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Tue 9th Apr 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Casual Dining Group reports first quarter like-for-likes up 4.2%: Casual Dining Group (CDG), the circa 280-strong operator of the Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge brands, has reported an encouraging start to the year with like-for-like sales up 4.2% for the 13 weeks since the new year, aided by diversification of its business. The company, which said it is continuing its search for a successor to outgoing chief executive Steve Richards, recorded a 2.6% rise in like-for-like sales for the past 11 months aided by “proactive steps”, which included refinancing with its existing shareholder and lender group, reaching positive agreements with property partners, and investing and diversifying across its brands. The group also announced seven UK openings and a further seven franchise openings in Ireland and the Middle East for 2019. It said it was also set to embark on the “major refurbishment” of its core estate, which would cover 30 sites. The company said its increased focus on diversification had led to double-digit delivery growth from virtual brands including Blazing Bird and partnerships with the likes of Deliveroo. It said it had also seen double-digit growth from its new partnerships with Tesco, Three Mobile and Cineworld. Richards said: “Over the past 18 months we have taken proactive steps to underpin the company’s future growth potential at a time when the sector has faced unprecedented challenges.” For the prior FY2017/18, revenue declined 0.5% to £327.4m while the group’s uninvested estate saw like-for-like sales drop 0.6%. Adjusted Ebitda for the period was down £4m to £25.9m. During the year to the end of May 2018, the company restructured its balance sheet in light of KKR taking control of the business from former majority shareholder Apollo, the consequence of which led to a £30m cash injection to fund future projects but also a non-cash, goodwill write-down of £209.6m. The group said it now had a “restructured balance sheet to position the business for growth with low gearing and access to funding from existing shareholders, as required”. Richards said: “The historic performance in the prior year reflects the difficulties the wider sector faced but we are confident our proactive measures, the support of our shareholders, and our diversification by brand, channel and geography mean CDG is strongly positioned.”

Industry News:

Katy Moses to feature in next video for Propel Premium subscribers: KAM Media founder and director Katy Moses will feature in the next 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (12 April). Moses reports the findings of exclusive research on the behavioural characteristics of Generation Z. 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. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. 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

Foodservice inflation hits record high of 9.8% in March but may have peaked: Foodservice inflation hit a record high of 9.8% in March as fish and fruit prices rose – but the figure may have peaked, the latest Foodservice Price Index from CGA and Prestige Purchasing has revealed. The fish category saw another jump in inflation month-on-month, with much of the increase down to difficulties in the North Sea where poor weather has kept ships off key fishing grounds for long periods. Fishing vessels have already been limited to lower quotas for cod and haddock in the past year. Inflation in the fruit category also remained high in the month but is expected to ease as the UK’s reliance on imports reduces moving through spring and into summer. Similarly dairy commodities, while still up compared with 12 months ago, have also started to fall and are expected to continue doing so heading into the peak production season. The oils and fats category has continued to trend downwards and now sits below levels seen in March 2018. The meat category has fallen again this month as it recovers from the peak of Christmas demand. Pork and lamb prices remain down from this time last year but demand for certain products such as bacon has seen recent uplifts. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “Food prices in the sector have been consistently tracking at higher levels for nearly a year and the latest inflation level of almost 10% this month reflects the extent of how much the supply markets have been impacted compared with the same period last year. However, the outlook on inflation is looking more positive for operators as inflation in the sector looks to have peaked and is forecast to drop over the coming months subject still, of course, that the outcome of Brexit doesn’t lead to major disruption to availability of products from the EU and introduction of World Trade Organisation tariffs.” Fiona Speakman, CGA client director – food, added: “The challenge of inflation in the foodservice sector intensified yet again this month, with prices of important items such as fish and fruit running at high levels. Combined with Brexit-related economic uncertainty, patchy consumer confidence and various supply issues, it is making forecasting extremely difficult for operators across the industry.” The Foodservice Price Index is jointly produced by CGA and Prestige Purchasing using foodservice data drawn from 7.8 million transactions per month. More information on specific categories is available on a subscription basis.

London’s high-end ‘influencer’ bars see experiences surge in popularity: London’s high-end “influencer” bars are seeing the popularity of experiences such as masterclasses and tastings surge while Japanese whiskey and vermouth are among the most fashionable drinks, according to a new report. The 2018 Influencers Report by CGA and online guide DrinkUp.London identified the 100 most influential bars in the capital where more than half (52%) of consumers drink out at least once a week compared with less than one-third (29%) in the rest of the country. The biggest rise in popularity is in experiences, with 93% of London’s most influential bars planning experiential activities such as mixologist masterclasses, tasting sessions and meet-the-distiller evenings in the next 12 months. Almost three-fifths (58%) of visitors to those influencer bars have been to such an event in the past year. The research also revealed three-quarters (75%) of those bars stock whiskey from beyond mainstream producers such as Scotland and Ireland, while more than one-fifth (21%) of managers tip vermouth as a big drinks trend in 2019 and more than two-thirds (70%) think no and low alcohol will be a trend to watch. Regarding social media, two-thirds (67%) of guests said they had uploaded a picture of a cocktail. CGA business unit director for drinks Jonny Jones said: “London is the world’s best city for bars and an incubator of trends that reverberate far and wide. This report shows how quickly new drinks and serves are adopted and how events, social media and sustainability are becoming essential elements of the London bar experience. Getting it right across the board sets brands up for success in the lucrative London market and further afield.” DrinkUp.London founder Hannah Sherman-Cox added: “An exceptional drinks offer isn’t always enough to cut it with today’s demanding and experimental consumers. Offering something fresh and memorable is essential.”

CAMRA to challenge large pub-owning companies and campaign for MUP in England: Members of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have carried motions at its AGM and conference in Dundee to campaign for the introduction of minimum unit pricing in England and against large pub-owning companies converting pubs from tenanted to managed. Members met to debate a number of motions and elect the campaign’s new board of directors. Abigail Newton was elected vice-chairman at the conference and will join new national chairman Nik Antona in steering the campaign, with Jackie Parker and Ian Packham officially stepping down as chairman and vice-chairman respectively. Four members joined the national executive – Gary Timmins, Catherine Tonry, Hubert Gieschen and Jonathan Kemp – with Nick Boley and Ian Garner re-elected for a second term. Giving his first Campaigns Report, chief executive Tom Stainer said: “Just as the beer landscape has changed so has CAMRA, and so it must continue. Nowhere is this better reflected than in our campaigning. We shouldn’t be afraid to welcome bold new thinking and new ideas.”

Cider sales near £2bn mark for first time as category’s appeal broadens: Cider sales are nearing the £2bn mark for first time as the category’s appeal continues to broaden in the on-trade, according to this year’s Westons Cider Report. Westons said it had been another strong year for fruit cider in the on-trade including the launch of Stowford Press Mixed Berries, which hit one million sales within six months of its April 2018 launch. In last year’s report Westons predicted fruit cider would account for half of all cider sold by 2023 but with fruit already accounting for 40% of volumes – up from 36% last year – the company revised its estimation to 2022. Draught cider now represents almost three-quarters (74%) of all cider sold in the on-trade and has grown 8.3% year-on-year in value and 5.5% in volume, while packaged cider has seen declines in value (4.1%) and volume (7.2%). Westons said packaged cider was in “long-term sustained decline in the on-trade, in part driven by a lack of innovative products breaking through”. More than two-fifths (41%) of cider drinkers view ABV as an important part of their decision-making, with a clear trend towards responsible drinking. More than half (53%) of respondents said they looked at ABVs for reasons of responsibility and wanting to stay in control. The report put out-of-home cider drinkers in four groups – “fruit cider fanatics”, who tend to be women aged 18 to 34 and account for almost one-quarter (24%) of cider drinkers; “traditional”, men over 55 who make up 8% of cider drinkers and aren’t interested in “craft” cider; “repertoire drinkers” (29%), males aged 35 to 54; and enthusiasts (13%), aged 18 to 34 with a slight skew towards females and with taste and flavour their biggest motivation. Westons Cider insight and innovation manager Matthew Langley said: “Outperformed only by spirits and soft drinks, there were the equivalent of ten million more pints of cider sold in the on-trade over the last year – 516 million pints in total. Even more encouragingly, value (4%) has continued to grow ahead of volume (1.9%), which signals drinkers are continuing to trade up to more premium cider, while exclusive research commissioned for this year’s report reveals the breadth of cider drinkers continues to widen. All these factors are clearly good news for the category’s long-term prospects.”

UK’s 50 fastest growing, privately owned food and beverage companies continue double-digit sales growth: The UK’s 50 fastest growing, privately owned food and beverage companies continue to deliver exciting returns, according to Alantra’s Food & Beverage Fast 50 list. Top of the list was plant-based food supplier Strong Roots, which doubled its turnover each year to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 109.1%. Despite Brexit, many of the businesses on the list made significant inroads into new overseas markets, leveraging the value of the “Made In Britain” label. That included Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn (13th; CAGR 37.8%), which is now market leader in its category in Canada and second in the US. Alantra said innovation and new product development meant the UK’s food and beverage sector would “continue to attract attention from investors”. Key consumer trends supporting business growth include increased demand for healthy products and consumer desire for authenticity, which is fuelling the growth of companies such as BrewDog (fourth; CAGR 57.9%). Charles Lanceley, director of UK food and beverage leadership at Alantra, said: “The fastest growing brands in the food and beverage sector are highly skilled at identifying what their customers want and have captured the imagination of consumers by offering a product with a genuine point of differentiation.”

Booking a table online overtakes phone reservations for first time: Booking a table online has overtaken telephone reservations for the first time, according to the latest Go Technology report from hospitality management solutions company Zonal and insights firm CGA. The report, which tracks the technology habits of 5,000 UK adult consumers, showed more than two-fifths (45%) now prefer to make their booking online compared with 20% who use the telephone. This is a radical change from four years ago when almost three-fifths (58%) of consumers preferred to make table bookings by telephone. Payback for brands that offer a good online booking service is proven as the average monthly spend on eating and drinking increased to £87.83, compared with £74.68 for those who don’t pre-book. The biggest complaint for pre-bookers is a table not being available at the time they book (37%), followed by having to queue to get in (35%) and spaces or tables being occupied when they arrive (34%). Being asked to pay a deposit for a booking is a source of irritation for more than one-fifth (21%) of customers, rising to 25% for 18 to 34-year-olds. Consumers in a group of less than eight said they were willing to pay an average of £4.55 per head for a midweek restaurant table but those in larger groups will pay £6.04. When it comes to targeted marketing campaigns, women are more likely to pre-book (53%). Parents make more than one-third (35%) of the booking cohort but only a quarter (27%) of those who never pre-book. Zonal commercial director David Charlton said: “Offering an online booking service is no longer a luxury for brands, it’s a given. We recognise an industry-wide issue of no-shows so requesting a deposit is one way to tackle the problem. However ask for too much and consumers may go elsewhere, ask for too little and the risk of no-shows increases.” Karl Chessell, CGA business unit director, retail and food, added: “Pub, bar and restaurant customers increasingly see booking as a necessary part of their eating and drinking experience. Large groups, celebrations and the fear of missing out on popular places are all fuelling the trend.”

SIBA enlists help in chief executive search: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has appointed David Kelham, managing director of hospitality recruitment firm Excelerate Resources, to assist in the search for its new chief executive. SIBA is looking for a replacement for Mike Benner, who is leaving at the end of June to become chief executive of the Association Of Personal Injury Lawyers. SIBA said Benner’s replacement must have good knowledge of the British beer industry while having all the “necessary experience and management skills commensurate with this senior role”. SIBA chairman Ian Fozard said: “This is a superb opportunity to join SIBA at an exciting yet challenging time for Britain’s small brewers. Interested people should contact David Kelham by the end of April.”

BII relaunches members’ magazine: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has relaunched its quarterly magazine. Now in A4 size, it features expert advice, industry opinion and members’ offers. BII chief executive Mike Clist said: “Running a licensed trade business can be rewarding but challenging. Reading about other members who have overcome similar obstacles while getting expert advice and inspiration from every area of our industry is a positive way to keep our members up to date. We want more members to share their journeys and help us celebrate our fantastic industry.”

Company News:

Punch acquires four Mitchell’s of Lancaster pubs out of administration: Punch has acquired four pubs out of administration from brewer and retailer Mitchell’s of Lancaster. Punch has added The William Mitchell in Morecambe, Th’Owd Tithe Barn in Garstang, The Royal Hotel in Bolton-le-Sands and The Duke of Rothesay in Heysham to its portfolio. Chief executive Clive Chesser said: “We are pleased to have acquired these wonderful community pubs and look forward to working in partnership with the great publicans and their teams for many years to come. We will provide them with Punch’s investment and support to allow them to flourish and ensure they continue to be at the heart of their communities.” The pubs continue to trade as usual. With the support of its shareholders, Patron and May Capital, Punch is investing about £30m in its pubs this year and is progressing on a three-year plan to invest £80m in its estate. William Mitchell founded Mitchell’s of Lancaster in 1871. The company went into administration in December after its directors failed to source a new refinancing package or investment to address an estimated funding shortfall of £500,000.

The Healy Group targets 30-strong leased estate as it adds 13th venue with Star Pubs & Bars: Family-run multi-site operator The Healy Group is targeting a 30-strong leased pub estate after adding a site in Southampton. The company’s estate now stands at 26 sites after taking on Regents Park Hotel – its 13th venue with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The Healy Group is undertaking its first major investment with Star Pubs & Bars, with £412,000 being spent ahead of it reopening in mid-May with a more spacious feel, a games area with six televisions and a pool table, a main bar and lounge, and a function space. The garden is being extended, while a new menu will feature classic pub food alongside coffee, cocktails, gin, wine and beer. The Healy Group director Marion Healy said: “Our intention was always to take the pub to the next level. There has been investment in our pubs but this is the first major transformational refurbishment we’ve carried out with Star Pubs & Bars.” Neil Convery, regional operations director for Star Pubs & Bars, added: “We have worked with the Healys for many years. They took the Regents Park on a temporary basis to get to know the neighbourhood and saw a real need for a better-quality offer in the locality, including great-value food, coffee and live sport. Regents Park needed investment to ensure it kept pace with changing consumer needs and stayed relevant to the community it serves.”

Creative Leisure takes on seventh Hawthorn Leisure site, in St Helens: North west-based pub operator Creative Leisure has added a seventh pub in partnership with NewRiver-owned Hawthorn Leisure, taking its estate to ten sites. Creative Leisure has reopened The Vulcan in St Helens following a full refurbishment. Creative Leisure director Stephen Cowell said: “This pub has a long history but had been a bit unloved so we wanted to give it a facelift and create something that will last and work for everybody. We try to find pubs where we can be competitive in drinks prices compared with others in the area so we can offer good value to the customer. Then we see how we can add to that value with standards of service, decor and entertainment. The days of a pub on every corner have gone but closures were inevitable because there were too many to sustain. However, the closure rate has slowed significantly and good operators who understand what a community pub should be are surviving and thriving.” Cowell set up Creative Leisure in 2011. It operates pubs across the north west and Midlands.

Herman ze German opens first UK site outside London, in Birmingham: Sausage specialist Herman ze German has opened its first UK site outside London and fifth in total, in Birmingham. The 42-cover, 700 square foot site has launched in Grand Central, offering the brand’s authentic German sausages sourced from the Black Forest. The Herman ze German menu includes currywurst and schnitzel with a choice of toppings alongside German beer. Herman Ze German co-founders Azadeh Falakshahi and Florian Frey said: “We were attracted to Grand Central’s position as one of the UK’s best travel retail destinations. Birmingham is a successful and exciting city and we already feel right at home.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Grand Central landlord Hammerson, added: “We have welcomed a number of exciting new dining concepts to Grand Central over the past few months and Herman Ze German is another great addition.” Herman ze German’s London sites are in Charing Cross, Fitzrovia, Soho and White City.

Namco and Angry Birds creator choose Gateshead for first UK adventure golf attraction: Entertainment centre company Namco and Rovio Entertainment, the mobile game developer behind Angry Birds, have chosen Gateshead for the first site of their Angry Birds indoor adventure golf attraction. The leisure experience will launch at Intu Metrocentre in September as part of plans to open a minimum of five sites across the UK in the next three years. Namco commercial director Philip Milward said: “We are looking for more leasing opportunities within popular, high-footfall locations such as Intu Metrocentre to ensure this new attraction can flourish across the UK.” Intu regional managing director Kate Grant added: “Angry Birds Adventure Golf is going to provide a thoroughly entertaining and new leisure experience.” The Angry Birds franchise has generated more than four billion mobile game downloads since Rovio created it in 2009, moving on to include a movie, animated series and brand licensing ventures such as theme parks. Namco operates a number of family entertainment centres throughout the UK. Lunson Mitchenall acted for Intu.

US egg-in-bun concept Eggslut secures debut UK site: US egg-in-bun concept Eggslut has secured its first site in the UK, in London’s Notting Hill. The West Coast concept has secured the former Pix Pintxos unit in Portobello Road with an opening scheduled for this summer. It’s thought the concept, which will be launched in the UK under franchise by ITICO F+B, is under offer on two further sites in the capital, with plans to open a handful of sites in the UK in the next 12 months. Eggslut offers cage-free eggs in brioche buns including the Gaucho (seared wagyu tri-tip steak with egg, chimichurri and red onions), and the Fairfax (scrambled eggs, chives, cheese, caramelised onions and sriracha mayo). Its UK launch will feature a unique fast-food version of the concept. Eggslut was founded in Los Angeles in 2011. It currently has five sites in the US – four in California and one in Nevada – plus an outpost in Beirut. ITICO F+B is also rolling out US street food concept The Halal Guys in the UK. It will open a second site under the brand in Earl’s Court at the end of June and up to 20 across the UK in five years. Sammy Weinbaum at CDG Leisure acted on the Portobello Road deal.

Bloomsbury Leisure plans Farringdon Tap: Bloomsbury Leisure is looking to add a further site to its Tap bar estate with an opening lined up in Farringdon, central London. The Jonathan Dalton-led group, which operates Tap sites in Euston and Waterloo, has applied to open a bar and gyoza dumpling bar at 41 Farringdon Street. The company, which also operates Bloomsbury Bowling and the Holborn Whippet, hopes to open the site next month. The group recently reopened the former Bridge House pub at Tower Bridge, which was Adnams’ only site in London, under the name The Raven. In October Bloomsbury opened The Jackalope at the former Dover Castle site in Weymouth Mews, off Great Portland Street.

Former TRG directors to start expansion of bar and kitchen concept with Mere Green opening: Former Chiquito managing director Jason Green and Frankie & Benny’s brand director David Salmon are to start expansion of their bar and kitchen concept CockNBull.Co (CnB) by opening a second site, in Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, at the end of April. The pair left The Restaurant Group in 2017 to set up CnB, launching the concept in Stourbridge in September 2017. CnB offers “chicken, filthy burgers and liquor”, with the menu built around free-range chicken marinated in buttermilk and burgers made from rarebreed Herefordshire beef. CnB also offers breakfast and lunch menus as well as sandwiches, homemade crisps and vegetarian options. The drinks menu offers cocktails, premium beer, craft beer and cider. Green and Salmon said: “We feel Mere Green is a great next step for the concept. We take huge pride in all we do, especially our fried chicken, burgers and cocktails. We create an atmosphere that allows you to lose your inhibitions and have a great time, whether that’s a Monday afternoon or Saturday evening. Fleurets acted on behalf of the vendor.

James Cochran to make street food debut at Model Market: Great British Menu winner James Cochran is set to make his street food debut at Street Feast’s Model Market, which will resume its annual summer line-up next month. The late-night market in Lewisham will open on Friday, 3 May with a revamped food line-up and six specialist bars. Cochran will launch new venture Goat, which will offer jerk-spiced goat on coconut flatbread with a choice of sauces. He will be joined by Thai chicken wings concept KraPow, which operates a restaurant in Clapton; Lewisham-based Wandercrust (wood-fired Neapolitan pizza); and frozen custard concept Secret Nicky’s, with other traders to be announced. The bars will be operated by High Line, Gin Salon, Can Hatch, Street Vin, Rotary and Rum Shack. Model Market will open on Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm to late. Street Feast, which is operated by London Union, operates four other London venues – Dinerama, Giant Robot, Hawker House and seasonal pop-up Winterville. Street Feast welcomed more than one million visitors in 2018 and has been seeking new venues for expansion. Cochran launched modern British restaurant 1251 in Islington in late August after closing his two other restaurants nearby.

Urban Pubs and Bars to open 20th site, The Cyclist, in Balham next month: Urban Pubs and Bars, led by Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap, is to open its 20th site, at a former JD Wetherspoon pub in Balham, south London, next month. The venue will be called The Cyclist and has undergone a £400,000 refurbishment. It is the company’s third former JD Wetherspoon acquisition, following sites in Highgate and Stroud Green, and its seventh new venue in five months. In March, the company appointed Toby Cowan as operations director. Cowan has taken some of the day-to-day operations from Pring and Heap, allowing them to spend more time focusing on acquisitions and strategy. The company’s annual turnover is expected to hit circa £23m this year.

Great British Menu chef Tommy Heaney to launch second Cardiff site, this month: Great British Menu chef Tommy Heaney is to open his second Cardiff site, at the end of this month. Having launched his first solo venture, Heaney’s, in the city last autumn, new venture, Uisce, will open next door offering breakfast and lunch in the day and wine and charcuterie at night. Breakfast will feature Heaney’s homemade sausages and sourdough, while healthier options will include homemade granola and honeycomb. The lunch menu will include home-cooked stew, salad, sandwiches and soup to eat in or take away. The venue will also offer Heaney’s freshly cooked crumpets and bagels with house fillings, while meat will be cured, cooked and smoked in-house. From mid-afternoon there will be light bites, charcuterie and cheese. Heaney has teamed up with a local coffee producer to create a home blend alongside wine, gin, cocktails and craft beer. The venue will host monthly wine tastings and live music and feature bar stools, refectory-style tables and window seating.

Beds and Bars named ‘one to watch’ on Sunday Times Profit Track list: Bed and Bars, the pan-European hostel operator led by Keith Knowles, has been named in the Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 “Ones To Watch 2019” list. The company just missed out on a position in the main table but was one of ten businesses featured in the “best of the rest”. A strong FY19 for Bed and Bars saw turnover grow 7.8% to £52.5m, while Ebitda was up to £6m, 25% ahead of the previous year. The company plans to open two hostels in Europe in 2019 as well as investing in its current estate. Beds and Bars is also seeking properties in other major European cities. Marketing director Sophie Herbert said: “It is great to be recognised for our success over the past 12 months and we look forward to another exciting year.” The Profit Track 100 ranks the top 100 most profitable privately owned businesses in the UK. Two hospitality firms featured in the main list. Independent caterer CH&Co was 31st with profits growing 79.86% to £8,570,000 on turnover of £240,258,000. Westbourne Leisure, the West Midlands-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator, was 48th in the table, with profits growing 72.02% to £3,462,000 on turnover of £18,212,000.

Sea water pizza specialist ’O ver to open second London site: Sea water pizza specialist ’O ver, which operates a site in London Bridge, is to open a second restaurant in the capital. The brand, which uses dough infused with purified sea water, will open a site formerly occupied by Japanese bar and dining room Anzu in St James’s Market, Piccadilly, on Wednesday, 1 May. On its website ’O ver, which means “truth” in the Neapolitan dialect, states: “Authentic and healthy Neapolitan street food – this is our philosophy. Combining the best regional ingredients with traditional recipes, ’O ver is the first restaurant in the UK to use the unique ingredient of pure sea water.”

BrewDog Development Fund recipient launches £380,000 crowdfunding campaign to build brewery: Crowns & Hops, the American craft beer brand that was the first beneficiary of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog’s revamped Development Fund, has launched a £380,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to build a brewery in California. As part of its support, BrewDog has provided £152,510 ($200,000) of initial investment. Crowns & Hops is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based craft beer enthusiasts Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter. The company is offering 9.43% equity as it seeks to raise £381,280, giving a pre-money valuation of £3,660,266. The pitch states: “In 2015, Hunter and Ashburn created a movement and brand called Dope & Dank to promote diversity in the craft beer industry. In 2019, Hunter and Ashburn formed a new company, Crowns & Hops, and received $200,000 investment from the BrewDog Development Fund to build their brewery. The brewery will be a hub that will provide mentoring, training and education for entry into the brewing industry. Elements of hip-hop, jazz and art will fill the space. In addition to expanding the craft beer community, the brand will expand into other diverse cities that are missing this same model.”

Camerons turns visitors’ centre into taproom and bottle shop: Camerons has turned the visitors’ centre at its Hartlepool brewery into a taproom and bottle shop. The space in Stockton Street has been turned back into a pub under its original name, The Anchor. The bar offers a wide selection of Camerons beer on cask and keg alongside a bottle shop, which also stocks beer from other brewers. Beer can be drunk at the bar or taken away thanks to an on-site canning machine. The Anchor manager Marie McKay said: “The visitors’ centre was a popular tourist attraction but we identified an opportunity to rebrand ourselves. This is a great platform for us to re-engage with the people of the town and show them Camerons is moving forward and reflecting trends. We’re pleased to be able to offer so much variety while honouring our heritage.” Last month Camerons opened a second Head of Steam gaming bar, in Nottingham, while it recently acquired Sutlers bar in York for the 29th venue in its managed estate. The company also plans to convert the Head of Steam in Leicester into a second venue for its Sanctuary concept.

Online beer distributor EeBria hits £200,000 crowdfunding target for international expansion: Online beer distributor EeBria has hit its £200,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to expand internationally. The company, founded by David and Rachael Jackson, is running a convertible share equity campaign with a 20% discount. So far, 228 investors have pledged £200,770. The pitch states: “We operate a unique market place model where beer, cider and other drinks are listed on the EeBriaTrade site by the producers who make them. They set the prices, control the imagery and descriptions, and manage the stock levels. When products sell, we use our nationwide network of fulfilment partners to collect the order from the producer and deliver it directly the next working day to the pub, bar, shop or restaurant. We have more than 500 producers actively listed on the platform and more than 3,500 active products at any one time. The proceeds would primarily be used to launch our international platforms. This is a combination of staff costs – new country managers and operations staff and significant growth of our in-house technology team to ensure the platform builds are completed quickly – while also continuing development of the platform and new features. We intend to increase headcount by ten over a couple of months. The proceeds will also be required to cover initial losses for the international platforms, with marketing spend as well as subsidies on early cross-border shipments while sales volumes are building to a critical mass.” In 2017, EeBria raised £750,000 on Crowdcube to support its growth having previously raised £288,000 on Seedrs in 2015.

Cumbria-based operators to expand offer by adding bistro with rooms: Cumbria-based operators David and Sally Keighley are to expand their offering at Broadrayne Farm by opening a contemporary bistro with bedrooms. The Keighleys are investing more than £500,000 in The Yan, which will open in July at their venue on the outskirts of Grasmere village. The Yan will be an open-plan, rustic bistro and lounge with seven en-suite bedrooms. The bistro will open to the public as well as overnight guests of The Yan and serve “seasonal, hearty dishes inspired by the farm’s history”. The Yan will be the latest addition to Broadrayne Farm, which is already home to Grasmere Glamping and Broadrayne Farm Holiday Cottages. The Keighleys bought Broadrayne Farm in 2012 after moving to the area from Yorkshire.

London Distillery Company launches £500,000 crowdfunding campaign to expand sales team and whisky range: The London Distillery Company has launched a £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand its sales team and whisky range. The company, led by Killian O’Sullivan, previously of William Grant and Sons, is offering 10.42% equity in return for the investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £4,300,000. The pitch states: “We are a small team of eight but one with tremendous reach as you can find our range in some of London’s best bars as well as in Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Exporting to more than 15 markets including China, our first exports to Canada and six south east Asian markets are in progress and we have plans to launch in the US and India by the end of 2019. Since new management took over in November 2017, sales volumes have increased 44% to £864,000 in March 2019 (net loss £373,000) and we are now looking to expand the sales team to drive growth in the UK and overseas. We also intend to experiment with innovative whisky finishes and to release further limited expressions of London whisky.”

Wellington Club relaunches at new St James’s site: The Wellington Club has relaunched at its new location in Jermyn Street, St James’s. The central London members’ club is the brainchild of former City professional Nic Brooks and Jake Panayiotou, owner of the original Wellington Club in Knightsbridge. The club’s restaurant is led by former Gaucho executive chef Brett Duarte. His modern European menu includes dishes such as hand-dived Orkney scallops, and butter roast monkfish with crispy bacon and sautéed spinach. Split across ground floor and basement, The Wellington includes private dining rooms for a total of 130 covers while interiors are inspired by rock ‘n’ roll and modern art including hand-painted graffiti by Damien Hirst and neon works by Chris Bracey.

Rose steps down as head of leisure and restaurants at C&W: Thomas Rose has stepped down as EMEA head of leisure and restaurants at Cushman & Wakefield. It is understood Rose is currently on gardening leave but has left to set up his own consultancy business. Rose joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2006 and has worked with clients including Burger King, Chipotle, Wahaca, Smashburger and Wagamama, plus major development schemes such as Battersea Power Station and Waterloo London. Recently he has been advising on a number of food hall developments for operators such as Market Halls and Time Out Market.

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