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Fri 8th Mar 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Deliveroo ramps up own ‘virtual’ brands: Deliveroo has gone live with a bunch of its own “virtual” brands in its Editions site in Crouch End, north London, Propel has learned. It is thought to be the first time the delivery firm has placed a significant number of its own-developed concepts in one Editions site. Propel understands the number of brands being trialled continues to change as it tests several concepts. Concepts thought to be involved in the trial include southern US states-inspired Cluckleberry Finn; Italian American-inspired Nonna’s Square Pizzas; and Naples-inspired pizza concept Knead Neapolitan. A Deliveroo spokesman told Propel: “We are proud our growth supports restaurants to reach new customers, boost sales and support innovation. Virtual brands are a great way of helping restaurants and chefs try new ideas and grow their businesses. To support this we have been trialling a number of virtual brands at our Editions site in Crouch End.” Deliveroo launched the “virtual” initiative in 2017 to help restaurants create, test and bring to market new brands that are only possible because of the nature of online delivery. The company previously said increasing numbers of restaurants were choosing to launch virtual offers to help drive revenue at a time of increased cost pressures. Deliveroo said virtual restaurants allowed companies to attract more customers by offering new or complementary dishes from their kitchen but under new branding. It also allowed them to offer bespoke menus without needing to invest in new supply streams or property. There are now more than 400 virtual restaurants on the Deliveroo platform in the UK. In October, Deliveroo launched its 1,000th virtual restaurant – at a Jamie’s Pizzeria in Taiwan – and said it expects to pass the 2,000-site milestone by the middle of this year.

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive Mark Wingett’s views on future of high street and Jamie’s Italian plus Alasdair Murdoch video: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will give his thoughts on the high street’s future and the role F&B will play and take a closer look at Jamie’s Italian and where it goes from here in his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (8 March) at 5pm. On the same day, subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video of Burger King chief executive Alasdair Murdoch speaking about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,300 multi-site companies, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. More than 200 companies are now receiving the service, including Azzurri Group, The Restaurant Group, Gaucho, Chilango, Loungers, PizzaExpress, Brasserie Bar Co, Greene King, Barworks, LT Management and EAT. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Caravan chief curates special Friday Opinion to celebrate International Women’s Day: Laura Harper-Hinton, chief executive of London-based restaurant, bar and coffee-roasting concept Caravan, has curated a special Friday Opinion to coincide with International Women’s Day, which will be sent to all Propel subscribers on 8 March at 11am. Alongside Harper-Hinton, Friday Opinion will feature contributions from Ann Elliot, chief executive of sector agency Elliotts, on the Plan B Mentoring Scheme launched in October to fast-track female leaders; Holly Addison, head of hospitality and leisure at executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, on the current status of women in senior roles and the business case for improving the situation; and UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls on political aspects and drivers from the government regarding the gender pay gap and the lack of female representation on boards. Thunderbird Fried Chicken chief executive Marcel Khan, who also played a key role in the launch and expansion of US better burger brand Five Guys in the UK, will put the case for intersectional feminism, while Devi’s founder Tanya Gohil, who Harper-Hinton is mentoring following her appearance on the BBC’s My Million Pound Menu programme, will give a personal perspective on being an Asian woman in the foodservice sector. In September, Propel launched the Women’s Entrepreneur Conference in partnership with Elliotts – the first sector conference to feature an all-female line-up. A total of 11 company founders shared their stories, tips and advice to inspire more women to set up their own business.

Industry calls for government support to promote career opportunities in hospitality: More needs to be done to promote career opportunities in the hospitality and brewing industries, particularly when so many businesses are affected by staff shortages. That was the main message to emerge from this year’s Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase, which took place at the House of Commons on Wednesday (6 March). The event, organised by Perceptions Group, was attended by more than 115 MPs and 200 apprentices. Now in its third year, it has doubled in size to cover a broad spectrum of the industry. MPs took part in a live survey that revealed almost two-thirds (65%) were aware the UK hospitality industry employed 3.2 million people but less than two-fifths (37%) knew the industry employed 9,000 apprentices. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Apprenticeship Week and the Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase are excellent opportunities to show policy-makers what we are all about. The event is a chance for us to highlight the fantastic work we do and show MPs how we are inspiring the UK’s future business leaders.” Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Events such as the Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase play an important role in shifting perceptions and showing how apprenticeships add enormous value to a sector. There is, however, more government can do to reduce bureaucracy around the Apprenticeship Levy.” Perceptions Group chairman Keith Knowles said: “We need a cohesive strategy across government departments to help hospitality. In particular, our education system needs to better understand and embrace the career opportunities and flexibility of roles within hospitality and the range of entry levels open to all.”

OpenTable integration arrives on Instagram: Restaurant booking platform OpenTable has announced its integration with Instagram in all international markets including the UK, Germany, Australia, Spain and the Netherlands. Restaurants on the OpenTable network can include a “reserve” link on their Instagram profile page, enabling diners to make a reservation direct from the platform. More than 200 million people visit a business profile on Instagram each day. OpenTable vice-president EMEA Adrian Valeriano said: “We are excited this integration allows our restaurant partners to tap into Instagram’s vibrant community and connect with the diners who are most likely to be their future guests. The integration also enhances the experience for diners who are looking to Instagram to find inspiration for their next great dining experience. Once they see something that catches their eye, they can quickly and easily secure that reservation. We look forward to driving even more value for our restaurant partners and diners with this integration.”

US restaurants see like-for-likes fall 0.6% in February as weather puts chill on sales: US restaurants saw like-for-likes fall 0.6% in February as winter weather put a chill on sales and customer visits. It was the first drop in like-for-like sales since May last year and the worst month for the industry since February 2018. The research by data company TDn2K’s The Restaurant Industry Snapshot, which is based on weekly sales from more than 31,000 restaurants and 170 brands, which represent almost $72bn in annual revenue, showed visits were down 3.7% – a drop of 3% on January's figures. Like-for-like sales growth was slightly positive on average during the first three weeks of the month. It was an "abysmal" fourth week that dragged the month into negative sales growth when the Mid-Atlantic, New York-New Jersey, the Midwest and New England were hit by extreme weather. TDn2K vice-president of insights and knowledge Victor Fernandez said: "February was the month with the worst like-for-like sales growth rates for both 2017 and 2018, and it was a disappointing month again this year. Sales growth has been negative for the month since 2017, and the cumulative effect was a concerning 5.2% drop in sales for February over the past three years. Bad weather seems to be the catalyst that amplifies the effects of the challenges faced by chain restaurants. There are too many restaurant locations and too many players competing in the food-away-from-home category. Any disruption in the usual routine of consumers seems to be enough to cause a downturn.”

Gok Wan – real buzz for oriental restaurants as consumers become more adventurous with food: Gok Wan, founder of the Golden Chopsticks Awards, has told Propel there is a “real buzz” for oriental restaurants in the UK as consumers become more adventurous with their food choices. Wan said the increasing number of Britons travelling to the Far East had led them to try more unusual cuisine such as Korean or Vietnamese, which had spearheaded “exciting developments” within the sector. He said: “Chinese food has always been popular but increasing numbers of Chinese people in Britain have created a new market for more authentic Chinese flavours, and this really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to introducing all the tastes and flavours of Chinese food to the UK. China is such a vast country with so many regional specialities. More and more restaurants, takeaways and street food businesses are launching with exciting and diverse menus – and there is a real buzz at the moment.” Wan said with restaurant-goers looking for new experiences it was great to see places such as Chinatown London developing and introducing new and exciting concepts. He added: “Opportunities for oriental restaurant operators are increasing with the growing range of cuisine and popularity in this sector – and we want to support them and help them succeed! That’s why we launched the awards – we are now one of the largest oriental food awards in the world.” Julia Wilkinson, head of group restaurant strategy at Chinatown London landlords Shaftesbury, added: “It has never been a more exciting time for operators of all cuisines, especially those with new concepts or cuisines that aren’t yet available in London. In Chinatown, we are experiencing strong demand for unrepresented Chinese dishes and flavours and, as a result, we aspire for Chinatown to become a showcase for Chinese regional cuisine and a hand-picked selection of complementary pan-Asian operators.” Voting for the Golden Chopsticks Awards, now in its second year, is open until Sunday (10 March) at www.thegoldenchopsticksawards.com. The ceremony takes place on Monday, 29 April at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square.

Casual Dining show reports record turnout in new home: Casual Dining 2019 has reported a record turnout as the show made its debut at Excel London. Now in its sixth year, the show featured 220 exhibitors, 50 keynote speakers in two theatres, and 5,038 unique attendees (up 5% on 2018). Event manager Eva Ellis said: “This year’s stand-out, sell-out edition at its new home was easily our biggest, busiest and best yet. There was such a fantastic buzz from the moment doors opened. The feedback about the move has been incredibly positive.” Ellis said almost two-thirds (65%) of exhibitors had “already rebooked for next year”. She said one in three visitors had cited a corporate spend in excess of £1m, while 15% reported £10m-plus budgets. Casual Dining will return to Excel London on 25 and 26 March 2020. 

Company News:

Patisserie Valerie's new owner trialling earlier opening as it looks to capitalise on breakfast trade: Patisserie Valerie's new owner is trialling earlier opening hours as it looks to capitalise on breakfast trade. Matt Scaife, a partner at Irish private equity firm Causeway Capital, told Propel it had begun opening earlier at a handful of sites in London. He said: "Patisserie Valerie is known for its lunchtime and afternoon trade in particular but people like to grab a pastry and a coffee at breakfast and we see a real opportunity in that area as we look to improve the take-out offer." Scaife said the immediate priority was improving the customer proposition, which would involve investing in the 96 sites in the estate, and which Causeway Capital was prepared to fund. He said a programme of refurbishment would begin shortly as soon as discussions with landlords were concluded with a target completion by the end of the year, which is by when he hoped the business would be generating enough cash to be put back in the business. Scaife said there was also some "taste testing" going on in the central production kitchen as it looked to introduce new products, particularly in terms of its vegan offer and artisan pastries. Scaife said other areas for potential growth included online, which currently accounts for 10% of sales. He added the labour percentage was currently running at 36% and it was planning to work with hospitality scheduling company Bizimply, which is also backed by Causeway, which would lead to better deployment of staff. Eventually, Scaife said he could see Patisserie Valerie returning to the expansion trail, although probably not to its previous size of about 170 sites. He added: "We're not thinking about that at the moment. Our priority right now is improving what we have. We've got a fantastic brand some great teams and super talented pastry chefs and bakers ­– the retail side of the business just needs some TLC." Causeway Capital acquired Patisserie Valerie last month after it went into administration after a period of turmoil triggered by the discovery of accounting irregularities in October. Paolo Peretti has been appointed managing director of Patisserie Valerie’s retail business. He has more than 30 years’ experience in food and beverage,working with brands such as Starbucks, Burger King and Millie’s Cookies. He has held senior positions with Pret A Manger, Leon, SSP and Vital Ingredient and will join the company on Monday, 18 March.

Greggs aims to roll out click and collect to 100 sites this year as it launches lunchtime pilot: Food-to-go retailer Greggs has started trialling click and collect at lunchtimes as it looks to build on its breakfast pilot scheme. In a press call, chief executive Roger Whiteside said the aim was to roll out click and collect for breakfast and lunch to about 100 sites this year. Last month, Greggs expanded its breakfast click-and-collect trial in Manchester city centre to 15 sites and Whiteside revealed those outlets were now offering the service at lunchtime. He said: “The issue for us was whether we could manage operationally having people come into our shops to collect orders. We have seen from the breakfast trial those shops can cope. The demand for click and collect is growing and we are now extending the trial in those stores to see if they can cope at lunchtimes. The idea then is to roll out the service in major cities during the course of this year.” Whiteside said talks were continuing with Deliveroo and UberEats about delivery, while the company is working on improving its hot food options to make them more appealing to customers, particularly in the evening. He said the company wasn’t looking at having an evening-specific menu but preferred to have options that would “appeal throughout the day”, with more self-serve hot food cabinets introduced in stores featuring items such as potato wedges and chicken goujons. Meanwhile, Greggs has been putting preparations in place for Brexit, which Whiteside warned could lead to price rises for consumers depending on the outcome. He said it would depend on what happened with regard to tariffs and the value of the pound, which could lead to higher supply costs. Whiteside said these would have to be absorbed by the company somehow, which could include price rises. The company has created a “buffer” of ingredients to help with potential supply issues. Whiteside said: “We can’t do that with fresh items, of course, so if we run out of salad, for example, we are making sure we have alternatives as people will still want a sandwich. We’re prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. If there’s a downturn in consumer spend, being a value brand means we are in a better position to cope in what would be more difficult circumstances, but we don’t want to see that.” Whiteside said the vegan sausage roll, which will be available in all stores from this week, had been its most successful product launch in his six years as chief executive. He declined to give sales numbers but said it was in the company’s “top five selling products”. In terms of expansion, Whiteside said the company continued to explore opportunities at London tube stations having opened three sites as well as at railway stations as it looked to push into more travel locations. Asked if he had any thoughts about stepping down, Whiteside replied: “No, we’ve not finished what we started. I’m still excited about what lies ahead – there’s plenty to do.”

Abokado appoints its first managing director as company gears for growth: Healthy eating chain Abokado has appointed Kara Alderin as its first managing director as the company sets its sights on further growth. The move is a promotion for Alderin, who joined the company in February 2018 as operations director. Abokado co-founder and chief executive Mark Lilley said: “I am delighted to promote Kara into this role. During her relatively short time with us she has proven immensely capable. The board has been particularly impressed with her ability to understand the big picture and set strategic direction. Kara not only believes in the long-term vision for Abokado but also lives and breathes our values. When you’ve founded a business it’s not easy to start letting go of the reins. I imagine it’s like giving step parent shared custody of your child! It’s great to have finally found someone who Lindsay (co-founder) and I can trust to help steer the ship.” Alderin began her career in hospitality at 15, working in the hotel and inns sector while studying hospitality management. In 2009 she joined London brewer and retailer Fuller’s, where she rose to head of operations before joining Abokado. She said: “Abokado is an incredibly vibrant and exciting brand to work for and I’m thrilled to help the company move into its next chapter.” Earlier this week, Abokado launched a breakfast campaign as it revealed mornings now account for 30% of visits to its stores. The company operates 24 London sites.

Rockfish receives seven-figure funding for trio of openings: Rockfish Group, the sustainable fish and chip brand led by Mitch Tonks, has received seven-figure backing to open three restaurants across the south coast of England. The company will use the funding from HSBC UK to open the trio of sites this year, with the first opening in Exeter on Monday, 18 March as the sixth Rockfish venue. The restaurant at Exeter Quay will seat 90 people indoors and 65 outside. The funding has allowed Rockfish to purpose-build the 2,600 square foot venue with the opening creating 35 jobs. The other restaurants to open this year will both be in Dorset, in Poole and Weymouth. Tonks told Insider Media: “HSBC UK has been supporting us since 2015, when we consolidated our banking arrangements to better support our growth plans. In that time, we’ve opened two Rockfish restaurants and have another three in the pipeline for this year, each of which will be supported by the bank.” Last week, Rockfish confirmed it was one of three bidders for Drill Hall in Sidmouth, Devon. In January, Rockfish appointed Dave Strauss as restaurant director. Strauss, former managing director of Burger & Lobster and London steak restaurant group Goodman, will oversee Rockfish’s expansion. It also recently received investment from Gresham House Ventures.

JD Wetherspoon gets go-ahead for £7m Wolverhampton pub plans that include company museum: JD Wetherspoon has been given the go-ahead for a £7m transformation of a Wolverhampton pub that includes a museum charting the company’s history. Wetherspoon has been granted permission by the city council to transform The Moon Under Water pub in Lichfield Street. A 40,000 square foot space above the pub, which has been empty for more than 30 years, would also be transformed into a 70-bedroom hotel under the scheme. The five-storey building, which has the pub based on the ground floor, takes up half of one side of Lichfield Street, reports Insider Media. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin previously said he chose Wolverhampton to be the base for the company’s museum because it is a “city on the up”. He added: “I thought it would be good for Wetherspoon to have an archive as there are so many documents around. It’s a devil’s job to organise them. It would include what documents I can find about the first pub, subsequent pubs and the people who work there as well as the history of Wetherspoon.” Meanwhile, Wetherspoon has put The Butler’s Bell in Stafford town centre on the market. The pub, which is in Gaolgate Street and dates to 1830, will continue trading as normal until a buyer is found, reports Stoke-on-Trent Live.

Japanese rock ‘n’ roll concept Kurobuta to relocate from King’s Road: Japanese rock ‘n’ roll concept Kurobuta has signed a deal to relocate its Chelsea premises from King’s Road to a site in Fulham Road. Kurobuta has acquired the lease of 351 Fulham Road – formerly trading as Meat Up – from the private landlord in a deal brokered by agent Davis Coffer Lyons. The A3 site is held on a 15-year lease expiring in December 2030 at a passing rent of £75,000 per annum, occupying 1,208 square feet on the ground floor. The lease of Kurobuta’s site at 312-314 King’s Road, which occupies 3,530 square feet over ground floor and basement and includes a private dining room and bar, is now on the market through Davis Coffer Lyons. Kurobuta will continue to trade in King’s Road until the sale has been completed. Louie Gazdar, of Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Kurobuta’s new home in Fulham Road is a great fit for the brand and we have no doubt it will be a success.” Kurobuta is inspired by Japan’s izakayas in which tapas-style plates accompany drinks in a casual setting. Former Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth launched Kurobuta as a pop-up before opening sites in Chelsea and Marble Arch. The Marble Arch site continues to trade.

Albion and East Group to launch fourth London site, in Hoxton next month: Albion and East Group, which is supported by Imbiba, is to open its fourth London site, in Hoxton on Wednesday, 3 April. Serata Hall will open just off Old Street, close to the station, featuring an in-house distillery and bakery and offering food made on-site. The venue will feature super-fast Wi-Fi and hot-desk spaces with a bottomless coffee offer. The distillery will produce small batch Serata Hall gin, while hosting gin-blending masterclasses. The venue will also feature cocktail trolleys while hosting a mix of London DJs and live bands. Customers will be able to create their own cocktails or “book a bartender”. Serata Hall will also stock a range of absinthe served the French way with a slow-drop fountain, goblet, stirring spoon and sugar cube. Serata Hall will offer 12 wines on tap, the biggest selection of wine on tap outside the US, alongside five draught beers. The in-house Tiny Tower Bakery will produce pastries, cakes, bread and pizza dough for Serata Hall and its sister sites. The menu will focus on pizza cooked in a coal oven alongside pasta dishes and vegan options. Albion and East launched Martello Hall in Hackney in 2016, followed by Canova Hall in Brixton in May 2017. Cattivo opened next to Canova Hall in October last year.

Merseyside-based multi-site operators open third venue with Ei Publican Partnerships: Merseyside-based multi-site operators Adam and Sue Franklin have opened their third site with Ei Publican Partnerships – the Spitfire Pub & Kitchen in Southport – following a joint £300,000 investment. The couple have run a number of pubs in the past 25 years including their two sites with Ei Publican Partnerships – the Ring O’ Bells in Farnworth and the Horse & Jockey in Melling, which won best turnaround pub at Ei Group’s awards for excellence last year. New features at the Spitfire include a gin bar, open kitchen, terrace and outdoor children’s play area. The opening has created 40 jobs, while chef Adam Franklin has curated an all-day dining menu focusing on pub classics, homemade pizza and pasta, a Sunday carvery, and a world food section. Sue Franklin said: “We are thrilled to have taken on our third pub with Ei Publican Partnerships. We’ve developed an honest, trustworthy and transparent business partnership and we’re thankful for its support, confidence and investment in us.” Ei Publican Partnerships regional manager Delia Thynne added: “Pubs are more than just businesses, they are the heart of their communities. Adam and Sue have a tremendous track record of running much-loved and successful pubs and we’re delighted to further strengthen our partnership.” Ei Group has committed to investing about £80m per year in its circa 4,500-strong estate.

Charles Wells plans to develop Rising Stars training scheme as it sees first graduates: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells has marked the graduation of six team members from its inaugural Rising Stars training programme – and plans to develop the initiative further. It follows six months of extensive training, consisting of a mix of e-learning, on-the-job training, targeted workshops, product showcases and social learning strategies. Following the first graduations, which coincided with National Apprenticeship Week, Charles Wells plans to develop the initiative further with adaptable training to suit career paths across the organisation. Nicola Stevenson, head of HR at Charles Wells, said: “We have seen these six team members grow in confidence throughout their training and we’re delighted to reward them for their hard work. The feedback they’ve provided is invaluable and will help us continue to develop our employees by ensuring we can offer them the skills they need to develop their career with us and become one of the family.” Launched in 2018, the Rising Stars programme runs alongside Charles Wells’ apprenticeship programme in partnership with Lifetime Training.

Southampton-based Unity Brewing Co nears target in £130,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Southampton-based Unity Brewing Co is closing in on the £130,000 target of its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to double production and expand its taproom. The brewer is offering 7.51% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £1.6m. So far, 148 investors have pledged £111,890 with 29 days of the campaign remaining. Founded in late 2016, Unity Brewing Co said it became profitable within two years of launch with net profit of £6,476 in December 2018. It has also seen 105% year-on-year sales growth to £236,669 during the same period. The pitch states: “We are all about bringing together people, ingredients and ideas to create delicious beer that is more than the sum of its parts. Our beer is for both the curious and committed, spanning two key styles – super-soft pale ale and seasonal Belgian-style beer. We feel this combination gives us a strong identity. Unity is thriving in the highly competitive UK craft beer sector, which is growing at 1.7% per year. Our beer is sold in bars and shops all over the country and increasingly throughout Europe. Since 2016, the business has achieved increasing sales, developed what we believe to be an impressive profile and established a dedicated team. We’ve done all this so successfully we’re now struggling to meet demand and brewing at capacity on our 10HL kit while customers queue out the door in our on-site taproom. With your investment we’ll take on larger premises, purchase equipment to double capacity and build a destination taproom.”

Fuller’s launches The Hercules in Lambeth: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has opened its latest site in the capital, The Hercules in Lambeth. The pub has opened in Kennington Road under the stewardship of general manager Liam Mckeown. The ground floor features a bar and dining area plus a cubbyhole housing a fire. The bar offers 19 keg lines of craft beer and five cask pumps. The kitchen is open from breakfast to dinner, while there is a second bar upstairs available for hire and featuring a full-length shuffleboard table that can be hired by the hour. The walls of the 200-year-old building are decorated with circus pictures, posters and props in homage to Philip Asterly, father of the modern circus, who once had an amphitheatre nearby. Fuller’s managing director Jonathon Swaine said: “I am over the moon about this exciting addition to the Fuller’s estate. The building and area have a fascinating history and heritage – much like Fuller’s – so it’s a perfect fit in our rich portfolio of managed pubs. We wanted to pay homage to the grand circuses Lambeth became famous for in the late 18th century while remaining modern and forward-thinking with the beer and food offer.” In January, Fuller’s sold its beer business to Asahi for £250m. 

Greene King appoints new head brewer: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed Ross O’Hara as head brewer. O’Hara is the 17th head brewer in the company’s 220-year history, following in the footsteps of founder Benjamin Greene. O’Hara joined Greene King as a shift brewer in 2016 with a first-class honours degree in brewing from Heriot Watt University. He subsequently became new product development brewer as well as overseeing the brewery’s apprenticeship scheme. Last summer, aged 28, he became the world’s youngest master brewer after completing a four-year course from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Matt Starbuck, managing director of Greene King Brewing & Brands, said: “Ross is a highly knowledgeable and capable brewer, passionate about brewing with an exceptional technical ability and flair for innovation. He is a great advocate for brewing as a career opportunity, encouraging the development of others and driving forward our brewing apprentice scheme.” Meanwhile Scotland’s oldest working brewery, Belhaven, which Greene King acquired in 2005, has celebrated its 300th anniversary with a reception at Scottish Parliament. Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “Since acquiring Belhaven in 2005 we’ve held its heritage dear while developing the business considerably. We are pleased to mark this anniversary with a new visitors’ centre, which will open this summer.”

Go Ape to open its first Warwickshire attraction next month: Visitor attraction Go Ape will open its first site in Warwickshire next month. The company will open a site in Coombe Country Park, near Coventry, creating 30 jobs. The attraction will feature The Plummet, a 12-metre free-fall vertical drop, a dual Tarzan Swing and a 200m double zip course. Ben Davies, head of business development at Go Ape, told Insider Media: “The opportunity to bring our version of adventure to the wonderful surroundings of Coombe Abbey Park is a privilege.” Coombe Abbey Park managing director Richard Harrison said: “We are thrilled to be working with Go Ape to build its first course in Coventry and Warwickshire at Coombe Abbey. It is going to be a fantastic attraction for the area.” Go Ape has 33 sites in the UK and 16 in the US.

Independent cinema group Scott to anchor leisure-led Bridgwater scheme: Independent cinema group Scott Cinemas has agreed a deal to anchor a new leisure-led scheme in Bridgwater, Somerset. The company will occupy a 20,000 square foot property at the Northgate development having signed a 25-year lease with Sedgemoor District Council. The 40,000 square foot Northgate plans also include space for four restaurants, each of 3,000 square feet, as well as a first-floor 8,500 square foot gym/leisure space. Adjacent open space and gardens at Brewer Field will host a play and fitness area. Northgate is being brought forward by the council, which owns the site, and represents an £11m investment in the town. Scott Cinemas director Dan Harris told Insider Media: “We have operated in the town since 1983 and have seen admission levels rise to the point where we welcomed 105,000 people through our doors in 2018. It’s not a secret we’ve struggled to cater for demand in more recent years with a limited number of screens and lack of accessibility options, so we’re excited to be able to share our plans for the future.” The new development is expected to open in late 2021 or early 2022.

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