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Mon 17th Sep 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Britain’s eating-out market sees like-for-likes rise 0.6% in August: Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales edge up 0.6% in August, the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker has revealed, with more mixed weather bringing better news for the country’s casual dining chains. Managed pubs saw collective like-for-likes grow 0.2% compared with August last year, while restaurant groups were up 1.4% for the month. The figures were welcome news following July’s trading, which saw flat growth overall and restaurant group sales fall 4.8%. “These latest figures will come as a huge relief for restaurant operators, who have been under the cosh of late, not least because of the early summer heatwave that was great news for Britain’s pubs as the public headed outdoors but little help for the country’s restaurant chains,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “More mixed weather during August and a damp bank holiday weekend will have helped the casual dining market. The school holidays will have also helped as parents looked to keep their families occupied.” London performed better than the rest of the country, with August like-for-like sales up 1.5% on the same period last year, while outside the M25 trading was up only 0.4%. “The summer tourist season and the continuing good weather appears to have given an uplift to trading levels for restaurants in London, especially those with external seating,” said Coffer Group chairman David Coffer. “This is also reflected in the increase of like-for-likes in restaurant groups. This may well be a deceptive improvement as the impact of possible political upheaval begins to gain momentum over the coming months. The reaction of the UK restaurant public could swing either way in terms of seeking solace in food and beverage venues. Generally, we are seeing a continuing demand for restaurants in good trading locations but a drop in demand otherwise. Premiums for leases are certainly at a five-year low.” Underlying like-for-like growth for the 47 companies in the Tracker cohort, which represents both large and small groups, was running at 0.5% for the 12 months to the end of August, the same as it was at the end of July. Total sales growth across the pub and restaurant cohort, which includes the effect of new openings, was 3.2% in August, reflecting a slowdown but not a halt in brand roll-outs, and was running at 3.7% for the 12 months to the end of August. 

Industry News: 

Full speaker schedule for Propel Multi Club Conference revealed, two free places for operators: The full speaker schedule for this year’s final Propel Multi Club Conference has been revealed. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel, St Paul’s, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com. The speaker line-up is Christie & Co managing director of pubs and restaurants Neil Morgan, who will set out the key trends in pub, restaurant and hotel mergers and acquisitions; Zonal marketing director Clive Consterdine will report on the findings of research on the key technology trends in the sector; Andrew Ball, of sector accountancy specialist haysmacintyre, will report on the key metrics that sector multi-site companies are reporting in this year's haysmacintyre/Propel benchmarking survey; 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 examine the levers businesses can pull to boost their NPS scores; James Nye, managing director of award-winning, nine-strong Anglian Country Inns, will talk about how the company adapts its offer to a wide variety of trading locations, including country pubs, town centres and Norfolk coastal tourist destinations, with pizza, coffee shop, a wedding barn and a micro-brewery. He will also talk about the innovative use of a Downing Bond to finance a new site; Matt Snell, managing director of 19-strong Gusto, will talk about how Gusto has created its own position in the Italian market with a focus on food quality, service and staff training; 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; Simmons Bars founder Nick Campbell will talk about developing a distinct bar offer in the crowded London market as he aims to grow to 30 sites in the next two years; John Upton, former managing director of Leon, member of the McDonald’s UK leadership team and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli, will offer his key insights on scale planning, operational teams, improving sales growth and cost efficiency as well as change management in growth companies; Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s, will talk about re-energising a strong casual dining market in a challenging market; Joe Grossman, founder of 12-strong Patty & Bun, will talk about his journey from leading the marketing at Roast to finding a unique position in the better burger market; and David Singleton, area vice-president, franchise operations and development EMEA/south Asia, Hard Rock International, will talk about the brand's evolution and success across multiple territories, franchising, local adaptations, brand marketing and the power of merchandise. 

Calorie-labelling consultation provides ‘opportunity to fight unwieldy legislation’: The government’s launch of a consultation into implementing calorie labelling on menus provides an opportunity for the sector to fight “unwieldy legislation”, UKHospitality has said. Ministers said the calorie labelling would make diners better informed but hinted at concessions for smaller businesses and outlets whose menus change regularly. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The consultation does seem to acknowledge there will be difficulties for some businesses, particularly smaller ones, to implement calorie labelling. UKHospitality has been very clear any inflexible mandatory requirements will place considerable burdens on smaller businesses and those venues that change their menus regularly. UKHospitality will be using the consultation as an opportunity to reiterate that point and highlight the efforts already being undertaken by the sector to provide transparency and choice. At a time of economic and political uncertainty, and with costs continuing to rise for employers, the last thing businesses need is additional, unwieldy legislation. We will be making this point forcefully to the government to ensure any new rules are proportionate and take into account the challenges small and medium-sized enterprises face.”

One-fifth of consumers leave their town for nights out due to ‘lack of diversity and venues’: Almost one-fifth (19.5%) of consumers avoid nights out in their local town because they don’t offer diverse and late-enough nightlife, according to the latest Deltic Night Index, highlighting areas of opportunity for government and operators to boost local economies. Another one-quarter (24.3%) split where they go out equally between staying in their local town and travelling to another. The research also highlighted the key factors that motivate respondents to travel outside their local areas for a night out. More than one-third (33.4%) who do travel outside their town said they do so because their local town doesn’t offer a diverse nightlife. The figure rises to 38.8% among 18 to 30-year-olds. Other popular responses to the Index included wanting to go to a specific event (44.4%) and nightlife in the local town finishing too early (18.9%). These figures increase notably among those aged 18 to 25. When asked how long they would travel for a night out, the average figures were 39 minutes to a good pub, 40 minutes to a cinema, 42 minutes to a good bar, 51 minutes to a good club, and 92 minutes to a live music event. Total spend on a night out is £56.25, down from £59.40 last quarter and £59.66 this time last year. More than half (56.2%) of respondents go on a night out at least once a week – up from 54.5% last year. Peter Marks, chief executive of The Deltic Group, said: “This quarter’s Deltic Night Index shows us consumers are happy to spend time and money on fun, unique nights out. A few stats stood out from this report – that almost 20% of people don’t go out in their local town; 18.9% of consumers go out in another town because the nightlife in their local town finishes too early; and 33.1% do not think their local town offers diverse nightlife. These three stats show us there is still much to be done by operators and local governments around investment, licensing and security to improve the offerings in our local towns. Together we can ensure the 20% enjoy a great night out closer to home.”

Consumer spending at hotels, restaurants and bars rises 4.7% in August: Consumer spending at hotels, restaurants and bars increased 4.7% in August compared with the same month last year, according to Visa’s latest UK Consumer Spending Index. The category saw the highest increase during a month in which overall consumer spending rose 0.4% year-on-year. Although only slight, the rise contrasted with a minus 0.9% fall in July. Consumer spending has now increased in three of the past four months, though the latest upturn was softer than those seen in May (0.9%) and June (0.7%), and continued to signal relatively subdued expenditure trends in 2018 so far. The food, beverages and tobacco category saw the second-highest rise in spending (2.6%), followed by clothing and footwear (1.7%) and miscellaneous goods and services (0.1%). All other categories saw a year-on-year fall. Expenditure increased 0.3% year-on-year across face-to-face categories, while spending across e-commerce channels fell slightly (0.2%). Visa chief commercial officer Mark Antipof said: “In a welcome contrast to the prior month, August’s consumer spending was buoyed by face-to-face purchases with back-to-school spending among parents likely contributing to a glimmer of hope for our high streets. The prolonged good weather has seen sustained performance for hotels, restaurants and bars, and food and drink again topping the sector categories. Despite the increasing pressure on household budgets, bricks-and-mortar retailers will take encouragement that face-to-face spending rose at a faster rate than e-commerce. Since Visa’s Consumer Spending Index first launched, one of the overarching trends has been the dominance of e-commerce over face-to-face spending. This is certainly an area to watch.”
 
Best Bar None Awards 2018 opens for entries: The national Best Bar None Awards are open for entries. The programme, which is active across 70 towns and cities across the UK, seeks to find the best overall scheme, best new scheme and most innovative scheme. Prize money of more than £5,000 will be awarded to the winners. An outstanding commitment award will also be presented. Best Bar None national co-ordinator Mick McDonnell said: “The evidence from schemes around the country is of reduced A&E admissions, falling petty crime and improved public safety. Our awards programme seeks to identify those who are leading the field in outstanding partnership performance and where a positive difference is being made within communities.” The competition is open to all current schemes. Applications must be received before 16 November. The winners will be announced during a ceremony held at the House of Lords on 4 February 2019, when the awards will be presented by Best Bar None chairman Lord Smith of Hindhead. For more information, email jen.read@bestbarnone.com

Company News: 

BrewDog founder – we need to tone down the ‘ill-advised’ marketing: James Watt, founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has told investors the company needs to tone down its marketing after "ill-advised” and "inappropriate" campaigns this year. The brand still wants to use parody, but rather than tackle social issues, it wants to focus its "irreverent" marketing campaigns on what it does best – beer. BrewDog has admitted recent campaigns have been "ill-advised" and "inappropriate", prompting the change in direction. In a private blog to BrewDog’s investors – known as the Equity for Punks forum – Watt said: "As a company we have not been quick to realise we have now built the platform we need to engage and excite people about craft beer and we no longer need to try and wrap things up in crazy, overly provocative stunts to make our voice heard. This year especially we have had a few PR launches that in hindsight were ill-advised, unnecessary and were wrapped up in shock tactics when shock tactics were completely not appropriate. We are now a bigger employer and a bigger community than we used to be, and with that comes an increased responsibility." Last week, Watt sent out a tweet that directed the public to a blog post on the BrewDog website about the launch of the new campaign. The blog post read: “Industrial beer is our nemesis and the fact it outsells all the hard work of craft breweries many times over is a travesty. But there is a way to change all of that. Our intention with the campaign that you’ll see from today is to highlight the difference in quality and taste between craft and mass-market beers, as we continue on our mission to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are.”

Joseph Holt reports turnover and profit rise: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has reported turnover up 10% to £65.5m in the year to the end of December 2017 and pre-tax profit up 11% to £3m. Chairman Richard Lee said: "These excellent number resulted from a combination of concentrating on our core activities, developing the pubs we acquired during the previous year and much hard work. I reported last year on the acquisition of five new houses, The Railway (Buxton), the Mill at Upton (Cheshire), The Clocktower (Northwich), The Quadrant (Streftord) and the Lychgate (Standish). We spent more than £5m on the acquisition and development of the pubs. They are all showing encouraging initial results and we are anticipating a significant contribution from them during 2018. Food now accounts for 25% of our total turnover and we aim to increase this further over the next two years. We have, in contrast to much of the brewing industry, increased our brewery volumes in the past two years." 
 
Carluccio’s re-jigs HR division as ‘Fresca’ transformation plan kicks in: Carluccio’s has boosted its HR division as the brand undertakes its recently announced “Fresca” transformation plan. A statement to staff said: “Leanne Murphy, our head of people, will head off on maternity leave towards the end of the calendar year. We are entering a really busy period for the whole HR team as it supports the Fresca initiatives across the business so we have hired cover for Leanne until she is ready to return to work. Ed Goodwin joins us as interim head of people on a part-time basis until November, when he will be full time to support the team and its initiatives. He joins us after a successful ten-year career at EAT, the high-street sandwich brand, where he was people director. Prior to that he held a number of senior HR roles at Monsoon, the fashion brand.” Carluccio’s plans to transform 20 restaurants a year under the £10m Fresca programme, which is aimed at revitalising the brand in the wake of its company voluntary arrangement (CVA). The first restaurant to reopen will be Chester, on Thursday, 27 September, followed by Newcastle. In May, the company’s creditors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the CVA, which has seen the group exit up to 30 loss-making sites from its 103-strong UK business.
 
Bistrot Pierre to open 24th site, in Coventry next month: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre is to open its 24th site, in Coventry next month. The restaurant will launch on the first floor of the new Cathedral Lanes leisure development on Thursday, 4 October. The city centre venue will feature a terrace overlooking Broadgate Square, a bar and space to seat 124 diners. The site, which has already started taking bookings, will offer the group’s new autumn and winter menu and host a series of special evening events. Bistrot Pierre co-owner Rob Beacham said: “This is our sixth bistro in the West Midlands and I’m confident we will be a popular addition to the thriving development thanks to our excellent value and authentic French-style cooking.” Chief executive Nick White added: “Coventry will be a strong addition to our growing estate and launches weeks after we opened in Preston and the launch of Bistrot Pierre Rooms in Plymouth. We plan to grow our sites further and have more openings planned for 2019.” The company’s other West Midlands sites are in Birmingham, Kidderminster, Leamington Spa, Mere Green and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner enter first retail partnership: Boparan Restaurant Group has entered into partnership with Tesco for the launch of the debut retail range from two of its brands. A variety of world dishes from Giraffe and US-inspired desserts from Ed’s Easy Diner are available to buy in more than 300 Tesco stores nationwide, as well as online. Included in the new appetiser range from Giraffe are patatas bravas and harissa spiced lamb kofta, while the selection of main courses features malay vegetable curry and Sri Lankan prawn curry. Meanwhile, Ed’s Easy Diner dessert options are cookie dough and banoffee pie. Boparan Restaurant Group chief executive Tom Crowley said: “As we continue to develop our Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner brands, it is great to be entering the retail arena with an experienced and market-leading partner such as Tesco. In the case of Giraffe, we are launching some brilliant new dishes representing the brand’s strength in classic and emerging flavours from across the globe, while our dessert choices from Ed’s Easy Diner are true American classics. This is great news for Giraffe and Ed’s loyal customer base, who will now be able to access our brands through a new channel.” Tesco buyer Sonia Morland added: "We’re delighted to be launch partners with Giraffe and Ed’s, and to have the opportunity to introduce the debut retail ranges of two well-established and popular brands into our stores. It is also especially pleasing Tesco shoppers will be the first to enjoy these new ranges, particularly since they offer the ideal solution for customers looking to treat themselves and their families to something more adventurous at mealtimes." Crowley said in partnership with Tesco, decisions on future additional store locations and dish range expansion will be reviewed later this year.

The Restaurant Group eyes Peach Pub Company: The Restaurant Group, which is seeking to expand its Brunning & Price pub division through acquisitions, is running the rule over 20-strong Peach Pub Company, according to The Sunday Times. Peach Pubs is being advised by accountancy firm BDO. Peach Pubs was set up by Lee Cash, Jo Eames and Hamish Stoddart in 2002 when they opened The Rose & Crown in Warwick. They and senior staff own the company, which is said to be valued at about £20m. The Restaurant Group, run by the former Paddy Power boss Andy McCue, has been trying to diversify. Last month it revealed a £15m deal to buy the pub group Food and Fuel. Peach made a pre-tax profit of £548,924 on sales of £25.6m in the year to January.

MasterChef winner Simon Wood to launch Cheltenham restaurant for third site: MasterChef winner Simon Wood is to open a restaurant in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Wood, who won the BBC television show in 2015, will launch artisan eatery Woodkraft in Regent Street combining his love of seasonal produce and informal dining. Wood, who opened his eponymous debut fine dining restaurant in Manchester in September 2017, will embrace the philosophy of farm to fork at Woodkraft by working with small-scale local growers and producers. The menu will be developed with the team from Wood Restaurant Group and will include breakfast, brunch and sharing dishes as well as Sunday roasts. The dishes will focus on artisan food such as bread, cheese, meat, oil and vinegar handmade on-site or regionally using traditional methods. Wood said: “Opening Wood Manchester saw the culmination of a life-long dream for me. It has been a huge challenge but also a great success. We’re a year in now and with a second fine dining restaurant under construction in Chester, we feel ready for our next challenge. Wood is all about un-intimidating fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere and Woodkraft will take this ethos and turn it into the perfect daytime casual dining offering, maintaining high-quality food and service. My business partners have connections to Cheltenham and know the market well. We think the town will be the perfect place.”

SteakOut makes north-west move with ninth site: London-based halal steakhouse brand SteakOut has expanded into the north west by opening a site in Blackburn, Lancashire. The restaurant, the brand’s ninth in total, has launched in Lower Audley Street at a site formerly occupied by The Restaurant Group-owned brand Chiquito. Following a £400,000 refurbishment, the venue offers 140 covers inside and a further 30 outside, with the opening creating 20 jobs. The menu features signature beef and lamb steaks as well as burgers. The restaurant also hosts an in-house dessert parlour – ShakeOut – that has its own entrance. Franchisee Rezaul Majid told the Lancashire Telegraph: “It is a bit different for Blackburn and we hope to attract a wide range of customers from across the county. The chefs have been training for six months at the head office in London. Only the bigger restaurants have specialist ice-cream parlours, where we serve a range of milkshakes. People can come in just for the desserts if they wish in a separate seating area.” SteakOut was founded by Kaysor Ali, who opened his first London store in 2008. The brand expanded to eight franchised restaurants across the UK from 2013 to 2015. SteakOut’s website states further restaurants will “open soon” in Cardiff and Coventry.

Indoor adventure golf concept opens £2m site in Manchester for second venue: Discovery Adventure Golf, a partnership between former Goldman Sachs entrepreneur Elizabeth Stanway and experienced leisure operator Chris Richards, has opened its second indoor Treetop Adventure Golf site, in Manchester. The £2m, 20,000 square foot venue, which is on the second floor of The Printworks, features two Amazon-themed, 18-hole courses – the Ancient Explorer and Tropical Trail. Features include a giant fig tree, a cascading river with singing frogs, an ancient temple and a mountain zone. There is also a 125-cover “Amazon” restaurant and bar offering a Brazilian-style menu, including tropical-themed cocktails and hand-made pizza. Treetop Adventure Golf opened its debut site at St David’s shopping centre in Cardiff in 2015, reports The Business Desk.
 
Red Mist Leisure sells Farnham pub to Shepherd Neame: Pub operator Red Mist Leisure has sold its Farnham town centre pub, The Wheatsheaf, to Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame. Shepherd Neame plans to retain all current staff. Red Mist managing director Mark Robson said: “While we are sad to be leaving the bustling market town of Farnham after nearly six years, we are delighted Shepherd Neame will be taking over at The Wheatsheaf. As Britain’s oldest brewer, it has a fantastic heritage and reputation in our industry and holds very similar values to the ones we aspire to at Red Mist Leisure and we wish it every success.” The decision to sell The Wheatsheaf will refocus Red Mist Leisure’s attention on its remaining nine sites where it plans to re-invest the funds from the sale across its existing estate and towards the continuing expansion of the company. Nigel Bunting, director of retail and tenanted operations at Shepherd Neame, added: “We are delighted to be increasing our representation of high-quality pubs in Surrey with the acquisition of such a strong site and look forward to welcoming customers old and new to The Wheatsheaf.” The other pubs in the Red Mist Group will continue to trade as normal and are unaffected by the sale.
 
Cristiano Ronaldo-backed restaurant set to open in Covent Garden this month: A restaurant backed by footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, Zela, is to open in London's Covent Garden later this month. The restaurant – a Japanese and Mediterranean fusion – is owned by Mabel Hospitality Group but counts the footballer as a financial backer, along with tennis player Rafael Nadal and singer Enrique Iglesias. It will be based at the ME Hotel in the Strand in Covent Garden. Zela said it hoped “to make its mark on the city’s culinary and nightlife map, for London’s foodies and the international jet-set alike, with exotic menus and vibrant atmosphere". The new venue is the second outpost for the Zela brand – the flagship restaurant opened in Ibiza in May last year. Michelin-recognised chef Ricardo Sanz has been announced as the “gastronomic director”, and has called the food on offer “meppon cuisine” – Japanese techniques applied to Mediterranean ingredients and traditions. Abel Matutes, of Mabel Hospitality Group, said: “The food scene is the best, the hottest in the world. London is the perfect place to bring the Ibiza concept to. All of our backers are very involved and are real foodie guys. Cristiano and Rafael in particular love London.”

Coffee brand TrueStart launches debut store, in Bristol: TrueStart Coffee has opened its debut store, in Bristol. The company is run by husband-and-wife team Simon and Helena Hills, who have launched TrueStart & Co coffee shop in the new Runway East co-working space in Victoria Street. The coffee will be accompanied by healthy dishes and desserts such as Asian vermicelli noodle salad with ginger tofu, and avocado and courgette cake. Food is sourced from local markets and made daily. Dishes will be seasonal and mostly plant-based. TrueStart & Co will also offer a range of organic, loose-leaf speciality tea and use 100% biodegradable packaging. Its flavoured cold brew range is vegan, sugar-free and zero calories. Helena Hills said: “The success of the brand meant we had the confidence to invest to rebrand it to appeal to a wider audience. We are wild for life and our coffee enables its fans to do the same – it’s a totally natural energy kick. We are excited to take TrueStart & Co across the country and beyond.” The Hills said they hoped to develop a long-term partnership with Runway East, which has venues in London’s Moorgate, Old Street and Shoreditch with sites in London Bridge and Soho due to launch in the autumn. The Hills’ “hyper-sustainable” coffee brand is also available in in cafes, bars and health food stores and will launch this month on Ocado.
 
Starbucks reaches ten million milestone for donated meals in US: Starbucks has reported it has donated ten million meals to the FoodShare scheme. Starbucks has a goal to rescue 100% of the unsold food available from all 8,000 of its US company-owned stores by 2020 – stores in 22 cities take part in the scheme at the moment. Each of those meals represents a person who didn’t go hungry that day, said Laura Olson, director of global social impact. She added: “Knowing our surplus food, which would otherwise go into the garbage, is feeding a family or child or veteran is incredibly satisfying, especially knowing our partners across the country make it happen.” More than 40 million Americans face hunger, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture. “A lot of people don’t realise hunger is an issue in our country every day,” said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organisation. Feeding America partners with Starbucks to connect FoodShare donations with local food banks and people who need them.
 
Thai Cafe bought out of administration: Bristol-based Thali Cafe, which has a total of five sites in the city, has been bought out of administration in part by the brand's own managers. Thali Cafe, which specialises in Indian street food, operates restaurants in the Southville, Easton, Montpelier, Totterdown and Clifton areas. Bristol Thai Company, its Companies House registration, was placed into administration in May after the closure of its Oxford site – the restaurant's only venue outside of Bristol. Although the brand's move to Oxford's George Street was meant to be first of many future openings nationally, it was hit by delays and a difficult trading environment. Eventually the new restaurants closure led to the crystalisation of significant costs and administrators at BDO were bought in with director Jim Pizer – its original founder – stepping down. A total of 11 potential trade and private equity investors responded to sale details of the business, of which five returned non-disclosure agreements for further details. The only deliverable offer came from Juggard for £66,214, a vehicle founded by Thali kitchen manager Jose Blanco Rodriguez, operations manager Dominka Paulina Sawicka-Harris and Michael Dillon, an investor who owns 75% of the company. HSBC is owed circa £348,000 and unsecured creditors are owed £1,285,956, which includes significant shareholders loans.

EastZEast opens ninth site, in Blackburn: EastZEast, which specialises in desi Kashmiri cooking, has opened its ninth site, in Blackburn, Lancashire. The restaurant has been opened by Zahid Iqbal and Ash Hussain at King George’s Hall, with hopes to capitalise on pre-theatre diners and the town’s booming restaurant scene. The former Blakey’s Bar Cafe has undergone a £350,000 refurbishment to offer 250 covers, 11 booths and a 50-seater bar. The restaurant includes a luxury VIP area and a giant chandelier that contains 5,000 crystals. The opening has created 30 jobs. The Punjabi restaurant, which includes a south Asian evening restaurant and daytime cafe, has been almost a year in the making. Iqbal told the Lancashire Telegraph: “We initially looked at other towns, including Wigan, Warrington and Blackpool, but saw the niche in Blackburn. It needs a fine dining restaurant that serves quality food. Rather than people from East Lancashire going to Manchester for a fine dining restaurant, I want them to come here.” EastZEast has two sites each in Manchester and Liverpool as well as restaurants in Birmingham, Bradford, Bury and Preston.

Brighton street food trader Baby Bao brings buns and beer to London with first permanent site: Brighton-based street food trader Baby Bao has brought its blend of Taiwanese buns and beer to London by opening its first permanent site, in St James’s. The concept offers “awesome Taiwanese street food flavours stuffed into perfectly fluffy steamed buns”. Following a residency at The Pond pub close to Brighton’s train station, the Baby Bao team is offering the same deal of Taiwanese bao buns and craft beer at its new site in Haymarket. The bao range includes vegan grilled tofu with hoisin, peanuts, cucumber and scallions, and chargilled rib eye with scallions and smoked garlic mayo. Sides include chicken wings fried in a house spice mix and covered in chilli sauce as well as kimchi and duck chips, Hot Dinners reports. The craft beer list includes Breakfast Shake from Siren Craft and an “isotonic gose” from Swedish brewer Tempel Brygghus. There are also short wine and cocktail lists.

Bolton-based bar operators to open nightclub for second site: Bolton-based bar operators Dean Morton and Chelsea Edgar are opening a nightclub for their second site in the town. Morton and Edgar will invest £500,000 to launch Ikonic in Nelson Square on the site of the former Oscar’s Bar and Nightclub. Morton said clubbers would “never have two Saturdays the same” at the 1,200-capacity venue. Ikonic will have two rooms and feature a light-up bar and “futuristic” tunnel entrance. He told the Bolton News: “We have been able to put our own twist on everything we have seen in other places. As people walk in we want there to be a wow factor and something they have not seen in the north west before.” Morton and Edgar operate The Bar, which is also in Nelson Square.

M&B senior independent director to step down: Mitchells & Butlers has announced Stewart Gilliland, who joined the board as a non-executive director in May 2013 and was appointed as senior independent director in February 2015, is to step down in order to concentrate on his other roles as chairman of C&C Group and as a non-executive director of Tesco. M&B stated: “The board has already commenced a process of identification and recruitment of a replacement for Stewart following which it will confirm the date for Stewart to step down and make an appropriate announcement. This is likely to be by the end of December 2018.” Non-executive chairman Bob Ivell said: "Stewart has played a key role in the continued successful development of M&B and has been a very valuable, supportive and extremely helpful member of our board. We wish him every success in his other board roles.”

PizzaExpress to launch autumn menu: PizzaExpress will launch its autumn menu on Tuesday (18 September) including new vegan dishes and returning classics. New dishes include the Vegan Puttanesca pizza, vegan carrot cake, and Ragu Romana, which combines beef Bolognese sauce with red onions, ricotta, mozzarella, tomato, rosemary, fennel seeds and garlic oil. Lemon and Italian herb chicken wings are new to the starters section. Meanwhile, all Al Forno dishes on the menu will be made with gluten-free pasta, while the Leggera pizza range will be available on a wholemeal dough base. Last month, PizzaExpress reported a “resilient performance” in the UK and Ireland for the 26 weeks ending 1 July 2018. Underlying like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland grew 0.9% excluding impact from adverse weather (down 0.7% unadjusted). Three new sites opened in the period including its second roadside services franchise site. Group turnover grew 2.5% to £262.8m, while group like-for-like sales were down 1.1%. Group Ebitda was down 16.3% to £35.1m, driven by industry-wide cost pressures in the UK and lower operating margins in the international business.

Bullards bids to quadruple production by relocating gin distillery: Bullards has submitted plans to relocate its gin distillery to a historic Norwich building in a bid to quadruple production. The company has submitted a planning application to change the use of Crystal House in Cattle Market Street from retail to light industrial use. Established in 1837 and relaunched in 2015, Bullards is the first gin distillery in Norwich for more than 150 years. The company is looking to house its new, handmade 600-litre copper still in the grade II-listed building. A second phase of planning would see the site become a tourist attraction and destination, offering tours and tastings alongside a bar and restaurant. The project would create 20 jobs. Crystal House was built in 1862 and is a landmark in the city with its large glass façade and cast-iron supports. It has been empty since December 2016. John G Bullard, director of the company and great-great-grandson of its founder, told the Eastern Daily Press: “Bullards’ occupation of Crystal House will be a cause of great celebration and optimism.”

Coffee#1 lands in Bath: Cardiff-based brewer and retailer SA Brain has opened a Coffee#1 site in Bath. The company has opened the 1,980 square foot outlet at the £600m mixed-use Bath Riverside development. It is located in the Royal View building and provides customers with views of the River Avon and new riverside park. Marcus Evans, sales and marketing director at landlord Crest Nicholson, told the Business Leader: “Bath Riverside was always intended to include a mix of property types so it’s great to see Coffee#1 now open and trading.” Coffee#1 opened its first store in Cardiff in 2001, with SA Brain acquiring the business in 2011. It currently has 92 sites.

Preoday launches into education sector: Ordering technology provider Preoday has made its first move into the education sector. University of Hull Students’ Union has become the first higher-education facility to invest in digital ordering from Preoday, with students able to use a new mobile app to order food and drink directly from their phone, cutting queues and allowing the union team to gather data, forecast sales trends and develop personalised marketing campaigns. Preoday chief executive Nick Hucker said: “We are thrilled to take our first steps into an exciting new vertical – university campus catering – and look forward to announcing further education alliances in the coming months.” Andy King, director of commercial services at Hull University Union, said: “With a tech-minded student body, it’s important we keep pace with wider industry trends.”

Easyhotel opens first Yorkshire sites: Easyhotel, the owner, developer and operator of “super budget” branded hotels, has opened its first two sites in Yorkshire. The company has opened a 94-bedroom hotel in Lands Lane in Leeds city centre. The building was originally The Scala Theatre and was built in 1922. Meanwhile, a 131-bedroom property has opened in Sheffield in a former Primark store in High Street. Easyhotel head of marketing Laurie Walters told The Business Desk: “Yorkshire is an incredibly popular county with thriving cities, beautiful scenery, a rich history and a plethora of cultural highlights.” The hotels are the latest in a programme of openings for Easyhotel, bringing the group’s total portfolio to 32 hotels across the UK and overseas. Further openings for this year are planned for Barcelona and Ipswich. Easyhotel also has a development pipeline with a £50m fund-raise completed earlier this year to fund projects in Cambridge, Chester, Dublin and Milton Keynes.

Oxford site housing Thai restaurant and letting rooms brought to market: A site in central Oxford that houses well-established Thai restaurant Jay Fai and ten letting rooms has been brought to market. Occupying a prominent spot in St Clements Street, a short walk from the city centre, the recently refurbished property comprises a 120-cover restaurant with a central bar and counter, a commercial kitchen and a separate wash up area. The letting bedrooms are spread across the first and second floors, while there is a private car park to the rear of the property for up to eight vehicles. Agent Christie & Co has brought the site to market on behalf of Jay Fai owner Vichai Karmakharm, who has operated at the property for 30 years but is now set to retire. Tim Widdows, business agent at Christie & Co, said: “This is a great opportunity for an operator to establish themselves in a thriving area of the city, with the adaptable space perfect for putting a new stamp on the site or continuing with the successful operation.” Christie & Co is seeking £275,000 for the leasehold.

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