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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 25th Jun 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Government announces mandatory introduction of full ingredient labelling: The government has announced a new law requiring food businesses to include full ingredient labelling on pre-packaged foods. The announcement comes after a government consultation on allergen regulations for pre-packed food, which followed the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette. Known as “Natasha’s Law”, new legislation will be introduced by the end of the summer mandating full ingredient labelling for foods pre-packed for direct sale, and the new law will come into force by summer 2021. The government said this would give businesses time to adapt to the change, which was backed by more than 70% of people during the consultation. Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “These changes will make food labels clear and consistent and give the country’s two million food allergy sufferers confidence in making safe food choices.” But UKHospitality has warned the new allergen labelling measures would be “impractical and potentially hazardous”. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We understand the sensitivity around the introduction of the legislation but also think this is a retrograde step. Food safety is an incredibly important issue to our members and the entire sector. Many businesses have taken voluntary steps to deal with the issue. We take the matter seriously and maintain high standards but we’re worried this new legislation could be difficult for some businesses to implement and potentially dangerous. We firmly believe the best way to raise awareness of allergens and keep customers safe is to promote an active dialogue between customers and businesses. That’s why we recommended the promotion of voluntary labelling and encouraging customers to ask businesses about ingredients and possible allergens. We are worried full ingredient labelling is going to prevent the kind of dialogue we need to promote. There is also a risk the new measures, which won’t circumvent cross-contamination and will be open to mislabelling, will only promote a dangerous reliance on labelling.” Meanwhile, Pret is supporting the introduction of full ingredient labelling. A spokeswoman said: “As part of Pret’s allergy plan, full ingredient labels are now in more than 60 Pret shops as part of our nationwide roll-out. Before we took this step we ran a number of pilots to confirm this approach would be safe, practical and effective. Thanks to the dedication of many Pret team members, we have been able to show full ingredient labelling is operationally possible in small kitchens when proper care is taken.”

Industry News:

Sam Roberts to feature in next video for Propel Premium subscribers: Sam Roberts, chief executive of all-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party, will feature in the next 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (28 June). Roberts shares his learnings from the company’s ban on disposable cups and how he is prepared to stand by his principles for the good of the planet. 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

Virtual queuing app launches backed by Just Eat: WalkIn, an app backed by Just Eat, the market place for online food delivery, has launched with the aim to end restaurant queuing by allowing diners to join a virtual queue. Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, The Breakfast Club, Taiwanese dim sum restaurant chain Din Tai Fung and Italian pasta specialist Padella are among the operators to partner with the app. During the first year, WalkIn allowed diners who visited a participating restaurant to receive real-time queuing details and updates so they could return when their table was ready. The system seats more than 125,000 people a month, with the company forecasting that figure will rise to 400,000 within the next six months as the app’s capabilities increase and more London restaurants come on board. WalkIn said its app had saved diners more than 35 million minutes in queuing time so far, while an upgrade now allowed app users to join a virtual queue without visiting the restaurant beforehand at all. Just Eat started working with WalkIn after the app’s team won a place on its accelerator programme in 2017, which provided funding and mentoring to WalkIn founders Amos Teshuva, Frazer Harper and Archie Kennedy-Dyson. Just Eat is continuing mentoring and technical support as WalkIn’s offering expands. The founders said WalkIn had grown more than 10% week-on-week since its product launch in February 2018, while it has raised more than $1m in seed funding to date. Teshuva said: “Ten years ago if you wanted to get a taxi you had to book one in advance or go out and hail a black cab. Then Uber came along and connected the dots. The restaurant industry today is the same way the taxi industry was ten years ago. With Just Eat’s help, WalkIn is going to do for restaurants what Uber did for transport.” Stuart Mainwaring, head of corporate ventures at Just Eat, added: “We have supported many growth companies in the food tech space but WalkIn is one of the most exciting we’ve worked with. It provides a simple yet innovative solution to one of the biggest grievances when eating out, backed by cutting-edge technology.”

McDonald’s trials kitchen automation and Alexa-style voice ordering: McDonald’s is testing kitchen automation and Alexa-style voice ordering at a handful of stores in the US as it looks to increase speed of service and simplify operations. With no sign of the term “robot”, the innovations have been branded “advanced kitchen equipment” designed to automate repetitive tasks such as cooking fries and dispensing drinks. McDonald’s Alexa-style voice-ordering pilot is separate from the company’s artificial intelligence-powered drive-thru menu boards, which are being tested in 700 US restaurants. A company spokesman told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We are exploring restaurant innovations to evolve the way food is ordered, cooked and served. We’re testing to see how these innovations can alleviate pressure on restaurant employees, making it simpler and more enjoyable to serve our customers. The innovations are focused on simplification, providing restaurant employees with more time to focus on the hospitality experience our customers seek.” Meanwhile, McDonald’s said the launch of fresh beef quarter-pound burgers and surrounding promotional material had resulted in the sale of 40 million more quarter pounders in the US in the first quarter of 2019, compared with the same period the year before.

Company News:

New look drives sales at PizzaExpress as company shuffles management team: PizzaExpress, the Hony Capital-backed chain, has seen an impressive sales uptick at the first batch of sites updated to its new format, managing director Zoe Bowley has told Propel. The company launched future-proofing strategy “Future Express” at the start of this year. The move includes refurbishments, updates and innovation across its portfolio, with its Langham Place and Leeds Arena sites the first to be updated. A further handful of sites have now been upgraded, including Putney, Loughton and Blackheath, with sales significantly up on pre-refurbishment performance and running ahead of expectations. The new look and feel is themed around the “sociable pizzeria”. The company runs circa 490 restaurants in the UK and about 60 overseas. At the same time, the company has widened the remits of Lee Homer and Matt Ward as it looks to streamline its management team. Homer, who has been with the business for five years, the past two as brand director, becomes brand and operations director. At the same time Ward, who has been with the company for more than four years, the past two and a half as commercial director also takes over responsibility for its property function after the departure of Mark Jones last year. Tom Sycamore, who had been the company’s operations director for UK and Ireland, stepped down earlier this year. In addition Kate Daines, who joined from Costa last year to become PizzaExpress director of people for UK and Ireland, has been appointed people director for the region and promoted to the UK leadership team. Bowley said: “These changes are not only positive examples of internal promotions but strengthen our UK leadership team and are in line with the development and roll out of our Future Express strategy.” Meanwhile, Propel understands Suzie Welch, who has been group people director at PizzaExpress for the past four years, is set to leave the company to join Odeon Cinemas as chief people officer.

Burger King UK chairman among investors in £2m fund-raise by London food and drink discovery app: Burger King UK chairman Martin Robinson is among the investors in a £2m fund-raise by Nez, the London food and drink discovery app. It brings the app’s total funding since its inception in 2016 to £3m. The funds will see the app invest in marketing campaigns as it scales across London. Nez will also develop its technology and data capabilities and update employee benefits platform Nez perks. The app recently announced more than 385,000 food and drinks offers had been redeemed by its 150,000 users, while it expects to hit 200,000 users by the end of September. Redemptions have grown tenfold in the past 12 months, the company said, including a 40% month-on-month jump in April following its launch in the City. Nez was created by Joe Zender to connect traders with a local customer base by delivering discounts to Londoners’ phones. Nez is now working with more than 330 partners in central London. Zender said: “I came up with the idea of Nez as I walked past a restaurant that had a ‘half price’ sign outside yet it wasn’t getting much attention. I realised there must be a gap in the market for an app featuring hyper-local, real-time offers in London. To see this vision come to life is incredible and rewarding.” Robinson added: “We believe Nez’s offering is unique in the industry and a breath of fresh air in terms of marketing opportunity for its partners. We look forward to embarking on this journey with the brand and continuing to watch its exceptional growth.”

Aprirose launches pub management company: Aprirose, the real estate investment company, has launched its own pub management company – Blackrose. Daren Knipe, a veteran of the pub and leisure industry, was appointed by Aprirose last year to manage and build the Blackrose team and portfolio. Knipe has extensive experience working for Punch, Ei Group and Scottish & Newcastle. Aprirose chief operating officer Gary Jones said: “The creation of our own pub management company is an exciting new development in the growth and evolution of our pub portfolio. It demonstrates our long-term commitment to the sector and will allow us to recruit industry-leading talent and drive value for our clients. We are actively looking for the right assets in the right locations to grow the portfolio further.” Knipe added: “We have a clear structured business strategy for our pubs and the launch of Blackrose will allow us to play a key role in how we enhance and develop our assets. We have an experienced and skilful team in place, which will allow us to hit the ground running and offer a seamless and best-in-class service to our customers. The pub portfolio is undergoing significant asset management and modernisation and we have introduced a capital expenditure programme to ensure we create a brand and company that provides consistency and quality of experience in all our premises. We aim to complete 15 capital development projects by the end of the year, with the relaunch of the first Blackrose pubs this summer.” Aprirose operates across a number of sectors and recently undertook a similar hands-on approach in the hotel sector by establishing its own hotel operating platform.

Gillies joins Santo Remedio in consultancy role as taqueria concept eyes expansion: Stuart Gillies, the former chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holdings, has joined Santo Remedio as a consultant as the taqueria concept looks to further expand in London, Propel has learned. Gillies stepped down from Gordon Ramsay Holdings last year after more than 15 years with the company. He is assisting Santo Remedio founders Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes with developing and implementing the concept’s strategy. After three years of pop-ups, supper clubs and a Street Feast residency, the first bricks and mortar Santo Remedio opened in Shoreditch. It was only 30 covers but was critically acclaimed in The Times, The Observer and Evening Standard. In 2017, the business raised more than £40,000 via a fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to open a site following the closure of its original Shoreditch restaurant. It subsequently opened a 100-cover restaurant in Tooley Street, London Bridge. The site is understood to be delivering net weekly revenue of circa £35,000 and a site Ebitda margin of 20%. The business, which Code Hospitality has invested in and advised, is now looking for sites in locations such as Shoreditch, Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and the City.

Causeway Capital closes two Patisserie Valerie sites: Patisserie Valerie’s new owner, Causeway Capital, has shut two of the cafe chain’s sites, Propel has learned. Causeway Capital has taken the “difficult decision” to shut outlets in Lincoln and Hove in a move it described as “right for the business as a whole”. It leaves Patisserie Valerie with 94 sites and Propel understands no further closures are planned at this time. Earlier this month, Causeway Capital partner Matt Scaife said the Patisserie Valerie business was “back on track” as he laid bare the state of the company it acquired out of administration in January. As well as broken ovens, unpaid suppliers and a leak in the roof at a key bakery, Scaife said butter had stopped being used in the puff pastry. Patisserie Valerie went into administration after it was unable to secure new bank finance following the discovery in October of “potentially fraudulent” accounting irregularities that left a black hole in its finances that has turned out to be at least £94m. At the weekend, the Serious Fraud Office, which has opened a criminal investigation, said a further five people had been arrested. This follows the arrest last year of Patisserie Valerie’s former finance director, Chris Marsh, who was subsequently bailed.

Coaching Inn Group launches debut standalone coffee shop: Coaching inn operator The Coaching Inn Group has launched its debut standalone coffee shop as the company bids to grow a “fourth income stream”. Last year the company purchased The Feathers in Ledbury, Herefordshire, which had a room that was only used to host the odd meeting. That space has now been relaunched as Coaching Inn Group’s first dedicated coffee shop, with the site producing a 300% increase on coffee sales for the first full seven days of trading. Speaking at the Propel Coffee Conference, chief executive Kevin Charity told delegates: “We wanted to create a fourth income stream to go alongside the wet, food and accommodation, something more than just an add-on. We’re aiming for £10,000 a week turnover on our standalone coffee shop concept and, regarding acquisitions, we’re looking for sites that can house a coffee shop. The idea is to push a premium coffee offer. We’re at the higher end of proposition in our market towns, our drink and food offers are premium and that’s the way we want our coffee. We want to steal back the heart of the community and be the number-one choice on the high street.” Coaching Inn Group has grown to 15 sites in market town squares across 13 counties. Charity said: “We have the perfect venues and the best square footage in every market square, plus our teams are already there preparing breakfast service so to sweat every daypart makes sense, bringing in coffee has solved that problem. We’re now as busy in the mornings as we are at lunchtime and we’ve created an afternoon tea trade on the back of it. If people enjoy their coffee experience with us they can come back for the other experiences we offer. Afternoon tea, for example, has gone massive since we launched the offer, far bigger than we thought possible. It’s getting people to come back and use us as a one-stop-shop, whether that’s coffee in the morning or after school, weddings, parties, christenings, we want to provide that community offering – and coffee will contribute massively.” Charity said the company’s two-year review of its coffee offer had led to a 20% increase in coffee and patisserie sales across the estate, with sales 1,100% higher than the pub market average. 

Sherlock joins Imbiba as its first full-time property director: Kieran Sherlock has joined sector investor Imbiba as its first full-time property director, Propel has learned. Sherlock, who was property director at both YO! Sushi and Black Sheep Coffee, was also previously responsible for acquisitions for Mitchells & Butlers and Whitbread during a ten-year period and brings more than 25 years of hospitality and leisure property experience to the Imbiba team. He is also currently a non-executive director and advisor to Pizza Pilgrims. Imbiba chairman John Connell said: “Kieran is highly experienced, well connected and respected across the industry. His property knowledge in the leisure market is extensive, from site negotiation, management of landlords, lettings, real estate appraisal and site selection. We are delighted to welcome him to Imbiba and for the support this brings to our portfolio businesses.” Sherlock said: “Imbiba is the only institutional investor focused exclusively on leisure investing in the UK. This specialist, operator-led approach is unique and adds great value for potential investee companies. I am delighted to have joined such an exciting, specialist leisure team and look forward to assisting and growing the portfolio businesses.” Imbiba currently invests in the likes of Farmer J, Vagabond, Temper and Darwin & Wallace.

Greene King appoints operations director as it restructures Pub Partners division: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed Chris Gott as operations director covering northern England and Scotland for its Pub Partners division. Gott has joined from Ei Group, where he was divisional director. The appointment comes as part of a restructure that saw Pub Partners increase its number of operations directors from two to three, with Mike O’Connor promoted to the role of director for the south west. Mike Mannion continues as operations director and is responsible for the south east. The changes also see the pub company significantly reduce the spans of business development managers to allow them to spend more time with each partner. Gott said: “Pub Partners is a fantastic business with a well-invested estate of pubs, which are in high demand from quality partners. It’s in a really strong position to deliver the best proposition in the market for partners and customers.” Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton added: “I am delighted Chris has joined us as we push ahead with our three-year strategy to attract the best partners we can work with to create great pubs at the hub of local life.”

Distinctive Inns reveals plans to treble estate after taking on former Ego site in Nottinghamshire for fourth venue: Midlands-based operator Distinctive Inns has revealed plans to treble its estate after taking on a former Ego site in Nottinghamshire for its fourth venue. Distinctive Inns will open its latest Pub & Kitchen in July – its third in partnership with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The site was previously operated by 3Sixty Restaurants under its Ego brand but it surrendered the lease in September. The new venture will see The Dorset Arms in Compton Acres, West Bridgford, renamed The Dorset Pub & Kitchen following a £450,000 joint refurbishment. A larger drinking area will be created alongside two smaller dining areas and a conservatory. The food menu will feature “gastro-pub style British classics” and modern a la carte dishes. Drinks will include cask ale, wine, craft beer, gin, cocktails and coffee. Distinctive Inns director James Bull said: “Our last venture was The Priory in Loughborough four years ago, which has been a runaway success. We have deliberately taken our time before taking on a fourth pub as we wanted to test the business model and put in place the infrastructure and management systems we felt we needed to accelerate our growth. This is money and time well spent as it will allow us to operate further afield in Leicestershire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire as well as Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Our plan is to open ten to 12 sites in the next ten years.” Star Pubs & Bars operations director Alun Johnson added: “We are delighted Distinctive Inns has taken on The Dorset Pub & Kitchen. It has got a strong track record of creating pubs locals love and people want to travel to.” 

Social Pantry reveals growth plans after £1.1m investment: Social Pantry, the London-based operator and events caterer, has revealed its growth plans having secured £1.1m from Edition Capital, the backer of Incipio Group and urban axe-throwing operator Whistle Punks. Founded in 2011 by Alex Head, Social Pantry will use the funds to open sites, expand its events business and further its social reform campaigns. Since founding Social Pantry, Head has worked directly with London prisons and charities that “connect with the values of the business”, including offering job opportunities to ex-offenders, assisting with their rehabilitation and equipping them with skills to succeed. Head is also an ambassador for charity Key4Life, which rehabilitates young offenders, while Social Pantry also works with Bad Boys Bakery, a social enterprise inside HM Prison Brixton, and Switchback, a London-based rehabilitation charity. Currently, 10% of Social Pantry’s workforce is made up of former offenders. Social Pantry plans to open sites in addition to the seven it currently operates in London. Head said: “This investment will allow us to further realise our ambitions in terms of growing the business to reach new markets and helping more people turn their lives around through work opportunities in the hospitality industry.”

Flat Iron gears up to open Spitalfields site: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, is to open its latest site in London, in Spitalfields next week. The Charlie Carroll-founded group will open at the former PizzaExpress site in Commercial Street, which it secured earlier this year. In January, Flat Iron, which is led by Jo Fleet and includes Tom Byng as a non-executive director, secured £5m of funding from UK-based SME lender ThinCats to fund its expansion plans over the next three years as it eyes further openings in the capital. The company reported turnover increased 23.6% to £14,476,916 for the year ending 26 August 2018, compared with £11,715,100 the year before despite opening no sites. Adjusted Ebitda was down slightly to £1,303,054 compared with £1,352,083 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In the report it said Flat Iron’s mature sites were delivering “very strong” sales, while its two most recent openings – in London’s Caledonian Road and Tooley Street – were both trading “ahead of expectations”.

Eggleston plans to accelerate expansion of steakhouse concept taking it to 20 sites by next year: North east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston is planning to accelerate expansion of his Tomahawk Steakhouse concept that would see it have 20 sites by the end of next year. Tomahawk Steakhouse has five sites in the north east, including a restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside and a new outlet just outside Ponteland. Eggleston, who opened the first Tomahawk in Potto, North Yorkshire, is now seeking locations for further restaurants around the region. With hopes of owning ten by the end of 2019 and 20 by the end of next year, sites have been earmarked in Newcastle, Gateshead, Morpeth and Wynyard to join the next venue poised to open in Darlington in July. Eggleston told Chronicle Live: “We are about to open in Darlington, Tommy Hawks takeaway in Yarm High Street is almost good to go, and we are working on a Brazilian rodizio concept for Newcastle that will open towards the end of this year. We are also looking at sourcing venues in Morpeth and Gateshead.” Eggleston owns and runs a number of other ventures across the region, including The North Terrace in Newcastle and two Boat Club sites, in Newcastle and Durham. He used to run a pan-Asian concept in Yarm called the Lotus Lounge, which was converted into a Tomahawk Steakhouse.

Clarke steps down from Revolution Bars Group: Nick Clarke, formerly of Las Iguanas and Bistrot Pierre, has stepped down from the property and acquisitions team at Revolution Bars Group to join cash processing firm Vaultex UK. Clarke, who stepped down as property director of Bistrot Pierre, the Livingbridge-backed French restaurant group, at the start of last year, joined Revolution a few months later to aid the property and acquisitions team at the listed bar operator. Before joining Bistrot Pierre, Clarke spent five years as head of property at Casual Dining Group-owned Las Iguanas. Last summer Revolution appointed Alex Stanhope as group property director.

Bob & Berts secures funding to continue Northern Ireland and Scotland roll out with potential push into England: Northern Ireland coffee company Bob & Berts has secured further funding for expansion in its homeland and Scotland as well as a potential push into England. The company has secured new funding facilities from Ulster Bank. Along with continued support of its existing investor BGF, Bob & Berts is investing in the opening of eight stores in Northern Ireland and Scotland. In its homeland, Bob & Berts has opened an outlet in Magherafelt and a new, larger store in Portstewart. The company will open its new Portrush store in the coming weeks while Cookstown, Newry and Ballymena have been added to the pipeline. Bob & Berts expanded into the Scottish market in October last year with an opening in Falkirk. It has since added outlets in Dunfermline and Dumfries with plans to open three more – in Stirling, Kirkcaldy and Ayr. The company was founded in 2013 by Colin McClean, who was joined in the business by brother-in-law David Ferguson two years later. Ferguson told the Mid Ulster Mail the new funding from Ulster Bank would allow Bob & Berts to continue its roll out in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as to seek opportunities in England during the next 12 to 18 months.

Two Chinatown London restaurants launch regional cuisine concepts: Two Chinatown London restaurants have launched regional cuisine concepts. C&R Café has opened a spin-off Malaysian delicatessen, while Hot Pot has relaunched as authentic Thai restaurant Chalida. New deli concept Rosa’s Malaysian Delicatessen is part of the C&R family, which has been trading in Rupert Court since 1998. The sister site is directly opposite C&R Café and spans 560 square feet. Rosa’s Malaysian Delicatessen offers Malaysian and south east Asian snacks, desserts and drinks to go, as well as homemade house specials. Meanwhile, Hot Pot founder Jerry Taechaubol has decided to pay homage to his grandmother, a Chinese wartime immigrant who moved to Bangkok and ran her own hawker stall, by relaunching as Chalida. The 3,900 square foot concept in Wardour Street will be Chinatown London’s first restaurant to feature sharing-style Thai street food. With space for about 150 covers, the refreshed menu combines Thai-Chinese favourites with interpretations of street food Taechaubol enjoyed during his childhood. Julia Wilkinson, head of group restaurant strategy at landlord Shaftesbury, said: “We are privileged to have such innovative and forward-thinking tenants committed to investing in Chinatown London in the long term. Both concepts are a real asset for the destination and reflect demand for authentic regional cuisine.”

Ei Group launches tool to help publicans improve drinks range: Ei Group has launched a tool to help its publicans improve their drinks range and boost profits. The category management tool evaluates a pub’s draught beer range and makes range and price recommendations using factors such as customer demographics, market data, and predicted and actual volumes. The tool was developed to provide a brand-impartial, data-led view of a pub’s offering and builds on the suite of tools Ei Publican Partnerships provides, focusing specifically on the appropriate number of taps and correct price laddering while improving cellar quality and reducing wastage. Ei Group commercial director Paul Harbottle said: “The category management tool will give publicans the enhanced level of insight they need to keep improving their offer and generate increased profits. We believe this industry-leading tool will be a game changer.” Currently, the tool specifically assesses draught beer ranges but Ei Group said spirits, wine and soft drinks would be added in the “near future”.

Wafflemeister submits Salisbury plans: Wafflemeister, the Belgian waffle operator, has submitted plans for a site in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The company has applied to the city council to open a restaurant in High Street, next to Casual Dining Group brand Cafe Rouge. The proposed building previously housed an insurance company but has been empty for more than a year. A Wafflemeister spokesman told the Salisbury Journal: “More than two million handmade Belgian Liège waffles are sold every year from Wafflemeister stores and now we’re bringing this concept to Salisbury High Street.” Work will include alterations to the interior and exterior of the building, while the opening hours will be 9am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 6pm on Sundays. Wafflemeister operates 16 sites in the UK and others in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Experiential maze boosts footfall at Southampton shopping centre: Hammerson has revealed more than 18,000 people visited The Maze at its Westquay shopping centre in Southampton, demonstrating the continued appeal of experiential events. The 400-metre maze with eight-foot hedges held a ten-day run in May, with a tree house at its centre for the first time. The event boosted footfall by 2.7% year-on-year, with footfall rising 12% during the Easter bank holiday weekend and 7% on the closing Saturday and Sunday of half-term. In total, 14% of visitors to The Maze had never previously visited Westquay. The Maze is part of Hammerson’s £2m experiential events programme in 2019 and follows events such as the Festival Of Light, which toured Dublin, Birmingham and Westquay earlier this year. Hammerson head of customer experience Kathryn Malloch said: “More of our customers are looking for a real experience when they visit our destinations, whether that’s great food or an engaging event, and The Maze is just one example of how we are delivering that. Not only do events like the Maze drive footfall, they also boost sales and generate excitement for our brands.”

New York-style wings concept The Orange Buffalo opens debut restaurant: New York-style chicken wings concept The Orange Buffalo has opened its debut restaurant, in Tooting, south London. The venue has launched in Mitcham Road offering Orange Buffalo’s signature chicken wings in sauces such as The Original (red chillies, vinegar, butter and spice) and the Woof Woof (scotch bonnet and Dutch chillies). The concept also offers less spicy sauces alongside sides, chicken burgers and a vegan alternative “wing” made from cauliflower, Hot Dinners reports. The Orange Buffalo was founded by Mike So and Nick White and operates street food sites at The Old Truman Brewery in Spitalfields and as a residency at Shoreditch music venue Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. The company is also looking to work with franchisees.

McDonald’s submits plans for only English county without one of its restaurants: McDonald’s has submitted plans for a site in Rutland – the only county in England that doesn’t feature one of its restaurants. The company has applied to Rutland Council to build the outlet on the corner of Lands End Way and Hackamore Way in the county town of Oakham, creating 65 jobs. The 4,000 square foot restaurant would include a drive-thru, reports Insider Media. McDonald’s held a public consultation on the plan in May.

Ghetto Golf founders lodge plans for second Birdies Bar, in Birmingham: The founders of Liverpool-based cocktails and mini-golf concept Ghetto Golf are lining up a second site for their beach bar-themed concept Birdies Bar. Kip Piper and Danny Bolger are looking to build on their site in Liverpool with an opening in Birmingham. They have applied to the city council to open a venue in Heath Mill Lane in Digbeth, reports Insider Media. A planning statement accompanying the application reads: “The Birdies Bar proposal is themed around the concept of a beach bar. A large beer garden, half covered by a glass canopy, is proposed at the premises entrance. The site has been selected for the proposed use due to the immediate proximity of the adjacent Ghetto Golf premises to the site’s north west.” Piper and Bolger launched Ghetto Golf in 2016. It operates sites in Birmingham and Liverpool, with a venue opening in Newcastle next month.

Staycity gears up for record number of openings in second half of 2019: Aparthotel operator Staycity is gearing up for a record number of openings in the second half of 2019 and is recruiting 200 staff as a result. Four properties will join the portfolio before the end of this year, with recruitment drives already under way for general manager, front-of-house, sales and housekeeping positions in Paris, Venice, Edinburgh and Berlin. Staycity’s largest property to date and first resort property, Staycity Aparthotels Marne-la-Vallée, will open at the beginning of August. Close to Disneyland Paris, it will include 284 apartments, 22 holiday villas, a swimming pool, restaurant, Staycafé, bar and gardens. Staycity will open a venue in Venice in the second week of August, featuring 175 studio and one-bedroom apartments, a Staycafé and fitness room. By the end of the year Staycity will also open its first property in Germany, in Berlin. The property will operate under Staycity’s premium brand, Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity, and consist of 48 studio and one-bedroom apartments. Staycity’s fourth opening this year will be in King’s Stables Road, Edinburgh, also operating under the Wilde brand. The 123-bedroom venue will feature a lounge, Staycafé, fitness room and an arts facility incorporating a gallery and exhibition space. At the beginning of 2020, Staycity will open a second property in Manchester, a 224-bedroom site in the city’s Northern Quarter. Staycity chief operating officer Keith Freeman said: “This is a crucial time for Staycity as we add almost 700 apartments to our inventory and recruit and train the additional staff this expansion demands.”

Sussex-based Bedlam passes 50% mark in £550,000 crowdfunding campaign to support growth: Sussex-based craft brewer Bedlam has passed the 50% mark in its £550,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support growth. The company, founded in 2011, is offering 14.67% equity, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £3.2m. So far, 51 investors have pledged £290,030. The company has a stretch target of £800,000, which would lead to the equity on offer rising to 20%. Bedlam has put together a four-year plan, which would see further investment in its brewery and expansion of the business. If it achieves the stretch target, it will open a brewery tap in Brighton. In 2016, Bedlam raised £500,000 on Crowdcube, which enabled the company to relocate and build a brewery at the foot of the South Downs, ten miles north of Brighton. The site is solar-powered, while the spent grain and hops feed local farm animals. Since its previous raise, turnover has risen considerably and Bedlam has increased its distribution across the on-trade. For the year ending 31 March 2019, average on-trade distribution was up more than 90% year-on-year and turnover increased 57.5% to £526,000.

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