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Thu 15th Sep 2016 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Coffer Peach Tracker – overall like-for-likes up 0.6% on August 2015, pubs outperform restaurants: Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales grow 0.6% in August against the same month last year, following on from a 0.3% sales lift in July. Latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker showed pub groups had the best of the month’s trading, with like-for-likes up 1.2% against a 0.4% decline among casual dining chains, with drink-led businesses doing best of all. “As ever, this can be put down to the good weather,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “The reassuring thing is that, overall, business was marginally up on last year at a time when consumer confidence was expected to be fragile in the wake of the referendum. However, performance was not uniform across the country, with London operators seeing a healthy 2.9% like-for-like sales uplift against August 2015, continuing a trend seen in July. In contrast, those outside the M25 saw a slight 0.1% fall in like-for-like sales against last year. Tourism will have helped the capital and the market will remain cautious as we move into the pre-Christmas period.” Total sales for the month among the 34 companies in the Tracker cohort were up 4.2% on August 2015, reflecting new site openings during the past 12 months. The underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-likes running at just 0.8% up for the 12 months to the end of August, the same as at the end of July, with restaurant chains up 0.9% and pub groups ahead 0.8%. Trevor Watson, executive director, valuations, at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “Within these figures there are certainly some interesting trends. Over the past three months, the rate of growth between the pub sector and the restaurant sector has been broadly similar, unlike the last four years when restaurant growth has been significantly faster. This is further evidence of the slowdown in growth in the restaurant sector as the number of new openings reduces and the sector moves into a period of more modest growth. London is benefiting from staycations and weaker sterling. Overall, the results are considerably more positive than some might have expected. Business and consumer confidence in the autumn season, for the time being, looks as though it is likely to remain positive in the run up to the key Christmas period.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, added: “Three consecutive months of like-for-like growth across the eating and drinking out sector provides some welcome respite for operators in an environment where cost headwinds are increasingly prevalent. All operators need to work harder to remain relevant in the face of new competition. Refurbishments, redesigns and rebrandings are increasingly necessary for some established multi-brand operators. However, operators of all sizes need to remain flexible enough to remodel their offering in the face of changing customer needs. Investors should also plan to provide adequate cash headroom for existing site development capex that could impact return on investment expectations and overall sector valuations.”

Industry News:

Host of companies sign up for Professor Chris Muller’s Multi-site Management Masterclass: A host of companies and brands have signed up for this month’s Multi Site Management Masterclass led by Professor Chris Muller. They include Polpo, Snug Bars, Mowgli Street Food, Benito’s Hat, Darwin & Wallace, Draft House, Eclectic Bars, Pie & Pint Inns, Hubbox, McMullens, Bone Daddies, Young’s, 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 and Belgo. 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. Former Rosinter chief executive Kevin Todd will also give his insights on talent management. 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

Survey reveals more than one in ten diners admit skipping bill, 90% withhold tips: Operators have been warned not to leave customers waiting when it comes to payment after one in ten diners admitted they have skipped the bill. A survey by mobile technology company QikServe also found 90% had withheld a tip for a variety of reasons. More than 50% of those who admitted to leaving without paying gave the reason as either waiting too long for the bill or being unable to find staff to take payment. The main reason given for not tipping was “terrible” service, with 80% of respondents admitting to withholding a tip for this reason, although more than one in three also admitted to not tipping for “being ignored when trying to pay”. The survey also explored the public’s main gripes with customer service in general. As expected, the primary bugbear was “bad staff attitude”, which resonated with 68% of respondents, but more than half of those surveyed also said “waiting too long for food” was a significant factor. Other factors relating to waiting were also a key concern, with more than one in three respondents choosing “couldn’t get staff attention”, “being ignored when trying to pay” and “not getting our order taken quickly enough” as leading poor service factors. QikServe chief executive Daniel Rodgers said: “We were surprised to learn so many people admitted to skipping out on a bill, but we believe this higher-than-expected number is a sign of the times. We live in an age of instant gratification, driven in part by the ubiquity of mobile devices and apps, where consumers are becoming increasingly less tolerant towards waiting. This really brings home how important it is for hospitality operators to make sure they don’t leave their customers hanging when it comes to payment. In fact, waiting was one of the most significant consumer concerns throughout the survey, whether waiting for food, service or the bill. Operators that offer mobile ordering and payment options can address the waiting challenge directly, helping to ensure diners never have to feel they can’t order or pay in a timely fashion.”

CAMRA beer guide editor praises real ale success story but warns of threat posed by global brewers: Real ale is the success story of British beer, according to the 2017 Good Beer Guide published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). However, it added that the industry must remain wary of the threat posed by global brewers “muscling in on the craft sector”. The new guide, published today (15 September), states London is “once again one of the world’s great brewing cities”, listing 69 breweries, with five more due to open in the near future. Across the UK, the guide lists more than 200 breweries opening in the past year, with 1,540 operating in total. The guide’s editor Roger Protz said: “The real ale revolution goes roaring on. As well as new breweries opening, others are expanding their sites or moving to bigger premises to cope with demand for their beers. In an overall declining beer market, real ale’s share is impressive. It’s (also) expected to grow dramatically over the next few years. As the ale market includes such national and expensively promoted keg brands as Guinness, John Smith’s and Tetley’s, this is a remarkable achievement by the cask ale sector that has to rely on word of mouth and CAMRA beer festivals to spread the message.” However, Protz added a word of warning to companies involved in the rise of real ale – the threat posed by global brewers muscling into the craft beer sector. Pointing to the protracted £79bn merger between the world’s two biggest brewers, AB InBev and SABMiller, both of which had already acquired craft beer companies, he said: “The way in which global brewers are muscling in on the craft sector in Britain and other countries is a cause for concern and a potential threat to the independent sector. In its 44-year history, the guide has never been complacent and believes beer drinkers’ choice and freedom demand constant vigilance.” The 44th edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide lists the best 4,500 pubs in the country chosen by its 180,000-plus membership.

Hotelier bans customers from leaving tips in restaurant: A hotelier believes his restaurant is the only place in the UK to stop customers from leaving tips. At The Langdale Chase Hotel in Windermere, Cumbria, service charges are not added to diners’ bills and customers are advised not to leave tips in a bid to encourage repeat custom. Thomas Noblett, the hotel’s managing director, said that while he couldn’t police customers slipping staff cash directly, it was not fair for diners to be automatically slapped with extra charges. Staff at the country house hotel, which has its own restaurant and bar, are paid the national minimum wage or higher but are also provided with accommodation and food for a small daily cost. He told The Telegraph: “Establishments should not be inflicting a service charge on your bill. My main beef is the more you spend, the more you are nailed. A plate of expensive ingredients or more expensive bottle of wine involves no more workload or effort from the service personnel as a lesser plate of ingredients or bottle of house. If the service charge is 15% and your bill is £100 you are paying £15 service but if your bill is £200 you’re paying £30 service – when the service you received was exactly the same. If the customer comes to us, I respect their loyalty for choosing us. I do not want to insult them with an added surcharge. With us, what you see is what you pay. If customers want to leave a tip, we do not take it. I do not think there is anywhere else doing this. I have worked around the world in high-class establishments and been fortunate enough to visit many restaurants, and I find this a very unnecessary surcharge to inflict on customers.”

New safe drinking limits are ‘road to prohibition’, says CAMRA beer guide editor: New safe drinking limits recommended by chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies are the “road to prohibition”, according to Roger Protz, editor of The 2017 Good Beer Guide, published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). He said her recommendation of 14 units a week for men and women, a figure supported by the government, were based on “bad science” and had been heavily influenced by the Institute for Alcohol Studies, which was funded by a foundation that grew out of the temperance movement. He said: “The government supports 14 units a week and says (the recommendation) is based on good science when the opposite is the case. It appears Professor Davies was heavily influenced by the Institute for Alcohol Studies, which is funded by the Alliance House Foundation, whose former name was the UK Temperance Alliance. The alliance grew out of the temperance movement in the US that campaigned for prohibition in the 20th century. Professor Davies also took evidence from the Alcohol Health Alliance, which claims alcohol consumption has increased in the UK in recent years. This claim contradicts official figures compiled by HM Revenue & Customs, which show sales in the UK have fallen by close to 20% over the past decade.” Protz also criticised Davies for saying she thought of “cancer” when offered a glass of wine, pointing out that The American Chemical Society was conducting research into the natural chemicals present in the hop plant that could be a key ingredient in the fight against cancer. He added: “The restrictions urged by the medical officers are taking us on the road to prohibition. Men used to be told to drink no more than 21 units a week – now it’s 14 units. What will the advice be in a few years’ time – no units at all? All the real scientific evidence shows moderate beer drinking can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. We should listen to the experts – not the killjoys of the temperance movement.

Liverpool city centre bar restrictions to remain in place: Strict controls preventing new bars from opening in certain parts of Liverpool city centre are to remain in place. However, following a review of the city council’s licensing laws by a scrutiny committee, the controls will not be extended to other areas. Allerton Road, Lark Lane, the Cavern Quarter and Ropewalks are some of the areas covered by Special Cumulative Impact Plans (SCIPs), which were introduced in 2010 to allow the police and council to block new bars, restaurants and clubs in certain areas. The council has said it wants to continue these SCIPs because of a high level of public support. However, SCIPs will not be imposed of any new areas as a report to the city council said there was “insufficient evidence to support them at this time”.

London hotel market sees flat occupancy and lower rates but third-highest absolute revpar level for August: The London hotel market saw nearly flat occupancy and lower rates but its third-highest absolute revpar level for August, according to a new report. STR’s preliminary August data showed a 2.6% year-on-year increase in supply and a 1.8% rise in demand. Occupancy was down 0.8% to 84.7%, while average daily rate fell 1.1% to £140.14. Revpar decreased 1.9% to £118.69. Despite the year-on-year decline, the absolute revpar level was the third highest on record for London during August. The all-time revpar high for August (£129.77) came in 2012 when the capital hosted the Olympic Games.

Trade bodies’ tribute to Andrew Griffiths: Trade body leaders have praised Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, who is stepping down after five years as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group following his appointment as a member of the Government Whips’ Office. The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), and Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) all praised Griffiths’ work on cutting beer duty and for being a “fantastic champion of pubs and bars in the UK”. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “What Andrew has achieved for Britain’s brewing and pub industry during his time as chairman is astonishing. He led the campaign to remove the beer duty escalator, seeing three cuts and a freeze after years of sharp tax rises.” ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Andrew has been a fantastic champion of pubs and bars in the UK and a vigorous champion of the great work we do. Andrew worked hard to bring down costs for pubs and bars, helping to promote investment and growth in our venues across the UK.” Mike Benner, SIBA managing director, added: “Andrew has been a great champion of British beer and brewing and his achievements have been outstanding. The campaign for a cut in beer duty, which led to three consecutive cuts, will go down in history as one of the biggest achievements for the sector and Andrew showed great leadership throughout.” An extraordinary general meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group will be held in Parliament later this month to elect a new chairman.

Company News:

Punch appoints new non-executive director, Ian Dyson to step down from board in January: Punch has appointed Halfords commercial director Emma Fox as a non-executive director, with immediate effect. Meanwhile, non-executive director Ian Dyson will step down from the board at the company’s annual meeting in January. Fox has previously held senior marketing and commercial roles with Asda and Walmart in Canada and spent the first ten years of her early career with brewer and hospitality group Bass (now Coors). Dyson joined Punch as chief executive in September 2010 and, following the demerger of Spirit, has been a non-executive director since August 2011. Punch chairman Stephen Billingham said: “We are very pleased Emma will be joining the board of Punch. She brings a wealth of commercial and marketing experience across a number of sectors with her roots firmly in the drinks business. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Ian for his significant contribution to Punch, first in delivering the demerger of Spirit and returning value to shareholders, and as a non-executive supporting the company during its successful financial restructuring in 2014 and the subsequent strategic review. We wish Ian well for the future.” Fox said: “I’m delighted to be joining the board of Punch and excited to be back in the industry. It’s a great opportunity to join a strong, talented team and I hope to add to that by bringing relevant experience from my current and previous roles across the retail and leisure sectors.” Meanwhile, Punch has made its 2017 box of promotions available for its publicans. The pack includes point-of-sale materials for key times of the year, such as Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Christmas, to help entice customers through the door.

YO! Sushi launches new talent development programme: YO! Sushi has launched a talent development programme that focuses on building long-term careers. The programme includes three new initiatives targeted at first-time workers and long-term unemployed. YO! Sushi’s apprenticeship scheme, in partnership with employment specialist Ingeus, offers young people NVQ Level 2 training in professional cookery, food production, and food and beverage service. The scheme is being piloted with 20 apprentices at nine London restaurants ahead of national roll-out in October, when qualifications will be extended to include management. The company’s new work experience programme, in collaboration with Job Centre and charity Springboard, offers two and eight-week placements for 14 to 18-year-olds working with front of house and kitchen teams. The programme is running in six restaurants ahead of roll-out. Targeting those who have been unemployed for six months to two years, YO! Sushi’s sector-based work academy, in partnership with Learn Direct, offers training and qualifications in guest care, food safety, health and safety, and kitchen skills. The academies run for two weeks, followed by a three-week work experience shift and final assessment. Currently running in Fareham and Oxford with 28 people, all successful applicants will be guaranteed job interviews. YO! Sushi people director Jo Childs said: “We already benefit from promoting within, with many of our head office staff starting on the restaurant floor. Our new learning and development programme supports this ethos even further.”

Mamalan to open fifth London site, in Shoreditch: Beijing street food specialist Mamalan is set to open its fifth London site, this time in Shoreditch. The new venue will open in October at a ground-floor unit in Richmix Square. Mamalan founder Ning Ma offers street food inspired by recipes served on her grandfather’s market stall in the Chinese capital. The intimate, 24-cover restaurant will be decked out with birdcages from China and also offer seating outdoors. The menu will feature new offerings alongside Mamalan’s signature dumplings and noodle dishes. Traditional Beijing toasted buns will come with a variety of fillings such as pork, crispy chicken, prawn and tofu, with many dishes ideal for sharing. The Shoreditch site will feature an expanded cocktail list, including Bull In A China Shop containing Buffalo Trace bourbon, rose syrup, lemon juice and homemade jasmine iced tea. The restaurant will open daily from midday until 10.30pm, except Sundays when it will close at 9.30pm. Mamalan launched in Brixton Village and now operates restaurants in Clapham, Dalston and East Village, with another scheduled to open this year at Croydon Boxpark.

Keuken opens first site: Keuken, which offers a convenient way to buy healthy, nutritious meals via a wall of self-service machines, has opened its first site. The company, which raised £115,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last year, has opened the site in Eldon Street, London. The concept is cashless and entirely self-serve – customers access the product via self-serve pods that are filled directly from the kitchen at the rear of the store. Through this approach Keuken aims to deliver a quicker customer turnaround and – through lower staffing costs – competitive pricing. The range includes sandwiches, wraps and salads. The company said: “Our cashless, self-serve pods are a Keuken invention. We’ve designed them for busy people who want to eat tasty, nutritious food. Each of our pods are refrigerated, ensuring complete freshness. We’re catering for office workers and commuters who don’t want to waste time waiting in line. We’ve scrapped cash as who wants the faff? There’s nothing worse than waiting behind someone counting out their coppers.”

McDonald’s opens ‘experimental’ standalone restaurant in Paris that doesn’t serve burgers: McDonald’s has opened a new standalone restaurant in Paris that doesn’t serve burgers – just coffee, soup, club sandwiches and bagels. The new McCafe in Rue Rambuteau, near Les Halles, is an experimental standalone cafe and follows the dozens of McCafe sections in its restaurants. It is the second time McDonald’s has tested the concept after the first, at La Défense in 2010, closed after a year, reports The Connexion. McDonald’s has not said much about the new 30-seat McCafe other than it is experimental and completely different from the McCafe sections in its restaurants, with a new menu and look. It is open daily from 7.30am to 10pm with the menu changing through the day. McDonald’s has 1,380 restaurants in France and 70,000 employees serving two million meals a day.

Aberdeen-based Beetroots Restaurants ceases trading: Aberdeen-based Beetroot Restaurants has ceased trading after more than eight years. The company owns The Adelphi Kitchen and Cue Barbecue restaurants in the city and both venues have closed. Managing director Chris Tonner told STV: “It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that we have to announce Beetroot Restaurants will cease trading. It’s safe to say that sustaining local, independently sourced restaurants in Aberdeen over the past 12 months has been a challenge that unfortunately has beaten us. We would like to thank all our customers, suppliers, staff and friends for all the support over the past eight-plus years in business. What a journey it has been.”

Chicago Rib Shack to open sixth site – fifth in London – next month: Authentic American barbecue restaurant chain Chicago Rib Shack will open its sixth site – and fifth in London – next month. The company, led by Christian Arden, has secured the venue, which has more than 100 covers, in Aldgate East. The 1,993 square foot unit in Wentworth Street, which was formerly occupied by Spanish tapas restaurant Copita del Mercado, will open on Friday, 14 October. As well as its signature ribs and burgers, executive chef Thomas Kiss has created some menu items exclusively for the Aldgate East site, including smoked beef soft shell tacos, spicy fried catfish, and the fire thigh burger. A new cocktail menu will be introduced with Chicago influences. Arden said: “We are delighted with this new site in this up-and-coming part of London. We are sure Aldgate East will become a buzzing destination alongside its neighbours Spitalfields and Shoreditch.” Chicago Rib Shack operates four other sites in the capital – in Camden, Clapham, Stratford and Twickenham – and one in Leeds.

East Coast Concepts reveals plans to double estate with three new venues in 2017 as it prepares to open second Neighbourhood site: Manchester-based East Coast Concepts has revealed it plans to double its estate with the launch of three venues in 2017 as it prepares to open its second Neighbourhood site. The company secured a multimillion-pound cash injection from private equity firm NorthEdge Capital in June to expand its Neighbourhood and Victors brands in the north of England. Its second Neighbourhood site opens on Monday, 7 November in Castle Street, Liverpool. However, owner and founder James Hitchen said East Coast was on target to add three further venues next year, doubling its portfolio to six. He told Insider Media: “Now is a very exciting time in our journey. Since opening in November 2013, Neighbourhood has been central to the explosion of the restaurant and bar scene in Manchester and we’re excited to be building on this with our Liverpool opening. We’ve spent a lot of time here, looking at what’s already on offer and finding some gaps in the market. This will be our new flagship site, and we’ll be doing things here that we don’t in other venues. We have a real focus on live music and we’re looking to develop fresh talent on the music side and in the bar and restaurant itself.”

CAU secures Leeds site: Argentinian-inspired restaurant brand CAU, which is owned by Gaucho, has secured a site in Leeds. The company has agreed a deal with Hammerson to open the 485 square metre venue at its £165m Victoria Gate development. Located on the first floor in the central arcade, CAU will join D&D London and Belgian restaurant and boulangerie brand Le Pain Quotidien, which will be launching its first site in the north of England. Anchored by a flagship John Lewis, the 575,000 square foot scheme, which encompasses both the Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate, is due to open on Thursday, 20 October. CAU head of marketing Charley Springall said: “We are very pleased to be continuing our relationship with Hammerson following the successful launch of CAU in Reading earlier this year and Southampton in the near future. We are excited about launching our 21st site in the UK in such a vibrant and diverse city as Leeds, particularly as part of this much-anticipated regeneration project. We are looking forward to introducing locals and tourists alike to our restaurant soon.” Hammerson director of retail development Robin Dobson added: “Like many of the other brands we have secured, CAU’s decision to launch at Victoria Gate reflects the unique retail and dining environment of the scheme, one that provides the perfect opportunity for brands to step outside London and build a presence in Leeds.”

Leon collaborates with chef Gizzi Erskine on new dish as part of autumn menu line-up: Natural fast food brand Leon has unveiled a new dish, made in collaboration with professional chef, food writer and TV presenter Gizzi Erskine, as part of its autumn menu line-up. The Leon X Gizzi Chicken Satay Salad, which takes inspiration from Erskine’s cookbook Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite, comprises a sweet potato, carrot and daikon spiralised salad, topped with Leon’s chargrilled chicken and finished with a pot of satay sauce and sprinkling of toasted seeds. It will launch in stores on Wednesday, 21 September alongside five other new dishes, including three for vegans. They are the coconut yogurt bircher (vegan), black bean and avocado pot (vegan), sweet potato falafel salad (vegan), pulled ham black bean (Leon’s current black bean dish with ham added) and Sicilian chicken meatball salad. Leon chief executive John Vincent said: “Gizzi cares about and enjoys food as much as us, and has always believed as we do that food can both taste good and do you good. We’ve found a soulmate – together we’re going to create the next chapter in the future of fast food.” Erskine added: “I’ve always loved Leon, and working with them to turn my recipe into a quick and healthy dish has been so much fun. We’re working on more exciting projects this year, so watch this space.”

Frankie & Benny’s to open in Dundee on Monday, first site to launch since The Restaurant Group revealed 14 of brand’s venues will close: Frankie & Benny’s, the brand owned by The Restaurant Group, will open a site at the Overgate Centre in Dundee on Monday (19 September). The company is launching the venue in the former WH Smith unit at the shopping centre, creating 30 jobs. The site, which will have seating for up to 145 customers, also includes a bar area. It will be the first Frankie & Benny’s to open since The Restaurant Group revealed last month it would close 14 of the brand’s underperforming sites. Overgate Centre manager Malcolm Angus told the Evening Telegraph: “We’re delighted to be welcoming Frankie & Benny’s to Overgate. This is a significant new restaurant addition to the centre, as well as the city of Dundee. This latest new opening reinforces Overgate’s strong, diverse and expanding retail proposition and highlights our commitment to offering our customers the best shopping and dining experience in the heart of the city.” Frankie & Benny’s opened its first restaurant in 1995 in Leicester and has more than 200 sites across the UK.

Turtle Bay gets go-ahead for Sheffield city centre site but stairway row puts deal in doubt: Caribbean restaurant brand Turtle Bay has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Sheffield city centre but with one condition – waiters cannot carry food and drink on the stairs – putting the deal in doubt. Turtle Bay wanted staff to use a staircase to access the upper level of the former National Union of Mineworkers building in Holly Street. However, Sheffield Council health protection officers said the premises application was unacceptable because of a “serious risk” of potential “conflict” between staff and customers. The licensing committee approved the chain’s move to Sheffield but said Turtle Bay would have to install a food lift, which the company said would “seriously affect” how the site operated. Licensing lawyer Anthony Lyons, on behalf of Turtle Bay, told The Star: “We’re disappointed and we don’t know how we’re going to comply with that. We’ve had no problems with any of (our) 34 restaurants, including the six that allow staff to use the stairs to transport food.”

PizzaExpress puts ‘roast dinner’ pizza on Christmas menu: PizzaExpress has announced its Christmas menu, with “roast dinner” pizza topping the bill. The Porchetta Natale Romana pizza features pulled hog roast with herb stuffing, topped with pancetta, mozzarella, rosemary, oregano and pine kernels. Two versions of cauliflower cheese have been added to the side dishes, including one featuring pancetta. New desserts include Jaffa profiteroles (filled with chocolate cream and orange and served with vanilla and a candied orange slice) and pannetone cheesecake, while snowball dough balls return this year, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon and served with a vanilla cream dip. Other additions include crochette manzos (pulled beef and chianti served with fresh rocket and a horseradish and crème fraiche dipping sauce), and oak-roasted salmon, crab and prawn served with rocket, lemon and warm flat bread. Seasonal drinks include Baileys-based “Chambord Kiss” and mulled sloe gin. The menu will be available nationwide from 22 November until the end of December. Meanwhile, PizzaExpress has opened a site in the Moseley suburb of Birmingham. The 102-seat restaurant is in Alcester Road.

Australian restaurant group appoints agency to handle UK launch of casual dining brand: Australia-based Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group has appointed public relations agency Frank to handle the launch of its first Ribs & Burgers venue in the UK amid expansion plans. The first Ribs & Burgers site will open tomorrow (15 September) in Teddington, south west London, with a roll-out planned for other sites in London and the south east. Seagrass regards the UK as one of its largest potential growth areas, along with the US and South Africa. George Stathakopoulos, managing director of Ribs & Burgers UK, told PR Week: “We are a fast-growing global brand, expanding into new countries, and need an agency to drive the first UK launch and establish our brand in a new market.” Andrew Bloch, founder and group managing director of Frank PR, added: “We are looking forward to adding some creative Frank thinking and ensuring a successful launch.”

Stonegate agrees deal to introduce Lanique liqueur to Slug and Lettuce: Stonegate Pub Company has agreed a deal to introduce Lanique, the spirit liqueur made with essential oil attar of rose, into 70 Slug and Lettuce bars across the country. The agreement will see Lanique feature on Slug and Lettuce’s new cocktail menu across a variety of serves, including the shooter section (Rose Delight served with Lanique and Baileys) and the fizz bowls section (Lanique and prosecco). The brand’s signature serve – Lanique and lime – will also be available to customers. Slug and Lettuce head of marketing Sam Maynard said: “Lanique is a perfect fit for Slug and Lettuce and what we represent. Not only will it look visually great on our back bar but it tastes even better and can be enjoyed across a number of our serves.” Lanique owner Lawrence Huggler added: “We feel it’s a great fit with our target audience and we know Lanique will be a big hit with Slug and Lettuce customers.” Lanique is distributed in the UK by Love Drinks.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels buys Torquay property from The Hotel Collection: A four-star Victorian hotel in Torquay has changed hands and will become part of a portfolio of luxury hotels owned by businessman Andrew Brownsword. The Imperial Hotel in Torquay has been sold by The Hotel Collection, represented jointly by Savills and Rothschild, for an undisclosed sum. The property will become the third Andrew Brownsword hotel in Devon, joining Gidleigh Park and the Royal Clarence Abode in Exeter. The 152-bedroom Imperial Hotel dates to the 1800s and sits within the Torquay Harbour conservation area. It features a restaurant, two bars, health club and tennis and squash courts as well as nine conference rooms catering for up to 350 delegates. The new owner will undertake a sympathetic restoration and refurbishment project during the next two to five years, reports Insider Media. The sale of the Imperial Hotel marks the first deal for a ten-strong portfolio of regional UK hotels, known as Project Solstice, which Savills and Rothschild are marketing on behalf of The Hotel Collection. The other hotels in the portfolio are The Majestic Hotel, Harrogate; The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton; The Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham; The Billesley Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon; The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool; The Shrigley Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club, Macclesfield; The Stirling Highland Hotel, Stirling; The Aberdeen Altens Hotel, Aberdeen; and The Angel Hotel, Cardiff.

Enterprise Inns reports record number of entries for Community Heroes Awards: Enterprise Inns has reported its Community Heroes Awards has seen a record number of more than 530 pubs enter, up from 426 in 2015. Winners will be announced and presented with their cash prizes on Monday, 17 October at the Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Of the entries, 54 pubs have been chosen to go through to the final by a panel of judges comprising John Longden, chief executive of Pub is the Hub; Debbie Smith, manager of the BBPA’s Positive Pubs Campaign; Victoria MacDonald, publican of The Cellar House in Norwich and winner of the 2015 Community Heroes Award; Enterprise sales and marketing director James Armitage; and Mark Stretton, former editor of MCA Report. Armitage said: “The standard of entries this year was extremely high and it made the selection of the finalists extremely challenging. It’s clear that publicans from across our estate have once again pulled out all the stops. They involved themselves in a huge range of activities and initiatives, engaging with their local communities to encourage more of them to visit their local pub.” The overall national winner will receive £6,000 to further help their local community, with each winner of Enterprise’s 18 regions receiving £3,000 and runners-up £1,000.

Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar introduces street food-style menu at Benares: Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has introduced a street food-style menu at his British-Indian fusion restaurant Benares in Mayfair. In a playful nod to Indian street food culture and heritage, each of the five dishes on the menu has been designed by a chef from the Benares kitchen and is inspired by the street food speciality of their home town. Just as each region of India has its own recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, Benares’ street food menu will pay homage to these time-honoured dishes, and stay true to original methods and preparation techniques. The dishes have been designed to be eaten by hand, and are chicken tikka crispy naan with smoked tomato dressing (inspired by the Punjab region of north west India); lamb kofta roll with mint and coriander salad (typically found in Lucknow, north east India); grilled curry leaf sea bass and seasonal salad (a southern Indian dish found in Goa); quinoa salad, samphire and red onion bhajia (from the east Indian region of Kolkata); and pickled prawn with crispy rice pani puri (a speciality from Mumbai, west India). The menu will be available until Christmas.

Birmingham hotel owner plans UK expansion after entering new partnership agreement: The owner of Birmingham’s Park Regis Hotel plans to expand the brand across the UK after entering into a new partnership agreement. Australian-owned StayWell Hospitality Group has forged links with hospitality company Fiveways Hospitality and the new master licensing agreement will enable StayWell to significantly grow its Park Regis and Leisure Inn brands within the UK market. The move had been part of the company’s growth strategy since it launched the £50m Park Regis at Five Ways earlier this year. StayWell Hospitality Group chief executive Simon Wan said entering the agreement would help to secure an additional four hotels in the UK and Europe within the next four years. This is part of the group’s overarching plan to reach 100 hotels globally within the next three years. It is understood the company will focus its attention firstly on the London market before looking elsewhere. Wan told The Business Desk: “The UK, and Europe as a whole, presents a great opportunity for our Park Regis and Leisure Inn brands, especially after the successful opening of Park Regis Birmingham. Fiveways Hospitality has a well-established reputation and our partnership will deliver not only opportunities for further growth for StayWell in new destinations and cities but also offer top-shelf operational support to our hotel teams within the region.” Based in Sydney, StayWell has a growing international hotel network with a portfolio of 35 properties across Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, the UK, and United Arab Emirates. 

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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