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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 20th Apr 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King Leisure Tracker – early Easter boosts leisure spend in March driven by eating and drinking out: An early Easter provided a boost to leisure spend in March driven by people eating and drinking out, according to the latest Greene King Leisure Spend Tracker. The average leisure spend rose to £216 last month, an increase of £20, or 10%, compared with the same period last year. The figure also represented a £34, or 19%, increase against February, during which many households curtailed their spending following a busy Christmas period. Leisure spending on eating out saw the largest rise in March, increasing by £14, or 18%, year-on-year. This was largely driven by the Good Friday weather and the Easter school holidays, which encouraged many British households to dine out together over the long weekend. Eating out remains the main leisure activity British households spend the most money on, increasing its share of spend mix from 40% to 43% year-on-year. Brits spent an extra £5, or 12%, on drinking out in March compared with the same period last year. While both households with and without children increased their spending evenly by £5, or 12%, over the period, there were notable differences across the country. Those in London and the south east increased their spending on drinking out by £11, or 25%, which was substantially more than households in the rest of Great Britain, which increased their spend by £3, or 6%, year-on-year. The Cheltenham Festival boosted other leisure spending in March while gambling at a casino and other gaming increased by £3, or 25%, compared with February, contributing to a slight 2% increase in other leisure spending year-on-year. Households without children increased their total leisure spending in March by £15 (8%) year-on-year, with households with children increasing spending by £38 (18%). Spending on live sports events has fallen in 2016, sustaining a year-on-year decrease of £3 (20%) in the three months to March. A new trend of “lads who lunch” also emerged, with 43% of men surveyed stating their weekend pub visit is mainly to have lunch with friends and family. Only 19% said their visit was to watch sport on television, while 4% said it was to play pub games, like pool. Greene King group marketing director Fiona Gunn said: “Easter falling early this year saw many British households increase their leisure spending across the board, particularly in eating out. There was also the excitement of the Cheltenham Festival, which boosted other leisure spending, and the fact that the school holidays allowed many families to enjoy some quality time together out of home.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference and summer party open for bookings, Clive Watson to present: The Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday, 7 July at the Oxford Belfry, just off the M40, is now open for bookings. The event features a full-day conference followed by Propel’s summer party, which this year includes an early evening paint-balling expedition followed by a barbecue and karaoke at the hotel. Clive Watson, founder of City Pub Company, talks about building a pub company from scratch, raising money, finding great sites, market differentiation, incentivising managers, creating USPs at each site and possible flotation. Operators of multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can claim up to two free places by emailing Jo Charity on
New benefit for Propel Premium subscribers: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive a new benefit this week – a copy of the Propel Blue Book guide to sector turnover and profitability. The Blue Book lists and ranks 200 sector companies by turnover, profitability and profit conversion. It also provides a five-year overview of profitability and directors’ salaries. Meanwhile, the next audio recording, to be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (22 April), will feature Just Eat’s chief operating officer Adrian Blair giving his overview of the company’s progress and the takeaway market. 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 

Research shows restaurants may be missing out on craft beer boom: New independent research released by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has shown more than one in three people would visit restaurants more often if they served a range of craft-brewed British beer. The organisation said despite the growth in the popularity of craft-brewed beer, the majority of restaurants in the UK were not meeting the consumer demand. SIBA added it would like to set up meetings with small and large restaurant chains to offer them a solution that suits their business so they can benefit from the growing interest in craft brewed beer. SIBA is also encouraging its brewing members to use this research to open doors with their own local, independent restaurants. Nick Stafford, SIBA’s operations director, said: “Craft-brewed beer is growing in popularity across the UK and the restaurants that have recognised this and started to serve a range of interesting, flavoursome beers have thrived. Unfortunately though most restaurants don’t put in the same effort when it comes to beer as they do when selecting their wine list, something our new research suggests could be seriously damaging their commercial potential. This new research shows that over a third of people would visit restaurants more if they served craft-brewed beer. It seems consumers are wanting more than the traditional brands associated with perhaps an Indian or Italian restaurant. SIBA has access to thousands of different beers and therefore we would like to work with restaurants in the UK to create the right beer solutions for their businesses.”

Lunch-to-go online ordering website provider Butterware launches £200,000 crowdfunding campaign: Butterware, which provides online ordering websites for lunch-to-go businesses, has launched a £200,005 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company, founded by Graeme Simpson, is offering a 30.08% equity stake in return for the investment. It said half the money would be used to support one of its developers to a full-time role and to employ a designer. The remaining funds would be used to cover sales and marketing. The pitch states: “Our customers are typically sandwich shops and delivery services but we also support other lunch menus. Unlike typical menu portal services for evening takeaways, Butterware creates a unique site for each business. This allows the business to remain in complete control of their brand and customer base. We charge a percentage on all orders placed through the site, which covers hosting, support and ongoing development work. We ran a free beta service from September 2011 and have been charging our customers since August 2012. We have attracted new clients, tuning our service and adding new features based on direct customer feedback. Our service has developed based on solid experience of the market. Having gained valuable insight from our existing client base, we are ready for investment and expansion.”
Coca-Cola to step up sugar-free innovation: Coca-Cola Great Britain (CCGB) has announced the next step in its strategy to help people reduce their sugar intake – a new sugar-free Coca-Cola, which will be in stores this summer. “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar”, which will replace Coke Zero, will taste more like the original Coca-Cola (Coca-Cola Classic), but without sugar, and will be supported by a £10m marketing campaign designed to get more people to choose no sugar. The new drink is backed by CCGB’s biggest marketing investment in a new product launch for a decade and will feature television, out of home, digital advertising and experiential. The multimillion-pound marketing campaign will encourage consumers to try the new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar by highlighting it “tastes more like Coke and looks more like Coke” than the original Coke Zero. This move is a deliberate attempt to change the mix of the company’s portfolio between sugar and no sugar drinks and is the latest action to result from the company’s £30m reformulation and new product development programme. Replacing Coke Zero, which was launched in 2006, new “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar” is the result of years of recipe development and innovation. The new name – “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar” – and packaging will make it even clearer to consumers the drink is sugar-free. This decision comes after consumer research conducted last year showed five in ten people did not know Coke Zero contained no sugar.

Plans submitted for 150,000 square foot leisure scheme in Colchester: Plans have been submitted for a 150,000 square foot leisure scheme on an 18-acre site in Colchester, Essex. Turnstone Estates has applied to Colchester Borough Council to build the Northern Gateway Leisure development, which will feature a multi-screen IMAX cinema operated by Cineworld, up to 13 restaurant units, and an 80-bedroom hotel. The scheme, located off junction 28 of the A12, is set to create about 600 full and part-time jobs. Turnstone Estates managing director Chris Goldsmith said: “This planning application makes clear our intent to deliver a leisure development for the Northern Gateway site that will be unparalleled in Essex and the wider region. Anchored by a multi-screen IMAX Cineworld and providing a number of indoor active leisure facilities, up to 13 restaurants and a hotel, the development will be a great addition to Colchester. The application will now be subject to full scrutiny in the run up to being determined by the planning committee hopefully in the summer.”

Allan Pickett – ‘Fitzrovia is London’s new restaurant hotspot’: Chef Allan Pickett, who runs modern European restaurant Piquet in Fitzrovia, has claimed the area is London’s new restaurant hotspot. Pickett said it was fast becoming a “game changing” area in London’s restaurant scene and reminded him of Marylebone when he was working at Sir Terence Conran’s venue Orrery, which opened in 1997. Pickett, who launched Piquet in Newman Street last September, told the Evening Standard: “The area is changing every day. This end of Oxford Street, for me, is going to be the game changer. This is the new Marylebone. Look at Terence Conran when he opened Orrery. For me, it has the same feel as that top end where we were. I worked there for four years and we were in a desert. No one would touch it. People couldn’t understand it. But these streets have the same feel.” Fitzrovia has recently seen several high-profile openings, such as Affinity Bars & Restaurants’ Dickie Fitz and Vietnamese concept House of Ho, which replaced Caprice Holdings’ Bam-Bou. The area is also undergoing wider change with Crossrail due to start services at its new station at nearby Tottenham Court Road in 2018. Peter Harden, of Harden’s restaurant guide, added: “There have been some great restaurants established there for a while like Pied à Terre, and Charlotte Street is one of the most famous restaurant streets in London. But it has felt a little unloved for a while and some high-profile restaurants have closed, like Bam-Bou. It has felt a little bit of a ghost town. Now we are seeing an upward trend in good-quality restaurants opening. It’s one to keep an eye on.”

Osborne warns companies over cutting perks: Companies that cut staff perks to compensate for the higher cost of the new National Living Wage should be mindful of the risk to their reputation, chancellor George Osborne has warned. He told ITV: “It’s not the spirit of the law. Companies should be much more careful about their reputation.” The £7.20 hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over came into effect at the start of the month. Osborne’s warning came after a debate in the Commons on Monday on the impact of the 50p hourly increase in the National Living Wage said profitable firms trying to “evade the spirit” of the new laws would face government pressure. “I promise you that we will use the full force of our office, little though it sometimes feels, to put pressure on those companies to live up not only to the legal obligations, which is our job in making legislation in this House, but to their moral obligations, which are the ones that we feel matter a great deal more,” said Conservative minister Nick Boles.

Company News:

Yorkshire Meatball Co reaches £100,000 crowdfunding target: Yorkshire Meatball Co has reached its £100,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it aims to roll-out franchised restaurants nationwide and launch branded retail products in UK supermarkets. The company, founded by father and son team David and Gareth Atkinson, had extended the offer twice and also increased the equity stake to 12% from the original 9.05%. So far 191 investors have pledged £107,880 and it is now “overfunding” with two days remaining. The largest investment to date is £10,000. The pitch states: “Our strategy is to lay the foundations of a quality, national food brand through the establishment of three principal revenue streams: owned-restaurants, franchised-restaurants, and branded retail products. Our original Meatball and Craft Beer Bar launched in Harrogate on 1 March 2014. In early 2015 we attracted the attention of our first franchise partnership, with leading hotel group Splendid Hospitality Group, which launched our first franchise in York in October 2015, where we continue to refine and develop our franchise model for further roll-out. In late 2015, we successfully trialled a pub-kitchen format in Harrogate. With potential format variations from take-out to pub-kitchen and street food, we see a wealth of scope for diversifying the concept further.” The company expects to make a pre-tax profit of £77,934 at the end of this year, rising to £245,949 in 2017 and £601,555 in 2018.

Wagamama franchisee raises funds through €2.5m bond for two new sites in Holland: Noodlebar Benelux BV, the operator of the five Wagamama restaurants in Belgium and Holland, has raised funds through a €2.5m bond on trading platform NPEX for two new sites. General director Arjen Schrama is now developing a new location in Rotterdam’s Witte de Wit Straat, which will open later this year, and is also working on a potential location at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet centre in Roermond, in the east of Holland close to the Dutch/German border. The bond was divided into 2,499 bonds of €1,000 each. Private and professional investors have them registered through trading platform NPEX. The interest rate is 9.25% per annum. The new sites follow the successful opening of Wagamama in Amsterdam Central Station in June last year. Earlier in the year, Schrama bought out the remaining shares from the joint venture partner Alf Mizzi & Sons, giving him full control of Noodlebar BV.

Beannchor Group eyes expansion into Republic of Ireland and Great Britain for Little Wing: Northern Ireland hospitality company Beannchor Group is eyeing expansion south of the border and into Great Britain for its Little Wing pizza restaurant concept. The company is exploring new markets for the brand, which has six restaurants across Northern Ireland employing 150 people. Little Wing managing director Luke Wolsey told Belfast Live: “The Little Wing brand has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Its success has proven that this is a good business model and we have ambitious plans for growth in the coming years. We are reviewing options for further expansion of Little Wing, with a number of sites being investigated across Northern Ireland. Looking to the future, we see the time arising whereby we will have reached a level of critical mass in Northern Ireland and will need to consider options in other markets for further growth. We are already tentatively looking at site locations in both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.”

BrewDog to explore possibility of turning Dog Eat Dog in Islington into ‘pop-up kitchen for best London pop-ups’, closing Equity for Punks IV crowdfunding campaign today: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is exploring the possibility of turning its Dog Eat Dog site in Islington, north west London, into a “pop-up kitchen for the best London pop-ups”. Responding to a question on Twitter about the site from Michael McShane, co-founder James Watt said: “Looking to turn it into an awesome pop-up kitchen for the best London food pup (sic) ups. We will do the beers!” Last month, BrewDog said it had closed the gourmet hot dog and craft beer bar in Essex Road to “re-evaluate the concept” that only opened last October. During the hour-long question and answer session, when asked by CraftBeerGeekUK what other forgotten treats are in store, Watt said: “Electric India is coming back soon too. Maybe cans...” The beer, described by BrewDog as a “unholy union between a Belgian Saison and an Indian Pale Ale”, was democratically brewed by its Equity for Punks shareholders in 2013. Meanwhile, the company will close its crowdfunding campaign Equity for Punks IV at 11am today (Wednesday, 20 April). The company stated: “With £16m raised so far, the interest generated has been phenomenal; giving the people who love the beer the chance to invest in our company has truly created a community of over 40,000 craft beer evangelists, helping us to continue to change the world still dominated by industrial lager. We kickstarted the share offering with an aerial assault over the City of London, stuffed cats raining down on Fat Cats. The response was amazing, £2.5m raised by 5,000 investors in less than 24 hours. It’s a testament to the simple aim of Equity for Punks – to convince the world that there is an alternative to bland, lowest common denominator beer by making others as passionate about great craft beer as we are.”

Berber & Q Grill House team to launch shawarma restaurant concept in Exmouth Market: The team behind London-based Berber & Q Grill House is to open a second restaurant in the capital. Josh Katz and Mattia Bianchi are launching the Berber & Q Shawarma Bar in Exmouth Market in June. The new 40-cover venue will specialise in shawarma, slow-cooked on a rotating spit over hot coals, alongside Middle Eastern cocktails, wine and beer. Enormous, bi-fold windows will open out on to Exmouth Market and feature a takeaway hatch. Inside, there is a bar, an open kitchen and a second dining room. Katz, who has previously worked at the Ottolenghi, Galvin Bistrot Deluxe and Zest restaurants, will take influence for Berber & Q Shawarma Bar from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel as well as closer to home – the shawarma houses of Golders Green he visited as a schoolboy growing up in north London. He told Hospitality Interiors: “We started experimenting with shawarma at the Grill House. It’s a dish that has huge nostalgic value for me, and if done properly deserves it’s own platform to shine. I’ve eaten shawarma all over the world; from Tel Aviv where it’s served in pita, to discovering it’s roots in Jordan and versions in Istanbul.”

Carluccio’s set to open at Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead, second north east site: Carluccio’s is set to open a restaurant at the Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead – its second site in the north east. The company, founded by television chef Antonio Carluccio, is opening the venue in the centre’s Platinum Mall, taking up two units opposite the Champagne Bar. It has submitted a premises licence to Gateshead Council to open until midnight seven days a week, reports Chronicle Live. The restaurant will be the company’s 114th, adding to its sizeable portfolio across the UK, which includes Grey Street in Newcastle, as well as venues in Turkey and the UAE. The Intu Metrocentre has just opened its new £17m dining zone – the Qube – that features 11 restaurant brands, including Five Guys, TGI Friday’s and Thaikhun, which is owned by Thai Leisure Group. The final restaurant, which is home to The Restaurant Group brand Coast to Coast, opened on Monday. 

Peach Pub Company reports 24% sales increase after introducing new technology solutions with Tahola: Peach Pub Company, the 17-strong gastro-pub group, has reported a 24% increase in sales over the winter period having introduced new technology solutions in partnership with business analytics company Tahola. Peach is working with Tahola as it aims to maximise sales, grow its “Peachy culture” and empower front-of-house staff through a number of technologies. The bespoke solutions provided by Tahola include live data reporting, which has enabled team members to compete internally against one another on product sales, as well as performance dashboards, automated report distribution, and reporting across multiple data sources. In addition, Peach’s technology has been able to streamline back-of-house operations through a series of bespoke dashboards where all company resources are able to communicate with suppliers and head office. Peach co-founder Hamish Stoddart said: “Tahola’s technology has been a driving force behind our reporting and analytics solutions across the entire business for a number of years. Each solution has enabled us to connect with our teams on so many levels and allowed us to enhance the ‘Peachy’ culture, which is so fundamental to our business. All our teams have embraced the solutions as part of their everyday routines and loved the extra ‘Peachy’ competition.” Tahola commercial director Simon Blackbourne added: “Peach are one of our most valued clients and we have a great working partnership with them. When they come to us with a new idea, we love the challenge of creating a bespoke solution to fit perfectly into their unique culture. Each solution is built in close partnership to ensure we create a perfect fit, suitable for the dynamics of the business. The armoury of technology that Peach now possesses is truly incredible and each solution manages to take data analysis to the next level every time. Recently we have been able to demonstrate that data isn’t just limited to back-of-house number crunching, but can also be used to motivate team members whilst providing a valuable sales push.”

Cabana opens £1m restaurant in Newcastle, first site in north east: Brazilian barbecue restaurant Cabana has opened a £1m venue in Newcastle city centre, its first site in the north east. The company has opened its tenth restaurant in the former Co-op building in Newgate Street, which has undergone a £17m redevelopment to create a Whitbread-owned Premier Inn with space for several restaurants. The 4,500 square foot site, which has capacity for up to 150 diners, also features a cocktail bar, while 40 jobs have been created. It features pictures on the wall depicting the construction of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer hanging alongside pictures of the building of the Angel of the North. Co-founder David Ponte told Chronicle Live: “I hope we are bringing a little bit of Brazil that people don’t know to Newcastle. Everybody wants to open in Newcastle and we are very excited about coming here. I love the fact that Rio has its Christ statue looking over it and Newcastle (Gateshead) has its Angel of the North overlooking it. So if we can get some more twinning of the two cities I’d be very happy.” Cabana is accelerating its expansion plans and aims to open four more sites, including one in Southampton, this year.

Supper club start-up with potential to create ‘largest and most diverse restaurant group in the world’ raises £350,000 to launch nationwide: WeFiFo, a supper club start-up that chef Jamie Oliver claims has the potential to create “the largest and most diverse restaurant group in the world”, has raised £350,000 in angel investment to launch and roll-out its platform nationwide. The venture, founded by serial entrepreneur Seni Glaister last year, aims to help home cooks across the UK turn their kitchen tables into money-spinners by focusing on the “affordable” end of the market. Anyone can sell tables in their pop-up restaurant at home or local community building through the website, which launched this week. WeFiFo, which is derived from “We Find Food”, will charge a 10% to 20% commission on the meals booked through the site. It will pay for basic health and safety accreditation for its chefs. The website, which features reviews and ratings, will also encourage home cooks to pit themselves against other supper clubs. Glaister, who is co-founder of the £100m-turnover discount bookseller The Book People, told the Telegraph: “We want to provide enthusiastic home cooks with the opportunity to build a career. A student can make a huge vat of spag bol and charge £4 a head. There’s a market for good quality, responsibly sourced food for £10 a head or less. We’ll be up and down the UK, starting with market towns.” Oliver said of the venture: “This could be the largest and most diverse restaurant group in the world without the overheads, grief and risk that goes with it.”

Liquidators appointed to high profile Leeds dance venue: Liquidators have been appointed to the operator of nightclub Control Leeds, which is one of the largest purpose-built music and dance venues in the north of England. The venue, based at the Cardigan Fields leisure scheme off Kirkstall Road, has a capacity of more than 3,000, a state-of-the-art sound system and is home to seven bars across 25,000 square feet. Liquidators from Streets SPW were appointed to Control Leeds on 5 April 2016 and are in the process of winding the company up. According to documentation signed by clubbing entrepreneur Jim Albentosa, Control Leeds owed £1.139m at the date of the liquidators’ appointment. The largest creditor claim is by Technical Procurement, a fit-out business that worked with restaurants, bars and nightclubs, before it was placed into liquidation, with Streets SPW appointed to the business. Liquidators are seeking repayment of £391,000 from Control Leeds. Other creditors listed include HM Revenue & Customs, which is claiming for circa £200,000. In total, trade and expense creditors run to £894,822 and are not expected to recover any money. As well as Control, Albentosa’s Taking Liberties business is also behind Leeds venue The Warehouse.

Papa John’s franchisee opens seventh site in Southport, targets 20-strong estate: Papa John’s franchisee Steve Mullarkey has opened his seventh site, this time in Southport, Merseyside, and is aiming to build a 20-strong estate. Mullarkey, a former wine merchant who opened his first Papa John’s in 2013, has added to his portfolio with a site in Lord Street. He said: “I am very excited about the future and Papa John’s concept of ‘Better Ingredients, Better Pizza’ certainly continues to deliver! The product’s freshness, quality and value for money are a recipe for success. In addition, Papa John’s is an exciting company and committed to growth. My goal is to open 20 stores over the next few years. I targeted Southport as it is an established tourist destination and also has a broad residential demographic. The new store is situated on the main road into town, which is a great location as it is both visible and provides easy access for customers and deliveries.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and there are now more than 300 stores across the UK.
Former Artubus general manager secures second site for Picture: Former manager of Michelin-starred Artubus Tom Slegg has secured a second site for his restaurant concept Picture. Slegg, who launched Picture in Fitzrovia in 2013, is set to open the venue in New Cavendish Street in Marylebone in July. The restaurant, which will seat about 45 people, and like the original, will have an a la carte menu alongside the tasting menu for lunch and dinner every day. Dishes will feature lightly smoked pork, turnips, apricot and red onion as well as cod with young artichokes, orzo and barigoule dressing. The six-course tasting menu will be seasonal, changing completely a few times each year with a few tweaks along the way. He told Hot Dinners: “It has always been our aim to open more than one site and we are delighted to have secured something in Marylebone. We love the area and think it is a perfect fit for the neighbourhood style of restaurant we are passionate about. We have spent a lot of time walking around Marylebone recently and it has a certain charm which you don’t find in a lot of areas.”
Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees buys Little Chef site: Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees, which was the company’s first franchisee in the world, has acquired the Little Chef in Emsworth, Hampshire, through agent Christie & Co. 23.5 degrees has a portfolio of 35 sites. The buyer aims to continue to acquire licensed businesses throughout the south and south west of England. Richard Wood, of Christie & Co’s Winchester office, said: “Following an extensive marketing process, we are delighted to have facilitated the sale to such a recognised and well-respected brand. We have no doubt that it will make a fantastic success of what is a great trading position.” Samantha Hepburn, acquisitions manager of 23.5 Degrees, said: “We are delighted to have acquired our 36th site to trade under the Starbucks name thanks to Christie & Co. We are looking forward to bringing a much loved brand to the area and delivering a familiar offering to locals and visitors alike.” The new site is expected to open for trading under its new guise shortly.
US results and avocados boost Pret A Manger: Vegetarian options, the craze for avocados and booming business in the US helped Pret A Manger serve up record sales last year. The sandwich chain’s sales for the year to December 2015 rose 13.9% to £676.2m with sales at branches open a year or more up 7.5%. Ebitda increased 14.5% to £84.3m. Sales of vegetarian products saw double-digit growth as customers sought to cut down on meat. Pret sold 17,000 of its new beetroot, squash and feta salad each week, outstripping chicken and salmon options. Avocados were the chain’s fastest-growing ingredient, with customers consuming five million of them in salads and sandwiches last year. Clive Schlee, Pret’s chief executive, said almost 10,000 customers voted on social media on options for improving the chain’s vegetarian range. Pret will convert a branch in London’s Soho into a veggie shop and branches of the privately owned chain will sell two vegetarian special options each month over the summer. Schlee added: “Last year thousands of customers told us they were trying to eat less meat. This year we have challenged ourselves to increase our vegetarian options in all shops, as well as opening a veggie-only pop-up shop to learn more from our customers.” Sales at its US operation, launched in 2001, rose 13.8% at established stores. New products and larger stores to suit American tastes helped drive sales in the US where Pret has 65 branches.
Plan submitted for top-end 172-bedroom hotel in Manchester: A plan to build an upmarket 172-room hotel with a bar-restaurant and meeting facilities on the edge of the Northern Quarter and NOMA areas of Manchester has been submitted. Axcel Hospitality is behind a planning application to Manchester City Council to construct a hotel on an 11,517 square foot brownfield site bounded by Cable Street, Mason Street and Addington Street just off Rochdale Road in an area known as New Cross. The plot, which is located halfway between the Smithfield Tavern and the Angel pub, is currently operated as a car park. The property would feature a ground-floor bar-restaurant, reception and meeting rooms as well as accommodation on the upper floors over two wings, one of which would be nine storeys high while the other would be eight storeys high. There would be 172 guestrooms in total. The design proposals have been developed in conjunction with AC Hotels by Marriott (ACHM), a joint venture between AC Hotels and Marriott Hotels. ACHM is “positioned in the upper-moderate sector of four-star urban design hotels”, according to a design and access statement by architectural practice SimpsonHaugh and Partners filed in support of the application. ACHM has hotels across the world including sites in Washington DC, Miami, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Florence, Paris, Marseille, and Copenhagen.
Byron wins Birmingham go-ahead: Byron has won planning consent to transform a grade II-listed building in Birmingham’s New Street. The company filed proposals to convert the ground floor of a former amusement centre at 92-93 New Street into a 182-cover restaurant with a mezzanine floor. There will also be outdoor seating in New Street and Ethel Street. The plans were approved by Birmingham City Council subject to a number of conditions, including the opening hours being limited to between 9am and 11.30pm. The site will be Byron’s first in the West Midlands and will employ 35 full-time and 15 part-time staff. The four-storey building in New Street initially opened as a cinema in the 1970s and was used as a Cashino amusement centre until January 2013. The site had also been on the radar of Azzurri, which operates ASK Italian and Zizzi restaurants across the country.
New Middle Eastern restaurant concept JAN set to open in Clapham: A new Middle Eastern restaurant concept is set to open in Clapham, south London, in June. Faizan Iqbal is launching JAN in Northcote Road, which will take influence from countries such as Iran and Turkey combining Middle Eastern flavours with innovative cocktails in surroundings that give a firm nod to its heritage. The restaurant will have 53 covers in total and will incorporate three separate areas. There will also be an al-fresco heated seating area at the front of the site. The restaurant will feature a medieval-style charcoal oven in the open kitchen that will act as the centrepoint of the menu producing traditionally cooked bread, meat and vegetable dishes. There is also a selection of smaller plates for sharing. The menu will include grilled lamb chops and slow roast shoulder in a pomegranate glaze served with chickpeas and Caspian spices as well as sea bream with harissa and preserved lemons. Drinks will feature cocktails incorporating delicate teas, Middle Eastern spices and fresh fruit such as pomegranate and melon. There will also be a “JAN” beer with flavours of ginger and coriander, created especially for the restaurant by Bermondsey-based micro-brewery Brew By Numbers. Iqbal said: “Our aim is to create somewhere different in Clapham where guests can come and enjoy beautifully cooked, simple dishes with lots of Caspian flavours as well as really well-made cocktails in fun and flamboyant surroundings.”
Propel partners with Professor Chris Edger to launch new Brands Masterclass: Propel has partnered with the UK’s leading thinker and teacher on multi-site foodservice management Professor Chris Edger to launch a new Brands Masterclass to help create and evolve powerful brands. The event takes place on Friday, 10 June in the Chartered Accounts Hall at One Moorgate Place in London. Led by Edger, the all-day masterclass will showcase the advice of contemporary brand experts, who will address each aspect of a foodservice brand’s marketing mix. Each expert will deal with a specific dimension of brand longevity and success, making this programme an absolute must for UK foodservice brand leaders in 2016. The day will be split into three sessions to help delegates ensure their brands are evolved effectively to ensure long-term sustainability and success. Session one will cover leadership, proposition and product and will see Edger drawing on material from his newly-published book, co-written with Tony Hughes, senior independent director of The Restaurant Group, examining the leadership lifecycles of sustainable food brands. The session also features leading brands consultant Ian Dunstall on how to effectively differentiate a brand and its proposition while Chris Gerard, founder of gastro-pub business Innventure, will explain how to create and evolve a compelling food and beverage offer. Session two will cover environment, estate and employer branding with Dan Einzig, founder of leading restaurant and brand design agency Mystery, looking at site design and creating a brand identity while insights firm CACI will explore how operators create a high quality estate. Former Orchid Group chief executive Rufus Hall will talk about creating a people-centric culture and the benefits of having an outstanding team ethos. The final session will look at execution and marketing with Dr Clinton Bantock, associate professor of the Academy of Multi-Unit Leadership, sharing how to achieve operational excellence while James Hacon, managing director of Elliotts, will look at examples of memorable marketing campaigns and the importance of rewarding loyal customers. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book email

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