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Fri 18th Jul 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Balderton Capital invests £3.8m in Crowdcube: One of Europe’s largest venture investors, Balderton Capital, has invested £3.8m in a £5m fund-raising round at the crowd-funding website Crowdcube. The crowd-funding platform will complete its Series B round by offering its registered investors the chance to invest the remaining £1.2m, starting at midday on Tuesday, 22 July. Darren Westlake, Crowdcube’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to secure growth finance from such a renowned VC, who will undoubtedly add tremendous value, both strategically and operationally. We’ve built a pioneering and award-winning service over the last few years. This investment, alongside the crowd, puts us in an even stronger position to provide essential growth finance for businesses and inspire a new generation of investors.” Tim Bunting, a general partner at Balderton Capital, will join the Crowdcube board. Balderton Capital, which has also invested in disruptive financial tech companies such as Zopa, Nutmeg and GoCardless, as well as other fast-growth internet businesses such as Lovefilm and Betfair, has a long history of backing innovative businesses. Bunting said: “We love the way Crowdcube is disrupting and democratising investment into businesses seeking growth finance. Balderton is always looking to support new approaches to traditional financial services, and Crowdcube’s trailblazing model makes investment accessible, affordable and transparent. We’re excited about working with this team and building on their dominant position in the crowd-funding market.” London bar entrepreneur Jonathan Downey, Chilango and River Canteen and Deli are among those in the sector who have chosen Crowdcube to raise funds.

Industry News:

Islington councillor – late-night levy will benefit businesses in the long run: Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, has argued that the North London borough’s late-night levy will benefit businesses in the long run. Convery welcomed the decision by JD Wetherspoon to close early and disputed claims that the levy would cause pubs to close. He said: “I understand why they’re upset about this. It’s a change to their business model, but it will benefit them in the long run. If we’ve got pubs that are saying that the only way they can make money is by pouring alcohol into people who are already drunk after midnight, then they need to look at their clientele. The levy is there to hit clubs, places that rely solely on late-night drinking and are open to 3am or 4am.”

Weymouth postpones late-night levy after fall in number of incidents: Weymouth in Dorset has decided to postpone the introduction of a late-night levy or early morning restriction order after a fall in the number of anti-social incidents. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ strategic affairs director, Kate Nicholls, said: “We are pleased to see Weymouth and Portland Council taking a common-sense approach to licensing and we applaud the great work being done by licensees in the area. We have always said that EMROs and late-night levies should only be considered as a matter of last resort where there is clear evidence of problems which are worsening. Local authorities should seek to exhaust all voluntary and partnership schemes before introducing punitive measures. If voluntary measures are ineffective in addressing concerns, or local retailers fail to act responsibly, then a firm touch may be necessary. Happily we are seeing licensed premises in Weymouth taking responsibility for the provision of safe and responsible environments for customers. In the government’s response to the alcohol strategy consultation, the Home Secretary mentioned that the sledgehammer of national legislation often misses its target. Let’s see more councils working with licensed hospitality, not against it, to provide safe, supervised and enjoyable environments for our customers.”

Company News:

Inn Collection Group opens fourth site: The expanding hospitality and leisure operator Inn Collection Group, backed by the private equity firm Kings Park Capital and Santander Capital, has added to its portfolio with a new site in North Yorkshire. The group bought the King’s Head Hotel in Newton under Roseberry earlier this year and has carried out an extensive refurbishment and re-branded the pub as The King’s Head Inn. The work, to add a further four bedrooms and improve the pub’s dining facilities, started in mid-May and was completed at a cost of £400,000 in time to capitalise on the busy summer holiday period. The extension brings the King’s Head Inn’s room numbers up to 12 and has also improved the site’s offering so that it is now of AA three-star standard, in line with the group’s unit model, which includes three pubs in Northumberland, the Hog’s Head Inn in Alnwick, the Bamburgh Castle Inn in Seahouses and the Lindisfarne Inn at Beal, Holy Island. The purchase of the King’s Head is Inn Collection Group’s first foray into North Yorkshire, on the boundaries of its north east heartland. The group, headed by north east of England hospitality and leisure businessman Keith Liddell, is focusing on a “buy and develop” growth strategy over the next few years. Inn Collection Group was formed last year to incorporate the three Northumberland pubs run by Liddell and to acquire The King’s Head Inn. The group retains the same operational management team that oversaw strong growth at the three north east sites over the last few years. Liddell said: “Our three north east units provide more than 100 beds, making us one of the hospitality sector’s biggest pub accommodation providers in Northumberland and this acquisition allows us to spread our boundaries.”

Notting Hill Kitchen’s £150,000 crowd-funding receives lukewarm response: The Notting Hill Kitchen restaurant’s crowd-funding push to raise £150,000 through Crowdcube towards the £330,000 needed to invest in a chef’s table/private dinning cellar, in return for 9.67% of its equity, has received a lukewarm response. A week after the push was launched, just six investors have offered a total of £3,250, a mere 2% of the total being sought. The offer has 50 days left to run. The Notting Hill Kitchen is a joint venture between James Paget, Filipa Teixeira and Godric Walker. It opened in September 2013 in West London on a site previously occupied by Leith’s and Notting Hill Brasserie. The menu offers a selection of grazing dishes and shared plates through the day in its Iberian-style bar as well as a more classic a la carte dinner in the dining rooms. Anyone investing £25,000 or more gets 15% off their bill and can store 24 bottles of their own wine in the restaurant’s cellar.

Costa Coffee looks to open 80 sites in Philippines: Whitbread’s Costa Coffee brand is looking to open as many as 80 sites in the Philippines, a market that is mostly dominated by American brands. The plan is to open up to 80 stores in the next five years, banking on an upgraded Filipino lifestyle and higher per capita spending, an official of the company said. Matt Kenley, Costa Coffee’s international operations manager in SE Asia and India, told reporters at the Franchise Asia Philippines 2014 convention in Pasay City that the company was in the midst of completing market research on the Philippines. “As soon as we finish our market research in the Philippines, we’re looking to shortlist partners and then we will announce … I would hope so [this year],” he said. From the shortlist, Kenley said they may look at only one master franchise holder. “We’re looking at 70 to 80 in five years. but it depends on our franchise partner,” he said.

Multiple operator partners Star Pubs & Bars on two openings in Edinburgh: Work has begun by Star Pubs & Bars in partnership with multiple operator I@G Events on refurbishing two prime Edinburgh sites, The Spider’s Web in Morrison Street in the West End and The Volunteer Arms in Leith Walk. Both pubs are being renamed in the process in homage to the drinks they will showcase. The Spider’s Web will become The Jolly Botanist, so-called because of the botanical ingredients found in gin, and The Volunteer Arms will become The Cask & Still. £500,000 is being spent by Star Pubs & Bars and I@G Events, which also runs Star Pubs’ McSorley’s site in the city, transforming The Jolly Botanist into what they believe will be one of the best food and drinks pubs in the area and Edinburgh’s best gin emporium. The pub will re-open after the Edinburgh International Festival. The inside of The Jolly Botanist has been reconfigured to increase the upstairs bar’s capacity by 40%. The Volunteer will have a special whisky and beer tasting room.

AG&G – Harp sale price equates to £3,000 per square foot: Agent AG&G has reported that the sale of the Harp pub in Covent Garden, central London for circa £7m on behalf of licensee Bridget “Binnie” Walsh to Fuller Smith & Turner was equal to £3,000 a square foot. AG&G director James Grimes said. “The sale attracted a great deal of interest and we’re very pleased to have helped her get a price that works out to around £3,000 per square foot. While this is phenomenal, it is completely justified by the incredible popularity of this small pub, and a tribute to the work Binnie has put in over the years.” The Harp is in Chandos Place, close to Trafalgar Square, and is a multiple award winner. It was the Campaign for Real Ale’s Pub of the Year for 2010/2011, London Cider Pub of the Year in 2011 and West London Pub of the Year in 2012. The pub guarantees that a minimum of ten real ales are available each week.

Ladhar Leisure invests £700,000 in Newcastle Quayside brewpub and smokehouse: Ladhar Leisure is creating 30 jobs opening the Hop & Cleaver brewpub and smokehouse on Newcastle’s Quayside. The company is converting the former Offshore 44 pub, once part of Wessex Taverns, into the Hop & Cleaver, a bar and smokehouse selling meat, cask ales, cocktails and bourbon, creating 30 jobs. Hop & Cleaver will be the fourth venue opened by Ladhar Leisure, following on from the contemporary gin palace Pleased to Meet You, Lady Grey’s and Redhouse, which together support more than 100 jobs. Barry Ladhar, director of Ladhar Leisure, said the firm has invested more than a £1m on the Quayside in the past year. Ladhar said: “We are delighted to open another quality venue bringing a new concept to the Quayside, which is undergoing something of a renaissance. It is creating a real buzz down by the river again, which is great for Tyneside’s very important night-time economy and particularly pleasing for such an iconic part of our city. Alongside Redhouse, which is now firmly established as the place for pies and mash, we have invested over £1m on the Quayside.” The Hop & Cleaver will also have its own brewery, which will produce exclusive cask ales on the premises, with customers being able to see the ales being created and served alongside other craft beers.

Admiral Taverns promotes Suzanne Smith to ‘people’ role: Admiral Taverns, the leading tenanted pub group, has appointed one of its senior team to a new role that signals an even greater focus on people. The promotion of Suzanne Smith to the role of head of recruitment and people development reflects an increasing commitment to training in all facets of the business – including pub licensees, the Admiral team at head office and field-based personnel. Chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “We have made significant progress in developing the calibre of both our licensees and our team at Admiral, and this has been a very significant factor in the improving reputation and performance of the business. Suzanne has led the transformation of our licensee recruitment and training offer over recent years. This new department will bring a greater focus on people, enabling us to make further progress in attracting the best licensee talent – and supporting them in the ongoing development of their skills and capabilities – whilst also ensuring that Admiral continues to attract, develop and retain the very best people, and remains a positive and enjoyable place to work with high levels of engagement.” A training specialist who joined Admiral in 2010 having held senior positions at both the BII and training provider CPL, Smith will lead the new department with immediate effect. 

Bistro Qui group opens Liverpool smokehouse: Bistro Qui, the Liverpool-based restaurant chain, has opened a new outlet, Button Street Smokehouse, in the city, serving American favourites such as popcorn shrimp, burnt ends, hush puppies and seafood gumbo, and the Dirty Burger, two beef patties, barbecue pulled pork, bacon, gravy, onion rings and Monterey Jack cheese in a bun. The group, founded by Mark Friend and Stephen Slater, opened its first outlet, Bistro Pierre, in the Cavern Quarter ten years ago. It now runs Bistro Jacques on Hardman Street and Bistro Franc on Hanover Street in Liverpool and Bistro Jacques in Shrewsbury. Friend, Bistro Qui’s managing director, said: “As restaurateurs, we hope that we have built up a reputation in the city for delivering quality and value for money in all of our venues, and Button Street Smokehouse is an extension of that philosophy. Having said that, we do hope that our customers will find a few little surprises when they visit. We know that a smokehouse will be judged on the quality of its meat, and some of our ‘slow and low’ dishes take over 24 hours to cook, producing the tastiest and juiciest of cuts. However, our guests will find rotisserie chicken, salads, fish and seafood dishes, burgers, sliders and vegetarian options. Our range of small plates, sides and sharing platters mean that you can drop by for a light bite or a full meal. Our lunchtime small plate offer has shown itself to be a big hit and our customers are amazed at their quality and their value for money. Just leave room for one of our home-made desserts – they’re amazing. Our drinks list is as extensive as the food menu – there’s plenty of surprises such as our Smokehouse Mooonshine [sic]. The cocktails have also proven to be a great success, particularly the Maple Milk.”

Luminar invests £300,000 in Guildford nightclub: Luminar is to invest £300,000 in opening a nightclub called Cameo in Guildford, in a site formerly known as Dusk. The North Street venue will a “luxurious, aspirational nightclub” for over-21s and will create 35 new jobs. The total refurbishment of the site will include the creation of a new dance room, six pre-bookable private booth, a ladies’ “pamper area” and VIP booths. Luminar’s chief financial officer, Russell Margerrison, said: “The refurbishment is part of our ongoing investment strategy, which continues to deliver consistent returns. When it launches, Cameo will provide a unique clubbing experience, with stylish interiors and superior quality sound systems complemented by high service standards, which will appeal to discerning customers.”

Arc Inspirations promises biggest investment to date in Leeds site: Arc inspirations, the Lees-based pub and restaurant operator led by Martin Wolstencroft, has reported that it is lining up its “largest financial commitment to date” at an unnamed site in Leeds city centre. The company said: “Arc Inspirations will announce exciting plans for a brand new destination in Leeds city centre shortly, taking its tally to 12 in the north. This new destination represents the inception of a new idea and its largest financial commitment to one site to date.” The news comes as the company opens its third Pit site, in the basement of its existing Trio site in Headingley, taking current investment in the Pit series to £2.5m. The Pit outlets serve beers from around the world, local craft beers, including the chain’s own Pit Canary, and a menu the company says is “inspired by ‘dig pit, light fire and cook meat’”.

PizzaExpress sells ‘large’ West Hampstead site to Waitrose: PizzaExpress has sold its 6,000 sq ft site on West End Lane, West Hampstead to Waitrose. The new store will be opening in early autumn. Nick Weir, joint managing partner at Shelley Sandzer, which acted for PizzaExpress, said: “PizzaExpress has a strong presence in North London already, with smaller concepts performing well. We are pleased we were able to facilitate this Waitrose deal, beneficial to both parties. West Hampstead is a prime location for the high-end grocer and the size and position of the site was exactly what the brand was looking for. It is also a significant enhancement to Waitrose’s representation in North West London.”

Restaurant owner opens Derby’s first gourmet burger outlet: The owner of Hepburns fine dining restaurant in Derby has opened the city’s first gourmet burger restaurant, the Forge, in Old Blacksmith’s Yard. Brad Worley, a former maitre d’ at The Ivy, moved from London to Derby five years ago. He has opened the Forge with his partner Jess Guerrer after a £90,000 revamp. Worley said: “I fell in love with the Old Blacksmiths Yard as soon as I saw it and knew it would be perfect for what we wanted to do – an independent restaurant offering relaxed dining and specialising in gourmet burgers. It is also the perfect place to open this style of restaurant – surrounded by the other high-quality independent businesses in the Cathedral Quarter, who all share the ethos of wanting to support the area and create a vibrant and unique destination for visitors. As a local business, we are committed to supporting the local economy and are using a wide range of locally reared meat for the burgers ranging from beef and chicken to the more exotic venison and ostrich.” As well as burgers, the Forge sells craft beers, lagers and cocktails.

US-style diner operator plans six ‘high-quality drive-through’ sites: Harvey’s New York Bar & Grill, which is opening its second site in Rhuddlan, North Wales in the autumn, has revealed plans for six sites in the region. The company, which already runs a restaurant in Llandudno, says it believes it has spotted a gap in the market for high quality drive-through food and wants to offer something different to the current big players such as McDonald’s. Plans were approved for the first restaurant/drive through combination earlier this year in Rhuddlan at the former Marsh Warden pub, which had fallen into disrepair. The site, close to a Premier Inn hotel, has now been razed to the ground after a delay of three months because nesting birds were found in the roof. Developers will now move in over the coming weeks, with Harvey’s hopeful of being open by October or November. Further sites are now under consideration as the company seeks to take advantage of what it sees as the current popularity of good-quality US dining. Director Craig Holmes said: “This is part of our expansion plans across North Wales and we hope to have six sites in the region. We have some sites identified but don’t want to say anymore on those at this point. We want to bring something new to drive-through, there are obviously the well-known national brands out there already but we want to fill in a gap in the market for ‘upmarket’ drive-through food. We believe the demand for this is there: we certainly hope it is.”

Veeno Wine Company to expand into Leeds: The Sicilian family-run restaurant firm Veeno Wine Company is to expand into Leeds, converting a disused hair salon into an Italian wine café. The café will serve a range of family-produced wines, plus Italian aperitifs, beers, non-alcoholic refreshments and luxury hot drinks. Customers will also be able to buy a selection of antipasti, panini and focaccias, with ingredients sourced from Italian suppliers. Joint founder Nino Caruso said: “We have done our research and believe we’ve found a fantastic opportunity to bring an authentic Italian leisure experience to the people of Leeds. And because we are responsible for the production of our own wines, from grape to glass, we have an abundance of knowledge for those who want to learn more. By hand-selecting the produce we serve in our wine cafes, we can transport our customers to Italy and give them a real feel for the food and drink we enjoy back home. This business model has proven popular so far, and we plan to continue the adventure in other UK cities.” The first Veeno Italian wine café opened in Manchester last November.

Music fans launch last-ditch attempt to save Edinburgh music venue from Wetherspoon conversion: Music fans are making a final attempt to halt plans to stop the Picture House live music venue in Edinburgh being converted to a pub by JD Wetherspoon. The issue is being raised by politicians in the Scottish Parliament. More than 12,500 people, including 19 MSPs, have signed a petition pressing for the venue to remain a music hub. Callum Mouat, who worked at the venue and raised the petition, said the building had been an institution among music fans. “The Picture House has a musical history stretching back three decades and has brought the best international acts to the Scottish capital, with acts as diverse as Franz Ferdinand to Amadou and Mariam having graced its stage,” he said. Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi has also opposed the move. He said: “I raised the issue of the large number of Wetherspoon applications in particular in Parliament with the minister for public health, and his message was what my message would be: we have to pay attention to the experts here, and the experts in both health and anti-social behaviour, the police and the NHS, have argued against additional licences in that area in the past.” A spokesman for Wetherspoon said: “We didn’t close it down. Wetherspoon bought the building after it was closed. In terms of the music, it’s not on the agenda, but things could change. The plans are in and anyone who wants to look at the plans can. It is totally transparent.” Meanwhile, the company has been given the all-clear to open its first bar in the Lake District. Its application to get a licence for the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas has been approved. The pub is set to open on 30 September on the site of the former police station and court building in Bank Street, Keswick, despite concerns about its late opening hours. Wetherspoon wants to open the pub between 7am and 12.30am Sunday to Wednesday and 7am to 1.30am Thursday to Saturday.

Wadworth launches perfect pint competition: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth is offering ale lovers the unique opportunity to create their own “perfect pint” ahead of Cask Ale Week. In a competition available throughout the brewery’s 43-strong managed estate, customers will be asked to submit recipes containing up to eight ingredients for a chance to brew their beer alongside Wadworth’s master brewers. The winning ale will then be sold in its managed pubs throughout Cask Ale Week, 25 September to 5 October. The brewery’s trade marketing manager, Emma Cottam, said: “At Wadworth we celebrate cask ale all year round. Many of our pubs offer the opportunity to try before you buy, as well as a selection of ‘beer tapas’ to encourage people to try new and exciting flavours; but with Cask Ale Week approaching we wanted to go one step further and offer a money-can’t-buy prize that would get creative juices flowing.”

PizzaExpress to take Strada site in Billericay: PizzaExpress is set to open in Billericay, Essex creating 30 jobs. The chain has submitted plans to open a new branch in the former Strada restaurant, in the town’s High Street. It hopes to refurbish the ground and first floors of the grade II listed building and has applied to Basildon Council for listed building consent. A spokesman said: “Billericay is a fantastic town and we’d hope to open in the autumn.” The Strada site closed in mid- June this year

Agent offers country house hotel for sale: The property agent Christie + Co is selling Glewstone Court, a country house hotel in a rural hamlet near the market town of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, for £895,000. It is the first time the hotel has been on the market in 27 years. Christine and Bill Reeve-Tucker moved to the hotel from Ross-on-Wye in 1987, creating a country house hotel and restaurant. Jonathan Hill of Christie + Co said: “Glewstone Court is a fine example of a quintessential British country house hotel which enjoys excellent all-year-round trade. This, combined with its beautiful location and its situation as the ideal base for touring the delights of the Wye Valley, should attract interest from both existing country house hotel operators and from those who are seeking an escape from the rat race with a perfect lifestyle business.”

First Pizza Hut in the UK with draught beer boosts turnover by 50% after refurbishment: Pizza Hut’s £650,000 investment in remodelling its site at Barbican Leisure Park in Plymouth, introducing draught beer for the first time, has resulted in a 50% increase in business and the resultant creation of ten jobs. The chain’s operations director, Mike Spencer, told the local newspaper that the company has invested so heavily because it is one of Pizza Hut’s key locations. He said the Vue multiplex pulls in about 850,000 customers a year, but Pizza Hut faces competition on-site from five other “casual dining” brands: Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s, PizzaExpress, Bella Italia and Chiquito. “We have seen an uplift of 50% in sales since we reopened,” Spencer said. He said most of that growth was due to attracting new customers, but the rest is due to an increase in spend. The average per-head spend has increased from £10.50 to £12, although Spencer said competitors are attracting up to £14. “We are looking to bridge some of that gap,” he said. “But not at the same level, we want to give more value but a better experience. And this is the first in the UK to serve draught beer. The feedback from guests has improved by 15 to 20%.”

New company buys Somerset hotel: A new company, Shrubbery Hotel (2013), has bought the Best Western Shrubbery Hotel in Ilminster, Somerset out of administration off an asking price of £995,000. The deal was concluded by the property agent Christie + Co on behalf of joint administrators Graham Randall and Simon Girling of BDO. The new owner will retain the Best Western brand on the 19th century building, which became a hotel in the 1930s. The Shrubbery has been Best Western-branded for 26 years. Jonathan Hill, director of hotels for Christie + Co, said: “It is pleasing that this extremely popular hotel is to be rejuvenated under its new owners, and that it is set to retain the Best Western brand it has operated under for over a quarter of a century.”

Chick-fil-A is serious threat to McDonald’s in US says analyst: The Atlanta-based chicken restaurant chain Chick-fil-A may match or even exceed the billions of dollars that McDonald’s could expect to add to its US sales in the United States between 2014 and 2023, making Chick-fil-A a serious long-term threat to the burger chain’s dominance of the US fast-food market, according to one American analyst. Mark Kalinowski of Janney Capital Markets said that Chick-fil-A’s rise from a distant No 2 to a clear-cut No 1 in the US limited-service category over the past 14 years meant it might start to threaten the market share of brands outside the chicken segment. Beginning in 1999, when Chick-fil-A had 8.7% of the chicken segment’s sales, against 39.7% for KFC, the brand consistently grabbed market share from its larger competitor. By 2013, Chick-fil-A had 26.3% of the segment’s sales, against 21.9% for KFC. He added: “Impressively, this was achieved in the context of Chick-fil-A currently having fewer than 2,000 restaurants in the US, compared to KFC’s 4,000-plus – and KFC opens on Sundays, while Chick-fil-A does not.” Kalinowski said a “best-guess” scenario for Chick-fil-A’s growth to 2023 would see its annual sales in the US grow by $6.3bn to $11.4bn. McDonald’s might add $10bn in US sales over the next ten years, or it might add as little as $1bn, for a total of $36.9bn, he said. Kalinowski said that Chick-fil-A had “enormous” unit growth potential left in the United States, particularly in heavily populated north and Midwest states where McDonald’s has more than 200 restaurants, while Chick-fil-A has fewer than 40. “While Chick-fil-A remains meaningfully smaller than McDonald’s today,” Kalinowski said, “to the extent it could be ignored as a competitive threat ten years ago, we would argue that it can no longer be ignored as a long-term competitive threat today.”

Starbucks opens in Colombia selling coffee 100% from Colombian beans: Starbucks has opened its first cafe in Colombia , renowned for its coffee exports. The American company has teamed up with a local company, Nutresa, and picked a location in Bogota’s exclusive Parque de la 93 for upmarket appeal. Starbucks “is looking to achieve a leadership position in the [Colombian] domestic market,” a Nutresa statement said. Colombia is the world’s leading exporter of Arabica coffee beans and Starbucks has decided to sell 100% Colombian coffee in all its Colombian outlets. Carlos Gallego, head of Grupo Nutresa, said: “For us, it is a point of pride that Colombia will be the first country in Latin America where all the coffee Starbucks serves will be 100% Colombian.” Colombia has a population of 47 million people, a booming economy and growing middle class.

New restaurant concept set to open in Liverpool: A new restaurant concept, Cargo bar and restaurant, will open in Alexandra Tower, part of Princes Dock, Liverpool, next month. Alexandra Tower is a residential tower and the sixth tallest building in Liverpool. The Mediterranean restaurant is being opened by Angela and Terry Connor. Mrs Connor said: “We are really excited to be launching Cargo this August here in Liverpool. With the Peel Holdings developments over the next two years, we know we are right at the centre of what will be a great area in the Liverpool docks. We chose the name Cargo in keeping with where we are situated and the history that this location has.”

Frankie & Benny’s wins Durham application despite residents’ ‘boy racer’ fears: The Restaurant Group has succeeded in a licensing application to open a Frankie & Benny’s outlet at the Arnison Retail Park in Durham past midnight, despite opposition from a nearby exclusive housing estate. At a meeting to decide on an application to grant a licence allowing the restaurant to sell alcohol until midnight and stay open until 12.30am, seven days a week, Durham County Council’s statutory licensing sub-committee was told by one resident that the retail park used to be a haven for “boy racers” who would gather and drive around at speed in loud cars, carrying out handbrake turns. He said the problem was solved when the park’s owners installed barriers that were locked every night. But if gates were kept open until after midnight for Frankie & Benny’s customers, he feared they might return. However, the licence was granted after Heath Thomas, the solicitor appearing for the Restaurant Group, said the objections were based on the “perceived concerns’’ of residents rather than on evidence. He said the site had 24/7 security and CCTV monitoring and that the “boy racer” problem had nothing to do with the presence of licensed premises. Frankie & Benny’s is moving into the former Pets At Home store on the retail park, after Pets At Home moves to another unit.

Group of US McDonald’s franchisees report most pessimistic ever: A group of 27 American McDonald’s owner-operators, representing 231 restaurants in the United States, have given the most pessimistic outlook for the next six months of business in the history of Janney Capital Markets’ quarterly McDonald’s Franchisee Survey, placing a majority of the blame on the brand’s senior leadership. Janney’s restaurant analyst, Mark Kalinowski, wrote in a research note that the franchisees surveyed on their six-month outlook gave an average rating of 1.84 on a scale of 1 to 5, in which 1 means “poor” and 5 means “excellent.” Nine of the 27 respondents rated their outlook at 1, and no franchisees indicated their outlook was a 5. “This 1.84 number is meaningfully below the 2.9 average result over the history of the survey and below the 2.21 result from three months ago,” Kalinowski wrote. “Indeed, this result becomes the worst ever in our decade plus of conducting this survey, even lower than the previous low score of 1.89 from six months ago.”

Mountain Range Restaurants signs up for Orderella app: Orderella, the leading mobile ordering app which allows its customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone, has announced a new partnership with Mountain Range Restaurants, starting with the launch of the app at The Swan in Forest Row, East Sussex. Mountain Range Restaurants already operates three sites in the south of the country has an ambitious growth plan in place, with the aim to have 12 sites open within the next two or three years. The plan is for Orderella to be available at all existing sites, and new sites as they open, to ensure all of Mountain Range’s customers can enjoy the speed and efficiency of ordering it provides. Greg Mangham, of Mountain Range Restaurants, said: “We always want to offer the very best service, and see Orderella as a friendly tool working hand in hand with our team at The Swan to provide an exceptional experience for our customers. They can enjoy themselves with their friends and forget about getting the next round in, while we can manage the queue effectively and ensure our customers are having a great time.”

Gourmet Burger Kitchen reports strong year: Gourmet Burger Kitchen, the “better burger” brand owned by Nando’s Group Holdings, has reported a strong year ,with turnover rising 24% to £50.5m in the year to 23 February 2014 compared to the previous period, which covered 11 months. The company saw a 63% increase in profit before restaurant opening costs, cost of fundamental reorganisation and interest for the period, achieving £1.88m (2013: £1.16m). Profit before interest was £1.24m, against £160,000 the year before. An increased interest payment of £1.36m saw a £118,000 loss: interest was £857,000 the year before, resulting in a £687,000 loss. The company opened three new sites to bring its estate size to 60 restaurants: it opened five sites in the comparable 11-month period. Administrative expenses for the year included a loss on impairment on the tangible fixed assets of two restaurants amounting to £1.3m (2013: £500,000). Administrative expenses for the year increased 23% to £18.6m (2013: £15m) reflecting the larger impairment charge, the longer accounting period and the increased number of restaurants in the estate. Restaurant opening costs for the year decreased 32% to £600,0000 (2013: £900,000) largely because of the higher number of openings in the 11 months ended 24 February 2013. Net cash flow from operating activities increased 64% to £8.5m (2013: £5.2m), driven by the increased profitability of the company. After interest, tax and capex, net debt increased by £800,000 to £18.8m (2013: £18m).

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