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Wed 4th Jul 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Carluccio’s launches substantial investment programme in wake of CVA: Carluccio’s is to launch a substantial investment programme at existing restaurants. The revitalisation will see more than 60 sites receive significant investment, underpinned by £10m of new funding into the business from majority shareholder Landmark Group. The schemes will see up to £250,000 invested in each location. The programme will also refresh brand standards and ongoing food development and will be overseen by the new senior management team. The launch of the programme follows the passing of a 28-day “challenge” period in the wake of the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) process. In May, the company’s creditors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the restructuring, which will see the group exit up to 30 loss-making sites from its 103-strong UK business. The CVA process followed a strategic review of the business led by new chief executive Mark Jones, who joined the business in January. He said: “This is an important milestone for the Carluccio’s business and our team, allowing us to look ahead positively to the future with a clear plan to reassert and build on our credentials as the UK’s leading Italian restaurant and food company, built on fresh, flavourful dishes. The injection of new funding will drive an extensive programme that will elevate the guest experience through enhanced design, food and service. This project will be underpinned by our brand ethos of ‘minimum fuss, maximum flavour’, which was so passionately championed by our founder Antonio. I would again like to express sincere thanks to our landlords for their support during the process and our majority shareholder Landmark Group for backing the management team’s vision for the business.” The latest developments coincide with the posting of annual accounts by the group for the 12 months to 24 September 2017. During the period, and as previously announced, the company encountered some significant industry-wide challenges due to a combination of well-publicised structural cost increases across property, goods and employment, as well as intense competition in the market. As a result of these pressures, adjusted group Ebitda dropped to £6.5m (2016: £13.2m) on group revenues of £138.2m (2016: £140.9m). In the period an impairment of £22.3m was made against the book value of the restaurant portfolio to reflect pending closures as part of £24m on non-trading, largely non-cash items that were incurred as one-off losses. Of the 2017 figures, Jones said: “While these numbers are somewhat historical now, the decrease in underlying profit last year did graphically illustrate the requirement for us to create a more focused group, to divest from loss-making sites, and to invest significantly in our core business. I am pleased to be able to report this progress in the intervening period.”

Industry News:

Brand strategist Ian Dunstall to feature in next video for Premium subscribers: Top brand strategist Ian Dunstall features in our next video for Premium subscribers, which will be sent out this Friday (6 July). In his presentation, he talks about designing and evolving a brand that is loved – offering ten key insights. Dunstall has conceived, built and advised numerous market-leading brands during the past 30 years. In this session, he outlines how inspirational leaders he has worked alongside have navigated difficult times to launch, sustain and evolve brands that are loved by employees and guests alike. Premium subscribers now receive weekly video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences – the past three featured sector investor Luke Johnson, City Pub Company founder Clive Watson and Coaching Inn Group founder Kevin Charity. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,100 multi-site companies and receive discounts to attend Propel conferences and events. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We plan to compile an invaluable library of senior leaders and advisors offering insights and advice, a resource Premium readers can tap into.” An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com to sign up or call her on 01444 817691.  

Nominations invited for Wireless Social Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Which female entrepreneur has most impressed you in the past year? Propel is inviting nominations for the Wireless Social Entrepreneur of the Year, which will be presented on Tuesday, 4 September at the end of the Women’s Entrepreneur Conference. Readers are invited to sent their nominations to Propel managing director Paul Charity at paul.charity@propelinfo.com

PPL consults on SFE tariff as it looks to increase fee: Music licensing company PPL has published a consultation paper as it looks to increase its Specially Featured Entertainment (SFE) tariff. The paper relates to the playing of recorded music at events such as discos and DJ nights and applies to nightclubs, pubs and bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels. The paper sets out the company’s thinking in relation to the scope, structure, fees and implementation of a potential new SFE tariff. It is based on the belief the SFE tariff requires structural reform and undervalues the rights of PPL’s performer and record company members in the recorded music they create. PPL’s view is fees under the current tariff, which has been in place for about 30 years, are too low to be an appropriate reflection of the value to businesses of using recorded music at SFE events. PPL chief executive Peter Leathem said: “Through licensing the use of recorded music at SFE events, we are keen to see our repertoire continue to support and drive entertainment within the hospitality sector. In an environment where recorded music forms a very significant part of the business proposition, it is important those who invested their time and talent in creating such music are fairly rewarded. We therefore welcome responses from our licensees to help us finalise our views on a potential new SFE tariff.” The consultation paper has been sent to licensees putting on SFE events and their trade bodies. It can also be viewed on PPL’s website. The deadline for responses is Friday, 28 September.

Operators see like-for-likes up 5.4% in June driven by hot weather and World Cup: Hospitality operators saw average like-for-like sales increase 5.4% in June driven by hot weather and the Fifa World Cup, according to S4Labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Wet-led operators were the biggest winners, enjoying on average a 5.9% year-on-year rise, while food-focused venues saw a 4.9% increase during the month. Recent sunny weather and the start of the World Cup were likely factors in the increase, the company said, with drink sales increasing 6.7% year-on-year and food sales rising 3.3% on average. Catton’s data is based on analysis of more than 100 hospitality organisations using the S4Labour scheduling and HR software.

Iced beverage sales forecast to grow 14% to exceed £421m in 2018: Iced beverage sales are set to grow 14% year-on-year to exceed £421m in 2018, according to Project Iced UK 2018, Allegra World Coffee Portal’s report on the UK’s out-of-home iced beverages market. Allegra estimates total iced beverage sales of £370m for 2017 across the £6.4bn specialised coffee shop sector. Warm weather continues to be the key catalyst for iced beverage consumption in the UK but Allegra said millennials and Generation Z could hold the key to sustained year-round growth in the segment, with the sector expected to value £660m by 2022. Iced beverage consumption currently relies heavily on weather conditions, with June to August by far the most lucrative period in the UK. Indicating long-term potential for UK consumption to emulate the US, three-fifths (60%) of industry leaders believe iced beverages are becoming increasingly popular year-round. Most, however, expect the UK’s seasonal trend to continue in the near-term mirroring the UK’s unpredictable weather. Millennials and Generation Z will drive future segment sales growth, with iced beverages representing significant opportunities to introduce younger consumers to the coffee shop market, Allegra said. Instagrammable products such as freak shakes, iced coffee Martinis and nitro cold brew appeal to a younger, more adventurous demographic, while the low sugar and calorie content of cold brew and nitro also represent significant opportunities for younger, health-conscious consumers. More than two-thirds of under-30s surveyed by Allegra said healthier options would encourage them to increase iced beverage consumption. Allegra research also showed under-30s are more likely to view iced beverages as good value for money and consume them year-round. Starbucks is the UK’s favourite coffee shop chain for iced beverages (29%), followed by Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee (26%), independent cafes (12%) and Caffe Nero (7%). Coffee-focused chains will continue to lead product innovation and raise consumer expectations, Allegra said, as many food-focused operators had yet to include iced drinks on their menus. The study found more than half of industry leaders (52%) expect cold brew to become a coffee shop staple within the next three years, while only 12% believe nitro will enter the mainstream, with a high price point deterring many. Bradley Journeaux, research manager at Allegra World Coffee Portal, said: “The potential is there for iced beverages to overcome the traditional British weather barrier and become established as a year-round mainstay.”

Company News:

Investigation opens into Conviviality collapse: An investigation has been launched into the collapse of Conviviality. The company went into administration in April after two profit warnings, which it said stemmed from accounting errors and a £30m tax bill. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it had launched an investigation into the audit by KPMG of the financial statements of Conviviality for the 52 weeks ended 30 April 2017. The investigation will be conducted under the audit enforcement procedure. A KPMG spokesman said: “We note the announcement by the FRC of its investigation of the preparation, approval and audit of the financial statements of Conviviality for the year ended 30 April 2017. We believe we conducted our audit appropriately and will co-operate fully with the investigation. As reported by the company, it experienced margin weakness at the start of 2018 and also a significant payment to HMRC that had not been included within its short-term cash flow projections, creating a short-term funding requirement. Our audit of the company’s financial statements for the year ended 30 April 2018 had not yet commenced at the point administrators were appointed.” Conviviality’s first profit warning was due to an error in its accounts, while the second related to a tax bill. C&C Group bought Conviviality’s wholesale business, while Bestway acquired the retail business for £7.5m. The statement from the FRC read: “The FRC has commenced an investigation into the audit by KPMG of the financial statements of Conviviality for the 52 weeks ended 30 April 2017. The FRC has also commenced an investigation under the Accountancy Scheme into the preparation and approval of Conviviality’s financial statements and other financial information by a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.”

Oakman reports like-for-likes up 5.1% in first quarter: Oakman Inns and Restaurants has reported like-for-like sales were up 5.1% for the 13 weeks ending 1 July. Total sales for the period were, at £8.8m, on-budget and showed an almost 35% increase on the previous year. The entire group set a new record with average sales per fully developed site in the first quarter at a new high of £33,800. The two sites that opened towards the end of last year – The Beech House in Amersham and The Cherry Tree in Olney – are both averaging circa £43,000 net of VAT per week. The company’s most recent opening, The Four Alls in Welford-on-Avon, is also performing strongly with sales averaging about £40,000 net. All three are performing considerably better than the original investment target. Meanwhile, The Royal Foresters in Ascot will open on Friday, 27 July. Oakman property director Malcolm Schooling said:  “Unfortunately, the opening has been delayed as a result of the dreadful winter weather, despite our best efforts. However, it is a huge project and the important thing is we remain focused on getting every element of the design just right. When we open on 27 July we will be delivering an outstanding Oakman Inn that will justify the £10m investment we are making.” Oakman, which currently operates 22 sites, has also completed the acquisition of The Polecat in Prestwood and has exchanged on a site in Farnham, which will become an Oakman Inn named The Lost Boy in recognition of the town’s link with Peter Pan. Chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “We are delighted with our performance in the first quarter. Our core estate continues to respond to the huge efforts we are putting into evolving our offer and engaging our people. We have seen a degree of polarisation with some of our town centre sites in mild decline, while destination sites with large gardens have performed well. But this is weather-driven and will normalise as the year progresses. Our ambitious investment programme is continuing to produce excellent results, with all of our last five major projects delivering in excess of their investment targets. Our pipeline continues to crystallise and we look forward to opening in Farnham, Prestwood, Hampton Hill, Epsom, Wokingham, Buckingham and Hatfield over the coming 18 months.”

The Alchemist to launch new bar concept in Liverpool: The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, is to launch a new bar concept, Aether, in Liverpool in September. The 1,600 square foot bar will open in Liverpool ONE with a focus on cocktails and live music. Created by Nottingham based interior design agency Macaulay Sinclair, 40-cover Aether will offer 21 cocktails focusing on the elements. The venue will also include an immersive performance area for artists covering neo-soul, jazz and hip-hop. Additional outside seating for 80 covers will overlook Chavasse Park. Managing director Simon Potts said: “The Alchemist is a great brand that continues to grow at a sensible rate. There’s a really exciting pipeline of openings for the core business and a clear strategy for expansion. We’re an entrepreneurial team at heart, though, and when the opportunity to do something a little different presented itself we wanted to take that challenge on.” Alison Clegg, director of asset management at Liverpool ONE landlord Grosvenor Europe, added: “We have a strong track record of working closely with leading brands to create the ideal space within Liverpool ONE. Our collaboration with The Alchemist team is set to become a new hot spot in the city.” Last month, The Alchemist secured two new central London sites – in Covent Garden and Shoreditch.

Drake & Morgan appoints operations director: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group backed by Bowmark Capital, has appointed Graham Hall as its new director of operations. Hall started his career at Living Ventures and brings with him 15 years of hospitality experience. He joins Drake & Morgan from Ennismore, where he was responsible for developing and growing new restaurant brands, including Eggbreak (originally formed as a joint venture with Soho House Group), Tandoor Chop House and the partnership with Breddos Tacos. Prior to Ennismore, Hall held a number of senior operational roles including operations director at All Star Lanes and managing director of the Gaucho-owned CAU restaurant group. Reporting to managing director Jillian MacLean, Hall will play a key role in the continued growth of Drake & Morgan. He will be responsible for day-to-day operations as well as enhancing service standards and delivering growth for the company. MacLean said: “Graham brings with him a wealth of experience in the hospitality sector, including roll-out and conceptual development of brands, project management, strategic planning, and building sales and profits in multi-site businesses.” Hall added: “I have long admired Drake & Morgan and look forward to working with the team to further develop the Drake & Morgan brand, maintaining high standards and positive customer engagement while driving sales.” Craig Mayes, who was acting as interim operations director, will take on the role of project director. Drake & Morgan operates 23 bars and restaurants in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Black and White Hospitality to launch joint Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White concept in Bath: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to chef Marco Pierre White, is to launch a joint concept with fellow Michelin-starred chef Pierre Koffmann. The chefs, who have six Michelin stars between them, are working with The Abbey Hotel to create Koffmann & Mr White’s in Bath. The concept will be a brasserie-style eaterie offering a mix of English and French classics from the chefs’ repertoire. Black and White Hospitality plans to roll out Koffmann & Mr White’s during the next two years following a year’s exclusivity for The Abbey Hotel. Koffmann was awarded three Michelin stars at his La Tante Claire restaurant in London, where White trained before moving on to attain his own three stars at Harvey’s and The Restaurant Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park Hotel. White said: “One of my deepest regrets was not spending more time with Pierre in the kitchen. I am looking forward to being the apprentice once again. I’m also thrilled to be opening in Bath. The Abbey Hotel has a brilliant central location and together we’re looking forward to creating a fantastic new restaurant for the city.” Koffman added: “Marco is one of the most talented chefs I have ever worked with. I am looking forward to our collaboration.” Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin said: “To sit down between two chefs who have attained six Michelin stars is quite something. They both have loads of ideas on what the new restaurant should be and are very close to all elements such as menus, decor and styling.” Black and White Hospitality operates 45 sites across the UK and is set to launch fish and chip brand Wheeler’s Fish & Chips in Dover.

Tonkotsu to open eighth London site, in Stratford this month: London-based ramen specialist Tonkotsu is to open its eighth London site in Stratford this month. The 100-cover restaurant will launch in Endeavour Square in International Quarter on Saturday, 28 July offering the brand’s signature homemade noodle ramen, gyoza and Japanese sides, alongside craft beer, sake and cocktails. The Stratford site has been designed by STAC Architecture and will feature an open kitchen, large dining terrace, and a six-metre Japanese maple tree in the entrance. The venue will be the brand’s furthest east in the capital – International Quarter is located between Westfield Stratford and Olympic Park. Tonkotsu managing director Stephen Evans said: “Being part of International Quarter will allow us to bring our ramen to shoppers, residents, office workers and visitors to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the London Stadium. We are delighted to be part of such a dynamic and progressive area and look forward to welcoming our customers in due course.” Tonkotsu was founded by Ken Yamada and Emma Reynolds in 2012. The company opened its seventh London site at the Battersea Power Station development in February. Its other standalone sites are in Mare Street, Soho, Dunston Street, Bankside, Notting Hill and St James’s Market. It also has concessions at Selfridges in Birmingham with plans to launch a site in Ealing later this year.

Discarded cigarette blamed for Yummy pub blaze, reopening delayed: The cause of the fire at The Somers Town Coffee House in Euston, operated by Yummy Pub Company, was a cigarette discarded into the building’s guttering. Following a forensic investigation, it has been confirmed the blaze on Friday, 22 June, which destroyed the roof and upper floors of the building, began in guttering on the second floor of the pub, quickly spreading into the eaves. Yummy Pub Company, led by Anthony Pender and Tim Foster, hoped to reopen the site on Thursday (5 July) but that has been put back a week. Foster told Propel: “It’s terrifying to know a business you have built for the past ten years is put at risk due to somebody’s careless attitude. Police have been informed and we’re installing cameras to that area of the pub. For us, it’s business as usual. We were aiming to reopen on Thursday but with the level of work needed given the fire and water damage and to secure the site properly we have agreed with all contractors that the pub will come back to us on 11 July so we can reopen to the public on 12 July at 3pm, minus a roof. More than 40 contractors are descending on the pub in the coming days and the support from Charles Wells has been simply fantastic. This has never just been a pub or business to us, it’s our lives and the company understands that.” For the opening, Yummy will offer a free pint to anyone who wears a hard hat, with headgear dished out on the day. The company also plans to host a “firemen’s party” in the coming weeks to say thank you to the firefighters who saved the pub.

Inception Group to open fourth Mister Fogg’s Collection site next month, in Fitzrovia: Bar and nightclub operator Inception Group will open the fourth site under its Mr Fogg’s Collection brand next month, in Fitzrovia. The company will launch Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals in Newman Street on Thursday, 26 July. It will take guests on a sensory journey to an “enchanted land of plants, herbs and spices”, which Phileas Fogg has brought back from his Around The World In 80 Days voyage. Downstairs will feature a seating area with plants and a handmade oak wooden bar, while the cocktail list will showcase Mr Fogg’s most unusual botanical finds using Amazonian plants, leaves and spices. Upstairs will offer a more “intimate cocktail experience”, with The Secret Language of Flowers menu. Inspired by the Victorian tradition of expressing secret emotions through the giving of certain flowers, each drink will represent a different flower and feeling. The food menu will feature confit chicken and pine nut croquettes with roasted chicken gravy and chives; and sweetcorn and chickpea fritters with halloumi and basil. Co-founder Charlie Gilkes said: “It has been five years since we opened our first Mr Fogg’s and we’re thrilled to add a fourth venue to the collection.” Inception Group was founded in 2009 by Gilkes and Duncan Stirling and operates ten venues across the capital. The company is currently planning two further venues for its Mr Fogg’s Collection brand – Mrs Fogg’s in Broadgate Circus, which will be its first foray into the City, and Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration, just off the Strand.

LT Management reports turnover and profit boost: LT Management, the sector’s largest outsourced management company, has reported revenue increased in the year to 1 January 2018 from £13.2m to £26.18m as the business added to its longer-term contracts. Pre-tax profit rose to £293,000 in the year. The company, led by Billy Buchanan, said it remained the port of call for many clients in relation to short-term solutions but continued reinvestment of its revenues to significantly improve systems, grow its head office team and invest in its operational team had seen the business grow its long-term management contracts. Buchanan told Propel: “In a sector that has had its challenges over the years, we are finding existing and prospective clients want to work with partners that can deliver cost savings and drive revenue and returns, and LT Management has built a strong track record of doing this. We continually reinvest to ensure we are providing the best possible solution to all our clients.”

Roman brands combine to launch first site outside Italy, in Fitzrovia: Roman brands Morganti Caffe’ Bar and patisserie A Tornatora have united to launch their first site outside Italy, in Fitzrovia, central London. The flagship international site for Morganti Tornatora has opened in Tottenham Court Road offering an authentic Italian caffe bar experience including coffee, cornetti, tramezzini, aperitivo, gelato and homemade food. The London opening is part of an international expansion programme. Coffee roaster Morganti Caffe’ Bar was founded in Rome in 1890. Romeo Morganti devised a system to roast coffee on a larger scale, designing and building one of the first roasting machines. The company continues to follow the same methods for producing blends from coffee sourced from Central America, India and Africa. Family patisserie and bakery A Tornatora offers sweet and savoury “cornetti”, a type of croissant hand-made from scratch with very little sugar, alongside homemade gelato, cakes, bread and pastries. The deli counter offers carpaccio, seafood, salad and mini-pizza. Morganti Tornatora is open daily from 7am to 10pm for coffee, breakfast, brunch, express lunch and supper, including a takeaway service. Aperitivo Italiano is served daily from 6pm.

Former Natoora director to launch pizzeria concept in Clapham: Vittorio Maschio, a former director of fruit and vegetable store Natoora, is to launch pizzeria concept Manifesto in Clapham, south west London. The 30-seater restaurant will open in Northcote Road later this month offering a “no-frills approach to exceptional ingredients” and a pizza menu that will change seasonally. Pizzas will be produced using the “biga” technique of dough production, which takes 48 hours of proving, while flour, mozzarella, olives, salami and many other ingredients will be sourced from organic producers in Italy, Hot Dinners reports. Manifesto’s simple menu will feature six pizzas plus one “gourmet special” per week, no dessert options, and only two reds, two whites and one prosecco on the wine list. Pizzas on the menu will include olives and anchovies from Cantabria on a tomato base; rocket, spicy salami and chilli on a ricotta base; and roast potatoes with rosemary, sausage, red peppers and fior di latte cheese on a margherita base.

Underground table tennis bar to launch in Birmingham, three further openings planned within year: An underground table tennis bar concept is to launch in Birmingham city centre, with its owners planning at least three more in the next 12 months. Serve is the brainchild of James Day and David Smith, who met in New York and began to develop the idea for a venue combining food, cocktails and ping pong that would be family friendly by day and a hip nightclub by night. Its debut site will be in Temple Row, Birmingham, where it has agreed a deal with landlord IM Properties for a 12,000 square foot unit. Refurbishment work has already begun with the venue expected to open this summer. Serve will feature 15 ping-pong tables and a private room with two. Smith told Insider Media: “Ping-pong social venues have taken off in the States, with a new generation of players enjoying the social side of ping pong in cool bars and clubs. Our aim is to quickly establish Serve as the iconic, go-to venue in Birmingham offering something cool, contemporary and fun.” IM Properties asset manager Harry Goodman added: “It is great to see innovation in any market and refreshing to work with a brand such as Serve to offer a new leisure experience in Birmingham. We’re confident the city will embrace the concept.”

Honest Burgers submits plans to make Manchester debut: Honest Burgers, which is backed by Active Partners, has submitted plans to open its first site in Manchester. The company has applied for planning permission to take over a unit inside the former Freemasons Hall. Honest Burgers hopes to join fellow London chain Dishoom, which has also submitted plans for Manchester Hall, alongside concept bar Fable and local operator Mason’s. Honest Burgers operates 23 sites in London and one each in Cambridge and Reading. It recently secured a site for a 90-cover restaurant at a former Strada in Great Queen Street in London’s West End and is set to launch an 80-cover venue in Brewer Street, Soho, in September. In May, Honest Burgers co-founder and operations director Philip Eeles said: “2017 was a great year for us – we reached 25 restaurants and took Honest out of London for the first time. It’s been a massive learning curve. Only eight years ago we were serving burgers at festivals so adapting the business as we’ve grown has been key.”

Papa John’s franchisees open fifth site in five months with Sunderland launch: Papa John’s franchisees Sukhbir Gill and Lakhwinder Singh have opened their fifth site in five months. They have opened their latest store at a former fish and chip shop in Newcastle Road, Sunderland. They manage four other Papa John’s, including Skegness. Gill said: “With the holiday season in full swing our Skegness store is picking up in terms of sales, which is really exciting and a great sign for the future of our business. For Sunderland, which is a big university town, we also anticipate a thriving enterprise.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and there are more than 350 stores across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Indian grab-and-go concept Pali Kitchen launches in City of London: Indian grab-and-go concept Pali Kitchen has opened in the City of London following a six-figure funding package from HSBC. A £300,000 term loan, combined with additional investment from owner Anu Kathuria, has funded the restaurant fit-out, enabling the purchase of new equipment for the Asian-inspired eatery in Bow Lane. The menu combines classic Indian dishes with modern cooking techniques and locally sourced ingredients. Dishes include lamb yukhni, a traditional mild Kashmiri curry, and kati rolls, which originate in Kolkata. Drinks feature a berry and chilli smoothie called The Devil’s Breath, chocolate and raspberry lassi and jackfruit smoothie. Kathuria said: “We have designed our menus to be perfect grab-and-go lunches for customers in the city looking for authentic Indian spice and flavour with a modern twist.” Dale Allen, HSBC’s area director for business banking in west London, added: “Anu and his family have a passion for Asian cuisine and we were delighted to be able to support the opening of Pali Kitchen’s new restaurant in Bow Lane. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this exciting food brand.”

TGI Friday’s introduces new Wi-Fi solution to enhance guest experience: TGI Friday’s has introduced a new Wi-Fi solution in its 82 restaurants nationwide as it looks to “enhance the guest experience”. The company has replaced its standard guest Wi-Fi offering with a Wireless Social solution, which enables faster browsing while allowing TGI Friday’s to get a clearer view of the demographic profile of many of its visitors and details such as visit frequencies. Having gained the ability to segment and target customers based on a more detailed and accurate data source than available, TGI Friday’s will be able to make its communications with guests more “relevant and timely”. Chief marketing officer Steve Flanagan said: “Our new Wi-Fi not only provides a smoother and quicker connection so guests can share their meal-time snaps and videos online, but it also allows us to source valuable information so we can truly give them the best, most personalised experience possible.”

Ten Entertainment Group non-executive director steps down: Ten Entertainment Group, the UK operator of bowling and family entertainment centres, has announced Rob McWilliam will leave as a non-executive director having been appointed chief financial officer of Asda. McWilliam will stand down following the publication of Ten Entertainment Group’s interim results in September. The company is seeking to appoint a new non-executive director as soon as possible and will make a further announcement in due course. Chairman Nick Basing said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Rob for his contribution during his time as a non-executive director and chair of the audit committee during the group’s first year as a listed company. We are delighted Rob has been offered a stellar opportunity as Asda chief financial officer at this time and wish him all the best for the future.” McWilliam added: “I have enjoyed the past 15 months working with the team at Ten Entertainment Group. It is a strong business with great people and I have every confidence in its future success.”

Searcys to launch reimagined panoramic drinking and dining concept at the Gherkin next week: Searcys is to launch its reimagined drinking and dining concept at the Gherkin in the City of London on Friday, 13 July. Helix restaurant will open on level 40 of the building in St Mary Axe offering menus by executive chef Daniel Loftin that focus on seasonal and local produce. Salmon will come directly from Scotland, while all meat, fruit and vegetables will be sourced from the UK. The menu will include English green asparagus with Dorset crab, grapefruit, soy and sesame; and Rhug Estate Welsh lamb with bell peppers, aubergine, courgette, pepper and pine nuts. Iris bar will open on level 39 of the iconic Norman Foster-designed building, offering 360-degree panoramic views in what was previously a members’-only space. The Iris cocktail menu will draw inspiration from its views, celebrating north, south, east and west London. Head mixologist Federico Geniale has overseen a list that will include The Little White Bird, inspired by Kensington Gardens and its association with Peter Pan. Spaces can be reserved in the bar from 11am to 11pm, while Iris will also offer champagne and English sparkling wine. Searcys’ portfolio includes St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar, Osteria and Bonfire at the Barbican, The Roman Baths Kitchen and The Pump Room in Bath, and The Orangery at Blenheim Palace.

Marston’s to open £4m new-build pub and hotel on outskirts of Spalding: Marston’s is to open a £4m new-build pub-restaurant and hotel on the outskirts of Spalding in Lincolnshire. The development, set for the Lincs Gateway business park project, will open in September creating 60 jobs. The Tulip Queen is a nod to the town’s historic annual tulip parade, which came to an end in 2013. The 150-cover restaurant will offer classic pub meals and a carvery, while the 38-bedroom lodge will have a mix of rooms. New-build operations manager Nigel Whitfield told Spalding Today: “We are excited about The Tulip Queen and hope it will build a great reputation locally, offering top-quality pub food and lodging.”

Zonal launches events and pre-order service: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has launched an events and pre-order service under its LiveRES brand. The company said the EPOS-integrated party planning, booking and advance payment solution complements the online reservations and table management capabilities of LiveRES, which is deployed in thousands of hospitality venues across the UK. LiveRES events and pre-order service offers operators the opportunity to develop dedicated menus, packages and optional extras such as Christmas parties, drinks bundles, birthday cakes and cocktail classes to build additional, incremental revenue. Zonal Marketing Technologies commercial director David Charlton said: “Being fully integrated with our Aztec EPOS means no time is wasted rekeying orders to process payments at the time of an event, reducing the risk of mistakes and freeing serving staff to focus on providing a great customer experience. We have already received a huge amount of interest from our customers and the order book is looking good so we are confident it will be a successful addition to our extensive suite of business-enhancing technology solutions.”

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