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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 10th Apr 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Dominion Hospitality appoints managing director to lead growth: Dominion Hospitality, which owns and operates 28 hotels and pubs in the south of England, has appointment Drew Brown as managing director. Brown joins to lead the development and growth of Dominion’s two accommodation-led portfolios, RelaxInnz and HistoricInnz. The company stated: “Following positive year-on-year growth in accommodation sales, Drew and his team will focus on driving drink and food sales and continue to build the leading independent owner of budget and heritage hotels in southern England. Drew draws on many years of experience in the hospitality industry, including roles at Travelodge and Whitbread. More recently, Drew held senior positions at Landmark in London and Bannatyne Group.” Dominion Hospitality is owned by Stellex Capital Management, a private equity firm that invests in middle-market companies in North America and Europe through its offices in New York and London. Dominion Hospitality was formed following the acquisition of the Chapman Group in November 2016. The company is chaired by Ted Kennedy, who owns Pebble Hotels and was previously a managing director in Whitbread’s managed pub division. Latest accounts filed at Companies House for Dominion Hospitality showed the company had turnover of £4,749,000 and operating profit of £250,000 for the year ending 2 April 2017. It made a pre-tax loss of £482,000 – the company was incorporated in September 2016. Its sites include The New Inn Hotel in Gloucester, The Grand Victorian in Worthing and The Globe And Crown in Yeovil.

Industry News:

Full speaker schedule for Finance and Investment Conference revealed: The full speaker schedule for the Propel Finance and Investment Conference has been revealed. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 24 May at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA and is open for bookings. Ramzi Qattan, director at Christie & Co, will provide an overview of the pub, restaurant, foodservice and hotel sector mergers and acquisitions landscape, current valuations in the market and the do’s and don’ts when attempting to attract investment or sell a hospitality business. He will also provide insights on the range of businesses that are seeking to invest in the sector. Andrew Ball, partner at leisure sector specialist haysmacintyre, will give his top ten tips to maximise tax efficiency. Peter Hansen, partner at Sapient Corporate Finance, will provide an overview of mergers and acquisitions trends, give his view on where we are in the economic cycle and predict what lies ahead. Matt Smallwood, partner of the sector’s foremost financial public relations firm Instinctif, will provide his do’s and don’ts of financial PR. Richard Hamlin, partner at First Merchant, will offer expert insights on the London leasehold market and how to raise finance. Julia Groves, of Downing, will set out how Downing LLP has provided almost £24m of funding for Oakman Inns and Restaurants over the past three years using a variety of innovative funding solutions ranging from EIS funds to bonds from its award-winning Downing Crowd platform. Darrel Connell, of sector investor Imbiba, will talk about the company’s £50m Growth Fund, which will invest in as many as four new growth companies in the leisure and hospitality sector each year. Martin Sherwood, of Enterprise Investment Partners, will set out how pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can navigate the current rules on Enterprise Investment Schemes. Sector investor Luke Johnson will give his state-of-the-sector overview in conversation with Propel managing director Paul Charity. Clive Watson, founder and chief executive of City Pub Group, will provide insights on the process of undergoing an initial public offering and the benefits of going public. Meanwhile, there will be a panel discussion with Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack; Steve Crosswell, commercial banking director, hospitality and leisure at Metrobank; Mowgli founder Nisha Katona; Burning Night Group chief executive Allan Harper; Jonathan Simon, of Business Growth Fund; and Gary Robins, head of business development at Growthdeck. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers, while tickets for Propel Premium subscribers are £245 plus VAT. To book, email or call 01444 817691.

New company TableNow launches dining deals in 300 restaurants across north west: New Manchester-based company TableNow has launched after negotiating deals and discounts of up to 50% with more than 300 independent restaurants across the north west. Spinningfields-based TableNow will match restaurants with diners who want to “enjoy their outings at a fraction of the normal cost”. The company is in talks with businesses across the region to offer employees free use of the service for six months as part of their benefits packages. TableNow has earmarked a £250,000 budget for the launch, which includes a website, app and radio marketing campaigns. Founder Tom Sumner told Insider Media: “The north west has more restaurants than ever so diners are spoilt for choice. However, this brings particular challenges for restaurants that struggle to fill tables during quiet periods. Our unique technology is designed to genuinely benefit north west restaurants in ensuring they achieve as many covers as possible, every night of the week, while simultaneously offering fantastic deals to diners who are keen to experience new restaurants but might find them out of their price range. Over the coming months we will work closely with restaurants to ensure the platform is giving them exactly what they need in order to enjoy our easy-to-administer service, coupled with increasing revenue as they see their bookings increase.”

Beast from the east blamed for first fall in average daily rate in London hotel market for 16 months: Unseasonably cold weather has been blamed for the first year-on-year fall in average daily rate in the London hotel market for 16 months. STR data for the month recorded a 1.2% decrease in average daily rate to £138.55, the first decline in the capital since October 2016. However, the market saw year-on-year rises in supply and demand during the month – a 1.9% increase in supply and a 0.9% rise in demand. The overall performance, however, was one of decline, with revpar decreasing 2.2% to £110.52 and a 0.9% fall in occupancy to 79.8%. In addition to continued and significant supply growth, which STR said was pulling down occupancy levels, its analysts attributed the performance decreases to the unseasonably cold temperatures, snow and strong winds that were labelled the “beast from the east”.

Restaurant app helping diners find healthy food launches in London: A restaurant app to help diners in London find healthy food options has been launched. Healthy Hunting, founded by Matt Claydon and Pamela Brown, aims to support people’s well-being alongside their lifestyle goals. It allows users to find inspiration and search for food to meet their nutritional needs. The company argues that in an age where people face more food choices than before, it has become increasingly difficult to make informed dietary decisions. The app uses geo-targeting to find healthy and nutritious food that matches dietary requirements giving users the ability to make a healthy choice, regardless of time constraints. Users share their nutritional needs and restrictions and the app searches options to provide options available nearby.

Company News: 

Conviviality confirms no return for shareholders from retail business sale: Conviviality has confirmed there will be no return for shareholders from the sale of its retail business to wholesaler Bestway for £7,250,000. In the latest audited accounts for the 52 weeks ended 30 April 2017, the Conviviality retail businesses had gross revenues of £378m and adjusted Ebitda of £14.3m (pre central costs). Gross assets of the retail business (including the Central Convenience business acquired in December 2017) are about £173m, of which around £73m relates to intangible. Conviviality stated: “The board considers the offer from Bestway represents the best outcome for franchisees, suppliers, customers and employees of the Conviviality retail business. It is with regret the board notes the companies are not expected to have sufficient assets to satisfy all their liabilities. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will be in contact with creditors of Wine Rack, Bargain Booze and Conviviality Retail Logistics. The board also understand the realisations will be insufficient to provide any return to shareholders. The board wishes to thank its franchisees, customers, suppliers, employees and banking syndicate for their continued support during this difficult period. The shares of Conviviality remain suspended pending further notice.” The sale, which includes the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack brands, secures continued employment for circa 2,300 employees of the Conviviality retail business and provides continuity of trade for suppliers and franchisees. PwC was appointed as administrator on Friday (6 April) and the sale was agreed “further to receipt of many expressions of interest”.

Broad Oak Pub Company opens seventh site as it takes on fourth venue with Robinsons: Cheshire-based Broad Oak Pub Company has taken on its fourth site with north west brewer and retailer Robinsons and seventh in total. Broad Oak Pub Company, owned by Darren Crawford, has reopened The Smoker in the village of Plumley following a joint investment of £750,000. The six-month refurbishment has seen the 400-year-old property in Watling Street restored to its former glory. New food dishes include pork belly hotpot and game stew with dumplings alongside classics such as beer-battered fish and chips and beef and ale pie. Drinks feature cask ale, an extensive wine list, draught lager, cider, soft drinks and coffee. Crawford, who has been in the pub trade for 25 years, said: “I am very proud to have been part of this project. The Smoker has offered a warm and welcoming environment for all types of people for years now, and this has not changed.” Robinsons business development manager Wayne Roach added: “The pub was tired and in need of a substantial refurbishment. The vision was to retain the charm and character of the premises while increasing the number of covers, extending the bar area and kitchen facilities, and creating spaces that are appealing, cosy and reflect the true heritage of the pub.”

Chinese Buffet launches Liverpool venue for 11th site as it targets 20-strong estate by 2020: Chinese Buffet, which was founded in Bolton by Peter Wu and Paolo and David Hu in 2006, has opened its 11th site, in Liverpool, as it bids to expand to more than 20 restaurants across the north of England by 2020. The company has opened the venue in Speke, the first Chinese Buffet city site. The company has invested more than £1m in a property in Speke Boulevard, which was home to Damon’s restaurant for 15 years, to turn it into its flagship branch, reports the Liverpool Echo. Chinese Buffet’s other sites are in Bolton, Blackpool, Bury, Darlington, Halifax, Huddersfield, St Helens, Wakefield, Wigan and Wrexham.

Street food space Old Laundry Yard to launch in Shepherd’s Bush this month: Street food space Old Laundry Yard will launch in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, on Friday, 20 April. Located on the site of a disused laundry next to Shepherd’s Bush Market, Old Laundry Yard will also offer a bar and community space for workshops and events. The site will consist of 72 shipping containers, with the central food square hosting events. Traders will consist of startups and independents from the local community, including Jollof Mama (west African street food), PommesFries (grilled cheese sandwiches and skin-on fries), and Maxine Cooks (vegetarian meals and healthy desserts). We-popwho will curate the drinks offering at Old Laundry Bar, while more traders will be announced in the summer. Maxine Wellington, who is opening the first Maxine Cooks site after operating from her kitchen, said: “For years I have survived on word of mouth. I’m so excited to grow and for a wider audience to experience my food.” Old Laundry Yard will open from 11am to 8.30pm, Sunday to Wednesday, and until 10.30pm Thursday to Saturday. The project is being developed by specialist regeneration company U+I.

Other Side Fried opens fourth London site, at Feast Canteen: Chicken burger concept Other Side Fried has opened its fourth permanent London site, at Incipio Group’s Feast Canteen in Hammersmith. The concept offers buttermilk-fried chicken burgers under the banner “dirty done proper”. Dishes include Buffalo Burger (fried chicken with hot sauce and ranch dressing topped with pickles and lettuce), Honey Butter (smoked honey butter, bacon, pickles and lettuce), and The OSF (fried chicken with brown butter mayo, parmesan, garlic and lettuce). There is also a vegetarian option, while sides include fries with Cajun rosemary salt, dirty fries with toppings, and chicken strips with kiev mayo. Other Side Fried launched from the back of a converted British ambulance, which it still operates at Kerb Camden, going on to open permanent sites at Pop Brixton, Dirty South in Lewisham, and Peckham Levels.

Taco Bell to open 25th UK site, in Bournemouth next week: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell will open its 25th site, in Bournemouth next week. The company will open the venue in Old Christchurch Road on Wednesday, 18 April. The restaurant will seat more than 45 people and be decorated in the brand’s urban Live Más style, with charging stations for portable devices. Taco Bell UK and Europe marketing manager Ellen Gault told the Bournemouth Echo: “We’ve seen so much love for Taco Bell throughout the UK and have had a lot of requests for a Bournemouth restaurant.”

Magic Roundabout team to relaunch famous Camden Britpop bar on Friday: Sarah Holgate, who runs the Magic Roundabout in Old Street and the Near & Far cocktail bar in Peckham, will reopen The Good Mixer pub in Camden on Friday (13 April). The pub in Inverness Street is famous for its musical heritage, including a first meeting between Oasis and Blur and where Elastica signed with Deceptive Records. The pub closed in January after landlords John Davidson and Sarah Hurley retired, a move that sparked rumours the venue could be converted into housing. However, Holgate said it would remain a “traditional boozer”. She told Camden New Journal: “I used to drink in there back in the day and I know the area really well. We’re going to make sure we do this one proud. The idea is to get it back to its original form but we are also giving the place a new lease of life. The traditional boozer is becoming a relic but I think to go back to that is what is so special.” The jukebox will focus on Britpop, while pie and mash will be served and the pub will screen “major sporting events”. Holgate said the building had been bought by a “third party” but her company would run the pub in its original ground-floor space.

Midlands-based Delightful Desserts to open 11th site, in Burton this week: Midlands-based dessert restaurant Delightful Desserts is to open its 11th site, in Burton upon Trent. The company will launch the venue, which will have seating for 25 diners, in Station Street this week. Delightful Desserts offers 40 flavours of ice cream alongside waffles, crepes, cookie dough and milkshakes in a number of different flavours. A spokesman told the Burton Mail: “Delightful Desserts is already a well-known brand within the Midlands and we are excited to add this store to the portfolio and truly believe it will be a great success. There’s nothing like this in Burton at the moment.” Delightful Desserts was founded in Stourbridge in 2015. Its other sites include Dudley, Kidderminster and Redditch. 

Franchisee brings Wimpy back to Shrewsbury after ten-year hiatus: Franchisee Ali Riza Akyuz has opened a Wimpy site in Shrewsbury more than ten years after the burger brand’s previous two sites in the Shropshire town closed. Following a “significant” investment, Akyuz has opened the 100-seat venue in Claremont Street at a two-storey site that formerly housed Johnsons The Cleaners. Wimpy UK’s general manager Chris Woolfenden told the Shropshire Star: “We are delighted to welcome Ali to the Wimpy family. With his experience in the restaurant trade he brings many skills to our team. We’re thrilled to be back in Shrewsbury. We know we have many loyal customers here and, while many things have changed in the time we’ve been away, we can still guarantee great food, great service and terrific value for money.” Wimpy has closed many of its restaurants in recent years in the face of competition from McDonald’s and Burger King, with its number of UK sites dwindling to about 80. However, in November Famous Brands, which operates Wimpy in the UK, said new site prospecting was “under way”, while discussions with franchise partners had been “fruitful and augur well for growth prospects in the year ahead”.

Jason Atherton renames Michelin-starred City Social’s bar and introduces new offer to attract late-night market: Jason Atherton’s The Social Company is renaming its bar at Michelin-starred City Social and introducing a new drink and food offering as it looks to attract the late-night market. From Thursday (12 April), the venue on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the City of London will be known as Social 24. There will be a resident DJ on Thursday and Friday nights from 9pm. The new cocktail menu has been inspired by London landmarks that can be spotted from the panoramic view. The Shard is made with Barcardi heritage, lime, watermelon, passion fruit, Skekforde rum mixer and Mojito granita, while The Monument pays homage to its fiery history with Don Julio tequila, fire-roasted pineapple syrup, dragon fruit, jalapeno, charcoal and cinnamon. There will also be a selection of beer, spirits and non-alcoholic cocktails as well as a wide list of wine and champagne. The new food offer will feature a three-course set Social Lunch Hour menu. In the evening, an a la carte menu will be on offer in the bar. Social 24 will open from midday until 2am on weekdays and from 4pm on Saturdays.

Former Lasan chef director reveals further details of Birmingham restaurant: Aktar Islam, former chef director of Birmingham-based group Lasan, has revealed further details about his new restaurant venture. Islam will launch Opheem in Summer Row in May celebrating the culinary heritage of India. The restaurant will aim to emulate the work of chefs attached to the royal court, with the menu’s inspiration from India going as far back as the 13th century. Islam said he was inspired by a cookbook he came across a few years ago based on 14th and 15th century cooking for the sultan of Delhi. He told The Business Desk: “It’s not just another restaurant, it’s my baby. My DNA is bound through every aspect of it, from the flooring to the walls and light fittings.” Islam stepped down from his role as chef director of Lasan in September last year to pursue other opportunities in the industry. His former business partner, Jabbar Khan, launched Lasan in the Jewellery Quarter in 2002 with £11,000 in his pocket. Since then, the group has expanded into an £8m business that includes Fiesta del Asado, Nosh & Quaff, Raja Monkey Cafe and Izza Pizza in Selfridges.

Plant-based brand By Chloe secures funding to support expansion: Plant-based brand By Chloe has secured an undisclosed amount of funding to support expansion. Bain Capital Double Impact led the round with participation from other investors. By Chloe, which operates ten sites in the US, opened its first site outside America, in Covent Garden in February. By Chloe has partnered with TGP International to bring the brand to the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Further sites are in the pipeline, including a venue secured at One Tower Bridge in London that is labelled as “coming soon” on its website. The brand plans to expand to 20 locations domestically and internationally, increase its social impact objectives, and strengthen operations and marketing initiatives during the next two years, PE Hub reports. By Chloe is an operating partner of New York-based group ESquared Hospitality, which co-founded the concept with chef Chloe Coscarelli. The brand also operates a dedicated bakery, Sweets by Chloe.

Mediterranean cafe concept Beam to start expansion with second London site: Mediterranean cafe concept Beam is to start expansion by opening a second site in London. The debut Beam site in Crouch End has won the Time Out neighbourhood cafe award three times. The new venue will open in Highbury this summer at a site in Blackstock Road formerly occupied by Italian restaurant Il Bacio. Beam offers Mediterranean food with British influences. Main dishes include salad, wraps and burgers as well as grilled kofta with bulgur wheat kisir, and salmon with grilled asparagus and sauteed potatoes. Brunch dishes include buttermilk pancakes and French toast alongside Allpress coffee. The Highbury site will offer a dedicated evening menu drawing on the “flavours, tastes and ingredients of the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean”, Hot Dinners reports.

McCain reports £16m drop in pre-tax profits: McCain UK has reported a £16m drop in pre-tax profits in a year that it said had been affected by “potato quality issues”. The company saw pre-tax profit fall to £47,017,000 for the year ending 30 June 2017, compared with £63,808,000 the year before. Turnover increased to £466,162,000, compared with £452,314,000 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts filed at Companies House, the directors stated: “Operating profit and return on net assets were impacted as a result of potato quality issues that arose during storage periods, resulting in increased purchases of market-related potato volumes compared with the prior year.” McCain UK issued £10m of interim dividends for the year, down from £50m in 2016. Final dividends will not be paid. The company reported a 3.1% growth in sales compared with 2.8% the previous year and said it had invested in its brand – including media advertising – during 2017. McCain UK added: “The company is committed to research and development activity to seek new product lines and sources of raw materials and to improve efficiency.” Last year, work started on a major construction project that will see McCain invest more than £100m in its North Yorkshire production facility.

Star Pubs & Bars enhances Just Add Talent package: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is adding an enhanced package of support for its Just Add Talent operators, a year after launching the turnover and profit share agreement. Additional support for the manager operator model, which is centrally owned and locally delivered, will include a new back office system to improve operational efficiency, a comprehensive food offer, and a 24-hour health and safety consultancy service. The till and back office systems, provided by hospitality management solutions company Zonal, will interface with an Acquire purchasing system that processes food and drink orders, allowing operators to focus on front of house and customers. Just Add Talent pubs will have a strong pub food offer, giving operators an extra income stream and helping to drive wet sales. Menus, marketing materials and produce will be provided to make offering food easy for operators, the company said. The focus would be on exceeding customer expectations by “delivering outstanding quality at good-value prices”. Ingredients will be premium with burgers, for example, made from British beef in brioche buns. A health and safety helpline from Shield Safety will provide information and guidance on health and safety-related issues. Just Add Talent manager Beki Davies said: “Our starting point was to create a unique turnover and profit share agreement, which we believe is the most generous in the sector. We want the rest of the support to be as exceptional. For many Just Add Talent operators, this is their first business. This package provides them with the back office efficiency needed to allow them to focus on delivering great and personal hospitality, which is the hallmark of a great local.”

Aikens relaunches flagship Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea: Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens has relaunched his flagship Tom’s Kitchen site in Chelsea. The restaurant in Cale Street has reopened after undergoing an extensive refurbishment. Aikens has introduced a new sharing-style menu that will constantly evolve, allowing the restaurant to make the most of seasonal British produce such as asparagus, rhubarb, mushrooms and game. The floor plan of the restaurant, which is spread over three floors of a Chelsea townhouse and opened in 2006, has been rearranged with the bar becoming a focal point for counter dining and drinks, while window seating has also been introduced. The ground-floor and first-floor dining rooms have been rejuvenated, while the third floor features two rooms for private dining and events. Tom’s Kitchen uses UK-based suppliers and local producers, which are emphasised in the new menus and redesigned space. Aikens operates three Tom’s Kitchen sites in London, one in Istanbul, and a restaurant, bar and deli in Birmingham.

Charles Wells expands Pizza, Pots and Pints offer in Cambridge with second site, fifth in total: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells has opened its second Pizza, Pots and Pints site in Cambridge – the fifth in total. The company launched the concept, based around artisan pizza and beer, at flagship site The Salisbury Arms in Cambridge in 2015. Now it has reopened the Carpenters Arms in Victoria Road as a Pizza, Pots and Pints. The pub closed in January to undergo the rebrand. Operations director Benjamin Smith said: “We’ve extended the pub to allow us to welcome more guests and moved the bar to create a more welcoming atmosphere. Given the success of the Salisbury Arms, we are breathing new life into the Carpenters Arms, which has had a tough few years.” The other Pizza, Pots and Pints sites are in Hitchin, Baldock and Peterborough. Last month, Charles Wells commercial director Peter Wells told Propel the company was set to double the Pizza, Pots and Pints estate as well as add a site to its Apostrophe brand this year.

Germany-based hotel operator acquires Roxburghe hotel and golf course: Germany-based hotel operator 12.18 has acquired The Roxburghe hotel and golf course near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. The company has acquired the property from Roxburghe Estates, which was being marketed by agents Savills for offers in excess of £3.25m. Düsseldorf-based 12.18 plans to reopen the hotel and golf course in 2019 as Schloss Roxburghe following a £30m refurbishment. The 19th century property currently comprises 22 rooms, a restaurant and bar. 12.18 aims to enhance the site with a separate extension to feature 57 additional rooms as well as a spa and meeting space. In addition, 60 lodges will be built on the surrounding estate and made available for sale to private investors through a sale-and leaseback concept that will allow Schloss Roxburghe to extend its room inventory further to holidaymakers. The Duke of Roxburghe, Guy Innes-Ker, said: “The plans which the new owners have for major investment in the Roxburghe are very exciting indeed. We wish 12.18 every success with the new development and the operation in future and I have no doubt it will become one of the most outstanding resort destinations in Scotland.”

ASK Italian launches spring menu: Azzurri Group-owned ASK Italian has launched its spring menu, featuring a new range of lighter pizzas. The three pizzas, on a new prima light base and accompanied by a rainbow salad, are ham and egg, piccante con pancetta, and caprina with soft goat’s cheese. Other new dishes include spring special pea and prosciutto risotto, while desserts feature lemon tart with blood orange drizzle and vanilla gelato, and white chocolate swirl – a white chocolate and almond mousse served on crushed pistachio nuts and strawberries with a blood orange sauce. The drinks menu has been topped up with a negroni cocktail joining the tropical mojito and elderflower gin ‘n’ tonic, alongside a growing range of craft beer and cider.

Hollywood Bowl Group reports like-for-likes up 4.0%: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, has reported like-for-like sales up 4.0% for the six months ended 31 March 2018 with revenue up 9.3%. The company stated: “This continued strong like-for-like performance has been driven by the ongoing successful execution of our organic growth strategy of investment in enhancing our customer experience. This has included the refurbishment of Bradford Hollywood Bowl and the rebrand and refurbishment of Bowlplex centres in Birmingham and Dunfermline. We continue to expand our nationwide portfolio and customer reach with our 58th and 59th centres opening in Dagenham and Yeovil, both of which are performing in line with management’s expectations. In addition, the group’s pipeline has been further strengthened with centres signed for development in new leisure schemes in Swindon and Southend.” Chief executive Stephen Burns added: “We are pleased with our half-year performance, with results in line with our expectations. The group had another very successful Christmas, delivering like-for-like sales growth for the sixth consecutive year over this important trading period. Our teams are focused on maximising the opportunities created by our ongoing refurbishment and new centre programme in the second half of the year and continuing to deliver great value experiences for our customers across our estate.”

Signature Living lodges plans to convert Denbigh hospital into two luxury hotels: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living has lodged plans to transform Denbigh hospital in North Wales. The company has applied to Denbighshire County Council to convert the grade II-listed former asylum into two luxury hotels, creating up to 550 jobs. Signature Living chairman Lawrence Kenwright said he was determined to “keep all the original buildings, preserving the history and iconic status of this magnificent listed building”. He told the Daily Post: “Our track record as a developer, owner and operator has clearly demonstrated we have the necessary expertise and skill set in the regeneration of listed historical buildings. We breathe new life into these tired and often derelict listed buildings, turning them into thriving hotels and businesses.” Signature Living currently operates five hotels in the UK and has a further eight in development, including its latest Shankly Hotel in Preston.

Healthy fast food concept Nu To Go to launch in Gateshead: Healthy fast food concept Nu To Go is set to launch in Gateshead. Founders Chloe Wilson and Darren Appleton are finalising plans to open a cafe and takeaway at Trinity Square leisure complex. Nu To Go was set to launch in Newcastle in 2016 but the deal fell through at the last minute. Wilson told Insider Media: “The location in Trinity Square is perfect for us. There is an excellent range of shops, restaurants, gymnasiums and entertainment as well as a host of thriving businesses nearby. Our aim is to change the stereotypical view of health food – that it’s all lettuce leaves and mung beans as well as being too expensive and time-consuming to prepare. People are becoming increasingly more health conscious and aware of what they are putting into their bodies.”

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