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Tue 4th Jul 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Joseph Holt reports turnover nears £60m as Ebitda increases 4.2%: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has reported turnover has grown to almost £60m following a year of investment. The company, which operates about 130 pubs, saw turnover for continuing operations increase to £59.2m for the year ending 31 December, compared with £54.3m the year before. Pre-tax profits on ordinary activities fell 2% to £2.7m, compared with £3m the previous year. Ebitda was up 4.2% over the same period. The company recently bought five pubs at a combined cost of £2.8m and expects to spend a further £2.2m bringing them up to the standard of the rest of its estate. The Railway in Buxton, the Egerton Arms in Chester and the Clock Tower in Northwich have joined its pub restaurant division, where food generally makes up more than 50% of takings, while The Quadrant in Stretford and The Lychgate in Standish have gone into the community division, where drinks typically account for the majority of sales. In addition, Joseph Holt typically invests about £300,000 per year into new equipment for the brewery. In March, Joseph Holt agreed a £25m refinancing package with the Royal Bank of Scotland to support its future growth plans, which include buying more pubs across its pub restaurant and community divisions. Chief executive Richard Kershaw told Insider Media: “The £25m is principally for acquisitions – it has helped fund our first five. We’re looking at a few more at the moment. I’d be disappointed if we don’t buy something else in the remainder of this year. We’d like to stay within a 50-mile radius of the brewery but there are a lot of gaps in that 50-mile radius. Pubs are a very good profit generator. If we can transform an existing business, which we’re confident we can, we feel that will give us a good return. I see it as a very exciting future. As a family business, we want to get the next generation involved and we’re very much looking for long-term growth and security for our employees as well.”

Industry News: 

Tim Martin to speak at Propel Multi-Club summer conference, two free places for operators: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin is to speak at the Propel Multi-Club summer conference on Thursday (6 July). Martin will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about strategic priorities, VAT and regulatory issues. The Propel Multi-Club summer conference and evening party is now open for bookings. The event takes place at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40, and operators can claim two free places by emailing Jo Charity on The speaker line-up for the morning session is NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant, Morar Consulting chief executive Roger Perowne, David Bruce, co-founder of Firkin Pubs, The Capital Pub Company and The City Pub companies and currently chairman of The West Berkshire Brewery, and Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain, who operate escape rooms business Tick Tock Unlocked. Speaking after lunch are Marston’s Revere Pub Company managing director Colin Sadler and The Breakfast Club co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton. The final session features Tahola commercial director Simon Blackbourne, Mowgli owner Nish Katona, and Rupert Clevely, managing director of Ei Group’s managed expert joint venture Hippo Inns.

One month left to ‘decide future’ of Scotland’s pubs: There is one month remaining for pub-goers to contribute to a consultation that could “help to protect the pub industry for years to come”, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has said. The consultation, brought forward by Neil Bibby MSP, will investigate whether a Pubs Code and Adjudicator is needed in Scotland to govern the relationship between tied pub tenants and the large pub companies. It will also consider whether a Market Rent Only (MRO) option should be introduced. The consultation follows reforms across England and Wales last year that saw the introduction of a Pubs Code, Adjudicator and an MRO option following ten years of campaigning by CAMRA and other trade bodies. Sarah Bellis, CAMRA director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “For far too long, large pub companies have been taking more than is fair or sustainable from pub profits by forcing licensees to buy their beer from them rather than on the open market. Furthermore, there is no set code of practice in place or independent arbitrator available if a licensee has an issue with that pub company. We’re hoping all beer-lovers will use this opportunity to show the government that licensees in Scotland deserve the same level of support as those in England and Wales.” Bibby added: “Tied arrangements pose a real threat to our pubs and bars so it’s important we take this opportunity to protect them.” The proposed Tied Pubs (Code and Adjudicator) (Scotland) Bill consultation closes on Monday, 31 July. For more information and to respond to the consultation, visit

Borough Market to donate proceeds of ‘Borough Talks’ to Trader Relief Fund: Borough Market is to donate all proceeds of its “Borough Talks” series to The Trader Relief Fund, set up by the Borough Market Charity and its trustees United St Saviours Charity and Better Bankside, to help individuals and businesses that have suffered financial hardship resulting from the area’s temporary closure. The Borough Talks explore key issues in the industry, with the next event  – “how to join the drinks revolution” – on Tuesday, 11 July at Three Crown Square focusing on what it takes to be a success in the British drinks industry. Mixologist and bar owner Tony Conigliaro will create a one-off cocktail for the event, while writer and broadcaster Dave Broom, master of wine Catriona Felstead, Sybil Kapoor and Dan Tapper will discuss the rise of micro-brewers and distillers and the rise of London’s cocktail scene. The floor will then open for questions followed by food supplied by Borough Market traders. Click here for more details or to book.

Finland-based Food to Home online restaurant service to launch across Europe: Finland-based online restaurant service Food to Home is to launch across Europe this summer. Founding partner Tommi Hippeläinen said the service would incorporate most European languages and provide a local restaurant map based on a user’s location. Restaurants join the service for free and pay commission. Hippeläinen said that when a consumer activated a restaurant in Food to Home, they would earn a percentage of orders put through the service. He said the ultimate idea was to offer young people a chance for employment by using Food to Home – the more restaurants you activate, the more you earn, with average earnings of about “€150 a month per activated restaurant”.

Company News:

Subway to open 500 more stores in UK and Ireland by 2020 to reach 3,000-site milestone: Subway has said it will increase its number of stores in the UK and Ireland to 3,000 by 2020 as part of its major expansion plans, a move that will create 5,000 jobs and take total staff numbers to 24,000 in the region. The company is about to open its 2,500th store in the UK and Ireland, in Bristol, with all sites owned and operated by franchisees. Subway said the expansion plans have come in response to consumer demand for “more affordable quality ingredients and healthier choices”. The company said although British and Irish high streets continued to be “under pressure”, it remained Subway’s most popular place to open stores, with 60% of launches located in the region. Subway country director for UK and Ireland Peter Dowding said: “Our franchise model is tried and tested – it works for entrepreneurs and it works for us. We are confident our business model will continue to grow as more consumers demand great-tasting food at a value price-point. With 5,000 new jobs expected over the next three years, opening a further 500 stores demonstrates not only the value of the business to our franchisees but also, collectively, the real and significant contribution to British and Irish economies.”

Timothy Taylor reports profits boost: Keighley-based brewer Timothy Taylor has reported turnover increased 1.4% to £21,637,292 for the year ending 30 September 2016, compared with £21,334,150 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £2,782,510 compared with £2,857,449 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Timothy Taylor stated: “Overall profit before tax was £2.8m, in line with last year on a turnover that grew by 1.4% to £21.6m. All our beers continue to sell well, with distribution away from our core Yorkshire market increasing and bottled beer sales continuing to grow. Boltmaker sales remain encouraging albeit down on the volumes sold in the aftermath of the beer winning the 2014 Champion Beer of Britain award. Our pub estate continues to perform well, with the Devonshire hotel in Grassington opening in December 2015 following an extensive refurbishment. The Woolly Sheep in Skipton and the Lord Rodney in Keighley both had successful trading years and are proving popular destinations to stay (Woolly Sheep), eat and drink. Capital investment in the year was £1.2m, predominantly in our pub estate but during the year a small-scale brewery facility was installed to enable the development of new beers and the cost-effective production of small-batch quantities.” The number of employees during the period grew to 120, compared with 109 the previous year. In February, the company expanded its presence in North Yorkshire by acquiring the Harrogate Brasserie in Harrogate.

Harry Ramsden’s opens 18th outlet at Welcome Break services: Fish and chip restaurant brand Harry Ramsden’s, which is owned by Boparan Restaurant Holdings, has continued its partnership with motorway services operator Welcome Break by opening its 18th site. The venue has opened at Charnock Richards services at Junction 27/28 of the M6. Harry Ramsden’s brand director Frank Romano said: “This latest opening underlines the success of the partnership we enjoy with Welcome Break. Our presence within its network not only heightens our UK visibility but also offers the millions who use Welcome Break facilities annually the chance to enjoy our world-famous fish and chips.” The partnership was launched in 2014 and Romano said Harry Ramsden’s and Welcome Break would continue to look at other sites for potential openings. Welcome Break has 85 million customers at its motorway services each year. It recorded underlying earnings of £63.8m last year on turnover of £648m.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury appoints former Foodco boss as new chief executive: London-based all-day cafe Bea’s of Bloomsbury, which has five sites, has appointed Lisa Brook as its new chief executive. Brook joins from Foodco, which operates Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue, where she was UK country manager. Prior to that she was a director at Flour Power City Bakery, which she led through the integration into Patisserie Holdings and remained at the helm. Bea’s of Bloomsbury executive chairman Penny Iversen said: “I believe Lisa is immensely qualified and an ideal fit with the current team, headed by Mona Golgol, to help us develop the business to the next level and beyond. Brook added: “I am excited to join Bea’s of Bloomsbury and looking forward to working with a highly experienced team at an exciting time as Bea’s makes plans for significant growth. I am very impressed by Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s achievement with the opening of its flagship store in Marylebone, which has been well received. Bea’s of Bloomsbury has a clear strategy and I am looking forward to leading the company and increasing market share and brand loyalty.”

Fuller’s refunds fans after Adele cancels concerts: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has refunded fans left out of pocket after Adele cancelled two London shows. Many fans were distraught after the singer released a statement on Friday (30 June) saying she could not perform her final two nights at Wembley Stadium at the end of her 123-date tour because of damaged vocal chords. The 29-year-old singer, who had already performed two nights to crowds of almost 100,000 fans on Wednesday and Thursday night, told fans refunds would be available. But concert-goers blasted the decision, saying they were unable to reclaim cash shelled out on hotels and transport booked months in advance. People without travel insurance or who hadn’t paid extra for the option of free cancellation said despite exceptional circumstances they had been unable to get refunds for their rooms. However, Fuller’s said it offered a full refund to anyone who booked with them who decided not to come to London at all. Those who still made the trip received a 25% discount on the room and a free drink on production of an Adele ticket as a “gesture to make up for a bit of the disappointment”.

Plant-based burger concept The Vurger Co launches £180,000 crowdfunding campaign to open permanent site: Plant-based burger concept The Vurger Co has launched a £180,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to open a permanent site following a series of successful pop-ups. The company, founded by Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts, is offering a 23.08% equity stake in return for the investment. The company’s mission is to “revolutionise fast food forever through the power of plants”. The pitch states: “We believe our restaurant will be one of the first entirely plant-based concepts to target the mainstream market, reimagining fast food completely. Simply vegetables, with no meat substitutes, lovingly crafted into one of the most accessible and informal dishes the world has ever known – the burger! Why are we doing it? Because our diets are changing and demand for plant-based food is increasing rapidly. After suffering from persistent health issues for years, and after a life-changing trip to California, we came back to London looking for fantastic and natural plant-based food, served quickly, in a space with mainstream appeal. We couldn’t find it so we created our own and our popular pop-up restaurants have shown us London is ready for, and excited about, The Vurger Co.” The company said it has more than 10,000 followers on social media, with a total reach of two million having featured on 15 prominent influencer platforms, and sold 1,148 burgers in May from only 35.5 trading hours.

Wagamama signs for new £42m leisure complex in Plymouth: Wagamama has become the first restaurant brand to confirm it will open a site at the £42m Bretonside development in Plymouth. Work is about to start to turn the boarded-up former coach station into a multiplex IMAX cinema, shops and restaurants. In total, 14 restaurants and cafes have been promised at what will be the largest new leisure complex in the city since Drake Circus shopping centre opened in 2006. Cineworld will anchor British Land’s project with a 12-screen cinema, including an 18-metre high IMAX screen, while the 100,000 square foot development will also include a rooftop restaurant. Better burger brand Five Guys also confirmed it had looked at Bretonside, which would be its westernmost site in the UK. A spokesman said: “Plymouth is a key requirement for Five Guys UK expansion and we have held discussions with British Land in respect to its new leisure development.”

Revolution plans double opening in north east: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 67 premium bars across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has applied to open two venues in the north east. The company has applied to take over the Bishop Langley pub in Silver Street, which sits on Framwellgate Bridge in Durham city centre, and turn it into a bar with alfresco dining overlooking the River Wear and featuring a retractable roof. Plans submitted to Durham County Council state: “It is essential the roof area can be brought into a year-round space that maximises the site and enables its street-level space to be visible to passing customers, who would benefit from open views across the roof towards the castle.” Durham’s riverside is set to undergo a multimillion-pound redevelopment in the next few years. The Gates shopping centre and a former passport office are set to be turned into two cinemas, and six bars and restaurants as part of a £195m investment across the two sites. Meanwhile, Revolution has also applied to launch a Revolución de Cuba bar in Newcastle’s Cathedral Square, Chronicle Live reports. The company plans to spend £1.4m to transform the former Luna and Destiny nightclubs into a bar and restaurant with roof terrace.

Wadworth signs with Wireless Social for social media solutions: Brewer and retailer Wadworth has signed with Wi-Fi solutions company Wireless Social to develop its social media campaigns. When customers access a pub’s Wi-Fi through Wireless Social, they are asked to share their social information and, in doing so, give publicans access to a wealth of insight into their customers’ likes, dislikes, hobbies and other places they visit. Wireless Social said if used correctly, communications based on the knowledge could be personalised to customers, giving pubs a new way to speak to them. The company said with word of mouth recommendation decreasing across the hospitality sector, customers were turning to social media for suggestions on where to eat or drink outside the home. Wireless Social managing director Julian Ross said: “Wadworth is a pub company that is really leading the way. The technology brought to them by Wireless Social encourages guests to follow the pub’s social media accounts without being intrusive. It builds brand loyalty by triggering customer-specific notifications and informs marketing initiatives. Promotions are targeted to the right people at the right time because customers can be identified through age, gender and social likes.”

Loungers gets go-ahead for Solihull site: Cafe brand Loungers, which is backed by Lion Capital, has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Solihull, West Midlands. The company has been granted permission by Solihull Council to convert the former Stead & Simpson shoe shop in High Street into one of its venues, reports the Coventry Telegraph. The new site will feature eclectic artwork, pop art-inspired table tops, vintage sofas and school benches. Loungers was founded in 2002 in Bristol by friends David Reid, Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop. Last month, the company, which also operates the Cosy Club brand, restructured its management line-up in preparation for its next stage of growth. Having reached the 100-site milestone in May, the company recently added to its estate with venues in Evesham, Southend and Rustington, West Sussex, while a Loungers will launch in Bridgend in Wales and a Cosy Club will open in Worcester by the end of July.

LT Management reports turnover boost following year of investment: LT Management, the sector’s largest out-sourced management company, led by Billy Buchanan, has reported revenue increased in the year to 1 January 2017 from £12.9m to £13.2m as the business continued to grow its longer-term contracts. The company said it remained the port of call for many clients in relation to short-term solutions but its continued reinvestment of revenues into significant improvements in systems, the growth of its head office team, and the investment in its operational team had seen the business grow its long-term management contracts. LT Management added it had reinvested a “substantial” element of its profits in the 2016 financial year to further strengthen the platform of its offer and this was already bearing fruit in 2017. Buchanan told Propel: “In a sector that has had its challenges over the years, we are finding existing and prospective clients want to work with partners that can deliver cost savings and drive revenue and returns, and LT Management has built a strong track record of doing this. We continually reinvest to ensure we are providing the best possible solution to all our clients.”

Taco Bell to open first Scotland and Surrey restaurants, Las Vegas site to host weddings: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is to continue its expansion by opening its first restaurants in Scotland and Surrey. The company has earmarked the former Bradfords Bakery site in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, as its first Scottish venture. The venue is due to open in the autumn, according to an advert posted on Gumtree for a restaurant manager, reports Herald Scotland. Taco Bell is also opening its first site in Surrey, in Woking, where the company has its UK headquarters. The venue in Chertsey Road will be the company’s 18th UK restaurant when it opens on Wednesday, 16 August, reports Get Surrey. Meanwhile, Taco Bell’s restaurant in Las Vegas is to become the brand’s first to host weddings. The restaurant, located beside the Planet Hollywood resort, will become the city’s latest wedding venue from Monday, 7 August, reports Casinopedia. Taco Bell’s package includes the wedding service itself, alongside a range of souvenirs such as champagne flutes featuring the Taco Bell ‘Live Más’ logo and a bouquet made from sauce packets. The wedding couple can have an audience of up to 15 with the package including a dozen tacos and a cake, while guests can order additional food from the standard Taco Bell menu. Taco Bell is not the first restaurant in Vegas to offer weddings – Denny’s launched a similar package at its Fremont Street restaurant in 2013.

Coffee#1 opens 79th site, in Sutton Coldfield: SA Brain’s coffee chain Coffee#1 has opened its 79th site, in Sutton Coldfield town centre. The coffee shop has opened in a 226 square metre site over the ground floor and basement of the former Dorothy Perkins and Burton store in The Parade. The shop offers warm paninis and quiche, with a strong emphasis on takeaways, which make up 40% of its trade, and sells its own brand of single-origin coffee from Brazil, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Coffee#1 PR manager Tim Lewis told the Sutton Coldfield Observer: “We hope to become an important part of the local community and a place for people to sit and relax while visiting the town centre.” Coffee#1 opened its first store in Cardiff in 2001, with SA Brain acquiring the business in 2011. It was named Regional Coffee Chain of the Year in 2016.

Tony Macaroni gets go-ahead for Aberdeen site: Scottish restaurant company Tony Macaroni has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Aberdeen. The company has been granted permission by the city council to open the site at the Union Square shopping centre. Tony Macaroni will now convert the former Sony Centre store next to Starbucks on the upper floor, reports the Evening Express. Tony Macaroni operates ten eponymous restaurants in Scotland. In April, the company signed to open a further site in Clydebank while it has also started expansion of its artisan pizza and Italian craft beer concept Mozza by opening a second site, this time in St Andrews.

North west-based Indian restaurant Barton Rouge opens third site, in Liverpool: North west-based Indian restaurant Barton Rouge has opened its third site, in Liverpool. The company has launched the venue in Exchange Street on the former site of Anderson’s Bar following a £500,000 investment. Set across two storeys, the 5,650 square foot restaurant has 180 covers and is the company’s largest to date. Founder Amit Kumar told Insider Media: “Having built a reputation among the Cheshire community over the past six years, we are delighted to have opened our doors in the heart of Liverpool’s bustling business district. When it came to pinpointing a prime Liverpool destination, this area was the perfect fit for us. Together with furthering our geographical reach, our new opening brings with it an exciting series of brand exclusives including the introduction of Old Delhi-style street food, a lunchtime menu, and a medley of signature cocktails.” Barton Rouge’s other sites are in Chester and Heswall.

Numis Securities – Whitbread has high structural growth prospects but cost environment concerns: Numis Securities leisure analyst Tim Barrett has said he rates Whitbread’s structural growth prospects highly but there are concerns on the cost environment. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on Whitbread’s shares with a target price of 4,100p following a visit to the new Costa roastery in Basildon, Essex, Barrett said: “Our site visit to Costa’s new production hub confirmed the business is well prepared for many years of structural growth. Whitbread has upgraded from its space-constrained, 30-year-old facility in London to a purpose-built facility in Basildon. The capacity increases from 11,000 to 45,000 tonnes per annum and there is spare land for expansion as well. Given Costa’s highly successful roll-out over the past decade, roasting requirements had increased 11-fold. Costa is clearly positioning itself for many years of structural growth – a 13% increase to 2,500 UK sites by 2020 and a ‘line of sight’ to more than 3,000 sites, as well as a ‘doubling up’ of Costa Express machines. The new facility is materially more efficient, for example 25% fewer employees, 20% increase in pallet capacity, and larger packing lines. Conversely, the £38m investment will depreciate over the next 20 years resulting in a £2m incremental depreciation charge. In net terms, we estimate a £1.5m cost drag in the short term, equivalent to 12 basis points of margin erosion. Current guidance for Costa is for a 120 basis points margin fall in FY18 and we estimate the remainder reflects higher labour costs, business rates and operational changes. In FY17 the capex was a drag of circa four percentage points on divisional return on capital employed, we estimate. The net impact will be reduced if the old site (half an acre in Lambeth) is redeveloped, which could include conversion into a hotel in part. Whitbread is making planning assessments but, surprisingly, does not expect proceeds to be more than ‘single-digit millions’. Green coffee arrives from Tilbury, is roasted/blended and sent to a Kuehne + Nagel distribution hub for delivery into the business. This means the roastery part of the operation is separate from the £150m of group cost savings that Whitbread is targeting, a material part of which will come from supply chain/logistics, we estimate. Nearer-term, Costa’s outlook is most reliant on a stimulus to like-for-like sales (1.1% in the first quarter of 2018; minus 0.8% in fourth quarter of 2017). The managing director of Costa UK gave good insights into recent progress here. The focus on premium products is working – OPS blend (20p premium) now accounts for 7% of coffee sales and early sales of cold and nitro-brew are encouraging. The business has been through other major changes in recent years – new EPOS, staff rostering, and cooking equipment all enhance Costa’s capability but have added short-term costs. Whitbread trades on an FY18 price-to-earnings ratio of 15.9 times, EV/Ebitda of 9.3 times and dividend yield of 2.6%. We rate Whitbread’s structural growth prospects highly but concerns on the cost environment are reflected in our ‘Hold’ recommendation.”

Glasgow-based burger concept BRGR Restaurants lodges plans for fourth site, in Gourock: Glasgow-based burger concept BRGR Restaurants has lodged plans to open its fourth site, this time in Gourock. The company has applied to Inverclyde Council to open the 50-seat venue on the ground floor of premises in Shore Street at the corner of John Street. The application showed there would be two dining areas plus a mezzanine floor with bar, reports Inverclyde Now. BRGR Restaurants currently has two sites in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh.

Manchester-based street food trader The Hip Hop Chip Shop to open first permanent site: Manchester-based street food trader The Hip Hop Chip Shop is to open its first permanent restaurant. Owner Jonathan Oswald will launch his first bricks and mortar site at the Sawmill Court development in the Ancoats area of the city. Oswald told the Manchester Evening News: “We’re going to create a relaxed dining experience with proper comfort food, tasty drink selection, live music, great artwork and top-notch service. We’ve grafted so hard to build this business from scratch but our own restaurant was the dangling carrot to keep us going.”

Marston’s submits plans to build lodge hotel next to Forfar pub: Marston’s has submitted plans to build a lodge hotel next to its pub on the outskirts of Forfar in the east of Scotland. The company wants to build a two-storey, 38-bedroom lodge hotel in the Orchardbank Industrial Estate, which already features McDonald’s and KFC restaurants. A planning statement submitted by Mackay Planning on behalf of Marston’s states: “The development is to be accessed from Berrymoss Lane, which currently provides access to the existing Marston’s and KFC. The proposed Orchardbank Marston’s lodge and pub/restaurant combined would have a total of 91 parking spaces.” For decades, oil workers and conference attendees have opted to book rooms and facilities in Aberdeen and Dundee rather than Forfar due to a perceived lack of space in the town, The Courier reports. Earlier this month, Marston’s opened a new-build pub at Dalton Park, County Durham, while it also announced it would open its new-build pub restaurant in Chatham Waters, Kent, in October.

Gainford Group reveals £8m plans for Newcastle city centre hotel: North east-based hotel and bar operator Gainford Group has unveiled plans for The County Hotel in Newcastle city centre, which is undergoing an £8m refurbishment. The company acquired the landmark hotel, opposite Central Station, at the end of last year from Amaris Hospitality in a £12m deal. Gainford is creating cocktail bar and all-day restaurant The Hudson, which is due to open next month, new high-end suites, and three function suites. The County suite has been designed for weddings and other ceremonies, The Mozart suite will host conferences and parties, while The Strauss suite will be a 20-cover private dining space. As well as 114 bedrooms, the County Hotel sale included ten retail units that are let to tenants including Starbucks and Zapatista Burrito Bar, all of which will remain. Gainford Group’s portfolio includes the Vermont Hotel, Vermont Aparthotel and late-night venues Aveika and Bar Livello, all in Newcastle, as well as 13 care homes in the north east. The company also plans to start work to convert Grainger House in the city into a 70-bedroom hotel ahead of an opening next year.

Cumbria-based gastro-pub operators to start expansion by opening second site: Cumbria-based gastro-pub operators Richard and Jo Fenn are to start expansion by opening their second site. The Fenns, who run The Queens in the village of Warwick-on-Eden, are taking on The Black Lion in the Durdar area of Carlisle. The pub, which is located at a country crossroads, was popular with locals and Carlisle Racecourse visitors until it closed. It will now reopen later this year with a completely new look. Natalie Faunch, director of Chunky Wombat Media in Carlisle, is working with the Fenns on the pub’s new design. She told the News & Star: “It will be a gastro-pub and have a fresh, modern look with deep grey and dusky pink colours.”

Whitbread agrees deal for Premier Inn on Anglesey: Whitbread has agreed a deal for a Premier Inn on Anglesey. The company has signed a lease agreement with development company Conygar Investment for the 80-bedroom hotel on land in Holyhead. Under the plan, the hotel – along with an associated restaurant and bar – would be built at Parc Cybi. The lease and construction of the hotel are conditional on planning approval from Anglesey Council. Conygar Investment chief executive Robert Ware told the Daily Post: “We are delighted to have agreed terms with such a high-quality partner and are keen to start construction work as soon as possible. Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel group and its hotel in Holyhead will provide a valuable boost to the town and tourism on the island.”

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