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Wed 27th Mar 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Brighton Pier Group – we’re receiving site offers every day: Brighton Pier Group chief executive Anne Ackord has told Propel the company is receiving site offers “every day”. Ackord said the company was looking at several locations as it continues expansion of its Paradise Island Adventure Golf concept. Two more sites are due to open – at Rushden Lakes, Northamptonshire, in the new few weeks and at Drake Circus shopping centre in Plymouth later this year. The latter, which will be the eighth site in total, will be the first to feature a bar. Ackord told Propel: “Experiential leisure is the way forward as we’ve seen with the various golf, darts and table tennis concepts being launched. We plan to have a bigger food and beverage offer in Plymouth and it will be the first Paradise Island Adventure Golf to have a bar. It’s a family attraction and we’re not going to lose sight of that but we think there’s room for such a format. In terms of the food, we’re still working on menus. Going forward, we’re looking at several sites at the moment – we have people coming to us every day with opportunities but we have to find the right ones.” Ackord added the rationalising of Brighton Pier Group’s bar estate was “effectively complete” leaving it with 11 profitable sites in the portfolio, although it was “looking at one more potentially”. She added: “We are now looking at how best to manage the estate and that’s going to take some time. We’ve got some great brands – we’re happy with what we've got. Who knows, we might expand again in the future – it depends on what’s on offer. None of the sites we have now are a distraction, which we’ve had in the past, they are all profitable businesses. We might look at converting to other formats in the future. They say variety is the spice of life but we’re happy with what each site offers at the moment.” The company is also teaming up with other Brighton businesses to promote the city ahead of Easter as railway engineering works on the mainline come to an end. Ackord said: “If you speak to anyone in Brighton you’ll know the disruption this has caused to businesses and residents and no doubt put people off visiting. That’s why we’re going to promote the city with a ‘Brighton is open’ social media campaign so we can get the message out there.”

Industry News:

Paul Charity gives his four takeaways from the administrator’s report on Patisserie Valerie for Premium subscribers: Propel managing director Paul Charity will look at the key findings from the administrator’s report on Patisserie Valerie in an article to be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Wednesday (27 March) at 5pm. He has picked through the gory details of the report and will reveal his four takeaways, including the lessons of “concertino values” in leasehold estates. Meanwhile subscribers will receive a 30-minute video on Friday (29 March) of Ten Entertainment Group chief executive Duncan Garrood giving his views on leadership and the customer experience. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. 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

Domino’s to launch in-car pizza-ordering platform: Domino’s Pizza is to launch an in-car pizza-ordering platform in partnership with auto technology company Xevo. The AnyWare platform, which will come pre-installed in millions of new cars, is set to launch late this year. AnyWare will allow customers to order via their dashboard touchscreen or place a call to a store while stuck in traffic. They will then be able to track their order and arrange to pick it up. The feature simulates Domino’s smartphone app. Chris Roeser, director of digital experience at Domino’s Pizza told Nation’s Restaurant News: “AnyWare will make ordering pizza easy, whether you’re in the car waiting for the kids or on your way home from work.” In 2014, Domino’s launched easy order technology in collaboration with Ford, which allowed customers to place pizza orders via a voice activation system.

Scottish business rates legislation ‘only the first step’: The Scottish government’s Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, published on Tuesday (26 March), is “only a first step” and needs to be followed by continued action across the whole of Britain, UKHospitality has said. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Business rates reform in the UK is long overdue so it’s positive to see the Scottish government listen to concerns and act on the recommendations of the Barclay Review. More frequent revaluations will help provide a degree of flexibility and move away from a system where bills were too often out of date and not a true reflection of the business. It is a positive first step but is only a first step and needs to be followed swiftly by continued action, not just in Scotland but across the rest of Britain. High-street businesses have been devastated by increasing costs and hospitality businesses have been particularly badly hit. We were promised a full review of the business rates system in the 2017 Conservative manifesto. That review has yet to materialise. The system is not fit for purpose and a relic of 20th century business, not reflective of the demands of modern business. Tinkering and piecemeal reform will only help so much.”

Trade bodies back government funding boost for Pub Is The Hub: Trade bodies have backed the announcement rural pubs are to receive £188,000 of government funding to deliver additional services such as post offices, shops and libraries. Minister Jake Berry announced 76 projects would receive money through Pub Is The Hub, the scheme that helps rural pubs branch out into new services for their communities. British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “This funding will boost rural community pubs across the UK, helping them remain viable. Pub Is The Hub is a great charity, which everyone in brewing and pubs supports. This additional funding will encourage others to support it too.” Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: “We see some great examples across the country of pubs diversifying their services to provide local amenities that would otherwise be missing from rural areas. To recognise the value in these services and help more pubs meet this need could be a huge boost for struggling rural pubs to continue running. That being said, the traditional wet-led pub shouldn’t be overlooked, whether in a rural or city centre setting. We’d like to see the government put together a comprehensive package of reform to support all pubs to help stem the tide of closures.” Pub Is The Hub chief executive John Longden said: “The minister will write to all major players in the pubs and drinks industry urging them to join the government in supporting village locals across the country. Government support for Pub Is The Hub now totals more than £500,000 and includes funding towards its Community Services Fund to help licensees better understand the needs of locals and deliver on these as best as possible.”

Restaurants sign up for first National Steak Day: A host of restaurants have signed up for the first National Steak Day. The initiative, launched early this month by American steak restaurant chain Smith & Wollensky, will take place on Thursday, 25 April during British Beef Week. National Steak Day founder Nathan Evans said: “National Steak Day was created to showcase the quality and excellence in our industry. With the likes of World Porridge Day and National Doughnut Week, it seemed strange not to have a National Steak Day.” To be part of the event, restaurants have to offer at least one steak on their menu at a 25% discount for the day or a special menu with added value for customers. For more details, visit www.thenationalsteakday.com. Smith & Wollensky launched in New York in 1977. After expanding across the US the company opened its first London site, just off the Strand, in June 2015.

Company News:

Domino’s top trio set to step down amid franchisee unrest: The three most senior board members at Domino’s Pizza Group are all preparing to step down amid a deepening row with franchisees. Domino’s has started a formal search to replace Helen Keays, who has served on the board for almost eight years including the past three as senior independent director, reports Sky News. The development was buried in the Domino’s Pizza annual report. Domino’s, which has exchanged increasingly fractious words with a newly established franchisees’ association, is also drawing up plans for the departures of chairman Stephen Hemsley and chief executive David Wild. The company has extended Hemsley’s term by an additional year to “facilitate orderly succession planning”, the report said. Domino’s Pizza shares have fallen by almost one-third in the past 12 months, leaving it with a market value during Tuesday morning trading of about £1.1bn. Keays has come under fire from some investors, who want a new senior independent director to give voice to their concerns in the Domino’s boardroom. The succession-planning process may be complicated by the fact Keays is the only woman on a nine-strong board at a time when listed companies are expected to ensure a third of directors are female by next year. The Sunday Times reported last month that relations between the company and the Domino’s Franchisee Association had deteriorated to such an extent its members were boycotting opening new stores during the first half of 2019. The row has thrown a spotlight on corporate governance at Domino’s Pizza, sparking concerns among shareholders about the tenure of Hemsley, who joined the board as finance director in 1998. Recently revised guidelines state chairmen are no longer deemed independent after a total of nine years on the board.

New-York based hotdog concept Nathan’s Famous lines up UK sites: New-York based hotdog concept Nathan’s Famous is heading to the UK. Sites have been lined up in Bournemouth and Southampton with RBA Restaurants UK, which has a registered address in Christchurch, leading the roll-out in Britain. RBA Restaurants UK has applied to Bournemouth Council to move into the former Heroes karaoke bar in Jaycee House in Old Christchurch Road, reports the Daily Echo. In its planning statement, RBA Restaurants UK said an outlet was also proposed in Southampton. The application stated: “The vibrancy and the popularity of the area has encouraged the American restaurant chain Nathan’s Famous to venture into the UK. It is a worldwide company founded in Brooklyn, New York, in 1916. The original Nathan’s Famous hotdog stand has opened every day and still operates in Coney Island.” That stall was founded by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker and launched with a Fourth of July hotdog eating contest that survives to this day.

Splendid Restaurants transforms two former Jack & Alice sites into new concept Coluco: Splendid Restaurants is transforming two former Jack & Alice sites into cafe bar concept Coluco. The company has launched the format in Tring, Hertfordshire, while the venue in Thame, Oxfordshire, features the new menu with a refurbishment planned for the summer. The name Coluco is drawn from the three pillars of the concept – coffee, lunch and cocktails. The menu, which is the same at both venues, includes brunch dishes such as smoked haddock kedgeree, and pancakes with blueberry compote and crème fraiche. Coffee is supplied by local roaster Flying Coffee Company. In the evening, there are seasonally changing sharing bowls, while burgers, pasta, beef rendang and daily specials are also on offer. The drinks menu features wine, craft beer, champagne, spirits and classic cocktails. In addition to all-day dining, the Thame venue will feature an upstairs room while it will also house The Cookery School, a sister site to the recently launched Cookery School at The Grand Hotel in York that is spearheaded by chef Rob Cottam. At Tring, the basement has been transformed into a cellar bar with a drawing room on the second floor. As reported by Propel, Splendid Restaurants retained the Tring and Thame sites when Mark and Vanessa Hall, co-founders of Jack & Alice, the award-winning local pantry wine bar concept, took full ownership of the brand and its site in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, last month.

Just Eat interim boss to receive up to £113,750 for ‘acting up’: Peter Duffy, interim chief executive of online food delivery business Just Eat, is receiving an “acting up” salary of up to £113,750 beyond his normal group chief customer officer salary, the company’s annual report has revealed. Duffy has been leading the group since the departure of Peter Plumb in January. The actual amount to be paid will be calculated on a per diem basis for the length of time Duffy is interim chief executive. Duffy is paid £386,250 for his role as chief customer officer so the combined amount is £500,000. The report showed Plumb will receive payments in lieu of notice equal to 12 months’ salary, car allowance and pension, totalling £754,750. It is being paid in 12 equal monthly instalments. As Plumb worked the full financial year, he was eligible to receive the annual bonus paid as a result of the company outperforming its revenue and underlying Ebitda targets. As a result, Plumb saw his total remuneration for the year ending 31 December 2018 more than treble to £1,574,148, compared with £458,293 the previous year. The 2018 figure consisted of £695,000 salary and fees, £26,398 in taxable benefits, £816,713 annual bonus, £4,484 in long-term incentive payments and £31,553 pension. Meanwhile, chief financial officer Paul Harrison saw his remuneration rise to £1,649,651, compared with £989,203 the year before. His 2018 figure consisted of £450,000 salary and fees, £39,897 in taxable benefits, £551,848 annual bonus, £585,406 in long-term incentive payments and £22,500 pension. Earlier this month, Duffy ruled himself out of taking the chief executive role on a permanent basis. Just Eat has been subjected to a barrage of criticism from US activist investor Cat Rock, which wants the company to be more profitable, sell off some of its divisions and consider a merger with one of its rivals. The activist investor, which owns 1.9% of Just Eat, has been calling for the company to pursue a merger with a rival such as Takeaway.com, a Dutch group in which Cat Rock has a 4.9% stake, as an alternative to appointing another chief executive without relevant experience.

McDonald’s $300m acquisition of Dynamic Yield is biggest investment since Chipotle: McDonald’s acquisition of decision-logic technology company Dynamic Yield is its biggest investment in 20 years, when it bought a stake in Chipotle. McDonald’s is reported to be paying more than $300m for Dynamic Yield as it aims to improve the personalisation of menus in its digital push. The new technology will allow McDonald’s restaurants to vary the display of items on electronic menu boards depending on factors such as the weather, time of day and regional preferences. The menus will also suggest add-on items to customers, reports Bloomberg. McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook said: “Technology is a critical element of our velocity growth plan.” Baird analyst David Tarantino said he saw “strategic value” in the deal, especially as McDonald’s tried to accelerate its growth and “elevate the customer experience”. McDonald’s tested Dynamic Yield’s technology in the US in 2018, and will more widely introduce it this year for drive-thru menus. McDonald’s also plans to expand the capability to markets abroad. It plans to continue investing in Dynamic Yield, which will remain a standalone company. McDonald’s has since divested its stake in Chipotle.

Meatcure to close remaining site almost three years after announcing expansion plans: East Midlands-based gourmet burger restaurant company Meatcure is set to close its remaining site almost three years after announcing plans to expand across the UK. The company will close its Market Harborough venue after blaming “excessive” rates and rents, reports The Business Desk. Meatcure was set up in 2014 by Paul Rigby and Rob Martyniak. At its height it had five restaurants – in Market Harborough, Leicester, Hinckley, Bedford and Leamington Spa. In June 2016 it revealed it was trying to raise £350,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to open a further five venues but the campaign closed a month later having seen more than half the amount pledged by investors. Meatcure blamed economic uncertainty following the EU referendum result and decided to pursue a “considered growth plan in line with our original ambitions”. A statement from Meatcure regarding the Market Harborough closure read: “We gave everything and invested every penny we had into making Meatcure the exceptional restaurant we all loved but, unfortunately, with excessive rents and rates, rising costs, fewer people spending than ever before, and no money behind us to give Meatcure the regeneration we believe it needed to stay current, we can no longer continue. We’ve battled for the past few weeks with our family and friends and our amazing staff beside us to exhaust all opportunities, ideas and paths – but our time is done.”

Grind to open additional site if it hits £3.5m capped crowdfunding target: Coffee and cocktail brand Grind has said it will open an additional company-owned site if it manages to hit its capped £3.5m target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company said it would also require less bank debt to execute its plan as its business plan was based on the initial £1.35m target, which it smashed within 24 hours of the campaign going public. Grind was offering 6.12% of its equity for the £1.35m investment, giving the firm a £34m pre-money valuation. So far, 1,438 investors have pledged £3,065,220. Grind previously said it was looking to grow to 36 sites by 2022 through a mixture of equity raised from its crowdfunding campaign, free cash flow and debt. Now it has revealed it will add one more to that number if it can hit the £3.5m mark before the raise closes on Sunday (31 March) at midnight. Chief executive and founder David Abrahamovitch said: “If we’re able to reach £3.5m we’ll use those funds to build a bigger business than planned by opening one additional large-format restaurant bar (company operated, not franchised). We are currently in discussions about a very exciting opportunity, which is currently off-plan, and this would give us the extra funding we’d need to complete on this and build a bigger group, faster. We’ll also buy a Grind coffee and cocktail truck to take Grind on the road to events, exhibitions and festivals in time for this summer. Further, we will de-leverage and change our debt/equity mix to execute on the business plan. The business plan presented in our Pitch Desk assumes the minimum raise of £1.35m. If we raise £3.5m, we will require less bank debt to execute the plan and will borrow less, de-risking our plan.” Grind is beginning its next phase of expansion with six central London openings in the next 18 months – taking its portfolio to 16 – plus a new coffee-roasting facility.

Elite Pubs to transform Bethersden restaurant into ninth pub following £1m refurbishment: Kent-based Elite Pubs is investing £1m to transform an Indian restaurant in Bethersden into its ninth pub. The Mumbai Gate in Ashford Road will become The Pig & Sty and return to being a pub more than a decade after the last pint was pulled. The name refers to Bethersden’s 1,000-year history of pig-breeding and Elite Pubs will forge links with the village, Kent Online reports. Bosses are in discussions with local rocking horse-makers the Stevenson Brothers and plan to name the pub’s private dining room The Rocking Horse Room, with items on display. The Pig & Sty will offer 120 covers in the main dining room, 35 in the private dining room, 60 in the bar and 150 in the garden, while a covered terrace with a burger shack will seat 50. The garden will also feature a play area when it reopens on 21 September. Elite Pubs was founded in 2004 by Martial Chaussy. It operates seven other pubs in Kent and one in East Sussex. The company also operates two cocktail bars in Kent, The Cow Shed in West Malling and Junipers in Maidstone.

Doncaster-based restaurateur to open Argentine steakhouse for third site: Doncaster-based restaurateur Masud Rana is to open an Argentine steakhouse in the South Yorkshire town for his third site. Rana will launch La Boca in the former Maridon Centre and Chapel in Nether Hall Road. The 60-seater restaurant will offer grilled meat, salads, burgers and sandwiches and is expected to open in mid-April. Rana told The Business Desk: “I am excited to be opening Doncaster’s first Argentine steakhouse. Doncaster is fast-building a reputation for great restaurants and I’m proud to be playing a part. La Boca is going to help breathe new life into the town centre and provide another choice when it comes to eating out in the borough.” Rana also owns La Rustica Italian in Doncaster and La Fiesta Tapas Bar and Restaurant in nearby Armthorpe.

Japanese restaurant to launch in former Bourgee site in Bury St Edmunds: A Japanese restaurant is set to open in grade I-listed Cupola House in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The building formerly housed steak-lobster lounge concept Bourgee. Cupola House is in the centre of the Suffolk town. Built in 1693 as a private home, it later became an apothecary, wine merchant and pub. From the 1990s, the premises traded as a Strada restaurant. In 2012, the property was damaged by fire and was rebuilt under the guidance of English Heritage. The building has been let to a local restaurant operator and will reopen later this year as an “authentic Japanese restaurant”. Gareth Hatton, of Fleurets, who oversaw the deal on behalf of landlord OMC Investments, said: “The letting of such a significant building demonstrates there is still appetite for independent operators looking to take on exciting new opportunities.” Bourgee went into administration last year but co-founders Mark Baumann and James Welling continue to operate Bourgee Bites – Bar – Luxe Lounge at London Southend airport. In November, Welling and Baumann opened a Bourgee site in Norwich.

Northwich-based bar operators open second site: Northwich-based bar operators Joe Wardle and Gail Woods have opened their second site in the Cheshire town. They have launched The Bull Ring NW in The Bull Ring. It joins sister site The Salthouse NW, which opened at Hayhurst Quay 18 months ago. The new venue offers craft beer, fine wine, artisan gin and coffee. Wardle told Cheshire Live: “The Bull Ring is such a historical location in the town and with great features on the building it screamed out to us the moment we saw it. Northwich is on the up. It’s home for us so it only felt right to naturally progress with the town and continue the journey in Northwich. At The Bull Ring NW we offer a more relaxed and contemporary drinking environment to The Salthouse but have kept the same consistency and quality in terms of products and service. Our drinks offering is different to our sister bar too.”

Shake Shack to relaunch new-look Covent Garden site on Thursday: Shake Shack is to relaunch its new-look Covent Garden site on Thursday (28 March). The new design features white oak and Carrara marble, while the venue now offers a heated outdoor dining area. The venue launched in 2013 as Shake Shack’s first London location. The venue will offer new additions to the Shake Shack menu, including a Caramel Bourbon Shake (vanilla frozen custard blended with caramel and bourbon), and the Royal Toffee House (vanilla frozen custard blended with chocolate toffee, chocolate chunks, salted caramel sauce and malt powder). Shake Shack offers 100% Aberdeen Angus beef burgers, griddled hotdogs and crispy crinkle cut fries. Since launching in New York in 2004, the company has expanded to more than 210 sites in the US and more than 70 international locations. The brand operates eight restaurants in London and one in Cardiff. Last month, Shake Shack reported 2.3% like-for-like sales growth in the fourth quarter to 24 February 2019.

Gourmet supper club operator launches debut Pakistani restaurant in London’s White City: Aida Khan, who has operated a gourmet Pakistani supper club, has opened her debut restaurant, at the former BBC headquarters in London’s White City. The new concept, Shola, offers dishes such as Beef Behari Kabab (slow-cooked, spiced beef with pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and chillies); and Khattee Daal, a mixture of lentils slow-cooked and tempered with curry leaves and whole red chillies. Desserts include Naan Khatai, a glazed semolina and flour cookie sprinkled with pistachio. Spices are roasted and ground on-site. Khan said: “I am trying to change the way Pakistani food is perceived in London. I grew up on healthy, light food but Pakistani food in the UK is associated with stodgy curries. At Shola our aim is to take you back to an era of simple, clean cooking, the way it has been done in our family kitchens for decades.” Other operators at the £8bn Television Centre development include Indian small plates concept Soho House, better pizza brand Homeslice, D&D London’s Bluebird and better burger brand Patty & Bun.

Hollywood Bowl opens Intu Lakeside site: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, has opened one of its largest centres to date, at Intu Lakeside’s £72m leisure-led extension. The 24-lane venue offers six VIP lanes, an American-style diner, bar and amusement area and is the first of four major attractions launching at the extension before summer. Hollywood Bowl will be followed by openings from indoor mini-golf experience Puttshack, trampoline park operator Flip Out, family entertainment centre Nickelodeon Adventure and a raft of restaurant brands. Food hall business Market Halls will also launch its first out-of-town concept, The Hall. Hollywood Bowl Group chief financial officer Laurence Keen said: “Our latest centre is one of the largest developments in our estate and we are confident it will flourish at Intu Lakeside’s new leisure-led expansion.” Rebecca Ryman, regional managing director at Intu, added: “The wave of leisure brands will transform Intu Lakeside’s customer experience, drawing in people from across the UK and creating new opportunities for the brands operating here.” Hollywood Bowl Group currently operates 60 venues under the Hollywood Bowl and AMF Bowling brands.

Lakeland hotel brought to market for £1.5m: The freehold of Oak Bank Hotel in Grasmere in the Lake District has been brought to market for an asking price of £1.5m. The hotel comprises 13 en-suite letting rooms set across three floors. On the ground floor there is also a lounge, bar and The Dining Room, a two AA Rosette and Michelin Plate-awarded restaurant with a 30-cover conservatory that leads to private gardens on the banks of the river Rothay. The main building also offers two-bedroom staff accommodation, while there is owners’ accommodation in the form of a three-bedroom, detached house to the rear of the hotel. The current owners are looking to retire. Alistair Greenhalgh, director of Christie & Co, which is handling the sale, said: “Oak Bank Hotel is perfectly suited for an owner-operator to start trading immediately. Grasmere is one of the Lake District’s most popular tourist destinations and presents potential for a new owner to extend the current trading period and take advantage of the area’s year-round custom.”

Nando’s to open Reigate restaurant at former Prezzo site next month: Nando’s is to open a restaurant at a former Prezzo site in Reigate, Surrey, next month. Nando’s will open the venue in High Street on Wednesday, 17 April, creating 40 jobs. It will have seating for 113 diners and also offer takeaway options, reports Surrey Live.

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