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Thu 29th Oct 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UKHospitality demands sector support during ‘debilitating’ firebreak period: UKHospitality Cymru has demanded support for hospitality venues from the Welsh parliament and reiterated the scale of the crisis it faces. The trade body has written to members of the Welsh Senedd outlining its proposals during the “firebreak” lock-down and beyond. The letter proposes measures to safeguard and support the 140,000 people directly employed in hospitality across Wales and UKHospitality has highlighted the need for extended and sustained emergency support to ensure businesses survive the winter. There is particular concern for businesses that are unable to access grant support due to their rateable values exceeding £51,000. The trade body has also urged the Welsh government to ensure restrictions are imposed for no longer than is absolutely necessary, with a clear roadmap for businesses beyond 9 November – when the firebreak ends – to allow them to plan. The Senedd has also been urged to review the travel ban that is currently in place and to revisit the curfew, two-metre social distancing measures and the ban on households mixing. UKHospitality Cymru executive director David Chapman said: “The package of restrictions currently in place is having a hugely debilitating effect on Welsh hospitality businesses. We fully understand the need to control the spread of the virus and promote public health. Hospitality businesses have spent time and money to make their venues safe for customers, and we are happy to take the necessary steps to keep customers safe. We need help to do that and businesses need support to survive this winter and keep jobs secure. We do not want businesses that can do so much to help rebuild the Welsh economy next year to be unintended victims of measures designed to keep communities safe.”

Industry News: 

CAMRA’S Good Beer Guide warns of decline in breweries: The 48th edition of the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) iconic Good Beer Guide 2021 hits bookshelves on Thursday (29 October), warning Brits of the devastating impact of covid-19 on Britain’s pub culture and highlighting the first decline in the number of independent UK breweries in over a decade. The Good Beer Guide is CAMRA’s premier publication, featuring the very best pubs to find a great pint in the UK.  Nationally, the 2021 guide has found the total number of independent UK breweries has dipped from 1,823 in 2019 to 1,816 in 2020 – the first time CAMRA’s guide has recorded a decline in numbers since the explosion in UK breweries started in 2008. While 163 breweries have opened this year and are newly listed in the guide, many more have closed their doors, reducing net figures. While most of the recorded decline will be from data captured pre-covid, the trends in breweries no longer producing beer raises concerns the real impact of covid-19 has yet to be felt. CAMRA is currently calling on the government to go further with its support package, arguing that it has not been able to mitigate the damage done to a sector that has been scarred by ongoing restrictions and curfews. CAMRA’s national chairman Nik Antona said: “Many pubs and breweries have fought hard and the majority have survived the first lock-down, but it’s clear the industry was already in a vulnerable position when covid-19 hit. Since then, breweries have all but been forgotten about, and may even be hit with higher taxes as the government considers changes to Small Breweries’ Relief. This is a pivotal time that could make or break the industry. Our pubs and breweries are going to need significant long-term support and funding throughout the coming months to survive, otherwise, I expect to see substantial closures in future editions of our guide.” The Good Beer Guide has also warned of the impact of covid-19 on pubs, with celebrity chef Tom Kerridge penning the foreword, urging the country to “stay strong and stay positive” despite the ongoing challenges. Kerridge said: “These figures are an early indication that all is not as it should be following a difficult year of lock-down restriction and social distancing measures. While every sector across the UK has felt the burden of covid-19, brewers and pubs have most certainly taken the brunt of the impact. The one thing that I think we have all missed during lock-down is human connection and social interaction, which above all else, is everything that the great British pub provides – a warm, happy and friendly place for people to drink and eat. It is imperative we continue to support our breweries and pubs to preserve them for generations to come.” 

Cardyltics data shows big increase in staycation spending: The rise of the domestic “staycation”, driven by travel restrictions and consumers less willing to go abroad, saw spend on holiday resorts like Centre Parcs, Butlin’s and Sykes Cottages jump by more than half (51%) at its peak in mid-July. Following year-on-year increases in July (up 39%) and August (up 4%), growth continued into September (up 5% for the first week), according to Cardlytics’ latest State of Spend report, which tracks consumer spending across 22 million UK bank accounts. The rise of the staycation benefited other business domestically. Spend at amusement parks like Alton Towers and Thorpe Park was up 29% in August, while spending at museums in August saw month-on-month growth of 55%. The dining industry saw significant increases in spend throughout summer, driven in particular by the Eat Out To Help Out scheme that ran throughout August. This resulted in dramatic growth, particularly in casual dining (up 126% month-on-month) and pub dining (up 111%). Sales began falling in September once the scheme ended, and with the 10pm curfew and rule of six in place, the embattled sector may face challenges ahead. Duncan Smith, commercial director, Cardlytics, said: “The popularity of staycations this summer has been a major help for many brands across sectors. While clearly external factors impacted this behaviour, travel and leisure companies will be hoping, in the long run, they will be able to hold on to some of these new customers.
 
‘Just 1% of covid-19 cases’ linked to hospitality sites: Only 1% of hospitality venues across the UK have been linked to NHS Test and Trace incidences, according to research by trade bodies UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping. The research showed operators of more than 22,500 outlets across the UK collectively only reported 275 NHS Test and Trace contact incidences. Additionally, latest Public Health England data published shows hospitality was linked to just 2.7% of covid-19 cases. The trade bodies claimed the data proves pubs, restaurants and hospitality venues are covid-secure. A spokesman for the trade bodies said: “Just 1% of the 22,500 pubs, restaurants and hospitality venues we surveyed said they were linked by NHS Test and Trace to an incidence. Public Health England’s own data shows hospitality was most recently linked to just 2.7% of covid-19 incidences. The evidence is clear that pubs, restaurants and hospitality venues are covid-secure. Singling them out is simply illogical, counterproductive and grossly unfair. Sage itself has called into question the effectiveness of the 10pm curfew and it is greatly harming our sector in medium risk areas. The government must consider removing the curfew.”
 
Nottinghamshire to move into tier three restrictions later than planned, Bristol in ‘tier one plus’: Nottinghamshire will move into the most severe tier three restrictions at 00.01 on Friday. The government move was set to see Nottingham, Rushcliffe, Gedling and Broxtowe move into the top tier of covid restrictions on Thursday but Mansfield, Ashfield, Bassetlaw and Newark and Sherwood have also been added to the list. Meanwhile, Bristol will be put into “tier one plus” restrictions “within a matter of days”, according to the mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees. The new restrictions will mean tighter enforcement, more local control over test and trace, targeted focus on working adults (aged 30 to 60) and an introduction of covid marshals to patrol the city. Rees added if these new measures do not work, Bristol will move into tier two or three, and said the move was to avoid the extra hit on hospitality a move to a higher tier would generate. Ashfield District Council leader Jason Zadrozny said of Nottinghamshire, “all of the county would go into tier three” at the same time on Friday (30 October). Discussions took place on Wednesday (28 October) but Zadrozny claimed he thought Ashfield would not be included and added: “I am disappointed about the lack of communication from the government.” Tier three restrictions see no household mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens, the rule of six applies in outdoor public spaces, pubs and bars not serving meals must close and there is guidance against travelling in or out of the area.
 
Fifth of Britons think their local pub means more to them than before covid-19: A fifth (20%) of British adults think their local pub means more to them than before covid-19, while four in 10 people are happy to spend up to 22% more on food and drinks after coronavirus, according to research by Barclaycard Payments. The survey of 2,000 consumers on the impact the pandemic has had on their day-to-day life found that almost four in 10 (37%) would spend more on food and drinks than they would at the start of the year. Overall, people are prepared to pay 11% more for a Sunday roast and 10% more for a pint. Those living in London will accept the highest increase per pint (22%), followed by those in the north east (15%). The increased value felt by customers during this time has been put down to the appreciation of hard-working staff (43%), concerns for the future of pubs within the community (41%) and the opportunity for social interactions where possible (32%). The research found this has also led to one in four Britons (26%) continuing to visit pubs at least once a week where they can. Those who are able to are returning after missing their local pub (32%), supporting businesses that have suffered lost revenue (27%) and to help give a boost to the economy (24%). Those aged between 18 and 34 were found to be most eager to support their local pubs and restaurants, with almost half (48%) open to higher prices and more than a third (34%) now likely to increase the amount they tip for staff. Konrad Kelling, head of small business at Barclaycard Payments, said: “While the hospitality industry is undoubtedly facing a challenging road ahead, it’s heart-warming to see how committed the great British public is to supporting their local pubs and restaurants. Whether that’s by accepting higher prices for food and drink or by increasing the amount they tip hard-working staff.”
 
New West Hampstead restaurant receives 450 applications for 11 jobs: A new West Hampstead restaurant received 450 applications for front-of-house jobs within 48 hours as it prepared to open this month. Luna Gin Bar has a staff of 11 – but hundreds of would-be waiters and waitresses applied for jobs. General manager Marcello Toscano said: “It’s terrible what’s happening, I feel terrible for the late-night industry, where the money doesn’t come in before 11pm.” Restaurant consultant Gordon Milic, who advises start-ups and has been involved in Luna’s launch, said the surge in applicants was unprecedented, and applications were many times higher than he had seen before. He said: “Often people didn’t even ask what the job was, as long as they could get a job. Everybody wants to work 100 hours a week.” One successful applicant was Golders Green musical theatre graduate Katy Martin. She told the local newspaper, Ham&High, she had applied for more than 100 jobs since the end of lock-down, including in schools and retail. Martin added: “I got lucky but, unfortunately, many of my friends are still looking for a job and are struggling. Being performers, we’re very good at hospitality, we’re friendly, and have great customer service. I’m hopeful we can stay open but this industry will be the first to close, which is so sad, as we’ve invested so much into making customers feel safe.”
 
Report shows new openings stability and even growth in some market areas in the US: A new report from Yelp in the US has found new restaurant openings in 2020 is not far off the number of openings in 2019. Citing data from its third quarter Economic Average report, Yelp said September saw only 100 fewer new restaurant openings than the same month in 2019. And, looking at the entirety of the third quarter, new restaurants openings are only down 10% from last year. Yelp’s data even shows that though restaurant and food business openings bottomed out in April, by August and September, new openings were actually above where they were in 2016, 2017 and 2018 because of a catch-up effect. Yelp suggests that some types of food businesses have seen surges as a direct reaction to our “new normal”. New third quarter openings were up for open-air options like food trucks and farmers’ markets, while Yelp writes that a year-over-year boost in the number of new pop-up restaurants and seafood markets demonstrates new businesses “catering to consumers’ interests in novel ways to dine and shop for food outside of traditional restaurant experiences”. Yelp also found an increase in new food businesses that focused on “celebratory treats that are often enjoyed at home or purchased as gifts, including cupcakes, custom cakes, and desserts”.
 
Scottish nightclubs offered grants up to £50,000: The Scottish Government has announced new one-off grants of up to £50,000 for nightclubs that have been closed since March – but only if they have not subsequently traded as bars. The grants, administered by local authorities, will be based on rateable value. Businesses operating more than one premises will be able to claim one full grant and then grants of up to 75% on subsequent properties. Premises with a rateable value of £18,000 or under can apply for grants of £10,000, with values between £18,001 and £51,000 eligible for grants of £25,000 and premises with a rateable value above £51,001 eligible for £50,000. However, nightclubs that have operated as bars at any time since March will not be eligible for the grants and those businesses that have already successfully applied to the Cultural Organisations and Venue Recovery Fund may be eligible for smaller amounts through the new scheme. Business minister Jamie Hepburn said businesses such as nightclubs “have been particularly badly hit by this pandemic”. “Unlike the majority of businesses, they have not been allowed to open since March,” said Hepburn. “These grants take account of those exceptional circumstances and will provide a boost as we continue to tackle the virus. We don’t want any business to remain closed for a day longer than is necessary but public health is paramount. Unfortunately, we are at a critical point with infection levels rising again and it is not safe to lift restrictions on these activities.”
 
Burger King and Tim Hortons owner plans digital modernisation of drive-thrus: Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which owns Burger King and Tim Hortons, has announced plans to modernise its drive-thrus. Most updates involve changes to digital menu boards in drive-thru lanes. In the future, such boards will include “predictive selling technology” so sales can be studied through purchasing habits and recommendations made based on those, plus factors such as weather and traffic. The boards are expected to be implemented in more than 10,000 drive-thrus in the US by 2022, and will also include RBI’s chicken brand Popeyes too. New menu boards will also incorporate loyalty programmes and contactless order/payment features. The first prototype of this order/payment integration is currently being tested at a Tim Hortons location in Canada. An additional 15 locations are set to trial it by January 2021. There are already revamped menu boards at 800 Tim Hortons in the Canada and more than 1,500 at Burger King in the US. Tim Hortons announced this month it plans to open one of its cafe and bake shops in “every major town and city” in the UK after unveiling plans to open its most southerly site, so far, at Milton Keynes in December.
 

Company News: 

Busaba secures CVA approval: Busaba, the Thai chain founded by Alan Yau, has secured approval for its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposal, Propel has learned. The 13-strong company, which earlier this summer was acquired by Tnui Capital – the London-based private equity firm – launched its CVA at the start of last month, working with advisory firm Duff & Phelps. Propel understands the CVA was approved by more than 85% of the group’s creditors. It will see the company exit its site in Eastcastle Street, Oxford Circus, which it placed on the market earlier this year; plus the lease of its former site in Manchester; the lease of its former site in St Albans; and the site it was set to take in Reading’s Jackson’s Corner development. The Terry Harrison-led company has so far reopened nine of its sites since 4 July, with its restaurants in Covent Garden, Leicester Square and the O2 still closed.
 
Jamie Oliver’s parents sell Essex pub to the Chestnut Group: Trevor and Sally Oliver, the parents of high-profile chef Jamie Oliver, have sold their pub, The Cricketers in Clavering, Essex, to East Anglian-based pub and restaurant company The Chestnut Group. After owning the pub for 44 years, the Olivers have decided to retire. Trevor Oliver said: “We have had an amazing time running the inn, which has been our home for the past 44 years. We brought up our children, trained and supported hundreds of staff in the hospitality sector and made many friends for life. But with a great team and strong support from our loyal customers in place, we felt it was the right time to move on. So, we have taken the decision to hand over the keys to Chestnut and look forward to seeing the next phase in the life of The Cricketers.” Philip Turner, founder and chief executive of Chestnut Group, told Propel: “While some may question if this is the right time for us to acquire The Cricketers, our view and commitment is long term, this is a hugely successful business with strong foundations, we have full confidence in its future potential. It also adds another 22 bedrooms to the business, taking our overall room stock to around 150 rooms.” The Chestnut Group currently operates 11 sites across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Earlier this month, it strengthened its senior leadership team with the appointment of Henry Fairbanks, formerly of Ei Group’s Bermondsey Pub Comp, as chief operating officer as it eyes further growth.
 
McDonald’s drives app downloads with 50% off deal: McDonald’s is driving app downloads by offering 50% off their whole menu this week. Customers who download the McDonald’s app and sign up by Sunday 1 November will then have 36 days to use their offer at selected restaurants across the UK. Only new customers are eligible, meaning those who are already signed up to the app can’t access the deal. To claim the offer, new customers need to open up the app and go to the “deals” section. There, an option to select the 50% offer will appear, where customers can then order as normal. There’s no minimum spend with the deal – but it can only be used once. Customers who are already signed up to the app will get a different offer, which is £5 off for every £15 spent, which can be used multiple times. The offers are only available at some branches, which are listed on the McDonald’s website. 
 
Bluestone National Park Resort wants to invest £15m to increase staycation capacity: Bluestone National Park Resort is hoping to expand by nearly a quarter in a bid to meet a growing demand from the UK “staycation” trend. The Pembrokeshire resort wants to spend £15m building 80 new “superior” lodges as well as adding a new restaurant in the nearby Black Pool Mill building. Plans for the historic mill building, which include a heritage restaurant serving lunches, cream teas and dinner, were first announced earlier this year. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority has granted Bluestone change-of-use planning permission to allow it to begin work to bring the 19th century mill back to its former glory. Bluestone has now launched its pre-application consultation to build the 80 lodges saying it was determined to invest further in the business, despite the current pandemic and the challenges it is creating for the tourism industry. Last year, the holiday resort attracted 155,000 visitors to its 500-acre site and it hopes the new lodges will create an additional £1m of spending in Pembrokeshire. It said its plans would also create more than 250 jobs in the construction phase and almost 90 jobs following completion.
 
Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar opens Marlow site: Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has opened a new Indian restaurant, Vaasu, in Marlow after three months of delivering takeaways. The coronavirus pandemic saw a summer launch postponed with a switch to takeaways to those in the area of Buckinghamshire, as well as the surrounding villages. The Chapel Street-based venue replaces the former Italian restaurant Villa D’Este, which closed its doors after 33 years in September 2019. Kochhar said: “People have been asking me, why open a restaurant now during the pandemic? “I’m passionate about gastronomic discovery and while we cannot travel and explore the world at the moment, we will bring the bounty of India’s beautiful flavours, aromas and spices to our guests. Vaasu celebrates the life and culture of India through a menu of magnificent dishes from India. I’m inspired by traditional cooking techniques like the tandoor oven and tawa griddle.
 
£40m Covent Garden hotel opens hoping for 20% occupancy: The Middle Eight in Covent Garden, a hotel that cost £40m, opened yesterday hoping for 20% occupancy. It is located on the site of the former Kingsway Hall recording venue, one of the leading recording venues in London for orchestral music because of its central location and excellent acoustics. Middle Eight’s general manager Christian Graf said he was reconciled to a “very slow start” with tourism still down more than 90% in London and few signs of it picking up. He said: “The hotel is ready and we want to open it. We do believe that this situation will not go on forever and you do have to start establishing yourself in the market. Of course, I accept it will be a very slow start, I will be happy if we manage 10, 15 or maybe 20% occupancy to begin with.” The hotel, which will have 168 rooms and 12 suites, is the latest in a series of openings in the capital during the pandemic despite the historically low numbers of visitors to London. The 59-room hotel The Guardsman opened in Westminster last week while US brand Nomad is planning to launch its first London offshoot in the former Bow Street Magistrates Court before the end of the year. This week, French hotel giant Accor and hospitality company sbe announced the five-star Shoreditch hotel The Curtain is to be turned into a Mondrian hotel in collaboration with current owners, the Reuben brothers.
 
The Ned appoints Sarah Winter as new finance director: Sarah Winter, formerly of Iberica Restaurants and Busaba Eathai, has joined The Ned, Soho House’s hotel and members’ club in the City of London, as its new finance director. Winter joins The Ned after six and half years as finance director at Iberica, where she remains a member of the board. Previous to that, she spent nearly four years as finance director at Busaba. Earlier this month, The Ned opened American-style restaurant – Electric Bar & Diner. The restaurant is one of eight places to eat at The Ned – a grade I-listed former Midland Bank building – and replaced the space once used by Zobler’s and by Cafe Sou.
 
Bedlam Brewery hits fund-raise target with 28 days to spare: Sussex brewery Bedlam has hit its £450,000 fund-raising target with 28 days to go. Bedlam, which relaunched in 2015 with award-winning beers brewed at its eco-focused craft brewery in the South Downs, has raised more than £530,000 from almost 200 investors via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The business is offering equity in the business of circa 13.5% so it can further accelerate its growth. Bedlam has recorded year-on-year turnover to March 2020, up by 27% to more than £677,000 with Ebitda at minus £410,000. Bedlam said on Crowdcube: “Since 2015, revenue has grown over 250% and, in the 12 months to 31 March, we sold over 655,000 pints to our thirsty customers.” It added its boost to turnover came mainly through sales of draught beer to the on-trade. Bedlam added: “Since lock-down, we have switched focus to our packaged business, growing sales by over 1,000% year-on-year with more than 750 individuals having ordered directly via our website. Post lock-down, we have sold to over 200 separate trade outlets, including bottle shops, over 100 freehouses, restaurants and pub companies, such as Ei Group and JD Wetherspoon.” 
 
Pop Golf targets music fans for debut site at Boxpark Wembley: Mini golf site Pop Golf will target music fans at Boxpark Wembley when it opens in February 2021. The concept is a mix of sport and pop music, and will feature nine different pop-themed holes using an immersive sound system and a curated music playlist from industry experts. Allan Saud, owner of Pop Golf and founder of Mighty Adventures, which currently operates mini golf courses in Southampton, Bournemouth and Colchester, said: “Our mission with Pop Golf was to create a rich experience that tells a story. This is not just another standard crazy golf course, this is a celebration of music. From the design to the innovative and sustainable drinks menu, to the team behind it and the brands we’re partnering with, pop music has led the way. We want our guests to rock up to Pop Golf, have an awesome time and leave feeling that music has the power to change the world.” Players can expect to find “a sound system set to blow minds not ears, wow-factor motion and audio sensitive surroundings, slick pop culture photo opportunities and infectious play”. The venue has been designed by Zachary Pulman Design Studio – which was responsible for the Swingers golf business layout – with creative direction from Kevin Mura of Smith & Devil.
 
Trinity Hotel takes 100-year lease on Wroxhall Abbey Hotel: Trinity Hotel, a company created by a consortium of investors with operational hotel experience, has signed a new 100-year lease at Wroxall Abbey Hotel & Estate through agent Savills, acting on behalf of a private client. It will be refurbishing and redeveloping the estate over the next few months. Dating back to the 12th century, Wroxall Abbey is a grade II-listed country house set within 27 acres of open parkland with links throughout its history to the likes of William Shakespeare and Sir Christopher Wren. The estate comprises 72 bedrooms as well as 12 main conference and meeting rooms, two restaurants and two bars. On-site facilities include a swimming pool, spa and three outdoor tennis courts plus a large permanent marquee for up to 650 guests, making the hotel a popular corporate and leisure destination. It is located on Birmingham Road in the village of Wroxall in Warwickshire. Tom Cunningham, hotels director at Savills, said: “With its interesting history and stunning setting, opportunities to acquire the lease to a building such as Wroxall Abbey are exceptionally rare so we’re delighted to have secured this deal on behalf of our client.” The previous leaseholder was the hotel operator who sold the hotel for an undisclosed sum.
 
Frankie & Benny’s in Scunthorpe could become drive-thru Taco Bell and Burger King: A Frankie and Benny’s on Scunthope’s Doncaster Road, set to close next month, could be converted into two drive-thru restaurants. Plans have been submitted to divide the site into a Taco Bell and a Burger King. The new drive-thrus would provide 25 full-time and 25 part-time jobs. The Restaurant Group has said the closure is due to challenges in the industry that have been made worse during lock-down. The planning application states the proposed drive-thrus “will add to the choice of food available at the Gallagher Retail Park/North Lincolnshire Shopping Park and cater for the needs of consumers who would already be present”. The plans were put forward by the same company behind proposals for a neighbouring leisure complex next to Scunthorpe United football ground, including a 120-room hotel, a gym and five restaurants. The drive-thru restaurants would form a natural extension of the leisure park, taking advantage of the proximity to the M180 and Sands Venue Stadium. If given the green light, drive-thrus would be Scunthorpe’s first Taco Bell and second Burger King.
 
Bao to launch ‘Dine in Cinema’ experience at Borough Market site: London operator Bao is to launch Dine in Cinema its Borough Market restaurant. Created in collaboration with MUBI, the curated film streaming service, Dine in Cinema presents Nightmare on Film Street, a season of horror films launching on Thursday (29 October) and running until Tuesday, 29 December. The first series of Dine in Cinema is available to book for groups of four to six people. Priced at £20, tickets include a choice of six horror films curated by BAO and MUBI, whose platform offers an ever-changing collection of hand-picked films from new directors to award-winners. All screenings will be accompanied by BAO’s Cinema Set Menu. Founded by Shing Tat Chung, Erchen Chang and Wai Ting Chung, the first permanent Bao restaurant opened in Soho in April 2015, following a successful period trading at Netil Market in Hackney. Following critical acclaim for its Taiwanese steamed buns and “xiao chi” small plates from the likes of AA Gill and Giles Coren, Bao’s second restaurant opened in Fitzrovia in July 2016. A third restaurant, Bao Borough, opened in May 2019. 
 
Plonk launches fourth site: Crazy golf brand Plonk has launched its fourth site, this one is its largest so far and located on fourth floor of Peckham Levels. The arcade is lined with pinball machines, retro arcade cabinets, and foosball tables with regular and new games coming during the months to follow. The course has been designed to be totally socially distanced from the ground up. Every hole is at least two metres from the next, and the slower pace of play gives family and friends the chance to take their time and order drinks directly to their putting positions. Hand sanitising stations are placed across the venue and capacity will be reduced for the foreseeable future to allow extra space and time around the venue creating a safer experience for all. Elliot Scott, founder of Plonk said: “We are finally open. It has been an incredibly long road to get to this point but we are very happy with the results. The course is looking fantastic and the space is one of the biggest we have ever created with outdoor seating, retro games and foosball tables. We are priced well below any of our competitors so hurry on down and check out Plonk’s largest course to date.” Food comes in the form of two of Peckham Levels traders. Ipanema Grill serves an extended street food menu based on all the traditional home-cooked dishes from Brazil while Boxwallah serves Indian dishes. Plonk Crazy Golf was founded by a group of set designers from the film industry.
 
Better burger brand lines up eighth site: Better burger brand Loaded Burger has lined up its eighth site, this time with a site at Genr8 Developments’ and Rochdale Borough Council’s new £80m retail and leisure development, Rochdale Riverside. It will occupy a 3,400 square foot unit in the scheme to bring its signature “build your own” burgers, wings, waffle towers, milkshakes, plus a range of vegan options to the town. Established in 2014, the gourmet burger restaurant currently operates seven sites across Liverpool and London and will be opening its Rochdale branch, its first in Greater Manchester, in early 2021. Loaded Burgers will be joining the Rochdale Riverside leisure line-up, which already boasts the six-screen Reel cinema, interactive mini-golf centre Puttstars from Hollywood Bowl and Heavenly Desserts.

Bredbury Hall on the market with asking price of £5.25m: Agent Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) has been instructed to find a buyer for Bredbury Hall & Country Club, in Bredbury, Stockport. Comprising 149 en-suite letting bedrooms, the property boasted a net turnover of £4,105,000 for the year ending 2019. The property benefits from a range of first-class amenities including extensive conference and banqueting facilities with capacities ranging from six to 200 guests across 10 suites, a lounge, bar and brasserie with accommodation for 60 covers, a recently refurbished 200-cover Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar and Grill restaurant, and a popular nightclub with capacity for 900 guests. The freehold investment includes associated car parking and land. Offers in the region of £5.25m are invited for the freehold interest with viewings strictly via appointment only.
 
Louise Smalley to step down as Whitbread HR director: Whitbread has announced Louise Smalley has discussed with the board her intention to retire as group HR director in the spring of 2021 and a process to appoint a successor will now commence. Chairman Adam Crozier said: “Louise joined Whitbread in 1995, and has been group HR director since 2007, joining the board in 2012. The board would like to thank Louise for her significant contribution over the years, she has helped steer Whitbread through a period of significant change and development. She goes with our very best wishes for the future and she will be missed.” Smalley said: “It has been a huge privilege to be part of this great organisation for so long. I would like to pay tribute to the entire Whitbread team and, in particular, the many team members who serve our guests every day. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Whitbread and I remain fully committed until I retire.” 
 
Hoppers launches meal kits: London-based Sri Lankan brand Hoppers is celebrating its fifth birthday with the launch of its Cash & Kari store, a retail platform for meal kits, restaurant-blend curry powders, Sri Lankan spices, ready-to-drink cocktails, and Hoppers’ own-brew beers. Developed by the Hoppers team, Cash & Kari is initially launching with a range of signature spices, pantry essentials, snacks, ‘kari-home’ meal kits, bottled cocktails and Hoppers merchandise, with a lot more to be added in the coming months. Kari-home kits (a mix of ready-to-eat and cook-at-home dishes) that will be available on launch include paneer kothu, lamb kothu, and kalupol chicken. Delivery will be available nationwide.

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