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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 5th Oct 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Welcome Break – branded food and coffee have transformed our performance, now it’s time for a full-service branded restaurant: Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie has hailed the transformational effect of branded food and coffee offers at his company. The company has 12 major brands trading at multiple sites within its 32 locations – it has 26 Subway sites, for example. The introduction of Starbucks had produced a 35% growth in coffee sales overnight, McKie reported. The company also now has nine drive-thru Starbucks, which had proven to be “a phenomenal success”. “The growth rate of coffee is staggering,” McKie told the Chris Muller and Propel Multi-site Management Masterclass on Friday (2 October). “Coffee is one of the key reasons why people stop at our service stations. Choosing Starbucks (as our branded offer) proved to be the right choice. We sell 17 million cups of coffee a year and it’s growing at a phenomenal rate.” The company’s Starbucks drive-thrus had produced “incremental business”, he added. Every customer using the Starbucks drive-thrus surveyed recently had never stopped at a service station before, he reported. Overall company like-for-likes foodservice sales are up 8% this year, with the introduction of food courts producing a 19% like-for-like lift. The company had recently decided to introduce the healthy eating brand Tossed at two sites, but had opted to introduce six instead based on the reception the move received. “Even we were gob-smacked by the PR,” he said. “Customers are walking the talk (on healthy food).” McKie also reported that the company’s older foodservice brands, such as Burger King and KFC, are still in growth despite the addition of newer brands. The average customer length of stay at a service station is 21 minutes, with a toilet break the reason why 92% of customers stop. But, McKie said, there is an increase in customers having longer stops for reasons such as business meetings and the company is close to signing an agreement with a well-known licensed restaurant brand offering full-service. “The trend was to get rid of full-service restaurants (within service stations),” he said. “We’re now close to signing a deal with a national brand to put full-service restaurants back into our service stations.” McKie also revealed that the fastest growing line at the Waitrose stores located with Welcome Break is sushi. “It’s growing by 35% year-on-year,” he said.

Industry News:

300 booked in or Propel Multi Club Conference on 5 November: A record number of attendees, just over 300 delegates from 160 operating companies, have booked in for the final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2015, taking place on Thursday 5 November. Multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can book up to two free places each by emailing Adam Dickinson on See bottom of email for full details of speaker schedule. 

FT – private equity appetite for restaurant company is strong: The Casual Dining Group paid 12 times Las Iguanas earnings when it acquired the company for £85m, the FT has reported. Meanwhile, Cote, the 67-strong chain of French brasseries, was bought by CBPE Capital in September 2013 and sold on a year later for £250m, three times its initial investment. The deal values at each of Cote’s leasehold restaurants is £3.7m, the equivalent of two-and-a-quarter years of sales. Since the beginning of last year, Hawksmoor, Cote, Byron, PizzaExpress, ASK and Zizzi, Strada, Prezzo, Gusto, Las Iguanas, La Tasca, Benito’s Hat, Turtle Bay, the Real Greek and Franco Manca have changed hands. “Valuation prices are full,” one senior private equity investor told the FT. “Casual dining is cyclical and valuations run between six to seven times and ten times earnings. One investment banker working on a restaurant deal says that because smaller chains are high-growth businesses, they are being valued on a run rate basis. Only the better companies are really getting more than ten times earnings and you can compare it against the public markets,” he said. The Restaurant Group, for example, has a market capitalisation of about 12 times this year’s earnings. “Buyers are being quite sensible still, they are being relatively rational. You have to be careful about the rhetoric,” he added.

Hold your nerve on Christmas pricing, urges Lynx: Operators ordering essential seasonal produce such as turkeys have room for negotiation with suppliers thanks to lower costs this year, advises buying specialist Lynx Purchasing. ‘Hold your nerve’ is a key message in the newly-published Autumn 2015 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast. Lynx managing director John Pinder said: “Most hotels, restaurants and pubs have their Christmas menus in place by now and hopefully, bookings starting to fill the December diary. The temptation is to agree the prices being quoted by wholesalers and suppliers in order to secure supplies of core festive menu items. However, with inflation low, and producers benefiting from lower feed and transport costs, we think there’s definitely scope for some old-fashioned haggling. Understandably, suppliers tend to hold back some of the savings they make when margins are good in order to balance the bad times. Nobody begrudges farmers and food producers the chance to make a little more in the current market, but it’s important to remember that operators also take a margin hit when costs are high. In the current market, it’s only fair that producers, wholesalers and operators spread the upside and each take their share of the opportunity presented by good quality, price and availability on Christmas turkeys, as well as other seasonal menu staples such as ham and smoked salmon.”

Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser call for Sepp Blatter to step down: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser have all called for Sepp Blatter to step down as FIFA president immediately following corruption allegations. The companies, who are four of the major sponsors of the world footballing body, acted after Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation into Blatter. His departure would allow a “credible and sustainable reform process” to begin, Coca Cola said on Friday. “Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish,” Coca-Cola said in an emailed statement. “FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach.” McDonald’s said in a statement: “The events of recent weeks have continued to diminish the reputation of FIFA and public confidence in its leadership.”

Restaurant magazine and M&C Report publisher William Reed reports rise in underlying turnover and Ebitda: Restaurant magazine, Publican’s Morning Advertiser and M&C Report publisher William Reed Business Media has reported a rise in underlying turnover and Ebitda. Underlying turnover, stripping out the effect of biennial exhibitions, rose 7% to £29,828,000 in the year ended 31 March 2015. Underlying Ebitda grew 25% to £5,438,000, with Ebitda margin of 18%, up from 16% the year before. The company ended the year with net cash of £13.5m (2013: £12.2m) and no dividend was paid (2014: £4,262,000). Pre-tax profit was £2,005,000, down from £5,546,000 the year before. The company reported growth in digital income (£4,913,000 compared to £3,572,000) and the sale of insight (£1,308,000 compared to £490,000). Traditional magazine revenue was down (£10,213,000 compared to £11,497,000 the year before) as was income from face-to-face events (£8,967,000 compared to £15,393,000). The highest paid director earned £486,000 plus a pension contribution of £49,000.

Company News:

The Guardian questions Wahaca’s tips policy: The Guardian has raised a question mark over Wahaca’s tips policy. At the restaurant chain, founded by former MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, staff are required to hand over 3.3% of card sales and 0.075% of cash sales at the end of every shift, regardless of how much money they have made on tips, The Guardian claimed. One waiter said that, because the levy was charged on sales and not tips, this meant he was losing more than 50% of his tips every week. Another waiter interviewed said he was effectively being asked “to pay rent” to work at Wahaca. The Mexican street-food chain has strongly defended its position, saying that 100% of the levy goes into the “tronc” fund which is used to distribute waiters’ tips to other staff, such as kitchen and bar workers. No money is kept by the company. “The person who cleans the dishes is as important as the general manager and the waiters and waitresses,” Miers told the newspaper. “Our customers don’t want to pay a service charge, so what we have done over the last eight years is come up with what we think is the fairest way to make sure everyone takes home the best money.”

Norfolk entrepreneur Charles Coker buys former Marco Pierre White pub: Acting on the instructions of the Joint Administrators of Defiance Inns Property UK, agent Fleurets has sold the Bridge Inn, Acle Bridge, the Norfolk Broadland riverside pub and restaurant which Marco Pierre White previously operated. The Bridge Inn provides 140 dining covers internally and 200 plus external covers. There are 12 riverside boat moorings and extensive gardens set in 1.75 acres. The buyer is Acle Bridge owned by Norfolk businessman and entrepreneur Charles Coker. Coker said that he will continue to operate the Bridge Inn under direct management and will be retaining the services of Vanessa and Phil Hannon who have running the Bridge Inn day-to-day for several years.
Ascot Inns sells tied Enterprise lease in Chelsea with seven years left for over £250,000: Ascot Inns has sold its leasehold interest in a tied Enterprise Inns pub, Riley’s in Chelsea, which has seven years left to run, for more than £250,000 through agent Fleurets – the selling price was “over two and half times the guide price of in excess of £100,000”. James Davies, of Fleurets, said: “Demand for leisure property in London is always strong but Riley’s proves how diverse the market has become with pub operators, hoteliers and restaurateurs all competing for the lease. I think 38 viewings and 16 offers within two weeks proves this point.” Ascot Inns had been in occupation for 24 years. Managing director Vince Healy said: “Riley’s has been a fantastic business for me over the years and I am delighted it will now evolve under the new ownership who will no doubt take advantage of the ever-improving location.” Situated on the Kings Road, the property is less than a mile from South Kensington underground station, the location is also approximately one-and-a-half miles from Clapham Junction and Sloane Square in opposite directions.

BrewDog reduces total Crowdcube target to £1.9m: With less than a fortnight left to fundraise on Crowdcube, BrewDog appears to have reduced its target. The company has now set a target of £500,000 for equity investment through Crowdcube (it had raised £454,290 from 614 investors by Saturday) and £1,400,000 for its 6.5% interest-paying mini-bond (it had raise £1,344,500 by Saturday) to make a total of £1,900,000. At the start of the Crowdcube campaign, BrewDog had set a target of £6m for its mini-bond alone. 

Former X Factor lawyer opens coffee shop for the “squeezed middle”: Former X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent lawyer Colin Miller has opened an artisan coffee shop, Glynde Place Espresso, in Horsham. He said: “When my wife and I moved (to Horsham) we decided to pursue a lifelong dream of opening the sort of coffee shop that we’d like to go into with fantastic, small-batch hand-roasted coffee, in a nicely designed room with a quality food offering that wouldn’t break the bank. We hope that we’ve achieved this with Glynde Place Espresso.” As well as Union Hand Roasted coffee, Teapigs tea and a good-value food selection, Glynde Place Espresso also sells whole beans, ground coffee, coffee brewing equipment and books. Millar added: “With our flat whites and other specialist drinks priced at £2 or below, sandwiches at £2.50 and muffins, pastries and cakes at no more than £1.50, we hope we can offer an alternative for people like ourselves in the “squeezed middle” who still want great quality food and drink but at a competitive price.”

Benito’s Hat celebrates seventh birthday: Benito’s Hat has celebrated its seventh birthday by giving away over 1,000 burritos in five for its nine restaurants – Covent Garden, Goodge Street, Farringdon, Bromley, Oxford Circus. The restaurant group, which is dedicated to fresh, authentic Mexican food and drink, also gave away 70 tres leches cakes at its Selfridges restaurants. Guests celebrated with over 400 margaritas and the night also saw the launch of its new Marga-litres. 

Dirty Bones opens second London site: US comfort food restaurant Dirty Bones has opened its second site, this time located in Soho. The original restaurant opened in Kensington in 2014 – its sister site has taken a space on the top floor of Kingly Court’s courtyard. Dirty Bones Carnaby, seating 65, serves a menu of American comfort food classics with a twist. Diners can also enjoy a new weekend brunch menu. As in Kensington, the Dirty Bones interior is retro in style, with a pinball machine, welcome desk plus other quirky items. From today (Monday, 5 October), all guests will be invited to take part in a game of Dirty Bonopoly, a playful take on the classic board game, which will give diners the chance to win special prizes. Each table will be offered one roll of the dice, and will be rewarded with offers for both the Carnaby and Kensington restaurants such as 50% off the bill or a round of drinks on the house. However, if diners land on the “go to jail” square, they risk a forfeit.

Smoke Barbecue starts expanding by opening second site in Leeds: Texan-inspired restaurant Smoke Barbecue has started to expand after opening its second site in Leeds. The company, owned by Sean Gregory and Duka Nagy, has spent £500,000 on refurbishing the 4,400 square foot site at the Merrion Centre, creating 35 jobs. Gregory and Nagy, whose brand carries the slogan: “Put the fork down, it’s time to get dirty” opened their first site in Sheffield after being inspired by the Man versus Food television show. Duka told The Yorkshire Evening Post: “There’s such a hub of activity going on in the Arena Quarter especially with the shops in the Merrion Centre and the First Direct Arena, we are confident that customers will love this.”

Tiffin set to take over Enterprise Inns site in Clevedon ahead of Mezze: Cafe concept Tiffin plans to open new venues in two North Somerset seafront sites. The brand already runs a site at The Beach on Clevedon seafront and a restaurant in Jersey. Now, Tiffin owner Nick Wring has said the business aims to take up the lease for Clevedon seafront pub Campbell’s Landing. In addition, it intends to open a cafe for one summer season at Portishead Open Air Pool – in a space occupied until recently by burger business the Radical Burger Company. The two new venues will come alongside a new Tiffin restaurant at Clevedon Pier’s new £2.25 million visitor centre which is due to open in December this year, as well as a Tiffin ice cream parlour and bar in the pagoda. Campbell’s Landing, which sits opposite the pier at The Beach and is owned by Enterprise Inns, has been empty since early 2014. Mezze Restaurants, headed by Alex Tryfonos, had been due to take over the pub, and applied for planning permission to make changes to the building last year.

Jamie Oliver relaunches food products and kitchenware to stress artisan feel: Chef Jamie Oliver has relaunched his range of food products and kitchenware with help from branding and design agency Hornall Anderson. New packaging for the brand’s ‘good, better and best ranges’ reflects the different price points across products in the Jamie Oliver portfolio – including pasta sauces, fish fingers, fishcakes and condiments. The aim of the brand’s in-house licensing and creative team was to forge a new identity that established synergy across the brand and worked in markets across the world, while also making the packaging more varied. Hand-drawn features also create an artisan feel to the redesign. “We wanted Jamie’s passion and personality to resonate on every product,” said Jamie Oliver head of brand licensing Kerri Palmer.

Remarkable Restaurants forms partnership with street food operator: The 15-strong London pub company Remarkable Restaurants has partnered with street food operator The Bell and Brisket, which has taken over the permanent residency at Remarkable’s Shoreditch pub the Barley Mow on Curtain Road. Remarkable’s managing director Elton Mouna said: “Linking with the street food phenomenon is a natural fit for Remarkable.” Bel Shapiro founder of Bell and Brisket said: “The Barley Mow is the perfect space in the heart of Shoreditch.” Barley Mow manager Rachael Polsom added: “We are looking forward to hosting this dynamic food operator. To launch the business we have devised an offer of the Baron Beethoven black rye bun with a choice of salt beef or ale braised brisket served with naked fries and a pint of Remarkable’s very own Dragonfly Brewery brewed Achtung beer, all for £12.”

Nando’s eyes third Basildon site with Pizza Hut takeover: Nando’s is lining up its third opening in Basildon with a takeover of an existing Pizza Hut site. The brand is proposing to take over a unit occupied by Pizza Hut at the Mayflower Retail Park off the A127. Should Basildon Council approve the plans, it would be the third Nando’s to come to Basildon – The Eastgate Centre and Festival Leisure Park both have branches of the brand. Other outlets at Mayflower include McDonald’s, KFC and Costa Coffee as well as a 24 hour Tesco store and several high street chains including Marks and Spencer, Boots and Next. David Sheppard, councillor for Fryerns, has welcomed Nando’s application and sees it as beneficial to Basildon’s economy. He said: “I can’t see any problems with Nando’s coming to Mayflower.”

The Bowler to debut in London’s Seven Dials area: Meatball street food brand, The Bowler, is to launch its debut UK location at Seven Dials. The 518 square foot site on 1 Monmouth Street is due to open in October. Jez Felwick and founders of Polpo restaurants, Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, joined forces to create this dedicated ‘Meatball’ inspired shop. The brand previously traded from temporary locations in Shoreditch, KERB Spitalfields, and Street Feast London, as well as many of the UK’s biggest festivals. Felwick currently has a ‘meatball cookbook’ on sale, showcasing recipes behind the brand’s unique menu. The Bowler is the latest addition to the evolving dining offer at Seven Dials and follows other brands announced this year, including artisan baking producer, Free Range People, Swedish bakery, Fabrique, and new cafe concept, 26 Grains. Most recently, Vico, the new restaurant concept from the founders of Bocca Di Lupo, opened in late August at the Seven Dials gateway Cambridge Circus.

Humble Pub Company aiming to develop model of ‘individual high-quality sites’ across West Midlands: The Humble Pub Company, led by the current British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) licensee of the year Keith Marsden, is aiming to develop a model of “individual high-quality” sites across the West Midlands. Marsden, who operates The Prince of Wales and The Dark Horse with wife Diane 500 metres apart in Moseley, Birmingham, told Propel he was only interested in sites that could turn over at least £30,000 a week and was keen to develop each one as a different concept. He is in negotiations for a third site in Birmingham and aims to build a ten-strong portfolio at a measured rate of expansion. He is exploring funding opportunities with a number of groups including the regional fund Finance Birmingham. Marsden, who was previously director of marketing at PricewaterhouseCoopers and also worked for Coca Cola, is aiming to develop a new concept for each site. He said: “We want to grow from two sites. We will look to do one or two sites next year and one or two the year after. It’s got to be measured – I’m not trying to do a massive expansion to conquer the world. It’s about getting the best sites. I think we can build a big and successful business, which is great for people to work in. I don’t want it to lose its identity. I’m not looking to build something up and flog it.” Marsden secured the lease at the then-Spirit owned Prince of Wales, which now has a turnover of £1.5m a year and a net profit of £210,000, in 2007. But it almost did not turn out that way. At first it was a “spit-and-sawdust” pub but he changed its direction in 2010 after almost losing the pub when he had to ask his regulars to chip in for the rent. He added: “After that I sat down and analysed the business and put a lot of time and effort into the business plan to make it more of a destination pub with cocktails, wines and spirits.” Having turned the pub around, Marsden acquired the lease of the privately-owned The Dark Horse about 18 months ago. Having tried initially to launch a pizza concept, it now operates as a barbecue smokehouse. Marsden is keen to develop a brewpub and wine-led concept and possibly a ciderhouse. He is experimenting with the latter idea with a pop-up ciderhouse next to The Dark Horse in collaboration with Hogan Cider from Halloween until the end of the year. Marsden said he was also grateful to the BII for its support and added: “As well as being great for networking, it offers so many other things like a business calculator, helping with employee issues and even saving £4,000 on insurance. It’s something we should cherish, particularly in our industry.”

Northamptonshire-based multi-site operators open third site, this time in Corby: Northamptonshire-based multi-site operators Philippos and Lisa Filaitis have opened their third site, this time in Corby. The couple has launched fine-dining Mediterranean restaurant Olive on the site of the former One Stop Shop on the ground floor of Grosvenor House in George Street. The 120-seat restaurant employs about ten staff, serving food from 11am-10pm, reports the Northamptonshire Telegraph. Olive’s interior draws its inspiration from the stylish coffee bars and restaurants of Aegina, Greece. Upholstered booths, sofas and classic tables and chairs break up the large ground floor into different dining areas. The Filaitis’ also own The Old Bakehouse restaurant and Olive Lounge wine bar in Rothwell.

Starbucks opens 500th store in Mexico, doubles efforts to help farmers: Starbucks has opened its 500th store in Mexico, which, like its first, is located in the capital, Mexico City. The company launched in the country with an outlet at Angel de la Independencia in September 2002. Now, together with partner Alsea, it has opened its 500th branch at the Antara Shopping Centre, which pays tribute to Starbucks’ connection with the country’s coffee heritage. Elements of the store’s design were inspired by the coffee farms of Chiapas with the varying light and dark wood tones evoking the coffee roasting process. In February 2015, the country’s first Starbucks Reserve Store opened, showcasing some of the world’s rarest single-origin, small-lot arabica coffees and Mexico is the company’s largest market in Latin America. Meanwhile, Starbucks Mexico is doubling its efforts to help farmers facing a significant threat from coffee leaf rust. The plant fungus damages millions of coffee trees, making it harder for farmers to produce high-quality coffee. In 2014, Starbucks Mexico launched a new coffee tree revitalisation program called Todos Sembramos Cafe (We All Grow Coffee) to combat the disease and distributed over 180,000 rust-resistant plants to more than 60 coffee farms in Chiapas. It now aims to donate 360,000 coffee plants to help renew farms devastated by rust and also plans to open a new Farmer Support Centre in Mexico to provide on-the-ground aid starting in 2016.

St Christopher’s Inns launches hostel industry’s first travel app: St Christopher’s Inns, part of he pan-European Beds and Bars backpacker hostel company led by Keith Knowles, has built and launched the industry’s first travel app. It allows customers to chat in real-time with other backpackers checked into their hostel. They can check in online before they arrive, book a bed and pay for their stay using the St Christopher’s Inns booking engine – also built from the ground-up by the tech team at St Christopher’s Inns. Users can earn St Christopher’s Points as they travel – a new customer loyalty reward system. When guests book, chat, check-in or post reviews using the app, they earn St Christopher’s Points – which can be redeemed against the cost of booking a bed. Duncan Robertson, sales and marketing director for St Christopher’s Inns, said: “This is a new era in backpacking and the development of technology built specifically to enhance the experience of our guests. No other hostel offers a real time, in-house social network of their own and we’re thrilled to be the first operator to launch this.” St Christopher’s Inns has also launched the world’s first online check in system for hostels, and constructed a booking engine to reduce reliance on third party referral partners.

Punch puts freehold of York site with 62 bed hostel consent on market for £600,000: Punch Taverns has placed the freehold of Monroe’s Bar in Gillygate, York, formerly known as the The Bay Horse, on the market with agent Christie + Co and Fleurets for £600,000. Punch secured planning consent in July 2015 for the development of a 62-bed hostel and licensed cafe but decided against implementing the scheme itself in favour of selling the freehold. The University of York St John is situated within 100 metres of the property whilst the newly refurbished City Art Gallery, which reopened following an £8m refurbishment this summer, and the Theatre Royal, itself the subject of a £4m renovation project, are located within a couple of minutes walk. York’s tourist economy welcomes some six million visitors each year and the city is renowned for delivering some of the strongest occupancy rates seen in the UK hospitality sector outside London. Christie + Co and Fleurets will be holding a series of viewing days in due course.

Gourmet healthy snacks company EarlyBird extends crowdfunding drive on Crowdcube: Gourmet healthy snacks company EarlyBird has extended its crowdfunding drive on Crowdcube by a fortnight after hitting 50% of its £300,000 target with just a day left. The company, founded by Oliver Pugh and Jamie Trinder in partnership with branding agency Saffron Brand Consulting, is aiming to raise the money to continue developing the product and allow EarlyBird to break even. So far the company, which launched its Crowdcube fund-raise on 4 September, has raised £158,780 from 73 investors and is offering 15.79% of its equity. The largest investment to date is £62,000. The company stated: “Well we did it, thank you to everybody that has invested so far to help us reach the 50% mark. That was quite a 24 hours to get it over the line for the extension. Plenty of exciting EarlyBird news to come over the next seven days, so stay tuned, and don’t forget to keep spreading the word about our investment opportunity.”

Panera Bread reports technology will be the key to expanding additional income streams: Leading US cafe bakery chain Panera Bread Co expects its ongoing 2.0 technology rollout eventually to build its catering, consumer packaged goods (CPG) and delivery streams into $1 billion businesses, the company’s chief financial officer has stated. According to analyst Sharon Zackfia, Panera Bread chief financial officer Mike Bufano said the Panera 2.0 initiative will increase the bakery-cafe chain’s accessibility to customers. “Ultimately, management believes catering, delivery and CPG each hold the potential to be $1 billion businesses, versus about $2.7 billion in total revenue estimated for Panera this year,” Zackfia wrote. Panera executives expect growth in digital ordering (currently about 10% of transactions) and catering (currently about 8% of sales), Zackfia said. Sales of Panera-branded consumer packaged goods at the end of this year will be about $175 million, she said. Panera 2.0 has impacted the number of digital orders in stores, Zackfia said. “In Panera 2.0 locations, digital starts at about 20% of orders and ramps up to about 30% after about one year, with digital ordering positively tied to throughput, customer frequency and, to a lesser extent, average ticket value,” she wrote in the note. Customisation of Panera 2.0 orders is also higher, with more than 70% of them customised versus about half for non-converted stores, she said. “Moreover, customer satisfaction is higher at Panera 2.0 locations, given improved perception of speed of service as well as greater order accuracy,” Zackfia added.

Former Luminar nightclub to be demolished: A former Luminar nightclub in Rotherham, Liquid, will be bulldozed and the site used as a car park until it can be redeveloped, under new plans. The building – formerly Tiffany’s and The Zone – has become dangerous through fires and vandalism since its closure in 2012. The plans state: “In the short term, the site will be levelled and turned into a temporary car park subject to a separate planning application. The current building not only hinders redevelopment but is dangerous in so far as vandalism has resulted in a number of fires within the building.” Liquid was given a £1.5 million revamp in 2007 but declining town centre trade brought cash problems. Operators Luminar Leisure, who went into administration in 2011, failed to find a buyer to take over the nightclub.

Intertain opens third new Walkabout this year: Walkabout operator Intertain has opened its third newly acquired site this year, this time in Solihull, West Midlands. The move has seen the company move into the former Apres site in the town – just as it has in Lichfield, which opened last week. The site has had a £485,000 investment, which has been designed as a “new style” Walkabout with VIP areas, pre-bookable booths, a new “reef bar” and state-of-the-art sound and lighting system. The Solihull opening brings the Walkabout portfolio to 24 and the total amount invested in newly acquired venues (Brighton, Lichfield and Solihull) to £1.6m this year. Intertain has also been rolling out a programme of refurbishments to its existing Walkabout bars. Intertain chief executive John Leslie said: “Our programme of investment in terms of refurbishing our existing venues and acquiring new sites has been extremely successful so far and we are confident that Solihull will add to this great track record. It has been an extremely tight turnaround with both Lichfield and Solihull but we are delighted to be open in both locations – even more so that we have done this in time to get some benefit from the Rugby World Cup.” Intertain has completed eight major refurbishments and acquisitions in total since the start of the year.

Speaker programme for Propel Multi Club Conference unveiled: The full speaker programme for the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 5 November at the Lancaster, London, the best-attended conference series in the sector, has been unveiled. Ian King presenter of the Sky News show, Ian King Live, and former Business and City Editor of The Times, looks at the key economic trends over the past 12 months and the 12 months ahead and gives his views on their impact on the hospitality sector. Peter Hansen, founder of leading mergers and acquisitions advisory Sapient Corporate Finance, which has advised on sector transactions worth more than £2bn in the past five years, looks at the key sector trends in 2015 for those buying and selling businesses. Andrew Ball, of accountancy firm haysmacintyre, offers his top tips on tax minimisation for multi-site operators. Paul Harbottle, commercial director of Enterprise Inns, talks about building a 800-strong managed pub estate and investment and progress in the leased and tenanted part of the business. Toby Smith, chief executive of Novus Leisure, explains how the company is evolving its food, drink and entertainment offer, along with digital capability, to stay at the forefront of the late-night market in London and the regions. Martin Wolstencroft, founder of Arc Inspirations, arguably Yorkshire’s most successful independent bar and restaurant operator, talks about running multiple concepts, overcoming challenges, best-in-class profit conversion, innovation and expanding over the Pennines in the company’s 15th year. Scott Shaw, founder and chairman of marketing and information analysis business Fishbowl, explains how US restaurant businesses are using guest information to drive marketing and sales. He is joined by data expert Mike Lukianoff, founder of Czar Metrics, now owned by Fishbowl, who will talk about the ground-breaking work his company is doing in the US with a host of well-known restaurant brands, using data to shape menu and price engineering, media efficiency and trade area analytics. Nick Collins, managing director of Loungers, talks about evolving the brand, maintaining company culture, fulfilling growth ambitions, new trading locations and stepping into the shoes of founder Alex Reilley. Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, co-founders of Brewhouse and Kitchen, talk about how they have developed the UK’s largest brewpub chain, food quality, recruiting brewers, brewing experiences, EIS funding and the market potential for the company. Ann Elliott, chief executive of Elliotts, presents the findings of a survey of senior industry executives on the subject of ‘outstanding leadership’. Elliotts strategy director James Hacon talks to former Spirit chief executive Mike Tye, Thorley Taverns operations director Phil Thorley, Ego Restaurants chief executive James Horler and Ann Elliott about the principles of high quality leadership. Operators on multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can claim up to two free places by emailing Adam Dickinson on

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