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Wed 6th Jun 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Jamie Oliver boss – we’re reconnecting with customers by going back to our roots: Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group chief executive Jon Knight has told Propel the company is working to reconnect its founder with customers. Having seen the Jamie’s Italian business undergo a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that led to the closure of 12 restaurants, Knight said the business was getting back on track by going back to its roots. He said the company would concentrate on making the most of the Jamie Oliver name, including pushing the new Jamie’s Italian menu, which the chef has been promoting on social media and television. Knight is visiting restaurants twice a week to hold customer focus groups – ten of the 26 UK restaurants have held the sessions so far. Knight said: “Jamie couldn’t have been more supportive of what we’re trying to do and he’s doing as much as he can to promote the new menu. There has been a disconnection between Jamie and the restaurants and we are bringing that back. We took the competition for granted a bit. There’s so much choice out there. We have to make sure we are creating a USP to entice customers.” The company has cut menu prices by 8% and increased dishes from about 40 to 54 as it looks to disconnect from discounting. Knight said: “Our focus is on growing sales and being less reliant on discounts. We’re also investing a significant amount in the restaurants.” Knight, who ran the international business before becoming chief executive in October, also said growth would come through partnerships with caterer Aramark and food travel specialist SSP. With Aramark, Jamie’s Italian is to open work place “canteens” with the first location to be revealed within the month. Meanwhile, three projects are being explored with SSP – two in the UK and one overseas – that will see the partnership expand outside Europe. Knight said: “We have to look at opportunities away from the high street, where the landscape has changed significantly. There’s scope in office environments while the Boxpark format also interests me – 2018 is about stabilising the UK business, 2019 will be about growing internationally and away from the high street and in 2020 we can look again at restaurant opportunities in the UK.” Knight said the CVA had given him sleepless nights but the business was now in a better place. He added: “It was something we had to do but thinking about the lives and jobs it was going to affect kept me awake. Thankfully, the numbers weren’t as high as we initially thought. At the same time, there were 1,800 people looking to me to protect their employment. I’m satisfied with where we are at the moment. If you can fix a business in difficult times, imagine what we can do when the market is on the up again. We will come out of this a lot stronger.”

Industry News:

Propel summer conference and party open for bookings, more than 250 people confirmed: More than 250 people are now booked for this year’s Propel summer conference and party – operators can claim up to two free places. The event takes place on Thursday, 5 July at The Oxford Belfry. This year we have the usual great conference followed by crazy golf at Junkyard Golf in Oxford plus a barbecue and live band karaoke back at the hotel. The speaker line-up is Matt Coles, of Morar HPI’s food and drinks team; Peter Edwards, chief operating officer of Zonal; sector consultant James Hacon; Martin Morales, restaurateur, chef and entrepreneur known as the pioneer of Peruvian food; Angela Malik, board member of the London Food Board; Gavin George, chief executive of Laine Pub Company; Matthew Kirby, chief executive of Chozen Noodle; David Abrahamovitch, founder of genre-busting Grind; Andreas Karlsson, group chief operating officer of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi; Simon Mitchell, managing director of Kerb; James Baer, managing director of Amber Taverns; and HGEM insight manager Rich New and lead client manager Jason Horn. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing or calling her on 01444 817691.

Pubs and restaurants perform strongly as consumer spending rises 5.1% in May: Pubs and restaurants performed strongly as consumer spending grew 5.1% year-on-year in May – the highest level since April 2017, according to the latest consumer spending data from Barclaycard. Pubs and restaurants saw increases of 12.5% and 8.9% respectively, with spending in pubs during the early bank holiday weekend up 19%. The experience economy looks poised to hold strong as better weather sets in, with many consumers set to adjust their spending accordingly to make sure they don’t miss out on the summer’s top sporting and music events. Almost one-quarter (22%) of Brits intend to spend more on experiences this summer. Of those, more than one-third (35%) plan to visit specific events such as festivals, while 20% said major sporting events were likely to draw them to the pub more often than usual. Despite Brits allowing themselves to enjoy the sunny weather, a degree of caution remains. While maintaining the overall steady levels seen earlier this year, the number of consumers expressing confidence in their household finances has weakened slightly to 57%, down from 62% in April. What is more, despite inflation falling to a 13-month low in April, fewer than one in ten consumers (9%) have felt a positive impact on their spending power. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “Although a degree of caution remains, UK shoppers felt confident enough to let themselves enjoy the sunny weather in May. Looking ahead, it seems the experience economy will remain a top priority as consumers plan to treat themselves to major music and sporting events. In the next few months, we expect to see families carefully balancing their budgets to ensure they don’t miss out on their must-see and must-do experiences of the summer.”

BBPA – digital payment initiatives must not add burden to pubs: The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said any government involvement in transforming the digital payments market must not unfairly burden cash-based businesses such as pubs. Responding to the Treasury’s consultation on cash and digital payments in the new economy, the BBPA highlighted the EU Payment Services Directive, which came into force in January, which has seen many pubs require a minimum spend to offset the cost of providing digital payment services to their customers without passing the cost on through higher prices. The BBPA said the cost of offering a digital payment service can be as much as 20p per use to the publican and, as the average cost of a pint in the UK is £3.39 for beer and £3.05 for cask ale, many pubs have to set a minimum spend on digital payments to cover margins. The association also reminded the Treasury that cash-based entertainment such as betting machines and pool tables formed an important part of a pub’s offer and the government should look at accepting digital payments for such options in the future. Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “A shift towards digital payments across the world of commerce is clearly taking place. While this can be good for busy pubs where payments at the bar are much faster for customers, government intervention towards such innovations needs to be well thought through. If not, cash-based businesses such as pubs could be unfairly burdened. In due course, it would be good to see an increase in the maximum limit for contactless payments from £30 to £50.”

Middlesbrough Town Hall teams up with food market to launch venture supporting budding restaurateurs: Middlesbrough Town Hall bosses have teamed up with food market Orange Pip for a new venture that supports budding restaurateurs. The Orange Pip Kitchen will support some of the region’s best independent chefs, cooks and food creatives by opening the town hall’s kitchen for three-month residencies. The first residency will be The Waiting Room – Luke Harding’s vegetarian restaurant in Eaglescliffe. Keren Pearson, commercial events manager for Middlesbrough Town Hall, told BDaily: “Orange Pip Kitchen will provide a platform for aspiring chefs and foodies at all stages in their career, developing and experimenting with innovative menus that push creative boundaries. There is a wealth of talented chefs and street food entrepreneurs in Middlesbrough who are working towards opening their own restaurants. This venture will allow us to support those burgeoning businesses while providing an exciting and diverse offer to the public.” The monthly Orange Pip Market offers street food from its location in Baker Street.

Company News:

Former Intertain chief operating officer Simon Kaye joins pasta and grappa concept Morso to aid growth plans: Former Intertain chief operating officer Simon Kaye has been appointed non-executive director of pasta and grappa concept Morso to help with the company’s growth plans. Morso is the brainchild of Paolo Vernetti, a former chef at Jamie’s Italian and Carluccio’s. Alongside Vanessa Vaz, commercial director Barak Peled and Barry McCaughley, he has created an all-day restaurant and bar concept that combines fresh pasta and small Italian bites with grappa-based cocktails. Morso launched as a pop-up last year and will open its debut permanent restaurant in St John’s Wood, north London, on Wednesday, 13 June with plans to open a number of “community-centred” sites in key London neighbourhoods by 2020. The menu includes signature creations such as egg yolk raviolo and grappa-cured salmon gravadlax. The bar will offer more than 20 grappa bottles and a dozen grappa-based cocktails. Peled said: “We’re really excited to have Simon on board. We have ambitious growth plans and it is vital to have somebody with us on this exciting journey who has done this several times over.”

Las Iguanas launches bespoke experiences on Airbnb: Las Iguanas, the South American-inspired restaurant brand owned by Casual Dining Group, has partnered with Airbnb to offer experiences through its accommodation platform. The brand is offering a monthly “chef’s table” in Bloomsbury hosted by its head of food development Glenn Evans, and cocktail masterclasses at its flagship restaurant at the Southbank Centre. Participants in the chef’s table will sample dishes from across Latin America, learn about the cuisine in detail and try making their own dish. Head of bar development Luke Neale will host cocktail masterclasses, where participants can make classic cocktails ahead of a three-course meal in the restaurant. Evans said: “We’ve found so much inspiration on our travels and I enjoy the challenge of translating our discoveries into delicious dishes that taste just as great in the UK as they did on the beach in Rio or on the banks of the Amazon in north west Brazil.”

Camm & Hooper to continue seeking sites despite economic uncertainty ‘dampening’ some large event spends: Imbiba Partnership-backed events and hospitality group Camm & Hooper has said it plans to continue seeking sites during the next couple of years although the current financial climate is having a “dampening effect on some large event spends”. The company set out its aims as it filed its latest accounts at Companies House, which reported turnover increased to £8,785,962 for the year ending 27 August 2017, compared with £6,638,045 the previous year. Ebitda was up to £2,001,783, compared with £1,608,178 the year before. Pre-tax profit fell to £186,648, compared with £289,886 the previous year. Camm & Hooper now operates five sites having opened Grace Hall in the City of London in November. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The City sites exceeded expectations this year but the future pipeline business suggests the uncertainty due to Brexit remains, particularly in the City of London, and is having a dampening effect on some large event spends. Our catering contract with Lucas Gardiner has enabled us to maintain our underlying food margins year-on-year due to periodic review of menus and annual price reviews – but price pressures remain. Overall events margins have also been maintained. The objective of the business is to continue to find new sites for development over the next couple of years.” The number of employees at the end of the period increased to 95 from 82 the previous year.

Sri Lankan street food operator Coconut Tree seeks sites for expansion as it closes in on third restaurant: Sri Lankan street food operator Coconut Tree, which operates restaurants in Cheltenham and Oxford, has appointed Fleurets to secure further sites for expansion. The agent said it believed Coconut Tree had agreed terms on a site in central Bristol for its third restaurant, while it plans to expand throughout major towns and cities in the UK. The concept was founded by five Sri Lankan friends who have been supported by brand director Anna Garrod, former managing director of Po Na Na and more recently head of brand and revenue for The Lucky Onion as part of her consultancy business. The Coconut Tree serves tapas-style Sri Lankan street food accompanied by “cocotails”. Garrod said: “Cheltenham and Oxford have been welcomed by customers and critics alike and we believe strongly in the brand, which we are confident will work throughout the UK. The quality of the food and atmosphere sets us apart and we are excited about the next phase of our growth.” Kevin Conibear, head of urban markets at Fleurets, added: “The Coconut Tree is a great example of an innovative new brand that is making the UK restaurant and bar market so exciting at present. Good-quality concepts from emerging operators are thriving and The Coconut Tree has quickly established itself as a highly respected bar and restaurant backed by an experienced team with the quality to grow throughout the UK.”

McDonald’s completes UK self-service kiosk programme as it looks to speed US roll-out: McDonald’s chief executive Steve Easterbrook has said the company’s self-service kiosk programme has been completed in the UK as it looks to speed the roll-out of the initiative in the US. The company plans to expand the number of restaurants with self-service kiosks in the US, adding them to 1,000 of its restaurants each quarter for the next two years. McDonald’s first started offering the self-service option about two years ago and is now beefing it up with new ways for customers to order and pay, including via mobile phone. The self-service kiosks allow customers to view the menu, customise their options and request table service. Easterbrook told CNBC: “What we’re finding is when people dwell more, they select more so there’s a little bit of an average spend boost. Particularly in the US, the restaurants have got a bit tired looking so part of this is also about having a much fresher, more inviting restaurant.” The self-service programme is more advanced in international markets and is fully complete in Canada, the UK and Australia, Easterbrook said, with some locations in France and Germany almost ready with the new technology. He added: “We know it helps grow the business – it’s the right route to go down. We can’t get there quick enough in the US.”

SSP to operate 22 units at Paris train station in €428m contract: SSP, the UK operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has unveiled the details of a €428m (£374m) contract to operate 22 units at Montparnasse station in Paris. The outlets will include a range of premium brands from celebrated French chefs including Pierre Hermé, artisan baker Gontran Cherrier, and pastry chefs Yann Couvreur and Christophe Adam. There will also be a Starbucks store, healthy grab-and-go restaurant EXKi, a restaurant from leading French premium burger brand Big Fernand and French bakery and cafe Brioche Dorée. The units will be located across all four levels of the station as well as in the metro station. The openings will take place across three phases with the first opening of 14 units set for December this year. This will be followed by three units opening in December 2019 and a further five in October 2020. Gérard d’Onofrio, managing director of SSP France and Benelux, said: “We are confident our new units will delight the range of passengers who travel through the station. The varied mix of brands will showcase everything from exciting concepts from renowned French chefs to popular and well-known names and has been carefully crafted to meet the needs of passengers travelling through a thriving metropolitan city.” Montparnasse, one of France’s busiest stations, is expected to welcome 90 million passengers in 2020 and is currently undergoing a major reconstruction.

Albion and East secures third site as it joins The Bower development: Albion and East Group, which is supported by The Imbiba Partnership, has secured its third site, at The Bower development in central London. The company has agreed a deal with landlord Helical for a flagship ground-floor unit in The Tower building. Albion and East has said it will use the space in Old Street to launch an as yet unnamed concept to build on the success of its restaurants Canova Hall in Brixton and Martello Hall in Hackney. The group said the new venture would offer dishes from its trademark Italian American-influenced all-day menus alongside its own gin, which will be distilled on-site. It joins existing foodservice brands within the scheme that include Bone Daddies and Honest Burger. On track for completion in July, the addition of The Tower building marks the final piece of The Bower as a new central London estate. It comprises 312,000 square feet of office space alongside a range of food and beverage concepts. Nikki Dibley, development executive at Helical, told Property Week: “Albion and East will be a perfect fit for The Bower, complementing the other food and beverage offers we have. I believe our occupiers and the surrounding community will greatly enjoy the Albion and East experience.”

JD Wetherspoon to operate new St Pancras International pub The Barrel Vault: JD Wetherspoon is to operate 6,500 square foot pub The Barrel Vault, which will open at St Pancras International this autumn as part of the train station’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The name has links to part of the station that originally stored beer barrels. The ground-level pub is part of a £2m development that will create 60 jobs and seat 270 people plus standing room and a terrace. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told Propel: “We are looking forward to opening the new pub at the iconic St Pancras. We believe the pub will be a great asset to the station and will be welcomed by travellers and visitors alike.” Wendy Spinks, commercial director of HS1, which owns and operates St Pancras International, added: “The Barrel Vault complements the station’s offer perfectly.”

New World Trading Company bids to bring Botanist to Bath: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group The New World Trading Company has submitted plans to bring its Botanist brand to Bath. The company plans to transform empty grade II-listed Octagon Hall in the city centre into a bar, creating 50 jobs. Documents submitted to Bath and North East Somerset council show a proposal for a venue offering cocktails, live music and food at 25 Milsom Place. Octagon Hall was built in the 18th century and was last used by Burger & Lobster with bar restaurant The Confessional in the basement. However, the site has been empty since January 2017. Originally a chapel, the building has also been used as Royal Photographic Society headquarters, a drama studio, and a cafe and cinema for Bath Spa University. P4 Planning argues in documents on behalf of the applicant that The Botanist would improve Bath’s city centre economy – insisting suggested late opening hours would be crucial to making the business viable. A separate listed building application and application for conservation area consent will also be submitted, Somerset Live reports. New World Trading Company, which also operates The Florist, The Oast House, The Trading House and The Canal House, was acquired by Graphite Capital for £50m in June 2016. It currently operates 15 sites for The Botanist and in March submitted plans to open a site in Exeter.

Indonesian concept Warung Jawa opens third street food stall, at Old Laundry Yard: Indonesian concept Warung Jawa has opened its third street food stall, at Old Laundry Yard in Shepherd’s Bush, London. The brand is joined by newcomers who are relocating to the street food space – YouTube influencer Food Busker and Venezuelan street food trader Papelon. Warung Jawa operates at Hammersmith and Herne Hill markets focusing on slow-cooked dishes. Its Old Laundry Yard menu will add barbeque dishes and black coffee sourced from the owner’s family farm in Java. Food Busker, aka John Quilter, has more than 20 million viewers on his YouTube channel and will continue his taste tests after relocating his kitchen/studio from Shepherd’s Bush Market while launching a series of community workshops. Papelon is relocating from Rupert Street market and focuses on traditional Venezuelan dish cachapa. Old Laundry Yard launched in April on the site of a disused laundry. It also features a bar, 72 shipping containers and a central food square. The project is being developed by specialist regeneration company U+I.

Camden Dining Group transforms former horse hospital into immersive space: Camden Dining Group, which is led by entrepreneur Roger Payne, has launched a multi-faceted immersive space at a 200-year-old former horse hospital at Camden Stables Market. FEST Camden incorporates a club and live music hall, a rooftop garden with outdoor bar, themed party stables, a cabaret club and a pizza restaurant. The main room has a Bondi Beach theme, with surfboards, neon palm trees, skylights, booths and a high-end sound system. The space will host club events and live music. All World Cup matches will be screened at the year-round roof garden alongside live acoustic music by day, DJs at night, craft ale, cocktails and wood-fired pizza. FEST Party Stables are individually themed spaces such as Garden Party (featuring artificial grass, climbing plants and garden seating), and Cocktail Party (1970s corner bar and retro furniture). Live entertainment concept The Birdcage Cabaret will launch on Friday, 15 June inspired by the musical La Cage Aux Folles and offering a three-course dinner, a cabaret show and dancing. A separate pizza restaurant will also open in the venue’s south wing. Camden Dining Group operates Camden venues Gabeto and Shaka Zulu as well as the Chicago Rib Shack brand, which operates five restaurants in London and one in Leeds.

Tapas Room and American-inspired street food brand Hanks to join Deptford Market Yard line-up: Donostia Social Club founder Paul Belcher is to open the second site for his Tapas Room concept, in Deptford Market Yard on Thursday (7 June). Belcher launched the first Tapas Room at Tooting’s Broadway Market in May last year. The new Basque-inspired wine shop, tapas bar and delicatessen will be larger than the Tooting space and offer counter dining and banquette seating alongside a central tasting table. Belcher said: “We’re so excited, not only to be opening our second site but to have found another vibrant London community to connect with. We love the idea of the Tapas Room being the local go-to place to shop, eat and learn about wine.” Tapas Room will be joined by a debut permanent site for American-inspired street food brand Hanks. Opening later this month, the venue will be across the road from the site where founders Victoria Thake and Simon Drake sold their first sandwich in 2014. Exploring and developing its American-style menu, Hanks has traded at markets that include the relaunched Southbank Centre and Kerb, and will now return to Deptford in the form of Hank’s Burgers + Beers. The menu will focus on local and fresh ingredients, complementing its selection of aged beef patties and Cajun fries along with locally produced craft beer and soft drinks.

More than 18,000 hospitality workers receive wine education through Bibendum’s blended learning approach: More than 18,000 hospitality professionals across the UK are now receiving their wine education via UK drinks distributor Bibendum’s new blended learning approach. Six months on from the launch of its in-house platform, Bibendum reported customer sign-ups continue to increase, with candidate feedback averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars. The platform is tailored to each user’s individual experience and preferences, with users able to complement classroom sessions with learning on the go. Modules can be accessed in any order and as many times as a candidate wants. Bibendum chief executive Michael Saunders said: “I’m excited about the opportunity we have to change the landscape of education within the hospitality industry. By moving our training beyond the four walls of the classroom, we are reaching a much wider audience.”

Camerons bans plastic straws and partners with Toast Ale as it continues to cut carbon footprint: Camerons Brewery has removed plastic straws from its estate of 28 managed pubs and introduced new beers from Toast Ale, which brews ale using surplus bread. The companies will also launch a 5% keg wheat beer called Stottie, with all profits going to Toast’s charity partner Feedback. Camerons said it has also moved to reduce energy waste, investing in technology to cut steam usage by 30%, while it is exploring options to reduce electricity consumption and has introduced tracking to check recycling rates. Chief executive Chris Soley said: “Each year we are highlighting different areas in the brewery where we can look to reduce waste. One of the key parts, however, is ensuring staff are fully supportive – making sure they take time to recycle goods appropriately and highlight areas they believe will help the brewery run more efficiently. It is also great to work alongside Toast on a collaboration beer and we look forward to seeing it on sale this summer.”

HIT Training launches hospitality academy: HIT Training has launched a hospitality academy that will sit alongside the Hospitality Team Member apprenticeship and offer a practical programme focused on delivering “exceptional customer service”. The company launched its chef academy three years ago, which has supported more than 1,000 apprentices to date. Apprentices at the HIT Hospitality Academy will receive targeted, workshop-based training that will hone their craft, teach new skills, build confidence, and boost job satisfaction and productivity. The workshops will take place primarily at partnered client sites such as breweries, vineyards, distilleries and roasteries. Attendees will spend time with industry experts in key areas such as mixology, pairing, service style and presentation. HIT Hospitality Academy principal Jeremy Scorer said: “The one area you must shine as a business is customer service, yet foundation skills in this area are often overlooked.” HIT Training managing director Jill Whittaker added: “In this fast moving and highly competitive industry, top performing staff can make all the difference to business growth and career satisfaction.”

The Ivy Collection teams up with National Cookery School Guide to offer ‘restaurant recipes’ experience: The Ivy Collection has teamed up with the National Cookery School Guide and its grocery partner Waitrose to host a “restaurant recipes” experience. Executive chef Gary Lee will host the event at the Waitrose Cookery School in Finchley Road, north London, on Thursday (7 June), followed by dinner at The Ivy. Launched in 2016, the guide lists the UK’s top 50 cookery schools. National Cookery School Guide founder Simon Davis said: “Bringing London’s most celebrated restaurants into the partnership is an exciting and natural progression.”

Isle of Wight hotel brought to market for £1.5m: A hotel in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight has been brought to market off a freehold guide price of £1.5m. The Brunswick Hotel offers sea views and features 31 en-suite bedrooms, an open plan lounge and bar, games room, 70-cover restaurant, a four-bedroom penthouse, two heated swimming pools, a sauna and car park. The Victorian, three-star hotel is owned by Peter and Joy Bushby and currently trades between Easter and November. Christie & Co senior business agent Richard Wood, who is handling the sale, said: “With such a beautiful setting overlooking Sandown Bay, this residence benefits from £100,000 income per annum and a full complement of staff, who will transfer with the business. The business also presents great potential to further expand trading hours.”

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