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Tue 24th Jul 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Roy Ellis – we are negotiating on seven Albert’s Schloss sites: Roy Ellis, chief executive of Mission Mars, the north west-based operator behind Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, has told Propel he is negotiating on seven potential sites for a second Albert’s Schloss. The company received a £10m investment from Business Growth Fund on Monday (23 July) to allow a roll-out of the two brands. Albert’s Schloss, which opened in Manchester in October 2015, is taking £250,000 a week gross and has taken £8.5m net in the first ten months of its current financial year. Ellis said: “We are negotiating on seven Albert’s Schloss sites but we wouldn’t do all seven – in some locations we are looking at two buildings, for example. I would be happy to get one more open in the next 12 months. The first site is trading really well – it’s up between 10% and 20% in like-for-like terms. Albert Hall, above Albert’s Schloss, is also trading well.” Ellis told Propel Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Birmingham and Newcastle were all on the company’s target list for openings. The company has annual sales of almost £30m across its ten sites. Last year, the company acquired Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza with its founders retaining a small stake. Mission Mars doubled the sales of the original site by expanding it by 30%. Three months later it opened a second Rudy’s – in Peter Street next to its Albert’s Schloss site – which is turning over £45,000 a week gross. “I think we can have a lot more Rudy’s sites,” added Ellis. Neil Inskip, of the Business Growth Fund, said: “Mission Mars has an impressive management team with a proven track record of scaling hospitality brands. The concepts within the Mission Mars group are innovative, well delivered and outperforming the market. The team has established a strong foundation to continue this roll-out across the UK and we look forward to supporting the next stage of growth.”

Industry News:

Social Media for Profit masterclass opens for bookings: The second Social Media for Profit masterclass has opened for bookings. Mark McCulloch, founder and group chief executive of WE ARE Spectacular and formerly of Pret A Manger and YO! Sushi, will welcome you to a social media boot camp with all-new content that will provide insights into how to build your sales and brand using social media. McCulloch will be joined by Alison Battisby, founder and director of social media consultancy Avocado Social. With almost ten years of social media experience, Battisby is a Facebook-accredited trainer and will bring the latest algorithm-busting insights to the afternoon. She will reveal the key trends you need to know – from Insta Stories stickers and IGTV to top hashtags and video hacks. Battisby will also reveal how Facebook, Instagram and Twitter algorithms work, what content is given priority and how you can get your posts seen by more people. She will also look at the best ways to use Facebook and Instagram ads to get a return for your business, including what makes a good advert and how to measure it. McCulloch will talk about designing your venue for Instagram and how to encourage user-generated content. He will also look at Instagram Stories and demonstrate the most interesting features and hacks to ensure your posts get seen. McCulloch will also talk about influencer marketing – does paying someone to post about your product really work? How are brands approaching influencer marketing and does the average customer trust a sponsored post on Instagram? There will also be a rundown of the ten key social media actions to take away. The half-day event takes place on the afternoon of Thursday, 13 September at One Moorgate Place in London. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. To book a place, email or call 01444 817691.

Matthew Kirby, chief executive of Chozen Noodle, to feature in next video for Premium subscribers: Matthew Kirby, chief executive of Chozen Noodle, will feature in the next 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers. He talks about expanding the brand and its sub-brand, Chow Asian kitchen, in different formats, the challenges and opportunities of trading in motorway service stations, the retail landscape, and how his former business, Mongolian Barbecue, became the first UK casual dining brand to expand successfully in the US. Premium subscribers now receive weekly video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences – the past six featured sector investor Luke Johnson, Ceviche founder Martin Morales, City Pub Company founder Clive Watson, brand strategist Ian Dunstall, Coaching Inn Group founder Kevin Charity and consultant James Hacon. 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 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 to sign up or call her on 01444 817691.  

Deliveroo calls on government to introduce ‘charter for secure flexible work’: Deliveroo has called on the government to introduce a “charter for secure flexible work”, which would allow on-demand companies to provide self-employed workers with extra security and benefits without affecting their self-employment status. Last November, Deliveroo riders were confirmed as self-employed by the Central Arbitration Committee, a decision backed up by the High Court in May. Deliveroo is making free insurance available to all 35,000 riders it works with globally and said it would like to go further. However, companies such as Deliveroo are constrained in offering security to self-employed riders as legislation means doing so would likely result in riders having their employment status reclassified through the courts. This, in turn, would limit the flexibility riders value as they would have to work in compulsory sessions arranged with Deliveroo in advance and ride exclusively for the company during those sessions. In its response to the government’s consultation on employment status, Deliveroo argues a “charter for secure flexible work” would provide greater clarity to companies over the protections they can give to self-employed contractors. The charter would also “establish that benefits could be accrued on the basis of work performed rather than hours or days worked, allowing riders to continue enjoying the flexibility of being able to work with multiple companies at the same time, whenever and wherever they wanted”. Deliveroo said it would like to see a charter that enabled a company to directly provide benefits to contractors, including accident or third-party liability insurance, and payments to be used for things such as time off for holidays. It would also like to see any such charter allow a company to provide training. Deliveroo is urging the government to follow the example of France and look at policy solutions to balance flexibility and security for platform workers. The French majority party has brought forward draft legislation that would compel platforms to offer workers a “charter” that defined how they work together. The charter would allow benefits and training to be offered to platform workers without jeopardising their self-employment status.

Just Eat trials world’s first seaweed-based sauce sachets: As part of its commitment to tackle the impact of takeaways on plastic pollution, Just Eat has launched a trial of Ooho! – seaweed-based sauce sachets that are fully compostable, decomposing within six weeks. In March, Just Eat announced a package of measures to reduce the amount of plastics included in UK takeaway deliveries. One of the commitments the business made was to work with key industry experts to invest in the research and development of innovative and practical alternatives for single-use plastics. Just Eat has now teamed up with sustainable packaging startup Skipping Rocks Lab to trial the use of seaweed-based sauce sachets in Southend with restaurant partner The Fat Pizza for six weeks. The sachets, which are filled with ketchup or garlic sauce, are made from an alginate-based material. They open like normal sachets and fully decompose when disposed of. Graham Corfield, UK managing director of Just Eat, said: “We are committed to helping reduce the impact of the takeaway industry on plastic waste levels and have already taken measures to drive more environmentally friendly behaviour among our restaurant partners and customers. We’re delighted to be taking our commitment a step further through our partnership with Skipping Rocks Lab.”

Company News:

Arc Inspirations reports turnover and Ebitda growth: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands including Manahatta, Banyan Bar & Kitchen and The Box, has reported turnover increased £2.0m (8.6%) from £22.2m to £24.2m in the year to 1 April 2018. Like-for-like sales were up 1.0%, while Ebitda increased 33% from £2.4m to £3.2m. Group Ebitda as a percentage of sales has grown from 10.8% to 13.3%. Arc will open a Box in Leeds city centre in September, and a Manahatta in Deansgate, Manchester, and a Banyan in Spinningfields, Manchester, the following month. It also has a strong pipeline of sites for openings in 2020. Chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “We have enjoyed an exceptional year given prevailing market conditions, which puts us in a sound financial position to open more sites and continue to develop and grow the business in 2019 and beyond. Our three key brands continue to perform well. We have a simple philosophy and believe growth is derived by continually investing in our people, brands and guest experience. Many of our competitors have resorted to discounting, which we don’t believe in, and we remain confident in our ability to continually innovate across people, product and design to remain attractive to our guests.” Non-executive director Steve Richards added: “Significant progress has been made in the past 12 months and Arc continues to be a leader in the sector. Our chosen markets remain buoyant, our organic progress impressive and the returns we are generating from our new sites industry leading. We are well set to execute our strategy of doubling the size of the business over the next three years.”

Sector veteran Roger Moxham returns with launch of brewery and micro-brewpub: Former Mitchells & Butlers executive Roger Moxham, who also ran Bramwell Pub and Barracuda Pub Company, has returned to the sector with the launch of a micro-brewpub and brewery, both called Cold Bath Brewing. Moxham is being partnered in the venture by former London cabbie Mick Wren and Jim Mossman, who previously had a career in finance. They have been brewing a 4.2% ABV “sessionable lager” since February under licence with Wold Top Brewery in Scarborough. This week they opened a micro-brewpub in Kings Road, Harrogate. Also called Cold Bath Brewing, the venue features a two-barrel brewkit on a mezzanine level with beer brewed by Matt Fortune, formerly of Dishforth-based brewer and distiller Bad Co. The first beer brewed using their own kit will be a session IPA, while they also plan an amaretto stout. Moxham told Propel: “We thought there was a gap in the market for a lager with lower carbonisation that would go well with food. We have 50 stockists in Harrogate already and a number in Leeds and York – the lager is available on draught and in bottles. We have nine products on tap at the brewpub, which is trading comfortably above expectations. Our location is outstanding – opposite the conference centre. The brewpub probably isn’t scaleable but provides an opportunity to test the beer we want to brew in Scarborough. Our business plan is bigger on the beer front than the brewpub front – year three of our plan involves having our own brewing facility on the outskirts of Harrogate.” 

GVA markets CAU portfolio – ‘strong interest in large part of portfolio’: Property consultancy GVA has been appointed to market the CAU leasehold portfolio on behalf of administrators from Deloitte. Alan Ryall, from GVA’s national restructuring solutions team, and Stephen Cowperthwaite, head of retail, hotels and leisure, are leading the sale. CAU, which traded from 22 locations across the country, entered administration on 19 July. Interest is now being sought on the following sites: Bath, Blackheath, Bristol, Cambridge, Didsbury, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guildford, Harrogate, Henley, Katharine Dock, Kingston, Leamington, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Reading, Southampton, Tunbridge, Wimbledon and Wilmslow. Cowperthwaite said: “CAU represents a strong underlying portfolio of restaurant premises located across the UK, situated within prime high street locations and destination leisure developments. We have received strong interest in large parts of the portfolio and are pleased to be assisting the administrators in the maximisation of value for the benefit of creditors. We are working alongside our restructuring solutions team extensively at present on formal and informal projects within the retail and F&B sectors, among others. Specifically within the casual dining market, it is clear there remains occupier demand for the best trading locations, especially those within destination developments where units rarely come to the open market.”

Private equity firm Piper – Be At One is our fifth sale in the sector: Private equity firm Piper has reported Be At One, sold to Stonegate Pub Company on Monday (23 July), is its fifth sale in the sector. Piper stated: “Since its £8m investment in 2011 Piper has supported Be At One in expanding the business beyond its original London base, taking the chain from 11 to 33 bars, of which 17 are outside London, with a number of new sites in the pipeline. Over the lifetime of the investment, sales increased five times to £40m. Be At One was founded by Steve Locke, Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller in 1988. Having worked together as bartenders at TGI Friday’s they recognised there was an opportunity to develop a uniquely differentiated cocktail bar proposition. As part of the transaction the three founders, along with chairman Mark Derry, will exit the company. The business will continue to be led by Andrew Stones, managing director, and Toby Rolph as chief financial officer. Piper, which last year closed its sixth fund at £125m, has a long and established track record of backing and growing businesses in the hospitality industry. It has invested in eight brands, including Las Iguanas, Loungers, Hickory’s Smokehouse and Flat Iron. Be At One is its fifth realisation in the sector.” Peter Kemp-Welch, a partner at Piper, added: “We are very proud of all we and the team at Be At One have achieved since our investment. In a highly competitive market we have developed a market-leading brand and delivered excellent growth in sales and profits at a time when many are struggling in the hospitality market, creating a unique asset that has resulted in this successful sale to Stonegate.” Derry said: “Steve, Rhys and Leigh have over the past 20 years created a unique business and a special legacy in Be At One, which remains in incredibly good hands through Stonegate and the Be At One senior team led by Andrew Stones. This deal paves the way for an exciting new chapter and I am looking forward to watching the business continue to flourish and develop with the prospect of many more guests across the UK having the opportunity to enjoy the exceptional Be At One experience. I’d like to thank our private equity partner Piper for its invaluable support and wise counsel over the past six years – it’s an exceptional investor and supporter of businesses like Be At One and our industry.”

Spuntino to open at Heathrow Terminal 3 in partnership with TRG Concessions: Spuntino, the Soho restaurant that consists of 27 stools and a popcorn machine offering New York comfort food, is to open at Heathrow Terminal 3. Spuntino, which means “snack” in Italian, will develop a bespoke airport breakfast and takeaway menu to deliver an “all-day dining” and “onboard” experience for many of the 18 million passengers who travel through Terminal 3 each year. The new menu will follow the same small plates theme as its existing site. Spuntino is the brainchild of restaurateurs Richard Beatty and Russell Norman, the pair behind Polpo, who earlier this year signed an exclusive franchise partnership with TRG Concessions – this first project is due to open in December. The offering will consist of classic Spuntino staples alongside newly developed breakfast, children’s and takeaway menus. Key features of the new location will include a doughnut machine, a roller-skating host and a mural by Soho artist Neal Fox. Nick Ayerst, managing director of TRG Concessions, said: “After years of talks with Richard and Russell we are delighted to be working on our first collaboration with them and Heathrow. Spuntino in Terminal 3 will offer passengers an exciting new eating and drinking experience.” Spuntino managing director Scott Macdonald added: “When I travel I am always on the lookout for great-quality food and drink in the airport. Spuntino has always stood for delicious plates of comfort cooking with great drinks and proper hospitality. We are delighted to be bringing our cult restaurant to a new audience at Heathrow Terminal 3. Expect hearty breakfasts, legendary burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese, roller skates and lots of doughnuts!”

Brewhouse & Kitchen secures 22nd site: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, has confirmed the acquisition of its 22nd site. The venue will open in Southsea, Hampshire, at former pub The White Horse. Brewhouse & Kitchen co-founders Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn said: “We are delighted to have acquired this excellent pub, one which is in an amazing location with a ‘to die for’ garden. We are very excited to bring Brewhouse & Kitchen to the community in Southsea, especially as this venue comes to us with a huge amount of untapped potential. We started our journey in 2013, a short distance away in central Portsmouth, and have found the area to be very welcoming so we are looking forward to introducing our brewery and fresh food offering in the autumn.”

El Gato Negro chef patron to open Manchester’s first Portuguese restaurant: El Gato Negro chef patron Simon Shaw is to open a restaurant in Manchester city centre. Shaw has confirmed Canto will launch in September. Work started on the Ancoats restaurant as soon as the Henry Street site was secured. The new venture is set to be Manchester’s “only Portuguese restaurant”. Shaw said: “We are really excited about Canto – the venue, the location, the food – it’s all so different and will be a unique offering for Manchester. Ancoats has a great atmosphere and our location in Cutting Room Square is right in the thick of it. It’s going to be a challenge – like all new ventures are – but a fun one.”

Pizza brand Proove to open third restaurant, at former Prezzo site in Sheffield: Pizza brand Proove is to open its second restaurant in Sheffield and third in total at a former Prezzo site at Valley Centertainment leisure park. The brand will be the first independent restaurant at Valley Centertainment when it opens next month. Proove launched in Broomhill, Sheffield, in 2015 going on to open a second site in West Didsbury, Manchester. It also delivers pizzas from Deliveroo Editions Kitchen sites in Manchester and Leeds. The site, which Prezzo vacated in April, is undergoing a £150,000 refurbishment to reopen as a 170-cover restaurant featuring two pizza ovens shipped from Naples. Proove director and co-founder Deepak Jaiswal told The Star: “This is a big new chapter for us as we spread our wings into such an exciting, fast-paced destination. We’re looking forward to showcasing our product in this environment. We’re proud to be an independent brand in this amazing destination.” Thirty Nine, a luxury desserts cafe offering Italian gelato, Belgian waffles and crepes, has also signed to open a unit at Valley Centertainment. The brands will join other operators at the complex including better burger brand Five Guys, Nando’s, PizzaExpress, and The Restaurant Group-owned brands Chiquito, Coast to Coast and Frankie & Benny’s.

Giggling Squid opens Cheltenham site: Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, has opened its latest site, in Cheltenham. The 3,000 square foot venue has opened at a former Strada site in Montpellier Street. The restaurant can seat 108 guests across two floors with outdoor seating for a further 50. Thai-born owner Pranee Laurillard, who owns the business with husband Andrew, told Gloucestershire Live: “We are really excited about bringing Giggling Squid to Cheltenham and making our mark in the fantastic Montpellier district. It’s such a lovely town with so much going on and we’re really looking forward to being part of the community.” In February, Giggling Squid said it was planning eight openings for 2018 to take the group to 30 sites as it “evolves the brand”. The Cheltenham opening takes the estate to 27, while other sites are “coming soon” in Harpenden and Kingston-upon-Thames. The company, which secured a £6.4m investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015 to support its expansion plans, opened its first site in Brighton in 2009.

Peel Hunt forecasts increased losses at Escape Hunt: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Ivor Jones has forecast increased losses at escape room operator Escape Hunt – despite the announcement on Monday (23 July) that the company had secured the right to open Dr Who-themed escape rooms. Jones stated: “The Dr Who licence will allow Escape Hunt to open escape rooms based on a globally recognised brand, highly relevant to escape room customers. This is a remarkable achievement for what is still a startup and we expect the market to be relaxed about the further delay in the business achieving critical mass. We believe access to this globally recognised intellectual property (IP) will help Escape Hunt to engage key corporate customers and secure high levels of occupancy for its rooms, which are already scoring highly on TripAdvisor. While negotiating the Dr Who agreement, management had held back on opening rooms to leave space for this new content, which will launch at the end of the year. In addition, site opening has been delayed by an “extensive evaluation of set-build contractors”, which is now complete. Escape Hunt expects to have nine sites open by year-end, up from three currently. Investors in early-stage companies are accustomed to changes in business plans and forecasts. We believe this pivot in strategy will be well received despite the forecast downgrades. In shifting away from mainstream escape rooms to high-end, IP-driven entertainment, Escape Hunt addresses concerns that barriers to entry in escape rooms are low. Our own downgrades are more than usually uncertain. We expect management to continually refine the business plan based on the success of the sites as they open. This depends not only on the trading performance but on the capital cost which we expect to fall as more sites open. We have tentatively lowered our FY18E Ebitda forecast to a loss of £3m from a loss of £1.9m. It is even more unclear how FY19E will turn out. If management slows the site opening programme to evaluate site profitability, the group could make an Ebitda profit. However we anticipate success with Dr Who, which will lead to an acceleration of the site-opening programme, to greater early-stage losses and to our revised FY19E Ebitda forecast of a loss of £0.5m, down from a profit of £3.1m (based on more sites being open than now forecast). Valuation remains necessarily conceptual at this pre-profit stage but we believe the Dr Who licence should be regarded as a considerable success that could be followed by further IP deals and we reiterate our ‘Buy’ rating and 130p target price.”

Two Heads Beer Co closes crowdfunding campaign after raising £385,000 to open four stores: Independent craft beer retailer Two Heads Beer Co has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, which is led by former BrewDog head of retail acquisitions James Hickson, was offering 14.9% equity in return for investment with an initial target of £350,000 to fund the opening of four stores. In total, 346 investors pledged £385,000 and the campaign has now closed. Last month, Two Heads Beer Co made offers on outlets in Surbiton, Surrey and Herne Hill and recently said it was in “early negotiations” over a site in Gipsy Hill as it looked to add to its six-strong estate. 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. Last week the company reported a “very strong” period of trading in June and July and said it plans to introduce pizza by the slice to its sites and expand a coffee pop-up launched in Putney to other stores. 

Nottingham restaurant and leisure destination on market for £1.25m: A listed former wedding venue, restaurant and leisure destination north of Nottingham, which was constructed in 1873, has been put on the market for £1.25m. Lakeside has been brought to the market through agent Christie & Co. The grade II-listed Victorian pumping station is set in 5.88 acres and comprises a wedding suite, brasserie, gym and spa facilities, and other ancillary accommodation. A five-bedroom, grade II-listed cottage, which has been recently refurbished, is also included in the sale. Gavin Webb, senior business agent at Christie & Co, said: “Lakeside is a landmark building in Nottingham and enjoyed a strong local reputation until it closed in late 2017. The site previously had planning permission for the development of a separate 29-bedroom hotel elsewhere on the grounds and represents an excellent opportunity for the right buyer.”

Herman ze German opens fourth London site, in White City: Sausage specialist Herman ze German has opened its fourth London site, in White City. The venue has launched in The WestWorks building at White City Place 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.

Nick Nairn places Aberdeen pizza restaurant into voluntary liquidation: Nick Nairn, dubbed “Scotland’s first celebrity chef”, has placed his Aberdeen pizza restaurant into voluntary liquidation. Nick’s Pizza Bar, which Nairn launched in December 2016, has closed with immediate effect. The announcement follows the closure of Nairn’s Cook School at the end of June, which led to hopes of expanding Nairn’s pizza bar in the same listed building at Back Wynd in Aberdeen city centre. However, despite recent investment in marketing and extended opening hours the business has been considered unviable as a standalone operation. Nairn told Insider: “The business had years of success with a loyal customer base. However, the downturn in the oil and gas industry hit the economy in the north east leaving people with less money to spend on eating out. It’s with regret I’ve had to make the decision to close my business in Aberdeen where I have enjoyed having a presence. I’d like to thank everyone who has worked with us in Aberdeen and all our customers and suppliers, with whom we have had an excellent relationship.” Johnston Carmichael and Morisons Solicitors are managing the voluntary liquidation process.

German Doner Kebab and Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill have plans approved to open in adjacent Cheltenham units: German Doner Kebab and flame-grilled chicken chain Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill have had their plans to open at adjacent sites in High Street, Cheltenham, approved. German Doner Kebab applied to Cheltenham Borough Council to convert a former YMCA charity shop that would create 25 jobs when opened. Plans for the 90-cover restaurant include banquette seating, booths and a “theatre kitchen”, reports Gloucestershire Live. Launched in Berlin in 1989, the kebab specialist has expanded across the globe, with 20 restaurants in the UK and others in the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Bahrain and Oman. A further ten UK branches are marked as “coming soon” on its website, while international sites are expected to open in Canada, Egypt and the US. Meanwhile, Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill has got the go-ahead to open its 74th UK site, in a vacant unit next door. The franchised takeaway will include seating for 27 people and sell a variety of grilled piri-piri chicken products. Pepe’s Piri Piri Grill launched in London in 2004 and has a site in nearby Gloucester. Both venues hope to stay open until 1am daily.

MBG sells stake in Proof Drinks to management: MBG has sold its 40% share in Proof Drinks to management. “We are very grateful to MBG for the partnership over the past few years,” said Proof Drinks managing director James McDermott. “Both partners can take a lot of positives away from the co-operation. After growing stronger together, we at Proof Drinks will now focus more closely on our own brands, including Cazcabel tequila.” MBG chief executive Andreas W Herb added: “The offer has come at just the right time for us.” MBG’s profits from the Proof Drink share sale will be reinvested in the expansion of the UK business. MBG had held a 40% share in the London joint venture since the end of 2014. Since 2010, Proof Drinks has specialised in the import, distribution, sales and marketing of premium beverages. Its portfolio includes not only third-party brands but also the company’s own tequila brand Cazcabel. Proof Drinks had also marketed MBG brands Scavi & Ray, Salitos and Goldberg in Great Britain since 2015. MBG will continue to sell all its brands in Great Britain as well as marketing Cazcabel in Germany until further notice. The Cazcabel range includes the Blanco Silver Edition, a classic tequila, as well as honey tequila and coffee tequila variants. The range was extended in 2016 to include Cazcabel Reposado, a fine tequila rested in oak barrels.

Manorview becomes first hotel company to adopt Trail: Manorview Hotels & Leisure Group has become the first UK hotel chain to adopt Trail, a smart daily checklist app that helps service businesses run efficient operations. “We are delighted to have Manorview Hotels & Leisure Group join our growing list of brands that are successfully scaling with Trail,” said Trail managing director Joe Cripps. “It’s great to see the group already experiencing savings, streamlined processes and improved team engagement so they can produce even better customer experiences.” The system operates via an online app designed to guide teams through their day with repeat processes and automated integrations. It is built to cover all operations, from finance to compliance. Manorview Hotels & Leisure Group was founded in 2007 when Glasgow-based Steve Graham bought The Commercial Hotel in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. The company has grown to encompass eight venues, three pubs and two nightclubs.

Zonal makes the grade as top 20 highest-performing learning provider: Zonal, the leading technology provider to the hospitality sector, has been granted elite status by the Learning & Performance Institute (LPI). The technology company has been acknowledged as one of the top 20 learning providers from a pool of more than 100 training specialists. Craig Hamill, Zonal’s head of learning and development, said: “We invest and place the utmost importance on offering the highest-quality training to our customers and staff so this is a huge honour.” To achieve the recognition, Zonal had to demonstrate it provides customers with the best learning solutions and services possible. It also had to undergo an independent annual accreditation process. LPI chief executive Edmund Monk said: “Zonal has a clear roadmap by which to build its capability and adapt its strategy for continual success. It has shown a strong customer value proposition and a focus on learning and development, which instils confidence.” Zonal’s team of 14 trainers provide more than 11,500 hours of training courses every year. The company has also developed a suite of e-learning modules tailored to meet individual client requirements. Zonal was recently crowned supreme champion at the annual Family Business of the Year Awards and is a top 500 best-performing Scottish company.

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