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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 24th Jun 2016 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

More than half of Scottish licensed trade outlets report decline in beer sales: More than half of Scottish licensed trade outlets reported a decline in beer sales in the first half of the year as government legislation, including the lower drink-drive limit and the minimum wage, continued to weigh on the sector. Pubs and restaurants in rural areas are continuing to struggle in the wake of the stricter drink-driving legislation, with more than 50% showing a year-on-year decline in takings, said the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA). Its report showed 44% of rural outlets saw takings fall by up to 10% in the six months to June. SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson said the trade was continuing to feel the after-effects of the cut in the drink-drive limit in December 2014, although he noted the pressure exerted by the minimum wage was also weighing on operators. The drink-drive change cut the legal limit to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, from 80mg per 100ml. Waterson dismissed any notion that sales in the on-trade were falling because consumers were becoming more health conscious, pointing to recent NHS statistics showing an increase in overall alcohol sales in Scotland for the first time in a decade. The survey showed less than a third (32%) of outlets expected to grow in 2016, while a similar number said business declined by 10% or more in the year to date, compared with 2015. However, optimism levels have improved since the SLTA’s last report in September. Some 36% of respondents to the survey, which is based on responses from more than 700 on-trade outlets across Scotland, reported a positive performance between January and June, compared with 24% in the same period last year. The growing importance of craft beer was highlighted, as only 14% of outlets reported falling sales from the product category. Waterson also argued for the business rates system to be reformed for pubs. Unlike retail outlets, for which rates are calculated using rateable values, pub rates are based on turnover. It means Scottish pubs, on average, paying 8.75% of their turnover on business rates. Waterson told Herald Scotland: “We’re losing market share. People are drinking more at home. The Scottish government has changed the framework we work in and they have got to give us something.”

Industry News:

Bar and Nightclub Conference open for bookings, Phil Tate 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. Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA Strategy, which has retailer specialist CGA Peach as a division, will reveal details of new research of usage, areas of growth, food and drink trends and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. 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 town 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

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’Arry’s brand has evolved in the competitive Cambridge market. Propel Premium subscribers 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

Mobile phone payments when eating and drinking out soar, new report states: The number of consumers using mobile devices to pay when eating and drinking out rose from 2.4 million to 3.1 million in less than two years, according to a new quarterly report, GO Technology, by CGA Peach and Zonal Retail Data Systems. The authors said the report highlighted that technology was changing consumer behaviour and operators needed to be fully equipped to meet demand. The use of mobile devices to speed payment when eating and drinking out is likely to increase even further, the report added, as 25% of the 5,000 British adults polled said they would consider paying by mobile in the future, while 39% didn’t know you could pay by phone. The report said people were starting to trust mobile payment more, as 20% of respondents in February 2016 thought lack of trust was a key obstacle, compared with 31% in July 2014. Zonal chief executive Stuart McLean said: “Keeping up with technology and consumer habits isn’t easy, but our Guest Obsessed [GO] Technology report is designed to give operators the insight they need to make sure they are on trend and investing in the correct systems and infrastructure. The rapid rise in mobile payments is a great example of the pace of change, and hospitality outlets need to make sure they are not only meeting but exceeding their customers’ expectations.” CGA Peach director Jamie Campbell added: “Speed is still a priority as consumers’ time is ever squeezed, but levels of frustration are starting to fall as companies embed technology into the heart of their operations. It’s clear technology is changing consumer behaviour and operators need to be fully equipped to meet that demand.” The GO Technology report tracks consumer attitudes and experiences with technology when eating and drinking out. Research will be conducted quarterly.

FSA’s food crime unit launches whistleblower service: The Food Standard Agency’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has launched “Food Crime Confidential” – a service where food crime can be reported in confidence via phone and email. The new service is targeted at those working in or around the UK food industry in a bid to protect people from serious criminal activity that has an impact on the safety or authenticity of food and drink. The NFCU said it would like to hear from anyone with suspicions that food or drink contained things it shouldn’t, if they had concerns over methods used in the workplace for producing, processing, storing, labelling or transporting food, or if an item of food or drink did not appear to be of the quality or from a specific place or region as labelled. FSA head of food crime Andy Morling said: “We recognise that picking up the phone to pass on suspicions about an employer or an associate can be a big deal. That’s why we’ll ensure the information provided will be handled sensitively and professionally.” Call Food Crime Confidential on 0207 276 8787 or email

Night tube to be extended to third line within weeks of launch: The long-awaited all-night London Underground, set to launch on Friday, 19 August, will be extended to a third line only a matter of weeks later. The night tube will launch on the Central and Victoria lines but, after an agreement was finally reached with unions, the service will be extended to the Jubilee Line from Friday, 2 September. The service will then be extended to other underground lines, starting in the autumn. The night tube was originally due to start in autumn 2015 but was held up because an agreement couldn’t be reached with unions. A Transport for London spokesman told the Evening Standard: “The start of night tube services on the Northern and Piccadilly lines will follow in separate phases later in the autumn as new tube drivers complete their training and final preparations are made. About 200 part-time drivers are currently taking part in a 14-week training programme.” At the night tube launch date announcement last month, London mayor Sadiq Khan said the night tube would play a vital role in opening up London’s night-time economy to a host of new opportunities, supporting about 2,000 permanent jobs and boosting London’s economy by £360m.

One in five operators using energy efficiency to improve profits, according to sector benchmark: One in five pub and restaurant operators are using energy efficiency programmes to improve profits, according to the 2016 energy benchmark. The benchmark, undertaken annually by the Hospitality Sector Carbon Reduction Forum (HSCRF), found operator profits had increased by up to 30% as a direct result of implementing energy efficiency programmes. Savings were achieved by a combination of engaging employees and deploying energy-saving technologies. The HSCRF said despite energy costs in the sector being equivalent to 25% of operators’ profit, usage was largely uncontrolled given the complexities of identifying where energy waste was occurring across different sites. The forum said leading operators were reinvesting 10% of their annual energy spend in energy-saving initiatives, while more than 50% had a multi-year plan to cut energy costs. The HSCRF added that leading operators had achieved an additional 1.5% on margins over bottom performers. An HSCRF spokesman said: “The benchmark continues to show the improved profitability that can be achieved through implementing well planned energy reduction programmes. At a time of increased operational costs, particularly on labour, the sector can ill afford to ignore the savings available through eliminating energy waste and implementing more efficient equipment.” The benchmark measures the relative efficiency of more than 25 major operators in the sector and demonstrates the impact on operational margins. For more information, visit

Crowdfunding campaign launched to help secure future of one of UK’s most remote pubs: A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help secure the future and reopening of one of the UK’s most remote pubs before it goes under the hammer. The Berney Arms, which is based on the Norfolk Broads between Reedham and Great Yarmouth, closed in October and is due to go to auction at the end of next month. The pub, which is on the river Yare, is the only one in the UK not accessible by public roads. It has its own train station nearby and can also be reached by boat or a five-mile trek across the marshes. Now campaigners, who fear the pub may be turned into homes, aim to bring it back into community hands and refurbish the site ready for it to reopen next summer. They hope a bid by the Norfolk and Norwich branch of the Campaign for Real Ale to have it listed as an Asset of Community Value will be successful before the end of July. In the meantime, the team is trying to raise the £160,000 needed to buy the pub as a co-operative – and has turned to the public for their help by launching a £30,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder. Campaigner Jess Shanahan told the Norwich Evening News: “The goal is to put this back into community hands. We love pubs, we love real ale and we love Norfolk – and we want to see this pub to survive.”

Company News:

Hickory’s Smokehouse opens second Midlands site, fifth in total: Hickory’s Smokehouse, backed by Piper Private Equity, has opened its second venue in the Midlands, housed on the site of the former Peeping Tom pub in Burton Green. The new restaurant includes a children’s cinema room and dedicated play area, covered veranda and enhanced outdoor seating options. Spokesman Mark Rogers told the Coventry Telegraph: “We are absolutely delighted to be launching our latest restaurant in Burton Green. We have been meeting with local people and getting to know the local community to help us find out just what it is they would like their new neighbourhood bar and restaurant to offer. We are really excited about opening a second site in the Midlands.” The Burton Green restaurant follows sites in Wall Heath, just outside Wolverhampton; Chester; Wirral; and North Wales.

Steamin’ Billy opens 13th pub and second in Hinckley: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Steamin’ Billy Brewing, led by Billy Allingham, has opened its 13th pub – The White Bear in Hinckley. The company has invested £150,000 to refurbish the pub in Coventry Road, which was formerly known as The Sportsman Inn. It is the second Steamin’ Billy site in Hinckley, alongside The Railway. The restaurant and bar have been transformed with seating booths, loose furniture, bric-a-brac and feature wallpapers. The garden features wooden decking, timber roundabout tables and benches, artificial grass, a gas fire and three sheltered areas called “bear pits”. The White Bear has a new “Burgers & Brews” menu, offering home-minced and handcrafted burgers seven days a week, from midday to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm. It also serves a range of its Melton-brewed real ales, as well as craft beer, lager, bitter and cider. Manager Richard Graham told the Hinckley Times: “The whole concept is focused on beer and burgers – two things we know we do properly at Steamin’ Billy.” In December, Steamin’ Billy Brewing said it was considering issuing a “Steamin’ Billy bond” to fund further acquisitions.

Balans Soho Society opens Seven Dials cafe-style site, sixth London venue: London-based casual dining group Balans Soho Society has opened its latest venue in Seven Dials, close to Covent Garden. The 60-cover site in Monmouth Street is open seven days a week for breakfast, brunch, lunch, supper and late-night dining, with a cafe-style approach, reports The Handbook. Designed by Simon Costin, the 100 square metre space features many of the elements of its sister sites – the flagship restaurant in Soho, plus venues in Kensington High Street, both Westfield shopping centres, and a cafe in Soho’s Old Compton Street. The decor features dark wooden tables and “curious collectables” in secret cabinets and on shelves. A limited number of covers will also be available outside during the summer months. Overseen by executive chef Crispin Chetwynd, the kitchen serves seasonal dishes from locally sourced producers. Classic and signature cocktails appear on the drinks menu, including Captain Redleg’s Afternoon Tea and Strawberry Martini.

St John to turn Spitalfields site into new bar: St John Restaurants, led by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, is revamping its Spitalfields venue to create a new bar. When St John Bread and Wine opened in Commercial Street ten years ago, the group used the space as a bakery. Now, with the bakery moving to a site in Druid Street, Bermondsey, where it sells doughnuts, bread, bag-in-box wines, and Eccles cakes among many other products, the Spitalfields site will be transformed into a dedicated bar offering wine and snacks. The all-French wine list will be complemented by a revamped beer offering, which has been curated by Melissa Cole. Customers can dine at the venue, which will open on Saturday, 23 July, or just grab a drink, Hot Dinners reports. The menu will change regularly, while Henderson and head chef Arnold Hoeksma have also been working on new breakfast dishes. St John also operates the Smithfield Bar and Restaurant and the St John Maltby restaurant in Bermondsey.

New £11m restaurant quarter set for Arndale Centre in Manchester: The Arndale Centre in Manchester is to get a new £11m food quarter in a huge development of Halle Square. Plans to overhaul the 25,000 square foot open space at the heart of the original section of the centre are about to be submitted, with work to transform the area from a retail to a casual dining destination taking until 2018 to complete. The new hub will feature ten restaurant units and space for a cafe on the ground floor in the middle of the atrium. Once complete, it will reopen as Halle Place with al fresco-style dining outside all restaurants and improved access to both levels via the addition of new escalators to replace the existing staircase. The centre’s joint owners, M&G Real Estate and Intu, said they had already received conditional offers to take units in the new hub from a number of restaurant operators and believed the Halle Place development demonstrated the “increasing importance of providing shoppers with a ‘whole-day’ destination”. M&G asset manager Kannika Mall said the decision illustrated a “step-change for the food and beverage offer in Manchester city centre” as well as a new social space for shoppers that should benefit retail traders by “increasing footfall and dwell time” inside the Arndale. She told the Manchester Evening News: “The diversity and character of the brands we expect to bring to Halle Place will ensure shoppers benefit from a more exciting experience-led shopping destination, which in turn will drive stronger long-term income performance for the centre.”

M&B wins award for app: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has won a Bronze award for Best Loyalty and Relationship Campaign at the IPM Awards for its “Green Card” loyalty app. M&B introduced a customer engagement programme through a mobile application to reward its customers for their loyalty, while enhancing their pub experience. To satisfy and exceed the expectations of their customer base, M&B enlisted the help of Eagle Eye Solutions, which specialises in the validation and redemption of real-time digital promotions, to deliver a digital stamp card through the new Green Card mobile application. The app, available to iPhone and Android users, offers sports fans discounts and offers on selected food and drinks during major televised football matches. It also contains additional features such as fixtures lists, live results and a “find your local” map. Once the app has been downloaded and the user has registered, they are assigned a unique ID. M&B is then able to capture valuable customer data that can be used to segment and build detailed profiles. Using this data M&B can send out personalised emails and push notifications. M&B commercial and marketing director Chris Hopkins said: ‘The Green Card app has provided us with a wealth of consumer data we did not have before. It has enabled us to know our consumers better than ever, enabling us to ensure that, as a brand, we are relevant and our offers are timely.”

New wine bar concept Acqua7 to launch in Dalston next week: A new wine bar concept Acqua7 will launch in Dalston, north east London, next week. The new venue in Balls Pond Road, which will open on Friday, 1 July, is the brainchild of Dalston native Cyrus Cookson and will feature white walls and an oak counter, Hot Dinners reports. The wine bar will be open all day serving coffee in the morning in traditional Moka pots as well as pastries. The breakfast menu will also offer smoothies such as MoonRock (cantaloupe, rose water and ice) and small dishes such as smashed avo on toast with bacon crumbs. The lunchtime menu will feature salads served in edible bowls, with charcuterie and cheese as well as larger plates and wine on offer in the evening. Acqua7 will also feature a shop section, where products such as wine and coffee beans will be on sale.

Plans submitted for pizza cafe just yards from new Pizza Hut delivery store in Irvine: Plans have been submitted for a pizza cafe in Irvine – just yards from a Pizza Hut Delivery site that opened in the Scottish town last month. Bennett Developments and Consultants has lodged an application with North Ayrshire Council to convert the office formerly occupied by ex-MSP Margaret McDougall in Eglinton Street. It would be only yards from the new Pizza Hut Delivery site in Quarry Road, reports the Irvine Times. According to the documents, the proposed premises would focus solely on selling pizza but would offer cafe-style seating as well as a takeaway service. The planning statement said: “The premises, which have been vacant for a number of months, occupy a central location on the street and the possibility of them remaining empty would have had a potentially detrimental impact on the area. The proposed use will introduce a concept, now becoming more common in larger towns, namely a pizza cafe where the menu is restricted to pizza albeit with an astounding arrange of toppings and the opportunity to enjoy these straight from the ovens to the tables in the intimate surroundings of a cafe-style environment.”

Liverpool-based multi-siter behind new £1m bar, restaurant and event space set to open in city: Liverpool-based multi-site operator Steven Hesketh is behind a new £1m bar, restaurant and event space set to open in the city. Hesketh has teamed up with Andrew Duckworth to launch District House in Water Street on the former site of Asian fusion restaurant Amanzi. District House would comprise an event space for 600 and seating for up to 400, including a “unique bar and restaurant concept”, creating 60 jobs, reports the Liverpool Echo. Hesketh also owns Liverpool-based American-style coffee shop and cafe concept Ameriesko, which launched earlier this year, and operates the Richmond Hotel in Hatton Garden.

New £500,000 bar and grill restaurant concept opens in Lincoln: A new £500,000 bar and grill restaurant concept has opened in Burton Waters, Lincoln. Mike Baldry and Stephen Fox have launched Harbour Lights Bar and Kitchen on the site of the former Harbour City Chinese restaurant, creating 14 jobs. The venue includes a new bar overlooking the Burton Waters marina and offers cellar and draught beer, spirits and cocktails. The restaurant will serve food from next month. The building has been completely refurbished with a “hanging” fireplace brought in from France. Comfy booths with padded backs and polished wood have been installed, while a mezzanine floor level has been created on one side. Wooden decking around the building has been opened up and tables and chairs added to allow people to dine and drink outside. Baldry told the Lincolnshire Echo: “This is such a great spot. It is just a great place to do something like this.”

Mossburn Distillers lodges plans for £40m whisky distillery and 200-seat restaurant in Scottish Borders: Edinburgh-based Mossburn Distillers has submitted plans for a £40m whisky distillery near Jedburgh, in the Scottish borders. The company, owned by Dutch drinks company Marussia Beverages, has applied to Scottish Borders Council to build a grain and malt whisky plant, visitor centre and 200-seater restaurant near the Jedforest Hotel in Camptown, three miles from Jedburgh. Mossburn Distillers said the distillery would produce more than seven million bottles a year and create 50 jobs in the region, reports the Daily Record. Mossburn Distillers, founded in 2013, is also the parent company of Torabhaig Distillery on the Isle of Skye.

ASK Italian and Byron open restaurants at £10m Harrogate development: Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian and better burger brand Byron have both opened restaurants at the new £10m development in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The 5 Albert Street complex, on the site of the former Beales department store, is already home to Argentinian-inspired restaurant CAU, owned by Gaucho, and Yo! Sushi. A five-screen, three-storey Everyman cinema will open in September. Byron’s opening has created more than 30 jobs and, as well as its famous burgers, the restaurant will offer a selection of craft beers, including Heart & Soul from Hebden Bridge-based Vocation Brewery. An ASK Italian spokesman said its new restaurant would reflect the brand’s distinctive new look, with a mix of classic Italian materials alongside the colour and texture of the Mediterranean. ASK Italian managing director Harry Heeley told the Harrogate Advertiser: “We’re delighted to bring the ASK Italian recipe of delicious, classic dishes, warm service and fresh design to such a vibrant town.” ASK Italian has more than 110 sites across the UK. Byron, founded in 2007 by Tom Byng, has 63 UK sites with plans to open at least ten new restaurants a year.

Winchester-based The Little Kitchen Company opens second site in city: Winchester-based The Little Kitchen Company has opened its second site in the Hampshire city. The company, founded in 2011 by Cait Salanson, has launched The Little Kitchen Cafe in Peninsula Barracks on the site of the former Peninsula Cafe. The venue in Romsey Road specialises in soups, sandwiches, and deli-style snacks and a variety of cakes and treats. Salanson, who owns The Little Kitchen Bistro in the nearby village of Headbourne Worthy, told the Hampshire Chronicle: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase our food in such a historic and beautiful location. Following the success of the bistro, we felt our values of producing fresh, delicious, locally sourced fare would be perfect in a more urban environment. The menu has been carefully crafted to reflect the needs of city visitors – those wanting a quick lunch out from work or coffee, cake and a chat in a friendly, welcoming and informal environment.”

Manchester-based pop-up street food market specialist Beat Street reveals line-up for permanent home: Manchester-based pop-up street food market specialist Beat Street has revealed the line-up for its new permanent home in the city centre. The company is transforming an underused site next to the Great Northern Warehouse into a 9,000 square foot area to provide space for seven street food traders, three bars, and a 150-cover split-level heated all-weather terrace, rooftop sundeck and outside grill. It has now confirmed the food and bar traders from the city for the venture when it opens on Friday, 15 July, reports the Manchester Evening News. They are Big Grillie Style, which serves American-style grilled cheese sandwiches; Bart’s Dog Kart (hot dogs and nachos); Bali Beach Hut (Indonesian street food); Eat New York (American-style shakes and bagels); Indian Street Kitchen (sweet and spicy dishes from South India); Dutch diner Lekker; and Jerk, which serves Jamaican barbecue straight from the chargrill. They will be joined by three “drinking dens” – Tokyo-themed Lucky Lucky Late Bar, wine by day and coffee by night Milk of Burgundy, and Czech beer place Kozel Lokal. The street food market will be open from 11am to 3am daily.

Bolton-based coffee shop starts expansion by opening second site in town: Bolton-based coffee shop concept The Coffee Grind has started expansion by opening its second site in the town. Owners Jill and Nigel Lyons have launched their new site in Newport Street after initially opening in Bolton Market in January 2014. The new outlet is based in a previously empty unit and is part of Bolton Council’s £3m scheme to redevelop the street. They have taken the premises on a seven-year lease, and are open seven days a week. As well as tea and coffee, the shop offers breakfast items, sandwiches, paninis, frappes and milkshakes. The Lyons’ were given a grant from the council to help with business rates and rent and decided to expand after the success of their first shop. Jill Lyons told the Bolton News: “We’re ready to expand and wanted to stay in Bolton. We have had so much support and encouragement from the council, and the market management.” As part of the development, the council is spending £2m on renovating shopfronts, with a further £1m on improving the street with new paving, seating, street lights and trees.

Pubco plans to turn Leicester’s oldest house into bar and restaurant: A pubco’s plans to turn Leicester’s oldest house into a bar and restaurant are set to be approved. 006pubco, which also runs Taps bar in nearby Guildhall Lane, wants to lease 15th century Wygston’s House in Applegate from Leicester City Council and is seeking permission to change the registered use of the grade II-listed premises, which is currently a museum. The council said the medieval timber-framed hall was underused and required a new lease of life. It has chosen 006pubco as a preferred tenant over three other bids and agreed a 25-year lease subject to planning consent. Geoff Thornton, 006pubco director, told the Leicester Mercury: “This is a really exciting opportunity to create something special in a unique building. Wygston’s House is going to be a family-friendly destination for dinner or a drink, but we also hope to serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea and plan to host wedding receptions and private functions too. As we did at Taps, our intention is to carry out a sympathetic conversion, which we hope will include restoring the basement’s vaulted ceiling to reveal the building’s original brickwork.”

Big Easy and Dead Rabbit extend ‘Rumble in the Tumbler’ cocktail collaboration at Canary Wharf: Big Easy Bar.B.Q & Crabshack has extended its “Rumbler in the Tumbler” collaboration with New York cocktail bar The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog. The partnership at Big Easy’s Canary Wharf venue began on 16 June and was supposed to end on Sunday (26 June). However, the collaboration has proved so popular it will now run until Wednesday, 13 July. “Rumble in the Tumbler” sees one of six Dead Rabbit drinks “do battle” against one of six new Big Easy cocktails, created by head bartender Csabi Toth, in a cocktail clash allowing guests to compare drinks from both bars. Each shift sees a member of The Dead Rabbit team and a member of the Big Easy team behind the bar, working in tandem in their respective uniforms. The cocktails will also be available during the residency at Big Easy’s Covent Garden site, although the mixologists will remain in Canary Wharf. Big Easy co-founder Paul Corrett said: “Collaborating with one of the world’s best cocktail bars, and joining our teams, is a dream come true for us, and we are delighted to bring something unique to the London cocktail scene.” Dead Rabbit senior bartender Gregory Buda added: “It is a great opportunity for our bartenders to spend time in another of the world’s great cocktail cities.”

Signature Living to turn listed Preston property into luxury boutique hotel: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living has acquired an iconic listed building in Preston, Lancashire, with plans to turn it into a luxury boutique hotel. Signature Living founder Lawrence Kenwright said his vision for the hotel was still in the planning stage but he hoped the former Post Office building would become a four-star conference hotel, with a different story capturing the “DNA” of the building told in each individually designed room through different social platforms. Kenwright said: “It’s not so much about buying a piece of land and building a magnolia hotel, we try to find a little bit of history, a little bit of DNA, and make that resonate.” He added that he was drawn to the old Post Office by its structure and position, and said Signature Living had a track record of taking derelict, listed buildings and bringing them back into use. The hotel will form part of Signature Living’s Heritage Brand, joining Liverpool’s 30 James Street, football-themed Shankly Hotel and the Titanic.

Patisserie Valerie first in line as Worthing restaurant quarter plans set for approval: New River Retail’s plans to convert the Montague Centre in Worthing, West Sussex, into a restaurant hub are set for approval next week. The proposals would see nine retail units converted for use by food and drink businesses. A glass kiosk would be constructed at the northern end of the development with Patisserie Valerie set to be the tenant, Worthing Herald reports. The plans were recommended for refusal at the beginning of June but have been recommended for approval ahead of a Worthing Borough Council planning committee meeting on Wednesday (29 June). New River Retail commissioned an analysis of Worthing’s high street, which concluded the town was “severely behind” others in terms of its increase in leisure provision, such as cafes and restaurants. While UK-wide leisure provision had increased 16% during the past five years, Worthing saw a 7% rise, the report stated, noting 18 food and drink businesses present in other towns were not in Worthing. It suggested the proposal would see Worthing move above Chichester for “retail attractiveness”, while boosting footfall and reducing town centre vacancy rates. New River Retail’s application stated: “Our intention is to channel the demand for restaurant accommodation and secure operators who share our ambition to deliver something special in this prominent and sunny location.”

Greene King receives fifth consecutive Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor: Greene King has received its fifth consecutive Certificate of Excellence from travel review site TripAdvisor for the quality of its Westgate Brewery tours in Bury St Edmunds. The Certificate of Excellence, now in its sixth year, recognises hospitality businesses that have earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor during the past 12 months. Greene King has received a Certificate of Excellence for its brewery tours every year since 2011. The experience is among TripAdvisor’s top ranked activities in Suffolk, with more than 98% of visitors rating it as “excellent” or “very good”. Greene King beer cafe manager Cathy Truin said: “Our fifth Certificate of Excellence is fantastic news for our brewery and a huge compliment for our tour guides, who go above and beyond to make sure our guests have a great time with us. We have been brewing in Bury St Edmunds for over 200 years and our art deco brewery is a landmark in the region. We regularly welcome visitors from all over the world to come behind the scenes, see our brewers in action and, of course, enjoy some quality beer, from experimental brews to our much-loved British ales. We are really proud of this achievement and on behalf of the team I would like to thank everyone who took the time to leave us a review.”

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