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Fri 27th Jan 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Signature Living buys Alma bar in Liverpool, plans to take brand nationwide: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living has bought the Alma de Cuba bar in Liverpool – and plans to take the brand nationwide. The company has acquired the site in Seel Street, which is housed in the converted St Peter’s Catholic church, in a £3.1m deal. It is planning to build an Alma de Cuba hotel next door, connected directly to the venue itself. Now boss Lawrence Kenwright wants to take the Alma brand nationwide after buying the rights to the name. He told the Liverpool Echo: “This is yet another landmark moment for Signature Living. We are a growing company with great ambitions, and the Alma De Cuba brand is now very much part of that both in Liverpool and beyond.” The hotel would be built on the former car park next to the venue, leading to the junction with Slater Street. Subject to planning permission and finalising a deal for the land, Signature Living would look to build a hotel of up to 300 rooms. Signature Living managing director Kris Mochrie said the bar would keep its Latin American carnival theme with the interior being refreshed. He added the company would look to introduce new “high-end” entertainment some nights of the week to attract more visitors. Signature Living is developing hotels in Cardiff and Newcastle and looking for opportunities in Manchester. The Alma de Cuba brand could be rolled out to other cities alongside hotel developments. Kenwright said: “We’re going to take it around the UK, in the same way we have with Signature Living when we go to a new city.”

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive new membership benefit: Subscribers to Propel Premium are to receive a new benefit – a £50 discount on tickets to Propel’s Masterclass series of events in 2017. The series includes The Advanced Social Media Masterclass, The Leadership Masterclass, the Finance and Investment Masterclass, and the Multi-site Management Masterclass. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers also receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. On 1 March, Propel Premium subscribers will also receive an updated version of the Propel database of multi-site companies, which will add another 200 companies to the existing database of 700 to hit the 900 mark. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email
Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Michael Ingemann to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is now open for bookings. Michael Ingemann, chairman of groundbreaking Copenhagen-based Claus Meyer Holdings (founders of Noma), will talk about learnings from launching a food hall and a fine-dining restaurant in New York’s Grand Central station last year while also launching a culinary school in Brooklyn. 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 to book a place. 

TGI Friday’s introduces endless starters: TGI Friday’s has become the first restaurant brand in the UK to offer endless starters. Guests pay once and can eat as many portions of one of the 22 starters as they like for £9.99. They can choose a different appetizer every time for £12.99. The offer is available from Sunday to Thursday, 7pm until close. Terry McDowell, TGI Friday’s head of food and drink, said: “At Friday’s, we love listening to our guests and we always get incredible feedback on our amazing range of appetizers. So, we’ve decided to make them the star of the show and offer our guests unlimited choice so they don’t just have to pick one – and can have as much of it as they want. The only question really is – how many apps can you handle?”
Flypay adds Eagle Eye to Flyt platform: Mobile technology company Flypay has added SaaS technology provider Eagle Eye to its growing number of partners integrating with its Flyt platform. The partnership will unlock new opportunities for Eagle Eye to anticipate and meet the growing technology demands of its client base, which includes Prezzo, Azzurri Group, Asda and Coca-Cola. Through its initial integration with Flyt, Eagle Eye will incorporate Flypay’s Pay at Table and Bar Tab services across its branded apps, which will allow consumers to not only redeem vouchers and promotions but also pay through the same app seamlessly. The businesses will also collaborate to create an Eagle Eye voucher redemption service on the Flyt platform. This will enable third parties to adopt Eagle Eye’s voucher redemption service, enabling it to work alongside Flypay’s Pay at Table and other services in future app developments. Eagle Eye director of food and beverage Al Henderson said: “We’re delighted to offer our clients the opportunity to build on their existing digital loyalty schemes and promotions offering a frictionless user journey through our integration with Flyt. The addition of Flypay’s payment technologies will further aid our mission to be the world’s leading digital marketing network by enabling brands and operators to reduce costs and improve their customer offer.” Flypay chief executive Tom Weaver added: “Eagle Eye works with some of the world’s leading brands, who are constantly in search of new and innovative ways to accelerate growth through smart technology. It is therefore paramount that Eagle Eye continue to evolve and enhance its existing offering and the introduction of our Flyt platform into its technology mix, will do just that.”
Restaurants and hotels help spearhead 0.6% growth in UK economy: Restaurants and hotels helped spearhead a 0.6% increase in the UK economy in the fourth quarter of 2016. The services sector, which accounts for about three-quarters of the UK economy, grew by 0.8% in the quarter, helped by growth in the distribution, hotels and restaurant industry. The 0.6% rise from October to December maintained the rate of growth of the previous quarter. The figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed a feared slowdown in the UK economy as a result of Brexit has not shown up in official data. For 2016 as a whole, the economy grew by 2%, down from 2.2% in 2015. The ONS said: “Strong consumer spending supported the expansion of the dominant services sector. Although manufacturing bounced back from a weaker third quarter, both it and construction remained broadly unchanged over the year as a whole.” The quarterly growth figure was slightly better than the 0.5% rate most economists had expected.
Plans put forward to save UK pub industry £500,000 a year by changing notification requirement for gaming machines: Plans have been put forward to save the UK pub industry at least £500,000 a year by removing the requirement for licensing authorities to be notified by operators when installing up to two gaming machines. Business in Licensing and the Gambling Business Group are behind the proposal, which has the support of the British Beer and Pub Association and the Gambling Commission. They said it would save pub operators and machine suppliers a £50 notification and “remove layers of wasteful administrative burden” in the process. Gambling Business Group chief executive Peter Hannibal told InterGame: “The current process requires the writing of a formal letter, accompanied by a £50 fee, to notify the licensing authority of the premises licence holder’s intent to install up to two gaming machines of category C or D, to which they are entitled under the Gambling Act 2005. The fee, which barely covers the costs of the administration process for the licensing authority, let alone the cost of enforcing or inspecting against the notice, represents an unnecessary cost to business while failing to add to the safety of the public or the effectiveness of the regulatory regime.” He added the present notification process failed to accurately deliver to the Gambling Commission data on the number of gaming machines in alcohol-licensed premises. Nick Arron, partner at licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen, which formulated the proposal, said: “Taken together, this raft of changes should result in a reduction of costs to licensed businesses and machine operators and the removal of unnecessary confusion around the notification process.”

Company News:

Truman’s launches cafe bar concept at London City airport: Brewery Truman’s, based in east London, has launched Brick Lane Brews, a new cafe-bar concept, at London City airport. The new venture sees the brewery expand its offer to serve a quintessentially East End London menu from morning to night. Serving salt beef, beigels, coffee and beer, the first outlet is now open at the airport, as a key food and beverage partner within the airport’s departures area, as part of a £19m transformation. The launch of Brick Lane Brews is another step in Truman’s ambitious growth plans, which started in 2013 with the revival of the brewing brand. Brick Lane Brews is located airside at the airport in London’s Royal Docks and features a classic wrap-around horseshoe bar, tile decor and striking copper pipework. James Morgan, re-founder of Truman’s brewery, said: “We are delighted to be bringing Truman’s to London City Airport. The team at London City has been excellent and we look forward to offering customers Truman’s beer, Brick Lane beigels and Union Roasted coffee all day long.” Simon Potts, director of Non-Aero Revenue at London City airport, said: “Brick Lane Brews offers a great selection that we know will appeal to our passengers, whether they’re looking for a caffeine kick before meetings abroad, or a classic Truman’s beer on their way home, it will be an authentic east London experience. With Truman’s heritage in east London, it is fitting that the famous brewery has picked one of its neighbours, London City airport, as the venue for its newest venture.”
Burgers-and-ribs brand The Smoke Haus set to open fourth site, in Bristol in March: Burgers-and-ribs brand The Smoke Haus is set to open its fourth site, in Bristol in March. The company is investing £650,000 opening the restaurant, which will cater for up to 200 diners, on the ground floor of Colston Tower in the city centre. Smoke Haus’ ethos is to provide “quality food in a great atmosphere, huge portions, masses of meat and a challenge not for the faint of heart”. Burgers include The Big Bertha (five eight-ounce cheeseburgers topped with jalapeños, smoked streaky bacon, fried onions and burger sauce), alongside a wide range of meat combos, large helpings and sweet treats. The restaurant provides a music playlist, and diners with an iPhone can help to choose the running order. Co-owner Mark Power told the Bristol Post: “We’d been looking to come here for about 18 months or so now. This is such a great venue and a real focal point of the city and we can’t wait to open.” Power and Jayne Myall opened the first Smoke Haus in Swansea in 2012 and began expansion with a second venue, in Cardiff. In June last year, the company opened its first site in England – a 150-cover venue above Stonegate Pub Company’s Slug and Lettuce in Birmingham.
Yard Sale Pizza to open third London site, next month: Yard Sale Pizza, winner of Time Out’s “most loved restaurant” in the 2016 Love London Awards, is set to open its third London site, this time in Walthamstow. The restaurant will open in Hoe Street on Thursday, 16 February with an exclusive brunch offering that includes garlic, rosemary and sea salt pizza bread with a dippy egg. Yard Sale Pizza has built a loyal following during the past two years from its sites in Clapton and Finsbury Park, which offer hand-made, stone-baked pizzas made from double-fermented dough. Pizzas come in 12-inch and 18-inch sizes and include The Holy Pepperoni (Cobble Lane pepperoni, Napoli piccante and crumbled Nduja sausage), and TSB (broccoli, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil). Homemade dips, salads, sides such as cheese and marmite garlic bread, Nonna’s gelato, local London beers, Borough Wines, and soft drinks will complete the line-up. The venue will be the first Yard Sale Pizza restaurant to have an outdoor yard with tables, while indoors it will feature a dining room with comfortable booths and a takeaway counter.
Enterprise Inns opens 200th Beacon pub, north west operator to launch two new sites under format: Enterprise Inns has opened its 200th Beacon pub – its managed tenancy model. The company, through its leased and tenanted division Ei Publican Partnerships – has converted The Red Lion in Frodsham, Cheshire, to the format. It allows tenants to deliver a “great value-based”, wet-led, offer to customers with publicans receiving support through a dedicated retail team focused on sales, marketing, customer service and cost control. The model is helping many publicans grow their businesses including Matt Bonilla, a multiple operator based in the north west of England. He originally had two Beacon sites and has now signed agreements on a further two Beacon pubs in the Manchester area – The Levenshulme and The New Inn. Beacon divisional director Mark Brooke said: “The growing number of Beacon pubs underlines our commitment to delivering a significant support package for publicans and developing great community pubs that appeal to a variety of consumers. Because we are able to define and provide the product range, pricing and marketing, our publicans can really focus on making sure that they and their team deliver excellent customer service.”

Primeuer owners to launch second restaurant: Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell, the owners of Primeuer, are to open their second restaurant, in Lower Holloway, north London, in April. The duo are launching Westerns Laundry in Drayton Park. The restaurant will comprise of a textured, pared back aesthetic, reflecting the history of the 1950s space. The menu will focus on seafood and dishes “made with the best possible produce”, sourced from the British Isles. Sheltered behind a feather blade fence and an entry code gate, Westerns Laundry will be subtly hidden by a forecourt, planted with Himalayan birch trees, punctuated with hand-made benches. The dining room will be lined with communal tables and banquettes made from Shou Sugi Ban-charred larch and covered in electric blue British velvet, lit by incandescent strip lights. An open kitchen will have ten counter seats and there will also be a 14-cover private dining room. An exposed cellar, housing Westerns Laundry’s wine offering, will sit within the restaurant, containing a selection of more than 200 bottles. Specialist beers, largely Belgium in origin, will be available in 750ml bottles, alongside a small batch of hand-picked vermouths, with gin and tonic rounding off the spirit list. Gingell said: “Westerns Laundry will be lighter and more delicate than Primeur, rooted in British flavours but influenced by our favourite aspects of southern Europe with the occasional nod to Asia, with raw fish, shellfish and smoky flavours from a robata grill.”
PizzaExpress opens second site of 2017, in Poynton: PizzaExpress has opened its second site of 2017 – in Poynton, Cheshire. The company has opened the venue in Park Lane. The restaurant takes its design inspiration from the illustrator Leslie Wood, who once lived in the town and his work can be found around the venue on the exposed brick walls. There is also an open kitchen with the decor being a mix of rich colours and textures with elegant lighting and copper accents. There is also a walled garden terrace to allow al fresco dining.
Sheffield-based Abbeydale Brewery invests in pub portfolio following six-figure banking deal: Sheffield-based Abbeydale Brewery has invested in its pub portfolio following a six-figure banking deal. The company, which turns over £4m annually, employs 70 people across its brewery and two pubs – The Rising Sun and the Devonshire Cat. It has used the funding provided by NatWest to acquire new 10,000 litre containers to enable it to increase production and keep up with demand. It has also refurbished both its pubs over the past 18 months with an extension and new kitchen for both sites, which Abbeydale said had resulted in turnover doubling year-on-year. Abbeydale Brewery director Dan Baxter told Insider Media: “We are very pleased the original artwork had such longevity, but we knew the time had come to reinvest in our artwork for our treasured core beers. We wanted to make sure that our existing drinkers still recognised their favourite beers, while giving our publican customers pump clips they could be proud to display, reinforcing the great quality beers we produce. We are an innovative business and are constantly developing new products for customers. Having rebranded our core range of beers we are now moving on to some of our other products and looking at new ones. To ensure we able to provide consistently great beer and a great customer experience we have to invest continually in the brewery and the pubs.”
Three Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic makes UK debut: Three Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic has made her UK debut by opening a French restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in central London. La Dame de Pic operates out of the grade II-listed building near Tower Hill Street. Pic, one of the few female chefs to be awarded three Michelin stars, has opened renowned restaurants all over France. She is known for her unlikely flavour combinations and La Dame de Pic’s menu is similar to its Parisian counterpart, which has flavour mash-ups such as white cheese ice-cream with rocket and cardamom for starters, or beef with smoked coffee for mains. The interior of the restaurant evokes the feel of classy Parisian brasseries, with wood carvings, leather banquettes and mirrored columns. The venue also features a private wine cellar.
Robinsons to reopen fire-ravaged Lake District pub in April following £2m investment: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons is to reopen the Queens Head in Troutbeck, Cumbria, in April following a £2m investment. The company is rebuilding the Lake District pub, which was devastated by fire in 2014. The 17th century coaching inn boasts an eclectic mix of ancient Cumbrian and contemporary decor alongside its four-poster bar. The new Queens Head will feature a large drinking area with secluded dining areas, with focus being around the three original real fireplaces that are being restored. The bar will feature a variety of real ales, craft beers, premium lagers, wines and spirits with a focus on a new gin range. There will be ten newly refurbished en-suite bedrooms named after the Lakeland fells of Great End, Bowfell, Great Gable, Pillar, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Nethermost, Catstyecam, Scafell Pike and Esk Pike. Pubs division managing director William Robinson told the Cumbria Crack: “It’s no easy feat restoring such a historic pub. It was of the utmost importance we worked closely with the local council to ensure the most authentic restoration of the original building’s fabric. The Queens Head has never been a case of ‘reinventing the wheel’ and it will pick right up where it left off – a cosy, family friendly pub where you can enjoy a pint, a great night’s stay, and a warm, hearty meal.”
Zizzi agrees deal to open third Sheffield site: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi has agreed a deal to open its third site in Sheffield. The company will be one of seven restaurants in the new Light cinema complex at The Moor development, joining PizzaExpress and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which have already secured sites. Zizzi has applied to Sheffield Council for a licence to open the new restaurant from 9am to 12.30am Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 10.30pm on Sundays, selling alcohol from 9am to midnight except on Sundays, when it would be served from 10am to 10pm. Azzurri Group head of acquisitions Marc Ward told The Star: “Sheffield is one of the major cities in the UK and we are delighted to be part of the exciting city centre development at The Moor.” Phil Huby, head of retail asset management at Aberdeen Asset Management, which manages The Moor, added: “It is great Zizzi will be one of the restaurants opening in phase two, where there is also great anticipation for the nine-screen Light cinema due to open in the spring. PizzaExpress and Gourmet Burger Kitchen are progressing to fit out and we are in advanced discussions with other operators.” Zizzi, which opened its first restaurant in London in 1999, has 140 sites across Britain and Ireland, including its two other Sheffield sites at the Meadowhall shopping centre and Leopold Square.
Brasserie Blanc to open 19th site in May, in Fulham Reach: Brasserie Blanc, the French restaurant group led by Raymond Blanc, will open its 19th site, in Fulham Reach, west London, in May. The brasserie will be located in the former Haig Distillery in the new St George residential and leisure development on the Thames waterfront, near Hammersmith Bridge. The venue will span 3,175 square feet offering 120 covers inside with an additional 50 covers on the terrace. A large central bar and open kitchen pass will be flanked by two raised areas, one offering a lounging and dining space, encompassing bespoke banquettes and a selection of tables for intimate and group dining, and the other for private events of up to 30 people. A statement lighting feature will mirror the curved central banquette, highlighting the elliptical shape of the building. The space will see a muted colour palette of heritage tones with contemporary furnishings in a nod to the building’s former use. The brasserie will offer a menu of classic and modern French dishes using seasonal ingredients designed by Brasserie Blanc’s executive chef Clive Fretwell. Chief executive Mark Derry said: “The Fulham Reach development is impressive and the site we are taking is set to be a showstopper with a central bar surrounded by more than 100 dining covers. We are all looking forward to opening the doors of the new Brasserie Blanc in May.”
Cannon & Cannon to open cured meat bar next month: London-based charcuterie retailer and distributor Cannon & Cannon is to open a cured meat bar next month. The company is launching a permanent site for Nape in Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, on Thursday, 9 February after the concept started out as a pop-up at the end of last year. The 45-cover ground floor will feature a mix of booths, bar stools and standing areas while downstairs will be a tasting room for 12 to 15 people, which will also double up as a private dining room, reports The Handbook. The menu will include platters of Hackney-made fennel and cubeb pepper salami and Gloucester Old Spot loin as well as sausage sandwiches and toasties. There will be wine on tap from OW Loeb, with a variety of low intervention “natural” wines and an ever-changing list of specials alongside a selection of beers.
Seven new restaurants set for Coventry shopping centre as part of £300m city scheme: Seven new restaurants are set for the Cathedral Lanes shopping centre in Coventry as part of a £300m master plan to make the city the second biggest shopping and leisure destination in the West Midlands. The centre is currently home to three restaurants – Wagamama, Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and Cosy Club, which is owned by cafe brand Loungers. But a planning application submitted to the city council has shown the redeveloped centre will be home to ten restaurants and a gym. The plan includes a two-storey extension where the service yard currently is in Pepper Lane, reports the Coventry Telegraph. The planning statement with the application said: “The introduction of additional restaurant space and a gym will further improve the leisure offer in this part of the city centre. These proposals including plans to provide external al fresco dining areas would enliven this city square and contribute positively to this part of the city centre.” The Cathedral Lanes redevelopment is part of a £300m city centre scheme led by developer Shearer Property Group that includes top-end shops and restaurants, along with a new cinema, a bowling alley, a hotel and homes for students and private residents. 
M&B to convert Harvester site on outskirts of Redhill to Miller & Carter brand: Mitchells & Butlers is to convert its Harvester restaurant on the outskirts of Redhill in Surrey to its Miller & Carter steakhouse brand. The company has closed the site in Brighton Road, Salfords, and will reopen it under the new format in March, reports the Surrey Mirror. The restaurant’s webpage stated: “We have now closed our doors as a Harvester restaurant to make way for something new and exciting.” As well as an exterior revamp, the restaurant will also include booth seating and modern artwork. Miller & Carter serves 12 cuts of Red Tractor Farm Assured meat, including rib-eye, fillet and chateaubriand. Earlier this month, Mitchells & Butlers revealed it was planning to open more than 25 Miller & Carter sites this year as it continued expansion of the 57-strong brand. Chief executive Phil Urban previously said conversion to the brand costs between £600,000 and £700,000 but was producing a 40% return on investment in the case of the most recent 12 conversions.
Team behind Leicester-based coffee shop takes on Everards pub in city: The team behind Leicester-based coffee shop St Martin’s Coffee has taken on an Everards pub in the city. It has acquired the lease of The King Richard III in Highcross Street, which closed earlier this month and will be relaunched as a pub and restaurant with a “contemporary feel”. The pub will retain its original name while the exterior will be brought up to date with grey-painted window frames providing a contemporary contrast to the traditional red brick walls. St Martin’s Coffee director Andy Hall told the Leicester Mercury: “We are opening a pub restaurant, which will be run using all the same principles we use at the coffee shop.” St Martin’s Coffee is based in St Martin’s Square with the two-storey coffee shop serving on-site roasted coffees, loose-leaf teas and deli lunches.
Team behind Glasgow-based Chinese restaurant to launch pan-Asian bistro concept in city: The team behind Glasgow-based Chinese restaurant Dumpling Monkey is to launch a pan-Asian bistro concept in the city. Mamafubu will open its first site in Glassford Street on Saturday (28 January), while a second venue is also set to follow, reports Glasgow Live. Mamafubu will offer Taiwanese boa and bento and Asian street food such as banh mi. The team stated on its Facebook page: “That’s not all! We’re also in the final stages of preparing to open a second Mamafubu in Nithsdale Street on the southside. More announcements on that in the coming weeks!”
Lincolnshire-based restaurateur applies to open new venture next to existing Louth site: Lincolnshire-based restaurateur Andrew Leonard has applied to open a new venture next to his existing site in Louth. Leonard, who owns 14 Upgate, wants to transform the neighbouring grade II-listed former reading room and library, Louth Mansion House, into a new restaurant and function room. If approved, it would have a large, open plan dining space and operate as a separate restaurant to the 12-cover fine-dining experience Leonard offers next door. The only connections between the premises would be an extension through to the kitchen, reports Lincolnshire Live. The application, lodged with East Lindsey District Council, stated: “The scheme brings a redundant building back into a suitable use for this location, proposes alterations that represent a positive intervention, and will have no adverse impact whatsoever on the character or appearance of the Louth conservation area or the nearby listed buildings in the public realm.” Leonard launched 14 Upgate in August 2015 and is the town’s only restaurant in the Michelin Guide.
Nando’s to open much-delayed Blackburn restaurant next month: Nando’s is set to open its restaurant in Blackburn, Lancashire, next month, almost 15 months later than the original planned launch date. The 130-cover venue, part of the redevelopment of the Vue cinema complex, will create 40 jobs when it finally opens at the end of February. The venue is expected to feature a halal menu. The restaurant was originally due to open at Christmas 2015 but a row broke out over whether Nando’s definition of “halal” met the strict guidelines of the Lancashire Council of Mosques.

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