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Thu 19th Sep 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Be At One founder returns with solo bar project: Steve Locke, co-founder of cocktail chain Be At One, is returning to the central London bar scene with a new solo project entitled Lockes, Propel has learned. The venture has soft launched at the former Great Queen Street restaurant site in Covent Garden ahead of what is expected to be a full opening next month. Propel understands the new concept is aimed at the “discerning drinker looking for less and better”. The bar will offer classic cocktails and signature drinks along with an extensive wine list available by the glass, craft beer and sharing plates. Locke founded Be At One in Battersea in 1998 with fellow former TGI Friday’s bartenders Rhys Oldfield and Leigh Miller. Private equity firm Piper invested £8m in the business in 2011. Be At One, which had grown to 33 sites across the UK, was acquired by Stonegate Pub Company in July 2018 in a deal that valued it at circa £50m. Stonegate has opened a further five sites under the brand since the deal, with the remaining Living Room site in Manchester’s Deansgate set to become the 39th Be At One. Earlier this year Oldfield invested in fledgling kebab restaurant concept BabaBoom.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at which concepts could become national brands in latest Premium column, subscribers to receive Karen Jones video and 1,500-strong multi-site list: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at the concepts that could become the next generation of national brands in his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (20 September) at 5pm. There will also be the latest sector whispers in Premium Diary. Subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday in which Prezzo executive chairman Karen Jones talks about a “journey through hospitality”. Next week they will also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Intu gets go-ahead to create experience-led resort in Costa del Sol featuring 20 leisure attractions and 70 restaurants: Shopping centre operator Intu has had plans approved to create an experience-led resort in Costa del Sol, Spain. The 235,000 square metre resort will feature 20 leisure attractions, 70 restaurants, two hotels, parks and gardens, and a year-round circus. With consent granted, Intu said it was “busy in the pre-leasing stage”, talking to international brands and local independents. Working with development partner Eurofund, Intu said the mixed-use resort would feature “everything a visitor needs in one place”, including dining, hotels, bars, activities for people of all ages, and holiday shopping. Intu Costa del Sol will feature eight neighbourhoods, each with its own “appeal and offer”. Development director Martin Breeden said: “One of the unique selling points is the location – it gets an average of 320 days’ sun a year. It’s in a perfect spot, with the confluence of the airport, beach and hotels. It’s a fantastic waterside location with a distinctive look and feel. It’s a major leisure and catering complex.” Intu is currently adding 110,000 square feet of new retail space at its Trafford Centre in Manchester, while in Nottingham a major revamp of Intu Broadmarsh centre will create the largest leisure space in its portfolio. The company said the traditional format of anchor stores and retail units complemented by some food and leisure, “often as an afterthought”, was over. Breeden said: “People want experience-led visits. We’re looking to effectively break down the department store anchor model.”

Company News:

Foresight in talks over Roxy Ball Room investment: Foresight Group, the private equity backer of Mowgli and 200 Degrees, is in advanced talks to invest in Leeds-based competitive socialising concept Roxy Ball Room, Propel has learned. Foresight is believed to have jumped to the front of the queue to invest in Roxy Ball Room, which operates seven venues in the north of England – two in Manchester, two in Liverpool and three in Leeds. In July, Propel revealed Roxy Ball Room had appointed advisors to review its options as it looked to secure new investment. The business, which is run under the Roxy Leisure company and led by Matthew Jones, was believed to be working with advisory firm Sedulo to assess options that could include the sale of a stake in the business. Last year Jones Bar Group became a separate entity from sister company Roxy Leisure and relaunched as Concept Taverns, which focuses on a “fast-growing estate of freehold Yorkshire pubs”. Roxy Ball Room recently applied for planning permission to open its first site in the Midlands, in Birmingham, at 58-60 Heath Mill Lane in Digbeth. Rival competitive socialising concepts Swingers and Flight Club both secured private equity backing earlier this year, while crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf appointed advisors Clearwater International to review options for its next stage of growth in the summer. Propel revealed on Tuesday (17 September) that Luke Johnson had acquired boutique bowling concept All Star Lanes out of administration. Propel understands Foresight, which also backs The Naked Deli, was the underbidder for wine bar and restaurant concept Vinoteca in which Gresham House Ventures recently acquired a stake.

Alan Yau to launch London comeback in 2020 with three sites including Docklands ‘river cafe’: Wagamama founder Alan Yau is to make a spectacular return to London next year by opening three sites, including a Docklands restaurant he likens to a “Chinese river cafe”. Yau, who is also behind fine dining landmarks such as Hakkasan and Yauatcha, hasn’t been directly involved in the capital’s dining scene since he pulled out of Chinese restaurants Park Chinois and Duck and Rice, and Middle Eastern concept Babaji Pide in 2017. However, Yau told the Evening Standard he plans a big comeback in 2020 with three launches – two in Canary Wharf and one at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush. The highest-profile venue will be Chyna, a 120-cover seafood restaurant launching at Wardian London, a 766-apartment high-rise development due to open early next year. Yau said Chyna would feature a large terrace overlooking the open water of Canary Wharf’s South Dock, making diners feel as if they were “sitting in a restaurant in Phuket or the Caribbean”. Chyna’s menu will focus on Cantonese cooking using British seafood and European-style ingredients, and will feature tanks for guests to choose live seafood and fish. Yau said: “It is like something I would put together if you were coming to my house for a dinner party.” He will also open 45-cover, Japanese-inspired counter restaurant Yau Grill at Wardian London, and a permanent site in Westfield London in early 2020 for Turkish pizza pop-up Yamabahçe. Yau will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about his career in restaurants, current and future trends, and gaps in the market at the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday, 14 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. 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

Cook and Indi’s World Buffet founders receive director bans after failing to pay £4m in taxes: The founders of Cook and Indi's World Buffet have been banned from running a company for a total of 17 years after an investigation found they hid more than £4m from the taxman. Sukdev Gill and Inderjit Singh launched the restaurant chain in 2010 and opened a string of outlets in Glasgow and Lanarkshire. However, an investigation found 19 limited companies which they had set up to run the restaurants participated in some form of tax misconduct, including under-declaring tax, failing to register for VAT and concealing tax owed. The Insolvency Service, which launched the investigation, said the business partners had concealed tax on a “grand scale”. Gill was found to have caused companies he was a director of to conceal VAT resulting in a loss for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) of £1.97m. He has been disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years. Singh has been banned for nine years after he did not dispute he traded through successor companies while also concealing VAT resulting in a loss of £4.37m. Five companies the pair set up between 2010 and 2012 all ceased to exist by March 2018, with each one entering into a form of insolvency, either through compulsory liquidation or creditors voluntary liquidation. HMRC made enquiries into the companies before establishing all five had been involved in tax misconduct. After the companies went bust, Singh then set up successor companies, all of which traded as Cook and Indi's World Buffet to continue the activities of the five companies that had gone through insolvency. However, each of the 14 companies succumbed to the same fate as their predecessors and entered into a form of insolvency. HMRC looked at the companies' activities following their liquidation and discovered Singh allowed the buffet restaurant businesses to conceal millions of unpaid tax from HMRC. Similar to the actions of their predecessors, the new companies concealed VAT and under-declared tax contributions and failed to notify HMRC new businesses were continuing the work of previous companies. The two former directors' disqualifications come into effect on Friday (20 September).

Villandry creditors out of pocket after squatters scupper lease assignment plans: Creditors of Villandry, the restaurant chain run by former Le Pain Quotidien director Philippe Le Roux that went into administration last year, won’t receive a dividend after plans to assign one of the company’s leases were scuppered – by squatters. A progress report by administrators Martha Thompson and Sarah Rayment, of BDO, said there had been interest in the site in Great Portland Street. An offer was received and contracts drawn up to complete the assignment but the proposed tenant withdrew. A subsequent tenant was then identified, but they also withdrew. The report stated: “Subsequently, squatters arrived at the premises and in light of the above and costs to remove the squatters, the lease was handed back to the landlords and as a result no realisations are anticipated from this source. The joint administrators were seeking to achieve property realisations in order to make a distribution to one or more secured and preferential creditors. At the time of this report, the administrators believed this objective would be achievable. As there are no further assets to be realised, the joint administrators are now in a position to move forward with concluding the administration and dissolving the company.” As previously reported, secured creditor Santander was owed £1.1m. The latest report showed £7,199,223 of unsecured creditors’ claims have been received to date, which exclude employee claims. Preferential creditor claims totalled £61,134. Villandry went into administration after Le Roux was unable to secure investment and accumulated losses of £7.3m. Le Roux acquired Villandry in 2011 with backing from big City of London names including Finsbury PR chief Roland Rudd, BAE Systems chairman Sir Roger Carr and former Standard Chartered chairman Lord Davies.

West Midlands-based McDonald’s franchisee reports turnover jumps beyond £50m: West Midlands-based McDonald’s franchisee Wright Restaurants has reported turnover increased 31% to £50,940,565 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £39,000,671 the previous year. The company, which is owned by Douglas Wright, saw operating profit fall to £969,743, compared with £976,453 the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £716,014 compared with £847,462 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross margin remained flat, at 43%. Wright added two restaurants to his portfolio during the period, taking the total to 19 sites. A final dividend of £200,000 was recommended. The number of employees increased from 1,405 the previous year to 1,679. Wright is a long-standing McDonald’s franchisee, launching his first outlet in Lichfield in May 2003.

Flat Iron to open first City of London site: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, is to make its debut in the City of London after securing a site at Bevis Marks, Propel has learned. The Jo Fleet-led group has secured the former Barullo site and will open what will be its eighth restaurant next month. Barullo, which was owned by chef restaurateur Victor Garvey, opened in March this year but closed only a couple of months later. Earlier this summer Flat Iron opened a workshop at Arcade Food Theatre, the new food hall at Centre Point in New Oxford Street. Flat Iron Workshop offers a bespoke menu created by founder and self-taught butcher Charlie Carroll and head of beef Fred Smith. It features “unusual cuts and cooking methods” using beef from small artisan producers. In June, Flat Iron closed its site in Golborne Road, Notting Hill, because of a “large rent increase”. The company told Propel all team members had been relocated within the business, including at the Spitalfields site that opened on 1 July and at Arcade Food Theatre. Flat Iron, in which Tom Byng is a non-executive director, secured £5m of funding from UK-based SME lender ThinCats in January to fund expansion plans over the next three years through further openings in the capital and a regional launch.

Inception Group launches global recruitment drive to find ‘owner’ for new Soho site: Inception Group, which operates an eclectic collection of London bars and restaurants including Mr Fogg’s and Bunga Bunga, has teamed up with gin brand Tanqueray No. TEN to launch a “recruitment-style” campaign to support the launch of its latest venue – Cahoots: The Ticket Hall & Control Room. The venue will open in Soho in November and the Own The Bar campaign will involve a worldwide application process to find a “head scoundrel” who will “own” the bar for its first week of trading. Perks will include taking home the first week’s profits, a free launch party for 50 friends, choosing the venue’s signature Tanqueray No. TEN cocktail, which will be free to the “owner” for life, and a permanent plaque in the venue. The Ticket Hall & Control Room will be the second Cahoots site and Inception group’s 11th venue in total. The 1940s train station-themed cocktail bar in Kingly Street will span two-storeys and feature two distinct spaces. Inception Group founders Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling said: “We are always looking out for new creative talent to push boundaries and create unforgettable experiences so we thought, why not hand over the reins and see what happens?”

Starbucks launches voice ordering and delivery in China: Starbucks has launched voice-ordering and delivery services in China through Alibaba’s Tmall Genie smart speaker. Deliveries can be tracked and will arrive within 30 minutes of Starbucks receiving a voice order. Starbucks and Alibaba launched a strategic partnership in China – one of the fastest-growing coffee markets – a year ago, which has also seen Starbuck’s Star Kitchens established in Alibaba’s Freshippo supermarkets. Molly Liu, vice-president and general manager, digital ventures, Starbucks China, said: “The Starbucks feature through Alibaba’s Tmall Genie ushers in a new era of digital customer engagement for Starbucks, leveraging ground-breaking digital technology to create an unprecedented experience.” Miffy Chen, general manager at Alibaba AI Labs, which leads the development of Tmall Genie, added: “Earlier this year we launched a food order and delivery service through Ele.me in response to needs for on-demand local services. We’re excited to introduce an even more diverse and enriched experience on our platform through Starbucks.” Starbucks customers in China can also listen to the company’s in-store playlists through Alibaba’s music streaming app, Xiami Music.

King and Mannion to step down from Greene King: Darren King and Mike Mannion are to step down from their positions at brewer and pub operator Greene King, Propel understands. King has been with Greene King for more than six years and was promoted from operations director to strategy and commercial director earlier this year. Mannion has been with the business for more than 17 years and is operations director responsible for the south east region. Both are understood to be leaving the company later this year. In June, Greene King appointed Chris Gott as operations director covering northern England and Scotland for its Pub Partners division. Gott joined from Ei Group, where he was divisional director. The appointment came as part of a restructure that saw Pub Partners increase its number of operations directors from two to three, with Mike O’Connor promoted to the role of director for the south west and Mannion continuing as operations director for the south east.

Revolución de Cuba to continue trading from Belfast site for ‘foreseeable future’ after Wetherspoon buys freehold: Revolution Bars Group will continue to operate its Revolución de Cuba site in Belfast for the “foreseeable future” despite the freehold being bought by JD Wetherspoon. The company has acquired the listed, two-storey former bank in Arthur Street, which dates to the 1800s. Wetherspoon is understood to have paid circa £3m for the building. The property is let to Revolution Bars Group, which has operated Revolución de Cuba from the property since July 2017. It has a 25-year lease that expires in February 2042 and a spokesman told Propel it would be “business as usual for the foreseeable future”. He said at this stage no talks had taken place about looking for an alternative venue. A Wetherspoon spokesman told Propel: “This is a long-term investment and Revolution has a long time left on its lease.” Wetherspoon currently operates four sites in Northern Ireland, including The Bridge House in Belfast. The company once operated nine pubs in the country but sold five to The Granny Annie’s Group, run by brothers Willis and Ryan McLaughlin, for about £4m three years ago.

St John to make international debut, in Los Angeles: St John, the restaurant concept from Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, is to open its debut international site, in Culver City, Los Angeles. According to Eater London the restaurant, which has been three years in the making, will open at the Platform development some call Silicon Beach in 2020. It will join sites operated by Sweetgreen, British designer Tom Dixon, Brooklyn pizza export Roberta’s, rooftop restaurant Margot, bakery Bianca, and fancy ice cream brand Van Leeuwen. Jonathan Woolway, former head chef of St John’s original restaurant in St John Street in Smithfield, Farringdon, will lead the expansion.

Wine Inns sees operating profit rise despite turnover drop: Wine Inns, which is led by Patrick Hunt and runs bars and nightclubs in Belfast, has reported turnover fell 12% to £12,752,724 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £14,493,366 the previous year. Operating profit was up to £783,129, compared with £520,844 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin was down to 29%, compared with 35% the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are encouraged by the performance year-on-year and will continue to seek every opportunity to increase turnover and profitability where possible.”

Guillaume Depoix to launch Parisian brasserie in Soho: Guillaume Depoix, who has worked extensively with the Costes brothers in Paris, will launch his first all-day dining concept, in Soho on Monday, 11 November. Folie will open in Golden Square consisting of 20 seats at the bar and 80 in the dining room, including a semi private section. Led by executive head chef Christophe Marleix, the kitchen will draw inspiration from the Mediterranean, with recipes from the “coastal coves of southern France and Italy”. Main dishes will include Provençal braised beef with confit potatoes, while sharing platters will include whole sea bass grilled in a charcoal oven and served with ratatouille. The menu will source ingredients from small-scale UK farmers and fish from dayboats in Cornwall and Devon, while the bar will offer classic cocktails, pastis, vermouth and wine. Depoix said: “I’m looking forward to recreating the spirit of the 1960s and 1970s and hope Folie will be a meeting point for conviviality, elegance and revelry.” Since moving to London five years ago, Depoix has worked for industry stalwarts such as Juan Santa Cruz and Terence Conran. 

Ivy Collection confirms debut Welsh site: The Ivy Collection, which is backed by Richard Caring, has confirmed it will make its Welsh debut by opening a site at the St David’s shopping centre in Cardiff. The company has agreed a deal with owner The St David’s Partnership, which is a joint venture between Landsec and Intu. The Ivy Collection will open the two-storey, 5,600 square foot brasserie this autumn after revamping the former Jamie’s Italian site. It will have space for 284 covers with outdoor seating and a private dining space. Russell Loveland, senior portfolio director for Landsec, said: “This iconic restaurant is a fantastic addition to St David’s.” The St David’s Partnership dealt directly with The Ivy Collection, which Propel revealed is set to open five sites by the end of the year after adding Windsor to its pipeline.  

Bill’s to open relocated Manchester restaurant and bar next month: Richard Caring-backed business Bill’s Restaurants is to open at its new Manchester home on Monday, 28 October. The restaurant is moving from its city centre location in John Dalton Street to 3 Hardman Square in Spinningfields. The 177 square metre space will accommodate 113 covers and feature booths, sharing tables and a bespoke bar. There will also be outside seating for 30 people. The venue will feature the brand’s new look, which includes vibrant colours, velvet seating and statement chandeliers. It will also feature “quirky touches and vintage finds” selected by company founder Bill Collison. He said: “Spinningfields is a great location for Manchester’s new Bill’s Restaurant & Bar. This new space in the heart of Spinningfields is the perfect setting to bring Bill’s vibrant new look to the city. We will create the ultimate Bill’s experience – a welcoming destination with lots of character and the go-to place for evening dinner and drinks.” Bill’s John Dalton Street site will close from Sunday, 6 October. Earlier this week, 78-strong Bill’s appointed Nick Gray, formerly of Fuller’s, as chief financial officer. He replaces Colin Berry, who is thought to be joining Urban Outfitters. 

Burger & Lobster to launch second Singapore site, next week: Burger & Lobster is to open its second Singapore site, next week. The restaurant will launch on Friday, 27 September in the newly reopened Raffles Arcade, which features shops and restaurants within the historic Raffles Hotel Singapore. The venue will be three times larger than Burger & Lobster’s debut Singapore site, at Jewel Changi airport, and feature an outdoor bar and fresh seafood counter providing a wider selection of food and drink. The restaurant’s new menu will include an assorted seafood platter, a lobster and caviar roll, and a spicy miso burger with smoked provolone cheese, kale and onion rings. The venue will pay tribute to the hotel’s heritage, with distressed leather banquettes and hand-made tiles, while the outdoor bar will feature blue and brown leather seating surrounded by lobster pots. It will offer cocktails and wine and host live music and DJs. Burger & Lobster owner Misha Zelman said: “Our arrival at Jewel in May has earned us incredible support and recognition. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand our presence in Singapore with Raffles Hotel Singapore, an outstanding destination in its own right. With the second opening, we want to offer local diners and global travellers a different experience – one that aligns with the sophistication of Raffles Hotel yet retains all that is quintessentially Burger & Lobster.” The debut Burger & Lobster opened in Mayfair in 2011 and the brand currently operates nine sites in London, two in New York and one each in Bangkok, Dubai, Genting and Kuwait City, as well as the two Singapore sites.

Showcase Cinemas operator reports operating profit jump as turnover increases: The company that operates Showcase Cinemas has reported a boost in turnover and profit driven by higher attendances. NATL Amusements (UK) saw turnover rise to £109,036,393 for the year ending 3 January 2019, compared with £106,568,897 the previous year. Operating profit jumped to £3,194,845, compared with £253,541 the year before. Pre-tax profit soared to £3,222,684 compared with £256,931 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. NATL Amusements (UK) recorded an impairment charge of £243,669 against a £1,497,659 impairment charge the year before. The company said attendance in 2018 was up 2.1%, primarily due to the addition of a new cinema and extension to an existing site. It added: “NATL’s cinema business is based exclusively in the UK and so it is exposed to UK economic conditions and consumer confidence. The company’s business and future success depends on the availability of films for screening in its cinemas and appeal of such films to its customers. As a leisure activity, cinema may be affected by the general level of consumer spending on leisure activities and may also be affected by changing consumer preferences. The directors expect the present level of activity to be sustained for the foreseeable future.”

MOD Pizza to launch freshers’ week giveaways: MOD Pizza is to launch a range of giveaways and events for freshers’ week. The company will drop into student halls and take over nightclubs in Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham and Coventry to offer pizza deals. About 20,000 mini-pizza boxes will be delivered to halls of residence, which can be exchanged at local restaurants for free pizza. MOD will also invite 10,000 students into its restaurants as part of “fresher feasts”, featuring free pizza, while vouchers will be handed out at nightclubs in Leeds and Coventry. MOD chief executive John Nelson said: “MOD has always had a strong student following in the US and UK markets. We decided to go all out for 2019 with some cool events.” MOD Pizza was founded in Seattle in 2008, opening its first international restaurant in Leeds in 2016. The company currently operates ten UK restaurants. In May, it secured a $160m equity financing that will aid ambitions to reach 1,000 locations in the next five years. There are currently 433 MOD sites worldwide.

EasyHotel founder says his stake makes it impossible to take company private: EasyHotel founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has said his stake in the company has made it impossible for it become a private firm. Icamap Investments said Citrus UK Bidco has now received valid acceptances from EasyHotel shares representing 68% of the firm’s issued share capital. The Citrus consortium values EasyHotel’s share capital at £138.7m and gave the company an enterprise value of £126.1m when it announced its intention to acquire the hotel chain in August. The 95p-per-share offer has been opposed by Haji-Ioannou, who founded EasyHotel in 2004 and has been buying shares to block the bid to take the company private. He said: “While I applaud the huge vote of confidence in EasyHotel, I must repeat my insistence it remains a listed company on the London market. It’s now clear EasyGroup’s 28% blocking minority stake and Icamap’s low ball offer has made it impossible for EasyHotel to be taken private.” If the consortium receives acceptances of EasyHotel shares carrying 75% of more of its firm’s voting rights, it intends to cancel EasyHotel’s AIM listing. The offer will remain open for acceptances until Tuesday, 1 October.

Safestay doubles up in Scotland with £3.15m Glasgow hotel buy: London-headquartered hostel operator Safestay has agreed to acquire the freehold of its 15th hostel, currently operating as Best Western Glasgow City Hotel, for £3.15m. In the 12 months to 31 January 2019, the freehold property generated revenues of £0.82m. The total consideration of £3.15m will be satisfied in cash from the group’s existing resources. Safestay already has outline planning permission to convert the hotel into a 200-bed hostel. Chairman Larry Lipman said: “Given the success of our 615-bed Edinburgh hostel, which we acquired in 2015 and now consider a flagship site, we have been looking for some time to find the right site in Glasgow. We are pleased to have secured this excellent building, which is ideally suited to being a hostel.” The acquisition of the 52-bedroom hotel in Elmbank Street, which is expected to complete on 21 October, is part of the group’s strategy to create a pan-European network of hostels in leading cities. Safestay operates two sites in London and one in York, with another ten in mainland Europe – in Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris (under construction), Pisa, Prague, Vienna and three in Barcelona. It offers about 3,500 beds across its estate. 

Flamingo Land withdraws £30m Loch Lomond plan following fierce opposition: Yorkshire theme park Flamingo Land has withdrawn its application for a £30m development on the banks of Loch Lomond following fierce opposition. The company planned to build a 60-bedroom hotel, more than 100 holiday lodges and a water park on the site in a joint project with Scottish Enterprise. However, more than 57,000 people objected to the plans on a website set up by the Scottish Greens. Despite withdrawing the application, bosses refused to rule out an amended bid in the future. Scottish Enterprise director Allan McQuade told The Herald: “Any proposed plan and investment of this scale must be considered from all angles and subsequent planning and investment decisions based on hard evidence and fact.” Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer, who spearheaded the campaign against the development, said: “Flamingo Land’s environmentally destructive proposal was the most unpopular planning application in Scottish history.”

Diageo strike in Scotland suspended following new pay offer: Threatened strike action against Diageo has been suspended after the drinks company tabled a new pay offer for its staff in Scotland on Tuesday night (17 September). Propel understands the agreement is for a two-year deal including a 3% increase in year one and an RPI increase with a commitment to put in place a performance-based incentive bonus in year two. GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway and Unite Scotland officer Stevie Deans said: “Diageo tabled an offer we feel merits our members’ consultation. The offer is a two-year commitment on pay and sets out a time-frame for the negotiation of a new collective agreement. Our strike action is now suspended while a full consultative ballot of our members takes place.” A Diageo spokeswoman said: “Following further negotiations our improved offer has been recommended for acceptance by both the GMB and Unite unions and strike action has been suspended. We are pleased to have reached agreement on a good, fair offer that ensures our employees can receive an increase on their pay while maintaining the competitiveness of our operations.” 

Feed It Back launches course to help operational teams harness data: Guest feedback service Feed It Back has launched an “academy” – a management course to help hospitality managers “develop skills and harness the power of data”. Feed It Back Academy provides general, operations and area managers with support, guidance and tools to make sense of data and technology. The sessions focus on how to make use of data sets to garner loyalty, increase accountability, and drive outlet revenue and profit. The academy is run and delivered in partnership with Karen Turton, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the hospitality sector. Following initial sessions with Hall & Woodhouse and The Restaurant Group brands Frankie and Benny’s and Chiquito, the academy is now available to all multi-site companies in the sector, with sessions tailored to individual businesses. Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “As technology continues to evolve, it’s imperative ops teams become experts in managing data.” 

Welsh holiday park owners acquire fourth site: William and Shivaun Barker, who own three holiday parks in west Wales, have acquired a site in Pembrokeshire after receiving a seven-figure finance package from HSBC UK. Barker’s Leisure Holiday Parks has acquired Heron’s Brook in Narberth, which is marketed by Hoseasons and features in its highest-rated Autograph range. The retreat includes an 18-hole golf course and 20 lodges. The Barkers, whose other sites are Aberwylan, Pilbach and Wide Horizons, will add ten lodges during the next year via further backing from HSBC. William Barker told Insider Media: “We have seen an increase in demand for short-stay accommodation, particularly for luxury lodging, so it has been a key part of our growth strategy to purchase a new site.” Phil Sargeant, HSBC UK’s business banking area director for South Wales, added: “William and Shivaun are experienced business owners and a great example of local entrepreneurs.”

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