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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 1st Mar 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Colliers – central London restaurants face soaring business rates next year following huge rent increases: Agent Colliers International has warned central London restaurants are facing soaring business rates next year because of huge rent increases. The 2017 rating revaluation is due next April and is set to realign rating valuations with 2015 rental levels. There has not been a rates revaluation in seven years with current levels having been in place since April 2010 with a 2008 valuation date. With Colliers’ research showing restaurant rents in some areas of central London have seen 120%-plus rental uplifts in the past seven years, the company has warned the imminent increase in occupancy cost is something all commercial occupiers should be fully aware of and budgeting for, non-more so than those in the restaurant sector. Colliers’ director of rating in central London Alex White told Propel: “What it potentially means is sites that break even or making a marginal profit could suddenly be making a loss.” White said Mayfair had seen rent increases of 120% in the last five years, 100% on the Southbank and 50% in Soho – levels that sector investor Luke Johnson told the Casual Dining show in London last week were “deeply unfair and a huge threat to the sector’s prosperity”. It means a property that has had its rent rise from £100,000 to £200,000 could see its business rates double from £50,000 to £100,000. White said: “We want to make people aware of what is on the horizon. There’s nothing you can do about it – it’s coming. Central London is going to see the lion’s share of the increases but there will be places around the country that are hit. The government is doing all the valuations at the moment so we won’t know what the values will be until the draft list is announced in October or indeed what the ‘multiplier’ is going to be at this stage.” White said he expects any business rates increase would be “phased in” but restaurants that are tied in to a long lease, in particular, would be hit hard in the pocket. He added: “If rents fall in the meantime then rates would not mirror this until the next revaluation date after 2017, again something we don’t yet know.” White said pubs are unlikely to be impacted to the same level because their rates are linked to trade performance rather than property value. He added: “While there will be an increase it won’t be the same level as restaurants. The question is what constitutes a pub and what constitutes a restaurant these days? It used to be whether it was wet-led or food-led but that’s no longer necessarily the case. It’s an area that’s got greyer and greyer over the last five to ten years.” White said it was difficult to say whether the current system on deciding business rates was still appropriate because “no fair alternative had been proposed”. He added: “I don’t think the system around the valuation approach is particularly flawed – it’s the level of the tax take and regularity of revaluations that’s more the issue. The current proposals for reform on the table seem to be more focused on making the system for challenging business rates more confrontational, more litigious and more costly rather than one that is all round fairer and more business friendly.” Colliers recently published its “Manifesto for Business Rates Reform”, which includes three-yearly revaluations by 2023, increased funding for the Valuation Office Agency and releasing it from pressure exerted by local councils and HM Treasury. 

Industry News:

Readers sign up to Propel Premium service: Operators, drinks companies, law firms, accountants, distributors and marketing firms are among the first companies that have signed up to receive the Propel Premium subscription service, which launches today (Tuesday, 1 March). The current free service to all existing readers remains the same, but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service from 1 March. Propel Premium subscribers will be able to receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. Subscribers will also receive a copy of the Propel database of 500 multi-site companies, which will be updated every six months, and receive a digital version of Propel Quarterly magazine a week before publication. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT per year, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com
 
Amazon begins surveying UK customers about use of restaurant delivery services ahead of anticipated expansion: Amazon has begun surveying UK customers about their use of restaurant delivery services in what analysts said was likely to be the first step in an international expansion of the concept it rolled out in the US last September. The company has sent customers surveys asking about the frequency and cost of customers’ food orders and also whether they used companies such as Just Eat, Hungry House and Deliveroo. The surveys asked customers what they most liked about providers such as Just Eat and Hungry House, and “what can be improved most about these service providers?” An Amazon spokesman declined to comment. Aviate Global senior analyst Neil Campling told Reuters canvassing customers about the restaurant delivery market would be a “logical step” toward expanding its own business. He said: “These stealth tactics have been used carefully in the United States to do similar and launch successfully and the UK is often used as the first international market.”
 
Manchester Arndale to see new restaurant quarter: Manchester Arndale’s Hallé Square could be turned into a new restaurant quarter, a newly-released artist’s impression of the site reveals. The shopping centre ’s atrium, entered via Market Street, is seen filled with casual dining chains in a CGI image unveiled in owner Intu’s latest results presentation. Intu revealed plans for a major restaurant development at the city centre mall last September but full details have yet to be announced. Redeveloping Hallé Square is said to be one of a number of ideas being looked at to improve the catering offer at the city centre mall. It would seem the obvious choice of location, with several of its units already standing empty. David Allinson, centre director at Manchester Arndale, said: “The owners of Manchester Arndale continually review opportunities to improve the centre as part of their active management approach to ensure it meets the current and future needs of its tenants and of our 41 million annual visitors. As part of this, particular consideration is currently being given to opportunities to improve the catering offer at Manchester Arndale. A number of ideas are being looked at but no decision has been made at this time. We look forward to being able to provide further updates in due course.”
 
Alcohol tagging scheme rolled out in London: A pilot scheme that involves tagging people who have committed alcohol-related offences in order to ensure they stay sober has been rolled out across London. The trial of “sobriety tags”, which monitor a person’s alcohol intake, proved to be successful in 92% of cases. Some 113 alcohol abstinence requirement orders were made by courts during the first year of the scheme, with offenders being required to stay sober for 120 days. The ankle bracelets measure the level of alcohol in an offender’s perspiration and those found to be breaking their abstinence orders can face further sanctions. It is estimated alcohol-related crime costs up to £13bn a year. Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Alcohol-fuelled crimes put a huge strain on frontline services, costing the taxpayer billions of pounds each year. From assault, to drink-driving, to theft and criminal damage, this innovative technology is driving down reoffending and proving rehabilitation does not have to mean prison. After such a success in south London, it’s time to roll-out these tags to the rest of the capital and rid our streets of these crimes, by helping even more offenders stay off the booze and get back on the right track.”
 
Gordon Ramsay earning more than £340,000 a year for visiting Las Vegas restaurant just once annually: Chef Gordon Ramsay earns more than £340,000 a year for visiting his restaurant in Las Vegas one day a year as long as it meets its sales target, court documents have revealed. Casino company Caesars Entertainment Operating Co negotiated a new deal with Ramsay in an attempt to slash costs after filing for bankruptcy in January. Under the ten-year agreement, Ramsay continues to lend his name to the Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas and Atlantic City and develop the restaurants’ menus, although they are required to mostly include “pub-style dishes” like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips, reports the Daily Mail. Ramsay is flown first class or in a private jet to visit the casino-hotel chain in Vegas at least once a year, for at least 24 consecutive hours. He must also be willing to be photographed. Caesars will also provide “three deluxe rooms” at its hotel with Ramsay having to pay “all incidental room charges” – including snacks and room service – with a 30% discount. Ramsay also gets at least £57,000 a year for the Atlantic City restaurant, which he does not have to visit, although he is obligated to “reasonably consider” any requested visits. Caesars said the new deal would save it almost £100,000-a-year overall. Ramsay will get a 5% cut in Vegas, paid quarterly, of gross restaurant sales up to £7m, which corresponds to £340,000 a year. Caesars can break off its contract with Ramsay if the restaurants fail to make certain sales targets.
 
The Restaurant Group opens world’s first airport gin distillery at Gatwick: The Restaurant Group has opened the world’s first airport gin distillery at Gatwick. The distillery, called The Nicholas Culpeper, is based landside in the North Terminal and includes a shop and a bar. The venue will be serving a unique gin called The Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin named, as the shop is, after an English botanist. The said gin is distilled from an exotic blend including Chinese cassia bark and angelica root from India. The bar serves food as well as gin cocktails and customers can view the working gin still, which makes up to 12 litres of gin per batch. Gatwick Airport partnered with The Restaurant Group to open the distillery after seeing a “significant” jump in premium gin sales. In 2011, the segment accounted for 10% of total gin sales at the airport and today the figure stands at 40%. The Restaurant Group Concessions managing director Nick Ayerst told the Metro: “We never really believed that it would be possible to distil gin in an airport. The teamwork and tenacity to create and deliver The Nicholas Culpeper has been unlike anything I’ve ever known before.”
 
SIBA calls on government to support Britain’s brewing industry with a further cut in beer duty: In a detailed submission to government, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), which represents over 840 British breweries, has called for a fourth consecutive cut in beer duty in the Budget on Wednesday, 16 March. The call for a further drop in beer tax comes as new research by SIBA shows how the independent craft brewing industry has grown as a result of previous cuts in duty. SIBA managing director Mike Benner said: “The independent craft brewing industry is a British success story which needs further support to reach its potential. Beer duty cuts in the last three Budgets together with the scrapping of the beer duty escalator in 2013 have funded investment and growth creating jobs in local communities across the UK. British beer drinkers now have access to many thousands of excellent beers from British breweries of all shapes and sizes. SIBA is urging the government to continue to support this important industry with a fourth consecutive beer duty cut in 2016.”
 
Casual Dining Show reports 22% increase in attendees: Casual Dining Show, held last week, has reported a 22% increase in attendance levels, with 4,402 attendees in total. A spokesman said: “The show was a fantastic success with over 170 exhibitors and a huge array of innovative products, fantastic networking and world-class seminars. We are also delighted to announce that the total attendance was 4,402, a 22% increase in attendees compared to last year.” Next year’s event is to be held at Business Design Centre, London, on 22 and 23 February.
 
Tower Hamlets Council begins consultation on introducing Late Night Levy: Law firm Poppleston Allen has reported Tower Hamlets Council has begun consultation on introducing a Late Night Levy. The authority proposes the levy applies to premises that are permitted to supply alcohol between midnight and 6am. A conditional 30% reduction is proposed for members of the Best Bar None best practice scheme. The council said the levy will help pay for the “extra enforcement costs that the night-time economy generates for police and licensing authorities”. The Metropolitan Police posts additional staff every Friday and Saturday night to deal with specific night-time economy issues. Under a special services agreement the cost of this to the council is in the region of £336,752 a year. The levy revenue would be split between the council (30%) and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which funds the Metropolitan Police. The council said it was difficult to provide exact income figures from the levy but expects it to range from £20,000 to £450,000 a year. The consultation runs until Sunday, 17 April.
 

Company News:

N+1 Singer – Franca Manca has potential to be the next PizzaExpress: Leisure analysts at N+1 Singer have claimed Fulham Shore’s sourdough pizza brand Franca Manca has the potential to be the next PizzaExpress. In its travel and leisure sector review, Singer pointed to Franca Manca’s “hugely experienced management team”, reserving special praise for Fulham Shore chairman David Page, who was chief executive of PizzaExpress “during its halcyon days in the 1990s”. Singer said Franca Manca was proving “hugely popular” in London, with accelerating expansion beyond the capital. Singer stated: “The opportunity of scaling a new and exciting value-for-money pizza concept, Franca Manca, is significant. Recent interims testified to this expansion confidence. Fulham Shore provides an opportunity to invest in a fast-growing casual dining business led by a management team with a proven track record, notably David Page, the driving force and chief executive of PizzaExpress during its halcyon days in the 1990s. It operates two brands – The Real Greek and Franca Manca. The focus is primarily on the latter. It is proving hugely popular in London with a simple menu, highly competitive pricing and rapid cover churn. At the December 2015 interims, management signaled an acceleration of Franca Manca, with national expansion firmly on the agenda. Management remains on the lookout for investment in other attractive opportunities. The company is AIM listed with free float a lowly 22%.” Looking at the balance sheet and financials, Singer stated: “Net debt at the interim stage was £0.3m and the year-end estimate is £3.0m, reflecting accelerated roll-out. FY16E net asset value is 6.5p, albeit most of this is intangible assets. Consensus expectations are for profit before tax to rise nine-fold between FY16-18 to circa £4.5m.” Looking to the year ahead, Singer stated the company had opened six new Franca Manca sites and planned to add a further site. It stated: “We understand the pipeline is strong and, as the year progresses, we expect firmer clarity on FY17 openings. What is clear is that expansion is accelerating and, for the first time, restaurants will open outside London in FY17 (Brighton and Guildford confirmed).”

Bella Italia makes international debut in India: Bella Italia, owned by Casual Dining Group (CDG), is to make its international debut with a restaurant opening in New Delhi, India. Launching this month through a franchise partnership with Wave Hospitality, the restaurant is located within a Holiday Inn Hotel, in a vibrant area called Aerocity. Split over two floors, the new fully-licensed restaurant boasts 100 covers and employs 25 people. CDG, which opened a Café Rouge restaurant in Dubai last year, has ambitious plans to roll-out all of its brands (which also include Las Iguanas and Belgo) across the Middle East and Asia, in concert with strategic franchise partners. Aerocity, close to Indira Gandhi International Airport, already has several luxury hotels, three shopping malls, a variety of food and drink outlets, plus offices, and is undergoing further development within its 45 acres. Mark Nelson, managing director of CDG’s newly-formed international franchising and concessions arm, said: “Opening in India is a hugely exciting development for Bella, and for us as a business. We have plans to take our brands around the world, and opening Bella in one of the most dynamic cities, in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, feels genuinely ground-breaking. Aerocity is a great fit for a Bella: it already has a thriving dining, hospitality and leisure scene, but is still developing rapidly – in response to India’s booming appetite for casual dining – which means there’s room for us to offer our much-loved Italian cuisine to a new audience. In Wave Hospitality we’ve found a like-minded partner, one that will help establish Bella in a new market with enormous potential. They recognised that we’re investing heavily in growing the business, in new products and innovation, in menus and restaurant design, and wanted to be part of the Bella story. We’re very excited about the reaction the brand – very well-established and loved across the UK – will get in India. We’re confident it’ll land very well.” Aditya Talwar of Wave Hospitality added: “We are delighted to be partnering with CDG to open the first ever Bella Italia outside of its home market of the UK. The strong demand in India for high quality and proven restaurant brands gives us great confidence that this new Bella will be the first of many openings in India, and the wider Asia region.” News of the new site in India comes days after Bella completed four UK openings in the month of February, taking the number of restaurants that operate under the brand to 97 across England, Scotland and Wales. 

Costa to launch in Canada with potential for 550 sites: Costa Coffee, the UK’s fastest growing coffee shop business is set to launch in Canada. Costa launches in collaboration with Shell, which will see 150 Costa Express self-serve coffee bars rolled out in Shell gas stations in Toronto, Alberta and Vancouver, with potential for a further 550 sites nationwide by 2020. Murray McGowan, Costa Express managing director, said: “We are delighted to extend our global presence with our launch in Canada, a dynamic and thriving country with an established coffee culture. The scale of Shell in Canada, as well as our well established multi-market partnership gave us the ideal platform from which to roll out our brand. Through our partnership with Shell and our world-leading coffee proposition, we feel confident that we will transform Canadian customer perception about the quality of on-the-go coffee available in forecourts, just as we did in the UK, increasing the appeal of Shell sites to their customers and giving customers more reasons to visit more often.”
 
Papa John’s reports record 44 openings in 2015: Pizza franchise Papa John’s has topped its record for new UK store openings with 44 new sites in the UK in 2015. “We now have well over 300 Papa John’s outlets in England, Scotland and Wales,” said Anthony Round, business development manager, Papa John’s. “To join Papa John’s as a franchisee, no experience is necessary as we provide all the necessary training, help with location selection and full turnkey solution to opening the store. However, Papa John’s franchisees need to be motivated, enthusiastic, hard working and want to be part of a growing team. Good interpersonal and people skills are essential, as franchisees deal with customers as well as lead a team on a daily basis.” Papa John’s was recently named as the UK National Pizza Delivery Chain for the sixth consecutive year and is renowned for its product quality.
 
YO! Sushi set to open new restaurant in Bournemouth: YO! Sushi is set to open a new restaurant in Bournemouth. The company has applied to the city council to convert the former La Senza store in Old Christchurch Road. In its planning support statement, the company promised an “attractive and vibrant” frontage, with opening hours of 9am until 10.30pm on Mondays to Saturdays and until 10pm on Sundays, reports the Bournemouth Echo. It said: “It is considered that the addition of YO! Sushi taking a commercial unit that has remained vacant for a considerable number of years will positively enhance the retail vitality of this part of the town centre. A new shop frontage, signage and active use will significantly improve the appearance of the host building and the character of the conservation area street scene.” YO! Sushi, founded by Simon Woodroffe in 1997, has more than 70 sites in the UK.
 
JD Wetherspoon plans hotel bedrooms at new Essex site: JD Wetherspoon is to pursue its hotel bedrooms strategy at new and existing sites with plans to offer nine bedrooms at its proposed new pub in Kingsway, Dovercourt, Essex, the small seaside town (population: 9,600). A planning application has now been submitted to Tendring District Council for the pub use, along with nine hotel rooms. As part of the proposals, JD Wetherspoon has provided images showing the disrepair inside the building. A number of local residents have backed the scheme, saying it bring back to life an eyesore building, though some have raised concerns about noise, odours and light pollution. The application states: “It is to be regretted so many of the building’s original features have been allowed to deteriorate. Consideration will be given to the principle of restoring some of these features in the entirety of the proposals. The applicant will invest a considerable sum in the acquisition, repair, refurbishment, and refitting of the building. Reopening the premises as a JD Wetherspoon would ultimately benefit the local economy, bringing back into economic use a prominent local building.” Tendring District Council is due to rule on the plans by Tuesday, 29 March.
 
Belfast-based burrito brand Boojum to open four stores across Ireland: Belfast-based burrito brand Boojum will open four stores across Ireland as it begins expansion. David and Andrew Maxwell will open two venues in Belfast and another two in the Republic. The brothers took over Boojum seven months ago, a Mexican brand launched by John Blisard in Belfast’s Botanic area and that has five sites – two in Belfast, two in Dublin and one in Galway. One of the new Belfast venues will be in Great Victoria Street, with the location of the second yet to be revealed. The company will also open a Dublin store in April in Abbey Street, plus another in the capital or Galway. Boojum is also looking at delivery and corporate catering, with Boojum planning to work alongside Deliveroo. The expansion will increase the workforce from 150 to about 270, with the brothers eyeing other potential sites for expansion. David Maxwell told the Belfast Telegraph: “We will be looking at potential locations such as Londonderry, and the larger urban areas would be well up on the list. The plan is to get the company from five to ten stores and then take a better look.”
 
Michael Hardy becomes managing director of Ooberstock: Interbev UK has appointed Michael Hardy as managing director of the groups’ distribution channels Ooberstock.com and Drinks21, and commercial director for Interbev UK. Previously holding senior roles in the drinks business with Scottish and Newcastle, Jygsaw Brands, and Shepton Mallet Cider Mill, Hardy brings heavyweight commercial, trading and new product development expertise to the business. Established in 2008 by Steve Brogan, Interbev delivers multi-channel distribution, to consumers, the trade, international distributors and importers, in more than 25 markets. Brogan said: “Our business is rapidly growing and diversifying, we have achieved a lot in the last seven years, and I want to ensure that we continue to challenge and redefine the status quo to deliver exceptional service and value to our partners, suppliers and customers. Part of that is about investing in building a strong team. Michael is an experienced operator, and his focus will be to continue to build the UK businesses.” Hardy added: “Steve has built a unique business, it’s entrepreneurial and agile – with a dynamic team of people who understand how the market is moving. I am thrilled to lead them on the next stage of our journey. We are built to deliver to the increasing demand for web services and around the clock availability. Taking the trends driven by companies like Amazon, and adapting them for our industry – delivering a composite range, with world-class service. We will continue to innovate to make the experience fast, simple and personal.”
 
Social Eating House head sommelier acquires Essex pub lease: Agent Everard Cole has completed the letting of The Norton pub in Cold Norton, Essex. The pub is owned by a group of local residents and a new free-of-tie lease has been granted to Boris Poliakov, who is the head sommelier of the Social Eating House in Poland Street, London. Offers in excess of £23,000 per year excluding VAT were being invited for the lease. The 3,412 square foot pub, which is located in the centre of the village, features a bar and restaurant large grassed garden and parking for about 20 cars. The pub was saved by the Save The Norton group from residential development a few years ago and is now run by the community and let on commercial terms.
 
Stonegate to turn Newbury town centre pub into Slug and Lettuce: Stonegate Pub Company has submitted plans to turn its The Hogshead pub in Newbury town centre into a Slug and Lettuce. The company has submitted plans to transform the grade II-listed building in Wharf Street, which is within Newbury’s conservation area. Stonegate operates 78 Slug and Lettuce sites across the UK, with the nearest venues to Newbury in Reading, Winchester and Oxford.
 
Fifth Tom’s Kitchen to open on HMS Belfast: Tom’s Kitchen, the group of restaurants and delis founded by chef Tom Aikens, is launching a new deli and bar at the iconic London landmark, HMS Belfast. This will be the fifth Tom’s Kitchen to open, and is in partnership with Levy Restaurants UK. Opening in late March, Tom’s Kitchen at HMS Belfast will not only improve the visitor experience at one of London’s star attractions, it will also deliver a new deli destination to the bustling riverside scene. The new quayside venue will include a 58-cover rooftop bar – perfect for the summer season – as well as a 46-seat deli. Aikens said: “The opportunity to create a Tom’s Kitchen Deli and Bar in such an extraordinary space is a real privilege, and one that we are very excited about.”
 
Bill’s Restaurants in-house dressings creator starts crowdfunding drive: Lucy’s Dressings, which was approached by Bill’s Restaurants 18 months ago to create its in-house dressings, has started a £75,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to develop its products and expand its users base. The premium dressings company, which was founded by Lucy Mackenzie in 2013 and has seen year-on-year growth since inception and made £180,000 in revenue in 2015, is offering a 10.34% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 15 investors have pledged £30,140 with 27 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £7,500. The pitch states: “At Lucy’s our focus is to grow turnover in order to deliver economies of scale on our variable costs (production, packaging and distribution). White label production is an important growth area for the business and we are in discussions with well-known restaurant groups. This will enable us to achieve the critical mass that will drive top-line and bottom-line performance. 18 months ago, Lucy was approached by Bill’s Restaurants with a brief to create its house dressing. We successfully developed a recipe, which is now used in every kitchen across their 70 sites. It is also available to buy in every restaurant in an attractive 250ml bottle with Lucy’s story on the label. In February we went live with another premium restaurant chain making four lines for over 60 sites.” The company is forecasting turnover of £400,000 this year with Ebitda improving from -£60,000 to -£7,000. For 2017, it expects turnover of £1.1m, with Ebitda of £73,000, and in 2018 turnover of £1.8m, with Ebitda of £110,000. 
 
New Latin American bar and restaurant concept Vivo Latino opens in Cardiff: A new Latin American bar and restaurant concept, Vivo Latino, has opened in Cardiff. The venue in Cowbridge Road East offers a blend of Mexican, Brazilian, Cuban and Peruvian food and drinks. The bar founders said offerings feature ingredients found throughout native Latin American food, but with Indian, Spanish, Portuguese and African influences as well. Small dishes include crab meat bon bons served on a bed of vermicelli and tomatillo salsa, and king prawns in habanero sauce with salad and toasted ciabatta. Grilled dishes included Peruvian half chicken with potato wedges or Mexican rice, and marinated rump steak and king prawns with salad, chips, corn on the cob and a choice of sauce. Latin classics include mole poblano – chicken thigh cooked in chilli infused with dark chocolate sauce – and butternut squash with spinach enchilada. Classic cocktails line up alongside Latin American favourites and the venue will also offer homemade soft drinks.
 
North Yorkshire luxury hotel bought from administrators: A luxury hotel on the North Yorkshire coast has been bought from administrators. Richard Jackson’s Harrogate-based property business Yorkshire Ventures has acquired the Raithwaite Estate from administrators KPMG with the backing of York-based secured pension lender, Grosvenor Financial Consultants, which held the ownership of the land and assets. The deal, the sum of which has not been disclosed, sees the firm acquire the 80-bedroom, luxury hotel, spa and restaurant, along with 100 acres of the estate and seven luxury cottages at Sandsend, near Whitby. York-based Skelwith Leisure (Raithwaite), part of the larger Skelwith Group, appointed joint administrators on 22 July last year. Jackson told The Business Desk: “This property is a Yorkshire gem in a fantastic coastal location. It has been renovated to an incredibly high standard, and that’s why the hotel business has a good foundation and such enormous potential. The opportunity remains to develop a further 46 cottages, which already have current planning consent, and we are all ready to finish the site to the same five-star luxury standard as the hotel.” The new development at the site will start in March, and the work will create 50 jobs. Yorkshire Ventures has appointed hospitality management company Inn-telligence to run the hotel. Inn-telligence and Yorkshire Ventures have announced plans to become part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts under its Lifestyle brand. This would see Raithwaite Estate join a string of other well-known names under the Preferred banner, including The Scotsman in Edinburgh, and The Wellesley and The ME by Melia in London.
 
Sunderland chef launches own restaurant in city: Sunderland chef Andy Barnett has launched his own restaurant in the city. Barnett, who has worked in the kitchen of the Isis restaurant in Silksworth Row and The Stackyard in West Herrington, has opened Barnett’s. He has invested about £20,000 transforming the Raffles cafe in Frederick Street into the restaurant venture. The daytime menu is based on “home comfort” offerings such as mince and dumplings and steak casserole, as well as Sunday dinners. However, the evening service will be à la carte similar to the menu he ran at the Isis. Barnett told the Sunderland Echo: “The site had a really good following as Raffles and there’s been a lot of interest from people walking past. A lot of the menu will be food that proved popular at the Isis like belly pork, pigeon and scallops mains. The site had a good reputation and I really think this area is finally starting to pick up.”
 
Pivovar to open bar focused on northern beers: Pivovar, the company behind London’s craft beer pub Euston Tap, is set to launch a new bar that specialises in beers from the north of England. Called Northern Tap and due to open within a couple of months, it will replace Cider Tap, which currently sits opposite Euston Tap near the entrance to the railway station of the same name. The group’s co-founder Jamie Hawksworth told BeerInsider.com a focus on Northern beers had been the plan when the Euston Tap opened five years ago but that it was overtaken by the explosion in London-based craft breweries. The opening will mean the Euston Tap can continue its focus on London, American and other international craft beers while Northern Tap across the road offers a selection of brews from beyond the Watford Gap.

Marylebone restaurant and bar The Harcourt to reopen on 1 April: The Harcourt Arms in Harcourt Street, Marylebone, will reopen on Friday, 1 April. Established in 1826, the venue was once known as “The Swedish Pub” because of its Scandinavian clientele. The new venue – named simply The Harcourt – will celebrate that heritage by offering “all-day modern European dining and drinking with a nod to Nordic cuisine”. The a la carte menu will feature dishes cooked on the indoor barbecue and Bertha grill. The ground-floor bar will offer casual dining and drinks for up to 40. At the rear, a 900 square foot dining room has been created, seating 65 guests, with counter dining and a semi-private conservatory room also available. The first floor features two private dining rooms, seating 20 and ten respectively. The new venue has been created by Andrew Endean (Hotel du Vin, Malmaison, Liberty and De Vere), head chef Kimmo Makkonen, and general manager Thomas Haring.

Dexters Alehouse & Kitchen of Brigg to open in Lincolnshire on 11 March: The 200-year-old former Black Bull pub in Brigg will reopen on Friday, 11 March as Dexters Alehouse & Kitchen of Brigg following a major refurbishment. The venue in Wrawby Street will be the fourth venue of the growing Dexters Alehouse and Kitchen brand. Dave Butler, who runs the Lincolnshire-based multi-site operator Fine Leisure with his partner Dawn Taylor, said their co-investment with Enterprise Inns – included a £150,000 spend on upgrading the kitchens. He said Dexters would employ 30 full and part-time staff, including five chefs, and the business would be a free-trade outlet, open seven days a week. Butler told the Scunthorpe Telegraph: “Our emphasis will be on quality homemade food and fine cask ales and we will be able to cater for up to 170 diners at a time.”
 
Casual Dining Group to turn La Tasca in Newbury into Bella Italia: Casual Dining Group will turn its La Tasca site in Newbury town centre into a Bella Italia venue. It has submitted a planning application for a refurbishment of the property in Market Place, which involves extending the licensed area downstairs and removing the one upstairs. In February, the company announced it planned 20 Bella Italia openings by May, with four opening already, including at Glasgow’s Silverburn Shopping Centre and in High Street, Kingston-upon-Thames, both former La Tasca sites. Casual Dining Group bought the La Tasca chain last summer. February’s openings brought the number of Bella Italia restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales to 97.
 
Vapiano launching first Instagram competition today: Vapiano, the Italian fresh casual dining brand, is launching its first Instagram competition today (Tuesday, 1 March) with #MyVapiano. The company is asking customers to capture what Vapiano is to them, which could be a selfie, photo or video. The first prize is £1,000 cash with £250 gift vouchers for the runner-up. Guests will be given promo cards on arrival, the competition will also be on the trayliner and there will be mirror vinyls in the bathrooms for the selfies – more than 50 guests a week currently take bathroom selfies in Vapiano. The hashtag #Vapiano already has had over a quarter of a million tags worldwide on Instagram. In the UK, Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform for Vapiano, ahead of Twitter and Facebook and the hope is to reach more of its young target audience with the promotion. Vapiano has four restaurants in the UK – three in London and one in Manchester.
 
Albion Partnerships launches graduate programme: Wetherby-based pub management company Albion Partnerships has launched a new Graduate Training Programme for 2016. The business, which manages a portfolio of 30 leased and tenanted pubs across the north and Midlands, saw the first intake of the programme begin this February and is currently recruiting for the next intake, due to start in the summer. The two-year training programme will cover all aspects of pub management, including operations, marketing and finance, providing graduates with all the necessary skills to become an area manager. Andrew Rickard, managing director of Albion Partnerships, said: “We feel that it is vital to nurture new talent during this period of rapid growth for the company, and believe this training programme will create well-rounded area managers who understand the business from the ground up.”
 
Leisure operator buys boutique hotel: The Manchester company behind Dukes 92 in Castlefield and the Albert’s restaurant chain has bought Soughton Hall, a 15-bedroom boutique hotel and events venue in North Wales. Elle R Leisure has bought the grade II-listed former Bishop’s palace, which was built in 1764. The deal also includes The Stables restaurant. The property, located near Mold, was the ancestral home of the Wynne-Bankes family until it was acquired by the Rodenhurst family in 1987 and opened as a boutique hotel and wedding venue. The hall was remodelled in 1820 by John William Bankes with the help of Sir Charles Barry, an architect for the Houses of Parliament, who added the mullioned windows, the first floor drawing room and dining room and the Islamic turrets upon the court walls. James Ramsbottom, managing director of Elle R Leisure, said: “This is a very exciting acquisition and adds another hotel to our growing portfolio to serve both the local market and also attract customers from Cheshire, Liverpool and Manchester. Soughton Hall is a stunning property that we feel has a lot of potential. We will be keeping Soughton Hall and The Stables’ existing staff, and our intention is to build up the wedding and corporate business with a view to creating more jobs for local people.” 
 
Paddington hotel freehold goes on market for £6m: The freehold of the Falcon Hotel in Paddington, west London, has gone on the market for £6m. The Edwardian-period hotel, which was built 110 years ago and is located in Norfolk Square, is being marketed by agent Christie & Co. First opened as a hotel more than 60 years ago, the Falcon has been operated by its current owner since the mid-1990s. Overlooking the traditional London square communal garden, the Falcon has 20 bedrooms of different occupancy levels from single rooms to family suites. Andrew Evangelou, who is handling the sale on behalf of Christie & Co, said: “The current owner is looking to retire, and the sale of the Falcon will offer the buyer the opportunity to acquire a rare freehold building in Norfolk Square. The location of the hotel is second to none in relation to its accessibility into all parts of central London, and the building itself possesses the potential for development and options to expand its food and beverage offering.”

Boost Juice Bars adds £8m of turnover in three years: Manchester-headquartered TD4 Brands, the parent company of Boost Juice Bars and The Shake Lab, is planning to accelerate the roll-out of its national retail chains after enjoying consistent and significant sales growth and receiving further funding from its financial backer Business Growth Fund (BGF). TD4 Brands is on course to achieve sales in excess of £13m this year, up from £5m in 2013 when BGF first invested in the business. Since 2013, the company has increased the number of Boost Juice Bars from ten to 32, and has opened up seven new sites in the past year alone, including in Cambridge, Reading, Southampton, Sheffield, Manchester and London. As part of its expansion, TD4 Brands introduced its bespoke milkshake concept, “The Shake Lab” to Manchester’s Trafford Centre in December 2015, with London’s White City and six other large schemes targeted for this year’s roll-out. TD4 Brand’s team of nearly 400 is led by founder-owners Richard and Dawn O’Sullivan, who set up the business in 2007 shortly after selling Millie’s Cookies. The O’Sullivans independently own and operate all Boost stores in the UK and Ireland. Boost now has a franchise network of more than 400 stores worldwide. Manchester’s Trafford Centre remains home to the busiest Boost juice bar globally. In the next phase of growth, the business plans to open up to eight stores this year. To support its plans, BGF has increased its investment in TD4 Brands to £4.9m. In yesterday’s (Monday, 29 February) newsletter, an editorial mistake referred to Boost Juice Bars as Fuel Juice Bars, a different company. Apologies. 
 
Propel partners with Digital Blonde for Advanced Social Media Masterclass: Propel is partnering with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass, building on last year’s Social Media Masterclass with all-new content. The event takes place on Wednesday, 20 April at One Moorgate Place in London and will provide a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media. Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell will share research into the importance of social media in customers’ lives as well as insight into the psychology of food and drink marketing in order to produce persuasive social media activity. The day will also include advice on using storytelling techniques to achieve stronger results in marketing and social media campaigns as well as how to use analytics to develop a social media strategy. There will also be a first-look at Digital Blonde’s “Love, Lust and Trust” research, which will unveil the best loved pub and bar brands and what can be learned from their social strategies. Tickets are £295 for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers members and £345 for non-members and to book email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

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