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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 3rd Sep 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pret reorganises management team, appoints new UK MD: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-backed chain, has reorganised its UK management team, including the appointment of a new UK managing director, Propel understands. The company has promoted Claire Clough to UK managing director and chief food and coffee officer. Clough has been with Pret for the past nine years, most recently as food and coffee director. At the same time, Guy Meakin, who joined the business two years ago from Marks & Spencer, has been promoted from head of commercial to UK food and coffee director. Matt Prior, who has been with Pret for more than five years, moves up from head of finance to UK finance director. Last month, Propel reported Pret had promoted David Carter to the role of UK people director. Carter has been with Pret for more than 18 years, and has been head of HR and recruitment for the past six-and-a-half years. In the wider Pret organisation, Heidi Lang, who has been with the business for more than 22 years, has been promoted from interim IT director to the role of global retail technology director. Last month, Pret announced the appointment of Kate Stein to the newly created role of global technical director. At the start of July, the company announced chief executive Clive Schlee was to retire at the end of this month after more than 16 years in the role. Schlee will hand the reins to chief operating officer Pano Christou. Schlee will remain on Pret’s board as a non-executive director. The announcement came on the eve of Pret completing its acquisition of fresh food-to-go retailer EAT. Since then Pret has placed circa 15 EAT sites on the market through property agent Brasier Freeth, including 13 in London.

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Andy Lewis-Pratt to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is now open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 14 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Andy Lewis-Pratt, who formerly launched Xscape and is now chief executive of Market Halls, which will operate four sites by the end of this year, including the UK's largest food hall, will talk about the three-year global research that went into launching his reinvention of the food hall concept, how the offer is evolving and plans to open sites across the UK. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

TripAdvisor sees significant fall in market share as average social review score rises across industry: TripAdvisor has seen its market share fall significantly when it comes to customer reviews – to 25.1% in August 2019, compared with 33.9% the previous year, according to the latest Feed It Back social review tracker. The data showed, over the same period, Facebook experienced a year-on-year increase of 3.1%, with the platform now accounting for 10.3% of reviews. Google remains the biggest player in the industry, with its percentage of reviews in August sitting at 64.3%. The rise in prevalence of Facebook and the decrease in TripAdvisor usage have impacted the average social review score in the industry, which has risen from 4.0 out of five in August 2018, to 4.3 in 2019. This increase has been driven by a spike in review scores across all platforms over the past year, with Facebook rising from 3.9 out of five, to 4.1 over the same period. TripAdvisor grew from 3.9 to 4.1, and Google increased from 4.1 to 4.3. Looking at the split between the sectors, the average social review score for the pub and bar industry rose from 4.1 to 4.3, while the restaurant industry increased from 4.0 to 4.3. The main driver behind the spike in positive reviews for both sectors was the Facebook channel, where the average review score for restaurants rose from 4.0 to 4.6 out of five, while pubs and bars experienced an increase from 4.4 to 4.6. Analysing the reviews, there is a distinct trend in positive reviews containing the word “cocktail”, which has further risen in prevalence since last month and is now the primary driver of positive reviews across the Facebook platform. Wait times continue to drive negative reviews across all channels and sectors. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “The statistics show there has been a spike in positive experiences in the hospitality industry in the past year. What’s particularly interesting about the statistics is Facebook is the primary driver behind this positive shift, which can be partly attributed to its methodology change last September. It’s clear UK consumers have developed an appetite for cocktails and operators are creating quality cocktail experiences that delight guests.”

OpenTable revamps app to offer more personalised dining experience: Global restaurant booking platform OpenTable has revamped its app to showcase more relevant and personalised dining options. The app has a new home screen featuring data-backed recommendations tailored to the individual diner based on their past bookings, favourite restaurants and dining preferences. Diners can see lists of suggested restaurants, leave feedback on recommendations they would like to see more or less of and access their user profile where they can update personal dining preferences. If diners keep their personal dining preferences updated to let restaurants know they are pescatarian or dairy-free among other preferences, OpenTable can tailor the restaurant suggestions based on this insight. Adrian Valeriano, vice-president, OpenTable EMEA, said: “Our mission at OpenTable is to enable diners to discover and find restaurant inspiration, as well as make a reservation. We hope our app update helps more diners find the perfect place to eat out. The use of artificial intelligence continues to open new doors for us in creating a more personalised experience for our diners.”

Tim Martin criticises Bishops' open letter on Brexit: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has written to 25 Bishops criticising several points in their open letter about a no-deal Brexit. A group of Church of England Bishops issued the letter on the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the need for national reconciliation, notwithstanding the potential prorogation of parliament. Martin said: “In saying they have ‘particular concerns’ about a no-Deal Brexit and it will have a ‘massive’ effect on the less well-off, the Bishops are adopting extreme Remainer arguments. Many Leave voters, perhaps a majority of the electorate, believe we will be better off without a deal – we can save all, or most of, the £39bn Theresa May offered, we can end import duties on rice, oranges, children’s clothes and thousands of other non-EU products and regain control of fishing – and increase democracy at the same time. It is also worrying the Bishops perpetuate the discredited myth, still prevalent among some elite Remainers, people voted for Brexit because of ‘uncertainty and marginalisation’, rather than for reasons that were implicit in the ballot paper. Surveys consistently show Leavers, a diverse group, voted mainly to increase democratic accountability – sometimes called sovereignty. The Bishops are, in my opinion, out of touch with the electorate. Like the Oxbridge Remainers, who dominate parliament, two thirds are graduates of those universities. The lack of diversity and groupthink of this faction, and their support for the patently undemocratic Brussels system, is a real threat to the UK’s – and indeed humanity’s – future.”

Company News:

Ivy Collection adds Windsor to pipeline, five new openings due by year end: The Ivy Collection, the Richard Caring-backed and David Campbell-led group, is set to open five sites by the end of the year, including one in Windsor, Propel understands. The 33-strong group, which most recently opened The Ivy Buchanan Street in Glasgow, is taking on the Tower Brasserie tearoom in Windsor High Street for The Ivy Royal Windsor, with an opening planned for this winter. Before the end of the year, it also plans to open The Ivy Cardiff and The Ivy Victoria Brasserie on the two former Jamie’s Italian sites it acquired earlier this summer. It is currently on-site for its second Ivy Asia at the former Barbecoa site in St Paul’s One New Change. Finally, the group will open The Ivy Oxford Brasserie in a former NatWest bank building in Oxford High Street. It is thought The Ivy Collection is also exploring further sites in Liverpool and Newcastle.

Boparan to open fifth Slim Chickens site this month, aims for sixth by end of year: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) will open its fifth Slim Chickens site this month as it strengths its presence in London – and hopes to launch a sixth by the end of the year. The latest site will launch at the Brunswick Centre, in Brunswick Square, near St Pancras, on Friday, 27 September. It follows openings in Marylebone and Soho in London along with Birmingham and Cardiff. The expansion comes amidst ambitious growth plans for Slim Chickens as BRG, which owns the master franchise rights to the brand in the UK, aims to open “many more” restaurants by 2022 in key cities. BRG chief executive Tom Crowley said: “The positive customer reaction we are getting from Slim Chickens across the UK so far is phenomenal. We are excited to be opening our fifth restaurant in the Brunswick Centre, London. We are now on the look-out for more locations across the UK and hope to have restaurant number six open before Christmas.” Slim Chickens opened its first location in Arkansas in 2003 before expanding to other US southern states to quickly reach the 80-site milestone.

Incipio Group to take over former Mahiki site in Kensington: Incipio Group, which received £5m from entertainment and leisure investor Edition Capital earlier this year to open six venues in 18 months, has secured a further central London site, after acquiring the former Mahiki site in Kensington. Davis Coffer Lyons (DCL) completed the deal on behalf of the outgoing tenant, David Phelps and Piers Adam, who took on the site in 2012 when it was the former Casino at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. Since then they reopened the space as the high-end restaurant bar and nightclub, Bodo’s Schloss, and later rebranded it as the west London outpost of their infamous Mahiki brand. Upon signing a new 20-year lease for their flagship site Mahiki in Dover Street, Mayfair, they decided to sell the site in Kensington. The leasehold interest was assigned with the lease expiring July 2037. A premium was paid for the 6,000 square foot site on the ground floor of the property, which has a late licence until 3.30am. Jonathan Moradoff, senior director, at DCL, said: “There has been much chatter in the market about the tough trading conditions in the branded restaurant sector and waning consumer confidence levels. However, our experience is bars, pubs, and late-night operations that offer an informal atmosphere and strong sense of ‘experience’, are continuing to thrive. No matter what is happening in the economy and the political landscape, people always need somewhere to go and have a drink, let off steam and have a good time. As such there is intense demand for wet-led establishments in strong locations across central London where high premiums are still being paid.” To date Incipio has launched Lost in Brixton, Pergola on the Roof in White City, Pergola Olympia, Pergola Paddington, The Prince in West Brompton Crossing, Feast in Hammersmith and W12 Studios in White City. In the next 18 months, Incipio Group is launching sites in Putney, Wimbledon and Birmingham, the latter being its first outside of London. The company recently launched Wildcard Kitchen – its first in-house restaurant at The Prince.

Craft Locals secures third pub: Craft Locals, the fledgling pub group led by Dan Fox, has secured its third site, near Rickmansworth. Fox, who earlier this year took on the sole Chicken Society site, in Finchley, from Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), has reopened the Red Lion in Chenies Village. Fox, who was a general manager at M&B for more than 12 years, opened his first pub, the Arnos Arms, in Arnos Grove, two years ago. Earlier this year, he converted Chicken Society to the King of Prussia, offering craft beer, cocktails and pizza.

Ippudo secures fourth London restaurant: Global ramen restaurant group Ippudo has secured its fourth London restaurant, this time in Fitzrovia. The company has taken on the former Kua’Aina burger site in Goodge Street. Ippudo, founded in Fukuoka, Japan, by Shigemi Kawahara as an independent ramen restaurant in 1985, now operates more than 240 restaurants in 13 countries. It already operates three sites in London – in St Giles, Canary Wharf and Villiers Street The company said it had plans to continue to expand in the UK should the “right opportunities present themselves”. Satoshi Matsuoka, director, Ippudo London, said: “We are excited to be opening our next shop in Goodge Street. The area has a vibrancy very close to Ippudo’s heart and we look forward to expressing our Japanese food culture here.” Sammy Weinbaum, director at CDG Leisure, acted on behalf of Ippudo on the Goodge Street deal. It leaves Kua’Aina with just one site in the UK, in Carnaby Street.

Star Pubs & Bars funds free cookery school courses to help with chef retention: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has launched a series of free chef training courses at regional cookery schools around the country to help licensees with kitchen staff recruitment and retention. The series of practical one-day courses are aimed at staff in pubs with a strong food offer who may not have been to catering college but want to expand their knowledge and learn cooking skills to progress in their careers. Course attendees learn to make bread and to create on-trend vegan and gluten-free dishes. They also gain insight into how utilising under-used cuts of meat, low calorie dishes and desserts can increase customer spend. The first course took place at Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s The River Cottage in Devon, with further courses lined up around the UK. The courses complement Star Pub & Bars’ chef recruitment toolkit, which contains “how to” guides on interviewing and recruiting candidates as well as a suite of professionally written job descriptions, interview questions and job advert templates. Mark Teed, head of food at Star Pubs & Bars, said: “Training and staff retention was highlighted as the biggest issue for licensees at our 2018 forums. The kitchen crisis is already critical and likely to get worse, so developing and looking after chefs is essential and we’re committed to supporting licensees in this area. As well as cookery school training, we’re sponsoring 100 apprentices this year to help licensees attract and retain the best talent in the kitchen. Licensees need to motivate and inspire kitchen staff to minimise staff turnover. Acquiring additional skills and offering apprenticeships allow people to progress within their role and encourages them to stay with their employer longer.”

Josie’s to open fourth Hampshire site: Josie’s, the Hampshire-based cafe and deli concept, is to open its fourth site in the county. The company, which was founded by mother-and-son team Josephine and Kevin Latouf in 2011, has secured the former Co-operative Travel shop in Market Place, Romsey, for an opening later this year. The first Josie’s opened in 2011 in Bishops Waltham, with further sites launching in Winchester and Petersfield.

Bermondsey Pubs partners with on-demand student workforce app: Bermondsey Pubs, part of Ei Group's managed operations, is working with Stint, a platform providing on-demand access to university student workers, across a number of its London-centric pubs. The partnership aims to help Bermondsey Pubs “create outstanding pub experiences for its customers” while providing employment opportunities for university students. Through the Stint app, Bermondsey Pubs posts “stints” for the hours that require an extra pair of hands. The platform’s technology is designed to algorithmically match the posted “stint” to the university student that is best suited to fulfil it, taking into account the live location of the student and their “Stint rating” – based across a number of core competencies. Henry Fairbanks, operations director at Bermondsey Pubs, said: “Running pubs involves preparation, planning, and pragmatism – having this resource at our fingertips gives us an additional tool to utilise when our pubs are operating at peak. We empower our general managers to do all they see fit to remain at the heart of the communities they serve. As such, we give a degree of autonomy to each site to utilise the application in the way that suits their team and customers best. In addition to driving customer service, this app also gives us the opportunity to provide work and skills for students and promote hospitality as meaningful career – it really is a win-win.” Stint was founded by brothers Sam and Sol Schlagman in June 2018, while studying at University College London. It has an established network of more than 10,000 student workers across the UK. All students on the app are employed by Stint and have undergone the appropriate right-to-work checks.

Bird of Smithfield freehold sold for £3.9m in sale and leaseback deal: The freehold of Bird of Smithfield, the Georgian townhouse with restaurant, lounge bar and roof terrace in London’s Farringdon, has been sold for £3.9m, as part of a sale and leaseback deal. Coffer Corporate Leisure advised Freshwater Pub Company on the sale and leaseback of the site, with the sale price reflecting a net initial yield of 3.61%. The deal allowed Freshwater to secure long-term occupation of the site via a new 25-year leaseback. The property was acquired by a local businessman with ties to the historic Smithfield meat market. Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “We had strong interest in this sale and leaseback. It’s a well-invested asset, operated very well. The roof terrace is one of the best in London. The pub sector is in rude health.”

James Ellis steps down as Aston Manor chief financial officer: James Ellis has stepped down as chief financial officer at Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor, bringing the family's association with the company to an end. Ellis, who spent ten years in the role, has been replaced by Sarah Allcock, who has been with the business for six years and promoted to head of finance. Prior to that, Allcock had roles at Cornwall-based Sharp’s Brewery and its parent company, Molson Coors. After the passing of his father, Peter, and grandfather, Sir Doug Ellis, who founded Aston Manor, James Ellis felt it was the right time for him to “write a completely new chapter” of his own. He added: “Although my departure marks the end of the long association the Ellis family has enjoyed with Aston Manor, Aston Manor remains a family business.” The Ellis family ran the business for 35 years before selling it to French food group Agrial for almost £100m in August last year. Last month, Aston Manor reported turnover rose to £133,297,126 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £127,332,881 the year before. Ebitda amounted to £5.6m after one-off costs of £1.8m, relating to the sale of the business.

Darling and Edge to open experiential house party-style bar: Immersive events studio Darling and Edge will open an experiential house party-style bar in London this week. The company is launching Darling House at The Vaults in Waterloo Road on Thursday (5 September). The two-storey residence will feature six rooms that visitors can explore for a “drinking experience with a difference”. Each individual room is based on the Bloomsbury Group and 1930s Bright Young Things, layered with hand-painted furniture, frescoed ceilings and antique chandeliers. A mixologist will serve inventive cocktails from a little cupboard on the landing. Upstairs a brass doorbell, if rung, will open a hidden cupboard in the wall and a magnum of prosecco will appear. The venue will be able to host up to 60 people and is also available for private bookings. Darling House is situated under Darling and Edge's restaurant, Hello Darling, which has recently launched a new eclectic mix of theatrical sharing dishes, including baked megrim sole with curried butter; and pork belly with braised fennel, burnt onion and dukkha.

Beannchor takes over running of Belfast's Park Avenue Hotel: Belfast-based hospitality group Beannchor has taken over the running of the Park Avenue Hotel in the east of the city. The Holywood Road establishment has been under a company voluntary arrangement since October 2016. The insolvency proceedings came just over a year after the hotel was unveiled as the venue for chef Marco Pierre White's first Northern Ireland restaurant. Both the steakhouse bar and grill and the 56-bedroom hotel have continued to trade. In a statement, the company said: “Beannchor Group has taken on operations of the Park Avenue Hotel.” 
Namco lines up leisure attraction at Intu Derby: Namco, the ten-pin bowling and adventure mini golf operator, is set to open a site at the Intu Derby shopping centre. Namco, which also provides American pool and arcade games at its venues, has had an application to open at the complex approved by the city council. Units on the second level will be converted into the new attraction, including space used by Poundland, reports Insider Media. Richmond-headquartered Namco already has sites in Braintree, Gateshead, London, Manchester, Norwich, Romford and Tamworth.
Fuller’s introduces talking menus in pubs for visually impaired diners: Fuller's has introduced Good Food Talks in its managed food pubs, offering a talking menu service to make it easier for visually impaired, blind or dyslexic diners to independently browse and order. Good Food Talks provides accessible menus, both online and in its app, using text-to-speech software, large text format, background colour inversion and OpenDyslexic font. The technology includes listings of more than 2,500 restaurants throughout the UK. Each listing includes the address, directions and the food menu, including price, description, and allergen information. The software is free for users and can be used on smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices using the Good Food Talks website and app. Fuller’s director of food Paul Dickinson said: “We’re passionate about our food and we’re excited to now offer Good Food Talks to our customers. I’ve always thought our food sounded good and now it can truly speak for itself.”

Owners of Nottingham-based French restaurant open second site with Gordon Ramsay-trained chef at helm: The owners of Nottingham-based French restaurant Petit Paris have opened a second site in the city with a Gordon Ramsay-trained chef at the helm. The new bar and restaurant, Paris, has launched in former pub The Lacemakers Arms in High Pavement. Paris draws inspiration from the French capital’s tree-lined boulevards and includes a two-metre Eiffel Tower water feature. The 50-cover restaurant is towards the rear of the building, with its own private bar for diners. The front, which was an 18th century townhouse, operates as a bar for those not eating. Antony Crossman became one of the new owners of Petit Paris about 18 months ago, with his daughter Paige, business partner Dave Fuher and nephew James Crossman, who trained as a chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridge’s restaurant in London and is head chef at Paris. James Crossman told Insider Media: “As well as Petit Paris, I am excited to be leading new restaurant Paris and it’s safe to say a lot of planning, care and detail has gone into the menu, and we really wanted everyone to have an eating experience that appealed to the senses.” Petit Paris has been operating in King’s Walk for almost 25 years.

Historic Cornish hotel featured in The Witches film sees slight fall in turnover following building work on new leisure development: The historic Headland Hotel in Cornwall, which featured in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl story The Witches, has seen a slight fall in turnover following building work on a new leisure development. Headland Hotel Company saw turnover dip to £8,950,688 for the year ending 30 November 2018, compared with £9,036,568 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £1,420,498, compared with £1,657,370 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The grade II-listed, 96-bedoom, four-star hotel opened in 1900 and was taken over by current owners the Armstrong family in March 1979. In 1987, The Witches, starring Anjelica Huston, was filmed at the venue, which overlooks Fistral Bay, near Newquay. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The new Aqua Club, due to open in spring 2020, is being built in the grounds at significant expense and substantial capital investment. Guests and club members will enjoy three indoor pools, two outdoor pools and the Deck restaurant. Turnover for 2018 was slightly reduced due to several adjacent cottages not being let due to the Aqua Club construction work, together with some reduced rates for hotel bedrooms overlooking the site.”

Graffiti Spirits Group expands portfolio with all-day restaurant: Graffiti Spirits Group has expanded its portfolio in Liverpool by opening an all-day restaurant. The company has launched Slim’s in Bold Street in the former Love Thy Neighbour premises. Slim’s takes its inspiration from high-end New York diners, with an inclusive menu that also caters for vegan and vegetarian diners. Slim’s is also be home to a sports bar on the ground floor. Graffiti Spirits Group’s other Liverpool sites include Duke Street Market, Santa Chupitos, Santa Maluco and Salt Dog Slims.

Somerset tourist attraction set to see turnover top £6m on back of expanded offering: Somerset tourist attraction Wookey Hole is set to see turnover top £6m this year on the back of an expanded offering, with a significant property development also on the horizon. Wookey Hole reported turnover was up to £5,867,969 for the year ending 28 February 2019, compared with £5,785,320 the previous year. Pre-tax profit rose to £559,854, compared with £489,135 the year before, according to Companies House. Wookey Hall has added campsites and other accommodation to its portfolio in recent years, with a new wedding venue also added to accompany the well-known cave at the site. Director Daniel Medley told Insider Media: “We've moved into accommodation; we built a hotel a while ago, we bought a holiday park – Buckle Grove – and last year we bought another park, Homestead Park, which is based in the village of Wookey Hole. It's a residential park and camping site – we're looking to develop that site with luxury lodges. We're not like a normal hotel – we're so different. We've got mirror mazes, corporate events with team building or circus skills or Wild Wookey, which is off the beaten track in the caves. We're looking to put in another 15 luxury lodges at Homestead Park, plus we have a planning application at the moment to build 11 houses for sale on a site we've got, on an area we can't put holiday lodges.”

McCain launches range of hot bar snacks in UK under new brand: Food producer McCain has launched a range of hot bar snacks in the UK under new brand, Brew City. They have been developed to pair with premium and craft lager and ale. The range consists of IPA fries, mac n Jack bites, salt and pepper potato pops, onion straws, herby tomato mozzarella arancini bites, fiery jalapeno slices, Gouda and mozzarella bites, and frickles. It comes as a Twitter poll conducted by Brew City, which sits under the McCain Foodservice Solutions umbrella, showed 76% of those surveyed preferred hot bar snacks over cold, with 73% admitting their pub doesn’t have a wide enough selection of hot bar snacks. Brew City was originally launched in the US as part of a food and drink solution 20 years ago. Robin Norton, category controller, McCain Foodservice Solutions, said: “The food with drink moment exists in pubs, however it is not being maximised by current hot food offerings. We are very proud to be launching a new brand into the UK market, elevating the bar snacks category and unlocking a new opportunity for operators, as we have done in the US.”

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