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Mon 11th Nov 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Sector like-for-likes down 0.6% in October as rugby fails to ignite sales: Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw like-for-like sales dip 0.6% in October, with the Rugby World Cup providing little if any extra boost for bar sales, the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker has revealed. Restaurant chains saw collective like-for-likes fall 0.7%, with managed pub and bar groups down 0.6%. Regionally, businesses outside London did better than those in the capital, down 0.5% compared with a 0.9% fall inside the M25. “Drink-led pubs did marginally better, with a 0.3% like-for-like increase over the month but there was no big boost coming from customers wanting to watch the rugby on television in the bar – probably due to the early-morning kick-offs,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “October is usually a quiet month in the eating and drinking out world – the lull before the Christmas rush – and so it has proved. Essentially, we are continuing to see a flat market. People are still going out but there’s no real growth.” Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan added: “It is worth noting that although it looks like London is underperforming the strength of the London market is being driven by independents not captured by the stats, rather than branded concepts. The eating and drinking-out market is relatively stable despite dampened consumer confidence. This is reflecting the combined political and economic uncertainty not seen since the middle of the last century.” Total sales across the 58 companies in the tracker, which include the effect of net new openings since this time last year, were ahead 2.3% compared with last October. Underlying like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which represents large and small operators, was running at 1.7% for the 12 months to the end of October, which is just below the 1.8% registered at the end of September.

Industry News:

Ten days of exclusive videos for Propel Premium members on how to succeed in the casual dining market: Propel Premium subscribers will receive a daily video for ten days starting next Monday (18 November) featuring some of the sector’s top casual dining operators talking about their progress in the current challenging market. The videos feature a wide spectrum of company leaders and entrepreneurs from across the industry talking about the strategies they have put in place to make sure their businesses have been able to survive, thrive, evolve or pivot. Videos will include YO! chief executive Richard Hodgson; Marta Pogroszewska, managing director of Gail’s; Shereen Ritchie, UK managing director of Leon; Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson, Giggling Squid co-founder Andy Laurillard; Red’s True Barbecue co-founder James Douglas; Brasserie Bar Co chairman Mark Derry, Prue Freeman, founder of fledgling group Daisy Green; Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers; and The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport. There will also be video of 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. 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, and regular columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,500 businesses. 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. Videos will send out each day at 5pm and 2pm on a Friday.

Foodservice prices show signs of stabilisation: Foodservice prices may be stabilising after three years of steady inflation, according to the latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index report. The index has been falling since February, aside from a slight rise during the summer caused by poor conditions for seasonal fruit and vegetables. However, uncertainty over Brexit and challenges to some food and drink categories mean more turbulence is possible. One major exception to the ongoing decline has been the fish category, where year-on-year inflation stood at 13.3% in September. Much of the pressure on prices can be traced to last year’s quota changes and the low value of sterling pushing up the cost of imports. Since much of caught fish is frozen, there is a six to 12-month lag on pricing in the category. For the first time since December 2018, the soft beverages category has seen a 10.6% fall in month-on-month inflation. The recent trend of premiumisation in soft drinks means inflation remains high year-on-year at 26.5%, and pricing is now expected to level out before rising again going into the Christmas period. The fruit category has finally seen a month-on-month drop in prices of 2.7%. However, year-on-year inflation is at 17%. Prestige Purchasing chief operating officer Phil McGuinness said: “After a couple of tough inflationary years the recent trend of negative month-on-month numbers across numerous categories will be helping to relieve pressure on operators.” Fiona Speakman, CGA client director food and retail, added: “The low value of sterling and a host of weather and supply changes have created significant turbulence in pricing over the past three years and signs of stability will be welcome. However, high year-on-year inflation in key categories such as fruit, fish and soft beverages are reminders we aren’t out of the woods yet, especially with the impact of Brexit so uncertain.”

Airbnb guest spending at UK restaurants and cafes to rise 33% year-on-year to £1.4bn in 2019: Guests on Airbnb are forecast to spend £1.4bn in UK restaurants and cafes in 2019, according to figures by the company itself, an increase of 33% from 2018. London topped the list of almost 70 UK cities for the highest guest spend, with visitors projected to spend £573m in the city in 2019, up from £449m in 2018. Estimated spending in Edinburgh, meanwhile, is expected to rise to £95m from £75m in 2018. According to the data, guests spent almost one-third (31%) of their trip budget on food when visiting the UK and almost half (45%) in the neighbourhood in which they stay. According to the survey, 91% of UK hosts said they recommend local restaurants and cafes to guests. If spending levels remain the same, Airbnb guests are expected to spend more than £24bn at restaurants and cafes in 46 countries in 2019, up from £19bn the year before. 

UKHospitality – alcohol taxation review ‘long overdue’: UKHospitality has said a review of alcohol taxation is “long overdue” following the Conservative Party’s commitment to look at the system. The trade body also said there should be a separate rate for draught beer, wine and spirits sold in pubs, bars and restaurants. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “This is a positive first step. The duty system has been a barrier to growth for some time and a review is long overdue. This is a measure we have been pushing for. If the Conservatives are successful at the general election we hope they push forward with this as a matter of urgency. A lower rate for on-trade drinks would help lower costs for hospitality businesses and, hopefully, attract more customers into the on-trade. This could stimulate growth in high-street businesses while making drinking in pubs and bars a more attractive financial prospect than pre-loading, which could help promote healthier attitudes to alcohol.” Meanwhile, UKHospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association deemed it “vital” the points-based immigration system proposed by the Conservatives allowed sector businesses to access talent from abroad. The party has said visa applications to the UK would be ranked by education, language skills and work experience rather than UK employer demands.

US restaurants see second consecutive month of like-for-like sales growth in October – just: US restaurants saw a second consecutive month of like-for-like sales growth in October – albeit only just. Like-for-likes were up 0.06% as operators again relied on takeaway sales to fuel growth, according to data company TDn2K’s Restaurant Industry Snapshot, which is based on weekly sales from more than 31,000 restaurants and 170 brands that represent almost $72bn in annual revenue. Victor Fernandez, vice-president of insights and knowledge at TDn2K, said: “What is even more encouraging for the industry is this small positive growth during the past two months has been achieved despite the industry lapping over two months with relatively strong performance in 2018. The industry’s two-year like-for-like sales growth continues to be positive and stable.” However, like-for-like visits were down again in October, this time by 3.1% compared with last year. Fernandez said: “This has been one of the most persistent and important shifts we are tracking. The norm for the industry is now declining dine-in sales growth offset by very strong to-go and other forms of off-premise sales. Third-party delivery is undoubtedly playing a part in this shift, driven by the rapid adoption rates by the industry of this new sales channel.” TDn2k said the best-case scenario for the industry remained small positive like-for-like sales growth for the rest of the year but dipping back into negative territory continues to be a distinct possibility.

Teams sought for 2020 Drinks Trade Regatta: Teams are being sought for the brewing industry’s annual sailing event, the Drinks Trade Regatta. The 30th regatta will take place from Friday, 5 June to Sunday, 7 June 2020 on the Solent. Teams are asked to donate £1,000 to charity with the top three contributors able to donate a percentage (first place 50%, second 30% and third 20%) to a charity of their choice. Last year 18 teams took part and raised a combined £22,000 for charity. The teams will depart from Port Solent, Portsmouth, on a fleet of Sunsail yachts to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to compete in seven races over two days. More details on yachts and pricing will be sent out in due course. For more information, call Sunsail account manager Terry Hunt on 02392 222 221.

Job of the week: COREcruitment is seeking an expansion director on behalf of a technology-led hospitality business. The company is looking for an entrepreneurial-style leader with previous experience of heading up growth-focused startups and a track record of successful, national-scale roll-outs. The successful candidate will report to the UK chief executive and be fully accountable for brand growth, account growth and operations. The position is London-based with a basic salary of up to £200,000 plus bonus and equity. For more information or a confidential chat, email hollie@corecruitment.com

Company News:

PizzaExpress lenders order £100m cash injection: PizzaExpress’ lenders are demanding a cash injection of at least £100m despite China-based owner Hony Capital’s attempts to buy back tens of millions of pounds of debt. Hony Capital announced on Wednesday (6 November) it would buy back heavily-discounted debts with a face value of £80m. However, insiders have urged Hony Capital to pour cash directly into the company rather than buying back bonds, The Sunday Telegraph reports. One insider told the newspaper: “This is Hony seeing bonds that are cheap and picking them up. It’s not Hony fixing the balance sheet. It’s not Hony giving comfort it can get over the refinancing wall. We want it to address the balance sheet.” PizzaExpress is struggling to repay £1.1bn of loans amid spiralling losses. Of those, £665m is owed to bondholders, which must start being paid in 2021. The bonds are trading at a heavy discount and being bought by hedge funds. They could seek to wrestle control of the company and cause fresh complications to what are already expected to be difficult restructuring discussions. PizzaExpress has appointed restructuring experts from Holihan Lokey and lawyers from US firm Kirkland & Ellis to assist with restructuring its balance sheet. Bondholders have hired investment bank Perella Weinberg. While the first tranche of loans isn’t due to be repaid for more than a year, lenders believe PizzaExpress must have a restructure in place by March or auditors will be unable to sign off its financial statements. Bondholders expect a rescue plan to include Hony injecting cash directly into the business and a debt for equity swap, sources said. One insider said more than £100m would need to be injected to satisfy lenders. Last week PizzaExpress reported like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland fell 1.1% for the 13 weeks to 29 September 2019. Ebitda for the UK and Ireland business was £19.9m with margin at 17.9%, down 130 basis points. During the period three company-owned sites opened and one closed, leaving the UK and Ireland estate with 477 company-owned restaurants and five franchise outlets. PizzaExpress and Hony declined to comment.

Deliveroo launches Pickup service: Deliveroo has launched click-and-collect service Pickup, which waives delivery fees and allows people to order food for collection from restaurants that don’t offer delivery. Deliveroo said 700 restaurants in 13 UK cities had already signed up to Pickup, including major brands Byron, PizzaExpress, Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito, Coast to Coast and Giraffe. Pickup is initially available in the city centres of Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham and Edinburgh (Old Town). Deliveroo said it expected to grow the service “rapidly”, forecasting more than 10,000 restaurants would offer Pickup within the next 12 months in the 200 towns and cities Deliveroo operates in. The company expects to work with a further 10,000 restaurants in the next six months to take its total to 30,000 venues. Ajay Lakhwani, vice-president of new businesses for Deliveroo, said: “Pickup customers can collect their meal exactly when they want. This service opens up even more choice and selection for consumers while providing a new revenue stream for restaurants. This is another move towards Deliveroo being the definitive food company, offering the widest selection of food for all occasions.” Last month Propel revealed Deliveroo had trademarked its first virtual brand. Deliveroo parent company Roofoods trademarked the name Chicken On The Green after developing the brand in partnership with Casual Dining Group. Chicken On The Green went live at 25 Café Rouge sites in a trial as part of Deliveroo’s plan to licence brands to restaurants. It’s believed Deliveroo is using its Editions sites to create and test brands before licensing them with partners. As it develops further brands, it’s believed Deliveroo is likely to trademark those as well. Propel understands Deliveroo has no plans to open standalone sites itself. The Competition and Markets Authority is currently running a full merger inquiry into Amazon’s £457m investment in Deliveroo in May. 

Brakspear takes managed estate to 15 with Berkshire pub buy: Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear has acquired The Golden Ball in the village of Pinkneys Green, near Maidenhead, to take its managed estate to 15 sites. The Berkshire pub has seating for 110 customers inside as well as a large patio and garden. Food includes hand-stretched pizza, burgers and other pub favourites, while the drinks list includes wine, cocktails and an extensive gin range. Brakspear plans to trade the pub in its existing format up to and over the busy Christmas period before giving it a light “sparkle” in January to bring its look and feel more in line with other sites in the managed estate. The existing pub team will remain in place. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We are delighted to add The Golden Ball to our managed division. It’s a popular pub serving its community with a great range of food and drink and we think it has great potential within the Brakspear family.” He added: “We are very happy with the growth of our managed estate. While each pub has its own individual character, they also have some shared features that help customers identify them as a Brakspear-managed site, which encourages them to visit other pubs in the group.” Brakspear launched its managed division in 2013 by opening The Bull On Bell Street in Henley-on-Thames. The estate now includes pubs across the Cotswolds and south east, many with letting rooms. In July 2018, Brakspear reopened The Frogmill, near Cheltenham, its largest managed site to date.

Japanese restaurant Taka takes former Providores site in Marylebone for second London site: Restaurateur Andrey Datsenko and sister Anastasia have secured a second London site for their contemporary Japanese restaurant Taka. Following its success in Japan, the Datsenkos opened their debut London site, in Mayfair, in 2017. Now they have secured the premises in Marylebone that was formerly occupied by The Providores, which closed in July. The new Taka restaurant is set to open in April or May next year and has a lease that runs until 2026. Taka offers an extensive range of dishes including tataki, tempura, salads, sashimi platters, inside-out rolls, and yakitori alongside cocktails featuring sake, Japanese whiskey and liqueur. Andrey Datsenko said: “We are thrilled to expand and open our second site in London!” Restaurant Property acted for Taka in securing the 3,000 square foot, three-floor site, while Shelley Sandzer represented The Providores. Owned and run by chef Peter Gordon and general manager Michael McGrath, the Antipodean-style eatery closed after 18 years as the pair looked to travel and pursue other projects.

Pitt Cue Co founder to resurrect brand after buying back IP rights: Jamie Berger, co-founder of wood-smoked barbecue pioneer Pitt Cue Co, has revealed plans to resurrect the brand after it went into administration earlier this year. Berger has repurchased the intellectual property of the brand he co-founded in 2011 and sold in 2015. Berger said of the acquisition: “While I was sad to see the restaurant close, I’m delighted to be able to take Pitt Cue Co back to its original ethos of barbecue, bourbon and beer – in whatever form that may take.” Berger and his team are exploring a number of opportunities for products, pop-ups and residencies in London and further afield while they search for a site to relaunch the restaurant. The first of these events will be a Thanksgiving Dinner held in central London on Thursday, 28 November. Pitt Cue began as a food truck on the South Bank before its creators, Berger and Tom Adams, moved into tiny premises in Newburgh Street, Soho, with only five tables and a no-booking policy that resulted in long queues. After Berger and Adams sold the business, Pitt Cue moved to larger premises in the City, in Devonshire Square. The restaurant shut in June when Pitt Cue Co went into administration.  Berger has been working on a number of joint ventures and consultancy projects since 2015, including a rib concept.

Chopstix and Buy & Bite snap up Barburrito sites: Asian quick-service restaurant chain Chopstix and healthy Japanese concept Buy & Bite have signed to take over the two London sites vacated last month by Mexican brand Barburrito. Agency Restaurant Property said it found both buyers “without having to go to market”. Chopstix, which has more than 80 sites in the UK, has taken on the 700 square foot site in Hammersmith’s Broadway Shopping Centre at a rent of £150,000 per annum and a lease that runs until 2026. Meanwhile it will be a second site for Buy & Bite, which has taken on the ground floor and basement of the Farringdon site in Cowcross Street at a yearly rent of £102,000 on a lease that runs until 2028. Each space at the venue measures 700 square feet. Last month Propel revealed BGF-backed Barburrito had exited the two London sites leaving the circa 20-strong company with only its Paddington station venue in the capital. The company recently opened a site with TRG Concessions in Gatwick airport in Sussex and has signed up to launch a site in Manchester airport’s new extension as the brand looks to refocus its operation. Restaurant Property surveyors Danielle Agami and Gabriella Sether, who both acted for Barburrito, said: “We were able to find two strong buyers for Hammersmith and Farringdon that acted quickly without even having to go to market.” Buy & Bite was founded last year by Taiwanese-based food specialist Han Dian, opening a debut site in Shoreditch that also features a tea bar. The healthy concept serves omurice (fried rice wrapped in an egg omelette) as well as noodles, bao burgers and Taiwanese sausage. 

Great Northern Group opens fourth site for Copper cafe bar concept: Nottingham-based independent pub group Great Northern Group has opened a fourth site for its cafe bar concept, Copper. The venue has opened at a grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in Nottingham’s Market Place that was formerly used for offices. The site joins the other Copper cafes in Mapperley, West Bridgford and Nottingham city centre. The brand offers everything from breakfast, steak, halloumi kebabs and afternoon tea to real ale, spirits and cocktails when the cafe turns into a bar in the evening. The coffee counter also serves cakes, sandwiches and sharing plates. Downstairs, the two-storey site offers a mix of tables for eating and night-time drinking, while upstairs houses a function room and private dining space. The terrace has seating for a further 80 customers. Great Northern Group director Dave Willans told the Nottingham Post: “Coppers are evenly spread from breakfast to lunch and early doors to evenings. Bookings before we opened were substantial for private parties and Christmas functions so there was obviously a need for something in this area.” Last month Great Northern Group re-emerged following the company restructure of Great Northern Inns. The group now owns and operates 12 venues in Nottinghamshire. 

Mediterranean dessert bar chain Hans & Gretel makes UK debut, at Camden Market: Mediterranean dessert bar chain Hans & Gretel has made its UK debut by opening a site at Camden Market in north London. The chain is popular across Greece, Cyprus and Turkey for its Instagrammable desserts. As the brand name suggests, the venue in North Yard specialises in “fairy-tale creations”, with the decor resembling a scene from the Brothers Grimm tale Hansel & Gretel. Trees are decked with fairy lights, giant lollipops and marshmallows, while there is a “candy house” suited to Instagram snaps. Desserts include a Chimney Cake (sweet dough spun and roasted on a spit to make a cone that’s caramelised, dusted with sugar and filled with ice cream and sweets); and the Fantasy Cone (a waffle cone filled with ice cream and topped with candy floss) alongside freakshakes, a candy floss station and pick ‘n’ mix. Hans & Gretel co-founder Lisa Lee told Hot Dinners: “We are bringing a touch of magic to the rejuvenation of the market’s offering and helping establish the North Yard as a family friendly foodie destination.” Maggie Milosavljevic, food and beverage commercial director at LabTech, which owns Camden Market, added: “Hans & Gretel’s choice of North Yard for their debut store highlights Camden’s credentials as a leading destination for Londoners and international visitors.” LabTech represented itself and Hans & Gretel dealt directly. 

Social enterprise Britannia collapses into liquidation: Britannia Enterprises, which operated five cafes in Norwich, has collapsed into liquidation owing £629,739. The community interest company ran an estate consisting of Café Britannia at HMP Norwich, Park Britannia at Waterloo Park, Gibraltar Gardens in Heigham Street, Court Britannia at Norwich Crown Court, and Guildhall Britannia in the city centre. The company’s main aim was to rehabilitate prisoners by offering them jobs in their venues. Britannia Enterprises, led by Davina Tanner, has now appointed liquidator Stewart Bennett to wind down the company. The greatest amount owed, £94,722, is to Brand Strategy Partners, a management consultancy and financial management practice that is also owned by Tanner, who also put funds into the business in the form of a director’s loan. She is listed as crediting the company £45,000, while HMP Norwich is owed £90,000. Employees are also directly listed as being owed £65,000 by the company. HM Revenue & Customs is owed £34,132 for VAT, with the company owing a further £5,000 in PAYE tax, according to the Eastern Daily Press. The liquidator’s report values the business’ assets at £9,284, significantly down on assets listed in the company’s final accounts, in December 2017, when assets totalled £287,371. Café Britannia closed in the summer following a dispute with the Ministry of Justice, while Gibraltar Gardens has also closed. Park Britannia at Waterloo Park has been taken over by a sole trader.

McDonald’s plans to buy solar and wind energy to power US restaurants: McDonald’s is looking to power its US restaurants using solar and wind energy. The company is investing in two Texas-based startups that generate renewable energy equal to taking 140,000 cars off the road for one year. McDonald’s didn’t disclose the amount of capital investment, which involves buying “virtual power” from the two companies. Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s chief supply chain and sustainability officer, said the company had a “responsibility to customers as a world leader to do what’s right for the planet”. She added: “These renewable energy commitments will generate green energy equivalent to more than 2,500 McDonald’s restaurants-worth of electricity.” In early 2018, McDonald’s set a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions related to its restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 based on energy used in 2015. Earlier this month McDonald’s fired chief executive Steve Easterbrook after investigating a consensual relationship he had with an unnamed employee. The company named Chris Kempczinski, most recently president of McDonald’s USA, as its new chief executive.

Turkish restaurant brand Gem opens at former Prezzo in Norwich for fourth site: Turkish restaurant brand Gem has opened its fourth site, at a former Prezzo in Norwich. Owner Cemal Alby has launched The Gem in Thorpe Road to join sister sites in Loughton in Essex, Maidstone in Kent, and the original Gem he opened in Islington, north London, in 1999. The concept offers hot and cold mezze, meat dishes, mixed barbecue and desserts. Alby, a Kurd who came to England as a refugee 30 years ago, told the Eastern Daily Press: “Over the past ten years lots of people have been going on holiday to Turkey and discovering its fresh and healthy food. People like the sharing element too.”

Thunderbird Fried Chicken appoints chief executive: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, is to pass the chief executive baton from Marcel Khan to Paul Gilchrist by the end of the year. Khan has worked with Thunderbird Fried Chicken founder Matt Harris supporting the fledgling brand for 12 months, building the team and business to five owned and operated sites in London. TriSpan operating partner Robin Rowland said: “We wish Marcel every success with his next move in the sector and will miss his infectious and enthusiastic management. Paul joins Thunderbird Fried Chicken with 30 years of multi-unit experience with premium restaurant and pub operations.”

Koi Ramen and Beza launch at Elephant Park: South London-based street food traders Koi Ramen and Beza have opened their first bricks-and-mortar sites – at Elephant Park, the £2.3bn regeneration project in Elephant and Castle headed by Lendlease and Southwark Council. Ethiopian restaurant Beza, founded by Beza Ethio, has evolved its concept to become a 100% vegan eatery. Its menu includes national dish “teff injera” – 100% gluten-free sourdough flatbread. Ethio said: “We approached Lendlease at Artworks Elephant with the hope its drive to support small brands at the temporary space would help us grow. We are delighted to see this come to fruition, with our first permanent restaurant space.” Meanwhile Koi Ramen, which also trades at Pop Brixton and Tooting Market, has brought southern Japanese flavours that focus on tonkotsu ramen. Ming Chan, of Koi Ramen, said: “We are so happy to be here in our first proper shop in Elephant and Castle and can’t wait to serve our ramen to all the locals.”

Chiquito to offer edible insects: The Restaurant Group-owned Tex-Mex brand Chiquito is adding edible insects to its offer. The beer and bugs range will be available from Wednesday (13 November). Customers will receive the edible insects free with every pint or standard bottle of Corona and Brooklyn Naranjito. The two flavour options – chilli and lime and peri-peri crickets – will also be available to purchase separately in a 12g pack. Chiquito managing director Angelo Gabrilatsou said: “We pride ourselves on being the brand that brings the best of Mexican flavours and culture to the UK. Through our food and environment we always allow our guests to be as adventurous as they want, with a range of dishes that go from mainstream to more authentic. Bringing edible bugs felt like a natural next step into driving that real Mexican experience, allowing our guests to be a little more daring.”

SSP America wins Bermuda airport contract: SSP America, a division of SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, has been awarded a food and beverage contract by Bermuda LF Wade international airport. Restaurants developed and operated as part of the contract will feature in the airport’s new passenger terminal. SSP America has teamed up with Bermudan entrepreneurs Dennie O’Connor and Jennifer Turini Ysseldyke to form a joint venture, Bermuda Travel Concessions. The restaurant they will operate are The Whistling Rum Bar & Grill, which will be in the departures check-in area before security; Rock & Barrel Gastro Bar in the US departures hold room; and The Heron & The Sea Public House in the international departures hold room. Kyle Phillips, SSP America senior director of business development, said: “Our strategy is to deliver the ‘taste of place’ for which we’re known as well as unsurpassed operational know-how. We look forward to being part of the airport community.”

Hollywood Bowl introduces immersive video game: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, has introduced an immersive video game-style format as part of a £200,000 revamp of its Norwich site. The centre now features HyperBowl on all 26 lanes, becoming the first Hollywood Bowl in the country to offer the concept across the venue. Unlike regular bowling, HyperBowl turns the lanes into an immersive video game with progressive levels featuring moving coloured targets and score multipliers. HyperBowl playing time depends on how many players are on the lane and whether they choose three, six or nine levels. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns said: “Our Norwich centre has been significantly improved thanks to the addition of HyperBowl, an exciting and interactive new way to bowl.” As part of the Norwich venue’s revamp, a Hollywood Diner has also been introduced serving gourmet burgers, hotdogs, thick shakes served in retro milk bottles, desserts and cocktails, while its amusement area has been upgraded.

Lincolnshire-based Laver Leisure submits plans for Staffordshire holiday village in former quarry: Lincolnshire-based Laver Leisure has submitted plans for the first phase of its scheme to transform a former quarry in Staffordshire into a holiday village. The company was granted outline planning permission in 2016 for the development at Moneystone Quarry, which would comprise 250 lodges alongside leisure and recreation facilities. The detailed reserved matters application is for the first phase of development, which would see 190 lodges built alongside a hub building with swimming pool, gym, restaurant, cafe, play areas and a multi-use games area. A separate full planning application will also be submitted shortly to refurbish former laboratory buildings on the site for further indoor leisure use. Laver Leisure director Peter Swallow told The Business Desk: “This reserved matters planning application is a major step towards making Moneystone Park a reality.” Laver Leisure operates 13 holiday parks.

Casual Dining Group scoops Springboard award for career progression: Casual Dining Group has scooped Springboard’s best career progression award in recognition of its learning and development programmes. The award coincides with the launch of CDG’s second cohort of participants in its Elevate programme, which targets high-performing general managers who are looking to progress to multi-site leaders. In addition, the company’s Future Leaders programme is for assistant and deputy managers looking to step up to general manager roles. Claire Clarke, group HR director at CDG, said: “There’s a wealth of talent across the business. Our role is to identify the stand-out performers and give them the skills and training they need to become leaders and progress. We’re incredibly passionate about creating a culture of high performance. This is just the start – we look forward to growing and evolving the courses.”

HGEM adds competitor review tracking: Guest experience management expert HGEM is offering operators the ability to track the social review performance of local competitors for each location. Subscribers to HGEM’s review tracking in The Hub can now select a number of competitors for each location and see where they sit in a league table. An HGEM spokesman said: “This can provide valuable motivation for general managers striving to be the ‘best in town’. You no longer need to look up this information in separate places.”

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