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Wed 11th Sep 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Propel launches Casual Dining Summit, open for bookings: Propel has launched the Casual Dining Summit in which some of the sector’s leading operators – big and small, new and established – will share expertise and insights into how they are seeking to win in one of the toughest trading environments ever experienced. The full-day event takes place on Friday, 8 November at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. The event will see a wide spectrum of company leaders and entrepreneurs from across the industry talk about the strategies they have put in place to make sure their businesses have been able to survive, thrive, evolve or pivot. Speakers will include YO! chief executive Richard Hodgson, who will explain the group’s move away from being a pure restaurant-focused business to becoming a global multi-format, multi-channel company; Tom Molnar, founder of Gail’s, who will chart the brand’s growth trajectory and evolution into a growing force on the high street; Shereen Ritchie, UK managing director of Leon, who will set out how the healthy-eating chain has focused on its core offer to remain relevant; and Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson, who will discuss the steps being taken to turn the brand around and how it plans to differentiate itself from the pack. The day will also see Giggling Squid’s Andy Laurillard discuss how the Thai brand’s trading model is proving successful in the regions, its expansion strategy and potential; Red’s True Barbecue co-founder James Douglas talk about the rise, fall and re-emergence of the smokehouse concept and the lessons he has learned during that time; and Brasserie Bar Co chairman Mark Derry explore the steps the group continually takes to make it future-proof, its daily quest to control costs and improve NPS scores. They will be joined by Prue Freeman, founder of fledgling group Daisy Green, who will discuss how the independent business has managed to grow a presence in London in the highly competitive all-day dining market; and Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers, who will talk about how the business has avoided getting caught up in the wider issues the better burger category has faced, its culture and whether now is the time for it to diversify. There will also be a panel session featuring Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims, Dan Houghton, co-founder of Chilango, and Gavin Adair, managing director of Rosa’s Thai, who will explore the benefits and challenges that come with offering a delivery option, its impact on business models, staff and expansion opportunities. NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport will highlight the underlying rude health of the sector despite the well-publicised challenges. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “I am delighted to launch the Casual Dining Summit. The sector’s woes have been well publicised but it’s time to shine a much-needed light on how it continues to produce award-winning businesses, industry-leading innovation and national success stories. It is also an opportunity to show how broad a church the sector is, from brands with a global presence to those with aspirations of having a nationwide presence and ones on the comeback trail.” Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers and £345 plus VAT for all others. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator calls for 30 Under 30 nominations: The Restaurant Marketer & Innovator “30 Under 30” list, which recognises 30 talented future leaders in marketing, innovation and strategy roles within the sector who are under 30 years of age, has opened its nominations for 2020. Judges will look for creativity, confidence, commercial awareness, ability to collaborate, leadership skills and perseverance. They will also look for experience in senior stakeholder management, understanding of how to develop strategy, ability to self-reflect, and clear potential to be an industry leader of the future. Nominees should have at least three years’ experience in the hospitality sector. Nominations close on Monday, 30 September. They are anonymous and can be made by anybody by clicking here. Self-nominations are accepted. Selected candidates will be invited to a presentation evening on 20 January 2020 at Google London and will receive a ticket to the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit. All those applying for a place will be automatically considered for the Future Marketing Leader of the Year prize at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Awards. The award is the pinnacle of the 30 Under 30 programme and up to ten candidates will be shortlisted. This year the prize will be accompanied by a travel scholarship, with the winner supported by a fully funded and co-ordinated overseas trip to aid their development, where they will meet industry leaders. Programme co-founder and Think Hospitality chief executive James Hacon said: “The 30 Under 30 programme is great recognition by the industry of your achievements to date and highlights you as a leader of the future. As part of the programme you will be in a network of like-minded professionals, who you will meet and get to know. You will be our guest at international conference day and get invited to a presentation evening to network with your industry peers.”

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Tamweel Capital to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 14 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Ali Aneizi, founder of Tamweel Capital, will talk about investor appetite for new and disruptive leisure formats such as crazy golf and food and beverage concept Swingers, pilates and physio operator Ten Health & Fitness, and exercise and entertainment brand Gymbox, all of which are businesses Tamweel has raised capital for to finance expansion and/or buy out shareholders. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

BBPA reaffirms need for beer duty cut as on-trade sales fall 2.8% in second quarter: On-trade beer sales fell 2.8% in the second quarter of 2019 as the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) reaffirmed the need for a cut in duty to give pubs a boost. Total beer sales in the period across the on and off-trade were down 2.2% on the same period in 2018, according to the latest Beer Barometer sales data from the BBPA. In the off-trade, sales fell 1.7% on the same quarter in 2018. The BBPA highlighted the decline was against a particularly strong second quarter in 2018, where sales were boosted by a long period of good weather and Fifa World Cup group stages. However, it said beer sales in the on-trade remain under considerable pressure generally, with pub numbers continuing to decline as a result of high taxes including beer duty. The BBPA added it has been clear measures need to be taken by chancellor Sajid Javid to cut or freeze beer duty in the next Budget. At the moment public finances include an inflation-linked increase in beer duty. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We know cuts and freezes to beer duty make a big difference in helping pubs and boosting beer sales. There is a very real threat, however, the chancellor will increase beer duty at the next Budget. After back-to-back beer duty freezes in 2017 and 2018, an increase would be a big step back. What we really need is a beer duty cut to give pubs a big boost.”

UK food and drink prices stall in July as Brexit nears: Recent surges in food and drink prices have stalled as the UK moves closer to Brexit, according to the latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index. The index remained flat during July following several months of unexpected increases across many categories of food and non-alcoholic beverages. The Hot Beverages category saw a pricing spike in June but fell in July thanks to increased tea production in India. The outlook for coffee had been positive recently because of unusually high production levels in Brazil but spring frosts look likely to have caused significant crop damage, prompting caution. The most significant threat to supply availability and cost is the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, the report suggested. The consensus among larger suppliers is such a scenario would cause considerable disruption in early November but the supply chain should adjust and cope before Christmas. The biggest Brexit-related challenge would be to short shelf-life products, especially salad leaf. The key anxiety is import delays at ports will cause some stock-outs and shorten shelf lives for customers. The index indicates significant easing in the Fish & Seafood category, with a month-on-month fall of almost 9% driven by softer prices in salmon markets. However, buyers need to be wary of future increases, particularly in cod and haddock, when new quotas are announced this month. CGA client director of food Fiona Speakman said: “Foodservice businesses will welcome the respite of more settled prices after the volatility of the first half of 2019. The easing of inflationary pressures in fish and hot beverages, two hugely important sectors for operators, is especially encouraging but these figures could mark a lull before a renewed storm of challenges later in the year led by the huge uncertainty around the impacts of Brexit on the supply of key items.” Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “Good contingency planning and supplier communication is essential in the run-up to Brexit.”

Walthamstow High Street to become London’s first Night Time Enterprise Zone: Walthamstow High Street will become London’s first Night Time Enterprise Zone. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has chosen Waltham Forest borough to trial new ideas to boost the town centre, support local businesses and improve access to shops and services after 6pm. The pilot will run from October to January and feature a range of proposals including offering entrepreneurs low-cost spaces to hire in the evenings; establishing a fund to help business and community groups host events after 6pm; and creating a step-by-step guide for night-time businesses regarding planning and licensing. Khan created the pilot zone, which will receive £75,000 funding from City Hall that the borough must match, following a recommendation from his Night Time Commission. Kate Nicholls, chairman of the commission, said: “Our report identified a real opportunity to use London’s diverse and dynamic life at night to support London’s high streets. I look forward to seeing the impact more culture offerings and activities after 6pm will have on Walthamstow High Street.” Khan added: “This pilot will be an opportunity to develop the ideas that can boost our high streets and help realise our vision for a 24-hour city.” 

Tim Martin eases SIBA price concerns: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has rebuffed concerns from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) regarding beer prices. SIBA chief executive James Calder wrote an open letter to Martin after he reduced a pint of Greene King-brewed Ruddles by 20p, citing it as an example of how leaving the EU customs union could cut prices. Calder said the move had caused “significant concern among the UK’s independent craft brewers” and, while Martin’s commitment to deliver value to his customers was “admirable” and he recognised Wetherspoon as a “huge supporter of cask beer”, many in the brewing community felt selling a pint of beer for as low as £1.39 and creating the impression beer would remain that cheap was “dangerous”. The letter ended with Calder urging Martin to “commit to paying brewers a fair price for the beer they make”. In response, Martin sent a letter to Calder stating: “I can understand the concerns of your members about a price of £1.39. However, the price only applies to a small number of our pubs (36) where the sales volumes are, on average, low. The ‘normal’ price, which applies at 625 pubs, is £1.69 versus a price for SIBA members’ beers of about £2.15. We feel confident volumes of your members’ beers won’t be affected and we won’t be asking them for any reductions in price. Indeed, we haven’t asked Greene King, the supplier of Ruddles, for a reduction either. As you point out, Wetherspoon has an excellent relationship with SIBA and its members – and we don’t believe our Ruddles initiative will have an adverse effect.”

Barclays – impact of food delivery on catering companies ‘marginal’ but threat increasing rapidly: Analysts at Barclays have said the impact of food delivery on catering companies has been “marginal” so far but the risk to the sector was “increasing quickly”. They said: “Until now the impact of food delivery on the catering sector has been limited, in large part because delivery groups have focused on business-to-consumer rather than business-to-business and the current delivery offer to the workplace is too expensive or inconvenient to seriously rival canteens. This is changing quickly, however, with two of the major European delivery companies acquiring business-to-business platforms and numerous startups developing a workplace offer. Meanwhile, food production and delivery costs are gradually being reduced and the reach of delivery in terms of healthy and varied lunchtime-specific offers and geographic coverage is increasing. In short, things are moving quickly in a direction where delivery has the potential to more viably compete with canteens and open up new business-to-business opportunities in smaller businesses that currently lack any canteen offering. Overall, we see more negatives than positives. We see circa 34% of catering revenues as vulnerable with risks to volumes, outsourcing rates and more immediately to margins. However, we also see opportunities. Could a tie-up between a food delivery group and a caterer for the provision of workplace food delivery be the next obvious step, with the caterer offering food production, procurement advantages and corporate relationships to the delivery groups?”

Hubbub selects first Cup Fund winners in bid to recycle 35 million paper cups a year: Environmental charity Hubbub has selected the first 12 winners of the Cup Fund – the UK’s largest grant to bolster and scale paper cup recycling. The winning programmes will receive grants of between £50,000 and £100,000, funded by Starbucks’ 5p cup charge. The winners will develop infrastructure to introduce more than 70 cup recycling facilities. In total, 36 organisations will work to make the schemes a success, with 35 million cups a year expected to be recycled, including more than four million in London alone. All cups collected by the projects will be turned into products such as paper bags and greetings cards. Five of the winning projects are based in London, while others include city-wide schemes in Bristol, York, Oxford and Northampton, and a nationwide scheme to collect and recycle cups used in vending machines. Hubbub director and co-founder Gavin Ellis said: “We have been so impressed by the scale of the winning projects’ ambitions and look forward to supporting them over the coming year.” Jaz Rabadia, senior manager of energy and sustainability at Starbucks, added: “We are committed to supporting councils and communities to develop out-of-store paper cup recycling infrastructures.”

Dusk ‘til Dawn/Bar and Nightclub Conference clarification: In Propel Morning Briefing on Tuesday (10 September) it was stated this year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference would be held at Bafta, Piccadilly. Both the conference and Dusk ‘til Dawn Late Night Awards, which recognise the best UK bar and nightclub operators, will take place at The Troxy in Commercial Road, London, on Wednesday, 16 October.

Company News:

McDonald’s to acquire voice technology startup: McDonald’s has reached agreement to acquire Apprente, a voice-based, conversational technology startup. McDonald’s said the agreement marked another “bold step in advancing employee and customer-facing innovations while further strengthening technology capabilities”. Apprente was founded in California in 2017 to create voice-based platforms for complex, multi-lingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering. McDonald’s said the technology would allow faster, simpler and more accurate order-taking at drive-thrus with potential to incorporate into mobile ordering and kiosks. Chief executive Steve Easterbrook said: “Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities are fundamental to our Velocity Growth Plan and enable us to meet rising expectations from customers while making it simpler for crew members to serve guests.” Apprente staff will be founding members of a new integrated group – McD Tech Labs – within McDonald’s global technology team. Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente and vice-president of McD Tech Labs, said: “Apprente was born out of an opportunity to use technology to solve challenging problems and we’re thrilled to apply this to creating personalised experiences for customers and crew.”  The investment builds on several key technology initiatives McDonald’s has introduced in recent years.  In April the company acquired Dynamic Yield, which specialises in personalisation and decision logic technology. McDonald’s also invested in mobile app vendor Plexure earlier this year to advance development of its app.

Goodbody – focus will be on JD Wetherspoon thoughts for FY20 given results should be in line with expectations: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said given JD Wetherspoon’s full-year results should be in line with expectations, all focus will be on the company’s thoughts for this financial year. Looking ahead to the results on Friday (13 September), Ruddy said: “Given the company has given sales growth numbers for the majority of the year and reiterated profit expectations, there should be little to alarm or excite in FY19 numbers. To this end the majority of the talking points will be around FY20. These include how FY20 has started and whether it has been able to maintain the highly impressive like-for-like sales growth? What initiatives will help support like-for-like growth in 2020 beyond its differentiated volume-based model? What level of like-for-like sales is required to offset the inherent cost inflation facing the sector? Will Wetherspoon invest 4% of sales in pub repairs again and how is it thinking about timing and quantum of pay increases with reference to current labour relations? What is the level of freehold reversion likely to be in 2020? Conversely, does management still expect to dispose of 11 to 12 pubs over the next 18 months? Wetherspoon is trading on ten times FY20 EV/Ebitda and 20 times price-to-earnings ratio representing a premium to peers and its historic averages (five-year average 8.9 times). We currently forecast 3.5% profit before tax growth in FY20. Given limited profit growth prospects – the group had noted previously it would need mid-single-digit like-for-like revenue growth to grow profits – and a premium valuation, we retain our ‘Hold’ recommendation despite the fact we believe Wetherspoon is one of the best operating models in the pub sector.”

Azzurri Group to open first Pod conversion site: Azzurri Group, which acquired 13 sites of the 22-strong Pod business out of administration earlier this year, is set to open the first to be converted to its Coco di Mama brand. Propel understands the company is on-site at the Pod in More London for what will become its 24th Coco di Mama site in the capital when it reopens early next month. It’s thought Azzurri will look to complete a few more Pod to Coco di Mama conversions before the end of the year. The majority of the Pod estate was sold to Azzurri Group, owner of the ASK Italian, Zizzi and Radio Alice brands, in a pre-pack administration for a total consideration of £1.6m – more than £1m below its original offer that failed to gain shareholder approval. The pre-pack sale of sites came four days after Pod’s shareholders failed to approve a £2.7m sale to Azzurri Group in a deal that was worth 5p a share. Azzurri has subsequently continued to operate the sites it acquired as Pod, with the intention of converting a number to Coco di Mama during the next 12 months. Azzurri Group chief executive Steve Holmes previously told Propel the company would learn what it could from the acquired Pod business while refusing to rule out keeping the healthy eating concept as the group’s fifth brand. Holmes said the company would evaluate the performance of those Pod sites close to its Coco di Mama venues before deciding on Pod’s future, which would continue to be overseen by managing director Alex Young. Azzurri is also keen to learn from Pod’s two delivery hubs. Meanwhile, Coco di Mama has launched the UK’s first vegan bacon roll using a meat alternative made by plant-based food producer THIS. The vegan bacon roll, which costs £2.95 and is also available for delivery, is part of Coco di Mama’s biggest menu change, which features 70 new items. 

Costa Coffee agrees deals for 14 out-of-town sites: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, agreed deals for 14 out-of-town sites in England, Scotland and Wales in the first six months of 2019, the company has revealed. The sites will contribute to the 62 new equity stores that have opened since the start of the year. Costa Coffee will open ten drive-thrus including sites at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, Speke Boulevard in Liverpool, Hermiston Gait Retail Park in Edinburgh, Tower Retail Park in Poole and Gallagher Retail Park in Caerphilly. The coffee chain has also agreed to take four drive-to sites, including outlets in Salford, Bridgwater and Liskeard, taking leases of between ten and 15 years on each. James Hamilton, acquisition and estates director at Costa UK and Ireland, said: “We have been able to open an impressive number of new equity stores in the first half of the year and are working to maintain this success.” Charlie Greenhalgh, out of town retail director at Savills, which represented Costa Coffee in the deals, added: “We are pleased to support the brand’s ongoing expansion plans in key retail and roadside destinations.”

Thornbridge and Pivovar eye Manchester and Sheffield for joint venture as they confirm Leeds site: Derbyshire-based Thornbridge Brewery and bar operator Pivovar are eyeing sites in Manchester and Sheffield for their Thornbridge & Co joint venture. The announcement came as the companies confirmed they had secured a site in Leeds while their long-awaited Birmingham pub will open in November – The Colmore was due to open as the joint venture’s debut site in October 2018. The first Thornbridge & Co site – The Market Cat in York – opened in December last year. The companies have now confirmed their Leeds site, The Bankers Cat, is due to open in Boar Lane before Christmas. Thornbridge Brewery chief executive Simon Webster said: “Our York site has had great success and we are thrilled to have secured a site in Leeds. We’re also really pleased to be moving ahead with Birmingham as we know how much excitement there was when we first announced we’d open in the city.” Jamie Hawksworth, owner and director of Pivovar, added: “We want to create visually stunning venues where people can relax and indulge in all we have to offer.” As previously reported, the companies plan to open ten Thornbridge & Co pubs nationwide in the next five years.

Clevely brings Chelsea pub back into fold for 13th Hippo Inns site: Hippo Inns, the joint venture between Ei Group and Geronimo Inns founder Rupert Clevely, has acquired its 13th site. The Builders Arms in Chelsea, which was owned by Geronimo Inns, has undergone a substantial refurbishment. The 2,000 square foot, 86-cover pub in Britten Street features quirky decor such as gold pineapple wall lights. In addition to the main bar there’s a 30-cover snug and a terrace. The all-day menu features crispy pig’s head with piccalilli; south coast chilli crab linguine; and Hereford onglet steak with girolles. Drinks include cask ale and a rotating selection of craft beer, spirit mixers and house cocktails as well as an extensive wine list. Clevely said: “It is great to have The Builders Arms back. It’s a pub close to my heart from my previous life. Hippo Inns is a group of community pubs with quality food and drink at its heart and The Builders Arms fits perfectly within our portfolio.”

Benihana appoints Wischhoff as managing director: Benihana, the worldwide Japanese teppanyaki restaurant chain, has appointed Jason Wischhoff as managing director. Wischhoff, who previously worked for hotel companies Dream Group, Accor and Wyndham, replaces Richard Mackay, formerly of Wagamama and Nozomi, who stepped down as Benihana managing director earlier this year. Wischhoff is tasked with accelerating the growth of the Benihana brand through hotels and retail with franchise partners across the globe. Last year Minor International acquired a 75% stake in the company to spearhead the business and oversee its expansion programme. Last week the company closed its only UK site outside London, in Glasgow, less than a year after its launch. It was the first new Benihana restaurant in the UK for more than 20 years.

BrewDog to continue trading in Manchester’s Peter Street until early 2020 after eviction notice, alternative site almost secured: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog plans to continue trading at its site in Peter Street, Manchester, into the early part of 2020 despite receiving an eviction notice. BrewDog has been in Peter Street since 2012 but will have to move to make way for a new hotel. The company said it had been given prior warning the building would be redeveloped but added it was close to securing an alternative city centre location. Retail director James Brown told Propel: “We are fond of our first bar in Manchester and sad to see it go. Our customers can rest assured we plan to continue trading into the early part of 2020. We had been given prior warning the building was due to be developed and worked over the past months to confirm an alternative city centre location, which we will announce in the coming weeks.” News of the eviction was revealed by a member of staff in a message posted on its Equity For Punks forum. 

Greene King appoints new digital director: Brewer and retailer Greene King has appointed Candice Lott, formerly of Nando’s, as digital director, Propel has learned. Lott joins the Bury St Edmunds-based company after two years as head of ecommerce and digital at Nando’s. Before that she spent more than two and a half years as head of online marketing at Thomas Cook. Last month CK Asset Holdings, a Hong Kong-based property developer, agreed a cash offer for Greene King that values the pub group at £4.6bn.

Tom Kerridge to open debut Manchester restaurant in November: Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge will open his debut Manchester restaurant in November. Kerridge will launch The Bull & Bear at the Stock Exchange Hotel in Norfolk Street, which will be operated by GG Hospitality – the company co-owned by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. In addition to The Bull & Bear restaurant, Kerridge and his team will also oversee The Bank, which will offer private dining for 14 people, and The Vault, which will cater for private events for 120 guests. The menu will be influenced by Kerridge’s pub in Marlow, The Coach. The menu will be divided into three stages, with the team recommending four to five plates per person to allow diners to experience a wider selection. Kerridge said: “The Bull & Bear will be a bit of Marlow ‘up north’, which we can’t wait to share with the city of Manchester. The hotel is going to be stunning and it’s a brilliant setting for our first Manchester site.” The Bull & Bear will open on Friday, 15 November.

Staycity reports 2.4% rise in like-for-like sales despite ‘demand for corporate travel softening’: Dublin-based aparthotel operator Staycity Group has reported a 2.4% rise in like-for-like sales for the year to July 2019, despite the “demand for corporate travel softening”. Staycity, which operates almost 3,000 apartments in 12 European cities, has seen occupancy grow 2.2% in the first half of the year to an average of 86.4% across the group, with UK properties seeing a 2.5% increase to 85.8%. Staycity reported a 14% rise in turnover to €68.3m (£61.1m), boosted by a hike in average occupancy from 82% to 84% and a rise in average daily rate from €109 to €110.59. Revpar rose 4.2% year-on-year to €93.21, while group Ebitda increased 12% to €8.1m. The company said it expected an 18% rise in turnover to €81m for 2019 and an 11% boost in Ebitda to €9m. The company’s biggest recruitment drive has seen 200 staff appointed. Staycity co-founder and chief executive Tom Walsh said: “Although we are encouraged by the increase in occupancy for our UK properties, we are already witnessing a softening of demand for corporate travel. More than 65% of our revenues are currently generated in the UK and we believe a hard Brexit will impact GDP and consequently reduce demand for hotel accommodation. Fortunately, we don’t have a large food operation and our team turnover is significantly below the industry average. Therefore a rise in input inflation and any immediate restriction on European migration will have less of an impact on Staycity.” 

Kitchin Group appoints new managing director: Kitchin Group, led by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, has appointed Peter Southcott as managing director. Southcott takes over from founding managing director Ron Kitchin, who becomes group chairman. Southcott will oversee the group’s Edinburgh venues – Michelin-starred The Kitchin, The Scran & Scallie, Castle Terrace Restaurant and Southside Scran – as well as The Bonnie Badger, the restaurant with rooms in Gullane on Scotland’s east coast. He will also manage ongoing group development alongside the Kitchin family. Southcott was introduced to Tom and Michaela Kitchin, of the then rather small restaurant The Kitchin, as their accountant in 2007. Southcott has since played an instrumental part in helping with Kitchin Group’s accounts and shaping its business model.

Mr Ji’s to open permanent site, in Soho: Taiwanese-inspired chicken concept Mr Ji’s is to open a site in London’s Soho. Propel has learned the street food-influenced concept founded by Samuel Haim will launch a grab-and-go format in Old Compton Street later this year. The business previously operated a pop-up in Camden. It’s thought the company hopes to expand the brand further on the back of the Soho opening. Shelley Sandzer is believed to have acted on the Old Compton Street deal.

Selfridges to open ‘world’s first cinema in a department store’: Selfridges is opening what it claims to be the world’s first permanent cinema in a department store, at its flagship site in London’s Oxford Street. The three-screen venue will open in late November operated by Olympic Studios, which already has sites in Barnes and Battersea. Two of the screening rooms will have about 80 seats and the third around 30. They will show a mix of Hollywood releases and independent films. The cinema will have entrances direct from the store as well as from Duke Street and will include a private screening room and underground bar. There will also be a priority membership scheme.

Nando’s trials £5.95 lunch menu: Nando’s is trialling a £5.95 lunchtime menu at about a fifth of its UK sites. The customisable menu features brand favourites and additional vegetarian options, with many items under 600 calories. The menu is being trialled in 88 of the company’s circa 420 UK restaurants until Monday, 2 December. The menu is available from opening time until 3pm, Monday to Thursday, and is also available for takeaway and delivery.

Douglas Jack – M&B shares still a reasonable price given Ebitda growth and debt reduction: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said shares in Mitchell & Butlers (M&B) remain a reasonable price given its Ebitda growth and debt reduction. Issuing an ‘Add’ note on the shares with a target price of 425p ahead of the company’s trading update later this month, Jack said: “Like-for-like sales rose 3.6% over the first 43 weeks having risen 2.8% in the ten weeks to 27 July. Over this last ten-week period, two-year like-for-like sales were up 3.7% (3.6% drink, 3.6% food), with a comparable of 1.2% to face in the fourth quarter. We believe like-for-like growth is being driven by price increases, estate premiumisation and customers trading up, supported by estate investment and the Ignite 2 workstreams to improve product, service and digital marketing. In August, the pub sector remained resilient to a dip in consumer confidence. This largely reflects warmer weather against a backdrop of price-driven demand growth and 2% annual supply reduction. At M&B expansion is minimal, whereas circa 270 conversions/remodels should have completed in the year. Our forecasts assume 2.5% like-for-like sales growth in 2019E and 2.0% thereafter, with margins rising slightly this year and then falling gradually. Although we forecast like-for-like sales to slow from the first half’s 4.1% in the second half, so too should net cost inflation – from £24m in the first half to £13m in the second half. Despite the recent surge in share price, we believe the 7.9 times EV/Ebitda rating (11% equity free cash flow yield) is not strenuous for a leading (85% freehold) national pub estate that’s generating both Ebitda growth and debt reduction. Our target price increase reflects upgrade risk and the recent sector re-rating and equates to 8.2 times 2020E EV/Ebitda based on current forecasts.”

Graffiti Spirits Group unveils next-generation bar that ‘cuts waste by 70%’: Graffiti Spirits Group has unveiled a next-generation bar that aims to cut waste by 70%. The company has launched the bar, which is operated from a centralised “lab”, on the mezzanine level at its Duke Street Market in Liverpool. The lab will produce batches of spirits, bitters and liqueurs to ensure “quicker service and consistency” – in turn cutting waste and improving stock control. Graffiti Spirits Group co-founder John Ennis said: “The Graffiti Spirits Group Lab has been a long time in the making. Other techniques we’re trying out in the lab include sous-vide cooking, carbonation, freeze distilling, filtration and pressurised batching.” Launched in June, Duke Street Market features two bars, six traders and flagship restaurant Pilgrim. Graffiti Spirits Group’s other Liverpool sites include Santa Chupitos, Santa Maluco and its new all-day restaurant, Slim’s.

Signature Living brings two Liverpool aparthotels to market valued at £51m in total: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living has brought to market The Shankly and 30 James Street hotels in Liverpool city centre, valued at £51m in total. The group is accepting offers in excess of £35m and £16m respectively. Signature Living announced plans in May to sell its two biggest assets and agent Savills has officially launched the sales process. The Shankly Hotel in Victoria Street features 59 bedrooms all based on legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly. The hotel also includes the Bastion Bar and Restaurant, two event suites, two rooftop terraces and an underground car park. The 30 James Street hotel comprises 63 nautical-themed bedrooms inspired by the building’s historical occupier, White Star Line. Additionally, the hotel includes a rooftop terrace bar and restaurant, events space and spa facilities. Signature Living founder Lawrence Kenwright told The Business Desk: “The profits from the sale of the hotels will allow us to fuel major expansion plans. This is an exciting new era for Signature Living. We’re looking forward to the future – a future that involves new developments across the UK.”

Manchester Gin launches debut restaurant as part of distillery experience: Manchester Gin has launched its debut restaurant and bar as part of the company’s new distillery experience beneath Manchester Central station. Gin-themed restaurant and bar Three Little Words has opened inside one of the grade II-listed railway arches. It is the sister venue to the Spirit of Manchester Distillery, which spans six railway arches in Watson Street with space for masterclasses and gin tastings. Three Little Words offers 70 covers with space for another 40 in a separate cocktail bar. Food and drinks menus are largely gin-based. Seb Heeley, who founded Manchester Gin in 2013 with Jennie Wiggins, said: “We have always been passionate about our customers being part of the Manchester Gin journey and we’re delighted we can now offer the opportunity for visitors to see how our gin is made.” Commercial law firm Kuits secured the licence for the Manchester site.

Hotel operator acquires Lake District property off £1.5m guide price for second site: Hotel operator Serena Von Der Heyde has acquired a Lake District property for her second site. Von Der Heyde has bought the Oak Bank Hotel in Grasmere from Glynis and Simon Wood off an asking price of £1.5m in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. The three-storey property offers 13 en-suite bedrooms. Von Der Heyde, who also operates the Georgian House Hotel in London, plans to substantially investment in the Oak Bank Hotel ahead of a rebrand and relaunch next spring. She said: “I am excited to be taking on a business in Grasmere, an incredible guest destination that provides many opportunities.”

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