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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 17th Mar 2017 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Branded food-led pubs and restaurants continue to grow despite fierce headwinds, overall numbers down 1.3%: Numbers of branded food pubs and restaurants have continued to grow despite fierce headwinds, the latest Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach has revealed. It showed casual dining operators had another strong year of growth in 2016 – and by the end of December the country had 20.9% more restaurants than it did at the end of 2011. The number of branded food pubs also expanded significantly, as major pub groups continued programmes to turn flagging drinking pubs into destination food-led ones. The AlixPartners CGA Peach Market Growth Monitor confirmed ambitious food-focused businesses remain firmly in expansion mode. It follows figures from the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker showing like-for-like sales growth of 1.7% for managed pub and restaurant groups in February 2017, building on modest but consistent increases through 2016. The upbeat news comes amid mounting challenges to the eating and drinking-out sector. Rising rates, food costs and wage bills are all increasing the pressure on businesses at the moment, exacerbated by uncertainty around the effect of Brexit on staffing and exchange rates. The success of branded pub and restaurant sectors contrasts with evidence from the Market Growth Monitor of a small decline of 1.3% in Britain’s overall number of licensed premises last year – equivalent to 1,600 net closures. Drink-led local pubs and independent restaurants accounted for the bulk of that figure. The Monitor uncovered many notable bright spots in the eating-out market, including the suburbs, where the number of food-led licensed premises increased by 1.2% in 2016, and the north east, where they rose 3.8%. Regional cities also continue to be a key focus for expanding operators, with the number of licensed premises in British cities up by 7.6% in the past five years. CGA Peach vice-president Peter Martin said: “Restaurants and pubs face significant cost challenges at the moment, many of them not of their own making. So it is no surprise to find the licensed sector contracted slightly in 2016 – but that should not distract from the success of food-led operations in recent years. It is a story of dynamic economic growth and job creation that deserves more recognition and support from government.” AlixPartners managing director Paul Hemming added: “We are continuing to see strong trading performances from many companies in the branded casual dining sector, especially those who have had the resources to invest in their sites over recent years. Sales for these operators have been positive in the early part of 2017, but this benefit has been offset by strong cost pressures. The drivers for like-for-like sales growth now include price rises, which operators are introducing as they juggle the complex interplay of pricing versus covers. Menu engineering is also at the forefront as operators look to drive efficiency to maintain or improve profitability. The pressure on independent operators and smaller groups is intense. Faced with fewer cost-saving options, less operational experience and cash constraints, the future looks tough. Despite this, new offerings are coming to the market and investor appetite for four to five-site businesses remains strong, as the recent Piper investment in Flat Iron confirms. The growth of food-led pubs in itself is unsurprising but the speed of this growth should send a further warning to the restaurant market. The public still has an affinity with the pub and many of the new offerings deliver great value for money and good food. The sector is clearly not for the faint-hearted but this type of environment simply drives a more marked divide between the winners and losers.”

Industry News:

Finance and Investment Conference open for bookings: The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is open for bookings. Speakers will include Julia Groves, founder and director of the UK Crowdfunding Association, and Steven Kenee, head of licensed leisure at sector investor Downing, who will give their views on the opportunity of pub and restaurant ISAs and the key pros and cons of crowd bonds. Andrew Godber, who oversees leisure investment banking at Panmure Gordon, has advised on many Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and acted for more than a dozen companies in the sector including Brighton Pier Group, Capital Pub Company, City Pub Company, Eclectic Bars, The Restaurant Group and Young’s. He will give his views on how companies make themselves ready for flotation on the public markets, recent performance of companies opting for IPOs, the segments of the market that may be suited for the IPO route, the costs of going public and the advantages of IPOs. There will also be a panel discussion examining the sector investment and finance landscape with Maurice Abboudi, of K10; Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards; Bob Silk, of Barclays Corporate; Dan Stern, of Piper Private Equity; and Ian Edward, of Edward Associates. Click here to see the full programme. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 11 May at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers, while tickets for Propel Premium subscribers are £245 plus VAT. To book, email or call 01444 817691.

Advanced Social Media Masterclass open for bookings: The Propel Advanced Social Media Masterclass is now open for bookings. Held in association with Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell, other speakers will include Digital Blonde social media manager Nicola Proud, who will revisit effective social media campaigns with a special focus on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, delving into what success looks like across each platform and how to avoid potential pitfalls. Steve Ward works as a talent attraction strategist, helping businesses to become a magnet for the talent they want. He will explain how to recognise, recruit and retain top social media talent to ensure the right person or people take charge of your social channels. Sarah McGhie, who has years of PR experience in the pub, bar and hospitality sector, will talk about the power of PR and how this can amplify your social media success, and vice versa. She will also discuss how to avoid the pitfalls of an “always on” approach with regards to reputation management, and when to pick your fights and when to walk away. Click here to see the full programme. The full-day event takes place on Friday, 7 April at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. Tickets for the event are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing or calling 01444 817691.

DCLG offices to see £50,000 business rates cut while neighbouring pubs and restaurants face double-digit hike: The Westminster offices housing the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the body responsible for setting new business rates, will see a cut in business rates following revaluation while neighbouring pubs and restaurants face significant hikes, according to analysis carried out on behalf of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Despite the DCLG being housed in prime real estate in Marsham Street, its offices are getting a tax cut of £50,000, with little change to its rateable value (RV). Its 2010 valuation was £24.96m, while it is valued at £24.91m this year. Meanwhile, many of the office’s closest pubs and restaurants – Cinnamon Club, the Shepherd’s pub and Caffe Nero in Marsham Street and the Barley Mow, White Horse and Marquis of Granby pubs in Horseferry Road – face significant increases that will take them above the £100,000 threshold, making them ineligible for the £1,000 pub rate relief announced in last week’s Budget. The Loose Box Bar & Kitchen in Horseferry Road faces the largest RV increase in the area (up 87% from 2010 to £116,000), while the Shepherd faces a 69% rise to £122,000, followed by the Marquis of Granby (50% to £119,000). ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “These figures highlight the unfairness and disparity of the current system, which sees pubs and restaurants subsidising other sectors. It is the height of irony that the London offices of the DCLG are benefiting from a drop in its RV, while the nearby pubs and restaurants civil servants regularly enjoy are seeing double-digit increases. The nearest pub to these government offices is seeing its RV go up by more than 50%. The majority of pubs and restaurants face significant increases in operating costs this year through various government measures. While last week’s Budget provided some long overdue support, it is only a first step on the road to reform. Let’s be clear – the issue of business rates is not going away and the fight for a fairer deal goes on.”

Industry unites to promote pub stays: The pub sector has joined forces behind a new industry initiative to promote staying in pubs as an alternative to hotels. The second Profitable Beds in Pubs event took place in London this week, with representatives from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and other industry groups hearing from delegates on the growing consumer trend of overnight pub stays. Speakers highlighted the importance of businesses standing out in an emerging market place and provided tips on maximising offerings and connecting with customers. Topics discussed included digital marketing for pub accommodation, revenue management, the importance of managing guest reviews, the impact of tourist accommodation legislation, and a presentation of research findings on pub accommodation. ALMR director of communications Tony Sophoclides said: “Buoyed by a burgeoning consumer preference for boutique and character-driven accommodation, pubs are in a great position to capitalise and evolve their businesses. It is absolutely vital any pubs looking to begin offering accommodation or enhancing their current accommodation are fully aware of the opportunities and pitfalls of this exciting sector. This was a great event and an important step in helping pubs utilise their rooms. The ALMR will work closely with its members and is excited to help promote this dynamic and growing aspect of the UK’s pub market.”

Company News:

BrewDog shareholders face having stakes diluted under proposed changes to allow investment: Shareholders in Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog face having their stakes diluted under proposed changes by the company that will pave the way for an injection of cash from an unnamed investor. BrewDog will hold a general meeting at the end of this month to approve several amendments to its articles of association. Those resolutions include the temporary removal of pre-emption rights so current shareholders cannot stop their stakes being diluted by the fund-raise, and the creation of a new class of preferred C shares, which give the new investor downside protection. It would mean “on a liquidation, return of capital, a sale of the company or its business, or a listing of the company, the investor would be entitled to receive the higher of (i) a preferred return preference of 18% per annum compounding annually and (ii) such amount as would be applied to the holders of the C shares if they ranked pari passu with the A ordinary shares and B ordinary shares”. According to a letter sent to shareholders this week, BrewDog could sell up to 30% of the company to the investor while certain “significant shareholders” would also be able to sell 20% of their holdings. Latest documents from Companies House showed there are 6.21 million A and B shares in issuance in BrewDog priced at £75 per share. One comment written on the FT website by a “non-BrewDog investor” said: “So they’re getting an institutional investor at £465m valuation for a minority stake with a downside protection in exchange for a very high valuation (ten times revenues based on December 2015, seven times revenues on a same-growth-rate assumption for 2016). That doesn’t look offensive versus alternatives – another crowdfunded round at (half? less?) the valuation?” However, another comment said: “An 18% cumulative pref? Sorry, higher of 18% or... Blimey, that smacks of desperation. Still, I suppose someone’s gotta learn those happy-go-lucky crowdfunding types.”

Japanese-inspired snacks and meals company closes crowdfunding campaign after raising almost £270,000: Japanese-inspired snacks and meals company Miso Tasty, which has sector entrepreneur Yaser Martini as a director and investor, has closed its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs after raising almost £270,000. The company, which was founded in 2014 by chef Bonnie Chung, was aiming to raise £150,000 and offered a 9.53% equity stake in return for an investment. It has now closed the campaign having raised £269,900. The pitch stated: “Miso Tasty is a modern brand of Japanese-inspired snacks and meal solutions. We have a growing range of tasty, wholesome products including miso soups and miso pastes, and an internationally acclaimed cookbook. You can find us nationwide in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Wholefoods, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols, as well as in offices such as Google. This investment will primarily meet the working capital requirement for launching our new Ramen Noodle Kits into a confirmed listing of 290 Waitrose stores and support the roll-out to other major retailers. Our noodle range increases our capital requirements due to the larger stock holding required to supply a more mainstream category. We intend to invest in our supply chain to ensure we remain a reliable supplier to our growing number of customers. We intend to continue investing in brand-building activities such as consumer trade shows, PR, events, social media, and in-store marketing to ensure we are supporting our growing range of products with increased brand awareness.”

Be At One secures second Leeds site: Be At One, the specialist cocktail bar group, is stepping up its national expansion programme by securing a new site in Leeds – the first time it has opened a second venue in a city outside London. The group, which currently operates 31 venues across the country, has completed a deal on a site in Boar Lane in the heart of the city centre. Be At One’s original site in Leeds was the company’s first northern bar when it opened in June 2015. The new venue is on the site of a former restaurant and bar, encompassing 3,000 square feet of trading space set over two floors. The site will close for refurbishment before opening at the end of April with its new Be At One identity. Recruitment for the site is under way, with the cocktail specialist set to recruit and train seven individuals for new jobs. Be At One director Steve Locke said: “We’re really excited to have secured a second site in Leeds as it marks another milestone in the Be At One journey. We have been in the city for two years and think there is a great opportunity to open a successful, high turnover, smaller unit and have been looking in this location for some time. The site has an old-school, neighbourhood bar feel to it – very much in keeping with our original Battersea venue we opened in 1998. We have the infrastructure and management in place in the city so are confident it will be a big success without cannibalising sales at the existing site. It will be a good test and put into practice our long-held belief that we can open multiple bars in cities around the UK.”

Beds and Bars reports near double-digit increase in UK like-for like sales: Beds and Bars, the pan-European hostel operator led by Keith Knowles, has reported a near double-digit increase in its UK like-for-likes sales over the past three months. The company saw like-for-likes increase 11% in December and February while they were up 6% in January, compared with the previous year. The company told Propel that March was “looking even better” based on the first three weeks of the period. Last month, the company sold the leasehold of its Covent Garden site back to the landlord. The property was home to a Belushi’s bar and has four letting bedrooms above. In January, Beds and Bars reported group turnover increased by 5% year-on-year, rising to £41.9m in the year to the end of March 2016, compared with £39.7m the year before. Group Ebitda on a like-for-like basis increased year-on-year to £4.57m, up 26% on a like-for-like basis compared with the year before.

Rick Stein opens first London restaurant today: Chef entrepreneur Rick Stein will open his first London restaurant today (Friday, 17 March). Stein will launch Rick Stein Barnes having acquired The Depot Riverside Restaurant & Bar in Mortlake from Tideway Restaurants last year. The 3,600 square foot venue can accommodate up to 110 diners internally, with courtyard seating for a further 40. The Depot sits within Tideway Yard, which comprises a former stables, coach house and depot dating to 1901. The Yard is now home to numerous independent businesses and residential apartments. The menu will feature some new London specials, including stifado rabbit stew with caramelised onions, red wine, cinnamon, currants and sautéed potatoes and a London cure smoked salmon with horseradish cream and homemade walnut bread. Stein said: “I’ve often been asked if I’ll ever have a restaurant in London and, to be honest, I’ve always said I wouldn’t. But when I went to have a look at The Depot it struck me how perfect a place it was – overlooking the Thames, being wonderfully close to central London but far enough out to feel like you’re in your own community, a little village almost.”

Square Pie opens Britain’s first pick ‘n’ mix mini pie bar: Gourmet pie company Square Pie is bringing its award-winning mini pies to Bristol, with the launch of a kiosk as part of the newly renovated retail offering at the Vue cinema site in Cribbs Causeway. The “pick ‘n’ mix” pie bar, which opens today (Friday, 17 March), will be the first of its kind in the country, a pastry take on pick ‘n’ mix that will allow customers to personalise their meal with a choice of six mini pies, wedges and a selection of dipping sauces. Square Pie will debut a new beef bolognese mini pie at the site, alongside favourites steak and ale, barbecue bourbon beef, chicken and mushroom, and cheese and onion. Founder Martin Dewey said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Vue to bring something totally new to its customers in Bristol. Pick ‘n’ mix proper little pies while watching a great film, what could be better?” Vue head of retail Paschalis Loucaides added: “We’re excited to bring a new retail experience to Vue Bristol Cribbs and delighted to be working with Square Pie.”

Caffe Nero reports rising sales in Ireland: Sales at the Irish arm of Caffe Nero more than tripled to €2.1m last year as it expanded its presence in the country. Last year, Caffe Nero Ireland opened a further three stores in Dublin as well as its first outside the capital, bringing its total number to eight. This contributed to revenues increasing by 210% to €2.132m in the 12 months to the end of last May. The company also saw a 69% reduction in pre-tax losses for the year to €138,000. In newly-filed accounts for the company, its directors said the losses arose “due to continued startup costs in this new territory”. Caffe Nero has previously announced plans to invest €20m in Ireland to open 40 stores and create up to 350 jobs. Caffe Nero’s first Irish outlet opened in Merrion Row in Dublin in March 2014 and its stores include seven in Dublin and one recently opened in Drogheda. In the accounts, the company’s management added it believes there are strong growth prospects for the branded coffee market in Ireland. Caffe Nero is the largest independent coffee retailer in Europe and last year operated 613 stores in 247 UK and Irish towns generating revenues of £257m and pre-tax profits of £25.5m.

Aberdeen-based cafe and deli operator to turn former bank into third city site: Nicky Turnbull, who operates two venues in Aberdeen – Cognito Deli in Union Grove and Cafe Cognito in St Swithin Street – is set to open a third site in the city. Turnbull has submitted plans to convert a former Bank of Scotland branch on the corner of Midstocket Road and Beechgrove Terrace into a cafe, the Evening Express reports. A building warrant application estimates it will cost £100,000 to convert the property.

Tullymore House continues expansion of Fratelli brand with third site, in Belfast: Hospitality group Tullymore House is to continue the expansion of its Italian restaurant brand Fratelli after securing a new site in Belfast. The company has acquired the derelict former Holy Rosary church and surrounding land in Ormeau Road. It will invest £1m to turn it into its third Fratelli restaurant, creating more than 40 jobs. Project manager Colin Johnston told the Irish News: “We plan to regenerate this section of Ormeau Road with a sympathetic redevelopment of the building, which has stood on the site since 1898 but has been derelict since 1980. The Ormeau Road project is part of an ongoing investment programme in the hospitality sector by Tullymore House, including planned extensions to Fratelli restaurants in Galgorm in Ballymena and Belfast city centre.” Tullymore House recently invested more than £11m in a redevelopment programme of its Galgorm Resort and Spa. The company said it also has a significant investment programme planned for the Fratelli brand in 2017 totalling more than £1.5m and creating up to 60 jobs.

YO! Sushi opens flagship New York site: YO! Sushi has opened its flagship site in New York, in the Flatiron district at 23 West 23rd Street. It offers several options from the chain’s executive chef Mike Lewis that are exclusive to the location, including sushi grilled with a blowtorch, a fried chicken sandwich with a fruity sauce, a “super-sized” shaved ice dessert, and a yuzu broth-based ramen. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations. The company opened a location in Boston last autumn and now has six other locations in the country, including in Tampa and Paramus, New Jersey.

Cambscuisine to start Smokeworks expansion with second Cambridge site: Pub and restaurant operator Cambscuisine, led by Oliver Thain and Max Freeman, is to start expansion of its Smokeworks barbecue concept by opening a second site. The company will open the new venue in mid-June in Station Road, Cambridge, on the site of the former Great Northern Kitchen & Bar, reports the Cambridge News. Cambscuisine opened the first Smokeworks in Free School Lane in the city centre in 2014 and has been on the hunt for a “bigger” second site for the concept. The company operates seven sites in and around Cambridge. Its other restaurants include The Cambridge Chop House and “eclectic modern brasserie” Millworks, which opened in October.

Victorian-themed restaurant to launch in Borough Market next month: Victorian-themed restaurant Vintage Borough will open overlooking London’s Borough Market at the end of April. The all-day venue in Stoney Street will offer European plates, sharing platters, and charcuterie and cheese boards. Dishes will include crispy artichokes with garlic herb crème fraiche, harissa beans with charred tender stem and salted ricotta, and pork and fennel fettucine with salmoriglio breadcrumbs. Suppliers will include Neal’s Yard, while there will also be a curated wine list, Hot Dinners reports. The decor resembles a “rough jewel box” designed by an “interior fashion label” to echo the history of the local area using steel-caged light fittings and decaying wooden stalls.

Las Iguanas to launch new menu next week: Casual Dining Group-owned Las Iguanas will launch its new menu on Tuesday (21 March). The 13 new additions include a Cuban sandwich, consisting of roasted pork belly, pulled pork, Emmental cheese and ham with sweet mustard and green pickle relish, as well as Sea Bass A Lo Macho – a fillet of sea bass with mussels, crayfish and prawns in a white wine, spinach, paprika and cream sauce. New drinks on offer include Chilli Paloma infused with Ancho Reyes and the Lulo and Agave Cooler. Meanwhile, Las Iguanas has collaborated with animation company Aardman, which is behind characters such as Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, on the design of its new children’s menu. Iggy the Iguana is now the face of the menu, which also features activities including colouring, word puzzles, mazes and basic Spanish. Menu items include wacky tacos, crazy quesadilla, cod bites and crispy chicken, with desserts featuring juicy fresh fruit, wobbly raspberry jelly and Latin speciality churros, a doughnut made for dunking into a chocolate dip. There are also smaller versions of dishes on the “grown-ups” menu available on request. Las Iguanas operates 54 restaurants across the UK.

Hackers Hackers target McDonald’s account to launch Trump ‘tiny hands’ tweet: Hackers have targeted McDonald’s corporate Twitter feed to tweet an attack on US president Donald Trump. The account is mostly used to communicate menu changes and answer gripes about meals. However, a tweet sent out from the account yesterday stated: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a president and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.” The pinned tweet was deleted nearly 20 minutes later. McDonald’s has issued a statement saying the account was “compromised”. The company said: “McDonald’s Twitter account was hacked earlier today when a critical tweet was sent out about President Trump. Twitter notified us that our account was compromised. We deleted the tweet, secured our account and are now investigating this.” Donald Trump is believed to be a fan of McDonald’s food.

Curious Venues launches Lost Property bar beneath Nottingham’s oldest hotel: Curious Venues, the Brown and Brown Industries brand behind Nottingham restaurants and bars Curious Manor, The Parlour, Cured, and Brown’s Cafe and Bistro, has opened a bar beneath the city’s oldest hotel. Lost Property is the brainchild of Daniel Brown and has opened beneath Mercure Nottingham City Centre Hotel in the Lace Market. Lost Property offers the Curious menu plus a selection of themed cocktails tying in with some of the hotel’s famous guests, including Charles Dickens, whose signed bill is on display at the hotel. Gin and vodka cocktails are made with in-house infusions, with sections of the venue used for cocktail creation. Koolesh Shah, managing director of London Town Hotels Group, which operates the hotel, said: “We are delighted to work with Dan and his team at Curious Venues to offer such a different space. When we purchased this hotel in 2009, we always had a vision this was a unique hotel, this vision has now come to fruition.” London Town Group has a portfolio of hotels and properties in the UK, working with global franchisors such as Accor and Intercontinental Hotels.

South London-based operator acquires Croydon pub for bar and Lebanese restaurant concept: South London-based operator Crown & Pepper, led by Rajesh Shukla, has acquired Croydon pub and live music venue The Edge and will convert it into a new bar and Lebanese restaurant concept, The Canopy & Keg. The company operates two bar restaurants under the Crown & Pepper brand, in Caterham and Croydon, offering Indian cuisine and shisha lounges. Crown & Pepper also operates the Aja Lounge in Croydon High Street. The Edge will close in “the next few weeks” for the conversion to take place, the Croydon Advertiser reports.

FSK Group to relaunch former Town and Country Inns nightclub in Birmingham when roadwork chaos ends: Mechu nightclub in Birmingham, formerly owned by bar group Town and Country Inns, has closed until severe disruption caused by roadworks associated with the city’s £500m Paradise development has ended. Birmingham-based Town and Country Inns blamed the two-year roadworks outside its Mechu, Apres and Fleet Street Kitchen venues in Summer Row for it entering administration in November. Co-owners Mark Jones and Nigel Owen left the business after trading in Birmingham for almost 40 years. However, the company was bought out of administration by FSK Group, led by Alan Rees and Benjamin Smith. FSK Group will keep the Apres and Fleet Street Kitchen sites open but has closed Mechu and will reopen it as a three-in-one “club with a difference” in May or early summer. The site currently has a licence for up to 1,000 people and can stay open until 4am. Events manager Carrie Harvey told the Birmingham Mail there would be a bar lounge hosting 200-capacity gigs and an upstairs club room. She added: “Once (the roadworks) are gone, it will certainly improve business. If not, they will have been a complete waste of time.” FSK Group also operates a Fleet Street Kitchen in Mere Green. The Apres venue in Cheltenham, the only Town and Country Inns site outside the Midlands, closed following the November buyout.

Las Iguanas and Jackson & Rye secure sites in same Birmingham building: Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and Cote-owned Jackson & Rye have secured sites in the same Birmingham building. The brands have agreed deals to open restaurants in Somerset House in Temple Street, reports the Birmingham Mail. Las Iguanas will open at the former site of bar and restaurant Temple Street Social, which has been empty since closing in summer 2015. Meanwhile, Serenity beauty salon, which is also part of Somerset House, will be transformed into American diner Jackson & Rye. The brand, which was bought by Cote in January 2016, currently has six sites having opened its first venue outside London, in Guildford, in December. Temple Street will also be home to Revolution Bars Group brand Revolucion de Cuba, which is due to open at the end of the year.

Cambridgeshire Hotels acquires first venues: Cambridgeshire Hotels, a newly formed firm owned by US-based hotelier Aston Management Company, has acquired its first venues in the UK. The company has bought the Dolphin Hotel in St Ives and The Pike & Eel Hotel in Needingworth, both in Cambridgeshire, for £3.4m and £1.36m respectively. Ravi Gupta, one of the company’s founders and directors, told The Hunts Post: “Initially, the hotel rooms will be upgraded to achieve parity with the common mid-scale market chains. The hotel’s restaurant is renowned for its carvery so tradition will be maintained but changes will be made to the evening menu to serve cuisine more akin to TGI Friday’s and Nando’s. Major renovation of the public area is planned in the next 18 months to enhance the appearance of the hotel and make it the place to go. The company understands St Ives is a historic town with great tradition. We wish to employ our resources to help the community prosper and prosper alongside the community.” Gupta said the company plans to install a sports bar in the hotel with large-screen televisions showing live sports.

Leicester-based Stonebaked Pizza Co closes Nottingham site only six months after opening: Leicester-based Stonebaked Pizza Co has closed its Nottingham restaurant only six months after opening. The company opened the site at the Intu Victoria Centre’s new Clocktower dining area in August. However, Intu has confirmed the restaurant has closed. General manager Nigel Wheatley told the Nottingham Post: “We’re sorry to hear Stonebaked Pizza Co has closed and we’d like to wish its staff members all the very best. We are currently in discussions with a number of restaurants that are keen to have a store in our centre.” It is the third venue within the dining area that has shut within the past six months, following the closure of Coast to Coast last month and Joe’s Kitchen in October – both brands owned by The Restaurant Group. Stonebaked Pizza Co opened its debut site at the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester in 2014.

Heron & Brearley signs deal with coffee company Melitta: Isle of Man-based Heron & Brearley has signed a deal with coffee company Melitta to be its exclusive coffee partner. The deal will see Melitta provide coffee for Heron & Brearley’s estate of pubs and bars as well as its convenience stores on the island and its Market Town Tavern pubs in the UK. Heron & Brearley head of operations Diane Edington said: “The team from Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions really impressed us, both with the quality of their coffee blends and with their proven industry experience. I am supremely confident that consumers on the Isle of Man are going to love our high-quality and great-tasting coffee, and I’m excited to see how this partnership will help us attract customers throughout the day as we extend our opening hours to meet consumer demand.” Melitta new market manager Laura Sherwood added: “Our two companies have a fantastic reputation and heritage in foodservice and we’re really excited about how we can support and drive the development of Heron & Brearley’s coffee offering across its estate.”

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