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Thu 21st Dec 2017 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Inbound visitor numbers fall for first time in three months: Total visitor numbers to the UK fell for the first time in three months in September, according to the latest British Hospitality Association (BHA) Travel Monitor. The data showed inbound passenger numbers fell 1% year-on-year, in contrast to increases of 6% and 5% seen in July and August, and to the 9% growth seen in the first half of 2017. The decline was driven by a sharp fall in visitor numbers from North America, down 8% in September year-on-year and compounding the previous fall of 8% seen in August. These falls come after a 28% rise in visitor numbers from North America for the first half of 2017. Short haul travel numbers also declined by 0.3% year-on-year, despite the previous increase in August of 8%. Inbound holiday passenger numbers grew 1.7% year-on-year, but this still lags behind the 15% rise seen in the year to date. Overall UK spend by overseas residents is up a further 2%, but business traveller numbers continued to decline, down 18% year-on-year for September. BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “It is disheartening to see visitor numbers decline after positive growth for the previous three months. This fall has been largely driven by a reduction in passenger numbers from North America and this demonstrates, in part, the knock-on effect that this year’s tragic terror attacks have had on long haul bookings. The BHA Travel Monitor also notes the number of business travellers to the UK again declined, falling by 18% year-on-year for the month of September. This is an important reminder to the government of the need to recognise the priorities of business when negotiating Brexit.”

Industry News:

More than 400 booked for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event series in January: More than 400 senior executives have now booked 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. Companies and brands attending include Novus, Signature Pubs, Cafe Rouge, Wagamama, Brasserie Bar Co, Las Iguanas, YO! Sushi, Fuller’s, ASK Italian, Mitchells & Butlers, G1 Group, Costa Coffee, Ei Group, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Brewhouse & Kitchen, Stonegate Pub Company, Be At One, Revolution Bars Group, Cabana, Thai Leisure Group, New World Trading Company, Pho, Maxwell’s Group, Gather & Gather, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, The Breakfast Club, The Coaching Inn Group, Gail’s Bakery, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, K10, Giggling Squid, San Carlo Group, Ennismore, TLC Inns, Polpo, FrogPubs, The Real Eating Company, Claus Meyer Holding, VIP Pizza, 200 Degrees, Coppa Club, Snug Bars, Albion & East, Pint Shop, True North Brew Co, Darwin & Wallace, Chit Chat Chai, BabaBoom, Electric Star and Eat Poke. For full details of the two days, co-ordinated by James Hacon and Ann Elliott respectively, 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 or Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or

Veganism and non-gluten viewed as most difficult diets to cater for when eating out: Veganism is viewed as the most difficult diet to cater for when eating out, according to new research. The findings by Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi showed vegan (20%), non-gluten (18%) and non-dairy or lactose intolerant (11%) topped the list. Of those surveyed with specialist diets, three-in-five vegans (63%) admitted to having “relaxed” their principles when eating out, and 73% of those with a form of gluten intolerance have risked feeling sick because a non-gluten option wasn’t available. Almost half of potential diners (45%) admitted to having bailed on a social gathering over the festive period for fear of there not being a healthy option available. Zizzi marketing director Jo Fawcett said: “We are proud of the diverse selection of dishes we offer at our restaurants nationwide. With specialist diets now commonplace, we understand the importance of being able to cater to a range of preferences and needs. Our inclusive offering of vegan, non-gluten and low-calorie dishes alongside our pizzas and pastas are proving to be more and more popular with customers who are realising they don’t need to compromise when dining out with family members who have different requirements.”

Just one operator secured for second phase of five-strong Chester dining scheme with ‘no other clear interest’: Just one of five restaurant operators planned for the second phase of Chester’s dining quarter has been secured and the company behind the scheme has revealed there has been “no other clear interest”. Planning consent is in place for five new restaurants within Grosvenor Shopping Centre opposite the first phase of the Pepper Street dining quarter that features Casual Dining Group’s Las Iguanas, Individual Restaurants’ Opera Grill and The Restaurant Group brands Coast to Coast and Chimichanga. Centre owner HIG Chester Property Sarl has now lodged a proposed amendment to the permission that would see the two ground-floor units merged into one larger space to accommodate the undisclosed occupier, reports the Chester Chronicle. Work on the rest of the scheme would then take place once other operators are secured. A letter sent by HIG Chester Property Sarl to Cheshire West and Chester Council stated: “Since permission was granted in September 2016, the food and beverage side of the market has proven to be less resilient than expected and the number of potential A3 occupiers has now diminished significantly. However, detailed discussions have continued with one prospective operator, who is keen to take occupation of a restaurant unit as soon as possible.”

Aston Manor executive chairman Peter Ellis passes away: Peter Ellis, executive chairman of Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor, has died. Founded by his father Doug Ellis, Peter Ellis was managing director for many years before handing the reins to current chief executive Gordon Johncox. Peter Ellis’ son James is finance director at the independent cider maker. Johncox said: “Peter had been ill for some time but faced his condition with huge courage and his normal humour. He always remained keen to hear the latest news from and performance of the business, he was extremely proud of Aston Manor and all who work here. We all owe Peter a huge amount for his vision and wonderful entrepreneurial spirit that effectively created the company that we now are. Without Peter’s commitment, leadership and work over many years Aston Manor would not be the successful company it is. At this moment our thoughts and prayers are with Peter’s family who are suffering such a tragic loss.”

Winner of Molson Coors’ case of wine competition revealed: The winner of a case of Rongopai Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 wine, courtesy of Molson Coors, is Oliver Sheridan from Pubs of Distinction.

Company News:

D&D London sees profits hit by series of 'significant' non-cash charges and one-off items: Restaurant operator D&D London has seen its profits hit by a series of "significant non-cash charges, pre-opening costs and one-off items". Accounts filed by Panther Partners, trading as D&D London, reported a pre-tax profit before non-cash charges and one-off items of £10,672,000 for the year ending 31 March 2017. However, after they were taken into account it had a pre-tax loss of £4,107,000, which narrowed from a loss of £4,788,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The items included refinancing costs of £982,000 and £63,000 of abortive initial public offering costs. Costs of £599,000 were also incurred in connection with central management restructuring and litigation expenses associated with the acquisition of Madison and £75,000 relating to the Guastavinos litigation. The company reported turnover in the UK increased to £113,479,000 compared with £99,117,000 the year before while rest of the world revenue was up to £11,546,000 compared with £8,711,000 the previous year. Group Ebitda was up 1% to £13.1m. The accounts also showed D&D London secured two refinancing deals totalling more than £40m to support its expansion plans. The company stated: "During the year the group refinanced its Unitranche facility and replaced it with £32,400,000 of senior debt. This facility matures in October 2022 and as at 31 March 2017, the outstanding balance of the facility was £32,427,000. Under the refinancing arrangement the group obtained a capex facility of £10,000,000, which expires in October 2022. As at 31 March 2017 no drawdowns had been made on the capex facility, however £4,000,000 was drawn post year end to finance further expansion plans. During the year the group also swapped £10,000,000 of management and institutional loan notes for £10,000,000 of payment in kind notes with Beechbrook Capital. As at 31 March 2017, £10,308,000 of payment in kind notes were outstanding. The group also utilises a £3,000,000 revolving credit facility principally for working capital purposes, of which £1,750,000 was drawn at the year end." As previously reported UK like-for-like sales increased 3.0%. Turnover increased 16% to £125.0m compared with £107.8m the year before. 

Malhotra Group reports leisure turnover down 7%: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group has reported turnover in its leisure division fell 7% to £10,087,617 for the year ending 31 March 2017. Operating profit for the division dropped 37% to £674,099 compared with £1,073,395 the year before. Total group turnover increased 6.7% to £32,178,493 compared with £30,152,727 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Pre-tax profit fell to £4,551,390 compared with £5,209,088 the year before. The company, which also operates in the care home and property sectors, stated: “For the year to 31 March 2017 turnover for our leisure division fell by £840,558. However, almost all of this reduction (£737,632) resulted from the closure of our hotel and nightclub at Rex Hotel, Whitley Bay, which was loss making and where we felt we could not commit the longer term investment and management time necessary to try and turn its fortunes around. In addition, in October 2016 we commenced a nine-month internal refurbishment and modernisation scheme to our 49-bedroom Grey Street Hotel at a cost of £1.2m, which concluded in July this year. During the refurbishment programme we had up to seven bedrooms out of service at any given time plus our bar, conference and function facilities situated within both basement levels were out of commission for five months from January. This also had an impact on overall turnover levels and profits for the division. Despite this, revenue across all sites (excluding Whitley Bay) held up at similar levels achieved in the prior year. Staff numbers fell by 26 to 223, but despite this staff costs increased by 1.3% to £3,164,333. However, we do feel that with the investment programme we have already concluded at Grey Street Hotel, and significant others to shortly commence at our existing operational sites in Gosforth, Jesmond and Newcastle, this will ensure we remain well placed to take advantage of improvements in consumer confidence and leisure related expenditure in the years to come. Within our leisure division we have construction of a 64-bedroom hotel under way in Gosforth with completion due in February 2019, while in the new year we will be commencing a £4m scheme in Jesmond to supplement our existing leisure offerings there. We are also working on two other leisure schemes on sites within Newcastle city centre, one of which will involve the development of a 120-bedroom four-star hotel.”

Chameleon Bar and Dining – market is ‘volatile for small players’: Chameleon Bar and Dining has reported pre-tax profit of £39,000 for the year ending March 31 2017 versus a profit of £179,000 the previous year and a small loss of £4,000 the year before that, demonstrating, it said, the volatility of the market for small players. Turnover for the year was down from £3.7m to £3.1m as a result of a policy of exiting from tied leases. Chairman Alistair Arkley said: “This has been a tough year for us with a lot of increased competition in our core markets, however we are pleased that we continue to be profitable albeit at a lower level than the previous year. We are continuing to develop our destination food business in Yorkshire and the north west with local sourcing of food and a strong emphasis on freshly prepared meals and good quality drinks. We were delighted with the work Marc Craddock as our new managing director has done and I’m sure the changes Marc has inevitably implemented will pay dividends as we go forward and bring a new and fresh approach to the company. Current trading remains tough but we are seeing signs that the recent changes we have made are bearing fruit.”

PizzaExpress reports 22% increase in social media followers after creating film to reunite long lost friends for Christmas: PizzaExpress has reported a 22% increase in social media followers after launching its Christmas film. The film, which brings long lost friends together, amassed more than 1.5 million views and nearly 1,000 comments across the company’s Facebook and Twitter platforms within 48 hours. The film was created to support PizzaExpress’ Christmas promotion “Gather Round Great Food”. Film company The Best Bit was commission by PizzaExpress to track down friends who hadn’t seen each other since childhood and brought them together for an emotional surprise that unfolded on hidden cameras. PizzaExpress took the decision to create the film after conducting research that showed only 5% of the population had remained close to people who were part of their past, while the majority (76%) regret not seeing friends or loved ones more regularly face-to-face. Senior marketing manger Timothy Love said: “Everybody nowadays is connected to thousands of people on social media, but it is a different story in real life. Our research gave us a real insight that we felt would resonate particularly well at Christmas time. We know our followers understand the joy of catching up over pizza, and it’s been truly heartening to see so many people watch the video and reach out to friends or family and arranging to meet up over the festive period. We’ve also seen a 22% increase in followers versus the previous 28 days, which is great for the brand heading into 2018.”

Montpeliers falls to pre-tax loss despite turnover rise: Edinburgh-based pub and restaurant business Montpeliers has reported turnover increased to £16,007,810 for the year to 30 April 2017 compared with £15,599,754 the year before. It saw a pre-tax loss of £677,462 compared with a profit of £854,209 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “Following the highly successful upgrades of Montpeliers, Bruntsfield in 2013, Indigo Yard in 2014 and our flagship unit, Tigerlily, in late 2015, we have recently completed a substantial project at Rabble (in Frederick Street, Edinburgh, formerly known as Rick’s). The ground floor has been completely changed with the creation of a central bar, which is proving to be highly popular with old and new customers alike. The food and bar offers are innovative and relevant for the target market and the bedrooms have been upgraded to increase comfort and ambience for our guests. Part of the cost of the Rabble project was expended in the April 2017 period although the upgrading works did not commence until after the period end. Trading at Rabble has increased significantly over levels achieved as Rick’s and we are confident that this trend will continue into future years.”

Jamie Oliver opens sites in Rotterdam and Vienna airport, 16 openings in 2017: Chef Jamie Oliver has taken his number of international openings to 16 in 2017 with two more launches. The first international Jamie Oliver Diner opened this week in Rotterdam, following the Gatwick South terminal opening in August. Located next to Rotterdam’s Central Station in the Weena, the new restaurant hosts 170 covers, with 40 in the bar and on high stools around the cook line. It is the second Jamie Oliver restaurant in Rotterdam following the opening of Jamie’s Italian in the Markthal in October 2015. Meanwhile, a Jamie’s Italian has opened in Vienna airport, adding to its site in the city’s downtown. The new 168-cover restaurant has opened adjacent to the Jamie’s Deli that launched in April this year, completing the second part of a three-stage opening planned for the brand in the airport with foodservice company SSP. 2018 will see a further concept added. Nick Schapira, Jamie’s International chief operating officer, said: “It’s really exciting to end the year with another opening in Vienna. Right from the first Jamie’s Deli opening in April to the two recent Jamie’s Italians – downtown and in the airport – the reception and reaction from the public has been fantastic. We’re really excited and pleased about the brand’s performance in Austria and look forward to more openings there in 2018.” Meanwhile, last week saw the first European Jamie’s Pizzeria open outside the UK, located in Budapest’s Gozsdu district, with about 75 covers inside and 54 outside on a terrace. The menu is made up of handcrafted pizzas, salads and al forno dishes. This will be the first of a series of Jamie’s Pizzeria openings in Europe with more to follow in Holland and Austria in 2018. Schapira added: “We have now opened more than 50 restaurants internationally, with 16 openings in 2017, across 24 countries.”

Tennent’s supports social enterprise pub group with six-figure investment: C&C Group has invested in social enterprise pub group Harry’s through its Tennent’s brand. Harry’s is the on-trade wing of the Beer for Good Community Interest Company and was founded in August 2015. Since then, the group has opened two bars and two cafes in Edinburgh. Now, thanks to a six-figure investment package from Tennent’s, the group has extended its presence in the capital with the purchase of Harry’s Southside, which was formerly the Southside Social, in Buccleuch Street. Aiming to support young people aged 18 to 25 requiring assistance, Harry’s offers bespoke training in the hospitality industry. Trainees are given the opportunity to gain experience and also receive industry-wide recognised qualifications to help them in their future careers. With just 16 full-time members of staff, the group’s primary focus is on developing their trainees in a working environment and has done so by delivering more than 130 vocational qualifications to students and creating more than 20 positive destinations in the past two years. Beer For Good owner Chris Thewlis said: “We are delighted to enter into this ground-breaking partnership. This is a unique investment deal and it is fantastic that Tennent’s recognises the power of good that social enterprise can do. Our agreement demonstrates that the private business sector can work with the social enterprise sector to deliver a project of this magnitude. We look forward to strengthening that bond in the near future as we work together to expand our social enterprise business and give further opportunities to deserving young people.”

White Brasserie Co lines up 17th pub: The White Brasserie Company is set to open its 17th pub – The Boot in Histon, Cambridgeshire – on Monday, 5 February. The site has had an extensive renovation to enhance its original period features, including original brick arches, beamed ceilings and an inglenook fireplace. Additionally a new green oak beamed extension has been added, with a cedar clad on the exterior. The 123-cover site will comprise a bar, snug and dining space as well as a 62-cover outdoor space. Brasserie Bar Co chief executive Mark Derry said: “We’re looking forward to opening our 17th site in historic Histon. The pub is full of character and we have gone to great lengths to restore many of the original features in the building as well as creating an impressive new extension. We look forward to welcoming people into the pub towards the start of February.”

Cosmo opens £1m restaurant in Manchester on former Red Hot World Buffet site: All-you-can-eat brand Cosmo has opened its new £1m restaurant in Manchester. The company has transformed the former Red Hot World Buffet site in Deansgate into its 21st venue. The 25,000 square foot restaurant, which seat 350 diners in leather booths, serves more than 160 dishes from around the world, including Chinese, Italian, Indian, Brazilian and Malaysian, which is cooked in front of customers at eight live cooking stations. There is also an English carvery and local specialities including Lancashire hotpot and Eccles cakes as well as a 12-metre dessert counter, which includes a double Swiss chocolate fountain. Commercial director Kan Koo told the Manchester Evening News: “We have been working incredibly hard to make sure Manchester diners can enjoy our freshly cooked global cuisine in a sumptuous and elegant setting.”

Coaching Inn Group launches chef academies: The Coaching Inn Group, led by Kevin Charity, has launched chef academies at its Three Swans Hotel in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The company has partnered with HIT Training for the initiative, which will support 20 apprentices and is designed to maximise Coaching Inn Group’s Apprenticeship Levy funding. Staff have the chance to take part in an intermediate or advanced chef academy programme. Consisting of a mix of work-based learning, mentor sessions and group training days, the academies will equip staff with the skills needed to work in every section of the kitchen. As part of its commitment to investing in staff, the Coaching Inn Group plans to extend its apprenticeship programme in 2018 to support the progression of sous chefs and head chefs within the business. Lee Melton, head of learning and development at Coaching Inn Group, said: “The industry-wide demand for chefs means that investing in training is essential to recruit and retains these highly skilled team members. We believe investing in high-quality training will not only help to future proof the business but also the vibrant and creative sector in which we work.”

JD Wetherspoon applies to convert Cambridge pub to flats: A former JD Wetherspoon pub in Cambridge destroyed in a fire two years ago could be turned into flats. The company has submitted an application to the city council to turn the burnt-out Tivoli in Chesterton Road into seven one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments. The pub has been closed since a fire in March 2015 turned much of the building to cinders. Architect firm KD Paine & Associates said a self-contained commercial space would be kept on the ground floor in addition to the flats. The planning statement said the extent of the damage caused by the fire made “conversion, repair, or onward sale as a going concern not economically viable”. The art-deco frontage of the building – originally a cinema – would be kept “in its entirety with any external repairs deemed necessary carried out in like-for-like materials”, reports the Cambridge News.

BrewDog submits plans for new bar and restaurant in home town: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has lodged plans for a new bar and restaurant in its home town of Ellon. The company has applied to Aberdeenshire Council to convert the former Helping Hands store in The Square, reports the Evening Express. A design statement stated: “The proposals are to retain the shopfront windows while fitting out the unit with a cafe bar and modest kitchen for the preparation of hot snacks and drinks. The cafe bar would operate seven days a week during the hours of 8am until 10pm. The restricted cafe bar hours are to minimise concerns over late-night revellers attending the premises and are aimed at protecting the occupants of nearby residential properties from noise or disturbance early in the morning or late in the evening.”

Former Young’s general manager takes over Surrey pub: Agent Savills, on behalf of a private vendor, has assigned the free-of-tie leasehold of The Abinger Hatch, on the outskirts of Abinger Common near Dorking, to former Young’s general manager Bradley Marchant and his wife Charlotte. The pub is located in the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one mile from the A25 that connects the Mole Valley area with Dorking and Guildford. Marchant said: “My wife and I are incredibly excited to be taking over ownership of The Abinger Hatch, which we want to put back at the heart of the community. We want to put local produce at the forefront of the menu and create a warm, welcoming environment for locals and guests from further afield. We’re excited to also make The Abinger Hatch our home and we have exciting plans for the future of the pub.”
Worcestershire-based pub operators acquire second site: Husband-and-wife team Andrew Cornthwaite and Kate Lane, who operate The Baiting House in Upper Sapey, near Worcester, have acquired their second site. They have bought The Admiral Rodney in Berrow Green, near Martley, which had been closed for about a year, and have embarked on a significant refurbishment. Accommodation and a separate dining room, which used to be the stable block, are being revamped, while the skittle alley will be used for functions and as a venue for air-rifle league fixtures. There is also planning permission for three lodges in the grounds to add to the six rooms inside. The pub is expected to reopen in March. The Baiting House offers accommodation in the pub and in nearby lodges and was awarded two AA Rosettes for its food. Cornthwaite told the Worcester News: “The Baiting House was more of an engineering project – it was falling down – The Admiral Rodney has good bones. I am looking for another one.”
No. 1 Rosemary Water secures £1.75m investment and new restaurant partners: Drinks brand No. 1 Rosemary Water has secured investment of £1.75m and new restaurant partners to round off its first year. Founder David Spencer-Percival will see his drink stocked in more than 100 Carluccio’s and 30 Leon restaurants from January, complementing existing outlets including Nobu, Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. It has also revealed an additional £1.75m of investment to bolster the £1.95m raised this year and wider plans for 2018 include expansion into key US cities and an advertising campaign that will include focuses on cinema and premium print media. Spencer-Percival commented: “We’ve had a massively exciting first year. We’ve launched a drink that not only tastes incredible but has enabled us to share the natural benefits of rosemary in an accessible and efficient way for everyone to enjoy.”

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