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Mon 7th Aug 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Spend in UK hotels, restaurants and bars rises 6%: Spending in UK hotels, restaurants and bars rose 6% in July compared with the same month a year ago, according to the latest data from Visa. The company’s Consumer Spending Index compiled by Markit revealed overall consumer spend fell 0.8% on an annual basis following declines in May and June, the first time overall spending had fallen for three consecutive months since February 2013. One sector to see a rise in spend was e-commerce (3.6%) but face-to-face expenditure fell 3.7% compared with the year before. Transport and communication, and clothing and footwear saw the most marked reductions in spend – 6.1% and 5.2% respectively. Kevin Jenkins, UK and Ireland managing director at Visa, said: “Consumer spend fell for the third month in a row in July, the first time overall spending had fallen for three consecutive months since February 2013. The figure provides further evidence that rising prices and stagnant wage growth are squeezing consumers’ pockets. The drop in spending was felt across a broader range of retail sectors last month, with clothing, household goods, food and transport among the worst hit. There were still some bright spots in July, with hotels, restaurants and bars reporting a 6% increase. The sector is likely to have benefited from an early surge in summer staycations as the weak pound made holidaying at home more attractive.”

Industry News:

Bar and Nightclub Conference open for bookings: This year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Propel, is now open for bookings. It takes place on Monday, 9 October at Bafta, Piccadilly. It will be followed by the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards for bar and nightclub operators at Cafe de Paris in the evening. Speakers at the event will include Jamie Campbell, who heads up the retail business at CGA Strategy, which has retailer specialist CGA Peach as a division, who will reveal details of usage, areas of growth, food and drink trends, and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. Philip Kolvin QC, head of Cornerstone Barristers and chairman of the London Night Time Commission, will give his views on London’s late-night economy and legal and licensing challenges around the UK. Scott Matthews, chief executive of CG Restaurants, will explain the success of the company’s Dirty Martini cocktail brand, its USPs, staff training and marketing methods, and its regional expansion plans. Stephen Thomas, godfather of the UK nightclub and bar scene, will offer reflections on the evolving bar and nightclub scene and predict how things will change in the next decade. Peter Marks, chief executive of Deltic Group, will talk about evolving the company’s estate, the growing importance of social media and entertainment to drive footfall, and the results of Deltic’s own research into the late-night market. Aaron Mellor, founder and chief executive of 36-strong bar and nightclub Tokyo Industries, will talk about the company’s expansion into experiential leisure with a festival, The Lost Village, hosting Boogie Wonderland in Ibiza in partnership with Ferran Adria and Cirque du Soleil, and developments in the UK market. Dan Davies, chairman of the Institute of Licensing and CPL Training chief executive, will talk to Peter Stringfellow about his career operating late-night venues. The speaker schedule will conclude with ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls talking to John Gaunt of John Gaunt Solicitors, Allan Harper of Burning Night Group, Toby Smith of Novus Leisure, Pleisure chief executive Nick Griffin, Sugar Hut chief executive Terry Pullen, and Robert Humphreys, vice-chairman of Best Bar None, about the current trading and regulatory regime. Tickets for the Bar and Nightclub Conference are £89 plus VAT for operators who are ALMR members and £129 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. Supplier tickets are £165 plus VAT for ALMR members and £225 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. For the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards, tickets are £150 plus VAT for ALMR members and £195 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. Tickets for both events can be booked by emailing Jo Charity at jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Brexit presents opportunity for pub sector, says banking director: Steve Crosswell, commercial banking director for hospitality and leisure at Metro Bank, has said Brexit presents an opportunity for the pub sector. Crosswell told Specialist Banking the pub market was in “robust health” and while uncertainty was often characterised as a negative, it presented an opportunity – especially to pub operators – to “focus on differentiating their position and providing even higher levels of customer service”. He said: “Although leisure sub-sectors – such as the casual dining market – face headwinds, the pub market appears to be in robust health if the number of transactions, investor appetite and general operator confidence are anything to go by. The large pub companies remain active, with Greene King acquiring Spirit in 2015 and Heineken/Patron absorbing Punch. These larger transactions have created a secondary market, which generates additional activity and an opportunity for smaller, independent operators to acquire and build their estates. Geographically there remains a strong bias towards some areas with London continuing to appeal to institutional investors, who in some cases are accepting lower yields in lieu of the future capital value upside. We saw the newly formed – and Stellex-backed – Dominion Hospitality acquire the Chapman Group and some of the long-established family brewers have also been targeting ‘golden bricks’ assets in London, which further fuels price rises. Looking at the broader market, the industry appears to have shrugged off concerns about the Market Rent Only option. The sales mix has significantly changed, resulting in an improvement in the quality of pubs being sold and an increase in the average sale price. Encouragingly, 62% of pubs sold remained as pubs, a sharp increase compared with the 48% to 52% seen in the previous eight years. The market continues to keep everyone on their toes. However, the pub operators we speak to remain ‘cautiously confident’, while being aware of the constant need to ensure their products and services evolve and remain relevant to consumers in what can only be described as a volatile environment.”

London market accounts for 55% of total UK hotel investment in first half 2017: The London hotel market has remained buoyant in the first half of the year, according to agent Savills, as investment reached £1.1bn – 55% of the UK’s overall total of £2bn. International investment accounted for 68% (£756m) of investment into London’s hotels. A strong tourist market, narrowing yields and a weaker pound have all boosted investment into the capital. Savills said net initial yields for prime freehold hotel investments in London were currently between 3.85% and 4.25%, compared with 5.13% at the end of 2016. London capital values are currently 61.5% higher than at their 2007 peak, according to data from MSCI. London assets have been particularly popular with Asian investors, with the most active from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. Increased demand is also emerging from India-based operators. Gary Witham, director in the hotels team at Savills, said: “We have seen significant interest in the first half of the year from overseas capital as the weak sterling creates a favourable market. With capital values now standing so high and with growth relatively subdued, we expect to see owners that purchased before 2015 starting to look to sell.” Amy Farrugia, senior analyst in the hotels team at Savills, added: “There has been an increasing diversification in the origin of the capital being deployed into London as it continues to be seen as an investment safe haven. We expect Asian capital to continue its high level of activity to the end of the year, although there is a severe shortage of quality assets priced between £20m and £100m.” Savills forecasts investment into the London hotel market to reach £2.8bn by the end of 2017 and the UK hotel market to transact circa £5.1bn for the full year, up 28% on the 2016 total of £4bn.

Work starts to rebuild wrongly demolished Kilburn pub, brick by brick: Work has started to rebuild the Carlton Tavern in Kilburn, north London, which was demolished by developers. The company, CLTX, didn’t have permission to demolish the pub and it was eventually ruled it had broken the law in doing so. Eventually, the company was reordered to rebuild the pub brick by brick – a task it must complete by July 2018. Workers are on-site clearing rubble and debris before rebuilding begins. Salvageable materials will be used in the rebuild. Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for planning and public realm, told Londonist: “This is a big step in our campaign to undo the damage caused by the illegal demolition of the Carlton Tavern. Westminster City Council has stood side-by-side with residents to demand this pub should be rebuilt brick by brick and I look forward to seeing the Carlton Tavern standing once again. This is just reward for the work of all the local campaigners who fought for this building to be restored. I hope our campaign sends a clear message to developers across the country that they cannot ride roughshod over the views of local communities.”

Cash-only operators risk losing out as customers embrace in-app payments: Cash-only operators risk losing out as customers continue to embrace in-app payments, according to new research by supermarket app Ubamarket. A survey of 2,000 UK adults found one-fifth (20%) use in-app payments as their favourite method of paying for items, a figure that rises to 34% among 18 to 34-year-olds. Almost half (41%) believe all payments will be carried out via mobile devices in the future, a figure that also rises among millennials, to 53%. Almost one-third (32%) of respondents said they choose a venue based on how easy it is to pay for items, while almost half (48%) hate using self-scan machines. Ubamarket chief executive Will Broome said: “Frustratingly outdated payment systems remain a significant challenge.”

Developers told they must include LGBT venue at east London site: Tower Hamlets council has told the developers of an east London site their plans for offices and nine luxury flats will get planning permission only if it includes a pub that will “remain a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused venue for a minimum of 12 years”. It is believed to be the first time the sexual orientation of a venue’s customers has been included as a condition of planning approval. The redevelopment would see the loss of well-known gay pub the Joiners Arms at a time when London is fighting the loss of LGBT venues. City Hall’s culture at risk officer Ed Bayes will be involved in assessing licensee applications to ensure the operator of the new bar is sufficiently LGBT and not seeking to open a gay bar in name only. In the past decade, London has lost 58% of its LGBT venues as prime locations are snapped up by developers. A spokesperson for developer Regal Homes told The Guardian: “The development in Hackney Road will re-provide a public house at ground-floor level with the same floor space as the previous Joiners Arms. We are committed to keeping this space within our development in Tower Hamlets as a LGBT+ venue and have offered a right of first refusal on the lease to LGBT+ interested parties.”

Company News:

StreetDots secures £500,000 for UK-wide expansion: Street trading platform StreetDots has secured £500,000 funding to take the concept UK-wide. The company works with landowners to open pitches or “dots” that can be booked a day at a time via Trade Smart, its booking app that takes care of compliance, licensing and marketing. StreetDots will use the investment to grow its network of dots from almost 50 to 200 in the next 12 months and expand outside London and Glasgow. It will also extend its user base of independent street food businesses to include restaurant brands that want to reach new customers, trial new locations or showcase a particular product. StreetDots will also add features to Trade Smart such as pre-ordering and click-and-collect to help street food vendors keep pace with the growing delivery market. The funding comes from private Singapore fund BOH and is in addition to its £350,000 initial investment in January. Co-founder Atholl Milton said: “Our platform has liberated London-based street food brands from admin involved in finding somewhere to sell. We are now set to take that UK-wide. We’re not only hoping to streamline the business of outdoor street food, we’re hoping to grow the market. UK street trading laws are guided by legislation that is over a century old and its processes seem to be stuck in the same era. Our vision is a digitally managed UK-wide network of dots that is hassle-free for anyone who wants to sell great food on the streets.”

San Carlo Group to launch £1m Fumo at Selfridges for second Birmingham site: Italian restaurant group San Carlo is set to open its second Fumo site in Birmingham following a £1m investment. San Carlo Group launched Fumo in Waterloo Street in 2012. The new venue will be in the city centre on the top floor of Selfridges, replacing Searcys Balcony Bar and Brasserie. Fumo at Selfridges will open in late October, the Birmingham Mail reports. The family-owned and run San Carlo Group was founded in Birmingham by former hairdresser Carlo Distefano. San Carlo Group operates 17 restaurants in the UK, including Fumo sites in Manchester and Birmingham, Flying Pizza in Leeds, London’s Signor Sissi, and Cicchetti restaurants in Manchester and London. The company also operates restaurants overseas in Qatar, Bahrain and Bangkok.

Pret A Manger to retain ‘green fridges’ for summer: Pret A Manger has said it will continue its in-store “green fridge” trial for the rest of the summer. The fridges, which contain vegan and vegetarian food only, was initially intended to last for one month only. However, since the trial began in mid-June at Pret stores around the UK it has proved popular and the trial will now continue. A post on Pret A Manger’s Facebook page stated: “Noticed our green veggie fridges? We’ve been trialling them for (more than) a month and they’ve proven to be quite popular, so they’re here to stay for the rest of the summer.” At the time of the launch, Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee wrote: “The bold green fridges will be accompanied by monthly veggie and vegan chef’s specials and a new campaign that aims to encourage more meat-eaters to try our veggie options. This approach does carry some risk and we are treading carefully. I’m curious if our veggie menu will appeal more or less to customers when highlighted in a single fridge. Will it attract or deter our regular meat-eaters? We’ll be monitoring your feedback and the sales very closely. Who knows, perhaps it will help us find the best location for our next Veggie Pret?” 

Late-night food delivery service Feast passes half-way mark in £150,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Late-night food delivery service Feast has reached the half-way mark in its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company is offering 3.61% equity to fund the expansion of the service across London. The campaign has raised £83,300 from 99 investors so far, with 16 days remaining. The largest investment has been £25,000. Feast was founded by Simon Pusey after he became frustrated at “not being able to find good food after 10pm”. The company previously raised £460,000 in seed investment from angel investors. The bid states: “In partnership with some of the best 24-hour and late-night restaurants, we deliver great food at times you can’t get it delivered anywhere else – between 7pm and 5am. Founded in December 2015 by one man on a Dutch bike, Feast now has more than 40 drivers on the road. We’ve served over 20,000 hungry customers. During the past three months we have a total order value of £179,291, which would equate to a total order value run rate of more than £500,000 over the next 12 months. We’ve also signed up more than 80 hotels to our bespoke site at www.NightRoomService.com. This allows hotels and luxury apartments to outsource their night-time food needs to us and make money from every order their guest places. We currently take £2.50 from the customer per order and 25% of the price of the order from the restaurant. We aim to fulfil 28,000 orders in 2017, which would equate to a total order turnover of more than £500,000. We plan to use our Crowdcube funds to increase the area we serve in London to include the whole of Zone 2. We will also hire a second full-stack developer and another salesperson to bring on more hotels to NightRoomService.com.”

PF Chang’s makes UK debut with Covent Garden launch: US-based Asian casual dining chain PF Chang’s has made its UK debut by opening a site in Covent Garden. PF Chang’s Asian Table has opened in Great Newport Street offering 138 covers set over two floors as well as a cocktail bar. The company describes its offering as “brunch with an Asian kick”, with dishes such as the Everything Bao (smoked salmon and boiled egg with basil horseradish in a honey lotus bun), and Lobster Benedict (toasted muffin topped with herb lobster mix, poached egg and hollandaise sauce). Other dishes from former Nobu chef Deepak Kotian include Mongolian beef seared with spring onions and garlic, and fish and lotus “chips”, Hot Dinners reports. The bar is run by London-based drinks consultancy Fluid Movement and offers barrel-aged cocktails. Arizona-headquartered PF Chang’s was founded in 1993 by Paul Fleming and Philip Chiang and has grown to more than 200 restaurants in the US with sites in 20 other countries. Other markets labelled as “coming soon” on its website include Germany and Egypt.

Greene King and KFC sign for new Worcester scheme: St Modwen has sold development sites to brewer and retailer Greene King and KFC at its 155,000 square foot Nunnery Park scheme in Worcester. Both companies will develop their own outlets, with KFC providing a new drive-thru restaurant while Greene King is planning a family pub and restaurant. St Modwen is also progressing with the next phase of development work at Nunnery Park, which will see new trade units completed by the end of October ranging from 4,950 square feet to 19,000 square feet. John Peach, senior acquisitions and relationship manager at KFC, told Insider Media: “We are pleased to have completed the deal with St Modwen and have now begun construction on-site. We look forward to further raising our presence in Worcester and our convenience for the growing local residential and business population in this strategic eastern area of the city.” Jonathan Green, director of asset management (Midlands) at St Modwen, added: “These deals with KFC and Greene King are testament to the prominence and accessibility Nunnery Park offers, making it an ideal location for their businesses. The additional 55,000 square feet we are marketing is in response to the ongoing demand for trade counter, business and industrial space in the Worcester area.”

JD Wetherspoon completes expansion deal for Scunthorpe pub: JD Wetherspoon has completed the purchase of two empty properties next to the Blue Bell Inn in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, following eight months of negotiations. Contractors have moved in to secure the properties ready for the work to start on extending the pub. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Scunthorpe Telegraph the next stage would be to apply to North Lincolnshire Council for planning and licensing approval. The company decided to expand The Bell Inn, which was opened in August 1999 at a cost of £1.1m, after customers complained about the lack of drinking and dining space in the venue. The expansion project will include increasing the size of the pub’s beer garden as well as making the drinking and dining areas larger.

Little Wing opens seventh Northern Ireland restaurant: Pizzeria chain Little Wing has opened its seventh restaurant in Northern Ireland, this time in Lisburn. Little Wing also operates three restaurants in Belfast and one each in Bangor, Holywood and Enniskillen. The latest restaurant has opened in Lisburn Square, catering for 60 diners and creating 20 jobs. Little Wing prides itself on offering authentic, made-to-order Neapolitan-style pizzas including the largest on offer in Northern Ireland, which is 24 inches in diameter. Pizzas are cooked in distinctive six-foot wood-stone ovens using fresh ingredients, 100% mozzarella cheese, sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, and pizza dough made to a secret recipe. The brand also offers organic, fair-trade coffee that has the Rain Forest Alliance seal of approval, the News Letter reports.

Joe & The Juice opens 200th site worldwide with Mayfair launch: Denmark-based smoothie and juice chain Joe & The Juice has opened its 200th site worldwide as part of its international expansion drive. The new venue has opened in Maddox Street, Mayfair. The site takes Joe & The Juice to 23 stores in and around London and 31 in the UK as a whole. It follows two openings in the capital in June – in Baker Street and the Thackeray Estate development in Eastcheap in the City of London. Joe & The Juice offers freshly prepared juices, shakes, coffee and sandwiches. The company, founded by chief executive Kaspar Basse in Copenhagen in 2002, is undergoing a major expansion with 25 stores to open in the US before the end of the year. Basse said: “All of us engaged with Joe & The Juice are overwhelmed and humbled by the great feedback we have received from our guests, landlords, the media and, very importantly, our partners and juicers. We are excited to continue the expansion of our presence and footprint of our youth culture. We expect to open 100-plus stores in the coming few years across New York, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC. Equally important to our expanding storefronts, we are also striving to develop our educational platform into our dream of a Joe & The Juice University based on our definition of essential youth virtues and preparing young people from all walks of life for a meaningful future.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber presents Cereal Killer Cafe – the musical: A musical about the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch is one of two new productions to be developed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Other Palace theatre. Spilt Milk, inspired by the Cereal Killer Cafe in east London that was targeted during anti-gentrification riots, will have a public sharing at the London theatre on Friday (11 August). The company was launched in Shoreditch in 2014 by Belfast-born Gary Keery and his twin brother Alan. The Keerys opened a second site in Camden and a third in Birmingham. In late 2016, a chance Snapchat shot taken by a sheikh led to international expansion, with the brand making its international debut in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Dubai. The company is currently looking for partners to expand into further international territories.

BeerHeadZ eyes Melton Mowbray’s oldest non-secular building for new micro-pub: Micro-pub entrepreneur Phil Ayling has revealed plans to open a site for his BeerHeadZ brand in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. BeerHeadZ has pubs in Retford, Nottinghamshire, and Grantham, Lincolnshire, with another to open this summer in Nottingham and plans for a venue in Lincoln. Ayling said the company has been in talks with Melton Borough Council to take over the lease of a grade II-listed building in King Street. The venue in the centre of town most recently housed Melton Toys and is the oldest secular building in Melton Mowbray, with parts dating to 1330. Ayling told the Leicester Mercury: “The place has such a rich history we think it would make a stunning pub. We had been on the look-out for somewhere to open a pub for a long time. We were in town and could see there was a gap in the market for a different kind of pub. Once we saw this distinctive building we were intrigued. We really want to have one of our pubs there. We may not be the cheapest pub in town but we will sell quality products and provide something for everyone.”

Tak Tokumine to open flagship Japan Centre next month: Shoryu Ramen founder Tak Tokumine is to open a flagship Japanese food hall in London next month, in Panton Street. The 6,000 square foot flagship Japan Centre will consist of a main food hall, three specialist rooms focusing on tea, sake and miso, a 100-cover central courtyard eating area, and demonstration kitchens. The main food hall will offer a wide range of fresh, dry and packed goods with a large selection of daily ingredients such as soy sauce, seaweed and freshly milled rice. There will also be a Japanese bakery, fruit and vegetable stalls, fresh fish and meat counters, and a homeware section. The demo kitchen will offer live demonstrations and a traditional yatai stall, while there will be dishes to take away from the main sozai deli counter. Tokumine launched the original Japan Centre near Piccadilly Circus in 1976. He said: “This central location off Leicester Square will be the new home for all things Japanese in London with our Japanese take on the shop, dine and experience concept. I’m very excited.” Launched in 2012, Shoryu Ramen has seven sites in London and another in Manchester, plus dedicated tonkotsu ramen take-out bar Shoryu Go in Soho and an international site in Japan.

Greater Manchester-based ‘meat shack’ brand CockaDoodleMoo to open third site: Greater Manchester-based “meat shack” brand CockaDoodleMoo is to open its third site in the region, this time in Altrincham. The new venue will open in Stamford New Road offering burgers, chargrilled chicken, hotdogs and smoked ribs. Starters on the menu include nachos, smoked meatballs and crispy buffalo wings, while burgers include the Classic Moo (6oz chuck burger with Monterrey Jack cheese) and the Dirty Boy, which also features beef brisket, pulled pork and bacon. The drinks list includes shakes, real ale sourced from local breweries, wine and cocktails. CockaDoodleMoo was founded in 2012, with its other meat shacks in Stockport and Rochdale.

Chefs behind Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant to bring brand to Fitzrovia: Charles Pelletier and Frédéric Peneau, who won a Michelin star for their high-end French restaurant Serge et Le Phoque in Hong Kong, are to open an upmarket restaurant of the same name in Fitzrovia. The restaurant will open in the new Mandrake hotel in Newman Street offering the duo’s signature scallop with anchovy and fried leek root. In 2015, their progressive French cuisine made using local and international ingredients earned them a Michelin star. The Mandrake restaurant will offer an a la carte and a chef’s tasting menu, including dishes such as octopus with century egg and French speciality cake dacquoise, made with carefully constructed layers of almond and hazelnut meringue and served with vanilla cream, Hot Dinners reports. Sommelier Bert Blaize, formerly of Clove Club, will take care of a drinks selection that will focus on natural, organic and biodynamic wine. Boutique hotel The Mandrake will open this month offering 34 bedrooms, three luxury suites and a penthouse.

Birmingham-based restaurateur opens second site in city: Bahar Ahmed, who owns Mahfil restaurant in Kings Norton, Birmingham, has opened a second Indian restaurant in the city. Mezbaan has opened in Poplar Road, Kings Heath, at the site of former restaurant Pangea, which closed in May. Mezbaan seats 90 diners and also features a cocktail bar, while signature specialities include mango pangash fish and lamb gulag alongside traditional tandoori specialities. Ahmed told the Birmingham Mail: “Kings Heath lacks a modern Indian restaurant serving good food. Hopefully we are filling that gap. I have worked with my head chef to create traditional dishes with a modern twist. Every dish is freshly made and cooked from scratch, with its own distinct flavour. We wanted to create a truly elegant dining experience complemented by good wine and quality cocktails – something very different to other Indian restaurants in this area. And true to the Mezbaan name, which means ‘host’, the emphasis is on excellent hospitality.”

Former DJ and nightclub owner opens Cotswolds country house hotel and pub following £2m investment: Former DJ, music producer and nightclub owner Alex Payne has reopened a Cotswolds country house hotel after he acquired the venue and a nearby pub. Payne and business partner Kal Tuqan have founded Roman Road, with the company’s first purchases being The Rectory Hotel in the village of Crudwell and The Potting Shed pub. Both venues have reopened following a total investment of £2m. Charlie Luxton and Dan Brod, of Bramley Bars, which operates Wiltshire pubs The Beckford Arms and the Talbot Inn, acted as consultants on the projects. A number of original features have been retained at the 18th century hotel, including flagstone flooring, and oak panelling and beams. Dishes at the hotel’s restaurant include English veal with girolles and baby artichokes, and grilled lemon sole with Cornish crab, alongside seasonal salads, fish pie, roast chicken and wild-boar steaks. Payne said: “We wanted to create something genuine; everything we like in a country house hotel but couldn’t find.”

Moor Beer takes on Fuller’s ESB for brewing project: Bristol-based craft brewer Moor Beer has reinvented Fuller’s renowned ESB as part of the first Fuller’s And Friends project, which sees the London company work alongside six other brewers to produce a set of new brews. Moor Beer is the only brewer to reimagine an existing Fuller’s product. The resulting 6% ABV beer has been named Rebirth. Moor Beer owner and head brewer Justin Hawke said: “ESB jumped out right away. When I studied the original brewing notes from 1971 – the year I was born – I noted the unusual use of maize and imported hops, something rare at that time. To be trusted to work on a flagship beer is an honour and a vote of confidence. We’ve worked really hard to create a beer that respects the original while giving drinkers something new to enjoy.” Hawke founded Moor Beer in Somerset in 2007. Last month, the company reported a 74% rise in turnover in its latest financial results, while production increased 54% from the same period a year ago.

Sunderland-based burger bar owner to launch Mexican restaurant: Ben Wall, the man behind No2 Church Lane burger restaurant and bar in Sunderland, is teaming up with musician Neil Bassett to open a Mexican restaurant in the city. Mexico 70 will open in High Street West offering 70 types of tequila alongside Mexican street food. The restaurant will be part of what is becoming a city centre cultural quarter focused on the transformation of a former fire station into a multimillion-pound hub. The Fire Station will open as a restaurant, studios and heritage centre in November, while Mexico 70 will launch around Christmas. Bassett told the Sunderland Echo: “It will be casual dining with no table service, like No2 Church Lane. It will be Mexican street food such as tacos and burritos but one week you might have an American-style taco and another an Indonesian beef taco. But in the main it will be the kind of food you get in the Baja region of Mexico. We’ll have hearty gut-buster dishes but also a good range of healthy, vegan and vegetarian options.”

Big Drop Brewing Co ramps up capacity thanks to chocolate stout sales: Big Drop Brewing Co has expanded its brewing capacity thanks to sales of its 0.5% ABV Chocolate Milk Stout. The company launched the beer in November as a style suited to the winter months but demand has exceeded expectations throughout the summer. Big Drop Brewing Co founder Rob Fink said: “We brought out Chocolate Milk Stout last winter as the first in our range of full-flavoured, 0.5% ABV beers and have been thrilled at the response it has received. Our projections estimated sales would slow over the warmer months but we’ve had to increase our production tenfold. I’ve had to rewrite our projections and am moving our nomad operations, under the direction of brewer Johnny Clayton, to two breweries that can accommodate our requirements as we’ve outgrown our facility at U-Brew.”

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