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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 1st Oct 2019 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

IRC closes London-based Gino D’Acampo sites to focus on regional openings: Individual Restaurants Company (IRC) has closed its two Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant sites in London to concentrate on further regional openings for the brand, Propel has learned. The Vernon Lord-led business has closed the Gino sites in Chalk Farm Road, Camden and Euston station. The former was a trial site on a short-term sub-let, whilst SSP has decided to convert the Euston station site to a Starbucks. Lord told Propel the company would look to return to the capital with the brand but at present there were more opportunities for it in regional cities. He said: “We think, with the stage the brand is in regarding its lifecycle, that opening in London, and not central London, has come too soon, especially when there are still more regional cities we have yet to explore such as Bristol and Cardiff.” IRC operates six My Restaurant sites, with a seventh due to open in Birmingham before the end of the year. IRC still holds the worldwide rights for the My Restaurant name and hopes to find the right partners to take the brand international. D’Acampo made his move into restaurants in December 2015 when he teamed up with friend and business partner Steven Walker, founder of IRC.

Industry News:

Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Awards open for entries: The Restaurant Marketer & Innovator Awards is open for entries. The awards, in their third year, recognise outstanding marketing and innovation in the sector. Finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony at Cafe de Paris in London on Wednesday, 22 January, which will be the grand finale of the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, which takes place over two days. Awards are open to any eating or drinking out brand or outlet in Europe. There are 13 categories – Integrated Campaign of the Year, Digital Campaign of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Launch Campaign of the Year, Best Use of Technology, Best New Website, Best Use of Video, Best New/Improved Visual Identity, Best Use of Social Media, Best Use of Research/Insight/Data, Marketer of the Year, Innovator of the Year and Future Marketing Leader of the Year. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We launched this event two years ago and now have 850 people from across Europe attend the various segments. The awards recognise the very best within the spheres of foodservice marketing and innovation.” Awards co-founder James Hacon added: “We are back after an incredible awards programme in 2019 that attracted more than 120 entries. We created the awards to recognise the growing importance of marketing, innovation and strategy professions within the restaurant and foodservice sector. We saw a superb calibre of entries last year and have amazing momentum with our events throughout the year. We’re expecting an even more impressive list of entrants this year.” The closing date for entries is 11.59pm on Thursday, 31 October. Entry information and criteria can be found by clicking here

UKHospitality warns planned NLW rise could reverse sector’s growth: UKHospitality has warned the government’s aim to raise the National Living Wage (NLW) to £10.50 per hour by 2024 could reverse the sector’s growth. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The chancellor’s announcement threatens a double whammy of a further unprecedented cost increase for employers and an adjustment down in terms of age, so we’ll need a clear regulatory framework with an independent review by the Low Pay Commission. There needs to be a way to adjust NLW levels to react to economic changes – no fixed end point to achieving 66% median earnings and mitigation measures. These measures might sensibly include cutting employment allowance and National Insurance contributions to help low-paid workers keep more money and incentivise job creation. Hospitality is keen to attract British talent and part of that process will be to raise entry-level wages. However, the cumulative costs of regulation and taxes over the past three years has wiped a third off the margins of hospitality businesses and this move, if marshalled in too quickly, will hurt business, damage jobs and not just stifle growth but reverse it. The chancellor wants to be the party of the workers; the prime minister, the party of business – the reality is this country and our economy need it to be both.”

BBPA appoints new chief executive: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has appointed Emma McClarkin as its new chief executive. McClarkin will start in early November and succeed Brigid Simmonds, who steps down to become chairman of the new Betting and Gaming Council. McClarkin is currently working as a global consultant following a ten-year term as a member of the European Parliament. Previously she held posts including chairman of the Commonwealth Forum and director of global policy for the Sports Integrity Global Alliance, while she is a special advisory board member of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Skilled in scrutinising legislation and influencing policy change, McClarkin has regularly worked with the BBPA, Brewers of Europe and Spirits Europe. She was also vice-president of the European Parliament Beer Club during her tenure as an MEP. BBPA chairman Simon Emeny said: “Emma has a genuine passion for beer and pubs combined with the technical skills needed to champion this fantastic industry. She has drive and enthusiasm and I’m excited about the energy she brings to the role. Brigid leaves an incredible legacy and a decade of excellent results. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Emma builds on this great work and utilises her past experience and connections to further the success of British pubs and beer.” McClarkin added: “The great British pub is an institution. I’m excited to lead the BBPA as it continues to make sure this great community asset is protected, that British beer continues to be revered on the national and international stage, and our industry is recognised for the amazing contribution it makes to the economy and the social fabric of Britain.”

UK hotels see double-digit growth in first half boosted by 185% rise in visitors from China: A surge in visitors from fast-growing international markets such as China, Brazil and India led to significant double-digit growth for hotels in many UK cities and regions in the first half of the year, according to new data from Expedia Group. Growth was driven by visitors from the Far East, with demand from Chinese travellers rising 185% year-on-year. The remarkable growth was supported by further year-on-year increases in demand from visitors from Spain (30%), Brazil (30%), Japan (25%), and India (25%). The traditionally strong US visitor market also grew nearly 20% during the period. While London enjoyed the strongest tourist demand, Manchester, Sheffield and Cambridge grew by about 15%, while Leeds and Cardiff grew 10%. Notably, Manchester overtook Edinburgh as the second most popular destination by market share after London for travellers visiting the UK. Helen Maher, director of market management for London at Expedia Group, said: “The continued increase in demand from valuable Far East visitors is great news for hoteliers – lengthier booking windows and increased on-property spend enable them to focus their time on maximising bookings during shoulder periods. The strong growth of cities outside London is also hugely encouraging.”

London Craft Beer Festival sees 200% increase in trade visitors: The London Craft Beer Festival, run by events company We Are Beer, saw a 200% increase in trade visitors at the dedicated trade session this year. More than 500 trade professionals gathered at Tobacco Dock for the session, which featured the inaugural best-in-class trade awards. Known as the WABies, awards were presented in four categories. Best on-trade retailer was awarded to the Brick Taproom in Peckham, and the most engaging while knowledgeable bar staff award went to Alex Sewell, of Mikkeller. Best beer can or bottle design was won by North Brewery for its collaborative brew with Browar Stu Mostow, while best craft beer brewer was scooped by Northern Monk. We Are Beer co-founder Greg Wells said: “Outlets and staff are the driving force behind the meteoric rise of the craft sector and its continued appeal.”

Auditions open as Springboard Charity heads back to West End: The Springboard Charity is heading back to the West End to stage its fourth pantomime – an industry revamp of Snow White. The pantomime will be performed at the Leicester Square Theatre from 29 to 31 January. The project, which follows previous productions Aladdin, Springderella and Dick Whittington, aims to raise funds to help young people achieve their potential and support people into employment within the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. Springboard, which marks its 30th anniversary next year, said the pantomime would be about “celebrating what makes hospitality great”. Budding actors, singers and dancers can register their interest before Monday, 21 October by clicking here

Company News:

Private equity circles London Cocktail Club: A number of private equity groups are believed to have shown an interest in London Cocktail Club (LCC), the ten-strong group led by JJ Goodman, Propel understands. Propel revealed earlier this year that LCC, which is backed by restaurateur and chef Raymond Blanc and Dragons’ Den judge Sarah Willingham, had appointed Dow Schofield Watts, London to help the company review its options. It’s now thought LCC has generated interest from several private equity players, while its latest opening, in Clapham in August, is understood to have exceeded management expectations. The Clapham opening followed launches in Worship Street and Bristol at the end of 2018. Propel understands trading for the business during the summer was strong and the group continues to enjoy positive like-for-like sales supported by ever-increasing consumer interest in cocktails.

Hakkasan Group plans ten openings in Mexico through new partnership: UK-based restaurant and nightclub company Hakkasan Group plans to open ten venues throughout Mexico as part of a new partnership with hospitality and development company Dinar. The openings, which follow Hakkasan’s launch of Omnia dayclub in Los Cabos last year, will be in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey between 2020 and 2026. The partnership will begin with the opening of Hakkasan’s Cantonese dining concept Ling Ling in Mexico City in the latter part of 2020. Ling Ling Mexico City will be on the top floor of Chapultepec Uno, a mixed-use, 58-storey skyscraper that will be Mexico City’s third-tallest building on completion. “We have had great success with our openings in Los Cabos and have been eager to continue the momentum throughout the country,” said Michael Ryan-Southern, chief financial officer of Hakkasan Group. “As an international hub that attracts epicurean and discerning travellers, Mexico City has been on Hakkasan Group’s radar for quite a while. We’re thrilled to work with the visionaries at Dinar to bring Ling Ling to the city next year and introduce further restaurants in the coming years.” Javier Romo, managing partner and owner of Dinar, added: “We are excited about our partnership with Hakkasan Group. The first restaurant will open in Mexico City, in Reforma Avenue, at the top of the new sky rise where the first Ritz-Carlton in the city will be located. Residing in the heart of the city’s dining and entertainment district, Ling Ling will be alongside some of the best commercial and retail tenants in Mexico City.” Last week Hakkasan revealed it had slashed losses to $4.4m for the six months ending December 2018 as it continued to stabilise and restructure the business. UK revenue in the six-month period was $29,982,000, compared with $57,277,000 in the 12-month prior period. At the end of the period, the company had 52 sites.

M&B makes Gallacher divisional director for restaurants: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has appointed David Gallacher, who has worked for the managed operator in a variety of roles for 14 years, as divisional director – restaurants, Propel has learned. Gallacher joined M&B as a graduate before leaving to hold senior operational roles outside the organisation. He returned to M&B in 2013 and has been a major part in developing the company’s food trading function. Under his new title, Gallacher will be specifically responsible for the Harvester, Toby Carvery and Stonehouse brands. M&B group HR director Susan Martindale has been holding the role since the departure of Rob Pitcher last year to become chief executive of Revolution Bars Group. She will hand over the division to Gallacher at the start of the new financial year. M&B chief executive Phil Urban told Propel: “David’s blend of operational and food experience will be a big asset to the evolution of the restaurants division.”

Brunning & Price acquires former Warwickshire coaching inn: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand owned by The Restaurant Group, has acquired The Bell in Alderminster, Warwickshire, for its latest pub, Propel has learned. The 18th century coaching inn is near Stratford-upon-Avon and is part of the historic Alscot Estate. Work will start to restore and refurbish the pub ahead of a relaunch in early February. Once finished, The Bell will offer eight bedrooms, one of them a suite, while a private dining room will seat 18 with views across the lawns from its own high-level terrace. Brunning & Price managing director Mary Willcock said: “The pub will be broadly traditional in style, with open fires, wooden floors, bookcases, decent old furniture, and lots of rugs and plants. The menu will strike a balance of pub classics complemented by more exotic influences. We think simple things done well are often the best and we want to create a friendly atmosphere in attractive surroundings.” Brunning & Price currently operates 72 pub restaurants, mainly in north west England and North Wales but with a growing number in the Midlands and south.

Jamie Oliver’s business sees pre-tax profit almost halve due to ill-fated UK restaurant company: Jamie Oliver’s business saw pre-tax profits almost halve to £7.8m for the year ending 30 December 2018, compared with £14.4m the previous year, largely because of a £9.8m one-off charge related to the ill-fated UK restaurant business. Oliver’s food and media empire saw turnover fall 5.9% to £43.5m compared with £46.2m the year before, while Ebitda was up 4.8% to £17.8m from £17m the previous year. A £5.2m dividend paid by the group to Oliver was down from £8.6m a year before, reports The Guardian. Oliver’s UK restaurant business went into administration in May, leading to the closure of 22 of his 25 restaurants, including Barbecoa and Fifteen in London. The accounts showed Oliver’s company pumped £4.8m in new funds into the ailing restaurant business in an attempt to keep it afloat, taking the total funding in recent years to almost £16m. Revenue in Oliver’s media business fell slightly but the company signed new long-term licensing contracts with Shell and Tesco, while the Jamie’s Italian international franchise business opened 12 sites in three new countries, taking the total to 62. Profits were also increased by the 2017 closure of the loss-making food magazine Jamie. In August, Oliver said he wanted to turn the remains of his business empire into an ethical “B corporation” that officially gives equal weight to “people, the planet and profit”.

Flight Club acquires Alphabet bar in Islington for fourth London site: Social Darts concept Flight Club is to open its fourth London venue after securing a site in Islington, Propel has learned. Flight Club has acquired the Alphabet Bar in Upper Street from Star Pubs & Bars. The 150-capacity venue, which is set to open in November, will feature four oches and echo the “nostalgia and warmth of a British pub with a nod to the excitement of the funfair”. Co-founder Steve Moore said: “We are delighted to bring Flight Club to Islington and continue spreading the unexpected, ridiculous joy of social darts around the world.” Flight Club’s three other London sites are in Bloomsbury, Shoreditch and Victoria, while it also has venues in Birmingham and Manchester. An opening in Leeds is in the pipeline for next summer. Meanwhile, the team will launch its shuffleboard concept, Electric Shuffle, in Canary Wharf in November. 

Leon secures fourth US site for Virginia debut: Leon has lined up its fourth site in the US as the natural fast food brand looks to have 15 sites in the country by the end of 2020. Leon plans to open its first site outside Washington DC, in the Mosaic District in Fairfax, Virginia, this winter. The John Vincent-led company opened its first US location in Washington DC last year, in L Street. It has since opened a site in New York Avenue, with a third secured at 1,350 I Street. On its launch in the US, Leon said it would look to open up to 20 more sites in the next three years. Leon US president Glenn Edwards said: “Leon chose the Mosaic District for its vibrant, sophisticated environment that connects families and friends through a curated mix of unique retail, restaurant and entertainment experiences. It allows Leon to bring its mission to a family focused clientele. This is our first American location outside DC. After all, we heard Virginia is for Leon lovers!”

Upscale Chinese restaurant Mott 32 eyes central London opening: Upscale Chinese restaurant Mott 32 is in talks to make its debut in the UK, in London’s Piccadilly Circus. Propel understands the concept, which is owned by Maximal Concepts, is in talks to take space at 55 Regent Street, which previously housed the flagship UK store for Dutch fashion retailer The Sting. The first Mott 32 opened in Hong Kong in 2014. In 2017, Mott 32 opened its first North American location, at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver. At the start of this year the concept launched in Las Vegas, at The Palazzo, while the company has also announced plans to add restaurants in Singapore and Bangkok. The concept’s name comes from 32 Mott Street in New York City, the location of the first Chinese grocery store in the US when it opened in 1851. Maximal Concepts is a leading F&B group in Hong Kong and Asia and is owned by Malcolm Wood, Xuan Mu and Matt Reid.

Studio 338 promoter acquires Sugar Hut nightclub: London club promoter Dan Perrin, who runs Studio 338 in Greenwich, south east London, has acquired renowned Essex nightclub Sugar Hut. The near 3,000-capacity Studio 338 is known for its “Ibiza-style vibes” and Perrin plans to bring a similar style to Sugar Hut when he relaunches the club on Saturday, 30 November. The Brentwood club will retain its “glam” status while bringing the “best of Ibiza to Essex”. The club will undergo a “serious facelift” including a new sound system and lighting. Perrin said: “We see the new Sugar Hut as the place where Essex meets Ibiza.” Earlier this month Studio 338 announced it had partnered with immersive experiences company The Riddle Within and Brighton-based escape rooms firm Bewilder Box to host the world’s first escape room experience on an aircraft. Flight 338 will launch in November inside a decommissioned jet in the club’s grounds.

Carlsberg UK reports turnover dip as on-trade volumes fall further: Carlsberg UK has reported turnover fell almost £26m in its most recent year as on-trade sales continued to fall despite the overall market being buoyed by a hot summer and the Fifa World Cup. The Danish-owned company, which has its UK headquarters in Northampton, saw turnover fall to £430,172,000 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £456,167,000 the previous year. Operating losses rose to £8,771,000 compared with £6,752,000 the year before, while pre-tax losses narrowed slightly to £8,556,000, compared with £8,927,000 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Carlsberg UK said during 2018 the market returned to volume growth following a long-term trend of marginal decline, ending the year 1.6% up on the prior year. The growth was driven by the off-trade with volumes increasing 5.0%, while demand in the on-trade continued to fall, by 1.6%. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The market continued to fragment with a shift towards premium beers within the world and craft categories, which continued to outperform the beer market as a whole. The standard lager market shrank by 7% in the year, with declines in both the on and off-trade. The world beer category grew 15%. Although only accounting for a small percentage of overall volume, the craft category grew 25% year-on-year. Within Carlsberg UK, the volume development in the off-trade grew 2.2% compared with last year driven by San Miguel within the world beer category partially offset by Carlsberg Pilsner within the standard lager category. The relative exposure of the Carlsberg Pilsner brand within the standard lager category in the on-trade resulted in a more significant decrease than the market decline (8% versus 2%). A major review of the Carlsberg brand took place in 2018, with every element of the brand improved. This included the brew, the glassware, the founts in the on-trade and the packaging (including the launch of Snap pack, which is new environmentally friendly packaging that replaces high-cone plastic rings). The relaunch started in the first quarter of 2019 with encouraging initial results.” Carlsberg employs more than 400 people in the UK.

Roxy Leisure plans second Manchester site: Roxy Leisure, the operator of the Roxy Ball Room concept, is planning a second site in Manchester. Propel understands the company, which is in advanced talks with Foresight Group regarding new investment, has applied to open a site under its Roxy Lanes banner in the former Birdcage unit in Manchester Arndale. It would be the second Roxy Lanes site, joining a venue in Bond Street, Leeds. The company, which is led by Matthew Jones, operates a Roxy Ball Room in Deansgate, Manchester, alongside two Roxy Ball Rooms in Liverpool, two in Leeds and one in Nottingham, plus The Loop in Leeds. It recently applied for planning permission to open its first site in the Midlands, at 58-60 Heath Mill Lane in Birmingham. Propel revealed earlier this year the company was working with advisory firm Sedulo to assess options that could include the sale of a stake in the business. Propel understands Foresight, which also backs Mowgli, 200 Degrees and The Naked Deli, was the underbidder for wine bar and restaurant concept Vinoteca, in which Gresham House Ventures recently acquired a stake.

Investment consortium acquires £5.75m London pub portfolio let to Ei Group: A consortium of private investors has acquired three London pubs in a deal valued at £5.75m. The properties, located in Kensington, Islington and Richmond, are all let on long leases to Ei Group. The price of £5.75m reflected a net initial yield of 3.49%. Jack Silvani, director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, which acted on behalf of the purchaser, said: “During the past five years we’ve observed the pub investment market grow from a secondary asset class to a mature market most UK institutions and many private investors have exposure to. The pub market is robust, defensive and rides economic turbulence felt in alternative sectors. Pubs are a deeply ingrained part of British culture and have traded in a relatively similar capacity for hundreds of years and will no doubt continue to do so. This sentiment and confidence in the pub investment market is shared by investors on a larger scale. This summer Ei Group (circa 4,000 pubs) and Greene King (circa 2,700 pubs) have both been the target of corporate takeovers – the latter at a 50% premium to share price. The same logic applies – these are resilient investments that will produce steady income in the long term.” TT&G Partners acted on behalf of the vendor, a private client.

Former Hix manager hires Fat Duck chef to head kitchen at new Crouch End seafood concept: Anthony Lyon, who has run front of house at renowned London venues such as Hix, The Wolseley, and Colbert, has brought in Talia Prince, formerly of Le Gavroche and Fat Duck, to head the kitchen at his new seafood and wine bar concept launching in Crouch End. The team at Lyon’s Seafood & Wine Bar, which will open in Park Road on Friday, 11 October, will also include Kelvin McCabe, former group head sommelier UK at Yauatcha and head sommelier of Zuma and Roka. The 46-cover venue will also offer 16 bar and window seats for walk-ins and feature green leather banquettes and a custom-made white marble bar. The venue will offer sustainable seafood including oysters from Wright Brothers, each paired with a garnish. There will also be daily changing chilled and fire-roasted shellfish platters alongside dishes such as whole side of salmon with mustard glaze, and barley risotto with celeriac, hazelnuts and bone marrow. The “fin to tail” approach will cut waste and lead to dishes such as miso fish collars with seaweed butter. The wine list will champion English sparking wine alongside cocktails and craft beer.

Trinity Leeds introduces shuffleboard and self-serve beer wall in retail first: Trinity Leeds shopping centre has introduced shuffleboard and the city’s first self-serve beer wall. In what is believed to be a first for a UK retail centre, Trinity Leeds’ street food area Trinity Kitchen, which mixes regularly rotating vendors with permanent eateries, is hosting two 16-foot shuffleboard tables and a self-serve beer wall run by craft beer retailer Beer Hawk, which takes game play payments on behalf of Trinity Leeds. Trinity Kitchen business manager Josie Towning said: “Trinity Kitchen offers a fresh, exciting mix of street food vendors and we were looking for ways to further engage our customers, drive our night-time economy and compete with the vibrant Leeds nightlife.”

Papa John’s to roll out store refresh: Papa John’s is to roll out its new-look store branding following “great customer feedback”. All new sites will now feature the design. Phil Gaffer, franchise sales and business development manager, said: “The new format is welcoming and tailored to each location using improved layouts, a modern palette, key words and updated branding. We’re receiving great feedback from customers. For our franchisees who are investing in Papa John’s for the next ten to 15 years, this is an important step and demonstrates our ongoing support for their franchised businesses as we continue to expand.” Papa John’s operates more than 400 stores across the UK.

Whitbread sees share price drop on back of Barclays downgrade: Whitbread saw its share price drop on the back of the company receiving a downgrade from Barclays. The Premier Inn operator’s price dropped to as low as 4,209p on Monday morning (30 September) having started the day at 4,400p before recovering in the afternoon after Barclays moved its recommendation from ‘Overweight’ to ‘Equal Weight’. It cut its price target on the stock to 4,350p from 4,700p. Barclays stated: “Weighing up the positives and negatives alongside the utter lack of visibility around Brexit, we cut to ‘Equal Weight’ and see more downside than upside risks currently, especially into interim results.” Whitbread’s share price has fallen in value by almost 10% during the past year. Whitbread has been focused on its hotel arm following the £3.9bn sale of Costa to Coca-Cola at the start of this year.

Beannchor to open ninth Little Wing pizzeria in Northern Ireland: Belfast-based hospitality group Beannchor is to open a ninth site in Northern Ireland for its pizza brand Little Wing. The 60-cover pizzeria will open in Shore Road, Whiteabbey, on Thursday, 14 November as part of a near £500,000 investment. Little Wing managing director Luke Wolsey told the Belfast Telegraph: “This investment in our ninth restaurant marks an exciting time for Little Wing as we prepare to open the nomination process for our Little Stars bursary initiative for the sixth year.” The bursary helps local children’s clubs. Beannchor Group’s portfolio includes Belfast hotels The Merchant and Bullitt, alongside a string of pubs and bars.

Shaw sets November date for third El Gato Negro opening: Simon Shaw, chef patron and creative director of Manchester tapas restaurant El Gato Negro, will open the third site for his concept, in Leeds on Friday, 1 November. The 200-cover restaurant will open at the former Jamie’s Italian site in Park Row. Shaw said: “I am really looking forward to launching in Leeds, the city where I got my first real footing in the industry as head chef of Harvey Nichols. I’ve been looking to bring El Gato Negro to Leeds for almost four years but was never able to find the right site.” The venue will join El Gato Negro restaurants in King Street, Manchester, and Exchange Flags, Liverpool. El Gato Negro, which is a partnership between Shaw and Mills Hill Developments, also operates Portuguese sister restaurant Canto in Ancoats, Manchester.

Star Pubs & Bars to launch buying club for licensees: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is to launch a buying club for its licensees. The company said the average pub could save £7,500 a year through the club’s deals with key suppliers. The scheme will launch at the company’s annual regional licensee conferences, which take place this autumn. Star said it had used its increased buying power, due in part to development of its 120-strong Just Add Talent managed operator estate, to negotiate preferential commercial terms on a wide range of goods and services for its leased and tenanted licensees. Star said it would receive no financial benefit from the scheme, with all savings passed on to licensees. The company said it recently negotiated agreements with suppliers including Biffa, Nesbits, Sky, Initial, A-Cask and PHS Greenleaf. Star Pubs & Bars buying director Steve Dancer said: “We will listen to licensees at our autumn forums and throughout the year and look to develop the club further in line with their feedback.”

EasyHotel chairman steps down: EasyHotel, the owner, developer, operator and franchisor of “super budget” branded hotels, has confirmed non-executive chairman Jonathan Lane’s is to step down. Non-executive director Scott Christie will assume the role of interim non-executive chairman during the search for a replacement. Chief executive Guy Parsons said: “On behalf of the board and the company I would like to thank Jonathan for his long-standing commitment to the group. He joined the business at the time of the initial public offering in 2014 and has brought valuable industry expertise to EasyHotel during an important period of growth.” Property fund manager ICAMAP and real estate investor Ivanhoe Cambridge are in the process of a takeover bid for EasyHotel. The 95p-per-share offer remains open for acceptances until Tuesday (1 October).

Chapel Down reports sales boost, Ebitda loss widens as it invests: Chapel Down has reported year-on-year combined sales up 21% to £6.74m for the six months ending 30 June 2019, compared with £5.56m the previous year. There was an Ebitda loss of £1.03m, compared with £0.23m the year before as the company continues to invest in its brands, infrastructure and supply. Chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “Our focus remains on delivering solid top-line growth at good margins while we invest ahead to ensure we continue to build strong and sustainable brands – brands consumers can engage with. To help us do that we have invested in creating a Gin Works at King’s Cross and a visitors’ experience at our new brewery to complement the vineyard at Tenterden. Our strong and sustained programme of high-profile marketing investment has enabled us to continue to improve our pricing and margins, with sales up 19% and gross profit up 26%. Interest is not just from the UK but increasingly in sophisticated wine markets internationally. With demand for our wine continuing to exceed our ability to supply, we are greatly encouraged by the prospect of another outstanding harvest with excellent yields and high-quality fruit. We planted 154 acres of vineyards in May, taking our total supply to 789 acres. The current planted acreage will be fully productive by 2023 and, in an average year, should produce 2.2 million bottles of wine. In a crowded market place we have also been encouraged by the results of our Chapel Down gin and vodka. We have seen success not only in top-end London bars and restaurants such as Selfridges, The Savoy, Browns, Roux at the Landau, Le Gavroche and Hotel du Vin but also in Majestic and other independent retailers. Spirits revenues grew 46% to £441,000 (2018: £303,000). We have continued to invest in our Curious beers and cider. We have completed the build of our brewery in Ashford, Kent. It will give us greater control over our growth and also bring improved margins and a highly visible point of difference. Sales growth has been frustrated by the sudden loss of our contract brewing partner and the late completion of the brewing kit.”

Zonal rolls out menu management solution: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has rolled out its Menu Management technology to help customers create and track recipe and menu information, including allergens. The technology integrates with Zonal’s suite of products including EPoS, Stocks and Purchase To Pay. Menu Management centralises ingredient, pricing and allergen details and provides information on every dish, while chefs can access visual recipe books. The technology is already used by operators such as Bill’s, Cote and Prezzo as customers of Comtrex, which developed Menu Management and is part of the Zonal Group.” Zonal director of online commerce Helen McMillan said: “With the pressure on operators to provide greater visibility of allergens alongside tighter margins and increasing competition, this technology delivers improved efficiencies and accuracy through integration.”

Christie & Co reports first-half revenue ‘broadly flat’: Christie Group, the provider of professional and financial services, stock and inventory systems and services to the hospitality and leisure markets, has reported revenues broadly flat at £38.1m for the six months ended 30 June 2019, compared with £38.4m the previous year. First-half operating profit was in line with expectation at £1.5m, compared with £2.0m the year before. The company reported an increased pipeline of projects and expects a stronger second half. David Rugg, chairman and chief executive, said: “Increased investment opportunities in our mid-market ‘alternatives’ business sectors is fuelling demand for our portfolio of services.”

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