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Mon 29th Feb 2016 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Luke Johnson – rent regime is ‘deeply unfair, huge threat to sector prosperity’: Sector investor Luke Johnson, who has investments in ten companies in the sector, has described the current rent regime as a ‘fix’ that acts to ensure that rents tend to rise on an ongoing basis. Talking to Propel managing director Paul Charity at the Casual Dining Show, he said: “The system whereby rent reviews are agreed based on comparables at arbitration, perhaps involving a chain with completely different economics or a clown who is going to go bust taking a new site next to yours and agreeing a bonkers rent, is a fix. What I think is deeply unfair is that there are three parties in this arrangement always – the agents, landlords and the tenant – and it’s in the interests of two of the three parties that rents go up all the time. It doesn’t matter whether the agents are acting for you or the landlord because next time they’ll be acting for the landlord – and they’re also rewarded based on what the rents are. So it’s in the interests of most of that grouping that rents go up more and more and more. For those who have sites in central London and are facing a review in the next 12 or so months, look forward to a 100 to 150% increase. But the fact is that it’s not the landlords or agents who are creating all these jobs and keeping the economy going – it’s us. The system is deeply unfair and unsustainable – and no other country in the world has anything like it. So many people I know in the industry have seen their rent, as a proportion of their revenue, go from X to 2X as a percentage of sales over the last few years. It feels unstoppable. You could say we’ve brought this on ourselves by over-expanding and pouring too much capital into the sector. It’s quite possibly true. But I think unsustainable rent increases, particularly in central London, along with minimum wage increases, are a huge threat to the prosperity of our sector.”

Industry News:

Readers sign up to Propel Premium service: Operators, drinks companies, law firms, accountants, distributors and marketing firms are among the first companies that have signed up to receive the Propel Premium subscription service, which launches tomorrow. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service from 1 March. Propel Premium subscribers will be able to receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each day, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. Subscribers will also receive a copy of the Propel database of 500 multi-site companies, which will be updated every six months, and receive a digital version of Propel Quarterly magazine a week before publication. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT per year, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email

Steve Richards – ‘my brand managing directors are setting the pace of growth to 600 sites’: Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards has argued that the key to growing 600 sites across its key brands – Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas – is allowing his experienced brand managing directors dictate pace of growth. Speaking at the Casual Dining Show, Richards said: “Rapid growth creates its own issues. Apollo, which backs this business, along with York Capital, bought into a plan we wrote – as opposed to the other way around. There are three key players in this business in terms of that strategy – Apollo, myself and my chairman Martin (Robinson); and we tell them what we can do and what we think is realistic. We wrote the business plan, we invested in it ourselves. The second thing is that I hired grown-up people such as Nick White and James Spragg, who run their own businesses. If I wasn’t buying into what they are doing, they wouldn’t stay. I didn’t hire ops directors, I hired managing directors – and there’s a difference. They set their business plans out – and we support and fund their strategy. We have group aspirations to grow but you have to absolutely get that vision and strategy right at the beginning. In terms of the execution, Bella Italia has, for example, 20 new sites to open by June. Nick White has hired a whole new openings team and we didn’t stand in his way. Nick has run many casual dining businesses and knows exactly what it takes. We’ve resourced the business and invested in it. If he told us there were only going to be 15 new openings by June we wouldn’t be terribly upset. He sets the pace of openings within the overall group strategy. My role as chief executive is to coach and listen to my leaders.”

JD Wetherspoon to axe Sunday roasts: JD Wetherspoon is planning to axe its Sunday roast dinner from its menu. It has decided to stop serving the traditional roast – to focus on the range of items on its all-day, ‘core’ menu. Customers have expressed outrage over Wetherspoon’s plans, accusing the chain of ‘killing British tradition’. Wetherspoon will serve up its last Sunday roast dinner on Mother’s Day on March 6, a spokesman for the chain told the Mirror Online. The spokesman said its decision to kill off its roast dinner was a commercial move that would take effect after Mother’s Day. He added that although the dish had been ‘very popular’, getting rid of it would allow the pub to concentrate more on its ‘very big, 8am-11pm menu’.

Kingfisher Beer reports growth despite 600 curry restaurants closing in 18 months: India beer Kingfisher has reported that the brand enjoyed its second consecutive year of volume growth in the UK in 2015 despite the closure of 600 curry restaurants in the last 18 months. Damon Swarbrick, chief executive Kingfisher Beer Europe, said: “We are very pleased to report another year of growth in our top European market but we’re becoming increasingly worried about the long-term future of the British curry restaurant sector. In the last 18 months the number of licenced curry restaurants has declined by 11% with over 600 restaurants closing their doors for good. To put this into context, this is the equivalent of every single Japanese restaurant in the UK shutting. We estimate, these closures have resulted in over 5,000 lost jobs. Our friends at the Bangladeshi caterers have done a fantastic job of documenting the crippling staff shortages faced by the sector, but there are other problems that must also be addressed if the decline is to be stemmed. The wider casual dining sector continues to grow and the British curry channel must learn from other world cuisines that are also competing for the leisure pound. It is important for curry to remain relevant in a world of Vietnamese street food and posh burgers. Over the coming years it is essential that all stakeholders within the sector work together to retain curry’s position as the UK’s favourite cuisine.”

Domino’s Pizza reports like-for-like sales in US increase 10.7% in fourth quarter: Domino’s Pizza has reported like-for-like sales in the US increased 10.7% in its fourth quarter ended 3 January. The surge capped a year in which like-for-like sales grew 12% despite improvement at competitor Pizza Hut, as well as other chains, and a broad-based focus on discounting in the pizza sector and at quick-service restaurants. Chief executive Patrick Doyle said: “That was an outstanding year. Our success didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen with the push of one button. It was steadily built over time. We’re extremely pleased with the results we’re producing.” Domino’s continued its international momentum in the quarter. Like-for-like sales outside the US increased 8.6 % in the fourth quarter and 7.8% for the full year. Like-for-like sales have increased internationally for 22 straight years and 88 straight quarters.

More multi-site operators support objections to beer price hikes: More multi-site pub operators have come out in support of a group that has raised objections to the recent beer price hikes. Salisbury Pubs co-founder Becky Salisbury, GC Mallen owner Garry Mallen, New Pub Co managing director Peter Linacre, James Penlington from The Distinct Pub Co, McLean Inns managing director Mark Stockhausen, and Ascot Inns managing director Vince Healy have added their voice to the growing outcry. Linacre said: “The model that uses wholesale barrel price has always been flawed and open to manipulation and whilst free-of-tie operators have defences against this, tied operators do not.” Penlington added: “After what has been a very tough period for pubs everywhere, our industry should be working to ensure that those remaining pubs, especially wet-led, aren’t completely priced out of competing with supermarkets and brewery shops. Pubs are an amazing route to market for small brewers or new products, they also provide a safe environment and sensible price point for these products to be enjoyed responsibly, something the UK government is absolutely right to promote.” Last week, leaders of eight multi-site companies sent an open letter to the Chancellor welcoming any further duty cuts but brewers impose “increases every January on retailers and then ask the government to reduce duty in March”. It added: “If they really cared about jobs in the sector – and if they really had any influence over it – they would be holding or reducing prices to create that momentum.”

Company News:

Daniel Thwaites adds to Inns of Character division with Beverley acquisition: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has expanded its Inns of Character estate after acquiring The Beverley Arms Hotel, in Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire. The Beverley Arms, built in 1794, is located on North Bar Within in Beverley’s Georgian Quarter and fits with the company’s collection of high quality, well-invested properties in some of Britain’s most beautiful towns and villages. It has a large bar and restaurant and 55 bedrooms. It is currently closed as it requires substantial renovation and Daniel Thwaites is putting together plans to upgrade all aspects of the building. Daniel Thwaites chief executive Rick Bailey said: “Our Inns are all about providing superb hospitality, in outstanding properties, in great locations and there is no doubt that the Beverley Arms will be a brilliant addition to the company when we re-launch it later in the year. In the meantime, the hotel is really feeling its age and needs a lot of money to bring it up to scratch, however we are excited about that and bringing it back to life as an integral part of Beverley life.” The acquisition of the Beverley Arms follows on from the re-launch of the Judge’s Lodging in York in June 2014, the acquisition of The Crown in Pooley Bridge in October 2015, and The Toll House Inn in Lancaster, which re-opened after refurbishment in December 2015.

Leon opens first of 11 new sites scheduled for 2016: Natural fast food brand Leon is opening its first new site of 2016 today at Fenchurch Street Station. This will be the 34th Leon. Rachael Gough, PR and marketing manager at Leon, said: “We know we’ll only be able to celebrate the true anniversary of Leon Fenchurch Street opening once every four years, and with new-found empathy we want to spoil all the people who usually miss out on their special day. All Leap Year babies will get as much as they can eat for free and a Leon cookbook on the house.”

Fuel Juice Bars reports turnover tripled in two years to more than £13m: TD4 Brands, the parent of Fuel Juice Bars and led by former Millie’s Cookies franchisees Richard and Dawn O’Sullivan and backed by the Business Growth Fund (BGF), has reported that turnover has almost tripled in the past two years to more than £13m – as store numbers have increased from ten to 32. Eight more Boost bars are planned this year and BGF has increased its investment to £4.9m to support to expansion. TD4 opened its first milkshake bar The Shake Lab in Manchester’s Trafford Centre shopping mall in December and plans to open seven more this year. Boost has franchise network of 400 stores worldwide.

Love Thy Burger to open second venue, in Ipswich town centre: Better burger brand Love Thy Burger plans to open its second venue – in Ipswich town centre. A planning application has been submitted to Ipswich Borough Council to transform what used to be Santander in Westgate Street into a 25-cover restaurant. The company also hopes to run a “small” takeaway business from the site. In the planning bid, Love Thy Burger is described as a “family-run business devoted to providing high-class restaurant facilities in high-street locations, specialising in burgers of all kinds which are prepared on-site using locally sourced produce”. Love Thy Burger formed in 2014 and opened its first restaurant in High Street, Colchester, last year.

New Afro-Caribbean restaurant concept opens in Corby: A new Afro-Caribbean restaurant concept has opened in Corby, Northamptonshire. Ghanaian chef Nana Konadu has launched Maamalicious in Corporation Street serving her favourite home-cooked food. Dishes include Red Red, which is black-eyed bean stew with deep-fried plantain; fried yam with a type of fish called tilapia, peanut soup known as Nkatsenkwan and a full or half guinea fowl. She told the Northamptonshire Telegraph: “I’ve always wanted to do this. Cooking is my passion. It’s been about waiting for the right time and the right venue and I think that’s here and now.” The restaurant is open from 9.30am until 10pm on weekdays and Sundays, until midnight on Fridays and 1am on Saturdays.

Prezzo lodges plans to open restaurant in Moseley on site originally earmarked for Boston Tea Party: Prezzo has lodged plans to open a restaurant in the Birmingham suburb of Moseley – on the site originally earmarked for independent cafe brand Boston Tea Party. The pizza company has applied to convert the former Kwik Fit premises in Alcester Road, reports the Birmingham Mail. Boston Tea Party was granted permission to open a cafe on the site this spring but revealed this week its plans have fallen through. The company said part of the agreement required the landlord to undertake a series of works, which were not completed within the time-frame and the legally binding element had since expired. It is now understood the works have been completed and the landlord has since exercised his right to lease the building to another party.

Red Squirrel Brewery extends crowdfunding campaign for second time to expand brewery and craft beer shop estate: Red Squirrel Brewery has extended his fund-raising drive on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for a second time as it looks to expand its brewery and craft beer shop estate. 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 £500,000 investment and hit its target earlier this week. So far 455 investors have pledged £583,190 and it is now “overfunding” with ten days remaining having extended the offer again. The largest investment to date is £50,000. Blesson said: “We have been overwhelmed by the interest in our exciting company and as result we have decided to extend our pitch. This will allow a number of on-going discussions to be completed with potential and current investors, who have expressed an interest to invest.” The company plans to use the funds to expand its brewery operations and upscale its craft beer shops from three to ten sites. It forecasts sales of £973,000 in the first 12 months, £2m the following year, and £4.6m by 2016/17. 

Tasty gets go-ahead to open Wildwood cinema and restaurant in Llandudno, first venue in Wales: Tasty has got approval to open a Wildwood restaurant and cinema in Llandudno, the brand’s first venue in Wales. The 140-cover restaurant and 24-seat cinema in Mostyn Street will create 30 jobs, reports the Daily Post, although no opening date has been revealed. The restaurant will serve pizza, pasta and grilled meals such as burgers and steaks. Wildwood has 31 restaurants in the UK and has started work on a restaurant and cinema in Lincoln city centre that will open in July.

Greene King wins top employer award: Greene King, the pub retailer and brewer, has won the Employer of the Year Award at the third annual Apprenticeships4England Awards 2016. The awards, which recognise and reward organisations for their commitment to developing their workforce through apprenticeships and supporting their employees during training, were announced after the Voice of Apprenticeships Conference. Since its launch in 2011, the Greene King apprenticeship scheme has helped support over 7,400 apprentices to achieve a qualification whilst working across the group’s pub, bar, restaurant and hotel outlets. The scheme offers bespoke qualifications that cover a range of job roles including front of house, kitchen and management which are tailored to each of the Greene King retail brands. Rooney Anand, chief executive at Greene King, said: “We are proud of our tradition of investing in our people, their skills and development, and we are grateful to Apprenticeships4England for recognising that commitment. Not only do our apprenticeships allow young people to earn while securing useful qualifications, they also play a crucial role in developing a skilled industry workforce. We’re so pleased to have offered more than 7,000 apprenticeships so far and are excited to welcome even more apprentices through our doors throughout 2016.” Greene King’s apprenticeship programme provides a blend of workplace learning and industry masterclasses across all brands covering all job roles. The Apprenticeships4England awards took place at the Emirates Stadium in London on 25 February 2016.

San Carlo Group applies for premises licence for third Fumo site in Liverpool: San Carlo Group has applied for a premises licence to bring its Fumo concept to Liverpool – its third site. An application notice has appeared at 52-54 Castle Street, formerly a Bang & Olufsen store, for a licence to serve alcohol between 8am and 2am, to provide daily entertainment from 10am to 2am and to serve food between 11pm and 2.30am daily. The proposed site is just metres away from its existing San Carlo restaurant, reports the Liverpool Echo. Although no plans have been revealed for the Liverpool version, its Manchester and Birmingham Fumo sites feature a more extensive bar menu than a regular San Carlo restaurant, as well as a late lounge with DJs at weekends. The menu offers a “host of cicchetti-style small plates” including tuna sashimi, plaited mozzarella and aubergine with pesto as well as sharing platters and canapés.

Godfrey Russell – Revolución de Cuba brand eyeing retail areas: Revolution Group’s director of property Godfrey Russell said the time was right to extend the Revolución de Cuba brand to shopping centres. Russell told Property Week: “We’re now getting invited into shopping centres. We’ve had invitations from two large operators. They’re street-facing, but that’s a real change. Large property operators are recognising that de Cuba is the right thing: you can go there, eat and stay all evening.” Russell added that he wasn’t worried about opening both of Revolution Group’s brands in the same neighbourhood. He said: “We’re not afraid to go back to cities we know well like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle and put a de Cuba nearby, because they’re different markets. We don’t see any cannibalisation at all.” The group’s longer-term aim is to open five sites a year across both brands, although Russell said he hoped to open between ten and 20 in the next two years, with the emphasis on building the Revolución de Cuba brand. Regarding the size of leaseholds the group is looking to acquire, Russell said that to build its presence substantially in London, Revolution was willing to consider units as small as 4,000 square foot. He said: “Because of the flexibility of the concept and design, we will potentially go smaller in London to get the units.” Although keen to find a site for the first Revolución de Cuba in London, Russell said the company was unwilling to pay sky-high rents. He said: “We don’t need to pay premium rents – the strength of the brand means people will come around the corner.” Revolution Group will open two more sites by July taking its estate to 62 across its two brands. Speaking at Casual Dining in London on Wednesday, February 24, Revolution chief executive Mark McQuater said he was ready to take that figure to 67 by 2017.

The Daffodil in Cheltenham to reopen after being acquired by Worcester family-run restaurant: The family-run Worcester fine dining restaurant Browns at the Quay has acquired The Daffodil in Cheltenham, which closed suddenly at the end of January. New owner Jessica Pinches said there is a 12-month investment plan of £3 million to give the restaurant a “long overdue refresh” with The Daffodil reopening on Saturday, 12 March. She told So Glos: “We are not changing the wonderful art deco characteristics of the restaurant, but will spend time and love renovating the venue to its previous glamour. It’s important The Daffodil continues to be recognised for its impeccable service and delicious food. The running of the restaurant, and the essence of what it stands for, will not change. We see the restaurant as being an icon for the city, and with a little loving care, it will remain so for another few decades.” The Daffodil will be run with the same key management team as previously with executive chef Tom Rains and restaurant manager Connor Morrissey at the helm.

London-based movie-themed pub operator opens second site: London-based movie theme pub operator Wesley Deaton has opened his second site in Islington. Deaton has acquired The North Pole in New North Road, which has been rechristened North by Northwest after Alfred Hitchcock’s famous Cary Grant spy thriller. He has spent months decorating the pub with memorabilia and plastering the walls with Hitchcock film posters and dramatic photographs of the man himself. Models of jet-black crows are perched above the bar, and the North by Northwest crop duster hangs from the ceiling. Hitchcock landed his first industry job in motion pictures at the nearby Gainsborough Studios, which has now been transformed into luxury flats, in the 1920s. Deaton told the Islington Tribune: “We’re going to serve the best Sunday roast in town and loads of great local beers. We’re beside Gainsborough Studios, which is where Hitchcock started from, so that’s where we got the idea.” Deaton also runs the Alma Pub in Newington Green, which reopened as a movie-themed pub in October 2014.

Brasserie Bar Co reports increased turnover and losses, invests more than £3m rebranding brasserie estate: Brasserie Bar Co, the company behind the Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie Company chains, has reported increased turnover and a rise in losses and invested more than £3m rebranding its brasserie estate. The company saw turnover increase 14% from £32.7m to £37.2m for the year ending 28 June 2015, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Pre-tax losses climbed from £34,514 to £2,434,182 while restaurant Ebitda increased 9% from £5.2m to £5.7m. It reported all its six pubs were trading at, or ahead of, expectations with one site sold and leased back. Chairman Ian Edward said: “The board took the decision to conduct a complete review of the Brasserie Blanc concept in the 2014/2015 financial period. We instructed external consultants to carry out a full brand audit, which acted as the catalyst to a complete rebranding and refurbishment of the entire brasserie estate. The objective was to sensitively modernise the business and broaden its appeal to a wider audience without alienating our existing customers. It has cost the group over £3m, but the early results have been very encouraging and it has positioned the brand to go from strength to strength in the future. At the same time, a comprehensive review of management was completed across the estate, to ensure that we have the right people in the right places during this crucial period of expansion. Our desire was that this team was then rewarded appropriately and so we implemented a new employee shareholder scheme in January 2015. During the financial period, St Paul’s, the least successful site in the brasserie portfolio, was sold back to the landlord and the proceeds were applied to more attractive investment opportunities elsewhere in the business. Strategically, it was a very important financial period for our White Brasserie Company group of pubs. The estate grew from just two pubs to six, with three of the new openings operating under a newly negotiated free-of-tie lease model. The fourth opening was a freehold opportunity, the Hare in Old Redding, that was purchased and then subjected to a sale and leaseback all within the financial period, leaving the group with a profitable site at a minimal cost. Funded by the full drawdown of the £13.5m facility from ESO and cash generated by operations, the group is on course to achieve its objective of reaching around 20 sites each in both pubs and brasseries, within the three-year plan that was instigated last year. The board look forward to the challenges ahead and are extremely confident that, with an outstanding management team, a fully reinvigorated Brasserie Blanc brand and a great portfolio of assets, the business will move ahead strongly in the 2015/2016 financial period.”

Joseph Holt launches new app: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has launched a new app. The company said the app would enhance the customer’s experience in its pubs and allow them to find out what is happening in its brewery. It allows users to use GPS to find the nearest pub/restaurant, win free pints with its Perfect Pint game, and take a specially created Taste Test to find out which Joseph Holt beer is best suited to their taste buds and which nearest pub is stocking it. They can also sign up to receive VIP birthday vouchers through its birthday club and join Joseph Holt’s Beer Selfie Community to share their experiences in its pubs.

EAT to close Oxford Street and Westfield London sites, looks to focus portfolio on transport hubs: Fresh food-to-go retailer EAT is closing its venues in Oxford Street and Westfield London as it looks to focus its portfolio on transport hubs. The company will not renew a ten-year lease on its 68 Oxford Street unit, which was signed in 2006 and is due to expire next month, reports Property Week. The site, one of EAT’s largest, is owned by Derwent London. The company will also vacate its ground-floor site at Hammerson’s Westfield London shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush. EAT, which has been majority-owned by Lyceum Capital since 2011, still operates a venue in the Topshop flagship in Oxford Street and one in Westfield’s counterpart shopping centre in Stratford. Although most of its units are in London, in 2014 it completed a £40m refinancing deal with Ardian, partly to fulfill its aim of expanding outside the capital at the rate of 30 stores per year. However, market sources told Property Week that said the chain, which has 118 sites in the UK, was behind on this target and was now “looking to refocus its portfolio towards transport hubs”, such as airports and train stations. EAT has chosen Bilfinger GVA and Blanchflower Lloyd Baxter to manage the store disposals.

Stafford-based brewery Slater’s Ales opens first venue in Wolverhampton city centre: Stafford-based brewery Slater’s Ales has opened its first craft beer bar in the Black Country – in Wolverhampton city centre. The award-winning brewery has refurbished three floors of a grade II-listed building in Queen Square, previously occupied by Costa Coffee. The original features of the building have been restored with an industrial style to the decor to reflect the city’s heritage. The venue has a downstairs bar and an upstairs function room. Food will be served from midday to 8pm, and the opening has created 18 jobs. Cllr John Reynolds, cabinet member for city economy, said at the Slater’s opening: “These are the businesses that help give Wolverhampton its own identity and character.” Slater’s supplies pubs and clubs in the UK with hand-brewed real ale and celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

Leeds Indie Food festival details announced: The second Leeds Indie Food festival will take place from 12 to 30 May. Last year’s event was the first of its kind in the UK and more than 100 events took place in over 50 venues, with everything from tasting menus and dine-along film screenings, to edible art exhibitions, cookery workshops and craft beer tastings. This year, a programme of events will take place in independent restaurants, bars, coffee shops and venues across the city. A £10 “passport” allows festival-goers to collect priority tickets, discounts and freebies at all participating Leeds Indie Food venues. The event is run in partnership with Leeds City Council. Matt Dix, of Leeds Indie Food, told The Business Desk: “No other city celebrates its independents in this way, and our aim is to help businesses collaborate and to shout about the amazing things they’re doing.” Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council leader, said: “The independent scene in Leeds is thriving and food and drink is at the heart of it. Leeds Indie Food celebrates that offer.”

Cellar Trends reports a loss after losing Jägermeister: Drinks distributor Cellar Trends has reported a pre-tax loss in the year following its split from Jägermeister. The company said it had ‘significantly strengthened’ its portfolio in recent months with the addition of new brands. Accounts for the year to 31 May 2015 show Cellar Trends turned over £36m, down from £54.9m a year earlier. It also moved to a pre-tax loss of £747,758 compared to a profit of £1.2m in 2014. Jägermeister brand owner Mast-Jägermeister announced it was splitting from Cellar Trends in September 2013 and completed the move in March 2014. Cellar Trends stated: “The company is investing in a rebuilding programme. This was, however, disrupted by the transfer of Patron Tequila to Bacardi Brown Foreman in the UK in October 2014 and the Beam Suntory brand to Maxxium UK in February 2015.” The statement said that directors were successful in adding a “number of significant new brands” to the Cellar Trends portfolio during the year, including London No 1 Gin, Botran Rum and Casamigos, a premium tequila owned by George Clooney. Since its year end, Cellar Trends has also taken on Russian vodka brand Beluga and Angostura Bitters and Rums. “Negotiations are in place to strengthen the portfolio further,” the statement added. The group has initiated a number of marketing programmes to sell the new brands, which it warned will impact profits further in 2015/16.

71 Brewing to open craft brewery in Dundee: New company 71 Brewing is converting a 7,200 square foot warehouse in Dundee into a 2,400-litre-a-day craft brewery. Owners Duncan Alexander and Mark Griffiths are carrying out the conversion in Bellfield Street with the help of £650,000 funding from bodies including Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Investment Bank. Alexander, who will be head brewer at 71 Brewing, told The Courier: “Dundee is undergoing a period of significant regeneration and investment. We want 71 Brewing to become synonymous with this new and growing confidence and weave ourselves into the fabric of the city.” Work is expected to start in March with the brewery due to be operational in October. Brewing consultant David Smith, former head brewer at Samuel Smiths of Tadcaster, is overseeing the installation. Smith has assisted in the set-up of more than 150 breweries in the UK and Europe. 71 Brewing will be the second craft brewer to open in Dundee this year as Hawkhill Brewery will start making beer next week at its new premises in Sugarhouse Wynd. The brewery will produce 3,200 litres of beer a week. On Wednesday, 24 February, microbiologist Daniel Cullen submitted plans to turn a derelict industrial building in Mid Wynd into a craft “nano-brewery”.

Poppins to open second Dorset site: Retro cafe Poppins is to open a new site in Gillingham, Dorset. The company, which returned to nearby Yeovil last March after a 20-year absence, has revealed it will be launching its second site in the county. A spokeswoman told the Western Gazette: “I am pleased to confirm that plans are in place for a Poppins Restaurant to open in Gillingham, Dorset. Further details will be released soon.” Poppins, established in 1979, has 32 independently owned town centre restaurants, including its other Dorset site in Boscombe. It is also planning a site in High Street, Southampton.

Friday Beer Co hits £150,000 target after extending offer for third time: Brewer Friday Beer Co, founded by Gerald Williams, has hit its £150,000 fund-raising target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after extended its offer for a third time. The company, which increased its equity offer from 16.67% to 25% at the first extension, has extended the pitch for another six days. So far 215 investors have pledged £153,360 and it is now “overfunding” with the largest investment to date being £15,000. The company stated: “We’ve been extended to next Wednesday, so six more days to invest!” In its pitch, the company said it aspires to be the UK’s next “BrewDog style of business” and sees it expanding over the years towards “Friday” branded city-based bars with novel “beer tank” dispensing systems selling its premium ales.

Casual Dining Group to open two Las Iguanas sites in March: Las Iguanas, the Latin American brand owned by Casual Dining Group, will open two sites next month. The brand will launch in Bloomsbury, London, on Monday, 21 March and in York the following week, taking the estate to 48. The Bloomsbury site is in Brunswick Square, in the grade II-listed Brunswick Centre. The 110-seater restaurant features classic mid-century architecture combined with a big dose of South American style with retro metalwork chandeliers and banquette seating. The site also benefits from a large outside piazza. Diners can expect a new spring menu with additions including ceviche in tiger’s milk with sweet potato crisps, pan-fried sea bass achiote, and a traditional Moqueca de Piexe mild Brazilian curry with coconut and fresh tomato sauce. The cocktail list now boasts 25 cocktails and coolers to celebrate Las Iguanas’ 25th birthday this year. Meanwhile, the York restaurant will be based in Back Swingate, which will open on Monday, 28 March following the conversion of its La Tasca site, the brand that Casual Dining Group acquired last year. Set over two levels, there will be a 120-seater restaurant with a terrace on the upper floor seating 70. The décor will feature a mix of reclaimed and recycled materials, ranging from original brick walls to pieces of distressed timber.

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 and to book email

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