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Wed 20th Sep 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hospitality smart checklist app Trail to join UK Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator programme: Trail, a smart checklist tool that helps hospitality operators streamline their daily processes, has been selected to join the inaugural UK Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator programme to help scale and expand the business. The company, founded in 2014 by Joe Cripps (ex-Fourth) and Wil Grace, was one of five companies in Bristol chosen for the six-month programme. Run by members of Oracle’s research and development team, the programme provides mentoring from technical and business experts, state-of-the-art technology, a co-working space, access to Oracle customers, partners and investors, and free Oracle Cloud credits. It also offers an ever-expanding global network of startup peers. Cripps said: “We’re a young startup and the Oracle programme offers unrivalled global enterprise experience and support, helping take Trail up a gear during our first year of growth. From using machine-learning to derive the perfect service day to the ‘Internet of Things’ and automation of repetitive and mundane tasks, Oracle’s experts can help us tackle complexity and save teams time. In return, Trail offers a means to deliver critical insights and actions to a young and highly mobile workforce – a way to offer enterprise tech to a whole section of the workforce previously out of reach.” Trail spent two years developing the product with Itsu, Tossed and Ei Group while recent customers include Leon, Gail’s and Bill’s. Trail said the number of sites where the app is used has tripled in six months, with a target of 600 by January 2018. It raised £1m this year from a network of hospitality-led angels on top of a previous £1.5m.

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Boxpark founder to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 1 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Roger Wade, founder of Boxpark, with sites in Shoreditch and Croydon, will talk about the strategy behind the food and beverage offer at Boxpark and future plans. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Surly staff and lack of privacy top British hotel guests’ gripes: Unfriendly staff, unclean toilets and a lack of privacy are among the main gripes of British hotel guests, according to the latest edition of The Good Hotel Guide. More than half (52%) of the 593 guests surveyed criticised surly staff, while more than a quarter (28%) hit out at poorly trained hotel workers. A similar amount (27%) dislike staff using Americanisms such as “you guys” and “enjoy”, while only 8% of guests are bothered when staff don’t carry their bags. Privacy is a concern, with the trend for a free-standing bath in the bedroom unpopular with more than one-third (34%) of respondents, while almost half (49%) dislike a “lack of privacy in the bathroom”. Bedroom gripes include an uncomfortable or saggy bed (59%), poor-quality bedding (48%), windows that don’t open (38%) and poor lighting by the bed (30%). Captive coat hangers and UHT/long-life milk frustrates 15% of guests. Bathroom complaints centre on a lack of cleanliness, with unclean toilets (86%), hair in the plughole (74%) and dirty shower curtains (61%) the main gripes. Other complaints include wet rooms that flood the floor (27%), and refillable soap/shampoo dispensers (13%) – perhaps because guests like to take their hotel toiletries home, the guide suggests. When it comes to hotel dining, poor-quality tea, coffee and juice topped the list (33%), followed by a dislike of over-packaged condiments (21%). Almost a fifth of guests (17%) find menus that remain unchanged for several days frustrating, while 9% dislike paper napkins and 8% don’t think hotels cater enough for restrictive diets. Other grumbles include discretionary service charges added to a bill (46%), confusing bills (31%), irritating background music (29%), poor Wi-Fi (26%) and lengthy Wi-Fi codes (10%). The Good Hotel Guide 2018: Great Britain & Ireland will be published on Monday, 9 October.

Food and drinks sector boosts lettings in Liverpool and Manchester: Retail and leisure lettings in Liverpool and Manchester have been heavily weighted towards food and beverage (F&B) operators in the past 18 months, according to agent Savills, as the sector continues to grow in both cities despite a slowdown in expansion by national F&B brands across the UK. In Liverpool, 40% of new city centre retail and leisure occupants since the first quarter of 2016 have been F&B operators, rising to 41% for Manchester. An increase in street food and healthy grab-and-go operators, many of them independent, is driving F&B growth in both cities, Savills said. Liverpool city centre saw 161 retail and leisure sites open in the past 18 months, of which 65 were F&B brands. Among the 65 deals, 25 involved cafes and restaurants. Since the first quarter of 2016, one-quarter (25%) of the city’s F&B lettings have involved change of use of A1, A2 and B1 properties. There have been 246 new retail and leisure occupants in Manchester city centre since the first quarter of 2016, of which 102 were F&B. Cafes and restaurants accounted for almost a quarter (24%) of those openings. A third of F&B lettings in Manchester during the period saw operators change planning use from A1, A2 and B1. Savills retail research director Tom Whittington said: “Two to three years ago, many F&B operators were seeking larger, combined units. Partly due to the increase in independent operators, there is now growing appetite for smaller spaces. This has seen the average unit sizes let to F&B brands in Liverpool and Manchester reduce 25% to 805 square feet over the last year and a half, largely due to increased growth in grab and go operators.” Manchester tops Savills’ ranking for growth in the UK’s casual dining sector since 2015, with 32 city centre openings. Liverpool ranks ninth, with ten openings during the period.

Coffee sales between 8am and 10am make up more than 80% of total purchases at restaurants and cafes: Coffee sales between 8am and 10am make up more than 80% of total purchases at restaurants and cafes, according to new research. The data by customer insights company Ordoo revealed orders between those times shot up 60%. The findings also revealed how people actually drink their coffee throughout the day and the week, as well as demonstrating which types of coffee are most popular in specific neighbourhoods. In east London, the latte is by far the most popular beverage, with more than half (50.5%) of people reordering lattes after having their first. Lattes account for 37% of total coffee shop drink reorders. The need for caffeine appears to fall between the hours of midday and 2pm, with orders plummeting more than 60% from their early-morning highs. However, on Monday afternoons average coffee consumption jumps 135% compared with other days of the week. Ordoo chief executive Tom Dewhurst said: “We can see coffee is one of the most popular products for our partners and it’s great they can use this level of customer insight to understand what is driving demand. For venues, it’s powerful to know exactly what their customers want and at what time. Our partners in east London were able to see lattes were by far the most popular coffee, and provide for their customers accordingly.”

Consumers twice as likely to use smartphone to pay for lunch than year ago: Consumers are twice as likely to use their smartphone to pay for lunch than they were a year ago, according to research by insight expert Vianet. The company said its figures, taken from a panel of 2,000 consumers, echoed World Pay figures that show the number of mobile transactions as a percentage of all in-store purchases grew 247% in the UK during the past year. Vianet said the restaurant and bar trade, where easy and quick transactions can have a significant impact on customer experience, was the main driver behind growth. Vianet also pointed out the growing use of technology in wearable items such as smart watches, with the Smart Payment Association predicting half of consumers in major markets will use a combination of smartphones and wearables to make payments by 2018. Vianet managing director Matt Lane said: “When people think of contactless payment they often limit their thinking to contactless card devices, when in reality the opportunities are endless. From car keys, to watches and even glasses, novel and practical ways to make payment easier are springing up everywhere and making consumers’ lives easier.”

ALMR urges Scottish pubs and restaurants to consider rates appeal as deadline looms: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has urged pubs and restaurants in Scotland to appeal against new rateable values before the deadline on Saturday, 30 September. The ALMR said that once the deadline had passed, Scottish businesses were likely to be stuck with bills for the next five years that had been calculated on 2015 valuations. The Scottish government could act on proposals from the recent Barclay Review of business rates, which recommends cutting revaluations from five to three years, but the ALMR said any changes were unlikely to be implemented before 2022. Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We welcome the fact the Scottish government is about to embark on a review of business rates, setting an example that ought to be mirrored in England and Wales. However, before that takes place ratepayers in Scotland have little time to avoid being locked into overly burdensome rates due to overvaluation. With so many rising costs burdening operators, it is crucial they seriously consider an appeal if they feel they have any case regarding over-valuation of their venue. Failure to do so could result in unfairly high costs for the next five years, a period during which many other cost factors may come into play. The enormity and inequity of business rates on our sector, while online companies reap the benefits of the system, will remain a prime focus for us as we approach November’s Budget. Reliefs have been welcome but are a sticking plaster, not a long-term solution.”

Industry leaders to launch charity initiative A Good Dinner: UK restaurant owners, investors and operators have come together to launch a charity initiative that aims to raise money to help tackle food and water poverty at home and abroad. A Good Dinner has been created by a group of people from within and around the bar and restaurant industry as a way to give something back. The group includes Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor and chairman of Rockfish Restaurants, chef and restaurateur Mark Hix, and Karen Jones, chairman of Hawksmoor, former chief executive of Spirit Group, and co-founder of Café Rouge and Food & Fuel. The initiative will launch with the first A Good Dinner event on Wednesday, 11 October. Action Against Hunger, The One Foundation and Magic Breakfast will benefit equally from the event. Inception Group and Hawksmoor will provide drinks and dinner at The Bloomsbury Ballroom in Holborn for about 200 guests, who will be invited to take part in a “money can’t buy auction” followed by an exclusive after-party. Tables of ten will be available. For more information or to book, email Katy Scruton at katy@agooddinner.org.uk

Cask Marque to reveal survey findings at seminar next week: Cask Marque, the industry watchdog for quality beer, will unveil the findings of this year’s Cask Report at a seminar next Wednesday (27 September) at the Lyric Theatre, in Hammersmith, west London. The event will reveal new findings about cask from a large YouGov survey, which include 37% of lager drinkers now drink craft. Innis & Gunn managing director James Coyle, Mitchells & Butlers beer buyer Ben Lockwood, and Society of Independent Brewers managing director Mike Benner will share their views on cask. Meanwhile, shopper marketing agency RMI will provide insights and some key techniques used by major players in the grocery sector to drive footfall and increased spend per visit. It will explore how these techniques could be reapplied in the on-trade. There will also be a session on cask ale and tourism. The event starts at 10.30am with coffee from 9.45am and will finish at 1pm with a networking lunch. To attend, email angie@cask-marque.co.uk

Good Housekeeping names Food Awards winners: PizzaExpress has been named best high-street restaurant chain in Good Housekeeping’s 13th annual Food Awards, as voted for by the magazine’s readers. The brand topped a poll of more than 5,000 votes, with Nando’s and Casual Dining Group-owned Bella Italia named as runners up. Readers voted San Pellegrino as best soft drink, beating Fever-Tree and Schweppes, while Aldi beat Waitrose and Sainsbury’s to the best supermarket title and was also named best wine retailer. Waitrose won the “best supermarket for British produce” category ahead of The Co-op and Morrisons. The BBC’s MasterChef won best cookery show on television, ahead of Saturday Kitchen and Mary Berry Everyday. Jamie Oliver was named best celebrity chef ahead of Mary Berry and James Martin. However, the former Bake Off star beat Oliver to the best cookbook title. Good Housekeeping executive editor Michelle Hather said: “Our readers are incredibly discerning – they love to cook and shop around for the best produce.”

Sunday Times appoints Marina O’Loughlin as restaurant critic to follow AA Gill: The Sunday Times has appointed Marina O’Loughlin as restaurant critic. The prestigious column had been filled for the past ten months by a series of guest critics following the death of renowned incumbent AA Gill. O’Loughlin joins after five years at The Guardian, where she won multiple awards for her writing. She told Code: “I’m excited and exhilarated – and a little terrified about following in the footsteps of Adrian Gill, one of my writing heroes.” Her first review will appear in the newspaper on 15 October.

Plans lodged for leisure-led development featuring restaurants in Canterbury: Plans have been lodged for a new leisure-led development in Canterbury, Kent, including restaurants and a cinema. Developer Linkcity has applied to the city council to regenerate a former Serco depot and coach park in Kingsmead and neighbouring land. The scheme, known as Canterbury Riverside, would feature eight units for cafes, bars and restaurants, a five or six-screen cinema, a convenience store and two smaller shops, 189 homes and 484 purpose-built student bedrooms. Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, chairman of the council’s regeneration and property committee, told Kent Live: “Kingsmead is the last large development site in Canterbury. We want to make it vibrant once again, so it’s great to have reached this important milestone of the planning application being submitted.”

Company News:

Eclectic to start expansion of Smash concept with Wimbledon site: Eclectic Bars, a subsidiary of the Brighton Pier Group, is to launch a second site for its experiential concept Smash, this time in Wimbledon, south west London. Eclectic launched the table tennis, bar and restaurant concept in Reading in May 2016. The new venue will open on the site of the company’s Po Na Na nightclub in The Broadway on Saturday, 30 September offering more than 60 craft beers and ciders, hand-made Italian pizza and four Olympic-standard ping pong tables. The venue will be open daily from midday until late, with 12-inch sharing pizzas made on-site alongside salad, garlic bread and fries. Music will be a mix of retro, indie and non-commercial tracks, while live sports will also be shown. Eclectic Group managing director Lee Nicolson said: “Our first Smash in Reading is proving a huge success, which has given us the confidence to further develop this radically different take on an immersive product. Table tennis is a social sporting activity and we’re taking it back to its roots by bringing it into the entertainment arena. We’ve added great food and drink and a cool, exciting environment to the mix.” Eclectic Bars operates 13 venues under brands including Embargo Republica, Lowlander, Lola Lo, Po Na Na, Fez Club and Coalition.

Drake & Morgan to launch bar and restaurant The Listing in City for 23rd site: Drake & Morgan is to launch bar and restaurant The Listing in the City of London for its 23rd site. The venue will open at the new Cannon Green building in Bush Lane on Monday, 6 November offering cocktails and all-day dining. The Listing will feature a sleek bar space with marble-topped tables and mirrors and offer bespoke cocktails, hot toddies, wine, champagne, spirits and craft beer, Hot Dinners reports. The menu will include breakfast, mains, flatbread, superfood salads and sharing boards, with the venue open from 7.30am until midnight, Monday to Friday. The decor will feature curved booths and a terrace with views over Suffolk Lane. Drake & Morgan will open its 22nd site, The Allegory, on Monday, 16 October on the ground floor of Brookfield’s 600,000 square foot mixed-use office, residential and retail space in Bishopsgate. Managing director Jillian MacLean said: “The City of London is Drake & Morgan’s heartland.” Drake & Morgan will also open a venue in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, before the end of the year.

Crafted Projects gets go-ahead for destination development in Newcastle, explores taking gin and beer bar concept nationwide: North east-based Crafted Projects, formerly known as Ladhar Leisure, has been given the go-ahead for a major food-led development in Newcastle. The company has been granted permission by the city council for its White Hart Yard scheme, which will open up and connect venues in Grey Street and the Cloth Market. It is also exploring taking its gin and beer bar concept Pleased To Meet You (PTMY) nationwide and has relinquished its interest on its Pig and Whistle and Destiny venues to facilitate the arrival of the Rev Da Cuba scheme. Crafted Projects director Barry Ladhar said: “It is just two years ago since we extended PTMY (in High Bridge) and we have seen a big increase in footfall – bookings for this Christmas are at record levels. The PTMY brand is being taken to Morpeth and we are looking at expanding it nationally.” Meanwhile, Ladhar said he hoped phase one of White Hart Yard would be open for Easter 2018. The inspiration for the concept, which is expected to create at least 150 jobs, comes from pop-up developments in areas of London such as Shoreditch and Borough Market. Ladhar added: “We want to create a cultural and hybrid festival venue in the heart of Newcastle that will stir up music, food and drink, and discussion, focusing on the very best the north of England has to offer in street food, cocktails, music events and the pioneering craft drinks market. Regular street stalls, pop-up cinema, guest chefs and masterclasses mixed with the best in food, drink, music and retail will make this a unique Newcastle experience.” 

Gordon Ramsay relaunches Heathrow restaurant Plane Food with new grab-and-go offering: Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has reopened his Heathrow restaurant Plane Food following a major redesign and refurbishment. The newly styled dining room at Terminal 5 features a multifunctional space that can be rapidly turned into a semi-private dining area. The new-look venue now features an Asian bar with open kitchen, while Ramsay has launched Plane Food Grab & Go, a pre-prepared offering passengers can take away to enjoy on their flight. The core menu has been updated and features British classics with global inspirations, including short-rib beef burger with chimichurri mayo, and duck leg with lentils and green beans. The cocktail bar offers a menu of small plates including salt and pepper baby squid. Children dine for free. Ramsay said: “I’m excited for travellers of all ages to experience the new-modern Plane Food that has been inspired by influences from all around the globe.” Heathrow retail director Chris Annetts added: “Since its opening in 2008, Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food has become a cornerstone of the Terminal 5 experience for many of our passengers. We are proud to continue our partnership.” Gordon Ramsay Group comprises 31 restaurants globally and seven Michelin stars. In December, the company secured a ten-year extension to its Plane Food contract at Terminal 5, leading to it enhancing the offering.

Papa John’s franchisee opens second site with Ashton-under-Lyne store, eyes further growth: Papa John’s franchisee Peter Gill has opened his second site, in Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester, and is eyeing further growth. Gill, who runs a store in Grantham, Lincolnshire, has opened the venue at Heys Retail Park, creating 20 jobs. He said: “I joined Papa John’s last summer. Before that, I worked in the insurance industry so it’s been a significant change for me, plus a big learning curve! It was always my intention to open multiple Papa John’s and so my second store is really just the start. I chose Ashton-under-Lyne as it has lots of potential and the area continues to attract investment. A number of household brands already occupy sites on the Heys Retail Park including Tesco’s, so we anticipate lots of walk-in trade. Until now, I’ve been very hands-on in the Grantham store but with expansion I see my role changing into more of an operational one. I have learned much from opening my first Papa John’s and look forward to using this experience to help with the running of Ashton-under-Lyne and other potential outlets in the future.” Papa John’s, which was founded in the US in 1984, has more than 350 sites across the UK and more than 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories.

Encant owner Victor Garvey to open Rambla restaurant in Soho next month: Victor Garvey, chef-patron of modern Spanish restaurant Encant, will launch his third venture – Rambla – next month. Garvey will open the 60-cover venue in Dean Street, Soho, on Wednesday, 4 October. The menu will focus on Catalan cuisine, the food of Garvey’s youth, while the venue takes its name from Barcelona thoroughfare La Rambla, where he lived as a child. The menu will be divided into three sections – Cru (raw and cured); Mar (seafood); and Muntanya (mountains). Dishes will include fresh Mediterranean sea urchin with Iberico lard toast, jumbo scallop with smoked roe sauce and crystallised veal jus, and Catalan black pudding sandwich with green apple slaw. It will feature an all-Spanish wine list as well as gin and classic cocktails. The interior of Rambla will be light and atmospheric, reminiscent of Barcelona’s elegant-but-casual beachfront restaurants. Garvey said: “Rambla will bring to Soho many of the characteristics our guests love about Encant, while also being very much its own place. The food will be familiar to anyone who knows Catalan cuisine, while also being innovative and fun, with great drinks and service to go with it.” Garvey opened Encant in Covent Garden in March 2016 followed by wine and cheese bar Sibarita in nearby Maiden Lane in June this year.

Restaurateur Neil Gill launches northern chip shop concept for third Finsbury Park site: Restaurateur Neil Gill has launched a chip shop concept for his third site in Finsbury Park, north London. Gilly’s Fry Bar has opened in Clifton Terrace and is modelled on the northern fish and chip shops of Gill’s youth – but with an Asian twist. It not only focuses on fish and chip shop classics such as battered cod with scraps but also on the art of tempura cooking – an idea Gill came up with while working with Alan Yau at Busaba Eathai. The Gilly’s Fry Bar menu is split into five sections – snacks, fry, raw, donburi rice and sides. To complement the food, the highball cocktail menu introduces combinations such as gin with lemon, cherry and elderflower; and vodka with Cointreau, lemon juice and cream soda. Inventive shots, pickles and punches are also available. The 35-cover restaurant’s decor has a casual, contemporary design with “subtle nods to 1980s Sunderland chip shops”. Gill said: “Having established Season Kitchen and The Lamb pub locally, I jumped at the opportunity to open another restaurant within the community I call home. I love the idea of marrying traditional Japanese with traditional British flavours while using age-old frying techniques in the process. I like fried food and I like highball cocktails, and my gut tells me it is a good idea.”

Australian entrepreneur to launch sushi hand rolls concept Inigo in Soho: Australian entrepreneur Jeremy Bliss and Charlie Hall, of hospitality site Code London, are to launch sushi hand rolls concept Inigo in Soho. The debut Inigo kiosk will open in Great Windmill Street on Wednesday, 11 October using its own sandwich-style take on traditional sushi. Rather than cones, Inigo’s sushi rolls will be tube-shaped and instead of traditional fillings will contain an array of Japanese-inspired ingredients such as crushed wasabi peas, macadamia nuts, broccoli and ponzu tuna. There will be six rolls to try, including ponzu-marinated tuna with baby gem lettuce, spicy mayo and crushed wasabi peas, and miso-cured salmon with avocado, macadamia nuts and pickled daikon, Hot Dinners reports. Inigo will also offer rotating specials, salad and soup, alongside soft and alcoholic drinks. Coffee and breakfast will be served from 9am. Inigo said it would shun plastic wrapping in favour of compostable packaging, while the playlist will be curated by Luke Pritchard, singer and guitarist of The Kooks, who is a friend of Bliss’ and also an investor in the business.

Zizzi eyes Coventry shopping centre site: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi has submitted plans to open a restaurant at the Cathedral Lanes shopping centre in Coventry. The company has applied to the city council for a premises licence to occupy a site in the complex’s dining quarter in Broadgate, reports the Coventry Telegraph. It would join restaurant brands Wagamama, Casual Dining Group-owned Las Iguanas and Loungers brand Cosy Club, while Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group New World Trading Company is also looking to bring its The Botanist brand to the centre. Developer Shearer Property Group is developing Cathedral Lanes to house seven new restaurants. Zizzi has 145 sites in the UK and earlier this month unveiled new packaging as it looks to grow its share of the out-of-restaurant channel.

Brixton-based dim sum restaurant and bar Courtesan to relaunch this week with new look and menu: Brixton-based dim sum restaurant and bar Courtesan will relaunch this week following an extensive refurbishment. The venue in Atlantic Road will feature a new look, menu and all female-produced drinks list. The restaurant and bar, peppered with neon lights and bright red graphics, will be furnished with jade velvet booths and large silk lanterns, and will feature vintage Chinese artefacts throughout. A geometric, neon-lit Sayagata-patterned staircase will lead downstairs to the late-night venue featuring mirror installations and optical-illusion art. The menu will feature dim sum, noodle and rice dishes, bao buns and a changing list of specials. The Courtesan bar will serve wine, cocktails and spirits, supplying beverages produced or grown exclusively by women. In addition, Courtesan will introduce a multi-disciplinary entertainment programme in its late-night entertainment space, including cabaret acts, live jazz music, DJs, parties and West End performers.

Melitta Coffee makes price pledge amid market uncertainty: Coffee company Melitta has pledged to keep prices the same for 12 months amid market uncertainty. New market manager Laura Sherwood said: “In such a diverse market place, the need to be flexible is everything. Every business is different; understanding this is integral. The common thread is the need for great coffee, and we’re true believers that serving it shouldn’t come at a premium. That’s why we pledge to not only impress with our coffee but protect our new and existing customers from any increases by keeping the price of our beans the same for 12 months."  

Revolution Bars Group launches online store for vodka range: Revolution Bars Group has launched an online store selling its vodka range, Handcrafted Flavour. The site will initially sell 70cl bottles in three flavours within the 30-wide range – pear drop, bubblegum and cherry. The bottles will be available for standard delivery via Revolution’s website or through Deliveroo. Revolution said it intends to increase the range available on the site as demand grows. Revolution Bars Group commercial director Myles Doran said: “Since launching our Handcrafted Flavours range we have sold nearly three million bottles in-bar and this year has seen our most successful sales to date. We are confident this e-commerce platform will introduce our unique product to a wider audience and help drive additional revenue through online sales.” Revolution Bars Group currently trades from 68 sites, 54 under the Revolution format and 14 under its Revolución de Cuba brand. Last month, Stonegate Pub Company reached an agreement to buy Revolution Bars Group for £101.5m, although the deal is still subject to shareholder approval. The Deltic Group is also considering making an offer.

Scottish ice cream manufacturer Crolla’s opens High Wycombe gelateria for seventh site: Crolla’s Gelato, the gelateria arm of The Crolla Ice Cream Company, one of Scotland’s oldest ice cream manufacturers, has opened a site in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The family-run company has opened the venue – its seventh to date – at Thames House in Castle Street. It serves gelato, sandwiches, Italian coffee and waffles, reports the Bucks Free Press. Crolla’s Gelato has outlets in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Llandudno, Manchester and Preston with sites “coming soon” in Dundee and Nottingham.

Escape Room UK eyes Sheffield for fifth site: Escape game company Escape Room UK, which operates sites in Manchester, Preston, Stoke-on-Trent and Barrow-in-Furness, is eyeing Sheffield for its fifth attraction. The company has submitted plans to convert a first-floor former BHS store in Castlegate House, Haymarket, into its latest franchise. The ground and lower-ground floors of the space are currently used by discount shop B&M Bargains, Insider Media reports. The 5,283 square foot space would be separated into different themed areas containing trials that customers attempt to complete in a set time. Challenges listed on the plans include Prison Break, Jungle, Sherlock Holmes and Secret Service Espionage. The proposed operating hours of the escape room would be 9am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 11pm on Sundays. The company said it expected about 30 people to take part in events at any one time.

Historic Cornish hotel featured in The Witches film reports turnover and profit boost: The historic Headland Hotel in Cornwall, which featured in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl story The Witches, has reported a “significant” rise in profits that will be invested back into further upgrades. Headland Hotel Company saw turnover increase to £8,394,023 for the year ending 30 November 2016, compared with £7,138,293 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Pre-tax profit was up to £1,333,820, compared with £888,731 the previous year. The grade II-listed, 96-bedoom, four-star hotel opened in 1900 and was taken over by current owners the Armstrong family in March 1979. In 1987, The Witches, starring Anjelica Huston, was filmed at the venue, which overlooks Fistral Bay, near Newquay. The company stated: “The financial results continue to be excellent and reflect the spa facilities being fully operational. This has enabled the hotel to increase its occupancy throughout the year. The continual investment in the fabric of the building and the ongoing work by the team has enabled the company to maintain its reputation as the leading hotel in the region. The directors are confident their continued investment in both the building and in the team will maintain the position of the business as one of the top hotels in the region. In particular, the company continues to invest heavily in training its team members, with significant expense incurred annually.”

Las Iguanas to launch autumn menu next week: Las Iguanas, the South American-inspired restaurant brand owned by Casual Dining Group, will launch its autumn menu next Tuesday (26 September). The menu will feature 15 new additions, including Ipanema mussels cooked in a lightly spiced lime, coriander and coconut sauce and served with ciabatta; and the Seco de Cordero – Peruvian-style slow-cooked lamb shank in a golden ale, red wine and Amarillo chilli sauce, served with roasted sweet potato mash and crispy chilli and onions. Desserts will feature the Banana Empanada, a traditional pastry hand-filled with banana, sweet plantain and dulce de leche; and the Piña Colada Mess – Piña Colada ice cream served with caramelised pineapple salsa, crispy pineapple pieces and toasted coconut chips. Among the 14 new cocktails will be the Mezcal Watermelon Smash, a combination of Olmeca tequila, Bru-Xo mezcal, watermelon, mint, cucumber and lime while there is a new range of sharing drinks. Las Iguanas will only be giving out plastic straws on request for most drinks as it commits to reducing usage and environmental impact with its Straws Suck campaign.

Leasehold of former Marco Pierre White pub in East Sussex sold to new operator: The leasehold of a former Marco Pierre White pub in East Sussex has been sold. New operator Alison Atherton and her family have taken on the free-of-tie lease at The Rainbow Inn, which is on the A275 in the village of Cooksbridge, north of Lewes, through agent Fleurets. The pub is being refurbished ahead of reopening on Saturday, 30 September. The menu will rotate regularly to make the most of seasonal local produce while there will also be tea and coffee, cakes, sandwiches, bar nibbles and drinks from local producers. Pierre White sold the pub to the current owners in 2014.

The Alchemist scoops management team award: The Alchemist, which is backed by Palatine Private Equity, has been named north west regional winner of the growth management team category at The British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association’s (BVCA) Management Team Awards. The Alchemist won the award for “creating a strong and creative employee culture and an impressive growth plan” – with the company expected to go from 11 sites to 19 within two years. In its ninth year, the awards provide a platform for management teams to demonstrate their contribution to the UK economy. The Alchemist, which appeared on this year’s Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work for list, will now take part in the BVCA national awards final in London on Thursday, 30 November. Finance director Victoria Stewart said: “The phenomenal growth of the business has been made possible by the dedication, passion and talent of The Alchemist people.” The Alchemist will open its 12th venue – in Oxford – in November with a further four venues set to open before April 2018.

Director of Manchester-based ice cream company banned for failing to maintain proper records: The director of a Manchester-based ice cream company has been banned for six-and-a-half years for failing to maintain proper records, which may have led to a number of creditors losing out on cash they were owed. Robert Scappaticci, who acted as a director of Gerards Ice Cream Co, has been disqualified for failing to ensure the company maintained or preserved adequate accounting records. The company, which also included fast food outlets, went into voluntary liquidation in September 2014 with an estimated deficiency of £373,839. However, six months prior to liquidation, the ownership of a chip shop was transferred to a third party. An investigation by the Insolvency Service found there were inadequate accounting records to verify the terms of sale or the extent to which the chip shop business may have been an asset in the liquidation. As a result, it is possible a number of creditors were denied money owed to them. Insolvency Service investigations group leader Robert Clarke told The Business Desk: “In this particular case, the director transferred a valuable company asset without ensuring the company operated in a transparent way by providing sufficient records to explain the transfer.”

 
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