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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 28th Aug 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

McDonald’s under fire over chicken welfare: McDonald’s is under fire from animal welfare activists who have said the chickens it uses for food suffer heart failure and lameness because they are forced to grow fat too quickly. Menu items such as McNuggets and chicken sandwiches come from birds that have been selectively bred over time to put on weight more rapidly than is natural, causing painful health problems, according to the campaigners. They claim the company failed to address the issue of the fast-growing breeding when it issued a new animal welfare policy last year. The animal welfare activists have now launched a worldwide campaign, beginning with McDonald’s, lobbying against companies that use the breed in intensive farming systems. The new guidelines McDonald’s issued in October last year require suppliers to follow new standards by 2024 for raising and slaughtering chickens, including increasing the amount and brightness of light in chicken houses and providing birds with access to perches that promote natural behaviour. Pru Elliott, of The Humane League, said: “Despite claiming to invest in animal welfare, McDonald’s is showing resistance to change and lack of leadership on the issue of chickens reared for meat. McDonald’s uses free-range eggs and organic milk so why does it source chickens that have been bred to grow so fast their bodies can’t keep up? This doesn’t make sense, and ultimately chickens are suffering en masse because of it. Chickens are the most numerous farmed animal and suffer in the greatest numbers, so why are McDonald’s failing to make change where it really counts?” The Humane League has launched a worldwide campaign, called I’m Not Lovin’ It, to put pressure on McDonald’s. A series of events in the UK included inviting passers-by to throw damp sponges at a volunteer dressed as the chain’s publicity character Ronald McDonald, who was put in stocks; activists dressed as him visiting the company’s headquarters; flashdancing in Leicester Square, London; and handing in a petition with 236,000 names. Pret A Manger signed up to the better chicken commitment within four hours of the campaign being launched. Azzurri Group, which operates Zizzi and ASK Italian, has also signed up. McDonald’s said it was committed to sourcing food and packaging sustainably. “This includes continuing to invest significantly to raise welfare standards for the animals in our supply chain and undertaking research to increase industry understanding of the challenges that remain,” said a spokesman. He said farms that rear its chickens must meet independently set farm assurance standards. “In addition to this, for a number of years we have required them to provide enrichment objects for the birds to peck and perch on, as well as windows in their houses to provide natural light,” he added.

Industry News: 

Bookings open for 2018 UKHospitality Dusk ‘til Dawn Late Night Awards: Bookings are open for the 2018 UKHospitality Dusk ‘til Dawn Late Night Awards, the annual celebration of the UK’s late-night hospitality sector. The ceremony, which will be held on Monday, 8 October at Café de Paris, will see eight awards presented to recognise the best in the dynamic late-night sector. The categories are Best Late Night Food; Best Late Night Drink; Best Late Night Entertainment; Best Service and Team Development; Best Marketing and Promotions; Best Late Night Bar; Best Late Night Club and Best Late Night Company. Nominations can be made online here until Wednesday, 12 September. Tickets are £150 plus VAT for UKHospitality members and £195 plus VAT for non-UKHospitality members and can be booked by emailing The awards follow the Bar and Nightclub Conference, which will be held at BAFTA in Piccadilly Circus in association with Propel.
Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Yasmine Larizadeh 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. Yasmine Larizadeh will talk about launching Good Life Eatery in her 20s with co-founder Shirin Kouros in 2013, based on a passion, and 18 months research, to bring something “new, fresh and healthy” to London’s food scene – it has now expanded to four sites. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at
Tim Martin criticises trade bodies over ‘no-deal’ Brexit response: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has criticised UKHospitality and the Food and Drink Federation (FDR) over its response to the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit. UKHospitality said such a scenario would “cause serious problems for the hospitality sector” while FDR chief executive Ian Wright said it would be a “grisly prospect”. Martin said: “Unfortunately, these business organisations do not yet, even at this late stage, understand the most basic economics of Brexit, and the consequent effects on the hospitality and related industries. As most people now appreciate, in spite of ‘Project Fear’ stories to the contrary, the EU is a protectionist organisation, which charges import taxes, often called tariffs, on new-world wine, rice, oranges, coffee and more than 12,000 other non-EU products. By leaving the EU without a deal in March next year, the UK can opt for free trade and eliminate these tariffs on non-EU imports, immediately reducing prices in shops, pubs and restaurants. In addition, non-EU businesses, which are often deterred by tariffs, would be encouraged to invest in UK trade. The reality is the public and the hospitality industry will be far better off with free trade and no deal.”
The Restaurant Group forecast to report like-for-likes down 4% on Friday: The Restaurant Group is set to report another fall in sales on Friday (31 August) after the firm was hit by this year’s extreme weather, both hot and cold. Analysts at City broker Numis forecast the company, which also owns Garfunkel’s, Joe’s Kitchen and Chiquito, will post a 4% decline in like-for-like sales in the first half. It has also pencilled in a fall in adjusted earnings for the period, from £26.5mi to £20.5m. Numis leisure analyst Tim Barrett said: “Analysis of The Restaurant Group’s volume recovery will be complicated by market softness associated with recent external factors. The World Cup and recent heatwave have been unhelpful for the restaurant market.” The group warned earlier this year sales had been chilled by the wintry weather in the first quarter as the casual dining sector also continues to suffer from a slowdown in consumer spending. Chief executive Andy McCue is overseeing a turnaround at The Restaurant Group, which has seen a revamp of pricing, food quality and marketing, as well as restaurant closures. Graham Spooner, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, said: “Management have focused on the competitiveness of its brands, an improved customer experience, growing the pubs and concessions business, cutting costs and creating a leaner and more focused organisation. Investors will be focusing on costs and the effect of the World Cup and extreme weather.”

Company News: 

Chilango reports Ebitda boost as turnover passes £10m, pre-tax losses narrow: Mexican brand Chilango has reported turnover increased 6.2% to £10,282,141 for the year ending 25 March 2018, compared with £9,720,583 the previous year. Group underlying Ebitda came in at a profit of £0.4m, compared with a loss of £1.2m the year before. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £1,412,310, compared with £3,195,322 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Post year-end, Chilango raised £28,994 through selling 483,334 ordinary shares. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company experienced considerable momentum in both sales and underlying Ebitda growth. Across the restaurant estate, sales grew strongly at 6.2% compared with the previous financial period. A particularly strong performance was seen via the delivery market channel. Food and labour costs were optimised significantly, while also increasing the quality of food and service. The improvements have strengthened the gross profit margin from 63.5% to 66.7%. The company is pleased with the current trading performance of its restaurants with like-for-like growth from both the walk in and delivery channels. The core improvements in the management of direct costs made in the 12-month period have allowed the continued improvement to the gross margins and the directors are confident the company will deliver a significantly higher company underlying Ebitda in the forthcoming financial year.”

Thai Leisure Group to launch new street bar concept: Thai Leisure Group, which operates restaurant brands Thaikhun and Chaophraya, is to launch a new concept, in Liverpool. The company has agreed a deal with Grosvenor Europe, one of four operating companies of the privately-owned international property group Grosvenor Group, to launch Thaikhun Street Bar at Liverpool ONE. Opening in early October, the 3,000 square foot bar will be situated next to its Chaophraya restaurant overlooking Chavasse Park. The design plans for the new opening pays homage to its Thai roots – the bar’s décor will recreate a traditional Thai street scene, incorporating bric-a-brac, a tuk-tuk and specially selected artefacts, all imported directly from Thailand. The new concept will serve a menu of upmarket cocktails using select Thai spirits, Singha draught beer, frozen alcoholic cocktails, as well as a non-alcoholic menu including a selection of ice-cream smoothies. The new site will also offer traditional Thai bar snacks and bowls, including pad Thai and chicken satay skewers. Thai Leisure Group founder Kim Kaewkraikhot said: “As the first project of its kind, the new bar concept is very exciting for us all. Offering unique Thai experiences are something we’re hugely passionate about and with this fantastic offer, I have no doubt it will succeed. Liverpool ONE’s wide range of bars and dining experiences is one of the most comprehensive and compelling in the UK, which made it an easy decision for us to open our first Thaikhun Street Bar in Liverpool. It demonstrates our continued commitment to be at the forefront of the hospitality sector.” Alison Clegg, director, asset management, Grosvenor Europe, added: “Thai Leisure Group’s proven success of operations at Liverpool ONE with its existing restaurant, Chaophraya, and the quality of the new concept, makes the new Thaikhun Street Bar a very welcome addition. Its ability to pull together a winning offer and also its willingness to adapt the model to bring something new to Liverpool ONE, sets it apart from the crowd." 
M Restaurants secures Canary Wharf site for fourth venue: M Restaurants, founded by former Gaucho managing director Martin Williams, has secured its fourth site, in Canary Wharf. The company has agreed a deal to open its flagship venue in the new Newfoundland development. Due to open in late 2020, the site, which will total almost 10,000 square feet, will comprise a restaurant, grill, wine store and tasting room, cocktail bar and garden, private members lounge and private dining room. M Restaurants will occupy the first floor of the 60-storey Newfoundland building and will serve the group’s signature menu of steak complimented by an extensive, accessible wine list. Williams said: “Since we created M in 2014, we have opened three understated, hidden venues, which reflected the M brand during its infancy. Since winning many awards and most importantly the patronage of so many fantastic discerning Londoners, we felt the timing was right to seek a truly iconic flagship venue. Canary Wharf Group’s Newfoundland building will undoubtedly become a London landmark, so we are delighted to have exchanged leases on such an epic site.” Canary Wharf Group head of retail leasing Stuart Fyfe added: “Newfoundland will shortly be both a dramatic and iconic addition to London’s skyline, providing 636 residential apartments for rent. As such we required a high-quality, successful restaurateur to work with us to deliver a relevant food offer within a contemporary modern environment that complements the buildings specular design. We believe M Restaurants will be a tremendous addition to the Canary Wharf restaurant offer.” Canary Wharf Group is represented by Bruce Gillingham Pollard and Lunson Mitchenall.
Two banking groups eye Gaucho acquisition: Two banking groups are eyeing up a bid for the Gaucho restaurant chain in a move that could save more than 700 jobs. Investec and SC Lowy, a banking group based in Hong Kong, are bidding to buy Gaucho out of administration, according to City AM. The firms have acquired Gaucho’s debt from its banking syndicate and are hopeful of purchasing the restaurant chain from administrators at Deloitte. Gaucho and its sister restaurant chain CAU collapsed into administration in July, leading to the immediate closure of the 22 CAU restaurants and the loss of 540 jobs. The administrators have said while CAU had suffered falling sales for three years, Gaucho was still a profitable business and could well be saved from collapse. Gaucho chief executive Oliver Meakin has also been keen to stress that it’s “business as usual” for the brand, saying in a statement that each restaurant was profitable.
Pub company run by former BII Licensee of Year collapses amid tax debts of £360,000: The Humble Pub Company, run by former British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) Licensee of the Year Keith Marsden, has gone into liquidation amid tax debts of more than £360,000. The company ran the Prince of Wales and The Dark Horse, in Moseley, and The British Oak, in Stirchley, along with a short-lived wine bar called Cheval Blanc. At the High Court in London on Friday (24 August), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) told the Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Catherine Addy that The Humble Pub Company went into creditors’ voluntary liquidation on 7 June. HMRC had lodged a petition with the court seeking to have the company wound up over tax debts but, on the basis of the voluntary liquidation, counsel for HMRC asked for its petition for it to be wound up to be dismissed without costs. The judge agreed and made that order. It was revealed after the hearing the Humble Pub Company owed £364,177 in tax. Marsden, who won the BII accolade in 2015, said the company had been hit by the failure of Cheval Blanc, which opened next door to The Dark Horse in Alcester Road but was put up for sale just a year after launching. It has since closed and been replaced by restaurant Little Blackwood. Marsden told the Birmingham Mail: “The wine bar we opened in Moseley cost us quite a lot of money. This sector is going through a tough time at the moment with lots of pubs and restaurants closing down and this has been quite a difficult 12 months for the business. The court hearing was just HMRC going through its processes and this ruling does not impact any of our companies. It is business as usual at the three pubs and they are trading as normal. HMRC may get some of the money back but that is between it and the liquidator.” He said he had decided to retire from the pub business after a period of ill health and his focus was now on recovery, leaving his son Joe to run the Prince of Wales, The Dark Horse and The British Oak.
Mikhail Investments reports ‘strong growth’ as it opens £2m Punch Tarmey’s venue in Liverpool: Merseyside-based operator Mikhail Investments has reported it is seeing “strong growth” as it opened a £2m venue for its Irish pub concept Punch Tarmey’s in the first phase of its redevelopment of the former Cains Brewery site in Liverpool. Owner Andrew Mikhail confirmed a £7m, four-phase investment earlier in the summer with 200 jobs being created during the duration of the three-year scheme. He is hoping to turn Punch Tarmey’s Liverpool into a prime destination for families, sports fans and revellers. He told Insider Media: “It’s a momentous time for the group. We’re enjoying strong growth across each of our brands and venues and this is a special landmark in our history. The Cains deal is massive for the city and us while Southport is also primed for rejuvenation with strong signs of a new, nascent, more high-end market developing.” Mikhail moved into the licensed and leisure industry after a successful stint in the sports car and performance business. He founded the leisure business in 2014 and launched the Eccleston bar, restaurant and boutique hotel in March 2015. Part of Mikhail’s portfolio is the Bold Hotel in Lord Street in Southport, which underwent a multimillion-pound refurbishment in 2016 and now has a 95% occupancy rate. Southport is also home to a Punch Tarmey’s pub, which opened two years ago.
Buzzworks Holdings to open first site on east coast of Scotland next month: Buzzworks Holdings is opening its first site on the east coast of Scotland next month, a site at Port Edgar Marina in South Queensferry, which will be called Scotts bar and restaurant. The venue is Buzzworks Holdings’ 11th addition to its growing portfolio. The fish tank walls that have become a staple of Buzzworks’ Scotts restaurants in Troon and Largs will take a new style in South Queensferry. There will be a seafood display set into the main bar where chefs can prepare dishes from the new oyster bar menu directly in front of guests. Kenny Blair, Buzzworks Holdings managing director, said: “It’s been a busy few months, but our new Scotts restaurant is rapidly taking shape. We pride ourselves in creating venues that provide delicious food, superb cocktails and outstanding service and Scotts South Queensferry will not disappoint. Launching our first venue in the east is a major milestone for us and a key step on our overall growth strategy. We look forward to making the final touches and opening our doors soon in the coming weeks.”

McDonald’s salad illness affects 507 in the US: A foodborne illness outbreak tied to salads served at McDonald’s restaurants in the US Midwest has grown to 507 confirmed cases reported by 15 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s 221 more illnesses than when the Food and Drug Administration traced the cyclospora outbreak to a Fresh Express processor in Streamwood, Illinois, less than a month ago. The sickened customers range in age from 14 to 91 years old, the CDC said. At least 24 people have been hospitalised. No deaths have been reported. The July outbreak forced McDonald’s to temporarily halt salad sales at 3,000 restaurants that were mostly in the Midwest. Federal health officials said the 507 people with confirmed cases of cyclospora consumed salads from McDonald’s restaurants. The cases were reported by 15 states and New York City. However, those who reported their illness in Connecticut, New York City, Tennessee, and Virginia purchased salads while travelling in Illinois. Health officials said the probe was ongoing – they are still working to determine which ingredients in the salads caused the outbreak. The illnesses started on or after 20 May. McDonald’s told health officials weeks ago it had stopped using the Fresh Express salad mix on 13 July at impacted restaurants in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 
Harbour & Jones co-founder buys Suffolk hotel, hopes to have ‘multiple’ sites: Nathan Jones, co-founder of independent caterer Harbour & Jones, has bought a hotel in Suffolk and hopes in time the venture will grow to “multiple” sites. Jones has acquired the Fishers Hotel in Pakefield, near Lowestoft, from David and Lesley Fisher for an undisclosed sum. The hotel was marketed for an asking price in excess of £675,000 through agents Christie & Co. Fishers Hotel features a lounge bar, restaurant, and conservatory dining area with seating for 25 guests, plus 16 en-suite bedrooms, six of which are on the ground level with private entrances. Additionally, there is a detached two-bedroom bungalow providing on-site manager’s accommodation. Jones grew up in Pakefield, where his parents owned a fish and chip shop, while he trained in hotel and foodservice management at Lowestoft College. He said: “This will remain a family-led business. My sister Cathy will be heading a team to run this new venture, which we hope in time will grow to multiple sites. We plan to refurbish the hotel to a high standard and give it a new name and image, while working hard to maintain and build upon the reputation set by David and Lesley. In time, the restaurant will reopen for Sunday lunches and feature a series of pop-up restaurant concepts running from Thursday to Saturday with a constantly changing themed dinner menu. We also wish to create a bar offering that cannot be found in any of the neighbouring establishments that compliments the dinner theme.” Harbour & Jones merged with CH&Co in June 2017, where Jones continues to be a director.
London-based retro cocktail bar Little Nan fights eviction from Catford site: London-based retro cocktail bar Little Nan is fighting against eviction from its site in Catford. Owners Tristan Scutt and Clare Turner held a “frank and detailed” meeting with Lewisham Council about being forced to leave the Broadway Theatre. Earlier this month the company was informed by the council that a two-year break clause would be invoked. However, Scutt and Turner are determined to force a U-turn. Since the eviction was announced, more than 4,000 people have signed an online petition to save Little Nan. Lewisham Council said reasons for the eviction include noise complaints, poor ventilation and the only lift in the theatre often being obstructed inside the bar, reports the News Shopper. Little Nan, which is dedicated to Scutt’s late grandmother, opened its Catford site in February 2017. It also has sites in Deptford and Fitzrovia.
Peckham-based European/South American restaurant Tupi to open second site: Peckham-based European/South American restaurant concept Tupi is to open its second site, in Elephant and Castle. The new venue is launching in Castle Square on Thursday (30 August). Tupi’s menu includes house-cured salmon, asparagus and poached eggs on sourdough; and miso cachaça halibut with charred corn. There is also a range of cocktails, including the Queen of Bahia with cacacha, passion fruit and mint, reports Hot Dinners. Tupi launched in Rye Lane, Peckham, last year.
Stonegate to reopen Walkabout in Glasgow next week following £500,000 revamp: Stonegate Pub Company will reopen its Walkabout site in Glasgow next week following a £500,000 refurbishment. The venue in Renfield Street will house a Felson’s Cocktail Lounge and Stick Bar as a new concept when it relaunches on Monday, 3 September, creating 25 additional jobs. It will feature two bars, booths, large, state-of-the-art HD screens and even tiered stadium seating for watching the sport. The Walkabout food menu featuring burgers, barbecue platters and other Australian-inspired dishes will be on offer alongside craft beer, wine, and “Aussie Twist” cocktails in cans. Senior general manager Kevin Buchanan said: “We’ve invested hugely in the venue and are incredibly proud to show off the revamped bar and its brilliant night-time offering.” Meanwhile, Stonegate has opened its first Popworld site in Manchester following a £430,000 refurbishment of Ark in Whitworth Street West. 
Yorkshire-based drinks producer to open second retail outlet: Yorkshire-based drinks producer Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods is to open its second retail outlet. The new shop at the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds will stock the full range of Raisthorpe’s gin and vodka. It follows the launch of its first venue at the York Designer Outlet last year. Raisthorpe sales and operations director Oliver Medforth told Insider Media: “We’re thrilled to be bringing our award-winning gins and vodkas to shoppers at the White Rose. This is an exciting time for us with new products to show off and a raft of shiny new awards. Chatting with customers is great for sparking ideas, we love sharing our drinks and the new shop will help increase awareness of our products. We’ll still be selling online and at shows throughout the country though if anyone can’t make it to see us here.”

Revolution Bars Group to open Glasgow venue this week: Revolution Bars Group is to open in Glasgow this week, resurrecting the former home of the Tunnel Nightclub. Revolution will open in Mitchell Street this Friday (31 August). The newly converted building is split over two floors and is open until 3am at weekends. General manager Jamie Crothall said: “Breathing some new life into a venue that played a huge part in Glasgow’s social scene, we’ve added an extra floor, employed more than 100 staff and given the building a complete overhaul.”
World’s first gin and tea bar to open in Cheltenham: The world’s first gin and tea bar is to open in Cheltenham. The East India Cafe Anglo-Indian restaurant in The Promenade will launch the Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar in a former nightclub next month. Its owners have turned to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to complete the funding of their new business in the old Prom Vaults venue further along the same road. Memsahib will offer its own house-distilled gin, afternoon chai tea and snack menu, when it opens for a soft launch in the first week of October. Darjeeling distilled with gin will be one of the items on offer, with no fewer than 55 gins sourced from all over the world on the menu. Co-owner of both businesses Litu Mohiuddin said the idea had come from diners at the East India Café who have been introduced to the mix of tea and gin there. He added: “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. Cheltenham is a fine-dining destination, the food capital of the Cotswolds. There are outlets opening all the time, and people in Cheltenham love something new.” The bar interior will reflect the British Raj period, when many Anglo-Indian women settled in Cheltenham. Local historians and Cheltenham Ladies College have helped Mohiuddin with the concept.

Edinburgh to be first UK city for boutique hotel brand: Edinburgh is the first UK location for a new luxury lifestyle boutique hotel after it was announced a global hotel group is investing £32m in the city. The Old Town site that will house the new NYX Hotel Edinburgh is adjacent to Jurys Inn in Jeffrey Street whose freehold has been bought over by Fattal Hotels Group. The existing hotel, opened in 1998, will see its 186 rooms revamped and the building expanded to the rear as part of the redevelopment. The ambitious plans include the conversion of the nearby listed building, 57 to 59 Jeffrey Street, into the new 131-beroom hotel and a separate development in the same building of 31 new residential units. Work is expected to begin in the first half of 2019. The new NYX Hotel Edinburgh is a “lifestyle concept hotel” tailored for “unique individuals looking for inspiration”. The hotel will be part of the fourth brand within the Leonardo Hotel stable, which is the European arm of the Fattal Hotels Group. There are currently six boutique NYX hotels worldwide – in Tel Aviv and Herzliya, Israel; Milan, Prague, Madrid and Munich. The hotels have sprung up in the global locations since early 2017.

Festival food brand to open permanent site: Shwings, which has served chicken wings at a variety of festivals across the UK, is to open a permanent site in Chelmsford, occupying a site in New London Road, which was formerly home to A Canteen. While a formal opening date is yet to be set, the restaurant is aiming for early September. On its website, Shwings lists its opening hours as 12pm to 1am seven days a week. According to its Twitter feed, Shwings will also be on Deliveroo, allowing diners to sample its “gourmet chicken wings” from their own home.

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