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Fri 24th Mar 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Boozy Cow boosts charities with £210,000 windfall after donating entire year’s profits: The Boozy Cow, the burger restaurant owned by Speratus Group, has donated its entire profits for the year to charity leading to a windfall of more than £210,000 for good causes. It is the second year The Boozy Cow, a concept developed by philanthropist and Speratus Group founder Garreth Wood, has given away all its profits, with almost £500,000 donated to date. The money will be shared by CHAS, the Archie Foundation, the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, and the STV Children’s Appeal. With a focus on supporting local charities, money will also go to the Eilidh Brown Memorial Fund, Stirling Carers Centre, PLUS Stirling, and Start-Up Stirling after The Boozy Cow restaurant opened in the city’s King Street in September last year. Meanwhile Wood, who unveiled the brand’s refurbished restaurant in Aberdeen today (Friday, 24 March) said profits generated during the company’s current financial year would be donated to Charlie House, Cash For Kids, Cornerstone, Grampian Autistic Society and Aberdeen Cyrenians. He said: “We are delighted to make further commitments to our charitable partners in this financial year, even in a challenging Aberdeen economic climate. We are achieving steady growth and expect the profits to rise with the opening of new sites, starting with the addition of a Dundee site next month. We are very proud to have given away almost £500,000 in the first two years since launching The Boozy Cow.”

Industry News:

Finance and Investment Conference open for bookings: The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is now open for bookings. Speakers will include Stephen Owens, director and head of corporate licensed valuation services at Christie & Co, who will provide an overview of the pub, restaurant, foodservice and hotel sector mergers and acquisitions landscape, current valuations in the market and the do’s and don’ts when attempting to attract investment or sell a hospitality business. He will also give an insight into the range of investors currently seeking to invest in the sector. Propel managing director Paul Charity will talk to investor Luke Johnson about his views on investment opportunities in the sector, valuations, his current set of investments and his views on sector prospects in the post-Brexit age. Meanwhile, Loungers co-founder Alex Reilley will talk about the successful investment in the company by Piper Private Equity, the dynamics of the relationship and growth in estate size and value during the period of investment, developing a high-quality management team, and the recent investment in the company by private equity company Lion Capital. See here for the full programme. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 11 May at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers, while tickets for Propel Premium subscribers are £245 plus VAT. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

Propel launches US Restaurant Franchise Forum: Propel has partnered with World Franchise Associates to launch the US Restaurant Franchise Forum. The event, which takes place on Friday, 28 April at One Moorgate Place in London, will see leading US operators present to their UK counterparts about franchise opportunities in Britain. The first five high-profile US foodservice franchisors to present at the event have been confirmed as Panda Express, the largest Chinese quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain in the US, with 1,800 sites; Little Caesars, which is the third-largest pizza QSR restaurant chain in the US, with 4,250 sites; Wingstop, the fastest-growing US QSR chicken brand, with 1,000 sites; Wienerschnitzel, the largest hotdog QSR brand in the US, with 350 locations and fast-emerging Indian QSR/fast-casual brand Chutney’s Indian Grill. Registration for the event is from 9am to 10am. It is for operators only with tickets priced £65 plus VAT. To book places, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

Next boss says company losing out due to generational switch towards experiences such as eating out: The boss of fashion retailer Next has claimed the company has been hit by a generational shift away from owning more “stuff” towards spending on memorable experiences such as eating out with friends. Chief executive Lord Wolfson, who was announcing the retailer’s first fall in profits for eight years, said the trend – most closely associated with “millennial” shoppers – was a major reason why he remained “extremely cautious” about the company’s outlook for the rest of 2017. In a statement to shareholders, Lord Wolfson said the latest consumer spending data revealed a growth in spend on pubs, restaurants and entertainment against a fall in spend on high street clothing. He said Next believed the numbers demonstrated the continuing trend towards spending on experiences away from “things”. However, he added that he didn’t expect the switch to be permanent. Lord Wolfson pointed to the latest figures from Barclaycard that reveal expenditure in restaurants rose 11% in the last three months of 2016, compared with the previous year, pubs saw 10% more takings, while entertainment, such as going to the cinema, saw an 8% rise. During the same period, spending on dresses, shirts, trousers and other clothing items dipped 0.3%. Lord Wolfson is the latest retail chief to highlight the challenge his industry faces in the age of the “experience economy”, when adventures that can be shared on social media are valued over ownership of shop-bought products.

British women opting for craft beer as tipple of choice – new survey: More than half of British women are opting for craft beer as their tipple of choice in the pub, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Mitchells & Butlers’ Nicholson’s Pubs brand. Given a choice between craft beer, gin, whisky or soft drinks, 57% of female respondents chose the craft beer option. British women also opted for traditional British dishes when eating out at the pub, with 47% choosing fish and chips, while health-led options such as quinoa salad only garnered 3% of the vote. Men were also in favour of traditional British dishes, with almost half (44%) opting for beef and ale pie. Although British tastes have remained traditional, social media is increasingly playing its part in the sector, with two-thirds of respondents stating the top reason they pop into a British pub is for free Wi-Fi. Seeking kudos on Facebook also proved popular, with 17% choosing to visit a pub so their friends knew they were out and about. The survey also revealed that for men, the best thing in pubs is being served first (40%), while 35% of women prioritise an available seat or table. Nicholson’s Pubs operations director William Prideaux said: “While it’s important to retain the features and traditions that make the classic British pub famous worldwide, it’s important to roll with the times and continue to evolve in this increasingly digital world.”

Asian fast food companies pull meat from menus as Brazil scandal deepens: Fast food companies in South Korea and Hong Kong have pulled chicken, beef and pork off their menus over food safety fears as Brazil’s meat scandal intensifies. Burger King and Mom’s Touch in South Korea, and Hong Kong fast food chain Cafe de Coral have taken the measure to avoid a customer backlash after police accused inspectors in Brazil – the world’s biggest exporter of beef and poultry – of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meat. The chains are seeking to restore the confidence of consumers sceptical of food producers, retailers and restaurants after a series of food scares in Asia involving tainted products from baby formula to cooking oil. Removing the menu items will add to plummeting demand for meat, with poultry particularly hard hit this year by the global spread of the deadly bird flu virus, and potentially damage Brazil’s meat-packing industry, reports the Daily Mail. China and Hong Kong are the top two importers of Brazilian meat, last year buying almost one-third of products from Latin America’s leading export industry, which is worth $14bn. Top Chinese retailers in the country have removed Brazilian beef and poultry from their shelves, while Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland and South Africa have announced partial or total bans on Brazilian meat imports this week, following measures similar to those taken by the European Union and Chile.

Sector companies sign up for Drinks Trade Regatta: Sector companies have signed up for this year’s Drinks Trade Regatta. Businesses taking part include AC Inns, Antic London, Beds and Bars, Diageo, Faucet Inn, Oakman Inns, St Austell Brewery, Young’s, and last year’s winner Jagermeister. Formerly known as the Interbrewery Regatta, the event takes place from 2-4 June on a fleet of Sunsail First 40s yachts, leaving from Port Solent. The cost is £3,200 per yacht, which includes VAT and a £1,000 charity donation. The top three overall teams will be able to donate a percentage (first place 50%, second 30%, and third 20%) to a charity of their choice. The two-day event includes dinner at the Royal Yacht Squadron and a prize-giving ceremony in Port Solent. Crews can be novices as skippers can be provided for an additional cost by Sunsail, which facilitates the event. For more details on charters or the event, call Terry Hunt at Sunsail on 02392 222 221 or email terryhunt@sunsail.com

National Waiters’ Day to celebrate fifth anniversary: National Waiters’ Day, the campaign led by hospitality industry charity Springboard and Galvin at Windows general manager Fred Sirieix, will celebrate its fifth anniversary on Tuesday, 16 May. Waiters and front-of-house professionals will race through London’s Hyde Park and other locations across the UK as part of a celebration and promotion of front-of-house roles. The aim of National Waiters’ Day is to change perceptions regarding front-of-house roles and to highlight the rewarding career progression routes hospitality offers. Hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses are invited to offer activities, demonstrations and challenges for prospective employees and students. Sirieix, who set up the event in 2013, said: “It’s essential we promote the ocean of career opportunities hospitality has to offer, celebrate the hard work of front-of-house professionals, and encourage more people to begin great careers in hospitality. With all the opportunities available, you can work hard and be rewarded with success. There has never been a more exciting time to join this special industry.”

Company News:

Coppa Club lines up fifth site, in Brighton featuring al fresco dining pod: Sector investor Hugh Osmond is lining up a fifth site for his Coppa Club concept, this time in Brighton. The concept, which launched in Sonning-on-Thames in Berkshire, has opened three further sites in London – in Oxford Circus, St Paul’s and Tower Bridge. Now it is looking to open its venue in the south coast city’s Brighton Square, which would feature a wood-and-fabric pod for diners to eat al fresco in all weathers. The square’s owner, Centurion Group, has already received permission to convert five shops on the east side into one unit that would be occupied by Coppa Club. The dolphin fountain in the square would be at the centre of the dining pod and, when it rains, an iris would close around it and funnel the rainwater to splash over the dolphins below. An application for the pod has been submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council. If successful, it would be the second covered al fresco project for Coppa Club, which introduced pop-up igloos at its Tower Bridge restaurant, reports Brighton and Hove News. The units the Coppa Club would take over have been home to Angel Food Kitchen, Giggling Giraffe card shop, Lovefit Cafe, and Simply the Best. Osmond worked with Luke Johnson to launch the flotation of PizzaExpress in 1993. He founded Punch Taverns in 1997 and private equity firm Sun Capital Partners in 2001, which acquired Strada in 2014.

New concept Florentine launches in London with signature ostrich egg dish: New concept Florentine has opened on London’s South Bank offering international sharing plates, including a seasonal ostrich egg for six to share. The all-day restaurant has opened in Hercules Road, opposite the recently reopened Lambeth North tube station. Dishes include flatbread with toppings, home-roasted almonds glazed with truffle honey and rosemary, braised ox cheek with creamy mash, and grilled sea bass with Amalfi lemon. The Ostrich Egg features an entire egg fried or scrambled, with Portobello mushrooms, heritage tomatoes, streaky bacon, Cumberland sausages and black pudding. Weekend specials include bottomless brunch on Saturdays and slow-cooked roasts on Sundays, with a DJ and live music programme in the bar on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. The bar offers cocktails, including superfood fruit and vegetable versions, sparkling English wine and craft beer from Portobello Brewing Co, Frontier Craft Lager and BrewDog. The wine list features 45 bins.

Family cider-maker Sheppy’s to open restaurant: Family cider-maker Sheppy’s is to open a restaurant at its farm in Somerset. The company, based just off the A38 between Taunton and Wellington, is building the Apple Bay restaurant. Trained waiters will “treat cider like wine”, helping diners pair the perfect pint to their meal. Sheppy’s website stated: “You will be able to see from our restaurant menu we have pairing for our dishes. It’s the best way to enhance the cider to pair it with the right foods. For example, our oak mature vintage and our artisan cheese board is the perfect way to finish your meal.” The restaurant, which will open on Friday, 21 April, will be part of a new Sheppy’s House of Cider and Fine Foods, which the company hopes will welcome visitors from across the UK and beyond. The development will offer a unique experience, including guided tours and tastings, reports Somerset Live.

Polpo to open ninth site, in Exeter next month: London-based restaurant company Polpo will open its ninth site, in Exeter next month, as it continues to focus on expansion outside the capital. The company will open the 65-cover restaurant in Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, on Monday, 3 April. The venue will also feature outside space for 35 people and follow the traditions of its sister sites, which are styled on a “bacaro” – a Venetian word to describe a humble restaurant serving simple food and young Italian wine. However, the Exeter site will exclusively offer a comprehensive breakfast and coffee menu to eat in or take away and a fully open kitchen, visible from the restaurant and bar. Polpo co-founder Russell Norman told Devon Live: “Exeter is a wonderful city full of beauty, culture and charm, and we are extremely lucky to have found a site for Polpo. Being protected from the roads and the sight of cars, combined with our large outdoor terrace, it reminds me very much of the small squares found in Venice. The company, led by Norman and Richard Beatty, opened its debut venue in Soho in 2009. Earlier this year, Polpo said group growth strategy was “largely focused outside London” and an experienced team was “in place to locate appropriate sites in target locations”.

White Brasserie Co opens Upminster pub, eyes Reigate for seventh Surrey site: White Brasserie Co, the pub division of Brasserie Bar Co, has opened its latest site, in Upminster, Essex, while it is also eyeing a seventh site in Surrey, this time in Reigate. The Jobber’s Rest has reopened in St Mary’s Lane following a refurbishment. The pub, which closed in September, now features a bar area with an open fire and snugs, and a 110-cover dining space, including two rooms that open on to extensive gardens. Meanwhile, White Brasserie Co is advertising for an assistant manager for an as yet un-named site in Reigate. The advert on the Leisure Jobs website states: “We are looking for passionate, career-focused and inspiring managers to join our family in our exciting new openings. We’re expanding so plenty of opportunities to progress and run one of our businesses.” White Brasserie Co’s other Surrey pubs are in Cobham, Chobham, Englefield Green, Guildford, Oxshott and Weybridge. It also operates four venues in London and one each in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Cheshire. Earlier this week, the parent company of Brasserie Bar Co and White Brasserie Co reported turnover passed the £40m mark following an “evolution” of the estate. Abriand saw turnover increase 10.2% to £41,056,000 for the year ending 3 July 2016, compared with £37,249,000 the previous year.

Bistrot Pierre gets go-ahead for Southport site: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Southport, Merseyside. The company, which currently operates 17 sites, has been granted permission by Sefton Council to convert the former Russell & Bromley store in Lord Street. The plans involve a significant investment, with changes to all three floors including replacing glazing, repairing the listed veranda and introducing pavement seating at the front. Cllr Daren Veidman, cabinet member for planning and building control, told the Champion: “There has been a long and productive dialogue between Sefton Council and architects working for Bistrot Pierre, which has resulted in what we hope will be a high-quality investment, breathing long-term occupation and new vibrancy into this busy part of town.” Bistrot Pierre is understood to have agreed a ten-year deal for the 23,000 square foot building, with a rent of about £70,000 a year. The company, founded by Rob Beacham and John Whitehead in 1994, received £9.8m from private equity firm Livingbridge last year to support its expansion plans.

Fork & Blade to launch sustainable seafood concept Trawler Trash in Islington: Fork & Blade Group, the company behind The Black Penny Coffee House in Covent Garden and Mediterranean dining concept Firedog in Fitzrovia, is to launch sustainable seafood concept Trawler Trash next month in Islington, north London. The 50-cover venue will open in Upper Street on Friday, 28 April on the site of former fish and chip shop Seafish, offering a weekly changing menu and cocktails. The “trash” in the title is because the restaurant will focus on fish often discarded such as pilchard, coley, sprat, grey mullet and crayfish. The venue will have no freezers so will only serve fish delivered that day, which means they won’t be open on Mondays, Hot Dinners reports. Trawler Trash will retain a fish and chip shop feel but with polished concrete, exposed brick and an open kitchen. The cocktail bar to the rear will seat 12. The menu by Fork & Blade executive chef George Notley will include kipper carbonara with peas and rocket, and steamed mussels with cider, clotted cream, diced apples, parsley and hand-cut chips. Fork & Blade also operates boutique hotel brand Green Walnut.

Papa John’s franchisee opens third site before his 24th birthday: Papa John’s franchisee Taren Shekhon has opened his third site, this time in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and all before his 24th birthday. He joined Papa John’s aged 21 and now runs sites in Braintree, Essex, and Lowestoft, Suffolk, as well as the latest opening. Shekhon said: “I first came across Papa John’s as a student, studying accounting and finance at Nottingham Trent University. I raised the funds to buy my first Papa John’s in Braintree with a business loan from HSBC’s franchise department plus some private funds. The HSBC team is easy to deal with as it knows the franchise well. However at the time, due to my age, I did need to provide a little more evidence of my commitment than perhaps someone who was more experienced. My first store with Papa John’s was Braintree, which is a strong site where the sales and transactions continue to grow week on week. Then I took over Lowestoft. I have really focused on marketing and, as a result, sales have improved by 50% and I am looking forward to the busy summer period. The Papa John’s franchisee incentive scheme has been helpful with the Great Yarmouth opening as I have been given a free oven, and help with royalties and marketing. My aim is to own and run ten franchised stores.”

East London-based pop-up restaurant and wine shop to open permanent site, in Newington Green: East London-based pop-up restaurant and wine shop Dandy Café is to open a permanent site, in Newington Green. The concept, launched by Andrew Leitch and Dan Wilson, has been operating from a shipping container in London Fields. Now it will open a permanent site in Newington Green on Wednesday, 5 April. The restaurant will have 50 covers inside and 30 outside. The menu will be similar to its pop-up with a few additions, including burnt-onion broth with spring leaves and hay-smoked labne; and shawarma-spiced lamb belly with babaganoush and cauliflower. As well as wine, Leitch and Wilson told Hot Dinners coffee would remain a big part of its operation.

Dr Who production designer co-launches bar concept in Swansea: Dr Who production designer Ed Thomas has co-launched a new bar concept in Swansea. Thomas, who was also the designer responsible for Torchwood and Resident Evil, has teamed up with local restaurateur Daniel Evans and musician and composer Mal Pope to open The Hyst. The bar, which is on the site of the former Coast Italia in High Street, features its own television and radio studio and dedicated performance space. The team hopes the new venture will encourage artists, bands and soon-to-be internet sensations to the stage. There will also be guest chefs with live cameras so people in the bar can see their food being cooked. Thomas has added artistic touches to the bar, which has a 1970s recording studio feel with comfortable leather couches. Pope told Wales Online: “We are independent but well-connected people. Hopefully this will mean people with ideas can take risks, develop ideas and use us as a platform to broadcast from.”

Marston’s gets approval for Ravenscraig lodge: Marston’s has had its plans to build a 40-bedroom hotel in Ravenscraig, Scotland, approved. The two-storey lodge will be built on a site close to the Raven’s Cliff pub, which the company opened in August 2015. Marston’s acquisitions manager Rachel Newnes told SCN: “The pub is surrounded by popular sports and leisure facilities, including Fir Pak, Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility and Strathclyde Park, each attracting thousands of visitors a year. New College Lanarkshire is also on the doorstep and a number of nationally significant business locations, including Eurocentral, are just a few miles away. Raven’s Cliff Lodge will be part of our Marston’s Inns brand, offering comfortable and affordable accommodation.” Nick Davies, director of Ravenscraig, the joint-venture firm responsible for regeneration of the Ravenscraig site, added: “The Raven’s Cliff pub has quickly established itself as a real hub for local residents, businesspeople and visitors and we expect to see high demand for the rooms.” In November, Marston’s announced a £10m investment in its Scottish market, creating 300 jobs by opening “three or four” pub restaurants and three lodges – in Stirling, Livingston and Ravenscraig. Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: “By the end of 2017, we will have invested £50m in the Scottish market.”

Coca-Cola to axe YouTube shows: Coca-Cola is ending its weekly UK YouTube shows in favour of a more “nimble” digital content strategy. The last of 48 episodes broadcast since the May 2016 launch was aired yesterday on the Coke TV channel. The videos have continued to rack up about 200,000 views each but UK marketing director Aedamar Howlett told Campaign there was “more we can do” to engage the channel’s target audience of older teenagers and young adults. “We’re constantly looking for ways to stay innovative and relevant,” Howlett said. “We’ve therefore decided to evolve Coke TV with a new digital content strategy, which we will unveil later this year.” She added that the brand would no longer be “constrained” by having to produce weekly episodes of between six and eight minutes. McDonald’s decided to close its YouTube platform last summer. Like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s said it would continue broadcasting similar content on an ad hoc basis.

Cairngorm Brewery lodges plans for Inverness craft beer bar and restaurant: Highland-based Cairngorm Brewery has lodged plans to open a craft beer bar and restaurant in Inverness city centre. The company has applied to Highland Council to convert the former AI Welders building in Academy Street. In recent years the ground floor has been used for various bars but the property has fallen into disrepair and is on Historic Environment Scotland’s “building at risk” register, reports The Press and Journal. Cairngorm Brewery bought the site in 2013 and wants to create a bar on the ground floor, with the first floor to be used as a restaurant. A design statement said: “The current owner’s proposals for the refurbishment and revitalisation of the building are to create a flagship bar for its own trademark range of beers on the ground floor along with a coffee shop and pizza area. A new metal spiral stair will provide access to a restaurant on the first floor.”

M&B to add The Skinny Fizz to wine list next month: Mitchells & Butlers is to add its newly launched The Skinny Fizz wine brand to wine lists in more than 400 of its UK sites next month. The Skinny Fizz, created by independent wine merchant Milton Sandford Wines, is a premium sparkling Spanish wine with virtually no sugar. It will be available at Mitchells & Butlers brands All Bar One, Browns, Castle Pubs, Nicholson’s, Miller & Carter, and Premium Country Pubs. It will also be available exclusively in the off-trade through direct to consumer business the Wine Cellar Club. Mitchells & Butlers marketing and commercial director Chris Hopkins said: “We are always looking for exciting and innovative products to meet changing customer needs. Working in partnership with Milton Sandford Wines, we believe we’ve developed a unique wine, offering something new and exciting for guests to enjoy.” Milton Sandford Wines managing director Debbie Kerr added: “There is a growing desire among consumers to minimise or indeed eradicate sugar in their diets. Almost in parallel is the request from restaurants for a drier style of quality sparkling wine at an affordable price. Our search for the answer to these requests led us to Spain and the best sparkling wine producer in Valencia. Top-quality fruit is essential when producing a no dosage product and at Pago de Tharsys, it was unanimous we’d found the perfect wine to fulfill both desires.”

Just Eat chief executive sees remuneration drop by nearly four times in final full year as boss: Just Eat chief executive David Buttress has seen his remuneration drop by nearly four times in his final full year as boss, the company’s annual report has revealed. Buttress, who will move to a non-executive director’s role, received a total of £1,273,874 in 2016, compared with £5,025,550 the previous year. The 2016 figure consisted of £465,000 in salary and fees, £127,881 in taxable benefits, a £657,743 bonus and a £23,250 pension. Buttress received a bonus of 94% of the maximum level, representing 141% of his base salary. The report also said Buttress’ fees for acting as a non-executive director would be in line with the base fee for other non-executive directors. He will be entitled to salary and benefits, including pension contributions, until the end of his six-month notice period in August. Meanwhile, chief financial officer Paul Harrison was appointed in September on a salary of £400,000. He replaced Mike Wroe, who received total remuneration of £573,617 up to 26 September last year. As Wroe remained with the company throughout 2016, he received normal salary (£80,000), benefits (£2,396) and pension (£3,515) between 1 October and 31 December 2016 in accordance with his contractual notice. As well as a bonus of £270,720, accrued to his date of departure as chief financial officer, Wroe accrued a bonus of £90,240 for the period 1 October to 31 December 2016.

JD Wetherspoon to open Cambridgeshire pub next month: JD Wetherspoon will open its latest pub, in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, on Tuesday, 4 April. The new pub in Market Hill will be called The Swan & Angel, with the opening creating 60 jobs. The pub will specialise in real ale, as well as craft and world beer, serving a wide range of draught and bottled beers, including ales from local and regional brewers, a company spokesman said. He told the Cambridge News: “The pub is named after two of St Ives’ long-lost pubs, which were marked on an early 18th century map of the town. The Swan and The Angel served the weekly livestock market. Historical photos and details, as well as artwork and images of local scenes and characters of the area, will be displayed in the pub, together with information boards relating to local history, including the cattle market. The design of the pub reflects traditional pub values, as well as the site history within the town.” Earlier this week, Wetherspoon took The Dee Hotel in West Kirby, Merseyside, off the market.

Henley-based restaurateurs reunite with Brakspear after taking on town pub: Henley-based restaurateurs Nuno Rosado and Ondine Carrington have reunited with Brakspear after taking on a pub in the Oxfordshire town. The couple, who run Portuguese restaurant The Square and Italian concept Al Forno, have acquired the lease of the Old Bell pub in Bell Street. The pub will undergo an interior refurbishment in the next few weeks but will no longer serve food. The couple previously worked with Brakspear when they ran the former Ko-Ko bar and restaurant for three years until 2012, when it became the Bull. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies told the Henley Standard: “We welcome Nuno and Ondine to the Old Bell. They are well-known in Henley and have a proven track record as successful hospitality entrepreneurs, which we’re confident will translate into a thriving pub.”

Turtle Bay to open Peterborough site in May: Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay will open a site in Peterborough in May, creating 50 jobs. The company is converting part of the old H&M store in Queensgate into the venue, which will open out on to St John’s Square. Turtle Bay has started its recruitment drive and will hold “auditions” next month at Peterborough United’s London Road stadium. Turtle Bay new openings manager Eddie Coyne told the Peterborough Telegraph: “The auditions are a great couple of days and really put hopefuls to the test when it comes to being in tune with the Caribbean vibe and the essence of Turtle Bay.” The company, which is backed by Piper Private Equity, was formed by Las Iguanas co-founder Ajith Jaya-Wickrema and has 34 sites across the UK, having opened its first restaurant in Milton Keynes in 2010.

Buxton-based nightclub operators to open second site, in Burton: WD Bars, which operates Level 2 nightclub in Buxton, Derbyshire, will open a second club, this time in Burton, Staffordshire. Allure will open in Station Street on Thursday, 13 April at a site formerly occupied by Brown’s pub. The 700-capacity venue will then open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 4am. Following a £250,000 refurbishment, the nightclub features two bars, a photo booth, a VIP area, and stage. WD Bars co-founders Reece Duncan and Pete Watmough have brought names such as Tinchy Strider, Pendulum, and Rudimental to Level 2, and are looking to attract even bigger names to their new venture. Duncan told the Burton Mail: “We want to change the nightlife of Burton forever. People are fed up with the top 40 chart-type places – that’s why they’re not going out as much, people are saving for a holiday or going to festivals. Burton’s big enough now it should be attracting people in, not just the people in Burton that want to go out. That’s why we’ve had our eyes on this place for a long time.”

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