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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators
Fri 21st Nov 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

Geof Collyer – market rents will exacerbate the difference between managed pubs/casual dining chains and tenanted pubs: Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer has argued that the proposed introduction of market rent option would probably mean the end of all pubco investment in their estates. He stated: “Our best guess would be that the Bill gets passed into law, but with a delayed introduction (maybe two to four years) to allow the concerned companies time to prepare and adjust for the new paradigm. So it looks more likely that the tie will go – apart from smaller brewers. The pubcos will want to increase their optionality for taking pubs back in house for direct management or selling on for (higher) alternative use, so agreements will probably revert to three to five year tenancies where as now there is no right of renewal or Landlord & Tenant Act protection, or maybe ‘5yr+5yr’ short leases with a break half-way. Since 2007, Enterprise has invested capex of £442m in its pubs, and a further £260m in discretionary support plus higher discounts and lower rent. Because the pubcos will no longer being able to guarantee returns, it is probable that all investment could be stopped, potentially exacerbating the perceived differential between tenanted/leased pubs and managed/casual dining chains. The brewers will be the biggest winners, licking their lips at the potential for higher margins. With no more long term contracts, we would imagine that banks would be unwilling to lend to licensees that have little cash flow visibility – taking the industry back to the Dark Ages of pre-Beer Orders days when no-one invested in tenancies and product choice was restricted. We would be surprised if more than 20% of pubs took up the Market Rent Option so all share price reaction has been way over the top. But the market will want to look at the worst-case scenario. Yesterday we suggested 5% downgrades to FY’16E, net of mitigating actions by Enterprise, Punch and circa -2% for Marston’s. Commercial property groups trade around Net Asset Value versus >65% discounts for Enterprise and Punch. The market much prefers the guaranteed nature of fixed rent versus variable rent. Ironically therefore, increasing the proportion of profits from fixed rent could see pub property go up or the discount to NAV narrow sharply even though the valuations could be based on lower levels of profitability. Pub groups would start valuing their properties based on both rental income and investment potential, which is what would drive more asset sales (pub closures), and pubco REITs would become a reality. (Enterprise Inns alone has permission to convert). We will have to dust off our REIT model.”

Industry News:

Propel has launched Craft Beer Retail Study Tour: Propel has launched its first Craft Beer Retail Study Tour sponsored by CPL Training, on Thursday 29 January 2015 in London. The tour, led by Thinking Drinkers, award-wining beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, will visit seven of London’s leading craft beer retailers in an eight-hour tour. McFarland and Sandham will provide the latest craft beer fact and figures, market segmentation analysis, and spot up-and-coming trends. Site visits will include Q&A sessions with London’s leading retailers, looking at concept evolution, staff training, direct sourcing, menus, disposable kegs, hybrid models, brewing on site and a host of other issues. The day includes lunch and breakfast and travel between venues by coach. Tickets are £345 for ALMR members and £395 for non-ALMR members. Email to book. Delegates also receive free tickets to see McFarland and Sandham perform their Legends of Liquor show at the Soho Theatre that evening starting at 7.30pm. Every audience member gets a ‘craft’ beer and four boutique spirits.

Eritrean café ranked number one on TripAdvisor in London: An Eritrean café in Woolwich, Blue Nile, has scored higher than Michelin-starred restaurants to be ranked number one in London, according to TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor spokesman, James Kay, said: “The TripAdvisor Popularity Index dynamically ranks places to eat based on the popularity among travellers of a given business, as measured by the quality, quantity, and recency of reviews and ratings submitted about that business on TripAdvisor. Online reviews are a great way for locals and holidaymakers alike to unearth some of the city’s hidden gems, and it is great to see a small independent business like this shine for the right reasons – excellent customer service, experience and value.”

Oldest McDonald’s in Russia reopens: The oldest McDonald’s in Russia has reopened after a three-month closure ordered by the authorities, ostensibly for health violations, seen by some as retaliation for Western sanctions. The flagship restaurant on Pushkin Square in Moscow, which first opened in 1990, was filled with balloons for its grand lunchtime reopening on Wednesday, and hungry customers immediately formed queues at each counter However, the chain continues to have opponents. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the far-right LDPR party, said: “We are categorically against this opening and will continue our struggle for the closure of this chain throughout the country.” According to the television station Rossiya 24, one survey suggests 60% of Russians think all McDonald’s restaurants should be closed.

Company News:

Noble Inns targets four London Smokehouse sites: Noble Inns, the award-winning gastro-pub operator founded by Scott and Maria Hunter, plans to open four Smokehouse site in London “with an eye on the international market”, yesterday’s Propel Multi Club Conference heard. The first Smokehouse opened in Islington last year serving 20 craft beers and barbeque menu using a real wood and charcoal offset smoker. The second Smokehouse is soon to open in Chiswick, featuring a big garden, a fire pit and a dedicated whisky room – it’s an Enterprise Inns site. Meanwhile, Noble Inns’ managing director Simon Holroyd explained that the company’s plans to open the first Bad Egg diner site in October, situated in London’s Moorgate had been delayed until 8 December, “due to very challenging legal and build processes”. Bad Egg will feature a “chic environment” that is also accessible and timeless, “rather than being on-trend, and ‘super cool’”, he explained. “It will include well thought through playlists and atmospherics, while it will also reflect a pricing tier lower than our pubs in order to encourage repeat visits,” he said. Main courses will be priced around the £8-10 mark, while the company predicts an average food spend of £13-15 per person and it expects 70 to 75% of sales to be driven by food. Wine lists will be “interesting and well sourced”, while the menu itself, which was created in partnership with chef Neil Rankin, is set to be “bold and bravely flavoured”, he said. The menu will have a selection of burger options, hash dishes, fried ribs and baked egg dishes.

Gordon Ramsay pub rent court case begins: Chef Gordon Ramsay has claimed a “ghost-writing” machine forged his signature on a major property deal without his authorisation, meaning that he should not be liable for the £640,000-a-year annual rent. The dispute, which marks the latest twist in an ongoing row with his father-in-law Christopher Hutcheson, was outlined in the High Court as the chef argued he had no idea he had been signed up as personal guarantor for the London pub. The pub’s owner, actor and director Gary Love, has previously described Ramsay’s allegation as an “absurd” attempt to wriggle out of his rental commitments. It is claimed that Ramsay’s machine was used to sign a 25-year lease for the York & Albany pub in 2008 after winning a bidding war that pushed the rent far higher than the market rate.

Michelin Guide-listed inn sells for £700,000: An award-winning and Michelin Guide-listed hotel, restaurant and inn, the Hand at Llanarmon, near Llangollen in North Wales, has been sold for in the region of £700,000. The property attracted strong interest from the local area and further afield when it was put up for sale by owners Martin and Gaynor De Luchi, who had been at the inn for more than a decade and recently celebrated it being listed in the Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide 2015. It has been bought by a local couple, Jonathan Greatorex, a hotel marketing consultant, and his wife Jackie, former headmistress of Bellan House prep school in Oswestry. Neil Thomson, associate director, hotels agency at the North West office of Colliers International in Manchester, who achieved the sale, said: “Several parties came forward for this renowned country inn that attracts customers from far afield. Buyers in this segment of the market are increasingly confident, aided by an improving housing market and more readily available bank funding.”

Bel & The Dragon launches riverboat dining: The Bel & The Dragon restaurant in Reading has acquired a riverboat on which it will be fitting up to 40 diners. The Majestic riverboat has been fully restored at Greenwich Dry Docks before undergoing a luxury refurbishment masterminded by Paul Hindmarsh’s Quadrant Design. It has a fully retractable roof and will be used for “lazy summer lunches on the Thames / Kennet and Avon Canal and cosy suppers aboard the boat in winter,” Bel & The Dragon said. The menu will be the same as the restaurant’s, which is part of the now six-strong Bel & The Dragon chain, owned by Longshot Country Inns, led by Joel Cadbury and Ollie Vigors.

Enterprise opens tenth managed house: Enterprise Inns has opened its latest managed venue, the Crafty Pig, in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, bringing its fledgling managed estate to ten. Enterprise says it wants to attract “everyone from shoppers and weekend visitors to ‘coffee-and-laptop’ workers” to the pub, in Oldham Street, which is a sister venue to the popular Blind Pig, in Monton Village, Eccles, near Manchester. The interior, described as “New York industrial”, has exposed brickwork, large tables for communal dining, soft lighting, booths, customer USB ports, and specially commissioned artwork showing the Manchester skyline by local artist Ben Tallon. Stuart Kirkham, part of the team behind The Crafty Pig, said: “We’ve created a bold new menu bursting with beautiful, indulgent food, all constructed by us and served in what we believe is a really fresh, funky way. There’s something to satisfy all tastes and styles, and I don’t believe there’s anything quite like The Crafty Pig in the north west right now, and certainly not in Manchester. Customers tell us they’ve enjoyed a unique experience, while others are already regulars.” 

Miller & Carter freehold for sale for £4.65m: The freehold of a Miller & Carter pub in Epping, Essex is on offer from the property agent Christie + Co at a guide price of £4.65m. The pub, in High Road, Epping, is let to Spirit Pub Company on a long lease until March 2044, at a rent of £291,828 a year, with fixed uplifts between 1.25% and 2.5% per annum from 2017 until expiry. Spirit is currently sub-letting it to Mitchells & Butlers for one of its Miller & Carter steakhouses. Christies said the price of the “extremely rare” long-term income opportunity reflected a net initial yield of 5.89%.

Heartstone Inns buys eleventh pub: Heartstone Inns, led by James Birth has bought an eleventh pub, the day after it acquired its tenth. The latest acquisition is the Woodborough Inn in Winscombe, Somerset, following a day after the Cockhaven Manor in Bishopsteignton, Devon. Both pubs were acquired from private owners. Birch said: “We are delighted with these acquisitions. Both pubs fit perfectly within our current estate and re-enforce our commitment to building a group with quality, freehold food led pubs in the south and south west that offer opportunity for development and growth.”

Ex-Beatbox Bars duo open American-themed diner in Cardiff: Nathan Vaughan and Ian Dakin, two of the people behind Beatbox Bars, the South Wales pub and bar company which collapsed in July last year owing almost £1.4m, have opened an American-themed diner and coffee house in Cardiff. Apple Jacks, on Church Street, is described as a family-friendly restaurant open from 10am with a daytime menu of breakfasts, brunches, and “light bites” until 5pm, and a “deluxe” menu served between 12pm and 10pm that includes spicy San Francisco cioppino mussel stew, New England clam chowder, duck and waffles, and crispy shrimp po’boy. Handmade cakes and desserts from the local patissier Zucchero Patisserie will also be on sale. The restaurant interior is loosely based on a 1950s American diner, but with a seating booth constructed from a Californian surf van, a New England lobster shack-style kitchen, and colourful concrete screen walls. Beatbox Bars, which was founded in 2004 by Daniel Biscombe, Nathan Vaughan, Ian Dakin, Claire Biscombe and Alex Power, and ran three outlets in Cardiff, went into administration in the summer of 2013 blaming its financial difficulties on a downturn in trade in the winter of 2012/13.

Christmas bookings up 10% already, says Young’s: Christmas bookings this year are already up just over 10% on 2013 at Young & Co pubs, the company’s chief executive, Stephen Goodyear, revealed yesterday. “People are looking as if they’re booking early, and that must be encouraging for us for December trade,” Goodyear said. “As long as the weather stays reasonably kind, things look to be fairly well set. We’ve got 17 pubs on the river, so when the sun shines, Young’s does very well.” Speaking after the company unveiled revenues for the 26 weeks to 29 September up 7.8% in total, to £116.6m, and up 6.9% on a like-for-like basis, Goodyear said the reason for the company’s success was that “we’ve invested consistently well over a number of years – we’re at the premium end of the market, our drink like-for-likes are up by 6.3%, our food like-for-likes are up 7.3%, so all the key indicators are heading in the right direction.” On future acquisitions, he said: “London is particularly competitive. But we are looking at towns outside London. Very bold for us, we bought a pub in Guildford, which has performed heroically, so that’s given us encouragement. We’ve got about 40 pubs outside the M25, we have a parcel of pubs in the West Country. But London’s got to be our main concentration. We’ve bought another couple of pubs, one at Vauxhall, which won’t be developed until next year, and one at Woolwich, and we’ve also got the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town, where we’re currently on site, and that’ll be ready for the spring – that’s a very exciting pub. We’ve got more presence in London, and there’s lots more to shoot at. At the end of the day, we’ve only got 200 pubs inside the M25, so there’s a lot of opportunity for us.” On the tenanted side, which returned to growth in the period, with total revenue up by 12.3% and by 4.6% on a like-for-like basis, Goodyear admitted he “may have taken my eye off the ball just a little bit” with the tenanted pubs, and put the turnround in their fortunes to giving them more attention, with Andrew Cox, the man in charge of the division, now called the Ram Pub Company, having done “a great job”, with revenues up 12% and like-for-likes up 4.6%. “We’re finding we’re getting better tenants coming into the Ram Pub Company – we had a very good conference with them mid-week, that was very well received. It’s a community with more growth to come, I hope. At the end of the day it’s 5% of our revenue, but it’s a great thing to have. We’re in tenanted pubs for the long term, and we thing it’s a good foil to the managed houses.” He said food played an increasingly important part in the company’s offer: “30% of our turnover is food, but I should think 50% of the reason for people coming to our pubs is the food, they like the mix, they like the variety.” However, having a Young’s beer offer, even if the company still doesn’t brew the beer itself, is still “very important”: “Young’s beer has been in Young’s pubs for the thick end of 200 years and we always want to keep that going. Wells have done a great job brewing the beers, and I think it’s better than it’s ever been, frankly. Cask conditioned beer is still around 25% of the total beer sold in our pubs, and Young’s proportion of that is about four to one. So 20% of draught volume in our pubs is still Young’s. But we’re now selling craft beer from people like Meantime and Camden, and in fact we’ve sold a million pints of craft beer in the first half of the year.”

Kro Bar in Piccadilly, Manchester closes after rent doubles as landlord lines up ‘two national chains’ to replace it: The Kro Bar at One Piccadilly, Manchester has closed, with the owner blaming a rent rise by new landlord Legal & General. However, L&G said has already lined up two national chains for the unit, which it plans to divide. The building was sold by Europa Capital to Legal & General for £75m in the summer. A spokesman for L&G said: “We purchased One Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester in August this year, with a short-term lease arrangement in place to the operator of Kro bar. This short-term lease was put in place by our predecessors following a previous liquidation of the Kro bar business and allowed owner-flexibility in finding the right, sustainable, long-term business operators for the space. One Piccadilly Gardens is a high-profile building within central Manchester and we are progressing a number of positive asset management initiatives to ensure that the scheme responds to the vibrant environment around it – looking to improve the tenant line up and enhance the customer offer. Terms have now been agreed to two popular family-friendly chains at open market rents.” Kro’s founder, Mark Ruby, told The Manchester Evening News his company had offered “a substantial amount more” rent but the landlord “wasn’t interested”, and doubled the rent it wanted. He said: “Most people are very upset. It’s been nearly ten years so it’s pretty tough. A lot of the regulars are upset and obviously the staff are, particularly. It’s not a particularly nice situation to be in. Hopefully the staff will get themselves jobs quickly and we’ll soldier on, it’s all we can do.” The chain’s other two bars, in Heaton Moor and Oxford Roa, are carrying on as normal. Ruby and Ruby Limited, which owned the three Kro Bar venues with Mark Ruby as director, went into liquidation in October last year. The business was sold by liquidators Milner Boardman and Partners a month later to Kro Restaurants Ltd, which lists Elizabeth Ruby as its sole director. The Heaton Moor and Oxford Road branches have now been taken over by Yummy Restaurants Ltd, which also has Elizabeth Ruby as its director.

Keys chain to open third site in Darlngton: The Keys restaurant and nightclub chain, which has branches in Yarm and Middlesbrough and is owned by Cleveland Cable Company owner Alistair Powell, is to open in Darlington’s Skinnergate on 28 November. Daughter Vicky Powell said: “We bought the place in August 2011. The building was in a worse state of repair than what we thought it was and so it’s taken a longer time. The venue will follow a similar layout to the Yarm site – with a restaurant on the ground floor and a nightclub upstairs. Also in the pipeline for the venue – a former mechanics institute – is a cookery school.”

Greene King delivers one of Britain’s rarest beers to just one pub: Greene King has delivered two firkins, or 144 pints, of 5X, its rarest beer, to the Freshfield, in Formby, Lancashire, the first time in memory that the beer has been on sale in a pub. 5X is a 12% abv ale aged in vats for two years that is normally blended with other beers to make, for example, Greene King’s Strong Suffolk bottled strong ale. Greene King’s master brewer, John Bexon, was on hand to unveil the rare real ale at the pub. The Freshfield’s manager, Simon Cox, said: “I first tasted 5X at the Great British Beer Festival in 2012 and fell in love with it then. I am absolutely delighted that The Freshfield will have this amazing unique beer on the bar for three nights. This will be the first time 5X has ever been sold in a pub, and I am so proud to be bringing it up north for our customers, the people of Merseyside and real ale enthusiasts everywhere.” The beer was sold to pub-goers in 1/3 pints, with only one glass sold per person.

Frankie & Benny’s and Starbucks lined up for Greenwich Retail Park: Restaurant units to be occupied by Starbucks and Frankie & Benny’s, plus a two-floor Matalan store and a gym as part of an extension of Greenwich Retail Park in South East London have been approved by Greenwich Council. The development will be on land north of Woolwich Road, opposite the junction with Victoria Way, Charlton. Developers also promise a new public square in the centre of the site. Some of those consulted on the plans had raised objections over the loss of an old willow tree and an increase in traffic. However, the council’s planning board unanimously backed the plans.

Pizza Hut franchisee adds 11th outlet: Umer Chohan, the franchisee of ten Pizza Hut takeaways in the Midlands, including Leicester, has taken on an 11th, in Watergate, Grantham. He said he chose Grantham for his new business as he already has others in the Midlands. Chohan said: “I am very positive we will do well.” The business will be recruiting for another 15 positions including drivers. Pizza Hut already has a restaurant in London Road, Grantham. Meanwhile the Pizza Hut franchisee Atifa Wasim Enterprises Limited, has had to pay more than £890 in legal costs after a hearing at Ealing Magistrates’ Court in West London over a cockroach infestation. The Pizza Hut restaurant in South Road, Ealing was closed for a week after hygiene inspectors discovered a cockroach infestation following complaints made to Ealing Council by a customer. Food safety investigators witnessed live cockroaches scurrying through the kitchen and ordered the premises to close immediately until the kitchen was safe again.

McDonald’s wins top prize at Personnel Today Awards for new HR technology platform: McDonald’s UK beat competition from entrants in 22 categories, including teams and individuals from 106 businesses, to bag the coveted overall award at the 2014 Personnel Today Awards. The judges praised the company’s PeopleStuff system, which provides a “hire to retire” service to employees. It is a web-based system that allows staff and managers to do a range of work-related activities, from booking shifts to gaining manager approval. As a result of implementing the system, restaurants have enjoyed lower crew turnover and improved productivity. McDonald’s also came top of the Excellence in HR through Technology category. This year’s awards ceremony, the biggest in five years, attracted 950 HR professionals from some of the UK’s top employers to the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair London.

Wetherspoon hits flak over change of plans in Felixstowe, progress in Edinburgh: JD Wetherspoon has run into flak after submitted revised plans for the site it is developing in Felixstowe, Suffolk. The company has already secured permission for a development on the site of the old Central Surgery in Hamilton Road, but has now put in new plans for slightly bigger premises and other changes. Felixstowe Town Council and more than 60 residents have written to Suffolk Coastal calling for the £2.6m project to be refused. Meanwhile, The first stage towards transforming the Picture House in Edinburgh into a Wetherspoon pub has been approved. Edinburgh City Council has granted listed building consent for the former music venue on Lothian Road. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said the next stage would be decided at the council’s development management sub-committee next month. “We have listed building consent, but not change of use,” he said. “It is going to a planning committee on 3 December, but is recommended for approval.”

Doncaster Council votes cash to cinema and restaurants complex: Doncaster Council has agreed to contribute more than £600,000 towards plans for a new multi-million pound town centre cinema and restaurant complex to be occupied by “well known high street names”. The money to be spent on the scheme, which forms part of the £300m Civic and Cultural Quarter, will come from a pre-agreed development account. It will help fund transport and infrastructure works as part of the overall project. The scheme will see a six screen, 1,600 seat cinema and four restaurants built by the spring of 2016. The complex will be built alongside the existing Cast theatre and will help to complete Sir Nigel Gresley Square, sitting opposite the council’s offices. The names of the cinema chain and restaurants involved in the project have not been revealed yet, but according to The Doncaster Free Press newspaper, “it is understood they are all well known high street names.”

Garden centre-restaurant chain seeks nationwide expansion: Haskins Garden Centres, which runs restaurants with a total of 1,880 covers at its existing four centres, is searching the country for potential new sites as it embarks on a national expansion programme. The chartered surveyor Johnson Fellows has been appointed by Haskins to find seven to ten-acre freehold, roadside sites in locations ranging from St Albans and Swindon in the south to Solihull and Bromsgrove in the West Midlands. Its four garden centres in the south of England, employing more than 150 staff and generating a turnover last year of £33m. Ken Salway, a consultant at the Birmingham-based Johnson Fellows, said: “Haskins is a very successful family-owned company with four destination garden centres offering products for the garden and home alongside restaurants and cafes serving freshly prepared meals. It’s a successful business model which they want to replicate at sites within a three-hour drive of their head office. Sites we will consider must have a retail catchment population in excess of 150,000 people.” Salway said two possible sites had already been identified, with another six being researched. Of the chain’s existing centres, all have Costa Coffee outlets, while Ferndown in Dorset has a 520-seater restaurant, Roundstone, Angmering, West Sussex has 600 covers, 460 inside and 140 outside, the restaurant at Snowhill, Copthorne, West Sussex has 180 inside and 80 outside seats and the West End, Southampton restaurant also has 460 inside and 140 outside seats.

West Berkshire Brewery hails new look for driving sales increases: West Berkshire Brewery, the company chaired by industry legend David Bruce, has hailed its new brand image for driving sales increases in pubs and off-licences. WBB called in the London design agency Colt and Chris Mitchell of Epic Icons, who created the new HP Sauce logo, to revamp its own “Gobbin’ Quaffer” logo and develop the look of its pumpclips and bottled beer range. Bruce said: “The new branding reflects the premium quality of our beer and is helping us to raise our profile in the competitive craft beer market.” Vicky Mills, WBB’s newly appointed managing director, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the new image. It has driven further increases in sales across both pub groups and off-trade retailers, as well as opening up opportunities for export.” WBB, based in Yattendon, Berkshire, has as its best-known brand Good Old Boy, a classic bitter. It is a guest beer for Enterprise Inns outlets.

Ember Inns pub set to get Sainsbury’s local in its garden: Plans have been announced to build a Sainsbury’s Local supermarket in the garden of the Ember Inns-run Three Hammers at Chiswell Green, St Albans. The company behind the proposed development, Chiswell Maine, plans to turn the pub’s front car park into soft landscaping it will still have a beer garden, with 50 parking spaces at the back of the pub for pub patrons and Sainsbury’s customers. Roger Ahmed, a director of Chiswell Maine, said that the 280 sq ft store would be built on the current beer garden site but that would make Chiswell Green safer, by blocking off the “dangerous” way cars currently accessed and exited the pub at the front on to the main road. Ahmed said: “Effectively we are taking away the beer garden but we are building another one to provide a nice green landscaped beer garden that will improve the pub.” Consultation meetings with residents have taken place in the past month and more are planned.

Rare restaurant opportunity up for grabs in heart of Harrogate: A ready-to-trade restaurant or cafe property 50 metres from the famous Bettys Tearooms has come on the market in central Harrogate with a guide rent of £30,000 a year. Sam Frankland, director of specialist markets at CBRE Leeds, said the site “presents a unique opportunity for an enterprising operator to establish a successful business in a prime location in central Harrogate at an affordable to rent. It isn’t often that a site such as this becomes available to let and we anticipate keen interest from a host of parties who will inevitably recognise the significant potential to capitalise on the property’s strong location and offering.” The property, formerly run as The Pantry, on Montpellier Parade, has a ground floor trading area offering the opportunity for both restaurant and daytime coffee trade. The first floor is the main restaurant, providing 38 covers ,with a separate bar and fully equipped catering kitchen. The second floor has back-of-house rooms and facilities including an office and store room.

Supplier to Chick-fil-A accused of torturing chickens to death: Employees of a company that supplies the big American fast food chain Chick-fil-A have been accused of rampant examples of animal abuse. A video recorded by Mercy for Animals appears to show employees at a chicken factory farm in Mississippi and a poultry slaughterhouse in Tennessee kicking chickens, scalding them in water, shackling them upside down and slicing their throats while still conscious and violently slamming them into transport crates. Both facilities are owned by Koch Foods, a supplier for Chick-fil-A. The president of Mercy for Animals, Nathan Runkle, said: “Chickens are literally tortured to death before ending up in Chick-fil-A restaurants. They are crowded into filthy sheds, thrown and kicked by workers, and have their throats slit while fully conscious at the slaughterhouse. This is sickening abuse no company with morals should support.” Mercy For Animals is calling on Chick-fil-A to implement animal welfare requirements for its suppliers, including requiring suppliers to switch to less cruel controlled atmosphere killing systems using inert gas to render animals unconscious prior to unloading and slaughter. Runkle said: “Chick-fil-A has not only the power, but also the ethical responsibility, to end the worst forms of cruelty to animals in its supply chain.” Koch Foods called the video “inaccurate and out-of-context”. Both Koch Foods and Chick-fil-A said they had stopped working together in 2013. Chick-fil-A also released a statement affirming its commitment to humane policies.

Pizza Hut seeks to show new menu isn’t boring, bland and normal by going to Boring, Bland and Normal: Pizza Hut has been promoting its new menu in the United States by visiting the towns of Boring, Maryland, Bland, Missouri and Normal, Illinois to liven life up. Carrie Walsh, Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer, told the New York Times that the Pizza Hut revamp was nothing less than “reinventing the pizza category”, after a year of consumer research indicating that diners wanted more adventure. New toppings include sliced banana peppers, Peruvian cherry peppers, spinach, salami and meatballs. New sauces are also in the line-up, including garlic Parmesan, Buffalo, barbecue and honey Sriracha, and new flavoured crusts, including spicy options such as Fiery Red Pepper and the Asian-inspired Ginger Boom Boom. Sauces can be added as a “drizzle” on top, including a balsamic version. A series of television ads, starting Sunday, show Pizza Hut asking a group of ageing villagers from Sorrento, Italy what they thought of the revamp’s exotic new flavours. Their reaction is described as “amusingly cold”, which Pizza Hut hopes will appeal to a younger and hipper audience. More television commercials are coming that will explore the Italian villagers’ views on modern innovations, including Pizza Hut’s new mobile app, which company officials say will bring the new brand identity to life. The company said the app interface will be more interactive and make it more fun for guests to customise their pizzas “two billion different ways”.

Cinnamon Kitchen founder Vivek Singh launches sauces range under restaurant’s name: Vivek Singh, executive chef and chief executive of the modern Indian restaurants Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, has launched a range of premium Indian chilled sauces under the Cinnamon Kitchen name. The sauces, Cashew Nut Korma, Tomato and Febugreek Makhani, Kerala Curry and Goan Spiced Vindaloo, are made by Greencore and on sale exclusively in Waitrose. They can be added to meat or vegetables, or used as a base to create more complex Indian dishes. Singh, who has appeared on Saturday Kitchen and Masterchef, said: “A lot of customers tell me that they have become disillusioned with the quality of Indian products on the market. Therefore I wanted to offer shoppers an at-home range with the authentic flavours and textures that diners enjoy at Cinnamon Kitchen.” In February it was announced that Singh had teamed up with the video tech company VistaBee to create the world’s first Google Glass food video, showing him preparing one of his signature dishes, tandoori sea bream.

Greene King staffers raise record £125,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in World’s Biggest Coffee Morning drive: Employees across Greene King’s different divisions have raised more than £125,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning this year, 7% higher than last year’s total. Activities included Old English Inn’s “biggest cupcake” competition and Loch Fyne’s “cake-off’” contest. Rachel Gascoigne, partnership manager at Macmillan Cancer Support says: “For the third year running Greene King has raised a record amount for World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, testament to the tremendous fundraising efforts of employees and customers.” Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King says: “Many of our pubs, restaurants and hotels have got behind Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning and I’m really proud that our employees and customers have raised such a huge amount. Knowing that the £125,176 we’ve raised will to help fund Macmillan’s cancer support services in local communities right across the UK is a fantastic reward for our fundraising efforts.”

US restaurant chain launches branded radio station: Buffalo Wild Wings, the ninth fastest growing restaurant chain in the United States, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, has has launched a new branded radio station, continuing its push for customer engagement outside the restaurant. B-Dubs Radio Powered by Wings, Beer and Sports, a free station from the casual dining chain operator, which has 1,045 restaurants, will be featured on iHeartRadio, a digital radio and music streaming service owned by iHeartMedia which allows users to create custom programming. Bob Ruhland, Buffalo Wild Wings’ vice-president of marketing, said: “We wanted to create our own unique ongoing radio platform that incorporates two of our guests’ key passions: sports and music. It’s another great way for us to engage our guests outside of our restaurants, while also letting them know about specials and activities they’ll find when they come in for the next big game.” B-Dubs Radio will feature contemporary music and exclusive sports content. The station will also feature ads for Buffalo Wild Wings and the casual-dining chain’s latest news and offer. Consumers can listen to B-Dubs Radio online, on smartphones or tablets, as well as on connected TVs or game consoles. The radio station is the latest in Buffalo Wild Wing’s entertainment platforms, which include B-Dubs TV and tableside tablets available in restaurants.

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