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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 30th May 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Unsecured creditors of Burger King franchisees left £20m out of pocket: Unsecured creditors of two Ipswich-headquartered companies that together operated more than 30 Burger King outlets across the UK will be left out of pocket by almost £20m, it has been revealed. Millcliffe and CPL Foods were placed in administration in April last year under the control of Mark Cropper, Melissa Fielding, and Catherine Williamson, of AlixPartners, as joint administrators. The businesses employed about 870 staff and operated a total of 53 fast food restaurants, 36 of which traded under the Burger King brand while 17 traded under other independent brands, including El Taco Loco, Real Cafe, Pizza Neo and Roosters. In their progress report filed at Companies House, the administrators said CPL Foods and Millcliffe owed £9,660,000 and £9,832,000 respectively to unsecured creditors. As unsecured creditors will not receive a dividend, the administrators have not commenced a claims agreement process and are not requesting creditors formally submit claims. Meanwhile, secured creditor Allied Irish Banks, which is owed £9.7m from the two companies, will receive a likely level of return of just £50,000. To date, it has received £25,000. In addition, Millcliffe also granted fixed charges to Liberty Leasing by way of chattel mortgages dating 30 November 2016 and 24 February 2017. The balance outstanding was £148,000. At the point of the sale of the businesses to Powerbanks in August last year, Liberty received £6,000. The administrators said in their latest report no further funds were available to Liberty. The report showed the final trading position was expected to reflect losses of £987,784 and £1,151,083 in CPL Foods and Millcliffe respectively. These losses have been fully funded by Allied Irish Banks. Meanwhile, preferential creditor claims totalling £1,547 and £10,764 were received from former employees of CPL Foods and Millcliffe respectively and these were passed to the Redundancy Payments Office (RPO) for payment up to the statutory limits. In addition there were also preferential claims outstanding for pre-appointment pension contributions for certain CPL Foods employees, which totalled about £9,644 on appointment. The administrators submitted these to the RPO for processing and these were paid in full in December 2017. As previously reported, at the time of their appointment, the administrators said they were called in after the companies experienced cash flow pressure, primarily because of delays in developing and opening new stores. 

Industry News:

Propel summer conference and party open for bookings, more than 250 people confirmed: More than 250 people are now booked for this year’s Propel summer conference and party – operators can claim up to two free places. The event takes place on Thursday, 5 July at The Oxford Belfry. This year we have the usual great conference followed by crazy golf at Junkyard Golf in Oxford plus a barbecue and live band karaoke back at the hotel. The speaker line-up is Matt Coles, of Morar HPI’s food and drinks team; Peter Edwards, chief operating officer of Zonal; sector consultant James Hacon; Martin Morales, restaurateur, chef and entrepreneur known as the pioneer of Peruvian food; Angela Malik, board member of the London Food Board; Gavin George, chief executive of Laine Pub Company; Matthew Kirby, chief executive of Chozen Noodle; David Abrahamovitch, founder of genre-busting Grind; Andreas Karlsson, group chief operating officer of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi; Simon Mitchell, managing director of Kerb; James Baer, managing director of Amber Taverns; and HGEM insight manager Rich New and lead client manager Jason Horn. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing or calling her on 01444 817691.

UKHospitality – government must deliver on sector T-Levels: UKHospitality has warned the government a delay in the introduction of the new catering T-Level will only exacerbate recruitment problems for the hospitality sector. The first 52 colleges to provide the new technical qualifications have been announced, but the introduction of the catering T-level has been delayed with only digital, construction and education and childcare initially available. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The introduction of the new qualifications and the emphasis on vocational education is a step-change in providing the skills the country needs for a more productive future. However, although it is encouraging to see the government begin to promote the possibilities of technical and vocational education, it is very disappointing to see the introduction of the catering T-Level delayed. Recent industry reports showed the sector would need an additional 11,000 chefs before 2020 and almost one million new staff members would be needed by 2022. With Brexit-related uncertainly regarding the future of the workforce continuing to cause problems for employers, it is vital the government takes every available step to support employment in the sector. Clearly, businesses are going to need significant support in filling these gaps and a delay to the introduction of the catering T-Level, if only by one year, will mean employers are on the back foot.” Meanwhile, UKHospitality has cautiously backed the European Commission’s proposals to tackle plastic and packaging waste but warned the new measures must be supported by infrastructure that does not increase burdens for hospitality businesses. Nicholls said: “Support for businesses from local authorities and manufacturers is going to be key if the new proposals are to be useful and manageable. We need a focus on personal and business responsibility to ensure infrastructure encourages recycling and adoption of alternatives, rather than a blanket elimination of plastic.”

Birmingham’s tourism sector sees most successful year on record: Birmingham’s tourism sector recorded its most successful year in history in 2017, with hotel revenue, visitor numbers and spend all reaching record highs. Statistics released by the West Midlands Growth Company and research body Global Tourism Solutions revealed Birmingham welcomed 41.8 million visitors in 2017, with subsequent spend reaching £7.1bn – an increase of more than 9% compared with the previous year. Average hotel occupancy stood at 75%, matching the previous record set in 2016, while revpar was £51 in value, the highest figure recorded. The number of full-time equivalent jobs supported by the visitor economy has risen by 7.2% since 2016, from 70,635 to 75,748. Birmingham City Council leader Cllr Ian Ward said: “Tourism is a major part of the Birmingham economy, supporting thousands of jobs, and these outstanding figures underline the fact this city is now a major tourist destination, with a growing profile on the global stage. Increasing numbers of visitors come to Birmingham every year and many return time and time again, thanks to our arts and culture, our fantastic food, our sporting offer and because they know they are guaranteed a warm welcome.”

Restaurants feel pinch as crab stocks shrink: Crab stocks have plummeted, raising prices and forcing restaurants to alter menus. The south west of England has been particularly badly affected by the shortage, with Norfolk fishermen also reporting problems. The reason is unclear but the “beast from the east” storm in late February is one possible suspect. Andy Frary, who is catching about 60% of his usual haul in Wells, Norfolk, told The Metro: “The storm would have churned up the seabed and bigger or more juvenile crabs would have been injured.” Kim Aplin said 90% of the crabs he is catching in Beer, Devon, are male – suggesting a lack of females has affected breeding. “Even I can’t make a crab sandwich,” he said. “I could sell my crab five times over.” The Dukes in Sidmouth, Devon, has had to stop serving crab cakes and crab linguine because it cannot source the crustaceans. But Frary insisted the shortages were “nothing to be worried about” and added: “We have on and off years, and we haven’t had an off-year since 2012.” 

Company News:

KFC launches first campaign since chicken delivery crisis: KFC has relaunched its Colonel Sanders mascot in a bid to refresh its brand following a disastrous delivery failure earlier this year. In February, the company was forced to close more than two thirds of its 900 UK stores after it ran out of chicken, with some restaurants shut for weeks. KFC said the shortage was due to “teething problems” with a new delivery partner – DHL in partnership with QSL – and eventually went back to previous supplier Bidvest Logistics for about a third of its restaurants. In its announcement of the new television advert, the company made a tongue in cheek reference to its problems earlier this year: “February was supposed to be the month of love. But not this year…instead, a dark, swirling wind of sadness and heartbreak descended. A sorrowful shadow was cast across our nation. With such desolation and desperation, many wondered whether it was the beginning of the end. Some even considered going to Burger King.” However, KFC added the colonel’s return “in a glorious blaze of herbs and spices” was a symbol of “a return to full strength after the nation’s favourite chicken restaurant ran out of chicken”. Meghan Farren, chief marketing officer for KFC UK and Ireland, said: “The colonel’s back, and it’s about time too. We went through a tricky spell earlier this year – but his values, his philosophy and ultimately his recipe got us all through it. We’re glad to be back.”

12,000 Pret A Manger staff to get £1,000 bonus: All 12,000 staff employed by Pret A Manger will receive a £1,000 bonus once the sale of the firm is completed. The company is to be sold by its private equity owners Bridgepoint to Luxembourg-based JAB Holdings. Pret operates 530 stores worldwide, generating group revenues of £879m. Its sale is expected to be completed this summer. Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee said: “The £1,000 bonus will be paid to all employees who are on the payroll during the week the deal completes. It’s serendipity for those who have just joined.”

Tattu doubles estate with Birmingham and Edinburgh deals: Contemporary Chinese restaurant group Tattu has doubled its estate by securing two new sites – in Birmingham and Edinburgh. Tattu, which was founded in 2015 by brothers Adam and Drew Jones, opened its first site in Manchester’s commercial Spinningfields district – the two-floor restaurant and private dining room has 190 covers. The second site opened in East Parade in Leeds in June 2017 with a 170-cover capacity across another split-level restaurant, private dining room and outdoor terrace. Tattu will begin development of its third site, in Birmingham in August – a 6,500 square foot space set over ground floor and basement with a 150-cover capacity – located in the Colmore Row district. The company has also signed a 20-year lease deal for its fourth site – a 4,680 square foot space – at The Registers, part of the St Andrew Square development and is due to open the restaurant in late spring 2019. Managing director Adam Jones said: “The past three years have been an incredible journey for us. Reaching four sites was never our initial plan – we simply set out to create something unique that offered customers a new dining experience built on quality and attention to detail. The current growth has been completely organic and driven by our customers’ investment in what we do. Completing on two new sites marks the start of an exciting period of growth for Tattu. Location is key for us, and as an independent business we have made a point of being rigorous in our approach to site location to ensure that each restaurant offers guests an unrivalled design aesthetic and dining experience. I am certain the next 12 months will be challenging, but we feel extremely privileged to be in such a strong position in what is a very competitive and evolving industry.” Tattu currently employs 174 staff across its restaurants in Manchester and Leeds, growing this number to about 350 with the planned new openings in Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Rhubarb appoints Dan Doherty as chef partner for first international site, in New York: Food experience brand and events caterer Rhubarb has appointed chef and author Dan Doherty, previously of Duck and Waffle, as chef partner for its new all-day dining destination at New York’s Hudson Yards, opening March 2019. The yet to be named restaurant, bar and terrace, will be located on the fifth floor of the newly developed 30 Hudson Yards in Manhattan’s West Side. It will be the first international location for Rhubarb, which includes the Sky Garden among its portfolio. Chief executive PB Jacobse said: “We are delighted to partner with Dan, who offers a raw passion for food and an infectious energy. He also shares our ethos, which is to push the boundaries of food expectations and deliver something truly memorable. Hudson Yards is a development that will change the way New York lives, works and eats, and to be part of that is extraordinary for us all.” Doherty added: “I love New York and have always been a fan of the food scene there, so I was really excited when Rhubarb approached me to work as chef partner on the Hudson Yards project. It’s an incredible site.” Doherty’s “east meets west” menus will be inspired by his love of travel and will include Singapore chilli crab croquettes; and scallop, apple, kohlrabi and Chinese chilli oil. The 5,800 square foot, 171-cover space, takes inspiration from its Hudson Yards location and the original New York Penn station building, but with eastern influences. In 2020, Rhubarb will also open a 10,000 square foot restaurant and events space at the top of 30 Hudson Yards. The venue will occupy the top two levels of the 1,296-foot tall tower and include an expansive observation deck.

India-based Massive Restaurants to open debut UK site for Farzi Café: India-based Massive Restaurants is to open the debut UK site for its sensory restaurant concept Farzi Café. The company – founded in 2012 by food consultant columnist and author Jiggs Kalra, and his son, MasterChef India judge Zorawar Kalra – will open the venue in Haymarket in London. Billed as “a sensory adventure of the traditional fused with the futuristic”, Farzi Café launched in Gurgaon near New Delhi in 2014. Now four years later in the wake of nine sites across India and one in Dubai, this summer will see London welcome the concept. Farzi Café London will be overseen by award-winning chef Saurabh Udinia and will feature an extensive menu of Indian tapas, soups, salads, main courses and desserts. Dishes will include Dal Chawal Arancini (Sicilian arancini balls made with dal and chawal served with aachar, papad and chutney); and Raj Kachori (mini shells with sweet and sour pumpkin topped with chutney foam with crisp okra salad). Farzi Café London will also offer a post-modern, laboratory-style bar serving a range of molecular cocktails against a backdrop that fuses bold metallics, marble accents and velvet touches. The Haymarket site was secured by agents Restaurant Property. 

Pizza Hut unveils new fast casual delivery concept store: Pizza Hut Delivery has unveiled a new concept store – and plans to refurbish its entire delivery estate of more than 400 sites to the new format. The company has invested £250,000 launching the concept in Luton with the new design drawing on the business’s American roots, and injecting “greater vibrancy” into the experience. With open plan kitchens and seating for up to 12 guests, the store offers customers the flexibility to choose to have their pizza delivered to their home, carry it out or eat in. The business has ambitious plans for the new design concept, with the first ten stores set to be revamped throughout this year. With an initial investment of nearly £1m, a further eight new stores will open under this concept in 2018. These stores will each feature a £70,000 investment and will open in central locations across the UK that benefit from areas of high footfall. UK general manager Neil Manhas said: “I am delighted to announce the opening of our first fast casual delivery store in the UK in Luton. Our Delivery business has bold plans to enhance our customer experience, by making it easier and faster to enjoy a better pizza and this new store design will play an important role in helping us to deliver on this ambition. Over the coming months and years we will roll out this design and concept across new stores and our existing portfolio and it will form a key part of our expansion plans in the UK.”

Just Eat hires former Easyjet marketer as first chief customer officer: Online food delivery business Just Eat has hired former Easyjet marketer Peter Duffy as its first chief customer officer, just days after revealing Barnaby Dawe has stepped down as chief marketing officer. Duffy was previously chief commercial officer of Easyjet but left in January as part of a management overhaul that saw his role dropped and the introduction of a chief data officer. He was at the airline for almost seven years, joining as marketing director before being promoted to group commercial director and then chief commercial officer in late 2016 with sole responsibility for revenue generation. Before working for Easyjet, Duffy, who joins Just Eat on Monday (4 June), was marketing director for Audi and has previously worked for Barclays. The chief customer officer role is new at Just Eat but the company has not expanded on the reason behind the change. Just Eat has experienced a reshuffle of its executive team after appointing Peter Plumb as chief executive in September last year. Dawe was responsible for transforming the brand’s approach to marketing. He joined Just Eat in 2015, and one of his first jobs was to oversee a rebrand that helped the business expand into different “food occasions” and convince consumers to think about getting a takeaway at times other than dinner. A Just Eat spokesman told Marketing Week: “Peter Plumb and the whole Just Eat team look forward to working with Peter during this next important phase of growth for the business across all our markets.” 

London-based healthy food at work delivery platform launches £450,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Feedr, which aims to revolutionise healthy food at work using technology to bring fresh meals from a curated set of artisan vendors across London, has launched a £450,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for expansion. The company, which includes restaurants such as Gail’s Bakery, Deliciously Ella, Detox Kitchen, Mildred’s and Farmstand among its vendors, is offering 13.85% equity in return for the investment. Feedr has served 40,000 meals since its launch in 2016 with 300% revenue growth in the past 12 months. The pitch states: “Food demands are changing – people want better food and transparency in supply chains, but it can be difficult to access healthy, high-quality food at the office, at an affordable price point. Chains such as Pret dominate high streets, so people miss out on best artisan vendors. Feedr is revolutionising workplace food. Our flexible online platform delivers healthy, fresh food to the workplace for group catering and individual meals from a selection of 80 curated vendors. Technology is key to our success. We use data to personalise menus and have built software to integrate seamlessly into companies – making ordering and collecting hundreds of meals at work simple.”

Inception Group to launch Latin bar pop-up at former Cinnamon Soho ahead of ‘exciting longer term ambitions’ for site: Bar and nightclub operator Inception Group is to launch a six-month Latin bar pop-up at the former Cinnamon Soho in London as it revealed it has “exciting longer term ambitions” for the site. Inception Group is opening Casa Bonita at the Kingly Court venue towards the end of June. The Latin bar will serve various cocktails using Bacardi, Banks and Santa Teresa rums, Patron tequila and Leblon cachaca. The food will feature a selection of bar snacks. Although Casa Bonita will be a temporary pop-up, the group is already planning beyond that. Co-founder Charlie Gilkes told Hot Dinners: “We’ll be trading it as a fun Latin inspired pop-up until the end of the year before revealing our exciting longer-term plans with the site.” Last month, Inception Group announced it was doubling the size of its Around The World in 80 Days inspired, Mr Fogg’s Collection by opening three more bars. Its other venues include Bunga Bunga, speakeasy Barts and 1980s-themed nightclub Maggie’s, both in Chelsea, and late-night 1940s-inspired bar Cahoots in Soho. 

Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill is to open fifth site, in Harrogate: Yorkshire-based Brazilian restaurant Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill is to open its fifth site, in Harrogate. The company is opening the venue on Friday, 8 June in the Everyman cinema/restaurant complex in Albert Street in the building that replaced the demolished Sunwin House. The concept specialises in cuts of meat that are skewered and cooked over an open flame. Customers pay a fixed price and use a two-sided disc to control the pace of their meal. The green side indicates to the waiter to serve more meat, while the red side indicates a pause. The restaurant will also offer a salad bar, hot buffet, breads, cured meats and cheese selection, reports the Harrogate Advertiser. Estabulo Rodizio Bar and Grill, which was launched in 2016, has two sites in Leeds and one each in Beverley and Wakefield.

Soho House eyes New York expansion: Soho House has applied to expand its Ludlow House site in New York’s Bowery area by taking over the adjacent property. The members-only club proposes demolition of a neighbouring building to make way for its Ludlow Garden concept. Ludlow Garden would occupy the ground and cellar levels of the new two-storey building in Ludlow Street. The main floor would include a 37-table restaurant as well as a rear garden covered by a retractable roof, offering patrons an external seating area; the basement would house a soundproofed recording studio and extra bathrooms for Ludlow House.

Restaurateur Neil Gill to relocate chip shop concept from Finsbury Park to West End: Restaurateur Neil Gill is to relocate his  chip shop concept Gilly’s Fry Bar from Finsbury Park, north London, to the West End. Gill launched the concept – his third site in total – in Clifton Terrace in September last year. It is modelled on the northern fish and chip shops of Gill’s youth – but with an Asian twist. It not only focuses on fish and chip shop classics such as battered cod with scraps but also on the art of tempura cooking – an idea Gill came up with while working with Alan Yau at Busaba Eathai. Now Gill is to close the site and relocate to an undisclosed location in the West End, reports Hot Dinners. Gill said: “When we launched Gilly’s Fry Bar a year ago, on the flimsiest of shoestrings, it was more in hope than expectation. It had long been a passion project of mine, the idea of combining my love of Japanese tempura technique with the old-school Sunderland chippies of my youth. Obviously I hoped it might appeal to one or two fellow enthusiasts, but I had no idea it would strike such a chord. It has been amazing as well as gratifying to see so many of you love the art of batter as much as I do. The shutters will be coming down on our little Finsbury Park test site, and we will emerge as a fully fledged batter butterfly later this year. We’ll be able to show even more people just what you can achieve with a deep fryer, obsessive attention to detail and a lot of love.”  

East London distillery closes crowdfunding campaign after hitting £1.5m stretch goal: Gin, vodka and whisky distillery East London Liquor Company (ELLC) has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after hitting its stretch goal of £1.5m. The company, which is listed in more than 1,000 UK accounts and exports to 20 markets, hit its initial £750,000 target within 24 hours of launch as it offered a 4.76% equity stake in return for investment to drive growth in the UK and abroad. It has now closed the campaign with 969 investors pledging £1,499,969. In the three years since it was founded, ELLC has sold 327,764 bottles of spirits in the UK, delivering £4.25m in sales revenue. The company is valued at £15m and will build annual bottle sales to 592,000 bottles in 2022, delivering sales revenue of £9.8m. The company’s five-year plan forecasts 1.8 million bottle sales during that period driven by 30% year-on-year growth. Total sales revenues for the five-year period will be £28.7m. The business will turn over £10.5m by 2020 (2017 turnover was £1.8m, 2018 estimated turnover is £2.5m). Alex Wolpert launched ELLC in April 2014. The founders of Camden Town Brewery are founder shareholders in ELLC while the owners of Barworks also sit on the ELLC board.

Howard Schultz writes open letter as Starbucks closes US stores for racial-bias training: Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz has written an open letter as the company closed its 8,000 company-owned stores in the US on Tuesday (29 May) to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination. The training follows the arrest of two black men in April for trespassing while sitting in a cafe in Philadelphia without making a purchase. Part of the letter from Schultz said: “The situation was reprehensible and does not represent our company’s mission and enduring values. The incident has prompted us to reflect more deeply on all forms of bias, the role of our stores in communities and our responsibility to ensure nothing like this happens again at Starbucks. The reflection has led to a long-term commitment to reform system-wide policies, while elevating inclusion and equity in all we do. Discussing racism and discrimination is not easy, and various people have helped us create a learning experience that we hope will be educational, participatory and make us a better company. We want this to be an open and honest conversation starting with our partners. We will also make the curriculum available to the public. To our Starbucks partners – I want to thank you for your participation and for the wonderful work you do every day to make Starbucks a third place for millions of customers. To our customers – I want to thank you for your patience and support as we renew our promise to make Starbucks what I envisioned it could be nearly 40 years ago – an inclusive gathering place for all.”

BrewDog to hit the road with ‘Cinematic Circus’: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is set to hit the road as it launches Cinematic Circus. The debut event takes place at Saturday, 7 July at Weston Airport in Dublin. BrewDog stated: “Remember our ongoing mission to get amazing, freshly brewed craft beer to the people? Well this summer we are blowing the doors off in the biggest possible way. We are hitting the road with BrewDog’s Cinematic Circus – a carnival of everything we love most – super fresh craft beer, epic live music, incredible street food. And one other thing – cult movies on a colossal outdoor screen. We are set to tear things up overseas on a riotous cross-country voyage, with the first stop being Dublin. We are dialling up five bars for the event, pouring 120 taps of craft beer from ourselves and invited craft breweries from Ireland. With less than six weeks to go, we are dialling in every aspect of the debut Cinematic Circus.”

Cawston Press completes £1m equity fund-raise to support expansion: Soft drinks company Cawston Press has completed a £1m equity fund-raising round to support continued expansion at home and overseas. The funds have been secured through existing shareholders, members of the Cawston Press team from the UK, Australia and USA as well as a select number of private investors in the food and drink industry. Cawston Press managing director Steve Kearns said: “Our team is made up of people who want to make better quality soft drinks the norm not the niche. When we initially considered undertaking a full external fund-raising round, we quickly realised there was sufficient appetite from within our own ‘Cawston Crowd’ of founder shareholders, the management team and close industry contacts to raise the necessary money ourselves. We are delighted many of the wider team have chosen to participate and now become shareholders in the business.” The fund-raise comes amid Cawston Press’ introduction of its no added sugar sparkling range recipes in the UK and a continued push for international distribution. In 2017, the brand launched into the US natural and speciality food channels and later this summer, Cawston Press sparkling drinks will launch in France.
Scottish brewer WooHa extends £125,000 crowdfunding campaign: Scottish brewer WooHa has extended its £125,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to upgrade its packaging equipment and boost sales efforts in the US. The company is now offering a 4.76% equity stake in return for the investment instead of the original 2.44%. So far 145 investors have pledged £86,710 with 19 days remaining. The company’s beers are stocked in JD Wetherspoon and Stonegate Pub Company sites in the UK, while WooHa also exports to EU countries and the US, with its “bold, Scottish branding” mainly aimed at export markets. WooHa Brewing Company was founded in 2015 and moved to a larger, 6.2-acre site in the Highlands last year to “accommodate rapid expansion”. It aims to be selling its products through 14 distributors in the US by the fourth quarter of this year. The pitch states: “WooHa is all about big ambitions and showing the world Scotland produces great beer. WooHa has always had a focus on the export market – with the US its main target. WooHa can be found in Tennessee, California and Washington DC. We aim to launch the beer in Alabama, Texas, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The new site has allowed capacity to increase five-fold. However, the volume of beer sold is limited by capacity of the current bottling line. WooHa is looking for funding to help finance new packaging equipment to remove this bottleneck and allow the company to continue to grow its international reach.”

Star Pubs & Bars boosts cask beer range for licensees: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is increasing its cask beer range to more than 300. Rolling out to all 2,900 pubs, the bolstered cask beer range complements the Society of Independent Brewers deal agreed last year and will mean licensees will be able to choose beers from about 900 breweries. Star Pubs & Bars is also working with Marston’s to provide advice on maximising value from cask beer. The category building advice complements Heineken’s “Greenpaper”, which provides actionable category insight to boost the on-trade by up to £1bn over the next three years. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “Great beer is at the heart of great pubs and cask beer is unique to the on-trade giving it a huge point of difference for drinkers. Every pub in our estate is different, which means our entrepreneurial licensees can tailor their beer offering to their customer, whilst adding value to their business.” 

East Yorkshire restaurateur returns to dining scene with Hull launch: Sham Alom, the former owner-chef of Rumi’s Indian restaurant in Beverley, which closed in April, is to return to the dining scene with the launch of Arisi, in Hull. Arisi – meaning “rice” in Tamil – is named after the staple diet of those living in Bangladesh and eastern Indian districts. The restaurant, which is set to open this summer, will be part of the new £7m K2 office and living complex on the former Kingston House site. Offices and a gym are already open at the 13-storey development, which will also have about 39 hotel apartments and 14 luxury flats. Icarus Lounge, a luxury events space with a sky bar offering 360-degree panoramic views, will be located on the 12th floor of the development. Changing with the seasons, the gourmet menu at Arisi will be based on authentic cuisine from different regions of India and Bangladesh. Alom, who opened Rumi’s in 2015, was forced to close the 80-seater restaurant as rising costs made the business unsustainable. Despite being popular at weekends, the venue had no lunchtime trade and remained quiet midweek.

Vagabond releases first English wines: London-based independent wine bar Vagabond has released its first English wines from its urban winery, located in the new development at Battersea Power Station. The company is selling homegrown Bacchus, Pinot Noir Rosé and a sparkling Pét-Not both in the Battersea winery and across its Vagabond sites. Vagabond founder and managing director Stephen Finch said: “In the midst of an explosion of craft breweries and brewpubs across the UK, we asked ourselves ‘why should breweries have all the fun?’ So we created London’s first urban winery with a restaurant and bar, bringing the excitement and education of a top-flight winery to London’s Zone 1.” Grapes are sourced from Kent, Surrey and Oxfordshire by Vagabond head winemaker Gavin Monery, who has been making wines in London since 2013. He said: “For years the London food scene has taken the best people, the best ingredients and the best ideas from around the world and we wanted to extend that to wine. English wines are gaining in popularity and London has been at the centre of the global wine trade for 200 years, so it was a perfect fit for us to locate a winery in the city.” Vagabond has five sites across the capital. 

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