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Wed 5th Apr 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

AA misses takeover target for VisitEngland quality assurance scheme: The AA has delayed its takeover of operating VisitEngland’s National Quality Assurance Scheme. The government awarded the contract to the AA last month, prompting “monopoly” concerns, with the contract due to start on Saturday (1 April). However, a letter dated 31 March sent by AA membership services director Kirsty Lloyd-Jukes and addressed to “employee representatives” stated: “We have been communicating with you about a proposed transfer on 1 April of the VisitEngland services from M Assessments and BTA. This letter confirms that while negotiations between the AA and BTA are ongoing, due to unforeseen circumstances we have not been able to complete these as planned. This means there will not be a transfer to the AA on 1 April as previously envisaged. Instead, all employees will transfer over to BTA as of midnight tonight. Those employees who were previously at risk will remain at risk. BTA will be in touch separately to communicate further with you on their plans. Negotiations with BTA are ongoing and we very much hope there will be a transfer to the AA at an imminent date as soon as the matters that have arisen are resolved.” A hospitality industry source told Propel: “It would seem the AA is not yet ready to take over the scheme, leaving employees and members in a state of confusion. It looks like the staff will now transfer to government contracts, not AA contracts, leaving the government to foot the bill; a move which will either be picked up by taxpayers or be resolved by putting the cost up for members!”

Industry News:

Finance and Investment Conference open for bookings: The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is open for bookings. Speakers will include Tom Horbye, of the UK’s leading equity investment platform Seedrs, on which food and beverage companies have had considerable success raising capital, who will provide insights on how to successfully raise capital on the crowdfunding platform. Stuart Lucas, co-founder and chief executive of Asset Match, will explain how private companies in the sector, including BrewDog, West Berkshire Brewery and Black Sheep Brewery, are creating liquidity for their shareholders through Asset Match. Meanwhile, Jason Katz, co-founder of Kings Park Capital, which has investments in Abokado, Inn Collection, Fuel Juice Bars and 7Bone Burger Co among other leisure sector companies, will talk about how his company assesses investment opportunities and adds value to its portfolio companies. Click here to see 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.

CAMRA announces Pub Design Award winners: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has announced winners of its Pub Design Awards, which will be presented today (5 April) during a ceremony at The Scottish Stores in London. The awards recognise high standards of pub refurbishment and conservation as well as new-build designs nominated by owners, landlords, CAMRA members and customers. The venue itself has won the conservation category, with The Scottish Stores, a grade II-listed building, brought back to life with its three distinct bars and Jacobethan-style woodwork and coloured lithographs sympathetically restored. A cafe-style extension has also been added. The Tim Bobbin hotel in Burnley won the Joe Goodwin Award for refurbished street-corner locals. The stone building dates to 1701 but was “insensitively restored” in the 1960s. Now North Yorkshire-based brewer and retailer Samuel Smith’s has restored the pub’s multi-room plan using high-quality materials. The Ship Inn in Shalesmoor, Sheffield, was commended in the refurbishment category for the restoration of its “Edwardian glitz and glitter” having been shut for many years. The pub is operated by Hawthorn Leisure under its craft beer Artisan Tap concept.

Britons enjoy average of nine fine dining experiences a year – report: Britons enjoy an average of nine fine dining experiences a year, with younger generations dining out more than the over-45s, according to a new report. The research, commissioned by travel company MSC Cruises UK, found 16 to 29-year-olds enjoy an average of 11 fine dining experiences a year, compared with only six in the over-45s age group. The online poll of more than 1,500 people across the UK also revealed more than one in ten Brits (14%) have eaten food they secretly can’t stand in a bid to appear more “cultured”, with almost a third (29%) pretending they are “foodies” who regularly dine on oysters, quinoa and sushi. In fact, the list of food and drinks that respondents claimed to enjoy but secretly hated was topped by sushi, followed by dark chocolate, rare steak, quinoa, oysters and craft ale.

Crowdcube reports more than 500 successful raises since launch: Crowdfunding platform Crowdcube has reported it has now had more than 500 successful raises since its launch. Co-founder Luke Lang said: “This comes after a great quarter, where £27m was invested through the platform and, thanks to the backing of the crowd, ten businesses raised more than £1m, three of which were more than £2m. These businesses include GripIt, Wild Beer Co, ME+EM, Cocoon and Cauli Rice. Let’s also not forget Monzo, which recently returned to Crowdcube. These milestones couldn’t have been achieved without our investor community, which now stands at 376,000. Over the past two years, we’ve seen the amounts being raised on Crowdcube climb ever higher as crowdfunding grows in appeal and popularity and attracts more growth-stage, often venture capital-backed businesses. As the crowdfunding industry continues to mature, we anticipate the trend for more high-profile businesses and co-investment rounds to continue through 2017, while crowdfunding forms part of a larger investment round alongside venture capital and institutional investors. We have also seen a move towards corporate venturing, recently seen with Aviva Ventures’ first investment in smart tech startup Cocoon.”

Industry submits proposal to develop brewer apprenticeship: As the new Apprenticeship Levy starts operating this week, a group of ten brewers has submitted an “expression of interest” to the government outlining its intention to develop a “brewing” apprenticeship standard. The move is supported by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), and comes in advance of upcoming changes to apprenticeships. The standard is now the subject of a consultation by the Department for Education, and the BBPA is urging brewers to give their views and demonstrate their support for the standard by clicking here. An apprenticeship “Trailblazer”, consisting of more than ten industry employers and other industry stakeholders, including the BBPA, is being formed to develop the new standard, which the group expects will take about 12 months. The Trailblazer is being chaired by Kris Gumbrell, of Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 17-strong pub group and brewer, which has spearheaded the development of the standard. Other brewing companies interested in helping to shape its development are urged to contact the BBPA.

Licensing Update: The latest monthly update on topical licensing issues from John Gaunt & Partners can be found here. This includes initial comments on the House of Lords Committee recommendations and some significant changes coming into force on 6 April.

Company News:

TLC Inns to launch new concept, will open sixth Grand Central this month: TLC Inns, the award-winning pub and restaurant operator led by Steve and Jo Haslam, is to launch seafood concept Fish & Co later this year. The company will also open a sixth Grand Central, this time in Thetford, Norfolk, on Monday, 24 April. The company has acquired a riverside venue in Ely that formerly housed Ta Bouche restaurant, which is close to its Grand Central and Cutter pub sites in the Cambridgeshire town. The venue will undergo a major investment in the autumn to reopen as the first Fish & Co restaurant, with another site in the pipeline. Steve Haslam said: “We are planning to invest circa £200,000 in the Ta Bouche site – 90% of the menu will point towards the sea, with traditional steaks and burgers making up the rest. It seems appropriate to be serving fish at Ta Bouche’s riverside location.” Meanwhile, TLC Inns has invested about £600,000 to open its sixth Grand Central site in Thetford, with the 152-seat restaurant part of Breckland Council’s new £8m riverside development that includes several restaurants, a Light Cinema and a Travelodge. The new site will see the launch of a new menu, with gluten-free options and a fresher look. The company is supported by Barclays Corporate. Steve Haslam took over as managing director of TLC Inns earlier this year, with wife Jo focusing on the operational side of the business.  

Thai Square owner sees pre-tax profit fall by nearly 65%: Catering UK, owner of the 13-outlet Thai Square restaurant chain, has reported pre-tax profit has fallen by almost 65%. The company saw turnover drop slightly to £13,999,527 for the year ending 30 June 2016, compared with £14,015,300 the year before. Spa revenue was £669,895, compared with £669,977 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £246,751 compared with £689,131 the year before, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Gross profit increased to £10,969,652, compared with £10,867,594 the previous year. The company has 11 sites in London along with venues in St Albans and Windsor. 

Champagne and cocktail bar Oh You Pretty Things launches £750,000 crowdfunding campaign to continue expansion: Champagne and cocktail bar Oh You Pretty Things is embarking on a £750,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Growthdeck to continue its expansion. The company, founded by Craig Ince and Norris Panton, is offering a 20% equity stake in return for the investment. The concept is designed specifically for regional shopping centres and department stores aiming to offers shoppers a “taste of the high life” with champagne, cocktails, coffee and indulgent treats served at the bar “with a sense of theatre, flair and personality”. It already has bars at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Metrocentre in Gateshead, Trinity Kitchen in Leeds and Intu Lakeside in Essex, with these locations generating circa £250,000 Ebitda in the preceding 12 months. The company reported revenue of £1,782,000 in 2016 and forecasts it will grow to £2,499,000 this year and £13,275,000 by 2020. Pre-tax profit was £128,000 in 2016 and this is expected to increase to £3,025,000 in 2020. The pitch states: “Oh You Pretty Things has signed a concession agreement with a major UK retailer to roll-out 11 bars in its stores. The first bar is scheduled to open in the retailer’s flagship store in Oxford Street, London, in April. Oh You Pretty Things is seeking £750,000 of equity investment to fund the continued roll-out of an already established and profitable champagne and cocktail bar chain. Two sites were opened in Scotland in 2012/13 at the request of shopping centre owners (one as a franchise), but due to changes in the licensing laws and poor client demographic, these were closed within two years. Experience in a challenging, price-sensitive Glasgow market has informed the site selection process. New openings will target a high-income demographic. We anticipate a trade sale in three to five years’ time. The buyer is assumed to pay six times profit before tax, which could be achievable given scalable business model and predictability of earnings. Investors could generate a 60%-plus internal rate of return should the business develop as anticipated and the exit assumptions prove reasonable. Trade sale targets would include Whitbread, Compass, SSP, The Restaurant Group, Eclectic Bars, Mitchells & Butlers and Stonegate. In addition, Oh You Pretty Things could become attractive to private equity investors looking to capitalise on a scalable and proven multi-site business model. The private equity appetite for bar and restaurant chains with high growth potential is strong. Recent deals include Turtle Bay, Be At One and Loungers.”

Lussmanns to open fifth site in June: Lussmanns Fish & Grill, the independent brasserie group with restaurants in Hertford, St Albans, Harpenden and Hitchin and backed by investor Luke Johnson, will open in Tring in June. Managing director Andrei Lussmann said: “Every Lussmanns restaurant embarks on a design journey evoking the personality and individuality of the building. As always, we will look to return this former bank, which has a strong Edwardian feel, to its original character. Atmospherically, the restaurant will follow all our premises to date by having a pastiche of many different styles, with a noticeable nod towards the 1920s. An exciting element will be the redesign of the original bank manager’s office, which is reminiscent of Captain Mainwaring’s office in Dad’s Army. This beautiful room will be perfect for special occasions and private dining.” The new restaurant is in High Street.

Five Guys partners with electronic payment company as it gears up for next stage of European growth: Better burger brand Five Guys has partnered with electronic payment company Ingenico ePayments as it gears up for its next stage of growth in mainland Europe. The system, which is live in its flagship restaurants in Paris and Madrid, allows Five Guys customers to shop securely from mobile, tablet or laptop. Customers in both cities can now pre-order and pre-pay for food, progressing directly to the pick-up point for collection. The system accepts multiple currencies and payment types as well as a choice of language support options. Five Guys IT director William Day said: “This service and flexibility in offering local acquiring partners will help us continue our expansion into mainland Europe.” Ingenico will support Five Guys as it looks to develop volume growth from more live sites in France and Spain, helping secure a transaction volume uplift. The launch has also allowed the company to start planning for the next phase of its expansion in these countries and across Europe.

Douglas Jack – Revolution Bars Group and Marston’s strongly placed to improve margins against rising costs: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said Revolution Bars Group and Marston’s are strongly placed to improve margins against rising costs. Following Peel Hunt’s annual leisure conference, Jack said: “We do not expect an improvement in the consumer backdrop this year, although it may not be as bad as some fear, particularly for small-ticket businesses. The positives are interest rates are unlikely to rise, with the Monetary Policy Committee more focused on domestic inflation and Brexit risks, as well as fiscal policy remaining tight. Job security is high and we expect the Consumer Price Index to peak at 3%, with the decline in sterling due to be annualised in June. According to CGA Peach, eating out supply growth stalled in 2016, down to 0.0% from 4.9% in 2014 (with restaurants down 1.4%), whereas drinking out supply fell by 2.4%. The more stable supply trends reflect larger restaurant brands slowing expansion and independent restaurant closures, against a backdrop of increasing cost pressures, which expansive operators are better able to offset. On-trade drinks decreased by 1.1% per annum in volume in 2016 but rose by 1.9% per annum in value, with growth remaining strong in food-led pubs, which are increasingly turning to premium drinks to drive sales. Whereas pub drink sales rose by 1.6% in 2016, pub food sales fell by 0.1% (versus +5.8% in 2014 and +0.6% in 2015), according to CGA Peach. Cost inflation is higher for companies than consumers due to the National Living Wage, higher wholesale prices, weak sterling and increasing business rates. 73% of pub/restaurant companies have said they will pass on higher costs; the ones with a premium, differentiated product range, like Fuller’s, are best placed to do this. Of the other licensed retailers, Revolution Bars Group is strongly placed to grow margins through branded expansion, and Marston’s through accommodation expansion. People are not going out any more often, so all the growth in licensed retail is from new openings and slight increases in spend per head. In 2017, we expect licensed retail demand to grow slightly, and supply to fall slightly, with an outcome that is less extreme than is implied by the average 12% decline in freehold managed pub share prices over the last year. Our key licensed retail pick is Revolution Bars Group based on valuation and growth prospects.”

Camden live music and arts venue on market for £4.5m: The freehold of purpose-built live music and arts venue The Forge in Camden has been brought to market by agents Davis Coffer Lyons on behalf of the private landlord for offers of £4.5m. Leasehold offers will also be considered. The 7,000 square foot venue in Delancey Street comprises ground and first-floor trading areas, including a bar, restaurant and recital hall. It also includes three one-bedroom flats on the third and fourth floors. The Forge closed at the weekend. During the past eight years it hosted a musically and culturally diverse programme of events. Davis Coffer Lyons director Rob Meadows said: “Camden’s exceptional musical and creative culture makes it one of London’s most vibrant areas. The tenant calibre for music venues, bars and restaurants is constantly improving and it’s undergoing considerable improvements to its residential and commercial occupier profile.” 

Domino’s Pizza UK IT director steps down to join Franchise Brands: Domino’s Pizza UK IT director Colin Rees has stepped down after six years with the company. Rees has joined Franchise Brands as chief information officer, a role created to support the international group’s expansion. He will not join the company’s board. Rees, who has previously worked for Easyjet and online lingerie retailer Figleaves, was ranked as one of the top chief information officers of 2016 and is expected to support Franchise Brands’ expansion by streamlining IT and management systems. Franchise Brands executive chairman Stephen Hemsley, who is also non-executive chairman of Domino’s Pizza, said: “Colin has more than 25 years of IT experience gained across a number of blue chip companies and for the past six years I have greatly enjoyed working with him in his role as director of IT at Domino’s Pizza.”

Pergola to launch alfresco dining spot in Paddington Square: Street food pop-up Pergola, renowned for its rooftop venture at the former BBC Television Centre in White City, London, is to launch another alfresco dining spot, this time at ground level in Paddington Square. The participating brands will be better burger brand Patty & Bun, Beijing street food specialists Mamalan, Wahaca’s Mexican-American restaurant concept DF/Mexico, New Orleans street food concept Decatur, and cold-pressed juice cafe Raw Press. The new space will launch on Wednesday, 24 May and open daily until Sunday, 1 October, Hot Dinners reports. Pergola Paddington Square will have room for 850 people and feature a transparent roof to keep diners dry. Pergola on the Roof is also due to run until 1 October. The Pergola concept is the brainchild of Incipio Events.

Pret A Manger opens second vegetarian store, in Shoreditch: Pret A Manger has opened its second Veggie Pret store – in Shoreditch, east London. The store, which has 20 new recipes on the menu including vegan macaroni cheese, has opened in Great Eastern Street following the transformation of its existing site. It follows the launch of the concept last summer in Soho, which originally started out as a month-long “pop-up experiment” before being made permanent. Chief executive Clive Schlee said: “A lot of Pret staff wanted their shops to go ‘veggie’ but Great Eastern Street got the call based on the high levels of vegetarian sales in the area. Our teams look forward to seeing you in our Soho and Shoreditch Veggie Prets and reading your candid reviews of the new menu.”

Buzzworks Holdings reopens flagship Troon restaurant with new look: Buzzworks Holdings has reopened its flagship restaurant – Scotts at Troon Yacht Haven – following a £500,000 refurbishment. The Ayrshire restaurant now features a palette of light tones and wood to complement its marina views, while a new kitchen has been installed with a menu celebrating Scottish produce, including locally landed fish, a seafood sharing platter and Tomahawk and Club steaks. Scotts’ in-house mixologists have created a new range of cocktails and a carefully curated wine list. Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair said: “Scotts has always been ahead of the times so the new look, which has a lighter, more modern feel but retains many of the iconic features that make Scotts so special, will set us up for many years to come. By investing in a new kitchen, our chefs can continue to create dishes using the best ingredients Scotland has to offer, while the changes to our restaurant interior mean guests can enjoy a fantastic dining experience in a setting befitting our spectacular harbour location.” Buzzworks Holdings operates nine venues in Scotland via four brands – Elliots, Scotts, House and Lido – bringing in an annual turnover of more than £15m.

Polpo opens Exeter restaurant: London-based restaurant company Polpo has opened its ninth branded site, in Exeter, and 11th in total as it continues to focus on expansion outside the capital. The company has opened the 65-cover restaurant in Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street. The venue also features outside space for 35 people and follows the traditions of its sister sites, which are styled on “bacaro” – a Venetian restaurant serving simple food and young wine. However, the Exeter site exclusively offers a comprehensive breakfast and coffee menu to eat in or take away and an 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”. 

Whitbread applies for licence to supply its own water retail services for all brands in England: Whitbread has applied for a licence to supply its own water retail services for all the company’s brands in England, including Premier Inn and Costa Coffee, Edie.net reports. The move follows the government’s launch of the Open Water programme on Saturday (1 April), which is led by three partner organisations – Defra, Ofwat and Market Operator Services Limited (MOSL). Whitbread said the licence would enable it to “build on efficiency works already undertaken, while driving cost and consumption control in the next phase of our water management strategy”. Whitbread has entered a partnership agreement with water management company Waterscan to take on responsibilities for meter reading, central market operating system transactions, wholesaler management, paying water and sewerage charges through the settlement process, and finding further efficiency savings. Whitbread has 1,081 supply points in England. As a self-supply licensee, the company would also pay wholesale prices without paying retail margin added by suppliers, and become a market participant including an MOSL member with voting rights and the ability to directly influence the market. Brewer and retailer Greene King applied for a self-supply licence earlier this year.

Hepworth & Co trebles its space with new West Sussex brewery: West Sussex-based brewer Hepworth & Co has trebled its space and grown its workforce following the opening of its new brewery in Pulborough. The brewer has relocated from its previous premises in Horsham, a move made possible by a £2.46m funding package from HSBC, including a £1.8m commercial mortgage loan, alongside personal investment from the owners and grant funding. Two new conditioning tanks will allow Hepworth & Co to meet demand for increased production of its own-brand beer and expand capacity for contract brewing. The new site also includes a shop and visitor centre, while the company plans to host lectures and training sessions for local small breweries. Hepworth & Co managing director Andy Hepworth said: “Brewing great beer has always been a passion for us and our relocation has allowed us to continue to tap into the great produce from local farmers on our doorstep. Sussex farmers are excellent – their skills make our job much easier and we can’t wait to brew even more varieties.” 

BrewDog rehires Manifest for PR account as it targets further international growth: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has parted company with agency The Romans and rehired Manifest for its PR account as the brewer targets further international growth, PR Week reports. Manifest, which represented the craft brewer from 2010 to 2015, will handle strategy in the UK, US and Sweden after being appointed without a pitch. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “We are at a pivotal point in our growth and development and need to introduce a strategic plan that incorporates our biggest opportunities globally. To start with, we’ll be tasking Manifest with an all-out riot of a brief across our homeland in the UK, our new home-away-from-home in the US, and our longest-standing international market, Sweden.” Manifest group chief executive Alex Myers added: “Since we last worked together, Manifest has opened offices in New York and Stockholm and BrewDog has continued its incredible international expansion, so when they approached us to get the band back together we saw the potential to take our collaboration to another level.” The Romans managing director Misha Dhanak said: “BrewDog asked us to open a US office to help with their world-conquering expansion but sadly we’re just not ready to send the Roman forces overseas – yet.” The US has been a particular focus for BrewDog of late – this week it extended its crowdfunding campaign to open a craft beer hotel and sour beer facility next to its brewery in Ohio.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe couple launch new brand: Saiphin and Alex Moore, the couple behind restaurant brand Rosa’s Thai Cafe and the recently opened Lao Café, have devised a new Thai food concept, Saiphin’s Thai Kitchen. Positioned as a complementary brand to Rosa’s, the new concept has officially launched a first site in London Fields, offering a delivery, takeaway and eat-in service. Saiphin’s Thai Kitchen specialises in seasonal curries, salads, soups and noodle stir-fries made from scratch using fresh ingredients. The brand is currently self-financing but is exploring external funding sources, including crowdfunding. The London Fields site is expected to be the first of many, in London and beyond, with former investment banker Simon Penney set to lead Saiphin’s Thai Kitchen expansion. Drawing on his in-depth experience helping companies execute strategic plans, Penny will lead the roll-out of new sites as well as the broader fundraising exercise. The Moores opened the eighth Rosa’s Thai Café last month, with further sites scheduled for West Hampstead, Seven Dials and One Tower Bridge.

Mojo Bar and Jones Bar Group to open sites in same Nottingham building: Leeds-based operators Mojo Bar and Jones Bar Group are set to open sites in the same Nottingham property. The two companies are opening venues in the former Corn Exchange building in Thurland Street, which was previously home to Jongleurs comedy club, reports the Nottingham Post. Mojo Bar, which is opening its fourth site, will occupy the ground floor while Jones Bar Group will launch its fifth Roxy Ball Room on the first floor. Mojo Bar, which promises “music for the people, food for the soul and good times forever”, expects to open its site in May. Its other venues are in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. Jones Bar Group operates Roxy Ball Room sites in Huddersfield, Leeds and Liverpool and is due to open in Manchester. The Nottingham venue is due to open in the spring. Formed in 2004 by brothers Ben and Matthew Jones, the company also operates seven other sites in Leeds.

Douglas Jack – ‘huge opportunity’ for Hollywood Bowl Group as it targets 25 locations for expansion: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said there is a “huge opportunity” for Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, as it targets 25 locations for expansion. Following Peel Hunt’s leisure conference, Jack said: “It is a resilient business, charging a family of four less than £20 yet its customers bowl just 1.3 times a year on average. Increasing this is a huge opportunity, as is increasing the ratio of its customers who eat in Hollywood Bowl from 10%, given its food has been upgraded. Hollywood Bowl has 55 bowling centres and, with a healthy pipeline, should open two sites this year. There are 25 locations in the UK the company would like to expand into. The company is negotiating either substantial landlord contributions or rent reductions on new sites. Last year’s refurbishments achieved a 52% average return on investment, with refurbishment opportunities existing in 54% of the estate.”

Matthew Clark unveils Boutique Beers range: Drinks distributor Matthew Clark has unveiled its Boutique Beers range for 2017, which includes 40 IPAs and more than 30 pale ales. The company said one in four beers it sells is an IPA or pale ale, reflecting UK drinkers’ thirst for craft beer. The new range has grown by 100 listings, bringing the total to 270 brews from 14 countries. The brochure includes premium, speciality ales and more than 50 lagers and pilsners in response to a 107% rise in lager sales. Matthew Clark said sales were also up 60.3% for speciality draught lager and, with sales of global draught lager up 24% and global packaged lager up 14.9%, a number of international breweries had joined the range, including North Carolina-based Lonerider and New Zealand’s Yeastie Boys. The range also includes niche styles such as gose beer, including brews from The Wild Beer Co and, with provenance a hot topic, ten UK breweries have joined, including Tiny Rebel from Wales and Scotland’s Bellfield, which only produces gluten-free beer. Matthew Clark category manager Justin Wylde said: “We’re seeing customers demand a choice of beers wherever they go. Nine in ten consumers are interested in learning about different styles of beer so we want to make it easy for operators to provide a range of options.”

Bokan restaurant opens on top floors of Canary Wharf hotel: Bokan restaurant has officially launched on the top three floors of Novotel’s new 39-storey skyscraper in Canary Wharf, offering 360-degree views of London. Bokan, which means “beacon” in Old English, offers 65 covers with a menu devised by head chef Aurélie Altemaire, formerly of L’Atelier Joel Robochon. The dishes utilise the best of British produce, including locally sourced charcuterie and cheese, Rhug Estate venison shepherd’s pie, and slow-smoked Blythburgh pork belly. Interiors are based on “Docklands-chic”, with industrial pulleys and a metal staircase that connects all three floors of Bokan and encases the charcuterie fridge, bread and olive oil display. There are also cushioned lounge areas, vintage rugs, classic furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows. The roof terrace boasts the highest specialist gin bar in London, with leather lounging areas, daybeds and a DJ mezzanine. Sector design agency Mystery worked closely with Accor Hotels to develop the concept – from creative strategy to naming and branding, interior design, and menu development. Mystery creative director Janfranco Caro said: “Bokan has been the perfect challenge for Mystery. The team has thought through every customer touch point – from brand, graphic, interior, food and drink and even smell to bring the whole amazing experience to life.”

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