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Fri 12th Dec 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pieminister targets 20 new sites: Pieminister, the award-winning gourmet pie company, has unveiled ambitious plans to add 20 more restaurants across the UK. The Bristol-based business, which was established in 2003, already runs ten outlets from its headquarters in Stokes Croft. The company has now retained the Bristol-based firm Williams Gunter Hardwick to identify more outlets, with Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester top of the wish list for early 2015. Pieminister has steadily built its own portfolio of restaurants over the past few years, including two in London and one in Amsterdam. Stuart Williams, director of Williams Gunter Hardwick, said: “The plan now is to identify prime new locations with between 2,000 and 4,000 sq ft of space. This is a brand that has huge appeal, based on pies using only 100% free-range British meat, usually served with lashings of gravy and mash. We are looking particularly at areas in cities with a vibrant bar and casual dining scene, including Bath, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and York. We are also keen to expand Pieminister’s presence in London.” Pieminister's managing director, Jon Simon, said: “These are really exciting times for us. Our growth to date has really surprised us, but there’s obviously a big appetite out there for quality, ethical and filling food that isn’t overcomplicated or expensive. We’re now ramping up our operation and have tasked Williams Gunter Hardwick with finding new locations where we can make the biggest impact.”

Industry News:

Eight Scottish brewers join call for end-of-tie legislation north of border: Eight leading Scottish craft beer brewers have joined the campaign to give Scottish pubco tenants the same right to end the beer tie as is being promised to tenants in England and Wales under legislation going through parliament in Westminster. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which will allow tenants to seek a "market rent only" deal with their pubco landlord, will not automatically apply to Scotland. Already Scotland's largest lager brewer, Tennent Caledonian, part of the drinks group C&C, and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, representing more than 700 Scottish licensees, have called on the Scottish government to ensure pub tenants north of the border get the same rights as English and Welsh ones. Now eight other breweries – Stewart Brewing, Harviestoun Craft Beers, Fyne Ales, Cairngorm Brewery, Inveralmond Brewery, West Brewery in Glasgow, Deeside Brewery and Williams Brothers of Alloa – have joined Tennent's and the SLTA to sign a letter saying it would be "grossly unfair" if Scottish tenants were left out of the new arrangements on the pub tie, and "urgently" urging the Scottish government to allow for a legislative consent motion, "in order that Scottish pubs are not unfairly disadvantaged compared with the rest of the UK". The letter also calls for a change in the Westminster legislation altering the "guest ale provision for tenants buying outside the tie so that it refers to "guest beer", covering lager as well.
US restaurants see disappointing trading in November: Like-for-like sales growth in restaurants in the United States slowed in November to 1.5% as consumers unexpectedly dined out less during the month, according to the latest NRN-MillerPulse survey. The primary reason for the slowdown was a 1.5% decline in traffic, the first time in four months that the index reported fewer diners. Like-for-like sales growth fell from 2.7% in October, and was at its lowest level since February. Poor weather that month was a major factor in keeping consumers at home. However, November's results came amid a fall in fuel prices to their lowest level in years, improved consumer confidence and job creation. The number of overall jobs added to the economy increased by more than 300,000 in November, the highest rate in 15 years, according to government data.
Professor Chris Edger to hold Multi-Site Management Masterclass: The UK’s leading thinker and teacher on multi-site management, Professor Chris Edger, will be holding his second Multi-Site Management Masterclass, in partnership with Propel, on Tuesday 24 February at One Moorgate Place, in the City of London. Professor Edger, who has just published his latest book, Leading at a Distance in Multi-Unit Enterprises, will focus on how area managers can create organic growth through the three-step process of engagement, execution and evolution. Professor Edger currently teaches at City University, Birmingham, where a number of the sector’s leading companies send their general managers to be taught. His one-day seminar will include live contributions from senior UK executives. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel, said: "This is a great chance for multi-site companies to refresh their thinking – and the thinking and expertise of key staff – as 2015 gets under way." Tickets are £295 plus VAT for ALMR members and £345 for non-ALMR members. CLICK HERE for more details or e-mail to book.

Company News:

Another analyst backs de-merger of Costa Coffee: Another City analyst, Ken Odeluga, of City Index, has backed a demerger of Costa Coffee from Whitbread to release value for shareholders. He said: “ Whilst I have been less impressed with the pub/restaurant operations this year due to what seems to me like a somewhat incoherent programme of new pub openings backed up with sacrificed margins, it’s reassuring to see the group affirm that its more high-margin operations will enable it to deliver on full-year expectations. We spotlight the firm’s coffee operations, which are returning to profitability with consistent volume growth (and probably winning market share) as providing potential for some sort of corporate action, possibly being spun off (de-merged). With the group trading at a discount to the sum-of-parts, we regard a potential Costa Coffee de-merger as a way of providing investors with a better way of assessing the value of perhaps the group’s prize asset, at least in terms of potential for international growth. We also like the launch of hub by Premier Inn, the small-room concept for city centres, for further penetration in the UK and an easier expansion in Asia.”
Living Ventures’ Australasia venue scores four on hygiene re-check after failure: Living Ventures, which saw the head chef at its fine-dining outlet Australasia in Manchester depart after hygiene inspectors scored it just one out of five, has seen the restaurant re-scored at four after a re-visit. Living Ventures chief Tim Bacon told Propel that the company had not “sacked” its head chef, as reported in local media, but rather had parted company “by mutual consent”. The inspectors had uncovered problems with the restaurant's pest control systems, and found it had a sub-standard immersion heater and patchy record keeping. Procedures had not been followed to document sous-vide cooking, when food is sealed in plastic bags and slowly cooked in water baths. If not performed at the right temperatures and for long enough the method can encourage botulism-causing bacteria. Living Ventures' managing director, Paul Moran, told the Manchester Evening News that failures identified in the inspectors' report had been fixed within days.

Brunning & Price opens 52nd site: Brunning and Price, the Restaurant Group’s gastro-pub brand, opened its 52nd pub restaurant this week in Thornton Hough on the Wirral. Managing director Mary Willcock said: ” We’ve been trying to get into the Wirral for many years now. But it was essential we found the right site: the Red Fox, formerly the Grange Country Club, is an outstanding property in a wonderful location, and stands in its own beautifully landscaped grounds. We’re employing almost 50 people who live locally and, where practicable, we prefer to use local artisan suppliers. We definitely see ourselves as an active and enthusiastic member of our local community”.
Michael Caines eyes country house hotel to launch assault on third Michelin star: The two-Michelin-star celebrity chef Michael Caines has unveiled plans for his own multi-million pound Grade II country house hotel. Caines, backed by a group of investors, has exchanged contracts for the purchase of Courtlands, which stands in 28 acres of grounds in Lympstone, Devon. The purchase is subject to the Georgian mansion achieving full planning permission to convert it into a 21-bedroom country house hotel and 60-cover restaurant. Caines said: “I am very excited. This is the earliest phase in the realisation of a long-standing dream. The renovation of Courtlands into a luxury country house hotel and restaurant in a fabulous East Devon setting on the Exe estuary will enable me most fully to express my vision of hospitality in all its aspects. My passion for food and wine is at the heart of everything we will be working to achieve, with the intention to cook at the very highest standard and to achieve two Michelin stars here – with the aspiration to gain a third. The 60-cover restaurant will feature my signature, award-winning modern European cuisine that champions the fabulous produce of East Devon, the wider county of Devon and the South West.”

Douglas Jack – sector is trading well, buy Restaurant Group shares: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has tipped Restaurant Group shares after yesterday’s Coffer Peach trading update showed “good sector trading” in November. He said: “Managed pub and restaurant LFL sales rose 3.4% in November. LFL sales have risen for 20 consecutive months, during which licensed retail has outperformed retail (BRC) in 16 of the last 20 months. We believe the combination of rising consumer disposable income and strong cinema prospects leaves the Restaurant Group ('buy' 760p) best placed to outperform operationally next year. Restaurant chains (up 4.8% LFL sales) outperformed managed pubs ( up 2.8%) in November. This partly reflected food (up 4%) growing faster than drink (up 1.5%) given that food sales account for an average 45% of revenue in managed pub chains versus 75% for the restaurants. London remains more buoyant than the rest of the country with LFL sales up 6.1% in November, compared to 2.4% outside the M25. Total sales, which include the impact of new openings, were up 6.8%. This implies 3.4% net expansion across the Tracker’s 30 restaurant, bar and pub companies, dominated by restaurants (total sales up 10%: 4.8% LFL; 5.2% net expansion), especially outside of London. LFL trading prospects are good, in our view. December trading should benefit from Christmas bookings being 5% ahead for many operators. Thereafter, trading should benefit from rising average wages (net income was up 2.2% in October, according to the Asda Income Tracker), combined with declining cost inflation (essential item inflation in October: 1.1%), particularly with the full benefit of lower crude oil prices yet to feed through to consumers. Eating out tends to accelerate when the economy strengthens, in addition to which there have already been signs of customers trading up and restaurants reducing voucher promotions. This combined with a potential 5 to 10% increase in cinema attendance (strong releases; 2014 comps being c.9% below 2009-12’s level), leaves the Restaurant Group ('buy' 760p) best placed to outperform operationally next year, in our view.
Living Ventures boss Tim Bacon teams up with old colleagues to open Red Door Liverpool: Tim Bacon, chief executive of Living Ventures, is teaming up with old colleagues to open a new city centre bar and restaurant called Red Door Liverpool on Berry Street in the new year. His partners are the Chester-based entrepreneur Dave Hinds, with whom he founded Life Cafe, later sold to Whitbread, and the Liverpool-born food and drinks expert Lee Lynch, who worked with the pair in the late 1990s. The three are investing £500,000 at a four-storey venue that has previously been the Metropolitan and the Lemon Lounge. There is already an established Red Door in Chester. Lynch, Red Door’s managing director, said: “We are delighted to bring Red Door to Liverpool, we intend to make it one of the best bars in the city. A combination of highly trained bar tenders and live music, it will fit the thriving scene around Berry Street perfectly.” Red Door Liverpool is expected to open its doors in February.

Handmade Burger Co to open 22nd site today: Handmade Burger Co is opening its 22nd restaurant, on St Vincent Street in Glasgow, today, its fifth restaurant in Scotland and third in Glasgow. The St Vincent restaurant has a what the chain called "a fresh new look", an 18-seat screening room and meeting rooms for hire. Founder Chris Sargeant said: “The first Handmade Burger Co opened in Birmingham in 2006 and since then we have embarked on a steady expansion plan. In 2014 we opened restaurants in Leeds, Manchester and Southampton. Further openings are planned for 2015 including Grand Central Station in Birmingham, and Nottingham." Handmade Burger Co’s chefs make more than 40 varieties of hand-made and hand-pressed burgers.

PubLove hires operations manager: PubLove, the five-strong London pub and hostel provider led by Ben Stackhouse, has appointed Russell Newby as its new operations manager. Newby's experience in pub and hostel operations includes 12 years at Beds & Bars. PubLove opens its new flagship Euston site opening next month, which is being developed in partnership with the award-winning design and build specialist Concorde BGW. At the same time, PubLove launches its #LondonLegends campaign with the sector agency Elliotts, and rolls out its all-day food offer, "Good Morning Burger Craft", which will run alongside its existing own-brand pop-up, Burger Craft. Last month, the company rebranded its entire estate and launched its new website Stackhouse said: “The strategic plan I worked on whilst on paternity leave in July is now in full flow and results across our estate are showing positive growth. I have total confidence that this is a great appointment for PubLove and for Russell.” Newby said: “This is an incredibly exciting time to be joining the team with the new PubLove brand in place and the immanent acquisition and refurbishment of site number six. I’m looking forward to continuing to drive growth across the PubLove estate.”
Southend fish and chip shop entrepreneur launches US diner brand: The Southend leisure entrepreneur Paul van Looy, who sold a number of fish and chip shops in the town last year, has launched a 1950s-style US diner brand as his next venture in the sector. His brand, Grumpy’s Diner, has opened in the former Apprenticeship Trust building, in Southchurch Road, Southend. Van Looy brought in the jukebox, booths and other items from the United States and employs 11 people to serve 60 diners. In time, evenings at Grumpy’s Diner will involve Buddy Holly or Elvis tribute events. The restaurant has a marriage licence, and its first wedding is due to take place next year. As well as traditional American dining, it offers cocktails and milkshakes.

Soho House plan for BBC Television Centre gets go-ahead: A £1bn redevelopment of the BBC’s former television centre in West London that will turn the 1960s building into a 50-bedroom Soho House members club with roof terrace and swimming pool, has been given a planning go-ahead. Revised plans for the scheme in White City, which also include 950 homes, offices and restaurants, were approved on Wednesday night by Hammersmith and Fulham council. The redevelopment will keep many of the original listed features of the world famous complex where such famous shows as Blue Peter, Dr Who and Match of the Day were recorded, including the central "doughnut" building and the statue of Helios. The go-ahead came as it emerged the BBC has signed has signed a deal with the company behind a £2bn Paramount Pictures resort planned for Kent. Shows such as Top Gear and Sherlock will be turned into theme park attractions alongside rides based on the Hollywood studio’s blockbuster movie franchises such as Star Trek and Transformers.

Burger and Lobster makes its debut outside London today: Burger and Lobster makes its debut outside London today, with an opening in the old Habitat building in The Hayes in Cardiff. The 300-seater restaurant is upstairs from the steak restaurant Miller and Carter. It is the largest eatery in the Burger and Lobster chain to date, and occupies what was once a fish market between 1901 and 1935. Burger and Lobster has five sites in London, in Mayfair, Soho, Knightsbridge, Farringdon and the City, as well as a new restaurant in New York due to open soon.
John Gaunt – Greene King bingo decision could have 'huge ramifications' for the future of bingo: The solicitors' firm John Gaunt has argued that the decision to grant Greene King’s appeal against the refusal by the Gambling Commission to give the company a bingo licence could have “huge ramifications”. The firm said: “Clearly this case may have huge ramifications for the future of bingo in general but in particular bingo in pubs and higher jackpot gaming machines in pubs. It will be interesting to see if other operators now seek to take a similar course of action. It is clear from the judgment of the tribunal that in the initial application process for the operating licence, Greene King went through a rigorous application process and the commission looked closely at the overall proposal and the detail. However we can see no reason why a well-presented application for a similar operating licence from an organisation that is financially well-run should be refused.”
McDonald’s UK hands out 22.7 million books in two years: McDonald’s UK has hit its pledge to put 15 million books into the hands of families by the end of 2014, with more than 22.7 million actually handed out over the past two years. The McDonald’s Happy Readers campaign was launched in January 2013 in response to research showing that one in three children did not own a book and only half of children enjoy reading. Partner organisations including the National Literacy Trust, WH Smith and Kobo, have helped McDonald’s give away some of the UK’s best-loved family reads with Happy Meals, including the DK Books’ Amazing World non-fiction series and books from authors such as Enid Blyton. Alistair Macrow, senior vice-president of marketing at McDonald’s UK, said: “Our restaurants have always been a colourful and exciting place for families to visit, and two years ago we realised we could leverage our scale, our partnerships and our presence in communities across the country to help millions of mums, dads and children find the fun in reading."

Wetherspoon applies to open first Cornish hotel: JD Wetherspoon has applied to open its first hotel in Cornwall, in the town of Camborne (population: 20,000). It has applied for permission to create 35 hotel bedrooms at the John Francis Basset on Commercial Road. The new bedrooms would cover part of the ground floor and all of the first and second floors. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “Our pub in Camborne is extremely popular and we believe the addition of a hotel at the pub will be welcomed by people in the town. Our aim is to invest £2.3m developing the 35-bedroom hotel, creating some new jobs in the process. Wetherspoon has 31 hotels alongside its pubs in the UK and this would be our first hotel in Cornwall. We will wait to see the outcome of the planning decision.” According to the application on the Cornwall Council planning website, the areas to be used are currently vacant, formerly used as club, cafe and function room spaces when the building was the Corn Exchange nightclub.

Drake & Morgan reports LFLs up 4.7% in first half: Drake & Morgan, the London-based bar and restaurant group led by Jillian MacLean and backed by Bowmark Capital, has reported turnover increased by 16% to £20.4m in the 52 weeks to 31 March 2014. Underlying ebitda increased to £2.7m. Pre-tax profit at £139,000 after one-off costs associated with the £30m Bowmark Capital management buy-out and expansion financing of Drake & Morgan. Two new bar-restaurants have been confirmed for the first half of 2015, in British Land’s Regent’s Place in the West End of London and in the new AXA Real Estate Development in King’s Cross, North London, taking the estate to nine sites. Drake & Morgan was ranked 48th fastest growing company in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100. It also achieved three-star status from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the highest possible score. Like-for-like sales for the half-year to 30 September 2014 were up 4.7%. The latest site, The Fable, is trading well and has the highest level of Christmas pre-bookings within the group. In June Drake & Morgan appointed a new non-executive chairman, Tony Campbell, former chairman of Spirit Group and non-executive chairman of the White Company and TM Lewin. James Sherrington, formerly of Caprice Holdings, became finance director and Dylan Murray, formerly of Soho House, became operations director. The company said a strong pipeline for further new sites in London and across other UK locations was in place. Managing director Jillian MacLean said: “Post Bowmark’s acquisition last year, we are entering an exciting period for Drake & Morgan. The business continues to trade strongly with like-for-like sales and profit in growth. As we embark on our next stage of growth we are actively seeking additional locations in London and across the UK.”
Expedia signs global deal with Best Western: Expedia, one of the world’s largest online travel companies, and Best Western International, the world’s largest hotel chain, have signed a global partnership agreement to distribute Best Western branded hotels, covering 4,000 independent hotels in 100 countries, on Expedia sites. Dorothy Dowling, senior vice-president of marketing and sales at Best Western International, said: “Expedia is an incredibly valuable distribution and marketing channel, and we see this new strategic partnership as a great investment to ensure hoteliers can easily and efficiently sell their hotel rooms on their sites. Expedia excels at driving demand from around the world, and their marketing power is something that our hotels will benefit from leveraging.” The agreement includes participation in the Expedia Traveller Preference programme, which provides Expedia shoppers with an option to pay at the time of the booking, or pay the hotel at the time of stay. The partners said technology enhancements between the two companies will also ensure that rates and availability of rooms will be reflected in real time on Expedia sites, providing the best possible customer experience with seamless booking integration.
Leisure entrepreneurs launch ski-themed bar: Two leisure entrepreneurs from Leicester have come together to launch an apres-ski themed bar. Alex Salter, of Homme and Co, in Leicester High Street, and Ercan Dogan, of Cafe Bruxelles, have joined together to launch Apres Lounge, which will be based in a former fancy dress shop in the High Street. The new late-night bar, which will be open from Thursdays to Saturdays, will have a capacity of 120. Salter said: "Ercan approached me and said he wanted to do something with the spot and I proposed having an apres-ski themed bar as it would be something different on the High Street. A lot of my friends go on skiing holidays, and the first thing they look for are the good apres-ski bars. Apres Lounge is going to be a premium bar in terms of the offers and the stock, and there will be different themes throughout the year to tie in with the season. In the winter, we will have things like frozen glasses, and in the summer, it will be a place where people can cool down."

Whitbread invests £9.5m in Stourbridge opening: Whitbread will open a new Premier Inn and Brewers Fayre in Stourbridge, West Midlands next Monday (15 December) after a £9.5m investment. Whitbread and Barberry Developments of Belbroughton in Worcestershire have spent the past eight months transforming the four-acre former Cox Hire in Birmingham Street. Stourbridge councillors and traders have called the development good news for the town that has seen little regeneration in recent years until Tesco opened a new superstore in 2013. Ward councillor Pete Lowe, leader of Dudley Council, said: "It's really positive news. It will bring more people into the town during the week and hopefully stimulate business within Stourbridge High Street."

BrewDog launches popcorn and beer pairing:
The Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched what it claims is a first-of-its-kind partnership with the gourmet popcorn maker Joe & Seph’s that will see craft beer being paired with popcorn flavours. All five of BrewDog's Headliner beers have been paired with a complementary flavour of popcorn from Joe & Seph’s range. The popcorn will be available to purchase in all 18 UK BrewDog bars and from BrewDog’s online shop. Detailed tasting notes on the pairings will be featured on the popcorn’s limited edition packaging and available from BrewDog bar staff upon request. The popcorn will cost £2.25 a pack.
Ceru launches pop-up, looks for permanent London site: Ceru, a new Eastern Mediterranean street food restaurant, has launched a five-month pop-up at 29 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, Central London while it looks for a permanent larger site in the area. Ceru, founded by restaurateur Barry Hilton, previously of Black & Blue and Yalla Yalla, has appeared during the summer at Pride Brighton, Henley Regatta and music festivals across the South East of England. Hilton has now created a 20-cover all-day mezze bar that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu designed to share. Ceru offers Levantine cuisine and is “inspired by the exciting street food of the region served in the vibrant atmosphere of a modern cocktail bar”. Hilton said: “Fitzrovia is the perfect location for us – we are very excited to be able to showcase Ceru to the Central London market.”
Starbucks' first UK franchisee chooses online accounting to support growth: Starbucks’ first UK franchisee, 23.5 Degrees, has selected Twinfield, Wolters Kluwer’s online accounting service, as its cloud accounting platform to help support its growth. The franchisee, which has established 11 stores around the UK since February, required a functional, reliable and efficient accounting system and chose Twinfield UK for its growing business. Anil Patil, managing director of 23.5 Degrees, said: “Before creating our partnership with Twinfield we had outsourced our accountancy function and also trialled working with an in-house accountant; however both of these experiences were not entirely successful. We wanted something that was accessible and easy to use, even for those without a background in accountancy. The system has really enabled growth, due to the reduced time spent inputting and analysing data and supporting key stakeholders , such as our directors, Starbucks’ management and financial representatives, in understanding the data. This time can now be spent training and developing staff and developing new sites for our business.”
Coffee shop entrepreneurs open law firm eatery Arthur’s: The coffee shop and catering entrepreneurs Dean Bee and Andy Fernandez have expanded their Liverpool city centre operation by opening a new outlet inside the offices of a leading law firm. The duo opened their first coffee shop in Exchange Flags, Liverpool in November 2008 as a Coffee Republic franchise. After that they started an outside catering arm, Gourmet Kingdom, and in 2011 the coffee shop was rebranded as Gourmet Coffee. The business has grown steadily since and now Bee and Fernandez have opened Arthur’s, a dining and hospitality facility exclusively for the staff of the law firm Weightmans at its headquarters in the Plaza in Old Hall Street. The 3,000 sq ft facility will offer breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages. It was named after William Arthur Weightman, who founded Weightmans in 1875. The pair have set up a separate arm – Gourmet Facilities Management – to run the operation.
£15m boutique hotel scheme proposed for historic Edinburgh site: A £15m boutique hotel development on a gap site in Edinburgh’s Old Town has been submitted for planning by jmarchitects. The project, which the Edinburgh-based practice has designed for the EDI Group, a property development and investment business owned by Edinburgh council, will create a hotel overlooking the gorge which runs through the city. Plans for the seven-floor, 98-bedroom hotel include a resident’s lounge and executive area for guests on the top floor with panoramic views of the city. The new hotel will be in a prime location within Edinburgh’s Unesco World Heritage Site, facing north towards the New Town across the Waverley Valley. Building on the gap site on Market Street would mean the demolition of a vacant former garage building, which has remained unused for more than 50 years. The hotel would be close to the city’s main railway station.

Pizza Hut invests £500,000 in Reading site with cocktail bar: Pizza Hut has invested £500,000 in its site at The Oracle, Reading. The venue now features a new cocktail bar concept and full drinks menu to try to make it a more attractive night-time destination. Pizza Hut Restaurants' managing director, Jens Hofma ,said: "We're investing as much in Reading as our flagship restaurants in London, which shows how important it is to us as an area. While the redesign offers an exciting new atmosphere for our existing loyal customers, the new cocktail bar is a real departure for us and we hope to welcome new guests looking for a different venue to enjoy a great night out with friends."

Malmaison secures Aberdeen site: The Robert Gordon University has struck a multimillion-pound deal to sell part of its Schoolhill campus in Aberdeen to the luxury hotel chain Malmaison Hotel du Vin Group. Malmaison has bought the prime city-centre site for what is understood to be a planned 200-bedroom development. The properties which have been sold are the university’s 85,000 sq ft Clarke Building and 16,000 sq ft student union premises, next to Aberdeen Art Gallery. Robert Gordon University's principal, Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, said that the hotel scheme would help the institution progress with its new campus at Garthdee while “driving forward” the regeneration of the city centre. Malmaison has 13 hotels in the UK, one in Queen’s Road in Aberdeen and others in Dundee, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Reading.

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse to get facelift: The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar and Grill in Birmingham is to be given a revamp as part of a £200,000 facelift to the restaurant and the adjoining four-star Hotel Indigo. The restaurant and its bars are on level 25 of the Cube building in Birmingham, with the hotel on levels 23 and 24. They opened in December 2011. John Lambourne-Richardson, the new general manager of Hotel Indigo and Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar and Grill, said: “Since both the hotel and restaurant opened three years ago we have fortunately seen an ever increasing number of guests through our doors. To ensure we continue to offer our guests the standard of luxury our venues are renowned for and keep the look and feel of them up to date, now seemed the ideal time to refresh the look.” Work in the main bar on level 25 has already begun and will see the introduction of a high viewing bar and the replacement of all furniture and carpet, to a grey, black and chrome colour scheme. The private dining room will take on a black, white and gold colour scheme and will have new white chandeliers, a bespoke upholstered dining/meeting table and high back chairs, functional blinds and dress curtains. The redesign is by the design company Mr McQueen, which designed the new interior for the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Bar, also located on level 25 of The Cube, earlier this year.

Jonathan Neame – BBPA accepts that ‘market rent only’ will become law: Jonathan Neame, chief executive of the Kentish family brewer and pub retailer Shepherd Neame, who is also chairman of the trade body for tenanted pub companies, the British Beer & Pub Association, has told MPs at a parliamentary reception that companies, and their trade body, accept the "market rent only option", effectively ending the beer tie, will now become law. He asked, however, that MPs do not tamper with the 500-pub threshold and create greater certainty to allow pub companies to continue to invest £200m a year. He said: “We recognise that this House has now supported an alternative thesis and has voted for radical change. Let me re-assure those here tonight, in case there is any idle speculation on this point, that the BBPA is NOT seeking to overturn the MRO and realise that this will now become law. However, we do have a few pleas: the Bill, as drafted, is not perfect and we would like to see some, relatively minor amendments, to provide greater certainty for those investing in the sector. I recognise that pub owners are not the most loved beasts in the jungle, but the fact that they do invest in the region of £200m in to the tenanted pub sector every year is surely to be welcomed and encouraged. Please do not tamper with the 500-pub limit, as this will cause huge uncertainty and potential damage to the family brewers.”

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