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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 24th Aug 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King launches industry's first compostable straw solution: Brewer and retailer Greene King will introduce compostable PLA straws across its entire UK estate of 1,750 pubs as part of its pledge to send zero waste to landfill by 2020. This will remove more than 30 million plastic straws from use every year. This announcement follows a move earlier this year where Greene King removed its recyclable plastic straws from the bar and only served them on demand, which has seen as 60% reduction in the use of straws. Thought to be the first of its kind in the hospitality industry, Greene King has worked with its waste partner SWRnewstar to find the unique closed-loop solution whereby its PLA straws are segregated in the pub, taken back through its supply chain and decomposed in an "in vessel composter" at a commercial composting facility. PLA, which is made from plant-based materials such as sugar cane and corn starch, decomposes naturally in a controlled composting environment in as little as 12 weeks, using the same micro-organisms that decompose organic materials. The decomposed straws will be recycled into nutrient-rich soil, which can be used to fertilise plants and crops. Greg Sage, Greene King communications director, said: “We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and reducing single use plastics in our business. At the beginning of the year we removed our recyclable straws from the bar and provided them only on demand, which saw a 60% reduction, while we looked at a more sustainable alternative. We have taken the time to listen to our customers as we know how important this issue is. Our closed-loop solution will ensure all PLA straws are correctly disposed of and decomposed into nutrient-rich soil, providing peace of mind for our customers who like the choice of a straw with their drink.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Matt Snell 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. Matt Snell, managing director of 19-strong Gusto, backed by Palatine Private Equity, will talk about how Gusto has created its own position in the Italian market with a focus on food quality, service and staff training. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Sticks 'n' Sushi group chief operating officer Andreas Karlsson to feature in latest video for Premium subscribers: Sticks 'n' Sushi group chief operating officer Andreas Karlsson will feature in the latest 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which is sent out on Friday (23 August). Karlsson talks about expanding the business from its Copenhagen roots to the UK, what he has learnt, and the progress the brand has made since. Premium subscribers now receive weekly video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences – they have included sector investor Luke Johnson, Ceviche founder Martin Morales, City Pub Company founder Clive Watson, brand strategist Ian Dunstall, Chozen Noodle chief executive Matthew Kirby, Coaching Inn Group founder Kevin Charity, consultant James Hacon and Imbiba partner Darrel Connell. 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.

JD Wetherspoon's new site at St Pancras International will be non-branded: JD Wetherspoon's planned new 6,500 square foot pub at St Pancras International Station will be a "non-branded and bespoke" venue. The ground-level pub, which will be called The Barrel Vault, is part of a £2m development that will create 60 jobs and seat 270 people plus standing room and a terrace. Panayiotis Themistocli, of agent AG&G, which acted for JD Wetherspoon on the site, said: “JD Wetherspoon has a very strong track record of trading successful pubs within transport hubs within many railway stations and airports nationwide. We firmly believe JD Wetherspoon’s bespoke (non-branded) ‘Barrel Vault’ operation will really enhance the existing food and beverage offering within St Pancras Station." The landlord of St Pancras International advised AG&G it was seeking a wet-led operator for the station on the basis it had agreed to relocate an existing food store retailer to make way for the new 6,500 square foot pub. The unit has a lengthy glazed frontage along Pancras Road and lies directly opposite YouTube's London headquarters. An outdoor area is also proposed facing on to Pancras Road.

Costa Coffee launches initiative to battle loneliness at 300 stores: Whitbread's Costa Coffee brand is rolling out a new initiative, Chatty Cafe, to 300 sites. The coffee brand did some research and found 63% of people are hesitant to start a conversation with someone they don’t know, but 75% say they’d like more human interaction. Costa is the first coffee chain to launch the tables in multiple stores. The tables will be rolled out in more than 300 branches nationwide, all with the goal of battling loneliness and getting the nation talking again. Victoria Moorhouse, head of community and sustainability at Costa Coffee, said: "It is clear from our research that although we appear to be talking less as a nation, there’s a real desire for people to actually have more face-to-face conversations around the country. We need to talk about loneliness. Our coffee shops have always played an important role within communities; acting as a hub for people to meet, spend time together and, most importantly, talk. With loneliness and social isolation on the rise, feeling part of a community is more important than ever."

UKHospitality responds to 'no-deal' technical notices: UKHospitality has argued the publication by the government of the first set of "no-deal" Brexit technical notices provide only a "small measure" of reassurance. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “A no-deal Brexit would cause serious problems for many UK businesses, not least of all the hospitality sector. These initial announcements will provide some small measure of reassurance, but we need to see the rest of the proposals and a great deal more detail on how the government proposes to mitigate the impacts of a no-deal exit. There are still major concerns about food and drink imports upon which hospitality businesses rely to a large degree and we still need substantially more clarity on the exact terms for current EU citizens as well as an idea of what the future immigration system will look like. We will be looking forward to the future publications for more certainty and detail and, hopefully, proactive plans for the support of the hospitality sector in any Brexit scenario.” 

Company News:

Arc Inspirations founder – minimum and living wage took £700,000 off our bottom line last year: The founder of award-winning Leeds-based bar and restaurant company Arc Inspirations has reported the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage took £700,000 off the company's bottom line last year. Writing in this week's Propel Friday Opinion about the changes the sector has witnessed during his two decades in business, Martin Wolstencroft stated: "The lack of government support for our sector is quite staggering. Escalating business costs have a very real impact on our profitability and the continued ability for us to invest. As a business, last year’s increases to the national minimum and living wages took about £700,000 off our bottom line. Of course, we want to pay our team members a fair wage and are committed to developing them as individuals during their time with us, but these recurrent increases – along with hikes to business rates and other input costs – hamper growth and investment. The government must listen more closely to business." Wolstencroft also said competition was more intense now than he can ever recall in his "many years" in the sector. He added: "The markets we operate in are particularly competitive but again it pushes us forward as a business and means we strive to be the best in our chosen markets. We invest a significant amount of time and money each year in our sites to maintain their appearance, atmosphere, product offerings and enhance the overall customer experience. This means our bars remain fresh and appealing to consumers." Propel Friday Opinion will be published at 11am.

Loch Fyne signs deal with Dobbies garden centres: Loch Fyne counters are planned for Dobbies garden centres across the UK after a partnership was agreed between the seafood company and the garden centre operator. The first counter has been launched at the Dobbies store in Livingston, West Lothian, with additional sites planned in the coming months. Fresh seafood will be regularly delivered to each store and staff, specially trained at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and delicatessen in Argyll, will be on hand to advise customers about the products on offer. Loch Fyne Oysters managing director Cameron Brown said: “Dobbies customers can now go home with smoked salmon or fresh oysters knowing that exactly the same products are being served to diners in the finest hotels in the world."

Darwin & Wallace secures seventh site: Darwin & Wallace, the independent neighbourhood bar group backed by Imbiba, has secured its seventh location, a site in Ealing, west London. The new venue, situated in Dickens Yard, adds to the group’s portfolio in Chelsea, Clapham, Richmond, Chiswick, Battersea and Wimbledon. Mel Marriott, Darwin & Wallace managing director, said; "We have long held the desire to be part of the 'London village' that Ealing is. Finding this superbly located, standalone, building within the Dickens Yard development has given us the most amazing blank canvas on which to layer on our own interpretation of what a modern pub can be, unique to its location.” The site’s design will be resonant of an urban, European loft apartment, featuring lounge seating, oak sharing tables and huge lamps.

Soho Coffee Co extends customisation at new opening: Artisan coffee chain Soho Coffee Co has opened a new store in Bedford Street in London, showcasing a new extended customised hot food range. Building on the brand’s success with customised hot breakfasts, Soho has taken customisation a step further at the Bedford Street outlet, where customers can mix and match breads, fillings and sauces to create their own breakfast and lunch options. The store is also trialling a range of kombucha, "reinforcing Soho Coffee Co’s credibility as a fifth wave artisan brand", the company argued. Managing director Penny Manuel said: “We’re really excited to be able to offer our customers the choice we know they want. Our core belief is eating on the go shouldn’t mean compromising on quality or choice. For those that don’t have the time to stop and relax we have the perfect ‘big eat’, made just the way you like it. Listening to customers is paramount for success – we’re quietly confident our extended range will hit the spot."

Papa John's founder launches own website in battle with board: Former Papa John’s International chief executive and chairman John Schnatter, who founded the company, is promoting a new website to communicate directly with company employees and shareholders. Schnatter resigned as chairman of the pizza company in July after reports of his use of a racial slur, but he later called that resignation "a mistake". He set up the SavePapaJohns website and promoted it in a full-page advert in his home town's newspaper, the Louisville Courier Journal. Previously, the Papa John’s founder, who still owns about 30% of the publicly traded company’s shares, resigned as chief executive after he sparked controversy during a Papa John’s conference call in November when he blamed the chain’s decline in sales on the National Football League not quelling players’ on-field protests. Schnatter, however, said earlier this month he was “not going away”, and the new website bolsters that claim. “The board wants to silence me,” he said on the website. “So this is my website, and my way to talk to you.” Activist investors have included such websites in their strategies when developing previous attacks on restaurant companies. 

JD Wetherspoon blocked in move to add fifth gaming machine at Birmingham pub: A JD Wetherspoon pub in Birmingham has been refused a fifth gaming machine in one of its pubs over fears it would be too enticing for gambling addicts. Birmingham City Council's licensing sub committee said one more gaming machine at Arthur Robertson, based at the One Stop Shopping Centre in Perry Barr, may be "one too many" for the family venue. The company can now either abandon the application or contest the decision at a public hearing in the near future. Committee member Cllr Neil Eustace spoke against the installation of the machine, which would have had a maximum stake of £1 and maximum winnings of £100. He said: "I am not happy with it. Too many are being put into these places and they are ending up becoming amusement arcades with drink licences. You walk into them and I don't know how people with epilepsy cope. I know people addicted to playing these things – they try and sit in a pub where they are away from them but they are everywhere." Cllr Eustace added while JD Wetherspoon had tried to account for preventing under-age sales in its paperwork, it had not addressed vulnerable people susceptible to gambling, reports Birmingham Live.

Primeur duo to open bakery restaurant in Newington Green for third site: Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell, who are behind Primeur in Stoke Newington and Westerns Laundry in Lower Holloway, are to open their third site. The duo have teamed up with farmer Andy Cato to launch bakery restaurant Jolene in Newington Green next month. Everything will be made from scratch daily with Cato's grains milled into flour to use for breads, pastries and fresh pastas. As at Westerns Laundry and Primeur, a daily changing menu will be chalked up on a blackboard. The drinks list will feature a small selection of white, red and sparkling wine as well as beer, cider and cocktails alongside a daily fresh juice and in-house fermented drinks. Overlooking Newington Green, the interiors at Jolene will be "simple, raw and earthy". There will be two big sharing tables in the middle of the room, with counter dining seats overlooking the kitchen and bakery. Eight smaller tables give a view of the stripped-back front terrace. Cometto-Lingenheim said: “We have decided to open a bakery restaurant that revolves around and relies on the grains rather than it just being another ingredient. Our approach at Primeur and Westerns Laundry has always been attuned to the need for sourcing well-farmed produce ethically grown with soil fertility in mind and tended with care. We’re bringing the same values and narrative to Jolene, this time with breads baked with Andy’s incredible grains and inspired by his passion for sustainable, efficient and sensical farming methods.”

Ei Group pub receives multiple offers of more than £1m: Acting on behalf of Ei Group, agent AG&G has sold the freehold of the Slaters Arms to a private buyer. Located less than one kilometre from Romford town centre and railway station, which will provide access to Crossrail services shortly, the property generated strong interest with ten unconditional offers received, most of which were more than £1m. The property, which has a total site area of just under one-third of an acre, was subsequently sold off a guide price of offers in excess of £1m. The new owner plans to seek planning permission for a mixed-use scheme.

East Midlands-based Staton Young (Bars) secures third site: East Midlands-based Staton Young (Bars) has secured its third site. The company has acquired the lease of the former Filthy’s Bar and Club in the Lace Market in Nottingham. The new bar in Weekday Cross is expected to open before Christmas following the deal brokered by FHP Property Consultants and Box Property. Staton Young (Bars) also operates Gas Light in Derby as well as Alto in partnership with ex-boxer Carl Froch at the former Saltwater bar in The Cornerhouse in Nottingham. FHP Property Consultants surveyor Darran Severn told The Business Desk: “I originally met Staton Young (Bars) a couple of years ago, when I let the company its first leisure premises in Derby. This has been trading very well as Gas Light Derby and consequently it asked us to find a similar opportunity in Nottingham. The Lace Market is a great location for its brand.”

Supper club Little Kolkata to open permanent site in Covent Garden next month: The team behind supper club Little Kolkata is to open a permanent restaurant in Covent Garden next month. The venue will launch in Shelton Street on Monday, 17 September offering an extended menu, cocktails using traditional spices and ingredients, and themed evenings. Founded by Prabir Chattopadhyay and Biswajit Deb Das, Little Kolkata offers authentic Bengali cuisine inspired by Calcutta and Bangladesh. The menu maintains the communal and familial nature of the supper clubs, featuring sharing plates such as cod fish cutlet with mustard sauce alongside speciality dishes such as chicken liver sautéed with spice and fresh chillies. Desserts will include cardamom coffee brownie with rose ice cream inspired by Flury’s Swiss patisserie in Calcutta. Cocktails will include saffron spritz and jasmine vodka. Created by French designer Meddhi Larouci, the interiors at Little Kolkata will honour the traditional and modern sides of Calcutta, while a private dining room will be available for hire.

KRO Hospitality to open luxury hotel in Manchester's Peter Street: A new luxury hotel from KRO Hospitality is set to open in Manchester’s Peter Street. KRO Hospitality, which owns and operates Velvet Hotel & Bar and Mr White’s English Chophouse, is in the development stages of a high-end hotel. KRO Hospitality purchased the freehold for 47 Peter Street, which is currently home to Asha’s Indian restaurant and will transform the upper floors of the building into a new luxury hotel. The hotel, which will focus on “luxury and outstanding service”, will have 45 rooms, including "some of the largest and most extravagant suites in Manchester". KRO Hospitality has operated several Intercontinental Hotels Group properties and is behind luxury brands including The Light Aparthotel, Velvet Hotel & Bar and La Reserve Aparthotel. Planning application for KRO Hospitality’s latest venture will be submitted this month with work expected to start in late 2018 or early 2019. Kim Eivind Krohn, owner of KRO Hospitality, said: “We are thrilled about our latest venture to create a new, exciting and extravagant hotel in the heart of Manchester’s Peter Street, which is host to popular venues such as Albert Schloss, Revolución de Cuba, Be Impossible and let’s not forget Asha’s Restaurant located in our building. Peter Street is the perfect location for our new hotel, and to restore such a stunning building will only enhance the area. The hotel will also boast a club lounge for its guests located on the first floor. It will make a fantastic addition to our growing portfolio, which includes the newly refurbished Velvet Hotel & Bar and most recently the decadent Marco Pierre White’s Mr White’s English Chophouse, which has recently opened on the lower level of Velvet Hotel in Canal Street.” Krohn also added the success of The Light Aparthotel has inspired him to continue to grow on "luxury and good old-fashioned hospitality". KRO Hospitality is also submitting planning to extend Velvet Hotel with the addition of six to eight new luxury suites later this year. The new Peter Street hotel will open in 2019 if approval is received from Manchester City Council. 

Seagers Restaurants set to open third South Wales site: Steakhouse brand Seagers Restaurants is set to open its third site in South Wales. The family-owned restaurant group, headed by Chris Seager, is opening the venue in the former Riverside Inn in High Street following a £600,000 investment, backed by NatWest. The building is undergoing an extensive refurbishment and is expected to launch next month, creating 40 jobs. Seagers Restaurants also owns the Bryngwyn in Llanelli and the Grill House in Waunarlwydd, Swansea. Seager told Wales Online: “The opening of our third restaurant brings great food and our friendly, relaxed atmosphere to another local area. Thanks to the support from NatWest, we were able to purchase the premises, allowing us to continue to expand our presence in South Wales."

The Ivy Collection to open Leeds brasserie next month: The Ivy Collection will open its brasserie site in Leeds next month. The company is opening the 200-cover venue in the Victoria Quarter on Tuesday, 25 September. The restaurant will include an onyx bar, pendant lighting, marble floor tiles, polished parquet panel flooring and leather banquettes. Laura Bamber, area manager at The Ivy Victoria Quarter, told Insider Media: "We're excited to announce our new Leeds brasserie will be opening this September, just a few short weeks away. We're looking forward to opening in one of the city's most iconic shopping and leisure destinations, and are excited to showcase our all-encompassing menus to our guests and future regulars." The Ivy brand is expanding rapidly with other recent brasserie openings in Birmingham, Cheltenham, Guildford, York and King’s Cross in London with further launches lined up for Norwich and Winchester. Last month it opened its first site outside the UK, in Dublin.

Planning inspector finds mock medieval castle obtrusive: A mock medieval castle built by a tourist attraction in the Yorkshire Dales is “harmful” and “obtrusive”, government planners have said. The 32-foot structure at the Forbidden Corner, near Leyburn, was built without planning consent. The planning inspectorate rejected an appeal against a demolition notice but gave both sides nine months to come to a compromise. The Forbidden Corner said it was “saddened” by the decision. A retrospective application for the building had been submitted in June 2017 but was withdrawn at the end of July when officers recommended refusal. In a decision letter the inspector agreed with concerns about the impact on the historical landscape. Forbidden Corner, set in four acres at the Tupgill Park Estate in Coverdale, is a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and uses the slogan “The Strangest Place in the World”. The garden, set out as a maze, features statues, sculptures, towers, underground tunnels and a labyrinth with revolving floor, with visitors given a checklist of things to find on their visit.

Freshii to continue Irish expansion with Galway launch: Canadian-based health brand Freshii is opening a site In Galway next month as part of its ongoing expansion in Ireland. Freshii Ireland master franchise holders Dave O’Donoghue and Cormac Manning are opened the restaurant in Lower Cross Street on Monday, 3 September. Freshii offers tossed salads, hot bowls, burritos, poké bowls, healthy wraps, soup, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and frozen yogurt. O’Donoghue said: “We can’t wait to energise people in Galway and satisfy the demand for healthy and fresh food at affordable prices.” Freshii, which currently operates 11 sites in Ireland, is introducing a fully compostable range of food containers and cups in all its restaurants in the country.

Mastcraft appoints culinary development director as it prepares to launch new dining concepts across hotel portfolio: London-based Mastcraft Hotels has appointed a culinary development director as it prepares to launch new dining concepts for its hotel portfolio. Preet Tandi will design and create new multi-cuisine fine dining and casual dining concepts for the group. His expertise has developed via working with luxury venues including Edwardian Hotels where he helped develop the launch of its Kitchen concepts. Having also previously worked at restaurants including Nobu London, Dinner by Heston, Kiru and Madhu’s, Tandi will co-ordinate chefs across Mastcraft Hotels, as well as develop the existing offerings in all the properties. The first new dining experience will be an Indian street food concept at its Courthouse Hotel in Soho, which will launch at the end of the year. Mastcraft Hotels director Girish Sanger said: “We are thrilled to be working with Preet Tandi – his ideas have shaped some of the most interesting, diverse and ultimately delicious creations our city has seen. Our plans for the new concepts in our hotel portfolio will be very exciting.” Mastcraft operates five hotels across the capital.

Bristol-based pub operators open second site: Bristol-based pub operators Rhys Williams and Andrew Bridges have opened a bar in the city for their second site. They have launched Brisco in West Street at a site formerly occupied by gin bar Dutch, which closed earlier this year after only 11 months in business. Williams and Bridges said their new venue would predominantly be a “party bar” on Friday and Saturday nights, playing funk, soul, disco and hip-hop, but would also serve food during the afternoons from September. Williams told the Bristol Post: “Other musical genres are covered at other places so we wanted to bring something different to the area.” Williams and Bridges also own The Golden Lion pub in Gloucester Road.

Whiskey distillery plan unveiled for Northumberland town: Plans have been revealed to redevelop a disused site in a Northumberland town into a new whisky distillery as part of a multimillion-pound project that will aim to create a major tourist attraction. The former Redpath's Yard in Wooler has been disused for two decades and could be redeveloped by the Ferguson family, which has run businesses across Northumberland for more than a century. The family's aim with the Ad Gefrin Distillery is to create a "major tourism attraction and key local employer" in the town. Alan Ferguson said: "This is a very bold undertaking for our entire family, involving my wife Eileen, our five children and myself. Our ultimate aim is to develop a unique single malt whisky and a major attraction, as well as opening a new chapter in the cultural developments and traditions of Glendale." An application for the project is set to be lodged in October.
Basingstoke-based pub operator opens second site: Basingstoke-based pub operator Kelley Bowers has opened her second site. Bowers has held the lease of the King of Wessex in Winchester Road since 2011. Now she has taken on The New Inn in Sarum Hill. The pub, which had been closed for three months, has received a “spruce up” given it underwent a major overhaul just two years ago. Bowers told the Basingstoke Gazette: “I want to make this a real community pub. I want the bar staff to make everyone who walks through the front door feel welcome and to know there will be someone here they can talk to.”

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