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Mon 5th Mar 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King hits 10,000-apprentice milestone: Brewer and retailer Greene King has passed the milestone of supporting 10,000 team members through its apprenticeship programme. The milestone accounts for team members who have graduated from the Greene King Apprenticeship Programme since its launch in 2011, as well as the 200 currently in training. The award-winning programme offers roles for leadership and management, brewing, chefs, bar and front of house staff and helps team members achieve industry-leading qualifications and build a long-term career in hospitality. Greene King also launched the Get Into Hospitality programme in partnership with The Prince’s Trust in 2016. The three-week intensive programme addresses the skills gaps that prevent unemployed young people from getting into work. So far, 160 young people have gained Get Into Hospitality certification. Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “We have invested in our apprenticeship programme for seven years and it’s great we’ve been able to support 10,000 of our team members during that time. But it won’t stop there as we recognise it’s more important than ever we continue to bring young people into the hospitality industry and show it can provide a stable, exciting and rewarding career.” Meanwhile, transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has launched an apprenticeship programme at Manchester airport. The catering and hospitality apprentice programme will work in collaboration with the airport’s on-site Airport Academy, which is run in conjunction with Stockport College, to offer 40 front and back-of-house roles. Apprentices can gain Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications towards team leader, deputy manager and general manager roles.

Industry News:

Social Media Strategy In A Day opens for bookings: Social Media Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has been launched – and is open for bookings. The event features all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure and broaden their reach. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop that will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event, which takes place on Thursday, 26 April at One Moorgate Place in London, will open with Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell revealing updates from recent industry reports and analysing insightful statistics. Attendees will be among the first to hear what she took away from the SXSW conference in the US. You will also learn the “top ten principles of persuasion for hospitality businesses”, which will show you how to apply psychological principles to help people buy your products and services. Craig Hill will help you unearth your brand character and show you how to tell others about it in an interesting and engaging way. During the “inspiration session”, you will look at ten killer social media campaigns – what worked and why are people talking about them. The “interactive guide to content brainstorming” will force you to look at a campaign in a more emotional and engaging way, while the Digital Blonde team will also look at the changes Facebook made to its algorithm earlier this year and reveal what it means for your social account. The “understanding user behaviour” section of the event will answer key questions such as how do you engage with millennials and do Gen Z even use Facebook any more? Fewell will round up the morning session by sharing the latest updates on the incoming General Data Protection Regulation. The afternoon will start with a quick-fire round of 20 questions in 20 minutes, while Jamie Riddell, of pay-as-you-go analytics platform BirdSong Data, will reveal useful things about user behaviour in the hospitality sector. The “ultimate content toolkit” talk will reveal the tools you need to create engaging content cost-effectively from your mobile phone. Social copywriter Nicola Proud will share her top copywriting hints and tips and reveal how to write Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts that stop people scrolling. The event will also reveal how to use Instagram stories to drive revenue for your business and show the key differences between the social advertising platforms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Finally, the team will tell you where to find influential people, what to pay them and how to successfully build them into your strategy. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Restaurant and bar sector closes gap on animal welfare, UK operators ‘streets ahead’ of US: The restaurant and bar sector has closed the gap on retailers, manufacturers and producers regarding animal welfare, with UK companies “streets ahead” of their US rivals, according to the latest Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW). The sector has traditionally lagged other sub-sectors but its average score has risen to 34% from 27% in 2016, compared with food retailers (37%) and producers (38%). Companies are measured for their approach to managing farm animal welfare in four areas and then placed in one of six tiers. Domino’s Pizza and JD Wetherspoon were the biggest climbers – up three tiers from six to three. McDonald’s and Greggs remained in tier two. The report also showed clear water between UK and US foodservice companies in relation to animal welfare. Only Associated British Foods languished in the bottom two tiers from the UK, compared with several US-based foodservice firms including Starbucks and Yum! Brands. In all, 110 companies featured – 40 retailers and wholesalers, 40 producers and 30 restaurant and bar chains. BBFAW executive director Nicky Amos said the most significant change this year was the “dramatically improved performance” of foodservice companies. She told Footprint: “Our discussions with companies in the sector suggest this improvement is being driven by increased client and consumer interest in farm animal welfare and by NGO, media and investor pressure on these companies to make public commitments on specific animal welfare issues.”

Wet-led businesses perform best as operators see 0.2% like-for-like sales rise in February: Wet-led businesses performed best as operators saw an average 0.2% increase in like-for-like sales in February compared with the previous year, according to S4Labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Despite the harsh weather that hit much of the UK towards the end of the month, analysis of sales data from more than 100 organisations that use S4Labour revealed strong trading for many hospitality operators in February. The company said the rise was primarily driven by wet-led operators, who enjoyed an average 4.8% uplift across their sites. Food-focused venues typically experienced a tougher month, seeing an average 0.6% fall in sales, the company said.

UK leads the way as European hotel transactions leap 22% in 2017: European hotel transactions leapt 22% in 2017 compared with the year before with the UK leading the way, according to the annual European Hotel Transactions report by global consultancy HVS. UK sales volumes accounted for 25% of total activity reaching €5.4bn, up from €3.6bn in 2016. Single-asset sales saw values of €3bn, while portfolio activity accounted for €2.4bn. London remained the leading European hotel transaction market with total volume of €2.5bn, ahead of Amsterdam (€1.3bn) and Paris (€777m). Overall hotel transaction volume in Europe reached €21.7bn in 2017, the second-largest figure recorded. Single-asset transactions were up 16% year-on-year to €12.4bn, continuing an upward trend and accounting for 57% of transaction volume. In total, 323 hotels (59,500 rooms) were acquired in 2017 for more than €7.5m. Portfolio volume showed a 29% increase to €9.3bn. HVS Hodges Ward Elliott associate and report co-author Peter Szabo said: “A year of strong revpar growth across most of Europe was reflected in transaction levels, particularly in London, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Madrid.” HVS associate and co-author Magalí Castells added: “Stability in exchange rates and interest rates and the availability of hotel stock has helped Europe become popular among hotel investors, particularly private equity investors from North America. Key factors that will influence the transaction market in 2018 will be interest rates and staffing pressures. As stock becomes scarce in primary markets, developers and investors will increasingly look at secondary markets such as Southern Europe or the CEE.”

High level of job satisfaction is ‘vindication of hospitality sector’s hard work’: A new study that shows high levels of satisfaction among hospitality workers is vindication of the sector’s hard work, UKHospitality has said. The trade body, which is the new unified voice for the sector following the merger of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and British Hospitality Association, was referring to a study by Engaging Works that revealed more than two-thirds (68%) of hospitality workers feel happy at work compared with 61% in other sectors. The survey also showed three-quarters (75%) of workers in hospitality felt better respected than those in other industries (70%), better cared for (63% versus 61%) and better recognised when they did something well (67% versus 63%). UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “All of us in the hospitality sector are proud of the work we do and we continually try to impress on those on the outside that our venues are fun, welcoming and rewarding places in which to work. The results of this survey validate our work but it is a message we need to communicate to parliamentarians, the media and the wider public that may have misconceptions about working in hospitality.” Meanwhile, UKHospitality has made a series of recommendations in response to the draft London Plan to promote the capital’s hospitality businesses. They include planning, taxation, licensing and employment, public health, skills and jobs. Nicholls said: “The London Assembly has shown it is ready to listen to advice and concerns from businesses and we will ensure hospitality is at the forefront of plans to revitalise and support growth in London.”

Heineken’s Greek subsidiary loses latest legal fight in anti-competitive market abuses case: Heineken’s Greek subsidiary Athenian Brewery has lost its latest legal fight over anti-competitive market abuses in the country. The Greek Public Prosecutor has dismissed “fundamentally unfounded” allegations of perjury made by Athenian Brewery against Macedonian Thrace Brewery and a distributor that had testified against Heineken in Greece before the competition regulator, the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC). The prosecutor concluded the complaint by Athenian Brewery, which is 98.8% owned by Heineken, was "totally false” and had been filed “with malicious intent". Athenian Brewery filed the complaint after Macedonian Thrace Brewery had given its support to the public prosecutor’s criminal action in Greece against two senior Heineken executives at Athenian Brewery who were charged with competition law infringements and are due to face trial this month after several postponements. The trial was originally scheduled for July 2016. The charges were brought following a 12-year investigation by the HCC, which in 2015 ruled for nearly two decades Athenian Brewery had systematically abused its dominant market position in violation of Greek and EU competition law. In July 2017, an appeal by Athenian Brewery against the HCC findings was dismissed by the Athens Administrative Appeals Court, confirming a record €26.7m fine on Heineken’s Greek subsidiary. Following the ruling, Macedonian Thrace Brewery launched a €100m-plus damages claim against Heineken and Athenian Brewery in the Court of Amsterdam, commercial division, in February 2017. The court will hear summary legal arguments on Thursday, 22 March.
 

Company News:

Gordon Ramsay confirms departure of chief executive: Gordon Ramsay Group has confirmed the departure of chief executive Stuart Gillies. A document filed on Friday (2 March) at Companies House by holding company Kavalake showed Gillies left the company on 8 February. It is understood managing director Andy Wenlock has been promoted into the role. Despite several reports of Gillies departure, there had been no official confirmation from the company. Gillies was himself promoted from managing director to chief executive in March 2016 Last year, Gordon Ramsay Group reported a return to profit following losses of £2m and £6m in the previous two years.

Shake Shack – collaborations with artists and designers keeping brand 'fresh and appealing' in challenging UK casual dining market: Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati has told Propel its collaborations with designers and artists are keeping the brand fresh and appealing to consumers in an increasingly challenging UK casual dining market. For its latest collaboration, the company has teamed with Grammy and MOBO-award winning producer Shahid Khan – aka Naughty Boy – to launch limited-edition chicken burger, The Naughty One. And Rosati said it would continue to explore similar "partnerships" in the future. He added: "I think it helps us stop becoming stale. We want to be constantly evolving and changing parts of our menu. I think that's so important, particularly in today's market. Whether it's the food, the music or the look of our restaurants, we need to make sure we stay ahead of the times. It helps us stay fun and fresh, allows our guests to have a great experience in our restaurants and then hopefully keep them coming back. It was great working with Naughty Boy. We met him in New York and when he told us how much he loved Shake Shack it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work together. It's a match made in heaven." Rosati added the company hoped to add another UK site this year to its eight-strong estate but it would not be rushed. He added: "I think there's a lot of potential for us to grow in the UK but our expansion will be steady. We will open the next site when we are ready – whether that be in London or outside. We want to make sure the most recent opening has been established and is a success before moving on to the next one. We have to make sure the neighbourhood we're going into is the right fit for us and the people there – that's very important to us."

Revolution Bars Group chairman – evolved food offer will boost our daytime appeal: Revolution Bars Group chairman Keith Edelman has told Propel the company's plans to evolve its food offer will help it boost its appeal as a daytime destination. The company will start trials of new menus in the coming months before looking to roll-out across the estate later this year. It is aiming to increase food sales to 25% of revenue from its current 15% and Edelman said it would take "two or three years" to get the level it was looking for. The new offer would be available across about 75% of the estate, including all Revolución de Cuba sites. Edelman said: "Our food is good but not great – it's a bit of this and a bit of that – and we want to change that. Our cocktail offer is great and now we are looking to do the same with our food. We want to make it more fun and differentiate ourselves from what the competition is doing. We want people to look at us more as a place to come in the daytime – not just evenings and weekends. We've only just started on making changes with the appointment of Simon Dobson as food director in January. We've got more research we need to do, both in-house and with consumers but Simon has the expertise to help us deliver the standard we're looking for. But it will take time – it's not something that's going to change overnight." Edelman added new openings were now generating a return on investment of 35% and it was continuing to build a pipeline of sites. He said: "We have a strong business and I'm confident we'll get even stronger, particular as we revitalise the food we are serving." 

Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck reports return to profit: Chef Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin starred restaurant The Fat Duck has reported a return to profit in its first full year of operation since returning from a residency in Australia while the Berkshire venue under went a £2.5m refurbishment. The restaurant, based in the village of Bray, reported turnover up to £6,347,301 for the year ending 28 May 2017 compared with £6,258,610 the previous year. It made a pre-tax profit of £533,145 compared with a loss of £576,738 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin rose to 71% from 66% the previous year. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “2017 was the first full operational year after The Fat Duck team returned from its temporary residence in Melbourne, Australia. The directors arc pleased with the performance of the restaurant and value the hard work and support of the team. The company supports and drives revenue with the continuing development of a personalised fine dining experience as well as focusing on cost efficiencies.” The Fat Duck regained its three Michelin star rating last year following its Australian sabbatical. 

Bristol-based brewery led by former BrewDog operations director hits £450,000 crowdfunding target within hour of launch: Bristol-based Left Handed Giant Brewing has hit its £450,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within an hour of launch as it bids to build a new home. The company, which is led by former BrewDog operations director Bruce Gray, is offering a 6% stake in return for the investment. So far, 614 investors have pledged £568,360 and the campaign is now "overfunding" with 28 days remaining. The pitch states: "Three years ago we set out to create our own brewery. A place for us to explore and develop our skills as brewers and a place for us to create beers that we loved and enjoyed. We now have wholesale partners throughout the UK and export to Sweden, Denmark, France and Italy. But we don’t see our future in sending our beer further from source, diluting our connection with our customers. We need your investment to take the next step. We are creating a true home for our business in the centre of Bristol where we can reside long into the future. We will build our new brewery here, brewing beer in the very heart of Bristol. We will house a bar, restaurant and event space to create a venue which matches the quality of our beers. Our existing brewery will become a mixed fermentation specific facility with coolship with an extended barrel and Foudre store. Here we will develop sours with a true tie to our locality. We intend to purchase the long leasehold of the building by way of a commercial mortgage." The company forecasts turnover of £2.3m with profit of £660,000 in 2018-19, growing to £2.7m turnover with £833,000 profit in 2019-20 and £3.6m turnover with £1.1m profit in 2020-21.

Honi Poké reveals more details of second London site, opening in the City this week: Hawaiian poké specialist Honi Poké is to open its second London site, near Fenchurch Street in the City on Wednesday (7 March). The 65-cover, 2,150 square foot venue will feature a first-floor mezzanine, a counter bar, pendant lighting and neon signs. Founder Vladimir Martynov and executive chef Richard De La Cruz, formerly of Spain’s two Michelin-starred Sergi Arola and three Michelin-starred Quique Dacosta restaurants, have developed the menu to eat in or take away. Open Monday to Friday, the counter service menu will offer signature protein bowls – flame-torched octopus, tuna, salmon, teriyaki chicken and tofu – paired with sushi rice, brown rice or coleslaw and a house-made, gluten-free sauce. Fish will sustainably sourced and delivered to the site daily. Diners will also be able to customise their bowls with ingredients such as salty mango and nori seaweed. Unlike Honi Poké’s debut restaurant in Soho, which opened last year, the City site will offer breakfast, with house smoothies and coffees on offer from 7.30am alongside tapioca bread and dishes such as eggs on toast with cream cheese and avocado. Martynov said: “Since opening our debut site in Soho’s Dean Street this time last year, we have developed a fantastic following and are incredibly excited to take the next step on our journey. Fenchurch is a much larger site, allowing us to trial breakfast and serve alcohol.”

Freehold of Brighton building let to Patty & Bun to be auctioned for £1.75m-plus: The freehold of a building in Brighton let to better burger brand Patty & Bun is to be auctioned by Allsop with a guide price of £1.75m-plus. Patty & Bun holds the lease for the property in Ship Street that expires in 2037 with no breaks, paying £105,000 rent annually, suggesting a 6% gross initial yield for the buyer. A rent review is due in 2022 and total current rents are reserved. The property is one of a series set to be auctioned by Allsop on Thursday, 22 March at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge, London.

Remarkable Pubs launches east London craft beer pub with fish and chip shop collaboration: Remarkable Pubs, the 14-strong London-based operator, has relaunched West Bromwich Albion-themed pub the Albion in Hackney as a craft beer pub that includes a fish and chip shop collaboration. Following an “intricate” refurbishment of the pub in Goldsmiths Row, it has reopened as The Virgin Queen featuring decor inspired by nearby Sutton House, a National Trust-owned Tudor townhouse. Details include a reclaimed, hand-carved wooden fireplace, quirky seating and a feature bar. For the venture, Remarkable Pubs has teamed with local chippie Fish House, which offers a traditional menu alongside dishes such as lobster bisque and fish pie, and desserts including brioche bread and butter pudding with figs, marzipan and cream. The drinks list features offerings from local brewers such as Hackney, Beavertown and Crate including “Beers of Intrigue” taps serving limited runs of harder to find brews. Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna said: “The Virgin Queen is an intriguing Tardis of Tudorness, with a tip-top drinks list and top-notch fish and chips. I think we may have created a bucket list pub!”

Manchester-based operators unite to take over former Oddworld sites: Manchester-based operators Matt Nickson and Adam Regan have united to take over two sites in the city formerly operated by Oddworld. Nickson, who co-founded jazz club Matt & Phreds, and chef Regan, who launched bar and music venue Stage & Radio, will reopen Odd Bar in Thomas Street as vegan restaurant and music venue Folk & Soul. Odd Bar closed with neighbouring Northern Quarter bar The Blue Pig and Oddest in Chorlton when Oddworld entered administration in January. The pair will also reopen Oddest as real ale bar The Mash Tun. Folk & Soul will focus on “playful, plant-based modern British cookery” alongside an all-vegan drinks list. Regan, who has worked for Sir Terence Conran and Gordon Ramsay and previously owned Ancoats cafe bar The Cutting Room, told the Manchester Evening News: “It will be fun-filled, full-flavoured modern British cuisine using plant-based ingredients.” The venue will also host live music. Nickson said: “There’s been no net increase in live music in the Northern Quarter in the 20 years since I opened Matt & Phreds.” The Mash Tun will offer a gastro-pub menu alongside real ale and craft beer. The pair also hope to open another music venue and find a home for their Fundamentum Brewery.

McDonald's shares have historic worst day after new Dollar Menu gets slammed as failure: McDonald's shares took a hit on Friday (2 March) after analysts slammed its highly hyped value menu as a flop. The company’s shares fell 4.8%, marking the worst dollar decline in history and the steepest percentage drop since October 2008, reports MarketWatch. The fall came after RBC Capital Markets analysts claimed McDonald's new $1, $2, $3 Dollar Menu, which rolled out in January, failed to resonate with customers. "Our sense is that the $1, $2, $3 platform stole attention from local marketing, particularly at breakfast, which likely slowed as a consequence," analysts wrote in a note, in which they cut their price target for the company to $170 from $190. "In addition, we believe the menu's position as a variety play lacked the 'hero' item necessary to resonate with value-conscious consumers. Lastly, we believe McDonald's early signalling of this initiative may have invited a flurry of competitor responses and diminished its overall impact." The RBC analysts are now predicting like-for-like sales growth of 1% for the first quarter, compared with their previous estimate of 3.5% growth. McDonald's revealed plans to roll out the new Dollar Menu menu in late October. It ended its original Dollar Menu in 2013, and replaced it with a higher-priced value menu. Executives later acknowledged the move alienated many customers. The $1, $2, $3 menu offers items including the sausage burrito, McChicken, cheeseburger, and soft drinks of all sizes for $1. For $2, customers can order the Sausage McGriddle, two-piece Buttermilk Crispy Tenders, Bacon McDouble, and small McCafé drinks. The Sausage McMuffin with eggs, new Classic Chicken Sandwich, triple Cheeseburger, and Happy Meals cost $3.

Online food-ordering firm Appetise fails in £500,000 crowdfunding bid: Birmingham-based online food-ordering firm Appetise has failed in its bid to raise £500,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to scale up in the city before expanding to “other key regions in the UK”. The company, which has Revolution Bars Group executive chairman Keith Edelman as its non-executive chairman, was offering a 33.33% equity stake in return for the investment. However, Crowdcube stated: “Unfortunately Appetise did not reach its funding target before the closing date.” Appetise was targeting further growth in Birmingham, where it has 370 restaurant partners and 60,000 customer accounts. After that it was looking to expand to London and other key UK cities with further fund-raising planned. 

Bonnie Gull launches debut site for grab-and-go concept Salt ‘n’ Sauce: British seaside restaurant concept Bonnie Gull has launched the debut site for its grab-and-go concept Salt ‘n’ Sauce. The company has opened the site at the Westgate Centre in Oxford within its food and leisure area, Westgate Social. Salt 'n' Sauce features Bonnie Gull's take on fish and chips – cod fried in tempura beer batter with triple cooked beef dripping chunky chips. It also serves a salt and pepper squid burger and the "ultimate chip butty" among other items. Alex Hunter, founder of Bonnie Gull and Salt ‘n’ Sauce, told Insider Media: "We’re excited to be opening the first permanent Salt ‘n’ Sauce in Oxford after our successful summer pop-up in west London. The Westgate Social is the perfect environment to launch our new brand and will suit all diners from students to tourists to local shoppers. Salt ‘n’ Sauce is our chip shop for a new generation." 

Pizza Hut to roll out Mastercard's mobile app payment in UK: Pizza Hut will allow its UK customers to order, pay and split bills with Mastercard’s “Qkr With Masterpass” mobile payment app later this month. Pizza Hut UK will join a range of restaurant groups that have already added the mobile payment service to their offering from Monday, 19 March. Operators that already include Qkr as part of their payment options include Wagamama, Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian and Young’s. Pizza Hut said it has invested in the service because of the customer convenience factor but also as part of a wider company target that involves putting technology investment at the heart of much it does. IT director Keith Frimley told Essential Retail: “Rolling out Qkr is a fantastic opportunity for us to continue the innovation journey we are on as a brand. Over the past six years we have invested more than £60m in transforming our restaurants and menu, and this allows us to continue to improve the service and experience we offer our guests as well as embracing technology, which has become so central to modern culture.”

Vue founder – cinema industry will be dominated by small number of big global chains: Vue Cinema founder and chief executive Tim Richards has said he believes the industry will be dominated by a small number of big global chains. Richards has also played down the threat of competition from Netflix and Amazon, pointing out home viewing is a different market altogether. However, he said he “would not discount” companies such as Amazon getting into the cinema business. He told the Mail on Sunday: “I can see Amazon or Netflix or Apple even – they’re all sitting on huge amounts of cash – looking at getting into cinemas. In the same way that historically, the cinema chains were owned by the studios.” Estimates suggested Vue, which is controlled by the Canadian pension funds Omers and Aimco after they bought the company in 2013 for £935m, could now be worth £1.6bn. On the subject of a potential float, Richards, who still owns a 27% stake in the business, said: “We have made no decision and are working hard opening new markets and upgrading cinemas.” Vue currently has more than 200 cinemas in ten countries. 

Carluccio’s to ban plastic straws: Carluccio’s, the 103-strong group of Italian restaurants founded by the late Antonio Carluccio, is to remove plastic straws from all of its sites by the end of the month. A sustainable, biodegradable paper alternative will be available to customers who specifically ask for and/or need a straw. Chief executive Mark Jones said: “In 2017, Carluccio’s used 1.5 million straws across its UK business and about half a million in London alone. Operating a large national group means we have the power to make a real difference. Removing plastic straws is us playing our part in reducing the volume of plastic that significantly damages our environment and wildlife”. As well as being a founder member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), Carluccio’s was one of the first hospitality groups to be awarded a three-star rating by the organisation. In 2014, Carluccio’s scooped the Award for Innovation at the SRA Awards.

Chicken shop app launches £100,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Chicken shop app Chicken2me has launched a £100,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in a bid to fund expansion. The app launched last year in partnership with influencer Elijah Quashie, known as The Chicken Connoisseur, with their promotional video gaining almost 30,000 downloads. The team is offering 5.0% equity in return for investment. Chicken2me helps users find, rate and order from their favourite chicken shops, including more than 8,000 in London. The app is driven by a maps-based interface, allowing users to find their nearest shop. The pitch states: “Despite being the most popular fast food in the US, many chicken shops remain undigitised, which may result in lost revenue. Through leveraging the global community of chicken-lovers, Chicken2me aims to solve this problem. With a database of more than 2,000 shops already on the app, Chicken2me has already driven the digitisation of shops. The team is excited to expand massively with phase two, which includes enhancing the application – native navigation, a payment system and retention schemes – as well as building on the existing relations with our chicken shop partners.”

New wine-focused neighbourhood restaurant Sapling to launch in Dalston: New wine-focused neighbourhood restaurant Sapling is to launch this month in Dalston, east London. Founder Bob Ritchie will open the site on Thursday, 15 March in Kingsland Road. The restaurant will feature a weekly changing focus list of 36 wines, including a number of grower champagnes and other notable sparkling wines. The aim is to represent a broad spectrum of “inspired and inventive interpretations” and as a result, most of the wines will by their very nature be sustainable, organic, biodynamic or low-intervention – all available to order by the glass. Additionally, there will be a larger list of more than 100 wines available by the bottle or to sample via the Coravin system. A seasonal food menu will match the broad range of wines available. Alongside small plates will be a “larder” menu that will also be curated to complement the wines on offer and mirror the restaurants exploratory philosophy. Ritchie said: “Sapling has been five years in the making and it’s been an amazing journey. I started with weekly tutored tastings at the Berry Bros’ Pickering Cellar, which then evolved into wine schools in Beaune, multiple wine exams, nearly two years of searching for the right site and then leaving my previous career at the end of 2016 to make Sapling happen. The team and I are very much looking forward to sharing the continuation of this journey with everyone in the area.”

Stonegate reopens Newcastle Quayside pub following £325,000 refurbishment: Stonegate Pub Company has reopened the Akenside Traders in Newcastle’s Quayside following a £325,000 refurbishment. The revamped pub features a number of “city firsts”, including a full-sized video wall, shuffleboard and bookable booths with televisions. The pub has also had two large screens and seven high-density TVs installed to screen sports. The new decor also features abstract lighting, including neon signs that illuminate a wall of craft beer and cider, and kaleidoscopic windows that change colour. Manager Kevan Shutt said: “We’ve always been famous for parties and that will continue, while we’ve extended our offer to create a busy daytime too. We’re an authentic Newcastle pub – with some modern elements added.”

J Stern – ‘tailwinds’ seen for AB InBev as revenues beat forecasts: London-based private investment office J Stern & Co has said it sees tailwinds for Anheuser-Busch InBev as its full-year revenue beat forecasts. Chief investment officer Christopher Rossbach said: “This was a good enough close to the year for the group, and the shares have continued to climb since it announced its results. Revenues during the fourth quarter were of particular note, ahead by 8.2%, well ahead of the consensus, with its global brands business a real highlight after showing growth 17.8%. The business also continues to deliver cost savings and synergies following the merger with SABMiller, delivering $381m in the fourth quarter alone to take savings to $1.3bn for 2017. Since the takeover it has achieved total cost savings of $2.1bn. However, management indicated they are determined to grow revenues not just keep on cutting costs, talking about category expansion and strategy. Looking ahead, the company is guiding for a slightly softer first quarter– quite conservative after the last quarter’s figures – that is likely to do with the timing of marketing expenses for the World Cup this year. Nonetheless, it had a reasonable fourth quarter, and should have a few tailwinds at its back now enabling the business to press on in 2018. The stock has been out of favour but, as the market has shown since it announced its results, the numbers are supportive of our long-term investment case.”

BabaBoom to host female founders’ Seat at the Table event on International Women’s Day: Eve Bugler, founder of Middle Eastern restaurant concept BabaBoom, will welcome a number of female founders from across the hospitality industry and beyond on International Women’s Day on Thursday (8 March). Bugler is hosting the Seat at the Table event at the Battersea Rise venue where gusts will enjoy a feast of BabaBoom food. Operators attending include Jane O’Riordan (former Nando’s strategy director – now The Dynamo founder), Laura Harper Hinton (Caravan), Tamara Rahmen (Chit Chat Chai) and Helena Hudson (The Real Eating Co). Bugler told Propel: “I was inspired to organise Seat at the Table at BabaBoom after attending Ann Elliott’s all female line-up at (day two of) January’s Restaurant Marketer and Innovator Conference. The conference was a revelation – the humility, creativity and determination that was embodied in the women speakers there was the perfect antidote to the challenging market conditions. I’m a big believer that female founded business will thrive in tough times because of the resilience of the women who run them.” Any female founders interested in attending the free event can email eve@bababoom.london for more details.

Zonal launches recruitment website as it looks to add 100 staff: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has launched a dedicated recruitment website as it looks to add 100 staff to its workforce. The company said the new tool would facilitate expansion by finding the best people to add to its 500-strong team located across the UK, including its head office in Tanfield, Edinburgh. Zonal is looking to create 100 jobs as it invests more than £5m in research and development and introduces new products during 2018. The family firm will celebrate 40 years in business next year and has also unveiled new branding that it has used to refresh its corporate website. Chief executive Stuart McLean said: “Our new brand is modern and reflective of our ambitious growth plans for the next decade and beyond.” Zonal provides integrated hospitality management solutions to more than 15,000 leisure and hospitality businesses across the UK. 

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