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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 16th Jun 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

US pizza chain Project Pie to launch first European outlet in Dundee: The American pizza restaurant chain Project Pie, recently recognised by Yelp as the number one emerging brand in the United States, is looking to launch its first European outlet in a disused bank in Dundee, Scotland. Project Pie, which sells “custom-built” pizzas, was launched in Las Vegas in 2012 by the entrepreneur James Markham. It now has five outlets in the US and five more in the Philippines, with eight US openings and two Filipino ones planned. In a planning application to Dundee Council for permission to convert the former Santander bank on Reform Street into a restaurant, the Broughty Ferry-based architectural practice Nicholl Russell Studios said: “Project Pie Dundee will be the first store to open in the UK and will be followed by similar stores in all major Scottish cities with a target of five stores in the first two years. Dundee will benefit from the prestige of being recognised as the first Project Pie to open in the UK and, indeed, Europe.” Andy Baxter, a partner at Nicoll Russell Studios, told The Dundee Courier: “We were approached with the proposals about six weeks ago. Project Pie recently launched in a number of states in America and has been very successful. It is a twist on normal pizza and is made as you wait using fancy equipment. It will have a very nice interior which has a very sort of hip look to it and will be the first one in Europe. It will be opening as soon as possible. The application takes eight to ten weeks. Work will start immediately and the restaurant will ideally open before the end of the year. Reform Street is a bit sad at the moment and is going through a period of transition. The street is changing, as is Dundee, and Project Pie will be integral to the transformation of the centre of the city.”

Company News:

Red’s to open in Nottingham in September: Red’s True Barbecue is set to open a 5,500 sq ft site in Nottingham in September and has agreed terms to launch in another “key northern city”, founders James Douglas and Scott Munro have revealed. The first Red’s opened in Leeds in 2012, with a second site in Manchester following last year. A third site, again in Leeds, is due to open next month. Company turnover is now on course to hit £7.4m this year, and the chain now sells more than 16.5 tonnes of flame-grilled meat each month to its “believers”, the term it uses for customers who have eaten at Red’s. Douglas told Insider Media: “When you think of barbecues in the UK, you think of some sausages and half-cooked chicken legs. We wanted to change people’s perceptions. We see ourselves as evangelists. We are just a couple of dudes that are obsessed with barbecues. Both of us had spent our whole life in suits. Now we are able to show our natural style.”
Gourmet burger start-up looks to raise £110,000 from crowd-funding site: A new gourmet burger operation, Fabulous Burger Shack, which is looking to open its first outlet in Stoke on Trent in October, is hoping to raise £110,000 through crowd-funding. Managing director Michael Jebelli, who has experience of managing hotels and restaurants in London and Manchester, said in his pitch on Seedrs: “The casual dining market is booming with a particular focus on burgers. The burger market alone is worth £2.7bn. Much of this trend has been centred around London, but my aim is to take this nationwide.” Jebelli is offering a 25% equity stake in the business for the investment and has ambitions to operate ten to 15 restaurants in the next decade. The £110,000 from Seedrs would be used to fit out the Stoke site, turning it into a 60-cover restaurant, with the balance used for marketing and operating costs. Any money over the target, up to £150,000, would be used to turn the first floor into a private function space and the basement into a standalone bar. After six months, Jebelli then hopes to move into a second unit, using retained profits rather than fresh investment, with the aim of launching another five outlets within five years and then up to 15 in ten years.
US private equity firm makes final stages of PizzaExpress auction: The US buy-out firm TPG has made the final stages of the £1bn auction to buy PizzaExpress, according to The Sunday Times. Rival private equity firm Advent International is thought to have withdrawn from the sale process. PizzaExpress is owned by Cinven, which is planning to sell its other Italian chains, Ask and Zizzi separately. 
SSP set to unveil flotation this week: Transport hub caterer SSP is expected to unveil a £2 billion float this week. It is thought that the company, owned by Swedish private equity firm EQT and led by former WH Smith boss Kate Swann, will announce its move in the next few days. EQT will sell a 25% stake raising around £500 million. SSP owns brands such as Upper Crust and runs outlets for third parties including coffee chain Starbucks at around 400 airports and railway stations in the UK and around the world. Last week it reported a 28.2% leap in half-year profits to £19.7 million on sales 4.6% tastier at £865.8 million.
Fuller’s re-open’s Battersea site – with organic juice bar: Fuller, Smith and Turner, the London brewer and premium pub company, has re-opened The Bank on Northcote Road, Battersea after a three week refurbishment. A new cocktail menu using ‘unique infusions and premium spirits’ has been developed – and for traditional beer drinkers there is also an extensive craft beer range, with ten draft beers and over 20 bottled varieties. The pub has also installed a fresh organic juice bar. Regular weekly entertainment is back with live music on a Friday night, 20% off Prosecco on Thursdays and ‘Wingman Wednesdays’ – a bucket of hot and spicy chicken wings, using The Bank’s own recipe, a four pint pitcher all for £25. 
Sunday Telegraph – Prezzo weighing up bid for Strada: The Sunday Telegraph has claimed that Prezzo is among a group of parties weighing up a bid for parts of Strada, which is being sold as part of a Tragus restructuring. Other private equity bidders are also reported to be considering bids alongside entrepreneur Richard Caring, who own Bill’s and Caprice Holdings.
Greene King trials cask ale ‘cellar’ bar: Greene King has installed a visible cask ale cellar bar at the tenanted White Hart in Witham, Essex. The new innovative ‘White Hart Tap’ is a first for Greene King, showcasing a cask ale ‘cellar’ in full view of customers at the bar. The White Hart Tap comprises of a two-tier rack of cask ales, allowing the pub to serve a much wider range of real ale at the new bar. Licensee Dave Arnott, who has run the pub for eight years with his wife Tracy, said: “The new cask ale bar looks incredible and it holds a real wow factor. Not only is it showing off a bit we hope it will spur people who might not have thought to try real ales before to give it a go. It also adds another dimension to our recently refurbished hotel, restaurant and beer garden.” Clive Chesser, business unit director for Greene King Pub Partners, said: “This investment allows Dave and Tracy to use theatrics to showcase the quality and commitment to real ale at The White Hart as well as the wide range available.” The new installation will more than double the pub’s current cask ale pumps, adding eight cask ales to the bar, complimenting the six already available.
Admiral Taverns sell famous Birmingham music pub to developer: Admiral Taverns has sold a famous music pub in Birmingham to a developer for a rumoured £1.2m. The Crown, at the corner of Station Street and Hill Street, is the pub where Black Sabbath played their first gig. Other regulars included Status Quo and Led Zeppelin, and it was the spiritual home of UB40. Ian Campbell – father of reggae brothers Ali and Robin Campbell – recorded the country’s first live folk album there in 1962. Licensee Colleen Andrews said: “I can’t understand why Birmingham City Council is allowing this to happen to our heritage. This pub is the city’s equivalent of The Cavern in Liverpool, where The Beatles started out.”
Subway franchisees expected to go to European Court over VAT claim: Subway franchisees are expected to take their VAT battle over toasted subs with HM Revenue & Customs to the European Court after losing a Court of Appeal hearing last week, according to The Mail on Sunday. The dispute centres on the definition of hot food. Items that retain heat from the cooking process – such as a pasty baked on the premises and left to cool while on display – have traditionally not been classed as hot food and so escape the tax. More than 1,000 franchisees are involved in the action. The ruling is expected to be worth £1bn to the public purse.
Liverpool bar owners plan smokehouse brand opening: A trio of businessmen behind three Liverpool bars are gearing up to open their first restaurant. Slims Pork Chop Express is due to launch on Seel Street in Liverpool city centre later this summer. It will be next door to its sister venue, The Salt Dog Slims bar, also owned by the three partners Matt Farrell, John Ennis and Nick Thomas. They also operate cocktail bar Santa Chupitos and tequila bar El Bandito on Slater Street. Thomas said: “It’s a smokehouse so we’re doing a lot of smoked foods and barbecued food and meats. We’ve got a lot of background in restaurants so it was a case of waiting for the right time. We’re pretty excited about it.” The restaurant will seat around 50 people over two floors and is due to open by the beginning of August.
Garden Centre Group launches new restaurant concept: The Garden Centre Group, which runs 140 sites, has launched a new Garden Kitchen restaurant concept at its Brighton Garden Centre. The concept aims to “bring the green of the garden centre inside the restaurant”. On offer is a new, lighter summer menu with ingredients from the garden, as well as pick-up items such as hand-made sandwiches and fresh-boxed salads for lunch. The Garden Centre Group food and beverage director Jason Danciger, who has worked as head of food at Spirit and ran 300 cafes at Marks and Spencer, said: “This light refurbishment is part of a 360-degree design refresh which aims to bring the joy of the garden to the plate and improve the experience in the restaurant, one of many initiatives we are taking to improve our vibrant hospitality offering.”
Papa John’s focuses on social media during World Cup: Papa John’s is focusing on social media with a Twitter campaign targeting football fans this summer. The pizza company is extending its Score Twice Half Price activity for the tournament in Brazil by allowing fans to enter and activate through Twitter. By connecting their Twitter and Papa John’s accounts, customers can tweet which team they feel is most likely to score twice each day using the STHP hashtag, e.g. #STHPEngland. If their prediction is correct they can then use their Twitter username to activate a 50% discount off their next pizza order. England legends Ian Wright, John Barnes, Paul Merson and Matthew Le Tissier form “Papa’s Pundits” giving their views on which team is most likely to score twice each day throughout the tournament. Andrew Gallagher, senior marketing director of Papa John’s, said: “We are excited about using Twitter in this innovative way to engage football fans this Summer. Score Twice Half Price has proved to be a great success with football fans since its launch at the start of the season in 2013 and this development has taken it to the next level.” 
Edinburgh Gin Distillery open new city centre gin bar with distillery: Edinburgh Gin is to get a new home in Scotland’s capital, as the brand opens a city centre bar, visitor centre and distillery. Based below The Rutland Hotel in Edinburgh’s west end, Heads & Tales will house two custom-made stills, Flora and Caledonia, allowing customers to enjoy an Edinburgh Gin while watching it being produced. Alex Nicol, managing director at owner Spencerfield Spirit, said: “Edinburgh has a special relationship with gin stretching back centuries. To this day, more gin is drunk here per head of the population than in any other UK city. With our new visitor centre and distillery coupled with the Heads & Tales gin emporium, Edinburgh’s great tradition for distilling looks set to be revived.” With seating for 70 people, the bar will also serve a menu of carefully sourced locals foods including Scottish charcuterie, cheese and fish served with freshly prepared breads. The distillery will create eight new jobs and has been opened in partnership with Heriot-Watt University. The agreement will see Heriot-Watt Professor of Brewing and Distilling Paul Hughes working with one of his graduates to create a world-renowned gin facility, providing research into Scottish botanicals and the history of distilling in Edinburgh, as well as commemorating historic gins and developing new products.
PizzaExpress, Stonegate, Ask, Giraffe, Wetherspoon, Wahaca sites go to Allsop auction: A number of freeholds occupied by major brands are to feature at an Allsop commercial auction in London on Tuesday 8 July. A Bournemouth site on Post Office Road, let to PizzaExpress for £90,000 per annum on a lease expiring in 2036, is offered with a guide price of between £1.5m and £1.65m. A site in Weybridge, Surrey, trading as Osso Buco but on assignment from Giraffe Concepts on a lease that expires in 2027 on a current rent of £65,000 per annum, is offered with a guide price of between £925,000 and £975,000. A site in Welwyn Garden City let to Ask Italian on a lease that expire in 2027 on a current rent of £69,000 per annum, is offered with a guide price of £975,000 to £1m. A Blackpool site, majority let to Tragus’s Bella Italia brand for £66,600 per annum until 2023 (a shop next door is rented for an additional £20,000), is offered with a guide price of £700,000. A site in Islington traded as a Slug & Lettuce by Stonegate Pub Company on a new 25-year lease with a rent of £126,696 per annum, is offered with a guide price of £2.35m. A second site let to Stonegate, The Old Bank, in Sutton, Surrey, on a new 25-year lease with a rent of £127,363 per annum, is offered with a guide price of £1.75m to £1.85m. The freehold of The Pennsylvanian in Rickmansworth High Street, let to JD Wetherspoon on a rent of £125,918 per annum with a lease expiring in 2034, is offered with a guide price of £2.15m. A site in Upper Street, Islington, let to Wahaca on a rent of £200,001 per annum on a lease expiring in 2038, is offered with a guide price of £3.65m to £3.85m.
Damson restaurant owners open new Manchester bar: The team behind Manchester’s Damson restaurants, Liquorice on Pall Mall and The Red Lion in High Lane have opened a new bar, Guilty By Association, on the corner of Stevenson Square and Lever Street in the city’s Northern Quarter. Guilty By Association, which opens beneath another soon-to-open bar and diner, Ply, is focused on the wet trade with the drinks menu centred around ‘The Associates’, a list of thirteen new cocktails and four beers on draught and bottled beers. 
KFC and Tesco in fight over rival drive-through restaurant plans: KFC and Tesco have gone to war over rival plans for drive-through restaurants in Leicester. A bid by KFC for permission to build a new outlet on derelict land in Waterside Road, Rushey Mead, North Leicester, was opposed by Tesco, which has its own planning application in for a pub, a restaurant and a drive-through next to its store in Maidenwell Avenue in nearby Hamilton. Planning officers said KFC’s bid should be refused because retail planning policy recommends drive-through restaurants should be in a recognised town centre. Planning consultant Jeremy Williams, who was representing Tesco, the only objector to the KFC scheme, said Tesco’s plans for a public house with pub garden, a restaurant and a drive-through restaurant, would create 120 jobs over the next five years. However councillors voted to approve the KFC, which will create 20 jobs in the short term. Rushey Mead ward councillor Ross Willmott, speaking in support of the Waterside Road scheme, said: “There are benefits and no costs. This is some contribution to employment in the city and will tidy up a site that has been derelict for 20 years. This development upsets nobody but Tesco, who seem to be intent on stopping it.” Councillors approved the KFC plan by four votes to three.
Wrap It Up! opens 12th site: The gourmet wrap chain Wrap It Up! is due to open a new store in Goodge Street, Central London, next month, the 11th store the chain has opened in London since 2010 and bringing the number of Wrap It Up! outlets to 12. Tayub Mushtaq, chief executive of the chain’s parent company, World Gourmet Restaurants, said: “This opening is part of our continued expansion and we’re in advanced discussions with other landlords in London.” The new site will be a franchised store, taking the number of Wrap It Up! sites to five franchised stores and seven company-owned stores.
Punchbowl gets upstairs dining room: The Punchbowl, the pub in Farm Street, Mayfair, owned by Star Pubs & Bars and formerly leased by Guy Ritchie but now owned by Cirrus Inns, has been given permission by Westminster Council to open a dining room on the second floor of the pub. As part of the change in the premises licence, the pub agreed to cut its closing hours to 11.30pm Monday to Wednesday, midnight Thursday to Saturday and 10.30pm on Sunday, and to restrict the number of customers at any one time to a maximum of 175. Westminster Council’s licensing sub committee also imposed a maximum on the number of customers allowed to drink outside, at 18.
Spirit launches new online career development with CPL Training: CPL Online has developed an innovative bespoke e-learning career development programme for Spirit Pub Company. A new approach to career development, the ‘Career Pathway’, based on Spirit Pub Company’s award-winning Training Tree learning and development programme, allows users to proactively develop their own role, working their way across relevant routes and pathways. David Dasher, CPL online managing director, said: “It’s always great to be presented with a fresh challenge that means a new way of working for our own internal team. Spirit wanted to take the e-Learning concept a stage further and apply that to their internal career pathway development programme and it’s worked incredibly well!” Mark Peters, head of learning and development at Spirit Pub Company said: “Our ambition is to be the number one hospitality company in the UK. A business is little without its people and we are committed to employing a team that want to stay with us, develop professionally and pursue their ambitions with us. This new console based learning will ultimately help us achieve that.”
Highgate Brewery to be offered in July auction: A Birmingham-based auctioneer will put a former Black Country brewery under the hammer next month. CPBigwood has Walsall’s former Highgate Brewery among the 141 lots on offer at its next sale. The brewery, which has a guide price of £850,000-plus, covers over an acre and may be suitable for conversion into apartments. The grade II-listed complex in Sandy Mount Road first started producing beer in 1899 and its Highgate Dark Mild was one of the best-known beers in the region. It was bought by Aston Manor Brewery in 2000, sold to pub company Global Star in 2007 and sold on again as a potential property investment. Several other pubs and restaurants are also on offer at the auction, including The Market Tavern in Walsall with a guide price of £150,000 and the 120-cover Plaza Restaurant in Sparkbrook, with guide price of £575,000 to £600,000. The sale takes place at Villa Park on 3 July.
PizzaExpress seeks outlet in Paddington Basin: PizzaExpress has applied for a licence for a new restaurant at 5 North Wharf Road, Paddington, West London. The premises are close to the Merchant Square development in Paddington Basin. The proposed opening hours are 10am to 11.30pm.
Restaurant chain goes back to mechanical ‘carbon paper’ credit card readers after data theft: The American restaurant chain PF Chang’s China Bistro has gone back to mechanical credit card imprint-capture machines after credit and debit card information was stolen from some of its 200-plus restaurants. The chain announced last week that “credit card and debit card numbers that have been used at PF Chang’s” had been “compromised” in a data hack, and said on Friday that it had “provided manual credit card imprinting devices to all PF Chang’s China Bistro branded restaurants in the continental US to prevent any further potential exposure of our guests’ credit and debit card information.”
Campaigners seek ban on McDonald’s planning applications after four refusals on pub site: Campaigners are calling on Leeds Council to refuse to accept any more applications from McDonald’s to demolish the vacant White Bear pub off Tingley roundabout in Morley and build a two-storey drive-through restaurant in its place, after the plans were refused four times. A local councillor, Robert Finnigan, said the latest application for planning permission by the burger retailer was “a further attempt by McDonald’s to bully local residents into submission by using their power and wealth to continue to put in bogus applications to try and grind communities down until they accept their takeaways. As this proposal has been refused time and time again, the council has the power to declare a new application as invalid, and refuse to accept it. I have formally requested they use this power and send McDonald’s a clear message that we will not be intimidated by them.” Previous applications have been refused on three separate occasions by Leeds Council, with its refusal confirmed in March this year by the Planning Inspectorate, which rejected McDonald’s appeal.
Mitchells & Butlers to open pop-up vineyard at ‘biggest’ All Bar One: Mitchells & Butlers has installed a pop-up vineyard across the venue frontage at its All Bar One set to open at 02 – it is on display from now until the official opening on Wednesday 2 July. The O2 visitors and locals alike have the chance to unearth offers and prizes exclusive to the new bar and restaurant. The vineyard features 3D vines with peel-able leaves that passersby can detach – under each leaf is a chance to uncover a different prize offering. The 1,283 square metre venue at The O2, the largest site for All Bar One, will be set across three floors with 400 covers.
Starbucks introduces wireless mats to charge mobile phones in the US: Starbucks has announced it will be offering wireless mats in the US for customers to power their mobile phones. The coffee chain has teamed up with Duracell Powermat to begin the US rollout across 7,500 Starbucks and Teavana shops. Sites in the San Francisco Bay Area will be the first to get the technology, which allows customers to charge their mobiles on designated table areas. To use the system, customers must have a mobile with built-in wireless charging, or a phone accessory that provides the same capabilities. These can be brought for around £15 in the UK and $25 in the US. 
Kestrel positions itself as ‘British craft lager’ in TV return: Kestrel, the lager brand bought in 2012 by former Wells & Young’s managing director Nigel McNally, is returning to television advertising as a “truly British craft lager”. The animated advert highlights how the beer uses Scottish ingredients to create a “truly British craft lager” with the taste “drinkers love”. It airs from today (Monday 16 June) on MTV and Comedy Channel, and emphasises the 5% Premium Lager variant. The beer, owned by Brookfield Drinks, was relaunched last year to try to move away from the negative image spawned by its “super strength lager” variant. Brookfield Drinks said at the time that the brand’s strong alcohol content gave it little traction in a shrinking beer market and is focusing on its lower strength variants to reach discerning drinkers. Although marketing has been limited to date, sales are still up 26% over the past six months. McNally, managing director of Brookfield Drinks, said: “Drinkers want a premium lager with genuine provenance – how can an American beer, continental beer or other World beers claim provenance when they are brewed not in their country of origin but in the UK? Kestrel Premium Lager Beer is British, with genuine provenance through its Scottish origins.” Kestrel, a former Scottish & Newcastle beer, is now brewed at the Tennent’s brewery in Glasgow.
Cosmetics company launched pop-up pub for women during World Cup: Benefit Cosmetics has launched a pop-up pub aimed at helping women celebrate the World Cup football tournament. The pub, called The Gabbi’s Head, is at The Prince of Wales pub in Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London and will be open for the duration of the tournament. It will be the home to a series of night-time entertainment and beauty events. Customers will be able to view screenings of all major World Cup games, and at the same time receive Benefit match makeovers, watch stand-up comedy, and beautify from top to toe with expert tanning, waxing, lashes and brows from Benefit beauty artists. The Boutique PR agency Devries Slam has worked with the creative production company The Persuaders to transform the space, designing and producing pink pub furniture and soft furnishings, “keeping the feel of a traditional pub but with a Benefit twist”, according to the brand. Hannah Webley-Smith, marketing director at Benefit, said the aim of the “beautiful pub” was to bring the brand to life “in its entirety”. She said: “We cannot wait to meet as many of our passionate Benebabes as possible – chilling out in a truly Benefit space, brimming with brand DNA.”
Red Hot World Buffet to open £2m restaurant: Red Hot World Buffet, owned by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, is to open a 420-cover restaurant in Leicester after a £2m investment – thought to be the highest single restaurant investment ever made in Leicester. Situated on the corner of the High Street and the Highcross shopping centre, part of the venue used to be The Litten Tree public house. The all-you-can-eat’ restaurant will be spread across 16,000 square feet over two floors and will create 70 new jobs in positions including management posts, chefs and waiting and bar staff. The venue will cater for up to 420 people and will serve cuisine from around the world including Italian, American, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and British. There will also be a full bar fronting onto The High Street. James Horler, chief executive of the Red Hot World Buffet group said: “We are very excited to be moving into Leicester and with over 2,100 people already applying for 70 jobs with us, I’m sure it will be a successful investment. The venue will have everything under one roof including a fantastic choice of food to suit every taste from pizza and pasta to sushi and a world grill serving meats and fish. Not forgetting the range of quality desserts including 14 varieties of cake, four types of fruits, two Indian desserts and a chocolate fountain with all the trimmings.” Red Hot World Buffet is due to open in Leicester on Monday 30 June and will also offer customers a regular calendar of live entertainment they can enjoy over a drink in the bar or while having a meal in the restaurant. Horler added: “After the success of the Red Hot World Buffet in cities like Nottingham, Liverpool and Leeds, we thought there would be a real taste for this kind of venue in Leicester. We hope to offer something for everyone. It’ll be a great destination for families to enjoy a meal out together plus with the variety and quality of food on offer, it’s an ideal place for groups of friends, work colleagues or students to have a night out.” The Leicester site is the first opening since Risk acquired Red Hot World Buffet last year.

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