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Fri 13th Nov 2015 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Duncan Garrood – Harry Ramsden’s tie-up to be based on turnover rent agreement: Punch Taverns chief executive Duncan Garrood has told Propel its proposed tie-up with Harry Ramsden’s will see co-investment on openings with a turnover-related lease in place. He said: “It’s a bit of a hybrid agreement with us having a stake in the upside of success. What we have agreed is to go at a cautious pace and if it is a success do another and then another one. We have agreed an initial period of exclusivity and are now in the process of identifying suitable sites of which the first two are scheduled to launch in early 2016.” Joe Teixeira, chief executive of Harry Ramsden’s, said: “Our strategic and ongoing objective is to increase the visibility and accessibility of Harry Ramsden’s outlets across the UK and therefore we are delighted to partner with Punch Taverns in this new venture, which will play a key role in allowing us to achieve that particular ambition. Punch Taverns’ great pubs are at the heart of their local communities so this new partnership presents an ideal opportunity for us to engage with our traditional customer base and even more significantly, introduce the Harry Ramsden’s brand to a whole new generation.” Punch is also planning to expand its Champs sport bars format, now at six sites, to other venues – the latest opening in Liverpool has seen sales double. The company is now undertaking work on pinning down the core characteristics of the template to ensure its success when it is further scaled, Garrood told Propel. The company’s capital investment plan with see £50m to £60m per annum invested in the estate, up from last year’s figure of £46m but in line with historic spend levels. Punch is to drop the Taverns from its name as part of its new strategic focus. Garrood said while Taverns would remain in the company’s title for legal purposes, it would from forthwith be known as Punch and would appear as that on the company’s logo. Garrood said: “Punch needs to evolve and adopt to a changing market. We need to deliver a brilliant, consistent retail offer that meets the need of today’s consumer and it needs to be bespoke. It also needs to be focused and flexible. We will have a broad range of operating models and our management resources will be refocused to drive more support to our publicans. To deliver on this we have a clear set of plans to drive sales and profit. We will also unlock significant value for our underused property portfolio.” Punch said it would also look to limit the disposal of pubs from its core estate in 2016 – and is 75% through the disposal of non-core pubs. The company has disposed of 162 pubs in the past year including 59 from its core estate. It also has no intention of doing any refinancing of its senior debt. Garrood added: “These are the right operating models for the business. While it will take time to realise this value we expect to see some benefit in the next financial year.”

Industry News:

Propel and Elliotts partner for Advanced Marketing Masterclass: Propel is partnering leading sector public relations and marketing firm Elliotts for the inaugural Advanced Marketing Masterclass. The event takes place on Thursday, 14 January at One Moorgate Place in London. It will provide an insight into all aspects of marketing across the sector including how to develop and deliver effective digital initiatives and the best ways to recognise and tell a brand’s story to maximise its PR or social media potential. There will also be the latest insight into consumers’ behaviour to help companies develop marketing strategies around their customers as well as how to brief and work with an agency effectively. The event will feature contributions from Novus Leisure and Brazilian barbecue restaurant Cabana about some of the marketing initiatives they have used to improve results for their business. Elliotts strategy and development director James Hacon will also lead a panel discussion with marketing directors from leading brands. Tickets are priced at £295 for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 for non-ALMR members and are available by emailing Adam Dickinson on adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Ann Elliott reveals results of sector leadership survey: Ann Elliott, chief executive of leading sector public relations and marketing firm Elliotts, has undertaken a detailed survey of more than 50 sector chief executives and leaders on the subject of leadership. Her findings are published in today’s Propel Friday Opinion.

Peter Hansen – acquisition activity is going to switch to smaller and mid-sized companies: Sapient Corporate Finance founder Peter Hansen has forecast mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity is going to switch to smaller and mid-sized companies after the sale of Orchid Pub Company, Spirit and TCG in the last 15 months. He told the Propel Multi Club Conference: “From a mergers and acquisitions perspective, have we seen the last of the really big deals? We’ve had Orchid, Spirit and TCG all sold in the last 12 to 15 months, each £100m plus transactions. We are now at a point in the cycle where there aren’t a lot of large acquisitions around. The 35 largest pub companies own 7,700 managed pubs, which is about 90% of all managed pubs in the UK. The ‘big six’ (Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers, JD Wetherspoon, Stonegate, Marston’s and Whitbread) average over 1,000 pubs but the next six average only 128 pubs. Finally, there is a group of over 20 pub companies that average just 35 managed houses. We think the focus of the M&A market will be the small to mid-sized operators.”

Milton Keynes-based Indian restaurant applies for licence to use drones to deliver meals: Milton Keynes-based Indian restaurant The Don has applied for a licence to use drones to deliver meals. Owner Aki Rahman has applied for a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licence to fly his Phantom 3 all over the city. He said: “I’m determined to beat Google and Amazon and be the first to use delivery drones. We’ve done a trial run to my grandmother’s house and it all went well.” Rahman has found a thermal takeaway bag to fit securely on the bottom rails of the drone. The progress of the drone will be tracked back at The Don restaurant and a specialist camera will even film its progress too. He also plans to offer customers a copy of the film showing how their meal travelled to them. Rahman hopes the CAA will grant him permission to fly over built-up areas where power lines can pose a problem. He added: “I’m 80% sure I will be allowed. But if not, I will stick to delivering in rural, open areas – perhaps delivering to a park if people want a special occasion picnic.”

Vimto aims to double sales by 2020: UK drinks distributor and supplier Nichols is aiming to double its sales through its out-of-home Vimto division by 2020. Vimto Out of Home trading director Nick Yates said: “As the UK’s third biggest distributor of soft drinks, we’re setting our sights on ambitious growth over the next five years. We’re in fantastic shape as a business and our new identity will really help to communicate and position us as a true one stop, national, soft drinks solutions provider across dispense, packaged and frozen.” The Vimto business also has a new strapline: Vimto – Refreshing Soft Drinks Solutions. Yates added: “With consumers treating themselves more often, we’ve seen the continued rise in eating-out occasions and as a consequence a rise in sales of soft drinks. Within the on-trade, sales of soft drinks have grown at a rate of 3.9% year-on-year to £4.2bn, driven in particular by premium soft drinks such as adult flavoured carbonates. This presents a huge sales opportunity and we’re in a fantastic position to be able to help customers take full advantage. We have a truly unrivalled range in the market spanning bag in box, including Coca-Cola dispense, a wide portfolio of packaged products including Vimto, Feel Good and Levi Roots, and we’re also able to offer a range of great frozen products including Star Slush, Froozie and Slurp brands. We are excited about what the future holds for our business and what we can achieve by working in partnership with on-trade customers.”

Luke Johnson, Simon Kossoff and Steve Richards lead Casual Dining’s 2016 Keynote line-up:
With visitor registration now open, Casual Dining, the UK’s multi-award winning trade event for the multiple restaurant and pub group sector, has announced its initial Keynote line-up for 2016. Returning to the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, on 24-25 February, the show’s Keynote programme will feature an exclusive interview with Luke Johnson, chairman of private equity firm Risk Capital Partners. Johnson, one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs, is well-known for his involvement in growing the PizzaExpress, Giraffe, Strada, and Patisserie Valerie brands. He’ll be discussing his experiences in the UK casual dining sector – and its future prospects with Propel managing director Paul Charity. Steve Richards, chief executive of Casual Dining Group (owner of the Café Rouge, Las Iguanas and Bella Italia brands), Simon Kossoff, chief executive of Italian restaurant and food shop chain Carluccio’s (in interview with Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach), and Anthony Pender, chairman of The British Institute of Innkeeping and managing director of Yummy Pub Co, are among the other big name speakers also confirmed. Pender will head up a panel session featuring a host of well-known pub operators, including Brian Whiting, managing director of Whiting & Hammond. As in previous years, Horizons’ Peter Backman is back to report on the latest trends and developments in the “thriving” casual dining market, now said to be worth over £7bn. To register for a free trade ticket, visit www.casualdiningshow.co.uk

Company News:

Tim Bacon becomes executive chairman at Living Ventures: Living Ventures has announced a restructuring of the group’s senior management team. Tim Bacon, who has overseen the growth of the business since its inception in 1999, has moved to executive chairman of the group, with Jeremy Roberts, formerly commercial director, stepping in to the chief executive role. Paul Moran remains as managing director of the Living Ventures Group brands. “Nothing much changes, I will still be leading from the front,” said Bacon. “Fundamentally the new structure gives me more time to think and develop the business by passing on a whole load of work from my desk to Jeremy’s and Paul’s. Sometimes three fits better into two than two.” Bacon and Roberts founded Living Ventures two decades ago and the pubs to fine dining business looks set to top £100m turnover in the current financial year.

Antic London set to open three sites before Christmas: Antic London, the Downing-backed London pub operator, intends to open three new sites before Christmas. These are: Knowles of Norwood, West Norwood, John the Unicorn, Peckham and a pop-up pub in the foyer of the recently acquired former EMD Cinema, Walthamstow. A spokesman told Propel: “Both Knowles of Norwood and John the Unicorn are freehold sites that started life as retail units but have been converted into licensed premises. These units have allowed Antic London to open in upcoming neighbourhoods of London without having to pay the often ridiculous premiums attached to licensed premises traditional. The pop-up pub is a somewhat different beast and is the first step of an ambitious redevelopment plan for the former EMD Cinema, a landmark building, which has remained closed from the public for too long. These openings take the total Antic London estate to 34 (including three still in development), of which 28 are freehold.”

Deltic Group to open £3m nightclub in Basildon tonight, single biggest investment in a regional nightclub in a decade: Bar and nightclub operator Deltic Group is to open its new Unit 7 nightclub this evening (Friday, 13 December), the single biggest investment in a UK regional nightclub in a decade. Unit 7, in Basildon’s Festival Leisure Park, formerly Sky Bar, has been decked out with pamper stations in the plush toilets complete with GHD hairdryers and hair straighteners. The club has three separate rooms and rooftop bar. A total of £3m has been spent on the new club, which is about 50% bigger than the former Sky Bar. The club room on the ground floor is named Studio, where club classics music will be played. On the first floor there are two rooms, Arena, where house music will be played. Rhythm is the R’n’B room, full of shiny gold fixings and furnishings twinned with royal blue upholstery.

Drake & Morgan hires Marcus Brownlow as property director: Drake & Morgan has hired Marcus Brownlow as property director, looking for new sites both in London and regionally throughout the rest of the UK. Brownlow grew Coffee Republic from 30 stores to over 100 units as property director before joining Compass Group, finding the locations for the group’s specialist brands from high street sites and travel hubs to service stations and large stadiums. From there, he moved to SSP Partner UK. Within two-and-a-half years in the role, Brownlow had opened 20 new sites as well as managing several refurbishment projects. His most recent role saw him as head of acquisitions at Eat. Here, he oversaw a move to a new head office whilst also performing a full strategic review of the company’s sites to maximise sales and increase brand presence. Brownlow takes up his role later this month.

Butcombe Brewery reports £417,000 pre-tax profit: Butcombe Brewery, the brewer and operator of 18 pubs owned since December 2014 by the Liberation Group, has reported turnover of £18,407,597 in the 11 months to 31 January 2015. Ebitda for the 11 months was £1.6m, compared to £2.02m for the 12 months to 28 February 2014. The company reported sales at its 18 pubs were marginally down on the 11-month comparative period. Ebitda achieved was £800,000 (year ended 28 February 2014: £1.2m). Pre-tax profit was £417,852 compared to £1,024,009 in the previous full year. Repayment of company debt has been financed by a £5.9m loan by the Liberation Group.

Michel Roux Jr to open Le Gavroche to pop-ups and bespoke events: Chef Michel Roux Jr is to offer a new dining experience at his Le Gavroche restaurant. As of January 2016, the restaurant will operate in a different way on Mondays – closed to the general public but available for private and corporate hire, as well as making way for a series of pop-up events. “We’re very excited about the new opportunities this will bring to the restaurant,” said Roux Jr. “For many years, we’ve been trading six days a week, and whilst the traditional Le Gavroche experience will still be available for five of those days, having the restaurant closed on a Monday to the general public means that new Le Gavroche experiences can be offered within the restaurant.” New opportunities will include a series of pop-ups at the restaurant as part of the renowned Roux experience. Roux Jr and his daughter Emily will be launching the series on 1 February with “The Next Generation”, an intimate event that will see the father and daughter duo collaborating at the restaurant for the very first time. Guests can also expect to experience offerings from previous Roux scholars as well as bespoke wine events and tutored tastings from the restaurant’s expert head sommelier David Galetti and his team. The restaurant will also be available for exclusive private hire on Monday – offering an individually tailored, catered Roux service for any corporate or personal celebration.

Laine Pub Company opening new tap room and off-licence at London site on Monday: Laine Pub Company, led by Gavin George and backed by Luke Johnson, is opening a new tap room and off-licence at its People’s Park Tavern site in London on Monday (16 November). The Victoria Park venue will feature a curated selection of the very best beers around the world in cans, bottles and draft while the pub will continue to serve its own cask beers – brewed onsite – on the eight hand pumps downstairs. The selection put together by the pub’s manager Justin Hutton and brewer Sam Dickison, includes beers from home and abroad such as Hitachino Espresso Stout – widely regarded as one of the best espresso stouts. Keg beer will be on four rotating lines, focusing on unusual and experimental ales, including those from Laine’s own range. Local craft spirits will come from the likes of East London Liquor Company and Half Hitch. In addition to the tap room and off-licence where guests can build their own six pack, there will be a new cocktail bar and gallery space based in a container in the garden. The bar and off-licence will be open from Sunday to Thursday between 5pm-midnight and from noon-close on Friday and Saturday.

Castle Rock Brewery opens biggest pub: Castle Rock Brewery has opened its biggest pub, The Embankment, the former home of the Boots Social Club at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. It has undergone a £600,000 refurbishment to become the 21st pub to be operated by Castle Rock Brewery in its East Midlands heartland. The business is owned by The Beer Consortium, an EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) company set up in late 2014 under the chairmanship of Geoff Newton. Newton said: “This is a fabulous building with an even more fascinating past. For many Nottingham people it was where they relaxed and played after a week’s work at one of the city’s most important employers. For others, commuting across Trent Bridge, it will have been unknown and private. Now though, it is open to all with a young energetic staff looking forward to giving a universal welcome to all. I’m confident it will become a place everyone can enjoy, both as a neighbourhood pub but also as a destination for good food, drinks and conversation.” Castle Rock Brewery managing director Colin Wilde said: “This will be a classic Castle Rock-style pub. It’ll be for our neighbours in the Meadows area of the city; and have wide appeal to the conurbation and visitors to the nearby cricket and football grounds. By retaining all its fascinating features; its oak panelling, stained glass windows and fine décor, we pay homage to its former life as a chemists’ shop and social club.”

Buckinghamshire pub built by estate of wife of Iain Duncan Smith goes on market: A pub built in Buckinghamshire by the estate of the wife of Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith has gone on the market. The Betsey Wynne, Swanbourne, is being marketed by agent Everard Cole and is available by way of a new free-of-tie lease with rental offers invited. The Betsey Wynne, named after the former Tory leader’s wife’s colourful ancestor and founder of the Fremantle Estate, was opened in 2006 after being built at a cost of about £1m. It was built after Swanbourne lost its local pub many years previously and when the estate asked villagers what they would most like to see, the overwhelming vote was for a pub. The Betsey Wynne is currently run under management. The ground floor provides about 135 covers, commercial trade kitchen and back-of-house, domestic accommodation, approximately an acre of grounds and parking. Chris Rogers from Everard Cole said: “The Swanbourne Estate is steeped in history and the Betsey Wynne provides a superb opportunity for a community-focused operator to build on its reputation as a destination food house.”

Nick Batram – The Rugby World Cup takes away opportunity for significant upgrade this year for The Restaurant Group: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Nick Batram has argued The Restaurant Group had a solid quarter three but has been impacted by the Rugby World Cup. He said: “The group continues to make solid progress but the impact from the Rugby World Cup has probably taken away the opportunity for significant upgrades in 2015. The Restaurant Group is still generating attractive returns and we expect double-digit earnings per share growth to continue despite trimming our 2016 and beyond numbers for the National Living Wage. While The Restaurant Group remains a core holding in the sector, we feel ‘Add’ is more appropriate than ‘Buy’ at the current point in time. We are leaving our 2015 forecasts unchanged and a positive end to the year still leaves room for a small beat on our profit before tax £86.4m (consensus £87.1m). However, the group is likely to open 44 sites in the current year (25 opened thus far), which is towards the bottom end of guidance (43-48) and slightly below our expectations of 48. Given this, and the impact from the living wage (yet to be quantified by the company), we think it is prudent to trim 2016 and beyond by 2% – profit before tax £94.6m, earnings per share 36.7p versus £96.9m and 37.7p previously (broadly consensus). The group is still achieving highly attractive returns on new sites and delivering an overall solid performance. Furthermore, whilst it is very early days we are keeping an eye on Joe’s Kitchen with two sites recently opened in the Midlands. However, at the current rating, in the absence of upgrades, the shares may consolidate in the short term. Therefore, we have moved to ‘Add’ from ‘Buy’. Nevertheless, we continue to see The Restaurant Group as a core holding in the sector.”

Simmons opens sixth site, plans seventh: Cocktail bar Simmons has launched its sixth late-night cocktail bar – this time in the heart of Soho. The 2,493 square foot unit on Bateman Street comprises three floors and was occupied by The Carlisle Arms. The lease is for 24 years and the rent is not disclosed. London-based Restaurant Property advised Simmons on this latest opening. Simmons also has a seventh site due to open in Shoreditch soon. Sally French, senior surveyor at Restaurant Property, said: “We are delighted to have acted for Simmons in their expansion plans to secure their sixth site in such a prime pitch in Soho.” The chain serves cocktails, beers and ales – with many concoctions served in china tea cups, or tea pots. There are other Simmons venues at King’s Cross, Fitzrovia, Tower Bridge, Camden, and Islington.

BrewDog set to launch new menu overseen by new head of food ‘Wyatt’: BrewDog is set to launch a new menu, overseen by the company’s new head of food who is called “Wyatt”. The company stated: “Wyatt has been working on an incredible menu soon to be launched in our kitchen-toting BrewDog bars. Fresh, seasonal and completely epic, it includes staples such as global beer platters and patty melts. The first majors on classics such as New York beer sausage with Coney Island mustard, Bavarian salted pretzels, and epic chicken wings with hot sauce. The second brings burgers back to their roots, delivering a US diner special with a modern twist of creativity.”

PizzaExpress offers free snowball dough balls to celebrate launch of Christmas menu: PizzaExpress celebrated the launch of its Christmas menu by offering free snowball dough balls yesterday (Thursday, 12 November). The company held its second “Free Snowball Dough Ball Day” by giving customers who said “free snowball dough balls” a free portion to eat-in or takeaway. It then asked customers to share their pictures of themselves enjoying the dough balls via social media. PizzaExpress’ Christmas menu also includes pork and pancetta croquettes, roasted lamb Romana pizza and chocolate and orange torte.

Fleurets lets prime Sunderland site – after four years of marketing: Agent Fleurets has let the free-of-tie lease on a well-known bar in central Sunderland – after four years of marketing. The Bud Bigallows high street bar was a victim of the financial crisis, when it fell into administration. Unnamed Scottish based operators have secured the premises licence and will refurbish and rebrand the 10,000 square foot high street bar into two different units both with a nautical concept. A spokesperson for the operator said: “We are delighted to be involved with this property and to venture into Sunderland for the first time. The potential here is so exciting, and with our knowledge of the area and of the type of offering we feel people are looking for, we will, hopefully, have a wide range of customers joining us on a regular basis. We don’t want to give too much away, but we will have two very different bars on ground and first floor.” Simon Hall, director and head of agency at Fleurets, added: “This has been a drawn out process but we are delighted with the quality of operator we have secured. Our experience with this property is a real case study demonstrating the impact the recession has had on many northern towns and cities. The really good news is that the recovery on the high street has reached the north east and we are seeing a number of deals like this happening.”

Stephen Goodyear – top ten rugby pubs up over 40% during Rugby World Cup, supportive of National Living Wage: Young’s chief executive Stephen Goodyear has reported the company’s top ten rugby pub saw a 40% like-for-like boost from the Rugby World Cup. Heineken sales grew by 43% at its pub as “people connected with the brand” and one pub, The Orange Tree, Richmond, took £37,500 in a single day. He told Propel: “It was a hugely successful – we have a lot of pubs in south west London rooted in rugby history although the whole estate worked hard to capitalise on the event.” Meanwhile, Goodyear reported its Burger Shack concept is providing incremental sales, with its Windmill pub in Clapham, for example, growing food sales by 25%. Of Burger Shack, the company stated: “These provide a fast-casual dining experience which complements our existing high quality food offer. Their inventive and original designs are also operationally effective, ensuring our service is efficient during periods of peak demand. Our sixth site is about to open at the Swan (Walton-on-Thames).” Food sales in the estate continue to outperform drink sales, up 8.7% in total and 7.5% on a like-for-like basis. The company is planning to open two new Geronimo Inns pubs before the end of its financial year, one at the Guard House in Woolwich and one in Leman Street. The company stated: “Our smaller Geronimo business benefited from some new pubs, but also reflected the loss of the Tin Goose (Heathrow Terminal 1) which closed in October 2014, the impact of changes in airline schedules on our other two Heathrow pubs and a 13-week closure of the Clarence (Whitehall) during its extensive redevelopment. As a result total sales grew only modestly by 0.6%, and declined by 1.4% on a like-for-like basis.” It reported success with its premium drink range focus. It stated: “Our innovative, diverse and high quality drink offer, with sales up 8.4% in total and 4.4% on a like-for-like basis, is clearly appealing to our traditional customers and attracting new ones. We have seen good volume and price growth across our main product groups. Premium lagers, such as Estrella Damm, Meantime’s London Lager and Camden Hells Lager, are proving particularly popular.” Of the National Living Wage, it added: “We are supportive of the National Living Wage and are reviewing the overall structure of our pay scales to ensure that all our people continue to be fairly rewarded for the value that they add to the business. We do not believe that limiting the application of this to those over the age of 25 is appropriate for our business and intend to apply it to all staff aged 18 or over who successfully complete their probationary periods. We estimate that the additional cost of implementing the National Living Wage next year will be circa £2.0m. However, we aim to offset the majority of this increase through the synergies and efficiencies created by the recent reorganisation of the managed house division and through additional productivity, purchasing, technology and other efficiencies. These will, in turn, minimise impact on the customer.”

Las Iguanas to open three sites in November: Las Iguanas, now owned by Casual Dining Group, is opening three new sites this November, in Newport (yesterday), Blackpool (16 November) and Birmingham (16 November). Las Iguanas Blackpool will be opening next to the Blackpool tower. The new Newport site will be located within the Friars Walk Shopping Centre. Birmingham will be launching in Resorts World, with a balcony view overlooking Pendigo Lake.

Mitchells & Butlers to convert Harvester site in Ottershaw into first Miller & Carter in Surrey:
Mitchells & Butlers is to convert its Harvester site in Ottershaw, Surrey, into its first Miller & Carter steakhouse in the county. The company is closing The Otter in Guildford Road for a four-week refurbishment later this month before reopening under the Miller & Carter brand in late December, creating 25 additional jobs. It will be the 38th restaurant in the country for the brand, which specialises in 28-day aged British steaks and is known for its swanky chairs and tables and bull imagery on the walls. Artwell Mwatsiya, general manager at Miller & Carter Ottershaw, told Get Surrey: “Bringing Miller & Carter to Surrey is extremely exciting for the brand and the new restaurant will offer the best steaks and hospitality that Miller & Carter is renowned for.”

Huddersfield restaurant owner to start expanding portfolio with second site in same street: Huddersfield restaurant owner Eric Paxman is to start expanding his portfolio by opening a second site in the same street. Paxman, who runs Eric’s in Lidget Street in the suburb of Lindley, has acquired neighbouring restaurant La Cocina. He said the new restaurant, which is due to open at the end of January creating 15 jobs, would take on an entirely different look, name and format to its current offering. Paxman told the Huddersfield Examiner: “It’s a brand new venture for me and it’s going to be something completely different to Eric’s – all very intriguing. It will have a different name. It has been decided but I’m not making it public just yet. This was an opportunity, which arose and I took it. It’s all very exciting.” Paxman opened fine-dining restaurant Eric’s in 2010.

House of Ho to open flagship site in Fitzrovia: The House of Ho’s new flagship restaurant will open on Tuesday, 1 December on Percy Street, in London’s Fitzrovia with new chef director Ian Pengelley at the kitchen helm. Set in a four-storey townhouse, The House of Ho will offer a contemporary, Vietnamese take on a bygone colonial era. The first two floors will house the restaurant, with a contemporary Vietnamese menu and fresh seafood bar. A secret wine room is hidden off from the first floor landing; the walls will be lined with fine wines for private tastings and events. The House of Ho will have three further private dining rooms; Hanoi, Mirror Room and Ho Chi Minh, which will all be available for private hire and include LED screens for presentations and the facilities for small conferences or board room meetings.

Planning application lodged to open third micro-pub in Middlesbrough street: A planning application has been lodged to open a third micro-pub in a Middlesbrough street. Baker Street is already home to Sherlocks and The Twisted Lip venues and now a change of use application has been submitted to Middlesbrough Council for the former Sugar Cubes shop to become a micro-pub, reports Gazette Live. If the scheme gets the go-ahead, the micro-pub would be open daily from 11am-11pm. It is intended it would only operate as a ground-floor bar with entertainment limited to low-level background music. There would also be solo acoustic sessions between 8pm-10pm on Saturday evenings. Further micro-pubs are set to open in Middlesbrough in Bedford Street while the Devil’s Advocate and Infant Hercules are already trading.

Nando’s to open new restaurant in Rugby on Wednesday:
Nando’s will open a new restaurant in Rugby, Warwickshire, on Wednesday (18 November). The company is opening the outlet at Elliott’s Field Shopping Park, off Leicester Road, reports the Coventry Telegraph. It will join other stores including Debenhams, Clarks, Outfit, Next, and Marks & Spencer at the out-of-town complex as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment. Nando’s is also set to open sites in Cork, Newport, London, and Burton in the coming months.

Three pub freeholds in Kent go on market: Three pub freeholds in Kent have been put up for sale. Agent Fleurets is marketing the Countryman and the Edge, both in Gillingham, as well as the Bull in Sittingbourne. The Countryman, available off a guide price of offers in the region of £325,000, is situated within a residential area, about half a mile from Gillingham town centre. It has a function room on the first floor as well as private accommodation. The Edge, on the market off a guide price of offers in the region of £275,000, is on the main pedestrianised High Street in Gillingham town centre. It has three-bedroom accommodation on the first floor, an open plan trade area as well as an external seating area. The Bull, available off a guide price of £325,000, is a grade II-listed public house in Sittingbourne town centre with open plan trade areas on the ground and first floor. Simon Bland from Fleurets said: “We’ve seen growing demand for freehold pubs in Kent for some while now and this is set to continue well into next year, at least.”

ALMR National Restaurant Association Study Tour to Chicago opens for bookings: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2016 Chicago Study Tour is now open for bookings. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training and Sky, takes place between Thursday, 19 May and Monday, 23 May 2016. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions at the NRA show. It also involves two tours of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show combined with our tour of Chicago is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com

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