Whitbread boss welcomes ‘barista visas’ idea: Whitbread boss Alison Brittain has welcomed proposals such as “barista visas” to avoid labour shortages in cafes and restaurants post-Brexit. Home secretary Amber Rudd is reportedly considering introducing barista visas to ensure coffee shops, restaurants and bars remained fully staffed following Brexit. The proposal by Lord Green, chairman of think-tank Migration Watch UK, suggests two-year visas would allow young EU citizens to come to Britain to work, although they would be unable to claim benefits. It is based on the current Youth Mobility Scheme for travellers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Brittain said: “What is really encouraging is people are starting to talk about solutions and options.” But she added it would take many months for formal proposals to emerge. She noted the importance of the hospitality industry to the UK economy – it is the fourth-largest industry, accounts for 10% of GDP, and employs five million people.

London Craft Beer Festival to pair restaurants with brewers as it relocates to Shoreditch: London Craft Beer Festival will mark its fifth anniversary in August by moving to a new venue. The event will take over two halls and a courtyard at Shoreditch Electric Light Station, the first time the venue in Hoxton Square has hosted a large-scale public festival. The festival, founded by Dan Sylvester and Greg Wells, will feature 45 breweries from around the world, live music, and a food offering from some of London’s top restaurants. Berber & Q, the Middle Eastern and North African grillhouse from Josh Katz, home-style Indian Kitchen Gunpowder, pizza concept Radio Alice, meat specialists L’onglet, and festival circuit favourites Big Apple Hot Dogs will each be paired with a UK brewer. The festival’s official wine partners, 19 Crimes and Gentleman’s Collection, will also host Barrel and Wheel, a dedicated wine and cheese bar, with cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy. The festival, which will run from 4 to 6 August, will also honour London’s oldest independent brewer, Fuller’s, which will collaborate with six other breweries to produce a set of one-off cask brews.

Freehold of PizzaExpress site in Soho sells for £4.7m: Agent Coffer Corporate Leisure has completed the freehold acquisition of a PizzaExpress site in Greek Street, Soho, for £4.7m (3.5% net) on behalf of a private UK-based investor. Coffer Corporate Leisure director Jack Silvani said: “The asset was acquired through Allsop after it failed to sell at its commercial auction. Opportunities to invest in the heart of London’s West End are few and far between, particularly in the leisure sector, which has seen sustained and consistent growth. The property is nestled between the soon-to-open east/west and proposed north/south Crossrail stations, which are expected to drive footfall through Soho’s Wardour Street, Dean Street, Frith Street and Greek Street. PizzaExpress has only four years left on its occupational lease. However, confidence in the central London restaurant market is so robust, unexpired lease length is often considered academic. In fact, in many cases landlords are keen for the incumbent tenant not to renew their lease so they can take advantage of the strong occupational market. This is the ninth property we have advised on in Soho during the past 12 months, with two more currently in legals. The market is exceptionally buoyant, with yields typically ranging between 2.75% and 3.50%.”

YO! Sushi reveals further details of new pop-up concept at Boxpark Croydon: YO! Sushi has revealed further details of its new pop-up concept, which opens this week at Boxpark Croydon. The concept, which dispenses with the brand’s traditional conveyer belt, will launch in two containers at the complex on Thursday (27 April). It will build on traditional Japanese recipes and recraft them for the pop-up environment focusing on Japanese street food, sushi, innovation and provenance. Featuring an “innovative, bold and flavour-packed” menu taking inspiration from across Japan, YO! will bring new food trends to Croydon, including Ramen-In-A-Roll (a pork ramen roll) and Katsu Sando (a crispy panko chicken-thigh sandwich). YO! Sushi executive chef Mike Lewis said: “YO! Boxpark is the perfect place for us to explore our izakaya (Japanese pub) inspiration, allowing us to innovate and introduce playful sharing-style dishes. It’s the type of food and drink that can be enjoyed and shared in the communal eating area, just like the back streets of Japan.” Chief executive Robin Rowland, who previously told Propel there wasn’t space to include a conveyer belt, added: “In 1997 when we launched our first restaurant, we introduced the UK to a whole new way of enjoying food with conveyor belt sushi. This pop-up at Boxpark Croydon is another example of how we continue to evolve and gives us the opportunity to change the way we engage with our customers and share the latest food trends from Japan.” YO! Sushi has put sustainability at the centre of the concept, with the menus made from recycled paper, while all packaging is recyclable.

JW Lees boss – ‘we’ve capacity to add up to 50 sites’: Brewer and retailer JW Lees has capacity to add up to 50 sites and has built a “war-chest of cash” that can be used to support pub acquisitions, managing director William Lees-Jones has revealed. The family-owned company, which was founded in Middleton, Manchester, in 1828 by retired cotton manufacturer John Lees, currently manages 35 pubs, inns and hotels, while a further 115 are let to independent licensees. The business has continued to expand, buying six sites in the past six months alone. The Groes Inn, near Conwy, and the Casa Matta Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Weaverham, Cheshire, which is reopening as the Hanging Gate, were acquired from independents and a further four pubs in Cheshire and south Manchester were purchased from brewer and retailer Greene King. Lees-Jones told Insider Media: “We’ve actually got capacity to add up to 50 sites and we could do that relatively quickly. I think one of the things about running a family business is not taking crazy risks and, perhaps in the past ten years, we’ve been too focused on which pubs we wanted to come out of rather than which pubs we wanted to go into. So we’ve built up quite a war-chest of cash and that puts us in a good place.” The company’s estate is spread across the north west, north Wales and West Yorkshire. It has 1,232 staff on the payroll – 141 in the brewery, more than 450 full-time and more than 630 part-time in its managed pubs, and at least 600 workers in the tenanted pubs, where staff are self-employed.

Patisserie Valerie reveals Sainsbury’s trial: Patisserie Valerie, the company that has sector investor Luke Johnson as executive chairman, has started selling items on one of Sainsbury’s bakery counters. The new arrangement is being trialled at the supermarket’s store in Balham, south London. Half of the bakery counter has been given over to Patisserie Valerie-branded items, which are delivered directly from Patisserie Valerie as opposed to through Sainsbury’s own distribution network. For Sainsbury’s, the tie-up follows a number of recent new relationships with non-fast-moving consumer goods brands, most notably the trial introduction of meal kits from HelloFresh in 45 of its stores. Patisserie Valerie, launched in 1926 in Soho by Belgian-born Madame Valerie, has more than 115 sites across the UK.

Cottons strengthens estate with two new London sites: London-based Cottons Caribbean Restaurant and Rhum Shack is to add to its estate with two further openings – in Shoreditch and its first south of the Thames, in Vauxhall. The company has closed its site at Shoreditch Boxpark and will replace it with a site in nearby Curtain Road that will open in May. Meanwhile, Cottons will open in June at St George’s Wharf, Vauxhall. The Curtain Road restaurant and bar will mirror the former Shoreditch space, offering a boutique Cottons restaurant with space for 60 diners and a further 15 covers at the bar at the 1,600 square foot site. The 4,235 square foot Cottons Vauxhall site will feature an extensive restaurant plus large outdoor terrace overlooking the Thames. In addition to the restaurants, both sites will feature their own rum shacks and extensive rum collections. Colourful interiors and hand-painted murals depicting Caribbean island scenes will complete the scene at both venues. Owner Chris Singam said: “We look forward to bringing the Caribbean sunshine more permanently to Shoreditch and, for the first time, to south London.” Cottons’ other sites are in Camden and Notting Hill, while Singam also operates pan-Asian bar and restaurant concept Miusan in Camden.

Frontier Pubs to focus on current portfolio after expanding to six sites: Frontier Pubs, the partnership between Ei Managed Investments and pub operator Food & Fuel, will focus on its current portfolio after expanding to six sites. The company has reopened The Norbiton in Norbiton, south London, which will be followed by its sixth site, The Kings Arms, which will launch in Hanwell in mid-May. Following significant investment, both sites have undergone major internal refurbishments, including new kitchens. Food & Fuel commercial director Peter Myers said: “The pubs we are developing with Ei Group are all about local people, craft beer, awesome pizza and television sport. We’ve reached six sites in a short space of time so immediate next steps are to settle down and focus on our current portfolio. Although we have a robust offer, we’re willing to tweak elements at individual sites to maximise their potential. For example, we’re looking at running street food pop-ups in The Norbiton because it has great garden space. The needs of each local community are at the heart of everything we do.” In keeping with Frontier Pubs’ model, both pubs will focus on craft beer. The Norbiton and The Kings Arms will both source beer from local breweries – the former from The Park Brewery and the latter from the Weird Beard Brewing Company. Ei Managed Investments operations director Nathan Wall added: “Peter and his team are great operators who know how to put together an excellent retail offer with real kerb appeal. We’re delighted with the local response to the first four openings and we’re confident all future sites will be equally well received.” There are currently seven Ei Managed Investment partnerships in operation.

London Cocktail Club launches ninth site, in Monument: London Cocktail Club, the cocktail bar group, has launched its ninth site, this time in Monument. The venue in Eastcheap is inspired by the old-school Savile Row tailors iconic to London and reminiscent of the building’s former purpose as a traditional men’s suit shop. The company, which is owned by bartending entrepreneur JJ Goodman and James Hopkins, marks a new phase for the company. The 1,500 square foot basement bar is where “gentrified British monarchy gets a twisted 1970s vibe”. The tailor theme carries throughout with pinstripe, sharks-tooth and tweed-clad stool-tops and banqueting. The new venue is characterised by candle-lit nooks, eclectic antiques and a bar serving spirits, vermouth and liqueurs. In keeping with the group’s trademark tradition to select a spirit speciality, the focus at the new venue is on Scotch. London Cocktail Club’s other venues are in Bishopsgate, Bethnal Green, Covent Garden, Goodge Street, Islington, Oxford Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue and Shoreditch.

Lorraine Angliss to start expansion of Little Bird concept with second site, in Battersea: Restaurateur Lorraine Angliss is to start expansion of her bar and restaurant concept Little Bird by opening a second site, in Battersea, south London. The venue, which serves cocktails alongside Asian-inspired cuisine with a Mediterranean twist, will open in Battersea Rise this summer. It is the fifth site for Angliss, who also operates Rock & Rose in Richmond, Annie’s in Barnes and Chiswick, and Little Bird in Chiswick. The new bar’s design will feature bright and striking prints, hanging foliage and large palms, with features such as hand-painted wallpaper depicting birds of paradise alongside mirrors and original artwork. Angliss said: “We are delighted to be opening Little Bird in Battersea this summer. Our aim is to bring some stylish fun to the area. We look forward to shaking our tail feathers with you soon!”

New World Trading Company to bring The Botanist to Reading next month: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group New World Trading Company (NWTC) will bring its The Botanist brand to Reading next month. The company will open the site in King Street on Monday, 29 May creating 50 jobs. The Botanist will be on the ground floor of a building that had been a bank since 1814, when it was founded by William Simonds, of brewer Simonds’ Reading. It was called Simonds’ Bank until it merged with Barclays in 1913. Simonds’ brass nameplate will remain on the wall. General manager Matt Tomkins said: “We are very excited we will soon have a home in such a vibrant city. People from Reading have already been so welcoming and we can’t wait to be part of it!” It will be the 17th site for NWTC, which consists of five brands – The Botanist, The Club House, The Oast House, The Smugglers Cove and The Trading House.

Be At One partners with Purple to capture customer insights and data through Wi-Fi: Be At One, the specialist cocktail bar group, is capturing detailed customer insights and data from its guest Wi-Fi following a partnership with Pernod Ricard and Purple, the intelligent spaces company. Be At One, which operates 31 sites across the UK, has upgraded its in-bar Wi-Fi so its head office team and key partner Pernod Ricard can capture analytics about customers while they use an efficient, secure Wi-Fi connection. The insights will be used to determine music played in the bars, happy-hour timings and what sort of promotions to offer. The platform also enables the marketing team to distribute communications, alerts and promotions in real-time. Purple is also helping the brand refresh its customer relationship management database, increase feedback and grow app downloads. Since Purple went live across Be At One’s London sites in December, 15,000 lines of data have been collected, with app downloads and survey responses also increasing. The platform is now live across the entire estate. Be At One digital marketing manager Patrick Hook said: “Before Purple, we had a vague idea of the type of people visiting each individual bar but now have a complete and detailed overview of the whole estate. Having such a wealth of insights into our customers puts us at a great advantage. These results will help mould our marketing activity and influence key business decisions. The analytics also enable Pernod Ricard to determine what offers to launch, our menu designs and which drinks to push at certain periods.” Purple chief executive Gavin Wheeldon added: “It demonstrates clearly how wide-reaching the return on investment can be for Be At One’s Wi-Fi investment.”

Wagamama hires Talker Tailor Trouble Maker to run consumer PR: Wagamama has hired creative communications agency Talker Tailor Trouble Maker to run its consumer PR. The agency was hired following a competitive pitch, replacing Inkling, which has held the account for more than two years. Talker Tailor’s remit covers restaurant launches, including new flagship sites at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh and in London’s Bedford Street and Dean Street, as well as seasonal campaigns. The agency said it would handle influencer partnerships and content creation to “deliver deeper relationships with Generation Z”. Joss Byone, head of brand at Wagamama, which operates 125 restaurants in the UK and four in the US, told PR Week: “Talker Tailor is helping us on our journey to become a global iconic brand. The team demonstrates real passion for our brand, constantly sharing new creative ideas and concepts to keep us top of mind with customers old and new. It also gets the complexity of a pioneering business like ours.” Talker Tailor was founded last year by former M&C Saatchi PR chiefs Gary Wheeldon and Steve Strickland.

Pesto to open first Derbyshire site, tenth venue in total: Pesto, which focuses on Italian food in a pub setting, is to open its first site in Derbyshire. The company has taken over the former Peacock Hotel in Oakerthorpe, near Alfreton. Pesto is investing £350,000 to revamp the building in Chesterfield Road ahead of reopening it as Pesto At The Peacock in the summer, creating 60 jobs. The building dates to the 11th century and is reputed to be the oldest inn in Derbyshire. Pesto operates restaurants across the Midlands and the north west and the Oakerthorpe venue will be its tenth site, having opened its first in Manchester in 2008. Pesto is known for its Italian small plates or “piattini”, allowing customers to order a selection of small dishes instead of one large main course. Dishes include pizza, pasta, bruschetta, salads and other Italian favourites. Co-owner Sara Edwards told the Derby Telegraph: “The Peacock is an incredible site. We’re really excited by its potential and to be opening our first restaurant in Derbyshire. Renovation work is well under way and we’re looking forward to opening the doors to Pesto At The Peacock this summer.”

Kitchen & Tap Co gets go-ahead to redevelop Bowdon pub: Kitchen & Tap Co, previously known as Bracken Pub Co, has been given the go-ahead to redevelop a pub in Bowdon, Greater Manchester. The company, which acquired the leasehold of the Greene King-owned The Firs last year, has been granted permission by Trafford Council to remodel the venue, which will reopen as The Stamford Kitchen & Tap Co. The leaseholders are experienced restaurateurs Alex Bracken, Rhitu Parihar and Nicholas Theaker, with Kitchen & Tap Co being the UK arm of Dubai-based hospitality company 4-Front Facilities Management. Theaker was previously general manager of Simon Rimmer’s Earle restaurant in Hale before moving to take the same post at Rimmer’s The Scene restaurant in Dubai. The deal gives them a ten-year rolling lease on the property, with the automatic right to renew the lease when it expires. A Kitchen & Tap Co spokesman told Altrincham Today it hopes to start work on the redevelopment this week.

TOWIE star James Lock acquires third site: The Only Way Is Essex star James Lock has acquired his third site. Lock has taken over the running of Escedra in Chelmsford city centre. The bar in Moulsham Street has several bars and booths spread over two floors. The venue also boasts one of the city’s few roof bars available for private parties, reports Essex Live. Lock said on Twitter he was “very proud and excited” about his new venture. Lock also owns Seven nightclub in Station Road, Bishop’s Stortford, and healthy eating restaurant Lockie’s Kitchen in Romford.

Simon French – ‘Whitbread numbers will reassure the market’: Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French has said Whitbread’s numbers will “reassure the market” with the outlook “pragmatic rather than overtly cautious”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 4,307p, French said: “Whitbread has announced FY2017 (February year-end) results modestly ahead of market expectations reporting £565.2m profit before tax compared with consensus of £554m (range £509m to £573m) and our forecast of £550m. Outperformance came at Premier Inn and restaurants where underlying profit increased 7.4% to £468m (Cenkos estimate £459m). Costa’s performance was also encouraging, with second-half profit up 8.4% and full-year profit up 5.3% to £158m (Cenkos estimate £157m). However, fourth-quarter like-for-like sales declined 0.8%, although adjusted for timing differences was up 0.6% and within that high street stores’ were -1%. Net debt at year-end was £890m and the IAS 19 pension deficit was £425m. The final dividend has been increased 6.5% to 65.9p (consensus 65.0p). For the first seven weeks of the year, trading at Premier Inn has been good and Costa enjoyed positive like-for-like sales growth. However, the group expects a tougher consumer environment than last year. Capex guidance is as anticipated, at £650m to £700m gross, and £500m to £600m net of sale and leasebacks. Overall these numbers will reassure the market and the outlook is pragmatic rather than overtly cautious. The stock has rallied hard into the figures and trades on a CY 2017E price-to-earnings ratio of 17.6 times and an adjusted EV/Ebitdar of 10.5 times while yielding 2.3%. Share price progress from here is likely to be harder to come by.”

QHotels reports turnover and Ebitda boost: QHotels has reported a boost in turnover and Ebitda, with the four-star hotel company eyeing further growth this year fuelled by a rise in “staycations” as a result of the weak pound. Devonshire Point Group, which trades as QHotels, saw revenue increase to £144,349,000 for the year ending 31 December 2016, compared with £141,335,000 the previous year. Ebitda rose 3% to £38,043,000, compared with £37,302,000 the year before. Losses narrowed slightly to £3,434,000 compared with £3,481,000 the previous year, with directors attributing the loss to a property impairment of £1m and accelerated write-off of bank loan issuance costs of £2.8m. During the year, the company repaid a £200m loan and entered into a new £340m facility with Stratton Point 1, a related party. The company, which operates 26 hotels across the UK, said it benefited from a full year of trading from the Manchester Midland Hotel’s new spa facility, as well as spa developments in other hotels. It stated: “The directors note there has been a continued improvement in the UK provincial hotel market in 2016, notwithstanding the hiatus to the UK economy generally because of the Brexit referendum result. The directors anticipate there will be a continued general improvement in the UK economy in 2017 and, in particular, expect a positive impact as a result of more ‘staycation’ visits to UK hotels due to the relative increase in cost of travelling abroad as a result of the devaluation of sterling.” Earlier this week, QHotels sold the Cambridge Belfry Hotel in Cambourne to LXI Reit for £18.5m.

Great British Menu finalist acquires Lincoln pie shop: Great British Menu finalist Danny Gill has acquired a renowned Lincoln pie shop from his parents. Gill has bought Browns Pie Shop in Steep Hill, which started trading in 1968 and specialises in serving traditional pies alongside a la carte food. Gill, whose parents acquired the restaurant from its previous owner in 2005, has bought the venue backed by a £50,000 loan from Lloyds. He told Insider Media: “Browns Pie Shop is not only a successful business but has a lot of heritage, both locally and to my family. After spending years travelling around the country to develop my culinary skills, I wanted to return to the place that inspired me to follow a career as a professional chef in the first place.” Gill made it to the finals of series 11 of the Great British Menu last year.

Greene King sells Surrey village pub to mystery buyer: Brewer and retailer Greene King has sold The Cherry Tree in the Surrey village of Rowledge to a mystery buyer. The 17th century inn closed last month. A Greene King spokesman told the Bordon Herald: “After careful consideration, we decided to place The Cherry Tree on the market and it has now been sold to new owners. As a leading pub operator and brewer, we are committed to running high-quality community pubs. To be able to continue to invest in our core estate, from time to time we have to make the difficult decision to sell pubs.” An application to register the pub as an Asset of Community Value is being considered by Waverley Borough Council.

M&B converts Crown Carveries site in Lincolnshire village to Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery brand: Mitchells & Butlers has converted its Crown Carveries site in the village of Stragglethorpe, Lincolnshire, to its Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery brand. The company has reopened The Shepherds, which is next to Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club, following a three-week refurbishment, reports the Nottingham Post. The Stonehouse offer ranges from breakfast and traditional carvery to 100% fresh dough, stonebaked pizzas. There is also a self-serve salad bar alongside pub favourites and an extensive children’s menu. In November, Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Phil Urban said the evolution of its Crown Carvery brand to Stonehouse was producing a 25% return on investment. The company expects to grow the brand to 80 sites in 2017 from the 36 sites it had at its year-end in September