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Mon 13th Nov 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Chopstix acquires Yangtze brand: Chopstix Group, which owns and operates the eponymous chain of 75 noodle restaurants across the country, has completed its first acquisition. The company has bought the Yangtze chain of restaurants from The Wok for an undisclosed sum, in a deal backed by Metro Bank. Launched in 2006 and employing 70 staff, Yangtze operates nine premium, quick-service Chinese restaurants across the UK and Ireland. As a result of the acquisition, Chopstix Group is now active within 35 shopping centres across the country. The Chopstix brand operates 75 units in total, 26 of which are located within shopping centres, while all nine Yangtze outlets are located within shopping centres, including the Merryhill Centre in Dudley and the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield. Chopstix Group was founded by Sam Elia and Menashe Sadik in 2001, and together, they have overseen the growth of their Oriental food brand, Chopstix. Under their stewardship, the brand, which offers consumers a “faster, fresher, healthier alternative” in the food-to-go sector, has seen its outlet count double in the past 18 months. However Elia and Sadik said have kept a close eye on the market over the past year or so, assessing potential purchase options. Elia added: “We have been keen to extend our restaurant interests in the ‘food-to-go’ sector for a number of years, however, we were prepared to wait until the right proposition presented itself. With this acquisition, we are pleased to add a second premium brand to our portfolio, and fully intend to maximise the potential of both Chopstix and Yangtze in the months and years ahead.” Sadik added: “Now our first acquisition has been concluded, there is a real appetite and desire to consider future activity. We are already assessing a number of potential deals, and while Chopstix and Yangtze share an obvious affinity, we are not inclined to limit ourselves exclusively to the Oriental influenced sector, as we seek to achieve the group’s acquisition and growth ambitions.” GVA NI represented Chopstix Group in the acquisition.

Industry News:

Full details revealed of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator day two line-up: Full details have been revealed of the day two line-up of Restaurant Marketer & Innovator – the most comprehensive marketing conference the sector has seen. Propel has launched the two-day event in partnership with Think Hospitality, which takes place on Wednesday, 17 January and Thursday, 18 January at One Moorgate Place in London. The conference will bring together marketers, strategists and business leaders from the foodservice sector to understand trends, share success, and define the future of the sector. A total of 40 speakers from four countries, representing more than 30 brands, will provide advice and insight. The second day, curated by Ann Elliott, will feature Emma Woods, customer director at Wagamama, who will share the importance of understanding your customer and highlights how Wagamama has developed a winning strategy driving sector-leading results. Susan Martindale, group HR director at Mitchells & Butlers, will highlight the importance of people to our sector and discuss the increasing importance of a close relationship between people and marketing teams. Katrina Lawson, head of marketing at Costa Coffee, will reveal how one of the world’s most successful coffee brands innovates. Kathryn Austin, chief people and marketing officer at Pizza Hut Restaurants, will give an insight into how marketing played a significant part in the brand’s turnaround. Kate Eastwood, sales director at Revolution Bars Group, will share how the company has grown revenue through pre-booked sales, driving overall business performance. Senior marketing executives including YO! Sushi marketing director Luisa Fernandez, Darwin & Wallace founder Mel Marriott, Real Eating Co managing director Helena Hudson, and Pamela McNamara, commercial and operations director at Bluestone Wales, will reveal their strategies for 2018, share their successes from 2017 and give a glimpse of how marketing is managed at their companies. Tania Rahman, founder of Chit Chat Chai, Laura Sheffield, founder of Corazon, Celia Farrer, founder of Eat Poké, and BabaBoom founder Eve Bugler will discuss how they launched their successful concepts with limited resources. Hayley Simpson, head of marketing at The Breakfast Club, will talk about the company’s no-promotion approach to marketing, while Camilla Katte, marketing director at Giggling Squid, will share how marketing is leveraged to successfully launch sites at pace. Sarah Weir, managing director of Albion & East, will talk about the importance of getting broader buy-in to your brand and marketing efforts to get the best results at the coalface. Prices for the two days are £525 plus VAT for operators and £795 plus VAT for suppliers. A one-day rate of £345 plus VAT is available to operators only. To book, click here. For more information or to book contact Jo Charity on 01444 810304 or or Anne Steele on 01444 817691 or
Energy price rises could cut operator margins by 0.5%: Energy price rises – driven by new environmental taxes and changes to the charging structure at peak times – could cut hospitality operators’ margins by 0.5%. Delegates at the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum were told the new taxes and charges would increase energy prices by 20% by 2020, assuming the wholesale energy price remained constant. This would increase costs by £5,000 a year for an average pub or restaurant. The forum said without action, a typical hospitality operator spending 2.5% of turnover on energy costs would see margins reduce by 0.5%. A number of mitigating actions were discussed, including analytics to minimise energy waste, battery storage, on-site generation, and buying renewable energy direct from source. Many leading operators reinvest up to 10% of their energy spend in energy-saving initiatives, with the result they achieve an additional 2.7% on margins against the most inefficient operators. Price changes would put inefficient operators at even more of a disadvantage, delegates were told. Mark Chapman, of the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum, said: “The latest changes to energy charges will particularly affect hospitality operators, which have high-usage at peak hours. Without action, this will be a further cost increase eating into operator margins. There are many initiatives that can help operators improve efficiency and profitability, which could drive savings way above proposed price increases.”

Morrisons trials in-store bar ahead of proposed UK roll-out: Morrisons is trialling an in-store bar at its supermarket cafe in Guiseley, North Yorkshire, ahead of a proposed UK roll-out. The bar, named Baritsa, offers beer on tap as well as bottled ciders, craft ale and lagers. Saltaire Blonde ale and Frizzante Italian wine are currently on the pumps. Pints are priced at £3.20 and staff will be collecting feedback from customers before the idea is rolled out across the UK. Leeds City Council has granted a licence to allow the supermarket to serve alcohol between 6am and midnight. Morrisons said it was a trial store for this type of licence, which if successful would be rolled out across the country.
London landlord makes £11.9m through Airbnb: A property landlord in London made £11.9m in a single year renting out 881 properties through Airbnb, according to new research. That figure represents the most made in revenue by any Airbnb landlord in the world in the past 12 months, but another landlord was not far behind, raking in £11.8m through 504 properties in Bali. Top owners in cities including Cape Town, Paris and Barcelona all banked at least a million pounds through dozens of flats, rooms and houses. Scott Shatford, chief executive of Airbnb analysts AirDNA, told the Daily Telegraph: "Airbnb is no longer a community just for individuals renting out their space or properties on their own. We’re seeing traditional property management companies operating as many as 1,000 listings. These numbers don’t show a multimillionaire sitting on a gold mine. These are businesses that have emerged in this new economy, with hundreds of employees, managing other people’s second homes.” The figures released to Telegraph Travel showed earnings are highest in Bali, the Indonesian holiday island, where average revenue per user is £31,294, but a typical landlord in Tokyo is still making £27,581 and in London the figure is £16,003. A spokesman for Airbnb said the typical host in the UK on average earned £3,000 per annum and hosted for three nights a month. He added 80% of its UK hosts were “sharing space in their primary home”.
Pubs Code Adjudicator’s survey is ‘deeply flawed exercise’, says British Pub Confederation: The tenants’ survey announced by the Pubs Code adjudicator is a “deeply flawed exercise”, according to The British Pub Confederation. The confederation said the survey is only asking a “pre-selected group of tied pub tenants” and not all those who had so far used or tried to use the Pubs Code to seek the Market Rent Only (MRO) option. The confederation stated: “Even though it would be perfectly possible to include and approach all tenants who have used or tried to use the Pubs Code to seek MRO – and thus see if it is actually working – Pubs Code adjudicator Paul Newby is only asking the market research company to speak to a random group of tenants about their ‘awareness’ of the code. This appears to be a meaningless PR exercise rather than any real attempt to establish how and why the Pubs Code is operating in practice.” The confederation is urging all tenants who have tried to access the MRO option to write to Newby and copy them in so the adjudicator’s office will be “unable to deny they have been sent evidence of the failures of the code process and denial of access to the MRO option”. British Pub Confederation chairman Greg Mulholland said: “The Pubs Code adjudicator’s plans to speak to a small, pre-selected group of tenants sounds suspiciously like a PR exercise and not a real attempt to establish what is happening with the Pubs Code. To be meaningful, the survey must be changed to include all tenants who have tried to use the Pubs Code to seek the MRO option or it will be a whitewash.”
Female hospitality salaries still lagging behind men's: Female hospitality salaries are still lagging behind men’s despite growing awareness of the need to retain and promote women in the sector during the continuing recruitment crisis, according to new research. Data from The Change Group showed the average male chef salary of those who registered with the recruitment agency in 2017 was still 14% higher than the average annual pay for a female chef. This equates to men earning £3,598 more than women. The gap is closer in front-of-house pay where the average male salary was 9% higher than that of women, or £2,738 more. The Change Group founder and director Craig Allen said, “There is progress being made in terms of gender equality in hospitality. The data shows that there is more work to be done in order to ensure women are rewarded equally to men for doing the same job. Attracting and retaining talent continues to be a major priority for the hospitality industry. It’s time to recognise that women can play a part in helping us to address the talent gap. Rewarding women properly is key to attracting and keeping them in the industry.”
London hotel market reports second-highest average daily rate level for any October since 1994: Hotels in London last month reported the second-highest average daily rate level for any October since 1994, despite a year-on-year decline in occupancy levels. STR data for the month revealed the average daily rate rose 2.3% year-on-year to £152.27. There was also a 4.0% rise in supply compared with October 2016, while demand also increased during the period, by 2.0%. Occupancy levels fell 1.9% to 83.4%, the lowest October occupancy level in London since 2006. Because demand grew during the period, STR analysts attributed the decline in occupancy to the significant increase in supply. Revpar increased 0.4% year-on-year to £126.96. STR said absolute performance levels were especially strong during the Helitech International helicopter expo and conference, which took place from 3 to 5 October, with occupancy at 94.8% and 96.3% during the first two nights and average daily rates at £182.38 and £185.28 respectively.
Pubs to win from great walks of England campaign: Hundreds of pubs on and near Britain’s great national trails stand to benefit from a new tourism promotion, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). Seven “great walks of England” will be showcased in a new £1.2m campaign targeting key overseas markets in Germany, the Netherlands, France and the US. Great National Walks will combine the best of Britain’s coastal and rural landscapes and highlight pubs, beer, food and accommodation available along the way. The BBPA and Stay in a Pub/Cask Marque will work in partnership with Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire to support the scheme. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “There are hundreds of great pubs on Britain’s walking trails with many offering fantastic accommodation. This campaign will bring this to the attention of overseas tourist markets.” Stay In A Pub founder Paul Nunny added: “According to Visit England, one of the top three ‘musts’ listed by inbound tourists is to visit an English pub. Already 15% of enquiries on the Stay In A Pub website are from abroad. Cask Marque will also create ale trails on each walk, building on the success of the World’s Biggest Ale Trail, which now has 30,000 followers. This campaign will be a big win for the industry.”
50 MPs sign letter calling for freeze on beer duty: A letter signed by 50 MPs from all parties has been delivered to the treasury to demonstrate the support for British pubs. It calls on the chancellor to freeze beer duty for the rest of this parliament and introduce an annual £5,000 business rate relief for pubs. The letter comes in the wake of a parliamentary debate in which 24 MPs urged the government to ease the growing tax burden on pubs, which are on average paying nearly £140,000 in taxes every year. Campaign for Real Ale chief executive Tim Page said: “Pubs play a hugely important role in our social lives and the cohesion of their local communities. They act as a common meeting ground for friends, family and colleagues alike, helping to bring people from all walks of life together. In many areas they are the last remaining public meeting space, with so many libraries and meeting halls already lost. Yet pubs cannot continue to shoulder such a massive tax burden and ultimately it is the consumer that is affected when the price of a pint goes up. We need the treasury to act now by delivering a Budget for Britain’s pubs.”

Company News:

Cumbrian-based The Lakes Distillery passes £1m crowdfunding target within three days of launch: Cumbrian-based The Lakes Distillery has passed its £1m target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within three days of launch. The company, founded by Paul Currie and Nigel Mills, is offering a 2.46% equity stake in return for the funds as it aims to increase the production of whisky stock and invest in new warehousing and distribution facilities. Although £1m was the minimum target, the company, which has generated £2.8m of its £9.5m revenue from hospitality companies since launching in 2014, now has its sights set on raising £1.75m. So far, 1,701 investors have pledged £1,155,240 with 26 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £50,000. The company, which is based near Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District National Park, has so far produced the equivalent of more than 600,000 bottles of whisky spirit with an estimated £30m of retail value. It stated: "We are incredibly passionate about our project so to have some many people respond positively to our pitch is quite humbling. Thank you all for the continued support. We have both the EIS capacity and appetite for further funding and so the round will remain open for the time being. Any additional funds we raise will further enhance our ability to meet our goals and drive value through increased stock lay down. We relish the challenge in not only creating value for our new and existing shareholders but also creating great spirits that they will truly savour all the more now that they have helped make it happen."
Aprirose sells Tower Bridge hotel site for £47m: Real estate investment company Aprirose, which acquired a 73-asset portfolio from Mitchells & Butlers in July that will operate under new pub company banner Milton Pubs and Taverns, has sold the freehold of a site occupied by a Travelodge hotel in Tower Bridge for £47.1m. Aprirose has sold the building that is home to the five-storey, 190-bedroom hotel, which also features a cafe and bar, to CCLA Investment Management on behalf of Local Authorities Mutual Investment Trust. Travelodge recently completed the refurbishment of 71 bedrooms to create “SuperRooms”. Aprirose chief executive Manish Gudka told BDaily: “The sale of this property represents a strong return for our investors in line with our original strategy of investing in a fast-improving area of London. The asset, which we bought during a time of economic instability, provides secure income in a prime location and is a well-respected brand. We continue to seek further opportunities as we look to expand our diverse real estate portfolio across all asset classes.” In September, Aprirose acquired hotel group QHotel for £525m and the sale of the Tower Bridge site means the company now has 6,559 bedrooms in its portfolio. Aprirose was represented by Philips Lockhart and Knight Frank. CCLA was represented by Chris Freer-Smith and hotel specialists J D Partners.
Dirty Martini to open second regional site in Leeds this week, tenth in total: Cocktail bar group Dirty Martini, which is owned by CG Restaurants & Bars, is to open its second venue outside London, in Leeds this week. The new venue will open in King Street on Saturday (18 November) and will be the brand’s tenth site in total. The venue will be split over two floors, with a bar on each, while Dirty Martini has created The White Rose Martini exclusively for the site. General manager Stuart Grimson told Insider Media: “Leeds has such as wonderful community spirit we feel fortunate to be part of it.” Last month, CG Restaurants chief executive Scott Matthews told Propel regional growth had always been part of the strategy for the Dirty Martini brand. The regional roll-out began with an opening in Cardiff, which delivered 12,000 pre-booked covers in the first ten weeks of trading assuring Matthews regional expansion was the “next step”. Dirty Martini will also open a bar in Manchester this month and in Birmingham in February. Matthews said: “We believe we have the potential to open more than 50 sites across the country.”
Castle Rock Brewery opens 24th site: Castle Rock Brewery, the Nottingham-based brewer and pub company, has opened its 24th site. The company has launched pub restaurant Yarn inside the city's Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall. Called Yarn in reference to the tales told on the nearby stage, the ground floor pub and restaurant is part of the venue’s £3.3m transformation project that has taken place over the summer. Operated as a joint venture with Leeds-based CGC Event Caterers, Yarn offers casual dining and has three Castle Rock beers permanently on the bar alongside a choice of craft beers from Nottingham and beyond. The extended upstairs Dress Circle Restaurant also offers a pre-show dining experience. The roof terrace will shortly be back in use, giving views across the city.

Pilling and Pride secures second site: Damson Restaurant Group co-owner Steve Pilling and ex-Gaucho managing partner Angus Pride have secured the second site for their new company Pilling and Pride. The duo has acquired the Stonemasons Arms in the village of Timperley in Greater Manchester, which will reopen on Saturday, 2 December. The pub is being transformed into a “destination premium casual dining and drinking venue” that will serve 98 covers inside and 90 covers outside. It will have an extensive food and drink menu, including contemporary brunch dishes, wood-fired pizzas, steaks, home comforts and Sunday lunch, as well as a range of craft beers, fine wines, artisan coffees, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. The core Greene King beer offer will remain, supplemented by craft beers from Pilling’s own brewery, The Gasworks. Pilling said: “The Stonemason Arms has been the heart of the community in Timperley for many years and it is great to get the opportunity to carry on the legacy of this gem of a venue. Timperley is really on the up and with an influx of new businesses and families moving to the area, it is the right time to introduce our concept to the village.” Pilling and Pride recently revamped the Dog and Partridge in Didsbury under its “Terroir Pub” brand for its first venue.

Birmingham-based cafe concept Damascena to open third site: Birmingham-based cafe concept Damascena is to open its third site in the city, this time in Harborne. The new venue will open at a former Age UK charity shop in High Street and feature decor with designs that date to the Ottoman Empire. Anas Zein launched Damascena in Moseley in 2014, opening a much larger site in Temple Row West in the centre of Birmingham in February this year. Dishes include spiced lamb flatbread and Egyptian fava bean stew, alongside mixed mezze platters. The drinks list includes Turkish coffee and green, cinnamon and cardamom teas. Zein told the Birmingham Mail: “We wanted to open a place in Harborne for a long time – even before we opened in the city centre. We started looking for sites earlier this year and when we came across this location we knew it was perfect. It is the same size as our city centre cafe so we’ll recreate the same look and feel – sourcing furnishing and interiors from Turkey. All being well, we should be ready to open in March.”
El Mexicana starts roll-out of new casual dining concept Cocina with Norwich and Swansea openings: Mexican burrito specialist El Mexicana has launched its casual dining concept Cocina with openings in Norwich and Swansea. Cocina has opened in Princess Way, Swansea, and Timberhill Terrace, Norwich, the first of two sites opening in the city with a second venue due to open in Tombland soon. Cocina is a sister concept aimed at the casual dining sector and El Mexicana, which operates 21 stores across the UK, is set to launch other stores in Milton Keynes and Telford. The menu features a variety of twists on classic Mexican dishes such as tacos and burritos as well as burgers, chicken wing roulette and a selection of cocktails. El Mexicana was founded in 2011, with its first restaurant opening at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.
Whitbread lodges plans to add Bar and Block restaurant to Nottingham Premier Inn: Whitbread has lodged plans to open a site for its all-day casual dining brand Bar + Block, this time in Nottingham. The company has submitted an application to the city council to open the restaurant within its Premier Inn hotel in Chapel Bar, reports The Business Desk. Whitbread launched Bar + Block last year in Birmingham and has since opened sites in King’s Cross, Whiteley and Bath. The main menu includes steaks that are hand cut to order as well as the restaurant’s "Butchers Block" – a rotating range of limited time only, one-of-a-kind steaks. Bar + Block also offers an extensive drinks list, with a focus on craft beer and cider, innovative cocktails, and a specially curated wine list.
Leeds-based Greek restaurant and bar lodges plans for second site: Leeds-based Greek restaurant and bar Santorini Bar & Grill has lodged plans for its second site. Owner Ramin Darvish-Narenjbon has applied to the city council to convert a former Yorkshire Bank branch in Headingley. The 60-cover restaurant would be operated and managed in the same way as the brand’s current venue in Otley Road, reports Insider Media. The application stated: “The proposed restaurant re-use of this attractive building won’t require external alterations or additions. The premises will positively enhance the significance and setting of the conservation area and character of the street scene.”
Fiveways Hospitality secures funding to roll-out pod hotel concept: Birmingham-based hotel management company Fiveways Hospitality has secured new funding to roll-out its pod hotel brand NiteNite. The company is looking for sites in London and other key provincial cities with an aim to open ten pod hotels. The company, which manages NiteNite hotels in Birmingham as well as Park Regis and Holiday Inn Express sites in the city, is exploring freehold, leasehold and joint-venture opportunities. NiteNite was the first purpose-designed and built pod hotel to open in the UK in 2006 and has been operated by an affiliated company to Fiveways Hospitality since 2013, when it was bought out of receivership from the original owners. The company is looking for disused inner city retail space, redundant office space, basement car parks or locations where a hotel could be part of a mixed-use scheme. The new “Generation 2” NiteNite model has no windows, while a 6.8 square metre double room has en-suite and hi-tech facilities, The Business Desk reports. Fiveways Hospitality also operates Pelham House in Lewes, East Sussex. In September, the company signed a new master licensing agreement with Australian-owned StayWell Hospitality Group to enable StayWell to significantly grow its Park Regis and Leisure Inn brands in the UK market.
Stonegate Pub Company to reopen former Exeter Walkabout site this week under pub format: Stonegate Pub Company will launch the Exonian this week after converting its Walkabout site in Exeter to a pub format, which it believes will “sit better” in the market place. The company will reopen the venue in Fore Street on Friday (17 November) aimed at millennials and students following a £400,000 investment. The Exonian will feature relaxed workspaces, a “social squirrels” website, multiple sports screenings, live music, and modern essentials such as charging points, free printing and high-speed Wi-Fi. The venue will also feature an indoor Garden Zone with artificial grass, deckchairs, neon lighting, a mural of Exeter, and a quirky theme based on Coldplay track Yellow in recognition of local legend Chris Martin. Drinks will include a ten-tap cider wall, four cask ales, six rotating craft beers, retro-inspired cocktails and “boozy smoothies”. The venue will open from 9am for grab-and-go pastries and coffee, with “grazing food” available throughout the day. Stonegate bought the Walkabout brand nine months ago, converting some of its original pubs to the brand and others to different formats. Exonian manager Esther Hollick said: “You can work here, play here and be alone or party. Bingo, smartphone speed quiz, clash of the bands, man versus food challenges, we’ve got it all.”
Plans unveiled to add accommodation to Leeds golf centre as part of £9m expansion: Parklane Group has unveiled plans to add eco-lodges, a spa and fitness facilities to its Leeds Golf Centre as part of a £9m expansion. The accommodation comprises 38 eco-lodges, while the fitness facilities include a gym along with a spa with therapy rooms. A new adventure golf course and a nine-hole academy golf course is also planned. A new two-storey driving range with 30 state-of-the-art bays would also be built. The company, which acquired the centre in 2011, has begun discussions with Leeds City Council with view to submitting formal planning applications this month. Work is scheduled to begin in autumn 2018 with estimated completion in 2020. Parklane Group managing director Naveen Ahmed told Insider Media: "Yorkshire and north Leeds is blessed with some of the best courses in the UK, with golf tourists travelling for a far to enjoy the unique and welcoming golf environments, including our 18-hole course at Wike Ridge. However, without suitable accommodation and facilities, it can be seen to drive golf groups away from the region to all-in-one complexes."
Young’s reopens Tufnell Park pub as managed house: Young’s has reopened the Lord Palmerston pub in Tufnell Park, north London, as part of its managed estate. The pub in Dartmouth Park Hill was previously a tenanted site and has undergone an extensive refurbishment with original features such as fireplaces, flooring and the bar restored and complemented by contemporary artwork and geometric patterned wallpaper. In keeping with its ethos of providing food-led pubs, Young’s has introduced a 25-cover dining area, The Diary, which also features The Viscount Table – a sharing table for up to eight diners. The menu features seasonal British dishes and sharing boards, while the bar has a wide selection of London craft beers and Young’s own brews. The pub also has an upstairs private dining room that can host 35 seated or 60 standing, and a rear courtyard and front terrace for alfresco dining. General manager Carlos Loureiro said: “We look forward to greeting locals once again to the Lord Palmerston as well as welcoming new faces, ensuring this remains a pub for the whole community to enjoy.”
Creams Cafe to launch Liverpool site: Dessert parlour operator Creams Cafe is to open a site in Liverpool. The venue will launch in the Liverpool ONE leisure complex, offering waffles, 36 varieties of Italian gelato-style ice cream, sundaes, including the hot chocolate fudge volcano, and crepes such as the Belgian banana burrito. Drinks will include milkshakes, freakshakes, smoothies and mocktails, the Liverpool Echo reports. The company, which was founded in London in 2008, operates about 60 cafes in the UK. Last month, franchisee SB Group opened its second Creams site in Manchester.
Shakespeare-inspired attraction Magic Alley to move to larger Stratford-upon-Avon site: Stratford-upon-Avon attraction Magic Alley is moving to a larger site in the centre of the Warwickshire town. Magic Alley, which is owned by STMO Media Group, is based in Henley Street and takes visitors on a journey featuring a time-travelling William Shakespeare. The new venue will open in the spring, occupying 4,250 square feet over two floors of the Bell Court leisure complex. The attraction will feature an animatronic bust of Shakespeare, hatching dragon eggs, a root beer bar and 1,500 square feet of retail space. STMO Media Group creative director Dave Matthews said: “This will be our new flagship store heralding an exciting phase of growth for the company.” Magic Alley launched more than 25 years ago, with the original store in Greenwich, London. Bell Court is anchored by a boutique Everyman cinema and bar, with foodservice brands that include ASK Italian, Nando’s and Veeno.
Domino’s Pizza awards lead digital account for UK and Ireland to VCCP: Domino’s Pizza has awarded its lead digital account for UK and Ireland to agency VCCP. Having already picked up the brand’s UK advertising account, VCCP won a competitive pitch handled by Hamilton Associates. The remit includes leading digital innovation for the Domino’s brand alongside work for social media, customer relationship management, content and digital advertising. Domino’s called the review in September after splitting with agency Iris. Domino’s head of digital Nick Dutch told Campaign Live: “World-class digital communications and customer experience are crucial to the ongoing success of the brand in the UK and Ireland. We’re confident that in VCCP we’ve found the partner who can work with us to deliver this across all our digital channels and beyond.” 

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