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Tue 21st Jun 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

BrewDog co-founder partnering Dragon’s Den contestant to launch Texas-style barbecue restaurant in London next month: BrewDog co-founder James Watt is partnering with a Dragon’s Den contestant to open a Texas-style barbecue restaurant in London next month. Watt has joined forces with Joe Walters, from Dallas, to launch Texas Joe’s Slow Smoked Meats near Bermondsey Street on Monday, 4 July to mark America’s Independence Day. Walters made a name for himself when he appeared on Dragon’s Den three years ago in full cowboy clobber, winning investment for his beef jerky brand from Dragon Peter Jones but eventually deciding to go it alone. The restaurant, which will replace a former Chinese takeaway in Snowfields, will be a “spit and sawdust” venue where the focus is on the food rather than “neon signs and American” decor. A 500-pound capacity rotisserie imported from the US will be a focal point, while its menus will be printed in the style of a 1930s Texas newspaper and much of the furniture will be homemade. It will serve beef brisket and prime ribs, pork shoulder and several traditional mutton dishes, which will be made using meat from local Bermondsey butcher Nathan Mills. This will be accompanied by homemade pickles and bread. There will be a range of US and UK craft beers and spirits, including bourbons from Balcones and Garrison Brothers, Texan Lone Star lager and closer-to-home beers from Camden Town and Kernel. Walters told the Evening Standard: “There are a lot of barbecue restaurants in London now, but something has been seriously lost in translation. Here barbecue is treated as a culinary fad, whereas in Texas it is simply a way of life. It is wrong chefs are trying to elevate it to something it is not and I will be taking things back to basics.”

Industry News:

Bar and Nightclub Conference open for bookings, Roy Ellis to present: This year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Propel, is now open for bookings. It takes place on Tuesday, 11 October at Bafta, Piccadilly, and follows the successful launch of the event last year. It will be followed by the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards for bar and nightclub operators at Cafe de Paris in the evening. Serial sector entrepreneur Roy Ellis will talk about the launch of the ground-breaking Albert’s Schloss concept in Manchester last year, its USPs, versatility, first-year performance and roll-out potential – and set out the scope of the involvement of his Mission Mars business in Manchester’s late-night scene. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the ALMR, said: “The conference will highlight the success being achieved by many of our best operators in the late-night segment alongside the challenges the sector faces.” Paul Charity, managing director of Propel, added: “Last year’s event was a big hit, highlighting the importance of bar and nightclub culture in creating a vibrant evening environment in the UK’s towns and cities. This year’s event will also feature a host of the UK’s best operators – and offer strategic insights into the key drivers affecting the market.” Tickets are priced at £95 for operators who are ALMR members and £145 for non-ALMR members – there is a £20 early-bird discount for operators booking in June. Supplier tickets are £145 for ALMR supplier members and £195 for suppliers who are not ALMR members. Tickets can be booked by emailing Jo Charity at jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Next premium recording to feature Chris Gerard: The next audio recording sent to Propel Premium subscribers next week will feature gastro-pub operator Chris Gerard, who presented at the recent Brands Masterclass. Gerard sets out how he moved his burger offer upmarket by improving quality and how his D’aryy’s brand has evolved in the competitive Cambridge market. Propel Premium subscribers will also receive 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. 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 Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Blackburn set to win £1.5m lottery cash to kick-start new restaurant quarter: Blackburn is set to be awarded £1.5m in National Lottery cash to kick-start a project to turn the Lancashire town’s Victorian Quarter into a restaurant, cafe and nightlife hub. The grant, which will go towards the makeover of historic buildings in Blakey Moor and Northgate, will enable the council to match the grant so work on the £3m project can begin. It is understood the Heritage Lottery Fund has approved the grant in principle but is not allowed to confirm it until after Thursday’s EU referendum. Under the five-year Townscape Heritage Initiative, key Victorian buildings will be renovated to attract cafes, coffee houses and eateries to create a “visitor honey pot”. The grant will put flesh on the bones of the borough’s 2013 ambition to bring five major new restaurant brands to the town centre. Elsewhere in the town, the Premier Inn in the £34m Cathedral Quarter and Cafe Northcote in the new Clergy Court are already operating. Nando’s in the Vue cinema complex and a cafe/dessert bar in the One Cathedral Square office block will open later this summer. Blackburn MP Kate Hollern told the Lancashire Telegraph: “This whole scheme for Northgate and Blakey Moor will be a tremendous boost to the town, its history and Victorian heritage.”

British adults consuming soft drinks rather than beer when drinking out, new research reveals: British adults are consuming soft drinks rather than beer when drinking out, new research has revealed. The findings by insights firm NPD Group showed for the year ending March 2016, 71% of over-16s in Britain had at least one foodservice visit a month that included a soft drink. This compares with 23.9% that had at least one foodservice visit a month that included a beer. On average, Brits had five visits that included a soft drink each month, compared with 3.3 visits for beer. The findings showed that across Europe’s “Big 4” (France, Germany, Britain, and Italy), 8% of visits made included a beer, compared with 21% for soft drinks. Britain was the biggest country for soft drinks consumption (24%) while Germany led the way for beer (12%). The percentage of foodservice visits involving a soft drink in Britain was higher than in Italy (62.5%), Germany (60.1%) and France (54.0%). Across the four countries, the 18 to 24 age group had the highest consumption frequency of soft drinks, followed by those aged 25 to 34. The findings showed the proportion of men to women consuming a beer in Britain was 2.7, which is the highest out of the four countries, with Italy the lowest at 1.5. Italy had the highest percentage of visits with at least one that included a beer (37.7%), followed by Germany (27.3%), Britain and then France (16.3%). Germany had the highest average visits a month that included a beer at 3.8, followed by Britain, Italy (3.1) and France (2.3). The number of soft drink and beer servings both slightly declined in the year ending March 2016 by 1.1%.

Chefs catering for food intolerances but failing to cut down on salt, sugar or fat, report states: Almost all chefs are taking account of allergies and intolerances when it comes to planning menus but only about a quarter are actively taking steps to reduce sugar, fat or salt content, according to a new report. The survey of 100 chefs by hospitality recruiter The Change Group also found the majority of respondents (85%) thought it was up to customers to take responsibility for choosing more balanced and nutritional meals. On a day-to-day basis, only about one in four chefs took steps to reduce sugar (27%), fat (29%) or salt (29%) in their menus. Gluten (94%) topped the list of allergens chefs catered for when planning a menu, followed by intolerances to dairy (82%), peanuts (72%) and eggs (59%). The report said catering for food intolerances was an important development as, according to Allergy UK, food allergy cases had doubled in the past decade, with the number of hospital admissions caused by severe allergic reactions increasing seven-fold. The majority of respondents (85%) said it was up to the individual customer to take responsibility regarding the nutritional value of meals, while less than one in three (29%) thought restaurants had a part to play. Chefs also said schools and colleges (42%), food manufacturers (32%) and government (24%) should take more responsibility. The Change Group co-owner Craig Allen said: “Our research suggests that, at the moment, the priority for chefs and restaurants seems to be on adapting to food intolerances and allergies. But the next generation of chefs could become much more focused on combining outstanding flavour with dishes that provide balanced nutrition.”

Leonardo DiCaprio to show support for social enterprise sandwich shop chain Social Bite: Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is expected to follow in the footsteps of George Clooney and visit social enterprise cafe Social Bite in Scotland later this year. The Oscar winner is believed to have accepted an invitation to visit Social Bite’s Edinburgh site, a sandwich shop that feeds, trains and employs local homeless people. The star will also speak at the Scottish Business Awards during his first visit to Scotland. Clooney visited Social Bite in November and launched an appeal to help homeless people and fund an aid convoy to ferry food and clothing to refugee camps in Europe. The appeal received so many donations, surplus funds were used to supply free hot meals and drinks to the homeless communities in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen for a year. Founded by Josh Littlejohn, about a quarter of staff at Social Bite stores have previously been homeless. The company opened its fifth site last September, in Aberdeen, joining two stores in Glasgow and two in Edinburgh.

Pubs must do more to engage with wine drinkers, new report reveals: Pubs must do more to engage with wine drinkers, according to a new report. The findings by Crown Cellars, the specialist wine and spirits division of Carlsberg UK, showed 41% of wet-led pubs still don’t offer a wine list. Its first Future of On-Trade Wine report, which aims to uncover whether the on-trade is meeting customer expectations when it comes to wine, what is being done well, and what areas can be improved on, revealed 61% of the trade think wine quality has improved in recent years, compared with only 35% of customers. The biggest disparities are around range (countries and grape varieties), staff advice, temperature of wine and presentation. In all of these areas, the trade scored themselves much higher than consumers did. Meanwhile, 39% of customers felt their wine was not served cold enough. Overwhelmingly, the research revealed there are two very different groups of customers who have very different attitudes towards wine – millennials and the rest. Fundamentally they would both like more choice and help to navigate wine lists. Both groups would like to feel inspired and enthused to try new wines and, underpinning all of this, is a desire for quality both in terms of the wine itself and the overall experience. Millennials need to be inspired by a strong visual display to compete with other categories such as craft beers and ciders and would like to see simple, engaging descriptions on the wine list. Currently they don’t feel there is enough guidance around taste and are being discouraged from exploring the category and diversifying. In contrast, over-30s feel more confident in their wine choices but they appreciate wine and food matching recommendations and are more likely to trade-up if encouraged to do so. Paul Waller, head of Carlsberg’s Third Party Brands division, said: “Wine in the on-trade has developed and evolved significantly in the last decade, but it is clear there is still some way to go to catch up with other drinks categories and with customer expectations. When you consider that 41% of wet-led pubs still don’t have a wine list, and 28% of pubs don’t think wine training is important, there is still work to be done. We are looking forward to using this research along with our experience and knowledge of wine trends to better advise and educate the trade.”

Company News:

Charles Wells opens new concept The Pantry at Apostrophe site in Stratford-upon-Avon, company hopes ‘first of many’: Charles Wells has opened new concept The Pantry within its Cox’s Yard development in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is run under its Apostrophe Pubs managed vehicle. The company has refurbished the on-site coffee shop into what Apostrophe director Craig Mayes said would hopefully be the “first of many Pantry’s”. It is the first phase of Apostrophe Pubs’ redevelopment of the site since taking over in September last year. Dubbed as “not your average place to get a steaming hot, hand-roasted cup of coffee”, The Pantry offers “everything you’d find in your grandmother’s pantry”. This includes traditional cakes, freshly baked bread, croissants, sandwiches, fruit selections and salad bowls. To complement the offer there is wood-roasted coffee, hand-blended artisan teas, a selection of soft drinks, craft beer and wine. Cox’s Yard manager Stuart Burbage said: “While Cox’s Yard has always provided great coffee and cakes for people meeting friends or taking a break from walking along the river, we wanted to evolve the idea a little further.” Mel Smith, who will oversee the Pantry on a day-to-day basis, added: “The Pantry is a result of speaking to customers about what they’d like us to offer and I’m looking forward to showing everyone around my Pantry.” Mayes said: “We’ve taken a bit of time getting to know the site and what the demand is from our guests and have come up with something unique and special. We hope this will be the first of many Pantry’s.”

G1 Group in process of acquiring two ‘iconic’ Scottish sites: Scotland’s largest independent managed operator G1 Group has revealed it is in the process of acquiring two “iconic” venues. The company is also seeking a new operations director after confirming Michael Horan had left the company to join YO! Sushi. It said: “G1 Group is currently in the process of acquiring two new venues to complement the estate. These will be announced in the next couple of weeks. Operations director Michael Horan also left the business to take up a new opportunity back home in Manchester where his children are based.” HR director Paul Bailey added: “Michael’s decision comes at a time when the business is experiencing substantial change both with culture and growth. However, we wish him well with his new role. We are now looking for an exceptional leader to support our exciting journey as we further diversify our estate and brands.” G1 Group operates more than 55 sites in Scotland, comprising bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, cinemas and a casino. 

Mitchells & Butlers signs Armed Forces Covenant: To mark Armed Forces Day on Saturday (25 June), Mitchells & Butlers has signed the Armed Forces Covenant in recognition of its active support for the Services in the UK. As a covenant member, Mitchells & Butlers said it was committed to proactively working with the armed forces community by employing reservists and ex-service personnel and encouraging them to join the business as a future career. Mitchells & Butlers aid it regularly looks to the ex-forces and reservists for new recruits. Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, said: “Mitchells & Butlers, like the armed forces, brings together a diverse community along with a number of different careers and opportunities. The ability to be self-motivated, flexible and work as part of a team are key attributes for our staff in all elements of our companies and are just some of the attributes that time served in the armed forces can bring.” In addition, Mitchells & Butlers’ Toby Carvery restaurants will be honouring Armed Forces Day by offering all military personnel a free carvery on Saturday.

Prezzo closes Cleaver restaurant in Wokingham: Prezzo has closed its Cleaver restaurant in Wokingham, Berkshire. The company has shut the American-style grill specialising in steaks, ribs and burgers, which opened in The Plaza, off Denmark Street, in September 2013, reports The Wokingham Paper. Prezzo launched Cleaver in June 2013, serving handmade burgers with prime Scottish beef, chicken from selected Norfolk farms and ribs from fully traceable locally sourced pork. The brand’s remaining restaurants are in Cobham and Leatherhead, both in Surrey.

Fego lines up seventh site, in Sevenoaks: Cafe brand Fego is lining up its seventh site, this time in Sevenoaks, Kent. The company has lodged plans with Sevenoaks District Council for a premises licence on the site of former Italian restaurant Perfetto at Bligh’s Meadow shopping centre. The site, which has also previously been home to Casual Dining Group brand Café Rouge, has been empty since April when Perfetto closed just a year after opening because of rising rent prices, reports the Sevenoaks Chronicle. Fego offers a range of slow-roasted coffee, and a regularly updated menu of freshly prepared, quality food. Having first opened in South Africa in 1996, Fego launched its first UK cafe in St John’s Wood, London, in 2003, and has since opened five sites around England.

Meatcure and Pronto ‘biggest movers’ on Seedrs last week: Gourmet burger restaurant company Meatcure and healthy food delivery start-up Pronto were the “biggest movers” in terms of amount and percentage raised, and number of investors respectively in the past week on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Meatcure is looking to raise £350,000 to open five new sites in the next two years in return for an 8.56% equity stake. So far 70 investors have pledged £158,305 with 53 days remaining. Meanwhile, Pronto has already hit its £689,000 target as it looks to open two more distribution centres to expand across central London. The company, which was launched in June 2014 by James Roy Poulter and Simone D’Amico, is running a convertible share equity campaign with a 15% discount. So far 210 investors have pledged £807,790. It aims to deliver restaurant-quality dishes from chefs to homes or offices in less than 25 minutes and plans to roll-out to mainland Europe at the start of next year.

Brakspear to add to managed estate with Cotswolds opening: Pub operator and brewer Brakspear is reopening one of its managed pubs in Stow-on-the-Wold after a major refurbishment. The site, renamed as The Sheep on Sheep Street, opens on Friday, 1 July. Brakspear bought the pub – previously called the Grapevine – in January this year. The building dates to the 17th century and the refurbishment, carried out by the company’s in-house design team, has retained its historic charm while also creating a contemporary, relaxed atmosphere for dining, drinking and overnight stays in one of its 22 bedrooms. The Sheep’s drinks offer includes a specialty gin menu featuring ten classic British gins, such as the locally distilled Cotswold Gin. Beers include ten craft beers such as BrewDog Punk IPA and Camden Hells, as well as a selection of Brakspear cask ales. Classic cocktails are also served, with an Espresso Martini as the house special. Food at the Sheep is produced by head chef Matthew Houghton, with direction from Brakspear executive chef Antony Ely. The menu is based around the wood-fired oven, with a range of gourmet southern Italian-style wood-fired pizzas, including the Sicilian (arrabbiata sauce, courgette, prawns, rocket, artichokes), and the Sheep Street pizza (spiced lamb with Berkswell cheese, pomegranate, mint and red onion jam). Upstairs, the 22 bedrooms have been given a fresh, country townhouse feel using simple yet classic design. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We’re proud of the transformation at The Sheep on Sheep Street, which has turned it into a stylish yet accessible drinking and dining spot. We have invested significantly in our Cotswolds estate this year, with The Sheep following hot on the heels of The George Townhouse in Shipston-on-Stour, which reopened in May. We’re confident both these newly refurbished venues will be popular with the many food and drink lovers who either live or holiday in the region.” Brakspear’s eight-strong managed estate includes three other pubs in the Cotswolds – the award-winning Porch House, also in Stow; The George Townhouse in Shipston; and The Church Street Townhouse in Stratford-upon-Avon. The other managed sites are The Bull on Bell Street in Henley-on-Thames; The Running Horses in Mickleham, Surrey; The Chequers in Marlow; and The Pocket Watch in Shepherd’s Bush.

SABMiller boss sees 17% drop in pay: SABMiller chief executive Alan Clark has seen a 17% drop in pay for the year to the end of March after the brewer, which has agreed to a takeover by its bigger rival Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), suffered a fall in profits. Clark’s total remuneration for the year dropped to £5.9m from £7.1m a year earlier, according to the brewer’s annual report. His pay was affected by a big drop in the value of awards made under the brewer’s long-term incentive scheme, to £2.4m from £4.4m in 2015. SABMiller reports its financial results in US dollars but is heavily focused on emerging markets in Latin America and Africa. A slide in emerging market currencies against the dollar, along with hefty exceptional costs, resulted in profits last year falling nearly 16% to $4.07bn. These included costs associated with negotiating its £71bn takeover by AB InBev and impairments related to troubled divisions, including its business in South Sudan, from which the brewer has been forced to withdraw following a shortage of foreign currency in the country. However, Clark received an increase in his annual bonus last year, to £1.7m from £1.1m a year earlier. Remuneration committee chairman Lesley Knox said in the report: “Underlying revenue, Ebita and adjusted earnings per share growth resulted in above-target bonuses for the year. However, the translational impact of currency depreciation against the US dollar caused some long-term incentive awards with three to five-year performance periods to lapse with a nil payout.” Clark, who took over as chief executive in April 2013, owned 341,886 shares in the company as of 10 June. SABMiller and AB InBev agreed a £44-a-share deal in November last year and the acquisition took a big step closer to completion last month when the European Commission approved the deal.

Searcys lodges plans for rooftop restaurant at new £37m John Lewis store in Leeds: High-quality caterer and champagne bar operator Searcys is to open a rooftop restaurant at the new £37m John Lewis department store in Leeds. Searcys has submitted plans to the city council for the restaurant, which will feature an unobtrusive retractable fabric canopy and screens designed to complement the wider building. John Lewis is the anchor tenant of the £165m Victoria Gate development and the 255,000 square foot store, which is nearing completion, will consist of eight levels. The planning application stated: “The overall development consists of eight levels, five of which accommodate the sales areas and goods storage. The two basement levels contain a dedicated service yard for incoming goods, complete with bulk storage provision and staff facilities. On the rooftop, provision has been made for a restaurant, which will be fitted out and managed by a third-party supplier. The proposal is to incorporate a new retractable canopy and associated diagrid screen.”

Pizza concept Slice plans Newcastle expansion: A popular pizzeria in Newcastle’s Grainger Market is opening a new Italian deli and restaurant. Family-run Slice has been serving up pizza fresh out of the oven for more than five years from its unit in the city centre market. Now the business, which regularly draws long queues of customers for its breakfast calzones and pizza slices, is looking to expand by taking on the former Greggs unit close to the entrance, which has lain empty since the bakery giant left to open new shops nearby. Plans have been submitted to Newcastle City Council that seek to convert the double unit at 12-13 Grainger Market into a combined delicatessen and restaurant, to be called Little Italy – Italian Deli. The company has enlisted Michael Taylor Studio architects in Newcastle to apply for all the necessary permissions inside the grade I-listed building, including a request for a change of use from retail to restaurant, as well as listed building planning permission.

Roomzzz to expand into London by building aparthotel in Stratford: Aparthotel group Roomzzz will take its first steps into the London market by opening a hotel in Stratford. Scheduled to open in March 2017, Roomzzz London Stratford will consist of 87 luxury rooms at the newbuild site in West Ham Lane, creating 20 jobs. The company hopes to capitalise on the continuing post-Olympic regeneration of the area, with the new aparthotel within walking distance of Stratford attractions such as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre. It marks a change of strategy for Leeds-headquartered Roomzzz, which had been focusing expansion plans in the north of England. Roomzzz Aparthotels chief operating officer Mark Walton told BDaily: “As our first venture in London, the hotel’s opening is a major milestone for Roomzzz Aparthotels as a brand, raising our profile and appealing to a new audience. We aim to follow on from the success of our existing sites in Chester, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham, and continue to grow in this ever-popular market. As well as London Stratford, we have a number of other projects in the pipeline, with three additional sites planned for Liverpool, Manchester Corn Exchange, and York.”

Honest Pub Co adds fish and chip takeaway to Star Pubs & Bars site in Scotland, plans further acquisitions: Honest Pub Co has added a takeaway fish and chip shop to the Kings Arms in the village of Fenwick in Scotland. The company has spent £40,000 with owner Star Pubs & Bars refurbishing the pub during a six-month period. It has now added the takeaway fish and chip shop to the business in a second stage of investment. The new venture meets a gap in the market for takeaway food in the village, saving residents a seven-mile round trip to Kilmarnock. It will also stock grocery basics such as a bread and milk to help villagers out when the only shop in Fenwick is closed. The Honest Pub Co has invested £10,000 in kitchen equipment, while a special house batter and tartar sauce will be home-made on the premises. The takeaway has its own serving hatch at the back of the pub and an unlicensed seating area. The launch coincides with the introduction of a new fish menu at the pub. Kings Arms licensee and Honest Pub Co director Ian McAnally said: “We’ve had fantastic support from residents, one of whom even donated a beautiful marble bar top for the pub.” Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens added: “It’s great to have been able to support the Honest Pub Co in their transformation of the Kings Arms. This latest development adds another valuable income stream to their business. They have done a brilliant job, proving again the enduring popularity of a well-run and invested great traditional pub.” The Kings Arms is the first pub in the Honest Pub Co group, with directors McAnally and Craig McLaughlin looking to make further acquisitions in Scotland.

UK’s first ‘arts-led social enterprise hotel’ launches in London: The Green Rooms, which the founders claim is the “first arts-led social enterprise hotel in the UK”, has opened in Wood Green, London. The hotel has been designed as a place for artists to stay when visiting and working in the capital, while providing space for “creative projects and artistic collaboration”. Guests are encouraged to put on performances in the gallery and exhibition space while the restaurant, which will open in July, will run regularly changing residencies and training for emerging restaurateurs. While Green Rooms will offer preferential rates to artists of all disciplines, non-artists are also welcome. The four-storey hotel features 22 double rooms, plus studio apartments and two dormitories (where beds will cost from £18 a night). Green Rooms is the brainchild of Nick Hartwright, co-founder of the Mill Co Project, another social enterprise that offers affordable work and exhibition space. The project also received £9m in funding from the mayor of London’s High Street Fund. Hartwright told The Guardian: “There are thousands of hotels in London but there is a real shortage of affordable hotel accommodation that doesn’t compromise on quality. We are confident artists, creatives, style enthusiasts and the wider local community will love staying and working at Green Rooms. It’s going to be an exciting, inclusive and accessible creative environment.”

Nathan Lowry opens fine wine shop in Chelsea: Bar operator Nathan Lowry has opened a fine wine shop in Chelsea, west London. Lowry has launched Pavilion Wine, which is the first outlet to open in a new gourmet quarter near Sloane Square. It is set to be joined by neighbouring artisan food shops in a new enclave of gourmet and fashion boutiques at the south end of Pavilion Road, near Peter Jones. The shop features a tasting room upstairs and the interior is designed to show off original art for sale. Paintings from artist Will Guise – Marvels of Daily Life – will adorn the walls during the launch season. The wine list is mainly French, with a selection of sharply chosen New World wines. Top-end choices include a strong Champagne list – the house choice is Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut. Tasting room wines change regularly while the food includes cheese plates. Later in the year, a door-to-door wine delivery service will be offered via vintage vehicles in central London. Lowry also operates the Pall Mall Fine Wine, Shepherd Market Wine House and The London Beer House.

Wasabi becomes first major UK operator to offer brown rice sushi: London-based sushi and bento business Wasabi has become the UK’s first major operator to offer its sushi made with brown rice. The company has launched “Grain Power” brown rice sushi, available in five different sets. They are Salmon Nigiri, which consists of salmon nigiri with wakame leaves and edamame beans; Chumaki, which features salmon nigiri and a selection of assorted futomaki; Yasai Roll, which has a selection of vegetarian hosomaki and futomaki with added inari; Harmony, which contains a variety of hosomaki and futomaki with extra salmon nigiri; and Rainbow, which features an assortment of futomaki, nigiri plus extra sashimi. Operations director Frederic Lluch said: “We spent a lot of time developing this sushi and carefully selecting the right brown rice to use. It offers an alternative for our customers looking for a little variety in their sushi but still craving that same delicious flavour and texture.” Wasabi has recently opened its 46th UK branch and its second site in New York. It is due to open a branch in Ealing Broadway in July, with an expansion to Oxford lined up for later in the year. 

Firefighter wins pub for the day in Fuller’s Father’s Day competition: Firefighter Derren Martin won the ultimate present – his own pub for the day – after winning Fuller’s Father’s Day competition. Martin’s nearest Fuller’s pub – The Frog and Wicket in Eversley Cross, Hampshire – was transformed for the day, including being renamed The Derren Inn with a personalised pub sign. Martin’s favourite dishes were also on the menu, while new pump clips featured his image. Martin was nominated by his son Jamie, whose winning entry for the My Dad’s Pub competition stated: “My dad’s a fireman hero, who has dedicated his life to serving the public and saving lives. All heroes deserve a day off in their own pub.” Fuller’s Inns managing director Jonathon Swaine said: “This has been an incredible competition and we’ve had numerous entries. We will definitely be running it again next year. What better way is there to celebrate your dad than by having his face on a pub sign?”

Flat Iron launches Shoreditch restaurant, fourth London site: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept, has opened its fourth restaurant in London, this time in Shoreditch. It is a return home for Flat Iron, which launched as a pop-up at the Owl and Pussycat pub in Shoreditch in 2012. It now has sites in Beak Street and Denmark Street in Soho and Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. The centrepiece of the Shoreditch site is a three-metre wide, custom-built spit roaster, which is hand-cranked using a 200-year-old clockwork mechanism. Cuts such as whole forerib of beef are being tested, as well as rump, loin and rib cuts. Alongside these larger cuts, Flat Iron will also use the Denver cut of beef from inside the chuck roll and offer pichanas roasted on skewers. As with the other Flat Iron sites, all fittings and furniture are custom-made. The owners view the venue as a working gallery so items such as furniture, light fittings and tableware are for sale. The venue will also offer filter coffee, tea, cakes, super-fast fibre internet and lots of power points to attract working customers. As with all Flat Iron venues, there is a no reservations policy.

Bone Daddies opens Old Street ramen bar, fourth London site: Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies has opened its fourth London site, this time in The Bower development in Old Street. Bone Daddies Old Street is the first east London site for the brand, and offers a selection of dishes created exclusively for the 65-cover venue. The restaurant features ramen and snacks, from 20-hour pork bone broth tonkotsu to sweet, spicy pig bones. Created exclusively for Old Street, a selection of new dishes are available including bowls of crispy duck aburamen with roasted sweetcorn and pickled padron peppers. A selection of kushikatsu is also served with assorted sauces, including scallop, sweet potato and shiso, and iberico pork and roast onion. Yuzu Margarita features on the cocktail menu, with beer, cider, sake and wine also on offer. The restaurant incorporates a bar counter, operates a no reservations policy and features the rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack played in all Bone Daddies ramen bars. The other Bone Daddies sites are in Soho, Kensington and Bermondsey, while chef proprietor Ross Shonhan also operates Asian fusion restaurant Shackfuyu in Soho and Japanese pub concept Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden. Bone Daddies Old Street is open daily from noon.

Blanchette to start expansion with second London bistro: The team behind French bistro Blanchette in Soho will start expansion of the concept by opening a second London site. Brothers Maxime, Yannis and Malik Alary will launch Blanchette East in Brick Lane in August. The modern French menu will incorporate more southern French and North African influences than the Soho site, featuring spices from the regions and décor inspired by the Parisian Belle Époque era combined with an east London urban feel. The menu will be overseen and executed by Tam Storrar, who will take on the role of executive chef at both restaurants. The menu will be made up of sharing plates and snacks such as crispy frog’s legs, cheese beignets and croque monsieur, while North African flavours and spices will be explored in dishes such as lamb tagine with apricots, almonds and rose harissa, roast poussin with tarragon and pommes sarladaise, and wild strawberry and black pepper vacherin. A concise wine list will feature French, Spanish and Italian wines, while the cocktail menu will focus on classics. The 70-cover restaurant will also feature the Cote d’Azur private dining room.

Northern Ireland-based Plough Group to open new bar and restaurant in Hillsborough this weekend: Northern Ireland-based bar and restaurant operator the Plough Group will open a new site in Hillsborough this weekend. The company, run by brothers William, Richard and Derek Patterson is launching the Vintage Rooms, creating 15 jobs. It has invested £500,000 to transform the former Bar Retro site into its second venue in the County Down village. The new bar and restaurant, in addition to offering a sit-down lunchtime deli offering, will include a takeaway option for customers. Derek Patterson told the Irish News: “The Vintage Rooms will provide a one-stop shop for a great night out and we envisage it to be a real social hub for Hillsborough. Key features will include a spirit and wine library and whiskey cellar, which will showcase the global offering of wines, spirits and cocktails on offer. Adding to the uniqueness of the new bar, customers will also have the option to buy their drinks by the bottle, and will be provided with an exclusive locker to stow their personally labelled spirits until their next visit.” The Plough Group operates the Plough Inn, which also includes the Bistro and Simply Seafood, in Hillsborough; the Pheasant in Annahilt; and the Tannery in Moira.

Punch reveals sales at first managed Champs site ‘substantially ahead of expectations’ in opening week: Punch has said sales at its first managed Champs sports bar, which is in Urmston, Manchester, were “substantially ahead of expectations” in its opening week. The company launched the venue on 3 June following a ten-week refurbishment costing more than £500,000. It features a video wall measuring 3.75 metres by 2.10 metres and nine HD television screens showing wall-to-wall sports, together with sporting memorabilia and booth seating with individual televisions. Punch concepts development manager Andy Wilkinson, said: “We always knew Champs was a winning formula. Urmston is the seventh in the chain to open and has enjoyed a fantastic start, with sales in the first week substantially ahead of expectations. And, with a summer of sport in the pipeline, we are confident that trading will continue to be strong.” General manager Matt Price added: “Our new team has been put through their paces by the levels of trade we’ve experienced since opening. We’re delighted to receive such positive feedback from our customers across the board on everything from the bar’s design to our food and drinks offering and service style.”

JD Wetherspoon to open £2.28m pub in Earlestown next week: JD Wetherspoon will open a £2.28m pub in Earlestown, Merseyside, (population: 10,830) next week. The company will open The Nine Arches on Tuesday, 28 June in Legh Street on the site of a former pet shop, creating 60 jobs. The pub, which is on two floors, will feature a bar as well as a beer garden to the rear. Historical photos and details of local history, as well as artwork and images of local scenes, will be displayed in the pub. There is also a historical poem about Newton-le-Willows hand-painted on the wall, as well as a timeline of the building burnt into the floor planks. The pub’s rustic interior design is inspired by the agricultural history of the area, while large exposed trusses, with cast iron chandeliers are a feature. Explaining the name, a JD Wetherspoon spokesman told the St Helen’s Star: “The nearby Sankey Viaduct (was) built by George Stephenson to carry the Liverpool and Manchester railway over the Sankey Valley. The viaduct itself is a grade I-listed structure with nine arches – each 70-foot arch has a 50-foot span. Known locally as ‘the nine arches’, it is the world’s oldest railway viaduct still in operation.” 

Cote launches Woking site: French brasserie Cote has opened its latest site, this time in Woking, Surrey. The 3,300 square foot site is in Commercial Way and is Cote’s 77th UK restaurant, with the next openings due in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, later this month and Harrogate, Yorkshire, in early July. The 150-cover restaurant will open between 8am and 11pm, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 11pm on Saturdays, and 9am to 10.30pm on Sundays. Cote chief executive Alex Scrimgeour said: “The concentration of restaurants along this pedestrianised part of town, with their al fresco dining, offers a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere.” In May, Cote reported turnover grew by 27.3% to £108,052,072 in the 53 weeks to 2 August 2015. Gross profit margin rose 1.1% to 75.3%. Adjusted Ebitda rose 24.7% to £20,314,496. Adjusted Ebitda margin was 18.8%, compared with 19.2% the year before. Pre-tax profit was £14,122,648, compared with £11,566,629 the year before.

Five Guys opens restaurant in Thanet shopping centre: Better burger brand Five Guys has opened its restaurant in Westwood Cross shopping centre in Thanet, Kent. The new opening follows two other launches by the brand this month – in King’s Cross and Luton. Five Guys has 46 restaurants in the UK, having opened its first in Covent Garden in 2013. The company’s next opening is set to be in Watford. Last week, the company announced it had secured a site at the new £250m Boardwalk development at Brighton Marina. The Thanet opening has created 45 jobs, including five training places for East Kent College students. The college’s employability team ran a sector-based work academy for students, with those meeting quirky criteria for the roles on offer being chosen as the successful candidates. Five Guys general manager Adam Jefferies told the Thanet Gazette the students’ enthusiasm and passion was “exceptional and their company knowledge and research really impressed the management team”.

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