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Wed 16th Jan 2019 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Boost for eating and drinking-out market as Christmas and New Year like-for-likes rise 4.1%: While the retail sector struggled, Britain’s managed pub and restaurant companies had cause to celebrate during the six-week Christmas and New Year period with collective like-for-like sales up 4.1% on 2017, according to the latest figures from Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Pub and restaurant operators both saw positive sales growth during the festive season, with pubs enjoying collective like-for-likes up 5.1% against a 2.4% increase for restaurants. London benefited most, with like-for-likes over the six weeks to 6 January up 5.0% compared with 3.8% outside the M25. Drink sales were the major driver of growth in pubs, up 6.4% on the corresponding period last year, compared with a 3.6% rise in food sales. Underlying annual like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which represents large and small groups, was running at 1.0% for the 12 months up to the end of 2018, up from 0.7% at the end of November. Total sales over the six-week festive period, which include the effect of new openings since this time last year across the 49 companies in the seasonal Tracker cohort, were ahead 7.1% compared with the same period in 2017. “This is in stark contrast to the gloom hanging over retail, which according to the British Retail Consortium suffered its worst Christmas for a decade with zero sales growth,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM. “What these Tracker figures suggest is consumers are being more selective about where they spend their money and are looking for memorable experiences – like going out for a meal or drink with family or friends over Christmas – rather than just buying ‘things’. Premiumisation will be a big part of that and trading up appears to have helped restaurants too, as the number of covers served rose only 1.3% from last year. What will be most encouraging for these pub and restaurant groups is trading was positive throughout December following a 1.5% sales uplift in November,” Chessell added. “The eating and drinking-out sectors had an excellent trading period in their busiest time of the year,” said Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure. “Consumers escaped the political turmoil and headed for pubs and restaurants to escape the tedium. Pre-booked sales in particular were strong and the months ahead are going to be tough but, at this crucial time, trading was robust.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, two free places for operators, Alastair Scott to present: The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2019 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 7 March at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Alastair Scott, co-founder of food-led operator Malvern Inns and Catton Hospitality, will talk about how the company has set about creating a tool to motivate staff and optimise shift performance. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com

UK coffee shops achieve 20 years of sustained growth, branded market to exceed 10,000 outlets by 2023: Turnover in the UK coffee shop market grew 7.9% in 2018 – representing 20 consecutive years of sales and outlet growth – but economic turbulence caused by Brexit uncertainty continues to impede the sector. Project Cafe UK 2019, Allegra World Coffee Portal’s report on the UK market, has also forecast the UK branded coffee shop market will exceed 10,000 outlets by 2023, displaying five-year compound annual growth rate of 5%. Costa, now owned by Coca-Cola, remains the UK’s biggest branded operator with 2,655 outlets. It is followed by Starbucks and Caffe Nero, with 992 and 683 stores respectively. Branded coffee shops grew their number of outlets by 8.7% in 2018 to reach 8,149 stores. The research revealed the total UK coffee shop market is valued at £10.1bn across 25,483 outlets. Allegra said coffee shops were well placed to capitalise on growing consumer preference for experience-led and digitally-enhanced retail concepts – 45% of industry leaders consider social media to be the most effective form of marketing. However, coffee quality remains the biggest factor behind cafe success, according to industry leaders. In the speciality segment, a burgeoning fifth wave of scaled artisan concepts continues to grow and promote market-wide premiumisation. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs acquired several independent cafe businesses to increase its portfolio to 22 stores in 2018. Meanwhile, London-based Grind continues to develop its travel hub partnership with SSP, while Caravan has expanded its portfolio with private investment firm Active Partners. Reduced consumer confidence contributed to the success of value-focused chains in 2018. Allegra consumer data showed Greggs and McDonald’s are perceived to offer the best value for money, with both brands introducing coffee-focused strategies in 2018. Sustained uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU continued to frustrate the coffee shop industry in 2018. Almost half (49%)of industry leaders indicated Brexit was negatively affecting their business, with 46% remaining neutral and 5% reporting a positive impact. More than two-thirds (69%) agreed it was having a negative impact on consumer confidence, while 87% of industry leaders believe Brexit has damaged the UK economy. Allegra chief executive Jeffrey Young said: “20 years of consecutive growth in terms of outlets, turnover and like-for-like performance is an impressive feat by this robust segment, which has become intrinsic to UK lifestyles. More growth will continue, albeit at a slower pace, as the economy is subjected to myriad pressures, including structural retail change, technological development, changing consumer habits and deep uncertainty on the numerous potential outcomes of Brexit.”

Supermac’s wins trademark case against McDonald’s: Irish fast food company Supermac’s has won its long-running case against McDonald’s to have the use of the Big Mac trademark cancelled. In a landmark judgment, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) said McDonald’s had failed to prove genuine use of the contested trademark as a burger or restaurant name. Supermac’s had formally submitted a request to EUIPO to cancel the use of the Big Mac and Mc trademarks that McDonald’s has registered in certain classes. McDonald’s had previously succeeded in putting a stop to Supermac’s plans to expand into the UK and Europe on the basis of the similarity between the name Supermac’s and the Big Mac. Supermac’s said the judgement meant the main argument put forward by McDonald’s had now “gone”. Supermac’s managing director Pat McDonagh told RTE: “We knew when we took on this battle it was a David versus Goliath scenario but just because McDonald’s has deep pockets and we are relatively small in context doesn’t mean we weren’t going to fight our corner. We have been saying for years it has been using trademark bullying.” He said the decision opened the door for the company to register its own Supermac’s in Europe as a trademark. 

Company News:

Individual Restaurants reports Ebitda boost and narrowed losses despite turnover drop: Individual Restaurants has reported an Ebitda boost and narrowed losses despite a drop in turnover. The company, which operates 30 sites under the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill brands, saw its second-best Ebitda figure on record – increasing to £7.1m for the year ending 31 March 2018 compared with £7m the year before. Turnover fell to £61,849,000, compared with £67,008,053 the previous year. Directors said the decrease was driven by three main factors. The prior year included three sites that had been subsequently disposed of, accounting for £3.04m of the decline. They estimated the severe winter weather had an impact of £0.7m, while the remainder was a result of a general decline in consumer confidence. The company reported pre-tax losses narrowed to £240,877 compared with a loss of £951,553 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross margin was up to 78.4%, compared with 75.3% the previous year. Membership of its customer loyalty programme increased 41% to 1.1 million and 40% of the company’s weekly sales are now generated by members. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “Finance costs in the year increased £0.4m following an increase in banking facilities in the year and the continuing amortisation of associated refinancing costs. The group generated strong cash flows from operations of £2.4m with the free cash flow post finance and interest charges being used to fund the ongoing development capital investment programme. Depreciation in the year was £3.2m and the group incurred operating exceptional costs of £0.6m relating to restructuring costs during the year. The board continues to have great confidence in the trading strength of both brands and has been encouraged by post year-end trading.”

Goodbody – Nick MacKenzie has tough task following in footsteps of highly experienced Rooney Anand but will bring fresh perspectives to Greene King: Goodbody leisure analyst Paul Ruddy has said Nick MacKenzie will have a tough task following in the footsteps of highly experienced Rooney Anand as Greene King’s new chief executive but will bring fresh perspectives to the business. MacKenzie will join Greene King on 1 May from Merlin Entertainments where, as a member of the executive committee, he is currently responsible for the Midway portfolio of attractions. He has also served as development director for Burger King and has experience with Bass and Allied Domecq. Ruddy said: “Overall, there are some positives and negatives in our view. He will have a tough task to follow in the footsteps of the highly experienced Anand and looks to have limited experience in the pub sector. MacKenzie hasn’t been chief executive of a plc previously either, although we would note there is a limited pool of such people and it is not always a gauge of future success or otherwise. On the positive side, he is coming from one of the world’s leading leisure businesses and will bring fresh perspectives from what essentially is also a consumer business. Greene King has made a strong start to this financial year and Anand will be there until the end of it so there will be no impact on the current year.”

Wasabi to launch Sainsbury’s ready meal range: London-based sushi and bento business Wasabi is to launch a ready meal range in partnership with Sainsbury’s. The Wasabi’s Home Bento range will be made from the same ingredients as in Wasabi’s stores but cost about half the price. The £4 ready meals will come with white rice or stir-fried yakisoba noodles to make up a full meal, with vegan options to go with the chicken meals. The range will become available on Wednesday, 30 January. The five ready meals will be chicken katsu curry, sweet chilli chicken, Thai green curry, chicken katsu yakisoba, and tofu curry. Wasabi managing director Frederic Lluch told The Mirror: “We are thrilled shoppers will be able to enjoy their favourite Wasabi dishes in the comfort of their own kitchen.” Sainsbury’s ready meals buyer James Lydall added: “We know our customers increasingly want restaurant-quality food to enjoy in the comfort of their home and, with many now opting to stay in for an evening meal rather than going out, we’re confident Wasabi’s home bento dishes will be a hit – offering the high-quality Asian flavours and ingredients you’d expect from the restaurant without the hassle of cooking from scratch.” In November, it was reported Wasabi was looking to find a new investor. Dung Hyun Kim, who founded Wasabi in 2003, was believed to have hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to seek a cash injection. Wasabi has about 50 sites, mostly in London. 

Bodean’s reports turnover and profit fall: American barbecue diner-deli brand Bodean’s has reported turnover fell to £11,248,039 for the year ending 31 May 2018, compared with £12,785,241 the previous year. The company, which operates seven sites, saw pre-tax profit drop to £264,615 compared with  £1,038,231 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Administrative expenses were down to £7,420,680, compared with £7,584,634 the previous year. A report by the directors accompanying the accounts stated: “The results for the year and the financial position at year-end were considered satisfactory by the directors, who expect continued growth in the foreseeable future. Ordinary dividends were paid amounting to £176,320. The directors do not recommend payment of a further dividend.” The number of employees at the end of the period fell to 244 from 267 the previous year.

Pret owner makes executive changes and forms new subsidiary company: JAB Holding, the German parent of Pret A Manger and Panera Bread, has announced several executive changes and the formation of a new subsidiary, Pret Panera Holding Company. Senior partner Bart Becht will retire and step down as chairman this year. The company’s other senior partners, Peter Harf and chief executive Olivier Goudet, will “continue to lead JAB and oversee its investment strategy”. Becht leaves the company after overseeing several key acquisitions in the coffee house and bakery cafe sectors. JAB has also named Fabien Simon as a new partner and chief financial officer. He previously worked at JAB’s Jacobs Douwe Egberts for four years and before that spent 14 years at Mars. JAB said Ricardo Rittes would also join the company as a partner, leading expansion into emerging international markets. He previously spent 14 years at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Jacek Szarzynski was named lead operating partner for JAB’s newly created Pret Panera Holding Company. He will be responsible for the “overall long-term success of the platform”. JAB has yet to elaborate on the function of Pret Panera Holding Company, reports Nation's Restaurant News.

Derby Pub Company reports record December with like-for likes up 7.7%: Derby Pub Company, which operates eight managed sites, has reported a record December, with like-for-like sales up 7.7%. The company, which is backed by Puma Investments, recorded its highest weekly trading during Christmas week and had record sales in all its sites on Christmas Day. A number of sites experienced double-digit growth during the festive period, with record sales achieved at the Raggalds in Queensbury and The Fortescue Arms in Billingborough. Chief executive Carl Uttley said: “December has been a very strong trading period for the company and reinforces the strength of the portfolio, encompassing a range of dining and drink-led options for our customers. We are excited for the year ahead and the prospect of investing back into our estate to further improve our propositions.”

Farmer J to open third site, in Canary Wharf next month: City of London all-day market food concept Farmer J is to open its third site, in Canary Wharf next month. Founders Jonathan and Ali Recanati are opening the venue in Canada Place, offering an all-day grab and go menu. Breakfast options will include poached eggs, flank steak and roasted vegetables; vegan shakshuka with grilled aubergine, mushroom, wilted spinach and tahini, or a choice or grab and go options from the counter. Field tray mains will feature grilled chermoula chicken; Malaysian meatballs; and its new miso tofu cannelloni with sides such as mac 'n' cheese, whole roasted cauliflower or purple garden salad. The restaurant will feature white washed concrete walls and a curved steel counter. Jonathan Recanati said: "We are so excited to announce a new home for Farmer J. We’re dedicated to bringing fresh, top-quality food to everyone’s desk each lunchtime, and where better to do this than in the hustle and bustle of Canary Wharf.” Farmer J was launched in Leadenhall in May 2016 and opened a second site, in King William Street, in September last year.

Flat Iron launches seventh London site: Flat Iron, the “single steak” dining concept backed by private equity firm Piper, has opened its seventh site in London. The 120-cover steakhouse has launched in Tooley Street, near London Bridge, and features an indoor garden theme. Earlier this week, Flat Iron secured £5m funding from UK-based SME lender ThinCats to fund its expansion plans for the next three years as it eyes further openings in the capital. The funding follows a £10m investment by Piper in 2017. Flat Iron, which was founded by Charlie Carroll, also has restaurants in Portobello, King’s Cross, Covent Garden, Shoreditch and two sites in Soho. In its latest accounts, the company’s turnover increased 55.1% to £11,715,100 for the year ending 27 August 2017, compared with £7,555,480 the year before. Adjusted Ebitda rose to £1,352,083, compared with £859,045 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was £456,110 compared with £233,448 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Roberts & Treguer to open third London pub with rooftop terrace, off Brick Lane: Roberts & Treguer, the company behind all-day, four-storey pub restaurant The Culpeper in Spitalfields and The Green in Clerkenwell, are to open a third site in London. The Buxton will launch in Osborn Street, off Brick Lane, after the company took over The Archers pub. The seven-storey space will open in the spring offering 15 rooms and a guest-only rooftop terrace featuring an honesty bar and Swedish hot tub. The ground floor will feature an open kitchen and bar restaurant with 30 covers plus an iron staircase to access the bedrooms. The menu will offer “regional European dishes focusing on responsible sourcing and seasonality”, Hot Dinners reports. Roberts & Treguer’s other two pub restaurants also feature rooftop gardens.

Signature Living acquires £3m ship to launch ‘floating hotel’ heading for Balearic party spots: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living has acquired a ship for £3.3m, which it plans to launch as an Ibiza-style “floating hotel”. The Signature Living Love Boat is undergoing a fit-out in Portugal ahead of its maiden voyage in August. It will have capacity for 632 passengers and is expected to drop anchor for week-long trips to party capitals in Marbella, Ibiza and Majorca. The ship will feature big-name DJs, who will fly in for residencies and one-off sets, alongside dance acts and live bands. Entertainment will also come in the form of percussionists, theatrical performers and Rio-style carnival dancers. Lawrence Kenwright, founder of Signature Living, which reported record profits last year, said: “Our latest acquisition is without doubt our most flamboyant. Signature Living has always ensured its guest experience exceeds expectations and lives as far away from a standard hotel as possible, but this floating hotel will yet again break all the rules. I am really excited for what the future holds for Signature Living as we continue to grow and develop as a company with exciting new hotel projects in Belfast and Liverpool.” Since its foundation ten years ago, Signature Living has become a £500m business with 1.3 million followers on social media. It operates five hotels in Liverpool and one in Cardiff, with nine more in development including the soon to open George Best hotel in Belfast. The company employs more than 870 staff in Liverpool, with plans to expand to 3,000 in the next 18 months. 

Farmstand to open second bricks and mortar site, in Canary Wharf next month: Farmstand, the fast-casual concept led by US entrepreneur Steven Novick, is to open its second bricks and mortar site, in Canary Wharf next month. Farmstand launched its debut permanent site in Covent Garden in 2016. The brand also operates cafes, stands, mini-stands and an online subscription service in London. Farmstand said it would continue to invest in further sites to create an “offline experience to further build its brand”. The new venue will open in Cabot Place in late February offering plant-powered food, ethical-trade coffee, organic wine, seasonal beer and free filtered water. The 1,000 square foot restaurant will feature a greenhouse wall of natural plants to “bring the outdoors in” and colours and textures that tell the story of farm stands in Milwaukee, Novick’s home town. Sustainable design elements will include reclaimed timber panelling, upcycled white marble tabletops, and an illustrated feature wall. The seasonally changing, all-day menu will feature Farmstand’s signature boxes (protein, grain and vegetables), bowl food, wraps, soup and salads. The menu will be 80% plant-based, 5% sustainable fish and 15% ethical meat, with dishes to eat in, take away and for catering. Farmstand’s menu is based on the diet Novick has been following since he was diagnosed with cancer. He said: “Eating a plant-powered diet increases your chances of living a happy, active life and, despite the fact food has never been easier to find, order or have delivered, most people don’t have access to convenient, affordable and legitimately healthy, plant-based food. We’re changing that.” Farmstand has raised more than $6m, including $3m in June 2018 in a record-breaking venture capital financing round. The company is majority-owned by Novick and his team, who are all shareholders.

Kaspa’s franchisee opens third site, in Darlington: Franchisee S&M Traders, which operates sites for dessert parlour brand Kaspa’s in Newcastle and Sunderland, has opened an outlet in Darlington. S&M Traders has launched the venue in the town centre supported by funding from Barclays’ Northern Powerhouse Fund. S&M Traders employs more than 30 staff at its Newcastle and Sunderland sites and will create 15 further jobs in Darlington. Turnover for the business is expected to exceed £2m in 2019. The site offers the Kaspa’s signature range of traditional and unusual ice cream flavours alongside hot and cold desserts. S&M Traders partner Syed Shah told Insider Media: “I am delighted we’re bucking the retail trend with our latest expansion into Darlington.”

Blackpool Pleasure Beach slips to pre-tax loss after attendance drop: The parent company of Blackpool Pleasure Beach has slipped to a pre-tax loss after being hit by a fall in attendance. Blackpool Pleasure Beach (Holdings), which includes the amusement park, Big Blue Hotel and South Shore Mutual Insurance Company, reported turnover fell to £32,618,000 for the year ending 25 March 2018, compared with £33,396,000 the previous year. Revenue for Blackpool Pleasure Beach was down 2.4% to £28,121,000 compared with £29,235,000 the year before, which was primarily attributed to a 5.8% decrease in attendance. The company put this down to a number of factors including “the economy, continuing confusion regarding Brexit, terrorism, poor weather in key trading periods and increased costs”. Turnover at the hotel was up to £4,487,000, compared with £4,151,000 the year before. The company reported a pre-tax loss of £1,643,000, compared with a profit of £1,039,000 the previous year. Since year-end the venue has opened Icon, the UK’s first double-launch rollercoaster, representing an investment of £16.25m. This spring will also see the opening of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s £12m Boulevard Hotel, which will add an additional 120 bedrooms to the park. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The economic climate post-Brexit remains uncertain and individual disposable income is still a risk. The group has invested in its infrastructure to ensure the business is well promoted through marketing and improved control systems to ensure we are able to maximise our returns and reduce our exposure to potential loss. A programme of continual review and a clear understanding of the park’s socio-demographic mix and market penetration has assisted the board in making informed decisions. This gives the directors confidence and optimism for the new financial year.”

France’s oldest tea house makes UK debut with Covent Garden opening: France’s oldest tea house, Mariage Frères, has opened its debut UK store, in Covent Garden. The flagship branch is the brand’s largest to date and has opened in a five-storey Georgian townhouse in King Street. The site adheres to Mariage Frères’ three distinct offerings. Comptoir de Thé on the ground floor features a tea emporium including the “longest tea wall in the world” and offers 1,000 rare teas. It also sells fragrance, incense, candles, confectionery, gift sets, crockery, books and strainers, while tea is available to take away alongside pastries. The first floor houses the Voyage, a gallery surrounded by a listed balustrade, and the White Himalaya room, which features antique tea canisters. They feature menus that use tea as an ingredient, spice or flavouring in its dishes. The Musée du Thé on the second floor showcases tea antiques, while the third and fourth floors house two private rooms, one with its own terrace. Mariage Frères has been operating out of the Marais district of Paris since 1854, when it was founded by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage. It also has a presence in Germany and Japan.

Portsmouth-based brewer Staggeringly Good launches £300,000 crowdfunding campaign to quadruple capacity: Portsmouth-based brewer Staggeringly Good has launched a £300,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to quadruple capacity. The brewer is offering 10.71% equity in return for investment giving the company a pre-money valuation of £2.5m. Staggeringly Good said it had achieved 100% year-on-year growth (£112,000 in April 2017 to £224,000 in April 2018; Ebitda £14,533.11). The company will use the funds to quadruple brewing capacity to meet demand, acquire its own canning line and grow its team to help increase sales. Staggeringly Good runs a taproom that is being expanded at its brewery site next to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park stadium and an annual beer festival, WarriorFest, set on HMS Warrior. The pitch states: “We started Staggeringly Good in 2015, brewing part-time on borrowed equipment, labelling bottles by hand in an old shipping unit. Our aspirations were simple – produce quality beer, have fun and get the hell out of there! Three years on and we’ve established ourselves as one of England’s top 20 breweries (Untappd) and have grown into our own 11,000 litre brewery producing more than 250,000 pints in the past 24 months. But demand is high and, with only three full-time employees, we’re struggling to meet it. Our dinosaur-themed branding has resonated with craft beer fans and newcomers alike. So much so we’re looking for funding to expand our brewery to 44,000 litres, add our own canning line and look to grow our team to include dedicated salespeople and additional brewers. Our hugely popular taproom served more than 37,000 beers in the past 12 months, with regulars and many from further afield coming to experience new releases, live entertainment and food pairings. We’re now expanding into the adjoining unit, adding ten taps for house and guest beers. We’ve also established WarriorFest, our unique dinosaur/pirate-themed beer festival on a warship. It’s time this brewery made the next leap of evolution.”

Black Sheep Coffee to fund ‘settled status’ for non-British EU staff: London-based independent coffee shop Black Sheep Coffee has become the latest operator to confirm it will pay for its non-British EU employees to apply for “settled-status” in the UK following Brexit. Under the EU Settlement Scheme, all EU citizens living in the UK will need to apply for the right to remain in the UK post-Brexit. The application fee is £65 and will give workers who have lived in the UK for five years or more “settled status”. Black Sheep Coffee HR director Marco Reick said: “We will be doing the same for everyone who joins Black Sheep Coffee while free movement of labour continues, because we think it’s the right thing to do. We’re an inclusive and open company with big plans to grow. We welcome everyone at Black Sheep and we look after everyone in our family, half of whom are EU citizens. We really appreciate the contribution they make to our business and we think it’s only right we should pay for a status they are already entitled to. Others have announced they will offer this to their employees and we believe, as an industry, we can send an important message to EU citizens if more employers follow suit.” Carluccio’s, Oakman Inns, London brewer and retailer Fuller’s and Brasserie Bar Co, the 36-strong group behind Brasserie Blanc and the White Brasserie Company, are among the sector businesses to announce they will fund the application fee.    

Former Greenhouse executive chef to lead kitchen at gourmet sausage concept launching in Islington: Francesco di Marzio, former executive chef of two Michelin-starred restaurant The Greenhouse, is to head the kitchen at a gourmet sausage concept launching in Islington, north London, next month. X-Upper will open in Upper Street on Monday, 25 February at a site formerly occupied by tapas and paella restaurant Jamon Jamon. It will feature recipes created by James Tanner, who operates Barbican Kitchen in Plymouth, gastro-pub The Kentish Hare in Tunbridge Wells with brother Chris, and has appeared on television shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Saturday Kitchen. The X-Upper team claims to have walked 152km across 14 cities in Europe and trialled 513 sausages in its quest to find the “best and highest quality sausages”, Hot Dinners reports. However, there will be only six sausage varieties available at X-Upper – a protected Swiss bratwurst, an Italian chicken and pork sausage, the English Cumberland, a Spanish chorizo, a low-fat chicken sausage, and a spicy merguez – alongside daily specials from across Europe.

Bannatyne Group acquires 18th century hall near Leeds for 72nd site: Bannatyne Group, led by Duncan Bannatyne, has acquired the freehold of 18th century Cookridge Hall, near Leeds, for its 72nd site. The 38,693 square foot health club was bought in an off-market transaction from Cookridge Hall Health & Fitness in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. Previous owner operators of the site include Esporta and Virgin Active. Bannatyne Health Club & Spa Cookridge Hall will undergo a significant programme of investment. Bannatyne Group chief executive Justin Musgrove said: “Cookridge Hall represents a further strategic purchase for the group as well as an exciting opportunity for us to enhance the property and member experience with targeted investment. Its position is also ideal for one of our luxury spas and we will plan this investment at a later stage.”

Wolverhampton-based operator takes on Punch pub for second site: Wolverhampton-based operator Bobby Basran has taken on a Punch pub for his second site. Basran has relaunched The Leaping Wolf on the doorstep of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux stadium following a £450,000 investment by Punch. The refurbishment includes four television screens while a new bar menu features a range of sharing options. Punch chief executive Clive Chesser said: “We are extremely proud of the work that has gone into transforming The Leaping Wolf. Bobby and the team have great plans to deliver a fantastic customer experience all year round.” Basran, who also runs The Merridale Arms in Wolverhampton, added: “We have lots of plans to make sure this pub becomes a central hub, not just for sports fans but for everyone in the community.”

Zonal retains learning and performance accreditation for eighth year: Hospitality management solutions company Zonal has retained its accreditation for being an authorised assessment centre from the Learning & Performance Institute (LPI) for an eighth consecutive year. In 2015, Zonal was awarded and still holds gold standard, which is the definitive mark of quality in learning and development. Zonal head of learning, development and implementation Craig Hamill said: “We take great pride in the quality of the training we offer our customers and staff. This accreditation offers assurance we are delivering best practice and operating to the highest possible industry standards as audited by the LPI.”

 
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