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Mon 7th Jan 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Google increases market share of social reviews while TripAdvisor drives negative comments: Google increased its market share of reviews during December, 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, revealed Google's percentage of social reviews rose to 63%, up from 59% in November. Facebook also increased its market share of reviews to 12% in December, up from 11% in November, while TripAdvisor saw a 4% decrease over the same period. There has been little fluctuation on the average review scores across the social platforms, with Facebook’s average score falling to 4.4 in December, down from 4.5% in November, and TripAdvisor falling to 3.9, down from 4.0 in November. Google remained flat at 4.1%. TripAdvisor is generating a significant amount of more negative reviews than the other platforms. In fact, 10% of people leaving a review on TripAdvisor left the lowest possible rating of one out of five. Digging into what was driving negative TripAdvisor reviews, problems with the product featured prominently, particularly around cold food. Google reviews, both positive and negative, were also predominantly driven by the product; while positive Facebook reviews were centred around people and good customer service. Restaurants were more consistent, with average reviews rising slightly to 4.1 in December, up from 4.05 in November. Pubs and bars, however, saw average review ratings decrease to 4.3, down from 4.4 in November. TripAdvisor accounted for 29% of restaurant reviews, and one in five of those were negative. Conversely, TripAdvisor only accounted for 21% of reviews in pubs and bars, one in six of which were negative. Across both sectors, good service and atmosphere both featured heavily in positive reviews. Meanwhile, a prominent driver in positive reviews for pubs was dogs and operators welcoming them and catering for them. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Clearly the figures reveal restaurants have dealt with operational pressures better than pubs and bars over the December period. This can be partly attributed to the significant increase in customers who are solely drinking in pubs and bars, which has impacted those visiting to eat, with problems concerning food generating negative reviews. Increasingly, the battle for covers will be fought online with a businesses’ reputation, both on social review sites, such as TripAdvisor, and across social channels, being a key differentiator in whether people will even set foot in the door.” 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 sign up for a monthly copy of this report, email: allears@feeditback.co.uk
  

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators, Vapiano advisor Mario C Bauer to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 7 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Mario C Bauer, advisor to Vapiano and former chief executive of franchising, will give his do's and don'ts of franchising internationally. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com
 
Industry's top young marketers and innovators unveiled: Propel and Think Hospitality have unveiled the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator 30 Under 30 finalists for 2019. The programme recognises young talent aged below 30 carrying out marketing and innovation roles within the hospitality sector and is hosted at the European Summit, which also incorporates a two-day conference and awards event. More than 70 professionals were nominated and a panel of industry and agency leaders came together to judge the applications. The recipients will be recognised at a special reception held at The Ned in London on Tuesday, 15 January and will be enrolled on the programme of learning and networking activities for 2019. This year's finalists are Aimee Gouk, brand manager, Balls Brothers, Novus; Aimie Neighbour, creative strategist, Ignite; Alex Crawford, marketing and communications manager, Sodexo; Amanda Mason, marketing manager, Compass Group; Anni Vidgren, food and beverage marketing manager, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts; Bridie Fox, digital and systems manager, Thai Leisure Group; Ed Lewis-Pratt, head of marketing, Market Halls; Emma Blackwell, account director, Foodsmiths Marketing; Fatima Diez, senior manager, international brand and communication, Five Guys Enterprises; Gabrielle Kirby, marketing manager, We Are Spectacular; George Purnell, founder, Koop + Kraft; Holly Page, account manager, Fleet Street Communications; Isabella Kirkton, head of marketing, Various Eateries; Jacqueline Fletcher, brand manager, Bella Italia, Casual Dining Group; Jessica Wight, marketing manager, Novus; Joshua Craddock, marketing manager, restaurant and bars, The Doyle Collection; Kate Hitchcock, local sales and marketing manager, Casual Dining Group; Laura Cunningham, account manager, Fleet Street Communications; Loui Blake, managing director, Erpingham House; Maxime van Gelderen, PR and marketing manager, The Entourage Group; Megan Burton-Brown, marketing manager, Tortilla Mexican Grill; Mia Lehwald, regional marketing manager, Wagamama; Mide Harkin, head of commercial, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group; Ollie Hunter, head of development, Kerb Food; Phil Leather, head of digital, Gusto Italian; Rebecca Carroll, senior franchise marketing manager, Domino's; Rosie Prior, social media manager, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group; Stephen Paddock, owner, Raclette Brothers/Alpes Restaurants; Victoria Sheppard, group marketing and PR director, Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation; and Urvashi Misra, head of brand, Bella Italia, Casual Dining Group. 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
 
Sector CVAs increase by four times in 2018: The number of company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) by bar, restaurant and hotel operators in England and Wales that have more than ten sites increased by four times in 2018 – to 36. Research by Deloitte also showed 80 large multi-site sector companies went into administration last year. Deloitte’s findings showed across all industry sectors, including retail, the total number of administrations in England and Wales increased by 10% from 1,134 companies in 2017 to 1,251 in 2018. The majority of sectors reported an increase in administrations between 2017 and 2018, with the only sectors reporting a reduction being printing and publishing (down 21%) and recruitment and business services (down 10%, albeit the third largest contributor with 198 appointments). 2018 witnessed an 18% growth in CVAs across all industry sectors, including retail, rising from 334 to 395. Carluccio's, Gaucho, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Jamie's Italian and Prezzo were among the sector companies to undergo a CVA last year as the industry battles against increased cost headwinds, competition and uncertainty over Brexit hitting consumer confidence.
 
Speakers unveiled for Pub19: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin and Anglian Country Inns managing director James Nye will be among the speakers at Pub19, the only dedicated show for the UK pub industry, which is returning to London’s Olympia on Tuesday, 5 February and Wednesday, 6 February. BrewDog retail chief executive David McDowall will be interviewed by We Are Spectacular founder and chief executive Mark McCulloch, about why 2019 will be the "Year of the Dog". Meanwhile, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmons, New World Trading Company chief executive Chris Hill, and Brewhouse & Kitchen chief executive Kris Gumbrell will examine the issue of improving recruitment and retention in the sector. Other speakers include Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, Seafood Pub Company managing director Joycelyn Neve, Fuller’s director of food Paul Dickinson, The Duck Inn chef patron Ben Handley and Pieminister co-founder and managing director Tristan Hogg. For more information on the talks and workshops and to register, visit www.thepubshow.co.uk
 

Company News:

D&D London to open site in new regional UK city, reports record December trading: Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of restaurant operator D&D London, has told Propel the company will expand its UK presence by opening a new regional site later this year. Gunewardena would not reveal the location of the restaurant but said it was a new city for the company, building on its regional sites in Leeds and Manchester. It is set to be one of three openings in 2019, with the launch of Queensyard – the company’s second restaurant in New York – and a 10,000 square foot rooftop restaurant at 120 Fenchurch Street in London. Gunewardena revealed the new opening on the back of record December trading for the company, with like-for-like sales up 6%. Overall revenue was up 11% compared with the previous year while like-for-like sales on Christmas Day were up 20%. Six of its venues achieved net revenue of £1m-plus over the four-week period, including 20 Stories in Manchester, which opened at the start of last year. Its Quaglino’s and 100 Wardour Street sites in London achieved net revenues in excess of £1.4m. Established venues saw double-digit sales growth with revenues at Orrery up 22%, Aster (19%), South Place Hotel (16%), and Paternoster Chop House and Lauceston Place (both 14%). Its German Gymnasium site in London also saw 12% sales growth. Gunewardena said: "We've seen a strong performance across the board. It's pleasing to see UK companies and individuals still enjoying Christmas despite Brexit worries. In the context of Brexit and uncertain financial markets it was rather a better than expected Christmas.”

Carluccio’s to pay ‘settled status’ fee for EU staff, first large restaurant brand to do so: Carluccio’s, the Italian all-day restaurant group owned by Dubai-based investment group Landmark, is to pay for its 1,550 non-British EU employees to apply for “settled-status” in the UK after Brexit. It is the first large restaurant brand to do so. Under the EU Settlement Scheme, all EU citizens living in the UK will need to apply for the right to remain in the UK after Brexit. The application fee is £65 and will give workers who have lived in the UK for five years or more “settled status”. Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said: “There would be no Carluccio’s without one man making the journey from Europe to London. Today we employ more than 2,300 people from more than 80 countries. A large number, just like Antonio, decided to travel from mainland Europe and make their home in the UK. We are passionate about the value they bring to our business and it is something we are keen to protect. It’s what Antonio would have wanted. We appreciate the current political landscape is unsettling for many of our employees and we want to do everything we can to reassure them they are part of the Carluccio’s famiglia.” 

Joule’s looking to add up to two pubs a year as it reports turnover growth: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, has said it will look to add up to two sites a year to its pub estate, which has seen turnover grow 3%. The company reported overall turnover grew to £7,275,369 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £7,147,307 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £604,517, compared with £1,314,422 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Joule’s operated 41 pubs at the end of the period having acquired two sites and sold three. Another pub is in the process of being sold. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company has refocused during the year to concentrate on the core business of Joule's Brewery Taps. Acquiring two pubs during the year, the estate now stands at 41 pubs, all of which are trading well, plus 3.0% on the previous year. One of the acquired pubs, Market Vaults, was acquired via a purchase of a trading company, leading to goodwill of £129,105 being recognised on the balance sheet. The company announced the purchase of land in Stone, Staffordshire, the original home of Joule's, and is currently preparing plans for its first new-build pub and estimates a capital spend in the region of £1.8m. The other notable transaction during the year was the purchase of the Joule's brand from Molson Coors, which was previously held under licence, for a consideration of £100,000 together with an exceptional expense of £343,100 relating to settling historic costs under the trademark. The business is well placed for the future with a strong balance sheet and freehold estate. The business benefits from being privately owned, which allows all available cash to be reinvested in the business. Joule's plans to continue to acquire freehold pubs in its core trading area at the rate of one or two pubs a year, which will be the focus for the business.”

Greggs outlines Wales expansion plans with 15 more sites over next two years: Food-on-the-go retailer Greggs is set to strengthen its presence in Wales by opening 15 more sites in the next two years. The company bolstered its portfolio in the country and the Welsh Marches in 2018 by opening nine stores, creating more than 100 jobs. Property firm Cooke & Arkwright currently has terms agreed for the acquisition of 15 new Greggs outlets in various locations across Wales, all set to open during this year and in 2020. With more than 150 outlets in Wales, Greggs is focusing its continuing growth strategy on opening stores between 800 square foot and 1,500 square foot in areas that include shopping centres, business parks, out-of-town retail parks, industrial estates, transport hubs and prominent roadside locations. Chris Adamson, retail operations manager at Greggs, said: “These latest store openings signify our commitment to Wales, a key region which is paving the way for our future growth strategy." Cooke & Arkwright director Huw Thomas added: “With a number of new units having already exchanged, or are in the pipeline with terms agreed, Wales has and continues to be a particular focus as one of Greggs’ strongest performing regions.”

The Ivy Collection reopens Manchester restaurant 24 hours after terrace blaze: The Ivy Collection reopened its Manchester restaurant just 24 hours after a blaze ripped through its roof terrace. Fire chiefs gave restaurant bosses the go ahead to reopen as normal after the blaze in The Roof Garden on Friday night (4 January). The flames were confined to the terrace and repair work began at the site soon after the fire was extinguished, reports the Manchester Evening News. The restaurant, which launched in November, has reopened although the terrace is expected to be closed until the end of February. A statement read: “While work starts to refurbish and repair any damage done to The Roof Garden, the ground floor Ivy Brasserie and Ivy Asia on the second floor are completely unaffected by the fire and will continue to operate as usual."

Chipotle opens second City site as it takes London portfolio to seven: Chipotle has opened its second City of London restaurant, taking it to nine sites in the capital. The company has opened the venue in King William Street, near Monument station. Chipotle already has a branch in the Square Mile at London Wall, as well as five others in London, including locations in Soho, Baker Street and Islington. Jacob Sumner, operations director for Chipotle in Europe, told City AM: “We are delighted to open our second restaurant in the City of London, near Monument, in King William Street. We already have a huge fanbase in the City as a result of opening in London Wall in 2015 and are proud we can now serve more people living and working in this area, helping change the way people think about and eat fast food.” Chipotle has more than 2,300 branches in North America and Europe.
 
Innventure reports December like-for-likes up 13%: Innventure, the gastro-pub operator led by former Mitchells & Butlers executive Chris Gerard, has reported like-for-like sales were up 13% in December. The company saw like-for-like growth of 19% on Christmas Day. Innventure operates seven sites having acquired the lease of The Old Cannon in Bury St Edmund's in November. The pub is owned by former Greene King finance director Michael Shallow and his wife Judith.

Domino’s told by shareholders to sharpen up board: Domino’s Pizza shareholders have told the company’s chairman Stephen Hemsley he must hire a new heavyweight senior independent director, after being left dissatisfied with his plans to bulk up its board. A group of top 20 shareholders is said to be concerned Hemsley, who has been on the board for two decades, and chief executive David Wild, are not being sufficiently challenged at the helm of the FTSE 250 pizza company, reports The Sunday Times. To address those concerns the company said in November it planned to search for an additional non-executive director to broaden the skills and experience on the board. Shareholder concerns over the company’s governance have arisen after a tumultuous four years in which Domino’s has seen three finance directors resign, most recently Rachel Osborne, who left to join the struggling department store group Debenhams in August. In July, The Sunday Times revealed a deterioration in relations between Wild and the company’s franchisees, which contributed to a slower rate of openings last year. Helen Keays, a senior independent director since 2016, is the only woman on the pizza nine-person board. A government review has urged FTSE 350 companies to ensure a third of board seats are filled by women by 2020. The group of Domino’s shareholders is understood to have informed Hemsley it wishes to see a new senior independent director in place by the time of the company’s annual meeting in the spring. Domino’s said: “We have outlined our plans to shareholders to both refresh and expand the board and they have expressed widespread support.”
 
Taco Bell rolls out delivery across London with Deliveroo: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is rolling out delivery across London in partnership with Deliveroo. Taco Bell currently has three London locations – in Croydon, Hammersmith and Holborn – with further expansion expected in 2019. Taco Bell began a trial with Deliveroo in 2018 in Brighton and is now rolling out the service across all of its London sites. Katie Taylor, marketing director for Taco Bell Europe, said: “London has been the most requested location for us to open a Taco Bell in the world, so we’re very excited to be here now in the capital. We’re pleased to be working with Deliveroo to bring Taco Bell’s iconic menu to more Taco Bell fans across London.”
 
Market Taverns Pub Co reports December like-for-likes up 13%: Market Taverns Pub Co, which operates seven managed sites across London, has reported like-for-like increased 13% in December. The company saw overall sales grow 30%, compared with the previous year, with a number of its pubs delivering record weekly sales over the festive period. Its flagship site, The Market Porter in Borough Market, has closed for a short refurbishment, and will be reopen on Thursday (10 January) with a new beer range and a "brighter, more comfortable feel in the bar area while preserving the soul of a classic traditional London pub". The company strengthened its head office team last year, and said it continued to prepare for opportunities to expand across London.
 
Stephen Crawley launches £900,000 crowdfunding campaign to grow Liverpool brewery development: Former Caledonian managing director Stephen Crawley, who resurrected renowned brewer Higsons, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to expand his new brewery, distillery and retail space in his home city of Liverpool. Crawley is embarking on a £900,000 fund-raise on Seedrs to grow Love Lane Brewery in the Baltic Triangle. Crawley is offering 9.41% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of almost £8.7m. A multimillion-pound investment saw a rundown warehouse transformed into H1780 Tap & Still, reviving the Higsons and Love Lane brands. The beers, synonymous with Liverpool for more than 200 years, had been on Crawley’s radar for some time. In 2016, he acquired the Higsons brand and at the same time purchased the Liverpool Craft Beer Company, makers of Love Lane beer. H1780 Tap & Still, which has now been renamed Love Lane, comprises a brewery, distillery, three bars, a kitchen and events space and opened in December 2017. The pitch states: "We aim to be among the consolidation of craft by expanding Love Lane beyond Liverpool and creating a local platform for Higsons and our Ginsmiths of Liverpool brands. We intend to deploy the funds raised for brand investment; infrastructure, including further fitting out the warehouse and brewery; and enhancing our retail offer, including completion of tasting room, shop fit out, online shop and website enhancements."

Zip World to sell minority stake to fuel UK growth: North Wales-based adventure tourism operator Zip World is selling a minority shareholding to private equity firm Lloyds Development Capital that values the business at £45m. Zip World manages zip lines in the Snowdonia mountain range and runs alpine rollercoasters, treetop adventure courses and underground trails at three sites in North Wales. The company was founded by Sean Taylor and Nick Moriarty five years ago. Zip World plans to use the funds to open new adventure parks across the UK, reports The Mail on Sunday. Zip World’s first site was at Penrhyn Quarry, where it runs the world’s fastest zip wire, called Velocity 2, in which riders travel at more than 100mph. The business has grown rapidly since it was launched, and it now turns over more than £14m annually, with 400,000 customer visits a year to its sites.

Halewood reports Ebitda more than doubles as turnover jumps to £265m: Halewood Wine and Spirits has reported turnover grew to £265,151,000 in the year to 30 June 2018, compared with £216,720,000 the year before. Ebitda more than doubled to £22,878,000, compared with £10,735,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit climbed to £14,919,000 from £4,862,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In her report accompanying the accounts, Halewood Wine and Spirits chairman Judy Halewood stated: “The group strategy of developing a premium range of artisanal craft spirits and beer alongside continued investment in brand marketing, route-to-market distribution and vertical integration has delivered revenue and profit growth. The group’s investment in production capability and acquisitions, especially distilling, brewing and sourcing has stimulated development of higher quality liquids to create strong brand provenance and a point-of-difference. The group has continued to delist low margin and non-profitable lines, rationalised brands and product ranges moving from a volume focus to a margin driven branded business. In addition we have disposed of our Romanian Wine operation, our investment in Irish Whiskey distilling, our property holding company and acquired the Dead Man's Fingers Rum brand.” The company has opened a new distillery in North Wales while it plans to open a new distillery in Scotland in 2019.
 
The Gentlemen Baristas opens flagship site in East India Docks for sixth London venue: London-based The Gentlemen Baristas has opened a new flagship coffee house and roastery, at East India Docks. Founders Edward Parkes and Henry Ayers have opened the venue in the Republic development – their sixth in the capital. With 70 covers along with a further 16 outside, it is the company's largest site to date. The coffee house serves an all-day menu centred around fresh, seasonal produce, with brunch dishes, lunch spreads and evening small plates complemented by The Gentlemen Baristas’ house-roasted coffee, fresh juice, cocktails, craft beer, spirits and natural wine. Parkes said: “This site is our most diverse yet and feels like the culmination of everything The Gentlemen Baristas is about – a welcoming place for outstanding coffee, great service, and conversation. Being situated in Republic is great to build a community within East India Docks and we hope to become the beating heart of this exciting, thriving area.”
 
Camino sees festive like-for-like sales grow 8%: Camino, the London operator led by Richard Bigg and backed by the BGF, saw like-for-like sales increase 8.0% over the festive period compared with the previous year. The company said this was helped by a particularly strong performance at its Shoreditch site. Camino also operates venues in King’s Cross, Monument, Bankside and Blackfriars, while the company also operates Bar Pepito in King’s Cross.

Westons reports turnover up 5.4% to almost £65m as it increases market share: Cider-maker Westons has reported turnover increased 5.4% to £64,635,101 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £61,358,974 the previous year as it increased market share. UK turnover was up to £62,484,648, compared with £59,179,901 the year before. Sales from Europe rose to £1,711,259, compared with £1,619,414 the prior year, while rest of the world revenue was down to £439,194, compared with £559,659 the previous year. Operating profit fell to £1,408,587, compared with £4,057,184 the year before, while pre-tax profit was down to £1,178,078 from £2,518,599 in 2017 due to increased investment in marketing and a further £3m in the production site, according to accounts filed at Companies House. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “Over the course of the year Westons volumes grew by 4.2%, outperforming the UK cider market which grew in volume by an overall 1.4%, therefore growing market share. During the year the company continued with its strategic programme of investment in infrastructure and increasing brand support. During the accounting period an additional £3m was invested into the production site to improve efficiencies and to satisfy increasing volume projections. Direct brand support was also increased significantly during the accounting period. This year's success has been driven by innovative new product development, increasing sales of established award-winning premium ciders and increasing distribution gains across all channels of trade.” Westons can trace its roots to 1878 and sells its cider to more than 40 countries.
 
Supper club WeFiFo closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £415,000 to recruit UK hosts and expand internationally: Supper club WeFiFo has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube having raised more than £415,000 as it bids to recruit UK hosts and expand internationally. The company was aiming to raise £400,000, offering 12.50% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £2.8m. It has now closed the campaign with 120 investors pledging £416,920. WeFiFo raised £350,000 in angel investment in 2016 to launch and roll-out its platform nationwide, while John Lewis Partnership (JLP) invested £100,000 in the company last year following its success in JLAB – JLP’s annual accelerator programme. WeFiFo enables home cooks, supper club hosts and professional chefs to “share their food with paying guests”. Launched by Seni Glaister, former founder and chief executive of The Book People, the service has 4,500 active users in seven countries. The pitch stated: “WeFiFo is a two-sided market place, serving both chef and guest. Described as ‘Airbnb for the kitchen table’, WeFiFo enables those with a love of cooking to earn a flexible income from their food and offers diners more choice. Events have taken place in hosts’ homes, cafes, pop-ups, supermarkets, shopping centres, parks, boats and high streets in seven countries. WeFiFo’s first target is to recruit 33,000 UK hosts and expand into three new international territories. We will use food to connect the world, one table at a time, with the aim no guest will be further than ten miles from their nearest WeFiFo event.”
 
Bierschenke to double up in City as it reports festive like-for-likes up 15%: London-based authentic German beer hall Bierschenke has revealed is to double up in the City as it reported like-for-like sales up 15% over the festive period. Founder Gerry Hanratty told Propel the new 6,000 square foot site would open in early April. The site will be similar to its existing premises in London Wall, which opened in 2014. Hanratty said he planned to open "several more" sites in the capital and has funding in place for up to another three venues. He added: "We had almost 9,000 confirmed reservations in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We are convinced value for money is the driving force when companies hold parties. This followed on the heels of our annual Oktoberfest season where we had 6,870 confirmed reservations for this period."

Lasan Group shuts Jailbird restaurant in Birmingham: Birmingham-based restaurant group Lasan has shut its Jailbird restaurant in the city. The venue in Colmore Row that was housed in a grade II-listed former bank had been open for less than eight months. Lasan Group chief executive Jabbar Khan told Birmingham Live: “It’s been a particularly difficult 2018 for many businesses and we have decided to focus our attention elsewhere. Regrettably we’ve decided to call it a day on Jailbird. There is nothing more to add at this time." Described as an “upscale New York inspired steak and seafood restaurant and bar”, Jailbird opened in May 2018 replacing the company’s lobster and beer venue Nosh and Quaff. The company also owns Lasan near St Paul's Square, Raja Monkey in Hall Green and the Fiesta del Asado restaurants in Hagley Road and Solihull. It also previously owned Izza Pizza in Selfridges, which it closed in February last year.
 
Ei Group opens entries for annual awards: Ei Group has opened entries for its annual awards programme. The Ei Group Awards for Excellence are open to licensees across the business. Categories include best multiple operator, best community hub, best marketing initiative, best sports venue, best newcomer, best live music venue and Ei Group Pub of the Year. Three categories will face a separate judging process, with shortlisted pubs in the best food category being judged by a mystery shopper, while experts from Wadworth will assess shortlisted pubs for the Cellar Standards award. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be chosen by Ei Group chief executive Simon Townsend. Paul Harbottle, group commercial director of Ei Group, said: “We have been delighted with the success of our new awards programme, which provides us with an opportunity to highlight the amazing work of so many publicans across our estate. In celebrating their success, we are inspiring others and working towards our goal of raising retail standards and business performance.” The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Old Thorns Hotel in Hampshire on Tuesday, 2 July.

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