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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 10th Sep 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Good Food Guide – restaurants moving towards dynamic pricing: A number of restaurants are moving towards dynamic pricing, according to the Good Food Guide 2020. The seventh edition of the guide, published by Waitrose & Partners on Thursday (12 September), highlights The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds, which charges £75 for ten courses at dinner from Tuesday to Thursday but an extra £15 or £25 later in the week. Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard has a peak and off-peak system that means it’s about 20% cheaper to eat at lunchtime and also dinner on Sundays and Mondays, the guide states. It added that dynamic pricing could see diners bag a “bargain destination dining experience”. This year’s guide features more than 350 restaurants that offer three-course dinners for £30 or less. The “best new entry” for London – Peg in Hackney – was praised for “beautiful, low-budget dishes prepared with precision”, while Nico Simeone’s Six by Nico chain offers a six-course tasting menu for £28 and makes “dining out more accessible”. The guide’s editor, Elizabeth Carter, said: “With diners increasingly looking for flexible eating options and value for money there has been a surge in inexpensive cafes and restaurants that rank quality of ingredients above all else.” Regarding no-booking policies the guide said a number of places were changing terms including 10 Greek Street, which now takes reservations for lunch and dinner and holds back tables for walk-ins, and fellow Soho restaurant Pastaio, which operates a virtual queuing system. Meanwhile the guide asked its Twitter followers whether under-12s should be welcomed in fine dining restaurants. More than half (54%) said yes, 31% no and 15% suggested it depended on the time of day. The top restaurant on this year’s list is Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, which returns to top spot after a year’s hiatus. Core by Clare Smyth in Notting Hill is second, with Cornwall’s Restaurant Nathan Outlaw falling from first to third. For the first time the guide acknowledges a sustainability champion – Silo’s Douglas McMaster.

Industry News:

UKHospitality unveils best UK bar and nightclub operators: UKHospitality has unveiled the shortlisted nominees for the 2019 Dusk ‘til Dawn Late Night Awards, which recognise the best UK bar and nightclub operators. The nominees span eight categories and incorporate a wide range of trading styles, reflecting the diversity of the UK’s innovative bar and late-night sector. The Late Night Awards, the only awards in the UK that recognise and celebrate late-night eating and drinking-out venues, will be presented on Wednesday, 16 October at the Troxy in Commercial Road, London. The awards will follow the annual Bar and Nightclub Conference for the late-night sector and night-time industries also at the Troxy, with both events held in association with Propel. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The variety and sheer volume of nominations this year has been fantastic and the job of whittling them down to 36 shortlisted nominees has been tough. The diversity on show this year is a tribute to the vibrancy and vitality of the UK’s late-night sector and we are very pleased to shortlist the most dynamic companies at the cutting-edge of late-night hospitality. A thriving late-night sector makes a huge difference to a town and city, providing not only an economic boost but also acting as a very valuable social and cultural asset. Our nightclubs are world-renowned and Dusk ‘til Dawn is all about celebrating this brilliant sector. I look forward to this year’s ceremony and crowning the winners at what will no doubt be a fantastic evening celebrating this valuable and exciting aspect of the UK’s hospitality.” The nominees are Best Late Night Food: Dusk, MeatLiquor, Eden, The Alchemist and Dinerama; Best Late Night Drinks: Dirty Martini, Be At One, The Alchemist and Revolution Bars Group; Best Late Night Entertainment: Bierschenke, Lucky Voice, Tokyo Industries, Deltic Group and Maxwell’s Group; Best Service & Team Development: New World Trading Company, Be At One, Adventure Bars and Deltic Group; Best Marketing & Promotions: Stonegate Pub Company, Dirty Martini, The Alchemist, Arc Inspirations and Urban Pubs and Bars; Best Late Night Bar: Oslo in Hackney, Piano Works West End in Leicester Square, Belushi’s in Camden, and Neighbourhood; Best Late Night Club: Viper Rooms, Eden, Tape Club and Fiction; Best Late Night Company: DHP Family, Mission Mars, Stonegate Pub Company, Deltic Group and Dirty Martini. Tickets for the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards are £150 per head. Tables of ten are available or individual places. Meanwhile, tickets for the conference are £139 plus VAT for operators who are UKHospitality members and £195 plus VAT for non-members. Supplier tickets are £185 plus VAT for UKHospitality members and £285 plus VAT for non-members. Bookings for both events can be made by emailing Anne Steele at

Propel Multi Club Conference opens for bookings, Corbin & King to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 14 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Lorraine Copes, head of procurement at Corbin & King, will offer her top ten insights on how to control the supply chain to maximise quality and value. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at

Pubs continue to diversify offering as less than 40% listed as wet-led on Good Beer Guide: Pubs are continuing to diversify their offerings, with more than three-fifths (61%) providing evening meals and 65% providing lunch, according to the latest Good Beer Guide. The guide, which is produced by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and surveys 4,500 UK pubs, listed less than 40% of pubs as wet-led. More than one-quarter (26%) of the listed pubs are Cask Marque accredited, while more than three-quarters (76%) have a beer garden. In total, 1,850 real ale breweries currently operate in the UK producing more than 7,500 beers, demonstrating a “significant move towards diversity in flavours and styles”. CAMRA is calling on the government to adopt its three-point plan to stop pub closures – beer duty relief, a cut to business rates paid by pubs, and a review into the Pubs Code and adjudicator. CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer said: “We believe information gleaned from the guide is vital in the drive to save our pubs from closure.” The Good Beer Guide 2020 is published on Thursday (12 September).

More than 90% of consumers expect operators to act sustainably: The majority (92%) of consumers expect operators to act sustainably, with reduced packaging (93%), food waste strategies (93%) and paper or metal straws (87%) topping the list of priorities, according to a survey by guest experience management expert HGEM. More than nine out of ten (94%) of respondents think better of a brand that acts sustainably, rising to 98% among 18 to 25-year-olds. Of those who admitted their perception would change, more than half (53%) listed “the environment” as the reason, while a third admitted it was nice to see brands “trying to make a difference”. More than four-fifths (82%) of respondents are more likely to choose a venue that proactively sources local produce, while almost half (45%) expect to see charity support or donations within a restaurant. When it comes to operators best communicating their sustainability efforts, consumers listed on-premise (93%), social media (67%) and company website (61%) as the top three preferences. HGEM founding director Sally Whelan said: “Consumers are becoming ever more aware of how their actions are having an impact on the environment and, as a result, their perception and behaviour towards brands is beginning to change. Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for consumers, it’s an expectation. Those brands actively communicating their efforts have the potential to attract new customers and build loyalty with existing ones.”

Company News:

Childs steps down as YO! people director, brand changes name to highlight menu diversity: Jo Childs has stepped down as people director at YO!, the global multi-brand, multi-channel Japanese food group, after three years with the Richard Hodgson-led business, Propel has learned. Childs joined YO! from Tesco Hospitality, where she spent more than three years as head of people and talent. Before that she had stints at Spirit Group and Living Ventures. For part of her time at YO!, Childs also oversaw the operational side of the business. On her departure, Alyson Hancock has been promoted from head of people to HR director, while Emma Deabill has stepped up from head of operations to director of operations restaurants. A YO! spokeswoman said: “Jo has contributed a large amount during her time at YO! and will be sorely missed. However, we respect her decision to take a break and wish her the best in her future endeavours.” Meanwhile, YO! has changed its name for a limited time from three characters to 121 to highlight the scale of its menu. Visitors to the brand’s Richmond branch are confronted by a sign extending more than 12 feet, with the name combining 17 menu options. Marketing director Luisa Fernandez said: “After bringing fresh sushi to the UK for the first time 22 years ago we want to show diners we are consistently at the forefront of change with our exciting and diverse menu.”

Bistro Qui administrators sell remaining two sites with unsecured creditors set for ‘unspecified’ dividend: Administrators of Bistro Qui, the Liverpool-based restaurant company, have sold the remaining two sites, which will lead to an “unspecified” dividend being paid to unsecured creditors. A progress report by administrators John Fisher and Ian Brown, of Parkin S Booth & Co, revealed The Refinery in Liverpool and Bistro Jacques in Shrewsbury are now under new ownership. The leasehold of The Refinery was sold to Bistro Qui co-founder Mark Friend under a new company called Fed & Watered for £15,000 plus residual stocks – £35,000 below the asking price. The report revealed a Chinese consortium had been prepared to pay the full asking price but during negotiations it became apparent it required major improvements and changes to the building and the landlord decided he would not accept the consortium as a new tenant. This resulted in Friend’s deal being resurrected and accepted on the basis the 29 employees were transferred to the new business and no claims for redundancy or loss of wages would fall into the administration. The lease of Bistro Jacques has also been sold to a local restaurant manager, who wished to purchase his own business, for £50,000 with all staff transferring to the new owner. The administrators said the sale of the restaurants, together with trading profit of £31,173 and £3,604 at The Refinery and Bistro Jacques respectively, meant a dividend would be paid to unsecured creditors, who are owed about £1m. This will be dealt with during the subsequent creditors voluntary liquidation. Bistro Qui was founded by Friend and Stephen Slater in 2004 and grew to eight sites at its height. Prior to the administration in February, Bistro Qui sold the leasehold of The Hub Alehouse & Kitchen to Mission Mars, the north west-based operator behind Albert’s Schloss and Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza. The amount paid was enough to cover the £120,000 owed to secured creditor the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Thornbridge and Pivovar line up Leeds site for joint venture: Derbyshire-based Thornbridge Brewery and bar operator Pivovar are lining up a site in Leeds for their Thornbridge & Co joint pub venture, Propel has learned. The Bankers Cat will open in Boar Lane in the city centre later this year. The venture’s debut site – The Market Cat in York – opened in December. The three-storey pub was launched following the £500,000 refurbishment of a former pawnbroker shop in Jubbergate. Thornbridge Brewery and Pivovar planned to open their debut site together in Birmingham, but this has been delayed. Thornbridge said “exciting news” would follow regarding the Birmingham project next week. The two companies joined forces in December 2017. Craft beer wholesaler Pivovar operates five other bars – in Sheffield, Harrogate and York.

Cosmo lines up site in France: All-you-can-eat brand Cosmo is planning to make its debut in continental Europe with an opening in France, Propel has learned. The company, which operates 17 sites in the UK and Ireland, is understood to have lined up a site in Lille and is looking for staff for the launch. Earlier this year the company, which was founded by Tom Chan, lodged plans for a site in Northampton. The company applied to Northampton Borough Council to convert the former Balestra nightclub in Market Square, creating 40 jobs. At the same time it is believed to have lined up an opening in Preston. 

Benihana closes only UK regional site after less than a year: Benihana, the worldwide Japanese teppanyaki restaurant chain, has closed its one regional site in the UK, in Glasgow, less than a year after its launch. The group closed the 100-cover restaurant at the former Carluccio’s site in West Nile Street. It was the first Benihana restaurant to open in the UK for more than 20 years. A Benihana spokesman said: “Against a backdrop of the well-publicised struggles faced by the restaurant sector and the depression affecting the UK high street, the difficult decision to close on financial viability grounds has been taken. We take this opportunity to thank our staff for their continued dedication and customers who have welcomed us with open arms. It has been a pleasure to serve you and be part of the community. We will continue to focus on Benihana’s franchise programme in the UK and internationally, together with our long-standing restaurants in London. Benihana’s portfolio includes 20 restaurants around the world [excluding the US and Caribbean] and we look forward to welcoming Mexico City and Cairo to our family later this year.” In July Propel revealed Richard Mackay, formerly of Wagamama and Nozomi, was to step down as managing director of Benihana. Mackay joined Benihana last year on the back of new investment from Minor International, which acquired a 75% stake in the company to spearhead the business and oversee its expansion programme. He left the company to head up Matal Eatery in Saudi Arabia. Founder Hiroki Aoki opened the first Benihana in 1964. Benihana’s London restaurants are in Chelsea, Piccadilly and at The Grange hotel in St Paul’s.

Joël Robuchon International to launch first of two new concepts in London next month: Joël Robuchon International is to launch the first of two new concepts in London next month. Following the death of Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon in August 2018, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon closed earlier this year. Now Le Comptoir Robuchon will open at the Clarges Street development in Mayfair in October focusing on the chef’s original small plates concept. The kitchen will be led by executive chef Jeremy Page, who worked with Robuchon for 13 years at the original L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris. The menu, designed for sharing, will compose two parts – La Saison, featuring seasonal dishes, and Les Eternels, a collection of Robuchon classics. The decor will feature burnt orange and clay tones, with a marble-top counter and banquette seating. Meanwhile, Le Deli Robuchon will launch in Piccadilly in November offering an all-day dining space with eat-in and takeaway options and a patisserie. There will also be a selection of products available to buy, while the off-site boulangerie will offer fresh pastries, sandwiches, salads, afternoon tea, and cheese and charcuterie boards. Le Deli will offer a mixture of high-top and traditional seating surrounded by decorative displays and a central retail hub. Robuchon was the most decorated chef in the history of the Michelin Guide, at one time holding 32 stars.

Papa John’s franchisee of the year opens sixth site: Papa John’s franchisee of the year Abid Hussain has opened his sixth site, in Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey, with plans for further additions. Hussain has opened the outlet in Staines Road West, creating 20 jobs, to add to his sites in Bristol, Eastleigh, Fareham, Newbury and Taunton. Hussain said: “Sunbury-on-Thames is a great location for us. I am excited about the new store as Papa John’s has updated the look and feel of the layout. I have plans to open more stores in the future as the best sites become available.” Earlier this year Hussain was named Papa John’s franchise owner of the year for five stores or less. Papa John’s has more than 400 sites across the UK.

Picture to close both restaurants because of difficulties keeping business viable: London-based neighbourhood restaurant concept Picture is to close its two sites next month because of “difficulties keeping the business viable”. The owners – former Arbutus head chef Alan Christie, ex-Wild Honey head chef Colin Kelly and former Arbutus manager Tom Slegg – will shut the venues in Fitzrovia and Marylebone on Saturday, 5 October. The venues were opened in 2013 and 2016 respectively. Announcing the closures on Instagram, the trio said: “It is hard to believe more than six years ago this Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman opened Picture in Great Portland Street. Giddy with excitement – albeit with zero guests booked – we pushed open the doors one Tuesday lunchtime with hope in our hearts we could make this venture work. And for quite a while we have done. But it has become more difficult recently to keep the business viable. There are many boring reasons why and we have been working harder and harder to keep on top. This work has been tough on us but tougher on our families. Rather than continuing we are making this decision for them while we are in a solid position to close the restaurants properly without leaving anyone out of pocket.”

Padella confirms second site to open in Shoreditch: Padella has confirmed it will open a second site, in Shoreditch next year. Propel revealed in June that Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda, who are also behind Italian restaurant Trullo in Highbury, north London, had lined up a unit in the Workspace building in Phipp Street for their second site for the pasta restaurant concept. They opened the debut Padella in Borough Market three years ago at the site of former cafe De Gustibus. All pasta is made fresh on-site shortly before being served. Padella has built a reputation for good value and generating queues around the block. On the second site, a spokesman said: “Padella will continue to serve simple and affordable pasta dishes and will move their bakery to the site.”

Dabbous opens Chelsea Barracks pop-up coffee shop: Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous has opened Hideaway, a pop-up coffee shop at the Chelsea Barracks development in London’s Belgravia. Open daily from 9am until late, Hideaway follows Chelsea Barracks Kitchen, which Dabbous operated during RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019. Hideaway features wood and hessian with prairie-style grasses and culinary herbs in a bid to “connect diners with nature in the heart of the city”. The menu includes H Forman & Son smoked salmon with basil crème fraiche and croque monsieur with optional black truffle. Freshly baked options include buckwheat pain au chocolat while drinks include coffee from Sumatra and Panama, and wine from Hedonism Wines. Dabbous was awarded a Michelin star at his eponymous restaurant in Fitzrovia and his latest project, Hide in Mayfair. Chelsea Barracks will welcome its first residents this autumn. Developed by Qatari Diar Europe, the 12.8-acre site will include restaurants and seven garden squares, each with a distinct theme.

Cardiff-based casual dining and bar operator eyes Deltic Group club in Stourbridge for second site: Cardiff-based casual dining and bar operator Soda Lounge is lining up its second site, in Stourbridge. The company wants to open the venue in the former Chicago’s premises where aspiring footballer Ryan Passey died in August 2018. Bosses at Soda Lounge said they intend to bring a “casual dining experience to the daytime as well as a vibrant bar to the evening”. They said they were aware of the history at the venue and would ensure they delivered a safe and welcoming environment, reports the Express & Star. Chicago’s, which was owned by The Deltic Group, closed in February 2018 after more than 3,500 people signed a petition calling for the club to shut. Deltic Group chief executive Peter Marks denied the club was at fault and said it didn’t get the chance to defend its reputation. Kobe Murray, of The Broadway, Dudley, denied murdering 24-year-old Passey and was cleared of murder and manslaughter by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court. Murray told the court he had a knife in his hand and “pushed out” to fend off an attack – accidentally stabbing Passey.

Brakspear manager joins S4Labour: Tom Marshall has joined the management team at S4Labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Marshall joins from Brakspear, where he was general manager of its flagship managed hotel. The former Mitchell & Butlers lead general manager will focus on the development of S4labour’s shift leadership tool, ShiftSuccess. He will work closely with S4labour customers to develop communication and guest experience through better shift planning and execution across their businesses. ShiftSuccess has been extensively trialled by leading operators including Super 8 Group, which runs Michelin-starred Brat, Kiln and Smoking Goat, and Malvern Inns, and it has now launched more widely at Rudding Park hotel and spa, Fest & Revel, and Revolution Bars Group. Marshall said he looked forward to “making the product more widely available to customers”. ShiftSuccess forms part of a growing portfolio of innovations from S4labour in the hospitality technology sector spanning deployment, HR, payroll and employee reward services.

Fledgling pub company acquires debut site, in Uxbridge for £1.8m: Fledgling pub company Friends Tavern has acquired its debut site – the Carpenters Arms in Uxbridge, west London, for £1.8m. The freehold site was purchased as a potential development opportunity from a major brewer with vacant possession in a deal brokered by Davis Coffer Lyons. The venue comprises 1,871 square metres over two storeys and has a late licence. Paul Tallentyre, executive director of Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “The sale for this property entered a contract race due to the desirability of the property and my client exchanged in 24 hours. The pub market remains robust with demand for prime freehold assets continuing to significantly outstrip supply.”

Former Michelin-starred restaurant and catering company in Ilkley brought to market: Former Michelin-starred restaurant the Box Tree and catering company Box Tree Events, both based in Ilkley, Yorkshire, have been brought to market. The Box Tree restaurant opened in 1962 and won Michelin stars under chefs Michael Truelove, Edward Denny and Marco Pierre White. However, the restaurant lost its star last year. Owners Simon and Rena Gueller have comprehensively refurbished the site during the past two years, while their Box Tree Events company caters at nearby Denton Hall, Harewood House and Broughton Hall. Jon Patrick, head of leisure and development at Christie & Co, said: “Christie & Co was responsible for the sale of the Box Tree when it first came to market in 1986 and we are well aware of the history of this wonderful restaurant. We look forward to finding new owners for the next chapter in its evolution.”

Punch helps publicans plan for festive season: Punch is staging four “Home of Christmas” events this month to enable publicans to get ahead in planning for the festive season. The events will be held at Reading, Burton-on-Trent, Haydock racecourse and Leeds and will provide publicans with key insights into the Christmas market along with a chance to meet suppliers and access exclusive deals. Punch marketing and strategy director Russell Danks said: “Christmas is a massive opportunity for pubs and we want to help our publicans make the most of all the festivities.”

Hotel operator acquires first solo site, off £15.5m guide price: Hotel operator Ziz Hospitality has acquired its debut site – the Horwood Estate, a grade II-listed manor house and conference centre in Milton Keynes. The company bought the freehold from De Vere Hotels off a guide price of £15.5m in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. Set in 40 acres, Horwood Estate offers 185 guest bedrooms, numerous conference and meeting rooms, and extensive leisure facilities. Ziz Hospitality founder Karim Kassam has operated hotels in the UK and Middle East but Horwood Estate marks his first solo purchase. He said: “It has been a long journey finding the right first investment for Ziz in this market and Horwood Estate offers just that. I’m looking forward to working with the experienced management team to upgrade the facilities and build on this base to grow the business further.”

Plans approved for multimillion-pound whiskey distillery in Northumberland: Plans for a multimillion-pound whiskey distillery in Northumberland have been approved. The Ferguson family has been granted permission by Northumberland County Council to develop Ad Gefrin Distillery, which will be built on the former Redpath’s Yard in Wooler and include a visitors’ centre. The distillery will also feature a bistro, host tours and whiskey tastings, and produce a single malt whiskey and niche spirits. The construction of the distillery will involve the demolition and removal of buildings. Alan Ferguson said: “This project has been a long time in the making and now it will come to fruition. As well as commencing the demolition work on-site in the next few weeks, this allows us to finalise requirements for the bespoke spirit stills. They are integral to the success of the distillery and, when they are installed and commissioned, the heart of the enterprise will start to beat.”

Leicester-based Indian restaurant lines up second site: Leicester-based Indian restaurant Santhi has lined up its second site, in Hinckley. Owner Senthooran Surendran has agreed terms with Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council to open at The Crescent retail and leisure scheme. Santhi will take over a unit formerly occupied by restaurant Rossini Italiano. Surendran said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with Hinckley & Bosworth Council and look forward to creating a venue locals can be proud of.” The restaurant is in Block C of The Crescent, the council-owned section of the development that includes Cineworld, Loungers’ Tarro Lounge and Wildwood. Earlier this year the council opted to retain its stake of the development.”

Greene King relaunches flagship beer: Greene King has relaunched flagship beer Greene King IPA with an enhanced recipe and a “range of solutions to ensure the end pint is in perfect condition”. Solutions include a new cool storage facility for hops at the brewery, doubling of hops into the whirlpool to make the beer more robust, and a new cool storage depot. Training has also been enhanced, while a new cellar management system has been introduced for Greene King licensees. The number of handpulls on the bar has been re-evaluated to suit each pub’s customer base and smaller-sized vessels and aspirators offered to pubs that have lower cask beer sales. Matt Starbuck, managing director of Greene King Brewing & Brands, said: “We have taken a deep look at the beer, brand and the whole process from ingredient storage to the end pint and have made some changes. Some are tweaks, others more significant but the end result is to deliver a pint that is served at its best each and every time.”

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