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Thu 22nd Sep 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

NPD Group – breakfast growing faster than lunch in out-of-home market, bakeries benefiting but pubs likely to suffer: Breakfast is growing faster than lunch in the out-of-home (OOH) market, according to new research by NPD Group. Data showed the average bill for eating an OOH breakfast is 31% higher (at £3.30) than it was eight years earlier. In contrast, the average bill for lunch is only 6.5% higher during the same period (£4.57 versus £4.29). While people still spend more at lunchtime, the gap is closing. In 2008, the price of an eat-out breakfast was 59% that of lunch. In 2016, it is 13% higher at 72% the price of lunch. It’s the same story when viewed in terms of visits. Since 2008, lunch has lost more than 80 million visits, while breakfast has added an extra 107 million. Dinner was flat. NPD UK director of foodservice Cyril Lavenant told Propel he expected breakfast to continue to grow faster than lunch, but not at the same extent. He added: “I think breakfast will still outpace lunch because it’s cheaper. Consumers are likely to cut back on their lunch spend given the current economic uncertainty, whereas breakfast is still affordable. The channel that is seeing the benefit of this trend is bakery because these outlets concentrate on those two dayparts. The sector seeing a negative impact is pubs. They were not serving breakfast eight years ago and while it is growing in the short-term, this is likely to be at the expense of lunch because consumers are unlikely to eat both meals in them. If they switch lunch for breakfast it’s a losing situation in the long-term.” NPD Group said more people were having breakfast out because they didn’t have time to focus on that meal at home. Breakfast offerings on the high street – both food and drink – are also more numerous than before and offer wider choice. With operators opening much earlier too, breakfast out amounts to a much better option than anything we could prepare at home. The data also showed brands are doing better than independents for lunch. With high-street restaurant chains having invested vigorously in their lunch products since the 2008/2009 downturn, the well-known branded foodservice chains are successfully building business at the expense of independent operators. Figures showed that at year ending June 2008, there were 13 chains with a 1%-plus share of the OOH lunch market but, by year ending June this year, that had grown to 17 chains. Lunch has declined during the week in visit terms but is seeing strong growth at weekends, with 8% more visits than eight years ago. Breakfast, though, is doing even better, with 20% more weekend visits. Meanwhile, lunch is increasingly relying on deals with a 5% increase in OOH lunch visits involving promotions and meal deals (from 23% of all OOH lunch visits in year ending June 2008 to 28% for year ending June 2016). For year ending June 2016 versus year ending June 2008, on-premises visits were up 5.8%, while off-premises “lunch on the go” visits were down 6.3%. However, lunch on-the-go visits have recently picked up, increasing in the past year to June by 3.9% versus a slower growth of 1.7% for on-premises visits.

Industry News:

Fiona Regan to present at People and Training Conference, free places for operators: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has launched the People and Training Conference, which will showcase outstanding people culture among companies within the sector. The event, organised in association with Propel Info, takes place at Bafta Piccadilly on Monday, 21 November. Places are free for operators and £149 for suppliers. Fiona Regan, people development director at Revolutions Bars Group, a Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies to Work For, will outline the company’s approach to staff development and training, the importance of rewards, incentives and recognition, measuring staff opinion, team-building, and the importance of its academy for developing assistant managers. The conference will be followed in the evening by the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs) at Cafe De Paris, which will recognise companies and individuals that are undertaking the best training in the sector. To enter the awards, click here. Tickets to either or both events can be booked through Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Fraser Bradshaw to present at Propel Multi Club Conference in November, free places for operators: The last Propel Multi Club Conference of 2016 is now open for bookings. It takes place on Thursday, 3 November at Congress Hall, London. Fraser Bradshaw, partner at investment fund Imbiba, will talk about how it identifies opportunities in the market place, finds and backs talent, assimilates innovation from around the world, and its current group of investments – Darwin & Wallace, Camm & Hooper, Ruth & Robinson, Wright & Bell and Casper & Cole. Pub, restaurant and foodservice operators can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691.

ALMR Christie & Co Benchmarking Report – additional costs could undermine sector growth: Rising operating costs, particularly payroll costs, are threatening to undermine the growth of an evolving and innovative sector, according to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) Christie & Co Benchmarking Report 2016. The report benchmarks operating costs, market trends and sector performance. The tenth edition of the report showed the average costs associated with running a pub at a seven-year high, with payroll costs accounting for almost 30% of turnover. The report also underlined the continued evolution of the licensed hospitality sector, with food sales now accounting for 32% of revenue. Gross profit margins on food sales were down from last year’s record levels to 61.5%, as operators were unable to fully pass on cost inflation to customers. The report said this casts doubt over their ability to pass on increasing labour and legislative costs, which could threaten future profitability. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “In terms of revenue, we are seeing results that back up the ALMR’s recent Future Shock Report showing customers are increasingly moving towards food options and away from drinks. Food sales now account for 32% of turnover, with wet sales making up 61%, the lowest in the history of the report. These are encouraging results for the sector but evidence of rising costs, coupled with uncertainty following the EU referendum, threaten to undermine the good work businesses are carrying out and could potentially derail investment in venues and staff. Operating costs now stand, on average, at 49.3% of turnover, up from 47.7% in last year’s survey. Payroll costs now stand at 27.8% of turnover, a substantial amount with payroll costs set to rise over the short and medium term. Our recent employment survey showed tight profit margins of about 8% to 12% – a 1.5% increase in costs could reduce them by 11%. With the government looking to introduce an apprenticeship levy and increases to the rates of national living and minimum wages, clearly some pubs and bars are going to absorb these additional payroll costs. Businesses need confidence and certainty in order to plan and invest, but uncertainty over the UK’s exit of the European Union could undermine confidence in the sector and threaten investment. Sector recession in 2008 had a two-year drag on growth and investment and turbulence following the triggering of Article 50 could have a similarly negative effect. The government will need to take this on board as it considers placing additional financial burdens on businesses that could undermine investment in venues and staff members.” Neil Morgan, managing director – pubs and restaurants – at Christie & Co, added: “In all sectors, operators which can adapt will be the winners going forward. High-street venues are evolving, and their unique presence in the centre of the UK’s towns and cities allows savvy operators to promote daytime trade, while simultaneously positioning themselves to benefit from the vibrant evening economies on the circuits in which they are located. However, as these segments become increasingly competitive, we may see operators having to fight harder to maintain their market share which, in turn, could reduce margins and profitability. In the short-term, costs are expected to rise due to currency fluctuations and more expensive imports, and changes in consumer confidence could also impact on levels of discretionary spend.”

Trends in London’s best bars revealed: The American Bar at the Savoy is the most influential bar in London, a new report on trends in the capital’s dynamic drinking-out sector has revealed. The “London Influencers” report from CGA Strategy and BarChick investigated the most influential outlets in the capital, profiling their stand-out appeal, their drinks ranges and how suppliers can gain listings there. It highlighted the current outstanding quality of London bars and reveals how they set standards for others to follow – not only in London but worldwide. The report also revealed the drink trends likely to proliferate across the market, including the rising importance of “thought leaders”, be that online via social media or “in-the-know” friends. The research also uncovered the growing prominence of star-name mixologists, in-house distillation and South American spirits, along with the continued rise of premium, small-batch and unusual drinks and theatrical service. It has a host of valuable market insights for bar operators and suppliers alike. The five London bars named by the report as most influential are The American Bar at the Savoy; The Connaught Bar; Dandelyan; Hawksmoor Spitalfields; and Hawker House, which is run by London Union. Next on the list – and the first standalone venue in the top ten – is Callooh Callay in Shoreditch. Seventh is The Draft House in Old Street, and eighth is Nightjar in Shoreditch. The top ten is completed by tap room Mother Kelly’s in Bethnal Green and the Blind Pig, a “secret” bar at Social Eating House, Jason Atherton’s restaurant in Soho.

Research shows guests prefer to book Christmas parties by phone, restaurants most prepared: A survey by guest management experts HospitalityGEM has revealed almost half of guests (42%) would choose to book a Christmas party over the phone rather than online or walk-in. The research also showed that when calling to book a Christmas party, 92% of guests said they would book up to three months in advance, indicating September as the month to start taking control of managing guests’ booking experiences. Data collected from HospitalityGEM’s 2015 Christmas Call programme specified that the greatest areas for improvement included answering the phone in good time, building a rapport with the caller, and checking the guest’s special requirements. The top reasons guests become disengaged when calling to make a Christmas booking are an unfriendly tone, hurried/abrupt responses, and a lack of knowledge/information. However, with the process often left for team members to manage themselves, answering the phone and taking bookings during this period is an essential aspect of seasonal preparation, HospitalityGEM said. The highest scoring sector in the 2015 Christmas Calls Report was restaurants, while three to five-star hotels require the most improvement, with staff missing out most frequently on offering overnight stays as part of a Christmas package. Ollie Navias, HospitalityGEM head of business development, said: “Phoning a venue to book a Christmas party may be a guest’s first ever interaction with that brand. This is why the first impression a business portrays here is so crucial to whether they secure that booking, and potentially more in the future. During our trials, we called multiple venues throughout August, which were all part of larger restaurant and pub groups and advertised Christmas menus online. To our amazement, none were able to give detailed responses about menus. However, all talked about taking a deposit and none successfully followed up our enquiries. The feedback we provide has previously added to the service our clients have delivered so they can secure multiple bookings for an extremely successful Christmas!”

Cask ale outperforming on-trade beer, drinkers spending almost double in pubs: Cask ale has outperformed total on-trade beer for ten of the past 12 months, according to the Cask Report 2017, while cask beer drinkers are spending more money in pubs than anyone else – £967 per year compared with £507.36 for other drinkers. Cask ale now accounts for 17% of total on-trade beer, 58% of on-trade ale, and its market is worth £1.7bn, the report stated, while more than four-fifths (82%) of licensees said their cask ale sales were enjoying growth. The report said the figures showed evidence of cask beer’s resilience and capability of achieving a “20% share by 2020”. The tenth edition of the Cask Report, written by beer sommelier Sophie Atherton for industry watchdog for quality beer Cask Marque, said cask ale’s position within the burgeoning craft beer movement had created a unique “value chain” – attracting more drinkers to a pub, who visit more often, spend more money and bring more customers as, even if their fellow pub-goers don’t drink cask, “the cask drinker chooses where to go”. The report added “try before you buy” initiatives helped to sell more cask ale, while quality remained vital, with 90% of consumers saying beer quality was “very important” or “essential” when choosing where to drink. A total of 60% of customers said they would rather see a smaller range of beers served perfectly than a “vast selection which may end up in poor condition if not sold quickly enough”. The report stated: “Perfectly served cask ale gives pubs a USP over other licensed outlets. Call it craft beer and they’re also on trend for the modern era. Increased effort will yield reward and although elements of what needs to be done will require some investment, not all increased effort comes with a huge price tag.”

Company News:

Shepherd Neame looking to double size of managed estate, unveils new brand identity, boss warns government policies harming sector: Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame has told Propel its primary focus is on its 60-strong managed estate and is looking to double its size over the next five years. The company has also unveiled a new “more modern and dynamic” brand identity, which is being rolled out across the portfolio. Following its full-year results, Neame said the company was reaping the benefits of its hard work over the past few years but warned government policies were harming the pub sector. He said: ““We have invested in our properties, our products and our people. It’s not happened overnight. It’s about quality not quantity and when the conditions are right it pays back handsomely. We have put a lot of capital into our managed sites and built up the accommodation and food offer. The accommodation has been getting stronger and we have good revpar. The business is in very good shape. We now have 60 managed sites and we are targeting 40 to 60 sites, either through acquisitions or through our existing estate, over the next five years. It’s a similar rate of growth to what we are doing currently. There are different parts to our strategy but our primary focus is the managed estate. We are investing £9.5m this year in our hotels and pubs, which is an increase on the £8.6m we spent on refurbishments in 2015.” The company has also unveiled a new brand design with a new logo. Neame said: “It’s more than just a logo – it’s a new identity – more modern and dynamic. We will also be introducing a new website.” Neame also revealed the company anticipated the impact of the National Living Wage, which was introduced in April, would be £1.1m by 2020 and was also apprehensive about the new business rates revaluation. He added: “There are uncertain times ahead. I think we are in a new world now. This industry is overtaxed in terms of people and property and on an alcohol level. If the government is to retain the confidence of the industry it needs to think again about its policies. There are more than a million people employed in the pub sector – half of those are under 25. This sector can be a key engine for growth in the economy but it needs more government support.” However, Neame said the company would continue to strive to improve its offer. He added: “We are always looking at how we can improve the quality and experience for our customers.”

Moody’s – Wagamama outpaces European high-yield casual dining peers in credit terms: Wagamama’s strong performance and significant deleveraging in the past year mean its credit metrics outpace PizzaExpress and Stonegate Pub Company in the European high-yield casual dining sector, according to a new report by Moody’s Investors Service. Moody’s report compares the credit profiles of the three high-yield companies following their most recent earnings season. Wagamama’s leverage fell to 5.3x in FY2016 from 6.7x at year-end 2015 due to a strong performance, and Moody’s forecasts a further drop to slightly below 5.0x in the next 12 months. PizzaExpress has slowed its pace of deleveraging with leverage unlikely to fall below 6.5x. Stonegate’s leverage, meanwhile, has increased due to a debt-funded acquisition. Conversely, PizzaExpress’ margins remain strongest due to its scale and because its pizza/pasta-based offering benefits from lower ingredient costs and simple preparation. However, its margins have suffered comparatively in the past 12 months, while Wagamama’s have improved. Moody’s assistant vice-president Emmanuel Savoye, author of the report, said: “We expect continued pressure on margins for all companies due to fierce competition and for UK companies as a result of rising labour costs following the introduction of the National Living Wage and potential food cost inflation due to a weaker currency following the UK referendum.” Savoye said European casual dining sector fundamentals were supported by increased disposable incomes, the growing trend of eating out and the increased market share of restaurant chains versus independent restaurants. However, he added that market conditions were more challenging in 2016-17 and effort would be required to defend margins while achieving stable or positive like-for-like sales growth.

Hippo Inns opens sixth site: Hippo Inns, the joint venture between Enterprise Inns and Geronimo Inns founder Rupert Clevely, has opened its sixth site – The Islington Townhouse. The company has launched the venue in Liverpool Road, which is spread over three floors. There is a large bar area and 42-cover dining area upstairs, where guests are able to enjoy a selection of seasonal small plates, craft beers and creative cocktails. There is also a snug, open bar area and dining area available for hire for up to 26 covers. The modern light fittings and artwork are juxtaposed with traditional British pub features, including wooden beer pumps, wingback chairs and original features from the building. The space features artistic attractions such as a life-size mannequin, ornamental birdcages and gold metallic globe lights. The food menu features a selection of small plates focusing on modern and creative dishes alongside favourites such as a twice-baked Gruyère soufflé, octopus carpaccio, monkfish kebab, 35-day aged steak tartar and burnt sugarplums with marshmallow crumble. The drinks offer includes craft beers, a comprehensive wine list and a cocktail menu with old favourites and new creations such as The Pirate, a mix of Sailor Jerry rum, almond syrup, chocolate bitters and fresh mint, The Shoreditch Blonde, a creation of Beefeater gin, Aperol, mango juice, lemon juice and beer; and an Irish Martini featuring coffee, coffee infused vodka and Guinness syrup.

Burning Night Group to open Birmingham Bierkeller in December, completes Nottingham lease deal: Burning Night Group has told Propel it will open its Bierkeller in Birmingham on Thursday, 8 December, while it has just signed a 25-year lease for its Nottingham site at the former Walkabout venue in Friar Lane. The company, which operates similar venues in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff, has taken a 15-year lease on the 22,000 square foot Birmingham property that formerly housed Brannigan’s bar. Burning Night Group confirmed the Broad Street venue would comprise all three of its brands – the Bierkeller, Around the World and Shooters Sports Bar – and feature Bavarian oompah bands on Fridays and Saturdays. The venue will also feature a 4.8m x 2.4m P3.75 television, which will have the highest pixel density of any of the company’s huge LED screens and have a quality “better than any other bar we know of anywhere in the UK”. The £2.1m Nottingham site will house the same brands as the Birmingham venue, with 22,000 square feet inside the site and 5,000 square feet externally. The venue is expected to open at the end of January. Meanwhile, Burning Night Group added it would start work soon to increase the size of its Leeds Bierkeller site to facilitate a full refurbishment and remodelling.

Rick Stein to open Marlborough restaurant next month: Celebrity chef Rick Stein will open his new restaurant in Marlborough on Saturday, 8 October. Work on the 100-cover venue at grade II-listed Lloran House in High Street has taken almost a year and Stein and son and group executive chef Jack Stein are putting the final touches to the menu. A number of Stein’s iconic seafood dishes will feature on the menu, alongside a nod to Wiltshire’s farming heritage. There will also be lunch and Sunday lunch menus. Rick Stein told the Gazette & Herald: “Marlborough is such a beautiful town in a wonderful part of the country and it’s incredibly exciting to be opening a restaurant here. As soon as I saw Lloran House I thought it would make the perfect restaurant and it’s now really taking shape. The team have all been working hard to make everything ready for opening and I know we’re all looking forward to welcoming the first customers through the door.” Stein operates a number of venues in Devon and Cornwall as well as restaurants in Sandbanks in Dorset, and Winchester in Hampshire. Earlier this year, he pulled out of plans to open a seafront restaurant in Eastbourne, East Sussex, blaming Brexit.

Daisy Green to open restaurant at Nova Victoria, seventh London site: Coffee shop chain Daisy Green, the Australian-inspired concept founded by Prue Freeman and Tom Onions, will open a restaurant at the Nova Victoria development on Tuesday, 1 November. The lunch and dinner menus at the new venue – called Timmy Green – will focus on prime, grass-fed meat and small plates. A massive side of prime lamb will be barbecued on a Josper oven and carved tableside, which will be served with miso mustard sauce and hand-cut, triple-cooked duck fat fries. Other dishes will include popcorn shrimp sandwiches and house-made dips with sticky sesame radishes. The venue will have room for 150 diners over two floors, plus an outdoor coffee bar and seating. Drinks will include cocktails and local craft beer, alongside a largely Australian wine list, Hot Dinners reports. Timmy Green will open daily from 7am until late, with a soft launch running from 20-27 October. Daisy Green operates six other venues in London – two in Broadgate and one each in Euston, Paddington, St George’s Fields, and Waterloo. The majority are based close to major train stations.

Bannatyne Group launches healthy eating cafe bar concept, trials new partnership with Starbucks: Bannatyne Group, led by Duncan Bannatyne, has launched its healthy eating cafe bar concept B-Fuelled ahead of plans to roll it out across its portfolio of clubs. Following a two-week, £80,000 refurbishment, the cafe bar and kitchen areas of the company’s York venue have been transformed with the installation of new food preparation equipment, furniture and design features to create an open modern space for members. All of the 28 dishes are made to order, 24 of which contain fewer than 500 calories. In addition, Bannatyne Group is using the York site to trial a new partnership with Starbucks. The company will closely monitor the success of B-Fuelled over the coming months before making the decision to roll-out the concept across more than 40 of its health clubs. Drew Brown, group head of food and beverage for the Bannatyne Group, told Insider Media: “York is the first B-Fuelled healthy cafe bar to launch and we’re really pleased with the result of the investment. We consulted our health club members and they overwhelmingly said they were interested in monitoring their nutrition intake to ensure they are eating healthily, so we have worked in conjunction with qualified nutritionists to create balanced meals using healthy and fresh ingredients.”

Ed’s Easy Diner opens first station site in partnership with SSP: Ed’s Easy Diner has opened its first station site in partnership with foodservice travel hub specialist SSP. The restaurant, which is on the upper concourse of Liverpool Street Station in London, is open daily from 7am to midnight. Ed’s Easy Diner chief executive Andrew Guy said: “We are delighted to be embarking on the expansion of Ed’s and our first station opening, working with experienced partners SSP. Dwell-time at train stations is certainly increasing and, with a daily footfall of 180,000 people, we’re confident the Liverpool Street Diner will be a success.” SSP UK chief executive Simon Smith added: “Ed’s is a much-loved brand that has a unique personality and a stand-out style that captures the imagination. It will be the perfect complement to the wide choice of bars, restaurants, cafes and shops that visitors to Liverpool Street will be able to enjoy.” Ed’s Easy Diner has just launched a search for new backing and has appointed KPMG to undertake a rapid hunt for new financing. City sources said the process could lead to an outright sale of the chain, although the existing shareholders’ preference was for a refinancing of the business which left them in control. 

Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant concept Ottoman Grill to launch in Exeter city centre next week: New Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant concept Ottoman Grill will launch in Exeter city centre next week. The venue in Guinea Street will open on Monday (26 September) and is the brainchild of the Demir family. The 60-cover restaurant will occupy the former premises of Dinky’s Play Café, which closed in June. Huseyin Demir, a chef with 30 years’ experience, will run the kitchen, with a hand-made copper barbecue and wood-fired ovenkey as the restaurant’s centrepiece. He told the Express & Echo: “It’s one of a kind in the south west. The nearest one I know of is in London. People will be able to sit around it and watch their food being cooked.” Ottoman Grill has been granted a premises licence by Exeter City Council for the sale of alcohol from 11am until 11pm every day.

TGI Friday’s deploys chatbot on Facebook Messenger as it commits to digital platforms: TGI Friday’s is deploying a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to answer common customer queries and offer reservations at select restaurants as part of the company’s commitment to digital platforms. The move comes following TGI Friday’s partnership with enterprise conversation platform Conversable. Later this autumn, TGI Friday’s will expand its online reservations capabilities and offer online orders via social media channels. Eventually, the company expects to layer in delivery and expand the programme to include Twitter and messaging platform Kik. Sherif Mityas, TGI Friday’s vice-president for strategy and brand initiatives, told Nation’s Restaurant News: “Chatbot technology will allow us to engage with our guests in a more personal way, providing real-time responses from Friday’s, whether they want to get on a reservation list, find the closest restaurant or find out what the most popular cocktail is.” To highlight its commitment to digital platforms, TGI Friday’s will host its first Facebook Live “Happy Hour to Go” event this month, featuring the chain’s bartenders. TGI Friday’s operates more than 900 restaurants in 60 countries.

Croydon Boxpark featuring 40 foodservice operators to open next month: The grand opening of Croydon Boxpark will take place on Saturday, 29 October, with the venue in Ruskin Square hosting an urban music festival. The site next to East Croydon station will feature 40 foodservice operators. Companies include The Breakfast Club, MeatLiquor, Beijing street food specialist Mamalan, Craft Beer Co and Mexican restaurant Chilango, which has secured a unit for its first south London outlet. There will also be a number of local operators at the scheme, including Yumn Brasserie, which has a restaurant in South End, Croydon’s local brewery The Cronx, which will launch its first beer bottle shop, and Viet Do An, run by Kate Moss’s brother Nick. Boxpark development director Matthew McMillan told the Croydon Advertiser: “We are delighted to have some of the capital’s freshest and most exciting food concepts alongside brilliant local operators bursting with new ideas. With a core focus on the best street food around, Boxpark Croydon will be without doubt London’s most vibrant new dining destination.”

Domino’s Pizza extends Virtual Jukebox agreement to include debut dine-in venue: Domino’s Pizza has extended its agreement with interactive music service Virtual Jukebox to supply music for its debut dine-in restaurant in the UK. Last month, Domino’s signed an agreement for Virtual Jukebox to supply music services across key franchises following extensive testing of the cloud-based service at a number of Domino’s venues. Now the service has been extended to the company’s 86-cover sit-down restaurant in Loose, near Maidstone, Kent, which opened on 3 September. Domino’s will have complete control over the music, enabling the company to create a desired atmosphere that can be tailored to differentiate between dayparts. Domino’s Pizza franchise manager Ian Duxbury said: “We have partnered with Virtual Jukebox to help provide the best possible dining experience for our customers. The company has an outstanding reputation for its cutting-edge technology and targeted playlists, offering the most flexible music solution available in today’s market place.” Virtual Jukebox chief executive Andy Hill added: “A trial earlier in the year with Domino’s and its takeaway franchises demonstrated the considerable number of commercial benefits of playing music within its venues, and we strongly believe this will also be the case for its new dine-in concept.”

Cote confirms acquisition of Living Ventures site in Hale, aims to open restaurant in January: French brasserie Cote has confirmed it has acquired the site of The Hale Grill in Hale village, Cheshire, from Living Ventures and aims to open the new restaurant in January. The Hale Grill, which closed earlier this week, had been a fixture in Ashley Road for more than a decade. A Cote spokesman told Altrincham Today: “We have indeed agreed a deal to acquire the site. We hope to start on-site next month with a view to opening the restaurant in January 2017.” Staff at Hale Grill were told the restaurant would be closing with immediate effect following what Living Ventures said was “a strategic review”. A statement said: “Living Ventures can announce that The Hale Grill has ceased trading as of Monday, 19 September, the closure follows a strategic review of the Blackhouse brand. The Hale Grill has had ten great years in Hale and Living Ventures are confident that all of the team from the restaurant will be rehoused in other Living Ventures venues.” Cote currently has 80 sites in the UK.

New cafe bar concept offering German and Irish dishes opens in Birmingham: A new cafe bar concept offering German and Irish dishes has opened in Birmingham. Elisabeth Kennedy has launched Soda Bread on the corner of Ludgate Hill and St Paul’s Square at a former estate agent. As well as soda bread, there is coffee and croissants, breakfast dishes, including full English breakfast, and a range of freshly made sandwiches, baguettes and salads. Kennedy, who is half German, half Irish, told the Birmingham Mail: “Now we’re getting into winter, I’ll be cooking up hearty dishes such as cabbage and bacon, Irish stew, and some German cuisine – German goulash and lots of bratwurst and sauerkraut.” Soda Bread is also licensed and offers a range of wines. The restaurant is initially open for breakfast and lunch from 7.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm on Saturdays, and 9am to 3pm on Sundays.

New dessert restaurant concept opens in Stoke: A new dessert restaurant concept has opened in Stoke. Talib Hussain has launched MyDessert in Broad Street, creating 20 jobs. The venue, which has seating for more than 40 customers, serves 24 flavours of gelato as well as 15 different cakes and cheesecakes. The menu includes crepes served with fruit, ice cream and chocolate sauce, waffles, and ice cream sundaes. There are also milkshakes, non-alcoholic mocktails, fruit juices and smoothies. Hussain told the Stoke Sentinel: “People were having to travel to Manchester and Birmingham to get good quality desserts, but now they won’t need to. We would really like to expand the operation in the future and maybe open another store.”

Signature Living gets go-ahead for new aparthotel in Liverpool: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living has been given the go-ahead for a new site in Liverpool. The company has been granted permission by the city council to convert the vacant One Arthouse Square in the Ropewalks district into a 39-bedroom aparthotel. It 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 is being 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. Signature Living acquired the building, which was the former home of NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, in March.

Hanger SW6 restaurant opens basement ‘drinking den’ in Fulham Broadway: Fulham Broadway restaurant Hanger SW6 has opened “meat-lovers’ drinking den” Below The Cut in its basement. The venue serves an extensive list of liquors, alongside cocktails showcasing American-inspired classics. Home-infused gins will also be a main feature of the regularly changing cocktail menu, with seasonal ingredients and unique flavour combinations. The food menu will be a snapshot of the restaurant upstairs, with cheese-steak sandwiches alongside bar snacks such as salt and vinegar squid, Iberico charcuterie, and green harissa hummus. Below the Cut will host live music nights from acoustic evenings to DJ sets, supporting London-based artists. It will also host weekly Wednesday night events such as speed-dating cocktail parties to liquor flight tastings. The book swap stop encourages Londoners to donate and exchange books, while there is also old-school games such as Giant Jenga, Kerplunk and Cluedo. Basement Brunch will be served at weekends from midday to 4.30pm featuring American-inspired dishes such as steak ‘n’ eggs with fried duck egg, hash browns, and relish. The menu at Hanger SW6 features the Hanger Steak, at £11 per person or £20 to share, plus the Hanger Steak Sandwich served with sticky onions, watercress, mustard and ciabatta.

Park Holidays UK reports turnover hits nearly £120m: Holiday park operator Park Holidays UK has reported turnover has grown to nearly £120m. The company, which was acquired by Caledonia Investments about three years ago and runs 26 holiday parks, saw turnover of £119.2m for the year to 31 December 2015, compared with £91.8m in the previous nine-month period ended December 2014. Profit before tax increased to £26.4m from £19.8m. Speaking about the company’s performance in 2016, director Tony Clish said Park Holidays UK had benefited from “good summer weather” this year, adding that exchange rate movements “helped affordability compared with overseas destinations”. He told Insider Media: “The holiday park sector in the UK has played a major role in helping regenerate our coastal resorts and bringing additional tourists to areas that have suffered decline over many decades. We look forward to continuing playing our part in developing a vibrant UK tourism economy – creating job opportunities and supporting other businesses via our customers’ spending.”

Meantime set to reveal final product in Make Time For It campaign: Meantime Brewing Company will reveal the final product in its year-long Make Time For It campaign on Thursday, 20 October. Meantime launched the campaign in October 2015, challenging six of the best craftsmen in the country from six major UK cities – Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, Bristol, Brighton and London – to create something unique in six weeks, the same time it takes Meantime to create a bespoke beer. The campaign centres around one of Meantime’s founding principles, something it refers to as the fifth ingredient in its beer – time. Six new beers later, the company will exhibit the best of British craft during a special night at the London Riviera.

Sheffield-based leisure group to transform former Staffordshire quarry into holiday village: Sheffield-based Laver Leisure has been granted permission to transform a former quarry in Staffordshire into a holiday village. The scheme at Moneystone Quarry will comprise 250 woodland lodges, watersports facilities and a leisure hub that will include a restaurant and swimming pool, creating 250 jobs. The quarry is identified as a location for sustainable tourism in the Churnet Valley Masterplan. Peter Swallow, of Laver Leisure, told Insider Media: “This is a regionally significant and exciting scheme and approval of this application is an important milestone in its development. A lot of hard work has been put into every stage of the process and we are looking forward to delivering some of the tourism benefits that are identified in the Churnet Valley Masterplan.”

Full speaker schedule for Bar and Nightclub Conference: 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, will reveal 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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