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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 14th Feb 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Russell Norman – Spuntino’s move into UK airports allows us to reach a new audience as well as location: Restaurateur Russell Norman has told Propel that Spuntino’s move into UK airports with The Restaurant Group Concessions (TRG Concessions) will allow the brand to reach a “new audience as well as location”. Norman, who co-owns Spuntino with fellow Polpo founder Richard Beatty, also revealed the company had no plans to add to its two Spuntino sites on the high street, while it was “scrutinising trading closely” at the venue in Wapping Wharf, Bristol. He said: “We’ve been talking to TRG Concessions for many years about doing something in airports, both with Polpo and Spuntino. It’s important to note the difference between TRG and TRG Concessions. The former creates and operates brands such as Garfunkel’s and Frankie & Benny’s, the latter operates concessions for brands that already exist in the terrestrial world. Therefore, the core values of Spuntino are as essential to TRG Concessions as they are to us. In that sense, it is a true partnership. There would be no point doing this otherwise. We see it as being ‘new location, new audience’ but with a partner that understands the importance of creating an authentic experience.” In terms of planned airport openings, Norman said: “There is fierce competition for airport sites when it comes to pitching for locations. I have personally pitched twice to airport food and beverage decision-makers and they’re a tough crowd. They want the absolute best for their terminals so you have to be extremely good. I think we’d like to get the first one open and make it an absolute smash-hit success and then see where we go.” Norman said there had been no discussions so far about extending the partnership into other travel locations. He added: “TRG Concessions is very good at airports, so we’ll start there. We haven’t talked about international expansion yet but would love to explore it in the future.” Norman said Spuntino’s Soho site was experiencing positive like-for-like sales at lunchtime, which was “something I never thought I’d see”. He added: “Trading is good in Soho, particularly in the current climate of rising rents, escalating food costs, killer rates and uncertainty over our position within the EU regarding immigration and employment law. We are experiencing positive like-for-likes at lunchtime, something I never thought I’d see, and strong evening trade. Wapping Wharf is challenging, if I’m being honest, and we are looking forward to some warmer weather in the hope it brings better trading for Spuntino and our neighbours by the waterside in Bristol. I think it’s tough for everyone there at the moment.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators: 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. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at Speakers include Tim Barrett, travel and leisure analyst at Numis, who will examine the unprecedented current cost environment in the foodservice sector and the potential winners and losers. 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. Jon Collins, former chief executive of CGA Group, who has returned to the UK after living in Chicago for two years, will contrast the US and UK markets and offer thoughts on trends and practices over there that could be ripe for adoption over here. Sarah Bridge, former Mail on Sunday leisure correspondent and founder of the hospitality website, will offer her top ten moments of hospitality, experienced on her travels in the UK and elsewhere, which could be replicated by UK operators. Iqbal Wahhab, founder of Cinnamon Club and Roast, will talk about the genesis and development of his new US southern barbecue concept Atticus and give his views on how foodservice entrepreneurs can make a difference in their communities. Max Hilton Jenvey, global head of franchise for Chopstix, which has 35 outlets, will set out how the brand has evolved since its unlikely birth at a fish and chip shop in Camden, with a focus on its rapid progress in the past two years following simplification of its cooking process, international expansion and franchising – and future plans for new concepts, a breakfast offer in transport hubs, further product development and European penetration. Alex Salussolia, managing director of Glendola Leisure, will talk about the longevity of the company’s three-strong Waxy O’Connor’s brand, which was conceived 25 years ago and is still winning major awards, and the company’s expansion into restaurant and coffee offerings such as Bar & Beef and Gordon Street Coffee. Paul Wells, chairman of Charles Wells, will talk about making a “sea-change” decision on strategy in selling its Bedford brewery to Marston’s, developing a managed pub estate, partnering great retailers and developing a pub estate in France. Bob Ivell, chairman of Mitchells & Butlers, whose brand portfolio includes Miller & Carter, Harvester, All Bar One and Toby Carvery, will talk to Propel managing director Paul Charity about progress across the company’s estate as it evolves its offer. Nick Taplin, chief executive of Black and White Hospitality, will explain how the company is developing a 50-strong franchised restaurant estate in partnership with chef Marco Pierre White, its unique brands, its USPs, partnership model and future prospects. Meanwhile, Yasha Estraikh, of Piper, will report on the findings of an exclusive survey of UK foodservice operators, undertaken in partnership with Propel, in relation to the effects of the growth in delivery opportunities on their business.

Food price rises slow as inflation remains at 3%: The rise in price of food and non-alcoholic drinks slowed as UK consumer price inflation remained at 3% in January – the same level as in December. The rate, as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), is close to November’s six-year high of 3.1%. Most economists were expecting a small fall in the Consumer Price Index to 2.9%. Food prices rose by 4%, the slowest pace in four months, as inflation dipped sharply across staples including rice, pasta, meat and dairy produce. The ONS said although petrol prices had risen 2% – less than this time last year – the cost of entry to attractions such as zoos and gardens fell more slowly. However, it said after rising strongly since the middle of 2016, food price inflation now appeared to be slowing. ONS senior statistician James Tucker said: “Factory goods price inflation continued to slow, with food prices falling in January. The growth in the cost of raw materials also slowed, with the prices of some imported materials falling.” Last week, the Bank of England indicated interest rates might rise sooner than expected when it said it wanted to get inflation closer to 2% within two years rather than three.

Inbound UK visitor numbers increase 8%: Total visitors to the UK grew 8% for the year to September 2017 as the weakness of the pound continued to make it an attractive destination for tourists, according to a new report. The latest European Tourism Trends and Prospects report also showed Brits continued to travel abroad with the majority of destinations reporting double-digit increases in arrivals from the UK. Visits to the UK by US travellers was down about 2.5%, while Japanese arrivals fell 4.8% compared with the previous year. However, the number of people travelling from India to the UK rose about 12% and from China by more than 20%. The report stated: “Growth to the UK of 8% was notable based on data to September. This influx in foreign visitors will have been aided by the relative affordability of the UK as a destination following the fall in the value of the pound as a result of the Brexit announcement. By contrast, travel growth to Ireland was slower than it has been in recent years and may be due to some substitution effect as travellers opt for the relatively cheaper UK. Strengthening economic conditions in the eurozone underpin travel demand from key intra-regional source markets such as Germany, France and the UK. In the UK, weaker exchange rates don’t seem to have hindered British tourists’ desire to travel. Although travel abroad has become more expensive for Britons, 25 of the 32 destinations reported double-digit increases in arrivals from this market. UK outbound demand remained robust throughout 2017 despite weaker sterling and more moderate economic performance. But some lagged effects of exchange rate movements are expected and, coupled with higher costs, a slowdown in travel growth is anticipated for 2018.” Europe welcomed 671 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, an increase of 8%. The report stated: “Terrorism attacks in London earlier in the year have not apparently deterred any large numbers of potential visitors to Europe. France and Belgium also grew as destinations. Travel to these destinations from European source markets recovered while some long-haul, especially emerging markets remained subdued.”

UK diners becoming ‘increasingly infatuated’ with plant-based diets as vegan restaurant openings rise: UK diners are becoming “increasingly infatuated” with plant-based diets with a “steady increase in prospective landlord interest” for vegan restaurants, according to Ross Kirton, head of UK leisure at agents Colliers International. There has been a surge in vegan restaurant openings in 2018 so far, including US plant-based brand By Chloe in Covent Garden, while City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson collaborated with his daughters and Made In Chelsea stars Lucy and Tiffany, to launch a vegan pub concept in Parsons Green last month. Kirton said: “Veganism is increasing its appeal to the health-conscious consumer and the surge of plant-based restaurants that were opened last month alone is evidence of this. Whether for health awareness or the perfectly orchestrated Instagram post, Brits are becoming increasingly infatuated with plant-based eateries. We’ve also seen a steady increase in prospective landlord interest for niche concept space as a result of this latest food trend.”

Welsh government rejects ‘tourism tax’ but BHA warns threat has not ‘completely disappeared’: Proposals for a “tourism tax” in Wales have been rejected by the Welsh government but the British Hospitality Association (BHA) Cymru has warned the threat has not “completely disappeared”. Government officials backed the BHA case and rejected the all-Wales tourism tax plans in favour of a Vacant Land Tax, one of a set of four new tax plans that were put forward in the autumn for consideration by finance secretary Mark Drakeford. However, the BHA said it was disappointed the matter hadn’t been completely dismissed by the cabinet secretary, with references made during his speech to the possibility of future discussions on permissive powers for local authorities on the issue. BHA Cymru executive director David Chapman said: “The industry’s broad message was ‘don’t top up taxes, chop taxes’ and it was listened to by the Welsh government. It saw the need to help our iconic community businesses, already facing a ‘cauldron of costs’, to boost employment and growth in key rural, coastal and urban locations in Wales. The same arguments clearly stand for any further policy discussions, local or national, that may take place on the subject.”

Pub18 reports record attendance: Pub18, the only dedicated trade show for the UK pub industry, has reported a record-breaking number of visitors. The event, held last week at London Olympia, saw more than 4,000 attendees – a double-digit percentage rise on 2017. More than one-third of attendees said the draw of discovering more about the latest industry trends had inspired their visit. Hosting more than 200 exhibitors, the event also showcased a wealth of industry knowledge via the Pub18 talks and workshops. Pub18 commercial manager Alex Booth said: “It’s great to see the show has established itself as a key date for the UK pub industry. It is vital shows such as Pub18 exist to act as a knowledge hub for publicans and we’re proud to see our audience gained such value.” Pub19 will return to Olympia London from 5 to 6 February 2019.

Company News:

Camerons hires new property agents as it looks to acquire 15 sites a year for Head of Steam expansion: Camerons Brewery has appointed new property agents as part of its expansion plans for The Head of Steam brand as the company looks to acquire up to 15 venues per year. Camerons has grown its retail managed group to 25 pubs and recently announced the acquisition of sites in Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester. The brewer has hired Space Retail Property Consultants to locate venues across the south east and London; Creative Leisure to focus on Scotland, the north west, Wales and the south west; and Campbell Property Consultants to identify opportunities in the north east, Yorkshire and East Anglia. Camerons head of property and acquisitions Mick Hill said: “We’re moving at a rapid pace and it’s essential for us to secure sites not only in the key towns and cities we’ve targeted but also ensuring we choose the right locations in these areas for The Head of Steam.” Camerons’ estate consists of more than 70 venues. It acquired The Head of Steam brand in 2014. In late December, Camerons reported revenue from its pub estate soared £16,910,712 for the year ending 30 April 2017, compared with £9,960,665 the year before.

Polpo explores small spaces format: Polpo co-founder Russell Norman has told Propel it is looking at the possibility of developing a new version of the Venetian-inspired restaurant concept that would work in smaller-sized sites. Norman and co-founder Richard Beatty recently closed the company’s regional sites in Bristol and Exeter, which had shown the “limitations of the brand in provincial markets”. However, Norman said they remained “totally committed” to Polpo as a brand and it still had a “lot to offer”. He added: “The regional closures of Polpo have shown us the limitations of the brand in provincial markets but also allowed us to focus where we know it works – high-volume urban locations with strong lunch potential and a dining out culture on weekdays as well as weekends. We are totally committed to Polpo as a brand and all three of us – me, Richard Beatty and managing director Scott Macdonald – believe it still has a lot to offer in its current guise and, possibly, in a diffusion version for smaller locations. Watch this space!” Polpo has five sites in London and one remaining outside the capital – in Brighton.

Hop Stuff Brewery to close crowdfunding campaign on Friday as it homes in on City site: Hop Stuff Brewery will close its crowdfunding campaign on Friday (16 February) to secure the funds required for a site in the City of London. Founder James Yeomans told Propel he was in negotiations over a site in Farringdon, which he estimated could add circa £3m of revenue to the company annually. Hop Stuff is currently raising funds on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and, having exceeded its initial £400,000 target within 48 hours of launch, the company is now “overfunding” towards a maximum of £800,000. So far, 874 investors have pledged £695,280 in return for a 2.7% equity stake in the business. Yeomans said: “We’re aiming to complete the City deal by the end of the month. It’s an exciting opportunity and we’re closing the crowdfunding on Friday at 4pm so we have the money to move quickly. If it works out, we could have the site open by April.” As previously reported by Propel, Yeomans is also in negotiations over a site in Greenwich, south east London, as he looks to add to taprooms in Woolwich and Deptford with a third launching in Ashford, Kent, next month. Yeomans said: “We want to open two more taprooms this year after Ashford so if both these deals come off that would be great but it’s not critical. If we are able to secure both then in the second half of the year we would probably look at investing in our infrastructure and maintaining the current sites rather than acquisitions.”

Joel Kissin’s Mayfair restaurant Boulestin enters administration: Boulestin, the Mayfair restaurant owned by Joel Kissin, who pioneered a succession of London gastro-domes with Sir Terence Conran in the 1990s, has entered administration. The restaurant, based on the establishment of the same name that operated in Covent Garden from 1927 to 1994, has appointed Griffins as administrators. Boulestin was suffering under a heavy debt load relative to its size. According to the last filed accounts for 2016, it owed £188,164 due within one year. Meanwhile, Kissin lent the business £2.4m in an unsecured loan. The original Boulestin was opened by Xavier Marcel Boulestin, who is credited with being the first television chef after appearing on the BBC between 1937 and 1939. Kissin launched the reimagined Mayfair restaurant in homage to Boulestin in 2013. The business continues to trade but it is yet unclear whether administrators will sell the venue as a going concern, reports City AM.

Bonnie Gull launches late-night dining at Soho seafood shack: British seaside restaurant concept Bonnie Gull has launched late-night dining at its “seafood shack” in Soho. The restaurant in Bateman Street, which launched in December 2016, will open until midnight, from Monday to Saturday, and until 10pm on Sundays. The company has also appointed a new head chef, James Erasmus, who has worked at The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms, at its flagship Fitzrovia site. Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy founded Bonnie Gull in 2011 as a pop-up in Hackney, opening the Fitzrovia venue five years ago. Last December, the company raised more than £240,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to support expansion plans and to launch grab-and-go concept Salt ‘n’ Sauce, which will open in Oxford next month. It proposes to open further sites in Bath, Brighton, Cambridge, Exeter, Edinburgh, Manchester, St Andrews, Winchester and York, with ambitions to go international. Further Bonnie Gull restaurants are also planned.

Freehold of City building let to WokIt goes on market for more than £1.2m: The freehold of a building in the City of London let to healthy Asian takeaway concept WokIt has gone on the market for offers in excess of £1.2m. The property in Cornhill, which is being marketed through agents Allsop, comprises A3 accommodation across lower-ground, ground and first floors along with a retail unit that houses WokIt. The unit is let to WokIt for a term of 15 years from May 2017 at a rent of £70,000 per annum, reflecting a net initial yield of 5.51%, after purchaser’s costs of 5.93%. The first rent review is in May 2022, with five-yearly, upwards-only rent reviews thereafter. Wokit was founded in December 2012 with its first store opening in Borough Market. The Cornhill site opened in May last year.

Bel & The Dragon to bolster accommodation offer: Bel & The Dragon, the Longshott-owned collection of country inns across the south east, is set to launch additional bedrooms at four of its six sites this year. Following the debut launch of five rooms at its Reading venue, a further 13 rooms are being added across the estate – meaning all sites will have accommodation by the end of 2018. In January, Reading had two premium double bedrooms, two doubles and one single room added. Next in line will be the Cookham site, which will double its accommodation with five bedrooms created in an adjacent cottage opening this month. It will offer two premium double bedrooms and three standard doubles. Additional bedrooms are also under construction at Kingsclere, where two bedrooms will be added, and Windsor will complete the expansion with the addition of six debut rooms. Chief operations officer Hector Ross said: “It’s fantastic to see our new bedrooms creating an added dimension to our much-loved country inns and we’ll be delighted to offer rooms at each of our six sites by the end of the year. We have huge demand for accommodation across the group so we expect these developments to really boost business and revenue.”

Filmore & Union to strengthen John Lewis partnership with Newcastle opening: Healthy eating cafe and restaurant company Filmore & Union will strengthen its partnership with John Lewis this month with an opening at its Newcastle department store. Filmore & Union will launch on the first floor on Tuesday, 27 February and, with 120 covers, will be the brand’s largest to date and the second within a John Lewis store. Filmore & Union currently has 16 restaurants and takeaway delis across Yorkshire and the north east, including in Newcastle Central train station and Jesmond. Founder and owner Adele Ashley said: “This addition to our portfolio in the north east means we now have a train station deli, a small suburban daytime eatery in Jesmond, and a bigger restaurant in the heart of the city’s shopping and nightlife district. This is similar to the way we’ve grown in Yorkshire, building a regional chain that retains its independent feel with a strong local supply chain.” Karen Matthew, head of branch at John Lewis Newcastle, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Filmore & Union into our shop and be part of its expansion. We are sure our customers will love its fresh and wholesome food and we are able to offer our customers another option to refuel and refresh in addition to our Place To Eat.”

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen to relaunch at Institute of Light next month: Best-selling author Zoe Adjonyoh is to relaunch her Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen concept next month at a new site in London Fields. Adjonyoh, who closed her debut site at Pop Brixton last month, will begin a residency at The Institute of Light (IoL) that will run until at least the end of this year. The venue will feature a new menu of dishes inspired by her travels, as well as old favourites from her Brixton site. New dishes will include small plates designed to eat with your hands, larger dishes such as plaintain pork belly and a menu of cinema snacks specially created to pair with a pre-show drink. Adjonyoh said: “Being back in east London feels like a true homecoming. It’s where Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen began, at the Hackney Wicked arts festival, and to think how much we’ve grown is mind-blowing. I’m a huge admirer and long-time patron of the IoL, and to be laying down roots in such a wonderful space is a real honour. We’ve been working at creating loads of new and exciting dishes but getting people familiar with African flavours is still what we’re all about. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to get started on the next adventure.”

Four West Country resort hotels brought to market after chain enters administration: Four West Country resort hotels have been brought to market after Richardson Hotels and Fowey Hotel, part of the Richardson Group hotel chain, entered administration. Agent Colliers International has been instructed by joint administrators Mark Boughey and Matthew Wild, of RSM, to sell The Metropole Hotel in Padstow; The Falmouth Hotel in Falmouth; The Fowey Hotel in Fowey; and The Grand Hotel in Torquay. All continue to trade on a business as usual basis. The 58-bedroom Metropole is next to Rick Stein’s flagship restaurant and features a brasserie, bar and restaurant with views across Padstow harbour. The hotel is set in a 1.5 acre site, offering potential for development. The grade II-listed Falmouth Hotel overlooks Castle Beach and has 71 bedrooms. The boutique Fowey Hotel overlooks the estuary, with 37 rooms, a bar and restaurant. The 132-bedroom Grand Hotel is on Torquay seafront and features a bar, brasserie, restaurant and three function rooms. Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt said: “These landmark properties occupy outstanding positions in some of the best-loved West Country resorts. They have dominated their local hotel landscape for years and now offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for operators.” The hotels are available individually, in clusters or as a group.

Online food-ordering firm Appetise eyes restaurant partnerships to cut packaging: Birmingham-based online food-ordering firm Appetise has said it plans a series of initiatives to encourage its restaurant partners to reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging used in deliveries. The company, which is running a £500,000 crowdfunding campaign to scale up in Birmingham before expanding to “other key regions in the UK”, said polystyrene takeaway boxes had been identified as a major contributor to single-use plastic pollution. Initiatives include reduced commission for restaurants that use bio-degradable containers, promotion of restaurants based on their packaging methods, and a voluntary consumer contribution to environmental charities based on the amount of plastic wrapping in their delivery. An Appetise spokesman said: “Part of Appetise’s brand message is to share the benefits of the growth in online ordering more equally – and we believe this should include the wider community.” Appetise, which has Revolution Bars Group executive chairman Keith Edelman as its non-executive chairman, is offering a 16.67% equity stake on its fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in return for investment. So far, 89 investors have raised £116,410 with 16 days remaining.

Former Ledbury chef to head kitchen at new neighbourhood restaurant concept in West Hampstead: Former Ledbury chef Matt Osborne is to head the kitchen at a new neighbourhood restaurant concept in West Hampstead, north west London. The new concept, Ham, is the brainchild of Rose Tuckey and David Houten, who will take over a space occupied previously by La Brioche in West End Lane. Osborne, who has also worked at Terroirs and was in the opening team for The Other Naughty Piglets, will serve brunch and dinner at the restaurant starting the day with crumpets, honeycomb and Westcomb ricotta with pear, and Bircher muesli with almonds, Hurdlebrook yogurt and rhubarb. Dinner dishes will include raw beef with English wasabi, ginger and shallots; Cornish brill with verjus sauce, Pink Fir and mussels; and chocolate crémeux with blood orange sorbet and peppermint. The restaurant is scheduled to open in early March, Hot Dinners reports. Osborne states on the restaurant’s website: “Ham is the Anglo Saxon word for home. It is still present in many UK place names. Hampstead literally means ‘homestead’. We want everyone who visits us to be shown the same care we would show guests in our own home.”

Lincolnshire-based Japanese restaurant to open second site, in Grantham: Lincolnshire-based Japanese restaurant Katana is to open its second site in the county, in Grantham. The company will open the venue in an empty unit at The George Centre at the end of the month. The restaurant, which will have capacity for almost 100 diners, overlooks Guildhall Street. A focal point will be the teppanyaki tables, which will allow diners to watch chefs cook dishes in front of them. Deepak Chatri, one of the partners behind the business, told the Grantham Journal: “There is no Japanese restaurant in Grantham at the moment. However, this is not just a Japanese restaurant, it is modern Japanese with teppanyaki and sushi.” Katana opened its debut site in Spalding in 2016.

Worcester-based former professional rugby player expands speciality coffee shop into Birmingham: Former professional rugby player Sam Smith is expanding his Worcester-based speciality coffee shop into Birmingham. Smith, a former Worcester Warriors and England under-20s winger, launched Wayland’s Yard in Foregate Street in October 2016 after injury forced him to end his career. He has now acquired a site in Bull Street, Birmingham, which is due to open in March. Smith told Insider Media: “Having to stop playing rugby was devastating as I hoped to play for another nine or ten years, but I’m really pleased with how Wayland’s has progressed this year. My dream was to create a venue that champions speciality coffee, supports local suppliers and serves great food in a unique and exciting space. We’ve become established in Worcester and saw a real opportunity to continue to share our passion for proper coffee and food by launching into the busy city centre of Birmingham.”

Marston’s gets go-ahead for Brackley pub and hotel development: Marston’s has been given the go-ahead to build a pub and hotel in Brackley, Northamptonshire. The company has been granted permission by South Northamptonshire Council for the development in Northampton Road. Marston’s will now build a 6,619 square foot pub, a 7,685 square foot, 46-bedroom lodge with two meeting rooms, and 99 parking spaces. Planning officers said the proposal was “acceptable in principle and was not considered to be detrimental to the character and appearance of the area”, reports Insider Media. In its application, Marston’s stated: “The architectural style adopted for the proposed development derives from historical precedents including the coaching inn, tavern and public house and integrates these with the contemporary concept of eating and drinking as a social family event. The style reflects a contemporary and modern feel with traditional values of a public house.”

Loungers launches Cosy Club in Lincoln: Cafe brand Loungers has opened a Cosy Club in Lincoln city centre, its 21st site for the brand. The Lion Capital-backed group has launched the venue at Lincolnshire Co-op’s new £12m Cornhill Quarter retail and leisure scheme, which will be anchored by Everyman Cinemas alongside four other brands. Cosy Club managing director Jake Bishop told The Lincolnite: “The magnificent grade II-listed Corn Exchange building caught our eye as it fits perfectly with our ‘mansion splendour meets village eccentricity’ ways. We like every customer to leave feeling splendid, which we’re confident will be the case at this beautiful building.” Loungers was founded in 2002 in Bristol by Bishop, David Reid and Alex Reilley. The company operates 115 venues across its Cosy Club and Lounges brands. Previously, chief executive Nick Collins told Propel the company was looking at 40 locations as it continues to build its pipeline for 2018 and beyond.

Durham-based operators turn Old Billingham funeral parlour into micro-pub for second site: Durham-based operators Neal Gray and James Nielsen, who own Hydes Bar in Norton, have transformed a former funeral parlour in Old Billingham into a micro-pub for their second site. They have opened The Village Crossing, named because it is close to the village’s zebra crossing, in partnership with Sean Kennedy. It focuses on real ale, gin and rum, alongside coffee, tea and cakes to attract daytime trade. The micro-pub features leather sofas, high stools and church pews, while the zebra crossing theme continues with one featuring a giant picture of The Beatles’ Abbey Road cover. Pub manager Joanne Lowe told Gazette Live: “We had a lady in who said we had ‘saved the village’, which is quite a bold statement. We are bringing people to an area that has been quiet and is lifting its game and becoming established again. The owners aren’t finished yet, they’re planning more pubs in Billingham. We are always looking.”

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