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Fri 31st Aug 2018 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Starbucks franchisee targets 150-strong estate following further £3.6m investment from Connection Capital: Following an initial £5.6m growth capital investment in 2015, Connection Capital has invested a further £3.6m into Starbucks UK franchised business 23.5 Degrees to fund its ambitious expansion plans. Since Connection Capital’s original investment, the company has acquired and opened 40 stores, including 12 “drive-thru” sites, and has just marked the opening of its 53rd outlet, in Peterborough. 23.5 Degrees opened its first store in Hampshire in 2013. Since then it has grown from 20 employees to 700 and has served an estimated 5.6 million customers. It will use Connection Capital’s investment alongside new bank finance facilities from HSBC to accelerate its roll-out strategy, targeting 150 stores within the next four years. It is well on track – two more sites are already planned to open by the end of August, with a further 23 scheduled to open within 12 months. 23.5 Degrees currently has a large pipeline of drive-thru sites – a sector of the market it said has significant growth potential and is relatively immature compared with the US. It is targeting potential sites on main arterial routes, close to major retail destinations or on large industrial estates. However, it will also consider retail park and "drive-to" destinations, as well as high street units in prominent, busy locations. The expansion comes as the UK coffee shop market is expected to continue to grow strongly. According to consultants Allegra Strategies, the market will exceed 31,400 outlets by 2022 with a turnover of £13bn – up from just above 24,000 outlets and a turnover of £9.6bn in 2017. Mark Hepburn, managing director of 23.5 Degrees, said: “Reaching our 50th Starbucks store in just five years was a major milestone and Connection Capital has played a big part in that success. But we’re not stopping there. The UK coffee market is continuing to grow and with our expertise and Connection Capital’s backing, we hope to extend our store count considerably in the coming years.” Pascal Wittet, the partner at Connection Capital leading the investment, added: “23.5 Degrees has grown rapidly in just a few years, creating hundreds of jobs and investing millions of pounds into the UK economy along the way. We’re proud to have been part of that. With this new funding, Mark and his team will have the next piece of the jigsaw to build on their success and deliver their ambitious expansion plans.” 

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Mark Jones to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel, St Paul's, London. Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio's, will talk about re-energising a strong casual dining brand in a challenging market. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Bar and Nightclub Conference and Dusk til' Dawn awards open for bookings: This year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference and Dusk 'til Dawn awards, organised by UKHospitality and Propel, are open for bookings. Both events take place on Monday, 8 October. The conference will be held at Bafta, Piccadilly. Speakers will be Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, chair of the Mayor’s Night-time Commission and a panel member of the government's cultural cities inquiry; Karl Chessell, who heads CGA’s retailer business unit; Simon Potts, managing director of award-winning bar and restaurant brand The Alchemist; Toby Smith, chief executive of Novus; Alan Lorrimer, founder and managing director of House of Song; Charlie Gilkes, founder of Inception Group; Andrew Stones, managing director of cocktail bar brand Be At One; and leading licensing barrister Sarah Clover. Meanwhile, Nicholls will talk to Tokyo Industries founder Aaron Mellor, Richard Hamlin of First Merchant, Peter Marks of Deltic Group, Tim Kidd of Adventure Bars and Lord Smith about the current trading and regulatory landscape in the late-night market. The conference will be followed by the Dusk ‘til Dawn Late Night Awards, the annual celebration of the UK’s late-night hospitality sector, at Café de Paris. It will see eight awards presented to recognise the best in the dynamic late-night sector. Tickets for the conference are £139 plus VAT for operators who are UKHospitality members and £195 plus VAT for non-UKHospitality members. Supplier tickets are £185 plus VAT for UKHospitality members and £285 plus VAT for non-UKHospitality members. Meanwhile, tickets for the Dusk til' Dawn awards are £150 plus VAT for UKHospitality members and £195 plus VAT for non-UKHospitality members. To book, email Anne Steele at

UKHospitality commends Lib Dem business rates plan, but calls for immediate relief: UKHospitality has commended the Liberal Democrats’ plan to abolish business rates but stressed action must be taken immediately to support hospitality businesses crippled by the system. The Liberal Democrats has published a blueprint for a replacement of the business rates system with a commercial landowner levy that taxes land, rather than property. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Despite government commitments to a fundamental review of business rates, we are still stuck with an out-of-date system that unfairly hits hospitality businesses. The Lib Dems’ recognition we need radical reform on rates and a complete overhaul of the system is positive for hospitality businesses. A move away from a property tax is positive, although any future system must also incorporate a tax on digital businesses to ensure they pay their fair share. We need action immediately, however, or hospitality businesses will continue to struggle against unfair taxes and there will only be further closures. In the short-term, we need to see a freeze of the multiplier, expansion of the pub relief scheme to incorporate the wider sector and positive plans to use digital tax revenue to slash rates for community businesses.”

Company News:

Aaron Mellor to open Los Angeles nightclub on New Year's Eve: Entrepreneur Aaron Mellor, who runs the largest private estate of bars and nightclubs in the UK, a portfolio of 36 sites, is to open a 1,600-capacity nightclub in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve. Mellor, who founded Tokyo Industries 21 years ago with the opening of a nightclub in Oldham, plans to open (Dis)Order in the Hart district of the city, converting a former arts space. Work has now begun on the venue, which can also hold an additional 800 people in its external area. Investment at the site will be about $1.2m. 

Arc Inspirations reports reduced wage percentage thanks to efficient scheduling: Leeds-based Arc Inspirations has reported its labour costs as a percentage of sales fell from 35.5% to 34.5% through focused and efficient scheduling of staff in the year to 1 April 2018. Revenue increased 8.6% to £22.2m. Its overall gross margin also improved from 71.8% to 73%. Group adjusted Ebitda as a percentage of sales grew from 10.8% to 13.3%. Profit before tax was £146,319, an improvement of £738,368 on the year before when there was a particularly heavy investment in openings and brands. Arc Inspirations, led by Martin Wolstencroft, has invested £16m in the business in the past five years. Steve Richards, chief executive of the Casual Dining Group, joined earlier this year as a non-executive director.

Pizza Pilgrims to open two new London sites this autumn: Pizza Pilgrims, founded by brothers Thom and James Elliot, are opening two new sites in London this autumn. The company is opening in the former Jason Atherton-led Temple & Sons premises in the City in October followed by London Bridge in November. The City site will have 135 covers and a large bar downstairs, reports Hot Dinners. The restaurant in Old Broadwick Street will have new pizzas on the menu including the double pepperoni, featuring two types of UK-produced pepperoni with spiced honey, and the pesto Datterini consisting of Datterini tomatoes and buffalo stracciatella. Meanwhile, Pizza Pilgrims will also open at a site in Tooley Street, close to London Bridge station, with a 16-seater terrace under the arches. Pizza Pilgrims’ other London sites are in Soho (two venues), Covent Garden, Shoreditch, West India Quay, Exmouth Market and a space at Swingers crazy golf club in the City. It also has a restaurant at the Westgate Centre in Oxford. 

Whitbread to kick-off major expansion in Ireland of Premier Inn as it secures Dublin city centre site: Whitbread has secured its first Premier Inn site in Dublin city centre as it kicks off a major expansion in the Republic of Ireland. The company has signed a leasehold agreement with developer Greenleaf Group on a site in South Great George’s Street, where it plans to open a 97-bedroom hotel. Whitbread intends to invest about €16m (£14.3m) in the scheme, which is expected to open by summer 2021. Prompted by the undersupply of branded budget hotels in Ireland compared with mainland UK, the company plans to open ten to 15 hotels in Dublin city centre before rolling out to other cities such as Limerick, Galway and Cork. It intends to open hotels with between 100 and 250 bedrooms in Dublin, comprising 2,000 rooms in total, and is seeking sites of between 45,000 square foot and 150,000 square foot. Its target locations include the Docklands business district, the shopping quarter around O’Connell Street and other parts of the city centre. Kevin Murray, head of acquisitions, north and Ireland at Whitbread, told Property Week: “Our ultimate goal is for Premier Inn to be as big, comparatively, in Ireland as it is in the UK and the number-one branded chain in the country.” The brand already operates seven hotels in Northern Ireland but has just one in the Republic of Ireland, at Dublin Airport. That hotel was acquired in 2007 as part of a portfolio and now trades at more than 90% occupancy. The move is part of Premier Inn’s wider international expansion. It launched its first hotels in Germany in 2015, and agreed a deal to acquire 19 hotels there earlier this year.

Hickory's lodges plans for first new-build restaurant, in Telford: American-style smokehouse and barbecue brand Hickory's, backed by Piper, has lodged plans for its first new-build site, in Telford. The company has applied to Telford & Wrekin Council to build the venue on land at The Rock, opposite Old Park roundabout. It would be the first time the company, which currently operates eight sites, has built a restaurant from scratch, reports the Shropshire Star. The application is recommended for approval. Council planning officer Steven Drury said Hickory's bosses had demonstrated no other sites were available, and the local highways network would be able to cope with traffic. He added: "The proposed development will provide a distinctive, high-quality building design, which will be sympathetically landscaped and will visually enhance a prominent site adjacent a busy roundabout junction." Hickory's operates sites in the West Midlands, north west England and north Wales.

Black Sheep Coffee signs for site at Wembley Park scheme: London-based independent coffee shop Black Sheep Coffee is to open a site in Wembley Park. The company has agreed a deal to open a 1,600 square foot cafe at developer Quintain's £3bn Wembley Park transformation. Positioned in Olympic Way, which connects Wembley Park tube station to the scheme, Black Sheep will be located in The Village, one of the four districts that make up the 85-acre mixed-use site. Quintain retail director Matt Slade said: “Wembley Park’s regeneration reflects a seismic shift in the changing lifestyles of millennials, evolving consumer demand and modern city living. This is carefully considered across the whole of our site, from the 5,000 new build-to-rent homes, managed by Tipi, to the retail, dining and leisure, which will link together to bring about a vibrant community spirit. The Black Sheep Coffee shop, with its relaxed atmosphere and appealing all-day offering, firmly demonstrates the type of brands we have been attracting. We hope to announce more names in the coming months.” The Village – a curated mix of artisan independents and local operators over 133,000 square feet – will have 25 shops and restaurants and open in spring 2019. Boxpark Wembley, which is another district of the scheme, is due to open towards the end of 2018 and will feature 27 independent restaurants, bars and cafes. Quintain has its own Wembley Park retail team headed by Slade. Agents for Wembley Park are Nash Bond and Cushman & Wakefield.

Disco Bars Group acquires Bolton site: Staffordshire-based Disco Bars Group, founded in 2011 and now operating six sites, has taken over Bamboogy, in Bolton's Bradshawgate. Managing director Pete Terry said the venue would continue to operate in the same way it always has, with the new owners adding improvements in some areas. He said: "Nothing is going to change for the worse, we are going to improve the venue and tidy it up a little bit. But, it's a very popular venue and we are just planning to improve it, we will be changing the air conditioning and updating the toilets in the next few weeks. We are absolutely excited to get started, we are a company which operates very similar venues so it will be just business as usual." 

Black and White Hospitality shuts Marco Pierre White restaurant in chef's home city of Leeds: Black and White Hospitality, which owns the rights to five restaurant brands belonging to Marco Pierre White, has closed its New York Italian Restaurant in the chef's home city of Leeds. The restaurant at The Merrion Centre has shut just over a year after opening. The closure is due to contract negotiations and talks are already in place for a new restaurant to open in the same site. A spokesman for property investment firm, Town Centre Securities, which owns the Merrion Centre, told the Yorkshire Post: “Following contractual renegotiations the decision was made to close Marco’s New York Italian Leeds. An announcement will be made soon regarding an exciting new restaurant that is due to open at the venue soon.” The 88-seater restaurant opened in April last year as part of the offering from the Ibis Styles hotel brand. Pierre White left Allerton High School with no qualifications and decided to train as a chef before heading to London aged 16.

Panacea founder pulls plans for £3m restaurant at Manchester Hall, hopes to find alternative venue: Joe Akka, founder of Manchester cocktail bar and celebrity haunt Panacea, has pulled plans to open £3m fine dining restaurant and bar Fable in Manchester Hall. Akka revealed proposals for the restaurant in the Bridge Street building in February last year with a planned opening next year. But due to "unforeseen issues", Akka has pulled the project. He does hope to find an alternative venue for the concept. He told the Manchester Evening News: “Regretfully, we are no longer taking the Fable concept to Manchester Hall. The building has thrown up too many challenges, which have caused continued delays to the project. We have, therefore, decided to relocate the offer to a different location in the nearby area. We have looked into a number of alternative sites and will continue to do so until we are confident we have found a building that resonates with the theatrical nature of Fable’s concept.” Manchester Hall opened in 2017 with ambitious plans to become a major new food, drink and events destination for Manchester. Mason’s Restaurant opened last year inside the hall, and Indian restaurant Dishoom has revealed plans to open at the site later this year.

Coventry restaurant run by refugees opens permanent site: A Coventry restaurant run by newly arrived refugees from war-torn countries has opened a permanent home in the city. The project was set up in May this year with the aim of supporting those fleeing war in the Middle East and offering them work. Refugees from Syria and Iraq are offered work experience placements at the restaurant, Arabian Bites, to help them move closer to the job market. After previously running a pilot scheme at a temporary base at Central Hall in Warwick Lane, the team has opened a permanent home in Lamb Street. The project was inspired by Jamie Oliver's London venue Fifteen, which was set up to train people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the restaurant business. Volunteers attend the project for ten weeks during which they work in the restaurant, undertake an accredited training course and take English lessons. The restaurant serves a range of "Arabic delights in a mezze style". Reverend Liz Jackson, vicar at the St Francis of Assisi Church in Radford, helped to set the project up. She told Coventry Live: "We hope the project will provide people with an opportunity to mix with our newly arrived neighbours, get to know them, understand something about the circumstances they have fled and appreciate their desire to be fully integrated and contributing residents of Coventry."

New lease on former Red Fort restaurant in Soho comes to market: Agent Davis Coffer Lyons is marketing the former Red Fort restaurant at 77 Dean Street, Soho, on behalf of private landlord. The approximately 4,125 square foot ground-floor restaurant is being offered on a new lease on a term to be negotiated at a rent in excess of £300,000 per annum and nil premium. It also benefits from a basement bar with capacity for up to 120 people. The Red Fort, which operated from the site since 1983, closed earlier this month after the owner forfeited on their lease. Rob Meadows, director at Davis Coffer Lyons, who is marketing the property, said: “This is a rare opportunity to get a substantial restaurant unit right in the heart of Soho. We are looking to secure a relevant and quality restaurant operation to reflect the properties excellent location.”

Signature Pub Group wins consent for bank conversion: Signature Pub Group has won consent to convert a former bank in Bruntsfield, in the outskirts of Edinburgh, into a new pub. The city council has agreed to proposals by the company to transform the disused Bank of Scotland branch at Holy Corner into a bar and restaurant with a beer garden. An extension will be added to the rear of the original bank building. Large glass windows will create a "bright" dining room, with an outdoor seating area at the front of the building. The main banking hall could be transformed into a bar with seating and booths – while the former bank vault could operate as a dining room. Earlier this year, the firm bought the Auld Hundred in Edinburgh, Nox and Paramount in Aberdeen and the Boozy Cow bars in Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling and Aberdeen from Speratus Group.

McDonald's launches latest free book giveaway: McDonald’s is handing out free Roald Dahl books with every Happy Meal. The promotion is set to run for just over a month until Sunday, 2 October. The books feature characters from some of Dahl's most popular novels, including The Twits and James and the Giant Peach. The free books are part of McDonald's "Happy Readers" campaign, which is designed to encourage more parents to read with their children. Over the past five years the company said it has given away 61 million books. This time round there are eight different books on offer, which have all been made in collaboration with Penguin and the Roald Dahl Story Company. Each book is roughly 60 pages long and includes activity pages with stickers.

Music promoter London Jukebox to open first restaurant: Music promoter London Jukebox is to open its first restaurant. The company is opening the venue this autumn in Upper Street, Islington, on the former site of Japanese restaurant Sen Nin. London Jukebox has billed the venture as an "intimate venue" where it will "represent a breadth and depth of music from startup singer-songwriters to string ensembles and jazzy swings". The restaurant is about "mixing music with food" and will feature Indian sharing platters such as jeera chicken – dry chicken thighs in a spicy jeera (cumin) coating served with a flatbread – and kaati rolls – paneer or lamb kebab in a roll, lined with fried egg salad and spices. Specialising in world music, London Jukebox has set up concerts across London, reports Hot Dinners. 

Chef Mark Greenaway to close eponymous Edinburgh restaurant: Great British Menu chef Mark Greenaway is to close his eponymous Edinburgh restaurant in New Town next month to start a new venture. He said: “It’s time for a new challenge, and so we are in the process of developing a new concept. Though we will be using the same team and suppliers that have contributed so much to the success of Restaurant Mark Greenaway, the new venture will feel completely different. Our intention is to boldly challenge the concept of fine dining in the heart of Edinburgh. When we celebrated our fifth anniversary in January, it set us thinking about the future and what we really wanted to achieve. Winding up this chapter is our first step towards those ambitions. Naturally we are sad to be closing the North Castle Street site, but at the same time we are all very much looking forward to the future.” Greenaway has three AA rosettes. 

JD Wetherspoon to open pub in Midsomer Norton next month: JD Wetherspoon will open a site in the Somerset town of Midsomer Norton (population: 10.997) next month. The company is launching the Palladium Electric on Tuesday, 18 September on the site of the former cinema with the same name in High Street, reports Somerset Live. Wetherspoon initially hoped to turn the building into a pub and open in July 2015. But a series of issues saw the renovation and opening pushed back. 

Belfast-based restaurateur opens second site: Belfast-based restaurateur Guillaume Rabbillat has opened his second site. Rabbillat has launched Mediterranean-inspired 44 in Hill Street, creating 25 jobs. Born and raised in France, Guillaume also operates La Bastille in Lisburn Road. He told the Belfast Telegraph: “44 will offer diners a complete fine dining experience, but without the stuffy, formal stereotypes. Our urban-style Mediterranean-influenced menu items will offer something special to suit all tastes and occasions.”

Toastie Taverns lodges plans for coffee house, bar and restaurant in Chorley: Lancashire-based pub operator Toastie Taverns has lodged plans for a coffee house, bar and restaurant in Chorley. The company has applied to Chorley Council to convert the former Yorkshire Bank in Market Street. The plans involve the ground floor being transformed into The Vaults coffee house and bar, with the first floor offices above converted into a new bar and restaurant called Hideaway. Toastie Taverns said the development was a “modern, forward-thinking concept to provide the people of the town with a place of choice to eat, drink and socialise". The venue is set to open until 1am on weekdays and 2am on weekends, reports the Chorley Guardian. Toastie Taverns owns and operates more than 25 across the north west. 

Irish golf venue goes on market for €45m: The golf venue that hosted the 2002 Seve Trophy, as well as a number of Irish Opens, has been placed on the market with a guide price of €45m. Savills Hotels & Leisure has been instructed to handle the sale of Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort, which is located to the south of Dublin. The luxury five-star estate sits on a 349-acre plot and comprises a 145-bedroom hotel and two 18-hole championship golf courses – Druids Glen and Druids Heath – designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock. In 1996, Druids Glen hosted the Irish Open and continued to do so until 1999. Winners included Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia. Druids Glen chief executive Edward Stephenson told Insider Media: "The resort has grown year-on-year and has become one of Ireland's key destination resorts. Situated in close proximity to Dublin, it caters for more than 130,000 visitors, both domestic and international, every year."

Magners employability programme to focus on bar staff: Cider brand Magners is serving up its employability programme for a fourth year, this time with a focus on bar staff. Magners is again working with the Celtic FC Foundation and the Tennent’s Training Academy on the initiative. This year's course will see 12 applicants cover the basics of bartending, with classes in customer and drinks service, professional cocktail skills, barista skills and a whisky masterclass. It will run from Wednesday, 12 September until Friday, 9 November. The employability programme has helped 37 participants gain employment in the hospitality sector or move into further education since it began in 2015. The aim of the project is to enable participants to use their new-found skills and experience to secure employment, voluntary work or further training.

South Wales-based pizza pop-up opens permanent site in Cardiff: Wales-based pizza pop-up Ffwrnes, which was the subject of an S4C documentary, has opened permanent premises in Cardiff. Ffwrnes, which was established by Ieuan Harry and Jeremy Phillips in 2014 with a three-wheeled Paiggiovan, has opened in the city's Indoor Market with a £30,000 micro loan from the Development Bank of Wales. Phillips told Insider Media: "Our passion for great local produce and traditional Italian taste equals really tasty pizza for food-lovers across South Wales. Smokey Pete and Sam Van Tân are out on the road cooking up a storm and now with the help of the development bank, we can also offer the good people of Cardiff an amazing taste of Italy right here in the Indoor Market. It’s a recipe for success." Micro loan portfolio executive Donna Strohmeyer added: "Ffwrnes is more than just pizza, it’s an experience. From weddings to festivals, Ieuan and Jeremy have developed a real following and worked incredibly hard to perfect their pizza offering."

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