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Fri 13th Mar 2020 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

JD Wetherspoon – sales more adversely affected by poor weather than coronavirus, like-for-likes up 3.2%: JD Wetherspoon has said its sales have been more adversely affected by poor weather than coronavirus. In an unscheduled brief trading update, the company reported like-for-like sales increased 3.2% in the six weeks to 8 March, with total sales up 2.9%. Wetherspoon said it had issued the update in advance of its interim statement next Friday (20 March) following an “unusually high number of media and shareholder enquiries during our ‘closed’ period”. The company added it was unaware of any of its 43,000 staff testing positive for coronavirus and said currently its outlook for this financial year remained “unchanged”. Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said: “For the second half of 2020, we forecast like-for-like growth of 4.3% – tracking slightly behind our estimate. However, the group noted its outlook for the current financial year to the end of July is unchanged. For a leisure company to be able to retain guidance for the next number of months is an impressive feat in our view. At this point it’s difficult to assess what the impact will be on sector like-for-likes should further draconian restrictions be applied to contain the coronavirus pandemic. A key question for all leisure companies is liquidity. To this end, Wetherspoon has an unsecured facility of £875m between 14 lenders and an overdraft of £20m. At year end July 2019 the group had net debt of circa £735m and £158m of cash and unutilised facilities. The group has guided to a net debt/Ebitda range of £780m to £820m (circa 3.6 times net debt/Ebitda) for FY20. At the mid-point it has £95m of cash and unutilised facilities. We would also note a lot of Wetherspoon’s cash spend could be turned off quite quickly – such as freehold recessionary spend – should this crisis become prolonged and severe.”

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive five exclusive videos next week: Propel Premium subscribers are to receive five exclusive videos next week. On Monday, JD Wetherspoon chairman and founder Tim Martin talks to Propel managing director Paul Charity about his ten pillars of success in the pub trade and business. On Tuesday, former Cote and Ten Pin marketing director Andrew Gallagher reveals his top ten tips to maximise a marketing budget’s impact. On Wednesday, franchise industry veteran Ian Saunders shares his personal perspective – gained from 30 years’ franchising restaurants internationally with TGI Friday’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut – on expanding overseas. On Thursday, BrewDog chief operating officer David McDowall, who has seen the company’s bar network grow from 14 sites to 100, talks to Propel insights editor Mark Wingett about the growth and development of its bar network, franchising, USPs, training, and the BrewDog’s plans. On Friday, Kerb chief executive Simon Mitchell gives an overview of developments in the UK food market scene including how the company is working to identify and develop street food operators and the opening of its first permanent street food site, in Covent Garden. Each video will be sent at 2pm. 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 can 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 £590 plus VAT for operators and £790 plus VAT for suppliers. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email

Northern cities see ‘midweek’ spend outstrip London as ‘seven-day socialising’ kicks in: Bars and restaurants in Leeds, Manchester and York have seen “midweek” spend increase by an average of more than 17% during the past four years, far outstripping the 7% of London. Analysis of weekly leisure patterns by Northern Restaurant & Bar (NRB) showed an increasing variety of audiences driving those sales, establishing a seven-day trading pattern closer to that of London’s. Leeds headed the list with a 19.6% net increase in pub, restaurant and bar spend between Monday and Thursday during the past four years. York was second (17.9%) with Manchester third (13.5%), followed by Edinburgh (13.4%) and Birmingham (13.2%). London was 11th out of the 13 cities included in the study, albeit its midweek dining scene is already well established. NRB chief executive Thom Hetherington said: “Restaurants and bars in cities such as Manchester and Leeds traditionally did the vast majority of their business on the weekend as drinkers and diners flooded in from regional towns and suburbs, whereas weekdays could be quiet. This move towards ‘seven day’ socialising is welcome as it makes it much easier for restaurants and bars to manage stock and staff and evens out cash flow.” NRB’s analysis is based on data from CGA.

Deliveroo launches ‘no contact’ drop-off service to help stop spread of coronavirus: Deliveroo is to launch a “no contact” drop-off service for customers worried about the spread of coronavirus. The new feature will be launched early next week with app users able to ask for their food to be left on the doorstep to avoid direct contact with the delivery person. The company is also understood to have established a multimillion-pound fund to support riders who contract the coronavirus or are told to self-isolate. The fund will pay affected riders more than the UK’s statutory sick pay for 14 days. In an email to subscribers, Deliveroo founder Will Shu wrote: “In light of the uncertainty we all face in our daily lives with the outbreak of coronavirus, I wanted to write to you directly to keep you informed of the steps I’ve asked my team at Deliveroo to take to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios. My number-one priority is the safety of customers, riders and restaurants, no matter what happens. As well as providing restaurants with additional packaging and stickers to seal the delivery bags, we’re also launching a no-contact drop-off service that will mean you can request in the app your rider leaves the food on your doorstep – removing the need for direct contact for both parties.” The company also has a dedicated team available round the clock to answer coronavirus-related questions. Shu continued: “As well as supporting our riders, we are sending frequent updates to our restaurant partners to share advice with them on what they can do to ensure food is prepared safely and packaged correctly for delivery. We’re also actively working with Public Health England to seek regular advice so we can prepare for any outcome as the situation evolves. Throughout this time we’ll relentlessly focus on doing everything we can to support the restaurants and riders working with us and to bring you safe deliveries from the best restaurants across the country. Riders’ safety is a priority and we want to make sure those who are affected by this unprecedented virus and can’t work are supported. Deliveroo will provide support for riders who are diagnosed with the virus or told to isolate themselves by a medical authority.”

Holyrood urged to further support Scottish hospitality sector: The Scottish government must use its devolved powers to provide tailored support to sector businesses in the country, UKHospitality executive director in Scotland Willie Macleod has said. Welcoming decisive moves to support business announced by the UK government in the Budget, Macleod added: “The freezing of excise duties is welcome as is the announcement of a review of the Apprenticeship Levy and increased investment in infrastructure. However, a real opportunity was missed to reduce the rate of VAT on tourism and hospitality services to improve our competitiveness now we are out of the EU and to help sorely pressed businesses cope with the covid-19 crisis. Business rates are devolved to Holyrood and some of the measures announced yesterday – specific relief for pubs, extension of retail relief to hospitality businesses and the cash bonus for small and rural businesses – aren’t presently applicable in Scotland. The UK government’s commitment to a full review of the rates system is a major step forward. UKHospitality in Scotland has long argued the sector is sorely disadvantaged by the way in which hospitality and licensed businesses are valued and we call on the Scottish government to match the Budget proposals and, indeed, go further by extending the reliefs announced yesterday to all hospitality and licensed businesses regardless of size or rateable value. The Scottish government can also do more to support the tourism industry by abandoning current proposals for a tourist tax, which would damage the economy at a time of crisis for the industry.”

Sector pays tribute to Michel Roux Sr as iconic chef passes away aged 79: Tributes to chef Michel Roux Sr have poured in from across the restaurant industry at news he has passed away aged 79. His death was announced by his nephew and fellow chef Michel Roux Jr on his Instagram page. He wrote: “We are deeply saddened to have lost our founding father, Michel Roux OBE. We are grateful to have shared our lives with this extraordinary man and we’re so proud of all he has achieved. A humble genius, legendary chef, popular author and charismatic teacher, Michel leaves the world reeling in his wake. For many he was a father figure inspiring all with his insatiable appetite for life and irresistible enthusiasm. But, above all, we’ll miss his mischievous sense of fun, his huge, bottomless heart and generosity, and kindness that knew no bounds. Michel’s star will shine forever, lighting the way for a generation of chefs to follow.” Michel Roux made his name in the UK with his brother Albert in 1967 when they launched Le Gavroche, which is now run by Michel Roux Jr. He opened The Waterside Inn in Bray in 1972, which remains a three Michelin-starred restaurant. The Roux brothers also set up the Roux Scholarship to support up and coming chefs. Tributes on social media included an Instagram post by Jason Atherton, who wrote: “What a sad day, another chef legend leaves us too soon. The legacy chef Roux leaves behind us is immeasurable.” James Martin tweeted: “We have lost a legend and me a friend. Words cannot describe what this man did for me in my life. He taught, he listened, he advised and he strengthened every part of what I do.”

Company News:

Young’s acquires five Pearmain pubs: London-based pub operator Young’s has acquired five sites from Pearmain Pubs for an undisclosed sum, Propel has learned. The deal sees Patrick Dardis-led Young’s take over The Canbury Arms in Kingston, The Crown in Twickenham, The Grantley Arms in Wonersh, The Onslow Arms in West Clandon and The Wheatsheaf in Esher. Richard Brown and Anthony Hancock founded Pearmain in 2008, originally as RB & AH. The deal leaves the south east-based company with three pubs – The Red Lion in Horsell, The Old Plough in Stoke D’Abernon and The Three Horseshoes in Laleham. Brown and Hancock also built the Blubeckers restaurant chain, which they sold for £14m in 2000. For the year to the end of 2018, the then seven-strong Pearmain, which operates “smart gastro-pubs”, reported full-year turnover of £18.1m and a pre-tax profit of £1.98m. It’s understood the five sites acquired from Pearmain fit well with Young’s expansion strategy, which focuses on high-quality managed houses. Last month Young’s acquired The Constitution in Camden and in December bought Enderby House in Greenwich. Young’s acquired 15-strong Redcomb Pubs last year in a cash-free deal worth £34m. 

Famous Brands reports full-year Gourmet Burger Kitchen like-for-likes up 3.7%: Famous Brands has reported its Gourmet Burger Kitchen business saw like-for-like sales increase 3.7% for the year ending 29 February 2020. It said system-wide sales declined 13.9%, which it attributed to the closure of restaurants as part of the company voluntary arrangement (CVA) process. As part of a short voluntary performance update the company stated: “Uncertainty regarding the resolution of Brexit persisted during most of the reporting period, subduing consumer confidence and spend in the UK market. Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s results for the review period reflect the difficult and intensely competitive trading conditions. However, management is satisfied that ongoing and extensive operational improvements as well as the benefits derived from the CVA restructuring programme continue to have a positive impact on the business.” The company provided no update on its Wimpy UK business in the statement.

Foodstars to make regional debut, in Birmingham: Foodstars, which provides kitchen space for food companies and is backed by former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick, is set to make its regional debut, Propel understands. The company, which was founded by William Beresford, Daniel Abrahams and Roy Shaby in Bethnal Green in 2015, is set to open a kitchen in Manchester Street, Birmingham. The company took its estate of kitchens in London to eight at the end of 2019, with openings in Colindale and Wandsworth. It also operates kitchens in Battersea, Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, Kentish Town, Shoreditch and Vauxhall and is thought to be looking at a further regional launch, with a site in Leeds under consideration. Propel understands Murray McGowan, who left his role as managing director of The Restaurant Group’s leisure division in September 2018, was working with the company, which leases kitchen space to restaurants that sell food through delivery apps, but left the business earlier this year. City Storage Systems, which trades as Cloud Kitchens in the US, quietly invested in Foodstars last year, according to documents filed at Companies House. The investment marked Kalanick’s first expansion outside the US. Beresford, Abrahams and Shaby started making takeaway sushi in Camberwell, south London, in 2012, renting out their kitchen space to cover costs.

Starbucks expands ‘catastrophe pay’ for staff, warns customers experience ‘might look a bit different’: Starbucks is expanding “catastrophe pay” for employees during the coronavirus outbreak so they “don’t feel they need to choose between their health and work”. Any Starbucks employee who has been diagnosed or needs to self-isolate would receive up to 14 days’ full pay, which could be supplemented by additional paid time-off benefits. There would be “additional pay replacement” for up to 26 weeks. Chief executive Kevin Johnson also warned customers their Starbucks experience “might look a bit different” as the group uses insights gained from its experience in China, where more than 90% of stores have reopened. In an update to customers about the action the company is taking to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and support staff, Johnson wrote: “You may be aware that over the past few weeks we have taken a series of precautionary steps in response to this developing public health impact, including increased cleaning and sanitising procedures for our stores. We have also prepared our stores to respond quickly to any emerging situation, leveraging the considerable insights we’ve gained from our experience in China. While we are currently maintaining regular operations, our stores are prepared to modify operations with options that still allow us to serve you your favourite beverages and food. This means as we navigate this dynamic situation, community by community and store by store, we may adapt the store experience by limiting seating to improve social distancing, enable mobile order-only scenarios for pick-up via the Starbucks app or delivery via UberEats, or in some cases only the drive-thru will be open. As a last resort, we will close a store if we feel it’s in the best interests of our customers and partners or if we are directed to do so by government authorities. In any such situation, we expect store disruption to be temporary.”

Esquires Coffee to open first site with evening menu, in Northampton this month: Esquires Coffee is to open its first site that offers an evening menu, in Northampton this month. The venue will launch in Dychurch Lane on Monday, 30 March and open until 9pm offering dinner options such as Punjabi-spiced pollack goujons. The venue will also offer breakfast, lunch, brunch and children’s menus alongside Fairtrade organic coffee, and cold-pressed and fresh juice. All food will be available to eat in or take away in fully compostable boxes. As well as a vegan version of the full English breakfast, there will also be soup of the day and wood-fired roasted vegetable pizza. Store owner Ali Zofur said: “We are thrilled to launch Esquires Coffee in Northampton – our first in the area. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring our Fairtrade organic coffee and delicious food to the community. Our shop is much more than a coffee house, it’s a cool and quirky environment filled with communal tables and cosy seating.” Doug Williamson and Gary Buckland founded Esquires Coffee in Vancouver in 1993. The brand expanded to the UK in 2000, where it now operates more than 40 sites. 

India’s Azure Hospitality to make UK debut with Fitzrovia restaurant and cocktail bar: India-based Azure Hospitality is to make its UK debut with an opening in London. Founders Rahul Khanna and Kabir Suri will launch restaurant Pali Hill and hidden cocktail bar Bandra Bhai in Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia, in May. Inspired by India’s diverse culinary heritage, ground-floor restaurant Pali Hill will offer a seasonal changing menu of regional sharing plates. The name comes from one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Mumbai. The open kitchen in the 60-cover restaurant will feature a large grill that will serve dishes such as razor clams with kokum juice and fresh coriander; and grilled middle white pork with sweet tamarind, crushed black pepper and fennel. Meanwhile, Bandra Bhai will be an underground cocktail bar inspired by the illicit hangouts of India’s smuggling era. The name is a “playful tribute” to a ring of smugglers who dealt in illicit goods during India’s closed economy. The 40-cover bar will be accessed via a “hidden” doorway in the venue’s basement and offer cocktails such as The Don, inspired by the Bollywood movie character’s love of whisky and spice, and the Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy, which honours the “king of Indian disco”.

Brakspear adds Cotswold site to managed estate: Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear has purchased the Egypt Mill in Nailsworth, near Stroud, taking its managed estate to 16 sites. The property is a converted mill and dates to the 16th century. The Egypt Mill features a restaurant overlooking the river, which runs through its grounds, along with 32 bedrooms. It can also cater for weddings and events for up to 150 guests. For the past 100 years the site has been owned by the Webb family, which was keen to sell to another family-run company. Brakspear has no immediate plans to make changes to the venue and will retain current staff. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “The Egypt Mill oozes character throughout the building and grounds and we’re thrilled to add it to our managed estate. The site gives us a second wedding and functions business in the Cotswolds, alongside The Frogmill, near Cheltenham. What we have learned there since 2018 will help us develop the already successful business at the Egypt Mill and we’re confident the two together will create a strong offer. We’re excited about the potential offered by this exceptional site.” Brakspear’s managed estate was formed in 2013 with the opening of The Bull On Bell Street in Henley, and includes pubs across the Cotswolds and south east, many of them offering luxury accommodation.

Domino’s Pizza appoints strategy and insight director: Domino’s Pizza has appointed Michael von Geldern as strategy and insight director, Propel has learned. Von Geldern joins the pizza delivery company after less than a year as head of data science at Virgin Group Loyalty Company. Before that he spent a year as head of insights at Sainsbury’s. Earlier this week Domino’s announced the appointment of Matt Shattock as chairman. Shattock, who is non-executive chairman of Beam Suntory, which he joined in 2009 as president and chief executive, will start his role at Domino’s on Monday (16 March). The move follows the appointments of senior independent director and interim chairman Ian Bull in September and non-executives Elias Diaz in October and activist investor Usman Nabi in November.

Megan’s secures former Jamie’s Italian in St Albans for regional debut: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s is to open its first site outside the capital after securing the former Jamie’s Italian in St Albans, Hertfordshire. The site in Chequer Street will open in May to become the group’s ninth venue overall. It will be the second opening this year for Megan’s, which is owned by Tossed founder Vincent McKevitt, after it launched its first in north London, in Islington Square, last month. Megan’s finance director Ben Rees said: “We chose St Albans as the building is beautiful and we love the area. The site is in a fantastic location, at the heart of the community, which will allow us to make maximum impact with the local environment. Community, local causes and charities are central to our brand and a key part of everything we’re about.” To date, Megan’s has raised more than £22,000 for charities and community projects. Last week Propel revealed Ryan Jacovides had stepped down as Megan’s managing director. The former Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group managing director and No 1 Lounges chief operating officer joined Megan’s in late 2018. McKevitt told Propel: “Megan’s is becoming a bigger beast now and continues to grow fast and has become dynamic. As we go into our next stage of growth, we’re looking for best-in-class leadership to take the business to the next level.”

McQueen owner launches pool hall and casino lounge in Shoreditch: Designer and entrepreneur Dezzi McCausland, who owns Shoreditch bar McQueen, has launched a pool hall and casino lounge near Old Street station. The concept, named Q, is set over two floors of 55-61 Tabernacle Street and features American and English versions of pool alongside casino tables offering roulette, blackjack and poker. Each table has its own croupier, while entertainment includes showgirls, in-house trick-shot pool professionals, appearances by UK pool champions, and DJs. Open seven nights a week, the back room features a McQueen-inspired VIP pool table and casino room, while downstairs houses a club with more casino and pool tables. Private hire is available throughout the venue, with a 220 capacity in the Q Lounge, 80 in Q VIP, and 260 in Q Club. Live sports are shown on LCD screens in each room, with projectors and large screens for presentations. Drinks include a pool-themed cocktail list, beer and cider on draught and in cans and bottles, and spirits paired with tonic. McCausland opened Kingly Club in Soho in the early 2000s while aged only 24. After a number of other venues such as Kyashi, Kingly Club St Martin’s Lane and Chakra, he opened McQueen in Shoreditch in 2010 in tribute to movie star Steve McQueen. McCausland said: “Q is the evolution of that iconic venue, bringing updated decor and an exciting new concept just minutes away from Old Street station and bringing a touch of luxury to the surge of new activity-based bars in the capital.”

Fuller’s launches The Windjammer at London’s Royal Dock: Premium pubs and hotels business Fuller’s has opened its latest managed site, The Windjammer, at London’s Royal Dock. The pub focuses on seasonal food and features a large downstairs bar and dining area set below a mezzanine floor. The pub offers views of the river and Thames Barrier, while nautical touches are dotted throughout the interior to give the pub a “maritime and botanical feel”. This continues outside with a decked seating area for drinking and dining. The Windjammer will host The Kid’s Table at weekends, a supervised arts and crafts service designed to keep children amused while adults enjoy their Sunday roast. General manager Hannah Joseph said: “We are really excited to open. Fuller’s, being a family-run business, loves the idea of joining such a fantastic community.” Fuller’s operates 215 managed pubs, with 1,028 bedrooms. The estate, predominately in the south of England, includes 15 Ale & Pie pubs, seven Cotswolds hotels, and six Bel & the Dragon sites. It also operates 179 tenanted pubs and owns The Stable, which operates 14 craft cider and pizza restaurants.

Harrods replaces shoe department with 125-cover restaurant: Harrods has opened an in-store restaurant after moving its shoe department upstairs. The 125-cover Harrods Brasserie offers flat iron steaks and a “unique children’s menu”. Breakfast dishes include Turkish eggs with strained Greek yogurt and harissa butter, while the lunch menu includes salads and sandwiches alongside larger meals such as ravioli with toasted pine nuts. The 2,000 square foot venue on the Knightsbridge department store’s lower ground floor offers roast dinner on Sundays and features leather banquettes and marble cornerstones, Hot Dinners reports. Last month Harrods opened a tea room at Hamad International airport in Qatar, while in October the brand opened its first standalone cafe outside London – H Cafe in Henley, Oxfordshire. 

C&C Group reports Matthew Clark and Bibendum continue to ‘perform well’: C&C Group, the branded cider, beer, wine and soft drinks producer, has said its Matthew Clark and Bibendum businesses continue to “perform well”. In a trading update the company said Ebitda for the 12 months to 29 February was expected to be “marginally ahead” of market estimates. Adjusted earnings per share growth of above 10% is in line with the group’s stated guidance for the 2020 financial year and follows double-digit growth the year before. It noted “consistent with recent performance, free cash flow generation and conversion continues to be strong”. C&C reaffirmed its medium-term guidance of mid to high single-digit earnings per share growth but cautioned the guidance assumed “no material or prolonged impact from covid-19”. The group added: “Delivery of our brand-led distribution model progressed to plan in the financial year 2020, with Matthew Clark and Bibendum reporting blended operating margins within the stated range of guidance for this time following acquisition. These businesses continue to perform well against key financial metrics and performance targets, with identified synergy benefits being realised.” It also noted the process to appoint a chief executive to replace Stephen Glancey was “progressing”, with global executive search firm Spencer Stuart formally engaged. C&C said it remained on course to be a 100% carbon-neutral business by 2025.

Cineworld’s shares plummet as it warns coronavirus could cause debt breach: Cineworld’s shares plummeted as it warned a worst-case scenario for coronavirus could mean it breaches its debt terms and closes cinemas for up to three months. Should that happen, the company said there was a risk of “breaching the group’s financial covenants unless a waiver agreement is reached with the required majority of lenders within the going concern period”. The warning triggered a 34% plunge in Cineworld’s share price to less than 60p. Cineworld told investors that while such a scenario was “unlikely” it was “difficult to predict the overall outcome and impact of covid-19 at this stage”. Cineworld stock had already fallen following the postponement of new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, until November as China closed cinemas to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Italy has now taken the drastic step of closing all retail outlets except supermarkets and pharmacies to stem the outbreak. Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger said coronavirus had only had a “minimal impact” on the business so far but added: “There can be no certainty on its future impact on our activities, hence we are taking measures to ensure we’re prepared for all eventualities. Should conditions relating to coronavirus continue or worsen, we have measures at our disposal to reduce the impact on our business including, but not limited to, capex postponement and cost reduction to maintain cash liquidity.” Cineworld said its financing arrangements consist of a dollar/euro loan totalling $3.6bn (£2.9bn) and a revolving credit facility of $462.5m, of which it has drawn down $95m. Covenants on the credit facility kick in if Cineworld uses more than 35% of it. The announcement came as Cineworld revealed a 40% drop in adjusted pre-tax profit to $212.3m for the year ending 31 December 2019 on the back of higher one-off costs and a 6% decline in revenue to $4.7bn.

Michelin-starred restaurant in Wiltshire village brought to market: The freehold of Michelin-starred restaurant The Harrow, in the Wiltshire village of Little Bedwyn, has been brought to market at a guide price of £735,000. The 34-cover venue, near Marlborough, is set in a detached three-storey building on a corner plot. Roger and Sue Jones are selling the business after 21 years at the helm. The Harrow’s awards include AA Restaurant Of The Year in 2011, AA Wine List Of The Year twice and a Michelin star it held for 12 years. Roger Jones has also judged competitions including UK Sommelier Of The Year and written for wine trade publications. He said: “We feel we have achieved everything we can and more so it’s time to move on to other things.” Christie & Co director Nicholas Calfe, who is handling the sale, added: “This 19th century former pub has been a Michelin-starred restaurant for many years. While this accolade will depart with our clients, its reputation will remain.”

Craft Union celebrates community champions: Craft Union Pub Company, part of Ei Group’s managed operations, has celebrated the contribution its operators make to their communities during its annual awards. More than 900 people attended the event, now in its fifth year, at Butlin’s in Minehead. More than 300 pubs were awarded a combined £180,000 in prize money, with a further £13,000 donated to charity. The Sun Inn in Stockton was named outstanding pub of the year, with The Lansdowne in Torquay scooping the community pub category. Craft Union operations director Frazer Grimbleby said: “Pubs supporting the communities they serve is a deep-rooted value of ours and it was fantastic to recognise and reward the achievements of our operators.”

Food Alert appoints technical director: Food safety and health and safety consultancy Food Alert has appointed Julia Wilson as technical director. Wilson, an experienced chartered environmental health practitioner who has worked in local government and for Public Health England, will lead on Food Alert’s technical policy and credentials, with a focus on food incident investigations and advice line services, plus the technical advisory positioning of the company. She will also oversee food safety management systems and HACCP documentation on behalf of central production unit operations. Wilson said: “I will still be hands on, carrying out food hygiene inspections, risk assessment reviews and maintaining the management system but I also look forward to engaging in the advice line service and ensuring the guidance our consultants provide is even more centred on client KPI targets.” Operations director Mike Williams added: “We are delighted to have someone of Julia’s calibre join Food Alert.”

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