Casual Dining Group chief Steve Richards joins Arc Inspirations board: Casual Dining Group chief executive Steve Richards has joined the board of bar and restaurant operator Arc Inspirations as a non-executive director, Propel has learned. Richards, who is also non-executive director of pan-European hostel and bar company Beds and Bars, said his “day job” at Casual Dining Group would remain his focus – the company operates about 290 mid-market restaurant brands including Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas – but added he was “very happy to be able to help growing businesses like Arc Inspirations”. Chief executive Martin Wolstencroft and chairman Chris Ure founded Arc Inspirations in 1999. Anni Opong is the company’s managing director. A source close to the company said: “Martin is a great guy – a real force of nature and one of the sector’s leading entrepreneurs. Steve brings a wealth of experience across operations and also helping companies grow. He’ll work closely with the existing board, founders and shareholders.” Arc Inspirations operates 17 venues including its Manahatta and Banyan brands.
Gaucho managing director Tracey Matthews steps down: Gaucho Group, the leading Argentine steak restaurant group operating the Gaucho and CAU brands, has announced managing director Tracey Matthews is leaving the business after 18 years to pursue new opportunities. Chief executive Oliver Meakin said: “Tracey has been instrumental in the successful growth of Gaucho to become the UK’s leading Argentinian steak restaurant. Her passion and dedication have been exemplary and I would like to express our sincere thanks for her leadership and significant contribution throughout the past 18 years. Tracey and I are working together to ensure a smooth transition. Tracey leaves with our best wishes and sincere gratitude and we wish her well for her future endeavours.” Matthews added: “Much of my working life has been spent at Gaucho. It has been an honour to be part of a team of talented, driven and passionate individuals. To have had the chance to grow with the business over the past 18 years has been an absolute privilege. I know I am leaving Gaucho in capable hands with an amazing team and wish it every success for the future.” There are 16 Gaucho-branded restaurants in the UK and one each in Dubai and Hong Kong. The CAU brand operates from 22 sites in the UK and one in Amsterdam.
Indigo Pub Company acquires two Brighton freeholds from Greene King: Hove-based Indigo Pub Company has acquired the freehold of two Greene King pubs in Brighton, Propel has learned. The team at Indigo Pub Company has run The Hop Poles in Middle Street and The Eagle Bar And Bakery in Gloucester Road for five years. Chris Bloomfield, director of the Indigo Pub Company, said: “We are extremely pleased to purchase the freeholds of these two popular pubs, enabling us to continue our strategy of expanding our portfolio of high-quality Brighton and Hove freeholds. I’d like to thank Greene King for its excellent support during the five years we have worked together, allowing us to grow the businesses in our own way with the benefit of such strong brands from a leading and respected brewer.”
Arkell’s announces first new-build pub for 15 years: Swindon-headquartered brewer and retailer Arkell’s Brewery has started design work on its first new-build pub for 15 years. The company has secured a site at Crest Nicholson’s Tadpole Garden Village development in north Swindon, which will include 1,855 homes, shops, a primary school and community sports facilities. Arkell’s director George Arkell said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to build a pub for the community. We’ve been rooted in Swindon for 175 years and it’s great to be able to make this announcement in our anniversary year. Tadpole Garden Village is an enormous project and our new pub will not only offer residents a place to socialise but also provide the community with a vital hub. We are looking forward to starting work on the design. More than 15 years ago we began work on The Tawny Owl at Taw Hill and it is one of our most successful Swindon pubs.” Crest Nicholson managing director Andrew Dobson added: “The Arkell’s pub will be a wonderful addition to our thriving new community. It’s great to be supporting a local business, especially one with such a strong heritage and links with the local area.” Arkell’s hopes to start building work in early 2019 with a view to opening the pub at the end of the year.
Four restaurant brands sign for Cannon Street site: Four restaurant brands have signed for units at 45 Cannon Street in central London. Shake Shack, Black Sheep Coffee, Pali Kitchen and Canadian-based health brand Freshii have agreed deals with landlord Morgan Capital, represented by agent Savills. The largest deal is for Shake Shack, which has agreed a new 15-year lease on a 3,608 square foot (335 square metre) restaurant, while Black Sheep Coffee has taken a 20-year lease on a 1,235 square foot unit. Pali’s Kitchen and Freshii will open 872 and 1,050 square foot restaurants on 15-year and ten-year leases respectively. Opposite Mansion House underground station, 45 Cannon Street offers office space across nine storeys. The deals mean the building’s ground-floor retail and leisure units are fully let. Benji Ashe, of Savills, said: “We are pleased to have secured this varied mix of food and beverage operators at 45 Cannon Street, offering everything from an early morning coffee to a late-night burger. The high-calibre line-up will enhance the appeal of the building for office occupiers as well as creating a dining destination in its own right.”
Five Points Brewing Company closes crowdfunding campaign after raising more than £1m for expansion: Hackney-based Five Points Brewing Company has closed its campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube after raising more than £1m to “expand its community”. The company, which was offering a 5.66% equity stake in return for the investment towards an initial £750,000 target, will use the capital to open the first Five Points taproom at The Pembury Tavern in Hackney, which the company acquired in March. In total, 1,623 investors pledged £1,178,630 and the campaign has now closed. Funds will also be invested in brewhouse equipment and fermentation tanks that will triple production in a bid to increase sales from two million to six million pints a year (34,000 hectolitres). A new research and development brew-kit at The Pembury will be used to develop new recipes and brewing processes. The company reached capacity in late 2016 and has been brewing some of its beer with a brewery in Belgium. The investment will enable Five Points to bring all production back to London. The fund-raise will also allow the company to invest in its team, expand UK distribution and develop its growing export business. Five Points Brewing Company, which has seen turnover increase from £173,000 in 2013 to £2.6m in 2017, was the first brewer in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage employer, sources electricity from 100% renewable sources and helped set up an apprenticeship scheme at Hackney Community College. Co-founder and managing director Ed Mason said: “We believe we have the potential not just to cement our position as one of London’s favourite brands but to become a truly national brand.”
Starbucks to reduce limited-time offers: Starbucks will shift its focus from short-term goals to build a more “sustained platform” and a more personal relationship with customers. Chief operating officer Rosalind Brewer admitted the brand had focused on a “drumbeat of promotional offerings” in the past that didn’t lead to sustained growth. The company has reduced the number of limited-time offers by 30% year-on-year and its new approach will centre on targeted offers that are personalised to individual customers. For instance, it will revise its “Happy Hour” offer. Previously, Starbucks offered a free frappachino to “anyone and everyone, even customers who might have come in anyway”. While this worked initially, it had become unprofitable, it said. There will also be a shift to supporting products with a broader appeal. Brewer cited Blonde Expresso, which is a sweeter expresso coffee, as a product Starbucks is looking to push rather than its one-off drinks. The culmination will be a three-month campaign to push afternoon sales that will launch in May. Brewer said: “We will be driving a consistent and sustained message to the consumer that leverages the fantastic line-up of new beverages, great food pairings, a more welcoming environment for our customers, and reinforced engagement with our customers once they are in our doors.” Meanwhile, chief executive Kevin Johnson said the discrimination incident in Philadelphia in April, which occurred outside its second-quarter results window, had not hurt sales. Two black men were arrested for trespassing while sitting in a Starbucks cafe without making a purchase. Starbucks plans to temporarily close locations on 29 May for an afternoon of racial-bias education. Johnson said the culture training was “one small piece” of multiple actions Starbucks will take to prevent discriminatory acts in its cafes. “All companies make mistakes,” he said. “Great companies learn from them and improve – and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”
Merlin Entertainments to raise $400m via note offering: Merlin Entertainments has announced an offering of $400m of US dollar-denominated senior notes due in 2026. The company stated: “The proceeds of the offering will be used to prepay all amounts outstanding under Merlin’s existing term facilities, comprising the $311m and £4m term facilities made available under its senior facilities agreement; partially repay amounts drawn under Merlin’s revolving credit facility; and pay costs, fees and expenses incurred in connection with the offering, including underwriting commissions and fees for legal, accounting, ratings advisory and other professional services. The notes are being offered in a private placement and there will be no public offering of the notes.”
Trio of operators secure sites at Reading leisure development: Three operators have secured sites at a leisure development in Reading. Vietnamese street food restaurant group Pho, Korean barbecue restaurant Soju and Escape Hunt have agreed deals with Atlantis Holdings, represented by agent Savills, at The Village in King Street. The town centre scheme has recently been rebranded and refurbished to create eight leisure units totalling 27,958 square feet (2,597 square metres). Pho has agreed a 20-year lease for a 4,109 square foot unit, while Soju has opened a 1,898 square foot restaurant on a ten-year lease. Escape Hunt, which has sites in more than 20 countries, has agreed a 15-year lease for a 4,348 square foot venue. The new brands will join Bolan Thai Cuisine, Caffeine & Cocktails and Dolce Vita Italian, which have already taken space within the scheme. Ben Chislett, retail director at Savills, said: “The refurbishment of The Village has transformed this part of the town centre and, together with the Jacksons Corner development, created an alternative leisure destination for Reading. Just three available units remain and we are in talks with a number of potential occupiers.”
Honest Burgers partners with Trail: Honest Burgers has partnered with operations management app Trail – a checklist for service operations designed to guide teams through their day with repeat processes and automated integrations. Efficiencies help to drive profitability and free staff to focus on customers. Honest Burgers operates 23 sites in London and one each in Cambridge and Reading. Co-founder and operations director Philip Eeles said: “2017 was a great year for us – we reached 25 restaurants and took Honest out of London for the first time. It’s been a massive learning curve. Only eight years ago we were serving burgers at festivals so adapting the business as we’ve grown has been key. Trail will enable us to reduce email noise, paperwork, admin and simplify communication to our managers, allowing them to get on with what they should be doing – talking to our customers and driving sales!” Trail managing director and co-founder Joe Cripps added: “We’re huge fans of Philip and the team at Honest Burgers. They’re pushing the industry forward in challenging times, adding sites to an incredible brand. Maintaining customer experience is key with increased competition and a tough trading climate.” Trail’s other customers include Ei Group, Deliveroo, Bill’s and New World Trading Company.
Star Pubs & Bars launches weekly e-learning for licensees via Facebook:Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is launching weekly business coaching for its licensees via its Facebook page. Entitled “Business Breakfast”, the sessions will go live every Wednesday and provide training on all aspects of running a pub – from recruitment to marketing – as well as guidance on issues affecting licensees. Each Business Breakfast will take the form of a short e-learning course with bespoke content created by specialists from within Star Pubs & Bars. The courses will last between one and ten minutes and include links to further resources. The first session on Wednesday (2 May) will provide an easy-to-understand overview of GDPR and the sort of measures licensees must take to comply. The company is also encouraging Star licensees to put forward topics they would like covered. Created by Star Pubs & Bars using CPL’s Custom Course Creator software, the Business Breakfasts feature videos and animations. Much of the content is suitable for licensees to use for staff training. Star Pubs & Bars head of training Michael Soderquest said: “E-learning is revolutionising training in the pub industry, making it much more accessible. Licensees are extremely busy and the concise format of our Business Breakfasts is designed to address that. Larger topics can be broken into bite-size chunks that focus on individual insights and ideas that are quick and easy to implement.”
Chipotle rolls out delivery in US with DoorDash partnership: Chipotle Mexican Grill has partnered with DoorDash to bring delivery to 1,500 restaurants in the US – its largest delivery footprint to date. The partnership expands delivery to more than half of Chipotle’s 2,441 restaurants. Chipotle also uses Postmates, where delivery is available at about 660 restaurants, according to the provider’s website. Many of those restaurants are in markets that overlap with San Francisco-based DoorDash, which is available in more than 800 cities across the US and Canada. Chipotle chief digital and information officer Curt Garner said: “Delivery is an important way we are making Chipotle even more convenient and accessible to our customers. By partnering with a delivery leader like DoorDash, we are making it even easier.” The DoorDash deal is part of Chipotle chief executive Brian Niccol’s plans to reboot the brand by making it more convenient for diners.
Beer and skateboard brand launches £150,000 crowdfunding campaign to create London HQ: Beer and skateboard brand Hop King Brewery has launched a £150,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to create a London headquarters “with a difference”. Founders Ben and Ludi Hopkinson are offering an 8.57% equity stake in return for investment. The pitch states: “We knew Hop King needed to stand for much more than just good beer, which is why Hop King is also a skateboard brand. We wanted to create a brand that, before anything, was cool! We have designed and produced a clothing range, skateboard decks, and have an official Hop King skate team with three pros and four amateurs. The beer and skateboard elements act as USPs for each other and we hope this alignment will give the beer the edge required in such a competitive market place, as well as provide great content for a social media-focused business. We want to create a London headquarters with a difference – The Hop Kingdom – a warehouse, office, taproom, skate park and events space that will be a hub of awesomeness.”
Mowgli signs Zonal as technology provider amid ambitious expansion plans: Indian street food restaurant Mowgli has appointed hospitality management solutions company Zonal as technology provider amid its ambitious expansion plans. The initial contract is for Zonal to supply its Aztec EPOS systems into Mowgli’s latest sites – in Birmingham and Oxford – with further openings planned for Leeds, Nottingham and Cardiff. Zonal won the contract following a competitive pitch. Mowgli finance director Matthew Peck said: “We are still a small business but with private equity backing we are looking to launch Mowgli in many more UK cities over the coming years and wanted to appoint a technology provider that could grow with us. Zonal was also appealing because it remains a family firm, sharing our values with valuable sector knowledge and experience.” Mowgli already operates Zonal’s Aztec system in its restaurants in Liverpool (two sites) and Manchester. Peck said: “We are very pleased with the reliability of the system and the support we are receiving. Our teams have also found Aztec easy to use, which is another bonus.” Mowgli was founded by barrister and food writer Nisha Katona in 2014.
James’ Places invests in electric delivery vehicles: Lancashire-based hospitality group James’ Places has invested in two electric delivery vehicles. The company, which owns a collection of pubs, rural inns and hotels across Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria, has taken delivery of the Renault Kangoo electric vans. They will shuttle between the company’s eight sites in the Ribble Valley, Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales and South Cumbria – transporting beer from Bowland Brewery and other stock between venues. The group has also installed charging points at all its venues, which will be available to hotel guests and visitors. Chairman James Warburton said: “Driving a smooth, silent, clean electric vehicle for the first time is a real breath of fresh air and by investing in these vans to deliver our ales, we’d like to think we’re doing our bit to keep the Forest of Bowland beautiful.”
 
Novus launches first spirits festival: Novus, the London bar and restaurant operator, has launched its first spirits festival. The event will run in partnership with suppliers including Diageo, Pernod Ricard and WM Grant until 31 July. The festival starts across the Balls Brothers brand via a celebration of gin, with customers invited to sample a new serve every month. Meanwhile, Novus bars’ focus will be on cocktails, with monthly cocktails created for May and June and the best-sellers securing a place on the drinks menu from July. There will also be a Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey pop-up bar at Forge and a Ketel One Kitchen offering vodka masterclasses. Novus customer experience director Simon Gaske said: “We’re delighted to launch our first spirits festival in partnership with leading drinks suppliers. Our mixologists will deliver a fantastic variety of serves throughout the summer.”
Robinsons reopens North Wales pub and hotel as managed estate refurbishment programme continues: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has reopened The Wynnstay Arms pub and hotel in Ruabon, near Wrexham, following a major refurbishment. The grade II-listed, former 18th century coaching inn closed in October, with the reopening creating 30 jobs. The new layout centres on reclaimed open fires, while the new food menu features pub classics. In addition to the refurbishment of its eight bedrooms, an additional four rooms have been created in the old stables and another three in a former ballroom. Robinsons Brewery managing director (pub division) William Robinson said: “The Wynnstay Arms is a wonderful example of a pub at the heart of the community and we wanted to make sure the refurbishment continued the rich history of this pub – the tenth managed house we’ve refurbished in our estate.”