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Mon 12th Mar 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate at circa 4% like-for-like sales growth, opens call centre, expanding Felson’s pool hall concept: Stonegate Pub Company, which operates about 700 wet-led pubs, has told Propel its like-for-like sales growth is trading at circa 4%. Chief executive Simon Longbottom said Stonegate remained focused on meeting “unmet demand for drinks-led occasions with increasing consumer interest in premium drinks, craft beer, experimentation and Instagrammable drinks”. The company previously reported 5.5% like-for-like sales growth during the festive period, showing wet-led operators that have invested in their estates are currently outperforming casual dining operators and the broader restaurant sector. Stonegate operates the Slug and Lettuce and Yates’s brands, plus about 100 sites within its Venues and Walkabout division where the majority of takings come after 11pm. It also operates about 260 community pubs, with drink sales accounting for 80% of overall takings. The company operates a six-year investment cycle with an average investment of £200,000 to £250,000 per site. It sets a 40% return on investment target so sites pay back within a two-and-a-half to three-year period. The company will invest in a further 110 sites in its current financial year, which means it expects to complete its entire estate investment cycle this year – it currently has circa 100 sites that have not had investment under Stonegate ownership. Longbottom told Propel: “We are seeing very even returns on investment across all our formats. We began to invest in 2011 so we are starting to see sites come around for investment again, always looking at which format will unlock the best returns at each site.” The company has also put a strong emphasis on developing internal progression to site manager positions and expects to have 200 “own-grown” general managers by September this year. Stonegate has also opened its own call centre above one of its pubs in Derby to ensure it can answer calls from customers as effectively as possible. The call centre, staffed by a team of 16, has been open for three weeks and answers calls to the company’s pubs between 9am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday. Longbottom said the call centre opened in response to growing consumer demand for pre-booked visits. He added: “Customers increasingly want certainty when they are planning a night out and don’t want to wait to have their calls answered. We measured how often phones went unanswered and found only one in three calls were being answered because staff were focusing on serving customers. We’ve only had the call centre open for three weeks but we are now answering more than 90% of calls.” The call centre trial currently answers all calls to its branded sites and ten hotels. Stonegate also plans to open three Felson’s Stick Hall operations focusing on a premium pool hall experience in the next three months after the success of the first two. The company acquired Felson’s as part of its acquisition of Walkabout operator Intertain 14 months ago. Intertain opened the first Felson’s two years ago above its Walkabout site in Bournemouth town centre at a cost of about £250,000. Longbottom said Felson’s was producing “incremental sales” by making use of “underutilised spaces”. Meanwhile, Longbottom also reported Stonegate now has Sky and BT Sports installed at 450 of its pubs, the largest number of pubs the company has had showing satellite sport.
 

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 strategyTickets 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 

Restaurants warn chancellor over ‘damaging closures’: A group of restaurant bosses is warning the government it must act to avoid "damaging closures and job losses". In a letter to chancellor Philip Hammond, they have asked for "root and branch" reform of business rates. Duncan Garrood, chief executive of Bill’s, and Mitchells & Butlers chairman Bob Ivell are among the 15 who signed the letter. Ahead of Hammond’s spring statement on the economy on Tuesday (13 March), the business leaders described a "perfect storm" that has hit their sector. They blamed "soaring business rates, rising employment costs and Brexit-fuelled inflation" for the difficult trading conditions, reports the BBC. The letter said: "We need government action now to reduce the unnecessary costs of doing business if we are to avoid damaging closures and job losses. The sector is at a tipping point and needs focused attention now." A string of restaurant chains including Jamie's Italian and better burger brand Byron have closed outlets recently amid financial difficulties. Last week, Prezzo became the latest to reveal planned cut backs with 94 outlets set to close. That amounts to about a third of its outlets and includes all of its Tex-Mex chain Chimichanga. Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver’s barbecue chain Barbecoa went into administration last month. According to research published last week, one in three of the UK's top 100 restaurant groups are not making a profit. Consumer spending power – squeezed by low wage growth and higher inflation – means consumers are reining in discretionary leisure spending in general. Some are replacing it with home delivered meals, or ready-meals such as Marks and Spencer's Dine In for Two for £10. Some analysts also argue there has been too much expansion among chain restaurants.

‘Casual dining contraction is independent’s opportunity’: Well-run independent operators have a chance to take back market share as casual dining brands close sites and scale back expansion, according to buying specialist Lynx Purchasing. Operators who do their homework on the eating-out market, including implementing strong buying disciplines, can broaden their customer appeal, said Lynx Purchasing managing director Rachel Dobson. She added: “Since the start of 2018 we’ve seen a number of well-known casual dining operators announce branch closures, renegotiate with their landlords, and cut back on expansion plans. It’s clear that some brands had over-extended themselves. While every business is dealing with the challenges of more cautious levels of consumers spending, there are still customers ready to eat out if they are offered good value and quality. Many of the businesses we work with are independent restaurants, pubs and cafés, and we’re advising them to look carefully at their menus and suppliers, and make sure they are implementing sensible buying habits that will enable them to make the most of opportunities in the current market.” Lynx Purchasing highlighted the changing eating out landscape as it published the spring 2018 edition of its regular Market Forecast. Product issues flagged up in the report include beef, where strong export demand is pushing up prices for UK customers, and the high profile investigation by the Food Standards Agency into catering butchers is also causing challenges. With fish, new regulations have been put in place that aim to significantly reduce catches and the report said chefs should consider using high-quality, certified farmed sea bass, as an alternative. Dairy prices continue to fluctuate and while the price of butter is softening, it is still higher than a year ago. Meanwhile, the sugar tax, which comes into force in April, means some brands may implement a price increase over and above the tax itself to offset higher production costs. Dobson added: “There will be boosts to trade around upcoming occasions such as Easter, as well as two bank holidays and the Royal Wedding in May; and, as we know, it sometimes only takes a spell of good weather to persuade customers out to eat and drink.”
 
Hospitality chat app Yapster to launch £650,000 crowdfunding campaign to fuel growth: Yapster, the chat app for hospitality and retail teams, is to launch a £650,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube this month to fuel its growth. The company, which includes Caffe Nero among its customers, is offering a 6.5% equity stake in return for the investment. Yapster, founded by Robert Liddiard and Craig McMillan, enables "more effective and efficient communication" for companies with mobile workforces. Staff can send one-to-one and group messages, initiate flash polls, and post to the company newsfeed. Liddiard told Propel: "With the General Data Protection Regulation about to bite in May –making unofficial use of WhatsApp at work a real HR litigation risk – we're now planning a big growth push back into the hospitality sector for 2018/19.” The pitch states: "Deskless workers make up about 80% of today's workforce meaning they rarely use a PC. From existing work with companies the Yapster team has found that this causes a number of problems. Retail and hospitality managers believe the key benefits of using Yapster include streamlined internal communication, allowing genuine two-way conversations between head office and regions/individual locations, as well as within certain hierarchy level. Employees are more engaged in the business, reflected by lower staff turnover rates, higher productivity, and fewer unplanned absences. The app evolves with their business – we work with our customers to constantly improve the user experience and add new features. Integration with existing HR software and a dedicated admin console make the platform easy to manage." For the year ended 31 December 2017, Yapster reported revenue of £200,000, gross profit of £13,000 and recorded an overall loss of £101,000 after operating costs of £114,000.
 
UKHospitality – partnerships not punitive measures are way forward for coffee cup recycling: UKHospitality, the new unified voice for the sector following the merger of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and British Hospitality Association, has said “partnerships rather than punitive measures” are the way forward regarding recycling coffee cups. It said punitive measures would only “heap more costs on businesses trying to tackle the problem”. The comment follows the government’s rejection of calls to introduce a “latte levy” on takeaway cups. MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee had suggested a charge of 25p for disposable coffee cups to reduce their use but ministers said it was better for shops to offer voluntary discounts to customers who brought in their own cups. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The government has recognised the proactive voluntary work already being carried out by the sector to reduce waste. Venues are already beginning to remove plastic straws and implement loyalty schemes for customers who bring their own reusable cups. Consumer trends need to change and this must by driven by business but through partnership rather than punitive measures that will only heap more costs on businesses trying to tackle this problem.” Last month Starbucks began trialling a 5p charge on paper cups at 35 London sites, while Crussh, the London-based healthy food and juice brand, introduced a 25p discount for customers who brought in re-usable coffee cups. Many other high-street brands have moved to tackle the problem of coffee cups ending up in landfill.
 

Company News:

Be At One like-for-likes up 7%, plans up to seven openings in 2018: Andrew Stones, chief operating officer of cocktail bar specialist Be At One, has told Propel like-for-like sales are currently up 7% and it plans to open up to seven sites in 2018. Stones said the ratio of openings in London and the regions would be “about 50-50” and the company, which is backed by Piper and currently operates 33 venues, was currently looking for a second site in Birmingham. He added: “We have 50 places where we would like to open, which include existing locations. We’re looking to effectively double the estate in the next five years so we’re looking to open six or seven this year as part of that plan. However, we’re under no pressure when it comes to exact numbers. We are in a fortunate place where we have very supportive private equity backers and also banking partners in Santander. We would look at group acquisitions but so far nothing has really come up on that front. Then there’s the expansion on a site-by-site basis. It might take a bit longer but it means we get the exact location we want to be in.” Stones said there was undoubtedly scope for growth in London, where the company has 17 sites. He added: “There will be opportunities, especially with operators closing sites. Rents and premiums are also coming down.” As well as expansion, Be At One is continuing its programme of refurbishments. In the next 12 months major revamps will be carried out at four sites in London – Piccadilly, Russell Street, Shoreditch and Spitalfields – while minor upgrades are being made at five other bars, four of them in the capital. Stones said current trading was “great”, with like-for-like sales continuing to grow during the past 24 to 36 months. He added: “We’re up by about 7% at the moment. As expected the recent winter weather has had an impact but we didn’t feel it in a lot of places – Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester for example continued to trade well despite the snow. Like other wet-led businesses, we are doing well. I think being a cocktail specialist helps us as well as the experience we give guests – it’s hard to replicate that at home. The casual dining market has been impacted because people can get very good ready meals to eat at home. It’s not quite as easy to do that with cocktails.”
 
Chicago Rib Shack’s unsecured creditors to receive maximum of 3p in the pound: Unsecured creditors of American barbecue restaurant chain Chicago Rib Shack, which was acquired in a pre-pack administration last year, are set to receive a maximum of 3p in the pound, a new document has revealed. A progress report filed at Companies House by joint administrators Andrew Hosking and Simon Bonney, of Quantuma, showed there have been 34 claims from unsecured creditors to date totalling £1,000,170.31 – almost twice the estimated £527,807. The administrators said dependent on the final costs and level of agreed claims it is anticipated the dividend will “likely be 2p to 3p in the pound”. The report showed a secured creditor, director Christian Arden, was owed £74,850.54 and it was anticipated he would receive the full amount. Preferential creditor claims relating to employee pension contributions totalling £1,735,88 have been received and it was expected a dividend of 100p in the pound would be paid. It is not anticipated there would be any claims in respect of unpaid holiday or wage arrears as all 72 staff transferred to new owner Rib Shack Holdings, which is owned by Roger Payne, the entrepreneur behind Camden Dining Group. As previously reported, Payne paid a consideration of £210,500 plus 50% of the rent deposits for the company’s five premises for the acquisition. Of the total amount, £105,000 was received on completion, £55,000 was due to be paid six weeks after completion, and £50,500 was to be paid following assignment of all the leases, as was 50% of the rent deposits remaining at completion. The progress report revealed £172,281.10 of the consideration had been received to date. It was expected the remainder – £38,218.90 – would be received shortly. In relation to the rent deposits, £27,000 has been received for the Stratford premises – the full 50% held in respect of that site. The report stated: “Unfortunately, during the review period it has become apparent that, due to rent arrears across the remainder of the sites, there will be no further recovery in regards to rent deposits. This has been confirmed in correspondence with individual landlords and their legal representation.”
 
Portfolio of 18 pubs let to Stonegate acquired as part of £436m double deal: A portfolio of 18 freehold high-street pubs let to or guaranteed by Stonegate Pub Company have been acquired as part of a £436m double deal. Secure Income Reit, a long-term income real estate investment trust, has exchanged contracts to purchase the two off-market portfolios. The first includes the 18 Stonegate pubs. The portfolio produces £1.96m per annum of rental income and has a weighted average unexpired lease term of circa 22 years with five-yearly Retail Price Index-linked rental increases collared at 1% to 4%. The average lot size is circa £2m. The first portfolio also features the Manchester Arena along with other elements of its eight-acre estate, including 160,000 square feet of office and additional leisure space, the 1,000-space multi-storey car park and various advertising hoardings. The arena, the UK’s largest indoor arena with 21,000 seats, produces an annual income of £5.75m, rising to more than £6m when the rent goes up on the lease in June. It is let for 27 years to venue management company SMG. The Brewery events space in Chiswell Street, London, and 17 hotels let to Travelodge are also in the first portfolio. The second portfolio in the deal comprises a further 59 hotels let to Travelodge. The transaction will be partly financed by a share placing that could raise up to £315.5m. Together, the two acquisitions will increase Secure Income’s property count from 81 to 177. 
 
Italian investors launch crowdfunding campaign to expand clubhouse concept in London: Matteo and Ioana Cerri, who are behind venture capital company Made by Italians (i2i.london) and social media and events firm #EatDrinkLoveItalian, have launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to expand their Italians Clubhouse concept. The concept soft launched in Mayfair’s Shepherd Market in December operating as a pop-up events space and art gallery after the Cerris secured a 20-year lease. The venture is offering 15% equity in exchange for investment. Funds would be used to fully launch the concept by the end of spring featuring a casual dining restaurant, terrace, wine bar, private lounges, a Campari-sponsored bar, members’ room, bed and breakfast, a tailor, barber, gym and concierge services. Another opening is planned for winter 2018/2019 in Shoreditch, where Italians Clubhouse already operates ITS Fashion Street Cafe. The founders said the food and beverage operations would occupy two-thirds of Italians Clubhouse, while memberships, extra services and the B&B operation would accelerate the plan with potential to support the second opening with little or no extra fund-raising. The Cerris added an initial refurbishment of the first location had already increased the commercial value of the property with further refurbishments planned, including a chance to revert the upper floors to residential as a “safety net/exit strategy”. The pledge states: “Funds raised during the campaign will support our growth in the startup phase. Italians Clubhouse intends to invest the proceeds in additional high-quality refurbishment works of the first location; secure top of the trade personnel; launch a marketing campaign targeting the local business community (beyond the existing large network of followers); and secure a larger location in Fashion Street, Shoreditch.” The company said it had an outstanding loan of £500,000 with an interest rate of 7% per annum to be paid off within the next three years. It added: “None of the funds raised will be used to repay this loan.”
 
Columbo Group to launch speakeasy concept Moonshine Minnie’s in Shoreditch: The Columbo Group, led by Steve Ball and Riz Shaik, is to launch speakeasy concept Moonshine Minnie’s in Shoreditch on Thursday, 29 March. Moonshine Minnie’s will be “hidden” in the basement of Columbo Group’s Blues Kitchen in Curtain Road offering “whiskey-focused cocktails, soulful southern American bar food and a soundtrack of the best female rhythm and blues artists”. The walls will be lined with Victorian tiles, while the ceiling will feature stained-glass panels to shower the room in a “kaleidoscope of colour”. Part of the walls will be made of heavy rope panelling alongside murals by Portuguese graffiti artist Vhils using reclaimed prison doors. The drinks list will include a Scotch Manhattan and a bourbon sidecar while the music will be curated by The Blues Kitchen’s radio host Liam Hart featuring artists such as Etta James and Janice Joplin. Moonshine Minnie’s will open Wednesday to Saturday from 5pm. The Columbo Group’s other Blues Kitchen sites are in Brixton and Camden. Founded in 2006, the company’s other venues are Jazz Café, XOYO, Phonox, The Old Queens Head and The Camden Assembly.

Hop Stuff Brewery acquires The Localist in Farringdon for fourth site: Hop Stuff Brewery has acquiring the lease of The Localist in Farringdon for a six-figure sum for its fourth site. Founder James Yeomans told Propel he hoped to reopen the 4,500 square foot site in St John Street, which closed in February, in mid-April. Yeomans said the property already had a taproom feel so only minor alterations to the site were needed. He added: "It's too big a site to not have it open and trading – it will add £2m to £3m a year to our turnover. If we can get up and running by mid-April then we're looking at total turnover of £5.2m this year. This is our first major purchase of a lease assignment. It's an opportunity to stretch into the City and being a former banker means it's great to be opening a venue there." Yeomans also remains in negotiations over a site in Greenwich, south east London, as he looks to add to taprooms in Woolwich and Deptford with its third launching in Ashford, Kent, this month. Last month, Hop Stuff Brewery closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube having raised more than £780,000.

Friska to open Manchester city centre venue on Tuesday for tenth site: Independent healthy eating brand Friska is to open its Manchester city centre site on Tuesday (12 March). In January, Propel reported the company had closed its Birmingham site to focus on the Manchester launch. The new venue will open in the Two St Peter’s Square development and offer the brand’s hot box meals, bao buns, pho noodle pots, burritos and wraps. Friska co-founder Ed Brown told Manchester Evening News: “We are delighted to be chosen for this landmark development. I am looking forward to delivering our brand of feel-good food to the commuters and workers of St Peter’s Square and the Manchester community.” Brown and Griff Holland opened the first Friska in Bristol in 2009. It currently operates four restaurants in the city alongside five concessions, including one at Manchester Science Park.
 
Former Ledbury chef heads kitchen at new West Hampstead neighbourhood restaurant: Former Ledbury chef Matt Osborne is heading the kitchen at a neighbourhood restaurant that has just launched in West Hampstead, north west London. The new concept, Ham, is the brainchild of Rose Tuckey and David Houten, who have taken over a space in West End Lane formerly occupied by La Brioche. Osborne, who has also worked at Terroirs and was in the opening team for The Other Naughty Piglets, offers brunch and dinner menus with main dishes including raw beef with English wasabi, ginger and shallots; Cornish brill with verjus sauce, Pink Fir and mussels; and chocolate crémeux with blood orange sorbet and peppermint, Hot Dinners reports. The restaurant website states: “Ham is the Anglo Saxon word for home. It is still present in many UK place names. Hampstead literally means ‘homestead’. We want everyone who visits us to be shown the same care we would show guests in our own home.”
 
Vegan blogger and Deliciously Ella founder closes two of her three venues: London-based vegan blogger and Deliciously Ella founder Ella Mills has closed two of her three sites in the capital. The 23-cover Kitchen Counter cafe and deli in Herne Hill only opened last April offering plant-based food that was free from wheat, dairy and refined sugar. The site, which had an open-plan pastry kitchen, also supplied food for Deliciously Ella’s two delis in West End. However, the deli in Marylebone has also closed leaving just Mills’ flagship site in Weighhouse Street, Mayfair. A spokeswoman for Mills told the Evening Standard: “Deliciously Ella will close its smallest deli in Seymour Place as well as the prep kitchen in Herne Hill. Seymour Place was a way of testing whether Deliciously Ella could attract a digital following to a physical offering. It proved very successful but it became apparent the success warranted a larger space. Weighhouse Street was then offered and has proved incredibly popular. It makes little sense to have two sites in such close proximity.”
 
Gloucestershire-based operator to launch city centre pub restaurant for fourth site: Gloucestershire-based operator Paul Williams who runs two pubs in the county – the Penny Farthing in Ross-on-Wye and the Yew Tree in Longhope – has submitted plans to launch a venture in Gloucester city centre. Williams, who also owns JAX nightclub in the city, is looking to launch the as yet unnamed venture in Jennings Walk this summer. The venue would feature an 80-cover restaurant, while an open yard would be turned into a beer garden with planters, tables and benches, Gloucestershire Live reports.
 
New Silk Road-inspired restaurant concept Osh launches in three-storey Knightsbridge townhouse: New Silk Road-inspired restaurant concept Osh has opened across a three-storey Knightsbridge townhouse. Osh, named after the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, which was once one of the largest markets along the Silk Road, offers plov – an Uzbek comfort food. The venue has opened in Beauchamp Place at a site formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Nozumi. Osh features a restaurant and bar on the first two floors with a private cocktail lounge on the top floor. Dishes include an aromatic lamb plov, traditional Uzbek lagman soup, Tashkent salads, and chicken and tomato shashlik kebabs, Hot Dinners reports.
 
Vegan doner kebab concept What The Pitta launches first permanent site, in Camden: Vegan doner kebab concept What The Pitta has opened its debut bricks and mortar site. The concept, which is the brainchild of British-Turkish friends Cem Yildiz and Rojdan Gul, operates at Boxpark’s Croydon and Shoreditch sites. They have now launched a permanent site in Bayham Street in Camden Town, north west London. What The Pitta’s kebabs feature non-genetically modified soya chunks marinated in a blend of Middle Eastern spices and grilled. The contents are then stuffed into hand-made pitta bread and loaded with homemade hummus, tzatziki and salad, Hot Dinners reports. Yildiz and Gul were inspired to launch What The Pitta when Gul’s uncle in Freiburg, Germany, taught them the secret of his vegan doner kebabs.
 
Glasgow-based fish and chip brand Catch to open third site in city: Glasgow-based fish and chip brand Catch is to open a third site in the city. The company, which operates two licensed cafes in Giffnock and Netherlee, will open its latest site in Gibson Street in the heart of the West End in June. Catch was named top fish and chip restaurant in Scotland at the 2017 National Fish & Chip Awards. As well as serving traditional haddock and chip suppers, customers can choose lobster, halibut, langoustine tails, burgers and fish finger butties, the Evening Times reports.
 
Fever Bars opens Plymouth nightclub: Fever Bars, led by Mark Shorting and Nigel Blair, has opened the latest nightclub for its Fever & Boutique brand, in Plymouth city centre. The twin-themed brand features two rooms catering for different tastes in music – one a retro-chic discotheque for pop and party, while the boutique room pumps out house and R&B music. The nightclub has opened in Derry’s Cross at a site formerly occupied by Pitchers sports bar. Fever Bars opened a club in Exeter in September. Director Duncan Squires told Devon Live: “Like our club in Exeter, Plymouth is a student-based city so it made sense to bring Fever here. We are really excited about the opening and the unit is perfect.” Fever Bars, which operates 29 sites under the Fever, Boutique, Beach, Kukui and Moomoo brands, said in December it aims to have 36 sites by the end of 2018.
 
Chopstix opens site in revamped Coventry shopping centre food court: Chopstix Group, which owns and operates the eponymous chain of 76 noodle restaurants across the country, has opened a site in Coventry. The company has launched the venue at the revamped West Orchards Shopping Centre food court. Redevelopment works have now been completed on the Terrace dining destination, which has been renamed Canteen. Chopstix joins other restaurant brands including McDonald’s, KFC and Subway. Centre manager Andy Talbot told the Coventry Telegraph: “We identified a number of opportunities to enhance the centre’s overall environment last year and the food court redevelopment was a huge and key project in ensuring we remained the premier shopping destination within the city.”
 
JD Wetherspoon to open £2.2m new-build Norfolk pub this week: JD Wetherspoon is to open its £2.2m new-build pub in Gorleston in Norfolk on Tuesday (13 March). The pub in High Street has been named The William Adams after the “hero of Gorleston”, who saved 140 people from drowning during his time as a bathing attendant at a local beach. His name came top of a poll by the Great Yarmouth Mercury and a blue plaque will be unveiled in his honour. The pub has been built on the site of a former Methodist chapel, creating 55 jobs. It features a beer garden at the back and a pavement cafe-style area at the front. The pub was due to open in July but was hit by a series of delays including the discovery by workmen of a crypt containing at least two bodies. In December, Wetherspoon reopened The Troll Cart in nearby Great Yarmouth following a £3.5m refurbishment that included the addition of a 22-bedroom hotel.
 
Premier Inn becomes Bridlington’s first new hotel since 1937: Whitbread has opened its £8m Premier Inn in Bridlington – the first new hotel in the Yorkshire seaside resort for more than 80 years. The 82-bedroom hotel has been built on Beaconsfield car park and includes a Cookhouse And Pub restaurant, creating more than 70 jobs. Premier Inn operations manager Laura Jones told the Bridlington Free Press: “There wasn’t anything like this in Bridlington. We already had hotels in Scarborough and Cleethorpes and wanted to join up the east coast.” Cookhouse And Pub can seat 260 customers in total, with about 180 for dining. Paul Robinson is general manager of what is only the sixth Cookhouse and Pub site. He said: “I have been with the company since 1992 and this is the most exciting brand. It’s the start of something really innovative. We are bringing something new to towns and believe this is going to be great for Bridlington.” The last hotel built in Bridlington was the Expanse, which opened in North Marine Drive in 1937.
 
Pipers Crisps wins Chefs Choice Award: Pipers Crisps, stocked by a range of sector operators, has won the “crisps and nuts” category in the 2018 Chefs’ Choice Award for its Atlas Mountains Wild Thyme and Rosemary flavour crisps. Pipers Crisps marketing manager Katy Hamblin said: “These awards are highly coveted because they are judged by chefs, whose focus is flavour. The award recognises the effort we put into our premium crisps to ensure bold flavour innovation, product quality and great taste.” The award comes hot on the heels of Pipers Crisps being voted Britain’s best brand of savoury snack for a sixth year running in an annual survey of speciality food products on sale in UK delicatessens, farm shops and food halls.

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