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Wed 2nd Mar 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Yorkshire Meatball Co launches £100,000 crowdfunding drive for nationwide franchised restaurant roll-out: Yorkshire Meatball Co has launched a £100,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to roll-out franchised restaurants nationwide and launch branded retail products in UK supermarkets. The company, founded by father and son team David and Gareth Atkinson, is offering an equity stake of 9.05% in return for the investment. The pitch states: “Our strategy is to lay the foundations of a quality, national food brand through the establishment of three principle revenue streams: owned-restaurants, franchised-restaurants, and branded retail products. In addition to a unique casual dining concept, our meatball and craft beer bars allow us to develop, market-test and refine products for the retail market. The retail market, in turn, will hopefully allow us to leverage the brand value and provide valuable cash resources to increase future restaurant unit roll-out, while minimising further equity funding rounds. Our original Meatball and Craft Beer Bar launched in Harrogate on 1 March 2014. In early 2015 we attracted the attention of our first franchise-partnership, with leading hotel group: Splendid Hospitality Group who launched our first franchise in York in October 2015, where we continue to refine and develop our franchise model for further roll-out. In late 2015, we successfully trialled a pub-kitchen format in Harrogate. With potential format variations from take-out to pub-kitchen and street-food, we see a wealth of scope for diversifying the concept further. We’re engaged with one of the UK’s leading supermarkets with the aim to spread the fight against average, tasteless meatballs nationwide with the launch of our initial range of premium branded meatballs. We aim to hit 500 stores in total by end FY2016. Funds will be used to secure intellectual property on all registrable trademarks, develop the existing Harrogate restaurant space to add an external (all-weather) dining area, beer celler and bottle shop and to provide further operational capital ahead of retail revenue and further expansion of franchises. At the three year-point, we aim to draw up additional plans for an aggressive roll-out of additional restaurant units through a part sale to private equity or similar.” The company expects to make a pre-tax profit of £77,934 at the end of this year, rising to £245,949 in 2017 and £601,555 in 2018.

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 launched yesterday (Tuesday, 1 March). The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers will be able to receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 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 adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com
 
BHA campaign wins award: British Hospitality Association (BHA) members are celebrating after winning a prestigious award for its groundbreaking Westminster Hospitality and Tourism Day. In September 2015, the association organised the first Hospitality and Tourism Day at Westminster. It saw more than 120 BHA members and MPs get together for a single lobby day in Parliament. At an awards ceremony in London, it fought off stiff competition from other associations to win the Best Networking Event category at the Association Excellence Awards. The judges said it was an “excellent result in getting this into the parliamentary diary as an annual event – breaking new ground and aligning completely with the core objective. It showed a rounded approach to networking”. Chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “We see this award as a tribute to the commitment and hard work of all our members who helped to make the event such a success.”

Luke Johnson – ‘my Florida restaurant is coming together’: Sector investor Luke Johnson has reported progress on the restaurant he has acquired in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Propel has previously reported Johnson is working with Gail’s Bakery founder Tom Molnar on the site – and has won planning variances to extend the site and plans a bakery dimension. Speaking at last week’s Casual Dining Show, he said: “It’s a 8,000 square foot freehold site, the key site in that location, (I bought) for £400,000. To me, it looked cheap. Admittedly, I’ve just sat on it for two years so eventually I’m going to have to do something with it. I think if it’s revived and done properly it could be successful but we’ve got to have the right local partner and lots of other things. And we’re getting them in place.”
 
New York’s enforcement of salt warnings on restaurant menus on hold: New York City’s enforcement of its first-in-the-nation rule mandating salt warnings on some restaurant menus has been put on hold. An appellate judge has issued an injunction after a request by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), reports The Guardian. It followed a ruling by another judge restaurants that don’t comply with the labelling rule can be fined up to $600, which was due to come into force on Tuesday (1 March). The rule, enacted in December, calls for chain restaurants and fast-food places with more than 15 outlets nationwide to put triangle icons with salt-shaker images on menus next to items that go above the recommended daily limit of sodium – 2,300 milligrams. The NRA said it was pleased by the decision to “grant emergency relief for the men and women that own and operate New York’s restaurants from this unlawful and unprecedented sodium mandate”. The city’s Department of Health said the warnings are critical information people need, and it was confident the rule would be upheld. It has until Friday, 18 March to respond to the injunction.

Birmingham and Manchester show biggest growth in UK as Europe’s hotels experience ongoing value growth and recovery: Birmingham and Manchester showed the biggest growth in the UK as Europe’s hotel market experienced ongoing value growth and recovery in 2015, according to the 2016 European Hotel Valuation Index. The report, published by global hotel consultancy HVS, showed the year was particularly good for hotels in eastern Europe, which bounced back from declining values in 2014 to reach a 5% increase that matched the European average for 2015. Hotels in northern and southern Europe saw the biggest growth in value per room. Birmingham, which saw a 12.9% rise year-on-year in value terms, and Manchester, where values are up 11.6%, are proving to be the UK’s most thriving secondary cities, with strong average rates being the main driver along with solid revpar growth. Investors are showing continued interest in both cities with Birmingham currently having 11 new hotels in the development pipeline and Manchester due for seven additional hotels over the next two years. The top five cities with the highest hotel values remains unchanged with those in Paris topping the list ahead of London, Zurich, Geneva, and Rome. The city that saw the biggest rise in value terms was, for the second year running, Madrid, where hotels saw a 14% increase year-on-year with Dublin second with 13%. HVS director and report co-author Sophie Perret said: “Despite pockets of poorer performance, 2015 was a vintage year for the hotel industry across Europe. However, there is a prevalent feeling that the hotel industry could reach the peak of the current investment cycle in the next few years, so a different investment climate might be around the corner.”

New data reveals shortfall of non-executive directors from hospitality sector: New data released by online recruitment platform NonExecutiveDirectors.com has revealed a shortage of senior candidates in the hospitality sector looking for non-executive director (NED) positions. Despite people in the sector having the skills, talent and experience to offer boards, currently not one of its 6,000-strong database actively looking for roles are classed as working or having had worked in hospitality. Chief executive of NonExecutiveDirectors.com Matthew Roberts said: “We want more people from this sector to sign up. Perhaps they think they don’t have the skills required for a non-executive director, but being on a board is very much about the behaviours and attributes they display like confidence, self-control and the ability to challenge or support.” According to the NonExecutiveDirectors.com database, a typical NED is a 57-year-old male based in the south east of England, with 14 years’ experience as an executive. 
 
London Councils calls for stronger planning powers to clamp down on fast-food sites near schools: London Councils, which represents the 33 local authorities in the capital, has called for stronger planning powers to fight childhood obesity by clamping down on fast-food outlets near schools. The body also wants to make it tougher for takeaways to appeal against decisions banning them from certain locations and has called on the government to put more emphasis on public health in the planning process. The body has also called for increased local power over business rates to enable boroughs to use discounts to encourage healthier food outlets. Teresa O’Neill, London Councils health spokeswoman, said: “Giving boroughs more clout in the planning system to prioritise public health will allow us to create a healthier environment for London’s children and young people.” London has the highest number of obese ten and 11-year-olds in the country, with 37% overweight compared with 33% nationally.
 
All-night London underground set for go-ahead after pay deal: The RMT union has announced it has accepted a pay and conditions deal that will allow the all-night London Underground service to go ahead. A ballot of London Underground workers saw 84% vote in favour. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “I want to pay tribute to RMT’s members across London Underground who have stood rock solid throughout the long campaign of industrial pressure to secure a fair deal from the company over pay and night tube operation. Those members have now voted to accept the most recent offer from the company – an offer that was only made after the hard work by union reps in the negotiations backed up by the loyalty, determination and militancy of the workforce right across the tube network.” The night-tube was supposed to begin services last September.
 
Just Eat boss – UK moving to healthier takeaways: The UK is becoming a nation of healthier eaters, opting for takeaway salads instead, according to the boss of Just Eat. David Buttress, chief executive of the takeaway platform, revealed one of the fastest growing cuisines for orders is the health food market. He said: “Thai and sushi have been coming through in the last few years and have outperformed other categories. But genuine healthy cuisines are also up. Salads are growing fast and we can see that health is a real driver for the business.”

Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks grow for 15th successive year: Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks grew by 0.9% to £4.63bn in 2015, representing the 15th year of consecutive growth, against a backdrop of declining overall UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports, the Food and Drink Federation said today (Wednesday, 2 March). Overall exports fell by £0.6bn to £12.3bn in 2015 as a result of a drop in oil prices and the strength of the pound against the depreciated euro, which has made UK exports less competitive in key eurozone markets. Chocolate, salmon and cheese remain the top three export product categories, while exports of vegetables, both prepared and fresh, experienced the largest increase in overall growth, up £18m in 2015 to £36.3m. Non-EU markets now buy 30.8% of the UK’s total branded food and non-alcoholic drink exports. The value of exports to non-EU markets was up 6.4% on 2014 figures, with double-digit growth seen in Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia. Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks to the EU fell by 1.3% in 2015. Exports to China grew by 9%. This is the first time the world’s most populated nation entered the UK’s list of top ten overseas trade partners. In 2014, the UK was the EU’s number one exporter of tea to China, while exports of processed milk to China rose by £19.3m (+202%) in 2015. Elsewhere, UK breakfast cereal exports to UAE grew by £8.9m (+45%) in 2015 and exports of crisps to France rose by £1.2m (+23%). In terms of the biggest market growth, the UK saw exports to Thailand increase by £59.3m (+122%), with cereals making up £21.5m of that growth. Exports to Spain grew by £46m (+9%), with high temperatures and a lack of rain in 2015 resulting in Spain becoming more reliant on imports of UK wheat and barley.

Licensing update: Licensing solicitors John Gaunt & Partners produce a useful monthly summary of topical issues and the latest can be accessed here 
 

Company News:

Greene King’s Blythman – ‘huge opportunities in the pub sector’: Mark Blythman, head of investor relations and strategy at Greene King, has argued there are “huge opportunities” for the company in the current climate. He added Greene King had been focusing on pubs with a long-term future since the financial crisis in 2007, buying, building and developing pubs that met its criteria. Speaking to Sarah Lowther, of Proactive Investors, Blythman said: “The British pub still has a warm place in people’s hearts in this country. It is still the most popular place to eat and drink out and, if you do a good job of delivering great value for customers, providing great service, and continuously trying to improve the quality of what you offer them, we think they’ll keep coming back.” Talking about how Greene King had evolved since 2007, Blythman said: “What you’ve seen over the past nine years is a complete shift in how our business is run. We’ve got out of the pubs we didn’t think had a long-term future and bought, built and developed pubs we do think have a long-term future. We’ve taken advantage of opportunities and that’s helped us become one of the best in the sector.” Asked about Greene King’s acquisition of Spirit Pub Company, he said: “Spirit allowed us to bring a load of brands we didn’t have. A good example would be Chef & Brewer, a brand lots of people know, plus we didn’t have a brand in that market.” He added Spirit also brought some great assets with iconic pubs such as The Albert in Victoria. Regarding the planned increase in the National Minimum Wage, Blythman said the company would look to train and develop staff to stay with the company longer, while an increase in the minimum wage would also help Greene King as customers would have increased spending power. Regarding its Hungry Horse brand, Blythman said Greene King was looking to expand the brand to between 275 and 325 sites from its current total of about 245. Looking to the year ahead, Blythman said: “Our big challenge is to not only integrate Spirit successfully but to keep the core business running at a level expected by key stakeholders.”

City Pub Company eyes 2017 flotation: City Pub Company is eyeing a stock market flotation in late 2017. The company has just bought its 25th pub – The Inn on the Beach on Hayling Island off the south coast. Having raised £10m from a convertible preference share sale, Clive Watson, chairman of the business, wants to expand the estate to 35 sites before floating on London’s junior market. “It’s a balance sheet strengthening exercise,” he told The Daily Telegraph. Following the share offering he is negotiating with City’s banks to increase its lending facilities from £10m to £25m so it can acquire more pubs. City has in the past raised £28m from the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and those investors will be free to sell their shares from October. A float would provide the EIS backers with liquidity for their shares, Watson said, and 35 pubs would provide a “viable” platform for a listed business. “We’ve come along way from being a start-up,” Watson said. “Four years ago we didn’t have any pubs trading.”

Barburrito secures Edinburgh and Derby sites as expansion drive continues: Mexican brand Barburrito has continued its expansion drive by securing sites in Edinburgh and Derby. The company launched a venue in Hammersmith Broadway shopping centre in February, its 13th site, with another opening at Intu Metrocentre Gateshead at the end of March. Barburrito’s Edinburgh venue is in Forrest Road, with a target opening of early autumn. It has also exchanged on a site at Intu Derby, targeted for a mid-2017 opening, which will take the total estate to 21 restaurants taking into account the five venues in Edinburgh and Scotland it took over when Barburrito acquired Pinto Mexican Kitchen in October. Plans are on track to rebrand Pinto’s five restaurants before the summer. Backed by growth capital provider BGF, Barburrito is targeting a further ten sites during the next two years. Morgan Davies, Barburrito chief executive, said: “We launched as the UK’s first burrito bar and are working hard to ensure we are the number-one burrito brand in the UK.” Davies opened his first Barburrito in 2005 in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester.

Theo Randall to open new casual dining concept in London: Chef Theo Randall is to open a new casual dining concept in London. Randall, who has just relaunched his restaurant at the Intercontinental in London, will open 54-seat venue Theo’s Simple Italian at the Hotel Indigo London Kensington in Earl’s Court on Monday, 14 March, reports Hot Dinners. There will also be an Italian deli on site selling seasonal produce. In addition, a cold counter will feature homemade pastries in the morning and cakes, charcuterie and cheeses in the afternoon. Randall has brought in William Leoni to run the kitchen, who worked with him at the InterContinental and, before that, was at Sartoria. The menu will include Carne Salata – a fresh rocket salad with cured black Angus beef, aged balsamic vinegar and parmesan and Pappardelle con ragu di coda di bue – fresh pasta with slow cooked oxtail ragu and red wine. Drinks will feature a mix of local and Italian craft beers plus an all-Italian wine list. It will also have a van parked outside the hotel serving artisan coffee courtesy of Workshop Coffee.

Porky’s BBQ opening fifth site in Chelsea on Thursday: London-based barbecue restaurant Porky’s BBQ will open its fifth site in Fulham Road, Chelsea, on Thursday (3 March). The company, co-owned by Simon and Joy Brigg, is launching the venue, which can seat up to 50 people, on the site of the former Portuguese restaurant Fire and Feathers. It has spent about £50,000 refurbishing the venue having agreed a 15-year lease on the 1,400 square foot site. Simon Brigg told GetWestLondon: “This site has a completely different personality to the rest. The area offers a great cluster of high-end coffee shops, local delis and pubs – we hope to add to the mix with our fun-loving breed of barbecue food that the entire family will enjoy. We’re a family run business and we love the feel of this area.” In November, Simon Brigg told Propel the company was looking to build a ten-strong estate by the end of 2017 and was also eyeing expansion outside the capital. Its other sites are in Bankside, Camden, Crouch End and Shoreditch.
 
Greggs to close three bakeries as part of plan to centralise resources: Greggs is to close three of its 12 bakeries as part of a nationwide plan to centralise its resources. The company is shutting its factories in Twickenham, south west London; Sleaford, Lincolnshire; and Edinburgh with the loss of about 355 jobs. Greggs is moving away from being a “traditional, decentralised bakery” and will invest £100m over five years to open a centre of excellence at its Clydesmill bakery in Glasgow. A spokesman told BBC News it recently acquired a new factory in Enfield to create a similar focal point in the south east. He said: “Greggs currently operates from 12 bakeries; unfortunately not all are suitable for long-term investment due to their location and size. These are difficult changes that we believe are needed to support the long-term growth of the business. However our immediate priority is to work to minimise the negative impact on our people, many of whom have worked in these roles for a significant number of years. Wherever possible we would look to offer alternative employment to affected employees but, due to the location of our sites, we anticipate that unfortunately many will leave the business.” Greggs is the UK’s biggest bakery chain, with about 1,700 outlets.

New spirits and cocktail bar concept to open in Middlesbrough’s ‘culinary bazaar’: A new spirits and cocktail bar concept, The Nuthatch, will be the first venue to open in Middlesbrough’s new “21st century culinary bazaar”, on Saturday, 19 March. The Nuthatch is one of eight venues that will open in Bedford Street, which has been modelled on London’s Borough Market. The Nuthatch is a project by Concept Leisure’s Matthew Lewis and Simon Hatfield, specialising in high-quality spirits, with more than 100 brands alongside a “specially crafted cocktail menu of classic and signature twists”. The venue will have an “industrial-artisan” decor, with a centrepiece woodburner and showpiece bar. Hatfield told Gazette Live: “We want to create something unique by taking inspiration from some of our favourite bars from around the world and twisting classics with modern techniques. I’m particularly interested in the trends developing on the bartending scene and want to bring a little bit of that to Middlesbrough – from gels to foams and powders.” Opening dates for the other seven businesses have yet to be announced.

West End Brewery brew-pub to launch in Leicester city centre at Easter: The West End Brewery, a brew-pub which will sell beer made on the premises, will open in Leicester during Easter weekend (25-28 March). Beers brewed at the venue in Braunstone Gate will be colour-coded, with drinkers able to offer suggestions to brewer father and son John and Josh Gray, who live above the premises. John Gray said: “We will have a core range of three beers and we’re going to run our branding off a colour-coded system in the pub, rather than naming them. We will be brewing on such a small scale that our customers will be able to influence the taste by suggesting there may be more or less of a particular ingredient, and we’ll go with the consensus.” The pair plan to start with a 3.8% pale ale, a 4.2% copper-coloured bitter and a 5% IPA. John Gray said the venue would be a “community pub with pub quizzes, a music night and hopefully a beer club”.

Douglas Jack – we’d recommend buying Revolution Bars Group shares: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ recommendation on Revolution Bars Group shares in the wake of Tuesday’s (1 March) first half results. He said: “Revolution half one profit before tax rose slightly to £4.7m (we forecast £4.7m) with like-for-like sales remaining strong, at 2.7%. We expect 2016E’s profit growth to be weighted to half two due to the timing of openings (three occurred towards the end of half one, incurring £0.3m of pre-opening costs) and refurbishment work. With like-for-like sales up 2.7% in early half two and new sites trading ahead of expectations, we are upgrading our 2016E forecasts slightly. In half one, like-for-like sales rose by 2.7% (our full year assumption is 2.5%), a level that has been maintained during the eight weeks to 20 February despite tough comparables (at 3.0%). We believe like-for-like sales have benefited from improved food and drink menus, customer demand shifting towards premium products (cocktail volumes were up 17%), and rising digital sales (website traffic was up 18%; Facebook fans were up 23% to over 500,000). Ebit margins were flat despite the company absorbing £0.3m of pre-opening costs for sites that opened toward the end of the period, without which margins would have been up 40bps, by our estimates. Gross margins rose by 10bps, aided by mix improvement (to more premium products); otherwise, the big movements were a 100bps increase in proportional site labour costs (partly due to site openings) being offset by lower central costs. 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%. We believe the risks to our expansion forecasts (of five new sites per annum) are on the upside: the pipeline has doubled from seven to 15 sites (seven under offer; eight deals agreed) over the last year.  We upgraded 2017E forecasts by 4% in September, and are upgrading our 2016E forecasts by 1% today. We forecast earnings, on a self-financed basis, to rise by 49% over the next three years on assumptions of like-for-like sales slowing to 2.0%, gross margins falling, and five bars opening per annum (one large; four standard) in both 2017E and 2018E. We would ‘Buy’ the shares, which we view as undervalued, at 4.4x EV/Ebitda 2017E based on what we believe are cautious forecast assumptions. The company is almost debt-free, is pension-deficit free, has a low rent-roll (equivalent to 7.6% of turnover), and is generating some of the highest returns in the sector.” 

YO! Sushi’s Liverpool ONE restaurant fails hygiene re-inspection: YO! Sushi’s venue in Liverpool ONE has failed a hygiene re-inspection after the restaurant was one of a number to voluntarily close at the shopping centre over a rodent problem. YO! Sushi management has been told the restaurant cannot reopen after shutting voluntarily last week. Nando’s, which also closed last Wednesday, has reopened its site. A Liverpool City Council spokesman told the Liverpool Echo: “YO! Sushi has been told to remain closed after they failed their re-inspection by environmental health. There are still a few issues that need sorting before they can reopen, so they’ll need to be re-inspected for a second time.” A spokesman for YO! Sushi said: “We have chosen to remain voluntarily closed for the next couple of days to carry out some further structural works that will assist us in maintaining our five-star hygiene record.” Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi have both reopened their Liverpool ONE venues after voluntarily closing when the rodent problem was discovered.

Freehold of closed JD Wetherspoon pub in Luton for sale: The freehold of the London Hatter in Luton, Bedfordshire, closed by JD Wetherspoon last month, is to be sold at Allsop auction, on Monday, 21 March with a guide price of £850,000 to £900,000. JD Wetherspoon pays a rent of £61,000 per annum, rising by 7.5% every fifth year on a lease expiring in 2041. JD Wetherspoon has a break clause it can exercise in 2026.

Greene King improves online hospitality system: Following a substantial investment, Greene King Pub Partners has launched a new online ordering system for its tenants and lessees. The system has been overhauled to make ordering from Greene King as easy as possible. As well as beer from Greene King’s brewery, this includes hundreds of other products from trusted suppliers regularly used by the tenanted and leased pub company’s 1,200 pubs. Managing director for Greene King Pub Partners, Clive Chesser, said: “We want to make ordering from us as quick, simple and easy as possible, and the whole system has been created with these three principles in mind. We know operators want to spend more time front of house running their business and less time on the administration, and this system has been designed to help them do just that. About a third of our tenants were using the old system and we are now in the process of inviting everyone to use the new system, including operators from the former Spirit estate and our Belhaven estate in Scotland for the first time.” Exclusive deals and offers will also be available on the new system. 
 
Lancashire restaurateur to open second site, in Bacup town centre: Restaurateur Riast Khan plans to turn a former pub and hotel in Bacup into an Indian restaurant – after turning round the fortunes of another east Lancashire site. Plans have been lodged with Rossendale Council to convert The Swan in Market Street, Bacup, which has been closed for more than two years. In 2014, Khan turned the Farmer’s Glory in Roundhill Road, Haslingden, into high-class Indian restaurant, the Anar Kali. Planning agent David Hancock told the Lancashire Telegraph: “The Swan is vacant but had been in use as a public house for many years. It is an impressive building that has, in recent years, been allowed to deteriorate. My client’s proposals are to restore the stonework to the main elevations, replace all the windows, many of which are rotten, and restore the building as a restaurant.”
 
Kimbo reports UK turnover surge after Jamie’s Italian deal: Coffee company Kimbo Espresso Italiano has reported a local turnover of £2.4m, a 55% increase compared with 2014, with 161 tons of coffee distributed in the country over the last 12 months, up 35% year-on-year. In 2015, Kimbo put in place a number of projects aimed at further strengthening its market share in the UK, where it is already served in over 800 pubs, restaurants and shops, for more than 21 million coffees per year, over 40 coffees per minute. Among the most successful ones is the important partnership signed with restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian. This partnership required Kimbo to train over 800 bar staff and floor teams in coffee craft and Neapolitan coffee culture. “We are very satisfied to see that the UK market is responding so well to our coffee,” said Angus McKenzie, managing director at Kimbo UK. “These results underline our efforts in producing a unique blend, and we are glad to see that this is extremely appreciated throughout the country. We expect to further strengthen our position in the UK market across the 2016, also thanks to the success of our free barista school, which has been helping a growing number of eager baristas master their craft.” 
 
Casual Dining Group to open Bella Italia on Carluccio’s site in Watford: Casual Dining Group will open a Bella Italia site in Watford town centre this month. The company is converting the former Carluccio’s restaurant in High Street and hopes to open on Wednesday, 30 March. The refurbishment is costing £765,000. The restaurant will hold 116 diners and create 35 jobs. There are more than 100 Bella Italia restaurants across the UK.
 
PizzaExpress and Zizzi set for Stockport town centre: PizzaExpress and Zizzi are set to open restaurants in Stockport town centre’s £45m development Redrock next year. Both firms have taken on large units in the scheme, which is expected to open in 2017. More than half of the units in the new development have now been let, with The Light Cinema previously signing up. Executive member (thriving economy) Cllr Patrick McAuley said: “It is fantastic to welcome Zizzi and PizzaExpress to Stockport. These are both popular restaurants and them choosing to join us at Redrock is exciting news for our town. Redrock will see an important area of Stockport town centre transformed into a new, vibrant leisure and retail destination for residents and visitors.”
 
New wine bar, cafe and deli concept set to open in Sandwich: A new wine bar, cafe and deli concept is set to open in Sandwich, Kent. Wine importer Cristiano Maiello and interior designer Stephen Fairfax, who run online wine and spirits shop Divino London, have requested a licence from Dover District Council to sell alcohol and provide entertainment at an empty property in King Street. They hope to open the venue by late spring and have applied for a licence for recorded music from 10am to 11pm Monday to Sunday, and the supply of alcohol from 11.30am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and from noon to 11pm on Sunday. Fairfax told Kent Online: “We’d like it to be a delicatessen, a wine bar and a cafe, the three together. We’d like it to be something that is very chic and different. It will be very soft background music just to create an atmosphere.”
 
Hotel Du Vin lines up Stratford opening after planning consent granted: Plans to convert a pair of Georgian grade II-listed buildings in Stratford-upon-Avon into a Malmaison Hotel Du Vin boutique hotel have been given the go-ahead at the second time of asking. The historic townhouses in Rother Street are currently owned by Stratford Town Trust and international hotel operator Malmaison Hotel du Vin was looking to lease the building from them to create a 48-bedroom hotel and bistro in the heart of Stratford. The hotel, which is expected to create 65 jobs, is set to open in summer 2017. The application was recommended for approval when it first appeared before Stratford District Council’s planning committee back in November. But after concerns were raised about the proposed design and materials to be used, members opted to defer a decision on the project. Developer S Harrison Developments has since gone back to the drawing board and the modified proposals have now been given the green light by the authority’s planning committee. The final project will include a four-storey rear extension as well as plans to create a restaurant, bar, lounge and outside courtyard. Chief executive of Hotel du Vin Paul Roberts, said: “The hotel’s lifestyle brand is a perfect fit for those attracted to the stunning and thought-provoking Shakespearean sites that make Stratford such a global destination.”
 
Hull-based cafe owner opens second site: Hull-based cafe owner Anna Lamb has started expanding her portfolio by opening her second site in the city. Lamb, who launched The Wilmington in Foster Street three years ago, has opened Nibble in Queen Street at Hull Marina, offering “healthy, homemade food”. The cafe will also feature a rooftop garden, which opens in April, as well as a patio area. Lamb told the Hull Daily Mail: “It’s an amazing area to be in, especially with the views and the new developments. I wanted to offer people a healthy, fresh alternative and I thought this was the best place to do it. We use all local suppliers and everything is made in a homemade style. We also try to keep everything new and exciting so we have constantly changing specials and blackboard menus.”

Britain’s ‘largest’ Chinese restaurant to open English carvery in basement: Mr Chu China Palace in Hull, claimed by the owner to be “Britain’s largest Chinese restaurant”, is undergoing a major refurbishment to open a traditional English carvery in its basement, with plans for a third themed restaurant at the site. The restaurant has closed for the first time in 18 years for the work, which will see a carvery open in the basement bar and function room of the landmark building at St Andrew’s Quay in April. Restaurant founder Jack Chu told the Hull Daily Mail: “With the City of Culture coming up, I thought we should be doing a few different things, food from different cultures. We will also have a third restaurant with a different theme, maybe Italian or Japanese. It will mean three different types of food coming out of our kitchens.” The restaurant’s other claim to fame is via regular customer Lord Prescott, who once controversially claimed Mr Chu’s Peking duck was tastier than that served by his hosts during an official visit to China. Chu also operates Mr Chu Village Chinese Restaurant and the Plough Inn boutique hotel in Hayton, near York.

Pizza Hut executive joins Advance Group: Pizza Hut executive David Thompson has joined Advance Group, the hospitality technology company, as its new sales director. Thompson will have responsibility for leading a team to deliver the annual sales budget and growth in-line with the business strategy, together with the management of key customer accounts to build sustainable and productive long-term relationships. Thompson joins Advance Group from Pizza Hut, where he held the position of regional director for over two years. Responsible for the management of 95 branded restaurants, full profit and loss, together with the development and implementation of a strategy, Thompson maximised returns from a major brand transformation and reinvestment programme. In his time with the business, he delivered 17% Ebitda growth and achieved growth of up to 38% from investments.
 
Ali Naqvi – Greggs worth a ‘second helping’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ali Naqvi has said Greggs is worth a “second helping” following its full-year results on Tuesday (1 March). Issuing a ‘Buy’ note, Naqvi said: “FY2015 results came in with a slight beat, circa 1% at Ebit of £73m versus £72m consensus. Current trading will be the main driver of the share price, with 4.2% in like-for-like sales growth in the first eight weeks, driven by higher average transaction value and some price inflation; better than the 2.3% in quarter four 2015 and a trend many expect to continue. The group announced circa £100m investment in manufacturing and distribution operations over the next five years, consolidating from 12 bakeries to nine to support over 2,000 stores in the UK. All in all, a positive trading statement and one that underpins the potential for the medium-term transformation of the group. The group now trades on 17x FY2016 earnings per share and 8.3x EV/Ebitda and a circa 3% yield. With yesterday’s results, we expect the rating to tend close to the recent price-earnings ratio average of circa 20x as investors become reassured with the growth profile.”

Merlin Entertainment confirms Smiler ride will be running when Alton Towers reopens this month: Merlin Entertainment has confirmed its Smiler ride at Alton Towers will be running when the theme park reopens on Saturday, March 19. Five people were seriously injured on the ride last June and the Health and Safety Executive has launched a prosecution against Merlin. However the company confirmed on Twitter the 14-loop rollercoaster, which can reach a speed of 85km/hr, will be back in action for the 2016 season. The closure of Alton Towers in the aftermath of the accident, and the negative publicity that followed, were key reasons for the 12.4% fall in revenues at Merlin’s resort theme park division in 2015. Merlin’s chief executive Nick Varney has described 2015 as “the most difficult year in Merlin’s history”.

Lease on Jesmond bar and restaurant for sale as owners plan move to London: The lease on Jesmond bar and restaurant Jam Jar is up for sale with its current owners planning a move to London. Northumbria University graduates Josh Rose, Jonathan Edwards and Robert Clarkson opened the venue in Osborne Road in 2013 “having taken inspiration from The Trough in Manchester, as well as Shoreditch in London” for the concept’s style. They hope the new tenants will continue to run the bar and restaurant in the same vein as presently. The trio wants to create a festival similar to “The Boiler Shop Steamer” in Newcastle in the capital, combining food, drink, music and art. Rose said one of the main reasons for moving was because he lives there, and “we have a lot of contacts in London and a festival licence in Brockwell Park”. He told JesmondLocal: “It is a good business and the customers like it, so a lot of people that are looking to this property want to keep it as it is. Hopefully somebody will get interested.”

London-themed bar opens in Swansea: A London-themed bar where drinks are served out of a vintage double decker bus has opened in Swansea. Li’l London has been launched in The Strand with owners Dai Wakely, Sililo Martens and David Bellis claiming it has the most extensive cocktail menu in the city and also serves gourmet hot dogs. There is “VIP caravan and bus booths” along with table service. Wakely told Wales Online: “We have wanted to work together for a while but the concept and the timing had to be right. There is a real buzz about business in Swansea at the moment and once we collectively agreed on the right idea for the bar, we knew now was the time. I myself worked in London for two years, but over the past 12 months we have all done plenty of research in not just London, but various cities which host some of the best venues in the UK. I have been in the bar industry for 15 years and cocktails are my passion. Once the guys gave me the nod to create 100 I couldn’t wait.”

New pasta cafe concept opens in Liverpool: A new pasta cafe concept has opened in Liverpool. Kayleigh Baccino has opened Pasta Cosa in Castle Street, which offers a range of Italian street food and fresh Italian pasta. There are six types of pasta to choose from – penne, spaghetti, rigatoni, tagliatelle, gnocchi and orzo. Dishes on the menu include bolognese, pomodoro, carbonara, pesto and primavera. Baccino told the Liverpool Echo: “We’re offering authentic Italian fast food where customers can choose exactly how they want their dishes. It’s served as you’d have it in Italy, you choose your pasta, you choose your sauce, you choose your topping.”

Travelodge earnings exceed £100m: Full-year earnings at Travelodge have exceeded the £100m mark for the first time in the hotel group’s 30-year history, its chief executive has said. Peter Gowers hailed a record year for the group, attributing its success to investment in “the customer experience” as well as the company’s new-look rooms, which are driving “substantial improvements” in guest satisfaction. Total revenues grew by 13% to £558m for the year to 31 December 2015, up from £494m a year earlier. Revpar was up 11.7% to £38.44m. Travelodge welcomed a record 18 million customers in 2015 as its occupancy rates improved by one percentage point to 76.6%. With costs “tightly controlled”, the company’s Ebitda for the 12-month period will exceed £100m. Gowers said: “There continues to be strong underlying growth potential for value hotels. Travelodge has continued to outperform its market segment in the first weeks of 2016 and we have 19 new hotels scheduled to open this year. We have identified 250 further potential UK locations for new hotels and with our strong brand, direct distribution model and growing development pipeline, the board believes the company is well positioned to continue to deliver substantial further growth in the years ahead.”
 
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 adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

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