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Fri 22nd Jun 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pod removes posters advertising mini-bond after Propel intervenes over potential to mislead small investors: London-based healthy eating brand Pod has removed posters advertising its mini-bond after Propel pointed out their potential to mislead small investors. The posters, which were in the windows of all its 24 stores, advertised the investment by inviting customers to “own a piece of Pod”, providing customers with an exclusive opportunity to invest £200 or more before the campaign goes live to the public on Monday (25 June). Pod is seeking £200,000 through the mini-bond to open a site in London Bridge and it plans 11 new outlets during the next three years. The company will offer a mini-bond that will pay 8.5% annual (gross) interest rolled up and paid as a single lump sum on the maturity date after two years. However, within a few hours of Propel pointing out to Pod the posters were misleading, they were removed. A spokeswoman said: “Thanks for pointing out the potential for misunderstanding with the wording on these posters. We have asked the shops with these posters to take them down immediately to avoid any such issues arising.” An initial email sent to customers and seen by Propel also stated: “The time has come – you will soon officially be able to own a piece of Pod as our Pod investment bond is set to publicly launch on 25 June. At Pod, we’ve got grand ambitions for our growth and we are launching this bond to provide you with a chance to invest in our passionate and pioneering business.” A second email also seen by Propel introduced Code Investing, which is managing the mini-bond, with any mention of ownership now removed. Both emails do contain “debt risk warnings” at the bottom. A source told Propel: “All the language (in the email) implies equity and the reader is led to assume that, if the company was sold, they might achieve a huge multiple return on their ‘investment’. This non-existent upside is dangled as a carrot to persuade people to accept the high risk associated with investing in a loss-making business and to connect the idea of a ‘bond’ to equity ownership. In fact, you provide an unsecured loan to Pod, which will be paid back in 2020 if the company is still solvent.” Latest accounts available at Companies House for Pod show that for the year ending 25 December 2016, the company saw pre-tax losses increase to £383,964 compared with £260,714 the previous year. Turnover fell slightly to £17,041,451, compared with £17,324,966 the year before.

Industry News:

Nine in ten hospitality managers believe more should be done to cut risk of allergen contamination in supply chain: Nine in ten hospitality managers believe more should be done to reduce the risk of allergen contamination in the supply chain in the face of a global “allergy epidemic”, according to new research by supplier management solutions provider Trade Interchange. The study, part of a white paper entitled On High Alert: Allergens In The Foodservice And Hospitality Supply Chain, also found 80% of hospitality businesses say their customers are requesting more information about allergens in the supply chain. However, the research confirmed businesses were meeting the challenge head-on, with more than four-fifths (84%) already working to improve visibility in the supply chain, while more than three-quarters (79%) believe supply chains should be more transparent. Three-quarters of those surveyed also believe there should be an increase in the number of items included on the current 14-strong “hit list” of allergens that must be labelled under EU law. Trade Interchange co-founder and managing director Mike Edmunds said: “It is of paramount importance businesses work towards enhanced supplier management to reduce the chance of contamination from allergens.” 

UK and European hotel revpar slows in May compared with solid growth in US and Asia: Revpar in the UK and European hotel markets slowed in May compared with solid growth in the US and Asia, according to Morgan Stanley’s latest Global Hotel Revpar Tracker. UK revpar fell 0.3% year-on-year in May, compared with a 0.7% fall in April. Occupancy grew 0.5% in May compared with a 1.0% fall in April, while room rates declined 0.8% versus a 0.3% rise the previous month. UK revpar is now 24% above its prior peak. The two-year growth rate was 8.2% in May, compared with 5.0% in April and a 5.8% average during the past 12 months. London revpar fell 4.5% in May, compared with minus 2.0% in April, with a 3.7% decrease in room rate and a 0.9% decline in occupancy. Meanwhile, regional revpar grew 2.5% in May versus minus 1.0% in April, with 1.4% room rate growth and occupancy growth of 1.0%. The midscale and economy segment, in which Whitbread’s Premier Inn operates, grew 1.7% in May and 0.6% in the three months to May and is “starting to outperform the market”. Morgan Stanley stated: “We estimate minus 2% like-for-like revpar growth for Premier Inn in the first quarter and think this will be one of Whitbread’s slowest quarters since 2009.” European revpar fell 1.0% year-on-year in May, compared with 5.2% growth in April. Revpar was driven by room rate growth of 0.1% and a decline in occupancy of 1.2%. The weakness was driven by Germany, the UK (London), and Spain (leisure demand shifting to the eastern Mediterranean). Morgan Stanley said: “European revpar growth is still balanced between rate and occupancy, suggesting scope for further room rate increases – and we are not that far through this cycle.” US revpar grew 3.3% year-on-year in May, compared with 4.2% in April. Asia-Pacific revpar grew 5.3% year-on-year in May, compared with 9.8% in April.

Restaurant app Likemeal launches to help diners find the best dishes: Restaurant app Likemeal has launched to help diners find the “most recommended dishes on any menu”. Likemeal founder and chief executive Sergey Novikov said diners often suffered from “menu paralysis” in restaurants, not knowing the best option to choose. Diners can consult the app to find the most popular dish on a menu or search for local recommendations. Users can save their favourite dishes to build a “taste diary” and share it with the Likemeal community. Novikov said: “Likemeal makes going out for food less of a risk, with helpful insight from other Likemeal users into exactly where the best food can be found and what not to miss on menus. When you plan your visit to the opera, theatre or cinema you do your research on what show will give you the most satisfaction in exchange for your time and money. Likemeal uses this same principle – it’s like a movie trailer for eating out. We are actively signing up restaurants so they can treat our community with discounts and perks. We want our Likemeal community to feel special. Our community is growing daily, meaning we’re cataloguing the world’s great dishes one by one!”

Company News:

Mentor Inns puts nine sites on market: Mentor Inns has put nine of its 12 freehold sites on the market. The pubs, located across the south and east of England, are being marketed by agent Christie & Co. Christie & Co is seeking offers in excess of £3.8m for the entire portfolio, with opportunities to purchase as sub-groups or as individual assets. The pubs are Claytons & The Glasshouse in Barnstaple, Devon; First & Last in Herne Common, Kent; The Arcade in Exeter, Devon; The Fox Inn in Ellisfield, Hampshire; The Lounge in Trowbridge, Wiltshire; The Quarryman’s Rest in Bampton, Devon; The Rusty Axe in Stembridge, Somerset; The Wheatsheaf in Drayton, Oxfordshire; and The White Hart in North Tawton, Devon. Christie & Co stated: “This opportunity represents an attractive, low-maintenance investment with experienced tenants in situ at each site. Further opportunities to invest for capital and rental growth are available for those with the appetite to do so.” Neil Morgan, managing director – pubs and restaurants, who is handling the sale, added: “The Mentor Inns group is a fantastic opportunity at a perfect time as the UK licensed sector is seeing excellent-value growth, which is fuelling considerable appetite for desirable assets. The high level of quality, sought-after locations and attractive investment potential of these pubs means we are sure to see interest from a range of prospective investor buyers.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen reports 46% growth in experience sales, chief outlines ‘critical’ value of apprenticeships: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the brewpub business led by Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, has reported a “dramatic upturn” in sales of its beer and brewing experiences. The company said almost 12,000 guests had attended its masterclasses and brewing experience days in the past 12 months, with sales growing 46%. Gumbrell said: “Our food and beer-matching experiences are now available across all 19 brewpubs and in only three months we delivered more than 300 pre-booked experiences. We aim to continue to be the market leader. This is our fifth year as a beer-driven experience provider and helping guests choose a beer with each dish has been central to the skillset of our now 90 beer specialists across the group. Brewhouse & Kitchen has always strived to remain on point in terms of meeting ever more demanding consumer requirements. Last month, we reduced our cask beer lines and installed four keg beers to widen our range and improve throughput with our own cask lines. The switch has yielded a 12.6% uplift in our own-beer sales in just six weeks.” Gumbrell said the company would employ four new brewing apprentices to cope with further expansion. Looking at the context of a possible post-Brexit skills shortage, he added: “A skills deficit in addition to a potential shortage of hands on deck to keep businesses moving contribute to an underlying problem that, under the Brexit umbrella, could escalate with speed. A contributing factor is the disproportionate focus on an academic path of progression and higher education, meaning that as a nation we’re in a race to tread water – attempting to attain better statistics but all the while taking an eye off health and wellbeing in the workplace. The answer is simple – balance the disproportionate focus on higher education and skilled workers across the private sector’s backbone of staff and focus on the critical value of apprenticeships to bring our workforce up to speed. Given that a vast proportion of the UK hospitality arena is underpinned by EU migrants, the skills gap will never be closed by ripping the underbelly of our workforce from beneath it.”

Rockfish sets autumn date for sixth site and first new-build as it plans 16 venues along the coast: Rockfish, the seafood restaurant group founded and run by restaurateurs Mitch Tonks and Mat Prowse, has said it plans to open its sixth site, in Exeter in November. The venue at Exeter Quay will be the company’s first new-build site. A spokesman told Devon Live: “Our longer-term plan is to grow the business to 16 units along the coast. Other sites are being looked at. Traditionally, you can enjoy great seafood in a takeaway or high-end restaurants. However, there’s nothing in between where families who want to enjoy great fish and chips and more adventurous seafood lovers who want to eat oysters and local fish can sit under one roof in a relaxed environment. We think eating seafood by the water is the best way to enjoy it too. We are really excited about this business and want to stick to our plan and bring great seafood to more places on the coast – but in a controlled way. We know the pitfalls ‘chains’ can fall into and we’re putting in place plans that allow organic growth and great opportunities.” Launched in 2010, Rockfish has restaurants in Dartmouth, Torquay, Exmouth, Exeter and Brixham. Tonks also operates flagship restaurant The Seahorse in Dartmouth.

Black and White Hospitality lines up two Pierre White brands for Dover including new fish and chip concept: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to chef Marco Pierre White, is to open two restaurants on Dover seafront this summer including a new fish and chip concept. The company will open a Mr White’s English Chophouse and Wheeler’s Fish & Chips, both within the Best Western Plus Dover Marina Hotel & Spa. White told Kent Online: “For Wheeler’s Fish & Chips I am working closely with Garry Rosser, owner of the award-winning Scallop Shell fish and chip shop in Bath, to ensure we source the best-quality fish available to deliver a very affordably priced menu.” Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin added: “Mr White’s English Chophouse and Wheeler’s Fish & Chips bring the best of land and sea to the area. We have already had great success with our Chophouse concept and we know how popular it is with diners. We have been working on the Wheeler’s Fish & Chips concept for some time – and we’ve found the perfect location on Dover seafront.” Last month, Black and White Hospitality announced it would open a Steakhouse Bar & Grill along the Kent coast in Folkestone, at the Best Western Clifton Hotel. Black and White Hospitality’s other Marco Pierre White brands are New York Italian, Steakhouse Bar & Grill, Wheeler’s of St James’s, and Bardolino Pizzeria, Bellini & Espresso Bar. It operates 45 sites across the UK.

Yorkshire-based brothers boost pub company ambition by taking on Star Pubs & Bars sites: Yorkshire-based operators Jamie and Matt Hanson are furthering their ambition to create a small pub group in the region by taking on two new sites with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The brothers have secured The New Inn in Farsley, West Yorkshire, and are set to take a third Star Pubs & Bars site, The Princess in Rawdon, next week. They already operate The Thornhill in Calverley. The New Inn is undergoing a £280,000 investment to turn it into a “quality, city centre-style contemporary pub”, which will be renamed Number Thirty Three to reflect its new direction. A garden will be created featuring a garden room, murals, heating and lighting. Inside, the pub will be stripped out and refurbished. Chef Matt Hanson will introduce a menu featuring artisan cheese, charcuterie and gourmet toasties. A barista-quality coffee machine will also be installed, accompanied by locally made pastries. Craft beer and lager as well as cask ale will be on offer alongside wine, gin and cocktails. Jamie Hanson said: “Our aim is to take on more leased pubs in the area where there is opportunity to transform the business and add value.” Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director Grant Morgan-Tolworthy added: “Jamie’s extensive knowledge of pubs and Matt’s credentials as a chef bring a great combination of skills to any pub business. We look forward to developing further partnerships with them.”

Wagamama opens flagship restaurant in Milan: Wagamama has opened a flagship restaurant in Milan, a few metres from the Italian city’s iconic cathedral. The 200-cover site spans two floors covering 600 square metres. To maximise service efficiency, it features two kitchens and employs 50 staff. The menu has been extended to suit Italian tastes and routines. The restaurant opens early and offers a breakfast menu featuring Japanese-inspired savoury dishes and sweet options such as apple and goji berry pancakes and coconut porridge, which have proved popular in Wagamama’s restaurant at Milan Malpensa airport. The drinks menu will feature cocktails that suit Italy’s aperitif and after-dinner culture. Brian Johnston, international managing director of Wagamama International (franchise) division, said: “This is our third restaurant in Italy and we are particularly proud to bring the brand to central Milan, which is undoubtedly an iconic city of fashion and food. Our partner, W Italia, has waited a year to secure the right location in the heart of this multi-cultural city, which reflects the very soul of the brand.” Earlier this week Wagamama opened its first site in Norway, at Oslo airport.

Peach reveals strategy to close gender pay gap: Peach Pub Company, which operates 19 pubs and a boutique hotel, has revealed its strategy for closing its gender pay gap, which is 3.7% as a median average. The company has a median bonus pay gap of 30%. With the average median gender pay gap declared in the UK at 18.4% – 11% in the public sector – Peach said it believed it was making progress. Peach’s approach is to employ more women chefs and focus on developing a career path by offering “strong apprenticeships alongside ongoing training”. The company said it strived to be an attractive and caring employer by offering a flexible approach to working practices, especially regarding maternity or parental leave. Managing director Hamish Stoddart said: “We are committed to the principle of equal pay for the roles performed and paying a good rate for all roles as a matter of fairness. We are also working hard to equalise the pay gap at Peach and believe we will close it – but we are not complacent. We know we have some way to go, especially on the bonus gap, and we are constantly aiming for improvement. Our bonus gap is wider than we would like because, at the moment, we have more men in roles that are eligible for a bonus payment, primarily senior chef roles. We do better front-of-house, where almost 50% of our general managers are female and our board of directors is also far more balanced than most with three women and three men. Our whole sector needs to focus on employing and promoting more women in chef and senior executive roles and we would like to beat the industry in these areas.”

Caravan to open Fitzrovia site for fifth venue next month: Caravan, the London-based restaurant, bar and coffee-roasting concept, is to launch its fifth site, in Fitzrovia next month. The venue will open in the former BBC Radio 1 recording headquarters in Great Portland Street on Monday, 16 July. Founders Miles Kirby, Laura Harper-Hinton and Chris Ammermann said the move marked the group’s first shift towards a more central location. In a nod to the building’s history, the basement will house a “record room” hosting private dining. Upstairs, a large bar will weave through three dining rooms. The venue will also see the launch of Caravan-To-Go, an expansion of the brand’s take-out offer. The company’s in-house sourdough bakery and croissanterie, based at its new flagship roastery near King’s Cross, will create a weekly changing patisserie range. There will be breakfast and lunch dishes alongside healthy drinks and craft coffee. All Caravan-To-Go transactions will be cashless, while the team will also launch a reusable lunchbox and coffee cup scheme. New dishes on the main restaurant’s all-day menu will include green falafel with pickled and grilled cauliflower, radish, garlic sesame and chilli; and crispy duck with taramind caramel, celery, shallots, cucumber and coriander. The wine list will focus on organic and biodynamic producers.

Freehold of Hampstead pub let to Ei Group goes on market for £2.97m: The freehold of a pub in Hampstead, north London, which is let to Ei Group, has been placed on the market for a guide price in excess of £2.97m. The price reflects a net initial yield of 3.5%. Café Hampstead is a three-storey pub in Rosslyn Hill let to Ei Group on a lease expiring in 2045. The operator pays a current annual rent of £110,000. Its business will be unaffected by the sale. Café Hampstead is close to Hampstead Heath, the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine and University College School Hampstead. Nearby operators include French brasserie Cote, fine dining group Patara Thai and Casual Dining Group brand Café Rouge. Paul Breen, licensed leisure director at Savills, which is handling the sale, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to acquire the freehold investment of a property let to the UK’s largest pub company. The robust annual income and strong trading history will no doubt appeal to a wide variety of potential investors.”

Players bids to open fifth nightclub, in Durham: Players, which operates nightclubs in Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham, has been granted a licence to launch a fifth site, this time in Durham. The company will invest £750,000 to transform the former Loveshack club in Walkergate in the city centre with the opening creating more than 60 jobs. Durham County Council ruled the club would have to stop playing music at 2am, rather than the requested 2.30am, and close before 4am on 15 days a year. Tim Shield, a solicitor for the applicant, told the Northern Echo: “This is not a residential area and that is an important thing to bear in mind – it’s a city with a student population. Student populations are required to act appropriately and are responsible for their own actions. Premises do not have responsibility in relation to how anyone acts away from their licensed premises.” Loveshack closed in August.

Provenance Tapas to close Iberico World Tapas site in Derby: Nottingham-based Provenance Tapas is to close its Iberico World Tapas site in Derby. The company will shut the restaurant in Bold Lane on Saturday, 21 July after almost five years in the city. The company’s two other Iberico World Tapas sites, which are both in Nottingham, will remain open. Owner Dan Lindsay revealed a recent decline in customers meant the Derby restaurant was no longer financially viable. He told Derbyshire Live: “It is a case of not having enough people through the doors. We have a very high standard of food and we’re not prepared to compromise on that. We are very proud of it and we’re not going to start cutting back on the things we do. We’ve had a bit of decline in numbers over the past few months, which has been a shame. We don’t know why that is but there comes a point when the overall running of the business has to be met by a certain level of turnover.” Provenance Tapas also operates Bar Iberico and the World Service Restaurant in Nottingham.

Neville and Giggs get government approval for £200m Manchester mixed-use scheme: St Michael’s Partnership, which is fronted by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, has had its plans for a £200m Manchester city centre development approved by the government. The application for the mixed-use scheme will not be called in. The proposed development of the 1.5-acre Jackson’s Row site has been back to the drawing board a number of times following opposition by Historic England. The scheme now spares the Abercromby pub in Bootle Street, which dates to the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 and was the inspiration behind television series Life on Mars. The scheme also retains the frontage of a building that housed Bootle Street police station and reduces the height of one of the towers by two metres. The scheme will transform the site into a mixed-use development comprising a five-star brand hotel, apartments, a Grade A office building and 33,000 square feet of leisure and restaurant units. Neville told The Business Desk: “It’s been more than a decade since the idea to regenerate a strategic city centre location was first considered. Our whole team is pleased we can focus on delivering this project for Manchester, bringing a new, high-quality development that will enhance the city’s position nationally and internationally.”

Yotam Ottolenghi launches Rovi in Fitzrovia for sixth London restaurant: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi has opened his latest London restaurant, Rovi, in Fitzrovia. The venue in Wells Street features a vegetable-centric menu with a focus on fermentation and cooking over fire. It is Ottolenghi’s sixth site in the capital, a portfolio that consists of four delis and Nopi restaurant. During the day, Rovi offers a small delicatessen with salads, cakes and pastries to take away, while the dining room has an oval-shaped cocktail bar at its centre with room for 16 people. The cocktail list features seasonal spices alongside a low-intervention wine list from small producers. Neil Campbell, former head chef of Grain Store, is heading the kitchen, with Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi taking executive chef roles. The restaurant works closely with small-batch producers including East Sussex organic vegetable farm Brambletye and Ethical Shellfish Company, which is based on the Isle of Mull. Ottolenghi said: “The name Rovi is a little bit of Nopi and a little bit of Fitzrovia. Vegetables will be the main event, cooked on the grill.”

Rossi Ice Creams to kick off expansion plans with Intu Lakeside launch: Southend ice cream parlour Rossi Ice Creams has signed to open a second site, at Intu Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. Rossi Ice Creams opened on Southend seafront in 1932 and also sells ice cream in Asda, Morrisons and Co-op. The company hopes the new store will increase brand awareness ahead of plans to distribute its products nationally. The company said the launch would tap into the growing interest in local provenance and attract people who had enjoyed Rossi ice creams as part of their day out at the seaside. Sales director Charlie Bird said: “Our opening at Intu Lakeside is a key part of our strategy to build the profile of Rossi nationally. Whether they’ve grown up loving Rossi ice cream or encountering us for the first time, we can’t wait to make more customers smile.” Intu regional managing director Rebecca Ryman added: “The best brands are tapping into trends that really matter for today’s consumers such as local provenance. Rossi is an Essex seaside institution and its arrival at Intu Lakeside is going to generate a huge amount of excitement among so many of our shoppers who already love this well-known local company.” Leisure brands such as Nickelodeon, Hollywood Bowl and mini-golf operator Puttshack will arrive at Intu Lakeside next year as part of the centre’s £75m extension.

Former The Apprentice star’s chicken restaurant goes into liquidation four months after launch: Joanna Kirk, former star of reality television show The Apprentice, has seen the fried chicken restaurant she opened in February go into liquidation. Kirk, who appeared on series six of the BBC1 show, launched Louisianna (sic) at The Crescent complex in Hinckley, Leicestershire. However, the venue has now closed. Kirk told the Leicester Mercury: “The concept was great and the product amazing – we just didn’t have the footfall. I think it’s a sign of the times. It’s really tough for businesses on the high street these days. I’m grateful to the people of Hinckley who visited but we didn’t have enough customers to make it work. I’m heartbroken it has shut but I don’t regret opening. When you’re entrepreneurial, you try things. Lots of successful business people have had failed businesses – you learn from it and move on.” Kirk made it to the interview stage of the 2010 edition of The Apprentice but was turned down by Lord Sugar for her lack of experience. Her first business was a cleaning company she founded in Leicester in 2006, which she still operates.

Derby-based trampoline centre firm sold in pre-pack administration deal: Derby-based trampoline centre company Bounce Health And Fitness has been sold in a pre-pack administration deal, saving 38 jobs. The business, which traded as Bounce Revolution, called in Leonard Curtis on 7 June with Richard Pinder and Sean Williams appointed as joint administrators. A Leonard Curtis spokesman told The Business Desk: “The business entered administration as a result of high fixed costs, increasing insurance costs and a reduction in revenue that meant the company suffered a build-up of trade liabilities. The directors had made attempts to raise additional working capital but, given the company’s financial position, this was not possible. Legal action was imminent and therefore appropriate steps were taken by the director to preserve the business. After a period of marketing, the administrators concluded a pre-packaged sale of the company’s business to a connected party. This resulted in the transfer of all 38 employees to the new purchasing entity.”

JD Wetherspoon launches Liskeard pub: JD Wetherspoon has opened a site in the Cornish town of Liskeard (population 9,417). The company has converted the former Taylors Garage in Barras Street into The King Doniert. The two-storey pub features a first-floor terrace and beer garden, with the opening creating 30 jobs. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Herald: “We believe the pub will prove popular with a wide variety of people and be an asset to the town.” Regarding the name of the pub, the Wetherspoon website states: “Liskeard is one of Cornwall’s oldest towns, claimed in ancient times to be the seat of King Doniert. The Doniert Stone, three miles to the north, commemorates the king, who drowned in about 875. The historic monument is managed and protected by the Cornwall Heritage Trust, which describes Doniert as ‘the last-known independent king of Cornwall’ before the kingdom fell under Saxon control.”

Dai Pai launches Glasgow site for its second Asian street food restaurant in Scotland: Dai Pai has opened its second Asian street food restaurant in Scotland, this time in Glasgow. The venue has launched in Byres Road in the city’s West End and joins the brand’s debut site in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. The menu includes sushirritos, hirata buns and gyozas as well as rice and noodle dishes, Glasgow Live reports. The Dai Pai website states: “Inspired by fast-paced dai pai dongs and a celebration of Asian food, we set out to create a unique and authentic way of eating – bringing the fresh, nourishing flavours of Asia to all.”

Hastings Hotels opens £53m Belfast site: Hastings Hotels has opened its £53m site in Belfast. The company has transformed Windsor House from an office block to Grand Central Hotel, a 300-bedroom venue that includes a cafe, bar, restaurant and a 23rd-floor cocktail lounge called The Observatory. Hotel general manager Stephen Meldrum told Insider Media: “The Grand Central Hotel is a unique proposition for Belfast. No detail has been overlooked and we are excited to bring a new era to the city. The teams have been working hard over recent weeks to get the hotel open on time.”

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