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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 30th Sep 2019 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Marston’s places circa 150-strong pubs package on market: Marston’s, the brewer and pub operator, has placed a package of circa 150 bottom-end pubs on the market, which are understood to be valued at between £40m and £45m. As first revealed by The Sunday Times, Christie & Co has been appointed to sell the pubs, which are being marketed under the title Project Harvest. Propel understands the package comprises a mixture of tenanted, leased and retail agreement-based sites, spread across England and Wales. First round bids for the package are due this week, with Admiral Taverns, NewRiver and Red Oak Taverns linked to the process. It is thought one possible suitor, Punch, has declined to bid. It is understood Marston’s would use the proceeds of the sale of the circa 150 pubs to pay down its debt. In the group’s last annual report, it said it was committed to paying down £200m of its £1.4bn net debt by 2023. Marston’s and Christie & Co declined to comment. Earlier this year, Marston’s tentatively considered its options for its Pitcher & Piano business, which currently operates circa 20 sites across England and Wales. However, a sale of that business is thought to have been put on the back burner for the time being, especially as one obvious suitor, Stonegate Pub Company, is now focused on the completion, and subsequent integration, of its circa £3bn deal for Ei Group. Last week, Admiral Taverns, the C&C Group and Proprium Capital-backed group, confirmed it had reached an agreement to acquire a portfolio of 150 tenanted community pubs from Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The deal, which was first flagged up by Propel, will take Admiral’s estate to 950 sites across England, Scotland and Wales. Supported by investors Proprium Capital Partners and C&C Group, Admiral has championed its ambitions to further grow its estate.

Industry News:

Six weeks to go until Casual Dining Summit, open for bookings: There are just six weeks to go until the Casual Dining Summit, in which some of the sector’s leading operators – big and small, new and established – will share expertise and insights into how they are seeking to win in one of the toughest trading environments ever experienced. The full-day event takes place on Friday, 8 November at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. The event will see a wide spectrum of company leaders and entrepreneurs from across the industry talk about the strategies they have put in place to make sure their businesses have been able to survive, thrive, evolve or pivot. Speakers will include YO! chief executive Richard Hodgson; Tom Molnar, founder of Gail’s; Shereen Ritchie, UK managing director of Leon; Byron chief executive Simon Wilkinson, Giggling Squid co-founder Andy Laurillard; Red’s True Barbecue co-founder James Douglas; Brasserie Bar Co chairman Mark Derry. Prue Freeman, founder of fledgling group Daisy Green; Phil Eeles, co-founder of Honest Burgers; and The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport. There will also be a panel session featuring Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims, Dan Houghton, co-founder of Chilango, and Gavin Adair, managing director of Rosa’s Thai, who will explore the benefits and challenges that come with offering a delivery option, its impact on business models, staff and expansion opportunities. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers and £345 plus VAT for all others. To book, email or call 01444 817691.

Brits spending average of £70 on night out and budgeting to make most of their money: Brits are spending an average of £70.69 on a night out – with almost 90% budgeting for the occasion to make the most of their money, the latest Deltic Night Index has revealed. The research also showed this isn’t a one-off splurge – 60.8% of respondents go on a night out at least once a week and the average Brit is going out more than five times a month. However, although the amount Brits are spending is significant, it isn’t impulsive. The data showed the vast majority (89.0%) budget in a number of ways. For example, 58.5% have at least a rough idea of what they plan to spend before heading on a night out, and more than two-fifths (21.3%) refuse to spend more once they’ve hit their limit. A total of 13.1% plan their spending for each part of the night – from dinner to getting home. Respondents are willing to spend, on average, almost 15% of their overall budget on entry or game fees. Brits use a variety of ways to keep track of their spending – more than three in ten take their money out in cash and almost one-quarter (23.9%) look for deals and discounts. Cutting down on food and drink costs is also a popular option for a fifth of consumers – 21.9% eat before going out and 19.9% drink before doing so. The length and frequency of a night out increased – with the average time spent on a night out rising to four hours and 38 minutes, compared with four hours 34 minutes the previous year, and the mean frequency increasing to 1.42 times weekly from 1.27 times last year. Deltic chief executive Peter Marks said: “This quarter’s Deltic Night Index demonstrates consumers are spending a significant portion of their disposable income on going out. However, these aren’t impulse purchases. People are clearly thinking about where and when they spend their money, as shown by the percentage of people who budget and seek the best value while enjoying a night out. Ultimately, the data shows people are willing to spend money – but only for the right experience.”
New industry body formed to monitor and drive ‘greater clarity’ on tipping: A new industry body has been created to monitor and accredit best practice for tipping and service charges in the hospitality sector. Spearheaded by EP Business in Hospitality in partnership with WMT Troncmaster Services, the body’s official board includes Wahaca co-founder Mark Selby and Corbin & King managing director Zuleika Fennell. The body has been formed in response to the need for a “valid, industry-recognised accreditation scheme and associated Kitemark that provides greater clarity on tipping and ‘vague’ service charges”. The move follows research by EP Business in Hospitality earlier this year that revealed a high level of customer scepticism and confusion around what happens to the non-cash tips and services charges that are added to many restaurant and foodservice bills. More than two-fifths (44%) of hospitality firms surveyed said they would support and welcome the introduction of an accreditation scheme for businesses to ensure gratuities were distributed fairly among staff. EP Business in Hospitality chief executive Chris Sheppardson said: “Our board is made up of a great number of industry-leading professionals, all with a wealth of knowledge in the sector and a deep understanding of the issues at stake. We look forward to working together to demystify much of the confusion surrounding gratuities.” Peter Davies, client service partner and managing director of WMT Troncmaster Services, who is also on the board, added: “The wording used by hospitality firms in relation to service charges has always been vague and people interpret this in different ways, which only exacerbates confusion. The announcement of our official body is a positive step for the sector in terms of uniting the industry as a whole and working together to agree on what best practice looks like for the future.”
Best Bar None Awards opens for entries: The national Best Bar None Awards 2019 is open for entries. The programme, which is active across 70 towns and cities across the UK, seeks to find the best overall scheme, best new scheme and most innovative scheme. There is also a new Central Scheme Award following the introduction of the initiative last year that allows individual sites to undergo the same assessment and gain accreditation in areas not covered by a Best Bar None scheme. The competition is open to all current schemes and applications must be received before Friday, 15 November. Shortlisted entries will be revealed in January and the winners announced at a ceremony held at the House of Lords on Tuesday, 4 February. Lord Smith of Hindhead, chairman of Best Bar None, said: “The national awards seek to identify those who are leading the field in outstanding partnership performance as well as recognising and rewarding schemes for making a positive difference within their communities.” Entry forms are being sent to all regional scheme administrators.
Candidate of the week: With the US marking American Businesswomen’s Day last week, COREcruitment has highlighted a female candidate seeking an operations director or managing director role in the casual dining sector. She has experience in national businesses as well as newly emerging concepts and is well connected within the industry. She is looking to discuss permanent opportunities in expanding groups or potential non-executive positions for businesses looking for support. She is seeking a suitable role in the south west or London area, with a salary of between £130,000 and £150,000. To find out more, email

Company News:

Pret plans 25 to 30 Veggie Pret conversions by end of 2020, at start of digital journey: Pret A Manger, the JAB Holdings-owned chain, plans to have 25 to 30 Veggie Prets open by the end of next year as it looks to become the “number one destination for meat-free food on the go by the end of 2020”. Speaking at the Propel Operation Directors’ Conference, new chief executive Pano Christou confirmed the company would open its first Veggie Pret from a converted EAT store in London’s Canary Wharf. The company is finalising a review of the 90-strong EAT estate it acquired earlier this year to assess which ones can be converted. Christou said: “We know Veggie Pret appeals to a bigger market than just veggies and vegans. Importantly, 59% of customers are regular meat-eaters. Veggie Pret attracts a different customer to our core Pret sites – younger (average age of a normal Pret customer is 39) and more female. We will continue to innovate in this space and plan to have 25 to 30 Veggie Prets open by the end of next year.” Christou, who was recently promoted to chief executive after Clive Schlee decided to step down, said in terms of the brand’s digital journey it was learning from US concept Panera Bread, the bakery-cafe fast casual concept with more than 2,000 sites, which is also backed by JAB Holdings, to gain a “one-to-one view with the customer”. He admitted this could see the brand introduce its first loyalty programme and explore payment innovation, including digital tickets. Christou said: “Pret currently has no technology and no loyalty app to connect with customers – just its tills. The opportunity to increase loyalty and sales through a digital experience is huge.” Christou said innovation continued to drive growth for the business, new product innovation accounting for 18% (£195m) of total sales in 2018, with like-for-like sales from innovation up 3.6% last year compared with a 3.3% increase in 2017.
Itsu returns to expansion trail: Itsu, the healthy Asian food chain created by Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe, has returned to the expansion trail with an opening in London’s Hoxton. The company, which pulled back from openings during the past 12 months, has opened at 161 City Road for its 76th site overall, including one in New York. The new site will focus on lunchtime and evening trade. Last week the company reported like-for-like sales up 7.2% in the first half of 2019, with the UK business “well on the way” to reach break-even net profit by the end of the year. The progress was revealed as accounts filed at Companies House showed turnover increased 10.4% to £116,577,000 for the year ending 28 December 2018, compared with £105,559,067 the previous year, as the company moved its focus to evenings.

Creams strengthens leadership team, set to break 100-site mark: Dessert parlour operator Creams has made three new appointments to its executive leadership team, to support its growth ambitions, as its closes in on the 100-site mark in the UK. The company, which currently operates 88 sites across the country, has appointed Elton Gray as commercial and operations director, Lauren Haslewood as marketing director, and Jason Sinclair as head of procurement. All three will report into the company’s new managing director Atif Amin, the former finance director of Hakkasan and Ping Pong, who succeeded interim managing director Handley Amos. Gray, who was formerly head of operations and concept development at YO!, will be responsible for ensuring operational excellence across the Creams cafe estate. Gray, who has also held senior roles at Strada and Mitchells & Butlers, will also lead Creams’ ambitious store opening programme, with several new cafes currently in the pipeline. As marketing director, Haslewood will oversee brand strategy. She has ten years’ experience within the fast-casual dining industry, most recently as head of marketing at Smashburger UK. She has also held senior roles at Subway UK & Ireland, McDonalds South Africa and Nando’s South Africa. Sinclair joins Creams with vast international experience in procurement, including as sourcing manager for food and beverage at Qatar Airways. He has also previously worked for fast-food restaurant brand Tim Hortons, airline retailer Gate Retail Onboard, and the Casual Dining Group. The appointments of Gray, Haslewood and Sinclair follow a number of other recent hires into the business, including the appointments of legal counsel, a new product development chef and a food scientist in recent months. They join the company’s five-strong executive leadership team, which also comprises Amin and legal counsel Lisa Sen. Amin said, “This is an incredibly exciting time in Creams’ development. We are growing customer numbers and cafes, underpinned by an increasingly recognised brand and a first-class dessert offering. We believe there is significant further potential for Creams as we continue our franchise-led roll-out across the UK supported by exciting new menu innovation. We’re delighted to welcome Elton, Lauren and Jason to the business and are excited for them to join us on our journey as the business continues to grow. Their appointments reflect our desire to strengthen our position as the leader within the UK dessert market. In the coming months, Creams is set to open several more restaurants, bringing the total estate to more than 100 stores.”
UberEats to add allergy-friendly filters to app: UberEats has said it will add allergy-friendly filters to its app to help millions of consumers with allergy restrictions or dietary restrictions find a suitable restaurant. The allergy filter will let customers communicate their specific allergy or food restrictions through the app, and if the restaurant can't immediately accommodate a customer request, they can message customers through the app to help them with an alternative order. At the same time, the delivery company said over the next month, restaurants featured on the app will no longer include straws, utensils and other items of cutlery as a default with orders. Emilie Boman, head of public policy at UberEats, said: “If you’re one of the millions of people around the world living with a food allergy, chances are you have to think about it every day. In fact, it’s pretty likely you’ve had to pass on a dining experience of two.” On the plastic waste initiative, she said: “We know this is just a first step towards the reduction of plastic waste, but we’re excited to think more about how we can do better for our planet and the impact of food delivery around the world.”
Gail’s lines up three openings: Gail’s Bakery, which is backed by sector investor Luke Johnson, has lined up a further three openings in London, Propel understands. The company, which opened its 50th site earlier this year, has lined up launches in Islington’s Upper Street, Gloucester Road and Willesden Green, with all expected to open before the end of the year. The 53-strong group has secured the former Carluccio’s site in Upper Street and the Four Winters’ ice cream parlour in Gloucester Road. It also has an opening lined up in Cambridge. Gail’s was founded in 2005 when Ran Avidan, Tom Molnar, who is chief executive, and Emma King opened its first site in Hampstead. 
Malhotra Group appoints group finance director: Newcastle-based operator Malhotra Group has appointed a new group finance director. Andrew McColl will join the board when he takes up his position with the company in November. His appointment follows current group finance director Martin Greenwood’s decision to retire in March after five years with the group. McColl joins from Teesside-based housing association Thirteen Housing Group, where he held the post of director of finance (treasury and investment). He has also previously worked for Northern Rock, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland. Greenwood will remain with Malhotra Group in a non-executive capacity and will work with McColl in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition. Greenwood said: “I have known Andrew since 2008 when I was able to entice him across from Northern Rock to join my north east relationship team at Royal Bank of Scotland. He is joining the board at an exciting time as a number of key strategic and landmark developments near conclusion, while many others are due to commence.” McColl added: “Martin has big shoes to fill but I look forward to working with the Malhotra family and the group for many years to come as they continue on their remarkable journey.”
Buenos Aires founders open second venue for new concept at CAU site in Guildford: Husband and wife Christian and Linda Barrionuevo, who founded steakhouse chain Buenos Aires, have opened a second site for their fledgling Carmona Tapas & Grill concept, Propel has learned. They have secured the former CAU in Guildford High Street after opening the debut Carmona Tapas & Grill in Reigate in October 2018. Buenos Aires Restaurants Holdings – set up by former Gourmet Holdings chief executive Gareth Lloyd-Jones and former Wagamama chief executive and current Pho chairman Steven Hill – acquired the Barrionuevo’s six-strong Buenos Aires steakhouse chain as part of a management buy-in at the end of 2015. Hill became chairman and Lloyd-Jones chief executive of the company, which the Barrionuevos set up in 2008. The business is now operated under the same umbrella as Koh Thai Tapas. AG&G is understood to have acted on the Guildford deal.
Revolution’s new app gets 55,000 downloads in first three weeks: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 79 premium bars trading across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has seen 55,000 people download and register for its Rev’s App in its first three weeks. The app offers targeted promotions and offers, venue updates and booking options with more functionality planned in the coming months. The company said it expects the level of registrations to rise further as students return to university. The app is part a major shift by Revolution Bars Group towards a digital marketing strategy, with the old Revolution plastic discount card coming to an end. Chief executive Rob Pitcher said: “The app is a key part of our overall digital strategy and the opportunities it presents for us to enhance our guest experience and sales are endless.”
Molnar opens fourth site for The Cod’s Scallops: John Molnar, who founded Moleface Pub Company, has opened a fourth site for his The Cod’s Scallops brand. Molnar has launched the venue in Market Harborough, building on its sites in Wollaton, Carrington and Long Eaton. The Cod’s Scallops has taken 1,289 square foot at ground-floor level at Edinburgh House in Abbey Street on a new ten-year lease. The restaurant has 40 covers and a takeaway, reports The Business Desk. Space acted for the landlord, while Box Property represented The Cod’s Scallops. Molnar, who founded The Cod’s Scallops in 2011, resigned as a director of Moleface Pub Company last year.
London Steakhouse Company – our average lead booking time now four weeks: London Steakhouse Company founder James Ogilvie Robertson has told Propel its average booking lead time is now four weeks as it firmly establishes itself as a destination restaurant business. About 14,500 customers have made bookings for the next 16 weeks at its two restaurants, in Chelsea and the City, while more than half its diners come from outside the Home Counties. Robertson founded the business with Marco Pierre White in 2008, when he converted his City restaurant – Lanes – after the recession hit. The two had worked together previously at Titanic, Drones and Quo Vadis, where Robertson was one of the youngest general managers White had appointed. Robertson said: “The bottom just fell out of the market. We suddenly went from doing £25,000 to £30,000 a week at Lanes to between £5,000 and £6,000. Marco came up with the idea of opening a steak restaurant and the rest is history!” The following year Robertson transformed his Jimmy’s restaurant in Chelsea to the concept, with the venue marking its tenth anniversary this month by offering a limited-edition menu. Although White recently stepped back from the business to focus on other projects, he remains an adviser to Robertson and wife Rachel. Robertson added: “Against last year, which was our best to date, we’re down slightly on covers booked and level on revenue but average spend per head is up to about £56. We are a place for special occasions and, because steak doesn’t travel very well, we’ve not really been affected by the delivery phenomenon.” Robertson ruled out a potential third restaurant in the capital and said it wasn’t the time to think about expansion but admitted he would like to take the concept abroad. He added: “For now it’s about battening down the hatches. I think the two restaurants we have are enough to serve our customer base here so international expansion seems more appropriate – but that’s something to think about further down the line. I think China and Dubai would welcome our concept.”
Hipchips shuts Soho site to focus on retail opportunities: Crisps and dips concept Hipchips has closed its Soho site to “focus on retail opportunities”. The venture is the brainchild of chef Scott Davies, formerly of Providores tapas bar in Marylebone, and businessman David Morris, who opened the outlet in Old Compton Street in 2016. However, following the “phenomenal” success of Hipchip’s retail boxes, which are available in Sainsbury’s stores across the UK, the owners have decided to “move forwards in an exciting direction” by focusing on a nationwide campaign to “bring better crisps to households”. As part of the move, Davies and Morris shut the Soho store on Saturday (28 September) and will run pop-ups across the country instead, with the first to be announced shortly. Hipchips’ crisps are made from five unusual British potato varieties, including Highland Burgundy and Shetland Black. Dips include Peruvian ceviche and smoky cheese fondue.
Former Vanilla Black chef to launch plant-based restaurant in Peckham: Tom Heale, former chef at gourmet vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black in Holborn, is to launch his own concept in the capital. Heale and partner Anne Stokes will launch Naïfs in Goldsmith Road, Peckham, in early October showcasing vegan and vegetarian dishes. CDG Leisure has secured a 750 square foot site for the bistro-style venue, which will offer “elements of fine dining in a homely setting”. Signature dishes will include koji-roasted celeriac with tomato salsa, remoulade and leaves, and plum pavlova with cream and honey meringue. Weekends will feature a simple breakfast service, while the bar will offer natural and biodynamic wine, beer from Peckham’s Brick Brewery, cocktails, speciality tea from Postcard Teas and coffee. Heale, who will run the restaurant with brothers Max and Finn as well as Stokes, will make all sourdough bread and baked goods on-site. Stokes said: “Naïfs is an old French word for ‘naïve’ and conjures the spirit of this project. It’s about newness and greenness as a metaphor for new growth and of doing things your way and not being constrained by formality.” Tom Crosthwaite, of CDG Leisure, added: “Naïfs will provide a breath of fresh air for London’s culinary scene.”
Grab-and-go shawarma concept to open at former Oliver Maki site in Soho this week: Arma, a new grab-and-go concept focusing on Middle Eastern shawarma, is to open in Soho this week. Founded by Reda Benmiloud and Sultan Al-Kabeer, the venue will launch in Dean Street on Thursday (3 October) at the site previously occupied by Oliver Maki. The pair, who previously worked in finance, have been inspired by the Middle East, where shawarma is a central pillar of dining out. On the ground floor, guests will order from a kitchen counter, with further dining space upstairs. Beef and chicken shawarma will be available with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onions, pickled cucumbers, herb dressing and garlic sauce, wrapped in a traditional flatbread. Alternatively, each will be available as a salad bowl and served with tabbouleh, tahini dressing and sumac. Sides will include houmous, spinach salad, fries loaded with chicken or beef with chilli sauce, and dips. Arma won’t serve alcohol but fresh juice will be on offer alongside Turkish coffee, Karma Cola and Just Water. Oliver Maki closed its only UK site, in Soho, last summer.
Merlin enters into agreement for Legoland resort in western China: Merlin Entertainments has entered into a partnership agreement with Global Zhongjun Cultural Tourism Development to build and operate a Legoland resort in the Sichuan province of western China. Under the terms of the agreement, Global Zhongjun will fund construction of Legoland Sichuan, while Merlin will partner in the resort development and operate it under a management contract arrangement. Legoland Sichuan, which is scheduled to open by 2023, will be within the Tianfu New Area in the city of Meishan. The resort will feature two themed Legoland hotels with an estimated capacity of 500 bedrooms. Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney said: “China represents a great opportunity for strong global brands. Having been active in China for more than a decade, Merlin has gained critical insights into Chinese consumers and built a broad portfolio of Midway attractions within key cities. Leveraging this position, we’re delighted to be able to announce the development of a Legoland in Sichuan province together with a strong partner in Global Zhongjun. It is an exciting prospect and a significant milestone in the expansion of the Legoland estate in China.” Global Zhongjun is a joint venture between development companies Zhongjun Beijing and The Chengdu Global Century – Exhibition & Travel Group.
William Grant & Sons reports turnover and profit boost: Global distiller William Grant & Sons has reported group turnover rose 11.6% to £1,325.8m for the year ended 31 December 2018, compared with £1,188.1m the year before. Profit was up 4% to £260m, compared with £250.2m the previous year. The company said the sales rise was driven by healthy volume and value growth of its core brands. The business continued to make significant investments building the brands globally, upgrading the infrastructure and investing in people to support longer-term growth ambitions. In 2018, the company launched seven innovation brands, including Fistful of Bourbon, Discarded and Aerstone single malt Scotch whisky; opened the Hendrick’s Gin distillery; relaunched Grant’s whisky with a new packaging range as well as establishing its first bottling operation in India; and opened Arete, a new luxury packaging facility in Scotland. Chief executive Simon Hunt said: “We’re delighted to report another year of double-digit top-line growth for our business. As an independent family-owned business, we have made bold decisions to grow the business the right way by investing in our people, our brands and our infrastructure to deliver sustainable long-term growth.”
Yard Sale Pizza opens fifth and largest London site: Yard Sale Pizza, the restaurant and delivery concept that includes sector investor Paul Campbell as non-executive director, has started the soft launch of its fifth London site, in Hackney Road. The venue is the brand’s largest and occupies a two-floor space near Hoxton station. When fully operational the store will open from midday for the first time so the brand can cater to local workers and deliver as far as Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Hoxton and London Fields. The venue offers a new calzone menu with cured meat, and vegetarian and vegan options alongside Yard Sale’s signature pizzas such as the Holy Pepperoni and the New Porker. The brand also offers cheese and Marmite garlic bread and Happy Endings ice cream sandwiches alongside drinks from London brewers and Borough Wines. Yard Sale Pizza, which is led by co-founder Johnnie Tate, opened its debut restaurant in Clapton in 2014 before opening sister sites in Finsbury Park, Walthamstow and Leytonstone.
Cobra Beer reports profit rise despite turnover dip: Cobra Beer, which was founded by Lord Karan Bilimoria in 1989, has reported turnover fell 4.3% to £54,628,000 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £57,108,000 the previous year. Gross profit rose 6.6% to £16,220,000 compared with £15,209,000 the year before, while pre-tax profit was up 18.6% to £10,689,000 compared with £9,015,000 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. During the year the company paid dividends amounting to £8,695,239, up from £6,872,038 the year before. Beer manufactured by the company is sold across the UK, India, Europe, Middle East and East Asia, while Molson Coors holds a controlling interest in the company. Molson Coors is Cobra Beer’s only customer and acts as its distributor. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The company saw a small decrease in sales volumes during the year leading to a reduction in turnover of 4.3%. Profit before tax increased 18.6% as a result of reduced costs in raw material and marketing expenditure. Management continues to monitor consumer trends to ensure the Cobra brand is well positioned to adapt to changes.” Lord Bilimoria, who is the company’s chairman, has also served as its chief executive and was created a life peer in 2006. In 2009, Molson Coors paid about £14m for a 50.1% share, leaving Lord Bilimoria and other shareholders with the remaining stake.
Dumpling Shack team to launch noodle concept at Old Spitalfields Market: Chinese street food brand Dumpling Shack, which was part of the debut line-up at The Kitchens space at Old Spitalfields Market, is to launch a noodles concept next door. Fen Noodles will open on Tuesday (1 October) offering hand-pulled noodles, including spicy dry mixed lamb noodles, lamb noodle soup, chicken dumplings in hot and sour soup, and vegan dry mix noodles. Vegetarian dishes will include curry biang (hand-pulled noodles in a curry sauce with onions and potatoes), Hot Dinners reports.

Levantine bar and kitchen concept Arabica starts expansion with King’s Cross launch: Levantine concept Arabica Bar & Kitchen, which is based in Borough Market, has started expansion by opening a site in King’s Cross. Founder James Walters has launched the site in a ground-floor corner of the recently opened Aga Khan Centre in Lewis Cubitt Walk. The 66-cover venue features an open plan kitchen and bar with counter dining, leather banquettes and a communal table for 20 guests. A further 40 covers are available on a terrace. New dishes on the menu have been inspired by trips to Lebanon, Istanbul and Tel Aviv. The bar offers eight wines on tap alongside the restaurant’s drinks list, while Arabica products are available to buy. Walters said: “We always intended to be part of a community from our roots in Borough Market so we’re glad we took the time and found a place we feel connected to and energised about being part of.”

Zonal scoops information security award: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal scooped gold at the Scottish Financial Technology Awards in the information security category. The inaugural awards, organised by Digit, recognise the development of Scotland’s financial technologies ecosystem. Leo Cunningham, head of information security and compliance at Zonal, said: “Data security is vital for every business and is a priority for us and our customers. I’m proud to be recognised for this in the awards.”

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