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Thu 4th Oct 2018 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ei Group unveils Vixen Pubs as 11th managed joint venture: Ei Managed Investments, the Ei Group business that invests alongside industry-leading managed house operators, has launched its 11th venture, Vixen Pubs, a partnership with Helen Standing and Elizabeth Davies. Vixen Pubs will offer “great food and smart accommodation”, with the first two sites, The New Inn Hotel in Clapham, near Settle, Lancaster, and the Wheatsheaf in Corbridge, Northumberland, to open shortly. Future Vixen sites will also be based in the north of England. Standing has worked with and developed Craft Union, an Ei Group Managed Operations business, from its conception in 2015. She said: “Having worked closely with Craft Union, I’m delighted to partner with Ei Group’s Managed Investments business. I look forward to opening our first two sites and growing Vixen Pubs in the north of England.” Ei Managed Investments operations director Nathan Wall added: “We are thrilled to be working directly with Helen and Elizabeth, drawing on their experience from many successful years in the pub industry where they have been instrumental in creating great pub businesses.” Managed Investments has grown rapidly since its launch in May 2015. Vixen Pubs will be Ei Managed Investments’ 11th partner following the Ei Group and Oakman Inns and Restaurants ending their Hunky Dory partnership, the first time one of the joint ventures has ended. Ei Group, which owned 51% of the ordinary share capital of Hunky Dory, which operated two sites, sold its stake to Oakman for an undisclosed sum. Other EI Managed Investments expert partners include Rupert Clevely (Hippo Inns), Karen Jones (Frontier Pubs), and Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap (Urban Pubs and Bars Two).

Industry News:

People and Training Conference open for bookings: The People and Training Conference, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) in association with Propel, is open for bookings. The event, which will showcase outstanding people culture among companies in the sector takes place at Bafta Piccadilly on Tuesday, 20 November. Speakers will feature BII chairman Anthony Pender; Susan Martindale, human resources director of Mitchells & Butlers; Charley O’Toole, head of HR at Bill’s; Edward Barlow, managing director of 16 Hospitality; Kenny Blair, managing director of Buzzworks Holdings; Jamie Campbell, chief commercial officer of online training and staff engagement business CPL Online, which is now part of CGA; Rob Liddiard, founder of hospitality chat app Yapster; Joe Cripps, managing director and founder of Trail; Colonel Mike Tanner, commandant of the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre; and Linda Moir, who created the customer services strategy at the London Olympics and was director of customer services at Virgin Atlantic. Propel managing director Paul Charity will also talk to JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin about his “people philosophy”, touching on rewards, longevity, inclusiveness, training and applying his time to the front end of retail. Tickets are £65 plus VAT for operators who are BII members and BIIAB members and £200 plus VAT for operators who are non-BII members. Supplier tickets are £95 plus VAT for BII members and BIIAB members and £245 plus VAT for all other organisations. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Sector expresses concern over post-Brexit rise in food and drink prices: The hospitality sector harbours widespread concerns about the impact on food and drink prices once the UK leaves the EU next year, according to a survey of industry supply chain leaders by Prestige Purchasing. The survey, which collated more than 40 responses from operators with a combined turnover exceeding £58.5bn, showed operators fear that changes to import tariffs and migrant labour restrictions plus a weakening pound would have a greater negative impact on their food and drink supply than all other factors, including climate change. While high levels of concern were expressed about product availability and quality, there was a particular focus regarding possible impacts on food and drink prices and the cost of distribution, with more than 80% “highly” or “critically” concerned. Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents felt leaving the EU without an agreement would have negative supply consequences, while two-thirds (67%) said cancelling or indefinitely delaying Brexit would lead to positive outcomes. Prestige Purchasing chairman David Read said: “This survey shows the deep level of concern about Brexit felt by supply chain professionals within many of the large and well-established catering businesses in the UK, most of which are household names. Since the referendum outcome in 2016 the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index has shown 11% food and drink inflation, mainly due to the slump in the value of sterling. While many operators have taken action to mitigate some of the negative outcomes, the level of complexity and uncertainty involved may well result in large price increases after March 2019.”

Business mentor Nigel Simon to launch hospitality training course, discount for Propel readers: Business mentor, consultant and investor Nigel Simon is to launch a one-day hospitality training course. It will cover key areas of opening and operating a restaurant, cafe, bar or pub and is aimed at people who want to better understand the building blocks of the business or launch their own startup. The first course will run as a pilot and take place at Quo Vadis in Soho on Tuesday, 23 October from 8.30am to 6pm. The course will cover how to be on top of the numbers; the critical importance of a concept and strong point of difference; location, leases and landlords; how to satisfy customer needs profitably; and different elements of operations including IT systems and service. It will also help attendees write a powerful business plan with the financials to support it, write an elevator pitch and prepare a landlord pack. Simon will teach each course supported by an experienced restaurateur, chef or front of house. The first course will feature restaurateur Sam Harrison, who helped Simon build the course. The course will include virtual reality, gamification and video advice from industry figures such as Will Beckett, of Hawksmoor Group; Sophie Bathgate, from Sophie’s Steakhouse; and Amy Williams, of PR agency Samphire Communications. Simon said: “TV programmes such as Million Pound Menu reinforce how important it is to understand all elements of the hospitality business. I believe we can substantially improve participants’ depth of knowledge and chances of success.” The pilot will cost £200 for Propel readers compared with £250 normally. To book, click here and enter CODE200 at checkout to redeem the offer.

Prime minister’s pledge to back business requires more ‘coherent approach’ starting with tourism sector deal: A more “coherent approach” to supporting companies is required if Theresa May’s claims her government is “backing business” are to gain credence, UKHospitality has said, starting with a tourism sector deal. Reacting to the prime minister’s headline speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, the trade body called for a “co-ordinated relationship” between government and the hospitality sector, a “comprehensive package of support” in the Budget and an “end to mixed messages”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The prime minister said she backs businesses but earlier this week announced an immigration policy that will restrict the flow of workers and tipping legislation that will only place further burdens on employers. It is time for a co-ordinated, positive relationship between government and the hospitality sector, starting with a tourism sector deal. The prime minister rightly stated raising taxes stifles investment. We are calling on her government to bring forward a comprehensive package of support at the Budget, including tax reforms to ensure digital businesses pay their fair share and crippling burdens on hospitality employers are eased. We are receiving mixed messages – a declaration of support for businesses yet a simultaneous imposition of restrictions on employers. A more coherent approach to supporting businesses is needed if claims the government is ‘backing business’ are to gain credence.”

Craft Guild of Chefs reveals national champions: Kuba Winkowski, head chef of The Feathered Nest Inn in the Cotswolds, has been crowned National Chef of the Year in this year’s competition organised by the Craft Guild of Chefs. Meanwhile Henry Wadsworth, chef de partie of Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, was named Young National Chef of the Year. They were chosen following a cook-off between ten chefs in each category, which was judged by top UK chefs including Tom Kerridge, Clare Smyth and Claude Bosi.

Company News:

Pret pledges to ‘drive change’ in industry following allergy death: Pret A Manger is to make changes to its labelling and has committed to work with bodies and industry peers to secure legislative changes to better protect people with allergies. The company has pledged to “drive change” in the industry in the wake of a coroner finding its labelling was “inadequate” in the case of a girl who died after eating one of its baguettes. Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, went into cardiac arrest on a flight after eating an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought at Heathrow airport in 2016. Pret chief executive Clive Schlee said: “We are deeply sorry for the loss of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame. I said we would learn from this tragedy and ensure meaningful changes result from it. In the past two years we have been improving our allergen information. We now display declarable allergens for our freshly made products on shelf tickets in front of each item. We also have signs in our fridges, on product packaging and at till points advising customers with allergies to speak to a manager to see our allergen guide. We recognise there is much more we can do. We will start trialling new labels that show full ingredients, including allergens, on packaging from next month. This will be rolled out to all UK shops as quickly as possible. Pret is also committed to working with others, including the government, regulatory authorities, charity groups and industry peers, to secure legislative changes to better protect people with allergies. In the meantime we will make the following changes within the next few weeks. Prominent allergen warning stickers will be placed on all freshly made products, additional allergen warning signs will be displayed in shops and full ingredient information, including allergens, for all products will be available online and in shops. I hope this sets us on course to drive change in the industry and ensure customers with allergies are as protected and informed as possible. Nothing is more important to Pret right now.”

Whitbread looks to eliminate operations manager roles across Premier Inn estate: Whitbread is looking to eliminate operations manager roles across its Premier Inn estate. Under proposals, the company would create assistant manager and hotel manager posts, with those currently employed as operations managers laid off or put in charge of multiple sites instead of one, a source with direct knowledge of the plans told Reuters. A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether jobs would be lost. She said: “We are consulting directly with the individuals impacted by these proposed changes and will endeavour to match people with the new positions as well as existing vacancies in our restaurant business wherever possible.” The proposal, which has to undergo a 45-day consultation period, is aimed at cutting costs, the source said. Whitbread said the proposed changes would help it deliver its growth plans and create 1,700 jobs across Britain by investing about £300m in 42 hotel and restaurant openings during the next year.

BrewBroker seeks to sign up 500 breweries by February: BrewBroker, an online market place for the global brewing industry, is targeting 500 breweries to sign up for its services by February. Since its launch on 12 September, BrewBroker has signed up 145 breweries – buyer or supplier – including Hopstuff, Tiny Rebel and Big Hug Brewing. The aim of BrewBroker is to enable businesses to search, sell and buy brewing services from each other. There are 40 tenders live, with a contract value of £1.2m, while beer volumes have reached 8,000 hectolitres. BrewBroker raised £390,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube last year and was founded by drinks marketing expert Toby Chantrell and Ben Morgan-Smith, a digital industry veteran. A BrewBroker spokesman told Propel: “According to the Brewers Manual 2018, 90 breweries closed in 2017. We want to help those 2,400-plus that remained open to buy better and achieve greater business efficiencies. We are on a mission to sign up breweries. We want to de-risk, empower and excel 500 brewing businesses between now and February 2019. We have spent the past three years exploring how contract brewing done in the right way can be utilised to reduce some of the pressures of being a modern brewer. We uncovered the pitfalls and challenges of contracting services and the opportunities that can be offered by streamlining the process and taking out the pain points – BrewBroker is our solution. There are lots of buyers, but lots of sellers too. This means the success of a brewery looking to grow is based on the reach of distribution and flexibility to scale up quickly to fulfil orders. You can no longer expect a listing to return a steady four or five kegs a week, more likely you will be on rotation with tons of other beers and that number will be halved or quartered. Contracting can lower overheads while you grow into facilities, can offer those without space to grow with pace and give brewers the opportunity to brew different styles. Our digital market place instantly matches buyers with sellers, provides comparison quotes, manages contracts and handles payments. It means anybody who is currently contracting can create a tender to find a better deal, those just starting out can find the perfect brewing partner, and means we are opening up the opportunity to restaurants and pubs, corporate customers and marketers.” The service is free to subscribe. For more information, click here

Le Bab co-founder – we’re excited about the opportunity Maison Bab brings with hopes to open more sites: Stephen Tozer, co-founder of kebab restaurant concept Le Bab, has told Propel he is excited about the opportunity his new venture, Maison Bab, brings amid hopes to open further sites. Tozer and Ed Brunet have just launched their second site, Maison Bab, at the Mercer Walk development in Covent Garden. At 3,200 square feet, it is much larger than the 750 square foot Le Bab in Kingly Court, Soho, which opened in 2016. Maison Bab has 40 covers at ground level and a further 30 in the basement. Tozer said: “I would like to think we have more restaurants in us but not for a while – it has taken us the best part of five years to get two open. For now, it’s about making sure we get this right and we’re very excited about the opportunities this site brings.” Alongside a selection of starters, sides, manoushe and desserts, the eight-strong kebab menu includes a new style of kebab with “more rustic, spicier and bolder flavours” than its sister restaurant. Tozer said he and Brunet were by no means “pioneers” of the rise in the popularity of kebab restaurants but had perhaps brought the concept to a new audience in central London. Tozer said: “There have been plenty of Turkish restaurants doing good kebabs for years. What people are realising is there is much more to them than just a piece of meat slapped between flatbread.” Simon Taylor, property director of Mercer Walk owner The Mercers’ Company, said: “Maison Bab is a fantastic addition. The restaurant’s unique and creative style is evident throughout every detail, from the exotic food menu to the bold and imaginative fit-out that offers surprises at every turn. It is undoubtedly a restaurant we have been very enthusiastic about joining Mercer Walk as it is a great fit among the eclectic mix of occupiers.”

Russell Hume hit by £8.9m debtor counter claims, unsecured creditors’ 75p-in-the-pound dividend depends on FSA investigation: Russell Hume, the Derby-headquartered specialist meat supplier that went into administration earlier this year following a food safety scandal, has been hit by counter claims from debtors totalling £8.9m, a new report has revealed. Russell Hume had its products recalled in January after being investigated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) over “serious non-compliance” with hygiene regulations. The recall hit a number of pub and restaurant operators, including JD Wetherspoon. A progress report filed at Companies House showed administrators Christopher Pole and Mark Orton, of KPMG, also showed unsecured creditors’ claims totalled about £13m. They are expected to receive a dividend of 75p in the pound, although the level will depend on the outcome of the FSA’s investigation, which “may result in a claim or fine being levied against Russell Hume”. The administrators said the counter claims received from debtors had arisen from loss of profits, reputational damage, the cost of seeking alternate supply and breach of contract. The report stated: “On our appointment the company’s net debtor ledger stood at £8.9m. Following the events that occurred pre-appointment, we received a significant number of counter claims from debtors arising from loss of profits, reputational damage, the cost of seeking alternate supply, and breach of contract. With the assistance of our legal advisors Eversheds, KPMG Forensics and retained employees, we have continued to challenge all claims made by debtors to ensure claims are substantiated by appropriate evidence in order to maximise recoveries. Discussions and settlement of claims continue to be protracted due to the nature and level of the counter claims and by virtue of a number of the debtors obtaining legal assistance to defend their position and the level of documentation to be reviewed. During the period of this report, we have collected book debts in the sum of £3.3m. We continue to pursue outstanding book debts and challenge counter claims received. Shakespeare’s has been engaged on a commission fee basis to assist in the collection of smaller debts due. These amount to circa £70,000 in total and are due from more than 60 individual companies.” The report showed the company had no secured creditors while preferential creditors, whose claims are estimated to be £594,000, should receive the full amount. The report showed there were two outstanding loans due to Russell Hume. The first related to a loan payable by one of the company’s directors of £37,595, where a final settlement of £31,797 has been agreed and paid in full. The second is due from Pearl Developments, a company owned by one of the directors. The loan is interest bearing and the capital balance stood at £1.15m on the administrators’ appointment. The loan has six bi-annual scheduled capital repayments, with the last being on 31 December 2020.

BrewDog passes £23m in Equity for Punks V campaign: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has passed the £23m mark in its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Last month the company extended the fund-raise to coincide with closing its Equity for Punks V campaign on Monday, 15 October. BrewDog was aiming to raise a minimum of £22m through Equity for Punks V – and was offering 1.21% equity on Crowdcube in return for investment. So far BrewDog has raised £23,106,755 in total – more than £625,000 of which has come from Crowdcube investors. The company said its fifth crowdfunding drive had received more investors than the previous four Equity for Punks crowdfunding rounds combined. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “This continued support and demand for Equity for Punks is not only humbling but demonstrates the passion people share for our mission and belief in awesome beer. The success we’ve seen over the past decade has only been made possible by our incredibly passionate, engaged, evangelical community of Equity Punks. They are the beating heart of everything we do and together we are changing the world of beer for the better.”

Plan Burrito shuts Leicester franchise site for ‘failing to maintain brand standards’: Loughborough-based Tex-Mex restaurant Plan Burrito has shut its site in Leicester because it “failed to maintain the brand’s standards”. Owner Stephen Hopper launched the concept in Ashby Road, Loughborough, in May 2015 and added a second site in the Leicestershire town six months later, in Baxter Gate. He then ventured to Leicester, opening the 65-seater franchise site in Granby Street in May last year. However, Hopper said the site was failing to maintain the brand’s standards leading him to ask the owners to close it. He told the Leicester Mercury: “The owners of the store had unfortunate events happen where they could not give the shop and staff the time needed to make sure it was running to the high standards our stores in Loughborough had set. Therefore, to protect the quality of the brand, we advised the owners to close. I would rather have two stores running of very high quality than three stores with one bringing down the brand. We are still keen to expand and have learned a lot from the Leicester store so we have made changes to our operations manual to ensure these things don’t happen again.”

Colenzo’s closes Southend site six months after taking over from Bourgee: Essex-based restaurant Colenzo’s, which took over two sites in April from steak-lobster lounge concept Bourgee when it went into administration, has shut its venue in Southend. The company, led by Dominique Tropeano, has closed the venue in Eastern Esplanade. It will continue to operate the restaurant at High Chelmer shopping centre in Chelmsford. A spokesman told the Basildon, Canvey and Southend Echo: “Colenzo’s Southend has closed. If anyone has an outstanding reservation we will be in touch to offer the opportunity to transfer this to our Chelmsford location. Any outstanding Colenzo’s Groupon vouchers that have been purchased for Southend can be redeemed at our Chelmsford restaurant.” Tropeano, who is also behind Colchester Zoo, was one of the directors of Bourgee when it was founded in 2015, alongside his son Anthony Tropeano, chef Mark Baumann and entrepreneur James Welling. Bourgee will open the first restaurant under its new direction next month, in Norwich. It also operates Bourgee Bites – Bar – Luxe Lounge at London Southend airport, which it retained following the administration.

Aston Manor reports turnover and pre-tax profit boost: Birmingham-based cider-maker Aston Manor has reported a turnover and pre-tax profit boost in the full year before its acquisition by French food group Agrial for almost £100m. Aston Manor saw turnover rise to £127,332,881 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £112,859,007 the year before. Ebitda amounted to £10.7m, including £4.3m profit on the sale of its head office and distribution centre in Witton, where it entered into a 20-year lease with the new landlord, compared with £8.2m the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up to £7,454,708 compared with £4,908,280 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “2017 saw the third full fruit-pressing season at the Stourport site in which we pressed a similar amount of fruit as the prior year but with greater process efficiency and achieving more consistent conversion than ever so we are extremely pleased with the results. 2017 also saw the group sign two more significant private label cider contracts, which increased our volume output by about 9% year-on-year, another superb result.” The Ellis family, including former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis, his son and former chief executive Peter, and grandson and chief financial officer James, ran the business for 35 years before selling it to Agrial in August. James Ellis and chief executive Gordon Johncox have remained with the business.

Ben’s Cookies opens 15th site, in Cambridge: Cookie brand Ben’s Cookies has opened its 15th site, in Cambridge. The store has launched in Market Street at a site formerly occupied by jeweller Trollbeads. The store features an art nouveau façade and stocks 14 flavours of cookies. Flavours include milk chocolate chunk, white chocolate and macadamia, and double chocolate. The cookie dough is created using chocolate chunks, unsalted butter, wheat flour, cane sugar and eggs and is made in a kitchen near Oxford. Each Ben’s Cookies store then bakes the cookies daily, Cambridgeshire Live reports. The brand was founded by Helge Rubinstein, who opened a stall at Oxford’s Covered Market in 1983. Ben’s, named after her son, now has 15 stores across the UK including in London, Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Reading and Edinburgh. Branches have also opened further afield in the US, Japan, South Korea, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Matt Healy opens Scandinavian-inspired vegetarian and vegan eatery for second Leeds site: Matt Healy, runner up in MasterChef: The Professionals, has opened his second site. Healy, who previously worked at El Gato Negro in Manchester and appeared on the BBC show in 2016, has launched Scandinavian-inspired vegetarian and vegan eatery Grön Kafé in Roundhay Road in north Leeds. The move follows the opening of Matt Healy At The Foundry in the city earlier this year. Grön Kafé offers vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes alongside coffee, tea and wine. Healy told the Business Desk: “There’s no denying many people are cutting their meat consumption and we want to prove vegetarian and vegan dishes serve just as much flavour. We’ve received an incredibly warm welcome since opening The Foundry earlier this year and we’re excited to build on our success and expand into north Leeds with something a little different.”

Pizza Pilgrims opens City restaurant for eighth London site, ninth in total: Pizza Pilgrims, founded by brothers Thom and James Elliot, has opened a site in the City of London for its eighth venue in the capital and ninth in total. The pizzeria has opened at a site formerly occupied by Jason Atherton’s Temple & Sons at the base of Tower 42 in Old Broadwick Street. The venue offers 135 covers and a large bar downstairs. New pizzas on the menu include the double pepperoni, featuring two types of UK-produced pepperoni with spiced honey, reports Hot Dinners. Pizza Pilgrims will open another site next month – under the arches in Tooley Street, close to London Bridge station. The company’s 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.

The Lowry to invest in restaurant and bar offer as it reports progress since £53m acquisition: The Lowry Hotel, a five-star hotel in Salford, Greater Manchester, is to invest in its restaurant and bar offer as it reported on progress since its £53m acquisition. The hotel has lodged its accounts at Companies House covering the period since its acquisition by Singapore-based CDL Hospitality Trusts in May last year. Turnover for the eight months ending 31 December 2017 was £9,122,000, compared with £13,266,000 for the previous 12 months. Ebitda in the period was £1.9m, compared with £2.4m the year before. Pre-tax profit was £1,141,000, compared with £1,690,000 the year before. Occupancy increased from the prior year by 4%, while the average daily rate increased £10,000. Revpar increased 6% compared with the prior year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The hotel experienced growth in the corporate sector and group leisure business and general transient leisure continued with a strong pace of demand despite the challenges faced by the city following the Manchester bombing in May 2017. The hotel is also embarking on additional investment in 2018/2019, which will include the presidential suite, restaurant and bar, and lobby lounge areas.” The 165-bedroom hotel in Dearmans Place, next to Trinity Bridge, opened in 2001.

Rico Burrito chef to launch all-day cafe and bistro concept in Muswell Hill: Chef Nadya Ramdany, who ran Rico Burrito in Camden Market and also worked in operations for Lola’s Cupcakes and Accent Catering, is to open a site in Muswell Hill, north London. Ramdany will launch Mimi’s Café & Bistro in Fortis Green Road having secured the former Kilim bar and restaurant site on a new 20-year lease. The property comprises 1,025 square feet on the ground floor with outside seating at the rear. Ramdany said: “Mimi’s Café & Bistro will be an all-day, family-friendly elegant cafe and bistro serving French and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. All food will be freshly prepared on-site. Once refurbished, the restaurant will be art deco having sourced some 1920s antique furniture from France as well as using light jewelled colours with accents of gold.” Davis Coffer Lyons, who acted for the private landlord, was marketing the property off a guide rent of £30,000 per annum. Keith Goodwin, Davis Coffer Lyons associate director, said: “Nadya has nearly ten years’ experience within the catering industry having also gained a first-class degree in culinary arts so we are confident her new business venture will be a huge hit with the areas affluent residential catchment.”

Red Rickshaw founder launches Asian and Middle Eastern recipe box service: Jyoti Patel, founder of Red Rickshaw, the UK’s largest online Asian grocer, has launched a recipe box service. Feast Box recipe kits contain authentic ingredients that can be combined to create Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Recipes include curries from India, Thailand and Sri Lanka and are suitable for two or four people with step-by-step instructions and pre-measured ingredients. Patel said: “As my business grew and I became a mother, life began to get in the way of great meals. Cooking stopped feeling exuberant and dulled into an everyday chore. The Indian delights I’d grown up with became a distant memory. Even with the rare ingredients I was providing through Red Rickshaw, I recognised others might similarly lack the time to experiment. I came up with Feast Box to make high-quality Asian and Middle Eastern food much more accessible to home cooks, whether total beginners or dedicated foodies.”

Sub Cult swaps to Shoreditch site: Anglo-American bagel-brioche concept Sub Cult has closed its site at Finsbury Avenue Square in Broadgate and relocated to Boxpark Shoreditch. Sub Cult, founded by Ben Chancellor and Gareth “Gaz” Phillips, has been operating in London markets since 2014, serving subs from 1970s camper van the “Soul Roller”. It opened its site in Broadgate in July 2017. Announcing the Shoreditch move, Sub Cult tweeted: “Longer hours seven days a week from 12pm plus a pimped-up menu!” The concept offers New York deli-style gourmet rolls made in bagel-brioche hybrid buns. Fillings include Skandi Sub (oak-smoked salmon and peppered cream cheese), Sub Contractor (smoked back bacon, white pudding and free-range egg), and the vegan Sub-Conscious (spiced vegan patties, raw vegetable chop, oyster sauce, pickled ginger and toasted sesame). Sub Cult is supported by CODE Hospitality.

QSR Automations launches restaurant monitoring app: Kitchen automation and guest management solutions firm QSR Automations has launched Vision, a restaurant monitoring app that provides remote access to operational data directly from front-of-house and kitchen. The app allows managers to access metrics from multiple restaurants via the ConnectSmart kitchen display and DineTime guest management systems. Vision also allows managers to make daily checks on operations, identify inefficiencies and negative patterns such as voided items, and breaks down kitchen and customer volume by individual restaurant. QSR Automations founder and chief executive Lee Leet said: “Restaurant operators struggle to get a complete picture of their operation, especially when they are not on-site. Vision has been designed for managers and other off-site personnel to have visibility into their operations from the palm of their hands. It helps operators monitor and quickly respond to situations as they happen. Our app gives them the flexibility to be away, act fast and be in constant communication. It is the only restaurant monitoring app to provide metrics from both front and back-of-house.”

Gary Usher opens Pinion in Prescot for fifth site: Gary Usher, the Chester-based owner of a group of award-winning bistros, has opened his fifth site, in Prescot, Merseyside. Usher raised money to open the restaurant in Eccleston Street via a crowdfunding campaign, smashing his £50,000 target in less than 24 hours. In total, the Kickstarter campaign raised £86,624 from 1,193 investors in Usher’s fourth successful crowdfunding campaign. Pinion opens from Wednesday to Sunday offering lunch, early evening, a la carte and Sunday lunch menus. Pinion has been named as a nod to Prescot’s watchmaking history. Usher said: “There’s something exciting happening in Prescot at the minute and we’re enjoying being part of it.” Usher’s other sites under his Elite Bistro’s Of The World banner are Sticky Walnut in Chester, Burnt Truffle in Heswall, Wreckfish in Liverpool and Hispi in Manchester. 

Andrew Wong opens second London site: Michelin-starred chef Andrew Wong has opened his second site in the capital. Wong has launched Kym’s at Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London offering his own take on classic Chinese dishes. The space spans two floors and seats 120 diners. There is also a standalone circular bar seating 30 and a private dining area for 50 on a mezzanine level. Kym’s was the original name of Wong’s Michelin-starred restaurant A Wong in Victoria when his parents ran it. The menu features small plates and sharing platters with a “big emphasis” on Chinese ‘roasting’ meat, including poaching and a Chinese Sunday roast menu. Wong states on the Kym’s website: “Focusing on the ancient craft of Chinese roasting and nostalgic flavours, our menu pays homage to the many gastronomic regions of China and the creativity and craftsmanship of London’s Chinatown.”

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