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Thu 10th Jan 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Chameleon Bar & Dining sells final three freeholds to Greene King, plans to assign remaining lease and close business: Chameleon Bar & Dining has sold its three remaining freeholds to brewer and retailer Greene King, with staff transferring to the new owner. Chameleon Bar & Dining also plans to assign its last pub – Haworth Old Hall in Haworth, which is a Marston’s lease – to the manager and close the business. After almost 18 years of trading, Chameleon Bar & Dining shareholders decided they wanted to sell their three remaining freeholds and instructed agent Christie & Co to market them last summer. The pubs are The Keys and Greaves Park Bar & Dining, both in Lancaster, and The Halfway House in Baildon, near Leeds. Alistair Arkley, who has been a shareholder in the company and chairman since it was founded by Phil Strong in 2000, said: “Phil decided to retire a couple of years ago and my colleague Barry Whitehead and I feel we have reached the stage where we would rather spend time with our growing number of grandchildren – and the time is right to sell the business. The Keys and The Halfway House have traded well over the years and we are pleased the new owner will invest in the outlets, securing their future for years to come with the skills and resources of a large operator. Marc Craddock, who has been managing the business since Phil retired and has been heavily involved in the sales process, will leave us after all the arrangements are complete and we would like to thank him and wish him every success. Most importantly, we would like to thank all the staff, some of whom have worked with us for many years, and wish them all the best for the future.” At its height, Chameleon Bar & Dining operated 15 pubs. Arkley has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, joining Scottish & Newcastle from Procter & Gamble and then moving to the north east of England to become managing director of Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool. In 1991 he created one of the first tenanted pub companies, New Century Inns, which he built into a 50-strong portfolio and sold to Greene King in 2011 for £32.6m. His licensed trade experience also includes non-executive director roles at Belhaven Brewery, cider-maker Westons and Cardiff brewer and retailer SA Brain. He will retain an interest in the sector through the Horse & Farrier Inn and The Salutation, both in Threlkeld near Keswick, which are owned by his son David.

Industry News:

Last chance to book this week for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator, host of companies sign up: This week is the last chance to book for Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, which is returning for its second year. The two-day event, a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, takes place on Wednesday, 16 January and Thursday, 17 January at One Moorgate Place, London. It will feature more than 40 speakers offering a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs. A host of companies and brands have signed up for the event including The Restaurant Group, Casual Dining Group, Mitchells & Butlers, Greene King, Fuller’s, Novus, Wagamama, TGI Friday’s, D&D London, Five Guys, YO! Sushi, JW Lees, Be At One, Arc Inspirations, Coaching Inn Group, Giggling Squid, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Famous Brands, Abokado, The Alchemist, Gusto Italian, ETM Group, Thai Leisure Group, Polpo, Vapiano, St Austell Brewery, Tortilla, Urban Pubs and Bars, The Chesterford Group, TLC Inns, Wimpy UK, Redcomb Pubs, Pho, Ego Restaurants, Bistrot Pierre, Mowgli, Dirty Martini, Coppa Club, Papa John’s, Mosaic Pub & Dining, Paul UK, Busaba, Signature Pub Group, Black and White Hospitality, Livelyhood, Market Halls, True North Brew, Inamo Restaurants, Feya, Four Seasons Hotels UK Collection, Herbarijs, Ennismore Sessions House, Silgur Restaurants, Erpingham House, The Bloomsbury, BBC, Beaver Group, WE ARE Spectacular, Ignite Hospitality, Yapster, Petersham Nurseries, Foodsmiths Marketing, Campari, Sodexo, Jockey Club Catering, Tahola, Groupon, Pop, Preoday, Red Bull, Eposability, Hastee Pay, Pearson Ham, Moreton Reynolds, Happen, Excelerate Resources, We Are Indigo, 48.1, The Entertainer, Powermat, Wildhorse, Action Against Hunger, February Agency, PRUK, Stuart Delivery, Wisetiger and Cube3 Digital. For the full schedule, click here. Bookings will close on Friday (11 January). Tickets for the two days cost £575 plus VAT for operators and £845 plus VAT 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.

More than 200 apprentices to showcase industry skills at House of Commons as event doubles in size: More than 200 hospitality apprentices are set to showcase their skills at the House of Commons during National Apprenticeship Week. The event, which is in its third year and has doubled in size, will see apprentices from companies including Mitchells & Butlers, Greene King, Beds and Bars, and Casual Dining Group meet MPs, ministers and government officials on Wednesday, 6 March to discuss their careers and the range of opportunities available in the hospitality sector. Keith Knowles, chairman of Perception Group, which organises the event, said: “For too long hospitality has been seen as a low-paid, low-skilled and career-limiting option for young people. Today there are clear bar to boardroom career policies that enable progression within businesses large and small. This year, 200-plus apprentices will tell their story. The sector has changed dramatically in terms of opportunity, investment and innovation and now represents 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses, 5% of GDP and creates one in eight of all jobs. It is vital government better understands the scope and breadth of the industry and the huge contribution we make.”

UKHospitality warns against reactionary measures on food advertising in Scotland: UKHospitality has reiterated its support of the Scottish government’s efforts to provide customers with healthy eating choices but warned against the implementation of reactionary mandatory measures on advertising. The government is consulting on plans to restrict marketing of foods with high levels of fat, sugar and salt. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We need more clarity on the detail of these proposals to avoid unnecessarily capturing a range of food products not intended to be restricted. Hospitality operators are responding to the public’s demand for healthier lifestyles and should have the right to advertise their offerings. There also needs to be recognition people are able to make informed decisions without the need for random restrictions. Any mandatory measure on the advertisement of certain types of food should be flexible and proportionate and, if legislation is to be brought in, it is essential businesses are given enough lead time to adapt to these regulations. We will continue to work with our members and the wider sector to promote healthy eating and drinking, communicate our efforts to the government and collaborate on sensible proposals to help tackle health issues.”

Tim Martin posts online video attacking ‘lazy’ Brexit arguments: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has posted an online video attacking “lazy arguments” made by an academic pressure group regarding Brexit. Martin said: “Mike Galsworthy, who represents an academic pressure group called Scientists for EU and who is campaigning for a second referendum, has put a video online that contains serious errors of fact regarding the implications of Brexit. He states, for example, the £39bn payment proposed in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement is in respect of a ‘debt’ to the EU. However, the House of Lords European Unity Committee has stated if agreement is not reached the UK would be subject to ‘no enforceable obligation to make any financial contribution at all’. Mr Galsworthy also argues the UK would be no better off by regaining control of its fishing grounds post-Brexit since we wouldn’t be able to sell our fish to the EU. At the moment, 60% of fish in UK waters are landed by EU boats. It’s unrealistic to say the demand for fish will evaporate if they are landed by UK boats. I have taken the unusual step of producing a video to contradict the lazy arguments of Mr Galsworthy and Scientists for EU.”

Speaker list finalised for Casual Dining 2019: Industry bosses from Casual Dining Group, Carluccio’s, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, and Pizza Hut UK are among the keynote speaker line-up at Casual Dining 2019. They will appear at the event alongside more than 200 exhibitors showcasing a host of new products, equipment and services for the on-trade. The show, aimed at multiple and independent pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and contract caterers in the casual dining sector, takes place at its new home of ExCeL London on 27 and 28 February. As part of the event, CGA vice-president Peter Martin will talk to Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards about his views on the sector and the challenges and opportunities its brands such as Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia face. Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group chief executive Jon Knight will discuss what lies ahead over the next 12 months for the company, while Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal will talk about leadership in uncertain times. Meanwhile, Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones will discuss the company’s £10m investment programme and Pizza Hut UK boss Jens Hofma will talk about what the future holds for the company following its management buyout as well as his take on the big issues the sector faces.   

Company News:

Friska sees potential for ten sites in Manchester and eyes UK growth, reports ‘strong’ first quarter: Griff Holland, co-founder of independent healthy eating brand Friska, has told Propel he believes there is potential for up to ten sites in Manchester as it opens its third site in the city. Friska will launch the 69-cover venue on Thursday (10 January) at the University Green development following openings in the city during the past 18 months in the Bright Building and St Peter’s Square. It will be the tenth site in total for Friska, which was launched by Holland and Ed Brown in Bristol in 2009 and is home to the brand’s seven other outlets. Holland said the company, where takeaway makes up about 80% of sales, would continue its approach to building clusters and, while Manchester was its initial focus, Leeds, Birmingham and eventually London were cities within its sights. “When you look at all the development going on in Manchester, it’s quite breathtaking,” said Holland. “Manchester is our second home and I think we can grow to ten sites there when you look at the opportunities in the central business districts in particular. The University Green site will hopefully appeal to the office workers in the Oxford Road area and of course the student population. Manchester is our immediate focus but in the medium to long term we see Friska opening across the UK and, who knows, one day we might have something overseas. Places such as Leeds, Edinburgh and, of course, London are where we see opportunity to build a cluster of sites. We prefer that approach for a number of reasons – it helps build a company culture and recognisable brand and makes it easier from an operational point of view.” With the majority of its sites being in central business districts, Friska closes its outlets during the Christmas period. The exception was its Park Street site in Bristol, which saw sales grow between 15% and 20% compared with last year. Holland said Friska had enjoyed a “strong” start to its new financial year, which began in October, and was experiencing double-digit like-for-like growth. He added: “October was really good, particularly for our events catering arm, supported by strong retail growth. November was on target and December was 10% above target so we’re delighted.”

Thai Square owner reports like-for-likes up 1.5%: Catering UK, owner of the 13-outlet Thai Square restaurant chain, has reported like-for-like sales increased 1.5% for the year ending 30 June 2018. Turnover was up slightly to £13,592,618, compared with £13,566,760 the previous year. Pre-tax profit rose to £415,611 compared with £196,898 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Spa revenue was up to £846,893, compared with £712,832 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors were satisfied with the performance of the business in the year, which was slightly below expectations primarily due to the Fifa World Cup and an unusually long hot summer affecting trade. The balance sheet at year-end shows net assets of £2,038,000 (2017: £1,665,000). The main impact on the balance sheet has been the increase in tangible fixed assets due to continued investment in the improvement of restaurants and an increase in balances owed by fellow group companies. The investment in fixed assets included an investment in new till systems across all branches which, in addition to recording sales, monitors covers and is able to split dining versus takeaway customers. The company expects to continue to trade profitably from existing sites and will look for new opportunities to extend the existing estate as and when opportunities arise.” The company has 11 sites in London and venues in St Albans and Windsor.

BBQ Dreamz launches residency at MeatLiquor in King’s Cross as Draft House founder invests £350,000: Street food concept BBQ Dreamz, which secured £350,000 investment in the BBC series My Million Pound Menu this week, is to bring its Filipino cuisine to MeatLiquor's King’s Cross site via a six-week residency. Fresh from their success on the show in which they partnered with hospitality entrepreneur and Draft House founder Charlie McVeigh, founders Lee Johnson and Sinead Campbell will launch a Sunday pop-up from this week. Having cut their teeth at street food hot spots Kerb and StreetFeast since October 2014 as well as music festivals across the country, Johnson and Campbell will launch a ten-course tasting menu using ingredients and flavours inspired by Johnson’s Filipino heritage and the best of British produce. The menu will include Filpino staple lechon kawali – pork belly that is cooked using the sous vide method for 36 hours before being chopped into crispy nuggets and served with cane vinegar dipping sauce. Johnson said: “From humble beginnings as a street food stall, we’ve been lucky to work at some of our favourite markets and leading festivals across the UK. We’re now ready to bring our food to MeatLiquor and give our diners the true Filipino treatment and Irish hospitality that inspired us from the start.” McVeigh added: “I knew as soon as I tasted Lee and Sinead’s cooking BBQ Dreamz could cut it in London’s diverse food scene – its lechon kawali was a taste revelation. I’m excited to see them turn heads and teach Londoners more about Filipino cooking.”

Pret reports reusable cup usage increases by 15 times since doubling discount: Pret A Manger has reported it saw usage of reusable cups increase by 15 times last year, having doubled the discount for customers. The company increased the discount to 50p at the start of 2018 to encourage more customers to bring reusable coffee cups into its stores. Pret stated: “Usage increased by 15 times – 4.7 million paper cups saved. Hooray for reusables.” Pret also introduced other sustainability initiatives in 2018, including reusable bottles and compostable cutlery.

Daughter of Admiral Taverns founder to launch all-day restaurant and bakery in London next month: The daughter of Admiral Taverns founder Gary Landesberg is to launch an all-day restaurant and bakery in London next month. Kelly Landesberg will open A.O.K Kitchen & Bakery in Dorset Street, Marylebone. It will offer dishes inspired by the Mediterranean and California, alongside bespoke bakes from the Mediterranean-style on-site bakery. Kostas Rampias, executive head chef and pastry chef from The Arts Club, will lead the kitchen while Jacob Willemsen, formerly of Chiltern Firehouse, will join as general manager. The restaurant menu will be seasonally focused and accompanied by a drinks menu including fresh juice-infused cocktails. The downstairs bakery will specialise in refined sugar-free and bespoke bakes, serving freshly made patisserie, viennoiserie and speciality bread. Creeping vines and blooms will line the restaurant, with hand-painted silk wallpaper and gemstone marble floors throughout. Kelly Landesberg said: “I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to open my first restaurant surrounded by the love and support of such an amazing team. We all feel privileged to be bringing a new space to Marylebone. It has always felt like there is a strong sense of family community there, and I really hope A.O.K can be part of that.” Gary Landesberg founded Admiral Taverns in 2003 but it went into administration in 2010 after an aggressive acquisition strategy left it with more than £1bn of debt, which it was unable to service. Admiral Taverns underwent a debt-for-equity swap that saw its debt burden decline by £600m, with Lloyds Banking Group taking a majority stake in return. Admiral Taverns was then sold to private equity firm Cerberus before brewer C&C Group, in partnership with Proprium Capital Partners, bought the pub company in 2017.

Secured creditor of Grillstock to receive further payment but facing £150,000 shortfall: The secured creditor of American-style barbecue restaurant Grillstock, which went into administration at the end of 2017 before being bought by a new company that is now being liquidated, is to receive a further payment – but is facing a shortfall of up to £157,000. A progress report filed at Companies House by administrators Gareth Roberts and Paul Ellison, of KRE Corporate Recovery, revealed NatWest, which is owed £199,932, will receive a further £28,613 in due course having already been paid £14,000. The administrators said they did not expect the secured creditor to be paid in full. Meanwhile, employees and former staff, who were owed £13,717, have been paid in full. As previously reported, unsecured creditors, who are owed £862,307, are expected to receive a “nominal” dividend. Five-strong Grillstock went into administration following the issue of a winding-up petition by HM Revenue & Customs. Grillstock owed £258,723 in VAT and £187,107 in PAYE and did not have the necessary funds to pay. Grillstock was sold out of administration to a new company, Hedrick, which includes some of the business’ former directors, for a total consideration of £92,000. However, in October Neil Bennett and Andy John, directors of Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group, were appointed joint liquidators of Hedrick and its remaining sites in Bristol and Leicester were shut.

Health and fitness delivery brand Gym Food launches £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to open three dark kitchens: London-based health and fitness delivery brand Gym Food has launched a £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open three dark kitchens in the capital. Gym Food, founded by managing director George L Streatfield, is offering 16.67% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.75m. The company operates a dark kitchen in Bethnal Green that is averaging sales of £23,000 a week. The company said it saw 278% organic growth from November 2017 to November 2018. The pitch states: “From its humble beginnings as a two-man operation in a part-time rented commercial kitchen in east London, Gym Food has grown to become a staple in homes and offices across the city, disrupting London’s rapidly growing £1.4bn food delivery market. Now exceeding £90,000 a month in sales, Gym Food is looking to execute a low cap ex expansion model. We have no storefronts, shop fits or premiums – we trade purely via delivery. With this investment we plan to open three additional sites – Battersea, Vauxhall and King’s Cross – high volume food delivery locations that will also grow our corporate audience.” Last month Streatfield told Propel: “I believe the industry will see a massive change in the next 20 to 30 years and the dark kitchen model will become the norm. I only looked to the dark kitchen concept because I couldn’t find the capital to open a fully fledged restaurant, but what started as a way to save money has become an integral part of the model – it will allow for rapid expansion across the city.”

Sushi Daily opens first permanent site: Artisan sushi retailer Sushi Daily has opened its first permanent site, in London. Founded by Kelly Choi, of KellyDeli, Sushi Daily has brought sushi to more than 750 locations across Europe through its kiosks. Now it has opened a permanent site – in New Oxford Street. Collaborating with Sushi expert Silla Bjerrum, formerly of Feng Sushi, the site offers a seasonally changing menu with bespoke hot dishes and breakfast items. The site’s design incorporates indigo blue-and-white hues and has communal seating. Choi said: “I have always enjoyed new challenges and it feels like the right time to open a high-street location after the success of the kiosks. I’m delighted to be working with Silla as she is a passionate artist when it comes to her technique and we are completely aligned in our business approach.”

White City food court to launch next month led by former Kricket manager: Rory Graham, formerly part of the management team at Indian small plates concept Kricket, is to lead a food court that will launch at the White City redevelopment in west London next month. W12 Studios will be a partnership with street food caterer Feast-it and offer a series of rotating kitchens and a large bar when it opens on Thursday, 7 February. There will be two kitchens in the space with confirmed debut brands named as Cue Point, a barbecue concept from former Pitt Cue head chef Joshua Moroney; Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, the West African concept by best-selling author Zoe Adjonyoh; and The Piadana Project, which will offer Italian flatbread with fillings such as pancetta, Italian soft cheese and pesto mayonnaise. Other traders will be announced soon, while there will be a 450-capacity events space, Hot Dinners reports. Kricket already operates a restaurant at the £8bn redevelopment of the former BBC headquarters, alongside Soho House, better pizza brand Homeslice, D&D London’s Bluebird and better burger brand Patty & Bun.

Manchester-based bar brand Liquid Art Group fails in £250,000 crowdfunding campaign to open 12 sites in three years: Manchester-based bar brand Liquid Art Group has failed to hit the £250,000 target in its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open 12 sites in three years. Liquid Art Group founders Oliver Calveley and James Fennell were offering 6.75% equity in return for investment, which gave the company a pre-money valuation of £3.4m. However, the campaign failed to hit its target and has now closed. Liquid Art Group operates three venues in Manchester – The Drawing Room, The Shack and The Cellar – and has developed its own craft gin, Calveley’s. The company said it had seen 144% turnover growth between FY2017 and 2018, with £128,000 Ebitda for 2017-18. The pitch stated: “Sticking to our proven model, we have successfully carved our own niche in Manchester’s thriving cocktail and craft beer scene. This phase of investment will enable Liquid Art Group to open 12 more sites. Following our successful formula, these venues will be intimate, full of atmosphere and with location at their core. In addition to growing our chain of cocktail bars, we also plan to expand our craft gin brand.”

Camden Market to launch Italian grab-and-go space: Camden Market, which has been undergoing major changes during the past year, is to launch a section focusing on Italian cuisine. Italian Alley will take up four arches of Stables Market, an area badly damaged by fire in 2017. Each arch will offer sharing plates featuring a different cuisine alongside wine and beer by the glass. The project is expected to launch this year with the alley open seven days a week, Hot Dinners reports. Last month, luxury deli concept The Camden Grocer became the first operator to open at the revitalised North Yard – a 1,200 square foot site in the Stables Market area. LabTech, the property investment and technology company that owns Camden Market, has also unveiled its vision for Hawley Wharf Camden, a scheme that will include 150 stores and more than 60 restaurants and bars when it opens in the summer.

Punch focuses on retail support tools for publicans: Punch has launched a package of support, promotions and retail tools for its publicans. A sale is taking place on draught beer, lager, gin and soft drinks across 190 Punch pubs this month. Across retail and tenanted pubs, the discount is 50% subsidised by Punch with a £40,000 investment contribution during the three weeks. The sale is being promoted inside and outside each pub alongside a digital campaign. Punch has also launched its “Box of Promotions” for 2019, which offers tenants a full range of off-the-shelf and point-of-sale material. Key events include Father’s Day, the Six Nations, the Rugby World Cup, Cask Ale Week, Easter and calendar events and activities such as quizzes, family fun days and bank holiday events. A “Try Something New” campaign has also been launched to encourage customers to try more premium products. Punch marketing and strategy director Russell Danks said: “We are all well aware we see a drop in sales in January, with post-Christmas spending reducing and belts literally being tightened. To counteract this, we have created a range of promotions that support our pubs and consumers who visit them, providing an incentive to still enjoy a visit to the pub in January and beyond.”

Zouk team launches Turkish concept at former Prezzo site for second Manchester restaurant: The team behind Indian restaurant Zouk has launched a Turkish concept at a former Prezzo site in Deansgate for its second site in Manchester. The new restaurant, Kai, is in soft launch with an official opening on Thursday, 17 January. Kai is the name of the tribe that started the Ottoman empire, with the idea inspiring the concept’s sharing style of food. The main focus of the menu is a charcoal grill, with dishes such as tomahawk steak and whole lamb ribs carved at the table. The menu also offers slow-cooked lamb shank, pides, kebabs, salads, soup and Turkish “balloon” bread. All bread is cooked in the Prezzo pizza oven, which has been retained, the Manchester Evening News reports. The 140-cover restaurant is split into three sections, with the bar at the front offering cocktails, Turkish beer and bar snacks, while there is seating where guests can enjoy shisha pipes. The main restaurant has been inspired by Turkey’s alfresco dining culture and features a ceiling adorned with colourful flowers to contrast with the black-and-white tiled floor and dark-blue leather chairs. An open kitchen and chef’s table are to the rear.

Tortilla gets go-ahead for Oxford site: Mexican restaurant group Tortilla has been given the go-ahead for a site in Oxford. The company has been granted permission by the city council to convert a property in Cornmarket Street into a restaurant, creating 25 jobs. The venue will have 54 covers on the ground floor and a further 42 on the first floor, reports Insider Media. Tortilla was founded in 2007 and currently operates 41 sites across the UK.

Team behind Chinese restaurant Xi’an Impression to launch third London site, in Bloomsbury: The team behind Chinese restaurant Xi’an Impression in Highbury, north London, is to launch its third site in the capital, this time in Bloomsbury. Master Wei is due to launch in March at a site in Cosmo Place that was formerly occupied by one of London’s oldest restaurants Cagney’s, which was founded in 1978. As at its sister sites, Master Wei will specialise in dishes from Xi’an City in Shan Xi province in central China. The kitchen will be led by Xi’an Impression co-founder Guirong Wei, who told Hot Dinners the new venue would feature some favourite dishes from the original restaurant, which is opposite Arsenal football club’s Emirates Stadium, as well as more traditional dishes. In July, the Xi’an Impression team launched sister site Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles near Spitalfields in east London. 

Purity Soft Drinks slips to pre-tax loss as turnover falls: Purity Soft Drinks, which has been based in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, since 1892 and owns the JuiceBurst and Firefly brands, has reported turnover fell to £18,133,794 for the year ending 30 March 2018, compared with £19,888,613 the previous year. The company, which is backed by private equity firm Langholm Capital, saw a pre-tax loss of £349,663 compared with a profit of £928,961 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The JuiceBurst brand turnover marginally dropped 2.8%, driven predominantly by the financial insolvency of a key customer. The Firefly brand delivered growth of 13.8% on the back of a major brand and labelling change. During the period, the JuiceBurst and Firefly brands saw further investment in their sales and marketing resources to help accelerate distribution and drive increased consumer awareness. The fall in year-on-year total turnover has been driven by the contract-packing element of the business. Overhead costs were in line with the previous year but the impact of Brexit on currency continued to have a detrimental effect on input costs. These increases could not be fully recovered in the market and the company also incurred one-off costs relating to brand and product changes. The fundamental restructuring of the operations to improve company-wide efficiencies and greater brand and key customer focus is complete and management is confident the effects of this change will have a positive impact in the financial year 2018-19.”

Pizza concept to open second site: Edinburgh-based pizza concept @Pizza is to open a second site, within Birmingham’s Grand Central shopping centre, in early February. The brand serves rectangular pizza cooked in 90 seconds. The pizzeria will be housed in an empty unit between Nando’s and Holy Moly Macaroni cheese restaurant. It is the brainchild of Bhasker Dhir and Rupert Lyle in a bid to create a “new fast casual format in place of a table service restaurant”. The brand’s website states: “Our slow-proofed dough and choice ingredients from Italy and Scotland combine with a modern way to cook at 600 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring the perfect cook every time.”

Access Group reports 70% Ebitda rise and 42% increase in turnover: Software provider The Access Group has reported Ebitda increased 70% to £47.6m in its 2018 fiscal year, from £27.9m in 2017. Turnover rose 42% to £143.1m from £101.1m the previous year. The company said growth was fuelled by strategic acquisitions and a rise in organic growth to 13%, with recurring revenue making up 70% of total revenue. The last financial year has also seen strategic investment from private equity firm Hg into The Access Group alongside existing investor TA Associates, giving the business an enterprise valuation of £1bn. The last financial year also saw the business make three strategic acquisitions in the hospitality sector, with the purchase of Designmynight, ProNett and Procure Wizard. The wider offering has established the hospitality sector as The Access Group’s second-biggest revenue generator. The total number of employees at the company rose 200 to 1,500 during the year. Chris Bayne, chief executive of The Access Group, said: “We have had an outstanding year and are proud of our achievements over the past 12 months. Our investments in people, products and acquisitions have driven exceptional growth that has cemented our position as the UK’s leading mid-market cloud solutions provider. Acquisitions are an important part of our growth and we will continue to look for innovative players that can extend our offerings.”

Chapel Down opens experiential bar, restaurant and gin distillery in King’s Cross: Chapel Down Group has launched its experiential bar in King’s Cross, with its restaurant and on-site gin distillery to come. Chapel Down Gin Works has opened at a 5,000 square foot site in Goods Way, next to Regent’s Canal. The upstairs space features a central bar overlooking the canal and offers Chapel Down wine and beer while gin will come from the on-site distillery. Once the distillery is fully operational, accompanying experiences will include tastings and an opportunity for customers to make their own gin. The restaurant has also yet to open but will offer “seasonal British cuisine”.

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