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Wed 9th Aug 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UK capital cities report double-digit revpar growth in second quarter, London and Manchester record rises despite terrorist attacks: UK hotel revpar continued to grow in the second quarter of 2017, suggesting overseas holiday travellers are continuing to take advantage of the depreciated pound, according to a new report. The latest Hotel Bulletin, published by HVS, AlixPartners and AM:PM, showed double-digit revpar growth in Edinburgh (23%), Belfast (22%), Cardiff (17%) and Bath (13%). There was growth in all major cities apart from Aberdeen, which had a tenth consecutive quarter of falling revpar (-11%) and Leeds, which recorded its first revpar decline (-4%) since 2012. London (8%) and Manchester (1%) recorded revpar growth in the quarter despite terrorist attacks in the cities. The report stated: “Recent currency movements may have helped shelter the UK from a similar level of impact to Paris and Brussels. Historically, London and Manchester have been two of the most robust hotel markets in the UK. However, given the impact on the European gateway cities noted above, investors may be concerned about a similar negative impact on London and Manchester’s hotel markets in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist incidents. It appears from the data there is little cause for alarm. Although performance in these markets can suffer as a result of global political insecurity as a whole, they are sufficiently robust that these one-off incidents did not to cause any more than a small knock to otherwise strong performance.” More than 7,500 hotel bedrooms have opened during the first half of 2017, which is the highest first-half figure since 2012 and more than 40% higher than the first half of 2016. Transaction values in the second quarter of 2017 totalled £1.2bn, of which £0.7bn related to portfolio transactions. This is significantly higher than the £0.5bn of transactions that took place in the first quarter of the year, and an uplift on the £1bn of transactions in the second quarter of 2016. The report said: “Although the increase in total transaction values may indicate investor confidence is returning following global political uncertainty in recent months, these results should be read with a degree of caution. A number of transactions completed in the second half of 2017 had dragged over from previous quarters.”

Industry News:

Chris Muller Multi-site Management Masterclass open for bookings: Propel will host Professor Chris Muller, the leading thinker, teacher and author on multi-site foodservice management in the US, at its next Multi-site Management Masterclass. It takes place on Friday, 29 September at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Leading UK businesses such as Mitchells & Butlers and TGI Friday’s have sent staff to be taught by Professor Muller at Boston University’s School of Hospitality – now Professor Muller is returning to the UK to lead this bespoke day. The event will provide valuable insights for founders and area managers of small and medium-sized multi-site companies and area managers of large companies. The sessions will include building the case for strategic growth, developing multi-unit managers from players to coaches and a discussion on the importance transition plays in the practice of management and leadership. Mastering Multi-Units founder Lee Sheldon will also talk about how to successfully drive profitable growth for your business. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book tickets, email Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Warwickshire brewery wins Champion Beer of Britain award: A Warwickshire brewery, originally located in an old coffin shop, has won the Campaign for Real Ale’s Champion Beer of Britain award on the opening day of the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia London. Goat’s Milk by Church End scooped gold in the competition with its blend of pale barley, crystal malt oats and aromatic hops. The award comes after almost a year of local tasting panels and regional heats resulting in the best beers from across the UK being invited to compete at the festival, which will see more than 50,000 people visit to sample from more than 900 beers, ciders, perries and fine wines. Bishop Nick from Essex took silver with Ridley’s Rite, a pale ale with a floral aroma and “satisfying” bitterness, while Welsh brewery Tiny Rebel – former Champion Beer of Britain winner – won bronze with Cwtch, a red ale with a blend of six caramelly malts and three citrussy American hops. Church End sales manager Paul Hamblett said: “Goat’s Milk is our biggest selling beer. We originally brewed and named it for a festival taking place in the Goat pub, and the beer just caught on. It’s the first time we’ve won the competition, and we expect it to put us on the map.”

Company News:

Heineken commits to selling 30 pubs to address competition concerns in Punch takeover in no more than four packages: Heineken has committed to selling the 30 pubs to address competition concerns in its takeover of Punch in no more than four packages. Heineken has told the Competition and Markets Authority a “significant” number of third parties have expressed an interest in purchasing the sites. It said while some of the potential purchasers have expressed an interest in acquiring several or all of the pubs, a number of other potential purchasers have expressed an interest in acquiring only a single pub or a very small number of pubs. However, the CMA has said to “ensure the proposed undertakings are clear-cut and capable of ready implementation, Heineken has committed to selling the pubs in no more than four packages”. The CMA has published modifications to the proposed undertakings, which it is consulting on until next Tuesday (15 August). Heineken will sell 15 Star Pubs & Bars sites and 15 Punch pubs. They are: 1314 Inn, Stirling (Star Pubs & Bars); Anvil Inn, Bonnyrigg (Star Pubs & Bars); Bells Bar, Glasgow (Star Pubs & Bars); The Bird Inn, Washington (Punch); Bulls Head, East Leaken (Star Pubs & Bars); The Bush, Silverdale (Star Pubs & Bars); Coach & Horses, Hexham (Punch); The County Hotel, Hexham (Punch); The Falcon, Prudhoe (Punch); The Fleece Inn, Ilkley (Punch); Fox & Hounds Inn, Ryton (Punch); Goblin Ha Hotel, Haddington (Punch); Grapes Inn, Preston (Punch); Kimberley Tavern, Glasgow (Star Pubs & Bars); Kinleith Mill, Edinburgh; (Star Pubs & Bars); Malleny Arms, Balerno (Star Pubs & Bars); Mercat Hotel, Haddington (Punch); Nags Head, East Leake (Punch); Navigation Inn, Loughborough (Star Pubs & Bars); Plough Tavern, Haddington (Punch); The Plungington, Preston (Star Pubs & Bars); Poynters Arms, Dunstable (Punch); Red Lion, Chobham (Punch); Riccarton Inn, Currie (Star Pubs & Bars); Royal Oak, Brandon (Punch); Royal Oak, Nelson (Star Pubs & Bars); Strathspey Bar, Glasgow (Punch); Sync Bar, Pinner (Star Pubs & Bars); Thornton Arms, Burnley (Star Pubs & Bars); and Weavers Bar, Kirkcaldy (Star Pubs & Bars). In February, Punch shareholders overwhelmingly voted to back the deal that would see Heineken and Patron Capital, using newco Vine Acquisitions as a bidding vehicle, acquire Punch. Under the terms of the deal, Heineken would acquire from Patron a portfolio of about 1,900 Punch pubs with Patron retaining an additional 1,329 it would run itself.

McDonald’s to add 2,000 restaurants in China in five-year period: McDonald’s will increase its number of stores in China and Hong Kong to 4,500 by the end of 2022, up from 2,500 currently, as part of a strategic partnership with Citic, Citic Capital Partners and the Carlyle Group. Following the 31 July completion of the deal, a new venture set up by Citic, Citic Capital Partners, Carlyle and McDonald’s has become the US restaurant company’s main franchisee on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong for the next 20 years. The new partnership has announced a series of development initiatives for mainland China. Termed “Vision 2022”, the strategy aims to drive double-digit sales growth in each of the next five years by increasing the number of restaurants from 2,500 to 4,500, including delivery hub coverage of more than 75% of restaurants, by the end of 2022, bringing “unparalleled convenience” to Chinese customers. The opening pace of new McDonald’s restaurants in mainland China is expected to progressively ramp up from about 250 per year in 2017 to 500 per year in 2022 under the new partnership. In addition, “Vision 2022” includes plans to increase significantly McDonald’s restaurant portfolio mix in tier three and four cities to about 45% of all McDonald’s restaurants in China. “Vision 2022” also includes an increase of “Experience of the Future” restaurants to more than 90%, which will enable the brand to offer digitalised and personalised dining experiences to more customers. With innovation hubs located in Hong Kong and Shanghai, McDonald’s said it would strengthen its brand leadership by enhancing the customer experience using menu innovation and advanced digital retail experience.

SSP Group to invest £2.5m in Belfast International Airport outlets: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, is investing £2.5m expanding its Belfast International Airport outlets. Most of the work, which will create up to 70 jobs, will be at existing airside outlets. The Lagan Bar has already been extended at the front and rear, creating seating for an additional 100 customers. In addition, the Starbucks coffee shop will undergo a complete refurbishment. SSP Group, which currently operates all but one food and beverage unit at the airport, will also convert Strangford Kitchen & Grill to a food-led premium bar, and transform the airport’s Café Bar into a second Ritazza coffee shop. SSP Group UK chief executive Simon Smith said: “We have been working at Belfast for more than 15 years, and we are delighted to be building on this longstanding relationship with one of the UK’s most important airports. In just a few years, passenger numbers have risen to just over 5.1 million last year. An additional 500,000 passengers will pass through the terminal this year, creating yet another new record. This investment will ensure that we will continue to deliver excellent food and beverage to Belfast’s passengers as traveller numbers rise.” Belfast International Airport director of commercial development Brian Carlin added: “The airport is seeing unprecedented double-digit passenger growth, and it is to SSP’s credit it is responding by expanding facilities to meet increased demand.”

Tommi’s to open at Oxford Westgate scheme: Icelandic brand Tommi’s Burger Joint is to open a site at the Westgate Oxford – its fourth in the UK. The brand said it was launching into food courts in the UK after its success in this environment across Europe. Sammy Weinbaum, of CDG Leisure, said: “We are extremely proud to be advising such an innovative and flexible brand that has won many awards in the burger restaurant sector – there are many more Tommi’s in the pipeline for 2018.” Tommi’s is also looking to bring over its food truck from Germany to try out new locations before taking permanent sites. The £440m Westgate development opens in October – already confirmed are Krispy Kreme, Salt ‘n’ Sauce, Boost, Grand Caffe Concerto, The Shake Lab, Crepes O Mania and Neds Noodle Bar, anchored by Junkyard Golf.

North west pub operator opens fifth site after major refurbishment with Star Pubs & Bars: North west pub operator Ian Molyneux has reopened The Victoria at Lostock Hall near Preston after a five-week closure for an £250,000 refurbishment by Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars – the pub is Molyneux’s fifth leased site and his fourth with the company. The investment includes a new pizza menu and barista coffee machine. The pub’s opening hours have been extended to 12am and coffee and freshly made pizzas will be served throughout the day. Molyneux’s ambition is to grow his pub group to ten leased sites. He said: “I like the leased model. It gives stability of tenure and the benefit of a partnership with a bigger company with funds to invest in its pubs.” Molyneux’s current sites are community locals in the north west and he plans to remain focused on this market for his future expansion. He added: “I’m always interested in looking at pubs with potential but I’m in no rush. The group’s rate of growth will be determined by the availability of quality sites.” 

7Bone to open site in Eastbourne this month, sixth in total: Better burger brand 7Bone, which is backed by private equity firm Kings Park Capital (KPC), will open its sixth site, in Eastbourne, East Sussex, this month. The company is opening the 90-cover restaurant in Cornfield Road on the former site of the Coopers Magic Shop on Monday, 21 August. 7Bone’s menu includes corn dogs, cheese steaks and buffalo chicken, alongside burgers such as The Robert Johnston (aged beef patty with cheese, truffled garlic mushrooms and truffle mayo), and The Dirty Linda (chicken-fried halloumi with American cheese, dirty slaw and 7bbq sauce). The drinks menu includes imported beers and “dirty cocktails”. Matt Mollicone, who founded 7Bone with Rich Zammit in 2013, told the Eastbourne Herald: “This is our sixth restaurant in the south and another small step towards our mission of rolling 7Bone out across the UK and laying mediocre burgers to rest. We are sure our take on authentic American comfort food served in a feel-good speakeasy setting and service with a smile will be a hit in Eastbourne.” 7Bone’s other restaurants are in Bournemouth, Camberley, Newbury, Reading and Southampton. 

Whitbread lines up buyer for Premier Inn sites in India: Indian operator Samhi Hotels is set to buy Whitbread’s five-strong India portfolio of Premier Inn sites. The proposed buyout, totalling 583 rooms, will make Samhi Hotels the largest independent owner of lodging assets in India. Founded by former Accor India executive Ashish Jakhanwala and HVS head Manav Thadani, the seven-year-old Gurgaon-based company currently has a collection of 25 properties, totalling 3,900 rooms in the country. Whitbread is pulling out of the Indian hospitality market as it wants to focus on more profitable regions such as the UK, Germany and Middle East. Premier Inn will be Samhi Hotels’ latest transaction after its purchase of Hyatt Regency in Pune last year. To ensure a smooth transition of the five properties from Whitbread to Samhi, the former’s Premier Inn brand will continue in the Indian market for some time, sources said. Premier Inn ventured into the country in 2007 through an equity partnership with real estate developer Emaar MGF. Three years later, Whitbread bought out its partner from the joint venture and started to develop hotels on its own.

G1 Group lodges plans to open cinema as part of £10m revamp of Edinburgh hotel: Scotland’s biggest managed operator G1 Group has lodged plans to open a cinema as part of a £10m revamp of the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh. The company has lodged a listed building consent request with the city council to refashion the layout of the Edwardian building in North Bridge and add new leisure features, including a two-screen cinema, which would be accessed via an entrance in Fleshmarket Close. The proposals also include creating more bedrooms, reconfiguring the hotel’s main entrance and reception area, relocating the breakfast room and updating the appearance of the spa. G1 Group, which is run by Stefan King, bought the hotel – former home of the Scotsman newspaper – in February. The hotel was put on the market after it fell into liquidation in June last year. G1 Group head of brand development Susi Sinclair told the Edinburgh Evening News: “The Scotsman Hotel is now undoubtedly the jewel in the crown for G1 Group. We are working on some exciting sample room proposals to ensure any future guest experience exceeds expectations.” G1 Group owns 50 venues across the country, including Ghillie Dhu, Espionage nightclub and Biddy Mulligans in Edinburgh. 

TGI Friday’s applies to join restaurant line-up at £240m Bracknell town centre regeneration scheme: TGI Friday’s has applied to join the restaurant line-up at The Lexicon Bracknell, the £240m regeneration scheme of the town centre. The company has applied to Bracknell Forest Council for a premises licence to supply alcohol from 10am to midnight daily, reports the Bracknell News. If the application is approved, it would join restaurant brands including Prezzo, Wagamama and Nando’s at the development. The scheme, which is scheduled to open on Thursday, 7 September, is being developed by The Bracknell Regeneration Partnership, a joint venture between Legal & General and Schroder UK Real Estate Fund in partnership with Bracknell Forest Council.

Giraffe World Kitchen shuts ‘unviable’ Cambridge site: Giraffe World Kitchen, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Holdings, has closed its site in Cambridge because it is not “viable”. The company has shut the restaurant in Christ’s Lane after nine years. A note in the window said: “Unfortunately, this restaurant is now closed. Our nearest Giraffe restaurants are in Bury St Edmunds and Wisbech.” A spokeswoman for Giraffe World Kitchen told the Cambridge News: “At Giraffe World Kitchen we are constantly working to offer the best dining experience, serving our customers with dishes from across the world. We also need to look closely at the performance of each restaurant and realised that unfortunately Cambridge is no longer a viable business and has therefore had no alternative but to close.” Giraffe World Kitchen operates 45 restaurants in the UK.

Yorkshire firm plans chain of seafood cafe to support worthy causes: A Yorkshire firm is planning to create a chain of seafood cafes around the country to support worthy causes. Whitby Seafoods is putting the finishing touches to its new social enterprise cafe in Scarborough, The Seafood Social. The Rainbow Centre, a local charity that supports the homeless and long-term unemployed, will receive all the profits from the new venture. Laura Whittle, the director of Whitby Seafoods, said the company was inspired to open a new social cafe after she volunteered at The Rainbow Centre in Scarborough. She believed the new cafe provides an opportunity for the company to give something back to the community. Whittle said: “Our values as a family business embrace social responsibility. We support The Fishermen’s Mission, but we felt that we could also do more to help people in Scarborough. The Rainbow Centre plays a vital role and does such important work that we wanted to help them.” The Seafood Social’s ambition is to create a chain of social enterprise seafood cafes across the UK, with all the profits going to support social action charities.

Rank Group launches new bingo cafe and entertainment centre concept: The Rank Group has launched a new bingo cafe and entertainment centre concept in the UK. The company has invested £900,000 opening Luda in Park Street, Walsall, creating 25 jobs. It said it had “reimagined” the bingo experience to “create the next generation in gaming”. The aim was to entice younger players and move away from the old-fashioned image of bingo. The venue offers bingo, slots and retro games in a “trendy modern setting” as well as a cafe. Luda managing director Alan Morgan told the Birmingham Mail: “We’re thrilled to be opening our first Luda in Walsall. The new club will offer those living locally a sociable place to meet, play, try new games, have a bite to eat and relax.” Walsall deputy mayor Cllr Paul Bott added: “It’s refreshing to welcome something new, exciting and different to try.”

Texas Roadhouse boss – we won’t do delivery: Kent Taylor, chief executive of US brand Texas Roadhouse, has stated his company will not go down the delivery route. “We encourage all our competitors to do as much delivery as they can so they can deliver lukewarm food to the people who order it,” he said. “We’ll stick to our guns on this.” Company president Scott Colosi added: “Those people are going to call between 6pm and 8pm when we’re busiest, and our kitchens are already at pretty high capacity. I’m not sure operationally it would be the best thing for us to be advertising delivery.”

Wolverhampton gay club owners take on Ei Group pub in city: The owners of Wolverhampton gay club Gorgeous have taken on an Ei Group pub in the West Midlands city. Shaun Keasey and Ricki Wellman will reopen The Prince Albert next month as an upmarket venue following a revamp. They will use the ground and first floors of the four-storey Victorian pub, offering real ales, fine wines, cocktails and a varied food menu. It will also serve coffee, tea and snacks. Keasey told the Express & Star he hoped The Prince Albert could be part of a new “cafe culture” in Wolverhampton. An Ei Publican Partnerships spokesman added: “The pub is currently undergoing a full refurbishment and is due to open in September. Publican Shaun Keasey is looking forward to welcoming old and new customers to enjoy a quality drink in the friendly and welcoming venue.” The venue was previously operating mainly as a nightspot, attracting about 1,500 clubbers a month, but has been closed for several months. It was built in 1900 for Eley’s Stafford Brewery to replace the original Prince Albert, a small beer house dating to 1852.

Cheesecake Factory to avoid promotional deals despite like-for-like decline: The US-based Cheesecake Factory is planning to avoid promotional deals and focus on its value offerings despite reporting a like-for-like sales decline in the second quarter. The company said like-for-like sales slid 0.5% in the quarter ended 4 July, reflecting softness in the market that it had warned of in June. “We saw volatility in week-to-week sales trends indicative of uncertainty on the part of many consumers,” said David Overton, Cheesecake Factory chief executive and chairman. “We were also impacted by unfavourable weather in the East and the Midwest.” Matt Clark, Cheesecake Factory chief financial officer, said sales remained positive in half the company’s regions in the quarter. Given the challenging sales environment and an “economic-focused consumer”, Clark said Cheesecake Factory would highlight its value and portion sizes. “I don’t know that we need to do deals or promotions,” Clark added. “I think effectively communicating some of the price points we have on our new special card or the value that’s in our happy hour would be competitive enough.”

King’s Lynn-based bistro operators to start expansion by opening new pub and deli: King’s Lynn-based bistro operators Lucy and Richard Golding are to start expanding by opening a new pub and deli in the Norfolk town. The duo are reopening The Wenns, which closed two years ago, in Saturday Market Place in the autumn under an as yet to be revealed new name. The 19th century building is undergoing a makeover, with the ground floor accommodating a pub and deli with outdoor seating and the upper floors to be converted into eight self-catering apartments with views of the King’s Lynn Minster. The pub, which is being given an industrial look, is located next door to the Goldings’ existing site – Market Bistro. Lucy Golding told the Eastern Daily Press: “The quality and standard will be exactly the same but the food will be completely different – it will be a traditional pub and deli with local craft beer, ale, cocktails and lots of different gin.”

Nightclub operator closes Manchester and Malta sites: Nightclub operator AXM Group has closed its sites in Manchester and Malta. The Manchester site opened in Bloom Street in 2004 and spawned sister sites in Glasgow, Malta and Prague. They initially continued under new ownership after the death of founder Haydn Pope, who lost his fight with cancer last year, aged 49. But the Manchester and Malta clubs have now shut following the closure of the Prague site last year. The Glasgow venue remains open, reports the Manchester Evening News. The Manchester club’s Facebook page said: “We’ve made some unforgettable memories and we’re sure you have too. You can still find us in Glasgow and Haydn’s legacy will live on through the continued work of the AXM Foundation.” The foundation was set up in Pope’s honour after his death and offers grants to people in need within Greater Manchester’s LGBT community. A statement on the Malta club’s Facebook page added: “Thank you to Haydn Pope who made this all happen.”

Scottish management company plans Caribbean expansion: Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI), which manages 14 boutique hotels across Scotland, including Inverlochy Castle, Greywalls Hotel, Fasque Castle and Andy Murray’s Cromlix House Hotel, has teamed up with landowner and developer Jonathon Milne of FM Group and New Zealand real estate investor Kelly Glass of K-Group to launch The Liming. ICMI said The Liming would announce “exciting plans across the Caribbean in the coming weeks and months”. ICMI’s Malaysia-based director Dr Sin Chong Chai, managing director and hotel manager Norbert Lieder and marketing specialist John Green are leading ICMI’s venture in the Caribbean. Lieder, who spent five years managing hotels in St Lucia and St Kitts, said: “We have a track record of developing and managing profitable hotels which are known for exemplar service and attention to detail. While there are a number of great hotels across the Caribbean we believe there is a real gap in the market for a new concept of relaxation with no gimmicks or distractions – just a fabulous product and the best service on offer. Our intention is to replicate our success in Scotland, where we now manage 14 properties, across the Caribbean islands.”

Cumbrian hotel sold out of administration: The business and assets of a 27-bedroom hotel, restaurant and wedding venue in Cumbria have been sold out of administration, securing all 23 jobs. The Chequers Hotel and Restaurant in Dalton-in-Furness entered administration on 20 July, with Ben Woolrych and David Thornhill of FRP Advisory appointed joint administrators. According to FRP Advisory, the company had managed to trade through difficult conditions for a number of years although ultimately insufficient cash was generated to service the company’s debt levels under its financial structure. The company had put itself up for sale and more recently sought new investment to help refinance loans and provide working capital, but offers received for the business were insufficient to meet its obligations. Following their appointment, the administrators completed an immediate sale of the company’s business and assets. At the same time, the buyer purchased the freehold to the hotel property in a separate transaction. FRP Advisory said the sale offered the best long-term solution for the business in the interests of creditors, while ensuring ongoing trading and an uninterrupted service for its customers. Woolrych said: “This is a great result for the Chequers Hotel and Restaurant, all its staff and its array of loyal customers who come from across south Cumbria and further afield.”

East Coast Concepts appoints Carousel to deliver PR and social media as it plans expansion: Manchester-based East Coast Concepts has appointed city firm Carousel to deliver its PR and social media as it plans expansion. East Coast Concepts is opening its third Neighbourhood site, in Leeds this autumn while it is taking its Victor’s brand to Oxford. Carousel won a five-way pitch and the account will be headed by deputy managing director Rebecca Barnes and senior account manager Fran Slager. East Coast Concepts founder and chief executive James Hitchen told Prolific North: “We chose Carousel because it got us. Its ideas were exciting, bold and achievable. We are in a very important phase of our growth at East Coast Concepts and we feel Carousel is the perfect partner to help us move forward.” Barnes added: “Both Neighbourhood and Victor’s have extremely exciting times ahead and we can’t wait to be part of them.”

Foodservice provider donates 100,000 meals to feed people in need: Foodservice provider Bidfood, and its sister company Bidvest Logistics have together donated more than 100,000 meals to feed people in need since working with food charity FareShare over the past eight months. FareShare diverts surplus food that may otherwise go to waste, to charities and community groups across the UK, who then transform the products into meals to feed vulnerable people and families. Bidfood and Bidvest Logistics currently have nine of their combined 30 sites linked to FareShare and said they would be continuing to pair up with further sites in the future as part of reaching their zero food to landfill target. Bidfood supply chain and technical services director Jim Gouldie said: “We’re proud of our ethical and sustainable credentials and it made sense that we develop partnerships with charities including FareShare, to use any excess stock for the good of the communities around us.” FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell added: “It’s been a great success with the sites involved so far and we look forward to seeing how our partnership strengthens and evolves over the coming months and years.”

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