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Tue 24th Jan 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

McDonald’s reports like-for-likes up 2.7% in fourth quarter: McDonald’s has reported global like-for-likes rose 2.7% in its fourth quarter to 31 December 2016. Chief executive Steve Easterbrook said: “Throughout 2016, we worked diligently to lay the groundwork for our long-term future. We focused on driving changes in our menu, restaurants and technology to deliver an enhanced McDonald’s experience for our customers around the world. We applied the necessary rigour and discipline to strengthen the company and our financial performance. Our efforts yielded a more streamlined and focused organisation that generated solid fourth-quarter and full-year results, including our strongest annual global comparable sales growth since 2011 along with record franchisee cash flows in many of our major markets.” Fourth quarter like-for-like sales declined 1.3% in the US, reflecting the challenging comparison against the prior-year launch of the all-day breakfast. Like-for-like sales for the ‘International Lead’ segment increased 2.8% for the quarter, reflecting strong like-for-like sales growth across most of the segment, ‘led by the UK’. Fourth quarter operating income for the segment increased 1% (6% in constant currencies), fuelled by sales-driven improvements in franchised margin dollars across most markets. Fourth quarter like-for-like sales increased 4.7% in the high growth segment led by strong performance in China and positive results across the entire segment. The segment’s operating income rose 16% (18% in constant currencies), driven primarily by improved restaurant profitability in China, which benefited from recent VAT reform. Fourth quarter like-for-like sales rose 11.1% in the ‘Foundational’ markets, led by very strong performance in Japan and certain markets in Latin America, as well as solid results across the segment’s remaining geographic regions. For the segment, which includes Corporate SG&A and other costs, operating income increased for the quarter. These results primarily reflect a gain from the sale of McDonald’s Singapore in connection with the company’s refranchising initiatives, as well as improved performance in Japan.” Easterbrook added: “For McDonald’s, 2016 was a year of purposeful change as we focused on the key elements of our turnaround plan – strengthening our business to drive long-term sustainable growth by sharpening our focus on our customers, right-sizing our structure and putting the right talent in place to lead the company into the future. I’m confident we are well positioned to transition to a longer-term focus in 2017. Our refranchising efforts and financial discipline will enable us to direct our capital and G&A resources towards new strategic opportunities to deliver on our long-term strategy. We look forward to providing further details on our strategy and financial targets later this quarter. As we begin the first quarter of 2017, we are mindful of the comparison we face against first quarter 2016 results, which benefited from a leap year, favourable weather and continued momentum from all-day breakfast in the US.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Busaba Eathai’s Jason Myers to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is now open for bookings. Jason Myers, chief executive of Busaba Eathai, the concept created by Alan Yau, will talk about evolving the brand, staff recruitment and retention, prospects for the Thai market, brand longevity, and developing the company’s delivery and takeaway business. The full-day conference takes place on Thursday, 9 March at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places. Email Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com to book a place.

Nottingham leisure complex The Cornerhouse sells for £65m: Nottingham leisure complex The Cornerhouse has been sold by owner Land Securities for £65m. Commercial property investment firm Orchard Street Investment Management has bought the 201,000 square foot complex. The asset was acquired on behalf of St James’s Place UK. The Cornerhouse is anchored by a 14-screen Cineworld as well as providing 11 restaurants, two bars, a nightclub and a casino. Tenants include Nando’s, Wagamama and TGI Friday’s as well as Revolution Bars Group, Stonegate Pub Company and Genting Casinos. Orchard Street Investment Management partner Barney Rowe said: “The Cornerhouse is a strong leisure asset with an impressive line-up of tenants, located in a city centre that is underpinned by strong demographic trends, including urbanisation and a flourishing university population. We are very pleased to increase our exposure to this ever more popular subsector, where we are confident we can extract value over the long term.” Polly Troughton, head of portfolio, leisure, at Land Securities, added: “The sale of the Cornerhouse capitalises on the increased rental value we have created following our asset management strategy.” Orchard Street was advised by Savills, while Land Securities was advised by JLL.

Average UK hotel room rates fall 12% in 2016: The average UK hotel room rate fell almost 12% in 2016 compared with the previous year, according to the latest study by hotel reservation service HRS. Andy Besent, managing director of HRS UK and Ireland, blamed the Brexit fallout for hitting prices, adding that the industry should brace itself for the “full impact of Brexit later this year”. London suffered a 9% drop in rates from 2015, with rooms costing £150 a night last year. It remained the UK’s most expensive destination and second most expensive in Europe. Across the rest of the UK, Edinburgh (£107) and Manchester (£102) were the second and third most expensive destinations in the UK. Comparing London’s room rates with those in some of Europe’s major cities, the UK capital fell from its top spot in 2015, with Zurich named the most expensive destination last year – its rooms averaging £152 a night. Istanbul saw the biggest rate drop from 2015 – nearly 18% – to £65 a night in 2016, a price matched only by Warsaw as the joint cheapest major European city in which to stay. Besent told BBT: “The fallout of the Brexit vote from 2016 is likely to have had a knock-on effect on the average room rates of hotels in the UK. However, the hotel industry should be prepared further as we brace ourselves for what might be the full impact of Brexit later this year, and also the performance of the British pound against the euro.”

Starbucks to expand benefits for new parents: Starbucks will expand benefits for new parents later this year, with the policy applying to all non-birth parents, including same-sex spouses, foster, and adoptive parents. From 1 October 2017, store-employee birth mothers will be eligible for six weeks of 100% paid leave, compared with the current benefit of 67% of average pay and 12 weeks of unpaid leave. To be eligible, employees must work a minimum of 20 hours a week, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. In addition, Starbucks will offer store-employee fathers, spouses, foster parents and adoptive parents the option of 12 weeks’ unpaid leave. District managers and others considered “non-store employees” who are birth mothers will be eligible for up to 18 weeks of 100% paid leave. Non-store employees who are not birth mothers, such as spouses or foster or adoptive parents, will be eligible to take 12 weeks of paid leave at 100% pay. Those 12 weeks are currently unpaid. Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and chief operating officer, stated on the company’s benefits website: “While we have made substantial investments in our partners (staff), we want to continue to do more. This is one of many steps we are actively taking to evolve our benefits and create a partner experience that lives up to our aspirations.” Johnson will take over as Starbucks chief executive in April when chairman Howard Schultz steps down from the role.

BBPA – industrial strategy can boost investment and skills in beer and pubs: BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds has welcomed the launch of the Modern Industrial Strategy by prime minister Teresa May. Simmonds said: “I very much welcome the strategy and its focus on skills and investment. With the right tax policies, in particular a cut in beer duty and a fairer business rates regime, there is great potential for investment that boosts beer exports, as well as the pub estate, with huge potential benefits for our tourism industry. The brewing industry and the great British pub already contribute £23bn to the UK economy and support 900,000 jobs, and we can be an engine for future growth. We look forward to contributing to the consultation and working with the government and other partners to maximise the opportunities for our world-leading UK brewers.” 

Company News:

Rosa’s Thai Cafe to open eighth site next month, in Brixton: Rosa’s Thai Cafe, which aims to combine “modern London with modern Bangkok”, will open its eighth site next month, in Brixton. The company, founded by Alex and Saiphin Moore in Brick Lane in 2006, will open the two-storey, 74-cover restaurant and bar in Atlantic Road on Tuesday, 28 February. The site’s decor will take inspiration from Brixton’s “history and character” and feature a mural that will dominate the site’s interior, with the piece designed to reflect the area’s vibrancy and diversity. Meanwhile, the exterior will take influence from the post office that used to stand in the same road. The restaurant will feature a range of new, seasonal dishes such as baked seafood red curry as well as stir-fried mussels in a spicy and zingy mixed-herb sauce. The drinks menu will offer Thai beer and bottled cocktails and loose-leaf teas from Comins Tea House alongside Brixton Brewery’s Atlantic APA and Electric IPA, which will be available exclusively at the new site. The other Rosa’s Thai Cafes are in Carnaby Street, Chelsea, Islington, Soho, Spitalfields, Victoria, and Westfield Stratford.

M&B to reopen Dulwich pub in March or early April: Mitchells & Butlers is to reopen the Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich village in late March or early April – three years after planning consent was granted to add a 20-bedroom hotel to the site. The pub will sit within the company’s Castle segment of iconic pubs. A Facebook note stated: “I understand frustrations and we are working hard to try to bring about the opening as soon as possible.”

Hippo Inns to pair with Truman’s to launch eighth site, in Notting Hill: Hippo Inns, the joint venture between Enterprise Inns and Geronimo Inns founder Rupert Clevely, will open its eighth venture – The Eagle in Notting Hill – in the spring. The venue has historically been a Truman’s pub and Hippo Inns has paired with the London brewer to exclusively offer unpasteurised Truman’s Raw Tank beer, with regulars allowed to have their own tankard kept behind the bar. The all-day menu, created by head chef Stan Perry, formerly of Soho House, will offer a mixture of British classics with a Bavarian twist. Dishes will include crispy knuckle of pork with fried potato dumplings, and chicken schnitzel with fried duck egg. Staff will wear traditional beer aprons, while the venue will offer regular food and beer tastings. The Eagle will be set over two floors, with a dedicated Truman’s bar upstairs featuring an open fire, original features and Truman’s tanks. Clevely said: “We are delighted to be working with Truman’s, another great London brand known for its exceptionally fresh beer that will offer our guests an exclusive taste of London’s history.” Truman’s Brewery chief executive James Morgan added: “We’re delighted to be working closely with Rupert and his team at Hippo Inns to bring our brewery-fresh Truman’s Raw beer to the drinkers of London for the first time. The fact the Eagle was originally a Truman’s pub is the icing on the cake.” Hippo Inns will open its seventh site in the spring when it relaunches The Colton Arms in Barons Court, west London. Hippo Inns was formed in 2015. Its other sites include The Duke of Sussex in Waterloo and The Black Horse in Kingston.

Jefferies publishes ‘Buy’ rating on SSP stock: Analysts at Jefferies have upgraded SSP Group to a ‘Buy’ rating based on the food and drink concession operator’s “solid potential” from structural changes in the US and UK. The investment bank, which upped its target price to 450p, carried out consumer research that found a willingness to pay a premium at airports and stations. Falling average “dwell times” in UK rail facilities are expected to benefit SSP, which operates at least half of the concessions in the country’s five busiest stations, as “when in a rush and consumers have a choice, 53% are more likely to pick a brand of restaurant or food/drink retailer they are familiar with”. In the US, the opportunity is in airports, where change is afoot driven by the dissatisfaction of local authorities with the current levels of service. Currently, Autogrill is number one in North American airports, with about eight times more revenue than SSP, partly due to the legacy monopolistic system in place at US airports. Jefferies stated: “We estimate circa 10% of revenue is renewed each year and, as it pushes its proven localised and 400-plus brand model, SSP has more to gain in our estimated £5.5bn US market.” Along with product optimisation that could lift gross margins above 70% in the medium term, analysts calculate almost 8% compound annual growth in revenue between 2016 and 2019 and reckon SSP trades at discounts to peers with its forecast per earnings ratio of 21.5 for 2017 falling to 19.3 for 2018. 

Star Pubs & Bars launches new coffee package for licensees: Star Pubs & Bars, the pub division of Heineken, has negotiated a coffee support deal for its licensees with Glasgow-based roastery company Matthew Algie. The package has been crafted to help licensees increase sales and profits through a more premium coffee offering, which includes a choice of beans and machines suited to different pubs as well as pub-specific advice on building their coffee business. The package will offer a choice of three sustainably sourced coffees – including two organic blends – covering filter, bean-to-cup and barista serves. Compact machines will be available so licensees tight on space can accommodate them on the bar. As part of the coffee package, licensees will receive training and three visits a year from Matthew Algie, which will provide category sector insight and best practice on extending their range and maximising sales. Term lengths are 12 months to give licensees maximum flexibility. The package is optional for licensees and Star Pubs & Bars will receive no commission on sales. The company said it saw coffee as key to enabling pubs to establish an all-day trade and bring in new income. It also believed there is untapped potential for pubs to adopt coffee shop and restaurant techniques such as offering seasonal coffees and takeaway options and routinely suggesting coffee after dining. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “Coffee is one of the highest gross profit income streams for pubs. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’. All pubs should have a good offer as it has a real role to play in creating a sustainable business. Customers are used to getting great coffee in town centre cafes and now want comparable quality on their doorstep at their local. Coffee is a focal point for us when undertaking refurbishments. One of our latest community developments, Bird I’th Hand in Urmston, reported coffee sales of £2,000 in the first month alone.”

Parisian restaurant Ferdi opens sister site in Mayfair: Parisian restaurant Ferdi has opened a sister site, in Mayfair. The concept, launched in the French capital in 2004, has opened in Shepherd Market. Created by Alicia and Jacques Fontanier, the brand is named after their son Ferdinand and the Paris venue has become renowned as a hangout for designers, models and celebrities. The menu includes the Mac Ferdi cheeseburger, while there is also an extensive cocktail list. The restaurant has room for 28 diners inside and another eight outside. Lunch is by walk-in only, while Ferdi will take reservations for dinner by text. The Fontaniers told Hot Dinners: “The opportunity arose (to open a venue in London) and we decided, why not? We already had a lot of Ferdi Paris clients living in London so it seemed like the perfect place. This spot reminded us a lot of the Paris location – small and cozy and in a great area.” Ferdi is open daily from midday to 2.30pm and for dinner from 5.30pm to 11.30pm.

Naughty Piglets to open theatre restaurant co-run with Andrew Lloyd Webber, second London site: Brixton neighbourhood restaurant Naughty Piglets is set to start expansion with a second London site. The new venue will open in Palace Street, Westminster, on Monday, 13 February, and be co-run with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The impresario was said to be so impressed with his dinner at Naughty Piglets, he suggested it took over the in-house restaurant at the soon-to-be-refurbished St James Theatre. The venue is being relaunched as The Other Palace – because of its close proximity to Buckingham Palace – and The Other Naughty Piglet will take over the theatre’s entire first floor. The 60-cover restaurant will feature a large open kitchen – headed by The Clove Club’s Joe Knowlden – alongside the original theatre bar, Hot Dinners reports. There will be more dishes than Naughty Piglets, which is in Brixton Water Lane and offers a daily changing menu from founders and husband-and-wife team Joe and Margaux Sharratt.

Roomzzz gears up for expansion into London to take it to ‘next level’, bookings up 17% since Brexit: Aparthotel group Roomzzz is gearing up for expansion as it prepares to open new sites in London, Manchester and Newcastle. Roomzzz, part of the Park Lane Group, already operates seven aparthotels across the north of England. However the new sites, including one close to Manchester’s Corn Exchange and another near the Olympic Stadium in London, will take the business to the “next level”. The latter marks the first time the group has expanded outside the north, with bosses having set the target of finding several more London hotels during the next few years. The expansion comes after Roomzzz reported a 17% increase in bookings following Brexit, as British holidaymakers seek out low-cost city breaks in the UK. Managing director Naveen Ahmed told the Yorkshire Post: “London has been a big challenge for us, mainly due to the price of the buildings. We are looking at a site near the Olympic Stadium for a 100-apartment hotel opening in the third quarter of this year. It will put us on the map in London. Roomzzz will become an entity that is recognised. We are currently not as well known down south but that will change. It is a great time to get into London. There is an opportunity for us to get in there.” Roomzzz currently has three sites in Leeds and one each in Manchester, Newcastle, Chester and Nottingham.

Brasserie Blanc to open Thames-side restaurant in March, 19th site: Brasserie Blanc, the French restaurant group led by Raymond Blanc, is set to open a Thames-side restaurant in Hammersmith’s Fulham Reach development, which is owned by property company St George’s. The new restaurant is scheduled to open in the development’s Goldhurst House in March. It will be the 19th Brasserie Blanc restaurant. The venue will join Caffe Nero-owned coffee shop brand Harris+Hoole and London brewer and retailer Fuller’s new-build pub restaurant The Blue Boat at the development. It is set to rival Hammersmith’s best-known restaurant, Lady Rogers’ Michelin-starred River Cafe, which is a short distance along the riverfront, Hammersmith Today reports.

London-based bar operator Tony Conigliaro to open third site next month, in Hackney: London-based bar operator Tony Conigliaro is to open his third site next month, in Hackney. Conigliaro is launching Untitled in Kingsland Road with new business partner Zoe Burgess. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory, Conigliaro’s new place will be home not only to a new list of 12 cocktails but also to a creative food menu, art exhibitions and design collaborations with like-minded local artists. It will feature silver-painted walls and a big sharing table for up to 20 people, reports the Islington Gazette. Conigliaro opened his first bar, 69 Colebrooke Row, in Islington in 2009 and the second – Bar Termini – in Soho in 2015. He is head of drinks consultancy the Drink Factory, originally set up in Pink Floyd’s old recording studio and now based in London Fields, and has been the creative brain behind the drinks list at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant in Melbourne, Australia.

Hybrid pub and off-licence Ten Green Bottles to start expansion with second site, in Stone: Hybrid pub and off-licence Ten Green Bottles is to start expansion by opening its second site, in Stone, Staffordshire. The concept, which launched in Newcastle-under Lyme in 2015, is opening the venue in High Street in the former Pets at Stone shop. The site will stock a variety of bottled beers for people to take away, as well as offering seating for customers to enjoy a beer. It will also serve wines by the bottle or glass as well as coffee, tea and hot chocolate, reports A Little Bit of Stone.

Burger brand Bleecker opens first indoor site, in Victoria: Award-winning burger truck operator Bleecker Street Burger, which also runs a permanent site in Old Spitalfields Market in the East End of London, has opened its first indoor venue, in Victoria. Diners at the new restaurant in Victoria Street can enjoy popular Bleecker offerings such as the double cheeseburger (double American cheese, double beef), and Angry Fries, which come doused in hot sauce and blue cheese sauce. The Bleecker Black burger features Clonakilty black pudding, while the drinks list includes Oreo milkshakes and craft beer. All beef is dry-aged for about 45 days and is sourced from grass-fed, rare breed cattle. Bleecker’s simple recipes have earned numerous accolades, including being voted London’s Best Burger by Time Out for two years running. The concept is the brainchild of Zan Kaufman, who told Hot Dinners: “I have a surging level of pride with Victoria, knowing we have made it inside off our own backs.” Bleecker is open from 11.30am to 11pm, from Monday to Saturday, and until 10pm on Sundays. Bleecker Street Burger is named after the thoroughfare in New York that connects the East Village to the West Village.

White Brasserie Co to open Upminster site in March: White Brasserie Company, part of Brasserie Bar Co, is to open a site in Upminster, east London, in March. The company is reopening The Jobbers Rest in St Mary’s Lane, which closed in September. It is currently undergoing refurbishment and will have 110 covers. A White Brasserie Company spokeswoman told the Romford Recorder: “We’re very excited to be opening one of our pubs in Upminster. If all goes to schedule, the plan is to open in March. There will be a pub bar area with an open fire, snugs and so forth as well as plenty of dining space, including two beautiful rooms opening on to the extensive gardens.” 

Portfolio of six Park Inn by Radisson hotels put on market for £50m: A portfolio of six Park Inn By Radisson hotels has been brought to market by agents Christie & Co for offers in the region of £50m. The hotels could be sold individually, while there is also an option for them to be free of the current Park Inn branding and management of Carlson Rezidor. The hotels are in Birmingham, Bedford, Cardiff, Harlow, Nottingham and Telford. On average, the hotels have 144 bedrooms. Jeremy Jones, head of brokerage – hotels at Christie & Co, told Wales Online: “The availability of these hotels in key trading markets offers an opportunity to acquire approximately 865 bedrooms – perfect for further selective investment and repositioning. We anticipate the properties will appeal to a wide range of buyers, from those seeking to purchase a one-off property to a wider global group looking to expand its current portfolio. The prospect of securing these hotels will also appeal to the growing number of international investors attracted to the UK.”

Neath-based Jamaican restaurant set to start expansion with Swansea site: Neath-based Jamaican restaurant Jamaican Jills is to start expansion with a second site, this time in Swansea. The company will open the venue in Wind Street next month on the former site of The Restaurant Group-owned Chiquitos. Its menu includes reggae burgers and platters as well as Caribbean favourites such as ackee and salt fish, jerked chicken and curried goat. It also serves homemade ice cream, including rum and coconut. Jamaican Jills opened its first site in Neath in 2014.

Cote lines up Bournemouth site: French brasserie Cote is lining up a site in Bournemouth, Dorset. The company has submitted a licensing application to Bournemouth Borough Council to open a restaurant in Westover Road on the site of the former Austin Reed shop. The site has been empty since the store closed last year, when the company collapsed into administration. Cote is requesting permission to serve alcohol from 10am to midnight, seven days a week, and to play recorded music from 8am to midnight. If approved, it would be Cote’s second site in Dorset, with one already in Dorchester. Cote, which is owned by private equity firm BC Partners, has more than 80 sites in the UK.

Hollywood Bowl signs to anchor Intu Lakeside leisure extension: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, has signed to anchor the 225,000 square foot leisure extension at Intu Lakeside in Essex. The company will open one of its biggest centres at the development, which will also be anchored by Nickelodeon’s first UK shopping centre attraction when it launches next year. The 34,000 square foot flagship Hollywood Bowl will have 24 fully computerised ten-pin bowling lanes, including a number of exclusive VIP lanes. It will also feature an American diner, a “stylish bar and fun-packed amusements and pool areas”. The decor will be a celebration of Americana, including a full-size vintage Ford Mustang. Chief financial officer Laurence Keen told Essex TV: “We are delighted to be bringing a new, state-of-the-art entertainment venue to the fantastic location of Intu Lakeside. Being one of the largest developments in our estate, it will provide high-quality, fun-filled leisure experiences to customers of all ages in our spacious bowling, diner, bar and amusement areas.” Intu regional director Rebecca Ryman added: “Hollywood Bowl is the next key letting at Intu Lakeside’s leisure development following our announcement that a Nickelodeon-themed family entertainment centre will launch at the extension. Half of the first phase of the scheme is now let and we’re looking forward to exchanging deals on the remaining outlets ahead of its opening.”

French brasserie concept Bon Vivant to launch in Bloomsbury: French brasserie concept Bon Vivant will bring a slice of Parisian romance to Bloomsbury by opening on Valentine’s Day. The new restaurant will launch in Marchmont Street, around the corner from King’s Cross, on Tuesday, 14 February offering croissants and coffee in the morning, light lunches, classic French dinners and, at the weekend, bottomless brunches. There will also be tartines, charcuterie plates and magret de canard, alongside more modern dishes and a wine list that will focus on French varieties. In true Parisian style, the venue will also offer seating outside as well as comfortable velvet chairs indoors under the banner “taste the good times”.

Craft Cocktail Co launches new bottled cocktail range: Craft Cocktail Co, which was founded by London Cocktail Club owner JJ Goodman, has launched a new bottled cocktail range. Comprising six “bottled cocktail expressions”, the range reinvents Craft Cocktail Co’s flavour concept and introduces a fresh take on bottled mixology. The range, which includes Big Smoke Bloody Mary, the Foxy Ginger Mule and the Reggae Rum is available to bars, restaurants and hotels. The drinks can also be bought individually online at Drinks Supermarket and are available for special events such as weddings and festivals. Goodman said: “We love enjoying the talent and skill seen in drinks produced by the best bars and restaurants the country has to offer, but what if you could enjoy that same experience without limitations? Craft Cocktail Co is produced by some of the industry’s greatest bartenders to make this possible – to make fantastic craft cocktails ultimately accessible, everywhere.” Established in 2015, Craft Cocktail Co was originally a bar and workshop in Paradise Row, Bethnal Green. Due to demand for a larger production scale, this year the company moved to a more extensive workshop in Sclater Street, Shoreditch.

South Shields-based club owner acquires restaurant in town: South Shields-based club owner Kerrie Katopolis has acquired a restaurant in the town. Katopolis, who owns Club Del Mar, has bought the Italian Stove in Ocean Road. The restaurant has undergone a complete revamp with only the name remaining unchanged. An a la carte menu has also been created. Katopolis told the Shields Gazette: “I’ve always wanted to go back into the restaurant trade. It is completely different to when I was originally part of it eight years ago, I’ve had to learn everything all over again. We have changed the decor of the restaurant completely, it is now more funky but is still in keeping with the Italian theme.”

JD Wetherspoon reopens pub and 14-bedroom hotel in Aylesbury: JD Wetherspoon has reopened The Bell in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, which now features a 14-bedroom hotel. The company has spent £1.1m to redevelop the venue in Market Square, creating an additional ten jobs. The new hotel is housed in undeveloped areas on the first and second floors of the grade II-listed building. In addition, the pub has been refurbished as part of the overall project. There is now unlimited free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and bar, while the pub has a courtyard and two fires for the winter months. The Bell manager Zoe Harrison said: “We are confident the hotel will be a great addition to the pub. We believe it will also benefit the town itself and hopefully act as a catalyst for further investment in Aylesbury.” The Bell features an early to mid-19th century façade, with the third floor added in 1919. However, the building dates to medieval times and The Bell was mentioned in the 15th century when there were several inns or taverns in the market square.

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