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Mon 3rd Apr 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Foie gras activists’ attacks on former ALMR chief gain national headlines: The online row over foie gras served at a Peak District pub owned by former Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive David McHattie and his wife Sam has gained national headlines. Propel reported recently that the McHatties, who operate The Bridge Inn in Calver, had seen their business page plagued by almost 200 one-star reviews from across the globe and were blackmailed by a group of users who said they would delete their reviews if the couple took foie gras off the menu. Customers who left positive reviews or disagreed with the “protesters” were also targeted with abusive messages. Sam McHattie told the Telegraph: “The page has gone viral and people from all over the world are commenting from both sides. The majority of these activists are not even from the UK. All they are trying to do is blackmail us and expect us to roll over.” The McHatties said they had found pubs in Durham and Nottingham that were blackmailed into removing foie gras following one-star reviews. David McHattie said: “You have to wonder who will be next? If we give in, they will just move on to the next business.” The couple previously offered to take foie gras off the menu if four of the activists apologised. However, the offer was refused. The Bridge Inn is in the Peak District National Park close to the McHatties’ first pub, the Devonshire Arms.

Industry News:

Finance and Investment Conference open for bookings: The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is 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.

London night tsar Amy Lamé vows to stem tide of LGBT venue closures: London night tsar Amy Lamé has made stemming the flow of LGBT venue closures in the capital a key priority following the shuttering of Molly Moggs in Soho. The venue, which is at the heart of the capital’s gay scene in Old Compton Street, closed on Thursday (30 March). Lamé told PinkNews: “I am devastated to hear London has lost yet another iconic LGBT+ venue in Soho. The importance of these venues cannot be overstated in the role they play in the LGBT+ community and the contribution they make to London’s buzzing nightlife. We need to stem the flow of these closures now. This is a key priority for me as night tsar and I’m looking into the specific circumstances that have led to the unexpected closure of Molly Moggs.” In a goodbye post on Facebook, Molly Moggs’ management team wrote: “It comes with a heavy heart that we have to inform you all of this situation. We can’t thank our customers enough for sticking with us through thick and thin and making it such a valuable part of Soho.” The closure of Molly Moggs, renowned for its Sunday drag shows, comes after a number of other venues in London’s LGBT scene have been forced to shut in recent years, including The Black Cap in Camden, The Joiner’s Arms in Hackney and Vauxhall’s Barcode. Soho hot spots Shadow Lounge, Manbar, Madame Jojo’s and The Green Carnation have also closed.

Kingston-upon-Thames town centre scheme with boutique cinema and restaurants gets go-ahead: Planning permission has been granted to redevelop Eden Walk shopping centre in Kingston-upon-Thames town centre to include 12 restaurants, 28 shops and a boutique cinema. The plan by British Land is part of a £400m regeneration scheme and will include a sky restaurant with panoramic views across the town alongside three new public spaces and 380 homes. The development would create about 600 jobs. The formal planning approval follows an extensive programme of community engagement during the past two years. Richard Wise, head of retail development at British Land, told Get Surrey: “Kingston is a special place, which enjoys a unique blend of heritage, retail and leisure from its great riverside location. Kingston’s standing in Greater London will continue to rise. The proposed redevelopment of Eden Walk is designed to complement the existing retail offer and create a high-quality central space that will become the heart of the town.”

ALMR appoints BBPA’s David Sheen to lead policy and research: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has appointed David Sheen as director of policy and research. He joins after 12 years at the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), most recently as policy manager responsible for business rates and rating, VAT, the economic contribution of the sector, employment, alcohol taxation, exports, and environmental regulation. Working in partnership with the ALMR he has played a leading role in highlighting the unfair burden Britain’s pubs face from business rates. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “David has a wealth of experience across policy and research, with a knowledge base borne of more than a decade in the hospitality and beverage sector. The ALMR continues to grow – we gained 50 new members in the pubs and casual dining sector in 2016 and also started recruiting coffee chains. Our capacity must reflect that growth. David will be a great asset as we stand up for the interests of our members’ outlets, which number more than 23,000.” Sheen added: “I have worked with talented colleagues on many successful policy campaigns but the opportunity to join the ALMR in this fantastic role in a period of growing membership and influence feels right for me. I wish my BBPA colleagues all the best for the future and look forward to working alongside them on issues of shared interest.” Sheen’s arrival follows the departure of public affairs executive Michael Clarke, who has left to take up a position at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

Krispy Kreme fools news media with April Fool’s joke: Krispy Kreme fooled several major news outlets in the UK as they fell foul to the company’s April Fool’s Day prank. The doughnut brand claimed it would be changing its name to “Krispy Cream” because Brits didn’t know how to pronounce the word “Kreme”. “Krispy Kreme UK is getting a more ‘English-friendly’ name so people stop mispronouncing it,” declared a headline. “Krispy Kreme is changing its name here in the UK to stop people misspelling it,” said another. “The company rebrand is a strategic decision made in acknowledgement that our UK customers have struggled with the pronunciation of ‘Kreme’ (said ‘cream’) since our launch into the UK in 2003. We hope the rebrand will settle any confusion as to both the pronunciation and spelling of the name for our customers,” Charlotte Roberts, head of marketing, said in a statement. “We want to reassure our loyal fans that the quality of our doughnuts will remain of the highest standard and in line with the original recipe our founder Vernon Rudolph made famous almost 80 years ago.” The April Fool’s Day prank was helped by being released last Thursday, two days before 1 April.

Sector in Ireland furious after customer awarded 20,000 euros after hitting her knee on table leg: An Irish trade body has reacted with anger after an Irish woman was awarded 20,000 euros (£17,000) after hitting her knee on a table leg as she sat down to dinner at a restaurant. Annette O’Connor claimed she had been injured after a hotel manager directed her where to sit at a table. A Dublin High Court judge increased her damages award on appeal. The Restaurants Association of Ireland said the case would mean insurance costs would increase for the sector. The Irish Times reported that Mrs O’Connor claimed she had been directed to a table in the Mullingar Park Hotel in County Westmeath in March 2011, where a leg concealed by a tablecloth constituted a “trap”. The 48-year-old hairdresser, from Santry, Dublin, said she was not given any warning that the leg was hidden before she injured her left knee as she sat down and pulled her chair towards the table. Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, described the case as “bizarre” and said it would result in serious repercussions for hospitality businesses. He said: “I haven’t seen a floating table with no legs in my life. How do you counteract a customer going into a restaurant, hitting their knee on a table and suing you? In that case, the woman got 20,000 euros but the legal costs were about 200,000 euros.”

Local authorities step up hotel room tax campaign: Several top British tourist destinations have requested the power to impose a hotel room tax, The Mail on Sunday has reported. City councils in Bath, Bristol and Edinburgh have joined last year’s calls by London for such a levy. The government is expected to respond to the requests as soon as next month. The plans focus on a tax starting at £1 per room per night, which would raise hundreds of millions of pounds. In January, the Greater London Authority mooted a 5% tax – a rate similar to Berlin’s – to raise £240m a year. Cllr Charles Gerrish, of Bath and North East Somerset council, is one of those leading the campaign. He told the Mail on Sunday: “We are in conversation with the government, as are other authorities.”

Leisure companies appear in Sunday Times profit growth list: Britannia Hotel is the highest placed leisure company in the Sunday Times Top 100 Profit Track list – the company is 12th in the list with a 105.3% rise in profit to £34.2m. Di Maggio’s, the privately-owned Scottish restaurant operator, is 29th – it saw an 89.03% rise in profit to £6.3m in 2016. Bill’s Restaurant was 36th, with an 86.04% climb in profit to £8.4m. Motorway services provider Westmoreland was placed 95th, with a 59.62% climb in profit to £6.8m in 2016. 

Company News:

Wild Beer Co reports record sales month as it closes crowdfunding campaign: Somerset-based brewer Wild Beer Co has reported a record sales month as it closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube towards its new landmark brewery at the Bath & West Showground. The company, founded by Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis, was looking to raise £1m for the project and was offering a 3.85% equity stake in return for the investment. It hit that target in only six days and has now closed the campaign having raised £1,809,760 from 2,049 investors. The largest investment was £555,560. Meanwhile, the company has reported a record-breaking month for sales, with the £300,000 barrier being passed for the first time. Cooper said: “This achievement is a huge milestone for the company, and with interest in our beers growing daily and a constant flood of enquiries coming in we feel our investment in the business in terms of resourcing and staffing is really starting to pay dividends. It also lends weight to our expansion plans and further justifies our rationale behind the new brewery project.” The fund-raise is contributing towards Wild Beer Co’s £10m destination brewery, which will also feature bars and a restaurant. The original brewery site will also be maintained and developed into a “barrel-ageing mecca”, one of the first of its kind in the UK. The company said the overfunding would allow it to achieve the expansion plans even sooner.

Curious Restaurants reports like-for-like growth of almost 30%: Curious Restaurants, which operates The Jones Family Project in Shoreditch, east London, has reported like-for-like sales grew nearly 30% in March. The company, founded by Duncan Watts and Amit Joshi, said it was “extremely pleased with the performance given it was a pretty soft month in the restaurant trade in general”. Curious Restaurants has just launched a £600,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open its first two Jones Family Kitchen sites and roll out the concept. It is offering a 19.35% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, it has raised £235,550 from 94 investors with nine days remaining. The largest investment to date is £85,000. The pitch states: “We are about to enter the next stage of our business life by building the first two Jones Family Kitchens. These restaurants will be smaller, more accessible siblings to the flagship Jones Family Project. Our aim is to establish the Jones Family Kitchen at the upper end of premium casual dining and grow a business across the UK. The Jones Family Kitchen model is based on a smaller 80 to 100 seats with a single bar. We believe this is a more replicable model and easier to roll out across the country. Our business plan involves us building two of these sites each year for the next three or four years. They will be in London and the larger regional towns and cities.”

Northamptonshire-based gourmet burger company Mu Mu opens third site: Northamptonshire-based gourmet burger company Mu Mu has opened its third site in the county, this time in Wellingborough. The new restaurant has launched in High Street. Mu Mu opened its first site in Kettering in 2014 followed by an outlet in Northampton in December 2015. The concept offers elaborate burgers, pizzas, cocktails and “freakshakes”, which are milkshakes topped with cakes, doughnuts and other sweet things. The restaurants feature an industrial, urban theme and loud music. Last year, owners Gareth and Emily Disante said they were looking to build a chain of six sites in the East Midlands.

Giggling Squid uncovers secret cellar with vintage wine worth £20,000 beneath new Windsor restaurant: A team working on a new restaurant in Windsor for Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid has uncovered a secret cellar stocked with vintage wines worth £20,000. Builders uncovered a trap door and hidden staircase to a cellar, which was filled with two feet of water. They found cases of unopened wine alongside stock-taking notes dating to 1980. Before the restaurant, which will open this summer, was taken over last year by Giggling Squid, the site housed Casual Dining Group-owned Bella Italia and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi. Prior to this it was owned by Italian restaurateur Peppino Battocchi, who operated Don Peppino’s at the site until the early 1980s. Giggling Squid co-founder Andy Laurillard told The Times: “We planned to increase the site by extending it at the back but this astonishing discovery might present the perfect solution. Our wine expert thinks the contents of the cellar are worth around £20,000 – if the contents aren’t spoiled. He is still going through the stock deciphering the old, faded and damp labels.” In February, Giggling Squid acquired its first London site, in Wimbledon, which will open in the summer. The group operates 20 sites, with another to open in Brentwood, Essex, in April. Giggling Squid took a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to accelerate growth plans.

JKS Restaurants brings Bubbledogs to Swingers site: JKS Restaurants has brought its gourmet hotdog and champagne concept Bubbledogs to the Swingers crazy golf emporium in the City. JKS has replaced its Hoppers concept, which offers snacks from southern India and Sri Lanka, with Bubbledogs. It line ups alongside better burger brand Patty & Bun and the Elliott brothers’ Pizza Pilgrims, offering hotdogs that include the Happy Gilmore (with baby gem lettuce, bourbon-caramelised onions, horseradish ketchup and cheese), and Chocolate Dog (with Jivara chocolate ganache in a sweet cinnamon brioche bun, and cherry and banana sauce), Hot Dinners reports. Swingers is set over 16,000 square feet of Brown’s Buildings, close to the Gherkin, and offers two, nine-hole crazy golf courses, five bars, a two-storey clubhouse with gin terrace, and nightly DJs. JKS Restaurants was founded by the Sethi family and also operates the Trishna and Gymkhana brands.

Arc Inspirations reports record opening week at second Manahatta site: Arc Inspirations has opened its second Manahatta site, this time in Leeds’ Greek Street – with it achieving the company’s best ever opening week. The new venue, the company’s 15th in total in its portfolio, is set over 5,500 square feet, can accommodate 150 covers, and has created more than 60 jobs. Manahatta Greek Street adopts a “downtown chic” decor and brings a “taste of New York to Leeds”. It serves an extended food menu in comparison with its sister site in Leeds’ Merrion Street, including an all-day American-style brunch available seven days a week until 4pm. Martin Wolstencroft, owner and managing director of Arc Inspirations, said: “I’m extremely proud to have finally opened Manahatta, Greek Street, even more so as it’s our second site in Leeds. The prestigious Greek Street location is a fantastic setting and will complement the existing Merrion Street site perfectly. Our £1.2m investment into creating this second site not only reinforces our offering and reassures customers of its quality, but allows us to create a brand we can roll out to other cities in the future. The expansion cements our reputation as pioneers of innovative dining and drinking experiences in the north of England, and I’m confident we can continue to offer the people of Leeds a fantastic experience every time they visit.” Arc Inspirations has a £20m-a-year turnover.

Bel-Air and Black Sheep Coffee secure sites at Leadenhall Building to complete retail line-up: Healthy fast food brand Bel-Air and London-based independent coffee shop Black Sheep Coffee have secured sites at the Leadenhall Building in the City to complete its retail line-up. The companies have signed leases after agreeing deals with British Land and Oxford Properties, who are joint partners behind the project. Black Sheep Coffee has taken 2,100 square feet and Bel-Air has taken 1,760 square feet ahead of opening this spring to join Leonid Shutov’s first restaurant in the City, which opens later this year, reports Property Week. The Leadenhall Building will be Bel-Air’s third restaurant after its sites in Shoreditch and Farringdon. Meanwhile, Black Sheep Coffee, which provides speciality coffees and coffee-inspired cocktails, operates six sites with the Leadenhall deal one of five new sites in the pipeline. It is also opening at Regents Place, the Centre Point building and Principal Place as well as the South Bank Tower, its first site south of the Thames. The Leadenhall Building provides 610,000 square feet of office space over 45 floors. British Land and Oxford Properties exchanged contracts for the sale of the Leadenhall Building to CC Land on 1 March. Completion is conditional on approval by the shareholders of CC Land. The joint venture is represented by Davis Coffer Lyons.

Little Lion Entertainment opens second Crystal Maze Experience, in Manchester: Entertainment company Little Lion Entertainment has opened its second Crystal Maze Experience, in Manchester. The live experience, inspired by the Channel Four show that ran from 1990 to 1995, has taken over the Old Granada Studios, which were once home to Coronation Street and The Royal Family. It builds on Little Lion Entertainment’s first location, which opened in London last year. The Crystal Maze Manchester features 24 new games alongside new iterations of old favourites. Once in The Crystal Maze, groups of eight contestants work their way through four zones – Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Future – completing a series of timed challenges before heading to the famous dome itself. Chief executive Tom Lionetti-Maguire told The Business Desk: “We had been considering where our second venue would be for a while and every time we came to Manchester, it just made sense. Then we found this space at Old Granada Studios and we have been working on it since September. It is quite different to our venue in London thanks to more space and height. There is everything from a mini-roller coaster and giant ball pit to a giant-sized version of space invaders.”

McDonald’s to sell sauces on grocery channel: McDonald’s appears to be planning to sell bottles of the sauces used in Big Macs, Filet-o-Fish and McChicken sandwiches at retail chains in North America. Foodology first reported on the development earlier this month after observing the products at the Grocery & Specialty Food West Convention. New York Post followed up on the development last Friday. Heinz Kraft is believed to be involved in the distribution in Canada. There has been no confirmation from McDonald’s regarding how broad the sauce initiative will be in the US.

Franchisee takes on second Papa John’s site in Staffordshire: Steve Huson, who operates a Papa John’s franchise in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, has taken over his second Staffordshire site, this time in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent. Huson joined Papa John’s in 2016 after being a Subway franchisee for more than ten years. He took over the Papa John’s site in Newcastle in September, boosting sales by 75%. He said: “I will employ a similar strategy in Stoke-on-Trent, with the aim of keeping staff motivated and delivering top-quality pizza to ensure our customers keep coming back for more. It is so exciting to be opening in my home town. I am looking forward to growing sales in the new outlet and have plans in the pipeline to add another Papa John’s soon.” Papa John’s has more than 350 sites across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Shepherd Neame reopens Kent village pub following £1m refurbishment: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has reopened The Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie in the village of Birchington following a £1m refurbishment. The investment comes as part of the company’s strategy to “provide great destinations for eating and drinking in the best locations”. The site has been remodelled and features a new bar with a coffee lounge and 100-seat restaurant. The ice cream beach hut has also been refurbished along with new toilets, staff area and cellar. The menu takes inspiration from its seafront location, featuring classic and modern seafood dishes as well as stonebaked pizzas cooked in the new pizza oven. Director of retail and tenanted operations Nigel Bunting told Kent Live: “This is a wonderful setting and we wanted to make sure we did justice to it.”

Petersham Nurseries to open Covent Garden site in June with restaurants, wine cellar and bar: Petersham Nurseries, whose Richmond cafe once held a Michelin star under chef Skye Gyngell, is to open its long-awaited restaurant, bar, deli and flower shop in Covent Garden in June. The 16,000 square foot space in Capital & Counties’ Kings Court development in Floral Street will focus on sustainable British produce with an Italian influence, The Handbook reports. Phase one of the project, featuring a delicatessen, wine cellar, and homes and gardens shop, will open in late June, with phase two seeing the launch of two restaurants, a bar and courtyard in September. The cafe at Petersham Nurseries’ Richmond site won its Michelin star in 2011, retaining it the following year. However Gyngell, who now runs Spring in Somerset House, dubbed the award a “curse”, adding at the time: “Since we got the star we’ve been rammed every single day, which is really hard for such a tiny restaurant. And we’ve had lots more complaints. People have certain expectations of a Michelin restaurant.”

Ossett Brewery rebrands amid brewery expansion: Ossett Brewery Pub Company is undergoing a rebrand as it invests in the growth of its brewery. The company is building a cold storage warehouse to extend capacity at its West Yorkshire site because of demand for its beer. Work has already started on the site of Ossett’s existing brewery and the 12,000 square foot warehouse is set to open by the end of the year. The brewery employs 28 staff and will increase its workforce by 40 during the next three years with plans to move into packaged products. Ossett beers are sold across its own estate of 24 pubs and restaurants as well as via wholesalers. Owner Jamie Lawson told The Business Desk: “The main company logo remains the same but we have toned down the colours, making it fit better into a wider variety of applications. For the new pump clips we have deconstructed the full logo somewhat to create a sleeker design. We have found it difficult to effectively fit the full logo on to the front of a limited-size pump clip, so we have used our ‘red bar’ only, which prominently displays the company name. With a major new brewery expansion coming this autumn, we feel we are now in a better position to elevate our brands to new successes.”

Marston’s premium division Revere eyes historic Leeds venue: Marston’s premium division Revere Pub Company has applied to open a venue in The Leeds Club, a former gentlemen’s club that became an events and conference venue. Marston’s has applied for permission to develop the grade II-listed building in Albion Place to offer Revere’s gastropub-style menus, steaks, craft beers, cocktails and wine. Revere already operates cocktail bar The Lost and Found in the city’s Greek Street. According to the proposals, the new bar would be split over two floors, with a separate dining room. The new business would create about 45 jobs, the Yorkshire Evening Post reports. Last week, Revere announced it is set to start expansion of its Foundry brand by opening a second site, this time in Harrogate. The Foundry Project will open on Friday, 28 April with a focus on cocktails, craft beer and Caravan coffee, as well as sourdough pizzas, burgers and sharing platters.

Creams Cafe to open Brentwood site: Dessert cafe operator Creams Cafe is to open a site in Brentwood, Essex. The company is opening the venue in High Street on the site of the former Garlock shop. The new cafe will be opposite milkshake store Yaya, which counts rap artist Lethal Bizzle and Dean Chapman, who plays Tommen in Game of Thrones, among its fans, reports Essex Live. Creams Cafe serves waffles, crepes, sundaes, milkshakes and 36 varieties of ice cream in the style of Italian gelato. It has 46 sites in the UK and is set to continue expanding with another 58 venues listed as “opening soon” on its website.

Manchester-based bar and restaurant operator lines up second site in city: Manchester-based bar and restaurant operator Dan Pollard is lining up his second site in the city. Pollard, who owns The Pen And Pencil in Hilton Street, plans to launch a venue in nearby Stevenson Square. The as-yet-unnamed venue will include a cocktail bar and restaurant spread over two floors in the former Flawless photography studios, next door to celebrity hairstylists Reuben Wood. Pollard told Manchester Confidential: “I’m looking forward to adding something new to the Northern Quarter’s rich mix of food and drinks venues.”

Former FA chairman’s hotel group acquires third site, in Manchester: A hotel group co-owned by former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has acquired its third site, this time in Manchester. Vine Hotels has bought Best Western Cresta Court, a three-star, 148-bedroom hotel in Altrincham that offers three function suites and the Townfields bar and restaurant. Rooms at the hotel were refurbished recently, while seven executive rooms have been added and Townfields relocated and updated. Vine Hotels chief executive Garin Davies told Insider Media that Cresta Court was a “great business and anyone who hasn’t visited the hotel for a while will be very pleasantly surprised by the high levels of quality and service”. Vine, which has hotels in Sheffield and Southampton, is jointly owned by Dyke, Garin Davies and Andrew Rouse.

Whitbread lines up 102-bedroom Premier Inn on outskirts of Reading: Whitbread is lining up a 102-bedroom Premier Inn on the outskirts of Reading. The company wants to build the £8m hotel, which would feature a 190-cover Beefeater restaurant, on the site of the empty Oakdene Court office complex in Reading Road, Winnersh. Oakdene Court, just off the Showcase Cinema roundabout, has been empty since 2012. Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants acquisition manager Stuart Rose told Get Reading: “The site at 613 Reading Road is well positioned for a new hotel and leisure development. It benefits from excellent transport connections and is very accessible for existing businesses in the Winnersh Triangle Business Park. Our next step is to engage local residents and businesses on the proposals ahead of submitting a planning application in the coming months.”

Chester hotel goes on the market for more than £36m: A 218-bedroom hotel in Chester has been put on the market with offers sought in excess of £36m. Hallmark Hotel The Queen Chester, which is located opposite the city’s train station, is being marketed by agent Christie & Co. The property features 218 bedrooms split across two interconnected buildings. They are the Queen, the original grade II-listed property with 131 rooms, and the Kings, a former office now housing the remaining 87 rooms. Barrie Williams, managing director of hospitality at Christie & Co, told Insider Media: “After receiving unsolicited bids, we advised management that the investor market for these types of hotels/locations remained strong. Hallmark Hotel The Queen Chester offers fantastic value enhancement and asset management opportunities to generate further revenue and profit for the business, some of which the owners are currently implementing and others that have the benefit of planning permission.”

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