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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 7th Apr 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Coffer Peach Tracker – pub like-for-likes down 1.6% at Easter, restaurants up 4.3%: Wet and stormy weather across Britain put a dampener on people going out to eat and drink over the Easter holiday weekend, latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker show. Leading managed pub and restaurant groups collectively saw like-for-likes sales just 0.2% up on Easter last year. Pubs suffered worse from the weather with like-for-like trading down 1.6% over the four-day holiday, with drink-led pubs and bars down 2.1%. In contrast, restaurant chains had a better time, with a 4.3% boost in like-for-likes. “The public presumably chose indoor activities like shopping and the cinema rather than going outside,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM and UBS. “Overall the market shouldn’t be too disappointed, however, considering the severity of the weather and the fact that last year was a bumper Easter, with like-for-likes 5% up on 2014.” Total sales for the four-day period among the 30 companies in the Tracker cohort were up 4.2% on the same period last year, reflecting the impact of new site openings in the market since 2015. Mark Sheehan, Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director, said: “Overall, the industry should not feel too perturbed by the numbers given the mixed weather we experienced and an earlier Easter than last year. Despite this, the outlook for eating and drinking out numbers appears to be much tougher over the coming months than we have seen in 2015, against strong comparables and low confidence from consumers and leisure business owners alike ahead of the referendum. New openings in the restaurant sector especially could mean like-for-like sales are tough for existing operators.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: “It appears that those lucky few not stuck in traffic jam chaos over Easter decided to avoid the traditional home-cooked roast and instead made for their local restaurant. For many operators however, the prognosis for the sector is probably one of ‘mild, with clouds on the horizon’. With the National Living Wage having commenced on 1 April and food cost inflation again rearing its head, operators will need to see some positive movement in covers or spend per head (or both) in order to maintain margins. A tough ask in such a competitive environment.”

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 tomorrow (Friday, 8 April), 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
Starbucks to open second Reserve outlet in US, largest site to date: Starbucks is to open its second Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in the US, which at 20,000 square feet will be its largest site to date. The company is building the roastery in New York City in the heart of the Meatpacking District at 61 Ninth Avenue, which is currently under development. It is scheduled to open in 2018 and is inspired by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room that debuted in December 2014 in the company’s hometown of Seattle. The roastery encourages customers to interact with Starbucks roasters and baristas to deepen their understanding of the art behind sourcing, roasting and brewing rare coffees. Chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said: “Our Seattle roastery experience created something that had never been done before, transforming a retail environment into something far beyond just a coffee shop and into the single best retail experience of any kind. In New York, we want to take elements from what we originally created and build something even bigger and bolder, celebrating coffee and craft in a unique and differentiated way. We want this experience to tell our customers that we’re coming to Broadway.” Vornado Realty and Aurora Capital are developing 61 Ninth Avenue, formerly Prince Lumber, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2017. It will span about 170,000 square feet and be nine storeys high.
Merlin Inns ordered to pay record £120,000 after illegally showing Sky Sports at three pubs: Surrey-based Merlin Inns has admitted illegally airing Sky Sports in three of its pubs and been ordered to pay a record £120,600 in fines and costs. The company, which owns 14 sites in the UK, pleaded guilty to ten offences at Redhill Magistrates’ Court and was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £28,500 following an investigation by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Three designated premises supervisors also admitted to a total of three offences and were each fined £600 and a victim surcharge of £60, bringing the total to a record £120,600. FACT prosecuting manager Stephen Gerrard told Advanced Television: “Regrettably for Merlin Inns, it chose to ignore official notices alerting it to its illegal activity and refused advice to legitimise its behaviour. Now the company is left with a substantial fine and three employees with criminal records. This result should serve as a strong warning to any pub company or employee thinking of bypassing the legitimate process to think twice about their actions. It is a criminal offence which the courts, FACT, and Sky take incredibly seriously.”
Droplet unveils ‘zero touch’ payments and loyalty app: Loyalty app Droplet has unveiled new technology allowing customers to pay and collect rewards for their loyalty without needing to touch their wallet or phone. The company has launched Zero Touch, which chief executive Steffan Aquarone said would be a “game changer”. It means customers can choose to check-in to places automatically when they arrive, with their face and name immediately appearing on the point of sale screen so they can be charged for their purchase and given their stamps. The transaction is completed securely and an instant push notification is sent to tell them how much money they’ve been charged – similar to apps such as Uber. Aquarone told the Money 20/20 Europe conference: “Imagine being able to walk in to your pub, restaurant, coffee shop or clothing retailer and getting treated like a star – greeted by name, given personalised treats, and having everything charged seamlessly to your account as if you owned the place. Thanks to Zero Touch and Droplet this is now a reality and we are currently rolling it out to our merchants, which currently number just over 400 spread across ten UK cities, including Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London. The accuracy of the technology means that in busy environments merchants can see exactly who is in the queue, charge people instantly and serve customers faster. In more laid-back places users can come and go as they please and there’s no need to wait for the bill or interrupt the experience to pay. It is the first time that anything like this has been introduced and promises to be a real game changer.” The company, founded by Aquarone and Will Grant in 2012, plans to roll-out the app into ten new locations.
CAMRA – we’d like to see 3,000 pubs listed as Assets of Community Value: The number of pubs registered as Assets of Community Value (ACV) is soaring, according to the latest figures from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Almost 1,500 are now registered and 300 have been added so far this year. Last year, the government announced new protections for pubs listed as ACVs – ensuring that owners apply for planning permission should they want to change the use of the building. Since this announcement, nearly 1,500 community groups across England have come together to list their local and protect it from redevelopment. Prior to the scheme, nominated pubs were vulnerable to closing their doors forever with no planning protection in place. There were only 600 pubs nominated across the country by April 2015. CAMRA’s chief executive Tim Page said: “It is fantastic to see so many community groups empowered to take action to save their beloved pub. It is clear there is strong support for pubs across the country and many passionate campaigners willing to come together to save their local. However, with 27 pubs closing every week there is still more work to be done. Many pubs are still under threat of demolition or being converted to another use by large developers. Registering a pub as an ACV is the first step to saving it from this fate. We would like to see more community groups come together to save their local and for the government to extend planning permission to all pubs, regardless of ACV status.” CAMRA branches and community groups would like to see 3,000 of Britain’s best pubs listed as ACVs by the end of this year.

Company News:

Moody’s downgrades Soho House bonds further into junk territory over liquidity pressure: Ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded Soho House bonds by another notch to Caa2, or three levels away from default status, and lowered its outlook on the debt issued by the company to negative, signalling the possibility of further downgrades this year. The rating action reflects “slower than expected profit growth demonstrated by Soho House resulting in a significant increase in adjusted leverage beyond Moody’s prior expectations”. In addition, while the company met its March interest payment, its liquidity remained constrained even with the recent £15m equity infusion. Still, a note from Moody’s stated: “Moody’s acknowledges Soho House’s strong brand and growth potential although we are conscious of the capex required to support this growth. Moody’s is also mindful of the uncertainty that results from Soho House exploring growth opportunities in new markets where the model is yet to be proven, which we expect may challenge profitability. The negative rating outlook reflects the uncertainty embedded into Soho House’s ambitious growth plans and the likelihood of associated volatility in operating results. In addition, leverage will remain high and interest coverage will continue to be pressured in the next 12 to18 months. Moody’s also expects that the liquidity will remain constrained owing to high committed development capex and high interest costs.” In 2015, Soho House realised total revenues of £283.8m.

Ed’s Easy Diner opens second motorway service station site: American diner chain Ed’s Easy Diner has opened its second motorway service station site. The restaurant has opened at Welcome Break’s South Mimms service station on the M25 and follows the brand’s motorway debut at Peterborough Extra last month. The average customer length of stay at a service station is 21 minutes, with a toilet break the reason why 92% of customers stop. However, Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie reported there had been an increase in customers having longer stops for reasons such as business meetings. In February, the Ed’s Easy Diner brand was withdrawn from sale after failing to attract offers in line with its £90m valuation, The Times reported. Since then, chief executive Ivan Schofield has left the company to pursue career opportunities elsewhere, with Andrew Guy taking over the role. Ed’s has about 50 diner sites across the UK, with a further seven BBQ and Grill sites, a “Dinerette” and “Shake” stand.

Rhubarb steps down from Fenwick contract: Rhubarb, the premium food experience brand and event caterer, has decided not to renew its contract with Fenwick for Bond & Brook Bond Street, Propel understands. Sources suggest this is due to Rhubarb focusing on a number of new ventures and locations. The Rhubarb operation includes outlets in some of London’s most important visitor attractions and high volume sites, including the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, Royal Albert Hall, Saatchi Gallery, Fenwick Bond Street, Heathrow terminal three and terminal five, London City Airport, Royal Ascot racecourse and most recently, the group picked up a £60m contract for the catering operation at Goodwood Estate.

Wales-based Smoke Haus to begin expansion into England with Birmingham opening: Wales-based American-style burgers-and-ribs restaurant concept Smoke Haus is to begin expansion into England by opening a site in Birmingham. The company is opening the 150-cover venue in Brindleyplace in June – its third site. The company’s ethos is to provide “quality food in a great atmosphere, huge portions, masses of meat and a challenge not for the faint of heart”. The restaurant provides a playlist of music and diners with an iPhone can help to choose the running order. Smoke Haus spokeswoman Laura Timson told the Birmingham Mail: “Our company co-founder Mark Power is opening our first restaurant in Birmingham because the Brindleyplace site, above the Slug and Lettuce, is just so good. Bristol might then be the next city to launch in. The portions are huge, but we’re not trying to go against the recommendations of who should eat healthily. Everyone who comes has a great feast – and then probably needs a nap afterwards! We use different woods to smoke the food to give it different flavours.” Smoke Haus, which opened its first site in Swansea in 2012, also has a restaurant in Cardiff.
Four restaurant lettings unveiled at Brighton Marina Boardwalk development: Brighton Brunswick Developments, advised by Savills, has completed the letting of four units at Marina Boardwalk, phase one of the mixed-use West Quay development at Brighton Marina. TGI Friday’s has taken a 25-year lease on the 4,986 square foot unit two, which will be its first restaurant in Brighton. In unit one, Casa Brasil is set to open its fourth site on the south coast having agreed a 15-year lease for the 5,995 square foot space. Casual Dining Group has agreed 15-year leases on two units. Its brands Bella Italia and Las Iguanas will open in 3,750 square foot and 3,585 square foot sites respectively. Part of the largest marina complex in Europe extending to 127 acres (51 hectares), the new restaurants will join existing national brands Café Rouge, Coast to Coast, Zizzi, Nando’s, Prezzo, Frankie & Benny’s, JD Wetherspoon and PizzaExpress. The West Quay development, once complete, will include seven new restaurants and more than 850 high-end apartments. Phase one will be complete by July with further restaurant lettings to be announced. Carlene Hughes, associate director of Savills leisure team, said: “These fantastic national operators serve to further position Brighton Marina as a premier leisure destination in the UK and we are very much looking forward to the opening of this much anticipated development this summer.”

Good Life Group to open Diner in Southampton, first outside London: Good Life Group, the operator of nine Diner sites in central London, will be joining the Watermark development by Hammerson, which joins the WestQuay shopping centre in the heart of Southampton. With a total area of about 6,000 square feet, this will be the largest Diner in the group and an ambitious step forward. Handover of the site is expected to be towards the end of the year, with opening scheduled for early 2017. Good Life Group managing director Marc Francis-Baum told Propel: “We are delighted to have secured our first site outside of London and are excited to be part of Hammerson’s vision for Watermark. We are confident in our brand, its prospects to do well outside of London and we’re certain that the people of Southampton will love the Diner. We also hope this will be the start of a long and successful relationship with Hammerson, a landlord we have long admired and are now delighted to be working with.”
Robin Gill opens fourth London site – Counter Culture in Clapham: Chef-entrepreneur Robin Gill has opened his fourth site in London – Counter Culture – next door to his flagship site, The Dairy, in Clapham. The venue offers traditional, Basque-style tapas – pinchos – and seats 15, mainly around a central kitchen island. The restaurant has put its own spin on Basque food, with a regularly changing menu featuring lots of pickling, fermenting and curing techniques. Small snacking plates include hot smoked lamb ribs with miso aubergine and spiced fennel ferment, and St Martin Bay mackerel, sweet celery, sour rhubarb and house yogurt. The produce is fresh and sustainable, with meat from Nathan at The Butchery, day boat fish from the Bean family in Cornwall (Kernowsashimi), and vegetables from Natoora and Namayasai. Gill also operates The Manor in Clapham and Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green.
Casual Dining Group opens Belgo in Nottingham, first outside London: Casual Dining Group has opened it first Belgo outside London – in Nottingham’s Lace Market – after transforming one of its La Tasca venues. The premises in Weekday Cross have undergone a £550,000 refurbishment, creating 40 jobs. The new venue is spread over two floors, with space for 180 diners, and features quirky feature lighting, big banquette seating, reclaimed wood booths, eclectic artwork and a Belgian market theme. The first floor “Zot Loft” offers Belgo’s beer selection – including Brugse Zot, a blond beer brewed by Bruges’ famous Halve Mann Brewery, or cocktails and schnapps, including a 32-shot stick for the bold, the Nottingham Post reports. Belgo spokeswoman Amber Staynings said: “Nottingham is such a fantastic, cosmopolitan city and we hope our bold Belgian dining and drinking experience will fit right in.” There are five Belgo sites across London, including Covent Garden and Soho.
Fuller’s plans for Herne Hill pub get go-ahead: London brewer and pub retailer Fuller’s has had its plans for the Half Moon in Herne Hill approved. The company acquired the lease of the pub in January from owners the Dulwich Estate and proposes to reopen the site, which closed in 2013 following flooding caused by a burst pipe, this summer. It has had the application, which includes adding a small number of bedrooms, approved by Southwark Council’s planning sub-committee, reports Brixton Buzz. In February, the company said it would not take on the lease if its plans were refused. Fuller’s has also now said there would be no fixed furniture in the main part of the back room of the pub, which could offer flexibility in terms of using the space for live performances. More than 7,300 people have signed a petition asking for the pub to remain a live music venue. Performances had been taking place at the Half Moon for more than 40 years.
Bluebird Tea Co set to open third site in Bristol: Brighton-based specialist tea shop Bluebird Tea Co is set to open its third site, this time in Bristol. The company, founded by Krisi Smith and Mike Turner, is opening the venue at the end of next month in Park Street in the city centre. The store, which will stock an eclectic range of blends, all produced by its expert mixologists, will include a small takeaway bar. There will also be a “tea wall”, which features all of its flavours, including lemon sherbet, apple strudel, and birthday cake blends. Smith told the Bristol Post: “We have always had Bristol on our list. We’ve been trying to find the right space. We’ve had our eye on this one for a year and a bit. We will have a takeaway bar in Bristol so people can grab an iced tea or lattes to go. We create all of our blends – we’re one of the few UK companies to do that. All the names, concepts and recipes are created in-house.” Bluebird Tea Co opened its first site in Brighton in 2013 and also has a site in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Marco Pierre White to launch Italian cafe concept Bardolino in Birmingham, fourth restaurant in city: Marco Pierre White will launch his Italian cafe concept Bardolino in Birmingham, his fourth restaurant in the city. Bardolino will open at The Cube – which already houses Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill – in June. The celebrity chef also operates White’s Chophouse at Hotel La Tour, and Marco’s New York Italian at Birmingham Airport. Bardolino, named after the commune in northern Italy where Pierre White’s mother was born, will open next door to the Club And Spa health club and feature a second, adjoining entrance for members. Club and Spa manager Tom Houghton told the Birmingham Mail: “It is a brand new concept of restaurants for Marco so it’s really exciting. It will be totally different to the steakhouse upstairs. Bardolino will be much more laid-back and less formal. It’s a place where you can enjoy a coffee and newspaper or a smoothie and also the menu will take you through to lunch for light bites and then on to dinner.” Bardolino will serve traditional Italian cafe classics as well as a variety of pasta dishes and pizzas. It will look out over the canal at the Mailbox.
Red Dog Saloon to open Nottingham venue, first site outside south of England: Red Dog Saloon is set to open a restaurant in Nottingham – its first outside the south of England. The venue is at a site formerly occupied by fashion retailer Ark in Victoria Street. The grade II-listed building’s ground floor and part of its basement and first floor will be converted into a bar and restaurant and, under the terms of its lease, Red Dog Saloon could also utilise the property’s rooftop plant deck. The opening will create 50 jobs. Red Dog Saloon founder Tom Brooke told the Nottingham Post: “Nottingham is a great city, one of England’s best, and it’s a really good part of town in a dramatic building. We’re hoping to start work soon once we’ve ironed out a few details with the landlord, which hopefully won’t be too long. This will be the best barbecue in Nottingham, serving the best burgers in a party atmosphere.” Red Dog Saloon, which serves a range of barbecued meats, burgers and sandwiches, has venues in Soho, Hoxton and Clapham in London, with a site planned to open at the Watermark development in Southampton later this year.
Be At One to open site in Birmingham next month, set to expand to Liverpool: Cocktail bar Be At One will open a site in Birmingham next month and is set for further expansion in Liverpool. The company is launching its 31st venue in the former Churchills basement snooker club in Stephenson Street at the back of Piccadilly Arcade on Thursday, 12 May, creating 18 jobs. It will be open until 3am every day except Sundays when it will shut at midnight. Be At One, which was founded by Steve Locke, Leigh Miller and Rhys Oldfield in 1998, offers a range of more than 150 cocktails. Locke told the Birmingham Mail: “We are very focused on providing a world-class guest experience, which we deliver through our bartenders, in-house training, and an extensive range of cocktails. Be At One is a cocktail institution, providing great service and unbeatable party atmosphere, and most importantly with a pretentious-free attitude. Birmingham is a major step for us, the city has a thriving cocktail scene and one we are very excited about joining.” Be At One will be the only bar in the arcade, which currently houses Faculty Coffee and 16 Bakery. The company is also set for further expansion by opening a site in Liverpool. The bar will be located in Seel Street according to its website.
Mayfair residents block Ruth Rogers’ plans to turn car park into River Cafe sister restaurant: Ruth Rogers’ ambitious plans to turn a Mayfair car park into a sister restaurant to River Cafe have been scrapped following complaints by residents. The Duke of Westminster’s property firm Grosvenor, which owns the site next to the Gagosian Gallery, has decided not to proceed with a planning application. River Cafe co-founder Lady Rogers, who is married to “starchitect” Labour peer Richard Rogers, hoped to open the new venture in Grosvenor Hill next year, three decades after she launched the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant in Hammersmith with her late business partner Rose Gray. But Craig McWilliam, who heads Grosvenor’s London portfolio, told the Evening Standard: “When we started consultation with residents and business occupiers it was clear residents had strong views. They were concerned about traffic and trading late into the evening. We concluded that on balance they were right – this was not the moment to put such an iconic restaurant into this particular location.” McWilliam said he still hoped to find a location for the restaurant in Mayfair. Lady Rogers, whose protégés include Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, started River Cafe as a staff canteen at the offices of her husband before it became a famous Italian restaurant through recipe books such the River Cafe Cook Book.

Wadworth appoints first head of property and digital marketing manager as part of new business strategy: Brewer and retailer Wadworth has created two positions in line with the updated business strategy of new chief executive Chris Welham. Gareth Webb has been hired as head of property, while Mark Daniels has been appointed digital marketing manager. Webb joins the Devizes-based business from Greene King, where he was divisional property manager for five years. Prior to that he was a divisional director at Enterprise Inns and also spent 15 years at Whitbread. His new position will entail all aspects of property at Wadworth, including acquisitions, disposals and capital investment. Daniels has spent the majority of his working life in the technology and hospitality industries and, prior to joining Wadworth, worked at Inapub for three years after running his own pub for eight years. Daniels is responsible for Wadworth’s digital marketing and new technologies, covering all aspects of online presence. Welham said: “Our main aim as a company is to continue to grow and be sustainable in our business, and we really trust that Gareth and Mark will be able to guide us and help us fulfil those aims.” As well as its brewery, family-run Wadworth operates 240 pubs across the southern part of England.
Intertain to launch Birmingham Comedy Loft in May: Walkabout operator Intertain, which will sever its links with Jongleurs this month having signed a new partnership with comedy producer Just The Tonic, will host a VIP launch night at its comedy club “The Comedy Loft” in Birmingham on Thursday, 5 May. Lee Nelson will headline the night as a special extension to his Suited and Booted tour. The launch will also introduce The Comedy Loft’s new food and drinks menu. Just the Tonic will start running shows every weekend from the beginning of May at Intertain’s “Comedy Loft” venues – in Birmingham, Camden, Reading and Watford. Intertain will also look to maximise its purpose-built venues, making them a home to weeknight comedy, as well as touring shows for big-name, established acts and breakthrough comedians. Intertain chief operating officer Simon Kaye said: “Just the Tonic is well-known within the industry for putting on quality comedy nights, and we’re excited about the potential this partnership has to enable us to attract the best talent and provide the best experience for our customers.”

M&B transforms Orchid pub in Paignton into Harvester: Mitchells & Butlers has converted one of its Orchid “All-Inns” venues in Paignton, Devon, into a Harvester. The venue, previously The Flagship pub in Esplanade Road, next to the Vue cinema on Paignton seafront, has reopened under the Harvester banner following a six-week refurbishment, creating 30 jobs. The venue has retained Fuzzy Ed’s soft play centre, the Plymouth Herald reports. Harvester has more than 230 sites around the UK, with the Harvester in Beacon Quay, Torquay, the closest venue to Paignton.
New cafe bar concept Caffeine & Cocktails set to open in Reading: A new cafe bar concept Caffeine & Cocktails is set to open in Reading. The venture is being launched next month on the site of the former Mix Bar in King’s Walk, which is being redeveloped into Atlantis Village. It will offer coffee and food, such as sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie sharing boards during the day and transform into a cocktail bar by night. Using a wide range of spirits and liqueurs, the team has worked to produce a new cocktail menu. Manager Jack Wrigley told Get Reading: “Reading venues are hard to come by so after seeing the space, we decided this had to be the spot. We will predominantly be a cocktail bar, but you can count on us for lunch or a brunch stop by day.”

French creperie concept Mamie’s to open in Covent Garden: French creperie concept Mamie’s is opening in London’s Covent Garden in July, serving up authentic crepes and galettes over three floors. It will also feature a bespoke Cidrothèque (cider cellar) in the basement – in Brittany the perfect accompaniment to a crepe or a galette is regarded as a  “bolée” – or bowl – of cider. In addition to ten French ciders (from both Brittany and Normandy), there will be British ciders as well as a number from Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and New Zealand.

Stevie Parle protégé Alex Jackson to open first restaurant: Chef Alex Jackson, a protégé of Stevie Parle, is launching his first restaurant next month. Jackson, who worked under Parle at Rotorino in Dalston, London, is opening Sardine, which will serve food inspired by the regions of Provence and Languedoc and parts of northern Spain and Italy using southern French wood-fired cooking. The restaurant will be in Old Street, based in an annexe next to the contemporary art gallery Parasol, just off the City Road. The dishes will be fresh, and simple, using “farmhouse” cooking, and ingredients will be authentically sourced from France, the Basque country, and Italy. All meat and fish will be from the UK. Parle will be involved in the operational support and management of the restaurant. He said: “Alex is a rare talent. A cook so at ease and naturally skilled he knows he doesn’t have to overcomplicate things. A sage. Unlike one of those ageing Michelin-starred chefs who has gone from making egotistical attention-seeking food to the realisation that really all they and everyone else wants to cook and eat is ratatouille and lamb cooked over wood – Alex is already there. Cooking the food of a mythical Mediterranean granny. I for one can’t wait to eat at his restaurant.” Jackson began his career at The Dock Kitchen in Ladbroke Grove before moving to Rotorino, which won a Michelin Bib Gourmand. After that he headed to Mons Cheesemongers to learn more about the craft of the affineur.
Oliver Maki sushi group opens restaurant in Soho, first UK site: Oliver Maki, the Middle Eastern-based sushi group with restaurants in Bahrain and Kuwait, has opened its first UK site – in Soho, London. The venue is split over two floors of a site in Dean Street, with iPads rather than printed menus. The signature Oliver Maki selection features eight rolls made up of more than 30 ingredients, including foie gras, truffle and quinoa, City AM reports. Combining Japanese tradition with global flavours and textures, Oliver Maki is the brainchild of Lebanese-Canadian co-founder Oliver Zeitoun and his family. The kitchen is led by former Nobu Las Vegas sushi chef Louis Kenji Huang, with the menu split into seven sections: shots and bites (small plates), salads and starters, signature sashimi, sushi and sashimi (by piece), hot dishes (including black rice seafood risotto and Japanese wagyu steak), signature maki, desserts, and Olivermaki vento (which is only available on Fridays).
New York-style cocktail bar and coffee house launches in Darlington town centre: A New York-style cocktail bar and coffee house has launched in Darlington town centre. Family duo Debbi and Dave Moore have invested £30,000 in an extensive refit of a former charity shop that had stood empty for almost a decade, transforming it into Manhattans Coffee House and Bar. Debbi Moore, a designer, has used her own cityscape interior designs at the two-storey venue in Bondgate. The site also offers a cocktail bar, a dedicated sports room with 12-foot screens, and space for private functions and events. Debbi Moore told The Northern Echo: “A lot of time, effort and money has gone into the creation of Manhattans and we are looking forward to creating a vibrant venue in the heart of Darlington. I wanted to create a location that I would want to visit, so that’s the way it has been designed.”
John Derkach becomes chairman of Bistrot Pierre: Restaurant group Bistrot Pierre has appointed John Derkach as its new chairman following a £9.8m investment from Livingbridge. Starting out at Procter & Gamble, Derkach then pursued a successful career at Whitbread spanning 20 years with chief executive roles for Pizza Hut, Beefeater and latterly coffee chain Costa Coffee. More recently he held the position of chief executive for Tragus Group, which operated almost 300 restaurants nationwide. Derkach said: “The offering at Bistrot Pierre is proven to work as its current 14 sites continue to perform exceptionally well. With big plans to open an additional five bistrots a year, I’m delighted to be appointed as chairman for such a forward-thinking business that has developed such a loyal customer base and strong brand in the food and drink sector.” Joint managing director Rob Beacham said: “It’s a very exciting time for the business and we are thrilled to welcome John on our board to advise on the group’s major expansion plans. Having John as part of our senior leadership team really strengthens our position in this competitive market and allows us to grow our network of bistrots and the Bistrot Pierre family. We are delighted to be working with him at such a pivotal time for the business. Currently the chairman of Eat and a board member for TelePizza it’s clear that John’s expertise is the perfect fit for Bistrot Pierre at this exciting time for the business.” The group’s 15th bistrot is set to open in Birmingham in the summer and a 16th site has been announced for Weston-super-Mare in Somerset.

Last Drop Hotel sold for £4.25m: The Last Drop Village Hotel on the outskirts of Bolton has been sold to the Cheshire-based Emerson Group – one of the largest privately owned property development companies in the UK – for £4.25m. The 128-bedroom hotel also has 13 conference rooms, two bars, a restaurant and 400 parking spaces in addition to an extensive spa, leisure facilities and eight small shops. It has been sold by Moorfield Real Estate Investment Fund as part of a batch of 24 properties it has offloaded.
Lancashire village community pub reopens following 12-month refurbishment: The Fleece Inn in Dolphinholme, a village on the edge of Lancashire’s Trough of Bowland beauty spot, has reopened following a 12-month refurbishment. The Fleece, formerly owned by brewer Mitchell’s of Lancaster, was bought by a local business as it was feared the inn, parts of which date to the 16th century, could close and the village lose a vital community asset. After significant investment, the Fleece now features nine bedrooms, a new kitchen and a community shop selling local produce. Fleece general manager Maurice Camm told The Business Desk: “As members of the local community, the owners thought it imperative to keep the Fleece in operation and ensure a vital asset still operated for the benefit of everyone. Although it’s an inn, it’s important in a number of ways – it’s a source of employment, somewhere local people can meet and call their own, and it’s going to help bring visitors to the area. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved in refurbishing the Fleece Inn and we are confident we’ll help it do what it does best – welcoming people to the historic village of Dolphinholme. Our team at the Fleece is passionate about good food and drink, using local suppliers and making it known for great accommodation.”
‘UK’s first’ vegan pub closes 11 weeks after opening in Bristol: The owners of what is thought to be the UK’s first vegan pub have been forced to close the site just 11 weeks after opening in Bristol. Bruce Gray launched the Adam and Eve in Hotwells in January. But he has been forced to call time on the venture due to soaring repair costs. He told the Western Daily Press: “We only had a short lease on the premises to begin with, so we are only leaving slightly early. The issue is that the brewery’s lease on the building is also due to expire in a couple of months, so it is unwilling to invest in maintenance. We were fine to pay for the first two or three repairs, but when it gets to the six or seventh problem you have to draw the line.” Everything served at the pub was vegetarian, with up to 80% of dishes suitable for vegan diets. Gray, who also owns Small Bar in King Street, added: “We are looking for new premises. We have no timescale for this at the moment, it depends on what is available on the market – it could take two weeks or two years, we just don’t know.”

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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