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Fri 19th Sep 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Douglas Jack – value of property pipelines has increased in over-heated property market: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued that the property market is starting to look over-heated, which places a greater value on operators that have a pipeline of openings secured. He has also argued that pubs face tougher comparables and the restaurant sector has begun to out-perform managed pubs. In a note headlined “restaurants are taking over”, he stated: “The August Peach Tracker, which excluded the washout bank holiday weekend, and our circa 3% forecast downgrades for Greene King and Marston’s reflect a tougher trading backdrop for pubs, in addition to which weather-related comps will be relatively tough for pubs over the next 11 months. We believe this and an arguably over-heated property market will heighten the importance of product differentiation and capital discipline. The economic backdrop has improved due to benign cost pressure, a 2.6% increase in employment and 2.1% growth in household cash flow. This is driving up consumer confidence, but this is less influential on short-term managed pub performance than the weather. Over the next year, good weather comps will be tough for pubs and easy for Domino’s Pizza (Buy 710p) and The Restaurant Group (Add 760p), which should also benefit from strong cinema releases and a World Cup in the comps. Restaurants (2.6% like-for-like sales MAT) are now outperforming managed pubs (2.0% like-for-like sales MAT) in the CGA Peach Tracker. The eating out market has become more event-driven; pubs will need to be wary of trading up if the economy continues to strengthen. Regardless, eating out should outperform drinking out; thus, we continue to prefer managed pubs (mostly food-led) to tenanted pubs (mostly wet-led). Wet-led pubs’ beer/cider volumes fell 6.4% MAT in Quarter Two 2014, improving from a previous run rate of -8% due to good weather and the World Cup. We expect long-run trends to resume: the difference between on and off trade beer prices has risen by 10.7% over the last two years, even though beer duty fell. Thus, drinking out is falling by 1% per annum in value terms versus eating out growing at over 5% per annum. There is no positive read-through to the other national pub operators, particularly with Greene King’s Hungry Horse currently offering 30% discounts (through Voucher Codes) on already good-value meals. For 2015E, we forecast 2% like-for-like sales growth for both Mitchells & Butlers (‘Hold’ 420p) and Spirit Pub Company (‘Buy’ 110p), which we believe the latter (the most undervalued pub company) is more likely to achieve. Growth is becoming more reliant on increasing scale than driving like-for-like profits. With expansive operators bidding up freehold prices, the value of strong established site pipelines has increased, both in terms of managing returns and growth visibility. Hence, our preferred stocks are: Domino’s Pizza (growth; returning cash); Marston’s (dividend yield); The Restaurant Group (growth); and Spirit Pub Company (growth; valuation).”

Industry News:

Peter Hansen to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference: The leading sector mergers and acquisitions expert Peter Hansen, founder of Sapient Corporate Finance, is to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 November at the Lancaster Hotel in London W2. Sapient, the sector’s leading corporate finance adviser, has advised on deals worth around £2.1bn in the past five years, a total of 28 different transactions with a broad mix of deals types and sizes. Hansen will examine current leading trends in the sector. Operators can book up to two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Deadline looms for sector benchmarking survey: This is the final week for operators to take part in the haysmacintyre Propel Benchmarking survey, which has a deadline for entries of Monday 21 September. Propel is partnering the chartered accountant and tax advisor haysmacintyre to produce the most comprehensive benchmarking survey ever undertaken in the hospitality sector. Those taking part will have access to the full results. Propel’s managing director, Paul Charity, said: “We think the results will prove invaluable in allowing sector businesses to understand how they compare to industry averages in key areas of the business. All information provided to us will be treated in strictest confidence, and the results go straight to haysmacintyre without Propel seeing them. However, we would like to list the companies who took part in the study (if you wish to be kept totally anonymous please tick the box at the end of the survey).” To take part in the survey go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZKBXRRR

Whole Foods Market to open first brewpub in November: Whole Foods Market, which has nine sites in the UK, is to open its first brewpub on 6 November in Houston, Texas. The company already sells draught beer sales on site, with 17,000 pints sold each week at the 19 bars it runs in its stores across its Southwest region. Whole Foods will eventually distribute its house-brand beer to other stores, potentially including competitors, through a wholesaler. The brewpub will feature 20 beer taps, eight to ten of which will be reserved for ales and lagers brewed on-site. Management hopes that people will drink at the 40-seat bar, carry glasses around while picking up bread and milk or fill up jugs of beer to go. The store also plans to host tastings, beer dinners and other special events on an indoor terrace upstairs or at a seating area out front.

Bristol consultant calls for hospital coffee shop ban: A Bristol consultant who specialises in weight loss has called for a ban on coffee shops that offer sugar-laden drinks and cakes in hospitals. Dr Sally Norton works at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Southmead Hospital, which both have Costa coffee shops and vending machines. She said hospitals should promote independent food producers that provide healthy snacks instead.

Heathrow Airport restaurants offer on-board hampers: Heathrow Airport is offering passengers an “on-board picnic” dining option where they can bring a bespoke hamper with them on their flight. The service is available from this week at all of Heathrow’s 118 restaurants across its five terminals. The 49 brands involved range from chain cafes, such as Pret A Manger and EAT, to restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist Cafe and Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, as well as Caviar House and The Gorgeous Kitchen. The hampers vary in price and size according to venue, but typically cost between £5 and £50 and are around 40 x 20 x 10cm. All are collapsible and designed to be easily stowed away under the seat or in an overhead locker.

ALMR – Southampton late-night levy is disappointing: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has expressed its disappointment at the decision of Southampton Council to introduce a late-night levy and urged the local authority to work with local businesses to capitalise on existing best practice schemes. The move will be implemented on 1 April 2015 and will apply to premises that serve alcohol between midnight and 6am. The ALMR’s chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “There is a danger that this levy may undermine support and funding for best-practice schemes, such as Best Bar None, already in place in Southampton, which the council recognises already make the city a safe and enjoyable late-night destination. We believe that a late-night levy should only be introduced as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted and where there is clear evidence of specific problems. We urge the council to work with businesses to ensure that the progress being made by retailers in Southampton is not diluted and to ensure that all revenues raised by the levy are put to use protecting and developing Southampton’s late-night economy.”

Company News:

Oakman Inns reports ‘stunning’ start at ninth site: The award-winning Oakman Inns and Restaurants has reported a “stunning” start at its ninth site, the Beech House, in St Albans, which has taken £40,000 net of VAT in its first week of trading. Company founder Peter-Borg Neal said: “It’s a stunning start – our busiest opening week ever. We tend to build business a little more over the weeks after an opening.” After an £900,000 fit-out of the site on St Peters Street, the venue has opened its doors as an “all-day dining experience”. The new site has a “Big Green Egg”, a ceramic oven which enables the kitchen team to barbeque indoors.

Las Iguanas lines up two autumn openings: The Latin American restaurant group Las Iguanas is lining up two new openings this autumn, in Edinburgh at the end of September and Derby in mid-October. The new restaurant and bar in Edinburgh, on the corner of George Street and Charlotte Square, is spread over the ground floor and basement of a building which was once a transatlantic travel agent. The Derby opening, on Friar Gate, includes an 18th century bakery, now turned into a more private dining area in the back of the main dining room, complete with original clay oven. These two new openings bring the group’s total number of UK restaurants to 37.

Bournemouth Spearmint Rhino under investigation over licence breaches: The Bournemouth branch of the lap-dancing club Spearmint Rhino has been investigated amid allegations its dancers have been breaching “no touch” rules. Licensing officers visited the town centre premises after a complaint and say they witnessed several breaches of the venue’s sexual entertainment licence. The conditions allegedly breached are those that forbid performers from sitting or straddling customers, placing both their feet on the seat, simulating a sexual act, intentionally touching another dancer and intentionally touching a customer. Bournemouth council said it has been working with the premises since its visit in June to “resolve the issues”. The club’s sexual entertainment licence is currently up for renewal and it is expected officers will seek to add further conditions onto the licence. Camerons adds Whitby site to managed estate: North east brewer and retailer Camerons has added The Pier Inn, Whitby to its managed estate, meaning it now has a dozen sites. The Pier Inn, located in the centre of Whitby on Pier Road, offers a great selection of cask ales as well as traditional home-cooked pub food and live entertainment. In addition the site also has seven letting rooms and an outside drinking area. Camerons pub estates and operations director Joe Smith said: “We are delighted with the addition of the Pier Inn to our group. Camerons have long been associated with the beautiful seaside town of Whitby and our Strongarm cask ale is served in many of the pubs locally.”

Upham hits ten sites with Hampshire acquisition: Upham Pub Group has acquired The Peat Spade in the picturesque village of Stockbridge, Hampshire. The acquisition of The Peat Spade is the latest addition to The Upham Pub Group’s portfolio, which includes nine other pubs across Hampshire, Berkshire, West Sussex and Wiltshire, including The Rockingham Arms in West Wellow, The Thomas Lord in West Meon and The Bunk Inn near Newbury. The company’s core strategy is to give a new lease of life to pubs that are in need of investment, creativity and management to restore them as the original community hub. Upham Pub Group chief executive Chris Phillips said: “I would often drop into The Peat Spade for a drink and would think about the potential it has so I am particularly proud that it is now part of The Upham Group. We will work hard to keep building its profile and making considered improvements which are sympathetic to its history and local wishes. The Peat Spade has every ingredient to become a fantastic advert for the true essence of a British country pub.”

TGI Friday’s recognises 100 legends: TGI Friday’s has this month thanked 100 of its most hard-working team members, officially recognising them as ‘Friday’s Legends’ at an awards ceremony in Liverpool. Each Legend received an all-expenses-paid trip to the ceremony, staying in the city’s luxury Titanic hotel. The Legends started the evening enjoying a cocktail event, followed by a VIP experience at the UK Bartender Championships. The next day they were whisked off to a private, secret gig in Liverpool’s famous Cavern music club. The Legends were chosen following a vote amongst Friday’s 4,500 team members, with 2,069 nominations received. Director of culture and people development at TGI Fridays, Jacqui McManus, said: “Recognition of team members is an absolute basic if you are aiming for an engaged and passionate workforce, and is a core principle for us at Fridays. The Legends awards are just one of many recognition and cultural programmes we offer team members; we are a people-led brand, therefore creating a strong team culture is imperative to our success. Our aim is to ensure that all team members feel valued and appreciated, and that everyone fully understands how they contribute to our brand, to each-other and to our guests. We have numerous recruitment, induction and training programmes that are tailored to suit each individual team member, so once someone joins us, we do everything possible to keep them.”

Fledgling restaurant and bar group opens first outlet in Manchester: A new company aiming to develop three restaurant and bar brands by 2020 is to open its maiden site in Manchester city centre. Violet Hospitality, which was founded in January in Salford, is to open the Urban Cookhouse in a former shipping warehouse at 54 Princess Street, in the heart of the city centre. The venue will focus on international street food, and is due to open at the end of the year. Tim Coulston, managing director of Violet Hospitality said: “This is an exciting time for Violet Hospitality, we’re really looking forward to launching the Urban Cookhouse in Manchester. Manchester’s restaurant and bar scene has seen fantastic development over the past few years and I believe the Urban Cookhouse will be an excellent addition to Princess Street.” Coulston was previously director of operations at the Alehouse Collection.

Top-selling independent coffee retailer looking to franchise coffee chain: An independent retailer that is currently number two on Amazon for coffee sales is looking to franchise its coffee shop business. Rave Coffee, founded by Rob Hodge and his wife Vikki in 2011, blends coffee for sale online and through retailers from Love Lane in Cirencester. It also runs its own coffee shop alongside the roastery, and is advertising for franchisees with, so far, one outlet, in Alberta, Canada. Vikki Hodge said: “The business has grown quickly over the last three years. Our blends proved a real hit with coffee lovers and so the business just grew and grew. In terms of consumer sales, we are now number two on Amazon for coffee sales and also fulfil a large volume of orders through our own customer website. Our wholesale business supports individual cafes, coffee chains and even five-star airports, wholesaling our coffee all over the globe. We are really proud of the business and what we have achieved to date but the next step for us is to continue to drive growth and increase in sales.” The company is currently offering franchises and master franchises, and promises help with set-up and fit-out, recruiting, training and managing staff, computers and epos systems, all coffee equipment, initial stocks, uniforms and marketing materials.

Restaurant owner plans Burnley’s first drive-through chip shop: The owner of a fish and chip restaurant and takeaway in Colne, Lancashire is seeking to open a drive-through fish and chip shop in neighbouring Burnley. Ben Bannister, who runs Banny’s Restaurant at Boundary Mill, Colne, has applied to Burnley Council to demolish the former Dexter Paints building in Trafalgar Street and replace it with a Banny’s Chip Shop. The new building would be used for takeaway and eat-in dining, with a drive-through section, making it the first drive-through chip shop in the town. The application is the latest in the On the Banks development in the historic quarter along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Staycity signs flagship Covent Garden deal: The serviced apartment operator Staycity has signed a 35-year lease on a site in Covent Garden, Central London, giving the company 106 studio apartments. Staycity Covent Garden will open for business in December 2015. The design will spearhead what will be the first of a deluxe Staycity brand planned for premium city centre locations. Staycity’s chief executive, Tom Walsh, said: “Covent Garden will be an exciting place for Staycity to operate. It’s a location surrounded by four and five-star hotels, so the aim is to give our guests the eye-catching, cutting-edge feel of a top-end hotel, while offering the fantastic value-for-money of a serviced apartment. Our existing London properties – Greenwich and Heathrow – are trading with very strong occupancies so we are confident Covent Garden will be hugely popular given its position in this bustling part of the capital.” The Covent Garden deal comes after the acquisition of the building, on the Strand, by LaSalle Investment Managers on behalf of Coal Pension Fund. The developer for the site will be Galliard. Staycity has more than 1,000 apartments across eight European cities, in Birmingham, Dublin, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London Heathrow, London Greenwich, Manchester, Paris and Amsterdam. The company is on target to expand to 5,000 apartments over the next five years.

Celebrity chef Eric Lanlard in talks to open more cafes: The celebrity chef-patissier and TV star Eric Lanlard has said his Cake Boy cafe in Battersea, South London is “growing at speed”, and he is looking to open an outlet in Central London and also India and the Middle East. Lanlard, who opened Cake Boy in 2005, and who has had two TV series on Channel 4, Glamour Puds and Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard, told British Baker magazine: “They really like what we are doing there – they like the glamour and the unique concept. India is a rapidly growing market where there is currently nothing like this. People there are starting to eat out much more and a city like Mumbai could easily have ten patisseries as it is such a big city, along with Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There is some discussion around it [more sites] but no timings as yet.” Meanwhile, Lanlard will be opening a cafe on board the P&O cruise ship Britannia. The Market Cafe will feature a menu devised mainly by Lanlard full of patisserie items and manned by Lanlard on rotation with a handful of well-known chefs, such as James Martin and Marco Pierre White. Lanlard will be on board initially to train the chefs and then “hop on and off” at points during the cruise. The vessel will also offer a cookery school, run by whichever chef is on board at that time. “It is not just the UK that has gone baking mad,” Lanlard said. “It’s a global phenomenon. It is interesting to see how different countries are embracing it and I think the baking craze will last with the younger generations embracing the trend.”

Wildwood targets third Essex outlet: Wildwood, the pizza, pasta and grill chain run by the Tasty group, is looking to open its next outlet on Brentwood High Street in Essex. The chain, which already operates in two other towns in the county, Billericay and Chelmsford, has applied for a premises licence before moving into a unit that once housed a furnishings store. Earlier this month Tasty reported that its sales rose 26% to £13.79m in the 26 weeks ended 29 June, compared to the £10.98m recorded in the same period in 2013. The company now has just under 40 outlets under the Dim T, Wildwood and Wildwood Kitchen brands.

Tortilla opens 20th site: Tortilla, the burritos and tacos chain started by the Californian entrepreneur Brandon Stephens and his wife Jen in 2007 in North London, opens its 20th outlet on Monday, in The Quad, Richmond, Surrey, opposite Richmond Railway Station. The opening comes just ten days after the chain opened an outlet at Victoria Station in London, its first at a station, on the top level in the station’s in the new food court. The Victoria outlet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Opening date set for Frescobaldi restaurant in London: The first standalone restaurant and wine bar outside Italy to be run by the Italian winemaker Frescobaldi will open its doors in November at 15 New Burlington Place, Mayfair, London. The project is a joint venture between the Frescobaldi family and Good Food Society, a new hospitality venture promoted by Levent Büyükuğur, founder of Istanbul Doors, an international restaurant group with more than 40 venues in Turkey, the UK, Russia and Azerbaijan. The restaurant has named Roberto Reatin, formerly of Zafferano, in Belgravia, as head chef. There is already a Dei Frescobaldi ristorante and wine bar inside Harrods department store in Knightsbridge.

Gentian appeals against Hampshire dining quarter planning refusal: A planning appeal has been lodged against the refusal of controversial plans for a multi-million-pound dining quarter in a Hampshire town. Gentian Developments has lodged an appeal after being refused permission to build restaurants and drive-through facilities for KFC and Costa Coffee beside a busy dual carriageway in Totton. The local authority told that Gentian’s proposal to transform a used car sales site would create 60 much-needed jobs. But they rejected the application after objectors claimed that extra traffic would result in accidents on a neighbouring roundabout that was already dangerous.

Domino’s launches TV campaign for new stuffed crust variety: Domino’s Pizza has launched a television advertising campaign to support the introduction of a new flavour to its Stuffed Crust range, cheese and smoky bacon. The ad, created by Tomboy Films, is aimed at families looking for a good-value meal with no waste. It shows the same young girl in different seasons, who shares her ordinary leftover pizza crust with birds in spring and summer but decides not to share her stuffed pizza crust with two robins as winter approaches. It is accompanied by a digital campaign for the brand, created by Iris, to coincide with pupils and parents settling back into a routine after the recent return to school.

Two young entrepreneurs move to put Sheffield night-clubbing back on the map: Two young entrepreneurs have opened a new city nightclub that they hope will put Sheffield back on the clubbing map. Shaun Hall, aged 20, and Bradley Beadle, aged 19, have launched Vertigo on Eyre Street to help increase the city’s late-night offering. Hall said: “I’d run a cleaning business before but always had the idea of running a club at the back of my mind. Not many people our age have the courage to set up their own business but it is possible. We’re both keen clubbers so understand what people want from a night out, and aim to give them that.” Vertigo, which can hold up to 650 clubbers, hosts mainstream music nights on Thursday and Friday evenings and themed bassline nights on Saturdays.

Dunkin’ Donuts makes promise to use only sustainable palm oil: Dunkin’ Brands Group, the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream, commitment to use 100% sustainable palm oil at its stores in the United States. The company said that by the end of 2015 it will be able to trace all of the palm oil it buys back to the mill and by the following year will be able to trace it back to individual plantations. Christine Riley Miller, senior director of corporate social responsibility for Dunkin’ Brands, said: “Sourcing even limited amounts of palm oil irresponsibly can contribute to deforestation, loss of natural habitats and other environmental and human rights concerns. Therefore, Dunkin’ Brands has created clear guidelines for our suppliers, and to ensure independent verification that our principles are being met, so that by 2016 we can meet our targets of sourcing only responsibly-produced palm oil.” However, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said the commitment did not go far enough as it would only apply to Dunkin’s US restaurants. Calen May Tobin of UCS said: “America might run on Dunkin’, but the company needs to address the 59 other countries in which it operates, too. The fast food sector is woefully behind other industries when it comes to sourcing sustainable palm oil.”

Mimosa hit by one-star hygiene rating at flagship Telford site: Mimosa, the pan-Asian buffet restaurant brand with two sites and an opening in Camberley, Surrey scheduled, has been told to make major improvements at its flagship Telford site after an inspection by the Food Standards Agency just months after it opened. It became the first restaurant to open within the multi-million Southwater development in Telford in June. Manager Anulya Palai today insisted the low score was not primarily due to issues of food hygiene, but was caused by issues of blocked fire exits or shelving in the wrong place. Restaurant staff are now due to speak to Telford and Wrekin Council and request another inspection in the coming weeks. Palai said: “We have spent three weeks cleaning and working very hard at the restaurant since we received news of the ratings. Some of the issues raised were due to fire exits being blocked or shelving not being in the right place. It was not all to do with the food. We have acted quickly to rectify everything we were asked to look at, and we will be calling the council today to request another inspection.” Mimosa posted on Facebook: “As some of you maybe aware we had received a poor rating from the food standards authority, however we have corrected all our procedures as per the food standard authorities’ exacting standards immediately after their visit, we are now looking forward to a revisit from them.”

Tourism Australia to open London pop-up restaurant: Tourism Australia is opening a pop-up restaurant in London next week as part of a new campaign to promote the attractions of the country’s food and wine. Restaurant Australia will be hosted in Australia House on the Strand in Central London throughout next week to paying customers who will taste dishes from Australian chefs and wine from its vineyards. Each night will represent a different region, such as Maggie Beer on Monday, inspired by South Australia, and Matt Stone’s Western Australian dishes on Thursday. The restaurant is part of a larger food and drink campaign aimed at attracting more affluent visitors to the country. Denise Von Wald, regional general manager for Tourism Australia in the UK said: “Not enough British travellers are aware of the fantastic food and wine Australia offers. So, rather than talk about it, we decided to give them the chance to taste it for themselves. The pop up restaurant does just that. We believe that once they literally have a taste of Australia, more British travellers will want to take a trip Down Under to explore the delights of our food and wine”

Douglas Jack – we’re expecting slower trading at Marston’s: Numis Securities’ leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast slower trading when Marston’s present its full-year trading update on 8 October. He has an ‘Add’ recommendation on the shares and a target price of 180p. Jack said: “We expect trading to have slowed in Q4, due to tougher comps and unhelpful weather in late August. New build expansion should help to drive strong growth over the medium-term. However, we are cutting our forecasts slightly and our stance from ‘Buy’ to ‘Add’ after recent strength. 27 new builds should have opened in 2014E, creating substantial value against a freehold build cost multiple of 6x Ebitda. The company’s new build pipeline (of 25-30 sites a year, of which five a year could have a co-located lodge) extends out to 2017E. Such a pipeline is valuable against a backdrop of other operators bidding up for new sites. However, returns should ease as expansion moves south. We forecast Marston’s to have generated 10% underlying PBT growth in 2014E, after excluding 2013’s 53rd week (£3m) and the impact of disposals (£10m) and forecast 12% PBT growth in 2015E, driven by new build expansion and aided by strong cost mitigation. Our positive recommendation reflects this and the 4.7% dividend yield (2015E).”

Young’s celebrates birthday with a free pint: Young’s, the London-based pub company, celebrated the 183rd birthday of Young’s brewery yesterday with a free pint. Free Young’s pint vouchers could be found in City AM, Mr Hyde, Shortlist, Metro and the Evening Standard or could be printed from the official Young’s Day website. They are redeemable in participating Young’s pubs across the south of England against a pint of Young’s Bitter, Young’s London Gold and Young’s Special as well as Young’s London Stout. More than 8,000 people took advantage of last year’s promotion and claimed their free Young’s cask beer at pubs around the capital. The promotion will be running to Sunday 21 September.

McDonald’s hires new digital and customer experience executives: McDonald’s in the United States has named branding executive Fred Ehle as its first vice president–customer officer. According to a McDonald’s spokeswoman quoted in Crain’s Chicago Business, Ehle will be charged with improving the chain’s customer experience by focusing on “customer insights and enabling us to engage with our customers in a more powerful and relevant manner.” Wahl has been reworking the marketing department to be organised by demographic, such as Millennials or families, rather than by product, the report said. The hiring of a customer officer comes at a time when McDonald’s is working to turn around like-for-like sales trends. In August, the chain reported a global like-for-like sales decline of 3.7%, the worst monthly trend in a decade. McDonald’s also named Julia Vander Ploeg as its first US vice president for digital, reporting to chief digital officer Atif Rafiq, the report said.

Boston Tea Party furious as rival is granted late alcohol licence: Executives at the cafe bar concept Boston Tea Party are furious after a rival cafe in Bristol, was granted a licence to open late and serve alcohol with food just weeks after BTP’s own application for a licence extension for its outlet in the same road was turned down. Bakers & Co, in Gloucester Road, was granted permission this week by Bristol Council to extend its opening hours and serve alcohol with food, giving the management the option to open until 10.45pm. A similar bid by the nearby branch of Boston Tea Party was turned down after objections from nearby residents. BTP’s marketing manager, Ben Hibbard, said: “We were extremely disappointed with the result of the hearing on July 31st, where we were turned down for an extension of our licence hours at Gloucester Road BTP. We indicated at the hearing that we would be appealing, due to the lack of a clear reason to why our application was rejected. We are now seven weeks since the hearing and we are still awaiting the receipt of the decision notice, which is needed before we can officially appeal. The timescales of this are unacceptable and has restricted our right to appeal the council’s decision. We are confident of getting approval of our application at an appeal, but without the ability to do this we our hands are tied and its extremely frustrating that the council are dragging their feet.” Bristol Council said the reason Boston Tea Party’s application was refused and Bakers & Co’s was granted, was because of the number of objections received, and an agreement by Bakers & Co to submit to licence conditions which calmed objectors’ fears.

Drive-through McDonald’s approved for Tonbridge: The construction of a two-storey 24-hour drive-through McDonald’s restaurant close to the heart of Tonbridge in Kent has been approved by the local council. The restaurant is part of a project on Cannon Lane, Tonbridge which also includes 11,000 square feet of retail space. Work is expected to begin on the restaurant in the early new year, with up to 75 jobs expected to be created in the process. Jane Docherty, managing partner at the developer OTR, said the project will have huge benefits for the area: “It will be a really big benefit to Tonbridge and it will stop people having to drive to Tunbridge Wells to shop, which will be great news for the area. As for the McDonald’s itself, it’s going to have a very modern look and it will fit the area nicely aesthetically.” There is already a McDonald’s restaurant in Tonbridge High Street.

Johnnie Walker becomes official whisky of Formula 1: Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Scotch brand has signed a deal with the Formula One Group that will see it become the official whisky of Formula 1 racing. The announcement was made yesterday at an event at the Conrad Centennial Hotel in Singapore by Nick Blazquez, president of Diageo in Africa and Asia, ahead of this weekend’s 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Blazquez said: “Becoming the official whisky of Formula 1 will enable Johnnie Walker to greatly extend its reach to race fans. As a result of our new arrangement, we will have access to a global television audience of more than 450 million people and a track attendance audience of around 1.5 million every year. Equally important, and a key reason for Johnnie Walker to become the official whisky of Formula 1, is the huge opportunity we have through this expanded global platform to reach even more F1 fans around the world with responsible drinking messages.”

Developer markets 36,500 sq ft cluster of ‘premium casual dining’ venues in Exeter: The developer Aviva Investors is marketing a 36,500 sq ft cluster of more than a dozen ‘premium casual dining’ venues being created as part of the redevelopment of Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre to national restaurant chains and local operators under the new brand “Queen St – dining at Guildhall”. The Higher Market arcade and the former Poundland store will be converted into 13 restaurants, including a rooftop bar overlooking St Pancras Church. In addition, a two-storey coffee shop will be created at the High Street entrance to the shopping centre. A planning application has now been made for another roof terrace restaurant as part of the redevelopment, at the request of an as yet unnamed restaurant operator. The manager of Guildhall Shopping Centre, Andrew McNeilly, said: “The planning application proposes the provision of new restaurant floorspace, including a rooftop terrace. This amendment has come about as a result of ongoing negotiations with a prospective tenant who could see the benefit of a terrace in this area and the benefit that such a space would have for their particular style of business.” The new unit, on the roof of the existing Higher Market building, will provide 1,200 sq ft of additional Class A3 internal floorspace, with an additional external terrace seating area providing 2,000 sq ft of outside dining space. McNeilly declined to name the business concerned at this stage, but said: “Whilst we are still in the pre-construction phase of the development, as a property owner we like to be as accommodating as possible to prospective occupiers, ensuring that we are in the strongest possible position to deliver the vision of creating a new level of recognition for Queen Street and a unique dining destination area within the city.”

Wagamama reports turnover growth, PBT down: Wagamama has reported that turnover grew 12.8% to £159.2m in the year to 27 April 2014. Operating profit grew by 0.7% to £16.98m. Adjusted restaurant ebitda grew by 9.7% to £26.4m but investment in central overheads, as the company plans for the growth expected in the future, offset this performance. Administrative expenses grew by more than £9m to £53.7m from £44.5m the year before. Pre-tax profit fell to £15.94m from £17.58m the year before. The company opened 14 restaurants in the year and closed one, with the overall UK estate growing to 107 sites, and 35 restaurants operated under franchise agreements. Average number of employees grew to 3,395 from 2,927 the year before. No dividend was paid. The company saw exceptional income of £2.78m from the early exit of a lease, offset by costs in relation to changes in the senior executive team (£586,000), costs arising from abortive sites (£270,000), costs associated with the flooding of a restaurant (£623,000), a review of impaired assets (£1.61m) and franchise territory provision (£240,000). The exceptional costs in this period resulted in a tax charge of £411,000. Wagamama is planning to open 50 more restaurants, creating up to 2,000 jobs, as it ramps up its expansion plans, The Daily Express claimed this week. The company, which is owned by the private equity firm Duke Street Capital, has asked property agents to find appropriate locations.

Worcester Italian to switch to better burger to side-step Italian saturation: An Italian restaurant in Worcester is bringing in a radical change in concept, because of the city’s “saturated” Italian eatery market. Puccini’s, which has been on Friar Street for 12 years, is to relaunch itself as the better burger brand Burgerworks. Owners Arvin and Therese Gautam said the increasing number of Italian restaurants in the city had forced their hands. As well as Puccini’s, Worcester also has Carluccio’s, Zizzi’s, Galleria Italiana, Benedicto’s, Valentino’s and PizzaExpress. Burgerworks will be the city’s first dedicated burger restaurant when it opens next month, according to the couple. Mrs Gautama said: “We’re sorry to see Puccini’s go but feel there’s a real gap in the market at the moment for simple, rustic burgers using good quality, local ingredients. There’s nothing like it in the area. The Italian restaurant market in Worcester has become increasingly saturated and we’ve felt for some time that Worcester needs something new and fresh, so Burgerworks was born. We feel very passionately about [Puccini’s] but since the all the chains opened here it’s really changed the market and it’s become more difficult.” Puccini’s will serve its last pizza on Saturday 27 September before reopening on Friday 3 October in the same premises.

 
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