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Tue 19th Jul 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Enterprise Inns and Marylebone Leisure launch Marmalade Pub Company: Enterprise Inns, the largest pub owner in the UK, has teamed up with The Marylebone Leisure Group to launch Marmalade Pub Company. The new venture will be Enterprise’s fifth ‘managed expert’ agreement as the group partners with industry-leading managed house operators to benefit from their retailing flair and capability. The Marylebone Leisure Group (MLG) is one of London’s most exciting young multi-site bar groups and focuses on high-quality infused spirits and liqueurs which are hand made in the company’s in-house laboratories. MLG operates six sites across the capital, including the Marylebone, Clerkenwell & Social, Bar Italia in Uxbridge and The Princess of Wales in Primrose Hill. The group was founded by Ben Avigdori and Lawrence Santi in 2011 and won the Neighbourhood Bar of the Year 2015 award for Barsmith in Farringdon. Simon Townsend, chief executive of Enterprise Inns, said: “We are delighted to be working with the MLG team who have quickly built a reputation for quality sites that offer customers a great experience. This is further evidence of the progress we are making in developing our managed house estate at Enterprise.” Lawrence Santi said: “We are massively excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with Enterprise Inns. We have always felt that our business and brand potential was bigger than our current exposure to the market and with Enterprise as a partner, we now have a clearly defined path for our continued growth.” Ben Avigdori added: “The opportunity to partner with the largest pub freeholder in the UK is one which we simply could not turn down. Enterprise bring an obvious depth of possibilities with them and our experience as a multi-site bar operator stands us in good stead to maximise the potential within their estate.”

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

Christie’s reports ‘small number’ of transactions lost as a result of Brexit: Property agent Christie Group has reported a “small number of transactions” were lost as result of the EU referendum result. It stated that in the light of “softer than previously anticipated trading in its professional business services division”, operating profit for the year ending 31 December 2016 was “likely to be lower than previously expected”. It added that within its agency business a “small number of transactions were lost on announcement of the European referendum result, after which point the business sales market is continuing to function”. It stated: “While our first-half revenue to 30 June is expected to be broadly in line with the corresponding period last year, we anticipate a growth in second-half revenues year-on-year. Nevertheless, after recouping the expected first-half loss referred to by the chairman at the June AGM, this growth in second-half revenues is now expected to be insufficient to achieve the level of full-year profit that was previously anticipated. A fuller update will be provided with the release of the interim results, expected to be issued on Monday, 12 September”.

Begbies Traynor – levels of financial distress fell 4% ahead of Brexit vote, but more than 240,000 SMEs still in dire state: UK businesses across every sector of the economy were showing positive signs of stability in the run-up to the EU referendum, new research from UK independent insolvency firm Begbies Traynor has revealed. However, after the severe market turmoil that immediately followed the Brexit decision, experts warn it could be at least another six months before we see a “new normal” in the UK economy. According to Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag Alert research for second quarter 2016, which monitors the financial health of UK companies, in the three months preceding the EU referendum levels of “Significant” financial distress among UK businesses fell for the first time since third quarter 2015, as the UK economy showed tentative signs of stability ahead of the Brexit vote. Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “Our data shows that levels of ‘Significant’ corporate distress decreased across all regions and all sectors of the economy in the lead up to the referendum vote; the first time we’ve seen such an improvement since the period immediately following last year’s general election. This suggests UK businesses were in a relatively stable and improving financial position ahead of the Brexit vote. However, we expect this trend to reverse as a result of the uncertainty created since then. UK construction and real estate has certainly been hit hardest following the Brexit result, with many high-profile investors pulling out of UK property over the past three weeks. With experts predicting London property prices could plummet by as much as 20% and nearly 50,000 firms in this sector already suffering from ‘Significant’ financial distress, the foundations for this sector are looking decidedly shaky.”

AVLP warns licensees against ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to forthcoming MRO: The Association of Valuers of Licensed Property (AVLP), which provides specialist property advice to the licensed leisure industry, has called for licensees to take “considered and informed decisions” following the forthcoming Market Rent Only (MRO) option announcement. The legislation is expected to be implemented later this month, with the final details being awaited by brewers, pub companies and licensees. However, AVLP honorary secretary Daniel Mackernan has warned “knee-jerk” reactions could be dangerous to licensees. He said: “The interpretation of the legislation will take time and licensees should be aware of the pros and cons of the MRO option and need to carefully consider what is right for their business. I’m concerned many licensees will see this as an opportunity to get out of the tie and will act blindly, rather than looking at the big picture. Speaking plainly, no two businesses are the same so the MRO won’t be the right route for every business. What is important is the need for licensees to have all the information they need to make an informed decision. I don’t think there’s been a time in our industry where getting the right and professional advice has ever been more important.”

Restaurant brands flock to Chelmsford, 20 to open within a year: Three restaurants are set to join Chelmsford’s culinary map, bringing the total expected to launch in the next year to almost 20. Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Loungers brand Cosy Club have all made moves to join the Essex city’s restaurant revolution, with plans to occupy sites created by splitting an Argos store in the city centre. Last week, a fourth McDonald’s opened in the city, while Carluccio’s will open a restaurant on Friday, 29 July and Caribbean restaurant and bar Turtle Bay will open its £1m site on Friday, 5 August. French brasserie Cote and steak and lobster restaurant Bourgee will complete the line-up at the new £3m food quarter at High Chelmer shopping centre when they also open in early August. A development in Bond Street will see better burger brand Byron, Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian, Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas, The Restaurant Group-owned Coast to Coast and Bill’s Restaurant join John Lewis as part of a £150m complex that will open later this year. In other spots around the city, burger restaurant and diner Grand Central is due to open soon near Chelmsford station, Casual Dining Group-owned Bella Italia has applied to open in the Meadows shopping centre and, earlier this year, YO! Sushi opened its first Chelmsford site.

Two proposals put forward for restaurant and cinema complex in Northampton: Two proposals have been revealed for a restaurant and cinema complex on the site of the former Greyfriars bus station in Northampton. The first proposal, named The Greyfriars Quarter, would be a plaza consisting of a leisure hub housing an eight-screen multiplex cinema and either a bistro/bar or “entertainment centre”, with trampolining or mini-bowling facilities, and a Marriott 110-bedroom hotel. It would also have six restaurants, three commercial studios, three retail kiosks, such as coffee and sandwich stores, a health and fitness gym and a new coach station with six bays. The second proposal features a four-star 150-bedroom hotel, boutique four-screen cinema, 11 restaurants, wine bars and cafes, and a coach station with three bays. It would also feature a “village square” for pedestrians and have a footbridge connected to the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, reports the Northants Herald & Post. Both plans include a range of accommodation, with the first proposal including 500 student apartments for the University of Northampton, 150 residential flats to let – 50 of which would be “affordable” – and 81 retirement apartments. The second proposal would have 339 student accommodation units, and 266 residential units housing 144 private rented apartments and 122 apartments to be sold. The first scheme would be built in stages, and be fully built by June 2021, while the second proposal, which would also be built in phases, would take an estimated 36 months to complete. Both proposals will go in front of Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet in September, when a decision will be made on which proposal to go ahead with, before a planning application for the chosen scheme is drawn up.

CAMRA launches National Pub Design Awards 2016: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has launched its National Pub Design Awards 2016 in association with Historic England. The awards recognise high standards of pub refurbishment and conservation as well as new-build designs. The competition is open to all UK pubs and buildings can be nominated by owners, landlords, CAMRA members or customers. Last year’s winners included a former derelict gin palace – The Dun Cow in Sunderland – and the Bevy estate pub in Brighton that was rebuilt thanks to local residents. The competition includes five categories – New-build, Refurbishment, Conversion to Pub Use, CAMRA/Historic England award, and the Joe Goodwin Award for refurbished street-corner locals. Work on entries must have been completed between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2015. Awards organiser Sean Murphy said: “Entrants may be required to provide additional photographs and plans during the judging, so the licensee should always approve the entry.” Closing date for entries is Wednesday, 31 August. To enter, visit www.camra.org.uk/pub-design-awards-online-entry

London-based restaurant The Little Yellow Door launches emoji only menu: London-based restaurant The Little Yellow Door has launched an emoji only menu. The Notting Hill Gate venue, which opened in October 2014, will run the summer special menu, offering two courses and a cocktail for £15, every Wednesday and Thursday throughout July and August. Guests will also be able to order their food and drinks via WhatsApp in an emoji only format as well as via a waiter. Dishes include seared steak roll with truffle mayo, caramelised onions and rocket; and buffalo wings with crudites and blue cheese dip. The restaurant is also introducing a weekly special supper club – British Summer BBQ versus American BBQ Friday’s. Dishes will feature US bourbon-glazed ribs and pulled beef shin, British smoked cumberlands, and BBQ chicken with oregano and rosemary along with an Oreo, banana and bourbon hardshake. Every Thursday, The Little Yellow Door will also host Boogie Jukebox, where guests can WhatsApp their request to the DJ.

Company News:

Tossed founder invests more than £60,000 in £400,000 crowdfunding campaign by healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef: Tossed founder Vincent McKevitt has invested more than £60,000 in the £400,013 crowdfunding campaign of healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef. McKevitt has pledged £60,003.32 in the startup, which has already received approval from the Beckhams and members of the England rugby team. The “farm to fork” business, founded last year by Robert Grieg-Gran, Giles Humphries and Myles Hopper, was the biggest mover in terms of amount raised and number of investors in the past week on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. It is aiming to raise £400,013 in return for an 11.76% equity stake to expand marketing efforts and develop an app. So far, 81 investors, including McKevitt, have pledged £258,036 with 56 days remaining. The founders said: “We have been taken back by the support from our customers, friends and Seedrs investors! In the first 24 hours, we raced to 46% of our funding target from more than 40 investors. We were honoured to see Vincent McKevitt, the founder of Tossed, amongst the investors. A pioneer of healthy eating, Vincent and team recently raised £1.34m on the Seedrs platform, and we hope to follow in their footsteps with a successful campaign.” Mindful Chef aims to promote convenient healthy eating through a range of gluten-free, organic items delivered to consumer’s homes. Users select recipes online, noting any dietary preferences, and Mindful Chef sources and delivers the relevant produce, which consumers cook at their own convenience. Recipes rotate weekly and are created by head chef Louise Mitchell. The pitch states: “We focus on the healthy and premium end of the recipe box market and ship all the ingredients you need to make two-to-five evening meals – all with fresh organic produce and no refined carbs (no pasta, no white rice, no bread). We pride ourselves on our innovative uses of vegetables in evening meals that are both gluten-free and dairy-free. We ship nationwide, and cater for one-person, two-person and four-person boxes. To our knowledge, we also offer the UK’s first and only vegan recipe box, alongside our meat and fish options.”

Epic Pubs to open fourth site following £600,000 joint investment by Charles Wells and Fitzrovia Pub Company: Epic Pubs is to open its fourth site following a joint £600,000 investment by Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells and Fitzrovia Pub Company. The Anchor in Aspley Guise, near Milton Keynes, is undergoing significant refurbishment and is due to open in mid-September, offering space for up to 90 diners in the main area, and a further 16 in a private dining room. The reopening of the pub will also create 40 jobs. Richard Bishop, director of tenanted and leased pubs at Charles Wells, said: “We’re delighted to be jointly investing in The Anchor to help give it a much-needed boost. The pub has been a centre for the Aspley Guise community for many years and the plans will honour that, while also creating a destination for people from further afield. Our investment in The Anchor and partnership with Fitzrovia is exactly what Charles Wells is about – great pubs, great food and drink, and great partnerships.” A Fitzrovia Pub Company spokesman added: “We are excited to be working with Charles Wells on this exciting new venue. Epic will be running the pub on our behalf and will create an eclectic British pub that is an integral part of the community, but that also offers an exciting new eating and drinking venue for people across Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.” Andrew Coath, managing director of Epic Pubs, said: “Customers will find a pub for everyone at The Anchor, with a focus on informal dining and drinking in an exquisite environment that reflects the best in British design and offers a warm, friendly welcome. The exciting menu and daily specials will be created from fresh, British, seasonal produce overseen by Mark Austin, whose experience includes The Swan at Salford and the Luton Hoo Hotel. The excellent drinks offer will include seasonal cocktails, an extensive gin collection and real ales including Bombardier, Eagle and Young’s Gold. An exciting range of fine wines and a creative list of non-alcoholic drinks will also be available.” Epic Pubs’ other sites are The Golden Ball in Maidenhead, 185 Watling Street in Towcester, and Mill Street in Oakham.

Andrew Guy becomes non-executive chairman of Crepeaffaire: Andrew Guy MBE, chief executive of Ed’s Easy Diner, is joining Crepeaffaire and sister company Frizzenti as non-executive chairman. Crepeaffaire’s founder, Daniel Spinath said: “We are excited to welcome Andrew on board. His experience will be instrumental in growing the Crepeaffaire and Frizzenti brands to their full potential, both in the UK and internationally.” Crepeaffaire has been experiencing significant growth and has embarked on an ambitious roll-out plan in the UK, mainland Europe and the Middle East. Furthermore, it is working on break-through brand extensions to be launched early 2017. Frizzenti’s FIZZ! Bar format is performing beyond expectations, with two to three sites in the pipe-line for the coming ten months. Added Spinath: “We’re seeing tremendous growth prospects and synergies between our brands. It’s a great time to benefit from Andrew’s track record in driving multi-format opportunities.” 

Innis & Gunn issues first BeerBond interest payout: Brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has issued the first annual interest payout to its BeerBond investors, a year after raising £3m in capital via the programme. In total, 1,105 investors bought BeerBonds, with investments ranging from the minimum £500 to more than £100,000. Interest payments total £211,500, with hundreds of investors opting to take their return in BeerBucks, redeemable at Innis & Gunn’s online shop. The first tranche of investors received their payment on Friday (15 July), with the second tranche to receive theirs on Friday, 12 August. Launched last year, the BeerBond campaign offered a four-year, fixed-term bond at an interest rate of 7.25%. Investors could also opt for the equivalent of 9% interest in BeerBucks vouchers. The £3m raised by the programme enabled Innis & Gunn to acquire The Inveralmond Brewery in April, embarking on significant investment to support its innovative brewing processes and continue its reputation for experimentation with ingredients and flavours. All BeerBond investors will also have their name featured on a mural, which will be unveiled next year following a significant investment to double capacity at the company’s brewery in Scotland in the next six months.

Starbucks to expand health care offering for all eligible US staff: Starbucks will expand its comprehensive health care offering for all eligible US partners (employees). The enhanced benefits will provide “more choice, cost savings opportunities and personalised support” to help employees easily select the “best health care plan for their needs”. A new online benefits platform – designed by Aon – will allow staff to choose from five health care coverage levels based on their budgets and preferred insurance carrier. Starbucks said the plan enabled it to “deploy a unique private exchange model that will ensure any cost savings achieved go right back to partners”. Starbucks will fund about 70% of the premium costs and cover 100% of preventive care services. The company said eligible staff could save up to $800 a year by moving to a health insurance plan that better met their individual needs, with potential savings even more for staff who selected family coverage, with an opportunity to save $2,600 a year. Ron Crawford, Starbucks vice-president of global benefits, said: “Providing industry-leading benefits for eligible full and part-time partners is a cornerstone of who we are as a company. Much like a travel site, our partners will be able to navigate an easy-to-use online platform to choose between more insurance carriers and coverage levels at more competitive prices to help them find the right plan for their own needs.”

The Stable to open west London restaurant, 15th venue in total: The Stable, 51% owned by Fuller’s, will open a restaurant in Kew Bridge, Brentford, on Friday, 29 July – its 15th site in total. Founded by Nikki and Richard Cooper in Dorset in 2009, The Stable offers handmade pizzas and more than 80 ciders. In true Stable fashion, the menu will honour local landmarks, with pizzas such as The Hounslow Herbivore and The Kew Palace Pecker. As well as cider, the restaurant will feature a full wine list, craft beers, pressed apple juice and freshly brewed coffee. Nikki Cooper said: “We are proud to be opening our second London restaurant in such a beautiful Thames-side location, where our customers can eat alfresco on our huge riverside piazza. We hope the residents of Brentford and Kew Bridge will love our freshly made delicious pizzas and nutritious salads and will see it as a place to hang out with friends and family.” The other Stable venues are in Bath, Bridport, Bristol, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Cardiff, Falmouth, Fistral, Whitechapel, Winchester, Weymouth, Plymouth, Southampton and Poole. The next site due to open will be in Bournemouth.

Galvin brothers to launch their first Home Counties restaurant: Chris and Jeff Galvin are set to open their first restaurant in the Home Counties – at the Centurion Club in St Albans in early September. The 84-cover Galvin at Centurion will feature the signature Galvin experience, with dining available in the golf club’s main restaurant, bar or on the terrace, in addition to three adjoining private dining rooms that will seat 12 to 14 guests each. Signature dishes will include lasagne of Dorset crab with beurre Nantais, and roast rump of Herdwick lamb with grilled Provençale vegetables and black olives. Desserts will include Provence apricot and Valrhona chocolate soufflé. Lunch and dinner will be available seven days a week with two and three-course set menus. Jeff Galvin said: “Over the past two years we have been planning Galvin at Centurion Club and are very excited by the result.” The Galvins opened their first restaurant, Bistrot de Luxe, in Baker Street and gained a Michelin star at Galvin at Windows and Galvin La Chapelle. In January they opened their first pub – HOP – in Spitalfields, with their latest restaurant – Galvin at The Athenaeum – launching in Piccadilly last month.

Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge ‘agrees takeover’ of Marlow sports bar, third Bucks site: Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge has agreed a takeover of his third Marlow pub, according to the Bucks Free Press. Already the owner of two popular businesses in the Buckinghamshire town, the award-winning chef looks set to add O’Donoghues to his empire. The Spittal Street sports bar has reportedly seen a lot of interest from the Bake Off: Creme de la Creme presenter, with a takeover deal understood to be in place. Kerridge already operates two West Street eateries. His first venture – The Hand And Flowers – made history in 2011 when it became the first pub to be awarded two Michelin stars. In 2014, he took over the former Coach And Horses pub, renaming it The Coach. There has been no official confirmation of a takeover bid, but the Free Press said it understood if the plan went ahead it would remain as a sports bar, with bar food also on offer.

Inception Group launches healthy food concept Squirrel in Kensington, ninth London site: Inception Group, which operates bars, restaurants and clubs in south west and central London, has opened its ninth site, new healthy food concept Squirrel. Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, who founded Inception in 2009, have teamed up with their wives – marketer Anneke Gilkes and nutritional therapist Zoe Stirling – to launch Squirrel, this time in Kensington. The new venue in Harrington Road offers four house salads, four hot grain bowls, two seasonal options that will be nutritionally balanced with foraged elements, plus weekly-changing soups and stews to eat in or take away in “bespoke acorn vessels”. The decor features a green theme throughout, including a counter carved from a fallen oak, with an attempt to make diners feel as if they are eating in a treehouse, Hot Dinners reports. The breakfast menu includes poached egg breakfast pots, avocado toast, porridge pots and organic yogurts, while the drinks list features matcha lattes, hot tonics, fair-trade Allpress coffees, as well as tumeric lattes and reishi hot chocolate. It also offers homemade seasonal water infusions and iced teas – from the refillable “Drinking Well” – and cold-pressed juices, kombucha and fresh coconuts. Other Inception Group venues include Bunga Bunga and Mr Fogg’s.

New World Trading Company to start expanding Smugglers Cove concept with second site, in Birmingham: New World Trading Company, which was acquired by private equity firm Graphite Capital from Living Ventures for £50m last month, is to start expanding its Smugglers Cove concept with a second site, this time in Birmingham. The company is transforming the former James Brindley pub in Brindleyplace into the pirate-themed bar and restaurant, reports the Birmingham Mail. It offers more than 100 different rums as well as beers, ciders, ales, a selection of champagnes, and a rum-based cocktail menu. It also runs rum masterclasses, taking participants on a journey across the Caribbean and South America, offering rum from the world’s most “highly prized distilleries”. The food menu for Smugglers Cove is the same as sister restaurant brand The Botanist, featuring deli boards, barbecue meats, such as its hanging chicken kebabs, and pies. New World Trading Company’s other Smugglers Cove site is in Liverpool’s Albert Dock.

UK franchisees open Netherlands’ first Papa John’s: A consortium of five UK franchisees has opened the first Papa John’s venue in the Netherlands. The consortium, led by Tony Kalsi, was awarded exclusive rights under a restaurant development agreement signed in March. The store in Rijnstraat, Amsterdam, is one of more than 100 Papa John’s restaurants planned for the Netherlands, with at least a further two stores to open this year. Papa John’s International has more than 320 restaurants in the UK, four in Spain and opened its first in northern France in May. It is also seeking franchisees in Belgium, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Tim O’Hern, Papa John’s International senior vice-president and chief development officer, said: “The Papa John’s brand continues to grow and we are pleased to extend our growth with our successful franchisees from the UK into the Netherlands. We now have close to 4,900 restaurants in 40 countries and territories, including over 1,500 internationally, and we are very proud to add the Netherlands as our newest country.” Kalsi said: “We look forward to introducing everyone in the Netherlands to our quality ingredients.” The other franchisees are Prasoon Patel, Jitesh Patel, Jaspal Gill and Anil Patel.

New Victorian-style craft cocktail bar concept set to open in Exeter: A new Victorian-style craft cocktail bar concept is set to open in Exeter. Doctor Ink’s Curiosities is launching at the city’s quayside on the former Hotteas site. The bar’s owners have more than 20 years’ cocktail bar experience in London and overseas, reports the Exeter Express & Echo. The interior will “create the look of a Victorian living room”, complete with Victorian soft furnishings and furniture. In a Facebook post, Doctor Ink’s Curiosities said: “The bar will have a Victorian/colonial feel, with a drinks list taking influence from this golden era of drinks-making. A passion for drinks knowledge and history is at the forefront of the ethos for this bar. There will be a heavy emphasis on homemade locally sourced ingredients, tinctures, shrubs and infusions as well as working with block ice and all techniques in contemporary bartending.”

Greenock-based cafe operator earmarks former Greggs site for third venue: Greenock-based cafe operator Stepwell has lodged plans to open a third site under its Fresh brand. The company has applied to Inverclyde Council to convert the former Greggs site in Gourock town centre into its latest venue. The new outlet, which would be based in Kempock Street next door to the Aulds bakery and cafe, would have 16 seats inside and two small tables outside under a retractable canopy, reports InverClyde Now. Stepwell currently has two Fresh cafes in Greenock – at the Oak Mall and the Waterfront Leisure Centre.

New tapas-style restaurant concept based on British produce opens in Hull: A new restaurant concept offering tapas-style plates of British produce has opened in Hull. Chris Uttley has launched No 6 Kitchenette in Newland Avenue on the site of Henry Yeast & Son, which has relocated to Humber Street. Diners are able to pre-order from the menu online ahead of arriving at the restaurant. The menu also includes craft pizzas with toppings such as Beverley chorizo, Ribblesdale goats cheese and herby Portobello, as well as charcuterie and an artisan cheese board. There is also a selection of craft beers, specially selected spirits, cocktails and wines. Uttley told the Hull Daily Mail: “We are just in the process of creating a market menu. So whatever takes our fancy in the veg market, fish market and butchers, we will do something exciting with it. We wanted the restaurant to have a real sharing feel, where people can graze over plates of food, and this location is great to achieve that. It’s important to be a familiar face, and that’s what you get in Newland Avenue.”

Maxwell’s Bar and Grill reports 26% profit increase thanks to Pokémon craze: Maxwell’s Bar and Grill in Covent Garden, London, has reported a 26% increase in profits during its first weekend of trading as a PokéStop on the mobile app game Pokémon Go. Users of the game, which has been taking the UK by storm following its launch in the US, have been flooding to the restaurant with the hope of capturing a Snorlax, Mewtwo or Pickachu, all of which have been reported to be roaming around the American-style bar and grill diner, which is owned by Maxwell’s Restaurant Group. The restaurant has now made it the sole responsibility of one employee to purchase and drop lures around Covent Garden that attract virtual Pokémon and is currently spending up to £100 a day in “app-game” purchases to attract users of the game to the restaurant. It has also launched Pokémon-inspired freakshakes, cocktails and doughnuts and is also set to host a “Pokémon Go Lure Party”, with 240 customers already confirmed to attend. Maxwell’s marketing manager Anthony Knight said: “Working in hospitality you have to react quickly to new trends and fads and I had a feeling this could be a winner for us. Never in my life did I think Pokémon would form part of my marketing strategy but it’s great fun and allows us to engage creatively with our customers and new customers. As well as benefiting from being a PokéStop and dropping lures, businesses can also use the app as a gateway to engage with their customers directly, requesting information on the types of virtual Pokémon caught at or near the location. This information, particularly the “rarity” of the virtual Pokémon captured at their site, can be easily deployed as an advertising tool. Restaurants can also brand themselves as a hot spot or potential meeting place for users.”

Four Hundred Rabbits to start expansion with second site, in south east London: Sourdough pizza and craft beer restaurant concept Four Hundred Rabbits is to start expansion by opening its second site, this time in Nunhead, south east London. The new 40-cover restaurant in Evelina Road is set to open in mid-August on the former site of Bambini, which is relocating nearby. It follows the launch of Four Hundred Rabbits’ first site in Crystal Palace last year. Inspired by the authentic Italian pizza found in Napoli, Four Hundred Rabbits uses a sourdough starter made from British rye flour, then ferments its dough for up to 48 hours, which is made from strong white flour sourced from the Cotswolds. It is then cooked at about 400 degrees in a wood-fired oven with British seasonal produce used for toppings. There will be 12 beers that rotate each week from brewers in the UK and Europe, including four draught beers served in three-quarter pint schooners, four chilled bottles, and four cans. It will also serve a range of juices and soft drinks. Four Hundred Rabbits will also offer six flavours of gelupo, which will change according to the season.

New £4.5m Commissioners Quay Inn opens in Northumberland: Northumberland’s newest inn, a £4.5m pub with rooms on Blyth’s redeveloped Quayside, has opened. The Commissioner’s Quay Inn was purpose-built by Northumberland County Council’s economic development company Arch and is operated by The Inn Collection Group. Boasting 40 bedrooms across four floors, The Commissioners Quay Inn is well located for the Tall Ships Race, which comes to Blyth next month. Keith Liddell, chief executive of the group, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the new unit. It is everything we imagined it to be and seeing it come to life with so many people here enjoying the finished product is incredibly rewarding. We’re bringing the same approach in Blyth as we have to the other sites in our portfolio – great-tasting food, a relaxed, laid-back ambience to eat and drink in, excellent value, and contemporary accommodation.” The Inn Collection Group is the biggest private bedroom provider in Northumberland, with more than 200 bedrooms across its north east estate. Its portfolio includes North East Tourism Pub of the Year The Bamburgh Castle Inn in Seahouses, The Lindisfarne Inn at Beal, and The Hog’s Head Inn at Alnwick. The group also operates The Seaton Lane Inn near Sunderland, The King’s Head Inn at Newton under Roseberry, and the newly acquired Kingslodge Inn in Durham.

Castle Rock Brewery acquires 22nd pub, eyes further growth: Castle Rock Brewery, the Nottingham-based brewer and pub company, has acquired the freehold of the Cricketers Rest in Kimberley for an undisclosed sum. The pub was bought through The Beer Consortium, the EIS company that bought Bingham’s Horse And Plough and The Embankment at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in 2015, which are also operated and managed by Castle Rock. The Cricketers is the company’s 22nd pub in total. Castle Rock chairman Geoff Newton said: “Kimberley has a long historical association with the brewing industry and the Cricketers Rest is a great community pub close to the former Hardys & Hansons brewery. We’re planning a major refurbishment and look forward to serving the needs of this bustling Nottinghamshire town. The Cricketers will bring great cask ales from Castle Rock, national and local brewers and the refurbishment will extend to the impressive rear garden, making it an ideal family-orientated and dog-friendly venue. We expect the site to be open for business towards the end of August. We continue to look for further suitable acquisitions across the East Midlands.” 

Veeno to open first Scottish site in Edinburgh next month, eighth UK venue: Italian wine cafe Veeno will open its first Scottish venue – and eighth in total – in Edinburgh next month. The company, led by Nino Caruso and Andrea Zecchino, is bringing the brand to Rose Street on Saturday, 6 August, creating up to 20 jobs. As well as wine, cocktails and Italian beers, there will be a food menu with platters of Italian meat, cheese and bread, and desserts. Caruso said: “We’re delighted to be introducing the concept of Italian aperitivo to Edinburgh and it’s an exciting leap as we cross the border into Scotland. Our current venues have created a buzz and we feel Scotland is really missing out!” Veeno opened its first venue in Manchester in 2013 and now has sites in Bristol, Harrogate, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham and York. Last year, the company revealed it was planning to expand to 80 sites by 2020.

Molson Coors and Sky launch limited release ale ahead of new Premier League season: Molson Coors and Sky have launched a limited release Premier League-inspired ale “New Season” to mark the start of the 2016/17 campaign. The 4.2% ABV ale is available in the UK independent on-trade through Molson Coors guest ale programme – Molson Coors Hotlines Magazine and molsoncoorsdirect.com – as well as through various Mitchells & Butlers managed pubs. “New Season” is the second special edition ale to be created by Molson Coors and Sky, following on from “Done Deal”, which was released back in January to mark the January transfer window. The launch of “New Season” is the latest milestone in the long-term partnership between Molson Coors and Sky, which have collaborated to offer publicans stocking Molson Coors products up to 33% off the price of their Sky television subscription. Alpesh Mistry, Molson Coors customer marketing director, said: “Following Leicester’s historic Premier League win in May, the 2016/17 season promises to be the most exhilarating yet. Our brewers have created this fantastic ale to celebrate the new season, and we hope pub-goers nationwide will join us in raising a toast to the new season of football.” The launch of New Season follows Molson Coors’ Carling brand signing a three-year partnership with the Premier League as its official ale partner in May. 

Conviviality sales pass £860m: Revenues have jumped to more than £860m at Matthew Clark owner Conviviality following a transformational year that featured the acquisition of the wine wholesaler. The company has posted revenues of £864.5m for the 53 weeks ending 1 May 2016, up by 137% on a year earlier. Adjusted pre-tax profits climbed by 124% to £21.7m and adjusted Ebitda increased by 135% to £30.2m over the same period. On 7 October 2015, during the period covered by these results, Conviviality completed the £200m acquisition of wine wholesaler Matthew Clark (Holdings) in a reverse takeover. It also purchased bar and events company Peppermint on 31 December 2015. Diana Hunter, chief executive of Conviviality, said: “These strong results reflect the hard work of our employees, franchisees and suppliers. Our franchisees in the off-trade and customers in the on-trade remain at the heart of our business as we continue to work together to blend their entrepreneurial skill with the branding, ranging and wholesale expertise of Conviviality. The experienced management team in place, coupled with the well-invested and compelling businesses with market-leading expertise and current trading in line with expectations, gives the board confidence for the future.”

Pod to open first new site in five years: Pod will open the doors of its first new shop in almost five years – in Kingsway, central London, on Friday (22 July). It will incorporate a “vibrant new design” and feature in-store digital menu screens to “keep customers informed and entertained while they wait or eat”. Located at 35 Kingsway, 400 free lunches will be given away at the 1,582 square foot site on launch day.

Restaurant Group set to open Coast to Coast in Cheltenham: The Restaurant Group is set to open a Coast to Coast venue in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, which would be the brand’s most south-westerly site. The American-style restaurant will open in Cheltenham’s Brewery Quarter, in a space previously occupied by Habitat. Posters in the windows at the site state the restaurant is recruiting staff and will be opening soon, with no exact launch date revealed, the Gloucester Citizen reports. The bar and restaurant will specialise in American-style food such as steaks and burgers, alongside shakes and cocktails. In March, Restaurant Group chief executive Danny Breithaupt said: “Coast to Coast is doing extremely well at the moment. We’ve got some interesting stuff going on this year – the new menu is doing very well.” The first Coast to Coast opened in Brighton at the end of 2011, with the brand “focused on the adult market looking for a more premium offering in a more sophisticated environment”. There are now 22 Coast to Coast sites, with the closest to Cheltenham in Solihull.

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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