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Fri 24th May 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

M&B explores converting Chicken Society to delivery-only model, launching new concept: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is exploring a move to convert Chicken Society into a delivery-only brand, Propel has learned. M&B chief executive Phil Urban told analysts during a presentation following the company’s first-half results that the company was looking to “see if we can take a small brand and operate it out of one of our existing kitchens”. Propel has discovered M&B is trialling Chicken Society, which operates from a site in Putney, south west London, as a virtual brand out of a number of its Castle Pubs in London and also a site in Leeds. An M&B spokesman said: “We have taken some strong learnings, both operationally and through guest feedback, from the Chicken Society site. The food offer has proved popular, generating positive TripAdvisor reviews and strong food delivery sales. We are taking these learnings and looking for opportunities to optimise the strong appeal of the food offer as a potential virtual delivery brand within other areas of the M&B estate.” Meanwhile, M&B is set to launch a concept next month that will give it a second bow to its premium offering. The company is revamping The George in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, ahead of launching the format, which will offer “fresh seasonal food, craft beer, cocktails, coffee and pastries”. Meanwhile, M&B will open its debut Miller & Carter site in Germany next month, in Frankfurt. M&B currently operates about 40 sites for its Alex brand in Germany and Urban said if the first Miller & Carter restaurant proved successful it would be the “catalyst for expansion”. He added: “Our thinking is we would focus expansion on Miller & Carter rather than Alex, but we’ll see.” In terms of expansion, M&B said the main focus was on existing restaurants rather than adding sites. Openings, about ten a year, would focus on Miller & Carter and All Bar One. Urban said the company was looking to “ramp up” the accommodation side of its business, which has circa 900 bedrooms, but it “needed to make sure what it already had was of the highest quality”. With that in mind, M&B is refurbishing its bedrooms with the programme due to complete by the end of the next financial year. However, M&B will open its first new-build hotel this year – a 74-bedroom property next to a Vintage Inns site in Edinburgh. Urban added: “We have sites with land where we could add accommodation but it’s no good pushing it until the bedrooms we have are of the quality we want. Once we have completed that we can look at what the size of price might be.” Regarding the company’s performance, he said: “It has been a strong year so far. We’ve seen greater parity between food and drink sales and good growth in our uninvested estate as well, which shows it’s not all about spending money on refurbishments. Based on the Coffer Peach tracker, we’ve outperformed the market for 11 straight quarters and we’re seeing the initiatives from Ignite 2 starting to bear fruit. We have taken a pragmatic approach to Brexit and will continue with the plans we’ve put in place, which we will reassess if the macro-economic environment means we need to.”

Industry News:

New speaker revealed for Propel Multi Club summer conference, two free places for operators: Antony Hunt, managing consultant in innovation at CACI, has been added to the speaker line-up for the Propel Multi Club summer conference and party. Hunt will provide a review of the food and beverage sector and what it takes to deliver the right proposition, to the right customers, in the right location to make a profit. The event takes place on Thursday, 27 June at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40. Hunt will be joined by The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport; Ted Kennedy, owner of Pebble Hotels and veteran operator of pub assets; Three Joes co-founder Tim Hall; Las Iguanas chief executive Mos Shamel; Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna; Think Hospitality founder James Hacon; Mario C Bauer, AmRest brand ambassador, Curtice Brothers co-founder and WhiteSpace partner; The Glee Club founder Mark Tughan; Graffiti Spirits Group founder Matt Farrell and Crepeaffaire founder Daniel Spinath. The conference will be followed by the summer party, with an evening barbecue, the Big Fat Quiz and the legendary sounds of DJ Big Lee. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com. Rooms (bed and breakfast) are also available at £125 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing Anne.

Jamie Oliver’s UK restaurant collapse and Tim Martin’s key to business success in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett looks at the collapse of Jamie’s Italian including the staggering drop in like-for-like performance in FY2018, the rental levels that came back to haunt the business, and plans that were in place if new funding had been secured as part of his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (24 May) at 5pm. JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin also reveals his key ingredients to business success. 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 regular video recordings of key speakers. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Deliveroo expands into ten more UK towns, company forecast to create 70,000 jobs by 2020: Deliveroo is expanding its services into ten more UK towns this week, while an independent study has forecast the company will create almost 70,000 jobs in the nation’s restaurant industry by 2020 if the current growth rate continues. The new towns include Chesterfield, Wigan, Middlesbrough, Farnborough and Harlow. Deliveroo said a study by Capital Economics had found the delivery company had helped to create 25,000 jobs in the UK restaurant industry since its launch six years ago, almost 10% of the total number of employees in its partner restaurants. Those jobs are on top of the 25,000 self-employed riders Deliveroo provides work for in the UK. The report found in the 12 months to November 2018, Deliveroo had helped its partner restaurants and their supply chains generate £1bn in additional revenue, with independent restaurants boosted by £320m. More than three-fifths (63%) of partner restaurants told the study they had seen “in-restaurant” revenues rise as a result of working with Deliveroo, meaning more people were dining in after ordering from restaurants that used its service. Looking at international growth, Capital Economics estimated Deliveroo would create more than 176,000 jobs and £4bn of economic output in the 14 markets in which it operates by 2020 if it continued to grow at its current rate. Deliveroo founder and chief executive Will Shu said: “As we grow we’ll create more jobs on Britain’s high streets, bring more revenue to restaurants, create work for more riders and, of course, bring exciting food to offices and homes across the UK.” Capital Economics used data from a survey of Deliveroo’s partner restaurants to examine impact on their businesses, including growth in revenue and job creation. The results have been scaled up to the total number of partner restaurants.

European hotel industry reports 3% revpar rise in April: The European hotel industry saw year-on-year increases in revpar and average daily rate in April, according to the latest data from STR. Revpar rose 3.0% year-on-year to €79.29, while average daily rate increased 3.3% to €110.09. However, occupancy fell 0.3% to 72.0%, compared with April 2018. Data this month focused on two cities, Vienna and Bucharest, which both saw increases across all three key performance metrics. In Vienna, occupancy increased 4.8% to 84.6%, while average daily rate rose 20.7% to €116.15 and revpar was up 26.5% to €98.29. All three metrics were the highest level for any April in STR’s Vienna database. STR analysts attributed a 6.2% rise in demand to multiple events hosted in the city, including the European Congress On Leukaemia. In Bucharest, occupancy increased 1.0% to 71.3%, while average daily rate rose 14.5% to RON414.92 and revpar was up 15.7% to RON295.98. STR analysts tied the performance to several events related to Romania’s EU Council presidency. 

Hospitality technology and marketing service providers discuss collaboration: Hospitality technology and marketing service providers gathered to discuss sector collaboration at the inaugural Friends Of Wireless Social Dinner. The event, hosted by Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social, took place at ETM Group’s Chiswell Street Dining Rooms in the City of London. Attendees discussed their challenges, new ways of working and how hospitality as a whole could benefit when they worked together to solve common problems. Delegates included representatives from Acteol, CGA, Eagle Eye, Elliotts, Feed It Back, Fishbowl, HGEM, Marston’s Telecoms, Startle and Yumpingo. Wireless Social chief executive Julian Ross said: “We have built our business by working in partnership with a number of hospitality suppliers who are amazing at what they do. From talking to each of them, it has become clear we are all working towards a singular goal – to help our customers delight theirs. We are already talking about what to do for the next dinner.”

Company News:

Patrick Dardis – Young’s has at least £70m available for acquisitions: Patrick Dardis, chief executive of London pub retailer Young’s, has told Propel the company has at least £70m available for acquisitions and can raise more if required. The funds will be available in July and Dardis said the company, which bought 15-strong Redcomb Pubs at the start of the year for £34m, was eyeing “various opportunities” ranging from companies with a “couple of sites” to “slightly larger” businesses. Speaking following Young’s full-year results, Dardis said: “We have got plenty of firepower to do deals and if something came up that needed a bit more money, we could raise those funds if needed. A lot of these opportunities are coming up from people approaching us rather than the other way round, and I think that says a lot about our reputation.” As well as potential deals and reopening previously acquired sites, Dardis said the company had a number of major capital projects planned, including a £4.6m investment in the Dog & Fox in Wimbledon, south west London. Dardis added Young’s also planned to revamp the Redcomb sites – “probably half this year and the other half next year” – meaning the full benefits of the investment wouldn’t be seen until the 2022 financial year. He added: “If we open between four and six pubs this year we’d be pretty happy.” Of its full-year performance, Dardis said the company was seeing the benefits of its investment right across the business. He added: “We have delivered £300m of revenue for the first time, which is a real milestone. We added 194 bedrooms to the estate and have seen our accommodation sales increase 19.5%. On the drink side, craft ale sales were up 22.9%, gin increased 35.2% and our cocktail sales rose 32.1%. Meanwhile, Burger Shack saw its sales rise 29%. It shows the investments we are making are paying off and helping us grow our top-line. We have to keep that going and, given the weather and World Cup last year, we know that’s going to be a challenge but we are confident. If you look at our like-for-likes over a five-year period they’ve grown 5.2%, which is really important for us. It shows that consistency.”

NPS reveals ‘gradual decline’ of Jamie’s Italian: The net promoter score (NPS) of Jamie’s Italian reveals a “gradual decline” of the restaurant brand in recent years, according to Savanta, formerly Morar HPI. Using data from BrandVue Eating Out, a daily survey that tracks perceptions in the eating out sector, Savanta said it had seen a “gradual decline in the brand’s NPS during the past eight years”. NPS closely correlates with financial performance and is “supported by academic research linking high scores with high growth”, the company said. In the UK, some of the busiest restaurant chains such as Nando’s and Wagamama consistently top the NPS charts. Sevanta stated: “In 2011, Jamie’s Italian ranked first on NPS out of the 30 or so largest eating-out brands in the UK. Fast forward to 2019 and, within the same competitive set, it sits towards the bottom of the pile. For restaurant operators the ability to monitor consumer sentiment and feeling towards their brand is clearly important. Not only does it allow you to fully understand your position in the market relative to the competition but it provides a degree of foresight to better predict performance and identify problems sooner rather than later.”   

NewRiver – we have systems in place for pubs to make up 40% of portfolio: NewRiver chief financial officer Mark Davies has told Propel the company has systems in place to allow pubs to make up 40% of its total investment portfolio, with shareholders “keen to see more deals”. Following its acquisition of Hawthorn Leisure last year along with 76 pubs from Heineken, the weighting of its portfolio in terms of pubs stands at about 22%. Davies, who is also executive chairman of Hawthorn Leisure, said: “We have been building the pub business for six years. While we previously said pubs would account for about 20% of our portfolio, we now have the systems in place to substantially increase that. Our shareholders are keen for us to do more to bring that figure up to at least 30% and we think that could possibly rise to 40%. Given the changing nature of the retail landscape, it’s fair to say our pub investments have become a more important part of our portfolio.” NewRiver opened its first “pub” in one of its shopping centres at the end of last year – The Keg & Kitchen – at the food court in The Ridings in Wakefield. Davies said the bar was “doing well”, while the company plans to introduce a pizza offer at the site shortly. However, Hawthorn Leisure chief executive Gerry Carroll said while such ventures “improved synergies”, The Keg & Kitchen was more of a “side project”. Carroll said following £2.8m investment in 75 sites during the year, the company was looking to increase that figure while eyeing acquisition opportunities. He added: “Hawthorn has had five straight years of profit growth and I think, when it comes to those opportunities, people will look to us to do a deal with.”

Soho Coffee Co like-for-likes up 5% in first quarter of 2019 as it reports turnover boost: Artisan food-led coffee company Soho Coffee Co has reported like-for-like sales were up 5% in the first quarter of 2019, with its London estate in double-digit growth. The announcement comes as Soho Coffee Co saw turnover for its company-owned sites increase 18.2% to £9.1m for the year ending 27 January 2019 as it added three company-owned stores, taking the total to 24. Following completion of the 2017 Apostrophe store conversion programme, like-for-like sales in the final four months of the financial year increased 5.9% bolstered by strong trading from the London portfolio, which saw growth of 11.1%. The mature estate saw full-year like-for-like sales growth of 1.5%. Operational Ebitda at store level converted at 6.6% of net sales – double the rate of the previous year. During the year, the company launched its Brew Bar concept, at Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush. Soho Coffee Co said its pipeline remained strong, with the next store opening in central London at the end of May and two further openings planned for the summer. The company has also invested in the capacity of its production kitchen and brought in Martin Willsher, who was previously responsible for innovation in Starbucks’ central Europe division. Soho Coffee Co launched its in-store payment and loyalty app in January and said it would use this to build its sales and promotions strategy for the forthcoming year. On the franchise side, stores opened in Faro, Lisbon and Las Palmas airports. Since the year end, it has added a site at Malaga airport, with a second outlet opening in Las Palmas this summer. Soho Coffee Co is also set to launch in Qatar. Managing director Penny Manuel told Propel: “I am hugely proud of our team’s like-for-like sales performance. This is the best indicator we are getting our offer and service right. In a tough trading environment there’s a skill in improving your cost base while delivering a quality offer. We introduced a monthly performance bonus for our store managers last year, which has had a positive impact on management turnover and is without doubt the biggest contributor to our sales success.”

The Coconut Tree plans UK expansion with aid of Mahiki founder David Phelps as new shareholder: Sri Lankan street food operator The Coconut Tree is planning expansion across the UK after brand director Anna Garrod negotiated an ongoing contract with entrepreneur David Phelps to join the board as a shareholder. The Coconut Tree will open its fifth site, in Cardiff, on Friday, 28 June and is targeting further venues in London, Bath, Brighton and Reading. Phelps has worked in the hospitality industry for the past 25 years and been dubbed “king of clubs” following a string of top nightclubs and bars, including Mahiki and Bodo’s Schloss. Phelps and Garrod met while on the board at Po Na Na Group. The Coconut Tree was founded in 2016 by five Sri Lankan friends living in Cheltenham – Praveen Thanginah, Dan Fernando and Shamil Fernando, who oversee the food, alongside financial director Mithra Fernando and operations director Rodrigo Rashinthe. The company operates two sites in Bristol and one each in Cheltenham and Oxford. 

PG Taverns enters administration: Edinburgh-based PG Taverns is being operated under licence after entering administration, resulting in 100 jobs being saved, Propel has learned. PG Taverns, whose outlets comprise The Doghouse, The Mousetrap, The Jolly Botanist, The King’s Wark and The Fork & Field, ran into financial difficulties when it embarked on two further pub renovations at The Jolly Gin and The Grapes. Significant delays and cost over-runs by contractors resulted in higher costs than budgeted and deficits in operational cash flow from the delays in opening the new outlets. Additionally, poor weather resulted in lower customer footfall in the other pubs. Matters came to a head when the company was served with a winding-up petition by HMRC in respect of significant historical tax arrears, and the director had little alternative but to seek professional advice. Kelly Burton and Lisa Hogg, of Wilson Field, have been appointed joint administrators. The business of the company has been transferred to Clubhouse Bars. The new company is operating under licence from the administrators and jobs have been transferred under TUPE regulations. Administrators are working closely with the bank, landlord and Clubhouse Bars to secure the long-term future of the venues. Clubhouse Bars is owned and will be operated by the same management team, offering the same levels of service to existing and new customers.

Carluccio’s to roll out Fresca programme across five further sites: Carluccio’s, the Italian all-day restaurant group owned by Dubai-based investment group Landmark, is to roll out its £10m Fresca revitalisation programme to at least five further sites in the coming months. A pilot began at Carluccio’s Richmond restaurant in April and the new look will initially be rolled out to the company’s sites at Heathrow Terminal 5 and Bluewater shopping centre for completion in mid-June following a total investment of £500,000. Carluccio’s will create 20 jobs across the two sites to support the transformation. The Fresca programme includes enhanced design, food and service underpinned by founder Antonio Carluccio’s ethos of “minimum fuss, maximum flavour”. Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said: “The success of our Richmond pilot and start of our Fresca roll-out is an important milestone for the Carluccio’s business. With a new focus on recruiting, training and developing teams and a clear plan to reassert and build on our credentials as the UK’s leading Italian restaurant group, we are in a great place to drive the business forward.” Last month, Lee Goodridge began his role as operations director at Carluccio’s. His appointment followed the hiring of Graham Ford, from Bill’s, as commercial director; Hilary Ansell, from Gordon Ramsay Group, as marketing director; Marco Barletta, previously of Franco Manca, as operations manager; and Dominika Rusnak, from The Ivy Collection, as Fresca openings manager.

200 Degrees secures Liverpool site, plans three more openings this year: Nottingham-based coffee roaster and retailer 200 Degrees has secured a site in Liverpool and plans three more openings this year, Propel has learned. 200 Degrees will open the 1,950 square foot, 72-seater, coffee shop at the Metquarter shopping centre on Monday, 15 July for its ninth site. Co-founder Tom Vincent said: “We have wanted to open a coffee shop in Liverpool for some time, with its vibrant culture and huge creative heritage we feel 200 Degrees is a perfect fit. Our coffee shop is in a fantastic position on the ground floor of Metquarter, a thriving retail hub that seems to be bucking the trend on the high street through its mix of large brands and small independent companies.” Jennina O’Neill, Metquarter centre manager, added: “We are thrilled to welcome 200 Degrees to Metquarter. Our shoppers will have another space to relax and enjoy quality fresh food and coffee.” 200 Degrees, which is backed by Foresight Group, operates two outlets in Nottingham and one each in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln and Sheffield.

Gascon Connection to launch seafood concept at Westfield London next month for ninth site: Gascon Connection, the group behind Michelin-starred Club Gascon, is to launch seafood concept Catch Me at Westfield London’s newly refurbished Balcony Court for its ninth site in total. Catch Me will open on Saturday, 8 June offering seasonal specials and signature dishes such as king scallop crudo and crab and casarecce pasta. The menus have been created by Pascal Aussignac, chef patron at Club Gascon, and head chef Julien Carlon, and will also feature quick lunch options such as smoked haddock mini doughnuts, lobster and crayfish roll wrap and crispy cod burger. Carlon said: “We want to showcase the best seafood available in the UK, with a twist of Provence. The concise menu uses sustainably sourced fresh fish and shellfish, prepared daily. We couldn’t be more excited to bring this Mediterranean offering to Westfield.” Gascon Connection is led by Aussignac and business partner Vincent Labeyrie. Their flagship restaurant, Club Gascon, opened in St Paul’s in 1998 and was awarded a Michelin star in 2002. The company also operates Le Bar and Comptoir Gascon, both in Smithfield Market; Cigalon and Baranis, both in the Strand; and Duck ‘n’ Roll and Chip & Fish, which both have sites in White City, London, and Trinity, Leeds. Other brands new to Balcony Court will include burger concept Bleecker, Pizza Pilgrims, Laura Sheffield-led Corazon, which will open Tacos Corazon, and Master Bao, a concept by the team behind Daddy Bao in Peckham.

OHH Pub Company to add bedrooms and refine menus as part of new strategy: West Country-based The OHH Pub Company, led by Mark Warburton, has initiated a new strategy for the business that includes adding bedrooms and refining its food and drink menus. The company has reduced its estate from six sites to four but is looking to develop up to 25 letting bedrooms across the group in the next 24 months. Warburton told Propel: “Only one of our sites is tied to a brewery or pub company so we want to carefully sweat the assets and maximise the potential from all sites. Having spent the beginning of 2019 promoting internally and building on an ambitious workforce, not only will we add bedrooms but we’ll concentrate on refining the food and drink offering and service levels through intensified training schemes. We’ll also ramp up investment in underutilised outdoor areas, including the development of garden bars and pizza ovens at selected venues.” The OHH Pub Company’s sites are The Old House At Home in Burton and The Northey Arms in Box, both in Wilshire, and The Bear & Swan in Chew Magna and The Rising Sun in Blackwell, both in Somerset.

Barshu Group bound for Borough for third BaoziInn site: The team behind Barshu Restaurant in Soho, which offers spicy Sichuan specialities, is to open a third London site for its BaoziInn concept. The debut BaoziInn, which means “people’s canteen”, is in Stoney Street, Southwark, with a second site opening in Try Market Halls Victoria. Now the team will launch a flagship site in Southwark Street, Borough, in late June. The venue will be spread across three floors and include a large open kitchen on the ground floor and a cocktail bar and lounge on the first floor. The concept offers all-day Cantonese dim sum with Sichuan and Hunan influences. Signature dishes include prawn and pork wontons, and handmade dan dan noodles. Decor is a “modern, yet comfortable take on a Mao-style canteen”. Cantonese roast meat will be a central part of the Borough restaurant, with new dishes such as chef’s special recipe barbeque roast duck and caramelised barbeque roast pork, Hot Dinners reports.

White Brasserie Company to open ‘English pub with French chic’ in Dorset: White Brasserie Company, sister company to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc chain, is to launch its latest site, The Oaks in Highcliffe, Dorset, in July. The seaside pub will marry “English country charm and French coastal chic”, with consumers able to dine in quirky beach huts or the south-facing Garden Room. The brasserie menu will include chicken liver parfait, while international flavours will come in the form of plates such as gunpowder chicken with papaya salad, Moroccan lamb tagine and Malabar fish curry with toasted coconut. There will also be pub classics such as homemade pie of the week and Sunday roast served with bottomless gravy, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese and seasonal vegetables. The drinks list will include classic cocktails, spirits, wine, ale and beer. Ei Commercial Properties, the Ei Group business that manages assets leased to third parties, agreed a 20-year commercial free-of-tie lease in April for The Galleon, which will reopen as The Oaks on Monday, 1 July. The White Brasserie Company currently operates 19 pubs.

YO! launches debut at-home product range: YO! Sushi, the Mayfair Equity Partners-backed group, has launched its first at-home product range. The Japanese-inspired range is available in select Tesco stores and features seven sauces and condiments available in 100g pouches, 150g glass bottles and 250ml squeezy bottles. The sauces are aromatic katsu curry; sweet and sticky teriyaki; sweet and sour nanbanzuke; and soy, ginger and garlic yakisoba. The condiments are sweet and fruity tonkatsu; hot chilli chirosou; creamy Japanese mayo; and spicy sriracha mayo. YO! Sushi said it was planning a further retail roll-out in the autumn. The group is currently in the midst of a two-site concessions trial with Tesco and another with health and leisure business David Lloyd Clubs. The company operates almost 100 restaurants in eight countries, the majority in the UK.

Chik’n founders open second site having reinvigorated concept: Chik’n, the fried chicken fast food concept, has opened its second site, in Soho, having been reinvigorated by its founders after “almost failing”. Chik’n launched in July 2017 with the backing of Active Partners, while the “2.0 version” in Wardour Street will offer new Chik’n chops and “samurai” sauces as well as craft beer and soda. Carl Clarke, who founded Chik’n with David Wolanski, said: “Let’s be honest, in the beginning we were pretty rubbish – we got a fair bit of it wrong. It was as if Specsavers did fried chicken. It has been an emotional journey but now we know better. This is fast food, not rushed food. The brand didn’t really feel like ours but we’ve worked hard to create a menu and brand identity packed with personality, attitude, big flavours and good sourcing.” The debut Chik’n site is in Baker Street and is the sister concept of Chick ‘n’ Sours, which operates three sites in the capital.

Red Dog Saloon launches Nashville hot chicken concept in Hoxton Square: Red Dog Saloon has launched Nashville red-hot chicken concept Louie’s in the basement below its restaurant in Hoxton Square, east London. Louie’s menu focuses on Nashville fried chicken, which is coated in buttermilk, seasoned with paprika, garlic and brown sugar, and fried in cayenne-infused hot oil to give the chicken a “fiery, crispy coating”. Customers can create a bespoke serve – including the cut of chicken to level of spice – served with sides such as coleslaw and pickles. Red Dog Saloon founder Tom Brooke said: “This is an exciting time to introduce Nashville fried chicken to London. Louie’s serves red-hot chicken like nowhere else in the city.” Red Dog Saloon offers barbecue-style ribs, wings, pulled pork and burgers cooked using aromatic hickory wood in US-imported smokers. The brand operates two other London restaurants, in Soho and Clapham, and one each in Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton.

MeatLiquor to open West End venue next month: MeatLiquor is to open its flagship venue in London’s West End on Tuesday, 4 June. The venue will launch in Margaret Street, Marylebone, at a site formerly occupied by cocktail venue Match Bar. The opening will be a return home for MeatLiquor, which launched its debut restaurant just down the road. The new MeatLiquor W1 will feature an additional range of cocktails available in half, one, two and three-litre serves and a “poke for Jäger” button on each table, Hot Dinners reports. The venue will also have a late licence and a stage. MeatLiquor has eight London sites – in Shoreditch, Covent Garden, Queensway, Islington, King’s Cross, Dulwich, Croydon, and Battersea.

Shortlist revealed for best multiple operator in Ei Group excellence awards: Ei Group has revealed the shortlist for the best multiple operator category, part of this year’s Ei Awards For Excellence. The three operators are Jack Halsall (Timeless Inns), Rob Thompson (Appetite For Life), and Matt Bonilla (System 4 Leisure). Best multiple operator is one of 11 categories at the awards, with the winners announced during a ceremony at the Old Thorns Hotel in Hampshire on Tuesday, 2 July. Paul Harbottle, group commercial director of Ei Group, said: “These awards are a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on some of the passion and energy our publicans put into running their businesses and to reward them for their efforts.”

Fast-growing holiday park operator Away Resorts acquired in £100m deal: Private equity investor LDC is set to sell fast-growing holiday park operator Away Resorts to investment fund Bregal Freshstream in a deal believed to be worth more than £100m. LDC will retain a minority share in the Hertfordshire-headquartered company, which was founded ten years ago by Carl Castledine. Away Resorts operates six sites in the UK hosting almost 200,000 holidaymakers a year. LDC invested in Away Resorts in 2015 to support its expansion plans. The business subsequently acquired Mersea Island Holiday Park in Essex that year and Sandy Balls in the New Forest in 2017. In the past four years the business has invested more than £45m in its sites, while revenue increased to £63m in 2018 and employee numbers more than doubled to 950. Following the deal, Away Resorts is planning a further £25m investment in its portfolio with the backing of Bregal Freshstream and its other shareholders, Insider Media reports. The deal is subject to FCA approval. Castledine said: “Bringing Bregal Freshstream on board takes us on the next stage of our long-term vision to become a £1bn operator.”

Denbies to open England’s first carbon neutral vineyard hotel: Surrey-based wine estate Denbies is to open England’s first carbon neutral vineyard hotel as part of a £4m investment in its estate near Dorking. Denbies Vineyard Hotel will open in July featuring high-level thermal insulation and Tesla batteries – fed by solar panels – that will power the hotel via an intelligent control system, ensuring no energy is wasted. The hotel will offer 17 en-suite rooms alongside a bar and Vineyard Restaurant, while it will feature electric car charging points. Architect Tony Oke said: “This building process has been very different from the original Denbies Wine Estate design as the technology to design and produce a carbon neutral building was nowhere near as advanced 30 years ago. As technology has advanced, so the commitment to sustainable practice has evolved.” Denbies Wine Estate is England’s largest single-estate vineyard, with 265 acres currently under vine – 10% of the UK’s plantings. It has production capacity of 450,000 bottles.

Blossoms Syrup launches £150,000 crowdfunding campaign to scale up: Buckinghamshire-based Blossoms Syrup has launched a £150,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to scale up. The company is offering 23.08% equity in return for investment, which gives the company a pre-money valuation of £500,000. The company was founded by Aude Dupont Dudley in 2010 and produces 15 super-premium syrups. The pitch states: “We are seeking investment for the first time to develop sales, marketing and products, and expand overseas. Blossoms Syrup began in our family kitchen in Buckinghamshire in June 2010 after I gave up my career in the aerospace industry. The syrups had to be unique in taste and provide the quality and intensity required by bartenders. Our syrups have become premium ingredients for cocktails and food. I started supplying Michelin-starred bars such as Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay in 2012. Today we also supply premium wholesalers, giving us access to hundreds of independents and food halls in the UK.”

 
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