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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 26th Mar 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Telegraph – Just Eat to float at price of 70 times earnings: Just Eat, the online takeaway food service, is expected to be valued at more than £1bn today as it unveils the price of its Initial Public Offering, according to The Daily Telegraph. The £1bn price tag would value the company, which uses the slogan “give hunger the finger”, at an extraordinary 70 times the group’s underlying earnings of £14.1m – and would be the clearest example so far of the buoyancy in the IPO market. The company’s valuation had previously been put at between £700m and £900m. Group chief executive David Buttress told The Telegraph that the valuation reflects the growth potential of the company with revenues up 70% year-on-year. A US takeaway rival GrubHub, which has less revenue than Just Eat but is profitable, was valued at $1.72bn (£1bn) on Monday. Just Eat, founded in Denmark in 2001, controls 50% of the UK’s online takeaway market. Just Eat charges restaurants nearly 11% commission on each order placed, worth an average of £2.11 per order last year. It has more than 36,000 takeaways on its website. The company argues the restaurants – which deliver the orders themselves – benefit because customers spend 30% more when orders are placed online rather than over the phone. The company had turnover of £96m last year while it reported underlying earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation of £14.1m. Last year, the company processed over 40 million orders, a rise of 15 million on the year before. The float will raise £100m, which will be used to make acquisitions. Earlier this year, the company bought Birmingham-based Meal2Go primarily to acquire a central ordering system for managing orders.

Industry News:

USA Today – ‘London has passed Paris as Europe’s dining capital’: Influential US newspaper USA Today has argued that London has passed Paris as Europe’s dining capital in “a tale of immigration, inclination and inspiration”. The newspaper stated: “Between 1981 and 2011, the population of London grew from 6.6 million to 8.2 million; and much of this is attributed to immigration. Naturally, this influx of people from across the world has had a significant impact on the depth and diversity of the local cuisine. Londoners today are spoilt for culinary choice, as the city is awash with exceptional international diners. There are Michelin-starred French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Peruvian restaurants in the city, as well as eateries specialising in cuisine from countless other countries. Whether you are hankering for some Hungarian goulash, Ghanaian waakye, Indonesian nasi goreng, Jamaican jerk chicken or Bolivian salteñas, there are a wealth of well-received restaurants that can sate your appetite.”
   
Bradford initiative to attract new restaurants starts to pay dividends: An initiative by Bradford City Council to attract new restaurants to the city is starting to pay dividends, according to the leader of the council. The authority is holding an investment seminar, Taste of Bradford, tomorrow. Bradford’s City Centre Growth Zone’s £35m business growth scheme offers rate rebates and grants to companies creating jobs in Bradford city centre. Bradford Breakthrough chief executive Colin Philpott said they were promoting around 35 to 40 potential restaurant sites across the city, most of which were in the streets around Westfield. So far, two companies have revealed plans to open new restaurants in the city. The first is Chinese Buffet, a chain of restaurants across the north of England, which will open in Centenary Square in April. The second is Menston’s multi-award winning 1875 Restaurant, which plans to open a sister restaurant in Albion Court, off Kirkgate.
   
US craft beer exports grow by 49% – UK third largest growth market: The Brewers Association in the US has reported that craft beer exports increased 49% last year, representing 282,526 barrels and $73 million of value. Canada remains the largest export market, with shipments increasing 92% by volume (up to 131,511 barrels). Sweden (up 15.5%) and the United Kingdom (up 7.9%) are the next two largest markets, with Australia (5.4 %) and Japan (3.2%) following. “Exports of American craft beer continue to expand in the international market, reflecting craft brewing’s overall success as an industry,” association chief operating officer Bob Pease said. “New distribution agreements for US breweries throughout Europe and Asia are helping to grow exports. This sustained growth is a testament to the innovation of small and independent American craft brewers and the enthusiasm of beer drinkers internationally. With more beer exported around the world, the challenge now is to ensure that beer quality is preserved in all cases, so consumers are assured a positive experience.”
   
Restaurant doggy bag scheme piloted in four Scottish towns and cities: A scheme that aims to cut food waste from restaurants by offering branded “doggy bags” has been launched in four Scottish towns and cities. Zero Waste Scotland’s ‘Good to Go’ initiative aims to reduce the stigma of asking to take leftovers home. Research shows that most diners would like to see doggy bags offered in restaurants, but are too embarrassed to ask for them. Figures show that the equivalent of one in six restaurant meals is thrown away. Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Over 53,000 tonnes of food is thrown away in restaurants in Scotland each year, which is not only a huge waste of money, it’s also a huge waste of good food and the energy and water that went into producing it. Research shows that most people want to take leftovers home to enjoy later, but are embarrassed to ask, so the Good to Go pilot is all about making it a normal, mainstream thing to do.” The initiative is being piloted at 11 restaurants in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Kilbride and Irvine.
   
Troubled Darden Restaurants to franchise Olive Garden in Peru: Troubled Darden Restaurants is to open its first Olive Garden restaurant in Peru under franchise in early April. The brand will operate in Peru with the slightly tweaked name of “Olive Italian Restaurant” and be operated by Delosi Group, which currently operates a number of other American brands under franchise in Peru, including Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chili’s.
   
Technomic reveals US growth chains: Insights firm Technomic has unveiled the brands with the fastest growth in the US as part of its annual report on the 500 leading restaurant chains. The five fastest-growing chains with sales of over $200 million by percentage are: Dickey’s Barbecue Pit (32.9% growth to hit $331m), Smashburger (32% growth to sales of $215m), Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers (23.6% growth to sales of $321m), Marco’s Pizza (22.6% growth to sales of $234m) and Jersey Mike’s Subs (21.2% growth to sales of $406m).
   
Eltham pub gets asset of community value protection: An Eltham pub that was saved from becoming a McDonald’s has been given more protection from developers following a community campaign. The Dutch House, in Mottingham Road, has been listed as an asset of community value by Greenwich Council. McDonald’s wanted to turn the site into a 24-hour drive-through but the application was refused last June after community protests.
   

Company News:

BrewDog updates on six planned international openings: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog is planning six more international openings this year, following the most recent opening in Tokyo. The company will open its second Swedish site in Gothenburg on the first anniversary of BrewDog Stockholm’s launch, 22 May. BrewDog is lining up an opening for Berlin this summer. The company stated: “We’ve pretty much secured a site, although we can’t reveal the exact details of its location until a few bits of paper are signed, sealed and delivered. We’ve got a bar manager, though, and we’ll announce the exact location as soon as we’re able to start work on the site.” The company is also close to securing sites in Rome and Florence. It stated: “We’ve got venues for both of these in the works, and pending a few final administrative ‘joys’ we should be in a position to announce both formally in the coming weeks. Both bars should be opening late summer.” Also in Italy, BrewDog has found a local partner to work with in Bologna. Meanwhile in the Finnish city of Helsinki the company reports it has also found a local partner, aiming to open this summer. BrewDog’s top UK target towns and cities are Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich. It plans a total of ten openings in the next six months.
      
Former Tea Monkey executive opens first pub: Former tea retailer Tea Monkey executive Samie Patel has opened his first pub, The Beech Tree on the Amersham Road in High Wycombe, a Star Pubs & Bars site, after a £190,000 co-investment. The pub has a strong day-long tea and coffee offer. Patel, who has also held management positions at McDonald’s and Subway, said: “I’d been looking for a pub to take on for some time. The moment I saw The Beech Tree, I knew it was the place for me and that it could become the type of family pub I wanted to run. It now offers the good food and facilities that families, residents and businesses in the area want. The turnout when we re-opened was astounding.”
   
Authentic piri piri restaurant to open: Fire and Feathers, a new restaurant and bar devoted to ‘authentic Portuguese piri piri chicken’, is opening in mid-May. The restaurant will be located at 343 Fulham Road in Chelsea, on the site that was previously Exquisito, one block east of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, amidst the core strip of area’s restaurants. Fire and Feathers made an informal debut in summer 2013, with a pop-up at the Earl of Portobello pub in West London. The menu is simple and concise, with just four starters, four mains and four desserts. With an emphasis on quality and provenance of the birds used, Fire and Feathers will use only specially sourced small style chicken, sourced within the UK, with an average weight of 600g for optimum flavour. It is being opened by first time restaurateur Harry Deighton.
      
Tesco to expand food offer with New York deli-diner concept: Tesco is to expand its move into foodservice with the launch of a New York deli-diner concept in partnership with restaurateur Paul Goodale and Yoomoo frozen yoghurt brand founder Daniel Gestetner. The concept is called Fred’s Food Construction and will take inspiration from the iconic photo of workers eating their lunch on the rooftops of the Rockefeller Center in 1930’s Manhattan, and will serve high quality subs. This includes a selection of grilled, roast and cured meats, “French dipped” in a homemade jus and piled on a freshly baked warm roll, or in a salad or “carb-free” lettuce wrap. Goodale, who opened PizzaLuxe’s second site last year at Leeds Trinity Kitchen, is a former restaurant director at London’s Harrod’s. Michael Holmes, chief executive of Tesco New Food Experience, said: “We know Londoners love good food, but also love to be the first to experience new and exciting food concepts, so we’re delighted to support Fred’s Food Construction in bringing delicious New York-style deli sandwiches to our customers in Osterley. Whether customers are grabbing a sub or sitting down for a leisurely lunch with friends, Fred’s provides the perfect mix of great food in a relaxed atmosphere that we think they’ll really enjoy.” Goodale was also chief executive of Fishworks for two years between 2007 and 2009.
   
Entrepreneur plans chain of up-market kebab restaurants: A Luton-based entrepreneur is planning a chain of up-market kebab restaurants, after the success of his first outlet, which opened in Erdington, Birmingham in December. Waqar Mirza, invested £150,000 in opening the 22-cover Kebab and Grill Co on Slade Road, Erdington, and is now looking to expand. He and his team hope to open five Kebab and Grill Co outlets in Birmingham before expanding the brand north. The cooking is done using traditional charcoal grills and, unusually, the doner meat is made on the premises, not bought in, and made from 100% lamb. Mirza said: “It’s a lot more expensive, but you can taste the difference. All our lamb is from Ireland and of the finest quality.” Of the ten staff, three of have been hired from the homeless community with the help of Birmingham Homeless Outreach and trained to work in the kitchens. Mirza, who describes himself as a venture capitalist, said: “Why not change lives if you can? When I took them on, they had no confidence. Now their confidence has grown. I want this to be a community diner.”
      
McDonald’s launches world’s first advert screen in London that is fully interactive 365 days a year: McDonald’s is re-launching its Piccadilly advertising sign with a new creative that allows passers by to interact with the brand by adding their own animated character to the screen via their mobiles. The company claims its new “Little Piccadilly” site is the world’s first digital advertising screen that is “fully interactive” 365 days a year. Nathalie Pomroy, director of marketing at McDonald’s UK, said: “Little Piccadilly is the next step in McDonald’s digital journey, allowing people to interact with this iconic landmark in a unique and exciting way. We hope that passers-by will enjoy the fun interactive elements of this, creating their very own Little Piccadilly resident for all to see. We have embraced recent innovations in the digital media field, and as new trends develop and as the interactive media industry reaches maturity, we will continue to look for innovative ways to communicate with our customers.”
   
Wetherspoon to re-open pub with 25 bedrooms next week after £2.23m investment: JD Wetherspoon will re-open Jolly’s Hotel in Broughty Ferry, the suburb of Dundee (population: 13,155) next Tuesday (1 April). The company has spent £2.23 million buying and upgrading the Gray Street outlet, a local landmark for more than 150 years. ‘Jolly’s’ will feature a bar, an open kitchen and a courtyard beer garden where smoking will be permitted in a designated area. The hotel is over two floors and has 25 bedrooms. The company said the project has created 60 jobs.
   
Hungry Horse launches new menu with range of epic burgers: Hungry Horse, the Greene King value brand with more than 200 sites, has launched a new menu with a range of epic burgers. The company is also looking to win new customers by offering its database the chance to come along with a friend who eats for free on a ‘buy one get one free’ deal. New items include a 20 oz Megasaurus steak, a new range of curries and a chicken and rib combo.
   
Former Luminar nightclub to be demolished: The former Zoots nightclub in Kings Lynn, which has run by Luminar for many years, is to be demolished. The Lynn landmark has, however, stood empty since 2010. Freebridge Community Housing has been given the go-ahead to put up 25 homes on the site in John Kennedy Road and demolition equipment moved on to the site on Monday to begin work on tearing down the run-down building.
   
City Pub Company acquires two London sites for £1m: City Pub Company, the Enterprise Investment Scheme company led by Clive Watson, has acquired two London sites and secured an extra £7m in bank funding. The company has bought Daly Wine Bar on The Strand and Bierschenke Beer House on Essex Street for a combined consideration of £1m. Bierschenke will be rebranded Bier Palast and will remain as a German beer house with the addition of some English beers. The acquisitions bring the City Pub Company estate to 15 sites. Watson said: “We are very excited to be adding these two sites to our growing portfolio of high quality, managed pubs. Over the last two years we have built a portfolio of great pubs and bars across the south of England and I am confident that today’s additions will fit well within our estate. Dalys has long been a target for me personally and I am really glad that it is one of our first sites in Central London.”
   
Pret A Manger opens third Birmingham site: The sandwich chain Pret A Manger has opened its third outlet in Birmingham, in a 2,500 sq ft former HSBC branch at 22-24 Colmore Row in the city centre. The chain has taken a ten-year lease at a rental of £110,000 a year, in a deal arranged by Cushman & Wakefield on behalf of the landlord, Climate Change Capital. Rob Alston, retail partner at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “It’s a reasonably high-profile letting in the offices quarter of Birmingham. This part of the city centre has been growing in retail terms during the past two to three years, with the likes of Waitrose and Costa opening branches there.” The chain’s other Birmingham outlets are in Cherry Street and New Street.
   
M&B appoints new IT chief: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has appointed a new IT chief following the departure of Martin Taylor after less than 18 months in the job. Tony Bentham, who joins as director of business change and technology, was previously interim chief information officer at M&B before Taylor’s appointment in October 2012. Taylor had been head of service delivery and infrastructure with M&B and had worked for the company since 2007. At the time of his appointment, he was described by M&B’s chief operating officer, Robin Young, as “one of our up and coming superstars”. Bentham has previously held IT leadership posts at Citibank and Bradford & Bingley, and has worked as a consultant at M&B since acting as interim chief information officer. M&B has recently completed a three-year major overhaul of its IT systems, upgrading its corporate network, updating its Epos and implementing cloud technologies. It is currently implementing a Wi-Fi service to 1,600 outlets. An M&B spokeswoman said: “Martin Taylor has decided to leave M&B after seven years to spend time with his family before pursuing a new career path. We would like to thank Martin for his significant contribution to leading our technology journey and always showing great passion for our people and the business. We are pleased to announce Tony Bentham has been appointed as director of business change and technology. Tony brings with him a wealth of experience and has already worked with us over the past two years as a consultant.”
   
Doom Bar distribution hits 7,000 outlets: Doom Bar, the beer produced by Sharp’s Brewery, which is owned by Molson Coors, is now available at 7,000 UK outlets – 1.5 million pints a week are being produced. Beer expert Pete Brown told a local newspaper: “It is a very acceptable, easy drink. It’s a contemporary brand and it’s not going to scare anyone. The landlord of my local in Stoke Newington in North London sometimes asks my opinion on which beers to stock. When I said he should perhaps get rid of Doom Bar because it’s a bit bland, he said he couldn’t possibly because he sells more Doom Bar than all the other beers put together.”
   
New Zealand Nando’s franchisor goes into liquidation: The company that operates the Nando’s chain in New Zealand has gone into liquidation. Liquidators Rogers Reidy have been appointed to Auckland-based Shivram, which holds the master franchise for the more than 30-site restaurant network in this country. Nando’s stores in New Zealand, which are independently owned, are not in receivership and continuing to operate as normal. In the first receivers’ report, released last month, Kare Johnstone of McGrathNicol said: “A number of offers to acquire the business have been received and the receivers are working to conclude the sales process.”
  
Co-op department store to become Premier Inn: The historic Co-operative department store on Newgate Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, is to be turned into a 184-bed Premier Inn, after it was purchased by DTZ Investment Management (DTZIM) for £9m. The £17m refurbishment of the Grade II-listed, 170,000 sq ft building will be carried out by Interserve. DTZ’s purchase included the Chinese restaurant and car park adjoined to the building. Interserve will also provide retail and leisure units on the ground and basement floors of the building. The work is due to be completed in December 2015, after which Whitbread’s Premier Inn brand will take over the running of the new hotel. Dougie Sutherland, managing director of Interserve Developments, said: “The collaborative approach between Interserve, Premier Inn and DTZIM has ensured that this complex scheme is now viable and can be progressed. We have worked closely with the local authority over a number of months and we are now in a position to progress construction works on this major city centre project.”
   
Greene King launches social media training: Greene King is launching two new training courses to help licensees in its tenanted and leased estate develop a stronger social media presence for their pubs. A workshop for Business Development Managers (BDMs) will build understanding about the benefits of social media for communicating with customers, building loyalty and raising awareness, so BDMs can inspire and inform licensees to use these channels to their advantage. The social media training will also provide useful measuring and reporting tools to allow BDMs to identify those licensees who are in need of extra help in capitalising on the business opportunity presented by social media. Greene King is also launching a ‘Marketing Through Social Media’ workshop directly for its licensees. Clive Chesser, business unit director for Greene King Pub Partners, said: “Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool for pubs. Many of our licensees already have a social media presence but as it’s a constantly evolving area we wanted to provide training to bring them up to speed with the latest developments.” The course will also be rolled out to Greene King’s managed estate later this year.
   
TCG urges managers to respond to the World Cup trading hours consultation: Managed pub and bar group TCG has encouraged all its managers to respond to the Home Office consultation on licensing hours during the tournament, in order for the trade to maximise the potential to drive sales. “Whatever happens, the World Cup has the potential to deliver a major boost to the pub trade this summer. Hopefully, the Home Office will see sense and allow all pubs to open for extended hours during England’s games and other key matches,” said chief operating officer Nigel Wright. Sam Cobell, general manager of The Star Inn at Bishop’s Stortford, was one for the first TCG managers to respond to the Home Office consultation. She said: “There’s already a lot of excitement building around the World Cup, and there will be a real buzz in the town if all the pubs are open and showing the big games.” The company is promoting the tournament as a ‘Festival of Football’, with its venues showing as many matches as possible. TCG has created POS which echoes classic Latin American football posters to capture the global spirit of the Beautiful Game. The same theme has been used for countdown clocks on the websites of TCG pubs and bars showing the tournament, which second-by-second are already ticking down the days until the opening game on 12 June, which sees hosts Brazil play Croatia. By clicking on the clocks, soccer enthusiasts will be given details of games being shown at their chosen TCG venue, and encouraged to enjoy every stop on the ‘Road to Rio’ right through to the final on 13 July.
   
Hungry Horse plan for Essex park halted after public protests: Castle Point Council has pulled out of discussions with Greene King over a plan for a Hungry Horse pub and restaurant in a recreation ground in Hadleigh, Essex. The original scheme was designed to revitalise the town’s John H Burrows Recreational Ground. Hadleigh Hall in Rectory Road, a community venue that has fallen into disrepair after standing empty for more than two years, would have been demolished and replaced by a new restaurant, improved sports changing facilities and a 180-space car park. However, the plans provoked an enormous public outcry, with a 1,000-signature petition against the idea. Castle Point Council’s cabinet decided to put the discussions with Greene King on hold after Norman Smith, the councillor responsible for economic development and business liaison, told the cabinet he felt granting permission for the pub “would not be right”. A spokesman for Hungry Horse told the local Echo newspaper: “We are disappointed there will be a delay and we will wait to hear the council’s decision in due course.” Meanwhile Greene King has confirmed that it is to open a restaurant/pub at the Europarc business park in Grimsby. Europarc’s owner, Wykeland, is in talks with hotel and leisure operators about the gateway site to the business park, immediately off the A180.
   
Campaigners ask Marston’s and Wetherspoon to build pub on Southend Pier: Campaigners have invited Marston’s Inns and JD Wetherspoon to open a new pub on Southend Pier. The campaign group Skipp wants to see the pub built between the pier train station and the cafe Jamie Oliver used to film the television show Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club, on the site of McInty’s bar, which was destroyed by fire in 2005. More than 280,000 people visited the Grade II-listed pier last year, the busiest since the fire in 2005, which also damaged the station, two shops and a snack bar. Visitor numbers have risen by more than 50,000 a year since the £3m Royal Pavilion opened on the pier in July 2012. However, Derek Jarvis, the Southend councillor responsible for culture and tourism said the lack of year-round passing trade and the unreliability of the weather and transport down the pier was likely to scare off potential investors. He said: “We have explored various options for commercial ventures such as restaurants over many years, but the common response is that it is not viable. Unfortunately in this instance Skipp have shown extreme naivety in their understanding of how the pier and business works.” 
   
Punch Taverns reports £1.1m investment into Sheffield estate: Punch Taverns has invested £1.1 million into pubs across the Sheffield area over the last year. This has led to over 50 new jobs created for people within the local area. Some of the pubs that have seen a cash injection include, The Sportsman, The Three Tuns, Rose & Crown and Victoria. More recently Champs (formerly The Yew Tree), re-opened on 15 February after a £500,000 investment. “This is my fourth Punch pub and the received some great support in the launch of Champs. Everyone loves the new look, the makeover has been well-received and customers love the new sports theme. We have introduced a sports menu and the food has really taken off,” said multi-site licensee Danny Grayson.
   
Greene King opens Lass O’Gowrie after refurbishment: Greene King has reopened the historic Manchester pub the Lass O’Gowrie after a major refurbishment, and with the promise of more work on the Grade II-listed building to come. The pub, which closed in January after the former landlord, Gareth Kavanagh, claimed he was forced out because of its below-average performance, is now being run by John Rowlinson, who also runs the nearby Salisbury Hotel, close to Oxford Road station. It has been given new decoration and furnishings in the bar area, and will be selling cask ale from local brewers, as well as Greene King’s own offerings. Clive Chesser, business unit director for Greene King, said: “We are now working closely with the city council on future plans for further sympathetic improvements to the pub.”
   
Yum! chief’s pay packet shrinks 22%: David Novak, chief executive of Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, saw his pay drop 22% to $10m last year as the company fell short of its performance targets. The drop, from $12.8m the previous year, was the result of a lower performance-based bonus, reflecting the troubles in the company’s operations in China. Yum! is the biggest Western fast-food operator in China with its KFC restaurants, and China accounts for about 40% of its operating profit. However, sales were badly hit after a report late in 2012 on Chinese TV said some of Yum!’s suppliers were giving chickens unapproved levels of antibiotics. Meanwhile in the US, both the KFC and Pizza Hut chains are struggling. For 2013, Novak’s pay package included a base salary of $1.5m, stock and options worth $6.8m and a performance-based bonus of $939,600. The previous year, that performance-based portion was $4.6m. Other compensation included use of the company aircraft, insurance premiums and home security. 
   
Decision on fate of Windsor’s premier nightclub delayed until May: The future of Windsor’s ‘premier nightclub’ remains uncertain after a meeting to decide whether to revoke its licence was adjourned for seven weeks. Councillors on the Royal Borough’s licensing sub-committee agreed to a request from solicitor Lisa Sharkey to put off a decision over a police application to revoke the licence of Mantra nightclub in Bridgewater Way. The hearing will not now take place until Monday, 12 May. The police have asked councillors to revoke Mantra’s licence, claiming that 20 criminal incidents have been recorded there since June including a 30-man brawl on 8 December.
   
Odeon signs up for Oldham Town Hall cinema-and-restaurants scheme: A scheme to convert Oldham’s grade II-listed Old Town Hall into restaurants and a cinema has signed up Odeon, the largest cinema operator in the UK. The scheme, which was originally announced last year, will also include six restaurants around a new public square. Oldham Council leader Jim McMahon said: “This is box office news for us in every respect – and a real coup for Oldham. A thriving town centre isn’t just about retail any more – it’s about other complimentary uses that make it a place that people want to spend time in.” Initial work has already begun on the building in preparation for the start of major works later this year. The town hall was built in 1841 but has been closed since the mid-1990s.
   
New leisure development set to begin in Grimsby within a year: The £12m construction of an eight to ten-screen multiplex cinema and five restaurants in Grimsby town centre is expected to begin within 12 months and take about a year to complete. North East Lincolnshire Council is on the verge of agreeing to give 50,000 square feet of the Riverhead area which was once the bus terminus, over to the project. Ray James, asset manager at F&C Reit, the owners of Freshney Place said: “It will be a family friendly experience. It will provide a much better experience than going on the internet.”
   
Loungers plans up to 20 sites in 2015: Loungers, the cafe bar concept led by Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop and backed by Piper Private Equity, is to increase its opening rate next year with as many as 20 sites planed. The company is on track to open 15 sites in 2013 with seven more sites scheduled to open before August. Lounge sites are due to open in Chippenham, Rugby, Birmingham, Torquay, Witney, and Kettering with a seventh Cosy Club site set for Corn Street in Bristol. It is understood that further potential sites for 2014 include a Cosy Club in Leicester and Lounge sites in Letchworth Garden City, Falmouth, and Amersham. Tomorrow, the company opens its 44th site, Verano Lounge, on Western Road in Brighton. The opening of Verano Lounge is the group’s second opening in Brighton in as many weeks following the opening of Alcampo Lounge on London Road in the city earlier this month. Loungers has spent £450,000 on the Western Road site, which has previously traded as a Loch Fyne and more recently Pinxtos People, which has included significantly re-modeling the ground floor trading area and basement level kitchen. Reilley said: “It’s great to have opened two sites in Brighton to add to Modelo Lounge, which we opened in Hove almost two years ago. Alcampo Lounge has, so far, had a nice, brisk opening achieving gross sales of £30,000 for their first full week and we are quietly optimistic that Verano will trade very nicely given how busy Western Road is and being opposite a Waitrose. Whilst less than two miles away from each other, the two new Brighton sites are in diverse areas and are in very different buildings with distinctly different design schemes, which further goes to prove the Lounge model can trade in very different locations within the same city.”
   
Meantime launches hops in a box scheme to engage public with beer-making: London craft brewer Meantime Brewing is giving away over 20,000 hop growing kits in a bid to educate beer drinkers about the art of British brewing. The Hops in a Box will be distributed in over 160 on-trade outlets from 25 March. The quirky campaign has been designed to encourage drinkers to interact with the ingredients that go into beer-making and appreciate how beer is made. Each of the pubs, bars and restaurants involved in the project will encourage customers to give hop growing a go. Initially introduced last year, the project proved a great success. In 2013 Meantime handed out 12,000 kits, which generated 1.3 million page impressions across Twitter and Facebook and sales of Meantime beer in the Hops in a Box outlets rose by up to 27%. Each of the Hops in a Box kits contain a packet of hop seeds, a mini terracotta pot, dehydrated compost and full growing instructions. Growers will be encouraged to register their hops at Facebook.com/meantimebrewing to receive stage-by-stage growing information and to be in with the chance to win a selection of prizes. Meantime’s team of brewers will also be on hand to post advice on Twitter using the hashtag #hopsinabox. Richard Myers, marketing director at Meantime Brewing Company, said: “We believe in helping people understand where hops come from, how they grow and the flavour they give to beer, it will mean they will appreciate beer all the more. At the heart of modern craft brewing lies quality beer that’s full of flavour; this is achieved by using the best brewing techniques available, longer maturation times, passion of our brewers and of course the finest ingredients.”

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