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Mon 18th Jul 2016 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

StreetDots and Land Securities to launch new street food project in Glasgow: Land Securities and street-trading platform StreetDots will launch a new street-food project in Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries shopping centre in early August. The “Glasgow salad” will be strictly off the menu at Taste Buchanan, replaced by a changing roster of independent street food traders in a bid to appeal to a new generation of experience-driven tech-savvy consumers. The move marks a trend among shopping centre operators to provide “shopper-tainment” – leisure and entertainment facilities that lure consumers away from e-commerce and into shops. Shopping centres have to be destinations in their own right, said Land Securities senior portfolio manager Emma Lawson. She added: “In the industry-wide battle with online competitors, shopping centres need to offer a unique point of difference for a generation of increasingly sophisticated shoppers. Initiatives such as Taste Buchanan create a buzz that drives footfall by acknowledging the trends that excite our customers – in this case the demand for innovative, locally sourced street food.” The new “home of Scottish street food” is designed and managed by street-trading specialist StreetDots. It will host up to eight independent traders on a two-to-three-month rotational basis. The first line-up includes Glasgow-based Asian fusion specialists Chompsky; Equi’s, a 90-year-old family ice cream business; and GLo Pizza, serving wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. Craft cocktails will be created by Scottish pop-up bar Sláinte Mhath. StreetDots co-founder Darren Callcott said: “StreetDots is redefining fixed retail space such as the food court. The social media generation is programmed to seek the next new thing and our constantly refreshing roster of traders at Taste Buchanan will deliver that.” The typical food court interior has been stripped back and replaced with a collection of upcycled furniture, disused crates and bright graphics to reflect a space that will continually evolve and be reflective of each trader that comes through. StreetDots, which seeks to modernise the highly fragmented street-trading industry through technology, runs a network of digitally managed street-trading pitches or “dots” across the UK.
 

Industry News:

Haysmacintyre and Propel benchmarking survey launched: The third annual haysmacintyre UK Hospitality Index benchmarking survey for multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice operators in association with Propel has launched. The foremost financial benchmarking study for pubs, restaurants and bars – covering trading, staffing, capital and funding, and property – the survey report will deliver quality financial data and benchmarking intelligence to help hospitality businesses understand their sector better and improve operations. If you would like to complete the survey and receive the final report, please click on this link. The survey’s closing date is Wednesday, 27 July. Information provided will be reproduced anonymously in this year’s haysmacintyre UK Hospitality Index report, which will be published in September. Data and comments will not be attributed to respondents.
 
Propel partners insights firm Horizons for Casual Dining Study Tour: Propel is partnering with insights firm Horizons for the first Casual Dining Study Tour. The “food of the world” study tour takes place on Wednesday, 7 September and features a full-day tour, on foot, around Shoreditch and Spitalfields sampling the casual dining scene in an area packed with innovation. The tour, which runs from 10am to 4pm, will visit Dishoom (Bombay-style street food with vintage decor and upscale touches), Porky’s BBQ (a taste of Memphis with fuss-free food and authentic slow-cooked meat), GB Pizza Co (wood-fired pizzas topped with seasonal British ingredients served in a cool, casual environment), The Real Greek (healthy seasonal menus and meze sharing platters), Leon (Mediterranean flavours packed with variety and natural healthiness), Wahaca (Mexican market eating from little treats to long-marinated pork and zingy salsa), Byron (better burgers – a simple thing done well), The Breakfast Club (traditional dishes and unusual offerings), Galvin Brothers’ HOP (craft beer, classic pub dishes and premium hotdogs), and Comptoir Libanais (wholesome, healthy Lebanese food in a souk-like setting). Tickets are £345 plus VAT for ALMR members and £395 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. To book your place, call Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or email anne.steele@propelinfo.com
 
Jamie Rollo – there is a strong correlation between a weaker pound and domestic tourism: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has argued sector operators are set to benefit from the weakening of the pound post-Brexit. He said: “A weaker pound makes overseas holidays more expensive and hence demand shifts to domestic holidays. For example, a 10% depreciation of the pound costs an average family of four an additional £245 on a European holiday, according to price comparison website TravelSupermarket. In 2009, the euro strengthened 12% against the pound, domestic UK holidays grew by 17%, and overseas holidays fell by 15%. A ‘staycation’ surge should help British hotel, pub and leisure companies, such as Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread and Merlin respectively, all of which we rate Overweight. So far there are no signs of weaker spending in these markets since the Brexit vote (indeed UK revpar data improved last week), but it is early days.”
 
Manchester-based pop-up street food market specialist Beat Street launches permanent home: Manchester-based pop-up street food market specialist Beat Street has launched its permanent home in the city centre. The company has transformed a site next to the Great Northern Warehouse into a 9,000 square foot area, providing space for seven street food traders, three bars, and a 150-cover, split-level, heated, all-weather terrace, rooftop sundeck and outside grill. The food and bar traders are Big Grillie Style (grilled cheese sandwiches); Bart’s Dog Kart (hotdogs and nachos); Bali Beach Hut (Indonesian street food); Eat New York (shakes and bagels); Indian Street Kitchen (sweet and spicy dishes from South India); Lekker (crepes); and Jerk (Jamaican barbecue). They are joined by three “drinking dens” – Tokyo-themed Lucky Lucky Late Bar, wine and coffee bar Milk of Burgundy, and Czech beer specialist Kozel Lokal. The street food market is open from 11am to 3am daily, serves up to 500 diners and will be open for at least two years. The roof terrace features deckchairs and a nine-foot dinosaur. A huge stripped-out gallery space, the Brickhouse, showcases work by local artists.
 
Lords committee to question think-tanks on whether Licensing Act 2003 is working: The House of Lords committee set up especially to look at the Licensing Act 2003 and the liberalisation of opening hours, will hear from think-tanks on Tuesday (19 July). The Institute of Alcohol Studies and the Institute of Economic Affairs will be questioned by the Lords Licensing Act 2003 Committee on issues such as minimum unit pricing, public health, the appeal system, and the growth of online sales. The Licensing Act 2003 set out to provide greater freedom to the hospitality and leisure industry, as well giving consumers more choice. At the same time, the new legislation was intended to grant authorities the appropriate powers to deal with misuse of these freedoms. Witnesses giving evidence will be Jon Foster, senior research and policy officer at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, and Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Questions they are likely to face include whether promotion of public health should be an objective; whether the cost of alcohol should be regulated and how; the impact of behaviour change such as online shopping; whether local authorities were able to use their powers properly; and whether the appeal system could be improved. The committee, chaired by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, will hold a session earlier in the day to complete its examination of the perspective from local government by putting questions to Steve Quartermain, chief planning officer at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
 
Former Brighton nightclub to be transformed into hotel, cafe and restaurants: Councillors have approved plans to transform former nightclub Hedkandi in Brighton’s notorious party road West Street into a hotel, cafe and restaurants. The venue, which is currently run as a social enterprise and live performance venue called The Synergy Centre, is set to be turned into something resembling Barcelona’s famous La Rambla boulevard, developers Morgan Carn Partnership said. The new building would be seven storeys in height and include a 133-room hotel and basement space, which would be used for restaurants, cafes or bars. A second, linked application was also granted consent for the demolition of garages in South Street for a six-storey block for some of the hotel rooms, a new kitchen and four flats. Morgan Carn Partnership, which is also behind the £15m Brighton Lanes redevelopment, said it hoped to go out to tender for the major construction project by the end of the year, with work set to begin next year. Morgan Carn Partnership director John McLean told The Argus: “There is potential for public realm improvements in the area now that we have got this great decision in the bag.”
 
Reed Group – no sign of recruitment freeze following Brexit, jobs growth predicted in hospitality sector: Recruitment specialist Reed Group said demand for new staff had flourished since the EU referendum result, with 150,000 more jobs added to its website in the past three weeks compared with the same period last year. Chairman James Reed said the 8% increase bucked fears of a recruitment crash, while he predicted a rise in job-seekers coming to the UK in the hospitality sector. Reed told the Mail on Sunday: “The vote hasn’t affected things. If a drop in confidence begins to feed through, I think we’d be the first to see it. We were the first to see the jobs recovery after the financial crisis because people advertise jobs that only later come through in government statistics. We are expecting to see more people coming to Britain on the back of the change in exchange rates so we are anticipating more jobs in tourism and hospitality.” Reed added that 83% of companies it surveyed said they did not plan to freeze recruitment, even though two-thirds of the firms had backed “Remain” before the referendum.
 
Oliver willing to ‘do anything’ to get PM to introduce sugar tax: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has urged Theresa May to follow through on a pledge by the previous prime minister to introduce a sugar tax. Oliver said he was willing to “do anything” to see the new tax on sugar-rich fizzy drinks, announced in former chancellor George Osborne’s last Budget, introduced in April 2018. Oliver made the appeal in a short video filmed as he guest-edited the Huffington Post UK. He said: “Theresa come on, we need you, please. I know you’ve got my cookbooks, so I know you cook. And if you cook there’s a chance that goodness is in there. And the good will prevail.” He then blows a kiss at the camera, adding: “What do I have to do Theresa? What do you need from me? I am there. I will do anything.” Under the last government’s plan, drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml would face a lower rate of tax, while those with more than 8g per 100ml would face a higher rate. However, the tax rates have yet to be set. The move is expected to raise more than £520m, which would be used to double the amount of funding for sport in every primary school, with secondary schools encouraged to offer more sport as part of longer school days.
 
Activist hedge fund cranks up pressure on SABMiller takeover terms: The activist hedge fund run by Sir Chris Hohn has built a secret stake in SABMiller, cranking up pressure on the brewer to revise the terms of its £77bn sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI) has acquired the stake – believed to be almost 1% – through derivatives and does not yet appear on the shareholder register. It is understood Hohn, who has a record of demanding change at companies such as Volkswagen and Airbus, has met SAB’s management to discuss the structure of its deal with AB InBev. Hohn’s involvement will add to the uncertainty surrounding the takeover, the Sunday Times reports. AB InBev’s takeover of SABMiller was approved in November. The deal was structured to five its two largest shareholders – cigarette giant Altria and Colombian billionaires the Santo Domingo family – the chance to take a mix of cash and shares. All other investors were expected to take a cash-only option, which at the time was worth more than the partial-share alternative. But the collapse in sterling has made cash and shares more attractive. City sources said a number of shareholders, including TCI, have demanded the deal be restructured to favour the majority of investors. The deal is still awaiting regulatory approval in some regions. When that happens, the board must recommend the offer to shareholders, who will then vote.

Company News:

Joe Allen team opens British-style brasserie Mustard in Brook Green: The team behind legendary Covent Garden restaurant Joe Allen has opened Mustard, a British-style brasserie serving “light and comforting dishes” in Brook Green, west London. Lawrence Hartley, Tim Healey and head chef Jason Wild have produced an all-day menu focusing on locally sourced ingredients and offering “simple, honest fare”. Breakfast at the new venue in Shepherd’s Bush Road includes The Full Green Mustard (rainbow chard, poached eggs, tomato, woodland mushrooms and green herb oat pudding), and smoked haddock, spinach, kale and potato omelette. From lunch to dinner there is an a la carte menu featuring roast sea bream with cockle vinaigrette and creamed potatoes; naturally reared beef from the Scottish Highlands; and a selection of seasonal dishes such as glazed middle white pork rib with pease pudding. Desserts continue to celebrate British staples, including gooseberry and gin crumble with lavender-scented vanilla custard. There will also be a set menu from Monday to Friday and a daily changing special, seasonally garnished. The drinks list features beers from Portobello Brewery, English sparkling wines, spirits from Blackdown Distillery, and classic cocktails.
 
Yorkshire Meatball Co to change concept to more relaxed, casual bar offering: Yorkshire Meatball Co, which raised £130,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube earlier this year to roll-out franchised restaurants nationwide and launch branded retail products in UK supermarkets, said it would change its concept to fight back against the heavy influx of chain restaurants in the region. Co-owner David Atkinson told the Harrogate Advertiser: “It’s important independent sites like ourselves are proactive in ensuring their concepts remain commercially viable, in what is an increasingly challenging employment environment.” He added that the company would look to change to a more relaxed, casual bar offering, with the layout of the Harrogate site altered to feature additional bar seating zones rather than formal dining tables. The company also plans to build an outdoor terrace, increasing capacity to 80 covers. He said there would be a more concise menu, with an emphasis on the brand’s signature dish, The Combo, and expansion of its craft beer offering. Atkinson, said: “We have listened to what our diners love about our offer and enhanced this further to refine and refocus the concept. Trends are changing. We’re seeing increasing demand for a relaxed, sociable and personal atmosphere, where customers are just as likely to pop in for a craft beer and end up staying to enjoy some hearty, no-fuss food, as they are to visit us for a relaxed two or three-course meal.” He said the company was also in final-stage talks to launch a range of premium-branded, gourmet meatball products through supermarkets nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2016. Yorkshire Meatball Co was founded by father-and-son team David and Gareth Atkinson, who opened their original Meatball and Craft Beer Bar in Harrogate in March 2014. In early 2015, it entered its first franchise partnership, with Splendid Hospitality Group, which launched the first franchise in York in October 2015. In late 2015, the company successfully trialled a pub-kitchen format in Harrogate.
 
London-based food delivery startup Cookoo secures £250,000 funding to boost expansion: Cookoo, a marketplace for independent cooks delivering fresh meals to Londoners, has won a total of £250,000 in investments from venture capitalists to boost expansion in a crowded market. Founded by Oxford University graduates Joanne Thompson and Rachel Swindenbank, who previously worked together at management consultancy Bain & Co, Cookoo delivers meals designed and cooked by a network of independent chefs and then delivered directly to homes or offices. Cookoo currently delivers to central London postcodes only. All meals are labelled with nutritional information, delivered chilled and ready to be cooked in the oven or microwave. Cookoo claims its excess food is donated to local homeless shelters. The investment will help to increase brand awareness and enable the start-up business to expand its network of cooks and the range of meals available. Cookoo is one of a number of delivery startups in the UK, including Pronto, which also sells ready meals, and Gousto and Hello Fresh, which sell ingredients. Last week, Propel reported that healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef, that counts the Beckhams and members of the England rugby team among its members, had launched a £400,000 fund-raise campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Swindenbank told the Mail on Sunday: “I feel like the huge increase in competition and the amount of people offering this service is a sign there’s a real gap in the market. For me, it’s a comfort that customers do want more than what’s available. So many people are too busy to cook for themselves. We feel that what we do is connect people who love cooking to people who love to eat in a very personalised way, so you know who your cook is.”
 
JD Wetherspoon confirms it will not rebuild fire-stricken Cambridge pub: JD Wetherspoon has confirmed it will not rebuild The Tivoli pub in Cambridge, which was closed by a major fire a year ago. The Chesterton Road pub has stood empty since March last year after it suffered devastating damage from a blaze that took firefighters more than 12 hours to extinguish. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We can now confirm Wetherspoon will not be rebuilding The Tivoli pub in Cambridge. Since the fire at the pub more than a year ago, Wetherspoon has been keeping its options open. We have now decided that the pub will not be rebuilt. No jobs were lost as a result of the fire with staff relocated to other Wetherspoon pubs in the area.” Gershon added: “We appreciate that the pub’s customers will be disappointed with the decision. However, we would point to the fact that Wetherspoon operates The Regal in Cambridge and is opening its new pub and hotel, Sandford House, in Huntingdon on 19 July (Tuesday). The hotel opens on 4 October.”
 
Whitbread adds ‘junior hotel inspectors’ to Premier Inn review panel: Whitbread has added seven youngsters to its Premier Inn internal review panel to shake up its guest feedback system. Following a nationwide search, the children – aged five to nine – have taken on the roles of “junior hotel inspectors”. The children were selected from almost 2,000 applicants, with the Premier Inn London Bank (Tower) being the first hotel inspected for child-friendliness – from the welcome at reception to the breakfast menu and bed bounciness. Premier Inn head of brand Beatrice Vears told Hospitality Net: “We’re constantly looking for new ways to exceed our guests’ expectations, which is why we’ve shaken up the system and enlisted the help of our seven new experts. Even the youngest of Premier Inn’s customers deserve a great night’s sleep, and these kids are not afraid to say what they think! Following their inspection, we’ve taken all their feedback into consideration and will be using it to offer an even better service to families.” Five-year-old inspector Erin, from Yeovil, Somerset, added: “A good hotel needs to be comfy and warm and have good sausages at breakfast.”
 
Bea’s Cake Boutique launches Marylebone store, fifth London site: Bea’s Cake Boutique, which has sites in St Paul’s, Bloomsbury, Maida Vale and Farringdon, has launched its fifth London venue, this time in Marylebone. Founded in 2008, Bea’s Cake Boutique offers cakes, pastries, afternoon teas and coffee. The new store in Devonshire Street features Bea’s favourites alongside some newly created cakes and savoury dishes in its light wood and steel furnished dining room. The venue also sells wedding cakes and has a dedicated coffee bar. Savoury dishes include avocado with spiced yogurt canapé, and salmon with cream cheese. All are served on a slice of brioche and served as part of a high tea, with the intention of making the switch from savoury to sweet a little smoother, reports The Upcoming. Sweeter treats include Valrhona brownies, meringues, and cupcakes.
 
Food and drink festivals secure Welsh government funding: Nine food and drink festivals across Wales, including the Hay summer and winter food festivals and the Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair, have secured funding from the Welsh government. The funding – up to £5,000 per festival – will help raise the profile of food and drink on offer in Wales to build on what the Welsh government sees as a growing food culture. Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh government’s environment and rural affairs cabinet secretary, said: “Food festivals are a celebration of all that is good about Welsh food and drink. We recognise the important contribution food festivals can make to strengthen and develop a vibrant Welsh food culture. Food festivals also attract thousands of people into the hearts of our towns and villages, providing a welcome boost to local businesses and the rural economy.” The other festivals to receive funding are Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival, Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Cardigan River & Food Festival, Narberth Food Festival, and Llangollen Food Festival.
 
Devon harbourside hotel on market for £1.5m: Agent Savills has brought the former River Yealm Hotel in Newton Ferrers, Devon, to market at a guide price of £1.5m. The hotel, which ceased trading in 2011, sits on a two-acre site and includes the hotel, built in 1898, and a detached accommodation block providing four “harbourside apartments”. The property also comprises part of the foreshore and two leasehold interests. Nick Jones, director at Savills in Exeter, said: “Newton Ferrers is a popular waterside village on the banks of the River Yealm estuary, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is worth noting, however, that the property is located within the designated development boundary of the village, where development is acceptable in principle. This opens up the possibility for a number of development options, subject to securing planning permission. We anticipate interest from hoteliers as well as residential developers for this stunning site in a popular yachting location.” The property is being offered in its entirety or in two lots. Savills and joint agent Marchand Petit are inviting offers that are unconditional in respect of planning.
 
BrewDog collaborates with LA musician to tell a beery tale: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has collaborated with LA-based musician Tony Beliveau to produce a quartet of videos that combine music and beer. The company has released the first video, entitled Water, on its website with the other films – Malt, Hops and Yeast – to appear later. Founder James Watt stated on the company’s blog: “At BrewDog we use techniques and processes that are at the cutting edge, but we are nothing without these fundamentals – water, malt, hops and yeast. These are our building blocks, our ever-presents. To make great beer you have to dial these in from the start, and balance them as you go. And there’s a parallel here with great music. It all begins with an idea, the formation of a song or a simple progression of chords. No matter how many instruments or vocals you layer on top, you need first to address the basics of rhythm, melody, harmony and form.” Beliveau is lead singer of The Crash Kings.
 
Greene King and Whitbread plan new-build Farmhouse Inn and Costa drive-thru in Hampton: Greene King and Whitbread are both looking to build venues at a planned development in Hampton, near Peterborough. Savills, on behalf of O&H Properties, has exchanged contracts on a freehold development site, off London Road, with Henry Davidson Developments. Greene King is seeking to develop a new venue under its Farmhouse Inns brand – and has already applied for a licence – while Henry Davidson will build an 1,800 square foot (167 square metre) Costa Coffee drive-thru on behalf of Whitbread. Retirement home specialist McCarthy and Stone will also build a 45-apartment complex on the site. Edward Gee, of Savills, told the Peterborough Telegraph: “Hampton continues to grow as a strong commercial location and we are excited to welcome these three occupiers to the area. The construction of a new Costa Coffee drive-thru and Greene King pub on the site will add to the local leisure offer and help to further build on this thriving community.” Last month, Greene King opened its 40th Farmhouse Inns site, in Stoke.
 
Signature Living set to open One Arthouse Square aparthotel in Liverpool: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living is set to open its new project, One Arthouse Square, in Liverpool this summer. Set in the Ropewalks district, the aparthotel will feature two bars and restaurants, each with their own theme. The ground-floor Arthouse bar will offer drinks and snacks, from flavoured popcorns and pizzas to foot-long hotdogs. The restaurant/bar has been designed to capture the black-and-white movie era, complete with black booths and projectors showing movies on the walls. The menu will include a range of movie-themed cocktails. Balls of Fire will feature five large ping-pong tables surrounded by booths. Signature Living founder Lawrence Kenwright told the Liverpool Echo: “Both of the new restaurant/bars are a fantastic addition to Liverpool’s already booming social scene and will provide guests with a fun-filled and truly unique experience.” In June, Signature Living acquired an iconic listed building in Preston, Lancashire, with plans to turn it into a luxury boutique hotel. The hotels will form part of Signature Living’s Heritage Brand, joining 30 James Street, football-themed Shankly Hotel and the Titanic, all in Liverpool.
 
Greene King launches new-look website: Brewer and retailer Greene King has launched a new website, incorporating the company’s Pub Finder, Enjoy Responsibly and Leisure Spend Tracker sites. The website will also feature regular blogs and brands news, as well as the company’s heritage section. A company spokesman said: “Our customers are our biggest online audience so we have put them firmly at the heart of the new site by presenting a fresh new look with new photography, fonts and colours to bring our diverse business to life. Our other stakeholders – team members, suppliers, investors and the media – are also important so you’ll see we have dedicated sections on working with us, a new interactive investor centre and a newsroom featuring the latest news and a blog to bring to life our business and our people.”
 
American retro diner concept Moloko to launch in Liverpool: American retro diner concept Moloko will launch in Liverpool later this summer, with a nod to cult movie A Clockwork Orange. Peter Kane, who heads the creative team behind the concept and who also designed the Blind Tiger bar in Seel Street, told the Liverpool Echo: “It’s a pop art American retro diner that transforms into a crucial new bar concept. The name comes straight from A Clockwork Orange and its Moloko Plus milk cocktails.” The menu will include American salt beef hash with hollandaise sauce and cola barbecue glaze, and deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Shakes will include the “Pint of Filth” – an Oreo and caramel shake with a shot of honey bourbon or banana liqueur. All signature shakes will be offered as a soft shake or a “go hard” option, where customers can have alcohol added. There will also be a retro frozen cocktail menu, including a classic Miami Vice, and a signature Moloko S’Moretini.
 
Chinese Buffet moves into north east with Darlington opening, company’s 11th site: The Chinese Buffet, which was founded in Bolton by Peter Wu with Paolo and David Hu in 2006, has opened its 11th site, this time in Darlington, the company’s first branch in the north east. The opening of the 250-cover buffet restaurant has created 40 jobs and the launch was accompanied by a traditional lion dance display. The Chinese Buffet is the latest restaurant to open at the multimillion-pound Feethams leisure complex. Last year, Wu said The Chinese Buffet was looking to continue expansion. He said: “The vision from day one was to develop a Chinese restaurant brand to fill a gap in the market. If you look at the sector there are plenty of buffet-style restaurants but no brands. When we opened the first in Bolton it was very much about learning the ropes, putting things in place and getting things right. Now it is about expanding on what we know works.” The other Chinese Buffet sites are in Blackpool, Bury, Halifax, Huddersfield, Preston, St Helens, Wakefield, Wigan and Wrexham.
 
CH&Co merges with specialist education catering companies: CH&Co Group has merged with education caterer The Brookwood Partnership and its sister company ABsolutely Catering. Brookwood and ABsolutely will become specialist education brands within CH&Co Group, with Brookwood co-founders Kate Martin and Sue Parfett continuing in their current roles as managing partners. The merger gives the newly enlarged group a turnover in excess of £200m and its associated brands will provide catering at more than 600 sites across the UK, employing almost 6,000 staff. CH&Co Group chairman Tim Jones said: “The existing management teams of both companies will remain in position and focus on the day-to-day business. Behind the scenes, and as we did last year, project teams will be looking at how both organisations work and we will take the best of both companies to help us further strengthen the group going forward. The company continues to be predominantly management-owned and partly-funded by CH&Co Group’s investor partners MML Capital.”
 
South African restaurateurs acquire Bath bistro: Ajay Chathley and business partner Thomas Barker, who operate two restaurants in Johannesburg, have acquired Tilley’s bistro in Bath. Agent Christie & Co brokered the deal on behalf of the vendors after Tilley’s owners, Dawn and David Mott, who had been running the business since 1983, retired. Chathley said he was a big fan of Bath and fell in love with the four-storey building. Barker’s pet British bulldog is named Tilley, which was seen as a good omen. The restaurateurs plan to keep the historic nature and ambience of the building but with an initial facelift and additional dishes from their menus in South Africa, as well as the introduction of breakfast and Sunday roast menus. Christie & Co director Nicholas Calfe said: “The building housing Tilley’s was once the refectory for the monks of Bath Abbey and still has two huge original fireplaces – one of which has been dated to the 1400s. It is very unusual for a building with this history, and in such a prominent position in the city of Bath. We wish Ajay and Thomas – and Tilley the British bulldog – the best of luck.”
 
New bar and cafe concept Edge opens at former Stockton waterside mill: New bar and cafe concept Edge has opened at a former mill beside the river Tees in Stockton, County Durham. The new concept is the brainchild of Marc Hanson and was previously home to Bar Vista, owned by former Middlesbrough captain Matthew Bates. Hanson, who has 19 years’ experience as a DJ and club promoter, told Gazette Live: “We love the building. It has lovely old floors and exposed brickwork, so we have really gone for the industrial look. The biggest draw for us is you can look out over the Tees. We did a lot of research in Stockton. We are not trying to go for a certain crowd. The most important thing for us is it will be a fun, party place for everyone.”
 
Full speaker schedule for Bar and Nightclub Conference revealed: The full speaker schedule for this year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Propel, has been revealed. It takes place on Tuesday, 11 October at Bafta, Piccadilly, and follows the successful launch of the event last year. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls will provide an update on political and regulatory developments. Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA Strategy, which has retailer specialist CGA Peach as a division, reveals details of new research of usage, areas of growth, food and drink trends and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. Toby Smith, chief executive of bar, nightclub and restaurant operator Novus Leisure, will talk about how the company is meeting the needs of customers in London’s evolving bar and nightclub scene, including offer evolution and social media developments. Luke Johnson, sector investor and executive chairman of Brighton Pier Company and investor in Grand Union Group, will speak about his career in the late-night sector starting at Oxford University, set out his reasons for investing in the sector, evolving the offer at the company, and his perspective on the future for the bar and nightclub sector. Serial sector entrepreneur Roy Ellis will talk about the launch of the ground-breaking Albert’s Schloss concept in Manchester a year ago, 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. Jimmy Bernstein will talk about his 14-strong US bar and live music concept Howl at the Moon. Bernstein was the keynote speaker at this year’s Bar and Nightclub Convention in Las Vegas. Howl at the Moon has sites in key US cities, including Chicago, New York and Orlando, Florida – the company has also licensed the concept to Norwegian Cruise Line, which operates it on four ships. John Leslie, chief executive of Intertain, will talk about evolving the Walkabout brand and opening new sites, working with new comedy partner Comedy Loft, the regulatory regime, its new Birmingham concept 6 on Broad Street and the company’s relationship with backer Better Capital. Leading licensing barrister Philip Kolvin QC will provide a personal perspective on the key legal issues and developments facing bar and nightclub operators in the current climate. There will also be a panel hosted by Nicholls with Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, Mick McDonnell, national co-ordinator of Best Bar None, Paddy Whur, of Woods Whur, Peter Marks, chief executive of Deltic Group, and Richard Stringer, chief executive of Kornicis, about the challenges, opportunities and threats to the bar and nightclub sector. Tickets are priced at £95 for operators who are ALMR members and £145 for non-ALMR members. 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

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