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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 3rd Mar 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Douglas Jack – we’re expecting a weak trading update from JD Wetherspoon: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast a weak trading update from JD Wetherspoon on Friday, 11 March. Issuing a ‘Reduce’ recommendation and a target price of 625p for the shares, he said: “For the interim results, due on 11 March, we forecast profit before tax to fall by 12% to £33m, largely due to a 110bps fall in Ebit margins. Like-for-like profits are falling, although the pace of decline is slowing, but only due to softer comparables. In its own words: the company is ‘not able to put prices up or make productivity improvements to offset all the higher costs’. The impact of the National Living Wage is already in forecasts; but further cost pressures are inevitable. Like-for-like sales were up 2.8% after 25 weeks, slightly ahead of our full-year assumption of 2.5%. Like-for-like sales rose by 3.3% in quarter two, helped by stronger trading conditions for the sector in late December as well as easier comparables, of 2.7% (versus quarter one’s comparable of 6.3%). Two-year like-for-like sales have slowed to 6.0% in quarter two, from 8.7% in quarter one, but the comparable eases to 1.7% in quarter three and 2.9% in quarter four. Like-for-like profits and margins are falling. Ebit margins fell by 50bps to 6.4% in quarter two, largely due to an 8% increase in starting hourly wage costs in August. The pace of margin decline slowed from quarter one’s 150bps fall, partly due to the company passing the anniversary of October 2014’s 5% wage increase. Thus, we forecast margins falling by 40bps in half two, although there is still downside risk: JD Wetherspoon’s average drink prices were unchanged overall (source: CGA) in the year to December. Property costs could be the next risk to margins, in our view, particularly in London, where the company has 117 pubs (12% of the estate). Here, rent inflation is higher and the new business rates system (due April 2017) is likely to be adverse for operators, although rates increases may be more geared to restaurants than pubs. Much depends on definitions: the company has said that food at its 300 most recent openings represents 50% of sales between Monday and Thursday. We believe the company’s policy to sell 54 smaller outlets is appropriate. However, only two sites were sold over the first 25 weeks. We forecast just 12 pub openings this year, of which five opened during the first 25 weeks. The shares have re-rated to 8.2x EV/Ebitda despite: increasing repairs and wages costs in 2016E, with further cost pressures ahead; ‘limited room to manoeuvre’ through pricing activity and productivity improvements: and net debt/Ebitda rising (to circa 3.5x) despite the estate contracting in size. A 7.5x EV/Ebitda rating, in line with the historical average, would equate to a share price of 625p.”

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 launched on 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. 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

Company launches crowdfunding bid to launch app that alerts to allergens: A company that has developed an app that allows restaurants to track the allergens in food being served has launched a funding pitch to secure £120,000. MenuLab is based at Sparkhouse Studios in Ropewalk, Lincoln. Its product for smartphones and tablets allows business to select food items or scan barcodes to get an overview of which ingredients may contain allergens. The business is using crowdfunding platform Seedrs to raise the £120,000 in return for a 12% equity stake. The MenuLab app will also allow businesses to track the nutritional content of recipes to inform customers of calories, salt, fat and sugar content.
 
CAMRA report – beer duty rise could severely damage industry: A report commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) published on Wednesday (2 March) has warned the Chancellor’s plans to increase beer duty in the Budget on Wednesday, 16 March could severely damage the pub and brewing industry. In the Centre for Economics & Business Research report, CAMRA calls for a penny cut in tax and a freeze during the rest of parliament to create 13,000 jobs and an additional £75m investment in the brewing industry by 2020, adding the move would also save 550 pubs. CAMRA chief executive Tim Page said: “Without the last three cuts, beer prices would be higher and there would be fewer pubs. A fourth cut would keep the price of a pint down and keep pubs open. If the Chancellor goes ahead and increases beer duty, the danger is that we could be placing all the benefits that have been achieved over the last three years at risk.”
 
Subway finalises agreement to ensure Footlong subs are a foot long: A federal judge has approved a settlement designed to ensure Subway’s Footlong sandwiches are actually a foot long. Subway agreed in October to practise changes to ensure customers weren’t getting shortchanged an inch on their 12-inch sandwiches. The settlement was finalised and approved last week. According to the agreement, Subway will pay attorneys for the plaintiffs $525,000 for legal costs. It will also pay $500 apiece to each of the ten people who led the class action. No claims were awarded to any other members of the class action. The settlement will require Subway franchisees to measure bread in its restaurants and ensure sandwiches are either six or 12 inches. The franchisor will also include sandwich length as part of its inspections and will suffer penalties for violations. The settlement follows a teenager in Australia posting a picture on Facebook in 2013 claiming his Footlong sandwich was only 11 inches. The post went viral and attorneys began investigating and filing lawsuits in various courts.
 
McDonald’s trials Happy Meal evolution with virtual reality goggles: McDonald’s in Sweden has unveiled the “evolution of the Happy Meal” – a Happy Meal that can be transformed into a pair of virtual reality goggles. Similar to Google Cardboard, McDonald’s Happy Goggles will require some amount of self-assembly. Customers will need to tear along the perforated lines on a relevant Happy Meal box, fold, slot in the accompanied virtual reality lenses, and then attach a smartphone. McDonald’s has a video to show customers how to accomplish that. The promotional campaign comes with a ski-themed virtual reality game. Jeff Jackett, marketing director at McDonald’s Sweden, said the company believed virtual reality could provide “a really exciting opportunity to connect families in digital times”. He also said this was “the first trial run globally”, meaning the Happy Goggles might eventually spread to other continents. The current plan is to make about 3,500 of these Happy Goggles available across the weekends of 5 and 12 March.
 
Ed’s Easy Diner to open first motorway service station site in March: Ed’s Easy Diner is expected to make its motorway service station debut at Peterborough Extra later this month. The company is also set to open a site at Welcome Break’s South Mimms service station next month. 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 Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie has reported there is an increase in customers having longer stops for reasons such as business meetings. “The trend was to get rid of full-service restaurants (within service stations),” he said last year, explaining the Ed’s Easy Diner opening. “We’re now signing a deal with a national brand to put full-service restaurants back into our service stations.” McKie also revealed last year the fastest growing line at the Waitrose stores located with Welcome Break is sushi. “It’s growing by 35% year-on-year,” he said.
 
JD Wetherspoon launches new drinks and dishes for spring: JD Wetherspoon has launched new additions to its food and drinks range for spring. Its new craft range offerings from Hogs Back brewery are Hogstar English Lager, Hopping Hog IPA, and cloudy cider Hazy Hog. JD Wetherspoon has added Chase and Belvedere to its Vodka Distillery range with two additions to its Gin Palace range – Tanqueray No. Ten and Sipsmith. The company has also added fried buttermilk chicken burger with chips to its “burgers and dogs” section, while chicken, avocado and bacon salad is a new healthy option. After Mothering Sunday (6 March), JD Wetherspoon will remove traditional Sunday roast from its menu to concentrate more on its “very big, 8am to 11pm menu”.
 
Chef & Brewer survey reveals Brits’ woeful food knowledge: A new survey by Greene King’s Chef & Brewer brand has revealed a surprising number of Brits think an “aperitif” is an after-dinner drink and “al dente” refers to eating outside. The survey of 1,500 Britons also revealed almost half (43%) have tried to impress friends with their knowledge of food and wine, while 91% considered themselves knowledgeable about food. A further 79% said good food and wine was “an important part of their life” but, despite this, only 49% managed to identify prosecco as a sparkling wine, with 13% thinking the Italian drink originated in Spain. Caroline Gallimore, Chef & Brewer brand manager, said: “Many of us pride ourselves on our knowledge of food and drink, but it seems we’re not as clued up as we like to think we are! We were particularly surprised to see that fewer than half of Brits knew prosecco was a sparkling wine, given its huge surge in popularity in recent years.” Other shocking findings included 4% of Brits thinking Yorkshire pudding originated in Scotland, while 5% thought haggis was an English dish and 6% believed kale was an exotic fruit.
 
Busy families leave it late to book Mother’s Day meals: Time-pressed families are leaving it late to book restaurant tables for Mother’s Day, according to online bookings service liveRES, which credits smartphone and tablet technology for turning us into a “last-minute society”. Mother’s Day bookings have risen 12% compared with last year, liveRES stated, despite the number of offers, such as discounts, used falling by almost 4%. The ratio of women and men making reservations is almost 50:50, demonstrating a shift in family dynamics, but the traditional family table for four remains the most popular table size. Olivia FitzGerald, liveRES managing director, said: “Mother’s Day is as popular as ever, but our stats support overall evidence that we are becoming a ‘last-minute’ society, with planning ahead becoming a thing of the past. Having on-the-go technology at our fingertips helps feed our habit for doing things on the move. We are seeing an increasing appetite for online reservations when out and about and travelling to and from work. The use of offers for big occasions, such as Mother’s Day, also become less significant with last-minute bookings as customers are more focused on finding somewhere with availability.” liveRES is part of Zonal Retail Data Systems, a solutions provider to more than 8,000 UK leisure and hospitality businesses.

New research states vegans have 35% reduced risk of prostate cancer: Vegans have a 35% reduced risk of developing prostate cancer, according to a new study funded by World Cancer Research Fund. Scientists at Loma Linda University in California studied more than 26,000 men and assessed the link between prostate cancer and diet, including non-vegetarian, pescatarian and vegan. Vegan Society spokesman Jimmy Pierce said: “Time and again we are seeing new research showing the vegan diet to be significantly better for our health. Still lingering, however, is the perception that eating meat is macho, that it somehow enhances masculinity or virility. Yet it is killing thousands of men in the UK every year.” Dr Panagiota Mitrou, of World Cancer Research Fund, added: “This research has, for the first time, helped fill some vital gaps in our knowledge about eating patterns and the prevention of prostate cancer. Prevention is key if we are to see a decrease in the number of men developing the disease.” Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK, with more than 47,000 new cases a year.

Company News:

Lifestyle Hospitality Group companies placed into liquidation: A liquidator has been appointed to wind up Tiger Bills and Burgerfest operator Lifestyle Hospitality Group, which was previously led by James Eyre. A creditors’ meeting took place on 16 February in Brierley Hall, West Midlands, and had been called by Mayfield Insolvency – the meeting also involved creditors of subsidiary companies such as Tiger Bills Franchise. Kay Possart, of Mayfield, has now been named as liquidator. The administration comes about eight weeks after the company aborted a Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign to raise £500,000 to expand its Burgerfest brand. Lifestyle Hospitality Group had turnover of £6.69m in the year to 31 May 2015 and Ebitda of £800,000. It was crowdfunding to invest £3.5m over five years to expand Burgerfest. The pitch stated: “We are forecasting a steady increase in both sales and profits as the business expands. Over the next three years we forecast the following key financial milestones: year ending May 2016 – turnover £7.91m with pre-tax profits of £791,000; year ending May 2017 – turnover £12.05m with pre-tax profits of £1.76m; year ending May 2018 – turnover £15.6m with pre-tax profits of £2.77m.” Prior to forming the Lifestyle Hospitality Group, Eyre was a main board director of Eldridge Pope where he was responsible for the property portfolio as well as mergers and acquisitions.

Four restaurant brands sign for proposed £8m development in Leeds: Four restaurant brands have signed for a proposed £8m development in Leeds. Coast to Coast and Chiquito, owned by The Restaurant Group, Loungers brand Cosy Club and burrito restaurant Chilango have all put their names to the site. For Chilango, which raised more than £3.4m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last year for expansion, it would be its first site outside London. A planning application has been submitted to Leeds City Council to install four restaurants in the former Next Clearance site on the corner of Bond Street And Albion Street in the city centre. Outdoor dining plans as well as a revamp of the basement and first floor have been submitted by the Leeds office of ID Planning. Next has been at the site for 15 years, and its lease expires in October 2016, at which point it will leave the building, making way for the new development.

County Durham-based pub operator to open pizza restaurant in Barnard Castle: County Durham-based pub operator Thomas Magnay is to open a pizza restaurant in Barnard Castle. Magnay, who took over the Bridge Inn in Whorlton last year and converted it into a classic English country pub called Fernaville’s Rest, is launching Vivace. It will occupy the former community art centre The Nest Art Gallery, which closed earlier this year despite repeated efforts to make it sustainable. Magnay hopes to recreate the Fernaville’s Rest’s success but with an Italian flavour and aims to open the restaurant by Easter. Seating will be arranged around the open plan kitchen with the pizzas prepared in a stone oven. An added feature to the establishment will be a retail side where people can buy international beers and wine. Magnay chose the name Vivace, the Italian for lively, to capture the type of atmosphere he wants to create. He told the Teesdale Mercury: “Fernaville’s is proof that the right atmosphere and the right quality food work. If you build it, people will come.”

Gordon Ramsay Group makes series of key appointments: Gordon Ramsay Group, which has 29 sites, has promoted Stuart Gillies from managing director to chief executive – he will continue to focus on the group’s strategic growth whilst developing the brand’s culture. Taking over from Gillies is Andy Wenlock who will lead on the day-to-day running of the business, with his promotion from operations director to managing director. New appointments include David Kerr joining the company as financial director. He was most recently at Home House and was instrumental in growing the brand’s Ebitda by 66% whilst refinancing the group and raising £23m. Charlie Glynn joins as people director from Harris & Hoole, where she was responsible for building the people function, and embedding a strong culture as the business experienced hyper-growth over a three-year period. Gordon Ramsay said: “It’s a very exciting time at Gordon Ramsay Group and we’ve created some new strategic roles as we enter the next phase of development. I’m very excited for Stuart, who’s been with the group for over a decade and a driving force in our international growth, as well as Andy Wenlock who will excel in the role of managing director. I’m looking forward to working closely with these talented individuals as the group continues to mature and grow.” 

64 Degrees confirmed as food partner at new Bison Beer pub: Bib Gourmand restaurant 64 Degrees has been confirmed as food partner at community-backed pub the Bison Arms in Brighton. Craft beer brewer Bison Beer exceeded its £100,000 Seedrs crowdfunding target – to revive a former Brighton pub and prevent it becoming a Burger King – by more than 50%. Michael Bremner, owner and head chef of 64 Degrees in nearby Meeting House Lane, told LUNA Creative: “64 Degrees has a natural synergy with the Bison Arms. The Bison lads are doing with beer what we do with food. They’ve built an established brand and business within eight months. They want to be progressive and carry people forward with them. That’s what I want for 64 Degrees. We’ll be creating locally sourced, tasty and accessible food to match the local beers on offer. There will be two offerings: a tapas-style menu for the bar and a more wholesome menu for our dining area. We’ll be keeping the same high standards as 64 Degrees but our focus will be around creating food that’s simple, tasty, reasonably priced, and which works in this unique setting.” The Bison Arms is expected to open in March or April.
 
New California-style pizza restaurant concept to open in derelict public toilet in Clapham Common this month: A new California-style pizza restaurant concept will open in a derelict public toilet next to Clapham Common in London this month. Called Joe Public because it will occupy a former public convenience, it is being launched on Saturday, 19 March, by Jayke Mangion and Andy Bell, the same duo behind neighbouring subterranean bar WC, which is also set in a former loo. The restaurant will offer 20-inch pizzas, either whole or by the slice, made California-style with thin bases and lots of toppings, reports the Evening Standard. These will include a fig, gorgonzola, prosciutto and pine nut option and one topped with roasted lamb, purple potato, feta and black olives. It will have 14 diner-style stools to perch on, and also serve grab-and-go slices and whole pizzas from a hatch, presented in boxes designed by local graphic designers and artists. The venue also promises craft beer and wine on tap, as well as live music curated by up-and-coming local musicians. It will serve until midnight daily, while on weekdays it will open at 6.30am to offering bacon, sausage and egg butties along with Caravan coffee.

Carluccio’s hires Shelley Sandzer to lead rent reviews: Agent Shelley Sandzer has been appointed by Carluccio’s to act on all the brand’s rent reviews and lease renewals across the brand’s 98-strong portfolio. Duncan Lillie, managing director of Shelley Sandzer, said: “This instruction from Carluccio’s is a great way to start the year. We are thrilled to be working exclusively on such a high profile and popular brand in a professional capacity. This new appointment highlights our strength and specialist UK wide knowledge of the industry which was perfectly attuned to their specific brief.” Erin Peyman, UK acquisition manager at Carluccio’s, added: “We were looking for a very specialist team to work across our extensive portfolio. The successful company had to have strong contacts and be highly knowledgeable of the various markets across the UK. More importantly, we were seeking a trustworthy and reliable team and we were very impressed with Shelley Sandzer which made our decision to appoint them a simple one.”
 
TGI Friday’s to open 75th UK site in Stevenage: TGI Friday’s is to open its 75th site at the Stevenage Leisure Park in mid-April. The restaurant will seat up to 210 guests at one time and will bring 85 new job opportunities to the local area. The focal point of the new restaurant will be the square standalone “island” bar. David Carroll, property director for TGI Friday’s UK, said: “We’re thrilled to be celebrating this huge milestone for Friday’s by welcoming our 75th restaurant to the UK, located in the extremely popular Stevenage Leisure Park. We have been inundated with enquiries from guests who are extremely excited about the highly anticipated opening, and we can’t wait for them to be able to enjoy that Friday’s feeling in their hometown soon.”
 
BrewDog adds BottleDogs to Dundee and Sheffield sites: BrewDog has added BottleDog offers, with a range of options to take home, to its Dundee and Sheffield sites. Of its Dundee site it stated: “Celebrating its second birthday in the summer, our Dundee bar has been rocking by the banks of the silvery Tay ever since it opened in the historic Chamber Building on the city’s Panmure Street. We have now taken the chance to rework the interior to fully do the bar justice, loading the newly-installed shelves with over 150 amazing craft beer options from around the world. BottleDog Dundee will be open 12pm-10pm every day of the week.” And in regards to its Sheffield site, it stated: “Our Sheffield bar also hits the big zero-two this year – next week, in fact – and so we have given our many fans in that thirstiest of cities an early birthday present. A similarly shelf-busting 150 bottles and cans (plus books, homebrew kits and merchandise) will be in stock. The Sheffield BottleDog opens 4pm-12am Monday to Wednesday, 12pm-12am Thursday and Saturday and 12pm-1am on Friday! Both BottleDogs are just part of the commitment to extending the options for people to enjoy craft beer.”
 
Two directors of liquidated Yorkshire-based pub operator banned for total of 16 years: Two directors of Yorkshire-based pub operator Fountain’s Choice have been banned for a total of 16 years for failing to keep adequate records of the company before and after its liquidation in 2014. Shaun and Deborah Fountain have been given an eight-year ban each following an investigation by the Insolvency Service. The company managed pubs owned solely by Shaun Fountain, including The Regent Hotel, Three Legs, The Three and Tommy Wass, all in Leeds. The business entered into liquidation on 18 November 2014. It was estimated to be in debts of £213,081. The Insolvency Service said due to the failure to ensure adequate records were kept and delivered to liquidators, it has not been able to determine the causes behind the failure of the company. The Insolvency Service said it was also unable to explain why funds of £689,300 were transferred to a related company, net funds of £14,979 were transferred to another related company, and why £15,214 was transferred to an unidentified bank account. Insolvency Service head of company investigation Robert Clarke told The Business Desk: “Directors have a duty to ensure that their companies maintain proper accounting records and, following insolvency, deliver them to the office-holder in the interests of fairness and transparency. Without a full account of transactions it is impossible to determine whether a director has discharged his duties properly, or is using a lack of documentation as a cloak for impropriety.”
 
Good Life Eatery opens third venue – in Belgravia: Health food cafe concept The Good Life Eatery has opened its third venue – in Motcomb Street, Belgravia. The menu features energy-boosting breakfasts and lunches, soups, small plates, superfood salads, warm bowls, shakes, juices and desserts, with dairy and gluten-free, vegan and paleo diets catered for. Breakfast dishes include Paleo Chestnut And Almond Waffles – banana mash, blueberry chia jam, coconut yogurt and hazelnuts – and Skinny Royal – poached eggs, smoked salmon and yogurt saffron sauce on wholegrain sunflower or wheat-free rye. Small plates include baked quinoa and cauliflower falafel with chipotle cashew cream, while desserts include Chocoavo Mousse – dark chocolate, avocado, honey, almond milk, cacao powder, coconut yogurt, cranberry powder, and strawberry. The 35-cover cafe will open from 7.30am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm on Saturdays, and 9am to 6pm on Sundays. The Good Life Eatery has venues in Chelsea and Marylebone, although the latter recently closed until further notice due to flooding.
 
Four restaurant brands lined up for £250m Brighton Marina development: Four restaurant brands are being lined up as part of a £250m development at Brighton Marina. TGI Friday’s and Casa Brasil will take up two of the seven spots in the scheme while Casual Dining Group brands Las Iguanas and Bella Italia are in negotiations to take another two of the units. Casa Brasil is spreading its reach along the south coast with its fourth site after Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Southampton while TGI Friday’s, Las Iguanas and Bella Italia have sites across the UK. Developer Brunswick Developments told The Argus it was a “privilege” to welcome the brands – despite previously promising “bespoke” restaurants. Managing director Andrew Goodall said: “I think these are fantastic operators and they have to go where the demand is. We would love to talk to anyone who wants to put their restaurants down here. We have the space, and if someone like Terre a Terre were interested my door is wide open.” Brunswick Developments said it hopes to have all seven units “signed and open sometime in early to mid-July”.
 
Exeter-based nightclub operators open pizza restaurant next door: A trio who operate a nightclub in Exeter have opened a pizza restaurant next to the site. Paul Matthews, Janice Millgate and Brian Phillips, who run Move in Exeter Quay, have launched Pizza Stein on the site formerly occupied by nightclub Revelry. The site seats up to 100 people with pizzas aimed to be prepared and cooked in less than three minutes. Matthews told the Exeter Express & Echo: “The reason behind Pizza Stein is that we wanted to create a restaurant that would complement the nightclub. What makes us different to other pizza restaurants in the city is that we will be offering Stein lager and beers, which is two pint glasses. The type of beers we have gone for are German and Austrian, giving that real alpine feel.”
 
Prezzo opens Warrington town centre site: Prezzo opened its latest venue – in Warrington town centre on Wednesday (2 March). The former Newlove FM station in Old Fish Market has been converted into a 126-cover restaurant over two floors, with an outside seating area and private party space. The venue will open from midday to 11pm, with the move creating 20 jobs. Prezzo manager Justyna Oktaba told the Warrington Guardian: “I am confident that it will prove popular and be a great addition to the social and eating-out scene in Warrington.” Prezzo operates more than 200 restaurants across the UK, with the nearest sites in Manchester city centre, Salford Quays and Cheshire Oaks.

Food-on-the-go firm Fatso’s invests £1m in new sites and headquarters: Food on-the-go firm Fatso’s is investing more than £1m to develop new stores to sell “hot, healthy and gluten-free menu choices” to keep up with the “ever-evolving food-to-go market”. The Teeside-based company has also submitted plans to Stockton Council to turn a site in Billingham into company headquarters, with areas for staff training and product development. Fatso’s managing director Rocky Andrews, a former contestant on BBC show The Apprentice, said the company had sold 20 million sandwiches since opening its first venue in Stokesley in 2003. The company now employs 150 staff at sites across Teesside and the north east, with other venues in Leeds and Manchester city centres. Andrews told Gazette Live: “We’re looking to build on what we’ve achieved so far. The headquarters will help us develop new products and provide us with a training facility for staff and management to make sure we stay ahead of the game and continue to plan effectively for the future. We believe we can create over 100 jobs across Teesside within the next three years – just as we did with Fatso’s when we first started out.”
 
Pieminister opens Nottingham site: Pie specialist Pieminister has launched in Nottingham. Pieminister has invested £300,000 in redeveloping a unit at 57 Long Row that was previously occupied by high street pharmacy chain Boots. Co-founder Jon Simon said Bristol-based Pieminister’s roots can also be traced back to Nottingham. The former Nottingham Trent University student met his business partner Tristan Hogg through fellow undergraduate Romany, who is now his wife. “Our years as Nottingham students were some of the best and to be back in the city feels fantastic,” Simon said. “The social scene seems just as lively as we remember and we hope that the city’s students, shoppers, workers and families will all pop in for a pie. Whether it’s for a quick lunch with work mates, a weekend feast with family or a pie and a cocktail on a night out, we’ve got it covered.” The site will provide space for 146 diners.
 
Operator sought for flagship Woking hotel: JLL Hotels and Hospitality has been appointed to find an operator for the new 190-bed, four-star hotel within Victoria Square in Woking, Surrey. Victoria Square is a comprehensive mixed-use development on land to the west of Wolsey Place shopping centre. JLL was appointed to identify and select an operator by Bandstand Square Developments, a tri-partite venture between Moyallen, Woking Borough Council and Surrey County Council. In addition to the new hotel, the proposals for Victoria Square include 125,000 square foot of new retail floor space anchored by a 60,000 square foot Marks & Spencer store; 392 residential apartments in two towers of 30 and 34 storeys; space for a medical centre; 284 additional car parking spaces; and two new public plazas. Moyallen managing director Peter Robinson said: “This prestigious development is an excellent opportunity for a leading hotel brand to secure a flagship site in one of the most rapidly developing towns in the UK.”
 
Revolution to open Revolución de Cuba site in Liverpool at end of June: Revolution Bars Group is to open a Revolución de Cuba in Liverpool towards the end of June this year. The company is investing £1.8m in the 7,600 square foot site at the Albert Dock. Once open, the bar will employ about 100 staff. Mark McQuater, chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, told The Business Desk: “It is right on the dock, right by our existing Revolution bar, and it has a big outdoor area.” 
 
Ambassador Theatre Group to open bistro in Manchester Palace: Ambassador Theatre Group will transform the Revue Bar at Manchester Palace Theatre into a bistro. The Oxford St Bistro will seat about 60 for pre-show dining at the city centre venue and will overlook Oxford Street, with the bar relocated to the rear including additional seating for pre-show and interval drinks. The menu will feature sharing platters, burgers, pizzas, curries, and classic bangers and mash, similar to menus at Ambassador Theatre Group’s new bistros at the Liverpool Empire and Bristol Hippodrome. Stacey Broadmeadow, Palace Theatre manager, told the Manchester Evening News: “We’ll be offering a pre-theatre menu that will let people relax during their meal knowing their theatre seat is just moments away. We’re really excited about this new development and feel that, like other recent additions at the Palace Theatre such as The Stage Door Bar, it will enhance the theatre-going experience for our patrons.” Ambassador Theatre Group owns and operates 46 venues in the UK.
 
Staffordshire-based juice and superfood bar concept set to open second site: Staffordshire-based juice and superfood bar concept RAWR is set to start expanding by opening its second site. The concept, launched in Newcastle-under-Lyme last year by Gemma Bloor and Steve Armstrong, is opening the new venue in the Hanley area of Stoke. It has secured a site off Piccadilly in the Cultural Quarter and has now launched a £10,000 fund-raising campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to pay for equipment for the site, which is expected to open in June. Armstrong told the Stoke Sentinel: “We want to take what we have already in Newcastle to Hanley. We picked the Cultural Quarter because we are different and we wanted to be part of what is already there.” The pitch states: “We now have enough funds to get the ball rolling with Hanley but we still need more to complete the project to the standard that not only we strive for but also our customers!” 

New Nepalese cafe concept launches in Crawley: A new Nepalese cafe concept, Blazian Lounge, has launched in Crawley, West Sussex, and also features night-time entertainment. Husband-and-wife team Adrian and Sushnita Joseph prepare speciality dishes such as Nepalese-style steamed dumplings and offer church services, art exhibitions and live music. The venue in The Broadway also offers breakfasts, sandwiches and pasta, rice and noodle dishes. Sushnita Joseph told the Crawley News: “We realised there was an opportunity to trial the Nepalese food I grew up eating because we couldn’t find anywhere else selling these dishes.”
 
Rum Kitchen to open third site and biggest to date in Brixton this month: London-based Caribbean food and cocktail concept Rum Kitchen will open its third site and biggest to date in Brixton this month. The company is launching the restaurant in Coldharbour Lane on the site formerly occupied by Brixton Cycles. In the kitchen, a mix of charcoal and wood fired ovens, a custom grill and a smoker will turn out items including jerk chicken, chilli cheeseburgers and island spiced baby squid. Ross Clarke, who previously worked for Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck and has developed Rum Kitchen’s new menu, told the Evening Standard: “Brixton will become our big boy restaurant. It will be 2,500 square feet – around three times the size of our other sites. Rum will continue to play a big part, and not just at the bar. Every dish will be matched with three cocktails – one strong, one sour and one fruity, to suit all tastes.” The company’s two other restaurants are in All Saints Road in Notting Hill and Carnaby Street.
 
Bill’s Restaurants in-house dressings creator hits crowdfunding target in just three days: Lucy’s Dressings, which was approached by Bill’s Restaurants 18 months ago to create its in-house dressings, has hit its £75,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to develop its products and expand its users base in just three days. 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, 78 investors have pledged £103,480 and it is now “overfunding” with 24 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £35,000. 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. 
 
Hornblower’s owners pull out of beachfront expansion: Alex and Ruth Grahame, who own the award-winning Hornblower’s restaurant and takeaway in Gourdon, have pulled out of plans to open a fish restaurant, takeaway and 1950s-style ice-cream parlour on Aberdeen beachfront. The couple proposed to breathe new life into a former Jimmy Chung’s site destroyed by a blaze in February 2014. Alex Grahame told the Evening Express: “For a project that started over two years ago, the lack of progress on-site has been a major concern of ours for some time. We have invested considerable time and resources into building a team of professionals to assist us in planning our beachfront restaurant in Aberdeen to the high quality and standards that we are renowned for. A venture that would have created more than 50 full-time jobs and continued our support for local fish and shellfish. We wanted to give the north-east public a venue that they were proud of and we weren’t prepared to compromise.”
 
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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