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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 18th Jan 2018 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Value for money and convenience to become increasingly important as sector turnover slows in 2018: Value for money and convenience will become increasingly important during 2018 as sector turnover slows amid continued consumer uncertainty surrounding Brexit, according to a new report by supplier McCain Foodservice. In its “What’s Hot” report, which forecasts major trends during 2018, the company said value for money would become increasingly important as consumers scrutinised their spending. However, “value scrutiny” wouldn’t necessarily see consumers chasing the cheapest option but seeking “hearty portions, great-value food, and excellent standards of service”. Convenience will be another key trend, the report stated, with the 6% rise in quick-service lunch visits seen in 2017 showing no signs of slowing. McCain said making it as easy as possible for diners to get a “great meal quickly and easily” would be a “key growth area” in 2018. Regarding technology, 40% of 25 to 37-year-olds preferred ordering food via their phones last year rather than dining out, while two-thirds (67%) spent more on food ordered on their phones compared with in person. McCain Foodservice said finding ways to integrate the latest technology could see businesses “sink or swim”. Another key trend in 2018, according to the report, will be “informality”, with consumers viewing out-of-home meals as opportunities to socialise and take a break from modern life. The report stated easy-to-share food, communal seating and “pay first, leave whenever” service would all be hot trends. Indulgence, “foodie culture”, provenance and sustainability, and healthy eating were other key trends highlighted. McCain Foods senior brand manager Jo Simmons said: “With so many changes happening it can be hard to pick out the opportunities that will work for your business and those that will make headlines and then disappear. We’ve rounded up a few of the key ones we believe can help operators stay hot and ahead of the competition in the next year.” To view the report click here.

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Ian Edward to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 7 March at the Grange Hotel in St Paul’s, London. Ian Edward, who is leisure advisor to Canaccord Genuity and sits on the boards of Brasserie Blanc, Seafood Pub Company and Hippo Inns, will set out his views on mergers and acquisitions trends and the ten key challenges and opportunities in the sector. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Supply Chain Masterclass open for bookings: Supply Chain Masterclass, which will look at how to achieve best-in-class supply chain efficiency, is open for bookings. The one-day event, launched by Propel in partnership with Food Partners founder and managing director Campbell Askwith, will take place in the Fifth Floor State Rooms at 30 Euston Square, London, on Wednesday, 21 February. The event will pose the question: “Who should be responsible for a restaurant, pub or hotel group’s purchasing strategy?” Askwith will ask a panel including James Nye, managing director of Anglian Country Inns, Christian Hall, finance director of Thai Leisure Group, and John Wood, a former Michelin-starred and world-renowned executive chef and now managing director of Kitchen Cut, who does purchasing best – chef, purchasing manager or outsource? Other speakers will include brand, growth and development strategist James Hacon, who will ask if there is a commercial strategy around “provenance” or whether it’s simply marketing and provide thoughts, facts and recommendations. International business coach Gerard Hargreaves will share his thoughts on how best to leverage the most from your supplier meetings. Tickets are £295 for Propel premium members and £345 for others. To book, email Anne Steele on or call 01444 817691

Number of UK distilleries more than doubles in past five years as gin sales surge: The number of UK distilleries has more than doubled in the past five years helped by a surge in gin sales, according to new research. Figures from HM Revenue & Customs showed there are now 315 distilleries in the UK, with 49 launching in 2017 and seven closing. In 2013, there were 152 distilleries in the UK – most of them in Scotland. England is the region with the most rapid growth, from 23 distilleries in 2010 to 135 in 2017, accounting for 56% of all UK openings in the past eight years. London alone now has 24. The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) said the boom was down to what it dubbed the “ginaissance” – a surge in gin consumption. The gin industry across the on and off-trade in the UK in 2011 was worth £630m. Since then it has almost doubled to £1.2bn in the 12 months to September 2017, with gin in the on-trade alone worth nearly £730m in yearly sales. WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “There is a significant amount of investment going into the British spirits industry and the chancellor’s welcome boost is likely to see this trend continue into 2018 – as well as broadening out into new variations of English and Welsh whisky.”

Goodbody – UK hotel industry faces difficult year as economic uncertainty prevails: Goodbody leisure analysts have argued UK hotels face a difficult year as economic uncertainty prevails. They said: “2017 proved a strong year for hotels in both Ireland and the UK, with high single-digit revpar growth in both markets expected for the full year. The Irish market continued to be supported by a significant undersupply of hotel stock and a strong domestic economy. UK hotels benefited from sterling weakness, which saw a surge in international business. However, there was a marked slowdown in UK revpar growth in the fourth quarter as the benefit of sterling weakness came to an end and supply continued to outstrip demand, mainly in London. Following the slowdown in revpar growth in the fourth quarter, we think 2018 could prove to be a difficult year for UK hotels given the continued surge in supply coming onstream and increasing concerns of a UK consumer downturn. Those who offer a value-for-money proposition in a price-sensitive market should be better positioned to weather a weaker macroeconomic environment, but are unlikely to be immune. Additionally, the industry will face well-flagged material cost headwinds over the next few years, namely foodservice inflation, National Living Wage and property cost increases, which should significantly affect hotel operators’ margins, in particular smaller operators who cannot implement cost-saving initiatives as well as bigger operators. This should cumulatively create a more difficult operating environment for hotel operators in 2018.”

Company News:

Restaurant Group steps up Frankie & Benny’s discounts with 50% off mains and free dish offers: The Restaurant Group has stepped up discounts at its Frankie & Benny’s sites with new 50% off mains and free dish offers. The 50% off mains offer is valid until Monday (22 January) but cannot be used on breakfast, lunch, fixed-price or children’s menus. One voucher covers an entire table at all Frankie & Benny’s and Little Frankie’s restaurants, apart from airport locations. Meanwhile, giveaway vouchers will be available from 10am on Thursday (16 January) until just before midnight on Sunday (21 January) for the offer of a free dessert or salad with every main dish depending on which option is voted favourite on the Frankie & Benny’s Facebook page. The brand has been promoting a number of discount offers since the end of last year, including 50% off mains and a free themed cocktail for bonfire weekend, and “kids eat for £1” during Christmas and New Year.

City Pub Group aims to have ten more pubs trading this year, ‘no mad rush’ to spend funds: City Pub Group executive chairman Clive Watson has told Propel the company hopes to have another ten pubs trading by the end of this year, with “no mad rush” to spend the funds it has in place. The company, which was admitted to AIM in November, currently has five pubs lined up to open in 2018 having added sites in Clapham, Parson’s Green and Reading to its 33-strong portfolio. Watson said the company, which reported turnover increased 34% to £37.4m for the year ending 31 December 2017, had a “very strong” balance with no borrowings, which put it in a great position to take advantage of opportunities. He added: “I would like to think by the end of this year we will have 42 or 43 pubs trading. With our existing balance sheet, the money we raised from the float, plus a £30m banking facility in place with Barclays, there’s a good sum of money available to us – but we don’t have to spend it in the first 12 months. It’s about the quality of sites. We’ve said previously we want to double the size of the estate by 2021 so there’s no mad rush – we’ve managed to go from zero to 33 in five years.” Watson said the company was appraising about eight sites as it worked on further acquisitions, a mix of new locations and towns and cities where the company already operates. He added that while London and southern England would remain the focus, there was scope for going a “bit further north and west”. Watson added: “I’m pleased about Reading having been at university there. It’s improved a lot and is ideal being between London and Bath. I don’t see why we can’t open further sites there – it’s a big enough town.” Watson said while the company preferred freehold sites, it would continue to acquire leaseholds. Berenberg analysts said: “We continue to believe on a multi-year view that the company can deliver strong like-for-like growth, scale the business to at least 60 sites, and reap the rewards of operational gearing as the strategy progresses. We increase our earnings per share estimates by 1% and 7% in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and increase our price target to 210p.”

Barburrito plans year of consolidation, further airport sites to follow: Barburrito founder Morgan Davies has told Propel that 2018 will be a year of consolidation for the brand before “ramping things back up” in 2019. The company, which this week revealed a new partnership with The Restaurant Group to launch Barburrito into airports, will open a site at the Arndale Centre in Manchester this summer and “perhaps one other” in the second half of the year. Davies said: “We are being cautious at the moment – it’s a measured approach for us this year. We’ve got some exciting projects such as The Restaurant Group partnership going on but we are looking at a bit of consolidation before ramping back up again next year. Our long-term objective remains the same – to expand the business nationally and be the UK’s most-loved burrito brand. We’re looking closely at our costs and pricing.” Davies said like-for-like sales at the 21-strong group remained positive and ahead of the Coffer Peach Tracker. However, they were down on the double-digit growth seen last year. He added: “Our average transaction value is £8 so we have seen some consumers coming to us as they cut their spend. However, what we have noticed is the drop in footfall in some of the environments we operate in and that’s something we can’t control.” Morgan said he was “extremely excited” by the partnership with The Restaurant Group and said the impending airport opening would not be a one-off. He added: “We have invested a lot of time and effort and we would not have done that for one unit, so others will follow. We are having conversations about potential sites at the moment. We are used to operating in high-footfall environments such as shopping centres and at Paddington station so I’ve no concerns in us being able to handle the volume of potential customers. We’ve adapted the menu slightly to suit airport travellers.” Barburrito, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, launched the UK’s first burrito bar in 2005 at Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester.   

Delhi street food concept Hankies to launch upmarket restaurant format in Marble Arch: Delhi street food concept Hankies, which operates a cafe in Shaftesbury Avenue, is to launch an upmarket restaurant format this month, in Marble Arch. Hankies offers Indian tapas and specialises in roti – flatbread that is hand-spun until thin enough to read through, cooked on a roomali tawa, which resembles an upside down wok, and folded into “hankies” in front of customers. The concept is the brainchild of Anirudh Arora, whose dishes include bhindi bhel (crispy rice puffs with okra, sweet chutney, onions and fresh coriander). The flagship restaurant will be located in Montcalm Hotel in Berkeley Street and will be much larger than Hankies’ debut site, featuring glassware and china sourced from Indian markets and antique stores. It will also feature the addition of a tandoor oven, producing offerings such as skewers of prawns with chives and garlic, and chilli lamb chops marinated in Kashmiri chillies, paprika and mustard. The drinks list will feature cocktails and lassi.

Bea Vo to start expansion of Butterscotch bakery concept with second London site: Bea Vo, who founded the Beas of Bloomsbury chain, is to start expansion of her Butterscotch bakery concept by opening a second London site, this time in James Street. Vo, who launched a first permanent site for the concept in White City Place in November, will open Butterscotch Tea Room on Monday, 15 February. The venue will be split over two floors, the first housing a cafe dotted with footstools and window bench seating alongside Bea’s Goldilocks porridge bar, which launched at the White City site. A staircase will lead to an afternoon tea room adorned with white marble tables, while the venue will also offer breakfast and Jasmine Evening Tea that will include Bakewell fizz prosecco cocktails. Vo said: “I’m so excited to unveil a whole new space for afternoon tea. It’s my favourite British tradition and our take will put a modern spin on it. I want people to feel like they can come to Butterscotch for a good time, whether it’s a cocktail and a slice of cake or a full-blown affair with all the trimmings.” Butterscotch Bakery is part of Vo’s Feed Your Soul restaurant portfolio, which includes Stax Diner in Soho, southern US specialist Boondocks in Shoreditch, and burger bar The Famous Flames in Camden Town. Vo founded Bea’s of Bloomsbury in 2008 and left the company in 2014.

Whitbread signs to bring Premier Inn and first northern Bar + Block to Durham city centre development: Whitbread has signed to open a Premier Inn and a first northern venue for its Bar + Block all-day casual dining brand at the Milburngate development in Durham city centre. The 92-bedroom hotel, which is subject to planning approval, would be Durham’s second Premier Inn. Combined, the hotel and restaurant openings would create 75 jobs. They will join Everyman Cinemas and Marston’s Pitcher & Piano at Milburngate, which is being developed by Arlington Real Estate and the Richardson family to also feature luxury apartments and offices. Matt Aubrey, Premier Inn acquisitions manager for the north east, said: “Milburngate is a major part of the future of Durham city centre and we are excited to be part of it.” Whitbread launched Bar + Block in Birmingham in 2016 and has since opened sites in King’s Cross, Whiteley and Bath, with further plans to open a Nottingham venue. The main menu includes steaks that are hand-cut to order as well as a “butcher’s block”, a range of rotating specials, and an extensive drinks list.

Mercato Metropolitano hits £400,000 crowdfunding target as it eyes further London sites: Italian street food market Mercato Metropolitano has hit its £400,000 target on crowdfunding platform Seedrs as it looks to open further sites in London. The company is offering a 5.40% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 132 investors have pledged £464,519 and the campaign is now “overfunding”. The largest investment is £190,000. Mercato Metropolitano opened its first site outside Italy in a disused paper factory in Elephant and Castle in July 2016. The free to enter, 45,000 square foot market attracted 590,000 visitors between November 2016 and July 2017. Now the company wants to expand the concept and said it has identified a number of potential new sites in London including one in Camden Market and another in Canary Wharf. The pitch states: “Mercato Metropolitano started with a pilot project in 2015 during the World Expo in Milan. Our first flagship site in London is where we started to refine our business model for expansion. Since January, we have seen an average month-on-month growth in gross sales of 18%, going from £342,000 sales in January to more than £900,000 in July, with an estimated footfall in July of more than 90,000 customers. We have identified a number of potential new sites. Among these is a development of more than 28,000 square feet within Camden Market and an 18,000 square foot space in Canary Wharf.” 

Starbucks reaches agreement with US shopping centre owner over Teavana closure dispute, starts hunt for EMEA CRM agency: Starbucks has reached an agreement with Simon Property Group to allow it to start shutting 77 Teavana stores within its US shopping centres. Last year, Indianapolis judge Heather Welch prevented Starbucks from closing the sites after the real estate firm went to court, claiming a move by such a high-profile tenant could spark other retailers to close. When the state’s Supreme Court announced it would hear a Starbucks appeal, the two sides moved to the negotiating table. A Starbucks spokeswoman told the New York Post: “We’ve reached an agreement with Simon to settle our dispute,” although she would not reveal terms. In July, Starbucks said it planned to close its 379-store Teavana operation by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, Starbucks has started a hunt for its first European-wide customer engagement agency. The brief, for a retained EMEA CRM agency, is in its early stages, reports Campaign. Starbucks has contacted specialist CRM and digital agencies with a request for agency credentials. Starbucks appointed Iris as its creative agency across the EMEA region last year but there is no incumbent UK or EMEA agency for CRM.

Bistrot Pierre goes live with Feed It Back: Private equity-backed restaurant group Bistrot Pierre has gone live with EPOS-linked guest feedback service Feed It Back across its 22 UK sites. The feedback tool presents customers with personalised questions based on their menu choices and dining experience in the restaurant. Bistrot Pierre head of marketing Arpita Anstey said: “We initially trialled the system in seven of our bistros and were impressed by the extremely high response rate from our customers. Feed It Back has given us far more insight than we’ve had before across the key areas of food, drink, value and service. This information is invaluable and customer feedback is really important to us as we continue to grow the business and understand the demographics and behaviour of our diners. Another great benefit of the platform is the ability to capture customers’ emails, this enables us to have an ongoing dialogue with them through our CRM programme.” Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia added: “We’re delighted to be working with Bistrot Pierre and hope the introduction of this new technology will continue to support its business goals.”

Nottingham-based adventure golf operator opens Northern Ireland’s first indoor course for second site: Nottingham-based adventure golf operator Lost City has opened Northern Ireland’s first indoor course for its second site. Owner Lane Scott has opened the site in Belfast with the venue at Cityside Retail and Leisure Park comprising two 18-hole courses. Scott launched the concept at The Corner House in Nottingham in 2013 on the back of a £1.4m investment. He told Insider Media: “The arrival of The Lost City marks the introduction of a new type of entertainment venue to Belfast – the focus is entirely on having fun and challenging yourself to try something different.”

Whisky Clubs Group to launch debut whisky bar in Birmingham: Whisky Clubs Group is to launch its debut whisky bar, in Birmingham. The new venue will open inside The Museum Of The Jewellery Quarter in Vyse Street on Wednesday, 14 February offering more than 300 whiskies. Tasting flights will be available that will include a written guide for drinkers. There will also be a small selection of non-whisky drinks such as barrel-aged beer, gin from whisky distillers and aged gin. Whisky Clubs Group was founded in 2011 by Amy Seton and Craig Mills. It also operates events and membership company The Birmingham Whisky Club. Seton said: “Our festivals sell out in a matter of weeks. Setting up a permanent home for our members felt like the next step.” Although the bar will not be exclusively for members, memberships offering special events and discounts will be available.

Caribbean and African fusion concept Manjaros to open Bradford branch for third site: Manjaros, which combines Caribbean and African cuisine, is to open a Bradford branch for its third site. The restaurant will open in Great Horton Road at the former Shearbridge pub on Thursday, 25 January with a dessert parlour upstairs and a separate express bar for customers to collect takeaways. Manjaros has branches in Leeds and Middlesbrough. Its most popular dish is parmesan chicken, with a number of parmesan choices on the menu alongside grilled dishes, skewers, burgers, platters, pizza and wraps. The opening will create 20 jobs. Franchise owner Rafiq Ali told the Telegraph & Argus: “We have been developing the site for about eight months. It’s a popular brand. It’s very popular among young people so that’s why we’re near the university.” Ali said he plans to open Manjaros sites in Glasgow, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Preston and London.

Goodbody – Costa and consumer concerns remain ahead of Whitbread update: Goodbody leisure analysts have said Costa Coffee and consumer concerns remain ahead of Whitbread’s third-quarter results. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 3,965p, they said: “We tidy up forecasts ahead of this week’s trading update to reflect recent UK lead indicators. We now forecast Ebitda of £844m and £907m in FY18 and FY19 respectively, circa -1% from previous forecasts. We update our Premier Inn numbers to reflect the downward revision in 2018 and 2019 UK GDP forecasts given revpar correlation to GDP. We continue to believe it is relatively well positioned as a value-for-money proposition. However, it is not immune from an unfavourable macro backdrop. We expect Costa to continue to face intense competitive pressure from coffee specialists and non-specialists. Additionally, in the likely weakened consumer environment, offsetting inflationary cost pressure through pricing increases will be difficult. While the introduction of a ‘latte levy’ should not be an issue in the short term, it will likely weigh on sector sentiment. Overall, we are more cautious on Whitbread ahead of its third-quarter trading update. Bias to forecasts feels like it remains to the downside based on different revpar for Premier Inn and like-for-like assumptions for Costa. However, following the activist shareholder joining the register, talk regarding a spin-off of Costa has again come to the fore, which we think could somewhat underpin the current valuation.”

Islington-based pizzeria Zia Lucia to open second site next month, in Brook Green: Islington-based pizzeria Zia Lucia is to open a second site in London next month, this time in Brook Green. The concept, which launched in Holloway Road in June 2016, offers wood-fired pizzas with 48-hour fermented dough. The new 50-cover restaurant will open on Saturday, 3 February in Blythe Road with extra seating outside. Zia Lucia, Italian for “Auntie Lucia”, is the brainchild of Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo and offers four types of dough – traditional flour, vegetable charcoal black base, wholemeal and gluten-free. Unusual toppings include nduja, spianata salami, truffle honey, burrata, gorgonzola and vegan butternut squash cream. The menu also features Italian-style starters, seasonal specials, salads and desserts. The drinks menu focuses on spritzers, negronis, bottled beer from Italy and local brewers, and wine and prosecco sourced from small Italian producers. D’Angelo said: “The area embraces our ‘neighbourhood’ spirit and we hope to become the go-to destination for pizza-lovers in the West End.”

Wagamama sets Earth Day deadline to end plastic straw use: Wagamama is to remove all single-use plastic straws from its 128 restaurants in the UK. The company has set Earth Day (22 April) as its deadline to instigate the changes, with the seven million single-use plastic straws it uses a year replaced by a biodegradable paper alternative. Wagamama has already stopped automatically providing plastic straws with soft drinks, only serving them on request or with juice that requires stirring. The company said the amount of plastic it would remove from its chain equated to more than one million metres, enough to stretch across the Atlantic. Wagamama chief executive Jane Holbrook said: “At Wagamama we are constantly looking to make improvements, and reducing the amount of non-recyclable waste we produce is one example of our ‘kaizen’ (‘good change’) philosophy in action.” Earlier this week, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers encouraged its members to stop using plastic straws following the lead of a number of hospitality businesses.

Canterbury-based bar operator to open second site: Canterbury-based bar operator Angela Long is to open her second site in the Kent city. Long, who runs The Loft Bar in St Margaret’s Street, will launch underground cocktail venue Privy in a former toilet block on the corner of Burgate and Lower Bridge Street later this month. Situated next to the city wall, the bar will have a “saucy speakeasy theme where the essence of the 1920s will live on”, reports Kent Live. Long bought the site for £198,000 at auction in 2015 when it was put under the hammer by the city council for a guide price of £55,000. Built on the site of a former brewery cellar, the underground toilets opened in the 1930s and closed in 2000 after funding cutbacks by the city council.

Refresco offers to sell Cott Beverages processing plant in bid to quash merger concerns: Juice and soft drinks producer Refresco has offered to sell a Cott Beverages facility in Nelson, Lancashire, ahead of their proposed £935m merger. Refresco agreed to buy Cott Corporation’s businesses in the UK, North America and Mexico in July. Last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found the deal could lead to higher prices for some supermarkets and household brands, although an initial probe failed to highlight competition concerns. However, the CMA considers the merger could allow the combined businesses to increase prices or lower quality. Both companies supply juice drinks using an aseptic process, with only one other competitor in the UK. Refresco hopes the sale of Cott’s only facility that uses the aseptic process will quash concerns, with the purchaser to be approved by the CMA. The regulator has accepted Refresco’s offer in principle and has set a deadline of 14 March to decide whether to accept the proposal. Cott Beverages, which has its UK head office in Derbyshire, has been trading for more than 60 years and generates about $1.7bn in revenue.

Douglas Jack – Cineworld management should focus on breathing more life into Regal and exceeding synergy expectations: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said Cineworld’s management should focus on breathing more life into the Regal estate through refurbishments and exceeding synergy expectations. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 600p, Jack said: “Cineworld’s UK box office revenue increased by 6.3% in 2017E, with the past six weeks lifting box office only marginally, from 5.9% as at 19 November. We believe this full-year result was driven by expansion and like-for-like average spend rather than like-for-like footfall. Trading was stronger in December than November but was still not strong enough to hit our forecasts. UK retail picked up to 7.1% from 6.5% as at 19 November, whereas other income slowed to just 1.1% (lower advertising) from 5.1%. Fortunately, other income is not a major source of profit. Overseas box office grew by 8.0% in local currency in 2017E, versus 14% in the first half. In sterling terms, the year-to-date increase was 17.7%, which was slightly ahead of our forecasts. Overseas retail (+29.2%) and other income (+19.3%), both in sterling terms, were very strong. The company opened nine sites (110 screens) during 2017 (four in the UK and five in the rest of the world), as well as the acquired Empire Newcastle site (16 screens). This is slightly behind our forecast of 126 additional screens. The share price should be more sensitive to the pros and cons of the Regal deal, in particular whether Cineworld can stimulate growth in the Regal estate by applying its UK/European refurbishment model. That, and scope to exceed synergy expectations, should be management’s focus over the next months. Our long-term view is there is potential for synergies to exceed expectations and Cineworld’s management to breathe more life into Regal. Cineworld has announced the terms of the £1.7bn rights issue (before expenses). It will be on the following basis – four new ordinary shares at 157p per new ordinary share for every one existing ordinary share, resulting in the issue of 1,095,662,872 new ordinary shares. The rights issue price represents a discount of circa 34% to the theoretical ex-rights price based on 563.5p per share as at 16 January. We are retaining our ‘Hold’ recommendation (600p target price) but are mindful 8.0 times EV/Ebitda would equate to 725p per share (pre rights issue re-pricing) on our pro-forma forecasts on a two-year basis.”

Staffordshire-based micro-pub operator opens second Stoke-on-Trent site: Staffordshire-based operator John Rowland has opened his second micro-pub in Stoke-on-Trent. He has launched Manor Court Ale House in Penkhull following the success of his debut site, Johny’s Micro Pub, which he set up in Burslem in 2016. Manor Court Ale House offers a wide range of German, Belgian and Irish beers, cask ales from micro-breweries, and gin and malt whiskey. Rowland’s aim is to run a chain of ten bars in the area. He told The Sentinel: “Johny’s has been very successful and has done well in a town that has a good drinking scene. Hopefully we will get the same result here in Penkhull as I hope to open ten micro-pubs eventually.”

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