takes over award-winning fish and chip restaurant in Oldbury: Harry Ramsden’s has taken over the award-winning Chamberlains fish and chip restaurant in Oldbury, near Birmingham. Chamberlains was famous for cooking its chips in beef dripping but the venue will reopen under the Harry Ramsden’s banner in the next two weeks and live up to its promise: “We only use corn or vegetable fat.” Chamberlains opened in 2011 and won major awards, including Best Takeaway in England and Wales at the 2014 Food Awards. The 74-seater restaurant employed 17 staff and averaged 800 to 1,200 covers per week. Joe Teixeira, Harry Ramsden’s chief executive, told Fry Magazine: “Like Chamberlains, ours is a brand which is enjoyed by families and friends coming together to treat themselves to one of the nation’s favourite meals. They have done an exceptional job in building up a respected, quality outlet that is hugely popular within the local community. We will maintain and, in time, strive to exceed the high standards already in place.”
 
Beds and Bars hails ‘rising stars’ programme as key component in company’s low staff turnover: Beds and Bars, the pan-European hostel and bar operator led by Keith Knowles, claimed its “rising stars” programme has been a key addition to its low staff turnover rate of 8%. A company spokesman said the initiative was put in place to offer further training and development for those team members “hungry for knowledge”. Each applicant underwent interviews covering financial, social and marketing subjects, with staff selected for their passion, “no matter their level of business knowledge”. Every person who applied received a personal training plan to help them grow their career at Beds and Bars, with the company selecting its top ten “rising stars”, who then undertook an Institute of Leadership and Management level 5 leadership crash course, with further training in finance, business analysis, sales and marketing, and confidence and public speaking. At the end of the course, each rising star had to develop an idea they felt could improve the company and present a ten-minute pitch to the board of directors. The rising stars then shared their knowledge with team members, while some are “working with the operations team to make their pitch a reality”. The spokesman said the company’s 8% average turnover of staff was a “huge achievement, especially for the hospitality sector”. He added: “I truly believe this is down to the opportunities we offer.”
 
Indian restaurant International to open second Bradford site, in £1m tunnels development: The International restaurant, which has a site in Morley Street, Bradford, plans to open a second Indian restaurant as part of the city’s £1m Sunbridge Wells Tunnels development. The two-floor site in Ivegate will feature a reception on the ground floor, with a 60-seater restaurant on the first floor. The application forms part of the second phase of the Tunnels project, which also includes the 17th century Rose and Crown pub. The first phase, which features 15 shops and a 1920s bar, is due to open in April.

EAT launches new breakfast items: Fresh food-to-go retailer EAT has added new items to its breakfast menu. The new additions, which are available at all of its stores, are: quinoa and buckwheat porridge, which is made without gluten and dairy-free; breakfast egg and avocado pot with ham hock, made without gluten, or with feta; avocado sourdough toast, which is also available served with feta or ham hock; ultimate bacon, egg and avocado roll; mango and coconut chia pot, which is vegan and dairy-free; and coconut water and fruit, made without gluten. EAT has nearly 120 stores in London and major cities in the UK.

Warwickshire chef launches £100,000 crowdfunding campaign to open own restaurant: Warwickshire chef Paul Foster has launched a £100,000 fund-raising campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to open his own restaurant. Foster, who has been a head chef at various restaurants across the region, including Mallory Court in Leamington, is aiming to launch a venue that provides “an amazing standard of food and service”, reports the Coventry Telegraph. So far, 239 investors have pledged £25,369 with 14 days remaining. The pitch states: “It’s always been my goal to have my own restaurant and it is now the time I believe I can achieve that. My food is modern British fine dining and when I eat out I like to feel comfortable and relaxed. This is what I want my restaurant to offer – an amazing standard of food and service in a place where you feel welcome. The restaurant will be based in south Warwickshire; it will be modern, serving high quality food and offering a relaxed, friendly environment. The funds raised by this campaign will be used to pay the initial rent for the restaurant, to purchase start up stock and equipment and to cover all of the other up-front costs including insurance, licences, payroll, utilities and any necessary redecoration. Having these costs covered will allow me to get my foot in the door and start trading and will give me the privilege of being able to focus on providing an amazing experience and running a successful business, instead of being driven by the pressure of bank repayments.”

SSP refused licence to sell alcohol at Burger King sites at Paddington and Victoria train stations after Manchester withdrawal: Transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has been refused an alcohol licence to sell beer at the Burger King outlets at Paddington and Victoria train stations in London following strong opposition from police. SSP, which runs Burger King sites at travel hubs across the globe, applied for a licence to sell beer from 10am until 11pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am until 10.30pm on Sundays. But Westminster Council’s licensing sub-committee refused the application after objections from the Metropolitan Police, reports the Evening Standard. PC Bryan Lewis said: “To us, it’s fast food, fast service, fast alcohol and fast drunkenness as a result of that.” Nicola Smith, solicitor for SSP, pointed out Burger King customers could already purchase alcohol from other restaurants and shops surrounding the station. Fast food customers can already purchase a beer with their burger inside Burger King restaurants at two London train stations – East Croydon and Fenchurch Street. Refusing the application, chair of the licensing sub-committee Cllr Angela Harvey said: “Increased consumption of alcohol in these public spaces will lead to more drinking on trains and in the streets. We have listened to the concerns raised by the Metropolitan Police Service. We find that the proposed application isn’t appropriate as it’s not adequately controlled.” SSP withdrew an application to serve alcohol at the Burger King restaurant at Piccadilly train station in Manchester earlier this month after objections from police. Burger King became the first fast food chain to sell alcohol in the UK after it won an alcohol licence at its branch in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. 

Dean’s Diner to open ninth site in Yate in May: Dean’s Diner, the American diner brand owned by Richoux Group, will open its ninth site in Yate, Gloucestershire, in May. The brand, which opened at The Walnuts shopping centre in Bromley, Kent, this month, is launching the venue at the £25m Yate Riverside retail and leisure complex. It will be joining restaurant brands including Nando’s, Prezzo and Frankie & Benny’s, which is owned by The Restaurant Group, at the 98,000 square foot development, which also features a six-screen Cineworld cinema. Dean’s Diner said on its Twitter account: “So that’s Orpington open! Diner number nine opening in Yate in May!” Last year, Richoux Group managing director Ed Standring told Propel there was scope for further openings for the brand. 

El Gato Negro opens Manchester venue featuring retractable roof: Simon Shaw’s Michelin-bibbed El Gato Negro tapas bar concept finally opened in Manchester yesterday (Monday, 22 February) after its relocation from Ripponden, Yorkshire, was hit by months of delays. The King Street venue features The Black Cat cocktail bar, which has a retractable roof, as well as a street-level wine and charcuterie bar seating nearly 50, and a first-floor main restaurant that includes an open finishing kitchen. The restaurant was originally due to open last autumn but the launch had to be put back because “delicate” work took longer than expected. Shaw told the Manchester Evening News: “There have been some long hours invested and I couldn’t have done it without the fantastic team around me.” Ripponden offerings such as morcilla Scotch eggs, anchovy crostini and baby roast chicken remain on the menu, alongside new dishes such as onglet steak with patatas a lo pobre and rack of baby pork ribs with Pedro Ximénez glaze. Last month Shaw, former executive head chef at Harvey Nichols in London, said he was also searching for a site in Leeds for further expansion of the El Gato Negro concept.

Red Squirrel Group hits £500,000 crowdfunding target to expand brewery and craft beer shop estate after extending offer: Red Squirrel Group has hit its £500,000 fund-raising target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand its brewery and craft beer shop estate after extending its offer. The Hertfordshire-based company, founded by Greg Blesson and Jason Duncan-Anderson, is offering a 9.80% equity stake in the company in return for the investment. So far 410 investors have pledged £556,900 and it is now “overfunding” with six days remaining having extended the offer. The largest investment to date is £50,000. Blesson said: “Since our roadshows and London event where people have at first-hand better understood our business model, we have been inundated with enquiries and requests for our business plan and as a result the board have decided to extend the pitch date, to give those individuals the opportunity to invest in our exciting business.” The company plans to use the funds to expand its brewery operations and upscale its craft beer shops from three to ten sites. It is in final negotiations over its fourth craft beer shop, which at 3,000 square foot would be its largest to date. The pitch states: “Our beers are currently distributed within our chain of craft beer outlets under ‘The Brewery Shop’ brand and within both the UK domestic market and export scene. We currently have three stores aimed to combine the welcoming and pleasant aspects of an old-fashioned boozer with the aesthetic and service of a high-end drinks retail business. There are plans in place to upscale ‘The Brewery Shop’ model to ten outlets in provincial and mainstream towns within southern England, together with expanding our modern craft brewery, based in Hertfordshire, from 5,000HL (50,000 litre capacity) to 15,000HL (150,000 litre capacity). This expansion is needed in order to meet the growing demand for our beer brands.” The company forecasts sales of £973,000 in the first 12 months, £2m the following year, and £4.6m by 2016/17. 

Amber Taverns has Burton nightclub site plans approved: Amber Taverns has had its plans approved to turn a nightclub in High Street, Burton, into a pub. Plans for the club, popularly known as Uba Rooms and latterly Ambience, include transforming the frontage with timber, reinstating windows and replacing a metal staircase. The company also wants to partly bulldoze a bottle store to make way for outdoor seating. In a report to East Staffordshire Borough Council’s planning department Gary Roberts, of Amber Taverns, said: “The building has undergone several unsympathetic alterations to its frontage over the past 20 years. The property has recently been purchased by Amber Taverns, which proposes to invest in the proposed redevelopment of the building in order to grow its business.” 
 
Wine sommelier partnering restaurateurs to open new bottle shop and deli concept in Lytham St Annes: A wine sommelier has teamed up with two local restaurateurs to open a bottle shop and deli concept in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Jake Crimmin, who worked as the brand manager of Cordorniu, is opening the Barrique Wine Store in partnership with Charles Furnell and Michael Robinson, who run Henry’s Bar & Grill and Capri in the town. The concept will occupy a retail unit in a 19th century former market building that used to house a butchers’ shop. The shop is aiming to stock about 250 wines, 80 spirits and 50 beers that aren’t available in the supermarkets, which will be sourced either direct from the producer or from the wholesaler. Crimmin told the Drinks Business: “It will be a small wine shop, bar and deli, which will offer a small hot and cold counter. I see tapas dining as very successful and it lends itself well to having lots of different bites and flavours. So we will pair up wine samples with the food so you have to try five dishes with five different wines.”

Geronimo opens 5,000 square foot, £1.5m gastro-pub in Whitechapel: Geronimo Inns, the gastro-pub operator owned by Young’s, has opened its 5,000 square foot Leman Street Tavern in Whitechapel following a four-month, £1.5m refurbishment. To celebrate, Young’s will throw an official launch party on Wednesday, 9 March. Billed as a “city pub for city people”, the 191-cover pub at Goodman Fields in Leman Street is spread across five areas – The Chambers private dining room, The Snug, The Lounge Bar, The Back Bar, and The Pass. Signature dishes include slow-roasted quarter shoulder of lamb, ox cheek and bone marrow pie, and Dingley Dell pork faggot. The drinks list features craft beers and premium ales and bitters on tap, and cocktails with a focus on bourbon, whiskey and rum. A wine display holds more than 200 bottles. The decor features exposed concrete ceilings and pipework, with large feature chandeliers, reclaimed flooring and sofas. Geronimo Inns also opened The Guard House in Woolwich this month, a similar-sized venue, following an £1.8m investment.

Damien Hirst and Mark Hix to open Pharmacy 2 today: Multi-millionaire artist Damien Hirst and restaurateur Mark Hix will open Pharmacy 2 today (Tuesday, 23 February) inside Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, south London. Hirst’s first restaurant, Pharmacy, closed in 2003. Hirst told the Evening Standard: “Pharmacy 2 combines two of my greatest passions – art and food. I’ve always loved Mark as a chef and his approach to food, so it’s great we’re working together on this.” Main dishes include scarlet elf cups with sea kale and pickled ramson fruit, and roast barn-reared Indian rock chicken with stuffing and chips. Desserts feature poached Yorkshire rhubarb with saffron ice cream, while brunch dishes include Brik a l’oeuf de carnard with harissa. The venue also serves Sunday roast. The cocktail list features the traditional Hix Fix. Hix said: “Damien and I have been friends for many years, sharing a love of food and art. Damien designed a formaldehyde ‘Cock and Bull’ for my restaurant, Tramshed, so it makes sense for me to exchange my skills by creating the menus at Pharmacy 2.” Pharmacy 2’s interior is decorated with Hirst’s art, including renditions of his famous Kaleidoscope Butterflies, shelves of pill packets, and a bar stuffed with surgical kit. Hix will be chief executive and creative director at the restaurant, designating day-to-day cooking decisions to group head chef Kevin Gratton.
 
Douglas Jack – we expect positive underlying trends at Revolution Bars Group: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast positive underling trends when Revolution Bars Group reports its interim results on Tuesday, 1 March. Issuing a ‘Buy’ recommendation with a 265p target price, he said: “We forecast profit-before-tax to rise slightly to £4.7m. Like-for-like sales remained strong, at 2.7%, in half one (July to December 2015), but we expect 2016E’s profits growth to be weighted to half two due to the timing of openings (three occurred towards the end of half one) and refurbishment work. Nevertheless, positive underlying trends and a growing site pipeline point to accelerating expansion and growth. In half one, like-for-like sales rose by 2.7%, with total sales up 1.9%. Like-for-like sales growth exceeded total sales growth due to there being a similar average number of units (two sites closed in half two 2015; and all three half one 2016E openings occurred in October-December) and refurbishment downtime being higher in half one 2016E than half one 2015 (the latter was lower as the Evolution Programme ended in early 2015). Total sales rose by 7.0% over the six weeks to 2 January 2016. Of this, we estimate 4.1% was due to expansion (of the three new openings, Nottingham opened on 18 December) and 2.9% was like-for-like. We expect food like-for-like sales (up double-digits during each of the last four years) to have remained strong due to improved menus, and wet sales have benefited from the introduction of frozen, blended cocktails in September, although the greatest benefit from the new cocktails should occur in the summer. We forecast margins to be flat in both half one and half two 2016E even though the company increased site Ebitda margins by 170bps in 2015 against a backdrop of 2.8% total sales growth. The company should benefit from increased scale economies as expansion continues to accelerate, but our flat half one forecast allows for a 50bps impact from pre-opening costs towards the end of the period. Half one’s new bars are trading ahead of expectations. Three Revolución de Cuba bars opened in half one, and two bars (one Revolution; one Revolución de Cuba) should open in quarter four. Up to 2015, the Revolución de Cuba brand generated an average cash return of 54%, so any progress accelerating expansion could generate a material benefit. We upgraded 2017E forecasts by 4% in September, and expect to hold our forecasts after these results. For 2016E, we cautiously assume that like-for-like sales slow to 2.3% and gross margins fall slightly in half two. We would Buy the shares, which we view as undervalued, on 4.4x EV/Ebitda 2017E, based on cautious forecast assumptions.”

Bill’s set to open in Canterbury: Bill’s Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring, is set to open in Canterbury, Kent. A planning application has been submitted to the city council for the 150-seat restaurant in Rose Lane on the former Mappin and Webb jewellers shop site. The plans, which have been put forward on behalf of Whitefriars Shopping Centre by agent Barton Willmore, will see Bill’s occupy both ground and first floors of the city centre unit. Mark Harris, of Barton Willmore, told Kent Online: “The introduction of a new national restaurant operator to the city centre will further improve the catering offer, contributing to its diversity and providing further draws for visitors and shoppers.” The proposed restaurant will open from 8am to midnight from Monday to Saturday and 9am to 11pm on Sunday. Bill’s has more than 70 sites in the UK including two in Kent – in Maidstone and at the Bluewater shopping centre.

Former Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver chef to launch first venture: Former Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver chef Steven Ellis is to launch his first venture. Ellis has acquired The Oxford Blue pub in Windsor and is currently transforming the site ahead of its opening in April. He said his vision for the venue was crafted on his time spent working at Andrew Pern’s Star Inn in North Yorkshire. Upstairs, a wall is being knocked through to create the “wine attic”, which will be used for private dining. The site has its own herb garden, where an array of herbs and edible flowers will be grown to add to the dishes. Pern said of the venture: “Coming from the fine dining lifestyle of three-star Michelin plush restaurants to our wayward inn on the edge of the Moors couldn’t be a bigger change, but the fact that we have a fabulous pantry of food literally on our doorstep and we allow the seasons to write our menus, I think somehow this helped him feed his ambition to eventually open his own establishment and to combine the two so diverse experiences to become a reality, which is now The Oxford Blue.” The Oxford Blue dates back to the 1800s. Originally, two gamekeepers’ cottages, it was then converted into a traditional inn and served the local community since in a number of different guises. Ellis has worked as a chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen as well as the three-Michelin star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London.
 
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-plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers members and £345-plus VAT for non-members. To book email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

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