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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 10th Apr 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Clive Watson – City Pub Group has no plans to move into country inns market on back of Hoste Arms deal: City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson has told Propel its purchase of The Hoste Arms country hotel in Norfolk is a “one-off” and the company has no intention of moving into the country inns market. The company has paid an initial £8.65m in an off-market deal for the 53-bedroom site, which features a spa, cinema and gym. Subject to the sales performance during the next two months, the company will have to pay up to an additional £800,000 on the site in Burnham Market. Speaking on the back of the company’s full-year results, Watson said The Hoste Arms would complement its Georgian Townhouse site in Norwich and help the company’s strategy to increase accommodation revenue as it diversifies its sales mix. The company plans to retain the 24-seat cinema and upgrade the spa at The Hoste Arms but Watson said the site didn’t require a lot of capital expenditure. He said the focus would be on repositioning the site from a “retail perspective” in line with The Georgian Townhouse around the ambience, food and drink. He said: “The Hoste Arms is a site the team at The Georgian Townhouse knows very well and, when I looked at the customer base, it was ‘city folk’ coming up from London, Cambridge and Norwich so fits our profile perfectly. We’re also substantially increasing the number of bedrooms in our portfolio and this site will significantly boost that figure – but we do see this deal as a one-off. It’s an iconic site and if similar opportunities come up we will look at them but we aren’t going to suddenly start opening country inns. The Hoste is a big place and, in terms of operational time, is the equivalent of running four pubs.” The company disposed off The Grapes in Oxford earlier this year but Watson said no further sales were planned for the 44-strong estate. He added: “All our pubs are performing well. We want to open bigger sites that push up the average site Ebitda.” Watson said it was “early days” regarding potential expansion further north but he had “been on a few research trips”. He added: “We feel we know places such as Cardiff, Cambridge, London and Norwich very well and it makes sense to look at other cities as we continue expanding. But we need to do our research properly and that’s what we’re doing at the moment – we are having those conversations.” Watson said the decision was made to switch from its annual profit share scheme to one paid weekly and based on sales performance because it “wasn’t really suitable for our industry”. He added: “Everyone’s a winner. It helps drive sales and is better for staff retention, productivity and morale. It means happy employees, happy customers, happy shareholders and therefore a happy chairman. This is what UK plcs should be doing.”    

Industry News:

Propel managing director Paul Charity to give his views on BrewDog’s latest crowdfund and City Pub Group’s acquisition of Hoste Arms: Propel managing director Paul Charity will give his views on BrewDog’s latest crowdfund in an article that will be sent to Premium subscribers on Wednesday (10 April) at 5pm. “Would everybody promise to have a word with any widows or orphans they come across,” he writes in the piece. He will also give his views on City Pub Group’s surprise move to buy the iconic Hoste Arms in Burnham Market. Meanwhile, 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

UK pubs and restaurants boost non-essential spending in March: UK pubs and restaurants helped non-essential spending see strong growth in March, recording uplifts of 15.1% and 12.1% year-on-year respectively as Brits made the most of milder weather to relax and dine out, according to new data. The findings by Barclaycard, which sees almost half the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, saw overall consumer spending grow 3.1% during the month as Brits were encouraged out by warmer weather. Non-essential expenditure grew 3.4% year-on-year, although the figures are compared with March 2018 when the Beast From The East had a significant impact. Essential expenditure saw a modest 2.2% rise boosted by 4.1% growth in petrol spend while supermarket spending fell 0.5%. Department store spending also fell (4.7%) as the retail sector continued to face challenges. Amid political and economic uncertainty, confidence in the UK economy has fallen to its lowest level since 2014. Almost one-third (31%) of the 2,000 respondents are concerned the cost of everyday items will increase, while more than two-thirds (69%) aren’t confident in the current environment. Almost half (46%) are worried their quality of life will decline because of Brexit, while almost one-third (31%) are concerned the rising cost of everyday items will make life harder. On a brighter note, many Brits remain committed to spending on non-essential items, with two-fifths (40%) stating they will always spend on certain “nice-to-haves” – with social events, quality food and mini-breaks topping the list. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “In contrast to the extreme weather last year, a milder March resulted in an uplift in spending with consumers dining out and making the most of the welcome sunshine. Despite this, underlying sentiment is cautious. March was characterised by ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, with consumers concerned about an impact on food prices and supplies In light of this, consumer confidence in the UK economy is the lowest it has been since we began recording this data.”

US restaurant sales to hit record $863bn in 2019 while operators turn to technology: US restaurant industry sales will reach a record high of $863bn (£662bn) this year, up 3.6% on 2018, according to a report released by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The report also revealed operators plan to increase their investment in technology in a bid to attract customers. The industry group has made annual estimates of restaurant sales growth since 1970 – and the compound annual growth rate between 1970 and 2019 is 6.4%, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. “The growth rates for the industry are definitely more moderate than before the onset of the Great Recession in late 2007,” said Hudson Riehle, NRA’s senior vice-president of the research and knowledge group. “That’s a solid growth rate and definitely better than many other industries. But the growth rate over the past decade has dropped. That is the environment going forward for the industry.” Moderate sales growth means more restaurant operators will focus on getting additional incremental sales and customer visits, and they are turning to technology to help. Of those surveyed, more than two-thirds (70%) of quick service operators are looking to invest this year in customer-facing technology – including digital ordering and payment and delivery models. In the fast casual category, more than three-fifths (62%) plan to make such investments, as did 59% of casual dining, 54% of family dining and 49% of fine dining operators.

BII announces Licensee of the Year semi-finalists: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has announced the 12 semi-finalists for its Licensee of the Year competition. More than 200 licensees entered this year’s competition, with those in the industry encouraged to not only register themselves but nominate others. Customers, colleagues, pub companies, brewers and operators all nominated their favourite “local”. The semi-finalists are Danny and Tara Adams – The Greyhound, Bromham; Jo Ashton – Wigan Central, Wigan; James and Tom Bainbridge – The Tilbury, Datchet; Fiona Beck – The County Hotel, Hexham; Michelle Frankgate – Drayton Court Hotel, Ealing; David Hage – The Railway, Lowdham; Michael Hales – The Butlers Arms, Pleasington; Victoria and Gavin Hunt – The Fox, Lyng; Jem Morey – Ye Olde Reindeer Inn, Banbury; Samantha Robinson – Queens Head, Troutbeck; Jayne Tilsley – The Fox & Hounds, Theale; and Sean White – Queen’s Head, Pinner. The judges will now conduct interviews before whittling the licensees down to six. Those finalists will be put through their paces by a panel of industry experts, with the winner announced at the BII Summer Event on Tuesday, 4 June.

Company News:

PubLove enters period of expansion: London-based pub company PubLove, the joint venture between Ei Group and Ben Stackhouse that houses backpacker hostels and serves its own burgers, is entering a period of expansion. PubLove has reopened the refurbished White Ferry House in Victoria following a £500,000 investment. The pub is the latest fully refurbished site to open since PubLove became the seventh partner of Ei Managed Investments, which partners with experienced managed house operators. Transformation of the listed building includes additional beds to take the total to 75, and improved bathrooms, bedrooms and the introduction of a pizza offer – the first in the estate. Next month The Rose & Crown, near London Bridge, will become PubLove’s first new site since the joint partnership began, opening mid-month after a £450,000 investment. The venue will feature 45 beds, two en-suite double rooms and a theatre kitchen offering PubLove’s burger menu. In addition, the Steam Engine in Waterloo is undergoing a £750,000 refurbishment to double the number of beds by adding a storey to the building alongside substantial improvements to the bar. The pub will reopen in June as PubLove’s largest site, with 80 beds. The company said it has ambitious expansion plans with a number of sites in the pipeline. Stackhouse said: “Our partnership with Ei Managed Investments continues to go from strength to strength and there are exciting times ahead. These three major projects have been made possible through its continued support and, in tandem with access to a strong pipeline of sites, we are transforming the PubLove business and innovating our customer proposition.” Nathan Wall, operations director for Ei Managed Investments, added: “PubLove continues to be a progressive business with its focus on establishing and then improving highly-regarded community pubs allied to a winning retail offer.” There are currently 11 managed investment partners, including Rupert Clevely, with Hippo Inns, and Karen Jones, with Frontier Pubs. 

Bistro Qui administrators negotiating sale of two remaining sites, unsecured creditors owed about £1m: Administrators of Bistro Qui, the Liverpool-based restaurant company, are currently negotiating the sale of its two remaining sites, a new report has revealed. A statement of administrator’s proposal filed by John Fisher and Ian Brown, of Parkin S Booth & Co, revealed offers had been made for The Refinery in Liverpool and Bistro Jacques in Shrewsbury. The only offer for The Refinery is from a “connected party” and has been provisionally accepted on the basis the 29 employees will be transferred to the new business and no claims for redundancy or loss of wages will fall into the administration. An offer has also been received for Bistro Jacques and discussions are taking place over the assignment of the lease. The report also showed no offers were received for a third site – the Smokehouse in Liverpool – and with the company unable to meet its rent obligations the administrators were left with no choice but to shut the venue and make 19 staff redundant. Prior to the administration, Bistro Qui sold the leasehold of The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen to Mission Mars, the north west-based operator behind Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza. The report said the amount paid was enough to cover the £120,000 owed to secured creditor the Royal Bank of Scotland. The report revealed unsecured creditors are owed about £1m. HMRC is owed £643,471 in unpaid VAT, PAYE and National Insurance contributions while a total of 42 trade and expense creditors are owed £325,486. Employee claims are estimated at £50,000, although this is expected to reduce if the two remaining sites are sold. Bistro Qui was founded by Mark Friend and Stephen Slater in 2004 and grew to eight sites at its height. The report said the company enjoyed six to seven years of “very good trade” but the past two to three years had become “difficult”, resulting in the directors disposing of restaurants to provide working capital for the remainder of the estate. Cost pressures led to further impact, which meant the business could not continue in its current form, leading to the appointment of administrators.

Three new operators sign for Paddington Central: Three food and beverage operators have signed for Paddington Central. Independent seafood restaurant London Shell Co and Vagabond, the wine merchant and bar concept, will add to the mix of restaurants and bars along the canal, while healthy food chain Pure will take space at 2 Kingdom Street. Following the success of its cruising restaurant aboard the Prince Regent barge, London Shell Co is increasing its presence at Paddington with a second barge – the Grand Duchess – moored next door. The Grand Duchess will be static, providing an all-day food offer, bar and outside area. The Prince Regent will continue to host cruising lunches and suppers along Regents Canal. Vagabond is the first wine bar to open at Paddington and has committed to 3,000 square feet of space along the Grand Union Canal. Vagabond has chosen Paddington to launch a weekend brunch menu. Pure will take 1,100 square feet at 2 Kingdom Street, joining Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Azzurri Group-owned Coco Di Mama and Lords of Poké in the building and adding to the variety of daytime restaurants at the campus. Harry and Leah Lobek, co-founders of London Shell Co, said: “We are excited to open our second boat at Paddington. The Grand Duchess will remain permanently docked on the Grand Union Canal and specialise in British fish with a drinks list that focuses on sparkling wine. The restaurant will also offer a relaxed setting to enjoy a glass of wine with bar snacks and there will be additional outside seating to enjoy in the summer.” Stephen Finch, founder and managing director of Vagabond, added: “We looked at several opportunities around London for our next Vagabond and coming to Paddington Central was a no-brainer.” Tim Haddon, head of Paddington Central for British Land, said: “Our investment in Paddington continues to attract exciting new brands. London Shell Co’s expansion and Vagabond’s arrival will provide further enlivenment.”

Bayou Bar seeks funding to roll out as founder finally finds model that ‘hits the right margins with no compromise on quality’: Bayou Bar founder Nick Willoughby has told Propel he is seeking backing to roll out the New Orleans-inspired concept having finally found a model that “hits the right margins without sacrifice on quality or customer experience”. Willoughby, who founded Creme de la Crepe before spending time in the pub business, revealed he took a risk and used a bank overdraft for the site in Tooting Broadway Market. Willoughby, who heads the joint venture between Street Food Union and New Orleans street food business Slingin’ Po’ Boys, wanted to ensure he operated a fixed site as close to a street food stall as possible and it appears to have paid off with Willoughby describing trading to date as “really good” since its official launch in February. He said: “Staffing was something I always found a struggle in pubs. For the first time I have a concept where I feel we are hitting the right margins. We don’t have chefs – we have a team. The idea is everyone knows everything. We’re serving great food and cocktails but keeping it simple, which allows us to serve people quickly while making sure what they are getting is good quality. There’s no more than three elements to a cocktail, for example. We are about three things – quality food, punchy cocktails and live music.” Willoughby said he was already eyeing at least one more site this year and, having found a model that works, now wants to open larger venues. He added: “I feel this is a concept that can go somewhere. The current site is only 300 square feet, which I did on a bank overdraft and it nearly killed me. We’re looking to do one more smaller site in a similar location and after that we want to open bigger sites – but we’ll need help to do that so we’re looking to seek investment, probably through private equity.” Bayou Bar is also cashless, which Willoughby said brought “many benefits”. He added: “We have had to turn some people away but we’ve saved a lot of money and staff time, which means they can focus on delivering a great experience for our customers. When I had the crepe business there was a large amount of time spent looking for money that had been mislaid. With this system we don’t have that worry and there are no daily cash-ups. We’re looking to go paperless in everything we do – it’s definitely the future.”

Fishworks to open new-look flagship site next month: Fishworks, the Boparan Restaurant Group-owned brand, has confirmed it is returning to the expansion trail with an opening in Covent Garden. As revealed by Propel in February, the company has secured the Loch Fyne restaurant in Catherine Street for a new-look flagship restaurant that will open on Monday, 13 May. Fishworks chief executive Tom Crowley said: “We have been looking to add another restaurant to our collection for a while but it has been a case of being patient until the ideal location became available. Catherine Street is perfect because of its prime location for tourists and theatre-goers as well as Covent Garden residents who want to dine out on the freshest fish, sometimes taking some home. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with the design and hope our guests enjoy the new look and feel.” As part of a wider rebrand, the new-look restaurant will have 110 covers, a 30-cover private dining room and the group’s first dedicated oyster bar, allowing guests to pop in for oysters and a glass of fizz or a light bite. The oyster bar can also be booked for larger parties. Fishworks currently has sites in Swallow Street and Marylebone, down from a peak of 12 in 2006 when it was listed on the AIM stock exchange. The fishmonger’s and restaurant concept, founded by Rockfish operator Mitch Tonks, was bought out of administration by Boparan in 2009, with five sites continuing to trade at the time following the sale. Earlier this year, Boparan promoted Caroline Hoyle to head of operations for the brand.

Former Soho House Group director to launch restaurant, bakery and wine shop: Former Soho House Group director Ben Crofton is to launch a restaurant, bakery and wine shop. Crofton and wife Vanessa will open 28 Market Place and Market Bakery in Somerton, Somerset in the autumn. The grade II-listed buildings that make up the venture are undergoing major renovation. The 80-seat restaurant will offer an Italian-inspired menu featuring homemade pasta and wood-fired pizza. Market Bakery next door will supply the restaurant with pasta and bread and offer pastries, cakes, cookies and a gelateria. Somerton Wines will be a bottle shop offering 150 wines not on the restaurant’s list. Crofton has managed restaurants such as Thomas Keller Group’s The French Laundry in California, Gordon Ramsay in Los Angeles, and Phil Howard’s The Square in London. Most recently he worked as director of Babington House and Soho Farmhouse for Soho House Group. Crofton said: “We wanted to create a neighbourhood restaurant and bakery that focused on Italian-inspired food using the finest ingredients prepared simply.” The investor behind 28 Market Place is entrepreneur Adam Norris, who has invested in startup companies through Glastonbury-based Horatio Investments.

Island Poké, Grind, Leon and Coco di Mama sign for Southbank Place: A number of operators including Island Poké, Leon and Coco di Mama have signed to open at Southbank Place, a redevelopment of the Shell Centre in London by Braeburn Estates, a joint venture between Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar. The latest operators to commit to the development include boutique spinning concept Boom Cycle, artisan sandwich shop Birleys and Azzurri Group-owned Coco di Mama. White Rabbit-funded Island Poké and Farmstand, the fast-casual concept led by US entrepreneur Steven Novick, have also signed for Building 2 at the scheme, which will also house flexible working company WeWork’s largest office, at 299,877 square feet. Natural fast food brand Leon and espresso and cocktail bar Grind will also open units in the residential buildings 4A and 4B later this year. Already in the space are Marks & Spencer, Boots and Gail’s Bakery. Stuart Fyfe, head of retail leasing at Southbank Place, said: “We have had a high level of interest in Southbank Place from the outset. We always strived to deliver an interesting tenant mix with best-in-class operators who would appeal to workers, residents and tourists. These tenants will enhance this development with a wide variety of appealing offers and redefine the success of the South Bank.” The site will comprise 48,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and bars plus 530,000 square feet of offices and a direct entrance to London Waterloo tube station. 

Corbin & King to open Soutine in St John’s Wood this month: London-based restaurant group Corbin & King will open Soutine in St John’s Wood this month. The venue, which will launch in a former Carluccio’s in St John's Wood High Street, will be the company’s ninth in the capital. The restaurant, which spans 3,500 square feet, has been designed to complement the history and heritage of St John’s Wood. The front room and pavement will offer cafe and bar seating leading to a more formal dining room at the rear. A key element of the design will be a 15-seat bar guests can dine or drink at. Matt Farrell, managing director of landlord Trophaeum, said: “Our mission for St John’s Wood High Street is to introduce a new wave of tenants while supporting and celebrating local independent traders. We look forward to welcoming Soutine.” Earlier this month, Propel reported Corbin & King had seen growth continue in its current financial year and expects further increases as it continues expansion. The company has lodged plans for a site in Soho. Co-owner Jeremy King said: “We are awaiting the outcome of our application for a rather unusual site in Soho – large, light and a sibling companion for Brasserie Zédel in terms of size and affordability. I will certainly let you know more when I have certainty myself.”

Former Champs operator to open third Sheffield site for micro sports bar concept this week, seeking further venues: Former Champs operator Danny Grayson is to open a third site in Sheffield for his micro sports bar concept – and is on the hunt for further venues. The latest Sport Shack will launch in Woodseats on Thursday (11 April) in Chesterfield Road in a former Greggs store. Sport Shack Woodseats will feature six 4K Ultra HD televisions alongside sporting memorabilia. The venue will offer keg and cask ale, mainstream lager and spirits, and more than 20 gins. Food will made on-site using local ingredients. Grayson said: “The formula for Sport Shack is getting better with each venue. This is a sports-lover’s dream!” Grayson, who operated the Champs format with Punch, teamed up with local businessman James Dobson to launch Sport Shack in Ecclesall Road in September. A second site opened in Hillsborough Corner in February. They are seeking suitable venues in other areas to “bring this great concept to the masses”.

Papa John’s franchisee plans two more sites after adding second store, in Bury St Edmunds: Papa John’s franchisee Syead Anjum is planning two more openings after adding a second store to his portfolio. Anjum, who runs a site in Norwich, has opened a venue in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He said: “I joined Papa John’s in 2013 from a rather different career – accountancy! My brother financed the first Norwich store and said ‘come and give it a try’. To learn the trade, I worked in-store making pizza. I enjoyed it so much I eventually took over managing the operation.” Papa John’s has more than 400 sites across the UK. 

Lancashire-based operator takes on second Hawthorn Leisure pub: Lancashire-based operator Stuart Kirkpatrick has taken on his second site with NewRiver-owned Hawthorn Leisure. Kirkpatrick, who manages The Lord Nelson in Nelson, has taken on The Station Hotel in the town. The venue, which Hawthorn Leisure acquired last year from Amber Taverns, the wet-led community pub operator led by James Baer, has undergone a £150,000 refurbishment. The grade II-listed building in Hibson Road has retained many Victorian features but now benefits from new flooring, furniture and a remodelled bar. It is split into two sides – one featuring a pool table, dartboard and screens showing sport, and a zoned area with a lounge, coffee station and function room. Hawthorn Leisure managing director of operations Mark McGinty said: “Stuart has successfully managed our other Nelson pub for two years so I approached him about running The Station too. He’s a popular and well-known figure locally and just the right person to revive the fortunes of this landmark town centre venue.”

MeatLiquor to open West End venue in June: MeatLiquor is to open its flagship venue in London’s West End in early June. The venue will launch in Margaret Street, Marylebone, at a site formerly occupied by cocktail venue Match Bar. The company is advertising for team members at “every level” for the site, which will be “bigger, open later and more fun than anything we’ve ever done before”. MeatLiquor secured the site in February following the announcement its flagship central London burger restaurant just off Oxford Street would be converted into a hotel. In January, MeatLiquor Brixton also closed. The company stated at the time: “We adore Brixton and our intention is this is only farewell for now, not forever, and we are actively looking for another site.” The company has eight London sites – in Shoreditch, Covent Garden, Queensway, Islington, King’s Cross, Dulwich, Croydon, and Battersea.

Kricket launches spring menu featuring first vegan dish: Indian small plates concept Kricket has launched its spring menu, which includes its first vegan dish. The company aims to champion seasonal British ingredients with the aroma and spices of India. Taking centre stage across all three sites is British free-range duck with a range of dishes available at its Brixton, Soho and White City restaurants. Kricket’s debut vegan dish, tandoori hispi cabbage, is available at White City. A new range of cocktails and beer is also available, including an exclusive draught beer for White City – Kanchi – produced in partnership with London Beer Factory.

Filipino supper club and West African concept win six-month residencies in Brixton Village competition: Two up-and-coming operators have been awarded six-month residencies at Brixton Village after winning the Brixton Kitchen competition and mentorship programme. Ferdinand Montoya, winner of the experienced category, will bring Filipino supper club Sarap to Brixton Village for its first standalone site, while amateur winner Adejoké Bakare will introduce her West African concept Chishuru to the public for the first time via a weekend pop-up. Brixton Kitchen was established to nurture homegrown talent and offer entrepreneurs and novices a chance to see their ideas come to fruition. Both winners will also receive a tailor-made mentorship programme with support from competition judges including James Cochran and Jackson Boxer.

The 15 Group appoints former East Coast Concepts operations chef to head Liverpool kitchen: Liverpool-based The 15 Group has appointed former East Coast Concepts operations chef Lee Evans to head the kitchen at Dash. The restaurant is part of the multimillion-pound makeover of the former Sugar Hut site in Liverpool city centre. Dash and accompanying club XOXO is a joint venture between experienced operators Dean and Michael Jones, Gary Carr and Mark King. The 125-cover restaurant also has a 36-cover private dining area. Evans, who created the menus at Victors in Hale and Alderley Edge, has been brought in to take Dash’s food to the “next level”. He was also head chef at Jamie’s Italian for three years before overseeing openings and regional chef training for the brand. He said: “Dash already has great-tasting food but I want to give it that something special to make sure we are the number one pan-Asian restaurant in the city and put ourselves up there with the very best.” Dean Jones added: “Lee is a perfect fit for Dash.”

Events and hospitality management business Dine acquires wedding venue from Sarah Beeny: Leeds-based events and hospitality management business Dine has acquired a wedding venue near Beverley, East Yorkshire, which was owned and renovated by property developer and television personality Sarah Beeny. Dine has bought 29-bedroom Rise Hall – its first direct purchase – for an undisclosed sum. Founders Dan and Helen Gill will continue to operate Rise Hall as a luxury wedding and events venue. The Gills have built Dine into a £3m-turnover business, operating at luxury venues from Leeds to Liverpool including its flagship venue, The Mansion at Roundhay Park. Dan Gill said: “Rise Hall is a stunning building with a rich history, which will now begin a new chapter in its life under our guardianship. While Dine operates at a range of venues throughout the UK, this is the first venue Helen and I have directly purchased.” Beeny, who bought the property in 2001 with husband Graham Swift, added: “Rise Hall has been a big part of our lives for the past 18 years and we are extremely proud of the work we, together with an incredible team, have achieved but it’s time to move on.” Christie & Co provided valuation support in the sale.

BGAM buys Milton Keynes hotel for fifth site: Bowling Green Asset Management (BGAM), owner-operator of branded hotels, has acquired its fifth site, in Milton Keynes. Previously trading as Hilton Milton Keynes, the MK Hotel is just off the M1, four miles from the town centre. The purpose-built, 138-bedroom hotel features conference and function rooms, a bar and lounge, 120-cover restaurant and leisure facilities including a gym. BGAM director Jamie Levy said: “We see a lot of growth potential in the hotel and the area as a whole and the hotel will benefit immediately from rebranding and a major rolling refurbishment programme.” Alex Campbell, director at Christie & Co, which handled the sale, added: “We received strong interest as the hotel represents a superb opportunity for it to be rebranded and repositioned within the Milton Keynes market.”

Big Smoke Brew Co increases capacity four-fold with new brewery: Surrey-based brewer and retailer Big Smoke Brew Co has increased capacity four-fold after moving to new 5,000 square foot premises in Esher. Founded in 2014 by James Morgan and Richard Craig, Big Smoke Brew Co initially operated out of a micro-brewhouse at The Antelope pub in Surbiton. The purpose-built brewery at Sandown Industrial Estate features a high-speed canning line, allowing Big Smoke Brew Co to bring its production in-house. It also features a 33 hectolitre kit with six 65-hectolitre fermenters and a taproom. Morgan said: “We have gradually built a loyal following and the new brewery allows us to distribute nationally and target the off and on-trade while maintaining control of our process and achieving a high-quality, consistent product.” As well as The Antelope, Big Smoke Brew Co also operates The Albion in Kingston, The Flintgate in Weybridge, The Hole in the Wall in Chichester and its managed pub, The Royal Oak in Hombury St Mary, near Dorking.

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