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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 8th Dec 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Crussh looking to double estate size after unveiling new identity and store concept: Crussh, the London-based healthy food and juice brand, is looking to double the size of its 28-strong estate after unveiling a new identity and store concept. The new site in New Street Square, just off New Fetter Lane, is the first opening under the company’s new chief executive Shane Kavanagh and his management team. Kavanagh, who joined Crussh from Benugo in April, told Propel he felt the brand needed a new look to “reflect where Crussh was”. He said: “I think we’ve been a bit slow to change over the past couple of years. There’s been a big focus on the people and the product but the design has been neglected a little bit. If you went into a Crussh store and closed your eyes and opened them again you wouldn’t necessarily know you were in a juice bar. The new concept captures what we are all about. We’ll obviously tweak it where we need to but this will be the design we use going forward.” The contemporary design highlights its use of fresh fruit and vegetables, with generous displays of produce in racks that sit above an open plan kitchen and juicing area. The store features three different seating areas, all with power points and USB chargers to promote flexible working. The whole design has been created to improve the customer experience at peak trading times. Kavanagh said the company would look to refurbish its existing sites – starting with its busiest in Canary Wharf, which will be carried out at Christmas. He added it was looking to acquire further sites and was looking to double its estate during the next three years, with its initial focus remaining on London before looking to the regions. Kavanagh said: “There is still a big opportunity for us in London, particularly the West End, shopping centres and partnership opportunities, and that will be our focus in the next year or so. Then I think we will look to head outside the capital. I think what we have would work well really well in places such as Brighton and St Albans.” Kavanagh added that the company has a strong pipeline and would open its third site with health and wellbeing service the Light Centre in Monument. He said: “The opportunity is big but we will take it one site at a time. We’ve got the new Light Centre opening and one other we’re hoping to confirm in the first half of 2017, plus a couple of refurbishments. We’re looking to simplify how we operate and make our offer healthier, easier and tastier for our customers to access and enjoy. Our core brand values are echoed in so much of the design and it’s a great reflection of how we feel about what we do.”

Industry News:

Propel and Thinking Drinkers launch third Craft Beer Retail Study Tour: Propel is launching its third Craft Beer Retail Study Tour on Thursday, 26 January in London, this time focusing on the east of the capital. The tour, led by Thinking Drinkers, award-winning beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, will visit six of London’s leading craft beer retailers and a cider specialist during the seven-hour tour. McFarland and Sandham will provide the latest craft beer facts and figures, market segmentation analysis, and spot up-and-coming trends. Site visits will include question-and-answer sessions with some of London’s leading retailers looking at award-winning sites, beer-centric retail, beer sourcing, direct sourcing, menus, brewing on-site, and a host of other issues. The day includes travel between venues by coach. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £395 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. Email to book or for more details.

Line-up for Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass revealed: A host of companies have signed up for the Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass. They include Polpo, My Lahore, Living Ventures, Beds and Bars, Black and White Hospitality, City Pub Company, The New World Trading Company, Greene King, Marston’s, Be At One, PizzaExpress, Mitchells & Butlers, Oakman Inns, Young’s, Coaching Inn Group, TRG Concessions, Cambscuisine, Electric Star Pubs, Coal Grill & Bar, Signature Pub Company, Epic Pub Company, Parkdean Resorts, Namco UK, and True North Brew Company. 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 previously 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 and will reveal how the company 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 to drink or dine out, what inspires them, how they plan their evening and how they prefer to book. Cote marketing director Andrew Gallagher will reveal what’s at the top of his marketing agenda and what he thinks will have an impact on 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 share 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

CAMRA and the SLTA dispute Scottish government pub report: A Scottish government report into the tenanted pub market is too limited, fails to collect data from a representative sample, and comes to conclusions of an “extremely limited value”, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), which are calling for additional measures to protect Scottish pubs. The comments from CAMRA and the SLTA, which represent pub users and the Scottish licensed trade respectively, followed the publication of the Scottish government’s Research on the Pub Sector in Scotland – Phase 1 Scoping Study. CAMRA chairman Colin Valentine said: “We are disappointed the research study has been limited to the examination of just 25 pub case studies, when the original objective was to complete a much more detailed and widespread analysis. Of the 25 detailed pub case studies conducted, only ten were in a fully tied situation and not a single free-of-tie tenanted pub was included. The failure to collect data from a representative sample of tied publicans across Scotland means the conclusions of the research are of extremely limited value. A CAMRA-commissioned survey of tenants in 2014 saw 200 tied publicans interviewed, with 74% stating they were worse off as a result of being unable to buy beer on the open market from a supplier of their choice. This Scottish government’s over-running research project has had the effect of delaying action to protect the future of Scotland’s pubs. Now the research is finally concluded, we urge the Scottish government to consult on introducing measures to ensure Scottish publicans are treated fairly so they, in turn, can continue to run welcoming pubs enjoyed by customers.”

McDonald’s to instigate $4bn McCafé rebrand, all coffee beans to be from sustainable sources by 2020: McDonald’s is set to challenge Starbucks in the “posh” coffee sector as its McCafé brand gets a $4bn rebrand to ensure all coffee is made from sustainably sourced beans by 2020, according to a report by Bloomberg. McDonald’s will install upgraded coffee machines in equipped stores in the US to create a wider variety of “more consistent-tasting drinks”. The rebrand will also include “special deals, more seasonal beverages, and increased marketing of the chain’s coffee rewards programme”. The upgrade will initially focus on US stores, although McDonald’s coffee is also popular in the UK, with the company overtaking Whitbread-owned Costa and Starbucks in 2010 as the biggest coffee seller in Britain, shifting 84 million cups in the year. The McCafé brand was introduced to the UK in 2012 and, earlier this year, the company opened its first standalone McCafé store in France. Kristy Cunningham, US senior vice-president of strategy and insights, told Bloomberg: “We’re really excited about the McCafé brand and what it can do to complement our food offerings. It gives us the chance to follow what the customer is really looking for.” McDonald’s dropped its traditional red, yellow and white packaging earlier this year, introducing bright colours on brown paper bags for a “simple and fresh” look to help it compete against gourmet burger brands such as Byron and Patty & Bun.

Craft Beer Rising 2017 adds extra room for emerging breweries: Craft Beer Rising (CBR) London 2017 will showcase more than 700 beers and ciders at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London, on 23-25 February, with a room added this year to focus on emerging breweries. About 170 breweries and producers will be represented at the show, with the capacity up to 2,000 people per session. Paying bars, introduced last year, will remain at “lower than pub prices”, with growlers to take beers home. DJ Yoda will appear on the main stage on Saturday night, with street food vendors on hand, while talks, tastings and panel debates featuring industry insiders such as Melissa Cole and Pete Brown will take place over the whole weekend. CBR London 2017 director Daniel Rowntree said: “CBR has become the highlight of the beer event calendar, particularly for those interested in discovering new breweries and fresh product launches. Last year, we saw the launch of breweries and producers including Bedlam, Mondo, and Hawkes Urban Cider, with an uplift in European and American breweries exhibiting.” Tickets are priced from £15, with early bird tickets available at

Company News:

Laine Pub Company strengthens south east London estate with Forest Hill acquisition: London and Brighton multiple operator and craft brewer The Laine Pub Company has acquired the lease of the Honor Oak pub in Forest Hill, south east London. This week’s opening of the Ladywell Tavern and the development next year of the Fellowship in Bellingham takes Laine’s London estate to 11 pubs. The lease of the Honor Oak, which is in Saint German’s Road, has been purchased from Camden Dining Group. Laine’s chairman Gary Pettet, who acted for the company in the acquisition, said: “With pubs already located in the East Dulwich, Peckham, Lewisham and Catford areas, the addition of this free-of-tie Forest Hill pub strengthens our presence in south east London and further increases the distribution and profile of Laine’s craft beer portfolio.” Gavin George, Laine’s chief executive, added: “There has been a pub on this site serving the community around Forest Hill and Honor Oak since 1867 and, over the last few years, the investments made by the owners and the application of their superior retail skills have made this a stand-out pub in the area. We are delighted to be taking on this wonderfully imposing building and continuing to develop the pub offering with the introduction of Laine Brew Co beer, a new menu from the outstanding open kitchen and an enhanced programme of entertainment.” Camden Dining Group business development director Justin Wallace said: “The Laine Pub Company is a dynamic operator and one I feel shares the vision in taking the Honor Oak forward. I am delighted it will take over the reins of this different and exciting south London venue. The sale of the Honor Oak frees some capital for my next project, due to open in 2017.” Chris Bickle, director in the Savills licensed leisure team, acted for the vendors. 

Coaching Inn Group acquires Conwy hotel for £3.35m, fourth site this year: Independent coaching inns operator The Coaching Inn Group has acquired its fourth site this year – the Castle Hotel in Conwy – for £3.35m, taking its portfolio to 13 properties. Built on the site of a Cistercian abbey, within the Unesco World Heritage town of Conwy, the 300-year-old Castle Hotel has 27 bedrooms and still retains many original features, including stone mullion windows and fire surrounds. Located on the coastal side of Snowdonia National Park and close to the quay and castle, the hotel boasts a bar, restaurant and beauty salon. The Coaching Inn Group chief executive Kevin Charity said: “The past 12 months have seen us purchase four properties across the UK and we are on track to complete the purchase of another two by the end of our financial year; a great start to our recently announced £50m expansion plan. The Castle Hotel has all the attributes we are looking for in future properties, which include a busy market town location and a business that will appeal to locals as well as visitors from further afield. The hotel has been successfully run for the past 16 years as a family business and we plan to continue in the same vein, with hotel manager Joe Lavin, son of the previous owner, continuing to lead the team.” The Coaching Inn Group, which benefited from an initial investment of £4.5m from the Business Growth Fund in March 2015, secured a further £10m this week to support its £50m expansion plan, including a target of 25 sites before the end of March 2019. It has 13 venues across the UK and has built a reputation in the industry for transforming the fortunes of traditional coaching inns in busy market towns. 

Starbucks to launch Pokémon Go promotion: Starbucks is set to launch a crossover promotion with Pokémon Go across the US, with most sites becoming game-specific locations teeming with new Pokémon. The promotion will include a limited-time, Pokémon-themed beverage – a first tie-in with the app for any company. Most US Starbucks sites will become officially designated Pokémon Go locations, either as Pokéstops or gyms. The promotion may also usher in new characters and could mark the full launch of Go’s “gen 2” patch, which could usher in as many as 100 new Pokémon characters, ARS Technica reports. Since the app launched earlier this year, Pokémon Go has become one of Britain’s most popular pastimes, with a positive knock-on effect for the leisure industry. In September, the Greene King Leisure Tracker revealed more than 40% of users surveyed said the app had got them out of their homes more often than before, while almost a third admitted they had visited social destinations such as pubs and restaurants as a result of playing the game. 

HMSHost signs Ca’puccino as third Heathrow licensing partner: Contract caterer HMSHost International has expanded its UK footprint by signing its third licensing partner at Heathrow. Italian coffee brand Ca’puccino joins HMSHost’s other partners at the airport – natural fast food brand Leon and chef concept The Gorgeous Kitchen. Ca’puccino at Heathrow is in Terminal 2 and offers contemporary Italian dishes, speciality coffee, desserts and wine. The Heathrow outlet is the sixth Ca’puccino site in the UK, while the HMSHost partnership will see more venues open in the next few years. HMSHost International chief executive Walter Seib said: “This agreement with Ca’puccino marks a significant milestone in our strategy to increase our footprint in the rapidly expanding and dynamic UK market place through a strong brand.” Ca’puccino was founded near Florence in 2006, with the company now operating 11 sites in Italy. Chief executive Giacomo Moncalvo said: “We are extremely pleased and proud to have partnered with such an important operator as HMSHost International. This, coupled with our openings in Dubai in early 2017, will cement the future of Ca’puccino as a global brand.”

Bristol building let to Greene King sells for £7.7m: A building in Bristol let to Greene King and Black Sheep Bars has been acquired for £7.7m. CBRE Global Investors, represented by Hartnell Taylor Cook, has acquired The U Shed in Cannons Road in an off-market transaction from Kennedy Wilson Europe. The majority of the property is let to Greene King, which has sub-let to Za Za Bazaar to operate a street food concept restaurant on the ground and first floor. The building measures 31,771 square feet and is let to Punch and Black Sheep Bars at an annual rent of £562,116. The deal represents a net initial yield of 6.84%. Ian Lambert, investment partner at Hartnell Taylor Cook, told Insider Media: “This is a cracking acquisition. It’s a really well located property, situated in the heart of Harbourside, arguably Bristol’s premier leisure location. With increasing tenant demand and a compelling change of use strategy for the upper floor, this investment offers an attractive net initial yield and a genuine add-value opportunity.” Sam Winstone, senior associate at CBRE Global Investors, added: “Our focus is to acquire well-located properties in the major UK cities that will benefit from active asset management. We believe the U-Shed’s prime location on the waterfront will appeal to a range of food and beverage operators.” Kennedy Wilson Europe was represented by CBRE.

Greene King offers free soft drink to designated drivers this Christmas through Coca-Cola partnership: Greene King has partnered with Coca-Cola again this year to offer a free soft drink for designated drivers at Christmas. This year, more than 1,000 Greene King pubs will take part in the festive anti drink-drive campaign, which is in its seventh year. All drivers who eat a main meal in its pubs across the UK, including Hungry Horse, Fayre & Square and Greene King Local Pubs, can enjoy a free soft drink. Drinks included in the offer are a 330ml bottle of Coca-Cola, Diet Coca-Cola or Coca-Cola Zero, a 275ml bottle of Appletiser, and bottled water. Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “Thanks to tougher laws, safety improvements and education we have seen death rates caused by drink-driving reduced by more than a quarter, and promotions such as our designated driver campaign can also have a positive impact on our customers’ attitude to drink-driving. We pride ourselves on being a responsible retailer, not only during the festive season but throughout the year with our Enjoy Responsibly programme.”

Robinsons reopens Glossop pub with focus on craft beer: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has reopened The Oakwood pub in Glossop, Derbyshire, with a new look and focused direction on the UK’s craft beer market. The Oakwood, which has installed ten American-style tap handles behind the bar, is the first of Robinsons’ pubs to put an emphasis on kegged craft beer while continuing to promote the brewery’s core range of cask ales. Alongside the refurbishment, the pub offers a new cocktail menu, focusing on classic cocktails coupled with contemporary mixology, and a new premium spirits range including ten award-winning gins from brands such as Sipsmith, Hayman’s, Williams Chase and Hendricks. The Oakwood continues to offer food from its artisan deli, a rotating range of Robinsons cask ales, along with guest beers, craft keg and bottles. Robinsons marketing director David Bremner said: “In 2016, standard lagers are leading an industry-wide volume decline of about 7% against last year, while style and craft beers have shaken off their hipster shackles and have grown, in beer volume, by more than 63% in the past 12 months. The new-look Oakwood not only gives the Glossop community a new place to try craft kegged beers but it will also bolster the town’s evolving nightlife.”

Gourmet Burger Kitchen agrees deal to open Leicester shopping centre site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen has agreed a deal with Hammerson to open a site at the Highcross shopping centre in Leicester. The restaurant, set to open in the summer, will mark Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s debut in the city. The 638 square metre venue will be in the centre’s St Peter’s Square dining hub, which is home to a mix of restaurant brands including better burger brand Byron, Carluccio’s and Bill’s. Hammerson head of restaurants and leisure Sarah Fox said: “The fact this well-established and popular restaurant has chosen Highcross to make its all-important debut in the city is testament to the centre’s appeal as the leading retail, dining and leisure destination in the region.”

Manchester-based Yard & Coop to start expansion with Liverpool opening: Manchester-based fried chicken concept Yard & Coop is set to start expansion by opening a second site, this time in Liverpool. The company, founded by Carl and Laura Morris, will open the 200-cover restaurant in the Liverpool ONE leisure complex on Saturday, 17 December, creating 40 jobs. The menu centres on buttermilk-fried chicken, five-scoop milkshakes and cocktails. The 6,425 square foot site will be split over two levels and offer seating in themed chicken coops. Local artists have decorated the interior with drawings and installations focused on the brand’s fox character. A huge tree at the entrance will give the illusion of dining in the fox’s den. Laura Morris said: “We’re incredibly excited to join the Liverpool ONE family and have spent lots of time developing a space we can feel really proud of.” Carl Morris added: “We try to make each experience fun for our customers and pride ourselves on our passion for the food and service we provide. We taste-tested more than 250 recipes before we decided on the perfect formula. We now believe we offer the best fried chicken in the north west.” The concept launched 18 months ago in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Quiznos franchisees to open second Newcastle site for American sandwich brand ahead of roll-out across region: North east-based entrepreneurs Raj Sehgal, Ricky Sehgal and Naresh Abrol are set to open their second franchise site in Newcastle for American sandwich brand Quiznos. The trio bought the franchise rights earlier this year for an area extending from the Midlands to Scotland, opening a first Quiznos store in the north at Newcastle’s Cobalt Business Park. Property agents Naylors has acquired a Northumberland Street site in the city centre for the new Quiznos, securing a ten-year lease on a 1,023 square foot unit close to Haymarket Metro Station. Naylors will now look for further sites for a regional roll-out. Sehgal told Chronicle Live: “Quiznos is a great brand with a fantastic product range that should prove to be very popular in the north east.” James Fletcher, commercial agency surveyor at Naylors, added: “We are looking to secure two further units for Quiznos within the next three months, concentrating on busy areas close to transport hubs and high streets with good footfall and seven-day-a-week trade.” Quiznos, which is known for its toasted sub sandwiches, launched 30 years ago in Denver, Colorado, and now has franchises in 40 countries across the globe. Quiznos’ other UK sites are all in the south of England – in Bromley, Maidstone, Watford and Whitechapel, London.

Innis & Gunn chooses Glasgow site for flagship Beer Kitchen, first to feature micro-brewery: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has chosen a site in Glasgow’s west end to open its flagship Beer Kitchen site, the first to feature a micro-brewery. The company, founded by Dougal Sharp, is investing £600,000 to develop a site in Ashton Lane that formerly housed the Cul-de-sac bar. It is leasing the building from G1 Group. Earlier this month, Innis & Gunn completed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube having raised nearly £2.5m to fund the roll-out of the Beer Kitchen brand, which launched in Edinburgh in 2015 and has since opened sites in Dundee and St Andrews. The Ashton Lane venue will be spread over three floors, with on-site brewing and tank beer. The kit will produce special-edition and one-off brews that will be available to buy in the bar, with the layout ensuring the process is as visual as possible. Food will be served on the first floor featuring dishes designed to match the beer, including savoury haggis doughnuts. The top floor will be a late-night events bar. David Hall, managing director of Innis & Gunn Retail, told The Herald: “It’s going to be a flagship unit for us – it’s the biggest one to date and the first doing on-site brewing. We start work at the beginning of January and plan to open in April. We want to open at least two, possibly three (Beer Kitchens) in addition to Ashton Lane next year, and another three or four in 2018. Once we get bigger, we’d like to accelerate. We are going to grow this brand and take it into England and maybe other parts of Scotland. We’ve now got the cash behind us to seize opportunities as they come along.”

Shepherd Neame reopens Kent village pub with expanded food offer following £350,000 refurbishment: Kent-based brewer, pub and hotel operator Shepherd Neame has reopened the Manor Farm Barn in Southfleet with an expanded food offer after a month-long £350,000 refurbishment. The restored 18th century barn, winner of the CAMRA Pub Design Award in 2002, has been repainted throughout and has new lighting, furniture and decor designed to enhance its exposed oak timbers and vaulted ceiling. The thatched roof has been restored and the exterior repainted with new sign-writing and swing sign. The kitchen has been refitted and now includes a pizza oven. Manager Chris Abnett said: “We have worked with our team of chefs to create a more exciting and ambitious menu. We will specialise in chargrill, offering prime cuts cooked to order and gourmet burgers. Diners can also choose from a selection of hand-made stone baked pizzas, along with a delicious choice of pub classics.” Shepherd Neame director of retail and tenanted operations Nigel Bunting added: “The Manor Farm Barn is a distinctive, characterful venue, and we are confident that with its new look and new menu, it will continue to go from strength to strength.”

St Austell Brewery acquires Cornish hotel and pub made famous by Poldark: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has acquired a hotel and pub in Charlestown made famous by BBC television series Poldark. The company has purchased the 27-bedroom Pier House Hotel in Charlestown, which houses a bar/bistro and 115-cover restaurant, for an undisclosed sum. The deal also includes the Harbourside Inn, which forms part of the extended hotel buildings. The site is expected to join St Austell’s managed house estate and will be run by Rob and Lucy Brewer, the husband-and-wife team who also head up the Rashleigh Arms in Charlestown and who this year won the British Institute of Innkeeper’s Licensee of the Year award. Georgian port Charlestown is protected by World Heritage Status, with the Pier House Hotel located on the waterfront. St Austell Brewery chief executive James Staughton told Business Cornwall: “It’s no secret the Pier House has long been on our wish-list. It is a remarkable building in a unique setting and the Morcom family has done an amazing job maintaining it at such a high standard for so many years. We will certainly continue their legacy of working to provide the highest standard of service to locals and visitors alike.”

Smashburger co-founder steps up to replace departing chief executive: Better burger brand Smashburger has replaced Michael Nolan as chief executive, with co-founder Tom Ryan stepping up from his chief brand officer role to replace him. Nolan only took up the chief executive role nine months ago, following Scott Crane’s resignation, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. Nolan joined Smashburger from Corner Bakery Cafe, where he was chief development officer. He also held executive positions at Bloomin’ Brands and Panera Bread Co. Founded in 2007, Smashburger operates 375 sites. Philippines-based Jollibee Foods Corp acquired a 40% stake in Smashburger last year.

Warwickshire brewer Purity reports sales up 33%: Warwickshire brewer Purity has reported sales this year are up 33% to £7.85m, while Ebitda has more than trebled during the past two years to £1.07m. The company, launched in 2005 by Paul Halsey and James Minkin, said the success had been characterised by continued expansion in the independent free trade market, its national managed on-trade and further strong performances in its national off-trade. As Purity looks towards further growth, the business is preparing to invest in new equipment, capacity and staff. It is on target to brew more than 30,000 brewers’ barrels or 8.6 million pints this coming year. Halsey told The Business Desk: “As the industry continues to face its challenges, we’ll continue to innovate to ensure our beers stand out in a highly competitive market. Our beer delivers excellent sales and this means our customers can confidently give their increasingly knowledgeable and discerning consumers exactly what they deserve – consistently great beer crafted with a conscience.”

Temple of Seitan to open permanent site as London’s first 100% vegan fried chicken shop: Temple of Seitan, which has appeared as a pop-up at various events in the capital, is set to open a permanent site early next month that will be London’s first 100% vegan fried chicken shop. Aimed at vegans and vegetarians who feel they have missed out on the delights of KFC and other grab-and-go chicken brands, the new venue in Hackney will offer dishes featuring all-vegan brand seitan – a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. Temple of Seitan is due to launch in January and will offer vegan fried chicken in sandwiches, tubs and chopped into mac ‘n’ cheese. Temple of Seitan told Metro: “We’ll be opening London’s (and maybe the world’s) first 100% vegan chicken shop. We’re looking forward to providing a vegan alternative for Londoners craving a bit of takeaway.”

The Cheesecake Factory developing fast-casual restaurant concept: The Cheesecake Factory is developing its own fast-casual restaurant concept and will add a second RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen site in 2017. The company has predicted incremental growth with those efforts, along with investments last month in the North Italia and Flower Child concepts. It has revealed few details about the fast-casual concept in creation, which is “being developed internally”. For the third quarter ending 27 September, The Cheesecake Factory reported like-for-like sales increased 1.7% compared with last year, with revenue up to $560m from $526.7m the year before. The company sees “measured growth” for its casual-dining RockSugar concept, which Cheesecake launched in 2008 in Los Angeles, and the 13-strong Grand Lux Café. The company plans to open eight or nine new restaurants in the coming year. It added that North Italia, a nine-site modern Italian casual-dining concept, offered Cheesecake “a number of synergistic attributes, including operations and real estate development, as well as significant white space for an on-trend Italian offering”, while the five-strong Flower Child gave the company a “potential opportunity to diversify our portfolio in a strong and growing niche”. The company said if they met certain performance criteria, it would potentially acquire a majority or full ownership interest in either or both concepts. The company has 194 Cheesecake Factory sites in the US and Puerto Rico, 13 Grand Lux Café outlets and one RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen. Internationally, Cheesecake licenses 13 restaurants in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

Italian chef to bring Al Mattarello brand to London: Italian chef Antonio Chiodo, who operates two Al Mattarello restaurants in Bologna, is set to bring the brand to the UK next year. The venue is set to open in Middlesex Street, Aldgate, in March 2017. The company’s website states: “In a family environment, we create traditional home cooking and offer customers a rich mix of flavours, originality and courtesy, accompanied by a good glass of wine from our cellar.” Al Matterello translates as “rolling pin”.

Numis Securities – ‘SSP is ahead of plan and has long runway in front’: Numis Securities leisure analyst Tim Barrett has said SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, is ahead of plan and has a long runway in front. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 430p, Barrett said: “Management expects 2% like-for-like sales growth and 2% from net new wins in FY17. The former would be a small deceleration from 3% in FY16 and, sensibly, assumes no recovery in central Europe. Initiatives such as product ranging, premiumisation etc should drive like-for-like sales, bolstering growth in air and rail passengers. The business signed more than 100 new units to its pipeline in FY16, with notable wins in Dusseldorf and Phuket airports. We estimate this implies about 5% space growth prior to any non-renewed business (historically about 2.5%). SSP grew Ebitda margins by 80 basis points in FY16, taking the cumulative increase since initial public offering in 2014 to 180 basis points. At 10.1%, margins are now 50 basis points below prior peak. However, management does not see this as a ceiling, identifying specific upside on general manager, labour efficiency and overheads. Headwinds such as National Living Wage in the UK and food price inflation are being dealt with but will offset some cost savings. These amount to 20 to 30 basis points in aggregate, meaning our net margin assumption of +20 basis points is still conservative in our view. By region, the UK’s Ebit margin is now 8.9%, materially ahead of group average at 6.1%). In the short term we see scope for catch up in central Europe (7.5%) as initiatives such as ‘Better Service Planning’ are extended from the UK. After the results, we upgraded FY17 earnings per share by 4%; assuming 4% constant currency sales growth and margins +20 basis points gives earnings per share growth of 17%. Adjusting for the acquisition of Travel Food Services gives net debt/Ebitda of 1.2 times, falling to 0.8 times in FY18. This leaves scope for increased returns to shareholders, either via the payout ratio (currently 35%) or share buybacks. Our FY18 assumptions are 4.3% organic growth and margins +30 basis points. SSP trades on a CY17 price-to-earnings ratio of 19.5 times, EV/Ebitda of 8.6 times and free cash flow yield of 7% (8.8% pre-growth capex). Given the prospect of multi-year margin recovery, we favour a discounted cash flow and assume Ebitda margins peak at 10.9% in the long run. This supports our target price of 430p and our ‘Buy’ recommendation.”

Staycity appoints UK development director: Dublin-based aparthotel operator Staycity has appointed Simon Walford as UK development director UK. Walford is the first of several senior appointments that will strengthen the company’s development team across Europe and play a pivotal part in achieving the growth strategy that will take it to 15,000 apartments by 2022. Walford, who will report to group development director Barry Hickey, joins the group from a similar position with German budget hotel company Motel One. He has also worked with Jurys Inn as head of development and estates, former Malmaison and Hotel Du Vin owner MWB, and pub operator Mitchells & Butlers. Walford said: “I’ll be working with landlords, developers and investors to acquire suitable premises in a number of UK cities. I’m looking forward to being part of the rapid growth and development of what has become one of the leading aparthotel brands.” Staycity is keen to acquire leasehold properties in London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Glasgow, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, York, Birmingham and Leeds. During the next 12 months, the company will open three premises in the UK, including Manchester (182 apartments), London Covent Garden (106) and Liverpool (202) as well as two in France – Lyon (144) and Marseille (108). Staycity now has more than 3,000 apartments across eight major European cities.

Maybourne Hotel Group gets go-ahead for Britain’s biggest mega-basement development at Claridge’s: The Maybourne Hotel Group has been granted permission to build Britain’s biggest mega-basement at its five-star Mayfair hotel Claridge’s after planners ruled it would enhance London’s reputation as a luxury destination. The vast excavation will create almost 20,000 square feet of new floor space to house a swimming pool, spa, sauna, wine cellar, bakery and in-house chocolatier in five storeys beneath the venue. The proposal has been given the go-ahead despite Westminster Council’s clampdown on basement digs. Cllr Robert Davis, deputy leader and cabinet member for the built environment, told the Evening Standard: “Additional basements on an already major refurbishment of the historic Claridge’s hotel in a commercial part of the city was regarded as proportional given the enhancement to this world-famous, world-class hotel. In particular, the extended basement will provide a new spa, which will ensure Claridge’s remains a sophisticated, modern five-star hotel that can compete with global competition.”

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