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Tue 26th Jul 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Luke Johnson – operators confident to expand in wake of Brexit will have more opportunities available: Sector investor Luke Johnson has criticised negative thinking in the wake of the Brexit vote. Responding to comments by Leon founder John Vincent, who said he had a “very demoralised team who think they are not welcome in Britain any more” following the referendum, Johnson said: “Entrepreneurs and leaders of business need to remain optimistic and encouraging to motivate their teams. There is no point in remaining gloomy or dwelling on what might have happened. If investment in the sector drops, then those who are confident enough to expand have more opportunities available. We bought control of PizzaExpress during the deep recession of the early 1990s, and grew Patisserie Valerie right through the last recession, taking advantage of lower rents, more property availability, and keen builders. The better operators will continue to succeed – those with distinctive offerings will always take share. Banks are still willing to lend for sensible propositions and interest rates are at record lows. Restaurateurs and publicans are in low ticket, affordable treat territory – eating and drinking out are such an established part of consumers’ lifestyles that I believe the public will continue to spend even if the economy is uncertain for a period. I do not want migrant workers in the hotel, restaurant and bar sector to depart, but we must prepare for the possibility that some will go. The industry should train more of the indigenous population in the skills of the hospitality trade – it makes no sense for us to rely so heavily on an immigrant workforce when there are able-bodied, unemployed workers here already. I have co-founded two career colleges in Liverpool and south London specialising in the hospitality industry and offering vocational training, but we must all do more to make a difference. Britain should develop a culture where the hospitality field is seen as a highly attractive place to work. This is a dynamic, flexible sector that has thrived through many ups and downs. Britain still offers perhaps the best returns in the world to enterprising investors and operators in the food and drink business, which is why so many overseas players are opening here. Short-term weakness is merely the signal to redouble efforts while looking to seize the next challenge.”

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 closes on Wednesday (27 July). Information provided will be reproduced anonymously within 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), 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), and HOP Vietnamese (authentic Vietnamese “fast, fresh and fearless” food). 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

Paul Hickman – MRO will have ‘less immediate disruption than headlines suggest’, outlines effect on nine major pub companies: Edison leisure analyst Paul Hickman thinks the introduction of the Market Rent Only option (MRO) will have “less immediate disruption than headlines suggest” but will change the sector “in ways sponsors of the legislation did not intend”. Hickman has outlined the affect the MRO will have on nine major pub companies across the sector. He said: “Legislation effective today makes it possible for pub tenants to set aside the traditional drinks tie with pub companies, and instead buy their drinks from cheaper sources. The issue has been in prospect since late 2014 and has been folded into companies’ strategies where relevant, with estate management actions well advanced and active engagement with tenants. These will change the sector in ways sponsors of the legislation did not intend. We anticipate less immediate disruption than headlines would suggest, although the inevitable uncertainty comes at exactly the wrong time given the post-Brexit hit to consumer confidence.” Hickman said many pub companies, such as Enterprise Inns, Greene King, Punch, and Marston’s had put in place strategies to manage the MRO issue. Marston’s and Shepherd Neame were also likely to see a boost to its free trade customer numbers in their beer business as a medium-term effect from MRO, net of reductions within national accounts. He added Fuller’s, which with 203 leased and tenanted pubs out of a total estate of 398, thus falling below the 500 lower cut-off for MRO, could benefit indirectly – on an increase in free trade customers (net of reductions in national accounts); and any increase in available pubs for purchase in its London and southern England trading area as pubs were put on the market by pubco owners as a result of MRO decisions by their tenants. Hickman said JD Wetherspoon could indirectly see an effect because its large pubs have historically gained share in local markets by competing on price against tenancies tied into highly priced beer by their pub companies. He added: “In this sense, the advent of MRO could be a negative, although that argument does not take account of the fact the situation has relaxed more recently, particularly through the adoption of franchise-type agreements by former tenancy owners, where the pub company now controls the retail price of drinks; and the fact tenants who exercise their MRO rights will effectively be trading on their own, without the benefit of operational and marketing support they would have had from their pub companies.” Mitchells & Butlers and Young’s would not be directly impacted by the new legislation, added Hickman, because of the make-up of their estates.

Derby BID scheme to be disbanded: Derby’s St Peters Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) is to be disbanded after voters in the area were split down the middle on whether it should continue. In order for the BID to be renewed, more than 50% of the businesses that voted were required to register a ‘Yes’ vote. These businesses should also hold more than 50% of the rateable value of those who voted. At the final count, 50% had voted in favour of the BID and these businesses held 57% of the rateable value. Businesses had been canvassed for their views on the work that had already been achieved in the past five years and the work required in the future to further improve the core retail area between the Cathedral Quarter and Intu Derby shopping centre. The new BID would have launched on 1 September, with business paying a levy to raise about £210,000 a year, totalling more than £1.2m over the five-year term of the BID to carry out a programme of improvements for the area. St Peters Quarter board chairman Stephen Jeffery told The Business Desk: “Although the majority by rateable value voted in favour, we are disappointed the vote by number was split 50/50. This therefore does not meet the strict regulations governing BID renewal. Therefore from September there will be no-one championing or supporting businesses in this area, which leaves them even more exposed to the uncertainties of the current economic climate and the challenges that continue to face the high street.”

Beer sales increase 3% in sports pubs during Euros, non-sports venues fall 8%: Sports pubs saw a 3% increase in beer sales during Euro 2016, while non-sports venues saw an 8% drop, according to beer quality and insight expert Vianet. The company has partnered with Propel to analyse the effect of the Euro 2016 tournament on pubs. Over the full tournament from Friday, 10 June to Sunday, 10 July, the 3,000-plus Euro sports pubs showed an increase on volume of 3% overall when compared with the same days last year. This was split into an 8% uplift in week one, 7% in week two, 4% in week three, a decline of 3% in week four and flat in week five. This compared with the control group of more than 3,000 non-sports pubs being down 8% over the same five weeks, giving an overall gain of 11%. In terms of England’s games, the Wales match showed the best uplift at 108% for Thursday, 16 June versus the same day last year and a run rate of 45 pints with the Russia game second at 42 pints, Slovakia third at 31 pints and Iceland last at 27 pints, with customers leaving part way through the game. In terms of categories and brands, standard lager saw the best performance, with a 44% share of pints sold, up 2% on last year. Cask ale had an 18% share, which was down 4% on last year, premium lager had 15%, which was flat with last year, and keg ale took an 11% share, also flat with last year. Cider’s share was 9% – up 1% and stout took a 5% share, also up 1%. Key brands in sports pubs were Carling followed by Fosters, John Smiths, Guinness and Coors Fine Light. Carling sales were 50% higher than Fosters. Non-sports pubs had a similar top five apart from Kronenbourg replacing Coors Light. When England were knocked out of the tournament the Euro sports pubs showed a 3.4% drop in volume compared with the non-sports pubs that only dropped by 2.4%. Overall, the competition benefited the on-trade but only where pubs actively promoted the games and, as in previous tournaments, as soon as England were knocked out consumers lost interest. Vianet and Propel are now working on a white paper that will show a detailed analysis of the whole event and will also continue analysing the impact of the rest of the summer of sport as it happens over the next six weeks.

Risk Capital in talks to sell online travel agency: Risk Capital, the private equity firm founded by serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson, is set to sell a Redditch-headquartered online travel agency for about £50m, according to reports. Sky News said Risk Capital Partners is in talks to dispose of to Bridgepoint Development Capital. The potential deal comes less than three years since Risk completed a buyout of the business – its first investment in the travel sector. was set up 30 years ago and posted sales of £36.3m in the year to 30 November 2015, up from £30m a year earlier. Pre-tax profits rose from £475,000 to £990,000 over the same period. Since Risk Capital’s investment, the business has expanded with the purchase of CruiseWall, an online aggregator of cruise content on social media, in December 2014. Last October, also completed a refinance with support from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Speaking at the time, finance director Steve Bacon said: “This is a key transaction for the business as we look to continue our growth trajectory in the UK and abroad and look to capitalise on our recent acquisitions in Ireland and Australia.” The potential deal follows shortly after Bridgepoint Development Capital exited Evander Locks & Glazing, a national emergency locksmith and home improvement company.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi launches Argentinian-inspired restaurant featuring his favourite food: Barcelona football star Lionel Messi has launched a restaurant with his brothers that pays homage to their home town of Rosario in Argentina. Messi and his brothers Rodrigo and Marisol have opened El Bellavista del Jardin del Norte (beautiful view of the garden of the north) in Enric Granados Street, near Barcelona city centre. The restaurant will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and features a 1,000 square metre outdoor area, The Sun reports. The menu will feature Messi’s favourite meal – Milanesa Napolitiana a caballo (breaded veal accompanied by cheese and tomato sauce). Messi recently retired from international football after scoring 55 goals in 113 appearances.

Healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef passes £1m crowdfunding mark: Healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef has passed the £1m mark on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company hit its £400,013 target last week to expand marketing efforts and develop an app but has now raised £1,000,633 having offered 11.76% equity in return for the investment. The “farm to fork” business was founded last year by Robert Grieg-Gran, Giles Humphries and Myles Hopper and includes Tossed founder Vincent McKevitt among its investors. The largest investment to date is £378,068.94. Mindful Chef has been the biggest mover in terms of percentage and amount raised on Seedrs in the past week. The company’s aim is 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.”

Hotels boast UK’s best designed washrooms in the sector – report: Almost three-quarters (74%) of UK diners feel hotels have the best designed washrooms in the hospitality sector, according to a new report. The survey of nearly 1,000 diners, commissioned by global hygiene business Tork, a brand of SCA Hygiene Products, revealed independent restaurants and chain restaurants are a long way behind hotels, with only 13% and 10% of respondents respectively feeling they had the best-designed bathrooms. However, design is not the only major factor as 90% of respondents saw poor cleanliness as the most “off-putting factor” when visiting a bathroom. It is also crucial operators maintain facilities to the highest level, as 81% of diners said they would not return to a venue that had a dirty bathroom. SCA Hygiene Products communications manager Jamie Wright said: “The cleaning resources hotels have available clearly demonstrates they are being put to good use, as washrooms are not just well designed but impeccably maintained. If this was also the case throughout the hospitality industry, dwell time and return visits would increase significantly.”

Company News:

Living Ventures to open first speakeasy basement bar at forthcoming Alchemist site in Birmingham: Living Ventures will bring its Alchemist cocktail bar brand to Birmingham in September, which will feature the company’s first late-night speakeasy bar in the UK. The company is opening the site at the historic Grand Hotel in Colmore Row on Monday, 26 September. It will also include a basement speakeasy bar described as a “wonderland with 18ft ceilings covered in a canopy of lights” with a bespoke copper-clad entrance. There will also be a 66-cover restaurant with food that includes a brunch menu as well as a varied main menu. The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts told the Birmingham Mail: “The design of the Birmingham basement bar will be most similar to our Alchemist bar in Greek Street, Leeds, but of course this will be different as it will be in keeping with the history of the Grand and showcasing this to the best effect, for example the magnificent pillars that give a reminder of the past grandeur of the place.” The Alchemist will be joined next door by sister Italian restaurant brand Gusto.

Son of Churchill’s Port founder to launch Portuguese restaurant and wine bar concept near London Bridge: The son of the founder of Churchill’s Port will open a Portuguese restaurant and wine bar concept in London in September. Max Graham, whose father Johnny started Churchill’s Port in 1981, is launching Bar Douro in Flat Iron Square, near London Bridge, reports the Drinks Business. It will form part of a food, drink and entertainment project under the arches in Flat Iron Square, taking in the grade II-listed Devonshire House. The venue is inspired by the ale houses and tapas bars dotted around Lisbon and Porto and will serve small plates based on Portuguese home cooking alongside a selection of Portuguese wine and port. Its decor will include Portugal’s famous “azulejos” – blue and white ceramic tiles. Graham tested the water with Churchill’s Port House, an eight-month pop-up wine bar in Soho in 2013 that aimed to educate consumers about the variety of port brands on offer. The Flat Iron Square project will also include live music venues, a pancake restaurant and a theatre space.

North west-based Flat Cap Hotels launches £250,000 crowdfunding campaign as it aims for five-strong estate by 2019: North west-based pub and hotel operator Flat Cap Hotels has launched a £250,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it aims to have a five-strong estate by 2019. The company, founded by brothers Dominic and Oliver Heywood, is offering an 8% equity stake in return for the investment. It operates The Vicarage Freehouse & Rooms in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, with its second site, The Courthouse in nearby Knutsford, due to open in October, and is looking to expand further. The pitch states: “The concept originated from the growing economic and industry development in the food and beverage market between the old-fashioned country pub and restaurant combined with the ever-growing boutique luxury hotel market with unique conference and banqueting facilities. Our two establishments (The Courthouse opening soon) serve locally sourced British seasonal menus in property with bespoke decor and furnishings created by us with a ‘home away from home’ atmosphere. The aim is to have five operational and functioning hotels by 2019 in the north west – Cheshire – within a 50-mile radius (leasehold and freehold). Flat Cap Hotels intends to establish a head office at The Courthouse, whereby top-line management and staff will be utilised across the group with the aim of providing extremely efficient operating costs and maximising Ebitda conversion. The strategy is to create a portfolio of successful venues within the north west, and expand to further locations around the UK that fit the brand ethos, style and demographics accordingly with an opportunistic acquisition strategy. The Courthouse, Knustford’s former crown court, will open in October boasting a 150-cover restaurant and bar, function room for up to 750 guests, several private dining, meeting and conference facilities, and ten luxury bedrooms within the existing wings. The funds will also allow us to pursue the planning application of a further 50 bedrooms through an extension to the rear of the property opening in quarter four 2017. The funds will also allow us to assist in the search and selection of additional sites that match our brand criteria.”

Hawthorn Leisure evolves former JD Wetherspoon pub to enhance community values: Hawthorn Leisure has evolved a JD Wetherspoon pub it bought in Scotland to enhance community values. Hawthorn acquired The Earl of Zetland in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, in April, saving 26 jobs. It is displaying photographs and memories supplied by locals, particularly from the time when the pub was a church. Hawthorn Leisure said it was keen to maximise the pub’s renewed individuality and had been adapting to customer demand with redecoration, installation of a music system, additional Scottish dishes and employing more kitchen staff. Head of marketing Jennie Walton said: “It’s now about making the Earl central to local lives, of which the photographs are just the start.” Linlithgow and East Falkirk MP Martyn Day, who is a member of the All Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “Aside from the obvious pleasures pubs bring, they are a huge contributor to both the local economy and society, so it was a privilege for me to get involved in supporting this initiative.”

Leon to open second site at Schiphol airport: Natural fast food brand Leon has revealed it will open a second site at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam early next year. The company opened its first overseas site, which is operated by HMSHost International, at the airport last month and has been smashing its sales targets since. Now Leon is to add to the venue, which is in the centre of the plaza, landside near the train station, by opening a second store, airside at Schiphol. Speaking at an event in Schiphol to officially open the first store, Leon co-founder John Vincent said: “I spent many a happy childhood holiday in Holland and the sun was always shining so I’m very happy to return and bring Leon with me. Earlier this month HMS and Leon won the ‘Oscar’ for fast food at the international airport food awards, which shows that bringing people food which tastes good and does them good is especially welcome for travel-weary passengers. This is a magnificent site in Schiphol and we’re thrilled to have landed.” HMSHost already runs seven franchise sites for Leon in the UK – at King’s Cross, Euston and Eurotunnel train stations and Stansted, Heathrow (T2 and T3) and East Midlands airports. Leon, which was founded by Vincent and Henry Dimbleby in 2004, has 36 sites in the UK.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen to open 75th site next month in Staines, confirms Southport plans: Gourmet Burger Kitchen will open its 75th restaurant – on Monday, 8 August in Staines, Surrey. The company is launching the restaurant at the Two Rivers shopping centre, creating 50 jobs. To celebrate the opening, Gourmet Burger Kitchen will give away 100 cheeseburgers at the venue from midday. Spokeswoman Laura Pettingale told Get Surrey: “We can’t wait to open our doors and introduce the burger-lovers of Staines to our adventurous menu this summer.” Gourmet Burger Kitchen was founded in 2001, when it opened its first site in Battersea, south London. Meanwhile, a company spokesperson told The Visiter it would open a restaurant in Southport at “the beginning of next year”.

Ben Spalding to launch new music and dining concept at St Bart’s Brewery: Chef Ben Spalding will launch his new concept – Small Plate Sessions – during two residencies at Hush Heath Hospitality-owned St Bart’s Brewery pub and restaurant in Farringdon. The special Sunday events on 14 and 28 August will feature ten dishes for less than £10 each, accompanied by live music from “underground electronic music” acts and DJs. Spalding has worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants and launched dining concepts such as Stripped Back (fine dining without pretensions) and No Rules (dinners cooked in front of guests). Small Plate Sessions explores another of his major passions – electronic music. Dishes at the venue in West Smithfield are expected to include sticky piggy ribs seasoned with bonfire salt, mango and crème fraiche, and praline with crispy pastry, crunchie dust and iced marjoram. Spalding said: “It’s the most rewarding feeling to see a room full of strangers bond over inviting and interesting food with good conversation, and now with the introduction of the finest underground electronic music. Together, this all defines exactly what I wanted to achieve with Small Plate Sessions. St Bart’s Brewery, with its passion for quality live music, great food and first-class wine and beer, is the perfect collaborating partner.”

Whitbread opens biggest Costa in North Wales to date: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee has opened its biggest site in North Wales to date. The company has launched the 103-cover venue in Caernarfon, on the site of the former Perkins furniture showroom in Canolfan Pen-Llyn. The 227 square metre store, which has double the number of covers than the nearby Bangor site, has created ten jobs and is expected to serve more than 1,500 coffees a day. A Costa spokeswoman told the Daily Post: “We are looking forward to being part of the local community, getting involved with events, providing the store as a meeting place, and helping with fundraising.”

Starbucks introduces new staff dress code to encourage ‘personal expression’: Starbucks has introduced a new staff dress code that will allow its baristas to “shine as individuals while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance”. The company has moved away from its strict allowance of solid black or white shirts only, with a number of other colours and patterns now allowed, as are shorts, skirts, dresses and dark-wash jeans. Starbucks staff are also allowed to “make a statement with hair colour so long as colouring is permanent or semi-permanent in keeping with food-safety standards”. Beanies, fedoras and other suitable hats are also allowed. The move has been rolled out across all Starbucks stores in North America following a successful trial. Starbucks Canada president Rossann Williams said: “Our success is rooted in our continual innovation and customisation in every aspect of our business and this also applies to offering the best partner experience we can. We are responding to what our partners have told us and are confident this will uplift the Starbucks brand, partner and customer experience.”

NYC Bar and Grill to open fourth site, in Hull: Yorkshire-based American restaurant brand NYC Bar and Grill will open its fourth site this autumn, this time in Hull. The company, founded in 2013 by Lee Edwards, is opening the new venue at the St Stephen’s shopping centre. It will join the Rock Up climbing centre, bowling and games centre Funstation, Gravity trampoline park and the Reel cinema in the new upper-terrace development. St Stephen’s manager Jim Harris told the Hull Daily Mail: “It is great to bring a new restaurant to the city in NYC, which will create even more choice for local people and add to the evening economy of both St Stephen’s and the city centre in general. We now have just one more unit to fill. It will be easier now we have the other units filled. I think it will probably be another restaurant as we already have Gravity, Rock Up, Fun Station and the Reel cinema. We will be looking at one of the major names that is not already in the city.” NYC Bar and Grill’s other sites are in Bawtry, Doncaster and Sheffield.

Portland owners open Fitzrovia restaurant, second London site: The owners of London-based restaurant Portland have opened their second site, this time in Fitzrovia. Will Lander, co-owner of The Quality Chop House, and Daniel Morganthau, previously of 10 Greek Street, have launched Clipstone. The restaurant in Clipstone Street has capacity for 52 diners, with some al fresco seating also planned, reports Hot Dinners. It is open for lunch and dinner and also serves brunch on Saturdays. Clipstone’s menu offers a cold cuts and crudos section, as well as seasonal plates and sourdough flatbreads. Large plates include wood pigeon with corn, girolles and buckwheat; ravioli of hay-baked carrot and ricotta with brown butter and hazelnuts; and Cornish plaice with rainbow chard, miso and dulse butter. The restaurant also offers wines on tap and by the bottle as well as cocktails. Lander and Morganthau opened Portland in great Portland Street in January last year.

Casual Dining Group opens Las Iguanas site at Brighton Marina: Casual Dining Group has opened a branch of its Latin American brand Las Iguanas at Brighton Marina. The new restaurant on Marina Boardwalk is part of Brunswick Developments’ new mixed-use West Quay development at the marina, which is the largest in Europe and one of the biggest leisure schemes in south east England at 127 acres (51 hectares). Other recent lettings at West Quay include Casual Dining Group’s Bella Italia, as well as TGI Friday’s, Casa Brasil, better burger brand Five Guys and MOD Pizza. The marina is also home to an eight screen Cineworld, Rendezvous Casino and numerous multiple restaurant brands, including Casual Dining Group brand Café Rouge, Restaurant Group-owned Coast to Coast and Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s, Prezzo, JD Wetherspoon, PizzaExpress and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi.

Splendid Hospitality Group acquires fourth York hotel: Splendid Hospitality Group has increased its presence in York with the acquisition of the Ibis York Centre hotel. Located at the gates of the city walls, the hotel comprises 91 en-suite bedrooms with free Wi-Fi and satellite television. The hotel also features a cafe, bar and meeting room. Splendid Hospitality Group plans to invest £1.5m to upgrade the hotel, which will continue trading as an Ibis. Splendid Hospitality Group chief executive Stuart Bailey told BDaily: “This is a strategic acquisition for Splendid Hospitality and an ideal fit for our expanding regional portfolio. The Ibis York Centre hotel boasts one of the most central locations in York, making it equally suitable for business and leisure travellers. Ibis belongs to the Accor brand portfolio and we are pleased to further enhance our partnership with Accor.” The group’s rapidly expanding portfolio now features 20 hotels, with its other properties in the city being The Grand Hotel & Spa, Hotel Indigo York and Holiday Inn Express York. The group owns other city centre hotels in London, Oxford, Edinburgh and Leeds.

New gin bar concept opens in Hove that blocks mobile phone use: A new gin bar concept has opened in Hove, East Sussex, where visitors are unable to use their mobile phones. Steve Tyler and Scot Callister have launched The Gin Tub in Church Road on the site of the former Seventy6 bar. The bar, which offers more than 50 varieties of gin, features a Faraday Cage – a copper screen that blocks mobile phone signals. However, phone use is allowed on-site in the shape of retro telephones that customers can use to order drinks. People can also call other tables – on the condition they buy a drink for their neighbours. As well as gin there is a selection of beer and wine – although nothing on tap. Tyler told The Argus: “Mobile phones have killed pubs. I hate seeing a whole group of people sitting there on their phones. Rather than telling people they can’t use their phone, we’ve basically disabled them. We’re a gin bar that sells drinks – not like all the pubs that sell gin.”

M&B to convert Harvester site in Poulton into second Miller & Carter in Lancashire: Mitchells & Butlers is to open its second Miller & Carter steakhouse in Lancashire by converting its Harvester site in Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool. The company will refurbish The High Cross Harvester in Longhouse Lane next month before reopening under its Miller & Carter brand in the autumn. As well as an exterior revamp, the restaurant will also include booth seating and modern artwork. Mitchells and Butlers said the change was part of the group’s commitment to continually review its estate. Tim Ellis, regional business manager at Miller and Carter, told the Blackpool Gazette: “Bringing a second Miller & Carter to Lancashire is a fantastic opportunity for the brand and we look forward to providing even more customers with the best steaks and service that Miller and Carter is renowned for across the UK.” Miller & Carter has more than 40 sites in the UK, including its other Lancashire site in Aughton, near Liverpool.

Cote opens Chelmsford site in new £3m dining quarter: French brasserie Cote has opened its latest site – at the new £3m High Chelmer dining quarter in Chelmsford, Essex. Carluccio’s, which is due to open this week, Caribbean restaurant and bar Turtle Bay, and steak and lobster restaurant Bourgee will complete the line-up at the centre. The site is Cote’s 79th restaurant following an opening in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, last month. Cote’s closest restaurant to Chelmsford is in Bishop’s Stortford. Recently, Propel reported restaurant brands have been flocking to Chelmsford, with 20 due to open within a year, including Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Loungers brand Cosy Club at a city centre site and 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 joining John Lewis as part of a £150m complex in Bond Street.

Marston’s opens new-build pub in Boston, Lincolnshire: Marston’s has opened its new-build pub restaurant in Chain Bridge Road in Boston, Lincolnshire. The new venue – The Chain Bridge – offers a two-for-one menu selection that includes specials, while the pub features an interactive pizza station allowing customers to watch their pizza being made and cooked in the ovens. Marston’s area manager Clinton Cooper said: “We’re extremely excited about The Chain Bridge and hope it will build a great reputation locally, offering top quality, value for money pub food and an unrivalled selection of drinks, including cask ales from across the country.” Marston’s is looking to build circa 20 new-build pubs a year, with current plans to build venues in Chatham, Derby and Nantwich, among others. In March, the company opened its first new-build franchised pub site – in the shadow of new housing estates at Teal Farm in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Molson Coors signs deal with Italian winery Gabbiano to distribute portfolio in UK: Molson Coors has signed a deal with Italian winery Gabbiano to distribute its wine portfolio in the UK. The agreement means Gabbiano wines will be available for on-trade outlets to purchase through the wholesale distribution arm of Molson Coors’ business – Molson Coors Service. Choice. Trust. – in a move to develop the breadth of its Italian wine portfolio in the UK. The Castello di Gabbiano winery, which is part of the Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) portfolio, is situated in the heart of Chianti, Tuscany, and was founded in the 12th century. Molson Coors will take a range of premium wines from the Gabbiano portfolio – Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Bellezza – to sell across its free trade business. Gary Keller, senior buying manager – wine at Molson Coors, said: “We’ve worked hard to develop our wine offering over recent years, and the premium Gabbiano range is the perfect extension to this, offering high-quality wines with a rich heritage.” TWE channel director Shaun Heyes added: “We know Gabbiano will be a great partner for Molson Coors and its customers. The wines are of outstanding quality and have a great history and heritage. It is a very exciting deal all round.” The new wines will complement Molson Coors’ existing wine portfolio, which includes 700 wines – 400 of which are on-trade exclusives with 150 exclusive to Molson Coors.

Welcome Break adds Chopstix Noodle Bar to offer: Welcome Break is adding the oriental fast-food restaurant Chopstix Noodle Bar to its Birchanger Green service area on the M11. Chopstix Noodle Bar blends oriental-inspired fresh and nutritious fast food with a casual, convenient dining experience. In addition, Chopstix chefs cook the food on site to ensure each dish is served as fresh as possible. The restaurant at Welcome Break’s Birchanger Services will open on Wednesday, 3 August. Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie said: “We are proud to be partnering with Chopstix Group. Its restaurants focus on serving fresh, nutritious and healthy oriental cuisine using the finest ingredients. As well as great food and affordable prices, customers will be able to enjoy the theatre of the chefs preparing and cooking the food in front of them.” Chopstix group chief operating officer Max Hilton Jenvey added: “We are delighted to welcome the Welcome Break Team into the Chopstix family. Welcome Break and Chopstix Noodle Bar share a passion for foodservice excellence and are dedicated to satisfying hungry customers on the move.” Chopstix will be open daily from 10am to 10pm, 365 days a year.

Square Pie launches street food-inspired salad range: Gourmet pie company Square Pie has launched street food-inspired Square Salads in collaboration with its new chef partner, ex-Hix and Scott’s Ronnie Murray. Inspired by Square Pie’s beginnings as a market stall in Old Spitalfields Market, it has taken inspiration from the east London street food scene and come up with a range of personalised fresh salads, with hot toppings, including hot grilled chicken and grilled halloumi, on a variety of salad bases. Founder Martin Dewey said: “We are now much more than just pies – it’s all about creating great modern British food. Our hot kitchens allow us to deliver salads differently and these great tasting salads with hot protein toppings won’t leave you hungry in two hours.” Square Pie has just returned from a record Glastonbury Festival and recently launched its frozen pie range in more than 400 Sainsbury’s stores nationwide and its chilled range on to Amazon Fresh.

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

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