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Tue 7th Mar 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

ALMR – licensed hospitality worst affected by crippling rates rises: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has repeated calls for sector-specific action on business rates and highlighted the problem the country’s pubs, bars and restaurants face. It said the sector was set to “shoulder this substantial and inequitable burden” compared with other industries. The move follows a suggestion by think-tank Centre For Cities that firms will benefit from the recent business rates revaluation. The ALMR said telephone calls to the helpline run by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) revealed examples of the average increases in rateable value (RV) across England. They included a 28.7% average increase in RV for pubs and a 36.5% rise for restaurants in London. A large average RV rise for restaurants was also predicted for East Midlands (22.0%) and the south east (22.1%), which is the region likely to face the biggest average RV increase for pubs outside London, at 19.5%. The lowest average regional RV rises in both categories was in the north east, at 1.2% for pubs and 2.0% for restaurants. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “What the Centre For Cities’ report fails to acknowledge is exactly the point we have been emphasising – that spiralling business rates is a sector-specific issue threatening the UK’s pubs, bars and restaurants. A number of other sectors such as offices, industrial and retail may be looking at average decreases but licensed hospitality is the only sector facing an average increase in every region in England. The nature of a fiscally neutral revaluation means that wherever there are decreases in rateable value, there must also be increases to balance this. Pubs, bars and restaurants are the businesses set to shoulder this substantial and inequitable burden. Phone calls from licensees to the BII helpline underline the scale of the problem, with a sample of 30 pubs reporting more than £300,000 of increases in rateable value compared with only £28,000 of reductions. Pubs in areas the Centre For Cities states will benefit most from the revaluation are still being hit hard. A pub in Blackburn, the town looking at the greatest decrease in rateable values, is still facing an 8% increase, while a pub not far from Blackpool is facing a 29% increase. We are also seeing pubs near Huddersfield and Bradford looking at 40% and 9% increases respectively and a venue near Sunderland facing a 30% hike. A recent study by CGA Peach shows 79% of business leaders are concerned about rising business rates. Many of our members tell us they are looking at substantial increases and are concerned about how they will foot the increased bill. Clearly this is a real area of concern for our members and the wider sector. Our members are not exaggerating when they say increased rates bills could potentially be ruinous for them and their concerns should not be ignored or dismissed out of hand.”

Industry News:

Propel Premium members to receive expanded database of multi-site operators: Propel Premium subscribers will receive an expanded database of multi-site companies this Friday (10 March). A total of 200 multi-site companies have been added to the database this time, which now features 900 multi-site companies in all. 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 will be able to receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. Subscribers will also receive a digital version of Propel Quarterly magazine a week before publication plus regular audio tapes featuring sector executives and experts. 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 Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Win a 30-litre keg of London Pride Unfiltered: To celebrate the launch of London Pride Unfiltered, brewer and retailer Fuller’s has teamed up with Propel to offer five days of prizes. Today’s prize is a 30-litre keg of London Pride Unfiltered. Brewed true to London Pride’s original recipe, the beer is dry hopped for added character and flavour. Fuller’s goal was to make the beer as natural as possible so it is centrifuged – rather than filtered or pasteurised – to retain taste and complexity. To win, all you have to do is email LondonPrideUnfiltered@Fullers.co.uk with your name and company by 2pm today. Terms and conditions apply. On the first day of the competition, 20 entrants won a London Pride Unfiltered limited edition T-shirt – go to www.propelhospitality.com to see the list of winners. Anyone interested in stocking London Pride Unfiltered should email customer.services@fullers.co.uk or call 023 9271 4444. Check tomorrow’s newsletter for another London Pride Unfiltered prize draw.

Hotel values rise in eastern Europe driven by tough times in the west – Hotel Valuation Index: Hotels in eastern Europe are benefiting from tough times in the west, with average room values growing by 11%, according to the 2017 European Hotel Valuation Index from hotel consultancy HVS. Hotels in the Slovakian capital Bratislava topped the list of value rises, up 18.9% year-on-year, while room values in Sofia rose 16%. Bucharest saw room values up 14.6%, while those in Budapest and Prague were both up 9.9%. While many eastern European markets saw hotel room values rise from a relatively low base, their affordability has helped to build strong demand in the region, particularly from Britain, the report stated. The strengthening rouble and a slow recovery in oil prices has seen Moscow’s hotel values per room rise 16.7%, while it has more than 6,000 rooms coming on-stream during the next 18 months. In contrast, terrorism, Brexit and an uncertain future for the eurozone have led to a decrease in values per room of about 2.1% in western Europe. London hotels only enjoyed growth last year in November and December, with the predicted boom in visits prompted by the fall in sterling failing to materialise, while an influx of new supply limited occupancy growth. Edinburgh, however, saw room values rise 5.3% on the back of impressive occupancy levels of more than 80% in 2016, while Birmingham saw values rise 5.1%. In the eurozone, hotel values in Dublin rose 15.5% in 2016 on the back of double-digit revpar growth and limited supply, leading to a growth in occupancy levels. Barcelona also experienced a record 2016, with rate growth values per room up 13.8%. Stricter regulation on hotel development will further strengthen the city’s performance, bolstered by a strong conference programme this year and in 2018. HVS director Sophie Perret said: “Regardless of political emotions, values in Europe still have some room for growth as markets, such as some of the PIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), continue to climb the value ladder to their rightful positions. A subdued pipeline, coupled with decent demand growth and room for growth value-wise if compared with ten years ago, all bode well for Europe in 2017, although with moderation.”

BBPA issues tax hike warning: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has issued a final warning that any return to beer tax hikes would be a major setback for brewers and pubs. Many pubs are struggling with rocketing business rates and other new costs this year, including the National Minimum Wage, auto-enrolment for pensions and the Apprenticeship Levy. All four were adding the equivalent of 5.3p tax on a pint, regardless of any possible beer duty increases. The comments come from BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds, who is making a final push for a one-penny duty cut, with a letter in the Daily Telegraph supported by 39 leading figures in the brewing industry arguing the overwhelming case for a beer duty cut in the Budget on Wednesday (8 March). Further pressure is being applied by a cross-party coalition of MPs in a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament on Tuesday. The BBPA is also highlighting analysis commissioned from Oxford Economics, which shows there is no “pot of gold” for the chancellor in raising beer duty. The leading economic research organisation estimated 5,300 jobs would be lost if the chancellor raised duty as currently planned, rather than cutting it by a penny as it was three times by former chancellor George Osborne. The modest £91m loss in beer duty would be almost entirely covered by an estimated £89m in extra revenue from boosted employment and other taxes. Even a duty freeze, rather than a cut, would safeguard 3,300 jobs, also at an exceptionally small net cost of £2m to the Treasury. Simmonds added: “Our beer taxes are already three times the EU average and pubs face big new cost challenges this year. British beer sales have stabilised since the abandonment of huge tax rises led to huge sales losses under the beer duty escalator. Any return to tax hikes would be a massive setback for the industry and the 900,000 people we employ. Instead, by continuing the sensible tax policy begun in 2013, the chancellor can create confidence in this important sector and bring cheer to pub-goers – and at virtually no cost to the Treasury. It is not too late for anyone to support the campaign by sending your local MP a message via the BBPA’s campaign website – www.cutbeertax.co.uk.”

Fleurets named as UK’s most active agent: Property agent Fleurets has been announced as EGI’s most active leisure and hotels agent for 2016. Alongside winning the national award, Fleurets was also awarded most active regional agent for the East Midlands, east of England, north west, south east (excluding London), West Midlands and Yorkshire. Furthermore, Fleurets also received top-five rankings for Greater London, the south west and Wales. Graeme Bunn, managing director of Fleurets, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be listed as the most active leisure and hotels agents. However, my thanks must go to our superb national team here at Fleurets, who have continued to work exceedingly hard in order to achieve the best results.”

Company News:

MasterChef contestant hits crowdfunding target to open permanent site for Koj concept: MasterChef contestant Andrew “Koj” Kojima has hit his £50,000 target on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to open a permanent site for his modern Japanese concept. Celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge and Michel Roux Junior backed Kojima’s fund-raise to turn his Koj pop-up in Regent Street, Cheltenham, into a permanent site. The campaign has closed after raising £54,830 from 271 investors within its time-frame. Kerridge said: “I think it’s fantastic Koj is going it alone. Food businesses are driven by a passion and anyone who follows their dreams to bring quality dining to Gloucestershire is a massive boost to the whole area.” Roux Junior added: “Koj’s style of food reflects his heritage and he has an understanding of what brings joy to the palate like no other.” Kojima said: “Cheltenham is the right place for my first restaurant and a new style of Japanese dining, combining a modern atmosphere, good music, Japanese-inspired cocktails and beer with tasty Japanese food that can either be fresh and light or more comforting.” The layout of the building is being changed to provide a cocktail bar upstairs and expand the cramped kitchen, with plans to have the restaurant ready for Easter.

Simon French issues ‘Buy’ note on Restaurant Group shares ahead of full-year results: Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Restaurant Group shares ahead of full-year results on Wednesday (8 March). He said: “On 25 January, the group announced a disappointing post-close trading update with like-for-like sales down 5.9% in the fourth quarter, although it expected results to be in line with previous guidance of £74m to £80m profit before tax on a 52-week basis. We forecast £77m profit before tax on a pre-tax basis. Of more interest will be Andy McCue’s strategy review, which is expected to centre around product quality and price, customer service and therefore value. This will determine the likely trajectory of profit recovery towards previous levels. The group has taken steps in recent weeks to rebase pricing – for instance all burgers for £5.95 in February – but with such a drastic price cut (circa 50%), volume uplift will have to be substantial to compensate. Furthermore, we expect the group to comment on future dividend policy. We expect current trading to have remained difficult with like-for-likes negative. The stock trades on a 2017E adjusted EV/Ebitdar of 7.3x, a price earnings ratio of 13.9x and yields 5.3% (assuming a maintained dividend). We reiterate our ‘Buy’ recommendation.”

Boparan names McIlwee as executive chairman: A former Tesco finance director has become executive chairman of Boparan’s restaurant interests, Sky News has reported. Laurie McIlwee, who left Tesco in spring 2014 after falling out with its then chief executive, has been appointed executive chairman of Boparan, which owns Ed’s Easy Diner, Giraffe and Harry Ramsden’s. The appointment reunites McIlwee with the Giraffe restaurant chain, which was offloaded by Britain’s biggest retailer last year as part of a streamlining effort by chief executive Dave Lewis. Boparan bought the chain, which was said by some analysts to have been poorly managed under Tesco’s ownership, along with Ed’s Easy Diner, which was snapped up out of administration. Last month, Tom Crowley, who ran the Giraffe business, was appointed to run the wider restaurant group. Last summer, McIwee was publicly cleared by accountancy watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) of any wrongdoing in relation to the finance and accounting ‎practices of Tesco. McIlwee, who left the company amid tensions with then chief executive Philip Clarke, was never formally named by the FRC as being under investigation.

Deltic Group appoints new regional director: Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs, has appointed Darryn Valerio as regional director for the south east. He joins from GC Restaurants and Bars, where he had been operations manager since 2016. Prior to that role, he spent a number of years at Novus Leisure in various roles, including operations manager for the group and general manager of its flagship Tiger Tiger venue in London. In his new role, Valerio will be responsible for nine late-night clubs and bars in the south east, covering Canterbury, Brighton, Dartford, Crawley, Kingston, Eastbourne, Kingston, Guildford and Ashford. Peter Marks, chief executive of The Deltic Group, said: “I am delighted to welcome Darryn to the team. He brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge of the industry. For us, it’s always been about giving our customer a fun, safe night out and I have every confidence Darryn will continue to deliver this for our 11 million customers.” Valerio added: “Deltic has an excellent reputation in the market and I very much look forward to working with the team to continue to deliver for our customers and business.”

Celtic Manor to open smokehouse restaurant: Celtic Manor is to open a smokehouse and grill restaurant. The venue at the Coldra Court Hotel in Newport has been named The Rib Smokehouse and Grill and will offer “house-smoked dishes with southern-influenced flavours”. The Coldra Court Hotel was previously the Hilton until the Celtic Manor rebranded and refurbished the venue last year. The new restaurant opens on Thursday (9 March). A spokesman for Celtic Manor said The Rib Smokehouse and Grill concept was all about “the experience”, with the atmosphere, smells and food in a “modern but industrial dining space”. It said the “intensely flavoured” meat would be treated with an exclusive house rub and cooked low and slow on timber-smoked Redneck ovens.

Pizza Pilgrims launches Shoreditch site, fifth London venue: Pizza Pilgrims, co-founded by Thom and James Elliot, has opened its fifth London site, this time in Shoreditch. The new restaurant in High Street is the company’s first bring your own beer (BYOB) venue. To make the BYOB concept easier, Pizza Pilgrims has linked up with a nearby off-licence that offers Italian wine and craft beer selected specially for diners, with a £2.50 corkage fee. New menu additions at the Shoreditch site include crust dippers, prosciutto pops and tiramisu served in take-away cardboard espresso cups. The restaurant is also experimenting with dessert pizzas, specifically calzones, with customers able to “build their own” by bringing in their favourite chocolate bar, which Pizza Pilgrims wrap in dough and bake. Consumers are also invited to participate in “pizza art”, with the best pizza-inspired takes on classical paintings adorning the walls, Hot Dinners reports. Pizza Pilgrims offers Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in a 460-degree oven, with its other sites in Covent Garden, Kingly Street in Carnaby, Dean Street in Soho, and Exmouth Market. It also has a residency at crazy golf concept Swingers in the City. The company is set to open sites in Waterloo and West India Quay this year. All restaurants offer a takeaway service and Pizza Pilgrims also operates a Piaggio Ape van called Conchetta at outdoor events.

Soho House to launch its first stand-alone restaurant in New York: Soho House will launch its first stand-alone restaurant in New York in May, with a site for northern Italian concept Cecconi’s. The new venue will open in the up and coming Dumbo area of the city on the ground floor of Empire Stores. Soho House wholly acquired the London-based Cecconi’s concept and has since opened sites in Miami Beach and west Hollywood as well as Berlin, Istanbul and Barcelona. Cecconi’s venues have proved a magnet for celebrities such as Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow. The Dumbo space will span 8,500 square feet and feature a 250-cover dining room, an outdoor terrace seating 80, and a large “eat-in” bar – all with views from Brooklyn Bridge Park and the East River to downtown Manhattan. Soho House was founded by Nick Jones in 1995 in Greek Street, Soho. It has since expanded to have “houses” around the world. Last month Javad Morandi, who last year invested £14m to buy a half-share in Soho House’s restaurant division Rollout Restaurants, said the division could expand to 100 sites in the UK. Its brands include Chicken Shop, Dirty Burger and Pizza East. Dumbo is an acronym of “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”.

Comptoir Group executive chef David Jones joins Arabica ahead of expansion: Former Comptoir Group executive chef David Jones has joined Arabica as the brand looks to refine its offering and lay the groundwork for further expansion. Jones will head Arabica’s bar and kitchen in Borough Market and work with founder James Walters on new product development at the Arabica Food & Spice Company. Prior to working at Comptoir Group, the 22-strong restaurant group consisting of casual dining chain Comptoir Libanais, Shawa Lebanese Grill and Lebanese restaurants Levant and Kenza, Jones was head chef at North African restaurant Momo. Jones and Walters will launch new dishes at the revamped Arabica Bar & Kitchen on Monday, 3 April, while master of wine Sarah Abbott has also been brought in to create a short, punchy list of wines. In May, Walters and Jones will begin hosting monthly market tours and cookery classes at the Cook House in Borough Market, sharing their passion for Middle Eastern flavours. Walters said: “David and I share a playful and passionate approach to the flavours of the east, as well as a love of quality ingredients with real provenance. David brings a wealth of Middle Eastern culinary experience and, coupled with (operations director) Luciano Gonazga’s background, we feel it’s time to broaden our horizons. We’re eager to find new sites and expand the business’s reach.”

Revolucion de Cuba site faces more opposition in York: A York city centre hotel has become the latest to object to plans for a Revolution Bars Group site for its Revolucion de Cuba brand, warning the scheme could ruin its currently successful venue. The Judge’s Court hotel has hit out at plans for a new site in part of the old BHS building, saying the noise and disturbance it would create could put guests off and seriously damage its business. The plans centre on part of the former shop in New Street but the move has already faced opposition from police and neighbouring bars and businesses – all citing booze-fuelled bad behaviour in the city centre. Now Lee Robinson, manager of the Judge’s Court hotel, has said the thought of Revolucion de Cuba in that large site “fills us with fear”. Planning agents from O’Neill Associates have made a formal objection on the hotel’s behalf. It said the inevitable noise and disturbance from a large new bar could threaten the hotel’s viability and leave the grade II-listed building “empty and at risk”.

The Restaurant Group pulls plans for Coast to Coast in Chelmsford: The Restaurant Group has pulled its plans to open a venue for its Coast to Coast brand in the new £150m Bond Street development in Chelmsford, Essex. The American-style chain was supposed to be part of the shopping centre, which opened in September. Coast to Coast specialises in classic American food such as burgers, steaks, ribs, chicken, fajitas, fish, salads, and pizza inspired by restaurants on the Lincoln Highway that links San Francisco and New York. The Restaurant Group hasn’t given a reason for its change of heart. Seven restaurants have opened at Bond Street – Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian, Bill’s, better burger brand Byron, international cafe restaurant brand Jamaica Blue, Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas, Greene King’s seafood restaurant Loch Fyne, and Prezzo. The complex also features a John Lewis store and Everyman Cinema. There are 19 Coast to Coast sites in the UK, with the nearest to Chelmsford at Festival Leisure Park in Basildon. In January, The Restaurant Group instructed agent Savills to sell 23 of its former restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales, including a Coast to Coast site in Newcastle.

Champions League double header nights are ‘great news for pubs and clubs’ – BT Sport: Bruce Cuthbert, director of commercial customers at BT Sport, has said the introduction of “double-header” nights during the group stage of the Champions League is great news for operators of pubs and social clubs. BT has secured the rights for all UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football until the end of the 2020-21 season following a competitive auction process. From the 2018-19 season, pubs will be able to show Champions League double-header nights, with live matches kicking off on Tuesdays at both 6pm and 8pm. The new deal gives BT Sport exclusivity across all live games, highlights and in-match clips of both competitions. Cuthbert said the removal of ITV’s highlights package and the fact the Champions League is set to be even stronger from 2018-19, with a minimum of four participating teams guaranteed from the English, Spanish, German and Italian leagues, was also great news for pubs as it guaranteed more games between the top teams. He said the staggered kick-offs would be a “natural way to keep people in the pubs and clubs for longer” and would help venues to grow their business. Cuthbert said: “From three years ago, when we got the Champions League, to extend that deal for three years from 2018-19 is extraordinary. To have a long-term plan in place is brilliant, we’re thrilled. Having four good teams (from England, Spain, Italy and Germany) from the early stages means we know we will have the quality. Having double headers means people don’t have to choose between two brilliant games. Pubs can get people in early and keep them there. The lack of ITV highlights means the pub will be the place to watch it. The product is stronger and more valuable for the pubs and clubs sector moving forwards. The 6pm and 8pm slots are really strong for the sector. We plan to keep on building this as a product, the feedback has been exceptional so far.” When asked about possible price increases for operators following the new deal, Cuthbert said it was “far too early to discuss” but said BT was sticking to its promise made last month that it would not change its pricing structure while operators faced additional cost pressure from wages, inflation and business rates.

DHP Family relaunches new-look Garage in Islington with ‘immersive’ club night: Live music operator DHP Family has relaunched renowned Islington music venue The Garage by holding an “immersive” club night. The company, which owns venues including Rock City in Nottingham and The Borderline in Soho, has created Precinct Presents…, a series of events that will take over the whole complex every Saturday, changing its theme every six weeks. The first event, Lost In Tokyo, transported guests into a “dark and dystopian Japanese-style street scene”, with clubbers invited to dress up and enter a multi-sensory world. In addition to refurbishing The Garage’s 600-capacity live music room, DHP Family is set to open an all-day bar – the General Store – that will be a coffee bar by day and craft beer and cocktail bar at night. A new venue is also set to launch upstairs – Thousand Island – hosting breaking acts and collaborative club nights. DHP Family will also relaunch Borderline this month, with a new design and live music and nightlife programming to re-establish the venue as a “London icon for the next generation of music fans”. DHP is altering the layout of the 300-capacity venue to create a “flowing space that provides the best possible experience for performer and audience, from dance floor to green room”.

Weight Watchers moves into healthy food box delivery market: Weight Watchers has moved into the direct-to-consumer box market with the launch of a new series of healthy food boxes. The company has partnered with fresh food delivery company Bearfaced Groceries to launch the WW Smart Kitchen food box which, it said, simplifies healthy eating and guides people to make healthier food choices. Weight Watchers pointed out that the move makes it the first weight-management brand to launch a weekly subscription-based healthy food box service, with the meal plan solution available to members and non-members. Each WW Smart Kitchen box includes a wide range of fresh foods and healthy ingredients from leading UK butchers and farmers, along with Weight Watchers recipe cards. Recipes have been developed by Weight Watchers and specialist chefs, with the SmartPoints values of all meals calculated by nutritionists to ensure the service fits into Weight Watchers’ programme. The boxes are available in a variety of sizes and options, from a two-person to a four-person box, with an option of three days or five days of recipes and produce. Prices range from £35 to £75. Bearfaced Groceries’ buy-to-order model sees insulated temperature-controlled boxes delivered directly to the customer’s door on the day the ingredients arrive from the producer. Mark Simmons, commercial director at Weight Watchers UK, said: “We are thrilled to be extending our product range with this exciting and innovative concept. Working with Bearfaced Groceries, we have access to some of the UK’s top butchers and farmers, enabling us to deliver the freshest, finest ingredients right to the customer’s door at a time that suits them. We have a role to play in tackling the obesity crisis, now more than ever before, and WW Smart Kitchen is the latest addition to our suite of products to help people make informed, healthy meal choices for the whole family.”

Luxury Family Hotels puts Thornbury Castle on the market for £8.5m: Luxury Family Hotels is selling Thornbury Castle, one of the only Tudor castles in England to be used as a hotel, for offers in excess of £8.5m through agent Savills. The grade I-listed castle dates to 1330 and houses 28 en suite bedrooms, one of which was occupied by King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1535. It previously received the first Michelin star awarded in the UK outside London while under the ownership of Kenneth Bell. On-site there are atmospheric private dining facilities, conference facilities, indoor and outdoor spaces licensed for wedding ceremonies, and a vineyard. There is also the potential for further development of the hotel and grounds. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “Thornbury Castle offers a unique opportunity to an investor looking to own a historic hotel. The fantastic reputation of the business and the sympathetic Tudor interiors have ensured the hotel remains popular with guests and we expect significant interest while marketing the asset.”

Cheltenham-based Sibling to triple production following dedicated distillery launch: Cheltenham-based Sibling Distillery, which is owned by four siblings aged 25 or younger, is set to treble production following the opening of its first dedicated premises. Clarice, Cicely, Felix and Digby Elliott-Berry began producing Sibling Gin from a corner of their father’s brewery in Keynsham Road, Cheltenham, in 2014. At the time, they were thought to be the youngest distilling team in the world. Output in Sibling Distillery’s first year of operation was 400 bottles per month. Last year, the company’s turnover hit £300,000 and the new distillery in Dowdeswell Park has capacity to produce 1,600 bottles of gin per month. Clarice Elliott-Berry said: “Our old place was tiny. We had reached the stage where we were always on top of each other. Not only were we tearing our hair out, we couldn’t match demand. We had two fermenting tanks, which allowed us to make just one batch of gin every ten days. We needed at least four tanks, a new boiler and an extra still. At Dowdeswell Park there’s loads of space. We already have two new fermenting tanks. Our office has moved from the kitchen table to a proper room with desks and chairs. We’ve got a tasting room, a kitchen and a little shop. We can host tastings and tours.”

Darwin & Wallace appoints operations director: Darwin & Wallace, the Imbiba-backed operator, has appointed Polly Barnes as operations director to support its growth plans. Barnes has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including five years as head of training with Wagamama, before she moved on to Canteen and then Byron as a regional operator. She has also provided consultancy services to a number of businesses. Following a year of like-for-like sales growth at its venues No 11 Pimlico Road in Chelsea and No 32 The Old Town in Clapham, Darwin & Wallace also launched No 1 Duke Street in Richmond and No 197 Chiswick Fire Station in Chiswick last year. The company’s fifth site will open in the Battersea Power Station development, Circus West Village. Darwin & Wallace managing director Mel Marriott said: “It is testament to our existing team that we have managed to achieve so much in the last four years. Polly’s energy, experience and enthusiasm mirrors ours and will make a formidable addition.” Barnes added: “I’m thrilled to be joining a very successful and dynamic business and am looking forward to a long and successful future with Darwin & Wallace.” Marriott founded the company in 2012.

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