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Tue 11th Oct 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Digital loyalty card service for restaurants launches £240,000 crowdfunding campaign: Loyalzoo, a digital loyalty card service for restaurants, has launched a £240,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company, co-founded by Massimo Sirolls and Mark Ryan, is offering a 7.07% equity stake in return for the investment as it aims to grow its service in the UK and US. It is a match-funding campaign aimed at raising £500,000 for Loyalzoo, with an existing investor already committing £260,000 as debt capital on the condition that the company raises an additional £240,000 in equity capital. The pitch states: “Almost every large retail chain has moved their loyalty card to a digital medium (apps, web, etc), either in parallel to traditional loyalty cards (Costa, Nando’s, Tesco, The Body Shop), or as their only loyalty system (Starbucks, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Giraffe, Harvey Nichols). They do it because it gives them better information about their customers and it makes them more competitive. The goal of Loyalzoo is to help small/medium-sized independent merchants and smaller groups achieve the same results, offering them a technology service that’s affordable and designed for them. Besides continuing to expand our core service, with this new investment we will recruit a sales/partnership manager in the US, which will be supported by a member of the London team moving to work with him/her; hire an additional software developer (up from the current three) to accelerate our deployment; and consolidate the London team with an additional marketing person. In terms of exit opportunities, we believe Loyalzoo would be an attractive acquisition target for large loyalty marketing companies that traditionally only service large retailers and brands, or for payment companies and similar.”

Industry News:

Host of companies book places at BII People and Training Conference: More than 200 operators have already booked free places at the BII’s People and Training Conference on Monday, 21 November at Bafta Piccadilly. Companies attending include Five Guys, Bill’s, Rosa’s Thai Cafe, Loungers, Be At One, Gaucho, Red’s True Barbecue, Casual Dining Group, SSP Group, Prezzo, Tasty, Zizzi, Amber Taverns, Laine Pub Company, Bone Daddies, Soho Coffee Company, Tesco, Upham Pub Company, Rare Breed Dining, Pizza Union, Deltic Group, Punch, Enterprise, Coaching Inn Group, Admiral Taverns, Grand Union, Malvern Inn, City Pub Company, Camerons, Castle Rock Brewery, We Are Bar, PubLove, Pubs of Distinction, Wright & Bell, FrogPubs, McMullens, Shaker Group, Fuller’s, Maxwells, All Our Bars, Cambscuisine, Robinsons, Hollywood Bowl, Thorley Taverns, Buzzwork Holdings, Bodean’s BBQ, Hawthorn Leisure, Beds and Bars, Mamuska and SA Brain. The speaker schedule can be found here. Operators can book free places by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com. Tickets for suppliers cost £149 plus VAT. Bookings have also opened for the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs), taking place in Cafe de Paris. Tickets cost £150 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

BBPA publishes Brexit manifesto for British beer and pubs: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has published a manifesto for Britain’s exit from the European Union, which sets out how the beer and pub sector can be a force for growth and job creation as Britain leaves the EU. The manifesto urges the government to strive towards the most competitive tax and regulatory regime in Europe and to foster a resurgence in beer exports, more jobs in pubs, and boost the UK tourism industry. The manifesto sets out a range of specific policy priorities for the beer and pub industry. This includes a free trade deal with the EU as a priority, with no tariffs or additional paperwork for beer exports, and the delivery of free trade deals with third countries; a favourable tax regime, including a more competitive duty regime that supports exports; changes that support the consumption of lower-strength drinks and supports pubs and reduced VAT on pub meals; and no changes to the rights of existing overseas workers in the industry and a future immigration system that supports the necessary levels of staffing for the sector, which already faces a shortage of pub chefs. It also demands effective and proportionate regulation through the adoption of existing EU laws, while working with the government to deliver a more effective and light-touch regulatory regime for the UK in the future; and promoting British beer and pubs through support for exports and tourism as well as no changes to overseas visitor visa requirements for two years. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Our manifesto sets out how we can meet the challenges of Brexit and make the most of opportunities that will enable our sector to grow in a post-Brexit Britain. We will also be urging the government to look hard at how to mitigate the effect of high taxes and regulatory burdens and, in particular, ensure there is no rise in beer duty at this critical time. While there is certainly a lot more work to be done, our manifesto provides us with a vital framework for the Brexit process that lies ahead.”

Jamie’s Italian – relationship with SSP goes from strength to strength: Restaurant company Jamie’s Italian has said its relationship with transport hub foodservice company SSP is going from strength to strength. In its annual accounts for the year to 2 January, 2016, it stated: “We have successfully tendered for operations in Geneva, Oslo, Schipol and Nice and have a significant number of other tenders pending.” The company operates in 17 territories under franchise and has 22 international sites. It added: “Our pipeline for international sites is very strong and, having invested soundly in the infrastructure of our business over the past number of years, the group is well placed to execute on this international roll-out.” Of £116.1m of turnover in 2016 (2015: £106.8m), a total of £112.4m comes from its UK operations (2015: £104.1m), £768,067 from the EC (2015: £605,046) and £2.9m from the rest of the world (2015: £2.1m). Ebitda pre-exceptional costs rose 7.4% to £13.2m.

Social platform that helps nightclubs and bars fill their venues passes 50% mark in £150,000 crowdfunding campaign: Licklist, a social platform that helps nightclubs and bars fill their venue, has passed the 50% mark in its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to expand its operation. The company, co-founded by Brad Nobbs and Ian Hope, is offering a 10.71% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, it has raised £75,700 from 31 investors with 25 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £21,000. The pitch states: “Licklist is a pioneering social platform integrated with an international directory of nightclubs, bars and music festivals. We solve a two-fold problem. For 18 to 30-year-olds we provide a 360-degree solution to organising the perfect night out. For nightclubs and bars we provide innovative tools to fill a venue both cost effectively and efficiently. With the funding in place we will assemble a sales team spearheaded by former Time Out chief commercial officer Kimberley O’Hara. The funds will allow us to build a sales operation that introduces venues not only in the UK but in Europe to the Licklist solution. We align ourselves with the likes of TripAdvisor, which dominates the market for hotel reviews, and Just Eat, which does the same for takeaway restaurants. We’re looking to do the same and dominate the market for nightlife and establish Licklist as the only brand people want to be associated with.”

Zonal acquires majority stake in hotel software company: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal Retail Data Systems has acquired a majority stake in hotel software company High Level Software (HLS). The company said the move would further enhance its ability to service the hotel sector. Cardiff-based HLS was established in 2013 by co-founding managing director Rhys Swinburn and employs a team of 12. Its cloud-based hotel management system features a real-time online booking engine, an extensive property management capability, and an insightful reporting and innovative integrated rewards system. Its clients include Drakes of Brighton, British Country Inns and Glenmorangie. HLS will continue to operate out of Cardiff and Zonal will work with the team to develop integrated platforms on which both the property management and EPOS systems can operate. Zonal chief executive Stuart McLean said: “This partnership with HLS adds a new dimension to Zonal and we are really excited about the benefits that we can collectively deliver to the hotel sector.” Swinburn added: “The partnership with Zonal will enable us to deliver the next phase of our development as there are many direct synergies with EPOS, consumer engagement tools and property management systems. Our in-depth knowledge of the hotel sector, coupled with Zonal’s technology and market expertise, will create a compelling business, helping to build on the highly successful platform we have created over the last three years.”

UK’s only dedicated pub industry trade show Pub17 to feature 200 suppliers: Pub17, the only trade show dedicated to the UK pub industry, will return to London for a third year. Next year’s event takes place at Olympia, London, on 7 and 8 February, featuring more than 200 suppliers and a new speaker line-up. Representing the £22bn UK pub industry, Pub17 is supported by some of the leading organisations in the sector, including the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, British Institute of Innkeeping, British Beer & Pub Association and the Campaign for Real Ale, along with tenanted pub company operators including Punch and Enterprise Inns. Pub17 will feature a line-up of free-to-attend business sessions and panel discussions and is designed to be the “ultimate destination for networking and knowledge-sharing”. This year the show is expected to attract more than 5,000 pub owners and operators. This year’s show will feature the Taste Table, for operators looking to improve their offering; the Beer Writer’s Bar showcasing the best UK brews; the Experience Bar hosted by key figures in the on-trade; and the Pub Garden for those looking to maximise their outside space. In addition, the Pub17 Theatre will see some of the industry’s biggest brains debate the hot topics affecting publicans, while the Margins Masterclass will provide exhibitors with a chance to demonstrate their products. For more information, visit www.thepubshow.co.uk

Company News:

Tokyo Industries launches Church at Leeds University campus site: Tokyo Industries, the 32-strong bar and nightclub company led by Aaron Mellor, has opened a new arts and events space in its venue at an 18th century former church on Leeds University campus. The new space – Church – is a joint venture between Tokyo Industries and “King of Clubs” Dave Beer, famous for his Back to Basics club nights in Leeds. In June, Mellor launched a joint venture with chef Ferran Adria and Cirque du Soleil in Ibiza. The €5m project is part performance, part Michelin-grade restaurant, part club and is located in Ibiza’s only five-star hotel the Ibiza Grand. Mellor launched his Studio 54 concept club night Boogie In Wonderland at HEART as part of the project, incorporating music, art, fashion, performance and technology set to the soundtrack of 1970s and 1980s New York City. Mellor said: “The new event space takes performance elements of the work we’ve been doing in Ibiza this summer, mixing them with live music, art installations, street food markets and, of course, incredible DJs and parties”. The new events space is within Tokyo Industries’ concept The Joint, and connects with Get Baked, located in the church’s former Sunday school, which the company describes as a “dirty burger and desserts hang-out with a deliberately edgy under-the-counter drinks menu”.

JD Wetherspoon begins work on £2.6m Essex pub and hotel: JD Wetherspoon has started its £2.6m redevelopment of a former Co-op site in the seaside town of Dovercourt (population 9,600) in Essex to transform it into a pub and ten-bedroom hotel. The venue, as yet unnamed, is set to open in Kingsway in March next year, creating 45 jobs. Photos and information relating to the local history and characters of the area, as well as commissioned artwork, will be on display throughout the venue. Tendring District Council gave planning permission for the development earlier this year. The plans were welcomed when they were first revealed by then town mayor Dave Macleod, who said he hoped it would revitalise the area and attract other businesses. JD Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson told the East Anglian Times: “We are looking forward to opening our new pub in Dovercourt. We are confident people in the town will welcome the new pub and hopefully it will act as a catalyst for other businesses to invest in the area. We believe the new pub will be popular with a wide range of people.”

Faucet Inn to open second Kupp site, in Exeter this month: Faucet Inn will open the second site for its Scandinavian-inspired restaurant and cafe concept Kupp, in Exeter this month. The company will open the venue at the new £12m dining quarter at the revamped Guildhall Shopping Centre on Saturday, 29 October, reports the Express & Echo. Inspired by Scandinavia, the menu is designed for grazing, sharing and social eating. The food is described as “simple”, “colourful” and “flavourful” and focuses on Scandinavian ingredients using cooking techniques such as in-house pickling, curing and smoking. Drinks include tank-conditioned beer, wine, fresh juices and cocktails such as Kupp’s Aquavit Collins. Drawing on inspiration from the Swedish Fika style of enjoying a coffee break, which is more about socialising than drinking coffee, Kupp will feature its own unique espresso and filter coffee blend, created especially for the brand and complemented by freshly baked bread and pastries. Kupp, which is described as a “casual, all-day, food and drink concept”, was established last year in Paddington, west London, after Faucet Inn’s managing director Steve Cox wished to “embrace Scandinavian design and the greatness of Scandinavian cuisine” following a decade of trips to the region. Kupp has also secured its third site, in the redeveloped Corn Exchange building in Manchester.

Brindisa Kitchens to relaunch Shoreditch site as Tapas Brindisa Shoreditch: Spanish restaurant group Brindisa Kitchens will relaunch Shoreditch restaurant Tramontana in November with a new-look and new name – Tapas Brindisa Shoreditch. The new entrance of the restaurant will feature a large communal table with a cafe feel suitable for coffee, quick lunches and a work-space for London’s freelancers. A long, sweeping curved bar will allow diners to watch the theatre of the kitchen and the bustle of the bar in true Barcelona fashion. The drinks list will feature Spain’s best distillers, brewers and vineyards, alongside an eclectic selection of soft drinks. Bringing guests closer to the bodegas of Spain, a bespoke wine tap system will offer a selection of premium wines by the glass. Founder and owner Monika Linton said: “I am so excited to bring a refreshed finish and improved space with revitalised menus inspired by Spain’s east coast to this restaurant. The Brindisa Kitchens team are ready to welcome lovers of our food, old and new, and to continue to bring our Spanish soul to Shoreditch.”

Noble Inns opens Little Smoke in the City: Noble Inns, the company behind Smokehouse, The Pig and Butcher, and The Princess of Shoreditch, has launched restaurant Little Smoke in the City. The venue in Ropemaker Street has space for 68 diners inside and 12 outside. It specialises in working with whole native and rare breed animals, sourced from small independent farmers and butchered at sister restaurant Smokehouse before being roasted, smoked, and grilled at Little Smoke. The restaurant offers a daily-changing menu of beef, lamb, and pork dishes, include “show-stopping” sharing joints such as Dino Rib, Whole Beef Shin, and Cowboy Steak, alongside homemade sauces, sides and desserts. Wines have been exclusively sourced from family growers and co-operatives to go alongside craft beer and classic cocktails, while the decor features red leather booths, vintage wooden tables and a ceiling partly covered in vintage copies of Viz. Husband and wife owners Scott Hunter and Maria Larsen said: “When we opened Smokehouse Islington in 2013, we started using whole animals and soon began supplementing the a la carte menu with a blackboard of interesting specials. Little Smoke is like a big version of that specials board and given a whole restaurant to itself!”

Former Bar Boulud maitre d’ and La Petite Maison manager team up to launch Italian restaurant in Covent Garden: Paulo De Tarso, former maitre d’ of Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hyde Park, has teamed up with Nicolas Jaouën, general manager of Mayfair bistro La Petite Maison, to launch Italian restaurant Margot in Covent Garden. The 104-cover venue in Great Queen Street is set across two floors and has been designed by Fabled Studio, which has been behind Dinner By Heston, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Shotgun. Dishes from classically trained executive chef Maurizio Morelli include tagliolini with crab meat and purple aubergine, and risotto “alla Milanese” with saffron and roast bone marrow. Cured meat, carpaccio and tartar dishes, salads, pasta options and a range of meat and fish courses are also on offer. Desserts include Modica chocolate crumble and Sicilian cannolo with ricotta cream and pistachio ice cream. Reflecting the restaurant’s service-led ethos, many dishes are available in two portion sizes to allow for a flexible dining experience.

Coaching Inn Group promotes Jill Matthews to operations director, joins board: The Coaching Inn Group has promoted head of operations Jill Matthews to operations director and invited her to join the board as the company ramps up its expansion plans. Matthews, who has more than 20 years’ food and beverage experience, joined the group last year from regional brewer SA Brain, and has been an integral part of the company’s expansion programme, which has already seen it acquire three new properties this year. She said: “I’m honoured to be asked to join the board of The Coaching Inn Group. Over the past year my role has grown as the company continues to expand its estate and with a target of three further acquisitions later this year, joining the board gives me a great opportunity to work with the team to deliver on their ambitious growth plans and use my experience to ensure we continue to deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience.” The Coaching Inn Group has 12 historic venues across the UK and has built a reputation in the industry for transforming coaching inns through the introduction of its premium casual dining brand, the eatery and coffee house. As part of its £20m expansion programme, the group remains on track to reach 15 sites before the end of the year.

CGA Strategy reports turnover and Ebitda boost: Sector insights and research firm CGA Strategy, which publishes the Coffer Peach Tracker, has reported turnover grew to £6,233,102 in the year to 31 December 2015, up from £5,866,511 the year before. Pre-tax profit fell to £1,261,107, compared with £1,273,406 the year before. Ebitda grew to £1,606,316, compared with £1,571,900 the previous year. The company stated: “The directors are confident the economic outlook is positive and believe there is good potential for continuing growth.”

Red Dog Saloon opens first restaurant outside London, in Nottingham: Red Dog Saloon has opened a restaurant in Nottingham– the company’s first outside London as part of a regional expansion programme. The company has opened the site in an empty building in Victoria Street. The restaurant offers the brand’s traditional smoked meat dishes as well as its “Devastator Challenge” – an 18-ounce minced chuck steak burger served with 200g of pulled pork, Applewood smoked bacon rashers and cheese. Red Dog Saloon owner Tom Brooke told the West Bridgford Wire: “We’re well known for our authentic American food and we’re excited about bringing this to Nottingham. We’ve imported wood and smokers from America to create a truly authentic flavour, we’re passionate about the food we serve and look forward to welcoming the people from the city to our new restaurant. Having already developed a loyal following, we can’t wait to prove to Nottingham and other cities why Red Dog Saloon is the go-to place for diners who love authentic American burgers and ribs.” Red Dog Saloon, which was launched in 2011, has three London restaurants – in Soho, Clapham and Hoxton Square – and has secured sites in Liverpool and Southampton. Brooke previously said the company planned to open five venues a year.  

Mitchells & Butlers set to bring All Bar One brand to Stratford-upon-Avon: Mitchells & Butlers is set to bring its All Bar One brand to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The company will occupy a unit in the town’s new £30m Bell Court development, planning documents have revealed. The brand, which has 50 sites across the country, would join Everyman, which will operate a 12,000 square foot, four-screen cinema, and better burger brand Byron, which have both already agreed to open at the restaurant and retail hub being developed by UK and European Investments. John Stacey, asset management director at UK & European Investments, told the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald: “We are in various stages of discussions with a number of potential occupiers and hope to be in a position to make an announcement shortly.” Bell Court, which is due to open next spring, is replacing the Old Town Square development, which has suffered from low footfall for a number of years.

Tonkotsu founders to launch Japanese brasserie concept Anzu in West End this month: Ken Yamada and Emma Reynolds, founders of London-based ramen specialist Tonkotsu, will launch Japanese brasserie concept Anzu in the St James’s Market development in London’s West End this month. Anzu’s focus will be on “teishoku”, an authentic dish comprising a mains selection – such as ebi furai, Wagyu sirloin or black cod teriyaki – with a side dish such as rice or pickles. There will also be a la carte and lunch menus, as well as a “pre-theatre” teishoku menu. St James’s Market, a £400m joint venture between The Crown Estate and Oxford Properties, is located between Haymarket and Regent Street. A spokesperson for Yamada and Reynolds said: “This is a bold and brave move for Emma and Ken, who are ecstatic to be able to bring a more fine-dining offering to London. Teishoku is a simple, delicious, beautiful way to eat Japanese food and we think Londoners and tourists alike will adore the flavours and simplicity.” In August, Tonkotsu extended its partnership with Selfridges by opening a restaurant in the department store’s food hall at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham – its first venue outside London. Tonkotsu has six London restaurants, including its other Selfridges concession in Oxford Street.

Marco Pierre White opens fourth franchised London restaurant, 14th New York Italian site: Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has opened his fourth franchised restaurant in the capital within the Black and White Hospitality portfolio, following the launch of Marco’s New York Italian at the Mercure London Bloomsbury hotel. Located in Southampton Row, the restaurant is the 14th Marco’s New York Italian to open in the UK. Alongside the 90-cover restaurant, the venue features a Manhattan-style bar with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outside seating area. Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin said: “I’ve always been keen to expand our restaurant offering in London and the Mercure Bloomsbury is the perfect location to showcase the impressive New York Italian brand, with all-day casual dining at affordable prices. We have a great relationship with both the owner and hotel brand, which makes it a strong fit.” Pierre White added: “The essence of New York Italian is to create a great environment for friends and family to relax and enjoy some of my favourite Italian dishes, whatever the occasion.” Greg Black, general manager of the Mercure London Bloomsbury Hotel, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have brought a celebrity chef to Bloomsbury with the launch of the latest Marco’s New York Italian. The spacious new venue offers a fantastic experience, combining quality food with a modern dining setting, which will be a real draw for both restaurant customers and our hotel guests.” Pierre White’s other London venues are the Steakhouse Bar and Grill in Islington; Marco’s New York Italian in London Bridge; and Wheeler’s of St James’s Oyster Bar and Grill Room in Bank. Other restaurants within the portfolio include Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse & Bar Grill, Mr White’s English Chophouse, and Bardolino Pizzeria, Bellini & Espresso Bar.

M Restaurants biggest mover by amount raised and number of investors on Seedrs, campaign passes £1.5m mark: M Restaurants was the biggest mover in terms of amount raised and number of investors last week on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. The company, founded by former Gaucho Restaurants managing director Martin Williams, hit its £1.35m target within 48 hours of the campaign starting, to launch its M Social concept and for further expansion plans. The company is operating a different share structure to the standard “pre-money valuation” and “equity offered”, with all Seedrs investors receiving B shares. The shares include a “double capital protection” mechanism, which means that until shareholders have received two times their capital back, their payout will be based on the amount invested rather than the number of shares held. So far, the campaign has raised £1,553,000 from 185 investors and is now “overfunding”. The largest investment to date is £220,000. The pitch states: “In November 2014, we opened M Threadneedle Street – our award-winning, multi-faceted venue, which houses two 100-cover restaurants, a destination cocktail bar, a wine-tasting room and private dining. M Victoria Street, our second venue, opened in early 2016. Again multi-faceted (and with the addition of a very cool wine store and a private members’ bar). Now it’s time for M Social. These are local venues designed to accommodate a modern cocktail and wine bar and offer casual all-day ‘social bar food’. The time of day will dictate the demand for each of these elements, which have been designed to maximise sales opportunities and accommodate demand. Our first ‘M Social’ venue is expected to be a new 100-cover ‘Butlers Wharf-style’ building, complete with a riverside view and outside terrace. The proposed venue sits directly opposite a mainline station, is ideally positioned to serve daily commuters and become a genuine ‘home from home’ for residents, visitors and local businesses. The proceeds will be used to accelerate growth and ‘ring-fence’ £1.1m to fund the capex of restaurant three – M Social; build and open a 50-cover M Den private members’ lounge in the basement of M Threadneedle Street; and build working capital to support the business in both the short and long term.”

Love Thy Burger starts expansion with second venue, in Ipswich: Better burger brand Love Thy Burger has started expansion by opening its second venue, this time in Ipswich town centre. The 70-cover restaurant is at a former Santander site in Westgate Street and makes all its burgers and a range of sauces in-house, alongside signature rosemary fries, onion rings and coleslaw. The licensed restaurant also offers a rolling stock of craft beers. Love Thy Burger was founded by Adem Lacin and his father Murteza in 2014, opening its first restaurant in High Street, Colchester. Murteza Lacin has worked in catering for 30 years, while his son worked for a restaurant consultancy in London and as a mystery diner for high-street burger venues before deciding to start his own business. He told the East Anglian Daily Times: “I noticed a gap in the market. There was nowhere in Colchester doing really good burgers so I decided to mix my dad’s chef experience and my business experience. The difference between what makes a great burger can be quite fine. We make our patties on-site every day with deliveries from the local butcher. The time from butcher to burger is less than a day – and that makes a huge difference.”

Wagamama and Byron complete restaurant line-up at redeveloped Ipswich shopping centre: Wagamama and better burger brand Byron have opened restaurants at the Buttermarket Shopping Centre in Ipswich, completing the restaurant line-up at the newly redeveloped complex, which features a 12-screen cinema. Wagamama has opened a 130-cover restaurant in a 3,250 square foot unit at Buttermarket after signing a 25-year lease. The opening has created 65 jobs. Other brands at the complex include The Restaurant Group-owned Coast to Coast, Loungers brand Cosy Club, and Prezzo. Wagamama global brand director Simon Cope told Insider Media: “It’s an exciting time for us and we look forward to hearing what our new and valued customers in Ipswich make of our arrival.” Earlier this month, Wagamama announced it would open a site in Colchester High Street in time for Christmas.

Butcombe Brewery appoints operations director: Brewer and operator Butcombe Brewery, owned by Liberation Group, has appointed Mark Harding as operations director. The new role will see Harding, who was previously sales director at Bath Ales, lead key projects across logistics and production to facilitate growth expected by the business. Harding, who has also worked for Weston’s cider and Smiles Brewery, said: “I’ve watched Butcombe grow and develop as a business over the years and can see what a progressive company it has become. It’s clear there is collective vision throughout the team for the future of the business and I’m thrilled to be embarking on the journey as part of the team.” Butcombe Brewery managing director Geraint Williams added: “This is a pivotal role within our directors team. We welcome Mark to Butcombe. We have a clear vision to be the leading brewery in the south west and our production and logistics strategy is pivotal to achieving that goal. Mark has significant knowledge of our region and the industry as a whole, and his experience will be invaluable to the rest of the team.” Liberation Group chief executive Mark Crowther said: “Mark’s appointment comes at an important time for the group. We have made no secret of our aspirations to extend our reach in the UK, building on the incredibly successful model we have established in the Channel Islands. As a highly successful regional brewer, production and distribution are crucial elements in the success of our longer-term business plan and the appointment of Mark Harding is an important step towards delivering our objectives.”

Papa John’s launches pan pizza across US, ‘biggest product launch for a decade’: Papa John’s has launched a pan pizza across the US in a move it has branded its “biggest product launch for a decade”. The launch follows 18 months spent developing the recipe and cooking process, as well as preparing operators in how to make a pizza that takes longer to prepare than its traditional crust version. Company executives said they believe the new product could generate strong sales in the ultra-competitive sector. Papa John’s International chief ingredient officer Sean Muldoon told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We have aggressive thoughts in terms of sales. Based on test stores, we’re getting incremental sales. Existing customers are coming in more frequently. It’s also driving a significant percentage of new customers.” Papa John’s did have a pan pizza in its system more than a decade ago but Muldoon said the product “did not perform to our expectations” or meet its “better ingredient, better pizza quality standards”. The company validated the product using focus groups containing customers who were “heavy pan pizza users”, then tested the product in the field. Muldoon said: “It’s taken us 18 months to get to this point. We really wanted to develop a pan pizza with a clear vision that was better than the competition. As head of research and development, the number one question I get when in any format, whether it’s new franchisees or meetings with the system or people off the street who come in and tour, is ‘why don’t you have a pan pizza?’ Now we have a great answer for that.”

First restaurants open in new £25m dining quarter at Newcastle shopping centre: The first restaurants are opening at the new £25m dining quarter at the Intu Eldon Square shopping centre in Newcastle. Fish and chip restaurant George’s Great British Kitchen, which has launched its second site, was the first of 20 restaurants to open in Grey’s Quarter. It marks the end of a three-year project to revitalise dining options at the complex. The opening of George’s Great British Kitchen will be followed this week by Giraffe, which was acquired by Boparan Restaurant Holdings earlier this year, and Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian. Intu has invested £25m in the development of the dining area, refurbishing the original Sidgate and High Friar malls and reconfiguring 80,000 square foot of retail space. The construction included creating a new entrance to the centre at Grey’s Monument, where a giant digital screen has been installed, as well as a rooftop restaurant overlooking the statue of Earl Grey and the city centre that will house Thai Leisure Group brand Chaophraya. Phil Steele, general manager of Intu Eldon Square, told Chronicle Live: “It’s fitting this new development has received such a significant investment from Intu and our partners as this will be a fantastic addition, architecturally, socially and economically, to both Intu Eldon Square and Newcastle city centre.”

Merseyside-based operator to launch Irish theme pub concept, plans eight sites across north west: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments is set to launch an Irish theme pub concept and is planning eight sites across the north west. The company has acquired the former Mulligan’s bar on the corner of Lord Street and Union Street in Southport, which is currently being renovated ahead of reopening as Punch Tarmey’s. Mikhail told The Champion: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of this site and the plans we have for it. This end of Lord Street is undergoing a real resurgence due to the number and quality of bars we have down here. Punch Tarmey’s will add to that. It is going to look amazing and provide something new for the people of the area. I am working with a Dublin-based design team to develop a concept that is steeped in heritage and tradition. Punch Tarmey’s will take the best of old pub culture and integrate it with the trends of today. Punch Tarmey’s marks an important step in the future of pub experiences in the Southport area and will be the first of a planned eight further sites across the north west region.” Mikhail Investments also operates the Bold Hotel in Southport and the Eccleston Arms Hotel in St Helen’s.

Numis Securities – SSP’s diversity helps mitigate threat against it from effects of geopolitical events: Numis Securities leisure analyst Tim Barrett has said the diversity of SSP helps mitigate the threat against it from the effects of geopolitical events on the travel industry. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 390p, he said: “The main bear case is the threat of geopolitical events on travel – a clearly exogenous factor but somewhat mitigated by diversity in SSP’s geographic mix and the fact that circa 50% of earnings growth comes from self-help. We forecast an increase of 60 basis points in 2016 followed by 30 in 2017. At the Ebitda level that takes margin to 10%, still below the previous peak of 10.6% and below competitors such as Autogrill (US) and Elior. Each 20 basis points on margin adds 4% on earnings per share and closing the gap with peak would add 12.4% to earnings per share. SSP operates in a structurally growing market exposed to rising air and rail passenger traffic and increased food and beverage space in terminals given customer propensity to eat on the move. It has a track record of 3.7% like-for-like sales growth over five years and we see a solid outlook – 3.2% year to date and 2% in FY17. SSP is one of two market leaders in a fragmented market (25% combined market share); there are high barriers to entry in airports and stations as owners want strong operational reliability, brands and airside expertise. SSP’s historic growth in net new space of just 0.5% reflected a period of contract rationalisation (80% renewal rate) and improved to 1.9% year to date. We expect a larger contribution in the future as it has built a strong pipeline in North America, China etc. Fracturing of contracts by the North American market leader (HMS Host) presents a particular opportunity for market share gains. SSP benefits from recent pound weakness as 62% of revenues are generated outside the UK. Our FY16 and FY17 earnings per share forecasts have been marked-to-market and are circa 7% ahead of consensus, suggesting healthy earnings per share momentum ahead. Similarly the group has a good track record of beating forecasts and we outline a blue-sky earnings per share scenario of 24p (22% upside). The stock trades on a FY17 price-to-earnings ratio of 18.1x, EV/Ebitda of 7.9 times and stable free cash flow yield of 8.2%. There is 23% upside to our discounted cash flow-derived price target and we initiate with a ‘Buy’ recommendation.” 

Speaker schedule for Propel Multi Club Conference unveiled: The full speaker schedule for the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday, 3 November at Congress Hall, London, has been unveiled. Operators of multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice operators can claim up to two free places by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com. Richard O’Donnell, head of the leisure sector at Canaccord Genuity, will provide an overview of the restaurant sector M&A landscape, current valuations in the market and the do’s and don’ts when attempting to attract investment or sell a hospitality business. James Spragg, chief operating officer of Casual Dining Group, will give his views on how brands can be revived, majoring on a case study of how Cafe Rouge has been revived thanks to a focus on menu authenticity, investment in facilities and environment, staff training, and head office support. 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. Ed Brown and Griff Holland, co-founders of healthy eating brand Friska, will outline the company’s approach to ethically sourced healthy food, service, its journey as a company from its south west base, and perspective on the healthy eating market. Christian Rose, managing director of All Star Lanes, will talk about the “brand’s revolution”, improving the food and beverage offer, updating design, the growing importance of “experiences”, market potential and expansion plans. Professor Chris Edger, the UK’s leading author on multi-site brand management and leadership, will draw on his forthcoming book written in partnership with Tony Hughes, eMotion – How leaders mobilise positive feelings in super-performing teams, to outline the “ten moments of emotional truth” of leadership that separate the best from the rest. Ian Leigh, managing director of Thai Leisure Group, operator of Chaophraya and Thaikhun, will share how the company is successfully retaining its unique company culture while moving forward its brands and rolling out eight sites per year. Brian Whiting, founder of gastro-pub operator Whiting and Hammond, will talk about the company’s £200,000, 24-hour fund-raise through Funding Circle to open its latest pub, partnering with pubcos, developing slow-starting sites to realise their potential, tikki huts, and menu evolution, including the introduction of a high-end smoker. British-born entrepreneur Jonathan Segal is founder of ONE Group, which operates the STK brand. He will discuss the challenges and opportunities that come with operating an international restaurant brand, with locations from Las Vegas to London, and Chicago to Ibiza, as well as regularly catering for the stars at the Oscars and Super Bowl. David Henkes, advisory group senior principal of foodservice insights and research firm Technomic, will provide insights on the hottest new concepts in the US, what makes them successful and their common threads. He will also report on which categories are performing best in the US market.

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