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Mon 3rd Dec 2018 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Facebook methodology change leads to increased market share of reviews: Facebook’s polarised methodology change in August is now translating to increased usage across the platform, according to new statistics from Feed It Back’s monthly social review tracker. The statistics, taken from thousands of social reviews across the restaurant, quick-service restaurant and pub industries, reveal Facebook now accounts for 11% of reviews – up from 9% in October and 8% in September – clearly demonstrating its switch to a simple “yes/no” recommendation has translated into increased usage. Google remains the most prominent channel, however, with November’s figures showing 60% of reviews were made across the platform (up from 59% in October and September). Meanwhile TripAdvisor’s market share continues to fall, currently sitting at 29% (down from 31% in October and 32% in September). The switch in methodology, which is being slowly rolled out across all Facebook uses, has also driven up the number of positive reviews on Facebook, with the platform boasting an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 (up from 4.4 in October and 4.3 in September). The average reviews on Google and TripAdvisor remain flat at 4.1 and 4.0 respectively. TripAdvisor continues to be the platform generating the most negative responses, with 17% of reviews posted in November falling between 1.0 and 2.0 out of 5.0. Google showed the biggest share of 4.0 out of 5.0 reviews, with a 30% rating. Customers are far more critical when eating and drinking out in the restaurant and casual dining industry, where the average rating is 4.1 out of 5.0, than the pub and bar industry, where the average is 4.3. One factor is the higher percentage of TripAdvisor reviews, which are typically more negative, left across the restaurant and casual dining sector (33%), whereas the pub and bar sector has fewer (24%). Atmosphere, environment and food were key factors in driving positive reviews on Facebook, particularly in pubs and bars. Not rushing guests to finish their meal was a clear theme among positive reviews, while waiting times continue to drive negative reviews across all sectors. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Data from the past three months clearly reveals Facebook’s algorithm change has translated into monthly increases of people using the platform. In an age where consumers want ever quicker, frictionless transactions and processes, the polarised switch and ability of the platform to quickly understand your preferences and make recommendations around them will no doubt continue to deliver growth. It’s vital operators keep abreast of these developments and view their own social scores through this context. Simply tracking your online reputation isn’t enough, you have to be actively managing it and gleaning information from the reviews to improve your offer. Social channels are going to become an increasingly important tool in fighting this battle.” This data is part of a regular report Feed It Back runs across social reviews and just scratches the surface of their ability to drive revisits. To understand more about Feed It Back and to sign up for a monthly copy of this report, email allears@feeditback.co.uk

Industry News:

Details revealed of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator day one line-up: Details have been revealed of the day one line-up of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, which is returning for its second year. The two-day event, a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, will feature more than 40 speakers with a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs. Day one will feature Think Hospitality managing director James Hacon, who will share campaigns and innovations raised from the past year. The speaker line-up features KAM Media insight director Blake Gladman; Kamila Sitwell, founder of Divine Eating Out; Richard Dickson, head of partnerships at Carbon Free Dining; Jon Knight, chief executive of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group; Inception Group head of marketing Simon Allison; Lunar Lemon founder Craig Melvin; Abokado head of marketing Vineeta Anuj; Ben Calleja, co-founder of Fast Fine Restaurant Group; Feya founder Zahra Khan; and Hannah Clark, Me:Mo Interactive account director. Chris Miller, founder of the White Rabbit Fund, will talk to four concept founders – James Hennebry (Rosslyn Coffee), Yasmine Larizadeh (The Good Life Eatery), Rik Campbell (Kricket) and Loui Blake (Kalifornia Kitchen) – about their entrepreneurial journey. Anders Houmann, of Victor Group (Denmark); John Rigos, chief executive of Aurify Brands (the US); Martti Siimann, chief executive of NOA Restaurant Group (Estonia); and Jonathan Sharp, of Hilton (UK), will reveal how to create concepts that customers love. Meanwhile, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls will host a panel featuring Elliotts managing director Anthony Knight, SSP senior commercial manager Claire Small, Be At One brand manager Giles Denning, and Stacey Plaine, senior F&B marketing manager of Marriott International, to discuss the future for marketing in the sector. A new industry think-tank – Restaurant Of The Future – will define the future of eating and drinking out. The panel will feature Angela Malik, strategy director of Think Hospitality; Russell Danks, Punch marketing and strategy director; Storm Fagan, Just Eat head of product; AllDay Industry (New York) founder David Helbraun; The TMRW Project partner Emma Underwood, and Kamilla Seidler, of The Expedition (Bolivia). Tickets for the two-day conference, which will take place on 16 and 17 January at One Moorgate Place, London, cost £575 for operators and £845 for suppliers. Group ticket packages are available when purchasing three tickets or more. Tickets can be purchased by emailing Anne Steele, of Propel, at anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691.

On-trade beer sales see first third-quarter rise in 15 years following World Cup boost: On-trade beer sales have seen their first third-quarter growth in more than 15 years, according to the latest Beer Barometer sales data from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). Sales in the on-trade were up 0.9% in the quarter, while overall beer sales increased 4.4% compared with the same period in 2017. The BBPA said the increase in on-trade sales was driven by the success of England at the Fifa World Cup, which saw the national team reach the semi-finals of the tournament, driving footfall in pubs where fans watched the games. It was also driven in part by the good weather during the summer months. In the off-trade, beer sales in the third quarter of 2018 were up 7.6% on the same period in 2017. The BBPA said although the World Cup was a welcome boost to pubs, it only came around once every four years meaning pubs can’t rely on it for growth. Uncertainty surrounding Brexit is also a major concern for the brewing and pub sector. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is certainly good to see beer sales are doing better overall. England’s success at the World Cup and good weather undoubtedly helped. The chancellor’s decision to freeze beer tax and lower business rates for thousands of pubs in the Budget will make a huge difference to the viability of the sector but Brexit looms large, and brewers and publicans alike need certainty. Clarity on the transition period from 29 March onwards and a strong steer on the future relationship with the EU would be a boost to the trade and beer sales. A no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “For hospitality businesses to continue to thrive in the long-term, the government needs to do more for those that are the heart of high streets and have ambitious growth plans.”

Hospitality companies rank high in Sunday Times Top Track 100 list: Manchester-based Mission Mars has been ranked fifth in The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, with a 147.37% rise in annual sales growth during the past three years. Sales hit an annualised £27.7m in September, while the company raised £10.2m from the BGF in July to fund expansion of its Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza brands. Gin distiller Warner Edwards was ranked sixth (142.58%), while Indian street food restaurant Mowgli, which is led by Nisha Katona and backed by investment company Foresight Group, was in 17th place with 106.05%. Brewpub operator Brewhouse & Kitchen was 19th (103.82%), with Urban Pubs and Bars, led by Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap, in 28th (85.05%). Heap said: “Being recognised in this list coupled with our recent acquisition of Salt Yard Group is a remarkable achievement and a perfect finish to the year. We’re extremely proud of the talented staff within each of our sites that work incredibly hard to make the Urban brand what it is and this shows what a team effort it has been since we started in 2014. This accolade showcases a bright future for our company.” Other hospitality companies on the list include Ennismore (30th, 84.12%); Beavertown (35th, 77.16%); Boxpark (36th, 75.77%); Flat Iron (39th, 75.05%); Five Guys (43rd, 72.38%); Daisy Green (52nd, 66.49%); Homeslice (65th, 56.65%); BrewDog (71st, 55.59%); Honest Burgers (91st, 47.76%) and Giggling Squid (99th, 45.77%). Five Guys is the largest employer in the list, with 2,086 staff. In its 22nd year, the Fast Track 100 ranks Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing sales.

Government asks Henry Dimbleby to ‘think holistically’ about UK’s food economy, diners to ‘move away from meat’: Environment secretary Michael Gove has asked Henry Dimbleby to think “holistically” about the UK’s food economy, The Times reports. The co-founder of natural fast food brand Leon was in charge of overseeing changes to school meals when Gove was education secretary. Speaking at the Country Land And Business Association conference in Westminster, Dimbleby said one trend would be an increasing amount of diners moving away from meat. He told delegates: “I think we are at the beginning of a massive sea change on meat. Our customers used to make their decision on meat verses vegetarian, now they are make it on the taste of a lentil masala versus the taste of a meat dish. We are seeing massively increased consumption of vegetarian food.” Dimbleby praised the US-produced Beyond Meat burgers, which last month became the first vegetarian products to be stocked in Tesco meat chillers. He told delegates: “I had one of these burgers two weeks ago and I was amazed. If this is the first wave of this stuff, it is going to get really good.” However, he added there would always be a market for high-end meat. He said: “There is no way we can replicate well-raised, grass-fed meat.” 

Company News:

Park Chinois reports turnover boost as operating losses narrow, new concept to open in 2019: Park Chinois, the Chinese restaurant in Mayfair from Wagamama founder Alan Yau, has reported a boost in turnover and seen its operating losses narrow. The company has also revealed its new concept under development in Dover Street will open in 2019 and reiterated its plans to expand to “prominent” cities worldwide. Park Chinois, which opened in Berkeley Street in November 2015, saw turnover increase to £13,016,042 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £10,831,308 the previous year. It had an operating loss of £2,639,212, compared with a loss of £3,069,586 the year before. Interest charges resulted in the total pre-tax loss rising to £3,698,287 compared with £3,563,363 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin increased to 77.5% compared with 74.1% the year before, excluding employee costs. The company has estimated losses of £19,787,541 (2017: £16,089,254) available for carry forward against future trading profits. Wages and salaries during the most recent year increased to £5,170,534 compared with £3,124,855 the previous year, although staff numbers, including directors, fell from 206 to 194. In his report accompanying the accounts, director Hetal Patal said: “Park Chinois operates across two floors with distinct characters – Salon de Chine and Club Chinois. 2017 saw the activation of Club Chinois as a key revenue centre contributing to consolidated sales totalling £13.0m. The business has reported a loss for the period, which was in line with the directors’ expectations given the size and complexity of the restaurant and its projected maturity curve. Work on a new concept for 33 Dover Street, which forms part of the Park Chinois estate, is under way and scheduled for opening in 2019. There are also plans for growth to take the Park Chinois concept to prominent cities globally.”

Mouaiad Raja to make fast casual debut as Levantine pop-up Sababa goes permanent in Fitzrovia, further London sites sought: Restaurateur Mouaiad Raja, who is behind fine dining concepts such as Yamal Alsham, which has branches in Chelsea and Knightsbridge; 1001 Nights in Mayfair; and Fakhreldine, is to launch a permanent site for Levantine concept Sababa, in Fitzrovia. The concept marks Raja’s first foray into the fast casual market and agent CDG Leisure has secured a site for Sababa in Newman Street and will seek further London locations. The concept offers authentic eastern Mediterranean cuisine from countries such as Syria, Turkey, Greece, Israel and Lebanon, with a focus on small plates and sharing platters. Mezze, fresh juice and dips will be made to order, while takeaway lunchtime service is expected to take less than three minutes per customer. Raja said: “My family has been successfully operating restaurants in London for 15 years and in Syria and Kuwait before that. We feel the street food concept is the way forward for the modern restaurateur. Sharing small plates with friends reflects the way modern diners now wish to eat. The Fitzrovia location is good because it has high footfall and good passing trade. At our Sababa pop-up in Soho we used to serve 3,000 customers a week. The close proximity to our old location lets us keep this loyal base but also opens our concept up to a new clientele.” Emma Cousins, of CDG Leisure, added: “Sababa’s move into a permanent site is testament to the strength of the brand and its popularity.”

US street food brand The Halal Guy to make UK debut near Leicester Square with 20 sites planned in next five years: US street food brand The Halal Guy is to open its first European site, near London’s Leicester Square. Restaurant operator ITICO F+B has secured the franchise rights to launch The Halal Guy’s debut UK site in March. The 1,830 square foot venue will take over a former Italian restaurant in Irving Street and mark the start of a major push into the UK, with three more sites planned by late 2019 and up to 20 within five years. The London outlet will offer the brand’s basic menu of grilled chicken and gyro beef – a Greek version of a doner kebab – in a pitta wrap or on a bed of rice. There will also be a vegetarian alternative made with falafel. The Halal Guy began as a cart on the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in New York and was set up 28 years ago by Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed. They originally served hotdogs but switched when they found there was greater demand for a quick hot meal among Muslim taxi drivers. As the company name suggests, all meat is slaughtered according to Islamic law. An expansion into restaurants since 2015 means there are now 85 outlets under The Halal Guys brand across North America and Asia, with 400 more in the pipeline. ITICO F+B partner Jan van Delden told the Evening Standard: “There is a vacant place in the market between street-corner kebab shops and sit-down places such as Ranoush – there is nothing in between. For London it represents fantastic value.”

St Austell Brewery buys pub and fish bar in Lyme Regis for first Dorset sites: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has acquired two sites from an operator in Lyme Regis for the company’s first sites in Dorset. The brewer and retailer has bought the Rock Point Inn and Cobb Gate Fish Bar from Gail Caddy for an undisclosed sum. The neighbouring buildings, built in the late 18th century, will close to undergo a “full and sensitive restoration”. St Austell Brewery property director Adam Luck told the Bridport News: “We have always considered the wider south west region as our heartland and have been growing our free-trade business for many years. The acquisition of Bath Ales and our new distribution depot at Avonmouth means we can reach customers all the way down the south coast and we are very proud to take on the Rock Point, our first pub in Dorset. We will talk and listen to everyone over the next few weeks to ensure we do what is right for the building. We want to be sure the Rock Point continues to play an important role for locals and visitors alike when the work is complete.”

Former Ping Pong chief executive opens Taiwanese street food restaurant in Marylebone: Former Ping Pong chief executive Paul Sarlas has launched Taiwanese street food restaurant Bao & Bing in Marylebone. The venue has opened in Paddington Street inspired by the “buzzing night street markets of Taipei and Jiufen” and combines centuries-old family recipes with dishes Sarlas and his wife discovered while travelling through Asia. The 40-cover dining room offers lunch and dinner menus, a 1950s and 1960s industrial design and Taiwanese trinkets, while the downstairs tea room and cocktail bar offers a “more relaxed, social drinking environment”. Bao & Bing’s menu includes bao buns with fillings such as pork belly with chilli, coriander and chiu chow mayo, while customers can watch speciality wheelcakes (waffle-type batter cakes traditionally filled with azuki bean paste) made at the bar. There are also hand-pulled noodles made using a 2,000-year-old method, and desserts such as Dan Bing Popiah (hand-made crepes filled with organic ice cream, peanuts and cilantro). The drinks list includes Taiwanese-inspired cocktails, alcoholic ice lollies, bubble tea, wine and beer. Last year, Sarlas launched Japanese burger concept Ichibuns in Soho in partnership with former Nobu head chef Robin Leigh. 

Barkby Group adds South Downs inn to portfolio: Barkby Group has added an 18th century inn in the South Downs to its portfolio. The company has taken on The George in Burpham, near Arundel, in West Sussex. The property is thought to have opened in 1736 and is owned by Burpham & Warningcamp Pub Company, which was founded when three local businessmen – David King, Bill Tustin and Simon Lay – bought the pub in 2013 when it was on the brink of closure. Barkby Group has agreed a ten-year lease for the premises. The company said the deal represented “further implementation of the company’s strategy to develop a large portfolio of premium hospitality properties”. Burpham & Warningcamp Pub Company chairman Robert Essex told Insider Media: “As one of West Sussex’s best-loved and award-winning community-owned pubs, it was essential The George found a like-minded and successful company to manage its day-to-day operations. In Barkby Group, we have found the ideal partner to enhance The George’s reputation. We look forward to a long and happy association.” Barkby Group chief executive Rupert Fraser added: “We are thrilled to add The George to our growing portfolio. The venue offers customers excellence in food and service, showcasing the best produce with a convivial atmosphere and modern style, which fits perfectly with our proposition and will be a strong addition to the group.” Barkby Group was formed in June on the back of a reverse takeover of Cotswolds-based gastro-pub chain Turf To Table by Sovereign Mines of Africa.

Flight Club lands in Victoria for third London site: Social darts concept Flight Club has opened a site at the Nova development in Victoria for its third London venue and fourth UK site in total. Flight Club Victoria has launched in Sir Simon Milton Square as the company’s largest venue to date, offering 18 oches and a 2,500 square foot outdoor space. Founder Steve Moore said: “We are incredibly excited for this site and we’re always being asked to bring social darts to more locations. Flight Club Victoria provides the perfect opportunity to do this. The Nova development is a landmark site in the heart of Victoria with excellent transport links.” Flight Club’s other London sites are in Bloomsbury and Shoreditch, while the company launched its first UK site outside the capital, in Manchester, earlier this month. In September, Flight Club lodged plans for a venue in Birmingham. The company, which also has a venue in Chicago, is looking to launch shuffleboard concept Electric Shuffle in London next year.

Breakfast Group founder launches Mayfair cocktail bar and kitchen: Breakfast Group founder Eric Yu has launched a cocktail bar and kitchen in Mayfair. Yu has teamed up with Martin Malley, who owns four-strong wine bar and restaurant group Planet Of The Grapes, and Megs Miller and Dré Masso, of bar consultancy Communidad, to open Fam Bar & Kitchen in Duke Street. The venue, which seats 50 inside and 20 on a small terrace, has taken over a site previously occupied by Tony Conigliaro’s Bar Termini Centrale. Fam Bar & Kitchen offers locally sourced and rescued ingredients and materials, with cocktails such as Sir Duke (London vodka, kiwiberries, nettle cordial, Bloomsbury pastis and house citrus) and non-alcoholic Seedlip Grove 42. The kitchen is run by Tim Ross-Watson, formerly of The Goring and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, who has created a bar snacks menu that includes mini-cuppa soup made with butternut squash, roasted garlic and white truffle oil with buttered milk-bread soldiers; and Dingly Dell ham and cheese toasties on homemade bread with tomato compote. The venue also has its own library of vinyl records, Hot Dinners reports.

Beer-tour app fails in £150,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Beer Adventures, an app that offers more than 112 beer tours in 85 cities, has failed in its £150,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for expansion. The company, led by former Yelp marketing director Jonny Quirk, was offering 11.11% equity in return for investment, valuing the company at £1.2m. Beer Adventures planned to use the funds to build its marketing and sales teams, grow its community and tours, and “monetise” venues featured on its app. The company said it had seen 10,000 sign-ups during its soft launch, with 1,050 tours taken. The pitch stated: “We have secured partnerships with BrewDog and Mikkeller, worked with Manchester, Sheffield and Paris beer weeks, and featured in a number of publications across the UK and US. The technology has been designed with the aim to diversify across similar interests such as wine, food and city trails.” 

Merseyside’s only Michelin-starred restaurant to shut but owner in talks over new premises: Merseyside’s only Michelin-starred restaurant is to close – but its owner is in talks over new premises. Marc Wilkinson, owner and chef at Fraiche in Birkenhead, has revealed the building that houses his restaurant has been put up for sale. Wilkinson will serve his last customers on Friday, 14 December but has vowed to reopen elsewhere. The restaurant, which was named the best in the UK by the Sunday Times in 2014, has held a Michelin star since 2009. Wilkinson told The Business Desk: “The building is for sale, but Fraiche is safe. We will reopen next year. I can’t reveal a location just yet, but we are in talks.”

Restaurant split between Dublin and Sydney opens to bring cities ‘closer at Christmas’: Mobile phone operators Samsung and Three have launched a restaurant “split” between Dublin and Sydney to help Irish families connect with loved ones in Australia. Connected restaurant offers a festive three-course meal in front of a large screen that shows a live feed of family on the other side of the world. All elements of the evening are co-ordinated between Dublin and Sydney so diners feel as though they are at the same table. Guests can also take photos that look as though they are sharing the same booth. Aislinn O’Connor, head of brand and marketing at Three Ireland, told Campaign: “Christmas is the time of year we want to catch up with family and friends but for many reasons not everyone can make it home for Christmas. This is why we have teamed up with Samsung to create the world’s first connected restaurant.”

Master sommeliers reveal further details of hospitality members’ club Trade to open in mid-January: Master sommeliers Xavier Rousset and Gearoid Devaney have revealed further details of Trade, a hospitality members’ club that will launch in Soho in mid-January. The 80-cover venue will open in Frith Street as a socialising and networking space focusing on quality food and drink. The venue will feature a central bar with lounge and restaurant seating plus a private dining room. Former Ritz chef and Masterchef: The Professionals finalist Sven Hanson-Britt will produce a menu of “modern classics and inventive options”, while the kitchen will remain open to fit in with members’ variable working hours. Hanson-Britt said: “We have put together a menu our friends and colleagues will enjoy eating during or after a busy day.” Rousset and Devaney have curated Trade’s wine and cocktail lists, with 100 bins, a constantly changing selection of fine wine and ten signature cocktails. Trade will also run a programme of events including wine and spirit tastings, bar takeovers and round tables. Members will range from chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, hoteliers and restaurant owners to food critics, journalists and food and drink producers. Rousset and Devaney opened French fine dining restaurant Cabotte in the City of London last year, while Rousset also owns Blandford Comptoir in Marylebone and Comptoir Cafe & Wine in Mayfair.

BeerHeadZ opens fifth site, in Melton Mowbray: Micro-pub entrepreneur Phil Ayling has opened a fifth site for his BeerHeadZ brand, in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Ayling has taken over the lease of a grade II-listed building in King Street. The town centre property most recently housed Melton Toys and is the oldest secular building in Melton Mowbray, with parts dating to 1330. Ayling told the Melton Times: “We look forward to serving some of the best beers produced from home and abroad. We hope we can quickly become part of Melton’s food and drink culture.” BeerHeadZ currently operates pubs in Grantham, Lincoln, Nottingham and Retford. The concept offers cask beer, craft keg, real cider, bottled and canned beer, wine, hot drinks, free Wi-Fi, free room hire and an option to bring your own food.

Derbyshire-based restaurant operator acquires village pub for second site: Derbyshire-based operator Seven, which runs a restaurant of the same name in Pride Park, Derby, has acquired a village pub for its second site in the county. The company has bought The White Hart in Duffield and will turn it into a gastro-pub. Seven Restaurant & Café Bar opened five years ago after the company identified a lack of places on the business park to meet and eat. Seven operations director Campbell Salloway told Derbyshire Live: “We have been looking at various opportunities for a second site and The White Hart was an excellent fit. We focus on providing quality fresh food that is value for money, served in a casual, friendly ambience. When we mix that with established bar trade at The White Hart, we believe we will create a first-class gastro-pub the village of Duffield can be proud of. We will make certain structural changes and undertake a refurbishment programme but this will be a gradual process so as not to create too much disturbance for our customers.” The White Hart was acquired from Chris and Carol Nicholson, who bought the venue from Bass Taverns in 1999. They said: “We felt the time was right to move on and pursue other interests. We wish Seven well as it takes the pub on to its next chapter.”

St Christopher’s Inns scoops accolade for capsule hostel marketing campaign: St Christopher’s Inns, which is owned by pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, scooped best marketing accolade at the British Youth Travel Awards. The operator took home the prize for its Future of Travel: The UK’s First Capsule Hostel campaign for its pod rooms at its London Bridge site. The campaign resulted in the capsule net bed rate increasing 46%, direct booking share for these beds growing 63%, a 265% spike in web traffic and more than 30 pieces of worldwide press coverage. It was the biggest return on investment St Christopher’s Inns has received from a campaign. The company also took home second place for Best Innovation at the awards. Marketing director Sophie Herbert said: “We worked really hard to deliver the UK’s first capsule hostel to the market and it’s great to see our efforts recognised.”

Christian Guild Hotels adds Leicestershire site to portfolio as it moves into conference and weddings market: Christian Guild Hotels had added a site in Leicestershire to its portfolio as it moves into the conference and weddings market. The company has acquired Hothorpe Hall & The Woodlands in Theddingworth in a seven-figure funding deal provided by Allied Irish Bank (GB). Hothorpe Hall offers 55 en-suite bedrooms and 11 meeting spaces, while there are 22 en-suite bedrooms in The Woodlands. Both buildings have dining and bar facilities. Chairman John Moffoot told Insider Media: “This is an exciting new venture and we are delighted to add Hothorpe to our portfolio as it provides us with a wider market in conferences and weddings alongside our more traditional holiday venues.” Christian Guild Hotels also operates the Willersley Castle Hotel in Cromford, Derbyshire; Sidholme Hotel in Sidmouth, Devon; and Treloyhan Manor Hotel in St Ives, Cornwall. In August, it sold the Abbot Hall Hotel in Cumbria and Lindors Country House Hotel in Gloucestershire to property investment company Carlauren Group from a combined guide price of more than £2.9m.

Soho’s Roundhouse reopens as premier bar, club and lounge following £1m restoration: Soho’s iconic Roundhouse has reopened as premier bar, club and lounge Soho Residence following a £1m restoration. The Wardour Street venue now has a capacity of 350 spread across three floors. Built in 1892, the Roundhouse previously hosted blues and skiffle clubs, featuring performers from around the world. The restored space offers a gin parlour and botanical cocktail bar and opens until 3am six nights a week. The basement Festival Club features festoon lighting alongside craft beer and cocktails, while the first-floor gin parlour features high ceilings, tall windows and sofas. Both spaces are available for hire.

Big Easy and David Lloyd sign up for flexible pay scheme for staff: Three-strong barbecue restaurant brand Big Easy and leisure company David Lloyd have signed up to the UK’s first “get paid as you go” flexible income service, which will cover 4,500 staff nationwide. Employees can access their earned income at any time during the month after the companies signed up to the joint service provided by Fourth, the software partner to the hospitality industry, and social impact startup Wagestream. Payments facilitated by Wagestream are deducted from the normal monthly pay cycle overseen by Fourth. A Wagestream survey of 1,500 UK workers found shift workers are hardest hit during the extended December to January pay cycle, with almost two-thirds (66%) unsure they will be able to cover the cost of Christmas. Almost one-third (29%) of shift workers don’t know whether they’ll be paid before or after Christmas. Almost two-thirds (66%) and 90% of shift workers said the power to access earned income during the month would help them avoid using loans or credit cards and getting into debt. More than half (51%) of shift and freelance workers would also be motivated to pick up more shifts if they could access their income more flexibly. Wagestream chief executive Peter Briffett said: “Offering staff the ability to access earned income before late January will help them avoid the ‘payday poverty’ cycle of overdrafts, credit cards and high-interest loans – improving employee wellbeing, productivity and retention.” Fourth chief executive Ben Hood added: “This is a challenging time of the year for many hospitality workers, with spend increasing and the gap between pay cycles widening. We’re delighted to have David Lloyd and Big Easy embracing the new service. It’s a low-cost, low-risk, high-impact way to give employees the financial flexibility they need over this financially stressful festive period.”

Tea room brand Love To Eat buys Bodnant Welsh Food out of administration: Richard Reynolds, managing director of tea room brand Love To Eat, has bought the business and assets of Bodnant Welsh Food in Conwy out of administration. Reynolds said: “I am delighted to have bought the business and assets of Bodnant Welsh Food, having already agreed heads of terms for my lease of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. I will be working hard to ensure its future success. The centre is situated in spectacular surroundings and has so much potential, boasting a fantastic array of award-winning products and services I hope to honour and enhance further. I hope to have the business up and running again as soon as possible under the name Bodnant Welsh Food – and to continue promoting Welsh food in the Conwy Valley for the benefit of the local community.” Dean Nelson, head of business recovery and insolvency at administrator Smith Cooper, added: “We are confident that with continued local support, we will see the Food Centre flourish again.”

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