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Fri 25th May 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Dining out still in growth but delivery booming: Consumers are still eating out even though the popularity of delivery is increasing, according to new research by purchase intelligence platform Cardlytics. The study, based on spending insights of three million UK bank customers, revealed spending on eating out grew only 3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, compared with 9% the year before. However, spending on delivery services increased 17% in the first quarter of 2018. Cardlytics said the data showed casual dining “no longer reigned in the restaurant sector” as delivery services gained a bigger slice. Casual dining used to account for almost half of restaurant spend two years ago but now makes up little more than 40%, followed by quick service (39%) and delivery (16%). Casual dining spend fell 1% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, compared with 5% growth in 2017 and 10% the year before that. The average transaction value in delivery services increased 10% year-on-year in the quarter, compared with restaurants as a whole, which has seen the average transaction value fall 6% since 2015. Steak restaurants saw the highest growth during the period – 12% – followed by coffee shops (9%), quick service lunch restaurants (9%) and burger joints (8%). The average transaction value at steak restaurants increased 17% year-on-year in the quarter, while the value of an average transaction at a pub has dropped 10% since 2015. Burger restaurants remain the most popular cuisine (23%), followed by pub dining (20%) and pizza (10%). Chicken shops saw spending fall 7% compared with the first quarter of 2017, the first dip in the category since 2016. However, the drop may have been driven by nationwide chicken shortages reported by KFC in March. Cardlytics UK commercial director Duncan Smith said: “The cold weather has clearly supported delivery services but, with the seasons changing, there is an opportunity for physical restaurants to entice customers back with new partnerships and diversification of their rewards and offers. With profitability set to be one of the biggest issues for the industry in 2018, restaurant owners will need to take a long hard look at their physical high-street presence and examine whether their strategy is sufficiently different to foster loyalty among increasingly discerning customers.”

Industry News:

Propel and Professor Chris Edger Inspirational Leadership In Tough Times Masterclass open for bookings: A new masterclass launched by Professor Chris Edger and Propel is now open for bookings. The Inspirational Leadership In Tough Times Masterclass will take place at Chartered Accountants Hall in Moorgate Place, London, on Thursday, 21 June. With our industry buffeted by five major headwinds – higher costs, labour shortages, low consumer confidence, too much capacity and concept fatigue – the businesses that win through will be led by inspirational leaders who galvanise their people to achieve extraordinary feats. The masterclass will provide insights and tips into how you can perfect being an inspirational leader. Drawing on material from his nine books on leadership, Prof Edger will outline how inspirational leaders mobilise their teams and businesses to outperform the market in challenging circumstances. Speakers will include Gary Harris, deputy chairman of British Rowing for almost 20 years during a period of unprecedented success, who will outline ten key insights into coaching outstanding performances from teams and individuals. Meanwhile, writer and lecturer Dr Nollaig Heffernan, co-designer of the ILM72 psychometric test, will outline the key components that underpin mental toughness for inspirational leaders and how to incorporate them to overcome everyday stress and challenges. For the full schedule, click here. 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

Sarah Willingham – business booster initiative to be ‘head office function’ for independents: Former Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham, who has teamed up with Just Eat to launch a business booster initiative, has told Propel the scheme will give small-sized independents the same “head office function” chains have to help them grow. Willingham said Just Eat’s independent partners would now have the chance to gain help in crucial areas such as menu pricing and strategy. She added: “With chains you have a head office that focuses on specific areas with the required expertise and information, but with small businesses no-one does that for you. Just Eat has access to so much information through its systems on what people are ordering and when they are doing it, and we want to share this information. Simply making a small tweak to prices, for example, can make a big difference.” Willingham, who previously held senior management roles at PizzaExpress and is a director of London Cocktail Club, said she believed there was still a place for chains on the high street but the time had come for independents to flourish. She added: “At London Cocktail Club we’ve grown organically and continued to expand very slowly. If you open 20 rapidly you don’t have a chance to get them all right. With customers wanting and having more choice there is more opportunity for independents. Consumers want to support small businesses and that, in turn, helps the high street and economy. I’m keen to do my bit by giving little tips and spending time with businesses to help them grow. I think there are some great opportunities for independents to grow in the current climate and we can help them with some of the tasks required to boost profits.” For more information on the business booster initiative, click here

First quarter food and drink exports grow 5.5% to £5.2bn although beer suffers £16m drop: Food and drink exports grew 5.5% year-on-year to £5.2bn in the first quarter of 2018, according to the latest statistics from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). Total exports to EU markets grew faster (8.2%) than those to non-EU markets (1.2%). Each of the top ten product categories saw growth – including whisky, chocolate, cheese, wine and beef – apart from salmon and beer, which were down £40.7m and £16.1m respectively. Whisky was by far the top exported product, worth £955.0m, with volumes increasing 2.9% year-on-year and value rising 6.5%. Wine exports soared 16.3% during the period, with an 8.7% rise in value to £145.0m. The volume of gin exported in the first quarter increased 10.7% year-on year, with a 9.9% rise in value to £119.0m. Beer volumes fell 16.3%, with value decreasing to £109.1m. The top export market for food and drink was Ireland, with sales rising 13.6% to £981.0m, followed by France (minus 0.4% to £518.8m). Exports to the US decreased 9.0% to £461.4m. The biggest rise in exports during the first quarter was to the Czech Republic (up 52.3% to £44.7m), with the country entering the top 20 list for the first time. There were also major increases to Singapore (up 30.9% to £99.9m), and Australia (up 21.9% to £98.0m). FDF is currently working with the government to secure a post-Brexit sector deal for the food and drink industry, with a “hit list” of potential markets. One is Japan, where UK exports rose 5% year-on-year in the first quarter to £56.7m, including a 90% rise in soft drinks sales. There are hopes for further trade ties as the country hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the 2020 Olympics. FDF chief executive Ian Wright said: “Food and drink exports showed continued growth in January to March 2018. This growth was based on robust demand for the UK’s high-quality products. Much of the demand comes from nearby markets, as demonstrated by strong growth to EU27 countries. There are also significant opportunities further afield. However, these require more specialist in-market support. For example, a recent trip to Japan highlighted the strength of demand that exists for quality UK products and the desire to build trading relationships.”

UK drinks industry unites to tackle mental health stigma: Industry members united with The Benevolent, a charity that supports employees in the drinks trade, to discuss mental health issues in the sector. Chief executive Chris Porter presented key findings of a report commissioned by The Benevolent that revealed one-third of respondents had experienced high levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue during the past year. Fewer than half (46%) felt on top of their mental health, compared with 59% who rated their physical health as “good” or “very good”. Four out of ten surveyed had never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health issues, while almost half (49%) didn’t know whether their company had a mental health support mechanism. The main barrier (48%) preventing people from disclosing mental health difficulties was “potential harm to career prospects”. Porter said: “This seminar was the result of three months of research aimed at understanding the mental well-being of those working in our drinks industry. It has helped us gain a clearer understanding of when and where those issues may arise, who is affected and what we as the drinks industry charity need to do to help. We were humbled so many spoke so openly about their experiences and that alone proves the need is there and the subject need no longer be taboo.”

Company News:

Patrick Dardis – we expect Smiths of Smithfield to turn over up to £250,000 a week: Patrick Dardis, chief executive of London pub retailer Young’s, has told Propel he expects its newly refurbished Smiths of Smithfield site to turn over up to £250,000 a week. The company reopened the grade II-listed, four-storey City pub earlier this month following an £800,000 refurbishment having acquired it in November. The 800-capacity venue, which is the company’s largest, has an average weekly take of £100,000 but Dardis said: “With the refurbishment, our intentions are to get more from it than that. I would expect up to £250,000 a week. The site is not due to mature until 2020 and we are very excited about its prospects.” Dardis said the company would continue to invest heavily in its estate to ensure it remained “out in front”, including a £1.5m spend on The Park – the 43-bedroom hotel in Teddington it acquired in April. The company has 580 bedrooms in its portfolio and Dardis said another 140 to 150 bedrooms could be added in the next three to five years. Young’s transferred three sites from its tenanted Ram Pub Company business to the managed estate during the year and one of the sites – The King’s Arms in Wandsworth – will reopen on Friday (25 May). Dardis said there were opportunities to transfer further sites, with about eight planned during the next two years. However, he added: “Ram is a good cash-generative business.” Dardis said the 35-strong Burger Shack sister concept Shack In The Box, which pops up in pub gardens on sunny days, had been an “incredible success”, with the company looking to continue its roll-out and add another ten to its estate in the current year. Dardis said the company would continue to look to add to its 225-strong estate but stressed: “It is not about numbers – it’s about quality.” He added: “We have delivered a 21st consecutive year of dividend growth and our managed like-for-like sales continue to increase against tough comparables. I don’t think it’s down to one particular thing – it’s about having great pubs in great places and we’ll continue to innovate in what is a predominately freehold estate. We have the firepower to acquire if we want to – but not for the sake of it.” Dardis also hailed a number of Young’s initiatives, including “cucumber currency” in which customers exchanged a cucumber for a gin and tonic with more than 4,000 cucumbers donated to hungry people in London.

NewRiver open to further pub sector deals following Hawthorn acquisition: NewRiver chief financial officer Mark Davies has told Propel the company is open to further sector deals after acquiring Hawthorn Leisure for £106.8m. The deal sees NewRiver almost double its pub portfolio, from 331 to 629, including its first sites in Scotland. The Hawthorn brand will be retained, with both estates transitioning into a single operating platform over time. However, while Davies said the company was focused on working with the Hawthorn management team to review the operational structures of both portfolios, he refused to rule out further deals. He said: “We have assessed 600 individual sites and progress is being made on some of those. If the opportunity presents itself, we will certainly look at it. We have a plan in place where pub assets account for no more than 20% of the total asset value of the company. As the value of the company grows, we can be more flexible with the size of the pub portfolio.” Davies said having the experience of the Hawthorn Leisure team, led by Gerry Carroll, was a real bonus for the company, adding: “This is a fantastic deal for us.” Meanwhile, Carroll said the aim for Hawthorn remained to build a portfolio of between 1,000 and 2,000 pubs. He added: “It’s about doing smart deals. We want to be a major player but we’re not putting a timescale on it. We’re pretty flexible in terms of potential acquisitions – we will look at single sites or packages. Until now, we’ve had no pubs in Devon or Cornwall, for example, while NewRiver didn’t have any in Scotland where we have 97 – so there is very little geographical overlap. It is very much business as usual and the deal provides a strong platform for our ambitious growth plans.”

Whitbread to open 1,000 Premier Inn bedrooms in UK seaside resorts, launching fifth Bar + Block next month: Whitbread is to open 1,000 Premier Inn bedrooms in seaside resorts across the country to cater for rising demand driven by the popularity of staycations. In the past year, the business has secured deals for almost 400 Premier Inn bedrooms in seaside resorts across the UK, while another 500 bedrooms will be constructed at new hotel sites within the year. A further 100 bedrooms are being added via extensions to existing Premier Inn sites. Hotels will be built at resorts including Brighton, Holyhead and Newquay, while sites in Paignton, Devon and Southport are among those to be extended. Whitbread will also open its first Premier Inn in the Channel Islands – in Jersey at the end of May – and in Porthmadog. The Great Britain Tourism Survey revealed the number of staycations in England increased 6% in 2017 from the previous year, with the figure continuing to rise. Whitbread director of acquisitions Jo Moon said: “There are significant regeneration and modernisation projects taking place in seaside towns and cities across the UK and we’re excited to be a part of this change. These new Premier Inn bedrooms will help to support seaside economies. We plan to build on this momentum over the next 12 months and are on the lookout for more coastal sites.” Meanwhile, Whitbread will open its fifth Bar + Block steakhouse next month. The 100-cover, 3,861 square foot venue will open in Chapel Quarter in Nottingham city centre on Sunday, 17 June to join sister sites in Birmingham, London, Whiteley and Bath. The concept features steaks hand-cut to order as well as a “butcher’s block”, rotating specials and an extensive drinks list.

Crussh boss – healthy food craze is giving us opportunities we could only dream of before: Crussh chief executive Shane Kavanagh has told Propel consumers’ growing demand for healthy food is giving the company opportunities it could only dream about previously. The company has agreed a franchise deal with the world’s largest services company, Sodexo, with a commitment to open at least 35 sites in the next five years across the UK and Ireland. The partnership will see Crussh open outlets across all Sodexo’s business – from workplace catering to universities, hospitals and government sites. Kavanagh said the first site to open this summer would be with one of Sodexo’s corporate clients, while there were plans in the pipeline for its debut hospital site. He added: “Healthy food has become part of everyday life. A couple of years ago we wouldn’t have had a shot at getting into those places. We’re going to look at getting a couple open and take it from there. We are excited about the prospect, particularly with hospitals. It’s perfect for us. They’ve been dominated by outlets such as Costa and Subway but with people wanting healthy food choices, it’s giving us an opportunity to make a difference in those sort of environments.” Crussh opened its debut transport hub site on Tuesday (22 May) as part of its partnership with SSP and Kavanagh said it had been a “really good” first couple of days. He added: “There are plenty of opportunities there for us as well as we look to take the brand outside London. Along with our other partnerships, including Everyone Active, we’re now able to attract an even wider audience.”

Haute Dolci heads to Manchester for third dessert parlour as it targets 20 sites by 2020: Premium dessert concept Haute Dolci is to open its third parlour, at the Intu Trafford Centre in Manchester, as it targets 20 further sites by 2020 to create 700 jobs. The concept takes inspiration from the haute cuisine culture of France and Italy and the flagship, 75-cover venue will open in the shopping centre’s Great Hall. Haute Dolci has taken a 3,000 square foot unit opposite TGI Friday’s and Wagamama. The company has sites in Ellesmere Port and Coventry, with other sites marked as “coming soon” on its website in Blackburn, Bolton, Leeds, Leicester and Lytham St Annes. Decadent desserts include Belgian waffles, American pancakes and French crepes. The Trafford site will feature private booths, chocolate taps and a dedicated takeaway section. Store director Yasin Vaza told Insider Media: “We are delighted and extremely excited to be opening in the Trafford Centre and creating an experience that has been a decade in the making. The Trafford Centre seems a natural fit and location for our flagship store for the next chapter of this brand because food is becoming as much a luxury as fashion. Haute Dolci is all about the experience and that is reflected in everything this concept is about. It’s all about perfecting those finer details and exceeding every aspect of the guest experience.”

BrewDog gets permission to begin Brisbane brewery works: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has received permission to start work on its brewery in Brisbane, Australia. Construction is likely to commence at the site on the banks of the River Murarrie in “mid-July”. BrewDog stated in its blog: “This is huge for us – having freshly brewed craft beer on hand for our legion of supporters in Australia is going to be amazing. Our facility in eastern Brisbane will have a DogTap and restaurant on-site so the people of the area can enjoy what we do, metres from where the beer is made. With the timeline we are working to, we hope to have everything up and running in the first quarter of next year. Our Australian brewing crew will be dialling in a series of small-batch brews with local ingredients, adding local flavour and a true Aussie spin on classic beer styles. The craft beer scene in Australia is something we are hugely proud to be part of.” Earlier this week, BrewDog passed the £16m point in its Equity for Punks V fund-raise and announced it would launch its latest bar – BrewDog Angel – in Islington, north London, on Friday, 1 June.

Signature Pub Group closes The Boozy Cow in Stirling as it evaluates estate: Edinburgh-based Signature Pub Group has closed its Boozy Cow site in Stirling city centre with immediate effect as it evaluates its estate. The bar restaurant was one of four Boozy Cow sites Signature inherited when it acquired seven-strong bar and restaurant operator Speratus Group in February. The venue in King Street closed abruptly leaving 18 staff out of work. A Signature Pubs spokeswoman told the Daily Record staff had been offered statutory redundancy pay, due wages and holiday pay. She added: “After acquiring the Boozy Cow chain from Speratus Group in February, we are looking to focus our attention on our core estate while further developing additional projects that were in progression prior to the acquisition. We are respectively evaluating every Boozy Cow unit, including their current offering, and look forward to launching new menus and initiatives.” The Boozy Cow was launched by Garreth Wood, with profits from the business going to charity. Signature Pub Group is led by Wood’s brother Nic and acquired seven Speratus venues in total, the others being The Auld Hundred in Edinburgh, and Nox and Paramount, both in Aberdeen. The other Boozy Cow sites are in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh. Its portfolio now consists of 20 pubs, hotels and restaurants across Scotland. 

Starbucks UK turns spotlight on free coffee grounds for gardeners initiative: Starbucks UK has launched a Grounds For Your Garden campaign that highlights its offer of free coffee grounds for gardeners. The company has joined forces with The Allotments & Gardens Council UK (TAGC) to highlight the initiative in which baristas scoop used coffee grounds into reusable bags for customers to pick up. Starbucks UK communications director Clare Walker said: “Thank you to the TAGC for shining a spotlight on this programme, which we have offered in our stores for 20 years. We’re committed to reducing waste from our stores and it’s a great opportunity to support local gardeners and allotment keepers.” TAGC board member Jeff Bond added: “Used coffee grounds are high in nitrogen so they are fantastic for plant growth.”

Two Heads Beer Co increases equity offer in £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to open four sites: Independent craft beer retailer Two Heads Beer Co has increased the equity offer in its £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open four stores. The company, which is led by former BrewDog head of retail acquisitions James Hickson, is now offering 14.9% equity in return for investment instead of the original 10%. So far, 121 investors have pledged £144,550 with 15 days remaining. Hickson said: “Over the past few days we’ve been in discussion with several potential investors on and off the platform who have told us they love the business and totally ‘get’ our vision of a chain of speciality beer stores across London and the south east. However, they felt the valuation was just a bit too high for them to feel comfortable. Taking this feedback on board, Jon (Kaye) and myself have discussed what is most important to us and agreed that being able to realise our vision in full with a dedicated group of passionate new investors is by far our clearest objective. It is for that reason we have taken the decision to reduce our valuation.” Two Heads Beer Co trades as The Beer Boutique and We Brought Beer brands and currently operates six stores – in Balham, Putney, Clapham, Tooting, Wandsworth and Tunbridge Wells. The company generated revenue of more than £958,000 in 2017. The pitch states: “We believe we are firmly in the right part of a growing market. We are looking to raise investment to expand our concept to more areas in London and the south east, where we believe a beer-thirsty population is underserved. The way people drink beer is changing and we see ourselves at the forefront of this change.” Hickson founded We Brought Beer in 2014. It merged with fellow bottle shop business The Beer Boutique in January, with founder Kaye becoming executive chairman of Two Heads Beer Co.

Former Gleneagles manager to launch second Edinburgh site next month: Former Gleneagles restaurant manager Juan Jose Castillo Castro is to launch his second site in Edinburgh. Castro, who operates 99 Hanover Street bar, will launch 83 Hanover Street next month with partner Vanessa Alfano. The 50-cover restaurant and bar will blend Scottish produce with Chilean flavours through a small plates menu, which will focus on charcuterie created by East Coast Cured, citrus-cured seafood and grilled meat. Other dishes will include sopaipilla (Chilean pumpkin bread), quinoa salad and empanadas. Former Timberyard restaurant manager Peter Brodie will curate a wine list featuring bottles from Europe and South America. The seven-seat bar next to the open kitchen and charcuterie counter will allow counter-top dining, while interiors will include distressed walls, dark wood, copper lighting and leather banquette seating.

Harrogate-based restaurant Norse closes: Harrogate-based restaurant Norse has closed with immediate effect only months after it publicly asked for support. In January, the Nordic-influenced restaurant posted a blog that prompted support from food critic Jay Rayner and a positive Sunday Times review by Marina O’Loughlin. Shortly afterwards, the restaurant returned to a more traditional a la carte format alongside its tasting menu option and introduced an early bird offer. Owner Paul Rawlinson told The Business Desk: “I don’t blame the failure of the restaurant on conditions within the industry, Brexit or any other external factors. I had a talented team and a lovely space – I just didn’t do a good enough job of telling our story and convincing people to step through the doors. Life in town centres is tough right now and independent shops, restaurants and businesses need our continued support.” Norse launched in Baltzersen’s cafe in the centre of Harrogate in 2014. After raising £50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign, the restaurant moved to its own location in Swan Road in April last year. Norse has been listed in the Good Food Guide and Michelin Guide and retained two AA rosettes last year.

Air-tastic eyes Belfast for third Northern Ireland site: Air-tastic has submitted plans to open its third trampoline park in Northern Ireland, this time in west Belfast. The company opened its first park in Bangor in December 2016 after securing a loan from the Growth Loan Fund, followed by a site in Cork the following year. Air-tastic is seeking permission to combine two vacant units at Westwood Shopping Centre to house indoor trampolines alongside a cafe, play area and a mezzanine viewing area, Insider Media reports.

Four-strong hotel operator to launch Chelsea neighbourhood restaurant next week: Iconic Luxury Hotels, which operates four hotels in the UK, is to launch neighbourhood restaurant Hans’ Bar & Grill in Chelsea next week. The venue will open in Pavilion Road on Friday, 1 June as part of the company’s 11 Cadogan Gardens hotel. It will offer an all-day seasonal menu by head chef Adam England, formerly of D&D London’s Le Pont de la Tour. Dishes will include confit salmon with goat’s curd cheese and cucumber, and England’s own take on veal carpaccio. The 106-cover restaurant is named after Hans Sloane, who is credited with bringing cocoa to the UK. A breakfast and brunch menu will be available daily from 7am to noon, while there will be a 20-seat bar and 16-cover private dining room called The Curio. General manager Simon Smith, formerly of Hakkasan, will oversee the wine list alongside classic cocktails. England said: “We are thrilled to be joining the Pavilion Road family and proud of the heritage our location inspires.” Iconic Luxury Hotels’ other sites are Chewton Glen in the New Forest, Cliveden in Berkshire, and Cotswolds coaching inn The Lygon Arms. 

London-based micro-brewer passes halfway mark in crowdfunding campaign to build taphouse and expand production five-fold: London-based micro-brewer The Park Brewery has passed the halfway mark in its £175,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to relocate, build a taproom and increase production five-fold. The company is offering 10.45% equity in return for investment. So far, 104 investors have pledged £116,210 with 29 days of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “The company was founded in autumn 2014 with an initial £5,000 set-up producing just 200 litres a brew. Our aim was to create alternative, thought-provoking beer for our community. Struggling to keep up, we injected £30,000 and expanded capacity mid-2015 to 600 litres, brewing three times a week to keep up with sales. We are a husband-and-wife team (Josh and Frankie Kearns) and take inspiration from nearby Richmond Park to name our beers. We have three in our core range plus seasonal specials throughout the year, ranging from fruit saison, wheat beer, porter and IPA. We sell in bottle, cask, keg and now can. Our beer is sold in more than 100 outlets (bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels) and we feel like we have only just begun. We are in some of the larger chains too including Majestic, Whole Foods, Double Tree (Hilton Hotel Group) and The Holiday Inn. Once again we have hit full capacity and our brewery is at breaking point! It is time for us to invest in new kit, gather an experienced and dynamic team, move into new premises to include a brewery tap, and start spreading The Park ales nationally and internationally.”

Domino’s Pizza Eurasia shareholders revolt over chairman’s reappointment: More than a quarter of shareholders at Domino’s Pizza Eurasia voted against the re-election of Peter Williams at the company’s annual general meeting. A total of 17,200,806 (27.6%) of votes, excluding the controlling shareholder, were received against the resolution from a total of 62,403,699 cast. The company stated: “All resolutions presented to shareholders at the annual general meeting were passed with a majority of votes. However, the board notes a significant minority of votes were received against the re-election of our chairman Peter Williams. The board seeks to ensure each director has time to meet the requirements of their role and is satisfied all directors, including Peter Williams, have sufficient capacity to meet their commitments to Domino’s Pizza Eurasia, including during periods when Domino’s Pizza Eurasia or other commitments require greater-than-usual involvement. We have interacted with a number of our shareholders and corresponded with proxy advisor bodies over concerns raised about Peter’s time commitments and will continue to engage with shareholders over the course of the year.”

Kent-based Follies Pizzeria to relocate Dover restaurant after outgrowing site: Kent-based Follies Pizzeria is to relocate its Dover restaurant after outgrowing the site, with its new home to feature a rooftop terrace bar. The company, launched by sisters Abigail Lauder and Aimi Ridonat in 2014, will move the restaurant to St James Shopping Centre. The current Dover premises in King Street opened in November 2016 but Follies has now secured a 4,000 square foot, two-storey unit at the complex, where it will be the first non-chain business. It will join companies such as Cineworld, Nando’s Next and Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee at the site off Townwall Street. The new space includes a terraced outside seating area on the first floor, which Follies plans to use as a bar, as well as a ground-floor alfresco dining space, reports Kent Live. In a Facebook post, Ridonat said: “Exciting things are happening for Follies in Dover. We are closing our King Street site but will be back soon in a bigger and brighter setting, with a ground-floor restaurant and a new upstairs bar.” Follies also operates two restaurants in Folkestone and one in Hythe. Its pizzas feature ingredients sourced from Italy, while the dough is homemade. Follies Pizzeria also sells wine and prosecco on tap as well as coffee.

CH&Co Group launches simplified group structure and new brand identity: CH&Co Group has launched a simplified group structure and brand identity that “clearly defines” the markets it operates in. Its 20-plus brands will be replaced by defined operating sectors – CH&Co Workplaces, CH&Co Destinations, CH&Co Venues, CH&Co Events, CH&Co Education and CH&Co Livery. A small group of endorsed brands will continue to operate apart including Principals by CH&Co and Absolutely by CH&Co, which are specialist companies within the state catering sector. The Brookwood Partnership will become CH&Co Independent Education later this year. The changes will come into effect in June, with businesses transitioning to the new branding by October. Chief executive Bill Toner said: “We have been through a period of major change driven by organic growth and significant merger activity, which has taken us to a £300m business. Our new strategic partnerships have inevitably created a group structure that’s more complex with a large portfolio of brands, with some areas of crossover. This restructure and rebrand is an obvious next step.”

Cineworld to anchor Warrington leisure-led scheme: Cineworld has agreed a deal to anchor a new leisure-led Time Square development in Warrington, Cheshire. Providing 2,500 seats across 13 screens, the cinema is due to open in 2020. Cineworld will complement a proposed dining line-up consisting of high-street brands and local independents. In addition the scheme, being led by Warrington & Co and Muse Developments, includes a 1,100-space car park, which has recently been completed, and new offices for the borough council. The old market building will be replaced by a European-style market hall featuring a range of operators. Cineworld UK property director Kevin Frost said: “We are delighted to be the multiplex offer at Time Square, a scheme designed to deliver the perfect blend of leisure and dining. Our next-generation cinema will deliver the latest big-screen cinema entertainment.” David Burkinshaw, development director at Muse Developments, added: “Securing Cineworld is an important first step in our leasing plans, one that not only gives real momentum to Time Square but sets a great benchmark in terms of the quality and innovation visitors can expect. We are now focusing on the next stage of the leasing, which will secure a great mix of exciting food and beverage brands.” Metis acted on behalf of Warrington & Co and Muse Developments, while Wareing & Partners represented Cineworld.

Diageo launches $1bn auction of US-focused spirits portfolio: Diageo has launched a $1bn auction of its portfolio of US-focused spirits brands. The company, which is looking to focus on premium labels, has already started talks with potential buyers, Sky News reports. Brands earmarked for disposal include Goldschlager, the schnapps it has owned for more than 20 years, Myer’s Rum, vodka label Popov and sambuca brand Romana. Investment bank Centerview Partners is handling the sale process, according to a source close to Diageo. The overall price tag is likely to fetch between $500m and $1bn, with Diageo keen to sell in a single transaction and the sale process likely to last several months. A Diageo spokesman said: “We regularly review our portfolio to ensure we are maximising shareholder value.” Ivan Menezes, chief executive since 2013, has intensified attention on key global brands such as Johnnie Walker, Ciroc, Tanqueray and Baileys, while streamlining the business by selling assets including hotel and golf resort Gleneagles for £200m and its wine portfolio for £360m.

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