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Tue 26th Nov 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Corbin & King sees like-for-likes up 2% in 2019 as growth continues: London restaurant operator Corbin & King has seen like-for-like sales increase 2% in 2019, Propel has learned. Corbin & King provided the update as the company reported turnover increased from £16.3m to £44.2m for the nine months ending 31 December 2018. Ebitda during the nine months was up from £1.3m to £7.5m. Operating loss before tax in the period increased from £688,000 to £1.96m. Pre-tax losses in the nine months rose to £3.1m from £1.1m. The company incurred exceptional costs in the period of £5.1m, with the closure-related costs of Bellanger in August this year contributing £3.82m of that figure. The shorter accounting period reflects the alignment of the company’s accounts with parent Minor International, which bought Graphite Capital’s stake in December 2017. In his report accompanying the accounts, co-founder Jeremy King said: “At the end of the financial period the group operated seven venues in central London – The Wolseley, The Delaunay, The Delaunay Counter, Colbert, Fischer’s, Brasserie Zedel and Bellanger. During the period the group opened Cafe Wolseley at Bicester Village – Corbin & King’s first restaurant outside London. On 27 September 2018 the lease for the premises in which The Beaumont Hotel operated was sold and, subsequently on 1 October 2018, the management agreement with The Beaumont Hotel was terminated. In August 2019, the directors of Corbin & King took the decision to close Bellanger.” Corbin & King opened Soutine in St John’s Wood in April, while it’s set to open seafood restaurant Manzi’s in Soho next year and is also lining up a venue in Notting Hill Gate.

Industry News:

Details revealed of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator day one line-up: Details have been revealed of the day one line-up of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, which is returning for its third year. The two-day event, a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, will feature more than 60 speakers with a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs. Day one will feature Think Hospitality managing director James Hacon, who will highlight some of the key trends and happenings in the sector in the past year. Suzanne Robinson, managing director at Happen UK, will share her tips on where you should look for innovation and, more importantly, how to do it. Alan Adojaan, chief executive of Robolab, will discuss the rise of robotics in the restaurant industry, the opportunities this creates and moral questions it raises. Peter Critchley, chief executive of Beaver Trison, will examine the growing consumer expectation of seamless and valuable experiences in intelligent retail spaces and how these can be delivered through digital platforms. Katy Moses, managing director of KAM Media, will share how hyper-connectivity and busy lifestyles are influencing consumer buying decisions and how hospitality brands are adapting, evolving and enhancing their proposition accordingly. James Coldrey-Mobbs, head of marketing at Ego Restaurants, will chair a panel featuring Loui Blake, founder of Erpingham House and Kalifornia Kitchen, Emmy van Beek, head of sustainability at Hawksmoor Group, and Harry Boglione, owner of Haye Farm, to discuss how plant-based diets are changing the consumer landscape, how operators are responding and what the future might look like. Elise Craft, global planning partner at Ogilvy Health & Wellness, will tackle what brands need to know about the impact of complainers, campaigners and haters on social media and test the limits of individual influence. Rachael Whittle, PR manager at Dishoom, will talk about creating a strong brand with purpose that delivers its promise. Elise Ash, strategy and brand director at The Restaurant Group, will discuss the tools and techniques that are moving the needle on Frankie & Benny’s reinvigoration. Phil Leather, head of digital at Gusto Italian, will present a case study from the launch and roll-out of the brand’s Gold Rewards programme. Hilary Ansell, marketing director at Carluccio’s, will talk about the Fresca transformation of the brand. Fleet Street Communications managing director Mark Stretton will lead a panel featuring Pho marketing director Libby Andrews, Feed It Back operational excellence manager Lisa Campbell, and Bill’s marketing director Lesley McIlroy to discuss the way technology and digital is being leveraged to drive brand growth. James Hacon will interview Maya Orr, senior marketing consultant at Lidl, about why entering consumer awards can be a real win for business. Claire Scullion, account director at MVAD, will share how menu design tricks can change the way customers order and encourage upsells. Meg Ellis, commercial director at Honest Burgers, will reveal how the brand takes a local approach to roll out beyond London with initiatives that cross the customer experience. Dan Burns, managing director of Natural Selection Design, will share his experience of helping brands and personalities share stories through video. Daniel Bennett, consulting director, behavioural science practice at Ogilvy Consulting, will share the science behind making food more craveable within your promotions. Tickets for the two-day conference, which will take place on 21 and 22 January at One Moorgate Place, London, are £575 plus VAT for operators for the two days and £345 plus VAT for one day. Tickets for suppliers are £795 plus VAT for the two days and £445 plus VAT for one day. Tickets can be purchased from Propel by calling Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Propel Premium subscribers to receive James Douglas video as next in exclusive series on how to succeed in the casual dining market: Propel Premium subscribers will receive their latest video on Tuesday (26 November) as part of a series in which some of the sector’s top casual dining operators talk about their progress in the current challenging market. The videos feature a wide spectrum of company leaders and entrepreneurs talking about the strategies they have put in place to make sure their businesses have been able to survive, thrive, evolve or pivot. The latest video features Red’s True Barbecue co-founder James Douglas talking to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about the rise, fall and re-emergence of the smokehouse concept and the lessons he has learned during that time. He also talks about his relationships with the company’s new backer, Tokyo Industries, and Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog. Videos will be sent out each day at 5pm and 2pm on a Friday. 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. Subscribers 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

Supply issues to make this year’s Christmas dinner costliest yet as growing number of consumers head out for festive lunch: Supply issues are driving up the wholesale price of Christmas dinner essentials leaving operators facing higher costs as new research shows a growing number of consumers are heading out for festive lunch. The Foodservice Price Index from CGA and Prestige Purchasing said this year’s Christmas dinner was set to be the “costliest yet”. Problems with production this year have accelerated inflation in the turkey market in particular. Many UK and European producers have reported falling profits in 2018 while French companies, which supply a large proportion of hatching eggs used by UK breeders, said high summer temperatures had led to eggs being lost at a much higher rate than usual. The decision by some producers to switch from turkey to chicken sheds has also led to substantial reductions in supply, causing higher prices. Major challenges in the pork industry are expected to push up the cost of Christmas ham too. It has been forecast an African swine fever outbreak sweeping across Asia and parts of Europe will result in one-quarter of pigs worldwide being culled, with the pressure on supply leading to whole-pig prices rising more than 10% between March and October. Meanwhile, wet weather and floods have hit vegetable supplies in recent weeks, affecting final harvests of potatoes and other seasonal vegetables, including cauliflower and cabbage. The problems come at a time when a growing proportion of people are heading out for their Christmas dinner to avoid the stress of the big festive food shop and cooking. Separate research for CGA’s Christmas Report showed more than two-thirds (70%) of consumers visit a restaurant in December, with almost as many (64%) using pubs and nearly one-quarter (23%) visiting bars. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “This is an expensive time of year for consumers so increasing costs on a number of traditional Christmas dinner items will be extremely unwelcome and put pressure on margins for operators and retailers to keep costs down for customers over the festive period. With turkey and ham prices on the rise, demand for alternative meat such as beef could surge this Christmas.”

Pub Governing Body reports ‘strong’ levels of compliance in latest audit: The Pub Governing Body has reported “strong” levels of compliance in its third annual audit of companies operating up to 499 leased and tenanted pubs. The audit is based on codes of practice published by the Pub Governing Body and covers 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019. The audit found there was a high level of compliance with the code of practice. Full compliance was found for business plans. On training, the audit found there had been an “excellent” improvement in the number of operators trained to the required standard outlined in the code of practice. Pub Governing Body chairman Sir Peter Luff said: “Once again, the results of this annual report underline the crucial role the Pub Governing Body continues to play following the implementation of the statutory Pubs Code three years ago. We are pleased to see strong levels of compliance from the companies governed by our codes. We will continue to monitor and review these codes to ensure they remain relevant to both companies and tenants. In 2017 the board announced it had reached agreement with stakeholders to ensure the independent rent review service – the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme – was available for all pub tenants – those covered by the statutory code and those governed by self-regulation. The board is pleased to confirm 15 tenants from Admiral Taverns, Ei Group, Punch, Star Pubs & Bars, Marston’s and Greene King have taken advantage of this scheme in the year ending 31 July 2019.”

Europe’s hotel industry reports growth in all key performance metrics for October: Europe’s hotel industry reported year-on-year growth in all three key performance metrics during October, according to data from STR. Revpar rose 1.1% year-on-year to €88.40 (£75.59), while occupancy increased 0.2% to 76.8% and average daily rate was up 0.8% to €115.15. This month’s data focused on two major cities – Prague and Barcelona. In Prague, revpar rose 4.6% year-on-year to CZK2,322.95 (£77.92), occupancy increased 0.3% to 86.7%, and average daily rate was up 4.2% to CZK2,680.45. STR analysts attributed positive performance levels in the Czech capital to minimal supply growth. Prague’s development pipeline is also modest, with only a 2.1% increase on existing inventory expected by 2021. International arrivals have also played a part in the higher performance as Prague welcomed 7.9 million overnight arrivals in 2018, a number expected to grow for 2019 as a whole. In Barcelona, revpar rose 6.9% year-on-year to €129.99 (£111.16) and average daily rate leapt 9.1% to €155.88, the highest for any October in STR’s Barcelona database. However, occupancy fell 2.0% to 83.4%. STR analysts attributed the increase in performance to medical congresses held in the Spanish city during the month.

Company News:

Turtle Bay boosts executive team as it reports full-year turnover of £66.9m: Caribbean restaurant chain Turtle Bay has made two senior appointments to its executive team – Steve Robinson as chief financial officer and Jo Cole as head of people – as the company reported a boost in sales in its financial year. Robinson brings a wealth of experience in the hospitality sector having previously been chief financial officer at Young’s, where he worked for almost a decade. He qualified with Deloitte in 2004 before moving on to The Walt Disney Company, where he held a number of finance roles. Cole also brings a great deal of hospitality experience, starting out as a chef before managing restaurants for Stonegate Pub Company brand Slug & Lettuce and Tootsies. Since 2007 she has worked exclusively in HR and training and development, most recently leading the people function at Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The appointments come as Turtle Bay prepares to file accounts at Companies House for the year ended 28 February 2019. The group posted sales of £66.9m despite the well-documented challenges within the sector”. The company said it had avoided discounting to focus on “great-value Caribbean food and drinks” and “significantly enhancing its in-site experience”. The company added its feedback metrics were currently the “highest they have been in years”. Ajith Jayawickrema founded Turtle Bay in 2011. Based in Bristol, the company has been backed by specialist investor Piper since 2015 and currently has 44 sites. Jayawickrema said: “This is an exciting time for Turtle Bay as we invest in the right people, systems and processes to ensure we have the best springboard for our growth aspirations. In 2019 we are trading ahead of our sales expectations and the market and have put together a fantastic team ready to take Turtle Bay forward.”

Wear Inns undergoes reorganisation, reports full-year pre-tax losses narrow: North east-based managed operator Wear Inns has undergone a reorganisation following its acquisition by Aprirose last year. The reorganisation was revealed as Wear Inns reported turnover for the year ending 30 March 2019 remained flat at £13.6m. Operating profit was down to £798,000 compared with £1.4m the previous year, while pre-tax losses narrowed to £59,000 from £82,000 the year before. At the year end the company operated 25 sites. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “Operating results for the year to 30 March 2019 declined slightly compared with the previous year due partly to general economic factors and partly to factors connected with the acquisition of the business and subsequent decisions to increase property maintenance spend and strengthen central management, which increased overhead costs. As such factors generated inconsistencies with the operation of Wear Inns prior to acquisition, the directors have taken the decision not to quote direct cost comparisons and percentages in this year’s strategic report on the grounds they could be misleading. Immediately after the year end, a reorganisation took place whereby the properties owned by Wear Inns were transferred to Milton Portfolio Property 3, and the operations and pub staff were transferred to Milton Portfolio Op Co 3. Central management was also transferred to Blackrose Management, a subsidiary of Aprirose and not part of the Milton Portfolio Holdings 3 group. Following this reorganisation, Blackrose Management became the external management company to Milton Portfolio Op Co 3 Limited through a contractual agreement. Wear Inns did not therefore trade after the year end. It is the intention to liquidate Wear Inns in due course once all creditors and other liabilities and obligations have been fully satisfied.” Aprirose paid £22.4m for Wear Inns in August last year.

JP Morgan – Wagamama continues market outperformance but no change on TRG estimates: JP Morgan leisure analysts have said although Wagamama continues to outperform, they’ve made no changes to estimates regarding parent company The Restaurant Group (TRG). Following the Wagamama bondholder second-quarter update, the analysts said: “The trading update shows a good drop-through of growth into profit. Adjusted Ebitda grew 27.2% to £16.7m in the period. On a year-to-date basis, adjusted Ebitda was up 36.7%. The adjusted Ebitda margin grew 240 basis points to 18.1%, about half of which we estimate was driven by synergies achieved by inclusion in the broader TRG business. Like-for-like sales growth was 6.3% in the quarter. This was against strong comparables but was still comfortably above the rate of growth of the broader market. We make no changes to our earnings estimates for TRG, which are for adjusted profit before tax of £72.9m in 2019 and £84.5m in 2020. We remain ‘Overweight’ with a December 2020 target price of 170p. We forecast an adjusted Ebitda contribution from Wagamama of £54.8m in TRG’s 2019 earnings. Our estimates have that contribution rising to £74.5m in 2020 as further synergies are realised. Our estimates are based on an assumption of 6.5% like-for-like growth in both this year and next. We expect it to remain difficult for TRG’s leisure business and expect a 1.0% drop in like-for-likes in 2019 and 2020. Under new management, there is every reason to expect strategic action to be taken to address the issues in leisure with a view to the creation of shareholder value. We are encouraged to see Wagamama continuing to sustain market-leading like-for-like sales growth rates. We suspect the bears will point out 6.3% is Wagamama’s lowest like-for-like rate since the fourth quarter of 2016 but we think this would be missing the point. The second quarter of this year compares with a very strong second quarter last year of 12.0%. It must also be taken in context of a very weak market. The Peach Tracker has been negative since August. A weak cinema slate so far in November is unlikely to mean this month is any better. In the US, Wagamama’s small business there achieved 12.5% like-for-like sales growth in the second quarter. There were two new openings in the quarter – one in Old Street, London, and the other in Heathrow Terminal 3. The first six conversion sites were also opened in the second quarter and early in the third quarter. A further two conversions are expected to be completed before the end of 2019. A delivery kitchen has been opened in Hackney and the first Mamago restaurant in the City of London.”

Papa John’s appoints UK director of business development: Papa John’s has appointed Justin Gilbert as director of business development in the UK with responsibility for retail portfolio including store construction, acquisition and franchise recruitment. He has almost 20 years’ experience in the pizza industry, having worked for Domino’s in the US in marketing and operations for ten years and held roles in its international business supporting master franchisees in Europe. In 2014 he moved to the UK to become head of operations at Domino’s Pizza Group, master franchisee for the UK and Ireland. In 2016 he joined Yum! Brands as director of operations for Pizza Hut Delivery. Papa John’s UK managing director Liz Williams said: “I am delighted Justin is joining our leadership team in Milton Keynes. His wealth of experience will add tremendous value as we continue to grow the business.” Gilbert added: “My team will concentrate on further improving return on investment for stores and taking advantage of untapped market opportunities as we continue to develop the brand. Papa John’s has demonstrated excellent new-store growth over the past year. We see this continuing as we work with franchisees. We are also open to partnerships that can support new growth channels as we aim to help franchisees expand their portfolios.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and has more than 400 stores in the UK.

Wingstop UK to open gaming restaurant in Kent for third site: Lemon Pepper Holdings, which is rolling out US chicken brand Wingstop across the UK, is to launch a gaming restaurant concept at the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent in partnership with Xbox. The split-level Wingstop site is set to open in early 2020 featuring a dedicated “stay and play” Xbox gaming zone for customers. The zone will feature six gaming pods and a library of games. The restaurant will be the first of its kind for Xbox but marks a wider strategy for Wingstop, which has partnered with various companies in the past including footwear firms such as Converse. Lemon Pepper Holdings opened Wingstop’s debut UK site last year in Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End, opening a second site in Dalton, east London, last month as part of plans to grow to 75 sites in the UK in the next 12 years. Lemon Pepper Holdings director Tom Grogan said: “It is no longer enough just to open a restaurant and serve amazing food. To not only thrive but survive in the casual dining space brands need to collaborate with culturally relevant partners and offer their customers unique experiences. The site secured in Bluewater felt like the perfect space to partner with Xbox. We’re offering customers our world-famous wings and the chance to play some cutting-edge, newly released games.” Wingstop, which has more than 1,000 restaurants globally, entered its agreement with Lemon Pepper Holdings in 2017.

Old Rope Walks eyes further expansion as it prepares to open fifth site: Liverpool-based pub group Old Rope Walks is eyeing further expansion as it prepares to open its fifth site – and third in partnership with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The Butterfly & The Grasshopper will launch in Renshaw Street on Thursday (28 November) following a £750,000 refurbishment. The investment has extended the pub over three floors to include a traditional ground-floor bar, a new first-floor kitchen and a roof garden-style restaurant and a gin and cocktail bar on the top floor. The venue’s new name and look have been inspired by a children’s fantasy poem, The Butterfly’s Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast, written in 1810 by then Liverpool MP William Roscoe. David Gale, previously of Selfridges and Ian Shrager Hotels, will lead the kitchen as executive chef. The menu is based around steak, mussels and vegetarian and vegan options and is expected to account for 40% of trade. Old Rope Walks is set on further expansion in the north west and is currently identifying sites in Liverpool and Manchester. The company is interested in freehold and leased period sites that have the potential to be given a “distinctive new identity”. Old Rope Walks managing director Mike Girling said: “The opening of The Butterfly & Grasshopper helps us cement our position within the city’s competitive market and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to Liverpool.” Star Pubs & Bars business development manager Phil McWilliam added: “We have been delighted to back Old Rope Walks in delivering its vision for The Butterfly & Grasshopper. The company is well known in Liverpool for its iconic pubs and bars and The Butterfly & Grasshopper is set to follow suit.”

McDonald’s pays $26m to settle wage theft suit: McDonald’s is paying $26m to settle a class action lawsuit over wage theft. The settlement puts an end to a multi-year legal battle between the company and California workers who alleged McDonald’s was skirting overtime payment laws and denying employees timely breaks, among other things. About 38,000 people are represented in the suit, according to a court filing obtained by CNN from the Fight For $15 campaign group, which advocates for workers’ rights. In 2013, Maria Sanchez and others filed a suit against corporate-owned McDonald’s restaurants in the state saying as far back as 2009 McDonald’s failed to pay overtime to employees who worked more than eight hours during a 24-hour period. McDonald’s actions violated state law, the suit claimed. McDonald’s said in a statement: “While we continue to believe our employment practices comply with the California Labour Code, we have decided to resolve this lawsuit.” In addition to paying out the $26m, McDonald’s will periodically train employees at corporate-owned California restaurants on their rights, such as receiving ten-minute breaks roughly every two hours and getting new uniforms, at no cost, to replace ones that have been worn out or damaged on the job. Fight For $15 said workers had filed more than 50 complaints and suits against McDonald’s in the past three years. Last month, McDonald’s USA started training staff how to mitigate violence, report harassment and reduce unconscious bias.

Breddos Tacos and The Duck Truck to be part of new Venue Group venture in King’s Cross: Venue Group, which is behind Flat Iron Square in Southwark, is heading to King’s Cross for its next multi-purpose venue. The company will launch Goods Way in February. The space will combine a live music venue – Lafayette – American-style bar Sweetwater, and The Courtyard, a covered area featuring food traders. Mexican concept Breddos Tacos and Spitalfields-based The Duck Truck are the first traders to be announced. Venue Group director Ben Lovett told Hot Dinners: “In a world that seems increasingly obsessed with perception over substance, or digital over analogue, there are few more honest experiences than live music and eating fresh food from a small, independent and passionate operator.”

Peel Hunt – the fact Just Eat is now only leader in eight markets is of ‘great significance’: Peel Hunt leisure analysts have said the fact Just Eat, the market place for takeaway food delivery, is now the leader in eight markets rather than 12 is of “great significance” to shareholders. Issuing a ‘Sell’ note on the shares with a target price of 520p, the analysts said: “Just Eat continues to believe the offer from Prosus ‘significantly undervalues Just Eat’. For us, the most significant point is in 2015 Just Eat quoted itself as being the market leader in 12 out of its 13 markets. The one that was number two at the time was Benelux, which it sold. Now it has told us it is the market leader in only eight of its 13 markets (after the sale of Benelux and converting the combined Australia and New Zealand business into separate ones). This is significant, and for us continues to confirm our belief the company is losing market share to the larger delivery-first companies, including Deliveroo, potentially because Deliveroo is trying to address more of the key costs within a foodservice business, including its dark kitchens that enable greater scale and more optionality for its clients and customers.”

Bread Ahead opens largest site to date, at Wembley Park: Independent bakery and baking school Bread Ahead has opened its largest site to date, at Wembley Park in north London. Owner Matthew Jones has launched the 11,000 square foot venue at Quintain’s new £3bn urban development. The Bread Ahead venue features a 182-cover restaurant, deli, two baking classrooms on the mezzanine floor, a wholesale bakery and 156-cover terrace. New dishes on the menu include sourdough pizza, roast chicken with salad, baked potatoes and bread and butter, and baked vanilla cheesecake. There are also grab-and-go items such as deep-filled focaccia sandwiches and brioche soldiers. Jones said: “Our new gastro-bakery and school has been a two-year journey from start to finish. The philosophy behind what we do as a company is to create delicious and nutritious food and share our knowledge of what we do with our customers in a creative space.” The move marks a major step up in footprint for the company, which launched in Borough Market in 2013 and has since added branches in Chelsea and Soho. Earlier this year, Jones told Propel: “We are definitely going to go for bigger sites. I go to the States quite a lot and what some of those bakery companies are doing is inspiring.” He said the company would look to add to its estate in 2020 and 2021, with another central London site among the targets.

Other Side Fried to open debut permanent site, next week: Chicken burger concept Other Side Fried is to open its debut permanent site, in Brixton, south London, next week. The concept began operating from the back of a converted British ambulance, which it still operates at Kerb Camden, before going on to operate long-term residencies at Pop Brixton and Peckham Levels as well as a kiosk in Cranbourn Street. Now the brand will open its debut bricks and mortar site in a converted railway arch in Atlantic Road on Monday, 2 December. Designed as a 16-cover takeaway restaurant, the venue will serve a new menu of burgers, strips and sauces plus its first vegan burger. The drinks list will include Camden Hells lager on tap alongside white wine, whisky and coke, and gin and tonic in cans. Other Side Fried was founded by Matt Harris and Tommy Kempton.

Restaurant app TopDish launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Restaurant app TopDish has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube with plans to secure UK leadership as a springboard to international expansion. London-based startup TopDish is offering 4.76% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £6m. Founders Gareth Thomas and Gabriel van der Kruijk said TopDish now had 89,000 dish ratings covering 3,674 UK restaurants since they launched the free app at the end of September. The pitch states: “While there are several restaurant review sites, we believe diners need and want help choosing the best individual dishes. TopDish fills this gap. We’ve developed slick Android/iOS apps and a scalable system but that’s the easy part – getting momentum with users and restaurants is the challenge. Our magic recipe includes collecting tens of thousands of ratings up front so TopDish has relevance at launch. We then build user and restaurant communities and it’s working a treat in the UK. We launched on 26 September and after just 20 days ranked in the App Store’s top 100 food and drink apps, supported by our engaging brand video and digital marketing strategy. With this funding we’re aiming for 250,000 users by April 2020, creating defensible UK leadership. We plan to then quickly expand to the US and beyond. Once we’ve built this user base, recurring fees are planned from marketing and data services, similar to Yelp’s business model. The UK/US market for marketing alone is worth more than $20bn. Restaurants love the way we promote their dishes and collect ratings and comments, while high-profile chains have given us verbal agreements to promote TopDish using QR codes at the table. As large user communities are created in each country, TopDish plans to become self-sustaining and defensible against competitors, making it an attractive acquisition target.”

Cairn Group puts Holiday Inn Express in Wakefield on market as part of company restructure: Newcastle-based hotel and bar operator Cairn Group has put its Holiday Inn Express in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, up for sale as part of a company restructure. The 81-bedroom property is being marketed off an asking price of £4.95m on a long leasehold basis through agent Christie & Co. The hotel spans seven floors and has a ground-floor lounge alongside a restaurant and bar. It operates as a Holiday Inn Express-branded property under a franchise agreement with Intercontinental Hotel Group. Ryan Lynn, director of corporate hotels at Christie & Co, who is handling the sale, said: “We are pleased to be working with Cairn Group and the Handa family again and anticipate the opportunity will be well received by the market. The hotel is currently trading strongly under the Holiday Inn Express branding and is in a great location in the centre of Wakefield.” Cairn Group manages more than 30 hotels, bars and restaurants across England and Scotland, employing more than 1,500 staff.

Stonegate and Startle launch Baby Spice-curated DJ sets for Slug & Lettuce brand: Stonegate Pub Company has partnered with interactive music provider Startle to create curated DJ sets for its Slug & Lettuce brand. The company said the professionally produced tracks would “provide consistency and enhance the atmosphere” at ten of its sites for ten weekends before the offering was rolled out across the Slug & Lettuce portfolio. The DJ sets, curated by Spice Girls’ Emma Bunton, feature her own voiceovers. She said: “I am really looking forward to bringing a great party vibe to the venues at weekends!” Startle partnership director Ian Sharpe added: “A positive customer experience is everything and Startle is thrilled to have Emma’s involvement. We’re confident this partnership will bring a unique atmosphere to Slug & Lettuce sites across the UK.”

Cocktails delivery service The Bottled Bartender increases equity offer in crowdfunding campaign for expansion: Cocktails delivery service The Bottled Bartender has increased the equity offer in its £60,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to fund expansion. The company, founded by cocktails consultant Nick Lewis, has increased its equity offer to 13.04%, which gives The Bottled Bartender a pre-money valuation of £400,000 rather than the previous £600,000. The company has also extended its campaign by a week, with 103 investors so far pledging £55,900 with nine days of the campaign remaining. The company stated: “The Bottled Bartender seeks to specialise in the manufacture, marketing and distribution of single-serve premium cocktails to the trade, events and home markets. For online orders it anticipates using a 24-hour courier service. Our cocktails are designed to deliver the real thing. We adhere to the same recipes as a high-end bar, using only branded spirits, fresh ingredients and experienced staff to make our drinks. We want events and trade to benefit from speed of service, logistical ease (not transporting glassware, ice and inventory) and not having to hire specialist staff, while home customers will have access to bar-quality cocktails without needing to know how to mix a drink. The market is growing at an estimated 9.5% per annum (total UK value £587m) as cocktail culture moves from bar to home driven by affordability and convenience.”

Revolution Bars Group partners with Bacardi for Revolución de Cuba rum collaboration: Revolution Bars Group has partnered with Bacardi for a rum collaboration for its Revolución de Cuba brand. It is the first time Bacardi has produced a bespoke rum with an on-trade partner globally. Combining a blend of light and dark rum aged for at least three years in American oak barrels, Bacardi Aventura is on sale at Revolución de Cuba bars across the UK, in a selection of festive cocktails and as a bottle to take away. Revolución de Cuba operations director Clinton Ghent said: “We travelled across America and the Caribbean to learn about rum history and production, which inspired us to create Aventura together.”

Selfridges opens world’s first ‘cinema in a department store’: Selfridges has opened 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 is operated by Olympic Studios, which already has sites in Barnes and Battersea. Two of the screening rooms have 80 seats and the third about 30. They show a mix of Hollywood releases and independent films. The cinema has entrances direct from the store as well as from Duke Street and includes a private screening room and underground bar. There is also a priority membership scheme.

Fuller’s launches talks series at new London ‘hidden’ cocktail bar: Fuller’s, the premium pubs and hotels business, is launching a series of talks at its new “hidden” cocktail bar beneath The Chamberlain Hotel in London. The In Bed With sessions will feature speakers who are leading experts and authorities in their fields and range from topics such as urban farming to achieving happiness in the workplace. Launching on Wednesday (27 November), the debut session will cover gender equality in football and how girls are moving the goalposts. The presentation will be led by Karen Dobres, writer and non-executive director of Lewes Football Club – the first professional club in the world where women are paid the same as men – as she reveals the perfect cocktail recipe for gender equality on the pitch.

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