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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 8th Feb 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Growing divide emerging between performance of UK leisure-based and business-orientated hotels: A growing divide is emerging in the UK’s hotel sector between the performance of leisure-based hotels compared with primarily business-orientated properties, according to a new report. The latest Hotel Bulletin, published by HVS, AlixPartners and AM:PM, showed those hotels in cities with a more developed tourism industry performed noticeably better in the fourth quarter of 2016 as a result of the weaker pound attracting foreign tourists and Brits choosing staycations. Belfast, for example, saw revpar growth of 23% during the final quarter of 2016 on the back of significant investment in the city as a tourist destination. Liverpool’s hotels reported growth of 14% during the same period, while Edinburgh and Bath both experienced 13% revpar growth. By contrast, hotels in Newcastle saw an 8% decline in revpar during the fourth quarter of 2016, Aberdeen a 22% decline on the back of the falling oil market, while Cardiff’s revpar dropped by 6%. Hotels in London experienced a modest 2% increase in both revpar and occupancy, while average room rates remained static. Occupancy in London’s hotel sector had shown a decline for the previous seven quarters. HVS chairman Russell Kett said: “As the most popular tourist city, London is particularly well placed to attract more visitors and benefit from the weaker pound but growth was offset by the potential of corporate decline. London may see a further decline in corporate bookings because of depressed GDP growth, particularly if threats made by several large companies to move staff out of the country come to fruition.” The steady increase in the UK’s hotel supply continues with the addition of 14,600 hotel bedrooms during 2016 – a net increase of 1.7% when closures are taken into account. Forecasts estimate 2017 will see supply growth of 3.3%. London shows the strongest annual growth in hotel bedrooms, while the UK’s regions average a net supply gain of 1%. The budget sector makes up 47% of the UK’s active pipeline as Premier Inn and Travelodge continue their aggressive expansion plans. The two brands account for nearly 70% of budget bedrooms opened in 2016. About 30% of the active pipeline is four-star hotels, 10% apartments and 9% five-star properties. Kett added: “Budget brands now account for 25% of all hotel bedrooms in the UK, while the main casualties have been the two and three-star properties. It’s difficult to envisage this trend changing for the foreseeable future.”

Industry News:

Full speaker schedule for next Propel Multi Club Conference revealed: The full speaker schedule for the next Propel Multi Club Conference has been revealed. The event takes place on Thursday, 9 March at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, 4-18 Harrington Gardens, London SW7 4LH. Paul Hemming, managing director at AlixPartners, will provide an overview of current mergers, acquisitions and refinancing trends in the UK market – and reflect on market growth. Michael Ingemann, chairman of the ground-breaking Copenhagen-based Claus Meyer Holdings (founders of Noma), will talk about learnings from launching a food hall and a fine dining restaurant in New York’s Grand Central station last year while also launching a culinary school in Brooklyn. Andrea Ferraz, analyst at Morgan Stanley, will look at the impact of third-party delivery on the UK foodservice sector, compare progress in the UK with other major markets and give her views on how third-party delivery will develop in the UK. Nick Pring, co-founder of Urban Pubs and Bars, will talk about creating a unique market position in London suburbs, building a business the second time around, finding property and repositioning JD Wetherspoon pubs, creating a pizza concept, and opening a 12,000 square foot pop-up at Stratford Westfield. John West, head of franchising sales for Coffee Republic, will set out how the company has revived its fortune in the UK and overseas, its USPs, its position within the coffee market, its franchising strategy, and future plans in the UK and abroad. Jason Myers, chief executive of Busaba Eathai, the concept created by Alan Yau, will talk about evolving the brand, staff recruitment and retention, prospects for the Thai market, brand longevity, and developing its delivery and takeaway business. Kevin Charity, founder of Coaching Inn Group, will set out the benefits of taking Business Growth Fund investment two years ago, including his reflections on the process and how it has quadrupled the value of the business through the execution of a business plan that has included buying new sites, strengthening the management team, leveraging head office costs, and growing site Ebitdas through investment and operational improvements. Dan Einzig, food and beverage entrepreneur and chief executive of sector design agency Mystery, will look at current trends in Los Angeles and London and the learnings from innovative brand concepts his agency has helped to develop, including Bubbleology, Za Za Bazaar, Yorica, Rawligion and Dub Jam, its own Caribbean barbecue and reggae rum bar concept. Jayne Baker, managing director of Wright & Bell, will talk about the ground-breaking £3.2m Imbiba-backed Kitty Hawk, the department store of dining concept – combining shopping, drinking and dining – its progress at its first site in South Place, and future prospects. Atholl Milton, co-founder of StreetDots, will speak about the company’s development of a unique street food business model, the size and quality of the market, connecting and developing high-quality street food traders, and the way he sees street food developing in the future. Steve Locke, co-founder of Be At One, will set out how the company has developed its own distinct position in the cocktail market with a focus on staff training and development, progress in the regions, and future prospects. Multi-site companies can book two free places each by emailing or calling 01444 817691.

Almost half of consumers wouldn’t return to a pub that offers poor quality coffee – report: Almost half of consumers wouldn’t return to a pub that offered poor quality coffee, according to a new report from coffee solution supplier UCC Coffee UK & Ireland, while almost two-thirds of consumers believe a high-quality cup of coffee at the end of a meal makes the difference between a good quality experience and a great one. The company said its report, which launched at Pub17, highlighted a “significant opportunity for pubs to increase trade through an improved coffee offer”. The survey of 750 consumers by Allegra World Coffee Portal on behalf of UCC also revealed 41% would buy more coffee more often in pubs if the quality was better. More than a quarter (28%) of consumers said they would visit a pub or bar for their morning coffee rather than a high-street coffee shop if it opened early enough, while almost a third of diners (31%) often order coffee instead of dessert when eating out. Phil Smith, head of category and insight at UCC Coffee UK & Ireland, said: “Lots of pub operators are doing coffee well but there’s significant room for improvement across the market. For pubs and bars keen to diversify, grow and retain their customer base or to set themselves apart from the competition, high-quality coffee is the key. For pubs with a strong food offer, coffee quality significantly impacts on customer satisfaction. It’s an integral part of eating out, with three quarters of diners valuing coffee quality as an important part of the overall experience. The results from our research clearly show consumers are willing to drink more coffee in pubs and bars. In turn, operators must be willing to give coffee the same attention as they do their alcohol or food offers.” Anthony Pender, chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping, added: “More than a third of consumers buy coffee out of home at least four times per week. This isn’t a fad – coffee is here to stay. For pub and bar operators looking to invest in their future, their business and grow their customer base, coffee is a revenue generator like no other.”

Trade accountant reports tenanted and leasehold pubs continuing to see squeeze on profitability, food venues seeing increased margin: Trade accountants Roslyn’s has reported its tenanted and leasehold pub clients are continuing to see a squeeze on profitability, while those majoring on food are seeing an increased margin. Its benchmarking survey for the year to December 2016 showed turnover among its pub clients was up 1.85%. The wet margin decreased by 0.76%, while the dry margin increased 8.51%. The average break-even figure has risen from £4,400 to £4,800 per week. Roslyn’s operations director Geoff Temperton is presenting a Margin Masterclass at Pub17 on Wednesday (8 February).

US restaurant operators optimistic for year ahead: US restaurant operators are optimistic about the year ahead despite weak like-for-like sales and visits in December, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) closed 2016 at 100.5, down slightly from 100.7 in November. The association considers the industry to be in expansion mode when the index rises above 100. According to the NRA, 38% of operators said like-for-like store sales increased in December, up slightly from 37% in November. However, 42% reported a like-for-like sales decline, up from 40% in November. Visits continued to be the main problem – 29% of operators reported an increase in traffic in December, while 47% reported a decline, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. That was slightly better than November, when 26% reported an increase and 52% a decline. The RPI consists of two components – the Current Situation Index (CSI) and the Expectations Index (EI), the latter of which tracks operator expectations for the coming six months. Because of the weak results, the association said its CSI was 99.5 in December, down from 99.7 in November. Still, expectations were strong. The EI was unchanged in December, at 101.6. Operators are optimistic, with 39% believing sales should improve in the next six months, up from 31% in November. Only 10% expect sales to fall, down from 16% in November. Operators have long maintained healthy expansion plans, with 57% of those surveyed saying they expect to expand or remodel in the next six months. Meanwhile, 57% said they made a capital expenditure in the past three months – the 27th straight month a majority of operators said that was the case.

Shaftesbury announces Seven Dials series of events: West End property landlord Shaftesbury will host four free one-day events this year at Seven Dials in London. Each event will be accompanied by an extended and bespoke in-store and online campaign. Seven Dials will celebrate International Women’s Day (Wednesday, 8 March) with a ticketed “in conversation with” event streamed via Facebook Live and hosted by Evening Standard digital features editor Amira Hashish. There will also be discounts and offers at more than 20 Seven Dials stores and restaurants, as well as free workshops during the week. Style Saturday will take place on 10 June, with the traffic-free event linked to London Fashion Week Men’s, with 20% discounts in most stores and restaurants as well as live music and street food. Cultural festival Spotlight will take place on Saturday, 19 August with Seven Dials pedestrianised and hosting live music, comedy and dance. The Seven Dials Christmas Launch and Shopping Party will take place on Thursday, 16 November with 20% discount on shopping and dining. Shaftesbury head of group marketing and communications Karen Baines said: “2017 will be our biggest year of events yet and capture all Seven Dials has to offer.”

Caprice Holdings to launch its first in-house beer, for Mayfair’s Sexy Fish: Caprice Holdings is set to launch its first in-house beer, in partnership with Scottish craft brewer Harviestoun, for its Mayfair restaurant Sexy Fish. The 4.4% ABV Sexy Fish Lager has been brewed to pair with the Asian restaurant and bar’s seafood menu and decadent interior. The 330ml bottles will be exclusively available at the venue. Caprice Holdings director of bars Xavier Landais said: “The thought of creating a Sexy Fish beer really appealed to us and partnering with Harviestoun seemed like an obvious choice. This is the first time Caprice Holdings has created a beer and the final product is everything we had hoped for – approachable, full-flavoured and delicious.” Harviestoun Brewery managing director Toby Knowles added: “When Sexy Fish invite you to collaborate on a lager, you don’t say no. After all, it’s not every day you get to design a beer that pairs with octopus carpaccio and artwork by Damien Hirst in equal measure. The result is a cross-continental love affair, fusing big, bold American hops with aromatic Japanese varieties for that Asian fusion experience in a glass.”

Company News:

Enterprise Inns joint venture Dirty Liquor to launch first venue: Dirty Liquor, the managed expert partnership between Enterprise Inns and operators Hugh O’Boyle and Caroline Jones, is set to launch its first venue – The Dog and Duck in Walthamstow. The pub in Chingford Road will be the second site in Walthamstow run by O’Boyle and Jones, who also operate The Duke in Wood Street. Refurbishment work, which will retain and enhance the pub’s original features, is expected to be complete by late spring. It will include an open plan kitchen from which O’Boyle and Jones’ popular “Sourdough Saloon” pizza offer will be served, while a prominent bar will offer an extensive drinks range including whisky, rum, gin, locally sourced ale, craft beer and cocktails. A large cinema-style screen will show key sporting events as well as movies during film nights. A large outdoor area will be a key feature for the pub and is set to include individually designed cabana huts, a pop-up food trailer and seasonal market stalls. Jones said: “We love Walthamstow so when the opportunity came up to take another site in the area we jumped at it. It’s a very exciting partnership for us. We’ve worked with Enterprise for 16 years and have a great relationship.” Enterprise Inns managed investments operations director Nathan Wall added: “Caroline and Hugh have a wealth of experience and expertise, which will breathe new life into The Dog and Duck and help it to thrive. We’ve been working closely with them to develop the concept for the pub and we’re really looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.”

Abokado to open 29th site today, near Canary Wharf: Healthy eating chain Abokado, which is backed by private equity firm Kings Park Capital, will open its 29th site today (Wednesday, 8 February) in the Harbour Exchange development near Canary Wharf, London. Harbour Exchange is an office development with more than 900,000 square feet of office space and let to a wide range of tenants. Abokado has taken a lease on a former Lloyds Bank site and the venue features the company’s new interior design, which was launched last year. Founder Mark Lilley said: “For years our loyal customers have been pleading with us to open an Abokado in or around Canary Wharf. These are customers who have grown up with Abokado and whose office has moved or are simply health-conscious Londoners who have heard great things about what we do. Well, finally we’ve arrived! This is another stunning addition to our estate. We have an awesome team that is super keen to start welcoming legions of future fans through our doors. Our last two openings, at Blackfriars and Angel, both set respective all-time sales records for Abokado. We look forward to a similar reception for our newest baby.” In November, the company secured further funding to grow its presence in central London in a bid to boost its turnover from £14m to £17m by the end of 2017. It plans to open further sites this year.

Jean-Christophe Novelli to launch Belfast restaurant: Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli is set to launch his first restaurant in Northern Ireland, at Belfast’s new City Quays hotel. The £25m Marriott AC Hotel is currently under construction as part of the Harbour’s City Quays project and will feature a bar, lounge, gym, meeting rooms and almost 190 luxury bedrooms. The 104-cover Jean-Christophe Novelli at City Quays restaurant is due to open in early 2018 and will offer a “brasserie menu” with “French flair”. Belfast Harbour property director Graeme Johnston told the Belfast Telegraph: “Recognised across the UK, Ireland, Europe and beyond, Jean-Christophe Novelli is a true champion of high-quality, down-to-earth and innovative menu combinations and his decision to choose City Quays and Belfast is a testament to the success of our development plans for this key city centre site and the strong demand for great hospitality and the vibrancy of our visitor economy. This exciting new restaurant is great news for the local economy and will provide a welcome addition to Belfast and Northern Ireland’s strong hospitality, leisure and tourism offer.”

Adventure golf brand agrees deal to open site at Cheltenham leisure development: Adventure Leisure has agreed a deal to bring its adventure golf brand Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf to The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham. The company will take a 20,000 square foot first-floor unit above The Restaurant Group-owned Coast to Coast restaurant and Faucet Inn’s Babel bar. The letting completes this block of the development while work on phase two, which comprises an additional 70,000 square foot of retail space, is now nearing completion. Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf will transform the space, with visitors able to choose between two adventure golf courses as well as food and drink. The venue is expected to open in the summer, creating 25 jobs. Adventure Leisure spokesman Hugh Knowles said: “We’re very excited to bring Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf to The Brewery Quarter. With such a prime location within the town centre, we’re sure it’s going to be the perfect location for our unique brand of adventure golf fun for adults and children alike.” The Brewery Quarter marketing manager Demelsa Coleman added: “We’re delighted to welcome Adventure Leisure and Mr Mulligan’s Lost World Golf to The Brewery Quarter, as a visitor attraction we expect it to add to footfall and complement our existing mix of tenants.” The Brewery Quarter is home to a mix of restaurant and leisure brands, including an 11-screen Cineworld IMax, Prezzo, Nando’s, Hollywood Bowl, and expanding brewhouse concept Brewhouse & Kitchen. They are due to be joined this month by Loungers brand Cosy Club and Soho Coffee Co.

Greene King Pub Partners relaunches first 100 days training programme: Greene King Pub Partners has relaunched its first 100 days training programme to maximise support for new tenants as they begin running a pub. The expanded programme gives licensees the essential information and tools they need to ensure efficient implementation of their business plans. Split into six sections with hints and tips as well as actions to follow, the first 100 days programme is designed to improve recruitment and retention of licensees and all are enrolled, regardless of experience. It is also put in place when licensees receive a major capital investment to cover the period immediately after reopening. Three free mystery visits are scheduled during the first 100 days of occupancy to assist licensees with understanding and developing their business, as well as three review meetings with business development managers. When the programme is complete, business development managers continue to be on hand for queries and to act as consultants for licensees. A significant number of business development managers have undertaken business strategy courses via a long-standing partnership with Birmingham City University. The first 100 days programme ensures tenants have a clear plan of action and can focus on key areas of their business plan. There is a minimum of two visits from business development managers in the first two weeks with a set of actions for both sides formulated at the end of the 100 days. Greene King Pub Partners managing director Clive Chesser said: “This renewed focus on our first 100 days programme is underpinned by our desire to be industry-leading in all our training and it is essential that, right from the outset, we are offering support that matters to licensees.”

Pretzel franchise Auntie Anne’s UK to open 15 sites a year for next five years: The Burton family, which holds the UK franchise for pretzel brand Auntie Anne’s, has set a target of at least 15 openings a year for the next five years. The company is also refitting its current 31 sites to ensure the “look of the shops matches the outstanding taste”. Auntie Anne’s is the world’s largest pretzel franchise, with nearly 1,400 locations in 26 countries. All its sweet and savoury pretzels are hand-made in-store daily. Max Burton, who has taken over from his father Robert as managing director of Auntie Anne’s UK, said: “When we took over the business in the UK in 2008 we knew there was huge potential for quick growth, and I’m delighted to say we have been proved correct. The whole franchised business is set up to make it as straightforward as possible for franchisees to succeed. We help them with everything, from securing highly sought-after premises where we have great deals in place with many of the country’s top landlords to unrivalled training and support and assisting with the supply of ingredients. We have also taken the decision to refit all our stores to ensure the look of the shops matches the outstanding taste of our products. We believe we now have everything in place to ensure our ambitious UK growth strategy stays on track over the next five years and beyond.”

Jason Atherton’s The Social Company launches its first Italian restaurant: Jason Atherton’s The Social Company has launched its first Italian Restaurant – Hai Cenato – in the Nova development in Victoria. Hai Cenato, which means “have you had dinner?” in Italian, is the second collaboration between The Social Company and Paul Hood, who is also chef patron of Michelin-starred Social Eating House. The venue is set across two floors, a 60-cover restaurant on the ground floor offering New York-Italian cuisine and a first floor 70-cover cocktail bar – The Drunken Oyster– serving classic Italian cocktails and a selection of sparkling “taptails”. The interior has been inspired by traditional Italian family restaurants, with vintage light fixtures and deep blood-red snakeskin banquettes. Layers of wallpaper, peeled to reveal an imagined history, endow the space with a sense of heritage, with the pizza ovens located at the centre and forming the focal point, where customers at the counter can watch chefs cook the pizzas. The menu also spans small plates, pasta and risotto dishes, while the restaurant houses a deli offering a selection of breakfast and lunch dishes available to take away throughout the day. The Drunken Oyster is designed to echo a vintage railway carriage in a nod to the site’s location next to Victoria station. Atherton said: “I’m really excited to be collaborating with Paul on another restaurant, he’s an incredible chef who I’m sure will repeat the success he’s had at Social Eating House in Victoria. We’ve taken some research trips to New York together and were really inspired by the amazing quality yet super casual, buzzy atmosphere of the Italian restaurants out there – that’s what we are trying to recreate in Hai Cenato.”

JD Wetherspoon puts Newport hotel and pub up for sale days after taking nearby venue off market: JD Wetherspoon has put The Queen’s Hotel in Newport, South Wales, up for sale days after removing the nearby Tom Toya Lewis pub from the market. The grade-II listed, three-storey Queen’s Hotel in Bridge Street was previously used as a club until Wetherspoons acquired the site in 2009, spending an estimated £900,000 to redevelop it. The venue, built in 1863, features a pub, function room and 29 bedrooms. The asking price for the building has yet to be revealed. A JD Wetherspoon spokesman told the South Wales Argus: “It is likely to go on the market in the coming days. The pub will remain open and trading as a Wetherspoon pub and hotel until it is sold. Wetherspoon has three other pubs in Newport – the Tom Toya, The John Wallace Linton and The Godfrey Morgan – and these will not be affected by the sale. Wetherspoon is always looking at its estate of pubs and will, on occasion for commercial reasons, put a pub up for sale – this is the situation here.” The Tom Toya Lewis in Commercial Street was set to be auctioned by Allsop, with a guide price of £100,000 to £150,000. However, Wetherspoon took the pub off the market earlier this week.

Punch announces 2017 roadshow dates: The Punch roadshow, now in its 14th year, will visit seven venues in 2017. The events provide existing and potential publicans with support, offers, advice and resources. The roadshows, which run from 10am to 3pm, kick off on 12 September at Chester Racecourse and finish on 3 October at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. The key focus this year is on how Punch can help publicans build their business, with new ideas and initiatives to increase sales and cut costs, along with opportunities to meet suppliers. The other events in the series are at Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh (14 September); International Centre For Life, Newcastle (19 September); Thornbury Leisure Centre, Bristol (21 September); London ExCel (26 September) and Elland Road, Leeds (28 September). Punch chief executive Duncan Garrood said: “Each year we have seen the roadshows grow in popularity and footfall. Last year saw the highest attendance rate on record, with an average 220 publicans attending each roadshow. We work hard to ensure they provide a beneficial platform for attendees to meet suppliers, gain advice and access the free support available.”

Caprice Holdings opens Ivy brasserie in Soho: Caprice Holdings, owned by Richard Caring, has opened an Ivy brasserie in Soho. The company has opened the 200-cover restaurant and bar in Broadwick Street – its ninth site in the capital. The venue consists of a cafe-lounge area, dining bar, main restaurant and private dining room for up to 50. Features include an onyx bar, pendant lighting, marble floor tiles, polished parquet panel flooring and burnt-orange leather banquettes. All its UK outlets are in the capital apart from Ivy Clifton Brasserie in Bristol, while it has been given the go-ahead for a brasserie in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. It has secured two sites in Surrey – in Cobham and Guildford – as well as Richmond and Tower Bridge. Last month, accounts for Troia UK Restaurants, the vehicle that is overseeing the expansion of the Ivy, reported Ebitda jumped to £1,929,444 in the year to July 2016, up from £517,058 the year before. Turnover rose to £22.3m from £6.1m the previous year.

M&B to convert Toby Carvery into second East Midlands Miller & Carter steakhouse: Mitchells & Butlers is set to convert its Toby Carvery in Enderby into a Miller & Carter steakhouse, the brand’s second site in East Midlands. Work has started on the 180-cover venue in Leicester Road, with a reopening scheduled for mid-March. The company opened its first Miller & Carter site in East Midlands in September – in Rothley. Miller & Carter regional business manager Claire Maynard told the Leicester Mercury: “Bringing a new Miller & Carter to Enderby is a fantastic opportunity for the brand and we look forward to providing the best steaks and service our restaurants are renowned for across the UK.” Last month, Mitchells & Butlers revealed it plans to open more than 25 Miller & Carter sites this year as it continues expansion of the 57-strong brand. Chief executive Phil Urban previously said conversion to the brand costs between £600,000 and £700,000 but was producing a 40% return on investment in the case of the most recent conversions.

Technomic parent company Winsight receives equity and debt funding: US-based media, event and information company Winsight, which owns Technomic, has received an undisclosed amount of equity and debt funding from investment firm Pamlico Capital, in partnership with the company’s existing management team. Headquartered in Chicago, Winsight provides information and market intelligence to the global restaurant, non-commercial foodservice, and convenience retail industries. In 2015, it acquired Technomic, which provides primary and secondary food and foodservice industry insights, as well as strategic advice to companies operating in the sectors. As part of the new deal, described as “majority recapitalisation”, Winsight chief executive Mike Wood said other management team members and existing investors would maintain “significant ownership” of the company. Wood told MR Web: “The Pamlico team brings expertise and ongoing capital for additional investment and acquisitions, and we are excited about what this will mean for Winsight’s employees and customers. We see the opportunity to continue growing Winsight and increase our presence and offerings to our restaurant, foodservice and convenience markets, and are pleased to have a financial partner to execute our strategy.”

Battersea Power Station signs up five further operators as it vows ‘no chain bars or restaurants’ on riverfront: Five further operators have signed up for the £9bn regeneration of Battersea Power Station. The restaurants, bars and shops in “Circus West Village” will open by the summer, with the Malaysian-owned developers sticking to a “no chains” policy. The brands are oyster specialist and seafood wholesaler the Wright Brothers, which operates four venues in the capital, Danish pizzeria Mother, London Distillery Company-owned Dodd’s Gin, two-strong burgers, wine and brunch concept Ben’s Canteen, and Duckroad, a sister restaurant to Soho’s Ducksoup and Rawduck in London Fields. Darwin & Wallace, the Imbiba-backed operator, and Pedler Cru are among operators to have previously signed up for the development. Rob Tincknell, chief executive of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, told the Evening Standard: “We are striving to deliver the best mix of independent, authentic and fun British and international operators – an extension of the local community, a place for people to visit, be entertained, try something new, work and live.”

Marco Pierre White converts Surrey restaurant to steakhouse brand: Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has transformed his Wheeler’s of St James’s restaurant in Yateley, Surrey, into his Steakhouse Bar and Grill brand. Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar and Grill Yateley at The Casa Hotel will offer visitors a range of classic British food. He told Get Surrey: “My restaurants are not stuffy or pretentious. Instead they are about enjoying your evening, with excellent food and drink in luxurious, relaxed surroundings and quite simply having a good time. That’s the kind of experience our guests in Yateley can look forward to.” Bobby Singh Obhrai, managing director of The Casa Hotel, added: “Marco Pierre White’s restaurant has certainly proved popular among guests over the years but our customer feedback emphasised guests wanted more traditional home-comfort classics.” Nick Taplin, chief executive of the celebrity chef’s Black and White Hospitality group, said: “We’ve seen major growth in our steakhouse restaurants and we’re delighted to be expanding our offering to Yateley. We feel it is the perfect location to showcase the impressive Steakhouse Bar and Grill brand, with excellent food and drink at pricing to suit all budgets.”

Exclusive Hotels and Venues acquires Wiltshire hotel: Exclusive Hotels and Venues has acquired the Castle Inn Hotel in Castle Combe, Wiltshire. The Castle Inn is located close to the Manor House Hotel, a larger 48-bedroom hotel also owned by the group. The acquisition adds to the company’s portfolio of four five-star hotels, two country house venues, a golf club and meeting venues. Travers Smith LLP advised Exclusive Hotels and Venues on the deal.

Cote opens Weybridge site: French brasserie Cote, which is owned by private equity firm BC Partners, has opened a site in Weybridge, Surrey. The company has invested £1m in the 150-cover restaurant in Church Street, creating about 50 jobs. Cote has refurbished the listed building, maintaining the original glazed green tiling on the front and adding bi-fold doors that open out on to a small paved terrace. Chief executive Alex Scrimgeour told Get Surrey: “Our other Surrey restaurants have been hugely successful and we are thrilled to be opening in Weybridge. We look forward to bringing our friendly, professional service and great-value food to this thriving town.” Cote has more than 80 sites in the UK, including its other Surrey branches, which include Cobham, Farnham, Guildford, Woking and its most recent opening in the county, Godalming.

Nando’s to open Bournemouth restaurant next week: Nando’s is to open a restaurant in Bournemouth next week. The company is opening the 146-seater venue on Wednesday, 15 February at the new BH2 leisure complex, reports the Bournemouth Echo. It will be the second restaurant to open at the £50m development in the town centre after TGI Friday’s. Another 11 brands are set to follow, including Casual Dining Group-owned brands Bella Italia and Las Iguanas, Handmade Burger Co and Prezzo. An Odeon cinema is also opening as well as a 24-hour casino.

Asahi UK appoints new director of sales for on-trade: Asahi UK has appointed Pete Rowe as director of sales, on-trade. Rowe brings a wealth of experience after spending 14 years at Anheuser-Busch InBev in a number of senior commercial roles across the on and off-trade. He will lead a commercial team to further develop Asahi UK’s super premium beer portfolio of Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell, Kozel and St Stefanus across the UK on-trade.

Las Iguanas reveals Race to Rio winners: Las Iguanas has revealed staff from its Deansgate, Derby and York sites have won its annual Race to Rio competition. The winners come from the Casual Dining Group brand’s three restaurants with the highest mystery dining scores during the year and are selected from the front-of-house, bar, kitchen and management teams. They will enjoy a week’s all-expenses trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next month. The winners will be joined on the trip by Las Iguanas’ Support Chef of the Year and Support Manager of the Year for 2016.

Essex pub and boutique hotel goes on the market: Longmont Properties has put the Churchgate Hotel in Old Harlow, Essex, up for sale. The traditional 17th century pub and boutique hotel has been refurbished and includes eight en-suite bedrooms, with planning permission in place for a further eight garden suites. The 9,257 square foot premises also contains bar and restaurant areas, a large beer garden and 30-space car park. It is currently closed to trade and is being marketed by agent Davis Coffer Lyons. Located within a chiefly residential area, adjacent to a new development of houses and apartments, the grade II-listed property is available freehold or leasehold. A new free-of-tie 25-year lease will be awarded and offers are invited. Davis Coffer Lyons associate director Connie Start said: “The property has been refurbished to a high standard and would ideally suit an experienced multiple pub or hotel enterprise, or a corporate operator.”

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