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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 4th Apr 2016 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pret A Manger puts price of coffee up by 10p to help meet cost of National Living Wage: Pret A Manger has put the price of a cup of coffee up by 10p to help meet the cost of the National Living Wage, which came into effect on Friday (1 April). The company increased the price of lattes, cappuccinos, and flat whites from £2.15 to £2.25, while the cost of an Americano rose from £1.75 to £1.85. It admitted the rise was due “in part” to the increase in labour costs due to the introduction of the National Living Wage, which put up basic pay from £6.70 to £7.20 an hour for people aged 25 and over. Last year, chancellor George Osborne said the National Living Wage could increase to £9 by 2020. It is being billed as a new “premium” on the National Minimum Wage, which will continue for those under 25. Some 2.7 million low wage workers are expected to benefit directly, and another 3.25 million people could see wages increase as a result. A Pret A Manger spokesman told the Times it had chosen to take the new legal requirement as a challenge to increase pay at all levels, not just the starting rate. He added: “Increasing costs mean we do need to increase prices from time to time.” 

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 this 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

Moorhouse’s chairman calls for major changes to progressive beer duty: The chairman and owner of Lancashire-based brewery Moorhouse’s is calling for major changes to progressive beer duty, which he said is threatening its future. Progressive beer duty allows micro-breweries to pay less tax on their products but Bill Parkinson, who bought the brewery in 1985, said the system was hitting middle ranking regional operations such as Moorhouse’s. Parkinson has sunk £4.5m into the recently refurbished brewery in Burnley and, although annual turnover is £6m, the businessman, who launched equipment and tool company Lifting Gear Hire before it became Speedy Hire, said it was not making a profit. Lifting Gear still has operations in Germany, Holland, and the US, has turnover of £60m, and Parkinson was still a major shareholder. He told The Business Desk: “I love owning a brewery. I am very proud of the beer we produce but, fortunately, I don’t rely on it for a living.” Moorhouse’s is now producing between 300 and 400 barrels a week. “But we’re paying the full rate of duty while the micro-breweries are paying none,” said Parkinson. “As a result we’re not making profit. We might be turning over between £5m and £6m, but the overheads are massive and there is the massive growth of the micro-breweries who have a 30% cost advantage over you.”

Crowdcube hits £150m raised total: Crowdfunding platform Crowdcube has raised more than £150m since it launched in 2011. In that time, 380 businesses have secured investment on the platform through equity crowdfunding and mini-bonds, following investment from the crowd, which now stands at more than 267,000 people. The most represented sector is technology, followed by internet businesses, and then food and beverage companies. Of the total funding, £83m was raised in 2015 alone. Crowdcube co-founder Luke Lang said: “Reaching the £150m raised mark means much more than just a milestone for Crowdcube. We’re celebrating the positive impact the investment has had on the UK economy, fuelling the growth of hundreds of businesses and creating jobs. We’ve also seen many of those businesses use their investment to expand globally, selling their products and services in overseas markets, including Faction Skis, Righteous, Rollasole and Sugru to name just a few. It’s our crowd that has driven this – their investment has made it all happen.”
SBPA calls for pubs minister in Scotland: The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has called on the Scottish government to create a minister for pubs. It has asked politicians across the political spectrum to show their support for Scotland’s pubs by backing the creation of the new post. The SBPA said the industry supports about 60,000 jobs and adds £1.6bn to the economy, and support was needed from policymakers and lawmakers if it was to thrive. The industry has been in decline with as many as three pubs a week closing in Scotland over the past five years. Paul Togneri, of the SBPA, said: “We make a huge contribution providing career opportunities for young people, supporting tourism, and investing in local communities. Yet pubs face real cost and legislative challenges. The time is right to create a champion at the heart of government. Our manifesto sets out a clear plan to secure the role of Scotland’s pubs at the heart of communities. The pubs minister could help address the burden of business rates on the sector, support skills and apprenticeships, drive innovation and investment, and help rural pubs.” He added pressures facing pubs include competition from cafes, casual dining and other forms of entertainment, the National Living Wage and the new drink-driving limit. Among the top priorities for the SBPA is further action on businesses rates, support for a new apprenticeship scheme, a pilot fund for improving connectivity and transport in rural areas and continued support for lowering beer duty.

Company News: 

Italian Job raises £422,000 as it completes crowdfunding offer: The UK’s first Italian craft beer pub The Italian Job has completed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open its second site. The company, whose inaugural venue is in Chiswick, west London, aimed to raise £350,000 and has now closed the campaign having raised £422,000 from 180 investors in return for a 22.22% equity stake. It was originally offering a 17.5% stake but increased the amount of equity after extending the campaign last month. The largest investment was £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 would have 80 covers with the ability to accommodate more than 100 people at peak times. The site would preferably have a late licence to cater for the desired younger demographic, and the business is looking to pay a premium 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 between the founders of Italian brewery Birrificio del Ducato, and Marco Pucciotti, who owns several pubs and restaurants in Rome including Hop & Pork and Epiro.

Domino’s facing tax bill over boardroom bonuses: Domino’s Pizza has warned it could face a hefty tax bill over past bonus schemes for senior executives. The company is in talks with HMRC over up to seven years of payouts, reports the Sunday Times. The disclosure, in the company’s annual report, comes after Deutsche Bank and UBS lost a legal battle with HMRC over two offshore plans used to pay bankers’ bonuses in 2003 and 2004. Domino’s said some of its bonus plans between 2003 and 2010 had used trusts to award shares to executives. HMRC has served notices known as “protective assessments” on some of these, it said, meaning the taxman has reserved the right to pursue it for unpaid taxes. The audit committee at Domino’s said changes in HMRC’s approach to National Insurance and a step-up in scrutiny of bonus plans involving trusts had “led us to view this area as one of increased risk”. Domino’s said there would be “uncertainty” until HMRC clarified its view. It also said “current and former directors” had provided the business with indemnities to cover the possibility of personal tax bills. Chairman Stephen Hemsley and vice-chairman Colin Halpern were at Domino’s during the time the bonus schemes were running. Chief executive David Wild joined several years later. He replaced Lance Batchelor before the private equity owners floated Domino’s in 2014. Last month, Domino’s reported an 18% increase in pre-tax profit helped by a surge in online customers and low cheese prices. 

JD Wetherspoon closes Lincoln pub and puts it on market: JD Wetherspoon closed The Forum pub in Lincoln yesterday (Sunday, 3 April) and then put it on the market. The company has confirmed it had shut the Silver Street pub – one of three in the city. A spokesman told the Lincolnshire Echo: “It is not yet on the market, but will go on the market post-Sunday. Wetherspoon has two other pubs in Lincoln – The Ritz on High Street and The Square Sail on the Brayford, which will remain open. All staff at The Forum will be offered jobs at other Wetherspoon pubs – no one will lose their job. Wetherspoon, like other companies, re-evaluates its estate from time to time. And it was felt that the two existing pubs in Lincoln cater for our customers. We appreciate that loyal customers at The Forum will be disappointed with the decision.” Last month, JD Wetherspoon announced it was scrapping the traditional Sunday roast dinner from its menu to instead focus on an all-day menu.

Leelex to start expanding Cielo Blanco by opening second site in London: Leeds-based hospitality group Leelex is to start expanding its Mexican restaurant and bar concept Cielo Blanco with a second site in London. The company is bringing the concept to the capital by opening in Exmouth Market in May. To celebrate, the Leeds restaurant, which opened in the Trinity Centre in 2013, is launching a new menu, with dishes inspired by trips to the markets of Oaxaca. New street food dishes include slow-cooked goat pibil flautas, and chipotle camarones and chorizo picante. Cielo Blanco brand manager Dan Andrews told the Yorkshire Post: “We’re truly passionate about Mexico and its food and drink culture. Our menu is our own unique take on Mexican dishes with a street food style. Our inspiration may come from over 5,000 miles away but we like to use local ingredients where we can – we hope Leeds diners love it.” Last year, Leelex, which also operates Leeds venues Pintura Kitchen & Bar, Jake’s Bar & Still Room, Neon Cactus and Oporto as well as the Portobello Star, which is based on London’s Portobello Road, appointed Paul Lane as managing director as it prepared for further expansion.

Thai kitchen, bar and lounge concept Bangkok Joe’s launches in Bristol: New Thai kitchen, bar and lounge concept Bangkok Joe’s has opened in Bristol. Bangkok Joe’s is the brainchild of the team behind Bristol venues Hanoi Coffee Company, Asian street food eatery Baowow, and Japanese restaurant Sticks & Broth. The new venue has taken over former Mediterranean restaurant Byzantium in Portwall Lane in the Redbridge area of the city. The menu focuses on modern Thai cuisine, with French and European influences, using locally sourced ingredients. Owner Som Miller told the Bristol Post: “Thai food helps quality ingredients really sing – and Bristol has the right suppliers to make that happen. We want to continue the tradition of being one of Bristol’s iconic sites, but add a more flexible approach to lunch as well as being the community restaurant we think the area really needs. At night, people will be immersed in the Bangkok restaurant scene.” The site is owned by Genting Casino. Its spokesman James Harvey said: “We had plenty of offers for the site but we really wanted to work with Som and the team and, with south east Asian food being in vogue, it seemed the perfect time to bring the site back to life.”
Jordan-based ice cream shop Four Winters to make UK debut this week: Jordan-based ice cream store concept Four Winters will make its UK debut this week by launching in London. The company is opening a venue in Gloucester Road on Thursday (7 April), reports the London Economic. Harnessing the power of liquid nitrogen, Four Winters’ ice cream is flash frozen on-site especially for customers. The menu will cover a broad spectrum, from classics such as simple vanilla, chocolate, and coconut, through to seasonally inspired flavours such as Strawberry Lavender, The Bee’s Knees – made with honey and homemade spicy honey brittle – and “Afternoon Tea”, which is inspired by London and features bite-size chunks of scone and natural strawberry jam. Four Winters has two sites operating in Jordan – in Abdoun and The Boulevard in Abdali.
West Berkshire Brewery passes 50% mark in crowdfunding campaign for new brewery, visitor centre and first pub: West Berkshire Brewery (WBB) has passed the 50% mark in its £1.5m fund-raise on crowdfunding campaign Seedrs to pave the way for a new brewery, visitor centre and its first pub. The company, led by beer and pub entrepreneur David Bruce, is offering an equity stake of 17.59% in return for the investment. So far, 29 investors have pledged £758,493 with 60 days remaining. WBB said it would use the proceeds for several landmark projects, enabling it to maintain and accelerate its current growth trajectory, as it responds to continuing strong demand for its beers beyond its Thames Valley heartland. The funds will pave the way for the construction of a larger brewery. It will also fund its first pub as well as fuelling a new range of craft beers under its Renegade Brewery label, which will sit alongside its traditional range of English ales, including flagship bitter Good Old Boy. The company has identified a new brewery site close to its current location in the village of Yattendon, Berkshire. The new site will deliver a brewery with ten times the brewing capacity of WBB’s existing facility as well as a state-of-the-art bottling, canning and kegging line, plus a visitor centre and on-site restaurant. Founded by Dave and Helen Maggs in 1995, the business has annual sales of about £2m. 
Nordic-influenced restaurant The Harcourt opens in Marylebone: Nordic-influenced restaurant The Harcourt has opened in Harcourt Street in Marylebone, London. The venue is on the site of The Harcourt Arms, once known as “The Swedish Pub” because of its Scandinavian clientele. The new venue, created by Andrew Endean (Hotel du Vin, Malmaison, Liberty and De Vere), head chef Kimmo Makkonen, and general manager Thomas Haring, features an all-day dining menu “with Scandinavian elements”. The a la carte menu focuses on dishes cooked on the indoor barbecue and Bertha grill, reports Hot Dinners. The ground-floor bar offers casual dining and drinks for up to 40. At the rear, a 900 square foot dining room has been created, seating 65 guests, with counter dining and a semi-private conservatory room also available. The first floor features two private dining rooms, seating 20 and ten respectively. Wines have been chosen by Finbar Naumann (River Cafe and Newman Street Tavern), alongside cocktails with a Nordic feel.
Former D&D London and Caprice Holdings chef to run restaurant at new boutique hotel in Tunbridge Wells: Former D&D London and Caprice Holdings chef Marco Goldin is to run the restaurant at a new 39-bedroom boutique hotel in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Goldin has been recruited to spearhead the 75-cover restaurant L’Amore at One Warwick Park, which is being opened in June by Markerstudy Leisure. Goldin has joined the hotel from his role as executive chef at the Royal Academy’s Keeper’s House restaurant, and prior to that worked for Caprice Holdings as well as D&D London, where he was head chef at Cantina Del Ponte. He told Boutique Hotelier: “I’m looking forward to starting work on the menus and developing my own individual style. With 75 covers, L’Amore is the ideal size for my style of cooking and I can’t wait to experiment with new flavours and techniques to provide new combinations.” Markerstudy Leisure managing director Louise Clark added: “We’re delighted to have such a respected head chef on board to help turn our plans into a reality. Securing Marco Goldin goes a long way to establishing One Warwick Park as Tunbridge Wells’ destination of choice for discerning guests.”

Birmingham’s first all-vegan/vegetarian coffee shop set to launch: Birmingham’s first all-vegan/vegetarian coffee shop – 3 Three’s Coffee Lounge – is set to launch this month. The venue in Martineau Place in the city centre will offer vegan jumbo frankfurters in 8.5-inch soft rolls, with a choice of jalapeno, mustard and ketchup toppings. The cafe will also serve soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, paninis, cakes, cupcakes, brownies and shortbread. All offerings will be handmade and vegan and vegetarian-friendly, with the venue open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 8am to 5pm on Sundays.
Chris Finnigan heads up kitchen in new Northumbrian contemporary British restaurant: Chris Finnigan, who trained under Raymond Blanc at le Manoir Aux Quat’saisons in Oxfordshire, is head chef of new contemporary British restaurant Branches, which has opened in Ponteland, near Newcastle. Businesswoman Aysha Pervez is heading a family run business that has jointly invested more than £400,000 to create the venue in Main Street. The 48-cover restaurant will be open seven days a week, from 9am until late, for breakfast, lunches, evening meals and modern tapas-style snacks and drinks. All-day favourites such as fish and chips, duck hash, and macaroni cheese will compete with more expansive dishes including scallops with black pudding bhaji and confit lobster with parmesan flatbreads. Pervez told Insider Media: “Fans of Chris Finnigan’s style will know that even the most ordinary-looking dishes on the menu come with flair and delicious surprises. His food puts a smile on people’s faces and that’s what we think will have customers coming back time and again.”
Bill’s set to open site in Sevenoaks in May: Bill’s Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring, is set to open a site in Sevenoaks, Kent, at the end of May. The company is launching the venue in London Road on the site of the former sports bar and restaurant Tex Mex, which closed last year. A spokesman for Bligh’s Meadow Shopping Centre, where the restaurant is based, told the Sevenoaks Chronicle: “It’s great to see that Sevenoaks is attracting high quality national restaurant chains such as Bill’s.” Bill’s has 73 restaurants in the UK having opened its first site in Lewes, East Sussex, in 2001. 

French bar and restaurant concept Table Du Marché opens in East Finchley: French bar and restaurant concept Table Du Marché has opened in East Finchley, north London. The new venue in High Road takes its inspiration from food markets, turning the produce it buys from the butcher, greengrocer and fishmonger into “French gastronomy with a signature touch”. The venue also features a French-style bar offering French beer or specially selected wine from its cellar, as well as a bar menu with snacks including hors d’oeuvres and escargot. Changing daily, the a la carte menu features dishes such as confit of duck and smoked pork belly with bean ragoût, and Poulet à la Marseillaise (pot-roasted boneless chicken with pepper and olive piquant Provençal sauce). The restaurant is open from midday to 11pm, seven days a week.

Northumberland pub operator to launch restaurant venture: Northumberland pub operator Stuart Young is to open a restaurant venture in the village of Rickleton. Young, who took over the Blackbird Inn in Ponteland a year ago, has acquired Amiro’s in New Road. The Italian restaurant will now undergo refurbishment and a rebrand and will be relaunched as San Lorenzo in mid-May. San Lorenzo, which will also be an Italian restaurant, will create 25 jobs and feature a firebrick pizza oven from Italy to make pizzas in the traditional method. Young told the Sunderland Echo: “The takeover isn’t a spur of the moment thing, we’ve been looking for locations for a while now, and in the former Amiro’s I think we’ve struck gold. It’s the next step for us and will see us trying something completely different. As someone who has spent many years in the restaurant scene in the region and in Washington in particular, this feels like I am going home to my working roots. As a group we just keep growing and now, especially with the takeover and expansion, we’re entering an exciting time. Hopefully, Washington will take us to their hearts as much as Ponteland has.”

New Vietnamese restaurant concept opens in Tiverton: A new Vietnamese restaurant concept has opened in Tiverton, Devon. Trevor Findley has launched Pho Nam in Lowman Green after converting a block of former public toilets, reports the Mid Devon Gazette. The restaurant features skylights and wall to ceiling windows. It offers traditional Vietnamese street food including cha gio (a pork and prawn spring roll) and banh xeo (a filled pancake). Pho Nam is open during lunchtimes and evenings in the week and all day on Saturdays.
Essex-based pub operator acquires second site: Essex-based pub operator Kyla Cox has acquired her second site. Cox, who owns the Joker in Laindon, has bought the Admiral Jellicoe in Canvey. She is planning a £300,000 refurbishment of the High Street pub, including adding a restaurant area and function rooms. Cox said she was excited about “bringing the pub to life”, and would begin by serving food from June. She told the Clacton and Frinton Gazette: “I am looking to make this a place for families to come along, and that’s why we’ve got ambitious plans. I just fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. I knew that I could work with it. The location is perfect and I just can’t wait to get started. We’re looking to get the food side of things up and running first, so the kitchen is bare and ready for new equipment. We still have things to do, but we’re confident that it can be started by June. The decor both on the interior and exterior are the biggest part of the project. It’s a little bit tired, but the groundwork has been well laid by the previous manager.”
Harry’s owner to open third site: Irish restaurateur Donal Doherty is to open his third site, this time in Londonderry. Doherty, who operates Harry’s in Bridgend in Donegal, and Harry’s Shack in Portstewart, has signed a lease for a site in Derry Craft Village. The 65-seater restaurant, which is expected to open in about two months, will be based in the unit formerly used by Cafe del Mondo in a pedestrian area of the city. Doherty said the new venue would have a “slightly different feel” than the previous two but would continue to reflect the “same laid-back, casual dining experience”. He told the Belfast Telegraph: “It will take at least £65,000 to get the Derry restaurant up and running. It doesn’t feel like it’s in the city centre. There’s this fantastic outdoor area that is heated and that has us really excited about bringing the Harry’s brand into the city.” Earlier this year, Doherty revealed he was planning further expansion and has now hinted at the possibility of another new restaurant in 2017.

AB InBev bosses in line for $350m bonus share: Top managers at Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) will share a bonus of more than $350m (£245m) if they hit sales targets set by the brewer. The Belgium-based company will pay the windfall to 65 senior staff if it achieves revenue of $100bn by 2020, reports the Sunday Times. The scheme, known as the “2020 Dream Incentive Plan”, excludes the brewer’s executive management board, the 16 top bosses headed by Carlos Brito. AB InBev’s revenue last year was $43.6bn, but it will be boosted by its $70bn deal to buy SABMiller, which is expected to be completed in the next six months. The deal, the biggest-ever takeover of a British company, was agreed last year and is awaiting regulatory approval. It is believed an incentive plan for Brito and other members of the executive board will be outlined once the SABMiller deal is completed and is likely to be linked to paying down debt. Brito received a bonus worth $289m two years ago for hitting debt targets related to InBev’s $52bn purchase of Anheuser-Busch in 2008.

Farncombe Estate launches surf ‘n’ turf restaurant at Cotswolds hotel: Farncombe Estate has launched a surf ‘n’ turf restaurant concept at its The Fish Hotel, near Broadway in the Cotswolds. The restaurant offers well-loved classics and combinational cooking, with dishes such as lobster hot dogs, bream ceviche, and scallops with smoked duck bacon, reports the South Gloucestershire Echo. Executive chef Jon Ingram and head chef Carl Holmes will work in an open kitchen, while the venue also features a bar and lounge and will be open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with panoramic views across Broadway. The 43-bedroom, Scandi-style Fish Hotel, which opened last summer, is on the 400-acre Farncombe Estate and is the younger sister of the eight-bedroom Dormy House and private house hotel Foxhill Manor.

Nottingham restaurant owners open new £1m venue: The owners of Nottingham-based Italian restaurant Pizzeria Savai have opened a £1m bar-restaurant in the city. The Iacovitti family has launched SaltBox in Bolero Square on the ground floor of the Ice House serviced apartments block next to the Motorpoint Arena on the eastern edge of the city centre. The 6,000 square foot venue features an 80-seat restaurant that offers “modern British food”. Mick Iacovitti told the Nottingham Post: “We want to catch people going into and coming out of concerts at the arena. A lot of them won’t know Nottingham and if the arena empties at 10.30pm on a weekday a lot of places in the city are calling last orders for 11pm.”

New concept Creations Dessert Lounge set to open in Peterborough: New concept Creations Dessert Lounge is set to open in Peterborough on Monday, 11 April. The venue, which will seat 35 to 40 people and include a private room, is on the site of the former Glass Onion pub in Burghley Road on the edge of the city centre. Until last year, the building housed the Embe African/Caribbean restaurant. Creations Dessert Lounge will offer waffles, crepes, sundaes, cookie dough, gelato, cakes, and milkshakes. Owner Zaid Mahmood told the Peterborough Telegraph: “The look we have gone for is sleek with a warm feel, with browns and golds, and there is booth seating with some tables and chairs. This type of venue is very popular up north and there certainly seems to be an appetite for it in Peterborough. We think people will really like what we have to offer.”

C&C Group begins to wind down production of Shepton Mallet cider mill: Drinks company C&C Group, which owns Magners cider, has started to wind down production of its Shepton Mallet cider mill in Somerset, reports the Times. The company said in January it would move production of brands including Blackthorn and Gaymers to its plant in Clonmel in Ireland. The cutback, together with the internal announcement of 40 redundancies, marks the first step in plans to close the cider mill by this summer, with the loss of about 120 jobs. The Unite union has called on the company to find a buyer for the site.

New pan-American restaurant concept to launch in Sunderland: A new pan-American destination restaurant is set to launch in Sunderland. The Karbon Grill, Kitchen and Bar will be inside the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, which will open before the end of May next to Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light. The menu will feature Pan-American cuisine, with elements of Mexican and Latin fusion dishes complemented by regional specialities. Signature grill dishes will include steak, ribs, burgers, seafood, tapas and sharing platters. The 100-cover restaurant’s name pays homage to Sunderland’s mining heritage. Hilton Garden Inn general manager Kim Kelso told Insider Media: “The stylised elements in its design, coupled with the unique Pan-American menu, reflect our desire to make this one of the most popular and unique destinations in the region. We’re confident the contemporary design and mix of premium, affordable and family-friendly cuisine will appeal to hotel guests, city visitors and food-lovers across the region alike.”
New Orleans street food concept Decatur makes Pamela pop-up residency permanent: New Orleans street food concept Decatur, which has been operating a pop-up at Pamela cocktail bar in Kingsland Road, Haggerston, since November, has taken up permanent residency. Chef Tom Browne’s food is heavily inspired by New Orleans’ French Quarter, with dishes such as New Orleans-style Essex wild oysters chargrilled with garlic pecorino butter, Kentucky-style beer cheese with Ritz crackers and sourdough, and Decatur signature Deep South classics gumbo with rabbit, smoked sausage and okra, and crawfish etouffee. Drinks include The Des Barres – jalapeno-infused Eristoff with kiwi juice and coconut ice cubes, reports the London Economic. Pamela, spawned from the London hardcore punk scene, calls itself a “cocktail bar for people who don’t like cocktail bars”.
East Lothian-based restaurateur set to open third site: East Lothian-based restaurateur Franco Cucchi is set to open his third site in Haddington. Cucchi is planning to turn the former offices of the procurator fiscal in Court Street into family-style Italian restaurant Meucci. He has been granted an alcohol licence by East Lothian Council’s licensing board for the premises. Cucchi, who also runs the Cucina Amore and North Berwick Diner and Fry restaurants in North Berwick, is aiming to have his new venture, which will employ between five and eight staff, open in a few months. He told the East Lothian Courier: “We have a lot of customers at our restaurants in North Berwick from Haddington and I realised there was a need for a similar dining experience in Haddington itself. The feedback has been very positive from people who feel there is a gap in the town for this kind of restaurant.”
Celtic Manor to spend £2m on upgrades as it opens new hotel: Celtic Manor Resort has opened Coldra Court Hotel and plans to invest more than £2m in upgrading its latest property. The new acquisition has safeguarded the jobs of more than 100 staff at the hotel, which had been trading as the Hilton Newport. Coldra Court Hotel has 148 bedrooms, taking Celtic Manor’s total bedroom stock to almost 600 when added to the Resort Hotel, the Manor House, the Newbridge on Usk inn, and ten Hunter Lodges. It is Celtic Manor’s second acquisition from outside its estate following the purchase of Newbridge on Usk in 2010. Coldra Court also houses the rebranded Springs Health Club, Seasons Restaurant, and nine conference and meeting rooms. Hotel manager Matthew Barnby told Wales Online: “We will invest more than £2m in upgrading the hotel over the next three years, beginning with a phased refurbishment of the bedrooms. We will also be introducing a new restaurant concept and looking to update the conference and banqueting facilities.”
Seafront restaurant and bar to open in Nairn in May: Permission has been granted for a new seafront restaurant and bar to open in Nairn, Scotland, in May. Owners LJ Restaurants, founded by Michael Jack and son Lee Jack, will open the Sun Dancer Bar and Restaurant in Harbour Street. The venue will have an outdoor terrace area overlooking the Moray Firth on the site of a former amusement arcade in the Highland town. The venue will be on two levels, with a 106-cover restaurant, bar, lounge, terrace and private function room on the first floor, and a cafe downstairs. Sun Dancer Bar and Restaurant has been granted a licence to sell alcohol until 1am, seven days a week, with permission for off sales until 10pm aimed at holidaymakers using neighbouring self-catering premises. Michael Jack told The Press and Journal: “It’s hard to measure what the economic impact might be – but it must be one of the biggest eateries in the area and it should be a major turning point for the town because it could also attract further investment.”
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 this 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

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