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Thu 8th Nov 2018 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Daniel Davies – Brooklyn trip helped inspire me to create New Brighton leisure quarter: Daniel Davies, founder of CPL Training and chairman of the Institute of Licensing (IoL), has said a study tour to Brooklyn, New York, helped inspire his project to breathe new life into his home town, New Brighton. Davies has launched Rock Point Leisure following CGA Group’s acquisition of 85% of CPL Online in March. Rock Point is the former name of the Merseyside seaside resort and once housed a tower larger than Blackpool’s, eight theatres and the world’s largest open-air swimming baths. All have gone and despite regrowth on the seafront dominated by large-scale operators, there has been “little ripple effect”. Davies plans to redevelop the town’s “main drag” – Victoria Road – and 11 surrounding streets into Victoria Quarter, which will feature a mix of commercial and residential properties. He has bought a three-storey solicitors’ office, two former banks, the lease on a Punch pub, and a couple of restaurants, while he is “waiting to get confirmation on a supermarket” that will form a major part of the project and was inspired by a Propel study tour to New York. Speaking at the Propel Multi Club Conference, Davies said: “We looked around a lot of stuff there, particularly market concepts. People visit Liverpool but why would they come over the water to visit New Brighton? Well if people visit Manhattan, why would they visit Brooklyn? But they do and we’ve learnt there has to be a compelling reason.” Davies’ plans also include vinyl record store Rockpoint Records. He said: “We are attracting a number of different concepts, mainly led by us to start with. Habibi Hookah House will be a shisha place and there will be a Californian concept, Oakland, which will have an MTV Unplugged-style area at the back where we will get some serious artists and DJs over from LA.” Davies is looking to create a calendar of live events that encourage collaboration. He said: “We are getting all the community involved. I’ve opened the solicitors as an office and drop-in centre. We’ve created an independent business forum and invite every resident to open days, taking as much expertise as we can from the local area.” Davies is also using his experience as chairman of the IoL. He said: “I have seen a lot of conflict between operators and regulators. I sat down with the chief executive of the local council, the heads of planning and licensing, police, Highways Agency and asked them to work with me on this project – and they’ve been brilliant. They’ve designated a whole area and given me two properties they can’t afford to maintain. This is a long-term commitment to the area. Once we’ve done this, we’d like to stick a tower back or some big attraction like that.”

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator tickets now on sale: The Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit is returning for its second year following a bumper inaugural event. The summit is a partnership between Propel and Think Hospitality and aims to build a community, promote idea sharing, recognise talent and define the future of eating out. Bookings are now open for the two-day conference, which will be the centrepiece of the event series and take place on 16 and 17 January at One Moorgate Place, 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 has been designed for marketing, development and innovation teams as well as senior executives and investors who want 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 will bring international speakers to the conversation. The 2019 edition will feature speakers from five countries including Anders Houman, partner at 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 on social media. Special guest speakers will include Chris Miller, founder of the White Rabbit Fund and investor on 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 emailing Anne Steele, of Propel, at or calling her on 01444 817691

Operators that fail to take proper care over food safety face ‘significant custodial sentences if a death results’, judge warns: Operators that fail to take proper care over food safety face “significant custodial sentences if a death results”, a judge has warned. Mrs Justice Yip issued the message as she jailed a takeaway owner and its manager for causing a teenage girl’s death by sending her a meal that contained peanuts. Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, of Belper Street, Blackburn, admitted two health and safety charges on behalf of himself and the takeaway but he and Harun Rashid, 38, of Rudd Street, Haslingden, denied manslaughter. Megan Lee, 15, suffered irreversible brain damage after having an allergic reaction to food from Royal Spice in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, in 2016. Kuddus and Rashid, who were found guilty of manslaughter in October, have been jailed for two and three years respectively, reports the BBC. In sentencing, the judge told them the teenager was responsible enough to highlight her allergies when placing the order but “sadly the same responsibility was not at your end”. She said the takeaway had no systems or processes to manage allergen control. She added: “The menu contained no information about allergens. No record was kept of ingredients used in dishes. In short, it appears no-one at the takeaway had any way of knowing what allergens were in the food supplied.” She added: “I hope this tragic case adds to the growing awareness in the food industry of what can happen if allergies are not taken seriously. Those who fail to heed the warnings and who continue to flout food safety regulations may find the courts taking a harsher view in the future.” The trial was previously told the teenager suffered an acute asthma attack after eating food from Royal Spice on December 30 2016, which her friend had ordered with a note reading “prawns, nuts” to show her allergies. Royal Spice was closed following the teenager’s death but later reopened under new ownership.

London suffers record restaurant closures, average price of dinner rises 4.8%: London has experienced a record number of restaurant closures in the past 12 months, according to the 2018 edition of Harden’s London Restaurants. There have been 117 closures – the highest since the guide was first published in 1991. The previous high was 113 in 2003. However, there were 167 restaurant openings – the fourth-highest year on record – although the 50 net openings were down more than 50% on the previous year’s 109. Viewed on a graph of net openings a five-year peak has passed, with net openings back in the range of 40 to 75 that encompassed most years from the mid-1990s. A further sign of pressure in the independent market comes from the ratio of openings to closures, which dropped sharply to 1.4 to 1. Only one previous year has exceeded this rate – 2003 – when it was 1.2 to 1. Meanwhile, prices continue to rise above inflation in real terms. The average price of dinner for one at venues listed in the guide is £55.76, compared with £53.20 last year. Prices have risen 4.8% in the past 12 months – up from 3.6% in the preceding 12 months. This rate compares with a general annual inflation rate of 2.4% for the 12 months to August 2018, yet further accelerates the trend seen in the past two years by which restaurant bills have generally risen significantly higher than inflation. Michelin-starred Texture, which is run by Aggi Sverrisson, scored the highest for food in the 2019 survey. Tomos Parry’s Brat was the highest rated newcomer, while the Harwood Arms in Fulham was the top gastro-pub. The River Cafe was again voted London’s most overpriced restaurant.

EFSA develops simplified approach for pubs and restaurants to donate food: The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has developed a new approach that makes it simpler for pubs and restaurants to donate food. The system includes steps for checking donated food is safe such as shelf-life control, maintenance of the cold chain, and ensuring communication between donor and recipients. Under the new system, retailers need only be aware that biological, chemical and physical hazards or allergens may be present and a failure to undertake key control activities – such as separation of raw from cooked products – could pose a risk to consumers. The approach is intended for food distribution centres, supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and other small retailers. Ensuring the safety of donated food is particularly challenging because it may be nearing the end of its shelf life, while several people are involved in the donation chain. The scientific opinion will assist food donors and recipients such as food banks and other charity organisations by defining simplified food safety management systems to ensure redistribution of safe food to those in need. EFSA chief scientist Marta Hugas said: “This simpler approach, which the European Commission asked us to develop after the positive experience of the previous scientific advice on the matter, should make it easier for small retailers to donate food. It should also help to reduce food waste – a priority for the EU.”

Almost one-quarter of UK pubs serve beer at wrong temperature: Almost one-quarter (22%) of UK pubs serve beer at the wrong temperature, according to new research by beer quality and insights expert Vianet. The company’s insight report 2018 also showed one in three pints are still served via a beer line that requires cleaning. Almost three-quarters (71%) of pubs are failing to achieve their target pouring yield, while pubs are over-ranging by an average of three pumps. Meanwhile, 2% of drinks served don’t make it through the till, equating to £290m based on total on-trade beer value. Vianet claimed there was an additional £13,500 average profit opportunity per year if a pub used the insights provided by iDraught, the company’s draught platform. The data was collected between October 2017 and September 2018 from more than 250,000 devices on the platform and covers more than 777 million pints served. Steven Alton, managing director of Vianet Smart Zones, said: “There is still a lack of control in many parts of the sector that need addressing if sites and operators are going to improve their bottom line and customer satisfaction. We may have got a freeze on beer duty this year but that doesn’t mean pubs don’t need to keep a rigorous control on their costs.”

Craft Beer Rising returns to east London: UK craft beer festival Craft Beer Rising will return to east London next year featuring 155 breweries and more street food and music. The seventh edition of the festival will take place at Truman Brewery in Brick Lane from 21 to 23 February. More than 12,000 visitors are expected as craft beer continues to grow and take a larger share of the UK beer market. BrewDog, London Fields Brewery, Mondo, Tiny Rebel, Fourpure and all-female brewery Mothership will be among companies present, while Brooklyn Brewery and Goose Island will attend from the US alongside low-alcohol and alcohol-free brewers. There will be two trade and four consumer sessions, with ten cider and eight snack producers. There will also be a new space, Fox’s Den, where food, brewery and spirits companies will unveil emerging trends in the sector. 

CAMRA names pub of the year finalists: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named its Pub of the Year 2018 finalists. Current holder The Cricketers in St Helens has been shortlisted along with the Volunteer Arms (Staggs) in Musselburgh; The Chequers in Little Gransden, Cambridgeshire; and the Wonston Arms in Wonston, Hampshire. All the pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, value for money, customer mix and quality of beer. The winner will be announced in February. National Pub of the Year co-ordinator Andrea Briers said: “Each of the finalists are different, with town and village pubs represented, all of them excellent examples of their style of pub.” The four finalists will be presented with a super regional award in the coming weeks.

Company News:

Tim Martin – further large-package pub disposals unlikely: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has told Propel further large-package sales of its pubs are “unlikely”. The company has put a number of pub packages on the market in recent years, including 33 in 2016 and 20 in 2015. Martin said: “We sold those pubs because we felt we had opened too many too close to each other. When you’re in a hole you need to stop digging. We are trying not to repeat that mistake. We are quite a mature company – our sales are up even though we have fewer pubs. We’ve got almost 900 sites but who knows where we might be in ten years? We’ll probably put a few more pubs on the market but it’s unlikely to be at the extent we have done previously.” Wetherspoon this week invested £27m in increased wages and Martin said it would have to wait to see what effect it had on the company’s bottom line – but it was taking no immediate mitigating action. He added: “Unemployment is currently about 4%, which is pushing wages up across the board.” Regarding recent strike action taken by staff at two of its pubs in Brighton, Martin said: “We always try to listen to our employees. It involved 19 people at two sites from a workforce of 42,000.” The company has seen like-for-like sales increase 5.5% in the first quarter and Martin said the performance wasn’t down to “one specific thing”. He added: “I think we have benefited from coffee sales, while ale sales have also been doing very well. In the pub industry you have to be clever every day, put the effort in and continue to improve.” Regarding its outlook following the results, Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy said: “The group notes sales continue to grow strongly, however comparatives are now tougher. It now expects a trading outcome slightly below that achieved last year (profit before tax £107m) although notes it is difficult to be precise at this point of the year. We currently forecast £107m, broadly in line with consensus. Overall, Wetherspoon continues to deliver sales growth strongly ahead of the market. Management had previously said it requires 4% like-for-like growth to cover inflationary headwinds and it is tracking ahead of this, albeit we have only seen one quarter of trading.”

Immersive bingo experience to launch in east London next month: An immersive bingo experience is to launch in east London next month. Dabbers Social Bingo will aim to reinvigorate the experience, replacing cups of tea with cocktails, bingo callers with comedians and “dreary prizes” with “incredible experiences”. Entrepreneur Ed Wethered will team up with the brains behind Musical Bingo, Gospeloke, and Comedy House Party, with backing from the founder of Picturehouse Cinemas, to launch the venture in Houndsditch. Dabbers will “repurpose and modernise” bingo via interactive game show elements and a new food and drink offering. The menu will feature a contemporary take on all things round, including melon balls wrapped in ham, and round waffles with crumble and cinnamon sugar. Drinks will include craft beer, cocktails and wine. Guests will be able to tuck into treats as they play bingo, with drinks and dishes served at table. The experience will include classic bingo on Tuesday nights hosted by veteran callers “coaxed out of retirement”. Bingo Voyage on Fridays will offer an exclusive weekend away as the main prize. Disco Bingo on Saturday nights will feature UV lights, while comedians will host Family Brunch bingo on Sundays. A spokeswoman said: “Bingo has been about for 500 years because it offers an opportunity to socialise. It creates community and is exciting, fun, accessible and, of course, there are chances to win.”

Vibration Group to launch multimillion-pound venue and events space at Greenwich Peninsula: Venue Lab, the Vibration Group company behind Printworks London and Landing Forty Two, is to open a multimillion-pound events space in the capital. The company will launch Magazine London next summer at the Greenwich Peninsula development, near North Greenwich tube station. The venue will offer a flexible 5,394 square metre space across two main rooms and two large mezzanine areas ideal for seminars. Magazine London will also feature an adjoining “showground” – a 13,985 square metre, 7,000-capacity landscaped area on the banks of the Thames that will take the venue’s total capacity to 10,000 people. Vibration Group has partnered with international property and investment company Knight Dragon on the project. Vibration Group chief executive Simon Tracey said: “London is still at the forefront of the global conferencing and exhibition market and Magazine, with it’s incredible flexibility indoor and out, will be ground-breaking.” Knight Dragon chief executive Richard Margree added: “Magazine London fits superbly with what we’re doing on Greenwich Peninsula – creating a new London underpinned by creativity and a community with culture and entertainment at its heart.”

Flight Club lands in Manchester, first UK site outside London: Social darts concept Flight Club has launched its first UK site outside the capital, in Manchester. The venue has opened in King Street offering bookings for groups of up to 120 people, tournaments for up to 200 and team-building experiences. The former Burger & Lobster site includes Flight Club’s feature bar and 14 oches – each with its own seating area and table service. The menu includes sliders, pizza, fries, bar snacks and sharing plates, while the drinks list includes craft beer, wine, shots, spirits and house cocktails. Flight Club’s London sites are in Bloomsbury and Shoreditch, while a third venue will open at the Nova development in Victoria on Friday, 30 November. In September, the company lodged plans for a venue in Birmingham and said it was investigating three further UK venues after securing £15m of growth funding. The company, which also has a venue in Chicago, is looking to launch shuffleboard concept Electric Shuffle in London next year.

M&S lowering price on hundreds of food items: Marks & Spencer (M&S) is shaping its business by lowering prices on hundreds of food items. Chief executive Steve Rowe revealed the move to the BBC with food “trading behind our expectations”. M&S has reported falling clothing and food sales and warned it sees little improvement in sales this year. Like-for-like sales were down 2.2% for the six months to the end of September. Food sales were down 2.9%, while clothing and home sales slid 1.1%. M&S warned trading conditions for the remainder of the financial year would remain “challenging”, while the company expected “little improvement in sales trajectory”. Rowe said: “What we are doing is making sure we protect the magic of M&S.” Revenue fell 3.1% to £4.96bn but underlying pre-tax profits were up 2% to £223.5m.

Whitbread appoints new non-executive director: Whitbread has appointed Frank Fiskers as a non-executive director. He will join the company on 1 February and become a member of the audit committee. Fiskers is former chief executive of Scandic Hotels and is currently a non-executive director of both Scandic and Shurgard Self Storage, although he will step down from his position at Scandic. He is also an industrial advisor to EQT Partners. Fiskers has more than 35 years’ experience in the hospitality industry in Europe and Africa, including positions with Radisson SAS, Hilton Worldwide, Azure Properties and First Hotels. Whitbread chairman Adam Crozier said: “Through his wealth of experience in the hotel industry, Frank’s expertise will be of great value to the Whitbread board as we continue to expand Premier Inn in the UK and internationally.”

Team behind Brixton restaurant Salon launch Peckham sister site: The team behind Brixton restaurant Salon has launched a sister site in Peckham. Nicholas Balfe, Mark Gurney and Matt Bushnell have opened Levan in Blenheim Grove focusing on contemporary European dishes inspired by “new-wave bistronomy”. Levan is housed in a converted warehouse and consists of two main spaces – a large dining area and a bar with high tables for walk-ins. The restaurant offers pastries and croque monsieur in the morning, while the lunch menu reflects European bistro classics. The evening menu consists of smaller sharing plates and heartier dishes such as smoked pollack with spinach, while the drinks list includes French wine and bespoke cocktails.

Denbies developing UK’s first vineyard hotel: Surrey-based wine estate Denbies is developing the UK’s first vineyard hotel as part of a £4m investment in its estate near Dorking. The company is transforming its Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast into a 17-bedroom hotel, which will open in the spring after HSBC UK provided a £1.7m funding package. The hotel will be in the centre of the vineyard and offer a bar and restaurant championing local produce. A major part of Denbies’ investment will go into modernising and expanding the winery next year. Chief executive Christopher White said: “In addition to introducing the UK’s first vineyard hotel, we will quadruple our sparkling wine production capacity by the end of 2019. Moreover, our sustained programme of new plantings and planned winery investments will enable us to expand while continuing to drive the quality of our sparkling wine. We will also make sure we support growing demand for our full range of still wine.” Nick Hicks, area director for HSBC UK in Sussex and Surrey, added: “This is a hugely exciting investment that will see Denbies Wine Estate transformed into a unique attraction. The funding package provided by HSBC is enabling Denbies to incorporate environmentally friendly solutions, ensuring the UK’s first vineyard hotel will operate sustainably and ethically.”

Stonegate to launch Slug and Lettuce winter walk-in menu: Stonegate Pub Company is to launch a winter walk-in menu for its Slug and Lettuce brand. The menu will launch nationwide on Tuesday, 13 November featuring a festive burger, sub and sharer board. The festive beef burger will come topped with turkey, stuffing, bacon, cheese and a “pig in blankets”, while the new sub will be filled with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, lettuce and a pig in blankets! The Festive Sharer will feature mini-burgers and a whole baked camembert, with garlic bread fingers for dipping. There will also be two and three-course set menus, with vegan and vegetarian versions of festive classics. Christmas cocktails will include a Snowball Martini and gin and prosecco-based Sloe-Secco.    

SA Brain lodges plans for Coffee#1 site in Christchurch: Cardiff-based brewer and retailer SA Brain has lodged plans for a Coffee#1 site in Christchurch, Dorset. The company has applied to Christchurch Borough Council to convert a former Shoe Zone shop in High Street. Coffee#1, which has branches in nearby Winton and Southbourne, has proposed opening hours of 7am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and 8am to 6pm on Sundays, reports the Bournemouth Echo. A statement accompanying the application said the change of use had numerous benefits. It added: “These include improving footfall in the shopping area, adding to the vitality and viability of the town centre, encouraging consumers to remain longer in the shopping area, providing a venue for social interaction, creating jobs and long-term investment in Christchurch.” Coffee#1 opened its first store in Cardiff in 2001, with SA Brain acquiring the business in 2011. It currently has 92 sites.

TGI Friday’s crowns UK bartending champion: Gary Burdekin has been crowned TGI Friday’s UK Bartender Champion 2018. Burdekin, who works at the company’s venue in Derby, will now represent the UK and challenge the world’s best bartenders in TGI Friday’s World Bartender Championships, which will take place in the US early next year. In total, 8,000 bartenders from 60 countries entered the competition. Russ Ward, who had won the UK competition for five years running, did not enter this year’s event and was its technical judge instead.

Festival food brand opens permanent site: Shwings, which has served chicken wings at a variety of festivals across the UK, has launched a permanent site in Chelmsford. The venue has opened in New London Road in a premises that formerly housed fairtrade cafe A Canteen. The Shwings menu will feature seven flavours of chicken wings served with a variety of sides. The restaurant also cooks Portuguese-style spatchcock chicken over a special oven with hot coals and real fire, reports Essex Live. According to its Twitter feed, Shwings will also be on Deliveroo, allowing diners to sample its “gourmet chicken wings” from their own home.

Nottingham-based independent pizza restaurant closes Leicester site: Nottingham-based independent pizza restaurant Oscar & Rosie’s has closed its site in Leicester. The company has shut the venue in Market Place, which opened in April last year, reports Leicestershire Live. A message from the restaurant read: “Sad to announce our Leicester branch will not be reopening. Thank you to everyone who supported us over the past 18 months in Leicester, we’ve had a great time and made lots of new friends. We hope you’ll still come to visit us in Nottingham.” Oscar & Rosie’s was founded in Nottingham in 2013 and initially operated pop-ups in The Picnic Basket and then Das Kino. It opened its first permanent restaurant in Thurland Street in 2015 before moving to larger premises in Stoney Street in August last year.

Westons reveals Stowford Press Mixed Berries most successful on-trade launch as it sells millionth pint: Cider-maker Westons has sold its one-millionth pint of Stowford Press Mixed Berries in the on-trade, six months after the product’s launch, making it the most successful on-trade launch in the company’s history. Westons previously predicted fruit variants would make up almost half of all cider sold in the UK within five years. Head of marketing Sally McKinnon said: “We were confident introducing a fruit offering for Stowford Press would bring even more consumers into the growing fruit cider category, but the success of Mixed Berries has smashed even our own ambitious target.” The fruit cider category is booming, with 195 million fruit pints now drunk in the on-trade. Sales of fruit cider across the on and off-trade are up 13.1% year-on-year.

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