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Wed 13th Apr 2016 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Giggling Squid to open 20th restaurant in Norwich on former La Tasca site, second in East Anglia: Thai restaurant business Giggling Squid has secured a site in Norwich – its second in East Anglia. The company is opening the venue in Tombland, near the cathedral. It will replace the closed La Tasca restaurant, the brand owned by Casual Dining Group, which was housed in a grade II-listed converted nightclub. Following a £150,000 refurbishment, Giggling Squid expects to open the 200-cover restaurant, which covers 4,000 square feet spread across two floors, by the end of the year, creating about 25 jobs. Majority owned by husband and wife team Andrew and Pranee Laurillard, following an investment of £6.4m from the Business Growth Fund in 2015, the acquisition takes the group’s portfolio to 20 venues with 14 trading restaurants and five committed pipeline sites in Bury St Edmunds, Berkhamsted, Farnham, Warwick, and Bath. The company, which introduced the “Thai Tapas” dining concept to the UK in Brighton in 2005, is on course to hit its target of 50 UK restaurants within four years. Giggling Squid is already in advanced legal negotiations for several other sites and is working on capacity extensions for four of its current portfolio. Managing director Andrew Laurillard said: “We’re excited to take Giggling Squid to a large prime urban location and think the vibrancy of Norwich lends itself perfectly to our fresh take on Thai. It’s clear the regional capital has lots going on and we’re looking forwards to becoming part of its progressive food scene.” Pranee Laurillard added: “We are a food-led business and are still having great fun. We are immensely proud that our customers compliment us for still having the welcoming feel of a one-off independent, whilst critics love the cooking.” Giggling Squid currently operates 14 venues in Brighton, Hove, Tunbridge Wells, Henley-upon-Thames, Reigate, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bristol, Marlow, Horsham, Sevenoaks, Salisbury, Guildford, Billericay, and Esher and now employs more than 300 people.

Industry News:

Propel partners with Professor Chris Edger to launch new Brands Masterclass: Propel has partnered with the UK’s leading thinker and teacher on multi-site foodservice management Professor Chris Edger to launch a new Brands Masterclass to help create and evolve powerful brands. The event takes place on Friday, 10 June in the Chartered Accounts Hall at One Moorgate Place in London. Led by Edger, the all-day masterclass will showcase the advice of contemporary brand experts, who will address each aspect of a foodservice brand’s marketing mix. Each expert will deal with a specific dimension of brand longevity and success, making this programme an absolute must for UK foodservice brand leaders in 2016. The day will be split into three sessions to help delegates ensure their brands are evolved effectively to ensure long-term sustainability and success. Session one will cover leadership, proposition and product and will see Edger drawing on material from his newly-published book, co-written with Tony Hughes, senior independent director of The Restaurant Group, examining the leadership lifecycles of sustainable food brands. The session also features how to effectively differentiate a brand and its proposition and also create and evolve a compelling food and beverage offer. Session two will cover environment, estate and employer branding with Dan Einzig, founder of leading restaurant and brand design agency Mystery, looking at site design and creating a brand identity while insights firm CACI will explore how operators create a high quality estate. Former Orchid Group chief executive Rufus Hall will talk about creating a people-centric culture and the benefits of having an outstanding team ethos. The final session will look at execution and marketing with Dr Clinton Bantock, associate professor of the Academy of Multi-Unit Leadership, sharing how to achieve operational excellence while James Hacon, managing director of Elliotts, will look at examples of memorable marketing campaigns and the importance of rewarding loyal customers. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

London hotel market sees negative year-on-year performance due to ongoing terrorist threat: The London hotel market in March has shown negative year-on-year performance with the ongoing terrorist threat being a factor, a new report has revealed. STR Global’s preliminary March 2016 data has shown a 2.5% increase in supply but a 0.6% fall in demand. There was a 3.1% decrease in occupancy to 76.1%, a 1.8% fall in average daily room rate to £131.04 and a 4.8% drop in revpar to £99.78. Analysts attributed the weak performance to supply growth outpacing nearly flat demand. Another factor in the occupancy decrease is the ongoing threat of terrorism throughout Europe, particularly after the 22 March attack in Brussels. Immediately following the attack, Eurostar suspended services between London and Brussels, and flights to and from Brussels and the UK were cancelled. Performance declines were softened as London hosted an RBS Six Nations rugby match at Twickenham Stadium on 12 March and a series of concerts by singer Adele at the O2 Arena later in the month.

ALMR – licensing delay key to forthcoming Hackney nightclub closure: A licensing delay was key to the forthcoming closure of a nightclub in Hackney, east London, according to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). The closure of the Dance Tunnel underlines the need for local authorities to act quickly and decisively when looking to balance the benefits of the night-time economy with the views of local residents, said chief executive Kate Nicholls. The club has announced it will close in August, citing an “impossible” licensing climate. This follows a scrapped consultation by Hackney Borough Council on proposals to close venues at 11pm and not to issue any new licences in certain areas of the borough. A new consultation was planned for this year, but looks to have come too late to save Dance Tunnel. Nicholls said: “The delay in Hackney’s consultation, leading to Dance Tunnel’s closure announcement, shows how the fortunes of nightclubs are based on tight margins. A speedy resolution to the licensing issue here may well have saved Dance Tunnel, a venue highly valued by many London clubbers. Nightclubs are an important social and economic element of the night-time economy but there are nearly half as many open today than there were just a decade ago. Licensing authorities need to recognise the need to allow nightclubs to prosper, if the British high street is to remain on track for recovery.”

Harrogate restaurant introduces new structure where customers pay different prices on different days of week: A North Yorkshire restaurant has introduced a new pricing structure with different prices on different days of the week. The system is already used in some of the world’s leading restaurants, including Chicago’s Alinea – named the 26th best restaurant in the world in 2015 – and Michelin-star venues The Clove Club and Lyle’s in London. Now Norse, which is based within the Scandinavian cafe Baltzersen’s in Harrogate, is doing the same. Under the new system, guests will receive a fixed discount off the total bill, starting with 25% on a Tuesday and decreasing by 5% each evening until Friday, when the discount will be 10%. Prices will remain at their usual levels on Saturdays. Owner Paul Rawlinson told the Harrogate Advertiser: “Since we opened the restaurant two years ago, we have focused on providing a new dining experience in a welcoming, friendly environment. Our restaurant is always very busy on Saturday nights and we often have to turn guests away, but on weeknights we have more spaces available. This new model encourages guests to consider dining with us during the week, freeing up space on a Saturday for those who aren’t able to be as flexible but still want to enjoy the Norse experience.” The new system will run until the end of May when the results will be analysed.

Hospitality recruitment app YapJobs raises £1m in seed funding: YapJobs, an app that seeks to match jobseekers and employers in the hospitality sector in real-time, has raised £1m in seed funding. The app, which has companies including Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee using it, plans to use the money to roll-out the service across London. Funding came from angel investor Ziad Tassabehji and various other private investors. YapJobs puts jobseekers in real-time contact with employers, alerting them as soon as a position becomes available. Since launching in November, it claims to have processed more than 50,000 applications across the sector with more than 600 companies. Chief executive Shahzad Ali told Tech City News: “I grew up in the heat of a restaurant and know that the people employed are the lifeblood of the service industry, but I also know how the wrong environment can make it a very difficult place to work which has an impact on staff retention. That’s why I launched YapJobs, to help the best people find work quickly in the places that they really want to work. We want to use technology to help drive a real change in the industry, ensuring that people are also matched to company culture, which will help promote a better working environment across the board.” 

Craft beer brewers forced to raise prices following poor hop harvest: Craft beer brewers have been forced to raise prices after last summer’s hot and dry weather led to a weak European hop harvest. Prices for some varieties have risen by 50%, while others are up to five times more expensive, Sky News reports. Germany and the US are the world’s two main hop growers, each accounting for a third of global production. Germany’s harvest fell by 27% last year, according to the International Hop Growers’ Convention, with growers in the US unable to make up the shortfall. Sharp declines were also recorded in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Stephan Barth, of global hop merchant the Barth Haas Group, said: “There has been a considerable tightening of supplies on the European hop market after the major reduction in the 2015 harvest, with a sharp increase in prices. Europe will need at least an average harvest in 2016 otherwise we could see serious supply shortages.” Craft beers can be particularly hop heavy, with styles such as India Pale Ale using up to six times the amount used in some lagers. Evin O’Riordain, founder of south London’s Kernel Brewery, said the shortages were “a worry on the horizon” but he added the higher prices could encourage more farmers to grow “good quality” hops.

VisitEngland – domestic tourism hits record-breaking £19.6bn spend in 2015: Domestic tourism in England saw an 8% increase in expenditure in 2015 compared with the previous year, with a record spend of £19.6bn, according to VisitEngland’s Great Britain Tourism Survey. VisitEngland recorded 103 million overnight trips in the country last year, an 11% increase compared with the previous year. The number of holidays taken in England in 2015 increased by 7% from the previous year to 43.7 million, while holiday expenditure also increased by 7%. Visits to friends and family were said to be an “important driver” of growth, with the number of trips up by 13% to 40.6 million – the highest level since 2006 – and a 15% increase in expenditure. All regions across England experienced growth in overnight trips and spend, with West Midlands (22%), Yorkshire (20%), London (14%) and the south west (14%) recording the greatest increases. VisitEngland chief executive Sally Balcombe said: “These hugely encouraging results demonstrate the growing importance of tourism to the UK economy as we continue our drive to get visitors out exploring more of our regions, ensuring that economic growth from tourism is felt across the whole country.”

Company News:

JD Wetherspoon to shut The Silk Kite in Tamworth, nightclub objects to Guildford hours bid: JD Wetherspoon will close The Silk Kite in Church Street, Tamworth, on Sunday (17 April). JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Tamworth Herald the closure wasn’t part of any disposal package, while the company’s other pub in Tamworth – The Bole Bridge – would remain open. He said: “Of 44 zero-hour contracted staff, no one will lose their job. Staff will either be relocated to The Bole Bridge or at another Wetherspoon pub in other parts of the region. JD Wetherspoon, like many other companies, looks at its progress from time to time and has to make decisions that are right for the company. We are closing a number of pubs across the country and The Silk Kite is one of those.” JD Wetherspoon took over the pub in 2009 and spent £465,000 redeveloping the art deco building. Meanwhile Michel Harper, owner of Casino nightclub in Guildford town centre, has objected to JD Wetherspoon’s plans for extended hours at its The Rodboro Buildings pub over the road. JD Wetherspoon wants the pub to stay open until 3.15am Monday to Sunday, and to extend its alcohol licence to 2.45am on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Sale of alcohol is currently permitted until 1am Sunday to Thursday and until 1.45am on Fridays and Saturdays. In his objection letter to the council, Harper stated: “We appreciate that Wetherspoon is a large national company but as a public house branded product, should this company be a nightclub concept, trying to own the market by size and scale?” JD Wetherspoon has operated The Rodboro Buildings since 1998.

Yorkshire Meatball Co extends £100,000 crowdfunding campaign for second time and increases equity offer: Yorkshire Meatball Co has extended its £100,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube for a second time and increased its equity offer as it aims to roll-out franchised restaurants nationwide and launch branded retail products in UK supermarkets. The company, founded by father and son team David and Gareth Atkinson, is now offering a 12% equity stake in return for the investment – an increase from the original 9.05%. It has now extended the campaign by another nine days “due to ongoing discussions with potential investors”. So far 130 investors have pledged £79,080 with the largest investment to date £10,000. The pitch states: “Our strategy is to lay the foundations of a quality, national food brand through the establishment of three principal revenue streams: owned-restaurants, franchised-restaurants, and branded retail products. Our original Meatball and Craft Beer Bar launched in Harrogate on 1 March 2014. In early 2015 we attracted the attention of our first franchise partnership, with leading hotel group Splendid Hospitality Group, which launched our first franchise in York in October 2015, where we continue to refine and develop our franchise model for further roll-out. In late 2015, we successfully trialled a pub-kitchen format in Harrogate. With potential format variations from take-out to pub-kitchen and street food, we see a wealth of scope for diversifying the concept further.” The company expects to make a pre-tax profit of £77,934 at the end of this year, rising to £245,949 in 2017 and £601,555 in 2018.

Petition to overturn Wagamama refusal in Reigate attracts nearly 1,200 signatures: A petition launched in a bid to overturn a decision to refuse Wagamama permission to open a site in Reigate, Surrey, has attracted nearly 1,200 signatures. The company had its application to convert the former Edward Dean kitchen and bathroom showroom in Bell Street rejected by Reigate and Banstead Council. It said introducing another restaurant to Reigate would result in the town’s retail offering dropping even further below the desired 80% threshold. Now, a petition launched on change.org by Nicky Bendyshe-Brown asking the council to overturn its decision, has attracted 1,162 signatures in three days – surpassing the 400- signature threshold for the matter to be debated at full council. Bendyshe-Brown told the Surrey Mirror: “It started off as a bit of fun. I’m quite a big fan of Wagamama and I heard that it was possibly coming to the town. When I heard it was refused I was so frustrated. [Wagamama] is an amazing brand and it’s really good to attract people.”

North London-based Chinese takeout concept Zing Zing launches £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to expand across capital: Zing Zing, the north London-based Chinese takeout concept, has launched a £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand across the capital. The company, founded by Josh Magidson, who sold his start-up business to Just Eat in 2010, is offering an 8.48% equity stake in return for the investment. The pitch states: “Zing Zing is revolutionising the £1.4bn Chinese takeout industry over time. We offer Chinese cuisine with a modern and healthy twist, cooked fresh to order and delivered fast. We have two units in north London, which together generated £1.05m of net turnover last year. We are currently raising equity finance to fund the next stages of our store roll-out plan. We are looking to raise a minimum of £350,000 for a new store in east and/or west London and other exciting business improvements. The investments we are making in the business are all designed to enable us to scale the model more effectively. We do not need large stores in high footfall locations. New sites are easy to find. They are extremely low cost to build and operate, especially compared with a traditional restaurant. We target a near 50% pre-tax return on capital whenever we open a new store – a target far beyond most traditional restaurant models.” The company forecasts a pre-tax loss of £170,155 at the end of this year, rising to a profit of £44,100 in 2017, £217,291 in 2018, and £574,881 in 2019. 

Krispy Kreme to open third venue in Leeds at White Rose shopping centre: Krispy Kreme will open a new venue at the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds on Wednesday, 27 April, its third site in the city and fifth in Yorkshire. As well as 16 varieties of doughnuts, the store will offer coffee and Kreme Shakes. The doughnuts will be delivered each morning from Krispy Kreme’s Hotlight store at Birstall Shopping Park in the city. In the weeks leading up to the opening, Krispy Kreme will give away boxes of doughnuts to passers-by and local offices. Krispy Kreme chief marketing officer Judith Denby said: “After the great reception we had at our Leeds Hotlight store opening and our Trinity Leeds store, we are excited about bringing a taste of Krispy Kreme to the White Rose centre, which is a fantastic location.” Krispy Kreme UK entered the market in October 2003 in London and currently operates 65 stores across the UK. Earlier this month, the owners of the operation, Alcuin Capital Partners, said it was eyeing a £100m-plus flotation.

Luke Johnson-backed contract caterer to open coffee house in Birmingham: Contract caterer The Genuine Dining Co, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, is to open a coffee house in Birmingham. The company is launching &More Coffee House in The Colmore Building in the heart of the business district. The 1,000 square foot cafe will serve barista-style coffee, breakfast and lunch. The operator was hired by The Colmore Building’s owner AshbyCapital, which has invested £3.5m enhancing the property. The Genuine Dining Co director Chris Mitchell told Insider Media: “We are extremely excited to be partnering with AshbyCapital to provide a modern, high street food offering at The Colmore Building.” AshbyCapital chief executive Peter Ferrari added: “The &More Coffee House will provide an important new amenity for occupants at The Colmore Building, bringing new and different breakfast, lunch and drinks options and offering the perfect place for breakfast, a coffee, or an informal meeting or working lunch.” Bilfinger GVA and JLL are joint agents for The Colmore Building.

Fitzbillies set for second site in Cambridge: Plans for Cambridge-based Fitzbillies, which is renowned for its sticky Chelsea buns, to open a second site in the city have taken a step forward. St John’s College, advised by Savills, has let a retail unit in Bridge Street to Fitzbillies. The company, dubbed a Cambridge institution, has taken a new ten-year lease for space on the ground floor, which totals 859 square feet. Fitzbillies was represented by Dodson Jones. Doug Stanton, associate in the business space team at Savills Cambridge, said: “Situated in a popular city centre location close to the River Cam and Quayside, Fitzbillies will complement the current eclectic retail, restaurant and leisure offering in Bridge Street. We are delighted to have let this space on behalf of our client and to be a part of Fitzbillies expansion as it opens its second store in the local area and strengthens its presence in Cambridge.” Fitzbillies’ famous Chelsea buns have been made and sold at its Trumpington Street premises since 1921.

Starbucks launches ‘Automatic Gold’ offer for Rewards members in US: Starbucks has revealed an “Automatic Gold” offer for US members of its revamped Rewards programme, which launched yesterday (Tuesday, 12 April). Members who make a purchase via a registered Starbucks Card or the Starbucks app at participating stores automatically earn gold status for a year. If someone is already a gold member, their status will be extended for one year following a purchase. The offer ends on Monday, 2 May. Gold members earn rewards (a free drink or food item) by collecting stars. When customers reach gold status, they receive a Starbucks Gold Card and get access to perks such as new Double-Star Days, where gold members will earn four stars for every $1 spent on eligible purchases. Members can also earn bonus stars, free refills, a free birthday reward and a free food or drink item, as well as enjoying a no-queuing system and Spotify exclusives. Starbucks said its members would soon be able to earn stars outside of Starbucks through strategic partnerships with Spotify, Lyft and the Starbucks Rewards prepaid card from JP Morgan Chase. The new Starbucks Rewards programme has been met with criticism from some regular customers. One complainant, Simon Hodgkiss, said on Twitter: “I now have to buy 63 brewed coffees instead of 12 to get a reward? Thanks for showing ‘loyalty’ to your customers.”

M&B to open third Miller & Carter site in Scotland, submits plans for restaurant at Chester council headquarters: Mitchells & Butlers is set to open its third Miller & Carter restaurant in Scotland after securing a site in Aberdeen city centre, while it has submitted plans for another venue in Chester. The company has agreed a deal with developer Castlecall to open the steakhouse in part of the former Esslemont and Macintosh store in Union Street. Castlecall was given the go-ahead to convert the site into a restaurant earlier this year but has now lodged a further application for new alterations to the premises, reports the Evening Express. Meanwhile, Mitchells & Butlers has applied for planning consent to open a Miller & Carter site on the ground floor of the building that is the headquarters of Cheshire West and Chester Council, the Chester Chronicle reports. The unit, which already benefits from planning consent to open as a restaurant, has been empty since the headquarters was completed in 2009. If granted, the site will open in the summer. Miller & Carter has about 40 restaurants in the UK, including two in Scotland – in Edinburgh and Glasgow – and sites in north west England at Cheshire Oaks, Liverpool and Aughton, near Ormskirk.

Dusty Knuckle pop-up pizza concept to launch permanent site in Cardiff: Pop-up pizza company Dusty Knuckle has announced plans to set up a permanent home in Cardiff. Owners Phill Lewis and Deb Noyes are converting a space in the Canton area of the city, which will feature a courtyard that would not only seat diners but also be used to grow herbs to top its hand-made, wood-fired pizzas. The couple founded Dusty Knuckle 19 months ago and started touring markets and festivals in Wales. Dusty Knuckle’s pizzas include Black & Blue (San Marzano tomatoes with Cothi Valley blue goat’s cheese and black olive tapenade) and the signature Blas Y Mor (tomato, mozzarella, lardons, Penclawdd cockles, laverbread and samphire). The venue will also offer seasonal sides and sweets. Lewis told Wales Online: “We wanted our new home to stay true to our philosophy and to what good ‘poor man’s food’ is all about by keeping things simple, using quality local produce and maintaining a connection with the food we’re eating.”
 
The Restaurant Group submits plans to bring Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito to Bexhill: The Restaurant Group has submitted plans to bring its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands to Bexhill, East Sussex. The company has applied to Rother District Council to build the restaurants, along with a 112-space car park at Glyne Gap, opposite the Ravenside Retail Park, reports the Bexhill Observer. It said the development would generate more than £2m annually and create 141 jobs. In a planning statement, the company said: “The two restaurants will be occupied by Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito and will effectively form an extension to the existing retail and leisure park. It is felt that the two restaurants will work positively alongside each other to meet different dining habits, as it is generally found that Frankie & Benny’s is more popular in the day, and Chiquito is considered to be more of an early evening destination.” The site is part of the Combe Valley Countryside Park but the planning statement said it would screen the development thanks to green roofs on the single-storey restaurants and a landscaped “buffer” zone.

Notch rooftop bar to launch at London Marriott Hotel Park Lane: Notch rooftop bar will open at London Marriott Hotel Park Lane on Thursday, 5 May, taking over the space from Roofnic, which proved a hit for the hotel last year. Within the bar, Fudo Shack will offer Japanese street food, with a menu of small bites. Among weekly specials, Notch signature dishes will include Sashimi Pizza (tuna, anchovy aioli, wasabi tobiko, sesame seeds and coriander), as well as a dedicated brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays. Drinks will have a summer feel with rum, tequila and gin-based cocktails such as Red Pigeon (Espolon tequila, Campari, lime, pink grapefruit and sugar). Craft beer, wine and sharing cocktails will also be on offer. Style-wise, Notch is described as “Williamsburg warehouse meets Berlin yard sale”, with a mix of reclaimed school science tables, Edwardian floorboards, bomb-proof lighting, scaffolding, and rooftop swings overlooking Oxford Street. The 100-capacity Notch will open seven days a week, from 10am to 10pm.

Hawksmoor co-founder-backed Craved passes 50% mark in £120,000 crowdfunding campaign: Craved, an e-commercial business delivering British craft food and drink from producers across the country and backed by Hawksmoor co-founder Huw Gott, has passed the 50% mark in its £120,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, founded by David Voxlin, is offering a 13.04% equity stake in return for the investment as it seeks to expand. So far, 63 investors have pledged £60,950 with 17 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £10,000. The majority of the funds will be used as working capital and to extend the product range. The pitch states: “We are aiming to build a Fortnum & Mason for the 21st century where independent, local, and craft are core values to our company, and we believe our food, drink and gifts not only taste amazing but support the local, independent producers as well. Craved London aims to be the only retailer in the UK focusing solely on British craft food and drinks, and we’re creating a new type of food brand that is more in tune with consumer expectations and macro trends in food retail.” The company forecasts sales of £315,665 at the end of this year, growing to £1,010,907 in 2017 and £2,298,588 in 2018. It expects to make a pre-tax loss of £71,623 this year, which will turn into a profit of £110,760 in 2017 and nearly quadruple to £409,122 the following year. 

Multi-site operators bring Enterprise pub in Peterlee back to life: A new management team has reopened The Oaklands pub in Peterlee, County Durham, which was forced to close at the end of last year. The Enterprise Inns-owned pub is being run by the same team behind Signatures in Silksworth, Sunderland; and The Conservatory in Sunderland city centre. Manager Fiona Tench told the Sunderland Echo the pub in Durham Way had been “inundated with positive feedback” since it was renovated. She said: “Enterprise Inns has given us a lot of freedom with the site and a substantial amount of money has been invested in refurbishing the pub with new carpets, furnishings and a new bar. We have a totally new menu and new chef and the food’s proving really popular. You can build a pub around good food and drinks menu and we’re offering gourmet good pub grub. While we’ve been finding our feet we’ve been running a limited menu of gourmet burgers, chicken skewers, and traditional fish and chips, but we’re expanding to include mince and dumplings, chilli and pulled pork skewers. We’ll also be introducing lunch offers to encourage daytime trade. It’s a good pub in a great location. The surrounding estates are fantastic and we’ve made it cosy and welcoming.”

Hand Picked Hotels put North Wales site on market for £1.6m: Hand Picked Hotels, the company run by Guy and Julia Hands, has put the Seiont Manor Hotel in North Wales up for sale for £1.6m. The 18th century property in Llanrug, Caernarfon, is being jointly marketed by Christie & Co and Colliers International and actress Angelina Jolie stayed there in 2002 during the filming of Tomb Raider 2. Set in 22 acres and surrounded by farmland, lakes and rivers, Seiont Manor has 28 en-suite bedrooms and suites, conference and function facilities and indoor heated swimming pool. Adjacent to the hotel and also offered for sale is a disused grade II-listed manor house with planning consent for an additional seven bedrooms and meeting rooms. Seiont Manor was originally built as a farmstead and first developed as a hotel after the estate was acquired by a couple in 1986. Hand Picked Hotels acquired the hotel in 1999. Julian Troup, head of UK hotels – agency at Colliers International, told The Business Desk: “We anticipate a high level of interest in what is a renowned country house hotel in a prime location in Snowdonia National Park being offered at a very competitive price.”
 
D&D London confirms first site in Manchester: Restaurant group D&D London has confirmed it will open a site in Manchester. The company will operate the new rooftop restaurant at No 1 Spinningfields, the 260,000 square foot tower being built in Hardman Square by Allied London that is due to open next year. The 9,500 square foot restaurant and bar will have a substantial outdoor garden terrace area with panoramic views over the city. Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, told The Business Desk: “Expansion in northern England continues to be a significant part of our group’s growth strategy and this announcement reflects that. Manchester is a fantastic city and we have watched closely over the last few years the resurgence of the restaurant scene in the city and in Spinningfields in particular. We are big fans of Allied London’s development and are very excited to become a part of it.” Allied London chief executive Michael Ingall added: “No 1 Spinningfields has been designed to be a world class environment in every facet of the building. D&D is the perfect operator for this space and a game changer for Spinningfields and Manchester. With numerous superb operations in London as well as restaurants in Paris, New York and Tokyo, and two Michelin stars, D&D is a quality operation in every sense of the word. We are delighted they have chosen No 1 Spinningfields as their first restaurant in Manchester.” No 1 Spinningfields is the largest commercial building under construction in Manchester and will be the tallest to be built in the city ‎in the past 50 years.

Butcombe appoints new head brewer as owner pushes forward with growth: Brewer and operator Butcombe Brewery, owned since December 2014 by Liberation Group, has appointed Aaron McClure as head brewer. McClure will leave Sharps to move to Bristol-based Butcombe in May. He joined Sharps in 2011 and was a protégé of Stuart Howe, who he will replace at Butcombe. Howe is taking up a role with a small craft brewer. Butcombe Brewery managing director Geraint Williams said: “Aaron is typical of the new breed of young, ambitious and innovative brewers who are leading the field in our industry and we are confident he will help take us to a new level.” Liberation Group chief executive Mark Crowther said: “We have ambitious plans for Butcombe Brewery. Aaron McClure will be significant in helping to develop those plans and underpinning our reputation as we push forward with our growth strategy.” Butcombe Brewery also operates 18 pubs.

Vietnamese street food concept Bambu to launch in Colchester: New Vietnamese street food concept Bambu will launch in Colchester, Essex, this Saturday (16 April). Brother and sister Mai and Kong La, originally from Vietnam, have spent the past year transforming an empty riverside site in Quayside Drive, Hythe. A wooden street-stand has been built inside the venue to give the effect of dining in the bustling streets of Vietnam, while a large outdoor terrace has been turned into a summer garden. The venue will serve bowls of pho – a healthy, tangy noodle soup – along with other authentic street food, including spring rolls, seafood and curry. The siblings both have catering backgrounds and ran several other businesses, including the Silver Bowl Chinese restaurant in Bocking. Mai La told the Daily Gazette: “It’s our baby really because we created it from scratch. All our other businesses we have just taken on the lease. Vietnamese food is very up and coming and it’s something we want to share with people. We’ve been doing Chinese food for so many years, we now want to introduce a healthier option.”
 
American barbecue brand Bodean’s opens venue in Covent Garden, seventh London site: American barbecue diner-deli brand Bodean’s has opened its seventh site in London, in Covent Garden. The venue has taken over the space formerly occupied by Russell Norman’s Mishkin’s in Catherine Street, Hot Dinners reports. The 60-cover restaurant features Kansas City-inspired dishes such as ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and burnt ends slow-cooked in its oak-burning smoke pits, with secret rubs and sauces. The venue also offers hot dogs, steaks, burritos, burgers, fish, enchiladas and deli sandwiches. Bodean’s other venues are in Balham, Clapham, Fulham, Old Street, Soho, and Tower Hill.
 
Douglas Jack – we think Punch Taverns shares are undervalued: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued Punch Taverns shares are undervalued ahead of first half results on Wednesday, 20 April. He said: “We are forecasting profit before tax of £25.6m, down from £30.4m due to disposal activity, which included Matthew Clark (£100.7m) and 158 pubs to NewRiver Retail (£53.5m), with the Matthew Clark proceeds being held in cash. We expect strategic progress to further reduce Market Rent Only (MRO) option risk (which we view as limited anyway) and enhance the company’s quality of earnings. We forecast circa 0.5% like-for-like net income in the core estate, with average gross profit per pub growing by circa 4% after circa 30 core and circa 220 non-core pub disposals. We expect the core estate to have generated 92% of group Ebitda in half one 2016, and expect this ratio to grow to 97% over the next three years. Punch’s strategy is to deliver a consistent consumer offer, utilising a broad range of operating models, and enhance value to publicans through buying discounts. Targeted investment is a big opportunity given that 61% of the core estate (1,750 pubs) has had little or no investment over the last five years. Punch should invest in 500 pubs per annum (averaging £100,000-120,000 per pub), including circa 100 retail contracts (publicans earn a percentage of turnover), which generated circa 20% average volume uplifts in 2015. Retail contract conversions should reduce the company’s exposure to the MRO, which could affect, at worst, the 35% (1,000 pubs) of the core estate with a lease of five or more years remaining (just 7% have a lease in excess of nine years). Management expects the vast majority of lessees to choose to remain tied to take advantage of Punch’s substantial support, capital investment and buying discounts. In our view, the main benefit of the half one results will be to provide updates on: executing the strategic plan (including retail contract and commercial lease conversions); minimising MRO risk (the government should publish its final proposals over the next two weeks); disposal activity (which should be ahead); and plans on how to utilise disposal proceeds (such as paying off the 15% payment-in-kind notes in October 2016). We expect to hold our full-year forecasts, which assume circa 1% core like-for-like net income growth, supported by retail contract conversions. Last year, Punch’s estate was valued externally at £2,097m, above the £1,405m of nominal net debt, by £692m (£3.12/share, equivalent to 10.4x EV/Ebitda), which excludes opportunities to unlock under-utilised land and buildings. Given this, minimal cash tax to pay (for circa five years), and rising earnings quality, we believe the shares are undervalued.”
 
Tortilla signs to open first restaurant in Scotland: Mexican restaurant group Tortilla has signed to open its first restaurant in Scotland at the Silverburn shopping centre in Glasgow. The company has agreed a deal with the complex’s owner Hammerson to open the 127 square metre site at the £20m leisure and dining extension. The 58-cover restaurant, created by Brighton-based agency Design LSM, is set to open this summer and will feature accents of bright colour and a subtle Mexican theme. Tortilla property director Rob Lucy said: “Scotland has been a target in our expansion plans for some time, but only now, with the opening of Silverburn’s leisure extension, has the perfect location become available. We are in a prominent position in one of Scotland’s most exciting, popular and successful shopping centres.” Sarah Fox, head of restaurants and leisure at Hammerson, added: “We are looking forward to Tortilla making its debut in Scotland with us. The brand choosing to launch at Silverburn not only completes the vibrant mix of restaurants on offer but also reaffirms the centre’s position as the region’s premium retail, dining and leisure destination that continues to appeal not only to the local catchment but also to customers from further afield.” Tortilla was launched in 2007, bringing burritos and tacos to London by taking inspiration from the self-proclaimed burrito capital of the world, San Francisco. The brand has since grown to 28 restaurants in the UK. Bruce Gillingham Pollard acted on behalf of Hammerson in the deal and Cushman and Wakefield represented Tortilla.
 
Last few places available for Advanced Social Media Masterclass: There are just a handful of places left for next week’s Advanced Social Media Masterclass. A host of sector companies have already signed up for the event. They include YO! Sushi, Apartment Group, TLC Inns, 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, Charles Wells, Pug Pubs, Stable Pizza, Whiting & Hammond, Noble Inns, Brakspear, Eclectic Bar Group, Meatailer, 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 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers members and £345 plus VAT for non-members. To book email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

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