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Mon 15th Jul 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector like-for-likes up 1.4% in June as restaurants recover but pubs suffer hangover: Sector managed like-for-likes were up 1.4% in June as restaurants recovered but pubs suffered a hangover from last year’s heatwave and football fever, according to the latest Coffer Peach Tracker. Restaurant group like-for-likes were up 6.1%, while pubs and bars saw a 1.2% decline. Regionally, market performance inside and outside London was broadly in line, with like-for-likes up 1.8% and 1.3% respectively. In pubs and bars, drink sales took a bigger hit than food over the month, down 2.2% against a 1.2% fall in meals. Restaurants recorded a 2.9% increase in covers over the month. “It’s all down to football and the weather,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “Last June, pub and bar groups saw sales jump 2.8%, largely thanks to the mini-heatwave at home and England’s good showing in the Fifa World Cup, while restaurants suffered a 1.8% decline. This June the roles have reversed, with more sedate conditions favouring eating rather than drinking out. It demonstrates how outside factors still influence trading patterns. The underlying good news is the market overall still grew, if modestly, by 1.4%, despite all the current political uncertainty, predictions of tumbling consumer confidence and flat trading in May.” Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: “These are encouraging numbers. Last June, the World Cup gave an overall boost despite restaurants suffering and to beat those numbers on a net basis shows some much-needed positivity. It’s tough out there but the hospitality sector is showing some much-needed resilience.” Total sales across the 50 companies in the Tracker, which include the effect of net new openings since this time last year, were ahead 3.7% compared with last June. Underlying like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which represents large and small groups, was running at 1.6% for the 12 months to the end of June.

Industry News:

Des Gunewardena – ‘Michelin is embracing the evolution of restaurants becoming less formal’: Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of restaurant operator D&D London, has said Michelin is embracing the evolution of restaurants becoming less formal when it comes to awarding its stars. He said the evolution reflects diners' evolving demands as they seek quality food served with informality, fun, and authenticity. Gunewardena told Business Insider: "Michelin has embraced the overall trend through the years of restaurants becoming less formal, more social venues rather than formal, starchy temples of gastronomy. You don't have to have serious waiters and hushed rooms to enjoy great food. Even very informal restaurants in Shoreditch are packed to the rafters with raucous young customers enjoying fantastic food [and] are now being awarded Michelin stars." D&D London operates more than 40 restaurants worldwide.

US restaurant opportunities lie in ‘off-premise sales’ as industry reports flat like-for-likes in June: Opportunities for the US restaurant industry lie in off-premise sales and increasing visits, according to new research. The announcement comes as the industry experienced a summertime slowdown with like-for-like sales flat in June, according to data company TDn2K’s 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. Like-for-like sales growth for the second quarter of 2019 was 0.2%, which represents a 0.7% decline from the growth rate reported for the first quarter. The industry’s sales growth has been decelerating since the beginning of the year. Average like-for-like sales growth for the last two quarters of 2018 was 1.3%, while the average for the first two quarters of 2019 is much lower, at 0.5%. TDn2K vice-president of insights and knowledge Victor Fernandez said: “To-go sales are lifting overall like-for-like sales and those brands posting the best sales growth results tend to be those achieving much higher to-go sales than the industry overall.” Like-for-like visits were down 3.1% in June, representing a 1.0% fall from May. Visits for the second quarter were down 2.9%, a 0.9% decline from the previous quarter. Fernandez added: “As long as the industry is unable to at least hold on to current guest counts, achieving sustained like-for-like sales growth won’t be possible, and we will likely continue to see anaemic growth rates, with 1.0% as a best-case scenario for sales. Given oversupply in the number of restaurant locations and the fact, although growing at a slower pace than in recent years, chain restaurants continue adding to their net number of units, falling guest counts on a like-for-like basis will likely remain the norm in the near-term.”
 
World’s Biggest Pub Quiz raises record-breaking £230,000: This year’s World’s Biggest Pub Quiz raised more than £230,000. This is the first time the amount raised has topped the £200,000 mark since its launch in 2016 and is a 21% uplift on 2018. The average sum raised per pub this year was £160, up from £134 last year. Pubs can choose to support PubAid’s charity partner, Prostate Cancer UK, which will benefit from £94,000 of the funds raised, or another worthy cause of their choice. PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan said: “The quiz not only raises money but also shines a spotlight on the great work pubs do for charity. More than £100m is raised by pubs every year, an incredible amount, which reflects their vital role at the heart of their communities.” The quiz has raised £750,000 in the four years it has been running.

Job of the week: COREcruitment is working with several companies to seek general managers with a mix of branded and strong quality-led independent restaurant experience. The companies want to attract general managers who “do the basics right” and define leadership by mentoring a winning team within their restaurant. Candidates need to be tenacious, resilient, have entrepreneurial flair and think outside the box. Salaries range from £40,000 to £55,000 UK-wide. For more information, click here or email kate@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

Iberica undergoes strategic review to cut costs, turnover up 6% in current financial year: Spanish restaurant group Iberica is undergoing a strategic review involving streamlining head office and improving staff retention as it aims to cut costs, Propel has learned. Chief executive Marcos Fernandez Pardo said the company was now going through a period of consolidation before looking at expanding into Europe. Pardo added the group's eight restaurants were still continuing to see good growth with turnover in the current financial year up 6% and average spend also up. He was also confident Iberica will return to the sort of profit levels it was seeing three or four years ago – circa £1.2m – after losses increased in the previous financial year. Iberica is now focusing on pushing Ebitda to the £1.2m mark in the next 12 months. Pardo said one of the mistakes Iberica made was trying to adapt to the northern market when it opened in Manchester and Leeds instead of trying to be itself. "We do BMWs, we don't do Fords, but that's what we tried to do when we first opened outside London a few years ago," said Pardo. "But we realised our mistake and are focused on doing what we do best – serving great Spanish food in a wonderful environment and we are focusing on improving our quality. We have had a bit of a perfect storm. We are looking to streamline our head office to reduce the overall cost base for the business and also exploring how we can better retain our staff. We are looking at everything on that side – from training to staff perks. Once we have done that we will look at opening more restaurants but they will be in Europe rather than the UK." Pardo spoke to Propel as Iberica reported turnover was flat at £11.9m for the year ending 30 September 2018. Operating losses increased to £809,378, compared with £466,072 the previous year while pre-tax losses were up to £989,378, compared with £654,902 the year before. Ebitda was down to £35,000, compared with £325,000 the previous year. Restaurant Ebitda fell to £1,451,000, compared with £1,701,000 the year before. Pardo said in his report accompanying the accounts: "It has been well publicised the past 12 to 24 months have been challenging for the restaurant business in the UK, which had expanded at an unprecedented rate over recent years and now faces the pressure of oversupply and significant cost increases resulting in several high-profile companies deciding to restructure. Iberica has not been immune to these pressures, particularly outside London where it has also had to adapt to different market conditions." 

TRG launches further burger delivery concept: The Restaurant Group (TRG) has added a further burger delivery concept thought its Frankie & Benny’s brand, Propel has learned. The group has begun to roll out Stacks, which comes with the slogan – “Stack it up, pack it in and we'll begin”, and offers eight types of burger, including chicken katsu, buffalo blue and smoky beet, priced between £5 and £8. Last year, TRG launched virtual brands Burger Burger and Kick Ass Burrito through its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito concepts respectively. Earlier this year, Propel revealed it had added a further two virtual brands to its portfolio. Through Chiquito it now offers the Cornstar Tacos virtual brand in circa 40 sites, while the new Birdbox brand, which focuses on chicken and burgers, is available through Frankie & Benny’s. In May, the company launched a new delivery brand called Pyjama Hotel out of the Foodstars unit in Battersea. Pyjama Hotel describes itself as offering “a festival of Indian flavours, bringing colourful, vibrant, Indian favourites and new dishes to your door”.
 
Tokyo Industries relaunches online radio station Openlab: Tokyo Industries, the bar and nightclub operator led by Aaron Mellor, has joined a management buyout team for Ibiza-based FM radio station Openlab, Propel has learned. Founded in 2013 by Robert Miles, the radio station was conceived specifically to showcase innovative yet accessible music set to a visual art backdrop championing some of the world’s most exciting producers, DJs, artists, designers, architects and visual artists. The station ceased with the passing of Miles in 2017 but Tokyo Industries and a management buyout team of original founders have purchased the station and its 106.4 FM frequency and are back on-air in Ibiza and Formentera. Mellor said: “Openlab is the perfect ambient soundscape while driving around the amazing scenic island of Ibiza. The idea is to expand the FM relaunch with a global online creative arts platform, while adding physical event spaces and studios based in Berlin, Ibiza and Los Angeles. The aim is to develop Openlab as a creative accelerator for music, art and architecture in both digital and physical experiential spaces. Working as a disrupter to traditional fixed format venues and developing a more art and architecture-based music connection.” Openlab is available online or by downloading the app. A Smart TV visual wallpaper app will soon be added. Tokyo Industries operates 36 music venues in the UK, with international sites in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Ibiza, Dubai and Croatia. The company recently acquired Red’s True Barbecue to complement its portfolio.

Limecourt Ventures backs new concept from Lima team: Boutique investment house Limecourt Ventures, which is led by industry veteran Ken Sanker, is backing Caracas, the soon-to-be-launched new concept from the team behind Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant Lima, Propel has learned. The new Venezuelan concept will launch at the new food court in Westfield London shopping centre in White City later this year. The casual dining concept will showcase the best of the country’s areperas. These are bustling bars that focus on the arepa – a flat, dish-shaped cornbread with fillings such as shredded chicken with avocado and braised beef with cheese. The feeling is the concept, if successful, could be rolled out further. Limecourt and Sanker have backed businesses such as the Galvin Brothers, Chapters and Goodman Restaurants.

Former Jamie Oliver staff to sue over redundancy: Scores of former workers at Jamie Oliver’s failed UK restaurant empire are suing for up to £1m over an allegedly flawed redundancy process. Law firm SDM Legal is representing more than 70 staff who worked at Barbecoa, Fifteen and Jamie’s Italian before the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group fell into administration in May, with the loss of 1,000 jobs. SDM directors Hannah Durham and Carl Moran are working with the former employees, who allege that specific subsidiaries such as Fifteen Restaurant that went into administration failed to consult with staff for at least 30 days before making them redundant, reports the Evening Standard. When KPMG was appointed administrator to the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group and its subsidiaries, it said at the time Jamie Oliver Holdings had made arrangements to ensure all restaurant staff salaries would be paid up to the date of the administrators’ appointment. The claim is not against Jamie Oliver Holdings, which looks after the chef’s media and franchising interests and continues to trade. KPMG declined to comment on the claim. The claim will be lodged at the Employment Tribunal in the coming weeks. Durham and Moran worked on a similar case to help ex-BHS staff win compensation over how they were made redundant when it collapsed.

Rocket Leisure secures fourth site: London-based live music and cocktail bar operator Rocket Leisure has secured its fourth site, with further expansion in the pipeline. The company plans to open Eastcheap Records in Monument in October. Spanning 4,000 square feet, the former Maplin site on the corner of Eastcheap and Lovatt Lane will accommodate 350 people. The venue will serve cocktails and pizza alongside hosting live music. Rocket Leisure opened its debut site in Venn Street, Clapham, in December 2010 and has added sites in Battersea and Shoreditch. Director Russell Taylor said: “With our long-established venues in south London and Shoreditch, a lot of workers in the City have already experienced our brand so opening in Monument felt like the natural progression. We hope our offering of great live music will bring a fresh approach to nightlife in the area.”

Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant business sees increased losses as it works through ‘efficiency programme’: Chef Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant business posted increased losses in its latest financial results as it works through an “efficiency and development programme”. The group, which owns the three Michelin star The Fat Duck, saw pre-tax losses increase to £1.8m, compared to a loss of £974,000 the previous year. Turnover in the period was down to £12.4m, compared with £12.7m the year before while operating losses doubled from £1m to £2m. Gross profit was down slightly to £8.7m from £8.8m the previous year. Blumenthal’s restaurant business also includes Dinner in London and Melbourne and gastro-pub the Hind’s Head. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The board is of the opinion that the loss for the year is a consequence of the current period of transition of the group’s business. The group has started working through a business efficiency and development programme that is focused on additional income from new business, increasing the profitability of existing operations, reducing working capital needs, and overhead cost saving projects. For the financial year ending 2019, the group expects much better results.” 
Wok&Go heads to Portugal for mainland Europe debut: UK noodle bar brand Wok&Go has launched in Portugal, – its first mainland Europe site. The debut outlet is in the Algarve Shopping Centre, which will be followed by a branch in Lisbon next month. Wok&Go founder Des Pheby recently signed a franchise agreement with BrandPlus, which will lead to 20 stores over the next ten years. He said: “We are excited to start this journey abroad and introduce our passion for Asian-fusion food to the people of Portugal." Pedro Martins, the Algarve franchisee, who has worked in hospitality for 22 years, added: “A few months ago I had a conversation with João Lucas from BrandPlus and he suggested Wok&Go. I think Wok&Go has a big future and I’m proud to be part of it.” Pheby opened his first Wok&Go in Chester in 2008 and it now has circa 20 sites in the UK, Dubai and now Portugal. In March, Wok&Go signed a master franchise agreement for 37 sites in London over the next ten years while in May, Kettlebell Kitchen founder Carley Jones became the master franchisee for Manchester. 
 
Deltic launches first of three Eden sites following £1.5m investment: Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs, has launched its Eden concept. The opening in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, is the first of three planned launches for the concept following a £1.5m investment. Eden, which will also open in Manchester and Newcastle, provides a “playground of sensory delights” and features floral-themed interiors, birdcage booths, giant blossom trees and multiple club rooms. Deltic chief executive Peter Marks said: “Eden is a ground-breaking concept for Deltic, where quality food and drink sit centre stage alongside our award-winning club expertise, offering a truly all-day experience. We have spent a great deal of time creating the concept.” The Newcastle and Manchester venues will open on Friday, 26 July and Friday, 16 August respectively. All three are former Tiger Tiger sites Deltic acquired from Novus in November.
 
Butcombe to open boutique hotel and cafe-bar concept in Bath this month: Butcombe Brewery, part of Liberation Group, will open a boutique hotel and cafe-bar concept in Bath this month. The company is launching Broad Street Townhouse on Tuesday, 23 July, which features 11 en-suite bedrooms as well as a cafe by day that becomes speakeasy bar The Blind Pig by night. The grade II-listed property in Broad Street, dating to 1885, has been restored with the cafe-bar, which is also open to the public, on the ground level and the 11 bedrooms set over three floors above. The cafe will serve a selection of croissants, yoghurt, juice and coffee as well as fresh salads, sandwiches, quiche and cakes. In the evening, it will transform into The Blind Pig bar, serving Butcombe beer, cocktails, local spirits, wine and charcuterie and cheese. Jayson Perfect, managing director of pubs and inns at Liberation Group, said: “Broad Street Townhouse is a passion project of ours and one we’ve long had in mind – since taking over the Pig & Fiddle pub next door in 2015. It was a shame to see such a beautiful building, filled with original features, sat empty in disrepair – but so rewarding to get stuck into the renovation and bring it all back to life.” 
 
200 Degrees launches in Liverpool for ninth site: Nottingham-based coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has opened its ninth site, in Liverpool. 200 Degrees has launched the 2,000 square foot, 72-seater coffee shop, which includes sunken seating, bespoke artwork and an outdoor area, at the Metquarter shopping centre. Co-founder Tom Vincent said: “The 200 Degrees team has worked very hard to make this happen and we’re delighted to open in Liverpool’s go-to retail destination. The city has an incredible food and drink scene, which we can’t wait to be part of in our prime position on the ground floor of the centre.” Metquarter manager Jennina O’Neill added: “We love the ethos and traditional methods of 200 Degrees and believe this fits perfectly with Metquarter.” 200 Degrees, which was set up by Vincent and Rob Darby in 2012 and is backed by Foresight Group, operates two outlets in Nottingham and one each in Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln and Sheffield. The company has further plans to grow, with its second Birmingham coffee shop opening in August and two more launches planned for this year.
 
Punch reopens former Mitchells of Lancaster pub: Punch has reopened a Lancashire village pub following a £500,000 refurbishment. The company has relaunched The Royal Hotel in Bolton-le-Sands having acquired the site earlier this year from Mitchells of Lancaster after the company went into administration. Punch has invested £500,000 in the Main Street pub, which also has seven en-suite bedrooms. The kitchen is led by Rob Mason, who has previously worked under Michelin-starred chef Nigel Howarth, reports the Lancaster Guardian.
 
Graffiti Spirits Group expands portfolio with all-day restaurant: Graffiti Spirits Group is to expand its portfolio in Liverpool by opening an all-day restaurant. The company will launch Slim’s in Bold Street in the former Love Thy Neighbour premises next month. Slim’s will take inspiration from high-end New York diners, with an inclusive menu that will also cater for vegan and vegetarian diners. Slim’s will also be home to a sports bar on the ground floor. Matt Farrell, co-founder of Graffiti Spirits Group, told the Liverpool Echo: “We couldn’t be happier Slim’s will be opening in a matter of weeks and in Bold Street, which is famous for being a hub of independent, unique restaurant and bars. It will be the perfect addition with an impressive menu that will cater for all tastes. We’ve given the menu for Slim’s a lot of thought and taken elements from projects we have previously learnt from.” Graffiti Spirits Group’s other Liverpool sites include Duke Street Market, Santa Chupitos, Santa Maluco and Salt Dog Slims.
 
Pret exclusively partners with Deliveroo: Pret A Manger is to exclusively join delivery service Deliveroo, starting with 120 sites across the UK with “more to follow throughout 2019”. The first Pret site to offer the service will be London Westfield, launching on Friday, 19 July, followed by Liverpool on Sunday, 28 July. Deliveroo customers will be able to order Pret items between 8am and 8pm, dependent on location. Pret A Manger head of e-commerce Lucy Revill-Darton said: “Everything from our salads to sweet treats can travel directly from our shop kitchens to our customers, meaning our freshly prepared food is also freshly delivered.” Deliveroo vice-president of restaurants Susanna Voces added: “Working with Pret exclusively across the UK is amazing news.” Earlier this month Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee announced he would retire at the end of September after more than 16 years in the role. Schlee will hand the reins to chief operating officer Pano Christou. The announcement came on the eve of Pret completing its acquisition of fresh food to go retailer EAT. Schlee will remain on Pret’s board as a non-executive director, ensuring a smooth transition to Christou.
  
Events company to launch gaming arena at Intu Lakeside: Events company Hypd is to launch a gaming arena at the Intu Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. Hypd, which runs gaming attractions at major UK tourist destinations, is transforming a 900 square foot store into the immersive experience as part of an exclusive 12-month partnership with Intu. The Hypd arena will offer an eSports tournament, retro arcade games and the latest in virtual reality. It will take place at Intu Lakeside from Saturday, 20 July until Saturday, 31 August. The concept is then set to be rolled out at more of Intu’s shopping centres over the next year. Hypd chief operating officer Chris Haydon said: “With such a dynamic range of gameplay options for customers to enjoy, we believe this will be a huge hit and we can’t wait to share this amazing experience with our players.” Intu customer experience director Roger Binks said: “The gaming industry is experiencing explosive growth and popularity. We’ve already invested millions to transform Intu Lakeside into a major tourist destination for the south east and this is creating brilliant new opportunities for operators such as Hypd, which can offer even more compelling experiences.”
 
Stuart Ralston to open second Edinburgh restaurant: Scottish chef and Gordon Ramsay protégé Stuart Ralston is to open his second Edinburgh restaurant. Ralston, who operates Aizle in St Leonard's Street, will launch Noto in Thistle Street next month. The former Iris restaurant is being transformed to offer all-day casual dining. The dining area will seat up to 40, while a separate bar will have ten seats. Noto is named after Ralston’s late friend Bob Noto, who took him under his wing when he first arrived in New York in 2006 to work for Ramsay, introducing him to the vibrant restaurant scene. Noto will pay homage to the cuisines Ralston experienced in New York with daily specials and brunch options. Ralston hit the headlines in 2018 for being one of the first restaurateurs to implement a four-day working week – and staff at Noto will be offered the same benefit. Having worked alongside Ramsay at his first American venture, Gordon Ramsay at The London, which earned two Michelin stars, Ralston teamed up with fellow Ramsay protégés to run Kingswood in Greenwich Village. In 2009 he joined New York private members’ club The Core Club, before becoming chef de cuisine at the Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados.
 
M&B to roll out 200 rapid electric car-charging points: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has partnered with BP Chargemaster to install up to 200 rapid car-charging points at pubs and restaurants across its estate. Following a trial, one site – Harvester Flamstead in St Albans – said it had seen the BP Chargemaster unit used an average of eight times a day and more than 1,500 times in 2019 so far, with a standard charging time of about half an hour. Each selected pub or restaurant will have at least one Ultracharge 50kW rapid charger installed by October 2020. M&B head of supplier management Richard Turner said: “We recognise the importance of providing somewhere for electric vehicle (EV) users to charge their cars while giving them the opportunity to stop off for a coffee or bite to eat. With a large number of our sites on or near main roads, we will be able to provide prime locations.” BP Chargemaster chief operating officer David Newton added: “We are seeing EV drivers seek locations that offer convenient charging so we also expect to deliver additional footfall to sites that host our rapid chargers.”

AB InBev scraps IPO plan: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has scrapped plans to spin off its Asian arm in what was set to be the largest initial public offering of the year. The listing of its minority stake in Budweiser Brewing Co APAC was meant to help the company reduce its $100bn (£79.5m) debt pile, a legacy of its mega-merger with SABMiller in 2016. But it did not secure enough demand from long-term investors. In a statement, AB InBev, the US brewing giant behind Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois, said it was “not proceeding with this transaction” at this time, due to “several factors, including the prevailing market conditions”. The company added it would “closely monitor market conditions” while it evaluates its options. It comes after AB InBev said its Hong Kong listing would be priced in the lower half of a previously guided range. Previously it said shares would be sold at between $5.12 to $6.01 a share, implying a total deal size of $8.3bn to $9.8bn, ahead of Uber’s $8.1bn market debut.
 
MPs demand Serious Fraud Office investigates Northern Powerhouse Developments: MPs are demanding the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launches an investigation into the hotel and care home businesses owned by Gavin Woodhouse. Woodhouse, who owns 19 hotels, has seen his businesses come under scrutiny over the way he has funded the multimillion-pound schemes. Last week, an investigation started into the finances of his company Northern Powerhouse Developments after insolvency practitioners Duff & Phelps were appointed interim managers by the High Court. The new court order followed an earlier appointment of Philip Duffy and Sarah Bell as temporary managers of Gavin Woodhouse companies MBI Hawthorn Care, MBI Clifton Moor and Afan Valley. Now Labour MP John Mann, a member of parliament’s treasury select committee, has referred Woodhouse's businesses to the SFO. Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price is also in the process of writing to the fraud unit to ask for an "immediate inquiry", reports the Daily Post. The hotels continue to operate as normal and Duff & Phelps made clear the company was not in administration. The appointment of Duff & Phelps as interim managers followed an application with the High Court in London by seven investors who had invested in the companies owned by Woodhouse. Northern Powerhouse Developments has strongly denied doing anything wrong.
 
Immersive eating experience to open at Solihull shopping centre: A new immersive eating experience is to open at the Mell Square shopping centre in Solihull. Owner IM Properties (IMP) has secured planning permission from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council to create Taste Collective. It will be in the current Costa Coffee unit, with the Coca-Cola owned brand relocating to another site in the centre. Taste Collective will offer a range of experience-led eateries including four pop-up-style street food kiosks and a covered outdoor pergola-style seating area. IMP asset director Rob Hemus said: “We aim to create broader appeal to a range of ages and tastes, bringing greater vitality and vibrancy to the town centre and creating as many reasons as possible for people to visit Mell Square, be it to shop, eat, drink or socialise with friends and family. We’ve spent a lot of time designing and collaborating with an independent operator that shares our passion and enthusiasm for the Taste Collective, and we’re excited to unveil more details of the plans in the coming weeks.”
 
South west-based holiday park operator eyes acquisitions on back of leap in turnover: South west-based holiday park operator John Fowler Holdings is eyeing acquisitions on the back of a leap in turnover following investment in new types of accommodation. The company, which operates 11 sites across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, reported revenue jumped to £22,544,268 for the year ending 31 October 2018, compared with £3,534,117 the year before. Operating profit increased to £2,323,299 compared with £1,043,979 the previous year, while pre-tax profit was up to £2,095,146 compared with £1,043,979, according to accounts filed at Companies House. John Fowler Holdings said advanced bookings for 2019 compared favourably with the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Although we experienced difficult trading on holiday homes sales, which were down 7%, this was more than offset by increased lettings, which could be largely attributed to our increased investment and new accommodation across our parks. Our plan in the medium term is to seek a suitable number of parks or a group to acquire but until such prospects arise we shall continue to explore the development opportunities at our existing parks.”
 
Craft brewer Little Faith launches debut Deptford taproom: Craft brewer Little Faith, which brews beer in Bermondsey, south east London, and near Lewes in East Sussex, has officially opened a taproom in Deptford. Little Faith Taproom has opened at creative hub The Artworks Creekside offering two bars and 15 lines of its own and other brewers’ beers. The taproom also offers food from local suppliers on its simple menu such as charcuterie from Cannon and Cannon, and hosts a weekly comedy night, DJs on Fridays and Saturdays and regular live music. The 100-cover venue also features a beer garden hosting a rotating offer from street food traders. Little Faith Brewery was founded by head brewer Alex Woods and Henry Prescod, who said: “We have created a fantastic spot to enjoy an ever-changing selection of beer alongside food and the music and comedy events we run.”

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