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Tue 9th Oct 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Novus puts Tiger Tiger site in Haymarket up for sale, reports double-digit like-for-like growth at Balls Brothers and Tank & Paddle: Novus, the London bar and restaurant operator, has put its Tiger Tiger site in Haymarket up for sale as it continues to evolve away from the late-night scene. It is the first time in 20 years the lease has been put up for sale, with Tiger Tiger having occupied the site since 1998. The venue has capacity for more than 1,500 guests across six rooms consisting of a restaurant, three bars, a lounge and a main club area. Novus currently has ten sites on the market, including its Tiger Tiger venues in Cardiff and Leeds, while in July it sold 15 to Stonegate as it switches its strategy to focus on its Balls Brothers brand, development of its craft beer and pizza format Tank & Paddle and its Late Night London website. Chief executive Toby Smith said its debut Tank & Paddle site – in Minster Court in the City – was achieving between £4,000 and £5,000 in lunchtime food sales. Like-for-like sales in the most recent quarter at the venue were up 15%. Across Tank & Paddle’s three sites, like-for-like sales were up 31% in the most recent quarter. They are selling about 2,270 pizzas and 4,500 pints of Meantime tank beer a week. Meanwhile, its ten-strong Balls Brothers business, which has partnered with meat supplier Ginger Pig, saw 13% like-for-like sales growth in the most recent quarter. The Late Night London website has become a fully fledged bookings and listings site featuring hundreds of events, with plans to take this regionally. Smith reported 50% of visits to the website were converted into bookings. He told the Bar and Nightclub Conference the company was achieving “substantially better returns” on its core businesses than it did within the late-night sector, where there had been a “higher degree of volatility in trading terms”.

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Awards open for entries: The Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Awards has been launched. The awards, in their second year, recognise outstanding marketing and innovation in the sector. Finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony at Cafe de Paris in London on Thursday, 17 January, which will be the grand finale of the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, which takes place over two days. Awards are open to any eating or drinking out brand or outlet in Europe. There are 13 categories – Integrated Campaign of the Year, Digital Campaign of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Launch Campaign of the Year, Best Use of Technology, Best New Website, Best Use of Video, Best New/Improved Visual Identity, Best Use of Social Media, Best Use of Research/Insight/Data, Marketer of the Year, Innovator of the Year and Future Marketing Leader of the Year. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We launched this event last year and had 850 people from across Europe attend the various segments. The awards recognise the very best within the spheres of foodservice marketing and innovation.” Awards co-founder James Hacon added: “We are back after a stellar inaugural awards in 2018 that attracted more than 90 entries. We created the awards to recognise the growing importance of marketing, innovation and strategy professions within the restaurant and foodservice sector. We saw a superb calibre of entries last year and have amazing momentum with our events throughout the year. We’re expecting an even more impressive list of entrants this year.” Entries are now open. The closing date is 11.59pm on Monday, 5 November. Entry information and criteria can be found here.

Next three Propel conferences open for bookings: The next three Propel conferences are open for bookings. The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is a full-day event that will take place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel in St Paul’s, London. To see the speaker schedule, click here. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places. Propel and Think Hospitality will launch a new event, the Experiential Leisure Conference, on Friday, 9 November. The half-day event will take place at One Moorgate Place, London. To see the speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. Meanwhile, the People and Training Conference, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) in association with Propel, will take place at Bafta Piccadilly on Tuesday, 20 November. To see the speaker schedule, click here. Tickets are £65 plus VAT for operators who are BII members and BIIAB members and £200 plus VAT for operators who are non-BII members. Supplier tickets are £95 plus VAT for BII members and BIIAB members and £245 plus VAT for all other organisations. To book tickets for any of the events, email Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Scottish on-trade shows signs of recovery: The Scottish on-trade is showing signs of recovery, with almost half (49%) of operators reporting growth versus 39% at Christmas and 38% for the equivalent period in 2017, according to the Summer 2018 On-trade Market Review by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA). Overall, almost three-quarters (74%) of businesses are stable or in growth compared with 58% a year ago. There is a continued challenge for rural sites, with 36% in decline, although this figure is down from 46% for the same period last year. The majority (90%) of multi-site operators are growing or stable. Food is underperforming versus the market, with the SLTA blaming market saturation, Brexit, consumers tightening their wallets or a combination of all three. Beer is also underperforming the market, with more than one-third (35%) of outlets reporting a decline. However, the figure is down from 49% last year. Four-fifths (80%) of outlets that sell craft beer are reporting parity or growth in independent beer sales. Soft drinks are performing slightly ahead of the market, with 80% of outlets either stable or growing. However, spirits have slightly underperformed. Government legislation is a concern for almost two-thirds (63%) of outlets, while more than three-quarters (79%) are worried about rates, and 71% labour costs. Brexit wasn’t mentioned as a major concern. The long-term outlook is reasonably optimistic, with more than four-fifths (83%) expecting growth or stability for the rest of year compared with actual year-to-date growth or stability of 74%. Rural operators are less optimistic but trends are becoming more positive and more than two-thirds (71%) expect moderate growth or stability. SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “After a number of years of decline and from a very low base, we are now seeing some improvement. However, there are concerns, particularly in rural outlets, where pubs are often key to the community. Government legislation is still a big concern, with 63% highlighting these areas, alongside business rates and increasing labour costs.” Alistair McAlinden, head of hospitality and leisure in Scotland for KPMG, which sponsored the survey, added: “Cautious optimism is building within the sector. With the realities of Brexit unknown, cost control, flexibility and relevance are crucial if operators are to further capitalise on the more positive trends experienced over recent months.”

UK swings towards breakfast and brunch, with indulgence and health evenly split: Two-fifths (40%) of UK consumers are moving towards breakfast and brunch as social occasions with opinion divided on whether indulgence (23%) or health (22%) is the main consideration when choosing what to eat, according to new research by bakery supplier Délifrance UK. The Beyond Breakfast And Brunch survey of more than 2,000 UK consumers found convenience drives almost half (48%) of decisions to eat breakfast out of home, while 40% view it as a social activity and the same amount because it’s a luxury. Stéphanie Brillouet, Délifrance marketing director for northern Europe and North America, said: “In Britain, the breakfast market is worth £11.6bn and is predicted to grow 5% by 2019. We’ve dug deeper into the trend, looking at what customers have come to expect from their breakfast and brunch out of the home, be it from a supermarket’s grab-and-go shelf or a sit-down brunch with friends.” 

Deliveroo and Time Out partner to host live food battles: Deliveroo and Time Out have partnered to host live events that focus on food battles. The boxing-style events focus on some of Britain’s best-loved foods, with the first one themed on burgers. The Battle Of The Burger saw a selection of London’s burger-makers go head to head to be crowned the capital’s champion. They included Shake Shack, Bad Egg and Mac & Wild, all of which are available to order through Deliveroo. At the events visitors can try each of the competitors’ creations before voting for their favourite. The events also feature a bar and live DJs, reports Campaign.

SIBA starts discussions with European brewers to form new body: The independent craft brewing associations of nine European countries, including the Society of Independent brewers (SIBA), have begun talks towards the formation of a new body, the Independent Brewers of Europe (IBE). Bodies from France, Italy, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, the UK, Spain, Netherlands and the Czech Republic, all of whom represent smaller, independent craft brewers, agreed their plan at a meeting in Brussels. With almost 2,000 member breweries, the nine organisations represent a growing proportion of Europe’s brewers. The IBE intends to convey its message politically and commercially in Europe, where the small independent producer’s voice often “goes unheard”. SIBA chief executive Mike Benner said: “The craft beer revolution has spread across the continent and, with in excess of 5,000 breweries, the sector is well placed to supply the diverse range of high-quality beers demanded by today’s discerning drinkers. We know beer drinkers in the UK care about the provenance of beers and it’s clear the same applies across Europe. As the UK’s exit from the EU draws closer, I’m pleased we will be able to work with groups similar to SIBA to the commercial benefit of our members, sharing best practice and ideas to help develop the sector for all.”

BBPA calls for more support as study shows night-time economy is vital for the high street: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has backed a study that highlights the importance of the night-time economy and has called for more support from government and councils. The report by the Local Government Information Unit and Portman Group found 92% of councils believe the night-time economy will play an important role in preventing a decline of the high street. The study said with many retailers closing, the night-time offer in high streets and particularly pubs had become increasingly important for driving footfall. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The high street is an important part of any town or city in the UK, but it is struggling. Leadership, partnerships, events and an understanding of the local market really can make a difference to a high street. Pubs are a huge part of the night-time economy, creating jobs and driving growth. As an industry, though, they face many threats, from beer duty to business rates. They need support from the very councils that say they value the role of the night-time economy, as well as the government. Working together with local businesses will ensure our night-time economy is safe, vibrant and attracts all generations to come together and enjoy their local towns and cities.”

Company News:

Daniel Johns Group invests £10m in Asian-fusion dining concept, plans six sites by 2019 and up to 25 in three years: Property management company Daniel Johns Group has invested £10m to create an Asian-fusion dining concept, with six restaurants set to launch by 2019. The company has opened Rock Spice in Chester Road, Manchester, with plans to open 20 to 25 sites in the UK within three years. The concept focuses on Asian-fusion dining, with chefs inspired by traditional Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine combined with Western influences and with traditional rock spice infused in each dish. Rock Spice restaurants are set to open in Liverpool, Blackpool and London by the end of the year, with an additional two sites by spring 2019. As well as its UK expansion, there are plans to take the concept to Pakistan in the pipeline. Daniel Johns Group recently diversified its offering to include food franchise investments and holds a portfolio of global brands including The Counter Custom Burgers and Nancy’s Pizzeria, which currently boasts 27 restaurants in North America. Daniel Johns Group chairman Khalid Iqbal said: “Manchester’s dining scene is one of the most robust in the UK so we’re immensely proud we’re able to bring our new high-end dining concept to the city. Authentic Pakistani food is something we’re extremely passionate about and we are excited to see what the future has in store for our newest restaurant brand.” 

Bill’s rolls out new look to cover ten key sites: Bill’s Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring, has started rolling out its refurbishment plans to cover ten key sites. The move focuses on boosting the brand’s evening trade by transforming ten of its London and regional sites with a new interior design. The fit-out, with all design details hand-picked by founder Bill Collison, includes luxurious velvet seating and chandeliers. The new look and feel will transform Bill’s venues into “go-to destinations for dinner and drinks in keeping with its ‘farmhouse glamour’ identity”. The new look will introduced to London sites in Greenwich, Soho, Hammersmith, Clink Street, Wimbledon and Kensington, in addition to Reigate, Tunbridge Wells, Norwich and Cambridge. Alongside the refurbishment, Bill’s will offer a new menu and revised cocktail list across all its UK sites. Evening launch activity during the next three months will include a partnership with London’s Ronnie Scott’s featuring a jazz-infused dinner experience at Bill’s Soho site on Thursday (11 October). Further events and partnerships will take place at the refurbished sites until December. Collison said: “We have achieved amazing things for Bill’s since the brand’s inception in 2002. Having built local affection across all restaurants with our all-day menu, we are developing a fantastic new environment to enjoy late-night dinner and cocktails.” Collison founded Bill’s as a fresh produce store and cafe in Lewes, East Sussex. The brand has expanded to operate circa 75 sites in the UK.

Jamie Barber – difficult trading conditions in wider sector are presenting opportunities to advance Hache: London-based restaurant group Hush Brasserie has said the difficult trading conditions in the wider sector are presenting opportunities to advance burger brand Hache. Hush Brasserie, led by Cabana co-founder Jamie Barber, former Richoux Group managing director Ed Standring, and ex-Wagamama chief executive Ian Neill, acquired Hache in September 2016 from its founders Berry and Suzie Casey. Hush Brasserie revealed it was “looking closely” at possibilities for Hache in its report accompanying accounts for the year ending 31 December 2017. The company also reported that following a refurbishment and repositioning of Hush Brasserie in Mayfair in the first quarter of 2017, it was currently “trading significantly ahead of the prior year and on course to complete our best ever year”. The company operates seven restaurants – Hush and six Hache sites, having converted its only remaining Hush Brasserie in Holborn in January this year. The report said the venue was in growth under the new format. Turnover for the year ending 31 December 2017, the first full-year post the acquisition of Hache, increased to £8,177,452, compared with £4,546,784 the previous year. Adjusted Editda was £67,455, compared with minus £17,232 the year before and the company is “on track” to deliver further improvement this year. Pre-tax losses rose to £993,346, compared with £279,253 the previous year following a non-cash depreciation charge of £586,000, reflecting the write-down of assets at Hush as part of the refurbishment. Gross profit percentage was up to 73.5% from 71.9% the year before. In his report accompanying the accounts, Barber said: “All Hache units were refurbished during the year and the menu was refreshed to bring it into line with current trends, including an increased number of vegan, vegetarian and non-meat options. Hache traded in line with budget and expectations contributing significant Ebitda in its first post-acquisition year. In 2018, we obtained planning permission to establish a roof terrace at Hush and are working with our landlord to consider how this can be developed in or around 2019. The difficult trading conditions in the wider sector are presenting opportunities to advance the Hache story and we are looking at these possibilities closely.”

K10 promotes Reuben Todd to managing director as it eyes further growth: K10, the London-based sushi concept, has promoted Reuben Todd to managing director as it eyes further growth in the capital in 2019. Todd was group operations director of Ed’s Easy Diner for 14 years before its acquisition by Boparan Restaurant Group in 2016. He left to join Luke Johnson-chaired Patisserie Valerie as one of two regional operations directors in the UK before joining K10 in November 2017 as operations director. K10, which was founded by former YO! Sushi development director Christopher Kemper in 1999 and counts industry veteran Ian Neill as its chairman, is looking at further opportunities for its dedicated takeaway format. The company operates five restaurants and takeaways in the City of London, in Appold Street Minster Court, Coleman Street, Queen Street and Fetter Lane, which opened in March. K10 director Maurice Abboudi said: “We are delighted we have attracted someone of the calibre of Reuben to help us develop the business. The plan is to build on the very strong foundations we already have in place.” Todd said: “It is a privilege to join K10 and its proud 19-year heritage. K10 provides the customer with great choice, high-quality, freshly prepared food and very fast service. We focus on these strengths to ensure we have happy customers who come back to us again and again. There is a sensible, controlled growth plan in place and I am really looking forward to helping the team develop the business and to build on the progress we have made already.”

Discontinued operations push Go Ape to pre-tax loss: Losses associated with discontinued operations have contributed to visitor attraction Go Ape falling into the red, although a profit was recorded by the group's continuing business. In the year to 31 December 2017, Adventure Forest Group, which trades as Go Ape, made a pre-tax loss of £3,812,000, compared with a profit of £1,419,000 the previous year. Turnover fell to £31,657,000, compared with £33,768,000 the year before. Excluding the discontinued operation of Air Space, which Go Ape sold in July last year, the business made a pre-tax profit of £316,000, down from £3,147,000 the previous year, on turnover which rose by £296,000 to £28,789,000. The increase in turnover from continuing operations was driven by the opening of a site at Alexandra Palace in London and the launch of Nets Kingdom at Go Ape’s Black Park site in Slough. Further openings in the US also helped lift turnover but this was offset by more challenging conditions faced by the group’s Treetop Adventure activities in the UK and the closure of a site in Connecticut, US. The slowdown in profit from continuing operations followed a decrease in revenue from the UK, the cost of rolling out new sites in the UK and US, and the downward adjustment of the group’s investment in its US subsidiary. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Following an approach from a third party to acquire the group’s Air Space trade and assets, the group carried out a strategic review and decided to focus growth on its core Go Ape businesses in the UK and US. On 24 July 2017, the group completed the sale of Air Space to Oxygen Freejumping.” In 2018, Go Ape has opened facilities at Normanby Hall, near Hull, and Temple Newsam in Leeds, alongside two Treetop Junior activities, one Nets Kingdom, one Forest Segway and two cafes. A Treetop Adventure and Treetop Junior have also been launched in Nebraska in the US. Go Ape was developed by Tris and Becs Mayhew and the business operates more than 30 courses internationally.

Marston’s to bring Lost & Found to Sheffield next month for sixth site: Marston’s Revere Pub Company is to open a sixth site for its The Lost & Found concept, in Sheffield. The venue will launch in Ecclesall Road on Friday, 16 November adding to sites in Bristol, Birmingham, Knutsford and two in Leeds. The 178 cover Sheffield site will feature The Lost & Found’s signature Victorian hideaway theme. Set over two floors, the venue will include a secret bar, an all-day menu of seasonal dishes, an extensive gin collection and cocktails featuring botanical ingredients. Taking inspiration from Sheffield Botanical Gardens, the venue will feature flowers and plants, while Sheffield’s industrial past will be represented by “hard lines and industrial materials”. Revere managing director Colin Sadler said: “We are thrilled to be adding another site to The Lost & Found brand and building on our success as a destination venue, with 20 staff to welcome to the team. Sheffield is a metropolitan city full of culture and unique places to experience and we are sure The Lost & Found will be a welcome addition to the dining and drinking scene.”

Franco Manca lodges plans for Birmingham restaurant, first in Midlands: Pizza brand Franco Manca, which is owned by Fulham Shore, has lodged plans for a site in Birmingham – its first Midlands venue. The company has applied to the city council to convert a vacant unit in Bennetts Hill into a restaurant. The grade II-listed building used to house a Nationwide Building Society but this closed in September and transferred staff to its branch in High Street following a major refit. If approved as proposed, the ground floor of the unit would form the main restaurant area with the basement used predominantly for back-of-house facilities, reports Birmingham Live. Franco Manca has 40 restaurants across the UK, the majority of them in London. At its annual general meeting in August, Fulham Shore chairman David page said the company was in the final stages of negotiations for a number of locations for the current and coming financial year.

All Star Lanes reports pre-tax loss as turnover rises 1.1%, sells subsidiary for £18m: Bowling alley business All Star Lanes has reported turnover increased 1.1% to £15,486,941 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £15,320,877 the previous year. Ebitda dropped 33% to £989,611, compared with £1,495,242 the year before following the sale of its subsidiary company All Star (Whiteleys) in April 2018 for £18m. The company said stripping out this charge saw adjusted Ebitda fall 1.1%. The company saw a pre-tax loss of £313,406 compared with a profit of £437,383 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross margin was 82% compared with 81.1% the year before, primarily led by a 10% increase in peak bowling prices to “bring them in line with market prices”. All Star Lanes said the sales growth was significantly affected by two factors – a 53-week trading year in 2016, which enhanced sales by £250,000, and the refurbishment of its largest venue, which resulted in its closure for five weeks in the first quarter of 2017. Sales for that period in 2016 were £300,000. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The group concluded negotiations during the year for a new site at Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush and this site opened on 23 April 2018. Initial trading at this site has been in line with expectations despite the full shopping centre extension not being opened to the public in line with initial expectations. Due to the delay of four weeks, we are currently behind sales budget. However, recent trading has been very positive, which gives us confidence we will be able to recoup this over the remaining course of the year. Funding of this site was made possible by a combination of landlord contributions, internal cash generation and a draw down on the group’s HSBC facility. After the year end the group concluded the disposal of a major trading subsidiary, All Star (Whiteleys). This sale was concluded on 10 April 2018 for the sum of £18m. Following on from this disposal the group declared and paid a dividend of £5 per ordinary share to all registered shareholders.”

Colicci collaborates with Theo Randall in Royal Parks cafe partnership: Colicci has revealed details of the nine “sculpture” cafes it will open as part of its collaboration with The Royal Parks. The sites will include Serpentine Café in Hyde Park and Storey’s Gate Café in St James’s Park and will be collaborations with chef and pasta expert Theo Randall. The openings will run until March 2019. The structures will use methods and finishes that complement adjacent structures. Eight of them will be clad in oak, while the flagship Horse Shoe Bend kiosk in St James’s Park will be clad in brass. Serving breakfast, brunch and lunch, they will also offer freshly baked cakes and pastries from the Colicci bakery alongside coffee and ice cream. Randall has worked with Colicci to devise a healthy menu with a large choice of vegan dishes using seasonal produce. Colicci director Rob Colicci said: “By pioneering a ‘collection’ of revolutionary kiosks and cafes, we have pushed the boundaries in design and architecture. Now you can buy your cup of coffee from a sculpture in the park.” Founded in 1982 by Ernie Colicci and wife Josephine, the family business has grown from one ice cream van to operating more than 30 fixed sites in London parks. The company launched a dedicated bakery in 2014.

Papa John’s share price buoyed by investors increasing stake and sale speculation: Papa John’s share prices have almost recovered from the controversy and months of public recriminations between founder John Schnatter and current management, buoyed by purchases from shareholders and rumours of a possible sale. Shares in the company have been trading mostly in the $49 to $51 range since 26 September, when speculation emerged Papa John’s was sending out information to sell itself and former chief executive and chairman Schnatter was talking to private-equity firms to help him buy the company, of which he already owns about 30%. Share values have likely been helped by Legion Partners Asset Management and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) declaring they had each acquired 2.79% of shares, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Legion and CalSTRS said they had bought the shares because they believed them to be “undervalued”. They added they were “encouraged by the actions taken by Papa John’s special committee to begin to move the company past recent controversies to meaningfully improve shareholder value”. Share prices have been on a downward trend amid declining sales since the end of 2016, when they topped out above $89, but they fell as low as $38.94 in August after management revealed like-for-like sales for July in the aftermath of an expose in Forbes magazine of a “toxic culture”. Although speculation continues that Papa John’s will be sold, BTIG equity analyst and managing director for restaurants Peter Saleh previously said such a sale would be difficult given Schnatter’s 30% ownership and the unlikelihood of him selling those shares.

BaxterStorey launches debut dedicated vegan cafe, at Royal College of Art: Contract catering company BaxterStorey has launched its first dedicated vegan cafe, at The Royal College of Art’s flagship Kensington campus. The launch followed requests by the student union for an outlet to cater for the increasing number of vegans and vegetarians in its student population of more than 2,300. With most students based on campus and working from design studios throughout the day, the new vegan hot spot offers an all-day grazing menu including sprouting broccoli and tofu toasties, and coconut and apricot protein balls. BaxterStorey said it plans a similar venture at the college’s Battersea campus when it opens in 2020. Business development manager Martin Holden-White said: “We are aware of the rapid growth in plant-based food trends and it was fantastic to work alongside such a passionate student union.” BaxterStorey employs more than 8,500 people at over 600 sites and operates chef and barista academies.

BrewDog to release blueprint as it shapes business for next decade: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is to release its blueprint as it shapes the business for the next decade. The company said the manifesto, which will be revealed on Tuesday (9 October) would focus less on “crazy growth” and more on beer, its people and mission. It stated: “While by most conventional measures we are no longer a small company, we are still inconsequential in a beer industry dominated by behemoths. Our largest competitor is more than 2,500 times our size. In the countries in which we operate (excluding America), craft is on average less than 2% of the overall beer market. The top ten beers sold in the UK are Carling, Fosters, Stella Artois, Budweiser, Carlsberg, Guinness, John Smith’s, Coors Light, Peroni and San Miguel. Most people drink these beers – by a very long way – and they are all owned by multi-national mega conglomerates. We still have a hell of a lot of work to do. As we continue on our journey we are going to focus less on crazy growth and more on crafting the best business and the best beer we possibly can. As a company, the things we care most about are our beer, our people and our mission. We are going to increase our focus on all three – and our upcoming blueprint is all about helping us do just that.”

Great British Menu chef Tommy Heaney to open Cardiff restaurant on Wednesday: Great British Menu chef Tommy Heaney will open a restaurant in Cardiff, on Wednesday (10 October). The chef left his previous venture – Restaurant Tommy Heaney at The Great House in Bridgend – in the summer to launch Heaney’s in Cardiff at a site formerly occupied by Arbennig Restaurant. The venue in Romilly Crescent will offer bar snacks, a small plates menu, a suggested shared tasting menu and Sunday roasts. A mezzanine will accommodate a cocktail bar, while a table for up to ten guests will be available to hire. Interiors will showcase tattoo artwork and industrial decor, while there are plans to add a deli and grab-and-go concept at the site. Heaney said: “I want it to be the kind of place where I go to eat – not fine dining or stuffy but somewhere where anyone can come and grab a drink and eat tasty food.” Arbennig’s owners, John and Ceri Cook, sold the restaurant in May after almost four-and-a-half years at the venue.

Refresco UK sees ‘product quality issues’ hit profits by £6m despite turnover boost: Soft drinks company Refresco UK, previously known as Cott Beverages, has reported turnover increased to £269,726,000 for the year ending 30 December 2017, compared with £241,364,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £9,838,000, compared with £18,923,000 the year before due to a number of “product quality issues” that cost the business £6m and “challenging market additions”, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “During the year the overall soft drinks market showed a slight increase in both volume and value. This was mirrored in own-label soft drinks driven by the water category but offset by declines in the traditional carbonated soft drinks and sports and energy categories. During the year, the company also targeted growth in the growing water category through installation of a high-speed bottling line into its Wrexham facility. The above resulted in sales growing to £269,726,000 (2016: £241,364,000). The year was also affected as a result of the continued challenging market environment and a number of product quality issues that resulted in a £6m cost to the business. Gross margins decreased to 10.2% (2016: 13.8%), primarily due to the impact of quality issues. Selling and distribution expenses to customer at £25,725,000 were higher than the previous year of £20,581,000, an impact of inefficiencies driven by the quality issues seen in the year.” In January, the company was sold to Refresco for £935m, resulting in the name change.

DHP Family to give evidence over future of live music industry: Live music venue operator DHP Family, which runs eight sites in London, Nottingham and Bristol, is to give evidence to a committee of MPs on Wednesday (10 October) over the industry’s future. The company, which is led by managing director George Akins, director Sean Akins and group finance director Dave McDerment, also runs festivals in Manchester, Nottingham and London. Area manager Michele Phillips will give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee alongside Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director at the Royal Albert Hall, and Tom Kiehl, director of government and public affairs at UK Music. They will be preceded by Mark Davyd, chief executive of Music Venue Trust, 100 Club owner Jeff Horton and Ben Lovett, of Mumford and Sons. Last month, DHP Family reported turnover increased 25.1% to £31,653,117 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £25,300,118 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up to £1,655,199 compared with £1,456,970 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

New-wave wine bar and shop to open in Elephant and Castle: Sunny Hodge, a former Margot assistant restaurant manager who helped set up the Fordwich Arms in Canterbury, which received a Michelin star in the 2019 awards, is to open a new-wave wine bar and shop in London’s Elephant and Castle. Hodge will launch Diogenes The Dog in a former pub in Rodney Road next month. Inspired by Diogenes, who founded the cynic school of philosophy in ancient Greece, the venue will aim to “question what people know about wine, discard common trends and bring lesser-known and better alternatives to the table”. The rotating wine list will be based on Hodge’s personal connections with winemakers, meaning 40% will be imported directly from vineyards. They will be laid out in order of tone rather than region or price. Italian cheese and charcuterie will accompany wine in the evenings. There will also be tea, coffee from Guatemala and fresh pastries and bread. The 60-cover venue will house the wine shop on the ground floor, while the basement will be available for hire and host regular acoustic nights. Hodge said: “Diogenes The Dog is a small opening in the world of wine allowing the undiscovered to be savoured.”

Plant-based Hackney restaurant The Brook hits £120,000 crowdfunding target within six hours: Plant-based, London restaurant The Brook has hit its £120,000 target in its campaign on crowdfunding platform Seedrs within six hours of launch. The company, founded and led by Thea Brook, operates a restaurant in Mare Street, Hackney, and also offers a meal delivery service. The company is raising funds to set up a production kitchen, make key hires, develop products and launch a range of plant-based ready meals. The Brook said it had hundreds of customers signed up to a waiting list for the new service and a site in Surrey to launch from. The pitch states: “Having spent the past five years honing recipes and serving thousands of customers, we’re now looking to extend our reach by launching a range of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods. We want to show the world enjoying a diet rich in plant-based food can be simple, convenient and delicious. We believe a lot of people are ready to make the switch but find the transition hard – having to learn new recipes and get to grips with new ingredients. In the UK, convenience is so important – nine out of ten ate ready meals with a spend of £4.7bn in 2017, making ours the largest ready meal market in Europe. Yet only 3% of the meals available in supermarkets are plant-based. We’re perfectly positioned to fill this gap. We will initially launch our range via an e-commerce platform and ship directly to the customer. Alongside this we will test other revenue streams – retail (independent and major) and wholesale (to pubs and restaurants). We are already in discussion with potential partners for both.”

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