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Tue 25th Apr 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

MeatLiquor agrees heads of terms on three sites, ponders fund-raise to ‘test market’: MeatLiquor co-founder Scott Collins has told Propel the company has agreed heads of terms on three sites – and could undertake its first fund-raise to “test the market” as the company continues expansion. The 12th MeatLiquor restaurant is due to open in King’s Cross this summer. Collins said: “There is still a lot of fun to be had in London. We’ve got three exciting sites on heads of terms, probably for the end of summer and summer next year. We may do some fund-raising for that just to test the market. We’ve done it all on cash flow so far.” He said further openings were possible outside the capital to add to the brand’s regional sites in Brighton, Bristol and Leeds. In terms of a forecast for site numbers, though, he added: “We don’t think like that. We’re not a cookie-cutter operation.” The company’s turnover for the year to June 2016 was £11.1m, up from £10.3m the year before. Collins said: “Our growth has been a bit steadier than perhaps people looking in from the outside might think. It’s been quite calm and measured but we’ve got a head office team that’s ready to ramp it up now.” He added that site selection was key and, in terms of suggestions from landlords and developers, “we listen to a lot, and we say yes to a little”. The brand continues to occupy sites that might not appeal to other operators. For example, MeatLiquor N1 is a converted Citroen garage in Islington with no frontage on to the main street. Collins said: “I think we’re quite smart about the kit-outs but they’re still slightly unusual sites, they’ve never been used for F&B.” However, he said the company balanced those costs against the price other operators were paying for more conventional restaurant units in prime locations. He added: “I think we’re choosing sites more carefully now. Looking back, some sites that have been great in terms of historic performance I wouldn’t open now. Some areas have changed but we’re still lucky in that we’ve got a loyal crowd and a name.” Last month, the company launched a delivery-only site in Canary Wharf in partnership with Deliveroo, while it also signed a deal that will see it become exclusive food and drinks partner at London’s historic Queens ice rink in May.

Industry News:

Host of operators sign up for Finance and Investment Conference: A host of operators and investors have signed up to attend the Propel Finance and Investment Conference. They include Shepherd Neame, Chalk Valley, The Wright Brothers, Bone Daddies, Risk Capital Partners, Business Growth Fund, Barclays Bank, My Lahore, Ei Group, Snug Bar, CBRE, Tamweel Capital, Bounce Ping Pong, We Are Bar, Arlo’s Restaurants, Inn Collection Group, Cambscuisine, Shanti Hospitality, Piano Works, Coaching Inn Group, Electric Star, Wells Group, Distinct Group, Vaulkhard Group, Knot Pretzel, Players Bars, Kheera Kitchen, and Relish Ventures. Speakers will include Tom Horbye, of the UK’s leading equity investment platform Seedrs, who will talk about which food and beverage companies have had considerable success raising capital. He will also 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.

UK hotel market reports strong growth in first quarter: The UK hotel market has reported strong growth in the first quarter of 2017, with increases in revpar, average daily rate and occupancy. STR data showed revpar rose 6.8% to £59.12 compared with the previous year, with average daily rate up 4.1% to £83.73 and occupancy up 2.6% to 70.6%. In their report, STR analysts said: “UK hotels continued a run of positive year-on-year performance that started late in 2016. March was the strongest growth month of the quarter (revpar +8.3%), thanks in part to a favourable Easter calendar shift.” The analysts also attributed the strong performance to Brexit and the devaluation of the British pound with a subsequent increase in domestic and international hotel demand. As previously reported, performance in the country’s largest market, London, was not disrupted following the Westminster attack on 22 March. The UK performance helped the European hotel market to also record a strong first quarter. Revpar increased 6.5% to €64.06, average daily rate was up 2.3% to €100.94, while occupancy rose 4.1% to 63.5%. In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, occupancy increased 74.9% to 49.5%, while Spain reported a 7.2% growth in revpar to €68.06, with average daily rate up 4.8% to €100.76.

Pembrokeshire-based Seren Collection introduces four-day week for kitchen staff at Grove of Narberth: Pembrokeshire-based Seren Collection has introduced a four-day week for kitchen staff at its country house hotel Grove of Narberth in an effort to improve employment conditions. Owners Neil and Zoe Kedward said the reduction in hours would achieve a better work-life balance and improve staff retention. It is one of the first businesses and hospitality venues in Wales to adopt the approach. Neil Kedward said: “In an industry where the quality of talent is a true differentiator, this is a trend we should certainly see more of. Hospitality kitchen staff, in particular, have traditionally had a raw deal working long hours. We have always viewed the reduction of these hours as a priority for us as I have never felt comfortable with some of the hours worked by our team, particularly in the high season. We want to have a happy and energised workforce to deliver a luxury product of the highest standards in south west Wales, and this is a cornerstone of our approach to achieve that.” Seren Collection’s other sites are Coast in Saundersfoot and the Beach House at Oxwich Bay in the Gower Peninsula.  

Company News:

Tim Hortons targets 100 UK sites: Canadian cafe operator Tim Hortons is targeting a minimum of 100 UK outlets as it prepares to open its first UK site in Argyle Street, Glasgow, next month. Speaking at the brand’s official launch at Canada House in London, Gurprit Dhaliwal, director of SK Group, which is handling the roll-out of Tim Hortons UK on behalf of Canadian parent company Restaurant Brand International, said the business was initially looking at further flagship sites in major cities, including London. However, he added he also expected to see Tim Hortons sites open in the same neighbourhood, leisure and drive-thru sites that have taken the brand into almost every Canadian town and city. He said: “Flagship stores are important to initially establish the brand with UK customers, but Tim Hortons is very adaptable. It’s an all-day concept from breakfast right through to late evening, so we trade longer hours than other brands. In Canada, there are successful 24-hour drive-thru sites, which we’d also look at here.” SK Group is in active conversations with landlords and letting agents and will announce further openings soon, Dhaliwal said. SK is an established Domino’s Pizza franchisee in the UK, although the initial Tim Hortons sites will be company owned. While the media focus has been on the UK launch of Tim Hortons’ popular range of doughnuts and pastries, as well as its own-blend coffee, Dhaliwal said savoury products such as freshly made to order blinis and wraps would be just as important to create an all-day following for the brand.

Filmore & Union launches Fresh from Filmore offer: Healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union has launched a “Fresh from Filmore” offer that features a spin on its restaurant menu, with its in-house nutritionist-designed healthy options now available to take away. Fresh from Filmore customers can choose from a new menu of salads, pitas, bagels and jacket sweet potatoes, which are all custom-made to order. Harrogate is the first location for the new brand, at its site in the town’s main shopping thoroughfare, James Street. Filmore & Union founder Adele Ashley said: “We chose Harrogate because our customer following there is very strong, there is a lack of independent brands offering healthy take-out lunches, and a site became available in this prime location. It was the obvious choice for us. Our customers are much more focused on eating healthily at lunchtime. If they are going to put in an hour at the gym before work, they are conscious about what they fuel their body with at lunchtime and our take-out business has doubled in 12 months. Our restaurant in Harrogate is really busy and at lunchtime it was hard to manage take-out orders as well, so this has eased the situation and given our customers much more choice.” The Fresh from Filmore brand will be rolled out across the north, with two further sites planned for the next three months.

The Chilli Pickle closes crowdfunding campaign after hitting £700,000 target: Award-winning Indian restaurant The Chilli Pickle, based in Brighton, has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Growthdeck after hitting its £700,000 target to open four further sites in south east England. The company, owned by Alun and Dawn Sperring, was offering a 23% equity stake in return for the investment. A total of 42 people have invested in the campaign with four of those investing more than £100,000. The first site was established in 2008, moving in 2011 to a much larger, 115-cover site in Brighton’s Jubilee Street. The single-site operation generates more than £2.2m of sales and is profitable with circa £300,000 of takeaway sales. Investors have been told a sale of the business is expected in mid-2021, with five sites generating £1.3m Ebitda before central costs with the eventual buyer assumed to pay nine times site Ebitda. Investors in The Chilli Pickle are offered the prospect of a 5.3 times money return – 57.5% internal rate of return (IRR) – increasing to 7.6 times (65.8% IRR) after taking account of initial 30% income tax relief. The pitch states: “The Chilli Pickle concept is established and now ripe for roll-out. It is planned to open four new 80 to 120-cover restaurants in south east market towns over the next three years, with the Brighton hub acting as an academy for new managers and chefs. The first site is planned to be a new-build unit in the centre of a market town. Chilli Pickle is finalising design plans to fit-out a 95-cover restaurant at a total cost of circa £700,000, of which circa 40% will be funded by the landlord. The Chilli Pickle expects to open this site in June/July. Chilli Pickle is considering Tunbridge Wells, Worthing, Winchester, Hastings and Oxford as possible locations for the additional three sites. These units are forecast to open in June 2018, June 2019 and January 2020.”

Fulham Shore chairman – ‘you should never increase your estate by more than 50% in a year’: The chairman of Fulham Shore, which operates Franco Manca and The Real Greek, has said he does not believe a company should increase its estate by more than 50% in the year. David Page also said its Franco Manca sites in London tend to trade almost instantly at full capacity and can get cheaper rents in the capital by going for more unconventional locations rather than looking for primary sites only. Page told Shares Magazine: “You should never increase your estate by more than 50% in a year. When my previous firm owned Gourmet Burger Kitchen, we doubled the sites to 48 in one year – it was a mistake.” He said there would be no franchising of the brand in the UK as “you lose a lot of control”. Page, who used to be chief executive and then chairman of PizzaExpress, added: “We think other players in the market are ridiculously expansive. They have big debts to pay off – we started the business with no debt and kept the menu simple to avoid wastage and having money tied up in stock. Our cheaper pizzas help to drive up sales volumes. Prezzo was doing about 1,300 covers (per restaurant) a week when it was taken over. We’re doing more than 2,100 covers.” Fulham Shore has 32 Franco Manca sites and expects to open another 13 in the next 12 months. It recently lifted its banking facility from £6.5m to £13.5m to accelerate its expansion.

Hummus Bros exceeds £125,000 crowdfunding target for expansion: Hummus Bros, the London-based hummus restaurant chain, has hit its £125,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to support its expansion plans. The company, founded by Christian Mouysset, is running a convertible share equity campaign with a 25% discount. So far, 168 people have invested £127,000 and the campaign is now “overfunding”. Hummus Bros operates six high-street sites as well as 40 pop-ups a month in canteens at large offices such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The pitch states: “Over the past few years we have observed the popularity of Mediterranean food, and hummus in particular, increase significantly. We have been making our food available by first opening high-street restaurants and more recently directly in canteens of large offices around London. We are now looking to make our hummus available in supermarkets. In 2016 we turned over £2.59m from our six restaurant locations, pop-ups in corporate restaurants and deliveries to offices around London. We hope to increase our turnover over the next 12 months by opening one or two more high-street locations and increasing the number of pop-ups we operate. We have opened six branches over the past ten years, which have cost as low as £75,000 to acquire and refurbish (depending on the size of unit and rent). We would expect to use up to £125,000 of the proceeds to open one more branch. The maximum we will seek is £500,000, in which case we will open up to four more branches (£400,000) and move forward with a launch of Hummus Bros-branded products in supermarkets. The business currently has a £25,000 bank loan as well as a £176,000 bond repayable in 2020. None of the funds raised will be used to repay these debts.”

Patisserie Valerie and Bill’s sign for £240m Bracknell development: Patisserie Valerie, the company that has sector investor Luke Johnson as executive chairman, and Bill’s have signed up to open sites at the new £240m town centre development in Bracknell, Berkshire. Patisserie Valerie has signed a lease for a 580 square foot unit at The Lexicon Bracknell, while Bill’s will open in a 3,454 square foot unit. They will join other brands at the complex that include Carluccio’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Nando’s, Wagamama, and Prezzo’s Tex Mex brand Chimichanga. The Lexicon Bracknell is being developed by The Bracknell Regeneration Partnership, a joint venture between Legal & General and Schroder UK Real Estate Fund in partnership with Bracknell Forest Council. The scheme, which is due to open on Thursday, 7 September, is now 71.2% let by floor area. Jessica Berney, head of UK retail at Schroder Real Estate, said: “These new signings will boost retail in the town centre and complement the impressive line-up of casual dining brands. Bracknell is well on the way to becoming the shopping and leisure destination of choice in Berkshire.” CBRE and Lunson Mitchenall are joint agents for The Lexicon Bracknell. Patisserie Valerie, launched in 1926 in Soho by Belgian-born Madame Valerie, has more than 115 sites across the UK. Bill’s has 75 sites around the UK. Founder Bill Collison opened the first restaurant in Lewes, East Sussex, in 2001.

Wagamama starts search for prime UK locations as it ramps up expansion: Wagamama has launched a search for prime locations across the UK as it ramps up expansion. The company is looking for units ranging from 3,500 to 5,000 square feet, ideally all on the ground floor. Wagamama, which this month joined the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said agency fees would be £40,000 in London Zone 1, and £20,000 in all other areas. Responding to its rhetorical question of why landlords should choose Wagamama, the company pointed to 15% annual sales growth during the past five years and “industry-beating” like-for-like sales for the past three years, alongside a strong financial covenant and upgraded credit ratings. Wagamama celebrated its 25th anniversary on Saturday (22 April) by opening its first restaurant in Spain ahead of a planned 20-plus openings in Spain and Portugal with franchise operator Grupo Vips. Wagamama also plans to open restaurants in an additional three countries by the end of 2017. In a note to staff, chief executive David Campbell said: “In our home market of the UK we are now 124 restaurants strong, with a new UK northern flagship in Edinburgh opening just last week. Our UK success has been the envy of the industry, with many awards and like-for-like performance that has now significantly outpaced the UK market for 152 consecutive weeks, which I think is unprecedented.”

New tacos and tequila-inspired venue Cartel opens in Battersea Park: A new tacos and tequila-inspired venue has opened in Battersea Park, London. Cartel has launched in Battersea Park Road specialising in hand-pressed tacos and offering more than 70 tequilas and a tequila-based cocktail menu. It will also host live music and DJs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The venue, which can seat 120 diners but hold up to 250 people, has been inspired by traditional taqueria – street food stalls offering inexpensive tacos and other Mexican dishes. The decor is rustic with exposed brickwork, murals and wood furnishings. The tacos are freshly made each day, with fillings ranging from pulled chicken cooked in mezcal and lemon to slow-cooked beef brisket with chorizo, radish and coriander. The menu also includes quesadillas, hand-made tortilla chips and three types of house salsa. The cocktail list celebrates tequila and mescal, while there is also wine and beer.

Michael O’Hare looks to relocate Michelin-starred restaurant: Celebrity chef Michael O’Hare has submitted plans to relocate the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Leeds. O’Hare launched The Man Behind The Curtain in April 2014, winning a Michelin star two years later. The chef now wants to relocate the restaurant from the third floor of the historic Coronation Buildings as his venue is booked up months in advance. Acting on behalf of Town Centre Securities, Carey Jones Chapman Tolcher has drawn up designs for alterations to a building in Vicar Lane. O’Hare is proposing to move The Man Behind the Curtain into a larger, naturally lit space in the basement, which would be accessed from a prominent entrance on the corner of Sidney Street and Harewood Street. According to the application, O’Hare’s desire to relocate reflects a “significant change in the area at street level” since Hammerson’s development of the Victoria Gate retail complex in the city centre, Insider Media reports. The Middlesbrough-born chef is known for his maverick approach. He is set to open a trio of restaurants in Manchester with GG Hospitality, co-owned by former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, entitled The Man Who Fell To Earth, Are Friends Electric, and The Rabbit In The Moon.

Property investment firm acquires two QHotels sites for £19m each: Property investment company LXi Reit has acquired two QHotels Group sites in two deals worth £19m apiece. LXi Reit has bought the four-star Marstons Hotels site in Cambridge, the Cambridge Belfry Hotel, for £18.53m. It has also completed a £19.1m deal for the Q-Park car park in Rockingham Street, Sheffield. The hotel deal reflects a net initial yield of 6.1% on the asset acquisition. The lease has an unexpired term of more than 22 years – expiring in May 2039 – without a break. It was purpose-built in 2004 and its 120 rooms were recently refurbished. It is situated within the 750,000 square foot Cambourne Business Park. LXi Reit partner Simon Lee told The Business Desk: “We are pleased to have acquired the Cambridge Belfry Hotel, which is our sixth acquisition since the company’s admission on 27 February 2017. In addition to benefiting from a long, index-linked lease to a strong tenant covenant, the hotel trades strongly and is in a sought-after Cambridge location and, as a result, its vacant possession value is in excess of the purchase price.”

HGEM launches app to put data in operators’ hands in real-time: Guest experience management expert HGEM has launched an app to put data in operators’ hands in real-time. The initial version of the HGEM mobile app is aimed at area managers, enabling them to keep up to speed with guest experience management reports on the go by removing the need to log on to a website remotely. Managers are able to view performance results, multi-site guest experience management league tables, and drill down into the detail of site visit reports, including photographs from mystery diners, on-site and in the palm of their hands. The technology allows operators to adapt to real-time data and continuously improve the guest experience. HGEM is developing an extensive programme of additional features and integrations to bring further features to the platform, including real-time social media integration. Managing director Steven Pike said: “The launch of the HGEM app sees us put valuable data in the palm of our clients’ hands to give them greater insight into their guest experience. We see this as just the start of a whole new way of engaging managers in monitoring and improving guest experience without taking them away from the action.”

Carlsberg UK signs five-year Live Nation sponsorship deal as part of millennial focus: Carlsberg UK has signed an extended five-year sponsorship deal with live entertainment company Live Nation. The agreement gives Carlsberg UK partner, sponsor and official supplier rights for Live Nation festivals, including Reading, Leeds, Download, Creamfields, Wireless, and Latitude, as well as its Academy and other venues across the UK. In addition, Carlsberg has become Live Nation’s official beer and Somersby its official cider as the brewer focuses on connecting with millennial drinkers. Liam Newton, Carlsberg UK vice-president marketing, said: “Our partnership with Live Nation is another step towards revitalising the Carlsberg brand in the UK. We know festivals and live music connects with millennials and, through our planned festival activations and innovative digital plans, we will find multiple ways for our beer and cider brands to engage music-lovers.” Jim Campling, president marketing partnerships UK at Live Nation, added: “We are delighted to be working with such a passionate brewer and offering fantastic-quality beer and cider to our audiences across the country at our network of festivals and venues.”

Brakspear bolsters accommodation within managed estate: Brewer and pub operator Brakspear has opened nine new bedrooms at its Chequers managed pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, taking the total number of letting rooms across its managed estate to 77. The move expands Brakspear’s accommodation offer at a time of growing consumer demand for “staycations”. The bedrooms offer boutique hotel-style accommodation at the 16th century pub in High Street. Brakspear’s in-house design team said they had created rooms with a “stylish, contemporary feel and a high level of comfort”. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “Expanding our accommodation offer puts us in a good position to benefit from the growing number of consumers choosing to take a staycation instead of a holiday abroad. And our rooms, offering the comfort and service of a hotel but in a more informal environment with a welcoming bar and good, affordable food on-site, are what customers are increasingly looking for when booking a mini-break or overnight stay.” Brakspear now has bedrooms at six of its eight managed pubs.

Former Fifteen chef heads new Herne Hill restaurant: Warren Fleet, former chef at Jamie Oliver restaurant Fifteen, is heading a new independent venue that has opened in Herne Hill, London. Llewelyn’s has launched in Railton Road on the site of the former Pullens Dining Room & Bar, reports Hot Dinners. The restaurant features a number of outside tables overlooking Station Square. Fleet, who was previously head chef at the Anchor and Hope in Waterloo, produces a daily-changing menu using “simple, seasonal ingredients”. The drinks menu includes a wine list, with several available by the glass, carafe or bottle, as well as cocktails and beers.

Star Pubs & Bars enhances property repairs service: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has enhanced its property repairs service following in-depth research among its licensees. The service now features a 24-hour online portal, which enables licensees to log repairs, view a job’s status in real time and feed back satisfaction at completed work. It also notifies licensees by text or email when there is a change in their repair’s status. Licensees can also access their statutory certificates and renewal schedule on the site. The portal complements Star Pubs & Bars’ telephone helpdesk, offering licensees more choice in how they manage repairs. The new service also includes a dedicated specialist, who will oversee more complex jobs involving heating and cellar cooling systems, in addition to an enhanced audit regime to ensure contractors maintain high standards. Property and strategy director Chris Moore said: “Technology has revolutionised how companies communicate with customers in other sectors such as parcel deliveries and we wanted to bring similar improvements to the way we communicate property repairs.”

Edinburgh-based specialist coffee shop Brew Lab introduces late-night offering: Edinburgh-based specialist coffee shop Brew Lab has introduced a late-night speciality offering that seeks to challenge coffee’s reputation as a “daytime-only” pursuit. Founders Dave Law and Tom Hyde said the move was in response to the spike in demand for speciality coffee in the past 18 months. Nitro cold brew martinis and a carefully curated food menu are among the new developments being rolled out as the business extends its opening hours until 9pm from Wednesday to Sunday. Hyde said: “The creation and launch of our late-night offering demonstrates demand and the beginning of a change in Edinburgh’s coffee culture. We’re excited to be at the forefront; challenging the status quo of how and when coffee can be enjoyed.” Brew Lab has two sites in the city – in South College Street and off Queensferry Street Lane.

McDonald’s launches new uniforms for US restaurants: McDonald’s has launched new uniforms for its restaurants in the US. The collections, which are in collaboration with designers Waraire Boswell and Bindu Rivas, will be worn by staff at all 14,000 restaurants. McDonald’s senior director of HR Jez Langhorn told the Press Association: “Our new collections focus on comfort, fit, functionality and contemporary professionalism, delivering a uniform that crew and managers will feel comfortable to work in and proud to wear. Beyond that, it’s another step in the company’s continuous effort to raise the bar by investing in people and improving the restaurant experience with a focus on hospitality.” The new collections feature a signature piece for the brand – a convertible denim apron that can be worn full or as a half apron to fit an employee’s personal style. This is the first time McDonald’s USA has tapped influential designers to design crew and manager uniforms.

The Great Escape gets go-ahead for third site, in Birmingham: Live escape game centre The Great Escape has been given the go-ahead to open its third site, this time in Birmingham. The company has been granted permission by the city council to transform the first floor of Winston Churchill House on the corner of New Street into an escape room with associated reception and bar. The venue will comprise ten game rooms, where customers will solve puzzles, along with five offices, five briefing areas, a corporate room and two communications rooms. It will be accessed from Ethel Street and is expected to create 25 jobs, reports Insider Media. Founded by Hannah Duraid and Peter Lacole, The Great Escape opened its first site in Sheffield in 2015 followed by its second, in Leeds, in October last year.

Dirty Martini launches new cocktail menu: Cocktail bar group Dirty Martini, which is owned by CG Restaurants Holdings, has launched a new cocktail menu. The new offering includes The Bee Hive, which marries Patrón XO Café tequila, espresso, QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, organic almond milk, homemade honey syrup, bee pollen and chocolate bitters garnished with dehydrated pineapple, honeycomb and dark chocolate shavings. There is also The Mayan Lady, where five-year-old rum is combined with orange blossom water and fresh watermelon juice with strawberry infused sugar, Yuzu Sake and Crème de Cacao Blanc. Product innovation and development manager Tom Cole said: “This new menu still has Dirty Martini’s sophisticated touch but with a whole new approach to awakening the senses on all levels.” The menu is available across all seven of Dirty Martini’s London bars as well as its Cardiff site.

Ei Group reveals new live music offer through Live&Loud partnership: Ei Group has signed an exclusive agreement with live music specialists Live&Loud to connect its publicans with top talent to help drive footfall. Publicans within its leased and tenanted business, Ei Publican Partnerships, will have access to a special discounted rate to use the service that has been dubbed “Tinder for pubs and bands”. Publicans create a profile outlining what they’re looking for, including what they’re prepared to pay, and live music acts that fit the bill can apply for the chance to play live at their pub. The partnership will be launched at Ei Group’s annual trade show, EiLive, held across the country from this week. Live&Loud will attend each show with a stage to showcase its offering. Live&Loud has 10,000 artists nationwide signed up to its service. Ei Group group services director James Armitage said: “We are continually developing the services we offer our publicans to support them in building successful pub businesses and with Live&Loud we’re offering a great opportunity to tap into live music. Live music can be a huge draw for pubs, so whether our publicans are experienced in hosting such events or want to try it for the first time, this is a great platform to help them.” Live&Loud co-founder and chief executive Mick Newton added: “It’s great for musicians looking to perform but it also helps drive sales for pubs. CGA research showed venues can see a sales uplift of 44% during the week and 60% during the weekend by showing live music. It also provides pubs with great content for social media and attracts new people into their venues, so its win-win.”

James Clay signs UK distribution deal with California-based Stone Brewing: Craft beer importer James Clay has signed a UK distribution deal with California-based Stone Brewing. James Clay will import six of Stone’s best-known beers to the UK’s on-trade, alongside special and seasonal releases. Renowned for its West Coast-style IPAs, Stone recently became the first US craft brewer to open a fully owned and operated brewery in Europe – in Berlin – from where the core range will be imported. Ian Clay, founder and managing director of James Clay, said: “Stone Brewing is one of the world’s most celebrated craft brewers and is a pivotal inspiration to the remarkable global craft brewing revolution.” Stone Brewing executive chairman and co-founder Greg Koch added: “We’re excited to see the interest in craft beer continue to grow in Europe and, as the UK has an established craft beer market, we look forward to fans enjoying cans delivered as fresh as possible from Berlin.”

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