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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 5th Apr 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

HospitalityGEM survey reveals indulgent dining is mainly saved for weekends and with friends: New research by guest experience management firm HospitalityGEM has revealed indulgent dining is predominantly saved for the weekend and shared more often with friends rather than family. The majority of respondents (91%) said they chose to be sinful at the weekend, with 83% saintly during the week, while diners were more likely to dine sinfully with friends (81%) than with family (69%). The study found before and after work to be the best times to be healthy, with less than two-thirds (62%) of respondents saying they were saintly at the office. More than two-thirds (79%) were most likely to eat “treat” food as an evening meal, with 77% eating superfoods at lunch and 71% opting for a saintly breakfast. When it came to exercise, the majority (89%) said they ate only healthy foods prior to going to the gym, whereas more than half (51%) treated themselves to a sinful meal afterwards. Almost all respondents (97%) said they treated themselves on their birthdays, while 93% admitted to ditching the diet on holiday. HospitalityGEM managing director Steven Pike said: “There are gaps in the market for restaurants and pubs that serve both sinful and saintly foods, with this latest research identifying just when they are most desired.”

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
James Hacon confirms part-time group strategy director role at Thai Leisure Group: Elliotts managing director James Hacon has confirmed he has accepted a part-time group strategy director role at Thai Leisure Group. He told Propel: “Having worked with the brand for some time, I know the company and its people, the culture is amazing and the brand propositions are clearly differentiated from others in the market. The opportunity to further develop the brand and marketing function is exciting. Having signed off the 12-month brand strategies, two areas of focus are the development of a children’s proposition for Thaikhun and recruiting significant digital marketing capability to the business.” Thai Leisure Group managing director Ian Leigh added: “In a competitive and crowded market, is it vital our brands are clearly defined and delivered to the highest standards. As we continue to grow at pace we need to ensure this transcends every aspect of our business in order for these brands to truly come alive. The appointment of James Hacon as group brand strategy director will help us to achieve and maintain these important ingredients of our business.” 
LateRooms changes hands for second time in six months: Online hotel booking website LateRooms has changed hands for the second time in six months following a private equity-backed deal that also includes the sale of a short break specialist. Indian travel giant Cox & Kings, which bought Greater Manchester-headquartered LateRooms for £8.5m last October, has sold the business to newly incorporated company Malvern Enterprises UK for £20m. In addition, Northwich-headquartered Holidaybreak, which is 66% owned by Cox & Kings, has sold its York-based SuperBreak division to Malvern. Holidaybreak has received a net cash consideration of £9.3m in the transaction, although the sale will also lead to a £71.4m write-off in relation to the goodwill of SuperBreak. Malvern Enterprise UK is a new business 49% owned by Cox & Kings and 51% owned by an unnamed private equity investor. In a statement, Cox & Kings said: “The transaction will enable Malvern to independently follow its own strategic growth path in the underpenetrated city breaks market within the online package tour space. Brands SuperBreak and LateRooms are likely to gain substantially from a unified management team under the strategic guidance of the private equity investor and Cox & Kings.”
‘Few more teams’ sought for 2016 Interbrewery Regatta: Keith Knowles, chief executive of the pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, is seeking a “few more teams” to take part in this year’s 26th Interbrewery Regatta. Knowles has to organise the 2016 event, which takes place from 20-22 May on the Solent, having won last year’s regatta. He is aiming to have about 20 crews split between brewers, pub groups, suppliers, and the casual dining sector and is asking each crew to raise an optional £1,000 for charity. There are a few places left and crews can be novices, as skippers can be provided by Sunsail, which facilitates the event. For more information contact Sunsail account manager Terry Hunt on 02392 222221.

Company News:

PizzaExpress refused permission for delivery site in Cambridge by government inspector: PizzaExpress has had its plans for a stand-alone PizzaExpress Delivered takeaway store in Cambridge rejected by a government inspector. The company asked for the application to be determined by a planning inspector after the city council failed to make a decision in time. However, inspector David Spencer has rejected the application for a change of use for the premises in Hill Road on the grounds of “unacceptable nuisance” in the area in terms of noise and disturbance and concerns over highway safety in nearby Coronation Street, reports the Cambridge News. He said: “In bringing these two matters together I have found that there would be an unacceptable impact on the local environment.” Almost 200 people signed a petition presented to the council calling for the store to be given the go ahead while there were a number of objections from local residents – including the fact Domino’s has a store just a few doors away. But the council has received a slap on the wrist for refusing to grant planning permission for PizzaExpress to put two signs up outside the site. This was applied for separately from the change of use application. The city council argued it made no sense to grant permission when there was so much uncertainty over the other application. However, Spencer found the council had shown “unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense” to PizzaExpress – and ordered the authority to pay the company’s costs in full.
Hawksmoor co-founder-backed Craved launches £120,000 crowdfunding campaign, aims to be 21st century Fortnum & Mason: Craved, an e-commercial business delivering British craft food and drink from producers across the country and backed by Hawksmoor co-founder Huw Gott, has launched a £120,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, founded by David Voxlin, is offering a 13.04% equity stake in return for the investment as it seeks to expand. The majority of the funds will be used as working capital and to extend the product range. The pitch states: “We are aiming to build a Fortnum & Mason for the 21st century where independent, local, and craft are core values to our company, and we believe our food, drink and gifts not only taste amazing but support the local, independent producers as well. Craved London aims to be the only retailer in the UK focusing solely on British craft food and drinks, and we’re creating a new type of food brand that is more in tune with consumer expectations and macro trends in food retail. Our product range is carefully curated and we believe is distinctly different. Currently, we sell about 160 craft products made by 80-plus independent British producers, in categories such as craft spirits and beers, sweets, chocolate, snacks, condiments, cheese, and charcuterie. About a third of our products are available online exclusively through us, and we aim to grow this proportion as we grow. We’re set to double our product range this year, adding to our family of independent producers and opening up new opportunities for growth. Our total sales grew more than 300% from 2014 to 2015 largely organically, driven by word of mouth, referrals and PR. We now have more than 3,000 customers, and this number is growing daily.” The company forecasts sales of £315,665 at the end of this year, growing to £1,010,907 in 2017 and £2,298,588 in 2018. It expects to make a pre-tax loss of £71,623 this year, which will turn into a profit of £110,760 in 2017 and nearly quadruple to £409,122 the following year. 
Thornbridge plans 80% turnover increase with £2m investment: Thornbridge Brewery has unveiled a £2m investment plan. The funding will provide a new bottling line, increased brewing capacity and improved warehousing and logistics facilities at its Bakewell site. The brewery has seen considerable growth of its UK and international sales in recent years and is targeting an 80% increase in turnover in the next three years. Simon Walkden, Thornbridge’s chief financial officer, said: “We are an ambitious company and have been planning for this investment over the past 12 months. It’s not all about equipment though as, in preparation for a 70% expansion to our brewing capacity, we have employed an additional 11 staff to take overall employee numbers to 46.” Phase one of the brewery expansion, including the new bottling line, is expected to be completed by late summer.

Novus reveals results of Customer Experience Dashboard trial: Novus Leisure has unveiled the results of its trials following the recent launch of its pioneering ‘Customer Experience Dashboard’. The dashboard analyses customer feedback and data across numerous channels – including social media, review sites, surveys and point of sales systems. In Phase One of the trials, customer sentiment was monitored across social media in five venues in a one month period, against four venues not currently using the dashboard, however still being monitored by head office. Trial venues showed a much quicker response rate – reducing the social response time from 12.25 hours to an incredible 90 minutes. Interestingly, the dashboard has also resulted in a much higher social response rate, previously at 55%, rising to a significant 86.6%. Furthermore, negative sentiment has fallen to a mere 9% of all posts, compared to 12% across other sites. Facebook private messages is the most popular way for customers to communicate with venues, and in nearly all cases, surprisingly more popular than Twitter. The results are represented in an interactive word cloud, giving the team instant updates on what is happening inside and outside the venue from a customer perspective, in real time. It combines Twitter, Facebook posts and instant messaging into one feed, making it simple for staff to read, post, reply to and act on customer comments and enquiries. Another nice touch of the dashboard, is that managers can filter posts by day, week, month or year and respond to customers across all platforms. The next stage of the Customer Experience Dashboard will include the analysis of an increased number of platforms including Net Promoter Score (NPS), TripAdvisor and Google ratings. Phase Two at the end of April, will see the introduction of an experience dashboard which will allow the business to gauge average positive and negative sentiment, together with a customer results survey, plus Facebook and Twitter algorithm scores. Each dashboard will also be able to view a league table, pitting each venue against each other, ranked on the highest customer experience scores. Simon Gaske, customer experience director, said: “It is vital to us as a business that we are absolutely focused on the entire customer journey and experience. The technology we’ve introduced is ground-breaking and will enable us to make our bars an emotive experience for customers. The trials have unearthed a few surprises, along with some great insight that is already transforming the way we communicate and interact with our customers. We have already conducted two additional projects on the back of the feedback to enhance our customer’s experience.”

Soho House opens Cafe Monico in Shaftesbury Avenue: Soho House has opened a new restaurant, Cafe Monico, in Shaftesbury Avenue. The name is a revival of a restaurant originally set up in the area in 1877 by Giacomo and Battista Monico. Cafe Monico is a 180-cover, all-day restaurant, with the menu inspired by Mediterranean flavours and “rustic Italian and French favourites”, reports Hot Dinners. There is a separate grill section, including chicken paillard, pork chops, lamb cutlets and Dover sole, as well as sections for pasta, eggs, shellfish and salumi. Breakfast features muffins, zucchini loafs, breads and pastries – all made in-house – with an afternoon tea service featuring cakes, scones and seasonal desserts. There are five aperitif cocktails and each day will feature a special dish of the day, starting with coq au vin on Mondays and finishing with Sunday roast beef. Former Le Cafe Anglais chef Rowley Leigh, who joined Soho House as a consultant last year, was reported to be working on Cafe Monico, with a big clue in the menu that features Leigh’s signature dish of parmesan custard with anchovy toast. 
Former Gordon Ramsay chef to start expanding cafe concept Chriskitch with Hoxton Market opening: London-based Chriskitch, the cafe concept by former Gordon Ramsay chef Christian Honor, is to start expanding with its second site in the capital. Honor launched Chriskitch, which has a small, stripped-back menu focusing on a few seasonal ingredients, in 2013. Now he is opening a second site in Hoxton Market in May. For the first time, Chriskitch will offer breakfast, brunch and dinner on top of lunch and the new site is also licensed. It will see chefs use fireside cooking techniques on an open-fire grill, and the menu will change every day, using fresh ingredients from the market. The beers will all be sourced from a local micro-brewery and Honor will also be serving his own cola creation, which contains lavender, cinnamon and burnt sugar. He told the Ham & High: “I think in terms of combinations – mix up the flavours and textures and, at the same time, make it appeal to the eye. Mostly I add a good pinch of the unexpected.” For 15 years, Honor worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world, including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road and The Dorchester.
Britannia Hotels to roll-out loyalty scheme as trial generates £4.2m in 12 months: Britannia Hotels will roll-out its Grand Rewards Scheme to all 51 hotels and six Pontins holiday parks after the scheme generated more than £4m in its initial trial. Loyalty reward specialist firm Loyalty Pro transformed Britannia Hotels’ manual scheme into a card-based system, with more than 32,600 customers signing up, generating £4.2m in the first 12 months. The system was made available in 38 of Britannia’s hotels but will now be extended nationwide. Britannia Hotels group IT and project manager Karen Pownall told the Manchester Evening News: “Our loyalty scheme is one of the most generous in the hotel sector, with points available on everything from accommodation to bar food. Our customers like discounts, enjoy collecting their points and then spending them at other hotels in our group.” Loyalty Pro technical director Rob Meakin said: “We provide Britannia with an easy to install and simple to use integrated system as well as regular reports to enable their financial and marketing staff to monitor the scheme’s effectiveness.” In October, Britannia Hotels reported its pre-tax profits rose by 441% to £14.2m in the year ending 31 March 2015. Operating profits increased by 162% to £15.2m over the same period. Founded in 1976, Britannia Hotels’ portfolio includes more than 9,000 bedrooms.

Wahaca submits plans for Chichester city centre site: Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca has submitted plans to open a venue in Chichester city centre. An application for change of use has been submitted to Chichester District Council to convert the former Cargo store in South Street from retail to a restaurant, the Chichester Observer reports. Furniture store Cargo Home closed last month after the company decided to close all 41 of its shops across the UK. Wahaca was co-founded by 2005 MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers. Wahaca will open its 21st site in Brighton on Friday, 15 April, with its other venues outside London in Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester. In March, the company announced turnover had passed the £30m mark.
Riley’s Fish Shack eyes expansion with plans for second site: North east street food cafe Riley’s Fish Shack is set to start expansion and open a second site on Newcastle’s Quayside. Riley’s Fish Shack started as a mobile cart touring events but owners Adam and Lucy Riley raised £20,000 via a crowdfunding campaign to set up a permanent site on the beach at King Edward Bay, Tynemouth, last year. The Fish Shack comprises two 20-foot containers – one used for dining and the other as a kitchen. The site has a barbecue grill and a wood-fired pizza oven to cook flatbreads to accompany dishes. Riley’s has now applied for a premises licence for a second “tackle box” to open on Quayside, operating from an adapted shipping container for six months of the year over the next three years – and Adam Riley said there could be scope to run the business as a rotating kitchen, allowing other small north east businesses to showcase their talents. He told Chronicle Live: “We’d be serving the same kind of food, mackerel wraps and so on, and it would tie in nicely with the markets on a weekend and also be able to offer office workers something different.”
Tombo to launch second site – poké and matcha bar in Soho: Matcha and Japanese food specialist Tombo will launch its second venue – in Soho, London, at the end of May. The venue in D’Arblay Street will seat 26 over two floors and specialise in poké (Japanese-inspired Hawaiian food) and matcha (finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea). Tombo, Poké & Matcha Bar will offer a range of poké dishes, with ingredients including salmon, tuna, prawn, kimchee, avocado and edamame served with sushi rice, courgette noodles or black and white rice. Customers will be able to choose between six signature poké bowls such as classic tuna poké, salmon avo lux and matcha miso tofu, with an option to build your own bowl. The bar will also offer side salads such as hijiki black seaweed and root vegetables, as well as miso soup. Operating a no-service charge policy, the venue will also offer a range of Tombo green teas – sourced from the foothills of Mount Fuji – alongside Tombo matcha lattes and matcha brownies, gateau and sundaes. The first Tombo Japanese & Matcha Bar is in South Kensington, while the company also supplies teas to some of London’s best-known restaurants including Kurobuta and Jason Atherton’s Sosharu.
New charcuterie bar and restaurant concept opens in Middlesbrough: A new charcuterie bar and restaurant concept has opened in Middlesbrough. Husband and wife Peter and Sarah Walker have launched The Curing House in Bedford Street. The primary offer is charcuterie including cured meats and cheese with homemade chutneys and pickles. The couple previously told Propel the vision was to bring an old aged craft to a new market and a new offer to Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas. The Curing House was born after the Walkers developed a passion for food, from eating street food in Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong to enjoying fine dining at some of the best restaurants. Peter Walker, who previously worked in the oil and gas sector, has spent the past seven years researching various methods and styles of cooking, particularly charcuterie, for the venture.
Mowgli to open second Liverpool site in autumn: Indian street food restaurant Mowgli will open its second site in Liverpool in the autumn. Barrister turned restaurateur and food writer Nisha Katona, who opened the first Mowgli in Bold Street in October 2014, announced her plans on Facebook and told customers to “watch this space”, the Liverpool Echo reports. Katona said the new restaurant would be close to her “old stomping ground” in the city’s legal district, close to Liverpool Town Hall. She wrote on the Mowgli Facebook page: “Bold Street is a tiny gem and the non-booking policy and long queues that flow from this mean we are looking for a second Liverpool site. We are not certain which building yet but I fancy a room with a view, a grand space into which we can crawl and create. We want to take Mowgli to Leeds for the winter but that feels aeons away and I get hungry and broody.” Mowgli opened its second restaurant in Manchester’s Corn Exchange in October, with Leeds Mowgli due to open at the end of this year. Mowgli’s menu is built around the idea of “chat”, small plates with explosive flavours.
New healthy rotisserie chicken concept Cocotte launches in Notting Hill: Cocotte, a new healthy rotisserie chicken concept, has launched in Notting Hill, London. The venue in Westbourne Grove offers roast chicken to eat in or take away alongside healthy salads and desserts. Cocotte has been inspired by popular takeaway sites in Paris, with chickens marinated for 24 hours in herbs and spices before being slow-cooked for three hours and finished on a spit to crisp the skin. Chickens are served whole, half or by the quarter, alongside a range of sauces including garlic mayo, homemade barbeque, Cocotte mustard, chicken gravy, spicy, and a fresh pesto made with parsley, coriander, basil and mint. Cocotte also offers salads as a side dish or main course, including Raymonde (quinoa, millet, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, peas and blackcurrant) and Fernande (barley, pomegranate, feta cheese, baby salad and spring onions). Desserts include date and coconut cake and a selection of mochi (Japanese sticky rice cakes). Cocotte also offers wine and cocktails and is open from midday to 10pm, Sunday to Thursday, and midday to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Orangery owners to open new restaurant Grafene in Manchester: The team behind award-winning The Orangery restaurant at Loosehill House in the Peak District is set to open a new concept, Grafene, in Manchester. Under the applicant name LHH Investments, directors Paul and Kathryn Roden have applied for a licence at a site in food and drink hot spot King Street, the Manchester Evening News reports. The Grafene site is a 5,457 square foot ground-floor unit and would also feature a large outdoor seating area. The unit was formerly occupied by Brasserie Blanc, which closed in 2009 having occupied the spot for ten years. King Street is currently home to five-star Hotel Gotham’s Honey Restaurant, fine-dining restaurant Quill, and Simon Shaw’s Michelin-bibbed El Gato Negro tapas bar concept, while late-night cocktail bar Arcane will open this month.
Xavier Rousset to open first solo restaurant in Marylebone in May: Xavier Rousset, who leaves the Michelin-starred Texture 28-50 restaurant group he co-founded with chef Agnar Sverrisson next month, will open his own wine-focused restaurant, Blandford Comptoir, in Marylebone “towards the end of May”. Rousset said he had been working on the new project for the past three to four months, with the venue being a 40-cover, wine-led restaurant serving Mediterranean-influenced food. Blandford Comptoir will feature a 250-bin wine list with a broad range of wines from all over the world, including “fine wine at a very fair price”. Rousset said the venue would offer 40 to 50 champagnes and some wine-based cocktails. About 16 to 20 wines will be served by the glass, while Rousset told The Drinks Business: “Part of the wine list is going to be interactive. Customers and what I call ‘wine celebrities’ will have an influence on the list.” Devon Pryor, former head sommelier of members’ club Home House, will join Rousset on the wine side. Rousset said Blandford Comptoir was the first in a string of projects he was working on, with a joint-venture opening in the City in July the next to come online. He also said it was “very likely” another Comptoir restaurant would open in London next year.
Barrow-based multi-siters set to open third site: Barrow-based multi-site operators John and Soodsawat Rigg are set to open their third site. The couple have submitted plans to Barrow Borough Council to convert the former Youngs Furnishers store in Cavendish Street into a restaurant and bar with live music and a late licence. The Riggs, who also operate noodle bar Canoodles in Cavendish Street and the Buddha Lounge Bar in Duke Street, want to branch out from food into nightlife as well. The venue, which is expected to open at the end of June and create about 20 jobs, will serve food between 10am and 10pm, with the bars staying open until 3am, assuming the late licence is granted. John Rigg told the North West Evening Mail: “The venue was perfect, it’s close to our other businesses and it’s big too, spread over three floors. It’ll offer a bit of everything. There’ll be a six-joint carvery, a real ale bar, a cocktail and tiki bar, and some karaoke too.”
Lyric Hotels sells Ringwood off £7.5m guide price: Lyric Hotels has sold its grade II-listed Ringwood Hall Hotel near Chesterfield to a private individual off a guide price of £7.5m. The 19th century hotel, which has undergone significant refurbishment over the past 20 years under the ownership of Lyric Hotels, includes 74 bedrooms alongside two reception rooms, bar facilities, conferencing suite and banqueting room. David Seton, owner of Lyric Hotels, took over Ringwood in 1999 when it was a partly derelict, 21-bedroom hotel with not one ceiling in place.
Gusto applies to open restaurant in York: Gusto, the Italian restaurant brand operated by Living Ventures, is set for further expansion with a site in York. The company has submitted an application to the city council for a premises licence to open in the former Mulberry Hall building in Little Stonegate, reports York Mix. It wants to sell alcohol from Sunday to Thursday between 10am and midnight and on Fridays and Saturdays until 1am, staying open half an hour later. It has also applied for a licence for live and recorded music. As well as lunch and children’s menus, the restaurant offers an a la carte menu for diners, featuring the best of Italian cuisine. Customers can expect pasta, seafood, risotto and pizza dishes, as well as main courses from the grill, including burgers and 28-day aged premium steaks. Gusto, which launched in Alderley Edge in Cheshire in 2005, has 12 other sites across the UK. It is set for further expansion by opening a restaurant in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire, this month followed by a site in Leamington Spa in June and then in Birmingham this autumn. 

Wrap It Up! secures One Piccadilly Gardens site, second Manchester venue: Tayub Mushtaq-led healthy eating chain Wrap It Up! has agreed a ten-year lease on an 875 square foot ground-floor unit at One Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. Legal & General Property (LGP), represented by agent Savills, has let the unit at a rent of £26,500 per annum. The restaurant will be the second Wrap It Up! in Manchester following the success of its first venue in Deansgate and 12 sites in London. One Piccadilly Gardens overlooks Piccadilly Gardens’ transport interchange and was acquired by LGP’s Managed Property Fund in 2014. Other recent lettings include Azzurri Group-owned Italian restaurant ASK, better burger brand Byron and Pret A Manger, which upsized to a larger unit. LGP senior fund manager Mark Russell said: “We are extremely pleased Wrap It Up! has chosen One Piccadilly Gardens for its second site in Manchester, further enhancing the variety of food choices on offer at the scheme and supporting our wider improvement plans. The location benefits from a high footfall of office workers, commuters and shoppers, making it ideal for this type of healthy fast food offer.” 

Quorn Hotel in Leicestershire sold for £2.5m, last property in Prima’s portfolio: Agent Savills has sold the Quorn Hotel in Quorn, Leicestershire, to Talash Hotels for £2.5m. The sale was completed on behalf of Ryan Grant, Lee Causer and Catherine Williamson, of AlixPartners Services UK, joint administrators of Prima Hotels. The grade II-listed property dates to the 17th century and was formerly a private residence. It sits within four acres of country gardens and features 36 bedrooms, an AA Rosette restaurant, and wedding and conference facilities for up to 300 guests. The Quorn Hotel was the last remaining asset in the Prima portfolio of regional manor house hotels brought to market by Savills in September 2015. The sales of Hellaby Hall Hotel, near Rotherham, Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow, and Nunsmere Hall Hotel in Cheshire, have already completed, bringing the combined total to more than £16m. Savills head of UK hotel transactions Martin Rogers said: “The Quorn Hotel is the area’s only four-star offer and has a strong trading record. Its picturesque setting on the banks of the River Soar makes the venue a popular choice for weddings and the new owners will therefore benefit from multiple income streams.” The purchaser was unrepresented.
Upham Pub Company hires Elliotts: Upham Pub Company has hired Elliotts as its integrated digital, marketing and PR agency, as the group looks to raise awareness. Upham Pub Company runs 14 pubs, including its latest opening The Hawk Inn in Amport, Hampshire. Chris Phillips, chief executive of the Upham Pub Company, said: “We are delighted to have Elliotts on board to represent the Upham group, our growing number of pubs and, of course, our brewery. The team’s enthusiasm and creative thought processes were impressive and resonated with the Upham ethos and values, and we look forward to working with them.”
Chase Distillery founder to re-enter food market with new range of air-popped popcorn: Will Chase, founder of Chase Distillery and Tyrrells Crisps, is re-entering the food market with the launch of a new range of air-popped popcorn made on his farm. Chase, who sold Tyrrells to Langholm Capital in 2008, is launching Willy Chase’s Fit Corn, which will initially be available in six flavours. The range of popcorn, which is air-popped, rather than fried, is the start of a new Willy Chase’s Fit Food venture. The six flavours are goats cheese, red onion and thyme; salted honey; smoky bloody Mary; cacao and coconut; nearly naked; and cider vinegar with the mother. All are naturally gluten-free, and feature Chase’s favourite ingredients and nature’s superfoods as seasonings to create popcorn. Chase has built Willy’s Popcorn Factory on his farm in Herefordshire, including a kitchen for creating seasonings from scratch and has increased corn production on the farm to supply it. He said: “I want to make fit foods with the pedigree of being handmade by us on the farm. People, including me, just don’t want unhealthy nibbles any more. I want to produce real fit food championing local, fresh and seasonal, avoiding fryers, unnecessary ingredients, mass produced foods and twee stories.” The popcorn range will be available from mid-April in independent stores and delis. Chase founded Chase Distillery, which produces gin, vodka, fruit liqueurs, cider and wines at the farm, in 2008.
Leon launches spring menu celebrating ‘power of plants’: Natural fast food brand Leon has launched its spring menu “celebrating the power of plants”. The menu includes two new dishes – courgetti and kale (courgettes and shredded kale sprinkled with Greek-style cheese and tossed in Sicilian pesto) and keen bean quinoa (British toasted quinoa, with broad beans, mange tout, edamame and peas, dressed in basil and tarragon vinaigrette). Leon has put crushed pea salad back on the spring menu, which also features Sicilian chicken meatballs with capers, fennel, chilli, house tomato sauce and Sicilian pesto, alongside original superfood salad. Brazilian black bean is Leon’s take on traditional Brazilian feijoada, with black beans, carrots, onions and paprika. A Leon spokesperson said: “This spring we are focusing on the power of plants, and basking in their diverse glory. It’s time to start thinking of meat and simple ‘sugary’ carbohydrates as a side – as an addition, not as the stars of the show.” Leon was founded in 2004 and has 34 restaurants across the UK, most recently opening in Fenchurch Street station in London. In February, the company announced it would open ten further sites this year.
Kent-based pub operators take on second site with Shepherd Neame: Kent-based pub operators Tom and Karensa Miller have taken on their second site with Shepherd Neame. The couple, who have run the Zetland Arms in Deal since 2013, are now also operating The Coastguard in St Margaret’s Bay, near Dover. The pub has reopened following a £200,000 refurbishment by Shepherd Neame, which bought the pub – Britain’s closet to France – in January. Its new look is inspired by its maritime heritage, with a red and white lighthouse-style pub fascia and signwriting, complete with boat-shaped planters and lifebuoys as decoration. The interior of the pub has also been completely refurbished and repainted in contemporary colours with a new fireplace installed. Karensa Miller told Kent Online: “When we saw The Coastguard was available, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. It is in a fantastic location and we are delighted with the results of the refurbishment.” Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame added: “The Coastguard is in a spectacular seaside location, and we are confident that following our investment in the site, it will prove a popular destination for residents and visitors to the area.”

Micro-brewery set to open in former Sheffield carpet shop: A micro-brewery in the middle of Sheffield is set to open its doors later this month following the conversion of the former Geoff Hall carpet showroom. The Sentinel Brewing Co project is the brainchild of Alex Barlow, a qualified master brewer with more than 30 years of experience, and will allow visitors to see the “grain to glass” process while sampling beer straight from the tank. Barlow was principal of Sheffield University’s micro-brewing masters course and is The Beer Academy’s director of training, whose courses will be held on site. He wants the Sentinel Brewing Co to help students of both the city’s universities and Sheffield College to understand the brewing, hospitality and catering industries. Once opened, The Sentinel Brewing Co is expected to sell beers from other breweries and the facility will be available for private functions – with several bookings already made by local businesses. “The city has a proud reputation in the brewery industry and this will be one of only a few breweries in the UK which allow people to experience the process, sample from the tank and take a ‘fresh beer to go’,” said Barlow. “This idea has been in my head for many years so I’m delighted to invite people to join us from Monday, 11 April to see the brewhouse being installed and I’m looking forward to providing what will be a unique experience for the people of Sheffield.”
Muffin Break supports UK Coffee Week with 5p-a-cup donation: Muffin Break is supporting UK Coffee Week with 5p from every coffee sold at its UK stores between 11 and 17 April going towards supporting clean water projects in coffee growing communities. All funds raised through UK Coffee Week will go directly towards Project Waterfall, which has raised a total of £325,000 since 2011 to bring clean water and sanitation to coffee growing communities around the world. Muffin Break marketing manager Gemma Sandells said: “Here at Muffin Break we are passionate about ethically and responsibly sourcing the finest coffee beans to serve in our stores nationwide. Therefore, it’s great to be able to support the fantastic work that is carried out by UK Coffee Week each year. We’re confident that our customers will help us support this initiative and the money raised will make a real difference to those who grow our coffee.”
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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