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Thu 31st May 2018 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Operators urged to have say on draft London Food Strategy: Operators are being urged to have their say on the draft London Food Strategy as mayor Sadiq Khan outlines his vision for “good food” in the capital. Khan has set out his priorities and commitments for food and wants support to help him refine and develop the strategy, and then implement it. Developed in partnership with the London Food Board, the strategy sets out actions under six priority areas – one of which includes eating out. Khan said the aim was to “support good food businesses to improve London’s food environment and make healthy, affordable options more widely available to Londoners”. The document states: “The mayor is hugely proud of London’s amazing range of food and wants businesses within the food sector to thrive. We will continue to promote the excellence and variety of London’s food.” Khan plans to deliver change by supporting and promoting value-driven food businesses and social enterprises, especially those serving disadvantaged communities. He will also champion a flexible approach to migration to make sure the food and hospitality sectors can meet demand, innovate and continue to grow to ensure a strong food economy as well as enhance London’s reputation as a world-leading food destination. Khan said restaurants should promote more sustainable options to give Londoners more opportunities to reduce their reliance on meat and increase their intake of fruit and vegetables, by signing up to initiatives such as Sugar Smart and Peas Please. He added organisations should promote the “range and excellence” of careers available in the food and hospitality sectors. As previous reported, Khan is also consulting the industry and other stakeholders on a ban on advertising of food and drink that is not healthy across the Transport for London estate. The other priority areas in the document are good food at home; good food in public institutions and community settings; good food for maternity, early years, education and health; good food growing, community gardens and urban farming; and good food for the environment. The closing date for responses is Thursday, 5 July and the document can be viewed here. Angela Malik, board member of the London Food Board, will talk in more detail about the strategy at the Propel summer conference, which takes place at the Oxford Belfry on Thursday, 5 July. 

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.

On-trade beer sales fall 1.9% in first quarter: On-trade beer sales fell 1.9% in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the previous year, according to the quarterly Beer Barometer from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). Overall, sales of British beer were down 1.7% compared with a 3.4% rise the year before. That was the first time the industry had posted an increase in first-quarter beer sales since 2004. Meanwhile, off-trade sales in the quarter fell by 1.5% compared with the previous year. Last year, the industry took a £130m hit with the increase in duty at the March Budget. The BBPA said November’s duty freeze was a welcome move, but more still needed to be done by the government to support beer and “keep a pint in the Great British pub affordable for consumers”. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Beer sales experienced another fall at the beginning of the year and the industry will be hoping for better prospects this summer, especially as the FIFA World Cup will be a big draw to the pub. What’s still needed is a continued focus from the government to reduce the tax burden on beer and pubs to ensure their success in the future.”

Calls made for more post-war pubs of historic importance to be protected: Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has backed Historic England’s decision to list five new post-war pubs, but is calling for further historic listings of post-war pubs. CAMRA is seeking protection and recognition of further post-war pubs that have remained at the heart of their communities for more than 50 years and play a unique role in Britain’s history and culture. CAMRA has highlighted three pubs that were recently turned down for listing due to restrictive criteria being applied – the White Admiral in Harlow (1953), the Palomino in Newmarket (1957) and the Punch Bowl in Worcester (1963). Paul Ainsworth, chairman of CAMRA’s pub heritage group, said: “These new listings are welcome, highlighting some especially interesting examples that have been part of the rebuilding of post-war England. However, many other pubs designed in this period have fallen by the wayside simply because their architecture reflects austerity and functionality, rather than grandeur and theatrics. This means some fantastic intact survivals from this period risk being lost forever, along with a whole cultural era that is now seriously under-represented in the national heritage listings.” CAMRA has been supported by the 20th Century Society in calling for wider recognition of post-war pubs. Senior conservation minister Tess Pinto said: “We are always delighted to see good 20th century buildings listed but are concerned the small number of post-war pubs designated today doesn’t give a full enough picture.” Giving a pub grade-II listing marks them as nationally important to historic heritage, and provides it with extra legal protection within the planning system.

Ready-to-drink iced beverages driving coffee innovation: Ready-to-drink iced coffee accounted for one in five (19%) of global coffee launches in 2017 compared with 16% in 2015 as the category continues to grow, according to new research. The findings by Mintel highlighted the opportunity for operators from the iced coffee boom, particularly among young drinkers. Two-thirds (66%) of UK 18 to 24-year-old coffee drinkers thought chilled coffee was a good alternative to sugary drinks, compared with a quarter (26%) of drinkers aged 45-plus. Mintel said this echoed what was happening in America where younger drinkers, who are less ingrained in the ritual of drinking hot coffee, have driven ready-to-drink coffee growth. The US is still comfortably the world's biggest market by volume, and is premiumising in response to the influence of the nation's dynamic coffee shops market. Last year, US consumers bought 607,000 tonnes of coffee, followed by Brazil (425,000 tonnes), Germany (424,000 tonnes), Japan (304,000 tonnes), and Indonesia (268,000 tonnes). Meanwhile, in the UK sales of coffee stood at 63,000 tonnes, while in China sales reached 53,000 tonnes. Mintel said the rise of "super coffee" reflected how third-wave coffee shops have increasingly pushed coffee with health benefits such as added coconut oil, chia seeds, protein and grass-fed butter. Coffee is following global consumers’ love affair with all things natural. In 2017, 10% of global coffee launches claimed to be organic, up from 8% in 2016. Mintel food and drink associate director Jonny Forsyth said: “Global investment in chilled, ready-to-drink coffee has increased as producers target a younger drinker who enjoys the format's taste, refreshment and indulgence. Cold brew is helping to premiumise the ready-to-drink category and is growing fast in the US, albeit less so in other markets. Increasing attention to health and wellness among consumers globally will result in specific opportunities for coffee with added protein, as well as organic coffee, in the next two years. Europe has particular potential given rising interest in high-protein diets and the popularity of milky coffee among younger adults.”

CAMRA chief executive to step down: Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) chief executive Tim Page is to leave after three-and-a-half years in the role. Page was appointed in 2014, succeeding Mike Benner, who moved to become managing director of the Society of Independent Brewers. Page will be seeking to return to the charitable sector, where he previously worked as national director of the homelessness charity Emmaus UK and then as chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance. He said: “I am grateful for having had the opportunity to be part of CAMRA, which is a truly remarkable organisation. The past 42 months have seen the group maintain its effectiveness in campaigning and lobbying for real ale, cider and perry to be available in every community across the UK; and for those communities to continue to be served by pubs, which provide wide range of benefits for individuals and society as a whole. I am grateful for the friendship and support that I have enjoyed from people across the sector, and look forward to keeping in touch with friends within and outside CAMRA.” CAMRA national chairman Jackie Parker added: “Tim has made a considerable impact during his time as our chief executive. The past three years have seen the organisation engaged in a major strategic review of its purpose and positioning within the sector, and Tim has provided advice and support to the volunteer leadership throughout that process. I would like to thank Tim, on behalf of the national executive (CAMRA’s board of directors) for his contribution during his time with us and wish him well as he embarks on the next stage of his career.”

New multimillion-pound leisure scheme set for Bridgwater after funding approved: A new multimillion-pound leisure development is set for Bridgwater, Somerset, after funding was approved by Sedgemoor District Council. Council members have agreed a budget for preparatory works for redevelopment of the site as well as improvements to the Brewery Field. The council said exact costs were dependent on the final designs but will be funded by the authority as a means of generating income. However the 40,000 square foot scheme will have a six-screen cinema, four restaurants, a gym and 111 parking spaces. Cllr Peter Downing, executive member for infrastructure at Sedgemoor District Council, told Insider Media: “This is an exciting new venture that invites business investors to share the opportunities of Sedgemoor’s bright economic prospects while safeguarding the character of Bridgwater.” Work is expected to start on the scheme next summer and be completed at the beginning of 2021.

Company News:

Notes reports like-for-likes up 5% in May: Notes, the nine-strong, London-based coffee shop and wine bar concept, has reported like-for-like sales were up about 5% in May. The company is currently embarking on a second round of fund-raising on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and passed its initial £600,000 target within two days of launch. Notes said: “Now we have reached our target we have already started to implement the business plan. We have hired a head of bookings. Along with the above momentum, trade has been positive throughout the month of May – we have delivered like-for-like sales growth of circa 5%. It is definitely an exciting time for Notes and we look forward to having more of you on-board!” Notes has so far raised £713,850 from 418 investors in its latest round and is offering 6.60% equity in return for investment as it seeks to expand. The pitch stated: “Since our last Crowdcube raise in 2015, we have opened four locations, doubled our revenue to almost £5m (£0.2m Ebitda), increased site Ebitda by three times and expanded our roastery, which now produces more than one tonne per week for Notes and our wholesale partners.” Notes raised £908,400 on Crowdcube in June 2015 after setting a £600,000 target. Chairman James Horler, who has been involved with brands such as La Tasca, Patisserie Valerie and Leon, is investing in the current round. In March 2017, Notes secured a £600,000 loan from OakNorth, the first deal completed under the British Business Bank’s Help to Grow Programme.

Just Eat reports sales success for Facebook augmented reality campaign: Online food delivery business Just Eat has reported its Facebook augmented reality campaign drove high engagement but also much higher direct orders than expected. The campaign saw a total of 102,000 unique interactions, 10% of which resulted in an order. Just Eat said the results proved augmented reality’s value as a sales channel in addition to its branding value. UK marketing director Ben Carter said: “Too many people dismiss augmented reality as just another marketing gimmick. Our Facebook augmented reality experience demonstrates with the right creative approach and strategic implementation, augmented reality can provide incredible engagement while at the same time driving real world sales.” Just Eat’s augmented reality campaign, created by Byte London, formed part of its digital strategy for its high-profile advertising campaign The Magical World of Just Eat. The augmented reality experience let Facebook users use their phone’s camera to see their favourite takeaway floating into their mouth in the “real world”, and then place an order. Byte London co-founder Alex Miller said: “Augmented reality is an incredibly powerful platform not just for creating engaging marketing experiences but also in delivering real return on investment for brands.”

Four Yorkshire pubs return to family ownership: Four Yorkshire pubs have returned to family ownership. Following the death of businessman Robert Tucker in December 2015, his children, Henry and Becky, were unable to release the pubs from the executor until a large inheritance tax bill had been settled. Leeds-based Reward Finance provided support to ensure The Bay Hotel, The Fylingdales Inn and Ye Dolphin, all in the Whiby area, are now owned by the family, following the conclusion of the probate process. In addition, The Bridge Inn in Ruswarp has also returned to the family’s ownership. Reward Finance sales and marketing director Nick Smith told Insider Media: “Henry and Becky have been left four very solid businesses but, as can often happen, the capital is tied up in the property that can present a problem when settling inheritance tax bills. Rather than selling assets to meet the bill we were able to provide the funds to them so they could pay the executors who then released the properties to them, as Robert Tucker wished.” Clarion Solicitors and Sanderson Weatherall also advised on the deal.

JD Wetherspoon opens Canterbury hotel: JD Wetherspoon has opened a new hotel at The Thomas Ingoldsby in Canterbury, Kent, following a £2.5m refurbishment project. The ground floor customer area of the pub, which originally opened as a Wetherspoon pub in April 1997, has been refurbished, with a new first-floor dining area also added. The new 13-bedroom hotel is located on the second floor of the property. Pub manager Ali Stevenson told Kent Live: “Wetherspoon has spent £2.5m on the pub refurbishment and new hotel, in the heart of the city centre. The project has created more jobs for local people and provided further investment into the area. The new 13-bedroom hotel is a wonderful addition to the pub and we are confident it will also be a great addition to the Canterbury community.”

BrewDog begins hunt for Australia bar sites: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has kicked off its search for bar sites in Australia. The company was granted permission last week to start work on its brewery in Adelaide. Now it is on the hunt for suitable bar sites and has initially pinpointed four cities – Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. BrewDog is offering a finder’s fee of AU$1,000. The company is seeking sites of between 1,800 and 4,000 square feet in size, ideally away from major licensed/leisure areas – no retail or leisure parks. It wants ground floor locations and added corner sites “always work well” while “prominent frontages with lots of cool windows are ideal”. BrewDog stated: “Our home city of Brisbane and the harbour city of Sydney are our top two priorities, but we want to bring more great beer to the amazing scenes in Melbourne and Perth as well. We love the off-centre, the quirky and the unique. Our bars stand out – as they should, being beacons for beer lovers in their home cities.”

Kent-based pub company Ramblinns opens fourth site: Kent-based pub company Ramblinns has opened its fourth site. The company has relaunched The Happy Frenchman in Folkestone as The Earl of Radnor having acquired the pub earlier this year. The 160-year-old pub in Christ Church Road has been refurbished to reflect the area’s heritage with the bar moved to the centre of the building. All dishes on the menu are created using locally sourced ingredients with drinks supplied by local wine merchants and breweries. Ramblinns owner John Rogers told Kent Live: “We like the bar to be at the centre of the business so it feels it has that energy rather than have the bar in one area, the restaurant in another. It’s important to have the bar at the centre of the business and people feel part of it, though of course there are lots of smaller areas away from it if you want somewhere quieter, more intimate.” Ramblinns also operates The Five Bells in Brabourne, near Ashford; the Woolpack Inn in Warehorne, Ashford; and the Globe Inn Marsh in Rye.

London-based micro-brewer hits £175,000 crowdfunding target, secures Stonegate listing: London-based micro-brewer The Park Brewery has hit its £175,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to relocate, build a taproom and increase production five-fold. The company, which has also secured a listing with Stonegate Pub Company, is offering 10.45% equity in return for investment. So far, 201 investors have pledged £175,220 and the campaign is now “overfunding” with 23 days 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. 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.”

German Doner Kebab lodges plans for Cheltenham site: German Doner Kebab has lodged plans to open a site in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The company has applied to Cheltenham Borough Council to convert the former YMCA charity shop in High Street, creating 25 jobs. The plans for the restaurant include banquette seating, booths and a theatre kitchen, reports Gloucestershire Live. First opened in Berlin in 1989, the kebab specialists have since expanded across the globe, with 18 restaurants in the UK as well as the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Bahrain, and the Oman. Further branches are expected to open in Egypt, the USA and Canada. The meats are imported directly from Germany, and fresh, locally produced vegetables are delivered and used daily. On its website it states: “Our tried and tested methods are totally different to the way other operators make their kebabs. The result is a nutritionally sound gourmet food experience that contains virtually no preservatives or additives and can be consumed day or night.”

Preston-based Inns & Leisure plans new ‘high-end’ pub in Poulton-le-Fylde: Preston-based Inns & Leisure, founded by John and George Clarke, is planning to open a new pub in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. The company has applied to Wyre Council for a premises licence for the former NatWest Bank premises in Market Place. Inns & Leisure is proposing to open a “high-end” pub called Stocks and Shillings with sofas, a mezzanine floor and a tapas food menu. However, some residents said a new pub or bar was not needed. On Facebook, there were more than 100 comments on the site of group Poulton-le-Fylde Chat, most of which were against the new plans, reports the Blackpool Gazette. Inns & Leisure’s other sites include the Old Town Hall real ale pub, which is across the road in Market Place.

Wirral-focused independent food and drinks hub launches in New Brighton: Independent food and drinks hub Marine Street Social has launched in New Brighton, Wirral. The brainchild of Carl Thomas, Rob Casson and Steve Thomas, the family friendly hub at Unit 6 Marine Point offers a rooftop bar and events space alongside independent food and drink traders, work space, music and entertainment. Traders include a second site for Liverpool-based Japanese restaurant Izakaya, Indian street food brand Chutney, frozen yogurt and bubble waffle creators Yog Time, smokehouse concept BBQ Cowfish, and Marine Street Grill. Thomas told the Wirral Globe: “Marine Street Social is all about promoting our independents in a social hub. We’re aiming for everything to be Wirral-sourced, independent and local. With local brews, gin and brands, we hope to champion and join forces with independents across the area to create a premium experience. Lots of events are planned for the space but we are not going to be a club or a bar – we offer so much more than that. We will work with friends, residents and community groups to promote our message and get people supporting local businesses.”
Trampoline park operator submits plans for indoor inflatable arena in Sheffield: Trampoline park operator Airkings has lodged plans for a new indoor inflatable arena in Sheffield. The company has applied to the city council to convert a vacant unit at the M1 Distribution Centre, creating 70 jobs. The 15,000 square foot unit would be transformed to accommodate an indoor inflatable area, together with party rooms, changing rooms and a small cafe. A mezzanine would be added to create a customer viewing area while there would be 42 parking spaces. The inflatable arena would include inflatable climbing walls, a “total wipeout” area, open bounce cushion, slides, assault courses and a separate enclosed toddler area, reports Insider Media. A planning statement with the application said: “The proposal represents a unique opportunity to introduce a new format leisure operator to the Sheffield leisure market and its presence will represent beneficial economic investment into the area.” Airkings currently runs trampoline parks in Doncaster and Scunthorpe.

Two Heads Beer Co extends £350,000 crowdfunding campaign: Independent craft beer retailer Two Heads Beer Co has extended its £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to open four stores. The company, which is led by former BrewDog head of retail acquisitions James Hickson, recently increased its equity offer to 14.9% in return for investment instead of the original 10%. So far, 142 investors have pledged £187,880 with 25 days remaining. Hickson said: “Following some very promising discussions both on and off the platform, we have agreed with Crowdcube to extend our pitch by two weeks, in order to allow these discussions to continue and give adequate time for these potential investors to consider the opportunity fully. Suffice to say, the investment amounts we are discussing would move the needle considerably in our fund-raise.” 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 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.” Hickson founded We Brought Beer in 2014. It merged with fellow bottle shop business The Beer Boutique in January, with founder Jon Kaye becoming executive chairman of Two Heads Beer Co.

Kelan McMichael closes Ballynahinch restaurant to concentrate on Belfast venue: Chef-restaurateur Kelan McMichael has closed his Ballynahinch restaurant after less than two years. McMichael has shut Bull & Ram in Dromore Street and plans to focus solely on the brand’s other restaurant in Belfast, which opened in University Street in October. All staff based in Ballynahinch have been relocated to Belfast. McMichael told the Irish News: “Our Belfast restaurant remains open as normal and we are in the process of changing the menu with plans to introduce a ‘cafe’-style menu, which will offer a more international and fusion choice of food that reflects how our city is changing plus we will bring in an array of smaller dishes for people as this reflects how people like to eat today.” McMichael opened Bull & Ram in a former butcher’s shop in Ballynahinch in June 2016, restoring an Edwardian building back to its former glory complete with the original meat hanging rail and herringbone oak ceiling.

Bristol-based Pigsty opens second site: Bristol-based Pigsty has opened its second restaurant in the city. Brothers Olly, Josh and Max Kohn have launched the venue in Gloucester Road. It has 107 covers, making it more than four times the size of the brand’s debut home in Cargo 1 at Wapping Wharf. The new Pigsty occupies the premises that most recently housed Bubalu cafe. Olly Kohn told Bristol 24/7: “Cargo is perfect for us but, when it gets busy, it’s pretty crammed. We are chuffed to have this site in such a great location. We have learnt lots to take to this next place but we’ll keep to what we’re about – we don’t want to dilute our quality.”

Sankeys to make Manchester return: Nightclub brand Sankeys, which was forced to close its original site at the grade II-listed Beehive Mill in Manchester last year, is making a return to the city. The company stated: “Sankeys has been synonymous with Manchester forever, and after a long wait returns to its spiritual homeland on Saturday, 8 September. Entitled Sankeys…The Return, the party will be the biggest yet and lands at the 5,000-capacity Victoria Warehouse with a line-up that embodies everything Sankeys is all about. There has been something truly missing on the Manchester clubbing landscape since Sankeys closed in January 2017. For more than 20 years, the club led the way when it came to underground music culture. It established the city on the world stage with influential brands, DJs and residents bringing people from all over the world to experience its events. The magic of those historic years will be recaptured at Victoria Warehouse, which itself has a real history thanks to hosting special one-off events from some of dance music’s biggest stars. Sankeys will add its own spin with light and laser shows and ensure the whole venue comes alive with the usual sense of rave spirit. This is the boldest project to date. The line-up to be revealed nearer the time will bring together long-time Sankeys favourites and international headliners.” Sankeys said 10% of profits would be donated to the families of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing last year.

Whitbread appoints UM to Premier Inn business and retains Zenith on Costa: Whitbread has reappointed Zenith to handle its Costa Coffee media planning and buying account and awarded its Premier Inn media business to UM, with the latter succeeding Manning Gottlieb OMD. Whitbread had initially planned on selecting a single agency to handle both brands’ consolidated media planning and buying, but after a pitch decided to keep the brands separate. UM’s clinching of Premier Inn’s media strategy, planning and buying saw it beat challengers Wavemaker, the7stars and Zenith. The agency will be working with the hotel group from next month across its online and offline media strategy. Meanwhile, Zenith retains its hold on the Costa account, extending a long-term relationship with the brand that dates to 2009. Zenith and Costa have worked on a number of innovations, including a partnership with Waze that uses geo-targeting for Costa Express. Eric Tavoukdjian, Costa Coffee UK & Ireland commercial marketing director, told Campaign: “During the pitch process, Zenith’s commitment to taking our media plans to the next level was evident and so we’re delighted to continue our relationship with it as we move our brand ahead in this competitive market.” Beatrice Vears, Premier Inn’s head of brand, added: “UM’s values are a great match with ours and its ideas and approach were creative and exciting. I should like to thank Manning Gottlieb OMD for its excellent service over recent years and recognise the important part its team has played in supporting the Premier Inn brand’s fantastic growth in the UK.”

Nando’s signs for site in Sittingbourne: Nando’s is to open a site in Sittingbourne, Kent. The company has agreed a deal to join the restaurant line-up at the Spirit of Sittingbourne leisure complex. Work will start on the new Nando’s venue this summer with the company becoming the third restaurant to commit to the £59m development after Tasty brand Wildwood and PizzaExpress. The complex, being developed by U+I, will consist of six restaurants, hotel, eight-screen cinema and shops. Swale Borough Council leader Cllr Andrew Bowles told Kent Online: “Nando’s signing for the new leisure quarter is another confirmation of confidence in the Spirit of Sittingbourne regeneration programme.”

Wolverhampton banqueting hall and hotel plans approved: Approval has been given to create a banqueting hall and hotel in Wolverhampton, two months after the applicant’s smaller scheme for the site was refused. S Pahal is behind the proposal, which will see a 600-capacity banqueting hall and 30-bedroom hotel constructed on land in Parkfield Road. The previous plan, which was refused in March, was for a 400-capacity hall. Buildings on the site have already been demolished, while a bowling green is in a “poor state of repair”, Insider Media reports. A council document stated: “The proposed layout and appearance is acceptable, with the proposed hotel having a strong visual presence.” A statement submitted to the council on behalf of S Pahal said: “A derelict site that has lain dormant for many years will finally be developed with quality buildings while providing long-term employment and facilities.”

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