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Mon 9th Jul 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Sector training awards open for entries: The National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs), run by the British Institute of Innkeepers (BII), is open for entries. The event, organised in partnership with Propel, highlights individuals and businesses in the sector who put their people first. The BII recognises the importance of raising standards and professionalism across the industry, as well as sharing best practice in training and people development. Successful NITAs entrants will be those that provide really great training – be they individuals, training organisations or pub companies. Judges will be looking for examples of those that truly put people at the heart of what they do – investing in their teams, innovating, motivating and striving for training excellence. The award categories for the 2018 competition are: Best Training Programme – Leased & Tenanted Companies under 200 outlets; Best Training Programme – Leased & Tenanted Companies over 200 outlets; Best Managed Training Programme Companies under 50 outlets; Best Managed Training Programme Companies over 50 outlets; Licensee Trainer of the Year Award; Professional Trainer of the Year Award; Best Apprenticeship Training Programme; Best Casual Dining Training Programme; and the Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award. The Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award is an industry recognition award. The winner will be chosen by a panel led by Keith Knowles, chief executive and founder of Beds and Bars. The award will identify and recognise an individual who leads by example and can demonstrate that people are at the core of what they do. The award is in memory of the late Franca Knowles, who herself was a multiple winner of NITA awards and was passionate about people and training. BII chief executive Mike Clist said: “The NITAs are a key platform that not only help us highlight how vital the training and development of staff is to our industry but, crucially, demonstrate hospitality can offer individuals a rewarding and varied career – it’s so much more than just a job.” The NITAs is the ultimate benchmark for training ingenuity in the industry – rewarding individuals and businesses who deliver outstanding mentorship and development for their people.” The awards ceremony will once again take place at the glamorous Café de Paris in London on 20 November. Entrants have until Friday, 31 August to complete their entries and can enter more than one category for consideration. Criteria for each award and entry forms can be found at www.bii.org. Each category will have a judging panel consisting of industry experts, which will decide who has best showcased their knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for their respective category. Finalists will be announced before the end of September and will need to attend the NITA finals judging day in mid-October.
 

Industry News: 

James Hacon to feature in next video for Premium subscribers: Sector consultant James Hacon, of Think Hospitality, will provide insights derived from the Propel/UKHospitality Study Tour to New York two months ago in the next 30-minute video to be sent to Propel Premium subscribers this Friday (13 July). His presentation includes learnings from time spent with legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer’s business and Danish entrepreneur Claus Meyer, founder of New Nordic cuisine philosophy – as well as key trends in the New York foodservice scene. He also talks about lessons from time spent at the James Beard Foundation. Premium subscribers now receive weekly video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences – the past four featured sector investor Luke Johnson, City Pub Company founder Clive Watson, brand strategist Ian Dunstall 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. 
 
Women’s Entrepreneur Conference open for bookings: Propel has partnered with Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott to launch the sector’s first conference featuring an all-female line-up of company leaders. The event, which is open for bookings, takes place on Tuesday, 4 September at One Moorgate Place, London. Speakers will be Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers (“How to ascertain if your business idea is genius or madness”); Mowgli founder Nisha Katona (“From barrister to bunny chow: why risk it all for restaurants?”); Sophie Bathgate, of Sophie’s Steakhouse (“What I would do differently next time”); Artizian founder Alison Frith (“How to market a startup”); Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars founder Mary Mclaughlin (“Growing an idea from startup to sustainable”); Eve Bugler, founder of BabaBoom (“How to keep the joy when it’s all on your shoulders”); Jane O’Riordan, founder of The Dynamo (“The importance of patience”); Sally Jackson, owner of The Pink Pig Farm (“The ten hardest lessons I’ve learned”); Christine Winton, of Siam Eatery (“Can you have work-life balance when you start a business?”); Vanessa Hall, co-founder of Jack & Alice (“The importance of staying true to your values when you start and expand your business”); and Laura Harper-Hinton, co-founder of Caravan (“Why people are key to your success”). Elliott said: “Female entrepreneurs are making an enormous contribution to the hospitality sector – but we need even more of them. The conference is intended as a showcase of some of the sector’s best female entrepreneurs and to encourage even more of them to take the plunge.” Propel managing director Paul Charity added: “If our sector is to truly serve its market, we need more companies led by women at senior levels. We hope companies send their brightest female talent to the conference to pick up inspiration and develop their entrepreneurial talent. We also believe it’s a great opportunity for male colleagues to gain insights into female entrepreneurial skills.” Tickets are £195 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers, £245 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691.
 
UKHospitality calls for ring-fencing of digital tax revenue: UKHospitality has warned the Treasury it must undertake a full and wide-ranging review of business rates and ring-fence future revenue when it investigates the digital taxation system. The warning follows a statement from the chancellor in response to a letter from Treasury Committee chairman Nicky Morgan MP, in which he expressed concern about the burden placed on high-street businesses. The Treasury’s response states the government intends to scrutinise business rates in the near future. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The government’s acknowledgment business rates are placing an unfair burden on high streets and signalling its intention to reform digital taxation are certainly welcome. However, the government’s apparent stance that the wider system is in no need of reform or has already been suitably reformed is wrong. The government has provided some much-needed relief for pubs and may have made some cursory inquiries with the Valuation Office Agency but we are still a long way short of the fundamental review and reform of the system that was promised in successive Conservative manifestos. The government needs to push ahead with this review or hospitality businesses in the heart of communities will continue to face a disproportionate burden and we will see further closures. At the minimum, the government must ensure it ring-fences funds generated by a revamped digital tax system to offset the gross burdens hospitality businesses face.”

Hospitality companies appear in Sunday Times Top Track 100 list: Pret A Manger is the highest-placed hospitality company in the Sunday Times Top Track 100 list. The company was ranked 69th on the Fast Track-produced list of Britain’s largest privately owned companies ranked by their latest sales. Pret, which private equity firm Bridgepoint sold to Luxembourg-based investment firm JAB in May for £1.5bn, saw sales of £879m, resulting in the company rising eight places. Nando’s rose one place to 74th in the list with sales of £848m. Cinema operator Vue fell two spots to 81st with sales of £790m. Motorway services operator Moto fell seven places to 83rd (£776m) while another motorway services operator, Welcome Break, remained 96th with £723m.
 
Cardiff named UK’s fast food capital: A study has revealed Cardiff has the highest number of fast food branded restaurants per person in the UK. The Welsh capital has 30 major fast food franchises for every 100,000 people, according to finance firm FXTM, meaning it has roughly 23 more fast food restaurants per 100,000 people than the “healthiest city”, Sheffield, which only has six. This doesn’t include all the independent fast food outlets across the city. The investment firm also found Cardiff is the Greggs capital of the UK, with one Greggs for every 19,000 people (25 in total) as well as being the Domino’s capital of the UK, with one Domino’s for every 34,000 people. While Cardiff came top for the number of Greggs and Domino’s sites per person, Newcastle was found to have the highest number of McDonald’s per person, with 28 overall, while Exeter has the most JD Wetherspoon sites per person. Swansea’s highest number of fast food franchises, according to the research, was also Greggs, with 12 found in the city.

One in five companies raising money via crowdfunding has gone bust: One in five companies that raised money through online crowdfunding has ended up going bust. Figures compiled by the startup database Beauhurst for The Sunday Telegraph found of 685 UK deals on 28 crowdfunding websites such as Seedrs and Crowdcube between 2013 and 2015, some 148 had since collapsed, equivalent to 21%. However, the failure rate was much lower than the average for startups. Just under 50% of all new businesses fail after three years, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Equity crowdfunding, in which startups raise money from members of the public in exchange for a stake in the company, has become an increasingly popular way for entrepreneurs to secure funding. But the sector has faced questions over an alleged lack of oversight and critics said start-ups take advantage of unsuspecting investors. Over the period, crowdfunding exploded in popularity, with 347 deals completed in 2015 compared with 99 two years earlier. The figures also suggest crowdfunding investment has become less risky over time. Almost half of those funded in 2013 have failed, compared with 15% of those funded in 2015. At the same time, crowdfunding investors have become more likely to make a return, with ten exits from companies funded in 2015 against two for those backed two years earlier. Mark Hart, of the Enterprise Research Centre, said crowdfunding investors were becoming more savvy and the websites were increasingly attracting more sophisticated investors.
 

Company News:

Novus put up for sale: Novus, the London bar and restaurant operator, has been put up for sale by its private equity owner. HayFin Capital Management has hired Sapient to find a buyer for Novus, which has 41 bars and nightclubs — including the flagship Tiger Tiger in London’s West End, reports The Sunday Times. The sale follows a turbulent few years for Novus, which counted David Cameron as a non-executive director when it was briefly listed on the London Stock Exchange under the name Urbium. The business was taken private in 2005 in a £113m management buyout. Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland took control through a debt-for-equity swap in 2009, after the deal turned sour. In 2012, the private equity firms LGV Capital and Hutton Collins bought the group for £100m. Three years' later, the business was again seized by its lender – this time HayFin, which had provided the debt for LGV and Hutton Collins. Novus, which owns brands such as Balls Brothers and Tank and Paddle, which serves pizza and craft beer, has been shifting its focus towards restaurants. The company, which is led by Toby Smith, has just six Tiger Tiger clubs left. 

EAT founders to step down following site closures: The founders of fresh food-to-go retailer EAT are planning to resign following a restructuring that has resulted in the closure of almost 10% of its shops. Former hedge fund manager Niall MacArthur and his wife Faith, who launched EAT in 1996, are expected to step down as directors in the next week and will no longer have any involvement running the firm. Accountancy firm KPMG was appointed earlier this year to advise on a restructuring. Losses more than doubled to £3.7m due to rising rents, steep business rates and the cost of ingredients. Following a review of its stores, it has closed ten of its 110 shops over the past two months, including sites in Cardiff and Glasgow. However, it avoided a Company Voluntary Arrangement. EAT’s management, led by chief executive Andrew Walker, stopped working with KPMG in April. The company now plans to open five sites overseas this year – in Malaga, Barcelona, Paris, Nantes and Bahrain. The MacArthurs will remain minority shareholders, but their stake is expected to fall, reports the Mail on Sunday. EAT is controlled by private equity firm Lyceum Capital, which bought a stake in 2011 and said it wanted to expand to 300 stores. Its menus are designed by former MasterChef finalist Arnaud Kaziewicz.

Ei Group hires Helen Cook as customer director: Ei Group, the UK’s largest pub company, has hired Helen Cook as its new customer director, a key role for the business as it looks to enhance its market insight and customer-first approach. She joins the business after a number of years at senior level in the hospitality sector, mostly with restaurant and bar operator Novus, where she held a variety of roles spanning operations, area management, digital and brand development. She replaces Steve de Polo who left the business last month. Cook said: “I am thrilled to be joining Ei Group at such an interesting and exciting time in its strategic journey. I strongly believe the company is pushing the boundaries when it comes to developing innovative solutions that help its publicans grow and run successful businesses. But there is also a big opportunity to do more, particularly in the digital marketing space and customer communication. I’ve spent my career in the hospitality sector and know first-hand the challenges of running a successful site and group of sites. I aim to use that understanding through building a strong customer-focused team across the marketing and customer contact functions that works in partnership with our managers, publicans and wider team.” Paul Harbottle, group commercial director at Ei Group, added: “I am delighted to welcome Helen to the business in this important role. A key part of our strategy is centred around building the level of consumer insight we hold and implementing that to make better decisions to develop our customer offer and support our publicans. I look forward to working closely with her to achieve this.” Cook joins the business on Monday, 16 July.
 
London Union reports sales and Ebitda boost: London Union, the street food operator led by Jonathan Downey, has reported sales rose more than 40% to £12.8m in the 52 weeks to 31 December 2017 (previous year: £9.1m) and operating Ebitda from markets was up 14% to £3.1m. Like-for-like sales rose 6% at its Lewisham, Canada Water and Shoreditch sites. It made an operating profit of £2,206,000 compared with an operating loss of £3,508,000 the year before.

Pret A Manger launches 20p plastic bottle deposit trial in Birmingham: Pret A Manger has launched a water bottle deposit scheme trial in Birmingham. The coffee chain trialled the scheme in two Brighton shops earlier this year in a bid to encourage consumers to recycle plastic bottles. It is now testing the idea in three Birmingham sites, with the trial set to run for two months. The company said the 20p charge would be returned to customers after they brought the bottle back to any Pret store in Birmingham. It is the chain’s second trial of a bottle deposit scheme. It ran a similar trial in Brighton in April with a 10p charge. However, feedback revealed almost 80% of consumers thought that although the charge was a good idea, 10p wasn’t a high enough incentive. “We want to do more to encourage more bottles to be recycled and see if it helps people to use reusable bottles,” a spokeswoman said. She added all money collected would be “ring-fenced” for other sustainability initiatives. In February, Pret A Manager chief executive Clive Schlee wrote in a blog about the Brighton trial: “It will take time to eliminate unnecessary plastic but I hope this sort of initiative will bring that day forward by drawing attention to the issue and stimulating new ideas. We’ve chosen Brighton because we have three busy shops there and we know the local people are highly attuned to the environment. If it is successful we could extend the scheme across the country during the autumn of 2018.”
 
BrewDog eyes Ireland expansion: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is searching for sites to expand into Ireland, with the possibility of two bars opening in the country by the end of 2018. BrewDog plans to open a brewpub in Dublin as well as several venues in other parts of Ireland. The company is confident it will complete deals for the first two sites within the next six weeks. BrewDog head of international Niall Phelan told The Sunday Business Post: “We are starting to close in on a few potential options. The best-case scenario would see the deal closed on one site within the next five to six weeks and have it opening in late 2018 or early 2019. We’re looking at a second location as well, with the same timeline in mind.”

Bone Daddies sees turnover break £10m: London-based Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies, led by Demetrius Tomazos and Ross Shonhan, has reported turnover increased to £10,658,286 for the year ending 30 September 2017 compared with £8,512,384 the previous year. Ebitda before operational exceptional costs fell to £864,599 compared with £928,947 the year before. Pre-tax profit fell to £280,399 compared with £522,257 the previous year. Gross margin improved to 77.97% compared with 77.92% the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: "Our business continues to grow steadily and significantly. We are delighted to have broken the £10m turnover barrier over the course of this financial year. Over the 12 months to 30 September 2017 we opened our seventh trading site (fifth ramen bar) in St Christopher’s Place, London, as well as undertaking a complete refurbishment of our original Flesh & Buns restaurant; the latter of which entailed the site closing to trade for a period of two weeks. Our reduction in year on year Ebitda was expected. As well as the two-week closure of our largest restaurant, our fixed premises costs have increased over the course of the year following rent reviews at two of our locations, and an increase in business rates following the 2017 business rates revaluation. Throughout the year we have continued to lay foundations that keep us positioned well for continued, sustainable, growth. Since the year end we have opened our sixth ramen bar in the Nova building, Victoria, and in August we will open our second Flesh & Buns restaurant in Fitzrovia, which will increase our operation to a total of nine restaurants.” At the end of the period, the number of employees increased to 202 from 168 the previous year.

Two Heads Beer Co hits £350,000 crowdfunding target: Independent craft beer retailer Two Heads Beer Co has hit its £350,000 target 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, is offering 14.9% equity in return for the investment. So far, 284 investors have pledged £352,970 with 14 days remaining. Last month, Two Heads Beer Co made offers on outlets in Surbiton, Surrey, and Herne Hill, south London, as it looks to add to its six-strong portfolio. Two Heads Beer Co trades as The Beer Boutique and We Brought Beer brands. The company generated revenue of more than £958,000 in 2017. 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.
 
Soho House unveils vision for Mollie’s diner and motel: Soho House has unveiled its vision for proposed American diner Mollie’s and a motel at Buckland Services on the A420 between Oxford and Faringdon. The group, which also owns the Soho Farmhouse holiday camp near Chipping Norton, has so far revealed few details of the project but visuals on hoardings at the site show a clean, smart dining hall, warm and cosy sitting areas and minimalist, wood-furnished bedrooms. The advertising reveals Mollie’s is set to open from 7am to 10pm daily, while a night at the motel, including a meal, would cost as little as £75. The tagline is “affordable style new to the roadside”. Mollie’s is set to open in December.
 
We Are Bar Group reports lower losses on reduced turnover: We Are Bar Group, the London-based operator of 17 bars and Smollensky’s restaurants, has reported turnover fell to £13,777,713 in the year to 30 September 2017, compared with £14,491,835 the year before. Pre-tax losses reduced to £745,474 from £1,962,255 the year before. Ebitda rose to £1,093,385 from £818,083 in the previous year. Director Richard Stringer resigned in March this year. After the year-end, the company sold four sites to Fuller’s.
 
Utopian Brewing hits halfway mark in £350,000 crowdfunding campaign: Utopian Brewing, chaired by Faucet Inn founder Steve Cox, has passed the halfway mark in its a £350,000 crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube, offering 19.07% of its equity in return for investment. So far, the company has raised £177,740 from 78 investors with 17 days remaining. It has a pre-money valuation of £1,485,000. In its pitch, the company stated: “We have spent months in research and planning. This funding will enable us to build out our 3,500-litre brewhouse with sufficient vessels to produce more than 8,000 hectolitres per annum. We will aim to install sufficient infrastructure and have space to add vessels later to increase production to more than 15,000 hectolitres per annum. All our ingredients will be sourced from UK producers. There are more than 30 British hop varieties and a vast array of malt and cereals ensuring we can make a varied range of distinctive products. To assist our sustainability ambitions, our proposed site benefits from a natural water source and access to cattle waste, a suitable feed source for anaerobic digestion, which will contribute to power generation along with potential solar panels. We aim to sell draught product to pubs and bars locally and through national distribution. We have provisionally agreed to supply 15 sites and believe our industry contacts will give us a head start in rapidly adding new outlets. We plan for a packaged product to be added as soon as possible for both online and retail sales.”
 
Arc Inspirations hires first HR manager: Leeds-based bar and restaurant operator Arc Inspirations, the leading and fast-growing bar operator of a clutch of brands, has appointed Natalie Newman as its HR and training business partner, a new role for the business. She joins Arc Inspirations with many years of experience in a number of senior HR and training roles. Previously at McDonald’s for 15 years as operations consultant and training consultant, she moved on to become head of training at Krispy Kreme for four years before joining the Arc team. She will report into managing director Anni Opong. Arc currently operates 18 sites across the north of England and is set to expand further this year. Alongside the £4.5m investment into openings and refurbishments, the business is focused on driving the success of the bars further by staying true to its people-orientated approach. Newman’s focus will be to deliver schemes that enhance individual skills and career progression unique to each role.
 
Trampoline park operator acquired out of administration: A nationwide trampoline park operator has been acquired out of administration, saving hundreds of jobs. However, the company’s Manchester site has closed. Oxygen Freejumping operates nine facilities across England and Scotland. Tony Nygate and Martha Thompson, of BDO, were appointed joint administrators of the company and one of its subsidiaries, Oxygen Freejumping North East, on 27 June. It was sold as a going concern to London-based investment firm NM Capital. The business employed 434 staff and 365 workers were transferred to the purchaser following the deal. The business will continue to operate as normal, although the Manchester and East Kilbride sites will close immediately. A statement from BDO said: “Despite a broadly positive business outlook the company had experienced a temporary deterioration in its working capital position due to a competitive leisure market and a decline in consumer spending.” Nygate, BDO business restructuring partner, added: “Oxygen Freejumping was exposed to difficulties as a result of the competitive leisure market. Principally, I am pleased 365 jobs have been saved with the transfer of staff to NM Capital and the business can now move forward on a secure financial footing.”
 
Hancock’s to quadruple in size: Hancock’s, the family-owned, Rochester-based restaurant group, is to mark the first anniversary of its inaugural outlet with a significant seven-figure investment in the emerging brand. The American Kitchen and Bar concept, whose menu is a meat-lover’s dream, has proved so popular at The Quays in St Mary’s Island, Chatham, three further sites have now been secured across the south east – in Camberley, Maidstone and Eastleigh. The new Hancock’s restaurants, which vary from 3,000 to 4000 square feet with seating for up to 150 guests, will create 75 jobs, effectively quadrupling the group’s staff count. David Chick, director of Hancock’s, said: “Hancock’s in Chatham was originally conceived as a standalone restaurant, offering an American-inspired menu which, among other things, features chicken and ribs smoked on-site, steaks, dirty dogs, gumbo and fajitas, all served in a fun environment where cocktails flow and everyone is welcome. What the past 12 months have shown is this is a winning concept enjoyed by practically every demographic group so embarking on a managed and manageable expansion programme is the logical next step.” The Camberley outlet is scheduled to open in August at The Atrium in Park Street, with the Kent and Hampshire restaurants set to be unveiled in September.
 
Leon to make Dublin debut: Natural fast food brand Leon is to make its Irish debut, in Dublin later this year. The team operating Leon in Ireland will be Stuart Fitzgerald and Brian McIntyre, who plan to roll out 20 restaurants across Irish cities by 2023. Fitzgerald said: “The Leon offering is different to anything available in Ireland and Irish people are going to love it.” Leon chief executive John Vincent added: “It has been an ambition of ours to be in Ireland for many years – but we needed to wait until we found Irish partners who could give Leon the love and focus it deserves. Stuart and his team are Leon people. They are positive, courageous and like a good time.”
 
TGI Friday’s buys breakfast for 4,000 staff members to mark 4 July: TGI Friday’s celebrated the most American of days – 4 July – by treating 4,000 of its team members and their families to a free all-American breakfast and get-together. In addition, Friday’s used the opportunity to recognise 1,600 team members with rewards to thank them for their hard work. Recognition prizes for team members included vouchers, red letter days, and team activities such as paintballing and bowling, allowing them to make more memories with their Friday’s family and increase team engagement. This adds to the 25,000 pieces of recognition handed out to team members already in 2018. Jacqui Mcmanus, TGI Friday’s culture and people development director, said: “Rewarding and recognising our team members is at the very core of our culture at Friday’s. We were delighted to use 4 July to reward all our team members and their families, and to give a special shout out to 1,600 team members who have gone above and beyond for their Friday’s family.”
 
Loungers appoints Gregor Grant as chief financial officer: Cafe bar brand Loungers has hired Gregor Grant as chief financial officer. The company stated: “He is an experienced chief financial officer with a strong pedigree in the leisure sector in particular who will be an excellent addition to the team and play an important role in Loungers’ development towards a 200-site business. Loungers operates 128 sites including Tarko Lounge in Barnstaple, Devon, which opened last week.” Loungers is on track to open 25 cafe-bar-restaurants in its current financial year. Grant has been involved in various high-growth and private equity-backed leisure companies during his career including Novus, CarTrawler, Fuddruckers, Eldridge Pope and Morrells of Oxford. Nick Collins, chief executive of Loungers, said: “I am delighted to welcome Gregor into Loungers. We are fortunate to have someone of his calibre and considerable experience joining the team. I know he will fit very well culturally and complement and build on the senior management team’s expertise, alongside driving further improvement in the performance of the business.” Grant added: “Loungers is a really exciting business, whose progress and development I have been admiring for many years. It is bringing the soul back to communities with a business model that genuinely epitomises all-day trading. I am delighted to be able to play my part in the next stage of the business’ development.”

Loch Lomond Brewery passes halfway mark in £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to double production: Loch Lomond Brewery has passed the halfway mark in its £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to double production and bring packaging in-house. Co-founders Euan and Fiona MacEachern are offering 10.36% equity in return for the investment. So far, 220 investors have pledged £188,110 with 14 days remaining. The Scottish company’s beers are stocked in major retailers including Marks & Spencer, Co-op, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl, while it exports to Europe, Asia and the Nordics – selling more than 415,000 pints last year – and has just entered the Canadian market. It also plans to build a brewery, taproom, restaurant and visitors’ centre on the shores of Loch Lomond. The pitch states: “In 2011 we set out as a husband-and-wife team to create a brewery. Fast-forward seven years and we’ve gone on to win multiple awards (31 to be precise). We have on-boarded Brakes as a wholesale partner and we’re exporting 20% of production to Europe, Asia and the Nordics. Due to the increasing popularity of our beers we are near production capacity. We also outsource our packaging adding extra mileage to our beers before they reach our customers. Investment will enable us to purchase equipment to double production and bring our packaging operation in-house, enabling us to meet demand. We are in the planning stage with developers to open our first combined brewery and taproom on the shores of Loch Lomond, aiming to open by 2020. The footprint of the building will be 1,200 square metres, with a third of that space dedicated to a restaurant, visitors’ centre and store. We want this to become a key attraction for the loch’s annual four million visitors.”
 
HGEM launches guest experience management platform: Guest experience management expert HGEM has launched The Hub, a guest experience management (GEM) platform that is aimed at rapidly equipping managers with all the insights necessary to monitor not just the guest experience but also its relationship with the team’s performance on core standards. Recognising the important part teams play in the delivery of an exceptional guest experience, The Hub by HGEM combines detailed operational assessments with modern guest surveys and social reviews from Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook. The platform offers a wide range of interactive reports, including KPIs, NPS analysis, guest journey tracking, survey and audit results, social reviews, menu performance, and leader boards. By combining information from multiple sources, managers can quickly identify strengths and weaknesses, align service standards with guest perceptions, and make informed business decisions to drive continuous improvement. For busy managers with multiple sites, the GEM App is designed to provide access to key results quickly and facilitate instant discussions. HGEM managing director Steven Pike said: “We have been measuring and assessing experiences in various ways for many years – but really effective GEM always starts with your team. Engaging team members at an early stage, helping them to buy into the unique culture of the brand and understand what is expected from them is vital to ensure you deliver an exceptional guest experience. Our new offering will help managers to monitor their social reputation, listen to their guests and review team performance in detail, all in the same place. The net result is better managed guest experiences and a greater likelihood of returns and recommendations.” More information is available at hgem.com/the-hub
   
UK’s first Trappist brewery opens: The UK’s first Trappist brewery has opened. Monks at Mount St Bernard Abbey, near Whitwick, Leciestershire, began production in its new brewery last month, with beer expected to go on sale shortly. The monks were given planning permission last year to build the brewery, converting a redundant part of the 19th century Cistercian monastery and creating the 12th Trappist brewery in the world. The brewery is the culmination of five years’ work and deliberation for the monks, who made the difficult decision to close the uneconomical dairy farm that had previously been an integral part of life at the monastery. After visiting other brewing abbeys, the monks decided to look into starting a brewery at Mount St Bernard Abbey and began making experimental brews. Having received help from other Trappist monks and local brewers, they have now created the first English Trappist Ale, bringing together the traditions of the continental Trappist brewers and English brewing. The Mount St Bernard Abbey brewery has a 20-hectolitre capacity. The 7.4% beer will be bottled in 330ml bottles and sold nationally via a distributor and locally in their own shop and selected outlets. Any profits made from the venture will go to the Trustees of Mount St Bernard, a registered charity responsible for maintaining the abbey and paying the monks’ living expenses.
  
Sheffield to see UK’s first regional ‘dive bar’: A dive bar, FirePit Rocks, is set to open in Sheffield’s West Street and is claimed to be the first in the region. The venue will be a “dive with depth” site. Dive bars have been long-established in the US and offer the welcoming feel of a local while entertaining regulars with sports, rock ‘n’ roll, quality drink and casual dining. FirePit Rocks owner Rick Bailey has spent the past few months finding the right design and concept for Sheffield. He has also had help from his father Dez Bailey who, along with brother Mick, were presenters of the first rock show on MTV in the 1980s and spent a lot time in the US. Rick Bailey said: “We wanted to create a venue with a totally relaxed atmosphere – almost the feel of your local in the city centre. We have amassed loads of sports and music memorabilia that will adorn the walls. We will have regular DJs and screen major sporting fixtures.” FirePit Rocks is opening in partnership with the Sheffield Steelers professional ice-hockey team and will screen the club’s home and away games.

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