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Tue 27th Sep 2016 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ever So Sensible Restaurants looking to double estate size to 20 after period of consolidation: Ever So Sensible Restaurants managing director Chris Bulaitis has told Propel he is looking to double the size of its estate in the East Midlands following a period of consolidation. The company will open its 11th site on Monday (3 October) – The Royal William IV in Lincoln. The Brayford Wharf pub is Ever So Sensible’s fourth in partnership with Enterprise Inns and will operate under its Lincolnshire Pub & Kitchen brand. Bulaitis said the company, which anticipates reaching £7m turnover this financial year, was now looking to acquire further sites as it aimed to build a 20-strong estate in the region. He said: “We are looking to develop more sites across the East Midlands with a similar format and extend our relationship with Enterprise Inns. We’re looking at two or three new sites a year and aiming to get to 20. That’s what we can go to before we need to look at how we administer or operate the business. We are looking at cities and big towns and doing deals with good leasehold sites or joint ventures. The beauty of being food-led is we can take on part-tied leases and still make a very good overall profit margin.” Bulaitis said sales at the majority of its sites were up between 3% and 5% on last year, while two venues were exceeding 50%. He added: “By changing the management team and adjusting the offer, we’ve managed to make them successful. We only have one in decline at the moment. There is pressure on employment margins with the National Living Wage. It’s probably the biggest issue we face as a business in the coming years, along with business rates and possible alcohol cost increases resulting from Brexit, but consumer optimism seems to be fine. It’s about offering freshly prepared, high-quality pub food and ale. There are no gimmicks – it’s quite conservative in reality and all at an affordable price, whether it’s a good night out or a lunchtime meal, and it appeals to all ages.”

Industry News:

British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) launches People and Training Conference, free places for operators: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has launched the People and Training Conference, which will showcase outstanding people culture among companies within the sector. The event, organised in association with Propel, takes place at Bafta Piccadilly on Monday, 21 November. Places are free for operators and £149 for suppliers. Anthony Pender, chairman of the BII and co-founder of Yummy Pub Company, will talk about progressive learning at his company and engaging the workforce to raise standards. The conference will be followed in the evening by the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs) at Cafe De Paris, which will recognise companies and individuals that undertake the best training in the sector. To enter the awards, click here. Tickets to either or both events can be booked through Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

All Star Lanes boss Christian Rose to present at Propel Multi Club Conference in November, free places for operators: The last Propel Multi Club Conference of 2016 is now open for bookings. It takes place on Thursday, 3 November at Congress Hall, London. Christian Rose, managing director of All Star Lanes, will talk about the “brand’s revolution”, improving the food and beverage offer, updating design, the growing importance of “experiences”, market potential, and expansion plans. Pub, restaurant and foodservice operators can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling her on 01444 817691.

BBPA – government’s changes will make it easier for councils to impose Late Night Levy: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said proposed government changes to the Late Night Levy would make it easier for councils to impose the levy – “something the BBPA has always been against, as it is a tax and not a local partnership”. The BBPA said the proposed flexibility would allow councils to impose a Late Night Levy on particular areas, rather than a whole local authority area. It said it welcomed an extension of the levy to late-night outlets but, because it was based on rateable value, the on-trade was “likely to bear the greatest burden”. The association added that putting Cumulative Impact Policies (CIPs) on a statutory footing “should only be justified by evidence”, and it was important each licence application was considered “on its own merit”. Clauses amending the Late Night Levy and placing CIPs on a statutory footing have been tabled in Parliament for introduction to the Policing & Crime Bill at Lords committee stage. The alcohol clauses are likely to be debated in mid to late October, with a date yet to be decided. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Local authorities need to think carefully about how a Late Night Levy could affect a vibrant night-time economy and whether partnership with local businesses, such as through a Business Improvement District, would not be better for both residents and local businesses. Widening the tax to late-night refreshment is to be welcomed, but since it is based on rateable value, the on-trade is likely to bear the greatest burden. We welcome the requirement for local authorities to publish data on how it is spent. The changes to CIPs to put them on a statutory footing should only be justified by evidence, and it is important each application for a new licence, or variation of a licence, is considered on its own merit. We welcome the frequent review of policies based on evidence, and particularly where crime and disorder are decreasing, but it is important to note CIPs were originally devised as a temporary policy while the underlying causes of any local issues were addressed – and they should be considered in this context.”

FSA – one in 13 restaurants and one in seven takeaways have failed food hygiene inspections: One in 13 restaurants and one in seven takeaways in the UK have failed food hygiene inspections because they are dirty or have poor procedures, analysis has shown. Examination of the food hygiene reports for more than 460,000 businesses found almost 30,000, or 6.4%, had failed their inspections, including more than 7,000 takeaways and 8,000 restaurants. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) data also revealed huge food safety problems in some areas of the country, with some local authorities failing more than 20% of food outlets and about 50% of takeaways and sandwich shops. The FSA ranks all food providers with a score of zero to five. A zero rating signifies the establishment “urgently requires improvement” – about 1,400 businesses currently have this score, reports The Guardian. Between zero and two is considered a failing grade, and three to five is satisfactory. The ratings criteria are the same across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and each local authority is responsible for ranking food providers within its boundaries. Scotland uses a different system, awarding a grade of “pass and eat” to premises that exceed legal requirements of hygiene, “pass” to those that are broadly compliant, or “improvement required”. The analysis revealed huge disparities in hygiene levels around the country, with some local authorities failing large numbers of food establishments and others failing only a handful. The ten best areas in the country, ranked by the proportion of food premises that pass inspections, were the Orkney Islands, north Devon, South Ayrshire, Torridge, Harrogate, Cannock Chase, west Dorset, Suffolk coastal, Anglesey and Daventry. The ten worst areas were Newham, Edinburgh, the Shetland Islands, Islington, Hyndburn, Harrow, Hertsmere, Midlothian, Luton and Ealing. The scores also varied across countries and regions with 10% of outlets in Scotland have been awarded a failing grade (improvement required), compared with 6% in England, 5% in Wales and 2% in Northern Ireland.

CAMRA recognises canned beer as real ale: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has given its first ever accreditation for real ale to a canned beer – from Moor Beer Company in Bristol. The campaigning organisation carried out tests on the “micro-canned” beer from Moor Beer at its recent Great British Beer Festival and concluded the beer qualified as real ale under its definition. CAMRA’s quality control laboratory at the Great British Beer Festival reported the beer in Moor Beer cans still contained live yeast, and further test results showed any carbonation was created by natural secondary fermentation. It makes Moor Beer the first brewery in the world to be granted the “CAMRA says this is real ale” logo to use on a canned beer. Colin Valentine, national chairman of CAMRA, said: “There have been a lot of developments in the brewing industry and CAMRA has been working hard to make sure we understand them and how they fit with our real ale definition. I’m delighted we’ve been able to show that “micro-canned” beer, under the right circumstances, can qualify as real ale, which means more drinkers can get access to what we believe is the pinnacle of brewing skill – live beer which continues to ferment and develop in whichever container it’s served from. We carried out similar tests on key-cask beers several years ago and accepted those as real ale and we’re hopeful brewers will continue to innovate and find ways of making real ale as accessible to drinkers as possible through these sorts of developments. We look forward to granting the accreditation to many more breweries producing canned beers in similar ways to Justin at Moor.” Justin Hawke, from Moor Beer, said: “I moved to England because of my love for real ale, so when I made the decision to can our beer there was only one way we were going to do it – fully can-conditioned with live yeast. We invested very heavily in our canning line and process control to get it right, taking a huge risk being the first to go down this path. Cans had a horrible reputation but actually it is the best package type for portability because it blocks all light and oxygen from getting in and ruining the beer.”

Company News:

Bourgee co-founder planning ‘steady organic growth’ as company looks to become ‘national brand’: Affordable luxury steak-lobster-luxe lounge restaurant concept Bourgee has told Propel the business plans steady organic growth as it readies itself to become a national brand. James Welling, who founded the business with Great British Menu chef Mark Baumann, said the company was building a cluster of sites in Essex and East Anglia before gradually advancing across the country. Having opened its first restaurant in Southend in 2014, Bourgee will launch its second, in Chelmsford, on Saturday (1 October). It has also agreed deals for sites in Bury St Edmunds and Norwich and is in advanced discussions on a property near Colchester. Welling said: “We are continuing to look for sites to keep growing the business. We carry out full due diligence – the sites must fulfil stringent criteria. We are very much looking at national growth but it will be steady, organic progression. We know where the first four or five sites will be established and we are looking to advance across the country – but in an organic, measured way.” Bourgee’s Chelmsford venue is in the city’s new £3m dining quarter. The two-storey site will have 120 covers, with a bar central to each floor. Welling said: “We have spent a lot of time on the site in terms of design. It has state-of-the-art audio and LED lighting systems – we’ve put in a lot of design hours, from the entrance lobby to the stunning open kitchen, in addition to investing heavily in unparalleled levels of staff training throughout. Once customers step across the threshold they are immediately aware Bourgee is something special. It’s about combining our affordable luxury pricing model with great food, atmosphere, venue and service to deliver a total experience. Meanwhile, Bourgee aims to open its Bury St Edmunds venue early next year after securing 350-year-old, grade I-listed Cupola House. The venue will span five floors and include a champagne, cocktail and lobster bar on the top storey with views over the Suffolk town. Welling said: “It’s a very important building to the town and we are aware we are very much the custodians. We will take great care of it and deliver the people of Bury St Edmunds something special. All of our sites are in handsome buildings. We are delighted to have secured prominent venues in first-class locations and our portfolio reflects our unique concept, product and delivery.” Welling added that current trading was “magnificent” and so far had seen no effects from Brexit. He said: “We are thrilled with the performance and have seen significant growth year-on-year. We have seen some increase in food costs but we work hard to absorb these and not pass that on to the customer. We will see how things develop in time, but currently trade is certainly very buoyant following the referendum.”

Atlas Pub Co to start expansion of Buca Di Pizza concept with second Leeds site: Leeds-based Atlas Pub Co, which operates The Pour House, Épernay and Atlas bars in the city, is set to start expansion of its Buca Di Pizza restaurant concept by opening a second site, this time in Leeds suburb Chapel Allerton. Buca Di Pizza made its debut in Wellington Street in 2014. The new pizzeria and cocktail bar will open in grade II-listed Stratford House in Stainbeck Lane – “soon” – and will have about 80 seats, with a patio at the front. Atlas Pub Co was founded by brothers Geoff and Nicolas Thornton. Geoff Thornton told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We’ve worked really hard over the past two years to develop Buca di Pizza into what we think is a strong concept. Having owned champagne bars, pubs, self-serve beer bars, a French bar and a huge circuit bar, we always wanted a single concept to be able to work with, expand and grow. A strong concept, however, needs to be able to adapt to its surroundings and we like the idea of suburb trading – as it’s much more interesting than the city. We are also looking at Manchester and its outer districts.” Atlas opened its first restaurant, The Terrace, in Leicester in 2002. It opened its first bar in Leeds – Épernay – in 2005, followed by The Pour House in 2011 and Atlas in 2013. The company also plans to launch D.O.C – a delicatessen and prosecco bar – above the Buca di Pizza site in Wellington Street.

Neville and Giggs group to launch ‘space age Asian’ restaurant as part of National Football Museum deal: GG Hospitality, which is co-owned by former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs and Singaporean property developer Rowsley, has agreed to take over dining, hospitality and event management at the National Football Museum in Manchester from Saturday, 1 October. As part of the deal, Michelin-starred chef Michael O’Hare will oversee the launch of The Rabbit In The Moon, a “space age Asian” restaurant on the fifth and sixth floors serving multi-course tasting menus. The kitchen will be run by O’Hare protégé Luke Cockerill, alongside a drinks menu curated by Matt Whiley, owner of London-based drinks firm Fantastic Mr Fox. The restaurant will open before the end of the year. Neville told Insider Media: “The National Football Museum is the ideal place for us to expand our hospitality portfolio. The museum is a massive draw for football fans and tourists in Manchester and bringing the brands together feels like a natural partnership. To open our first restaurant with creative director Michael O’Hare and his team is a fantastic moment for GG Hospitality and Manchester.” Meanwhile, GG Hospitality’s Cafe Football will launch on the ground floor of the museum in late 2016, with the company given access to the museum’s collections to display at Hotel Football and Cafe Football sites in the UK and abroad as the group pushes ahead with a global roll-out. Commercial law firm Kuits advised on the legal aspects of the deal on behalf of GG Hospitality.

Kirkby Lonsdale inn with Good Food Guide-featured restaurant goes on market for £1.95m: The Sun Inn, the Kirkby Lonsdale venue known for its “Carter at the Sun Inn” restaurant that has featured consistently in the Good Food Guide during the past few years, has been put up for sale for an asking price of £1.95m. The 400-year-old, grade II-listed property, which has been run by Lucy and Mark Fuller since 2006, is marketed by agent Christie & Co. The Fullers have kept the traditional feel of the 17th century inn, with oak floors, wood-burning stoves and leather furniture, and blended old and new together in the 11 contemporary en-suite bedrooms configured as four deluxe, two superior, and five standard rooms. The restaurant has capacity for 42 covers. Keith Stringer, associate director at Christie & Co’s Manchester office, who is handling the sale, said: “The Sun Inn has been rated as the area’s number one by TripAdvisor for seven consecutive years. The business enjoys an affluent guest profile – having a customer database of circa 8,000 with 36% repeat business – and achieves an annual bedroom occupancy of 89%, which is well above the average we usually see within the South Lakes area.”

Brewers unite to launch pizza, beer and cider bar concept Fire and Brew in Bath: Honey’s Midford Cider co-owner Krow Coles and Bath-based brewer Electric Bear are set to launch a new pizza, craft beer and cider bar concept – Fire and Brew – in Bath. The group has applied to Bath and North East Somerset Council for a licence to open daily from 10am to 11pm, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Fire and Brew will have a pizza oven and tables on the ground floor of the former Bath Party Shop in Moorland Road, with space for diners on the first floor as well. Krow told the Bath Chronicle: “It’s going to be a neighbourhood pizza restaurant with craft beer and craft cider, very much focused on the local community. The landlords have been great and very supportive of it. We will be employing from the community and very much hope to be a part of it.” Krow said Fire and Brew would always offer food, adding “we don’t want it to be a late-night pub”. The company has started refurbishing the site ahead of an opening in mid-November.

Instinctif launches tool to measure hospitality firms’ resilience: Financial public relations firm Instinctif has launched CrisisOptic – a tool that measures a hospitality company’s ability to respond to a crisis. CrisisOptic quantifies business resilience in ten key areas, from governance and risk management to operational response. Using a carefully weighted assessment system, it generates a business resilience score and dashboard presentation based on the examination of 112 data points. Instinctif’s experts then prepare a report that can be used to inform policies, procedures and capabilities, to strengthen risk and issues management, and crisis preparedness. Victoria Cross, who leads Instinctif Partners’ risk, issues and crisis team, said: “Until now it’s been impossible to quickly identify strengths and weaknesses across an organisation and comprehensively compare the results against a peer group. But this is exactly what CrisisOptic provides. It’s fast, accurate and will enable organisations to focus finite resources on the specific areas where they are most exposed.”

Hereford-based multi-site operator to open gourmet burger restaurant in Worcester: Hereford-based multi-site operator Edwin Kirk, who owns burger joint A Rule of Tum and restaurant and bar The Bookshop in the town, is set to open a new gourmet burger concept in Worcester. Kirk will open Burger Shop Arches within a railway arch in Cherry Tree Walk, a move approved by Worcester City Council, which said it would help regenerate the area. Network Rail also backed the move, saying it would make good use of an archway in poor condition. The 60-cover Burger Shop Arches will open daily from midday, creating 13 full-time jobs, the Worcester News reports. A date for the opening has yet to be set.

Franchisee couple open first Esquires Coffee venue in Bradford, company’s 26th site: Franchisee couple Mohammad and Perveen Arshad have opened their first Esquires Coffee venue in Bradford. Esquires Coffee’s 26th site is in The Xchange retail and leisure development in the city centre. The opening has created 15 jobs and the venue features an “industrial yet comfortable look”, with bare concrete walls, copper lighting and natural wood finishes. Esquires Coffee marketing manager Kerry Noble said: “The look and feel of Esquires’ interior design is constantly evolving. With the millennial customer in mind, we want to create a store environment that is cool enough for people to meet with friends, yet comfortable enough to plug in their laptop and study.”

Carlisle-based multi-site operator to open city centre pub on former nightclub site: Carlisle-based multi-site operator John Van Lierop has had his plans to open a new pub in the city centre approved. The yet-to-be-named venue will be in Lowther Street on the former site of The Social nightclub. The planning application states the building will be transformed into a pub with staff accommodation, likely to be three flats, on the first floor. Renovations are currently taking place on the building, which will employ ten full-time and five part-time staff. The application states: “Opening will run from 11am to midnight most days and until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. The property has had a number of uses over previous years, including that of a bakery and cafe and, most recently, as a nightclub.” Van Lierop operates The Last Zebra restaurant and bar and Concrete nightclub, both in Lowther Street, the Cumberland News reports. His other ventures in the city include bar and restaurant venues Eaten by Monsters and Hell Below & Co in Devonshire Street.

Revolution Bars Group to open £1.4m Revolucion de Cuba in Aberdeen at end of November: Revolution Bars Group is set to open a Revolucion de Cuba in Aberdeen at the end of November. The company is investing £1.4m to transform the former Wagamama restaurant at the Academy Shopping Centre into the venue, creating 55 jobs. It will have capacity for 550 people inside with an outside terrace for another 110, reports the Evening Express. The Aberdeen site will be the company’s 11th Revolucion de Cuba. It also operates the Revolution brand, which has 52 venues, including a site in Aberdeen.

Just Eat confirms new chief financial officer: Just Eat, the digital market place for takeaway food delivery, has confirmed the appointment of Paul Harrison as the company’s new chief financial officer, effective immediately. Harrison, who served as group finance director of international software company The Sage Group for 13 years and before that held a number of senior positions at Price Waterhouse, replaces Mike Wroe, who has stepped down as a director of the company but will continue with the business until 31 December. Wroe, who joined Just Eat in August 2008, will also be available through the first half of 2017 to support Harrison during the transition to “ensure a smooth succession”, the company said.

Stonegate Pub Company turns Slug and Lettuce in Chichester into ‘urbanised pub’: Stonegate Pub Company has turned its Slug and Lettuce site in Chichester into an “urbanised pub” called The Chantry. The site in South Street has undergone a £250,000 redevelopment, which includes neon-lit back wall taps and Henty’s garden, a 15th century courtyard with a quirky old piano made into a giant planter. Stonegate branded The Chantry as an “urbanised and premium pub”, with the opening creating 12 jobs. Manager Neil O’Hagan said the new pub was a nod to Chichester’s nearby cathedral, with “Chantry” being a derivative of a Latin word meaning “to sing”. He told the Chichester Observer: “We’ve added a great all-day, urban style menu; six craft ales; two craft ciders; 38 amazing cocktails; and 15 gins infused right here in the pub. Earlier this month, Stonegate Pub Company chief executive Simon Longbottom told Propel there was an opportunity for the 660-strong operator to grow by “hundreds of sites” as it consolidates the drinks-led part of the market. One change Longbottom has made since he 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.

Aldo Zilli – San Carlo Group’s new Fumo restaurant is ‘most beautiful in London’: Celebrity chef Aldo Zilli claims San Carlo Group’s new £2m Fumo restaurant in Covent Garden is the “most beautiful in London”. Zilli is chef consigliere at the 130-cover venue in St Martin’s Lane, advising 15 chefs at the restaurant, which focuses on cicchetti (small plates) using ingredients mainly sourced from markets in Milan. Zilli told the Evening Standard: “It is the most beautiful restaurant in London. It is a destination – footballers, celebrities… this is the place to be, and the food matches the decor.” Zilli quit the restaurant trade in 2012, selling his restaurants to tycoon Richard Caring. However, just a week later he was recruited by his friend Carlo Distefano, chairman of San Carlo Group. The company operates 17 restaurants in the UK, including Fumo sites in Manchester and Birmingham, Flying Pizza in Leeds, London’s Signor Sissi, and Cicchetti restaurants in Manchester and London. International franchises in Bahrain and Qatar are also set to launch next year as the company aims to develop a global brand. They will join established venues Cicchetti in Doha and Signor Sissi in Bangkok.

Belfast-based operator to open fourth site in city this week: Belfast-based operator Michael Karan will open his fourth site in the city this week. Karan is launching Italian restaurant Il Gusto Ristorante on Wednesday (28 September) in Lisburn Road. He said the 40-seater restaurant would offer “healthy, authentic” Italian food, which would “set it apart from other Italian eateries in Belfast”. The menu will range from homemade pasta and pizza to fish and meat dishes, including spinach and ricotta-stuffed tortellini and tagliatelle alio olio with king prawn, spinach, chillies, pine nuts and olives. Karan told Belfast Vibe: “We want to keep things fresh and healthy and make Il Gusto the place to go for well-executed, authentic Italian cuisine. The location in Lisburn Road was a fantastic opportunity and one we couldn’t say no to. The locals will notice some new, exciting dishes on the menu.” Karan also owns Solo Restaurant + Bar, 11 Wellington Place, and Ambrosia Caffe & Ristorante in the city.

New Roman-inspired restaurant concept launches in London: A new Roman-inspired restaurant concept has opened in London. Roma has launched in New London Street on the former site of Harpers and on the spot where a Roman fort once stood. The restaurant, which aims to bring the flavours and passions of Ancient Rome to the capital, features metallic gold hues and deep ebony timbers. Mosaic-inspired artwork is scattered around the venue, while there is also architectural sketch-style wallpaper and banquette seating. The dishes are prepared using the same cooking techniques that were used in Ancient Rome, including cooking with hay. Head chef Arturs Gorjunovs has travelled throughout the world to discover the best and boldest flavours for the menu, while the wine list includes authentic wines from former Roman territories such as Italy, France, Macedonia and Spain.

M&B to open All Bar One at Chester city centre site as Living Ventures announces Blackhouse Grill closure: Mitchells and Butlers has taken over the lease of a Chester city centre venue for its All Bar One brand following Living Ventures’ decision to close its Blackhouse Grill at the site. Last week, Propel reported French brasserie Cote had acquired the site of The Hale Grill in Hale village, Cheshire, from Living Ventures. The closures follow a strategic review by Living Ventures, which wishes to focus its Blackhouse Grill brand on larger cities. For example, the Leeds Blackhouse Grill has just signed a 25-year lease extension after consent was granted for £1m improvements, the Chester Chronicle reports. The Chester site in Newgate Street is set to close in mid-October. Mitchells and Butlers is recruiting for staff at the venue. An online ad states: “We have acquired a new city centre location for our latest addition to the All Bar One family. Due to open its doors in early 2017, we are now looking for a superstar general manager to make themselves known and come aboard to help mould the business from the very start.”

Hathor Inns acquires Belfast site: Irish bar operator Hathor Inns has acquired a site in Belfast in a multimillion-pound deal. The company has bought the Frames complex site in Little Donegall Street from Gracemount Enterprises. The partly-listed, 36,000 square foot building, which dates to 1896, will be turned into a 100-bedroom hotel as well as retaining its drinks licence. It is believed the triangular-shaped building, which houses a barber’s shop, gym, snooker hall and sunbed suite, as well as a bar and function room, has been sold for more than £2m. The five-storey building already has planning permission for a conversion to 18 apartments and a number of retail units. Hathor Inns director Paul Langsford told the Irish News: “A planning application is being prepared for a proposed mixed-use commercial and leisure scheme with ground-floor and rooftop bars.”

Likely preferred bidder named for McDonald’s Korea business: A consortium formed by Maeil Dairies and Carlyle Group is most likely to be named preferred bidder for acquiring McDonald’s Korea, according to industry sources. This was after most of the heavyweight bidders – a consortium formed by KG Group and NHN Entertainment – dropped out of the race, reports the Korea Herald. “We will not stretch our resources beyond what is necessary,” the group said in a statement. Recently, CJ Group dropped out of the race as well, leaving the Maeil-Carlyle consortium as the most likely to acquire McDonald’s Korea business. Carlyle, a US private equity fund, has also submitted bids for the acquisition of McDonald’s in China and Hong Kong – a deal expected to fetch about $3bn. McDonald’s plans to sell the pair as a package with McDonald’s Korea.

Turkish ‘mengle’ restaurant Kassaba opens fourth site, in Clacton: Turkish “mengle” restaurant Kassaba has opened its fourth site, this time on Clacton seafront in Essex. The 180-cover restaurant – in the former Geisha Hotel in Marine Parade – offers mengle grills, meat and salads. Owner Iftihar Khan opened his first Kassaba site in Crouch Hill, east London, five years ago, which became popular with EastEnders stars. He has since opened restaurants in Birmingham, Ilford and Gants Hill in north London where Khan, who plans to open more sites across Essex, lives. Kassaba means village in Turkish or, in Arabic, a red wall to protect forts. The food is eastern Mediterranean and the restaurant hosts belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Future plans include live jazz and a cocktail/mocktail bar, which is set to open downstairs this month. Khan told the Daily Gazette: “The idea is to invite people for a meal and be part of the entertainment. You stay for the evening and you go home very happy. It’s a complete night out – an experience of the east coupled with the west.”

Greene King set to open £3m Farmhouse Inns site in Aberdeen next month: Greene King is set to open a £3m Farmhouse Inns site in Aberdeen next month. The company is launching Dyce Farm at the ABZ Business Park, creating 90 jobs. It will feature the brand’s traditional carvery offering as well as having a team of bakers on site to produce homemade cakes. Dyce Farm general manager John Tracey told the Evening Express: “There’s been a significant investment from Greene King and I’m sure the food offering is going to be a big hit with locals and visitors.”Greene King has 40 Farmhouse Inns sites across the UK. It is an evolution of the 12-strong Cloverleaf carvery business Greene King acquired in 2011 for £55.8m. The company said in December it expected to expand the brand to between 55 and 75 sites.

Intertain opens Walkabout after rapid turnaround of Wetherspoon site in Chelmsford: Intertain has opened a Walkabout site in Chelmsford only three weeks after completing on the lease assignment. The former J D Wetherspoon pub has undergone a £500,000 refit and, in line with the new-style Walkabout brand, the bar has a high focus on sports and party nights, featuring an elevated DJ booth overlooking the dance floor, a double-height projection screen for big games, and high-density screens at every bookable booth. The venue also features the brand’s new “modern-Australian” menu. Intertain chief executive John Leslie said: “This opening builds on a strong period of growth for Intertain and is a fantastic opportunity for us. The bar is in an excellent location and the space lends itself to our new-style Walkabout brand, allowing us to focus on live sport, bookable VIP areas and booths, brilliant party nights, and a great daytime food offering.”

Novus Leisure scoops UK Customer Experience Award: Bar, nightclub and restaurant operator Novus Leisure has won the insight and feedback category in this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards. The operator lifted the trophy for its Customer Experience Dashboard, created by digital agency Red Ant. The event sees the adjudication split equally between a written application and live presentation to a panel of independent judges. Now in its seventh year, the awards have grown to feature more than 150 companies. Novus Leisure customer experience director Simon Gaske said: “We are extremely delighted to have picked up yet another award for our ground-breaking Customer Experience Dashboard. This award is a true representation of the hard work the teams at each of our sites has put in to make our dashboard a reality. As part of the judging process, we were able to include insight that has not only improved the scores at our venues but, more importantly, greatly enhanced the experience for our customers.” Novus launched its Customer Experience Dashboard in April. The technology analyses customer feedback and data across numerous channels – including social media, review sites, surveys and point-of-sale systems.

Full speaker schedule for Bar and Nightclub Conference: 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com

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