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Thu 22nd Aug 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Marco Pierre White brands Jamie Oliver ‘delusional’ for blaming restaurant company collapse on Brexit: Marco Pierre White has criticised Jamie Oliver for claiming Brexit was to blame for the collapse of his restaurant company and suggested he is “delusional” for suggesting that. Speaking on Radio 4 earlier this week, Oliver blamed the failures on the high street becoming “Uber-fied” and the uncertainty of Brexit causing people’s eating habits to change. However, speaking at his Steakhouse Bar & Grill restaurant at The Cube in Birmingham, Pierre White dismissed the claim. He added he had previously had a “horrific” experience at a Jamie Oliver restaurant at Gatwick airport last year due to the wait for his food, suggesting the service may have also had an impact on a drop in trade. He said: “I have read Jamie is blaming his business failure on Brexit but I really don’t understand that at all. Wouldn’t that mean then all restaurants have gone bust too? I don’t think he can blame Brexit. It’s the lamest excuse in the world. I think it is wrong to blame Brexit. We’re all in the same boat. If it was Brexit’s fault, we’d all be bust. How can you blame everyone but yourself? Is he delusional?” Of his previous experience at a Jamie Oliver restaurant, he added: “The only time I’ve ever dined at a Jamie’s was at Gatwick airport. I’ve dined twice there, most recently last year. Both times I had to wait a very long time for my food. It was horrific. We all make mistakes, we all have bad days, but I’ve got to say it was consistently bad on both occasions. It wasn’t my decision to eat there both times – the people I was with chose to go there – but you wouldn’t want to go to another Jamie’s after that. Even if you enjoyed your food, bad service always leaves a sour taste in the mouth.”

Industry News:

UKHospitality – mandatory calorie labelling a retrograde step: The introduction of mandatory calorie labelling would place significant burdens on Scottish hospitality businesses, UKHospitality has warned. Food Standards Scotland has recommended the Scottish government introduces mandatory labelling for all out-of-home food businesses. UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “We are supportive of efforts to promote healthier attitudes to food and drink and Scotland’s hospitality businesses have been leading the way. Many businesses have already taken action to reformulate menus, reduce calories and increase the level of choice and transparency for customers. Businesses have done this already on a voluntary basis and customers are now better informed than ever. Introducing mandatory labelling is potentially a retrograde step that would cause significant problems for some businesses. Smaller businesses would struggle to cope with an inflexible one-size-fits-all approach. A blanket introduction of mandatory labelling would represent a considerable additional cost for businesses already facing tightening margins at a time of unprecedented political uncertainty. It would also represent a considerable burden for those venues that change their menus regularly, some on a daily basis, to incorporate locally sourced produce, seasonal ingredients and specials. Small and medium-sized businesses might also find their ability to innovate, particularly when tackling food waste, severely restricted. The end result is it’s likely prices would go up and investment go down, with much less choice for customers. Any mandatory polices introduced solely in Scotland would also cause inconsistencies and additional burdens for businesses that operate UK-wide. We need consistency in the rules to avoid unnecessary pressure and potential for confusion.”

Wetherspoon founder promises to slash beer prices if UK leaves EU by 31 October: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has promised to slash beer prices to an “unbelievable low” should Britain leave the EU by 31 October. Martin said he could “guarantee” a drop in prices following Brexit as he would be able to get “supplies cheaper” after the country was released from EU tariffs. However, he has warned prices will only be lowered if we “leave properly” and there’s no “funny stuff” from prime minister Boris Johnson. Martin told The Sun: “If we leave the customs union on 31 October, Wetherspoon will bring the price of beer down to an unbelievable low. That’s a guarantee – but we have to leave properly, Boris Johnson. No messing around with a customs union or any of that funny stuff.”

Yelp updates app following Grubhub allegations: Yelp has updated its app in the US to show consumers when delivery and takeaway phone numbers are powered by Grubhub. The change comes two weeks after Vice.com accused the business directory service of “pushing” customers to call numbers owned by Grubhub in an alleged scheme aimed at generating more commission fees. For restaurants that have a marketing agreement with Grubhub, the “delivery or takeout” call button within the Yelp app now clearly indicates the option is “powered by Grubhub”. The delivery company previously said referral numbers were only created for restaurants that agreed to the move. Yelp told Nation’s Restaurant News: “While it is our understanding the restaurants with Grubhub referral numbers have a marketing and customer acquisition agreement with Grubhub, which allows the company to utilise referral numbers on third-party partner sites such as Yelp, we’ve realised not all restaurant owners understood these terms.” Yelp has transitioned from a consumer review site to one that connects customers to businesses. For restaurants the app has expanded its features to allow customers to order takeaways, delivery, make a reservation or put their name on a waiting list. Last month Grubhub chief executive Matt Maloney refuted claims the delivery company was creating copycat restaurant websites to boost online commission fees. 

Bristol landlord to turn former Thali restaurant into cafe and farmers’ market: George Ferguson, owner of the Tobacco Factory in Bristol that formerly housed a Thali Cafe site, is to transform the space into a farmers’ market. Thali Cafe went into liquidation in June, closing two of its three Bristol-based restaurants including the Tobacco Factory site two months after Thali’s Totterville site was closed to give the business “security” by its new owners, Jugaard, which bought the company out of another administration last year. However, Ferguson has decided he won’t replace Thali with another restaurant. He told Bristol Live: “I want to do something a little different. We need to be a bit more imaginative if we want to save the high street. We have to look at new ways to use these empty spaces.” The market will operate six days a week and feature nine stalls and a Parisian-style cafe. The debut Thali Cafe site was reopened last month by head chef Ramesh Prasad, who bought it from administrators through new company AR Junoon. 

Company News:

Harts Group opens second site for Pastorcito concept, in Elephant and Castle: Harts Group has continued the expansion of Pastorcito, the market taqueria offshoot of its Mexican concept El Pastor, by opening a second site in London, at Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle. Pastorcito launched at Arcade Food Theatre on the ground floor of Centre Point last month. The concept offers a short menu of tacos using house-made heirloom corn tortillas and Super Gringa wheat wraps. Pastorcito at Mercato Metropolitano also offers frozen margaritas, Mexican beer, tequila and mescal, while dishes include the signature Al Pastor taco (24-hour marinated pork shoulder, caramelised pineapple, guacamole taquero, white onion and coriander). Harts Group founders Sam and James Hart and Crispin Somerville said they “seized the opportunity” to collaborate with the team at Mercato Metropolitano to bring Pastorcito to a “new audience and location with a shared commitment to all that is natural, sustainable and accessible”. Somerville said: “In the past months we have focused on upping tortilla production without compromising quality, which we now believe are our best yet. The case is the same with our daily-produced braises and fresh salsa. This has enabled us to set up Pastor trompos and market taquerias delivering the real deal directly from the stand to guests’ hands while maintaining a consistently excellent product across our various venues. We got on board straight away with the values at Mercato Metropolitano and the vibe is always brilliant. We’re excited to be here.” Mercato Metropolitano founder and chief executive Andrea Rasca said: “We believe in an inclusive, collaborative and balanced business model. This is delivered by working with true food artisans who care about responsible supply chains that respect farmers and communities and who create nutritious menus from sustainable, high-quality ingredients. The team at Pastorcito has the same passion for these values as we have. The more people who understand these fundamental values, the quicker we’ll adopt a more sustainable food system.”

Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis sells shares worth £120,000: London-based pub operator Young’s has reported chief executive Patrick Dardis had sold 7,468 ordinary shares in the AIM-listed firm. Dardis, who took over as chief executive of Young’s in 2016, disposed of the shares at an average price of 1,620p each for a total value of £120,981.61. Last month Young’s warned the pattern of poor weather that affected trading in the beginning of its financial year had continued into the summer, with an “inevitable” effect on its performance. Although managed house sales for the first 13 weeks of the year were up 4.4% in total, they were down 2.1% on a like-for-like basis. By comparison, at last year’s meeting the company reported a 5.2% increase in managed house like-for-like sales having benefited from a long period of “very warm” weather.

Merlin makes senior appointments to lead global brand development: Merlin Entertainments has made two senior appointments to lead the development of its global brands. Ash Tailor has joined as global brand director for Legoland, responsible for global marketing and brand development of Legoland Parks and Legoland Discovery Centres with oversight of brand strategy, product development and customer engagement. He will also be the principal Merlin relationship partner with Lego Group. He joins Merlin from drinks company Britvic, where he was global category director. Matthew Williams has been appointed global brand director of Midway Attractions, responsible for setting and implementing brand strategies across the SeaLife, Dungeons and Eye brands. He will also manage Midway’s global partnerships. Williams joins from Costa Coffee, where he was global brand and insight director. The appointments are effective from mid-September and both will report to Mark Fisher, chief development officer. Fisher said: “Matthew and Ash bring enormous brand-building knowledge and marketing know-how which, with their great energy and customer obsession, will help us consistently deliver amazing experiences for our guests.” In July, Merlin Entertainments accepted a £4.8bn bid from a consortium led by the Danish billionaire owners of Lego. 

Pizza Union secures fifth London site: Pizza Union, the London-based fledgling operator, has secured its fifth site in the capital, near Old Street. The company has secured a site at 145 City Road, which is a 40-storey residential building to the north of Old Street’s Silicon roundabout. The brand hopes to open the restaurant by the end of November. Pizza Union operates sites in Aldgate, Dalston, King’s Cross and Spitalfields. Its most recent opening was in Dalston at the end of 2017.

Selina to open in Birmingham this autumn: Hospitality group Selina is to open a site in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter this autumn. Selina Birmingham will feature 39 rooms, suites and shared rooms and incorporate a lobby space, dedicated wellness area, coffee shop and Latin-American restaurant and wine bar. It will be the second UK location for the Latin American startup. “We are thrilled to bring our concept to one of the most exciting cities in the UK and in such a thriving neighbourhood,” said Erwin de Jong Oliveira, Selina’s head of country UK. “We wanted to blend Selina’s Latin American roots with local talent, history and culture and we can’t wait to open our doors and provide a new hub for the community.”

Ei Group and Cask Marque partner to launch eight British ale trails: Ei Group and Cask Marque, the industry watchdog for quality beer, have partnered to launch eight British ale trails to drive footfall. In total, 56 Ei Group pubs are spread across the trails in York, Huddersfield, Manchester, Cheltenham, Bristol, Twickenham, Fulham and City of London. All venues are Cask Marque-accredited and within walking distance of one another on each trail. The pubs feature on Cask Marque’s app and drinkers can claim a free gift for each trail completed. Paul Harbottle, group commercial director at Ei Group, said: “Having Ei Group pubs in these ale trails means our publicans have the opportunity to attract drinkers searching for quality beer and the chance to showcase their offer to new customers.” Meanwhile, Ei Group will open its £1.4m Craft Union pub in Wakefield, Yorkshire, next month, which will also feature a group-wide support hub. The former bank will reopen on Thursday, 19 September hosting Craft Union Pub Company’s support team as well as training and meeting facilities for use by the whole of Ei Group. The Pub Support Hub scheme will create 20 jobs. The Craft Union support team is currently based in Preston. Stonegate Pub Company acquired Ei Group for £3bn in July subject to the deal being approved by the Competition and Markets Authority. 

Restaurant and play concept to launch in Northwich, University of Chester helps with menu: A restaurant and play concept is set to open at Barons Quay in the new year as the team behind ice cream-focused adventure park The Ice Cream Farm brings a new venture to Northwich. Based in Tattenhall, the family attraction will team up with Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) to open Sticky Paws In The Flavour Forest in a unit between H&M and the Odeon cinema. It is hoped the indoor concept will open in early 2020 featuring family restaurant Sticky Paws and bespoke indoor play area Flavour Forest. Sticky Paws will cater for 200 covers and offer “wholesome fast food with deconstructed and innovative dishes” that encourage children to try new food. The menu – constructed with support from the University of Chester – will consist of small individual dishes. Flavour Forest will be a bespoke indoor play area incorporating climbing, sliding and bouncing, allowing children to be adventurous. Spurred on by a multimillion-pound redevelopment in 2015, Ice Cream Farm director Jonathan Fell has been working with CWAC for more than a year to develop the idea. He said: “Local authorities need to identify the importance of utilising proven leisure concepts to drive footfall in areas that require regeneration. We wouldn’t be able to create this offering without the forward thinking and support of CWAC and it’s great to see Barons Quay diversifying its attitude in this way. We have carried out an in-depth branding strategy to make sure this new concept fits in the urban environment and a lot of time and investment has gone into making sure it’s done right.”

Domino’s launches ‘innovation garage’ to test technology: Domino’s Pizza has launched an “innovation garage” to test delivery and in-store technology. The 33,000 square foot, two-storey centre has opened at Domino’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is a fully functioning Domino’s site fitted with the latest customer-facing technology. The Innovation Garage has been designed as an open-concept facility for 150 staff and features workspaces, meeting rooms and a separate space for delivery inventions, where Domino’s will test its growing fleet of robots such as the R2 vehicle from robotics company Nuro. Domino’s first completely unmanned autonomous delivery vehicle will be tested later this year. Domino’s chief technology officer Kelly Garcia told Nation’s Restaurant News: “We want our team members to have a workspace that encourages experimentation and fosters an environment to take risks, test innovations, and fail fast so they can bring their best cutting-edge ideas to life.” Spokeswoman Dani Bulger added: “Domino’s tested autonomous pizza delivery with Ford but a safety driver was always at the wheel. Testing autonomous pizza delivery vehicles entails everything from how customers are notified the vehicle is near to how they interact with the vehicles when they retrieve their order. We want to make the customer experience as simple and friendly as possible so that means learning as much as we can.” Domino’s operates more than 16,300 stores globally.

Award-winning Devon pub owners to open restaurant: The owners of an award-winning Devon pub will open a restaurant next month. The owners of The Swan in Bampton plan to launch Spelt in a former bakery in the town. Chef patron Paul Berry, who co-owns The Swan with wife and fellow award-winning chef Donna, said: “This couldn’t have come at a better time for us. At the start of next month we’re opening our new restaurant, Spelt. We’ve taken on the old bakery shop in Bampton and created a new-concept restaurant. It’s going to be very different from The Swan in style but we’ll still focus on the wonderful local produce we use and serve the tastiest dishes going. We’ll offer a selection of dishes that have been developed for sharing so no starters as such and no mains either. If two people are going to eat, possibly they would have four or five plates of food.”

Jason Atherton to launch Betterment restaurant at Mayfair hotel next month: Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton and his business The Social Company will launch restaurant The Betterment at The Biltmore hotel in Mayfair next month. The kitchen will be led by Paul Walsh, who launched and led Atherton’s City Social for five years and gained its Michelin star within seven months. The Betterment will open on Monday, 9 September offering wood-fired fish and meat, seafood, salads and plant-based plates. An open grill will be at the heart of the restaurant, while Atherton will also oversee The Terrace, The Tea Lounge and The Pine Bar at The Biltmore. The opening marks a return to the area for Atherton, who rose to prominence after launching Maze in Grosvenor Square in 2005. He said: “We chose the name The Betterment to encapsulate our journey from opening Pollen Street Social in 2011 to today.” The Biltmore, Mayfair, formerly the Millennium Mayfair, will emerge from a £60m redevelopment to become the first European property in LXR Hotels & Resorts’ collection. Atherton’s empire spans six countries and includes seven restaurants in London alone. He opened his first theatre bar – Pavlova’s – in Victoria Palace Theatre in June.

West Bridgford-based Asian fusion restaurant Yumacha opens sister site: The team behind Asian fusion restaurant Yumacha in West Bridgford has opened a sister site in the Nottinghamshire town. Yumuchi has launched in Gordon Road offering Japanese food and drinks. The 90-cover restaurant also offers alfresco dining, while the upstairs space will host events with guest chefs and bartenders. The decor includes koi carp artwork, pink cherry blossom and wooden slatted ceilings. Yumuchi offers ramen or stir-fried noodles, donburi rice bowls, and katsu curries and cutlets. Bao buns, gyoza and Japanese salads are also on offer. Diners can also cook their own tuna, salmon, octopus and wagyu steaks on heated lava stones. Drinks include cocktails, mocktails, sake, lager and ale alongside Japanese gin, whiskey and vodka. General manager Joe Macbeth told Nottinghamshire Live: “Yumacha has been open for five years so we know we are going to be a successful restaurant as there’s such a good following there. Uchi is Japanese for ‘home’ and this is like our little Japanese home – warm and friendly. You can be off the beaten track but if you have good food, service and drinks, people will come.” 

NQ64 to double up with Liverpool opening: A retro arcade games bar is to open a second site. NQ64 launched in Manchester earlier this year and now a sister site is to open at the former Aloha tiki bar in Colquitt Street, Liverpool, as an underground drinking den filled with retro games and classic consoles. The arcade will offer a trip down memory lane for visitors, with 1980s classics such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders and 1990s consoles such as the Nintendo 64, Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. Aloha closed unexpectedly in June after nine years in the city centre. NQ64 is set to open in Liverpool at the end of September.

Nando’s goes large in Manchester: Nando’s is opening two restaurants in Manchester within a month. The company has just launched a site at White City Retail Park, close to Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, while a second restaurant will open at Crown Point North Shopping Park in Denton on Wednesday, 11 September. It will be the second Nando’s to open in the Tameside area, joining a restaurant in Ashton Moss, while the brand also has restaurants at nearby Oldham Town Hall, Oldham Elk Mill, Stockport and Manchester city centre. A spokesman for the company told Manchester Evening News: “We are very excited to bring some peri-peri goodness to Crown Point North Shopping Park.” Nando’s operates circa 350 restaurants in the UK and last month had plans approved for a new-build restaurant in Blackpool.

RB Inns acquires second Ironbridge pub: RB Inns, which operates The White Hart in Ironbridge, has acquired a second site in the Shropshire town. The company has bought The Meadow Inn, which stands in the shadow of the iconic Ironbridge power station at the start of the gorge. As well as a restaurant, the pub offers six letting rooms. Having been purchased by RB Inns it will, like The White Hart, be managed by Alex Nicoll Business Management. Nicoll told The Business Desk: “Having managed The White Hart for RB Inns during the past five years I have witnessed how that establishment has enjoyed a significant turnaround centred on doubling its turnover. I believe the future is similarly positive for The Meadow Inn. We plan a short refurbishment later in the year. Once that is complete, we anticipate increasing staff headcount from eight to 15.”

Manchester Gin to launch debut restaurant next month as part of new distillery experience: Manchester Gin is to launch its debut restaurant and bar next month as part of the company’s new distillery experience that will open beneath Manchester Central station. Gin-themed restaurant and bar Three Little Words will open inside one of the grade II-listed railway arches between St Peter’s Square and Deansgate-Castlefield on Friday, 6 September. It will be a sister venue to the Spirit of Manchester Distillery, which will span six railway arches with space for masterclasses and gin tastings. Three Little Words will offer 70 covers, with space for an extra 40 in a separate cocktail bar. Food and drinks menus will be largely gin-based. Seb Heeley and Jennie Wiggins founded Manchester Gin in 2013. Heeley told the Manchester Evening News: “This is the culmination of a life ambition for Jen and I. From the first day we met we talked about our dreams to open our own bar, so this feels like a huge milestone for us.” The distillery will open on Sunday, 15 September.

Paul UK partners with Feed It Back: Paul UK, the French bakery and cafe brand, has partnered with guest feedback service Feed It Back to help support and develop customer experience as the brand continues expansion. Feed It Back will provide tracking and analysis of customer experience in a sector that typically has fewer customer touch points than the restaurant and bar industry. The agreement will see Paul UK implement the full suite of Feed It Back services, giving the brand access to comprehensive customer insights through surveys, review platforms and social posts as well as access to its guest engagement platform. Feed It Back’s services will be rolled out across Paul’s 37 UK sites. Paul UK operations director Gary Cowles said: “Quality and consistency are two things we strive to deliver to all customers every time they visit. There’s a lot of choice on the high street and this new partnership will give us immediate insight into how our customers truly feel so we can remain ahead of the curve, adapt and improve our overall customer experience. Technology is a key tool we’re utilising to drive operational efficiencies and decision-making as we expand.” Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia added: “Paul UK is a fantastic, thriving business and a great example of a quality high-street operator. We look forward to working closely with the Paul UK team.” Last week Paul UK reported like-for-like sales rose 3.4% (2017: 2.4%) for the year ended 31 December 2018, with turnover up 7.4% to £38m. Online sales increased 43.9%. 

Bar owners plan £2m boutique hotel: Three business partners who run a bar in Carlisle have submitted plans to the council to develop a £2m boutique hotel in the city. Daniel White and Jack Lee, from the Hell Below bar in Devonshire Street, and Marty Boak hope to be granted consent to transform a former bed centre in the Viaduct into a hotel with eight bedrooms, a bar, restaurant and function room. Work on the derelict building, which is next to the former Central Plaza Hotel, could begin in November if the proposal is approved. Cllr Paul Nedved, portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing for the city council, said: “We are keen to support the vitality and growth of Carlisle. In the city centre we want to see a diverse range of businesses and facilities that will attract more visitors to a variety of different leisure facilities. We want to see our city thrive and we welcome investment opportunities.”

Norwich-based shisha lounge owners launch waffle restaurant: Husband and wife Gazmend and Sandra Selcetaj, who own a shisha lounge in Norwich, have launched a waffle restaurant in the city. The couple launched Aroma Lounge in Dereham Road a year ago and have now opened Queen Waffle in Aylsham Road after spotting a gap in the market outside the city centre. Alongside freshly made waffles, the 22-cover venue offers coffee, crepes, milkshakes and paninis. Sandra Selcetaj told the Eastern Daily Press: “We realised there were no places for the community to have a cup of coffee or treat themselves. We use the most luxurious sauces, the local Ronaldo ice cream and fresh fruit in our milkshakes. We don’t have many savoury choices but we hope to come up with more fabulous ideas with the help of our customers.”

30 Euston Square launches rooftop kitchen garden as part of sustainability pledge: Searcys has launched a rooftop herb garden and vegetable patch at its 30 Euston Square events space in central London. The garden will provide chefs at the grade II-listed conference venue with fresh ingredients and will be “curated to fit kitchen requirements”. During the winter months the garden will provide beetroot, kale and Brussels sprouts, with the move part of the venue’s sustainability pledge to source ingredients as locally as possible. The herb garden will supply fresh rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme, while the terrace beds will offer a source of ingredients for homemade butter and flavoured water. 30 Euston Square executive chef Daniel Broughton said: “We are really proud of our sourcing and want to show our customers we care about where our food comes from as much as they do.”

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