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Tue 21st Jan 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Crowley to step down as BRG chief executive: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has announced Tom Crowley is to step down as chief executive after little more than three years in the role to move on to a “new challenge”. The company, which operates the Giraffe, Ed’s Easy Diner, Fishworks and Slim Chickens brands, has appointed Satnam Leihal as Crowley’s successor. Leihal, who has played a key role in the management team within the larger Boparan organisation, joined Boparan from Morrisons, where he held roles including regional operations manager. Before that he gained “management and operations experience” during a 25-year career in the food and retail industry. Crowley, who took over as BRG chief executive from Joe Teixeria at the end of 2016, was previously operations director at Giraffe, which he joined at the start of 2014 from Mitchells & Butlers where he was retail director for Premium Country Dining Group. He was appointed managing director of the then Tesco-owned Giraffe in 2015, which Boparan acquired in June 2016. On his appointment as BRG chief executive, Cowley oversaw seven brands operating across 100 sites. However, last year BRG confirmed 27 of its 70 Ed’s Easy Diner and Giraffe sites were to close as part of a company voluntary arrangement. In August 2019, Deep Blue Restaurants acquired fellow fish and chip brand Harry Ramsden from BRG debt-free, which consisted of 34 sites in the UK, Ireland and Malaysia. BRG still retains an interest in the enlarged business. Meanwhile, BRG operates 25 Giraffe restaurants (four overseas); 13 Ed’s Easy Diners; two Wondertree restaurants; six Slim Chickens; and three Fishworks. BRG chairman Laurie Mcilwee said: “The company is in good shape and set for 2020 so now is the right time for Tom to move on to his next challenge. Tom is leaving in place a fantastic team, which will continue to drive the business forward, and we wish him the very best in his next role.” It’s thought Crowley is set to remain in the hospitality sector. 

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Daniel Spinath to present, two free places for operators: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2020 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 5 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Daniel Spinath, founder of Crepeaffaire, will talk about the genesis, development and future potential of his brand, backing from the BGF, opening in airport locations and franchising the brand. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Peel Hunt – industry sub-sectors exploiting experiential leisure demand: Peel Hunt leisure analysts Douglas Jack and Ivor Jones have said industry sub-sectors are “exploiting the strong demand for experiential leisure”. They stated: “For consumers there are two clear trends – buying online and seeking leisure experiences and events out of home. The two main influences on licensed retail in 2020 are likely to be labour costs (due to its high exposure to April’s 6.2% increase in the National Living Wage (NLW); and increasing demand for events and experiences out of the home, with food and product purchasing increasingly undertaken at home. Their ability to satisfy demand for events and competitive socialising is allowing wet-led companies to benefit from growing demand and falling supply – partly due to freehold sites converting into higher-value alternative use – and have less exposure to high labour-cost inflation. Reflecting these trends, like-for-like sales have averaged 1.7% in wet-led pubs and minus 0.2% in restaurants during the past two years. We estimate restaurants need almost 2% like-for-like sales growth to cover the cost of wage inflation yet have in-store like-for-like volumes falling at an average of 6%, of which 3% to 4% is being transferred to home delivery, which doesn’t bring alcohol sales or cut store operating costs and involves large additional delivery costs. The pub sector’s outperformance over restaurants should accelerate in the summer when the 6.2% increase in the NLW kicks in, assisted by weather comparatives and a stronger summer sporting calendar – with Euro 2020, including seven matches in London. Bowling market demand has increased at a 5.5% volume-driven compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2018, even without much change in the number of bowling centres. In 2020, the bowling companies will face tougher weather-related comparatives. However, they are in the sweet spot to exploit growing demand for experiential leisure. Leisure activities are a matter of habit – and habits often change slowly. We believe cinemas represent a relatively cheap night out, which isn’t primarily about the media but where the venue itself represents part of the entertainment. The investment in premium auditoriums (IMAX, wraparound screen, 4DX) further differentiates the cinema experience from in-home entertainment. The food delivery market is growing rapidly, driven by aggregator deliverers such as Deliveroo and UberEats and providing a platform for restaurants to serve customers who prefer to stay at home. The traditional pizza delivery market has continued to grow steadily. We expect Domino’s fortunes in 2020E to depend on progress in finding new high-quality senior management (aided by the recruitment of Usman Nabi to the board); selling overseas operations; and improving the company’s relationship with franchisees.”

Data reveals significant spike in reviews mentioning ‘vegan’: The number of reviews mentioning the word “vegan” in the first three weeks of this year’s Veganuary increased 104% compared with the same period in 2019, according to the latest data from guest feedback service Feed It Back. The insights also revealed the average social review score mentioning the word “vegan” has fallen from 4.5 out of 5 to 4.3 in the past year, indicating consumer expectation of vegan dishes has risen. The main drivers behind positive reviews mentioning “vegan” during Veganuary 2020 were based around taste, with 16% of positive reviews referencing the word “delicious”, closely followed by variety with “choice” equating to 15% of all positive reviews and “price” (12%). The data revealed 11% of all negative vegan reviews mentioned the word “breakfast”, followed by “burgers” (7%) and “pizza” (2%). Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “Veganism was the stand-out trend of 2019, gathering significant momentum throughout the year and attracting the attention of new product development across the hospitality and retail industries. Consequently, the figures reveal there has been a spike in consumer expectations around what constitutes quality vegan dishes and, with more consumers opting to trial veganism during Veganuary, the trend shows no sign of slowing. While there has been an increase in the amount of choice available to people adopting a vegan diet there still remains work to be done on refining dishes at particular parts of the day, namely breakfast.”

Company News:

Urban Pubs and Bars founders back venture by former operations manager: Urban Pubs and Bars founders Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap have invested in a startup business with one of their former operations managers, Propel has learned. Lucas Owen joined their previous business, Realpubs, as an assistant manager and worked his way through the company, opening many of its sites. Owen has launched Alpaca Bars, which has acquired its debut site. The Alpaca will launch on the site of the former New Rose pub in Islington, north London. The Essex Road property will reopen in mid-March following a joint investment of more than £500,000 with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. Heap told Propel: “Lucas always showed he had the entrepreneurial skills to go out on his own and we are confident his drive and ambition will see Alpaca Bars grow from the one site to multiple sites in the coming years”. The pub’s revamp will include a new kitchen so Owen can introduce freshly prepared food to the venue alongside a range of drinks and a new first-floor function room. Owen said: “The area has lost a number of pubs in recent years and there were concerns the New Rose would become a chain bar or close altogether. My aim is to restore it as a great local. It’s a beautiful old pub but lost its way. I want to bring it back to life and into the 21st century as a modern pub that’s an asset to Islington. It will be independently operated so will maintain Essex Road’s reputation for having a great choice of independent businesses and shops.” Will Rice, Star Pubs & Bars operations director for London, added: “Lucas is a highly experienced licensee with an excellent track record for operating popular London pubs. We’re delighted to be able to support him in reviving the New Rose’s fortunes so it thrives as a fantastic local pub.” Pring and Heap launched Urban Pubs and Bars, which operates 20 sites, having sold Realpubs to brewer and retailer Greene King in 2011.

The Chesterford Group promotes Paul Goodgame to managing director: The Chesterford Group has promoted Paul Goodgame to managing director as it gears up for its next stage of growth, Propel has learned. Goodgame, who is currently operations director, will take up the role on 1 April, with current managing director James Lipscombe moving to chief executive. The reshuffle comes as the 40-strong chain, which operates Churchill’s, Fishnchickn, Bankers Fish & Chips and virtual brand Serial Griller, continues to see growth, with like-for-like sales understood to be up 9% year-on-year and a string of openings planned for the next 12 months. These include a Bankers Fish & Chips in Eastbourne and a Fishnchickn in Milton Keynes, while the company is believed to be in negotiations on another outlet in the Essex area. Lipscombe, who has been managing director for eight years, will focus on new business, sales and marketing, and creating more opportunities for the business. He said: “I am incredibly proud of Paul’s achievements and it proves if you have the talent, passion, ambition, work ethic and entrepreneurial ability, anything is possible in our business. To be able to promote somebody who started as a team member into the managing director position is something we are all very proud of and, once again, proves how passionate we are about developing the people within our business.” Goodgame added: “Having worked for the company for 26 years I couldn’t be more proud of becoming managing director. When I started my career with The Chesterford Group this is something I could have only dreamed of and to be given the opportunity by James and the board to continue to develop our fantastic business is something I relish. I’m excited to be entrusted with the development of the business as we enter our next phase of growth.”

Former Benito’s Hat chief to launch long-term Hackney residency for ‘wild pizza’ concept: Former Benito’s Hat chief executive Rich Baker is to launch a long-term residency at The Plough in Hackney, east London, this month for his “wild pizza” concept Flat Earth. The company, which Baker co-leads with Sarah Brading, operated a pop-up at The Hive in Cambridge Heath last year. It will now launch its residency at the pub in Homerton High Street on Friday, 31 January. Flat Earth creates “wild pizzas”, which combine “global influences, original recipes, local ingredients and conscious living”. Its pizzas feature dough made from a mix of E5 Bakehouse and Gilchesters organic flour, while its passata is made using tomatoes from social enterprise Dagenham Farm. Pizzas on the menu will include The Forager (pan-fried wild pepper and garlic nettle tops, elderberry balsamic-dressed leaves, Wildes 5 cheese and nettle pesto). The menu will also feature pizza crust dippers, vegan salted chocolate brownies and Hackney pastel de nata. The Plough recently reopened and focuses on charitable initiatives and events, Hot Dinners reports. 

Firebrand Pizza opens second London site, adds cafe concept next door: Firebrand Pizza has opened its second London site, in Clerkenwell, but with the addition of a new cafe concept next door. Firebrand, which focuses on wood-fired sourdough pizza, has opened in Rosebery Avenue offering Romana-style pizzas made with sourdough that has been proved for 72 hours. Meanwhile, coffee shop and deli Diggs has opened next door offering pastries and dishes such as eggs and steamed salmon for breakfast, while lunch focuses on salads to eat in or take away. Firebrand Pizza, which launched its debut site in Marylebone in August 2016, also offers pasta, salads, fish and steak. The concept is the brainchild of Guy Holmes, who is also behind marketing agency Captivate Hospitality, and Bibars Ozdamir, who owned the restaurant Ozz that was replaced by the debut Firebrand. The wood-fired oven heats to 400C and cooks pizzas in less than 90 seconds.

Ex-Bel & the Dragon chief operating officer launches hotel venture: Hector Ross, former chief operating officer of gastro-pub operator Bel & the Dragon, has launched a hotel venture. Ross has joined forces with Erica Sugai to form Signet Hotel Group, which has acquired its first site. The company has bought the freehold of the Mitre Hotel in Hampton Court, which has been under family ownership for almost 30 years. The hotel, which occupies a riverside location next to Hampton Court Palace, was jointly marketed by Fleurets and Christie & Co. Dating to at least 1666, the property was originally used as ancillary accommodation for the palace and was rebuilt in the mid-18th century. It currently offers 36 en-suite bedrooms plus a bar, restaurant and events facilities, all overlooking the Thames. Paul Hardwick, head of hotels at Fleurets, said: “With my colleague James Davies and joint agent Alex Campbell, of Christie & Co, we were able to use our combined experience in the market to source and approach an exclusive purchaser list. We are proud to be involved in the sale of such an iconic property and look forward to seeing it evolve after the investment Signet Hotel Group has planned.” Ross left Bel & the Dragon when it was acquired by premium pubs and hotels business Fuller’s for £18.5m in June 2018.  

Ei Group acquires Ilkeston pub from Punch for Craft Union portfolio: Ei Group has acquired The Kings Head in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, from Punch. The pub will be operated by Craft Union Pub Company, part of EI Group’s managed operations, and will undergo a “significant refurbishment” before reopening later in the year. The three-storey pub in Market Place offers open-plan trading with 60 covers, a DJ booth and a games area with pool table and dartboard. The venue also offers three-bedroom private accommodation on the first floor. Everard Cole acted for Ei Group on the deal. Everard Cole director Jon Heald said: “This deal is indicative of the pub sector at the moment, which is moving into an increasingly strong position. The market is improving, with beer volumes in growth and recent data from the Office for National Statistics showing the number of small pubs and bars rising for the first time in more than 15 years. Many pub companies and brewers are beginning to expand their portfolios, albeit at a measured pace, while looking to sell off the so called ‘tail end’ of their estates.”

Flat Iron drops wine element at City of London venture: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, is to drop the wine element of the City of London venture it launched in October. As reported by Propel last year, the Jo Fleet-led group secured the former Barullo site at Bevis Marks for its eighth restaurant. The site differed from other Flat Iron sites, however, following the brand’s partnership with Holborn wine cellar Winemakers Club. Flat Iron X The Winemakers Club featured long feasting tables and focused on bavette steak paired with a huge range of wine, including magnums. However, the venue will reopen as a regular Flat Iron on Thursday (23 January). Founder Charlie Carroll said at the time of the Flat Iron X The Winemakers Club launch: “This will be a fun opportunity for us to do something different as we uncork some magnums, grill one of our favourite cuts and get into the true spirit of simple hospitality.” John Baum, of Winemakers Club, added: “It is a great opportunity for people to share large-format wine over dinner at such affordability. It’s what many of us in the industry dream of.” Flat Iron, which has Tom Byng as a non-executive director, secured £5m of funding from UK-based SME lender ThinCats in January 2019 to fund expansion plans.

Shuker retires from KFC after 24 years: KFC western Europe managing director Martin Shuker has announced his decision to retire after 24 years with the company, including 13 overseeing its UK arm. Shuker, who joined KFC in 1995, will step down in mid-February with Oleg Pisklov, managing director for Russia, Commonwealth of Independent States and central and eastern Europe, assuming responsibility for the brand’s markets in western Europe. During his time leading KFC in the UK, Shuker oversaw the brand’s growth into a £1bn business as it achieved growth in 48 of 52 quarters. KFC was also ranked one of the top 25 great places to work in the UK under his stewardship, while KFC was the first to win the large company category of Britain’s Top Employer for three years in a row. Shuker moved to his current role in 2017, with then UK chief financial officer Paula MacKenzie taking over as general manager for the region. Shuker said: “Seeing the business grow and prosper is testament to the talent and amazing people at KFC. I’m excited to watch the next chapter in the history of a truly iconic brand.” KFC global chief executive Tony Lowings said: “Martin leaves an impressive legacy as a passionate and loyal KFC leader. He oversaw a brand transformation during his time leading our UK & Ireland and western Europe businesses as well as extensive sales growth. Martin will be dearly missed.” 

Whisky bar concept Black Rock to open third site, first wet-led offer at east London office campus: Whisky bar concept Black Rock, which operates sites in Shoreditch and Bristol, has signed as the first wet-led offer at Republic, a next-generation office campus in east London. Black Rock will open as part of the first phase of the 600,000 square foot development by Trilogy Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management. Black Rock has signed for 2,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of the Import Building. As well as a traditional bar, Black Rock will feature a central table cut from a single oak tree trunk. The table features carved ageing channels lined with different types of oak to impart flavours to the whiskies stored in them. Guests can view the whisky being aged through a glass table top and dispense it through taps. The table at Republic will be 30% larger than the one at Black Rock’s site in Shoreditch, which opened in 2016. Black Rock founder Thomas Aske said: “We are delighted to expand the Black Rock brand in such an amazing space.” Laurence Jones, head of asset management at Trilogy Real Estate, added: “Black Rock further fuels the night-time economy on-site, offering another choice for those who want to network, celebrate or wind down outside working hours.” Republic already houses a coffee shop from The Gentlemen Baristas. The Export Building, the second phase of the campus’ redevelopment, will provide another 120,000 square feet of workspace when it launches in the spring. CF Commercial acted as agent on behalf of Trilogy Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management. 

Eggleston secures former GBK site in Beverley for Tomahawk Steakhouse, three more in pipeline: North east-based multi-site operator Howard Eggleston is to open a site for his Tomahawk Steakhouse brand in Beverley, East Yorkshire – with a further three outlets in the pipeline. Eggleston has secured the former Gourmet Burger Kitchen unit at the Flemingate centre after agreeing a deal with owner Wykeland Group. The restaurant will open in March following an extensive refurbishment. Tomahawk Steakhouse operates six sites in North Yorkshire and the north east, with venues also planned in York, Harrogate and Wilmslow, Cheshire. Wykeland property director David Donkin said: “Tomahawk’s current and planned restaurants are all in thriving northern cities and towns so the decision to open in Beverley is yet another great vote of confidence in the town.” Eggleston owns and runs a number of other ventures across the north east, including The North Terrace in Newcastle and two Boat Club sites, in Newcastle and Durham. He used to run a pan-Asian concept in Yarm called the Lotus Lounge, which was converted into a Tomahawk Steakhouse.

Whitbread to launch Bar + Block in Portsmouth: Whitbread is to bring its Bar + Block steakhouse brand to Portsmouth next month. The 165-cover restaurant will open at a 560 square metre site in Queen Street on Thursday, 27 February. The opening will take the brand’s estate to 14 sites following launches last year in Belfast, Bristol, Newcastle, Sutton, Wimbledon and Winnersh in Berkshire. Founded in 2016, Bar + Block focuses on steak, rotating specials from the butcher’s block, grazing plates and handmade burgers alongside craft beer, wine and cocktails. The Portsmouth venue will feature a large bar with copper detailing and an open kitchen. Joanna Spencer, senior brand and marketing manager at Whitbread Restaurants, said: “Situated in a prime location close to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, we look forward to our first opening in 2020.”

Nottingham-based independent restaurant and takeaway lines up two openings: Nottingham-based independent restaurant and takeaway Rikshaw Urban Indian Kitchen is set to open two sites. A 100-cover venue will open at the former Peppers hairdressing salon in Trinity Square, adding to Rikshaw’s debut venue in the Sherwood area of the city. A third site is planned for later this year. Rikshaw Urban Indian Kitchen offers dishes inspired by tuk-tuk drivers in Delhi and Mumbai, including toasted Bombay sandwiches and home-style curry. Owner Shani Shafiq told The Business Desk: “We are delighted to have secured this beautiful property in the heart of Trinity Square. We’re now ready to bring our award-winning food to the city centre.” FHP Consulting acted on behalf of the landlord. Jack Shakespeare, of FHP, said: “Rikshaw Urban Indian Kitchen is serving some of the best Indian food around. It’s great to see it has continued to refine and develop its concept and expand into the city centre.”

Alcohol-free craft beer brewer Big Drop to launch £1m crowdfunding campaign: Alcohol-free craft beer brewer Big Drop is to launch a £1m crowdfunding campaign to support its expansion plans. Rob Fink and James Kindred, who founded the business in 2016, will launch the fund-raise on Seedrs next month. In 2019 the company sold more than one million bottles of beer as turnover edged towards the £1m mark. Big Drop has already invested in a decentralised production model in which it partners with breweries around the world to produce its beer. With the investment, Big Drop will not only look to expand into the US and Australian markets but also across the UK. Fink said: “We started this company because our lifestyles had changed. James and I had recently become fathers and the lower-alcohol beer we wanted wasn’t there. We knew a lot of people felt the same way. We realised we could create not only the beer we wanted but a community of like-minded people too. We can increase customer awareness, build our capacity and expand our catchment area, especially on draught. With investment from people who love our beer, we can take them around the world.”

JD Wetherspoon to mark Brexit by cutting drinks prices: JD Wetherspoon is set to mark Brexit by reducing the price of ten drinks from Friday, 31 January. The pub company’s “let’s stay friends” offer will give customers about 60p off drinks that originate in a range of European countries. The promotion will run until Saturday, 29 February at the company’s 870 UK pubs. The drinks will include Estrella Galicia (Spain), Beck’s (Germany), Peroni (Italy), Tyskie (Poland), Jameson Irish whiskey (Republic of Ireland) and Grey Goose vodka (France). Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “Many of our customers are keen to celebrate Brexit. At the same time we want to remain friends with our European neighbours and offer a range of drinks at an excellent price. The UK should aim to treat all countries of the world equally by eliminating current protectionist tariffs on nearly 13,000 non-EU imports. The EU and UK need to understand tariffs and protectionism are counter-productive. Let’s stay friends and enjoy free trade but take account of the economic reality. Consumers hold the whip hand in these negotiations, not governments.”

Bath Pub Company to close one of its city sites but plans new outlet: The Bath Pub Company is to shut one of its four gastro-pubs in the city – but is set to open another outlet in the spring. The Chequers in Rivers Street will close on Monday, 27 January after the company decided not to renew the lease. Managing director Joe Cussens said: “Following a review of the business we’ve concluded the size and location of The Chequers doesn’t fit with our plans for the growth of the company so, after ten great years, we’ve taken the decision to cease trading. The sadness of losing this much-loved site is offset by excitement at the prospect of opening a site in the spring. Plans for this are at an advanced stage and we hope to make a formal announcement in the near future.” The company said it expects to offer most, if not all, staff at The Chequers positions at its other pubs – the Marlborough Tavern, the Hare & Hounds and The Locksbrook Inn.

The Connaught relaunches legendary Grill: Five-star Mayfair hotel The Connaught has reopened its legendary restaurant, The Connaught Grill, with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten creating a modern take on its classic dishes. The Connaught Grill operated from 1955 until 2000, when diners began seeking lighter food. To satisfy demand the dining room was refitted and turned over to Angela Hartnett, who brought in fresh Italian cuisine and a Michelin star. The hotel’s website states: “The Connaught Grill, once one of London’s most celebrated restaurants, has returned, giving a respectful nod to its distinguished heritage. Located on the ground floor of the hotel, the intimate 44-seat Connaught Grill is under the direction of internationally renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. This is his modern interpretation of a classic grill with an open kitchen complete with wood-burning grill and rotisserie offering the finest British-sourced produce.” Vongerichten said: “I am honoured to play a part in bringing The Connaught Grill back to life.”

Punch launches Quality Drinks awards: Punch has launched its own drinks awards in partnership with Cask Marque. The Quality Drinks initiative will see Punch pubs marked on the quality of serve in all aspects of its drinks – from keg beer and cask ale to spirits and soft drinks – with pubs that receive the highest score gaining a Punch Quality Drinks award. Cask Marque will inspect pubs twice a year to look at the temperature and clarity of draught products, glassware, garnishes and how all drinks are served. Pubs that gain a four or five-star rating will receive a certificate and plaque. Punch marketing and strategy director Russell Danks said: “This initiative will help our publicans serve every drink just how it should be – in the right glasses, at the right temperature and with the right mixer and garnish. By doing this they get to tell the whole world they are good at what they do. Our aim is to get at least 250 of our pubs awarded in the next 12 months, with more coming on after the first phase.” Earlier this month Punch saw its 500th pub receive Cask Marque accreditation.

Tim Hortons plans Portadown drive-thru as it targets 25-strong estate in Northern Ireland: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons is eyeing its first outlet in County Armagh as part of its target to open 25 stores in Northern Ireland in the next two years. SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of the brand, wants to open a drive-thru in Portadown. The company, which has opened three outlets in the country since May 2018, has submitted plans for the new site on a car park near Meadows Retail Park, reports The Irish News. SK Group is already pressing ahead with plans for a drive-thru in Coleraine after securing planning permission in July, while the company has opened outlets in Belfast city centre and Connswater Retail Park in the city. A third outlet opened in Glengormley in November. SK Group launched the debut UK Tim Hortons in Argyle Street, Glasgow, in June 2017 and currently operates circa 25 sites in Britain. Professional ice hockey player Tim Horton founded the brand in 1964 to create a space where “everyone feels at home”. The brand currently has more than 4,700 restaurants globally.

Green & Fortune wins Central Hall Westminster contract: London-based independent hospitality company Green & Fortune has been awarded a £15m contract to exclusively operate all hospitality and retail catering services at Central Hall Westminster. The building is the largest conference venue in central London, with its Great Hall accommodating more than 2,000 guests. The five-year agreement begins on 1 March and includes catering for all corporate events in the venue’s 25 spaces, its concert programme, 150-seat cafe and a street cafe opposite Westminster Abbey. Green & Fortune also operates hospitality services at Kings Place in King’s Cross and Sea Containers on the South Bank. Chief executive John Nugent said: “We have been measured and selective with our growth plans and working partners since our launch in 2008. Alongside Central Hall Westminster we have ambitious plans to develop the product and the business over the coming years while retaining the solid ethos of both organisations.” Central Hall Westminster managing director Paul Southern added: “As a not-for-profit organisation that exists to maintain our historic building and support charitable causes, it was important we found a catering company that shared our values and used suppliers or services dedicated to reducing impact on the environment.” Green & Fortune said it expected its revenues to March 2020 to exceed £13m.

Plans unveiled for UK’s highest whisky distillery: The new owners of a derelict 206-year-old pub hope to reopen it as “Britain’s highest whisky distillery”. The Cat and Fiddle Inn, which opened in 1813 and is 1,689 feet (515 metres) above sea level in the Peak District, closed in 2015. Karl Bond and wife Lindsay own The Forest Distillery Chambers Farm in nearby Macclesfield Forest and originally bought the pub on the Derbyshire-Cheshire border to store whisky barrels. They now aim to reopen it in April. At 1,164 feet, Dalwhinnie in the Scottish Highlands claims to be the UK’s current highest distillery. Bond said: “We walked through the old bar and chatted about what a shame it was nobody would ever drink there again. It became apparent if we didn’t do it, nobody would. We are diversifying and will reopen as the Cat & Fiddle & Weasel, which will be Britain’s highest whisky distillery.” Bond said it would cost at least £250,000 to renovate the building to include a pub and deli. The couple launched an online appeal to help with the costs, which recently met its £50,000 target.

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