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Fri 16th Sep 2016 - Update: Hawksmoor, Daniel Thwaites, Thai Leisure Group, Premier Inn, Be At One et al
Hawksmoor operator reports turnover and underlying Ebitda rise: Hawksmoor operator Underdog Restaurants has reported turnover rose to £32,898,000 in the year to 31 December 2015, up from £28,054,000 the year before. Underlying Ebitda increased to £5,233,000, compared with £4,828,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up to £3,887,000 from £3,077,000 the year before. The company stated: “A continuation of like-for-like sales growth in the existing restaurants, together with the opening of a restaurant in Manchester in March 2015, were the main drivers of the improved performance. The directors expect the results to continue to reflect the business’ growing popularity and successful branding.” The highest paid director earned £176,000. 

Daniel Thwaites unites subsidiaries under single brand: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites is refreshing its brand structure to reflect its changing business. Its subsidiaries Inns of Character and Shire Hotels & Spas will be brought under the Thwaites brand umbrella, with a single website selling all guest rooms, restaurants, conference and spa facilities. The company said that as well as simplifying the brand for customers, unification would bring added staff benefits. New director of people and development Jo Carlin will develop leadership programmes and learning academies to integrate roles and properties and provide more staff development opportunities. Daniel Thwaites chief executive Rick Bailey said: “It’s the ideal way for us to bring clarity and simplicity. Our customers won’t notice any difference when they visit our hotels, inns or lodges as we are not changing the guest experience or our products. However, we are creating a stronger platform to sell our services. It’s a really exciting time for Thwaites. We are expanding by investing in new properties right across the country on top of substantial improvement programmes taking place in our existing estate and some pilot concepts. All of this is creating new jobs and development opportunities for our staff. 

Thai Leisure Group celebrates NPS scores at first team summit: Thai Leisure Group, operator of Thaikun and Chaophraya, has held its first overnight summit to celebrate the company’s industry-leading customer performance figures. Sixty members of staff gathered to celebrate a Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating of 93.7% – as well as to underscore the company’s vision, strategy and brand values. NPS is a customer metric that measures how likely it is that a customer would recommend a business or brand to a friend based on their experience. Thai Leisure Group brand strategy director James Hacon said: “NPS is a vital measure for all restaurant businesses so to achieve this rating is phenomenal – we believe it’s just about the best score out there. Our absolute focus is on creating exceptional guest experiences for our customers. It’s at the heart of everything we do and why we invest so many hours in staff training, development, and product innovation. So to deliver this is extremely gratifying.” At the summit, managing director Ian Leigh also outlined the company’s commitment to creating leaders among employees and the importance of working as one cohesive team. Hacon added: “Our year-end NPS scores show we’ve already started to create a winning culture and we’re incredibly proud of what the team has achieved in 2016. We’re determined to carry the momentum into 2017 as we pursue further growth across the UK.”

London restaurant openings surge in wake of Brexit vote: London is in the grip of a remarkable restaurant opening boom after a surprise summer surge in dining out following the Brexit vote. Restaurateurs said the spike in lunch and dinner spending – following the initial shock of the June referendum – had given them confidence to invest millions of pounds in launches and refurbishments. The number of recent and planned openings is running far ahead of 2015, despite a slight dip in July, according to figures from Hot Dinners. August saw 21 launches compared with 14 last year, while 32 restaurants are due to open this month, up from 22 in September 2015. Further openings are set to follow throughout the autumn and winter. Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, told the Evening Standard: “There was a big question for us after the vote. Are we going to continue to pile into London or should we look at more projects overseas in places like New York and Dubai? We decided people were not going to stop having dinner out in London because of what might happen in 2018 or 2019, so we’d just press on with our strategy.” Revenues dipped in the weeks immediately before and after the June 23 referendum but were running well ahead of 2015 by the second week of July and have stayed strong since. Hot Dinners co-founder Gavin Henly said: “I don’t see any sign of a slowdown. Nobody thought Brexit was going to happen, so people didn’t want to go out and celebrate for a while. But after a couple of weeks everything was back to normal.” Latest figures also show spending in pubs and dining chains was up 2.9% in London during August – fuelled by record numbers of tourists.

Whitbread launches latest Premier Inn TV advert: Whitbread-owned Premier Inn has released the second TV advert in its new “A great place to start” campaign, created by Lucky Generals. The first advert launched on Saturday, 10 September featuring a mother enjoying a rare weekend away. The latest advert, which will be shown tomorrow night (Saturday, 17 September) during the Jonathan Ross Show, has also been inspired by the feel-good opening credits of movies, but this time tells the story of construction workers getting ready for a day on site after enjoying a powerful shower and hearty breakfast. “Scaffolders” has also been directed by Ben Wheatley, while the soundtrack is Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins from iconic 1980s movie Top Gun.

Nottinghamshire-based A&A Pub Company takes on second site: A&A Pub company, founded by Andy Hunt and Abbie Clifton, has taken on its second Nottinghamshire site. The couple will run Star Pubs & Bars-owned The Gedling Inn in Gedling, which is undergoing a £300,000 refurbishment ahead of reopening at the end of October. The Gedling Inn will be turned into a family-friendly village pub, with the changes increasing covers to 150 and doubling the space outside to accommodate 54 diners. The inside is being reconfigured to create a snug bar with an open fire, a casual dining area and a more formal dining space as well as an open kitchen and chef’s table showcasing local produce. The pub will host wine and tapas nights, beer and wine festivals, and a regular food festival in the car park. Hunt said: “Abbie and I love The Gedling Inn, which is in a great location and has lots of potential. We want the pub to play a central role at the heart of the community and look forward to putting on events for all to enjoy.” Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens added: “With a new development in Gedling in the pipeline, the significant investment, and Andy and Abbie’s experience and passion, I am sure the new Gedling Inn will be a great success.” A&A Pub company also runs The White Horse in Ruddington.

Tesco launches crowdfunding platform aimed at small businesses in food and drink industry: Tesco has launched a crowdfunding platform aimed at small businesses in the food and drink industry. The supermarket has launched its BackIt platform, with four companies currently featured. Gloucestershire gin distillery Sibling, which produces a “super-premium” gin from its current premises on the site of a micro-brewery in Cheltenham, is targeting £30,000 in funding for new equipment and to support expansion into new premises, which would include retail space and enable the business to run tours. Alongside Sibling, alcoholic prosecco mixer brand Drunken Berries and Tg Green Teas, both based in Hertfordshire, are hoping to secure £2,000 and £10,000 respectively, while gluten-free bakery B-Tempted in London is targeting £5,000. Tesco said the platform would give businesses the chance to “tell their story, show off their products and campaign for funding”. It is targeted at startups and small suppliers in the food and drink industry, reports Insider Media. In addition to investment, successful businesses will receive advice and mentoring from industry experts. As with other crowdfunding platforms, companies offer rewards to investors while funding is only provided if the full target is achieved within the campaign period.

BBPA relaunches campaign to help licensees and customers understand laws around serving drunks: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has relaunched its poster campaign to coincide with Global Beer Responsibility Day to help raise awareness and understanding of the law around serving drunks. Partnering with Drinkaware and National Pubwatch, the campaign is accompanied by infographics designed to be shared across social media. The move also follows YouGov data from a survey commissioned by the BBPA showing more than one in four people (27%) believe the statement “it is against the law in the UK to knowingly sell alcohol to someone who is drunk” is false, while 40% of people don’t know it is against the law to buy alcohol for someone who is drunk. The posters are available on the BBPA website and are being sent to pubs, clearly stating the law. The BBPA is also working with National Pubwatch to produce a film on the issue, to be released later this year. The campaign forms part of a range of initiatives from the BBPA and wider industry to promote responsible drinking. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “These posters are designed to help licensees, who can be put in a very difficult position and risk breaking the law if pressured to serve drunk customers. We need to make sure the public fully understands that these are offences and our poster campaign, along with the new infographics, should help to raise awareness.”

Be At One opens Nottingham site: Cocktail bar brand Be At One has opened its site in Nottingham. The company has transformed the former Nirvana bar in Victoria Street, which closed earlier this year. It is the company’s 33rd site. Be At One, founded by Steve Locke, Leigh Miller and Rhys Oldfield in London in 1998, offers a range of more than 150 cocktails. It aims to ensure customers are met with eye contact by a bartender within five seconds, drinks are made in one minute, and change for payment is given in 30 seconds. Locke said: “Nottingham is a great city and the Hockley area in particular is really buzzing, although there’s nothing like Be At One there at the moment. We take our drinks seriously and are consistently refining our menu and testing the drinks to keep improving them. We also pride ourselves on offering great customer service. Our new bartenders are all local talent and they undergo nine weeks of training, which costs £5,000 each. This training means all our guests will be acknowledged within five seconds of reaching the bar. To my knowledge no-one else invests so much in training their bartenders.”

Tennent’s Training Academy launches hospitality roadshow for Scottish schools: Scotland-based hospitality training company Tennent’s Training Academy (TTA) is taking its Taste the Industry event on tour across the country. The event, which begins on Tuesday (20 September) at Linwood High School in Paisley, transforms schools into mock-hotels for the day, with workshops introducing young people to the hospitality industry. The roadshow will also visit Bell Baxter High School in Cupar, Gracemount High School in Edinburgh, Queen Victoria High School in Dunblane, and Grove Academy, Dundee, where a pilot event was held earlier this year. Pupils get a chance to gain experience in service, bartending and kitchen skills. TTA director Stephanie Wade said: “Taste the Industry is designed to introduce the wide variety of jobs available within hospitality and tourism to young people across the country, and we hope the pupils involved will consider it as a career option when they leave school. The Scottish hospitality and tourism industry is world renowned, and we are dedicated to ensuring this standard is maintained through training and educating the next generation of workforce.”

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