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Tue 19th Sep 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Nearly nine out of ten food outlets ‘broadly compliant’ with food safety law: Nearly nine out of ten food outlets in the UK are “broadly compliant” with food safety law, new data from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has shown. The data revealed 89% of the 634,584 businesses in the UK – including 460,224 restaurants or caterers – met the grade, which is equivalent to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme rating of three – “generally satisfactory” – or better. In total, 6% of food outlets were ranked “unsatisfactory” or “improvements necessary”, while 5% of premises, including 24,042 restaurants and caterers, have yet to be rated by local authorities. There was a decrease in the number of planned interventions for food standards by local authorities, which covers areas such as authenticity and food fraud, while the percentage achieved of due food hygiene interventions, which cover food safety, was 85% compared with 84% last year. There was a 1.4% decrease in formal food hygiene enforcement actions, with 6,543 served by local authorities, while the number of premises subject to written warnings was down 0.1% to 161,845. There was a 62% increase in formal food standards enforcement actions (547) and a 0.8% increase in the number of businesses subject to written warnings to 23,044, compared with 22,853 the previous year. The total number of investigated complaints over the safety and quality of food and the hygiene standards of food businesses increased by 23.5%. The number of hygiene complaints investigated rose 31.7% to 73,806, while standards complaints investigated fell 12.2% to 11,414. FSA director of regulatory delivery Nina Purcell said: “It is encouraging that local authorities are continuing to target their activities at food businesses where food safety risks are the highest or where food fraud is more likely. But the decrease in planned interventions for food standards is concerning and, while hygiene interventions are increasing, there remains a 15% shortfall. We’re going to use this enforcement data, along with other intelligence, to identify and target underperforming local authorities so we can work with them to secure improvements or tackle any particular problems they may have.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Fuller’s Jonathan Swaine to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 1 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Jonathan Swaine, managing director of Fuller’s Inns, will set out how the company has created a premium pub estate underpinned by service and training. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Fewer than one in ten British diners like to share their restaurant food: Despite the continued rise of sharing plates at UK restaurants, fewer than one in ten Britons would willingly share food from their plate, according to a new report. Respondents to a poll of 5,000 adults by BBC Good Food found sharing food more acceptable when dining with a partner (25%) or in a large group (15%) but two-fifths (40%) like to keep their food entirely to themselves. The response was broadly the same across the age range, with only 12% of millennials deliberately ordering shareable foods when dining, with almost one-third (31%) saying they would rather not share food at all. The report also revealed traditional tastes are making a comeback in the UK, with the top five “retro foods” listed as chicken kiev (43%), trifle (42%), scotch eggs (40%), rice pudding (39%) and prawn cocktail (33%). The study also found the majority of millennials have been unaffected by the biggest British food trends of 2017, with fewer than half (41%) having tried seaweed, cauliflower rice or courgetti – a figure rising to more than half (54%) for other age ranges. BBC Good Food editor-in-chief Christine Hayes said: “Even though we are keen on sharing photos of what we’re eating – 20% have posted a picture of food on social media – we’re committed to keeping what’s on our plate to ourselves. Are we witnessing a backlash against the proliferation of small plates so popular on recent, tapas-style menus designed to share? Perhaps we’re too polite to take the last taco or don’t like the thought of double-dipping.”

British beer exports pass one billion-pint milestone: Exports of British beer brought a £600m boost to the economy last year, with one billion pints shipped around the world, new figures have revealed. More than 500 breweries have opened in the past year to meet the growing demand for a British pint, with shipments made to a record 121 countries, including brewing powerhouses Australia and Germany. A further 2,000 beer brands, including Sheffield’s first craft lager and Arkell’s first flavoured beer range, also launched – the highest number of new beer on the market for more than a decade. To build on this momentum, the UK government is connecting some of the country’s best craft beers with buyers from across the US and Europe. Food minister George Eustice told Insider Media: “The UK’s beer industry has a lot to celebrate – our established breweries now export to more countries than ever before, with bottles of British beer on shelves as far as Japan and New Zealand. The craft beer boom in particular has secured our position at the forefront of the industry and made us a first choice for beer lovers the world over – with major retailers and supermarkets now stocking our smaller, unique brands over global big hitters.”

Best Bar None invites award scheme entries: Best Bar None, the Home Office-supported community safety programme operated by pubs and bars in the UK, is inviting entries for this year’s Best Bar None Awards. Prize money of more than £5,000 will be awarded to those who demonstrate the positive impact Best Bar None has had in their local area. The three categories are Best Overall Scheme, Best New Scheme, and Most Innovative Scheme. There will also be a special Co-ordinators Award. Applications are open until Saturday, 11 November, with awards being handed out at a ceremony at the House of Lords on Monday, 5 February. National co-ordinator Mick McConnell said: “Our awards programme seeks to identify those who are leading the field in outstanding partnership performance and where a positive difference is being made within communities.” To enter, email jade.buckland@bestbarnone.com

Company News:

Pret A Manger to open third Veggie site: Pret A Manger is to open its third Veggie site, Propel has learned. The company will open the venue at an undisclosed location in London next month. A spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased to confirm our third Veggie Pret will be opening in London next month. More information will be provided in the next couple of weeks.” Pret launched the concept in Soho in June last year. It was originally meant to operate as a month-long pop-up but was made permanent following huge demand, with sales at the store in Broadwick Street jumping 70% year-on-year. The company opened its second site in Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, in April, with an additional 20 items on the menu including vegan macaroni cheese. This summer, Pret launched a “green fridge” trial at stores across the UK, with fridges containing vegan and vegetarian food only. Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee said at the time: “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?”

Everyman raises £17m through share placing for additional sites: Everyman Cinemas has raised £17m via a placing of ten million new ordinary shares at the price of 170p per share to fund additional sites. The company said the shares have been conditionally placed by Cenkos Securities as agent for the company, with institutional and other investors. Everyman said the placing, which was oversubscribed, was undertaken as the directors believe there are “significant opportunities for more Everyman venues in the UK”. The company stated: “The proceeds of the placing will be used to finance additional cinema openings above the company’s existing plans, while maintaining debt leverage at a prudent level. Directors and related parties are subscribing for 3,354,874 ordinary shares as part of the proposed placing, for a total value of £5.7m. A new long-term incentive plan has been introduced to strengthen the company’s ability to attract and retain key senior executives.” Chief executive Crispin Lilly added: “We are delighted by the strong level of support we have received from investors as part of this fund-raising. The funds raised from this placing will allow us to accelerate the company’s growth plans by financing additional cinema openings in 2019 and beyond, creating significant further value for shareholders.”

Downing invests £5m to support transformation of Old Bishop’s Palace in Chester: VCT and EIS funds managed by Downing LLP have invested £5m to support Exclusive Events Venues (EEV) to acquire and redevelop Chester’s Old Bishop’s Palace into an exclusive-use wedding and events venue. The 18th century, grade II-listed mansion is the former residence of the Bishop of Chester and offers views across the River Dee. The currently vacant building is expected to start hosting events this autumn before undergoing an extensive refurbishment in early 2018. The site will relaunch as an exclusive-use wedding venue including a function room with views of the city walls and Roman gardens. EEV is working with Historic England and Chester Council to ensure refurbishments are sensitive to the building’s history. Wedding venue operator Artemis Venue Services co-invested with Downing-managed funds and will provide EEV with operational expertise. EEV founder Simon Matthews-Williams said: “Downing has been a true partner in this investment, providing the strategic and financial support to help us acquire such a fantastic, historic property in the heart of Chester. We are delighted to work with them and Artemis in bringing Old Bishop’s Palace back to the public as an exclusive-use wedding venue.” Downing investment manager David Martin Smith added: “Wedding venues provide a fantastic alternative use for properties with character, which are often unsuited to other leisure offerings. The highly cash-generative business model makes it an attractive sector for our investors.”

Former Drake & Morgan head helps Exhibit expansion with second south London site: South London-based bar and restaurant concept The Exhibit has opened its second site, in Streatham. Exhibit B is the brainchild of Lisa Loebenberg – former Drake & Morgan head of marketing – and the Weatherhead brothers – the original creators of The Exhibit in Balham 17 years ago. The new venue in Streatham Road has tailored its offering to its environs, with everything sourced locally. With plans for more South London sites, the second bar will be used as a template for others to join the group in the coming years. Loebenberg said: “Every site must feel like a natural fit for its area in terms of decor, beverages, food and events. We’re all about keeping it local, no matter how much we expand. Exhibits should always be somewhere our neighbours want to come to, whether they’ve been living in the area for two months or 20 years. Our strapline is a ‘youth club for adults’ and that, too, will remain at the heart of everywhere we open.” Exhibit B offers a 1970s-meets-warehouse vibe that features retro Tube fabric, a multi-coloured “light-wall” and a signature oversized fish tank. The seasonal, locally sourced menu includes Sriracha wings, salt beef croquettes, goat curry, coconut-battered fish and chips, and all-vegan black bean and kale burger. The drinks list includes cocktails, beer and spirits. Entertainment has been curated with Streatham’s diverse mix of drinkers in mind, with south London DJs, local live musicians and neighbourhood drag acts joining experts, hosts and talkers from the postcode.

Alchemist to open £1.5m Oxford site in November for 12th venue: The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, is to open its £1.5m Oxford site in November. Located in the new £440m Westgate shopping centre, the venue will span more than 4,600 square feet and create 75 jobs, with 90% of roles filled by staff who will work for the company for the first time. The Alchemist, which was named “best company to work for” by the Sunday Times, will hold two recruitment days next week for management, kitchen and front-of-house roles. Alchemist staff are encouraged to take part in the company’s Currency of Kindness initiative, which allows them to donate time to local causes during working hours while still being paid. Managing director Simon Potts said: “We are delighted to be opening our 12th venue in the beautiful city of Oxford as we continue our busy acquisition drive, which has seen three openings over the last three months. Oxford is enjoying a real renaissance and we can’t wait to be a part of it.” Earlier this month, The Alchemist opened its 11th site, at MediaCityUK in Salford. Potts previously told Propel the company plans to focus on expansion in London in 2018 as it looks to eventually build an estate of up to 50 UK sites.

Pieminister to open Sheffield city centre restaurant for seventh site: Bristol-based Pieminister is to open its seventh specialist restaurant, this time in Sheffield city centre. The 50-cover venue will launch in Division Street this month or in October at a unit formerly occupied by Nosh cafe. As well as embracing “everything pie”, the restaurant will offer local beer, cider, wine, coffee and music, The Star reports. The menu will feature more than a dozen gourmet pies, ranging from Moo (classic steak and ale), to Deer Stalker (venison), and vegetarian options such as Feta Attraction. Sides will include traditional mash and mushy peas. Brothers-in-law Jon Simon and Tristan Hogg launched Pieminister in 2003. The company operates two restaurants in Bristol and others in Cardiff, Leeds and Nottingham, opening its first Midlands site, in Birmingham city centre, in May for a sixth site. Pieminister also operates dedicated kitchens at 16 pubs across the UK. Last year, the company said it was eyeing 30 restaurants by 2020 after securing a £1.4m finance package from HSBC to support expansion plans.

Giggling Squid to open Bath restaurant in November: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, is to continue its rapid expansion by opening a restaurant in Bath next month. The venue, which will be beside a new casino in Saw Close, was due to open this month but will now launch in early November following delays to building work. The 150-cover restaurant will be housed in an 18th century former school that used to house Prezzo’s Tex Mex brand Chimichanga and will also feature a terrace that will seat a further 40 diners. Giggling Squid’s new restaurant is next to the £19m casino development that will house restaurants from Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi and better burger brand Byron alongside a 150-bedroom Z Hotel. Giggling Squid currently trades from 21 sites, with further openings in the pipeline at Windsor, Cheltenham and Wimbledon Village, the brand’s first London site. In June, the company appointed Mark Priest as finance director to assist in the company’s “next phase of growth”. Owned by Thai-born Pranee Laurillard and husband Andrew, Giggling Squid took a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to accelerate growth plans. Founded in the basement of a tiny fisherman’s cottage, now Giggling Squid’s Brighton restaurant, the couple opened their first site in Hove in 2009.

San Carlo Group to launch cafe next month for second site at Birmingham Selfridges: Italian restaurant group San Carlo is to open its second site in Birmingham’s Selfridges. Last month, it was announced San Carlo would open its second Fumo restaurant in the city on the top floor of Selfridges at the end of October, replacing Searcys Balcony Bar and Brasserie, following a £1m investment. Now San Carlo Group will open a cafe at a former Starbucks site on the ground floor of the Bullring’s flagship department store. The new venue will also open in October. San Carlo operates a Gran Cafe at Selfridges in Manchester, which was recently awarded Les Routiers Cafe of the Year. The brand distinguishes itself from San Carlo restaurants by offering informal dining in a chic interior with marble tables and pale-blue leather seating. Dishes include full English breakfast and brunch, burgers, fish cakes, smoothies and desserts, the Birmingham Mail reports. Family-owned and run San Carlo Group was founded in Birmingham by former hairdresser Carlo Distefano. The company currently 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 international sites in Qatar, Bahrain and Bangkok.

Goodlife Projects to launch Italian concept Passo in Old Street: Goodlife Projects, the company behind Foley’s restaurant in Fitzrovia, is to launch Italian concept Passo in Old Street, London. Passo will offer authentic Italian cuisine daily from 7am to midnight. Head chef Massimo Laquinoto, who trained in Sicily’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Locando Don Serafino, will be joined in the kitchen by executive chef Joe Hill. The pair worked together at London members’ club Shoreditch House. Passo is due to open in City Road in November offering a variety of small and larger plates and featuring a large outdoors space designed for year-round use. Passo will feature large tables, an open kitchen, a marble-topped bar and a chef’s table, Hot Dinners reports. The Goodlife team, which is co-led by Rum Kitchen founders Jonny Boud and Alex Potter, launched Foley’s in Fitzrovia in June 2016. 

Kaspa’s to open Weston-super-Mare restaurant this week: Dessert parlour brand Kaspa’s is to open a site in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, this week. The restaurant will open in Regent Street offering the brand’s menu of shakes, smoothies, cakes and crepes. Dishes, which are also available to take away, include bubblelicious sundaes, mango mania sundaes, white choc indulgence waffles, strawberry indulge crepes, and After Eight milkshakes. For healthier options, it also offers protein shakes and gluten-free desserts. Kaspa’s currently has 43 sites with another 22 listed on its website as “opening soon”.

London-based Spanish restaurant Carmona Tapas Bar to relaunch this week with new look and menu: London-based Spanish restaurant Carmona Tapas Bar will relaunch this week with a new look and menu. The restaurant in Watling Street will reopen on Wednesday (20 September). Situated on the lower ground floor, Carmona will seat up to 100 guests. The restaurant will offer a mixture of banquette and rustic wooden seating. The decor will feature flashes of blue to evoke Carmona’s Mediterranean heritage, tiled walls and wooden flooring. It will have a succinct menu made for sharing, with tapas dishes centred on family recipes, including dishes such as gambas al ajillo (sautéed king prawns with garlic), morcilla Espanola de burgos (Spanish black pudding with house salad) and croquetas de jamon serrano (cured ham croquettes). Main dishes and salads, which can also be shared, will feature pollo carmona (bacon-wrapped chicken breast stuffed with spinach, brie and mushroom) and la cabrita (lettuce with goat’s cheese, orange honey and pumpkin seeds). There will also be an open bar with high seating serving cocktails such as the Lychee Margarita and Passionfruit and Ginger Caipirinha.

Shake Shack launches debut cookbook: Shake Shack, which started as a humble hotdog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park and has grown to more than 140 restaurants in 12 countries, has launched its debut cookbook. Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories has been written by chief executive Randy Garutti and culinary director Mark Rosati, and offers an “insider peek” into the people, places and business lessons learned along the way. Each chapter focuses on a main menu item, including burgers, fries, shakes and hotdogs, as well as how to make your own ShackBurger and Shack snacks at home. Alongside 70 recipes, there are also insights into the London cuisine that helped shape Shake Shack’s restaurants in the UK. Earlier this month, the company revealed it would open its first site in mainland China as it steps up expansion plans in Asia. The company will make its Hong Kong debut next year and plans to open 25 sites in Shanghai and east China by 2028. Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories will go on sale on Thursday, 5 October.

Middlesbrough-based multi-site operator to open Teeside’s first restaurant featuring live lobster tanks: Middlesbrough-based multi-site operator Matthew Saul is set to open Teeside’s first restaurant to feature live lobster tanks. Saul, who operates the Twisted Lip bar, Roast takeaway and micro-pub Dr Phil’s in the Teeside town, will open seafood restaurant, cafe and bar Vine in Roman Road on the site of a former carpet shop. Saul has hired Sean Calliste, who was mentored by Gordon Ramsay, as head chef, with the opening creating 20 jobs in total. As well as seafood, the evening menu will feature modern-British, Mediterranean and Asian-fusion dishes. Vine will also offer lunch, coffee, afternoon tea and weekend brunch, while the drinks list will feature 16 craft ales, cocktails and wine. Saul told Gazette Live: “I wanted the building before I bought The Twisted Lip. People in this town want good food, and we’re excited about this. It’s the largest project we’ve done – we wanted to bring something different to Middlesbrough.”

Huddersfield-based chef entrepreneur submits plans to open site for gourmet burger concept: Huddersfield-based chef entrepreneur Eric Paxman has submitted plans to open a second site for his gourmet burger concept Pax Burger. Paxman has applied to Kirklees Council to convert a former Yorkshire Building Society branch in Huddersfield Road, Mirfield. The venue would feature a restaurant with seating for 32 diners along with a central bar, reports the Huddersfield Examiner. The first Pax Burger opened in the Huddersfield suburb of Lindley in February last year. Paxman, who trained under celebrity chef Marco Pierre White at L’escargot in London and Australian chef Bill Grainger in Sydney, also runs upmarket restaurant Eric’s in Lindley, which he opened in 2010 and is listed in the current Michelin Guide.

Hull-based pub operators to launch coffee shop concept: Hull-based Shoot The Bull, which owns The Old House pub and restaurant in Scale Lane, is to launch a coffee shop concept. Riverhouse Coffee Co will open in neighbouring disused office space in early October. The venue will seat 20 customers and also offer a grab-and-go service, with coffee supplied by Hull-based The Blending Room. Shoot The Bull owner Chris Harrison told Hull Daily Mail: “We’ve got The Old House, two street food trucks and our next venture will be inside Trinity Market. We will have packs of our own blended coffee for sale in the shop so people can take it home with them. A fantastic pastry chef has joined our team so we will be making our own croissants and pastries as well as light bites and small lunches. We will be unlicensed because I want it to have a community feel. Staff will come round and top up people’s coffee as they sit and read the paper, while office workers can come in and grab a drink and a bite to eat on their way to and from work.”

London Beer Week director and bar consultant launch vegetarian restaurant concept in London: Ali Dedianko, creative director of London Beer Week, and Joe Stokoe, director of bar consultancy Heads, Hearts & Tails, have launched vegetarian concept Ceremony in Tufnell Park. The 40-cover restaurant has opened in Fortess Road at the former site of Fortess Tandoori, which closed after 36 years when the owner retired. Ceremony offers a menu of reimagined British classics and also offers a bar and garden area. Dedianko and Stokoe told Hot Dinners: “Ceremony features delicious food that happens to not have meat – sandal-wearers beware, this isn’t your usual vegetarian restaurant.”

Escape Hunt identifies eight sites in UK ahead of launch: Escape room company Escape Hunt, which is headed by former Pret A Manger executive Richard Harpham, has identified eight sites in the UK ahead of its launch in the region. The company reported a pre-tax loss of £1.1m for the six months to 30 June 2017, which was “in line with our expectations and included transaction costs of £0.9m”. The results include only two months of trading of the Escape Hunt business following the acquisition of Experiential Ventures for £12m in May. Ebitda of the Escape Hunt business for the two months was £54,100 on revenue of £193,000, a margin of 28%. The Escape Hunt share of franchisees’ revenue increased from £84,500 in the same two months of 2016 to £118,000 in 2017 – an increase of 40% on the prior year. Escape Hunt had net cash of £12.4m at the end of the period. Harpham said: “In a short space of time we have identified eight sites in the UK where leases are in the process of completion, and with a strong pipeline of sites for next year. At the same time, we have been reviewing and improving the process of game design and implementation to ensure franchisee and owner-operated sites can be opened as smoothly as possible. In order to mitigate risk, the completion and fit-out of sites will be carefully staged. Our franchisee activity continues to develop, with 45 franchise sites now open and four more due to open in the near future. Since we acquired the business four months ago, our expectations of the market are being confirmed and we remain confident over the opportunities for the business. Given our ambitious owner-operated plans in the UK, the board has developed a sequentially planned roll-out programme to manage risk and ensure returns are maximised.” The company stated: “The management team is focused on acquiring new sites across the UK and preparing for their opening by designing the best-quality games offering in this sector. We see considerable opportunities to develop the Escape Hunt brand over the next few years.”

Bleak House hotel that inspired Dickens novels on market for £3m: A hotel said to have inspired at least two of Charles Dickens’ novels has gone on the market off a guide price of £3m. Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent, has been brought to market by agents Christie & Co. The grade II-listed mansion house was one of Dickens’ favourite lodging houses during the summer months and where he wrote David Copperfield. Dickens also wrote Bleak House, which was published in 1853, inspired by the property. The hotel is in one of the most prominent positions in Broadstairs and overlooks the town, beach and sea. It is now a seven-bedroom, five-star guesthouse and wedding venue, featuring two licensed rooms for ceremonies and a restaurant/tea room. As a function venue, the property can hold up to 65 seated guests, buffet for up to 120 and up to 200 in a marquee. Christie & Co director Andrew Moore told Hotel Owner: “This is a fantastic opportunity to buy what must be one of the most historic properties associated with Charles Dickens and, as such, only adds to its further interest as a business opportunity for a hands-on owner.”

R&B opens Isle of Raasay’s first whisky distillery: R&B Distillers has opened the first whisky distillery on the Hebridean island of Raasay, with the first single-blend scotch ready to drink in 2020. ABIR architects has transformed a disused hotel on the island into the Isle of Raasay Distillery, which began distilling on Saturday (16 September). A visitors’ centre will also open next month, alongside accommodation for members of the company’s whisky-drinking club Na Tùsairean. The distillery features two copper stills sourced from Tuscany and will produce about 150,000 bottles of scotch a year. The independently owned and operated venture will generate employment for up to 10% of island residents. R&B, which stands for Raasay and Borders, was founded by Alasdair Day and Bill Dobbie. Visitor experience manager Iain Hector-Ross said: “It may only be 14 miles long and just three miles across at its widest point but Raasay is an ideal place for making whisky. Fertile soils for growing barley and an abundance of water, or ‘uisge’ in Scots Gaelic, provide perfect conditions.”

Plans submitted to build Premier Inn on Anglesey: Plans have been submitted to build a Premier Inn on Anglesey. Whitbread signed a lease agreement with development company Conygar Investment for an 80-bedroom hotel on land in Holyhead in July. Plans have now been submitted to Anglesey Council to build the £4m hotel, with an associated restaurant, bar and 84 parking spaces, at Parc Cybi. The design and access statement said: “The plan recognises tourism as a key driver in the island’s economy and the proposed development will serve to support and develop this sector. Visitors staying overnight will have an additional positive impact on the local economy.” The developers also believe the hotel could house workers for the proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant, 13 miles away at Cemaes.

Dalata acquires 33 additional suites at Dublin hotel for €8.58m: Ireland’s largest hotel operator Dalata has acquired the long leasehold interest of 33 suites in the Clarion Hotel Liffey Valley in Dublin for a consideration of €8.58m. Earlier this month, Dalata completed the core acquisition of the hotel, incorporating 158 bedrooms, leisure centre, meeting rooms, reception, bar, restaurant, car park and two vacant retail units. Dalata acquired the property from US fund Colony Capital and intends to rebrand it as a Clayton Hotel. It has now entered into an agreement with Martin Ferris as receiver to acquire the long leasehold interest of a further 33 suites, the equivalent of 99 rooms. The deal means Dalata will own and operate 257 of the 352 bedrooms at the hotel. Deputy chief executive for business development and finance Dermot Crowley said: “We are delighted to acquire these additional bedrooms so quickly after the purchase of the core hotel and are very excited about the potential of the hotel under the Clayton brand.”

BaxterStorey welcomes record numbers to graduate programme: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has welcomed a record number of graduates to its Momentum programme. A total of 20 young professionals, selected from more than 550 original applications, have started the nine-month scheme with the company. The programme will see graduates exposed to all areas of the business with a combination of on-the-job training, mentoring and classroom coaching. This year’s programme has seen the graduates take on roles in operations, sustainability and supply chain. BaxterStorey head of skills and development Graham Eveleigh said: “The increasing popularity of our graduate programme is reflected in the variety of roles on offer alongside the prospect of real responsibility and future promotion. With our graduates joining from all across the UK, our training academies are renowned for their tailor-made programmes, producing some of the most acclaimed and skilled professionals in the hospitality sector.”

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