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Wed 7th Nov 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pubs and restaurants help drive 4.4% growth in consumer spending for October, confidence at joint lowest level for four years: Pubs and restaurants helped drive a 4.4% year-on-year growth in consumer spending during October, according to the latest data by Barclaycard. Overall spend maintained a modest level of growth as the retail sector continued to face challenges – but consumer confidence is at its joint lowest level for four years. Spending at pubs rose 11.7% during the period and 8.6% in restaurants. Added to a 22.1% increase in ticket sales, the entertainment category recorded an overall 10.8% year-on-year rise. Essential spending rose 4.8% as petrol expenditure remained high with 10.3% growth. Non-essential expenditure demonstrated an increase of 4.1%. The retail sector, however, continued to struggle. Department store spending contracted 5.9% amidst high-profile store closures, while spending on electronics reached just 1.8% growth, below the rate of inflation. Clothing spending also declined 2.4% – the biggest dip since October 2017. Stronger average earnings growth in the UK helped explain why almost one-fifth (19%) said their wages had risen enough for them to have a little more money to spend each month. Yet Brits remain cautious with their money. Of those with more money to spend following a pay rise, almost half (49%) are saving their extra money or paying off debt, while more than one-third (36%) are currently putting it towards Christmas. This caution reflects wider opinion of the nation’s economy. Just 28% said they have confidence in the UK economy – the joint lowest level since 2014 when Barclaycard started monitoring consumer confidence. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “While the retail sector has continued to face challenges, the experience economy provided a welcome boost to overall spending in October with consumers going for meals out and purchasing tickets to events and shows. Ongoing economic and political uncertainty has led to a decline in confidence, with consumers remaining cautious with their spend in the run-up to Christmas.”

Industry News:

Andrew Ball to feature in latest video for Premium subscribers: Andrew Ball, of sector accountancy specialist haysmacintyre, will feature in the latest 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (9 November). Ball talks about the key metrics that sector multi-site companies are reporting in this year's haysmacintyre/Propel benchmarking survey. Premium subscribers now receive regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences – they have included sector investor Luke Johnson, Ceviche founder Martin Morales, City Pub Company founder Clive Watson, brand strategist Ian Dunstall, Chozen Noodle chief executive Matthew Kirby, Coaching Inn Group founder Kevin Charity, consultant James Hacon, Imbiba partner Darrel Connell, Sticks 'n' Sushi group chief operating officer Andreas Karlsson and Mowgli founder Nisha Katona. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,300 multi-site companies, and discounts to attend Propel conferences and events. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We plan to compile an invaluable library of senior leaders and advisors offering insights and advice, a resource Premium readers can tap into.” An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email to sign up or call her on 01444 817691.

CAMRA launches three-point plan to save the British pub: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has launched a three-point plan to save the British pub. Hundreds of its members descended on Westminster last week to send a message to MPs about the "serious threats" facing pubs. The Lobby Day saw the launch of the three-point plan – introducing a preferential rate of duty for draught beer, reforming the business rates system to address the unfair burden on pubs, and conducting an urgent review of the Pubs Code so the Market Rent Only option becomes a genuine choice for tenants. CAMRA members held meetings with MPs throughout the day, which culminated in a rally with speeches from All Party Parliamentary Beer Group chairman Mike Wood and fellow MPs Ruth Smeeth and Alan Brown. While the new package of business rate relief announced in last week's Budget will see annual savings of up to £8,000 for some pubs, CAMRA said it was extremely disappointed pub-specific rate relief has been scrapped, meaning pubs with a rateable value of more than £51,000 will lose out. It said many of these pubs saw the largest rates increases after the last revaluation, and are struggling under sky-high bills that threaten them with extinction. CAMRA national chairman Jackie Parker said: “While welcome, the Budget measures are just a sticking plaster which doesn’t tackle the root issue. There must be long-term change and reform to business rates, beer duty and the Pubs Code to stop the decline of pubs closing, which is currently at 18 per week. The Lobby Day has been a huge success. It gave members an opportunity to speak to their MPs direct about tackling the root causes of pub closures, need for fundamental reform to ensure that pubs remain at the heart of communities and continue to make a valuable contribution to our society, culture and economy.”

Company News:

Bill's marketing director steps down, third senior departure in recent weeks: Camilla Katte has stepped down as marketing director of Bill's Restaurants, owned by Richard Caring – its third senior departure in recent weeks, Propel has learned. Katte has been replaced by Lesley McIlroy, who was previously group marketing manager at Comptoir Group. Prior to that she worked for companies including Peach Pub Company, brewer and retailer Greene King and Dorset brewer and retailer Hall & Woodhouse. Katte joined Bill's from Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid in May this year. A Bill's spokeswoman told Propel: "Camilla Katte has decided to move on from Bill’s marketing team to focus on new opportunities. The team welcomes Lesley McIlroy as its new head of marketing." In recent weeks, Bill's has seen former chief executive Duncan Garrood leave to join Ten Entertainment Group while Graham Ford left as chief operating officer to join Carluccio's as commercial director.

BrewDog strengthens team with three senior appointments: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has strengthened its team with three senior appointments. Propel has learned the company has appointed Jon Evans as chief marketing officer for its global business. Evans has joined after two years as marketing director for Lucozade Ribena Suntory and will focus on leading BrewDog's integrated marketing strategy. Evans said: "BrewDog attracted me for its heritage of outlandish activations, always loaded with a strong, consistent tone and message. I'm incredibly pleased to be a part of BrewDog's next generation of marketing!" Meanwhile, the company has announced the appointment of David Gates as managing director of its distilling division. The appointment comes as BrewDog’s distilling arm, LoneWolf, revealed its plans to expand its spirit range beyond its vodka and gin to encompass whisky and rum. Gates left his position as managing director of Diageo Futures earlier this year. Gates said: “The opportunity to shake up the spirits category with the industry’s biggest disruptor was just too good to pass up. What BrewDog has done for the beer industry is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s that same creative flair and obsession for quality that I hope to bring to the spirits portfolio." Meanwhile, Lisa Paton has joined BrewDog as European retail director from Pizza Hut.

Elton Mouna – Remarkable has no interest in pubs outside London: Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna has told Propel the company will continue to champion traditional pubs in London with “no interest” in opening sites outside the capital. He said: “We had a look around some country pubs a year ago but came back to London. All Remarkable pubs are within an eight-mile radius of my east London home. I understand London, I love London, I have lived in London all my working life, and I have no interest in spreading the Remarkable business to some slower-paced quaint part of England.” Mouna is also wary of the difficulty of recruiting employees. He said: “It’s tough in London but ten-times worse outside.” He said the issue was most pressing around chefs, who are essential in country pubs, while a move into such territory would most likely have turned the Remarkable model from its 70/30 wet/dry split to more like 50/50. This week, the company secured its 16th site, in the east of the capital, in an off-market deal – six months after its acquisition of The Boleyn Tavern, close to West Ham’s former Upton Park home. Once the Hammers moved to the Olympic Stadium, trade dropped and owners Greene King put it on the market. Mouna said: “There was huge interest in The Boleyn Tavern and not only from other pub companies. Only through winning a contracts race against a group that wished to convert it in to a banqueting event venue were we able to secure the future of this historic majestic building as a pub for generations to come.” Remarkable was also able to buy the pub’s freehold thanks to it building a war chest for acquisitions without needing to take on debt, reflecting the patience and financial astuteness of chairman Robert Thomas. Mouna said: “We have a knack of seeing that little something in a pub or area others don’t always spot. A once stunning but now slightly crumbling Victorian building that can be gently and sensitively returned to its former glory is something Robert does superbly. I have nothing but admiration for Robert, who bought a single pub more than 30 years ago and, through shrewdness, doggedness and hard work, has built a business I now have the privilege of running. Our business model has served Remarkable Pubs well – long before my arrival – and I have no intention of changing it. I will make sure we evolve in a relevant way. We’re doing really well at the moment with growth in sales and profits. We’re in great shape and have a good team.” Mouna added Remarkable Pubs was “categorically not for sale – at any price”. He said: “It’s not about money. Robert wants to leave a legacy – for the area, his family and pubs in general – so selling is of no interest.”
Bakery company Greenhalgh’s sees losses increase despite turnover rise: Family-owned bakery company Greenhalgh’s has seen losses increase despite a rise in turnover. The company saw revenue increase to £27,273,012 for the year ending 31 January 2018, compared with £25,085,000 the previous year. Pre-tax losses rose to £591,382, compared with a loss of £370,970 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company closed the year with net current assets of £4.78m (2017: £5.75m) and shareholders' funds of £15.77m (2017: £16.34m), which, in a volatile financial climate, the directors consider to be satisfactory. The company continues to seek out suitable retail opportunities to expand its portfolio of shops. In 2017-18, the company opened two further retail shops at Bromley Cross and Breightmet. Funds were also set aside for significant investment in plant and machinery. In 2018-19, a minimum of two further shops will be opened and significant investment will also be ploughed into keeping our fleet of vehicles to the latest specification.” Greenhalgh’s, which was founded in 1957, has more than 60 stores and also serves the wholesale market. The company is headquartered in the Bolton suburb of Lostock and majority owned by Kathleen Smart.

Goodbody – Rooney Anand's decision to step down as Greene King chief executive 'somewhat disappointing': Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has described Rooney Anand's decision to step down as chief executive of brewer and retailer Greene King as "somewhat disappointing". The company has revealed Anand will leave the business at the end of the financial year in April and the process was "well advanced" to appoint a successor, with an announcement expected in the new calendar year. Anand has been chief executive for 14 years and said “the time was now right to hand over the baton”. Ruddy said: "Anand is perceived to be a high-quality chief executive so this will be seen as somewhat disappointing. Greene King has recovered from a period of difficult trading to see it’s like-for-likes turn positive in recent updates, so to this end the timing is a little unfortunate. However, we would note he will be in place for another six months so any disruption to current operations is highly unlikely. The process is well advanced to appoint a successor and it appears Anand will stay to facilitate the transition."

Greggs reverses logo at Newcastle store to capitalise on Fenwick's Christmas window display: Food-on-the-go retailer Greggs has flipped its shop logo on one of its Newcastle stores to capitalise on the popularity of Fenwick's famous Christmas window display opposite. The company has reversed the lettering atop its Northumberland Street branch for the festive season. The move has ensured the reflection of its orange, blue and white branding takes pride of place in the department store's glittering window scene. Fenwick decided to theme the exhibit around the magical children's book The Snowman. Now though, amid carefully curated images of the carrot-nosed character and snow-topped props, shines a bright Greggs-shaped logo. The timing dovetails with the impending launch of Gregg's 2018 Christmas menu. The ploy also ensures every photo taken of Fenwick's display will also contain a reflection of Gregg's logo, reports The Drum. Last Christmas, Greggs created a storm after replacing baby Jesus with a sausage roll in a nativity scene.

Yamagoya returns to Soho for second site: Japanese ramen restaurant Yamagoya is to open its second site. Founder Masatoshi Ogata debuted the concept in the UK as a six-month residency at hot pot restaurant Shuang Shuang in 2016, before relocating to a permanent site in Waterloo. Now it is returning to Soho – taking over Shuang Shuang's downstairs restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue for good, while the hot pot restaurant relocates upstairs. As per its restaurant at The Cut, near Waterloo station, the new venue, which opens on Saturday, 15 December, will focus on ramen. New dishes including a roast beef ramen topped with slices of rare locally sourced roast beef, leek, and spring onion; and a kakiage curry rice with fried vegetables and pickled greens for vegans. Drinks will feature Asahi and Singha beer, Shochikubai sake, freshly made matcha and soft drinks such as sparkling water spiked with yuzu. Ogata said: “Soho is the perfect spot for Yamagoya and I’m proud that it has come such a long way from the humble start in Fukuoka to the heart of London.” Yamagoya, which means “mountain hut”, was founded by Ogata in 1969.

Ei Group trials range of new energy-saving initiatives: Ei Group is undertaking trials of a number of new energy-saving projects as it looks to help publicans enhance their environmental credentials and reduce business costs. The company is in discussions with a select group of suppliers across the areas of cellar management, refrigeration and cooling systems, water saving systems and voltage optimisation technology. Trials are under way in a number of Bermondsey Pub Company and Craft Union Pub Company sites, part of Ei Managed operations, to assess their effectiveness and cost-saving potential. Following the conclusion of the trials and subject to successful results, the energy-saving packages will then be rolled out to publicans across the Ei Publican Partnerships estate. Group commercial director Paul Harbottle said: “Buildings that operate more efficiently have a reduced energy demand. That means lower operating costs and greater profitability for our publicans. It also leads to a reduced carbon footprint and improved environmental performance, something we know is hugely important in today’s world. As a business, we are constantly looking at ways to improve our sustainability credentials and improving the energy efficiency of the thousands of pubs that we own is a key focus for us. Much of the money spent on energy is wasted through the use of inefficient appliances or systems, so by utilising this new technology we hope to reduce costs and become a greener business.” 

KRO Hospitality becomes Asha's franchise partner as it acquires Manchester site: Manchester-based KRO Hospitality has become a franchise partner of Indian restaurant Asha’s after acquiring its branch in the city. The venue, which opened in 2015, is set over 6,000 square foot with two floors at 47 Peter Street, and caters for up to 100 people with a bar area with capacity for 60. The Asha’s deal marks the latest acquisition by KRO Hospitality, which purchased the freehold of 47 Peter Street this summer with plans to create a 49-bedroom boutique hotel within the upper floors of the building. The new hotel is expected to open during 2019. KRO Hospitality also owns the Velvet Hotel in Canal Street and neighbouring restaurant Mr White’s English Chophouse, operated by Black and White Hospitality. KRO Hospitality owner Kim Eivind Krohn said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Asha’s in to our expanding portfolio in Manchester. In addition to be a fabulously strong and successful brand, Asha’s also fits perfectly with our own vision for the building and with our company’s commitment to quality, luxury and outstanding hospitality. We’re progressing well with our plans for 47 Peter Street, and I believe the combination of a new hotel and the culinary excellence and attention to detail of Asha’s together in one building will be a fantastic draw.” Asha’s managing partner Susan Potter added: ‘’We are delighted to add KRO Hospitality to our UK franchise partners and look forward to working with Kim and his team in the opening of another iconic property in Manchester. This relationship is part of a strategic alliance that will undoubtedly result in further future openings in the region.’’ General manager Helena Doskocz will continue to manage the day-to-day operation of the restaurant together with executive head chef Ashwani Rangta. Asha’s Restaurant International owns 17 restaurants globally, operating in five countries, primarily in the Middle East. Four further restaurants are due to open in 2019 – in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and in the UK, in Solihull. KRO Hospitality was represented by solicitor Lauriston Saggar in the deal. 

Jason Atherton to open Doha restaurant for 15th site: Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton is to open a restaurant in the Qatari capital, Doha – his 15th site. Atherton will launch Pearl Social on Sunday, 18 November. Located within the Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel, the restaurant is named after the location – The Pearl. Chef Karl Emsen, previously sous chef at Michelin-starred City Social under Paul Walsh, will be executive chef, following his involvement in Atherton’s Cebu restaurant, Pig and Palm. The menu will have a specific focus on seafood with dishes such as yellowfin tuna with lemon, radish and mouli as well as a selection of roasted and grilled dishes including roasted fillet sea bass with Amalfi lemon potato and a mussel and clam sauce. The dishes will be paired with a global wine menu. There will be bespoke leather seating throughout the 80-cover restaurant, with a series of 1960s French Riviera-inspired pictures adorning the central wall. The dining room will also feature a marble top raw bar where guests can watch seafood dishes being prepared. There will also be a 50-cover outside terrace. Located above Pearl Social will be The Divers Club, serving cocktails and offering regular weekly DJ nights. Atherton's portfolio consists of seven UK restaurants and eight overseas.

Stonegate to open Popworld sites in Hartlepool and Chelmsford this month for 33 venues: Stonegate Pub Company is to open Popworld sites in Hartlepool and Chelmsford this month, taking the brand to 33 sites. Popworld Chelmsford will open in Springfields Road on Friday (9 November) following a £200,000 investment, while the Hartlepool venue will launch in Victoria Road on Thursday, 15 November after a £240,000 refurbishment. Popworld features a soundtrack from the nineties and noughties alongside cocktails, bookable booths and cocktail masterclasses. Popworld brand manager Jamie Rosenfeld said: “We have had such great success over the past few years and are continuing to grow as a brand.” Meanwhile, Stonegate has reopened The William Bourne pub in Chessington following a £200,000 investment. The venue now offers six high-definition televisions, a pool table and dartboard, while the garden features beach huts and more televisions. The William Bourne also offers a new menu and a number of daily deals.

Bun House to double up in Soho: Bao and pickle cafe concept Bun House is to open a second site. Founders Alex Peffley and Z He are opening the new, larger, venue in Lisle Street, in the heart of Soho’s Chinatown, in February. It will continue to focus on traditional Cantonese steamed buns, with two new additions joining the menu – beef brisket and a soft, brioche-style pineapple bun. The site will also pay homage to Hong Kong’s dai pai dong food stalls, with a small hatch inside the restaurant serving traditional street food-style snacks such as curried fish balls and Cheung Fun – traditional rice noodle rolls topped with wok-fried vegetables. The drinks menu will celebrate Hong Kong’s burgeoning craft beer scene, working closely with breweries such as Moonzen and Young Master, while there will be a range of tea-based cocktails and cold-brewed tea. The double-fronted venue will feature dark wood framed, sliding glass windows opening into the restaurant as well as a new outdoor counter for street-side nibbling. It will lead through to an 18-cover dining space dotted with round tables while there will be a further 54 seats upstairs. He said: “Having moved to the UK from Guangzhou, Chinatown has always felt like a noisy, thrilling slice of home in the middle of London. It’s particularly exciting for us to open Bun House in the heart of Chinese food in the city, and we hope our buns will bring back memories of home for many.” Julia Wilkinson, head of group restaurant strategy at Shaftesbury, added: “We are delighted to welcome Z He and Alex Peffly’s Bun House to Lisle Street in Chinatown London. Its signature steamed bao include both hot and savoury traditional Cantonese flavours and also cult favourite sweet custard fillings, making it an exciting new addition to London’s leading destination for east Asian cuisine. Z and Alex’s design backgrounds will also add a fresh creative aesthetic to Lisle Street and a new twist to the evolving voyage of discovery in Chinatown London, where east meets the west.” Peffley and He launched Bun House in Greek Street, Soho, in May last year. 

Redcomb Pubs launches whisky-themed pop-up saloon bar above Charing Cross site: Multi-site operator Redcomb Pubs, founded by Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, has opened a whisky-themed pop-up saloon bar above its The Theodore Bullfrog site in Charing Cross, central London. The company has launched Double Barrel in collaboration with Diageo. It offers high-end whisky alongside barrel-aged, seasonal cocktails and dark-spirited bar bites and small plates and sides, such as slow-cooked pork shoulder tacos. Double Barrel’s decor centres on a backdrop of reclaimed barrels and timber cladding with a panelled bar. Catering for up to 75 seated or 100 standing guests, Double Barrel is available for private hire and will also host whisky tasting and cocktail making masterclasses. Draper said: “Double Barrel offers a great opportunity to work the pub’s space harder and capitalise on the ever-expanding footfall in the area. It also offers us the opportunity to creatively stretch our offering and present something a little unique and engaging to this bustling area.” The company operates 16 sites across London and surrounding counties and incorporates a number of pubs with rooms. 

Andrew Fairlie steps down from Gleneagles restaurant due to terminal illness: Chef Andrew Fairlie is stepping down from his two Michelin-starred restaurant at Gleneagles due to a terminal brain tumour. Fairlie has been fighting the illness since 2005 with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery but was told in June no further treatment was available. He is now retiring from the restaurant, which he established in 2001, to arrange a wedding with his partner Kate White and spend time with friends. He will officially hand over the keys to head chef Stevie McLaughlin, general manager Dale Dewsbury and business partner Gregor Mathieson in February. He told The Times Scotland: “Giving up my restaurant kitchen was the hardest part. The fact I’ll never be back, never have that buzz and atmosphere of the kitchen again, was very emotional. But it’s dangerous for me to be there. I’d just be a liability. My worst case scenario was Gleneagles would take back the space and give it to some other chef. I am very grateful it is not the case and my legacy will continue.” Sharan Pasricha, founder and chief executive of Ennismore, which owns Gleneagles, said: “We’re immensely proud of all of Andrew’s achievements including being Scotland’s only two-star Michelin restaurant for the past 12 years, and are delighted to continue the legacy of such an important and cherished culinary icon through the renewal of our long-term partnership with the restaurant. We’re confident, under Gregor, Stevie and Dale’s leadership, this deep-rooted ethos will be preserved, developed and enhanced for future guests.”

Nando’s to open seventh Northern Ireland site: Nando’s is set to open its seventh restaurant in Northern Ireland next year. The company will open the 3,500 square foot site at The Junction retail and leisure park in Antrim. It will be the tenth restaurant to join the complex, which was acquired by Lotus Property in 2016. Managing director Alastair Coulson told the Newsletter: “We are delighted to welcome Nando’s to The Junction. The addition of such a strong brand is testament to the confidence surrounding The Junction’s future.” Nando’s arrival is part of a £30m redevelopment of The Junction that began in April, which is set to make it Northern Ireland’s largest shopping and leisure destination. It currently houses more than 30 stores, a range of restaurants and a ten-screen Omniplex cinema. On completion in 2020, the redesigned scheme will feature four distinct quarters – food and film, home retail, supermarket, and shopping and leisure – including two drive-thrus and new cafes and restaurants.

Harrods launches Fresh Market Hall in second stage of food hall transformation: Harrods has launched its new Fresh Market Hall – the second stage of its "Taste Revolution" – the two-year refurbishment project of the department store’s historic Food Halls. Following the launch of the Roastery & Bake Hall, the Fresh Market Hall "celebrates the everyday essential done exceptionally well, with provenance, convenience and seasonality at the forefront". At the heart of the Fresh Market Hall is the newly redesigned deli, which offers a range of elevated classics including beef Wellington and salmon en croûte, as well as new dishes such as Asian slow-cooked beef short rib. Alongside the deli is the rotisserie where customers can select rotisserie chicken, brined and marinated for 24 hours, as well as sandwiches. Next to the deli is the fruit and vegetable offering, where customers can choose from produce curated by season. The fish counter feature a selection of both fish and shellfish while the butcher counter has a selection of British specialty breeds and seasonal game, as well "the best cuts from around the world". The charcuterie counter features 200 limited-production legs, each of which are available to purchase whole or sliced as well as a selection of cheeses that customers can sprinkle white or black truffle over. Harrods director of food and home Chris Dee said: "Harrods has always been a leader in the world of fine food. The launch of the Fresh Market Hall celebrates our unrivalled access to the world’s finest suppliers, as well as the skills of our talented in-house chefs.” 

Goodbody – increase in 'quality' pizza groups on Deliveroo will impact Domino's, but company has 'competitive advantage': Goodbody leisure analyst Rachel Fox has argued the increase in "quality" pizza groups on Deliveroo will have an impact on Domino's but the company has a "competitive advantage". Deliveroo has revealed it is now working with 17,000 partners and has signed new exclusive agreements with companies including PizzaExpress and Azzurri Group, which operates ASK Italian and Zizzi. Fox said: "Overall, the majority of the food delivery market in the UK is represented by pizza (circa 27%), Chinese (circa 20%) and Indian (circa 15%), and outside of these we do not consider a lot of other cuisines on delivery platforms to represent a significant threat to Domino’s given they generally do not travel as well and are more expensive (lower margin businesses that pass on a lot of the commission costs to customers). However, we think the increase in quality pizza groups listing on the Deliveroo platform (and adjusting their offerings to suit a delivery model) is negative for Domino’s as these operators seek to grow their share in the pizza delivery market. However, while Deliveroo listings continue to grow we believe Domino’s has a competitive advantage given its relatively attractive pricing on delivery, scale and potential for further scale expansion throughout the UK." 

New-wave wine bar opens in Elephant and Castle: Sunny Hodge, who helped set up Michelin-starred Fordwich Arms, near Canterbury, has opened a new-wave wine bar and shop in London’s Elephant and Castle. Hodge has launched Diogenes The Dog in a former pub in Rodney Road. Inspired by Diogenes, who founded the cynic school of philosophy in ancient Greece, the 60-cover venue aims to “question what people know about wine, discard common trends and bring lesser-known and better alternatives to the table”. The wine list is based on Hodge’s personal connections, meaning 40% are imported directly from vineyards with bottles displayed in order of tone rather than region or price. Italian cheese and charcuterie accompany wine in the evenings, while in the day there is tea, Guatemalan coffee, fresh pastries and bread. Hodge said: “Diogenes The Dog is a small opening in the world of wine that allows the undiscovered to be savoured.”

Belfast-based Tribal Burger secures former Bubbacue premises for second site: Belfast-based burger restaurant Tribal Burger is to open its second site. Owners Paul and Elaine Catterson launched the concept in Botanic Avenue at the end of last year. Now they have secured the former barbecue restaurant Bubbacue premises in Callender Street. They will invest £180,000 refurbishing the property, which is expected to reopen later this month, creating 20 jobs. Tribal Burger serves a range of top-end beef burgers, along with sides, craft beer, and milkshakes. It also offers vegan options such as smoked beetroot, chickpea and houmous. Paul Catterson told the Belfast Telegraph: "We are delighted to expand our popular Tribal Burger brand to Belfast's city centre." Bubbacue shut the site in August after the company, owned by John and Karen Blisard, went into liquidation with debts of more than £1.2m. 

Everbright Group acquires second Cumbria hotel for fourth site: Hotel operator Everbright Group has acquired its fourth site – and second in Cumbria. The company has bought the George Hotel in Penrith from Lake District Hotels for an undisclosed sum off a guide price of £2.75m through joint agents Colliers International and Knight Frank. The 35-bedroom, three-star hotel is in the centre of the Cumbrian market town. Julian Troup, of Colliers International, and Kit Abram, of Knight Frank, told The Business Desk: “We are delighted to have completed the sale of the George Hotel to buyers who will continue to maintain the character and heritage of this attractive period property. The sale to a buyer with overseas connections is further evidence of rising international interest in acquiring UK hotels, largely thanks to devaluation of the pound.” Everbright Group was founded in 2015 and its other sites include the Stonecross Manor Hotel in Kendal, which it acquired last year.
Dublin-based TheKeyCollections acquires seventh site: Dublin-based operator TheKeyCollections has acquired its seventh site after entered into a long-term agreement to lease The Gate Hotel in the city. The 24-bedroom family-run hotel has been operating in Parnell Street for more than 30 years. TheKeyCollections chief executive Sabrina Sherlock, said: “This is a very exciting time for TheKeyCollections as we continue to grow our footprint around Dublin. The Gate Hotel joins our existing collection of Dublin properties – Handels Hotel, Hotel St George, The Camden Hotel, Clifden Guesthouse and Amberley House. The Gate Hotel fits perfectly with our brand guest mission to offer our guests unique places to stay in great locations that allows them to really experience Dublin.” Director Nina Gillett added: “This year we have expanded into the UK with the edition of two hotels in London, The Exhibitionist and The Gainsborough, in South Kensington, but Dublin still remains a focal market for our growth journey.” TheKeyCollections, which was launched in 2012, employees more than 300 people.

Travelodge lines up second Poole site: Travelodge is lining up a second hotel in Poole, Dorset. Britel Fund Trustees has submitted an application to Poole Borough Council to build an 81-bedroom hotel on a 0.89-acre site at Fleets Corner Business Park, reports Insider Media. The application's design and access statement said: "Since opening in July 2016, the existing Travelodge in Poole has traded strongly; with a high average occupancy. The existing Travelodge is very close to the railway station and within walking distance of the town centre and quayside. This opportunity will provide a complementary location to the existing hotel. The provision of a new hotel will create in the region of 25 to 30 full-time jobs meaning the business park can offer a more diverse range of employment and increase overall employment numbers. The hotel would also potentially generate an additional spend in the local economy of approximately £830,000 per year from guests."

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