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Tue 18th Aug 2015 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Competition watchdog questions bowling operators merger: Plans by a ten-pin bowling operator to take over a smaller rival chain risk being derailed by the competition watchdog. The Original Bowling Company (TOBC), backed by private equity firm Electra Partners, said in April that it wanted to buy Bowlplex to expand its Hollywood Bowl brand. However, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) yesterday said the deal could result in a “substantial lessening of competition” in six areas where the two firms both run centres – Bracknell, Bristol, Cardiff, Dudley, Glasgow and Leeds. TOBC now has five days in which to suggest remedies to appease the regulator. Sheldon Mills, CMA senior director of mergers, said: “Bowling is a popular and growing leisure activity in the UK enjoyed by many families and individuals. This merger brings together two of the largest national chains in the sector. In six local areas, where the companies’ bowling centres are competing closely, we are concerned that after the merger there will be insufficient competition from other bowling operators in the area to prevent higher prices or lower service levels. We therefore propose to refer the merger for an in-depth investigation, unless TOBC offers a clear-cut remedy to address our competition concerns.” TOBC has 44 centres across the UK, 32 of which trade as Hollywood Bowl, while Bowlplex has 17 sites.

Industry News:

Alex Proud – nightclub sector suffering because of undue attention from the police: Nightclub owner Alex Proud, who operates a site in Camden, has argued the nightclub sector is suffering because of a disproportionate level of focus from the police, resulting in onerous licensing conditions. Writing for The Daily Telegraph, he stated: “The police focus on crimes that are easy to deal with – like mobile phone theft and public disorder. They want to look good – and this means massaging their stats. It can feel as though nicked iPhones and minor scuffles get more attention than some of the worst crimes imaginable. For nightclub owners, this has resulted in some real ‘fun’. For a while, we had to employ undercover security to look for phone thieves in our clubs, we had to beef up our ID systems (which resulted the in gangs of phone thieves using better fake passports) and we had to plaster signs everywhere alerting people to the possibility of phone theft. None of this had any real effect other than making the police look like they were being tough on crime. In the end, the problem of phone theft was tackled effectively – it had nothing to do with us or the police and everything to do with Apple and Google putting stronger digital locks on their phones, making stolen mobiles less attractive to criminals. Now this menace has been effectively dealt with, the police have moved on to what they call ‘crime generators’ (who doesn’t love a shiny new buzzword?). This tends to mean areas where large numbers of people congregate and/or where drinking goes on, like nightclubs. Do they attack other crime generators? Like football matches? Or festivals? Or the supermarkets who sell the gallons of cheap booze people use to get drunk in parks and town centres? Of course not. All these entities are large and wealthy and have good lawyers. Nightclubs, by contrast, tend to be small businesses – and are run by people like me who can’t afford legal teams like Sainsbury’s and Arsenal can. What this means in practice is that our license requirements get ever more onerous.”

Starbucks to accelerate roll-out of wine and craft beer in its US stores tomorrow: Starbucks is to accelerate its roll-out of selling wine and craft beer in its US stores by introducing the concept at 24 new locations from tomorrow (Wednesday, 19 August). Stores in Denver, Miami, Orlando and northern California as well as a newly opened 2,900 sq ft site in Brooklyn are among the latest to join the company’s “evenings” concept, bringing the total to more than 70 nationwide. Starbucks has also submitted liquor licence applications for several hundred other locations and is optimistic many of those stores will be selling beer and wine by the end of the year, reports USA Today. Rachel Antalek, vice-president of concept innovations and Starbucks sommelier, said: “We learned resoundingly that our customers want to come to Starbucks and have a glass of wine or a craft beer. There aren’t that many places to go in the evening where you can go very relaxed, very casual.” The company hopes the concept will reap $1bn in additional annual sales by 2019. Starbucks first announced in 2010 it would experiment with offering wine and craft beer, with stores in Washington State, Oregon, Los Angeles, Chicago, Florida, and Atlanta markets first to test the concept.

BT Sport and Screach extend free offer to 1,000 more pub licensees: A further 1,000 UK pubs and clubs will be able to receive the free BT Sport Screach Lite service to help increase sales after cloud-based communication and entertainment platform Screach and BT Sport announced an extension of the original offer following unprecedented demand from UK licensees. The announcement comes as pubs and clubs across the UK snapped up the first 1,000 free BT Sport Screach Lite packages in just five weeks at a rate of up to 70 per day. The Screach Lite service is available completely free of charge to all BT Sport Total customers, and is designed to help licensees drive footfall and sales through their existing TV screens. This extended offer will see a further 1,000 BT Sport Total customers able to sign up to the package, which includes free equipment and installation worth £299, delivering a combined saving of £755 in the first year.

Company News:

Hickory’s Smokehouse secures first West Midlands site: Hickory’s Smokehouse, the brand backed by Piper Private Equity, has secured its first site in the Midlands, the iconic Kingfisher Country Club in Kingswinford, Wall Heath. The site, which once played host to some of the entertainment world’s biggest names including Jimi Hendrix and The Drifters, is to undergo a refurbishment this autumn. Hickory’s currently has sites in Chester, The Wirral and North Wales. Jennie Grimes, of Hickory’s Smokehouse, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be announcing our new home here in the West Midlands.” The opening of the 9,500 square foot site will create 60 jobs. The assignment of the leasehold of the site was offered by agent Matthew Phillips for a rent of £60,000 per annum on a 25-year lease that began in June 2013.

Giggling Squid secures Warwick site, eyes move of headquarters to Horsham: Giggling Squid, the Thai brand led by Andy and Pranee Laurillard with ambitions to build a national chain, has secured a new site in Warwick, the former Prezzo site on High Pavement that has been most previously occupied by an independent restaurant. It is the company’s most northerly site so far – it has about 100 covers and is well-located in the walkway down to Warwick Castle. The company, meanwhile, is opening its latest site in Billericay, Essex today (Tuesday, 18 August), a 120-seat former Cleaver site also previously operated by Prezzo. The company, which is currently in funding talks with potential investors, is also eyeing a move of its headquarters to Horsham in West Sussex – it is understood to be in advance talks to let office space owned by the local authority.

The Coaching Inn Group in advanced talks to add two sites: The Coaching Inn Group, led by Kevin Charity and chaired by Andrew Guy, is in advanced talks to add two new high-profile freehold sites to its eight-strong portfolio. The company, which is planning to double in size over five years after securing a £4.5m investment from the Business Growth Fund, is expected to add circa 50 bedrooms to its estate if the deal goes through. The Coaching Inn Group, which was previously called Bulldog Hotel Group, has already acquired the Royal Oak in Welshpool this year. A refurbishment was undertaken four weeks ago, which has added 54% to sales on a year-on-year basis.

Leon opens 25th site with move to South Kensington: Healthy food chain Leon, which is led by John Vincent, has opened its 25th site, this time located in South Kensington’s museum quarter. The latest Leon is located just a few doors from the tube station. A further ten openings are planned in the coming months. The first Leon was opened in July 2004 on Carnaby Street. In April, accounts for Leon showed that annualised revenue per site jumped to £1.42m in the year to 28 December 2014, up by £210,000 per site on the year before as like-for-like sales increased by 23.4%. The company’s 15 owned sites produced turnover of £18.4m while six franchised sites, run by HMS Host, produced turnover of £6.5m. Leon earned £500,000 in franchise fees in the year. The company reported a £199,000 gain on the disposal of a leasehold property when it sold its Bluewater site after receiving an offer from another operator.

Woody’s Grill plans first expansion outside London area with Gloucester opening: London area restaurant operator Woody’s Grill, which operates seven sites in the London area, is planning its first move into the regions with the conversion of the former TNT nightclub in Gloucester’s Eastgate Street. Woody’s Grill serves traditional Turkish food including kebabs and mixed grills. A spokesman said: “We already have seven successful branches in London. When the site in Gloucester came up we thought it was a great opportunity to expand outside of London. Our restaurants serve traditional Turkish cuisine and the Gloucester branch will be full service and first class. Construction will start on the site in the next few months and we hope to be open as soon as possible. We are very excited about what the future holds.”

Whiting & Hammond opens eight site, eyes ninth: South east gastro-pub operator Whiting & Hammond, led by Brian Whiting, opened its eighth site last night (Monday, 17 August) – the Blue Ball in Walton on the Hill, Surrey. The pub has reopened after a two-year closure period with a £800,000 co-investment with landlord Star Pubs & Bars. The pub has been extended to add capacity and the upstairs kitchen has been quadrupled in size, with a total of 35 jobs created. The company is understood to be in preliminary talks on its ninth pub, which is closer to the company’s Kent heartland.

Bristol’s biggest nightclub Syndicate to close on Saturday after nine years: Bristol’s biggest nightclub Syndicate is to close on Saturday after nine years in the city. The venue in Nelson Street often holds student nights in the week as well as big party nights at the weekend, reports the Bristol Post. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, venue bosses said: “As we’re sure some of you may of heard or noticed, we’ve been having work done on site over the last few weeks. We regret to inform you that after nine amazing years, 3.5 million people through our doors and some of the most memorable parties in Bristol, we will be closing our doors for the last time.” But it looks as though the space, which is above a string of shops, will remain as a club. The Facebook post said: “We will be changing hands over this month to new owners. We wish every success to the new operators in the future.” In Bristol, clubs on Whiteladies Road, Clifton Triangle and in the centre of the city have closed in recent years.

West London’s The Troubadour venue is saved from closure:
Well-known west London music venue The Troubadour has been saved from closure, the London Evening Standard has reported. The coffee shop and gig venue is under new ownership after going into administration last month. The venue has been taken over by existing shareholder Giles McNamee. He has pledged to invest in the venue, saying he is “strongly committed” to its future. Previous owner, Susie Thornhill, who took on the venue in 1998 with her husband Simon, will continue to run it day-to-day and there are no anticipated job losses. McNamee said: “Nothing makes me happier than deepening my existing, long-term commitment to The Troubadour. Simon and Susie have done a wonderful job under exceptionally challenging circumstances at keeping The Troubadour open, authentic, and full of the spirit in which it was founded over 60 years ago. As anyone who has crossed the threshold of The Troubadour knows, the venue is rich in energy and inspiration and I’m thrilled to play a larger role now in its continuation and future health.” The venue had faced financial difficulties after a noise abatement notice served in 2012 forced it to close the garden after 9pm, leading to a loss in revenue.

Inception Group ‘identifies reasons for stock loss’ after signing seven-site deal with IBS: Intelligent Business Systems (IBS) has won a contract to provide EPOS and business management technology for the Inception Group, the London-based multi-site hospitality operator named in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 table in 2014. Founded by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling in 2009, the Inception Group currently operates seven high-end concepts in the capital, including Maggie’s, Bunga Bunga, Beaver Lodge and Cahoots. “The Inception Group previously used TISSL but we wanted an integrated singular solution incorporating EPOS, stock control and central management,” said Inception’s senior operations manager Thomas Foulser. “We also wanted to work with a technology provider that built and managed its own system rather than simply re-supplying products.” IBS has worked closely with the Inception Group’s management team to create a series of bespoke business intelligence reports to help improve the group’s performance. “We have been able to identify the reasons for stock loss,” added Foulser. “We have a much better understanding of our best sellers, and we have been able to manipulate menu layout and pricing to maximise profitability. We have also managed to implement a clear and more efficient ordering and invoice reconciliation system using StockLink. The increased clarity of the cost breakdown of products has allowed us to rationalise our product offering, leading to noticeable cost savings.”

Peter Marks – Deltic aims to drive Ebitda to £20m a year:
Peter Marks, chief executive of the UK’s largest nightclub operator, Deltic Group, has told the Daily Telegraph the company aims to drive Ebitda to £20m a year through investment. The company is investing £8.5m a year in its premises – in May, it announced pre-tax profits of £3.7m on revenues of £93.3m. “It’s very simple,” Marks told the newspaper. “If you invest in your properties and give people what they want, they will come more often and they will pay for it. Out of the 58 (nightclub venues), we’ve done 22 major and ten minor refurbishments, so we’ve got a long way to go. And then we’ll do it all again. We think we should be refurbishing clubs every five years and we target a two-year return. The goal is to get to increase earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation to £20m from last year’s £11.4m and to refinance the business.” Will Deltic float? “We might do,” said Marks. “It depends on what’s appropriate.” Of buying sites in the London market, he added: “I wouldn’t write it out but I’m not bothered about not doing central London. It would depend on the right opportunity coming up. In London, there are higher rents, competition is fierce and the authorities don’t make life easy.” 

AB Inbev set for £100m gain from sale of Chiswick brewery site: AB Inbev, the owner of the Stag Brewery site opposite Dukes Meadows in Chiswick, has hired an agent to sell the plot for development. It has the potential to be one of the largest and most expensive riverside developments on the Thames. The 21.2-acre plot is located on the south side of the River Thames, near to Chiswick Bridge, and close to the spot where the Oxford and Cambridge boat race finishes. According to a report in the Estates Gazette, Gerald Eve has been appointed to sell the site on Lower Richmond Road in Mortlake. Brewing activities have taken place at the spot since the 15th century but it is now likely to be turned into luxury flats with prime river views looking across to Chiswick. It is estimated 850 new homes could be built at the site. The land is likely to be sold for about £100m but the ultimately development value is estimated to be in excess of £1bn. The brewery site comprises 353,000 sq ft of non-listed largely industrial buildings. The Estates Gazette states the site does not currently have planning permission, although Richmond Council has included it as a residential-led site in an adopted planning brief that also includes a mixture of restaurants, shops, community leisure, a museum and boathouses. The brewery will remain operational until the end of the year at least but closure has been planned for some time with the owner having moved operations to Wales and Lancashire. Last year production tanks were moved to its south Wales facility.

Thornbridge Brewery begins search for first Helsinki site: Thornbridge Brewery is starting a search to find a site to open a bar in Helsinki, Finland’s capital city. Working with its Finnish importer Brew Seeker Oy and its mother company Captol Invest Oy, the search is underway to find a suitable site in central Helsinki with the target of opening by the end of 2015. “This is an exciting project working together with one of the most innovative and exciting breweries in the world,” said Teemu Lehto, chief executive of Captol Invest-group. “We believe the Finnish beer audience will be thrilled about having a totally new concept in Helsinki which will surely also support the role of Finland and Helsinki as being among the front runners in the development of great craft beer offering.” Entrepreneur Mikki Nyman has been appointed as operational restaurateur for the project. Nyman will run the bar with Captol Invest’s support in line with its new Mybar concept. “The new pub will have a great selection of beers, including special brews from Thornbridge on a regular basis,” said Nyman. “Our intention is to have a modern approach to the classical British pub in our interior design and offering. Thornbridge’s well known slogan: ‘Innovation, passion, knowledge’ will describe perfectly our aim with the pub.” Thornbridge managing director Jim Harrison added: “The prospect of a bar in Helsinki and working with Mikki and the team to make this a great Thornbridge experience is something that we are really looking forward to.”

JD Wetherspoon to feature ten beers from around the world at beer festival: JD Wetherspoon pubs will be serving ten beers from around the world alongside beers from the UK during a 17-day festival from Friday, 16 October until Sunday, 1 November inclusive. The beers on offer at the pubs have been sourced from brewers in New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Holland, Norway and the United States. They will complement up to 40 beers from across the UK being served in the pubs during the festival. The overseas beers on offer are: Real Ale (Young Henry’s, Australia), Nordic Noir (Nogne O, Norway), Zulu Blonde (Zululand, South Africa), Low Blow (Fork & Brewer, New Zealand), Yakima Sun (Fat Heads, USA), Minagof Smoked Porter (Ishii Brewing, Japan), Red Racer (Central City, Canada), Sunset Ale (Two Birds, Australia), Spiced Ale (Flying Dutchman, Holland) and Bengali (Sixpoint, USA). The overseas beers are being brewed at Batemans, Caledonian, Wychwood, Marston’s, Everards, Shepherd Neame, Hook Norton, Wadworth, Adnams and Banks’s.

Foodservice sector benefiting from increased spending of fitness-conscious consumers reveals new survey:
The foodservice sector is benefiting from the increased spending of fitness-conscious consumers, according to a new survey. The findings come from Cardlytics, an advertising and technology company specialising in card-linked marketing, which has tracked the spending behaviour of 5.5 million UK bank customers to analyse gym members’ shopping habits. The research found spending on eating out steadily increases by 27% in the eight weeks leading up to a gym membership beginning, and remains higher by 15% during the first eight weeks of consumers becoming active. Cardlytics’ data also shows gym users spend 56% more than non-gym users on eating out, while budget gym users spend 64% more than non-gym users. Budget gym users are bigger spenders on takeaway food than non-gym users, spending 32% more of their total eating out budget. At specialty health stores, spending among gym-goers jumps 55% in the two weeks prior to them starting their membership. Managing director of Cardlytics, Jill Dougan, said: “This data shows that British consumers aren’t the only ones improving their figures, as UK retailers across the country benefit from a focus on fitness. A gym membership can lead to higher levels of spending across the board on social activities, new clothes and healthier products.” Spending on gym memberships has increased 44% in the last year according to the data, which was based on consumers’ spending between May 2014 and July 2015.

Castle Rock Brewery reports buoyant year: Tynemill, the Nottingham-based brewer and pub operator that trades as Castle Rock Brewery, has reported “a strong performance” in the year ending March 2015, driven by site acquisition, continued brewery growth and exceptional performance at some key sites. Revenues are up 25% from the previous year to approach £10m with an operating profit of £646,894 reported. Managing director Colin Wilde said: “We’re working hard to innovate and increase customer loyalty to provide a high level of income sustainability. The future promises a new income stream from the management services we provide for the recently formed The Beer Consortium. This has two sites, one of which is currently undergoing significant refurbishment. Our involvement and returns from the management of Lady Bay Inns remain strong. Both of these contracts also provide an income element from tied beer supply. The business however will need to call on all its structural strengths to give us the flexibility to act locally, and respond quickly, to local economic, demographic and market changes especially at pub level. A small number of sites within the estate are providing a drag and the directors will press forward with the plan to either turnaround to drive revenue, or seek disposal of these sites and use the resources elsewhere. However, the rump of our estate does remain very profitable and our middle and top performers will continue to be pressed to unlock improved and sustainable returns for all the stakeholders.”

Nando’s to open first company-owned site in India in December: Nando’s is to open its first company-owned site in India is December as part of plans to invest £6m to open ten sites in a year. Nando’s has grown its footprint to eight franchised restaurants in Delhi, Punjab, Chennai and Bengaluru, since its entry into India in 2010. Nando’s India chief executive Sumeet Yadav said: “As part of our global re-alignment on strategy, Nando’s is investing directly in five geographies – the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa and India. After buying back the master franchise in India, we are in the process of buying back the sub-franchisees and at present we have a mix of company-owned, joint venture and franchisee partnerships. However, the long-term goal over the next three to five years is to be able to own all restaurants. We will be investing $10m in opening ten new company-owned restaurants, the majority of them in existing locations and Mumbai and Pune thereafter.” The first company-owned 4,000 sq ft restaurant will open in Bengaluru in December.

Yorkshire brewer and wholesaler reports sales up, profits down: A historic Yorkshire brewer and wholesaler has increased sales and expanded its geographical spread despite a difficult trading environment. Wakefield-headquartered HB Clark & Co, which makes its own beer and is one of the UK’s largest wholesalers of drinks, cigarettes and tobacco, upped sales from £73.9m to £77.6m in the year to 31 January 2015. The business, which expanded geographically during the period, said continuing pressure on margin has resulted in the gross profit falling slightly to £13.4m. Pre-tax profit slipped from £2.3m to £2m. In a report filed at Companies House, directors said the company remained in a strong position and they were confident of maintaining market share and trading profitably for the foreseeable future. HB Clark has been brewing and wholesaling beer since 1906. It has 11 depots distributing from the Midlands to the Scottish borders.

Five-star hotel proposed for Blackpool’s Golden Mile:
A five-star destination hotel could soon be created on Blackpool’s Golden Mile by the chairman of a Football League club after plans were submitted to the council. The multimillion-pound investment to convert and extend the Sands Entertainment Venue near Blackpool Tower has been proposed by businessman Peter Swann. The proposed 96-bedroom hotel on the Promenade has been created by the architecture and design team at the Frank Whittle Partnership. The hotel would feature luxury penthouse suites providing views out over the Prom and the Irish Sea, while there would also be new retail units and public realm space. Swann, who owns the company that operates the Sands, is also chairman of League One side Scunthorpe United FC. He said: “This is a major investment in Blackpool and we see it as a real vote of confidence in the future of the town as a tourism destination. Our aim is to create a very special luxury hotel that will be a real boost to the town’s visitor economy and points the way ahead for the resort in terms of the standards it has to reach.”

Camerons brews up £1.5m investment:
Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery is embarking on one of its largest ever capital investment programmes. The company is investing £1.5m on a purpose-built bottling line capable of operating at 10,000 bottles per hour. The new venture, which makes use of the former Britvic bottling hall, will create 12 jobs by 2016 and has been supported with a £150,000 grant secured through the Tees Valley Business Compass scheme. The company believes the investment “clearly signals” its long-term intent to “remain a major force within the UK contract brewing and packaging arena”. Camerons managing director Chris Soley said: “Customers keep telling us that we make some of the most consistent quality beer in the world brewed to the most exacting standards. Therefore, to now be able to provide them with this quality in a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or glass format is great news for them and will take cost out of their supply chains.” Beer, imported by tanker or brewed on site, can be packaged initially into glass bottles ranging from 275ml to 660ml but the plant has also been designed with the flexibility to produce into PET bottles.

Gravesend restaurant owner set to start expanding business portfolio by launching wine bar: Gravesend restaurant owner Virginio Ficetola is set to start expanding his business portfolio by launching a wine bar in the Kent town. Ficetola, who runs the Italian restaurant Caesars in King Street, is planning to open the as yet unnamed wine bar in the former Three Tuns pub in the High Street next month. As well as a wide choice of red and white wines from across the world and cocktails, there will also be an Italian tapas-type “finger food” menu. He told Kent Online: “There aren’t many places like this around here, it’s mostly pubs. But some people want to talk to their friends, enjoy a glass of wine and relax. They don’t want to hear loud music. I’m thinking of calling the bar Prosecco but I’m not 100% sure yet.” Ficetola opened Caesars with business partner Massimo Napoliello in 2006.

Zetter Group opens second townhouse hotel:
The Zetter Group has opened its second townhouse hotel – a 23-bedroom property in Seymour Street, Marylebone, London. The hotel features a cocktail lounge on the ground floor known as Seymour’s Parlour and a rooftop apartment that spans the whole of the top storey, which includes an outdoor roll top bath. The new hotel joins the company’s two existing properties, the 59-bedroom Zetter hotel in Clerkenwell, which opened in 2004 and encompasses Bistrot Bruno Loubet, and the nearby 13-bedroom Zetter Townhouse hotel, which was launched in 2011. Zetter Group is owned by Mark Sainsbury and Michael Benyon, who joined forces to form the company in 2001.

North east multi-site pub operators set for further expansion with sixth and seventh sites:
North east multi-site pub operators Shaun Crake and Rob Robinson are set for further expansion with their sixth and seven sites. The pair, who own five pubs on Teesside, have acquired a site in Bedford Street in Middlesbrough, which will specialise in steak dishes alongside a new concept – tapas parmos. That will be followed by a seventh site in the Jesmond area of Newcastle on a new development currently under construction. Each new site is funded by the profits from the existing venues. Crake, a former Whitbread pub manager, told Chronicle Live: “I love the fact that people like what we’re doing in all our pubs and appreciate how much work we are putting into getting it right first time. I have big pubs and I have small pubs – and sometimes people who like to drink don’t think a big pub is the right place for them. They’re good, but they are high maintenance and a lot of money.” Crake and Robinson currently own Sherlock’s, The Star and O’Connells in Middlesbrough, The Wasps Nest in Stockton and Dubliners in Thornaby.

Stonegate Pub Company applies to convert Living Rooms site in Newcastle into Slug & Lettuce: Stonegate Pub Company has applied to convert its Living Room site in Newcastle into its Slug & Lettuce brand. The company has submitted plans to Newcastle City Council for a new illuminated sign and menu board at the venue in Grey Street, reports Chronicle Live, which is part of a grade II-listed building. “We have always been aware to produce a design concept that compliments the surrounding conservation area and is sympathetic to the listed building,” said a spokesman for Technical Signs, which would carry out the work. “We feel the subtle refurbishment of all the existing signage has no impact and bearing on the surrounding conservation area and building itself.” The site, which features a 130-cover restaurant leading to a ground floor bar and intimate basement bar, would be completely refurbished into a “quality food and cocktails venue” before reopening as Slug & Lettuce. Stonegate, which also owns the Yates’s, Scream, Great Traditional Pubs and Classic Inns brands, acquired 13 Living Room sites in 2013.

Speaker programme confirmed for Bar and Nightclub Conference: The full speaker programme has been confirmed for the Bar and Nightclub Conference, which is being held on Tuesday, 27 October at Bafta Piccadilly. Speakers are: Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA Strategy, Simon Chaplin, director and head of leisure and development at Christie + Co, Trevor Watson, executive director of Davis Coffer Lyons, Graeme Bunn, director of Fleurets, Glendola Leisure managing director Alex Salussolia, Riz Shaikh, co-founder of the Columbo Group, David Henkes, vice-president of Technomic, Peter Marks, chief executive of Deltic Group, Exeat Leisure founder Stephen Thomas, Tokyo Industries founder Aaron Mellor, Reuben Harley, chief executive of Eclectic, Alex Hazzard, co-founder of the Burning Night Group, Luke Johnson, of Risk Capital Partners, Andrew Stones, operations director for Be At One and Adam Marshall, founder of Grand Union Group. The conference, the first stand-alone event for this part of the market, examines the key issues affecting the market with contributions from key figures within the sector. Tickets are free for operators and cost £145 for ALMR supplier members and £195 for ALMR non-suppliers. Tickets can be booked by emailing Jo Charity on jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Technomic and Propel partner for UK and US foodservice trends and direction conference: Insights and research firm Technomic is partnering Propel for a full-day conference looking at UK and US foodservice trends and perspectives. The event is on Friday, 18 September at One Moorgate Place in London and attendees will also get a free copy of Technomic’s Top 500 US Chain Restaurant Report and the UK’s leading 100 foodservice brands worth a combined £800. Technomic’s vice-president Dave Henkes will give an industry update on UK foodservice and compare it with the US as well as providing forecasts and beverage trends in both markets. Fellow vice-president Darren Tristano will examine best practice in menu, concept and service among growth concepts as well as looking at consumer demands. Technomic’s Patrick Noone will provide insights on current UK trending menu flavours and preparations and consumer priorities and attitudes. Paul Damico, group president of Focus Brands – which operates several fast-food concepts in the US including Schlotzsky’s Bakery & Café and Moe’s Southwest Grill – will share best practices around creating a unique positioning, culture and growth strategy. Propel managing director Paul Charity will also lead a discussion of senior executives about current consumer trends, menu and beverage trends. Those taking part are: Jon Yantin, commercial director of the ONE Group, Chris Gerard, founder of Innventure, James Nye, managing director of Anglian Country Inns and Ben Levick, director of operations, TCG Group. Tickets are priced at £295 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers and are available by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

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