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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 23rd Mar 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King Leisure Tracker – greater economic uncertainty and wet weather dampens leisure spend in February: Greater economic uncertainty and the wet weather is behind the drop in leisure spend in February, according to the latest Greene King Leisure Spend Tracker. Total leisure spend in London and the south east was down 9% equating to a £20 fall in spend by the average household, compared with the same period last year. Greater economic uncertainty in the UK and abroad is likely to be a driver of this increased caution. The total leisure spend for those outside London and the south east fell by £12 – £8 less than those in London and the south east. In February, the average British household spent £181 on out-of-home leisure, a 2% decline in spending compared with January, but a 7% fall year-on-year. Eating out fell 4% or £3 year-on-year and by £2 (3%) month-on-month, while drinking out fell £3 or 7% year-on-year but stayed broadly the same month-on-month. Other leisure spend, which includes theatre, cinema and sporting events, as well as museum, casino and bowling trips, was responsible for the majority of the fall with £8 (11%) year-on-year and £5 (7%) month-on-month. Households in London and the south east reduced other leisure spend by £10, or 12%, and households with children reduced their spending by as much as £15, or 15%, year-on-year. The wet weather throughout the month, including during half term, appears to have dampened enthusiasm for wider leisure events. However, despite a lack of confidence in the economic outlook, particularly among those in the capital, further data from the tracker indicates the UK’s younger population remains optimistic about its financial future. Over 68% of 25 to 34-year-olds said their household financial situation is the same or better than it was five years ago. Over three quarters of the same age group felt their household’s overall financial situation is likely to be the same or better in a year’s time. Greene King group marketing director Fiona Gunn said: “There is uncertainty on the economic outlook, and this could be trickling through to consumer spending. However, we’re happy to see that young Brits are remaining optimistic and hope that their positivity is carried through into wider sections of the population over the coming months.”

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive full Roberto Morretti interview on Thursday: Subscribers to Propel’s Premium service will receive a 30-minute recording of Roberto Morretti’s interview from this month’s Propel Multi Club Conference this Thursday. Morretti talks about trialling new formats, Bill’s approach to suppliers, the involvement of founder Bill Collison, the retail opportunity, its flexible approach to paying staff above market rates, developing talent through Bill’s Academy, and the current company view of franchising. 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 

Horizons – foodservice sector finally back to 2008 levels in real terms: The foodservice market will continue to grow this year, finally exceeding the real term levels seen in 2008, Horizons managing director Peter Backman has reported. In 2015, the market enjoyed 2.8% nominal growth (2.0% real growth) to £47.9bn and Backman said the long-term forecast to 2020 was £56.1bn, a rise of £8.2bn in only four years. He said the market was offering consumers the opportunity of “it’s a treat” versus “being good” and, despite the rise of the healthy option, burgers remained the number one choice for diners, albeit with a number of twists such as wagyu beef, cholla buns, and chilli jam fillings. Superfood dishes are trending up, as are brands with gluten-free options, which has become a long-term trend. A table of the fastest growing small brands of between five and 25 sites (by new site openings in 2012 versus 2015) put dessert cafe operator Creams Cafe and Caribbean brand Turtle Bay at the top – both have opened 20 sites since 2012. Backman predicted brands to watch as Shoryu Ramen, Almost Famous Burgers, Tootoomoo, and Snowflake Luxury Gelato. Backman said consumers were using fewer vouchers to obtain discounts, with current levels about a third down on 2008 figures. He said the trends to watch this year were coffee shops, Mexican burrito fast casual, Italian casual dining, sandwich bars, healthy quick service, and juice bars. Backman added the top five performing sectors in 2016, with 6% growth or more would be pizza and pasta restaurants, pub restaurants, coffee shops, sandwich shops and holiday camps. The lowest performing sectors with a decline of at least 6% were predicted to be tenanted and leased pubs, airlines, off-shore, fish and chips/kebabs, and traditional cafes. Backman said the key thought on the market was “plenty of opportunities but watch out – there’s also plenty to stumble on”.

Irish private equity firm buys US-based steakhouse brand Smith & Wollensky, plans to expand brand internationally: Irish private equity firm Danu Investment Partners has acquired the US-based steakhouse Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group (SWRG) and is planning to expand the brand internationally. The deal gives the company, headed by Setanta Sports founders Leonard Ryan and Michael O’Rourke, ownership of seven of the chain’s eight US locations, including Boston, Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas, as well as Smith & Wollensky London, which it opened under licence from SWRG in June 2015. Danu also now has worldwide licensing rights to the Smith & Wollensky brand as a result of the deal with Boston-based private equity firm Bunker Hill Capital. Ryan said: “Together with the SWRG team we recently launched the first international expansion of Smith & Wollensky in London. In that partnership, we grew to appreciate the quality and integrity behind the people and the brand. It has incredible equity and enormous potential internationally. And there is still significant untapped potential in the US for Smith & Wollensky and the emerging Wollensky’s Grill concept. We see big opportunities for growth all around.” Danu’s Smith & Wollensky site in London features elements that the company plans to borrow in future development, including two full bars, two main dining areas, a full butcher shop and an on-site dry-aging room. The company said Tommy Hart, who served as managing partner and general manager of Smith & Wollensky New York for 27 years, will join the SWRG board and will be an “important adviser” to the group as it implements its investment and expansion plan. The New York Smith & Wollensky, established in 1977, remains in control of its original founder, Alan Stillman and Quality Branded Restaurant Group.
Few tickets left for ALMR Spring Conference: There are just a few tickets remaining for the 2016 ALMR Spring Conference on Thursday, 28 April. The theme this year is Mind the Gap with senior executives and leaders from the industry discussing challenging and changing consumer perceptions, practical solutions to upskill the next generation, and what it takes to be a great leader – all this while networking with like-minded operators and leading industry figures. Attendees will also hear from Priti Patel MP, minister of state for employment, who will give the keynote speech and discuss the EU referendum. For the full programme visit ALMR members wishing to attend can book tickets by emailing

HospitalityGEM research reveals consumers believe shopping centre dining has vastly improved: New research by guest experience management company HospitalityGEM has revealed 79% of diners believe the quality and range of restaurants in shopping and entertainment centres has improved during the past three years. Respondents aged 18 to 35 were the most impressed, with 89% reporting a positive change, while more than two-thirds (77%) chose to eat in a casual dining restaurant rather than a fast food restaurant (16%) or a grab-and-go outlet (7%). The survey found 37% of diners would eat out “always” or “most of the time” when visiting a shopping or entertainment centre, with 60% “sometimes” eating out. However, HospitalityGEM said the survey revealed there was still room for improvement on the part of operators, as 30% of diners felt the guest experience is worse in shopping and entertainment centres compared with a similar restaurant in the high street. HospitalityGEM managing director Steven Pike said: “Food and beverage outlets are no longer just seen as a tool for getting people to stay longer, but for getting them to visit in the first place.”

Restaurants have highest risk of failure in north west: Restaurants have a higher risk of failure than any other key sector in the north west, according to figures from the UK’s insolvency trade body R3. The study indicates 38% of restaurant companies in the region are considered at higher-than-average risk of failure in the next 12 months, which is equivalent to almost 1,800 businesses. R3 added 36% of pubs and 23% of hotels were considered at risk. In addition, restaurants had a higher risk score than any other sector including technology (37%), transport (32%), construction and retail (31%), professional services (29%), and manufacturing (22%). The figures are also supported by statistics from the Insolvency Service, which showed restaurants are one of the few business categories where insolvencies have been steadily rising in recent years. The number of restaurant failures in the UK rose by 42% between 2010 and 2014, from 585 to 833. Richard Wolff, north west chairman of R3 and head of corporate recovery and insolvency at law firm JMW, said: “The restaurant trade remains under pressure, despite the increase in consumer spending. Restaurants are one of the most popular choices for start-up businesses and the high number of new entrants means the market is very competitive. Running a successful restaurant also requires an incredible amount of skill – from developing the initial concept and choosing the right location to getting the key things right, such as marketing, the ambience of the venue and, of course, the quality of both the food and the levels of service. By way of example I have seen one recent case where the owner invested heavily both in the fit-out and launch of the venue but ultimately failed to get the basics right and has been unable to recoup the outlay. My advice to entrepreneurs would be to gain experience in the industry and do as much research as possible before starting up. Meanwhile even successful restaurateurs need to ensure they keep on top of the figures.”

Root to fruit restaurant Poco receives top honour at Food Made Good Awards: East London tapas restaurant Poco, launched by eco chef Tom Hunt, was named Restaurant of the Year in the Food Made Good Awards, only six months after opening. The awards, run by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), took place yesterday (Tuesday, 22 March) at Lindley Hall in London. The award, which is for the restaurant judged to be the most sustainable in the UK, was presented by SRA president Raymond Blanc. Poco, in Broadway Market, was also named Independent Restaurant of the Year. Ingredients are sourced locally from small producers such as Dagenham Community Farm, Kappacasein Dairy, Fish For Thought, The Butchery, and Organiclea, a worker’s co-operative in Lea Valley. Dishes include beetroot hummus with crispy fried beet leaves, and Pavlova made with rhubarb curd using yolks left from making the meringue. Hunt said: “Winning this award is like winning three Michelin stars for us! Sustainability is at the heart of all Poco’s values. We are ecstatic to receive recognition for something we believe is so important. Since we opened our first Poco five years ago, the environmental consciousness of restaurants has increased dramatically. We are so proud to be amongst the best and most sustainable restaurants in the UK.” Hunt launched the first Poco in Bristol in 2011.

Starbucks plans to donate 100% of unsold food in US: Starbucks said it aims to contribute 100% of its leftover food to Feeding America – which runs a national network of food banks – from its 7,000-plus US locations by this time next year. Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz said in an interview with CNN the idea came from the company’s baristas rather than head office. He said: “Our people just felt so badly. And this has been going on for quite some time. And so we started doing our homework – municipality by municipality.” The US Department of Agriculture has estimated 30% to 40% of America’s food supply is wasted, while about one in seven Americans lived in households in 2014 that, at some point during the year, were unable or unsure of where to get their next meal. Schulz said: “I’m always trying to educate myself on the current social issues of our time. And one of them is the fact there are so many people in America who do not have the next meal to eat.” While Starbucks has tried to donate food in the past, it didn’t have a “consistent process to do so”, Starbucks spokeswoman Erin Schaeffer said. She added: “The challenge was finding a way to add fresh or perishable food, like breakfast sandwiches and salads to the donation pick up while preserving the food’s quality throughout the process.” Starbucks plans to have given out five million meals – including breakfast sandwiches, paninis and salads – by the end of 2016. The company said it had invested in research to determine the best way to ensure food remained safe until consumed.

Company News:

Paul Reynolds steps down from YO! Sushi board: YO! Sushi board member and operations director Paul Reynolds has stepped down with immediate effect to seek new opportunities in the sector. Chief executive Robin Rowland said: “We thank Paul for his hard work over the past two years leading the YO! UK operations team and launching nine new UK YOs. Paul has brought a structured approach to our UK business and he leaves us in good shape for future growth. We wish him every success as he moves on.”

Marston’s opens first new-build franchised pub site: Marston’s has opened its first new-build franchised pub site. The company has launched the venue in the shadow of new housing estates at Teal Farm in Washington, Tyne and Wear. The pub, which seats 120 people, will be run under franchise by Aaron Stewart and has created 40 jobs. The 100,000 square foot site has taken six months to build and features the pub and restaurant area on the ground floor and staff accommodation on the upper level. It includes a touchscreen community board and jukebox and booths that have interactive children’s games. Stewart told the Sunderland Echo: “After six months of building work, it’s very exciting to be open finally. We want the community to come and get involved.”

Greggs debuts in Belfast: Bakery Greggs has opened its first company-managed store in Belfast. The Boucher Retail Park operation has created 14 jobs in one of the Northern Irish capital’s busiest shopping areas. The move comes after the successful openings of franchise shops in the country with motorway services operator Applegreen. Martin Kibler, business development and property director for Greggs, said: “We are delighted at the sense of anticipation and the level of local interest in Greggs plans and really look forward to welcoming our new customers into our shops, showcasing the excellent range of products that we have on offer.”

Joule’s reopens Crown in Codsall after biggest investment to date, 40th freehold site: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s has reopened the Crown Hotel in Codsall, Staffordshire, after a £275,000 refurbishment – the company’s biggest investment to date and its 40th freehold tap house. Joule’s secured the site in September following an off-market deal with Stonegate Pub Company. The Crown will offer freshly prepared home-cooked favourites and a large selection of real ales, including Joule’s Pale Ale, Blonde and Slumbering Monk. The newly restored pub will also showcase Joule’s craft lager Green Monkey. The refurbishment has focused on enhancing the snugs and corners and reviving the Crown’s historic features. Joule’s also commissioned an array of bespoke, stained glass panels. The next Joule’s pub to open will be The Rose and Crown in Ludlow, Shropshire, where restoration will start this month. Joule’s said it would be its “last planned project for the foreseeable future”. Joule’s pubs are located in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire.
Camerons to turn former Purple Pig restaurant in Hull into ninth Head of Steam site: Camerons Brewery is planning to turn a site in Old Town, Hull, which formerly housed gourmet burger restaurant Purple Pig, into a Head of Steam venue. The Purple Pig in Trinity Square closed suddenly in October only a year after opening. It was placed in voluntary liquidation on 18 September, according to Companies House records, three weeks before it closed its doors. Camerons Brewery has now submitted a planning application to Hull City Council to carry out extensive internal refurbishment and external decoration at the listed property. If given the go-ahead, Camerons will reopen the venue as a Head of Steam pub specialising in craft, cask and world beers, speciality ciders and spirits, alongside regular live music. Before operating as The Purple Pig, the pub was known as the King’s Ale House. The seventh and eighth Head of Steam sites will open in early April in Headlingley and Sheffield city centre.
Timothy Taylor finance director to retire after 20 years: The finance director of Yorkshire brewer and retailer Timothy Taylor is retiring after 20 years. Steve Drinkwater, who was the company’s first finance director, will leave in the spring. He will be succeeded by John Varley, finance director of the Gravure division of Polestar, a Sheffield-based printer, who is due to join in May. During his time at Timothy Taylor, Drinkwater guided an £18m investment that doubled the size of the brewery. He also helped to build a small pub estate and develop a national reputation for Timothy Taylor beer. He joined the family-owned company in 1996 following 20 years in the newspaper industry initially working at the Blackpool Gazette before becoming group financial controller for United Provincial Newspapers in Leeds. Drinkwater was Charles Dent’s first external appointment just after he became managing director and was the company’s first finance director when he joined the board in 1998. Drinkwater told the Yorkshire Post: “I am proud to have played my part in a team which has enabled the company to show continued financial success whilst enhancing its reputation for quality, and also to oversee a period of significant investment in its brewery and pub assets all financed out of its own resources.”
Restaurant Bar & Grill takes last Chester Dining Quarter site for flagship venue with retractable roof: Restaurant Bar & Grill, owned by Manchester-based Individual Restaurants, will be the fourth and final brand to feature in the new Chester Dining Quarter in the city centre. Individual Restaurants has submitted a planning application for a 250-cover flagship venue in a former Methodist chapel in Pepper Street. It would feature a glazed pavilion with retractable roof on top of an existing single-storey extension to the rear of the grade II-listed chapel building. The proposal is for the pavilion to be used as a dining area in conjunction with the main two-storey restaurant within the chapel that already has full planning and listed building consent. The Restaurant Bar & Grill site is sandwiched between Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and The Restaurant Group’s Coast to Coast, which opened last year along with Prezzo Tex-Mex brand Chimichanga. Restaurant Bar & Grill has eight other sites in the UK, mainly in the north of England.
Patara to open sixth London restaurant in Hampstead next month: Fine Thai dining group Patara will open its sixth London site in Hampstead next month. The 110-cover restaurant in the High Street will be split between two floors with the design taking inspiration from intricate Thai architecture. Marbled panels, elaborate ceiling lighting and splashes of royal sapphire blue and marble sky blue surround a mix of banquette style seating, tables and chairs. Patara Hampstead will be offering lunch including lighter options, Thai-style afternoon tea and dinner. The menu will include Thai classics such as Chor Muang – handcrafted flower dumplings with caramelised chicken, sweet turnip, peanut, and crispy shallot filling, topped with coconut cream reduction; and pan-seared black cod with ginger, shiitake mushrooms, pickled soya and yellow bean sauce. A comprehensive list of wines, especially chosen to complement the flavours of Thai cuisine, sit alongside signature cocktails. Managing director Andy Holman said: “Patara has a strong brand identity symbolising authentic Thai tradition. We are very excited about expanding our restaurant portfolio across London and look forward to welcoming new and existing customers to our Patara restaurant in Hampstead.” The company opened its fifth London venue in Berners Street in November, with other sites in Soho, Oxford Circus, Knightsbridge and South Kensington. It also operates casual dining restaurant Suda in Covent Garden and a further five worldwide in Singapore, Vienna, Geneva, Beijing and Bangkok.
Whitbread rolls out rooftop solar systems at 88 Premier Inns: Whitbread has completed the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of 88 of its Premier Inns as part of a major sustainability drive. The installations are expected to generate more than 1,326 megawatt-hours of power a year, save an average 6,132 tonnes of carbon dioxide, provide about 10% of each Premier Inn’s total annual energy usage, and save Whitbread £280,000 in energy costs. Whitbread corporate social responsibility director James Pitcher said the investment formed part of a wider strategy to reduce carbon emissions across the business. He told “It will support us in meeting our 2020 target of reducing carbon by 15% relative to sales turnover, and we’ll continue to develop our energy management strategy in line with the growth of our business.” The three largest solar installations are at the Ipswich North, Wirral and Basildon sites. Whitbread is also looking to increase its recycling rates to 80%, while its work on water efficiency has it on track to save more than one million cubic metres of water by 2017. In January, the company announced its Abu Dhabi Premier Inn had slashed water use by 24% via a grey-water recycling system.
Al Tayer Group opens second Serendipity 3 American diner in Dubai, looks to expand concept across Middle East: Al Tayer Group has opened the second site in Dubai for American diner concept Serendipity 3. The company, which holds the exclusive franchise rights, has launched the venue in the new development at the City Walk 2 shopping centre. The new site is smaller than its inaugural opening in the United Arab Emirates at Dubai Festival City and also has a “slightly smaller menu”. David Singleton, Al Tayer Group vice-president – hospitality, told Propel the City Walk 2 site “would most likely be the template we will grow with across the Middle East”. Serendipity 3 is the first restaurant to open in the new development at City Walk as it was in the new extension at Dubai Festival City. Serendipity 3, founded by Calvin Holt, Patch Caradine and Stephen Bruce, operates two venues in the US in Las Vegas and New York.
Dorbiere reports pre-tax profit jump, forecasts 6.5% turnover increase in 2016: North west restaurant and pub operator Dorbiere has reported an increase in pre-tax profit and has forecast a 6.5% rise in turnover in 2016. The company, which owns more than 50 sites, reported pre-tax profit climbed to £1,744,703 for the year ended 30 September 2013, compared with £1,152,428 the previous year, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Turnover fell to £12,982,489, compared with £13,418,068 the year before. The company stated: “As at 30 September 2015, the company has net assets of £9,140,096 (2014: £7,786,787). The directors are satisfied with the results for the year and the year-end balance sheet position. To date, current year turnover and gross margins are in line with budgeted expectations. For 2016, having the benefit of major refurbishments at the Boars Head, Blackpool; the Bloomfield Hotel, Blackpool; and The Wellington in Preston, the directors forecast a 6.5% increase in turnover, which combined with maintenance of margins, support centre costs, will improve overall company profitability. Dorbiere is committed to further investment in people and continued growth.”
Fat Toni’s Pizzeria set to expand with first sit-down site in Cheltenham: Fat Toni’s Pizzeria, which operates takeaways in Stroud and Gloucester, is set to open its first sit-down restaurant in Cheltenham. Jason Orsi, who co-owns the company with his brother Darren, told the Gloucestershire Echo: “People will get to taste the pizza 45 seconds after it has been cooked. It’s the first time we have offered that possibility.” The brothers hope to launch the restaurant in May or June and are looking into producing their own charcuterie and growing their own vegetables as well. The menu will remain the same, at least for the opening months. Jason Orsi, who previously worked alongside Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, described Fat Toni’s pizzas as a “cross between an Italian pizza and one you’d find in New York”. Toppings are sourced from local suppliers and Italian cured meats and cheeses are imported from the north of Tuscany.
Fife-based The Wee Restaurant to open second site in Edinburgh: Fife-based The Wee Restaurant is to start expanding by opening a second site across the River Forth in Edinburgh. Craig and Vikki Wood launched The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry ten years ago. Now the Woods are opening The Wee Restaurant Edinburgh in Frederick Street on Thursday, 7 April. The 40-cover restaurant will offer “simple good food and wine” with the kitchen led by Michael Innes, who comes from three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, where he was head of production. Craig Wood and Innes worked together at Edinburgh’s Malmaison almost 15 years ago when the former was executive chef and the latter a commis chef. Craig Wood told Staff Canteen: “Although many Wee Restaurant dishes have changed over the past ten years, our philosophy has remained the same. We aim to deliver great food based around the seasons, cooked with care and passion. We want to showcase the great ingredients available to us in Scotland.”
Damn Yankee Co puts leasehold of Mexican restaurant in Harrogate on market: Harrogate-based The Damn Yankee Co has put the leasehold of its Mexican restaurant Salsa Posada up for sale. The company has instructed agent Christie & Co to market the site, which is half a mile from the North Yorkshire town’s railway station and close to the International Conference Centre. The ground-floor restaurant can accommodate 60 covers and also houses a bar area. The site contains a fully fitted commercial kitchen, storage rooms, staff changing rooms and office space. Owners Mick and Nicola Triffitt said: “We have really enjoyed running Salsa Posada for the last 14 years as it has a great following amongst locals who we’ve got to know over the years and is a popular place on the restaurant scene of Harrogate. Generations of customers have been coming since it opened 29 years ago so it has a lot of history. We now feel it’s time to sell so we can focus more on our new and other existing businesses.” Oliver Brown, who is handling the sale from Christie & Co’s Leeds office, added: “Demand for businesses in Harrogate is significant, and this property has come to market with a great backbone of solid trade and a very reasonable rent for the size and location. With location playing a key role in leasehold asking prices, Salsa Posada presents very good value within a context of rising prices and limited opportunity.”
Pizza Hut UK extends cross-channel marketing deal: Pizza Hut UK has agreed a three-year contract with Inspired Thinking Group (ITG) to help boost its marketing message across a number of channels. The arrangement includes content creation and distribution for Pizza Hut’s digital screens and management of conferences and events, as well as the printing of menu and point-of-sale material. ITG will also manage the online menus that link to the company’s ordering app. Pizza Hut has been working with ITG for several years, but the new deal sees the marketing company take over the production of all restaurant artwork at its content creation studio in Fort Dunlop, near Birmingham. ITG uses Media Centre, a cloud-based marketing automation platform, which allows users to manage campaign planning, assets, suppliers, requests for quotations, briefing, approvals, stock ordering and reporting. Pizza Hut UK’s head of brand development Ian Straughan told Essential Retail: “[ITG provides] us with a dedicated and integrated onsite account team who, through the use of Media Centre, provide support to our entire marketing operation team at our restaurant support centre in Borehamwood.”
CAU opens first Midlands venue in Birmingham, 17th UK site: Argentinian-inspired restaurant brand CAU, which is owned by Gaucho, has opened its 17th site as part of a development on the ground floor of office block Three Brindleyplace in Birmingham. It is CAU’s first site in the Midlands and has opened well ahead of its original scheduled launch date in the autumn. The venue serves breakfast from 8am (9am for weekend brunch) through to dinner with Argentine wines, global beers and an experimental cocktail list until late. The menu embraces Buenos Aires cuisine, a “melting pot of comfort food inspired by Italy and Spain alongside the jewel in Argentina’s crown, its beef” – with steaks, burgers and steak sandwiches with a Buenos Aires twist. CAU also features sharing plates, while desserts include corn flake ice cream sundae. CAU has 17 sites across the UK, plus another in Amsterdam.
Gusto to open £1m restaurant in Lytham St Anne’s next month: Gusto, the Italian restaurant brand owned by Living Ventures, will open a new £1m site in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, in April. The company is launching the 4,000 square foot venue in Dicconson Terrace on the site of a former doctor’s surgery. Refurbishment work is well under way at the grade II-listed building to create the new 130-cover restaurant, which will create 60 jobs. It will also have an outside terrace seating 40 people. Gusto managing director Sue Crimes told The Business Desk: “This is a very exciting time for Gusto – we are delighted to be opening in Lytham. The restaurant will be packed with aspirational touches that feel like home, a place where you can feel welcome and special that is perfect for so many occasions. Lancashire’s restaurant scene is in a period of enormous growth and we felt the time was right to bring Gusto to Lytham.” Gusto, which opened its first site in Alderley Edge in Cheshire in 2005, has 12 other sites across the UK with openings also planned in Birmingham and Leamington Spa.
Award-winning licensees take on second Punch pub: Andrew and Maggie Dunkin, who were crowned Best Newcomers at the Great British Pub Awards, are taking on a second pub in Nottingham. Following the success of The Old Volunteer in Carlton, which showcases the couple’s award-winning range of real ales from their Flipside Brewery, the Dunkins are jointly investing £160,000 in the Lord Roberts in Broad Street, Hockley, with pub operator Punch. The pub opens today (Wednesday, 23 March). Commenting on the joint investment, Maggie Dunkin said: “We’re delighted to launch our second site in the city with Punch. We have a clear vision for the Lord Roberts, which will build on the success of our first pub, giving us another platform to showcase our Flipside range of ales, together with locally sourced pub food.” The new pub will offer ten cask ales, six ciders, five craft beers and four lagers together with a wide range of whisky, gin, wines, spirits and soft drinks. The menu will offer a range of traditional pub snacks, sharing platters and dishes of the day. At the heart of the Dunkins’ philosophy is their pride in living and buying locally. Everything in the pub will be produced locally and prepared on site in the new kitchen. Maggie Dunkin added: “We love what we do and are passionate about celebrating all that is unique about the great British pub, from food with provenance to a wide range of real ales, craft beer and ciders, all served in a warm and friendly environment where people can feel truly at home.” The Dunkins also have plans to use the pub’s new-look basement room, The Understudy, to showcase the best in local talent, from hosting comedy events to open mic nights and Nottinghamshire bands.
New board games cafe concept opens in Nottingham, eyes expansion to other cities: A new board games cafe concept has opened in Nottingham with its owner eyeing expansion in other cities. Nicholas Higgins has launched Ludorati Cafe in Maid Marion Way, which has more than 750 board games for customers to play. The cafe, which cost £200,000 to set up and employs 12 staff, offers classic games such as Monopoly and Risk as well as modern games including cold war strategy thriller Twilight Struggle. It is divided into two sections with one area for people who want to go in for a coffee and a quick game and another where customers pay £1.60 per hour, which is capped after four hours at £5, to play whatever game they choose. Higgins told the Nottingham Post: “The board game industry has exploded over the last decade. In the 1980s and 1990s they fell out of favour due to the rise of video games but increasingly they seem to be growing in popularity. Video games are a solo activity whereas games are very social. If there’s sufficient demand in Nottingham, (we will look) to expand to other cities.”

Douglas Jack – Enterprise Inns trading ahead of expectations: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Enterprise Inns shares with a target price of 130p with the company trading ahead of expectations. Jack stated: “Like-for-like net income grew by 1.5% during the first 25 weeks. This is ahead of expectations. We are holding our £274m Ebit full-year forecast (consensus: £275m), which assumes 0.9% like-for-like net income. This year, we forecast a 1.8% decline in Ebitda to be exceeded by 3.9% reduction in net debt, after £25m of share buy backs. We estimate that debt reduction and the proposed share buy backs should generate 34% of equity value between 2015-2017E. The 1.5% increase in like-for-like net income (resulting in 11 consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth) relates to just the tenanted and leased pubs. If it included the commercial leases, the figure would be +1.6%, as the commercial leases are generating a 6.3% uplift in net income. Strong trading is being driven by enhanced operational support, with capex becoming increasingly growth-orientated, resulting in stable beer volumes and fewer business failures. 58% of Enterprise’s pubs are wet-led. In our view, wet-led pubs have been the sector’s main beneficiary from improving consumer confidence, reducing the on trade’s drinks value-disadvantage. Thus, the performance gap between wet-led and food-led pubs has narrowed over the last 18 months. Enterprise’s new strategy is on track with 245 commercial leases (targeting in excess of 300 by 30 September 2016); converting 60 pubs to managed (42 Craft Union; 16 Bermondsey; and two managed expert), with a target of 105 to 110 by year-end. A second managed expert partnership has been agreed, with more to follow in half two. The company has announced a £25m share buy-back programme that it can finance out of unencumbered free cash flow. After all outgoings, including bond debt amortisation, the company generated £15m of excess cash flow last year; we forecast this could grow to £25m in 2016E due to like-for-like growth and debt reduction. In theory, £25m of share buy backs at 83p per share would be 5% earnings accretive by our estimates. In our view, the shares are over-sold given the operational progress the company is making. We believe strong positive catalysts will be the completion of the next refinancing (not due until December 2018) and the (likely limited) impact of the Market Rent Only option becoming clearer, but this is not until 2017.”
Open House opens second site in King’s Cross: London-based restaurant group Open House has opened its second site – pub, dining room and bar The Lighterman in Granary Square, King’s Cross. The standalone building spans the entire eastern side of the square and offers all-day drinking and dining across three floors, with outside seating overlooking Regent’s Canal and Granary Square. The ground floor, with seating directly on to Granary Square, serves breakfast through to dinner, with views into the kitchen that features a pizza oven. The top floor has panoramic views across the square and canal, with its own wraparound terrace for a more formal dining experience. There is also a canal-side bar with al-fresco terrace. Executive chef Diego Cardoso, who joined Open House in 2014 to launch its first restaurant and bar, Percy & Founders in Fitzrovia, last year, will oversee the modern British all-day menu. The extensive drinks menu includes draught and bottled beers, craft ales and seasonal cocktails, together with a wine list. The venue is named after the Victorian-era workers who operated “lighter”, flat-bottomed, goods barges on the River Thames and London’s canals.
Pact Coffee redundancies ‘unrelated’ to abandoned £1m crowdfunding campaign: London start-up Pact Coffee has made 16 people redundant less than a week after abandoning a £1m crowdfunding campaign to expand overseas. The Bermondsey-based company was founded in 2012 and delivers freshly roasted coffee by post. It terminated its crowdfunding campaign, launched on Crowdcube on 24 February, after raising £190,000, less than a fifth of its overall target. Pact Coffee chief executive and founder Stephen Rapoport told Business Insider: “These redundancies are unrelated to our decision to delay fund-raising and will not affect the quality of our coffee, customer service or our rate of growth.” Announcing the Crowdcube campaign, Pact Coffee said it wanted to raise more capital to scale-up, go international, and take advantage of a “home coffee” market it believed to be worth more than £1bn. Rapoport said despite the cancellation of the campaign, Pact Coffee remained in “great shape”. Almost halfway through the campaign, the company had received £150,180, requiring it to raise £850,000 in 19 days if it was going to hit its target. However, Pact Coffee has raised £5.6m from angel investors and venture capitalists.
Twisted Burger Company launches new menu: Twisted Burger Company, which operates out of The Harley in Sheffield, has launched a new menu across its three franchises in Yorkshire. New burgers include Jerk That Thing (double beef patty, jerk mutton, Harley hot sauce and pineapple and mango jam), and Return of the Mac (double bacon patty, mac ‘n’ cheese, pesto and Harley house relish), as well as two new vegetarian burgers, including the 100% vegan Dead Twisted Barbeque Burger (double vegan meat patty, vegan cheese, barbecue jack fruit and Dead Twisted barbeque sauce). Sides include Crack ‘n’ Cheese (mac ‘n’ cheese, bacon bits and diced jalapenos) and Pig Pimpin’ Fries (skin on fries topped with manchego cheese sauce, Dead Twisted barbecue sauce and pulled pork). Twisted’s operations manager Lauren Dyke said: “We are massively proud of our menu. As a true Yorkshire independent, it’s great to be bringing new burgers and sides to our fans.” Twisted Burger Company’s franchises are at The Riverside in Sheffield, Vintage Bar in Doncaster, and The Yard in Ilkley. Earlier this month, the company said it had sold 5,000 burgers within two months of launching its residency in Ilkley.
Savills markets £1.8m North Wales hotel: Agent Savills, on behalf of a private client, is selling the Mount Stewart Hotel in Rhos-on-Sea, North Wales, for a guide price of £1.8m. The four-storey property comprises 58 bedrooms plus a restaurant with patio for al-fresco dining, bar, function room and living room. It is situated in Cayley Promenade and features picturesque views across Colwyn Bay. Subject to the necessary planning consents, the site also has the potential to be redeveloped as coastal flats. Rhos-on-Sea is easily accessible from the A55 North Wales Expressway, providing links to Liverpool and Manchester. Llandudno, Conwy Castle and the Welsh Mountain Zoo are all within close proximity. Tom Cunningham, hotels director at Savills, said: “Mount Stewart Hotel offers prospective buyers great flexibility and the chance to acquire a successful hotel business with excellent development potential. It has performed well over the last five years and benefits from a good mix of leisure and coaching trade.” 
Quintessential Brands buys Dublin Whiskey Company: Spirits producer Quintessential Brands has bought the Dublin Whiskey Company as part of a €10m (£7.8m) investment that will see it build a new distillery and visitor experience for its Irish whiskey brands. The acquisition includes the historic Old Mill Street building in the heart of the Liberties, which was traditionally the centre of whiskey distillation in Dublin. The site has full planning consent for a distillery and a natural spring water source to be used in the process. The development is expected to support up to 55 jobs over the next 18 months. Quintessential Brands chief executive Warren Scott said: “The addition of the Dublin Whiskey Company paves the way for us to create an Irish whiskey distillery and a home for our Irish whiskey brands in the famous Liberties area of Dublin which will allow us to further develop our Irish whiskey portfolio and become a leader in Irish spirits.”

Host of companies sign up for Advanced Social Media Masterclass: A host of sector companies have signed up for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass being held next month. They include Thai Leisure Group, Enterprise Inns, Be At One, FrogPubs, The Deltic Group, The Big Chill, Camino, MyLahore, ETM Group, Coaching Inn Group, Maxwell’s, Ignite Group, JW Lees, Pebble Hotels, Everards, Novus, Snug Bars, Anglian Country Inns, McMullen, Gaucho, Wright Brothers, Star Pubs & Bars, Burning Night Group and Signature Pub Group. 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. To book email

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