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Fri 21st Sep 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

City Pub Group to hit estate size target more than a year early: City Pub Group, led by Clive Watson, now expects the company to hit its estate size target of between 60 to 70 sites more than a year earlier than the target of 2021 it set when it floated last year. The company currently has 44 sites open and Watson told Propel the company now expected to hit 65 sites by the first quarter of 2020. The company reported its estate had now moved to 55% freehold after success in acquiring a number of “chunky” freehold sites in the past year. It now has nine sites in Cambridge, accounting for 20% of the entire estate. In June it opened The Old Ticket Office at Cambridge train station, which is trading “slightly ahead of expectations”. It will open a former JD Wetherspoon site, Tivoli, in the third quarter of 2019. The Daily Mail’s Midas column stated this week: “City Pub Group has come a long way fast but the best is yet to come. When the firm floated, it had 33 pubs and hoped to double in size by 2021. Now the group is set to reach that target earlier. Brokers believe it can reach 100 pubs in the next few years as customers respond to the renovated bars, trendy drinks and decent service. Existing investors should hold, while new ones could also swallow a few shares.” Broker Liberum, raising its target price for shares to 265p from 250p, stated: “As well as driving site expansion, using its network, and expertise in negotiating off-market deals, City Pubs continues to focus on staff training, development and incentivisation to ensure ongoing innovation, loyalty and quality of customer experience. The group’s innovative profit share scheme – where all employees who have been with the business for more than a year share 3% of group Ebitda (less adjustments) – is exceptional in the industry and contributes to the entrepreneurial culture and low staff turnover. From next year, this will be paid out on a semi-annual basis helping new staff to participate earlier and matching the payment with revenues.” Broker Berenberg raised its target price to 260p, adding: “In our view City Pub is a unique asset among the listed pub operators, with an estate made up of cherry-picked assets in affluent towns and cities across south England and Wales. With net debt to Ebitda still only at circa 2.0 times (and set to fall considerably once its four development sites open), the company has significant headroom for further acquisitions and a management team with the ambition to scale the business to at least 65 sites. In our view, management’s comments that competition for sites is falling bodes particularly well and we continue to believe the company will be a materially bigger business on a multi-year view.”

Industry News:

New speaker added to Propel Multi-Club event on Thursday 1 November, two free places for operators: A new speaker has been added to the schedule for the Propel Multi-Club conference on Thursday 1 November. Daniel Davies, founder of CPL Training and chairman of the Institute of Licensing, will outline his plans to breathe new life into his local coastal community with his latest venture Rock Point Leisure. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at The other speakers are James Nye, managing director of award-winning, nine-strong Anglian Country Inns; Matt Snell, managing director of 19-strong Gusto; Good Life Eatery founder Yasmine Larizadeh; John Upton, former managing director of Leon, member of the McDonald’s UK leadership team and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli; Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s; Joe Grossman, founder of 12-strong Patty & Bun; and David Singleton, area vice-president, franchise operations and development EMEA/south Asia, Hard Rock International; Christie & Co managing director of pubs and restaurants Neil Morgan; Zonal marketing director Clive Consterdine; Andrew Ball, of sector accountancy specialist haysmacintyre; and Martin Dinkele, deputy managing director of Morar HPI.

Wetherspoon, McDonald’s and TGI Friday’s staff to hold co-ordinated strike: Staff at JD Wetherspoon, McDonald’s and TGI Friday’s are set to hold co-ordinated strike action next month. A protest and rally has been scheduled take place on Thursday, 4 October in London and include staff from an unspecified number of McDonald’s branches in London and two Wetherspoon pubs in Brighton. The workers at The Bright Helm and The Post & Telegraph pubs are members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union who were inspired to join the union by strike action taken last year by McDonald’s workers in a dispute over zero-hours contracts and conditions. Meanwhile, staff at TGI Friday’s sites in Milton Keynes and Covent Garden staged a walkout in May in a dispute over tips and pay. On 14 September, Wetherspoon announced it was increasing pay rates in the last financial year (to July 2018) by £20m and would increase rates this year by £27m. Spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Guardian: “We also decided several months ago that management will work a 40-hour week instead of the current 42.5 hours from April 2019. We are also moving to the same rate for 18 to 21s as we already have for over-21s from 5 November 2018. In addition we are putting up the rate of pay. In the last financial year we paid record monthly bonuses and free shares of £43m, equivalent to about 50% of our net profits – 75% of this sum was paid to those who work in our pubs.” At the time of the first UK strike by McDonald’s workers last year, the company said industrial action involved less than 0.01% of its workforce. It also pointed to the delivery of three pay rises since April 2016, which had increased the average hourly pay rate by 15%.

Just Eat, Deliveroo and BrewDog join UK’s 75 most valuable brands list illustrating ‘social behaviour changes’: Delivery companies Just Eat and Deliveroo and Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog have joined the UK’s 75 most valuable brands list illustrating “changes in social behaviour”. Online retailers, food services and betting sites account for the majority of the 25 new entries in this year’s Kantar Millward Brown’s BrandZ Top 75 ranking, while supermarkets have slipped. While the top end of the ranking remains stable – led by Vodafone, HSBC, Shell, BT and Sky – players such as Just Eat (30th on the list), Ocado (49th), BrewDog (65th), National Lottery (37th) and Bet365 (44th) are beginning to disrupt the status quo – indicative of a change in social behaviours and a sign of things to come, Kantar Millward Brown said. Other new entrants in the top 75 include Deliveroo (64th), (46th), John Lewis (56th), Very (58th) and Ladbrokes (70th). BrandZ global strategy director Peter Walshe told Marketing Week: “When we look at the new entries, the vast majority reflect where our society is going. You see a lot of online stuff, the way convenience food eating and drinking is really taking off. Because we’ve expanded the 50 to 75, it gives us a real insight as to what is bubbling under.”

Europe ‘dominating’ craft beer innovation: Europe has taken over the global leadership role in craft beer innovation, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database. In 2013, North America – especially the US – accounted for more than half (52%) of all craft beer retail launches compared with 29% in Europe. However in 2017, 54% of launches originated in Europe and only 19% in North America. Since 2013, craft beer product launches in Europe have grown massively by 178%. While the US is still the single most innovative market globally, with 17% of all global craft beer launches in 2017, six of the top ten most innovative markets are in Europe, with the UK listed third, Mintel said. Beer drinkers in Poland (64%), France (63%), Italy (61%) and Germany (50%) are all interested in trying different types of craft beer that are already common in the UK market. Europeans are also willing to spend more on craft beer. About half of drinkers in Italy (52%), France (51%), Germany (46%) and the UK (45%) agree craft beer is “worth the extra money”. Almost half of Spanish beer drinkers (45%) were unclear as to what made a beer “craft”, while less than one-fifth (17%) of German beer drinkers said it would affect their purchase decision if a craft brand was owned by a large company. More than two-fifths (44%) of UK beer drinkers would like to see a craft beer certification system. Mintel Food & Drink associate director Jonny Forsyth said: “Europeans are embracing craft beer because they are looking for new, more exciting offerings compared with their usual beer options, especially in markets such as Germany where brewers and beer styles have remained unchanged for centuries. While markets such as Germany, Belgium and Czech Republic are still dominated by their own beer styles, consumer interest in craft beer offers ample opportunities. Craft is the ‘new premium’ and consumers are happy to pay more for smaller-batch, more hand-crafted options rather than those that are mass-produced. Craft beer taps into their desire for new experiences with a nod to the past for inspiration.”

Wine recommendation app launches ‘digital sommelier’ feature to help diners choose ‘perfect bottle’: Wine recommendation app Corkscrew has launched a Wine Near Me feature to help diners choose the “perfect bottle”. The free app acts as a digital sommelier to sift through the hundreds of wines available to shoppers on their doorstep. Diners can also use the app to select the perfect wine in chain restaurants including Casual Dining Group brand Cafe Rouge, Strada and French brasserie Cote as well as select independent restaurants. It instantly ranks wine using ratings from top critics and food pairing to recommend the best bottles from retailers within walking distance. Corkscrew founder and chief executive Matthew Gertner said: “Corkscrew was born from my desire to democratise wine selection, helping users feel more confident when choosing wine. With the Wine Near Me feature we’ve made it even simpler to pick the best bottle nearby – by enabling users the option to browse all their local wine retailers at once. Now they can discover the very best neighbourhood wines and get the best value for money.”

Chefs admit kitchens take ‘soft’ policy on free-from options: Almost one-fifth (18%) of chefs have worked in kitchens that operate a “soft” policy on food intolerances, new research has revealed. The findings by hospitality recruiter The Change Group showed food was sometimes prepared with small amounts of animal stock in vegetarian meals, for example, or wheat in dishes labelled as gluten-free. The study said this was not deliberate policy but an accident due to the speed employees have to work. One in seven (14%) chefs also admitted diners at their restaurant had to ask the waiter to check which dishes suited their requirements as this was not labelled on the menu. More than 95% of chefs said their restaurant catered for food intolerances and healthy eating, while half provided on-the-job diet and nutrition training. Gluten is the number one intolerance (87%) restaurants take into consideration, followed by dairy (50%) and egg (43%). Fewer than half (47%) of chefs said their restaurant catered to people with a nut allergy. The Change Group co-founder and director Craig Allen said: “The reality of busy, often understaffed kitchens is a significant minority of chefs are reporting they work in restaurants that can allow contaminants in dishes that are meant to be vegan or gluten-free. This is further evidence of the pressures restaurants face to deliver against customer expectations.”

Company News:

BrewDog substantially reduces losses in bar division: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has substantially narrowed its losses in its bar division as sales continued to rise. Turnover rose to £24,206,000 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £21,724,000 the previous year. Pre-tax loss dropped to £45,000 compared with £1,176,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Employee numbers in the bar division rose to 362 from 351 the year before. As previously reported, revenue of the division is up 92%, generating an incremental £10m so far in 2018. Meanwhile, BrewDog has expanded its bar division by opening a debut site in Iceland. The 120-capacity venue in Reykjavik is the company’s 58th bar worldwide. It offers 20 draught lines, BrewDog burgers and wings, and Icelandic dishes. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Reykjavik has long been in our sights. We couldn’t be happier to finally provide an Icelandic outpost for the craft beer community.”

Deliveroo relaunches corporate offering to move into hotel and catering sectors: Deliveroo has relaunched its corporate offering. Deliveroo for Business, which has more than 7,000 customers in 12 markets, has been extended to take in hotel room service, events catering and office fruit baskets. Following a trial in Australia with Quest Apartment hotels, the room service offering is being rolled out globally. Travellers place the order via the hotel with food arriving in less than 30 minutes. The catering service is aimed at large-scale events. Deliveroo said its team had already catered at the largest drone-racing championship in the world and would cater for its first wedding, in London in December. Deliveroo will also arrange regular deliveries of fruit and snacks to offices, with office deliveries seeing huge growth. Deliveroo for Business said with UK office staff working later than ever, more than half (55%) of its orders in 2018 were made to workers after 8pm, an increase of 10% from the previous year. The UK recruitment industry made up more than one-quarter (26%) of all Deliveroo for Business early morning office orders, while PR and marketing professionals mostly used the service for large lunches. Thai remains the most popular cuisine among office workers, followed by Japanese and Italian. Deliveroo for Business launched in September 2016. Juan Diego Farah, global head of Deliveroo for Business, said: “In just two years we’ve seen Deliveroo for Business customers reinvent the way they interact with food at work, seeing great food as a key retention tool in an increasingly competitive work market. Our new services will continue to provide even more opportunities for businesses to fuel and treat employees, guests and customers.”

Brunning & Price opens first pub with rooms, in Warwickshire, signs for second: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub division of The Restaurant Group, has opened its first pub with rooms and has signed for a second venue. Arrow Mill has launched next to the River Arrow in Alcester, Warwickshire. The pub, set in more than 50 acres, retains its wooden beams and has a water wheel at its centre. A green oak bar has been added while a stone terrace overlooks the millpond. Of the nine new rooms, one offers a private rooftop courtyard and another a roll-top bath. The pub also features a first-floor function room with private balcony. Brunning & Price managing director Mary Willcock said: “We couldn’t be more thrilled with how the bedrooms look and with the feedback we have already received from the community.’’ The company also reopened The Highwayman in Kirkby Lonsdale in the Lake District at the weekend, the first of four pubs taken on from Ribble Valley Inns. A second, The Clog & Billycock in Blackburn, will reopen on Saturday, 6 October. The White Horse in Beaconsfield will also open in October, while The Parrot in Forest Green, Surrey, will relaunch before Christmas. A second Brunning & Price pub with rooms is on the way. Willcock said: “We have been successful in our negotiations to take on the Highdown Hotel in Goring, near Worthing, which will be our second pub to offer our customers an overnight stay.’’ The group currently operates 67 pub restaurants across the UK. Last month it acquired 11-strong London gastro-pub operator Food & Fuel for £14.91m.

West Midlands-based McDonald’s franchisee reports pre-tax profit jump as turnover increases 26%: West Midlands-based McDonald’s franchisee Wright Restaurants has reported turnover increased 26% to £39,000,671 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £31,014,300 the previous year. The company, owned by Douglas Wright, operates 17 sites and saw pre-tax profit jump to £847,462 compared with £368,276 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross margin remained consistent with the prior year at 43% (2016: 44%) in what the directors described as a “challenging trading environment”. A final dividend of £200,000 was recommended. The number of employees during the period increased to 1,186 from 986 the previous year. Wright is a long-standing McDonald’s franchisee, launching his first outlet in Lichfield in May 2003.

Be At One to open second site in Birmingham, next month: Cocktail bar brand Be At One is to open its second site in Birmingham, next month. The venue will open in Brindleyplace on Friday, 5 October following a £500,000 investment, taking the brand’s portfolio to 33 sites. Be At One’s other Birmingham site opened in Piccadilly Arcade in 2016 and attracts more than 30,000 customers a month, the company said. Be At One managing director Andrew Stones said: “Our team adores being part of Birmingham’s vibrant culture and we’ve been looking for a second site for a while to build on our presence. Brindleyplace, with a capacity of 150 and a terrace able to sit 30 people year-round, is the perfect complement.” Stonegate Pub Company acquired Be At One for an undisclosed sum in July. Helen Charlesworth, managing director of the company’s Branded Bars & Venues division, said: “Stonegate is a business in rapid growth and Be At One will contribute to that significantly over the coming months and years. This second site will further strengthen the brand’s position in the city and our footprint as an operator.” Meanwhile, 200 Stonegate managers have donated 200 gifts to the Toy Project, a charity that supports families and less-advantaged children around the country. This follows the £320,000 the group raised for UK charities as part of its Accelerator career development programme.  

Inn Collection Group reports turnover and Ebitda boost as losses fall: The Inn Collection Group, which is owned by Alchemy Partners, has reported turnover increased 29% to £10,209,837 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £7,928,500 the previous year. Underlying Ebitda, before exceptional items of £434,000, grew 77% to £1.8m. Like-for-like sales were up 8%. Pre-tax losses were down to £1,525,339 compared with £1,675,365 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “In November 2017 the group signed an agreement to lease a new-build inn in Amble, Northumberland, which will open in late 2018 as the group’s eighth site. In December 2017, the group acquired Harbour Hill Cottages in Seahouses, Northumberland, which opened in the second quarter of 2018 as an annexe creating 13 additional bedrooms at the flagship Bamburgh Castle Inn. In 2018, the company expects to achieve a further strong increase in sales and profitability from continued growth in the core estate and the opening of new units and investment undertaken in established units. In the first quarter of 2018, a full refurbishment was undertaken at Seaton Lane Inn in Seaham, County Durham, which was the last venue to be developed into the Inn Collection trading model. In the 12 weeks to 24 March 2018, like-for-like sales were ahead of the prior year despite the north east suffering its most disruptive weather for many years, while the outlook for the year is strong with room bookings up 8% on the year before. The company and its subsidiaries continue to seek additional properties to add to its portfolio, and marketing and promotional products to ensure the trading activities of the group companies are profitable.” Earlier this month, the company acquired its first site outside its north east heartland – the 24-bedroom Waterhead Hotel at Coniston Water in the Lake District. Alchemy Partners, former backers of Revolution Bars Group, acquired Inn Collection Group in June from Kings Park Capital. Later that month, OakNorth provided The Inn Collection Group with finance to fund its expansion. 

New venture acquires Manchester-based bar group Black Dog Ballroom: Ross Mackenzie and Jobe Ferguson, owners of Manchester-based bar group Black Dog Ballroom, have sold the company. The acquired group is now eyeing further success as part of a new venture that has the backing of TwentyTwentyTwo bar owner Andy Haygarth and Black Dog area manager Matt Robson. Mackenzie and Ferguson opened the first Black Dog Ballroom in the city’s Northern Quarter in 2009. They launched a second site of the same name in New Wakefield Street followed by Dog Bowl, a bowling alley and bar in Whitworth Street, for a third venue. Speaking on behalf of the Black Dog group’s shareholders Mackenzie, who is also behind Manchester cocktail bar The Liars Club, New York-style bar Cane & Grain, and pizza parlour Crazy Pedro’s, told Insider Media: “We are very proud of what we have achieved with the bars but the time is right to pass over the reins to new owners who can continue to operate and grow what is a very well-known brand in Manchester.” The Sedulo corporate finance team completed the sale. Corporate finance executive Will Stanton said: “The Black Dog bars are an institution in Manchester so we’re proud to have been able to find new owners and co-ordinate the transition.”

Nordic Bakery sold out of administration: Scandinavian bakery and coffee shop Nordic Bakery has been sold out of administration for £40,000 to one of the company’s directors, a new report has revealed. A statement of proposals by administrators Eric Walls and Wayner Harrison, of KSA Group, showed the once four-strong Nordic Bakery had been sold to Nordic Bakery Group, with Markku Launonen a director of both companies. The report showed Nordic Bakery had an estimated deficiency of £935,887.30. Nordic Bakery had suffered historic losses leaving the company with significant liabilities and had struggled to achieve profitability. Following the unsuccessful opening of a fourth cafe in Covent Garden, which itself incurred significant monthly losses, Nordic Bakery appointed a new board of directors in August 2017 that included Launonen in an effort to improve the financial position. It reached agreement to surrender the lease of the Covent Garden site but despite the closure the company’s overall liabilities had reached a level that was “simply unmanageable”. After going into administration, Nordic Bakery closed its sites in New Cavendish Street and Dorset Street but continued to trade from its flagship site in Golden Square, Soho. The report showed secured creditors Lloyds Bank, The Portman Estate and Howard De Walden Estates, which were owed £73,620.85, £25,750 and £16,141.85 respectively, were “likely to receive a payment”. It is also thought there may be sufficient funds to make a distribution to unsecured creditors, who were owed a total of £329,438. It is believed there are no preferential creditors.   

Vegan meal delivery service secures £7.5m funding for expansion: Allplants, a plant-based meal delivery company, has raised £7.5m in Series A funding led by Octopus Ventures – early backers of Graze, Secret Escapes and Zoopla. Existing investor Felix Capital – the venture fund that is also behind Deliveroo – also doubled its seed round investment to underpin what is said to be the UK’s largest Series A funding round for a vegan company. Former Tyrells chief executive David Milner and founder Simon Nixon also joined the funding round. Founded in 2017 by brothers Jonathan and Alex Petrides, north London-based Allplants delivers chef-made vegan meals to the doorstep. It has served more than 250,000 meals nationwide and has more than 70,000 online fans. The company plans to use the funds to broaden its range of food, accelerate growth of its community, build its team and expand capacity of its green energy-powered production kitchen. Jonathan Petrides told BDaily: “Each evening, an Allplants meal is enjoyed every 15 seconds. Most customers aren’t vegetarian or vegan, they’re curious and hunting for convenient, healthy ways to boost their busy lives. This investment will help us fuel the plant-based movement. We’re excited to build a home for plant-based living in the UK and continue sharing our food with the world to inspire the next billion plant-powered people.”

JD Wetherspoon chief executive buys £105,000 of shares: JD Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson has acquired 8,384 shares of the company’s stock. The stock was acquired at an average price of 1,263p per share, with a total value of £105,889.92. Wetherspoon shares opened at 1,332p on Thursday (20 September). Its shares have a 12-month low of 926.50p and a 12-month high of 1,346.14p. The company also recently declared a dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, 29 November. Investors as of Thursday, 25 October will be given a dividend of 8p per share. This represents a dividend yield of 0.63% – a boost from Wetherspoon’s previous dividend of 4p.

Blacklock to open Shoreditch site next month for third London venue: Skinny chops concept Blacklock is to open its third London site, in Shoreditch next month. The restaurant will open in a former Victorian warehouse in Rivington Street on Monday, 8 October offering signature chops, steaks, sides and Sunday roast. A larger, separate bar will offer a bespoke cocktail list curated in partnership with New York speakeasy bar Slowly Shirley. Former Hawksmoor executive Gordon Kerr opened the first Blacklock site in Soho in 2015. A second, larger site launched in Philpot Lane in the City of London in March 2017. Gordon Ker, Founder of Blacklock said: “We’re really excited to bring Blacklock to Shoreditch in such an iconic East London spot. The building is a former warehouse that is full of character and right up our street so we jumped at the chance. We’ve wanted to focus on the bar and food that goes well after a few drinks for a while but have never had the space and with Shoreditch it felt like the right time. It’s always important to us to add something special to the area so it’s great to be collaborating with the guys at Slowly Shirley who have some of the best international mixologists out there to bring something new to Blacklock and to Shoreditch.”

Kricket opens third London site, in White City: Indian small plates concept Kricket has opened its third London site, in White City. The 100-cover restaurant has launched in the Television Centre development at the former home of the BBC. The 3,600 square foot space also houses a cocktail bar offering snacks, a 40-cover terrace, a large communal table and booth seating. The offering has moved slightly away from small plates towards more “individual courses”. Sunday brunch features larger cuts of meat such as goat cooked for groups to eat family-style. Breakfast is also planned for the all-day spot. New dishes on the menu include spiced cod’s roe with pickled mustard seeds and telicherry roti; grouse kebab with lardo, greengage chutney and cobnuts; and tandoori wood pigeon with smoked raita, garlic achar, salmi potatoes and pickled blackberries. Kricket co-owner Rik Campbell told Hot Dinners: “It will be nice to do something a little different here.” Campbell and Will Bowlby opened the first Kricket site in Soho in January 2017. They launched a second, in Brixton, in May this year. Other operators at the £8bn development include Soho House, better pizza brand Homeslice, D&D London’s Bluebird and better burger brand Patty & Bun.

Glasgow-based operator to open pancake house for third site: Glasgow-based operator Paul Reynolds is to open a pancake house next month for his third site. Reynolds has partnered with Graham Swankie to launch Stack & Still in West George Street on Monday, 15 October. The 200-cover venue, which will offer a variety of sweet and savoury pancakes, will also feature a self-dispense bar with 16 beers, ales, cider and prosecco, while the coffee will be roasted on-site. Reynolds told Glasgow Live: “We wanted to create something totally different for Glasgow – a venue that offers tasty food and great drinks but is also fun, innovative and inclusive. Glasgow’s food and drink scene is vibrant and we are confident Glaswegians will enjoy our fresh pancakes, house syrups and, of course, the self-dispense bar.” Reynolds also operates Gin 71 bar and Cup tea room in the city.

Aktar Islam reveals details of second restaurant: Aktar Islam, former chef director of Birmingham-based group Lasan, has revealed details of his second site. Islam will launch Italian restaurant Legna in Birmingham city centre in November. Legna, which will employ about 40 staff, is the latest venture from Islam following the opening of Indian restaurant Opheem, which is next to Legna in Summer Row. The main menu at 70-cover Legna will focus on eight starters and eight main dishes. Legna, which is Italian for “firewood”, will offer a selection of hot and cold snacks such as salt cod fritters, cured meat and olives. Islam told The Business Desk: “This is the culmination of a dream for me and I am so excited about welcoming guests to Legna. It will be like no other Italian restaurant in the city, both in its vision and delivery.” Legna occupies a site formerly occupied by FSK steak restaurant, which was operated by Islam as Mi Amore while the long-term plan for Legna was developed. Islam stepped down from his role as chef director of Lasan in September 2017 to “pursue other opportunities in the industry”.

Olive Tree Brasserie opens Lytham site as it shuts debut St Annes venue: Mediterranean restaurant Olive Tree Brasserie has opened a site in Lytham but closed its debut venue. Owner Dean Wilson has invested £500,000 in what will the company’s new flagship branch in Lytham following the conversion of a former NatWest branch in Dicconson Terrace into a 130-cover restaurant. At the same time the company has closed its 68-cover restaurant in Wood Street in St Annes, where the business started 11 years ago. Wilson, who also runs Olive Tree eateries in Preston, Chester and Stockton Heath, near Warrington, has called the closure of St Annes a “relocation”, with all staff moved to the Lytham premises. Wilson told the Blackpool Gazette: “After nearly 11 years I’m sad to say goodbye to our St Annes site. I’ve always had the ambition to open a site in Lytham and this will be the new flagship. I hope to welcome guests old and new.”

Jamie Oliver is UK’s best-selling cookbook author: Jamie Oliver is the UK’s all-time favourite chef, according to a new survey based on cookbook sales during the past 20 years. Oliver, who found fame in 1999 for his debut television show The Naked Chef, has published 23 books, with 19 of them best-sellers. Father of five Oliver beat other major names to the top spot including Nigella Lawson, who came second, former Bake Off judge Mary Berry (seventh), and Gordon Ramsay (ninth). The research, by price comparison site Go Compare, analysed the UK’s best-selling cookbooks since 1998. 

Gin lab to open in former Prezzo site in Nottingham: A gin lab, restaurant and bar is opening at a former Prezzo site in Nottingham city centre. Juni will take over the premises in Low Pavement, which closed earlier this year. Work is under way to transform the property, reports the Nottingham Post. The Low Pavement branch of Prezzo was one of 94 across the country to close as part of a company voluntary arrangement agreed earlier this year.

Greater Manchester operators to be offered chance to buy paper straws in return for signing plastic-free pledge: Operators in Greater Manchester are being given a helping hand in the battle against single-use plastic – and supporting victims of the Manchester Arena bombing at the same time. Greater Manchester Combined Authority has partnered with catering equipment supplier Stephensons to produce a sustainable paper straw. The straw is emblazoned with the Manchester Bee, a symbol of the city’s unity and hard work ethic. A donation from the sale of each box of straws will be made to the Manchester Emergency Fund – the charity set up to help people affected by the attack at the Manchester Arena. The bee straw will be flying into drinks from November, but only operators who sign up to the Plastic Free GM Pledge will be able to buy them. Operators can sign up here. Once they have signed, they can then contact Stephensons to pre-order the straws.

Five Guys secures third Northern Ireland site: Better burger brand Five Guys has secured its third Northern Ireland site. The company has agreed a deal for a unit at the Boucher Square development in Belfast. It will join its other restaurant in the city – at the Victoria Square Shopping Centre – with a second due to open at Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon next month. Alterity Investments is currently spending £1m to expand the Boucher Square development, with the Five Guys restaurant due to open later this year. Mark Thallon, of letting agents TDK, told the Belfast Telegraph: “Five Guys is a fantastic operation that will complement the other international restaurant operators in Boucher Square.” Other restaurants at Boucher Square include The Restaurant Group brand Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s and Eddie Rocket’s.

Nyetimber set for record grape harvest: Wine producer Nyetimber has forecast a record harvest this year. The company hopes to produce one million bottles, a record for an English solely sparkling wine producer. The company, which owns vineyards in West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent, credited one of the hottest summers on record and ideal rainfall for the bumper harvest. The grapes will be processed at Nyetimber’s new £9m pressing facility near West Chiltington. Owner and chief executive Eric Heerema said: “Nyetimber has been on a remarkable journey, growing 20-fold in just over a decade.” Sparkling wine currently accounts for almost two-thirds (66%) of all English and Welsh wine produced.

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