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Tue 30th Oct 2018 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Profits at top 100 UK restaurant groups plunge 80%, more than third making loss: Pre-tax profits at the UK’s top 100 restaurant companies has fallen 80% to £37m, compared with £194m last year, according to new research. The findings by accountancy company UHY Hacker Young showed out of the top 100 restaurant groups, 37 are now making a loss. The drop means pre-tax profits at the UK’s top 100 restaurant groups have now fallen 89% from £345m since the first quarter of 2017. UHY Hacker Young said the cost of closing struggling sites has weighed heavily on the profits of restaurant groups over the past two years. The fall in profits also highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by the casual dining sector, including higher business rates, a rising minimum wage and increasing utility costs. The crisis in casual dining has already claimed several high-profile victims. Chef Jamie Oliver was forced to inject £13m of his own money into his Jamie’s Italian restaurant venture as it struggled with dwindling sales, and last week Gourmet Burger Kitchen announced it was looking to close almost a fifth of its 100 outlets, with its owner Famous Brands saying it had faced “adverse trading conditions and sustained underperformance”. Peter Kubik, UHY Hacker Young insolvency partner in the company's London office, said: “The downward spiral in profits of restaurant groups reflects the severe difficulties that continue to impact the sector. Despite the long-term benefits, closing down restaurants is often hugely expensive in the short-term. For some struggling restaurant groups that means things will get worse before they get better.” Kubik added some restaurant groups were still finding a way to grow and expand. He said: “Success stories such as Wagamama, which opened seven new UK restaurants this year, show consumer demand for casual dining is still present. Similarly, Leon is expanding into Europe. The restaurants that are doing better are those who are innovating by offering their customers something more unique.” UHY Hacker Young based its research on company accounts released to the end of September.

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator tickets now on sale: Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its second year, after a bumper inaugural year. The event is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality, aiming to build a community, promote the sharing of ideas, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference, as the centrepiece of the January event series, taking place on 16 and 17 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The event will focus on marcomms strategies, proposition and concept development, the latest market insights, technology and digital developments, building strong links between marketing and operations, embedding a brand throughout a hospitality business and future trends. It is designed for marketing, development and innovation teams, as well as senior executives and investors wanting to better understand the latest marketing, innovation and development opportunities to build market share and grow. The event will feature more than 40 speakers, with a unique blend of senior marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs, from companies including TGI Friday’s, YO! Sushi, Hakkasan Group, Casual Dining Group, Claus Meyer Restaurant Group, New World Trading Company, Wagamama, Hilton, Inception Group, Coca-Cola, Just Eat, Arc Inspirations, Novus, SSP, Be At One, Marriott International and Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group. As well as sharing successes from across the UK, the event brings international speakers to add to the conversation. The 2019 edition will feature speakers from five countries. These include Anders Houman, partner at the multi-award winning Victor Restaurant Group in Copenhagen; John Rigos, chief executive of New York-based Aurify Brands; and Australian entrepreneur Sarah Holloway, co-founder of Matcha Mylkbar, which became an overnight hit after posting one incredible shot to social media. Special guest speakers include Chris Miller, founder of the White Rabbit Fund and investor from the BBC’s Million Pound Menu; Martin Morales, Ceviche Family founder and winner of Innovator of the Year 2018; and Zahra Kahn, founder of Feya, a concept designed with Instagram in mind. Early bird tickets are available until Monday, 12 November at the special rate of £525 for operators and £795 for suppliers for the two days. Full price tickets, after this date, will be £575 for operators and £845 for suppliers. Group ticket packages are available when purchasing three tickets or more. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Anne Steele at Propel on or calling her on 01444 817691. 

Positive Budget should be followed by continued support for hospitality: UKHospitality has reacted to the Chancellor’s Budget statement by welcoming support for hospitality businesses and calling on the government to follow-up with continued dialogue and backing for the sector. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "This was a positive Budget for hospitality, recognising and acknowledging our core campaigns around employment costs, business rates and digital paying its fair share – together with a positive outcome on excise duty, latte levy and non-residential capex and investment allowances. We estimate the measures announced in the Budget as a result of our campaigns are likely to save the trade £750m. Hospitality businesses have been devastated by spiralling business rates costs, so steps to address this are welcome. UKHospitality has exhaustively campaigned for support for the sector on business rates, so it positive to see the government listening. Cutting bills for smaller businesses by a third will provide some much-needed support and is a positive move by the government. This, along with the introduction of a new tax on digital businesses, to ensure they pay their fair share, needs to be a springboard for further businesses rates reform. The funds raised by this new tax should be used to ease the unfair tax burdens being shouldered by hospitality businesses to help stop the continued devastation of high streets. If the government is serious about updating the rates system then we still need to see a thorough, root and branch reform of the whole system to ensure it is fair and fit for purpose in the 21st century. Reducing the cost of apprenticeships for small and medium-sized enterprises is a pragmatic and positive step towards tackling recruitment and retention problems being faced by businesses. The hospitality sector has already taken, and continues to take, effort to tackle plastic waste and UKHospitality has been working with its members and the wider sector to help drive this. As the chancellor rightly said, a latte levy would not necessarily help tackle waste but would increase costs for businesses and, ultimately, consumers. Avoiding this unnecessary additional tax is very welcome. A freeze in the rate of beer, cider and spirits duty, something we have continually called for, will also help avoid an additional squeeze on the hospitality sector. The chancellor has taken some positive steps to reassure and support hospitality businesses during uncertain political and economic times. We are now calling on the government to follow this positive Budget with continued support for businesses, as we close in on our withdrawal from the EU.”

Number of completed licence reviews falls by more than half since 2010: The number of completed licence reviews in England and Wales has fallen by more than half in the past eight years, new Home Office statistics have revealed. A total of 600 were completed in the year ending 31 March 2018 – and this continued the long-term decline since 2010 (1,300). Where action was taken following a completed review, 212 licences were revoked or a club premises certificate was withdrawn. When it came to the reason for reviews, there was an 8% increase because of crime and disorder compared with the previous year (505) and an 8% rise in respect of the protection of children (141). Meanwhile, reviews for public nuisance fell 21% to 154 while public safety reviews were down 9% to 160. More than one reason can be taken per review. The number of personal licences increased 5% (35,600), bringing the total to 723,800. There was a 1% increase (1,100) in premises licences, with the total number standing at 212,800. Club premises certificates fell 1% (200) to a total of 14,100. The number of 24-hour alcohol licences was up 6% to a total of 8,100 premises. A total of £1.7m was raised by late night levies while 222 cumulative impact areas were in place.

Expedia Group unveils new guest insights tool: Online travel company Expedia Group has unveiled a new guest insights tool for hotels. As part of the company's Partner Central suite of offerings, Guest Insights leverages current property, competitive and market intelligence to inform hoteliers of their guest’s travel motivations and booking behaviour. From guest origin information to average daily rate to average booking window, Guest Insights provides hotels with access to key data across time and markets. The business intelligence tool also allows lodging partners to filter the data by country or region. Marketing solutions are offered as part of the tool to help lodging partners build targeted, insights-led campaigns across different markets. Guest Insights data is refreshed in near real-time for accurate, up-to-date reporting. Benoit Jolin, Expedia Group senior vice-president, global product and design, said: “Partners acknowledge the importance of understanding their guests, but until now have lacked the appropriate tools to access comprehensive guest motivations for their own properties or market. With Guest Insights, hotels are able to understand their demand patterns on a much deeper level.” Following a pilot programme with hotel partners in several global markets, Partner Central Guest Insights is now available in 27 languages to partners in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world.

Company News:

Benugo owner appoints people and talent director: Westbury Street Holdings (WSH), the parent company of hospitality brands including Benugo, Searcys, BaxterStorey and Caterlink, has appointed Maria Stanford as people and talent director. Stanford will join the company in January, leading HR teams across the entire WSH portfolio. She joins WSH following a successful career in HR, including 11 years at luxury retailer Selfridges Group. During her tenure, Stanford held senior HR roles in the businesses and became the first group HR director, working across all four brands in Europe and Canada. In addition to her previous roles at Selfridges, Stanford has held senior positions at Marks & Spencer and Pret A Manger, as well as providing consultancy work for Wagamama, PizzaExpress, Chanel and Fenwick. WSH chairman and chief executive Alastair Storey said: “Maria brings with her a wealth of experience of successfully leading teams at a number of coveted businesses. We have seen a 35% increase in our teams, with employee numbers growing by more than 6,000 since 2014. These people are at the very heart of WSH and Maria’s passion for driving career development makes her ideally placed to lead our committed, growing workforce.” Stanford added: “WSH continues to grow at an exciting pace. It is more critical than ever to make sure people remain at the heart of all the businesses as we grow. I look forward to working with the teams across all brands to develop and drive forward initiatives to ensure continued success within this diverse business.”

NewRiver disposes of 22 community pubs let to Marston's for £14.8m: NewRiver has announced it has completed the sale of 22 community pubs to a private equity investor for £14.8m, representing a net initial yield of 5.6%. The pubs were part of the Trent portfolio of 202 community pubs acquired by NewRiver from Marston's in December 2013 under a four-year leaseback agreement, for a yield of 12.8%. The 22 pubs were acquired for a total consideration of £10.7m and generated £5.6m of Ebitda during their period of ownership by NewRiver. The sale generated a capital profit on cost of £2.2m. The 22 pubs are a group of assets on which NewRiver secured contracted income in December 2016 by surrendering its four-year leaseback agreement with Marston’s 13 months early and agreeing new 15-year Retail Price Index-linked leases with Marston’s. As a result of this transaction, the return profile of these assets differs from the remainder of NewRiver’s pub portfolio and it has determined the capital can be deployed more profitably elsewhere. Chief financial officer Mark Davies said: “We are delighted to have completed the sale of these community pubs. This is just the latest example of our commitment to actively managing our pub portfolio and to recycling capital where assets no longer meet our return criteria.”

Urban Pubs and Bars confirms second pizza site: Urban Pubs and Bars, led by Nick Pring and Malcolm Heap, has secured a second site for its Well Street Pizza brand, which launched three years ago in Hackney. The pub and bar operator launched a pizza brand after intensive research on the high-quality pizza in Naples, Italy. The first site in Hackney took a year to become profitable but now sells an average of 1,500 pizzas a week – 55% of which go through Deliveroo and UberEats. The company will now invest £250,000 in a second site, this one located in a shell unit at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Peckham, south London. This site will have an evolved offer with sandwiches, pasta dishes and paninis also available. Of the first site Pring said: “The site has got stronger and stronger over the three years – we saw 35% growth last year. Our pizza is really good – and quality food prevails.”

Manchester-based Seven Brothers Brewery returns to Crowdcube as it looks to raise £500,000 for four new beerhouses: Manchester-based Seven Brothers Brewery has returned to crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to raise £500,000 to open four new beerhouses and expand production. The company, founded three-and-a-half years ago by brothers Keith, Kit, Guy, Luke, Daniel, Nathan and Greg McAvoy, raised £200,000 on Crowdcube in 2016. Now Seven Brothers Brewery is back, and is offering 5.88% equity in return for the £500,000 investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £8m. The pitch states: "Since introducing our bars in December 2016, revenue has increased from £204,000 to £708,000 (Ebitda minus £51,000). We raised £200,000 in July 2016 and moved into a new brewery in October 2017. We have gained listings with Booths supermarkets & Co-op stores as well as supplying to The Restaurant Group, T3 Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly station, providing further brand exposure. We also sell to the expanding chain, Hotel Football, as part of its partnership programme. We supply to Mission Mars group, hotel chain Melia Group and more. The fundamental part of our strategy is a further four beerhouses. Our aim is these will form the backbone of the whole business. Vertical integration means we will have a ready-made client for the brewery and the beerhouses will benefit from a strong gross margin." The company also plans to use the investment to expand production at its brewery in Salford to 100,000 litres as well as grow the team. 

Marco Pierre White's franchised business reports 13% rise in NPS scores: Restaurants operating under licence from Marco Pierre White have experienced a 13% increase in their NPS scores between January and September 2018. Forming part of the chef’s Black and White Hospitality business, the rise is a "clear demonstration" of the company’s commitment to "continually improve the customer experience" as it enters a period of substantial growth. The business, which was founded by Nick Taplin and Marco Pierre White and operates 46 franchise restaurants, has driven up its scores by using Feed It Back’s platform to encourage and analyse post-meal feedback from bespoke surveys. The data-driven approach has resulted in a 10% increase in guest revisit intention. Shaun Cremins, Black and White Hospitality brand director, said: “We’re a forward-thinking business that invests heavily in our people and proposition to provide memorable customer experiences. These statistics clearly demonstrate passion, persistence and training does translates into happy customers if you are willing to act upon the data in front of you. Every business is sitting on a wealth of data that, when unlocked, can make a substantial difference to the overall outlook of the business. By working with Feed It Back we have been able to truly understand what people really think about our business. The magnitude of data they provide us has given us the insight we need to continually improve our guest experience and maintain standards as we look to undertake a period of substantial growth.”

The Headstart Group to open fifth site: Hull-based The Headstart Group is to open its fifth site. The company is launching Steak\1884 in the regenerated Fruit Market area in Humber Street on Friday, 16 November following the relocation of its Barrow Boys concept. A meat locker next to the entrance will display some of the menu options. Beef will be presented on a trolley for diners to select their preferred cut and thickness, before their choice is weighed, taken into the kitchen and cooked. There will be vegetarian and seasonal pescatarian alternatives, including oysters and seafood platters, plus specials such as partridge, poussin and pork chops. The opening of Steak\1884 will complete a reshuffle of the group’s businesses, which began in June with the closure of Dock Street Kitchen. 1884 Marina Bar opened in those premises in August and will be joined next week by Barrow Boys, which opened in July and is relocating to offer larger-scale entertainment and a late licence. Cucina 1884 will open in Hessle in November as an Italian restaurant with a new counter service concept. 1884 Wine and Tapas Bar, which opened as The Wilson in 2010 before a revamp in 2015, is located at the western side of Hull Marina. Director James MacLeod-Birch told Insider Media: “It will be different from anywhere else in the area. There are places that serve good steaks but this will be a step up. The building is in the style of a New York steakhouse with its green leather and touches of art deco, and it’s just the right size to really focus on service, providing an engaging experience in an intimate environment.”

Marston's premium division Revere to open third Foundry venue, in Manchester: Marston’s premium division Revere Pub Company is to open the third site for its Foundry concept, in Manchester. The company is launching the venue on Friday, 23 November in the Northern Quarter following a conversion of its Bluu site. Housed in the historic Old Smithfield Market, the venue is undergoing a £500,000 transformation. The design is inspired by Manchester’s industrious past and will reveal a stripped back interior, making use of exposed beams and polished concrete with varied textures and colours throughout – from leather booths and neon light signage, to copper ceiling features and coloured tiles. The bar will feature the UK’s first Estrella beer tank. Foundry focuses on cocktails, craft beer and Caravan coffee, as well as sourdough pizzas, burgers and sharing platters. Marston's opened the first Foundry site in Edinburgh in 2016 followed by Harrogate last year.

Chipotle boss – new digital initiatives playing most critical role in company's recovery: Chipotle chief executive Brian Niccol has said new digital initiatives are playing the most critical role in the company's recovery. Digital sales for the quarter ending 30 September grew 48.3%, and now accounts for 11.2% of total sales, reports Nation's Restaurant News. Niccol said Chipotle's “win today and cultivate a better future” strategy is taking hold as the company looks to bounce back from a series of food-borne illness incidents. He added: “We made important progress during the quarter with the introduction of our 'For Real' marketing strategy and I'm encouraged by the progress we are making in building a pipeline of customer focused innovation, driving digital sales, elevating our restaurant operations and effectively executing our reorganisation. We are seeing particularly strong momentum from delivery.” Digital initiatives being rolled out include adding delivery directly through the company’s app and testing digitally-enabled second make lines to increase accuracy and speed. To date, 750 restaurants have digitised second make lines, or separate food assembly stations for off-premise orders. In addition, 350 restaurants have pick-up shelves, allowing customers to bypass the till to fetch online food orders. These back and front-of-house upgrades have helped to reduce delivery time, which on average is down to fewer than 30 minutes. Niccol said the company is on track to add pick-up shelves to all restaurants by mid-2019 while the digitised second make lines will roll out to the rest of the company by the end of 2019. Some restaurants are also testing pick-up lanes, where guests pick up digital orders from a drive-up window. The company is also piloting a new loyalty programme, which Niccol said is working to attract new and lapsed customers. In the quarter, app downloads increased by 25%. Total revenue for the quarter rose 8.6% to $1.2bn, compared with the previous year. Chipotle said revenue was driven by strong like-for-like sales, which were up 4.4%. The growth was tied to an increase in average transaction value, which rose primarily because of a 3.8% increase in menu prices. That offset a 1.1% drop in transactions.

Three Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta to make UK debut early next year: Quique Dacosta, the Spanish chef with three Michelin stars, is to open his debut UK site, in London early next year. Dacosta will launch Arros QD in Eastcastle Street, which will have a focus on rice, a product that "does not currently have much presence in high-end gastronomy". Arros QD will showcase Quique’s "unique style of cooking and highlight premium Spanish ingredients", reports Hot Dinners. Dacosta has been described as "the standard bearer for Spain's modernist movement" and a master of "capturing the essence of the Mediterranean". He was awarded three Michelin stars for his Quique Dacosta restaurant in Denia, and one Michelin star at El Poblet in Valencia. 

Papa John's new Denton site 'smashes' this year's record for first-week sales: Papa John's has revealed its latest opening in Denton, Manchester, has "smashed" this year's record for first-week sales. The store in Stockport Road is run by franchisee Amit Abhol, a former Domino’s Pizza regional operations director. He operates five sites and has previously outlined plans to open 20 Papa John’s by 2020. Papa John’s franchise sales and business development manager Phil Gaffer said: “Denton, which opened its doors in October, has smashed this year’s records for a first week’s trading in the UK. Manchester is clearly ‘hot’ for Papa John’s! However, this is just the start for Amit and his team as they aim to expand with more stores soon and we look forward to helping them as they grow.”

Whitbread offers 40% discount off all main meals at Beefeater: Whitbread is offering 40% off all main meals this week at its Beefeater restaurants. The offer is available on the brand's new autumn menu as well as its "old favourites". One voucher covers an entire table up to a maximum of six people. The offer is valid at all Beefeater restaurants, except Bar + Block, but its Daytime Saver Menu, Evening Value Menu, kids meals, breakfast and Premier Inn meal deals are excluded from the deal. The promotion runs until, and includes, Sunday (4 November).

Tim Hortons to make Midlands debut: Canadian cafe and bake shop Tim Hortons is to make its Midlands debut, in Birmingham. SK Group, which is leading the UK roll-out of Tim Hortons, is opening the venue on the corner of New Street and Lower Temple Street. The first Tim Hortons in the UK opened its doors in Glasgow in June 2017 – a further 17 restaurants are now serving guests in and around Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and Belfast. Kevin Hydes, chief finance and commercial officer of the Tim Hortons franchise in the UK, said: “Following the success of our recent restaurant openings across the UK, we can’t wait to bring a taste of Canada to the Midlands at our new restaurant and welcome new guests to Tim Hortons.” Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create a space where “everyone would feel at home”.

Peggy Porschen to open second site, in Chelsea: London-based bakery brand Peggy Porschen has secured its second site. Peggy Porschen and her husband Bryn Morrow have agreed a deal with Sloane Stanley to open their new flagship 2,400 square foot parlour in King’s Road, Chelsea, early next year. The venue will be adorned with floral installations that change with the seasons and there will be a full menu of cakes, cupcakes, and confectionery. The new opening will also mark the brand’s first foray into an "all-day indulgence" concept, to include sweet and savoury offerings. The new venue will stay true to the original Belgravia site while also offering the addition of a subterranean event space complete with a pink champagne bar. Established in 2003, Peggy Porschen started as a bespoke wedding and celebration cake business. The first bricks and mortar site opened in Belgravia in 2010. Porschen said: “The King’s Road offers a vibrant and desirable catchment in the heart of Chelsea, and was an obvious choice for our next Peggy Porschen parlour. We are excited to be growing our brand in this unique and historic location.” Hannah Grievson, commercial property manager at Sloane Stanley, added: “Peggy Porschen is a charming and acclaimed brand, which will complement the King’s Road’s shopping and dining experience. The brand’s choice to open its second site on the estate reflects our mission to attract niche retailers wanting to benefit from the thriving Chelsea catchment.” Savills and Miles Commercial represented Sloane Stanley. Peggy Porschen represented itself.

Muffin Break franchisee to open third site, in Cramlington: Muffin Break franchisee Bill Bentham is to open his third site. Bentham is launching his latest store in Cramlington, Northumberland, on Thursday (1 November). The venue will be situated in Manor Walks Shopping & Leisure, with seating for more than 80 customers. Bentham said: “It’s fantastic to be opening my third Muffin Break store, here in Cramlington, having already tasted success at our Hill Street Shopping centre store in Middleborough and The Galleries Shopping centre store in Washington. We have been working hard to ensure we continue to offer a diverse menu.” Muffin Break marketing manager Michelle Orr added: “We’re so pleased to be offering something different to the people of Cramlington. Our cafes are owned by our carefully selected, locally based franchisees, meaning our customers will receive a friendly, welcoming, local coffee shop experience every time they visit.” In August, Muffin Break revealed it planned to open ten more sites in the next year. 

Easyhotel secures Cardiff site for £12m development: Easyhotel, the owner, developer and operator of “super budget” branded hotels, has acquired a central freehold site in Bristol where it expects to develop a 145-bedroom freehold Easyhotel, subject to planning permission. Located in West Street opposite the Cabot Circus shopping centre, the site is close to Bristol city centre. The company will develop the site for the purpose-built Easyhotel, which, subject to planning consent, is expected to open in 2020. The total forecast cost of acquisition and construction will be about £12m. The group has also confirmed planning permission has been granted for the development of its new purpose-built 180-bedroom hotel in Oxford. The group announced in June last year it had secured a 25-year lease for the hotel, which will be located in Summertown. The hotel is being developed for the group as part of a mixed-use redevelopment, which will include residential and retail space as well as the new Easyhotel that will occupy the upper floors of the building and is expected to open in the second half of the 2020 calendar year. Chief executive Guy Parsons said: “Our investment in Bristol, the fifth since our fund-raising in March, marks the latest addition to our fast-growing portfolio of comfortable, stylish and highly affordable hotels in key tourist and business locations. The group is also pleased to confirm planning approval for the new Easyhotel Oxford has been granted. Construction work is anticipated to start in the new year. The group continues to review a large number of investment opportunities in both the UK and Europe and we look forward to announcing further developments in due course.”

Sodexo to relaunch two boats and pier as modern dining experiences: Catering company Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events is relaunching two of its boats and a pier as modern dining experiences. Under the umbrella of the Bateaux London, the Glass Room – previously Symphony – will weigh anchor in November, with River Room – previously Harmony – landing next Easter. Sailing from Embankment Pier, the Glass Room is targeted at visitors to the city and River Room designed to appeal to a London demographic. Glass Room’s all-glass structure allows guests to enjoy views of London’s landmark buildings and can accommodate 235 as a seated dining experience and 400 guests for a reception. Signature features include an exterior viewing platform for groups of up to 60 and a private dining room seating ten. The modern British menus will be available to book for lunch and dinner with a variety of packages on offer. The River Room, along with a new bar and cafe launching at The Moor Room – formerly the pier – will offer a programme of "distinct and immersive" dining experiences with a schedule of masterclasses, pop-ups and summer cinema screenings planned for the summer. Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events marketing director Catrin White said: “Bateaux spearheaded dining on the Thames more than 25 years ago and we are so excited to be yet again leading the way with a new, elevated offering. Our aim is to bring a truly unique food-led experience to the Thames, not just a destination restaurant, but a complete onboard package complemented by outstanding design, impeccable service and a quality food offering not to mention striking views."

Ten Entertainment chief financial officer Mark Willis to leave: The board of Ten Entertainment Group has been notified by chief financial officer Mark Willis of his decision to resign from the company to join Pendragon, the FTSE 350 company. The company stated: "Willis will be serving his notice period of six months to enable an orderly handover, and the company is well placed with a very strong and experienced finance team. He will step down from the board and leave the company on 18 April 2019. A search for a high-quality successor will now begin." Chairman Nick Basing said: "While we are disappointed Mark has decided to leave the company, we respect his decision to join a much larger company. The board wishes to extend its gratitude to Mark for his hard work and contribution to Ten Entertainment."

G1 Group launches chef training programme: Scotland’s biggest managed operator G1 Group has launched a chef training programme, aimed at introducing young people to a career in the industry. The Serving Up Success programme will run in several major cities and towns, and will launch in full following a pilot scheme that ran in Glasgow last year in association with City Of Glasgow College. The bespoke learning programme includes three core components, which include live kitchen and service environments, artistry and skill specific workshops. The certified qualifications the chefs can achieve include health and safety level 2, food safety level 2, allergens and first aid. Starting in full this November, the St Andrews programme has filled. In the coming months, G1 Group will be releasing further information on intake dates for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Fiona Armour, head of HR and reward, said: “We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to gain real qualifications while developing practical skills, which will ensure participants become highly employable. We hope this will kick-start many careers and look forward to welcoming some of the stars of the future through our doors." 

EAT unveils Christmas menu: Fresh food-to-go retailer EAT has unveiled its Christmas menu. The range, which will be available in all stores from Wednesday, 7 November, includes roast in a Yorkshire pudding wrap consisting of turkey, sage and onion stuffing and crispy bacon with sage mayonnaise and cranberry sauce as well as Keralan turkey curry served with jasmine rice and topped with lime pickled vegetables. Vegan options feature the Coronation bloomer with crunchy cauliflower and raisins sandwiched between onion seed bloomer slices. There is also a salted maple caramel and gingerbread cake – a ginger sponge cake layered with ginger buttercream, caramel, maple drizzle and little chocolate gingerbread men. Executive chef Arnaud Kaziewicz said: "Our dedicated team of chefs have been busy in the kitchen, and I’m proud to unveil our delicious range of Christmas treats." 

The Dry Drinks Company launches first in series of alcohol-free products: The Dry Drinks Company, formed 12 months ago by Richard Clark, the marketing director that led the launches of Crabbies Ginger Beer and Whitley Neil Gin, has launched the first in a series of alcohol-free products. Smashed Hops – Soft Beer and Smashed Apple – Soft Cider, both of which are 0.05% ABV, are designed to "disrupt" and "challenge" the non-alcoholic drinks and soft drinks markets. Clark said the beer and cider have then been de-alcoholised using innovative technology that captures aromas and flavours at a lower temperature than standard extraction technologies – thus, producing a "much higher quality end product". He added: “The UK consumer is drinking less alcohol but is increasingly active in the rapidly changing out of home channels. Directly linked to our changing more balanced lifestyles and leisure time is a growing demand for premium non-alcoholic drinks for when drinking alcohol is not appropriate."

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