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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 4th Dec 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pret pilots full ingredient labelling: Pret A Manger is trialling full ingredient labelling at its store in Victoria as part of its pledge to better protect people with allergies. The company has vowed to “drive change” in the industry in the wake of a coroner finding its labelling was “inadequate” in the case of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating one of its baguettes. Writing in his blog, chief executive Clive Schlee said the company was testing different approaches before rolling out the labelling nationwide. He stated: “After an enormous amount of work from a dedicated Pret team, I’m pleased to say we have launched the first full ingredient labelling pilot in a shop in Victoria. It’s the latest in a series of changes we’ve been making to Pret’s allergy policies since we first learned of Natasha’s tragic death in the spring of 2017. I know sticking labels on sandwich boxes may seem simple, and you may be wondering why we don’t just get on with it. The reason is we have to make sure the process is safe, practical and effective. The wrong label on the wrong sandwich can be worse than no label at all. Our teams make our sandwiches and salads in small batches (typically about 12 to 15 at a time) throughout the day in more than 350 different Pret kitchens all over the country. We have to perfect the process to minimise the chance of human error. The early versions of the labels are a bit clunky and the pace is slow – but that’s to be expected. We will refine the labels, make sure they go on to a sensible place on the packs, and take a good look at technology solutions as well. That’s why we are testing different approaches before we roll out new labels nationwide. We’ll keep improving the process and the labels over the coming weeks, and this first approach might not be the final version. We’ll be using the pilots to listen to our customers, especially people with allergies, and learn what they like and don’t like. Speed is of the essence, but so is developing a process that is safe to use. Running pilots now will make the national launch much quicker and easier. We’ll be sharing the learnings with the government and wider industry.”

Industry News:

Operators see like-for-likes up 4.7% in November driven by drinks: Like-for-like sales were up 4.7% in November compared with the year before, according to S4Labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Analysis of more than 100 organisations that use S4Labour software showed drink sales were the main driver behind the strong results. Drink sales increased 6.5% compared with the previous year, while food sales grew 1.5%. Despite wet-led businesses experiencing a 0.8% dip in food sales, they were the biggest winners overall, enjoying a 4.8% boost in sales compared with last year. Dry-led sites were not far behind, with an average 4.6% rise.

BrewDog co-founder argues for corporation tax overhaul to drive economic growth: James Watt, co-founder of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has argued for an overhaul of the corporation tax system to drive economic growth. His proposal involves any medium-sized UK business that increases its turnover or headcount by 30% or more in a financial year not paying corporation tax for that period provided it fully reinvested that rebate in further growth in the following 12 months. He said: “We believe we can change how corporation tax works in the UK to better incentivise economic growth, leading to significantly more job creation and increasing the overall amount of tax the government receives each year and stimulating more spending in our economy to boot. We would propose a new corporation tax system whereby any medium-sized UK business (for these purposes medium is defined as having turnover in excess of £10m or employing more than 50 people) that increases its turnover or headcount by 30% or more in a financial year, doesn’t pay corporation tax for that financial year provided it undertakes to reinvest that tax rebate fully in further growth in the following 12 months and commits to a 24-month dividend embargo. For us, this not only incentivises businesses to grow and create jobs but ensures the incentive they receive is further reinvested to create more jobs and drive further growth. This would enable us to attract fantastic companies to locate in the UK, giving us an edge internationally as well as creating jobs. In addition, we would motivate the thousands of fantastic companies already in the UK to look to grow their businesses in what are uncertain economic times. Furthermore, through more income tax, national insurance, VAT, duties and increased spending, the government would also be in a net positive tax position with this change to corporation tax meaning everyone would benefit.”

Mandatory plastic straw ban could ‘undermine sector measures and increase costs’: Trade bodies have said a mandatory plastics ban could undermine ongoing work by the sector to tackle the issue, with the added risk of passing ensuing costs on to businesses. The warning comes amid a government consultation on banning plastic straws and stirrers. The trade bodies said government efforts to reduce single-use plastic were welcome but any moves should ensure the introduction of affordable alternatives. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are fully supportive of measures to cut plastic waste but a mandatory ban on the use of plastic straws in such a short time-frame would cause problems for the sector. Imposing a ban in such a short space of time may undermine measures that are already in place and increase burdens and costs. Hospitality businesses are leaders in reducing or eliminating the use of single-use plastics. This proactive work is to be encouraged and we support our members in their efforts to reduce waste.” Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “It is important we all do our bit to reduce plastic waste and that is why we welcome the government’s proposals to ban plastic straws and stirrers. To help pubs reduce their plastic waste, we have already produced guidance for licensees as well.”

Government seeks industry leader to become first food and drink disability champion: The government is to recruit a food and drink disability champion to help tackle issues that disabled consumers face in the sector. The government is seeking a “leader in the food and drink industry” to raise awareness of the need to improve access, customer service and staff training to ensure venues understand the needs of disabled consumers. The appointee will join 14 current champions who are driving improvements for accessibility in a range of other sectors. Minister for disabled people health and work Sarah Newton said: “There are nearly 14 million disabled people living in the UK and, just like everyone else, they enjoy going out to eat and drink as a way of socialising with friends. But poor access and customer service often means disabled people might choose to stay at home instead. The food and drink industry must ensure it capitalises on the spending power of disabled people and their households – the purple pound is worth £249bn every year.” Existing sector champions include Suzanne Bull, who has launched a music industry taskforce to improve the experience for deaf and disabled customers when booking tickets for live events.

Company News:

FT Foods takes KFC portfolio to 25 with seven-site acquisition: FT Foods, owned by Fazan Tahir, has acquired seven London sites from KFC UK & Ireland to take its portfolio for the brand to 25. Tahir described the deal as a “significant step” in his journey since joining FT Foods in 1994, adding to the current multimillion-pound sales in its KFC business. He added: “I am very proud of our innovation, numerous awards and my outstanding team with its best-in-class culture. We intend to take the acquired restaurants forward and add additional outlets, just as we have always done.” FT Foods was advised during the deal by John Farnsworth and David Crump, food and beverage specialists at Smith Cooper Corporate Finance. Farnsworth said: “We have no doubt the business will continue to grow at an exemplary pace while maintaining top operational and service quality – this is an exceptional business.” FT Foods also operates a number of Starbucks sites.

Chilango extends bond offer to support expansion plans into 2019: Mexican brand Chilango has extended its Burrito Bond 2 offer into 2019 to support its expansion plans. The company launched the offer in October and surpassed its initial £1m target within 24 hours. It increased that target to £2.5m, with the offer due to have closed on Sunday (2 December). However, it has decided to extend the offer into next year as it looks to raise more funds with “new site opportunities on the horizon”. So far, the bond has raised £2,380,500 – exceeding the £2.1m it raised in 2014 from more than 700 investors through its inaugural mini-bond offer on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Investors this time around include former Itsu managing director David Haimes, ex-Domino’s Pizza chief executive Chris Moore and former McDonald’s UK marketing vice-president Laurie Morgan. The Burrito Bond 2 is offering 8% interest annually over four years, with bondholders offered the opportunity to redeem their bond in full at maturity. The minimum investment is £500. The funds will be used to open restaurants at a circa cash outlay of £500,000 per site and refinance existing debt. Chilango had net sales of £10.7m for the year ending 25 March 2018, and forecasts restaurant Ebitda of more than £2m in its current financial year. Chilango said all its 11 sites are profitable, while it is set to open its first site in Birmingham next year.

D&D London to launch Queensyard for second New York site in March: Restaurant operator D&D London has revealed its second New York site will open in March. The company will launch Queensyard as part of the emerging Hudson Yards neighbourhood. The restaurant will open in a 11,142 square foot space on the fourth floor of The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards and will feature a restaurant, bar, kitchen, cafe and private dining room. The venue will offer views over Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel staircase structure, The Shed arts centre and the Hudson River. Queensyard’s menu will blend modern New York cuisine with “classic and contemporary” British dishes. D&D London chief executive Des Gunewardena said: “We are excited to open our second restaurant in New York and become part of such a significant new neighbourhood in the city. We think Queensyard will offer something for everyone – a sophisticated yet accessible dining and drinking experience with unprecedented views of Manhattan’s skyline.” Queensyard will be led by D&D London’s USA operations director Laura Dove, who also oversees operations at Bluebird London, and general manager Anthony Battaglia. D&D London opened its debut US site in September, when it brought its Bluebird brand to Manhattan.

Various Eateries assigns lease of Strada site in Blackheath to MasterChef finalist for new concept: Various Eateries has assigned the lease of its Strada site in Blackheath, south east London, to MasterChef finalist Tony Rodd for a new concept. The venue in Lee Street has been let for £55,000 per annum through agent Colliers International. Rodd, who was a finalist in the 2015 series of the BBC show, will use the 2,113 square foot unit to launch his latest concept, Copper & Ink. Rodd has brought in another former MasterChef contestant, Robert Parks, as head chef at the venue. Copper & Ink will be an ingredients-led modern British restaurant offering monthly changing a la carte and tasting options. Rodd said: “Our ambition is to work with some of the best suppliers in London to plate up intricate, exciting dishes that draw on contemporary food trends.”

Bourgee creditors face being left with estimated deficiency of almost £1.1m: Creditors of steak-lobster lounge concept Bourgee are facing an estimated total deficiency of almost £1.1m, newly filed documents have revealed. In their progress report filed at Companies House, joint administrators Mark Upton and David Scrivener, of Ensors, said the expected total deficiency would be £1,071,966. The report also showed secured creditor Colchester Zoo Holdings, which held a legal charge in respect of the company’s leasehold property and a fixed and floating charge debenture in respect of the company’s assets, had so far received £100,000 of the £1m it was owed. The administrators estimated a further distribution of £100,000 would be made. Unsecured creditors’ claims, excluding Colchester Zoo Holdings, are estimated to total £719,200. The estimated shortfall for unsecured creditors is expected to be £409,141. Colchester Zoo Holdings called in Ensors in October last year to carry out a financial review of Bourgee. Subsequently, discussions took place between the directors regarding the settlement of Bourgee’s liability to Colchester Zoo Holdings and a possible agreement in relation to the separation of the group. However, the talks were unsuccessful. As previously reported, Bourgee sold its restaurants in Bury St Edmunds, Chelmsford and Southend in a pre-packaged administration sale for £400,000. Bourgee directors Dominique and Anthony Tropeano, who are also behind Colchester Zoo, acquired the restaurants and reopened the Chelmsford and Southend sites under new concept Colenzo’s. They have both subsequently closed. The Tropeanos have branched out into the restaurant industry in recent years and were two of the directors of Bourgee when it was founded in 2015, alongside chef Mark Baumann and entrepreneur James Welling. The Bourgee name and brand was excluded from the sale and the Bourgee Bites – Bar – Luxe Lounge at London Southend airport continues to trade under Welling and Baumann’s ownership. They have since opened a site in Norwich.

Benugo appoints new head of procurement: Benugo, the operator of deli cafes and catering in high-profile venues, has appointed Danny de Ruiter as head of procurement, Propel has learned. De Ruiter was previously at Mexican brand Chilango for more than two years, where he was in charge of purchasing and commercial. De Ruiter will help the team at Benugo “meet the challenges” in its supply chain and look at opportunities long term. He told Propel: “With the volatile environment we’re in and Brexit looming, we’re trying to figure out which crocodile is nearest the boat. Benugo is a brand hard not to admire. There are so many great things about it – from blueberry muffins to having a most welcoming culture.”

Jason Atherton to launch new venture next to Pollen Street Social: Chef Jason Atherton is to launch a new venture, provisionally entitled HOME, next door to his Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant Pollen Street Social. The 16-cover restaurant will open in an intimate space Atherton currently rents out for fashion and art pop-ups. HOME will be a “purely creative outlet”, serving a set menu inspired by his travels around the world. Guests will buy individual tickets as opposed to hiring the space. Atherton told SquaredMeal: “It’s not about a party, it’s about the food and the experience.” Pollen Street Social will also undergo an extensive refurbishment. He said: “We want to make it a little more luxurious. The kitchen will be bigger, the decor will be updated, the bar set-up will change a little bit and there will be a redesigned private dining room. We’ll probably spend another £1m on it.” On Thursday (6 December), Atherton will launch King’s Social House at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St Moritz for his debut site in Switzerland. Pollen Street Social, which has just published its first cookbook, was the first of Atherton’s empire, which now spans six countries and includes seven restaurants in London alone.

Charnwood Brewery opens debut micro-pub, exploring further sites: Charnwood Brewery, the East Midlands-based micro-brewery founded by former Batemans executive Andrew Reed and wife Andrea, has opened its first micro-pub. The Sorrel Fox has launched in the village of Mountsorrel, Leicestershire. The converted shop offers a selection of the brewer’s award-winning cask and craft beer as well as a selection of quality wine, gin and rum. Andrew Reed told Propel the micro-pub had sold 15 firkins of cask and four kegs of craft in its first three days since opening. He added that Charnwood Brewery would look to launch more micro-pubs in the region in places where there are “limited free trade opportunities for our beer”. The Reeds launched the company in Loughborough in 2014, with its brewery featuring an on-site bar and shop. It also offers brewery tours.

US egg-in-bun concept Eggslut to launch in London: US egg-in-bun concept Eggslut is to launch in London next year. The West Coast concept offers cage-free eggs mostly in brioche buns including the Gaucho (seared wagyu tri-tip steak with egg, chimichurri and red onions), and the Fairfax (scrambled eggs, chives, cheese, caramelised onions and sriracha mayo). The venue has yet to be revealed but will feature a unique fast-food version of the concept, Hot Dinners reports.

Robinsons buys Anglesey pub: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has bought The Seacroft in Trearddur Bay on Anglesey. The company has acquired the property, which was privately owned, for an undisclosed amount through agent Fleurets. The pub has a lounge bar and dining area with about 120 covers, six en-suite bedrooms, and a terrace with 80 covers. Tim Martin, of Fleurets’ north west office, who brokered the deal, said: “The Seacroft is an attractive pub in a popular seaside tourist location. It is also close to the busy port of Holyhead and, as such, has strong trade throughout the year. The deal demonstrates the continued demand for quality trading opportunities in North Wales. Robinsons also purchased the George III Hotel in Dolgellau and the Four Alls in Caernarfon in 2017, which were also brokered by Fleurets.”

International bistro brand Bagatelle eyes ‘aggressive expansion’: International bistro brand Bagatelle is eyeing “aggressive expansion” that will see it open several locations in the next five years. The group, which made its London debut in Mayfair in June, will open sites in New York and St Tropez next year. The company has also identified Cape Town, Asia, “European mountain resorts” and the US as targets. The group plans to use licence agreements and joint ventures to drive faster expansion as well as opening restaurants with its own funds or backed by investors. Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente founded Bagatelle in New York in 2008 and the brand now has restaurants in 12 cities around the world. Laba told the Press Association: “Our expansion plans are quite aggressive in the next five years. Part of our strategy is to open more sites in key markets.” He said Brexit wasn’t a concern but the UK’s rent review system had proved “challenging”. He said: “You have rent reviews every five years so you have very little visibility as to what your business will be like in five years – your rent could double. If they want entrepreneurs to invest in the neighbourhood, they need to make sure they don’t work for the landlords.”

H&M opens first site outside Sweden for cafe concept, at Westfield London: Clothing giant H&M has launched a first site outside Sweden for its cafe concept, It’s Pleat, at Westfield London. It is only H&M’s fourth cafe in total since the concept was launched in Stockholm last year. The menu mixes healthy options and treats such as cardamom or cinnamon buns and banana cake. Breakfast options include overnight oats with chia-raspberry jam, cacao-nut spread and granola, alongside fruit pots and roasted nut mixes. The lunch menu focuses on salads, soup and vegetarian dishes. Sandwiches are made using sourdough and gluten-free bread from local bakery The Bread Station, including a club sandwich, a toastie with lightly smoked free-range chicken, and an Asian twist falafel wrap. The drinks list includes coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cold-pressed juice, shots and smoothies. The venue also makes its own compost on-site, Hot Dinners reports.

Rock Up secures fifth site, at Meadowhall: Indoor climbing operator Rock Up has secured its fifth site, at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield. The company will open the 2,000 square foot site next month having agreed a deal with British Land, which owns the leisure complex. The venue will feature 17 eight-metre climbing walls, a soft play area and a cafe. It will be Rock Up’s third site with British Land – and fifth in total – having opened its first centre at Whiteley, Hampshire, followed by Rock Up Hull in St Stephen’s shopping centre. Executive chairman Heidi Duckworth said: “We started Rock Up as a group of new parents with a love for climbing and adventure. Our idea was to give young people who had never been near a mountain the opportunity to climb and discover new passions. British Land took a chance on us when we started and, with Meadowhall’s recent refurbishment, we thought it would be the perfect location for our fifth site.” British Land asset manager Richard Crowther added: “Since our transformation of Meadowhall we’ve been able to bring in a variety of new brands, giving consumers more reasons to visit. Rock Up is a great addition to our growing leisure offer, which complements the strong retail brands at the centre.” Rock Up was founded in 2016.

Try Market Halls secures alcohol licence for debut regional site, in York: Try Market Halls, the “next-level” food hall concept led by former property investor Andy Lewis-Pratt and Simon Anderson, the restaurateur behind London’s Pitt Cue Co, has secured an alcohol licence to open its first site outside London, in York. The company has had its application approved by the city council to open a venue at the newly refurbished Stonebow House featuring local producers and restaurants. The food hall, which had already been granted planning permission, will serve alcohol from 7am to 1am, with the venue closing half an hour later, reports The Business Desk. It will be positioned at one end of the ground floor. Try Market Halls has opened sites in Fulham and Victoria with another lined up in Oxford Street. The company is also believed to be looking at sites in Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Stonebow House, York’s “best example of brutalist Sixties architecture”, has been turned from a concrete-clad office and retail block into plush apartments. Given a new glass-dominated exterior by property developer Oakgate, it will also feature two levels of retail and leisure space.

Bristol-based brewer to open debut pub for second site: Bristol-based Good Chemistry Brewing is to open its debut pub next month. The company, which also operates a taproom at its brewery in the city, will launch The Good Measure in Chandos Road offering its own cask and keg beer on draught alongside brews from other craft breweries, natural wine, spirits and a “community feel”. Bob Cary and Kelly Sidgwick founded Good Chemistry Brewing in 2015. They told Bristol Live: “We have spent the past three years working really hard to establish a strong customer base in our beloved home city of Bristol and in that time we’ve not only developed a reputation for great beer but also fun and popular events. We hope to bring the community feel we’ve built at our brewery tap in East Bristol to our own pub.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen opens 22nd site, in Southsea: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, has opened its 22nd site. The venue has launched in Southsea, Hampshire, at former pub The White Horse. Brewhouse & Kitchen co-founders Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn said: “We are very excited to bring Brewhouse & Kitchen to Southsea, especially as this venue comes to us with a huge amount of untapped potential. We started our journey in 2013 a short distance away in central Portsmouth and have found the area to be very welcoming.” Meanwhile, Brewhouse & Kitchen has secured the Guinness World Record for the largest beer tasting across multiple venues after 1,264 people took part in the event across its estate. Gumbrell said: “We are incredibly proud and humbled by the support from all the communities that make each and every Brewhouse & Kitchen venue special. This is a world record not just for Brewhouse & Kitchen but for all who took part.”

Michelin-starred Imperial Treasure Group makes European debut, in St James’s: Michelin-starred Imperial Treasure Group has made its European debut by opening in London’s Waterloo Place. The 140-cover, 8,500 square foot venue has launched in a grade II-listed building in the St James’s conservation area offering a main restaurant, bar and three private dining rooms. The menu focuses on Chinese specialities and live seafood while the bar offers Asian-inspired cocktails, sake, champagne and rare whisky. Imperial Treasure founder Alfred Leung said: “We are delighted to bring Imperial Treasure to the capital. London has become one of the most exciting cities in the world for gastronomy.” Imperial Treasure Group owns restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, with its Shanghai restaurant holding two Michelin stars and its Singapore and Hong Kong venues holding one apiece.

North east-based operators take on second Punch pub: North east-based operators Elaine and Stevie Spring have taken on their second Punch pub. They have reopened The Clousden Hill in Killingworth, near Newcastle, creating 15 jobs. The Killingworth Road pub has relaunched after a £480,000 investment by Punch, which includes a new beer garden with heated seating. The Springs also run The Bridge in nearby Cramlington. Elaine Spring said: “We had been looking for a second pub for a while and when Punch showed us its vision for The Clousden Hill, it was too good to miss.’’ Punch chief executive Clive Chesser added: “We are extremely proud of the work that has gone into transforming The Clousden Hill. Elaine and Steve are excellent publicans and it’s fantastic they have chosen to take The Clousden Hill as their second pub with us.”

North Brewing Co launches debut off-site taproom, in Leeds: Leeds-based brewer North Brewing Co has launched its debut off-site taproom. The venue has opened in Leeds city centre at the corner of Swinegate and Sovereign Street showcasing the brewery’s own products alongside craft beer from around the world. The 1,200 square foot venue also houses local street food business Little Bao Boy, which provides the food offering. North Brewing Co founder and director John Gyngell told Insider Media: “It is amazing to have a North Brewing Co taproom open seven days a week. Our opening hours at our debut brewery tap are restricted by it being a working brewery so this new space gives us real scope to introduce new people to our beer.” James Ooi, founder and director of Little Bao Boy, added: “Working with North Brewing Co in its new city centre taproom is a fantastic opportunity. It has championed us from day one, inviting us to trade at its Eat North street food fair, hold pop-ups in the bar and catering private functions at the brewery. Having a full-time outlet is going to give us the space to develop new dishes.”

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