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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 6th Dec 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Stonegate puts circa 40 sites on market to address competition concerns surrounding Ei Group deal: Stonegate Pub Company is to bring circa 40 sites to market to address competition concerns surrounding its proposed £3bn acquisition of Ei Group, Propel has learned. In October, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) started looking into the proposed deal, which would make Stonegate the biggest pub operator in the UK. The CMA has invited comments on the deal from any interested parties as it looks to rule whether the move would result in a “substantial lessening of competition”. Stonegate had already agreed to dispose of up to 100 sites, which it believed would be enough to secure clearance. Propel understands the circa 40 sites would roughly consist of 30 Ei Group pubs and ten operated by Stonegate. The pubs are believed to be spread across England and Wales, with a good proportion in London and the south east. Agent CBRE is believed to have been lined up to market the sites, which are expected to sell in packages. The proposed £3bn deal would see Stonegate buy circa 4,000-strong Ei Group for 285p a share, a 38.5% premium to the closing price of 205.8p per share the day before the deal was announced in July. The acquisition values Ei Group’s entire issued and to be issued ordinary share capital at about £1.27bn. The terms of the acquisition imply an enterprise value of £2.97bn and a multiple of about 11.4 times Ei Group’s underlying Ebitda of £261m for the financial year ended 30 September 2018, adjusted for the disposal of 370 commercial properties. The deal is expected to complete in the first quarter of 2020. Stonegate chief executive Simon Longbottom would lead the new-look business, with counterpart Simon Townsend and the entire Ei Group board stepping down.

Industry News:

Propel Premium subscribers to receive Alison Vickers video for latest in exclusive series from Multi Club Conference: Propel Premium subscribers will receive their latest video on Friday (6 December) featuring speakers at the final Multi Club Conference of 2019. The videos feature a spectrum of company leaders sharing insights into their strategies and plans, while industry experts look at some of the key trends shaping the sector. The latest video features Alison Vickers, owner of Auriac Associates and former business development director for YO! Sushi, who is working with Dum Dum Donuts, Island Poke, Barburrito and Black Sheep Coffee. In the video she looks at opportunities for UK brands in transport hubs and international markets through franchising. Videos will be sent out each day at 5pm, and 3pm on a Friday. Meanwhile, Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 businesses. Subscribers also receive regular columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. In this week’s column, which will be sent on Friday at 5pm, he will look at why the wet-led community pub sector is having a sustained moment in the sun plus the latest sector whispers in Premium Diary. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Number of Britain’s licensed premises falls 2% but new restaurant brands and food-led pubs provide bright spots: Britain’s number of licensed premises fell 2.0% in the 12 months to September 2019 but dynamic new restaurant brands and the evolution of food-led pubs provide bright spots in a challenging market, according to the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners. The quarterly survey recorded about 116,500 pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed premises in September. The 2.0% fall is the ninth successive quarter of year-on-year decline but the rate of closures is the slowest since mid-2018. The research revealed Britain’s restaurant numbers fell 2.4% in the year to September to little more than 26,000 – a net closure rate of 12 a week. However the bulk of closures were independents, with group-run restaurants fractionally up 0.3%. Despite several major casual dining chains closing restaurants or entering administration in 2019, CGA’s research revealed many of those sites had been swiftly reopened, often by small and medium-sized restaurant groups. The report highlights similar contrasts in the pub sector. Britain’s number of leased pubs has fallen by more than 5,000 since September 2014, while managed pub operators have added almost 1,000 sites, partly thanks to a move towards food-oriented offers. While wet-led pubs have tumbled 15.9% in five years, food-led ones have increased 1.5%. Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA, said: “Our data shows a huge amount of churn in the restaurant market. There’s no doubt some leading casual dining names have had a tough 2019 but one brand’s difficulty is another’s opportunity. With capacity having eased in recent months there’s still a lot of opportunity for growth in casual dining – but only if the offer, execution and price are all spot on.” AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: “There remains high interest in concepts with growth potential that tap into consumer trends. While the overall number of restaurants has dipped further, the situation isn’t as gloomy as it seems, with a number of smaller restaurant groups continuing to expand. In addition, many major cities are reporting increases in the number of licensed premises, despite an overall downward trend. While wet-led sites are declining and food-led outlets have grown to have a greater share of overall site numbers, there’s still a place in the market for wet-led operators who deliver a differentiated experience to customers.”

UK summer staycations surge 10%: UK hoteliers enjoyed another summer of growth fuelled by a rise in demand from staycationers, according to the latest data from travel platform Expedia Group. Demand for trips from domestic travellers increased more than 10% year-on-year, with several regions and cities seeing strong growth. South Wales was the fastest-growing destination, while a number of English regions experienced double-digit growth including the Cotswolds and Yorkshire, which both saw more than 20% rises. Other top performing areas included Cambridge, Manchester and East Anglia (almost 20%) and the Lake District and Cumbria, and Bristol (15%). Cornwall and Chester both saw 10% year-on-year uplifts. Further growth is being driven by international visitors, including a 120% year-on-year rise in Chinese travellers to the UK during the summer, followed by Russia (75%), Israel (70%), Greece (65%) and Spain (55%). Helen Maher, director of market management for London at Expedia Group, said: “The strong growth of cities outside London in the third quarter is hugely encouraging.”

Tavistock Hospitality Group managing director Mark Hird passes away: Mark Hird, founder and managing director of Sunderland-based Tavistock Hospitality Group, has passed away aged 47 following a long battle with cancer. Hird graduated in 1994 and worked in various restaurants before opening his own venue in 2000, the award-winning 11 Tavistock Place, with wife Nicola. During the next 19 years the couple opened and renovated more than 30 properties in the north east under brands such as Sonnet 43 Gastro Pubs, Tavistock Thai China, Italian Farmhouse and the flagship Roker Hotel. Hird launched a craft micro-brewery in early 2015, which led to the development of S43 Brewery, while he developed Poetic License Distillery in the same year. He leaves three children. Tavistock Group operations director Jonathan Graham said: “I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of Mark – he was a true inspiration. I have a lost a best friend of 30 years and the world has lost a wonderful man.”

Plan B seeks mentors and mentees for 2020 programme: The Plan B Leadership Mentoring Programme, which helps women in the sector move up to board-level roles, is seeking more mentors and mentees for 2020. Plan B has helped more than 100 women with ambitions to achieve senior executive and board-level positions in the sector since its launch in October 2018. Zonal marketing director Emma Causer, who founded Plan B with Holly Addison, of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, and Ann Elliott, of sector agency Elliotts, said: “It has been a monumental year for Plan B but we need more mentors to keep up with demand. Looking to 2020, we have an exciting programme of events confirmed and are looking for new female mentees to start their journey with us.” Speed-mentoring events confirmed for 2020 so far are 21 and 27 January, 17 and 24 March, 16 and 23 June, and 15 and 22 September. All events will take place at Revolution Bar’s Leadenhall site in London from 5pm to 8pm.

Licensing update: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners produces a useful monthly summary of topical issues. To access the latest, click here

Company News:

Potting Shed acquired out of administration by John Leslie: Potting Shed Trading, the eight-strong bar and restaurant group, has been acquired out of administration by a third party company led by former Intertain chief executive John Leslie, Propel understands. Ormsborough, a company backed by funds managed by Downing, confirmed its wholly owned subsidiary, Potting Shed Trading, was placed into administration on Tuesday (3 December). Alan Coleman and James Fish, of Royce Peeling Green, were appointed joint administrators. Propel understands the entire business has been acquired with Leslie appointed as non-executive chairman and John Creighton leading the company as managing director. All eight sites, which are located across Beverley, Bingley, Guiseley, Halifax, Northallerton and Southport, will continue to trade under the Potting Shed and Firepit brands, securing the jobs of all employees. Burning Night Group was responsible for the management of the Potting Shed and Firepit pubs until the company went into administration in 2018. This caused disruption to the Potting Shed Trading business, which had to deal with a succession of legacy issues relating to the period under Burning Night Group’s management. Downing stepped in and appointed a new management team to assist with the business’ turnaround but were unable to because of the resources available and extent of the problems. Despite a targeted asset sale process undertaken by Christie & Co, the offers received failed to reach the level of debt and, due to a shortage of cash, Potting Shed Trading’s position became untenable and the administrators were appointed.

Ignite Growth leads race to back Junkyard Golf: Private equity firm Ignite Growth is leading the race to invest in crazy golf operator Junkyard Golf, Propel understands. Ignite Growth, which a few years ago came close to investing in Indochinese restaurant operator Banana Tree, is believed to have moved ahead of two other investment firms to acquire a stake in the Mat Lake-led business. Earlier this year Propel revealed the five-strong company, which was launched by Chris Legh, Bart Murphy, Lyndon Higginson and Lake as a pop-up in Manchester in 2015, appointed Clearwater International to review its options. The four directors remain sole owners and have so far funded the growth themselves. It’s thought Lake plans to stay on with the business but the other three could look to sell the majority of their stakes. Junkyard Golf’s sites are in London (Worship Street), Manchester (First Street), Oxford (Westgate Shopping Centre), Liverpool (Liverpool ONE) and Leeds (The Light). The Worship Street site occupies a 12,000 square foot unit and replaces Junkyard Golf’s pop-up at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, which opened in 2016 and attracted more than 400,000 visitors a year. Junkyard Golf aims to “put a unique and immersive spin on the traditional game, complete with cocktail bars and scrapyard decor”. In May the company announced it was seeking venues for expansion as it aimed to “remain at the forefront of the competitive socialising sector”. Lake said Junkyard was “mapping out” its next phase of expansion, with sights set on two more London venues and major UK cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Sheffield. At the weekend the business was ranked second in The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, with a 204.2% rise in annual sales growth during the past three years.

Mowgli reveals expansion plans after revenue hits £12m: Indian street food concept Mowgli, which is backed by Foresight Group, has reported revenues in the past three years have grown more than 66% on average every year to hit £12m in the 12 months to the end of July. Nisha Katona founded Mowgli in Liverpool in 2014 and has grown the brand to ten restaurants. Revealing expansion plans, Katona said a site would open in Bristol in the next few weeks, followed by Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2020. In the longer term, Bath, Brighton, Coventry, Newcastle and Preston are also on the radar. Katona said: “Despite uncertainty in the wider economy, I have never been more passionate and positive for the future. I can’t believe in four years we have come so far, so fast, and we now have more than 400 people working in the business. My challenge as we continue to grow is to retain the culture throughout the business.” The company has opened restaurants in Manchester, Cardiff and Leicester this year and Katona, who was awarded an MBE this year, stressed expansion would be “measured”. She added: “As a former lawyer I handle all the lease negotiations on our sites and I will never do something that’s too risky or onerous financially, which is part of the reason we haven’t gone to London yet. However, I’m always on the lookout for the right site at the right price.” Foresight Group director Claire Alvarez said: “We are proud and delighted to see Mowgli’s continued growth in the face of some tough market conditions.” 

Pho lines up 30th opening, in Sheffield: Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho, which is backed by Gresham House Ventures, will open its 30th site early next year after securing a site in Sheffield. Propel understands the 29-strong group has taken a site in the Leopold Square mixed-used development, which already houses Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi, The Botanist and Wagamama. It’s understood the company is also working on securing sites in Edinburgh and the Midlands for its 2020 pipeline. The company, which Stephen and Juliette Wall founded in 2005, saw a 12.8% increase in turnover to £34.4m in the year to the end of February 2019, driven by a 5.4% increase in like-for-like sales. The company continued to generate a positive sales performance, with like-for-like sales in the nine months of its current financial year understood to be up 6.5%, driven by strong eat-in numbers and continued growth outside London.

Keith Knowles to stand down as chairman of Yummy Pubs to focus on Beds and Bars expansion: Keith Knowles, founder and chief executive of pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, is to stand down as chairman of Yummy Pub Co. Knowles will focus on his five-year expansion plan for Beds and Bars. Knowles became Yummy chairman in 2016 to provide a “further layer of experience to a young management team”. During his tenure he has advised and guided the founders on restructuring the business and strategic direction and helped finance the business to buy its first freehold site, The Wiremill Lakeside Pub & Inn in Surrey. A Yummy spokesman said: “Keith brought the ‘Live Your Life’ mantra he built with late wife Franca Knowles into Yummy, which has become an emblem of what the business stands for across the length and breadth of the team. He leaves the business in a position where it will continue the strategy to transition from a tied lease-operating business to a freehold management and property company. A process that will come to fruition with leased sites now on the market and actively seeking freeholds for pipeline growth in 2020. Over the entirety of Keith’s tenure he has donated his salary to the Team Margot Initiative and Yummy will continue to support the charity. Yummy has found a life-long supporter and friend in Keith and everyone wishes him every success with the impressive growth of Beds and Bars and his ongoing work for good causes.”

TGI Friday’s UK appoints Manson as interim chief financial officer: TGI Friday’s UK has appointed Gavin Manson as chief financial officer on an interim basis, Propel has learned. Manson, who is chief financial and chief operating officer at TGI Friday’s UK parent company Electra, is holding the fort following Stuart Greener’s departure. Greener was one of four senior directors, including chief executive Karen Forrester, who decided to step down in October. Culture and people development director Jacqui McManus and operations director Cain Savazzi also decided to leave. Forrester will leave TGI Friday’s UK at the end of next week. Her replacement, Robert Cook, former chief executive of Virgin Active, joined the business on Monday (2 December).

Brewhouse & Kitchen to launch ‘brewtel’ concept as it adds rooms to estate: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the UK’s largest brewpub group, is to launch a “brewtel” concept by adding rooms to its estate. The company plans to add ten bedrooms at the brewpub being developed in Worthing, West Sussex, and 17 to its Chester site in the new year. Brewhouse & Kitchen has identified 72 potential rooms across its 22 sites. Overnight stays will be added to Brewhouse & Kitchen’s “academy experiences”, which include beer masterclasses, food pairing events and a brewery day. The company said academy covers had increased 19.9% year-on-year, encouraging its move towards rooms to add to the experiential offer. Chief executive and founder Kris Gumbrell said: “We have seen tremendous growth in the experience arm of our business and it’s exciting to see the next stage of our expansion into other areas to create the ultimate brewpub experience for our customers. As the immersive experience industry continues to grow, this is a logical step for the business.”

Red’s True Barbecue converts Newcastle site to entertainment bar: Red’s True Barbecue, the Tokyo Industries-owned smokehouse brand, has converted its Newcastle site to a new entertainment bar concept called Louie’s Liquor Store. Opening on Friday (6 December), the site at Intu Eldon Square in the Greys Quarter will offer “wings, sports and entertainment”. The company said the venue would take inspiration from bars in the American Deep South and feature “spacious booths, a distressed wooden interior and a huge stage fit for an ambitious entertainment programme”. Events during the week will include quiz nights, food challenges, live comedy and music, and Sing for Wings – an open-mic night where the audience decides who is good enough to win free chicken wings. Live sport will be screened, while live bands will play on Friday and Saturday nights with free entry and bar food including beef jerky, burgers and wings. The bar will offer its own line of craft beer, while there will be free pool and fusball tables. Red’s co-founder James Douglas said: “We wanted to create a space where it’s just as fun to visit midweek as it is at the weekend. We can’t wait to see what people think of the bar and we’ve got some exciting plans in the pipeline.” Propel understands the company isn’t looking to roll out the bar concept to the other five Red’s sites. Tokyo Industries, the bar and nightclub operator led by Aaron Mellor, acquired Red’s out of administration in the summer and is set to expand the brand into the UK festival and international markets.

Som Saa passes £200,000 crowdfunding target to open second London site and build platform for further concepts: Thai restaurant Som Saa has passed the target in its £200,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to open a second London site and build a platform from which to explore “future concepts such as food halls, grab-and-go sites and takeaway brands”. Som Saa founders – MasterChef finalist Andy Oliver and fellow chef Mark Dobbie – are offering 6.91% equity in return for investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2.69m. So far, 109 investors have pledged £206,931. Having operated as a pop-up in London Fields, Som Saa opened its debut permanent site in Spitalfields in April 2016 after raising £700,000 on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The pitch states: “With our second site we want to bring the Som Saa experience to a wider audience and at an even better price point. The menu will be focused on street food classics and Thai drinking snacks. The food will be as good as Som Saa but in a more informal, communal environment. We want the food, drinks and experience to remain at the highest quality but have designed the menu to be more efficient to prepare and serve at a fantastic price point. To maximise the number of guests we can serve, we are looking at central London locations with a minimum of 80 seats. Ultimately, we believe this will feed through to healthy margin, establish a model for further growth, and build a platform from which to explore future concepts such as food halls, grab-and-go sites and takeaway brands.”

Exmouth-based Krispies launches ‘UK’s first digital-only fish and chip shop’: Exmouth-based Krispies has launched the “UK’s first digital-only fish and chip shop” for its second site. Owners Tim and Kelly Barnes have opened the dark kitchen in Pines Road, building on its other venue in Exmouth Road. The new site is completely digital and powered by ordering technology provider Preoday. Customers order ahead from the Krispies website or app and can pick up their fish and chips or have them delivered. Tim Barnes said: “When we won the National Fish & Chip Shop Of The Year award this year it inspired us to improve our offering further.” Preoday chief executive Nick Hucker added: “We are proud to work with innovative companies like this and look forward to its customers enjoying the convenience of the apps and online ordering. Moreover, the data these services provide will enable Krispies to provide an even better experience to customers.”

Rooney Anand appointed chairman of holiday park operator Away Resorts: Casual Dining Group chairman Rooney Anand has been appointed chairman of UK holiday park operator Away Resorts. Leisure entrepreneur Carl Castledine founded Away Resorts ten years ago. The company operates six parks including Tattershall Lakes in Lincolnshire and Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight, hosting 200,000 holidaymakers a year. Investment firm Bregal Freshstream acquired Away Resorts earlier this year from private equity owner LDC, pledging to invest £25m in its portfolio. Anand was chief executive of Greene King for 14 years and was previously the company’s managing director. He is also chairman of Purity Soft Drinks. Castledine said: “Away Resorts is delighted to welcome Rooney as chairman. Leadership skills and experience will be a huge advantage as we put our ambitious expansion plans into action.” Anand added: “I have been so impressed by Carl and his team and the huge potential of the business. I look forward to helping Away Resorts continue its mission of offering brilliant breaks.”

Dairy founder relaunches cafe concept Dandy: Dairy co-founder Matt Wells has relaunched cafe concept Dandy in Bermondsey, east London. Wells has partnered with chef Dan Wilson to open the site in Maltby Street in the premises formerly occupied by Monmouth Coffee. The changing menu includes larger dishes designed for sharing such as whole fried chicken with spiced chilli jam, and lamb ribs with lamb juice glaze. Drinks include beer and a wine list made up of small producers and distributors, drawing on Wilson’s experience of running P Franco in Clapton. Wells founded The Dairy and Counter Culture with Robin and Sarah Gill, created Knife Steakhouse, and recently backed 24 The Oval. Dandy is the seventh restaurant he has been involved with. Wilson launched Dandy as a pop-up in London Fields before opening a semi-permanent spot in Newington Green in late 2017. They have both since closed.

Wine bar and kitchen concept 28°-50° opens second site, in Covent Garden: Privately owned group Riviera Restaurants and Luxury has opened a second site for its 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen brand, in Covent Garden. As revealed by Propel, the company secured the former Cantina Laredo site in Upper St Martin’s Lane in October. The 180-cover venue has opened at The Yards in Seven Dials offering brasserie-inspired food, a dedicated champagne bar, a cork bottle wall, and black and white images of Riviera’s chateau and vineyards in France. Designed by Riviera Restaurants and Luxury founder Richard Green, the main restaurant features wine crates and steel girders as a nod to its sister site in Marylebone, which are softened by pastel pink and sky-blue velvet armchairs. Meanwhile, the Oak Room, Oyster Bar and Wine Room offer private dining. The name 28°-50° refers to the latitudes wine-producing grapes are grown between. Both restaurants are a partnership between Riviera and Emiliano Isufi, who has worked under Sir Terence Conran and Gordon Ramsay.

Oklava founders to replace Kyseri in Fitzrovia with bakery and wine concept: Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie, founders of modern Turkish restaurant Oklava, are to convert their Kyseri site in Fitzrovia to a bakery concept. Kiazim and Christie opened Kyseri in Grafton Way in May 2018, showcasing modern Turkish plates and drawing inspiration from the Kayseri region of the country. Kyseri will be replaced by Oklava Bakery + Wine, which is due to open in late January inspired by Kiazim’s passion for Turkish baking and Christie’s love of wine from the same region. Oklava Bakery + Wine is an evolution of the pair’s three concepts – Kyseri, the original Oklava in Shoreditch, and Oklava at Arcade Food Theatre in Soho. Oklava Bakery + Wine will offer breakfast and Saturday brunch for the first time alongside baked goods, influenced by Kiazim’s Turkish-Cypriot heritage. There will also be a retail and takeaway section selling hot and cold drinks, wine, bread, pastries, sandwiches and salads. To raise capital for changes to the site, the duo have launched a £10,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Innis & Gunn passes halfway mark in £3m fund-raise for Edinburgh brewery: Scottish brewer and retailer Innis & Gunn has passed the halfway mark in its £3m fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs towards its planned brewery in Edinburgh. The campaign, under the banner This Is Beer Money, is offering 1.96% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of almost £150m. So far, 1,228 investors have pledged £1,956,296 with 16 days of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “We are building the first large-scale new brewery in the city for more than 150 years. In doing so we’ll cement Innis & Gunn’s place in Edinburgh’s modern beer landscape and leave an enduring legacy.” The company has said it is aiming for the brewery to become operational in early 2021. Innis & Gunn raised £2.37m on Crowdcube from more than 1,900 investors in late 2016. In the three years since, Innis & Gunn has increased turnover to more than £25m. The brand also relaunched its pubs as Taprooms this year, with takings up 30%. The concept will be rolled out across the UK with two new sites each year for the next three years.

Chavot to leave Bob Bob Cité: Chef Eric Chavot is to leave City of London restaurant Bob Bob Cité at the end of January for “family reasons”. Chavot joined the Bob Bob family in August 2017 at original Soho site Bob Bob Ricard. He has been in charge of the kitchen at Bob Bob Cité since it opened in May this year. Owner Leonid Shutov said: “Eric’s culinary genius has shone through in every detail. At Bob Bob Ricard he expertly refined our offering, further improving our classic dishes and adding new ones, including vegan dishes. The menu he created for Bob Bob Cité has proved the perfect culinary offering for the restaurant, which has been my labour of love. I feel we have created something truly special together and Eric leaves a lasting legacy.” Chavot added: “It has been a great honour and pleasure to oversee the refinement and development of the menus at Bob Bob Ricard and Bob Bob Cité. I leave the cooking in the capable hands of the teams in both restaurants.” A new head chef will be named in due course.

Mr Ji’s opens permanent site, in Soho: Taiwanese-inspired chicken concept Mr Ji’s has opened a permanent site, in Soho. The street food-influenced concept, founded by Samuel Haim, has launched a grab-and-go format in Old Compton Street after previously operating a pop-up in Camden. Interiors have been inspired by the “neon-lit buzz of Shilin Night Market in Taipei”, with Taiwanese street art and light boxes. Mr Ji’s focuses on crispy fried chicken and alcoholic Taiwanese tea. Using 100% free-range chicken, the signature dish is the Big Ji (chicken breast brined and coated in gluten-free sweet potato flour, deep fried and dusted with flavours). It also offers Ji Bao (fried chicken thigh sliders in steamed buns), soup, chicken tips, house fries and sweet potato doughnuts dusted with ginger sugar. Haim, who is also behind fish and chip restaurant concept Hook, said: “I met the real Mr Ji while hiking up Elephant Mountain in Taiwan. He was an enigmatic character who tipped us off on where to find the best fried chicken in Taipei.”

Cocktails delivery service The Bottled Bartender closes crowdfunding campaign after hitting target for expansion: Cocktails delivery service The Bottled Bartender has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after hitting its £60,000 target to fund expansion. The company, founded by cocktails consultant Nick Lewis, was offering 13.04% equity in return for the investment, giving The Bottled Bartender a pre-money valuation of £400,000. In total, 129 investors pledged £62,160 and the campaign has now closed. The pitch stated: “The Bottled Bartender seeks to specialise in the manufacture, marketing and distribution of single-serve premium cocktails to the trade, events and home markets. For online orders it anticipates using a 24-hour courier service. Our cocktails are designed to deliver the real thing. We adhere to the same recipes as a high-end bar, using only branded spirits, fresh ingredients and experienced staff to make our drinks. We want events and trade to benefit from speed of service, logistical ease (not transporting glassware, ice and inventory) and not having to hire specialist staff, while home customers will have access to bar-quality cocktails without needing to know how to mix a drink. The market is growing at an estimated 9.5% per annum (total UK value £587m) as cocktail culture moves from bar to home driven by affordability and convenience.”

Everards reaches milestone moment as new brewery takes shape: Brewer and retailer Everards has started installing brewing vessels at its new facility in Leicester. The company’s Castle Acres brewery was demolished last year, with the company set to move into its new home at the Everards Meadows development in autumn 2020. The brewery will also offer a flexible food and drinks space, retail store and offices. The brewing equipment alone has cost £5.5m and the brewery will have capacity to produce more than 4.3 million pints of beer a year. Managing director Stephen Gould said: “After many years in development, it’s exciting to see these vessels going in. They are the first pieces of the puzzle. We have set out to create a vibrant space where people will enjoy a pint looking directly at the brewery. This flexible space will host tasting sessions, brewery tours and many other events.” Chairman Richard Everard is the fifth generation of his family to run the business since it was founded by William Everard in 1849. The company also owns more than 175 pubs across the Midlands, all run as independent businesses.

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