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Mon 11th Dec 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

November spend in hotels, restaurants and bars bucks the trend with 4.2% rise as 2017 heads for five-year consumer expenditure low: Consumer spending in November at hotels, restaurants and bars bucked the trend with a 4.2% rise, according to the latest data from Visa. The company’s Consumer Spending Index compiled by Markit indicated consumer spending declined for the third month running in November. On an annual basis, total expenditure fell by 0.9%, which was less severe than the 2.1% reduction seen in October but nonetheless kept spending on track for its weakest calendar performance for five years. However, the hospitality sector showed more solid signs following a 3.3% rise in October and was the only sector to show growth alongside miscellaneous goods and services, which includes jewellery, hair and beauty, which rose 4.9% year-on-year. Expenditure on the high street declined for the seventh month in a row on an annual basis in November, by 3.5% overall. Although a marked improvement from the 5.1% decline in October, it was still one of the biggest falls recorded since 2012. Meanwhile, e-commerce spending continued on an upward trend, although the growth rate of 2.4% remained modest in the context of the survey’s history. The other six of the eight broad spending categories registered lower figures in November, with the steepest fall in transport and communication (6.0% year-on-year), followed by clothing and footwear (2.1%), household goods (2.0%), and food, beverages and tobacco (1.8%). Marginal reductions in spend were noted in recreation and culture, and health and education. Mark Antipof, chief officer – commercial at Visa, said: “November’s poor performance means we stand by our earlier prediction that the UK will see its worst fall in overall Christmas spending by consumers since 2012. The gap between the performance of e-commerce and the high street widened again last month. Bricks-and-mortar retailers saw sales down for the seventh consecutive month while e-commerce continued its upward growth trend, boosted in particular by consumers taking advantage of online promotions around Black Friday. It would appear consumers are making further changes to their shopping priorities as a result of the increasing strain on household budgets. Cutbacks on big-ticket items such as car purchases and Christmas trips abroad led to the largest drop in spending on transport and communications in November. In contrast, spending on miscellaneous goods saw the largest increase, offering further evidence of the ‘lipstick effect’, whereby people opt for smaller treats while tightening their belts when it comes to larger purchases.”

Industry News:

More than 220 attendees confirmed for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event series in January: Limited tickets are now available for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator, the most comprehensive marketing series 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. More than 220 people have booked places with companies attending including Typhoon Hospitality, The Entourage Group, YO! Sushi, Costa Coffee, G1 Group, TLC Inns, Polpo, Be At One, Snug Bars, Casual Dining Group, San Carlo Group, The Coaching Inn Group, ASK Italian, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, Coppa Club, True North Brew Co, Maxwell’s Restaurant Group, Try Market Hall, Ennismore, Fuller’s, New World Trading Company, Ei Group, Cabana and Wagamama. For full details, click here. Conference 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

Company News:

Pho reports like-for-likes up 6.9%, sees Ebitda boost as turnover passes £25m: Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho has reported like-for-like sales increased 6.9% for the year ending 26 February 2017. Turnover increased 33.7% to £25,921,767, compared with £19,394,939 the year before. Restaurant Ebitda rose to £5.4m compared with £4.2m the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Group Ebitda was up 24.5% to £2.5m compared with £2m the previous year due to a combination of “successful site openings, the current estate trading strongly and good operational controls both at site and head office level”. Pho reported a pre-tax profit of £14,437, compared with a loss of £3,588 the year before. Gross margin dropped slightly to 78.8%, compared with 78.9% the previous year. Pho opened four new sites during the period as it “continued its growth and roll-out plan with the existing estate continuing to trade well”. The company stated: “The increase in sales is as a result of the new sites opening and existing sites improving on the prior year performance, with all sites controlling their cost of sales to ensure the gross profit is maintained. The directors plan further new openings in the coming years. These sites will be carefully chosen to ensure they are suitable areas for the company to prosper, given both the existing demographic and potential competitors in the area. Cash flow is continually monitored and openings included within this. Looking ahead, the company is well placed for further growth with a number of sites already identified, in London and nationally. Retained profits and the Royal Bank of Scotland bank facility will support the planned growth over the next three years. The directors take an active role in assessing potential new sites and sites will not be opened if it is thought they would cause a unnecessary strain on the current estate.” Stephen and Juliette Wall opened their first Pho restaurant in Clerkenwell, London, in 2005 after they quit their jobs, travelled the world and found themselves inspired by Vietnamese cuisine. The company currently operates 24 sites having opened its latest venue in Leicester in September.

Free drinks app Drinki, which has agreements with Stonegate and M&B, aims to raise £500,000 for national expansion: Free drinks app Drinki, which has “agreements in place” with Stonegate Pub Company and Mitchells & Butlers, is aiming to raise £500,000 from angel investors. Drinki is aiming to raise the funds through the Angel Investment Network platform, which connects startups with angel investors, to help spearhead expansion. The platform allows users to claim one free drink every night in select London bars. The company said the app was growing at 25% per month and building a pipeline of interest for “five-figure contracts with some of the world’s biggest brands”. The company, founded by entrepreneur Tariq Aris and industry veteran Sophie Abrahamovitch, said it had built more than 100,000 users since September 2016 – 35% via referrals – with 25% month-on-month growth. Current clients include Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Red Bull, while the company is advised by former Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh, among others. The company stated: “Drinki lets bars, venues and brands market to more than 100,000 mobile users. The trade-off is the user gets their first drink free. Consumers get to discover London’s best bars, the venues get footfall, rich audience data and Drinki users often stay for more drinks. Drinki also offers an opportunity for brands to drive consumers to their drink in selected venues. It blows existing marketing channels (brand reps, experiential marketing and sampling) out of the water. The app lets brands activate multiple venues instantly and serves are tracked per unit, giving key demographic, location and preference data. With agreements in place with national bar groups Stonegate and Mitchells & Butlers, and existing contracts with Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Red Bull, Drinki will be scaling its existing accounts nationally in 2018, offering significant sources of recurring revenue.”

Oakman Inns looks to raise £1.8m for purchase of freehold interest of Bedfordshire pub it operates on leasehold basis: Oakman Inns and Restaurants is aiming to raise £1.82m through crowdfunding platform Downing Crowd to repay short-term refinancing used to help buy the freehold of the White Hart pub in Bedfordshire, which it has operated for a number of years on a leasehold basis. Oakman bought The White Hart in Ampthill for £2.6m and is now raising £1.82m to repay a bridging loan used to complete the acquisition. It is launching a 24-month bond that will offer investors the chance to earn 7% per annum. It will be Oakman’s fifth bond with Downing Crowd, including raising £2.5m to purchase the historic Royal Foresters pub in Berkshire. The pitch states: “Once an 18th century coaching inn, The White Hart is a grade II-listed building on the high street in Ampthill, a Georgian market town in Bedfordshire. The site operates as a pub restaurant and also includes eight boutique-style letting rooms. The pub has recently undergone a refurbishment including the installation of a new display wood-burning oven. Oakman Inns and Restaurants, a multi-award-winning operator, has 21 trading pub restaurants across the Midlands and the Home Counties and was ranked eighth in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2017. The loan-to-value of the bond is estimated at 70%. This is based on a third-party valuation of £2.6m for the pub restaurant with its current lease in place provided by agent Davis Coffer Lyons as at 7 November.” Meanwhile Oakman, which banned single-use plastic drinking straws from its 20-strong estate in April, has found a novel use for them. The ban left the company with a stockpile of 60,000 straws and chief executive Peter Borg-Neal commissioned sculptor Lois Cordelia to use them in artwork at its newly refurbished venue The Akeman in Tring.

Brittain – Costa’s opportunity in China ‘virtually limitless’: Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain has said Costa Coffee’s opportunity in China “looks virtually limitless”. Brittain has refocused Costa’s overseas strategy to focus on China, where the brand currently has 400 stores. She told The Times: “The opportunity looks virtually limitless provided we get it right. Two years ago, it was about people photographing themselves in a western coffee shop. I went a few weeks ago and on every street in Shanghai and Beijing people were walking along with coffee cups.” In October, Costa acquired 49% of its South China joint-venture partner Yueda for £35m to wholly own the business, which operates 252 stores in the region including 93 stores in Shanghai. At the time, Brittain said: “This acquisition gives us full strategic and funding flexibility to unlock Costa’s potential in China, providing a strong platform to facilitate future growth, enhance the customer experience and make Costa the coffee shop of choice in this fast-growing market. We remain fully committed to our strong partnership with BHG in northern China and look forward to building our business with them.” Another international opportunity is the Costa Express coffee machine operation. Currently, 7,000 of its 8,000 machines are in the UK but Brittain predicted its overseas business would overtake it in “three to four years”. Closer to home, Brittain said Costa would launch a coconut milk coffee next month that would be low-calorie and dairy-free. 

Scott Weir departs Wear Inns to concentrate on new pub venture: Scott Weir has left Wear Inns, the company founded by his father John 11 years ago, to concentrate on his own venture. In April, Weir launched pub company Tees Inns with local businessman Derek Kewley, acquiring The PoundPub in Stockton-on-Tees town centre and reopening it as the Ivy House in July. Last month Tees Inns acquired its second freehold site, The Isaac Wilson in Middlesbrough, from JD Wetherspoon and Weir will now fully concentrate on his fledgling company. A Wear Inns spokesman said: “Scott has decided to leave Wear Inns to pursue other business interests. We would like to thank Scott for his contribution during the past six years.” On taking over The Isaac Wilson, a Tees Inns spokesman told Gazette Live: “It’s still the same great pub, including the prices. We have the same staff. It’s a fantastic site – popular on Saturdays with football fans. We think we can grow, especially attracting more shoppers and students through the week.” The pub has a new food menu focusing on freshly cooked food and gourmet burgers. The Isaac Wilson was Wetherspoon’s first pub in Middlesbrough when the company opened it 20 years ago. Spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We have a number of other pubs in Middlesbrough and surrounding areas and felt we had to let this one go.” John Weir passed away in August 2016.

Sticks ‘n’ Sushi looks to build long-term cluster of sites in the north following latest London openings: Andreas Karlsson, group chief operating officer of Japanese restaurant brand Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, has told Propel the group has a long-term ambition of growing in the UK outside its London and south east heartland and opening a cluster of sites in the north. The company has just opened its fifth site in the capital – in Victoria – and has two more restaurants lined up for 2018, in Beak Street, Soho, and the Radnor Walk development in King’s Road, Chelsea, which will open in the summer. Karlsson said the company was not thinking beyond those two openings but admitted he would like to take the brand further north. He added: “Following the Soho and Chelsea openings, I think there will be a little bit of consolidation. As a company we never talk about rolling out – it’s all about the next site and we don’t know what the landscape is going to look like in a few years. But in the long-term, I would certainly like to head outside London and the south. We would look at places such as Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester and look to build a cluster of sites like we have done in the south.” The Victoria restaurant, located at the Nova development, has 100 seats – 70 on the upper floor with 30 on the ground floor along with a bar. Karlsson added: “It’s been a lot of work and it’s great to finally be open. The area is really taking shape.”

Two freehold restaurants let to Prezzo sell at auction: The freehold of two restaurants let to Prezzo have each been sold at an Allsop auction. A site in Maldon, Essex, was sold for £1.4m. The High Street building is let to Prezzo on a lease expiring in 2032 with no breaks, paying £80,000 per annum rent with a review outstanding for this year, which represented a 5.71% gross initial yield for the buyer. Meanwhile, a site in Oxford Street, Southampton, was sold for £895,000. Prezzo holds a lease expiring in 2028 with no breaks, paying £40,500 per annum rent with a review due next year, which represented a 4.53% gross initial yield for the buyer. Allsop raised a total of £86.3m from 149 lots at the auction, bringing the total raised during the year to more than £600m. A total of 33 lots sold for more than £1m. George Walker, partner and auctioneer, said: “The pricing of the larger assets was very strong, with multimillion-pound sales being achieved across the sectors, including vacant and let stock.”

Adnams moves to 100% renewable energy: Suffolk brewer and pub operator Adnams is now producing all its beers and spirits using renewable energy. The company moved its brewery over to 100% renewably sourced electricity in October 2016 and has now switched its entire business to renewable sources. Adnams said the move had reduced its annual carbon emissions by more than 1,000 tonnes of CO2, helping reduce its impact on climate change. A company spokesman said: “As a sustainable business, we’re really keen to encourage the increased use and generation of renewable electricity in the UK, helping to reduce our impact on the planet and remove reliance on fossil fuels. Other businesses are setting this as a target for 2020 and beyond so we are proud to be able to showcase our early adoption of this. We’ve encouraged our staff to do the same and switch suppliers to renewable sources via the Big Clean Switch. We’re always exploring further options when it comes to renewables, including a transition to renewable heat.”

Tiny Rebel expects 50% rise in sales next year after more than doubling beer production, co-founder says increase in UK brewery numbers ‘unsustainable’: South Wales-based brewer Tiny Rebel has said it expects a 50% rise in sales next year after more than doubling its beer production in 2017. Co-founder Brad Cummings said Tiny Rebel was likely to make 2.4 million litres of beers such as Cwtch and Clwb Tropicana in 2018, up from 1.6 million litres in 2017 and 750,000 litres in 2016. He told Insider Media: “We can’t keep up with demand. We could be making more. We are going through a growth spurt to fulfil demand.” The company opened a £2.6m brewery and pub on Wern Industrial Estate in Rogerstone in June and has since acquired a 1.3-acre site across the road to enable it to expand further. Cummings said a more general increase seen in the number of UK breweries in recent years was “not sustainable” but added: “We don’t class ourselves as a craft brewery – we are a premium brewery. There is still high demand for premium beer. The trend is going back to drinkability and flavourful session beers.” Cummings and co-founder Gazz Williams launched Tiny Rebel in 2012. The business now employs 110 staff.

Wagamama resurrects Chelmsford move: Wagamama, which pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in Chelmsford in October, is returning to launch a venue in the Essex city. There have been rumours for years the company would open a venue in Chelmsford, with fans of the brand left disappointed by its decision to pull out of the Argos redevelopment in Springfield Road. Now Wagamama has submitted a planning application to Chelmsford City Council to open a restaurant in the £150m Bond Street leisure complex, Essex Live reports. The restaurant would be on the first floor and share its entrance with Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and Everyman Cinema. Wagamama’s only other site in Essex is at the Lakeside shopping centre. Last month, the company reported UK like-for-like sales rose 7.1% in the 12 weeks to 5 November 2017, the second quarter of its fiscal year 2018. Group turnover increased 14.4% to £70.6m while adjusted Ebitda was up 1.8% to £11.1m. UK turnover rose 13.4% to £67.6m. The number of UK restaurants increased to 128. 

Lancashire-based operators reopen Burscough canal-side pub for fifth site: Lancashire-based operators Dave Holt and Darren Cooper have reopened The Slipway pub in Burscough, near Ormskirk, for their fifth site. The pub in Crabtree Lane has undergone a major refurbishment, with further plans to launch a micro-brewery in an old boat house – the pub is next to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal –and build log cabins on part of the car park. The venue offers freshly cooked, locally sourced food, with the head chef joining from sister site The Ship in Lathom. A number of pubs have closed in the area but Holt and Cooper, who have links to Burscough, are confident they can make The Slipway a success. Holt told the Visiter: “You find in this game if you know what you’re doing, you do well. It can be an unforgiving trade if you don’t. Every site we’ve bought so far has been given up on by the brewery but they’re all working out really well. The advantage of not being run by a brewery is we have freedom and don’t need to charge such high prices for beer and food. So far we’ve had resoundingly positive feedback from neighbours and barge owners.” Holt and Cooper’s other sites include The Cricketers in Ormskirk and a George Formby-themed pub in Wigan.

Bonnie Gull closes crowdfunding campaign for launch of grab-and-go concept after raising £240,000: British seaside restaurant concept Bonnie Gull has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, founded by Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy in 2011, offered an 11.11% equity stake in a bid to raise £200,000 to support expansion plans and launch grab-and-go concept Salt ‘n’ Sauce. In total, the campaign raised £243,920 from 247 investors and the campaign has now closed. Bonnie Gull operates restaurants in Fitzrovia and Soho and will launch Salt ‘n’ Sauce in Oxford in March. It proposes to open further sites in Bath, Brighton, Cambridge and Exeter, followed by Edinburgh, Manchester, St Andrews, Winchester and York, with ambitions to go international. The pitch states: “The funds will be used for investment in Salt ‘n’ Sauce to launch the first site in Oxford, refit and improve existing Bonnie Gull restaurants, and development of the brand and team. Further Bonnie Gull restaurants are also planned.” Regarding Salt ‘n’ Sauce, the company said: “We believe the brand will have faster success in regional locations where the audience is easier to reach and where the brand can be a dominant force. Salt ‘n’ Sauce will look to open in affluent, university towns. Tourism is also a major factor and these towns enjoy a high volume of American and Chinese tourists who come looking for the ultimate British fish and chips. Salt ‘n’ Sauce has the potential to be an international brand in cities where the fish and chip concept translates to the local population. We believe it can flourish as a franchise model in English-speaking cities with a connection to the UK such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Cape Town and San Francisco.”

Folkestone-based operators open third site: Folkestone-based operators Ben and Lucy Cuthbert have opened their third site in the Kent town. The Cuthberts have launched The Harbour Inn having transformed the former True Briton pub they acquired for almost £500,000 in September. The venue takes inspiration from its harbour roots and traditional Kentish pubs and is split into two spaces, with one side featuring a seafood speciality restaurant and the other solely for drinking. The drinks menu at the Harbour Street pub includes craft beer, ale, wine and spirits. The Cuthberts, who opened Italian restaurant Lubens in Rendezvouz Street last year and have run The Pullman in Church Street for almost four years, said they were excited to add another pub to their portfolio. Ben Cuthbert told Kent Live: “We wanted to open a traditional seaside-style pub, much like The Pullman with its Kentish feel. As with Lubens, we have always tried to take on spaces that have been underused and turn them into spaces people can really enjoy.”

Aberdeen-based Cognito opens cafe-bistro and gin bar for third city site: Aberdeen-based Cognito has opened its third site in the Scottish city. Owner Nicky Turnbull has launched cafe-bistro and gin bar Cognito On The Corner at a former Bank of Scotland branch at the junction of Mid Stocket Road and Beechgrove Terrace. The company also operates Cafe Cognito in St Swithin Street and Cognito Deli in Union Grove, while Cognito At The Cross is set to open in Queen’s Cross Church soon for the brand’s fourth site. Turnbull told the Evening Express: “When the building in Mid Stocket Road came up for sale it was too good an opportunity to miss.”

Superbowl UK to open £1.9m bowling centre in Cheshire for tenth site: Tenpin bowling operator Superbowl UK has signed to open a bowling centre in Warrington, Cheshire, for its tenth site. The company plans to invest more than £1.9m to fit-out a former BHS unit in the Golden Square shopping complex to feature 12 bowling lanes plus a diner and sports bar alongside a soft play centre, “ninja tag” assault course and amusement arcade. Gavin Ingram, national director of LaSalle Investment Management, which owns the shopping complex, told BDaily: “We work closely with our on-site team and listen to what our customers want. We’re sure they’ll be thrilled by this addition.” Superbowl UK is one of a number of brands to sign up for Golden Square recently following deals with cafe bar brand Loungers, Italian wine cafe Veeno, and Tim Hortons, the Canadian cafe and bake shop owned by Restaurant Brands, although SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons, has yet to confirm the deal. Ingram added: “We recently focused on our leisure offering following Prezzo joining us, Nando’s undertaking a large upsizing and refurbishment earlier in the year, and Costa extending its lease agreement.” Superbowl UK is set to open its ninth site, in St Helens, Merseyside, in spring 2018. Its other centres are in Barnsley, Cardiff, Hull, Ipswich, Macclesfield, Merthyr, Newport and Widnes.

Nottingham operators take on third site: The team behind Nottingham venues Das Kino and Hockley Arts Club has taken a new sister bar under its wing. The team has acquired underground dive bar The Bunker in King Street. It has relaunched under new name The Walrus. The team told West Bridgford Wire: “The venue has a really strong identity and following so we’ll ensure it remains a well-loved establishment. The legendary beer pong will continue and we’ve added to the cocktail menu.”

Black and White Hospitality opens Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Hull: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, has opened a Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Hull. The company has opened the restaurant at the new four-star DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in the city centre. It is the fifth Marco Pierre White venue opened within a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and the first Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Yorkshire. The 140-cover restaurant’s menu, curated by Pierre White, serves steak, English and French classics, and a selection of premium cocktails. Pierre White said: “As a proud Yorkshireman I’m delighted to be bringing my Steakhouse to Hull, right in the heart of the fantastic UK City of Culture. The menu is all about classic, recognisable dishes cooked simply using the finest ingredients to deliver delicious food.” Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin added: “Following in the footsteps of our Marco’s New York Italian restaurants in Sheffield and Leeds, this is our first Steakhouse to open in Yorkshire and the fifth Marco Pierre White restaurant within a DoubleTree hotel. There is a great synergy between our brands.”

Altrincham-based coffee shop operators open bakery and restaurant for second venue: Phil and Claire Howells, who operate coffee shop Caffeine & Co in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, have launched bakery and restaurant Blanchflower’s for their second site in the town. The new-concept venue has opened in Shaw’s Road featuring two kitchens – one for the bakery for breakfast and lunch, and one for evening service. Blanchflower also offers beer and wine. Phil Howells, who used to work in the music business, told Altrincham Today: “We don’t believe in over-complicating things. It’s about the importance of the core product being incredible, so a great bit of soup, bread or bacon can take what you’re eating to a different level. Dinner will be based around a sharing concept. It will be exciting, modern food influenced by the most interesting stuff coming out of London.”

Northern Ireland-based operator opens Mexican restaurant in Belfast for second site: Northern Ireland-based operator Robert McGregor has opened a Mexican restaurant for his second site. McGregor, who owns Boston Grill in Lisburn, has launched El Chapo in Stranmillis, south Belfast, on the site of the former Birdcage restaurant. El Chapo specialises in a range of tacos and tapas alongside a range of tequila. There are also quesadillas, chimichanga and burritos alongside pan-fried scallops, stuffed jalapeno poppers and chipotle pulled pork. McGregor told the Belfast Telegraph: “I had considered opening a second Boston Grill but being a big fan of South America and Mexico I thought this style of restaurant would bring something different to the current offering in Stranmillis. Tequila is rising in popularity as consumers move away from shots and look to drink it in premium serves with mixers and in cocktails. We’ve sourced some really special tequilas for our drinks list.”

Ice cream-maker Mackie’s of Scotland opens debut dessert parlour: Ice cream-maker Mackie’s of Scotland has opened its debut dessert parlour, in the £107m Marischal Square development in Aberdeen. Mackie’s has opened the flagship ice cream parlour and coffee shop having previously agreed a 15-year lease. The 70-cover venue offers more than 20 flavours of ice cream plus a chocolate tap for use on crepes and waffles. The parlour is called Mackie’s 19.2 as it is precisely 19.2 miles from Westertown Farm, where Mackie’s manufactures its ice cream. The company stated: “We are proud of our north east heritage and excited to create our flagship branch in a new development in the centre of our home city.”

St Christopher’s Inns scoops British Youth Travel award: St Christopher’s Inns, which is owned by pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, has won a BETA British Youth Travel Award. The company’s newly refurbished site in London Bridge took first prize in the best UK accommodation category. St Christopher’s Inns was also a finalist in the best use of social/mobile media category, coming second to Warner Bros’ Studio Tour London. Refurbishment of the London Bridge site included the addition of 175 beds to give 414 in total, a full makeover of the sports bar downstairs and a new interactive reception area. The new rooms have been given a fresh design, with a higher ratio of en-suite bathrooms. The full renovation will be completed in March. St Christopher’s Inns operates more than 20 hostels across Europe. On Friday (8 December), Beds and Bars chief executive Keith Knowles was awarded an OBE for services to the community and charity.

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