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Fri 2nd Jun 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Pub meal sales increase 14% to reach £7.4bn, outstrips alcohol growth: Pub meal sales are plating up success for the industry having grown 14% between 2012 and 2016 to reach £7.4bn, according to new research by Mintel. In the same period, sales of alcoholic drinks grew by 6%, while soft drink sales rose 7%. In 2016, 23% of consumers said they had visited a pub in the past month because of the high quality of food on offer while in 2017 this had risen to 30%. A total of 69% said one of the most important factors that would make them choose one pub over another is high-quality food, while one in six (16%) said they would go especially to try a new menu. Nine in ten (89%) said they typically visit a pub or bar to eat, compared with eight in ten (79%) who go to drink. Overall, UK pub industry turnover grew by an estimated 8% between 2012 and 2016 to reach £23.5bn. In 2016, alcoholic drinks made up half (50%) of UK pub industry turnover, compared with 31% brought in by catering. More than three in five (63%) are prepared to pay more than £10 for dinner at a pub (excluding drinks), with 18% happy to spend between £15 and £19.99, 10% between £20 and £24.99 and 8% prepared to splash out more than £25. Almost half (45%) said they would be put off ordering a particular dish at a pub or bar that wasn’t freshly made and one in ten (10%) said they wouldn’t like to order a dish that does not fit the image of a pub or bar. More than two thirds (69%) would be interested in seeing pub or bar dishes that are made with premium ingredients. One in five (20%) said grilled steak was their favourite pub dish, followed by roast dinners (19%), burgers (15%) and fish and chips (14%). Meanwhile, two in three (65%) said they would like more pubs to have quiet areas free from music and television. A total of 61% said they still value table service and 75% said it’s important for waiting staff to be able to explain the menu. Mintel senior food and drink analyst Richard Caines said: “Pubs that generate a higher proportion of sales from food and, as a result, attract a wider audience have generally performed more strongly than drink-led pubs. This was reflected in sales of meals through pubs recording stronger growth than alcoholic drinks in 2016. Sales of meals in pubs have benefited from an ongoing move in the pubs market towards more food-led venues and efforts to improve quality and to expand and update menus across price points. The pub catering market has also benefited from an increase in the average spend per visit. The trend towards all-day dining, including the development of breakfasts in pubs, is another contributor to increased sales. Value for money gastro-pubs are currently fuelling the pub sector, but looking to the future there is a growing appetite among pub-goers for more premium offerings.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi-Club summer conference open for bookings, two free places for operators: The Propel Multi-Club summer conference and party is now open for bookings. The event, which takes place on Thursday, 6 July at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40, will also involve the Propel summer party in the evening. Operators can claim two free places by emailing Jo Charity on jo.charity@propelinfo.com. The speaker line-up for the morning session is NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril LavenantMorar Consulting chief executive Roger PerowneDavid Bruce, co-founder of Firkin Pubs, The Capital Pub Company and The City Pub companies and currently chairman of The West Berkshire Brewery, and Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain, who operate escape rooms business Tick Tock Unlocked. Speaking after lunch are Marston’s Revere Pub Company managing director Colin SadlerThe Breakfast Club co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton, and Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin. The final session features Tahola commercial director Simon BlackbourneMowgli owner Nisha KatonaAmber Taverns managing director James Baer, and Rupert Clevely, managing director of Ei Group’s managed expert joint venture Hippo Inns.
 
Seedrs joins Royal Bank of Scotland alternative finance panel: Crowdfunding platform Seedrs has joined forces with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in a partnership aimed at providing alternative sources of finance. The aim of the venture is to help those who are unable to borrow directly from the state-backed group and provides Seedrs, which said it is the most active equity investment platform in the UK, with access to more early-stage, high-growth firms. Seedrs is the latest addition to the list of alternative finance providers taking part in the Capital Connections scheme, and is the only equity-based firm on board. The platform counts Sir Andy Murray among its investors and has funded successful early-stage businesses such as Edinburgh-based accounting software firm FreeAgent, which floated on London’s Alternative Investment Market in November. RBS launched the Capital Connections scheme in 2015 after signing up Assetz Capital and Funding Circle to its pilot. Last year it added Iwoca, RBS Social & Community Capital, and Together to the panel. Seedrs said Capital Connections offers RBS business and commercial customers introductions to these alternative funding services, with no commission paid.
 
Technomic – pricing and increased competition major factors behind US chain restaurant performance decline: Pricing and increased competition are the major factors behind the performance decline at chain restaurants in the US, according to insights firm Technomic. Managing principal Joe Pawlak said: “Although there are several drivers of real decline in chain business, one of the largest factors is pricing. To make up for soft traffic, chains have been aggressively taking price increases to shore up revenues and like-for-like sales. Last year, menu price inflation for the top 500 chains was 4.3%, while the industry as a whole came in at 2.6%. Over time, these bold price increases have caused chains to stray from their value proposition they are known for. We are now starting to see this in fast-casual, where menu pricing may be reaching the brink of consumer disapproval. Secondly, competition is becoming more intense and fragmented. Today, consumers have more and more competent options for their food and beverage selections than ever before. Individually, these segments may not be large, but in aggregate, they present a major thorn in the side of the restaurant industry. Supermarkets have taken their game up a few notches on selection, value and quality in their prepared foods areas. Meal kit providers offer an additional consumer opportunity for preparing easy-to-make gourmet quality foods in the comfort of their own homes. Even convenience stores are slowly turning around their ‘roller grill food’ image to be an acceptable food away from home source, especially among Generation Z and young millennials.”

Former ALMR chief reports 135% increase in foie gras sales since start of protests outside his Peak District pub: Former Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive David McHattie has said foie gras sales at his Peak District pub have increased 135% since protests started outside. McHattie, who owns the Bridge Inn in Calver with wife Sam, said comparing the ten-week sales period since the protests began with that of the ten weeks before, overall sales have increased 78% on actual protest days – with sales increasing by a further 44% on the most recent protest day. In response to comments from animal rights campaigners they were profiting from animal cruelty, the McHatties have pledged to donate £1 from every foie gras sale to a local food bank. David McHattie told the Derbyshire Times: “Far from driving foie gras off the menu the protestors have actually succeeded in making it a point of interest and the increase in sales have ensured it would now be impossible to remove from the menu. We have been inundated with messages of support – even from those who are not fans of foie gras. Our guests are clearly upset with the methods adopted by these so-called protestors. As a result of the activist’s involvement foie gras sales have increased by 135% so we are delighted to say more food will be donated to food banks in the name of foie gras. We will not be dictated to and are pleased the activists’ continued actions have enabled us to do more to support the plight of humans in need.”

Licensing update: The latest monthly update on topical licensing issues from John Gaunt & Partners can be found here.
 

Company News:

Firezza founder – ‘I hope debut restaurant will be first of many’: The founder of Firezza, the 22-strong pizza delivery and takeaway business owned by PizzaExpress, has told Propel he hopes its debut restaurant will be the “first of many”. Edin Basic, who founded the company in 2001, opened the fast-casual restaurant in London’s Soho last month. The restaurant, which has 80 covers inside and a further 20 outside, has a menu of ten pizzas – including seasonal and weekly specials – and aims to serve customers within five minutes of ordering. Basic said he was keen to open more restaurant sites – both inside and outside the capital – but only once he was happy with everything at the Soho venue. He added the company would also continue to build the takeaway and delivery side of the business but said the market had become more challenging with new players entering the space. He said: “We decided to open the restaurant because of the demand from our customers. There were hundreds of thousands of them using our takeaway sites and delivery service but we didn’t really get the chance to interact with them in the way a restaurant allow us to. You get to see them enjoying the food and that’s very important to me. This will be the first of many (restaurants) I hope. However, we’ll be doing it one step at a time. We will look to open the second one once we have fine-tuned everything – we need to be absolutely 100% sure. There’s plenty of opportunity for us in London but like our takeaway and delivery sites, it would also work outside. It will be the same with building our takeaway and delivery business – the market has changed in the past few years and it’s more of a challenge but we’ve been going 15 years so have quite a loyal customer base. In terms of the restaurant, Soho is the perfect place for us – it’s got great footfall and our type of customer – people who want a good meal but don’t want to wait too long. We can have customers in and out in 20 minutes but they can obviously stay longer. People sit very close together – the restaurant has long benches, ideal for sitting and sharing pizza and it’s also very noisy. We have two ‘vows’ – the first is to exceed expectations with the quality and the second is the price – for £10 you get pizza and a craft beer. Our margherita is equivalent to 12-inch size and costs £5.95. We also do Panuozzo brunch every day and for £5 you get Panuozzo (which is Neapolitan type of warm panino) and a coffee. Simplicity is the key to our success.” PizzaExpress bought Firezza in February last year and while Basic said his company received support, including with training and back office, it remained very much independent. He added: “We are our own brand and the ‘marriage’ with PizzaExpress works really well but it is managed in a way that allows us to make the major decisions and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

Derby Brewing Co closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £640,000: Derby-based brewer and retailer Derby Brewing Co has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube having raised more than £640,000. The family-run company, founded by Trevor Harris in 2004, was offering a 9% equity stake as it looked to raise £500,000 to fund its expansion. It has now closed the campaign having raised £640,280 from 644 investors. The largest investment was £25,000. The funds will support expansion of the brewery, launch of a new craft range and the addition of a fifth venue to its estate. The company currently operates The Tap, a specialist beer and spirit house with more than 75 beers and ciders and more than 70 spirits, in Derby; The Queen’s Head gastro-pub in Little Eaton; smoked food and craft house concept The Greyhound in Derby; and The Kedleston Country House, a bar, restaurant, boutique hotel and wedding venue in Quarndon. The company expects to generate turnover of £3.6m in its current financial year, with Ebitda of £257,000.
 
McMullen reports managed like-for-likes up 3.3%: Hertford-based brewer and retailer McMullen has reported like-for-like sales in its managed division increased 3.3% in the year ending 1 October 2016. The company saw like-for-like food sales in the division increase 6.4% and wet sales by 1.5% during the period. Total managed sales increased 5% with food sales up 8.5% and wet sales 2.9%. Sales from tenants provided a 3.1% increase in like-for-like barrelage but the company said after several years of significant improvements in profit, the potential for further growth is limited because it is dependent on increased beer sales in a challenging market. The company said business rates would increase by 28%. In the report accompanying the accounts, chairman Charles Brims said: “The trend towards premium brands, resulting in higher quality but lower volumes, continued this year in our retail division and contributed towards a comparable draught beer and cider volume decline of 1.2%. The previously resilient wine and soft drinks categories saw reversals with volume declines of 4.5% and 4.0% respectively. Spirits, helped by the popularity of cocktails and premium gins, was the only category in positive territory with a 1.2% volume increase. In September 2017, we will bring under direct management the White Swan in Pimlico when the lease expires at this freehold that we acquired in 2012. The tenancy division had another good year with increased profit contribution. The company continues to support its tenants financially and during the year returned more than 25% of its wholesale income to them by way of discounts and sales rewards. Brewing and distribution costs were contained below the level of the previous year. We continue to seek good quality pubs and sites that have a long term future. So it is good to report that, during the year, we bought four pub sites for future trading. We completed the acquisition of a greenfield site in Colchester and acquired the freehold of three high street properties in Hitchin, London and St Albans that we will develop as pubs when the leases expire. We are successfully building up a bank of pubs for the future that will come under direct management over the next few years.” As previously reported by Propel, turnover at McMullen increased to £79,215,000 compared with £75,401,000 the previous year while pre-tax profit was up to £12,219,000 compared with £10,555,000 the year before.

McDonald’s reports 60% of delivery orders in US coming in evening or late-night as it expands service: McDonald’s has said 60% of its delivery orders in the US are coming in the evening or late-night as it expanded the service into 2,000 more locations in the country. The expansion through UberEats is part of the company’s rapid adoption of a service that it believes will increase average transaction value and make the company more desirable to younger consumers who want their food brought to them. It plans to have delivery in 3,500 locations by the end of June. Traditionally, McDonald’s gets much of its business in the morning or at lunch, so adding sales in the evening or late-night takes advantage of traditionally weak dayparts, chief executive Steve Easterbrook said. McDonald’s said it believed it can do delivery more effectively than many other chains because its restaurants are near so many people. McDonald’s has 14,000 sites in the US and 75% of the population lives within three miles of a branch. It means the company can get the food to consumers quickly, which executives said was a major advantage. Speed is one of the filters UberEats uses, and McDonald’s consistent ability to get orders to customers quickly will give it a higher listing on those filters. McDonald’s started testing delivery in several Florida markets and has quickly expanded it this year. New York, Seattle, Denver, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Washington DC are among the locations that have now been added to the “McDelivery” service. Easterbrook added: “The market is growing dramatically. We should have a slice of that.”

Las Iguanas to open site in Bournemouth this month: Las Iguanas, the South American-inspired restaurant brand owned by Casual Dining Group, will open a site in Bournemouth this month. The company is opening the venue at the BH2 development in Exeter Crescent on Monday, 19 June. The restaurant, which will have 160 covers inside and another 20 outside, will have vibrant decor showcasing the tropical styles and sun-kissed colours of Rio de Janeiro as well as big bold graphics inspired by the colourful selection of street art in Buenos Aires. The menu will include new additions such as Bolinhos de Caranguejo – crab, prawn and potato croquettes – as well as the Cuban sandwich consisting of roasted pork belly, pulled pork, Emmental cheese and ham with sweet mustard and green pickle. New drinks include a Chilli Paloma infused with a plume of Ancho Reyes along with the lulo and agave cooler.

Redchurch Brewery increases equity offer in £400,000 crowdfunding campaign: Redchurch Brewery, founded by lawyer turned brewer Gary Ward and television producer Tracey Cleland, has increased its equity offer in its £400,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to accelerate expansion plans. The company is now offering a 9.09% stake in the business instead of the previous 7.41%. So far, 423 investors have pledged £228,450 with ten days remaining. The largest investment to date is £30,000. The company stated: “The directors of Redchurch have decided to increase the available equity on offer to 9.09% for our targeted funding of £400,000. This decision has been made having taken into account a number of investor comments/feedback during the time our pitch has been live and also as a response to the economic uncertainty generated by the forthcoming general election.” The pitch states: “With the investment we raise during this round we intend to add further fermentation vessels to increase our production capacity to more than 1.3 million litres annually; invest in our packaging line to improve speed and efficiency, employ more brewers, delivery drivers and expand our stretched sales and logistics team; transform our warehouse space by adding a racking system; and add to our fleet of delivery vehicles.”

Caprice Holdings continues regional Ivy brasserie expansion with Cobham and Marlow openings: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, has continued the regional expansion of its Ivy brasserie concept by opening sites in Cobham, Surrey, and Marlow in Buckinghamshire. The company has converted an empty unit in High Street, Marlow, into a 100-cover restaurant having previously agreed a 25-year lease. It features an onyx bar, pendant lighting, marble floor tiles and polished parquet panel flooring as well as leather dining chairs and bar stools. Meanwhile, the company has also opened a 180-cover venue in High Street, Cobham, featuring a bar, orangery, garden and semi-private mezzanine area. Further expansion of the Ivy brasserie is planned with sites in Guildford, Surrey, and Tower Bridge in London. The company has also lodged plans for Ivy sites in Exeter and Cheltenham while it will open its first Scottish venue, in Edinburgh, in the autumn. 

Wimpy reveals plans to open six UK sites in next year as it aims to return to Sittingbourne: Wimpy Restaurants, which is owned by South Africa-based Famous Brands, has revealed plans to open six UK sites in the next year as it aims to return to Sittingbourne in Kent. The brand, which has a network of circa 100 restaurants operated by franchisees, has lodged plans with Swale Borough Council to open a venue in High Street. It would mark a return to the town for Wimpy having closed its previous branch in February 2011 after more than 20 years. The company plans to open in the unit next to Argos, formerly occupied by interior shop Ponden Home, which closed earlier this year. Wimpy brand manager Samantha Howe told Kent Live: “Because of its success, we are hoping to bring Wimpy back to Sittingbourne with a new franchise owner in September. As a proudly British brand, we are continually looking for new franchisees and have plans to open six new restaurants nationwide over the next 12 months.”

White Brasserie Co to open site in Reigate this month: White Brasserie Co, the pub division of Brasserie Bar Co, is to open a site in Reigate, Surrey, this month. The company will reopen The Black Horse pub on Sunday, June 26, following a major refurbishment having acquired the site in March from Surrey pub and restaurant operator Time Well Spent. White Brasserie Co said the renovation of the West Street property would enhance and retain original features, including existing fireplaces, oak floors and the slate-tiled bar. Inside, there will be space for about 95 guests in the main dining room and the two snugs plus casual seating and bar stools in the beamed bar area. Outside, the back garden will eventually have seating for 48 people, reports the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser. White Brasserie Co operates 14 pubs, including The Cricketers in Cobham and The Victoria in Oxshott.

NYC Bar and Grill to make first foray into north east with Darlington site, fifth in total: Yorkshire-based American restaurant brand NYC Bar and Grill is to make its first foray into the north east by opening a site in Darlington. The company, founded in 2013 by Lee Edwards, has agreed a deal to open at the Feethams leisure complex next month, creating 30 jobs. It marks the fifth site for NYC Bar and Grill, which will join restaurant brands including Prezzo, Nando’s and Hungry Horse, which is owned by Greene King, at the scheme. Edwards told the Northern Echo: “Feethams is a great fit for the brand, it’s an ideal place for young people and families, as well as a brilliant night-time destination.” Simon Hawkins, development director at Urban & Civic, which is behind the Feethams development, added: “Feethams has a strong mix of national and independent food outlets, which have proved to be very popular. NYC Bar and Grill will add to the strength of our offering and we are delighted our scheme has been chosen as its first location in the north east.” NYC Bar and Grill was launched in Bawtry in 2013 and has since opened sites in Doncaster, Hull and Stocksbridge, near Sheffield.

Greene King partners with Radio X to promote live music in pubs: Brewer and retailer Greene King has partnered with national broadcaster Radio X to launch Summer of Sound to promote live music in pubs. As part of the campaign, Greene King will be working with Radio X to host a music pub quiz broadcast nationwide live on Radio X. To take part in the quiz and a chance of winning £3,000 cash, quiz teams need to be in a participating Greene King pub on Thursday, 27 July. The campaign also includes a nationwide search for the UK’s next great musician. The Live at your Local competition will see contestants perform at their local to win a place at the live final to be held at the Indigo at the O2 London, and be in with a chance of winning £5,000 cash, their weight in beer and a recording studio session. Greene King has also launched a new limited edition pale ale Amplified, and 20p from every pint sold will go to Global’s Make Some Noise charity. Greene King brand director for locals Sue Thomas-Taylor said: “With news of live music venues closing all over the country, we are launching Summer of Sound to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring the pub remains a hub for live music. From the Arctic Monkeys to Ed Sheeran, pubs have played an important part in launching some of the world’s biggest artists, and our Live at your Local competition will not only provide great entertainment to our guests, but also provide local talent with a chance to shine.”

Tapas Revolution opens seventh site, in Bath: Tapas Revolution, led by celebrity chef Omar Allibhoy and managing director Mac Plumpton, has opened its seventh site, this time in Bath. The company has opened the restaurant at the SouthGate shopping centre. The menu is divided into fish, meat and vegetable sections, complemented by charcuterie and its Jamon Iberico, hand-carved to order. The food is served alongside premium gin and tonics in a traditional Copa de Balón (balloon glass), an extensive Spanish-inspired cocktail list, craft beer, wine and soft drinks. Allibhoy said: “Bath is a beautiful city and we’re really excited to open a tapas bar there. Tapas Revolution is based on the lively and bustling tapas bars in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Tapas is more than food, it’s part of our everyday culture – food and life are always best shared.”

London-based Bengali restaurant Calcutta Street starts expansion by opening second site, in Brixton: London-based Bengali restaurant Calcutta Street has started expansion by opening its second site, in Brixton. Shrimoyee Chakraborty has opened the new venue in Coldharbour Lane. Calcutta Street Brixton has the same Bengali home cooking as its sister restaurant in Fitzrovia but “in a more outgoing setting”, reports Hot Dinners. The restaurant has been designed to evoke the spirit of Park Street in Calcutta, described as “the street that never sleeps”, and is decked out in murals, posters of Satyajit Ray’s films, and ostrich and peacock feathers. The menu has a slight slant towards small, affordable plates with a couple of new additions such as biryani and chicken chaap, slow-cooked in creamy poppy seed and cashew nut sauce. There is also classic Bengali drinks on offer, including shorbot cocktails and natural wines. Chakraborty opened the first Calcutta Street site in Fitzrovia last August having previously operated the concept as a pop-up.
 
Prestatyn-based Indian restaurant owner to turn former Little Chef into sister site: Abdul Malik, who has run Suhail Indian restaurant in Prestatyn for more than two decades, is to turn a former Little Chef beside the A55 into a sister site. The venue in Llanddulas has been empty since 2015 and Malik is likely to require three months to complete the work. He told the Daily Post: “This is a run-down site and we want to put some life back into it. We want to make a really nice restaurant here with lots of atmosphere and bring jobs and people into Llanddulas. We have been in Prestatyn for 25 years and built a good reputation. I will use my experience on this new challenge. We think it is a very good location for a restaurant.”
 
Chipotle launches online dietary options to allow bespoke customisation: Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has six restaurants across London, including Soho, Baker Street, Islington and the City, has launched an online dietary options page that shows which ingredients are right for individual needs, so customers can build a specifically customised meal. The typical Chipotle service format allows more than 60,000 possible ingredient combinations, so the new online tool will help customers find the right combination for their personal dietary needs, focusing on six diets – gluten-free, high protein, vegetarian, vegan, paleo and dairy-free. The tool will highlight which ingredient combinations are best and which to avoid. There are even suggested meal options, in case customers can’t quite make their mind up. James Dannatt, marketing manager, Chipotle in Europe, said: “The new online tool makes it much easier to customise your meal with fresh ingredients from our everyday menu so you can stay on track with your goals and personal health plan.”
 
Ei Group launches support pack for publicans: Ei Group has launched Pub Principles – a comprehensive and growing series of guides designed to help new and existing publicans in its leased and tenanted business with training and best practice. The guides, which have been created in partnership with industry experts, such as Cask Marque, Diageo and Gamestec, share knowledge and best practice from across the industry. To reflect the evolving industry, new guides will be added quarterly and existing content will be updated periodically if required. Pub Principles focuses on four key areas of support – product and retail, business operation, sales and marketing, and customer service and retail standards. Operators can use individual guides to help with each specific business topic or together to form a training manual. The first set of Pub Principles guides includes cellar management and line cleaning, glass washing, Facebook, gaming machines, Instagram, and owning your local market (covering Google listings and TripAdvisor). Ei Group retail concept director Steve de Polo said: “We know that publicans face a tough job, and we have produced these guides to support them with running their business or training key members of their team. This is part of a rolling programme that prioritises areas publicans have told us they would appreciate support on.”

Online delivery service Kings Desserts to launch debut bricks and mortar site in Derby next week: Online food delivery service Kings Desserts is to open its first bricks and mortar site, next week. The dessert parlour will launch in Shardlow Road, Derby, on Friday, 9 June. Kings Desserts, owned by Mohammed Imran and Muhammed Ayaz, offers cakes, mocktails, and milkshakes. The new venue will open until 11pm, Monday to Thursday, and until midnight the rest of the week, while it will also offer a late-night delivery service. Imran told the Derby Telegraph: “A lot of customers had been asking us to open a shop so they could come and sit down or pick up their orders from here. We felt the time was right.” He added that the company planned to open another site in Belper in the next few months.

Former London publicans buy first pub: Former London publicans Elizabeth and Simon Salmon have bought their first pub. The couple have acquired the Stokeford Inn in the village of East Stoke, Dorset, with funding arranged through commercial finance broker, Christie Finance. The business is a traditional freehold inn with a long history in the village and was previously operating on reduced opening hours. The Salmons have a history of working in London pubs and said they had been looking for the right pub to come onto the market to buy. Matt Kavanagh, finance consultant at Christie Finance, said: “The Stokeford Inn is a great opportunity for Elizabeth and Simon and I am delighted I could help them buy their first pub and give this traditional village inn a new lease of life.”

CH&Co Group gets creative to reduce salt usage by 28%: CH&Co Group has got creative and managed to reduce the amount of salt in its recipes by 28%. The company used Salt Awareness Week to demonstrate by adapting recipes, where possible, with the use of herbs and spices, the amount of salt needed can be decreased. Every site was challenged to look at its dishes to see where further salt reductions could be made and in total the amount used reduced by 28%. CH&Co Group creative director Judy Roberts said: “The results clearly show by getting creative with herbs, spices and perhaps of dash of lemon or lime, the amount of salt used in recipes can be easily reduced without compromising on taste and flavours. Reducing salt in our recipes has been a core focus for the business for many years and it’s a key part of the chef nutrition workshop that we offer. It’s really important that we help our kitchen teams to understand the role they can play in improving the diets of our customers. The changes made during the week will benefit our customers ongoing, and our chefs will continue to identify new opportunities to keep salt usage to the minimum.”

Multi-site operator Gary Usher smashes Kickstarter fund-raising record: The Chester-based owner of a group of award-winning bistros has smashed a £200,000 crowdfunding target to support his planned new site, securing the largest amount raised on Kickstarter in the UK for a restaurant. Gary Usher, who is behind Sticky Walnut in Chester, Burnt Truffle in Heswall on the Wirral and Hispi in the south Manchester suburb of Didsbury, launched a Kickstarter campaign to open Wreckfish on the corner of Slater Street and Seel Street in the Ropewalks area of Liverpool at the start of May. His campaign reached the £200,000 goal with just 45 hours to go, having secured pledges of support from more than 1,450 backers. Usher told Insider Media: “It’s amazing, I just wanted to say thank you. It’s the backers that have done it. What can you say to people? I don’t know. People were offering all sorts of stuff on email and I was saying on social media what do I say to these people? And everyone said you say thank you. But I was like thank you doesn’t seem like the right words, there need to be better words than thank you sometimes because it doesn’t really express what you actually mean. There’s about 50 people who are into it who have just been what’s the word relentless, absolutely relentless, telling people, retweeting, tweeting me, telling me to get a move on, encouraging me. These people have been encouraging me. These are the ones that have made it happen.”

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