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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 11th Oct 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Heineken predicts new 'plug and pour' draught beer system could boost casual dining sector by £123m: Heineken has launched a new "plug and pour" draught beer system that it predicted could boost the casual dining sector by £123m. The company has introduced Blade, which means a freshly poured glass of beer is no longer limited to places that have space for a cellar. The machines can be set up on a counter top near a power source. Blade is then fitted with a pre-chilled keg, plugged in, switched on and pressurised before "pouring the perfect pint served at 2°C". It said the beer stays fresh for 30 days. Currently, there are 20,000 licensed food outlets in the UK that can only offer bottled beer and cider and Heineken said based on total forecasted keg sales it could add £123m to the casual dining sector. Ross Mair, Heineken commercial director for Blade UK, said: “In the on-trade, the rate of sale for draught beer is three times higher than for bottled beer, yet penetration of draught in the casual dining sector is currently only 56% as many outlets are currently unable to install a draught system due to lack of space or resource. Blade is set to change all that and enable a whole range of businesses that weren’t previously able to offer draught beer to sell it to customers. From street food vendors at a busy food festival adding value to their food proposition, to cosy, stylish cafes which are limited on space, Blade will add value to their business by delivering a brand new and exciting premium experience.” Currently, Heineken and Birra Moretti are available in eight-litre kegs, and Heineken has plans to extend the portfolio in 2018.

Industry News:

Bookings open for People and Training Conference and NITAs: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has launched the People and Training Conference, which will showcase outstanding people culture among companies within the sector. The event, organised in association with Propel Info, will take place at Bafta Piccadilly on Tuesday, 21 November. BII chairman Anthony Pender will talk about the training landscape and how it needs to change. Gareth Phillips, commercial director of the BIIAB, will set out current apprenticeship standards and the requirements of end-point assessments for employers. Daniel Davies, chief executive of CPL Training Group, will explore the competition for superior employees and the need to accumulate an arsenal to win the war for talent. Martin Dinkele, managing director of Cardinal Research, will present the highlights of exclusive research into millennials’ perceptions of working in the sector – what is attractive and what needs to change. Liz Phillips, former director of resourcing and employee relations at Mitchells & Butlers, will outline how organisations can succeed by differentiating themselves through their people. Chef Luke Thomas will give his views on creating a positive cultural experience for staff, and spotting and developing talent, based on his experience across multiple businesses and working in restaurants such as the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai. Jill Scratchard, head of human resources at Oakman Inns and Restaurants, will set out the company’s approach to staff development and the development of its training academy, Oakmanology. Marco Reick, people director at healthy eating brand Leon, will set out the company’s unique approach to promoting staff well-being and personal development. Tim Painter, human resources director at Stonegate Pub Company, will set out the company’s commitment to building a culture of internal development. Graham Briggs, apprenticeships manager at Greene King, will set out the company’s approach to recruiting and developing its apprentices. Rear admiral Simon Williams will set out the core values of the Royal Navy and how its people are trained to live them. Tickets for the conference are £50 plus VAT for operators who are BII members and BIIAB members and £150 plus VAT for operators who are non-BII members. Supplier tickets are £95 plus VAT for BII members and BIIAB members and £195 plus VAT for all other organisations. To book, email The conference will be followed in the evening by the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs) at Cafe De Paris, which will recognise companies and individuals that are undertaking the best training in the sector. Tickets for the NITAs are £150 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing

UK tourism ‘needs no trade deals’ as figures hit record high in 2017: The number of overseas tourists to the UK is forecast to reach almost 40 million during 2017, which would make it a record-breaking year, according to VisitBritain. The tourist promotion agency forecasts overseas trips to the UK will increase 6% to 39.7 million, with spending up 14% to £25.7bn this year. Britons are also holidaying at home in record numbers. British Tourist Authority chairman Steve Ridgway said tourism was now worth £127bn annually to the economy, calling the sector an “economic powerhouse” and a “job creator right across Britain”. He added tourism was one of the UK’s most successful exports and “needs no trade deals to compete globally”. The UK has become a cheaper place to visit following the fall in the value of the pound since last year’s Brexit vote. However, Ridgeway told the BBC: “Tourism is a fiercely competitive global industry and you cannot just build a strong, resilient industry on a weaker currency. We must continue to invest in developing world-class tourism products, getting Britain on the wish-list of international and domestic travellers and we must make it easy for visitors to make that trip.” During the first six months of the year there were a record 23.1 million overseas visits to the UK – up 8% on the same period in 2016 – while the figures for July topped four million for the first time, with only a slightly smaller number of visits made during August. Britain has also attracted more “staycationers”. From January to June this year, domestic overnight holidays in England rose 7% to a record 20.4 million with visitors spending £4.6bn – a rise of 17% and another record.

Live sport is ‘ultimate business driver’ for pubs: Screening live sport is the “ultimate business driver” for pubs, according to research by sports pub app MatchPint and broadcaster Sky. The companies said the vast majority (99%) of respondents to its joint survey said they would return to the same pub having watched live sport there. The study also revealed 94% of sports fans prefer the atmosphere of their local when watching live sport, with twice as many football fans preferring to watch domestic games rather than European matches at the pub. MatchPint co-founder Dominic Collingwood said: “Sport is the ultimate form of theatre – exhilarating, exasperating and unpredictable. It’s also a social leveller – fans from all backgrounds find a shared bond in the love of a team. As the heart of local community, the pub is the ultimate place to take that all in.” Sky Business managing director David Rey added: “These latest stats confirm live sport continues to play a huge part in driving footfall for many pubs.” MatchPint and Sky have released a YouTube video landlords can download to encourage sports fans to visit their pub for the next game.

ALMR backs Cable’s call for cap on business rates rises for pubs: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has backed Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable’s call for a 12.5% cap on business rates rises for pubs, stating it would be a “good first step” ahead of a “thorough rethink” of the system. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Many eating and drinking out venues have been hit hard by huge increases in their business rates bills following the revaluation, with pubs particularly at risk. The main focus of much of the ALMR’s lobbying efforts has been dedicated to highlighting this issue and pushing for a complete revamp of the business rates system in the UK. A good first step would be for the chancellor to announce a cap on business rates increases for pubs and the wider eating and drinking out sector, including restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The government would do well to listen to Vince Cable’s call for a cap, otherwise venues will continue to face massive increases in their bills, undermining investment and jobs. A cap on business rates increases can provide a sense of stability and clarity for businesses, crucial at this time of political and economic instability, before a thorough rethink of a broken and inefficient rates system that is unfit for purpose.”

Manchester Airport looks for new food and beverage retailers as part of £1bn transformation: Manchester Airport has unveiled a marketing campaign to attract new retailers and food and beverage outlets as part of its £1bn transformation programme. The “we are changing” campaign comes after construction work on terminal two started this summer at the UK’s third largest airport. The transformation programme will see terminal two more than double in size, creating 60 new units in more than 167,000 square feet of retail space. With more than 27 million passengers and continued growth, the airport is looking to fill the space with a range of new food and beverage and retail outlets. A new market area is also proposed for pop-up food stalls and smaller independent food and beverage outlets. Manchester Airport commercial director Stephen Turner said: “The transformation programme is a hugely significant investment for the airport as we look to create a facility that will give our passengers a world-class experience. As part of this, we have a chance to create a retail environment that will be memorable and engaging for our customers.” The new terminal building, which is expected to be operational by 2020, will be able to handle 45 million passengers a year, an increase of almost 20 million compared with today. 

Coffee shops and foodservice retailers join forces to develop nationwide recycling system to tackle disposable cup crisis: Coffee shops and foodservice retailers have joined forces to work on developing a nationwide recycling system to tackle the UK’s disposable cup crisis, which sees 2.5 billion thrown away each year. Fourteen companies, including Caffe Nero, Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee, Greggs, McDonald’s UK, Pret A Manger, and Starbucks, will help fund a new programme to add more than 400 more paper cup recycling facilities across the UK and drive efforts to get paper cups more widely accepted through kerbside collections. The scheme will be run by the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK). The group hopes to boost cup recycling to similar levels as drink cartons, which are collected by 92% of local authorities either through kerbside collection or recycling banks. While they are technically recyclable, the combination of cardboard and thin film plastic means cups must be sent to specialist facilities. With no nationwide recycling system in place to handle this kind of collection, the vast majority of cups in practice end up in landfill. From January all ACE UK’s 382 collection locations across the UK will have specialist cup collection points, with an extra 33 points planned for phase two of the scheme. Cups from these sites will be taken to ACE UK’s recycling facility in Halifax, reports Business Green. Meanwhile, ACE UK said it would lobby local councils to get cups included in more kerbside collections to boost at-home recycling rates. The move follows a flurry of individual efforts by coffee shop chains to cut the numbers of takeaway cups heading for landfill, including Costa offering coffee cup recycling at its UK stores.

Company News:

Ralph Findlay – openings slowdown could last beyond next year as Marston’s keeps programme ‘under review’: Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has told Propel the slowdown in new openings could last beyond next year as it keeps the programme “under review”. In its trading update, the company said it was reducing the number of pubs being opened next year from 20 to 15 and plans four fewer lodges, opening six in total “to reflect a degree of caution given the recent subdued market”. Findlay said the company would continue to acquire sites but admitted the openings slowdown could last beyond next year. He added: “It is something we will continue to keep under review. We are still seeing opportunities to buy sites and we will keep the pipeline going – it’s just a question of when we spend the capital necessary to open the pubs. We buy freehold sites rather than leasehold and 96% of our pubs are freehold giving a 12% to 13% return on capital. What is important is we are not limited to acquisitions when it comes to achieving growth. We are also now seeing the benefits of the Charles Wells brewery acquisition.” Findlay said the company had continued to be disciplined about pricing and despite rising costs the company had been able to mitigate them and was wary about passing them on to consumers. He added: “I think it depends what happens with the market generally but we are cautious about increasing prices because of the question about consumer confidence.” Findlay said the programme to move its tenants to the franchised model was nearly complete and the format was a core part of its strategy that was “here to stay”. The company has about 550 franchised sites with pubs at the top end of the market taking up to £30,000 a week. Findlay said there were no further pub disposals planned with any future sales likely to be “one-offs”. He added the company had continued to see growth in occupancy rates at its lodges and they had helped to strengthen Marston’s as a brand. Findlay said: “We are in a relatively good position as we target further growth in 2018.” Goodbody leisure analyst Brian Devitt said overall the update from Marston’s was “slightly soft”. He added: “Both managed pub divisions are running slightly below where we would have thought and the outlook does appear to be quite cautious. At first glance we expect to trim forecasts by 1% to 2% to reflect the lower openings guidance. However, given the slower top line trends, we believe ongoing risk to forecasts is to the downside along with the majority of others in the sector.”

Kent-based GB Pizza Co opens first franchise, in Manchester, plans six further sites: Kent-based neighbourhood pizza joint GB Pizza Co has opened its first franchise restaurant, in the Manchester suburb of Didsbury, with plans for six further sites. The 45-cover restaurant has launched in Lapwing Lane with room for 12 diners outside. The concept features dough made to an original recipe with homemade, slow-cooked tomato sauce and home-grown ingredients. Pizzas include mushroom and truffle salami, pear and British blue cheese, and peppers and Cheshire goat’s curd, alongside seasonal specials. The Didsbury drinks list includes locally brewed ale, cider and lager, local apple juice, and coffee roasted near Manchester. GB Pizza Co offers a stripped-back service model with no table service, plates or cutlery, and self-service wine and prosecco. The company was founded by journalist Lisa Richards and chef and food writer Rachel Seed, who initially operated from the back of a camper van until opening a bricks and mortar site in Margate in 2012. They plan to use the Didsbury site as a template to open a further six franchises in 2018/2019. The franchise model includes each franchisee sourcing their own local suppliers, deciding which charities to support, and having creative input in the design of their restaurant, ensuring each site reflects the style of the owner. The Didsbury franchise is being operated by former fashion industry buyer Grant Ashdown.

Bella Italia launches leadership programme to encourage internal career progression: Casual Dining Group-owned Bella Italia has launched a “leadership academia programme” with the aim of filling 70% of its restaurant managerial positions internally. The scheme will enable a clear career path from team member to general manager. The programme is divided into three tiered stages – Stepping Up, for staff looking to become managers and chefs to sous chefs; Emerging Leaders for sous chefs and supervisors looking to step up to head chef and assistant manager; and Future Leaders for assistant managers and head chefs looking to become general managers. Each stage has bespoke learning modules with participants required to attend external workshops away from the restaurant, with the onus on individuals driving their own learning. Bella Italia HR director Wayne Morgan said: “Attracting and retaining quality people in an ever-shrinking pool of talent is a challenge all operators currently face. We want to promote a career in hospitality and show it’s possible to work your way up from floor to management.” Bella Italia already has more than 170 employees training in the programme.

Hakassan Group closes Michelin-starred HKK to focus on global expansion: UK-based nightclub and restaurant company Hakkasan Group has closed its Michelin-starred restaurant HKK in London with immediate effect. Having originally opened in 2012, the venue has been an outlet for executive head chef Tong Chee Hwee to experiment and evolve through a series of seasonal tasting menus. Hakkasan Group said as it continued to focus on its global expansion with imminent projects in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and across Europe, Hwee and his team would be prioritising this growth and “ensuring global consistency of all brands within the Asian Luxury Collection (Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Ling Ling)”. Therefore, Hwee would be unable to dedicate as much time to HKK in London. Hwee said: “HKK has been an incredible experience for me and my team. We are immensely proud of everything we have achieved and while we are sad to see it close, we understand the business need and look forward to continued success with Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Ling Ling in new and exciting markets.”

Adil Group to open first Taco Bell site in Scotland, plans ‘double-digit’ stores in five years: The Adil Group, which operates more than 120 KFC, Burger King and Costa Coffee sites across the UK, is to open a first site for Taco Bell in Scotland, with plans for “double-digit figures over the next five years”. The debut Scottish restaurant will open in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow city centre in December. The Adil Group chief executive Raja Adil said: “We are incredibly excited to open the first Taco Bell in Scotland. We have big plans for expansion across the country, hoping to increase the number of Taco Bell stores in Scotland to double-digit figures over the next five years.” Taco Bell Europe general manager Nick Dawson added: “Glasgow is the perfect place to start our march north and we look forward to welcoming Glaswegians through our doors to experience delicious Mexican-inspired food.” Taco Bell, which is part of Yum! Brands, currently operates 18 sites in England and last week announced it would open a restaurant in York. Taco Bell has more than 6,000 restaurants across the US and continues to grow, with over 250 restaurants internationally. The Adil Group also owns and operates four hotels under its own brand, Maitrise Hotels.

London-based Cuban restaurant Cubana launches second crowdfunding campaign to fund further growth: London-based Cuban restaurant Cubana, which hit its £107,000 fund-raise target on Crowd2Fund in August in only two days, has launched a second campaign on the crowdfunding platform. Cubana is looking to raise a further £200,000 and, as with its previous campaign, the company is offering a 10% interest-paying mini-bond to fund expansion. The bond term is 36 months. So far, the campaign has raised £16,000 from 47 investors with an estimated 29 days to run. Cubana, led by Phillip Oppenheim, operates a restaurant in Waterloo. Its pitch states: “We are developing a new facility close to the forthcoming Crossrail station at Farringdon, which will have the ability to prep dishes and bake bread and pastries for several potential new sites, with a view to a steady build-up of the Cubana brand – staying close to our roots in offering great-value, original and authentic freshly prepared food and drink with a strong sustainability ethos. New Cubanas will be in high footfall areas where we can develop sales across the day and into the evening. We also have a strong focus on management. Many of our key employees have been with us for several years and we have spent the past year overhauling our financial management systems and working on costs to ensure we are a tightly run and closely controlled business – something crucial in the bar and restaurant sector and central to our expansion plans. The core bar and restaurant business we love has been growing strongly for years. Now we want to push on to grow the business with another round of funding to ensure we can entertain more people for years to come.”

Chopstix to open 75th site today: Oriental brand Chopstix will open its 75th site today (Wednesday, 11 October) at Belfast International Airport. The company is launching the outlet within Ireland’s first unmanned Emo Express fuel forecourt. The store is located beside Park and Fly in Airport Road and forms part of the new £3.5m forecourt and retail development within Belfast International Airport. Chopstix chief operating officer Max Hilton Jenvey said: “In recent times, Chopstix has become increasingly visible in the country’s high streets and motorways, however as a relatively new brand, to be selected as part of the retail offering within the first unmanned Emo Express forecourt in Ireland is very special for us, as it demonstrably underlines the increasing popularity of our brand.” Belfast International Airport managing director Graham Keddie added: "Chopstix is now a well established brand in Northern Ireland and we are delighted it is part of the food offering at the new forecourt and retail development at Belfast International Airport. The investment is most welcome and Chopstix gives more choice to those travelling through or passing by the airport."

BrewDog’s US fund-raise sees 24% increase in daily amount invested and 755% return on investment following social media campaign: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog’s Equity for Punks US fund-raise saw a 24% increase in the average daily amount invested as well as a 755% return on investment after introducing a new social media campaign. BrewDog appointed Leeds agency It Works to help amplify the number of investors for the campaign throughout its closing stages in June and July. BrewDog was seeking an agency to elevate the final 60 days of its US campaign using paid social media tactics and It Works had to devise a strategy in less than 48 hours. Using a series of metrics to target a range of audiences across the US, including lookalike audiences as well as engaged audiences, the agency implemented its paid social media campaign within the timeframe. It Works managing director Steve Pritchard told Prolific North: “Being a small agency really played into our hands as we were able to react very quickly to the brief and maintained a hands-on approach throughout the campaign. The upshot being the ongoing optimisation really helped to drive relevant traffic and conversions resulting in the campaign’s overall success.”

Carluccio’s to launch first vegetarian pop-up this month: Carluccio’s is to launch its first vegetarian pop-up this month. The Cucina Verde will be appearing on the first floor of its flagship restaurant in Garrick Street, Covent Garden, for four consecutive Mondays from 23 October. It will feature more than 20 Italian veggie and vegan dishes from founder Antonio Carluccio in collaboration with cook, food blogger and writer Anna Barnett. The Cucina Verde marks the arrival of Carluccio’s autumn/winter menu, which features a large selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Choices include crostini al funghi, sautéed mushrooms and kale in garlic and chilli on toasted ciabatta; and the zucca con verdure arrostite – roasted butternut squash and vegetables with pine nuts (served with or without goat’s cheese). Carluccio chief executive Neil Wickers said: “We have seen a huge demand for more vegetarian and vegan dishes, many from our millennial diners who are giving up or reducing their meat intake, either for environmental and/or health reasons. Our new menu firmly puts the spotlight on vegetables and the Cucina Verde has been created to further highlight the variety of delicious meat-free dishes we now have on offer across all our restaurants every day.”

UK’s first permanent dedicated shufflebard bar set to open in Shoreditch: The UK’s first permanent dedicated shuffleboard bar concept is set to open in Shoreditch, east London. London Shuffle Club is launching The Little Shuffle Club in Ebor Street. As well as shuffleboard, the bar will offer a range of craft beer, wine, cocktails and American-inspired pizza from food partner Voodoo Rays as disco tunes are played. The Little Shuffle Club follows on from two sell-out pop-up seasons of The London Shuffle Club, which featured both deck and table shuffleboard. The 60-capacity venue will have two classic shuffleboard tables and one snapback table, which The London Shuffle Club said was the first of its kind in the country. In table shuffleboard, players push metal-and-plastic weighted pucks down a long and smooth wooden table into a scoring area at the opposite end of the table. Shooting is performed with the hand directly, as opposed to deck shuffleboard, where cue sticks are used. Shuffleboard originated on cruise ships at the beginning of the 20th century as a popular on-deck activity and similar bar concepts have been opened in Brooklyn and Miami in the US. 

Galway Bay Brewery to take over Belfast bar for first UK site as Brewbot goes bust: Galway Bay Brewery, which operates 12 pubs in the Republic of Ireland, is to take over Belfast bar Brewbot for its first UK site. The Ormeau Road bar is owned by technology company Brewbot, which is due to hear a winding-up petition brought against it by HMRC on Thursday (12 October), the Belfast Telegraph reports. Brewbot intended selling its wood and stainless steel “smart” beer-making machines across the globe but following months of problems, the business could now close completely. The business has been going through tough times in the past 12 months, with the workforce now largely consisting of just the company’s bar staff. The company operated its head office from the pub’s top floor. The business began after raising more than £114,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. It also secured £1m from a range of investors as part of a round of seed funding and £82,000 in funding from Invest NI. Brewbot’s concept centred on making the brewing process easier via a smartphone app. Galway Bay Brewery is one of Ireland’s leading craft beer brewers. Its bars also stock a large range of beers from around the world. It is thought staff at the Belfast bar will be retained.

G1 Group launches apprenticeship programme: Scotland’s biggest managed operator G1 Group has launched its own modern apprenticeship (MA) programme, which will give young adults a chance to develop their skills and gain a recognised qualification. The programme can be completed in any of the company’s 50-plus bars, restaurants, casinos and hotels across Scotland. Courses range from five to 12 months, with all those who complete the qualification gaining an SVQ. G1 Group head of talent and development Rachel James said: “We believe it is extremely important we provide all employees with as many opportunities as possible to achieve their potential – access to additional qualifications and training play a vital role in this. Our MA programme will enable us to develop and direct those young people with an interest in a career in the food and drinks industry. We employ more than 1,800 individuals across Scotland. Through this programme we are giving young people a chance to harness their potential.” Last week, G1 Group gave pupils at two Glasgow schools a taste of working in hospitality, with candidates coached by G1’s HR team in preparation for interviews and successful applicants going on to train at the company’s Corinthian Club.

Luxury Family Hotels management team buys brand and five-property portfolio: The management team of south west-based Luxury Family Hotels and its backers have acquired the brand and five of its hotels from investment firm Patron Capital. The hotels are Woolley Grange in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire; New Park Manor in Brockenhurst, Hampshire; Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth, Dorset; Fowey Hall in Cornwall; and The Ickworth, a manor set in 1,800 acres of parkland near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. Patron Capital, which focuses on property-backed investments, has retained Thornbury Castle Hotel in Bristol, which is said to be the only Tudor castle hotel in the country. Luxury Family Hotels chief executive Nigel Chapman told Insider Media: “These are exciting times for Luxury Family Hotels and we look forward to further developing and enhancing our collection of individual family hotels. In the meantime it is very much business as usual, with the five hotel teams preparing for a busy last quarter of 2017.” Patron Capital partner and investment director Camil Yazbeck added: “We believe in backing management teams and, having developed the Luxury Family Hotels brand, invested in the hotels and staff, and improved the estate, we are pleased to sell this portfolio of five hotels.”

Plans for second floating restaurant in Lincoln given go-ahead by government inspector: Plans for a second floating restaurant on the Brayford in Lincoln have been given the go-ahead by a government inspector. Permission has been granted by the planning inspectorate for the £1m building, which would sit on stilts, in a similar fashion to the city’s Wagamama restaurant, in place of a former viewing platform. It comes after the City of Lincoln Council refused the scheme in September last year, stating the design would not be in keeping with the area and views would be harmed, reports the Lincolnite. The Brayford Trust and Investors in Lincoln, which are behind the plans, made an appeal to the secretary of state against the council’s decision in June. Chief executive of the trust David Rossington argued at the time the objective of the project was to preserve the Brayford, with income from the business used to maintain the pool. He added the trust faced the potential pulling of the funding for the project if permission was not granted.

Rochelle Canteen opens second London site: Rochelle Canteen, founded by Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold, has opened its second London site. The concept, which launched in Shoreditch in 2006, has opened a new cafe, bar and restaurant at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on The Mall. Rochelle Bar & Canteen offers a daily changing menu to reflect the brand’s “honest, classic cooking style”. Head chef at the venue is Ben Coombs, while Fin Spiteri has designed the drinks list and is in charge of the bar and front of house. The new menu includes pumpkin soup, and pheasant and trotter pies.

ETM Group reopens Chelsea bar and restaurant with new look and menu: ETM Group, the 14-strong gastro-pub operator led by brothers Ed and Tom Martin, has reopened its Chelsea bar and restaurant The Botanist with a new look and menu. The company closed the Sloane Square site for ten weeks for the extensive refurbishment. Following significant investment, the venue, which has two distinct spaces, features a new look and offers an all-day brasserie-style menu of “refined” modern European dishes from newly appointed executive chef Ameya Bhalekar. There is a strong focus on champagne, wine and botanical cocktails as well as a range of craft and premium beers and ciders, bottled or on tap. The new design features a focal 45-seater bar complete with expansive brass overhead display. A colour palette of navy, green and rose has been introduced, while the site’s heritage is acknowledged through Sir Hans Sloane-inspired prints and bespoke botanical tiles.

Saltaire Brewery invests more than £1m to double brewing capacity: West Yorkshire-based Saltaire Brewery has invested more than £1m in a new brew kit, which has doubled its brewing capacity to more than 100,000 pints per week. The investment follows continued and growing demand for Saltaire beer, particularly from Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Co-op, which have increased distribution both in terms of new lines listed and increased store availability. Saltaire Brewery managing director Ewen Gordon told The Business Desk: “We’ve enjoyed year-on-year growth since the business was founded 12 years ago and the rise in the popularity of craft beer has almost certainly played a significant part of that. The new brew kit will be instrumental in allowing us to grow more ambitiously over the next year, we’ve got our sights set on a number of other significant developments and additions to the business, which will also support our growth plans and enable us to get our beer out there to more and more people.” The brewery, which was founded in 2005 and sits next to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Saltaire Village, has developed more than 60 different beers to date.

Rockfish co-founder Mitch Tonks hands back menu development for Pullman services to Great Western Railway: South Devon multi-site operator and chef Mitch Tonks, the co-founder of seafood restaurant group Rockfish, has handed back the menu development for Great Western Railway’s (GWR) Pullman services to the train operator. GWR will unveil a new menu in the coming weeks following the end of the five-year partnership with Tonks. Tonks said: “It has been a great experience working with the team at GWR and I am delighted that, together, we have really progressed the Pullman offer by sourcing local ingredients from farms and fisheries on the GWR routes so that guests look out over the sea and land from where their meal was from.” GWR sales and marketing director Phil Delaney added: “Mitch has been a tireless advocate of the Pullman over the years, and it wouldn’t be where it is today without his knowledge, guidance and passion. It is a passion that is felt by every member of Pullman team and I know they are excited about taking our unique Pullman product forward.”

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