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Thu 13th Feb 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pubs, bars and restaurants get 2020 ‘off to a decent start’ with January like-for-likes up 1.9%: Britain’s managed pub, bar and restaurant sector is “off to a decent start” in 2020 with collective like-for-like sales in January up 1.9% year-on-year, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Regionally, London had a tougher time but still saw like-for-likes ahead 0.7%, compared with 2.3% outside the M25. Restaurant groups saw the biggest increase in January, with like-for-likes up 2.5% driven almost entirely by strong sales outside London. Managed pubs saw like-for-like sales grow 1.7% during the month, while bar operators were up 0.9%. January’s positive results followed strong trading during the festive period, which saw collective like-for-likes up 2.5% against the previous year. Total sales for the month, which include the effect of new openings since this time last year, were ahead 4.7% compared with the same period in 2019. “Reasonably good weather, in particular the lack of snow, will have helped sales but nonetheless it’s encouraging to see the public continuing to go out to eat and drink,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “Underlying annual like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which represents both large and small groups, was running at 1.6% at the end of January.” Trevor Watson, executive director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “To put these figures in context, last January the market saw a 1.8% drop in like-for-likes against 2018 so essentially we’re back to where we were two years ago – but it does show an underlying stability in the market despite the political climate and what has been going on in the wider economy. The eating and drinking out market is showing resilience and people’s appetite for going out remains intact. There’s a universal feeling of improved investor confidence but this has yet to translate into deal flow. This stabilised consumer confidence combined with a stronger investor mentality is likely to result in steady improvement as the year progresses. We are off to a decent start.”

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at what 2020 holds for competitive socialising, food halls and late-night sector in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will take a look at what 2020 holds for competitive socialising, food halls and the late-night sector in his latest Propel Premium column, which will be sent to subscribers at 5pm on Friday (14 February). Meanwhile, Premium Diary will look at the latest sector whispers. 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 Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses. Propel has launched its new-look Premium Club, where readers can save money by receiving a pair of free tickets to one of four conferences in 2020. Subscribers will be able to choose to use a pair of free tickets to one of the following conferences – The Delivery Conference (Tuesday, 21 April), The Finance and Investment Conference (Thursday, 14 May), The Casual Dining Summit (Monday, 12 October) or The New Concept Conference (Monday, 19 October). The normal cost of two tickets to these events is £490 plus VAT for operators and £690 plus VAT for suppliers. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Social Strategy In A Day opens for bookings: Social Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has launched and is open for bookings. The event features fresh content and insights for 2020, allowing companies to increase brand exposure, broaden their reach and ensure their digital marketing really delivers. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop, which will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event takes place on Friday, 3 April at One Moorgate Place in London. Sessions will include how to keep your knowledge up to date when marketing and technology change so rapidly, driving business via social media, and being super productive while looking after your mental health. Emma Dickinson, of London pub retailers Young’s, will also talk about what has and hasn’t worked for the company when it comes to social media marketing. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators who are non-members and £395 plus VAT for suppliers who are non-members. Places can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Independent restaurants driving Glasgow’s F&B market: Independent restaurateurs are driving the food and beverage market in Glasgow, according to new research by Savills. A total of 11 such eateries opened for business in 2019, accounting for 70% of new occupiers and continuing the trend from 2018, which was 63%. While overall volume of space leased is down 15% from last year, at 65,000 square feet, the proportion leased to local independent operators increased almost 10% during the period, from 36,000 square feet to about 40,000. Savills said rental values had remained static in 2019, with prime rents reflecting between £35 and £40 per square foot. John Menzies, director of Savills’ retail team in Glasgow, said: “Independents have been more cautious about how quickly they grow compared with some of the larger chains. Many independents have been priced out of premium rental locations and opted for quirky locations instead that are lower in rent but still close enough to the centre to attract customers. As a result, many of these businesses have demonstrated turnover growth that has, in turn, encouraged more independent businesses to open.” Demand from national operators was also evident in 2019, with The Ivy Collection, Nando’s and German Doner Kebab among those to open sites. Menzies added: “We expect to see another busy year for the casual dining sector leasing market in 2020 but the focus of demand continues to evolve in terms of property type, size and location. A number of interesting national brands are expected to open in 2020, including Franco Manca, Mowgli, Pho and Wolf. With margins tightening in the face of rising operating costs, savvy occupiers are looking for smaller units of 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, often in quirky locations and buildings with architectural character.”

Industry and job centres unite to promote hospitality careers: Employers, job centres and trade bodies have joined forces to launch a three-week hospitality recruitment drive. The annual Hospitality Works campaign will see the Department for Work & Pensions, Springboard Charity, UKHospitality and British Beer & Pub Association urge businesses to showcase the range of career opportunities available. The campaign is the first to launch following last year’s announcement of a tourism sector deal to boost recruitment through enhanced apprenticeship schemes and additional funding for staff training. Events will be held around the country, while sector employers will visit schools and welcome jobseekers into their outlets. Operators supporting the campaign include Caffe Nero, Greene King, Marston’s, McDonald’s and YO! More than 8,000 work placements have been created since Hospitality Works launched in 2015. The campaign is promoted under the hashtag #JobsWithASmile.

London hotel market reports record revpar for January, coronavirus yet to affect performance: The London hotel market has reported record revpar levels for January but steady supply growth has affected occupancy rates, according to the latest data from STR. It said coronavirus was yet to have a “noticeable impact” on performance. Revpar rose 0.6% to £95.10 compared with the previous year, while average daily rate was up 1.5% to £133.31. Demand rose 1.4% year-on-year, while supply was up 2.3%. This affected occupancy, which was down 0.9% to 71.3%. Occupancy was down 1.0% year-on-year to 81.2%. STR analysts said strong performance during the first and last week of the month helped maintain overall positive levels. They added: “Like most major markets in Europe, London has yet to see a noticeable impact on performance relative to the outbreak of novel coronavirus. However, an impact was visible in the final days of the month in the Heathrow airport sub-market.”   

Greene King becomes first PubAid patron: Brewer and retailer Greene King has become the first patron of PubAid, the organisation created to celebrate the great work UK pubs do to raise more than £100m for charity every year. PubAid receives funding from a number of supporters, with Greene King becoming the first to commit to the highest level of £5,000 a year for three years. PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan said: “We are delighted Greene King has stepped up to be a patron and are grateful to all the pub companies, brewers and others who have supported PubAid over the years. To enable us to plan for the longer term, we are seeking support guaranteed for three years, with a choice of funding levels. This will allow us to be more ambitious with our plans to raise the profile of pubs as a force for good.” Greene King communications director Greg Sage added: “We have supported PubAid for a number of years and we’re happy to formalise that support with a three-year commitment.” Other PubAid supporters include the British Beer & Pub Association, C&C, Ei Group, Everards, Heineken, Magners, Shepherd Neame, Star Pubs & Bars, Stonegate and Zonal.

Company News:

JKS Restaurants renews £5.2m revolving credit facility and unveils site pipeline, receives £2.6m insurance payout for Gymkhana fire: JKS Restaurants, led by Jyotin, Karam and Sunaina Sethi, has revealed it renewed its £5.2m revolving credit facility towards the end of 2019 while it has a pipeline of sites in place for the next two years. The company also revealed the fire at Gymkhana restaurant in Mayfair in June resulted in estimated damage of £1.5m, while the loss resulting from the disruption to business was £2.4m. It has since received £2.6m of insurance proceeds with the restaurant in Albemarle Street set to reopen on Tuesday (18 February) following a major refurbishment. The company provided the update in accounts for the year ending 30 December 2018, which showed turnover of £20.9m compared with £10.9m the previous year, which was a shortened seven-month period. Propel understands turnover for 2019 will increase to circa £25m. Adjusted Ebitda increased to £800,000 from £416,500 the year before, with significant growth expected for 2019. The figures exclude the results of Taiwanese concept Bao, which JKS Restaurants backs. In 2018 the company opened three restaurants and continued to invest in its head office infrastructure to support expansion. It opened a further two sites in 2019. Propel understands it has four openings lined up for 2020 and is considering several opportunities for 2021. On 10 October 2019, the company renewed its £5.2m revolving credit facility, which matures on 28 February 2022. Earlier this week JKS Restaurants opened its third Hoppers site, in King’s Cross. The restaurant has launched in Pancras Square offering new bar bites, seafood grills, beachside snacks and exclusive dishes. The centrepiece is an island bar that is much larger than at Hoppers’ sister sites in St Christopher’s Place and Soho. JKS Restaurants also owns Michelin-starred Trishna in Marylebone, Indian restaurant and bar Brigadiers in the City, and backs Michelin-starred Kitchen Table, Lyles and Sabor. Its portfolio also includes delivery brand Motu and Iranian-influenced restaurant Berenjak.

The Country Pub Group eyes fund-raise as it aims to double estate: Somerset-based The Country Pub Group is set to raise funds as it looks to double its estate during the next 18 months, Propel has learned. The Country Pub Group founder Matthew Lowe was accepted on the Virgin Startup Crowdboost programme this week, an accelerator for entrepreneurs who want to raise funds through an equity crowdfunding campaign. Lowe plans to embark on a fund-raise to expand the four-strong group and refurbish two of its pubs. He told Propel: “We are targeting March or April for a crowdfunding campaign. Ideally, I’d like four more sites in the next 18 months. Our strategy for the time being is taking leasehold properties and putting our stamp on them while keeping the country pub ethos and maintaining the building’s character. That’s what we’ve done so far and it seems to be working. We might look to acquire freeholds in the future but all the purchases so far have been self-funded. We’re looking to grow in the Somerset and Wiltshire area. I think there’s plenty of opportunity for us there although I’d like to go closer to the sea, so maybe Devon eventually. Our acquisitions remain opportunistic – good pubs with rooms don’t come around all the time and we’re prepared to wait to make sure we get the right ones.” As well as new sites, Lowe wants to refurbish downstairs at The Mendip Inn in Oakhill, near Shepton Mallet, and the four bedrooms at The Castle Inn in Bradford-upon-Avon. The company also operates The Temple Inn in Temple Cloud and The Battleaxes in Wraxall.

Sainsbury’s enters high-street cafe market with on-the-go trial: Sainsbury’s has entered the high-street cafe market by launching the first of ten on-the-go venues. The trial site has opened at Mansion House in London with nine to follow in Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London in the coming months. The company said 130 Sainsbury’s Local stores in busy urban areas could also be converted. Perch tables have been placed at the front of the Mansion House store, which features an in-store pizza oven, bakery and Sushi Gourmet concession alongside hot porridge and self-service coffee and orange juice machines. Products, housed in a “grab and go” station at the front of the store, will be changed three times a day to suit breakfast, lunch or tea. Sainsbury’s director of commercial operations Graham Biggart said: “Convenience is a growing part of our business and we have greater capability than ever to tailor Local stores to local needs across our products, formats, services and operations. Our new On The Go Mansion House Local is a great example, bringing a new kind of convenience to busy workers with limited time and delivering the curated range and fast experience that will enable them to get exactly what they want at pace.”

Camden Town Brewery to launch debut restaurant as part of food and drink destination: Camden Town Brewery is to transform its original north London home into a food and drink destination, Propel has learned. Set to open this summer, the development – where Camden Town started brewing in 2010 – will feature a 50-seater restaurant, extended taproom, outdoor drinking and dining space, a merchandise shop and new immersive brewery tour. To allow for the changes, the brewery bar in Wilkins Street Mews has closed. A temporary pop-up bar will open in the mews on Sunday, 1 March when brewery tours will also be available. The new arches will house Camden Town Brewery’s first full on-site kitchen and offer a seasonal menu under the auspices of a chef partner, who will be revealed shortly. Founder Jasper Cuppaidge said: “We will continue to bring the freshest beer experience and with the extensive changes we’ll have the capacity and resources to not only offer but host one of the best beer-drinking experiences. The development will see the space become a community hub for beer, food, entertainment and education.” Camden Town opened a second brewery, in Enfield, in July 2017 that was the largest brewery built in London for more than 30 years.

Coaching Inn Group acquires Bakewell hotel for 17th site: Coaching inn and hotel operator The Coaching Inn Group has acquired the Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell, Derbyshire, taking the estate to 17 properties. The acquisition is the second to complete following the company’s £22m refinance with NatWest announced in December. The 33-bedroom Rutland Arms Hotel is in the heart of the Peak District National Park, which generates more than 13 million visitors a year. The Coaching Inn Group chief executive Kevin Charity said: “The Rutland Arms is a fantastic addition to our business and we’re excited about returning it to its former glory. Its location in the centre of one of the UK’s busiest tourist towns provides us with excellent opportunities to develop our premium offering through the rooms, dining and coffee shop areas of the business. A refurbishment of the hotel will start this month as part of an initial £750,000 investment. The Rutland brings the Coaching Inn Group’s estate to 486 bedrooms as we look to build a 20 site-estate.”

Titanic in talks to open fifth site for cafe bar brand Bod: Titanic Brewery is in talks to acquire a fifth site for its cafe bar concept Bod as part of a five-year plan to roll out the brand, Propel has learned. Titanic launched Bod in 2018 in response to a lack of good sites to grow its estate of nine traditional pubs in and around Staffordshire. Bod is a mix of daytime coffee shop and evening cafe bar. Titanic managing director Keith Bott said having two strands was working well for the business, allowing an opportunity to promote Titanic pubs and beer to Bod customers and vice-versa. He told Propel: “We are still keen to grow our pub estate but only with the right sites – and we’ve found one in the past three years. While we’ll continue to invest in our traditional pubs our focus for expansion is currently on Bod, which appeals to the 30% of the population who never go in a pub but are happy to go into a cafe-style operation and have a coffee, glass of wine or beer.” Bott hoped to have 20 Bod sites open by the end of 2020 but said finding the right sites had thwarted that plan. However, he will roll out the brand to the “right sites” as and when they are found. The latest Bod opened in Newport, Shropshire, in September. The other sites are in Stafford, Stoke and Trentham. Keith and Dave Bott founded Titanic Brewery in 1985. It has grown to produce more than four million pints of beer a year. 

Jamie Oliver to launch second Dublin site: Jamie Oliver’s international restaurant business and franchise partner Gerry Fitzpatrick are set to open a second venue in Dublin. The 100-seater Chequer Lane by Jamie Oliver will launch in Exchequer Street in April celebrating Irish produce including rock oysters from Carlingford Bay, beef cooked using a robata grill, monkfish scampi, and seasonal dishes that will change frequently throughout the year. Weekend menus will feature brunch dishes and Oliver’s Sunday roast, while drinks will include cocktails, wine, locally brewed beer and cider. Oliver said: “Chequer Lane will celebrate some of my favourite comfort foods and the menu will be packed with big, hearty flavours and simple, seasonal ingredients – the food I love to cook and diners love to eat. Ireland has some of the greatest produce in the world and we can’t wait to show it off.” Fitzpatrick added: “Chequer Lane will be a fantastic addition to Dublin’s bustling restaurant scene.” The Jamie Oliver Group operates 74 restaurants outside the UK in 27 markets, collaborating with 21 franchise partners. Oliver’s other Dublin site is a Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum. Last month an update from administrator KPMG revealed the sale of some of the ex-Jamie Oliver restaurant sites in the UK, which were placed into administration last year, had generated a combined return of circa £2m. KPMG closed 22 of the chef’s 25 UK restaurants last year after failing to secure investment to keep them trading.

Café Rouge credits brand partnerships with boosting late afternoon footfall: Café Rouge has said partnering with other brands on its afternoon tea offering is helping to drive growth in what is traditionally a challenging daypart for the sector. The Casual Dining Group brand partnered with publisher Penguin Ventures over Christmas for The Snowman afternoon tea, inspired by Raymond Briggs’ classic book, following that with a vegan afternoon tea in partnership with Veganuary. Last month Café Rouge launched the world’s first cheese hotel – The Cheese Suite – in partnership with boutique apartment platform Cuckooz to raise awareness of its cheese afternoon tea. Café Rouge head of marketing Jacqueline Fletcher said: “Partnering with like-minded businesses that share our values and place their trust in us to deliver a stand-out experience that represents their brand cultivates a symbiotic relationship that benefits all. We’re determined to continue evolving our offer and identifying new partnerships that complement our offer.”

KFC drive-thru investment in north London sells for record-breaking yield: Leisure and retail investor EPF Group has sold a KFC drive-thru in north west London for what is thought to be a record sale price, representing a 3.35% net initial yield. The £3.95m transaction for the site in Colindale is believed to be the lowest yield achieved for a drive-thru investment. The Edgware Road site comprises a purpose-built, KFC-branded drive-thru let to one of the largest KFC franchisees for a further 11 years, while Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) also guarantees the lease. The passing rent is £141,000 per annum. The purchaser is an undisclosed high-net-worth family based in the UK. Coffer Corporate Leisure represented EPF. Lawrence Telford, director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “This high-quality asset attracted interest from institutional and private investors alike, reflecting the record-breaking yield for such an asset. Demand for drive-thru investments has increased substantially in recent years, with investors attracted to the strong and stable trading performance of drive-thru assets generally and the prospect for strong rental growth.”

Birmingham-based operators get go-ahead to resurrect Carling Academy as major events space: Birmingham-based multi-site operators Hitesh and Manoj Chauhan have had their plans to resurrect the city’s Carling Academy as a major live venue approved. The venue in Dale End has been closed for seven years. The brothers, who operate city centre venues The Q Club in Corporation Street, Monastery in High Street and The Lock in Gas Street, will reopen the site as Birmingham Forum hosting events such as concerts, pantomimes, and comedy and club nights. Birmingham City Council’s licensing sub-committee approved an application for the venue to open from 10am to 6am, Monday to Saturday, and midday to 3am on Sundays. Licensing conditions include submitting planned events 28 days in advance, while police will have the power to veto shows held by external promoters. Barrister Sarah Clover, who represented the applicants, told Birmingham Live: “This is a visionary and positive application for a major premises. It is a significant venue in Birmingham’s economy. Spaces like these draw in major audiences and this is an important boost to Birmingham.” The venue has also been called The Hummingbird and O2 Academy in the past. It was called The Birmingham Ballroom when it closed in January 2013.

Bowls concept Mambow launches in Shoreditch: Bowls concept Mambow has launched in Shoreditch, east London. Chef Abby Lee has opened her venue in Commercial Street serving signature bowls and weekend brunch to eat in or take away. Lee gained her diploma at Le Cordon Bleu, honing her skills in her family’s bakeries in Singapore and Malaysia before moving to Italy to cook at Michelin-starred Pashà Ristorante, near Bari. Featuring abstract prints, burgundy leather stools and handmade cushions, the venue opens early offering seasonal frittatas, breakfast bowls, pastries and buns. Lunchtime bowls include a build-your-own option with diners picking a base and protein topping. In the colder months, Mambow offers a daily soup made with yesterday’s vegetables, while leftover fruit and vegetables are used to produce winter loaf cakes. Drinks include kombucha on tap and cans of craft beer, while Lee brews her own iced rooibos tea with lemon peel and agave. Mambow also hosts evening supper clubs serving Lee’s family-style dishes. She said: “I wanted to open somewhere welcoming and homely.”

Whitbread passes 1,000-bedroom milestone in Ireland with sixth acquisition, appoints development manager: Whitbread has exceeded the 1,000-bedroom mark in Ireland and appointed a dedicated development manager. The landmark was reached after Whitbread announced its sixth site in the country – a 151-bedroom hotel in Newmarket Square, Dublin, in partnership with Bain Capital Credit. Whitbread has appointed Matt Gent as development manager for Ireland to drive the business’ growth across the country. He will take up his role this month following five years as a project and programme manager with Whitbread in the UK and previous roles at JLL and Gardiner & Theobald. Kevin Murray, head of acquisitions for Premier Inn in Ireland, said: “Securing the Newmarket site and reaching more than 1,000 bedrooms in the pipeline is a significant landmark as we aim to be the number-one budget hotel chain in Ireland.” Gent added: “Dublin remains an important market as we look to secure 2,500 rooms across the city. We’re also looking beyond the capital and have live requirements in other popular destinations such as Cork, Galway, Limerick and Killarney.” 

Tenpin bowling and social club concept to launch at former Liverpool multi-storey car park: A 600-capacity experiential concept that combines tenpin bowling with elements of a social club is to launch in Liverpool this month. Pins Social Club will open in Duke Street featuring 12 bowling lanes split across two floors, a casual dining area, a karaoke booth, shuffleboard, pool, table tennis, beer pong and live music four nights a week. A rooftop bar will open in the spring. Creating more than 60 jobs, the former indoor multi-story car park has been turned into a 16,000 square foot venue set in the “golden era of bowling and social clubs of the 1960s and 1970s”. The drinks menu includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic “concretes” (milkshakes), soda, cocktails and craft beer, while the food will be supplied via a partnership with Liverpool-based Red & Blue Restaurants. Daniel Gillbanks and David Scowcroft, directors of D2, which is behind Pins Social Club, said: “The nightlife scene is changing. People don’t want to go out and just have a drink, they want to be entertained and do something fun. Pins Social Club will be the perfect place for date nights, groups of friends and students, plus we’ll have family sessions available in the daytime. We’re confident Pins is going to become one of Liverpool’s top leisure destinations.”

Plans for £120m redevelopment of Nottingham Guildhall into hotel and rooftop restaurant take step forward: Plans for the £120m redevelopment of the Guildhall in Nottingham city centre into a hotel and rooftop restaurant have taken a step forward. Ascena Developments, which is behind the proposals, has submitted a scoping request for a 161-bedroom hotel to the city council. The applicant is seeking to demolish parts of the building to construct a hotel set over 13 storeys. The hotel would also include a restaurant, conference facilities, a bar and spa. Should the council approve a formal planning application, demolition is likely to start in May with construction beginning in September, reports Insider Media. The work would take two years to complete. Ascena owns and operates a number of luxury hotels and restaurants in Birmingham and the south west. Aktar Islam, who runs Michelin-starred restaurant Opheem in Birmingham, is set to run the rooftop restaurant at the new hotel.

Fallow confirms 10 Heddon Street residency: Chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray, who met while working at Heston Blumenthal’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Dinner, have confirmed they will take their Fallow concept to 10 Heddon Street as the Mayfair venue’s next residency. Propel revealed last month Fallow, which is backed and chaired by investor and entrepreneur James Robson, who founded Mews of Mayfair, would follow Chris Leach and David Carter, the team behind Manteca, and Pacific by Shaun Presland in taking up a residency at 10 Heddon Street. Fallow, which is based on “creative cooking and sustainable thinking”, will occupy the site for four months from Tuesday, 10 March. The 40-cover site will showcase the pair’s small plates with a weekly changing menu, while the drinks list will focus on biodynamic and sustainable wine producers alongside cocktails and beer. Fallow is being brought to 10 Heddon Street by Residency, the partnership launched last month by consultants Distrkt and Montana Fogg. Residency, which pairs vacant restaurants with emerging chefs, restaurateurs and concepts, acted for The Crown Estate when placing the previous two chef-led residencies at 10 Heddon Street.

CH&Co restructures for growth: Independent caterer CH&Co has restructured its leadership team. The move follows a strong financial performance in 2019 driven by organic growth and the company’s integration of Gather & Gather and Company of Cooks. Gather & Gather UK & Ireland managing director Allister Richards has moved into the new role of chief operating officer for the group, with responsibility for the Workplace, Events and Venues divisions. Rob Fredrickson has been promoted from managing director of Gather & Gather London & Creativevents to the same role covering the whole UK, while Matt Symonds’ role as managing director for Workplaces outside London has been expanded to include Scotland and the Inspire business. Kevin Simpson has been appointed managing director of Inspire as David Pease and Lorna McFarlane step back from the business following the completion of Inspire’s integration. Other moves include Katy Thompson becoming managing director of Venues. CH&Co chief executive Bill Toner will retain direct responsibility for the Education & Healthcare business, which will be led by Deborah Homshaw, whose managing director role has grown to include schools as well as healthcare. Toner will continue to oversee the Destinations business, which will be led by Mike Lucy, founder of Company of Cooks. Toner said: “The continued success of CH&Co is down to the amazing strength, talent and passion of our teams. It’s fantastic we’ve been able to recognise that with so many promotions.”

Eventist Group acquires fine-dining business: Eventist Group has acquired fine-dining events business Alison Price & Company. As with all Eventist Group brands, Alison Price & Company will remain independent of other businesses in the group and will be managed by the existing executive management team, in this case Paul Jackson, Phillipa Candy, Richard Cubbin, Anna Peterson and Tarryn Coleman. Eventist Group chief executive Tim Stevens said: “Alison Price & Company has an enviable reputation and an illustrious client base that will bring a new dimension to the Eventist Group portfolio. We are proud to become custodians of this much-loved brand and intend to support the Alison Price & Company team in continuing its growth and success.” Jackson added: “We see this as a great opportunity to solidify our position in the market. The support and guidance of Tim and his team will be invaluable.”

Northamptonshire amusement park to create 100 jobs on back of multimillion-pound developments: Northamptonshire amusement park Wicksteed Park is to create 100 jobs on the back of a series of multimillion-pound developments. In recent years the park has completed a £3m project to restore its lake, aided by a £1m National Lottery grant, and £2.5m to transform the Edwardian pavilion, central piazza and precinct funded by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust. This year the Kettering attraction will implement its @play project, funded by a £1.78m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will include a heritage playground. Head of marketing Rachel James said: “The jobs are mainly weekend, school holidays and evening work, and are seasonal flexible roles. Some of the most senior employees at the park began their careers in part-time or seasonal roles. Our staff gain valuable experience, which could be the first step towards a long-term career in the leisure industry.”

Marston’s secures new Kirin contract: Marston’s has renewed a five-year brewing and distribution contract with premium Japanese beer brand Kirin. Sales of Kirin have grown since Marston’s took over the contract from Charles Wells Brewery following its acquisition in 2017. Richard Westwood, managing director of Marston’s Beer Company, said: “This extended partnership with Kirin is testament to the close relationship we’ve built during the past three years. We are excited to work with the Kirin team to build the brand’s UK presence.” Kirin chief executive Yoshinori Tsuchiya praised the “excellent collaboration” with Marston’s. The deal comes only months after Marston’s extended its agreement with US-based Shipyard.

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