Story of the Day:
Opportunity for operators to turn ‘competitive socialising concepts into national brands’ as market rapidly expands: Significant opportunities exist for entrepreneurial brands to establish themselves within the competitive socialising sector, with only a small number of sites required for an operator to “effectively become a national brand”, according to a new report by agent Savills. The report, issued in partnership with Leisure Property Forum, revealed there are 170 competitive socialising operators in the UK across 340 sites after the sector “turned a corner in 2018” as several brands and concepts emerged. However, the market is diverse and fragmented with only three brands occupying more than ten sites. Escape rooms lead the way, with 60-plus brands operating more than 145 sites in the UK, 24 in London alone. Savills forecasts there will be more than 200 escape rooms nationwide by the end of 2020. However, the report expects the four main brands in the market – Escape Hunt, Locked In A Room, Clue HQ and Escape Reality – to account for more than 25% of the market by the end of the year. There are currently 53 “urban golf” venues in the UK but few brands operate three or more locations. Tom Whittington, director for retail and leisure research at Savills, told Propel a number of golf concepts were “intent on significant expansion plans”. He said: “We are already seeing the rise of several world-class operations, including Puttshack, Swingers, Junkyard Golf, Mr Mulligan’s and Paradise Island.” He said the diverse nature of the competitive socialising market was also evident across emerging “bar and game” and virtual reality concepts, with a vast range of operators but none operating more than a handful of sites. Whittington said the customer journey would be key and those brands that offered an immersive, social experience for target audiences would be the ones to establish themselves as “brands of the near future”. He added: “This new, diverse and yet fragmented market presents a great opportunity for entrepreneurial operators to become genuine contenders as national brands. Landlords are bringing these emerging concepts into their schemes to increase the diversity of offer, reposition underused space and repurpose units. With variety of offer arguably the new anchor, competitive socialising brands have an important role to play.”
Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators, James Hacon 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. James Hacon, British Takeaway Award judge and Think Hospitality founder
, will give an overview of outstanding takeaway propositions and how performance of his investment roll-out takeaway brand, I am Doner, has been transformed through systems and marketing. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org
Late-night commission calls for London to make most of underused spaces to boost high street: Making the most of underused spaces by hosting exhibitions, live shows or pop-up markets can boost the high street, according to a new report by the London Night Time Commission. The commission, appointed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, has published its final report – Think Night: London’s Neighbourhoods from 6pm to 6am – outlining ten recommendations to boost the capital’s night-time economy. Khan will now study the recommendations, which include incorporating a night test for all new policies to rate their impact on culture, sociability, well-being and economy; producing guidance for boroughs to help them develop night-time strategies with a clear vision for town centres; setting up a night-time data hub; publishing an annual report to measure progress; establishing a night-time enterprise zone fund that boroughs can bid for; and setting up a late-night transport working group to help night workers get to and from work safely. The report said underused spaces where opening hours could be extended include shops, hotel lobbies, parks, museums, libraries and town halls. Khan said: “London’s night-time economy is integral to our success as a city. It plays a huge role in the daily life of Londoners and is a big draw for visitors to our capital – but for too long it has been an afterthought. I’m determined London will be a city that works for all, 24 hours a day.” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive and chairman of the London Night Time Commission, said: “We believe the capital can be so much more at night – with more chances to shop, rest, explore, innovate and grow. We can extend the opening hours of our traditional cultural offerings to reach more Londoners and bring underused spaces to life at night to tackle the decline of our high streets. To do this we must improve planning for the night and that’s why we want to see every borough set out a positive vision for their night-time economy to drive improvements at all hours and retain the special character of each area.”
Number of rugby fans searching for pub to watch opening Six Nations weekend rises 101% from last year: The number of rugby fans searching for a pub where they can watch games on the opening weekend of the Guinness Six Nations tournament is 101% higher than last year, according to analysis by sports pub app MatchPint. So far, 11,513 fans have used MatchPint to find a pub, compared with 5,743 at this stage last year. This number is expected to triple before the Ireland versus England match in Dublin on Saturday (2 February). As well as searching for pubs showing the action, rugby fans have been making predictions for the first round of games as part of the Guinness Pint Predictor, a new game on the MatchPint app. Fans call a winner and winning margin for each game, competing in leagues to win prizes. MatchPint co-founder Dom Collingwood said: “More than 3,000 pub leagues have been created in which customers compete and prove themselves to be the smartest fan in the pub.” Data provided by MatchPint and Vianet in 2017 showed last year’s Six Nations was worth an average £6,300 per pub.
Brewers urged to fill out Treasury’s new SBR questionnaire: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has urged brewers to fill in a questionnaire sent by the government on Thursday (31 December) asking for suggested reforms of the Small Breweries’ Relief (SBR) fund. The questionnaire follows the Treasury’s November Budget announcement it would conduct a review into SBR to ensure it supported growth in the industry. James Calder, SIBA head of public affairs, said: “SBR is a great success story. The Treasury wants to hear from brewers about how well SBR is working and how it could be improved. All options are on the table. The Treasury will act on the evidence it receives during this review and from this questionnaire. It could mean positive reform that protects small brewers and incentivises growth or, if brewers fail to act, it could not. It’s important as many small brewers as possible have their say.”
Teams sought for 2019 Drinks Trade Regatta: Teams are being sought for the brewing industry’s annual sailing event, the Drinks Trade Regatta. Businesses taking part or that have expressed an interest include Oakman Inns and Restaurants, Beds and Bars, 1AGRM, C&C Group (Magners), Zonal, Christie & Co, Brew+Press, Sky, Young’s, Matthew Clark Bibendum, Golden Brick Pubs, Molson Coors, Clarke & Son and last year’s winner, Jagermeister. However, there are still places available for teams to join. The 29th regatta will take place from Friday, 10 May to Sunday, 12 May on the Solent. Teams are asked to donate £1,000 to charity with the top three contributors able to donate a percentage (first place 50%, second 30% and third 20%) to a charity of their choice. Last year’s event saw 19 teams participate, with almost £25,000 raised for charity. The teams will depart from Port Solent, Portsmouth, on a fleet of Sunsail First 40s to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to compete in seven races over two days. Teams will also enjoy a barbecue at Cowes’ Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and a gala dinner at the Royal Yacht Squadron. The cost is £3,250 per yacht, which includes VAT and the £1,000 charity donation. Crews can be novices as Sunsail, which facilitates the event, can provide skippers for an additional cost. For more information, call Sunsail account manager Terry Hunt on 02392 222 221.
Corbin & King reports mixed fortunes at restaurants as ‘challenging’ market conditions affect sector, Fischer’s becomes profitable: London restaurant operator Corbin & King has reported mixed fortunes at its restaurants as “challenging” market conditions affect the sector. Accounts for the various restaurants in its portfolio for the year ending 31 March 2018 have just been filed at Companies House and reveal its Fischer’s restaurant in Marylebone has become profitable for the first time since it opened in 2014. Turnover increased 4.7% to £3,465,433, compared with £3,307,968 the previous year. Ebit before central costs rose 32% to £500,261, compared with £380,000 the year before. It made a pre-tax profit of £115,880, compared with a loss of £125,053 the previous year. Meanwhile, The Wolseley in Piccadilly saw revenue fall 1.2% to £12,823,193, compared with £12,981,592 the year before. Ebit before central costs fell 17.6% to £2,138,000, compared with £2,596,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit increased to £1,987,397, compared with £1,751,250 the year before. Turnover at Brasserie Zedel in Soho increased 7.0% to £11,105,154, compared with £10,380,120 the year before. Ebit before central costs was up to £903,000, compared with £789,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit jumped to £753,799, compared with £111,577 the year before. The Delaunay in Aldwych saw turnover drop 3.8% to £8,650,865, compared with £8,988,951 the previous year. Ebit before central costs fell 12% to £983,000, compared with £1,119,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up 51% to £184,518, compared with £122,260 the previous year. Turnover at The Colbert in Chelsea fell 3.4% to £6,780,195, compared with £7,018,825 the year before. Ebit before central costs dipped 1.4% to £1,216,000, compared with £1,234,000 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £472,170, compared with £507,656 the year before. The Bellanger in Islington Green reported revenue increased 4.7% to £2,926,254, compared with £2,795,716 the year before. Ebit before central costs was minus £469,000, compared with minus £529,000 the previous year. Pre-tax losses narrowed to £910,897, compared with £972,153 the year before. Minor Hotels acquired Corbin & King from Graphite Capital in December 2017 for £58m. Corbin & King opened its first UK site outside London last year – Cafe Wolseley – at Bicester Village.
Patisserie Valerie executives ‘failed to disclose’ they were also shop landlords: Patisserie Valerie executives Luke Johnson and Paul May are facing fresh questions after failing to disclose they were also landlords to the company. Johnson and May, chairman and former chief executive respectively, own Patisserie Valerie’s Tunbridge Wells site, a fact that wasn’t disclosed as a “related party” in the accounts of operating company Stonebeach. A spokesman for Johnson said the company’s board had been made aware of the relationship but decided it was below the threshold – called a “materiality level” – at which details needed to be disclosed. The revelation, first reported on the blog Investor’s Champion, appears to pile more pressure on the executives to explain themselves following Patisserie Valerie’s collapse into administration last week when it failed to renew its banking facilities after the discovery of a £40m black hole in its accounts in October. The Kent property in question was acquired for £575,000 in 2014 and was the third store to open following Patisserie Valerie’s initial public offering. One senior insider said the annual rent on the property, about £40,000, was never actually paid, reports The Telegraph. The outstanding balance ranks alongside other unsecured creditors. Prem Sikka, professor of accounting and finance at the University of Sheffield, questioned the defence that the relationship was not material. “Transactions between the company and any directors are likely to be material and should be disclosed,” he said. Andrew Gambier, head of audit at accountancy institute the ACCA, added: “Immaterial items don’t need to be disclosed, in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework. However, the materiality level that applies to related party transactions (RPTs) is likely to be smaller than overall materiality, given the sensitivity of users to information in RPTs. That’s a matter of judgement for the preparer. Disclosure of even a small item is likely to mean something different to a user than no disclosure at all.” Administrator KPMG has already closed 71 Patisserie Valerie outlets and hopes to sell the remaining 122 stores through an accelerated sales process, thereby safeguarding the jobs of some or all remaining 2,000 staff. KPMG has given potential bidders until midday on Friday (1 February) to submit offers. Management presentations in London and Birmingham will then take place with selected parties next week.
Old Spot Pub Company to hit seven sites with double opening: The Old Spot Pub Company, an Ei Managed Investments venture in partnership with Field to Fork director Dave Ford and Productivity Mentor director Bernard O’Neill, is to open two sites in February to take its portfolio to seven pubs, with further openings planned for 2019. The Emperor in Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, will be the first to open followed by The Star Of The East, near Limehouse, London. Ford said: “Old Spot pubs are welcoming places designed with the local community in mind. Many have lovely log fires and they all offer a relaxed atmosphere with great, honest food. We tend to take on pubs that have been shut for a while with the intention of giving the community back their local. The Star Of The East has been shut for a long time but we feel there is a strong community so we look forward to giving them a central hub to meet and enjoy good food. The reaction to our pubs so far has been extremely positive, trading has been good and we’re on track with our growth plans. We have many more openings in the pipeline for 2019.” Ei Managed Investments operations director Nathan Wall added: “We are delighted with the success of The Old Spot Pub Company to date and working alongside Dave Ford and Bernard O’Neill has been very positive. We are working together to identify further sites within our portfolio to fit their model and look forward to enhancing many more pubs in partnership.” Ei Managed Investments has grown rapidly since Ei Group launched the division in May 2015, with 12 ventures in operation.
Burger & Lobster to open first Singapore site: Burger & Lobster is to open its first restaurant in Singapore. The venue will launch at Jewel, the new mixed-used development that is due to open at Changi airport in the first half of this year. The 81-cover restaurant will be at Canopy Park on the top floor of the development overlooking the Rain Vortex, which will be the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 40 metres. Alongside Burger & Lobster’s core menu, new dishes will be introduced seasonally featuring locally sourced ingredients and inspired by local flavours. The decor will mix “nature with urban energy” featuring marble, handmade crackle-glazed tiles and live lobster tanks. The move is part of the company’s global expansion plan with further restaurants planned in the US and Asia following a “better than expected year-end period”. Owner Misha Zelman said: “We have secured an iconic Singapore location in Jewel and we’re excited to evolve the Burger & Lobster brand in such a ground-breaking global innovation at the heart of south east Asia. With Jewel dubbed to be the ‘gateway to the rest of the world’, the partnership marries perfectly with Burger & Lobster’s obsession with offering products in the most fascinating locations across the world.” Burger & Lobster operates nine sites in London, two in New York and one each in Bangkok, Dubai, Genting and Kuwait City. In October, the company reported a return to profit a year after pre-tax losses hit almost £11m as the company closed four UK restaurants to focus on London and international expansion. The company said it would use London as a “test kitchen” for concepts it could roll out internationally.
Di Maggio’s Group reports turnover boost: Scottish restaurant operator Di Maggio’s Group has reported turnover increased to £36,831,037 for the year ending 29 April 2018, compared with £34,862,713 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £3,650,044 compared with £5,332,218 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin fell slightly to 70.5% from 71.5% the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are satisfied with the financial performance and health of the group at the period end. The increase in revenue was achieved through organic growth as well as the opening of new restaurants. At the period end shareholders’ funds totalled £13,906,000 (2017: £12,238,000). The directors continue to look for suitable restaurant sites to expand the group’s business.” The company operates about 25 restaurants.
Namco joins forces with Angry Birds creator to open branded adventure golf attractions across UK: Rovio Entertainment Corp, the mobile game developer behind Angry Birds, and entertainment centre company Namco have announced a new venture that will see the development of a series of Angry Birds indoor adventure golf attractions across the UK. The concept will see adventure golf combined with themed features and attractions based on the popular Angry Birds game. Namco plans to open a minimum of five sites in the next three years and is in advanced negotiations for the first two locations. It is actively seeking further leasing opportunities in high-footfall retail or leisure destinations. Namco commercial director Philip Millward said: “We look forward to opening these attractions, which capture the entertainment values of the Angry Birds theme and the Namco core philosophy of providing our customers with dreams, fun and inspiration.” Joe Lawson, senior vice-president of content licensing at Rovio, added: “These attractions are a great example of the global appeal of the Angry Birds brand and an important component of our licensing and content roadmap, which is anchored by the release of The Angry Birds Movie 2 in 2019.” Namco operates a number of family entertainment centres throughout the UK, including venues at the Intu Trafford Centre in Manchester, Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead and County Hall on London’s South Bank.
Laine Pub Company to open immersive Catford site next week: Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company will open its latest site, in Catford, south east London, next week. The company will relaunch the Blackhorse & Harrow in Rushey Green as Ninth Life on Thursday (7 February). The multi-level pub will feature DJs, music, a street food market, and a nine-room immersive theatre. Its new name takes inspiration from legends of how Catford got its name and the idea if humans had nine lives, the ninth needs to be the one that counts. Visitors can expect immersive theatre, live art projects, local film screenings, games nights and drag-queen bingo as well as daytime showcases from local youth groups, graffiti festivals, spoken word gigs and art exhibitions. Laine Pub Company chief executive Gavin George said: “Ninth Life is an evolution in the immersive experience we offer our customers built on the bedrock of a great pub proposition. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring it to Catford and breathe life back into this fabulous building.”
Robinsons reveals sales success of sticking with sugar tax: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has reported soft drinks sales at its pubs have risen since the introduction of the government’s “sugar tax” in April 2018. Robinsons director of marketing David Bremner said: “We have taken out 260 million calories or 65 tonnes of sugar and, at the same time, our sales have grown. Britvic installed draught equipment in 143 sites in our estate, which has improved the rate of sale in our pubs. We went from 70% of our soft drinks having more than 5 to 8 grams of sugar to post implementation, where we are now 93% sugar-free and below the minimal threshold for paying sugar tax. Our estate now offers better brands, glassware, point of sale and rate of sale along with less sugar in our soft drinks so all in all we can say this was a well-delivered programme with exceptional results.” Robinsons operates an estate of more than 260 managed and tenanted pubs.
Fusion concept Yopo to launch in Fitzrovia: Fusion restaurant and bar concept Yopo is to launch in The Mandrake Hotel in Fitzrovia, central London. The concept will combine modern European cooking with South American elements when it opens at the boutique hotel in Newman Street on Tuesday, 12 February. Yopo takes inspiration from its namesake, a plant found deep in the jungles of Venezuela. The restaurant will feature floor-to-ceiling windows with artistic and floral displays, an open kitchen and a bar offering grab-and-go dishes and coffee, and DJ sets late into the evening. The main dining room will feature a hand-painted ceiling, wooden tables and hand-thrown crockery, while the menu will feature dishes such as ceviche of sea bass, smoked aubergine with sea herbs and lemon, and hazelnut cake with smoked whiskey caramel. Wine will come from sustainable wineries with a weekly changing selection of rare bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy and Spain.
Venning brothers to launch Highbury wine bar and bistro for fourth London site: Max and Noel Venning, the brothers who operate London cocktail bars Three Sheets, Bar Three and Little Mercies, are set to launch a wine bar and bistro in Highbury for their fourth site in the capital. Top Cuvée will open in Blackstock Road in February at a space formerly occupied by Greek kitchen, bar and restaurant Exodus. Top Cuvée will take its inspiration from the “cosy, wine-led bistros” of Paris. The 45-seater bar will offer a mix of counter seating, tables and a large communal area for walk-ins. It will also offer small plates created by former Harwood Arms and Naughty Piglets chef Dan Miller alongside charcuterie and cheese, while the natural wine list will change daily with bottles available to take away as the bar doubles as a “high-end off-licence”. Using the Vennings’ renowned mixologist skills, there will also be a range of cocktails on offer alongside craft beer, Time Out reports. Three Sheets, and Bar Three are both in Dalton, while the Vennings launched Little Mercies in Crouch End in September in partnership with Alan Sherwood, formerly of Scout and Peg + Patriot.
Batemans tops licensee survey: Lincolnshire brewer and retailer George Bateman has been voted top out of 14 pub businesses in new research that gives licensees a chance to have their say. The Licensee Index, a survey conducted by KAM Media, spoke to more than 1,500 publicans who had taken a tenancy or lease with one of 14 key pub operators. Batemans was ranked top overall, scoring the highest marks on areas within recruitment, training, ordering, and marketing and communications as well as scoring highly when it came to fairness and clarity of contracts and agreements. Batemans also rated well for business support, scoring 8.5 out of ten for advice and information on the Pubs Code. It was also rated the highest pub company overall in terms of “credit control support” and support for business rates appeals. Managing director Stuart Bateman said: “We are immensely proud Batemans – a smaller, independent family brewer – has achieved the highest overall combined scores in this survey. It is proof that what we are doing is right.” Business partners also cited the Batemans name as a key reason for partnering with the company, which owns 50 pubs across Lincolnshire and neighbouring counties.
Pizza Pilgrims unveils first new menu since debut restaurant in 2013: Pizza Pilgrims, founded by brothers Thom and James Elliot, has unveiled its first new menu since opening its debut restaurant in 2013. Three pizzas have been added to the offer – a double pepperoni and spicy honey; a basil pesto, yellow datterini tomato and burrata; and an aubergine parmigiana. The new menu also features Bread Zepplin – Pizza Pilgrims’ take on garlic bread featuring a puffed-up, double-fermented dough with garlic olive oil. The new menu is available at the company’s ten restaurants – nine in London and one in Oxford.
Graffiti Spirits Group to open permanent site for Bold Street Coffee at Santa Maluco: Liverpool-based independent bar and restaurant group Graffiti Spirits Group is to open a permanent spot for Bold Street Coffee at its Santa Maluco restaurant. Graffiti Spirits Group and Bold Street Coffee began a partnership in 2018 when the speciality independent coffee shop ran a pop-up at Santa Maluco during the brief closure of its permanent residency, 89 Bold Street. Bold Street Coffee returned to its original shop in October following the success of its Kickstarter campaign, #Backin89, and the backing of business partner Graffiti Spirits Group. Now it is heading back to Santa Maluco, this time as a permanent feature. Acting as a sister site to Bold Street Coffee, it will open on Tuesday (5 February) as Castle Street Coffee. Graffiti Spirits Group co-founder Matt Farrell said: “We got such a great response from the Bold Street Coffee pop-up it made sense to make it a permanent fixture following the reopening of the Bold Street shop. It’s a brand we really believe in and we’re delighted to bring Bold Street Coffee’s famous serve to Santa Maluco and merge the two to create Castle Street Coffee.” Bold Street Coffee owner Sam Tawil added: “We are delighted to see the Bold Street Coffee brand branching out to a sister location in Liverpool.”
Dark Star ramps up brewery investment: West Sussex-based craft brewer Dark Star has ramped up investment in its brewery at Partridge Green, near Horsham. The brewer recently installed a new canning line, which fills up to 35 cans per minute. Dark Star has also added a new cold store and bar, which will be used to host events. Managing director James Cuthbertson said: “It is fantastic to have a customised canning solution installed at the brewery. The new line allows us to be as fanatical over the quality of our canning process as we are over the brewing process. We will also have the freedom to can many more of our beers throughout the year and there are plans in place to work alongside key retailers to produce bespoke products.” Dark Star recently signed a new ten-year lease on the site at Partridge Green. London brewer and retailer Fuller’s acquired Dark Star last year. The business forms part of the sale of Fuller’s beer division to Asahi for £250m.
JD Wetherspoon certificated as top employer: JD Wetherspoon has been certificated as a top employer in the UK for 2019. It is the 16th consecutive year the pub company has been certificated by independent organisation the Top Employers Institute. The certification is based on independent research that shows Wetherspoon has “outstanding HR policies and offers excellent working conditions”. Wetherspoon commercial, legal and personnel director Su Cacioppo said: “The recognition comes from an independent organisation that researches numerous companies so it is very pleasing to be considered among the best across the UK. Wetherspoon is committed to offering each and every staff member the best opportunity to succeed and grow within the company, including studying for qualifications and apprenticeships. This is evident in the number of staff rising through the ranks.” Wetherspoon employs 41,500 staff across its pub estate and head office.
HGEM to help 11 more operators with guest insight following contract wins in final quarter of 2018: Guest experience management expert HGEM has partnered with 11 hospitality operators during the final quarter of 2018, including neighbourhood cafe brand Loungers, Carluccio’s, better burger brand Byron, ramen specialist Tonkotsu and Busaba, to help maximise their guests’ experience and drive loyalty and sales. The contracts – all of which have been agreed for a minimum of 12 months – have a combined value of £875,000. Working with more than 6,000 hospitality venues, HGEM provides detailed guest experience insight that is available to view through The Hub platform. It uses a range of guest experience measures, including social reviews, surveys and mystery guest assessments, allowing managers to easily identify actions for team development and business improvement. HGEM managing director Steven Pike said: “We are delighted to have added ten brilliant brands to our client base as well as welcoming back Carluccio’s to enhance their guest experience offerings and drive additional footfall and revenue. We look forward to working with them closely over the coming months to help them utilise the data provided to deliver the best possible results for their business.”