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Wed 22nd Jan 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate launches enhanced maternity and paternity pay package including ‘industry first’ paid leave for fertility treatment: Stonegate Pub Company has enhanced its maternity and paternity provisions. The company has increased maternity and adoption provisions to 12 weeks’ full pay followed by 27 weeks of statutory maternity pay. The enhanced paternity package includes two weeks’ full pay. Stonegate has also committed to a full-pay package for staff to have time off to undergo fertility treatment, which extends to all employees at head office and in its pub estate and is believed to be the first pay package of its kind in the industry. Propel understands some Stonegate staff have already taken up the offer. Salaried employees will also benefit from a phased return to work following maternity and adoption leave. Four weeks before returning to work full time, employees will receive full pay for working 50% of the week in the first two weeks followed by full pay for working 75% of the week in the second two weeks. Additionally for salaried employees, sickness absence will be paid as company sick pay in four weeks leading up to maternity leave rather than enforcing maternity leave at the time. The new package is being supported by additional training for area managers. Director of HR Tim Painter said: “Enhanced maternity, paternity and fertility leave is just one of a number of initiatives we have introduced that benefit existing employees and help us attract the right people, encouraging them to build rewarding, long-term careers with us – from bar to boardroom.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Ian Saunders 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. Ian Saunders, franchise industry veteran, will share his personal perspective gained from 30 years of franchising with TGI Friday’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut under the banner “should I take my UK business overseas and, if so, how?” Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Organised events tempting punters back to pubs: Organised events are helping to tempt punters back to pubs, according to the Pub Trends Report 2020. The poll of more than 1,500 pub customers, which will be made fully available to visitors attending Pub20, the only dedicated show for the UK Pub industry, found three-fifths (60%) of respondents visit a pub at least once a week, with 12% visiting more than four times a week. Pub entertainment was popular, with 90% of respondents approving of organised events. Seasonal events such as St Patrick’s Day were the most popular (20%), followed by charity and community events (17%) and craft events such as sewing and knitting (11%). Beer or ale was the beverage of choice for more than two-fifths (45%) of respondents to the report published in partnership with Arla Pro, up 20% from last year’s survey, while the spirit and mixer category fell from 53% last year to 26%. Wine was up at 17%, as was cider slightly to 5%. Craft cider (41%) beat mainstream cider (32%) in popularity, while fruit cider nose-dived to 14%. Last year all three were evenly matched. Prosecco (69%) proved three times as popular as Champagne (23%), while Cava fell from 20% to zero. On the food front, more than one-third (36%) of respondents wanted healthy dishes with fewer calories and additives, while almost one-quarter (24%) favoured options for those with allergens or food intolerances, followed by vegetarian dishes (21%) and vegan options (12%). This year’s report asked punters what they look for in a publican, with “friendly” (32%) topping the bill followed by good drinks knowledge (20%), a good listener (7%) and someone who can keep secrets (5%). Pub20 returns to London’s Olympia on Tuesday, 4 February and Wednesday, 5 February. The free event will feature talks, presentations and demonstrations across four stages.

Pub and restaurant development company ceases trading: Sanderson Contracts, which specialises in development, fit-out and refurbishments in the hospitality sector, has ceased trading with immediate effect. Following a review of the company’s financial position, a notice has been filed of the directors’ intention to appoint Kingsbridge Corporate Solutions as administrator. The decision is expected to lead to the loss of 34 jobs. The construction company established in 1999 operated from West Yorkshire but delivered projects throughout the UK and Ireland. It specialised in development, fit-out and refurbishment contracts in the pub and restaurant sector, becoming more recently involved in hotel development and new-build projects. Managing director Ian Sanderson, who founded the company, said: “Like many in the construction sector we have experienced very difficult trading conditions as projects have been cancelled or delayed in the current economic climate and issues on a number of large-scale developer-led projects have had a negative impact on the company. As soon as we became aware income wasn’t materialising as quickly as we anticipated, we sought to take prompt action to minimise losses to our supply chain and customers. The board remains committed to working with the administrator to maximise asset recoveries and is hopeful a return can be made to creditors.” Kingsbridge Corporate Solutions said as administrator it would welcome expressions of interest in the business. 

Operators urged to join World’s Biggest Pub Quiz: Pubs and bars are being urged to sign up for the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz 2020. The event, organised by PubAid, will run from 8 to 12 March, although pubs can hold it at any time this year. Pubs will be encouraged to raise money for PubAid’s new official charity partner, Action Against Hunger, which provides life-saving food and nutrition to thousands of children around the world. A number of operators elect to divide funds raised from the quiz between the official charity partner and local causes. All pubs taking part in the event will receive a free fund-raising pack containing question sheets, posters and social media assets. Last year’s quiz involved more than 1,500 pubs and raised more than £230,000 for Prostate Cancer UK. Since its launch in 2016, the quiz has raised £750,000 for hundreds of charities. For more information and to sign up, click here.

Company News:

Four Coal Grill & Bar restaurants sold in pre-pack after Charterhouse Leisure enters administration: Four restaurants operated by Coal Grill & Bar have been sold in a pre-pack deal after parent company Charterhouse Leisure went into administration. The company, which is backed by Sunshine Capital, has appointed Stephen Grant and Matthew Waghorn, of Wilkins Kennedy, to oversee the administration. As part of a company restructure, the Coal Grill & Bar restaurants in Swindon, Telford and Sheffield have closed while the Basingstoke, Gloucester Quays, Bristol and Exeter sites have been sold. Coal Grill & Bar managing director Andy Vine told Business Live: “The Coal Grill & Bar restaurant group went through a company restructure in order to protect as many jobs as possible by continuing to trade in a challenging economic climate. Unfortunately there were some Coal Grill & Bar restaurants where we were unable to secure the trading terms that would allow us to continue operating. The restaurants in Basingstoke, Gloucester Quays, Bristol and Exeter have been purchased and the teams in those restaurants have continued trading without interruption. We look forward to the next chapter for Coal. Our food philosophy has always been to enjoy fresh ingredients and big flavours – our menu evolution will develop seasonally with a focus on healthy eating and provenance.” Charterhouse Leisure also operates Severn Shed in Bristol, which has been sold as part of the company restructure and continues to trade as normal. Latest accounts at Companies House show Charterhouse Leisure made a pre-tax loss of £941,000 on turnover of £11.3m for the year ending 28 February 2018. Restaurant Ebitda was £1.3m, with group Ebitda of £668,000. Like-for-like sales in the year were up 1.2%.  

Brunning & Price acquires Cheshire village pub from Greene King: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand owned by The Restaurant Group, has acquired The Rake in the Cheshire village of Little Stanney. The grade II-listed pub operated under Greene King’s Hungry Horse brand but has been sold to Brunning & Price, with the Rake Lane site set to undergo a refurbishment. The plans, submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council, include the addition of seven bedrooms, an upstairs private dining room for 20 and an enhanced garden terrace. It will be the fourth of Brunning & Price’s circa 70 sites to offer accommodation and the company said it aims to open the site in September, creating about 40 jobs. The Rake was a country house in the 17th century before being turned into a pub and restaurant. A Greene King spokeswoman told Propel: “From time to time we have to make the difficult decision to sell a pub and, after much consideration, we decided to put The Rake on the market. We’re pleased to have been able to reach an agreement with Brunning & Price to purchase The Rake so the pub can reopen to the community in the near future.”

Chick-fil-A quietly closes Scottish restaurant: Chick-fil-A, the largest chicken and third-largest US fast food restaurant chain, has quietly shut its only Scottish outlet. Chick-Fil-A opened in the food court at Macdonald Aviemore Resort in October but the move attracted criticism amid a row over the brand’s donations to anti-LGBT groups. A petition to have the eatery removed from the hotel attracted more than 1,200 signatures. A brief statement posted on the resort’s website reads: “Our pop-up restaurant Chick-fil-A closed on Saturday, 18 January.” The move follows a similar backlash that led Chick-fil-A to announce in October its debut UK site, which opened at the Oracle shopping centre in Reading that same month, wouldn’t operate beyond its six-month pilot period. According to US news website Think Progress, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated millions of dollars to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Salvation Army in 2017. Chick-fil-A also closes its sites on Sundays because of founder Truett Cathy’s Christian faith. Cathy founded the business in 1946 and the company, which operates circa 2,400 sites across North America, reported $10.46bn in sales last year. In November, Chick-fil-A made changes to its charity policy. It announced a $9m commitment to charity organisations with a focus on education, homelessness and hunger. The company said at the time commitments to The Salvation Army and Fellowship Of Christian Athletes had been “fulfilled” and would not be renewed.

Greater Manchester-based Tre Ciccio goes into administration: Tre Ciccio, the southern Italy-inspired restaurant that operates three sites in Greater Manchester, has gone into administration. Patrick Lannagan and Conrad Pearson, of Mazars, have been appointed joint administrators for the company, which operates sites in Altrincham, Bramhall and Ramsbottom. The administrators are seeking a buyer for Tre Ciccio, which was founded by Francesco Scafuri, Alan Ritchie and James Gingell in 2016 and is Italian for “three chubby friends”. Having launched the concept in Moss Lane in Altrincham, the trio opened the second restaurant, in Bramhall, in November 2018 and a third in Ramsbottom in February 2019. Lannagan said: “Trading at the Altrincham and Ramsbottom restaurants will continue as normal while we assess the financial position of the businesses. The restaurant in Bramhall was closed shortly before the appointment of administrators, with a reopening planned for February 2020. Given the popularity of the restaurants, we are confident we can achieve a positive outcome for all the sites.” The administrators are looking for indicative offers by noon on Wednesday, 29 January. 

Former Anglo alumni to launch restaurant at Whitechapel gallery: Nick Gilkinson, who has worked front of house at Mark Jarvis’ Anglo in Farringdon, is to launch all-day restaurant Townsend at The Whitechapel Gallery in east London. The gallery’s restaurant space has been occupied in the past by renowned chefs Maria Elia and Angela Hartnett. Townsend will open on Wednesday, 5 February as a “modern British dining room” offering a menu created by former Petersham Nurseries head chef Joe Fox. Dishes on the seasonal menu will include curried veal sweetbread with cauliflower, and roast haunch of venison for two. The restaurant has been named after Charles Harrison Townsend, architect of the grade II-listed gallery in Whitechapel High Street. The main dining room will feature glass pendant lights with mirrors lining the walls, while the space will include a wood-panelled private dining room lined with rare art books and posters. Gilkinson is creating a wine list focusing on old-world vineyards. He said: “We are excited and honoured to open Townsend at Whitechapel Gallery and have created a restaurant we think matches its cultural context.”

JD Wetherspoon submits sixth set of plans for Felixstowe site: JD Wetherspoon has submitted a sixth set of plans for a site in the Suffolk town of Felixstowe (population: 24,470) – and is confident the design will finally be approved. The company said it had taken into account concerns of community leaders and East Suffolk Council in designing a two-storey pub for the former Central Surgery site. Its previous scheme envisaged a five-storey block of 24 apartments with a pub on the ground floor. However, the council was concerned at the height of the property, which was “overbearing”. Wetherspoon has returned with a new design that would see a pub set across two floors, a beer garden on the ground floor and a terrace on the first floor, reports the Ipswich Star. Wetherspoon has been trying to develop the site since 2014 and has already been granted permission for a pub despite opposition from nearby residents. Previous applications included one for a four-storey building with a pub and 50-bedroom hotel. Wetherspoon said it hoped to start the project, which would create 50 jobs, this year. The company is investing £200m in pubs and hotels across the country.

Goodbody – ‘solid’ trading update from SSP: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said SSP provided a “solid” first-quarter trading update. Reiterating his ‘Buy’ recommendation on the shares, Ruddy said: “Group like-for-likes increased 1.2%. The group noted like-for-like sales growth was in line with its expectations with external headwinds continuing to have an impact on passenger numbers. Like-for-likes continued to be ‘robust’ in the UK and North America but continental Europe was affected by strikes in France and the rest of world by disruption in Hong Kong. Importantly, the group continues to expect full-year like-for-like sales growth of almost 2% (Goodbody forecasts 1.9%). Net contract gains were impressive at 6.3%, helped by new gains in continental Europe, North America and the rest of the world. The pipeline is noted as being ‘encouraging’. Including the impact of Station Food in Germany, expectations for net gains have increased to about 5% from 4% to 5% previously. That acquisition will add 28 food and beverage units to SSP’s portfolio and be fully operational by 2021. It is expected to contribute circa £10m to revenue in FY20. Foreign exchange was a 1.4% drag and if current rates continue it would be a circa 2% drag for the full year, in line with our expectations. On outlook, the group remains confident of delivering another year of strong growth ‘in line with its expectations’. Overall, this is a solid update from SSP given a number of external issues having an impact on passenger numbers in various regions. We reiterate our ‘Buy’ recommendation. SSP trades on 21.5 times current year price-to-earnings ratio and 10.5 times EV/Ebitda. We continue to consider it as a top pick as it has an internationally diversified revenue base, which benefits from some structural tailwinds and management continues to deliver excellent new business wins.”

Oklava founders replace Kyseri in Fitzrovia with bakery and wine concept: Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie, founders of modern Turkish restaurant Oklava, have replaced their Fitzrovia restaurant Kyseri with a bakery and wine concept. Kiazim and Christie opened Kyseri in Grafton Way in May 2018, offering modern Turkish plates inspired by the Kayseri region. Oklava Bakery + Wine has been inspired by Kiazim’s passion for Turkish baking and Christie’s love of wine from the country. The venue also houses a retail and takeaway section selling hot and cold drinks, wine, bread, pastries, sandwiches and salads.

Harrods and Tiffany partner to bring Blue Box Cafe concept to London: Luxury jewellery brand Tiffany & Co is bringing its Tiffany Blue Box Cafe concept to Harrods in London. The concept debuted in New York two years ago. The Harrods venue is due to open next month creating the illusion of “dining inside one of Tiffany’s famed blue boxes”, Hot Dinners reports. New York’s flagship Tiffany Blue Box Cafe is currently undergoing an “exciting transformation”. Its website states: “Pencil in breakfast at Tiffany for 2021, when the reinvention of the store at 727 Fifth Avenue will be complete.” In October, Harrods opened its first standalone cafe outside London. H Cafe launched in Henley in Oxfordshire and replicates the current food-to-go and deli offering in Harrods’ food halls and restaurants alongside an afternoon tea menu. H Cafe also features a retail area offering a range of the Kensington department store’s food, drink and home accessories. 

New World Trading Company to open debut Welsh site next month: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company will open its debut Welsh site next month. The Botanist brand will come to Cardiff on Monday, 10 February to complete the new line-up of bars and restaurants in Church Street, reports Wales Online. The development is also home to Indian street food concept Mowgli, Vietnamese restaurant group Pho and Active Partners-backed Honest Burgers. New World Trading Company also operates The Florist, The Oast House, The Trading House and The Canal House brands. The company is scheduled to open further Botanist sites this year in Lincoln (April) and Preston (June). The group is understood to have three more sites lined up for the second half of 2020, including another site under The Florist banner.

Lancashire-based fusion restaurant opens second site, in Bolton: Lancashire-based fusion restaurant The Fig & The Olive has doubled up by opening in Bolton. Owner Ismail Patel has launched the site in Derby Street, adding to his debut outlet in Blackburn. Items on the menu include burgers, pizza, platters, and hot and cold sandwiches. The new restaurant is housed in a former bank, with some features retained. Specialist workers had to carve a hole for a service hatch through the dense metal vault that now houses the kitchen, reports The Bolton News.

Buzzworks bids to transform Linlithgow pub: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings has lodged plans to refurbish and extend the Bridge Inn in Linlithgow. The company, which acquired the property in September 2018, has submitted an application to West Lothian Council to modernise a building that had been “damaged and neglected” over the years. Buzzworks said changes had left the first floor unusable and the building prone to flooding, reports The Scotsman. Buzzworks plans to create a restaurant that would “cater for the modern market and provide better facilities for disabled people”. The extension has been designed to be a “modern addition to the traditional coaching inn”. The plans include adding a mezzanine that could be used as a private dining area. The Bridge Inn, which was vacant at the point of sale, is a coaching inn dating to 1660. Buzzworks Holdings operates 13 venues in Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and West Lothian.

St Austell Brewery appoints quality manager: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has appointed Paola Leather as quality manager. Leather, who returns to the quality team she worked with between 2005 and 2011, is one of the UK’s most experienced female brewers and rejoins St Austell Brewery from SA Brain. Leather is also director of rum business Rathlee, with its rum distilled in Latin America and blended with Cornish water. She said: “I look forward to getting stuck in and working on perfecting the quality of some of my favourite Cornish beers and some exciting new brews.” Brewing director Roger Ryman added: “I am delighted to welcome Paola back to Cornwall. We feel lucky to have her back in our team again.” St Austell Brewery also operates 180 pubs and hotels across Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and the Isles of Scilly.

Zonal adds Yumpingo to partnership programme: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has added restaurant intelligence platform Yumpingo to its partnership programme. The partnership will refine the guest review experience by showing only the dishes ordered within the Yumpingo device, giving Zonal customers a real-time pool of data. Yumpingo chief executive and founder Gary Goodman said: “Zonal and Yumpingo share a common vision to connect the guest journey from first visit to loyal repeat customer. Yumpingo is now able to provide all Zonal customers with a new lens to enable their teams to use instant guest feedback.” Zonal chief executive Stuart McLean said: “We understand the importance of giving our customers access to our strategic technology partners. We are delighted to welcome Yumpingo to our partnership programme.”

Searcys secures catering at The Royal Institution: Searcys has been appointed caterer at The Royal Institution, the grade I-listed events venue in Mayfair. Searcys now runs the events catering and on-site cafe menus at the venue in Albemarle Street. The conference and events menus will focus on nutrition and well-being, while the cafe will offer a regularly changing menu of sandwiches, freshly baked pastries and Ottolenghi-style salads. In its history, The Royal Institution has been home to eminent scientists such as Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday and Kathleen Lonsdale, while famous speakers include HG Wells and Sir David Attenborough. The Royal Institution is now a registered charity and offers spaces such as an atrium, museum, library, writing room and 400-seater theatre. The Royal Institute chief operating officer Michael de Crespigny said: “With our new cafe, what better way to discover science and discuss it with friends over a coffee and a bite to eat.” Last week, Searcys was awarded the top three-star rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Searcys operates more than 30 venues in the UK. 

Capsule hotel concept to launch in Sussex seaside resort with plans for 20 sites in next five years: Capsule hotel concept Pod Central is set to launch at Sussex seaside resort St Leonards in May, while the company plans to open a further 20 sites in key cities in the next five years. Inspired by similar sites in Japan, the hotel in Silchester Road will offer budget accommodation, with rooms from £30 a night. As well as bedding, each pod will feature a reading light, plug and USB ports, and free Wi-Fi, towels and earplugs. The 16 pods will be stacked in pairs, while shared facilities will include showers and hairdryers. Pod Central will be an energy-saving development as all pods will be low energy, while the hotel will include under-floor heating, LED and motion-sensor lighting, eco-friendly toiletries and recyclable bins. Pod Central managing director Bryan O’Lynn said: “This is something new for the area, offering budget accommodation for anyone looking for ‘no frills’ accommodation.” O’Lynn said he planned to open 20 more hotels in the next five years in key cities such as Liverpool, Bristol, Plymouth and Manchester, all located near railway stations.

Incipio develops beer offer with new partnerships: Incipio Group, which is backed by Edition Capital, has developed its beer offer with a series of new partnerships. Incipio has become one of the first food and beverage groups to serve fresh Camden Hells Lager tank beer. The two-year deal is part of a new line-up of beer at Incipio, which will also be one of the first in the UK to offer Corona on tap following a new partnership with Budweiser Brewing Group. Incipio has announced further partnerships including one with Molson Coors, which is set to be Incipio’s secondary partner across the estate, and another with Wolfpack, a craft brewery based in north west London that was set up by two former international rugby players. Last year Incipio received £5m from Edition Capital to open six venues in 18 months. Incipio’s estate consists of London venues Lost, Pergola On The Roof, Pergola Olympia, Pergola Paddington, The Prince, Feast and W12 Studios. In the next 18 months the group will launch sites in Putney, Wimbledon and Birmingham, the latter being its first outside London. The company recently launched Wildcard Kitchen – its first in-house restaurant at The Prince.

PureGym takes space at Crayford retail park: PureGym, the UK’s largest gym operator, has agreed a new 20-year lease for a 10,800 square foot unit at Tower Retail Park in Crayford, south east London. The gym will take over space formerly filled by Topps Tiles and Maplin stores. Nuveen Real Estate, represented jointly by Savills and Morgan Williams, has leased the space to PureGym. Andy Hall, retail director at Savills, said: “We are delighted to have secured PureGym at Tower Retail Park, which further enhances and differentiates the scheme’s offering with the arrival of a stand-out leisure operator.” Tower Retail Park is on the edge of Crayford town centre and offers 160,000 square feet of retail and leisure space. Last week PureGym completed its acquisition of Fitness World. The deal creates the second-largest gym and fitness operator in Europe, with 1.7 million members at 500 facilities in the UK, Denmark, Switzerland and Poland. PureGym operates more than 260 sites in the UK.

Brothers Drinks Co gets Vegan Society stamp of approval: Cider maker Brothers Drinks Co has been awarded official accreditation by The Vegan Society. The trademark is used on labels worldwide as the authentic standard for products free from animal ingredients and testing. The roll-out of the sunflower trademark symbol on all Brothers and Mallets Cider packaging, marketing and promotional material will take place during the next six months. Nicola Randall, senior marketing manager at Brothers Drinks Co, said: “Brothers Drinks Co is proud to be associated with The Vegan Society and its long-term goal of encouraging more people to give veganism a try.” The Brothers brand is the UK’s fastest-growing premium fruit cider in both the on and off-trade, boosted by new flavour launches in 2019.

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