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Fri 3rd Mar 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

McDonald’s reports kiosks add between 4% and 8% to site sales: McDonald’s, which plans to have ordering kiosks in 2,500 US locations by the end of the year and in most of its domestic locations by 2020, has revealed the technology is adding between 4% and 8% to sales at each site. “Technology is disrupting everything around us,” chief executive Steve Easterbrook said. “The question for McDonald’s is do we want to be disrupted or do we want to be the disruptor?” McDonald’s said it had lost 500 million transactions in its US market since 2012 – most of those customers to quick-service competitors. “We’ve lost hundreds of millions of visits from our core customers,” said Lucy Brady, McDonald’s chief strategy officer. Using more technology inside restaurants could improve efficiency and expand the customer base, the company said, particularly during peak hours when overflow lines drive some customers away. McDonald’s said kerbside service could work with its mobile app to provide an entirely new delivery system. Diners could order on the app, which includes geofencing capabilities that can tell when a customer shows up at the restaurant. If customers chose kerbside service, they could park in a designated slot and their order would be brought to the car. The app would also work with drive-thru. Executives said the app could speed drive-thru service by reducing order times for a certain percentage of customers. The company is testing delivery in Florida with UberEats. Brady said orders through the service come frequently via the drive-thru and during off-peak hours.

Industry News:

Advanced Social Media Masterclass schedule revealed: The schedule for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass has been revealed featuring all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure and broaden their reach. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the event, which encompasses a full-day programme of tips, insight, case studies and information to help create sector-leading, compelling content. It takes place on Friday, 7 April at One Moorgate Place in London. The day will open with Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell introducing the latest social media technology and trends and how these will impact food, drink and hospitality marketing. It will detail all the emerging trends to watch out for and how business can benefit from them. Delegates will find out everything they need to know about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. The sessions will revisit effective social media campaigns, with a special focus on flops and triumphs. It will delve into what success looks like across each platform and how to avoid the potential pitfalls. The day will explore the psychology of marketing giving delegates the chance to understand human behaviour and decision-making processes. There will be a session on boosting social success with PR and how they should work together for best results that really get audiences engaged and involved. The discussion will be brought to life, with recent and relevant examples to learn from. The day will also look at the sites, blogs and social media accounts with highly engaged audiences that possess the power to make a place or product a hit. Delegates will find out how to create their dream team when it comes to recognising, recruiting and retaining social talent. Getting the job spec right, as well as understanding your audience, play a part in this mission and this session will help businesses to become a magnet for the talent they want. The event will also look at exploring how to use analytics to inform business strategies and how measuring and monitoring key metrics can lead to continuous performance improvement and a sector-leading social media presence. Delegates will also find out how their social media messages and campaigns can benefit from social advertising, all without using big budgets. The session will cover advertising examples, appropriate spend and how to evaluate paid-for activity. The day will also cover making sure your social marketing is engaging for all – and there will be a session providing clarity on marketing to Baby Boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z. Delegates will also find out the best ways of using social media to attract families to their pub or restaurant. The day will be rounded off with an expert panel to answer the burning questions arising throughout the event. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

CAMRA names community pub as Pub of the Year: A small village pub saved from closure by the local community has won CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year award. When the George & Dragon pub in Hudswell closed in 2008 it left the small North Yorkshire village with no other facilities for its residents apart from a village hall. Within two years, the community banded together to form the Hudswell Community Pub group and bought the pub, reopening in June 2010 after extensive renovations. The community was determined the George & Dragon would offer far more than a traditional pub. As well as acting as a meeting place and venue, it is also home to the village library, a shop staffed by volunteers, community allotments, and free internet access for its patrons. CAMRA was particularly impressed by the pub’s “warm and welcoming atmosphere and strong community ethos”. The homely, multi-roomed country inn has a large beer terrace offering panoramic views over the Swale Valley and is only a few miles from the market town of Richmond. In addition, the current landlord has shown a great passion for quality beer, greatly extending the range of real ales and cider available, the panel said. CAMRA National Pub of the Year finalist co-ordinator Paul Ainsworth said: “The George & Dragon is a great example of how a pub has been resurrected as a true community asset. To go from closed doors to winning National Pub of the Year in just a few short years is a fantastic achievement for any pub – and all the more impressive for one that is co-operatively owned. The story of the George & Dragon goes to show that in the right hands, a closed pub can become viable and successful. We were very impressed by the work the community group has undertaken to save their pub and hope other communities are encouraged by the example when faced with an ongoing battle to save their own local.”

Mastercard to roll-out Qkr! with Masterpass to more countries: Mastercard will roll-out Qkr! with Masterpass, its mobile order-ahead and payment platform developed by Mastercard Labs, to six new markets and add new functionality to eliminate the traditional “open tab” at a bar, club or restaurant. Qkr! with Masterpass enables consumers to order and pay for goods and services via their smartphone without having to wait in line or for a restaurant server. The app uses Masterpass, a global digital payment service that speeds the checkout process without consumers having to enter their financial and shipping information at every new merchant site. Mastercard is set to expand the Qkr! platform to six additional markets this year – Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa and the US. Mastercard is also partnering with Oracle to integrate Qkr! with Masterpass in Oracle point-of-sale software and systems to scale these digital payment platforms to merchants worldwide. Qkr! is already live in Australia, Columbia, Mexico and the UK and is being used by Wagamama, Azzurri Group-owned brands ASK Italian and Zizzi, London pub retailer Young’s and Change Please, a mobile coffee delivery social project run by the homeless in London.

Tim Martin – our secret is to spend a lot of time in our pubs: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has stressed the importance he attaches to spending time in his pubs. In the current copy of the company’s in-house magazine, he writes: “In his book Made In America, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, argued strongly that almost all good ideas for improving business came from the shop floor. Sam spent most of his time visiting his ‘stores’ and insisted the rest of his head-office team do the same. Having spent most of the week on the road, the senior folks reconvened at the HQ on Fridays, along with large numbers of store workers and managers. Collective decisions were made, with the benefit of broad consensus and vast practical experience. At Wetherspoon, we have tried to follow Sam’s principles – and most of the senior team spend only one or two days a week at our head office, passing the rest of the time in our pubs, doing our imperfect best to absorb information, criticisms and ideas from customers and colleagues. The approach does not create Nirvana or guarantee success but it increases the average quality of hundreds of annual decisions on issues big and small. In my experience, the approach of subjecting almost all decisions to scrutiny by colleagues on the front line is not shared by many of the big egos in the corporate world generally, although similar practices are certainly adopted at retailers such as Richer Sounds and Timpson and, no doubt, at other enlightened companies. In most companies, including non-pub companies, however, decision-making is more highly concentrated at the centre, with most decisions made by the chief executive and his lieutenants.”

Japan exempts small bars from smoking ban: The Japanese health ministry has bent to pressure from the restaurant industry and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and watered down its plan to ban indoor smoking in all facilities. Its new proposal for combating second-hand smoke exempts small bars, although it still bans indoor smoking in all public facilities such as municipal buildings, stadiums, in or near schools, hospitals, and other facilities frequented by children. The ministry wants to get the bill passed and in place ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Under its new draft, smoking would be banned in all restaurants, izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) and ramen shops but smoking would be allowed in bars no larger than 30 square metres as long as a ventilation system was installed and a sign posted to warn customers of the dangers of second-hand smoke. People who ignore the ban would face a fine of up to 300,000 yen, while fines for businesses could reach 500,000 yen. However, the bill’s prospects for passage remain unclear given strong opposition from LDP politicians tied to the tobacco and restaurant industries. Dr Hiroshi Yamato, an expert on the effects of smoking, criticised the move, telling The Japan Times: “Posting different smoking rules for facilities based on their business type and size will only create confusion. Japan should ban smoking at all facilities without exception – 49 countries impose blanket bans without any problem.”

Heston Blumenthal given Diners Club lifetime achievement award: Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal has been honoured with the 2017 Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. Aside from a two-week stint at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir in Oxfordshire, Blumenthal has had no formal training, putting him at odds with many contemporaries. In 1995, he opened 40-cover restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, where he was awarded his first Michelin star in 1999, his second in 2002 and third in 2004. The following year, The Fat Duck was awarded top spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. In 2004, Blumenthal acquired another Bray pub, The Hinds Head, and launched Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in 2011, which earned its first Michelin star the following year. His next ventures were The Crown, again in Bray, and The Perfectionists’ Café at Heathrow. He also operates a second Dinner restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. Blumenthal told The Drinks Business: “I am honoured, thrilled and really quite excited. For me, this award is particularly special because it’s voted by my peers. After 20 years of The Fat Duck, I feel like I’m just starting and those 20 years were my apprenticeship. The future is very exciting.” Blumenthal will be officially given the title on Wednesday, 5 April at an awards ceremony in Melbourne.

Casual Dining show reports 9% attendance rise: Casual Dining 2017 saw a 9% rise in people visiting the show, with almost 5,000 attendees. The event at the Business Design Centre in Islington showcased the best new products, solutions, insights, and innovations of the year. The event, in its fourth year, was visited by 4,785 attendees to its 200 exhibitors, with senior executives from the UK’s largest restaurant, pub and bar groups, alongside thousands of independent operators, hotels, wholesalers, distributors, attractions, and contract caterers. Casual Dining group event director Chris Brazier said: “The fact we’ve just enjoyed our best ever show with record numbers of buyers and, more importantly, a record quality of buyers – who battled travel strikes and Storm Doris to attend – is testament to this wonderful industry of conscientious decision-makers.” Brazier added that more than 75% of exhibitors had already rebooked for next year’s show, which will return to Islington on 21-22 February 2018.

Company News:

Former Firezza owner continues expansion of pan Asian concept in Hove: Since selling his pizza delivery chain Firezza to PizzaExpress for a figure reported to be circa £5m, Ado Medjedovic has secured a second site in less than 12 months for his new pan Asian concept Mye Mye. The new site will open in Portland Road, Hove, to accompany the first site in Matlock Road, Brighton. The property, a former Chinese takeaway, was marketed by Flude Commercial and a new lease was sold by way of a premium shortly after coming to market. Will Thomas, of Flude Commercial, said: “Interest for restaurants and takeaway premises across the whole of Brighton and Hove continues to outstrip supply by a significant margin and opportunities like these always generate a great deal of interest. This was, however, one of the better-presented premises I have seen and the Portland Road area is increasingly becoming sought after.” The property was let for a family that had operated the premises since the late 1960s, who have now decided to step away.

Yummy Collection reports sales momentum with 14% February like-for-likes: Yummy Collection, the pub operator formerly known as Yummy Pub Company and led by Tim Foster, Jason Rowlands and Anthony Pender, has reported like-for-like sales growth hit 14% in February. Pender told Propel: “(We’ve had) three months’ solid growth culminating in 14% like-for-likes in February – and we’ve only just started to build the momentum! Tim has got his sales office opening up into new online platforms under the Yummy Collection banner, Jason’s kitchens are running new menus building on further integration with suppliers to get only the best ingredients, and I’m back in the pubs more than ever, taking back some of the responsibilities of operations with my partners. We’ve also got a very focused Lucy Foster in the office driving serious discipline and controls to drive down costs and create new efficiencies in this ever-competitive world. We are in a great place.” Tim Foster added: “Pre-booked business was worth more than one-third of all business in February versus less than a fifth in 2016. We’ve delivered the growth by footfall, not changing price points. We’ve seen a huge uplift at Somers Town in pre-booked parties, with 20% like-for-like growth in February, and great results at our Gorringe Park site, again with pre-booked business delivering a 26% like-for-like growth.”

Ei Group hires heads of communication and food: Ei Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has expanded the expertise of its management team by recruiting Jon Dale as head of corporate communication and Paul Farr as head of food. The newly created roles will help the company with the ongoing implementation of its five-year plan. Dale will use his years of experience to help streamline internal and external communications across all of Ei Group’s main business units – Ei Publican Partnerships, Ei Managed Investments, Ei Managed Operations and Ei Commercial Properties. He will also be responsible for the company’s monthly internal Deals And Ideas magazine and eilive – the new name for Enterprise Live. In addition Farr, who joins as the company’s first head of food, will strengthen Ei Group’s strategy to help publicans build their businesses through food. Farr is well equipped to take on the role having held similar positions at Spirit Pub Company, Genting Casinos and, most recently, Wyevale Garden Centres. Prior to that he was classically trained at Claridge’s. Farr, who will report to retail concept director Steve de Polo, added: “This is a particularly exciting role as Ei Group has such a wide and varied portfolio of pubs and restaurants and, while many of them are serving stunning food and making significant gains from food, there are many areas of the business that could benefit hugely from a more structured food strategy, especially as food is becoming an increasingly important aspect of so many pub businesses.”

James Blunt launches pubco, buys Chelsea venue: Best-selling singer-songwriter James Blunt has launched his own pubco and bought Chelsea venue the Fox and Pheasant, which was under threat from demolition, The Sun reports. An insider told the daily newspaper: “James has registered himself as director of James Blunt Pubs and is totally committed to the project. It’s not just an investment, he wants to be hands on. He has already been boasting it’s going to be a pub full of aristocrats and even royalty.” Following a four-year hiatus, Blunt will release his fifth album, The Afterlove, on Friday, 24 March. In 2012, he launched a restaurant with Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio and World Superbike racer Carl Fogarty in Swiss ski resort Verbier at the top of the ski lift named in Blunt’s honour. Late last year another pop star, Ed Sheeran, revealed he had built a pub – complete with underground tunnel – inside his Suffolk estate.

Marston’s bids to add 27-bedroom lodge to Lincoln pub: Marston’s wants to add a 27-bedroom lodge to its Lincolnshire Poacher pub in Lincoln by developing part of its car park. The company is seeking planning permission for the two-storey building south east of the pub to run parallel to Sympson Close, with its front elevation facing into the car park. Paul Harris, from Marston’s planning agent Creda Planning, said the development was “good news for jobs”. He added: “The Lincolnshire Poacher is evidently a successful business providing 29 full and part-time jobs. Typically, the employment catchment radius for a Marston’s pub is about ten miles and the Poacher is no exception. It therefore represents a significant source of employment for local people. It is asserted that the employment opportunities available at the site will grow, not only as a direct result of the roles that will be created to facilitate the running of the lodge but also as a result of the uplift in sales in the pub a lodge will effect as a result of its introduction.” Harris added that sales had risen by an average of £8,000 a week at other Marston’s pubs where lodges had been built.

Carluccio’s to launch debut ‘new generation’ site in York this month: Carluccio’s will unveil its first “new generation” site on Monday, 27 March – in York. The 168-cover restaurant, shop and deli will open in a grade II-listed building in St Helen’s Square in a space that used to house a Terry’s chocolate shop and TSB bank. Original features such as confectionery cabinets, timber-panelled walls and brass lighting have been retained and will contrast with contemporary furniture and modern artwork. The grand staircase will lead to a first-floor deli bar and balconies overlooking the square. The ground-floor Terry’s Bar will pay homage to the chocolatier and offer a new selection of cocktails, an Italian wine list, craft beer and prosecco. Carluccio’s new generation restaurants will offer the “very best of Antonio Carluccio’s homeland”, with signature dishes celebrating modern twists on Italian classics. The venue will also offer Carluccio’s new pizza menu, as well as coffee and pastries during the day. The shop will sell Carluccio’s range of regional Italian products and cookbooks. A Carluccio’s spokesman told York Mix: “Pop in whenever you want, for whatever you want, and stay as long as you like – that’s the Carluccio’s way.”

JD Wetherspoon launches Chicken Club: JD Wetherspoon has launched Chicken Club, which will take place on Wednesdays at its venues across the UK. Available until 11pm, customers can select a chicken dish from the menu, along with a choice of sauce, a side dish and a drink from the meal-deal drinks range. Signature dishes on the menu include southern-fried chicken strips, roast half chicken, and chicken wings, alongside two new menu additions – pulled chicken bun and chicken breast bites. The pulled chicken bun combines a whole chicken breast, warmed and hand-pulled in the kitchen, mixed with a choice of sauce and served in a buttery brioche bun with rocket and red onion. The chicken breast bites dish consists of ten chicken bits made from 100% chicken breast, lightly battered and fried. The dish comes with a choice of sauces – peri-peri and smoky BBQ plus two new options, Sriracha hot sauce and sticky soy sauce. Sriracha is a hot Thai sauce consisting of chilli peppers, tomato, garlic and vinegar and can be combined with Wetherspoon’s hot wing chicken option for an “extra kick”. Lighter Chicken Club options include quinoa chicken salad, and peri-peri chicken breast and pepper skewers served with peri-peri sauce and a side salad. The range of side dishes includes Mexican-style rice, salad, and chips.

Humble Grape to launch crowdfunding campaign to fund expansion: Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop concept founded by James Dawson, is to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support expansion. Dawson said that despite being offered full funding from established investors, he will launch the campaign on Seedrs on Sunday, 19 March to “stay true to the brand ethos”. The third and fourth Humble Grape sites will open in London in April and August and are already fully funded, he said, with funds raised from the campaign to go towards opening sites five and six and growing the Wine Club, Wine Bank and online sales. Investors will gain additional privileges and discounts as well as being given first access to new imports and vineyard visits. The campaign aims to raise between £750,000 and £1m, with a pre-valuation of £10m. Dawson said: “We’ve let customer feedback and input shape our brand so far and, no matter how big we grow, I want this to continue. I believe in crowdfunding because it gives customers who believe in a brand the opportunity to become a part of its growth and share in its success. We’re all about bringing our customers closer to the source, connecting them with the winemakers and giving them access to wines that would otherwise be unavailable. I want Humble Grape to belong to the people who believe in what we are doing.” The company opened its first venue in Battersea in 2015 and a second in Fleet Street the following year. Revenue is split 15% retail, 20% events and 65% bar. The company employs more than 35 staff and imports 400-plus wines from 11 countries. Humble Grape raised £360,000 via a crowdfunding campaign in 2014, with an additional £175,000 from private investors, with a pre-valuation of £1.4m.

Bokan restaurant opens on 37th floor of Canary Wharf hotel: New restaurant Bokan has opened on the 37th floor of Novotel in Canary Wharf offering dinner, drinks and dancing across three storeys. The menu at Bokan, which is old Saxon for “lighthouse”, has been devised by former L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon head chef Aurelie Altemaire. It features British charcuterie and cheese for nibbles, while mains include line-caught cod, lamb shank and a Highland venison pie, Hot Dinners reports. The venue’s luxury bar is on the 38th floor and stocked with wine, craft beer and cocktails made with boutique spirits from small-batch distilleries. Bokan also offers “experimental” bar snacks, including oatmeal-dusted chilli squid and scotch eggs with beetroot relish. The 39th floor features a DJ mezzanine and terrace views across the London skyline. The venue also offers a boozy bottomless brunch with sharing plates and cocktails on Sundays. The restaurant’s website states: “We are the dockside beacon for artisanal food and drink, made using a mixture of local, ancient and adopted British ingredients. We have crafted a menu inspired by rich European cultural cuisines that have flowed along the Thames since ancient times. A place of trade for more than 1,000 years, we are inspired by the hard-working backdrop of the historical Canary Wharf.”

Kent-based American diner concept The Burger Bros to open second permanent site, in Dover: Kent-based American diner concept The Burger Bros, which operates a restaurant in Deal and a residency in Canterbury, is set to open a second permanent site in the county, this time in Dover. The Burger Bros Bar & Grill is due to open in April in the former Port of Call pub in Market Square, where the diner was operating a residency until October until the then-landlord surrendered his lease. The new diner will offer burgers, steaks, hotdogs, deli sandwiches and a Sunday roast with an “American twist”. It will also feature a cocktail bar and offer a range of craft beers and entertainment ranging from comedy nights to live music and DJ sets. The Burger Bros owner Karl Wozny told Kent Live: “There’s lots of work to do and we aim to offer a bit more than our Deal restaurant. We already have a host of amazing suppliers, including Time & Tide Brewing. There is a good craft beer culture in Dover, places like Breakwater Brewery are going from strength to strength. I see potential in Dover. I have a soft spot for the town and knew in my heart we’d be back.”

Liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour Four Winters opens third London site: Liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour brand Four Winters has opened its third London site, this time in Portobello Road. The concept harnesses the power of liquid nitrogen, with ice cream flash-frozen on-site for customers, under the banner “we freeze the seasons”. The new venue also offers yogurt smoothie bowls, including a mango version that comes topped with strawberries, shredded coconut, almonds and chia seeds. The Cereal Crunch dish mixes vanilla ice cream with salted caramel, and comes topped with sweetened cereal clusters, while the strawberry yogurt parfait is served with granola. Seasonally inspired ice cream flavours include mince pie, The Bee’s Knees – made with honey and homemade spicy honey brittle – and Afternoon Tea, which is inspired by London and features bite-size chunks of scone and strawberry jam. Four Winters opened its first London venue in Gloucester Road in April 2016, following that with a launch in Soho in December. Four Winters also operates one site in Jordan, with two sites in Saudi Arabia listed as “coming soon” on its website.

Former football club owner buys Dundee restaurant despite administration blow: City Centre Pubs, led by former Dundee Football Club owner Jimmy Marr, has bought restaurant 172 At The Caird from owner Cosmo Molinaro for an undisclosed sum. All staff at the 25-cover city centre venue will be retained. Last month, Marr and wife Karen suffered a setback when two of their other companies – Park Properties and Park Investments – were placed in administration. The companies operated some of Dundee’s best-known licensed venues, including The Playwright Restaurant and the Taybridge Bar. Marr blamed the situation on vigorous and unnecessary debt recovery action by Luxembourg-based lender Clipper Holding. Marr said the classic building housing the venue was suitable for a “top-class establishment”, adding he would bring a “new dimension” to the venue. He said the fine dining experience of The Playwright, which he developed in nearby Tay Square, would feature on the upper floor, with traditional pub grub offered on the ground floor. High teas will also be served, with local produce featuring on both menus. Live music will be a further attraction – ranging from jazz and blues to folk. A spokesman for the Marrs told The Courier: “We are extremely excited about buying 172 At The Caird. We aim to provide a memorable experience for everyone.”

The Number Group launches Hoxton bar focusing on food, drink, art and music: The Number Group, which operates Number 90 Bar & Kitchen in Hackney Wick, has launched a sister site – Number 177 Bar & Kitchen – in Hoxton. The venue at 177 Hoxton Street combines food, drink, art and music with an emphasis on animal-free and gluten-free dining, alongside burgers, craft beer on tap, a gallery, club room and a sliding wall of graffiti art. The decor is in an industrial style inspired by the Berlin bar scene, including a street photo booth. The menu features vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes as well as burgers, including one with blue cheese, a veggie burger and a schnitzel burger. It also offers Jaegermeister ice cream and creative cocktails. The venue’s website states: “Number 177 is a unique space celebrating diverse art, music, food and drink. Our monthly events programme features everything from burlesque life drawing classes to boozy book clubs and improv nights. You can uncover the finest DJs, promoters and artists in London – from the underground to the well known; always keeping it credible.” The Number Group was founded by Bruno Cabra, who opened Number 90 Bar & Kitchen in 2014.

Kent-based Zee Bar to start expansion with second venue, at former Chicago Rock Cafe site in Maidstone: The owner of Zee Bar in Tunbridge Wells is set to start expansion of the concept by opening a second site in Kent, this time in Maidstone. Simon Azimi is converting former nightclub Chicago Rock Café, which has fallen into disrepair since closing in 2013. Since then, squatters and pigeons have replaced revellers and the High Street building has become an eyesore. Azimi, who lived in Maidstone for eight years and describes it as a second home, told Kent Live: “I’m very familiar with the town and what the people want and am confident the club will be a great success. Currently, it’s one of the ugliest buildings in Maidstone so we’ll be completely redoing the front of the building.” If everything goes to plan, Zee Bar will open by the end of April.

Stonegate Pub Company to convert Plymouth’s ‘best bar’ into Slug and Lettuce: Stonegate Pub Company has started converting its award-winning Berkeley Bar and Grill in Plymouth into the city’s first Slug and Lettuce. The Berkeley Bar and Grill in Princess Street was named the city’s best pub or club at the 2016 Best Bar None awards. It also won the best pub food category. However, the venue closed on Sunday (26 February) and is set to reopen as a Slug and Lettuce pub on Monday, 27 March. A message on the Berkeley’s Facebook page states: “It is with a great deal of sadness that we close the doors to The Berkeley Bar and Grill for the last time. Over the past six years we have shared birthdays, weddings, christenings and many special occasions with great people we have learnt to call our friends. However, we reopen after a major investment as the new Slug and Lettuce Plymouth.” There are 77 Slug and Lettuce bars in the UK, with the closest to Plymouth in Bath and Bristol. The brand is known for its Wine Down Wednesday, Tanqueray Thursday and Fizz Friday promotions. Stonegate Pub Company has 692 pubs split into seven formats – Classic Inns; Common Room; Proper Pubs; Slug and Lettuce; Town, Pub & Kitchen; Venues; and Yates’s. Late last year, the company also acquired Walkabout operator Intertain for about £39.5m.

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