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Mon 7th Mar 2016 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Casual Dining Group plans 20 Ireland openings: Casual Dining Group, the owner of Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas, led by Steve Richards, is planning a major expansion into Ireland, with a target of as many as 20 openings within two years. The company has been building a pipeline of sites and is expecting to make its debut with a Las Iguanas opening this calendar year. The company plans to operate its Irish stores under direct management. Richards told Propel: “It’s a bit of an oddity that we do not have sites in Ireland already. We have an aspiration to open 20 stores within two years, operating in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.” Richards reported the shopping centre, retail parks and transport hub opportunities are not as developed as in England but the company has already identified sites that would suit its three major brands. Mark Nelson has joined the company as managing director of international franchising and concessions. Last year, a Café Rouge opened in Dubai and this month a Bella Italia opens in India – both in concert with franchise partners. As part of his responsibilities, Nelson – who has been working with the group as a consultant for 12 months – will head a newly created division of Casual Dining Group and lead the concessions, which include operations at airports and holiday parks, such as Center Parcs. Nelson is a former managing director of Elior UK, the contract caterer, and has also held several senior roles at OCS Group, the facilities management company with annual revenues of £900m. The appointment follows the departure of Andrew Walker, who stepped down from his position as managing director of business development in February to pursue new opportunities in the wider UK eating-out market. During an 18-month spell with the group, Walker helped progress a number of significant projects including a new training and development partnership with the Alain Ducasse organisation, and the creation of Café Rouge’s Rapide grab-and-go concept. Richards said: “I am delighted to welcome Mark to the group, who has been instrumental in helping to establish our franchise business. He brings a wealth of experience, which will be important as we take our brands further into the Middle East and Asian markets.” The Bella Italia restaurant in India – the brand’s first international location – will open at Aerocity in New Delhi, in partnership with Wave Hospitality. On Friday (4 March), Casual Dining Group reported it’s on track to achieve run-rate Ebitda of £50m in its current financial year to May 2016.

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 on 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

Lynx Purchasing – popularity of sea bass and salmon putting pressure on supplies: The huge popularity of sea bass on restaurant and pub menus is putting pressure on supplies, buying specialist Lynx Purchasing has warned. With salmon prices also high, operators able to use other species to vary menus and specials boards this spring and summer will not only do their bit for seafood sustainability, but also benefit from better quality and value from suppliers, the company said. The advice to make the switch from sea bass comes in the newly published spring 2016 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast. Lynx managing director Rachel Dobson said: “Over the past few years sea bass has moved from being a special to a regular dish on many menus, and we’re now seeing it offered all year around by many operators in the branded pub and casual dining sector. That inevitably has an impact. The appeal of sea bass to chefs is that it has a delicate flavour that works very well with sauces and accompaniments, but there are other fish that fit the bill. Both pollack and cod are forecast to be in good supply, while flat fish including brill, dabs, Dover sole, megrim and witch should also be at their best quality this spring. Salmon is another menu staple, and Norwegian salmon prices hit a 30-year high at the start of this year after Russia relaxed its import ban.” The Market Forecast also warned about the impact the UK’s unpredictable weather patterns could have on produce this spring. Dobson said it means salads, soft fruits, root crops and green vegetables are "all likely to see some challenges in terms of both price and availability".
 

Company News:

Imbiba raises £22m in three years for bar and restaurant concepts, updates on progress: Investment fund Imbiba Partnership has raised some £22m in the last three years for its bar and restaurant concepts Darwin & Wallace, Camm & Hooper, Ruth & Robinson and Wright & Bell, a new report has revealed. The tax efficient review of the fund by Enterprise Investment Fund gave Imbiba a score of 86 out of 100 and provided an update of each of the four concepts’ progress. The report stated: “Darwin & Wallace’s strategy is the development of stylish all-day bar/restaurants in the affluent villages of central London, exemplified by No11 Pimlico Road, No32 The Pavement, Clapham, and No1 Duke Street, Richmond, all three of which Imbiba says are trading well ahead of budget. The company has secured a further two sites; in Chiswick and Battersea, which are under refurbishment and will open in April and early 2017 respectively. A further two sites are at advanced stages and scheduled to open in 2017. Camm & Hooper is a new company created to revolutionise event space in central London and its first three units are Tanner & Co in Bermondsey Street, Banking Hall next to The Royal Exchange in the City, and the Victorian Bath House, Liverpool Street, all three of which Imbiba says are trading well ahead of budget. In addition the company has a further two new sites, which are due to open this summer and December. Ruth & Robinson’s strategy is to target young fashionable crowds in ‘trendy’ London locations like Camden, Shoreditch, Hackney, Old Street, and Brixton. Ruth & Robinson was created to deliver an all-day Brooklyn-inspired bar and restaurant concept into smaller footprint sites in London. The first site opened in February 2015. Performance of the site has been behind expectations and a new managing director (experienced leisure manager) appointment was made in August 2015. The new managing director has already secured a new site in Camden, which is due to open in the summer, and is in advanced negotiations on a number of attractive sites for the company with a view to bring the company’s performance back into line with expectations. Wright & Bell has raised £5m of EIS equity and provides all-day bar and restaurant venues in central London, focusing on the bar element and featuring locally crafted artisanal drinks. The first site, South Place Finsbury Square, Moorgate, has been secured and following refurbishment is expected to open this summer. The company is in advanced negotiations on a further two sites.” 
 
Redcomb Pubs set to launch pub-hotel on former Beefeater and Premier Inn site following £1m renovation: Redcomb Pubs, the multiple operator headed up by Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, will open its 14th site on Thursday, 17 March following a £1m renovation. Worplesdon Place, near Guildford, is on the site of a former Beefeater and Premier Inn. The 29-bedroom pub-hotel is held on a new 25-year free-of-tie lease with a private landlord. The 19th century country manor house was purchased by Redcomb in September, taking its growing portfolio to more than 100 rooms. The venue includes a family-friendly dining area, rustic and retro bar, and a terraced dining area. The menu features traditional pub classics, a flame-grilled rotisserie section, stone-baked pizzas, and a seasonal specials menu. The venue will offer wedding as well as conference and meeting packages. Shotton said: “We’ve developed a strong business across the Redcomb Pubs portfolio that centres on delivering simple, seasonal, freshly cooked food at sensible prices, an interesting range of wines and beers, top notch hospitality and a friendly relaxed environment. When redeveloping Worplesdon Place these were the fundamentals we hinged the business on.”

Just Eat boss sells £12.5m worth of shares just days after annual results: The boss of Just Eat, the digital marketplace for takeaway food delivery, has sold £12.5m worth of shares in the company just days after its annual results. Chief executive David Buttress offloaded almost 3.2 million shares for about 393p a piece on Friday (4 March). Chief financial officer Mike Wroe also sold shares worth about £6.6m. Buttress is left with just 500,000 shares, a 0.07% stake, and a further 1.5 million in stock in an executive share plan. Wroe has 350,000 shares and an extra one million in the plan. Aviate Global analyst Neil Campling told the Daily Telegraph the pair now “have virtually no skin in the game”. He added: “It hardly sends a positive message to shareholders.” It was only on Tuesday Just Eat posted results that helped assuage investor concerns the company was being hurt by mounting competition from rivals such as Deliveroo. The figures showed a 58% increase in revenues to £247.6m and a 57% rise in orders to 96.2 million. Underlying Ebitda was up 83% to £59.7m. 
 
London’s first allergen-free restaurant launches in Soho: Vegan cafe Yorica has opened in Soho offering dishes made entirely from natural ingredients. It claims to be London’s first allergen-free restaurant. The venue in Wardour Street offers 12 flavours of dairy-free ice cream and frozen yogurt, as well as biscuits, sweets, and hot and cold shakes, all created without dairy, gluten, nuts and egg. Manager Monika Jagielo told the Evening Standard: “We’ve really thought through all the ingredients we are using here. What we don’t want to do is just appeal to people with allergies. We want people to be able to enjoy a healthy treat.” Alexa Baracaia, a journalist whose five-year-old son has severe allergies, said: “The little treats most of us take for granted are simply off the menu for a child with multiple food allergies. We’ve never been able to take our son out to a cafe and buy him a cake, an ice cream, even a biscuit. It’s not simply a question of ordering a dish that doesn’t have nuts, as contamination from the kitchen or from allergens in the factory where the raw ingredients are processed rules out so much.”

Bounce to open first US site in Chicago in June, expects to turnover £13m in 2016: Bounce, the ping pong bar and restaurant concept by Adam Breeden, will open its first US site in Chicago in June. Breedon is currently rolling out the brand in the US along with darts bar and restaurant concept Flight Club, which he launched in Shoreditch, east London, last year with entrepreneurs Steve Moore and Paul Barham. He told Management Today: “A lot of businesses see opening in the US just as an extension of the UK operations. It’s very easy to assume that it’s a similar market – it’s operating in a country vastly different but because they speak English you’re lulled into a false sense of security that they are very similar. I think what we’re about to create in Chicago is going to be the best thing we’ve done yet.” Breedon, who set up high-end bowling alley and American diner concept All Star Lanes, which he sold in 2011, said Bounce was having to change its entire food and drink menu in the US. He added: “I ate in a restaurant in Chicago last week and on the menu was a whole cauliflower with cheese dribbled on top of it, which is a very popular dish. You wouldn’t dream of doing that over here; it’s just understanding the taste and preferences are completely different in the US.” Breedon said Bounce would take £13m in turnover in 2016 and attracts 12,000 customers a week across its two UK sites in Shoreditch and Farringdon. He added: “It’s not a fad. It was immediately questioned at the beginning – would it be successful for a couple of years and then people get bored of it? That’s not played out at all. From a corporate perspective, these concepts fulfil a need rather than a want.”

Hampstead red phone box coffee shop forced to close due to lack of street trading licence: A coffee shop in an iconic red phone box in Hampstead, north London, has been forced to close only weeks after opening. Kape Barako, founded by married couple Umar Khalid and Alona Guerra in High Street, began trading in early February. However, publicity for the venue caught the eye of Camden Council, which decided the couple would need to apply for a street trading licence and closed the site. Khalid said his landlord, Brighton-based Red Kiosk Company, had secured permission to run the phone box as a cafe and had not encountered the requirement of a street trading licence with phone-box businesses elsewhere in the country. He told Camden New Journal: “I thought I was doing something noble, keeping this iconic thing going, but I’ve had no help.” Khalid has since applied for a street trading licence but is awaiting approval. Red Kiosk Company opened the first two self-contained food and beverage kiosks in Brighton last year and has been looking to roll-out the format countrywide.
 
Spanish pizza delivery company seeks franchisees to lead expansion into UK: Telepizza, the Spanish pizza delivery company, is looking for regional master franchisees to lead its expansion into the UK market. The company will be attending the British and International Franchise Exhibition in London on Thursday and Friday (10 and 11 March) as it starts its hunt for franchisees. Giorgio Minardi, president of international at Telepizza, said: “We are excited to move into the UK market and are looking forward to establishing connections with the regional master franchisees who will help to build our brand here. Telepizza has a proven track record of excellent relationships with its regional master franchisees, thanks to our adaptability as business partners. Our heritage of quality, quick and friendly service and products tailored to suit individual markets, have been the bedrock of our success. We look forward to developing future partnerships at the British and International Franchise Exhibition.” Telepizza supports every regional master franchisee with its know-how and continued training. The company also safeguards quality standards, managing the entire process from factory to consumer. The company was founded in Spain in 1987 and has grown internationally to become the fourth largest pizza delivery company worldwide by number of stores with 1,311 outlets. It operates in 14 countries: Spain, Portugal, Poland, Russia, UAE, Angola, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala. Telepizza owns and operates about 35% of its worldwide stores with the remainder owned by its business partners.
 
New ‘Scandinavian-inspired’ coffee shop and bar concept set to open in Exeter: A new “Scandinavian-inspired” coffee shop and bar concept is set to open in Exeter. An application has been lodged on behalf of Aviva Investors for the venue in the new Queen Street dining quarter at The Guildhall Shopping Centre. The business, described as having the intention “to provide a high-quality, casual, all-day, food and drink offer within a relaxed and comfortable environment”, will be based in one of the largest units covering two floors and an outdoor seating area, reports the Exeter Express & Echo. Food is expected to start at 7am and be served throughout the day, providing a casual style of dining alongside the speciality coffee shop and bar. The “full menu” is expected to be provided from about noon onwards. The coffee shop and bar would join Turtle Bay, The Stable, which is 51% owned by Fuller’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Artigiano’s craft beer bar The Terrace at the new dining quarter, which is due to open at the end of August.
 
Chestnut Group appoints growth marketing agency to support expansion plans: Cambridgeshire-based Chestnut Group, which was established in May 2012 by former banker and corporate financier Philip Turner, has appointed growth marketing agency Thomond to support its expansion plans. The Chestnut Group has recruited Thomond as it looks to establish its footprint within East Anglia and is currently reviewing a number of opportunities as it looks to develop services across hospitality, management and lifestyle. Turner said: “We are at a very exciting stage in The Chestnut Group’s evolution and wanted a partner that can help us achieve our ambitions of creating a brand that is renowned for setting new standards within the hospitality sector. Thomond’s proven experience of establishing market leading brands and providing a flexible range of PR and marketing services made them an ideal partner for us.” Thomond managing director Jonathon Bates added: “Having meet Philip and the team it was clear straight away that they are no ordinary hospitality group. There is a very clear vision and plan for how they want The Chestnut brand to become synonymous with a new benchmark for service and quality within the hospitality sector, which is a hugely exciting prospect.” The Chestnut Group’s first opening was The Packhorse Inn in Moulton, near Newmarket. It also owns The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester and has taken on The White Horse in Easton, near Framlingham, which marks the company’s first move into management. The portfolio also includes the former nine-bedroom Ounce House in Bury St Edmunds, which is currently undergoing a major renovation before opening later this summer.
 
Starbucks dedicates its 20th Military Family Store: Starbucks has dedicated its 20th Military Family Store – at its Broadway and Campbell site in Tucson, Arizona. The store, near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, supports military veterans, reservists and spouses. Many Military Family Stores are staffed by veterans and military spouses and work with non-profit organisations in local communities to provide services for veterans and their families. Employees at Broadway and Campbell will collaborate with Blue Star Families. In November, Starbucks announced it had hired more than 5,500 veterans and military spouses, passing the halfway mark to reaching its commitment made in 2013 to hire 10,000 by 2018. At the time, Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said: “We have a responsibility as a nation to honour our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice, but it goes beyond saying thank you – we must put our thanks into action and collectively help those who are making the transition from military to civilian life.”
 
Deltic Group starts second conversion of Chicago’s nightclub into new Bar & Beyond format: Deltic Group has closed its Chicago’s nightclub in Stevenage and will relaunch it as its second Bar & Beyond venue in the middle of April. The nightclub at Stevenage Leisure Park is undergoing a 43-day refit, returning with a “distinctly more upmarket feel, with food and a bar in one room and a club in another”. Deltic Group is looking to roll-out the Bar & Beyond concept, inspired by “Shoreditch and Abba”, at other Chicago’s sites. The company created its inaugural Bar & Beyond following an £800,000 transformation of its Chicago’s in Chelmsford in November. Its remaining Chicago’s venues are in Basildon, Hanley, King’s Lynn, Norwich, Stourbridge and Yeovil.
 
Loungers eyes venue at Corby nightclub site: Cafe bar brand Loungers plans to open a venue, with the working name Paletto Lounge, on the site of a former nightclub in Corby, Northamptonshire. Loungers has applied to serve alcohol from 10am to 11pm, from Sunday to Wednesday, and from 10am to midnight on Thursday to Saturday. There is also an application for late-night food to be served from 11pm until 11.30pm during the week, and from 11pm until 12.30am from Thursday to Saturday. The Northamptonshire Telegraph reports final agreements have yet to be signed by the leaseholders Sovereign Estates, but negotiations are believed to be in the final stages. Loungers was started by three friends in Bristol in 2000 and now has nearly 80 sites in the UK. The closest Loungers venue to Corby is Kino Lounge in Kettering.
 
Laine Pub Company opens New York-inspired Brighton bar with 4am licence: Laine Pub Company, led by Gavin George and backed by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, has opened a New York-inspired late-night bar in Brighton. East Street Tap, formerly The Fishbowl, in East Street has undergone a major refurbishment, which has seen the interior completely stripped back. Two large clocks sit side-by-side behind the bar, one displaying GMT, the other EST. The bar will stay open as late as 4am, with live music and indie DJs and serves UK and US craft beer on tap as well as bottled craft beers from the eastern US, such as Trillium, Alchemist, Brooklyn, Dogfish Head, Stillwater, Jack’s Abby and Evil Twin. The food menu has a New York deli leaning with bagels, hoagie, wedge and hero sandwiches as well as meat ’n’ cheese sharing platters. Laine Pub Company operates 36 pubs in Brighton and eight in London. In February, it announced plans to increase the number of its sites in the capital to 25.
 
Coffee Republic opens 28th UK franchise site in Manchester, expands further abroad: Coffee Republic has opened its 28th franchise site – in Cross Street, Manchester. The site is in addition to four company-owned bars, including Bluewater Shopping Centre, and is in line with the company’s planned 20 openings in the UK this year during Coffee Republic’s biggest period of growth since new owners took over in 2009. Coffee Republic has also continued its international growth by opening two sites in Bahrain to add to its 20 bars outside the UK. In January, Coffee Republic opened the first of ten cafes to be launched this year in Co-operative stores as part of a franchise deal between the two companies.
 
New concept operating as coffee shop by day and gourmet burger restaurant and cocktail bar by night opens in Cardiff: A new concept operating as a coffee shop in the day and a gourmet burger restaurant and cocktail bar by night has opened in Cardiff. Time & Beef has launched in Cowbridge Road East on the site of cafe-bar Time. By day the venue, which seats up to 80 people, serves artisan coffees and homemade cakes and by night it transforms into a gourmet burger restaurant and cocktail bar. Customers are in full control of the burger menu as they are able to use a tick-box system to create and personalise their burger. Manager Stephen Chambers told Wales Online: “Customers can create their own burgers using our four step process, choosing everything from bun to sauces! They then personalise their burger with our ‘name your burger’ concept, which is our creative way to connect with our customers and have a bit of fun.” A wide range of craft cocktails, mocktails and locally brewed boutique ales and beers are also on offer.
 
JD Wetherspoon to launch all-day Sunday brunch in wake of roast row: JD Wetherspoon is launching an all-day Sunday brunch menu amid changes to its offerings across the UK. Each brunch meal comes with a club-range drink of choice, to which JD Wetherspoon has added a new iced frappe. Brunch meals feature Lincolnshire sausages, eggs, baked beans and chips, with a vegetarian option available. The move comes in the wake of customer anger over JD Wetherspoon’s decision to axe Sunday roasts from its menu after Mother’s Day (6 March), to focus on its all-day, “core 8am to 11pm” menu. JD Wetherspoon food development manager Matt Elsdon said: “We strive to offer our customers a huge variety of meals and snacks – all day, every day – including our all-day brunch option. Our new Sunday brunch offer, which now includes a drink, makes it even better value.” JD Wetherspoon’s new frappe is served over ice, topped with whipped cream, and comes in two flavours – vanilla with chocolate sauce on top and caramel with caramel sauce.
 
Greene King to begin work on controversial Hungry Horse site on outskirts of Perth: Greene King is set to begin work on its controversial Hungry Horse restaurant on the outskirts of Perth. The plan was thrown out by Perth and Kinross Council’s development management committee in December 2014, despite Greene King’s assurances the new value brand venue would create 60 jobs and boost the local economy. However, Greene King had the councillors’ decision overturned and secured planning consent following an appeal to Scottish ministers last August. In its submission to the directorate for planning and environmental appeals, a Greene King spokesman said there was an oversupply of office accommodation in and around the city. He said: “The proposed development will assist in attracting future employment users to the vacant, adjacent plots.” Greene King secured a site licence in December. The company described the Broxden site as a “prime position in the heart of Scotland”. However, local councillor Willie Wilson told The Courier this week he felt the development was “completely unnecessary” for the Broxden area.
 
Whitbread launches new hot lunch and puddings range at Costa Fresco: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee has launched a new range of hot lunches and puddings exclusive to its London concept store Costa Fresco. The company has partnered with luxury brand Charlie Bigham’s and handmade dessert creators Cartmel as it “responds to the growing public desire for choice and quality in the lunch category”. The Charlie Bigham’s lunches include macaroni cheese, fish pie, and lasagna while the Cartmel desserts on offer are sticky toffee pudding and sticky chocolate pudding. Meals will be baked fresh in-store at the Tottenham Court Road outlet while desserts will be chilled and heated for customers on purchase. The new offering extends the Costa Fresco menu, which features handcrafted ciabattas and pastries, fresh soups, and salads alongside Costa’s Mocha Italia blend, which goes into its handcrafted barista-made coffee. Carol Welch, global brand and innovation director, said: “Our Costa Fresco store was inspired by the Costa brothers’ passion for delicious food so we’re proud to be working with Charlie Bigham’s and Cartmel to expand our menu. We know that our customers want quality food with their coffee, and we’re confident the addition of these delicious products to our menu will give them yet more choice and expand our hot food offer.”
 
Inn Collection Group acquires seventh site, first city venue: North east hospitality company Inn Collection Group (ICG), which is backed by private equity firm Kings Park Capital, has added its first city property to its expanding portfolio. The company has bought The Kingslodge Hotel in Durham, which brings the number of inns operated by the group to seven. It is now carrying out a major refurbishment of the property, which will create two additional rooms, bringing the total number to 23. The current separate restaurant area will also become an integral part of the new The King’s Lodge Inn, which it is transforming into a “cosy and welcoming traditional pub”. All existing hotel employees will transfer to the new business and additional staff will be recruited. ICG chief executive officer Keith Liddell said: “The acquisition of The Kingslodge Hotel is the latest step in our buy and develop expansion plan. It is the perfect addition to our group and has a great location that’s popular with tourists and locals alike. Its location in the historic city as well as close proximity to Sunderland and Newcastle means the unit is a popular choice for corporate customers too.” ICG’s other sites are The Lindisfarne Inn near Holy Island, The Bamburgh Castle Inn in Seahouses, The Hog’s Head Inn in Alnwick, The Seaton Lane Inn near Seaham, The King’s Head Inn at Newton under Roseberry in North Yorkshire, and the soon to open Commissioners Quay Inn in Blyth. 
 
Success for Fleurets in EGi Done Deals Awards: Property agent Fleurets has reported success in the EGi Done Deals Awards, coming second overall in the leisure and hotels category. Fleurets have seven offices across the UK, and can report each office has finished in one of the top three rankings for the leisure category, with three first places and four seconds. First place positions were awarded to the regions of Yorkshire, East Anglia as well the south east (outside of London). Simon Hall, director and head of agency at Fleurets, said: “We are thrilled to be winners for three regions as well as second for another four. Personally being based in the Yorkshire office, I am delighted with my team’s results. Although here at Fleurets we work in a niche field, we aspire to cover a broad range of leisure properties and truly work across and understand our geographical regions; it is a hugely rewarding feeling to have our efforts acknowledged by Estates Gazette.” Furthermore, Fleurets was also recently shortlisted as finalists for Property Week’s Property Awards in both the Leisure Agency Team of the Year and Niche or Regional Agency Team of the Year categories.
 
MasterChef The Professionals winner opens first restaurant: Jamie Scott, 2014 winner of BBC MasterChef: The Professionals, has opened his first restaurant – The Newport – in Newport on Tay, Fife. Scott told Fife Today: “It was always my intention to open my first restaurant in the Fife and Dundee area. This is where I grew up and drew all my inspiration from. The Newport gives me everything I wanted in my first venture. Newport on Tay is a beautiful coastal town with the most incredible views across the river. My food will reflect the natural surroundings and I am very excited about the future.”

Marston’s secures land for 38-bedroom hotel in Stirling: Marston’s has secured land to build a 38-bedroom lodge hotel in Stirling. The company has acquired three-quarters of an acre near the entrance of the Kildean Business Park for the project. The sale was conducted by Stirling Development Agency – a 50/50 joint venture between Stirling Council and property investment firm Valad Europe, reports Scottish Construction Now. Marston’s already owns The Highland Gate family pub at Kildean. The deal is conditional on Marston’s getting planning permission for the hotel.
 
Hi-Spirits to distribute Southern Comfort and Tuaca from April: Distribution company Hi-Spirits is to distribute Southern Comfort and Tuaca in the UK from Friday, 1 April, following the acquisition of the brands by US spirits company Sazerac. Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton said: “Southern Comfort and Tuaca are both iconic brands, and a great fit with our expanding portfolio. With strong consumer followings we are looking forward to building further distribution across the UK on-trade, off-trade and travel retail channels. We’re very excited to be working with current and new stockists of Southern Comfort and Tuaca to drive growth.” Sazerac, which Propel reported is understood to have bought Hi-Spirits, acquired Tuaca and Southern Comfort from Brown-Forman in January. It plans to bring the Southern Comfort brand back to its Deep South roots, and plans to restore the New Orleans connection in its branding and on its packaging worldwide. Originating in Italy, Tuaca is a brandy-based spirit with roots that reportedly can be traced back to the Renaissance period. Sazerac will be developing its comprehensive global strategy for Tuaca in the coming months, including evaluating the current packaging. The brand’s heritage is expected to be played up in the new strategy. 
 
FAB noodle bar concept launches in Hinckley: FAB, a new noodle bar concept developed by Leicestershire-based restaurateur Jay Jayasooriya, has launched in Hinckley. The restaurant in The Crescent development offers noodle and rice-based dishes with pork, beef and chicken, with paneer for vegetarians. All dishes come with special FAB sauce. The restaurant will also offer traditional English breakfasts and sandwiches, with options to eat-in or take away. Hemaanth Kurukulasurlya, a partner in FAB, which stands for Food at Best, told the Hinckley Times: “We’re trying to change what people usually think about noodle restaurants. We want to be a bit different, a bit of a hybrid between fast food and a restaurant. I think it’s going to work really well because it’s a bit different.” The noodle bar is open from 8am to 11pm weekdays and Saturdays, and 11am to 11pm on Sundays.
 
Red Squirrel Group increases crowdfunding target to £700,000 to expand brewery and craft beer shop estate: Red Squirrel Group has increased its fund-raising target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to £700,000 to expand its brewery and craft beer shop estate. The Hertfordshire-based company, founded by Greg Blesson and Jason Duncan-Anderson, hit its initial £500,000 target last month having offered a 9.80% equity stake in the company in return for the investment. So far 627 investors have pledged £666,660 and it is now “overfunding” with three days remaining following an extension to the campaign. The largest investment to date is £50,000. Blesson said: “We have been inundated with requests for business plans and general interest in our company! We are keen to hit £700,000 and we are very close to achieving this target. Please don’t miss out with a few days to go.” The company plans to use the funds to expand its brewery operations from 5,000HL (50,000 litre capacity) to 15,000HL (150,000 litre capacity) 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 company forecasts sales of £973,000 in the first 12 months, £2m the following year, and £4.6m by 2016/17. 
 
Shimla Pinks restaurant in Leicester shuts after inspectors find live mouse: The Leicester site of upmarket Indian restaurant Shimla Pinks has been closed after health inspectors found a live mouse and rat droppings. Officers shut the restaurant while people were dining, with the business fined £1,000 during a hearing at the city’s magistrates on Thursday (3 March). The court was told droppings were found behind the freezer and there were holes in doors and the skirting boards, allowing rodents access to food preparation areas. The council said in a statement the owners were not allowed to open until it was satisfied they had addressed the problems. Owner Meena Patel told the Leicester Mercury he felt terrible about the problem and vowed to rectify it. The restaurant, in London Road, will close for a week to allow walls to be rebuilt and kitchen equipment replaced. Shimla Pinks has earned consistent positive reviews on TripAdvisor, earning it a “certificate of excellence” in 2015.

Lancashire hotel sold to experienced operator: The Astley Bank Hotel in Darwen, Lancashire, has been sold to experienced hotel operator Alan Ezekiel for an undisclosed sum. The 19th century manor house was being marketed by agent Colliers International on behalf of owners Nigel and Helen Ainscow, who are retiring from the hospitality trade having operated the venue since 1997. Astley Bank Hotel has 37 bedrooms including ten suites, a recently refurbished restaurant with up to 100 covers, and eight conference rooms set in 2.5 acres of maintained gardens and grounds. Ezekiel told Insider Media: “Astley Bank Hotel is one of the finest hotel establishments in Darwen and for the past 19 years, under the helm of Nigel and Helen Ainscow, has excelled in its wedding, conferencing and corporate business facilities for the local and regional communities of Blackburn, Bolton and beyond. Recognised for its outstanding service reputation, its high degree of customer satisfaction and an equally warm reputation from its staff, Astley Bank Hotel’s new management under my guidance intends to enhance and upgrade the hotel to even higher standards of excellence in the coming months.” 
 
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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