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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 21st Feb 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Dark Star to pause on pub expansion to concentrate on new Fuller’s partnership: James Cuthbertson, managing director of West Sussex-based brewer and retailer Dark Star, has told Propel the company is pausing expansion of its pub estate to concentrate on its new partnership with London-based brewer and retailer Fuller’s. The deal has seen Fuller’s take a 100% stake in Dark Star but the four-strong pub estate will continue to be run by Dark Star’s directors under a separate vehicle. Cuthbertson said the immediate focus would be on the new partnership, which would take Dark Star to the “next level”. He added: “We are catching our breath on the pubs. That part of the business still has growth left in it but we need to concentrate on the beer side for now. The partnership is really good for the business and gives us the chance to grow with a brewer rather than a bank. We very much see this as a partnership rather than a takeover. Fuller’s understands the industry and it’s great to be able to tap into that knowledge and experience. It gets what we are about and it’s a quality fit. Fuller’s doesn’t want to quash our independence, which is very important to us – we know we are talking the same language. It wants to invest in Dark Star to grow. We’ll be able to produce more one-off small batches of beer, while the Fuller’s estate of pubs also gives us a great route to market.” Cuthbertson said current trading was “good”, with January up on last year in what was a “very competitive” market. Dark Star’s four pubs are The Anchor Tap in Horsham, The Evening Star in Brighton, The Lockhart Tavern in Haywards Heath, and The Partridge in Partridge Green.

Industry News:

More than 160 sector companies book for Propel Multi Club Conference: More than 160 sector companies have booked to attend the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018. 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; Ian Edward, who is leisure advisor to Canaccord Genuity and sits on the boards of Brasserie Blanc; Seafood Pub Company and Hippo Inns; Jon Collins, former chief executive of CGA Group, who has returned to the UK after living in Chicago for two years; Sarah Bridge, former Mail on Sunday leisure correspondent and founder of the hospitality website; Iqbal Wahhab, founder of Cinnamon Club and Roast; Max Hilton Jenvey, global head of franchise for Chopstix; Alex Salussolia, managing director of Glendola Leisure; Paul Wells, chairman of Charles Wells; Bob Ivell, chairman of Mitchells & Butlers; Nick Taplin, chief executive of Black and White Hospitality; and Yasha Estraikh, of Piper.

Trade bodies call for operators’ ongoing engagement with Night Time Commission: Trade bodies have backed the Night Time Commission’s call for evidence on London’s late-night sector and called on more venues to engage on an ongoing basis. The commission, which was established by London mayor Sadiq Khan to advise on promoting the capital’s late-night economy, has carried out a short consultation seeking to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that surround London’s night-time economy, including late-night hospitality. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, who sits on the commission, said: “This is a great opportunity for businesses in and around the late-night sector to inform the commission and support late-night venues. The Night Time Commission exists to provide the mayor with independent advice directly from the sector so pubs, bars, nightclubs, music venues and more should take this opportunity to make their voices heard. The questionnaire is but one part of the commission’s efforts to support the sector and we will meet this Thursday (22 February) to discuss our findings and future efforts to promote a truly world-class 24-hour capital.” BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is vitally important London’s night-time economy is supported and continues to evolve. Partnership working between the trade and bodies such as the commission and the night tsar will help support the night-time economy.”

SRA calls on chefs to join One Planet Plate initiative: The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) has called on chefs to join its One Planet Plate campaign to “change the food system one dish at a time”. The SRA said the initiative would allow chefs to create a dish that “contributed to a better food future” and encouraged customers to “make smart food choices”. UK restaurants including Ottolenghi, Saltyard Group, Gladwin Brothers, Salon, The PIG, Poco and Modern Pantry have committed to featuring a One Planet Plate dish on their menus in time for the campaign’s launch on Saturday, 24 March – coinciding with WWF’s Earth Hour. The SRA will launch a website in early March that will store chefs’ recipes, while participating restaurants will receive a marketing pack. SRA chief executive Andrew Stephen said: “We only have one planet and we have to eat more wisely if we’re to sustain our growing population. Diners are increasingly aware of the problems in our food system but are often unaware of what sustainable food looks and tastes like when eating out. A One Planet Plate is effectively the chef’s sustainable special – his or her edible ethical endorsement.”

Birmingham gin bar scoops national award: A Birmingham gin bar has been named best in the UK. 40 St Paul’s, based in St Paul’s Square in the Jewellery Quarter, scooped bar of the year at the inaugural Icons of Gin Awards. The tiny 24-cover bar beat several London locations, including Dukes Hotel in Mayfair, as well as bars in Leeds and Glasgow. Hosted by Gin Magazine, nominations for the awards came exclusively from the drinks industry, with fellow spirits professionals voting for the winners. The award was presented to 40 St Paul’s owner Aman Johal at the Honourable Artillery Company in central London.

Harlow launches restaurant quarter: A new restaurant quarter has opened at The Harvey Centre leisure complex in Harlow, Essex, which will help to make it a “bustling town once again”. The Terrace, anchored by a Cineworld cinema, now features restaurant brands including a third site for Karali Group’s chicken wings concept Sticky Sisters, a third site for Burger Priest, the church-themed burger restaurant concept launched by Bar Sport founder Scott Murray, and Kung Fu The Real China Oriental Buffet. The Harvey Centre manager Bryan Young told Essex Live: “This is an incredible time for Harlow. In the past we’ve had a fairly limited night-time leisure offer in the town and our goal was to change this and respond to residents’ demands. Thanks to The Terrace, Harlow is becoming a bustling town once again, where people want to come after work with friends and family to eat and drink in a variety of family-friendly restaurants.”

Company News:

City District Group teams up with Pep Guardiola and Michelin-starred chef to launch Catalan concept in Manchester: City District Group, which operates Brazilian rodizio restaurant brand Fazenda, is to team up with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez to launch a Catalan concept. Guardiola and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano have invested in Tast Cuina Catalana, which will open in King Street in the summer bringing a taste of their native Catalonia to Manchester. The 120-cover venue will take over a site formerly occupied by Aria Leisure’s Middle Eastern concept Suri, which closed in August. Tast will be set over three floors, with a casual dining and bar area on the ground floor, a first-floor dining room and private rooms on the second floor. Perez has five Michelin stars to his name, including two each at Miramar in Girona and Enoteca in Barcelona – a city where he has six restaurants in total. City District Group co-founder Tomas Maunier told the Manchester Evening News: “We are hugely excited to be working with these amazing creative talents. Paco’s reputation is immense and we will serve some of his and Pep’s favourite Catalan dishes.” City District Group will open its fourth Fazenda site and first in Scotland, in Edinburgh on Friday (23 February). The other sites are in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, while the company operates sister brand Picanha in Chester.

Boxpark to launch multi-space bar concept Beatbox at Shoreditch site: Boxpark will launch multi-space bar concept Beatbox at its Shoreditch site on Thursday (22 February). The concept will offer dedicated work spaces and collaborations with Small Batch Coffee and Bristol-based Pieminister to create a “space for locals to meet during the day”. In the evening, Beatbox will offer visitors a pre-club venue as Boxpark works closely with local DJs and venues to curate a programme of events. The concept has been devised by commercial designers Brinkworth and Brighton-based interior architects Chalk Architecture. Boxpark chief executive Roger Wade said: “I love the new Beatbox bar design. We’ve worked with internationally renowned designers to create a bar based on a sound-recording studio, incorporating best-in-sound acoustic panelling. We hope to become a must-go destination for all pre-club events.” Chalk Architecture director Paul Nicholson added: “We wanted to create an interior that captured the experience of being inside a speaker. LED lighting at the perimeters will soften and animate the space enabling a transition from daytime work space to a night-time bar experience that’s all about the music.” Last week, Boxpark and developer Quintain secured planning permission for their ten-year Boxpark Wembley joint venture. The casual dining and events destination is due to open in Olympic Way at the end of the year.

Lost Rivers Brewing Co to open flagship site and headquarters in Waterloo: London-based brewer and retailer Lost Rivers Brewing Co is to open a flagship site and headquarters in Waterloo, central London, in September. The company will open the site – its fifth in total – in Leake Street featuring event spaces, a restaurant and in-house brewery. The 1,200-capacity venue, set underneath Waterloo station within four interlocked arches in the historic Leake Street graffiti tunnels, will cover 1,200 square metres. Lost Rivers Brewing Co stated on its website: “This multi-purpose venue houses the Lost Rivers Brewery – serving you beer directly from the barrel to the pump and into your pint glass. This stand-out feature is flanked by three stunning arched cellars, incorporating a destination bar, cafe, open kitchen and two blank-canvas live events spaces. High ceilings and revealed brickwork is the theme for this creative hub, the urban home to the Lost Rivers brand. The official opening isn’t until early September but the venue is available for one-off events and as a space to hire.”

Bundobust eyes third site, in Liverpool: Indian street food kitchen and craft beer bar Bundobust is eyeing its third site, in Liverpool. The company has submitted a licensing application to the city council to open a venue in Bold Street on a site occupied by bakery business Greggs, reports Your Move. Bundobust was founded by Mayur Patel, whose vegetarian restaurant Prashad was runner-up in Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant television series in 2010, and Mark Husak, of Bradford bar The Sparrow Bier Cafe. Starting life as a pop-up, Bundobust opened its first permanent site in July 2014 in Mill Hill, Leeds, followed by its second, in Piccadilly, Manchester, in December 2016.

ETM Group launches gourmet grilled cheese sandwich concept as part of Greenwood offering: ETM Group, the 13-strong bar and restaurant company, has launched a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich concept outside its premium pub and sports lounge, Greenwood, in Victoria’s Nova development. Located directly outside Greenwood in Victoria Street, G’rilla is a kiosk that offers gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with the base cheese a blend of extra mature cheddar, scarmoza and a soft and creamy raclette, while bread is made from San Francisco sourdough. Additions include mac ‘n’ cheese, saddleback pulled pork with Korean barbecue sauce, and lobster and sweetcorn. There are also weekly specials served alongside Ozone coffee. Last week, ETM reported Greenwood saw like-for-like sales increase 48% for the week ending 11 February. The venue saw revenue more than double on Super Bowl Sunday, which saw the Greenwood team pull almost 3,000 pints and flip more than 1,000 burgers.

Chucs opens third London site, in Harrods: Italian restaurant and cafe Chucs Bar & Grill has opened its third London site, inside Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The company has launched the venue within Harrods’ new fine watch room. Group executive chef Alessandro Verdenelli has created a number of exclusive dishes for the new venue, while the drinks menu features cocktails and wine. Seating 55 guests, Chucs Bar & Grill Harrods also offers a bar, while interiors have been designed to be reminiscent of a luxury yacht. Last month, Chucs appointed Carlos Martinez as group head chef to work alongside Verdenelli ahead of the restaurant launch. Harrods general manager of restaurants Mark Patten said: “I love Italian food and have enjoyed many memorable meals at Chucs. The luxurious decor and friendly staff always make me feel relaxed and I am so excited for Harrods’ discerning customers to be able to experience Chucs’ authentic offering in-store.” Chucs Restaurant & Cafe is the sister concept to the 1950s swimwear and men’s fashion label. Its other sites are in Dover Street and Westbourne Grove.

GC Mallen to reopen rebuilt Sydenham pub on Friday: Multi-site pub operator GC Mallen, led by Garry Mallen, is to reopen The Greyhound in Sydenham, south east London, on Friday (23 February) ten years after it was knocked down illegally by developers. GC Mallen has been carrying out a six-month, £450,000 refurbishment of the site after acquiring the freehold for £800,000 last summer. Work has included the addition of a conservatory and a kitchen on the first floor. There will also be two private dining rooms and a patio garden. The Greyhound general manager David Montgomery told News Shopper: “In an era where an increasing number of well-loved local pubs are transformed into alternative uses, it is wonderful we can create a new heart of the community. Although structural issues have made the project challenging, the result has been worth it. I’m local myself and, as a team, we’re excited to welcome everyone. The Greyhound stands for good food, good drink and good times.” GC Mallen operates 12 pubs.

Stonegate to open 24th Popworld site, in Selby on Saturday: Stonegate Pub Company is to open a 24th site for its Popworld brand in Selby, Yorkshire, on Saturday (24 February). Popworld champions noughties nostalgia, with a soundtrack of party hits from the decade and decadent drinks that include giant sharing cocktail Partini. Since its launch in Southampton in 2014, the company said Popworld had seen four years of growth in sales, margins and profits. Last month, Stonegate told Propel there were “many more” openings in the pipeline, while the brand had seen a 94% return on investment in the past year. Popworld Selby general manager Richard Seaman said: “Popworld is loved all over the UK and we are so excited to be landing in Selby. We have deals galore and a jam-packed schedule of events to keep people partying all week long.” A 25th Popworld site will open in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, on Friday, 2 March. Meanwhile, Stonegate has just reopened its Slug and Lettuce venue in Brentwood, Essex, following a £300,000 refurbishment. Stonegate Pub Company operates more than 690 pubs split into two divisions – Branded (Slug and Lettuce, Yates’s, Walkabout, Common Room and Venues, which includes Popworld) and Traditional (Proper Pubs, Town Pub & Kitchen, and Classic Inns).

D&D London to open second Bluebird site, at former BBC home in April: Restaurant operator D&D London is set to start expansion of its Bluebird brand in April by opening a second site, at the Television Centre development in White City. Bluebird has been a popular restaurant in Chelsea’s King’s Road for the past 20 years, with the opening at the former home of the BBC the first of a planned expansion of Bluebird cafes, including one in New York. The 5,000 square foot site will include a cafe, bar, deli and outdoor terrace. The interior will incorporate a mix of British styling from the 1960s and “modern Bluebird Chelsea glamour”. The artwork will include pieces by young British artists as well as designs inspired by Bridget Riley and Celia Birtwell. In September, the company appointed Simon Gregory as executive chef of the brand ahead of expansion. He said: “I’m incredibly excited to be a part of such an iconic redevelopment – the Television Centre couldn’t be a better home for the Bluebird Cafe. We can’t wait to bring the very best of Bluebird’s all-day dining to the west London community.” The venue will join other brands at the development including Indian small plates concept Kricket, pizza company Homeslice and better burger brand Patty & Bun, alongside a Soho House members’ club, hotel and an Electric cinema. D&D London was founded by Des Gunewardena and David Loewi in 2006 following a buyout of Conran Restaurants.

Former NOPI head chef to launch debut solo venture at St James Market next month: Ramael Scully, former head chef of Yotam Ottolenghi’s NOPI restaurant in Soho, is to launch his first solo venture next month. Scully restaurant and bar will open at the St James Market development in central London on Thursday, 1 March influenced by the chef’s ancestry – his mother is of Chinese and Indian descent while his father’s background is Irish and Balinese. Ahead of the launch, Scully has been amassing ingredients ranging from homemade spices, vinegars, pickles, syrups and preserves through to “programmes” of oil and animal fats, dairy and sprouts. Those ingredients will be used to create dishes such as grilled octopus with salt-baked avocado and black garlic, and crispy pork hock with sprouts and lime-and-beer mustard. The restaurant will feature a large sharing table, a counter dining area with stools and banquette seating, and a bar offering natural wine from Newcomer Wines and a cocktail menu inspired by the same larder approach as the kitchen. Ottolenghi told Hot Dinners: “(Ramael) has an insatiable appetite for bold and vibrant colours and irreverent blends of ingredients. His kitchen is an exciting and unexpected place to be.” Scully added: “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

Underground nightclub gets go-ahead at Croydon town centre car park: Controversial plans to launch a nightclub in the basement of a car park in Croydon town centre have been approved. The venue, Underground 2018, will host concerts, DJ sets and dance shows when it opens at Q-Park in Charles Street. The venue will also feature a bar serving beer, wine, cider and spirits. Events company Cellar Door Promotions, which previously hosted Croydon rooftop cinema and is owned by Farouk Deen, will run the club following a licensing application to Croydon Council. Following concerns over noise and antisocial behaviour, performances will have to end at 11pm unless a separate risk-assessment is completed before each event, the Croydon Advertiser reports. The licensing application stated: “The peak-time use of the site will be in the evenings where events, which will eventually form part of Croydon’s bid for Borough of Culture, will take place once the sun has set and the utilisation of the car park is at its lowest.”

Franchisee to bring Wimpy back to Shrewsbury after ten-year hiatus: Franchisee Ali Riza Akyuz is to open a Wimpy site in Shrewsbury more than ten years after the burger brand’s previous two sites in the Shropshire town closed. Akyuz will open the venue in Claremont Street at a two-storey site that formerly housed Johnsons The Cleaners. Wimpy has closed many of its restaurants in recent years in the face of competition from McDonald’s and Burger King, with its number of UK sites dwindling to about 80. However in November Famous Brands, which operates Wimpy in the UK, said new site prospecting was “under way”, while discussions with franchise partners had been “fruitful and augur well for growth prospects in the year ahead”.

Starbucks named one of world’s most innovative companies: Starbucks has been named one of the world’s most innovative firms of 2018 by US business magazine Fast Company. In recognition of the Starbucks FoodShare programme, Starbucks is included among the ten most innovative companies in the social good category for its campaign to fight hunger. In 2016, Starbucks entered into a partnership with Feeding America to create the Starbucks FoodShare programme, which provides ready-to-eat meals for people in need. To date, Starbucks has donated more than three million meals while the programme has also diverted 1.1 million pounds of food from landfill. Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list recognises firms that exemplify the best in business and innovation. Fast Company editors, reporters and contributors identified the most notable innovations of the year among submissions from thousands of companies.

Cromer-based Craft Burger closes Norwich site less than three months after launch: Cromer-based Craft Burger is to close its Norwich site only three months after launching it as part of expansion plans. The venue, which had 40 covers inside and 20 outside, opened on 1 December in the former Lillie Langtry pub in Unthank Road offering a selection of gourmet beef, chicken, pork, fish, vegetarian and lamb burgers, hotdogs, steak, ribs and chicken dishes. However, the venue will close on Saturday (24 February). A statement on the restaurant’s Instagram page read: “We have some really sad news here at Craft Burger Norwich. Due to circumstances out of our control, we’re having to close our Norwich site. But fear not, we are already looking for another location in Norwich so we’re hoping we won’t be away for long. We’d like to thank you all for your support so far.” Andrew Hubbard opened the first Craft Burger in New Street, Cromer, three years ago. Since Christmas, Norwich restaurants that have closed include The Reindeer, E Street Smokehouse and fried chicken and cocktails concept Woolf & Bird, the Eastern Daily Press reports.

Hotel Chocolat to launch shop+cafe sites in Sunderland and Derby: Hotel Chocolat is set to open shop+cafe sites in Sunderland and Derby. The Sunderland site will open in The Bridges on Friday, 9 March offering a range of cocoa-based drinks. The company will also open a shop+cafe at Intu Derby in April. Hotel Chocolat co-founder and development director Peter Harris told the Sunderland Echo: “We are thrilled to be expanding our portfolio with the launch of our first cafe store in Sunderland. Ideally placed in The Bridges, it promises to offer customers the perfect retreat, serving our signature cocoa-based drinks.” Last month, Hotel Chocolat Group reported total sales up 15% for the 13 weeks ended 31 December 2017. The business opened ten stores during the six months ended December to reach 100 stores in the UK.

Former Benares chef heads kitchen at new Dunfermline restaurant: Bishnu Neupane, a former chef at Atul Kochar’s Michelin-starred London restaurant Benares, is heading the kitchen at a new restaurant in Dunfermline, Fife. Basil has launched in Carnegie Drive at a site formerly occupied by Luigi’s Italian restaurant offering a “fine dining experience inspired by the exotic and colourful cuisine of the Indian royal court”. Owner Parsuram Sigdel told the Dunfermline Press: “I have put all my knowledge and experience into Basil to give my customers the very best service, a fantastic ambience and, of course, memorable food. We are looking to elevate our diners’ experience.”

Escape Hunt agrees deals for Birmingham and Bristol sites: Escape Hunt, the global provider of live “escape the room” experiences, has signed for sites in Birmingham and Bristol. The company has agreed deals with Hammerson to open at Martineau Galleries in Birmingham and the Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol. At Martineau Galleries, the new Escape Hunt will be in a 4,262 square foot unit on the first floor. Sarah Fox, head of restaurants and leisure at Hammerson, told Insider Media: “Escape Hunt is a fantastic addition to both Cabot Circus and Martineau Galleries. Securing an innovative tenant such as this ensures our destinations offer visitors not only the best retail mix but also a compelling range of leisure outlets that are engaging and exciting.” In December, Escape Hunt announced it was in the process of acquiring leases for eight sites across the UK.

Tynemouth-based restaurant Allard’s Lounge gets go-ahead for second site, in South Shields: Tynemouth-based restaurant Allard’s Lounge has been given the go-ahead for its second site, in North Shields. The company has been granted permission by North Tyneside Council to convert the former William Wight store at Union Quay, which closed last year. Allard’s Lounge said on its Facebook page: “We finally have all the permissions we need to get cracking. Work to start this month so Allard’s On The Quay will be open in autumn 2018.” In the planning documents, Allard’s Lounge stated efforts would be made to retain the history of the building. There would be a new shopfront based on the Highlander Hotel, which occupied the building before William Wight. Allard’s Lounge also said the emphasis of the new restaurant would be on “quality rather than quantity, offering fine food and wine”, reports Chronicle Live.

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