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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 29th Mar 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Vinoteca to review options: Vinoteca, the London-based wine bar, restaurant and retail concept, has appointed advisors as its looks to secure funding for its next stage of growth, Propel has learned. The company, which was founded by Brett Woonton, Charlie Young and Elena Ares in 2005, is understood to have appointed Dow Schofield Watts London to advise on funding options for the five-strong business. Serial sector investor Paul Campbell acquired a stake in the then two-strong business at the end of 2012. Young and Woonton, who met 18 years ago when they both worked at Liberty Wines, opened the first Vinoteca in Farringdon before expanding to sites in Marylebone, Chiswick, King’s Cross and the City. The latter, the group’s largest site to date, opened in Bloomberg’s new European headquarters – Vinoteca City comprises three dining spaces set over two floors in Bloomberg Arcade. Last year the company, which is currently thought to turn over circa £8m, closed its restaurant and bar in Soho’s Beak Street because of licensing restrictions but it’s believed to be looking for a new site nearby. It is currently in negotiations on a first regional site, in Birmingham, with the company linked to an opening next year at 1 Chamberlain Square at the heart of the Paradise development in the city to sit alongside Indian restaurant brand Dishoom. Last year Vinoteca launched a wine membership club in which consumers sign up to receive a hand-picked case of six wines per month. The company’s decision to review its options follows peer wine bar concept Vagabond securing investment from Imbiba in August to fund further expansion in the capital.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett looks at McDonald’s tech deal and former Uber boss Travis Kalanick’s Foodstars acquisition for Premium subscribers: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at McDonald’s $300m Dynamic Yield deal and the acquisition by former Uber boss Travis Kalanick of London “dark kitchens” company Foodstars in his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (29 March) at 5pm. He will also add further thoughts on leadership, while the mailout will offer two further opinion pieces – Chilango co-founder Eric Partaker will reveal how Skype allowed him to build the brand, while leading consultant Simon French, of Bixteth Partners, will focus on the growing talent drain at the top of the sector. Meanwhile subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday of Ten Entertainment Group chief executive Duncan Garrood, in which he reveals 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, 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 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

Italian cuisine remains Europe’s favourite as British grub gets snubbed: Italian is the favourite cuisine in Europe’s major capital cities but British food is lagging far behind, according to a new study by AccorHotels. The hotel company analysed almost 52,000 restaurants and 76 cuisines. While there are 11,036 Italian restaurants across 20 European capital cities there are only 3,091 dedicated to British food – most of them in London. There are only two British restaurants in Lisbon, four in Athens and three in Reykjavik. There are 3,793 Italian restaurants in Rome, 1,529 in London, 1,157 in Moscow and 1,016 in Paris. French and Mediterranean cuisine ranked second and third on the list, with 7,605 and 4,774 restaurants respectively. Spanish, Japanese and Greek filled the fourth, fifth and sixth spots. The love of Japanese cuisine was spearheaded by Moscow, with more than 1,000 restaurants – or one in five – of its venues dedicated to Japanese cuisine. Portuguese is the least popular cuisine, averaging only 0.39% density across the other 19 cities apart from Lisbon. There are 2,889 British restaurants in London, meaning we favour our own food, but Amsterdam citizens aren’t so fond of Dutch food – it has the smallest proportion of restaurants dedicated to its native cuisine, making up only 15.5% of the city’s total. In terms of variety, Berlin came top with 54 cuisines to choose from, while London was second with 50.

BMC report linking alcohol with cancer is ‘misguided and misleading’: A report by the British Medical Council (BMC) that links alcohol with cancer and compares smoking with drinking is “misguided and misleading”, UKHospitality has said. The report, entitled “A comparison of gender-linked population cancer risks between alcohol and tobacco: how many cigarettes are there in a bottle of wine?”, was published on Thursday (28 March). The study concludes: “One bottle of wine per week is associated with an increased absolute lifetime risk of alcohol-related cancers in women, driven by breast cancer, equivalent to the increased absolute cancer risk associated with ten cigarettes per week. These findings can help communicate that moderate levels of drinking are an important public health risk for women. The risks for men, equivalent to five cigarettes per week, are also of note.” However, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls responded: “While this study will drive some headlines in the popular press, it is entirely misguided and misleading and we believe the BMC should and must do better. All studies agree there is an immediate health risk from smoking, whereas studies show this isn’t the case with drinking alcohol. Indeed, moderate drinking can benefit well-being so to try to compare the two in this way is wrong. This is about communicating a potential increase in risk and this study confuses rather than clarifies. The 4% of the population drinking at harmful levels needs addressing but latest research is more positive, showing a third of UK adults are drinking less than they were as little as six months ago. This is across the board, including young adults, middle-aged consumers and older drinkers, with health given as the number one reason – so the public health message is clearly working.”

Company News:

Time Out to open three markets on average annually, strong pipeline in place for next five years: Time Out Group chief executive Julio Bruno has told Propel the company is looking to open an average of two or three Time Out Markets annually and has a strong pipeline in place for the next five years. The company will open venues this year in Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago and its first management agreement, in Montreal, as it builds on its debut market, which launched in Lisbon in 2015. Further sites are earmarked, including Prague and London, where a deal has been secured for a 32,500 square foot market to open in the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo in 2021. Meanwhile, the company continues to negotiate regarding a proposed site in Spitalfields, east London. Speaking on the back of the company’s full-year results Bruno said having made some fine-tuning to the concept Time Out now had a proven model in place that could be rolled out. By the end of the year Time Out’s markets will total 185,000 square feet, almost 4,000 seats and offer food from 120 chefs. Bruno said: “Each one will feel different. Working with our journalists, we are able to choose the chefs to come in to make sure we have the best in that community. They want to work with us because we are Time Out – and that is a huge differentiator against the large numbers of competitors coming into the space. There’s a real appetite for this new way of eating out. That’s why the seating is communal – we’re creating communities around a culinary experience. We are constantly contacted to open other sites. We would love to do them all but we can’t. We have a strong pipeline in place for the next five years and we’ll continue to build. There are many exciting places out there for us.” In terms of the UK the company is concentrating on London, continuing to develop the Waterloo plans, while Bruno is hopeful the Spitalfields planning saga will finally be resolved. He said: “We were born in London in 1968 so it’s great to finally open a market in our home city with Waterloo and, hopefully, we’ll have two if we can get Spitalfields approved. As I said, we’ve had approaches, including in the UK, but we have to be careful where we spend our capital. We are concentrating on London for now.”

David Page – cutting back openings and focusing on menus key to getting back on track: Fulham Shore chairman David Page has told Propel the company’s decision to cut back on openings and focus on improving its Franco Manca and The Real Greek menus has been key to getting the business back on track in the past 12 months. Speaking following the company’s trading update, Page said the company had made a number of changes, all without putting up prices. At Franco Manca the menu is being changed quarterly, with Michelin-starred chefs brought in to create a pizza of their choice as part of the offer. Gluten-free pizza bases have also been added. A vegan menu was introduced at The Real Greek and a number of dishes have been reinvigorated while prices there too have remained the same. Page said: “We took the decision to cut the number of openings from 13 to four so we could concentrate more on the existing business. We’ve brought in a number of initiatives without increasing prices and I think customers are recognising that and coming through the doors.” The changes have helped each business steadily improve their turnover in each quarter of this financial year, culminating in a particularly strong trading performance towards the end of the financial year. Page said it had allowed the company to free up £6.5m, which would be used for ten openings in the new financial year. He said the company would open seven or eight Franco Manca sites and two or three Real Greek restaurants. Six of the possible eight Franco Manca sites have already been secured while negotiations are taking place on the three potential Real Greek locations. Page said the focus for now was on the UK business rather than venturing further into Europe and adding to its one Franco Manca site in Italy, although he admitted discussions had taken place. He said: “We have spoken to people in Germany, Sweden, India and the Gulf but we’re concentrating on the UK at the moment. Unless something spectacular comes up, I can’t see us doing anything on that front in the next year or two. We need to find the right partner – we don’t want to do any hand-holding.”

PizzaExpress unveils new brand proposition at Oxford Circus: PizzaExpress has unveiled its new brand proposition at the company’s restaurant in Oxford Circus. The redesigned central London site features a theatre kitchen and dedicated bar. The site will be used to “inform future openings and refurbishments based on learnings from the launch”. The concept is based on four pillars – food, drink, music and creativity – and follows extensive customer research. The kitchen at the 137-cover site has been repositioned to take centre stage, with white marble tables and teal and rose furnishings in the main dining area. PizzaExpress has partnered with Italian beer brand Peroni Nastro Azzurro to create the destination bar, which is positioned by the entrance and caters for 30 covers. It focuses on cocktails and Peroni beer. PizzaExpress staff have also had a say in the new look, which includes redesigned uniforms. A second “test and learn” site will launch in Leeds next month using the same template as the central London site. Peter Boizot founded PizzaExpress in 1965. Managing director Zoe Bowley said: “In-depth consumer and market research has helped us develop a new offering, which not only stays true to our incredible heritage and Peter’s original vision for the brand but also helps us understand the critical elements to future-proof the business.” PizzaExpress operates more than 600 restaurants worldwide, 425 of them in the UK. Earlier this month the company launched casual concept ZA in the City of London offering coffee and pastries from 7am and pizza by the slice from lunchtime until “late”.

Innis & Gunn converts Edinburgh Beer Kitchen into new taproom concept ahead of roll-out: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has converted its Beer Kitchen site in Edinburgh into a new taproom concept. The site in Lothian Road has relaunched as The Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom, which offers 26 taps of Innis & Gunn craft beer, including tank lager and small-batch brews, alongside beer from other Scottish craft brewers. The company will now convert its other Beer Kitchen sites, in Glasgow and Dundee, to the new “brand experience”. Innis & Gunn founder and master brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp said: “It has been almost four years since we opened our first bar – The Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom is the next evolution. Retail is a key pillar of our strategic plan to hit £40m turnover by 2021 and continues to be an area we believe has huge potential commercially and in terms of brand recruitment and value. Our plan is to roll out the Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom identity and brand experience across our Beer Kitchen sites in Glasgow and Dundee during the summer. Expansion remains part of our longer-term retail strategy and the plans for our new brewery to open in Edinburgh in the next two years will include an on-site visitors’ centre and taproom, establishing a new craft beer destination in Scotland.” In 2017, Innis & Gunn achieved its 14th consecutive year of double-digit volume growth, selling 2.5 million cases of beer in more than 35 countries.

Hawthorn Leisure appoints Ei Group’s Ashley Lovett as operations director: Hawthorn Leisure has appointed Ashley Lovett as operations director – south. Lovett joins from Ei Group, with Hawthorn Leisure national operations director Andy Parker becoming operations director – north. The operations team has grown to 28 following the integration in January of nine managers from LT Management, which handled the day-to-day running of the NewRiver pub estate. Lovett, who will report into managing director of operations Mark McGinty, will develop a “robust capital development pipeline” in London and the south east. McGinty said: “Ashley is an outstanding people leader, is passionate about growing talent and developing high-performing teams, and has an innate ability to cut through the noise and drive action while possessing an impressive track record of delivering profit growth.” Lovett, who joined Ei Group in 2009 and worked in several senior management roles, added: “I am excited to join this young, ambitious pub company.” Last month, NewRiver completed the integration of the Hawthorn Leisure pub business. The integration includes combining all IT, finance and HR systems and means all NewRiver’s 671 community pubs – 22% of its portfolio by value – are managed by Hawthorn Leisure.

TGI Friday’s invests £250,000 in staff who create a ‘buzz’: TGI Friday’s has invested £250,000 in a new staff incentive programme that will see 500 team members receive an extra week’s wages. The Buzz Challenge will reward team members with bonus pay in return for helping generate “buzz”. TGI Friday’s said internal research had identified a “clear link” between positive buzz around restaurants and an increase in sales – with “buzz” defined as a combination of customer satisfaction scores and social media ratings and reviews. TGI Friday’s will examine buzz scores from three periods in 2019, with stores that generate the biggest increase in each of the company’s nine UK regions awarded a paid-for team event. The restaurant with the highest overall increase will be rewarded with an extra week’s wages for all staff. At the end of the year, teams at the five restaurants with the highest buzz scores will receive another week’s wages – rising to two weeks’ for the overall winning team. Jacqui McManus, culture and people development director, said: “Positive buzz is the output of delivering great experiences and we have put a lot of work into quantifying this through several measures. We want to reward team members in ways that make a real difference to them.” Owned by Electra Private Equity, TGI Friday’s operates 85 venues in the UK.

The Coconut Tree secures Cardiff site for Welsh debut: Sri Lankan street food operator The Coconut Tree is to make its debut in Wales after securing a site in Cardiff. The four-strong company, which was founded in 2016, will open in Mill Lane later this year. In November, the company launched its second site in Bristol and fourth in total. The 70-cover restaurant opened at The Triangle in Clifton only a month after the brand launched a site in the city’s Cheltenham Road. The Coconut Tree offers tapas-style plates such as battered spicy cuttlefish and family-style sharing dishes such as hoppers – a bowl-shaped coconut milk pancake served with sambal and Sri Lankan salsa.

Island Poke secures seventh site to build central London presence: Island Poke, the White Rabbit Fund-backed concept, is to further strengthen its presence in central London after securing a site in Victoria. The group has taken the former Doughnut Time site in Victoria Street. Founder James Gould Porter told Propel the company would start on-site next Thursday ahead of a mid-May opening. The company is also thought to be in talks on a site in Waterloo. Earlier this month, Propel revealed the company had appointed Georgina Stevens, previously of Benito’s Hat, as its new finance director. At the same time Richard Zivkovic, formerly of Abokado, Costa and Pret A Manger, joined the company as operations director. Zivkovic stepped down as chief operations officer at Abokado last year after three years with the Mark Lilley-led business. Island Poke opened its latest site, at 42 Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, in November.

Leon set for Notting Hill Gate: Natural fast food brand Leon is to further enhance its London estate with an opening at 48-51 Notting Hill Gate. The company opened its latest site, in Broadwick Street, Soho, earlier this year. The outlet, its 53rd in the UK, is a few hundred metres from Carnaby Street where Leon opened its first restaurant in 2004. A further site will open this spring in Cheshire Oaks in partnership with HMSHost. Leon has grown to 63 restaurants globally, with locations in the UK, Washington DC, Oslo, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Gran Canaria, and plans to grow in other cities across Europe, the Middle East and the US. Leon will further boost its international presence when it makes its debut in Switzerland later this year. The group will open a site in October at the main train station in Basel under its partnership agreement with HMSHost (Autogrill). Last year, Leon announced its plans to open a further 20 stores in Europe and the Middle East through its partnership with HMSHost. Leon has already opened nine sites with the American highway and airport foodservice company – three in the UK and six in the Netherlands – and is looking to extend its reach into key transport hubs.

Pasta Loco team to double up: Cousins Dominic Borel, Ben Harvey and Joe Harvey, the team behind Bristol restaurants Pasta Loco and Pasta Ripiena, are to double their portfolio by launching two venues in the city. The first venture, La Sorella Food and Wine, will be an Italian “cantina” and will open in St Stephen’s Street at a site previously occupied by Hanoi Coffee Co. It will offer homemade pasta alongside cheese and meat. Baker Frankie Parry Jones will make bread and cakes on-site daily, while Wogan Coffee will create a bespoke brand. Dominic Borel told Bristol Live: “The joy of a cantina is you can eat in or take away, so nobody misses out. Whether you have five minutes or a couple of hours, you’ll be met with the sort of welcome and produce our team have built their reputation on at Pasta Loco and Pasta Ripiena.” The second site will be an Italian trattoria, which will launch at a site in Montpelier formerly occupied by Bell’s Diner. Borel said: “We couldn’t resist the site as Bell’s Diner was a legendary restaurant and we grew up nearby. We still have a lot to do but we hope to open in the summer.” The cousins launched Pasta Loco in Cotham Hill in 2016 and Pasta Ripiena in St Stephen’s Street in April last year. 

Neds Noodle Bar to open debut franchise site next month for number five, in Southampton: London-based Neds Noodle Bar is to open its debut franchise site, in Southampton next month. The brand operates two venues in the capital and one each in Basildon and Oxford. The venue will launch on the first floor of Marlands Shopping Centre early next month at a unit that formerly housed Warrens Bakery. Neds Noodle Bar will offer Neds Noodle Boxes, which feature noodles, a filling, sauce and vegetables, to eat in or take away. The brand’s starters include gyoza and calamari strips, while the brand also offers soup, rice, salad, children’s boxes and desserts. Franchise partner Elnety Fernandez told Insider Media: “Southampton has been crying out for a healthy noodle place for a while, and early interest in Neds Noodle Bar bodes well. Born out of London and with a huge following there, we can’t wait for the people of Southampton to try Neds Noodle Boxes with so many varieties to try, including vegetarian and vegan options.” James Breslaw and Roberto Marroni opened the first Neds Noodle Bar in London in 2000.

Victor Garvey makes City of London debut: Spanish chef and restaurateur Victor Garvey has launched his first solo restaurant in the City of London. Barullo has opened in Bevis Marks at a space formerly occupied by James Cochran EC3. It offers Spanish cuisine with a Catalonian focus. The full menu is available for takeaway or delivery and features dishes such as kiko fried chicken, roast and pressed suckling pig, and toasted coconut ice cream, Hot Dinners reports. Garvey, who also owns Catalan restaurant Rambla in Soho, closed his Covent Garden restaurant Sibarita last month to focus on launching Barullo. In January 2018, Garvey took ownership of Sibarita and Rambla under the umbrella of the newly incorporated Garvey Restaurant Holdings. He also plans to launch Bar Jaleo in Soho this year.

Company behind Tamworth snow dome expects ‘strong and steady’ trading after ‘navigating economic challenges’: The company behind a real snow, sport and leisure complex in Tamworth, Staffordshire, has said it expects to see “strong and steady” trading after “successfully navigating economic challenges”. Snowdome Group reported turnover increased to £8,258,013 for the year ending 30 September 2018, compared with £8,004,104 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up to £2,385,803, compared with £2,348,711 the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The wider general economy in the year remained challenging for a business such as ours, which relies on discretionary spend from customers’ disposable income. The group has therefore needed to remain vigilant over its cost base and attentive to optimise revenue streams. The board looks forward to continued strong and steady trading results.”

Inception Group shortlisted for digital market award after bar launch campaign goes viral: Bar and nightclub operator Inception Group has been shortlisted in the digital category of The Drum Awards for its campaign surrounding the launch of its venue Mr Fogg’s Society Of Exploration. The integrated PR and marketing activation offered to send two job applicants on an around-the-world adventure following in Phileas Fogg’s footsteps while sourcing inspiration for a new cocktail along the way. The initiative received 8,000 applicants from across the globe, with a more than 649% increase in social media traffic to the website and more than 1,000 new followers within a week of launch. Additionally, after appearing in 120 media publications and Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds offering himself up for the job in a tweet, the campaign drove 119,606 new users to the Around The World activation page, with a more than 180% increase in new users on the Mr Fogg’s website. This resulted in more than 1,000 covers booked before Mr Fogg’s Society Of Exploration had even opened in the Strand. Head of marketing Simon Allison said: “We can’t wait to come up with more innovative and exciting launch campaigns as the business continues to grow.” The awards will be held at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge on Wednesday (3 April).

Hache opens Kingston site: Hache, the burger concept owned by Hush Brasserie, has opened a site in Kingston-upon-Thames. The company has transformed the former CAU site in Riverside Walk into Hache Riverside Social. Hush Brasserie founder Jamie Barber previously told Propel the site would be the brand’s largest yet and incorporate an all-day offer for the first time, alongside a roastery. Barber said: “We want to take our time expanding and, unless something amazing presents itself in terms of a new site opportunity, this will be our only opening this year.” Hush Brasserie, led by Cabana co-founder Barber, former Richoux Group managing director Ed Standring, and ex-Wagamama chief executive Ian Neill, acquired Hache in September 2016 from founders Berry and Suzie Casey. It also operates the original Hush restaurant in Mayfair.

Freehold investment of Camberwell pub on market for £1.25m: The freehold investment of the Nag’s Head in Camberwell, south London, has gone on sale with an asking price of £1.25m, reflecting a 6% gross initial yield. The property in Camberwell Road, which is being sold by MCR Property Group through agent Christie & Co, is currently let on a 20-year lease. The two-storey, end-of-terrace property comprises a pub on the ground floor with central bar, a beer cellar and storage in the basement, a three-bedroom flat on the first floor and a large beer garden. The site comes with planning permission to extend the property. Christie & Co business agent James Laskowski said: “Potential buyers would benefit from the considerable income stream and possible long-term capital value growth given the nature of the asset and its location.”

Coca-Cola to launch first energy drink under its own brand: Coca-Cola is launching its first energy drink under its own brand as the company looks to target young adults and branch out into different occasions. Coca-Cola Energy will come in two variants – with and without sugar – and will launch in the UK in late April. Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, told Marketing Week: “Our strategy is to offer people a range of drinks to meet different lifestyles and occasions and Coca-Cola Energy is the latest example of that. We’re launching Coca-Cola Energy with and without sugar and we’ll continue to expand and diversify our range of products to offer British consumers a wider choice of drinks.” Javier Meza, Coca-Cola global chief marketing officer, said in a company blog the new drink was “in line with our work to diversify our legacy brands”, pointing to the recent launch of Coca-Cola Plus Coffee and the relaunch of Diet Coke in four new flavours. Coca-Cola Energy will be available in 250ml cans featuring packaging with its own visual identity but clearly part of the Coca-Cola brand. It will contain almost four times as much caffeine as ordinary Coke – 80mg per 250ml compared with 24mg.

Zonal expects turnover to pass £60m in current financial year on back of increased investment: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has said it expects to see turnover exceed £60m in its current financial year on the back of increased investment. The announcement comes as the company, which is marking its 40th anniversary this year, reported turnover remained flat at £54m for the year ending 30 June 2018. Operating profit before tax was down to £3.7m, compared with £4m the previous year after it increased investment in research and development by £2m to £6.9m. Its Software As A Service sales revenue increased 95%. The strategic acquisition of Comtrex Systems Corporation in 2018 further strengthened the group’s customer base and delivered further expansion into North America. Due to its considerable investment in research and development, net margins were down 0.4% to 7.0%. Cash balances grew sharply, by £5.6m to £13m. The company recruited more than 100 additional employees during the year, with research and development taking the lion’s share, catapulting Zonal’s workforce to more than 650. Chief executive Stuart McLean said: “Research and development will continue to be a key focus for Zonal as we look to enhance our offering and develop new products in 2019. These are exciting times and we look forward to another 40 years of cutting-edge innovation.”

Roberts & Treguer to open third London pub with rooftop terrace, off Brick Lane in May: Roberts & Treguer, the company behind all-day, four-storey pub restaurant The Culpeper in Spitalfields and The Green in Clerkenwell, are to open a third site in London, in May. The Buxton will launch in Osborn Street, off Brick Lane, after the company took over The Archers pub. The seven-storey space will offer 15 rooms and a guest-only rooftop terrace featuring an honesty bar and Swedish hot tub. The ground floor will feature an open kitchen and bar restaurant with 30 covers, plus an iron staircase providing access to the bedrooms. The menu will offer “regional European dishes focusing on responsible sourcing and seasonality”, Hot Dinners reports. Roberts & Treguer’s other sites also feature rooftop gardens.

Chester racecourse owner partners with Aiden Byrne for new dining concept: The owner of Chester racecourse has partnered with Aiden Byrne for a new dining concept. Chester Race Company, which also operates a portfolio of pubs and restaurants, will launch Parade With Aiden Byrne. The invite-only, live-sports entertainment experience will run for the duration of the race season. Byrne, who is behind MCR in Manchester having acquired the site out of administration from Living Ventures, will create a seasonal, six-course tasting menu on race days. Chester Race Company chief executive Richard Thomas said: “Our team has been working around the clock to create this race day concept and we are thrilled to collaborate with Aiden, whose execution and attention to detail we’ve admired for some time.” Byrne added: “The open-plan kitchen will provide theatre, creating the perfect ambience, while the menu will feature a range of seasonal dishes using local suppliers I believe in.” Chester Race Company’s pub portfolio includes Commonhall Street Social in the city centre and The Yew Tree in nearby Bunbury.

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