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Tue 13th Dec 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Chipotle co-chief executive resigns: Chipotle Mexican Grill co-chief executive Monty Moran has resigned after a year of weak sales following a series of food safety outbreaks in 2015. Moran will retire from Chipotle in 2017 and has also stepped down from his seat on the company’s board of directors, effective immediately. Steve Ells, who had been co-chief executive, has taken over as the sole chief executive of the company he founded. Neil Flanzraich, lead director of Chipotle’s board, said: “Steve founded Chipotle more than 23 years ago with a powerful vision to use great ingredients prepared skillfully by hand but served very fast. This approach has proven to be a very successful formula but, as the company grew, operations became more complicated and less consistent. Given the ongoing challenges facing the company, the board felt it was best for Steve to resume leadership of the company. This will ensure his high standards for the guest experience and his unyielding commitment to the company’s mission are top priorities.” Chipotle had experienced almost unfettered growth for more than two decades and especially since its 2006 initial public offering – until late last year when an E. coli outbreak and other food safety issues sent its traffic, sales, profits and stock price tumbling. The company’s like-for-like sales have struggled to recover all year, even though Chipotle gave away free burritos and started its first loyalty programme. Like-for-like sales on a two-year basis have fallen 19.3% in each of the first three quarters this year.

Industry News:

Itinerary unveiled for third Craft Beer Retail Study Tour: The itinerary has been unveiled for the third Propel and Thinking Drinkers Craft Beer Retail Study Tour. The event, which this year focuses on east London, takes place on Thursday, 26 January and will visit six of London’s leading craft beer retailers and a cider specialist during the seven-hour tour. It starts at Urban Pubs and Bars’ ping-pong concept Bat and Ball at Westfield Stratford. The tour will then visit Tap East in Stratford, the brewpub operated by Mike Hill and Richard Dinwoodie, the duo previously behind Utobeer. The next stop will be Mason & Company, a specialist craft beer bar and deli at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The tour will then head to brewery and pizza venue Crate Brewery and fresh tank beer venue Howling Hops, both based at Queen’s Yard. It will continue to artisan pizza and cider brand The Stable, which is 76% owned by Fuller’s, in Whitechapel before finishing at Dinerama in Great Eastern Street, the street food craft beer concept run by Henry Dimbleby and Jonathan Downey. The tour will again be led by Thinking Drinkers, award-winning beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, who will provide the latest craft beer facts and figures, market segmentation and analysis, and spot up-and-coming trends. 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com to book or for more details.

Host of companies sign up for Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass: A host of companies have signed up for the Advanced Marketing and Insights Masterclass. They include Dirty Martini, FrogPubs, Eclectic Bars, Enterprise Inns, Star Pubs & Bars, Le Bistrot Pierre, Thai Leisure Group, 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 Pubs, 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Number of pubs and bars going insolvent drops 7% thanks to investment in craft beer, high-quality food and trendy refurbishments: Investment in craft beer, high-quality food and trendy refurbishments is helping save the UK’s pubs from insolvency. The number of pubs and bars unable to pay their debts has dropped 7% – from 521 to 480 in just one year – leisure sector lender Ortus Secured Finance has reported. During the past three years, the rate of pub and bar companies going insolvent has dropped by 16% because of alternative finance options that allow pubs to invest in “growing trends in public demand” such as craft beer and food offerings, it said. It added that not only does better availability to debt help pubs invest in a wider range of suppliers, but it also contributes to pub renovations such as “interior designer” beer gardens or roofs and better food offerings, from which pub operators like Marston’s have found success. In the UK, there is a large demographic of people who are happy to pay for super-premium drinks, said Ortus Secured Finance managing director Jon Salisbury. He told City AM: “Successfully tap into that super-premium market and you can transform your margins. A £5 pint no longer raises eyebrows.” For every £4 spent on beer in London, £1 was spent on a super-premium beer, according to research from UK brewer Miller Brand. When consumers are willing to spend more on premium alcohol, they are also more likely to pay for high-quality food, a trend that helps smaller pubs in particular. Salisbury said: “For small pub and bar companies especially, it’s crucial they have access to alternative finance providers who are able to help them invest in their business – helping them become direct competitors of the larger, more well-known pub brands.”

London hotel market sees highest absolute revpar rate for November since 1994: The London hotel market saw its highest absolute revpar rate for a November since 1994, according to new research. STR’s preliminary November data showed revpar increased to £131.78 compared with the previous year, while a 5.4% increase in occupancy to 86.1% was the largest growth since July 2013. Average daily rate was up 2.6% to £153.07, while there was a year-on-year increase in demand of 8.5% and supply by 3%. STR analysts noted the results were in comparison with November 2015, when London’s hotel market experienced an aftershock following the terror attacks in Paris.

Company News:

SSP starts expansion of James Martin Kitchen with two new sites: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has started the expansion of James Martin Kitchen with two new sites. The brand, which made its debut at London Stansted airport in 2015, has now opened at Manchester Piccadilly railway station and Debenhams at the Intu Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. With its roots firmly in the farms of Britain, James Martin Kitchen is a premium bakery that offers a combination of fresh farm ingredients and quality baking in a cafe setting. SSP UK chief executive Simon Smith said: “James Martin Kitchen is a brand that passengers love and our clients want. It’s already been a big hit at Stansted, and we are confident that it will be equally as well received at Manchester and Lakeside. It’s a brand that has been developed to have the flexibility to perform well in a range of channels – whether that’s an airport, a railway station or a shopping centre.” Sam Shutt, head of external business – food at Debenhams, added: “The opening of the James Martin Kitchen represents a significant step forward in our desire to provide an exciting, quality, affordable premium food offer, for both our valued and loyal customers of today, whilst reaching out to a new customer audience for the future. Debenhams is pleased to be offering the first James Martin Kitchen outside of the travel retail sector.” Network Rail Property head of retail Daniel Charles said: “We are delighted to welcome the very first James Martin Kitchen at a railway station, which supports our continuing aspiration to enhance the customer experience and grow the retail offer at our stations as they become destinations in their own right. This concept will further improve the quality and range of food on offer to the 40 million passengers who travel through Manchester Piccadilly station every year.”

Wasabi partners with Perkbox to launch incentives, rewards and engagement programme for staff: London-based sushi and bento business Wasabi has partnered with employee and customer engagement provider Perkbox to launch a new incentives, rewards and engagement programme for its employees. As part of its continuing commitment to improve retention and loyalty, Wasabi will now provide its staff with free and exclusive access to more than 200 perks. Benefits include up to 8% off at 20,000 retail stores and 50 nationwide brands, two-for-one or 50% off in more than 6,500 restaurants with a free Tastecard, free mobile phone insurance, heavily discounted theatre tickets and attraction day passes, and discounted MOTs. Fresh perks will be added to the platform regularly and employees will be able to redeem these round the clock via their own dedicated account. Staff will also have access to an engagement platform that is designed to enhance financial, emotional and physical wellbeing. This includes a wellness hub of professionally made online classes in yoga, healthy cooking, exercise and meditation, a 24-hour assistance helpline, and financial advice. The company will be able to track return on investment via an online dashboard, which highlights how many staff are actively using the platform and how much money they have saved. Wasabi HR director Nina Göthberg said: “Our sushi makes us special, but it’s our great team that helps us to stand head and shoulders above our competition. Perkbox is the perfect partnership to support us in nurturing talent from within the Wasabi family. We are confident that investing in employees will help us to maintain the high levels of efficiency and customer service we pride ourselves on, especially as we grow within the UK and beyond.”

Ennismore opens first permanent site for Breddos Tacos joint venture, in Clerkenwell: Glenagles owner Ennismore has opened the first permanent site for Mexican street food concept Breddos Tacos – its joint venture with founders Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney – in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell. The lunchtime menu features tacos, tostadas and tortilla-based Mexican pizzas (tlayudas) alongside Yucatan grilled fish and salsa verde with chicharrón – Mexico’s answer to pork scratchings. Breakfast choices include blueberry churro French toast and Austin-style tacos, Hot Dinners reports, while evening mains include spit roast Iberico pork al pastor with roasted pineapple, sea urchin tostadas, mutton barbacoa and beef rib birria. Diners are encouraged to choose vinyl records from a considerable collection to provide background music. Dudhia and Whitney began Breddos Tacos as a “makeshift taco shack” in a Hackney car park in 2011. On the restaurant’s website, they state: “Our food is influenced by the hundreds of roadside taquerias and restaurants we have encountered on our travels throughout America and Mexico, while utilising the best of British produce.” Earlier this month, Ennismore launched its Tandoor Chop House concept in Covent Garden.

Bundobust to open second site on Wednesday, in Manchester: Indian street food kitchen and craft beer bar Bundobust will start expansion with the opening of its second site, this time in Manchester. The company will open its 4,000 square foot venue – 150% bigger than its outlet in Leeds – on Wednesday (14 December) in a basement in Piccadilly, formerly home to all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant Buffet Metro. The decor at the 140-capacity venue is industrial, with glazed white brick walls, canteen and booth-style seating, and natural light provided by a huge skylight. Bespoke artworks reference Manchester’s industrial past, while original Bollywood posters adorn the walls. The menu will centre on south Indian street snacks. The beer selection will feature 14 keg beers and a handful of cask ales on rotation, as well as bottled beers, with one permanent line dedicated to city centre brewery Cloudwater. Two specially designated cask lines are reserved for Manchester breweries and will rotate regularly. Bundobust was founded by Mayur Patel, whose vegetarian restaurant Prashad was runner-up in Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant TV series in 2010, and Mark Husak, of Bradford bar The Sparrow Bier Cafe. Husak said: “We’re excited to be opening our doors in Manchester!  It’s a great city with a lot going on. It has many similarities to Leeds in the fact that independent bars, restaurants and culture are flourishing, but it is a wonderful and unique city in its own right. I love the architecture and the place has a real energy and buzz about it. We think our location is perfect. We are tucked away in a basement but we are right in the middle of the Northern Quarter and the high footfall area of Piccadilly Gardens.”

Bistrot Pierre strengthens senior team with new group executive chef: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre has strengthened its senior management team with the appointment of a new group executive chef and head of development. Adam Townsley, who has more than 15 years’ experience in the hospitality and catering industry, has worked all over the world, including running a restaurant in France that was featured in the Michelin Good Food Guide, having trained in his native Sydney. He will spend time across the group’s 17 sites, continuing to build on the success Bistrot Pierre has had during its 22-year history. Townsley said: “The group’s existing model has proven to be very successful – excellent-quality French cuisine at a price point suitable for the casual dining market. My passion is in provincial cooking – light, French dishes that utilise fresh ingredients – and I am keen to create dishes which are true to the French original; using traditional cooking methods and beautiful presentation.” Bistrot Pierre, founded by Rob Beacham and John Whitehead, has opened three restaurants this year – in Birmingham, Weston-Super-Mare and Altrincham. Whitehead said: “With Adam’s experienced background, we’re sure his insights into the food industry and knowledge of French cooking will further develop our menus and continue to improve the dining experience for our loyal diners. The restaurant industry is constantly changing and, as an established group, it’s important we’re able to adapt and ensure our offering is relevant and suitable for the modern market.” Bistrot Pierre received £9.8m from private equity firm Livingbridge last year to support its expansion plans.

JW Lees launches rotisserie and carvery concept following Oldham pub refurbishment: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees has launched a rotisserie and carvery concept following the refurbishment of its Boat & Horses pub in Oldham. The pub in Broadway features chicken rotisserie ovens and a new menu. Dishes include chicken flavoured with a choice of glazes, roasted chicken wings and pork ribs, British classics such as fish and chips, and a carvery with a daily choice of roasted meat. The refurbishment includes an extensive makeover of the bar, dining area and tap room. Manager Hayley Cox told the Oldham Chronicle: “We love our new-look pub and menu and we’ve had some amazing feedback from guests about the rotisserie chicken.”

Punch commercial director to retire as company introduces new structure: Punch commercial director John Healy has decided to retire as the company introduces a new structure. Healy, who will leave on 6 April, will retain overall responsibility for the Punch commercial team until the end of this calendar year. From the start of 2017, the commercial team will report to marketing director Neil Macgeorge along with the existing marketing team. Healy will provide a supporting role to the new structure along with finalising the company’s new distribution contract while developing and agreeing future transition plans for this area. Punch chief executive Duncan Garrood said: “John is a dedicated member of the executive board and has made a hugely valuable contribution to the business over many years. All of us at Punch thank him for his contribution and wish him all the very best for his future retirement plans.”

Jimmy Garcia launches diner concept at historic London ice rink: Jimmy Garcia, who owns catering and events company Jimmy’s Pop-up, has launched a diner concept at London’s historic Queens ice rink. The venue in Queensway, near Hyde Park, has reopened following a refurbishment that also includes the addition of two bars and a 12-lane bowling alley. Jimmy’s Diner offers a build-your-own-burger option at the 45,000 square foot Queens: Skate-Dine-Bowl venue. The menu also includes sticky bangers (honey and mustard-glazed Old Spot pork and apple sausages), lobster hotdogs, and Garcia’s take on ribs, mac ‘n’ cheese, and fish and chips. The bars offer classic and signature cocktails, craft beer, wine, spirits and “boozy milkshakes”. Visitors to the bowling alley can have cocktails, beer and sharing dishes delivered to their booths. The venue also offers a retro arcade featuring games such as Pac-Man, Asteroids, air hockey and table football, as well as a pop-up cinema. Built in 1930, Queens is the only permanent ice rink in central London.

Celebrity nightclub Paper to return to London after eight-year absence with new Soho home: Celebrity nightclub Paper is to return to London after an eight-year absence with a new Soho home. The club closed in January 2009 when its Piccadilly landlord redeveloped its Regent Street base. In a boost to London’s nightclub industry, Paper will reopen in the new year in Wardour Street at a site formerly occupied by Peter Stringfellow’s Angels club. More than £1m is being spent on creating the club in the basement and a ground-floor cocktail bar called Dirty Harry’s. Co-founder Malcolm Farquharson has signed a five-year lease on the 10,000 square foot site near the junction with Oxford Street. He told the Evening Standard: “Despite the Brexit vote, the West End is as buzzing as ever and even more busy as tourists head over attracted by the weak pound. People still want to go out and party, from students to bankers. The referendum result has not impacted our decision to invest.” Jonathan Moradoff, a director at agent Davis Coffer Lyons, which advised on the deal, added: “Farquharson’s experience in the high-end nightclub sector means he is ideally placed to create one of central London’s most exciting new late-night venues in keeping with the massive revival of this part of Soho.” The original Paper closed after the Cafe Royal building where it was based was turned into a five-star hotel. The owners had struggled to find a new home until Angels closed. Stringfellow is focusing on his eponymous Covent Garden club.

Lincolnshire-based restaurateur launches third site: Lincolnshire-based restaurateur Jax Hussein has launched his third site, in Waltham. Hussein has opened Italian Affair at the site of the former Fourteen restaurant in High Street. Italian Affair revives the name of a former Lincolnshire venue that was run by Mario and Vito Cataffo. Vito achieved national acclaim in Channel 4 series Dolce Vito, in which he established a restaurant serving British food in Bologna. He passed away at his Lincoln home in 2010. The new business is led by operations manager Theo Lacatus, a chef with 35 years’ experience who has been working in Italy for the past decade. The venue features an outdoor terrace and separate bar and offers a range of traditional Italian and regional dishes. A spokesman told the Grimsby Telegraph: “Everyone still talks about Italian Affair and we want the legacy of Mario and Vito to carry on. We want to bring back memories. We put 100% behind everything we do and everything we have done up to now has been well supported. We have been working with local people who have been crying out for a good Italian.” Hussein also operates Indian restaurant Mumbai Blues in Waltham and bar restaurant Lids Tapas and Cocktails in Grimsby.

Former Greene King pub managers launch bar and restaurant concept in Southport: Former Greene King pub managers Sinclair and Laura d’Albuquerque have launched a bar and restaurant concept in Southport, Merseyside. Following an extensive refurbishment, the couple have reopened Rueters Bar & Brasserie in Hoghton Street, which closed suddenly in October. The d’Albuquerques ran the Greene-King owned Bold Arms in Churchtown for four years but have now taken on their first venture. Laura d’Albuquerque told the Southport Visiter: “It’s been a lot of hard work – but totally worth it.”

Windsor-based cafe and bakery concept Heidi starts expansion with second site: Windsor-based cafe and bakery concept Heidi has started expansion by opening a second site, this time in Farnham, Surrey. The 70-cover restaurant is on the first floor of Elphicks department store in West Street and features the same live bakery concept as the debut site, Get Surrey reports. The concept features homemade cakes, savouries and pastries, with coffee provided by Lavazza. Customers can also watch the food being made.

Adria Wu to open second Maple & Co site, in King’s Cross: Canadian chef Adria Wu is to open her second site under the Maple & Co umbrella, this time in King’s Cross. Wu, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, will launch Maple & King’s in Pancras Square early next year. The brand opened its first site – Maple & Fitz – in Fitzrovia in 2015. The new venue will serve breakfast and lunch on weekdays, with the addition of weekend brunches and pop-up supper clubs on select evenings. Maple & King’s weekday menu will encompass breakfast and lunch, while there will also be cold-pressed juices, a smoothie bar and a gluten-free bake shop. A first for Maple & Co, the new brunch menu will see Maple & King’s open at the weekends. Superfood cocktails, including a cold-pressed beetroot mojito and raw coconut matcha colada, will complement dishes such as gluten-free rhubarb and pomegranate oat pancakes with coconut yogurt and maple vegan butter. The interior decor will be white with matt copper touches, reclaimed oak and marble. A mezzanine, seating up to 33 covers, will overlook Pancras Square and an al fresco suntrap seating 12. Copper fittings and wire maple leaves will be softened with grey leather banquettes. Wu said: “We have been overwhelmed with support from our customers in Fitzrovia and I’m so excited for this next chapter for Maple. King’s Cross has become such a dynamic area in recent years, with some of the biggest brands in the world sitting alongside independent startups. I look forward to becoming part of such a lively community in 2017.”

Koh Thai Tapas opens 12th restaurant, in Lymington: Koh Thai Tapas has opened its 12th restaurant, this time in Lymington, Hampshire. The 100-cover venue is in a grade II-listed building in High Street and has room for a further 80 diners outside. Founder and chief executive Andrew Lennox told the Daily Echo: “We know we have a fan base of loyal customers in Lymington who have been visiting our Ringwood and Christchurch branches. The site itself is extraordinary, with bags of character and an outdoor space that will set us apart from competitors.” Last month, Dorset-based Koh Group, owner of the Koh Thai Tapas brand, was acquired by its management team with the backing of private equity investor Alcuin Capital Partners. Lennox led the buyout with equity invested by Alcuin alongside development capital to support its future roll-out. The first Koh Thai Tapas restaurant launched in Boscombe in 2009, with further openings in Bath, Bournemouth, Bristol, Christchurch, Poole, Ringwood, Romsey, Salisbury, Southsea and Winchester.

New ale room and wine bar concept launches in Warwickshire village: A new ale room and wine bar concept has opened in a Warwickshire village. Mark Caldicott has launched the Ale Rooms in Knowle High Street on the site of a former undertakers. The Ale Rooms offers a range of exclusively brewed beer, cask ale, wine and a beer takeaway service. Champagne, prosecco, artisan rum, gin and vodka, and premium bottled lager and cider are also served at the venue, with customers able to enjoy a range of pies from the Pieminister menu. Caldicott told The Business Desk: “I’ve wanted to run my own bar for a number of years so when the opportunity came to take the lease on this property I jumped at it. I know the area very well and am keen to provide a premium venue that will appeal to men and women who are looking to enjoy a drink with friends in a friendly, intimate setting.”

New ‘urban eatery’ concept opens in Hereford: A new “urban eatery” concept has opened in Hereford. Nicola Hassenpflug has launched Sensory and Rye in Commercial Street on the site of the former Rowberry & Son butchers. It offers coffee, craft beer and cider, breakfast, brunch, lunch, casual dinners and snacks. Hassenpflug told the Hereford Times: “I call it an urban eatery because cafe/restaurant doesn’t really fit. My background is urban design – I was a landscape architect. The term urban is quite meaningful to me.”

The Restaurant Group opens first Chiquito site in Cornwall: The Restaurant Group has opened the first site in Cornwall for its Tex-Mex brand Chiquito. The new restaurant is on the outskirts of Truro and is open daily from 9am. More than 80% of Chiquito’s dishes are made fresh in the restaurant, with offerings such as nachos, chilli poppers, burritos, fajitas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and steaks from the grill. There are also children’s and young adult’s menus, while the drinks list includes more than 50 cocktails and 20 tequilas. The Restaurant Group operates 79 Chiquito restaurants across the UK, with the nearest sites to Truro in Plymouth and Exeter.

Coaching Inn Group wins conference centre of the year award for Market Harborough hotel: Independent coaching inns operator The Coaching Inn Group has been awarded the Les Routiers Conference Centre of the Year 2017 Award for its Three Swans property in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Following a refurbishment programme that saw more than £1m invested in the property last year, the 59-bedroom Three Swans, which during its 500-year history has welcomed kings, queens, earls and bishops, received the award for continually meeting and exceeding expectations. Coaching Inn Group chief executive Kevin Charity said: “Our aim is to transform the fortunes of traditional coaching inns in busy market towns and, with our latest investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) helping support a £50m expansion, it gives us the opportunity to grow and invest in our estate. Following our acquisition of The Three Swans at the end of 2013, we invested more than £1m giving the property an extensive facelift last year. Feedback from our customers and staff has been tremendous and the relaxed atmosphere and facilities we offer has led to the popularity of our conference offering going from strength-to-strength.” Les Routiers’ Tina Griffiths added: “Conference Centre of the Year is awarded to members who consistently demonstrate exceptional levels of service and quality. Based on performance, customer feedback, reviews and recommendations, it is a mark of excellent cuisine, warm hospitality and value for money.” The Coaching Inn Group has 13 venues across the UK and has built a strong reputation in the industry for transforming the fortunes of traditional coaching inns in busy market towns. The company, which benefited from an initial investment of £4.5m from BGF in March 2015, secured a further £10m last week to support a £50m expansion plan, including a target of 25 sites before the end of March 2019.

Marston’s gets go-ahead for new-build pub at Bilston residential development: Marston’s has been given the go-ahead for a new-build pub at a residential development in Bilston, West Midlands. The company has had its plan for the site approved by City of Wolverhampton Council at the £176m Bilston Urban Village. It will sit between the Bert Williams Leisure Centre and Morrisons supermarket on land currently owned by the Homes and Communities Agency. The pub will cater for about 180 customers and a further 50 people outside. Marston’s acquisitions manager Tim Nash told the Express & Star: “We are really excited to be part of Bilston Urban Village and look forward to bringing a top-quality, family-led pub restaurant to the area.” Cllr John Reynolds, cabinet member for city economy, added: “Marston’s plans are excellent news that demonstrate the confidence in this significant scheme. It is another key milestone in fulfilling our aspirations for Bilston Urban Village.”

Mystery designs contemporary look for Kazakhstani Crêpe Café concept: Contemporary European cafe concept The Crêpe Café has launched in Kazakhstan, with a look designed by restaurant and brand design agency Mystery. The concept is the brainchild of Kazakhstani entrepreneur Adilet Zakiyev, who was seeking a sociable, fun and welcoming atmosphere at his debut restaurant in Astana. Kazakhstan is booming and showing a hunger for modern, European-style cuisine and western dining trends. Mystery specifically developed The Crêpe Café brand design to appeal to the “aspirational, fashionable and family-oriented demands of Astana”. The concept offers classic French savoury and sweet crêpes with a “Kazakh twist”. The Crêpe Café has been positioned at an affordable price point to attract the family market and the restaurant in Astana features a mini version of the main counter, which encourages children to make their crepes with help from parents and staff. The venue also features table-mat “selfie frames” that motivate customers to share branded selfies or food snaps via social media.

Spanish street food concept La Bandera starts expansion with second Manchester city centre site: Spanish street food restaurant La Bandera has started expansion with the opening of a second site in Manchester. La Bandera launched in The Ridgefield in 2014, becoming a firm favourite of Spanish players at Manchester United and Manchester City such as David Silva, Juan Mata and David De Gea. Now the owners have opened a second site, this time in the Arndale Centre’s newly relaunched food market. La Bandera At The Market is overseen by Alberto Ruiz Murillo, formerly of Michelin-starred chef David Muñoz’s StreetXo in Madrid. The new venue offers a “fresh, modern take on Spanish street food”, with snacks such as fried squid with lemon alioli in a squid ink black brioche bun, and Iberian pulled pork. La Bandera manager James Panepinto told Manchester Evening News: “Street food is a huge part of Spanish culture and we want to bring that to Manchester. Like the restaurant we serve fresh, high-quality food but in a more casual environment.”

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