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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 12th Feb 2020 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Vegan meal delivery service Allplants hits £2m crowdfunding target in 48 hours: Vegan meal delivery service Allplants, which is backed by Octopus Ventures, has hit the target in its £2m fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs in 48 hours. Allplants, which was founded by brothers Jonathan and Alex Petrides in 2016, is running a convertible share equity campaign that provides early access to its Series B venture round later this year, with a 20% discount on the equity valuation. So far, 1,072 investors have pledged £2,378,348 and the campaign is “overfunding”. Allplants is an online platform that delivers more than 20,000 chef-made vegan meals a week. In September 2018, the company raised £7.5m in Series A funding led by Octopus Ventures – early backers of Graze, Secret Escapes and Zoopla. Existing investor Felix Capital – the venture fund that is also behind Deliveroo – also doubled its seed round investment to underpin what was the UK’s largest Series A funding round for a vegan company. Allplants has delivered 900,000 meals and reached £5m in revenue since launch and this year opened a 20,000 square foot kitchen and workspace. January was its biggest month to date in terms of revenue and new customers. The company generates revenue from customers buying meals online. Customers subscribe to or buy boxes of six single or double-serve meals at a time, with repeat customers contributing to 64% of monthly revenue. The pitch states: “Your investment will go into four core areas designed to help us grow – food innovation, improving our digital and offline experience, accelerating new customer growth, and preparing the company for wider distribution in the UK and internationally. Our new kitchen and production facility provides Allplants with significant headroom to continue delivering on quality and demand, while improving our margins. In 2020, customers will benefit from an enhanced digital and doorstep experience with new dinner options, more meal occasions covered throughout the day and more flexible delivery. By 2021, we aim to increase our presence offline, abroad and with digital services.”

Industry News:

Social Strategy In A Day opens for bookings: Social Strategy In A Day, an event aimed at allowing companies to develop and hone their social media strategy, has launched and is open for bookings. The event features fresh content and insights for 2020, allowing companies to increase brand exposure, broaden their reach and ensure their digital marketing really delivers. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the one-day advanced workshop, which will cover everything a marketing department should be thinking about when it comes to social strategy. The event takes place on Friday, 3 April at One Moorgate Place in London. Sessions will include how to keep your knowledge up to date when marketing and technology change so rapidly, driving business via social media, and being super productive while looking after your mental health. Emma Dickinson, of London pub retailers Young’s, will also talk about what has and hasn’t worked for the company when it comes to social media marketing. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators who are non-members and £395 plus VAT for suppliers who are non-members. Places can be booked by emailing

Unseasonal price falls drive down food and drink inflation but respite could be temporary: Year-on-year inflation fell to half the 12-month average in December 2019 but the respite could be temporary, according to the latest Foodservice Price Index from CGA and Prestige Purchasing. The strong downward trend saw unseasonal month-on-month drops in inflation in seven of the ten categories in the index – and inflation across the entire basket of food has now fallen for six months in a row. While the holiday season brought the usual increase in the price of salmon and festive meat such as pork and turkey, inflation fell in other categories including vegetables and dairy, which is “extremely rare” for the time of year. A strong harvest for potatoes and onions helped bring down the price of vegetables. Last year’s poor potato harvest after hot weather led to the smallest crop in six years has resulted in a big shift in the index – but the report also sounds some notes of caution about prospects for 2020. With oil-producing countries looking likely to cut production by one million barrels a day to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, the price of transportation and packaging could be pushed up later in the year, directly affecting the cost of food. Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen said: “It is possible this a temporary respite and we’ll see the index begin to rise again in the second quarter.” Fiona Speakman, CGA client director for food and retail, added: “Foodservice businesses have been battling many inflationary pressures since the Brexit referendum in 2016 but will now be hopeful prices are settling.”

UKHospitality – sector-specific guidance required for revamped wage-rate ‘naming and shaming’ scheme: UKHospitality has backed the proposed revamp of a scheme that names and shames employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. However, the trade association also highlighted the potential for administrative errors and called on the government to work with businesses to produce sector-specific guidance to help employers understand their obligations. UKHospitality said the modernisation of the definition of salaried workers was “positive for employees and employers alike” as it reflects more flexible payment periods. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “There is no excuse for deliberately paying staff below the National Minimum Wage. It’s good to see the government cracking down on rogue employers and highlighting non-compliance is unacceptable. We believe more needs to be done to rule out administrative errors, though. Some businesses have been caught out by admin errors in the past rather than deliberate underpayment. We have made this point clear to the government before and highlighted the potential for employers to make honest mistakes on issues such as accommodation offset or staff uniforms. The focus should be on tackling those businesses that knowingly underpay. We hope the government will work with the hospitality industry to promote compliance.”

Sector companies see light at the end of tunnel despite rocky growth outlook: Hospitality and leisure is one of only two sectors where the outlook for growth has declined in the new year, according to new research. The findings, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Hitachi Capital Business Finance, showed one-third (33%) of sector companies predict growth by 31 March – a fall from 37% in the fourth quarter of 2019. However, the number of sector companies that predict their business will decline by 31 March has dropped for three consecutive quarters – from 21% in the third quarter of 2019 to 10% in February. Those sector businesses “struggling to survive” has also dropped for three consecutive quarters – with the biggest drop seen between July and October 2019, from 11% to 5%. In January, the number of small firms in the hospitality and leisure sector that said they were struggling to survive stood at 3%. The other sector where the outlook for growth has declined was retail, dropping from 39% in the final quarter of 2019 to 31% currently.

Industry ‘makes progress’ towards gender diversity in senior leadership roles but still ‘lacks ethnic representation’: The hospitality industry is making progress towards improving gender diversity in senior leadership positions but is lagging behind when it comes to ethnic representation, according to a report by Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure (WiHTL). The report reveals notable progress has been made towards key diversity targets in the industry, with female and BAME representation at the most senior levels – board, executive committee and direct reports – increasing in the past year. The study also found the number of women on executive committees has increased to more than two-fifths (43%) of companies that responded and almost half (47%) at board level. There has also been a 36.4% increase in non-executive director roles, while the gender pay gap has narrowed to 7.6% from 8% last year. One-third (33%) of industry employees surveyed also believe diversity and inclusion in their organisation has become better in the past 12 months. However, the study found more than four-fifths (82.5%) of companies have no BAME leaders at board level, while only 12.5% are in line with or greater than the UK working-age population. Meanwhile, more than 40% of HTL companies have no BAME representation at direct report level; 80% have no BAME leaders on their executive committee; and there are no BAME leaders in the roles of chairman, chief executive or senior independent director at hospitality companies on the FTSE 350. WiHTL founder Tea Colaianni said: “Last year’s intentions have been put into actions with tangible results – but the report serves as a reminder our work has only just begun.”

Takeaways help drive upturn in consumer spending in January but restaurants see fall for third month running: Takeaway expenditure rose 11.4% in January helping drive an upturn in consumer spending although restaurants saw a fall for a third month in a row, according to the latest Barclaycard data. Overall spending grew 3.9% year-on-year as consumers felt upbeat about the country’s economic prospects, with three-quarters confident about household finances. However, the chilly weather kept Brits indoors, with spending in restaurants falling for a third consecutive month, this time down 3.5%. Data from Barclaycard, which sees almost half the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, revealed essential spending grew 3.7% year-on-year, driven by supermarkets (up 3.7%) and fuel (4.3%). Non-essential spending rose 4.0% with entertainment remaining robust at 6.8% growth as a strong opening for movie 1917 helped cinema spend climb 22.0%. Consumer confidence is on the rise, with more than two-fifths (42%) of respondents upbeat about the country’s economic prospects – the most positive figures reported since September 2016. Almost three-quarters (74%) also feel confident about their household finances – the highest seen since February 2019. However, more than half (51%) of UK adults believe the pace of economic growth could decline in the next few months. More than half (56%) said they have become more conscious of their personal impact on the environment and intend to change their behaviour. Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “Consumer spending has had a boost in January and we’ve also seen confidence in the economy grow. Brits are planning holidays and enjoying box office hits. Traditional retail continues to face challenges though. How retailers respond to consumer demand for value for money and responsible shopping will be key.”

Brands must ‘embrace technology’ to counter shift towards experientialism: Brands must “embrace technology” to counter a consumer shift towards immersive experiences, according to a new report. The Experiential Future report, commissioned by technology company Epson, found three-fifths (60%) of UK respondents believe experientialism featuring large-scale projections, interactive displays, holograms, virtual reality or augmented reality will become the future regarding events. That figure rose to more than two-thirds (68%) of millennials but fell only slightly for Generation Z (58%), Generation X (57%) and baby boomers (54%). Almost three-fifths (57%) of millennials would be prepared to pay more for a ticket to an event with an experiential element, while almost two-thirds (64%) would revisit an experiential event, compared with almost half of Generation X and Z (49% each). Neil Colquhoun, vice-president of Epson Europe, said: “Our research creates a strong call to action for businesses and attractions to focus on including experiential elements.” Arlington Research surveyed 9,750 adults aged 16 to 65 who had attended an event or attraction in the past 12 months. 

We Are Beer founders announce food and drinks line-up for new summer festival: We Are Beer founders Daniel Sylvester and Greg Wells have announced the food and drinks line-up for Bigfoot, their first summer festival. Sylvester and Wells, who are behind the London, Bristol and Edinburgh craft beer festivals, will launch the event in the grounds of Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. Bigfoot will feature 15 restaurants, eight chefs, more than 50 craft brewers, natural winemakers and spirits producers, and more than 60 music acts. Zero-waste innovator Douglas McMaster, of Silo, will headline the banqueting tent and host “blackout dining” with Matt Orlando, of Copenhagen’s Amass, and Two Lights’ Chase Lovecky. Their vegetarian feast for 200 guests will be cooked using no electricity. London restaurants at Bigfoot will include 10 Greek Street and Club Mexicana, with small plates from street food vendors such as Patty & Bun, Dough & Brew and Original Patty Men. Brewers will include Five Points, Northern Monk and Signature Brew. Wells said: “We have designed this from the ground up to showcase the incredibly dynamic culture around craft beer, cutting-edge food and great music.” Sylvester added: “Bigfoot will be somewhere festival-goers can discover fantastic beer and wine, eat world-class food, and let their hair down to some of the most exciting acts of the moment.”

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

Company News:

Elton Mouna to step down as Remarkable Pubs managing director: Elton Mouna is to step down from his role as managing director of Remarkable Pubs, the predominately east London collection of 16 privately owned pubs, at the end of the company’s financial year, Propel can exclusively reveal. He told Propel: “The world of radio broadcasting, podcasting, writing, motivating and sharing my knowledge to a wider audience beckons. I have worked tirelessly with some brilliant people in what for me has been a role that, in a healthy and positive way, has absorbed my life for half a decade. The result has been five years of significant consecutive like-for-like sales growth and five years of significant consecutive like-for-like profit growth. I have had a truly wonderful five years at the helm of this terrific business and had the pleasure of working with some first-rate, hard-working managers and office team members, who I will miss immensely.” Mouna, who is also former head of retail marketing and head of PR and corporate communications at Fuller’s, added: “I shall be forever in the debt of Remarkable Pubs founder Robert Thomas for the opportunity to develop and lead the business. In doing so I’ve had the added benefit of developing my own knowledge and skills preparing me to make my next move. Until then, it’s business as usual up to the final nanosecond as leader of this quirky, brilliant, people-orientated business.” Mouna will leave his position on Tuesday, 30 June. Last month Remarkable Pubs reported 6% like-for-like sales growth in December. Drinks sales rose 6% during the month, while food sales increased 8%.

Humpit Hummus plans 30 sites in five years as it targets London launch: Humpit Hummus, the Venturian Funding and Investment Group-backed houmous and pita bar chain, has said it plans to open 30 sites in the UK during the next five years, including making its debut in London. The company, which was founded by father and son Simon and Jonathan Phillips in 2014, will open its 13th site, at The Springs leisure complex in Thorpe Park, Leeds, on Wednesday (12 February). A flagship Manchester store is also due to open near the Arndale Centre this year showcasing a new Humpit offering that will “suit the business community”. The group, which also hopes to open its first store in central London this year, stated: “Our ambitions for 2020 include some more company-owned stores in key cities while looking for outstanding franchise partners to spread the Humpit word to places around the UK.” Humpit Hummus started as a street food trader in Leeds, opening its first store in the Corn Exchange in 2014 and being crowned Virgin Start Up Street Food Winner only one year later. The company’s estate is now spread from Brighton to Edinburgh. Venturian, the privately owned investment fund based in Wakefield, invested in the business in 2017. Former BDO executive Graham Berks is a non-executive director. Talking about the new Leeds site, Jonathan Phillips said: “It is always great to expand in our home city and, while we already have two in Leeds, Thorpe Park has a self-serving and fast-emerging community crying out for fast and healthy lunch options.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen set to sue council after trade hit by roadworks: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the 22-strong brewpub group, is poised to sue Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council on a “point of principle” after roadworks blighted one of its venues for more than a year. Chief executive Kris Gumbrell claimed the council made “more money” out of Brewhouse & Kitchen’s Poole site than the company did after the work at Hunger Hill “drove away trade”. He is demanding compensation for the £8,000 he claimed the Dear Hay Lane pub lost on one of two nights when the power was cut, causing wasted food as customers were turned away. He said: “I don’t run to the lawyers often and never to a local authority but, when you see a council say so much, take so much, but do so little to support our high streets and the hardship it and its contractors create for your own team, enough is enough. This could have been easily avoided by engagement, collaborative planning and prompt support.” Gumbrell told the Daily Echo the pub was now trading well again but had “lost money throughout the roadworks”. He added: “The council has made more money out of the site in the past 14 months through us paying business rates and Business Improvement District levies than we have. We’re a multi-site company so those other sites propped this one up.” Gumbrell said the council also denied Brewhouse & Kitchen a rebate despite the “exceptional hardship” its work inflicted on his pub. He added: “We’ve paid £27,000 to £28,000 a year for business rates for the site so why not exempt us from that?” A spokesman for the council told Propel: “This matter is subject to ongoing legal procedures and it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Debra Ward departs as Camm & Hooper managing director: Debra Ward has left her position as managing director of Imbiba-backed events and hospitality group Camm & Hooper by “mutual agreement”, Propel has learned. Ward was brought in to lead the business in October 2018 after founder Claire Lawson stepped down because of health reasons. It’s understood the wider management team will take on Ward’s responsibilities in the interim. Imbiba chairman John Connell said: “We are looking forward to the continued growth and success of the Camm & Hooper portfolio. It’s an award-winning business and we continue to support the leadership team with its ambitious plans as the business develops and extends its reach across London.” In October, Camm & Hooper was appointed to run events at the redeveloped Battersea Power Station, which is due to open in 2021. Events will take place in Generator Hall, Control Room A and three other spaces that will be collectively known as Battersea Power House. Events will include gigs, arts and cultural performances, fashion shows, industry awards, product launches, conferences and large-scale hospitality functions. Generator Hall will be a 1,400-capacity, triple-height space, while the 250-capacity Control Room A, the power station’s art deco control room, will retain parquet flooring and dials that were once used to regulate one-fifth of London’s electricity. Camm & Hooper also operates City venues Grace Hall, Banking Hall and Victorian Bath House along with Tanner and Co, Tanner Warehouse and Six Storeys in Soho. Camm & Hooper also launched South Place Society in the summer within fellow Imbiba-backed company Wright & Bell’s The Kitty Hawk bar in the City.

Boston Tea Party adds Worthing and Lichfield sites to portfolio: All-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party has added two more sites to its portfolio. The company has secured venues in Worthing in West Sussex and Lichfield in Staffordshire – its most easterly and northerly sites to date. The group is due to start renovating a bank branch in Worthing’s Montague Place as well as the former Regal Cinema in Lichfield. The revamped venues are due to open in early summer and late summer respectively and will offer about 150 covers apiece. Propel understands Boston Tea Party is looking at sites in Brighton, Eastbourne and around the Oxford and Milton Keynes areas. It is also considering further expansion in and around Birmingham. Chief executive and co-owner Sam Roberts said: “Every Boston Tea Party is designed to be sympathetic to the building and surroundings. That’s why we were so excited to discover the extraordinary former Regal Cinema, where we’ll take our design cues from the art deco building, while the Worthing site is a stone’s throw from the seafront and historic pier. We put our motto Making Things Better at the centre of everything we do. We’re excited to bring a bit of this magic to Worthing and Lichfield.” In June 2018, Boston Tea Party became the first cafe chain to ban single-use coffee cups. So far it has saved more than 270,000 cups from landfill. Boston Tea Party operates 24 sites in the south west and west of England.

Savazzi swaps TGI Friday’s for Bourne Leisure: Cain Savazzi, who stepped down as operations director of TGI Friday’s at the end of 2019 after more than 12 years with the brand, has joined Bourne Leisure as director of food and beverage. Savazzi joins former Whitbread managing director Paul Flaum and former Prezzo chief executive Jon Hendry-Pickup at Bourne Leisure, which operates the Haven, Warner Leisure Hotels and Butlin’s brands. Last week Propel revealed Savazzi’s former TGI Friday’s colleague Jacqui McManus had joined The Restaurant Group as people director of its leisure division. McManus was previously culture and people development director at TGI Friday’s UK, a role she held for seven years having joined in 2008 as director of operations for London. In October, McManus and Savazzi were two of four TGI Friday’s UK senior directors, including chief executive Karen Forrester, who decided to step down. Chief financial officer Stuart Greener also decided to leave. Forrester left TGI Friday’s UK in December and was replaced by former Virgin Active chief executive Robert Cook.

Spanish bakery Granier secures Basingstoke site: Spanish bakery Granier has signed for a site at Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Granier has agreed a deal with complex owner AEW for a 1,400 square foot unit. The venue will offer freshly baked bread, homemade sandwiches and pastries. Granier is being joined by Asian street food concept Chi, which Propel revealed on Tuesday (11 February) has also signed for a unit. The concept will open a 500 square foot restaurant and is also launching in Norwich, which will take it to four outlets. Both brands are operated by Providence Bay Restaurants, a team consisting of former chefs and restaurant operators. Providence Bay Restaurants director Aidan Tjinakiet said: “Festival Place will provide us with a strong platform to launch Granier and Chi to Hampshire. Both brands have been well received elsewhere.” Russell Jewel, head of private equity funds at AEW, added: “The new signings with their grab and go, quick and easy offers will provide even more choice for visitors to the centre.” Lunson Mitchenall and Cushman & Wakefield are joint agents for Festival Place. CBRE is the centre’s managing agent.

Joseph Holt acquires Cheshire pub from Greene King: North west brewer and retailer Joseph Holt has added to its portfolio of 126 pubs by acquiring The Cat & Lion in the village of Stretton in Cheshire. The former 17th century coaching inn has been acquired from Greene King in an off-market deal for an undisclosed sum. It is the fourth Joseph Holt pub in the Warrington area, alongside the Cock O’Budworth, The Millhouse and The Stonemill. Currently closed, the pub will undergo an extensive redevelopment to reopen in the spring offering Holt’s beer and a new food menu and pizza oven. The Premier Inn on the same site will remain open during the pub’s redevelopment. Joseph Holt chief executive Richard Kershaw said: “We are excited to bring the Joseph Holt name, brand and award-winning ale and lager to Stretton to expand our pub offering in this flourishing region of the north west.” Other recent acquisitions by the brewer include Half Way House in Blackpool and The Shamrock in Ancoats. Later this year the brewer will open Bridgewater Exchange at Manchester airport’s new super terminal in partnership with The Restaurant Group. The venue will feature Europe’s first airside micro-brewery.

Atul Kochhar to open Marlow restaurant: Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar is to open a restaurant in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, this year. Vaasu will launch in Chapel Street offering a pan-Indian menu with “new flavours from north India”. Kochhar will also open a second central London restaurant – Mathura – in Westminster this year. Named after the capital city of King Kanishka, an emperor of the Kushan dynasty in the second century, the 200-cover restaurant and bar will be housed in the former Westminster fire station in Greycoat Place. The 5,000 square foot site combines a converted grade II-listed building and a new-build, mixed-use residential project from development managers Alchemi Group. Mathura is a collaborative project with Kanishka Holdings managing director Tina English, with whom Kochhar opened Kanishka in Mayfair last year.

Knife & Fork Food acquires sixth site, eyes further expansion: South Wales-based Knife & Fork Food has acquired its sixth site – and is eyeing further expansion. The company has bought The Boat House in Glamorgan and will rebrand it to The Sully Inn. The revamped pub will reopen on Friday, 28 February. Knife & Fork Food has plans to acquire more properties in the next two years across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. The expansion follows the continued success of the group, which achieved a turnover of £4.5m in 2019. The Sully Inn’s menu will feature pub classics, a grill board and regularly changing specials. There will also be a selection of craft beer and local ale. Director Sharon Noakes told Insider Media: “We are always on the lookout for pubs in the heart of communities. We want to be in among chimney pots, right in the soul of the village. The Sully Inn offers just that. This is a wonderful opportunity and we’re very excited to start 2020 with the launch of our sixth location.”

Bulgarian chain Happy to make UK debut at former TGI Friday’s site in Piccadilly: Bulgarian chain Happy is to make its UK debut at the former TGI Friday’s site in Piccadilly, central London. Happy was founded in 1994 and has 20 restaurants in Bulgaria and two in Barcelona. Its menu includes burgers; chicken burgers, strips and wings; salads and vegetarian dishes. It also offers the “broken burger” (burger mixed with egg or mac ‘n’ cheese); loaded potatoes with chicken; steak; and quinoa balls, Hot Dinners reports. The drinks list includes classic cocktails and mocktail versions alongside the brand’s signature lemonade. The venue is due to open in Coventry Street this month.

St Austell Brewery adds Devon hotels: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has added two Devon hotels to its portfolio. The company has acquired the Royal Castle Hotel in Dartmouth and the Royal Seven Stars in Totnes from Nigel and Anne Way. The move forms part of the company’s strategy to expand and develop its 182-strong pubs, inns and hotels business and add to its 35-strong managed estate. Chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “Both hotels fit perfectly with our portfolio – family friendly venues in popular locations with unrivalled views and quality bedrooms. The acquisition of these two iconic sites supports our plans to strengthen and grow our estate across the south west. We look forward to continuing to develop and invest in our estate and seek further sites that may fit in our managed and tenanted businesses.” Steve Worrall, managing director of St Austell Brewery’s pubs, inns and hotels business, added: “The properties will provide us with an additional 45 guest bedrooms, two award-winning restaurants and two contemporary bars – as well as private dining and events space.” The Ways said they would now focus on their two west Somerset hotels – the Porlock Weir and Luttrell Arms – with St Austell Brewery the “most suitable guardian” for their Devon hotels. Last week Propel revealed St Austell Brewery has introduced a new leadership structure after forming two operating businesses. Worrall became managing director of the pubs, inns and hotels business, which he has led for three years, while Andrew Turner has joined from Heineken to lead the beer and brands business.

Two Magpies Bakery makes Norfolk debut for fourth site: Suffolk-based Two Magpies Bakery has made its Norfolk debut by opening its fourth site in total. The company has launched a 70-cover venue at the former Timber Hill Bakery in Norwich city centre. Two Magpies owner Rebecca Bishop told Insider Media: “Timber Hill Bakery offered a good range of vegan and gluten-free options so we’ve devised a new menu to cater to its customer base and grow this side of the business. We’re excited to open our fourth bakery, particularly as this is the first time we’ll move away from the coast and into the city.” The company, which produces bread, cakes and pastries at its site in Southwold, also operates bakeries in Aldeburgh and Darsham. The latter also houses the brand’s cookery school.

Starbucks eyes North American airport expansion with new partnerships: Starbucks is set to expand its presence in North American airports after announcing two new partnerships. Having revealed the end of its exclusive agreement with airport foodservice company HMSHost last week, Starbucks is now working with airport retailer and restaurateur Paradies Lagardère and airport hospitality group OTG Management. Starbucks is entering a licensing agreement with both companies, with stores opening this year at Paradies Lagardère and OTG airport partners around the country, reports Nation’s Restaurant News. The deals will see Starbucks work with licensees rather than HMSHost for the first time since the first Starbucks opened in an airport terminal 29 years ago. Starbucks stated: “In airport locations we specifically look to licensed business partners who bring the knowledge and capabilities to reach more air travellers. We expect to work with other like-minded operators in the growing industry over time to meet increasing demand.” Starbucks envisages new store concepts such as a pop-up with digital and mobile ordering capabilities that will enable a gate-to-gate coffee delivery service. Starbucks said it plans to use the new partnerships as a jump-off point to expand its footprint in airports across North America. Paradies Lagardère chief executive Gregg Paradies said: “This is a historical moment in our industry and the addition of Starbucks to our brand arsenal aligns perfectly with the growth strategy of our dining division.” OTG Management chief executive Rick Blatstein added: “This collaboration will allow us to introduce a fully reimagined Starbucks customer experience, ensuring guests access to their preferred cup anywhere in the airport.”

Frankie & Benny’s to introduce ‘no PDA zones’ for Valentine’s Day: Frankie & Benny’s, which is owned by The Restaurant Group, is to introduce designated zones on Valentine’s Day for those averse to public displays of affection (PDAs). The decision to enforce “no PDA zones” in select restaurants was made following nationwide research that suggests half of Brits feel uncomfortable when it comes to seeing snogging in restaurants. More than one-third (36%) of the 2,000 respondents felt people indulging in PDAs such as over-zealous kissing and feeding each other should “save it for when they get home”. Frankie & Benny’s will also offer “no PDA zones”. A Frankie & Benny’s spokesman said: “Many Brits are uncomfortable with couples being openly tactile while they are trying to enjoy their meal but we also understand many couples see Valentine’s Day as the one time of year they can show physical affection towards their loved ones to show how much they care. With this in mind – and to cater to everyone’s needs – we will create separate spaces in selected restaurants.”

JKS Restaurants opens third Hoppers site, in King’s Cross: JKS Restaurants, the London restaurant group founded by Jyotin, Karam and Sunaina Sethi, has opened a third site for its Hoppers concept, in King’s Cross. The restaurant has launched in Pancras Square offering new bar bites, seafood grills, beachside snacks and exclusive dishes. The centrepiece is an island bar that is much larger than at Hoppers’ sister sites in Marylebone and Soho. Hoppers Restaurants director Karan Gokani said: “It has been great to see London embrace Hoppers since we opened in Soho four years ago.” JKS Restaurants also backs Michelin-starred Trishna in Marylebone, Indian restaurant and bar concept Brigadiers in the City of London, and leading concepts such as Bao. Its portfolio also includes delivery brand Motu and Iranian-influenced restaurant Berenjak. The company will relaunch Michelin-starred restaurant Gymkhana on Tuesday, 18 February. The venue in Albemarle Street in Mayfair has undergone a major refurbishment following a blaze in June.

Funicular Productions to launch east London bar featuring immersive cocktail experience: Funicular Productions, which is behind immersive productions such as Journey To The Underworld and The Murdér Express, is to launch a bar in east London offering a “time-travelling cocktail experience”. Timeless Bar will launch on leap day (Saturday, 29 February) in Sidworth Street celebrating “100 years of iconic cocktails” and offering two-for-one drinks all day under the idea it’s “always happy hour somewhere”. Meanwhile, 75-minute experience the Cocktail Time Machine will “transport guests through three decades and countries via era-defining cocktails”. MasterChef finalist Louisa Ellis has created the food menu that will feature snacks such as whipped cod’s roe potato skins, small plates such as sage risotto with thyme, and sides such as black garlic and truffle gnocchi.

Cineworld shareholders overwhelmingly back Cineplex deal: Cineworld shareholders have overwhelmingly backed the company’s deal to acquire Canada’s largest cinema operator, Cineplex, for C$2.8bn (£1.63bn). A total of 99.59% of Cineworld shareholders voted in favour of the motion at a general meeting on Tuesday (11 February). Chairman Anthony Bloom said: “It demonstrates a resounding vote of confidence in support of the transaction and board strategy, which on completion will create the leading North American cinema operator with significant scale and opportunity.” Cineworld will pay C$34 per share in cash and the deal implies an enterprise value for Cineplex of C$2.8bn and a 2019E Ebitda multiple (including combination benefits) of 6.3 times. The acquisition will add 165 cinemas and 1,695 screens to its portfolio. Completion of the deal is expected by the end of the first half of this year.

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