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Fri 2nd Sep 2016 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Simon Longbottom – Stonegate could grow by hundreds of more sites in fragmented market: Stonegate Pub Company chief executive Simon Longbottom has told Propel there is an opportunity for the 660-strong operator to grow by “hundreds of sites” as it consolidates the drinks-led part of the market. The company has added the best sites from within Bramwell Pub Company and TCG to its estate in the past few years as it expands its high-street base. Stonegate has already converted all 53 sites from TCG, acquired a year ago, to its own trading formats. Longbottom said: “TCG is an interesting case study – there wasn’t really any competition to buy the business. This is still a very fragmented part of the sector and there are plenty of opportunities – there is an opportunity to grow by hundreds of sites. We look carefully at every potential acquisition and there are constantly four or five things (under consideration).” Stonegate is about two-thirds of the way through an investment plan across its estate, investing an average of £220,000 per site in circa 100 pubs per annum on a five-to-six-year cycle – the company has about 250 uninvested sites remaining. “The badge of honour is return on capital invested,” said Longbottom. “We do pragmatic, customer-focused investment, achieving a return on capital of 40% or more.” One change since Longbottom became chief executive two years ago has been a focus on ensuring local micro markets are thoroughly understood to enable Stonegate’s pubs and bars to focus on unmet customer demand. He said: “For example, we found that Yates’s wasn’t resonating as strongly in smaller market towns, so a number of sites have been invested in and migrated to our Proper Pub, Town Pub & Kitchen or Slug and Lettuce formats. Yates’s strength as an all-day trading format in the big cities has been cemented with a new design proposition which is working really well.” Slug and Lettuce has been evolved to “polish the female element of the proposition”. About 10% of the Stonegate estate falls into the late-licence category. “There is a well-publicised nervous perception about the late-night sector and its over-supply – but for well-invested, well-managed businesses there’s good money to be made.” Longbottom also reported the company has found customer demand during key calendar events such as Christmas and Easter is “just growing and growing” – company like-for-likes were up 6% and 5% respectively for the two most recent holidays. Last year, Stonegate, which is owned by TDR Capital, had considered an initial Public Offering (IPO). Of IPO prospects now, Longbottom said: “All options are constantly under consideration – an IPO is just one of the options on the list.”  

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference in November open for bookings, free places for operators, James Spragg to present: The last Propel Multi Club Conference of 2016 is now open for bookings. It takes place on Thursday, 3 November at Congress Hall, London. James Spragg, chief operating officer of Casual Dining Group, will give his views on how brands can be revived, majoring on a case study of how Cafe Rouge has been revived with a focus on menu authenticity, investment in facilities and environment, staff training, and head office support. Pub, restaurant and foodservice operators can book up to two free places. To book places, email Anne Steele on or call her on 01444 817691.

Host of companies sign up for Professor Chris Muller’s Multi-site Management Masterclass: A host of companies and brands have signed up for next month’s Multi Site Management Masterclass led by Professor Chris Muller. They include Benito’s Hat, Darwin & Wallace, Draft House, Eclectic Bars, Pie & Pint Inns, Hubbox, McMullens, Bone Daddies, Young’s, Le Bistrot Pierre, Castle Rock, Grand Union, Soho Farmhouse, Jamie Oliver’s, PizzaExpress, Beds and Bars, Intertain, Rarebreed Dining, Wright Brothers, Five Guys, Drake & Morgan, Bar Lorca, Anglian Country Inns, Bar Soba, Randall & Aubin, FrogPubs, Bru Brewery, Belgo and Cafe Rouge. The event takes place on Friday, 30 September at One Moorgate Place in London. Leading UK businesses such as Mitchells & Butlers and TGI Friday’s have sent staff to be taught by Professor Muller at Boston University’s School of Hospitality – now Professor Muller is returning to the UK to lead this bespoke day. His interactive seminar will include contributions from Sticks ‘n’ Sushi UK managing director Andreas Karlsson and Eric Partaker, co-founder and brand evangelist at Chilango. The event will provide valuable insights for founders and area managers of small and medium-sized multi-site companies and area managers of large companies. The sessions will include developing multi-unit leaders, leading a team through a strategic growth plan, and a discussion on the importance transition plays in the practice of management and leadership. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) members and £345 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. To book tickets, email Anne Steele at

Hospitality Action urges industry to support Lunch Box Day: Hospitality Action, the industry’s benevolent charity, is urging the industry to support Lunch Box Day on Friday, 23 September. The charity is asking businesses to get involved by asking workers to donate their lunch money in one of two ways. If lunch is a benefit for the team, then ask them to bring in a packed lunch and donate the money normally spent on food to Hospitality Action or, if lunch is not normally a benefit, then managers can treat the team to lunch and ask employees to donate the money they would normally have spent. Hospitality Action is also encouraging participants to tweet a photograph of their lunch using @HospAction and hashtag #SandwichSelfie. This is the second year Lunch Box Day has run, after its successful launch in 2015. Hospitality Action chief executive Penny Moore said: “In the first six months of this year, Hospitality Action spent £291,627 supporting industry colleagues in need through various grants and programmes. We couldn’t have done this great work without people getting involved in fundraising events such as Lunch Box Day. It’s really simple to get involved and we hope people will share the idea with other colleagues and businesses too.”

Licensing update: Licensing solicitors John Gaunt & Partners produce a useful monthly summary of topical issues and the latest can be accessed here

Company News:

Brakspear reports turnover and profit rise thanks to managed division boost: J T Davies & Sons, the parent company for Henley-based pub operator and brewer Brakspear, has reported turnover increased almost 13% to £22.4m for the year ending 31 December 2015. Operating profit was up 19% to £6.9m, while profit before tax and exceptional items rose 26% to £5.3m. Growth came primarily from the company’s expanding managed house division, where turnover increased by £2.1m to £5.7m, as well as from a 2% uplift in turnover from the tenanted and leased estate. Brakspear continued to invest in its managed estate during 2015 with the acquisition of the George Hotel in Shipston-on-Stour, and Church Street Townhouse in Stratford-upon-Avon. In addition, the Pocket Watch in Shepherds Bush transferred from the tenanted estate following a significant refurbishment. The managed estate, founded in March 2013, now stands at eight sites following the purchase of the Grapevine in Stow-on-the-Wold – since renamed the Sheep On Sheep Street – in January this year. Within the tenanted and leased estate, Brakspear bought one pub in 2015 – the Frogmill Inn near Cheltenham – and sold two as part of its pub disposal programme, fewer than in 2014 as the programme nears its end. Brakspear invested a total of £7.4m in its pub estate during 2015, including the managed house acquisitions and developments. Within the tenanted estate, Brakspear said its in-house property and design team had helped tenants to achieve maximum impact from refurbishments and developments. Some of the larger investments included the construction of a five-bedroom letting block at the Five Alls At Filkins, an award-winning pub in the Cotswolds, and a redesign of the trading area at the Hollybush in Redbourn, Hertfordshire. The company’s workforce has expanded to support the growing business, with a total of 221 people employed across its head office and managed pubs. Chief executive Tom Davies said: “2015 really was a fantastic year for Brakspear. Investment in the managed division’s people and infrastructure enabled us to make a big step forward with this side of our business, adding two sites, each with rooms, and transferring across a previously tenanted site. At the same time, we continued to see a step change in the quality of our tenanted and leased pubs and the operators who make them successful as a result of our investment in design, marketing, training and tenant recruitment over recent years. Our results for 2015 demonstrate that considered investment in acquisitions and pub development and refurbishment benefits the Brakspear business as a whole, as we have been able to strengthen our position to grow both our tenanted and managed estates. We will continue to invest in our pubs, our people and our operators to ensure we maintain this success.”

Former CAU managing director Graham Hall to launch number of brands in London as head of new restaurant division at Ennismore: Former CAU managing director Graham Hall has told Propel his new role as head of Gleneagles owner Ennismore’s restaurant division will see the company launch a number of brands in London. Hall will take up his new job in October, with Ennismore looking to develop its restaurant operation. It currently operates Eggbreak in Notting Hill, which opened last year, and there are plans to roll-out Tandoor Chop House, which Ennismore is launching in Covent Garden later this year. The 65-cover restaurant, which will not accept reservations, is opening in Adelaide Street. It will combine dishes found in a traditional English chop house with Indian spices cooked in a tandoor. Hall said: “It’s a simple but good offer. It’s ideal for lunch and for pre-theatre dining, hence the Covent Garden location, with a selection of plates to share as well as individual dishes. We’re looking to roll it out over the next couple of years – there’s certainly an opportunity there.” Hall also revealed the company was looking to launch three other restaurant brands in the capital. He said: “We are looking at two potential partnerships with some street food traders. They are high profile and have been around a while. Both of them are looking to move into bricks and mortar sites. We then want two or three more creative brands. Ennismore has a huge in-house creative agency and there are five or six ideas that we are looking at with a view to starting up and then rolling out. Our primary focus will be on London over the next 12 to 18 months and we’ll take it from there.” Hall’s departure from CAU has resulted in the business and its parent company Gaucho Group being restructured. Gaucho managing director Tracey Matthews has become chief operating officer for both brands, while CAU operations director Richard Clark has taken on Hall’s former role. A replacement for Matthews is being recruited. Hall said: “I was very sad to leave the amazing team at CAU. We enjoyed seven-fold growth in my time, from three restaurants in 2013 to 21 now, and I believe it will continue to go from strength to strength under Tracey and Richard’s leadership. That said, I’m very excited by my new challenge and opportunity and can’t wait to get started in October.”

Investigation reveals Jimmy’s owes at least £639,000 in unpaid business rates: Buffet restaurant Jimmy’s, which had its site in Brighton Marina closed after racking up more than £200,000 in unpaid business rates, owes at least £639,000 in taxes to six local authorities nationwide. An investigation by The Argus has revealed outstanding payments dating over the past three years. Jimmy’s has had a complex corporate history in recent years, with consecutive or overlapping interests held by companies that have connections through shared directors, shareholders or corporate addresses. After the closure of the Brighton branch on 31 July, a spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said the business owed more than £200,000 in unpaid business rates dating to its opening in November 2014. The investigation showed that of the company’s 11 locations, at least six local authorities including Brighton and Hove are owed money or have written-off debts. In Watford, Jimmy’s closed this summer owing £101,000 – but had previously racked up debts of £27,000 under previous ownership, much of which has already been written-off by the council as bad debt. Elsewhere, the restaurants continue to trade, having been passed from the ownership of a now-defunct company into the hands of a new one. The restaurant in Epsom is still open but, during 2015, Epsom and Ewell Borough Council wrote-off debts totalling £62,000 from the previous incarnation of the business. The council would not confirm if any debts have been accrued by the current corporate entity. Bath and North East Somerset Council is owed £114,000, while Peterborough City Council is £95,000 out of pocket. Spelthorne Borough Council is working with insolvency specialists to recover about £40,000 from the Staines restaurant. Meanwhile, Greenwich Council said it was liaising with Jimmy’s on the issue of business rates over the company’s O2 venue, while Luton Council said matters relating to taxation between itself and individual businesses were “confidential”. Replies were awaited from Swansea, Brent and Morden councils as to whether any money was owed by the chain’s Swansea, Wembley and Wimbledon branches respectively.

Peri peri restaurant brand makes UK debut with Bradford site, plans 13 UK outlets in next year: A peri peri restaurant brand has made its UK debut after opening a site in Bradford and is planning 13 more outlets across the country in the next year. Veri Peri, which has two branches in Dubai and one in Saudi Arabia, has launched in The Broadway shopping centre, creating 25 jobs. The restaurant’s menu includes peri peri chicken dishes, pasta, salads and Aberdeen Angus steaks. Manager of the Bradford restaurant Saad Javed said the business was looking to expand across the UK and chose Bradford as its “pilot project” ahead of expansion. He told the Telegraph & Argus: “We have chosen to open our first UK restaurant in Bradford as it has a good mix of different cultures. That is our target audience. When we were looking at where to make our first impact on the UK restaurant scene, it was clear Bradford would be the perfect fit. We want to go to London next and plan to open 13 restaurants across the UK in the next year. We want to expand very quickly in the UK. Hopefully the UK will be the base for our business.” Ian Ward, general manager of The Broadway added: “Veri Peri will make a welcome addition to our wide-ranging portfolio of restaurants within the centre.”

Zizzi to open first Northern Ireland site in mid-October: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi will open its first site in Northern Ireland in mid-October. The company is launching the restaurant at the Victoria Square Shopping Centre in Belfast, creating 35 jobs. The venue, which will be open from midday to 11pm every day apart from Sundays, when it will close at 10.30pm, is located beside PizzaExpress and Prezzo, reports Belfast Vibe. Zizzi has about 140 restaurants in the UK.

Italian pizza brand Bianco43 opens Croydon restaurant, fourth London site: London-based Italian restaurant group Bianco43 has opened its fourth London site, this time in Croydon. The new restaurant – offering wood-fired pizzas and regional dishes inspired by the “flavours, colour and cultural diversity of the Neapolitan region of Italy” – has opened in South End in Croydon’s Restaurant Quarter. Owners Fabrizio Margarita and Massimo Parodi told the Croydon Advertiser: “We have got a pizzeria which is a bit different to all the other pizzerias that are around. We try to give the feeling to the people that they are on holiday when they come to us. We bring a little bit of Italy, a little bit of everything from each region.” The first Bianco43 launched in Greenwich in 2010, with sites now in Blackheath and Trafalgar Square. The group also operates Italian restaurant Osteria del Mercato in the City.

Glasgow-based hospitality company R Group opens fifth site in city: Glasgow-based hospitality company R Group has opened its fifth site in the city. The company, owned by Pravesh and Rahul Randev, has launched The Larder restaurant in the suburb of Bearsden. It takes on the popular concept of small sharing plates, with a menu divided into four sections – field, yard, sea and garden. Rahul Randev told Glasgow Live: “Our aim is to provide a unique offering to the Bearsden area. We live locally and understand that sometimes it’s desirable to eat close to home without venturing into the city centre or compromising on the standard or choice of food available. With The Larder we have created a modern menu that is perfect for sharing with friends or family in a relaxed environment.” R Group also operates The Eagle Lodge and Oregano, both in Bishopbriggs; The Rasoi in Lenzie; and Garvie & Co in Milngavie.

Food writer and chef Ravinder Bhogal to open debut restaurant Jikoni in Marylebone on 15 September: Food writer and chef Ravinder Bhogal will launch her debut restaurant – Jikoni – in Blandford Street, Marylebone, on Thursday, 15 September after partnering with restaurateur Ratnesh Bagdai. Jikoni, meaning “kitchen” in Swahili, will feature flavours from Britain, East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Close to Chiltern Street and Marylebone High Street, the site comprises 1,733 square feet spread over two floors, with a rent of £110,000 per annum and a lease that runs until 2031. The menu will be split into snacks, small plates, big plates and desserts. Scotch eggs, a signature at Bhogal’s pop-ups, will take pride of place, including quail scotch egg with banana ketchup and pickled cucumber. Small plates will include an Indian take on the American “sloppy Joe”, made with Herdwick mutton keema, pickled onions and mint chutney, while big plates will feature comfort food such as shepherd’s pie. There will also be a daily changing rice plate celebrating curries from around the world. Bhogal said: “I am so excited to welcome guests to Jikoni and what I hope will be an extension of my home and kitchen.”

Reading bar co-owner buys Sheffield restaurant out of liquidation: Reading bar co-owner Michael Standerline has bought Sheffield restaurant Silversmiths out of liquidation. Standerline, who co-owns Forbury’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in Reading, said Silversmiths was a “stand-out” restaurant for Sheffield, citing a visit by Gordon Ramsay in 2007 as the turning point for the venue, which was formerly a club called Runway Girl. He plans to open the restaurant for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, capitalising on daytime crowds. Standerline’s involvement has saved 12 jobs at the restaurant, which had faced cash flow difficulties prior to its appointment of insolvency firm Graywoods. Justin Rowntree liquidated S-One City under a corporate voluntary arrangement on 24 August 2016. Silversmiths Restaurants, based in Omega Court in Sheffield, which was incorporated on 5 August, will take over the restaurant.

Dublin-based healthy food delivery firm Camile Thai offers franchise opportunities for expansion into Northern Ireland: Dublin-based healthy food delivery business Camile Thai, which is set to open its first site outside the Republic of Ireland in London, is offering franchise opportunities for potential Belfast restaurateurs as it looks to expand across the Irish border and double in size. The company said investment in a Camile Thai franchise would cost between €250,000 (£214,000) and €400,000 for a 1,000 to 2,000 square foot restaurant in Belfast. Camile Thai founder Brody Sweeney told the Belfast Telegraph: “Camile Thai has gone from strength to strength over the past six years and is now market leader in Ireland. Our aim is to double the size of the chain over the next few years and continue to be one of the leading brands, offering customers restaurant-quality food delivered straight to their door; 70% of our customers are repeat customers and sales in some of our larger branches are well in excess of €1m per annum. We are offering potential franchise owners the chance to become part of a proven and successful food business model, and the opportunity to create a strong income stream and significant capital growth.” Camile Thai currently operates 14 sites in the Republic, with three more in the pipeline – Stillorgan and Artane in Dublin, and Sligo town.

Kettle Foods takes full ownership of Julian Metcalfe’s popcorn company: Kettle Foods has completed the acquisition of Metcalfe’s Skinny, the popcorn company set up by Pret A Manger founder Julian Metcalfe. Kettle Foods acquired a 26% stake in the business in January, and has now acquired the remaining 74% to become full owners. The sum involved in the acquisition has not been disclosed. Kettle Foods, which owns crisp brand Kettle Chips, pointed out that the UK popcorn market had grown by 45% in the past two years, with it set for further growth as consumers increasingly sought lighter snacks. Kettle Foods managing director Ashley Hicks said: “We are delighted to acquire Metcalfe’s Skinny popcorn, which is an incredibly innovative premium brand and has built such a strong foundation in the UK market. We now have the opportunity to extend the brand’s success story with further innovation and brand development and, as a result, drive even stronger growth in this exciting category.” Metcalfe added: “This is a positive step that we know will not only showcase the brand’s potential but will benefit our customers in the long-term too.”

Whitbread launches new Beefeater autumn menu: Whitbread has launched a new autumn menu for its Beefeater restaurants, claiming it is the brand’s “beefiest ever”. A company spokesman said: “We’re still cooking up juicy steaks but variety is the spice of life, so beef-lovers can now tuck into even more tasty dishes such as Duo of Beef and Beef & Cheddar Pie. We’re also packing heat with our new Crispy Chicken Burger with Tabasco Coating.” Other changes to the Beefeater menu include the addition of duck pate and Italian-inspired arrabiata meatballs to the list of starters, while Mississippi mud pie and three new sponges have been added to the dessert menu.”

Cityglen Pub Co opens Deptford gastro-pub, sister site to Nick Willoughby’s Great North Wood: Cityglen Pub Co has opened a gastro-pub in Deptford, south London, a sister site to The Great North Wood, the venue the company opened with Creme de la Crepe founder Nick Willoughby in West Norwood in 2014. The kitchen at The Brookmill is headed by Olly Marlowe, a former sous chef at Michelin-starred The Glasshouse and Chez Bruce. Marlowe’s menu includes ham hock and gruyere pie with onion purée and roasting juices; and roast cornish cod with nduja risotto, salted almonds, aioli and pecorino. The drinks menu includes craft beer from Brockley Brewery, The Kernel Brewery and Brick Brewery, with natural and organic wines from Davenport Vineyards in East Sussex. Coffee comes courtesy of local roastery Volcano Coffee. Brookmill assistant manager Chloë Brown told Propel: “The Great North Wood has been doing really well over the past two years, so we’re super excited to open The Brookmill.”

Three Michelin-starred chef Eneko Atxa opens Basque restaurant in London: Three Michelin-starred chef Eneko Atxa has opened an informal Basque restaurant in One Aldwych hotel in Covent Garden. Renowned for his three Michelin-starred Azurmendi restaurant in Bilbao, Spain, Atxa heads in a new direction with Eneko at One Aldwych – his 110-cover restaurant and 35-seater wine bar. The venue features irregular chestnut table tops and textured stone walls. In contrast, the exposed steel framework of the original Edwardian building and bespoke furniture, including contemporary stone leather bucket seats and chilli-red banquettes, provide a contemporary edge. Eneko at One Aldwych offers a simpler, more relaxed culinary concept deeply rooted in traditional Basque cooking. Starters feature the Txerri Boda Pork Festival (Iberico ham and mushroom duxelle in milk bread, suckling pig brioche and pigs trotter bocata). Main courses include Basque-style hake tempura with red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion, while dressed beetroot tartar is one of the vegetarian options. The dessert list offers Atxa’s signature rice pudding lollipops with crisp white and dark chocolate hazelnut coating. The wine bar features a carefully crafted Spanish list, including the house Gorka Izagirre Txakoli from Atxa’s own vineyard. A bar menu with a selection of Basque-inspired dishes is also available.

C&C Group’s Andrea Pozzi becomes new Tennent’s managing director: C&C Group, the branded cider, beer, wine and soft drinks producer, has appointed Andrea Pozzi as the new managing director of its Scottish lager brand Tennent’s following the completion of its latest phase of business integration. Alastair Campbell, Tennent’s managing director since July 2015, will leave the business today (Friday, 2 September) to pursue other opportunities. Pozzi, who has been with C&C Group since 2010 as group operations director, international managing director (EMEA), and currently managing director of C&C Brands, will take on the managing director role across the UK covering both the Tennent’s and C&C Brands business units. The decision to combine the managing director roles follows the integration of the respective finance and marketing functions during the past year. Pozzi said: “I’m proud to take on the role of managing director at Tennent’s – a true Scottish icon since 1556. We’ve put in place a strong management team and a passionate and committed workforce across the Tennent’s business and I look forward to working with everyone to deliver our vision of being the foremost brewer and wholesaler serving the licensed trade in Scotland.” The new Tennent’s management team comprises Ewan Robertson (finance director), Paul Condron (marketing director), Alan Hay (on-trade sales director) and John Gilligan (business development director).

Fancy a Rum? redevelopment to include first live micro-distillery in Wales: Cygnus Investments is redeveloping the Swansea site that houses its rum bar concept Fancy a Rum? to create a restaurant and the first live micro-distillery in Wales. The redevelopment of 1 York Street is at the gateway to the £500m regeneration under way to link Swansea city centre to the waterfront. The York Street site will be split between a 90-cover restaurant and the micro-distillery, which will produce gin and rum. Upstairs, the Fancy a Rum? bar will expand its capacity from 100 to 330, with the addition of a gourmet kitchen and an outdoor area. Cygnus Investments is made up of local businessmen David Bellis, David Wakely, Clive Atkins and David Atkins. Bellis and Wakely opened Fancy a Rum? and London-themed bar Li’l London, also in Swansea. Bellis told Wales Online: “The addition of a south-facing terrace will allow the venue to open for additional hours, giving customers a place to enjoy drinks and the added provision of food via a gourmet Rum Kitchen overlooking the National Waterfront Museum, the boulevard and creating a relaxing and welcoming space in the middle of the city centre.” The project has received planning and licensing consents, with work expected to start soon and be complete by March 2017.

May Fair Bar team launches Peruvian concept Monmouth Kitchen in Seven Dials: The team behind the May Fair Kitchen and May Fair Bar has opened a Peruvian restaurant – with a touch of Mediterranean inspiration – in Seven Dials, London. Monmouth Kitchen is part of the Radisson Blu Edwardian boutique hotel, with a menu created by Amir Jati, formerly head of private dining at Nobu. The 106-cover venue in Mercer Street also features an outdoor terrace. Dishes include avocado and corn salad with blackberry dressing, and smoked lamb cutlets with red anticucho, alongside three ceviche dishes – lobster, sea bass and tomato. Desserts feature Chocolate Caliente (warm Peruvian chocolate spring rolls served with fresh passion fruit sauce and coconut sorbet), while drinks include wine, pisco sours and cocktails, reports Hot Dinners. May Fair Kitchen and May Fair Bar are both in the May Fair Hotel in Stratton Street, Mayfair.

Manchester bar goes on the market for £4m: A Manchester bar frequented by Liam Gallagher and Happy Mondays front man Shaun Ryder in their pomp is on the market for £4m. The Dry Bar in Oldham Street has been put up for sale with planning permission to turn the upper floors into a hotel. The property, opened in 1989 by Factory Records, includes the ground-floor bar and consent for 69 bedrooms. Christie & Co, which is marketing the property, said the business has a current turnover of £1.3m. Ryan Lynn, from Christie & Co’s Manchester office, said the Dwyer family who now own the business had decided to sell up after gaining planning permission for the hotel development last year. He told the Manchester Evening News: “The family are not hoteliers, they are more bar operators. The market is really strong now for hotels so they decided it is the right time to sell.” According to planning documents, the upper storeys are currently disused.

Celebrity chef Michael Caines opens fine dining restaurant in North Wales country house hotel: Two Michelin-stared chef Michael Caines has opened his new fine dining restaurant at Palé Hall Hotel in Gwynedd, North Wales. Caines has worked alongside new owners Alan and Angela Harper on refurbishment of the grade II-listed country house hotel in Llandderfel, near Bala. Caines told the Daily Post: “I’m delighted to be working with Alan and Angie to realise their vision for Palé Hall to become a destination hotel and restaurant in a dramatically beautiful part of the world. Their ambitions are aligned with my own in creating a relaxed and friendly dining experience to delight our customers, offering a signature menu that makes the most of the finest locally sourced ingredients.” The restaurant will feature three dining areas offering breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The largest will be the grand main dining room, followed by the Venetian-themed alternative dining room, and the library for private dining. The kitchen will be led by head chef Gareth Stevenson, who has worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and with Caines at Gidleigh Park. The 18-bedroom hotel will host musical evenings and other activities in the grounds. Palé Hall dates to the late 19th century and has hosted some of Britain’s most famous figures, including Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill.

Thai Leisure Group to open Thaikhun in Bath next month, first south west site: Thai Leisure Group will open its ninth Thaikhun site, in Bath next month. The company is launching the 154-cover venue in Little SouthGate on Friday, 7 October, creating 50 jobs. It is investing £900,000 to refurbish the site, with a theatre-style open kitchen, outdoor dining area and bar. Thaikhun is one of four restaurants coming to Little SouthGate, which is being redeveloped into a food quarter that will also include Comptoir Libanais, owned by Levant Restaurants Group, and Splendid Hospitality’s Deep South-inspired gourmet chicken brand Absurd Bird. Thai Leisure Group managing director Ian Leigh told the Bath Chronicle: “We are really looking forward to bringing Thaikhun to Bath and we hope our new restaurant will offer something a little different for diners in the area. By combining traditional Thai street food and an authentic, eclectic restaurant setting we hope to inspire dreams or memories of exploring Thailand for every customer who dines with us. This is our first site in the south west of England and we couldn’t be more excited to hear what the people of Bath think.” Thai Leisure Group, which is jointly owned by Thai chef Kim Kaewkraikhot and British entrepreneur Martin Stead, also operates the Chaophraya, ChaoBaby and Yee Rah brands.

Savills markets luxury Wales lodge park for £1.895m: Agent Savills, on behalf of a private vendor, has brought to market Oakwood Lodge Park in the Elan Valley in Powys, Wales, at a guide price of £1.895m. The luxury lodge park, which is set across 19 acres (7 hectares) of land, comprises eight two-bedroom and six three-bedroom Norwegian-style lodges with planning permission for a further two dwellings, subject to consent. Also on site is Oakwood House, the owner’s accommodation, which includes five bedrooms and a private garden. Oakwood Lodge Park is just two miles to the east of the market town of Rhayader. Easily accessible, the property offers a rural base from which to explore the picturesque Elan Valley, with its wildlife reserve, lakes and mountain walks, making it a popular tourist location. Richard Prestwich, associate director in the leisure team at Savills Chester, said: “Oakwood Lodge Park provides an excellent opportunity to purchase a well established and profitable business, which has the potential for future asset management and is operational all year round. The high-quality accommodation combined with the excellent location and top local attractions mean the park is never short of visitors.”

Full speaker schedule for Bar and Nightclub Conference revealed: The full speaker schedule for this year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Propel, has been revealed. It takes place on Tuesday, 11 October at Bafta, Piccadilly, and follows the successful launch of the event last year. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls will provide an update on political and regulatory developments. Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA Strategy, which has retailer specialist CGA Peach as a division, will reveal details of new research of usage, areas of growth, food and drink trends, and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. Toby Smith, chief executive of bar, nightclub and restaurant operator Novus Leisure, will talk about how the company is meeting the needs of customers in London’s evolving bar and nightclub scene, including offer evolution and social media developments. Luke Johnson, sector investor and executive chairman of Brighton Pier Company and investor in Grand Union Group, will speak about his career in the late-night sector starting at Oxford University, set out his reasons for investing in the sector, evolving the offer at the company, and his perspective on the future for the bar and nightclub sector. Serial sector entrepreneur Roy Ellis will talk about the launch of the ground-breaking Albert’s Schloss concept in Manchester a year ago, its USPs, versatility, first-year performance and roll-out potential – and set out the scope of the involvement of his Mission Mars business in Manchester’s late-night scene. Jimmy Bernstein will talk about his 14-strong US bar and live music concept Howl at the Moon. Bernstein was the keynote speaker at this year’s Bar and Nightclub Convention in Las Vegas. Howl at the Moon has sites in key US cities, including Chicago, New York and Orlando, Florida – the company has also licensed the concept to Norwegian Cruise Line, which operates it on four ships. John Leslie, chief executive of Intertain, will talk about evolving the Walkabout brand and opening new sites, working with new comedy partner Comedy Loft, the regulatory regime, its new Birmingham concept 6 on Broad Street, and the company’s relationship with backer Better Capital. Leading licensing barrister Philip Kolvin QC will provide a personal perspective on the key legal issues and developments facing bar and nightclub operators in the current climate. There will also be a panel hosted by Nicholls with Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, Mick McDonnell, national co-ordinator of Best Bar None, Paddy Whur, of Woods Whur, Peter Marks, chief executive of Deltic Group, and Richard Stringer, chief executive of Kornicis, about the challenges, opportunities and threats to the bar and nightclub sector. Tickets are priced at £95 for operators who are ALMR members and £145 for non-ALMR members. Supplier tickets are £145 for ALMR supplier members and £195 for suppliers who are not ALMR members. Tickets can be booked by emailing Jo Charity at

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