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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 1st Apr 2016 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

More than 7,000 Costa employees under 25 to benefit from National Living Wage increase: Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee has claimed it was one of the few companies in the UK offering the National Living Wage to workers of all ages, not just those over 25. The company has revealed more than half of its UK employees (55%) are under 25. The official National Living Wage, which comes into effect today (Friday, 1 April), only applies to workers aged 25 or over. Costa said it introduced the National Living Wage pay rates in October last year to all staff ahead of the national introduction. Costa Coffee managing director Chris Rogers said: “At Costa we truly believe people are the most important ingredient, with every person bringing their own unique blend into the mix. We treat all employees as equals and are committed to keeping talented people at the heart of our business, offering excellent career opportunities and the room to progress into senior roles throughout the company.” Initially, the National Living Wage will be set at £7.20 an hour, with a target of it reaching more than £9 an hour by 2020. The rates apply to part-time and full-time workers.

Industry News:

Jonathan Downey sets out progress in developing a UK and international food market business: The next audio recording to be sent to Propel Premium subscribers will feature London Union co-founder Jonathan Downey. In the recording, which will be sent out next week, Downey sets out progress in developing a network of 12 London neighbourhood markets, development of the business internationally, how the model is working for traders, and projected figures for the current year. 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. 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, 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

Research shows gap in the market for ‘Active Dining’: New research by guest experience management firm HospitalityGEM has revealed a gap in the market for “Active Dining”. The trend follows recent openings in New York where Spin & Gin and Dates with Weights have successfully blended exercise workouts with dining. The trend is now set to take off in the UK with 95% of diners stating they would eat out more often if restaurants had exercise facilities available on site. In a recent survey of mystery diners, 64% revealed they would choose to eat and exercise simultaneously, whereas 44% stated they would prefer to use the exercise equipment between courses to burn off fat from the previous course. The most popular time of day for “Active Dining” is lunchtime (61%) and early afternoon (29%). Post-main course was identified as the prime time for exercising, with 72% stating this was when they felt most lethargic and would look to exercise. Hands-free exercise machines, such as treadmills, proved to be the most popular (74%) and the more labour intensive, such as rowing machines were least popular (13%). Popular foods whilst exercising were smaller lighter bites, with the trend for street food (47%) and premium tacos (39%) coming out on top. When asked why diners would opt for this form of eating out, one diner said: “I never visit the gym because I get too hungry, but this would solve the problem and make exercise more social.” Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGEM, said: “I have seen some amazing trends enter the UK eating out market in recent years that have come and gone, but this is one that I predict sticking around for a long time. The average person in the UK is constantly juggling work, keeping fit, as well as fitting in a social life, meaning it is often hard to keep up – so why not blend all three activities into one. I recently spent some time in New York and it is easy to see why this concept has taken off.”
NewRiver Retail submits plans to create restaurant quarter in Worthing: NewRiver Retail, owners of The Montague Shopping Centre in Worthing, West Sussex, have submitted a planning application to change the use of the town centre precinct to create a restaurant quarter. NewRiver Retail director Stuart Mitchell told The Argus: “We have had great success in repositioning another shopping centre in Leamington Spa after creating a similar quality restaurant destination. This resulted in a significant uplift in footfall for the centre and surrounding area. Worthing is a strong town with a discernible catchment, yet the town centre lacks the appropriate range and choice of restaurants. We believe our plans will help revitalise the town centre, significantly increasing its attractiveness to residents and visitors alike and increasing footfall. We are in detailed discussions with a number of leading national restaurant operators who have expressed interest and strong demand to launch in Worthing and our plans would meet that demand.” NewRiver also plans to introduce new branding, paving, seating and landscaping at the centre.
SIBA toasts record-breaking BeerX: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has said this year’s BeerX was its biggest event with a record 1,644 trade attendees, a 40% increase on last year’s figure. SIBA said the major rise in attendance at the event, which took place in Sheffield in March, highlighted the strength of the industry and the importance of the event, which also had more than a 20% increase in exhibitors. The trade-show exhibition element of BeerX showcased 124 supplier associate member companies across all aspects of the brewing industry. SIBA operations director Nick Stafford said: “The number of delegates increased massively this year and it was great to see so many brewers taking time out of their busy schedules to attend the UK’s biggest brewing event – with a huge 950 attendees from British breweries at BeerX this year. The keynote speakers, seminars and international meet-the-buyer sessions, for those looking to export British beer to other countries, were extremely popular.”

Allegra – independent coffee shops gaining customers in hunt for more personalised experience: Independent coffee shops are gaining customers who are looking for alternatives to branded chains and seeking a more personalised, unique coffee shop experience, according to the latest report from Allegra’s CoffeeTrack. Allegra said the findings revealed a changing dynamic in the coffee shop market, where innovation was no longer enough to attract and retain consumers amid so much high street competition. It said coffee shops needed to understand how customers felt about their brand compared with the competition. The report, covering quarter four of 2015, revealed coffee shop visits remained consistent, with about 60% of consumers visiting a coffee shop at least once a week during the period. Costa was the most visited coffee shop, followed by independents and Starbucks. The number of visits and average spend fell in the run-up to Christmas, with the average spend dropping from £4.34 in November to £4.25 in December 2015. However, early analysis of quarter one in 2016 shows a rebound, Allegra said. The report also ranked M&S Cafe highly – particularly for trust, product quality, and products and range – as well as Waitrose Cafe and Gregg’s.
Record tourist numbers expected in London this year: Record numbers of tourists are expected to visit London this spring — and the trend is set to continue throughout the summer. Bernard Donoghue, from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said London was affordable because of exchange rates, while events in May to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday are also expected to attract extra visitors. He added: “We have seen record numbers of visitors to London last year and in the past few months. While we are still waiting for data to come through, there is no reason to think that this will not continue to increase. We are seeing a lot of visitors come from the United States and the eurozone as the pound makes London more affordable to visit at the moment. Exchange rates are good but with the upcoming Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations a lot of people are intrigued as to how we will mark such a momentous occasion too. We continue to have some of the best attractions in the world and exhibits like Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery mean there is always a new reason to visit London.” Statistics released by Visit London predicted a 3% growth in visitor numbers in 2016, following the same rise last year. This month, London was named the best visitor destination in the Travellers’ Choice awards — up five places from sixth in 2015. The result was based on TripAdvisor reviews. 
McDonald’s seeks partners for Asia market growth: McDonald’s has announced its intent to identify strategic partners who would add value and unlock growth potential in key markets throughout Asia to advance the company’s growth plans. The company is seeking partners who would enhance its competitive advantages and resources to enable localised decisions on growth initiatives and increase capital resources to further invest in restaurant expansion and modernisation. “Asia represents a significant area of opportunity for McDonald’s to blend our global quality standards with local insights and expertise from partners who share our vision and values,” said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s president and chief executive. “This will allow McDonald’s to accelerate our growth and scale faster across diverse markets placing us closer to our customers and the communities we serve. We’re in the midst of transforming our business and taking a strategic and thoughtful approach to enhance our ability to grow around the world. These actions build on our turnaround efforts and will advance local ownership, enable faster decision-making and achieve restaurant growth.” China, Hong Kong and Korea collectively represent more than 2,800 restaurant locations, the majority of which are currently company-owned.
Oakman Inns awarded three stars for sustainability: Oakman Inns & Restaurants, led by Peter Borg-Neal, has been awarded the highest possible status of three stars from The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) in the Food Made Good awards. Oakman is only the second pub group to achieve three-star status and join the ranks of restaurateurs such as Raymond Blanc (the SRA president), Rick Stein, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Thomasina Miers, and Antonio Carluccio, all of whose restaurant companies have achieved the accolade. The rating is based on a holistic assessment of each business, covering 14 key areas that consider best sustainability practice under the headings (or pillars) of society, sourcing and environment – it has an overall score of 98%. The judges commented on the comprehensive employee induction and training programmes that include developing skills in, for example, wine and cellar management, as well as graduate and management training programmes. They also praised Oakman Inns for providing customers with healthier options by offering smaller portion sizes at a reduced cost and healthier cooking methods, such as steaming. Oakman Inns also received a score of 98% for its community engagement programme where it continues to support local charities and work closely with the Springboard Charity. In addition, the company organises networking breakfasts for local businesses and invites schoolchildren to come and learn about how food is produced. Borg-Neal said: “2016 will be our fourth year of membership and everyone working with and for us has joined our efforts to make each and every one of the Oakman Inns a sustainably beneficial part of the local area and community. Obviously we are committed to improving our scores in other areas, such as energy efficiency and in our use of recycled materials, and I believe our future bars and restaurants will reflect that in many ways.”
Caffe Nero cleared of wrongdoing over customer’s throat surgery incident: Caffe Nero has been cleared of wrongdoing despite a customer needing throat surgery to remove an inch-long piece of wire they accidentally ate after it was hidden in their panini. Katherine Willans felt sick after eating the snack during a lunch break with her mother at a branch of the coffee shop chain in Putney High Street, south west London. The 34-year-old spent three days with the wire, which had come from an unauthorised brush used by staff to clean, stuck in her throat before going to hospital on August 3, 2014, where she underwent surgery. Willans, a cake shop worker, has now spoken out about her “unpleasant” experience as the chain was cleared of four counts of breaching food hygiene regulations at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court. Jonathan Goulding, for Caffe Nero, said: “Despite that training, a member of staff acted entirely contrary to it and the evidence again is overwhelming about that. The offences were down to the acts of fault of one of those members of staff. There is no doubt that the use of the wire brush was and must have been a deliberate breach of careful training given by Caffe Nero to its employees. This was a very regrettable thing that happened to Ms Williams but it doesn’t mean that Caffe Nero is criminally liable for it.”

Company News:

Starbucks starts 50p discount trial for UK consumers who bring in own cup: Starbucks has started a two-month trial offering UK customers a 50p discount if they bring in their own coffee cup. Customers who bring in their own mugs will receive a discount on all drinks, except for the brand’s £1 filter coffee. Starbucks already offered a 25p discount as part of its “reusable cup incentive” but will now double the discount during the trial. The measure comes amid growing concern over the estimated seven million paper cups that are thrown away every day in Britain – about 2.5 billion each year. Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been credited with securing the move, which he hailed as a “seismic leap”. Starbucks UK vice-president Rhys Iley said: “Starbucks is committed to increasing recycling rates and reusable cups are a key part of our overall waste reduction strategy. In response to Hugh’s campaign, for two months we’ll be trialling an increase in the discount of our reusable cup incentive to 50p for every drink purchased.” The trial may pave the way for a permanent discount to help reduce the number of paper cups going to landfill. 

Chef-entrepreneur Robin Gill to open fourth site next week: Chef-entrepreneur Robin Gill is opening his fourth site in London on Wednesday (6 April). Gill is launching Counter Culture in The Pavement, Clapham, next door to his flagship site The Dairy. The venue will serve pinchos – a traditional Basque style of tapas – and has dubbed itself “The Dairy’s evil little brother”, reports Culture Whisper. It has just 15 seats, many of which are around a central kitchen island. The restaurant will be putting its own spin on Basque food with a regularly changing menu using lots of pickling, fermenting and curing techniques. Small snacking plates will include hot smoked lamb ribs with miso aubergine and spiced fennel ferment, and St Martin Bay mackerel, sweet celery, sour rhubarb and house yogurt. Gill also operates The Manor in Clapham and Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green.
Innis & Gunn opens second Beer Kitchen in Dundee, launches ‘world’s first’ beer marmalade: Brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has opened its second Beer Kitchen site in Dundee and produced what it claims is the world’s first beer marmalade to mark the launch. The 3,700 square foot site in South Tay Street features limited edition oak-aged cask beers and two five-hectolitre tanks serving Innis & Gunn’s unpasteurised lager. The menu offers pub classics with a beer “flavour”, alongside chopped and charred and low and slow-style dishes. Spearheaded by David Hall, formerly of Edinburgh’s Tigerlily, Opal Lounge and Rick’s, the Beer Kitchen brand will continue to roll-out across the UK and internationally, with plans for another two sites by the end of 2016. Founder and master brewer Dougal Sharp said: “We want our venues to change the world of beer for the better by being flag wavers for incredible, flavour packed brews, not fixated on selling ‘flash in the pan’ beers that are all beard and no trousers.” The brewer’s marmalade – Marm & Ale – contains Innis & Gunn oak-aged IPA, while the brewer has also created a marmalade IPA using its trademarked beer percolator, which allows it to infuse beers with a wide range of flavours. The first Beer Kitchen launched in Edinburgh last July.
Homage2Fromage eyes permanent site: A popular pop-up cheese cafe in Leeds is to close next month as the business prepares to launch in a new venue. Homage2Fromage partnered with Jones Bar Group in October 2015 to turn the LAB in the Merrion Centre into a pop-up for cheese-lovers for six months. Homage2Fromage was created four years ago by Nick Copland and Vickie Rogerson with its first event launched by Blur bassist and cheese aficionado Alex James. The informal nights have grown to five cities attracting more than 350 people every month to its sell-out events. After its six-month tenancy Homage2fromage is to close its pop-up cheese cafe in Leeds, but said it was hoping to launch in a new venue soon.

Square Pie to launch gourmet pies in Sainsbury’s: Square Pie is launching gourmet pies into the freezer nationally with Sainsbury’s from Monday (4 April). The pies are steak and ale; chicken and mushroom; and spinach, sweet potato and goats cheese (vegetarian), which will be available nationally in more than 400 stores. Square Pie founder Martin Dewey said: “We have been getting lots of customers in our restaurants buying our lovely pies unbaked to enjoy at home so we thought it was a great idea to team up with Sainsbury’s and bring something new, that tastes amazing, to the freezer. People can now share a proper ‘pie moment’ at home, the pies are exactly the same as we serve in our restaurants, so it will be like being at one of our sites except you’ll be able to choose the music! I see our wholesale and restaurant businesses as being mutually beneficial, we opened two great sites last year in Birmingham Grand Central and The O2 but in this age of spiralling rents it’s great to have another way to spread the pie love.” 
The Little Dessert Shop to open third site in West Bromwich: West Midlands-based dessert company The Little Dessert Shop is to open its third site, this time in West Bromwich. The company has acquired the 3,324 square foot former Pizza Hut site in the Farley Centre and will launch the outlet in May, creating 40 jobs. The independent business offers a choice of cakes, crepes, waffles, fondue, sundaes, and more than 40 flavours of ice cream, gelatos and sorbets. Owner Mu’azzam Ali told The Business Desk: “We wanted to take the unassuming dessert and turn it into a creative masterpiece for all to enjoy, borne out of a love for fine foods.” James Mattin, managing director of Bond Wolfe, which advised on the deal, described the demand for retail units in West Bromwich as “boisterous”. He added: “The remainder of this parade is under offer and inventory along the High Street is very low due to the increase in demand for the town centre.” The Little Dessert Shop, which launched in 2014, also has sites in Wednesbury and Wolverhampton.
Television chef and author Sally Bee to launch healthy restaurant concept at Staffordshire hotel: Television chef and author Sally Bee is to open a healthy restaurant concept at a Staffordshire hotel. Bee is joining forces with Hoar Cross Hall Spa Hotel, near Burton, to launch Sally Bee’s Nutrilicious as part of a wider £2.5m renovation of the resort. The “guilt free” restaurant has seen Bee spend months designing the menu to ensure every ingredient used offers direct health benefits. It will also stock a large range of cold-pressed juices and superfood smoothies made daily on site. Bee told Boutique Hotelier: “I have always stood by the philosophy that the key to life is balance. I have worked with Hoar Cross Hall Spa Hotel over the last year to develop a menu that is nutritionally balanced, wonderfully flavoursome, and uncompromisingly good, and I’m enormously excited to share it with everyone.” Hoar Cross Hall group managing director Adrian Pearson added: “Consumers are becoming more demanding when it comes to their food and rightly so. This is leading to a welcome redefining of what can genuinely be called healthy and this is important. With Sally Bee at the helm we want to be at the forefront of this healthy eating revolution.”
Light Cinema signs for Skelmersdale, food and beverage outlets lined up: The planned £10m upgrade of the Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, has moved a step forward with the news the Light Cinema has signed an agreement to lease an eight-screen cinema. The Light Cinema already operates cinemas in New Brighton, Cambridge, Wisbech, and Walsall, with further sites expected to open later this year in Bolton, Sheffield and Thetford. It is also building two cinemas in Dundee and Stockport, which are scheduled to be completed next year. John Sullivan, managing director of the Light Cinema, said: “The Light will offer a dynamic cinema experience, providing the Concourse and Skelmersdale with an exciting, highly inclusive, social venue (in) the heart of the town, attracting a mix of families, young people and mature adults. In partnership with a range of food and beverage operators, including restaurants, cafes, bars and other leisure operators, we will offer customers a quality night-out experience.” London & Cambridge Properties, which is delivering the project on behalf of joint venture partners LCP and Columbia Threadneedle Investments, has welcomed the news and revealed it is currently in talks with food and beverage operators about opening outlets at the centre.
Good & Proper Tea Company opens first permanent venue in Old Street, plans Soho site: The Good & Proper Tea Company, which started as a mobile bar touring the festival circuit, has opened its first permanent venue in London’s Old Street, with plans to open a second site in Soho. The company was successfully funded via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2012, allowing Emilie Holmes to convert a 1974 Citroen-H van into a mobile brew bar. She has since raised £140,000 on Crowdcube to enable the company to open the tea bar and shop at a unit in The Bower. The company sources teas from around the world and custom-brews them to bring out the “best possible flavour”. It also offers crumpets and uses Japanese crockery, which it sells online. The outlet is open from 8am to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays. The company’s mobile brew bar still appears at markets and pop-ups around London. A Good & Proper Tea Company spokeswoman said: “We source our teas from around the world, from Kenya to India, Japan to China and many more places in between. It is important to us that we know exactly where each of them comes from and who is responsible for harvesting the leaves we buy.”
Star Pubs & Bars launches pop-up cask festival support for licensees: Star Pubs & Bars is providing 20 licensees with free pop-up cask ale festival support this summer to enable them to capitalise on the growing popularity of cask ale. The company plans to extend the programme in 2017. The support, worth £2,000 per pub, includes provision of rigging, taps, festival gazebos and tables, all of which are delivered and set up for licensees by a dedicated team, and dismantled and removed after the event. Bespoke point-of-sale and merchandising is also provided to help promote the events. Licensees are simply required to organise the beer and the staff. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “Cask ale festivals are a great way to drive footfall and attract new customers and create an extra layer of excitement. They also work brilliantly alongside other events helping to build them into much bigger celebrations. As Star support is about helping licensees increase sales, we’ve created a ‘festival in a box’ to make it as easy as possible for licensees to put on their own festival.”
Gusto to open site in Leamington Spa in June: Gusto, the Italian restaurant brand operated by Living Ventures, will open a site in Leamington Spa in June. The company is launching the venue at Regency Court in Livery Street, reports the Coventry Telegraph. As well as lunch and children’s menus, the restaurant offers an a la carte menu for diners, featuring the best of Italian cuisine. Customers can expect pasta, seafood, risotto and pizza dishes, as well as main courses from the grill, including burgers and 28-day aged premium steaks. Gusto, which launched in Alderley Edge in Cheshire in 2005, has 12 other sites across the UK and is opening restaurants in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire, in April and in Birmingham this autumn. 
Food & Fuel achieves two-star rating from Sustainable Restaurant Association: Food & Fuel, the 13-strong gastro-pub and cafe bar group, has been awarded a two-star Food Made Good rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) in recognition of its performance in its annual sustainability rating. A number of new initiatives across all aspects of the business helped Food & Fuel’s London sites improve on their previous one star rating. Monthly changing menus to incorporate seasonality featuring almost exclusively fresh British ingredients and a selection of British wines and UK craft beers, helped boost the score in the sourcing section of the Food Made Good rating. An increased focus on healthy eating means customers can now order dishes in two sizes and there are more vegetarian dishes on offer. All of the sites host at least one charity event every year as well as supporting local community initiatives and participate in events such as Race for Life. The restaurants have implemented a number of positive initiatives to help them reduce their environmental footprint – including upping their recycling and installing smart meters and energy reduction targets. Peter Myers, commercial director of Food & Fuel, said: “Over the past two years, we have worked closely with the SRA to achieve our community and sustainability goals which are core to Food & Fuel’s values. We’re absolutely delighted to receive a two-star Food Made Good rating and it is testimony to the continued focus of our team and our suppliers to meet our customers’ increasing desire for a sustainable dining experience.”

Firebrand Brewing Co hits £125,000 crowdfunding target on final day: Cornwall-based Firebrand Brewing Co has hit its £125,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube on its final day. The company, founded by Joe Thomson and Stephen Medlicott in 2008, was raising the funds to buy new equipment as it scales up to its next level of production. It was offering a 20% equity stake in return for the investment and hit its target just after 5pm yesterday (Thursday, 31 March). The pitch stated: “The funding from this round of investment shall be used firstly to commission our new 25BBL brewery, which we have already obtained on hire purchase, however we need to purchase further equipment and installation costs. Secondly, the funding shall be used for working capital, as meeting demand and stock shortfalls have been our biggest problem. Firebrand brewing hopes to look at options for selling the business or expanding further in around year four from now.”

Father and son open Leicester’s first brewpub: Father and son John and Josh Gray have opened Leicester’s first brewpub – The West End Brewery. The venue in Braunstone Gate in the city centre is open six days a week and serves six craft beers on hand-pull, with three of the beers brewed at the pub. The brewing area is accessible to customers and the pub also offers cheese boards and traditional ploughman’s boards. John Gray has been in the brewing trade for 39 years, having worked at Greenall’s, Shipstones, Marston’s and more recently as a private consultant to UK craft brewer Brewers Select. His son Josh was formerly sales manager at Freedom Brewery in Staffordshire. Josh Gray said: “There’s worldwide excitement at the moment about craft beer and we want to really showcase our own beers brewed on site in full view of customers, as well as serving great craft beers from local micro and craft brewers in Leicestershire. The West End Brewery is all about enjoying the range of tastes and flavours that craft beer can offer in a relaxed, traditional pub atmosphere. We think Leicester is ready to go craft!”
Chester-based restaurant operators to start expanding tapas bar concept Porta with second site in Altrincham: Chester-based restaurant operators Ben and Joe Wright are set to start expanding their tapas bar concept Porta by opening a second site in Altrincham. The brothers have agreed a deal to open in Greenwood Street on the site occupied by interiors shop With Decorum. They have applied to Trafford Council for an alcohol licence as well as planning permission to convert the site into a restaurant, which is expected to open in the late summer. Ben Wright told Altrincham Today: “We’re massively encouraged by what has been done in Altrincham, so we’re very excited to get over there. It’s such a lovely spot – we fell in love with it. It’s informal and relaxed and all about good food and good value wines, and hopefully what you would find if you went abroad.” In January, he revealed they had been looking to start expanding Porta but a proposed site in the Northern Quarter in Manchester had fallen through. The Wrights have run the Joseph Benjamin restaurant in Chester since 2006, which has held a Michelin “Bib Gourmand” award since 2012. Four years ago they opened the more informal Porta next door.
Manchester-based restaurant team to run new concept at city hotel: The team behind Manchester restaurant Volta is to run a new bar and restaurant concept at The Palace Hotel in the city. Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford have been appointed to develop a new open-plan restaurant, bar and lobby experience for the Starwood Capital Project 1898 hotel, which is undergoing a multimillion-pound refurbishment. Drawing on Cowdrey and Crawford’s experiences as both DJs and restaurateurs, the concept will occupy the space previously used for the Tempus restaurant and is set to launch in the summer. Cowdrey told Boutique Hotelier: “We want to create something that the city has never really seen before; an all-day eating and drinking experience in a stunning iconic space, which will unite all the clans in Manchester. We’re not interested in a contrived formal fine dining experience with no bustle; we want something with energy and effervescence where the food experience is serious but never forced or stiff. Something with soul.” The Palace Hotel manager Matt Townley added: “Manchester has been waiting for a partnership like this for a while now and we’re delighted that our newly refurbished hotel will be able to provide it. Justin and Luke are hugely respected, not only in Manchester but also in the UK.” Volta opened in Burton Road, West Didsbury, in 2013.

Punch trials energy deal in bid to cut costs for publicans: Punch is trialling its own energy deal to help its publicans find the best utility rates. In what Punch claims is a first for the pub industry, it has partnered with energy sales solutions firm Online Direct to trial Punch Group Energy. Punch said by utilising its buying power it would be able to secure favourable business energy rates to minimise costs for its publicans, with no financial profit for Punch. Through the initiative, Punch will manage and pay energy suppliers directly and recharge its publicans in weekly installments at a price reflecting the Punch Group Energy purchasing power. By being part of the initiative, Punch also hopes publicans will avoid out-of-contract rates, deposits, and credit checks as Punch will manage administration. The initiative has already been rolled out across the Punch Falcon estate and demonstrated savings, the company said. Trials are now under way in five tenanted sites, with more due to go live in the next month. Punch chief executive Duncan Garrood said: “One of the questions we are asked the most by our publicans is how they can cut their energy costs. These comprise a hugely substantial part of any pub’s expenditure and so we’re working hard to ensure we help publicans get the lowest prices possible. This trial is all about learning and supporting our publicans so we are starting small to ensure we get things right before rolling out the scheme.” Punch has more than 3,500 leased and tenanted pubs in the UK. While Punch owns the premises, its operators run the pubs as their own businesses.

Batemans increases sales team as it forecasts 10% rise in trade: Batemans, the family brewer based in Lincolnshire, has increased its sales team to develop its free trade accounts while forecasting a 10% increase in trade. The team has grown from five to nine, with seven area sales managers and a trainee working alongside managing director Stuart Bateman. Batemans will now be able to cover free trade accounts across Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire, East Midlands, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Batemans has also increased its free trade product portfolio to include more craft beer varieties and premium soft drinks. Bateman said: “Developing our free trade accounts is a key part of our 2016 strategy, and the growth of our sales team will be essential to achieving this. Our sales team has now increased by nearly 100%, which will ensure each member is able to concentrate on providing exceptional service to our free trade pubs and utilising our expert knowledge to support them and their businesses.” Batemans has more than 60 pubs in its estate. In February, the company bought its third managed pub, The Fairways in Brinsworth, South Yorkshire, which forms a key part of its 2016 acquisition strategy to focus on acquiring main road pubs with strong food offerings and letting rooms.
Pembrokeshire-based leisure operators to open third site: Pembrokeshire-based leisure operators Neil Kedward and Zoe Agar are to open their third site. Kedward and Agar are launching beachfront restaurant The Beach House in Narbeth in June. The venue will seat 60 in the dining room and a further 50 guests on the large terrace area with views across Oxwich and Three Cliffs Bay. It will be designed by interior designer Martin Hulbert. Head chef Hywel Griffith told Boutique Hotelier: “I am very proud to be involved with this exciting project, opening up a stunning beachfront restaurant with Neil and Zoe in my native country. I’ve already started jotting down lots of ideas for new dishes and very much look forward to working alongside Glamorgan’s local producers, not to mention the quality and freshness of the seafood that we’ll be serving.” Kedward and Agar also own boutique hotel The Grove of Narberth in Narbeth and restaurant Coast in Saundersfoot.
Irish hotel market reports strong first quarter: Fourteen Irish hotels totalling more than €47m (£36.9m) between them were sold during the first three months of 2016, according to new statistics. Agent CBRE Ireland released the data on the volume and value of hotel sales in the Irish market. Acquired venues include The Tara Towers Hotel in Dublin; the Clarion Hotel, Sligo; the Abberley Court Hotel in Tallaght; and the Waterford Marina Hotel in Waterford. Lisa Keogh at CBRE Hotels Ireland said the “strong” transactional activity came on the back of an “exceptionally busy year” in 2015, during which 63 hotel properties totalling €710m (£558m) changed hands. “In addition, the leasehold interests in three other hotel properties changed hands in the quarter,” she added. “A number of notable hotel properties are also currently being marketed, including the Gresham Hotel in O’Connell Street, which will boost spend further over the next couple of months.” Marie Hunt, executive director and head of research at CBRE Ireland, noted only two of the 14 hotel properties that sold in Ireland during the last three-month period were located in Dublin, demonstrating the strength of appetite for well-located properties throughout the country.
Krispy Kreme opens site at Hammersmith shopping centre: Krispy Kreme has opened a site in Hammersmith, west London. The company has launched the outlet at the Broadway Shopping Centre. As well as doughnuts, the outlet also offers Krispy Kreme coffee and creamy Kreme shakes. Chief marketing officer Judith Denby told GetWestLondon: “We are excited about bringing a taste of Krispy Kreme to the iconic location of Hammersmith. We look forward to welcoming shoppers in for doughnuts and coffee.” The owners of Krispy Kreme’s UK operation Alcuin Capital Partners is eyeing a £100m plus flotation after the company turned highly profitable in the past couple of years.
Carluccio’s lines up Marriott opening: Carluccio’s will open its first Italian restaurant and food shop in a UK hotel this month. The 5,000 square foot site is located on the ground floor of the 304-bedroom London Marriott Regents Park hotel. With its own entrance in Adelaide Road, the 200-cover restaurant will feature a full aperitivo and espresso bar, outdoor terrace, retail area and deli. Chief executive Neil Wickers said: “This is our first venture with Marriott and we are extremely excited to be opening our first Carluccio’s in a hotel with this forward-thinking group. Our all-day trading format is particularly suited to a hotel operation where breakfast and impromptu dining are an integral part of the hotel guest offer.”
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 this 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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