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Tue 23rd Oct 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Alison Brittain – our new ZIP by Premier Inn format is a niche under-served market: Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain has argued the company’s new ZIP by Premier Inn format, which offers rooms for £19 a night, is a “niche, under-served segment of the market”. The first ZIP by Premier Inn will open with 138 rooms in the Roath district of Cardiff in early 2019. ZIP by Premier Inns will be located on the outskirts of major towns and cities and feature small, modern rooms. Whitbread is billing the rooms, which are less than half the size of a standard Premier Inn room at 8.5 square metres, as “basics done brilliantly”. ZIP’s smaller-room format will give Whitbread access to a broader range of buildings and provide a “great accommodation offer for the ultra-price-sensitive customer”. Whitbread has secured a second site, which is set to open in Southampton with 140 rooms, and is seeking further acquisitions in out-of-centre locations that suit the new format. Brittain said: “Our strategy is to grow and innovate our core UK business and ZIP is a great example of how we are doing that. We have invested in the Premier Inn brand over many years to become the UK’s most loved hotel company with 800 hotels in the UK and we believe there is a niche in an under-served market for ZIP. It offers us an exciting new platform for growth and will give us access to a broader customer base, attracting those guests who are on a particularly tight budget but still expect and deserve the basics done brilliantly. ZIP fits perfectly into Whitbread’s portfolio of Premier Inn and hub hotels, enabling us to attract guests with a wide range of needs – from longer staycations at Premier Inn to those seeking a design-led experience in the heart of the city at hub by Premier Inn and now ZIP by Premier Inn, catering to short-stay, value-conscious guests who are looking to zip in and out.” Premier Inn managing director Simon Jones added: “In developing the concept we have undertaken considerable research, including having six ZIP rooms on sale to customers for many months. It’s clear through the research that people want the basics done brilliantly, such as a comfy bed and a power shower, but they are happy to compromise on location or some extras if they are paying a fantastic price for their room. We will continue to learn from our customers as they experience the product and will evolve and innovate the concept as we open more ZIP hotels.”

Industry News:

BII announces 2018 NITAs finalists, chance to book places: The British Institute of Innkeepers (BII) has announced the finalists for the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs), while bookings for the event are open. The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony at Cafe de Paris in London on Tuesday, 20 November. The NITAs, in association with CPL Online and organised by Propel, recognise those companies and individuals for whom people and training are at the heart of their business. The finalists are Best Training Programme – Leased and Tenanted Companies, sponsored by Yapster: Charles Wells and St Austell Brewery; Best Managed Training Programme – Companies under 50 outlets, sponsored by Greene King: 16 Hospitality, Barons Pub Company, Beds and Bars, Coaching Inn Group, Oakman Inns and Restaurants and Yummy Pub Co; Best Managed Training Programme – Companies over 50 outlets, sponsored by CPL Training: Fuller’s, McMullen & Sons, Stonegate Pub Company, TGI Friday’s and Young’s; Best Apprenticeship Training Programme, sponsored by HIT Training: Mitchells & Butlers and Stonegate Pub Company; Best Casual Dining Training Programme, sponsored by HARRI: TGI Friday’s and Oakman Inns and Restaurants; Professional Trainer of the Year, sponsored by BIIAB: Dean Barker-Rogers (Stonegate Pub Company), Gary Richmond (Mitchells & Butlers), Karl Czinege (Karl Czinege Consulting), Peter Spivack (Peter Spivack Associates), Sarah Halpin (Castle Rock Brewery) and Tanya Wicks (Barons Pub Company); Licensee Trainer of the Year, sponsored by Admiral Taverns: Kate Ross (The Turk’s Head) and Mark Thornhill (The King’s Head). The Franca Knowles Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Sky, will be chosen by a panel led by Keith Knowles, chief executive and founder of Beds and Bars. This award will identify and recognise an individual working in the on-trade sector who leads by example and demonstrates training and people are at the core of what they do. This is an industry recognition award rather than a category open for entries and is in memory of the late Franca Knowles, who herself was a multiple winner of NITA awards. BII chief executive Mike Clist said: “We need to be shouting about how exciting and rewarding a career in the hospitality industry can be and the NITAs are a great way to showcase the talent we have.” Tickets for the NITAs are £150 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing

UKHospitality presses prime minister over Brexit concerns: UKHospitality has pressed prime minister Theresa May over sector concerns regarding post-Brexit migration and food supply. Attending the prime minister’s briefing to business leaders and trade bodies on the outcome of the EU Council meeting and Brexit negotiations, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “For the first time hospitality was included and I was able to press the PM on the sector’s concerns. I raised the issue of migration and access to labour and the PM reiterated previous proposals to allow freedom of movement during transition and to allow workers arriving before 31 December 2020 to apply for settled status remained on track and in the withdrawal agreement. On post-Brexit migration, she recognised there was a high degree of concern and said new migration rules would be developed in consultation and adopted after transition and emphasised they would allow the British economy to ‘access the talent it needs’ – an interesting alternative message to the one on skills suggesting there may be a willingness to talk sensibly about lower or semi-skilled workers. The PM accepted it was important to talk about fresh food supplies and the impact on hospitality and retail rather than just automotive parts and manufacturing. She recognised this as a key issue and added she was working to secure frictionless trade for this purpose and agreed it was an example that could be used to explain the importance of a deal to EU economies.”

BBPA – failure to extend sector relief for pubs could shutter almost 4,000 pubs: A total of 3,788 pubs could be at risk of closure if the chancellor fails to extend the £1,000 sector relief rate for pubs, according to a new report commissioned by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). Even if only one-fifth of those pubs at risk were to close, it would equate to an additional 750 pubs closing on top of the current three pubs a day (upwards of 1,000 a year) that close their doors for good due to a range of cost pressures including beer duty, business rates and VAT. The report, produced by leading economics consultancy Europe Economics, also found more than 20,000 full-time and almost 30,000 part-time jobs could be lost. If just one-fifth of the pubs at risk were to close, 4,000 full-time jobs and 6,000 part-time jobs would be lost for good, it stated. Small community and rural pubs would be the most affected by a failure from the chancellor to extend the rate relief for pubs. Almost three-quarters (73%) of community pubs with turnover of about £4,000 per week and nearly one-third (30%) of rural pubs with turnover of about £5,000 per week would be at most risk of closure as defined by Europe Economics. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The number of pubs in the UK is still falling – three close their doors for good each day. They are facing increasing and considerable tax pressures from a range of sources, particularly high beer duty, unfair business rates and VAT. This is deeply concerning because pubs are a great British institution and are often the social hub of their community.”

England-wide plastic straw ban will ‘accelerate adoption of alternatives’: The government’s consultation on banning plastic straws in England will encourage the hospitality sector to source more sustainable alternatives, according to Wales-based straw manufacturer Transcend Packaging and catering product supplier Plastico. The government hopes to introduce the ban from October 2019, although restaurants and pubs could still stock them for use on request. Environment secretary Michael Gove said the ban would help “turn the tide on plastic pollution”. Transcend Packaging, the first major paper straw manufacturer in the UK, said it was on target to produce three billion straws a year thanks to a £11m investment and support from the Welsh government. Sales and marketing director Mark Varney said: “We recognised it was only a matter of time before the government took action to eradicate plastic straws with a likely consequence food and drink outlets would suffer a substantial supply shortfall or have to source outside the UK.” Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Voluntary action to remove plastic straws and offer environmentally friendly alternatives is preferable to legislation or new taxes, which we will make clear in our response to the consultation.”

Wireless Social secures £500,000 in funding to accelerate expansion: Sector data collection expert Wireless Social has secured £500,000 of funding from NPIF – FW Capital Debt Finance to accelerate growth. The funding will enable Wireless Social to bolster its development resources and support innovation as well as ensure products stay in line with the demands of the industry and help support the company’s growth strategy. It will also enable the company to provide additional options to meet customer-billing preferences. Julian Ross, chief executive of Wireless Social, said: “For the hospitality sector, the ability to truly understand guest behaviour and have a really strong understanding of who they are and what they like is paramount. Our customers are looking for new ways to connect with and delight their guests. They want to make their experience the best it can be and that’s where we fit in.” Working in the hospitality industry for five years, Wireless Social has amassed more than 3,500 customers in the UK. Its technology is embedded into the daily operations of some of the UK’s most recognisable hospitality brands such as Carluccio’s, TGI Friday’s, Azzurri Group, Turtle Bay, Drake & Morgan, Leon, Itsu and Oakman Inns and Restaurants. Andy Traynor, senior investment executive of FW Capital, added: “Wireless Social has developed strong relationships with many leading technology providers in the market and we’re happy to support the company in its next phase of growth.”

Company News: 

Arc Inspirations continues cluster strategy by securing second Newcastle site in less than a fortnight: Arc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has secured a second site in Newcastle in less than a fortnight. On 11 October, the company announced it would invest £1.5m to open a Banyan Bar & Kitchen at a Jamie’s Italian site in the city centre. Now it has announced plans to open a site for its Manahatta brand in Collingwood Street. The company said the move illustrated its strategy of rolling out its complementary portfolio of brands in clusters in key northern cities – it has opened three sites across Manchester and Leeds in the past six weeks. If plans are approved, Manahatta Newcastle will employ 70 staff when it opens in September and take Arc Inspirations’ portfolio to 21. Split over two floors of a grade II-listed building, the 10,000 square foot site will feature a restaurant, cocktail bar and two private dining rooms. Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “This is a very exciting time for the business as we look to ramp up our expansion and take our brands to new cities across the UK. We have refined and perfected the proposition of our core brands – Manahatta, Banyan Bar & Kitchen and The Box – so we can open them in close proximity within a city with confidence they will trade harmoniously.”

Sourced Market reports new revenue-generating format takes £4,000 in first week: Sourced Market, which is looking to raise £750,000 on crowdfunding website Crowdcube in return for 6.98% of its equity, has reported a new revenue-generating sales format – a “coffee+” mobile retail cart. The company stated: “The cart launched at London St Pancras station concourse last week and has already brought in £4,000, giving a projected £200,000 annual revenue. Running 7am to midday, seven days a week, the key to our success is serving expertly made artisan coffee as quickly, if not faster, than our mid-quality competitors. Coffee is often made by our head barista, Fred, a finalist in the Italian barista championships. Bakery, breakfast and juice have also seen an uplift in sales after being made available from the new format. Further carts are in the pipeline now the model has proved a success with commuters and tourists and we’re well positioned to benefit from new customers. More UK coffee drinkers are choosing to buy their morning pick-me-up from an independent coffee shop and premium drinks sold via flexible-location trucks are also on the rise.” The current campaign has raised £656,000 so far from 142 investors with 23 days of the campaign remaining. Sourced Market, backed by Pembroke VCT, turned over £6.4m net last year from four London locations. It serves 11,000 customers a week at its flagship St Pancras store.

Davy’s promotes Jerry Marks to managing director: Davy’s Wine Merchants has promoted Jerry Marks from operations director to managing director of all bars and restaurants, incorporating Davy’s Wine Bars, El Vino Wine and Tapas Bars and Lazybones. Chairman James Davy said: “Since joining the business in 2015, Jerry has steadily increased his role over and above that of operations director. This is a thoroughly deserved recognition of Jerry’s ability and professional approach. With a new business – the Tappit Hen – opening next week in the City, a further Lazybones to be added in the new year and several planned major refurbishments taking place from January, things at Davy’s are full speed ahead.”

Rockfish Group reports turnover and profit increase: Rockfish Group, the sustainable fish and chip brand led by Mitch Tonks, has reported turnover increased to £6,905,113 in the year to 30 April 2018, up from £6,307,129 the year before. Pre-tax profit rose to £114,081 compared to £22,568 the year before. Ebitda at restaurant level was £1,351,000 (2017: £1,234,000) and at group level was £606,000 (2017: £533,000). The company has sites in Dartmouth, Brixham, Exeter, Exmouth, Plymouth and Torquay. Henry Dimbleby sits on the board and restaurant critic Giles Coren is an investor. On the company website, Tonks states: “In 2010, me and my best pal, Mat Prowse, opened Rockfish in Dartmouth for the first time. We had always agreed that seafood tastes best by the sea, and that the fish caught in the waters off the south coast of Britain is the best in the world. Yet at that time, if you drove to any of the south coast fishing ports, it was hard to find a family restaurant doing justice to this great seafood. We wanted to change that, to make it easy for people to enjoy this simple pleasure. Since that first restaurant in Dartmouth, we have opened a few more restaurants in seaside towns where fishing is part of daily life. The thinking remains the same: buy the best seafood and cook it simply and expertly.”

Barclaycard trials app to help restaurants avoid confusing menus and returned dishes: Barclaycard is working with London restaurant Frederick’s to test Transplater, an app that explains unfamiliar menu ingredients via photos and descriptions. The move follows new research that shows almost one-quarter (23%) of British diners have walked away from a restaurant because they found the menu too confusing. The research found more than half (55%) of diners have been left disappointed by a dish when it arrived because it wasn’t as they expected, while one-quarter (25%) admit they are too embarrassed to ask waiters to explain ingredients or dishes. Almost one in five (19%) even shy away from asking friends. More than nine in ten diners (91%) admit they don’t always recognise items on restaurant menus, while only 10% can identify every ingredient on the menu each time they eat out, despite one-third (33%) considering themselves a foodie, the report stated. For example, 50% of British restaurant-goers have never heard of kimchi, even though it appears in many dishes. The data found Brits are eating out on average three times a month, yet more than two-fifths (42%) say they would be unlikely to return if their food order was different from that which they expected. A further 39% believe fewer dishes would be sent back to the kitchen if menus included more detailed explanations of ingredients and dishes. Barclaycard Payment Solutions director Kirsty Morris said: “We know restaurateurs pour their heart and soul into creating new and exciting dishes but it’s clear diners can be put off by the embarrassment of having to ask what certain ingredients are.” Frederick’s owner Matt Segal added: “We’re very excited to test Transplater. It would be a great innovation to encourage customers to be more adventurous.”

Caffe Nero hires former Jamie Oliver Group chief people officer as UK HR director: Caffe Nero has hired Stacy Schapira as UK HR director. She will be responsible for overseeing HR for the UK as the brand continues its nationwide expansion and continues to develop its culture and people focus. Chairman Gerry Ford said: “I am delighted we have brought Stacy to Caffe Nero. She has huge experience in the UK hospitality sector having spent almost 12 years within the Jamie Oliver Group, most recently as chief people officer for its restaurant group, but she also brings experience from great brands such as Sony BMG Music and MTV. Stacy has a huge passion for people and will really help us develop our culture and people practices so we not only provide first-class service for our customers but protect and grow our special working culture.”

Hakkasan opens new site in Dubai: Hakkasan has opened its latest site, at five-star hotel Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Gert F Kopera, executive vice-president of Hakkasan Group, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for Hakkasan as we continue our Dubai journey with Atlantis, The Palm. We’re thrilled to welcome our first guests through the doors to experience our authentic cuisine in a relaxed and stylish environment.” Timothy Kelly, general manager and senior vice-president operations for Atlantis, The Palm, added: “We have big expectations for Hakkasan as one of the world’s most renowned restaurant brands joins our extensive culinary offering at Atlantis. We’ve already seen great chemistry between both brands and are extremely excited for what’s to come.”

Jones Bar Group relaunches as Concept Taverns after split from Roxy Leisure, targets ten freehold sites by 2020: Leeds-based operator Jones Bar Group has become a separate entity from its sister company, Roxy Leisure, and relaunched as Concept Taverns, which will focus on a “fast-growing estate of freehold Yorkshire pubs”. Concept Taverns will be led by managing director Ben Jones and operations director Ben Warren, while Matthew Jones will dedicate his time to being managing director of Roxy Leisure supported by operations director John Crowe. Ben Jones told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “At a time when there are lots of leasehold restaurants and bars entering administration, we are seeking the security of being our own landlord by owning a freehold estate of pubs.” Concept Taverns will consist of five pubs based in and around Leeds – the Parkside Tavern in Merrion Street, Bar 166 and Granvilles in Horsforth, and two pubs recently acquired in Guiseley and Thackley. Jones said: “We want to double our freehold estate by 2020, investing in new projects around Yorkshire that focus on great products and service in a proper pub environment. As consumer tastes have changed, we have seen the values of the traditional pub come to the forefront again and we want Concept Taverns to be leading the charge when it comes to delivering that experience.” 

Signature Living to launch diner concept in Liverpool featuring singing waiters: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living is to launch a diner concept in Liverpool on Thursday (25 October) that will feature singing waiters. Mulholland will take inspiration from renowned New York diner Ellen Stardust, with every member of the waiting team a performer. The venue will offer movie and musical-themed dishes including wraps, bagels, pizza and hotdogs. Dishes will include Don’t Cry For Me Margherita, A Tuna Matata and Supercalifragilisticexpiavocado. Each dish will be accompanied by a power ballad. Signature Living managing director Kris Mochrie said: “All our waiting staff are local performing arts and drama students at academies and colleges throughout the city. It’s truly amazing we have such amazing and talented stars in our city to entertain and perform for our diners. What’s really exciting about Mulholland is diners will get to see some of the music and theatre stars of tomorrow.” Mulholland will open in Signature Living’s film-themed Arthouse Hotel. 

Soho House to open first venue in Asia next month with Mumbai launch: Soho House, the upmarket members’ club business headed by Nick Jones, is to open its first venue in Asia – in Mumbai, India, on Monday, 5 November. The venue will launch in an 11-storey building in the Juhu neighbourhood offering 38 hotel rooms and a members-only lounge, gym, rooftop pool and screening room. The venue will offer views of the Arabian Sea while the ground floor will house two restaurants – Cecconi’s Mumbai and The Allis, which will be open to the public. Jones told Livemint: “There is a thriving creative community in Mumbai, which is only growing. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit and so much happening in technology, art, cinema and fashion. Our members want to be part of that and they’re excited for this city to join the Soho House community. We’ve also got our second Soho House in Asia opening next year in Hong Kong. I like taking a punt on an area. I don’t want to go to the established parts of the town, I want to go to the parts that are on the cusp of becoming something special. Dependent on how things go in Mumbai, we might move into other cities in India as well.”

Boxpark Wembley partners finance house to fund kitchen solutions: Boxpark Wembley has partnered with Portman Asset Finance to offer a selection of affordable kitchen solutions. Independent street food vendors will be offered a selection of kitchen finance offers for units of all sizes, ranging from light, medium and high-use facilities. Costs start from £1,350 per month with no upfront fee. The new partnership is being cited as an example of Boxpark’s ongoing support for up and coming street food businesses. Roger Wade, chief executive and founder of Boxpark, said: “We love to support new street food businesses as they break into the industry and the kitchen finance offers from Portman are making this easier than ever. It is so important to offer these opportunities to local, talented food vendors who deserve a chance to open permanent sites and grow as a business.” Opening in December, Boxpark Wembley has already announced vendors will include Nanny Bill’s, Smoky Boys, Mitsuryu, Giallo Grano, Kabab, Spice Shack, Zia Lucia, The Athenian, Ugly Dumpling and Thai Express.

Glasgow-based Italian restaurant group La Vita to open fifth site in city: Glasgow-based Italian restaurant group La Vita is to open its fifth site in the city, on Thursday (25 October). La Vita Spuntini will open in Gordon Street joining a sister site in Byres Road. The company also operates two La Vita Pizzeria sites in Glasgow and another restaurant, Piccolino E Vino. A company spokesman told Glasgow Live: “La Vita Spuntini in Gordon Street will serve a combination of our favourite Italian classics along with some exciting new dishes created especially for the launch.

JD Wetherspoon submits plans for 23-bedroom hotel in Shrewsbury: JD Wetherspoon has submitted plans for a 23-bedroom hotel at the site of a building in Shrewsbury that has been boarded up since an explosion in 2010. The development on the corner of Bridge Street and Smithfield Road would act as an extension of the company’s grade II-listed pub and hotel, which is next door. The company confirmed last year it had acquired the land in 2015 and now a full application for the two-storey development has been submitted to Shropshire Council’s planning department. If approved, the extension would see a beer garden created on the site of the pub’s car park. The plan, submitted by agent Julien Karczewski on behalf of Wetherspoon, said: “The proposal intends to provide a separate, new-build wing comprising 23 guest bedrooms to supplement the existing first and second-floor hotel accommodation of 22 guest bedrooms. The layout aims to re-establish the line of the original, pre-gas explosion facade along Bridge Street and Hill’s Lane in both scale and materials, occupying the same footprint as the earlier buildings.”

Tattu reveals more details of Birmingham site: Contemporary Chinese restaurant group Tattu has revealed more details of the site in Birmingham city centre that will open in January creating 80 jobs. The 150-cover, split-level restaurant will open in The Grand development as the company’s third site. New dishes created by executive chef Andrew Lassetter will include chilli and sesame-roasted scallops with Chinese sausage, and Asian pear crumble with green apple, almond and pink custard. Tattu Birmingham will also offer a dedicated lunchtime menu featuring the brand’s best-selling small plates and new dishes from the wok and grill. Tattu Birmingham will be the group’s first restaurant located in a heritage space. Managing director Adam Jones, who founded Tattu with brother Drew, said: “We recognise the historic importance of The Grand to the city and wanted to reflect that in our concept. We explored the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang and fell in love with the idea of two different entities that blend together to create something harmonious.” Tattu launched in Manchester in 2015 with a second site opening in Leeds city centre in June last year. The company will open a fourth site, in Edinburgh, in late summer 2019. 

Burger & Beyond to open first bricks and mortar site: Street food operator Burger & Beyond is to open its first bricks and mortar site this winter, in Shoreditch High Street. The company has operated for more than three years through Kerb, Street Feast and Camden Assembly sites. New additions to the expanded menu will include Fried Hot Fish (crispy line-caught cod with Nashville hot sauce, kaffir lime herb mayo, crunch slaw and pickles); Krispie Fried Chicken (Rice Krispie-fried chicken with miso maple butter and ranch pickle slaw) and Mushroom Raclette (panko-crusted mushroom patty with melted raclette, caramelised onion, lambs lettuce and smoked garlic mayo). Director Craig Povoas said: “We are thrilled to be opening our first restaurant in Shoreditch. The location is perfect and the design brings our vision to life. The restaurant will showcase a different side to Burger & Beyond while staying true to the foundations of our brand, something that isn’t always possible within the constraints of the street food market.”

Former Noma chef to open Mediterranean restaurant in Mayfair next month: Former Noma and Gordon Ramsay Group chef Tilly Turbett is to open a Mediterranean restaurant in Mayfair in mid-November. Pucci Mayfair will launch in Maddox Street offering small plates showcasing flavours from across the Mediterranean alongside pizza inspired by the now-closed King’s Road restaurant Pucci Pizza. The menu will include influences from Italy, Turkey and Lebanon with seasonal dishes designed to be shared mezze-style with pizza added to the table. Dishes will include Barbary duck breast with pomegranate molasses and sweet potato, and sticky delizia pumpkin with honey, sesame and goat curd. Pizzas will be thin and crispy using the same recipe Pucci Albanese served at his pizzeria. The wine list will be predominantly Italian. The decor will combine the exposed brick and suspended greenery of a New York loft with the charm of a traditional Italian bistro. It will also feature a street-side terrace.    

Bierkellers ‘open for business’: The company that operates Bierkeller Entertainment Complex is reassuring customers its bars are open for business despite the owners going into administration. Burning Night, which owns the companies that in turn own Bierkeller venues around the country, announced it was ceasing trading this month after experiencing cash flow issues. However, the venues in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Nottingham have been unaffected by the decision, with all jobs and customer bookings secure, the company said. The company operates Bierkeller, sports bar Shooters, Around the World and its latest concept Smokin’ Bar & Kitchen, which opened in Leeds at the end of 2017. A spokesman told Propel: “Although we regrettably took the decision to close our Cardiff site it has always been our priority to safeguard the other sites and keep them operating as usual. The company that owns the lease and the operating company of the Bierkeller Entertainment Complexes in the five other cities are trading as normal. We understand customers may be concerned, especially if they’re planning to celebrate Christmas with us, but we want to assure them they have no need to worry. Our Christmas bookings are stronger than ever and we’re looking forward to a very busy few months.”

Rita’s team to launch deli concept at Coal Drops Yard this month: Missy Flynn and Gabriel Pryce, who operated Rita’s in Hackney for four years and currently run the dining room at Redchurch Brewery in Cambridge Heath, are set to launch a deli concept at the Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross. Bodega Rita’s sandwich menu will include The Highway Dan (hot bean and devilled egg salad with celery and watercress) and Tingler Tower (chilli-oil chicken with cucumber and pepper slaw). From Thursday to Saturday, the menu will expand to cover small dishes and snacks served alongside a short drinks menu, Hot Dinners reports. Customers will also be able to buy spice blends, sauces and select ingredients. Bodega Rita’s will be part of more than 50 stores, cafes and restaurants at Coal Drops Yard, including a second site for Hackney-based Morty and Bob’s and three ventures from the Hart Brothers – a third site for their Mexican taqueria concept El Pastor, a fourth site for Barrafina and new-concept wine bar and restaurant The Drop. 

Hollywood Bowl Group to anchor leisure phase of Liverpool development featuring five restaurants: Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest tenpin bowling operator, is to anchor a new leisure area at Liverpool Shopping Park. The second phase of the development will see £30m invested by owners The Derwent Group to deliver more than 145,000 square feet including a six-screen cinema, five restaurant units and a gym on the ground floor. A separate building will accommodate a 60,000 square foot retail store and 16 smaller units. The development is expected to create 885 jobs. Hugo Clark, group property managing director at The Derwent Group, told The Business Desk: “It is a bold scheme that, in light of the rapidly evolving retail market, has been designed carefully over the last year to meet the changing needs of operators and shoppers. While this has meant a slight delay in bringing this phase forward for development, we are confident we have a fantastic scheme that will provide a strong retail and leisure offer.” McMullen Wilson and CSP are the letting agents. Earlier this month, Hollywood Bowl Group reported like-for-like sales increased 1.8% for the year ending 30 September 2018. 

Rick Astley launches Shoreditch bar: Eighties pop star Rick Astley has teamed up with Danish micro-brewer Mikkeller to launch a bar in Shoreditch, east London. Astley has opened Mikkeller Bar in Hackney Road with friend and brewery founder Mikkel Borg Bjergso. The bar is the first for the Copenhagen-based company. Astley told the NME: “I met Mikkel in 2015 and through his enthusiasm and passion for quality I fell back in love with beer. It is really exciting to be part of creating Mikkeller’s first bar in the UK. I know we are going to have a lot fun and drink some great beer.” Bjergso added: “We have finally found a fantastic location in the Shoreditch district that suits us perfectly.” The duo previously collaborated to create Astley’s Northern Hop Lager, which went on sale last year.

Concert promoter London Jukebox opens debut restaurant, in Islington: Concert promoter London Jukebox has opened its debut restaurant, in Islington. The company has launched the venue in Upper Street at a site formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Sen Nin. London Jukebox bills the venture as an “intimate venue representing a breadth and depth of music from new singer-songwriters to string ensembles and jazz”. The concept focuses on mixing music with food and offers Indian sharing platters such as jeera chicken (chicken thighs in a spicy jeera coating served with flatbread) and kaati rolls (paneer or lamb kebab in a roll lined with fried egg salad and spices, Hot Dinners reports. Specialising in world music, London Jukebox has set up concerts across London. Its website states: “Music, food and drink with an international twist is what we do best. Blending these three cultural forms from around the world, we invite you to share our vision of building bridges through an understanding of our common heritage as humans. We extend the jukebox concept of sharing music to food and everything else we do.”

Easyhotel opens 53-bedroom site in Reading: A 53-bedroom super-budget Easyhotel has opened in Reading. Splendid Hospitality Group has built the hotel and is operating it under a franchise agreement from Easyhotel. The hotel in Caversham Road is a short walk from key Reading destinations including Reading Festival, The Oracle shopping centre, and the Madjeski Stadium. Stuart Bailey, chief executive of Splendid Hospitality Group, said: “We are excited to welcome a new brand and concept to our rapidly expanding portfolio of independent and branded hotels.” Easyhotel chief executive Guy Parsons added: “This exciting project takes Easyhotel’s network of UK and international locations to 30, with further openings imminent.” Splendid Hospitality Group is the operator and developer of 19 hotels with more than 2,000 bedrooms.  

The Alchemist launches winter menu featuring plant-based ‘bleeding’ burger: The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, has launched a winter food menu that features a plant-based “bleeding” burger. The menu has launched in London and Oxford and will be rolled out to all the brand’s sites by the end of the month. The Moving Mountains burger is a meatless patty that “bleeds” beetroot juice when cooked. The menu also includes a number of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including seitan chicken wings, a vegan take on chicken and chips. Meat dishes include pork belly and a deconstructed lamb kebab, while ginger and turmeric health shots have been added to the drinks list. The Alchemist executive chef Seamus O’Donnell said: “We always want to ensure we provide a memorable drinking and dining experience for guests and, of course, like to add Alchemist flair where we can as the presentation of our food is just as important as the alchemy behind our drinks.” The Alchemist operates 13 sites with its next opening in Covent Garden next month followed by another in Old Street in March at a development with shared office space provider WeWork.

HIT Training launches courses and workshops to upskill hospitality teams: HIT Training, the national apprenticeship provider to the hospitality industry, has launched a range of closed short courses, workshops and bespoke training programmes. The courses are aimed at operators looking to maximise their apprenticeship programmes, with the closed format enabling employers to exclusively offer training to a group of their own employees and tailor them to suit. The courses last between one and four days and attendees leave with a learning transfer pack containing templates and information to help them incorporate their new skills into the workplace. The courses can also be used to complement apprenticeship programmes and give learners skills to mentor other employees. The sessions cover an extensive range of skills. HIT Training managing director Jill Whittaker said: “The short courses offer a more flexible approach to training, giving hospitality companies the opportunity to pinpoint specific business goals or areas for development and offer formalised training to help reach these targets as and when required. The closed format is a great way to support skills in specific areas across a business or at job level, whether that’s strengthening senior management teams or helping those employees with no formal training progress into supervisor roles.”

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