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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 29th Nov 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Crieff Hydro reports steady performance as Peebles revival plan kicks in: Scottish independent hospitality company Crieff Hydro has reported a steady performance as its Peebles revival plan kicks in. A strong performance in Crieff, combined with a year of transition for the Peebles hotels, resulted in consolidated revenue of £24.3m and profit before tax of £265,048 for the year ended 29 February 2016. Significant investment has continued, with £1.8m spent in the Peebles hotels and £900,000 in the Crieff hotels. Crieff Hydro chief executive Stephen Leckie said: “This was a tough year for the industry generally with the shrinking of the oil and gas sector, which may seem a long time ago now, impacting on conferencing business and the strength of the pound. Despite this, Crieff Hydro and Murraypark delivered revenues of £19.9m and an operating profit up 6% on last year of £877,554. This was achieved through a targeted marketing campaign and focused cost control as we knew from the start that Peebles would not be contributing this financial year.” Revenue for the Peebles hotels was £4.2m, down 3.7% on last year. Leckie said: “In Peebles, this was a year of transition. Both hotels were closed for a combined period of 17 weeks at the start of 2016 to refurbish their public areas, resulting in a creative new look and feel but with an impact on revenue. This has taken its toll on profits, resulting in an operating loss of £703,821.” Freedom Hotels (Management) received management fees for The Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate, The Ballachulish Hotel, The Isles of Glencoe Hotel, and The Oban Caledonian Hotel. Crieff Hydro bought The Ballachulish Hotel and The Isles of Glencoe Hotel in June and The Oban Caledonian Hotel was sold to new owners in September. Leckie said: “This is a business full of potential, anchored by the stability of Crieff Hydro, and these results paint that picture. We’re settling into being a larger and more complex business and it’s not without its challenges, but the great people I have throughout the business makes me confident and optimistic we can fulfil the potential of the fantastic and unique hotels we now own and manage.”

Industry News:

Next Propel Premium audio presentation to feature Living Ventures’ David Mansbridge: The next audio presentation sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (2 December) will feature David Mansbridge, director of training and compliance at bar and restaurant operator Living Ventures, who presented at this month’s People & Training Conference. Mansbridge talks about the company’s approach to recruitment, people development, retention, fostering first-class service standards, and creating a unique company culture centred on its staff. Propel Premium subscribers also receive the Propel Blue Book guide to sector turnover and profitability. The Blue Book lists and ranks 200 sector companies by turnover, profitability and profit conversion. It also provides a five-year overview of profitability and directors’ salaries. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers will be able to receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. Subscribers will also receive a copy of the Propel database of 700 multi-site companies, which will be updated every six months, and receive a digital version of Propel Quarterly magazine a week before publication. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email Anne Steele at

Starbucks to launch in-store cup recycling scheme: Starbucks will launch an in-store paper cup recycling bin in January as part of the company’s strategy to help reduce waste. An initial 21 stores in central and west London will feature a cup bin following a back-of-house trial run in partnership with waste management provider Veolia. As well as cups disposed of in-store, Starbucks said it hoped the initiative would encourage people to return to a store to dispose of their takeaway paper cups in the new bins. Simon Redfern, vice-president communications for Starbucks Europe, said: “This is a complex but important issue across the industry. While we continue to test new paper cup innovations that meet our safety standards, we can address this issue in two ways – reducing the number of paper cups used by offering our long-standing 25p reusable cup discount incentive, and finding new ways to help customers recycle their paper cups. Our message to customers is please bring in your reusable cup and enjoy a 25p discount or, if you’re enjoying a coffee in a paper cup in central and west London, please bring it into our stores and help us test our new cup bins because the more you support these initiatives, the more we’ll learn.” Starbucks business customers can also recycle paper cups via a “post-back” cup care scheme offered by Veolia. Earlier this week, Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee announced it is also set to launch a cup recycling scheme across its stores.

Company News:

Healthy dining concept The Food Yard launches in London: Healthy dining concept The Food Yard has opened its debut site, in London. The company has launched the 1,327 square foot restaurant in Fulham Road having previously agreed a deal with landlord Sloane Stanley Estate. The new deli-style restaurant caters for 20 covers, serving hot and cold dishes for breakfast and lunchtime. In contrast to the majority of other food operators in the area, customers will be invited to order from the fresh deli-style counter, allowing them to create their own combinations of homemade meals and salads. Fresh juices and smoothies are available, as well as a signature hemp seed smoothie, plus seasonal offerings including avocado and papaya salad, pumpkin and sweet potato salad, and green poppy seed salad. Founder Nassib Hamdane said: “It feels amazing to finally open the doors to The Food Yard and share our unique, seasonal menu. Crucial to the successful launch of a new brand in a competitive market is securing the right location for our target audience. I am therefore thrilled to have secured Fulham Road, an area popular with food-lovers and trend-conscious consumers, for my debut site.” Sloane Stanley commercial property manager Hannah Grievson added: “There is an increasing demand for healthy eating options as consumers become more diet and health-conscious. It is therefore extremely timely for us to add The Food Yard and its nutritious menu to our fantastic range of dining options.” Best Gapp represented The Food Yard, while Shackleton and Miles Commercial represented Sloane Stanley.

Love Coffee defends restructuring agreement: A proposed restructuring deal put forward by independent coffee company Love Coffee has been slammed by the British Property Federation (BPF), which represents the interests of commercial landlords. However, the company said its proposal would ensure there was a “significantly” higher return to creditors. The family-owned business, which has 29 shops across the UK, has put forward a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that the BPF claimed would leave landlords and local authorities unpaid. The deal has been branded by the organisation as the “very worst example of insolvency negotiations”. The BPF said Love Coffee stopped paying its bills and failed to engage with landlords over the terms of the CVA. The business has also been accused of being selective in its treatment of different classes of creditors and has also “offered no route for landlords to mitigate lost income” should the company return to profitability. In a statement, however, Love Coffee said negotiations with the landlords of its underperforming stores had taken place prior to the commencement of the CVA process but directors were unable to reach a consensual agreement to ensure the revised rental terms were sustainable for the business. The company said a number of its stores had been negatively impacted by the loss of key anchor tenants nearby and general lower footfall in specific areas. Despite management action and a £350,000 investment during the past 12 months, the performance of a minority of stores had “deteriorated to such an extent it is impacting on the viability of Love Coffee”, it added. The business said its directors were “regrettably” proposing the voluntary arrangement in a move to protect the underlying business and ensure its long-term viability. It also argued the proposal would ensure there was a “significantly” higher return to creditors than would be the case in the event of its failure. The company said: “The directors acknowledge the impact on the compromised creditors, therefore they have included a profit-kicker ensuring compromised creditors benefit from the future anticipated profitability of Love Coffee.”

YO! Sushi pairs with Maxxium for first cocktail offering: YO! Sushi is bringing cocktails to the conveyor belt for the first time after pairing with Scotland-based spirits company Maxxium UK. The Midori & Yuzu cocktail – a mix of Maxxium brand Midori Japanese Melon Liqueur, Kyoko green tea, Sansu sparkling yuzu and cucumber, and fresh cucumber – is available in 45 of YO! Sushi’s 71 UK sites until the end of December. The “light and refreshing” drink has been created to complement sushi. YO! Sushi executive chef Mike Lewis said: “We are pleased to be joining forces with Midori Japanese Melon Liqueur to offer our customers a new and exclusive Japanese cocktail for the first time at YO! Sushi. Our customers love to be wowed by our new innovative offerings – Midori & Yuzu is an exciting and refreshing mix of Midori, Kyoko green tea and cucumber, making it the perfect accompaniment to sushi over the festive season!” Maxxium UK marketing controller Johna Penman added: “Great Japanese food coupled with exciting Japanese drinks feels like the perfect match as people break out of their normal routine and trade up at Christmas.”

BrewDog to open Hackney bar on Friday: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog will open its latest bar on Friday (2 December), this time in Homerton, Hackney. The new bar will be BrewDog’s seventh London site, 29th in the UK and 46th in total and is at the site of the former Plough pub. Investors in the company, also known as Equity Punks, will get an exclusive preview of the venue in Homerton High Street the day before. The bar will feature 12 taps of craft beer and offer growler fills to take away. It will also offer BrewDog’s pizza menu. BrewDog stated on its blog: “The east of the city is a fascinating mix of people, places and fashions and the area around Hackney is where much of it takes place. So we are psyched to have taken over the old Plough in Homerton – a stunning corner unit with a loyal clientele that would possibly otherwise have been redeveloped. East London has so many fantastic craft beer destinations, and we can’t wait to add another at the end of the week!” In an update on its site pipeline and bar plans last month, BrewDog said its York bar would open “before Christmas”, while another London bar, this time in Dalston that will feature a Bottledog facility, tasting room and pilot Hopworks brewing kits for the public, is set to open in the first quarter of 2017.

JD Wetherspoon sells Dundee pub: JD Wetherspoon has sold its pub The Capitol in Dundee to real estate management firm JSM Company Group. The company has closed the pub in Seagate after almost 15 years of trading. It was one of 34 sites Wetherspoon put on the market in October last year. All 40 staff have been offered alternative jobs at the company’s other pubs. Spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Courier: “The pub has been sold to JSM Company Group with the deal completing on 5 December. All of the pub’s staff will remain with Wetherspoon and be offered jobs at other pubs within the company.” The Capitol opened on 22 July 2002, before which it was better known as the ABC Cinema. Wetherspoon has two other pubs in Dundee – The Counting House in Reform Street and Jolly’s in Broughty Ferry.

Italian restaurateur to bring Tuscan pizza concept to UK with Soho opening: Italian restaurateur Stefano Cresci is set to bring his Tuscan pizzeria concept Pizza Toscano to London. Cresci, who founded La Bussola restaurant in Florence in 1960, will open his new venue in Wardour Street, Soho, on Wednesday (30 November) at the former site of La Scala. Pizza Toscano exclusively uses ingredients from the Tuscany region of Italy, including pecorino cheese instead of mozzarella and costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes instead of passata. The concept offers five signature pizzas, which are simply numbered one to five rather than being named. Toppings feature Tuscan ingredients, including honey, olives, sausage and walnuts, all sourced directly from small producers. The restaurant will also offer starters, main dishes and desserts and Tuscan wines such as brunello and sassicaia, alongside Tuscan craft beer. The restaurant has 92 seats spread over three floors and features a wood-burning oven and chestnut tree table tops crafted in Chianti. The restaurant will initially open on the ground floor, with the other floors gradually converted to the new, rustic style. Cresci said: “I couldn’t have wished for a better location to start in London, this is a high footfall area, which is busy almost 24/7. The excellent mix of business, tourist and some residential customers makes it ideal for this new and exciting venture.” The development of the venture was supported by international management consulting firm BRD Consulting. A second Pizza Toscana is planned for central London in the summer.

Greggs extends delivery service trial: Bakery business Greggs has extended its delivery service trial in Newcastle. The food-on-the-go company launched the service at Cobalt Business Park last month with the complex’s 14,000-strong workforce – including staff at Tesco, Newcastle Building Society, Siemens and Fujitsu – able to order sandwiches, salads and sausage rolls for delivery to their offices. The company has now extended the scheme to the city centre ahead of plans to roll it out in Manchester and London. Greggs retail director Raymond Reynolds told Chronicle Live: “Convenience is key in the food-on-the-go market, and we are extremely excited to offer delivery of a selection of our great-tasting, freshly prepared food directly to our customers by trialling a free delivery service in two of our Newcastle city centre shops.”

Newcastle-based Mangobean outlines plans to become fourth-largest high-street coffee brand: Newcastle-based Mangobean has outlined plans to become the fourth-largest coffee brand on the high street. Shane Saunders, the self-styled “head honcho” of Mangobean, began a coffee wholesale business in south London in 2004. After ten years of selling machines and beans, he decided to take the plunge and open his first shop in London in 2014, swiftly growing the company through concessions and franchises in the south, north west and north east. The company aims to differentiate itself from others with a cocktail-style menu – and no two Mangobean coffee shop is the same, with franchisees often introducing quirky features. Now Saunders has unveiled plans to grow the business and take on the might of leading retailers. He told Chronicle Live: “It’s been an exciting time and we’ve opened 15 Mangobean coffee shops as well as concessions in Blackpool Hospital and Cardinal Newman College, where we replaced Costa Coffee – and there’s two more franchises in Southend and Manchester due to open before Christmas. We’d like to be the fourth-largest coffee brand on the high street one day. Our strategy is to make Mangobean stores a coffee wonderland and the most affordable franchise on the high street for our business partners. One of our master franchisees opened their first Mangobean in Darlington in 2016 and plans to open 50 stores within the next decade.” Saunders also signalled his intention to expand and create jobs around back-room operations at the company’s head office in Hoult’s Yard, where ten people are currently employed. He added: “We are expanding to add a wholesale distribution unit and more head office jobs in 2017.”

Stonebaked pizza and craft beer concept Tank & Paddle opens in the City: Stonebaked pizza and craft beer concept Tank & Paddle has launched in the City of London. The restaurant has opened at Minster Court in Mincing Lane offering pizzas such as Holy Smokes (pulled chicken, smoked bacon and barbecue sauce), Meat Your Match (pepperoni, spicy beef, smoked bacon and chicken), and Veg Your Bets (sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichokes and mushrooms). Tank & Paddle also specialises in mac ‘n’ cheese dishes, with added pulled chicken and barbecue sauce (The Mac Attack) and The Hot One (pepperoni and chilli). There is also a good selection of salads as well as Nutella dough balls with maple cinnamon syrup and chocolate dipping sauce as a side dish. Draught craft beer comes from Meantime Brewery, including Brewery Fresh tank beer, alongside cider from Hoxton and bottles and cans from BrewDog and Thatchers among others. There is also a short wine and cocktail list. The company states on its website: “At Tank & Paddle we’re all about sharing the love for craft beer and everything it stands for. Here we love to have a good, honest time and enjoy great beer and tasty food in a place where you can relax, let down your locks and be yourself.”

Foodco to open third UK Jamaica Blue site this week, in Leeds: Foodco will open the third UK site of its international cafe restaurant brand Jamaica Blue this week, in Leeds, as it continues to deliver on plans to expand the brand further in the UK. The restaurant will open on Wednesday (1 December) at the Trinity Centre. The new venue will offer the brand’s “premium food menu and trendy, relaxed interior design”. The new evening menu at the Leeds store will include espresso chicken wings, fish tacos, and French croissant bread and butter pudding. It will also have an alcohol licence and serve a selection of wines and beers. Foodco UK general manager Lisa Brook said: “Last month we opened a new store in the Bond Street development in Chelmsford and it’s fantastic to be announcing our third UK store opening now. Our pilot Cambridge store is thriving, with growing customers every week. We are confident we have chosen a strong location for our third store to achieve the same success. We are really excited about the brand and our future growth plans in the UK. We are definitely the ones to watch in 2017.” Jamaica Blue has 170 cafes in Australia, New Zealand, China, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia and China and opened its first UK site in Cambridge in December 2014.

Caprice Holdings gets go-ahead for The Ivy in Marlow: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, has been given the go-ahead to open a site for The Ivy in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. The company has been granted permission by Wycombe District Council to open the venue in an empty building in High Street previously occupied by Clarks shoe shop, reports the Bucks Free Press. The 150-cover restaurant is expected to open in the spring and includes an outdoor area. A planning statement said the Marlow opening would “supplement and bolster the attractiveness of the town centre to tourists while also securing the long-term vitality of the centre”. Last month the company opened The Ivy’s eighth UK site, in St John’s Wood, north London. All its UK sites are in the capital apart from Ivy Clifton Brasserie in Bristol. The company also owns The Ivy restaurant, bar and lounge in Dubai.  

Tom Aikens opens first international Tom’s Kitchen Deli site, in Dubai: Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens has launched a first international venue for his Tom’s Kitchen Deli brand, in Dubai. The new venue is at Boardwalk in Riverland – Dubai Parks and Resorts and is Aikens’ second United Arab Emirates venture following the launch of his Pots, Pans & Boards restaurant in the city state last year. Aikens is putting the final touches to the deli’s menu before he hands over the reins to chef Cuneyt Gokdemir. The venue has a 1950s cafe feel, with wide tables and booths throughout and offers sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pizzas, doughnuts and crepes on the all-day menu. There are also breakfast options, including croissants, pancakes, French toast, breakfast burritos and fried eggs, while the grab-and-go section is stocked with fresh juices, fruit and muesli pots. Aikens told The National: “People in Dubai are definitely eating out more and willing to try new things – and the casual dining market is leading the way.” Aikens operates five Tom’s Kitchen sites in London, three with delis, and another in Istanbul. Aikens is also due to open his first UK site outside the capital – at Birmingham’s The Mailbox next month – and plans to open a Tom’s Kitchen in Dubai “at some point”.

Starbucks apprenticeship scheme gets royal approval: Starbucks has been commended for its commitment to training and skills development by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. The business was one of 33 organisations honoured with a Princess Royal Training Award (PRTA) for creating lasting impact by successfully linking skills development needs to business performance. Starbucks’ apprenticeship programme was the first of its kind for the company globally. The programme, which launched in the UK in spring 2012, has provided more than 1,200 young people with a start in retail management and the opportunity to build the transferable skills required to further their careers. Almost half of all staff at Starbucks are under-25, so the apprenticeship programme is an integral part of the company’s bid to attract young people. PRTA assessors also noted the impact the programme has had on boosting employee retention – a key challenge in the sector. Overall, more than 20% of Starbucks’ graduated apprentices have received a promotion, with more than 20 graduated apprentices now in charge of their own stores. The PRTAs were delivered for the first time this year by the City & Guilds Group. Each of the 110 applications was assessed against three “hallmarks of excellence” by the PRTA Commission, comprising HRH The Princess Royal and ten leading figures in the business and learning and development community. A Starbucks spokeswoman said: “We are very proud of the programme, which goes from strength to strength. We will continue to invest in apprenticeships and our wider youth employability and skills programmes.”

Ultracomida launches tapas restaurant, bar and deli concept in Cardiff at company’s third Welsh site: Spanish deli and restaurant Ultracomida has opened a new concept – The Curado Bar – in Cardiff city centre, the company’s third site in Wales. The 3,000 square foot venue has opened at a former Burger King site in Westgate Street, creating 20 jobs. The Ceredigion-based company operates restaurant-delis in Aberystwyth and Narbeth as well as operating an online mail order service for Spanish food and drink. The Curado Bar offers dishes such as warm goat’s cheese on toast with apple chutney, and rosemary torta topped with blue cheese and honey. The deli’s shelves are full of Spanish cured meat, cheese, wine and sherry. The expansion into Cardiff has been supported by £400,000 in debt finance from Barclays Bank, Wales Online reports. The Curado Bar describes its offer as: “Combining the bustle and flair of the traditional Basque country pintxos bar culture with modern craft beers and traditional skills of ham carving, cheese selling and wine tasting.” The venue has also struck a supply contract with a Spanish brewery in Valencia.

Two Michelin-starred New York restaurant Aquavit launches central London site: Two Michelin-starred contemporary Nordic restaurant Aquavit New York has opened its central London site in the St James’s Market redevelopment, just off Regent Street. The restaurant in Carlton Street has been brought to the UK by Philip Hamilton, founder and chief executive of Aquavit London, and offers all-day dining, showcasing contemporary Nordic cuisine and design. The menu focuses on small sharing plates celebrating the region’s seafood dishes, including shrimp skagen, herring, gravad lax, and vendace roe. Starters include venison tartar with wild blueberries, lingonberries and juniper as well as main courses including turbot and Swedish meatballs. Aquavit London also offers traditional Swedish fika, with coffee from Johan & Nyström and freshly-baked cinnamon rolls, alongside contemporary and traditional Nordic breakfast dishes. There are also cocktails with a Nordic twist and a collection of aquavit snaps (flavoured spirits). The menu was overseen by Emma Bengtsson, executive chef of Aquavit New York, and executed by Henrik Ritzen – formerly of La Petite Maison and Lutyens. Bengtsson said: “I cannot imagine a more exciting city than London to make us another home. The London culinary scene is one of the most vibrant in the world and I am thrilled Aquavit will be part of that.”

Clove Club team launches ‘Britalian’ concept Luca in Clerkenwell: The team behind renowned Shoreditch restaurant The Clove Club has launched “Britalian” concept Luca, offering a modern Italian menu featuring British produce. Isaac McHale, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith have opened the 60-cover restaurant in St John Street, Clerkenwell, offering pasta dishes, plates and snacks alongside mains such as rump of beef stuffed with pancetta and rainbow chard, and fritto misto of Cornish fish and seafood. The kitchen is headed by Robert Chambers, previously at The Square, Locanda Locatelli and the Ledbury. The separate bar offers salads, sandwiches and cured meat at lunchtime and sharing plates in the evening, alongside an Italian wine list and stirred cocktails featuring vermouth and homemade limoncello and nocino. McHale told Hot Dinners: “The term ‘Britalian’ is a good shorthand for what we are doing. We won’t be using this phrase anywhere in the restaurant itself, but it sums up the approach – we will be using seasonal British ingredients in contemporary cooking inspired by Italy.”

Pan-Asian bar restaurant concept Ember launches in Pudding Lane: Pan-Asian bar restaurant concept Ember has launched in the City. Ember has opened in Pudding Lane, with the venue’s main design theme being the Great Fire of London. Not only is the venue a few metres from where the blaze started, but it has also opened only a few weeks after the 350th anniversary of the historic event. The interior features wood, copper, candles and charcoal metal to highlight the fire theme, while the pan-Asian menu features dishes such as Wagyu beef and foie gras burger, while the a la carte menu includes sharing bowls and platters. General manager Anthony Killip said: “We are here to provide our guests with the premium service but at the same time to make them feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. We want to share our knowledge and skills and would love to see everyone enjoy the Ember environment like we do.” The venue is offering three-course and six-course festive menus until Friday, 23 December.

Hostel group refurbishes Manchester site to include all-day deli, diner and cocktail bar as part of hotel-standard accommodation upgrade: Hostel group Hatters Hostel is refurbishing its Manchester site, which will include the addition of an all-day deli, diner and cocktail bar. The company is transforming Hilton Chambers in the Northern Quarter into hotel-standard accommodation. A total of 15 private rooms and 20 dormitory rooms will be added to the city-centre hostel. Private rooms will be individually styled with local artwork, 42-inch plasma television screens with Netflix, and iPod stations. Meanwhile, the dormitories will come with privacy panels, individual reading lights, private lockers, memory foam mattresses and en-suite bathrooms. Every guest will also receive a free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. The building, originally a warehouse for a bowler hat manufacturer, will also feature an all-day deli, diner and cocktail bar called West Corner. It will be headed by ex-Hawksmoor chef Romin Farahini, and take its inspiration from New York delis and bars. It will serve all-day dishes including breakfasts, brunches, and burgers. West Corner general manager Adam McLean told the Manchester Evening News: “We’ve created a menu that reflects our commitment to fresh, seasonal, professionally prepared dishes which use high-quality ingredients. That commitment is extended to our carefully selected range of craft beers and wines, freshly prepared juices, superb cocktails and not forgetting our own West Corner blend of coffee beans from local roasters Heart & Graft.” The West Corner will launch in December and the refurbished Hatters will open in February.

Startle expands global business with first overseas subsidiary, in US: Interactive music service provider Startle, which was previously known as Virtual Jukebox before rebranding last month, has expanded its global business with the opening of its first overseas subsidiary. Building on a number of recent successes in the US, Startle has opened its first office in Madison Avenue in New York City. Hiring two new members of the team to build relationships with US customers, Startle said it expected to see nearly half of all business come from America in the next 12 months. Startle will offer its American customers the same portfolio as its UK customers, comprising a number of products and services. This global expansion follows a hugely successful year for the technology business – having secured partnerships with companies including Greene King and Domino’s Pizza with more in the pipeline for 2017. The expansion follows the company’s rebrand announcement, a major transformation that saw the formerly titled Virtual Jukebox – positioned as a jukebox replacement for businesses in the retail and hospitality industries – develop a new look and identity. Startle is designed to meet the desires of businesses looking to provide a more all-encompassing entertainment offering for its customers. Chief executive Andy Hill said: “Our desire to help retail and hospitality brands achieve higher revenues through in-venue innovations and technology appears to be striking a real chord in the US. To address these desires and meet the growing demand, it’s essential we have an American team to offer bespoke support and pioneering solutions.”

M&B converts Crown Carveries site in Worcester to Stonehouse brand: Mitchells & Butlers has rebranded its Crown Carveries site in Worcester to its Stonehouse pizza and carvery brand. The company has reopened Manor Farm in Malvern Road following a two-week refurbishment. General manager Mick Wilton told the Worcester Observer: “We’re excited about the new changes and we’re looking forward to welcoming the people of Worcester to come and see what our Stonehouse pizza and carvery is all about. The restaurant has been given a fantastic new look and a menu that has something for everyone.” Last week, Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Phil Urban said the evolution of its Crown Carvery brand to Stonehouse was producing a 25% return on investment – the company expects to grow the brand to 80 sites in 2017 from the 36 sites it had at its year-end in September.

Salisbury Pubs wins double gold in FreeFrom awards: Chilterns-based Salisbury Pubs has been awarded a double gold in the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards. The company’s pubs – The Alford Arms in Frithsden and the Royal Oak in Marlow – were both awarded the gold award for pubs and pub restaurants that offer a wide and varied menu for gluten and allergen-intolerant customers. Co-owner Becky Salisbury said: “We want everyone to come to our pubs and be relaxed and not feel eating out is a challenge due to dietary restrictions. About 90% of our menu can be tailored to accommodate different requests and our brilliant team in the kitchen are working hard to make sure the other 10% can be adapted as well!” Since the launch of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards three years ago, the group has been recognised with one award for the Royal Oak in the category of pub and pub restaurants and one national award for the Alford Arms. This is the first joint award that has been awarded.

St Austell Brewery wins career progression accolade: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has won the best career progression accolade at this year’s Springboard Awards for Excellence for its commitment to nurturing and developing local talent. The Awards for Excellence recognise successful initiatives at all levels of business designed to promote careers, attract and develop people and display best employment practices. In this latter category, St Austell Brewery was particularly praised for its “Brewing a Passion” training programme, which, according to the judges, demonstrated a clear pipeline of progression and internal opportunities. Based at St Austell Brewery’s Academy 1851, the training programme has taught front-of-house and kitchen staff the key hospitality skills needed to succeed in the industry and is supported by a clear four stage process resulting in improved staff engagement and productivity, better staff retention, and better service across the brewery’s estate of pubs and hotels. Director of people Jackie Scarfe said: “This is a fantastic award that recognises the hard work of so many people within our organisation to attract young talent into our business, helping them to realise their abilities and access the excellent, long-term career opportunities that we can offer them in the south west.” The Springboard Charity helps young people achieve their potential and nurtures unemployed people of any age into work. It helps alleviate poverty by supporting disadvantaged and underprivileged people into sustainable employment within hospitality, leisure and tourism.

Line-up for Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass revealed: The line-up for the Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass, in which Propel is partnering with leading sector public relations and marketing expert James Hacon, has been revealed. Hacon will share industry-leading marketing campaigns and activity from some of the biggest and best brands across the globe and share tips on how to capture ideas and apply this innovation to a brand. He will also share his strategy and direction for marketing at Thai Leisure Group, where he will reveal how it has refined and defined the Chaophraya and Thaikhun brands, developed the proposition, and delivered a research-based, award-winning marketing campaign. Charles Banks, of The Food People, will dive into the hot new concepts, foods and products in the international market to see what eating trends are shaping the industry, how the traditional business model is evolving, and how millennials are changing the models and concepts of the future. There will be a guided group session sharing best practice, seeking advice and sharing stories. Oliver Taylor, senior insight manager at Elliotts, will share the latest insight on how consumers are making decisions on where to go drink or dine out, what inspires them, how they plan and how they prefer to book. Cote marketing director Andrew Gallagher will reveal what’s on the top of his marketing agenda and what he thinks will impact this during 2017. Helen Baptist, senior vice-president of Fishbowl USA, will show how data can be leveraged to understand and better target customers to drive revenue, and shares top tips on data-driven wins. She will also share real-life case studies from leading-edge, fast-growing US concepts, including Blaze Pizza, Average Joe’s and Jamba Juice. There will be also be a panel discussion led by Hacon with Maxwell’s marketing manager Anthony Wright, G1 Group marketing director Lyn MacDonald, and Drake & Morgan marketing and sales director Pooja Sharma Jones about where they see success, their plans for the future, and other topics discussed throughout the day. The event takes place on Thursday, 12 January at One Moorgate Place in London. Tickets are priced at £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-ALMR members and are available by emailing Anne Steele on

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