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Thu 31st Mar 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

CAMRA considers rebrand as it conducts wholesale review into purpose and strategy: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is to conduct a wholesale review into its purpose and strategy that could lead to one of the largest single-issue consumer groups in the world coming to an end after 45 years. The organisation will consult with its near-180,000 members to ask them who and what it should represent in the future – and it may no longer be focused on real ale. One of its four founders Michael Hardman has returned to lead the Revitalisation Project – a wholesale review into the purpose and strategy of CAMRA. Members will be invited to share their views about the future of CAMRA by completing surveys or by attending one of about 50 consultation meetings across the UK this summer. They’ll be asked whether CAMRA should move away from promoting and protecting traditional real ale and become more inclusive, or shed subsidiary issues that have become attached to the organisation over the years, such as pubs’ heritage, cider, and foreign beer, in order to narrow its focus exclusively on cask-conditioned beer. The Revitalisation Project is CAMRA’s response to the beer and pub industry, which has changed hugely since the organisation was founded in 1971. The rise of craft beer and a resurgence of interest in beer in recent years, plus renewed threats to pubs, has challenged CAMRA to review if it is best positioned to represent its members in the future. Options include becoming a consumer organisation for all beer drinkers, all pub goers regardless of what they drink, or even all alcohol drinkers, regardless of where they drink it. Hardman said: “This could mark a fundamental turning point for the Campaign for Real Ale. So fundamental, it may no longer continue as the Campaign for Real Ale and instead become a campaign for pubs, or a campaign for all drinkers. It’s not up to us though. It’s up to our members to tell us what they want the organisation to do in the future. CAMRA has sometimes been criticised for failing to move with the times, being old-fashioned and reactionary, and failing to embrace developments in the pub and beer industry such as craft beer. This is the chance for our members to tell us who we should represent in the future and what we should be campaigning for. Who do we represent now, and who should we represent in the future to help secure the best outcome for the brewing and pub industry? If we want to play a key part in driving the beer market back into growth and to help create a thriving pub sector, do we continue with our narrow focus, or should we become more inclusive? I’ve always been immensely proud to be a founding member of CAMRA. I’m just as proud to be able to return to head up the Revitalisation Project to ensure the organisation we launched in 1971 is relevant and effective for the next 45 years. When we founded the Campaign for Real Ale the most important thing was choice and combating poor quality beer. Now our members need to tell us what is important to them. We need to hear from as many CAMRA members as possible to tell us what they think the organisation should look like in the future.”
 

Industry News:

Jonathan Downey sets out progress in developing a UK and international food market business: The next audio recording to be sent to Propel Premium subscribers will feature London Union co-founder Jonathan Downey. In the recording, which will be sent out next week, Downey sets out progress in developing a network of 12 London neighbourhood markets, development of the business internationally, how the model is working for traders, and projected figures for the current year. 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. 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, 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
 
Burger & Lobster pulls out of first Scottish site citing American opportunities: Burger & Lobster, which was due to open its first Scottish branch in the Marischal Square development in Aberdeen, has pulled out of the deal. The company said opportunities had arisen in America that were of a higher priority, BBC News reports. Aberdeen City Council said last September Burger & Lobster had agreed to open a venue in the £107m office and hotel complex, which is due to open in summer 2017 on the site of the former council headquarters. Earlier this month, Burger & Lobster announced it planned to expand to 25 restaurants by the end of 2016. It currently has 12 sites in the UK, one in the US and three franchised restaurants. Managing director Simon King told the Propel Multi Club Conference the company planned three more UK restaurants before the summer, two more franchised sites by July and two more New York City sites. King reported the first New York site served 8,000 customers in one week, while it was currently serving 39,000 customers per week in the UK. In the UK, Burger & Lobster would need to develop a “smaller Burger & Lobster variant”, he told the conference. He added: “We took £47,000 net in Bath last week – we can’t do that (level of turnover) in Aberdeen.” The council said it was disappointed at Burger & Lobster’s decision. 
 
Cardiff named UK’s top spot for hotel development and acquisitions: Cardiff has been named the top spot for hotel development and acquisitions across the UK. The Welsh capital came top of Colliers International’s inaugural UK Hotels Market Index, an analysis of 36 locations across the UK. Manchester came second followed by Leeds, Chester, Liverpool, York, London, Edinburgh, Brighton and Bath. The report used nine KPIs including land value, room occupancy rates and construction costs to give each location a score from one to five with one being the lowest and five being the highest. These scores were then consolidated into a single figure. Cardiff came top mainly due to its low active pipeline, low build costs, and strong hotel performance over the past three years, partly due to the city’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2015. Cardiff also saw the biggest compound annual growth rate over the period. At the other end of the spectrum, Bradford and Hull ranked lowest overall. Despite more affordable development costs, both record average daily rates below the regional UK market average, contributing to an overall lower market appetite and valuation yield. However, these markets have been among the fastest growing in the UK. Meanwhile, Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester come out on top for occupancy levels in 2015, each reporting levels above 80%. Cambridge, Hull and Belfast were the markets with the highest share of new supply entering the market, representing 29.4%, 22.7% and 21.1% respectively. The locations that offer a more affordable development proposition were Coventry, Warrington and Sheffield. The 36 places analysed in the report total a current supply of 286,966 hotel rooms. London accounts for the majority taking a 47% share, while Manchester and Edinburgh are next in line, both with 5%. Head of hotels and resorts consulting Marc Finney said: “High land prices in London are causing investors to look outside of the capital for opportunities to spend their cash. As such, we are increasingly being asked by our hotel investor and operator clients which UK regional cities offer the best development opportunities. Together with our regional experts, who know the local UK markets exceptionally well, our Hotel Market Index gives us something more than anecdotal evidence through which to advise our clients.”

Piper – lunchtime market operators should take lessons from casual dining sector: Operators are being urged to review their lunchtime food offer as a new survey by sector investor Piper Private Equity revealed one-third of people in high-density working lunch hot spots are bored by the food on offer. Yasha Estraikh, customer research and insight lead at Piper, said the lunchtime market needed to take more lessons from the casual dining industry, which was now impinging on the sector with its own takeaway services as well as Deliveroo. Estraikh said brands able to stay relevant throughout different parts of the day and offer a strong branded experience would prevail in the long-term. The study, carried out in London and Manchester, revealed nearly two-thirds (64%) of Londoners bought their lunch from three or more places in a typical working week, with half of respondents led by what they wanted to eat rather than where they wanted to eat. As a consequence, Estraikh said, loyalty and brand engagement had become trickier to promote in the lunchtime space. She said operators should focus on a good coffee offering, with 50% of coffee-drinking respondents “more likely” to revisit a place that served good coffee. Another tactic was to increase the size of units and availability of seating, Estraikh said, using Pret A Manger as a good example. She added some operators had innovated by trying to capture the evening space, with brands such as The Grind and Fernandez & Wells making a smooth transition from cafes to wine bars. Estraikh said that for lunchtime brands operating outside the capital, pricing was essential – 67% of Londoners spend £5 or more on lunch, compared with 42% of Mancunians. She said brands would have to break out of the midday to 2pm bubble and increasingly seek to establish a strong breakfast offering (23% of Londoners buy breakfast at least once a week from an on-the-go operator) as well as servicing mid-morning/mid-afternoon coffee runs and post-work snacks, meals and drinks. 

Company News:

Italian Job hits £350,000 crowdfunding target to open second site: The UK’s first Italian craft beer pub The Italian Job has hit its £350,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open its second site. The company, whose inaugural venue is in Chiswick, west London, was originally offering a 17.5% equity stake in return for the investment but increased it to 22.22% after extending the campaign earlier this month. So far 143 investors have pledged £366,780 and it is now “overfunding” with nine days remaining. The largest investment to date is £40,000. The company said the funds would be used to take over the lease of a new pub, ideally somewhere in east London. The target pub will have 80 covers with the ability to accommodate more than 100 people at peak times. The site will preferably have a late licence to cater for the desired younger demographic, and the business is looking to pay a premium in order to mimimise refurbishment expenses. Unique and interesting locations are preferred and the new site is planned to be open by the summer. The Italian Job is a joint venture from the founders of Italian brewery Birrificio del Ducato, and Marco Pucciotti who owns several pubs and restaurants in Rome including Hop & Pork and Epiro.
 
Hawthorn Leisure buys historic JD Wetherspoon pub in King’s Lynn: Hawthorn Leisure has bought the historic Lattice House pub in King’s Lynn from JD Wetherspoon for an undisclosed amount. The grade II-listed pub in Chapel Street was one of 34 sites JD Wetherspoon put on the market late last year. The pub’s last trading day under the company’s brand will be Saturday, 7 May but a JD Wetherspoon spokesman said existing staff would be offered jobs under the new management. Hawthorn Leisure chief executive Gerry Carroll told the Eastern Daily Press: “We are delighted to welcome management and staff into the Hawthorn team as they transfer across with the pub. It will be business as usual from completion and our relentless focus on people, quality and delivering great value will ensure we continue to offer a fantastic proposition for our customers.” The building that houses the Lattice House became an inn in 1714. It was originally a 15th century house used by clerks of the nearby St Nicholas’ Chapel. JD Wetherspoon bought the pub in November 1998. Its other venue in the town – the Globe Hotel in Tuesday Market Place – is being retained. Hawthorn Leisure was formed in 2013 and currently owns more than 350 pubs across the UK having bought 275 sites from Greene King in 2014.
 
Apartment Group to convert tapas restaurant in Sunderland into dedicated gourmet burger concept, first of its kind in city: North east-based leisure operator Apartment Group is to convert its tapas restaurant in Sunderland into a dedicated gourmet burger concept. The company, owned by Duncan Fisher, will launch Saucy Burger at the end of April in the Dr Feelgood site in Hylton Riverside, creating an additional ten to 15 jobs. The tapas restaurant, which opened in 2013, will continue to operate for the time being but will be transformed into Saucy Burger in time for a series of VIP opening nights beginning on Thursday, 21 April. It will be the first time the city has a sit-down restaurant focused on burgers. Apartment Group said it decided to launch the concept after noticing how popular burgers were at its other Sunderland business, Liberty Brown, which will continue to operate downstairs on the retail park site. Group operations manager Donna Cope told the Sunderland Echo: “There’s been smokehouses open in Sunderland, but we wanted to do something different. We’ll be offering some weird and wonderful versions of burgers.” Apartment Group’s other venues include As You Like It in Jesmond, Florita’s in Newcastle city centre, and Newton Hall in Newton-by-the-Sea.
 
New World Trading Company applies to open The Botanist in York: New World Trading Company has lodged plans to open The Botanist in York. The company has applied to City of York Council to open a site in the former Mulberry Hall building in Stonegate. It has asked for permission to use the venue as a restaurant and bar, reports the York Press. In January, the owners of Mulberry Hall were given the go-ahead to use the venue as a restaurant. However, under planning law, New World Trading Company’s proposal could not be classed as a restaurant and so it needs the further change to open the bar. The Botanist has nine sites in the UK, including Chester, Leeds and Newcastle, and this week revealed it had secured a site in Sheffield.
 
Geof Collyer issues final sector note before retirement, a ‘Buy’ recommendation on Enterprise Inns: Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Enterprise Inns in his final note prior to retirement yesterday (Wednesday, 30 March). He said: “We maintain our conclusions from last year that the evolution of the group from a pure tenanted and leased pubco to one with three distinctly different business divisions (managed estate, commercial real estate and a much smaller but significantly more profitable tenanted and leased estate) should deliver a clearer understanding of where the value lies within the Enterprise Inns portfolio. We have maintained our ‘sum-of-the-pubs’ target price of 150p (+63% upside), based on FY17E. This rises to 265p by FY20E, which is a 10% increase on our November note. We maintain our ‘Buy’ recommendation. Our ‘sum-of-the-pubs’ price target methodology, based on FY17E, is as follows: tenanted and leased estate valued on 10x EV/Ebita, the average multiple that Enterprise Inns has traded on since its initial public offering 20 years ago; commercial property estate valued on 13.3x EV/Ebita or 7.5% Ebita yield; managed pub estate valued on 10x EV/Ebita. This is a discount to the prevailing average of the main quoted managed pub and restaurant groups.”

Rosa’s Thai Cafe to open seventh site in Victoria in May: Rosa’s Thai Cafe, which aims to combine “modern London with modern Bangkok”, will open its seventh site in Victoria in May. The company, founded by Alex Moore and his Thai wife Saiphin, will open the 1,300 square foot venue in Wilton Street. The site hosted the pop-up Laos Cafe by Saiphin Moore at the end of last year but is being transformed ahead of the Rosa’s launch on Monday, 2 May, reports TNT Magazine. It will have the same authentic Thai food menu with a contemporary twist as the other cafes. Meanwhile, the drinks menu will feature ice-cold Thai beer and bottled cocktails such as Kaffir Lime and Mint Toreador designed specifically to complement Thai dishes. There will also be a selection of loose-leaf teas from Comins Tea House that includes Houjicha, Sencha karigane and a new addition to the collection, Lishan spring tea. Rosa’s Thai Cafe, which secured £1.8m in funding from Santander in January for expansion, was launched in Spitalfields in 2006. It has since opened sites in Carnaby Street, Chelsea, Islington, Soho, and Westfield Stratford.
 
Franco Manca to open Brighton venue in May, second site outside London: Pizza brand Franco Manca, owned by Fulham Shore, will open a venue in Brighton in May, its second site outside London. The 130-seater restaurant is in Regent Street, in the historic North Laine area of the city, on the site of the former Surf & Ski Sports shop. Fulham Shore chairman David Page told The Argus: “If all goes well, we should get open for the end of May. It’ll be our second restaurant outside of London. We’re really, really excited.” Franco Manca operates 19 sourdough pizzerias in London, the latest launch being in Stoke Newington, with Guildford to be the first venue to open outside the capital. Franco Manca has also secured a lease for a site in Bromley and has exchanged contracts on another in a large office and retail development Nova Victoria, behind Buckingham Palace. The company is also seeking planning permission to open a venue in Kentish Town as part of ongoing expansion plans.
 
Stonegate reopens Henry’s Cafe Bar in Piccadilly following £400,000 refurbishment: Stonegate Pub Company has reopened Henry’s Cafe Bar in Piccadilly following a £400,000 refurbishment. The venue was one of 53 sites Stonegate acquired from the Tattershall Castle Group in a pre-pack administration in September. The former art deco building now “celebrates modern design”, with new features including an illuminated art chimney wall. Guests can relax in soft lounge chairs or leather booths. Dishes include burgers, puff pastry pies, sharing plates, Asian platters, middle-eastern tostada and make-your-own-salads. Vegetarian options include courgette cannelloni, while hot chocolate-puddle pudding and caramel apple crumble pie feature on the dessert menu. Drinks include more than 20 wines, plus four champagnes, Italian prosecco and English fizz, alongside cocktails and British craft beers, cask ales and ciders. There is also a choice of five fruit smoothies or ice-cold frappes. A Stonegate spokesman said: “Henry’s Cafe Bar has always had an eclectic atmosphere where London’s city slickers, socialites and foodies rub elbows with enthusiastic tourists, all with a common goal – to enjoy some of the city’s friendliest service and affordable food and drink.”
 
Thai Leisure Group opens Thaikhun venue at Intu Metrocentre, first north east site: Thai Leisure Group has opened a street food restaurant under its Thaikhun brand in the Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead, its first site in the north east and seventh in total. The 4,500 square foot site is in the revamped Qube section of the shopping centre. Thaikhun managing director Ian Leigh told Chronicle Live: “Breaking into the north east market has been on our agenda for a while now, so we are incredibly excited to be investing in the region. We hope our new restaurant will bring something a little different to Intu Metrocentre’s current food and drink offering, as well as ignite our customer’s dreams of exploring Thailand through our traditional Thai street food and interactive dining experience.” Thaikhun is one of nine restaurants to open in Metrocentre’s £17m dining and leisure extension, set to be completed within the next month. Thai Leisure Group is jointly owned by Thai chef Kim Kaewkraikhot and British entrepreneur Martin Stead. It will open its eighth Thaikhun site in Guildford in May.
 
Freehold of former JD Wetherspoon site in Luton sells at auction for £900,000: The freehold of a former JD Wetherspoon pub in Luton has been bought at auction for £900,000. The London Hatter in Park Street closed its doors in February for “commercial reasons” with staff re-employed at other company sites. The freehold has been bought by a family-run private investment firm based in Elstree, near Borehamwood, reports the Luton News. Although JD Wetherspoon no longer operates from the site it still leases the property for £61,000 a year. The agreement will expire in 2041 – although the company has a break clause it can exercise in 2026 with six months’ notice. It is understood JD Wetherspoon is looking to sub-let the property in order to negate the cost of the lease. The freehold included the site’s ground floor, five parking spaces and one upper floor. The former pub is part of a larger building, the remainder of which was not up for sale. The London Hatter first opened in July 2011 after a £960,000 refurbishment of the building, which used to operate as Legends nightclub.
 
Caffe Latte to open first site in Manchester, looks to build 40-strong estate nationwide: Cheshire-based coffee shop Caffe Latte is continuing its expansion as it looks to build a 40-strong estate nationwide with its first site in Manchester. The company, owned by Francesca Manuel, is launching the venue in Spring Gardens, just off Market Street, on Wednesday, 20 April. It has applied to the city council for a licence to open from Monday to Friday from 7am to 8pm, Saturdays from 8am to 8pm, and Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Caffe Latte has also applied for a drinks licence from 10am to 8pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 6pm on Sundays. It specialises in continental iced teas and frappes, a signature Oreo milkshake, and gluten-free breads and sweet treats. The company is known for its child-friendly design, with some sites kitted out with designated, supervised and sound-proofed children’s areas. Caffe Latte – which trades under Mancl – has grown rapidly since launching in Handforth in 2012, and in August last year announced it had secured additional franchise sites in Basingstoke, Birmingham, Chelsea, Ilford, Leeds, Leigh on Sea, and Sheffield.
 
Bath’s largest hotel set for go-ahead after finance is secured: Funding has been provided to enable the development of Bath’s largest hotel, supporting the creation of up to 120 jobs. Apex Hotels has secured a £29m funding package from Lloyds Bank for the Apex City of Bath Hotel. The group is developing a 177-bedroom scheme in James Street West, converting a former office building. Once complete, the hotel is expected to be the largest in Bath. The £35m hotel will feature a swimming pool, gym, and conference and meeting facilities that have capacity for more than 420 people. It is scheduled to open in summer 2017 with the creation of 120 full-time positions, including front-of-house, kitchen and housekeeping roles. Ian Springford, chairman of Apex Hotels, said: “The new hotel in Bath is an exciting opportunity for the group and we’re proud to have secured a great location in a booming city. With the new development, we’ll be able to offer a new contemporary hotel to the people of Bath, ideal for both tourists and professionals travelling to the city.” Edinburgh-based Apex Hotels has a turnover of £57.2m and currently operates nine hotels in Scotland and London. Apex City of Bath will be its first venture in England outside the capital.
 
Liverpool’s Secret Diners Club launches Cuban street food concept Finca: The Secret Diners Club, founded in 2013 by Liverpool chefs Michael Harrison and Daniel Heffy, has launched Cuban street food restaurant Finca in the city centre. Finca has a seven-month residency at the Botanical Gin Garden in New Bird Street in the city’s Baltic Triangle. The menu mainly revolves around Cubanos, a traditional Cuban sandwich, and marinated meats that are slow-cooked on open-barrel barbecues. It also serves mariquitas (plantain crisps served with garlic mojo for dipping). Sweet treats come in the shape of buñuelo (cassava fried into balls with a star anise sauce). The indoor and outdoor venue has heaters and hot water bottles for cold evenings, while the bar has been created from the bottom half of a VW camper van. All furniture is reclaimed or re-used. Graffiti-style art adorns the walls and chairs have sheepskin and crocheted blankets, adding to a homely feel. Heffy told the Liverpool Echo: “Finca has been a long time coming. We’ve all visited Cuba numerous times over the years and wanted to serve up the country’s delicious street eats over here for some time.” Finca will host a number of one-off food events during the summer.
 
The Stable to open first London site next month in Whitechapel: Artisan pizza and cider brand The Stable, which is 51% owned by Fuller’s, will open its first London site next month in Whitechapel. The company is launching the venue on Thursday, 21 April on the site of a former nightclub in Whitechapel Road. It is the 14th site for the brand, which was founded in Dorset in 2009 by Richard and Nikki Cooper and Richard’s brother Andy Briggs. The restaurant, which will offer handmade pizzas and more than 80 ciders, will feature long communal tables and a stripped back design to encourage interaction, sharing and conversation. There is also an open kitchen with the casual “order at the bar” system allowing customers more opportunities to sample the different cider varieties. Richard Cooper said: “East London is about authenticity. Everyone is looking for the ultimate burger, gallery, graffiti, bikes, beards, you name it. Our restaurants are a cathedral to cider, 80 variants representing the very finest of the art, the pinnacle, a Mecca for cider lovers. So it follows that we should have a cathedral to cider in London – like the Apple Store in Oxford Street. And it’s a very British thing, cider, so it follows that it should be accompanied with the finest British produce. It will appeal to young and old alike because what unites them is an attitude to seek out the finest expression of authenticity.”
 
Sukho Group to open Zaap in Newcastle: Sukho Group is to open a Zaap site in Newcastle city centre after signing up to open a venue in the redeveloped Co-op building. Yorkshire-based Sukho operates Zaap restaurants in Leeds and Nottingham, as well as four restaurants under the Sukhothai name, three in the Leeds area and one in Harrogate. The brand is known for its Thai street food dishes, served up in venues more akin to a bustling Bangkok market scene, with neon lights, tuk tuks, colourful bunting, hats and Thai street signs. Zaap owner Ban Kaewkraikhot has previously said the firm has the potential to have ten Zaap restaurants open across the UK by the end of this year, and papers filed at Companies House suggested a restaurant in Liverpool could follow the Newcastle opening. Zaap directors have applied to Newcastle City Council for a premises licence, which would allow it to open from 7am to 2.30am seven days a week, and serve alcohol from 9am to 2am seven days a week.

Former Rotorino head chef to open first restaurant at London art gallery: Former Rotorino head chef Alex Jackson will launch his first restaurant – Sardine – in May at the former Parasol art gallery in north London. Jackson is a protege of former River Cafe chef Stevie Parle, who opened Italian restaurant Rotorino in Dalston in 2014. Parle has taken on the role of mentor and has helped guide Jackson through setting up the restaurant. Jackson told the Evening Standard: “Stevie started off as a cook and is now a fully fledged restaurateur, so his input is incredibly helpful.” Sardine will serve food from across the Mediterranean region. Jackson said: “It’s basically old-fashioned European cooking – simple, understated and a bit rugged.” Dishes will include home-cured fresh anchovies, stuffed rabbit, grilled stuffed sardines, and malloreddus (Sardinian semolina dumplings) with salami, dandelion and ricotta. Another offering will be lamb à la ficelle, a whole leg of lamb cooked over an open fire and served with white beans and anchovy. French tarts made with flaky pastry and topped with fruit will be regular pudding options, while the drinks list will focus on wine from southern France and Italy, alongside a selection of craft beers.
 
Nando’s opens restaurant in Darlington: Nando’s has opened a restaurant in Darlington. The company has launched the 96-cover venue in the town’s new Feethams leisure complex, creating 30 jobs. The restaurant features eye-catching artwork, exposed brickwork, and a choice of comfy booths and tables. It serves non-Halal chicken despite a petition being set up in an attempt to get the business to change its mind. A counter-petition was also launched in response. A Nando’s spokeswoman told Gazette Live: “When deciding whether a restaurant will serve halal chicken, we always consider a number of factors, including local demand and business needs, and given this process our new Darlington restaurant will not be serving halal chicken. For our customers who would like halal chicken, our nearest restaurant is only a 25-minute drive away in Middlesbrough Leisure Park.” The Feethams development is also home to other restaurant brands including Prezzo, and Bella Italia, which is owned by Casual Dining Group.

Zonal launches Acquire after £750,000 investment: Following a £750,000 investment, Zonal Retail Data Systems has launched Acquire, its latest product for hospitality operators. Acquire replaces Zonal’s current Purchase to Pay system and has been 18 months in development. The new product is a web-based, online purchasing platform that offers operators an easy to use order to invoice solution. Zonal’s director of online commerce Helen McMillan said: “We have listened to our customers to build a modern, agile and dynamic end-to-end online purchasing management system. Acquire is incredibly intuitive and is optimised for mobile, so that full functionality is available at anytime, anywhere.” Whilst it has been designed to stand-alone, the company said its real power is unleashed when integrated with Zonal’s Aztec EPOS. This provides a single source of data giving total real-time accuracy and control over suppliers, catalogues and stocks.

Christie & Co appointed to sell six Mercure-branded hotels in UK: Agent Christie & Co has been appointed to sell six Mercure-branded hotels in the UK, Property Week reports. The hotels are available as a portfolio or as individual assets. The properties are the 87-bedroom Bowdon Altrincham Hotel (freehold), the 75-bedroom Chester North Woodhey House Hotel (freehold), the 76-bedroom Hatfield Oak Hotel (freehold), the 17-bedroom, grade II-listed Telford Madeley Court Hotel (freehold), the 74-bedroom Wolverhampton Goldthorn Hotel (freehold), and the 88-bedroom Wigan Oak Hotel (leasehold). Christie & Co head of brokerage – hotels Jeremy Jones said: “These hotels are each located within vibrant regional UK trading markets. Initial interest has been very encouraging on a group, sub-group and single asset basis.”

Fish restaurant and takeaway proposed for disused toilet block in Wincanton: Plans have been lodged to convert a block of disused toilets in Wincanton, Somerset, into a fish restaurant and takeaway. Jason Brown has applied to South Somerset District Council to transform the toilets in Carrington Way, which have been closed since 2011, for the venture. Brown told the Western Gazette: “The town has received a lot of investment in the last few years with the refurbishment and painting of many shops and pubs and I have to say it is looking great. I would love to continue this trend and help improve a disused and empty facility into something the whole town can use and enjoy. I am always keen to see businesses move into the town centres rather than go to the out of town developments. I think it is very important we see our town centres come back to life.” The council has been paying more than £1,000 a year to maintain the disused toilets in utilities fees and business rates.
 
£25m redevelopment planned for Crewe site to feature restaurants and multi-screen cinema: A £25m redevelopment is planned for a site in Crewe to feature restaurants and a multi-screen cinema. Cheshire East Council is working with property agent Cushman & Wakefield to secure a developer for the transformation of the Royal Arcade in the town centre. The site totals about 4.57 acres and is anchored by a BHS store. It is also home to a JD Wetherspoon pub, Boots Opticians, Santander, Millets, Shoe Zone and bus station. The council, which bought the site last May, wants to build a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and a new bus interchange. Keith Hardman, of Cushman & Wakefield, told The Business Desk: “Requirements for the new scheme include a multi-screen cinema, restaurants, other food and drink uses, a bus interchange, as well as improved linkages with the remainder of the town centre and enhancements to retained areas and public realm.” Cllr Don Stockton, Cheshire East Council cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and assets, added: “The redevelopment of Royal Arcade will not only increase footfall to the town centre and provide a valuable boost to the local economy but it will help to secure further retail and leisure investment, which will continue the important transformation of Crewe.”
 
Deal agreed for Peterborough’s first micro-pub: Founders of a planned micro-pub in Peterborough have agreed a deal for its new premises. The owners of Bimble Inn (Peterborough) have signed a ten-year lease on 46 Westgate. The agreement has been completed by agent Savills, on behalf of the property owners Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company. Tom Beran, of The Bimble Inn, said: “We are delighted to be opening Peterborough’s first micro-pub. This property is ideal for Peterborough real ale fans and adds another venue to the town’s real ale and craft beer scene.” The company has agreed to lease the former pharmacy unit, which totals 499 square feet. The premises will be converted into a micro-pub serving a range of real ales, real cider, craft keg and a range of premium bottles and cans.
 
Hartridges hires Fleet Street Communications: Fleet Street Communications has been appointed by soft drinks family business Hartridges to launch its new brand positioning and complete redesign and packaging invigoration. The agency has been tasked with raising the profile of the business to the UK on-trade, driving sales and reinforcing the brand’s heritage and quality credentials. Mark Stretton, Fleet Street Communications managing director, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Hartridges. With over a century of trading, it’s a business with huge heritage that upholds a strong commitment to its customers and to innovation and pride in the quality of the products that carry the family name. We very much look forward to helping them continue to share that message with the on-trade.” 
 
Host of companies sign up for Advanced Social Media Masterclass: A host of sector companies have signed up for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass being held next month. They include Thai Leisure Group, Enterprise Inns, Be At One, FrogPubs, The Deltic Group, The Big Chill, Camino, MyLahore, ETM Group, Coaching Inn Group, Maxwell’s, Ignite Group, JW Lees, Pebble Hotels, Everards, Novus, Snug Bars, Anglian Country Inns, McMullen, Gaucho, Wright Brothers, Star Pubs & Bars, Burning Night Group and Signature Pub Group. Propel is partnering with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass, building on last year’s Social Media Masterclass with all-new content. The event takes place on Wednesday, 20 April at One Moorgate Place in London and will provide a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media. Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell will share research into the importance of social media in customers’ lives as well as insight into the psychology of food and drink marketing in order to produce persuasive social media activity. The day will also include advice on using storytelling techniques to achieve stronger results in marketing and social media campaigns as well as how to use analytics to develop a social media strategy. There will also be a first-look at Digital Blonde’s “Love, Lust and Trust” research, which will unveil the best loved pub and bar brands and what can be learned from their social strategies. Tickets are £295 for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers members and £345 for non-members. To book email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

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