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Tue 5th Dec 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Optimism dips among sector leaders, more than two-thirds increase menu prices as costs soar: Optimism among leaders in the eating and drinking out sectors has been substantially dented since the start of the year, CGA’s latest Business Confidence Survey has revealed. The survey found only 30% of leaders of restaurant, pub, bar and coffee shop groups are optimistic about general market prospects for the next 12 months – down from 47% in the first quarter of 2017. Optimism about prospects for their own businesses has followed a similar trajectory, falling from 68% in the first quarter to 52% in this latest survey. More than two-thirds (69%) of leaders said their business had increased menu prices during the past quarter in light of soaring costs. The research, based on responses from more than 100 senior executives across the sector, including big corporates and small entrepreneurial operators, also found a third (32%) of leaders admitted their business’ performance had been below expectations in the past six months – down 5% from May’s survey. The latest Business Confidence Survey found optimism is unlikely to increase in the short term, with more than half (57%) of leaders concerned about consumer confidence during the next six months – although only one in eight (12.2%) are pessimistic about their own business’ prospects for the next year. The research revealed some more positive trends, including evidence from the CGA BrandTrack survey that consumers eat out just as often as they did four years ago – with frequency among 18 to 44-year-olds at a four-year high. Meanwhile, 71% of leaders said the decision to leave the EU had a negative impact on their business, with only 3% citing a positive impact. More than three-quarters of leaders said increasing costs of raw materials (79%) and rates (78%) had negatively affected their business. The new figures chime with other CGA research that indicates tough trading conditions. The Coffer Peach Business Tracker revealed like-for-like sales at leading managed pub and restaurant chains had risen by only 1.3% during the past 12 months, while the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index demonstrated sustained rises in food costs during 2017. Property and people costs have also increased this year. CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “Our Business Confidence Survey is the clearest indication yet of the trials leaders of out-of-home eating and drinking face. With food, property and people costs all rising, consumer confidence softening, competition intensifying and Brexit casting a long shadow over the future, operators are enduring something of a perfect storm of challenges. But this is a creative and resilient sector and while leaders’ optimism has been dented this year, they will be rolling up their sleeves and fighting hard for growth in 2018.”

Industry News:

New speakers added for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator, three tickets for two offer available: New speakers have been announced for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator, the most comprehensive marketing conference the sector has seen. Propel will stage the two-day event in partnership with Think Hospitality on Wednesday, 17 January and Thursday, 18 January at One Moorgate Place in London. An array of marketers from agencies and early-stage, growing and rejuvenating brands will take to the stage to share their strategies and winning tactics to give attendees clear takeaways to build their own brand and marketing going into 2018. Speakers will include Jamie Campbell, business unit director at CGA, who will set the scene regarding the latest industry consumer and market place insights while sharing emerging eating and drinking out trends. Maurice Abboudi, sector investor and executive director of K10, will be part of the Restaurant of the Future panel, bringing his experience of developing new brands and operating successful restaurants. For full details, click here. Prices for two days are £525 plus VAT for operators and £795 plus VAT for suppliers. Companies buying two tickets will receive a third one free. A one-day rate of £345 plus VAT is available to operators only. For more information and to book, call Jo Charity on 01444 810304 or email jo.charity@propelinfo.com or Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Pubs and restaurants see double-digit growth in November as consumer spending falls in real terms for second consecutive month: Pubs and restaurants saw double-digit growth in November as consumer spending fell in real terms for the second consecutive month, according to new data. The findings by Barclaycard, which sees almost half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, revealed consumer spending grew 2.8% year-on-year in November – below the annual rate of inflation of 3% and maintaining the muted levels seen throughout the second half of 2017. Brits opted to spend on leisure time with friends and family as the nights drew in, helping pubs (11%) and restaurants (12.1%) return to levels seen earlier this year after a brief slowdown in the three months to October. This pushed up entertainment spending to 9.5%, its best performance since July. Confidence in household finances fell from 64% to 56% month-on-month as inflation and the first interest rate rise in a decade weighed on sentiment. Only 30% of consumers feel confident in the UK economy, down from 37% at the end of September. A gap of 30 percentage points now exists between those who are confident and those who are not – the second widest since Barclaycard began tracking consumer confidence in 2014. In-store spending was down 0.1%, the seventh straight month in negative territory. Although online spending posted a double-digit increase of 10.8%, this was down from an August high of 15.7%, with November marking the third successive month in which growth in online spend has slowed. Essential spending growth of 3% was broadly in line with October’s figure (2.9%). Growth in non-essentials, however, rebounded as consumers tweaked their allocation of spending on the “nice-to-haves”, rising 2.8% from 2.2%. Brits plan to continue spending conservatively, with a quarter (24%) indicating they are less willing to splash out on non-essential items because of the rate hike, and a third (32%) worried rising prices – such as food and drink – will force them to spend more on Christmas this year than they did in 2016. Barclaycard managing director Paul Lockstone said: “Consumer sentiment has deteriorated over the past couple of months after a prolonged period of falling purchasing power. Against this backdrop, it’s not surprising consumers continue to spend conservatively, leading to a second successive month of contraction in real terms. While entertainment spend brought some welcome relief, growth on essentials outstripped expenditure on nice-to-haves for the third month in a row, indicating shoppers are prioritising carefully. Nevertheless, the search for value continues, with Brits seeking sales and discounts to make the most of their budget during the festive season.”

Wirral becomes first council in England and Wales to launch licensee training initiative following CPL partnership: CPL Training Group and Wirral Council have collaborated to create an online training initiative to promote the responsible sale and consumption of alcohol within licensed premises. Wirral Council is the first local authority in England and Wales to introduce such measures, which is set to provide training for 100 local employees. Funded by the council, the training package has been distributed to 26 chosen Wirral sites, all of which comprise on and off-trade businesses. CPL Training Group has developed the online training package, which aims to help staff apply new skills to reduce alcohol-related harm, especially in relation to under-age drinking and antisocial behaviour. The package features four e-learning courses – conflict management, award for licensed premises staff, under-age sales prevention, and, for the on-trade, Drinkaware’s vulnerability awareness. If the initiative is successful after 12 months, the council plans to make training more accessible to licensees seeking support. CPL Training Group chief executive Daniel Davies said: “Education is the essential tool that can be leveraged to drive down alcohol-related incidents in and around licensed premises. By developing core skills and knowledge, I am confident we can have a measurable impact and help make our communities safer.” Wirral Council licensing manager Margaret O’Donnell added: “The training is an investment in those working in the licensed trade, recognising the importance of their role in making a difference to the impact of alcohol in our community. We hope through training we can change the culture of drinking and reduce the harm caused by alcohol in Wirral.” The sites will have access to the online package for one year, after which the council plans to review its impact and encourage other licensees to take training measures as a response to alcohol-related harm.

Starbucks prevented from closing 77 Teavana sites by US judge: Starbucks has been temporarily prevented from shutting 77 Teavana stores in Simon Property Group-operated shopping centres in the US after a judge ruled the real estate firm was less able to handle the financial pain. Earlier this year, Starbucks said it planned to close its 379-store Teavana operation by the end of the year. However, Simon Property Group went to court to block the stores in its centres being shut, claiming such a move by a high-profile tenant could spark other retailers to close. Simon Property Group argued if Starbucks was allowed to “prematurely” break its lease, it could be forced to fill the vacancies with “less creditworthy tenant(s)” or less desirable tenants who would “only agree to less desirable lease terms and/or a shorter-term lease”, according to the court filing. Indianapolis judge Heather Welch found Starbucks could absorb the financial hit – estimated by Starbucks to be $15m over five months – better than Simon Property Group could. The shopping centre operator did not provide an estimate of how much closing the Teavana stores would hurt it financially. Real estate lawyer Joshua Stein told the New York Post: “I’m shocked by the ruling. That’s part of a job description of owning real estate. You deal with it and don’t get injunctions to have your tenant continuing to operate.” Starbucks said: “We are disappointed by the judge’s ruling and will continue to focus on finding a resolution.” Industry sources suggested other shopping centre operators might now challenge Starbucks’ plans to close Teavana stores.

Jackie Parker to take over as CAMRA national chairman: Jackie Parker is to take over as national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) next year after incumbent Colin Valentine announced he would not stand for re-election after eight years in the role. Valentine will continue as chairman until CAMRA’s Members’ Weekend, AGM and Conference in April. Current vice-chairman Parker was elected by her colleagues at a National Executive meeting. She said: “My vision for CAMRA is to ensure we remain as relevant to our active volunteers, members, possible new members, and those people visiting pubs and clubs as possible, and that we continue to achieve our goals of campaigning for real ale, cider and perry drinkers across the UK.” Valentine added: “By April we will have concluded the Revitalisation Project, the largest consultation into and review of CAMRA’s purpose we have ever conducted. Hopefully members will vote to approve the National Executive’s recommendations, which would be the perfect time for me to step down and let Jackie lead the implementation of the changes.”

Company News:

Brunning & Price acquires former New Moon Pub Company site in Cheshire: Brunning & Price, the Restaurant Group’s gastro-pub arm, has acquired former New Moon Pub Company site the Lord Binning in Kelsall, Cheshire. Brunning & Price plans to reopen the Chester Road site next summer under its former name of the Morris Dancer, creating 40 jobs. It plans to transform the building to create a traditionally furnished pub with open fires and wooden floors, a bar serving malt, gin and local ale and a kitchen offering classic British dishes. There will also be an outside dining area. Brunning & Price managing director Mary Willcock said: “We are thrilled we finally have the keys. It sits within Brunning & Price’s Cheshire heartland, close to what will be its sister pub, the Dysart in Bunbury. Luckily we got wind it was becoming available early on and since then many Brunning & Price customers have been in touch to let us know it’s on the market, which reassures us that our first instincts were indeed correct. We think this will make a super Brunning & Price pub.” New Moon Pub Company, founded by Dave Mooney and Paul Newman, opened the site in 2011. The company went into administration last year and the Lord Binning was taken over by Mooney’s new company, Carwood Catering. However, he took the decision to shut the site in May to concentrate on his other projects, including gastro-pubs The Blind School in Liverpool, The Old Sessions House at Knutsford, Cheshire, and The Montgomery in Eastham, near Birkenhead. The Restaurant Group acquired Brunning & Price for £32m in 2007 – it now has 60 sites.

Camerons to bring Head of Steam to Birmingham for company’s first pub in city, largest single-site investment: Camerons Brewery is to open a 13th venue for its Head of Steam brand next year, in Birmingham city centre. The pub will be Cameron’s first site in the city when it opens in Temple Street in May at a site formerly occupied by Temple Street Social bar and restaurant. It will also be the company’s largest investment in a single site to date. The venue will offer 20 keg lines with a selection of rotating craft beers, ten cask ale lines including beer and real cider, plus premium cocktails, wine, spirits and soft drinks. The food menu will feature a mix of British and US favourites, many paired with the pub’s beers. The entire frontage will unfold to create the feeling of “being outside while in the venue” as Camerons looks to innovate its customer experience. Camerons Brewery chief executive Chris Soley said “As part of our expansion plans we have been looking at venues across the UK, and the Midlands was a key area we identified. Birmingham is such a vibrant UK city and an area with a growing craft beer scene. We feel our bar will further enhance this offer and we’re very excited about what will be a key venue within our group. This venue will be Camerons’ highest single-site investment into a pub.” The company will open its 12th Head of Steam site in February, in Manchester suburb Didsbury.

Hospitality payment app Zapaygo to embark on £500,000 crowdfunding campaign, plans own cryptocurrency: Zapaygo, a lifestyle and payment app for the sports, concert, leisure and hospitality sectors, is to launch a £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for expansion. The app allows users to pre-order and pre-pay for food, drinks or goods before arriving at a venue or have them delivered to a table or home. Founder Richard Dilworth will offer a 5% equity stake in the company in return for the investment. The funds will be used for launch partner activation costs, development of the app, and working capital. Zapaygo, which is based in the West Midlands, has just launched with its initial partners The NEC Group, which has six million customers a year and a market reach of 40 million people, and Verteda EPOS, which has about one million weekly users. Roughly £800,000 has been invested to date on the app’s development. As well as cashless payments, Zapaygo plans to have its own cryptocurrency that users will be able to buy, trade and spend via the app at participating venues and businesses. The company stated: “This will be one of the first initial coin offerings that has a high growth potential consumer-based business behind it, which will give people a real reason to use cryptocurrency in everyday life. The exact details are to be finalised.” The startup has forecast revenue of £736,000 with Ebitda of £104,000 in year one, growing to revenue of £6,603,000 and Ebitda of £3,071,000 in the second year, and revenue of £15,015,000 and Ebitda of £8,689,000 in year three.

Tim Hortons to open fourth UK site as it adds to Glasgow presence: Tim Hortons, the Canadian cafe and bake shop owned by Restaurant Brands, is to open its fourth UK site as it adds to its Scottish portfolio. SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons, will open the outlet on Wednesday (6 December) in Strathkelvin Retail Park in Glasgow. The Strathkelvin location is the third to open in the Glasgow area, with the brand having made its UK debut in Argyle Street and adding a second site in the city – at the Silverburn shopping centre. The company has also opened a venue in Cardiff and is due to open a drive-thru in Manchester, which will be its first site in England. Kevin Hydes, chief finance and commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “We’re thrilled to announce we’re opening in Strathkelvin Retail Park following the success of our other Glasgow openings. It’s a fantastic city and shares similar values with Tim Hortons – a strong sense of community and friendly culture.” Tim Hortons, which plans up to 100 UK sites, was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where “everyone would feel at home”.

Chow Asian Kitchen to open three sites with Moto this month, sister brand Chozen Noodles reports like-for-likes up 12.5%: Fresh fast food brand Chow Asian Kitchen is to open three sites with franchise partner Moto this month. The new locations at Wetherby, Tamworth and Reading East service stations are part of a seven-unit roll-out by Moto that will take the portfolio to 11 units by the end of the first quarter of 2018. Chow Asian Kitchen chief executive Matthew Kirby said the first four units had been “trading very well”, which had given Moto confidence to expand the brand across its estate. Kirby said Chow Asian Kitchen’s sister brand, Chozen Noodles, was also continuing to grow, with new units in Summertown, Oxford, and Annandale, Scotland, launching early in the new year. He told Propel: “It’s been a good year so far, with our like-for-like sales (for Chozen) up 12.5%. Unfortunately, the reality is well over half of that increase disappears with costs of sales and labour increases so in real terms we are more like 5% to 6% ahead but I think that is still real progress in what remains a tough and highly competitive market. We have had some great support from our mainline suppliers that has helped us keep price rises to a minimum and this has helped us increase our customer frequency. To try to keep the momentum going we will introduce some new dishes in the coming months including duck hoisin, massaman and yellow Thai curry, all of which went down well at trials we carried out last month at selected stores.”

Burning Night Group reports sales of more than £75,000 on Smokin’ Bar & Kitchen’s opening weekend: Bar company Burning Night Group has reported sales of more than £75,000 during the opening weekend at its new American-style barbecue concept Smokin’ Bar & Kitchen in Leeds. The company has converted one of its Around the World sites to the new brand, which offers an “Old West-inspired” smokehouse menu. The company, which is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to launch sports-themed concept Sportskeller, stated: “Our Smokin’ Bar & Kitchen in Leeds celebrated a sell-out first weekend of bookings, bringing in sales of more than £75,000. The American barbecue restaurant is the first of our latest concept, which we’ve created in place of Around the World inside the Bierkeller Entertainment Complex. It brings together Old West decor and a menu to match, with specialities straight from an in-house smoker. We love bringing something new to the market and seeing customers’ reactions. The opening weekend tells us we’ve definitely got it right and we’ve got another success on our hands with Smokin’ – and it makes us look forward even more to Sportskeller.” The company is looking to raise up to £2m in the campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to launch Sportskeller, with a minimum target of £750,000 in return for an equity stake of 3.61%. So far, 639 investors have pledged £423,440 with 13 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £150,000. The company operates six sites under The Bierkeller Entertainment Complex banner, which houses three concepts under one roof – Bierkeller Bavarian bar, sports bar Shooters, and Around the World. It also locates, develops and manages Potting Shed and Fire Pit branded bars on behalf of the Potting Shed Group.

Northcote Leisure Group managing director steps down: Northcote Leisure Group managing director Nigel Haworth has stepped down from the role to take on a new position. Haworth, who remains a shareholder, has become ambassador and consultant to the group with particular emphasis on developing the Obsession food festival. The group comprises Michelin-starred Northcote Hotel, near the village of Langho; Northcote At The Rovers in Blackburn; Café Northcote at the Cathedral in Blackburn; and the five-strong Ribble Valley Inns. Haworth’s business partner and Northcote Hotel chef patron Craig Bancroft has become managing director. Haworth told Insider Media: “Northcote has been my life for so many years. I am looking forward to combining being involved as an ambassador but also having more time to spend time with my family and pursue other interests.” Bancroft added: “Our ambitions are as clear as ever, the development of a strong, focused team to achieve even more than Nigel and I have. It will be a delight for me to steer the future of Northcote and the team who make all this possible.” The Northcote Hotel has held a Michelin star since 1996.

McMullen opens new-build pub dedicated to royal princess: Hertford-based brewer and retailer McMullen has opened a new-build pub – The Princess Charlotte in Colchester, Essex. The company claimed the pub in London Road, which is its third new-build venue, is the “only pub named after William and Kate’s second child”. The venue is one of McMullen’s Chicken & Grill Pubs and is the 12th site for the brand. The Princess Charlotte features a large patio and garden making it a “perfect stop-off after a long shop or a great location for a family get-together”. Chicken & Grill Pubs focus on rotisserie spit-roast chicken, alongside sundaes and pub classics, with many dishes on the menu available in three sizes – light, regular and king-size. In September, McMullen promoted Heydon Mizon to joint managing director with Tom McMullen following the retirement of Peter Furness Smith.

Subway reveals sales up 20% at restaurants taking part in global campaign to fight hunger: Subway has revealed sales increased by up to 20% at restaurants that took part in its global campaign to fight hunger. The company partnered with hunger-relief charities for the global real-time, data-led campaign that saw a meal donated to charity for every “sub” purchased on World Sandwich Day last month. A total of 13.3 million meals were donated, with 40,000 restaurants across 60 countries taking part. The campaign, which was created by Sydney-based agency J Walter Thompson after winning a global pitch, was Subway’s first globally activated campaign and the company plans to make it an annual event to help demonstrate the brand’s values and purpose. The campaign tracked the donated meals in real time through the Subway Live Feed digital ticker, which drew data from Subway’s point-of-sale devices to create a global and country-specific live tally of the meals Subway was donating. Subway Australia senior marketing manager Kate Brody told The Drum: “Last year, we celebrated National Sandwich Day in the US and Canada. This year we went global, partnering with more than 20 charities in more than 60 countries because hunger is a worldwide issue.” J Walter Thompson executive creative director Simon Langley added: “Subway is the biggest and most well-known sandwich brand in the world so World Sandwich Day was the perfect stage for it to bring its brand purpose to life.”

Soho House to open Lutyens Grill at The Ned to the public: Soho House is to open up Lutyens Grill on the ground floor of its 252-bedroom City of London hotel The Ned to the public from Saturday (9 December). For the past year, the steak restaurant has been the last place in the hotel restricted to club members and guests only. The Ned is located in the former Midland Bank headquarters, with Lutyens Grill in the bank manager’s office and featuring wood panelling, a parquet floor and lighting inspired by an original Edwyn Lutyens design. Head chef Jason Loy, previously at Cafe Monico and Dean Street Townhouse, is in charge of the menu that features roast meat carved at the table from a trolley, steaks cooked on the grill, and a selection of grilled fish dishes. Meanwhile, work is finally due to start on Soho House’s £60m members’ club on Brighton seafront following lengthy delays. The venue will include restaurants, bars, an open-air plunge pool and terraces, breathing new life into the seafront east of Brighton Palace Pier, which is operated by Luke Johnson-led Brighton Pier Group.

Filmore & Union to expand into north east with Jesmond launch next week: Healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union, which was named in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 “ones to watch” list published at the weekend, is to open a restaurant in Jesmond next week for its first site in the north east. Filmore & Union, which secured a £3.5m investment from Business Growth Fund in September to finance expansion across the north of England, will open the restaurant on Thursday, 14 December, with several more in the pipeline across the north in 2018, including a concession at John Lewis, Newcastle. Filmore & Union founder Adele Ashley said: “As we expand across the north of England, we are determined to maintain the ‘independent’ feel of each of our restaurants and take-out delis, and continue to innovate to stay one step ahead so we can bring local customers something that can’t usually be found outside major cities.” In October, the company launched a “neighbourhood dining” concept at its Harrogate, Wetherby, Skipton, Ilkley and Beverley sites aimed at turning them into more of an evening destination for new audiences, “especially men”. 

Community group launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to purchase Ei Group-owned music venue in Brighton: A community group has launched a £300,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder to purchase a well-known Brighton live music venue. The Greys in Southover Street has been put on the market by Ei Group after the company failed to find a permanent tenant. Brighton and Hove City Council has declared the pub an Asset of Community Value and residents in the Hanover area of the city have banded together as Friends Of The Greys. Performers at the pub during the past 30 years have included Georgie Fame, John Otway, John Cooper-Clarke, Kiki Dee, and The Fish Brothers. Brighton Pavilion MP and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said: “I fully support the bid to purchase The Greys and keep it open for community use. It’s a pub that is full of character, with potential to be an amazing community resource in residents' hands.” Brighton is already home to the first community-owned housing estate pub, the Bevy in Bevendean.

Former Hakkasan Group general manager to launch all-day cafe concept in Islington: Former Hakkasan Group general manager Mark Wood is to launch all-day cafe concept St Paul in Islington, north London. The venture will open in St Paul’s Road at a site formerly occupied by Nanna’s cafe towards the end of this year or in early 2018. It will offer small plates, coffee and snacks throughout the day, with craft beer and a short wine list in the evening. Charcuterie, cheese plates, soup, stew and grilled sandwiches will also be available, Hot Dinners reports. While at Hakkasan Group, Wood oversaw the launch of the Yauatcha brand. He was also director of operations at Food International in Saudi Arabia.

Wetherspoon issues new beer mat bashing business leaders and in support of British fishing industry: Pub operator JD Wetherspoon has issued a new beer mat highlighting its support for the British fishing industry and accusing business leaders of misleading the public on Brexit. The 500,000 beer mats will appear in its 893 pubs across the UK and claims big business has tried to fool the public by saying food prices will rise without a deal with the EU. Three industry leaders – Whitbread chairman Richard Baker, Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler and CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn – are highlighted on the beer mat as proponents of the claims. On the mat, it says the statement is untrue and it is the EU imposing high tariffs on non-EU food imports that keeps prices high. The beer mat calls on MPs to eliminate tariffs and reduce food prices by leaving the EU in March 2019 – stating the UK could save an additional £200m per week in EU contributions. Wetherspoon has also used the beer mats to support Britain’s fishing industry by backing Fishing for Leave, which states parliament can reclaim rights to the UK’s historic fishing grounds and end EU policies that have “devastated many coastal communities”. 

Revere reopens former Whitbread site in Oxford following extensive refurbishment: Marston’s Revere Pub Company has reopened The Mitre in Oxford following an extensive refurbishment. The company, which acquired the site from Whitbread earlier this year, has restored the grade II-listed building in High Street to enhance the pub’s period features. Dark wood panelling remains throughout with colour additions of blue and grey, while there are upholstered armchairs and leather Chesterfield sofas. The food offer consists of British classics, split into a menu of grazers, sharers, burgers and mains. Main dishes include beef bourguignon with buttered mash; and kale, bacon and mushroom with shallot red wine sauce. The drinks list features wine, champagne, long drinks and cocktails.

Yotel to open first Scottish site: Yotel, the budget accommodation chain launched by YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe, has revealed plans for its first site in Scotland. The company is set to open the site at Erskine House in Queen Street, Edinburgh, in the first quarter of 2019. The project marks the first use of the $250m strategic partnership with global private investment firm Starwood Capital Group. The hotel will have 280 rooms, known as “cabins”, ranging from a premium cabin to a VIP suite. It will feature a two-storey screening room and destination bar fronting Queen Street in addition to Yotel’s Club Lounge concept. Yotel chief executive Hubert Viriot told Travel Mole: “Yotel is on a rapid expansion path and the announcement of our Edinburgh city hotel plays an integral part in our future plans in Scotland and the rest of the globe.”

Heavenly Desserts opens seventh site, in Liverpool: Artisan dessert restaurant Heavenly Desserts has launched its seventh site – in Liverpool. The restaurant has opened near Albert Dock and Liverpool ONE, creating 22 jobs. Desserts include Ferrero Rocher cookie dough and the signature I’ll Have What She’s Having (ice cream, waffles, strawberries, chocolate and strawberry sauce). The restaurant also offers pancakes, fondant, cheesecake, cakes and indulgent milkshakes. Heavenly Desserts was founded in 2008 and has stores in Nottingham, Birmingham, Leicester, Preston, Derby and Oxford. Sites listed on its website as “coming soon” are in Bradford, Cardiff, Chester, Coventry, Manchester, Northampton, Norwich and Sheffield. In May, the company launched a franchise concept with plans to open 200 sites across the UK.

Boutique hotel chain Firmdale secures £120m investment to refinance Soho site and fund expansion: Boutique hotel chain Firmdale Holdings has secured a seven-year, £120m loan from Hermes Investment to refinance its Ham Yard Hotel in Soho and begin expansion. Firmdale is owned by Tim Kemp and wife Kit, who acquired a 0.75 acre venue in Soho, which had been mainly derelict for years, for less than £30m in 2009, converting it into the £90m Ham Yard Hotel. Vincent Nobel, head of real estate debt at Hermes, told Property Week: “Providing funding to help support Firmdale’s expansion following the success of Ham Yard Hotel appeals to our investment strategy of delivering holistic returns. The hotel is a great destination created out of a previously disused part of central London. Firmdale’s track record as a best-in-class manager of boutique hotels gives us great confidence in its ability to manage this asset while continuing to grow the group.” Firmdale was advised by JLL.

Haysmacintyre to move to new headquarters: Sector accountancy firm haysmacintyre, which produces an annual benchmarking survey in association with Propel, is moving to new headquarters in London. It has signed a ten-year lease for 25,500 square feet of space at 10 Queen Street Place and received a substantial rent-free period plus a capital contribution towards fit-out works. The company is relocating from 26 Red Lion Square, where it occupies 17,500 square feet on a single floor. Haysmacintyre managing partner Ian Cliffe told Property Week: “The rapid growth of the firm meant we had reached capacity at our offices so it is excellent we are able to relocate to space that will accommodate our continued expansion.” Alistair Subba Row, of Farebrother CORFAC International, advised haysmacintyre on its relocation.

CH&Co Group merges with Concerto to become £300m turnover company: CH&Co Group is to merge with events catering and services company Concerto Group. CH&Co said the move enabled the merged company to cover “all event requirements” – from venue finding and booking to catering, production and entertainment. The merger also opens up new opportunities in the hotel sector. The merger increases the group’s turnover to £300m and it will now provide catering at more than 750 sites in the UK and Ireland, employing more than 6,200 staff. CH&Co chief executive Bill Toner said: “Together we create a really attractive proposition in this highly competitive arena. It also gives us an introduction into the hotel sector. This new territory for CH&Co Group is an area I know well and it’s a very exciting prospect.” CH&Co Group achieved more than £58m in new sales and retained business in the first six months of 2017.

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