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Wed 22nd Aug 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Flour Pot Bakery reveals 'numerous' investment approaches, launches cafe/restaurant model for sixth site: Brighton and Hove-based artisan bakehouse Flour Pot Bakery has revealed it has received "numerous" investment approaches and is considering crowdfunding as it gears up for its next stage of growth. The company has also just opened its sixth site – The Flour Pot Kitchen, which as a licensed cafe/restaurant model is a new twist on the company’s bakery coffee shops. Founder Oli Hyde told Propel: “We will continue to reinvest in the growth of The Flour Pot and remain selective about the type of external investment we seek out along the way. We have had numerous approaches from people and businesses interested in investment, but have decided to take an ‘invitation-only’ approach to ensure our integrity and culture are maintained in the way we operate as a company. As part of this, we are committed to creating new exciting investment opportunities. One of these is utilising the opportunities that crowdfunding can bring for more projects that we have been asked to consider in the near future." The Flour Pot Kitchen is nestled in the newly developed Victorian esplanade next to the i360 Tower. Like its bakery coffee shops, it serves handcrafted bread, breakfast items and pastries, all produced in its bakery in Fishersgate. This offer is then complimented from lunchtime by its new model that offers made to order sourdough pizzas and a seasonal range of '"hot skillets" served alongside a small curated selection of organic wine, beer, gin and vodka. Hyde said: "Future plans for the Flour Pot include more of our residential area bakery and coffee shops as well as licensed cafes/restaurants in towns and cities across the south of England. We knew we had a sustainable business model from the beginning. With strategic partnerships in place across the sector, we are now sourcing and roasting our ‘own-brand’ speciality coffee It completes the picture, so to speak, as we look to develop our coffee further through our existing retail and wholesale business. We have also just agreed terms on our first Flour Pot Espresso/sandwich bar and look forward to seeking out more prime sites for this ‘grab and go’ model. We have now built our production kitchen and bakery. This provides us with the capacity to scale up our wholesale, retail and licensed cafe presence while remaining fully vertically integrated. We have also developed a cost effective model for expansion that will continue to enable us to remain authentically local and artisanal."

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Morar to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is now open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel, St Paul's, London. Martin Dinkele, deputy managing director of Morar HPI, will look at the factors and attributes that drive higher or lower NPS score, how these scores vary across different foodservice segments such as coffee shops and restaurants – and will examine the levers businesses can pull to boost their NPS scores. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Hospitality bucks national trend as vacancies rise but salaries fall: Job vacancies in the hospitality and catering sector have risen 59% in the past two months, to 63,502, according to new research. The findings by job search engine Adzuna also showed salaries were down 1.1% compared with last year, currently sitting at £22,380. The number of jobs being advertised in the sector is up 21% year-on-year. These are running counter to the overall UK trend, where there had been a 3.2% increase in national salary year-on-year and a 1.1% decline in vacancies. As of this month, KFC had the most vacancies in the sector (2,257) followed by Pizza Hut (1,344), Mitchells & Butlers (761) and JD Wetherspoon (711). Adzuna said skills shortages for chefs and other specialist positions were being felt across the industry. The research found London was the easiest region to find a job, whereas Northern Ireland was the hardest. Salford has the lowest average advertised salary for hospitality and catering workers, at £19,220. Report author Iain Moss said: "A skills shortage is contributing to the number of vacancies as restaurants and takeaways complain about a lack of trained chefs. Head chefs are one of the few job types that are actually seeing a rise in advertised salaries as restaurants compete for top talent. There may be more evidence that people are moving from lager to lattes, as the number of vacancies for bar staff is down 8% year-on-year, while vacancies for baristas are up 39.4%. A number of large restaurant chains including Prezzo, Jamie’s Italian and Byron are closing branches, with rising minimum wages, and a weak pound being among the reasons cited. Competition of jobs is at a five-year low so labour costs are expected to go up as businesses try to attract and retain staff."

William Sitwell launches London supper club, Lupins owners first to feature: Restaurant critic and food writer William Sitwell is launching a London supper club next month as he looks to showcase smaller restaurants and up-and-coming chefs. The first event takes place on Wednesday, 26 September at furniture and homes brand Oka in Chelsea, in conjunction with Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke, the owners of London Bridge restaurant Lupins. Sitwell’s Supper Club in London is being launched following the success of his country supper clubs, hosted regularly at his country home in Northamptonshire since 2017, where Pedder and Cooke first came to collaborate with Sitwell. Lupins opened in Flat Iron Square in May 2017 with Pedder and Cooke, formerly of Medlar and Cross Keys in Chelsea, aiming to conjure up their innovative concept of what they call "sunshine food" using seasonal British ingredients. Sitwell said: "I started my supper club in the English countryside to allow people who didn’t live in London to still enjoy exceptional food cooked by the capital’s best chefs. It was a huge success. Now I’ll be bringing the best chefs from out of London into the capital as well as showcasing smaller restaurants and up-and-coming talent who I think deserve a wider audience. Natasha and Lucy are perfect examples of this. Wonderful chefs who I think have a great future."

Michelin to reveal new stars on 1 October with 'multi-sensory experience' event: The new Michelin stars for 2019 in Great Britain and Ireland will be revealed at a live event on Monday, 1 October. The ceremony will take place at the BFI IMAX cinema in Waterloo as part of a "multi-sensory experience as the theme of gastronomy and cinema is explored". Rebecca Burr, director of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland, said: "The selection is set to be very strong this year – a real endorsement of the ever-evolving culinary scene of Great Britain and Ireland. We’re proud of the Michelin Guide’s rich heritage, but we are also proud that it is more relevant than ever." Last year, there was one new three Michelin-starred restaurant – The Araki in Mayfair. Claude Bosi at Bibendum in Chelsea received two stars while there were 16 new one Michelin-starred restaurants. This year's announcement will be the first since the departure of Michelin international director Michael Ellis, who steps down next month to join Dubai-based luxury hotel brand Jumeirah.

Company News:

Trade and expense creditors of Gloucestershire brewer owed £217,000 'unlikely to receive single penny': The trade and expense creditors of a Gloucestershire brewer formed by the merger of two businesses and that subsequently slipped into administration are unlikely to receive a single penny, a new report has revealed. Combined Brewers, which was formed in 2014 when Cotswold Spring Co merged with Severn Vale Brewing, ceased trading in May last year following increased competition. The business was sold to a local drinks supplier for £50,000. Trade and expense creditors are owed £216,610.90, including HM Revenue & Customs, which is owed more than £60,000. However, the latest administrators progress report filed at Companies House said based on current information there would be “insufficient funds available” to pay a dividend. The report also showed secured creditor HSBC, which is owed £28,075.43, is also unlikely to receive any payment. Based on the realisations from the sale and costs incurred in going to court after HSBC initially failed to agree the administrator's remuneration rate, the report said it was "unlikely there will be any funds available to the secured creditor after a distribution is made to the preferential creditors". The report showed the court costs were more than £5,000. The report stated: "A hearing was scheduled for the 4 July 2018 in which the fees and extension would be requested, however in the hours leading up to the hearing a verbal confirmation of the administrator's fee was agreed by HSBC. Consequently, only the extension was sought at the hearing, which was agreed for a period of six months. Costs were incurred in dealing with this application including solicitor's fees and counsel fees." A preferential claim has been received from the Redundancy Payments Office amounting to £5,478.41 while a number of employees are due outstanding wages and holiday pay. The report said there would be "sufficient monies available" to pay a dividend but the amount was dependent upon any final expenses to be paid from the administration. 

Goodbody – we expect The Restaurant Group to show evidence of turnaround in like-for-like sales momentum: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said he expects The Restaurant Group to show evidence of a turnaround in like-for-like sales momentum for the second half of the year and the share valuation remains "attractive". Issuing a 'Buy' note on the shares with a target price of 360p ahead of the company's first-half results next Friday (31 August), Ruddy said: "The first half of 2018 is a story of weather extremes with several periods of snow in the first quarter and very hot weather in the latter half of the second quarter, which will have had an impact on trading. The World Cup would also have provided a headwind for restaurants across the UK. However, we are encouraged by both the openings and format conversions in The Restaurant Group, which are running ahead of our expectations. The Restaurant Group reported like-for-likes of -4.3% for the first 20 weeks of the first half but noted this had recovered to -1.8% in the first seven weeks of quarter two (implying quarter one was circa -5.5%). Coffer Peach data would suggest restaurant/food like-for-likes deteriorated in May and June owing to the hot weather so second quarter trading is likely to have softened in the final six weeks of the period. We forecast first-half like-for-likes of -3.0% but combining the above we suspect this could be slightly behind our forecast. Given the vast majority of this impact is weather related we see this as a short-term impact. Trading on 11.8 times FY19 price-to-earnings ratio and 5.7 times EV/Ebitda, The Restaurant Group is trading at the bottom end of the wider peer group valuation. At the current share price we estimate the leisure division is trading on less than three times Ebitda, implying the market is expecting downgrades. We retain our 'Buy' recommendation and 360p target price and believe we will see evidence of a turnaround in like-for-like momentum in the second half, which will be well received."

BrewDog opens US craft beer hotel: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its craft beer hotel, the DogHouse, on the site of its US brewery in Columbus, Ohio. The DogHouse is the world’s first hotel to offer guests a night’s stay inside a brewery. Guests are able to watch the brewers at work from rooms overlooking the brewing facility. The 32-room DogHouse features beer taps in each room and a built-in shower beer fridge. The front desk has been replaced with a lobby bartender who will check guests in while they enjoy a complimentary beer. In addition, BrewDog USA has also unveiled its on-site, interactive beer museum. This 6,000 square foot space provides a journey through the brewing process and dives into the history of craft beer. BrewDog first announced plans for the DogHouse in March 2017, with a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising $75,000. It went on to secure more than $300,000. In addition to the hotel, BrewDog is expanding its brewery to include an all-new, sour beer facility set to open in late 2018. Construction is currently underway for BrewDog’s second DogHouse hotel at the brewery’s headquarters in Ellon, Scotland, and is scheduled to open in 2019. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “For many beer fans, the idea of a beer hotel was just a pipe-dream. Thanks to the backing of our global community of beer evangelists, we’ve been hard at work to make that dream a reality."

Inception Group to open fifth Mr Fogg's site, in The Strand: Bar and nightclub operator Inception Group is to open a fifth site for its Mr Fogg’s Collection brand, in The Strand this autumn. The company will launch Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration in Bedford Street, which will take guests on a journey inspired by Around The World in 80 Days. The walls will be adorned with portraits of Mr Fogg’s fellow fearless pioneers and their intrepid tales will be depicted and narrated at regular society meetings. The downstairs Map Room will house a collection of both antique and modern-day maps, host regular evening events with a resident explorer, and also offer global drinking adventures, from cocktail masterclasses to spirit safaris. A place for experiments and innovation, Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration will even give drinkers the chance to participate in the making of their drinks by pressing a button to trigger a chain reaction in a mechanical machine inspired by famous inventor Rube Goldberg. Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration will join the brand's other venues – Mr Fogg’s Residence, Tavern, Gin Parlour and House of Botanicals. Charlie Gilkes, who founded Inception Group with Duncan Stirling in 2009, said: “It’s been five years since we opened our first Mr Fogg’s. We’re thrilled to add a fifth venue to the collection and look forward to welcoming anyone with a love of travel, cocktails, or both to The Society of Exploration!”

Moo Grill co-founder launches Argentinian-inspired restaurant in Aldgate: Moo Grill co-founder Jose de Alzaa has opened a new Argentinian-inspired restaurant in Aldgate, City of London. Jose de Alzaa has teamed up with brother Juan Pablo and their cousin Ricardo to launch Bife on the former Moo Cantina site in Middlesex Street. At the heart of the menu is prime Argentinian beef, cooked on a charcoal grill. Bife also serves a variety of cuts of meat from around the world, alongside traditional Argentinian specialities and vegetarian and vegan dishes. The wine list is drawn predominantly from Argentina, with a strong focus on Malbec and Malbec blends, as well as a selection of hand-picked wines from both old and new worlds. Bife also has a dedicated gin and tonic menu, offering 16 gins each served with a speciality tonic. The restaurant, which has been decorated in "rich jewel colours", has an open kitchen and the custom-made charcoal grill as focal points. Jose de Alzaa said: “Bife is more than a steakhouse; we want to showcase ‘Argentina’s best’ to as many people as possible. Our dream is to see students and tourists sitting alongside City workers and locals, discovering the best food and wine of Argentina, whatever their budget.” Jose de Alzaa launched Moo Grill with Alberto Abbate in 2010 in Cobb Street before opening the Middlesex Street site in 2012. They then launched a gastro-pub in Pimlico a year later.

Caprice Holdings to launch Harry's Bar in October: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, is to open a new all day dining destination in central London this October. The company is launching Harry’s Bar at the St Christopher's Place development in James Street, which will be a sister site to Harry’s Dolce Vita in Knightsbridge. The new restaurant and outdoor terrace will be able to seat up to 150 guests. The menu will feature Italian dishes as well as a weekend brunch. A special Cicchetti menu – small plates traditionally served in Venetian Bacari bars – will also be available. The bar will serve Italian wines and cocktails with a twist. Harry's Bar will feature luxurious banquettes and artwork that nods to mid-century Italian glamour, inspired by its namesake, the Mayfair private members’ club that opened in South Audley Street in the 1970s. Caprice Holdings launched premium casual concept Harry’s Dolce Vita in late December 2017 offering seasonal Italian plates and “all the elegance and glamour of 1950s Italy”. 

Be At One opens first site under Stonegate ownership, in Chelmsford: Cocktail bar brand Be At One has opened its first Essex site, in Chelmsford – the first launch since the company was bought by Stonegate last month. The bar has opened in the former Escedra late-night venue, which was owned by The Only Way Is Essex star James Lock. The 4,000 square foot property has undergone an extensive £500,000 refurbishment having been acquired in May. Managing director Andrew Stones said: “We’ve been looking to launch a bar in Chelmsford for a number of years and the fact it aligns with us becoming part of Stonegate, and the many benefits that brings, is incredibly exciting.” Helen Charlesworth, managing director for Branded Bars & Venues at Stonegate Pub Company, added: “It has been a delight to welcome the Be At One team into that of Stonegate. The Chelmsford launch is just another example of the success and brilliance of the brand and we very much look forward to fuelling its future growth and bringing its cocktails to more towns and cities across the UK."

North east-based fish restaurant Bells to open fourth site following £1.5m investment: North east-based fish restaurant Bells is set to open its fourth city in the city following a £1.5m investment. The family-run business, which has been running for a total of 60 years, is set to open in Finchale Road in Framwellgate Moor. Owner Graham Kennedy, who has been in the industry alongside his wife Alleson for 32 years, has invested in the transformation of a former derelict car showroom into a 9,000 square foot restaurant, takeaway and preparation centre. Kennedy told BDaily: “Over the past six years we have invested our time and funds into a strategic expansion drive across the region. This project is an exciting step for the business as we continue to grow the Bells brand." The restaurant will add to operations in Market Square in Durham’s city centre; Sunderland Road, Gilesgate; and Craggs Road, Washington.

Fourth acquires digital people solutions company Octane: Hospitality software company Fourth has acquired digital people solutions company Octane, to help its customers save time and money spent on recruitment and onboarding. The collaboration will completely digitise the entire people and talent management process, while ensuring right to work compliance. The streamlined platform automates lengthy manual employment processes, such as communicating with prospective candidates, sharing notes from interviews, filtering the best candidates and arranging interviews. It also ensures all required documentation is present and correct, and managers complete all steps required by following a customisable approval workflow. This addition extends the Fourth platform to provide complete management of the employee lifecycle – from recruitment, onboarding, HR and scheduling, to employee engagement and payroll. Chief executive Ben Hood said: “Identifying and attracting quality talent is one of the biggest challenges our industry faces. This new streamlined system will provide complete end-to-end management and transparency of the recruitment process, saving businesses vital time and money.” Octane chief executive Nick Meads added: “We’re excited to be joining the Fourth family to help the industry tackle the recruitment and employment challenge it faces. Extenuating circumstances, such as Brexit, are exacerbating this issue and businesses need a streamlined system to help integrate the employment journey from applicant to employee.” All candidate data is owned and securely held by the customer and is inaccessible to competitors. Access to the system is gained via a single sign on identification process, removing the need for multiple passwords.

Cheltenham-based Anglo-Indian restaurant launches crowdfunding campaign to open gin and tea bar: Cheltenham-based Anglo-Indian restaurant East India Cafe has launched a crowdfunding campaign to open a gin and tea bar in the Gloucestershire town. The company is aiming to raise £55,000 on Kickstarter to launch Memsahib Gin & Tea Bar, offering house-distilled gin, afternoon Chai tea and light snacks. Co-owner Litu Mohiuddin said: “Our customers at East India Cafe love our idea of mixing gin and tea together, so it’s a dream come true that we are taking the next step and opening our very own gin and tea bar.” As well as serving 55 gins sourced from across the world, the Memsahib Gin & Tea Bar will also offer its very own distilled gin and a range of teas and spices, which will be paired with East India Cafe's Anglo-Indian food. The gin and tea bar will have an interior based upon the British Raj period, a time in which many Anglo-Indian women came and settled in Cheltenham.
Former Manorview Hotels group executive chef opens Italian restaurant in Glasgow: Former Manorview Hotels group executive chef Peppe Staiano has opened a restaurant offering regional Italian cuisine in Glasgow. Staiano has launched Dimora, which is Italian for "home", in Ayr Road, Newton Mearns. Dimora’s menu features freshly baked breads and patisseries together with homemade pizzas and pastas – including Staiano own scialatielle Sorrento pasta with wild mushroom, king prawns and truffle oil. Born in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast in the south of Italy, Staiano is a member of The Federation of Italian Chefs. He said: “Many Scots holiday on the Amalfi coast and relish the food and drink on offer there, so I am convinced there is a market for authentic fresh Neapolitan cuisine in Glasgow. I’m proud of my culinary heritage and my aim for Dimora is to offer Scots a real taste of the south of Italy in a restaurant where Italians themselves would eat.”

Le Bab team to launch Covent Garden kebab concept for second London site next month: Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet, who launched kebab concept Le Bab in Soho two years ago, are to open a second London restaurant, this time in Covent Garden. Maison Bab will take “kebabs to the next level” when it opens in the new Mercers Walk development in Seven Dials on Monday, 17 September. The restaurant is a collaboration with Manu Canales Garces, a former sous chef at Le Gavroche, who will head the kitchen. He has devised a menu featuring six handmade kebabs served with house-made sourdough flatbread. There will also be mezze dishes, sides and desserts. Maison Bab will offer 45 covers at ground level, with a further 30 seats in the basement, which is also available for private hire. There will also be a “hidden” ten-seater chef’s table – Kebab Queen. The drinks list will include cocktails, fine wine by the glass and London craft beer. Tozer said: “Maison Bab represents a completely new concept for us. We love Le Bab, and wouldn’t change it for the world. But at Maison Bab we’ll be offering something punchier, bolder, and more surprising. We’ve been developing this concept for almost two years now, so we’re incredibly excited to unveil what we’ve been working on.”

New World Trading Company confirms The Botanist opening in Cheltenham: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group New World Trading Company has confirmed it will bring its The Botanist brand to Cheltenham. The company has secured a 6,500 square foot site in The Brewery Quarter leisure complex in the town centre, with the restaurant and bar set to open later this year. New World Trading Company chief executive Chris Hill said: “Cheltenham is a fantastic location for us to open, and The Brewery Quarter felt a natural choice.” Nikki Kontarines, asset manager for Martin Commercial Properties, which manages the scheme, said: “The Botanist is a fantastic signing for The Brewery Quarter, as the scheme continues to go from strength to strength. The Botanist is renowned for its spectacular interiors and lively atmospheres, and we can’t wait to see the end result.” New World Trading Company, which also operates The Florist, The Oast House, The Trading House and The Canal House, was acquired by Graphite Capital for £50m in June 2016. It currently operates 15 sites for The Botanist.

Former Natoora director to launch pizzeria concept in Clapham next month: Vittorio Maschio, a former director of fruit and vegetable store Natoora, is to launch pizzeria concept Manifesto in Clapham, south west London, next month. The 30-cover restaurant will open in Northcote Road on Saturday, 1 September 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. Manifesto’s simple menu will feature six pizzas plus one “gourmet special” per week. 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.

Hotel operators buy Somerset pub for second site: Hotel operators Peter Welling and Yvonne Mulvihill have acquired a pub in Somerset for their second site. The husband-and-wife team have bought The Blackbird Inn in Wellington, off a guide price of £350,000, from Keirsten Anderson through agents Christie & Co. The grade II-listed property dates to 1773 and comprises the Blackbird Restaurant and adjoining bar with seating for more than 100 covers altogether, six en-suite letting bedrooms and a beer garden. Welling and Mulvihill plan to improve the property considerably over the coming months, enhancing and increasing the number of en-suite rooms, as well as improving the bar and dining areas. Welling and Mulvihill also own the County Hotel in Haverfordwest, which they purchased through Christie & Co in 2016 and trades "very well".

Chester-based boutique hotel operator acquires third site in seven-figure deal: Chester-based boutique hotel operator Boutique Hotel Group has acquired its third site. The company has bought the Inglewood Manor Hotel near Chester for an undisclosed seven-figure sum. The site is known for hosting weddings. Managing director Christopher Naylor told Insider Media: "Inglewood Manor represents the next step for Boutique Hotel Group's growth plans and we are honoured and excited to take control of this wonderful building. My family and I have over the previous 12 years developed a business model that we believe Inglewood Manor intrinsically fits." Lambert Smith Hampton advised on the off-market deal. In 2007, Boutique Hotel Group purchased the then-rundown Peckforton Castle in Cheshire and has since established the hotel as a luxurious wedding and events venue. In 2015, the company bought the grade I-listed Nunsmere Hall in Oakmere out of administration and has since built up the events side of the business.

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