Malmaison and Hotel du Vin commission virtual tours: Malmaison and Hotel du Vin have commissioned 3D virtual tours of 12 of their hotels. The tours, created by Venue View, will allow prospective customers to fully explore hotel facilities, restaurants, and private meeting and events spaces. Venue View specialises in creating tours for the hospitality industry using Matterport technology to provide a “realistic and interactive virtual experience”. Tours will be created for six Malmaison boutique hotels – in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Brighton and Oxford – and six Hotel du Vins – in Birmingham, Glasgow, Brighton, Henley-on-Thames, Wimbledon and Bristol. Malmaison head of meetings and events Andrew Picketts said: “I can’t wait to start sharing the finished tours. They will form a key part of our long-term strategy of ramping up our efforts to establish ourselves as a market leader for meetings and events, with our added benefit of superb food and beverage, which elevates events to the next level.” Venue View managing director Keith McMahon said: “Along with a smooth and immersive 3D walkthrough, we will add key information throughout each tour to include menus, room offerings, and meetings and events facilities to instantly give guests and visitors access to what their experience at Malmaison and Hotel du Vin will be like.”
Iconic Paris restaurant Caviar Kaspia set for London return with Mayfair launch: Iconic Paris restaurant Caviar Kaspia is set to return to London with an opening in Mayfair next year. Caviar Kaspia previously operated from a site in Bruton Place, Westminster, before it closed to be replaced by brasserie, delicatessen and oyster bar Bellamy’s. Caviar Kaspia, which operated a pop-up at members’ club Loulou’s last year, will take over a site in Chesterfield Street that previously housed The Chess Club, which closed in the summer. The brand’s Paris menu focuses on seafood with dishes such as blinis with smoked salmon and crayfish, a selection of taramas and its signature baked potato with sour cream and caviar, Hot Dinners reports. Caviar Kaspia was founded in 1927 by Arcady Fixon, a Russian emigrant who decided to bring his culture to Paris, establishing caviar as an essential dish at prestigious dinners and events.
JD Wetherspoon submits revised hotel plan for Headingley: JD Wetherspoon has submitted revised plans to redevelop the grade II-listed Elinor Lupton Centre in Headingley, Leeds, after a previous application was denied an alcohol licence. The company lodged plans in 2015 to convert the property into a bar and restaurant. The scheme was rejected by Leeds City Council’s planning committee but consent was granted following an appeal. However, an alcohol licence was subsequently denied. Wetherspoon has now submitted a new application for the conversion and extension of the property to create a 52-bedroom hotel with ancillary bar, creating about 50 jobs, reports Insider Media. A planning statement submitted as part of the application read: “Based on extensive marketing of the site undertaken prior to the applicant’s acquisition and the unsuccessful premises license application, the proposals are considered the only viable solution to bring the site back into use.” Wetherspoon currently operates more than 50 hotels and 1,100 rooms across the UK but the proposal would represent its first in Leeds. Designed for the First Church of Christ Scientist by architect William Peel Schofield, the Elinor Lupton Centre opened in 1914 as a Sunday school. The site has also been used as a secondary school, theatre and concert hall but has been vacant since 2004.
Hull-based operators open third site: Hull-based operators Chris Eastaugh, Jason Gittins and Dan Robinson have opened their third site in the city. The trio have launched wine bar, bistro and deli J Johnsons in the Fruit Market. J Johnsons is named after the late Jack Johnson, a key figure when the Fruit Market was the centre of Hull’s wholesale fruit and vegetable trade. The 1,800 square foot venue has seating for 76 diners, while the opening has created 25 jobs. Eastaugh, Gittins and Robinson also own Butler Whites restaurant in Humber Street and Larkin’s gastro-pub in Newland Avenue. Gittins told Insider Media: “The run up to Christmas is such a busy time for us so our chefs will serve our Butler Whites menu until we launch J Johnsons’ own menu in January.” The investment in the Fruit Market is being driven by Wykeland Beal, a regeneration company formed by commercial developer Wykeland Group and housebuilder Beal Homes as part of a joint venture with Hull City Council.
Merlin Entertainments to phase out plastic straws by end of the year: Merlin Entertainments is to phase out plastic straws at its attractions across the world by the end of the year. Merlin, which operates brands such as Legoland, SeaLife and Madame Tussauds, will only provide an alternative to straws in its food and drinks outlets where it is a requirement for a product or requested by a visitor. Chessington World of Adventures Resort in Surrey was one of Merlin’s first attractions to remove plastic straws from its park and hotels in time for the start of this year’s peak season and, from the start of this month, all plastic straws and bags at attractions in Australia and New Zealand have been banned. The move is part of the company’s review into single-use plastics. Chief executive Nick Varney said: “We are committed at Merlin to reduce our impact on the environment wherever we operate. Like many of our guests we are concerned about the negative environmental impact associated with the disposal of plastic straws and we have an even deeper reason for taking action across our business given our SeaLife teams champion these issues on a daily basis. It is something we can act on immediately as we continue to assess how we minimise the use of plastics within our business.” In July, Merlin partnered with Coca-Cola GB to offer 50% off entry in exchange for plastic bottles. Visitors recycle any 500ml plastic bottle on-site by using reverse vending machines and receive a voucher offering 50% off entry to 30 Merlin-owned attractions.
Seven Brothers Brewery passes halfway mark in £500,000 crowdfunding campaign for four beerhouses: Manchester-based Seven Brothers Brewery has passed the halfway mark in its £500,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looks to open four beerhouses and expand production. The company, founded three-and-a-half years ago by brothers Keith, Kit, Guy, Luke, Daniel, Nathan and Greg McAvoy, raised £200,000 on Crowdcube in 2016. Now Seven Brothers Brewery is back and is offering 5.88% equity in return for the £500,000 investment, giving a pre-money valuation of £8m. So far, 369 investors have pledged £272,750 with 16 days of the campaign remaining. The pitch states: “Since introducing our bars in December 2016, revenue has increased from £204,000 to £708,000 (Ebitda minus £51,000). We raised £200,000 in July 2016 and moved into a new brewery in October 2017. We have gained listings with Booths supermarkets and Co-op stores as well as supplying to The Restaurant Group, T3 Manchester airport and Manchester Piccadilly station, providing further brand exposure. We also sell to the expanding chain, Hotel Football, as part of its partnership programme. We supply to Mission Mars group, hotel chain Melia Group and more. The fundamental part of our strategy is a further four beerhouses. Our aim is these will form the backbone of the whole business. Vertical integration means we will have a ready-made client for the brewery and the beerhouses will benefit from a strong gross margin.” The company also plans to use the investment to expand production at its brewery in Salford to 100,000 litres as well as grow the team. Earlier this month, the company secured its second beerhouse after agreeing heads of terms for a site at the Middlewood Locks development in Manchester.
The Coconut Tree opens second Bristol site a month after making city debut: Sri Lankan street food operator The Coconut Tree has opened its second site in Bristol and fourth in total. The 70-cover restaurant has launched at The Triangle in Clifton only a month after the brand opened a site in Cheltenham Road. The Coconut Tree offers tapas-style plates such as battered spicy cuttlefish and family-style sharing dishes including hoppers – a bowl-shaped coconut milk pancake served with sambal and Sri Lankan salsa. Brand manager Anna Garrod said: “We are so thrilled Bristol has been this welcoming, it’s more than we could have hoped for.” The Coconut Tree’s other sites are in Cheltenham and Oxford.
Company that promotes pubs as meeting venues doubles equity in crowdfunding campaign: MeetingsInn, which promotes pubs as venues in which to host meetings, has more than doubled the equity offer in its £250,000 campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company links a demand in the meetings industry for smaller venues with pubs that have space available during the week. MeetingsInn has increased its equity offering to 16.67% from the original 7.69%, which adjusts its pre-money valuation from £3m to £1.25m. The company stated: “MeetingsInn is committed to being a community-driven business that is open to being better at every opportunity and constantly listening and learning to improve every aspect of the business. We have therefore agreed with some significant investors to correct the valuation to £1.25m to secure their support and ensure our campaign continues to gather momentum. We are aware we got off to a good start with the investment from those close to the company in the private round but we have not succeeded in taking that energy into the public campaign, due largely to an ambitious valuation. We wish it be known this was driven by the unwavering belief of those in the team committed to making a great success of MeetingsInn and early advice.” MeetingsInn has said its vision is to be the “catalyst that brings the events and pubs community together on a single booking platform covering the whole of the UK”. So far, 26 investors have pledged £52,330 with 23 days of the campaign remaining.
Star Pubs & Bars licensees see premiumisation and vegan food as biggest growth opportunities, staff recruitment largest threat: Licensees at Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars have said they see premiumisation and vegan food as the biggest growth opportunities in 2019, while recruitment and staff retention are the biggest threat to their businesses. In a poll of 500 licensees taken at nine regional forums and feedback from a national forum in Amsterdam, more than one-quarter (27%) saw premiumisation as the way forward, with 24% saying vegan food was the priority. A further 17% felt putting on events to attract millennials was the way to grow business, while 11% put the emphasis on craft beer. As for threats to the industry in 2019, licensees highlighted recruitment and staff retention as the biggest challenges. Almost one-third (32%) flagged up this issue followed by 17% citing rising staff costs and 16% business rates. When asked what support they most wanted, licensees said further help with staff training, followed by additional help with local PR and footfall-driving activity. Managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “Forums are a great chance for licensees and the Star management and operations teams to step away from their day-to-day business and focus together on the opportunities to increase trade and ways to address the challenges pubs face. Forums are also a fantastic way for people to meet, talk and learn from each other.”
PizzaExpress founder wins lifetime achievement award for services to Italian food industry: PizzaExpress founder Peter Boizot has received a lifetime achievement award in recognition for his services to the Italian food industry. Boizot was recognised at the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association’s Papa Awards. After leaving school and before joining the army, Boizot was an au pair for a family in Florence, where he discovered his love of pizza. He opened his first restaurant in 1965 and there are now more than 470 PizzaExpress restaurants across the world. Chef Theo Randall presented the award to PizzaExpress managing director Zoe Bowley on behalf of Boizot. Papa director Jim Winship said: “The Industry Award is only given on special occasions and I cannot think of a more deserving winner. None of us would be here if Peter hadn’t made that trip to Italy in the sixties and he revolutionised the high-street dining experience.” Bowley added: “We are delighted to see Peter recognised for his services to the industry. As a business we’re constantly striving to remain true to his vision and values – and will continue to do so.” Meanwhile, PizzaExpress has been awarded silver at the annual FreeFrom Eating Out awards for a second year running. All winners were visited secretly by judges who are coeliac or food intolerant.
Bourne & Hollingsworth opens rooftop bar and restaurant in Charing Cross Road: London bar operator Bourne & Hollingsworth has opened a rooftop restaurant and bar in Charing Cross Road. The Garden Room is on the tenth floor of the Assembly Hotel in central London, with the space split into a series of counter tables along with a 22-cover private dining room. Dishes include burrata with beetroot, candied lemon, watercress and hazelnuts; and cod with braised puy lentils, roast cherry tomatoes and salsa verde. Desserts include spiced plum crumble and custard, while the drinks list features cocktails, spirits, tea, organic and biodynamic wine, single-origin coffee, cold-pressed juice, beer, cider, coconut water and kombucha. Its website states: “Our menu is an amalgamation of food that makes us happy – a brasserie-style menu featuring seasonal food with European influences.”
Feed It Back launches delivery review platform to help operators ‘take back quality control’: EPOS-linked guest feedback service Feed It Back has launched a delivery review platform to help operators “take back quality control”. The product provides food delivery customers with an online link to detail quality issues such as temperature, soggy packaging and late arrival, which will help operators improve the customer experience. The call to action will be printed on point-of-sale materials accompanying a food delivery but Feed It Back said it was exploring opportunities to integrate the process with delivery partners. Chief executive Carlo Platia said: “While third-party delivery companies have grown their reach across the UK and given operators access to new customer bases, there have been considerable concerns over operators guaranteeing the arriving product meets their brand standards. Under the current system, the first time an operator hears about a dissatisfied customer is when they receive an email from a delivery partner instructing a refund. It is hard for operators to contest this as they don’t have the customer feedback and, consequently, can’t take the necessary steps to address the problems. Operators can now access insight that will not only help contest charges by delivery partners but, crucially, help them develop their offer and operations.”
Shropshire hotel that entered administration following legionnaires outbreak sold to Birmingham-based group: A Shropshire hotel that went into administration after suffering trading difficulties following an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease has been sold to Birmingham-based Crest Group. The outbreak hit The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow in 2017, leading to an investigation by Public Health England (PHE). The 40-bedroom hotel went into administration in August and was closed later that month, resulting in the loss of 16 jobs. Crest Group, which is controlled by the Singh family, runs the Holiday Inn Birmingham Airport along with Holiday Inn Express Liverpool/Knowsley and two hotels in Bristol, reports the Shropshire Star. The hotel was put on the market for £2.6m in January by the previous owner before it went into administration. The move followed remedial work carried out on the hotel’s water system in late 2017 following an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease that led to two casualties, one fatal. Earlier this month, a report by the administrators revealed the hotel was to be sold in April only for the deal to collapse when “further traces of legionella” were discovered during a routine PHE inspection.
Darwin & Wallace opens seventh site, in Ealing: Darwin & Wallace, the independent neighbourhood bar group backed by Imbiba, has opened its seventh site, in Ealing, west London. No 17 Dickens Yard has opened in the Dickens Yard development and resembles a European loft apartment with lounge seating, oak sharing tables and lamps, and a first-floor wrap-around terrace. The menu will change with the seasons and focus on sustainability with responsibly sourced fish and wonky vegetables. Drinks include coffee, cocktails, cask and bottled craft beer, and a 30-strong wine list. Darwin & Wallace managing director Mel Marriott said: “At a time when our audience is eschewing cookie-cutter design more than ever and seeking characterful backdrops in which to enjoy their social time, it is more important than ever we deliver a unique business in No 17 Dickens Yard. For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of life is discovering great places to share with my colleagues, friends and family.” The other Darwin & Wallace sites are in Chelsea, Clapham, Richmond, Chiswick, Battersea and Wimbledon.
Joule’s acquires former fire station for Stone heritage centre plans:Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, has acquired a former fire station in Stone, Staffordshire, to house a heritage centre. Stafford County Council has agreed to sell the building to Joule’s as part of the brewer’s plans to build a taphouse and theatre at the canal-side site. Nuttall said: “We are delighted to have agreed a deal. It will be an important part of the new Joule’s Taphouse and Theatre, which we have proposed to build on Crown Wharf. Our agreement with the town council is to provide the building for use as a heritage centre, which we will sponsor by way of a subsidy, charging just £1 per year.” Crown Wharf was part of the original Joule’s warehouse operation when the company exported Stone Ales from Liverpool. The site was acquired by Joule’s from the Canals And Rivers Trust, providing the company with an “opportunity to embrace the Joule’s story and return the brand to Stone”. Nuttall said at the time of the Canal Wharf acquisition in late 2017: “We intend to establish a full brewery taphouse by the canal. This will be the first pub we have built from the ground up.” Joule’s operates almost 40 pubs, with a brewery in Market Drayton, Shropshire.
Wireless Social and TripAdvisor partnership ‘pushes review scores past industry average’: Wi-Fi solutions provider Wireless Social has said its partnership with TripAdvisor has helped “push review scores past the industry average”. Since January, operators using the platform have seen a 0.4 increase in their score, reporting a new average of 4.5 (out of five) compared with 4.1 across the wider sector. The partnership has also enabled restaurants to improve their star rating, Wireless Social said, with the amount of five star-rated operators rising 10% since the implementation. Increases in star rating and overall score help operators appear higher in online searches, while TripAdvisor research has revealed more than two-thirds (70%) of its customers believe ratings are important when choosing a restaurant. Wireless Social managing director Julian Ross said: “With social media reviews now more important than ever for consumers when choosing where to eat or drink, it is pivotal for operators to ensure their social reviews positively reflect their offering. Through our TripAdvisor partnership we are seeing an increase in both star rating and average score, helping to boost social influence, brand perception and, in some cases, footfall.