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Mon 21st Aug 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

The Alchemist to focus expansion on London as it looks to eventually grow to 50 UK sites: The Alchemist managing director Simon Potts has told Propel the company plans to focus on expansion in London in 2018 as it looks to eventually build an estate of up to 50 UK sites. The company, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, currently has ten venues with five more – Oxford, Media City, Nottingham, Bristol and Cardiff – scheduled to launch by April next year. Potts said the group would continue to look to open five sites a year with London very much the key target. He believed there could eventually be up to 15 venues in the capital. He said: “I like that idea of establishing our foothold in London. We have a site just off Liverpool Street that is doing very well and we think there could be a very good opportunity for us. We’ve been up against it a bit with the size and scale of rents but things are starting to settle down a bit now so there is potential to push the numbers up, especially given a number of operators are either slowing their expansion or shedding sites. Of course, though, we’ve got to make sure we get the locations right. We are also having talks with landlords in Edinburgh at the moment but I think it will be the end of 2018/early 2019 before we do anything.” Potts said while the immediate focus was on expansion in the UK, he has ambitions to take the brand abroad. He added: “I think we have an offer that would work in places in central Europe, the Middle East and the east coast of the US. It is all a long way off but it’s good to have these goals to keep the juices flowing.” Potts said the company’s latest opening in Chester was trading “well ahead” of expectations, while sites were taking £60,000 a week on average. He also revealed after the latest spate of openings the company would look at expanding the retail side of the business. This would primarily be selling pre-mixed cocktails or packaged ingredients for consumers to make their own at home. Potts said the company would continue to develop further initiatives following the launch of Currency of Kindness, where The Alchemist pays its team members to go out into their local communities and volunteer during working hours. “I think we have a duty to look at the impact we have on the communities where we operate and do our bit to support them,” he added.

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Swingers founders to present: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is now open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 1 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Jeremy Simmonds and Matt Grech-Smith, founders of the Institute of Competitive Socialising brand Swingers, which combines crazy golf, high-quality bars and street food in the City of London with a second site opening early in 2018, will talk about their brand, its USPs, future plans and the thinking behind the Institute of Competitive Socialising. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on
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
McDonald’s staff vote to strike: McDonald’s could face its first staff strike in the UK, after workers at two stores backed a call for industrial action. Employees at McDonald’s restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, near London, voted overwhelmingly for a strike. The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) said staff wanted secure working hours and a £10 per hour wage. A spokesman for McDonald’s said the company “works hard to ensure teams are treated fairly”. He added: “We can confirm, following a ballot process, the BFAWU has indicated a small number of our employees, representing less than 0.01% of our workforce, are intending to strike in two of our restaurants. As per the terms of the ballot, the dispute is solely related to our internal grievance procedures.” Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow secretary for business, environment and industrial strategy, said: “The strike at McDonald’s is motivated by working people coming together to fight for decent pay and working conditions.” The company announced in April staff would be offered a choice of flexible or fixed contracts with minimum guaranteed hours. McDonald’s employs about 85,000 staff in the UK.

Company News:

BrewDog reports on stalled new openings: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has walked away from three new bar openings, delaying its expansion in London, Dublin and Paris. In a note to shareholders, the company, which earlier this year was valued at £1bn after receiving a cash injection from American private equity house TSG Consumer Partners, said it has decided not to open a bar in London’s Dalston area as it “couldn’t nail down terms with the landlord”. Similarly, its Dublin plan has stalled because “we had a licence partner lined up but it fell through” while Paris is not going ahead because the company “lost the bid on the Halle de Rouvray site”. BrewDog, which had a total of 47 bars at the end of 2016, now has 45, 31 of which it manages directly. Its bars in Hong Kong and Finnish city Turku, which opened in 2016 and 2015 respectively, have closed since the start of the year. Despite that, the company said it remains committed to further expansion, with a bar due to open in Oxford in September and further openings across America and Europe expected in due course.
Charles Wells opens first Pizza, Pots and Pints city centre site, in Peterborough: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells has opened its third Pizza, Pots and Pints site, this time in Peterborough, and its first in a city centre. The company has launched the venue in Queen Street on the former site of Clarkes fine-dining restaurant. Prior to 2013, it had been the brewer’s Grapevine pub. The concept offers artisan pizza and “one-pot comfort food” such as mac and cheese, and cheesy squash casserole ham hock fricassee, alongside Charles Wells beer. The new venue features a cobblestone effect on the ground floor leading through large bi-fold doors to the garden. The opening team consists of Sam Adams and Craig Billington, who have worked with Charles Wells from the launch of the Pizza, Pots and Pints concept. Director Craig Mayes said: “We’re really excited to share our passion of Pizza, Pots and Pints with the people of Peterborough. Sam and Craig have made our pioneering Cambridge and Baldock venues a firm favourite with locals there. We’re sure Peterborough’s foodies and beer fans alike will also delight in what they are bringing to the city.”
No1 Lounges to triple number of UK venues: No1 Lounges, which operates pay-on-entry lounges at airports across the UK, has said it will double its number of venues from eight to 16 by the end of next year, with a target of 24 by the end of 2020. In an industry estimated to be worth £3.4bn globally, No1 Lounges has sites at Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Birmingham airports and offers three types of lounge – My Lounge, No1 Lounges, and Clubrooms, with entry starting from £18 per person. Additional lounges will be at airports where No1 already has a presence and some new locations. The company’s lounges offer food and drinks, unlimited Wi-Fi, child-free areas, and newspapers and magazines guests can take with them on their flight. Chief executive Phil Cameron, who is also a West End theatre producer, founded the company in 2006, recording a turnover of £23m in 2016. He said: “Premium travel is changing rapidly. Passengers are increasingly looking for affordable luxuries and more personalised experiences, especially as many airlines are streamlining their offers to compete. We believe it is about giving consumers greater choices and a stylish send-off – all without breaking the bank.”
Be At One opens Bournemouth site: Be At One, the specialist cocktail bar group, has opened a site in Bournemouth for its second venue on the south coast. The group has invested £500,000 to open the bar in Richmond Hill, close to the seafront, on the site of a former nightclub. Be At One director Steve Locke said: “We’re really excited to be in Bournemouth as it’s a location that has long been on our target list. It’s a vibrant town that has benefited from significant investment in recent times. That, in turn, has brought a great buzz to the centre from locals and tourists.” Be At One operates 33 venues across the UK, with its other south coast site in Brighton.
Jamie Oliver opens new Gatwick restaurant: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has visited Gatwick airport to unveil his new flagship restaurant, The Diner, a homage to “great American comfort food”. The Diner is home to three distinct areas – a diner restaurant section serving food in a rustic way, on big trays or in baskets; an art-deco inspired bar; plus also a “grab-and-go” deli. At 627 square metres the new arrival is one of the largest restaurants at Gatwick serving 278 covers. Oliver said: “I’m chuffed to be opening a new diner at Gatwick’s south terminal. Airports can be pretty crazy places so we’re creating the perfect space to chill out with some good food, and maybe a drink or two, before you start your holiday. Everyone is welcome, no matter how long you stay. We’re totally upping the game in airport food. It’s all about the diner food you love, made with incredible, sustainable produce. There’s plenty of delicious healthy dishes, as well as some naughty ones that I’ve tried my best to keep in check, but each one is guaranteed to taste delicious!”
Shake Shack to open first site in mainland China as it steps up Asia expansion plans: Shake Shack has revealed it is to open its first site in mainland China as it steps up expansion plans in Asia. The company, which said in July it would make its Hong Kong debut next year, is working with its licensee Maxim’s Caterers to open the first restaurant in Shanghai by 2019. Shake Shack said it plans to open 25 sites in Shanghai and east China by 2028. The menu will feature Shake Shack’s signature items including the ShackBurger, Shack-cago Dog, classic crinkle-cut fries, beer, wine and frozen custard ice cream. Chief executive Randy Garutti said: “There’s incredible opportunity in China and I couldn’t think of a better place to begin this chapter of our story than Shanghai, a city that understands great brands, appreciates premium ingredients, and ultimately loves food. The city’s streets overflow with vibrant flavours and energy every day and we can’t wait to join Shanghai’s thriving food community.”
Commercial kitchen provider FoodStars to open flagship Shoreditch site for fourth London space: Commercial kitchen space provider FoodStars is set to open a fourth site in London next month, this time in Shoreditch. Founded in 2015 by Will Beresford, Daniel Abrahams and Roy Shaby, FoodStars offers “hassle-free kitchen solutions” for businesses including Bill’s, healthy fast food brand Bel-Air, on-demand gluten-free food delivery company Dinnergise, and London-based cafe group The Attendant. The new flagship location, close to Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market, will span 20,000 square feet as an “inspiring place for food businesses to operate from”. Beresford told BDaily: “The new site will grow the overall FoodStars space to 30,000 square feet and help accommodate those in the food business with flexible membership options for a centrally located, fully-fitted kitchen space and thriving foodie community base.”
Chucs to open third London restaurant and menswear store, in Harrods: Chucs, a joint Italian restaurant and menswear store with sites in Mayfair and Notting Hill, is to open a third London site, at the fine watch department of Harrods. Expansion of the Knightsbridge store’s watch and jewellery section will start next month and is expected to finish in the spring, Hot Dinners reports. The department will run across two floors, with one including the new branch of Chucs featuring Bill Amberg-designed leather walls and a special entrance in Hans Street. Chucs offers classic Italian dishes such as beef tagliata with rocket, and truffle pizza alongside its own-label menswear collection.
Liverpool-based JSM Bars to open second site for McCooley’s concept: Liverpool-based JSM Bars is to open a second site for its McCooley’s sports and music bar concept in the city. The company plans to convert its Smokies venue in Mathew Street and the neighbouring Cafe Sports Bar in Stanley Street that was previously owned by former Liverpool footballer Jamie Carragher. McCooley’s Mathew Street would span two floors and host sporting events and Irish parties like its sister site in Concert Square. The venue would feature live music, bands and an open-mic night plus an Irish-inspired menu consisting of traditional pub classics with a twist. JSM Bars hopes to open the site at the end of September or beginning of October, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Marco-Pierre White to start expansion of chophouse concept with Whitechapel launch: Celebrity chef Marco-Pierre White is to open a site for his Mr White’s English Chophouse concept in Whitechapel, east London. The new venue will be part of a boutique hotel opening in New Road in October on the site of a former textiles factory. The restaurant will be open for all-day dining offering dishes such as roast saddle of lamb, chophouse burgers and baby back barbecue, Hot Dinners reports. The 80-bedroom New Road Hotel will feature communal working areas and loft rooms featuring hot tubs. Its website states: “This unique hotel has been inspired by the New York metropolis. New Road Hotel will feature a signature restaurant by acclaimed chef Marco Pierre White, a fitness studio and several social zones where guests can enjoy live music, play pool in the games zone or relax in the library.” The debut Mr White’s English Chophouse is in Birmingham.
PizzaExpress lines up Sutton opening: PizzaExpress is preparing to take over a site in Sutton High Street after applying to the borough council to change the existing shopfront. The company has also asked the council for permission to provide outside seating and to erect planters. Spanish restaurant Uno Tapas formerly operated from the building but it closed its doors last month after five years in business. It was previously ranked as TripAdvisor’s third most popular customer-rated restaurant in Sutton. 
MasterChef semi-finalist and former Michelin-starred restaurant head chef launch fine dining venture in Leeds: MasterChef semi-finalist Elizabeth Cottam and Mark Owens, former head chef at Michelin-starred restaurant The Box Tree in Ilkley, have opened a venture in Leeds. Cottam and Owens have launched Home in Kirkgate, with the 3,669 square foot venue having previously been a dance hall, billiard club, cinema and most recently Indian restaurant Darbar. The new restaurant, which has space for 65 covers with an additional chef’s table, offers “fine dining, reimagined”. Owens said: “We’re coming at this with a ‘home by name, home by nature’ approach and our monthly-changing menus will be a true celebration of everything Great British produce has to offer.” Cottam added: “Home is being created through our creative and nurturing approach to all elements of our work – from the design of the restaurant to the bringing together of our team of the very best local talent, and from the sourcing of the best seasonal produce our country has to offer to the creation of some special treats and surprises for our diners.”
Fledgling aparthotel company secures funding for first two sites, targets ten-strong portfolio in next three years: Fledgling aparthotel company Stow-Away has secured financing for its first two projects, in Birmingham and London. Stow-Away, which is a joint venture between Ciel Capital, Stow Projects and BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, has lined up senior and mezzanine finance from high-net-worth individuals for its planned conversion of Central Hall in Birmingham city centre. It plans to build a 135-bedroom hotel and a 51-bedroom Stow-Away aparthotel with restaurants, bars and retail on the ground floor. The project has a gross development value of about £40m and work is expected to start on-site next year. Funding from private sources has also been secured for a smaller project due to open in October – a 20-bedroom Stow-Away aparthotel built from shipping containers with a wine bar and restaurant on the ground floor in Lower Marsh in London’s Waterloo. Landowner Network Rail granted a lease to Stow-Away. It is on the lookout for other sites and is pursuing opportunities in Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin. During the next three years, the plan is to build a ten-strong portfolio. Dorothée Dembiermont, a partner at Voltaire Financial, which advised on the financing, told Property Week: “Stow-Away is strategically positioned to plug the significant gap in the market between high-end offerings and low-quality product. Due to the early stage of the brand, conventional lending wasn’t a sufficiently flexible option – we needed partners with a vision.”
Late-night food delivery service Feast extends crowd-funding campaign: Late-night food delivery service Feast has extend its £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube by seven days. The company is offering a 3.61% equity stake to fund the expansion of the service across London. So far, the campaign has raised £128,930 from 192 investors – 85% of its target. Feast was founded by Simon Pusey after he became frustrated at “not being able to find good food after 10pm”. The company previously raised £460,000 in seed investment from angel investors. The pitch states: “In partnership with some of the best 24-hour and late-night restaurants, we deliver great food at times you can’t get it delivered anywhere else – between 7pm and 5am. Founded in December 2015 by one man on a Dutch bike, Feast now has more than 40 drivers on the road. We’ve served more than 20,000 hungry customers. During the past three months we have a total order value of £179,291, which would equate to a total order value run rate of more than £500,000 over the next 12 months. We’ve also signed up more than 80 hotels to our bespoke site at This allows hotels and luxury apartments to outsource their night-time food needs to us and make money from every order their guest places. We currently take £2.50 from the customer per order and 25% of the price of the order from the restaurant. We aim to fulfil 28,000 orders in 2017, which would equate to a total order turnover of more than £500,000. We plan to use our Crowdcube funds to increase the area we serve in London to include the whole of Zone 2. We will also hire a second full-stack developer and another salesperson to bring on more hotels to”
Molson Coors targets zero waste-to-landfill status and 50% carbon cut: Molson Coors is targeting a zero waste-to-landfill status across its major manufacturing facilities and a 50% reduction in carbon emissions as part of a new sustainability strategy that seeks to offset recent business growth. Molson Coors’ 2017 Beer Print Report sets ambitious new targets across carbon, waste and water management and marks the first time the company has accounted for the acquisition of MillerCoors in October 2016 in its data collection and sustainability goals. Having cut annual carbon intensity by 5.8% in 2016, MillerCoors is targeting a reduction in absolute carbon emissions by 50% within direct business, a 20% cut across the value chain and a 10% reduction in malting operations. Targets for 2025 include improving water efficiency by 22%, while Molson Coors plans to source 100% of barley and hops from suppliers that comply with its sustainability standards and will invest $100m in local communities with efforts to engage with women-owned or minority-owned businesses. Molson Coors global senior director of corporate responsibility Kim Marotta told “Our new sustainability strategy reflects our broadest set of goals to date – a comprehensive, long-term plan that will put us on the leading edge as we look to 2025.”
Manchester nightclub and events space plans set to be refused: Plans to develop a multi-use creative space and nightclub at a former mill in Ancoats, Manchester, look set to be refused. A full planning application by Mantra Live to change the use of part of Wellington House is scheduled to go before Manchester City Council’s planning meeting on Thursday (24 August). Mantra Live’s sole shareholders and directors are Mark Kelly and Michael Fitzpatrick, who are seeking to develop a multi-use creative space, with art galleries, live and recorded music, dance classes and comedy shows during the day and a nightclub in the evenings. Total capacity of the venue would be about 1,300. However, Greater Manchester Police has expressed concerns about dispersing customers after events, Insider Media reports. In a report prepared by planning officers ahead of the meeting, councillors were told the proposal should be refused because the location, number of patrons and hours of use of the nightclub element would have a detrimental impact on nearby residents due to a “substantial increase in comings and goings, levels of activity and associated noise, disturbance and antisocial behaviour”.
Chef entrepreneur Alex Claridge to move Birmingham restaurant to new permanent home: Chef entrepreneur Alex Claridge is to move his Birmingham restaurant The Wilderness from its Southside base to a new permanent home in the city centre. Claridge has taken a 25-year lease at a property in Bennetts Hill from landlords Hortons Estate at a rent of £75,000 per annum. The 5,500 square foot space, formerly home to the Nationwide Building Society, will include a 40-seater restaurant and kitchen in the basement, and a bar with more than 70 covers at ground level. The Wilderness currently operates out of premises in Dudley Street, sharing it with the Birmingham Open Media gallery. The 24-seat restaurant offers a modern British menu focusing on native ingredients, some of which are grown on the restaurant’s own allotment. The Dudley Street restaurant will close in December with the new site set to open in February. Hortons commercial surveyor Steve Tommy told The Business Desk: “Alex Claridge and his team have created something incredibly novel in a city that already boasts a fantastic fine-dining scene. We are really excited by his plans for Bennetts Hill.” Wright Silverwood advised Hortons on the deal.
Belfast-based bistro to open second site in city: Belfast-based bistro The Barking Dog is to open its second site in the Northern Ireland capital. The company is opening the venue at the newly refurbished Weaving Works, a former linen warehouse in Ormeau Avenue. The Barking Dog, now led by chef Michael O’Connor and manager Michael Fletcher, also has a site in Malone Road. The Barking Dog will be joined by Caffe Nero, which is opening on the ground floor, and technology company First Derivatives, which will anchor the scheme that has been developed by Karl Group. It is due to be completed in December and is now fully let. Karl Group commercial manager Simon Moon told the Belfast Telegraph: “It is brilliant to see exciting companies such as First Derivatives, Caffe Nero and the Barking Dog expanding in Belfast. It is our mission to create places that enhance the lives of people and we believe that in bringing this historic building back to life with touches of modern architecture, we will do just that.”
Park Holidays UK acquires 28th site: Sussex-headquartered holiday park group Park Holidays UK has expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of its 28th site. The company has purchased the Martello Beach Holiday Park, near Eastbourne, for an undisclosed sum. The park will be renamed Pevensey Bay Holiday Park and is the group’s sixth in Sussex. Park Holidays UK was acquired by Intermediate Capital Group earlier this year. Park Holidays UK chief financial officer Al Loch told Insider Media: “We are delighted to have become the new owners of this popular park adjacent to the beach near Eastbourne.” James Beatton, head of the corporate team at law firm Cripps, which advised on the park acquisition, added: “Having advised Park Holidays since 2015, we are well-placed to support them on their overall business expansion strategy, which is to grow by a combination of acquiring new sites together with improving and increasing the capacity of its existing sites.”
Verve Hotels acquires grade I-listed Diss inn for fifth site: Verve Hotels has acquired grade I-listed The Scole Inn in Diss, Norfolk, for its fifth site. The Scole Inn dates to 1655 and retains many original features. The hotel will close for refurbishment to open in late September or early October under the Verve brand. All staff will be retained. Verve managing director Mark Reuben told the Diss Express: “I fell in love with the hotel and realised it needed a lot of love, care and attention and, most importantly, lots of money to bring it into the 21st century. But I knew the rooms had to be kept the same as you are only able to carry out cosmetic changes to such a beautiful property.” Verve’s other hotels are in Bedford, Peterborough, Stilton, and Shoreditch.
The Chestnut Group adds sixth site: Pub operator The Chestnut Group has added to its portfolio in East Anglia with the purchase of The Black Lion hotel in Long Melford, its sixth site. The plan is for the bar, restaurant and “garden room” to be open in the autumn, with further work on the bedrooms once the business is open. Philip Turner, founder of The Chestnut Group, said: “Our aim is for The Black Lion to be a place that locals are proud of and a destination of choice for the growing number of visitors to the area each year. We are a Suffolk-based business investing heavily across the region to showcase what East Anglia has to offer in terms of food, attractions, countryside and hospitality.” The team at The Black Lion will include the first graduate of The Chestnut Academy. The academy was set up in 2015 to offer vocational training and a guaranteed management position for those wanting a career in hospitality. Turner added: “The academy has been an overwhelming success. We currently have eight fantastic students on the academy who are looking forward to starting their management career with The Chestnut Group."

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