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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 29th Jun 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

United front from pub companies on adjudication transparency: The six companies subject to the Pubs Code have written to Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy minister Richard Harrington agreeing to waive their right to confidentiality in arbitration decisions made by the Pubs Code adjudicator. Under the Arbitration Act decisions must remain confidential unless all parties to a decision agree to publication. The move by pub companies to waive their rights in this respect will help in providing clarity and transparency for the whole sector. Since the Pubs Code came into effect in July 2016, the six companies subject to the code – Admiral Taverns, Ei Group, Greene King, Marston’s, Punch, and Star Pubs & Bars – have been working with all industry stakeholders to ensure the spirit and the letter of the code is put into practice. British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The decision of the pub companies to waive their rights in this respect aims to reassure the whole sector about their commitment to clarity and transparency. It is something that has been under discussion for some time but clearly there are detailed legal hurdles that need to be overcome. The proactive agreement of the six companies to agree to this approach is an important step. It highlights the fact we remain committed to working with tenants and the Pubs Code adjudicator to ensure the code is delivered as Parliament intended. We have also suggested each company’s Market Rent Only option agreement is accredited by the Pubs Code adjudicator to ensure the system is more open, transparent and provides clear guidance to licensees.”

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.

UKHospitality backs CMA’s tough stance on booking websites: UKHospitality has backed the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) tough stance on booking websites. The CMA announced certain hotel booking websites are facing court action for applying hidden fees and trying to pressure customers into making a booking. The CMA wouldn’t name the sites but said it was concerned commission paid by hotels could influence rankings, while the sites could be breaking consumer protection law. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “For consumers the CMA’s announcement should bring some reassurance, which can only be good news for hoteliers too. We have been working tirelessly to highlight these practices so are pleased to see the CMA take action. The CMA clearly intends to ensure online booking sites are transparent and accurate and customers have peace of mind when booking. Extra reassurance for customers is welcome and that confidence should provide a boost for businesses. The fees online travel agents charge hoteliers and B&Bs inevitably result in higher costs to the consumer – a premium many holidaymakers are unaware of. Consumers and accommodation providers would be better served by a wider review of the business-to-platform relationship, which is now overdue. The practices addressed here expose yet another example of digital businesses stealing an unfair lead on regulated operators, whose first concern is to deliver good service to customers.”

STR expands benchmarking platform to hostel industry, London performance down in 2018: STR, renowned for its hotel data, has expanded its benchmarking platform to the hostel industry. London is the first market in which STR has maintained a sufficient reporting sample to provide a Hostel Destination Report. The report from May showed London hostel occupancy fell 1.4% to 80.8% during the first five months of 2018. At the same time, average daily rate was down 9.1% to £18.87, leading to a revenue per available bed (revpab) decrease of 10.4% to £15.32. Patrick Mayock, STR’s senior director of research and development, said: “This platform was customised for the hostel industry with the support, feedback and guidance of operators in the space. A pilot study has allowed us to validate methodology and key performance indicators for a sector that has seen a massive increase in investment over the past decade. The first five months of the year proved challenging for London’s hostel operators, mirroring the performance softening in the broader accommodations landscape. However, a difficult-to-match comparison period from early 2017, which was lifted by the post-Brexit demand rush, is no doubt factoring into the equation. If you look at a larger data set, 12 months for example, beds occupancy was nearly flat, while average daily rate and revpab were each down a little more than 2%.” Mayock said despite challenges in driving growth in bed revenue, hostel operators were “making up ground” in public spaces. For the 12 months ending with May 2018, total revenue per available square metre was up 2.1% to £2.77. STR is currently targeting a sufficient reporting sample in markets such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Edinburgh and Miami. 

Company News:

Greene King pubs seeing 100% like-for-like growth during England World Cup games, ‘significant’ funds available for acquisitions: Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand has told Propel the World Cup is proving a shot in the arm for the business, with some of its pubs reporting 100% like-for-like sales growth during England games. The company said it also had “significant undrawn revolving bank facilities” available to finance pub acquisitions. Anand said of the World Cup boost: “We do outperform when there’s good sport on because we have geared up for it. We’ve invested £1.5m in televisions for example. We also have our Season Ticket app that is helping push people into our pubs with personalised offers and loyalty points. That is live in 750 pubs and we have more than 100,000 subscribers. Our pubs are performing very well during most World Cup games but obviously when England play we are seeing a bigger impact. We sold 500,000 extra pints on Sunday (24 June) during the Panama game. In fact, during the first two England matches pubs have reported like-for-like sales up between 50% and 100%. The noticeable thing from the World Cup four years ago is the broader range of drinks being sold. Craft beer and cider are very popular but we are also selling a lot more gin. It’s the fifth World Cup since I’ve been here and we usually don’t budget for more than three England games so this year we’ve got at least one extra match.” He added: “The decision we took to invest £10m to improve the customer experience in our managed pubs is beginning to pay off. The level of decline in our like-for-likes has slowed and we are confident of returning to growth in the new financial year.” Average weekly sales at its managed pubs increased 1.6% to £19,600. During the period, nine new-build pubs were added, 38 disposals were completed, and five sites were transferred to Pub Partners. Anand said the fact that food-led capacity growth was outstripping demand was having an impact on sales.  He added: “It is not as simple as saying we’ll ‘get out of food’ at a particular pub. It’s about making sure we have the right food offer for that pub in order to gain market share. We have our four key brands – Greene King, Chef & Brewer, Farmhouse Inns and Hungry Horse – we can use depending on the location. We have shown we are prepared to convert sites or dispose of them where appropriate.” Greene King has increased the number of turnover agreements in its Pub Partners business to 15.3%, compared with 13.2% the year before. Average Ebitda per pub was up 3.1%, while 50 disposals were made in the division. Greene King said its Pub Partners food support roll-out was continuing, with 160 pubs now using the company’s supply chain. The average term for a licensee was up slightly to 71 months from 70 months the previous year. Meanwhile, Greene King said good progress had been made on the Spirit refinancing plan. A total of £215m of bonds was prepaid in the year. The refinancing of the Spirit debenture has continued into the new financial year. This month, Greene King pre-paid 30% of the Spirit class A4 bond using third-party disposal proceeds. It said it has “significant undrawn revolving bank facilities” available to finance pub acquisitions from the Spirit debenture and further bond prepayments.

Soho Coffee Co parent company sees pre-tax losses double to £6.2m as it mothballs Apostrophe brand, refining Euphorium Bakery concept: BTC Hospitality, which operates Soho Coffee Co, has seen pre-tax losses double to almost £6.2m as it mothballs Apostrophe Restaurants. The company has also revealed it is refining the concept for the six-strong Euphorium Bakery. The details were reported as the company filed its accounts for the year ending 31 January 2018. Turnover from continued operations increased to £12,892,886, compared with £8,419,092 the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £6,276,873, compared with £3,133,442 the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors made the strategic decision to acquire Apostrophe Restaurants (in May 2016), despite the loss-making performance of its stores, to gain an immediate and significant leased property portfolio and presence in the London market from which to drive further growth for the group. Apostrophe Restaurants has a managed store portfolio of two coffee shops still open in London compared with the 15 Apostrophe-branded stores acquired with the acquisition. Since the acquisition, five sites have been closed and disposed of (with one still in the process of being disposed of), seven have been converted to the Soho Coffee Co brand and one has been converted to the Euphorium brand. The directors plan to convert the final two stores in the first half of 2018, when the Apostrophe brand will be mothballed. The Apostrophe-branded stores have gradually been closed or converted throughout the year, during which time the majority of the stores prior to conversion were economically marginal or loss-making at the level of operations. Certain isolated costs of disposal have also been incurred by Apostrophe Restaurants during the year, contributing to the final result. Soho Coffee Co increased its portfolio of managed stores from 16 a year ago to 21, including openings at Kingsway and Waterloo Bridge, both in London; four store conversions from the legacy Apostrophe Restaurants estate (Grosvenor Street, Gresham Street, Austin Friars and O2 Finchley); and one closure (St David’s shopping centre, Cardiff). It was a year of evolution and development for the Euphorium brand and business. A new interpretation of the brand and concept was commissioned and has been tested in the market at the St Christopher’s Place site, near London’s Oxford Street, which was converted from the legacy Apostrophe portfolio in May/June 2017. The new store has had mixed trading success since opening, with further investment now being made to refine the concept and harmonise this across all six existing Euphorium stores and any new store openings the board may sanction in 2018.”

Whitbread shareholders agree to revise remuneration policy in light of Costa demerger: Whitbread shareholders have agreed to revise the company’s remuneration policy in light of plans to demerge the Costa Coffee business. The scheme now includes a so-called performance share plan linked to delivering the separation within two years. The move will “provide shareholders with an investment in two distinct, focused and market-leading businesses”, with Whitbread remaining the owner of Premier Inn. A total of 103,935,219 (94.9%) votes were received in favour of the new policy, with 6,127,527 (5.57%) against. Remuneration committee chairman Deanna Oppenheimer previously said: “Given the complexity of managing the demerger it will be necessary to put in place a long-term incentive arrangement that will retain and incentivise executives to execute the strategy effectively and protect and create shareholder value over this critical period.” Whitbread said during its first-quarter results this week that constructive early steps had been taken in preparation for the demerger and “good progress” continues to be made on the core infrastructure and efficiency work that was already under way. It said a further update on the demerger would be provided alongside interim results in October.

Pod extends mini-bond fund-raise to £1m after hitting £200,000 target, like-for-likes up 8%: London-based healthy eating brand Pod is aiming to raise up to £1m after hitting its initial £200,000 target through its mini-bond fund-raise. The company is raising funds on peer-to-peer lending platform Code Investing via 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. So far, 28 investors have pledged £243,300 and the target has now been extended to £1m with 19 days remaining. Meanwhile, Pod has responded after City analyst Mark Brumby earlier this week questioned whether loss-making companies should be able to offer mini-bonds. 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. A Pod spokesman told Propel: “Like-for-like sales were up 8% in the first four months of 2018 and the management team put in place last year is doing a great job as we move back towards profitability.” Last week, Pod removed posters from the windows of its 24 stores advertising the mini-bond as a chance to “own a piece of Pod” after Propel pointed out the potential to mislead investors because the mini-bond offers no equity and only unsecured lending.

Coaching Inn Group acquires 15th site, in Stafford: Coaching Inn Group, led by Kevin Charity, has acquired The Swan in Stafford for its 15th site. The freehold and business has been purchased from The Lewis Partnership for an undisclosed sum in an off-market deal. The Swan has been part of Stafford’s history for more than 300 years and remains a focal point in the town. It has undergone significant investment and modernisation by The Lewis Partnership, while all staff will be retained. The Swan features 31 rooms, a bar, fine dining restaurant, coffee shop and significant outside space. Charity said: “The Swan is exactly the type of property and business we like to acquire. It has a prominent position in Stafford, has heritage, and has been lovingly nurtured and developed by its previous owners – it is a gem. We will look after it, bringing our experience, systems and capital to take it on the next stage of its journey.” Coaching Inn Group, which is backed by the Business Growth Fund, said it would continue to seek and acquire high-quality coaching inns as it looked to “further consolidate” in a “highly fragmented market”. The company added it has a strong pipeline of potential additions to its estate and is looking to grow by three to four sites per year. Fleurets advised Coaching Inn Group on the transaction.

Brasserie Blanc to expand hotel format with Manchester airport opening: Brasserie Blanc, the French restaurant group led by chef Raymond Blanc, will open its second Marriott hotel venue, at Manchester airport. The brasserie will be within the newly refurbished, four-star Manchester Airport Marriott Hotel in Hale Barns, just minutes from the terminal. The space will offer a 120-cover restaurant and 100-cover bar, with an additional 50 covers on a terrace. The space will feature reclaimed oak parquet floors, velvet-and-leather banquettes, art deco-style lighting, deep-buttoned sofas and an atrium roof. The brasserie will provide breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner as well as room service for hotel guests. Brasserie Blanc chief executive Mark Derry said: “This is part of an exciting new phase for Brasserie Blanc’s development. We’ve seen success from our sites that operate within or in association with hotels in Cheltenham, Bath and Bournemouth and we are excited to be expanding this side of the business. The bar, brasserie and terrace will be stunning and we hope it will be a destination for local residents as well as those travelling for business or pleasure.” Earlier this month, Derry announced he would take over as executive chairman of Brasserie Bar Co, the pub and restaurant company that operates the Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie brands. Derry will succeed Ian Edward, who will continue as a retained advisor. Brasserie Bar Co has 19 French brasseries and 17 pub brasseries in the UK.

Beavertown reports sales up 34% following brewery investment: London-based brewer Beavertown, which sold a minority stake to Heineken this month, has reported turnover increased 34% to £12,739,753 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £9,491,086 the year before. Ebitda fell slightly to £2.1m compared with £1.8m due to “investment in personnel ready for future growth in 2018/19”. Pre-tax profit was down to £1,206,642 compared with £1,595,073 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company has invested in increasing production capacity, allowing sales to increase by 34% to £12.7m. The directors view is demand will continue to outstrip supply through 2018/19.”

Peach Pub Company acquires 20th pub, relaunch boosts turnover at two further sites: Peach Pub Company has acquired its 20th pub – Boulters Lock in Berkshire – and relaunched two others as it “continues to build the business and eye the future with renewed confidence”. The company, which also operates a boutique hotel, bought the pub for £350,000. It sits beside a lock on the Thames and Peach will redevelop it later this year. Peach managing director Hamish Stoddart said: “We have brought another stunning pub into the Peach portfolio, taking it over smoothly with many of the established team joining the Peach family. No Peach magic has been applied to the pub yet but plans are being readied in July and we are looking forward to investing a further half a million pounds or more to achieve our dream of turning Boulters Lock into a £2m to £3m-turnover pub.” In February, Peach added The Bear & Ragged Staff in Cumnor, Oxfordshire, to its portfolio. The company said it had invested £320,000 in its refurbishment, seeing weekly net sales rise from £17,000 when it took over to £25,000. Peach has also refurbished Brookmans in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire, spending £340,000 to give the pub a “more aspirational look”. This, together with menu innovations such as a gastro-pizza offer, had helped to add £8,000 a week to the pub’s turnover, the company said.

Fuller’s chief executive sees remuneration fall despite bonus increase: Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny saw his remuneration fall slightly despite an increase in his annual bonus, the company’s annual report has revealed. Emeny received a total of £1,089,000 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £1,097,000 the previous year. This consisted of £428,000 salary and fees, £25,000 in taxable benefits, £157,000 annual bonus, £404,000 in long-term incentive payments, and £75,000 pension. Finance director James Douglas saw his remuneration fall to £719,000, compared with £759,000 the previous year. This consisted of £295,000 salary and fees, £23,000 in taxable benefits, £73,000 bonus, £276,000 in long-term incentive payments, and £52,000 pension. Fuller’s Beer Company managing director Simon Dodd, who was appointed in August 2016, received a total of £340,000 in his first full year in the role. All executive directors saw their salaries frozen with effect from 1 June.

Heavitree Brewery reports pre-tax profit up 138% after selling four sites: Heavitree Brewery, the Exeter-based tenanted pub operator, has reported revenue increased 1.4% to £3,398,000 for the six months to 30 April 2018, compared with £3,351,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was up 138.17% to £1,329,000, compared with £558,000 the year before after the company sold four sites. Chairman Nicholas Tucker said: “The sale of the King of Prussia in Bovey Tracey completed on 27 November for £275,000. We understand the site will be converted into a community facility incorporating a small cinema. The sale of The King’s Arms in Strete completed on 9 March for £275,000. We have retained a small cottage with a garden, a further small pocket of land and some parking on the site. The sale of The Crown & Sceptre in Newton St Cyres completed on 23 April for £280,000. The sale of the flats, which we built in 2012 at the old St Loye’s Hotel site completed on 26 April for £595,000. At the time of writing, two unlicensed properties in Exeter and another in South Hams are being marketed for sale. One of the Exeter properties is sold subject to contract. I hope to report further on these at the year-end. The sales of The King of Prussia, The King’s Arms and The Crown & Sceptre, all of which had been closed for some time and incurring various consequential costs, will have a positive effect for the group in terms of revenue. The proceeds from the sales have also reduced our level of debt, which the board considers a prudent goal in these uncertain times. Trading has remained ahead of budget at the end of the first half of the year. The trading effect of the Fifa World Cup looks promising and, together with the prolonged period of favourable weather our region is currently enjoying, we believe the company is well placed going into the second half of the year.”

JD Wetherspoon launches trial to redistribute surplus food: JD Wetherspoon has partnered with food redistribution platform FareShare in a bid to divert more of its edible food waste from landfill. The company will donate surplus meat, chips, ready meals and desserts to FareShare centres in Hull, Speke, Manchester, Preston and Newcastle from local pubs during a month-long trial, with a view to a nationwide roll-out. Wetherspoon has previously donated more than 1.7 tonnes of edible food waste to FareShare, enabling the platform to distribute 4,000 meals to hostels for the homeless, school breakfast clubs and refuges for domestic violence victims. Wetherspoon said food donated to FareShare would either be surplus to requirements or have damaged outer packaging, with neither factor affecting its safety or taste. JD Wetherspoon quality assurance manager Sophie Finn said the trial was evidence of the company’s belief that “edible food should be eaten by hungry people”. FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell told “Having such a well-known, influential company as Wetherspoon on board is great news and sets a positive example to other businesses in the foodservice industry.” Last month, Wetherspoon partnered with resource management company Veolia UK to launch a food waste collection service across its estate.

Starbucks chief financial officer Scott Maw to retire: Starbucks executive vice-president and chief financial officer Scott Maw is to retire. Maw, who has worked at Starbucks for seven years and has been chief financial officer since February 2014, will step down on 30 November. Starbucks has launched an external search to replace him, while Maw will support the transition as a senior consultant until March 2019. Maw joined Starbucks as global controller in 2011 and also served as senior vice-president of corporate finance. Starbucks president and chief executive Kevin Johnson said: “I am grateful for the contribution Scott has made over the past seven years that led to the unprecedented growth of Starbucks. As we enter our next phase of continued growth I am confident in the finance team Scott has developed and appreciative of his willingness to support the transition into new leadership.” Maw added: “I am proud to have been part of such a special company and to have experienced Starbucks’ remarkable growth and expansion during my seven years here. I have the utmost confidence in Starbucks’ leadership team and Kevin’s ability to drive continued growth and success.”

Headstart Group closes award-winning Hull restaurant, plans Hessle launch: The Headstart Group has closed award-winning Hull restaurant 1884 Dock Street Kitchen as it sets sights on a new project. The company is exploring options for the building at Hull Marina, while it plans to open a restaurant, Cucina 1884, in nearby Hessle later this year. In 2010, the company launched The Wilson, a cafe bar by day and fine-dining restaurant in the evening, among a new wave of food and drink outlets around the marina. The launch of 1884 Dock Street Kitchen followed in 2012, achieving a listing in the Michelin Guide. In 2015, Headstart turned The Wilson into 1884 Wine and Tapas Bar, which will remain open. Headstart director James Birch told BDaily: “The area around the marina has changed beyond recognition since we opened, as has the food and drink offer. The number of food and drink outlets that have opened is into double figures and the time has come for a rethink. We have a fantastic location in a part of the city undergoing a transformation in terms of the social scene and residential development and we are looking at how we make the most of that. 1884 Wine and Tapas Bar is going from strength to strength and Cucina 1884 will be a superb addition to our stable.”

Brewing system TeaTimed launches crowdfunding campaign to ‘do for tea what baristas have done for coffee’: Tea brewing system TeaTimed has launched a fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to do for the beverage what “baristas have done for coffee”. The concept has been developed by James Ledger, who is offering 28.0% equity in return for investment in a bid to raise £70,000. The pitch states: “Tea needs help. It has fallen behind coffee in terms of quality, desirability and perception as the product served to consumers in the foodservice sector is not only poor but inconsistent. Fortunately, we see the problem as largely one of execution that could be solved by rediscovering the ‘lost art’ of tea brewing. We’ve developed TeaTimed’s brewing system to do just that. It will carefully control the key variables of the brewing process and allow consistent delivery of a high-quality standardised beverage. TeaTimed could reinvent, repackage and rebrand tea, facilitating its shift from a ‘service’ to an ‘experience’, adding value and allowing us to increase price-point and margin for our outlets. To realise this vision, TeaTimed requires capital for its initial set-up inventory and to produce its proprietary ‘lid timer’, which measures the most neglected of tea brewing’s key variables while providing the sense of theatre that is currently lacking. Once realised and trialled, TeaTimed will generate revenue through repeat sales of tea, gain traction by expanding in the market place, and look to form a partnership with a large company well placed to rapidly roll-out the brand concept and release its full potential.” Tea importer and blender Ringtons is the company’s supply chain partner.

Frances Atkins to relaunch Michelin-starred restaurant next month with new Yorkshire theme: Michelin-starred chef Frances Atkins is to relaunch her restaurant, The Yorke Arms in Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale, near Harrogate, next month after partnering with Yorkshire businessman Jonathan Turner. The restaurant will reopen next month following a refurbishment to showcase Yorkshire brands such as Abraham Moon tweed and James Hare silk. Newly decorated bedrooms will also reopen soon. The Yorke Arms is an 18th century coaching house, although the site dates to the 11th century as a monastic cheesery. The venue will offer two dining options – The Yorke Arms Restaurant by Frances Atkins and The Little Dining Room. The menus will continue to feature local suppliers alongside produce from Atkins’ kitchen garden. She said: “Jonathan’s deep-rooted love of Yorkshire, his style and panache are infectious and it struck a chord with me. I am thrilled to be part of his new team as we set out to deliver new, exciting plans for The Yorke Arms.” Turner added: “When I became aware The Yorke Arms was for sale, I knew I had to buy it. As a Yorkshireman, I couldn’t bear the thought of someone from out of town buying it.”

Mac & Wild heads home to the Highlands for third site: Game expert Mac & Wild, which operates two Scottish restaurants in London, has headed home to the Highlands for its third site. Founders Andy Waugh and Calum Mackinnon have taken over the visitors’ centre at the Falls of Shin tourist attraction. Suppliers have been hand-picked to support the local community and, as in their London restaurants, meat is predominantly butchered at the Waugh family’s business only six miles from the new site. Mac & Wild At Falls Of Shin features a 50-cover restaurant, a pavilion offering street food, outside seating for 60, and a gift shop selling local produce. It will also host foraging walks and masterclasses, with plans to add other experiences such as sheep-shearing sessions. Alongside signature Mac & Wild dishes, the restaurant’s menu focuses on seasonal produce from local farmers and fishermen. Waugh said: “This is an incredibly exciting project and offers us the opportunity to work even more closely with our producers and ingredients growing on the doorstep.” The visitors’ centre previously belonged to former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed. It was destroyed by fire in 2013 and rebuilt by the Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust. Mac & Wild opened its first permanent restaurant in Fitzrovia in 2015, launching a sister site in Devonshire Square last spring.

Vegan cafe concept Polly Met Fergie to open debut site, in Peterborough: Vegan cafe concept Polly Met Fergie is to open its debut site, at the Queensgate shopping centre in Peterborough. Founder Alastair Norwell has agreed a deal with the centre’s owner Invesco Real Estate and management company Lendlease to open the 1,500 square foot site in the Westgate Arcade. The 40-cover cafe-style restaurant, due to open in mid-August, will offer plant-based cuisine with a focus on sustainable, healthy produce including freshly made pasta and sauces. It will also feature a cocktail lounge jazz bar. Norwell said: “We look forward to sharing our passion for vegan food at our debut restaurant, in Peterborough, while adding a new dimension to its culinary scene and allowing people to try something new.” Guy Thomas, head of retail at Lendlease, added: “Veganism has been dubbed as one of the UK’s fastest growing lifestyle trends, making When Polly Met Fergie a timely and exciting addition to Queensgate’s Westgate Arcade.” CBRE and Time Retail Partners represented Queensgate while When Polly Met Fergie dealt direct.

Balham-based brunch brand Brother Marcus expands into Islington: Balham-based brunch brand Brother Marcus has started expansion by opening a second site, in Islington. The venue has launched in Camden Passage at a site formerly occupied by restaurant The Elk In The Woods. Balham Angel offers a new evening menu covering Mediterranean-inspired small plates with a focus on Crete. Vegetarian and vegan dishes include aubergine with mint, chilli, lemon zest tahini and pomegranate seeds, while meat dishes include cracked pork belly with apple labneh and walnuts, Hot Dinners reports. Signature Brother Marcus brunch dishes include the Step Sister (sweet potato with courgette and feta fritters), and turmeric yogurt with poached egg. Alongside cocktails in the evening the drinks list features wine with plenty of Greek varieties, while a semi-private dining room seats 12.

Wimpy cuts calories on new menu: Casual dining chain Wimpy has launched a summer menu at its 69 UK table-service restaurants, which features new lower-calorie options and sugar-free fizzy drinks for children. Chicken chunks have been replaced with lower-fat breaded chicken breast strips; thick shakes have 20% fewer calories; and children’s dessert American pancakes and ice cream has replaced ice-cream waffles saving a third of calories per dish. High-calorie, sugary fizzy drinks have also been replaced on the children’s menu by four sugar-free drinks. The move comes as Wimpy, which is owned by South African-based Famous Brands, launches a mobile-friendly website with interactive menus, restaurant locator and social media functions. Wimpy UK general manager Chris Woolfenden said: “We have worked hard to ensure our new menu delivers some significant reductions in calorie count without compromising on flavour or enjoyment. We were the first to produce a non-meat healthy eating option in 1985 with the launch of the beanburger and continue to develop new menus and dishes with the health and wellbeing of our customers a top priority.” A similar menu will launch in Wimpy’s nine Express outlets in the next few weeks. Wimpy said it would refurbish its sites in the coming months while seeking new locations and franchisees nationwide. 

Platter London launches debut cafe: Platter London, a bespoke catering company that creates platters to order, has opened its debut cafe. Specialising in handmade food platters, the venue offers mini-platters consisting of sweet or savoury bites for one or two people, platter boxes and picnic platters, which are created daily and designed to be enjoyed in the park. Customers can also order large bespoke platters in-store. Platters in Holland Street also offers Allpress coffee, tea, hot chocolate, iced coolers and other soft drinks, while the coffee shop features bar stools.

Media 10 to launch debut restaurant in Essex: Privately owned events and media company Media 10 is to open its debut restaurant – Tom, Dick & Harry’s – below its headquarters in Loughton, Essex. The 60-cover, 2,000 square foot venue will open in High Street on Sunday, 8 July with a mix of industrial features, soft furnishings and vibrant colours. As well as a main dining room, there will be a lounge with baby grand piano, counter dining at the bar and a terrace seating 16. Head chef Michael Carter’s signature dishes come in the form of Nibbleinis – modern small plates that mix Mediterranean flavours with British ingredients. Choices will include British burrata and fried crisp Cornish squid, while other mains will be chargrilled on a Kopa oven. The wine list will feature pale Provence rosés, cocktails and a gin bar offering 20 varieties displayed on a flavour wheel. There will also be regular acoustic performances from local musicians and a Sunday Roast Club. The restaurant’s name was inspired by the three escape tunnels in classic movie The Great Escape.

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