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Whitbread reports UK like-for-likes down 3.7% in first quarter

Alison Brittain, chief executive of WhitbreadWhitbread has reported UK like-for-like sales fell 3.7% in its first quarter “due to weak trading conditions”. Like-for-like UK accommodation sales were down 4.6% while UK food and beverage like-for-likes fell 2.1%. Total UK sales were down 1.1%, with accommodation sales falling 1.5% and food and beverage 0.4%. UK and international sales fell 1.0%, with accommodation down 1.3% and food and beverage down 0.4%. Whitbread said the accommodation sales decline in the UK was predominantly due to declining business confidence, impacting short-lead bookings. During the quarter 282 new bedrooms were added in the UK, with 3,000 to 3,500 rooms expected to be added during the financial year. In London, the company has increased bedroom capacity at Premier Inn by 9.4% over the past year, which contributed to Premier Inn’s total accommodation sales growth of 1.0% in the capital. However, like-for-like accommodation sales declined 4.2%, reflecting weaker market conditions. Whitbread said London continued to be a good long-term market with strong demand and high occupancy levels, and further capacity would be added. The company said the regional market continued to be impacted to a greater extent by declining business confidence, with total accommodation sales for the regional midscale and economy market declining 1.5% in the first quarter. Whitbread said its first German hotel in Frankfurt continued to perform well, with occupancy levels of about 70%. Its second German hotel, in Hamburg, has been open for three months, “performing ahead of expectations”. This year, two organic hotels in Germany will be opened and Whitbread will complete the first tranche of the Foremost Hospitality acquisition of 19 hotels, with 13 being rebranded to Premier Inn in the first half of next year. Whitbread said it expects to add more than 2,000 bedrooms in Germany. Most of the German bedroom additions are part of the Foremost acquisition and will require a period of closure to be rebranded into Premier Inn hotels early in FY21. The company said the current pipeline of almost 20,000 bedrooms is secured through a mixture of freehold, leasehold and acquisitions, with almost a third of the pipeline committed in Germany. Whitbread said it had now completed the first phase of its plan to return up to £2.5bn to shareholders as a result of Costa Coffee to Coca-Cola. A total of £482m has do far been returned to shareholders through a share buyback programme, which ended in May. For the second phase, Whitbread intends to pursue a tender offer to repurchase up to a further £2bn of shares, subject to shareholder approval. If less than £2bn is returned through the tender offer, Whitbread will consider a possible third phase to return any remaining surplus cash. Chief executive Alison Brittain (pictured) said: “We have delivered a resilient performance in the first quarter despite more challenging market conditions and we continue to make good progress with our efficiency programme, which is helping to partially offset another year of high industry cost inflation. Our expansion into Germany is firmly on target. While we are cautious about short-term market conditions, we are confident in our plans given the significant growth opportunities in the UK and internationally. Given our strong balance sheet, efficiency programme and robust business model, we are in a strong position and we will continue to invest in order to maintain Premier Inn’s competitive advantages and to capitalise on our structural growth opportunities.”

Peach to undergo sale and leaseback deal on its four freehold sites

Peach Pub Company has unveiled a new identity to bring its 18 pubs and one boutique hotel together under one designPeach Pub Company is to undergo a sale and leaseback deal on its four freehold sites as it looks to raise funds for acquisitions and invest in its estate. The freehold investments, subject to new 25-year index-linked leases to Peach, have been released to the market through agent Fleurets. The four properties are The Richard Onslow in Cranleigh, The One Elm in Stratford-upon-Avon, The Rose & Crown in Warwick, and The Swan Salford near Milton Keynes. The total portfolio rent of £555,000 per annum equates to 10.7% of 2018 turnover and 44% of 2018 Ebitda, thereby providing significant operation headroom following completion. The assets also offer strong underlying vacant possession value. Offers for the portfolio are invited in excess of £9,400,000, which would equate to a net initial yield of 5.5% after purchaser costs of 7.26%. Peach Pub Company director Hamish Stoddart said: “Peach aims to be the best gastro-pub company on the planet. We are operators through and through. This move allows us to be debt-free, invest in our pubs and carry on looking for opportunities to do a few new ones.” Fleurets managing director Graeme Bunn added: “The leases provide five-yearly, index-linked rent reviews to the Consumer Price Index with an annual collar and cap of 1% and 3%, full repairing tenant covenants, and without tenant break. I anticipate significant purchaser appetite for this exceptional portfolio of pub investments. Peach is a proven, award-winning operator of high-quality, food-focused pub restaurants. The assets are well invested and offered on long indexed-linked leases at sensible rents.” Peach Pub Company also operates 15 leasehold sites.

Other News:

PrezzoDarrell Wade has stepped down as chief commercial officer at Prezzo to join motorway services operator Roadchef, Propel has learned. Wade joined Prezzo at the start of last year. Before that he spent almost ten years at TGI Friday’s UK working across a number of executive functions including marketing director, commercial director and most recently chief operating officer. Prior to joining TGI Friday’s Wade spent seven years at Yum! Brands in marketing roles for KFC and Pizza Hut UK spanning brand, retail, new product development, advertising, media and channel management. He will join Mark Fox-led Roadchef at the beginning of July in the newly created board-level position of chief commercial officer. Last month, Prezzo appointed Dean Challenger, formerly of David Lloyd Leisure and Premier Inn, as finance director. Earlier this year Propel revealed Paul Barton had stepped down as operations director of Prezzo, which is now led by Karen Jones, after more than two-and-a-half years with the business. Propel understands the company won’t replace Barton but its regional operations directors will report straight into executive chairman Jones. Earlier this month, natural fast food brand Leon signed a five-year exclusivity agreement with Roadchef as it prepares to open two more restaurants as part of their partnership – with more to follow.

Goals Soccer Centres, which suspended trading of its shares on AIM in March while it investigates a £12m VAT misdeclaration, is appointing Deloitte to help “assess its options”. The company, which operates 50 soccer centres, stated: “The company can confirm it is in the process of engaging Deloitte to work alongside its current advisors and lenders in assessing future corporate options. The scope of the engagement is to consider and plan for certain scenarios the board may consider actioning either after or alongside its discussions with HMRC regarding the potential misdeclaration of VAT.” Goals Soccer Centres has also appointed Mike McGill as interim chief financial officer. McGill, who has worked with Baxters Food Group, McDonald Hotels and Murray Group, replaces Martin Johnson, who previously held the role on an interim basis and leaves Goals Soccer Centres on Wednesday, 31 July. McGill isn’t a director of the company. Forensic accountants have been investigating Goals Soccer Centres’ accounting policies and practices to establish a final value for the misdeclaration of VAT. The shares remain suspended while the company warned last month it might be unable to complete its 2018 full-year audit by the 30 June deadline as per AIM rules. Goals Soccer Centres also said at the time it expected its 2018 and 2019 full-year results to be “materially below expectations and historically reported financial performance”.

Junkyard Golf's site in OxfordThe adventure golf sector has become increasingly prevalent because of its adaptability to different sites and audiences, Christie & Co’s head of leisure and development Jon Patrick has argued. He said: “In recent years the adventure golf sector has seen a boom and many operators are experiencing strong demand from consumers and investors. What this tells us is the market is evolving for traditionally low-tech concepts such as crazy golf and darts which, with the introduction of new technology and slick design of scoring and booking systems, are now placed in the competitive socialising framework. Once their position in the market has been established these businesses can drive on-site food and beverage and return visits and capitalise on their unique selling points with consumers, who are consistently looking for new experiences. The adventure golf sector has become increasingly prevalent due to its adaptability to different sites and audiences, ranging from adult-focused custom to the family friendly end of the spectrum such as themed golf parks. The overall market has been expanding organically with indoor and outdoor concepts both gaining ground and we see potential for consolidation as well as potential for outdoor and indoor operators to combine. This could ensure a balanced operating platform with a hedge against the weather or bring some of the indoor technology to the outdoor market, as well as widening the demographic appeal within one business.”

London-based authentic German beer hall Bierschenke is in negotiations for two more sites as it prepares to double up in the City this month. Founder Gerry Hanratty will open a venue in Tower Hill on Thursday, 27 June. Extending more than 6,000 square feet with traditional maple furniture sourced from Munich, the bierkeller will accommodate 240 across traditional beer tables, with a total capacity of 400. The debut Bierschenke launched in London Wall in 2014. Hanratty said: “Bierschenke was created to bring an authentic Bavarian experience to the City of London. We have respect for the tradition and cultural importance of good food and drink – it’s the Bierschenke way. Since opening our London Wall site we have experienced huge demand to extend our presence further and are currently in negotiations for two more sites. Tower Hill will offer the consistent Bierschenke experience and we hope the people of London are as excited as we are about the opening.”

CAMRAThe Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is overhauling its voucher scheme with support from the on-trade. As of 1 July, CAMRA members will receive £30 in vouchers that are each worth 50p off a pint. The vouchers will replace the traditional partnership with JD Wetherspoon and cover more than 1,400 pubs nationwide across four pub chains. The vouchers will cover pints poured at Wetherspoon, Stonegate Pub Company (real ale hand-pumps only), SA Brain (own-brand beer only) and Castle Rock Brewery. CAMRA said it was relaunching the voucher scheme to make pub-going more affordable for consumers and to raise footfall at participating venues. The move coincides with CAMRA’s #SummerofPub campaign to support the pub trade. CAMRA is also expanding its Real Ale Discount Scheme to cover 3,000 independent pubs across the country. National chairman Nik Antona said: “We are grateful these companies have approached us to ensure pub-going remains an affordable activity. By offering vouchers at pub chains and discounts throughout independent pubs, we aim to support a wider range of pubs by driving footfall. Regular pub visits can be expensive for many of us and we hope that by partnering with more pubs large and small we can get people out to their local.”

Operators need to make it easier to cancel bookings to address the restaurant no-show crisis, according to new research. The findings by guest experience management expert HGEM revealed half of diners believe restaurants need to make their cancellation process easier, while almost three-fifths (56%) expect an option to cancel in any correspondence they receive. Additionally, more than one-quarter (27%) would welcome being able to cancel via text message and 17% through a restaurant’s app. The study also revealed more than three-fifths (61%) of guests would be more likely to turn up if they received a reminder about the reservation 24 hours in advance. Of those respondents, 62% would like a reminder via text, while 35% would prefer an email. Meanwhile, almost three-fifths (58%) of consumers would never book a restaurant that required a deposit. For those who would book a restaurant that required a deposit, almost half (47%) said they expected to pay a deposit when there was a large group, while more than one-quarter (28%) are happy to pay to secure a table for a special occasion. That said, 69% would be more likely to turn up if they paid a deposit. HGEM founding director Sally Whelan said: “Restaurant no-shows is a topic that has been particularly prevalent in our industry in recent months. Our research has revealed that while diners are more likely to turn up for their tables if they receive direct communication in advance, there’s a clear opportunity for operators to offer a smoother cancellation process across a variety of methods. Incorporating these learnings would have a positive impact on restaurant bookings.”

Just Eat has unveiled its first gift card offerJust Eat, the market place for online food delivery, has unveiled its first gift card offer in the UK. The company has partnered with electronic payment and pre-paid solutions company Epay for the initiative, which will be available to consumers and corporate customers. The partnership will be rolled out across further markets globally, starting later this year. Customers will be able to purchase physical and digital gift cards, initially through the Just Eat website. The cards will then be rolled out across major UK retailers during the next 12 months, with denominations of £15, £20, £25, £30, £40 and £50. More than 70% of consumers in the UK have purchased at least one gift card in the past three years. The category has proved to be particularly popular with younger consumers, with more than two-fifths (44%) of 18 to 34-year-olds buying at least one every other month. Just Eat’s trials revealed customers who tried the brand for the first time via a gift card went on to make repeat orders of a greater value.

Just Eat has unveiled its first gift card offerJust Eat, the market place for online food delivery, has unveiled its first gift card offer in the UK. The company has partnered with electronic payment and pre-paid solutions company Epay for the initiative, which will be available to consumers and corporate customers. The partnership will be rolled out across further markets globally, starting later this year. Customers will be able to purchase physical and digital gift cards, initially through the Just Eat website. The cards will then be rolled out across major UK retailers during the next 12 months, with denominations of £15, £20, £25, £30, £40 and £50. More than 70% of consumers in the UK have purchased at least one gift card in the past three years. The category has proved to be particularly popular with younger consumers, with more than two-fifths (44%) of 18 to 34-year-olds buying at least one every other month. Just Eat’s trials revealed customers who tried the brand for the first time via a gift card went on to make repeat orders of a greater value.

The Railway in Ramsbottom, which is Punch's 150th retail sitePunch has opened its 150th retail site after father and daughter Iain and Naimi Davies took on their second site with the company. The Railway in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, has reopened following a £500,000 refurbishment by Punch to create a larger trading area, while its outside spaces now celebrate the steam railway station opposite by featuring carriage-style booth seating. The Railway offers cask, craft and world beer, premium spirits, a gin menu and a new food menu that includes a breakfast offer. The Davies family also operates the White Horse in Bolton and have ambitions to turn The Railway into the first cashless pub in the area. Iain Davies said: “We pride ourselves on running a fantastic pub that serves great food – and that’s exactly what we’ll do here.” Punch managing director Andy Spencer added: “The Railway is one of our biggest investments and shows our continued commitment to creating epic community pubs.” Punch owns and operates 1,300 pubs across England, Scotland and Wales and is investing £32m in its estate in the next year. It operates retail pubs in two segments, Mighty Local and Our Local, while also housing the Champs brand in the retail portfolio.

Whitbread has opened a three-bedroom Premier Inn in Coventry that will help young people with additional needs return to work in partnership with Hereward CollegeWhitbread has opened a three-bedroom Premier Inn in Coventry that will help young people with additional needs return to work. The project is a partnership with Hereward College and, while the mini-hotel won’t take paying guests, it is an exact replica of a Premier Inn with trainees learning all areas of hospitality in a realistic environment. Young people taking part in the programme will also have an opportunity to undertake supported internships, with the aim to gain paid jobs in Premier Inns across the country. Premier Inn managing director Simon Ewins said: “We welcome people from all walks of life and every corner of the world – it’s only right our workforce reflects this. Diversity is at the core of our people plan as we continue our focus on becoming the most inclusive hospitality business. We recognise a diverse and inclusive culture brings significant business benefits and ultimately leads to better business performance.” The venture follows an industry-first partnership between Premier Inn and Derwen College in Shropshire as part of Whitbread’s Force For Good programme. Almost half the students who have trained at Derwen have gone on to be directly employed by Premier Inn since the partnership launched in 2013.

Subway has opened its first drive-thru in the south of England, in SwindonSubway franchisees Steve and Sue Pasco have opened the company’s first drive-thru in the south of England. The Pascos, who own 15 Subway stores in Bristol and the surrounding area, have opened the outlet in Barnfield Close, Swindon. The couple are also business development agents for Subway in the Bristol and west region. Located below a Travelodge, the drive-thru also has seating for 32 customers. The store marks Subway’s sixth drive-thru in the UK and Ireland, joining sites in Belfast, Guisborough, Rochdale, Salford and Wakefield. Colin Hughes, country director for Subway UK and Ireland, said: “Subway is always looking for great locations to open stores. Drive-thrus open up new possibilities for our guests in that they don’t even need to leave the comfort of their own car.” Subway has more than 2,500 stores in the UK and Ireland.

Boston Tea Party owner Sam RobertsSam Roberts, chief executive of all-day casual dining cafe Boston Tea Party (BTP), has said the brand is due to have its “best year ever” despite a 25% fall in takeaway coffee sales following its ban of single-use cups last summer. Asked during the Propel Coffee Conference whether BTP could deliver on its sustainable vision, Roberts said: “We believe we can. On virtually any metric we’re due to have our best year ever, despite the cup ban. We had to take a leap of faith. We went into this with 50% loss of sales as the worst-case scenario. If our coffee sales had spiralled into losing 80% or 90% perhaps we would have had a rethink but we went into this committed. The wave of positivity from customers has been unbelievable.” Despite the hit in takeaway sales, Roberts revealed BTP’s most recent total like-for-like sales were up 9%, while his vision is to grow a “profitable cafe business without compromising” while having a “positive impact on the world”. The move has also had a huge effect on staff retention. Roberts said: “Staff have loved what we’ve done. The amount of “leavers” is down 20% since we launched the campaign, saving us so much in recruitment, retraining and development. It has had a massive impact and our employer brand is stronger than ever. We get people saying they want to work for us because we’re the ‘cup guys’. Yes we have lost money over this but that is levelling off now. What’s the cost of doing nothing? That’s much more frightening. We can’t externalise this and think it’s someone else’s problem. I truly believe businesses that ignore the impact of their trading on the environment are on borrowed time.” On 1 June, BTP launched Making Things Better Day, which saw the brand pledge to remove all single-use plastic milk bottles. Roberts told delegates its pledge on 1 June 2020 would be to eradicate single-use plastic from its supply chain.

Henry Ayers – Gentlemen BaristasLondon-based coffee shop brand The Gentlemen Baristas is to open three sites, Propel has learned. The Gentlemen Baristas, founded by Henry Ayers (pictured) and Ed Parkes, is set to start work on what will be its ninth site, in New Oxford Street, this month, ahead of an opening near the end of July. Its tenth store will follow in Victoria, with site number 11 understood to be in Hammersmith, west London. A coffee school will also open at its roastery in Whitechapel at the end of this month. The Gentlemen Baristas opened its first site in Southwark in 2014.

Oakman Inns & Restaurants chief executive Peter Borg-NealOakman Inns and Restaurants founder and chief executive Peter Borg-Neal (pictured) will feature in the next 30-minute video for Propel Premium subscribers, which will be sent out on Friday (21 June). Borg-Neal talks about growing the company through new financing routes and partnerships and adapting to the economic climate. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Taylor St Baristas has returned to crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in a bid to raise £750,000 as it expands its wholesale arm and cafe partnerships, Propel has learned. Founded in 2006 by siblings Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley, Taylor St Baristas has opened more than 60 cafes through partnerships. Now having raised more than £1.8m in its previous Crowdcube campaign, the company has returned to the platform to support its strategy. It is offering 6.38% equity in return for the investment, giving the company a pre-money valuation of £11m. The campaign is currently in “stealth mode”, meaning it’s only open to select investors rather than the public. The Tolley siblings also founded the Harris + Hoole coffee chain with Tesco, selling their share to the supermarket company in 2016. Harris + Hoole has subsequently been bought by Caffe Nero. The pitch states: “As the market shifts, Taylor St aims to lead the charge by partnering with global companies. The first is a global partnership with Sodexo, which by cups sold is one of the world’s largest coffee retailers, selling circa one billion hot beverages annually. Over the next five years Taylor St expects to open 100-plus branded Taylor St cafes with Sodexo and a further 300 proprietary branded cafes exclusively serving our coffee. We have the track record for this kind of accelerated scale – our joint-venture coffee brand with Tesco, Harris + Hoole, launched more than 50 cafes in three years. Furthermore, we are developing a range of ready-to-drink coffee products, starting with an innovative and versatile coffee concentrate for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer. With the valuable support of our crowd of investors, we can mobilise the Sodexo partnership and drive further brand and digital platform development.”

CGI of Burger & Lobster at Jewel in SingaporeBurger & Lobster has converted its lobster roll concept Smack to a virtual brand following a surge in online sales. With 48% of sales driven by its partnership with Deliveroo, Smack, which was launched in Binney Street, just off Oxford Street in central London in 2014, has transitioned solely to online. In 2018, total sales for Smack were up 27.6% compared with the previous year, while in the year to date they have increased 20.3%. Burger & Lobster chief financial officer Dasha Ovchenkova said: “We have moved our Smack lobster roll concept to the virtual world as we have seen online orders rapidly increasing. As a nimble business able to move quickly to adapt to our customer demands, moving to digital-first for Smack helps us invest and channel funds to develop our online offering to meet customer tastes. Working exclusively with our friends at Deliveroo to expand our catchment within London and other cities in the UK means we can offer fresh and affordable real lobster rolls. We’re really excited for the virtual move and what’s to come.” Smack offers lobster caught off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is initially available to order through Deliveroo in central London with expansion throughout the capital and regionally to follow.

Co-op is to trial a ten-shop coffee concession as part of a new deal with Vertas Group-owned Churchill Catering. Coffee shops in Heathfield, Hove and Peacehaven, all in East Sussex; Inverness and Louth in Scotland; Holmfirth in West Yorkshire; Plympton in Devon; Ryde on the Isle of Wight; Wadebridge in Cornwall; and Wickford in Essex will be rebranded as & Coffee. The first & Coffee will open at the retailer’s Ridgeway store in Plympton in August. Each store will showcase local produce and offer tailored menus for breakfast and lunch, the retailer said. Mark Pettigrew, Co-op director of innovation and format, said: “We want the coffee shops to be a place for the community to meet and enjoy a range of quality drinks and snacks, all under the new & Coffee banner. We’re really excited to partner with an expert in this field and offer our customers new reasons to visit us as we deliver a great new coffee experience.” Vertas Group chief executive Ian Surtees added: “Co-op is one of Great Britain’s most trusted brands so it’s a wonderful honour to play our part in that success. We look forward to working side by side with the in-store managers to create community hubs that provide more than just a great cup of coffee.”

Longboys, the gourmet doughnut concept being launched by Graham Hornigold, ex-group pastry chef at Hakkasan Group, and Heather Kaniuk, former executive pastry chef at the Mandarin OrientalGraham Hornigold, ex-group pastry chef at Hakkasan Group, and Heather Kaniuk, former executive pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental, have launched a concession at Selfridges in London for their gourmet doughnut concept Longboys. The site is based in the Oxford Street department store’s food hall, while its doughnuts are also available in the Selfridges Kitchen restaurant. Longboys specialises in classic finger doughnuts with menus changing on a monthly basis. Fillings include rhubarb, custard and orange; sticky toffee, date and pecan; and raspberry, rose and lychee. Longboys launched its central kitchen and pop-up store at Boxpark Wembley in March, with plans for a standalone site later this year. Longboys will also be available to buy in a select number of central London cafes and restaurants from July. Before launching Longboys, Hornigold oversaw the global expansion of Hakkasan Group on the pastry side. Between 2011 and 2017, the group expanded from four UK-based operations – Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sake No Hana, and HKK – to 47 restaurants globally.

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has appointed Steven Alton, managing director of Vianet, as its chief executive elect. Alton, who has been at Vianet for almost nine years, will join the BII on Monday, 30 September as chief operating officer. During the first few months he will be responsible for the Farnborough headquarters and oversee a strategy to ensure the BII is “modern and well placed to support the challenges facing licensees and staff in the hospitality industry”. Chairman Mark Robson said: “We are pleased Steven has agreed to join the BII and, being known across the industry, he is well placed to take over from Mike Clist, who will continue in his full-time role until late 2019. He will then continue as chief executive on a part-time basis until Steven feels he is in a position to take over the chief executive’s role. This will ensure a smooth transition and help the BII’s relationships with key companies and bodies.” Alton added: “I am looking forward to leading the BII into the future, building on the great work by Mike and his team. The hospitality industry is hugely exciting and challenging right now. The BII is uniquely positioned to provide essential, independent and trusted support to its members to help them thrive.”

Arc Inspirations, ManahattaArc Inspirations, the Leeds-based operator of a number of fast-growing brands, has revealed plans to convert The Pit in Harrogate to its Manahatta brand. The transformation will take place during August ahead of a reopening in early September, part of a £300,000 investment in the site. The venue will echo the contemporary look of its four sister sites in Leeds and Manchester. It will also create up to 40 jobs as the company continues its cluster model approach. Arc Inspirations chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said: “We are thrilled to introduce Manahatta to the people of Harrogate and can’t wait to unveil the finished results. The bar promises to be spectacular and the redevelopment reaffirms our commitment to offering guests premium drinking and dining experiences every time they set foot in our venues. These are exciting times for us as we continue to focus on and invest in our highly-differentiated growth brands and maintain the momentum we’ve achieved over the past year through opening bars in new markets and reimagining what we’ve done previously.” Arc Inspirations operates 19 bars in the north of England, predominantly grouped into its core brands – Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Manahatta and The Box.

Snackbar, the pop-up concept by Freddie Janssen and former Nuala chef Anais Van Manen, is to open a permanent site in east London after hitting its crowdfunding target. Janssen and Van Manen are set to take over the old Farmshop Cafe in Dalston Lane, beside Dalston Junction train station. The 30-cover cafe will offer “globally inspired seasonal sandwiches, salads, rice bowls and snacks”. The venue will also offer two floors of co-working space. Janssen and Van Manen are working in partnership with urban farming hub FARM:shop. Using the farm’s indoor allotments and a polytunnel, the cafe will grow its own vegetables, herbs and mushrooms. Jansen and Van Manen launched a £20,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to support the project. So far, 266 investors have pledged £21,007 with two days of the campaign remaining. Snackbar first set up shop in 2016 and has held residencies at Borough Market, The Laughing Heart and Legs.

Marston's Inns and Taverns logoMarston’s has helped to develop the industry’s first drinks-dispense technician apprenticeship. The Level 3 apprenticeship is an engineering and manufacturing route, typically lasting 18 months. The module has been developed by the Trailblazer Employer Group, which is co-chaired by Marston’s and Innserve with support from the Brewing, Food & Beverage Industry Suppliers Association (BFBi). Funded through the Apprenticeship Levy, the course is aimed at employees within the drinks-dispense industry as well as new recruits. It will feature on and off-the-job training with an opportunity to learn from peers and experts. Jo Bradford, group apprenticeship manager at Marston’s, said: “Our pubs and breweries depend on our beer and drinks being poured at the highest standard so this skill and trade is vital.” Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, added: “This new apprenticeship is an industry first and I would like to thank all the employers on the Trailblazer group for helping to make it happen. Apprentices will be trained to a high standard for a role that requires building, installing and maintaining complex drinks-dispensing equipment. I am delighted it has been approved for use.” BFBi chief executive Ruth Evans said: “We are delighted the apprenticeship is now available. It provides a recognised pathway for cellar service engineers, providing a sound base for a successful career. We are indebted to the many employers who gave their time and expertise.”

Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, will open his first UK site, in Knightsbridge, central London, in December. Gökçe will launch Nusr-Et Steakhouse at The Park Tower Knightsbridge. Dishes will include roasted asado short rib, Nusr-Et meat spaghetti and the Nusr-Et special, with Gökçe “personally selecting every cut”, reports Hot Dinners. Gökçe operates eight restaurants in Turkey as well as sites in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Miami and New York. He was dubbed Salt Bae after he sprinkled salt on a steak in a video that has been viewed more than nine million times on social media.

Honeycomb pancakes at Glasgow-based pancake house Stack & StillGlasgow-based operators Paul Reynolds and Graham Swankie are to open a second site for their pancake house concept Stack & Still. They have agreed a deal with Hammerson to open at the Silverburn shopping centre in the city next month, creating 60 jobs. The new dual-level store will be located in the Winter Garden and feature a dedicated food and drink area seating 185 customers. Since launching in West George Street in October, Stack & Still has served more than 500,000 pancakes. Reynolds said: “We have been blown away by the response to Stack & Still since launching last year. Expansion and roll out have always been part of our strategy and, given the popularity of Silverburn, ease of parking and its consistent growth in customer footfall, we are confident it will be the perfect location for our second site.” Iain Mitchell, UK commercial director at Hammerson, added: “We are delighted to welcome Stack & Still as a great example of a local independent. Introducing more exciting brands such as Stack & Still across our portfolio is a real focus for us as we know our customers love an experience that’s different. The brand will be a great addition to the already strong food and drink line-up at Silverburn.”

Diageo Reserve's premium Irish whiskey Roe & Co has opened its €25m urban distillery and visitor experience in DublinDiageo Reserve’s premium Irish whiskey, Roe & Co, has opened its €25m (£22m) urban distillery and visitors’ experience in Dublin. The distillery, located in the former Guinness Power Station at St James’s Gate, houses three copper stills that can run triple and double distillation. They will distil 14,000 litres of whiskey in every run, with an annual capacity of 500,000 litres. Visitors can explore Roe & Co’s working distillery, with tour groups able to trace the history of Irish whiskey and sample some in the Power House Bar. Roe & Co is named after George Roe, who put Irish whiskey on the global map. Gráinne Wafer, global brand director for Roe & Co at Diageo, said: “The distillery will complement what is already the country’s most popular tourism offering, The Guinness Storehouse.”

GigglingSquidCBPE, the former backer of Cote, is one of the private equity firms to have shown an early interest in Giggling Squid, the Thai restaurant brand founded by Andy and Pranee Laurillard, which was placed on the market earlier this year, Propel has learned. First round bids for the BGF-backed Thai chain are due at the start of next month, with CBPE, which acquired Cote for circa £100m in September 2013 before selling it in July 2015 to BC Partners for circa £250m, believed to among a group of private equity firms to have expressed an interest in investing in the 32-strong business. Other names linked to the process include Piper (current backers of Turtle Bay, Hickory’s and Flat Iron), LDC (D&D London), TriSpan (Rosa’s Thai) and Active Partners (Honest Burgers, Caravan, Leon and Chick ‘n Sours/Chik’n). It is understood Giggling Squid, which the Laurillards founded in Hove in 2009, is valued at circa £50m. The company plans to open another four restaurants this financial year as it expands further into the Midlands and within the M25. The group, which appointed advisors GCA Altium earlier this year to assess options for the next stage of its growth, revealed last month trading in both mature sites and new openings continues to be strong and all of the group’s 32 sites are profitable. In the 12 months to April 2019, the group opened eight restaurants, including in Chichester, Cheltenham, Windsor, Kingston upon Thames, Bishops Stortford and Harpenden. In April, two new restaurants opened, in Oxford and Chislehurst, both of which are trading well and to expectations. The pipeline for new sites into 2019/20 is strong as Giggling Squid looks to open between six to ten restaurants each year as well as embarking on a refurbishment programme of its more mature restaurants. Giggling Squid has signed for the former CAU site in Leamington Spa, which, subject to planning, is due to open in the autumn. Propel also understands Giggling Squid is looking at a site in St Albans and is close to securing a site in Weybridge. BGF is expected to exit the business, in which it has a 29% stake. BGF invested £6.4m in the then 13-strong Giggling Squid in 2015. The Laurillards own about 67%, while management, including chairman Simon Kossoff, owns the rest. Average weekly sales across its estate are thought to be north of £20,000. Andy Laurillard stated last year he believes the company can reach the 50-site mark over the next three years. Giggling Squid declined to comment.

Puttshack chief executive Joe VrankinThe UK leading indoor mini golf experience, Puttshack, has appointed Joe Vrankin (pictured) as chief executive as the business reveals rapid expansion plans following the completion of a £27m equity raise with lead investor Promethean Investment. Vrankin joins the team as the business prepares to open two new sites in the UK in the second half of 2019, and then one every 12 weeks in the UK, beginning in 2020. Expansion in the US will see the first site open by Q2 2020, ramping up to an opening pace of one site every three weeks. The original Puttshack opened in July 2018 at Westfield London White City and is the only mini golf brand in the world which combines automatic tracking and scoring technology within the ball, resulting in significantly enhanced game play. Vrankin brings a wealth of expertise to the business with former positions including, chief executive of TopGolf and chief operating officer of Arena Football League. During his time at TopGolf, Vrankin took the one location business and built the foundation to deliver what is now a 50 plus location enterprise with a multi-billion dollar valuation. His appointment will see him join Adam Breeden, co-founder of All-Star Lanes, Bounce and Flight Club and Steve and Dave Jolliffe founders of TopGolf, on their mission to transform the international leisure and entertainment sector. The UK expansion includes new openings at Intu Lakeside for the summer of 2019 and 1 Poultry, Bank in Autumn 2019. Puttshack launched in the UK as the consumer demand for social entertainment began to soar. In its first year, Puttshack has had nearly 300,000 guests playing about 500,000 games. The White City venue is a regular spot for household names including; England footballer Raheem Sterling, KSI, Brooklyn Beckham, Krept & Konan and Davina McCall. “As competitive socialising continues to grow across the globe, I’m thrilled to be joining what I believe is one of the best businesses in the space. We’re committed to connecting technology with the traditional game of mini golf and creating unprecedented experiences for our guests,” Vrankin said. “With the completion of this £27m raise we are fully capitalised to execute on our global growth strategy at a significant pace.”

Dominic Allport, NPD GroupPubs are pushing strongly into the UK out-of-home (OOH) coffee market as venues “increase their dayparts”, according to Dominic Allport (pictured), foodservice insights director at The NPD Group. Speaking at the Propel Coffee Conference, Allport told delegates although coffee sales in pubs only stood at 8% of OOH transactions, the sector was on the rise. He said: “Pubs are one of the areas regarding coffee that’s growing well. Pubs were late into the game but what they’ve done in the past couple of years has been incredible in terms of driving coffee visits. Although we’ve had a lot of pub closures in recent years, those that remain are focusing in on coffee, spreading their assets and increasing dayparts. With competition everywhere, an operator needs to be increasingly where the consumer is. Although train stations and service stations are obviously popular for those looking for a quick pick-me-up, people are also buying coffee in department stores, for instance, which is more of a catch-up moment and a leisure occasion.” Allport said growth in the OOH market was being driven by families but traditional coffee shops were being scored lower by that demographic as they felt children were “often made to feel unwelcome”. Allport said operators also needed to incorporate technology into their coffee offer. He said: “Click and collect is now growing 10% faster than the rest of the market place. While it currently makes up only 1% of the market, it still represents about £150m of spend and is increasing extremely quickly. Technology is important for disrupting consumers away from your competition but also keeping them loyal to you. To operate an efficient service you must stick to the collect time and create a distinct area for people to pick up. You must train staff and have sufficient numbers to deal with it.” Allport said while only 2% of coffee orders in the UK were digital, in China that figure was 11%, equivalent to £500m in sales. He said: “Technology also gives you an opportunity to upsell online. With a lot of customer journeys occurring online or in the digital space, there’s an opportunity to talk to customers before they pay their final bill and suggest additional things to buy.”

Red Mist Leisure general viewPub operator Red Mist Leisure, founded by Mark Robson and Mark Williams, is aiming to bring through the next generation of chefs as it expands its apprenticeship offer. The company is offering an apprenticeship programme for level 2 commis chef and level 3 chef de partie positions with the support of four colleges – Farnborough College of Technology, Basingstoke College, South Thames College and Havant & South Downs College. Robson, who is the new chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), is aiming to bring the pub industry together to form training and development opportunities to a new generation of chefs. He said: “As I outlined in my speech at the recent BII summer event, we need more effort and focus by employers to attract a greater number of apprentices into our industry. Collectively, we must embrace the opportunities that exist by introducing or expanding apprenticeship programmes in our businesses to help overcome the very real recruitment crisis our sector is facing. Initiatives like this attract fresh new talent into the industry and help secure the pipeline of skilled chefs and kitchen staff for the future; and I want Red Mist to help lead the way on this front by expanding our apprenticeship offering this year.” All ten of Red Mist Leisure’s pubs are taking part in the scheme. New candidates will receive a 12-month training programme with the opportunity for a full-time role upon completion.

Costa Coffee has launched a mobile pre-order drinks service for members of its Costa Coffee Club loyalty programmeCosta Coffee, now owned by Coca-Cola, has signed up to the government’s pledge to help halve food waste by 2030. Alongside several leading high street brands and supermarkets, Costa Coffee has pledged to act and help raise public awareness in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Victoria Moorhouse, head of sustainability for Costa Coffee, said: “We are committed to playing our part in reducing waste wherever possible. We have a number of initiatives to ensure there is minimal food waste, which includes, first and foremost, an efficient ordering system designed to reduce waste before it is created. We also allow food sold during the last hour of trading that is in date but cannot be sold the following day to be discounted by 50% and empower our stores to make food donations to local charities via our Food Surplus Policy. Finally, for those stores whose waste streams we manage, any food waste that cannot be redistributed we send to Anaerobic Digestion, where it is turned into biogas and bio fertiliser. We are delighted to be working alongside government to drive change and share best practice, stepping up to the plate and delivering collective action.” Last month, Costa Coffee attended the Step up to the Plate symposium, hosted by the government’s food surplus and waste champion Ben Elliot.

Argentine steakhouse Buenasado has opened a site in Reading. The company has opened the venue in the former CAU restaurant at the Oracle shopping centre that closed last year after parent company Gaucho went into administration. Buenasado opened its first site in 2011, in Wimbledon, south west London, and also has outlets in Chiswick, Horsham, Richmond, Reigate and Walton-on-Thames. Buenasado’s parent company, Buenos Aires Restaurant Holdings, announced a share merger last year with High Road Restaurants Group BidCo, owner of the Koh Thai Tapas chain of Thai restaurants, to form a multi-branded restaurant group.

The full speaker schedule for the Propel Multi Club summer conference and party has been confirmed. The event takes place on Thursday, 27 June at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40. The speaker line-up is The NPD Group insights director Dominic Allport; Antony Hunt, managing consultant in innovation at CACI; Ted Kennedy, owner of Pebble Hotels and veteran operator of pub assets; Three Joes co-founder Tim Hall; Las Iguanas chief executive Mos Shamel; Remarkable Pubs managing director Elton Mouna; Think Hospitality founder James Hacon; Mario C Bauer, AmRest brand ambassador, Curtice Brothers co-founder and WhiteSpace partner; The Glee Club founder Mark Tughan; Graffiti Spirits Group founder Matt Farrell and Crepeaffaire founder Daniel Spinath. The conference will be followed by the summer party, with an evening barbecue, the Big Fat Quiz and the legendary sounds of DJ Big Lee. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at Rooms (bed and breakfast) are also available at £125 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing Anne.

A host of operators, including Azzurri Group, The Restaurant Group, Gaucho, Chilango, Loungers, PizzaExpress, Brasserie Bar Co, Greene King, Barworks, LT Management and EAT, are among those to sign up for Propel’s Premium service in the past two weeks. More than 200 companies now receive the Premium service from Propel. Meanwhile, Martyn Cornell will offer his views on why the Portman Group’s guidance on strong beer is “misguided” – and the threat it has to British brewers and retailers – in an article to be sent to Premium subscribers on Thursday (7 March) at 5pm. Propel Premium subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday (8 March) of Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King, speaking about the role of leadership in business turnarounds. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, access to our database of 1,300 multi-site companies, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from insights editor Mark Wingett. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Star Pubs – Old Chequers

Propel Multi Club March 2019

Propel Multi Club

7th March 2019

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