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Tue 11th Apr 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Heineken to invest further £20m upgrading Star Pubs & Bars estate: Heineken is to invest a further £20m to upgrade its Star Pubs & Bars estate across the UK in 2017, taking its total expenditure on pubs to circa £100m during the past five years. The biggest winners in the 1,049-strong estate will be rural and suburban pubs, with about £10m earmarked to transform them into “great local pubs, introducing food and coffee, for the whole community to enjoy”. The company said 70% of the £20m would be spent on transformational projects of more than £100,000. In addition, nearly £3m would be spent on maintenance and repairs this year. The average transformational investment per pub is £162,000 and 780 jobs are expected to be created. Following investment, Heineken said 82% of Star Pubs & Bars sites would offer food and “quality coffee”. The company added that with competition for leisure spend increasing and growth of coffee shops, pubs needed to adapt to changing consumer demands. New research carried out by Populus on behalf of Heineken showed nearly a quarter (23%) of British adults visit their local pub once a week or more but pubs that fail to keep pace with evolving consumer demands have struggled. Two-thirds (62%) said they want their local to offer good food, a third (37%) look for a nice pub garden, a quarter (24%) would like free Wi-Fi, while a fifth (20%) want to have live sport on television. Heineken said by investing in new kitchens, changing the layout to include comfortable outside space, areas for events and cosier spots, as well as offering free Wi-Fi, its Star Pubs & Bars estate would continue to transform underperforming pubs into local hubs the whole community could enjoy. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “Vibrant pubs are an affordable, fun place where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together. But as consumer demands have changed, pubs that struggled to keep pace have closed. We believe pubs run by skilled operators and backed by transformational investment can thrive in their role at the heart of communities. Two-thirds of Star pubs are in suburban or village locations. Residents in these areas are looking for the same choice and quality of drinks, good food and entertainment on their doorsteps as they get in city centres. Over the past five years we have invested circa £100m in transforming our pubs in hundreds of communities across the country. The continued investment creates pubs people want to use, benefiting local communities and creating local jobs.”

Industry News:

US Restaurant Franchise Forum now free to attend for operators: UK operators can now attend the US Restaurant Franchise Forum for free courtesy of CPL Training, which has become headline sponsor for the event. The half-day, 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. CPL Training chief executive Dan Davies said: “We are delighted to sponsor this important seminar to allow operators to attend for free.” The 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 GrillOperators can claim up to two free places by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Finance and Investment Conference open for bookings: The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is open for bookings. Speakers will include Julia Groves, founder and director of the UK Crowdfunding Association, and Steven Kenee, head of licensed leisure at sector investor Downing, who will give their views on the opportunity of pub and restaurant ISAs and the key pros and cons of crowd bonds. Andrew Godber, who oversees leisure investment banking at Panmure Gordon, has advised on many Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and acted for more than a dozen companies in the sector including Brighton Pier Group, Capital Pub Company, City Pub Company, Eclectic Bars, The Restaurant Group and Young’s. He will give his views on how companies make themselves ready for flotation on the public markets, recent performance of companies opting for IPOs, the segments of the market that may be suited for the IPO route, the costs of going public and the advantages of IPOs. There will also be a panel discussion examining the sector investment and finance landscape with Maurice Abboudi, of K10; Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards; Bob Silk, of Barclays Corporate; Dan Stern, of Piper Private Equity; and Ian Edward, of Edward Associates. 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.

London hotel market sees double-digit revpar growth in March helped by inbound tourism increase: The London hotel market saw double-digit growth in revpar during March helped by an increase in inbound tourism, according to new research. STR’s preliminary March data showed revpar grew 14.2% to £113.27 compared with the previous year. Average daily rate rose 8.0% to £140.65, while occupancy was up 5.7% to 80.5%. Meanwhile, demand increased 8.7% and supply 2.8%. STR analysts noted airport hotels saw an uptick in demand, indicating an increase in inbound tourism as a result of the pound devaluation. They also attributed the performance growth, in part, to a favourable calendar shift caused by a later Easter in 2017. The opposite will occur in April. As previously reported, there was no performance disruption for London’s hotel industry following the Westminster terrorist attack on 22 March.

Labour Party pledges to raise minimum wage to £10 an hour: The minimum wage will rise to £10 an hour if the Labour Party wins the next general election, leader Jeremy Corbyn has said. In a bid to win votes ahead of local polls in May, Corbyn has set out the details of the party’s longer-terms plans for a higher minimum wage, which would benefit nearly six million workers, including those in the hospitality industry. He said low pay blighted the lives of large and growing numbers in the UK and fuelled widening inequality. Corbyn added: “Labour’s real living wage will immediately boost the incomes and opportunities of more than 20% of the workforce, especially in sectors such as retail, care and hospitality. We know that where work pays, living standards rise and reliance on benefits falls. This is the right thing to do, and a Labour government will be committed to rebalancing our economy so that no-one and no community is left behind.” The policy would leave full-time employees on basic earnings better off by more than £2,500, while 21 to 24-year-olds on lower wage rates would be in line for a £4,500 hike. The government has begun to phase in its National Living Wage, with the aim of reaching 60% of median UK earnings by 2020. For over-25s, the wage rose from £7.20 an hour to £7.50 this month and is projected to rise to at least £9 an hour by April 2020.

CGA – value of alcohol in pubs and restaurants rose 1.8% in 2016: The value of alcohol sold in Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants rose by 1.8% in 2016, the latest figures from CGA Strategy reveal. The value of alcoholic drinks sales climbed to £24.4bn – about £428m higher than in 2015, according to CGA’s Alcohol Sales Tracker. This contrasts with a 1.7% fall in volume sales across the same period. “Against a background of sketchy consumer confidence and economic uncertainty it is a solid performance, reflecting the strength and innovation of pub, bar and restaurant operators around the country and the continuing move towards more premium products,” said Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA Strategy, the out-of-home research and insight consultancy. “It shows people are drinking less but looking for better quality,” he added. Growth in 2016 was notably high in the food-led sector of the market, with value of sales up by 4.4%. This followed extensive openings of casual dining brands in particular, as well as significant improvements in the drinks offers of many restaurants. Tate said: “Sales in the drinks-led sector of the market rose by 0.6% – a slower rate of value growth – but an encouraging achievement given the ongoing closures of many local and community pubs in Britain.” Sales were also buoyant in the managed side of the licensed trade. Sales were up by 3.3% in 2016, driven by the efforts of managed groups to enhance their pub and restaurant brands. There was also growth in the independent free trade sector, with value of sales rising by 1.7% in 2016. “This growth reflects the huge range of choice in the drinks market now, from value options up to premium brands. The variety of beer, wine and spirits available to pubs, bars and restaurants presents opportunities to grow alcohol sales again in 2017 – but only if operators can curate the right ranges,” added Tate. “With many costs rising and real-term growth hard to come by, the eating-out sector is a market share game right now. Restaurants that provide interesting and distinctive ranges of drinks will have a much better chance of driving footfall and loyalty in the years ahead.”

Company News:

Curious Restaurants ends £600,000 crowdfunding campaign for Jones Family Kitchen but will still launch concept: Curious Restaurants, which operates The Jones Family Project in Shoreditch, east London, has ended its £600,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open its first two Jones Family Kitchen sites but will still launch the concept. The company, founded by Duncan Watts and Amit Joshi, was offering a 19.35% equity stake in return for the investment. However, Watts and Joshi have ended the campaign after realising it would be unable to secure the investment it was looking for. Posting on its Crowdcube page, the company said: “Sadly, we won’t be closing this funding on Crowdcube. Our aim was to try to get 100 to 300 investors who would also become brand ambassadors for the business. Everyone has an opinion about restaurants as a consumer, so we thought it would be really interesting to have a pool of brain-power from different industries who would be interested enough to engage with us and the brand we are trying to build. We clearly didn’t get that and maybe this was not the right place for us. We will be opening our first Jones Family Kitchen later this year as we have the funding to do so. It’s a really exciting time and we can’t wait to show it to everyone.” Watts and Joshi have worked together for 20 years and built and sold a number of businesses in the restaurant and bar sector in that time. Watts qualified as a chartered accountant before becoming investor/director of Pitcher & Piano, which he sold to Marston’s in 2011 for a multiple of 25 times earnings. He went on to create Rocket Restaurants with Joshi, which they sold to sector investor Luke Johnson in 2011.

Soho House to launch Dumbo House club above first stand-alone New York restaurant: Soho House will launch private members’ club Dumbo House above its Italian restaurant Cecconi’s, which will be the company’s first stand-alone restaurant in New York when it opens next month. Dumbo House, which is likely to open in the autumn, will occupy the top two floors of Empire Stores, the repurposed 19th century warehouse in the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge. Dumbo House will feature an outdoor terrace and prime views via floor-to-ceiling windows of the up and coming Dumbo (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass) area of New York. Cecconi’s will open on the ground floor of the seven interconnected buildings and feature a 250-cover dining room, an outdoor terrace seating 80, and a large “eat-in” bar. Dumbo House will join Empire Stores tenants including popular area eatery Vinegar Hill House, a rooftop beer garden, and a storefront for hip watchmaker Shinola. Construction on the rest of the landmark Civil War-era property is “nearing completion”. Soho House operates two other New York clubs – both in Manhattan – and was founded by Nick Jones in 1995 in Greek Street, Soho. It has since expanded to have “houses” around the world.

Hammerton Brewery secures Ei Group site for first pub: London-based craft brewer Hammerton Brewery has secured its first pub, Propel has learned. The company, founded by Lee Hammerton, has agreed a deal with Ei Group to acquire the lease of the former Wig & Gown in Islington. Hammerton Brewery has signed a commercial free-of-tie lease and will reopen the pub in early summer following an extensive refurbishment. Hammerton Brewery is based in Islington, brewing small-batch beers and aims to re-establish the Hammerton name in the capital. Originally founded in London in 1868, it ceased brewing in the late 1950s with the brewery later demolished. In 2014, Lee Hammerton decided to resurrect the family business and its beers, including Islington Steam Lager, N7 IPA and Pentonville Oyster Stout. He said: “We have been looking for a small local site for a number of months. Our regular taproom openings at the brewery have served as a great window for us to receive feedback from our customers on what they think about our beers. We have been asked many times about opening up our taproom more often but we have limited space at the brewery site and the open days affect production. So we are very pleased and excited to receive the keys to our first pub, especially as it is located so close to our brewery.” Ei commercial property director Richard Broadribb added: “We are continuing to build a high-quality commercial property portfolio, the vast majority of which trade as pubs on a free-of-tie basis. Our aim is to maximise the value of Ei Group assets using our commercial property expertise and, through our flexible agreements, look forward to partnering with a further number of exciting operators in the future.”

Champagne and cocktail bar Oh You Pretty Things passes 50% mark in £750,000 crowdfunding campaign to continue expansion: Champagne and cocktail bar Oh You Pretty Things has passed the 50% mark in its £750,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Growthdeck to continue expansion. The company, founded by Craig Ince and Norris Panton, is offering a 20% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 17 investors have pledged £411,000. The concept is designed specifically for regional shopping centres and department stores, aiming to offer 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 forecast it would grow to £2,499,000 this year and £13,275,000 by 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. 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 a 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.”

Hospitality tech platform launched by Hummus Bros co-founder raises £600,000 for international expansion: Hospitality tech platform Tenzo, which is the brainchild of Hummus Bros co-founder Christian Mouysset, has raised £600,000 to fund its continued international expansion. The seed investment round was led by Acequia Capital, Force Over Mass and angel investors Charlie Songhurst, Michael Orland and London-based Getti Restaurants. The financing will be used to fund Tenzo’s continued international expansion, new hires, and for further investment in its proprietary technology platform. A Techstars London 2016 company, Tenzo helps restaurants save money by analysing its data to deliver tactical insights for managers to action in real time. Since launching, Tenzo has worked with restaurants across 100 locations in the UK and US, including Getti Restaurants, Upham Group, which operates a portfolio of 15 venues, London-based Italian restaurant Macellaio RC, and Mexican brand Chilango. Mouysset, who co-founded Tenzo with Adam Taylor, who led McKinsey’s fast-growth tech work on the US west coast, said: “We’re excited to have investors on board who will provide us not only with capital but also vast strategic experience in our market. With their deep knowledge in both the hospitality and technology space, we know everyone involved in our seed round will be a great asset to us as we continue to scale our business globally.”

GG Hospitality starts international expansion of Cafe Football brand with Singapore opening: GG Hospitality, led by former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs alongside Singaporean backer Peter Lim, has started international expansion of the Cafe Football brand by opening a site in Singapore. The company, which operates Cafe Footballs in London and Manchester as well as Hotel Football near Old Trafford stadium, billed the new venue as “Singapore’s first football-themed lifestyle destination”, The Sun reports. The venue is at The Arena, a fitness facility that also offers an 11-a-side artificial football pitch as well as seven-a-side and five-a-side pitches. GG Hospitality plans more Cafe Football sites in China, Thailand and India as part of further international expansion, while a second Manchester site is set to open soon at the National Football Museum. Neville and Giggs are also set to open a trio of Manchester restaurants with Michelin-starred chef Michael O’Hare and open a site for the popular Mahiki nightclub franchise in Manchester.

The Damn Yankee Co sells Harrogate steak and burger restaurant to management team: Harrogate-based The Damn Yankee Co has sold its steak and burger restaurant Cattlemen’s Association to three members of the management team. The restaurant has been acquired by Andrew Buckley, Robert Watson and Paul Waddington, with each of them having worked at the business for more than 14 years. Waddington and Buckley previously worked as operations managers across Damn Yankee’s three Harrogate restaurants and Watson was Cattlemen’s head chef. Cattlemen’s has been based in Cheltenham Crescent, Harrogate, for more than 30 years. Buckley told The Business Desk: “All our customers appreciate the fact Cattlemen’s is one of the last few independent restaurants in Harrogate, at a time when the town centre is becoming saturated with the same old familiar chains that can be found on high streets throughout the UK. When the opportunity came up to buy the restaurant, we knew it was a one-off opportunity we didn’t want to miss, and we’re really looking forward to continuing the hard work that has made Cattlemen’s such a Harrogate institution for more than a quarter of a century.” The trio was advised on the deal by Harrogate law firm LCF Barber Titleys.

Liverpool-based Black Lodge Brewery to open permanent site for pop-up restaurant concept Oktopus: Liverpool-based Black Lodge Brewery is to open a permanent site for its pop-up restaurant concept Oktopus this month. The company will open the site at Hardman Yard in Hardman Street on Friday, 21 April. Oktopus, which had been operating as a pop-up at the brewery, specialises in seafood dishes and own-brewed beers. The initial menu will include Parisian gnocchi with pink goat’s cheese, beet crisps and basil; lamb belly with white anchovies, cumin soubise, fried parsnips and braised leeks; and sea trout with cucumbers and buttermilk labneh. Head chef Christopher Ineson told Your Move: “Customers coming to the new restaurant in Hardman Yard can expect to see a menu that is constantly changing and adapting, one that reflects the seasons, and uses local and sustainable ingredients when they are at the peak of their growing time.” Black Lodge Brewery opened in the city’s Baltic Triangle in 2015.

Festival specialist Saucy Chip to open permanent Fitzrovia site: Festival and pop-up specialist Saucy Chip has found a permanent home, in Fitzrovia. The company will start selling its gourmet chips at the Jerusalem Bar and Kitchen in Rathbone Place from Monday, 24 April. Chip offerings include The Italian Job (with fresh basil, pesto mayo, melted mozzarella and cheddar, and basil and parmesan crumb) and Chippy (curry chips in katsu curry sauce), Hot Dinners reports. There will also be burgers, fish balls, hotdogs and popcorn shrimp on the menu, alongside a sauce bar with 20 sauces and desserts such as knickerbocker glory and a death by chocolate brownie.

Cookery writer Lucy Cufflin to open cookery school and supper club venue in Chiswick: Cookery writer Lucy Cufflin is to open a cookery school and supper club venue in Chiswick, west London. Cufflin is launching Ginger Whisk on Friday, 5 May and aims to “breathe the fun back into cooking”. It will be housed in a new contemporary development behind Turnham Green Terrace, near Turnham Green tube station. Highlights from Cufflin’s cookery class line-up include a macaron masterclass and events entitled “from pig to pie” and “for the love of bread”. There will also be classes for children during the school holidays entitled “Little Chefs Club: best cookies ever!” There will also be Sunday morning classes to show how to make muffins and crumpets. Cufflin also plans to invite chefs and food experts to host demos, supper clubs and classes. She will draw on her experience having managed cookery training for Skiworld for the past 15 years and hosted classes and supper clubs in her home city of Leicester. In addition to the cooking school, Ginger Whisk will have a selection of props for hire. Cufflin and her business partner, professional photographer Jacqui Melville, have also created two photographic studios alongside the cookery school, housing fully fitted kitchens and a complete range of appliances, gadgets and a pantry.  

Kanada-Ya launches ‘homely’ Japanese cooking concept Machiya in Soho: Kanada-Ya, which operates two ramen bars in central London, has launched “homely” Japanese cooking concept Machiya in Soho. The all-day restaurant has opened in Panton Street offering dishes such as gyukatsu (a wagyu steak crusted in panko breadcrumbs that is part-cooked then left to customers to finish to their liking over a personal grill). Rice dishes include variations such as truffled omu made with chicken stock and omelette, while for breakfast there is kobachi (small sharing plates) on rotation including sesame-dressed spinach, and Machiya’s spin on avocado toast using Japanese milk bread and crushed avocado with yuzu dressing and furikake seasoning. The venue also features an in-house pastry bar, while the drinks list at the basement bar includes traditional cocktails and a wide range of sakes and unusual whiskies, Hot Dinners reports. Kanada-Ya, led by Tony Lam and Aaron Burgess-Smith, operates ramen bars in Covent Garden and in Panton Street, a few doors down from Machiya.

North west-based operators start expansion by opening second site, in Altrincham: North west-based operators Oliver Calveley and James Fennell have started expansion by opening their second site, this time in Altrincham. The duo, who operate The Drawing Room in West Didsbury, have launched The Cellar in Shaw’s Road having acquired a site that formerly housed Apres Wine Bar. The only change the pair have made to the venue is on the drinks side – Apres was largely a wine bar, while The Cellar will offer more than 30 cocktails, more than 30 wines, and a couple of draught beers. Downstairs, the cellar is available for hire and used for wine, whiskey and rum-tasting evenings, reports Altrincham Today. Calveley and Fennell set up in business together as owners of online craft beer retailer Brewbank. They said they had grown revenues at The Drawing Room by 50% since taking it over last year.

Travelodge reports revenue from business customers surpasses leisure sales for first time, food and drinks sales up 14%: Travelodge has reported revenue from business customers surpassed leisure travel sales for the first time last year, while food and drink sales increased 14%. The group, Britain’s second-biggest budget hotel operator behind Whitbread-owned Premier Inn, attributed the achievement to the completion of a £100m modernisation project and the launch of a business membership programme. Chief executive Peter Gowers said the changing business climate had also been a factor. He told The Times: “The days of extravagance on expenses have gone. Now it’s all about doing business on a budget.” He said the company’s research had shown business customers were more likely to choose a hotel with a restaurant, and Travelodge was reaping the benefit from having cafe-bars in 164 of its 544 hotels serving meals. An upgraded breakfast offer drove a 14% increase in food and drinks sales across the group last year, which in turn contributed to a 6.8% increase in total revenues to £598m. Revpar rose by 2.5% to £39.34 in the UK, which Gowers claimed was 1.2 percentage points ahead of the wider midscale and economy hotel sector. Although occupancy was down slightly at 76.1%, the average room rate grew by 3.1% to £51.70. Underlying earnings for the group grew 4.8% to £110m, a more modest rate of growth than the previous year, after strong trading triggered an increase in hotel rents. Earnings were impacted by the National Living Wage, and Gowers said the company faced “short-term cost headwinds” this year, with business rates rising by more than £3m and the living wage costing £4m to £5m extra, partly owing to its decision to pay it to under-25s.

East Midlands-based Italian dessert cafe Dolcino starts expansion with Nottingham opening: East Midlands-based Italian dessert cafe Dolcino has started expansion by opening a second site, in Nottingham. The Arcadio family has opened the 150-seater cafe in a former bank in Beastmarket Hill offering fresh gelato made using a secret family recipe dating to the 1950s. Customers can mix and match gelato flavours such as Oreo biscuit, strawberry cheesecake, gin and tonic, chilli, and rhubarb and custard to create their own bespoke flavours. They can also watch the gelato being freshly made every day from a viewing window on the first floor. Sicilian desserts such as pinolata (a lemon and chocolate pastry), cakes, sundaes, sorbet and milkshakes are also on the menu. The venue also features an all-day cafe serving sandwiches, crepes and waffles made from locally sourced ingredients and freshly cooked while customers wait. Kirsten Arcadio told the Nottingham Post: “Our children represent the fourth generation of gelato makers. Our concept is a modern take on the Italian all-day cafe and gelateria.” The Nottingham venture follows the family's debut UK opening, in Loughborough.

Marston’s to open 19th lodge, next to Staffordshire pub in July: Marston’s is to open a lodge next to its Spread Eagle pub and restaurant in Gailey, near Cannock, in July. The company is building the 38-bedroom hotel to the side of the pub in Watling Street. It will be Marston’s 19th lodge having previously had its application approved by South Staffordshire Council because of the need for hotel beds in the area. Staffordshire has only 16,500 bedrooms, compared with 39,000 in Derbyshire and 23,000 in Shropshire, reports the Express & Star. The Spread Eagle itself has just reopened following a six-figure, three-week refurbishment.

Worcester-based multi-site operator lodges plans to transform former American-style diner into family restaurant: Worcester-based multi-site operator Chaytor Services has lodged plans to transform former American-style diner Detroit’s in the city into a family restaurant. The company, which acquired the site in Castle Street, outside Worcester Racecourse, last year, has applied to the city council to create an outdoor eating area as part of the refurbishment. Director Darren Pinches said the plan is to attract families with a reasonably priced restaurant that would also serve lunch and dinner to students, race-goers and workers. Chaytor Services operates three other sites in the city – Brown’s in Quay Street, Bushwackers nightclub in Trinity Street and Sin bar in New Street. It also runs another Bushwackers nightclub in Birmingham and Brown’s sister restaurant The Daffodil in Cheltenham.

Norfolk-based brewpub operator starts expansion with second site: Norfolk-based operator Ricky Malt, who runs The White Horse Inn brewpub in Neatishead, has acquired the freehold of The Lion Inn at nearby Thurne. The property will undergo an extensive refurbishment before a partial reopening in early May, followed by a full launch in time for the summer tourist season. The White Horse was named rural pub of the year by the Norwich branch of the Campaign for Real Ale in 2016, and was also national finalist in the Great British Pub Awards. Malt said: “This property is ideally located and ripe with potential for expanding our in-house brewery and Pell & Co spirit brand. It will work really well in conjunction with our other venue. We look forward to restoring this elegant Georgian property back to its splendour.” Chris Rogers, associate director of agents Everard Cole, which completed the deal, added: “We are thrilled to have completed the sale of The Lion Inn to such strong local operators. Having reinvigorated The White Horse at Neatishead, we look forward to The Lion being another terrific success”. Malt founded Neatishead Brewing Co at The White Horse, which also houses Pell & Co, which makes Hopton Gin.

Paul UK introduces reusable cup discount: French artisan bakery and patisserie Paul UK has introduced a reusable cup discount. The “Paul Cares” policy gives customers a 10p discount every time they use any reusable cup when ordering a hot drink. The company has also relaunched its own range of reusable cups. Paul UK chief executive Jean-Michel Orieux said: “Paul Cares is our way of demonstrating our commitment to a passion we share with our customers, which goes beyond the cup, lightening the environmental footprint of all we welcome through our doors.”

Cambridge-based restaurateurs start expansion with Varsity sister site: Matthew Marshall, owner of Varsity restaurant in Cambridge, has opened a sister site in the city. The new venue, Trinity, has opened at a site that formerly housed Coast fish and chip restaurant. Sisters, rather than twins, Trinity features a different menu to Varsity, with a greater focus on seafood. Where Varsity offers its unique Claret Card, with bin ends of interesting reds, Trinity has its own Fizz Card, offering a choice of champagne and sparkling wine. The head chef is Jonno Khan, formerly of Jamie’s Italian, while the general manager is Richard Kruller, former manager of The Tickell Arms and Cambridge Chop House. Kruller told the Cambridge News: “Cambridge has a lot of good restaurants but I think where we’re different is the level of service. The staff at Trinity are all friends and we’ve all worked in the industry for a long time. It’s all about very good food with excellent service, which has always been at the heart of Varsity.” Trinity offers a set lunch and pre-theatre menu, from Monday to Friday, between midday and 7pm.

M&B partners with Britvic to launch virtual reality Easter-egg hunt: Mitchells & Butlers and Britvic have partnered to launch a set of virtual reality Easter-egg hunts. The games, available to download via the Harvester and Toby Carvery apps or from the Sizzling Pubs website, feature virtual reality gamification technology. During April, consumers who purchase a J2O will be given a straw featuring a QR code, which can be used to access three games – Bunny Hunt, Egg Smash, and Egg Hunt. Customers win a bottle of J2O if they find all the eggs, smash all the eggs or find all the bunnies. The technology will allow both companies to capture information on how to can convert consumer engagement with games into engagement with brands. The games will also enable Mitchells & Butlers to connect with guests through sign-ups, drive downloads and app interactions. Mitchells & Butlers commercial and marketing director Chris Hopkins said: “These innovative and topical games will be a lot of fun to the growing army of guests who use digital channels as part of their overall eating-out experience.” Keith Richardson, director of licensed at Britvic Soft Drinks, added: “This is the perfect opportunity to drive further interest in J20 over a busy trading period and to add value by working with some of M&B’s leading brands to achieve this.”

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