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Government plans to reform business rates appeal process could ‘cost hospitality industry £95m’

Kate NichollsThe Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has once again called on the government to ensure hospitality businesses are guaranteed a right of appeal to address incorrect rateable values. This follows publication of new research by the ALMR in association with BNP Paribas Real Estate showing the scale of appeals that could potentially be dismissed on the grounds of reasonable professional judgement. Figures published by the ALMR, based on research by BNP Paribas Real Estate, show almost 6,000 reductions in rateable value of 10% and under and 13,690 in total. The total value of reduced rates liability for rateable value decreases under 10% is in excess of £95m. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “The figures show how vitally important it is that a robust and accurate appeals system remains in place and that appeals are not able to be dismissed under the indistinct and subjective notion of reasonable professional judgement. There is a very real danger that appeals on ratings inaccurate by as much as 10% will be dismissed under this new rule, costing businesses huge amounts of money. The figures show nearly 6,000 businesses receiving a reduction in their rates due to inaccuracies falling within a 10% margin of error. The total liability for these reductions is absolutely huge – in excess of £95m. Under the new system proposed by the government, these appeals could be summarily dismissed with no recourse for employers. It is absolutely crucial that businesses are guaranteed a right to appeal erroneous decisions or the sector could be facing a totally unfair and potentially catastrophic rates hike.”

Burning Night Group raises £3m on new crowdfunding platform

Shooters Sports Bar, Burning Night GroupA crowdfunding campaign to expand the successful Bierkeller chain of bar brands has hit £3m in record time. Burning Night Group, which owns the Bierkeller, Shooters (pictured) and Around the World three-venues-in-one concept, launched a Crowdstacker loan-based fundraiser towards the end of 2016. The first £1m was raised within days, with £2m reached by December. Now the fund has topped £3m, allowing the company to push ahead with plans for expansion into further city centre locations. After opening its first site in 2010, it already runs five venues across the country in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham, with a sixth in Nottingham due to open in March. Burning Night Group employs more than 500 staff and had a turnover in 2016 in excess of £17m. The Crowdstacker Peer to Peer loan (P2P) was identified as a way to involve Bierkeller Entertainment Complex customers in the business’s future growth. The fund, which is still open, offers investors a 7% interest return with a choice of perks packages for those putting in £2,500 or more. Loans are over a period of three years and money can be invested via the tax-efficient Innovative Finance ISA – introduced by the government in April 2016 – or Personal Savings Allowance, allowing up to £1,000 in interest to be earned tax-free. Allan Harper, chief executive of Burning Night Group, said: “It’s fantastic to have generated such a significant amount in such a short time and it really shows, not just people’s faith in what we’re doing as a company, but their willingness to put their money behind us. With interest rates so low at the moment, P2P investments are a great option for people wanting better returns and so it made sense for us to use that route because it allowed us to directly involve current loyal customers, and potential ones, in our future plans.” The minimum investment for the Burning Night Group Crowdstacker P2P loan is £500, with interest paid quarterly. Security has been structured in several ways to mitigate as many risks as possible. Loans are secured on the assets of Burning Night via a first ranking debenture; six of its principal subsidiaries provide cross guarantees for Burning Night’s liabilities; and two of its principal subsidiaries have given a first ranking debenture over their assets and business.

Other News:

Caffe Nero has reported turnover and profit growth in the year to 31 March 2016. The company stated: “The opening of new stores and like-for-like sales growth of 2.2% facilitate revenue growth of 6.7% to £257.6m (2015: £241.3m). Gross profit in turn increased by 6.7% to £62.1m (2015: £58.2m), store margin was consistent at 24.1% (2015: 24.1%), adjusted Ebitda increased by 3.5% to £42.5m (2015: £41.1m) and Ebitda margin has remained broadly constant at 16.5% (2015: 17%). Operating profit increased to £25.5m (2015: £23.6m) with operating profit margin slightly increased to 9.9% (2015: 9.8%). In the current year we opened 34 stores and three stores were handed back to the landlord resulting in net increase of 31 stores or 5.4% of the overall estate. At year end, we had 613 stores operating in 247 UK and Irish towns and cities. The directors believe there’s potential in the UK market for at least 750 stores.” Profit before tax was £25.5m (2015: £23.6m).

YO! Sushi will open its flagship New York site on Thursday 16 March. The New York outpost, set to open in the Flatiron district at 23 West 23rd St.) will offer several options from the chain’s executive chef Mike Lewis that are exclusive to the location, including sushi grilled with a blowtorch, a fried chicken sandwich with a fruity sauce, a “super-sized” shaved ice dessert, and a yuzu broth-based ramen. The company opened a location in Boston last autumn and it now has six other locations in the country, including in Tampa and Paramus, New Jersey.

Independent pub operator City Pub Company has opened its fifth site in Cambridge and acquired its sixth. The Petersfield has opened in Sturton Street at a site formerly occupied by Backstreet Bistro, which closed after the owners retired in May 2016. Following a £500,000 investment, the site has been turned into a 40-cover restaurant and 110-seat gastro-pub. City Pub Company chief executive Rupert Clark told the Cambridge News: “Our aim with the Petersfield was to create a relaxed neighbourhood pub that would bring together the residents of the surrounding area. The staff have done a great job creating an environment that is perfect for get-togethers. Families will love going for a cheeky bite to eat, while the bar is perfect for friends who need a relaxing pint at the end of a stressful week. It’s early days, but we believe the goal of creating a perfect location to bring the community together has been achieved”. Meanwhile, the company has acquired Cambridge pub The Waterman in Chesterton Road, which closed without warning two weeks ago. It is thought the company may have also acquired a vacant unit next door. Last month, chairman Clive Watson told Propel the company, which has just acquired its 30th pub, had identified three further sites as it looks to build a 35-strong estate ahead of its planned AIM float later this year. City Pub Company’s other Cambridge sites are The Punt Yard, The Mill, The Old Bicycle Shop and Cambridge Brew House.

Soft Drink in PubUK pubs are being urged to retain focus on providing a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks as Office for National Statistics figures reveal a fifth of under-25s in the country are teetotal, with numbers on the rise. Motivated by health and income concerns, the new generation are bucking the trend of their parents and opting to drink in moderation, or not at all. Laura Willoughby, founder of Club Soda, a guide that rates pubs based on the quality of the non-alcoholic beverages they sell, told The Guardian: “Young people are drinking less but pubs aren’t keeping up with what they want. Club Soda is a ‘mindful drinking’ movement. It’s about changing the way you think and feel about alcohol. For a lot of people, mindful drinking means switching to a lower-percentage drink, cutting down for a week, doing a sober sprint or trying out an alcohol-free for size. The pubs that get this, that realise not everyone is drinking – they’re the ones that are thriving.” Draft House pub chain owner Charlie McVeigh said offering a decent selection of non-alcoholic drinks had made all the difference to the traditionally quiet start of the year. He said: “Historically we haven’t been that great at stocking non-alcoholic drinks but we now really focus on it. We had a record January.”

BurgerfiUS burger chain Burgerfi has opened its flagship UK location – in Bloomsbury, London. The company, which launched its first UK site in Wembley in September, has opened the new venue in Woburn Place. Founded in 2011, the company has teamed up with sustainability chef Arthur Potts Dawson to produce a menu with plenty of Aberdeen Angus beef and a big focus on recycling. The burgers are “cooked to order in a minute”, with all ingredients prepared daily. The brand’s signature offering is the CEO Burger (double Wagyu beef and brisket blend patty with homemade candied bacon and tomato jam, truffle aioli and aged swiss cheese). Other offerings include the Burgerfi Bacon Cheeseburger, Breakfast All Day Burger, and Vegifi Burger. Other menu items include hotdogs, hand-cut fries with toppings, onion rings, and desserts including custard concretes, floats, shakes, as well as craft beer and wine. Operated by Ground Round, the restaurant opening is led by Jamie Wood, son of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood, and hospitality veteran Constantine Kulukundis, of Chinawhite in Piccadilly. Wood told TLE: “I walked into a Burgerfi on holiday in Miami and loved the way you could order a quinoa burger with a lettuce bun. I wanted to bring this back to the UK and enforce the organic and sustainable message at home.”

Half of all sales at US quick-service chains will be placed digitally before the customer enters the premises, according to research company Crone Consulting. Currently, fewer than 10% of US companies offer the mobile order-ahead feature. However, the growth of the technology has been so swift, chains are having to rethink the way they do business, from putting “greeters” at the front door to adding grab-and-go parking spaces. Starbucks, a pioneer of the technology, introduced the service across the US in late-2015. Order-ahead customers flooded some stores, making it look like lines were extra long and losing customers. Fixes included texting customers when a mobile order was ready and hiring more baristas to ease congestion. Last quarter, mobile orders represented up to 20% of sales during peak traffic times at almost 1,200 Starbucks stores. Order-ahead apps drove 7% of all transactions last quarter, double the figure a year earlier. Adding headcount helped TGI Friday’s overcome its rocky start too. After launching the feature in September, some restaurants angered customers by mixing up to-go orders and digital sales, which now account for about 7% of all orders. A member of staff now has the sole job of managing those orders by shepherding food from kitchen to customer, while the company is also experimenting with kerbside delivery and adding dedicated parking spaces. Richard Crone, chief executive of Crone Consulting, told Bloomberg: “Product, process and people have to be re-engineered to pull this off. Order-ahead features can boost a store’s capacity by 30% and, if companies don’t get it right, we could see a bunch of stores actually going out of business.”

Punch has passed a major milestone after its 100th team member completed their apprenticeship qualification. All 100 apprentices have had access to a wide range of training materials, workshops and e-learning modules, which are all part of the Punch Progress training and development offer. The 100th apprentice, Mathias Sexton, worked at Punch’s Old Quay Inn, Truro, where he completed a Level 2 NVQ followed by a Level 3 NVQ in hospitality supervision and leadership. Punch worked with training provider Lifetime Training to provide training, support and development to achieve the skills required in the hospitality industry. Punch learning and development manager Helen Willis said: “We are really pleased to have seen our 100th learner complete an apprenticeship qualification and reach such a momentous milestone. Apprenticeships offer a vital gateway for many young people like Mathias, enabling them to learn valuable skills so they can excel across the workplace. We’re delighted our apprenticeships are thriving in what is a tough jobs market. We look forward to welcoming and supporting more apprentices.”

Land Securities has revealed its redevelopment of the Plaza at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent will include four new screens at Showcase Cinema de Lux, three new restaurants and two new leisure spaces. Work has begun on-site and is due for completion by Christmas. As well as upsizing to 17 screens, one a large-format XPlus, Showcase Cinema de Lux will install fully electric recliners in every auditorium. The three restaurants will be located at the end of the Plaza on the upper level, overlooking the central space, which houses 14 restaurants. Land Securities said it was already in detailed discussions with several leading brands for the units, which range from 2,500 to 3,800 square feet. Land Securities portfolio director Russell Loveland said: “The upsizing of Showcase, the creation of three further restaurants, and the addition of two new, exciting leisure concepts means we will continue to offer something different on every visit.” Duncan Short, senior vice-president of US and international operations at Showcase Cinemas, added: “The expansion and upgrade of our flagship Bluewater Cinema de Lux will further enhance its standing as one of the finest cinemas in the UK.” CBRE, Time Retail Partners and Shelley Sandzer acted for Bluewater. Showcase dealt direct.

Jamie OliverJamie Oliver’s monthly magazine Jamie is to be relaunched by publisher Hearst targeting the “urban female foodie market”. Hearst said the relaunch on Wednesday (1 March) follows eight months of research by the company’s content marketing division Hearst Made, in collaboration with Oliver himself. This is the first revamp for the magazine since it launched in 2008 and puts the celebrity chef at the heart of the magazine for the first time. The new-look title will feature exclusive recipes by Oliver and be 1.5cm taller to help it “stand out on the newsstand”. Oliver told Campaign: “I’m incredibly proud of the new-look Jamie magazine and I’m excited to be relaunching it with my partners at Hearst. The mag feels fresh, exciting and super-relevant. It’s jam-packed full of content, from exclusive recipes you just won’t get anywhere else to foodie insight from my trusted circle of friends, who’ll be sharing the lowdown on food trends, where to visit, what to eat and so much more.” Oliver will promote the magazine by featuring in a Facebook Live event on Monday, 6 March. Jamie magazine won International Consumer Media Brand of the Year at the 2015 PPA awards, and reported a 5% increase over the previous six months in the latest ABC results.

Whole Foods Market, which has nine sites in the UK, has reported its second consecutive year of profit in the UK. The company lost money for eight consecutive years in the UK but turned to profit in its 2015 financial year. Companies House accounts for the year to 25 September 2016 show turnover up 3% on a like-for-like basis to £117.2m, from £114m the year before. Pre-tax profit was £1,206,000, down slightly from £1,312,000 the year before. Administrative expense improved by eight basis points to 40.5%, with a drop of 39 in the total number of staff during the year. In total, Whole Foods Market has 430 stores in the US, Canada and UK.

The boss of Bourne Leisure has called on ministers to reduce VAT for the tourism industry during school holidays to test the effect of the tax cut. Dermot King, whose company owns the three Butlin’s seaside resorts, Warner Leisure Hotels and Haven holiday parks, said Britain’s hospitality industry could not compete with foreign destinations due to the tax burden. He told the Mail on Sunday: “If you stay at a hotel in Clacton you are charged VAT at 20% for the privilege but in a Barcelona hotel you’re charged just 10%.” The £127bn-a-year tourism sector is Britain’s fourth-largest industry and employs 10% of the UK workforce. King said: “If you want to rebalance the economy then tourism is the easiest industry to grow. It can create jobs fast, especially for young people, and that growth wouldn’t be sucked out of another part of the economy. You are persuading more British families to stay at home and more overseas families to holiday here.” He said of a zero rate of VAT for the hospitality industry: “It would create 100,000 jobs and have a return in just three years. For those reasons I urge the government to think about its tax strategy.” King admitted that so far ministers had been reluctant to cut VAT, but added: “If the government finds a full VAT cut too expensive, one thing it could do to test whether it works is to reduce VAT for school holidays.” Hemel Hempstead-headquartered Bourne Leisure, which employs 5,166 staff, was ranked fifth in this year’s Big Companies category of the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list.

Hollywood BowlHollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s largest ten-pin bowling operator, is to open a £2.4m venue in Derby city centre. The 22,000 square foot site will open at Intu Derby’s new leisure development in early April featuring 18 fully computerised bowling lanes with plush seating, a Hollywood Diner and bar. Any bowling lane can be pre booked, including four VIP lanes that include action replays, personalised messaging and social media interaction. The diner will offer freshly made American classics, including gourmet burgers, hotdogs and shakes. Hollywood Bowl Derby will also be one of the first bowling centres in the country to offer a cashless “tap to play” amusement area, in response to the growing trend for cashless facilities, the company said. Consumers will be able to top up “fun cards” to use on arcade games, including new versions of retro favourites, with many allowing players to win child-friendly prizes. Hollywood Bowl Group chief executive Steve Burns told Hospitality & Catering News: “It will be our 56th centre in the UK and our second to launch this year. Designed as a ‘next generation’ Hollywood Bowl, it is set to be one of the most innovative bowling centres in the country.” Last month, Hollywood Bowl Group signed to anchor the 225,000 square foot leisure extension at Intu Lakeside in Essex. In December, the company reported sales increased 23.9% to £106.6m in the year to 30 September 2016. Group adjusted margin was up 42.6% to £29.4m.

Middletons has won the stamp of approval from a national heritage watchdog for opening a £1.5m steakhouse in a long-neglected Leicester bank building. Historic England has removed the grade II-listed former NatWest bank building in Leicester’s St Martins – considered to be one of the city’s architectural treasures – from the national Heritage At Risk register. The building, which dates to 1900, had stood empty for 16 years and was falling into disrepair. Following an ambitious £1.5m restoration by the Middletons Steakhouse Group, the building reopened to the public as a restaurant in October. Historic England inspectors have since visited the property and have now confirmed it is no longer “at risk”. It will be removed from the 2017 national heritage At Risk register, which is due to be published in the autumn. Middletons managing director Stephen Hutton said: “We are delighted Historic England has recognised the fantastic refurbishment we carried out on this former bank. Bringing this building back to life has been a three-year project and we are very proud of this achievement and the fact this historic building is open once again for people to enjoy.”

London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has launched London Pride Unfiltered – the brewer’s biggest beer launch in a generation. The 4.1% ABV, unfiltered variant comes in 30-litre kegs and is aimed at opening the brand up to a “new consumer and a new drinking occasion”. The beer is brewed true to London Pride’s original recipe but is dry hopped after to add character and flavour. With a goal of making the beer as natural as possible the beer is centrifuged, but not filtered or pasteurised, to retain taste and complexity. The company said London Pride Unfiltered has been “unashamedly designed to appeal to today’s younger consumer”. It is the first time since its launch in 1959 that the London Pride name and recipe has been used to diversify the range. Fuller’s Beer Company managing director Simon Dodd said: “London Pride on cask is a truly great beer and cask ale is, and always will be, the backbone of Fuller’s beer range. However, the recent investment we have made in brands like Frontier Craft Lager have proved Fuller’s has relevance to different consumers and different drinking occasions and we can compete in today’s dynamic beer arena with our own range of very drinkable beers. The London Pride brand name has heritage and authenticity and we feel the time has come to leverage these qualities and bring London Pride to a more contemporary environment.” Head brewer Georgina Young added: “By only using a centrifuge, we get a hazy beer but retain additional flavour to give London Pride Unfiltered more of the traditional character you have in the cask beer than in the conventional London Pride keg version.”

Starbucks, Affogato FrappuccinoStarbucks’ pledge to hire refugees in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban may end up hitting the company’s pockets. Starbucks’ “brand perception” has slipped dramatically since chief executive Howard Schultz vowed to hire 10,000 migrants in 75 countries during the next five years, according to the YouGov Brand Index. The research found the company’s rating had dropped by two-thirds since late January, when Schultz announced his new policy. Two days before the announcement, 30% of consumers said they would consider buying from Starbucks. Since the announcement, that number has dropped to 24%, the Mail Online reports. On 20 January, Schultz wrote in a letter to employees: “We are in business to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time – whether that neighbourhood is in a red state or a blue state; a Christian country or a Muslim country; a divided nation or a united nation. That will not change. You have my word on that.”

The Skinny KitchenHealthy eating concept Skinny Kitchen has opened a restaurant in Belfast, the brand’s third UK site. The restaurant in Boucher Road operates a no-booking policy and offers a menu that “takes conventional meals and uses a waistline-friendly approach”. Dishes include lean steak mince and sweet potato chips, flaxseed waffles, protein bowls, low-carb pizzas and guilt-free desserts, alongside low-calorie cocktails and fresh pressed juices. The company uses locally sourced, natural ingredients such as free-range eggs and meat and aims to satisfy the needs of various diets, from high protein/low carb to vegan and vegetarian. The concept was launched in Ibiza in 2014 by former Bournemouth University student David Mason and three friends, who were looking for somewhere to eat that meant “all their hard work in the gym before their summer holiday didn’t go to waste”. When they couldn’t find anywhere, they decided to set up their own business on the island under the banner “eat clean, rave dirty”. Skinny Kitchen is backed by investors in the Lineker’s and Ocean Beach Club brands. The other Skinny Kitchen sites are in Bournemouth, Canterbury, and two in Ibiza.

Brewer and retailer Wadworth has created two positions in line with its updated business strategy implemented under chief executive Chris Welham. Katherine Bond has been appointed beer brand marketing manager for off-trade and export, while Danny Champken comes on board as on-trade beer brand marketing manager. Bond joins from the Pets At Home Vet Group, where she was national campaign marketing manager. Apart from her primary role, Bond will lead the creation of consistent beer branding across all communications, including online, packaging, POS and consumer promotions for off-trade retailers. Champken joins from brewer and operator SA Brain, where he was cask development manager. His remit will see him manage the strategy for beer brands in the on-trade for Wadworth’s own pub estate and national pub company and free trade customers, while working alongside Bond to ensure complete synergy across all channels. He will also look to activate energetic consumer and trade campaigns. Wadworth head of marketing and communications Elaine Beckett said: “Wadworth created these positions as part of its ambitious new strategy and we are delighted to have Katherine and Danny on board to increase brand awareness and ultimately help to grow our beer sales. Their combined energy and experience in consumer marketing and within the hospitality sector makes them a fantastic addition to the Wadworth team.”

Fentimans Botanical Beverages has been listed in the Sunday Times table of Britain’s 100 SMEs with the fastest-growing overseas sales. The drinks manufacturer, which employs 38 staff, has seen an 80.21% rise in international sales growth during the past two years, placing it 30th in the table. The Sunday Times said: “Since 1905, this Northumberland firm has been infusing, blending and botanically brewing ingredients such as ginger, juniper and burdock to create its mixers and soft drinks. Six years ago, Fentimans started focusing on exports and it now sells to more than 70 countries. Strong sales in the US, Belgium and Austria helped overseas sales grow to an annualised £5.9m in 2015.” The annual Sunday Times list is in its third year and ranks British private companies with total sales of between £5m and £25m in their latest year of accounts. Earlier this month, Fentimans reinvented its mixer tasting notes as it looked to kick-start plans to triple turnover.

Hotels in the major European markets of France, Italy and Portugal reported growth across the three key performance metrics in January, according to data from STR. Year-on-year occupancy rates were up 5.1% to 57.1%. The average daily rate was up 2.4% compared with January 2016 to €99.25, while revpar rose 7.6% compared with last year to €56.66. In France, occupancy rates rose 9.2% to 55.8%, average daily rate increased 3.1% to €120.43, and revpar was up 12.5% to €67.15 year-on-year. France’s performance showed a bounce back from a weak January 2016 marred by security concerns. The submarkets of Paris city centre (29.7%), Charles de Gaulle airport (11.7%), Lyon (44.6%) and Toulouse (12.1%) all posted double-digit revpar growth for the month. In Italy, occupancy rates rose 11.6% to 51.3%, average daily rates increased slightly by 0.1% to €104.57, and revpar was up 11.7% to €53.67. January’s revpar growth was the highest year-on-year rise the country has seen since Milan hosted the 2015 Expo. Revpar performance was driven by growth in Milan (19.5%), Rome (8.1%), Florence (14.3%) and Turin (10.0%). In Portugal, occupancy rose by 17.9% to 46.1%, average daily rates increased 8.5% to €80.71, while revpar was up 27.8% year-on-year to €37.23. The figures marked the first time since 2008 that Portugal’s occupancy level exceeded 40% for January. The average daily rate was also the country’s highest for the month since 1997. STR analysts said Portugal and other markets in southern Europe have benefited from a shift in demand from North Africa and other European markets.

Sales of British beer fell by 1% in 2016, prompting renewed calls from the industry for a one-penny cut in beer duty in the Budget on 8 March. The fall means 78 million fewer pints of beer were sold in 2016 compared with the previous year. Overall, however, sales in the past three years have stabilised after years of sharp decline, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said, a trend greatly helped by three, one-penny cuts in beer duty from 2013 to 2015, and a freeze last year. Tax cuts have increased confidence and investment in the sector and have been accompanied by campaigns such as There’s a Beer for That, which promotes the beer category as a whole, with widespread backing throughout the industry through Britain’s Beer Alliance. Prior to 2013, there was a slump of 14% in sales under the controversial beer duty escalator, when a tax hike of 42% from 2008 to 2013 was accompanied by 58,000 job losses and 7,000 pub closures. To safeguard jobs, pubs and investment, the current trends make it essential the government does not revert to beer tax hikes as currently planned in the Budget, the BBPA said. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Recent Budgets have shown reducing beer duty is a low-cost, targeted measure that can make a real difference. Beer duty is now 17% lower than it was due to be under the escalator. However, our tax rates are still the third highest in the EU and far higher than in neighbouring countries. The chancellor can safeguard pubs and protect jobs and investment with a further one-penny cut in the Budget on 8 March.”

Department store Selfridges is embracing street food by partnering with the Urban Food Fest Deli within its Food Hall in Orchard Street. Launching on Friday, 3 March, Urban Food Fest will bring its street food night market concept indoors for the first time. It operates street food night markets in Shoreditch High Street, east London, and central Manchester. It will open seven days a week during Selfridges’ opening times – Monday to Saturday, from 9.30am to 9pm, and from 11.30am to 6pm on Sundays. Urban Food Fest founder Mike Egerton said: “We are extremely excited about our first indoor 24/7 venue, which will encompass all the facets of our brand – gourmet global street food, artisan drinks, a unique experience you can only get at Urban Food Fest and, of course, our cool Shoreditch vibe.”

Yawar Khan, chairman of the Asian Catering Federation (ACF), has warned that half of Britain’s 17,000 Indian restaurants will disappear from high streets inside a decade unless they “up their game”. He told the Telegraph that alongside the widely publicised chef shortage and rising costs, a new threat came from the failure of many restaurateurs to respond to changing customer demands and ignoring modern technology. The ACF represents more than 35,000 ethnic restaurants and takeaways in Britain, including those in the Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian community, although about nine in ten curry restaurants in the UK are Bangladeshi-owned. Khan said: “British Bangladeshis can be very insular and inward looking. We fail to regard other cuisines as competition and we are slow to adopt new marketing opportunities, such as social media platforms. For years we have been telling restaurants they need to up their game with shorter menus, offering lighter, healthier options with more fish and vegetable dishes and genuinely authentic regional food. Many rarely see a customer at lunchtime, while pubs and chains like Nando’s are serving thousands of spicy dishes throughout the day. Restaurateurs feel there’s no demand for spicy dishes when the temperature rises – as if it never gets hot on the subcontinent. Looking at drinks menus, you would never know they grow tea in India – where are the green, oolong and white teas? Where’s the darjeeling, assam, dooar and travancore?” However Teddy Chen, of the Malaysian Restaurant Association, added: “It will be sad to lose some old favourites but there are some exciting and dynamic restaurateurs waiting in the wings to take their place.”

McDonald's, USMcDonald’s is cutting the price of certain drinks in the US. The company plans to offer $1 sodas and $2 McCafe speciality drinks across the US as it turns to higher-margin beverages at a time when cheap grocery prices are prompting more Americans to eat at home. The promotion will start in April and include soft drinks of any size for $1. For a limited time, customers can also buy small McCafe beverages such as smoothies and frappes for $2. At stores in Chicago this week, small McCafe frappes sold for between $2.69 and $3.09. The chain plans to support the promotion with national advertising, Bloomberg reports. “(Beverages are) some of the highest-margin products, so they can probably afford to do it,” said Peter Saleh, an analyst at BTIG, adding that gross margins for drinks can be as high as 90%, while food is usually about 65% to 70%. McDonald’s vice-president of US marketing Adam Salgado said. “It’s adding another layer of great value for customers with more choices. We know there are budget-conscious consumers out there. Value will always be a part of our strategy.”

Kate NichollsThe Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has intensified its campaign to bring about business rates reform with a letter to the Telegraph. The letter highlights the importance of pubs and bars to the UK’s high streets and calls for immediate action to safeguard venues. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls has also spoken to the BBC highlighting the problem for the UK’s licensed hospitality sector. Nicholls said: “The prominence of the ALMR’s campaign, along with sector-wide efforts, to bring about business rates reform for pubs shows what a crucial issue this is. Pubs and bars are looking at rates increases in every sector of the UK and it is well past time the government acted to provide support for businesses facing the greatest burdens.” The ALMR also welcomed the decision by the Scottish government to cap rates increases at 12.5% and the Welsh government’s proposal to introduce hospitality relief worth £10m. The ALMR has called on the UK government to follow these examples with similar measures to ensure fairness in rates bills for pubs and bars. Nicholls added: “These moves by the Scottish and Welsh governments are a good first step in recognising hospitality businesses are being unfairly treated by a system that does not work. Westminster must follow this example with sector-specific relief for pubs and bars that are uniquely disadvantaged by this totally unsuitable system.”

Food & Fuel, the 13-strong London-based cafe bar operator chaired by former Spirit boss Karen Jones, has reported turnover up 3.6% to £12,945,336 in the year to the end of May 2016. Ebitda increased by 12.8% to £819,643, despite one of the company’s outlets trading less than the full financial year having been sold in April 2016. The company stated: “The directors are pleased with this strong performance, which represents the tenth year of like-for-like growth.” Loans of £1,516,781 were repaid in June 2016 and a new loan of £2,750,000 taken out with a one-year capital repayment moratorium. There was a £473,796 loss on a disposal of a tangible asset, meaning an overall pre-tax loss of £249,992, compared with a profit of £90,374 the year before.

Revolution Bars Group - Revolucion de Cuba Manchester - bar tenderPeel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Revolution Bars Group (RBG) shares ahead of interim results on Tuesday (28 February) – he has a target price of 280p for the shares. He said: “We forecast profit before tax rising by 7% to £5m, below the pace of sales growth (12.7%), due to higher labour costs. We expect second-half growth to be stronger (80% of this year’s openings were in Q2), but the main catalyst and source of growth should be the number and, equally importantly, the size of future openings. Like-for-like sales grew by 2.0% in the first half (2.2% in Q2) and have been positive for the last 3.5 years. In our view, this reflects highly trained and motivated staff providing a premium, differentiated product range (food, drink and entertainment) in large, well invested and located venues. Our forecasts expect Ebit margins to fall by 40 basis points in the first half and 20 basis points over the full year, with the difference being the second half gaining the full trading benefit of the four extra sites that were opened in Q2. On average, all five of this year’s new openings are standard-size openings, with the first four having an average of 4,575 square feet of trading space. Typically, a standard size unit should make £0.3m Ebitda and a 33% cash flow return on investment versus £0.8m Ebitda and a 53% cash flow return on investment from large (7,800 square foot) openings, with the latter capable of generating 400 basis point higher margins. Average sales have risen by 74% over the last 12 years, during which its average cash flow return on investment on new sites has averaged 42%. In our view, if the company is to continue such levels of outperformance it needs to continue to open large outlets that can not only offer a more differentiated experience but also benefit from greater fixed cost and operating efficiencies. It is valued on 5.4 times EV/Ebitda, the type of valuation one might expect for an unbranded, short-leasehold nightclub. However, in comparison RBG has two of the strongest brands in the licensed retail sector in terms of having over 12,900 Facebook fans per site, and its door fees account for less than 2% of sales (versus typically 20% to 25% in nightclubs). Also, RBG has no debt, the highest returns in the licensed retail sector and an enlarged site pipeline that could drive strong growth and scale economies. The interim results will provide an opportunity for the company to update on how the site pipeline is likely to convert into new openings (timing and size) over the next two years. This is the main catalyst, in our view.”

Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company has reopened the Honor Oak pub in Forest Hill following a refit that has introduced a “living wall”, a private hire space, and a programme of events that includes a weekly “fix-up” night. Spanning the entire length of one side of the pub, the living wall features an integrated watering system. The company acquired the pub in St German’s Road just before Christmas and has made other enhancements to the venue, including the beer range, menus, gardens and decor. A performance and private hire space has been created upstairs, with a daily programme of events including a weekly “fix-up” night hosted by The Restart Project – a social enterprise that encourages and empowers people to repair their electronics to reduce waste. General manager Dene Stevenson said: “The living wall is our representation of the parkland in which the original Honor Oak is believed to have stood. The impact the vertical garden has on the sound, light, heat and overall feel of the pub is marked.” Earlier this month, The Laine Pub Company reported turnover up more than 10% and operating Ebitda up more than 23% for the financial year to 30 June 2016. The group, which operates 48 pubs in the London and Brighton areas and brews from four on-site microbreweries plus a full production brewery in central Sussex, saw Ebitda rise to £3.9m on turnover of £30.4m, up from Ebitda of £3.1m on sales of £27.5m the previous year.

Churchills Fish & Chip Shop, BracknellThe Chesterford Group has opened the tenth site for its Churchill’s Fish & Chips brand, this time in Bracknell, Berkshire. The new venue is the second to feature Churchill’s “assisted service” restaurant concept, which combines a takeaway and click-and-collect service. The company said Bracknell is the first in a line of “incredibly strong locations” scheduled to open during the next six months – in Essex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Sussex and greater London. Chesterford Group managing director James Lipscombe said: “We are very pleased to have opened our first Churchill’s store of 2017. Bracknell is a fantastic town for us, combining an excellent location with takeaway and a 40-cover restaurant. This represents our second Churchill’s assisted service restaurant concept and has proved to be incredibly successful for us and, combined with the takeaway and click and collect service, offers our customers flexible ways to order and dine with us. We continue to evolve and innovate our brand experience in response to the growing and changing needs of our customers.” The Chesterford Group was named best UK fish and chip chain at last year’s National Fish & Chip Awards.

Italian wine cafe Veeno, which opened its 11th site in Chester this month, is set to open an Italian seafood restaurant called Blue Lobster in Alderley Edge at the end of March or beginning of April. The company has signed a lease for a site in London Road that has been empty since Tomfoolery restaurant closed in January 2016, five months after opening. The venue will feature a bar specialising in franciacorta, a sparkling wine from the Brescia region. Veeno co-founder Nino Francesco Caruso told “The customers in this area seem to appreciate quality products and service and we are confident we can deliver them.” Veeno operates two wine cafes in Leeds with others in Bristol, Chester, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and York. The company also launched a franchise offer earlier this month, which will focus on the UK for the time being but with plans to expand into Ireland, Scandinavia and Asia. The company has formed Veeno Franchising, a joint venture with Italy’s Sviluppo Franchising. Veeno plans to have expanded to 80 sites by 2020.

New World Trading Company (NWTC) is planning to open six venues a year as part of a UK-wide roll-out but only if the right sites become available, its chief executive has told Insider. Earlier this month, NWTC secured a £23m investment from NatWest to support its growth plans. Of this, £19m was part of a refinancing of the management buyout banking arrangements, with the remaining £4m contributing towards the roll-out of new sites nationally. NWTC was acquired by Graphite Capital for £50m in June with the management team, led by chief executive Chris Hill, reinvesting alongside the private equity firm for a stake in the business. Hill told Insider: It’s our day-to-day performance that’s fuelling our optimism and our roll-out strategy. It’s about doing the right site and doing each one properly, rather than some sort of rush to open new sites, because we think we’re riding the crest of a wave. We operate in a very solid way, we’ve got a food and drink pub offer and, if you get it right, it’s not a flash-in-the-pan market, you can be around for a very long time. We just want to open the right sites. Six is our target but if we can do seven that would be great – but if we only do five because there are only five good opportunities that year, then so be it. It’s about the correct growth rather than rushing for growth. We can deliver good openings at six a year – but only if we can find six good sites.”

The schedule for the Advanced Social Media Masterclass has been revealed featuring all-new content and insights to allow companies to increase brand exposure and broaden their reach. Propel has partnered with digital marketing company Digital Blonde for the event, which encompasses a full-day programme of tips, insights, case studies and information to help create sector-leading, compelling content. The event takes place on Friday, 7 April at One Moorgate Place in London. The day will open with Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell introducing the latest social media technology and trends and how these will have an impact on food, drink and hospitality marketing. It will detail all the emerging trends to watch out for and how businesses can benefit from them. Delegates will find out everything they need to know about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. The sessions will revisit effective social media campaigns, with a special focus on flops and triumphs. It will delve into what success looks like across each platform and how to avoid the potential pitfalls. The day will also explore the psychology of marketing, giving delegates the chance to understand human behaviour and decision-making processes. There will be a session on boosting social success with PR and how they should work together for best results that really get audiences engaged and involved. The discussion will be brought to life with recent and relevant examples to learn from. The day will also look at the sites, blogs and social media accounts with highly engaged audiences that possess the power to make a place or product a hit. Delegates will find out how to create their dream team when it comes to recognising, recruiting and retaining social talent. Getting the job spec right, as well as understanding your audience, play a part in this mission and this session will help businesses to become a magnet for the talent they want. The event will also look at exploring how to use analytics to inform business strategies and how measuring and monitoring key metrics can lead to continuous performance improvement and a sector-leading social media presence. Delegates will also find out how their social media messages and campaigns can benefit from social advertising, all without using big budgets. The session will cover advertising examples, appropriate spend and how to evaluate paid-for activity. The day will also cover making sure your social marketing is engaging for all – and there will be a session providing clarity on marketing to Baby Boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z. Delegates will also find out the best ways of using social media to attract families to their pub or restaurant. The day will be rounded off by a panel of experts, who will answer burning questions that have arisen during the event. Tickets are £295 for Propel Premium members and £345 for non-members and can be booked by emailing

There are now only a few places left at the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday, 9 March at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, 4-18 Harrington Gardens, London SW7 4LH. Paul Hemming, managing director at AlixPartners, will provide an overview of current mergers, acquisitions and refinancing trends in the UK market – and reflect on market growth. Michael Ingemann, chairman of the ground-breaking Copenhagen-based Claus Meyer Holdings (founders of Noma), will talk about learnings from launching a food hall and a fine dining restaurant in New York’s Grand Central station last year while also launching a culinary school in Brooklyn. Andrea Ferraz, analyst at Morgan Stanley, will look at the impact of third-party delivery on the UK foodservice sector, compare progress in the UK with other major markets and give her views on how third-party delivery will develop in the UK. Nick Pring, co-founder of Urban Pubs and Bars, will talk about creating a unique market position in London suburbs, building a business the second time around, finding property and repositioning JD Wetherspoon pubs, creating a pizza concept, and opening a 12,000 square foot pop-up at Stratford Westfield. John West, head of franchising sales for Coffee Republic, will set out how the company has revived its fortune in the UK and overseas, its USPs, its position within the coffee market, its franchising strategy, and future plans in the UK and abroad. Jason Myers, chief executive of Busaba Eathai, the concept created by Alan Yau, will talk about evolving the brand, staff recruitment and retention, prospects for the Thai market, brand longevity, and developing its delivery and takeaway business. Kevin Charity, founder of Coaching Inn Group, will set out the benefits of taking Business Growth Fund investment two years ago, including his reflections on the process and how it has quadrupled the value of the business through the execution of a business plan that has included buying new sites, strengthening the management team, leveraging head office costs, and growing site Ebitdas through investment and operational improvements. Dan Einzig, food and beverage entrepreneur and chief executive of sector design agency Mystery, will look at current trends in Los Angeles and London and the learnings from innovative brand concepts his agency has helped to develop, including Bubbleology, Za Za Bazaar, Yorica, Rawligion and Dub Jam, its own Caribbean barbecue and reggae rum bar concept. Jayne Baker, managing director of Wright & Bell, will talk about the ground-breaking £3.2m Imbiba-backed Kitty Hawk, the department store of dining concept – combining shopping, drinking and dining – its progress at its first site in South Place, and future prospects. Atholl Milton, co-founder of Street Dots, will speak about the company’s development of a unique street food business model, the size and quality of the market, connecting and developing high-quality street food traders, and the way he sees street food developing in the future. Steve Locke, co-founder of Be At One, will set out how the company has developed its own distinct position in the cocktail market with a focus on staff training and development, progress in the regions, and future prospects. Multi-site companies can book two free places each by emailing or calling 01444 817691.

Subscribers to Propel Premium are to receive a new benefit – a £50 discount on tickets to Propel’s Masterclass series of events in 2017. The series includes The Advanced Social Media Masterclass, The Leadership Masterclass, the Finance and Investment Masterclass, and the Multi-site Management Masterclass. The current free service to all existing readers remains the same but readers can opt to upgrade to receive the Propel Premium service. Propel Premium subscribers also receive the Morning Newsletter, which is sent at 6.30am each weekday, 12 hours earlier at 6.30pm the day before. On 1 March, Propel Premium subscribers will also receive an updated version of the Propel database of multi-site companies, which will add another 200 companies to the existing database of 700 to hit the 900 mark. For operators, annual subscription costs £345 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. For suppliers, annual subscription costs £445 plus VAT, with an extra £50 per additional subscriber at each company. To subscribe to the Propel Premium service, email


Propel Multi Club November 2016

Propel Multi-Club Conference

Thursday, 9 March 2017, Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London

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Las Vegas Study Tour 2017

Saturday 25th March to Tuesday 28th March

Propel and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) have opened their study tour to Las Vegas in March 2017 for bookings. The visit takes place between Saturday 25th March and Tuesday 28th March.

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