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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 23rd Feb 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ei Group to launch ‘barrel top’ pizza concept: Ei Group is launching a “barrel top” pizza concept to help its publicans tap into the pizza market. The new offer will be unveiled at EiLive2018 – Ei Publican Partnerships’ annual series of nationwide trade shows that start next week. The offer has been specifically designed to support publicans with all aspects of developing and running a “commercially attractive pizza proposition”. It also caters for pubs that currently operate without a food proposition. A bespoke, high-quality, pre-rolled dough made to the specific requirements of the group has been sourced for the offer, along with a range of other ingredients. A suitable set up will be recommended depending on the needs of the site. Ei Group head of food Paul Farr said: “We have focused on identifying key trends across the eating out market and supporting our publicans with simple offers that tap into them and drive sales. We’re confident barrel top can deliver tangible results for all our publicans. Barrel top will be an evolving offer as we aim to take key learnings from our managed estate and share best practice with publicans across our wider portfolio, creating additional value across the entire business.” Publicans interested in barrel top will be able to understand more about the concept at EiLive2018, where it will have a dedicated space at all five shows. They take place on Tuesday (27 February) at Elland Road, Leeds; Thursday, 1 March at NEC Birmingham; Tuesday, 6 March at EventCity, Manchester; Tuesday, 13 March at London Olympia; and Tuesday, 20 March at Ashton Gate, Bristol.

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.

Business leaders hopeful for growth amid mounting challenges: Leaders in the eating and drinking out sector anticipate a tough year of trading in 2018 but remain confident on future prospects, according to CGA’s 2018 Business Leaders’ Survey. The annual poll of senior industry leaders revealed operators have entered this year on the back of a difficult 2017. For the first time since the survey launched, more leaders (33%) reported their performance had been below expectations during the past six months than above expectations (26%). Only a third of leaders (34%) said they were optimistic about the eating and drinking out market as a whole over the next 12 months. The survey found the dip in confidence was the result of a number of challenges, with business rates the leading cause for concern, followed by the National Living Wage, rising food costs, and market saturation. After a string of stories about casual dining restaurant closures of late, there are also mounting concerns that supply is outstripping demand. Difficulties are being “intensified” by Brexit, with two-thirds (67%) of leaders saying their business had been negatively affected amid fears of staff shortages, especially in London. Many brands are looking to scale back openings in 2018, with 60% of leaders predicting fewer new entrants to the market this year than last. Nine in ten leaders (90%) expect to see more business failures in 2018 than in 2017. Despite this, almost two-thirds (64%) of leaders are optimistic for their company’s prospects in the next 12 months, compared with 68% at the start of 2017. Only 9% are pessimistic. Drinks-led operators are the most optimistic (43%), compared with 30% of food-led company leaders. With evidence of a more sustainable level of supply in drinks-led venues, this part of the market is tipped for a better 2018 than restaurants. CGA chief executive Phil Tate said: “With property, people and food costs rising and the twin threats of saturation and Brexit looming large, brands face something of a perfect storm of challenges this year. But this is a very resilient industry and our poll shows there are bright spots and opportunities for growth in the market too. People will continue to enjoy eating and drinking out in 2018 and operators that can best understand and deliver the experiences consumers crave will be the winners in an ultra-competitive market.”

BTC calls for ‘non-discriminatory’ long-term immigration system and help to build home-grown talent: The British Takeaway Campaign (BTC), an industry umbrella body led by Just Eat, has called for a “non-discriminatory” long-term immigration system that prioritises skills and sector shortages, and help in building a “pipeline of home-grown talent”. The BTC’s calls follow the publication of quarterly migration statistics that show a fall in EU net migration during the past year. Among measures the BTC has called for in its submission to the Migration Advisory Committee are for the government to revise the Shortage Occupation List to include specialist chefs; minimise limits on free movement; create a 12 to 24-month visa for low-skilled migrants that bind them to an employer; and provide support and incentives for the takeaway industry to invest in training employees locally. BTC chairman Ibrahim Dogus said: “With a third of takeaway restaurants experiencing skills shortages, particularly chefs, and more than a third saying Brexit will make it more difficult to recruit staff, it’s vital the immigration system enables the sector to access the skills it needs from inside and outside the EU. The BTC is calling for the development of a long-term immigration system that doesn’t discriminate between EU and non-EU migrants and instead prioritises skills and sector shortages – helping to support thousands of takeaway restaurants. This needs to go hand in hand with investment in high-quality vocational training to build a pipeline of home-grown talent.”

Industry needs to ‘further improve relationship with education sector’ to make hospitality ‘first-choice career for future generations’: The industry needs to further improve its relationship with the education sector to make hospitality a first-choice career for future generations, according to Perceptions Group, the nationwide pubs and careers programme. Ahead of the forthcoming Pub & Bar Careers Apprenticeship Week, which is organised by Perceptions Group, chairman Keith Knowles said: “We still have a long way to go in educating those who regulate our sector as to the huge contribution hospitality makes to the economy of this country. We also need to further improve our relationship with the education sector as we are set to grow by 4.3% creating 19,000 more jobs by 2020. We need to be on the careers agenda as a first choice with the generations to come.” Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown is supporting this year’s event, which will take place at the House of Commons on Tuesday, 6 March during National Apprenticeship Week. Brown, who was brought up in a pub and shot to fame after winning the seventh series of the television show, will take to the stage to demonstrate her baking techniques. More than 120 young apprentices from sector employers, trade associations and training companies will meet with ministers and MPs to showcase opportunities in the industry. Knowles added: “We have had a fantastic response this year. More than 70 MPs have already registered their attendance and this year we have an increase in the number of parents attending as well as good representation from the education sector.”

Company News:

Be At One reveals ‘strong pipeline for year’ as it reopens debut Battersea site following £200,000 revamp: Cocktail bar specialist Be At One has revealed it has a “strong pipeline for this year” as it reopens its debut site, in Battersea, following a £200,000 refurbishment. The site in Battersea Rise has undergone a transformation to feature a new exterior, centre-stage gold bar, neon signs, mural artwork and wood-panelled walls. Chief operating officer Andrew Stones said: “We’re really excited about this investment. It’s an important and nostalgic project for the company as Battersea was the first Be At One bar having opened in 1998. We have put a great deal of thought into the look and feel. We want to continue the pace of our current momentum and this includes revamping our existing portfolio of bars as much as it does opening new venues. This project follows a similar recent programme at our Hammersmith bar, with excellent results, so we’re extremely excited to see how the Battersea bar is received by our customers. While the bar has a slightly different look to some of our others, it definitely still holds the classic Be At One feel. Guest experience continues to be at the forefront of everything we do and we want our customers to enjoy the new surroundings as the Be At One they know and love.” Be At One plans to expand its portfolio of 33 bars – 17 in London – to more than 70 in the next five years. Stones added: “We continue to actively seek new bars in locations that culturally match our offering, which is something that is incredibly important to us as a business, and have a strong pipeline for this year.” Be At One, which is backed by Piper, was founded in 1998 by Steve Locke, Leigh Miller and Rhys Oldfield. 

Pizza Pilgrims looks to ‘retain family feel’ as it continues expansion: Pizza Pilgrims, founded by brothers Thom and James Elliot, has said it will look to retain the brand’s “family feel” as it continues expansion. The company will open its latest site in London Bridge in May, the brand’s eighth in the capital and ninth overall. The restaurant will open at a 2,000 square foot site in Bermondsey Street close to the train station but the brothers are already eyeing further opportunities for expansion. They told Property Week: “We’ve got another restaurant lined up but we want to grow at the right pace. We don’t want to rush. We’re ambitious but at the same time we’re not willing to expand at the cost of either the offer or the people who work for us. We want to stay independent and retain the family feel we’ve created.” Earlier this week, the company appointed Gavin Smith, formerly of Wahaca, as operations director to lead its next stage of growth. Pizza Pilgrims’ other London sites are in Soho (two venues), Covent Garden, Shoreditch, West India Quay, Exmouth Market and a space at Swingers crazy golf club in the City.

Farringdon-based French restaurant and deli La Ferme opens second London site: Farringdon-based French restaurant and delicatessen La Ferme has opened a second London site, in Primrose Hill. The brand has taken over a site in Regent’s Park Road that was formerly occupied by Italian bar Negozio Classica. La Ferme has opened across basement, ground and mezzanine levels covering 1,440 square feet. The brand offers traditional French dishes featuring seasonal artisan produce, often sourced from France. Ben Freeman, leasing agent at Shelley Sandzer, which brokered the deal, said: “Primrose Hill, and Regent’s Park Road specifically, is the perfect location for La Ferme’s second restaurant. The brand will fit right in with this friendly neighbourhood, which is already home to a thriving restaurant scene offering wine bars and alfresco dining.”

Jamie Oliver closes Jamie’s Deli site in Bath: Jamie Oliver has closed his Jamie’s Deli site in Bath. A note on the door of the Milsom Place venue read: “We are sorry to inform you that we are now closed. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the loyal, warm custom over the years.” Meanwhile, the neighbouring Jamie’s Italian site is set to close next month, reports the Bath Chronicle. The restaurant is one of 12 set to close following the approval of a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) earlier this month. Under the terms of the CVA, the company will also shut sites in Bristol, Bluewater, Chelmsford, Greenwich, Harrogate, Kingston-upon-Thames, Milton Keynes, Piccadilly Diner, Reading, St Albans and Threadneedle Street in London. It will also be able to secure rent reductions on the remaining estate. Earlier this week, Oliver placed Barby, the parent company that owns his Barbecoa sites in St Paul’s and Piccadilly in London, into administration. The assets and lease of the St Paul’s site has been bought by another division of Oliver’s restaurant group, while the Piccadilly site has been closed and remains in administration.

Street Feast to open fourth year-round site, in Woolwich: Street Feast, which is operated by London Union, is to open its fourth year-round site, this time in Woolwich, south London. The company is taking over the Plumstead Road Covered Market for two years prior to the area’s redevelopment. The site will feature eight street food traders, five bars and seating for up to 300. The street food operators will consist of Yum Bun, Yumplings, Burger & Beyond and Ink, which serves lime-salted cod nuggets. Another four traders will make their street market debut – Salt Shed, which offers cured short rib; rotisserie chicken concept Henhaus; Lava Bar, from the team behind You Doughnut, serving molten puddings topped with cereal milk ice cream; and Woolwich trader Rust Bucket Pizza Co. Drinks-wise, there will be the Market Bar for cocktails and craft beer, wine at Street Vin, Gin Kitchen, pina coladas at Rumhole, and a pool table bar – Union Bar Pool Deck. There will also be a trampoline mezzanine for children, reports Hot Dinners. 

Vegan doner kebab concept What The Pitta to launch debut bricks and mortar site next month: Vegan doner kebab concept What The Pitta is to launch its debut bricks and mortar site next month. The concept, which is the brainchild of British-Turkish friends Cem Yildiz and Rojdan Gul, currently operates at Boxpark’s Croydon and Shoreditch sites. They will now launch a permanent site in Bayham Street in Camden Town on Friday, 9 March. What The Pitta’s kebabs feature non-genetically modified soya chunks marinated in a blend of Middle Eastern spices and grilled. The contents are then stuffed into hand-made pitta bread and loaded with homemade hummus, tzatziki and salad, Hot Dinners reports. Yildiz and Gul were inspired to launch What The Pitta when Gul’s uncle in Freiburg, Germany, taught them the secret of his vegan doner kebabs.

Tom Kerridge to launch first London restaurant: Two Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge is to open his first London restaurant. He will take over the kitchen at the five-star Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall, with his as yet unnamed “British brasserie” replacing Massimo restaurant on the ground floor of the 283-bedroom hotel. The venture is due to open after the summer and marks a change of direction for Kerridge, whose career to date has focused on Marlow in Buckinghamshire, where he opened The Hand and Flowers in 2005. Kerridge launched a second pub in the town in 2014 and last November he opened The Butcher’s Tap, a joint venture with Greene King. Kerridge told the Evening Standard: “We are incredibly excited about this opportunity to bring a bit of what we are doing in Marlow to London. We are looking forward to doing what we do best – quality British cooking that is modern and exciting.” Corinthia Hotel London managing director Thomas Kochs added: “It is important to be an integral part of the city and for our guests from London and internationally to experience true British hospitality. When we met Tom, we knew he was the perfect partner to open a restaurant together. We admire his approach to food, restaurants and his spirit of hospitality. I am confident that together we will create an incredible dining experience.”

Ellory owners to launch Parisian bistro concept after acquiring Shoreditch site: The owners of the soon-to-close Michelin-starred Ellory restaurant are set to launch a Parisian bistro concept after acquiring a site in Shoreditch, east London. Jack Lewens and Ed Thaw have secured the lease of Edwin’s French Wine Bar, just off Great Eastern Street, through agent Christie & Co. The specialist wine bar, which underwent a refit in 2013, comprises a lobby, an open-plan interior with bar counter and seating for 50 covers, and a kitchen. It also has outside seating that provides 25 covers. Lewens and Thaw are currently rebranding the venue, which will be called Leroy. William Langton, business agent at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, said: “With 60,000 square feet of new workspace under development directly opposite the premises and due to be operational in the near future, the buyers saw an opportunity with lengthy remaining terms of lease in addition to the assurance of new footfall to the area.” Ellory, based in Mare Street, Hackney, will host its last service on Sunday, 4 March with Leroy due to launch on Monday, 19 March. The website stated: “The name is one of our pet names for Ellory since many people couldn’t seem to say our name properly. Some things will be the same – but many will be different.”

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted to open fifth Bodega site, in Sutton Coldfield next month: Birmingham-based multiple operator Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues is to open a fifth site for its Mexican bar brand Bodega Cantina, in Sutton Coldfield next month. The company has invested £150,000 in the venue, which will open on Monday, 5 March in Birmingham Road on the site of a former bathroom store. The brand specialises in street food such as burritos, nachos and tacos, alongside burgers, larger plates and Mexican and South American cocktails. Its interior focuses on iconic South American imagery including sugar skulls, Mexican wrestlers and football. Owner Matt Scriven told Birmingham Live: “Opening Bodega in Sutton Coldfield has been on my radar for more than three years now and I’m very excited that we’re finally able to bring our South American-inspired hospitality to this vibrant area. We’ve recently updated our food and cocktail menus as well as our website and it feels like now is a really important time in the development of Bodega.” Bodega Cantina launched in Birmingham in 2010 followed by Worcester, Derby and Leicester. Bitters ‘n’ Twisted also operates Birmingham’s The Victoria, Island Bar, The Jekyll & Hyde, Buffalo & Rye and Marmalade.

Turkish concept Turquoise Kitchen & Bar to open fourth site, in Yeovil: Turkish concept Turquoise Kitchen & Bar is set to open its fourth site, in Yeovil, Somerset. The brand, which offers dishes from south eastern Turkey, will open a restaurant at the end of March in Middle Street in the town centre that was formerly occupied by all-you-can-eat" buffet restaurant The Real China. The brand’s menu includes hummus, falafel, laver bread, moussaka, shish and kofta kebabs, and lamb ribs. The other Turquoise sites are in Wrexham, West Bromwich and Woking, while the company is also looking to open a site in Dorchester, according to Somerset Live. The Turquoise Kitchen & Bar website states: “With more than 30 years’ experience in Turkish cuisine, our dishes are second to none. The region has a huge diversity and fusion of cultures, and its cuisine from all over the world is known as ‘food paradise’. All our kebabs are grilled on real charcoal flames, tava dishes, lahmacun and bread in our wood-fired oven. Ingredients are sourced from reputable suppliers to ensure tat we are getting the best produce on the market every day.”

Former Kitty Fisher’s head chef to launch Shoreditch solo venture next month: Tomos Parry, former head chef of Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair, is to open his first solo restaurant next month. Brat will launch in Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, on Saturday, 17 March drawing on Parry’s Welsh heritage and influences from the Basque region of northern Spain. Brat, a colloquial term for “turbot”, will offer a menu favouring seasonal British produce and cooked on an open grill. The first-floor restaurant will feature art deco wood-panelling and large steel-frame windows. The open kitchen and ovens will sit at the heart of the room, surrounded by a counter bar with high stools. Parry will collaborate on the wine list with Keeling Andrew & Co, a new wine import company set up by the founders of Noble Rot. Parry said: “Since leaving Kitty’s, I’ve been working closely with farmers and fishermen to create a menu structured around native ingredients at the peak of their season. For me, the simple pleasure of eating well is what Brat is all about. It’s a place I would want to eat – whether that is one dish with a glass of wine at lunch or settling in at the counter for a few hours.”

Hampshire-based Palm Group restaurants to open seventh site: Hampshire-based Palm Group restaurants is to open its seventh site – in Deane, near Basingstoke. The family-owned company will open a restaurant, provisionally named The Palm Brasserie, in June offering “international cuisine with an Asian twist”. The company currently operates four restaurants in Hampshire – Gandhi Indian Restaurant and Palm Pan Asia, both in Winchester, The Shapla in Alresford, and Thai Lounge in Ropley – as well as Goa Balti in Everleigh and Palm Indian Restaurant in Froxfield, both near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Three of the Hampshire sites have been shortlisted for the Asian Restaurant Awards, organised by the Asian Catering Federation, with the winners announced at a ceremony on Monday, 5 March.

Former Lasan chef director to open Birmingham restaurant: Aktar Islam, former chef director of Birmingham-based group Lasan, is set to open a restaurant in the city. Islam will launch the venue near the business district this spring. He told Birmingham Live: “I am looking forward to going back to my roots! As a proud Brummie, I’ve always championed my city’s food scene and now is my chance to continue to give back with something I hope people will feel is special. The place is set to be one of Birmingham’s iconic restaurants. Watch this space. I don’t want to reveal too much just yet but the focus is most definitely on true gastronomy and culinary exploration.” Islam stepped down from his role as chef director of Lasan in September last year to pursue other opportunities in the industry. His former business partner, Jabbar Khan, launched Lasan in the Jewellery Quarter in 2002 with £11,000 in his pocket. Since then, the group has expanded into an £8m business that includes Fiesta del Asado, Nosh & Quaff, Raja Monkey Cafe and Izza Pizza in Selfridges.

Free-of-tie lease of Highgate pub brought to market: The free-of-tie lease of The Winchester Hall Tavern in Highgate, north London, has been brought to market by Davis Coffer Lyons on behalf of Mulberry One Capital. The landlord is seeking to let the property on a free-of-tie commercial lease with rental offers invited. The property covers 3,000 square feet in shell condition over ground floor and basement. It occupies a prominent corner location close to Highgate underground station. Davis Coffer Lyons associate director Connie Start said: “The Winchester is a much-loved community asset with a long history dating to 1881. The name derives from Winchester Hall, a late 17th century mansion nearby. The pub is currently closed, providing a significant opportunity for a new operator to bring this beautiful converted Victorian building back into the community.”

The Works to open third site, in Chelmsford in April: Husband-and-wife team Roger and Elaine Bolton are to open a third site for their fast-casual urban-style restaurant The Works, this time in Chelmsford, Essex. The Boltons will open the venue in the redeveloped Next building in Springfield Road on Monday, 30 April. The Works offers artisan ice cream, which customers can see created in front of them, alongside snacks such as crepes, waffles, hot drinks and desserts, milkshakes, smoothies, cocktails, beer and a range of sparkling, red and white wine. The Works was founded in 2014, with its other restaurants in Aylesbury and High Wycombe. There are also further expansion plans to follow the Chelmsford opening, of which Roger Bolton told Essex Live: “It will have the same core and personality but a few added pieces. We are doing a bit more on the cocktails and a bit more on the bar range.”

Former Noma chef eyes Manchester for solo venture: Former Noma chef Simon Martin has announced plans to launch a “destination” restaurant in Manchester. Mana will be Martin’s first solo venture and he is currently hunting for sites in the Ancoats area of the city. He told the Manchester Evening News: “When we were looking at opening a restaurant it was always going to be Manchester. I love the people. I love the city – it’s got an amazing food scene. We want to give people the best food and beverages but without the bells and whistles. It’s not going to be a place where you sit for four hours to get through the menu, a 12-course menu for us should take no longer than 90 minutes. We want to create a fun, high-energy, exciting and interactive environment. We’re ready to be compared to Noma because of my experience but it’s important we get the word out that we are different. Noma is a restaurant I love. I sacrificed everything to work there and it was an amazing experience of my life – but we have our own ideology, our own goals.” Earlier this week, Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez revealed plans to head the kitchen at new Manchester restaurant Tast.

BrewDog and The Alchemist partner with Trail: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog and The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, have signed agreements with operations management app Trail. The deals see BrewDog introduce Trail’s checklist platform in all 34 of its bars in the UK and Europe, while The Alchemist is set to go live with the Trail solution. Trail’s platform gives a step-by-step list of daily tasks to help operators maintain standards and best practice across multiple sites. BrewDog operations director James Brown said: “There’s no point introducing tech for the sake of it, we fundamentally know the roll-out of Trail enables us to work smarter, enhance our daily operations and drive efficiency at all levels of our business.” The Alchemist operations director Mark Burville added: “Trail is a fast and convenient way of controlling our compliance and we’ll be rolling it out across our estate shortly. We have exciting expansion plans for the future and see Trail helping us on that growth journey as it’s so intuitive to use.” Trail co-founder and managing director Joe Cripps said: “We’re delighted to add two great brands in BrewDog and The Alchemist to our growing portfolio of multi-site pub and bar customers. Our platform can be tailored to the wants and needs of businesses so they can reinforce best practice, culture and processes across their estates.”

Plans lodged for SA Brain brewery redevelopment featuring bars, restaurants and food hall: Plans have been submitted to turn SA Brain’s brewery in central Cardiff into a new development featuring restaurants, bars and a food hall beside the River Taff as the company prepares to move to a new home. The first phase of the plans by developers Rightacres Property, which have been lodged with the city council, include a 12-storey financial centre, which would be the biggest commercial property scheme in Wales. Known as The Ledger Building, the ground floor would include a 15,000 square foot indoor hall showcasing Welsh chefs, food and drink. The site would also include 1,000 apartments and 50 bars and restaurants, as well as a 300,000 square foot university campus. There would also be a 650-space multi-storey car park. The listed brewery and iconic chimney would remain as central features. SA Brain is moving to a new brewery at Courtney House in the Pacific Business Park, which is 1.5 miles from the city centre. Chief executive Scott Waddington told Insider Media: “We are well under way with our relocation plans and looking forward to moving to our new home. Not only is our existing site offering such an exciting development for central Cardiff but it also affords us the opportunity to invest in a state-of-the-art brewery and office facility to take our business forward to its next phase of development.”

Goodbody – Dalata valuation broadly up with events: Goodbody leisure analyst Rachel Fox has said Irish hotel operator Dalata’s valuation is “broadly up with events”. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares, Fox said: “Dalata will report its FY17 results on Tuesday (27 February). We forecast FY17 revenue of €347m, +19% year-on-year, and Ebitda of €103m, +21% year-on-year. We are relatively comfortable with our forecasts given the group had a pre-close update in December and management noted trading had been strong across 2017. No major revpar growth surprises are expected given that in December the group reported revpar growth to November of 9.5% in Dublin, 8.7% in provincial Ireland and 10.4% in the UK. While Dalata’s UK hotels generally outperform the wider UK hotel market, we remain cautious on the overall UK hotel market given economic uncertainty and deterioration in recent revpar data. We will be looking for factors that can see Dalata’s UK estate continuing to outperform. Given the group is in roll-out mode in the UK from 2019 onwards, a new opening announcement would be received well and show progress on its target to open circa 1,200 rooms per annum. Across 2018 the group currently plans to open 516 rooms in Dublin, 228 in provincial Ireland and 237 in the UK. The majority of these hotels are second-half weighted. While these hotels will have little contribution to 2018 numbers, we expect an update on the expected timings of new openings and guidance on any potential opening costs. Given the group’s strong free cash flow yield from 2019 onwards, we think a maiden dividend would make sense. We continue to believe Dalata management are top operators and the Irish hotel market will remain in good shape in 2018 given the strong domestic backdrop. However, we think there is limited scope for upside surprise to revpar growth given the level of supply coming onstream in the second half of 2018 and tougher comparatives. In our view, at circa 12 times EV/Ebitda the valuation remains up with events and we retain our ‘Hold’ recommendation.”

JD Wetherspoon to open Liskeard site in May: JD Wetherspoon is to open a site in Liskeard in Cornwall (population: 9,417) in May. The company is converting the former Taylors Garage in Barras Street into a pub, which will be called The King Doniert. The two-storey building will feature a first-floor terrace and beer garden, creating 30 jobs. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Herald: “We are looking forward to opening our new pub in Liskeard on 22 May. We believe the pub, The King Doniert, will prove popular with a wide variety of people and be an asset to the town. 

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