Star Pubs & Bars

Story of the Day:

Administrators reveal extent of CAU’s troubles as Gaucho left with estimated total deficiency of almost £65m

Administrators have revealed the extent of CAU’s troubles, which have led to parent company Gaucho being left with an estimated total deficiency of almost £65m. In their statement of proposals filed at Companies House, joint administrators Matthew Smith and Robert Harding, of Deloitte, said the expected total deficiency would be £64,995,120. Meanwhile, a separate report on 22-strong sister brand CAU showed the company had turnover of £10,957,036 for the six months to 30 June 2018 with Ebitda of minus £464,379. For the year ending 31 December 2017, turnover was £25,498,336 with Ebitda of £1,747,025. Its net assets as of 30 June 2018 was minus £24,056,576. In the first six months of 2018, sales were down 17.2% compared with the previous year. The Ebitda generated (excluding head office costs) fell from £2.9m (before head office costs) to £1.7m between 2016 and 2017 despite the number of restaurants remaining at 22 throughout both years. After head office costs, it is estimated CAU generated a loss in 2017 of circa £1.8m. Due to the ongoing losses, CAU was reliant on the wider Gaucho group for funding to support ongoing trading. The reports also showed that as well as CAU’s “significant underperformance”, Gaucho still had a “challenging” first six months of 2018. It stated: “The Gaucho brand operated by Gioma has proved successful since the group was acquired by Equistone, generating Ebitda of £8.0m (17.2% margin) in 2016 and £5.7m (11.6% margin) in 2017. This was in part driven by successful site openings outside London (Birmingham and Edinburgh). However the first six months of 2018 were still challenging for the Gaucho brand. While revenue was up 2.2% on 2017, wider cost pressures facing the restaurant sector, including an increase in business rates, rising food prices, and the introduction of the National Living Wage, meant restaurant Ebitda margin reduced from 28.1% to 21.4%. In respect of CAU, significant underperformance resulted from a number of factors including high operating costs and wider challenges in the sector in which it operated. As a result, Ebitda generated by the CAU brand fell from £2.9m to £1.7m between 2016 and 2017 despite site numbers remaining constant at 22. In the first six months of 2018, sales were 17.2% behind the same period in 2017. Due to the ongoing losses in CAU, the sister brand was unable to pay all its liabilities as they fell due. As the company had guaranteed the secured creditors’ debt, along with Gioma and CAU, the directors of these companies concluded there was no alternative but to place all three companies into administration. The losses generated by CAU were causing the wider group to become cash constrained so the decision was taken by management in May 2018 to launch an accelerated sales process of the Gaucho business alongside consideration of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to wind down the CAU business. The secured creditors agreed to waive certain covenants to allow the group to implement a full sales process. A number of offers were received for Gioma as part of this process but no offers were received for CAU. However, notwithstanding significant interest in Gioma due to a number of issues raised as part of the due diligence process, including guarantees provided by Gioma in respect of CAU lease liabilities and the added complication of needing to deliver a CVA of CAU alongside a sale of Gaucho, none of the offers presented were capable of being implemented. Once it became clear there were no acceptable offers for the group and that a CVA of CAU would not be achievable, the directors held a board meeting on 17 July to resolve to place the companies into administration. Given the lack of interest from potential purchasers in the CAU business and the fact the business was loss-making, it was concluded trading was not viable and therefore the joint administrators of CAU wound down the CAU business.” Gaucho’s records showed secured creditors at the date of Deloitte’s appointment were a syndicate of five lenders acting through Lloyds Bank as the security agent owed a total of £49.0m. The administrators said based on current information there would not insufficient asset realisations to repay all secured creditors in full. There are four unsecured creditors owed a total of £4.0m. The administrators said they did not expect there to be sufficient funds to enable a distribution. The company had no preferential creditors. Since the administrators’ appointment, four of the original lenders sold their debt so the syndicate now comprises of two lenders – Investec Bank and SC Lowy. Earlier this month, they agreed to acquire Gaucho out of administration. The deal will see chief executive Oliver Meakin depart with former managing director and M Restaurants founder Martin Williams working with Gaucho to “drive the next stage of development”.

City Pub Group reports sales and profit growth in first half

City Pub Group chairman Clive WatsonThe City Pub Group, which operates 42 predominantly wet-led pubs, has reported sales rose 24% to £20.0 million (2017: £16.1 million) in the 26 weeks to 1 July 2018. Adjusted Ebitda was up 25% to £3.0 million (2017: £2.4 million). Adjusted profit before tax was up 73% to £1.6 million (2017: £0.9 million). In the 11 weeks trading since 1 July sales are up 24%. Nine pubs opened in 2018. The company stated: “This increased number of sites and wet-led focus of the business resulted in substantial Ebitda and sales growth. Progress has continued into the second half with sales up by 24%.With a further four sites in development, further sites in the hands of solicitors and others in negotiation, the business is ahead of its strategy to double in size to 65-70 sites by 2021 and anticipates operating more than 50 pubs by mid-2019. The group’s innovative Profit Share Scheme will continue and from 2019 employees are set to benefit from it on a more frequent, semi-annual, basis.” Clive Watson, (pictured) executive chairman of The City Pub Group, said: “The strategic expansion of our high-quality drink-led estate has been key to the strong progress we have made in the first half. We were well positioned to capitalise on the excellent weather and our sports orientated pubs have benefitted significantly from the World Cup. The nine new sites that we have brought on stream over the course of 2018 have contributed to the increase in sales and group Ebitda which is reflected in today’s results. The momentum from the first half has continued into the second half and in the eleven weeks since 1 July we have seen sales increase by 24%. We are ahead of our original target to double the number of pubs operated by 2021 and expect to have 50 by mid-2019. This will be assisted by softening conditions in the acquisitions market and limited competition for sites. We are confident of meeting market expectations for 2018 and believe we have the right team and strategy to continue making progress.” He added: “These results have been achieved through acquisitions and investments made in 2017 and organic growth across the rest of the estate. The company benefited from the good weather across the summer and our wet-led sport pubs from the World Cup. As we have continued to acquire new sites the group has taken advantage of economies of scale driving an improved financial performance. The board is pleased with the significant increase in the group’s adjusted Ebitda performance. Operating (Ebitda) margins have increased from 15.0% to 15.1% (restrained by higher PLC costs as a result of the AIM listing). Margins are anticipated to increase further as the central overhead base becomes more efficient. The City Pub Group has grown from a start-up in 2011 to an estate of 42 pubs operating today through selective acquisition of predominately single sites. These are then refurbished, their offer targeted specifically to their local marketplace and managed by well incentivised operators who have a passion for delivering a consistent, high quality experience for customers. The group has a strong balance sheet and low gearing with current borrowings of only £14 million, which roughly equates to the value of our freehold backed sites that are currently closed and being developed. Net debt to Ebitda is around two times and this is anticipated to reduce significantly once the four development sites are open and trading. The group has in place a £30 million revolving credit facility expiring in July 2021. We are currently reviewing options for increasing and extending the length of our banking facilities.”

Other News:

Starbucks Intu Milton KeynesStarbucks UK has seen its operating profit plummet 90% and margin weaken as trading conditions on the high street remained “challenging”. Operating profit fell to £670,344 for the year ending 1 October 2017, compared with £6,371,903 the previous year. Operating margin weakened to 0.2% (2016: 1.7%). The company saw turnover fall to £372,290,050, compared with £379,863,586 the year before as it reduced its managed estate in favour of franchise openings. Like-for-likes increased 1.2% (2016: 1.0%). Pre-tax profit dropped to £4,387,033, compared with £13,082,372 the year before, which reflected a lower store count and lower footfall offset by the like-for-like increase. During the year the company performed a capital reduction of £330,789,024 and subsequently paid a dividend of £46,000,000 (2016: zero). The number of licensed and franchised stores increased by a net 30 and 36 respectively, representing a 40/60 ratio of equity to franchise stores (45/55 ratio in 2016). A net total of 19 equity stores were sold or closed during the year. The company paid UK corporation tax of £3,293,536 compared with £6,718,880 the previous year, reflecting reduced operating profit offset by profit on the disposal of stores. Company-owned stores produced £259,183,823 of income (2016: £283,978,004), licensed stores produced £45,041,764 of income (2016: £26,746,220) and franchised stores produced revenue of £68,064,463 (2016: £69,139,362). There was also a £3,716,689 profit from the disposal of fixed assets (2016: £6,710,469). The number of employees fell to 5,379 compared with 5,789 the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Trading conditions for the consumer sector on the UK high street remain challenging and consumer confidence was lower than the prior year resulting in lower footfall and subsequent sales across the store estate. The company is operating with a smaller estate overall as it continues to transfer company-operated stores to licence and franchise partners as part of its core strategy, which has impacted operating profit. Costs have increased in 2017, primarily due to the ongoing investment in higher-quality produce with new food and drink items offered in stores. This includes investing in a menu of new cold coffees such as Nitro Cold Brew and Cappuccino Freddo, plus extending a fresh food offer to expand the range of salads and hot lunch boxes, plus two new hot porridge varieties. Gross profit for the period fell by 12.3% to £70,988,008 (2016: £80,909,786). While external factors had a significant impact on the performance of the business during the period, measures continue to be taken to implement our strategy to balance the portfolio and continue to improve profitability, including the renegotiation of leases and the closure of unprofitable stores; continued focus on reducing costs; lower expenditure and administrative costs due to opening more franchise stores; and an associated fall in headcount and thus staff costs of 1.6%. The company is cautious on the outlook going into 2018 due to the challenging market conditions that are likely to continue. While this may impact comparable (like-for-like) sales per store, we expect the business to hold up well as we maintain focus on cost management alongside the strategic realignment of our portfolio.”

Diageo has told shareholders that its trading year has started well. Chief executive Ivan Menezes said: “The year has started well and performance is in line with our expectations. We continue to execute our strategy with discipline and agility and despite seeing increased volatility in some markets we continue to expect organic net sales growth in F19 to be broadly in line with last fiscal year and consistent with our medium-term guidance of mid-single digit growth. We are focused on delivering both growth and efficiency, allowing us to continue to reinvest in the business to support the long-term growth of our brands. We continue to expect to grow organic operating margins in line with our guidance of 175bps of margin expansion in the three years ending 30 June 2019. In recent weeks, we have experienced some increased emerging market foreign exchange volatility, which has been partially offset by a strengthening of the dollar. Based on current rates we currently expect exchange to have a negative impact on net sales of £175m and a negative impact on operating profit of £45m for the fiscal year.”

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate NichollsDespite concerns over the future of the industry following Brexit, the sector’s employers should “hammer home” the positive message that EU staff who arrive before 2020 will be allowed to remain in the country, UKHospitality has said. The call comes in response to the latest CGA Fourth Business Confidence Survey, which claims concerns over the impact of Brexit is “driving a fall in confidence among the leaders of Britain’s eating and drinking-out sector”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “Understandably there are plenty of concerns from employers about the uncertainty brought about by Brexit. However, there is plenty we as a sector can do to help clear up some of this uncertainty. We should remember all EU staff members currently here, and any who arrive before the end of 2020, are entitled to remain. There is more the government can do to hammer home this positive message but we need to be highlighting it as well. Planning for the future post-Brexit means communicating this message now.”

The renaissance of cocktails offers some key lessons to the craft beer market, a senior Carlsberg executive has told Propel. Paul Davies, Carlsberg’s vice-president of craft and speciality, said craft beer was here to stay and would not be a “flash in the pan”. He lauded the innovation being shown by brewers with the rise of IPA and sour beer and also noted the shift towards premiumisation. He said: “I think the thing we have to look out for is the way the cocktail market is becoming trendy again and how consumers are engaging with the on-trade. Cocktails are becoming more fashionable, particularly with the way they are being served. People are willing to pay premium prices for these ‘masterpieces’ that are created in front of them. What is clear is people are going for quality over quantity, and this is something that is filtering through all categories. I’m very optimistic there will be continued expansion of the craft beer market. Growth has tailed off – in the US at one point the sector was growing 30% a year, which was just not sustainable. It’s about 5% to 6% now but it will not stop. Craft is the main driver behind the growth in beer – and it’s not a trend that is a flash in the pan – it’s here to stay. There is so much innovation and people can experiment with so many different flavours and styles. All this is changing people’s perception of what beer is.” Davies also said consumers had become more knowledgeable about beer as they became more interested in the provenance of brands and their stories. He added: “I think the world is not that different. From Shanghai to Sheffield, people seem to have so much knowledge of the different types of craft beer available, particularly those aged 30 and below. There are so many different styles and I think the trend is being driven by people wanting and willing to try new things. Breweries are expanding their repertoire and increasing the quality of their brews, which is driving demand. There has been an explosion in low-ABV lagers – these are now hoppier and don’t have to be 7% ABV to deliver flavour. It can be 3.5% for example. Sour beers are also becoming popular.” Davies said there was one particular area he felt operators could improve when serving craft beer. “I think the on-trade can step up its game when it comes to glassware. It has with cocktails so why not with craft and speciality beer”, he added. “Generic glassware doesn’t sit well with these premium beers – they need to be served in a way that elevates the drinker’s experience, a perfect serve is always in a relevant glass for the brand and the beer style. After all consumers are paying a premium price.”

Propel Premium subscribers will receive an expanded database of multi-site companies at the end of this month. A total of 200 multi-site companies have been added to the database this time, which now features 1,300 multi-site companies in all. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Premium subscribers also receive regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences. They have included sector investor Luke Johnson, Ceviche founder Martin Morales, City Pub Company founder Clive Watson, brand strategist Ian Dunstall, Chozen Noodle chief executive Matthew Kirby, Coaching Inn Group founder Kevin Charity, consultant James Hacon, Imbiba partner Darrel Connell, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi group chief operating officer Andreas Karlsson, and Mowgli founder Nisha Katona. Subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, and discounts to attend Propel conferences and events. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email to sign up or call her on 01444 817691.

GreggsFood-on-the-go retailer Greggs has launched a breakfast click-and-collect trial in Manchester city centre. The service has launched in three stores allowing customers to pre-order and collect breakfast through the new Greggs Collect Manchester app, which is powered by ordering technology provider Preoday. The service enables customers to order breakfast days or even minutes in advance of collection from the Greggs stores in King Street, Parker Street and Manchester Victoria Station. Greggs’ breakfast menu includes pastries, porridge, granola, sandwiches, baguettes, wraps and freshly ground Fairtrade coffee, including a new pumpkin spice latte. Retail and people director Roisin Currie said: “The breakfast click-and-collect trial is the latest initiative we’re looking at to help make life easier for our customers by offering them quick and convenient access to our great-tasting products during the morning rush hour. Our strong customer base in Manchester makes it an ideal place to trial this service, which is designed to make life more convenient for customers in a busy inner city. If the trial is successful, we will look at rolling this service out to other locations.” Preoday chief executive Nick Hucker added: “It has been a pleasure working with Greggs on its new service. The company’s strong brand and the city’s convenience-craving community leaves us in no doubt its customers will be excited to give it a try.”

Britons are increasingly eating pre-prepared food and drink on the go, which is one of the fastest-growing areas of Britain’s out-of-home (OOH) foodservice industry. Latest figures from global information company The NPD Group show food-to-go consumption (off-premise but excluding delivery and drive-thru) is growing while on-premise is shrinking. For the year ending July 2018, there were 4.4 billion on-premise visits, a drop of 3.5%, versus 5.1 billion food-to-go visits, an increase of 2% – the change in just one year. In three years (since July 2015), food-to-go visits have increased 4.0%. For foodservice operators, there’s money to be made from food to go as the market has increased £2.5bn since mid-2015, three times as fast as on-premise spend. Consuming food and beverages on the premises only represents 42% of the 11.3 billion OOH annual foodservice visits in Britain. Food to go represents about 48%, while delivery covers an extra 6% and drive-thru accounts for 4%. This means more than half (an off-premise total of 58%) of Britain’s foodservice industry visits involve consumers carrying food and drink away from the point of purchase or getting other people to carry food and drink to them. Eating food on the go suits a busy consumer lifestyle but there is also a financial appeal for consumers and operators. NPD Group said it was a “winner” for consumers because much on-the-go eating and drinking comes with attractive meal deals that save money, therefore people can justify multiple food-to-go purchases. It’s a winner for operators, NPD Group said, because food-to-go prices are usually lower than sit-down consumption (food to go represents 48% of total visits but only 29% of spend). That 19 percentage point gap gives an operator ample scope for increasing the average bill. The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport said: “Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a snack, when you buy food or drink away from home you have two main choices – eat it in the premises in which you made the purchase or eat it on the go. The lion’s share is food to go and reflects how consumers are trying to save time and money. For many of us, working life means rushing to our workplace and then rushing around again during meal breaks. Food to go is an integral part of our lifestyle and underlines how much we are keeping an eye on the clock and on our wallets.” About 20% of visits result in food and beverages consumed back in the workplace or at school/college. However, 8% of visits see food or drink making it no further than the car – that’s the same as each Briton eating or drinking in their car 14 times a year. About 7% eat or drink while walking along the street or sitting in a public space such as a park. More than 292 million foodservice visits result in food being consumed on public transport. This could be the next big trend, NPD Group said, it is currently a small amount (3%) but consumption of food and drink on public transport is growing five times faster than the overall food-to-go trend. Looking at dayparts, food to go is eating into breakfast (50% of all visits), lunch (48% of visits), and snacking (59% of visits). Dinner is not immune to the voracious appetite of eating food to go either, with 37% of all dinner visits comprising food consumed on the move. Allport added: “A generation ago, food to go might stretch little further than a sausage roll, a bag of chips, a cheeseburger, a sandwich or a cream bun. Today’s offerings inject innovation, portability and ease-of-consumption across a huge range of international hot and cold cuisines to create exciting meals, snacks and beverages for any time of day. There’s no doubt foodservice operators are grasping the food-to-go opportunity by offering increasingly appetising and healthy options.”

Pub companies are to receive training on how to spot mental health issues among their workforce under a new initiative to be launched by the Licensed Trade Charity. To coincide with World Mental Health Day on Wednesday, 10 October, the charity will launch two regional Mental Health & Wellbeing In The Workplace events for managers. Initial training sessions will be held in London and the Midlands in the autumn, followed by others around the country in 2019. The one-day training sessions will enable managers to develop a greater knowledge of the most common mental health issues in the workplace, how to support someone with mental health problems and give managers confidence to deal with difficult situations. More than half (60%) of UK employees have experienced a mental health issue where work was a contributing factor, while almost one-third (31%) have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition. Carolyn Jenkinson, of the Licensed Trade Charity, said: “Many of the calls we receive from pub and bar staff seeking help involve mental health issues. While in most cases managers are sympathetic to staff problems, they often find it difficult to know what to say or do to help. This breakthrough training for the industry will give managers the confidence to help, making them feel comfortable talking to people who have mental health issues.”

Logo for The Parrot, which is being launched by Idris Elba at the Waldorf Hilton in AldwychActor and producer Idris Elba is to open a cocktail bar and live music venue in London. Elba will team up with identical twin brothers Lee and Nicky Caulfield to launch The Parrot within the Waldorf Hilton in Aldwych in early October. Visitors to the 60-seater bar can expect a “host of surprises”, including a hidden cocktail menu, unannounced secret shows and an exclusive guest list. Inspired by the tropical home of its namesake, The Parrot’s menu will offer an “inspired choice” of cocktails alongside small plates created by The Waldorf’s executive chef Karl Richardson. The Yamaha London Stage At The Parrot will provide nightly entertainment, with a house band performing covers. In an exclusive partnership with Aston Martin, The Parrot will also be the first bar in London to offer its own chauffeur-driven car. It will be branded with The Parrot logo allowing VIP guests to “arrive and leave in unrivalled luxury”.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPAThe highest rise in inflation for six months is “worrying news” for pubs and brewers, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said. The Retail Price Index (RPI) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to 3.5% and 2.7% respectively in August. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds (pictured) said: “This significant rise in inflation is worrying news for pubs and brewers alike. Beer duty is linked to RPI, which rose 3.5% in August, meaning pubs and brewers face a steep hike in taxes just as they did under the dreaded beer duty escalator. As a consequence, Britain’s brewers could see an increase of more than £100m in tax in the next Budget. The misery for pubs would be compounded by CPI increases in business rates. Of every £3 spent in pubs, £1 already goes to the taxman and under the beer duty escalator, which saw sustained increases to beer tax, 5,000 pubs closed and 58,000 jobs were lost. It’s clear action is needed by the government to alleviate the cost pressures pubs face or we risk losing them forever. This is why we are backing the campaign to call on the government to cut beer tax and support local pubs.”

Indoor mini-golf concept Pixel City Golf has launched a £150,000 crowdfunding campaign to open the first of five multi-activity sites outside London by 2022. The company is offering 4.76% equity in return for the investment, with funds being used to open a first venue plus “marketing to drive awareness”. The company said it aims to take advantage of the fast-growing competitive socialising industry, expected to be worth £129bn this year. The Pixel City Golf team has 25 years of experience in complementary industries and businesses. The pitch states: “We believe the UK is lacking indoor entertainment venues that offer the customer something different – fun for all age groups and with pricing aimed at capturing the majority, not the minority. Pixel City Golf aims to open a multi-activity indoor entertainment and leisure venue designed for all age groups and private hire, offering a 36-hole indoor mini-golf experience. In the UK, there are more than 700 mini-golf venues. However, in Germany we estimate there is one mini-golf venue for every 16,520 people, with 15 million people playing every year. In the US we estimate there is one mini-golf venue for every 10,770 people, with millions playing each year. Compare that with the UK, where our estimation is there is one mini-golf venue for every 93,771 people! In addition, Brits have been spending less on new clothes, cars and foreign holidays and are anticipated to spend more on UK-based leisure activities.”

Premier InnWhitbread has outlined its requirements for retail and town centre sites in the UK, Ireland and Germany for its Premier Inn brand as the company steps up its search for suitable locations. Whitbread secured 31 hotel locations in the UK in its 2017/18 financial year and is targeting a similar number of sites nationwide this year. The company said it would match hotel types – standalone, joint sites with restaurants and smaller format (60-plus bedrooms) – to match locations. Standalone sites should preferably be in large town or city centres and could be new-build (freehold or leasehold), part of mixed-use schemes or office conversions. In Ireland, the company is looking for property partners and freehold development sites in Dublin and other major cities as “we seek to grow Premier Inn across Ireland”. In Germany, Whitbread is targeting “at least 31 Premier Inns by 2021”. A company mailshot states: “We are on the hunt for the next generation of outstanding hotel locations. Today we have more than 780 hotels in the UK and Ireland and are targeting 85,000 Premier Inn bedrooms by 2020. To support our expansion we are looking for freehold sites, leasehold opportunities and going-concern sales across the UK, Ireland and Germany. We also have an excellent track record of successful joint ventures and opportunity-led developments across the country.”

Wine Inns, which runs bars and nightclubs in Belfast and is led by Patrick Hunt, has reported turnover increased 4% to £14,493,366 for the year ending 31 December 2017, compared with £13,966,276 the previous year. Pre-tax profit more than doubled to £520,844 compared with £243,007 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Gross profit margin increased to 35%, compared with 33% the previous year. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “The directors are encouraged by the performance year-on-year and will continue to seek every opportunity to increase turnover and profitability where possible.”

Greene King is expanding the range of guest ales on offer in its Pub Partners division with its Ex-BEER-ience campaignBrewer and retailer Greene King is expanding the range of guest ales on offer in its Pub Partners division as part of a new campaign – Ex-BEER-ience – which aims to celebrate the craft of brewing and explore new flavours. It means partners at more than 1,000 Greene King leased and tenanted pubs will also have access to a variety of beer promotions, tools to help them host their own beer festival and access to a virtual tour of the brewery. The aim of the campaign is to encourage Greene King partners to mark Oktoberfest and educate their customers on the new flavours available. Greene King Pub Partners managing director John Forrest said: “We have worked hard to create a package of beer-related opportunities for our partners, working alongside our brewing colleagues and other suppliers. We’re also excited to invite up to 100 of our premium partners to the Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds in October for a tour so they can see how our award-winning beers are created. We’re passionate about good beer and hope this campaign helps share that passion and enthusiasm for brewing and makes beer drinking even more accessible for everyone.”

Kerb Camden MarketStreet food business Kerb is to launch its first meat-free market, in London’s Devonshire Square this month. Kerb’s tenth lunchtime market will be a partnership with collaborative workspace WeWork, which operates a site in the square that already operates a meat-free policy. The venture will launch on Wednesday, 26 September and feature a number of traders from Kerb’s inKERBator programme. Traders to operate in the first month will include Club Mexicana, which has pioneered vegan street food in London; Greedy Khao (home-cooked Thai vegan curries); Little Leaf (vegan sourdough pizza); Palm Greens (vegan salad bar); Biff’s Jack Shack (deep-fried vegan jackfruit burgers and buffalo wings); Vegals (vegan bagels); and Elote (vegetarian Mexican food). Kerb director of markets Ian Dodds said: “We are delighted to begin a relationship with WeWork – looking to push the Kerb market model forward with a focus on meatless dishes and sustainability. There’s been an explosion of great vegetarian and vegan dishes on the streets of London over the past year and we’ll be showcasing the very best here.” WeWork UK and Ireland general manager Leni Zneimer added: “Our vision for Devonshire Square is to build a neighbourhood where people can do what they love and feel part of a community that comes together to work, live and play. Kerb is a hugely successful London institution and we’re looking forward to welcoming its first meat-free lunchtime market to Devonshire Square.” Last week Kerb announced it would leave Camden Market as of 1 October. Club Mexicana opted to quit the market too, with founder Meriel Armitage stating at the time: “Kerb was the first street food curator to put us in a market and we’ve built a great relationship with it over the years. We are really looking forward to working with Kerb again in the near future – it has an amazing team and we will definitely be involved in whatever its next project may be!”

3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler, has secured the first two sites for its Ego brand since launching its joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) last month. Ego At The Cedar Tree will open in Avenue Road, Nuneaton, next month following the conversion of a Toby Carvery. This will be followed by a second Toby Carvery conversion, this time in Shrewsbury. Ego At The Grapes will launch at the Welshpool Road site in November and have 140 covers plus a bar. Prior to becoming a Toby Carvery in June 2015, the site was known as The Grapes Inn. Meanwhile, Ego has shut Ego At The Dorset Arms in Compton Acres, West Bridgford, because the business has proved “unsustainable”. It has surrendered the lease back to Star Pubs & Bars. Ego opened in the former Old Colonial pub in the run-up to Christmas 2016. Horler told Propel: “We are delighted to be opening our first two sites under the joint venture with M&B. The properties fit our criteria perfectly – suburban locations with good parking. These will be our only two openings for the rest of the year. We’re concentrating on getting the sites ready ahead of the Christmas period and then we’ll start looking again in 2019.” Regarding the decision to close the West Bridgford site, Horler said: “We are looking at bigger sites under the joint venture and unfortunately it didn’t fit in with the model so we’ve taken the decision to surrender the lease.” Ego, which operates across the north west, Yorkshire and the Midlands, offers Mediterranean-inspired food and cask ale in a pub setting. It currently operates 15 venues following the West Bridgford closure. M&B formed the joint venture with 3Sixty after buying Luke Johnson’s minority stake last month. Horler told Propel at the time it would look to continue growing the brand by opening sites within a 50-mile radius of its existing properties.

Chaker Hanna, CEO of Comptoir LibanaisComptoir Group has reported group revenue of £15.7m up by 19.8% (H1 2017: £13.1m) in the half year to 30 June 2018. Gross profit of £11.3m was up by 19.0% (H1 2017: £9.5m). Adjusted Ebitda before items of £0.5m was up by 152% (H1 2017: £0.2m). It had net cash and cash equivalents at the period end of £3.9m (H1 2017: £0.1m; 31 December 2017: £5.6m). Comptoir Birmingham opened in March 2018 and is trading in line with the board’s expectations. The company currently owns and operates 26 restaurants, with a further three franchise restaurants. Richard Kleiner, non-executive chairman, said: “I am pleased to announce that despite the continuing well publicised turbulence within the UK restaurant sector and the increase in costs, Comptoir Group have proven their strength as a resilient operator with a robust set of results delivering performance as per the board’s expectations. This has been driven through revenue growth in the existing estate, focus on cost management, efficiencies, innovations and continued selective investment in new restaurants. Our proposition provides our customers with a unique offering in the market place with a welcoming warm team hospitality. I would like to thank the board for their continued dedicated focus as well as the teams in our restaurants and our supporting operations, for providing our customers with a great experience.” Chief executive Chaker Hanna (pictured) added: “The performance of the group’s various brands and restaurants, during the first half of the year, has been steady despite the persistent challenging economic climate. The group ended the period owning and operating 26 restaurants, with a further 3 franchise restaurants. Revenue for the period was £15.7m, an increase of £2.6m or 19.8% (H1 2017: £13.1m) over the comparative period. Adjusted Ebitda was £0.5m, an increase of 152% (H1 2017: £0.2m); the income statement shows a pre-tax loss of £417k (H1 2017: loss of £756k). The group has successfully opened one additional new site in March 2018, namely Comptoir Birmingham. The pop-up Yalla Yalla restaurant in Greenwich was closed in February 2018 having come to the end of its short lease. The company now currently owns and trades from 26 restaurants (19 Comptoir Libanais, two Yalla Yalla, three Shawa, one Levant and one Kenza). The company’s three franchise restaurants are located in Heathrow, Gatwick and Utrecht. The first half of 2018 has seen revenue growth both in the current estate, and more significantly, from the increasing maturity of the new sites opened over the last two years. This yields benefit with the top line growth converting to strong Ebitda as a result of operating efficiencies gained as the new sites progress through their early stages of maturity. A number of well-known national restaurant chains, with a fairly generic homogenous offering and no real ‘differential’ in their proposition to customers, have fallen recent victim to the challenging marketplace. We have observed a significant increase in the level of promotional activity within the restaurant sector, however, we have refrained from discounting and instead have focussed all of our efforts on further improving the customer offering. Most recently through our enhanced new menu implemented in May this year, which introduced, amongst many other new items, our increasingly popular ‘Feast menu’; with a minimum of two diners at a competitive price point offering a truly well rounded exposure to the whole Lebanese dining experience. The group remain focused on investing in carefully selected sites following close analysis of site feasibility subject to in depth scrutiny by the board prior to approval. There will be two additions to the estate in the second half of the year, with the opening of a new Comptoir restaurant by London Bridge railway station, with heavy footfall and a customer demographic proven to be highly successful with the Comptoir brand. This is currently under development and is expected to be trading from late October 2018. The second opening will be another franchise operation with HMS Host in Cheshire Oaks in November 2018. We continue to work closely with our franchise partners and have already agreed terms on two additional franchised sites with HMS Host in 2019; our second international franchised operation in Dubai Airport, due to open in March 2019; followed by Ashford (in Kent) in June 2019. The group has clearly demonstrated that it is a leading player of a differential offering within the sector and will continue to provide its ever growing customer base with excellent quality, healthy food in an environment with a genuine feel of family hospitality. Despite the continuation of the exceptionally hot and dry weather conditions into the early part of the second half of the year, we can report that year to date trading is still in line with the board’s expectations, with a particularly strong contribution from the restaurants with external dining areas. As already indicated, the group continues to control its costs and improve its operational efficiencies and margins whilst maintaining great value for money and, with the quality of the new site opening in London Bridge in October this year, together with the continuing trading performance, the board maintains its expectations for the full 2018 financial year. The pipeline for 2019 is currently under consideration and is dependent on selective site availability and funds available. The group is currently in advanced negotiations with two new locations for Comptoir and one location for Shawa for 2019 and is reviewing other potential sites to strengthen its pipeline for 2020 and beyond. The group’s focus, however, still remains on continuing to invest in, and improve, the performance of its current estate. The group also continues to assess new sites and acquisition opportunities, whilst also actively negotiating with our partners, a pipeline of potential additional franchise sites. Irrespective of the outcome of these negotiations, we expect to end 2019 with a minimum of six franchised operations.”

NewRiver, the real estate investment trust which owns several hundred pubs, has signed an Asset Management Agreement with Canterbury City Council for the asset management of Whitefriars Shopping Centre. This agreement is the first to be signed by NewRiver since it announced in May 2018 its longer-term strategies to adapt to a changing retail real estate market, which included using the company’s market-leading asset management platform to manage third-party assets. Under the terms of the AMA, NewRiver will undertake full asset management responsibilities for the shopping centre in exchange for a management fee calculated as a proportion of net operational income received and a development fee calculated on third-party-tendered development costs. The agreement will initially be for two years, with the option of a roll on for a further two years subject to the agreement of both parties. NewRiver will not acquire an equity stake in the asset as part of the agreement. Whitefriars Shopping Centre is the dominant regional shopping centre for East Kent and is located in the heart of Canterbury, with a catchment of 270,000 people within a 30 minute drive and annual footfall of 13 million. It has 75 units across 474,000 sq ft and 530 car parking spaces, and is anchored by Fenwicks, Marks & Spencer, Next and Primark. The shopping centre has been fully owned by the council since February 2018, when it purchased the remaining 50% of the asset from its 50:50 joint venture with TH Real Estate for £75 million, equating to a net initial yield of 6.5%. The joint venture was formed in 2016, when the Council paid £79m for its initial 50%, equating to a net initial yield of 6.0%. Allan Lockhart, chief executive, NewRiver said: “We are delighted to have signed this Asset Management Agreement with Canterbury City Council to bring our asset management expertise to Whitefriars Shopping Centre. NewRiver’s selection by the Council in a competitive tender process demonstrates that our strong relationships with retailers and track record of successful asset management makes us the clear choice for third-party retail asset owners. Against a growing trend of local authorities purchasing shopping centre assets and taking control of their town centres, NewRiver is ideally positioned to provide best-in-class asset management expertise to them, delivering thriving assets for local communities and sustainable, long-term revenue for our shareholders.” Colin Carmichael, chief executive, Canterbury City Council said: “Our purchase of Whitefriars Shopping Centre in February 2018 was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take control of one our city’s key sites and ensure it works for the benefit of the community. The Council is very pleased to be partnering with one of the UK’s leading retail asset managers in NewRiver to realise this ambition. Their passion and expertise give the council the confidence that Whitefriars will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate NichollsUKHospitality has warned the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC’s) report into EEA migration in the UK will cause worker shortages and undermine a major part of the UK economy. The trade organisation said the recommendations would ultimately lead to higher costs for businesses and consumers and have an impact on service levels and the overall experience for hotel guests, restaurant customers and pub-goers. UKHospitality has warned any future immigration policy that favoured highly skilled migrants above low-skilled labour would undermine the hospitality sector’s efforts to provide jobs. Chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “There is acute concern a new system that doesn’t take into account the fundamental challenges the sector faces would only ensure businesses, their employers and customers were the losers. It is disappointing and frankly illogical to see the MAC report place too much emphasis on the economic worth of individuals rather than the wider benefits they bring to the UK. If preference is given to high-skilled workers from outside the UK, hospitality businesses will struggle to fill vacancies, investment will dwindle and businesses will suffer. Ultimately we will all lose because the guest experience will also suffer. It is crucial EU migration policy is factored into a future trade deal with the EU for the benefit of Britain, the EU and all citizens. Any negative impact on hospitality businesses’ ability to employ is ultimately going to be felt by customers on high streets around the UK. We will be making these points to the government, highlighting the dangers of a future immigration system that is disproportionately restrictive towards lower-skilled workers who are vital to the ongoing success of the hospitality sector and the wider UK economy.” Meanwhile, UKHospitality has welcomed the announcement the Pubs Code adjudicator (PCA) has agreed on principles for the publication of Pubs Code arbitration decisions. Nicholls added: “We maintain the PCA’s key priority should be focusing on fast and effective arbitration decisions, including retrospective rulings, and clearly written guidance with clear precedents so tenants are not financially disadvantaged. Despite the PCA’s welcome efforts to provide clarity on the Pubs Code, it remains an unwieldy piece of legislation that still requires a full review taking into account robust evidence and ensuring it delivers workable and timely solutions for all.”

Phil Tate, European CEO at CGA StrategyConcerns over the impact of Brexit is driving a fall in confidence among the leaders of Britain’s eating and drinking-out sector, the latest CGA Fourth Business Confidence Survey has revealed. The majority (62%) are backing a “soft Brexit” outcome, while more than two thirds (69%) support a second referendum. No other outcome, whether “no deal”, “Chequers” or “hard Brexit”, gained more than 10% support. Just over a third (36%) of the bosses of pub, bar and restaurant groups are optimistic about prospects for the market over the next 12 months – a drop of 11% since the last poll of leaders in May. Two-thirds (67%) remain upbeat about their own businesses’ performance but that has dropped from 75% over the last quarter. In all, 71% said the decision to leave the EU had already had a negative effect on business. Among the nearly three quarters of leaders that said the Brexit vote has already had a negative effect, most cited an increase in the cost of ingredients and the decreased availability of staff. Nine in ten (92%) said the reduced access to kitchen staff has had, or will have, an impact on their business. Leaders indicated challenges are particularly acute in London, where businesses are most heavily dependent on EU nationals for staffing. Leaders identified Brexit-related damage to consumer confidence too, with half (48%) forecasting people’s frequency of eating and drinking out will decrease over the next six months, and only one in ten (9%) expecting it to increase. The survey also revealed some of the steps operators have taken to prepare for Brexit. Three quarters (73%) have anticipated its impacts by investing in staff training and retention, while a quarter (27%) have invested in local food and drink suppliers. But nearly a third of leaders (31%) still consider their business to be under-prepared for Brexit, or not prepared at all. Amid the challenges, the research revealed some grounds for cautious optimism in the sector. More than a quarter of leaders (29%) said their business’ performance had been ahead of expectations, thanks in part to the twin boosts to pubs and bars of the hot weather and the Fifa World Cup. Some bosses also see possible long-term benefits of Brexit, especially if it cuts red tape and reduces non-EU tariffs. CGA chief executive Phil Tate (pictured) said: “Our Business Leaders’ Survey is the clearest indicator yet of the dramatic impact of Brexit on the hospitality sector. Restaurant, pub and bar operators that are sharply focused on meeting consumers’ needs, offer good value for money and are well differentiated from the competition still have plenty of headroom to grow. But the Business Confidence Survey confirms Brexit is going to bring enormous challenges for the sector into 2019 and beyond.” Fourth chief executive Ben Hood added: “With rising costs – including those associated with employment – a shrinking talent pool and the sector’s heavy reliance on EU workers, the government needs to navigate the complex process of leaving the EU with an approach that supports hospitality employers. Beyond the negotiations, and despite the uncertainty, what we see is an industry rolling up its sleeves to negotiate the challenges ahead.”

Wagamama in BracknellWagamama is to launch a hot version of its katsu curry. It is the first time the company has created an alternative to its most successful dish. Chicken katsu curry has been on the Wagamama menu with the same recipe since the brand launched in 1992. The “extra hot” version will be available nationally for one week only from Thursday (20 September) to national katsu curry day (27 September), although if successful it could become a permanent feature on the menu. The dish was tested at Wagamama’s Noodle Lab test kitchen in Soho. Wagamama UK marketing director Andre Johnstone said: “Our executive chef Steve Mangleshot has been raving about hot katsu sauce from his visits to Japan for years and when we tried it out on customers at our Noodle Lab, the reaction was so positive we had to do something with this.”

BrewDog Norrköping in SwedenScottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has hit its minimum target of £22m after returning to crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to bolster its Equity for Punks V campaign. BrewDog is offering 1.21% equity on Crowdcube in return for investment and the crowdfunding campaign has 12 days remaining. Shares cost £23.75 each, with a minimum investment of four shares for £95. BrewDog, which has so far raised a total of £22,117,045 from 927 investors through Equity for Punks V, launched its latest fund-raise in October last year. The funds have been invested in a new brewhouse at its Ellon brewery, opening its sour beer facility, opening nine bars in three countries, beginning construction of its Brisbane brewery, opening its first DogHouse hotel and launching the BrewDog television network. Co-founder James Watt said: “This round of Equity for Punks has been our most audacious and ambitious to date but we are well on track to complete all the projects we announced when we launched in October.” In 2016, BrewDog secured a record £10m in 24 days via a mini-bond on Crowdcube – the highest raise on the platform. BrewDog’s first mini-bond raise on Crowdcube in 2015 was overfunded by 130%, raising £2.3m with a target of £1m.

The Griffin Inn, Bath, which has been acquired by St Austell Brewery and is tenant Jack Werner's fourth siteWest Country operator Jack Werner has taken on his fourth site after Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery acquired a pub in Bath. St Austell Brewery has bought The Griffin Inn in Monmouth Street from Sam Grimston. The Griffin Inn has joined St Austell Brewery’s 147-strong collection of tenanted pubs. It is the company’s first purchase since acquiring Bath Ales in 2016, inheriting its brewery, portfolio of brands and pub estate, including city pubs The Hop Pole and The Salamander. Werner’s other three West Country pubs are The Inn in Freshford, the Cross Guns in Avoncliff and the Old Crown in Kelston. Steve Worrall, estate director for St Austell Brewery, said: “Established in 1730, The Griffin Inn is an iconic venue in Bath city centre. We are proud to add this unique and charming pub – with popular guest accommodation – to our tenanted pub estate. We look forward to working with Jack and his team to ensure The Griffin continues to play a vital part in Bath’s vibrant and distinctive pub scene.” Grimston added: “It has been a privilege to be the custodian of a Bath icon for nearly four years. It is with a combination of pride in my staff, gratitude to my guests and sadness I will no longer be working with them. I believe St Austell Brewery and its new tenant will be superb guardians. I wish them much luck and look forward to seeing the pub continue to flourish.” The purchase of The Griffin Inn takes the total number of pubs owned by St Austell Brewery – including tenanted properties and managed houses – to 179 as it continues its growth and investment across the south west.

Black Sheep Brewery chairman Andy SleeYorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery has returned to operating profit for the first time in five years following a turnover boost and has also laid out its future investment plans. The company has also revealed founder Paul Theakston, who established the business in 1992, will step down from the board following its annual general meeting next Thursday (27 September). Black Sheep Brewery saw turnover increase 3.3% to £18.6m for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £18m the year before. The company had an operating profit of £260,000, compared with a loss of £437,000 the previous year. It added the positive performance was on the back of a declining cask ale market, which fell 7% year-on-year. The company stated: “The board is actively looking into developing a sustainable packaging solution for its bottled products while also exploring investment in Black Sheep’s retail presence as strategies to deliver potential long-term growth.” Managing director Rob Theakston said: “We have continued to diversify the Black Sheep brand with the development of several new products to the on and off-trade that complement our core range. The launch of 54° North, our first lager, was one of many well-received new additions to the Black Sheep range. Our innovative brewing approach is helping to set Black Sheep up for the future as we continue to face a shrinking cask market, and this diversification will be crucial to our future success.” Chairman Andy Slee (pictured) added: “We have enjoyed a positive year despite varying challenges brewers face, including a disproportionate tax burden on the sector. Black Sheep currently pays five-and-a-half times more in beer duty than eBay pays in UK corporation tax, which strikes me as wholly unfair. Beer duty and business rates remain the issues focusing the sector’s time at present, especially in dialogue with government. The entire board and I would like to wish our founder Paul Theakston all the very best in his well-earned retirement. Paul has overseen the development of this iconic brewery during the past 26 years and been instrumental in making Black Sheep a household name that is exported throughout the world. His sons, Rob and Jo, the wider management team and the board will continue to uphold the values and legacy he has left behind, producing great Yorkshire beers.”

D&D London has launched its Bluebird brand in New YorkRestaurant operator D&D London has launched its Bluebird brand in New York. The venue has opened on the third floor of Shops at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The space occupies more than 10,000 square feet and comprises an all-day lounge, wine bar and brasserie overlooking Central Park. The menu in the 100-cover restaurant is a marriage of British tradition and local favourites under the direction of executive chef Nicolas Houlbert, while the venue also offers a 20-cover private dining room. D&D London chairman and chief executive Des Gunewardena said: “We have always loved New York and we’re delighted to be launching Bluebird this side of the pond. With so many parallels between our two cities, we know New Yorkers will enjoy Bluebird – a restaurant celebrated not only for its food and wine but also for its design, buzz and glamour. Bluebird is a social hub for Londoners and Bluebird London in New York will similarly become a great meeting place for residents, shoppers and workers.” D&D London plans to open another restaurant in New York next year, in the Hudson Yards development. Gunewardena and David Loewi founded the company in 2006 following a buyout of Conran Restaurants, a deal that included the original Bluebird in King’s Road. A second Bluebird opened in White City in April.

London operator Davy’s has confirmed it will open a new wine bar and restaurant in its City heartland next month. The company is launching The Tappit Hen in St Swithins Lane, in the building that was originally home to the UK cellars of the port house, Sandeman. The Tappit Hen takes its name from the traditional 2.1 litre port bottle. The 3,680 square foot site will be set over two floors, comprising a ground-floor bar with seating for 60 people and a 50-cover restaurant in the cellars. There will also be two private dining rooms for up to 24 people and access to the original 13th century cellars. There will be an extensive list of wines and ports available by the glass using a wine preservation system and Coravin. The restaurant menu will feature British dishes using principally local and UK-sourced ingredients, with separate bar and private dining offerings. Chairman James Davy said: “As we approach our 149th year as London wine merchants, each new opening remains as exciting as ever, and having a bar and restaurant so aligned with the history of the London wine trade is a perfect fit for us. The Tappit Hen will offer our customers everything about Davy’s that they enjoy in exceptional surroundings, a brilliant location, and with some modern updates. Vintage wines and ports from our cellars will feature strongly on the list, in addition to some new wines we have shipped from around the world, and a selection of local craft beers.”

Fuller's pilot breweryLondon brewer and retailer Fuller’s has launched its pilot brewery. It is located at the back of the new-look brewery shop at the company’s historic Griffin Brewery in Chiswick. The pilot brewery offers the company’s brewers an opportunity to create more experimental beers in small quantities. The new plant produces about ten barrels (40 firkins) of beer per brew, which can be packaged in bottle, cask or keg. The plant has an infusion mash tun, a copper whirlpool with an external wort boiler, four fermentation tanks and two beer tanks. It has produced its first five brews that include Beer One, a 7% ABV ale based on the Golden Pride recipe. Head brewer Georgina Young said: “This pilot brewery is a fantastic addition to Fuller’s. Prior to this, the smallest batch we could brew was 160 barrels so we tended to play safe with flavours. We will use the brewery for trial-testing new raw materials such as malt, hops, herbs, spices and fruit. We can test new equipment and procedures before scaling up and attempt beer styles that have never been brewed at Chiswick before. It will also play a role in training brewers.”

Australian-Japanese sushi hand roll concept Inigo has increased the equity offer in its £350,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to roll out kiosks across London. The company, founded by Jeremy Bliss, is now offering 18.92% equity instead of the original 13.46% for the investment, reducing the pre-money valuation from £2.35m to £1.5m. So far 47 investors have pledged £103,890 with 16 days remaining. The pitch states: “Down under, hand-roll kiosks are commonplace, with Australia’s six leading hand-roll chains totalling more than 380 locations across the country. Hand rolls are sold in schools and work canteens, corner shops and airports, and are considered by many an essential part of Australian eating. Britons are increasingly looking for light, healthy and tasty meal options. Inigo hand rolls can be conveniently eaten on the go. Inigo produces all its own food at the site of partner H Forman & Son’s – a leading smokehouse – which contributes scalable kitchen infrastructure, product expertise and, of course, high-quality produce for Inigo’s menu. Our chefs are Noma and Hix-trained. Inigo is operating one store in the City of London and our business-to-business offering launched at the start of the year. We already supply a number of corporate clients via Baxter Storey and Searcys.”

The mac and cheese burger, which is one of the new additions to Stonegate Pub Company's ProperPub brand menuStonegate Pub Company has rolled out a new menu for its Proper Pub brand. The menu, which is available across more than 250 outlets, expands the vegan and vegetarian options, and builds on the burger and kid’s menus. Vegetarian and vegan dishes include a cauliflower and dhansak curry and a Thai lentil pie, topped with a coconut crumble. New burgers include the mac and cheese burger and the surf and turf burger, while the children’s menu features grilled halloumi and fish fingers. Four of the “King Feast” dishes now feature permanently on the menu as “Big Plate Specials” – giant curry, chicken feast, pie shop platter and sausage and mash mountain, which is also available as a vegetarian option. Meanwhile, cocktail bar brand Be At One has crowned the latest winner of its annual bartender challenge. In its eighth year, Birmingham’s Dave Tsouvallaris has become the first winner since the brand was acquired by Stonegate Pub Company on 23 July for an undisclosed sum. The final took place in London Monument, with Tsouvallaris winning £2,000 and a three-day, all expenses paid trip after triumphing over 150 other bartenders. Be At One operates 34 bars across the UK.

Propel and Think Hospitality are launching the Immersive Experiences Conference, designed to bring together the community of operators, landlords and investors in the UK’s emerging immersive experiences sector. The half-day event takes place on Friday, 9 November at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. James Hacon, of Think Hospitality, will provide an overview of global innovation and trends in creating immersive experiences. Virgin Experience Days will outline its overview of the immersive experience sector, sharing key trends and potential growth areas. Matt Greco-Smith (pictured), co-founder of Swingers, will talk about the company’s progress opening two crazy golf venues in London, its food and beverage model and plans to open in New York. Frankie Edwards, head of the Jamie Oliver Cook School, will share how it has maximised sales from a large site through the addition of a hands-on cooking experience, effectively representing one of the UK’s most successful celebrity chefs. Jozef Youssef, founder and chef at Kitchen Theory, will discuss the principles of experience design in gastronomy based on joint research into the field with the University of Oxford. Tiffany Ng, co-founder and chief executive of RSVP, founder of Silver.Spoon, and co-founder and partner of Vinatic, will talk about the global pop-up and underground dining scene, and share her learnings of driving awareness and commercial returns from her experience running an online booking platform for the sector and a number of branded experiences in Copenhagen. Toby Harris, chief executive of Social Entertainment Venues, will introduce its concepts, share how it has differentiated from key competitors and where it sees the growth opportunities for its brands. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “With consumers now demanding truly memorable experiences, the immersive market has become a key battleground for operators in an ever-challenging environment. This conference will provide valuable insight into making the most of that opportunity.” Tickets are £345 plus VAT for operators, £445 plus VAT for suppliers, and £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium subscribers. To book a place, email or call 01444 817691.

Propel Multi ClubThe full speaker schedule for this year’s final Propel Multi Club Conference has been revealed. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 1 November at the Grange Hotel, St Paul’s, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at The speaker line-up is Christie & Co managing director of pubs and restaurants Neil Morgan; Zonal marketing director Clive Consterdine; Andrew Ball, of sector accountancy specialist haysmacintyre; Martin Dinkele, deputy managing director of Morar HPI; James Nye, managing director of award-winning, nine-strong Anglian Country Inns; Matt Snell, managing director of 19-strong Gusto; Good Life Eatery founder Yasmine Larizadeh; Simmons Bars founder Nick Campbell; John Upton, former managing director of Leon, member of the McDonald’s UK leadership team and now board member of Motherclucker and Naked Deli; Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s; Joe Grossman, founder of 12-strong Patty & Bun; and David Singleton, area vice-president, franchise operations and development EMEA/south Asia, Hard Rock International.

This year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by UKHospitality and Propel, has opened for bookings. It takes place on Monday, 8 October at Bafta, Piccadilly. Speakers will be Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, chair of the Mayor’s Night-time Commission and a panel member of the government’s cultural cities inquiry; Karl Chessell, who heads CGA’s retailer business unit; Simon Potts, managing director of award-winning bar and restaurant brand The Alchemist; Toby Smith, chief executive of Novus; Alan Lorrimer, founder and managing director of House of Song; Charlie Gilkes, founder of Inception Group; Andrew Stones, managing director of cocktail bar brand Be At One; and leading licensing barrister Sarah Clover. Meanwhile, Nicholls will talk to Tokyo Industries founder Aaron Mellor, Richard Hamlin of First Merchant, Peter Marks of Deltic Group, Tim Kidd of Adventure Bars and Lord Smith about the current trading and regulatory landscape in the late-night market. Tickets are £139 plus VAT for operators who are UKHospitality members and £195 plus VAT for non-UKHospitality members. Supplier tickets are £185 plus VAT for UKHospitality members and £285 plus VAT for non-UKHospitality members. To book tickets, email Anne Steele at

Propel will host Professor Chris Muller, the leading thinker, teacher and author on multi-site foodservice management in the US, at its next Multi-site Management Masterclass. The event, which will focus on growth through innovation and branding and features all-new material, will take place on Friday, 28 September at One Moorgate Place in London and is open for bookings. Leading UK businesses such as Mitchells & Butlers and TGI Friday’s have sent staff to be taught by Professor Muller at Boston University’s School of Hospitality – now Professor Muller is returning to the UK to lead this bespoke interactive masterclass. The event will provide valuable insights as well as new perspectives and practical knowledge for founders, area managers of small and medium-sized multi-site companies and area managers of large companies. The sessions will include building a culture of profitable sales and service, using a restaurant brand as a competitive tool and becoming a leader of change. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members, £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers. To book tickets, email Anne Steele at

Propel Multi Club July 2018

Propel Multi Club & Summer Party

5th July 2018

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