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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 24th Jan 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Tim Martin – JD Wetherspoon could have 30 pubs in Ireland: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel he believes the company could have a 30-strong estate in Ireland. The company currently operates five sites in the country with four more opening in the next year – two in Dublin, one in Carlow and one in Waterford. Speaking following the company's second quarter trading update, Martin said: "We are spending quite a bit of capital in Ireland. It's a competitive market but we could have 30 pubs, depending if we can find the right sites of course.” Martin said with interest rates remaining historically low, it would continue to buy freeholds of pubs where it was a tenant having spent £56m in the year to date. He said: "For the past 15 years we've spent money buying back shares but now as we own half of the shares in the business, there's a limit to what we can do there. We're a very mature company now. We think buying the freeholds makes good business sense in the long run." Martin said he was pleased with the trading performance, with like-for-like sales increasing by 6.3% and total sales by 7.2% in the year to date. He added: "Some people would prefer we were making higher profits but we've made a big increase in wages for staff and spent a lot on repairs and we think that's the right thing to do, for the long-term benefit of the business. It appears we seem to be doing something right. There's no long-term strategy as such because it depends what happens – we have to make sure we are in the best position to deal with what is thrown at us." Issuing a 'Hold' note on the shares with a target price of 1,326p, Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack said: "Like-for-like sales strengthened to 7.2% in the second quarter, resulting in the first half being up 6.3%, despite a tough comparative of circa 6% throughout. This and the first half's 7.2% increase in total sales are both ahead. However, due to 'considerably higher' costs, first half profit before tax is expected to be down, and full-year expectations are unchanged. We are holding our forecasts." 

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators, Mark Ashley 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. Mark Ashley, author of Be Better Than Yesterday and former director of retail operations at Geronimo, who now runs his own eponymous company, will give insights into his unique method of developing and improving productivity and retaining front-line teams. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Menu price rises to boost British out-of-home spend to record £60bn despite fall in visits: Menu price rises during the next two years are set to boost British out-of-home (OOH) spend to a record £60bn despite a fall in the number of restaurant visits, according to insights firm The NPD Group. The market peaked at 11.35 billion visits in 2017 but dropped 0.5% to 11.29 billion in 2018. The NPD Group forecasts a further 0.5% fall in 2019 and 0.1% in 2020 to 11.23 billion visits. However, the company predicts a 5.0% rise in spend to £59.47bn by the end of 2020, compared with £56.62bn for 2018. The increase will be mainly driven by operators raising menu prices as they respond to cost pressures. A key market trend is the decline of the on-premise sector versus off-premise due to the long-term decline in retail footfall. The on-premise market peaked at 4.58 billion visits in 2016 but will drop to 4.02 billion by the end of 2020. On-premise spend will increase slightly but mainly due to menu price hikes. The NPD Group predicts visits in the off-premise sector will rise 4% from 2018 to reach 7.21 billion by the end of 2020. Spend is forecast to jump 10% to £27.87bn as grab and go contributes more than four-fifths (83%) of off-premise visits. The NPD Group forecasts takeaway and grab-and-go visits will increase 1.6% and spend rise 6% by the end of 2020. It said the industry would also ramp up delivery, with consumers spending 22% more on delivery by the end of 2020 to create a delivery market worth £5.8bn a year. The number of delivery visits will jump 17% by the end of 2020 to reach 882 million. The delivery market currently accounts for 13% of all off-premise foodservice visits but that share will be 15% by the end of 2020 and could comprise almost 10% of spend in the total OOH market. The quick service restaurant (QSR) channel is expected to attract 41 million more visits each year by the end of 2020 to reach almost six billion annually, more than half (53%) of British OOH visits. QSR will attract £1.53bn more spend by the end of 2020 to reach £24.6bn. Casual dining will attract 43 million more visits by the end of 2020 to represent 5.5% of all OOH visits, while spend will jump 15.5% (£960m). Full-service restaurants, however, will lose 63 million visits (9.3%). Digital visits will exceed one billion per year for the first time by the end of 2020, with visits originating from an app forecast to leap 88%. The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport said: “We forecast modest growth in the takeaway and grab-and-go channel, supported by the continuing delivery revolution, will be enough to provide 85% of the growth in spend over the next two years for the entire British foodservice industry. Any future growth in foodservice visits will be overwhelmingly tech-driven. Operators realise the full-scale implementation of digital order channels is a pre-requisite for survival and growth in a sluggish, over-supplied market.”

UKHospitality backs EU proposals to improve online transparency: UKHospitality has backed the EU Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection’s approval of proposals to ensure transparency and fairness in online markets and comparison services. The proposals include increasing transparency on the authenticity of reviews published by comparison websites. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Action to provide transparency around online booking platforms will ensure there is a level and fair playing field. Businesses and customers will both be protected. This is a welcome first step to secure transparency around the still relatively foggy realm of online platforms. We hope it can be used as impetus to deliver even more fairness and clarity regarding digital disruptors, which will be used to protect hospitality businesses and their customers. The UK government now needs to act and adopt domestic regulation of online travel agencies to support hospitality businesses and consumers.”

Torquay B&B crowned world's best, five UK sites in top ten: A six-bedroom bed and breakfast (B&B) in Torquay has been crowned the best in the world based on visitor ratings. The 25 came first and was one of five UK B&Bs in the world’s top ten in the travellers’ choice 2019 awards, organised by TripAdvisor. Andy and Julian Banner-Price, who run the 25, which is exclusively for adults, previously turned round a failing hotel in North Wales that won a top ten ranking on TripAdvisor during their tenure. Bindon Bottom B&B in West Lulworth, Dorset; the Grange in Fylingthorpe, North Yorkshire; and Swallows Rest in Brigstock, Northamptonshire; were ranked third to fifth best B&Bs in the world this year and Hillstone Lodge in Colbost, on the Isle of Skye, came seventh, reports The Guardian. The awards, now in their 17th year, are determined by an algorithm based on all reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor users worldwide. For a third year running, the title of the UK’s top hotel went to Hotel 41, located opposite Buckingham Palace, which was also fifth in the world in the luxury hotel category and 15th in the top hotels overall. Its staff outnumber guests by two to one. Devon’s Tavistock House hotel was rated the seventh best small hotel in the world. Best for family breaks in the UK was the Whitbread-owned Premier Inn London City (Aldgate).

Company News:

Patisserie Valerie owner faces legal threat from investors: Patisserie Holdings, the company that owns Patisserie Valerie, could face legal action from investors over the cafe chain’s collapse. Chris Boxall, co-founder of Fundamental Asset Management, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “flabbergasted” by the situation and was considering legal action as a “moral duty” to his clients. Administrators KPMG are closing 70 stores and looking for buyers for the brand’s remaining 122 sites. Sector investor Luke Johnson, who bought the business in 2006, has committed more money to ensure staff are paid this month. Nevertheless, Boxall said he was “staggered” and had questions about Johnson’s oversight of the business. He asked: “What has he and the board been doing? What questions were they asking at meetings, what things were they looking at, did they ever roll up their sleeves and have a look at the heart of the business? This business has gone from half a billion pounds’ valuation to nothing in a matter of months. We’re very angry.” A total of 920 of the 2,800-strong workforce have been made redundant following the closure of 27 Patisserie Valerie and 19 Druckers stores along with 25 Patisserie Valerie concessions in Debenhams, Next and at motorway service areas. Shares in Patisserie Holdings were suspended in October following the announcement of accounting irregularities, while finance director Chris Marsh was arrested and later released on bail without charge. Johnson, who owned 37% of the business, kept it going with a loan and money was raised from other shareholders but earlier this month the company said the accounting scandal was “worse than it thought”.

Matt Farrell – My Million Pound Menu investment Pilgrim has quality to be 'one of the best restaurants in north west': Matt Farrell, co-founder of Liverpool-based independent bar and restaurant group Graffiti Spirits Group, has told Propel that Pilgrim has the quality and potential to be one of the best restaurants in the north west. Farrell and Graffiti Spirits Group are making Pilgrim, which is based on the food found on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path in north west Spain, the centrepiece of its Duke Street Food & Drink Market opening in early April in Liverpool in partnership with Urban Food and Drink. Pilgrim took up the offer of a move to the north west from its native east London after winning the investment from Farrell, worth £600,000, on the BBC show My Million Pound Menu. Farrell said the 60-cover restaurant would operate both the casual dining and set menu offer similar to that seen on the programme. Viewers saw Pilgrim's owners Dave Bone, Jamie Duffield and Anthony Power introduce a casual dining lunch offer after being told the set menu was "too rigid" especially as it did not really fit in with the trio's "laid back" look and could harm their investment prospects. Farrell added: "I'm really excited about what Pilgrim will bring. The food was fantastic and they listened to what we said about the sole offer. The guys have been up a couple of times to see the space and get a feel. The restaurant will be on a mezzanine so people will be able to really see it. Pilgrim cook on charcoal and wood and it's exactly the sort of thing we want for that space. I've no doubt it's got the quality to be one of the best restaurants in the north west and Graffiti Spirits Group is delighted to give Pilgrim the opportunity to show it." Pilgrim, which has a series of pop-ups lined up ahead of the opening, joins Cinder, which will specialise in open-fire cooking and is headed by Owain Williams and Chris Edwards, founders of city “neo-bistro” bar Belzan; Cuban street food restaurant Finca as well as Cucina di Vincenzo, a family-operated Italian restaurant as confirmed operators of the 500-capacity Duke Street Food & Drink Market, which will be located in a restored 100-year-old warehouse. Farrell added: "The ethos of that market is to have a collaboration of good operators. I think we're well on the way to that." Graffiti Spirits Group operates eight sites across the city, including El Bandito, Salt Dog Slims, Santa Chupitos and the newly opened Bold Street Coffee brand. 

Thunderbird Fried Chicken receives TriSpan investment: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept founded by Matt Harris, has received investment from private equity firm TriSpan through its dedicated restaurant fund Rising Stars. The investment will allow Thunderbird Fried Chicken, which is based at London Union street food locations Dinerama in Shoreditch and Giant Robot in Canary Wharf, to scale its operations, with a new restaurant lined up for February at Brixton Village. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Marcel Khan, who played a key role in the launch and expansion of US better-burger brand Five Guys in the UK, has joined Thunderbird Fried Chicken as chief executive with immediate effect. He will support Harris, who launched the concept in 2015 in the form of BBQ Lab, which became Thunderbird Fried Chicken in April 2017. Harris will remain fully involved with all aspects of the business, with a focus on creative, food development and kitchen design. They will be further supported by a highly-experienced senior team. Ivan Schofield, formerly managing director of KFC Western Europe and ex-Itsu chief executive, moves from being executive chairman to non-executive chairman; alongside Brandon Stephens, founder of Tortilla Mexican Grill; Ian Edward, non-executive director of Hippo Inns, Pizza Pilgrims, and Seafood Pub Company; and TriSpan partners, former YO! Sushi chief executive Robin Rowland and Joseph-Patrick Dib. Kieran Sherlock, former property director at YO! Sushi, has also joined the business to assist with building a long-term pipeline of sites. Harris said: “This investment represents a huge leap forward in making a dream come true. Thunderbird Fried Chicken was a business born of passion and I am incredibly grateful to the angel investors and Ivan, who supported me at the outset, and to TriSpan, Marcel and the whole team for recognising its potential and joining us on the journey.” Khan added: “Thunderbird was love at first bite; I’m excited about supporting Matt and the team to deliver a world-class product to a wider market. The UK is ready for quality fried chicken and wings.” Rowland and Dib said: “There is a huge gap in the market for quality fried chicken and wings – a trend whose time has finally come. We’re pleased to have made our fifth investment from the Rising Stars fund, supporting a great product, brand, and team.” Last year, TriSpan acquired a majority stake in Thai restaurant group Rosa’s Thai Cafe.

Grind secures second City site, in Liverpool Street: Grind, the independent coffee and cocktail bar, is to open its second City of London site. The company will launch Liverpool Street Grind, in Broadgate Circle, in April after securing the former Aubaine restaurant premises. The 3,000 square foot venue will feature a restaurant and cocktail bar alongside a dedicated, grab-and-go cafe for takeaway coffee and food. Founder and chief executive David Abrahamovitch said: “We’ve got a huge amount planned for 2019, and to kick things off I couldn’t be more excited to be opening our first restaurant in the city, so close to our Shoreditch home. Broadgate Circle is a development of the highest quality, and somewhere we’ve wanted to be a part of it since it first redeveloped in 2014.” Previously occupied by Aubaine, the opening is the result of Grind’s second acquisition, having previously purchased the Cafe Pistou brasserie in 2016, which would later become Exmouth Market Grind. Grind was advised by CDG Leisure on the deal to acquire Aubaine. Grind currently operates restaurants in Shoreditch, London Bridge, Exmouth Market, Greenwich and Clerkenwell, cafe-bars in Soho and Royal Exchange, as well as its coffee roastery in Shoreditch. In addition, the brand also operates in-office locations in partnership with Derwent London in Whitechapel and Hatton Garden, and also a Grind inside the Facebook London headquarters. As previously announced, Grind will be launching several planned travel locations in 2019, in partnership with travel franchise partners SSP.

Star Pubs & Bars sees demand for leased pubs continue to rise: Heineken UK has said demand for its Star Pubs & Bars leased pubs remains high despite concerns surrounding the economy. The company’s latest recruitment figures reveal pubs taken on a lease were up a third at the end of 2018 compared with the previous year, with applications for pubs up 12.5% and showing “no signs of abating”. Star Pubs & Bars said interest in its managed operator Just Add Talent pubs was also strong, which it attributed to the “quality and location of available sites” and the “financials of the deal”. Star Pubs & Bars recruitment manager Hance McPherson said: “Joint investment is one of the major attractions of the leased model for many licensees. By the last quarter of 2018, our plans were finalised for investment in the former Punch sites we acquired in March, which attracted high levels of interest. These latest recruitment figures are especially encouraging given concerns about the economy. Since March, we have held 25 open days and the feedback was licensees are prepared to take on new businesses in spite of the economic climate. They know and like the fact Heineken is committed to investment in its pubs and supporting them in the long term. The momentum shows no signs of slowing, with the same levels of interest continuing into the first half of January.” Star Pubs & Bars operates 2,700 pubs.

Greggs expands breakfast click-and-collect trial in Manchester: Food-on-the-go retailer Greggs has expanded its breakfast click-and-collect trial in Manchester city centre. Originally launched in September in three shops – King Street, Parker Street and Manchester Victoria Station – the service has been extended to another 11 city centre sites. It allows customers to pre-order and collect a breakfast order through the new Greggs Collect Manchester app, powered by ordering technology provider Preoday. Greggs retail and people director Roisin Currie said: “When it comes to food-on-the-go, our customers tell us convenience is key, so we’ve been working hard to make Greggs available to our customers when and where they want it. The trial has been successful so far, which is why we have expanded to other shops.” The service is also now available at Greggs' sites in Abbey House, the Arndale Shopping Centre (three shops), Brazennose Street, Cross Street, Deansgate, Gartside Street, Oxford Road and Piccadilly (two shops).

McDonald’s to launch Bacon Hour promotion: McDonald’s is attempting to lure US customers via a free bacon promotion. On Tuesday (29 January), participating restaurants will give away bacon during McDonald’s Bacon Hour. From 4pm to 5pm, customers will receive two half pieces of Applewood smoked bacon on the side for any order. The free add-on is available for one order per customer. Typically, bacon can be added to a McDonald’s sandwich for an additional cost of about $1.50. Michael Haracz, McDonald’s manager of culinary innovation, told Nation’s Restaurant News: “America loves bacon. I can’t wait to see the crazy and daring combinations our customers put together.” Free bacon hour will launch the day before another big bacon promotion, when McDonald’s introduces the Big Mac Bacon and the Quarter Pounder Cheese with bacon to its menu. The chain will also launch a new menu item, Cheesy Bacon Fries, on the same day.

New York chef Daniel Humm confirmed as operator of new Claridge's restaurant: Daniel Humm, the chef behind New York restaurants Eleven Madison Park and NoMad, has been confirmed as the operator of the new restaurant at Claridge’s in London. Named Davies and Brook after the intersection of Davies Street and Brook Street where the Mayfair hotel is located, the new project will replace Fera at Claridge’s – Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred restaurant that closed at the end of 2018. Though it will be the first European location for Humm, the move marks a return to Claridge's for the chef, who first worked at the hotel when he was 15-years-old. He will open the new site this summer alongside long-term business partner Will Guidara. Humm told the Evening Standard: “Having the opportunity to bring our cuisine and hospitality to the most storied hotel in the world is really a remarkable feeling and a dream come true." Co-owner of Claridge’s Paddy McKillen added: “We are very excited to bring longtime friends and guests of the hotel; Daniel, Will and their exceptional team to Claridge’s, as we have been looking for an opportunity to work with them for some time. I know their extraordinary culinary vision will lead the way for a new dining direction at Claridge’s, and we all share a belief in creating something truly special that both our guests and Londoners alike will enjoy.” Rogan's Fera at Claridge’s had its final service on New Year's Eve. The space has also previously hosted Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.

Club Mexicana to launch vegan burger concept in London Fields this Saturday: Mexican-inspired vegan street food restaurant Club Mexicana is to launch a new concept, the Burger Bar, at Netil Market in London Fields on Saturday (26 January). The concept will feature vegan versions of classic burgers such as Mexican fried chicken burger, beer-battered “fish”, and sticky glazed “ribs” with coleslaw, pink onions and jalapeno. Sides will include Club Mexicana favourites loaded nachos, Mexican fries and deep-fried cheese with hot sauce. The venue will also serve Club Mexicana’s own pale ale, created in partnership with Beer 52, alongside all-natural wine. Club Mexicana founder Meriel Armitage said: “We did our first street food event on the rooftop of Netil House so there’s something nostalgic about returning with our new Burger Bar. We want it to be a place where we can try new ideas and run specials and collaborations while getting back to our street food roots putting us face to face with the most important people – our customers!” Club Mexicana Burger Bar will open at the market in Westgate Street every weekend. Founded by Armitage in 2014, Club Mexicana also operates at Street Feast’s Dinerama in Shoreditch, while she opened London’s first 100% vegan pub, The Spread Eagle in Homerton, with publicans Luke McLoughlin and Sherri-lee Estabrook in January last year.

South Indian fine dining restaurant to open at former Galvin brothers site in Marylebone: A new south Indian fine dining restaurant will open on the former Galvin brothers' Galvin Bistro de Luxe site in Marylebone, central London, next month. Ooty is the first restaurant for entrepreneurs Pooja Nayak and Aseela Goenka. It will open at the property in Baker Street on Thursday, 14 February – a year after Galvin Bistro de Luxe shut. The restaurant, named after a small town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, will focus on the ingredients and cuisine of southern India. The kitchen will be headed by Manmeet Singh Bali, formerly head chef at Michelin-starred London restaurants Rasoi and Vineet Bhatia London. Ooty will comprise of three distinct spaces; an 80-cover fine dining restaurant, Ooty Club – a colonial-style basement bar, and Ooty Station – an all-day casual dining space and cocktail bar set to open ahead of the summer. The menu in the fine dining restaurant will change seasonally. The kitchen will also feature a griddle serving chargrilled dishes such as fennel lamb shoulder, pine nut and pickled baby shallots; and classic masala dosa with crushed new potato. Reflecting its more casual "drop in" feel, the menu in Ooty Station will focus on light snacks and hearty bowls. Downstairs, Ooty Club will offer a selection of cocktails inspired by railway journeys through India. Goenka said: “Having worked in hospitality for many years, I believe, as most Indians do, that food is a blessing and must be treated almost with reverence. To be able to present delicious food not just to appease hunger but also as a sensory experience is what Pooja and I aspire to do, and Ooty is the product of this vision that we have been working for over a year.”

BrewDog trials parcel service as part of extended shareholder benefits: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is trailing a parcel service as part of extended benefits for Equity for Punks shareholders. The company has also enhanced its birthday beer offer and its daytime discount perks. Shareholders can opt to have their online order delivered to a BrewDog bar. The trial is running until the end of April. Shareholders with a birthday who pre-book for a group of six-plus will receive sharing platters and a cake on top of their free beer. Meanwhile, the 15% discount available during weekday afternoons is being extended to include weekend mornings. BrewDog stated: "More than 90,000 have joined our Equity Punk community and become the lifeblood of our company. So as a thank you for having our backs, we have a number of epic benefits and perks for our Equity Punks."

Goodbody retains cautious view on Marston's despite strong start to year: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has retained his cautious view on Marston’s given its marginal profit progression and high leverage despite a strong start to the year. Following the company's first quarter trading update, Rudy said: "Overall, total pub like-for-like sales growth in the period was 1.4%. As expected, trading was good over the key two-week Christmas period with like-for-likes up 5.7%. Destination and Premium like-for-like sales were up 0.5% in the period, with like-for-like sales over the Christmas period increasing 4.5%. Taverns like-for-like sales rose 3.2% overall, and 8.1% over the Christmas period, while the leased estate saw profit growth of 1%. In the Brewing division, total volumes were up 3.5% with own brewed volumes increasing 2.5%, noting strong performances in both free trade and off-trade channels. Following guidance around cash flow improvements given in November, the group is now targeting a £0.2bn reduction in net debt by 2023. The statement notes this will be achieved by a reduction in new-build investment to circa £20m per annum from 2020 onward (we currently forecast circa £50m of new-build capex in FY20), with investment weighted towards pub accommodation where there is the best return; the disposal of £80m to £90m of non-core assets in 2020-2023; and through improvements in free cash flow relating to final salary pension scheme, the securitisation and reduced organic capex. We broadly estimate this will reduce Ebit by circa £1m in the first year and circa £2m in the second year with an associated interest saving of circa £1m. Despite a solid start to the year we retain our cautious view on Marston’s given marginal profit progression and high leverage. Additionally while Christmas like-for-like sales were better we would note year-on-year comparatives were favourable and other operators grew like-for-likes by high single digit to double-digit levels across the two-week festive period. We think management is doing the right thing by reducing leverage but today’s reduction to capital allocation highlights its high leverage. Marston’s currently trades on 8.8 times EV/Ebitda, which is in line with ten-year average valuations despite the potentially rocky road that lies ahead for the UK consumer."

Peak District hotel operators to shut Manchester fine dining restaurant this weekend: Manchester-based fine dining restaurant Grafene is to close this weekend. Launched in 2016 by Peak District hotel operators Paul and Kathryn Roden, the King Street restaurant hit its stride over the past year after recruiting head chef Ben Mounsey from Michelin-starred Fraiche on the Wirral. Paul Roden said he was proud of everything the team had achieved but "uncertain times and a difficult market" meant it was "time to move on". He told the Manchester Evening News: "In the past 12 months we've been producing some really good stuff and when it's been busy the atmosphere has been great. We've probably enjoyed some of the best fine dining in Manchester here and we could do more than 100 covers on a good night. But it's the inevitability that that's not every night. If you're at the fine dining end of the market, you're an optional luxury spend." The site is being sold to another unnamed operator, who is planning to open a "high-end gastro-pub-style offering". The Grafene concept will live on at the Rodens' Peak District hotel, Losehill House, where it will replace the existing Orangery restaurant. Roden added: "We've got a great business at the hotel and that's our number one priority."

Wadworth visitors’ centre attains 92% attraction scheme score: Wadworth’s visitors’ centre and museum has scored 92% in VisitEngland’s Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme. The centre attracted more than 17,000 visitors in 2018, a 3.7% year-on-year rise, with sales in its shop up 9.7%. Visitors see the brewing process, meet the company’s shire horses, and see pub signs being hand-painted. Chris Welham, chief executive of the Wiltshire-based brewer and retailer, said: “We are incredibly proud of this recognition. To have increased our score is a real achievement and great testament to the team that conducts our tours.” VisitEngland stated: “Wadworth remains one of the country’s leading brewery tours and the visitors’ centre is well known as a successful attraction in the Wessex region.” Wadworth also operates more than 200 pubs across the south west.

Jamaican jerk and fried chicken restaurant to open debut site, in Solihull: Jamaican jerk and fried chicken restaurant Jamaya is to open its debut site, at the Touchwood leisure complex in Solihull. Founder Byron Carnegie is opening the venue in the Upper Jubilee space this spring after agreeing a deal with landlord Lend Lease Retail Partnership. The 1,779 square foot unit will have space for 80 covers, serving a menu of traditional Jamaican charcoal-grilled jerk chicken, fried chicken, burgers, Irie sides and craft beer. Carnegie said: “The whole team behind Jamaya has worked passionately to get the concept off the ground and we are excited Solihull will be home to our first bricks and mortar site.” Jamaya will join Asha’s, the Indian restaurant, which, as previously revealed, is opening its third UK site at the complex. BNP Paribas represented Touchwood. Jamaya and Asha’s both dealt direct.

Thornbridge sees cask sales continue to rise: Derbyshire-based Thornbridge Brewery has said fears over the death of cask beer have proved unfounded. It said a report from the British Beer and Pub Association showed cask beer sales could decline 6.8% in 2019. However Thornbridge, which has been brewing cask beer since 2005, said it had seen consistent demand, particularly during the past few years, brewing more than two million pints in 2018 alone. Chief executive Simon Webster said: “Cask beer, for us, is thriving as much as it ever has.” Webster said the company’s plans for 2019 included a canning line, which should be fully operational by the spring, while its taproom has moved into temporary premises to make way for the canning line and would launch in a new unit later in the year. Last month, Thornbridge and bar operator Pivovar opened a debut site for their joint venture, The Market Cat in York.

Fresh On The Go acquires 500-strong coffee company Jack’s Beans: Scotland-based coffee machine supplier Fresh On The Go has acquired Jack’s Beans, the 500-outlet self-service coffee vending company previously owned by Connect Group. Jack’s Beans was launched by Smiths News in 2014 before its rebrand as Connect Group. The sale is part of Connect’s strategy to focus on its core news and logistics businesses. The disposal was revealed as part of a trading update in which overall performance for the 19 weeks to 12 January 2019 was in line with the company’s expectations, with good early progress made on its recovery strategy. Total group revenue was down 4% in the year to date, from £538.1m to £516.7m. The company also operates parcel delivery service Tuffnells, which experienced an 8.8% drop in revenue in the year to date, down from £63.9m to £58.2m. Connect Group is targeting a return to profitability for the subsidiary in the second half of its financial year, Insider Media reports.

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