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Tue 10th Mar 2020 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UKHospitality calls for immediate wide-ranging business support to deal with coronavirus threat: Sector businesses need immediate and wide-ranging support to deal with the threat of the coronavirus, according to trade body UKHospitality. The organisation, which represents 700 businesses, has written to prime minister Boris Johnson highlighting the impact of covid-19 already being felt businesses around the country. It said hotel occupancy has fallen 15% while eating and drinking out has declined by 7%. UKHospitality has also warned forward bookings across hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars has fallen by up to 50%. With businesses likely to be hit further as self-isolation becomes more widespread, the letter calls on the government to implement urgent measures. These include a moratorium on business rates for a minimum of three months, extendable dependent on the extent of virus spread; and for any quarantined area to have business rates annulled for the period of non-trading. It has also called for business payment delay on VAT, PAYE and National Insurance Contributions to ease cash flow. UKHospitality also wants a VAT cut for hospitality and tourism, to incentivise bookings, so trade can resume as quickly as possible when the virus threat subsides. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses are on the front line, so to speak. There has been a significant impact on the sector. Bookings are down, footfall is down, and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better. This is now an emergency for our sector. If government doesn’t act to mitigate the impact and give us support, businesses are in danger. This means cash flow becomes a problem, venues are under threat and jobs at risk. By the time the immediate threat of the virus has subsided it may be too late for some businesses. Support is needed and it is needed now.”

Industry News:

Takeaways and fast food help consumer spend grow 2.2% in February as consumers stay at home: Consumer spend grew 2.2% year-on-year in February propped up by takeaways and fast food as people stayed at home to escape the storms and avoid public places amid coronavirus fears, according to the latest Barclaycard Spend Index. Many Brits opted to stay at home with a box set and a takeaway as digital content and subscriptions saw 12.4% year-on-year growth, while spend on takeaways and fast food rose 8.7%. Aside from benefits relating to delivery, the change in consumer behaviour hit restaurants badly, with a 6.4% year-on-year fall in spending. Data from Barclaycard, which sees almost half the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, revealed spending on essential items rose 1.6% bolstered by supermarkets (1.3% growth) and fuel (2.5%). Despite spending on non-essentials seeing slightly stronger year-on-year growth (2.4%) during the month, storms Ciara and Dennis led almost one-third (29%) of the more than 2,000 respondents to the accompanying survey to spend less on non-essential items, with more than half (53%) delaying shopping trips. Department stores were hit hardest, seeing a 3.6% fall compared with February 2019 as shoppers avoided the high street. Fears surrounding coronavirus also led to more than one-quarter (28%) of respondents avoiding the high street and other busy places. Despite the supposed doom and gloom, the study reported consumer confidence in the UK economy remains high, with more than two-fifths (42%) of UK adults feeling positive, up from 32% a year ago. Confidence is being driven largely by belief that progress is being made on Brexit, with more than one-fifth (21%) putting their optimism down to greater certainty about life outside the European Union. However in a sign of ongoing consumer cautiousness, more than one-third (36%) of respondents remain careful with their money and more than half (54%) are worried about the rising price of everyday items. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “Storms, floods and fears about the spread of coronavirus have kept many Brits away from the high street this month. Despite this, broader consumer spending has held up as people put their money towards enjoying a takeaway and digital subscriptions.”

Pan-industry alliance launches to protect hospitality and tourism workforce following immigration shake-up: A pan-industry alliance – The Hospitality and Tourism Action Group (HTAG) – has launched to raise awareness of the threat to the hospitality and tourism industries from the government’s proposed immigration bill. HTAG has written to the government asking it to consider enhancements to the bill’s points-based system, such as including in-demand foreign languages as a tradeable asset and regional points variations to respond to differences in the UK labour market. It also requests expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme to include EU countries on a reciprocal basis; regular reviews of the Shortage Occupation List and ongoing regional analysis of workforce shortages to enable a responsive approach to future UK labour needs. Other requests include transitional arrangements for sectors experiencing “labour-market distress”; encouraging UK people to work in the sector; and clear guidance and support for businesses regarding the new processes. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality and tourism industry is uniquely placed to support the UK’s goals – developing ‘global Britain’, ‘levelling up’ across the whole country, and building an industrial strategy with increasing productivity levels. The industry is already making significant investment in skills training, recruitment and retention of staff, with commitments to create 30,000 apprenticeships and 10,000 mentoring places every year by 2025. But the sector is already suffering staffing shortages. We’re calling on government to give businesses support and time to adapt to the new immigration regime. The future immigration policy could exacerbate existing shortage further, particularly in tourism hot spots.” HTAG also comprises ABTA, UKinbound, European Tour Operators Association, Cumbria Tourism, Tourism Alliance and English UK.

Starbucks’ recyclable and compostable coffee cups to trial in London this week: Starbucks is to trial recyclable and compostable coffee cups in London this week. The company will test the cup at some of its stores in the capital during the next four weeks. The cups will look similar to the company’s traditional paper vessels but the plastic cup lining will be replaced by a biodegradable material. The trial is part of the NextGen Cup Challenge, a multi-company effort that includes KFC, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola and Nestle. The winning cup was chosen from hundreds of entries for the new design, with London the only European city to be part of the global trial along with Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Vancouver. The company banned the use of reusable cups in its stores last week over concerns they could spread coronavirus. Customers will still get a 25p discount for bringing in their reusable cups, but will be served a disposable one.

NPD Group to host webinar on how to build breakfast success in the eating-out market: Insights firm The NPD Group is to host a webinar on “how to build breakfast success in the eating-out market”. The event will take place at 1pm on Thursday (12 March). The 30-minute presentation by Dominic Allport and Gareth Nash, of the company’s UK Foodservice practice, will use NPD Group data to share the latest information and their own insights into British out-of-home breakfast trends. The session will include how to win at breakfast; UK success stories; products and channels to focus on; how to attract new buyers into the breakfast market; buyers you should target; and the future of breakfast in the UK. To register for the webinar, click here

Company News:

BrewDog to open more franchises than company-owned sites for first time in 2020: David McDowall, chief operating officer of Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, has said it will open more franchises than company-owned sites for the first time this year as it looks to finish 2020 with 130 bars. The company now operates about 100 sites in circa 15 countries and is trying to build a franchise programme in the US – “the most heavily regulated franchise market on the planet”. So far it has six sites, a hotel and a brewery in the US having opened its debut American brewpub, in Pittsburgh, last week. Speaking at the Propel Multi Club Conference, McDowall said: “The economics of the US pubs are working well for us. We’re selling beer in 15 states and that will probably grow by another four of five this year. We know when we put some retail into the state or into the country, the wholesale business goes kind of hockey stick. So we’re trying to unlock the right way to do that in the US and with the right partners, but a combination of franchise legislation and the three-tier system is making it a bit of a Krypton Factor puzzle for us.” BrewDog is also opening in Mumbai in a couple of weeks’ time and working with a partner to launch ten sites in India. The company is also looking to launch in Moscow and St Petersburg and is opening in Rotterdam, Singapore and Shanghai. It will also bring the Doghouse hotel concept to Manchester following its launch in Ohio. McDowall said: “We have a small but perfectly formed team leading our franchise business and we’ll go through a structured due diligence process with partners. I don’t get massively involved but I have one rule – I spend some time face to face with the prospective partner before we make a final decision. From seeing how they interact with the person serving the table or other customers gives you a pretty good picture of how they would lead a BrewDog bar.” Regarding opening in new markets, he said: “I think you have to go into a new market with a ton of humility – listen to the market, listen to consumers, listen to teams. You have to build a local team, not ship people over from the UK. You can’t think you know everything about the market because you have been successful elsewhere and do a carbon copy of what you’ve done before. We go into every new country and behave like a startup.” In terms of the company’s food offer, he said: “We have got such a long way to go. I’m happy that four years ago food was about 4% of our revenue and it’s now 30%. In the US it’s 50/50 but I think that’s just us catching up with the market. I think we’ve probably gone from two out of ten to seven out of ten and there’s still a bit of hard work to do.” In terms of BrewDog taking its share of consumer spend, McDowall said it was about “making sure we are in the game by being the best we can be”. He added: “For me, the operators that win are the ones that have continued restlessness. I think that’s the important bit. I’m continually impressed by our managers and teams’ inventiveness and the way they act like business owners rather than employees – that’s something we’ve worked hard to foster.”

M&B to launch bierkeller-style concept in Bournemouth this week: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is to launch bierkeller-style concept The Brass Haus in Bournemouth this week following the major refurbishment of one of its sites, The Brasshouse, in the Dorset town. The bar and restaurant in Westover Road in the town centre will relaunch on Wednesday (11 March) inspired by Germany’s bierkellers and its underground music scene. As well as live music the venue will also screen live sport, while the new dinner menu will offer Bavarian snacks and dishes such as pretzels, pizza, bratwurst, burgers and schnitzels alongside British pub favourites. The new breakfast menu will include Haus breakfast hash, while the drinks range will feature beer, Haus cocktails, spirits and wine. General manager Gary Brill said: “We are working super hard to create a unique and stimulating experience for our guests. The changes centre on creating a German-inspired bar and restaurant with a real difference.” 

Elton Mouna – Remarkable Pubs adopting ‘wash your hands and carry on’ approach to coronavirus: Elton Mouna, managing director of east and north London-focused pub collection Remarkable Pubs, has exclusively told Propel his company has adopted a “wash your hands and carry on” approach to fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, while trade at its venues appears to be “unaffected”. He told Propel: “I have seen little to no negative impact to our business from the UK coronavirus breakout. I was in Shoreditch late on Saturday (7 March) and it was business as usual, with our general managers reporting good trade. The usual high-energy Saturday night atmosphere of the area was certainly unaffected. I made visits to our higher-volume food houses the next day and saw busy businesses with families, often of three generations, enjoying each other’s company. My fear was families with young children and grandparents would avoid pubs. Yes, coronavirus is the talk of the town in our pubs but it hasn’t stopped customers from visiting. Since the announcement of the outbreak on 31 January, our collective company year-on-year like-for-like sales are ahead, albeit marginally. Under the circumstances, this is acceptable and welcome. We have researched well, consulted experts and, as such, are prepared for the future twists and turns the situation will inevitably bring. We are taking a stoic, pragmatic, ‘wash your hands and carry on’ approach.” Mouna will step down from his role as managing director of Remarkable Pubs at the end of the company’s financial year to focus on radio broadcasting, podcasting, writing, motivating and sharing his knowledge to a wider audience. 

Malhotra Group reports Ebitda boost in leisure division: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group has reported Ebitda in its leisure division increased 26% to £1.2m for the year ending 31 March 2019, compared with £950,000 the previous year. Turnover in the leisure division reduced to £8.9m from £9.4m the year before following a series of “significant” capital investment and redevelopment projects. Total group turnover increased 4.5% to £34.8m, compared with £33.3m the previous year. Ebitda rose 3.9% to £9.2m compared with £8.9m the year before, while pre-tax profit was up to £4.8m from £4.5m the previous year. The company also operates in the care home and property sectors. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “We continue to invest in a significant capital expansion programme across the care and leisure sectors to improve the quality of services across our businesses. Successful integration of a more diverse range of drinks across the bars is also attracting a broader base of customer. Shareholders’ funds in the year also increased, by 6.4% to £64.9m.” Earlier this month Malhotra Group agreed a deal to become Newcastle Racecourse’s official hotel partner for 2020.

Ego secures Essex site: 3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler, has secured a site in Essex for its joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), Propel has learned. The Running Mare in Chelmsford will become the 23rd Ego site in total. The pub currently operates under M&B’s Vintage Inns brand. Work on the property is expected to start at the beginning of April before it reopens as Ego at The Running Mare in May. The deal marks a further move south for the brand, which last week opened in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Meanwhile, the brand will make its Welsh debut next month with Ego at The Schooner launching at a former Harvester site in Penarth, South Glamorgan. Last year Horler told Propel that M&B sites converted to Ego were seeing an average 80% uplift in sales. M&B formed the partnership in August 2018 when it bought sector investor Luke Johnson’s minority share in 3Sixty.

Cheshire-based Priory Inns North West hits double figures with third Star Pubs & Bars site: Cheshire-based operator Priory Inns North West has taken on its tenth site and third with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The Big Lock in Middlewich will undergo a joint £480,000 refurbishment to see the canal-side pub reopen at Easter featuring standalone cafe The Little Lock Coffee Shop. Work will also create an open-plan bar, snug and 120-cover dining area, while the cafe will seat 40 and be available to hire. The pub will also have canal-side seating for 48 customers and 48 more at the front. Plans include screening live sports and music nights, while the menu will offer pub classics alongside children’s and dog-friendly menus. The drinks list will include premium draught lager and cider, 40 gins, wine and cocktails. Priory Inns North West director Neil Sparkes said: “The Big Lock has a fantastic canal-side setting and lots of passing trade, from walkers to boaters. It just needed some TLC to bring it back on track.” Star Pubs & Bars business development manager Andrew Jamieson added: “Our last project together was the Gardeners Arms in Timperley, which Neil and his team have given a new lease of life with trading up 400% since it reopened.” Seven of Priory Inns North West’s pubs are in Cheshire.

Funicular Productions launches east London bar featuring immersive cocktail experience: Funicular Productions, which is behind immersive productions such as Journey To The Underworld and The Murdér Express, has launched a bar in east London offering a “time-travelling cocktail experience”. Timeless Bar has opened in Sidworth Street celebrating “100 years of iconic cocktails” and offering two-for-one drinks all day under the idea it’s “always happy hour somewhere”. Meanwhile, 75-minute experience the Cocktail Time Machine transports guests through “three decades and countries via era-defining cocktails”. MasterChef finalist Louisa Ellis has created the food menu that includes snacks such as whipped cod’s roe potato skins, small plates such as sage risotto with thyme, and sides such as black garlic and truffle gnocchi. Propel has partnered with Think Hospitality to host the Experiential Leisure Conference. The event takes place on Tuesday, 28 April at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Following the inaugural half-day event in 2018, this year’s conference will span a full day and feature all-new content. Click here to see the speaker list. Tickets are £295 for Propel Premium members, £345 for non-Propel Premium operators and £395 for non-Propel Premium suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Mayfair-based operator Oisin Rogers to take on second Young’s pub: Oisin Rogers, who operates Mayfair pub The Guinea Grill, is to take on a second Young’s site in the area. Rogers will take over nearby pub The Windmill with a menu created by executive chef Nathan Richardson, although the Mill Street pub will retain its renowned pies. The Guinea’s steak and kidney pie will make its way on to The Windmill’s menu as well as pork chops. Rogers told Hot Dinners: “I am delighted Young’s has agreed to give me stewardship of The Windmill. An already successful pub with excellent draught beer and a great wine list, The Windmill specialises in hand-made traditional suet pastry pies. This won’t change. Nathan has already been working with The Windmill kitchen team to improve the pies slightly and add a few more dishes to the pub menu. I hope to relaunch the upstairs restaurant in the coming weeks under the experienced eye of Sujan Chowdery, who has been restaurant manager at The Guinea for many years.” Rogers is also the man behind London’s scotch egg challenge.

Doughnotts to shut Derby site: East Midlands-based doughnut concept Doughnotts is to close its Derby site after two-and-a-half years. The company, which recently opened a manufacturing facility in Nottingham, said a decline in footfall was behind the reason to shut the store in Sadler Gate, reports The Business Desk. The company stated: “With a heavy heart we’ve decided to close our Derby store. This isn’t a decision that has been made lightly, however. Due to a decline in footfall and a number of other factors out of our control, we’re unable to remain open.” The store's final day of trading will be Saturday, 11 April. Doughnotts’ other stores are in Leicester, Lincoln and Nottingham.

York-based restaurateurs double up with kebab-style concept: York-based restaurateurs Barbaros Ayata and Mustafa Sengun have doubled up in the city. Ayata and Sengun, who run Caesars restaurant in Goodramgate, have launched kebab-style venture Jorvik Doner House in Church Street. The new outlet, which has seating for 30 customers, offers doner kebabs, sandwiches, burgers and salad alongside coffee, tea and desserts. Sengun said inspiration for the eatery came after seeing the popularity of healthier kebabs in Germany and Turkey. He told The York Press: “There is definitely a growing market for a healthier and more nutritious kebab in the UK. We think this will prove popular in York.”

Dalata reports ‘significant’ impact from coronavirus but analyst says balance sheet ‘more than strong enough’ to weather storm: Irish hotel operator Dalata, which has a growing presence in the UK, has reported a “significant” reduction in bookings and an increase in cancellations as the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak continues to spread. However, Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said it appeared Dalata's balance sheet and cash flows were “more than strong enough” to weather the storm. Dalata stated: “The extent of the impact of covid-19, the rate at which the virus spreads and the period for which it continues cannot be predicted at this time. It is therefore too early to estimate the financial impact on the group. We will provide a further update as the situation develops.” Chief executive Pat McCann added: “Dalata’s decentralised operating model means we have responsibility at a local level, co-ordinated through the group, enabling us to respond quickly and effectively as this situation evolves. Our primary concern is the health and well-being of our people and guests. We are implementing additional procedures and following guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation. Our lowly geared asset-backed balance sheet together with our experience in reacting to crisis scenarios gives us the resilience to manage the impact of the unfortunate outbreak of the covid-19 virus.” Ruddy said: “Hotel groups inevitably have a large drop through to the bottom line from lost revenue and this crisis will hit rate, occupancy and other revenues so it’s not to be underestimated. The main cost flex items will be booking aggregator costs (circa 15%) and temporary staff costs. Dalata’s balance sheet remains resilient with €1.47bn (£1.28bn) of property, plant and equipment. We believe this will give the group a lot of flexibility with lenders should this crisis be prolonged (the property is revalued annually on a discounted cash flow based on expected future hotel profitability). The group has an approved facility of €525m, consisting of a €200m term loan and a €325m revolving credit facility that matures in October 2024. The group had €150m of cash and undrawn facilities at the end of FY19. Prior to this crisis we had modelled a small reduction in net debt in FY20. At this point in time it would appear the group’s balance sheet and cash flows are more than strong enough to weather this storm.”

Egg in a bun concept Yolk Breaker returns to Camden: Egg in a bun concept Yolk Breaker is returning to Camden, north London, to open a unit at Camden Market’s new eco-led development, Buck Street Market. The concept, which recently closed its permanent site at nearby Stables Market, will launch its new venue on Wednesday (11 March) offering dishes such as the signature Yolk Breaker bun (scrambled eggs, caramelised onions and cheese) and the YB Cheeseburger (egg-topped Aberdeen angus burger). All the eggs are supplied by a free-range family farm in Cornwall, Hot Dinners reports. Yolk Breaker joins other operators at Buck Street Market that include chef and author Miguel Barclay, who has opened his first bricks and mortar site for New York-style pizza concept Miguel’s Pizza, and sustainably focused restaurant Wildflower, the first solo venture by Irish chef Adrian Martin. Technology-driven coffee house Glass Coffee has also joined the line-up. 

Whitbread strengthens German portfolio with Sindelfingen site: Whitbread has further strengthened its German estate after securing a site in the southern city of Sindelfingen, Propel has learned. The company has signed a 25-year lease for a new hotel at the La Bo scheme – a joint venture between developer Alfons & Alfreda and Schmeing Baugruppe. Last month Whitbread completed its acquisition of a portfolio of 19 hotels from Foremost Hospitality Group for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition, which comprises 13 open hotels and six in the pipeline, takes the company’s open network and committed pipeline in Germany to 53 hotels, with more than 9,800 rooms in more than 25 cities. Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said at the time: “We believe the German market has many of the structural growth drivers that have underpinned the success of Premier Inn in the UK and is a market that will deliver strong returns in the future. We will continue to look for opportunities to further accelerate the growth of our business.”

Butcombe Brewery relaunches Somerset pub featuring nine new rooms: Butcombe Brewery, part of Liberation Group, has relaunched The Swan Inn in the Somerset village of Rowberrow following a major renovation to introduce nine bedrooms. The pub has been expanded to include five rooms in the main building and four in a converted barn within the grounds. Each room comes with Wi-Fi, a Roberts radio, shower, mini-fridge and smart television. The Swan also features a new lounge for staying guests that includes an honesty bar. Jayson Perfect, Liberation Group managing director of pubs and inns, said: “The Swan is a beloved country pub serving hearty food and proper beer. It’s rewarding to see the development since we took ownership in 2018.” The Swan is the seventh site Liberation has added to the Butcombe Pub & Inns collection in the past three years. Last month Liberation Group reported full-year like-for-like sales across its managed pubs increased 3.6%. Like-for-like drink sales were up 5.1%, while food rose 0.8% and accommodation increased 8.5%. Chief executive Jonathan Lawson told Propel: “Our brands of Liberation and Butcombe have been reinvigorated and we look forward to launching new creatives for our brewing businesses and our pub estate. In 2020, we aim to build on this momentum and seek opportunities to expand our estate of freehold pubs in our managed and tenanted businesses.”

Plymouth-based pub owners take on second site: The owners of Plymouth pub The Fishermans Arms have taken over another pub in the city. Donna Phillips and Lee Chambers have taken on The Royal Oak in Hooe and plan to make it popular with dog owners after finding success with the formula at The Fishermans. The couple told Plymouth Live: “The Royal Oak was lacking love and care. We decided as a family we could definitely turn this place around. With new decor and lots of love we have managed to create a beautiful family pub. We offer the same menu as at the Fishermans and also do the ‘a la bark’ menu for dogs.” The couple also plan to create an outdoor bar at the pub ready for the summer.

Costa Coffee partners with Nestlé: Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has partnered with Nestlé Professional to launch a chocolate and caramel muffin made with Rolo across its UK estate. The item will be on the menu until 2 September. Costa Coffee commercial marketing director Eric Tavoukdjian said: “We are excited to work with brands such as Rolo, which are recognisable and desirable to our customers.” Kate Alexander, Nestlé Professional head of channel – on the go, added: “This is an exciting partnership for us. We expect to see great demand for the product across Costa Coffee’s UK stores.”

Pocket Restaurants plans second Mustard site, in Altrincham: Pocket Restaurants, which is behind Mustard diner in Sale, has lodged plans to open a second Greater Manchester site, in Altrincham. The company, owned by Gavin and Jane Gosnell, has applied to Trafford Council to convert Reel Time Amusements in Shaw’s Road. Pocket Restaurants has bought the property and applied for an alcohol licence with plans to open a 40-cover restaurant. Its debut venue in Northenden Road, Sale, is described as a “neighbourhood diner that specialises in comfort food, craft beer, coffee and cocktails”. It opened in 2016. Jane Gosnell said they were looking to “tailor the offering slightly” for Altrincham but it would essentially look to replicate the formula that has proved popular in Sale. She told Altrincham Today: “The original restaurant was borne out of a trip to New York, where we were so impressed by the fabulous fresh food and great service. We don’t have jukeboxes in our restaurant and take our influences from all over – but essentially you could call it Americana comfort food.”

Biggest Cineworld shareholder sells partial stake: Cineworld has said its biggest shareholder will sell almost a third of its stake in the company to refinance a margin loan after shares in the company sank to a seven-year low amid fears audiences will disappear during the coronavirus outbreak. Shares in the company sank 23% to 87p in early trading on Monday (9 March) following news of the sale by Global City Theatres (GCT) of a 7.9% stake for about £116m to buyers including Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC. Cineworld, whose shares have sunk 50% this year amid a surge in bets by stock market short sellers against it, said the proceeds of the sale would be used to restructure GCT’s existing margin loan facility with Barclays and HSBC into a new secured corporate loan. The new secured facility had no margining provisions or connection to the price of the company’s shares, it said. Shares in GCT and its parent company Global City Holdings are held in trusts for the children of Cineworld chief executive Moshe Greidinger and deputy chief executive Israel Greidinger. Cineworld stressed both men remained committed to Cineworld as members of its management team. After the sale GCT will still hold 275 million shares, or 20% of the company. An affiliate of GIC bought 62 million of the 108 million shares sold in the deal, representing about 4.5% of Cineworld’s share capital.

Chester-based pizzeria to open second site: Chester-based pizzeria Stile Napoletano is to open its second site in the city. The concept was one of the first businesses to set up home in the revitalised Chester Market in 2018. Now owner Giacomo Guido has decided to expand and take over the former Watergate Deli premises in Watergate Street. Guido told Chester Live: “The format in the market is better for lunchtime – it’s not a restaurant vibe. There are lots of other cuisines there but we close in the early evening. We will open the restaurant at 5.30pm as we don’t want to overlap because what’s the point of having two shops that cancel each other out? The market is great but very small. To make pizza you need a proper oven, which we don’t have room for at the market – we are quite limited with what we can do.” The restaurant, which will open in the next few months, will offer pizza as well as traditional southern Italian starters and desserts alongside Italian wine and craft beer.

Mellors management team attends mental health awareness training course: Contract caterer Mellors has seen its management team attend a mental health awareness training course. The training, provided by UK Healthcare, focused on mental health conditions, well-being and how to create a positive working atmosphere for employees. The management team learned about well-being and how finding the right balance is imperative to keeping a healthy mindset. They explored how a sufferer may feel when struggling with their mental health and the impact of workplace stress. The training included a presentation, exercises and identifying own stresses and how to overcome them. Mellors is based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and operates across the north of England.

Hotel operator opens Lake District property for second site: Hotel operator Serena Von Der Heyde has opened a Lake District property for her second site. Von Der Heyde has relaunched the Oak Bank Hotel in Grasmere as the Victorian House Hotel. She acquired the property from Glynis and Simon Wood in September off an asking price of £1.5m in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. Victorian House Hotel has 19 bedrooms, a shepherd’s hut, open-plan shared spaces, a riverside garden and outdoor facilities. The food offer features an all-day menu of Cumbrian tapas, cheese boards and light sharing dishes with matching wine flights. The bar focuses on local and regional spirits. Von Der Heyde also operates the Georgian House Hotel in Pimlico, London. She said: “This is such an exciting development for the Georgian House Hotel family. I have always loved the Lake District and when I saw the property I knew we’d be able to create something really special.”

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