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Mon 13th May 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pubs see like-for-likes surge 5.3% in Easter sunshine as restaurant sales plummet: Managed pubs saw like-for-likes surge 5.3% in the Easter sunshine but restaurants struggled in the heat, with sales declining 19.4% compared with Easter 2018, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Drink-led pubs performed particularly well, up 10.9%, as the public headed outdoors. However the overall eating and drinking-out market was actually down 3.6% over the four-day weekend as, in stark contrast to pubs, restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales tumble 18.6% against last Easter’s trading. “You simply can’t escape the fact weather always has a major influence on the fortunes of the pub and restaurant sector – and what’s good for pubs is rarely good for restaurants,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “These Easter figures just underline that reality. The Easter weekend last year, which fell in March rather than April, was good for trade overall, particularly restaurants, as although the weather wasn’t stunning the holiday weekend came in the aftermath of the snow that accompanied the Beast From The East. There was plenty of pent-up demand from people wanting to get out, which helped boost sales across the sector by almost 6% against Easter 2017. So although this Easter may have been a bit of a disappointment overall, it was still better than two years ago.” There was better news for the month of April overall, helped by the fact it contained the Easter period this year. Collective like-for-like sales for the combined managed pub, bar and restaurant sector were up 1.1% on April last year. Pubs and bars were up 2.1%, while restaurant groups reported like-for-like decline of 0.7%. Within the pub grouping, drink sales were ahead 2.7%, with food up a more modest 0.8%. Regionally, London saw a fall in like-for-like trading, down 0.7% on last April, while outside the M25 was up 1.7% on a like-for-like basis for the month. Looking at the underlying trends, however, London is still outperforming the rest of the country. Market like-for-likes overall were up 1.7% for the 12 months to the end of April, with London running at 2.5% ahead and outside the M25 up 1.5%. Total sales across the 50 companies in the Tracker, which include the effect of net new openings since this time last year, were ahead 4.0% compared with last April, showing that although openings have slowed they haven’t stopped. Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “The Easter numbers are difficult to measure because of the contrasting weather year-on-year and the later Easter. The April numbers overall, though, were down and show the pressure the hospitality sector is under – like many other sectors relying on consumer confidence. Pubs trade well when consumer confidence is low but the restaurant sector is also affected by the retail woes we are seeing. This could be a difficult summer while we have no resolution to Brexit.”

Industry News:

Full speaker schedule revealed for Propel summer conference and party, two free places for operators: The full speaker schedule for the Propel Multi Club summer conference and party has been revealed. The event takes place on Thursday, 27 June at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40. The speaker line-up is The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport; Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati; Ted Kennedy, owner of Pebble Hotels and veteran operator of pub assets; Three Joes co-founder Tim Hall; Las Iguanas chief executive Mos Shamel; Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna; Think Hospitality founder James Hacon; Mario C Bauer, advisor to Vapiano and former chief executive of franchising; The Glee Club founder Mark Tughan; Graffiti Spirits Group founder Matt Farrell and Crepeaffaire founder Daniel Spinath. The conference will be followed by the summer party, with an evening barbecue, the Big Fat Quiz and the legendary sounds of DJ Big Lee. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com. Rooms (bed and breakfast) are also available at £125 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing Anne.

CAMRA sees income fall 9.6%, membership up 0.3%: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) saw income fall 9.6% to £12,633,931 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £13,966,528 the year before. Total reserves fell to £3,212,358 compared with £3,430,969 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. By the end of 2018, CAMRA had increased its membership by 0.3% to 190,918 members. It stated: “Total income for the year was £12.63m, being 9.6% down on the previous year’s £13.97m. Predominantly the deficit results from a £1.28m decline in festival income, at £8.33m (2017: £9.61m). Membership income of £3.17m (2017: £3.05m) was up 3.9%. Publishing, advertising and other trading income totalled £1.14m (2017: £1.31m). Total contribution in the year of £2.89m (2017: £3.19m) was 9.4% down on the previous year. Increased membership contribution was offset by a significant decline in festival contribution, reflecting the decline in income. Administrative expenses of £3.21m (2017: £3.16m) were 1.6% up on the previous year. Campaign costs of £1.25m (2017: £1.29m) were marginally below the previous year as a result of lower branch campaign costs linked to festivals. Administration costs of £1.96m (2017: £1.87m) were marginally above the previous year but significantly below budget. At the end of the financial year, CAMRA held reserves of £3.21m (2017: £3.43m). Net assets include tangible and intangible assets of £0.79m (2017: £0.89m), while fixed asset investments are £1.70m (2017: £1.69m). Net current assets are £1.02m (2017: £1.21m), which includes cash and cash equivalents of £2.54m (2017: £2.78m). During the year, CAMRA incurred £0.16m capital expenditure (2017: £0.23m). The cash position remains strong.”

Jamie Rollo – volatile margins of top catering companies show industry is getting more competitive: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has argued the volatile margins of the top catering companies shows the industry is becoming more competitive. Rollo said: “Compass’ margins have become more stable over time, whereas the margins of the other three large operators have become more volatile. For context, between 2000 and 2005 Compass’ margins fell from 6.1% to 4.5% as it faced a series of challenges – the Sutcliffe acquisition was found to be overearning, capex spent on winning contracts was subsequently written off so margins were lower than originally anticipated, its suppliers were being squeezed, the US was affected by weak sports attendances and hurricanes, and there were some accounting issues. A new chief executive instigated an efficiency programme in 2005, which saw margins expand sharply to 6.9% by 2010. Since then, its margins have expanded in a steady and almost linear fashion by five to ten basis points a year to reach 7.5% in 2018 as it reinvests ongoing efficiencies to focus on revenue growth. Conversely, Sodexo, Aramark and Elior, numbers two to four behind Compass, have seen the opposite trend. Sodexo ran at a tight 4.2 to 4.6% margin range from 2002 to 2013 and then increased this to 5.8% in 2017 as the company attempted to close the margin gap to the market leader through various efficiency programmes. The cost reductions affected contract wins, and both sales and margins suffered, with margins dropping to 5.0% in 2018. Aramark also ran at a tight range in the last decade (4.8% to 5.3%), much of it under private equity ownership, and this has since increased to 6.7% as a public company with a greater margin focus aided by acquisitions. The theme is Sodexo, Aramark and Elior have all suffered margin pressure recently due to greater investment to win and retain contracts and/or lower margins on new contracts. We think these are indications the industry is getting more competitive, perhaps compounded by the ambitious public sales targets, mirroring some of the themes seen almost two decades ago.”

Increased international visitor numbers result in double-digit growth for UK hoteliers: UK hoteliers have enjoyed an encouraging start to the year, with many regions and cities seeing double-digit growth as a result of increased demand from international travellers, according to new data from Expedia Group. Data from the first quarter of 2019 showed the industry continued the positive momentum of 2018, with demand fuelled in the main by traditionally strong visitor markets. Outside London, a number of cities experienced notable growth year-on-year, including Manchester (more than 10%), Edinburgh (15%), and Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff (each 10%). Top-performing UK regions during the period included Kent, Berkshire, East Anglia, and the Lake District and Cumbria. Hoteliers in those regions experienced double-digit growth in demand, while demand in Scotland and Wales increased in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same period last year. Growth continues to be driven by visitors from Asia, with demand from Chinese travellers to the UK rising more than 180% year-on-year supported by further growth in demand from Japan (almost 25%) and Korea (almost 20%). The surge from Asia was buoyed by demand from traditionally strong visitor markets such as the US (up almost 25%), Germany (15%) and France (15%). Expedia Group director of market management Irene Roberts said: “Our first-quarter data for 2019 points to a really encouraging start to the year for our hotel partners across the UK. With the summer months ahead, a period that’s traditionally popular with international travellers visiting the UK, hoteliers should be confident of some busy times.”

US restaurants see momentum stall as like-for-likes fall 0.4% in April but industry ‘still in growth’: US restaurants saw momentum stall in April as like-for-like sales fell 0.4% – but the industry is “still in growth”. The figure, which follows the 1.2% rise in March, means there has been a like-for-like sales decline in two of the past three months. The research by data company TDn2K’s The Restaurant Industry Snapshot, which is based on weekly sales from more than 31,000 restaurants and 170 brands that represent almost $72bn in annual revenue, showed operators are continuing to rely on their guests spending more as restaurant visit numbers fell again, this time 3.5% compared with the previous year. Average spend has accelerated since the fourth quarter of 2018. However, the report said it was too soon to start worrying about a true downturn for the industry. TDn2K vice-president of insights and knowledge Victor Fernandez said: “Putting these results in context helps us remain cautiously optimistic about the current state of the industry. First, the industry was lapping over one of the strongest months in like-for-like sales growth last year. When taking in a longer-term view of sales, the two-year growth rate of 0.9% during April still reflects a growing industry.” Fine dining and family dining were the two best-performing segments in April, based on like-for-like sales growth. Quick service was the only other segment that achieved positive growth during the month, despite a soft week at Easter.

More than 80% of chefs suffer poor mental health: More than four-fifths (81%) of chefs have experienced poor mental health during their careers, while almost half (48%) believe not enough is being done to support their mental well-being in the workplace, according to a new report. The research by Nestlé Professional showed the top factors contributing to stress are staff shortages (58%), lack of time (43%) and limited budgets (42%). Lack of daylight was also cited, with 41% saying it had a negative impact on their well-being. The research revealed poor mental health is also having a negative impact on wider operations, with almost three-quarters (73%) of chefs admitting they have called in sick because of stress. The research identified creativity as a key factor in reducing stress levels and increasing employee satisfaction, with 87% of chefs agreeing more freedom to be creative in the kitchen would significantly improve their stress levels. However, the vast majority (85%) said their creativity was stifled by other work pressure. Nestlé Professional collaborated with Renée Clarke, workplace well-being expert from The Work Well Hub, on the report, which includes commentary from industry experts such as UKHospitality and mental health campaigns.

Company News:

Capdesia sees ‘amazing potential’ in Wasabi, eyes franchising: London-based private equity firm Capdesia, which late last week acquired a minority stake in Wasabi, has told Propel its sees “amazing potential” for the sushi and bento brand in the UK and internationally. Capdesia invested in the 60-strong business last week, with co-investment coming from Sushiro Global Holdings, Japan’s largest publicly-listed sushi chain operator, and Regis Group, a leading US and UK asset manager. Ashton Crosby, co-founder and managing director of Capdesia, told Propel the immediate focus would be to make the business even more robust, with new processes set to implemented. He said the new investors were convinced there were a “significant amount of opportunities for the business, both in the UK and overseas”. He said: “With a price point just north of McDonald’s, strong customer loyalty and a healthy product, the potential for expansion is enormous.” Propel understands Capdesia will look to complement the existing management team led by founder Dong Hyun Kim and has already appointed Randeep Bansal, who was previously head of estates at Pret A Manger, as Wasabi’s new property director. Propel understands the company will also look to hire someone in franchising when it starts to explore that avenue, probably next year. It will also seek to invest ahead of the curve and recruit a managing director for its five-strong US estate but has “very measured expectations for that roll-out”. Ramping up the company’s marketing will also be on the agenda. Wasabi has already started to consolidate its non-core estate with the closure of the Kimchee To Go unit in New Oxford Street and the second Soboro Bakery unit in Paddington station. It is understood the lease on the debut Soboro unit, in Cambridge’s Lion Yard, has been placed on the market while a decision on the remaining Kimchee To Go unit in the Strand lies between a sale of the lease or a conversion to its neighbouring sister brand to form a bigger Wasabi. The company will also look to tap into some of predictive ordering technology that new investor Sushiro, which operates more than 500 restaurants in the Far East, uses.

Administrators considering two offers for Authentic Alehouses portfolio: The administrators of Leeds-based Authentic Alehouses are considering two offers for the seven-strong pub package, Propel has learned. Joint administrators Simon Bonney and Michael Kiely, of Quantuma, instructed Christie & Co to market the portfolio in March. Five offers were received, of which three were rejected on the basis they failed to represent fair value. The two remaining offers are now being considered. Four of the freehold pubs – The Albert Hotel in Hull, the Countess of Rosse in Shipley, The Fountain Inn in Barnoldswick and The Ponty Tavern in Pontefract – are currently operating. The other three – the Crown Inn in Addingham, The Red Lion in Driffield and The Wakey Tavern in Wakefield – are shut because there are no funds available to complete the required refurbishments. The administrators are also considering seeking third-party financing to complete the final stages of work required to get the remaining three pubs up and running to “maximise value” for creditors. The Allan Harper-led pub group entered administration despite raising £6.4m in peer-to-peer loans via Crowdstacker. An email to investors, which has seen by Propel, stated: “Shortly after administration, Christie & Co was instructed to market the business as assets for sale. Five offers were received with two being considered. The details of these offers cannot be shared at this time but we will do as soon as possible. The next step is to decide whether to sell the pubs as they are to one of the external offers and/or seek third-party financing to complete the final stages of work needed to get the remaining three pubs up and running to maximise value for investors. We are working for the best outcome for investors. This will include a full investigation into the affairs of the business prior to administration.” Authentic Alehouses launched in July 2017 with a £5m crowdfunding campaign on Crowdstacker that was later doubled. Harper also led Burning Night Group, which went into administration in October after raising £7.5m on the same platform. On Christmas Eve, Burning Night Group was bought out of administration by a special purpose vehicle created by turnaround specialist Access Commercial Finance, which was a secured creditor of Burning Night Group. The deal saved more than 300 jobs.

Wok&Go signs Manchester master franchise deal with Kettlebell Kitchen founder: UK noodle bar brand Wok&Go has signed a deal with Carley Jones, founder of the now liquidated healthy eating concept Kettlebell Kitchen, to be its master franchisee for Manchester, Propel has learned. Wok&Go founder Des Pheby said: “We are pleased to announce Carley Jones will join the Wok&Go family as master franchisee for Manchester and Greater Manchester. Carley brings a wealth of experience from her past entrepreneurial endeavours and we are excited to have her on board.” In March, Wok&Go signed a master franchise agreement for 37 sites in London over the next ten years. Kettlebell Kitchen went into liquidation earlier this year with its assets and intellectual property rights acquired in March by a new business led by Gary Dixon and Jamie Alaise, a partner in the original Kettlebell business. Jones has also set up a new business called Hustle & Heart. It operates a restaurant in Newcastle offering “healthy, hearty food”, while the business also focuses on meal prep, offering meal kits for home delivery.

Atul Kochhar to open Westminster restaurant for second central London site: Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar is to open a second central London restaurant. He will launch Mathura in Westminster this autumn. Named after a capital city of King Kanishka, an emperor of the Kushan dynasty in the second century, the 200-cover restaurant and bar will be housed in the former Westminster Fire Station in Greycoat Place. The 5,000 square foot site combines a converted grade II-listed building and a new-build, mixed-use residential project from development managers Alchemi Group. Mathura is a collaborative project with Kanishka Holdings managing director Tina English, with whom Kochhar opened Kanishka in Mayfair earlier this year. Mathura’s menu will stay true to Kochhar’s signature Indian flair with “unique and unexpected elements” that will set it apart from his previous restaurants. Kochhar won a Michelin star at Tamarind in Mayfair in 2001, leaving to launch Benares in 2002, which was awarded its own Michelin star four years later and which he held until his departure last year. He also operates a restaurant in Madrid, is an author and regularly appears on television, including as an investor in BBC Show My Million Pound Menu.

Hart Brothers launch DIY grilling space for fourth Coal Drops Yard site: The Hart Brothers have opened a fourth site at the Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, London. The Harts already operate a third site for Mexican taqueria concept El Pastor at Coal Drops Yard, a fourth for their restaurant brand Barrafina, and new-concept wine bar and restaurant The Drop. The fourth site, Parrillan, features a partly covered outside space where diners grill their own meat, fish and vegetables on their own “parrilla”, a mini charcoal grill, reports Hot Dinners. The company raised almost £2.5m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in July 2018 to fund the Coal Drops Yard openings. The campaign was launched with an initial £750,000 target and raised more than £1.6m within the first two hours. The new venues are part of more than 50 stores, cafes and restaurants at the development, including two concepts by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. Last week, Australian craft brewer Little Creatures announced it would open a micro-brewery, taproom and restaurant at Coal Drops Yard later this month.

Camerons Brewery lines up third Head of Steam in Leeds: Camerons Brewery has lined up its third Head of Steam in Leeds. The brand, renowned for its craft beer selection, already has a pub on Mill Hill, near Leeds Station, and a sister site in Headingley. The company is now thought to have taken on the lease of a former Lloyds Bank branch in Park Row, with the aim to open this summer. The Head of Steam brand now has a presence across the country with pubs in Cardiff, Tynemouth, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham, Liverpool, Hull, Durham, Manchester, Birmingham and Huddersfield.

Bistrot Pierre appoints Wardell as operations director: Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, has appointed Mike Wardell, formerly of Timothy Taylor and Casual Dining Group (CDG), as operations director, Propel has learned. Wardell joins the Nick White-led company from Timothy Taylor, where he had been estates operations director since summer 2017. Before that he spent a year as operations manager at CDG. Wardell also founded the Pound Pubs concept under the Here For You Hospitality umbrella. The company, which ran Pound Pubs and several independent venues, put its ten-strong estate on the market in early 2016. Bistrot Pierre opened its latest site in Coventry in 2018 and will open its next one later this year by the Wish Tower Napoleonic fort on Eastbourne seafront. In November, the company appointed former Coffee#1 head of property and CDG acquisitions director Jonathan Havenhand as property director.

Sushimania to replace Busaba Eathai in St Albans: Sushimania, the Paul Cheung-led business, is to add its regional estate after securing the former Busaba Eathai site in St Albans, Hertfordshire. The ten-strong group has secured the site in Verulam Road, which closed last year, for an opening later this summer. Earlier this year, Sushimania opened its first site solely focused on grab and go – and its first in central London. The former Subway unit at 84 Charing Cross Road opened in February. Sushimania opened its first store in Golders Green, London, in 2011, launching three further sites in the capital and one each in Brighton, Reading, Cambridge, Oxford and Nottingham. AG&G acted on the St Albans deal.

Tracey promoted to Manorview managing director: Former BrewDog head of retail development David Tracey has been promoted to managing director at Scottish-based boutique hotel and leisure group Manorview. Tracey joined Manorview in 2016 as head of group operations before spending the past two years as the company’s operations director. Tracey left BrewDog in May 2016 after little more than a year in the role having previously been director of brands and strategy for G1 Group. When Tracey joined BrewDog it’s understood he was tasked with ramping up the Scottish brewer and retailer’s food and coffee offer. Manorview, which was founded in 2007, operates eight hotels across Scotland’s central belt.

French chef Thierry Laborde to open Mayfair restaurant: French chef Thierry Laborde is to open a restaurant in Mayfair. He has partnered with Anton Efimov to launch Les Platanes, which means “plane trees” in French. The contemporary French bistro de luxe will open in Bruton Place on Monday, 20 May with an emphasis on cuisine from the south of France. Laborde has worked in restaurants such as Le Gavroche, Restaurant Le Louis XV and L’Oranger, and opened Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis in Knightsbridge in 2011, which has since closed. His Les Platanes menu, which will feature contemporary reinventions of classic dishes, will include Cornish turbot with artichokes à la barigoule, sweetbreads, fresh morel and asparagus. The drinks list will feature wine from Bordeaux, Provence and Languedoc. The decor will by inspired by classic French bistros with cream walls and oak wood flooring complemented by recreations of great 19th and 20th century artwork. Efimov will be Les Platanes’ operations director having previously worked in venues such as Mari Vanna and Chinawhite in Air Street.

Doncaster-based restaurateur opens Argentine steakhouse for third site, plans fourth venue: Doncaster-based restaurateur Masud Rana has opened an Argentine steakhouse in the South Yorkshire town for his third site – and is planning a fourth venue. Rana has launched La Boca in the former Maridon Centre and Chapel in Nether Hall Road. The 60-seater restaurant offers grilled meat, salads, burgers and sandwiches. Drinks include Argentinian wine and cocktails. Rana told the Doncaster Free Press he now plans to open a Brazilian rodizio steakhouse. Diners are given a card with a green and red side. Holding up green means a diner is ready to eat. Rana also owns La Rustica Italian in Doncaster and La Fiesta Tapas Bar and Restaurant in nearby Armthorpe.

Fishmonger turned restaurateur opens Earls Court site: Fishmonger turned restaurateur Johnny Micalusi has opened a site in Earls Court. Micalusi has taken over the former Garnier site in Earls Court Road to launch Italian fish shop and restaurant Pescheria Assunta. As well as selling fish retail and wholesale, the venue supplies the restaurant’s menu for dishes such as white fish tartar Mediterranean-style, reports Hot Dinners. Micalusi was behind the now-closed Assunta Madre in Mayfair.

Katona confirms Mowgli move into Preston: Mowgli founder Nisha Katona has confirmed she will open a restaurant in Preston for her Foresight Group-backed Indian street food concept, with a prospective site lined up in Friargate. Mowgli operates restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester (two each) and one each in Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield. It is also due to open sites in Cardiff and Leicester this year. Katona told Blog Preston: “I am thrilled to be opening Mowgli Preston in 2020. I was born and raised a Lancashire lass and I’m now honouring my Lancashire roots. I worked as a barrister in Preston and would have given my right arm for the lunchtime smash, grab and zing of Mowgli Indian home kitchen so I’m building one and hope she brings you much joy. I have been hunting for a long time and I’m delighted to open Mowgli Preston, our soon to be home from home.”

Turkish restaurateur to double up: Turkish restaurateur Ercan Yuzey is to double up by opening a site in Horsham town centre. Plans are being put forward to establish an eatery offering “authentic Turkish food” at a site in Denne Road formerly occupied by Italian restaurant Carmela. Yuzey, who operates another Turkish restaurant in West Sussex, Zeytin in Haywards Heath, said he hoped to open the Horsham restaurant in three months’ time. He said: “We have a successful branch in Haywards Heath and want to bring the taste of Turkey to Horsham.” Yuzey said the restaurant would open from 7.30am to 11pm offering “reasonably priced” food such as full English and Turkish breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner. It will also bake its own bread. The full Turkish breakfast consists of halloumi, Turkish sausage, tomato, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, boiled eggs, honey and butter accompanied by Turkish tea.

Gordon Ramsay to front new BBC show searching for ‘next food superstar’: Chef Gordon Ramsay is to present new television show Step Up To The Plate, which the BBC describes as a combination between Dragons’ Den and My Million Pound Menu. The show is at pilot stage. Producers are encouraging would-be restaurateurs, chefs and product developers to apply under the slogan “Gordon Ramsay wants you” in the search for the UK’s “next food superstar”.

Leeds operator lines up fourth site: Leeds operator Rose Thirteen will reopen the former True Briton in Meanwood as the Beck & Call at the end of May. Rose Thirteen runs city centre venues Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, Headrow House and Water Lane Boathouse. The latest site is a former Mitchells & Butlers pub that closed along with the Barley Mow in Bramley due to “changing trading conditions”. The True Briton was later put up for sale by most recent owner Aprirose.

Waterford is next Irish regional city for JD Wetherspoon opening: Waterford will be the next regional Irish city to see the development of a JD Wetherspoon pub following the opening of a site in Carlow earlier this month. The arrival of Wetherspoon in Waterford has been long-heralded, with a site purchased in 2015. It is at Arundel Square/Broad Street. The company already runs six pubs in Ireland, four in Dublin and one each in Cork and Carlow. The seventh will open in Dublin’s Abbey Street at the end of June, with attention likely to turn to Waterford after that. The pub group currently employs 500 staff in Ireland but that figure will jump to more than 1,000 by the middle of next year as the Waterford operation and a superpub/hotel in Dublin’s Camden Street open. 

Essex pair to open fifth restaurant: Essex businessmen Sharif Uddin and Shakil Islam are to open their fifth restaurant, this one a Mediterranean and Asian fusion restaurant and shisha lounge. Dusk in Brentwood will occupy two acres and offer shisha flavours from around the world. The restaurant in Ongar Road will have space for 140 diners in the main restaurant, which will offer a fusion of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The main menu has been designed by Dusk executive head chef and television personality Stephen Gomes. There will be a further 150 seats in an alfresco dining area where people can smoke flavoured shisha and eat from the street food menu. The site is scheduled to open on Friday, 7 June. The outside dining area will overlook Bentley golf course and Dusk customers will be able to use the club’s 500 car parking spaces.

Great Northern Inns to open West Bridgford site for fourth Nottingham venue: Nottingham-based Great Northern Inns, which operates three sites for its Copper Cafe brand, is to open a venue in West Bridgford. The Refinery will launch at the end of May. Great Northern Inns owners Dave Willans and Les Howard have brought two new partners on board – Antony Wilson, who is already a partner in the city centre Copper Cafe, and Tristan Hanmer, who has been a member of Copper’s senior management for ten years and will be general manager of the new site. Willans said: “It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to open another site in West Bridgford and one we’re all looking forward to opening. It’s so rewarding that individuals we have employed for many years now have the opportunity to become partners in our new ventures and hopefully this gives our younger generation of bar staff incentive and insight into how the company values our hard-working and long-serving team members”.

Eataly lines up seventh US site: Eataly will open its seventh US location, in Dallas in 2020. The venue will launch inside NorthPark Center, one of the “top malls in the country”. Eataly’s other US stores are in New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Dallas store will add to Eataly’s portfolio of 39 stores worldwide. The new venue will feature three levels, with the top level hosting an “indoor-outdoor restaurant”. The venue will also host tasting events and masterclasses and offer a wide selection of Italian ingredients. The company chose Dallas because it’s an “important, diverse and cultural city – perfect for Eataly”, Nicola Farinetti, chief executive of Eataly North America, told the Dallas Morning News.

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