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Fri 16th Jun 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Late-night leisure spend increases 6.3%, pubs remain most popular destination: Late-night leisure consumer spend was up 6.3%, or £3.30, to £55.56 between February and April compared with the previous quarter, according to the latest Deltic Night Index report. The amount people spent on drinks in late-night venues increased 18.5% (or £2.70) to £17.32. Spend on entry fees increased 18.1% (or £0.96) but spending on food decreased 12.3% (or £1.97). The research also supported the trend people are drinking fewer but higher quality products – more than half (50.8%) of respondents said they always go for a quality brand, a number that rises to 55.8% among 18 to 21-year-olds. A total of 37.2% of Britons go on a late night out at least once a week. Pubs remained the most popular late-night activity, with almost a quarter (24.2%) of respondents spending the most money in pubs each month. However that changes with 18 to 21-year-olds, where 30.2% said they spent the most money on clubs each month. The average late night out lasted four hours 49 minutes – a 28-minute increase on the last quarter. More than a third believed a late-night out has a positive impact on their overall mood (35.4%), their mental well-being (34.8%) and their relationship with friends (34.0%). One-fifth (20.3%) felt it has a positive impact on their confidence. These figures were higher among 18 to 21-year-olds, with almost half (48.7%) stating a late night out positively impacts their overall mood and 43.4% admitting its positive contribution to their mental well-being. This is the third Deltic Night Index, a quarterly report published by The Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs with 57 venues, which looks at changing consumer behaviours in the UK’s late-night leisure sector, which encompasses clubbing, drinking and eating out, cinema and live music among others. Chief executive Peter Marks said: “We know the late-night sector has a positive impact on town centres by creating jobs and drawing people to the high street but now we have strong data that demonstrates its impact is more far-reaching. The latest research also shows the positive link between an individual’s mental and physical well-being and a fun night out. As we’ve seen in the last two reports, the trend is clear. People are increasingly looking for exciting and unique experiences to share with friends on the night and afterwards through social media.”

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 The speaker line-up for the morning session is NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant, Morar Consulting chief executive Roger Perowne, David 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 Sadler, The Breakfast Club co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton, and Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin. The final session features Tahola commercial director Simon Blackbourne, Mowgli owner Nisha Katona, Amber Taverns managing director James Baer, and Rupert Clevely, managing director of Ei Group’s managed expert joint venture Hippo Inns.

Recruitment firm sees number of confidential jobs rise to more than third, ‘transformation’ and ‘innovation’ skills increasingly requested at leadership level: The number of jobs recruited on a confidential basis has risen to more than a third at sector recruitment firm COREcruitment, while “transformation” and “innovation” are two skills increasingly being requested at leadership level. Director Krishnan Doyle said: “Normally at COREcruitment about 10% of the roles we are working on are confidential. This can be for multiple reasons – business restructures, underperformance of an individual or a general change in company direction. We have noticed a gradual increase in these roles and we’re now sitting at about 35% of roles being recruited for on a confidential basis. Most of these opportunities are within mid-level roles (£65,000 to £120,000). Transformation and innovation are two skills that are increasingly being requested at leadership level. We have also noticed an increase in the number of roles within ‘excellence’ (or business efficiency) that we’re recruiting for – mostly within our fast-moving consumer goods, retail, food management and restaurant clients – people who can look at the business and refine it to increase productivity, save costs and create consistency.”

Customers calling for contactless vending machines, says Vianet: Almost two-thirds (63%) of people would prefer contactless payment when using vending machines, according to research by Vianet, which provides machines for the hospitality industry. Vianet also found the average value of a transaction rises by 7% to 94p when machines offer contactless payment, while such transactions increased 61% between August 2016 and February 2017. UK Card Association statistics found overall contactless spending was £25bn in 2016 – up from £7.7bn in 2015. That figure is set to rise further in 2017, with £4bn spent in March alone. Vianet managing director Matt Lane said: “It is predicted three-quarters of payments will be cash and note-free by 2025. Cash is no longer king. The vending industry is heavily entwined with cash as a method of payment but we’re increasingly seeing savvy operators approach us for a payment solution that future-proofs their business. As the data shows, businesses that have made the switch are already reaping the rewards of a higher price point and increased transactions.”

Pierre Koffman – London chefs are living in poverty because of ‘stupid’ wages: Pierre Koffmann, who was responsible for training Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre-White, has called the salaries paid to chefs in the UK “stupid”. He also warned that the salaries meant fewer French chefs were moving to London than before. He added that if Brexit meant those who had come from Europe were forced to leave, “restaurants would start closing very quickly”. He told the Evening Standard: “As a young chef you are paid between £15,000 and £18,000, which living in London means living in poverty.” The French chef was among the first in London to gain three Michelin stars when his Chelsea restaurant La Tante Claire was given the accolade in 1983.

Tapas Revolution launches YouTube channel: Tapas Revolution, led by celebrity chef Omar Allibhoy and managing director Mac Plumpton, has launched a YouTube channel. A company spokesman said: “It’s finally here! Over the years, and following two successful books and a paella pan-full of recipes we are proud to launch TapasTube. Long before our first restaurant, Omar set out on a motorbike across the UK for two weeks, cooking for everyone he met along the way. The mission was to take the authentic taste of Spain everywhere he could and show people how easy it is to cook good Spanish food using ingredients you can find in most local markets. This mission remains the same in our restaurants and now also on YouTube.” Earlier this month, Tapas Revolution opened its seventh site, at the SouthGate shopping centre in Bath.

Licensee launches app allowing punters to put money behind the bar: Sheila Gaughan, licensee of The Prince George in Thornton Heath, south London, has launched a free app and website that allows punters to put money behind the bar. Gr8Niteout allows people who are unable to attend birthday drinks, family celebrations and impromptu gatherings to be there in spirit by sending money to the venue via PayPal. Gr8Niteout also collects customer data including significant anniversary dates. Gaughan, who has been in the trade for more than 30 years, said: “It dawned on me we could increase our revenue streams considerably if we could find a 100% safe and reliable way of tapping into the pockets of those who may want to share a great night out without having to be physically present! The transaction is between PayPal and the pub – just two steps. The publican also gets the money in the till before any pints are poured or meals served. It is a win-win situation. We make our money by adding 60p on to each card transaction – a transparent cost the purchaser is aware of from the start.” For more information, visit

Company News:

Gymkhana declares £1m dividend: Gymkhana Restaurants, which operates the Michelin-starred Gymkhana in Albermarle Street, Mayfair, has declared a £1m dividend for the year ending 1 January 2017. Turnover rose to £4,165,468 from £4,089,599 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £590,881, compared with £726,075 the year before. In a Companies House submission, the company stated: “On 26 May this year, JKS Restaurants Holdings, the parent company of Trishna Restaurants, the 100% shareholder of Gymkhana Restaurants, put in place new financing facilities to fund the growth of JKS Restaurants.”

Tim Hortons to start UK expansion with second Glasgow site, first Scottish shopping centre venue: Tim Hortons, the Canadian cafe and bake shop owned by Restaurant Brands, is to open its first Scottish shopping centre site, at Silverburn, Glasgow. SK Group, an experienced franchise operator that has already played a major role in the UK expansion of Domino’s Pizza, will open the 220 square metre venue in the Wintergarden, next to Patisserie Valerie, later this summer after agreeing a deal with complex owner Hammerson. It follows the brand’s UK debut site, which opened in Argyle Street, Glasgow, earlier this month. The new outlet will offer Tim Hortons’ signature coffee, espresso-based drinks, hot chocolate, French vanilla and classic frozen Iced Capp, as well as baked goods and breakfast and lunch offerings. Tim Hortons UK and Ireland chief operating officer Gurprit Dhaliwal said: “Our first Tim Hortons restaurant received an exceptional welcome in Glasgow so we’re excited to launch this debut shopping centre concept within Silverburn. With its excellent reputation and recent investment by Hammerson, Silverburn is a perfect location for the expansion of Tim Hortons across Scotland.” Hammerson head of restaurants and leisure Sarah Fox added: “Tim Hortons is a fantastic addition to Silverburn’s line-up of leading brands and the comprehensive day-out offer the centre provides. The company’s decision to begin its national expansion plans at Silverburn is also testament to the centre’s strong position in the market.” Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where “everyone would feel at home”. It is planning a “12-month rapid expansion into other major regional cities” throughout Britain later in the year, with plans for a minimum of 100 sites in total. Hammerson dealt directly, while CBRE represented Tim Hortons.

Brasserie Blanc to open first hotel site with Bournemouth launch, seeks further opportunities in sector: Brasserie Blanc, the French restaurant group led by Raymond Blanc, will this month open its first venue inside a hotel, in Bournemouth. The group’s 20th site will be in the Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott Hotel, overlooking Poole Bay. The restaurant will span 3,500 square feet, offering 108 covers across four interconnecting dining rooms, a 70-cover bar and an additional 42 covers on a terrace. The space will include the brasserie’s signature Anthropologie etched Arcadia mural wallpaper, reclaimed oak parquet floors, bespoke velvet and leather banquettes, art deco-style lighting, deep-buttoned sofas, and a feature log-burner in the bar. A large library will accommodate Brasserie Blanc’s private dining area for up to 30 people furnished with vintage leather wingback chairs, oak library tables and a mustard velvet chesterfield sofa. Brasserie Blanc chief executive Mark Derry said: “This is an exciting new phase for Brasserie Blanc’s development and this is an exciting opportunity for us to scale up and run the full food and beverage for the 160-bedroom hotel.” The company said the partnership marks the beginning of a new stage in its evolution as it seeks further opportunities in the hotel sector.

Remarkable Pubs to reopen Hackney venue for 15th site: London-focused Remarkable Pubs will open the 15th pub of its mainly freehold estate – The Virgin Queen in Hackney – in September. The venue will see the transformation of former football-focused pub The Albion in Goldsmiths Row. The Virgin Queen will feature a first partnership with local restaurant The Fish House. Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna told Propel: “We have recruited a general manager with energy and panache to run The Virgin Queen, which will be a Tudor-styled emporium of splendour and intrigue. We will stock a wonderful range of London craft beer, wine and top-notch fish and chips.” Remarkable Pubs’ roster of venues include The Approach Tavern in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch’s The Barley Mow and The Reliance.

Tiny Rebel Brewery to open £2.6m brewery and taproom next month: South Wales-based brewer Tiny Rebel will open its £2.6m brewery in Newport on Saturday, 1 July. The 30,000 square foot site will also feature a bar, a kitchen offering a range of menus, and an events space catering for private functions, beer festivals, pop-ups and live music, as well as brewery tours. The new brewhouse has capacity for five million litres of beer a year – almost nine million pints – and will allow Tiny Rebel to launch a canned range. Tiny Rebel co-founder Brad Cummings said: “In only five years we have gone from home-brewing in a garage to a purpose-built, world-class facility. What was most important for us was to create a space for people to enjoy what Tiny Rebel represents but we’ll also be able to increase the breadth of what we can produce.” Fellow co-founder Gazz Williams added: “We currently export to 30 countries and this new brewery will enable us to expand to more markets and accept larger overseas customers. When it comes to the location of the site, Newport is our home and where Tiny Rebel began so it is only right we invest in the city as we grow our business.” Tiny Rebel also operates two bars – in Cardiff and Newport.

Starbucks seeks agency to handle creative duties across EMEA for first time: Starbucks is on the hunt for an agency to handle creative duties across the EMEA region for the first time. 72andSunny, Starbucks’ global ad agency, is not affected by the review. The brand wants to use a specialist shop to handle creative across its European markets in particular. Starbucks has sent a request for information to several agencies in the UK ahead of a review overseen by Creativebrief. The company also works with Oliver, which provides an in-house unit that manages in-store and point-of-sale activity. A Starbucks spokeswoman confirmed the review and told Campaign: “With 41 countries in EMEA, we want to celebrate how Starbucks’ coffee leadership comes to life across a diverse region.”

Norfolk-based pub operators acquire second site: Norfolk-based pub operators Ben and Sarah Handley have acquired their second site in the county. The couple, who operate The Duck Inn in Kings Lynn, have taken on The Hunny Bell, near Holt, which is owned by the Stody Estate. The Handleys plan to reopen the pub by the end of July following a refurbishment to feature a new menu of seasonal British classics using locally sourced ingredients. It will retain its 18th century beamed main bar and feature separate lounge and restaurant areas and a snug. Sarah Handley told the Eastern Daily Press: “We have enjoyed so many successful and happy times at The Duck and feel the time is right for us to expand further. The Hunny Bell is the most beautiful pub in a part of the world we all love and we can’t wait to get started.”

Reel takes final plot at Widnes development: Independent cinema operator Reel has taken the last plot at the new Venture Fields development on Merseyside in a deal worth £300,000. Located within the Widnes Waterfront regeneration area, the 1.2-acre site occupies a prominent position at Venture Fields, with Reel joining Nando’s and The Restaurant Group-owned Frankie & Benny’s at the site. Andrew Dickman, director at developers db symmetry, told The Business Desk: “This sale represents the final piece in the jigsaw for the Venture Fields development.” Last month, Reel revealed it will operate a new-build cinema complex in Blackburn town centre.

Covent Garden’s Orso to auction memorabilia as curtain comes down and De Niro moves in: Italian restaurant Orso in Covent Garden will close on Saturday, 15 July as it makes way for the development of Hollywood star Robert De Niro’s boutique hotel. Launched in 1985, Orso is the younger sister of legendary restaurant Joe Allen, which will move to its new home on the corner of Exeter and Burleigh Street in August, taking its wood panelling, theatre posters, iconic bar and teams from both venues with it. Orso will bow out with an evening of cocktails, canapes and an auction of the photographs that adorn the walls in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Tim Healy and Lawrence Hartley bought Joe Allen, a late-night haunt for West End stars and an exact copy of the original in New York’s 46th Street, in 2012. Customers have included Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret, Sir John Gielgud, Liza Minnelli and Sid Vicious. De Niro will build an 83-bedroom boutique hotel after teaming up with BD Hotels and UK property firm Capco. He will be joint operator of the venue, which will feature a spa, members’ club and two restaurants. De Niro and BD Hotels run the Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan.

Patisserie Valerie and Zizzi sign for Rushden Lakes scheme: Patisserie Valerie, the company that has sector investor Luke Johnson as executive chairman, and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi have signed for sites at the Rushden Lakes scheme in Northamptonshire. Patisserie Valerie has agreed to take a 1,561 square foot unit within the recently completed phase one development. Meanwhile, Zizzi, which has about 140 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, has taken a 3,000 square foot site within phase two. Developer XB Retail Properties said phase one was now 92% let, with a further 1% in solicitors’ hands. It said active discussions were ongoing with potential occupiers of all the remaining seven units. The company added that phase two was now 86% pre-let, with a further 7% in solicitors’ hands.

Jason Atherton’s The Social Company launches English gin garden at Temple and Sons: Jason Atherton’s The Social Company has launched an English gin garden terrace at its City restaurant Temple and Sons, the firm’s first site in London to offer alfresco drinking or dining. Created in partnership with drinks company Fever-Tree, the terrace offers gin and tonics customisable with herbs. After selecting from a list of 50 British gins, guests choose their garnishes from herbs and fruits stored in the “Fever-Tree Garnish Garden”. The gin list, curated by Social Company bar executive Jamie Jones, newly crowned Diageo Reserve World Class GB Bartender of the Year, champions British distilleries including Silent Pool, Sipsmith, Little Bird and The Botanist. Gins are grouped into five flavour profiles – classic, spiced, floral, savoury and citric – each paired to a Fever-Tree tonic and a recommended garnish. There is also a gin of the week at a reduced price, while a POPS alcoholic ice lolly can also be added to drinks to create a G&T slushy.

The Hotel Collection sells Warwickshire site, ninth of ten being marketed: The Hotel Collection, represented by agent Savills, has sold the four-star Billesley Manor Hotel on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to an overseas private investor. The grade II-listed hotel dates to the 16th century and offers 72 bedrooms, a health club, an AA rosette restaurant, two bars and ten conference rooms. The hotel will be managed by Bespoke Hotels. Many of its original features have been retained, including the ornate great hall, a 100-year-old topiary garden with fountain, and a library in which Shakespeare is reported to have written one of his plays. The sale leaves Shrigley Hall Hotel as the final property left to be sold from an original ten-strong portfolio of regional UK hotels, known as Project Solstice, which Savills is marketing on behalf of The Hotel Collection. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “The UK regional hotel market continues to attract overseas investors and high-net-worth individuals looking for smaller lot sizes and long-term income.”

Creams Cafe to open Brentwood site in September: Dessert cafe operator Creams Cafe is to open a site in Brentwood, Essex, in September. The company is opening the venue in High Street on the site of the former Garlock grocery store. The new cafe will be opposite milkshake store Yaya, which counts rap artist Lethal Bizzle and Dean Chapman, who plays Tommen in Game of Thrones, among its fans, reports Essex Live. Creams Cafe serves waffles, crepes, sundaes, milkshakes and 36 varieties of ice cream in the style of Italian gelato. It has 49 sites in the UK, including two in Essex – in Harlow and Southend – with another opening in Chelmsford at the end of the month. It is set to continue expanding with another 52 venues listed as “opening soon” on its website.

Framptons Cafe Bar & Kitchen opens third site, in Bath: Cafe concept Framptons Cafe Bar & Kitchen has opened its third site, in Bath. Three former Parachute Regiment officers Tom Walker, Ed McAdam and Sam Westlake took over Framptons Cafe Bar & Kitchen in Ringwood, Hampshire, last year and subsequently opened a second venue, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Now the trio, who have 21 years’ experience in the army between them, have opened their third outlet, in Grand Parade, Bath, creating 30 jobs. They have transformed the property, which was previously home to Casual Dining Group-owned La Tasca. Framptons offers artisan, healthy and seasonal local food as well as drinks and cocktails. Walker told the Bath Chronicle: “Interesting, historic buildings with loads of features are quite hard to come by. When we found this site we just thought ‘it’s fantastic’ – in Bath, close to the weir, and overlooking the rugby ground. What a great city.”

Michelin-starred chef Gonzalo Luzarraga to open fine-dining restaurant in Fulham: Michelin-starred chef Gonzalo Luzarraga is to open a fine-dining restaurant in Fulham, south west London. Luzarraga trained under Alain Ducasse and earned Michelin stars in top European restaurants. He will launch Rigo with Francesco Ferretti in New King’s Road at the end of this month or beginning of July. The layout will encompass three rooms, with an open kitchen in the centre, a terrazzo counter and small bar. Luzarraga grew up in Piedmont, north west Italy, with Rigo meaning a “journey of rigorous research” in the Piedmontese language. His six-course signature menu will feature sea urchin with bagna caoda, quail egg and fermented milk. There will also be an a la carte menu comprising four courses plus snacks, which will feature other dishes, and a smaller lunch menu. The drinks list will feature changing classic cocktails and wine. Luzarraga said: “‘I remember my father while fishing giving me my first sea urchin as a child and to this day it’s still a dish I see as an old friend. It’s a personal narrative about me and the dish, which has developed over the years. Travelling has allowed me to add chapters to that story, full of new ingredients and techniques from Russia and South America to Asia and beyond. Rigo will be a culmination of those experiences – my journey on a plate.”

Franco Manca opens Reading restaurant: Pizza brand Franco Manca, which is owned by Fulham Shore, has continued its expansion by opening a site in Reading, Berkshire. The company has opened the 80-cover restaurant in the Riverside development at The Oracle shopping centre. Franco Manca openings manager Bruno Leal told Get Reading: “With the River Kennet on its doorstep, the new pizzeria is the perfect spot to enjoy a sourdough pizza before a day out shopping.” Franco Manca has 36 sites and expects to open another ten in the next year.

Five Guys gets go-ahead for second Nottingham site: Better burger brand Five Guys has been given the go-ahead to open its second site in Nottingham. The company has been granted permission by the city council to open the restaurant in Redfield Way, near the city’s Showcase cinema, creating 40 jobs. The 2,500 square foot new-build venue will follow Five Guys’ restaurant in Long Row, reports The Business Desk. The planning statement said: “The location of the building completes a quadrant of restaurant units, enhances the active frontages of the area, and provides a complementary offer to the existing mix of uses on the site.” Five Guys, which was founded in Virginia in the US in 1986 by the Murrell family, has more than 60 restaurants in the UK having opened its first in Covent Garden in 2013.

Staycity snaps up EasyHotel head of development and former JD Wetherspoon director as it eyes London openings: Dublin-based aparthotel operator Staycity has recruited Neil Short, former head of development at Easyhotel, the owner, developer, operator and franchisor of “super budget” branded hotels, as the company steps up its hunt for sites in London. Short, who was previously development manager at Travelodge for eight years before leaving in early 2016, will work closely with Simon Walford, who is responsible for Staycity’s development in the UK, Property Week reports. Before joining Travelodge, Short was acquisitions director at JD Wetherspoon, a role he held for seven years. Staycity is embarking on a major expansion plan across Europe that will boost its room count by about 12,000. The operator has more than 3,000 apartments in ten European cities but plans to have 15,000 rooms by 2022. This would mean developing 50 additional properties.

Former Okura Japanese restaurant in Shoreditch goes on market: The former Okura Japanese restaurant in Shoreditch, east London, has been put up for sale. With a premium in excess of £300,000, the lease is an assignment running until 2022, with a rent of £40,000 per annum. The building in Brick Lane, which is being marketed by agent Restaurant Property, has Class A3 use and spans 1,638 square feet, including a ground floor of 842 square feet and a basement of 796 square feet. Restaurant Property head of sales Matthew Englender said: “This property is a prime opportunity for someone who is looking to be situated on the trendy and buzzing Brick Lane. It is a short walk from Shoreditch High Street station and nearby operators include Cereal Killer Cafe, The London Cocktail Club and Blanchette.”

Carlsberg UK hires new national sales unit vice-president: Carlsberg UK has appointed Alistair Gaunt as vice-president for the company’s nationals sales business unit. He will report into chief executive officer Julian Momen. Gaunt, who will manage Carlsberg UK’s national pub and family brewers accounts, previously held the position of grocery sales director at Premier Foods for two-and-a-half years. Having graduated from Durham University in 1997, Gaunt started his career with Carlsberg UK (then Carlsberg Tetley) as a sales representative in the north east, before joining Cadbury in 1999. He held a number of sales roles at the chocolate manufacturer, including responsibility for Asda, Tesco, Co-op and the impulse retail sector, as well as leading the impulse customer marketing team for several years prior to joining Premier Foods. Momen said: “Alistair brings with him a blend of operational and strategic experience, most notably gained during a transformation phase at Premier Foods and over some years at Cadbury. His leadership and strong people skills will be a great asset to Carlsberg UK and I am delighted he is joining my team.”

M&B introduces wine slushies and alcoholic lollies to attract younger drinkers: Mitchells & Butlers has partnered with wine producer E and J Gallo Winery to exclusively offer “frozen wine slushy” brand Frosé in about 150 of its pubs – introducing the product to the UK market. The slushies, created using Barefoot White Zinfandel Rosé, are available in Sizzling Pub & Grill and Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery sites. The move is part of the company’s new summer wine range, which also includes Oyster Bay Rosé, a new product exclusively available in the on-trade across 700 Mitchells & Butlers sites, including Vintage Inns, Ember Inns, Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery, and a select number of Harvester and Nicholson’s venues. POPS alcoholic popsicles are also available at more than 120 sites, including Premium Country Pubs. The British-made luxury lollies are being sold in four flavours – Frosé, Bellini, Classic Champagne and alcohol-free Strawberry & Mint. Mitchells & Butlers wine category manager Lydia Worsey said: “Pushing the boundaries and testing new products is a huge focus for us, especially in the wine category where we need to work harder than before to attract younger consumers who are looking for new experiences, Instagrammable products and more accessible wine.”

Seren Collection hires head of finance: The Seren Collection, operator of luxury hospitality venues in south west Wales, has appointed a new head of finance, Mark Campbell-Blake. The group’s venues include Grove of Narberth, Coast and Kiosk in Saundersfoot and Beach House on Oxwich Bay in the Gower Peninsular. Campbell-Blake’s focus will be to streamline financial reporting and overall governance while defining a new model to transform business intelligence. He brings 27 years of commercial finance experience to The Seren Collection, much of which has been in senior management roles in the financial services sector. Campbell-Blake is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants with experience in all aspects of finance. The Seren Collection managing director Neil Kedward said: “Mark shares our passion for the hospitality industry, which is so important in this sector. He has been appointed to challenge both myself and the business to get better in every aspect of what we do with financials, information and data so we can confidently take the next steps already planned for the business. His calm, measured approach and intellect sets him apart – we are so pleased to have him by our side.” 

ASK Italian signs for Stratford-upon-Avon site: Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian has signed to open a site in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The 120-cover restaurant will feature additional outdoor seating overlooking the main square at Bell Court shopping complex. ASK Italian will join a strong restaurant line-up at the complex, including Nando’s, better burger brand Byron, Mitchells & Butlers brands Miller & Carter and All Bar One, and Italian wine cafe Veeno. John Stacey, asset management director at UK & European Investments, the developer behind Bell Court, said: “Having exchanged contracts, we expect to hand over the unit to ASK in July so it can fit-out the restaurant and potentially open in September.” The deal was completed by Time Retail Partners and Nashbond on behalf of UK & European Investments. Lunson Mitchenall acted on behalf of ASK Italian. Everyman Cinema opened at Bell Court last week as part of an 18-month refurbishment of the town centre complex.

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