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Tue 15th Aug 2017 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

TLC Inns makes first foray into accommodation as it acquires first pub in five years: TLC Inns, the pub and restaurant operator founded and owned by Steve and Jo Haslam, has acquired its first site with accommodation. The company has agreed an assignment on the lease of the Victory on Mersea Island, near Colchester, in Essex – its first pub in five years and first with Star Pubs & Bars. TLC Inns is investing £250,000 refurbishing and adding to the eight bedrooms at the site in Coast Road, taking the total to 12. Steve Haslam told Propel the company would now look at adding further accommodation to its estate while looking to double its five-strong pub portfolio. He said: “This will not be a one-off – we will look at other opportunities to branch into accommodation. We will do that by looking at our existing sites and also with other properties that have bedrooms or have the opportunity to create rooms.” The Victory will form part of TLC Inns’ new-look Riverside Bar and Kitchen/Rooms Bar and Kitchen (RBK) division, which is an evolution of its previously planned seafood concept Fish & Co. The Victory has about 120 covers in total across the bar and restaurant areas with additional capacity for 200 to 300 people in the large pub garden, which features a children’s play area. Haslam added: “It’s our first pub in five years and it’s a good tie up with Star Pubs & Bars especially given the Punch deal that is about to happen. We hope we can work with the company on more sites in the future. We will be looking to add further pubs as well as growing our Grand Central restaurant concept.” TLC Inns operates six Grand Central sites having opened its latest in Thetford, Norfolk, in April. Fleurets acted as the agents on the Victory deal with funding again provided by Barclays Corporate.

Industry News:

Chris Muller Multi-site Management Masterclass open for bookings: Propel will host Professor Chris Muller, the leading thinker, teacher and author on multi-site foodservice management in the US, at its next Multi-site Management Masterclass. It takes place on Friday, 29 September at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Leading UK businesses such as Mitchells & Butlers and TGI Friday’s have sent staff to be taught by Professor Muller at Boston University’s School of Hospitality – now Professor Muller is returning to the UK to lead this bespoke day. The event will provide valuable insights for founders and area managers of small and medium-sized multi-site companies and area managers of large companies. The sessions will include building the case for strategic growth, developing multi-unit managers from players to coaches and a discussion on the importance transition plays in the practice of management and leadership. Mastering Multi-Units founder Lee Sheldon will also talk about how to successfully drive profitable growth for your business. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book tickets, email Anne Steele at

Pubs missing out on £25m of promised business rates relief, says ALMR: Millions of pounds worth of promised business rates relief has still not been made available to pubs, according to new research by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers. The promised package of support announced in the spring Budget, including £1,000 in relief for pubs with a rateable value of £100,000 or below and a £300m discretionary fund for local authorities, has not been received by hard-pressed businesses. In a sample of 25 local authorities, 22 had yet to develop a scheme to distribute discretionary relief worth £31m. The ALMR also found no evidence of any councils issuing the £1,000 pub-specific relief, worth potentially £25m to the sector. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The fact this relief has been made available to local authorities and is still not getting through to where it is most needed, proves we need immediate and wholesale reform of a broken system. Pubs and restaurants are in urgent need of financial assistance and have already seen some closures across London due in part to spiralling business rates bills and these delays risk others suffering the same fate. Local authorities are sitting on money that has been earmarked for hardworking and very hard-pressed businesses. In some cases, those local authorities that have devised schemes for discretionary rates have excluded pubs, the very businesses that have been hardest hit. Councils need to make their relief schemes as fair as possible, and be free from restrictions or red tape as businesses of all sizes and trading styles are in need of support. Recent consumer research by the Campaign for Real Ale showed the majority of customers agree that eating and drinking out venues need support. Local authorities risk the closure of vital social and economic hubs if they do not act immediately.” The ALMR analysed a random selection of 25 local authorities across England, making up 20% of the total funding announced.

UK hotel market reports record first-half performance: The UK hotel market reported record performance in the first six months of 2017 with the highest occupancy, average daily rate and revpar for any first-half on record. Data from STR showed occupancy increased 1.7% to an actual level of 75.1% compared with the previous year while average daily rate was up 4.7% to £89.33 and revpar rose 6.5% to £67.12. STR analysts said the devaluation in the pound following the Brexit vote last year had resulted in strong tourism growth for the UK, which has in turn benefited the country’s hotel sector. This aligned with the UK’s hotel rate growth, which was particularly high in London, up 6.2% to £143.57 in the first half of the year. The UK capital continued to post performance growth despite experiencing terror attacks in March and June. Outside of London, the regional market saw average daily rate rise 3.2% to an actual level of £69.46 – a record level for the first half of the year. Occupancy rose 1.2% in the period to 73.6%, which was also a record. STR analysts said as well as several high-impact events in regional cities in the first half of the year, the pound devaluation had also resulted in more domestic holiday travel within the UK.

Pop Brixton founder submits plans for shipping container scheme featuring restaurants, in Woolwich: Pop Brixton founder Carl Turner has submitted plans for a container development in Woolwich, south east London. Turner has applied to Greenwich Council to transform a vacant car park in Woolwich town centre into a “dynamic community of retailers, restaurants and local enterprises” trading out of recycled shipping containers. The project, named Wool Yard, will use 32 recycled shipping containers on a 0.14-acre brownfield site opposite the Lidl supermarket in Creton Street. About 60% of the containers will be dedicated co-working spaces and studios, targeted at local businesses and entrepreneurs requiring flexible workspace to launch and grow their operations. The remaining space will be reserved for leisure uses, predominantly small-scale food and beverage operators who will locate around a central courtyard with seating areas at ground-floor level. Turner said: “Wool Yard will bring much needed affordable work and leisure space to the centre of Woolwich, which we hope will transform a disused site into a hub of creative activity and enterprise for the benefit of the community. It is our intention Wool Yard will become an incubator where entrepreneurs and small local businesses can locate together and create powerful synergies. Addressing the lack of affordable and flexible business space in a creative and sustainable manner can act as a catalyst for positive change in a community, as we saw in Brixton.” Pop Brixton, which Turner launched in partnership with Lambeth Council, attracts about one million visitors annually and has created more than 200 jobs. 

Intu pilots virtual reality leisure experience: Intu is testing a virtual reality leisure experience using emoji characters. The company is piloting the initiative at three shopping centres over August where customers can interact with characters and worlds from The Emoji Movie. Intu will be tracking data to measure the success of the pilot activity at Intu Merry Hill in the West Midlands, Intu Lakeside in Essex and Intu Braehead in Glasgow before deciding whether to roll-out to its 14 centres nationwide. The pilot will measure shoppers’ propensity to pay for virtual reality leisure experiences and the popularity of movie-related virtual reality content. Intu ran its first complimentary virtual reality leisure pilot at its Victoria Centre in Nottingham over December where customers were invited to step into a virtual winter wonderland and decorate a Christmas tree. Augmented reality was added to Intu’s in-centre app over Easter to bring to life a number of Nick Jr characters for young families visiting its centres over the school holidays. Karen Harris, managing director of Intu’s digital innovation team, said: “We are running a number of trials to look at the benefits of virtual reality and augmented reality in a modern shopping centre environment. We think there is enormous potential for these types of leisure experiences to drive up footfall, dwell time and likelihood of revisiting a shopping destination. Data from this trial will be used to understand how we can continue to take this technology forward.” The Emoji Movie experience involves VR content exclusive to the UK featuring characters and worlds from the film and specially recorded lines from the lead actors, including James Corden.

Plans submitted for new leisure and retail scheme in Manchester aimed at ‘creative’ operators: Plans have been submitted for a new leisure and retail scheme in Manchester aimed at “creative” operators. Developer Bruntswood has applied to the city council to transform the area around the Manchester Technology Centre under the Mancunian Way. It wants to create a range of pop-up and semi-permanent retail and leisure fixtures. The scheme aims to attract creators, makers and street food operators. Flexible and affordable leases will be offered as well as additional support such as business planning and delivery. The scheme will feature a total of 12 units, one of which is earmarked for an independent coffee house operator and another for a nano-brewery. It will also include a further four food and beverage outlets, three retail concession stands, and three “container-style” retail units. Due to launch in late September, it will be curated, operated and managed by the team behind Bruntswood’s independent shopping complex Afflecks. Bruntswood head of retail and leisure Toby Sproll told Insider Media: “We want to attract a mix of makers, operators, innovators and startups, providing them with the opportunity to expand their existing offer or even try something a little different.”

Company News:

Urban Pubs and Bars secures 13th site: Urban Pubs and Bars, led by Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap, has secured its 13th site, the Punch Tavern in Fleet Street, London – the company takes over the site next Monday (21 August). Pring and Heap sold Realpubs to Greene King in 2011 for £53.1m A spokesman told Propel: “It’s a fantastic traditional pub in the City that has served the local business community for decades, most notably being the meeting spot for workers and journalists from Punch magazine over the years. As a grade II-listed building, its charm and historic features will be maintained and enhanced as we seek to create what we spent many years doing in our past company, a real pub in the heart of the city with a true independent feel, offering a concise, no-frills menu around fresh seasonal produce.” 

US-based B.GOOD brand continues European expansion as it enters German market: B.GOOD, the US fast-casual concept that serves natural, clean and freshly prepared food, has continued its rapid growth in Europe with entry into Germany. The brand, which revealed earlier this month it was looking for UK franchisees, offers “food with roots” that is sustainably sourced and prepared in-house daily. The menu includes green and grain bowls, salads, all-natural burgers, vegetable sides, oven-finished fries, smoothies, and children’s meals with sides of broccoli and apple sauce. Since opening its doors in Boston in 2004, B.GOOD now operates locations at more than 60 locations in 12 US states, Canada and Switzerland and expects to reach more than 100 locations in the next two years. A spokesman told Propel: “B.GOOD continues to illustrate the strength of the brand and menu desirability across multiple countries.” The brand is backed by Consumer Investment Partners, which has a proven track record of success, executing more than 1,000 restaurant openings. A spokesman said: “We continue to be impressed by the guests enthusiasm to the brand ethos and menu in each market entered. Our confidence remains high in the team, brand purpose and economics of the business. We excitedly support and champion this forward-thinking concept anchored by purpose and innovation.”

Pho opening three new sites in next two months: Vietnamese street food restaurant group is opening three new sites in the next two months. The company has opened a restaurant in Reading at the Atlantis Village development in King’s Street. The venue, which has about 100 covers, is the third Pho restaurant to open this year. The company has now confirmed it will open at the Highcross shopping centre in Leicester in mid-September followed by a site at the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford in October. Pho, founded by Stephen and Juliette Wall in 2005, has 23 sites across the UK having opened its first restaurant in Clerkenwell, London.

Cottons secures Vauxhall site: Cottons Caribbean, led by Chris Singam, has secured a site at St George Wharf in Vauxhall, previously trading as Souk, through agent CDG Leisure. The brand currently operates in Camden, Notting Hill and Shoreditch. Salvatore Di Natale of CDG Leisure previously sold the lease for the Shoreditch space earlier this year. David Kornbluth, who advised the landlord on the new letting, said: “Cottons is an exciting brand to work with, well recognised for its array of rums and its ability to provide a great time. We have worked with Chris for many years and we are delighted to have helped him secure another two sites for his flagship brand, which shows promise for continued growth. The American Embassy is going to be moving nearby and there is a lot of development in the area.”

Franco Manca opens site in Oxford as it continues regional expansion: Pizza brand Franco Manca, which is owned by Fulham Shore, has opened a restaurant in Oxford as it continues its regional expansion. The company has opened the 60-seat site in George Street. Franco Manca openings manager Bruno Leal told the Oxford Times: “With Franco Manca Oxford being the first of our pizzerias in the area, we look forward to introducing our authentic Neapolitan sourdough to locals and students alike.” Franco Manca has 37 sites and expects to open another nine in the next year. Fulham Shore chairman David Page said last month: “We are encouraged by our expansion outside of London so far, in particular the openings in central Brighton and Reading, which are serving more customers per week than our average London pizzeria. This gives us confidence the Franco Manca concept will continue to grow and flourish outside of the capital.”

London-based Caravan to open site in Fitzrovia: London-based Caravan, the restaurant, bar and coffee roasting concept, is to open a site in Fitzrovia. The company is opening the site in Great Portland Street in part of Yalding House, which used to be a BBC building. The restaurant, coffee bar and bar, will seat about 100 people, split over a ground floor and basement, reports Hot Dinners. Caravan was founded in 2010 by New Zealanders Miles Kirby, Laura Harper-Hinton and Chris Ammermann. It has sites in Exmouth Market, King’s Cross and Bankside and is also opening a venue at the Bloomberg Arcade in the city.

Crazy golf operator Junkyard reveals plans for ten-strong estate by 2020, aims to hit £9m turnover this financial year: Crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf has revealed plans to have ten sites by 2020. The company, which has venues in Manchester and London, also aims to increase turnover from £5.4m last year to £9m in 2017-18. It is about to launch its third venue, in the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford and is close to signing for sites in Liverpool and Leeds. Junkyard is also investigating opportunities in Bristol, Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle. It has also outgrown its original site in Piccadilly Place, Manchester, and will move next week to premises in First Street with double the floor space. In May last year, Junkyard secured a site at the Old Truman Brewery in east London, again on a temporary basis although the company is hoping to secure a longer-term deal. Chris Legh, who founded the concept with Bart Murphy, Lyndon Higginson and Mat Lakes, told the Evening Standard the venue welcomes 7,000 players and takes £150,000 on an average week. The Oxford site, which opens in October, will have three crazy golf courses and five cocktail bars. Legh said the company is aiming to open three to four new sites a year. It has been self-funded by the founders apart from a £300,000 facility from Barclays. Outside investors have registered an interest but Legh said they are going it alone for now. He added: “The creativity is what sets us apart, so you don’t want to risk that.”

Luke Johnson puts Florida restaurant site on market: Sector investor Luke Johnson is to sell the site of the Bernard’s Surf restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Florida, he bought five years ago. Johnson, who has a holiday home in Cocoa Beach, acquired the freehold of the restaurant in May 2012 for a reported $600,000 out of bankruptcy. The restaurant, which was an early space age astronaut hangout, has now been bulldozed to make way for a new development with the site up for sale. Tom Molnar Snr, whose son Tom Molnar Jnr is co-founder of Gail’s Bakery, which is backed by Johnson, told Space Coast Daily: “We’re working on it. It’s up for sale right now. In the meantime, we’re putting together plans to develop – another restaurant of two storeys, some retail units – that kind of thing. It’s not going to go to waste – someone is going to do something with it but it will be somebody else.” Bernard’s Surf was opened in 1948 in S. Atlantic Avenue by Bernard Fischer and it was one of the first restaurants in Cocoa Beach. He was a member of the Fischer family, which owned and operated a fleet in Port Canaveral when it was nothing more than a small fishing village. The Fischer family operated the business until 2006 when it was sold to new owners. The restaurant’s decline followed its sale to a European group, but the business suffered badly in the recession and was eventually closed before being bought by Johnson.

Malhotra Group starts work on £5.6m Newcastle project: Newcastle-based pub, restaurant and hotel operator Malhotra Group has started work on a £5.6m project to transform a city pub into a 64-bed hotel, bar and restaurant. The company is spending 18 months revamping the Three Mile Inn in Gosforth, which will remain open during the three-phase scheme. The first phase involves the creation of a three-storey extension to provide additional accommodation for the hotel. Further phases will include the conversion of the existing building from two to three storeys and the creation of conference, function and private dining facilities, a residents’ lounge, cafe, bar and restaurant. Operations director Atul Malhotra told Chronicle Live: “Our aim is to create a hotel and leisure facility that will be a real credit to Gosforth and a genuine asset to the community, and we very much hope our customers will support us, both during the transition period and once it is complete.” The Three Mile Inn development is one of several current leisure projects by the company, which began with the recently completed £1.2m refurbishment of the Grey Street Hotel. Other plans include a sports-themed bar, new gin bar and additional bedrooms at The New Northumbria Hotel in Jesmond, while Market Lane in Pilgrim Street is to be fully refurbished over both floors. Meanwhile, Balmbras is set to be regenerated in a £1.4m makeover.

Independent coffee company Bean to open 11th site as it adds to Liverpool presence: North west-based independent coffee company Bean is to open its 11th site as it adds to its presence in Liverpool. The company, which operates shops in Merseyside and Greater Manchester, is opening the venue at office development 20 Chapel Street. It has agreed a deal with landlord Canmoor, which purchased the freehold on the building last year, to take 1,300 square feet on the ground floor following a £3m refurbishment of the property. The venue will give Bean a presence in the heart of the city’s commercial district when it opens in September. Bean co-founder and director Jon Whyte told BDaily: “We’re really looking forward to opening our latest venture in one of the most distinctive buildings in Liverpool’s business district and giving tenants a completely new space where they can take a break from the office or hold an informal meeting.” Canmoor director Sam Walker added: “Bean is a firm favourite in Liverpool and we’re delighted to have it on board at 20 Chapel Street. The addition of a cafe operator was an important part of our refurbishment plans to give tenants a new amenity and create more of a community within the building.” Worthington Owen acted for Canmoor on the deal.

South London-based Italian restaurant Lorenzo’s to open third site: South London-based Italian restaurant Lorenzo’s is to open its third site, in the Croydon suburb of Shirley. The family-owned business is opening the venue in Wickham Road in the former Bella Vita premises on Wednesday (16 August). The restaurant, which is set across one floor with a conservatory at the back, will have seating for 80 diners. The decor will be brown, cream and mocca, with wood around the walls, pendent lights and a tiled bar, reports the Croydon Advertiser. Dishes will include large hollow pasta tubes with king prawns, mushrooms, courgettes and onions sauteed in white wine with a touch of cream, as well as homemade meatballs, pizza, and ravioli with spinach and ricotta. Natalie Bouzid now oversees the business she started in 1985 by her father Lorenzo Nargi and wife Jane. Its original restaurant in Crystal Palace has been running for 32 years, while the other site is in Dulwich. The family also owns Café St Germain in Crystal Palace.

Stonegate to open Slug and Lettuce site in Coventry next week: Stonegate Pub Company will open a Slug and Lettuce site in Coventry next week. The company is opening the venue on Thursday, 24 August in Bayley Lane in the former Establishment Bar & Grill. The grade II-listed building dates to the late 18th century when it served as a courthouse. Some of the original features are still there including the entrance to the court cells and the judge’s chair. Coventry Business Improvement District manager Trish Willetts told the Coventry Telegraph: “The Slug and Lettuce will be a welcome addition to Coventry. The business is a trusted and recognised brand and I’m sure it will be a hit with shoppers and visitors.” The lease of the Establishment Bar & Grill was acquired by Intertain in May last year. Stonegate took over the site when it bought Intertain from private equity firm Better Capital for about £39.5m in December. Stonegate operates more than 690 pubs split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Common Room and Venues) and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, and Classic Inns). Earlier this month, Stonegate made a bid to buy Revolution Bars Group.

Star Pubs & Bars launches free workshop to help licensees in competitive job market: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has launched a free one-day workshop to help its licensees address the hospitality industry’s staffing shortage and improve staff engagement at a time of increasing wage costs. The Great Team, Great Business workshop is designed for both individual and multiple licensees and their managers. It focuses on three key areas – recruitment, induction and reward – and looks at how licensees can become great employers and thereby attract and retain committed staff. A third of attendees at Star Pubs & Bars’ most recent national forum highlighted rising wage costs as an issue. The workshop also majors on how licensees can offset this by engaging staff and helping them to reach their full potential. Recent data showed unemployment is at its lowest level for 42 years and more than a third (38%) of hospitality and tourism vacancies are hard to fill, making staff recruitment a significant challenge for the pub sector. Star Pubs & Bars said the problem is exacerbated for leased operators who compete for staff with larger managed pub operators with a dedicated HR resource. Star Pubs & Bars lessee capability manager Michael Soderquest said: “Pubs don’t just sell food and drink, they sell experiences. Having a great team is key to giving customers an outstanding experience and building a successful business. Licensees can’t afford to be mediocre employers nowadays, they have to be great employers if they want to recruit and keep staff in a challenging job market.” Great Team, Great Business will be delivered by CPL using top industry trainers selected by Star Pubs & Bars for their knowledge and experience of the sector.

Hotel and brasserie in Essex village goes on market for £1.75m: A fully refurbished hotel and brasserie in Old Harlow, Essex, has been put up for sale for £1.75m. The grade II-listed property is being marketed by agents Colliers. The building features eight bedrooms, an open plan restaurant/bar with 90 covers and a function room with capacity for about 40 people. There is also planning permission for eight garden suites. Located in the village of Old Harlow, a designated conservation area that has retained much of its original market town character, the original parts of the property date to about 1600 when it was a chantry house to the local church. It is believed the property was sold by the crown into private ownership in the early 17th century and the house, as it is seen today, was constructed about 1650. Paul Barrasford, director in Colliers International’s hotels agency team, who is selling the property, said: “The refurbishment has been undertaken to an exceptionally high standard and is a great opportunity for a new owner to capitalise on this fantastic offering in a strong trading location.”

Startle signs agreement with BBC for nationwide PopMaster pub quiz: Interactive music service provider Startle, which was previously called Virtual Jukebox, has signed an agreement with the BBC to take its PopMaster quiz to pubs nationwide. The agreement will see Startle roll-out PopMaster, which is listened to by about 8.2 million people daily on Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 show. The PopMaster Quiz is a fully digital offering, with pre-prepared questions and an automatic digital scoring system, meaning customers can enjoy the quiz while alleviating added pressure for bar staff. Startle said the option to play against other pubs throughout the UK allows for a bigger prize for the winning team and in turn encourages more pub-goers to join in. Startle head of music Phil Swern said: “This agreement with the BBC will allow us to extend the UK’s most listened to quiz to allow a much wider audience to participate and I’m excited to continue to think up new questions for the nationwide PopMaster.”

Sheffield-based food producer lodges plans for ‘pie cafe’ in Leeds: Sheffield-based food producer Pie Eyed has submitted plans to open a “pie cafe” in Leeds. The pie manufacturing has lodged plans with the city council to turn an empty unit in North Street into a cafe to sell its own produce. The space was previously occupied by Dorchester Ledbetter photography studio, which was established in 1926 and has been owned by the same family for more than 50 years. The application stated: “It is proposed to utilise the lower ground floor area for the preparation and baking of the pie products with the ground floor area being used as the ‘front-of-house’ cafe area. The lower ground floor area would also accommodate office and storage space. At present, it is proposed the cafe will be open between noon and 9pm Wednesday to Sunday, with food preparation taking place in the lower ground floor area between 8am and 5pm Tuesday to Friday.” Pie Eyed was founded in late 2014, and launched as a mobile retailing space in the back of a horse box. Since then, the business has been a regular feature at pop-ups, street food events, festivals and weddings.

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