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Fri 16th Mar 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector like-for-likes up 0.2% in February, pubs now rolling out faster than casual dining chains: Britain’s managed pub and restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales increase 0.2% in February compared with last year, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. The data also revealed casual dining chains are now rolling out at a rate below that of pub companies. Managed pub groups saw like-for-like sales up 1.3% while restaurants were down 1.5%, although the frequency of eating out has remained stable. London fared better than the rest of the country, with like-for-likes up 0.8% compared with flat trading outside the M25. “Most of the effects of the major snow disruption will show up in the March data but, even so, to come out effectively even for February as a whole shows the resilience of both the sector and consumers,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “What’s not clear is how the bad publicity around certain high-profile restaurant brands closing sites has affected the market or individual choices.” Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “Contrary to media reports the eating and drinking out market remains stable, as these figures show. The restaurant sector has had terrible press over the past few weeks but, in reality, consumers are still eating out. We also continue to see pub operators outperforming restaurants.” CGA’s BrandTrack consumer research also shows the frequency of eating out is stable. Martin said: “Where people choose to go in a competitive market where choice has never been greater is a different matter. However, our consumer research shows people are more willing than ever to try somewhere new.” CGA’s latest Business Leaders survey showed senior executives expect more business failures this year and a scaling back of expansion plans. “This is already reflected in the Coffer Peach numbers,” said Martin. “New sites are still being opened but casual dining chains in the cohort are now rolling out at a rate below that of the pub companies. Over the past 12 months, total sales growth, reflecting new openings as well as closures, was 3.8% for restaurant groups compared with 4.3% for managed pub and bar chains. Although the February numbers will bring some comfort to operators they are still below inflation, and with the extra business costs around property, people and food prices, it remains a challenging trading environment.” Underlying like-for-like growth for the companies in the tracker cohort, which represents large and small groups, was running at 1.1% for the 12 months to the end of February, including 0.4% for casual dining chains and 1.4% for pub and bar groups.

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

Northern restaurant and bar scene ‘growing at double the rate of London’, driven by independents: The restaurant and bar scene in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds is growing at more than double that of London, according to a study by CGA on behalf of hospitality trade show Northern Restaurant & Bar. Their league table of hospitality growth is dominated by northern cities, which take six of the top eight places with independent operators leading the surge. The number of city centre outlets within the “M62 corridor” cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds has increased more than 20% during the past five years, compared with 10.4% in London. CGA’s Outlet Index covered the central business districts of every major city with more than 100 licensed premises. Liverpool topped the chart with 25.2% growth during the five-year period, followed by Manchester (24.9%) and Leeds (20.5%). In fourth was Southampton (20.5%), the highest-placed southern city, followed by York (19.5%), Cardiff (17%), Newcastle (15.7%), and Bradford (15.1%). London (10.4%) was 14th on the list. Northern Restaurant & Bar chief executive Thom Hetherington said: “We’re delighted but not surprised by the data. We’ve seen the changes first-hand – new restaurants and bars are opening almost every day. Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds are building top-class food and drink scenes and that’s great news for diners. Despite this being a challenging period for hospitality businesses, the growth is being largely driven by ambitious regional independents.” CGA retail business unit director Jamie Campbell added: “Of course London is a much bigger restaurant and bar scene in absolute terms but percentages don’t lie. The change in cities in the north is more pronounced and has a proportionally greater impact on diners, whether residents or tourists. Moreover, we are working on additional data that shows growth in the region is being driven by independents, with the featured northern cities showing an increase in independent outlets at more than twice the national rate.” Northern Restaurant & Bar takes place in Manchester on 20 and 21 March.

Female corporate executives in US fast casual segment earn more than males in gender pay-gap twist: US female corporate executives in the fast casual segment earn more than their male counterparts, according to a new report. In a twist on its other findings, Gecko Hospitality’s Restaurant Management Salary Report found female executives had an average starting salary of $100,000 (£71,767) last year, compared with $72,000 for males in the same role. However, the survey of 601 female and 1,488 male managers in the hospitality industry found that, as a whole, men earn an average of $4,728 per year more than women. The results showed a consistent gender-based pay gap among starting salaries for all categories except district or multi-unit managers. For an assistant manager position, for instance, women started at $46,746 on average, while men earned $49,586. Female operations directors started at about $89,500, while their male counterparts earned $97,118. The average starting salary for female corporate executives was $63,000, compared with $78,546 for men. Among hourly workers, women started at $12.53 per hour and men at $13.29. Female district managers, however, earned $82,136 compared with $65,600 for men. Women made up the majority of catering, sales and event-manager positions, while men were the majority in executive chef, sous chef, kitchen manager and general manager roles. Gecko Hospitality president Robert Krzak told Nation’s Restaurant News: “This year’s data clearly shows the pay discrepancy between men and women is still a prevalent issue within the industry.”

BBPA publishes guidance on plastic straw alternatives: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has published guidance for pubs on alternatives to plastic straws. It outlines recyclable, reusable and biodegradable options, including wheat, paper and glass, as well as information on food safety and food hygiene compliance. The BBPA is working with the British Institute of Innkeeping to look at biodegradable alternatives and the capacity to compost and recycle them. The move follows the commitment by a number of operators to cut or ban the use of plastic straws, while in his Spring Statement this week the chancellor launched a government consultation on reducing single-use plastic across the whole supply chain. Last week, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds met Thérèse Coffey, parliamentary under secretary of state for the environment, to discuss reducing the use of plastic straws in pubs. Simmonds said: “Pubs are already working hard to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. One of the easiest ways pubs can continue to reduce plastic waste is by using environmentally friendly alternatives. The guidance we have published will help pubs and licensees cut their use of plastics.”

Signature Brew wins SIBA brewery of the year, JD Wetherspoon scoops award: Signature Brew, the “music-inspired” brewing operation known for its collaborative beers with musicians, has been named UK brewery of the year by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in its annual business awards. JD Wetherspoon, meanwhile, won best independent craft beer promotion (on-trade). The awards took place at SIBA’s BeerX event in Liverpool, with Signature Brew also winning the marketing implementation category. SIBA managing director Mike Benner said: “The quality and quantity of entries this year was simply staggering and to be named a winner in the awards represents a huge achievement for these breweries – they really are the best of the best in terms of passion, innovation and excellence in the independent craft brewing industry. I would particularly like to congratulate Signature Brew on being voted brewery business of the year. It is clearly destined for even bigger and better things.” Other winners were Fourpure Brewing Co, which won the commercial achievement category; Leigh on Sea Brewery (concept design); Loch Lomond Brewery and Dr Peppercorn (individual design); Farr Brew (green business); North Brewing Co (business innovation); Waitrose (independent craft beer retailer – multiple); Hop Burns & Black (independent craft beer retailer – single); Ceabahr – Bun Dubh Brewery (independent craft beer restaurant); Wigan Central in Lancashire (city pub/bar); The Cove in Devon (rural pub/bar); and Lemon Top Creative (supplier associate).

Opera North submits plans for Leeds restaurant scheme: Plans have been submitted to redevelop vacant shops next to Leeds Grand Theatre for restaurant and bar use. The city council’s executive committee will examine proposals from Opera North for 34-40 New Briggate, the Howard Assembly Room and Premier House to refurbish the vacant shop units for restaurant and bar use. The project would also create new access to the 300-seat Howard Assembly Rooms above and the adjacent Premier House, which is used by Opera North as its headquarters. The theatre, together with the assembly rooms and Premier House, have been used by Opera North for the production and performance of opera, music, learning and education since 1978. Council officers are recommending the executive committee approves the leasing of 34-40 New Briggate to Opera North at a market rent and a payment of £750,000 to the company to support its investment in the refurbishment works. The council’s executive agreed in October 2015 to seek expressions of interest for the vacant units at 34-40 New Briggate and make a reverse premium available to support their regeneration, reports Insider Media.

Company News:

NYC Bar & Grill operator acquired out of administration: NYC Partnership, which operated five New York-themed burger restaurants and bars under the NYC Bar & Grill brand, has been acquired out of administration. Joanne Hammond and Claire Dowson, of Begbies Traynor’s Sheffield office, were appointed joint administrators of the business on 22 February. The company had expanded rapidly in the previous 18 months and obtained funding to support its growth. However, it encountered problems when the opening of its Darlington site was delayed by three months, which had a significant impact on cash flow. Sites in Bawtry, Stocksbridge, Doncaster and Hull, all in Yorkshire, were closed and staff made redundant by the company prior to entering administration. Following the appointment of administrators, a pre-pack sale of the business and assets of NYC Partnership was completed. This enabled the Darlington venue to remain operational with 15 staff transferred to the purchaser, reports Insider Media.

Jamie Oliver goes Dutch with Pizzeria concept: Chef Jamie Oliver has opened his first Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria site in the Netherlands as he continues international expansion. The 142-cover restaurant has opened in Koningstraat in Arnhem city centre. The move follows an opening in Budapest at the end of last year. Oliver has previously opened two Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the Netherlands – in Rotterdam and Den Haag – while there is also a Jamie Oliver’s Diner in Rotterdam. A further Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria launch is planned for Tilburg later this year. Oliver now has more than 50 sites internationally across 24 countries.

Hickory’s seeks sites for further expansion: Smokehouse and barbecue group Hickory’s, backed by private equity firm Piper, is seeking new sites as it plans further expansion. Propel has learned the company, which is set to open two venues this year, is looking to acquire leasehold or freehold sites of about one acre for new-build venues or conversions. The company is seeking sites roughly within two hours of Chester that could provide 150 covers plus an outside dining area and more than 60 parking spaces. Neil McDonnell opened the first Hickory’s in Chester in 2010. The brand now operates seven sites, including West Kirby, Rhos-on-Sea, Birmingham and Southport.

McDonald’s UK boss – ‘three-legged stool’ strategy is secret to success: McDonald’s UK chief executive Paul Pomroy has said the company’s “three-legged stool” approach is the driving philosophy behind its success. The “three stools” refers to McDonald’s UK sitting down with suppliers and franchisees at an annual general meeting to discuss strategy. Pomroy told Marketing Week: “The three-legged stool looks at the elements of our business that need to be successful. The company on one side, our franchisees that run our restaurants – we’re 90% franchised in the UK – and then you’ve got our suppliers. For the business to be successful, each leg of the stool needs to be successful. Communication is critical and suppliers and franchisees need to work together towards a strategic goal. We share our three-year plan for growth and expect our suppliers to go back to their business and work on that. It’s all about trust. If we’re not open with them, they can’t do their job.”

Skinny Kitchen plans to double estate by end of year despite Bournemouth blow: Healthy eating concept Skinny Kitchen has said it plans to double its estate by the end of the year despite closing its Bournemouth site. The Skinny Kitchen now has four restaurants – in Belfast, Canterbury and two in Ibiza – but Skinny Kitchen co-founder Joel Belchem said by the end of the year there would be eight restaurants in total, with new branches set to open in Boxpark Croydon, London and Leeds. However, Skinny Kitchen’s Bournemouth site has closed almost two years after its launch following a row with the council over an extraction system. Belchem told the Bournemouth Echo: “We got to the point where the amount of money they wanted us to pay a solicitor and to change the extraction system wasn’t worth it. We looked to relocate in Bournemouth but there wasn’t a suitable building. Business was doing really well and we were making money and getting bigger. It’s really frustrating with all that’s going on with the new restaurants that we had to close the one in Bournemouth.” Belchem founded Skinny Kitchen with Lois Breckell and Rachel and David Mason. It is backed by investors in the Lineker’s and Ocean Beach Club brands. 

Manchester multi-site operator MAD acquires former Oddworld site to expand city portfolio: Manchester-based operator Mark Andrew Developments (MAD) has added another site in the city to its portfolio. The company has acquired The Blue Pig in the Northern Quarter that was operated by Oddworld, which went into administration earlier this year. It joins MAD’s other venues in the city that include Hula, Walrus, Roylee, The Fitzgerald, Tusk and recently launched Ibiza-inspired bar the Lazy Lizard. The Blue Pig will reopen in mid-April after a minor refurbishment and continue to operate under its existing name. Andrew told the Manchester Evening News: “The Blue Pig is a much-loved Northern Quarter staple with a loyal customer base.  We don’t need to make much in the way of change but we want to add our signature MAD twist so we’ll give the interiors a refresh. However, we are committed to honouring what The Blue Pig is all about.” Oddworld’s other two sites – Odd Bar in Thomas Street and Oddest in Chorlton – were taken over by Manchester-based operators Matt Nickson and Adam Regan earlier this month.

Sambal Shiok owner to open permanent site in Highbury: Sambal Shiok owner Mandy Yin is to open a permanent site for her Malaysian pop-up restaurant this summer. Yinn will open a laksa bar in Holloway Road in Highbury, north London, this summer on the site of former Mexican restaurant Amigos. The venue will have room for 40 diners – ten held back for walk-ins and counter dining, with the rest at tables. Yinn founded Sambal Shiok in London in 2013. She started trading at street food markets but customer demand led her to focus on laksa (spicy Malaysian noodle soup) and the launch of her pop-up restaurant. Her laksa bar has had sell-out runs across London during the past two years. She said on the restaurant’s website: “I take inspiration from everything I ate in my childhood growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then I mix it up and put a new slant on it.”

Wine-focused neighbourhood restaurant concept Sapling debuts in Dalston: Wine-focused neighbourhood restaurant Sapling has launched in Dalston, east London. Bob Ritchie has opened the site in Kingsland Road offering a weekly rotating list of 36 wines, including a number of grower champagnes and sparkling wines. The aim is to represent a broad spectrum of “inspired and inventive interpretations”, with most of the wine sustainable, organic, biodynamic or low-intervention. All are available to order by the glass. There is also a larger list of more than 100 wines available by the bottle or to sample via the Coravin system. A seasonal food menu includes small plates and a “larder” menu. Ritchie said: “Sapling has been five years in the making and it’s been an amazing journey. I started with weekly tastings at Berry Bros’ Pickering Cellar, which evolved into wine schools in Burgundy, multiple wine exams, almost two years of searching for the right site and leaving my career at the end of 2016 to make Sapling happen. The team and I look forward to sharing the continuation of this journey.”

BrewDog opens Reading site for third launch of 2018: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened a site in Reading – its third launch of 2018. The company has opened the bar in Castle Street, featuring 20 beer taps. In addition, the bar stocks bottled and canned beer from around the world in two “open-air” beer fridges. BrewDog’s menu of burgers and wings is also available, with a brunch option at weekends. Co-founder James Watt said: “Beer fans of Reading have been crying out for a BrewDog bar for too long so it’s awesome we have finally set up home in Berkshire. The craft beer scene has been exploding over the past few years and we want our presence to help accelerate that growth in Reading, making the town an epicentre of amazing craft beer.” The company’s latest fund-raise, Equity for Punks V, has so far raised more than £13m from more than 29,000 investors across Europe. It is due to close in October.

TGI Friday’s puts vegan dishes on the menu: TGI Friday’s has added vegan dishes for the first time as part of its new menu, which also features a range of meals with fewer than 600 calories. The company, which is renowned for its grills, hand-crafted burgers and glazed ribs, has added made-to-order dishes such as smoked tomato bruschetta, avocado houmous, and garlic vegetable fajitas. The new lower-calorie range includes Cajun cream pasta and crispy noodle salad – both available with chicken or prawns. Meat-lovers can enjoy a limited edition Rib Tickler Burger (flame-grilled beef burger topped with pork rib and coated in golden mustard barbecue sauce). TGI Friday’s UK head of food and drink Terry McDowell, who created the menu, said: “Friday’s is all about being inclusive and the latest menu allows us to cater to everyone.” TGI Friday’s also revealed it would donate crockery, including 10,000 plates, to food-waste charity FareShare.

Former Davy’s and Hush Hush employee acquires East Sussex pub for first standalone venture: Hospitality specialist Nick Bolton has taken ownership of The Buxted Inn in Uckfield, East Sussex, following a six-figure funding package from HSBC. Bolton, who has worked in the industry for more than 15 years, has bought the venue in High Street for his first standalone venture with partner Ariane. Bolton has worked in various London wine bars, restaurants and hotels, including Davy’s and Hush Heath Estate, as well as training staff for venues such as Claridge’s, Intercontinental and The Mayfair Hotel. He will introduce new menus at The Buxted Inn using locally sourced produce while there will be a wine list of almost 100 varieties. Bolton said: “We want to create a vibrant hub for the local community and their feedback will be vital to making this a success. We plan to work with as many local suppliers as possible to showcase the amazing produce available in East Sussex.” Sarah Milligan, HSBC’s area director in Kent, added: “Nick’s ideas to evolve the pub, which is already hugely popular in the area, will create a fantastic hub for local foodies and wine enthusiasts.”

Café Rouge receives MSC blue fish label certification: Casual Dining Group brand Café Rouge has received official certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The award, which will see MSC’s blue fish label added to Café Rouge menus across the UK, coincides with the brand’s new seasonal spring menu, which features certificated Shetland mussels and hake, along with smoked cod and haddock fishcakes. In addition, a dish of sustainably sourced smoked cod has been added to the main menu. Café Rouge has conducted training on MSC operating standards across all its sites, as well as undergoing a rigorous audit of its fish supply chain. Café Rouge managing director James Spragg said: “We’re delighted to be the first restaurant operator of scale to receive this certification from MSC, which is testament to the excellent work of our procurement team.” MSC senior commercial manager George Clark said: “Café Rouge has demonstrated full supply chain traceability and seafood sustainability can be delivered at scale in a high-street dining environment and on a national level. This is what diners now expect.” MSC is a charity that awards efforts to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies.

Friends of Ham closes Leeds wine bar less than year after opening: Leeds-based wine bar Ham and Friends, the sister site to Friends of Ham, has closed after less than a year. While the venue in Merrion Street has shut, the Friends of Ham sites in Leeds and Ilkley remain open. The Yorkshire Wine School, which was based at Merrion Street, is also unaffected by the closure. Ham and Friends, which opened in June last year, featured a food hall, walk-in cheese room, wine mezzanine and bar spread across two floors. Ham and Friends told The Business Desk: “It’s with a heavy heart we have to say we are now permanently closed. We gave it our best shot over the last year and would like to thank everyone who came to pay us a visit.”

Experienced hospitality duo reveal plans for Manchester cocktail bar: Experienced hospitality duo Ben Spier and Keith Patterson have revealed plans for a new cocktail bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Spier and Patterson are turning the former Cord site in Dorsey Street into NYQ, a “laid-back cocktail lounge inspired by early 1980s New York”. The duo, who have decades of hospitality experience between them, said they want to create a “relaxing bar that comes alive below street level at weekends”. Spanning two floors, the bar’s upper level will serve cocktails curated by master bartender Ben Scorah alongside a menu of beer, wine and spirits, while the basement will host resident DJs and guests. Spier told BDaily: “NYQ will complement the thriving cocktail bar scene in the Northern Quarter. NYQ will be a place where people can enjoy a good night out with great drinks and get down on the dance floor.” NYQ will launch at the end of April.

Subway to open first Northern Ireland drive-thru as it acquires Belfast KFC site: Subway is to open its first drive-thru in Northern Ireland. The company will open the 2,000 square foot outlet in Boucher Road, Belfast, on a former KFC site in the summer. Stephen Smith, of Osborne King, who negotiated the letting on behalf of the landlord, told Insider Media: “We are delighted to have secured a letting to Subway and particularly pleased it has chosen this site to operate its first drive-thru restaurant in Northern Ireland.”

Manorview increases apprenticeships, adds chef options: Scottish hospitality group Manorview has seen an increase in apprentices entering its Training Academy. The group is on track to see 55 apprentices come through the academy from April 2017 to March 2018, a rise from 48 the previous year. The company is looking to grow that number to 65 during its new intake period, which starts next month. This apprenticeship year will include SVQ Professional Cookery Level 2 and 3 qualifications for the first time. Training Academy assessor and verifier Robi Giovino said: “We’re introducing the Professional Cookery qualification to try to encourage more chefs into the industry. We want to provide that pathway for young chefs to follow a passion and to see it as a career choice.” The Manorview portfolio consists of nine boutique hotels in Scotland. In January, the company paid out more than £80,000 in the first payment from its HeartCount Fund, which shares a proportion of the group’s profits with its workforce.

Douglas Jack – we are holding our forecasts on Cineworld: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has held his forecasts on Cineworld as the company makes a strong start to the new financial year. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 270p following the company’s preliminary results, Jack said: “The UK’s 6.5% increase in box office revenue comprised 2.3% growth in admissions and a 4.1% increase in average ticket prices. In comparison, market box office grew by 2.1% versus a 1.4% increase in admissions, and Cineworld’s number of screens increased by 7.1% versus 2.7% for the market. For Cineworld and the market, this would imply no like-for-like box office growth. UK retail increased by 7.1% with net retail spend per admission up 4.4% to £2.37, helped by the addition of a further five Starbucks (to 29 in total), promotions and film mix. UK other income was up 2.3%, with advertising up but held back by February’s disposal of the distribution arm in Picturehouse. Booking fees are continuing to grow, with more than half of tickets now purchased online. Overseas box office grew by 8.2% in local currency, with total admissions up 4.7% and average ticket prices up 3.5%. In sterling terms, overseas box office grew 18.0%. Overseas retail rose by 29.1% (18.7% in constant currency) with spend per admission up 13.4% to £1.86. Other income rose 8.3% in local currency and 17.4% in sterling terms, driven by advertising. The company opened 109 screens in nine sites (four in the UK and five in the rest of the world), as well as the acquired Empire Newcastle site (16 screens). The company also opened five Starbucks sites and three VIP sites, 11 4DX screens, two Superscreens and two IMAX screens during the year. Returns should be highest in European expansion and refurbishments (four in the UK, two in the rest of the world in 2017). Management believes the US has huge potential, including a possible two-year payback on the first 50 upgrade projects – these represent 10% of Regal sites but 25% to 30% of Ebitda. Management is also confident of exceeding its $100m synergy target, ($60m costs, $40m revenue), with cost savings likely to emerge first but with revenue synergies (via subscriptions and booking fees) likely to offer the greatest upside. Management has retained the current dividend payout ratio. This equates to a dividend yield of 5.8% based on 2019E earnings. The shares have de-rated to levels (7.7 times 2019E EV/Ebitda) last seen in 2012. Management has a strong track record for generating good returns from acquisitions. We believe reinvigorating the Regal estate and driving extra synergies should boost the rating over the next two years.”

Zonal agrees Trent Bridge deal: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has agreed a deal with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club to provide its Trent Bridge venue with its Aztec EPoS. The investment, comprising 30 Aztecs that have been installed throughout the ground, is set to give the venue payback within two years. Trent Bridge’s solution also includes Zonal’s payment system (ZPS), with integrated chip-and-pin and contactless functionality, including Apple Pay. General manager of catering at Trent Bridge Jason Hollingworth said: “Previously we couldn’t even take card payments but, being a top-flight sporting venue, our customers were rightly demanding a speedier, better experience and now we are on trend. We are advertising the new service and expect to be a 50-50 cash/card business soon.” Trent Bridge is also installing Zonal’s hand-held order pad, iServe, and its kitchen management system, Kitchen iQ. These additional modules, which fully integrate with Aztec, will form part of the ground’s £7m media broadcast facilities and hospitality catering suite, which are under construction at the Radcliffe Road Stand end of the ground and due for completion next month.

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