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Tue 2nd Oct 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Casual Dining Group hits back over ‘ill-informed’ government comments on company’s tipping policy: Casual Dining Group (CDG) has hit back at “ill-informed” comments by the government on the company’s tipping policy. The prime minister has announced measures that will ensure restaurant staff receive all their tips. During the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Tories claimed a number of companies, including CDG brands Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge, deducted 10% from staff tips. However, a CDG spokesman said: “We are very disappointed by inaccurate and ill-informed comments by government. Our staff keep 100% of cash tips and 97.5% of credit card tips, after a 2.5% administration charge to cover credit card and banking administration charges. Our staff are at the heart of our business and are well paid. Our policy on tips is in line with government-sponsored guidance issued in 2009 that was approved by Unite and HMRC.” Propel understands CDG’s top waiting staff earn more than £40,000 a year for working a 40-hour week, while the administration charge is imposed by credit card companies and banks rather than CDG, which has tried and failed to get it removed. CDG staff can also access a range of benefits, including 50% discount on food and drink across all company brands and meals while on duty. Meanwhile, UKHospitality said any new statutory legislation regarding tipping would be an “unnecessary burden” on companies. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality sector took immediate voluntary action to improve transparency and address concerns around the treatment of tips when the issue was first raised. UKHospitality and Unite have developed an industry code of practice that deals with the fair distribution of tips among all staff, not just waiters. As a result, best practice has been widely promoted across the sector. At a time when costs are mounting for operators in the sector, the government must be careful about introducing additional legislation.” However, some in the sector welcomed the government’s move. The Restaurant Group chief executive Andy McCue said: “Across our brands we pay out all tips to our hard-working staff and have done for a number years. We welcome any move to help ensure this becomes standard practice across the industry.” 

Industry News:

Trade bodies back chancellor’s move to evolve Apprenticeship Levy: Trade bodies have backed an announcement by chancellor Philip Hammond that the government will evolve the Apprenticeship Levy and introduce a digital services tax. Hammond announced plans at the Conservative Party conference to reform the Apprenticeship Levy, including employers being able to share 25% of their levy funds with their supply chain instead of the current 10%. Since the levy was introduced, the number of people starting apprenticeships has fallen markedly. The latest figures show to date 341,700 starts were reported between August 2017 and June 2018 for the 2017-18 academic year, down 28% on the previous year’s total of 472,500. In 2015-16 there were 458,500 starts. Hammond also said that with international talks stalling, Britain was ready to go it alone with a levy on technology companies. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “A package of support to help employers train, retain and improve their team members will be a welcome boost and should help hospitality businesses continue to provide great careers. A revamp of the business tax system is long overdue and the government needs to act urgently.” Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “A rebalancing of business taxation that ensures digital companies pay their fair share is essential and we are proposing that the revenue from such a levy should be used specifically to help offset the current business rates burden, which disproportionally impacts the pub sector.”

Operators see rise in September like-for-likes driven by food sales: Like-for-like sales in September were up 0.5% compared with 2017 levels, according to S4Labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Analysis of more than 100 organisations using S4Labour software across all industry sectors found food sales were the driving force behind the rise as operators saw an average 3.5% increase across their sites. Wet-led businesses typically faced a leaner start to the autumn, with an average 2.7% fall in drink sales, partially mitigated by a 1.7% rise in food revenues. Meanwhile, food-focused businesses enjoyed a 3.7% growth in drink sales. The company said the figures followed a strong summer of revenues for operators, who will be hopeful the momentum continues through the autumn and into the lead up to the busy Christmas period. 

JD Wetherspoon, Nando’s and Lussmanns among winners of Food Made Good Awards 2018: JD Wetherspoon, Nando’s and Lussmanns are among the winners of this year’s Food Made Good Awards, organised by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). In total, 17 winners received their awards from SRA president Raymond Blanc at a ceremony in London. JD Wetherspoon won the Waste No Food award for its 2018 initiative that included offering smaller portions of favourite dishes, sending surplus food to charity Fareshare and switching its waste contractor to send unavoidable waste to anaerobic digestion. Nando’s UK & Ireland won the Value Natural Resources award for its innovations to save energy and water, while the Source Fish Responsibly award was won by Hertfordshire-based Lussmanns Sustainable Fish & Grill, where a five-year plan to overhaul its menu means diners can enjoy ten dishes featuring eight species – 90% of them Marine Stewardship Council certificated. Poco Tapas Bar in Bristol was named Business of the Year, repeating its success of 2016, while Dusty Knuckle Pizza in Cardiff won the only award voted for by the public. Blanc said: “Year after year chefs and restaurateurs continue to delight me with their winning submissions to the Food Made Good Awards, demonstrating how food can be a powerful force for good. Their greatest reward would be for consumers to eat in their dining rooms and their colleagues across the industry to follow their lead.”

Best Bar None expands by launching central scheme: Best Bar None, the Home Office-supported community safety programme operated by pubs and bars in the UK, has extended its reach in England and Wales by launching a Central Scheme (BBNCS). The scheme allows individual sites to undergo the same assessment and gain accreditation in areas that are not covered by a Best Bar None scheme. The introduction of BBNCS follows trials in London and Cornwall. Best Bar None national co-ordinator Mick McDonnell said: “BBNCS members go through exactly the same process as their counterparts in the town and city scheme. They will be required to evidence they have policies, procedures and training records in place to deal with responsibilities such as age verification, the sale of alcohol, conflict management, and vulnerability. They will also need to demonstrate their health and safety competencies, insurance and maintenance contracts for fire detection systems and fire-fighting equipment.” BBNCS assessment, audit and accreditation costs £150 plus VAT per year.

Company News:

Robinsons reports turnover boost, managed like-for-likes up 15.6%: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has reported turnover increased 4.2% to £71.2m during the year ending 31 December 2017. Pre-tax profit fell 19% to £3.1m. The company, which recently celebrated its 180th anniversary, said increased investment in 2017 had an impact on the bottom line but underlying performance remained strong, with like-for-likes in its managed division up 15.6% and tenanted up 3.1%. The company saw “strong” sales during the period, with further managed house openings and full-year trading of recently invested sites. It said this, coupled with higher overall operating costs and record levels of investment in tenanted and managed pub estates, had resulted in operating profits falling to £1.2m (2016: £2.6m). During the year the company underwent “embryonic growth of the managed estate” and a “strategic disposal and investment programme to transform its pub profile”. Robinsons said it planned to continue its “long-term tradition of ploughing profits back into the business”. Robinsons continued to invest heavily in the refurbishment of its tenanted and managed estates, spending about £9.7m in 2017 to improve the “look, feel and longevity” of its pubs. In 2017, Robinsons completed the disposal of 27 pubs and carried out significant investments at 31, resulting in a “transformed” estate. Managing director (pub division) William Robinson said: “During the year we substantially completed our disposal programme, which has created a strong platform from which we can invest for the future. We purchased three pubs, two of which are undergoing significant investment, and we remain acquisitive for more pubs in both tenanted and managed to enhance our estate. Alongside this we have continued to develop our pubs, completing more than 80 significant refurbishments and investing in excess of £30.2m across our estate in the past three years to improve these pubs for our customers, ourselves and our licensees. Although there is still a lot of work and a long way to go, we have a clear vision and a solid strategy for our tenanted and managed pubs.” Managing director (beer division) Oliver Robinson added: “We operate in a challenging and competitive market, where customers want both value and quality, but we have adapted well to changes in brewing demand and styles as we reinvigorate our beer strategy and offer greater variety and choice for our customers. The outlook for 2018 is in many ways similar to 2017 – we will continue to invest in the long-term success of our business while looking to maximise returns through operational efficiency. We are committed and prepared for many more generations of family brewing and pub ownership and our investment strategy should be seen as a sign of that.” Robinsons owns more than 260 pubs. 

Costa puts store refurbishments ‘on hold’ as it prepares to introduce new store of the future design: Costa Coffee is set to introduce a new store of the future design in 2019, with refurbishments currently “on hold”. Franchisee Sim Trava revealed details in its accounts lodged at Companies House, where it reported it has decided to exit its Pita Pit venture after its performance continued to be “disappointing”. The Altrincham-based company, which operated 32 Costa Coffee sites at the year-end and has embarked on a new franchise business with Cornwall-based Warrens Bakery, saw turnover fall to £10,946,120 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £11,525,431 the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £482,939, compared with £234,210 the previous year due to “significant increases” in labour and administrative costs. Its Costa business saw turnover increase 11.2% to £10,309,911, compared with £9,272,373 the year before “despite a sluggish start to the year”. Ebitda grew 5.4% to £532,295, compared with £504,879 the previous year. The company opened six Costa Coffee stores during the period – in Alsager, Monton, Buckshaw Village, Fulwood, Sunderland Broadway and Low Fell. Gross margin fell to 64.5% compared with 65.6% the previous year as a result of a “significant increase” in labour and administrative costs, mainly as a result of the group’s continued investment and expansion. In the third quarter of 2016, the company diverged its north east operation to operate as a separate entity. Turnover from other franchise activities increased 3.6% to £636,209, compared with £613,952 the previous year. Ebitda rose 13.3% to minus £143,101, compared with minus £164,936 the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Continuing pressure on the high street saw a sluggish start to the year (for the Costa franchise) but a consolidation and focus by the group has addressed this, showing an improving position. During the year the group has operated two Pita Pit stores and we also embarked on a new franchise business with Warrens Bakery, opening our first store in Altrincham at the end of the year. Turnover for the next financial year for Warrens is expected to grow slightly as it becomes established. The performance of Sim Trava Pita has continued to be disappointing, with little help from the franchisor on improving matters. The directors have taken the decision to exit the business completely in 2018 and exercise the break clauses in the leases. The directors view the underlying Costa Coffee franchises with confidence. With the move in April 2018 to the new National Living Wage, the directors made the decision to introduce age-related pay for any new starters over the age of 21, which should reduce the 2018 wage bill. Costa has put store refurbishments on hold and this resulted in a delay of four store refurbishments. This is expected to continue in 2018, with the new store of the future design be introduced in early 2019. There are currently firm plans to open a further six Costa stores and one Warrens Bakery store, some of which will be completed by the end of the 2018 financial year.”

Welcome Break reports turnover boost as it continues to develop restaurant offer, extends Starbucks franchise agreement: Motorway services operator Welcome Break has reported a turnover and profit boost as it continues to develop its restaurant offer. The company, which revealed it has extended its franchise agreement with Starbucks by a further ten years, saw turnover increase 6.9% to £723,430,000 for the year ending 30 January 2018, compared with £676,828,000 the previous year. Operating profit before Ebitdar was up 3.8% to £95.3m, compared with £91.9m the previous year. Pre-tax profit dropped to £8,302,000 compared with £34,324,000 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Welcome Break also said traffic growth levels had been “resilient” – despite some macro-economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote – rising 1% during the period. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Capital investment was £16.5m and included further expenditure in each of the key channels. The amenity building has seen continued expansion of the Starbucks brand including additional Starbucks drive-thrus and the acquisition of two Starbucks stores, in Baldock and Beaconsfield. This partnership has been further solidified with the extension of the franchise agreement during the year for a further ten years to 2030. Investment in the established brands within the Welcome Break portfolio continues. However, the business is also developing new opportunities such as PizzaExpress and self-service, multi-brand customer kiosks, the first in the UK. The hotel strategy has included the conversion of more hotels to the Ramada brand as well as extensions to key hotel assets to increase room stock. The Ramada brand continues to work well for the business, widening the customer base and enabling an improved food and beverage offer. The forecourt retail offer continues to be developed through the Deli2Go brand. During the financial year, the group incurred net exceptional costs of £8.0m, which was largely due to the loss on disposal of Fleet South assets following the fire, refinancing, business rates, restructuring and dilapidation costs net of business rate refunds. Following the refinancing in 2017, the group undertook a restructuring exercise with the aim of simplifying the group structure. This led to capital reductions, bonus share issues, and intercompany dividends in some of the group companies in 2018. Growth capital expenditure will again be concentrated in the established, proven brands and also further investment in new brand partners, and a continuation of the current strategy through further development in each of the major business channels of amenity, hotels and forecourts.” Welcome Break operates 27 sites across the UK, attracting more than 85 million customers a year and employing almost 5,000 staff. In August, Applegreen, the petrol forecourt retailer with operations in the Republic of Ireland, the UK and US, entered into contracts to acquire a majority holding in Welcome Break.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe opens 15th site, in Bluewater: Thai restaurant group Rosa’s Thai Cafe, which is backed by private equity firm TriSpan, has opened its 15th site, at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. The company has opened the 2,500 square foot restaurant in the upper plaza, next to the Showcase Cinema du Lux. It has space for up to 90 customers and features a bold red-and-blue colour scheme with industrial touches such as exposed metal beams complemented by Rosa’s signature wood-panelling. Managing director Gavin Adair said: “Opening a branch at Bluewater is an exciting expansion for our highly in-demand cuisine. London was a great starting point for us to offer our authentic and sustainably sourced dishes but we wanted to reach out to an even wider market. We’re delighted to be bringing an entirely new type of cuisine to Bluewater, which we view as one of the UK’s leading retail and leisure destinations.” Robert Hardie, portfolio director at Landsec, co-owner and asset manager of Bluewater, added: “Guests at Bluewater have told us for some time they would like to see Thai cuisine offered as part of our dining options. We have seen strong demand for space in the plaza and we know Rosa’s Thai Cafe will be a popular addition.” Rosa’s Thai Cafe was founded by husband and wife Alex and Saiphin Moore, who opened their first site in Shoreditch in 2006. TriSpan acquired a majority stake in the business earlier this year. Rosa’s Thai Cafe has a site lined up in the Albert Docks area of Liverpool, which Adair previously told Propel would act as a “bulkhead for a cluster of restaurants in the north west”.

Planet Organic to double seven-strong portfolio following multimillion-pound investment: London-based healthy supermarket and food-to-go chain Planet Organic is set for major expansion after specialist consumer brands investor Inverleith took a majority stake in the company. Scotland-based Inverleith, which closed its fund last week at €60m (£53m), has injected equity into the company to more than double its seven-strong portfolio of London-based stores in the next five years. The stores generate more than £30m in revenue, with 60,000 transactions a week. Almost two-thirds (65%) of customers visit at least once a week, with 20% visiting daily. Another two-thirds (65%) of customers are aged 40 or below, while Planet Organic sells 10,000 meals in its cafes per week, 10,000 coffees and 7,500 juices. Inverleith chief financial officer Stella Morse, who will join the Planet Organic board, said: “We look for companies that have a unique selling point and a strong defendable market position. In Planet Organic, we have a retailer and brand at the forefront of the natural and organic movement in the UK, a category that continues to expand.” Planet Organic chief executive Peter Marsh added: “The ability to look at opening three or four sites a year is really exciting. Most of our employees have been at Planet Organic for many years and look forward to serving wider London communities.” Planet Organic was advised on the deal by Spayne Lindsay & Co.

Unique Hospitality Management expands into Hertfordshire for 11th pub: Pub company Unique Hospitality Management has acquired a former Loch Fyne restaurant in Hertford for its 11th site and first in Hertfordshire. The Hummingbird will open in Fore Street in November and be part of the company’s Aspley Pubs business, which includes Hart House in Fleet, Hampshire, and The Three Locks in Stoke Hammond, near Milton Keynes. Currently undergoing a refurbishment, the 120-cover pub will have a “similar feel” to the company’s award-winning 185 Watling St Pub & Kitchen in Towcester, Northamptonshire, which is located in a converted Georgian townhouse. Unique Hospitality Management managing director Andrew Coath said: “The Hummingbird is a quirky site in terms of style for a pub. We will offer a very casual menu while the drinks offer will include a big focus on cocktails. It will offer something for everyone.” Unique Hospitality Management also operates Epic Pubs and Heroic Pubs, with its estate covering Bedfordshire, where its head office is based, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Hampshire, Berkshire and London. The company said it plans to open another site in early 2019.

Hampshire-based restaurateur relaunches Indian fine dining restaurant in Southampton for fourth site: Hampshire-based restaurateur Kuti Miah has relaunched Indian fine dining restaurant Kuti’s Brasserie in Southampton for his fourth site in the county. The venue has opened in the gatehouse of the historic Royal Pier. Kuti’s Brasserie features four dining areas set across two storeys, with 110 covers on the ground floor, 60 on the first floor, 30 in the Chandelier Cocktail Bar, and 60 on a rooftop terrace with views across Southampton Water. The restaurant was formerly housed in Oxford Street in the city but closed following a fire in April. Ravi Roa, who has worked under Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia, is heading the kitchen. Miah said: “A venue such the Royal Pier’s gatehouse deserves a first-rate restaurant with a world-class chef and, with Ravi, we now have one. He’s a great addition to Southampton’s dining scene.” Miah’s other sites are Kuti’s Express in Southampton, Kuti’s Noorani in Eastleigh and Kuti’s of Wickham, near Portsmouth.

Guillaume Depoix to launch Parisian brasserie concept in Soho: Guillaume Depoix, who has worked extensively with the Costes brothers in Paris, will launch his first all-day dining concept next year, in Soho. Depoix, who ran Boundary Hotel when he arrived in London followed by Casa Cruz, will launch Parisian brasserie concept Folie in Golden Square. Depoix said his ambition was to bring a “vibrant dining experience” to the burgeoning Soho district. Parisian restaurateur Thierry Costes is one of the partners in the project. The menu will mainly feature French and Mediterranean food “reworked for the wellness generation” and focused on high-quality products. The wine will be mainly French and one-third organic, natural and biodynamic. There will also be cocktails.

Australian-Japanese sushi hand-roll concept passes halfway mark in £350,000 crowdfunding campaign to roll out kiosks across London: Australian-Japanese sushi hand-roll concept Inigo has passed the halfway mark in its £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to roll out kiosks across London. The company, founded by Jeremy Bliss, is offering 18.92% equity in return for the investment. So far, 63 investors have pledged £176,730 with 17 days remaining. The pitch states: “Down under, hand-roll kiosks are commonplace, with Australia’s six leading hand-roll chains totalling more than 380 locations across the country. Hand rolls are sold in schools and work canteens, corner shops and airports, and are considered by many an essential part of Australian eating. Britons are increasingly looking for light, healthy and tasty meal options. Inigo hand rolls can be conveniently eaten on the go. Inigo produces all its own food at the site of partner H Forman & Son’s – a leading smokehouse that contributes scalable kitchen infrastructure, product expertise and, of course, high-quality produce for Inigo’s menu. Our chefs are Noma and Hix-trained. Inigo is operating one store in the City of London and our business-to-business offering launched at the start of the year. We already supply a number of corporate clients via BaxterStorey and Searcys.”

Sticks ‘n’ Sushi opens biggest restaurant as company fulfils King’s Road ambition, eighth UK site: Japanese restaurant brand Sticks ‘n’ Sushi has opened its eighth UK site, in Chelsea, featuring its debut “restaurant within a restaurant” private dining space. The three-storey restaurant in King’s Road is its largest to date. It accommodates 220 guests with the interior playing on the themes of light and dark, with each floor having its own distinctive identity. The focal point of the 90-cover, ground-floor space is an open kitchen island with counter seating. The kitchen is visible from the high banquettes and lower table seating around the room. Upstairs on the first floor, counter seating, low banquettes and tables offer a variety of spaces. There are also larger booths and a long communal table, a familiar fixture of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi since it was founded in Copenhagen in 1994. The basement of the Chelsea restaurant houses a first for the group – The Kings Room, a 26-seat “restaurant within a restaurant” private dining room equipped with its own kitchen, cocktail bar and dedicated team. Guests booking the room will be able to choose bespoke menus prepared for them by their own chefs and choose their own music separate from the rest of the restaurant. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi will also offer its complete menu to take away. Founder Kim Rahbek said: “Ever since my brother Jens, brother-in-law and partner Thor Andersen and I first came up with the idea for Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, we’ve said one day we would open on the King’s Road."

Star Pubs & Bars launches regional forums to encompass expanded estate: Star Pubs & Bars has launched a series of regional forums to run across the UK during October that will culminate in a national forum in Amsterdam. The events are an extension of Star’s forum programme following the company’s addition of 1,900 pubs from Punch six months ago. The events are designed to garner licensees’ views and share best practice, with presentations on industry trends and market insight. Star Pubs & Bars’ operations directors, business development managers and leadership team will also attend. The forums include evening social activities and a trade show. There are also votes on key issues with feedback used to create new programmes and meet licensees’ changing needs. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “The national forums have provided a great opportunity for licensees to tell us what they want and for us to share the latest developments and research that will help create outstanding pubs. We’ve taken past feedback and delivered initiatives on the back of it. Extending the forums to more licensees in our enlarged estate is central to continually improving the way we work.”

New tea shop and cocktail bar concept Teatulia opens in Covent Garden: New tea shop and cocktail bar concept Teatulia has launched in Covent Garden. The venue in Neal Street combines a tea shop, cocktail bar and “literary salon”. By day, Teatulia offers six teas to drink in or take away, while in the evening it also serves tea-based cocktails. The 16-cover space has been designed by Russell Sage Studios and features a curved, terrazzo-topped bar and a “living bookshelf”, which features a monthly selection curated by writers, actors, musicians and film-makers. The first bookshelf has been curated by actress Tilda Swinton. Teatulia will also host book launches, readings and literary events. Teatulia is the brainchild of authors Ahsan Akbar and K Anis Ahmed, who also run Bangladesh’s leading literary festival. Each tea leaf is hand-picked in Tetulia, northern Bangladesh, a new tea-growing region created by Teatulia from scrubland. The co-operative employs more than 600 workers and supports 1,700 community members, with literacy rates in the area rising more than 50% since its launch.

Fentimans looks to attract younger audience as turnover passes £30m: Botanical brewer Fentimans has said it is looking to attract younger consumers as it reported turnover increased 25% to £30,076,373 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £24,141,167 the previous year. UK revenue was up 18% to £19.0m. The company achieved strong sales internationally with export sales accounting for £11.1m (37%) of turnover, a 38% increase on the year before. Pre-tax profit was down to £634,005 compared with £1,023,019 the year before, reflecting “significant” expenditure on new product development and a packaging relaunch. In its report accompanying the accounts, the directors noted the roll-out of a new brand identity and the launch of its soft drinks and premium mixers in cans as commercial highlights. It added: “Net assets have risen from £2.8m to £3.5m – being the retained profit for the year. 2017 has seen an increase in working capital following the growth in business and stocking up for the relaunch with increases in stocks and trade debtors of £0.4m and £1.9m respectively. Creditors falling due within one year remained static at £8.1m. Cash balances were £1.7m less as a result of the increase in working capital and repayment of amounts due on director’s loan account.” The company has a stated objective of attracting a “younger consumer audience”. It has positioned itself in the growing high-quality cocktail market by launching a range of cocktail syrups under the House of Broughton brand.

Novus shortlisted for customer and employee engagement accolades: Novus, the London bar and restaurant operator, has been shortlisted in two categories of the 2018 Engage Awards – best online customer experience and best use of innovation in employee engagement. In its ninth year, The Engage Awards recognise excellence in customer and employee engagement across UK businesses. Novus’ shortlisting in the best online customer experience category is for its digital platform, Late Night London, a listings website open to all operators to give them a shop window to 250,000 active users and more than 30,000 visitors a month. In turn, users have access to reviews, news and an interactive “social wall” to share stories about their experiences in London. The best use of innovation in employee engagement nomination is for Novus’ bartender of the year competition. Novus customer experience director Simon Gaske said: “Our plan with Late Night London was to turn the traditional review site on its head, creating a community with real stories and real experiences written by real people. To be shortlisted for such a prestigious award is testament to the dedication of operators to the site, our teams’ hard work and the passion and enthusiasm of the Late Night London crowds.”

Rebrand for BMF as owners eye expansion: British Military Fitness (BMF), which operates at sites across the UK, has rebranded to Be Military Fit, with the company now jointly owned by NM Capital and Bear Grylls Ventures. BMF plans to expand its military workouts in the UK and introduce a range of fitness products across the country and into new territories. Bear Grylls told Insider Media: “BMF has such a special heritage with military personnel and many veterans. I’m so proud to co-own BMF and to join this incredible family. I used to train so much with BMF in the days before I joined the Reserve SAS. Our goal as a team now is to take this business to the next level and a whole new generation, including kids and families.” Chris St George, former army officer, co-founder of NM Capital and BMF chairman, added: “We share so many values and are excited about the role BMF can play in society as we get more and more people outside, active and healthy. We are an ambitious team. Our initial priority is to focus on growth in the UK, where we see huge potential, followed by international expansion. Bear will add great value to the business as we look to engage wider audiences, particularly in new international markets where he is so widely recognised.”

Darwin & Wallace launches autumn menu: Darwin & Wallace, the independent neighbourhood bar group backed by Imbiba, has launched an autumn menu across its six sites. New dishes include three-bean chilli with short grain rice, labneh and paratha bread; and lighter options such as baked sea bream with dill and red onion. New drinks include a berry negroni, a plum and vanilla house-made lemonade, and craft beer from London brewers. New breakfast dishes include banana and ricotta pancakes with coconut yogurt, maple syrup and warm berry compote, while the weekday and weekend menus include warm roast pumpkin and beetroot salad with spiced chickpea houmous and feta. The menu uses “wonky” vegetables usually thrown away by supermarkets. In August, Darwin & Wallace secured its seventh location, in Ealing. Its other sites are in Chelsea, Clapham, Richmond, Chiswick, Battersea and Wimbledon.

CH&Co reports £152m in new sales and retained business in 2018, full-year revenue hits £240m: CH&Co has achieved more than £152m in new sales and retained business to date in 2018. The new sales across the UK, which represent £115m in full contract term value, are with almost 50 new clients, while the retained business is worth £37m in full contract term value. The announcement coincided with the latest results for CH&Co Catering Group (Holdings), lodged at Companies House, which showed annual turnover reached £240m in the year ending December 2017, with Ebitda of £15.1m. Operating cash flows were strong, driving an overall net increase in cash of £10.8m across the group. CH&Co said projected turnover for 2018 is approaching £300m. Chief executive Bill Toner said: “2017 was a strong year for the company with good sales and retention performance. The Harbour & Jones and Concerto Group businesses became part of CH&Co in 2017 and these integrations are going to plan and have added greater scale and coverage across the UK. The merging of these two businesses into CH&Co has also strengthened our expertise across a broader range of sectors. Our adjusted operating profit for the year at £15.1m or 6% is in line with expectations and industry averages and, while we are trading in uncertain times with the general economy and Brexit, our business is in a good position to respond to market changes. Building on our new business success in 2017, our sales performance in 2018 has been incredibly buoyant and demonstrates clients like our proposition and can see the benefits we bring to the market. It has also been encouraging to see our retention rates continue to be strong. Our recent rebranding has positioned us well for more growth and consolidated our expertise in the diverse sectors we operate in. We continue to be a food-focused and customer-centric business backed up by good, effective systems and team training and we’re very optimistic about the future.”

William Grant launches £13m Hendrick’s Gin Palace: Global distiller William Grant & Sons has launched a £13m gin palace and distillery for its Hendrick’s brand. The venue in Girvan, Scotland, has been expanded to meet demand and will explore new gin variants as well as distilling the brand. The Hendrick’s Gin Palace also features a walled garden and palm house, with two hothouses used to cultivate unusual botanicals, alongside a laboratory, “flavour library”, lecture theatre and bar. There are also two new stills. Hendrick’s master distiller Lesley Gracie said: “I am thrilled and excited to take full advantage of our wonderful new distillery and begin working on a line of experimental liquids, some of which will hopefully blossom into future releases.”

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