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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 18th Jan 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Number of vegan restaurants in Britain rises 55%: The number of vegan restaurants in Britain has increased 55% in the past year to 48, according to new research. The findings by the Local Data Company showed the majority of new businesses are in London, where there are 18. However, growth can be found in every region apart from north east England and Scotland. Outside London, the research showed Yorkshire and the Humber region has the most vegan restaurants, with 12. LDC stated: “Further to the increase in vegan restaurants, it is evident supermarkets, restaurants and other food operators are innovating their menus to cater for these new markets as veganism emerges into the mainstream. Brands are under enormous pressure to innovate and stand out to survive so the influx of vegan-friendly dishes may come as no surprise as retailers aim to get an edge over competitors. Offering this cuisine not only opens up a new market of consumers and jumps on a national trend but also gives retailers an opportunity to show customers they care about the environment. The detrimental impact of meat production on the environment has been widely publicised in recent times, and retailers who want to speak to the ethically minded generation can show they also care about sustainability. We predict many more years of growth for this healthy, nutritious and meat-free way of eating.” Operators have looked to take advantage of the growing vegan trend including food-on-the-go retailer Greggs, which earlier this month launched a vegan sausage roll, while Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi recently introduced the high street’s first four-cheese vegan pizza, the Quattro No-Maggio. Pret A Manager now has four Veggie Pret sites having launched the concept as a pop-up in Soho in June 2016, while London-based healthy food and juice brand Crussh has turned its Soho site into a vegan store this month as it explores the model’s viability.

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators, Tim Martin talks to Paul Charity: 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. JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity and reveal the top ten books that have shaped his business philosophy. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Co-operation key to Welsh obesity strategy: Co-operation must be at the forefront of the Welsh government’s efforts to tackle obesity, UKHospitality has said. Reacting to the publication of a consultation to prevent and reduce obesity, the trade body highlighted positive work already being carried out by Welsh hospitality businesses, while it said any proposals should be “proportionate”. David Chapman, UKHospitality executive director for Wales, said: “As with the rest of the UK, hospitality businesses in Wales are working hard to promote and deliver healthier attitudes to food and drink. Venues have already taken steps in recent years to provide customers with more choice, a broader product range, and a greater level of transparency and information. It is vital any measures eventually introduced by the Welsh government are proportionate and don’t hamper ongoing efforts by hospitality businesses. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Welsh government to help achieve its aims but it must be in a way that doesn’t disadvantage the hospitality sector in Wales.”

Bark infusions, upcycling and sweet on sour among food trends to watch in 2019: Bark-infused food, upcycling and sweet on sour are among the trends to watch out for this year, according to a new report by supplier McCain. Its What’s Hot 2019 report offers insights into consumer behaviour and the latest food trends and advises operators on how to combat industry challenges. The report focuses on six changes operators can make to their business to satisfy customer demand and drive additional footfall, including buying British. Catherine White, senior product manager – communications, said: “As the industry continues to face a diverse range of challenges we are always looking for ways to offer support to our operators, helping them to be resilient and successful, even in changing times.”

Company News:

Patisserie Holdings deputy chairman resigns: Patisserie Holdings has announced deputy chairman and non-executive director Lee Ginsberg has resigned. The company said Ginsberg had left with immediate effect to focus on his other commitments. On Wednesday (16 January), Patisserie Holdings revealed its financial position was worse than initially feared and said it had appointed KPMG to look at “all options” for the business. It said the balance sheet had been “significantly manipulated”, including ledgers containing thousands of false entries. As a result, the company said the cash flow and profitability of the business had been overstated in the past and was materially below that announced in its last trading update in October. That stated the company had a net debt position of £9.8m, rather than the £28m of net cash announced at the end of March. The company also said at the time it expected sales of about £120m and Ebitda of £12m for the year to September 2019. Since evidence of the “black hole” was uncovered and an emergency fund-raising took place to save the business, the company has appointed a new chief executive, interim chief financial officer, non-executive director, commercial director and production director among other management appointments.

Itson founder takes full control of Glasgow bar and restaurant business as partner sells 50% stake: Glasgow entrepreneur Stephen White has sold his 50% stake in the group of seven bars and restaurants he built with business partner Oli Norman. The move sees Norman, founder of exclusive deals and events company Itison, acquire full control of the interests in a deal that values the business in excess of £15m. White sold the share to Norman, who assumes sole ownership of Glasgow venues Sloans, Brel, Maggie May’s and The Griffin. The deal also includes recent additions to the portfolio – Epicures of Hyndland, Nick’s Italian Kitchen and Jacques. The group, which employs more than 200 staff, has grown rapidly under the ownership of Norman and White, who launched their partnership with Sloans in 2010. White told Insider: “We have achieved strong, sustained growth in a very competitive market and I felt it was the right time to sell my share of the business to Oli and move on to my next venture. I’ve got some interesting opportunities, which I’m keen to take forward in the coming months. Oli will undoubtedly continue the group’s expansion and I’m excited to see what he does next.” Norman added: “My partnership with Stephen has been incredibly successful and we’ve had a great journey together. I’m excited about the future, particularly following the recent acquisition of Nick’s, Epicures and Jacques, with major plans in store for them.” White, who also owns several other well-known Glasgow venues, including Blackfriars and Munro’s, is also founder of the Scottish Gin Society.

Inn Collection Group opens £4m new-build Northumberland pub for ninth site: The Inn Collection Group, which is owned by Alchemy Partners, has opened a £4m new-build pub with rooms in Northumberland. The company has opened 30-bedroom The Amble Inn in Amble. The property, which has a 150-seat restaurant and bar with additional terraces, was purpose-built by Northumberland County Council’s development company Advance Northumberland, which appointed Inn Collection Group as operators. The Inn Collection Group operations manager Paul Brown said: “The Amble Inn fills a long-standing gap for year-round, affordable accommodation of this type as well as providing people with a fantastic new environment to eat and drink in.” The Amble Inn was awarded a £448,500 grant from the Rural Growth Network’s Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund. The opening of The Amble Inn brings The Inn Collection Group’s portfolio to nine trading properties with more than 270 bedrooms in Northumberland, County Durham, North Yorkshire and the Lake District, with further expansion in the pipeline. Earlier this month, the company secured a £10m loan from OakNorth to fund expansion to 21 sites by 2022.

My Million Pound Menu runners-up given Hush residency as Barber and Kochar become mentors: Hush Brasserie, led by Cabana co-founder Jamie Barber, has given a three-month residency to a Nepalese concept that was runner-up in this week’s edition of BBC show My Million Pound Menu. Barber and Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar, judges on the show, have decided to mentor XX/VI, which has been renamed KityCow in honour of the long-sleeved robes worn by sherpas. KityCow will be on the first floor of Mayfair restaurant Hush and offer 12 to 15 dishes such as grilled mackerel with coconut and caviar, Hot Dinners reports. This week’s My Million Pound Menu was won by Baba G’s, which accepted a £300,000 investment offer from Kochhar and operates at Pop Brixton and Camden Market.

Urban axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks eyes Bristol, opening second London venue: Urban axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks has lodged plans for a flagship site in Bristol and is set to open its second London venue. The company has applied to Bristol City Council to open a site in the former Panache nightclub in All Saints Street that closed in 2011. The venue would have six “lanes”, while food and drink would also be sold. If approved, the site could open in May and create 30 jobs. Whistle Punks marketing manager James Bidgood told Bristol Live: “We love Bristol and after opening venues in London and Birmingham we’d like to open one in this city. It would be twice as big as the London venue and act as our flagship.” The concept sees groups take part in tournaments in which they attempt to hit bull’s-eyes to rack up the highest score while being guided by throwing coaches and socialising between rounds. Whistle Punks has sites in London’s Vauxhall as well as Birmingham and Manchester. Meanwhile, its website states a second London venue will “open in early 2019” with the address “coming soon”.  

Joule’s coming home as development featuring first new-build pub gets go-ahead: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, has been given the go-ahead to return to its spiritual home of Stone. The company has been granted permission by Staffordshire Borough Council for the brewery tap – its first new-build pub – and a studio theatre for the Stone Revellers at Crown Wharf. The site was part of the original Joule’s warehouse operation when the company exported Stone Ales from Liverpool – Joule’s was the first English beer exported to the US ahead of rival Bass. The site is currently a car park and was acquired by Joule’s from the Canals And Rivers Trust. Joule’s has also subsequently agreed terms with Staffordshire County Council to acquire the Old Fire Station for use as a heritage centre, which will be provided for £1 a year to Stone Town Council. The proposed site is now 1.2 acres and will have additional pedestrian access to the main Crown Wharf site via the Old Fire Station. Nutall told the council’s planning committee: “This project means much more to Joule’s than just a new pub; it is about our heritage. Our goal is to build something iconic and respectful, celebrating the brand and creating a new legacy for the future.” Joule’s operates 41 pubs and its brewery will remain in Market Drayton, Shropshire. Earlier this month, it revealed it was aiming to add up to two sites a year to its pub estate as it reported turnover grew to £7,275,369 for the year ending 31 March 2018.

Cereal cafe Black Milk doubles Manchester presence by adding two sites: Manchester-based cereal cafe Black Milk has doubled its presence in the city by adding two sites. The company has opened a concession within Selfridges at the Intu Trafford Centre and a site at the University of Manchester students’ union building. The Selfridges site, located on the first floor of the department store, offers a grab-and-go selection of waffles and milkshakes. Founder Olly Taylor told the Manchester Evening News: “In my eyes it’s the best department store in the world. It has always been an iconic moment getting that yellow bag and it has always got such an eye for exciting food trends.” The brand’s debut Northern Quarter cafe gained a cult following for its freakshakes and sugar-loaded cereal bowls when it launched in 2015, leading to the opening of a second, larger site in Oldham Street about a year ago. It has also been running a collaboration with fashion brand Fiorucci at its shop in London’s Soho, where the menu has been slightly altered to offer an Italian influence. Black Milk also opened a cafe in Bolton in 2017 but the Market Place venue has since closed with the team looking to relocate to another site in the town, according to its website.

SSP America brings Hopworks Urban Brewery to Portland airport: SSP America, a division of SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has opened a site for craft brewer Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) at Portland International airport (PDX). HUB’s breweries in Portland and Vancouver produce 13,500 barrels of beer and cider a year. The PDX site features a central bar offering Hopworks’ beer, while reclaimed wood and recycled tiling is used throughout. The all-day menu includes burgers, sandwiches, pizza, salads and house-made pretzels. Christian Ettinger, who founded HUB in 2007, said: “We couldn’t be more honoured to become beer ambassadors for the best brewing city on earth in the best airport in the country.” SSP America vice-president of business development Scott Welding added: “HUB is testament to the essence of the Pacific Northwest and its thriving craft brewing industry.” Shane Andreasen, the airport’s business and properties director, said: “We admire Hopworks’ community values and its care for the environment, making it a great fit for PDX.”

Court rules John Schnatter entitled to Papa John’s records: A court has ordered Papa John’s to hand internal documents to ousted founder and former chairman John Schnatter, who has been locked in a battle with the company since last year. After six months of deliberation in courts, a Delaware Court of Chancery judge ordered Papa John’s directors to hand over documents and communications related to Schnatter’s departure from the company, including text messages and messages between the company and its lawyers. Schnatter sued the company last July in a move to gain access to records relating to the decision-making process behind his dismissal. According to court documents, the Delaware judge found that because Schnatter was still a member of the board of directors and the company’s largest shareholder, Papa John’s was not allowed to restrict his access to internal court documents. The court also found Papa John’s failed to sufficiently provide evidence that Schnatter’s demands were improper, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. Schnatter, who owns 30% of Papa John’s, resigned as chairman in July last year after it was made public he had used racist language in a May conference call. He has been outspoken in his view Papa John’s has been mismanaged and has worked to regain influence at the company. Papa John’s, meanwhile, has worked to stem sales declines and rebuild public trust via new diversity and inclusion initiatives and marketing efforts such as a new rewards programme. For its most recent quarter ended 30 September 2018, Papa John’s like-for-like sales were down 9.8% in North America and 3.3% at international stores. Papa John’s has more than 5,200 sites worldwide.

Michelin-starred restaurant in Hampshire goes on the market: Michelin-starred restaurant JSW in Petersfield, Hampshire, has been put up for sale. The venue has been owned and operated by chef patron Jake Saul Watkins for 18 years, 15 of them with a Michelin star. The grade II-listed property is a 17th century former coaching inn and offers flexible trade areas, four letting bedrooms, a courtyard and large car park. The freehold is being marketed through agents Fleurets with a guide price of £1.25m. Alternatively, there may be an opportunity for lower cost entry via a new free-of-tie lease, with terms to be negotiated. Watkins said: “After 18 fantastic years I will be swapping my whites to concentrate on other business interests. It is with a heavy heart I decided to move on from JSW, mainly because it is still a fantastically profitable business!”

Salisbury Pubs marks 20th anniversary: Chilterns-based Salisbury Pubs is marking its 20th anniversary. Co-owners Becky and David Salisbury opened their first pub – The Alford Arms in Frithsden – on 18 January 1999. They also operate The Royal Oak in Marlow. Becky Salisbury said: “David and I are in shock that such an amount of time has flown by so quickly. There is much reminiscing about some of the amazing staff over the years, some spectacular customers and, of course, all the fun and shenanigans that goes with running our little group. We’re now down from five to two sites but still pushing to do better and still landing the odd accolade, such as winning both county dining awards with the Good Pub Guide 2019 and The Royal Oak picking up Les Routiers pub of the year 2019.”

Fledgling company Frank & Bird to spend £1m on second dog-friendly pub in Newcastle: Fledgling pub company Frank & Bird has taken on its second site in Newcastle. The Punch Bowl in Jesmond has been taken over by the company, which also operates The Brandling Villa in South Gosforth. The Punch Bowl, which has been empty for several years, will undergo a £1m makeover ahead of reopening on Friday, 12 April in a move that will create 24 jobs. The pub will join its sister site in offering dog-friendly features such as sawdust, Chesterfield sofas for pets and a canine menu. The human food menu will include small plates and sandwiches, while the bar will offer cured meat, cheese and pickles alongside 14 cask beers, a sherry range and 25 wines including rare varieties from small markets. Frank & Bird managing director Dave Carr described the venue as “Bet Lynch meets David Lynch” with influences from his travels around the world. He told Chronicle Live: “We hope to recreate some of the best things about pubs and restaurants I’ve seen on my travels but in the style of a proper, old-school pub.” The first-floor function room will host classic film screenings, comedy and masterclasses.

Cosmo lodges plans for Northampton restaurant: All-you-can-eat brand Cosmo has lodged plans for a site in Northampton. The company has applied to Northampton Borough Council to convert the former Balestra nightclub in Market Square, creating 40 jobs. The nightclub shut in 2013 and the property has been vacant since. Above the 42,000 square foot venue would be three floors of student accommodation, with 69 studio flats and bedsits, reports the Northampton Chronicle. A planning statement submitted with the application states: “The proposals are commended to the authority in terms of the positive heritage and public benefits. It will secure the optimal long-term future for the building and positively benefit the local economy.” Cosmo operates 19 restaurants across the UK.

Douglas Jack – Ten Entertainment Group has attractive yields: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said Ten Entertainment Group has attractive yields. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 325p following the company’s full-year trading update, Jack said: “The 2.3% increase in like-for-like sales in the second half equates to a two-year like-for-like sales figure of 9.1%, which is consistent with the past five years’ like-for-like sales average of 5.2% per annum. We believe this reflects stable market supply, refurbishment investment and ongoing innovation. We believe like-for-like footfall fell 1% (due to July’s heatwave; +1% excluding July) and like-for-like spend per head rose 4%. Bowling, machines/games and food remained in positive territory (drink was flat) helped by increasing net promoter scores (69% and rising in first half versus 66% in the first half of 2017). We estimate Ebitda margins returned to decent growth in the second half. In the first half they were undermined by the timing of acquisitions – four acquired sites lost £140,000 in the first half – but following ‘tenpinisation’ we believe all these sites traded well and in line during the fourth quarter. Also, other costs remain under tight control with improving labour efficiency (assisted by labour scheduling) and rent costs falling when leases are extended. We believe Pins on Strings was rolled out into nine sites in the second half (13 over the full year); the last update indicated an average return on investment of 40% to 45%. Other innovations include trialling darts – not Flight Club technology but an alternative from the US – the new Hyperbowl format, which applies to all 28 lanes in Star City, and an escape room in Southampton. Our 2019E forecasts assume like-for-like sales will grow 3.3% supported by favourable weather comparatives after April. They also assume two sites open versus guidance of two to four per annum. We believe this should drive strong growth, relative to which the 6% dividend yield and 13% equity free cash flow yield are attractive in our view.”

Nightclub entrepreneur vows to make Yarmouth the ‘next St Tropez’ as he takes on Isle of Wight pub: Nightclub entrepreneur Howard Spooner, who also owns a string of pubs with friend and racehorse owner Guy Sangster, has taken on the lease of The George in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. Spooner plans to install a sauna, hot tubs and sunbeds at The George, while he would like to see Yarmouth become the “next St Tropez” as he believes the Isle of Wight is an “amazing place to go”. He told the Telegraph: “When the sun is out you won’t find anything like it – it’s stunning. At the moment it’s the best-kept secret by retired people. There’s a lot of fun to be had there in the sunshine but not many decent food offers. I hope I can inject a bit of fun and liven it up.” Spooner, who runs a string of London nightclubs including The Grand in Clapham, has signed a three-year lease on The George, a 16th century site next to Yarmouth Pier. In 2015, The George was taken over by actor Benedict Cumberbatch when he married Sophie Hunter in nearby Mottistone.

Pearl Hotels Group secures £20.5m to expand Sussex site: Holiday Inn franchisee Pearl Hotels Group has secured £20.5m funding from Metro Bank to refinance its borrowing and expand its site in Gatwick Worth, West Sussex. The group, which also operates a Holiday Inn in Slough, will use the funds to enhance the facilities at its Gatwick Worth site including adding 40 bedrooms and new conference facilities. Mark Stokes, managing director of commercial banking at Metro Bank, said: “We are thrilled to support the development of Pearl Hotels. Championing business growth is something we’re incredibly passionate about and we’re committed to helping the business flourish in a crowded market.” Pearl Hotels was founded by Zahir Somani in 2005.

Penarth restaurant owned by Craig Bellamy to reopen under new operator: Penarth-based Pier 64, owned by former professional footballer Craig Bellamy and which ceased trading earlier this month, is to reopen under a new operator. The restaurant in Penarth Marina shut after the company behind it started the process of going into liquidation. A new company, Sansemea (UK), confirmed it has purchased the brand Pier 64 and will reopen under the same name on Wednesday (23 January). Bellamy was a company director of Pier 64 but, according to Companies House, is not a director of Sansemea (UK). Bellamy is still the owner and landlord of the property, which he bought for £1,324,430 in 2014. Sansemea (UK) director Stephen Jones told Wales Online: “This company has acquired a lease of the premises from the owner and landlord of the building, which will be occupied and used as a restaurant business.”

Nando’s to open third Croydon site: Nando’s is to open its third restaurant in the borough, at one of three units being built at The Colonnades Leisure Park off Purley Way. One of the other units in the development will house a McDonald’s drive-thru when it opens in the spring, while a Croydon Council spokesman told MyLondon discussions were taking place with a restaurant operator for the final unit. The move is part of the next phase of development at The Colonnades to “enhance the catering offering and complement retail and leisure occupiers”. Croydon Council acquired The Colonnades in December for £53m. The site currently has nine units including a gym, trampoline park and Costa Coffee drive-thru. Nando’s other Croydon restaurants are at the Valley Park leisure complex and in the town centre. Nando’s operates almost 350 restaurants in the UK.

North Yorkshire-based micro-brewer Crooked Brewing to open debut bar, in York: North Yorkshire-based micro-brewer Crooked Brewing is to open its debut bar, in York. The Crooked Tap will open in Acomb Green after permission was granted following a lengthy planning process that began in the summer. The empty unit will reopen as a 60-capacity bar serving Crooked Brewing’s own beer and brews from other micro-brewers alongside gin, wine and spirits. Steve Dawson, of Crooked Brewing, told The Press: “Our business is high-quality beer, wine and spirits, a comfortable place to meet with friends and a real alternative to going into town.” The Acomb Green suburb currently has a restaurant, cafe, pub and restaurant, which have all voiced support for the new bar. To be granted permission to open, the company agreed outdoors seating would be brought in by 9pm while high-density insulation will be used for sound-proofing.

G&J Distillers to launch Thomas Dakin gin distillery in Manchester: Warrington-based G&J Distillers, which is owned by Quintessential Brands, will open a gin distillery and bar in Manchester city centre this autumn. The venue will focus on the company’s Thomas Dakin gin brand and feature a distillery on the ground floor with three copper stills and a gin academy upstairs, where visitors will learn about the gin-making process and produce their own gin and labels. The first floor will also feature a 40-capacity gig venue – the Thomas Dakin Amicable Club – showcasing local talent. A specialist gin bar will seat about 50 people and offer premium drinks, gin-based cocktails and bar snacks. G&J Distillers hopes to attract 60,000 visitors a year to the attraction, which will be in Lloyd’s House in Lloyd Street. Thomas Dakin director David Hume told the Manchester Evening News: “With this new distillery we’re going to break new ground in craft gin distilling and champion Manchester’s great craft heritage.” Thomas Dakin is named after the man who refined English gin in 1761 and set the benchmark for what would go on to become one of the world’s most popular spirits.

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