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Tue 18th Sep 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Propel launches Immersive Experiences Conference, open for bookings: Propel and Think Hospitality are launching the Immersive Experiences Conference, designed to bring together the community of operators, landlords and investors in the UK’s emerging immersive experiences sector. The half-day event takes place on Friday, 9 November at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. James Hacon, of Think Hospitality, will provide an overview of global innovation and trends in creating immersive experiences. Virgin Experience Days will outline its overview of the immersive experience sector, sharing key trends and potential growth areas. Matt Grech-Smith, co-founder of Swingers, will talk about the company’s progress opening two crazy golf venues in London, its food and beverage model and plans to open in New York. Frankie Edwards, head of the Jamie Oliver Cook School, will share how it has maximised sales from a large site through the addition of a hands-on cooking experience, effectively representing one of the UK’s most successful celebrity chefs. Jozef Youssef, founder and chef at Kitchen Theory, will discuss the principles of experience design in gastronomy based on joint research into the field with the University of Oxford. Tiffany Ng, co-founder and chief executive of RSVP, founder of Silver.Spoon, and co-founder and partner of Vinatic, will talk about the global pop-up and underground dining scene, and share her learnings of driving awareness and commercial returns from her experience running an online booking platform for the sector and a number of branded experiences in Copenhagen. Toby Harris, chief executive of Social Entertainment Venues, will introduce its concepts, share how it has differentiated from key competitors and where it sees the growth opportunities for its brands. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With consumers now demanding truly memorable experiences, the immersive market has become a key battleground for operators in an ever-challenging environment. This conference will provide valuable insight into making the most of that opportunity.” Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. To book a place, email or call 01444 817691.

Industry News:

Facebook methodology change drives up positive review scores: A change in methodology that has seen a switch to “yes” or “no” for recommendations has driven up positive reviews on Facebook from 4.1 out of 5 in July to 4.3 in August, according to new statistics from Feed It Back’s monthly social review tracker. The data, which was taken from thousands of social reviews across the restaurant, quick-service restaurant and pub sectors, also revealed Google Reviews remains the most prominent channel for feedback, with 59% of reviews submitted via the platform in August – TripAdvisor accounted for 34% and Facebook 7%. Looking at sectors, the data revealed pubs and bars have enjoyed an increase in positive reviews in August, outperforming restaurants. TripAdvisor ratings for pubs and bars moved from an average of 3.8 to 4.0, with Facebook moving from 4.3 to 4.4 and Google reviews remaining at 4.2. However, the restaurant industry experienced a fall in positive reviews on TripAdvisor from 4.0 to 3.9; while Google and Facebook reviews remained flat at 4.0. Food was the driving factor influencing both negative and positive reviews across the sector. For pubs and bars, “atmosphere” was also listed as a major driver in positive reviews, with “waiting times at the bar” driving scores down. Similarly, waiting times were a key factor in negative reviews at restaurants, along with the keyword “pizza”. Feed It Back said consumer expectation of what constitutes good pizza had risen and operators needed to focus on quality ingredients and speedy service. Chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Social media platforms are constantly changing their methodologies and it’s crucial operators stay in touch with these changes. Food remains the key driver in generating positive and negative reviews and it’s clear operators need to focus on reducing wait times to positively influence their online reputation and drive footfall. Tracking customer experiences and customer trends, such as a rise in expectation of pizza quality, needs to become a habitual practice for operators if they want to remain competitive.” This data is part of a regular report Feed It Back runs across social reviews To sign up for a monthly copy of this report, email

Average restaurant profit margin plummets from 19% to 1.5%: The average profit margin at restaurants has plummeted from 19% to 1.5% during the past year, according to new research. Business intelligence company Plimsoll Publishing, which produced the findings, said the decline illustrated the pressure that is being put on the bottom line. Its analysis of the sector also showed the number of restaurant companies in financial “danger” has risen to 465. The number making a loss was up to 364, while the number making a loss for a second consecutive year has risen to 196. Meanwhile, Plimsoll said the number of companies that were “ripe” for takeover had increased to 151. Plimsoll senior analyst Christopher Evans said: “A fairly toxic mix of changing demand and oversaturation has ramped up pressure in the industry. As a result, sales growth has gone into reverse, profits are down and debts are up. If ever there was a market in need of consolidation, it’s the restaurant sector. The UK consumer has almost limitless choices of places to eat and little loyalty. Too many companies competing for an increasingly cost-conscious and value-driven customer does nothing for an operators’ bottom line. Average profit margins were already wafer thin across the industry at 19% but the latest figures show that figure has fallen significantly to 1.5%. The UK’s restaurant industry will likely face more failures over the next 12 months with 465 companies already rated as in ‘danger’ in our analysis. There could be a wave of acquisitions as well. We have already picked out 151 with excellent potential for an interested buyer. However, the elephant in the room is Brexit. Businesses existing on 1.5% margins are not well placed to cope with disruption or cost increases. If the cost of supplies increases or the supply of labour shrinks significantly – driving up wages – costs could soar and catch out even the more stable operators. In such a competitive market, passing on higher costs to the consumer will be difficult and some will run out of cash and credit to carry on.” 

Ashford leisure scheme to launch without restaurants as developer struggles to fill units: The developer behind a multimillion-pound leisure complex in Ashford, Kent, has admitted it will open in December without any of its planned restaurants. Stanhope is entering the final months of construction at the Elwick Place scheme, which was due to feature eight restaurants and cafes. However, it is struggling to fill the space set aside for eateries, meaning visitors will be greeted with empty units when the site opens. The development, which is being built on the site of a former cattle market opposite County Square, will also feature a six-screen Picturehouse cinema and 58-bedroom Travelodge. Stanhope development director Gary Bourne told Kent Online: “We are in discussions with a number of restaurant operators – many of whom are exciting independent businesses – about the opportunity to trade alongside these big brands. It is no secret the national market for the restaurant industry is experiencing a challenging period but there is continued interest from certain dining brands and, with its relatively limited range of eateries at present, Ashford presents a great opportunity for them. Although we are not able to announce names yet we look forward to sharing this news and seeing the restaurant units open in 2019.”

Marco Pierre White bans Michelin Guide inspectors from new restaurant: Marco Pierre White has upped the ante on his long-running dispute with the Michelin Guide by refusing its inspectors permission to visit his latest restaurant. The English House will launch in Singapore early next year offering modern British cuisine. Pierre White said the Michelin Guide wrote to him to ask if they could include The English House for consideration in their 2019 edition, which he refused. He told CNA Lifestyle: “I don’t need Michelin and they don’t need me. They sell tyres and I sell food.” Pierre White fell out with Michelin in 1999 when he handed back the three Michelin stars he had been awarded five years previously for his eponymous restaurant. He is still the youngest chef – and one of only nine in the UK – to be awarded three stars. At the time he said he gave the stars back because they “didn’t mean that much any more”, while he branded maintaining three stars as “pretty boring”. Earlier this month, Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to Pierre White, opened two sites in Dover – Mr White’s English Chophouse and Wheeler’s Fish and Chips.

BookaBreakfast launches as online breakfast and brunch hub: Online service BookaBreakfast has launched in a bid to become a hub for diners looking to source the best breakfast and brunch offers. The UK currently spends about £13bn a year on breakfast out of home, making it the fastest-growing daypart in the eating-out market. Visitors to can book tables with participating operators and access exclusive offers. The BookaBreakfast community ranges from “large breakfast meetings in Michelin-starred restaurants” to “intimate urban brunches at independent eateries”. The hub is the brainchild of Janie Lebeau, who also founded restaurant sourcing and booking company Capital Centric. Further plans include launching a national breakfast month. Lebeau said: “Eating out for breakfast and brunch is an integral part of our country’s ever-growing ‘cafe culture’, yet there has never been a one-stop-hub or obvious home of breakfast. Our aim for BookaBreakfast is to be a key part of that lifestyle experience. Our community is building fast, with many key restaurant groups and independent cafes already being showcased to thousands of breakfast and brunch fans.” 

Company News:

Greene King appoints new Pub Partners managing director: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed former Pizza Hut chief customer officer Wayne Shurvinton as managing director of its Pub Partners division. He will replace John Forrest, who is leaving the business to take up a new position in the healthcare sector. Shurvinton has extensive hospitality and franchise experience having spent the past nine years at Yum Brands! in a number of roles with KFC and Pizza Hut in the UK, Europe and Middle East. Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “I am delighted to welcome Wayne to lead our Pub Partners business. His experience in building partnerships and developing a growth strategy will translate well to the tenanted and leased sector and be invaluable as we continue to grow the Pub Partners division. I would also like to thank John Forrest for his contribution to our retail and Pub Partners businesses over the last three years. He goes with our very best wishes and sincere thanks.” Shurvinton joins Greene King this week and takes the reins as managing director of Pub Partners on Friday, 5 October.

Pret’s aborted IPO cost £6.65m, continues growth in Hong Kong: Pret A Manger’s aborted initial public offering cost the company £6.65m in legal and reorganisation fees, newly filed accounts have revealed. The company was set to be floated on the New York stock market by previous owner Bridgepoint but the move was delayed in November last year as it waited for market conditions to improve. Accounts filed at Companies House for Pret A Manger (Europe) for the year ending 28 December 2017 showed the company’s non-recurring costs included £6,645,000 of “one-off advisory fees incurred in connection with a potential listing and reorganisation of (parent company) PAM Group and all subsidiary companies”. Pret A Manger has also seen continued growth in Hong Kong. Accounts for Pret A Manger (Hong Kong) lodged at Companies House showed revenue for the year to 28 December 2017 increased 21.9% to £34,024,000, compared with £27,918,000 the previous year. Ebitda was up 5.2% to £2,037,000, compared with £2,194,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £504,000 compared with £596,000 the previous year. During the period the company opened six stores taking the total to 25 at year-end, all of which are company operated. Net assets were down slightly to £5,856,000 from £6,213,000 the year before. The company said it expected to keep growing in Hong Kong, where the small “Petit Pret” kiosk format is particularly suited to the transportation network and office lobbies. Group underlying Ebitda increased to £99.1m, compared with £94.3m the previous year. As previously reported, Pret’s sales increased 13.2% to £878.5m compared with £776.1m the year before. Like-for-like sales were up 3.2%. A total of 58 shops opened in the period, including 31 in the UK and 16 in the US. Bridgepoint sold Pret to JAB Holdings for a reported £1.5bn in May this year.

Matt Ford steps down from Gaucho Group: Gaucho Group marketing director Matt Ford is to step down from his role. He said the move was part of recent changes made by Gaucho’s administrators, Deloitte UK. Gaucho is to be bought out of administration by a new vehicle created and owned by the company’s lenders, Investec, and Hong Kong-based banking group SC Lowy. The deal has seen chief executive Oliver Meakin depart with former managing director and M Restaurants founder Martin Williams working with Gaucho to “drive the next stage of development”. The new vehicle – Lomo Bidco – will acquire Gaucho’s 16 restaurants subject to a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) being agreed on to dump liabilities linked to Gaucho’s sister restaurant chain CAU, which collapsed in July with the loss of 540 jobs. Ford said: “I wish the new Gaucho management team every success. I’ve had 14 wonderful years building the Gaucho brand – a distinctive, much-loved restaurant group working with some amazing people – to create an exceptional dining experience for our guests. It has been a huge part of my life and I’ve worked with great loyalty throughout the many changes in management over the past few years, at all times helping the brand to evolve and grow, with its continued success as my goal. First up is a long holiday, then I will look at future opportunities within the hospitality industry.” The sale of Gaucho is expected to complete in mid-October following approval of the CVA.

Hickory’s Smokehouse opens eighth site, in Worcester, confirms Cheshire village venue: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory’s, backed by Piper, has opened its eighth site, in Worcester. The restaurant has launched on the site of a former pavilion in Cripplegate Park and features a dedicated family dining area, a children’s cinema room, a garden with yard games, and a ping-pong table. Hickory’s has already lined up its ninth site, in the Cheshire village of Gresty Green, between Nantwich and Crewe. The former Cheshire Cheese pub will be refurbished to feature an open kitchen, chef’s bar, dining area and a neighbourhood bar with veranda, fire pits and a garden. Hickory’s Smokehouse founder Neil McDonnell said: “We are hugely excited to bring the Hickory’s experience to Worcester and Gresty Green. We stay in different hotels, visit bars and restaurants, and go to sporting and local events to get a feel for the community. It’s really important to us we are complementing each area and that we fully play our part.” McDonnell opened the first Hickory’s in Chester in 2010. The company now operates sites in the West Midlands, north west England and north Wales, the majority of them in former pubs. The group posted sales of £16.6m in the most recently filed accounts for the year ended 30 April 2017.

Apartment Group to launch £1.5m, five-venue complex in Sunderland: North east operator Apartment Group is to launch a £1.5m multi-purpose venue in Sunderland that will house five concepts under one roof. The Palm will open in the autumn at a space in Hylton Riverside that already houses Apartment Group’s pizza restaurant Liberty Brown, which will remain upstairs. The new ground-floor space will house Tropicuba, a Caribbean-inspired bar serving tapas and tequila; Wildernest, a tree house-inspired craft beer and cocktail bar specialising in superfood salads and vegetarian snacks; Pineapple Cove cafe serving sundaes and sandwiches; and The Garden, an outdoor area with street food stalls and live music. The bars will also feature retro games, shuffleboard and table tennis. Apartment Group owner Duncan Fisher told the Sunderland Echo: “We see it as a destination venue where you can stay all night going between the various bars – a place to escape. We have a tropical theme and we’re bringing in ten five-metre palm trees, we want people to turn the corner and feel like they’re on holiday. There’s nothing like this in the city and we feel the time is right. We want to keep Sunderland people in Sunderland by creating somewhere like this so they don’t have to go out in other cities.” In July, Apartment Group opened The Holy Hobo bar in Jesmond to join other sites that include Le Petit Chateau, Newton Hall, As You Like It and The Joiners Arms.

Wetherby Whaler acquires Wakefield fish and chip restaurant for sixth site, first with drive-thru: Yorkshire fish and chip operator Wetherby Whaler, which is owned by Better Fish, has acquired a restaurant and drive-thru for its sixth site. The company has bought The Empire, retaining all 30 staff and bringing its group-wide workforce to 240. The Empire opened in 1995 and occupies a former cinema in Calder Island Way. Wetherby Whaler director Caroline Murphy told BDaily: “The smooth purchase of The Empire complements our portfolio of restaurants and takeaways and strengthens our position in Wakefield and across Yorkshire. It has also brought an exciting concept to explore with the group’s first fish and chip drive-thru, which is one of only a few fish and chip establishments to offer this service in the UK. There is a solid foundation and great team in place that strengthens our existing dedicated and experienced workforce. This latest acquisition sets us up for further growth as we will gradually incorporate The Empire into the portfolio, staying consistent with our strong brand.” Better Fish also operates the original Harry Ramsden’s site in Guiseley.

Starbucks expands delivery options in US with new UberEats partnership: Starbucks is expanding delivery options through a new partnership with UberEats. Starbucks said it is in the “initial stages” of a delivery programme that involves more than 100 stores in the Miami area. It told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We are always testing new products and experiences for our customers and look forward to hearing their feedback.” UberEats said the test was specifically in the Miami-Dade and Broward County areas of Florida. It added: “Select items from the Starbucks menu will be available, featuring favourite items that have been tested for delivery.” It said the caramel Frappuccino had been the most popular delivery order. Earlier this year, Starbucks said improving digital relationships was part of a strategy to improve stagnant sales, especially in the afternoon. It has been at least three years since Starbucks expanded delivery options for customers. Its service, Postmates, has delivered Starbucks to its customers since the company launched six years ago. The delivery reach has grown to 400 markets served by Postmates, including 88 stores in Miami. Delivery sales have become the one bright spot for the restaurant industry, which continues to face sluggish visit numbers. During the past five years, delivery sales have increased 20% in the industry, according to research earlier this year by insights firm The NPD Group. “Delivery has become a need-to-have and no longer a nice-to-have in the restaurant industry,” it stated.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park reports turnover boost despite weather affecting visitor numbers: Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster has reported a boost in turnover despite bad weather conditions affecting visitor numbers. Accounts for Wildlife Group filed at Companies House showed turnover was up to £12,214,687 for the year ending 30 November 2017, compared with £11,977,588 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £3,350,217, compared with £3,820,118 the previous year but Ebitda was maintained at £5m. In their report accompanying the results, the directors said the figures represented a “very good achievement considering the external constraints of visitors to the park, bad weather and no new animal attraction”. During 2017, Yorkshire Wildlife Park invested in the redevelopment of its Lemurs Walkthrough and Forest Play Area. It also built a staff facility featuring office space, a restaurant and gym. The directors added: “Severe weather at the start of the current year meant a slow start. However, May was exceptionally strong resulting in £400,000 higher turnover than last year. The introduction of Ussuri brown bears in August 2018 has proved very popular and we are expecting a record trading month for August.” As previously reported, Yorkshire Wildlife Park was given the go-ahead earlier this year for £50m expansion plans that include new restaurants and a hotel. The scheme, which has been approved by Doncaster Council, will see 150 acres of neighbouring land transformed. The park was founded 80 years ago and currently employs 300 people.

Titanic Brewery to open second Bod site next month, lines up third: Titanic Brewery will open a second site for its cafe bar concept Bod next month and is lining up a third. The Burslem-based company will open the outlet at Stoke train station on Monday, 8 October. Titanic Brewery is converting the former first class lounge into Bod, which will be accessible from the station’s platform one as well as Winton Square. Titanic Brewery launched its debut Bod at a former Co-op store in Stafford. Joint managing director Dave Bott told the Stoke Sentinel: “We have had huge success at our first Bod and are confident we can build on that and create a space that will successfully serve train passengers and the general public. As a brewery we are well known for our community pubs but we see the Bod concept as meeting a new need in the market.” Titanic Brewery is also looking to create a third Bod at Trentham in a former NatWest bank branch in Longton Road. A planning application has been submitted to Stoke City Council.

Gourmet chips concept debuts in Soho: Gourmet chips concept ChipNation has opened its debut restaurant, in Soho, with at least three further sites in the pipeline. The brainchild of husband-and-wife team Neha and Vishal Madhu, who operate confectionery distribution company Innovate Bites, the venue in Great Windmill Street offers chips fried in sunflower oil for four minutes to cook the potato from inside and then fried again for two minutes to create the “perfectly crispy shell”. To accompany the chips, the menu offers ten seasonings, including jerk, Cajun and harissa, plus 40 sauces under the sections regular, Dutch, warm and cold. Toppings include vegan bacon bits. ChipNation also offers sweet potato and halloumi chips, with all servings available to eat in or take away. The brand’s website states venues are “coming soon” in Derby, Intu Lakeside and Watford.

Council rejects KFC bid to build 80 homes in Derby: KFC has had its bid to build 80 homes alongside a restaurant and coffee shop in Derby refused. The company was seeking permission for land at Rough Heanor Farm in the Mickleover area. However, its plan for the 19-acre site has been voted down by Derby City Council, Insider Media reports. A statement submitted to the council on behalf of KFC read: “The proposal represents major investment in infrastructure to reconnect a substantial area of isolated land in a sustainable location to the communities of Mickleover and Littleover, and to provide improved access, noise levels, housing and jobs. The proposal would remediate previous inert tipping on the site, effect its sustainable drainage and create opportunities to reconnect green infrastructure to provide attractive cycling and walking routes and habitats. The proposal would significantly improve a key gateway from the south and west into the city of Derby.”

Fourth acquires Choice HR amid plans to ‘disrupt’ US market: Fourth, the software partner to the hospitality industry, has acquired Choice HR, a US full-service payroll, benefits and HR services company, as it moves to “disrupt the way America manages its hospitality workforce for the better”. Its 400 customers include leading brands such as PDQ, Metro Diner, Beef o’ Brady’s, Ford’s Garage and World of Beer. The 55 staff at Choice HR’s head office in Tampa, Florida, will join the Fourth family. Its management team will remain in place, while Choice HR’s offices will serve as the combined group’s North America base. Fourth chief executive Ben Hood said: “The operators who succeed in the battle for customers and efficiencies in the UK and the US will be the ones who harness the power of technology to deliver not only the best guest experience but also the best employee experience. We’re dedicated to helping them achieve this. We don’t just want to support our UK customers expanding in the US such as Wagamama, Leon and Itsu, we also want to offer US operators the same robust system UK customers enjoy to ensure compliance and drive efficiencies. We all know the US legal framework is much more complex than the UK and that is why this acquisition is not about one tech company acquiring another. This is about disrupting the way America manages its hospitality workforce for the better.”

Liverpool-based operator reports turnover dip despite rise in accommodation sales as hotel expansion takes shape: Liverpool-based operator Hope Street Hotel has reported a dip in turnover despite increasing revenue from accommodation. The company saw turnover fall to £4,683,771 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £4,713,051 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £860,304 compared with £1,753,105 as the company continued its expansion of the hotel’s capacity and services, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Hope Street Hotel comprises the boutique four-star Hope Street Hotel in Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter and the Michelin-listed London Carriage Works restaurant next to the hotel on the corner of Hope Street and Hardman Street. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Revenue from hotel rooms has increased, while the restaurant sales have shown a slight decrease in food sales and a slight increase in beverage sales. Average occupancy rates for 2017 have increased on previous years, with 79% occupancy compared with 77.5% in 2016. This growth and consistency is very promising with current development work taking place on the hotel that will significantly increase its capacity. The business continues to generate cash surpluses from trading activities, which is enabling the company to self-finance the current expansion work being undertaken. It is important to note there has been more than £2.2m spent on the new hotel development, replacing assets as part of a refurbishment and the introduction of a new hotel management system. The current expansion works include additional rooms, swimming pool and spa, cinema, members lounge and additional conferencing facilities. Work on the expansion started in early 2017, with the scheduled completion date expected to be early to mid 2019.”

Star Pubs & Bars increases wine support with dedicated category buyer appointment: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has appointed Roberta Neave as a dedicated wine category buyer. Neave, a former wine buyer at Tesco, has been given the remit to increase Star Pubs & Bars’ category support to licensees and broaden and upgrade its wine range to make it competitive with that of wholesalers and wine merchants. To kick off the new wine programme Neave has conducted a review and, having identified gaps in the range, has added more than 50 lines that will go live from Monday, 1 October. Licensees will see an increased depth of core varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and prosecco, as well as the addition of more specialist premium wines. Accompanying category insight, deals and point-of-sale materials are also being created to help licensees drive sales. Neave said: “We have carried out a lot of work with our suppliers to identify areas where we can improve our offer. We want to encourage trial and exploration without overstretching customers’ wallets.” Star Pubs & Bars is also replacing 12-bottle with six-bottle cases, which its research showed are more popular with licensees, and will introduce a focused range of sparkling, fortified and premium wines in its single-bottle pick solution. It is also increasing its range of formats, from 187ml bottles to magnums. Neave added: “Licensees can choose where to buy their wine so our service needs to exceed what they get elsewhere. We’ll be offering a selection of good, better and best wines in each country of origin and grape variety with more high-quality options to enable licensees to capitalise on the premiumisation trend, which shows no sign of relenting.”

Yorkshire-based craft brew company increases equity offer in £140,000 crowdfunding campaign: Yorkshire-based craft brew company Play Brew has increased the equity offer in its £140,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, founded by Phil Layton, is now offering 20.5% equity instead of the original 12% in return for the investment. So far 170 investors have pledged £114,800 with 25 days remaining. Founded last year with four core beers, Play Brew has been using contract brewing until now to “help it gain traction”. The pitch states: “To date, we have produced about 5,500 cans and our beers have been sold in 33 outlets. We want to be the first to open a brewery and taproom in our local area, providing our community with a place to drink and socialise while also providing outlets in the vicinity with fresh local craft beers for retail. Play Brew recognises securing the right location is the key to success. Being the only brewery within a 19.5-mile radius, connecting and engaging the local community through a taproom will be instrumental to the business growth and profit. On the back of our soft launch, we have a number of outlets that are keen to become full-time stockists. Having our own brewery and taproom will not only allow us to grow our sales, it will also give us the opportunity to create new flavours to add to our range.”

London restaurant institution The Gay Hussar goes on market: One of London’s oldest restaurant institutions, The Gay Hussar, has gone on the market. Agents AG&G and Savills have been instructed to offer a new letting opportunity for the whole building in Soho’s Greek Street that trades over three floors. Available as a new lease, rental offers in excess of £125,000 per annum are being sought for the venue, which was popular among politicians and political satirists. The Hungarian cuisine-focused restaurant, which closed earlier this year, had been open for 65 years and was founded by late Swiss-Welsh restaurateur Victor Sassie. Famous patrons included broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson, Private Eye founder and journalist Richard Ingrams, and writer TS Eliot. It also became famous for being the venue where Tony Blair was reportedly persuaded to run for parliament in 1982. AG&G director Michael Penfold said: “This is a rare opportunity to lease a restaurant in Soho with a history perhaps unrivalled in terms of its involvement in modern British politics.”

Indoor climbing operator Rock Up opens Intu Watford site as extension nears completion: Indoor climbing operator Rock Up has opened its fourth site, at Intu Watford, as work completes on the £180m extension at the leisure complex. Rock Up has opened in an 8,450 square foot space and the venue features 27 climbing walls – some more than eight metres – as well as a soft-play area, cafe and function rooms. The opening comes ahead of the centre’s launch of its 400,000 square foot extension later this month. An 113,000 square foot Debenhams will be the first store to open – on Thursday, 27 September – while there will be 13 new shops and 11 restaurants in total. The centre’s existing malls, home to Rock Up as well as John Lewis, Zara and Mac, have also undergone a £13m refurbishment programme. Rock Up executive chairman Heidi Duckworth said: “Intu Watford is a key destination for the Rock Up brand and it’s an extremely exciting time for us to open this year alongside the many great brands and leisure operators coming to the centre.” Intu regional managing director Rebecca Ryman added: “Rock Up is bringing something new to the customer experience at Intu Watford. The centre’s extension has created a fantastic new space that provides enormous potential for more retailers and leisure operators looking to invest in the centre.” Rock Up operates three other sites – in Birmingham, Whiteley in Hampshire and Hull – with another due to open at Rushden Lakes shopping centre in Northamptonshire this winter.

Barons Eden Group puts Cotswolds hotel on market for £2.6m: A 17th century boutique hotel in the Cotswolds has been put on the market for £2.6m. The Dial House in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, is being sold by The Barons Eden Group, little more than a year after the company acquired it. The grade II-listed building dates to 1698 but was recently renovated to offer 15 bedrooms, two dining areas and a bar lounge, while the garden can accommodate a 120-capacity marquee. James Greenslade, of Savills’ hotel team, who is handling the sale, told Gloucestershire Live: “The Dial House is a fantastic period property and has been renovated to a high standard. Located in the attractive village of Bourton-on-the-Water, the hotel is popular with visitors to the Cotswolds and has further potential for conversion to a wedding venue.” The Barons Eden Group’s portfolio includes Hoar Cross Hall Spa Hotel, Eden Hall Day Spa and Huxleys cafe.

Le Bab team launches Covent Garden kebab concept for second London site: Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet, who launched kebab concept Le Bab in Soho two years ago, have opened a second London restaurant, in Covent Garden. Maison Bab has opened in the new Mercers Walk development in Seven Dials. The restaurant is a joint venture with former Le Gavroche sous chef Manu Canales Garces, who heads the kitchen and has devised a menu featuring six handmade kebabs served with house-made sourdough flatbread. There are also mezze dishes, sides and desserts. Maison Bab offers 45 covers at ground level, with 30 seats in the basement space, which is also available to hire. There is also a “hidden” ten-seater chef’s table called Kebab Queen. The drinks list includes cocktails, fine wine and London craft beer. Tozer said: “We love Le Bab and wouldn’t change it for the world but at Maison Bab we’re offering something punchier, bolder and more surprising. We’ve been developing this concept for almost two years so we’re incredibly excited to unveil what we’ve been working on.”

Filipino ice cream parlour brand Mamasons opens second London site: Filipino ice cream parlour brand Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream has opened its second London site, in Chinatown. The company, which made its debut in Camden, has opened the store in Newport Court. The 20-cover site offers a range of ice cream flavours with an Eastern influence, including Mamasons’ signature dessert – the bilog – a milk bun filled with ice cream, toasted in a hot press and dusted with icing sugar. Co-founder Omar Shah said: “Filipino cuisine is synonymous with creating and serving food with great love and, as a London-born Filipino, I wanted to bring this experience to the capital. What we offer is more than just ice cream, it’s about creating a cultural experience and sharing this with our new customers in Chinatown London.” Shaftesbury head of group restaurant strategy Julia Wilkinson added: “It is very exciting to welcome Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream to Chinatown London, and judging by the queue, it’s fantastic to see how popular the launch was and the buzz it has already created in this newly developed part of Chinatown London.”

Museum of Speed plans include eco-hostel and events space: Plans have been submitted to build a Museum of Speed featuring a 42-bed eco-hostel and an outdoor events space at Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. The plans, which have been recommended for approval by Carmarthenshire Council officers, would replace the current Museum of Speed, which has hosted five successful world land speed record attempts. The new Sands of Speed Museum is projected to provide £3.3m to the local economy per year and create 60 jobs, Insider Media reports. The application’s design and access statement reads: “The highest point of the museum with a glazed wall symbolises the focal point from which the visitors will be granted the best view over the seven-mile beach and the horizon of Carmarthen Bay. Racing heritage is reflected in the dynamic form of the building, rising from the lowest point at the entrance and culminating at the highest point at its south east corner, facing the long beach.”

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