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Wed 17th Aug 2022 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Mounting costs and supply problems hitting industry businesses hard, menu prices set to keep rising: Hospitality businesses face a damaging combination of mounting costs and supply problems, CGA and Fourth’s new Business Confidence Survey reveals. The exclusive survey of industry leaders shows more than two in three (71%) have seen significant increases in energy costs, while six in ten (60%) have experienced significant food and drink price inflation. Businesses are also dealing with shortages of key food and drink items, the survey shows. Eight in ten (81%) have experienced reduced product lines, while more than half have seen products not turning up (62%) or delayed (51%). With costs of labour and other inputs also squeezing margins, hospitality businesses are being forced to pass on some rises to consumers. Leaders said they have raised menu prices by an average of 9% in the last year, and they plan to raise them by a further 6% in the next 12 months. Despite the rising costs, hospitality leaders remain focused on making their businesses more sustainable. Just under half (49%) plan to introduce measures to reduce their carbon footprints, with priorities including reducing energy use or switching to renewable sources, consolidating deliveries, working with greener suppliers, reducing waste and adding more plant-based food to menus. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director - hospitality operators and food EMEA, said: “The double whammy of cost and availability issues is piling huge pressure on operators’ margins. Combined with the growing cost-of-living crisis for consumers, it means trading conditions will be very tough over the remainder of 2022. Hospitality’s long-term future is bright, but for now, leaders will have to find the right balance between absorbing soaring costs and passing them on to guests. The huge supply challenges also highlight the need for urgent and sustained government support for the sector.” Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, added: “The hospitality industry has had a torrid time over the last two and a half years, and the ongoing supply chain disruption is the latest challenge that businesses have had to contend with. Recent data published by Fourth indicates that average overall costs are up 10% on 2019, and that the average gross profit margin has fallen from 78% to 74% in the last 12 months.”
 

Industry News: 

Variety of bar operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A variety of bar operators are among the 38 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday, 26 August, at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features Irish bar concept McCafferty’s, which operates six sites in the UK, three sites in Ireland and four internationally, in Dubai and Spain. Also added this month is 1910 Cantina, the Mexican bar and restaurant concept led by Mauricio Rico, which has secured a second London location, at 277 New Kings Road, for a new opening later this year. In addition, Shaker Group, the hospitality consultancy, training and events company that also operates venues including The Orangery, Gas Street Social and Old Rectory House in the Midlands, Shaker & Company in London’s Euston and The Hart at Headless Cross in Redditch, will be featured. Meanwhile, brothers Sam and Tom Benjamin, operators of The Taphouse and Another? Wine Bar in Nottingham, who have recently taken on their third site with a view to creating a high-end cocktail bar and fine dining restaurant, are included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 2,500-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database currently features 2,572 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock, on Friday, 2 September, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 10,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated monthly provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers have also been given exclusive access to the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database, which is an exhaustive guide to the companies offering a food and beverage franchise in the UK and is updated every two months. The third edition features 140 companies and almost 60,000 words of content, providing insight on the offer, locations, cost and other key details. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from propel group editor Mark Wingett.

BBPA – greater flexibility in apprenticeship levy and increased number of hospitality qualifications available needed amid sector staffing crisis: The government must allow greater flexibility in the apprenticeship levy and increase the number of hospitality qualifications available amid the staffing crisis in the sector, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has warned. While quarterly UK job vacancies fell for the first time since 2020 – dropping by 19,800 to 1.274 million between May and July – staff shortages in hospitality remain at record levels. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Our sector is already innovating by offering new training opportunities and flexible hours to encourage people into a career in hospitality, but they can’t solve the issue alone. The government must make it easier to recruit and retain staff, for example, by allowing greater flexibility in the apprenticeship levy and increasing the number of hospitality qualifications available so young people can be confident our sector provides a long-term career path. As an industry, we rely on brilliant people for our businesses to thrive, and so we need a forward-looking plan on labour shortages, so they don’t continue to threaten our sector’s viability.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “Staff shortages have been at a record high in the hospitality industry for some time, causing thousands of operators to cut trading hours or close for whole days, at a cost of £21bn in lost revenue. At the same time, operating costs are soaring across the board for businesses already carrying heavy debt levels from the pandemic. The industry needs urgent support from the government if it is to survive and generate jobs and growth. In short, the recovery of both the sector and the UK economy are being threatened by the workforce crisis.” Earlier this week, the BBPA wrote to Conservative leadership candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, calling for them to convene a summit at the earliest opportunity possible to form a long-term plan for the sector and secure the future of thousands of hospitality businesses across the country.

Real wages fall at fastest rate on record: Regular pay fell at the sharpest rate on record between April and June, new figures have shown. Wages – when taking into account rising prices – dropped by 3% on the year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Household budgets are being hit by soaring energy bills as well as higher food and fuel costs in recent months. The rise in prices has fuelled the UK inflation rate to a 40-year high, and figures due out today (Wednesday, 17 August) are expected to show a further increase. Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS said the “real value” of pay was continuing to fall. “Excluding bonuses, it is still dropping faster than at any time since comparable records began in 2001,” he said. The ONS said growth in regular pay, excluding bonuses, was 4.7% in April to June 2022. Excluding the pandemic, it is the fastest growth in 15 years. However, after taking into account inflation over the year, wages fell by a record 3%.

Scottish hospitality venues could suffer more financial burdens through deposit return scheme: The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has warned that the forthcoming deposit return scheme (DRS) could place yet more financial burdens on already struggling businesses in the country. The project, which will impact every business in Scotland that makes or sells drinks in single use glass or plastic bottles and cans, goes live in August 2023, with the aim of recycling 90% of drinks containers used in the country. “With a year left to go, there is a lot of work still to be done,” said SBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin. “Establishing producer fees is critical so producers can plan ahead and assess the impact on their businesses. Unfortunately, this will put even more financial pressure on both brewers and pubs at a very difficult time as they battle with soaring energy costs and labour shortages. The Scottish government need to be acutely aware that the producer fee is just one of a myriad of costs attached to a DRS. Labelling, new IT systems, staff training, security, storage and fraud risks will all come with significant expenditures. There also remains several elements still to be finalised, such as VAT treatment and the on-line takeback model, that with just a year to go, is causing significant concerns among businesses.” Meanwhile, Circularity Scotland, the scheme administrator, is calling on venues across the country to begin preparing for it. Formal registration will open in December, and those who will operate return points can now sign up to the Circularity Scotland website to receive all the information they will need. David Harris, Circularity Scotland chief executive, said: “The progress made since Circularity Scotland was formed is extremely encouraging, and we now have in place the infrastructure, funding and team to ensure the scheme is a success, and there is a clear roadmap until the scheme goes live and beyond. Of course, there is plenty more to do before 16 August 2023, and we know that both drinks producers and those who will act as return point operators will need to make changes to how they operate. We’re here to support them in their preparations and would encourage them to sign up with us now to access all the information they need.” 

Inception Group’s Mr Fogg’s bars ‘most Instagrammed’ in the UK: Mr Fogg’s, the eight-strong London-based brand from Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling’s Inception Group, have been revealed as the most Instagrammed bars in the UK. Research conducted by CasinoTop10.net looked at how many times the name of a venue had been included in a hashtag and ranked it accordingly, and Mr Fogg’s came out on top with 16,856 hashtags. Inception Group opened its latest Mr Fogg’s site, Mr Fogg’s Apothecary, in Mayfair in June, and earlier this month secured a site for its next Mr Fogg’s, in Soho’s Dean Street. Inspired by Phileas Fogg, the brand is described as a “collection of adventurous cocktail bars transporting you back to the Victorian era”. Second in the poll, with 6,620 hashtags, was Edinburgh cocktail bar Panda & Sons, one of three venues in the Scottish capital owned by Iain McPherson, which has a fake barber shop front and is styled as a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The rest of the top ten were all London bars, namely Trailer Happiness (3,285 hashtags), Oriole (3,272), Disrepute (3,067), Happiness Forgets (2,901), Opium (2,462), Lyaness (2,455), Laki Kane (2,340) and Satan’s Whiskers ((2,228).

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a hotel concept that is seeking a regional manager. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “You will take ownership of five hotels – it’s a simple business model and very tech focused, but with a five-star experience guaranteed. The most important parts of this role are culture and guest. This position will see you be among your teams, leading by example and having keen eye for details. The business is looking for someone with multi-site experience in premium high-volume restaurants/hotels.” The salary is up to £85,000 and based in London. For more information, email kate@corecruitment.com
 

Company News:

New World Trading Company to bring The Botanist to Sunderland: New World Trading Company is bringing its The Botanist brand to Sunderland. The restaurant and bar will occupy one of the four units beneath the city’s new Holiday Inn, which is taking shape in Keel Square. The venue, which will create around 60 jobs, is set to open later this year. The company has applied to the council’s licencing team ahead of signing a lease on its unit. Natasha Waterfield, chief operating officer at New World Trading Company, said: “Our Botanist brand is so well-loved by our guests, so it’s always exciting for us to bring our concept-venue to new cities and towns. Sunderland is a transforming place, thanks to unparalleled investment in the city centre and the vision of the city council, and we’re excited by the opportunity to bring our immersive offer to the area.” Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Investment is pouring into Sunderland at an unprecedented rate, and that’s drawing the interest of leisure operators who understand that – as the city becomes more vibrant and dynamic – they can be part of a reimagined and reinvented place.” The Botanist will be part of the new £18m, 120-bedroom Holiday Inn Hotel at Keel Square, which is close to completion. North East property firm Bradley Hall assisted in bringing The Botantist to Sunderland. New World Trading Company, which has 34 venues across the UK, is also believed to be in talks on opening The Botanist in Bracknell, Brighton, Durham and Portsmouth.

Waterfield’s reports trading returns to pre-pandemic levels, completes CVA: North west bakery and retailer Waterfield’s has reported trading in its shops has returned to pre-pandemic levels and the business has completed its company voluntary arrangement (CVA). Waterfield’s, which has 36 sites across the region, entered into the CVA in December 2016. In accounts for the year ending 5 April 2022, the company stated: “On 17 June 2022, the CVA was declared fully implemented by the supervisor, and the relevant notice was filed at Companies House. During the year, £207,000 of contributions were paid over to the supervisor of the CVA, bringing the total contributions paid out of profits over the five-year term to £657,000 as set out in the original proposal.” The business also reported its fifth profitable year of trading while in the CVA. Turnover increased to £12,404,298 compared with £10,149,703 the year before. It saw a pre-tax profit of £301,611 (2021: £308,217). The company stated: “Retail turnover is now back to pre-coronavirus levels. In April 2021, the company opened its first new site since the pandemic began. Wholesale sales have also increased substantially during the year. Gross profit increased from 45.9% to 48.4%, which is close to pre-coronavirus levels. Although the company has seen ongoing increases ln raw material costs, particularly in the second half of the year, these have largely been offset by selective price increases. The company has no external debt and has again been self-funding throughout the year. Capital investment has been maintained. The company has a substantial cash in hand balance and has again operated throughout the year without an overdraft.”

London food hall concept sees ‘strong demand’ for new sites, third to open next month: Food hall concept Market Place London’s operations director says he sees a “strong demand” for further sites in the capital due to changing working habits caused by the pandemic. Market Place London will open its third site next month, situated in the arches next door to Vauxhall station. Market Place Vauxhall will house 12 restaurant spaces, a standalone bar, a DJ booth and seating for 200 people when it opens on Friday, 23 September. Blake Henderson, operations director for Market Place London, said: “We focus our attention on London neighborhoods rather than central locations as we want to create amazing food and drink destinations on people’s doorsteps. With the onset of hybrid working following the pandemic, people are spending more time in their own neighbourhoods, so we feel there will be strong demand for more Market Place sites across the city. We also offer small and local food businesses prime opportunities at a fraction of the cost to give them spaces for their ideas to grow. We’re very excited to open our third food hall in Vauxhall and hope that it will become a buzzing hub of activity in the area, just like our other locations.” The food offering at Market Place Vauxhall will include wood-fired pizza from Made in Puglia, Mexican tacos by Hermano Tacos, Sri Lankan hoppers and kottu from Karapincha Kitchen and Jamaican jerk chicken and rum punch by Rudie’s Jerk Shack. Market Place London, which also operates sites in Hounslow and Peckham, aims to “support independent business owners and remove barriers for start-up food and drink vendors to start or grow” by offering affordable street food stalls.

Kent-based Costa franchisee more than doubles profits, looks to further expand across south east: Kent-based Costa franchisee Goldex Investments more than doubled its profits last year and is looking to further expand across the south east. Its pre-tax profits rose from £922,761 in 2020 to £2,223,998 in the year ending 31 October 2021. Turnover was up from £8,075,153 in 2020 to £11,520,781. Dividends of £269,688 were paid. It said: “In the past year, Goldex Investments and its subsidiary company have continued to prosper and grow with the establishment of new sites across Kent. The directors are satisfied with the recovery the company has made post pandemic and are confident of progress in 2022 and beyond. The group has taken advantage of government support packages available as a result of covid-19, and these measures have been sufficient for the company during the pandemic period of 2020 and 2021, and the company is now well placed for the market in 2022, with strong demand in the restaurant sector. The directors propose to continue their expansion of acquiring shops under the Costa franchise chain throughout the south east of England.” Goldex, which is also a franchisee for Kaspa’s Desserts and holds the master franchise for Doner & Gyros in the UK and Europe, was founded in 2005, and by 2009 had become the UK’s largest Costa franchise. It has opened more than 80 Costa stores, and according to its website, around 48 of these are currently operational, across Kent and Sussex. It also opened its first gym, Goldex Fitness, in Gillingham earlier this year. In February, Propel revealed that Goldex had become the first UK-based Costa franchise to develop the brand abroad by signing for a site in Marrakesh, Morocco, which is set to be followed by a further store in Casablanca.

London luxury health club brand secures two new sites, set to generate revenue of more than £50m in 2022, ahead of 2019 levels: London luxury health club brand Third Space has secured two new sites as part of its UK expansion plans and is set to generate revenue of more than £50m in 2022, “comfortably ahead” of 2019 levels. The business, which is preparing to launch its eighth site in the capital, in Moorgate, in November, has also signed for sites in Battersea and Wimbledon, in partnership with real estate agency P-Three. Both sites are set to launch in 2023. The Wimbledon club, which will be located in the soon-to-be-overhauled Centre Court Shopping Centre, will provide 42,000 square feet of workout space including studios for yoga, pilates, cycling and cross-training. It will also have a 25m pool, spa, sauna and steam room. The Battersea club will be located on Electric Boulevard, a new pedestrianised high street which will run from the south district of the Power Station. It will offer 28,000 square feet of training space including a 20m pool, spa and a sunken timber Finnish sauna and marble steam room. It will also have several studios, a weightlifting space and a 15m sled track. Colin Waggett, chief executive of Third Space, said: “We can’t wait to continue expanding our current club network in Battersea and Wimbledon, reaching new areas in London. In doing so, we achieve our simply stated dual aims of getting better and bigger. 2023 is going to be a very exciting year for Third Space with the upcoming club launches, and we have a number of other sites set to launch shortly after, inspiring all Londoners to be their personal best.” Both clubs will also offer a selection of natural fitness foods made freshly on site, which will also be available for delivery.

Black Diamond Pub Company opens third pub in 12 months: Black Diamond Pub Company, a high-end and food-led pub company operating village pubs, has opened its third site in 12 months. The company is now operating The Three Tuns in Biddenham, Bedfordshire. Ahead of its reopening, The Three Tuns has been transformed with a joint investment from pub owner Greene King and the Black Diamond Pub Company in excess of £300,000. The transformation includes a redesigned bar, creating a new space for eating and drinking. The kitchen has also been refurbished to serve the Black Diamond Pub Company’s high-end food offer. The company’s other pubs are The French Horn in Steppingley, Bedfordshire, and The Crooked Billet in Newton Longville, near Milton Keynes. All three pubs are operated in partnership with Greene King. Matt Henman, founder of the Black Diamond Pub Company, said: “We have built a strong relationship with Greene through difficult trading times, and when the opportunity came up to take on The Three Tuns, we jumped at it. The pub has everything we look for – a local village pub setting with the space and features needed to implement our high-end, food-led offer.”

Urban Pubs & Bars opens second Salt Yard Group site in as many months: London operator Urban Pubs & Bars has opened its second Salt Yard Group site in as many months – and second since acquiring the brand in November 2018. Salt Yard Borough has opened in Borough Market’s Winchester Street, a month after the opening of Salt Yard Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush. The new site is the sixth in the group overall and will “transport guests to the intimate tapas bars and restaurants of Spain and Italy”. Dishes will include lamb pintxo, smoked ricotta, tarragon and caper pesto and wild seabass crudo, coriander aguachile, brown crab and avocado, alongside traditional tapas-style plates. Nick Pring, founder and director of Urban Pubs & Bars, said: “We are delighted to have opened the doors to Salt Yard Borough. To be amongst the buzz and excitement of Borough Market is a real joy, and we are proud to have a Salt Yard site in such an iconic location.”

Entrepreneur opens second axe-throwing venue, in Swansea: Entrepreneur Matthew Griffin has opened his second Lumberjack Axe Throwing venue. Griffin opened his first site in Cardiff, in 2019. Now, supported by a £35,000 micro loan from the Development Bank of Wales, he has invested in a Lumberjack site in Dilwyn Street in the centre of Swansea. As well as providing axe throwing, his latest venue will also see the addition of Wales’ first permanent “rage room”, which will give customers the chance to work out their stresses by smashing up crockery and other items. Griffin spotted a gap in the market for an axe throwing venue in Cardiff and took the opportunity to open his first site, while continuing to work as a self-employed carpenter and working towards his university degree. He said: “I was self-financing the Cardiff venue, and it took all my personal savings at the time to get it off the ground. The loan from the development bank has assisted massively in ensuring the Swansea construction doesn’t have too much of an impact on the cashflow of the company as a whole. As you can imagine, running a company while trying to construct a premises twice the size of the one bringing in the revenue can significantly drop capital reserves, risking the whole company and making the project almost impossible after the years of economic uncertainties that we have had.”

Various Eateries opens Coppa Club site in Bath: Various Eateries, the Hugh Osmond-backed business, has opened a site in Bath for its Coppa Club brand. The former GAP store in the city’s Old Bond Street has been transformed into The Bath Townhouse. It is the Coppa Club's 11th location and second property in the West Country. Set across two levels, the ground floor features the main restaurant, bar and cafe space. Meanwhile, the second floor is home to “Upstairs at The Townhouse”, an all-day lounge-bar serving signature cocktails and food. The seasonal menu features a modern take on British and Mediterranean classics. Yishay Malkov, chief executive of Various Eateries, said: “Our ‘Upstairs at The Townhouse’ space is a first for Coppa Club and adds another dimension to our all-day venue. By offering a new idea to the Bath all-day dining scene, we hope to cement our place within the community.” Various Eateries is thought to also be eyeing sites in Cardiff and Guildford for Coppa Club openings.

Le Bab set to launch Spitalfields stall: Kebab restaurant concept Le Bab, founded by Stephen Tozer, Manu Canales and Ed Brune, is set to take a stall at Spitalfields Market from next Wednesday (August 24). It will be taking the unit at the market formerly occupied by Bvrger, reports Hot Dinners. Le Bab opened its fourth restaurant in June when it made its south London debut with a site in Coldharbour Lane, Brixton. Founded in 2016, it also operates sites in Soho, Covent Garden and Shoreditch. Its next restaurant, at Battersea Power Station, is due to open next month, where it will be among the first tranche of food and beverage operators to open inside the renovated grade II-listed building.

Fridays parent appoints non-executive director: Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays, 63rd+1st and Fridays and Go, has appointed Stephen Welker as a non-executive director. Welker brings a wealth of experience both from investment companies and the hospitality sector, not least from his prior involvement in the Fridays business. He is currently a partner at Sherborne Investors Management and is responsible for leading its research function. He was also a director of Mondays (Topco), the previous holding company in the Fridays UK group, from June 2017 to November 2021. Welker was previously a director of Electra Private Equity from July 2019 to November 2021. Hostmore chairman Gavin Manson said: “Stephen will be a valuable addition to Hostmore, complementing the skills and experience we have on the board. His knowledge and understanding of our core business, alongside his broad understanding of the City, investment banking and investor relations, will be important as we pursue our various growth opportunities.”

Comptoir Libanais opens at London Stansted airport: Comptoir Group has opened a new Comptoir Libanais restaurant, at London Stansted airport. The site, located in the airside terminal building in the main departure lounge, is operated by franchise partner HMSHost International. The restaurant, which seats more than 140 people, offers an all-day menu, including a selection of hot and cold mezze. It is also available for takeaway. The site is Comptoir Group’s first UK airport opening with HMSHost International, with the two companies having partnered on four other restaurants in the UK and abroad. Another is set to open later this year, in Doha. Comptoir Group founder Tony Kitous said: “We wanted to create a very welcoming restaurant, with a garden dining experience for passengers to start their sunny holidays with us at Comptoir Libanais, London Stansted. We look forward to working with HMSHost on further openings in exciting new locations as we grow our business and our brands, and our love for Lebanese food and culture, both here and abroad.”
 
Wimpy secures Bracknell site: Wimpy has secured a unit at The Lexicon development in Bracknell. It is among a number of brands to have signed for sites at the scheme, which is a joint venture between Schroders Capital UK Real Estate Fund (SCREF) and Legal & General Capital. Tom Woolven, asset manager at Schroders Capital, said: “The Lexicon is integral to the redevelopment of Bracknell town centre, and these latest lettings will help solidify the town’s status as a key destination within the Berkshire region.” Having opened in 2017, The Lexicon houses a 12-screen Cineworld as well as foodservice brands including Gail’s, Zizzi, Kokoro, Las Iguanas and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

The Breakfast Club and Pure join Just Eat for Business offer: All-day dining concept The Breakfast Club and healthy food-to-go concept Pure have joined Just Eat for Business, the food delivery service’s corporate arm. The latest additions come at a time when many employees are back working in the office and are seeking new lunch options. Recent research by Just Eat for Business showed pop-up orders have increased by more than 200% since 2021, while buffet and platter orders rose in excess of 400% between January and May this year. Matt Ephgrave, managing director at Just Eat for Business, said: “We’ve seen our customers becoming more adventurous in their lunchtime orders. Therefore, we’re delighted to welcome our new vendors to the platform to offer even more variety to workers’ meal times.”

Newcastle’s Grainger Market set to launch as evening venue: Newcastle’s Grainger Market is set to launch as an evening venue with a series of events and street food offerings. The Great Market Caper will launch on Saturday, 3 September, with guest operators including some of Newcastle’s top chefs. Entertainment will be provided by musicians, performers, comics and artists from the region. Sean Bullick, director of organisers Let’s Stick Together Events, said: “At The Great Market Caper, you could only be in Newcastle. Not only is each Caper going to be a fantastic night out right in the heart of the city, but they will also showcase all the extraordinary depth of local talent that exists in the region.”

Blackpool family entertainment centre plans get green light: A scheme to convert an Odeon cinema in Blackpool into a family entertainment centre, which will feature food and drink units, has been approved. Austringer Capital plans to convert the cinema at Festival Leisure Park, Rigby Road, into a venue that will provide a range of indoor sport, recreation and fitness uses, along with two food and drink outlets. It would more than double the existing amount of 40 employees at the site. The application said that due to a “steady decline” in demand, it is “no longer viable for the large commercial unit to continue operation as a cinema unit”. In its place, it said a “vibrant and lively leisure activity facility” will introduce a new use to the area, along with an active frontage of food and drink units.

Costa set to open drive-thru in Winsford: Costa Coffee is set to open a new drive-thru outlet in Winsford as part of the transformation of the town centre. It will launch a 1,800 square-foot unit, with outside seating, at the corner of Dene Drive and the A54. Susan Agnew, acquisition manager for Costa, said: “Costa is delighted to be part of this redevelopment and the upgrading of Winsford town centre.”

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