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Thu 28th Jun 2018 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Restaurant numbers drop 0.4%, licensed premises show acceleration in closures: The number of restaurants in Britain fell 0.4% in the year to March, the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners has revealed. The decline comes amid fears among many operators of oversupply of sites in the market and is a sign of the challenges casual dining operators face following a sustained period of openings. Market Growth Monitor data shows restaurant numbers have risen 15.6% since March 2013 but planned site closures by several major brands have contributed to a fall during the past 12 months. The 0.4% decline is equivalent to almost two net closures a week in the restaurant sector. Research has indicated broadly flat sales, rising food costs and modest but improving confidence among leaders of the out-of-home eating and drinking sectors. A further retrenchment in restaurant numbers is now likely in the second half of 2018, the monitor suggested, although many casual dining brands continue to expand their estates around Britain. Across all licensed premises, the monitor recorded a 1.3% fall in numbers in the 12 months to March 2018. That marks an acceleration in the pace of closures since the last edition of the monitor, which recorded a year-on-year fall of 0.3%. But despite the challenges in some sectors and some parts of Britain, the monitor also identifies a more positive picture in other areas – especially major cities in the north of England. In Leeds, the number of licensed food-led premises rocketed by 37.9% in the five years to March 2018, with growth in Manchester (33.6%) and Liverpool (31.9%) almost as steep. The report also shows a rise in the number of entertainment-based licensed premises, contrasting with a decline in circuit bars. CGA vice-president Peter Martin said: “It has not been an easy year in the out-of-home eating and drinking out market, and this new data is an indication of the pressures restaurant operators have been under. With oversupply becoming apparent, input costs still rising and Brexit causing uncertainty, we are likely to see further restraint in openings this year. But CGA research also shows people continue to go out to eat and drink, and brands with strong differentiation and customer focus can continue to flourish.” AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith added: “As predicted in the previous edition of the monitor, the total number of restaurants in the UK has fallen for the first time and we expect the decline to continue over the short to medium term as larger chains manage their site portfolios. This presents an opportunity for younger, growing concepts to expand, potentially at preferential terms or in locations previously reserved for the larger chains, which could help kick-start their next phase of growth.”

Industry News:

Propel launches Women’s Entrepreneur Conference: Propel has partnered with Elliotts chief executive Ann Elliott to launch the sector’s first conference featuring an all-female line-up of company leaders. The event takes place on Tuesday, 4 September at One Moorgate Place, London. Speakers will be Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers (“How to ascertain if your business idea is genius or madness”); Mowgli founder Nisha Katona (“From barrister to bunny chow: why risk it all for restaurants?”); Sophie Bathgate, of Sophie’s Steakhouse (“What I would do differently next time”); Artizian founder Alison Frith (“How to market a startup”); Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars founder Mary Mclaughlin (“Growing an idea from startup to sustainable”); Eve Bugler, founder of BabaBoom (“How to keep the joy when it’s all on your shoulders”); Jane O’Riordan, founder of The Dynamo (“The importance of patience”); Sally Jackson, owner of The Pink Pig Farm (“The ten hardest lessons I’ve learned”); Christine Winton, of Siam Eatery (Can you have work-life balance when you start a business?”); Vanessa Hall, co-founder of Jack & Alice (“The importance of staying true to your values when you start and expand your business”); and Laura Harper-Hinton, co-founder of Caravan (“Why people are key to your success”). Elliott said: “Female entrepreneurs are making an enormous contribution to the hospitality sector – but we need even more of them. The conference is intended as a showcase of some of the sector’s best female entrepreneurs and to encourage even more of them to take the plunge.” Propel managing director Paul Charity added: “If our sector is to truly serve its market, we need more companies led at senior levels by women. We hope companies send their brightest female talent to the conference to pick up inspiration and develop their entrepreneurial talent.” Tickets are £195 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers, £245 plus VAT for operators and £395 plus VAT for suppliers and can be booked by emailing or calling her on 01444 817691

Luke Johnson offers to run Brighton’s i360 attraction: Sector investor Luke Johnson, who operates Brighton Palace Pier, wants to take over the city’s i360 seafront attraction and manage it on behalf of the council. Johnson has called on city chiefs to refuse the viewing tower’s request to delay £6m of loan repayments over the next six years. He told the council by letter: “I wish to protest strongly over the arrangement being proposed by the council executive and the struggling i360 attraction. This project was funded with over £40m of public money – most of it from Brighton & Hove City Council.” Public money for the project represents 87% of the capitalisation of the project. In his letter to Brighton and Hove City Council, he added: “It is quite inconceivable any normal lender would have extended nearly as much money as a proportion of the whole funding for a pure startup. Now, to compound that mistake, you are recommending the council approve a debt rescheduling that represents a 96% reduction in interest payments for the i360 over the next six years. Under the current i360 management, visitor numbers are roughly half the original projections on which the loan was based. Given that woeful performance, it is inconceivable a commercial lender would agree to these restructuring proposals – as asserted in your document. I have extensive experience of debt restructuring – and in these circumstances the lender would seek to repossess the security and change the management. Consequently, it is clear the proposed rescheduling is not state-aid compliant and the council should not approve it. Brighton Pier Group is a significant employer and payer of business rates in Brighton. I am also involved with other businesses locally that are major employers and pay significant business rates. We do not get this sort of special treatment. Why is the council favouring one particular business? The council would be in breach of its fiduciary responsibilities towards local citizens and businesses if it were to prop up a project that has underperformed so badly. As an alternative, Brighton Pier Group would be willing to take on a management contract to run the i360 attraction on behalf of the council. We are confident we could make savings and efficiencies across the two businesses in areas such as marketing, procurement, accounting, HR, IT and other administration costs. We are also confident we could cross-market the two attractions and thereby boost visitor numbers and events. This recommendation would give the council a much better chance of earlier receipt of interest and an improved chance its loan was ultimately repaid in full.”

Beds and Bars calls for more people to sign up for stem cell register ahead of Live Your Life Day: Pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars will hold its annual charity event Live Your Life on Monday, 30 July. The event, run in partnership with The Team Margot Foundation, which works closely with the DKMS charity, raises awareness of blood cancer and encourages more donors to sign up for the stem cell register. People who sign up online to join the register receive a swab kit, which they post back once they have taken a DNA sample. Beds and Bars is inviting people to get their teams or colleagues to raise awareness on social media, invite their MP to register, and encourage customers to sign up for a kit. It is also calling for more donors from the black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) community. Last year, only 3% of people on the stem cell and bone marrow registers were mixed race. Live Your Life Day was set up by Beds and Bars chief executive Keith Knowles in memory of his late wife Franca. He said: “In the three years since Franca died, significant strides have been made in supporting Team Margot to encourage more people to sign up to be a stem cell or bone marrow donor. People from ethnic communities or a mixed-race heritage are at a disadvantage when finding a perfect stem cell donor match, which is why it’s so important to join the register if you’re from a BAME community group.” For more information, visit
‘Being drunk is no excuse’, Drinkaware chief tells committee as safety programme rolls out to festivals: Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal has told the Women & Equalities Select Committee on drunken sexual harassment that “being drunk is no excuse”. Research by Drinkaware and YouGov revealed almost two-thirds (63%) of women and more than one-quarter (26%) of men who drink in bars, clubs and pubs had suffered some form of sexual harassment. Drinkaware’s programme, It’s OK To Ask, encourages bystanders to safely intervene when spotting individuals in need on a night out. The campaign has now been extended to festivals. Hindal said: “For far too many people, drunken sexual harassment is now part and parcel of a night out or being at a festival. Being drunk is no excuse to grab, grope or make inappropriate comments to strangers in public places after a few drinks. Bystanders have an important role to play in helping to challenge unwanted and drunken sexual harassment but it can be difficult to know exactly what to do. A simple thing, like asking someone if they are OK, can make a big difference – whether they’re a friend or stranger. We all have a responsibility to challenge unwanted drunken sexual harassment wherever we see it. Asking someone if they are OK and giving them support sends a clear signal this behaviour is no longer going to be tolerated.”

SIBA calls for industry backing as it publishes SBR reform proposals: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has called on the industry to back it after setting out proposals to enhance the Small Breweries’ Relief (SBR) scheme. SIBA said its proposals would “improve an already successful government policy”, which had “fuelled the unprecedented growth in craft beer”. SIBA has written to HM Treasury calling for changes to the relief curve for brewers that make more than 5,000HL of beer per year to encourage growth and remove the “cliff edge” as relief was withdrawn. SIBA also proposes no withdrawal of relief for any brewer below 5,000HL; an industry-led review at least every five years; new measures to encourage mergers and acquisitions; removal of exported beer from the SBR calculation; and extension of the scheme to brewers up to 200,000HL as permitted under EU law. SIBA said the industry was “united in the need for reform”, although it added the demands by the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition for withdrawal of relief below 5,000HL would “threaten the viability of many SIBA members”. Chief executive Mike Benner said: “We believe small changes can be made to an already winning formula with a modest impact on Treasury coffers. Reform is needed to remove the ‘cliff edge’ to growth. However, that reform shouldn’t come at the expense of smaller brewers currently in receipt of the full level of relief. We’re now calling on everyone in the industry, big or small, to look at SIBA’s proposals and back our case for reform in the November Budget.” Ian Fozard, newly elected SIBA chairman, added: “SIBA will also be campaigning in the run-up to the Budget on the two core issues that affect the whole industry. We all know the headline rate of beer duty remains too high and the burden on pubs through business rates is unsustainable. The beer and pubs industry has a number of challenges ahead – but SIBA will be leading the way for its members.”

Poppleston Allen launches free app covering cumulative impact zones: Licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen has launched a Google Maps-based free app for operators, property agents and developers that reveals the whereabouts and restrictions of all 200-plus cumulative impact zones in England and Wales. CizApp will help property agents and operators identify cumulative impact zones, which can have a big effect on trading potential and property values. It will also help developers, surveyors and solicitors understand what restrictions their clients might face. Poppleston Allen managing partner Lisa Sharkey said: “Before CizApp, people wanting to run licensed premises needed to contact a local licensing authority to obtain a map with the restricted areas marked on them. The quality of the maps varies greatly and it’s often difficult to work out whether a premises is inside or outside a cumulative impact zone. Now, all people need to do is enter a postcode, address or place of interest and a shaded area on CizApp reveals if the proposed address is affected.” Poppleston Allen head of marketing Carl Weston added: “We don’t think it is an overstatement to say this transforms the market. We’ve taken a task that took hours – sometimes days – and by using technology reduced this to seconds.” 

Company News:

CDG Leisure instructed to sell five Hummus Bros sites: CDG Leisure has been instructed to sell five Hummus Bros sites after the company fell into administration. The sites are in the City, St Paul’s, Holborn, Soho and Exmouth Market. They are available either as a group or individually. To request further information, email Hummus Bros said “rising costs, reduced demand and oversupply in the market” had affected the restaurants.

PizzaExpress becomes first UK restaurant to use augmented reality gaming in own app: PizzaExpress has become the first UK restaurant to use augmented reality gaming in its own app. The company has launched an update that allows customers to play a virtual game of football while dining. The first of many augmented reality updates planned for the app, the game enables users to place computer-generated objects into the real world by using the phone’s camera. In this case, it’s playing football with PizzaExpress’ dough balls. In “Doughball”, players place a set of small football goalposts on the table and have 60 seconds to score as many goals as possible. The player must move their phone to aim and swipe upwards to shoot while avoiding the Doughball keeper. PizzaExpress senior marketing manager Timothy Love said: “We are always looking at ways we can improve our customers’ experiences and drive engagement at the table. We know customers are happy to participate with PizzaExpress on their phones when dining with us. In fact, since launching our first Facebook Messenger game in December 2017, more than a quarter of a million people have played in-restaurant. It is the first time a UK restaurant has used augmented reality gaming in its own app. We hope it brings an exciting and innovative dimension to the PizzaExpress dining experience.”

Gainford Group turnover nears £30m driven by sales increase in leisure businesses: North east-based operator Gainford Group, which also runs 12 care homes, has reported revenue of almost £30m driven by a sales increase in its leisure businesses. Gainford is behind the Great Victoria Hotel in Bradford as well the Vermont Hotel, the County Hotel, Bar Livello, the Vermont Apartments and the Aveika restaurant, all in Newcastle. It also bought the 180-bedroom Newbridge Street Hotel – formerly a Whitbread-owned Premier Inn – in April this year with a full refurbishment planned for the end of 2018. The company saw turnover increase to £29,822,014 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £26,881,747 the year before. Of this total, £12,289,619 was courtesy of the group’s leisure ventures compared with £10,373,716 the year before. Group pre-tax profit fell to £3,078,317 compared with £3,701,462, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Turnover from the leisure business has increased significantly on the prior year as a result of the ongoing improvements undertaken at the various venues by management. The Great Victoria, Bradford, and the Vermont Hotel, Newcastle, showed higher sales and profitability for the year ended December 2017. This pattern was continued at Aveika and Bar Livello. During the year work was completed on The County Hotel, which was purchased for £10m in September 2016. Refurbishment work took place and a new bar restaurant (The Hudson) was created on the ground floor. The refurbishment has led to increased occupancy across all areas of the hotel and The Hudson is already firmly established on the city’s leisure circuit. Occupancy and average room rates have both increased since the refurbishment and we expect the site to exceed £3.5m in turnover for 2018.

McDonald’s UK unveils menu item developed with Mumsnet: McDonald’s has unveiled a menu item developed after six months of collaboration and product development with parenting site Mumsnet – a mini grilled chicken wrap. The partnership saw members of the Mumsnet community work with McDonald’s own recipe developers to test possible products. The mini grilled chicken wrap is similar to the McDonald’s Big Flavour Wraps, which are available with crispy or grilled chicken and include salad and a sauce. The wrap can be “tweaked” so parents can remove ketchup, for example, and add cucumber. “Mumsnetters told us they wanted to customise the product so, for the first time, parents could tweak the ingredients,” a spokeswoman said. “This is a mini grilled chicken wrap for the Happy Meal – so a smaller version of the Wrap of the Day. The Happy Meal option was available at restaurants nationwide as of Wednesday (27 June), and comes as a result of parents asking McDonald’s to expand its ‘healthier’ range and offer greater choice.” More than 1,000 Mumsnet users were surveyed as part of the process. The resounding opinion was for a “non-fried” option, according to McDonald’s. Carrie Longton, co-founder of Mumsnet, said: “The majority of Mumsnet users we surveyed said they wanted grilled chicken and the opportunity to give their children a range of choices in what they eat.” As well as cucumber, parents can ask for onion and pickle in the “adaptable” chicken wrap.

The Cat’s Pyjamas secures fourth site, at former Prezzo in Harrogate: Indian kitchen and craft beer concept The Cat’s Pyjamas has secured its fourth site, in Harrogate. The company has signed a new lease at a site in Albert Street formerly occupied by Prezzo in an off-market deal secured by agents Pudney Shuttleworth. Tom Hodgson, associate director at Pudney Shuttleworth, wrote on LinkedIn: “Fourth property deal done with The Cat’s Pyjamas. We have acquired the Prezzo in Harrogate off-market on a new lease. Handover in a month!” Alison White, owner and managing director of The Cat’s Pyjamas, opened the brand’s third site, in York in March. Its other two sites are in Leeds.

Soho House to open Library Bar at The Ned next week: Soho House is to launch Library Bar at The Ned on Tuesday (3 July). The 17th bar at the City of London venue will open next to Cecconi’s on the ground floor featuring restored antique furniture, retro cocktail books and oxblood leather panelling. Old-world club chairs will feature bronze and deep red velvet, while a brass bar back has been inspired by the building’s architect, Sir Edwin “Ned” Lutyens. The bar seats 18 and offers 30 varieties of champagne, a Martini trolley, house cocktails and a cognac collection. The Ned executive chef Michele Nargi has created dishes to complement the drinks including caviar, manchego and chorizo bon bons, and truffle pizzetta. The Library Bar is also available to hire. The Ned is set in the former Midland Bank building. A collaboration between Sydell Group and Soho House, the space includes ten restaurants, 250 bedrooms, grooming services and Ned’s Club, where members access a rooftop pool, gym, spa, hammam and a late-night bar and lounge in the original vault. Last month, Soho launched private members’ club Dumbo House above its Cecconi’s restaurant in New York. The company was founded by Nick Jones in 1995 in Greek Street, Soho. It has since expanded to have “houses” around the world.

Brook Leisure Group lines up Leeds opening: Brook Leisure Group, whose Yorkshire portfolio includes Crystal, CoCo, Che Bar, Frank & Stein and The Pavilion Bar And Kitchen, has lodged plans to convert a bank in Park Row in Leeds into a bar and restaurant. The unit is currently occupied by Santander but the bank is set to close, with the property becoming vacant. It is below eight floors of residential accommodation, comprising 59 flats. The application states the unit would become a “traditional pub also selling hot food and beverages”. Opening hours would be from 10am to 2am, seven days a week, while the venue is expected to employ 12 full-time and 15 part-time staff. A design and access statement submitted as part of the application said: “The change of use of the ground floor will retain an active frontage in Park Row and will complement the existing cafe, restaurant and bars in the immediate vicinity.”

Halewood outlines Liverpool Gin distillery plan: Halewood Wine & Spirits has outlined plans to open a distillery for its Liverpool Gin brand. The £1m development will comprise two bars, a gin lab and a bartender school. Set to open towards the end of 2018, it will also create 20 jobs. Lee Tayburn, operations director at Halewood Wines & Spirits, told Insider Media: “We wanted to create an immersive and interactive experience for consumers wanting to discover more about Liverpool Gin and spirits in general. Fans of gin are increasingly curious about what they are consuming and the new experience we’re creating will enable them to understand more about the ingredients and process of how gin is made. Castle Street is an emerging area for food and drink in the city. The people who love Liverpool Gin are already there and it’s an easily accessible destination for those living in and visiting Liverpool.” On launching in Merseyside, Tayburn said: “People all over the world love gin and we’re creating a destination that will sit alongside other Liverpool attractions to bring increased visitors to the city. The Liverpool Gin Distillery will add value to the city’s food and drink scene, engaging locals as well as providing another reason for people to visit Liverpool. It’s a hub for bar talent and we can help to develop a new generation of world-class mixologists from our purpose-built school.” Tayburn added: “We are also building an artisan whisky distillery in Edinburgh and our Hawkshead Brewery in Cumbria is about to open a £3m brewery to cope with increased demand for its craft ale. We also have plans for a new type of spirits attraction in the south west.”

Coyote Ugly to open fourth UK site, in August: Coyote Ugly will open its fourth UK site, in Swansea this summer. The bar, which will take over part of the former Aspers Casino in Wind Street, is set to open on Thursday, 16 August. The first branch in Wales opened in 2016 in Cardiff. The hugely successful US film from 2000, which starred Tyra Banks, John Goodman and Adam Garcia, is the inspiration behind the venues, which feature women, known as “coyotes”, singing and dancing on the bar. Coyote Ugly now operates in 26 locations in seven countries. The Swansea venue will feature the chain’s longest bar to date, measuring 18 metres. The opening will create about 50 jobs.

Starbucks could be losing afternoon sales in US because of price premium: Starbucks, which charges 38% more than its competitors for coffee, could be losing out on afternoon sales as more alert consumers notice the higher prices, according to new research by analysts Bernstein. “Compared with quick service restaurant competitors, Starbucks-brewed coffee now sits at a circa 38% price premium,” Sara Senatore, the firm’s restaurant analyst, said in a note to clients. “Price sensitivity is low in the morning but higher in the afternoon, where Starbucks is most under pressure. Although iced refreshment is a greater driver in the afternoon, brewed coffee remains an important benchmark in our view.” Raw coffee is currently trading near all-time low prices, which has helped Starbuck’s bottom line in recent quarters. However, with the company already warning investors its next earnings report will be weaker than expected, Bernstein worries any uptick in coffee bean prices could lead to trouble. “Our experience is consumers tend to be more receptive to price increases driven by commodities than by labour,” Bernstein said. “With commodity coffee prices nearing all-time lows, Starbucks may struggle to pass through any future input price increases.” Starbucks shares have fallen 12.5% since the beginning of 2018 as the company has struggled to raise like-for-like sales. Bernstein’s new price target for Starbucks is $58 – about 14% above where shares were trading on Tuesday (26 June). Wall Street analysts polled by Bloomberg have an average target of $60. 

Filipino ice cream parlour Mamasons signs for Chinatown site: Filipino ice cream parlour Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream has signed for its second site, in Chinatown London. The company, which made its debut in Camden, has agreed a deal with landlord Shaftesbury for the store in Newport Court. The 315 square foot unit will have space for about 20 covers and is due to open in August. The menu will include a range of ice cream flavours with an Eastern influence, such as black coconut as well as Mamasons’ signature dessert, the Bilog, which is a traditional milk bun filled with ice cream, toasted in a bespoke hot press and dusted with icing sugar. Co-founder Omar Shah said: “Filipino cuisine is synonymous with a tradition of creating and serving food with great love, and as a London born Filipino, I wanted to bring this experience to the capital. What we offer is about more than just ice cream, it’s about creating a cultural experience and sharing this with our new customers in Chinatown London.” In addition, Taiwanese fruit tea brand YiFang has opened its debut permanent site in Chinatown London. The 100 square foot kiosk in Shaftesbury Avenue is the brand’s first permanent location in the UK. Since its launch in 2016, YiFang has opened more than 600 stores across the globe. Its tea range is made with no preservatives or additives and is harvested from its own mountain plantations, while fruit comes from its own farms or from local markets.

Coco di Mama launches plastic straw alternative: Azzurri Group-owned Coco di Mama has launched an alternative to single-use plastic straws. The “Pastraw”, made from egg-free dried pasta, is 100% compostable, vegan-friendly and “lasts up to three-times longer than a paper straw without disintegrating”. Coco di Mama said it had tested various pastas and made its choice following a customer trial. Pastraws will now be rolled out across its 21 London sites. Coco di Mama head of marketing Sara McCraight said: “We are always challenging ourselves to reduce single-use plastic waste. The Pastraw is a win-win solution as it lasts longer than a paper straw and is completely compostable. The idea came from one of our members of staff. Simple, easy and cost-effective, we’d recommend any food-to-go brand to try them as a better alternative for the customer and environment.” Coco di Mama was launched by Daniel Land and Jeremy Sanders in 2011, with the brand brought into the Azzurri Group four years later. Last month, Coco di Mama signed a ten-year lease for a 1,100 square foot unit at the Paddington Central scheme.

Bourgee lines up Norwich opening: Steak and lobster restaurant Bourgee has lodged a licensing application to open a site in Norwich. It would be located in the Timber Hill Terrace section of the Castle Mall shopping centre. The application states the restaurant would be set across two floors, with a ground floor containing an open kitchen and bar and tapas-style food offered on the floor above. The application has been submitted by Morgarten Restaurants, although the venue would trade as Bourgee. The application states: “The premises are designed to operate as a high-end restaurant attracting a target customer base of 30 years-plus.” The move comes after the company, which was founded in Essex in 2014, was forced to close three of its locations – in Southend, Chelmsford and Bury St Edmunds – after going into administration. On announcing the closure of the sites in April, owners James Welling and Mark Baumann said the company was able to retain its location in Southend airport and would soon open new venues – of which Norwich appears to be one.

Japanese izakaya restaurant to open in Moorgate on Monday: A Japanese izakaya restaurant is opening in London on Monday (2 July). Kitsune No Yomeiri will bring authentic Japanese food and a late-night cocktail bar and club to Moorgate. It will offer lunches and takeaway, a casual dining set-up in the evening, and delivery via Deliveroo and UberEats. The menu will include Japanese classics such as chicken katsu, udon noodles and teriyaki chicken, and on-trend health bowls including salmon poké and tuna tataki. Signature dishes will feature kitsune hot wings, miso aubergine, niku udon and matcha-infused desserts. Kitsune No Yomeiri will be split across two levels. The ground floor will feature an open plan kitchen and long communal table for 28 diners. The upper floor will have a mix of seating for 48 diners and be bookable for private dining and events. Staying true to traditional izakayas, which have a large drink focus, the lower ground floor will house Levels 46, a 300-capacity late-night cocktail bar.

Fitness group Arena 8 takes West End location: A fitness group backed by senior figures from Soho House Group has signed for space at 65 Kingsway in London’s West End, Property Week has reported. The magazine reported: “Arena 8 has taken 5,750 square feet of basement space at £45 per square foot as its new flagship location. The chain is backed by private finance, including figures within the private members’ clubs group founded by Nick Jones in 1995. Soho House has 18 clubs worldwide including six in London.”

Hakkasan to remove plastic straws from Las Vegas sites – after prompt by Calvin Harris: Hakkasan Group has unveiled a partnership with DJ Calvin Harris to eliminate single-use plastic straws in the group’s Las Vegas nightclubs. In addition to the five-story ultra-lounge at MGM Grand, the group said it aims to remove straws from its other Las Vegas properties, including Wet Republic, Omnia and Jewel. “My friend and tour photographer, Conor McDonnell, has been working closely with the World Wildlife Fund and has been sharing his first-hand experience of the damage plastic waste is doing to the environment,” Harris said. The DJ has a residency at Hakkasan in Las Vegas. “We want to reduce the impact of harmful plastics so we decided to take action. I am grateful to Hakkasan Group for supporting us and helping us make a difference. I hope other venues in the city and around the world will do the same,” he said. Between 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws are on the world’s coastlines, a study concluded in April. A representative for Hakkasan said a target date of Wednesday, 1 August had been set to remove plastic straws from its venues.

Eataly food and drink park attracts 1.5 million in first six months: Eataly’s Italian food and drink park Fico Eataly World, near Bologna, attracted 1.5 million visitors in the first six months after opening in November 2017. Most recently, Lonely Planet named the Emilia-Romagna region the hottest European destination of 2018, partly attributing its travel interest to Fico Eataly. Billed as the world’s biggest agri-food park, Fico Eataly World spans 100,000 square metres and features food markets and restaurants alongside indoor farms, factories and multi-media exhibits. Workshops, seminars and demonstrations are also held in the space. Of the 1.5 million visitors, almost three-quarters (73%) came from outside Bologna, including 8% of foreign visitors, mostly from France, the UK, Germany, the US, Switzerland and Spain. Between January and May this year, the Fico Foundation also organised 127 events, which translated to 250 hours of free training and education to visitors on everything from food production to sustainability.

Savills offers Moffat House Hotel off £1.25m plus guide price: Agent Savills has launched Moffat House Hotel in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, to the market on behalf of a private vendor. Offers are invited over £1.25m. The 21-bedroom country mansion hotel is set in two acres (8.4 hectares) of grounds in the spa town of Moffat. The sale of Moffat House Hotel includes a two-bedroom cottage located on-site. Steven Fyfe, associate director in the hotels team at Savills, said: “After ten years of ownership this is a genuine retirement sale and provides an opportunity to acquire a successful business and attractive period property at a time when Scotland’s hotels and tourism industry continues to prosper.”

Wadworth invests £500,000 in alfresco areas: Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth has invested more than £500,000 in outside areas. The company has invested £75,000 to improve the alfresco area at The Bush Inn in Ovington, Hampshire, while The Beehive in Carterton, Oxfordshire, has undergone a £70,000 external refurbishment that includes a new patio dining area. The Goat & Tricycle in Bournemouth has also been enhanced, while The Bear Hotel in Devizes now sports an outside bar. The outside area at The Crown in Devizes now offers televisions screening sports and a street food kitchen with 50 extra covers. Rupert Bagnall, operations director for the Wadworth managed business, said: “Outside areas in pubs are of equal importance to their internal trading spaces and that is why our continuous investment in these are reaping rewards. Customers want comfort outside as well as in. Our programme of developing these external areas to a high level so customers can really make the most of the weather with the same quality they would get inside is paramount.”

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