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Fri 8th Jun 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Tim Martin – rent review market is ‘insane’: JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin has labelled the current rent review situation “insane”, with the property market making a “bad situation worse” by pushing up rents in the teeth of a “vicious restaurant recession”. He said: “It only takes one optimist to agree a daft rent and every tenant in town ends up paying something similar. Many restaurant chains have been opening together in the same developments. A danger of the typical concentration of new restaurants is a good individual business can be tainted by a failed overall development. Restaurateurs have been victims of what Warren Buffet calls the ‘institutional imperative’ – if everyone else has opened in a development, it’s safe to open there too. Except it isn’t, of course. So Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Jamie’s and Byron, all subject to financial reconstructions, have often opened within a stone’s throw of each other, creating a circle of reverse alchemy. And those who trade nearby, often long-standing locals, have been victims of massive rental hikes as a result. Wetherspoon has normally stayed away from these developments – but we’re not as clever as we thought. One epicentre of rental insanity is the Trafford Centre in Manchester. Some years ago, Wetherspoon agreed to take the lease of a failed restaurant there at a rent of 10% of sales or £220,000 per annum, whichever was the higher. Reviews would also be at 10% of sales or open market. Although we don’t normally agree to open market reviews we did there, reckoning 10% of our trade was the maximum we’d be asked to pay. But a year or two ago a major pubco took a smaller unit in the Trafford Centre at a higher rent, reflecting the rents of recent restaurant lettings. Based on the percentage of sales formula, Wetherspoon had been paying about £230,000 per annum in the Trafford Centre, slightly higher than the base rent agreed a few years back. At the review, the landlord’s surveyor argued the rate per square foot, based on the most recent lettings, would give rise to a rent of £691,000 per annum at our pub. The matter was referred to an arbitrator, who decided the market rent was £415,000, about 20% of our sales and just enough to ensure the pub made no money. If Wetherspoon can’t earn a buck, it seems unlikely the dozen or so nearby restaurateurs will thrive. So what’s the moral of this typical rent review saga? You can blame greedy landlords or surveyors, the rigidity of rent review rules or operators such as Wetherspoon for agreeing to these deals in the first place. Whatever the answer, the property market is making a bad situation worse by pushing up rents in the teeth of a vicious restaurant recession and a climate where three or four pubs are shutting every week.”

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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691.

Reducing waste tops sector’s environmental concerns: Four-fifths (80%) of hospitality companies have placed reducing waste levels at the top of their list of environmental concerns, according to new research commissioned by Brita Professional. The study also revealed that while 85% of hospitality businesses consider themselves sustainable, almost half fail to have specific corporate social responsibility (CSR) targets in place. The figures also highlight cost as the biggest barrier to hospitality businesses being more sustainable, with more than 40% of companies finding it a challenge. Exploring the recent drive to reduce single-use plastics, the research also found that while the hospitality sector is supportive of the government’s proposed single-use plastic tax, three-quarters of businesses believe it doesn’t go far enough. More than two-thirds (70%) of hospitality companies plan to cut single-use plastics from their business, with almost two-thirds banning plastic straws. The report also found 40% of hospitality companies want more information and advice to help them become sustainable, while 42% want to partner with sustainable suppliers to help meet CSR targets. Brita UK managing director Sarah Taylor said: “It is positive to see how committed the hospitality sector is in adopting more sustainable practices.”

US pizza ordering platform to open Northern Ireland software hub: New York-based online and mobile ordering and payment platform Slice is to open a software engineering centre in Northern Ireland. Slice enables independent pizzerias to “compete with national pizza chains”, while Invest NI has offered £400,000 towards the creation of 50 jobs. Slice chief technology officer Jason Ordway told Insider Media: “Slice is the only technology platform that partners with local independent pizzerias. We currently have 10,000 pizzerias using the Slice platform. As part of our growth strategy we want to add new functions and improvements to our existing platform. The engineering team in Northern Ireland will develop new innovative solutions for the pizzerias, improving order efficiency and customer service.”

Company News:

Starbucks extends strategic partnership with Arla Foods to grow ready-to-drink coffee across EMEA: Starbucks has extended its partnership with farmer-owned dairy co-operative Arla Foods to grow its ready-to-drink coffee across the EMEA region. The two companies have signed a 21-year strategic agreement, giving Arla Foods licence to continue to manufacture, distribute and market Starbucks premium milk-based ready-to-drink coffee beverages. Since Starbucks chose Arla Foods as its licensed partner in 2010, the business has grown by an average of 40% each year. Duncan Moir, vice-president channel development and foodservice, Starbucks EMEA, said: “This new licensing agreement signals our commitment to continue to work together to grow the business within the ready-to-drink sector, and we are proud to be working alongside Arla Foods.” Hanne Søndergaard, Arla Foods executive vice-president and chief marketing officer, added: “We are proud to take another step in our partnership with Starbucks, bringing great-tasting Starbucks ready-to-drink coffee beverages to consumers across Europe and the Middle East while adding value to our farmers’ milk.” By 2018, Arla had launched Starbucks beverages in 38 countries across EMEA and expects to sell more than 110 million units per year. The products are produced at Arla Foods’ sites in Esbjerg, Denmark, and are made from milk from Arla Foods’ 11,200 farmer-owners and 100% arabica, ethically sourced coffee from Starbucks.

Caffe Concerto plans to consolidate operations as it reports turnover and profit boost: Caffe Concerto, which operates 22 sites, mostly in London, has said it plans to consolidate its existing operations as it reported a turnover and profit boost. The company saw turnover rise 4% to £22,747,306 for the year ending 31 August 2017, compared with £21,852,756 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £210,940 compared with £194,276 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors expect to consolidate their existing operations and only open additional branches once exceptional locations have been identified.” The number of staff increased to 484 at the end of the period from 474 the year before.

Investment firm to acquire Cotswolds-based gastro-pub brand: Investment firm Sovereign Mines of Africa is to acquire Cotswolds-based hospitality group Turf To Table in a deal comprising three gastro-pubs that also offer 38 bedrooms in total. Turf To Table was founded in 2008 by chef Sebastian Snow, who formerly worked under Antony Worrall Thompson and ran restaurants such as Snows On The Green in west London. Snow acquired the lease for his first gastro-pub – The Five Alls in Filkins – in 2012 before buying the freehold of The Plough in Kelmscott three years later. The tenancy lease for The Bull Hotel in Fairford was entered into in 2016. The initial consideration for the deal is £645,000, which will be payable on admission of Sovereign’s ordinary shares to trading on the NEX Exchange Growth Market, which is expected to take place on Tuesday, 26 June. The company has also conditionally raised £547,500 through an issue of equity. An additional consideration of up to £560,000 is payable in three tranches depending on the satisfaction of certain profit targets. Following completion of the takeover, Sovereign will look to create additional premium gastro-pubs, Insider Media reports.

C&C Group boss sees remuneration fall despite bonus payment: Stephen Glancey, chief executive of C&C Group, the branded cider, beer, wine and soft drinks producer, saw his remuneration fall despite receiving a bonus payment. Glancey received total remuneration of €994,000 (£875,100) for the year ending 28 February 2018 compared with €1,052,000 the previous year, according to the company’s annual report. This consisted of €677,000 in salary and fees, €51,000 taxable benefits, €97,000 bonus and €169,000 in pension-related benefits. International division managing director Joris Brams saw her remuneration increase to €456,000 from €398,000, mostly thanks to a €54,000 bonus. Chief financial officer Jonathan Solesbury, who joined the company in November on a salary of €482,000, received total remuneration of €236,000. His predecessor Kenny Neison, who resigned in June last year, received a total of €481,000, which included a sick leave payment of €227,000. Chief operating officer Andrea Pozzi was promoted to the role in June last year on a salary of €329,000. He received total remuneration of €362,000 during the period. The executive directors have had their salaries frozen, although Pozzi’s may be reviewed later in this financial year to ensure it recognises his “experience, scope of responsibilities and performance”.

Benito’s Hat opens eighth site, in Leicester: Mexican restaurant Benito’s Hat has opened its eighth site, in Leicester. The company has opened the venue at Highcross shopping centre in a unit previously occupied by Mission Burrito, reports the Leicester Mercury. As well as burritos and tacos, there is a selection of salads and sides. Benito’s Hat started out with a small store in Goodge Street, London, founded by Ben Fordham and Felipe Fuentez Cruz. The company is named after Benito Juárez – a late 19th century Mexican politician and statesman who had a penchant for bizarre hats! Fordham stepped down as chief executive at the end of last year but remains involved in the business, with Michael Pearson brought in as managing director. 

McDonald’s plans fresh round of job cuts in US: McDonald’s is planning a fresh round of job cuts to further shrink its corporate structure in the US. In an email sent to all US employees, suppliers and franchisees, McDonald’s USA president Chris Kempczinski said the company was restructuring regional offices around the country. He said in a memo, which was seen by The Wall Street Journal: “I recognise change is difficult and eliminating layers within our organisation means some employees will ultimately exit our system.” A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the company was putting a new structure in place in the US to better support franchisees and help the company be “more dynamic, nimble and competitive”. She wouldn’t comment on how many jobs could be affected. The latest reorganisation is part of a plan to reduce administrative expenses by $500m by the end of 2019. The company has already cut an undisclosed number of corporate jobs and said it was reinvesting some of its cost savings in technology such as digital ordering. McDonald’s has been working to turn around its struggling US business for more than three years. The company conducted a study in 2016 that found it had lost about 500 million orders in the US to rival fast-food companies in the previous five years.

Café Morso signs for sixth Midlands site, in Coventry: Cafe bar concept Café Morso has signed up to open its sixth site in the Midlands, this time in Coventry. The company will invest more than £200,000 in the venue, which will be part of The Co-Operative regeneration scheme. Founder Andy Rance told Insider Media: “We started out a few years ago with one cafe in Colwall, which is in picturesque countryside in the Malvern area. Over the past couple of years we’ve added a further four venues in the Midlands. It’s a very exciting time for Coventry. I saw so much coverage about it being the UK City of Culture and you can certainly feel a buzz about the city.” Neil Edginton, of landlord EDG Property, added: “Café Morso is the perfect fit for the development and we look forward to welcoming the company to the city.”

Herman ze German to open fourth London site, in White City: Sausage specialist Herman ze German is to open its fourth London site, in White City. The new venue will open in The WestWorks building at White City Place on Thursday, 12 July offering German wurst sourced from the Black Forest including bockwurst, bratwurst, chilliwurst, veganwurst and the brand’s signature currywurst. The menu also features schnitzel, cheesy fries and potato salad alongside authentic German beer. Co-founders Azadeh Falakshahi and Florian Frey said: “We are super excited to be celebrating ten years of Herman ze German by bringing our famous currywurst, schnitzels and grilled Black Forest sausages to White City Place.” Business district White City Place has been developed by Stanhope, AIMCo and Mitsui Fudosan. Stanhope chief executive David Camp said: “Herman ze German is a brilliant retailer, which can be observed by the growth it has experienced since its launch in 2008. Its arrival at White City Place complements the leading line-up of restaurants already open and offers a great variety of experiences for workers, residents and visitors.” Herman ze German’s other London sites are in Charing Cross, Fitzrovia and Soho.

Mad Squirrel secures sixth site, in Harpenden: Hertfordshire-based brewer and retailer Mad Squirrel, which launched a £250,000 fund-raise this week to expand its estate of craft beer shops, has secured a sixth site – in Harpenden. Founders Greg Blesson and Jason Duncan-Anderson are offering 1.93% equity on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in return for investment. They will use funds to add two sites this year with plans for three more by 2020. So far, 129 investors have pledged £65,860 with 24 days remaining. A company spokesman said: “Harpenden is an affluent commuter town, with direct train links to London and a population of 30,000. There are several pubs and a handful of restaurants in the town but currently no craft beer offering in the area. We are in a strong position as an established Hertfordshire operator to be the first to bring craft beer to Harpenden and engage residents in our brands and model. Harpenden Tap & Bottle Shop will have 16 beers on tap, more than 100 bottled and canned beers, craft gin, wine and cider, all to drink in or take away. We will also have a food offering of gourmet sliders. The 2,000 square foot site, which includes an outside seating area, has a history of strong patronage and desirable revenue figures. We are expecting work to begin in early June and hope to have the outlet up and running as soon as possible.” The company has just partnered with wholesaler Thomas Ridley & Sons to secure national distribution to restaurants, cafes and bars. The spokesman said: “As the first contemporary beer company to be distributing through Thomas Ridley, we are in a unique position to bring craft beer to new venues and introduce our brands to more drinkers on a nationwide scale.” Mad Squirrel operates a taproom at its brewery in Hemel Hempstead alongside sites in Amersham, Berkhamsted, Chesham and High Wycombe.

International bistro brand Bagatelle makes UK debut in Mayfair: International bistro brand Bagatelle has made its UK debut by opening a site in Mayfair. The company, which was founded in New York, also has restaurants in Brazil, south of France, Miami and Dubai among others, with the London site the brand’s 11th venue in total. The new bistro in Dover Street offers a similar menu to the other Bagatelle sites, which focus on French and Mediterranean influences, while the London venue features a seafood platter called Mayfair Bagatelle. The company was founded by Aymeric Clemente and Remi Laba. Its website states: “To them, Bagatelle is a lifestyle, a way of life where joie de vivre is a constant driver.”

Regional Italian concept La Mia Mamma to launch in Chelsea next week: Regional Italian restaurant concept La Mia Mamma is to launch in Chelsea next week. The 65-cover restaurant will open in King’s Road on Friday, 15 June operating a “pay what you feel” offer for the first week. The menu will feature dishes from 20 regions across Italy inspired by the mothers of founders Peppe Corsaro, Corrado Mozzillo and Luca Maggiora. Each season, a new chef or “mamma” will highlight produce from their region. The first mamma will be Lidia Romeo, from Sicily, who will operate a three-month residency and meet and greet guests, meaning dining at La Mia Mamma will be like “having lunch or dinner at her house”. There will also be Sicilian-inspired cocktails and an extensive Italian wine list. Executive chef Marco Giugliano, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and Mayfair’s Il Baretto, will oversee proceedings with masterclasses and demonstrations led by the mammas themselves.

JKS Restaurants launches Indian barbecue and bar concept Brigadiers: JKS Restaurants has launched Indian barbecue and bar concept Brigadiers at Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London. Inspired by Indian army mess bars, Brigadiers offers 140 covers with 34 more on a terrace. Live sports are shown in select rooms alongside pool and classic card games. Designed by Brady Williams Studio, Brigadiers offers seven individual rooms. The reception features a shoeshine attendant and acts as a gateway between Blighters, a restaurant and bar with booth seating flanking a central bar and sports screens, and the more intimate Dining Room, which leads into The Tap Room and The Pot Luck Room. The Pool Room is the “heart of the club”, with a pool table, whisky-vending machine and self-serve beer taps, while The Kukri Room and The Bidi Room offer private dining. The menus focus on Indian barbecue methods, while drinks include a monthly changing list of ten beers and on-tap cocktails. JKS Restaurants’ portfolio includes Michelin-starred Trishna and Gymkhana, Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers, and home delivery brand Motu. JKS has also partnered with independents such as Xu, Sabor and Bubbledogs.

Veeno to expand into Worcestershire: Italian wine cafe Veeno is to expand into Worcestershire by opening a site in Kidderminster. The cafe will be the company’s 19th with plans to have 25 sites by the end of the year. Veeno co-founder Nino Francesco Caruso told Insider Media: “I am so thrilled we are opening our next Veeno in the Midlands and in a beautiful riverside location. Kidderminster is a really exciting area at the moment, with lots of great developments and more retail and hospitality brands capitalising on its up-and-coming status. We’re proud to be part of that.” Veeno was founded in November 2013 in Manchester by Caruso and Andrea Zecchino. It is targeting 80 sites by 2020.

Busaba signs Yapster for staff communications: Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has signed a long-term deal with hospitality chat app Yapster to bring mobile messaging to staff at its 13 London sites. The app will provide a safe online space for more than 400 Busaba staff to share information through one-to-one and group chats and an “Instagram-style” news feed. The platform has been designed for staff members who don’t work at desks, including a muting function that allows them to snooze notifications until their next shift. As part of the deal, Yapster will formally integrate with the Fourth platform, which combines purchase-to-pay, inventory and workforce management, and analytics. Busaba head of people Jenny Aspray said: “The dedication and passion of our staff is a key part of the Busaba customer experience. Ensuring they are energised and engaged is vital to maintaining and growing our brand in a competitive market. We look forward to working with Yapster to give our workforce a quick and simple way to communicate and stay informed that also respects their privacy and work-life balance.” Yapster chief executive Rob Liddiard added: “We were already big fans of Busaba so we’re thrilled to welcome them on board as well as growing our commercial relationship with Fourth.” Earlier this week, Busaba closed its last remaining site outside London – in St Albans – to concentrate on its restaurants in the capital. All staff have been relocated to other sites.

Social Pantry founder to launch restaurant and cafe at Ealing historic house: Alex Head, founder of London catering company Social Pantry, will open a restaurant and cafe at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery in Ealing next month. Head will launch Soane’s Kitchen inside the original walled kitchen garden at Pitzhanger Manor, which was built in the early 1800s by acclaimed British architect Sir John Soane as a country retreat to entertain friends. The restaurant will comprise a 70-cover dining space with the flexibility to create a 30-cover private dining area. Produce will be grown in the kitchen garden, dictating the daily menu. Grab-and-go offering The Larder will act as an extension of the main restaurant offering takeaway pastries, sandwiches and coffees. Soane’s Kitchen will also provide an events space. Head said: “Not only will we welcome Pitzhanger visitors and Ealing residents, we’re hoping Soane’s Kitchen will be a destination for Londoners – a little retreat to the country as Soane liked to describe it.” Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust director Clare Gough added: “We are excited by the quality offering and excellent service Soane’s Kitchen will provide.” Pitzhanger Manor is undergoing extensive restoration supported by Ealing Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust.

Oil industry executive enters sector after buying Cheltenham hotel off £2.1m guide price: Oil industry executive Fiona Burke has made her first foray into the hospitality sector after buying the Beaumont House hotel in Cheltenham off a guide price of £2.1m. Burke has acquired the property in Shurdington Road in a deal brokered by agent Colliers International. Burke’s move follows a 20-year career with BP. She was inspired to branch into her new career by co-director Arron Howle, who left the oil industry four years ago to buy the Peartree Serviced Apartments Hotel in Salisbury. Burke has founded Willow Boutique Hotels, which is named after her daughter. She said: “There is plenty of potential to build the business by adding more rooms and small suites aimed at business travellers. I also want to cater more for families and hope to add spa treatment facilities along with daytime coffee and cakes.”

Bristol-based Biblos down to single site after second closure this year: Bristol-based Middle Eastern and Caribbean restaurant Biblos is down to a single in the city after closing its central site, which only launched opposite Cabot Circus shopping centre in November. The company also closed its flagship restaurant in Bristol suburb St Werburghs earlier this year, leaving founders William Clarke and Ariel Czackers to focus on their debut venue in Stokes Croft as well as Caribbean concept Calypso Kitchen, which they launched at the Wapping Wharf development last year. Biblos offers salad boxes and wraps filled with jerk chicken, halloumi, falafel, homemade sauces and salad, Bristol Live reports.

Stonegate Pub Company launches new Yates’s menus: Stonegate Pub Company has launched new food and drink menus for its Yates’s brand. Additions include a fish finger sub, pancake stacks, and halloumi and chips. The burger section features four new choices including crispy southern-fried chicken Alabama Burger, Mexican Chilli Cheese Burger, and the vegetarian Bang Thai Dee Burger. Menu deals have also been freshened, while the drinks selection sees the addition of Cherry Cream Cola and Ice Cream Splat alongside new mocktails. Stonegate Pub Company operates 692 venues split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Common Room and Venues) and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, and Classic Inns).

Peel Hunt – ‘only two of three new Merlin Entertainments concepts will succeed but we are more confident than ever of long-term growth’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has said he believes only two of the three new Merlin Entertainments concepts will succeed but he is “more confident than ever” of its long-term growth potential. Issuing a ‘Buy’ rating on the shares with a target price of 450p following a presentation by the company about Peppa Pig World Of Play, Little Big City and Bear Grylls, Jones said: “The most important part of the day for us was the description of the role of ‘Merlin Magic Making’ – new product development at the company. It intelligently analyses markets and designs and builds content. It keeps Merlin relevant to customers and ahead of competitors. Peppa Pig will bring a global pre-school brand to shopping malls in the form of an attraction in locations with natural footfall. Families will instantly understand it and visit multiple times. Little Big City is a high-tech model village. Customers were getting through the first one in Berlin too quickly to believe they got value. It is being tweaked and this too will probably succeed as it rolls out in tourist centres. Bear Grylls is, very approximately, an adventure playground for adults. Three issues – it will be hard to get consumers to understand what it is, the brand is powerful but relates to authentic adventure not zip-wiring in a car park in Birmingham, and complex operation (hard to manage). We’re doubtful. Research and development drives long-term growth. It is important Merlin keeps experimenting with new ideas and refreshing the existing business. The presentation showed a determination to keep filling and refining the development pipeline with new ideas. We came away more confident than ever of Merlin’s long-term growth potential. We have made minor changes to our model. FY18E Ebitda changes to £478m from £476m and FY19E to £512m from £516m. Bringing our finance charge forecast into line with guidance increases FY18E earnings per share to 19.5p from 18.8p and FY19E to 21.5p from 20.8p. FY18E Ebitda is forecast flat on FY17 but we note the first half of the year is likely to be down year-on-year. When Merlin’s share price was in the doldrums it wasn’t clear what would revive confidence in the business. In April, Merlin issued an in-line annual general meeting trading statement, which reassured us the business had stabilised. This presentation was an excellent reminder Merlin has a roadmap for returning to growth. With the payback on increased capex starting to come into view, we restore our 450p target price and reiterate our ‘Buy’ rating.”

Catering company Platter London to open first cafe: Platter London, a bespoke catering company that creates platters to order, will open its debut cafe at the end of this month. The plates will be served in a variety of sizes featuring sweet and savoury hand-made selections. Platter London’s current catering selection includes cheeseboards, a breakfast option with fruit, granola and pastries, and a cake-filled sweet platter. The cafe in Holland Street will offer platter boxes and picnic platters to take away alongside Allpress coffee, iced coolers and individual treats, reports the Evening Standard.

Empire starts roll-out of recyclable paper straws: Empire Cinemas, the UK’s largest independently owned cinema operator, has started rolling out environmentally friendly drinking straws made entirely from recyclable paper across its estate. The initiative has started at its cinemas in Swindon and Birmingham Great Park, with Empire the first national cinema in the UK to offer the environmentally friendly solution. Food and beverage director Gordon MacDonald said: “The impact we have on the environment is of the utmost importance to the team at Empire Cinemas and we are committed to rolling paper straws out across all our UK sites by October.” Earlier this week, Empire was given the go-ahead to create space for six restaurants at its Birmingham site. The company currently operates 129 screens in 14 cinemas across the UK, with further sites confirmed for Poole and Southend.

Shepherd Cox appoints executive chef as part of expansion plans: North of England-based hotel group Shepherd Cox has appointed Thomas Knott as consulting and executive chef at Hallgarth Manor, near Durham, as part of an ambitious expansion programme. Knott joins the team with a brief to develop a new group of chefs for other hotels in the group. He has taken over all menus at Hallgarth Manor following its £2m refurbishment, which included extensive modernisation of the kitchen and dining facilities. The work followed the purchase of the venue by Shepherd Cox, which has 16 hotels across the north of England. Knott said: “I am looking to develop company group chefs to work in all Shepherd Cox hotels on a supply-and-demand basis – helping to maintain high standards and share the latest ideas across the group.” Knott’s previous positions include executive head chef at Beamish Hall Hotel in County Durham and roles at Millennium Copthorne Hotels and Hilton Hotel group. 

Zonal appoints non-executive director: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has appointed Vikki Macleod as a non-executive director. Macleod, who has had a varied technology career having worked with companies such as Tesco, Xafinity and Virgin, will provide strategic and operational consultancy to Zonal’s research and development and product strategy functions. In addition, she will advise on the strategic direction of the company using her experience in helping rapidly growing software companies achieve their potential. She said: “I am thrilled to be joining such a forward-thinking company. It has an exciting and innovative range of solutions and I can’t wait to help shape its direction.” Zonal chief executive Stuart McLean added: “Vikki is joining us at a truly pivotal time for our company. Her experience of working at the highest level will add tremendous value to our organisation. I’m really looking forward to working with her and continuing Zonal’s exciting journey that started almost 40 years ago.”

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