European hotel industry reports positive first quarter: The European hotel industry has recorded positive results in the first quarter of 2016 with increases in occupancy, average daily room rate and revpar, according to research from STR Global. Compared with the first quarter of 2015, Europe reported a 0.8% increase in occupancy to 61.1%, a 2.3% rise in average daily room rate to €102.98 and a 3.1% lift in revpar to €62.94. Among the top performing countries were Croatia, which posted double-digit increases across all three areas, while Ireland had double-digit growth in average daily room rate (+17.6% to €107.84) and revpar (+23.2% to €71.63) as well as a 4.8% rise in occupancy to 66.4%. The top performing city was Amsterdam, which experienced a 3.9% increase in occupancy to 68.5% as well as double-digit growth in average daily rate (+12.3% to €122.92) and revpar (+16.7% to €84.15). Meanwhile, Brussels was severely affected by the terrorist attack in March with a 9.8% decrease in occupancy to 57.4% and an 8.1% decline in revpar to €65.06, although average daily room rate increased 1.9% to €113.27.
New food quarter to open next month in former Olympic press centre: A new food quarter is to open next month in the former Olympic press centre in east London. The canalside dining and drinking area opposite the artists’ studios of Hackney Wick will be home to 12 outlets, including a new venue for cafe and bar operator The Breakfast Club and the second site for chef Shane Harrison. The outlets face lawns running down to the Lee Canal and mark the latest phase in the reinvention of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The £300m former press and broadcast centre complex was seen as one of the most difficult sites to find a post-Olympics use for because of its relatively remote location in the 500-acre site. However, after being rebranded as “Here East”, it is now home to BT Sport, a new campus for Loughborough University, and a giant data centre. Harrison will open Shane’s on Canalside, a 65-seat sister restaurant to Shane’s on Chatsworth in Clapton. It will focus on British game, meat and fish with ingredients such as nettles and wild garlic from local grassland. He told the Evening Standard: “The site is fantastic, it is so close to Hackney Marshes and the towpath, and it’s west-facing so it’s a real suntrap.” Jonathan Arana-Morton, founder of The Breakfast Club, added: “With two cafes already in east London, a move to Hackney Wick feels very much in our comfort zone.”
Tap water consumption fails to swamp soft drinks in out-of-home market: Tap water consumption has risen in British restaurants and in the out-of-home sector as a whole, according to research by market insights company NPD Group, but has failed to cut into soft drinks sales as significantly as expected. Among the 11.2 billion visits to out-of-home venues in Britain in 2015, 3.8% featured tap water, only a 0.2% rise on the previous year. That meant tap water was drunk in about 422 million visits. At full-service restaurants, tap water was consumed in 95 million or 8.1% of visits, another 0.2% rise on the year before. The consumption of tap water has, however, risen significantly since 2010. The research revealed 16.7% growth in the total out-of-home markets but a huge 32.7% leap at full-service restaurants over the five-year period. Jack MacIntyre, NPD Group senior account manager (UK foodservice), said: “We cannot say tap water is replacing soft drinks when people eat away from home. The incidence of soft drinks has increased in the total out-of-home market and in the full-service restaurant segment as well. But tap water is free so it’s reasonable to expect that the figures would be much higher.”
Online survey into CAMRA’s future closes on Saturday: An online survey for people to have their say about the future of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) will close on Saturday (30 April). The survey forms the first stage of a six-month consultation for the Revitalisation Project – a strategic review of CAMRA’s purpose and structure. More than 20,000 people have already responded to the survey, which will help form the next stages of the consultation with CAMRA’s members about how the organisation should position itself in future through a series of about 50 meetings being held across the country. The Revitalisation Project is CAMRA’s response to a beer and pub industry that has changed hugely since the organisation was founded in 1971. Options include becoming a consumer organisation for all beer drinkers, for all pub-goers regardless of what they drink, or even for all alcohol drinkers, regardless of where they choose to drink it.
Amazon rolls out free restaurant deliveries to Prime customers in San Francisco, eighth US market: Amazon has launched free restaurant deliveries in San Francisco for its Prime customers, offering food from more than 115 city sites. The one-hour delivery service covers 33 San Francisco zip codes and is the eighth US market for Amazon Prime members who order via the Prime Now smartphone app. The service is powered by local couriers that partner with Amazon but the retailer faces competition from other food delivery services such as Postmates and Uber. Amazon has also unveiled a “price guarantee” for the service, promising no mark-ups for meals. If a customer is charged a higher price than that shown on a restaurant’s online menu, Amazon will fully refund the price of that item, CNet reports. In March, Propel reported Amazon had surveyed UK customers about restaurant delivery services.
Tim Martin vows to retain JD Wetherspoon staff bonuses despite National Living Wage, Brexit ‘will not hit company’: JD Wetherspoon chairman and founder Tim Martin has vowed to maintain perks and bonuses for the company’s 37,000 staff despite having to fork out extra cash to cover the National Living Wage. He also said an exit from the European Union would have little effect on the company, as 95% of staff were British-born. Martin told the Press Association: “I’m not going to cut any perks for employees as a result of the National Living Wage, we’re a groovy company. About 40% of our profits go to staff in the form of bonuses and free shares, and there are no plans for that to change.” Retailers including Eat and Caffe Nero have come under fire for withdrawing perks to fund the wage initiative. However, Martin said implementation of the pay hike was still in its first stage and the living wage could yet have repercussions to his company down the line – pre-tax-profits slipped 3.9% to £36m in the first half of the year following two pay increases. Martin also said JD Wetherspoon would not be hit if Britain voted to leave the EU in June. Speaking on the sidelines of a Brexit debate in Mayfair he said: “We would not be hit by Brexit, not at all. In terms of staff, in the last 100 pubs we’ve opened we’ve only employed 5% of people from the EU, the rest are British-born. That’s broadly replicated across the estate.”
Survey finds three quarters of consumers feel pubs are successfully catering for the family market: The pub sector’s attempts to broaden its demographic has been recognised in a survey by guest experience management company HospitalityGEM that found nearly three quarters of respondents said they felt pubs do enough to appeal to families. The demand for a child-friendly food offering is clear, with 91% of respondents stating they would expect a separate children’s menu to be available when they visit a pub. Interestingly, while 52% of people do prefer to order through a separate children’s menu, there is still a considerable 36% who favour smaller portions of dishes from the full menu for young guests. This data provides options for those pubs keen to minimise the number of dishes and ingredients used, and for those wishing to cater for children in a less overt way. Health considerations are also incredibly important for most customers with children – 66% said they would like to see calorie, health and allergen information displayed on the menu. This is the case for the majority of age groups, with the exception of the over-65s. Whilst 72% of 18 to 25-year-olds wanted to see this information, only 45% of the over-65s did. When it came to specific items, the HospitalityGEM research found a mini roast dinner was the most popular dish for children, followed closely by chicken nuggets. Meanwhile, in terms of pub facilities, 26% of respondents felt the most important way to appeal to families was to provide a separate dining area for those with young children. Family specific special offers and availability of colouring books and goodie bags were also highlighted as attractive. Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGEM, said: “For those pubs wishing to be more than just wet-led, and wanting to appeal across all of the dayparts, then it is clear that making younger guests feel welcome offers a great opportunity to boost income. It’s also very positive to see that the vast majority of customers think that pubs are already doing enough to make their venues suitable and attractive for those with children. Elsewhere in the hospitality sector, chain restaurants scored particularly highly in catering for children, so it may be worthwhile for those keen to improve their offering further to look at brands in this area for inspiration. We’ve found from diner feedback that each chain often has one or two things they do well or differently, which means there are sure to be some specific aspects from these brands that other operators can apply to their own business.”
Amber Taverns lines up 14 more sites, targeting further expansion with 180-plus towns and cities on list: Managed operator Amber Taverns has revealed it has 14 more sites lined up for 2016 and is hunting for further venues. The company, which owns 117 pubs, said this year had got off to “a flyer” with five sites in development and a further nine in “solicitor hands”. It is continuing to look for freehold property in town centre locations and would consider pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, offices, retail, or other buildings if they meet its requirements. Sites need to have at least 2,000 square feet of trading space with an outside area preferred, or space to create one. The company is planning to open sites this year in Burton, Congleton, Hereford, Leicester, and Newport and has sites under offer including Aberdare in Wales, Gloucester, Pontypool, and Stourbridge. It has a list of more than 180 target towns and cities in the north west, north east, Yorkshire, West Midlands, East Midlands, eastern England and the south west as well as Wales but would “consider other similar locations”. It is offering a finders fee of up to £10,000. Head of property Sam Frankland said: “We have a proven track record of acting quickly and efficiently and are keen to unearth new opportunities. I am also pleased to say we have just opened our latest pub in Wellingborough, The Gloucester.”
Pilsner Urquell closes in on million-pint milestone as it extends Draft House partnership: Pilsner Urquell has sold almost one million pints of its “tank beer” and will continue expansion with the launch of its tenth tank bar in England and Ireland – the third in partnership with Draft House – in London next month. Draft House, led by Charlie McVeigh and backed by Luke Johnson, opened Draft House Chancery in Farringdon this week. The pub houses four, 880-pint Pilsner Urquell tanks and features the “altar of tank beer”, a private space where beer-lovers are taught to pour the three styles of Czech lager – milk, smooth and crisp. Once trained, partygoers pour their own beer during the event, with consumption monitored by a “flow meter”. Draft House will open its tenth venue in Old Street next month, which will also feature tanks, as does its Seething Lane pub. Pilsner Urquell launched the tank beer concept in 1996 in the Czech Republic. Beer is pumped into pressurised tanks at the brewery, allowing it to bypass pasteurisation, speeding transportation, removing the need for carbon dioxide, and maintaining freshness. Tank beer entered the UK market at the White Horse in Parson’s Green in 2013 and has expanded to nine sites – in London, Manchester, Leeds and Dublin.
North London-based Chinese takeout concept Zing Zing hits £350,000 crowdfunding target to expand across capital: Zing Zing, the north London-based Chinese takeout concept, has hit its £350,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to expand across the capital. The company, founded by Josh Magidson, who sold his start-up business to Just Eat in 2010, is offering an 8.51% equity stake in return for the investment. So far, 207 investors have pledged £388,420 and it is now “overfunding” with 15 days remaining. The largest investment to date is £31,850. The pitch states: “Zing Zing is revolutionising the £1.4bn Chinese takeout industry over time. We offer Chinese cuisine with a modern and healthy twist, cooked fresh to order and delivered fast. We have two units in north London, which together generated £1.05m of net turnover last year. We are currently raising equity finance to fund the next stages of our store roll-out plan. We are looking to raise a minimum of £350,000 for a new store in east and/or west London and other exciting business improvements. The investments we are making in the business are all designed to enable us to scale the model more effectively. We do not need large stores in high footfall locations. New sites are easy to find. They are extremely low cost to build and operate, especially compared with a traditional restaurant. We target a near 50% pre-tax return on capital whenever we open a new store – a target far beyond most traditional restaurant models.” The company forecasts a pre-tax loss of £170,155 at the end of this year, rising to a profit of £44,100 in 2017, £217,291 in 2018, and £574,881 in 2019.
Darwin & Wallace opens fourth site – in Chiswick: Darwin & Wallace, the Imbiba-backed operator, has opened its fourth venue – No 197 Chiswick Fire Station. Led by Mel Marriott, Darwin & Wallace is a collection of independent neighbourhood bars and restaurants located in iconic London villages. Each location is individually designed and the Chiswick venue, originally a fire station, features a stripped-back utilitarian feel true to its heritage. No 197 Chiswick Fire Station features a courtyard to the rear of the venue in High Street and offers “Antipodean-influenced” dishes paired with a cocktail menu featuring house-made syrups and sherbets. Marriott told Hot Dinners the venue would “bring something fresh and contemporary to the space whilst drawing inspiration from the locality” and present Darwin & Wallace’s “modern vision of the local pub to Chiswick with a unique design paired with great food and drink”. Darwin & Wallace’s other sites are No 11 Pimlico Road in Belgravia, No 32 The Old Town in Clapham, and No 1 Duke Street in Richmond. The company has also acquired a fifth location, which will open as part of phase one of Battersea Power Station’s regeneration development.
Hakkasan to bring Ling Ling back to Mykonos: UK-based restaurant and nightclub operator Hakkasan will bring back its open-air restaurant Ling Ling to Mykonos in June. The restaurant was launched last July and following a successful first season, it will be reopening again for the summer months, reports Travel Weekly. Located in the centre of the old town on the Greek island, Ling Ling is inspired by Japan’s izakaya concept and encourages customers to discover Hakkasan’s cuisine differently. Reinvented presentations of smaller plates provide the opportunity to share and try a variety of the Cantonese-style dishes. It said cocktails are at the heart of the experience though, which have been created by the team in London.
Wills and Gordon to close Kopapa to focus on doughnuts business: Seven Dials’ fusion restaurant Kopapa will close at the end of this week. Adam Wills and Peter Gordon’s restaurant is enjoying its last couple of days before it closes on Sunday (1 May). The owners have made the decision to shut due to the increasing demands on their time with projects such as Crosstown Doughnuts (of which the pair are founders). The site in Seven Dials received a number of unsolicited bids from other restaurant groups, which prompted the pair to consider their options after five-and-a-half successful years trading. “Kopapa is a great restaurant and we’re lucky to still enjoy commercial and critical success there but Crosstown has progressed quicker than anticipated and I’m enjoying dedicating time to its development,” said Wills. “I’ll be sad to see Kopapa close, but it feels like the right time.” Crosstown Doughnuts was founded in 2014 and can be found at various markets throughout London, as well as in retailers such as Selfridges, select Whole Foods, Notes Coffee sites, Sourced Market, Air New Zealand (served on business class to LA) and an array of independent stores. In May 2015, Crosstown opened its first permanent store in the heart of Soho in Broadwick Street, pairing doughnuts with artisan coffee. There are plans in the pipeline for more stores to open in 2016 along with further development of its online store. The Providores and Tapa Room in Marylebone remains Gordon’s flagship restaurant and is enjoying a year of celebrations in honour of its 15th anniversary. Gordon’s eighth cookbook, Savour: Salads for all Seasons, is also out this month, published by Jacqui Small.
Jamie Oliver makes Cyprus debut: Jamie Oliver has opened his first restaurant in Cyprus by bringing his Jamie’s Italian brand to the country. The restaurant, launched by franchisee Avantage B&R Italian Restaurants, is based in the capital Nicosia in the suburb of Engomi. The menu has been created by Oliver and his long-time friend and mentor Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo, offering a range of rustic Italian dishes with a twist, all made using local and seasonal produce. As well as pasta dishes, mains include rib-eye steak and Jamie’s Italian Burger. Oliver told In-Cyprus: “Since I was a teenager I’ve been totally besotted by the love, passion and verve for food, family and life itself that just about all Italian people have, no matter where they’re from or how rich or poor they might be. And that’s what I’m passionate about – good food for everyone, no matter what. But the thing I love most about the Italians is that somehow, although they have some of the best fashion designers and cars in the world, they’ve managed to retain a unique sense of tradition and village spirit.”
Deltic Group to rebrand Colchester club, creating third Atik venue: Nightclub and bar operator Deltic Group has closed its Liquid Envy site in Colchester to rebrand it as an Atik venue. The building in High Street, known as the Grand Theatre, has been run as a nightclub since 1986 when it was the Hippodrome. It continued to trade with other variations of the name until 2008, when it was converted into Liquid Envy by former owners Luminar, which later changed its name to the Deltic Group. Applications to install new signs and for a change of name have been submitted to Colchester Council. Club manager Nick Jackson told the Maldon Standard: “There is no concrete date for when it will be reopened but we are looking at between five and six weeks. It has run as Liquid in the town for a long time and I think the choice was made to reinvest in the town centre and rebrand the unit.” Deltic operates two other Atik nightclubs – in Windsor and Oxford. Guests can order shisha pipes as an extra when they book a VIP booth.
Stonegate shortlisted for HR excellence award: Stonegate Pub Company has been shortlisted as a finalist in the “best learning and development strategy” category at the HR Excellence Awards 2016. Stonegate was selected in recognition of the continued evolution of its “Albert’s Theory of Progression” programme and launch of Albert’s App. Stonegate said the strategy had halved staff turnover levels for those enrolled on one of the four areas of the programme. Chief executive Simon Longbottom said: “It’s a great honour for Stonegate to have been shortlisted for an HR Excellence Award, with strong competition for these highly prestigious awards from across every sector. It reflects the commitment we have to developing our 14,000 employees and our innovative people strategy.” The judging panel includes HR directors and chief executives from a range of organisations in the industry. The awards ceremony, in its 21st year, will be held at the London Hilton in Park Lane on Tuesday, 28 June.
Charles Wells to open second Pizza, Pots and Pints venue in Hertfordshire: Bedford-based brewer and retailer Charles Wells will open its second Pizza, Pots and Pints venue at The Old White Horse pub in Baldock, Hertfordshire. The concept features artisan pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens, with homemade dough and tomato sauce and a variety of quirkily titled toppings. Terracotta pots are filled with dishes such as mac ‘n’ cheese, coq au vin and meatballs. The pub in Station Road is undergoing refurbishment and should open in time for the late May bank holiday weekend. Charles Wells launched the concept last year at The Salisbury Arms in Cambridge. Samuel Adams and Craig Billington, from The Salisbury Arms, will help to develop The Old White Horse and will take on new roles as openings manager and executive chef. Director Craig Mayes said: “We have plenty of ideas up our sleeves to delight local residents.”
Steakout Meat House reveals Middle East expansion plans: London-based steak house Steakout Meat House, which is currently undertaking a £400,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, has revealed plans for expansion in the Middle East. The eight-strong company, launched in 2008 by Kaysor Ali, said it had awarded a master franchise agreement with the plan to open six stores by the end of 2017, targeting high profile locations. The company stated: “Under the terms, Steakout will be paid a royalty fee of 4% of net sales, plus 1% to be spent on advertising. In addition, the investor is paying a US $70,000 franchise fee split by store and payable on store opening. The deal has the potential to increase revenue by 20% and profit by 50% from current levels. It comes in parallel to our progress in the UK where last week we announced two new upcoming sites (Birmingham and Ilford), with a healthy pipeline of more potential stores.” Steakout Meat House is offering an 11.76% equity stake in return for the investment it is seeking. So far, 66 investors have pledged £128,720 with ten days remaining. The largest investment to date is £45,000. The pitch states: “The proceeds from this fund-raising will help greatly to speed up our expansion. Aside from the upgrade to our meat cutting facility, we plan to invest into a new flagship store in Stratford that we’ve managed to secure. In addition, we want to invest to build up our management team in the areas of franchising and operations to enable rapid growth.”
Team behind Israeli restaurant Palomar to launch second London venue in Covent Garden: The team that operates The Palomar restaurant in Soho will launch its second London venue in June – at Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. The Palomar was opened by three chefs from Jerusalem who also own Machneyuda restaurant in Israel. Their new venue – The Barbary – will take Londoners on a gastronomic tour from the Barbary Coast of North Africa to Jerusalem, focusing on grilling and baking. Co-owner Layo Paskin told Hot Dinners: “Over the past year, we’ve explored the heritage of our cuisine further and that took us from Moorish Spain to the tip of Morocco and along the Barbary Coast to Jerusalem and, through this, with a focus on grilling and baking, we’ve created The Barbary.” The restaurant seats only 24 so there will be no reservations, while menu prices will include a hospitality charge so there will be no additional fees. The Barbary will open from midday to 10pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
Four Sisters team to open second site in London: The team behind The Four Sisters Bar in Islington, north London, is to open its second site in the city. Simon Bastable and Andrew Green are launching The Four Sisters Townhouse in June in Groveland Court. The venture will offer classic and bespoke craft cocktails, wine and beer as well as artisan bar snacks, sharing dishes and a light food menu. The 54-cover, 720 square foot venue will be themed around a Victorian townhouse, including a collection of eclectic curiosities salvaged from yards around London, as well as traditional features of hardwood oak panelling and Victorian cast iron detailing. A raised seating area will imitate the Four Sisters-style “study” with a low ceiling, library wall, old leather wingback chairs and plenty of banquette seating. It will have a weekly changing mixed drinks menu focusing on a “market to glass” concept. Handmade bitters, tinctures, curds, syrups, sodas and cordials will complement the spirits, including a global range of amari and even one of The Four Sisters’ own amaros on the menu. A selection of wines and champagne, as well as Camden Town Brewery beer on draught, will also feature. Bastable said: “We are very excited to launch this new site, the purpose of which is to create a space, drinks menu and customer experience with style, substance and integrity. Although adding elements such as an artisan food menu to our original concept, we will retain The Four Sisters Bar’s ethos of contrasting the dedication and professionalism of the bar team with the personality and tone of the venue itself which is elegant yet mischievous with a wicked sense of humour.”
Mowgli’s Food for Change initiative helps Manchester’s homeless: Indian street food restaurant Mowgli is helping tackle homelessness in Manchester by adding a discretionary £1 to each bill. The Food for Change initiative is the brainchild of Mowgli owner Nisha Katona, who has restaurants in Manchester city centre and Liverpool. Mowgli has become the first restaurant partner of Manchester’s Booth Centre, which supports homeless people in the city. As part of Food for Change, an optional donation of £1 is added to each bill at Mowgli’s restaurant in the Corn Exchange. In three months, the scheme has raised more than £7,000. In addition, Mowgli staff volunteer at the centre and collect essential items. Katona said: “The idea of the optional addition to the bill came to me when I ate out in London recently. The generous service charges are automatically added on, even if service has been diabolical. It means customers have to engage a bit of brain before paying the bill. There is no reason why we should not do the same if that small addition actually takes a life in our local community and makes it whole again.” Mowgli will open a second Liverpool site in the autumn.
Indian ‘dive bar’ concept Talli Joe launches in Shaftesbury Avenue: Indian “dive bar” concept Talli Joe has launched in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, offering a wide range of regional food and Indian-inspired cocktails. Dishes include rasam poached shrimp in a spicy south Indian tomato broth with curry leaves, garlic and coriander leaves, sorpotel and sanna (pork stewed in chilli, coconut and vinegar, served with a savoury rice cake), and patisapta (crepes filled with coconut and jaggery with a dash of rum). Cocktails include the South Indian Gimlet (gin and lime with a touch of turmeric) and Cutting Chai (chilled Masala chai infused with vodka, lime and honey), Hot Dinners reports.
New food and drink academy launches in Leeds: A new food and drink academy has been launched in Leeds with Arc Inspirations, North Bar and Reds True Barbecue among the brands supporting the project. The Independent Food and Drink Academy (IFDA) is a joint venture between Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Business Improvement District (BID), and the city council to support the growing industries in the area. The IFDA provides support and training for food and drink enterprises, from micro to fully-fledged small businesses. Guy Lincoln, senior lecturer in the school of events, tourism and hospitality at Leeds Beckett, and one of the minds behind the academy, told The Business Desk: “The number and variety of businesses providing food and drink in Leeds is growing at a fast rate, and the level of competition increases along with it. In recognition of this, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds City Council and Leeds BID have launched the Independent Food and Drink Academy as a way to provide effective and accessible business support – a community in which to share practical advice and facilitate conversation. By bringing together a fantastic network of industry experts and experienced operators, our aim is to share our knowledge and understanding of the food and drink sectors and to support business owners in establishing and growing their businesses to reach their full potential. We hope to create a blueprint for similar national schemes.” Leeds BID chief executive Andrew Cooper added: “Independent food and drink is a key ingredient in the city’s culinary offer and is vital in driving a unique food offering all year round, putting Leeds firmly on the national food map.”
Meantime launches exclusive Delta Bravo beer for M&B: Greenwich craft brewer Meantime has launched a golden ale – Delta Bravo – brewed exclusively for Mitchells & Butlers. Meantime brewmaster Ciaran Giblin and the Mitchells & Butlers team chose American hop varieties Delta and Bravo for the recipe, giving the 4.5% ABV beer its name. Meantime marketing director Richard Myers said: “We are always looking to push the boundaries of modern craft by bringing new and exciting beers to drinkers. It was our founding mission and one we follow with each of the beers we brew. Using these exciting hop varieties has enabled us to create something special.” Delta Bravo is available on draught at selected Mitchells & Butlers pubs for the spring/summer season. Delta Bravo is the second in a series of four collaborative beers Meantime and Mitchells & Butlers will release this year. The first collaboration was Cross Copper Lager. Each beer will champion a different hop-growing region of the world.
Novus Leisure focuses on gin as sales of spirit continue to soar: Bar and restaurant operator Novus Leisure is focusing on gin across its estate following recent Mintel research that 42% of Britons aged 18 to 34 have drunk the spirit in the past 12 months. Gin sales have increased by 25% since 2012, with forecasts suggesting total sales will hit £1.3bn by 2020. Novus is launching a gin-based cocktail menu across its Tiger Tiger and Landmark sites, while gin-lovers at its Premium Bar & Kitchen venues will be able to enjoy four Bombay gin and tonic twists – featuring raspberry and basil, thyme, white peach, and crème de mûre and blackberry. Balls Brothers customers will also be able to attend gin masterclasses as well as enjoy fixed-price gin and tonics for a month from its Gin Emporium range. Consumers registering online will also receive a free gin and tonic or gin cocktail, with an opportunity to enter a prize draw to win gin-based prizes. Novus Leisure head of marketing Sorrel Ward said: “Not only are we engaging with a new generation of gin drinkers but we’ve also listened to what our customers want and responded by introducing a series of engaging initiatives and promotions to gin-spire!”
Wyn Ellis – the world around Whitbread is shifting and management ‘needs to prove itself’: Numis Securities leisure analyst Wyn Ellis has said the world around Whitbread is shifting and management “needs to prove itself”. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 4,000p following the company’s full-year results yesterday (Tuesday, 26 April), Ellis said: “Preliminary results show underlying profit before tax of £546.3m versus our forecast of £548.7m. Underlying earnings per share increased by 11.7%. Total revenue increased by 12% with like-for-like sales growth of 3% (Premier Inn +4.2%; Costa +2.9%). The full-year dividend is up 10%. The pension deficit has reduced from £553.8m to £288.1m. Cash generated from operations of £782.2m funded capital investment of £724.9m. Included in exceptional items are £11.6m of charges for ‘the closure and impairment of loss making Costa stores principally in China and Europe’. Management has repeated its ambition to reach circa 85,000 UK hotel rooms and circa £2.5bn system sales in Costa by 2020, adding that ‘the world around us is shifting, with rising customer expectations, an evolving competitor landscape, rapid technological developments and changing cost structures’. In responding to this Whitbread will reinforce its focus on customers and on ‘innovation to develop our brand propositions ensuring we stay ahead and become more productive’. Three key strategic themes to develop the business have been identified – grow and innovate in its core UK businesses; focus on its strengths to grow internationally; and build the capability and infrastructure to support long-term growth. Whitbread said it assumed hotel demand grows over the cycle in line with GDP growth at just over 2% ‘and, for the first time, we have adjusted our forecasts to reflect an estimate of the share any market disruptors might gain’. Whilst it is only six weeks into FY17, Whitbread said ‘indications are that Costa UK has had a good start to the year and Premier Inn is growing share in a flat market. However, trading comparators have been impacted by the early timing of Easter and we will have a much better view on 21 June when we present our first quarter trading statement. We remain confident of making good progress this year’. Management acknowledges the need to invest across both brands in a number of common areas – teams, IT infrastructure, digital and productivity and efficiency. We believe that this, in combination with a more competitive market environment, will result in relatively lacklustre earnings growth in the near term. We have not revised forecasts for FY17, which assume a 5.5% growth in profit before tax. The shares have derated and now stand on a FY17E price-earnings ratio of circa 16 times. High enough for now, in our view, the ‘refreshed’ management team needs to prove itself in a changing world.”
Des McDonald opens £3m Japanese rooftop restaurant at Birmingham hotel: Restaurateur Des McDonald has opened his £3m izakaya-style rooftop restaurant concept Rofuto at the new Park Regis Hotel in Birmingham. The Japanese restaurant and accompanying cocktail lounge and sake bar, Kurabu, is based on the 16th floor of the hotel and offers 360-degree views across the city skyline at more than 141 feet. Rofuto, which is a direct translation of the word “loft” in Japanese, features a large central bar, an open Japanese-style kitchen, and an eclectic mix of furnishings and hand-painted murals. McDonald was inspired to open Rofuto following visits to Tokyo and Singapore and has developed every aspect of the concept, design and menu. The menu is divided into six sections: sushi and sashimi, tempura, robata grill, mains, sides, and desserts. Kurabu offers an array of wines, beers and soft drinks, along with a bespoke cocktail list and sake offering to perfectly complement the Japanese cuisine. McDonald said: “I love rooftop spaces, having opened four successful restaurants on the roof of Selfridges in London. I fell in love with the unparalleled dramatic views from the 16th floor, Birmingham is a great, vibrant city and I’m excited to become part of its dynamic and diverse dining scene.” McDonald, ex-Ivy head chef and former chief executive of Caprice Holdings, runs London restaurants Vintage Salt, Q Grill and Holborn Dining Room at the Rosewood Hotel as well as the Chapter House Bar and Refectory Kitchen & Terrace in York and The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen in Edinburgh.
Kent-based chef-entrepreneur to open second The Corner House restaurant in Canterbury in June: Kent-based chef-entrepreneur Matt Sworder is to open his second The Corner House restaurant in June, this time in Canterbury. Sworder is currently refurbishing and rebranding the 16th century The Flying Horse pub. The 50-seat restaurant’s menu will be similar to that of the existing site in Minster, which opened three years ago, with the emphasis on locally sourced, fresh and homemade produce, including in-house produced bread, pasta and ice cream. Sworder told the Canterbury Times: “Our Minster restaurant has gone from strength to strength, and we’ll be building on everything that’s been key to its success. We have a great team in place in Canterbury and we’re looking forward to offering the residents of Canterbury a fantastic new dining experience.”
Michelin-starred restaurant increases room stock with funding from Santander: A Michelin-starred restaurant in Yorkshire has more than doubled the number of hotel rooms it provides following a funding deal from Santander. The Black Swan in Oldstead was opened a decade ago by the Banks family. It is one of the only restaurants in Yorkshire and the north east to hold the combination of four AA Rosettes and a Michelin star. The Black Swan was recently ranked 28th in The Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants. The funding from Santander has enabled the Banks family to purchase a property close to the restaurant to create five luxury guest bedrooms, increasing the total number of rooms to nine. The extra facility has helped the business to meet an oversubscribed customer demand and capitalise on Oldstead’s image as one of the “must visit” places in the north of England. “The property we purchased is so close to the restaurant that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy the most suitable building in the village,” said Tommy Banks. Luke Rowbotham, relationship director at Santander, said The Black Swan was set to “capitalise on a highly successful business model”.
Food-to-go platform developer begins crowdfunding campaign: A Herefordshire web development business that specialises in food-to-go platforms has begun crowdfunding. Butterware, which was initially set up in Cheltenham and is now based in Ross-on-Wye, allows sandwich shops and caterers to sell products and boost brand awareness via bespoke pages. The business has launched a pitch for £200,000 via crowdfunding platform Seedrs in return for a 30.08% equity stake. If the fund-raising is successful, Butterware will use the cash to expand its customer base and improve its software and marketing capabilities. Managing director Graeme Simpson said: “Lunch-to-go as a concept seems easy enough, except that it is almost impossible to accurately predict demand. By creating an easy to use, fully integrated e-commerce platform, companies are not only able to build brand awareness online, but actively reduce the huge amount of food that ends up in our bins.”