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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 16th Mar 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

SIBA – brewing industry in confident mood as four out of five brewers predict turnover increase in 2016: The brewing industry is in confident mood with four out of five brewers expecting their turnover to increase in 2016. According to the Beer Report 2016, published today (Wednesday, 16 March) by The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), one out of six breweries are also making ambitious plans to double turnover by 2018. The report, based on a survey of members, paints a confident picture for the brewing industry. As well as growing volumes with SIBA members brewing 532 million pints in 2015, its membership has also increased with 49 breweries joining in the past 12 months to take the total to 850. While traditional cask beer still makes up the majority of the beer being brewed by its members, there is a growing demand for quality beer in other formats such as bottle, can and keg. Currently just over a quarter of SIBA’s members produce some keg beer. The report also showed brewers are increasing the number of beers they brew regularly. In 2014, 29% were brewing seven regular beers or more, but in 2015 this grew to 34%. In addition to the regular brews, one in four breweries brew more than ten seasonal beers a year. It also revealed despite SIBA members selling over 80% of their beer within a 40-mile radius, 16.8% are now exporting, with an additional 53.6% stating they want to export in the future. It seems the renewed popularity of beer is also leading to a renewed confidence among those running craft breweries, which SIBA said means more jobs being created in the industry over the next 12 months. 73% of independent brewers said they expect to recruit at least one new employee over the next 12 months, which equates to 930 jobs being created solely by its members by next year. SIBA managing director Mike Benner said: “More and more drinkers are discovering the huge range of fantastic beer brewed by Britain’s independent craft brewers. SIBA’s members brewed 532 million pints in 2015 and this demand for quality, locally brewed beer has helped our membership grow to 850 brewers, approximately 60% of all breweries in Britain. Although the majority of our members’ beer is brewed in cask (78.9% in 2015), it is exciting to see that more production is planned for excellent, flavoursome beer brewed in keg, bottle and can in 2016 (predicted 23.4%). These formats now allow independent brewers the opportunity to offer great beer to new markets that may not have a cellar, such as bars, restaurants and hotels. It is definitely an exciting time for Britain’s independent breweries. The range of styles now available is staggering and we’re seeing our members lead the way in expanding what people think of when they envisage ‘British beer’ – with everything from sour Belgian styles and powerfully hopped American style IPAs, to English classics such as barley wine and imperial stout being brewed in the UK right now.”

Industry News:

More that 350 to attend Propel Multi Club Conference today: More than 350 people are booked in to attend the Propel Multi Club Conference today (Wednesday, 16 March), which takes place at a new venue, the Congress Centre, Congress Hall, 28 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS. Speakers include leading executives from Horizons, Just Eat, Downing, Al Tayer Hospitality, Punch, Burger & Lobster, Bill’s, New Moon Pub Company and London Union. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “This is our tenth Propel Multi Club Conference and has another great speaker line-up. The event was sold-out a month ago, which is an indication of operators’ interest in hearing about the latest market developments in these ultra-competitive times.”

CGA – festive footfall down, spending up: Visits to pubs, bars and restaurants fell over the crucial Christmas period, CGA Strategy’s new survey of December trading reveals – but spending increased. The research found visits to the UK’s on-trade were down by 9% on the same period in 2014 – a substantial decline that reflects changing consumer habits, flooding in some areas, and competition from other leisure activities, led by the new Star Wars film. Key trading periods were particularly badly hit, with the weekend of what is now known as “Mad Friday” seeing 4.2 million fewer visits in 2015, possibly following negative media coverage. But CGA Strategy’s Trading Index also showed customers spent considerably more on average when they went out, leading to year-on-year growth of 2.9% in value terms. Sales on Christmas Day, up by 3.7% year-on-year, were particularly strong. CGA Strategy’s figures chime with separate data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which identified solid trading in the two weeks over Christmas and New Year following a sluggish start to December. Over the six weeks to 3 January, the Tracker showed managed pub and bar businesses saw a 3.1% rise in sales against the same period a year earlier. The research indicates nearly one in three consumers visited a Christmas market in 2015, with 1.2 million people going to a pop-up bar – a sign of the strong competition that street food and drink operators are bringing to the eating and drinking out markets. CGA Strategy’s study also revealed significant changes in consumer behaviour at Christmas. They include a decline in pub and bar visits over the festive season from a valuable and engaged demographic that CGA terms “the avoider”. A second consumer type is “the celebrator”, who ordinarily tend to drink less and are disengaged with brands, but who visit pubs and bars more often at Christmas. The third is “the reliable”, a generally young demographic who visits pubs and bars regularly, and slightly more often over Christmas. CGA Strategy’s client services director Rachel Perryman said: “Slower footfall made it a challenging Christmas for pub and bar businesses, but they emerged from it with decent sales growth. Our research shows the complexity of the festive market and how consumer behaviour varies over the festive season. It means operators need to be sure what their customers want from their experiences and tailor their sales and marketing strategies accordingly.”
Itsu delivery app crashes after introductory discount offer goes viral: Healthy Asian food chain Itsu’s new delivery service – Itsu [to you] – was suspended during its first week after a £10 introductory discount offer went viral and crashed the app. Thousands tried to use the voucher codes to claim free food at restaurants – but they were only valid for lunchtime deliveries to five postcode areas in south London, the Evening Standard reports. In a series of tweets Itsu, created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, admitted it had been overwhelmed and had suspended the service “until our sushi cops investigate”. One tweet stated: “This promotion was intended for Itsu [to you] delivery only and unfortunately not our shops, meaning we have overloaded!” Many customers vented their frustration on social media. One tweeted: “Which number should I call to cancel my existing itsutoyou order? The Itsu app is just causing too much trouble.” An Itsu spokeswoman said the app had now been fixed. Itsu [to you], a start-up subsidiary under the Itsu brand, is led by the company’s former head of marketing Celeste Tobias-Metcalfe. Itsu plans to widen availability to a lunch and evening service, with ambitious plans to expand across London and other cities in the coming months.
Fearnley-Whittingstall slams Starbucks and Costa for ‘misleading’ single-use sustainability claims: Celebrity TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has criticised Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee and Starbucks for “misleading” claims surrounding the sustainability of their single-use coffee cups. About 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the UK every year, according to Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage website. The chef said Simply Cups was the only UK company with a specialist facility to recycle single-use coffee cups but handled “less than 0.25% of the cups we throw away”. The chef told Resource: “Costa claims to have ‘the most environmentally friendly coffee cup in the world’, but do not explain on what basis they make this claim. They do send some cups to Simply Cups – but our calculations suggest it’s less than 1%. I invite Costa to prove they are doing better than that. I believe they are using a tiny commitment to Simply Cups to justify statements that are basically greenwash. Starbucks claim on their website they are ‘on track’ with their goal to ‘make 100% of our cups reusable or recyclable by 2015’. In fact, Starbucks are not even a client of Simply Cups.” Costa and Starbucks have been asked to discuss the problem on the chef’s BBC series War On Waste. River Cottage said Costa had refused and Starbucks agreed, although a date had yet to be set for the interview.
BBPA signs sustainability commitment: The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has signed the Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP) Courtauld Commitment 2025, a world-leading voluntary agreement that brings together organisations across the food system – from producer to consumer – to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable. The BBPA has supported each of the earlier phases of the Courtauld Commitment. Alongside 89 other signatories, from major supermarkets to local authorities, and organisations such as the British Hospitality Association and the British Retail Consortium, the BBPA has agreed to support the delivery of the three following commitments: A 20% reduction in food and drink waste arising in the UK; a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity of food and drink consumed in the UK; and a reduction in impact associated with water use in the supply chain. As part of this commitment, the BBPA will be sharing best practice amongst its membership and working with WRAP to ensure its research is well targeted and communicated through the supply chain. Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, said: “In the UK today, for every two tonnes of food consumed, one tonne is wasted, and with projections for two billion more mouths to feed across the globe by 2050, it’s easy to see why the commitments agreed to in Courtauld 2025 are so important. Working with WRAP to identify new actions and opportunities to save resources, as the BBPA and all other signatories will do, can help to put the UK on track to reduce food waste by half, in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.”
ALMR – wage increases must provide affordability and transparency: Following the announcement of the new levels of the National Minimum Wage, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has called for the government to provide clarification on future wage rate increases to ensure stability and affordability for businesses. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Costs are continuing to increase and this wage rise, although expected, still represents an above-inflation hike that will place additional pressure on businesses. If businesses are to have any chance of absorbing these costs then we need time to allow these increases to settle in. That means no additional increases to the rate of either National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage until businesses have adjusted to this change. The next review of rates by the Low Pay Commission must be conducted in the round and the dates of changes aligned going forward. We cannot continue to have two dates for different rates. The government has stated that it is considering synching the rates of both the minimum and living wages. Confirmation of when this is likely to occur will provide employers with some stability and transparency and it would be sensible for this to be an April change. By delaying any further increases in the rate of National Minimum Wage until April 2018, and synching the rates at that time, we can avoid a situation whereby we have two increases in a short space of time to help provide stability for businesses.”
Decline in party-goers sees nightclub fees removed from inflation basket: A decline in party-goers has prompted Britain’s statistics office to remove nightclub entry fees from the basket of items used to calculate the official inflation rate. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) told the Daily Telegraph several high-profile nightclubs, including the Astoria in Soho and Plastic People in Shoreditch, had closed, while a raft of others had removed entry fees. The ONS said this had made it harder for it to collect prices. Phil Gooding, an ONS statistician, said: “With the number of nightclubs charging entry declining, we can no longer justify keeping these fees in the basket.” Nearly half of nightclubs have closed during the past decade, according to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers. Pub hot and cold snacks have also been removed in the annual shake-up of the consumer prices index basket. New items in the basket include cream liqueur, coffee pods, meat-based snacks and restaurant main course (which replaces two separate categories).
Surge in fast-casual restaurant concepts driving up rent levels in US: The surge in fast-casual restaurant concepts in the US is driving up rent levels because they are clamouring over the same size sites. The proliferation of fast-casual chains in recent years has intensified competition, and not just for customers. Many of these concepts are looking for similar sites: 2,000 square feet to 3,500 square feet of leased properties in urban areas and shopping centres. Even concepts that once filled larger spaces are targeting those types of locations. The intensified demand for these sites is driving up the price many companies pay in rent because landlords can pick and choose which concept they want to go into a development. Jeff Mills, managing partner with San Francisco-based private-equity group Main Post Partners, told Nation’s Restaurant News “rents per square foot are the highest they’ve ever been” for 2,500 square foot to 3,500 square foot sites, particularly in hot markets. Perry Jones, vice-president of real estate for Dallas-based Rave Restaurant Group, estimated, on average, lease rates have risen 10% to 15%, compared with the previous year. He added: “Every deal I’m looking at, there are one or two other pizza guys and half a dozen other fast-casual concept guys. It’s a little bit of a Wild West kind of experience right now.” According to market research firm NPD Group, the number of fast-casual sites increased by 5% in 2015, to 19,043 from 18,176 a year earlier. The total restaurant count over that time decreased slightly. 

Company News:

Bill’s to launch Bill’s Academy apprenticeship programme: This spring, Bill’s Restaurants is launching its first dedicated Bill’s Academy apprenticeship programme, which will offer industry-recognised level two hospitality diplomas to 250 chefs and front-of-house staff to progress and enrich their careers at the company. The scheme is a new concept for Bill’s and will run in addition to the restaurant group’s extensive training and development programme. Apprentices will be nominated internally by Bill’s restaurant managers across the UK. Those selected will be enrolled in the year-long course, which starts at the end of March. An official Bill’s graduation ceremony will take place next year in Lewes, East Sussex, where Bill’s Restaurants was established by Bill Collison, who started out as a greengrocer. The course will be mainly taught by Bill’s internal instructors, most of whom are longtime Bill’s employees, as well as Collison himself, who will host classes on heritage and food passion. Classes will take place at various venues across the UK. The diploma covers topics such as hospitality retail, drinks knowledge, and general food courses such as breakfast, mezze and dessert. Although currently open to internal staff only, Bill’s has plans to extend the academy to external candidates next year. Bill’s head of people development Lucy Craig said: “Everyone at Bill’s is part of a hard-working and close team, which we’re really proud of. We want to continue nurturing and encouraging our staff to achieve great success, and as such launching the Bill’s Academy is our chance to show how serious we are about giving people the best training possible.” Collison added: “This is an exciting new venture for Bill’s. The people who work for us are a huge part of who we are and the Bill’s Academy is an innovative way of reinforcing and building on the high standards our customers expect.” Bill’s currently employs nearly 3,000 staff across 72 sites, serving an average of 145,600 people a week across the UK.

Nick Knowles becomes co-owner of vegan cafe in Shrewsbury: Television presenter Nick Knowles has become co-owner of a vegan cafe in Shrewsbury. Knowles, who fronts BBC1 show DIY SOS, has invested in O’Joy in Wyle Cop after hearing about the cafe while attending a hot yoga class at My Soul Space, another business in the Shropshire town. He said the vegan cafe, which was known as Optimum Joy before a recent refurbishment that has seen it open as a bistro at night and launch a takeaway menu, chimed with his own eating habits. He told the Shropshire Star: “Optimum Joy is not here to bully you into being healthy, we’re here to help. Let’s face it, if a 16-stone, six-foot two-inch rugby playing builder like me can get healthy and enjoy the food then who can’t?” Becky Porter, who originally opened the cafe in 2013, added: “Nick had been filming DIY SOS in Ludlow, and because he had been to a retreat in Thailand where he developed his passion for healthy food, My Soul Space recommended he come and eat with us. We got chatting and discovered our shared passion, and we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for the business if Nick got involved.”
D&D London eyes Manchester site: Restaurant operator D&D London is eyeing a site in Manchester. The company is understood to be in talks to take up a prime spot in the No 1 Spinningfields tower being built in Hardman Square, reports the Manchester Evening News. Plans for the redeveloped Quay House include a rooftop bar, restaurant and terrace on the top floor of the 19-storey building, as well as more restaurant and cafe space at ground level. The £73m project is currently under construction and is due to be completed next year. It is understood the Manchester restaurant would be a new brand. A D&D spokeswoman confirmed it was looking in Manchester but declined to reveal any more details. D&D already owns and operates 35 restaurants in London, Leeds and overseas. Two of them, Launceston Place and Angler, have Michelin stars.
JD Wetherspoon has plans for €4m pub and hotel in Dublin put on hold: JD Wetherspoon has had its plans for a new €4m pub and hotel in Dublin put on hold because of concerns there may be an over-concentration of pubs in the area. The company is planning to develop the former homeless hostel at Camden Hall that is part of a wider plan to open 30 pubs in Ireland over the next five years. But following a number of objections from local residents against the plan, which includes a 98-bedroom hotel, Dublin City Council has requested further information from JD Wetherspoon. The council said it has “concerns in relation to the over-concentration of bars and restaurants on Camden Street”. The council has asked JD Wetherspoon to justify the reduction in the number of hotel bedrooms it proposes and submit a map showing the number of existing bars in Camden Street and Wexford Street in order to establish if there is an over-concentration in the area.
Juice bar and healthy food concept SHOT opens in St Paul’s: Cold-pressed juice bar and healthy food concept SHOT has launched in St Paul’s, London. SHOT – which stands for simple, healthy, organic, tasty – features a menu that comes with a list of guidelines, ensuring all ingredients are chemical-free, have no refined sugars, and are organic and unprocessed, reports Hot Dinners. Offerings include baked sweet potato and quinoa falafel with cauliflower rice, and tabouleh salad and cucumber with tahini mint yogurt dressing. Meat dishes include spicy chicken pho made from house-made bone broth and sous-vide chicken, alongside gluten-free sweet potato, buckwheat noodles and super-food smoothies. SHOT is the brainchild of former music director and DJ Asad Naqvi and ex-City worker Rahil Malik. The venue in Bride Lane will also host consultations for City workers who want to make their lunches as healthy as possible.

Hush replaces Silver Room with 1960s-style steak, lobster and whisky concept: Hush, the Mayfair restaurant and cocktail bar founded by Jamie Barber, has created a new dining space on its first floor to replace The Silver Room. Blades at Hush specialises in steaks, lobster and hand-crafted whiskies, which can be sipped neat, sampled in a range of whisky “flights” or enjoyed in a Blades Tipple, such as The Bowler, mixed tableside. As well as steak and lobster, Hush starters feature whisky-cured salmon with sourdough and lemon, while alternative main dishes include white truffle tortellini with truffle cream. Desserts feature whisky and brown butter brioche pudding. The room has been inspired by “the Mayfair of a bygone era, the chic 1960s dining rooms when Mayfair was the place to go”. The name Blades is a nod to James Bond character M’s private club. Barber said this reflected his “long-standing ethos that Hush is a private members’ club without the membership fee”. Barber launched Hush in 1999 and has since co-founded Brazilian barbecue brand Cabana.
All-day market food concept Farmer J to launch in Leadenhall: All-day market food concept Farmer J is set to launch in Leadenhall in London in May. Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati has promised City workers “wholesome, balanced, but above all tasty, fast food”, with seasonal ingredients sourced from high-welfare farms based in the UK wherever possible. Set meals at the 40-cover venue will consist of chargrilled meat and fish served with grains, roasted vegetables and salads, all infused with Mediterranean flavours. The breakfast menu will include protein smoothies, paleo granola pots and baked shakshuka (an Israeli twist on poached eggs), alongside cold-pressed juices. The venue will also offer take-out boxes. Recanati said: “At Farmer J, we’ll serve up food that’s good for you, is ready when you are, doesn’t leave you hungry (and) doesn’t require a mortgage.”
Devon boutique hotel on the market for £1.1m: Agent Savills, on behalf of a private client, is selling Browns boutique hotel in Dartmouth, in the South Hams region of south Devon, for a guide price of £1.1m. The four-storey boutique hotel offers eight en-suite bedrooms, a wine bar, restaurant and a three-bedroom owner’s flat, which may be suitable for conversion to further letting accommodation, subject to the necessary planning consents. Located in Victoria Street, the property is less than 150 metres from Dartmouth Harbour. South Hams remains a popular tourist destination, with 2.45 million overnight stays per annum and a total annual visitor spend of £114.2m. Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, said: “This established townhouse hotel offers numerous income streams and has a particularly buoyant trade during the summer months, thanks to Dartmouth’s appeal as a tourist destination. This is supplemented out of season by a strong local trade in the popular wine bar and restaurant.”
Ilkley venue sees food sales rise 85% as Twisted Burger Company sells 5,000 burgers within two months of launching residency: Twisted Burger Company has sold 5,000 burgers within two months of launching its residency at The Yard in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, which has seen its food sales rise by 85%. Among the burgers on offer are Holy Cluck (chicken, jalapeno, chorizo and guacamole), Hallouminati (red pepper, halloumi cheese and salsa), plus its signature Pig Daddy Kane (double beef, pulled pork, special, “dead twisted” barbecue sauce and chorizo). Ali Allawa, from The Yard, said: “Since we launched the new concept we have seen an unprecedented demand for these mouth-watering burgers with food sales up by 85% and expected to rise to 150% by the summer. Plus the outstanding reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook pays testament as to why people keep coming back!” To mark the 5,000-burger milestone, The Yard will be offering all of its “Main Attraction” burgers for £5 from Sunday, 20 March to Thursday, 24 March, although the offer must be pre-booked. 
Nottingham’s 200 Degrees secures Birmingham site: Nottingham-based specialist coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has secured a site in Birmingham. The company, which has a venue in Nottingham’s Flying Horse Walk and is due to launch a cafe in the city’s train station in the spring, will open at The Grand in Colmore Row. It has agreed a ten-year lease on a 1,500 square foot unit at an annual rent of £90,000 with the landlord Hortons’ Estate. As well as serving fresh ground coffee, the new site, which is expected to open in late May, will feature a 16-seat barista school and meeting room. Set up in 2012 by friends Tom Vincent and Rob Darby, 200 Degrees roasts its own beans, which it supplies to cafes and restaurants around the UK, as well as supplying equipment, such as commercial espresso machines. Vincent said: “There’s a vibrant coffee scene in Birmingham with a number of good independent operators, who have raised the bar in terms of the quality of coffee being served and the overall customer experience. We believe we can bring something different to the city and we’re looking forward to sharing our knowledge and love of coffee when we open our new shop at The Grand in early summer.” Ben Tebbutt, director at agent FHP, which acquired the store on behalf of 200 Degrees, said: “The Birmingham acquisition is just the start of what will be an exceptionally busy few years of growth for 200 Degrees.” FHP was appointed by 200 Degrees in December to find new sites across the UK for its artisanal coffee house offer.
New American-themed sports bar and club opening in Brixton on Friday: A new American-themed sports bar and club is opening in Brixton, south London, on Friday (18 March). The BXT Frat House is launching in Brixton Road on the site of the Dahlak Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant. It will show a spectrum of live sport while “cheerleader waitresses” serve burgers, ribs, fries, slaw, and eight-pint kegs of beer and cocktails, reports the Brixton Buzz. There will also be ping pong tables, pool tables and table foosball throughout the venue. At 10pm, the bar will become a nightclub with table service, live performances and DJs until 3am. Its Facebook page said: “Our cheerleader waitresses would be happy to serve you in our private area The Patron Den. A cool basement with private patron bar, exclusive patron cocktail menu, private projector for live sport, and PS4. With every inch of the walls masterfully decorated with graffiti art, you can turn on the UV cannons and transform the room into the ultimate private club.”

Steamin’ Billy Brewing launches pub at Leicester Racecourse: Leicestershire-based brewer and retailer Steamin’ Billy Brewing, led by Billy Allingham, has opened a pub at Leicester Racecourse. The Winning Post had been closed for a number of years but now becomes the 12th pub in the company’s portfolio. The pub, which is located in the Premier Stand, will be open on race days, with the next meeting on Friday, 8 April, at the start of the flat-racing season. The company described The Winning Post as a “quirky, equestrian-themed bar”, with stools made from saddles and decorated with old wine cases.

Entrepreneur buys back Leeds restaurant: A director at Yorkshire restaurant brand Mumtaz Food has reacquired a Leeds restaurant. Rab Nawaz, the younger brother of millionaire Mumtaz Food founder Mumtaz Khan, has bought restaurant The Chandeliers back into the fold. The 250-seater restaurant at Leeds Dock was initially launched in March 2009. It covered 10,000 square feet and Mumtaz had undertaken a £3.3m fit out, creating 50 jobs on opening. Fast-forward to 2012 and the restaurant had been placed under new management, with a new name – The Chandeliers – while still serving Mumtaz food. The deal sees the return of a milestone site for the business, as it was the first Leeds offering from the Bradford-based brand. Nawaz is currently refurbishing the restaurant, having held a pivotal role in its initial fit out. He told The Business Desk: “Mumtaz Leeds was really a labour of love for me all those years ago and, whilst we had to make some hard decisions at the height of the recession, I never stopped believing the restaurant could be a huge success.” Mumtaz Food was launched by Khan in 1978 in Bradford as a takeaway. He grew the business from scratch, and now has a flagship restaurant in Great Horton Road. The business supplies Harrods, as well as Fortnum & Mason, and exports to more than 30 countries.
18th century Lancashire coaching inn goes on market: Ye Horns Inn, an 18th century pub in Goosnargh, near Preston, has been brought to market. Available freehold, Christie & Co is seeking offers of about £700,000 for the pub, which has been under family ownership since 1952. The coaching inn has been extended to include an outdoor seating area and barn conversion housing six en-suite rooms. The pub itself consists of a parlour bar and three dining rooms, plus a function room and meeting room on the first floor. Planning permission has been obtained to extend the restaurant. An additional ten-acre parcel of land is also available. Keith Stringer, Christie & Co associate director, said: “The continued success of independent operators such as Ribble Valley Inns and the recent acquisition of Haighton Manor by Brunning & Price have highlighted the popularity of the area.”
British Raj restaurant concept opens in Kensington: A new Indian restaurant inspired by the British Raj has opened in Kensington, west London. Raj of Kensington offers dishes such as Ajwani Jingha (tandoori-style jumbo prawns), a dish that originated in Jaipur, and Achari Hiran, a venison dish created in Bhopal. Owner Salim Sheikh has a background in fine dining and has “opened his personal wine cellar” for use at the restaurant in Abingdon Road. The restaurant will also offer a takeaway facility and feature gin-style cocktails using Jodhpur gin. The venue’s website states: “We bring you some of the finest regional cuisines of India, with dishes made popular during the Raj era.”
Prezzo opens restaurant at £60m complex in Hinckley: Italian restaurant brand Prezzo has opened its venue at the £60m Crescent shopping complex in Hinckley, Leicestershire. The £600,000 venue joins companies including Sainsbury’s, Cineworld and traditional ale and cider house Elbow Room at the complex, which has been developed by Tin Hat Partnership. Prezzo spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Hinckley Times: “We are confident that our restaurant will be a great addition to the town’s dining scene. Prezzo has an excellent reputation for the quality and choice of its food and we believe the restaurant will prove popular with a wide range of people in the town.” 

Wadworth consolidates brewery sites, builds shire horse stables: Brewer and retailer Wadworth has invested £600,000 to consolidate its brewery facilities in Devizes, Wiltshire, including a new stable for its three shire horses. The move is part of a long-term investment plan that began four years ago. The Wadworth shire horses – Max, Monty and Archie – are among the last remaining horses used by a British brewer. Wadworth’s wine and spirits facility has been moved across town to the main site to further streamline the distribution process, while the hand-painted pub sign shop has also been relocated, meaning all aspects of the business are now in one location, close to the visitor centre. Chris Welham, Wadworth chief executive, said: “The consolidation of the two sites is something we have been working towards and now the transition is complete, we can benefit from operating a more efficient brewery and distribution system. The last stage of the investment was to move our horses, and they are now settled and enjoying their new environment.” As well as the brewery, family-run Wadworth operates 240 pubs across the southern part of England.

Whitbread secures licence for Premier Inn at Arndale Centre site in Leeds: Whitbread-owned Premier Inn has secured a premises licence for its proposed 96-bedroom Premier Inn in Headingley, Leeds. The licence was granted as applied for by Leeds City Council’s licensing committee during a hearing on Tuesday (15 March) for the proposed conversion of former office block Arndale House, above the Arndale Centre, to which residential objections were received. Last month, Whitbread agreed a 25-year lease with stock-market developer Town Centre Securities to create a 136-bedroom Premier Inn at its Whitehall Riverside scheme within the growing West End business district of Leeds.
North Devon-based pop-up pizza company lodges plans for first permanent site: North Devon-based pop-up pizza company Stoned has lodged plans for its first permanent site. The concept, launched three years ago by 20-year-old Tom Honey, has found success creating and cooking custom pizzas at campsites every summer. Now Honey, who set up his first business at the age of 16 selling ice-cream in Lee Bay, has submitted plans to transform the former Devon Made shop in Exeter Road, Braunton, into his first restaurant, which he aims to open in May. Honey has also been working with a former pastry chef at a two-Michelin star restaurant to expand Stoned’s offer, including hand-made pastry treats, sandwiches and soups. He told the North Devon Journal: “I thought going from nothing to the pop-ups I learned so much, but there is so much more to learn when setting up the shop. It is a different league but it is really exciting at the same time.”
Costa and Harvester scoop family friendly awards: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee won Best Family Friendly Cafe at the Tommy’s Awards for the third year in a row, while Mitchells & Butlers brand Harvester won the Best Family Restaurant category for a fourth year running. The awards, nominated and voted for by the public, recognise the UK’s best family friendly companies. This year 44,688 votes were cast, double the amount of votes received last year, with winners announced at a ceremony at the Landmark Hotel, London. Jane Brewin, Tommy’s chief executive, said: “We believe it is important to express our gratitude to those companies who go the extra mile. Being a mum-to-be or parents is tough enough and all the companies, both the shortlist and winners, do that.” Now in its 21st year, the Tommy’s Awards recognise heroes of families who have been touched by pregnancy complications or the loss of a baby. Tommy’s funds medical research into the prevention of premature birth, stillbirth and miscarriage.
New benefit for Propel Premium subscribers: Subscribers to Propel’s Premium service will receive a new benefit from this week – access to a new 30-minute audio recording every fortnight featuring a leading sector executive. The service will launch this Friday featuring the interview conducted by Propel managing director Paul Charity with sector investor Luke Johnson at the Casual Dining Show, discussing the economy, the pizza market, his investment strategy, and sector multiples. Recordings will be sent to subscribers once a fortnight. Operators, drinks companies, law firms, accountants, distributors and marketing firms have been among the first companies that have signed up to receive the Propel Premium subscription service, which launched at the start of 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 receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each day, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. Subscribers 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, 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
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

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