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Fri 24th Oct 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Former Orchid Group boss Rufus Hall advises on Singha debut in the UK market: Fine Food Capital (FFC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Singha Corporation, has bought the Oriental Restaurant Group (ORG) – a collection of upscale Thai and Oriental restaurants previously operated and managed by the Orchid Group. FFC has exchanged contracts on an agreement to purchase four UK restaurants, including the ORG’s flagship Royal Exchange location in the City of London – just moments from the Bank of England. The deal, the value of which is undisclosed, brings to a successful conclusion Singha Corporation’s search for a UK restaurant platform. The Thailand-based organisation is best known as the owner of the eponymous beer brand but also has interests in a variety of beverage businesses as well as its investment arm in the food and restaurant sector, FFC. Singha Corporation were advised by Rufus Hall and Andy Trigwell – the former chief executive and chief financial officer of Orchid Group, the majority of which was sold to Mitchells & Butlers earlier this year for a price north of £250m. Theera Vongapatanasin, managing director of FFC, said: “We are delighted to announce the purchase of these four locations. The transaction is an important opportunity for us to showcase the best of our beer business and the best of Thai hospitality. It is also the first development in what we believe will be a significant journey for us in the UK restaurant market. We are ambitious and believe there will be many opportunities for us to further build this restaurant collection.” In addition to Threadneedle Street, the leasehold businesses being acquired by the group are: Sri Nam in Canary Wharf, Sri Thai on London Wall and the Gatwick Oriental.

Industry News:

Handful of places left on ALMR National Restaurant Association Study Tour to Chicago: There are a handful of places left on the Propel Info and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2015 Chicago Study Tour. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training, takes place between Thursday 14 May and Monday 18 May. The ALMR launched its first study tour trip to the NRA show in 2012, with the trip led by Propel Morning Briefing managing director Paul Charity. The NRA draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, all seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions; involves two tours of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Professor Chris Edger – Tesco lost the trust of its customers on pricing: Professor Chris Edger, the UK’s leading expert on multi-site foodservice management and former Mitchells & Butlers HR director, has argued that Tesco’s current problems, compounded yesterday by a 4.6% drop in like-for-like sales, stem from losing the trust of customers. He said “Essentially, over the last six years, as Tesco has milked its UK business to fund foreign adventures it has – as the chief executive has remarked – lost the trust of customers.” Professor Edger claimed that the main downfall for Tesco has been the lack of transparency in regards to its pricing strategy. He said “Back in the day, customers felt that they were – on balance – getting great value from Tesco on their food purchases. However, the Hi-Lo strategy it has pursued over recent times, bouncing products in price to both ends of the spectrum, has led to confusion amongst customers. Asda, on the other hand has – it can be argued – been far more transparent and consistent on pricing, regularly winning The Grocer’s weekly basket price challenge and transmitting an honest message (which is backed up with action) to its customers on value. In terms of direct competition Asda, (more latterly) Morrisons and the hard discounters shout EDLP (Every Day Low Price) in a transparent manner. They are not opaque, in the sense, they hike-crash-hike again or use loyalty points systems as a confusing tactic to give customers the perception of value. No, they are fighting on straight transparent pricing platforms. And that is where Tesco needs to regain the trust of its customers.”

Workers Beer Company pub to open theatre at its Clapham freehouse: Workers Beer Company, which raises funds for campaigning organisations and runs beer tents at large outdoor events, is to open a new 54-seat theatre above the Bread and Roses pub its owns in Clapham, south London. The Bread and Roses Theatre will officially open on 1 November and will host a mixture of in-house and visiting productions. The venue will not charge a hire fee, and will instead offer a 50% split of box office takings between the theatre and visiting companies. Tessa Hart, one of the theatre’s managers, said: “We really want to build up a local venue that people know about, and not just locally – a London venue that people know about. No matter what your preference is, we’ve got things like Shakespeare coming up, we’ve got new writing coming up, we’ve dramas, we’ve got comedy.” The theatre is the result of a £13,500 renovation paid for by the Bread and Roses pub, which already hosts a number of arts events, including live music and comedy. This last year has seen the total amount raised by Workers Beer Company reach over £1.5 million. Born in the 1980s, Workers Beer Company was created “to generate the funds needed to campaign for a better quality of life for working people”. The Bread and Roses in Clapham is the company’s first pub, where the ethos of the company continues throughout the year. The company states on its website: “Staff in the pub are not volunteers like those at on site events, but are covered by a model union agreement for pub staff, negotiated with the T&G, offering staff proper sick pay, holiday pay and perhaps the best wage rate in the country.”

Distorted costs threatening high street progress, warns ALMR: Responding to the reports from Fleurets that the property rental market is seeing continued distortion, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has warned against rising costs for businesses and repeated its call for a reform of business rates and commercial leases. ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The costs of property occupation are the second biggest headache for casual dining and food led operators and our Benchmarking Report shows that they are acting as a brake on investment and growth. The distortions in comparables cited by Fleurets are at the root of why business rates and commercial rents are spiralling out of control and this is why the ALMR has made this a top priority in its discussions with Government. Transparency on comparable rents, fairness in commercial high street lease terms and the provision of timely information is not only crucial for businesses but also the health of our high streets, town centres and local shopping parades. The problems they cause are felt particularly acutely by casual dining operators and that is why we have raised this issue with the High Street Minister, Planning Minister, Treasury and business teams and we are delighted that the Government’s High Street Forum has taken on board our calls for a review of the Code of Practice on Business Leasing to address their concerns. Additionally, we continue to push for a reform of business rates in order to ensure the system’s equality and responsiveness. If we wish to see continued investment by licensed hospitality in our local economies, we must ensure a fair and flexible marketplace which allows them to do so.”

Company News:

Spirit rejects C&C Group approach: Spirit Pub Company has confirmed that it has received a preliminary approach from drinks company C&C Group but reviewed the proposal and rejected it. Media reports suggested an offer of 115p a share was tabled by C&C Group, with at least a third in cash. Spirit stated in a stock market announcement just before 6pm last night: “In accordance with Rule 2.6(a) of the Takeover Code, C&C will have until 5.00pm on 20 November 2014 (or such later time and/or date as may be agreed by the Takeover Panel) to announce either a firm intention to make an offer for Spirit or that it does not intend to make an offer. This statement is being made by Spirit without the prior agreement or approval of C&C. There can be no certainty that an offer will be made nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made.” The decision by Spirit to reject the C&C Group approach leaves Greene King in pole position with the Spirit board conditionally backing its 109.5p offer (with 8p in cash) made this week, which would leave Spirit shareholders owning 29% of the merged company, operating around 1,800 managed pubs and 1,300 tenanted sites. The Greene King offer values Spirit’s equity at £723m with Spirit shareholders able to benefit from synergies from merging the two companies. C&C Group has no pub estate. The C&C Group offer may have been flushed out by the Spirit Pub Company results presentation this week which made it clear that the company has 100 sites within the estate that are uninvested, growth potential for a number of its brands and 37% of its leased estate that would benefit from investment. Spirit reported a 4% increase in Ebitda to £159m in the year to 23 August.

PR Week – Wagamama approaches agencies on new consumer brief: PR Week magazine has reported that Wagamama has approached a number of agencies about a new consumer PR brief. The process is being overseen by Claire Price of Wagamama’s marketing team. Kazoo Communications has worked on the brand’s consumer PR since it was retained in 2009 following a four-way pitch. In a statement Wagamama told PR Week: “As always, Wagamama is keeping an eye on the PR market and understanding what opportunities lie in this space. Kazoo continue to be our agency and is currently managing our consumer press office.”

Pint Shop wins recognition in two Observer Food Monthly Award categories: Pint Shop, the Cambridge-based concept specialising in British meat and beer led by former Leon executive chef Benny Peverelli and former Leon operations manager Richard Holmes, has been named as a runner up in two categories at this year’s Observer Food Monthly Awards – Best Place to Drink and Best Sunday Lunch. Richard Holmes: “To say we’re delighted is an understatement – to be runner up in not just one, but two, categories at such a renowned food awards is a huge recognition of our great team and all the hard work we’ve put in. We’ve not yet been open a year and were up against some well-established restaurants so we’re very pleased to have done so well. Cambridge’s food and drink scene is thriving and this has clearly been reflected in the awards, with accolades for a number of fantastic sites across the city. The quality of Cambridge restaurants has dramatically improved within the last year, demonstrating that you don’t need to stay in the capital to enjoy a delicious meal out.” Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli will present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on 20 November, setting out how they have re-invented the pub for the 21st Century with the innovative Pint Shop in Cambridge, the city’s first new build site in a decade.

Beds and Bars hosts largest ever meeting of Independent European hostel owners: Pan-European hostel provider Beds and Bars, led by Keith Knowles, has hosted the largest ever meeting of hostel operators with 47 business owners and 85 delegates in attendance – the event took place in Paris. Established as a non-profit association 21 years ago, Europe’s Famous Hostels is the biggest international hostel group in the world behind Hostelling International, with members offering top quality hostels in 49 destinations. The event took place at St Christopher’s Gare du Nord – the €38 million Beds and Bars property opened in 2013. During the Paris conference, five new members joined the network. Beds and Bars’ St Christopher’s Inns hostel brand has been a member of Europe’s Famous Hostels for 15 years.

Camerons Brewery picks up Leeds site: Camerons Brewery has acquired a new venue in Leeds. The outlet, previously trading as Spencers on Mill Hill in the city centre, will become one of the brewery’s branded Head of Steam craft and cask ale sites. The pub is currently closed for refurbishment and is due to open in early December .The venue will offer a range of 30 plus draught products with an emphasis on American and Belgium craft as well as large range of local cask ales and ciders. The pub will have the Head of Steam-committed approach to live music from local artists. The food offer will be based on home-cooked pizza and handmade burgers. Joe Smith, Camerons operations director, said: “When we identified potential new venues and locations as part of our expansion plans Leeds was one of the first destinations we had on our list. It is a vibrant city and the Mill Hill area adjacent to the central station is a busy area, with several great pubs creating a fantastic circuit. We feel the Head of Steam brand will fit in perfectly with the people of Leeds and we are going back to the routes of the original Head of Steam strategy of locating close to main line railway stations.”

Michelin starred chef John Campbell to open restaurant in former pub next week: Michelin-starred chef John Campbell will open a new restaurant called The Woodspeen, in Woodspeen, Oxfordshire, in the building formerly home to the Five Bells. Pub. Campbell, who won two of the renowned Michelin stars during his eight-year stint at nearby Stockcross hotel The Vineyard, has undertaken his first, entirely solo project in this latest restaurant, The Woodspeen, a project which has taken two years to come to fruition. It will officially open on 29 October as a 66 cover restaurant and 18-seater bar. He said that preserving the historic character of the former pub was crucial in the restoration project, which has also seen an extension to the rear of the building to accommodate the restaurant, the installation of an open kitchen and external landscaping works to create a carpark and al fresco dining area. Campbell is also opening a cookery school in a converted nineteenth century barn, for people of all cooking abilities, from a beginners bread course to teaching the masters of pastry. The facility will also be used in the future to run workshops for local schools, and for charitable ventures such as teaching young mothers how to cook quick, easy and fresh meals. The cookery school will open on 1 December.

Five restaurant brands plans for South Ruislip gets go-ahead: A multi-million pound redevelopment plan to create five restaurants on the derelict former dairy site in South Ruislip has been approved by Hillingdon councillors at a planning meeting in Uxbridge this week. The former Arla Foods site, in Victoria Road, which has been vacant since the former Express Dairy closed in 2005, will get an Asda supermarket, an 11-screen Cineworld cinema and five restaurants, including Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito. Buildings that have stood empty and derelict for the last nine years were demolished over the summer and now the plan has been approved, developer Citygrove said building work will begin in January 2015.

Enterprise Inns honours its most community-minded pub: The Lion in Treorchy, South Wales has been named national winner in the Enterprise Community Heroes awards following its outstanding contribution to championing local causes over the last 12 months. A unique schools’ attendance challenge, a Christmas market, an annual summer festival and a variety concert for Help for Heroes are just some of the community-minded initiatives organised by licensee Adrian Emmett and staff at The Lion. Emmett picked up the coveted trophy and a £5,000 community prize fund to add to the £5,000 he won as a regional winner at an awards’ dinner at The Berkeley in Spetchley, Worcester. He now plans to spend the windfall on buying equipment for after school youth activities, refurbishing a Welsh speaking nursery, supporting fund-raising concerts organised by Help for Heroes and the homeless charity Huggard, and upgrading the meeting room at the pub so it can be used on a no charge basis by local groups. Over the last 12 months, the Lion has played an integral part in the local community. As well as hosting regular group meetings, Emmett staged an annual summer music festival, which attracted up to 2000 people through the door, raising funds to buy iPads for the local primary school. Emmett and his staff also look after many elderly people in the community, by visiting and providing free food. The Lion Attendance Challenge, now in its third year, has grown to incorporate 39 primary and five secondary schools, reaching more than 11,000 pupils across Rhondda. Emmett established the scheme to reward pupils, parents and teachers for achieving 98% school attendance and to date has awarded 42 Amazon Kindles, 64 festival tickets, 600 Golden ticket prizes, family weekends to Lego Land, teachers’ parties and over 6,000 discount meal vouchers to The Lion.

Pizza Hut UK reviewing its creative agency requirements: Campaign Live has reported that Pizza Hut UK is reviewing its creative agency requirements as it looks to revive its fortunes in the competitive casual-dining market. A spokeswoman for Pizza Hut said it was “making initial inquiries into potential new agencies for next year”. She added: “No body of work has been assigned yet. It’s in the very early stages.” Pizza Hut has previously worked with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO but has not used the agency in the past.
12 months.

Taste Inn Wales places Castle Hotel on the market: Taste Inn Wales has placed the Castle Hotel in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire on the market with agent Colliers International with an asking price of over £700,000 for the freehold. The recently refurbished Grade II listed property has 19-bedrooms – 15 en suite letting rooms plus four more basic walkers’ rooms. The traditional coaching inn had a turnover of £660,000 net in year-ending February 2013. Peter Brunt, of Colliers, said: “Our clients own a group of hospitality businesses centred around Crickhowell and Brecon, and have found that this, the most distant of their group, is beyond a comfortable distance for their management operation. As such, they have decided to sell The Castle so that they can concentrate on their hub properties.”

Goldman Sachs to buy Merchant Hotel loan package: Goldman Sachs is making its first substantial investment in Northern Ireland with a deal to buy loans on Belfast’s Merchant Hotel and other assets from Ulster Bank, according to local media reports. Goldman Sachs is the preferred bidder to buy loans relating to the Cathedral Quarter hotel and four others in the Republic – packaged up as Project Nadal – after winning out over four other bids. All the properties remain open for business as Ulster Bank continues the process of divesting itself of property debt through portfolio sales. Beannchor, the business established by Bill Wolsey, runs the Merchant Hotel and a number of pubs, including 14 that were also part of Project Nadal.

Costa Coffee franchisee Rosinter to sub-franchise: Costa Coffee’s Russian franchisee Rosinter Restaurants is to open outlets for the brand across Russia under sub-franchise agreements. Rosinter president Sergei Zaitsev said Rosinter and Whitbread have agreed terms for marketing the sub-franchises. Sub-franchisees who sign-up will be required to open at least three Costa Coffee locations in formats including free-standing stores, food courts, filling station kiosks and other locations, Zaitsev said. Companies and individuals taking on the brand will need to make a lump sum payment of £10,000 compared to the €28,500 (£22,500) one-off charge made by Austrian competitor Coffeeshop to open an unlimited number of outlets. Russia’s first Costa Coffee opened in Moscow in 2008. Now there are 30 locations, 22 of which are in the capital and Moscow region.

Piper – we bought a stake in Hickory’s after visiting as customers: Piper Private Equity executive Dan Stern has told Insider that the firm had invested £6m in three-strong barbeque concept Hickory’s after first visiting as customers. He said: “We visited the site, loved the offer, the environment and the exceptional customer service and approached founder Neil McDonnell. The relationship blossomed from there. We invested because we knew the business was special. We knew the food and service were great and could see customers were travelling from far and wide and then returning on multiple occasions. What made us really excited is how Hickory’s appeals to such a wide customer group. This shows the potential of the brand. We’ve worked with businesses like Loungers, which has grown to 50-plus sites, and can help a management team think about the right infrastructure to manage the business as it grows. We want to allow Neil and his top team to be able to think about the brand and strategy and be less involved in the day to day running of individual sites. We will also help the business learn from its customers and make the offer even better.”

Prezzo eyes Malvern opening: Prezzo has confirmed it is hoping to open in two town centre properties in Malvern. A planning application to convert the adjacent units on Belle Vue Terrace into a restaurant was submitted in March and approved in July. Prezzo spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are keen to open in Malvern. We have planning permission but still need to obtain a licence. There is no opening date set. However, if everything goes ahead then the restaurant is likely to open towards the end of 2015.” The premises was formerly occupied by an insurance company and a curtain shop. The planning permission also includes the conversion of the upper floors of the building into flats. Ask Italian opened up in premises just a couple of minutes’ walk away on Belle Vue Terrace in the summer of 2008.

Greene King re-opens Old English Inns site with beer link to local micro-brewery: Greene King has re-opened The Royal George Hotel in Birdlip, Gloucestershire, an Old English inns site, after a £500,000 refurbishment. Manager Michael Jeffries said: “We’ve done a full refurbishment of the bar, restaurant and function rooms. We’ve opened up the reception area and the foyer, so that it’s more open as you walk into the hotel. We’ve brought the original entrance back to a nice standard and have kept the character of the building.” The pub will be supporting a nearby Cotswolds micro-brewery – The Cotswold Lion Brewery, near Coberley, will initially be supplying its Best in Show beer. Co-owner of Cotswold Lion Jon Kemp said: “It’s very unusual for Greene King to take beer from any other brewery because normally they sell their own beer. We are literally half a mile down the road from the pub and we delivered two casks of our Best in Show beer there today. We are delighted that they wanted to feature our beer behind the bar.”

McDonald’s US franchisees provide negative feedback: A survey of 32 McDonald’s franchisees operating 252 sites in the US by Janney Capital Market, has revealed the depth of negative feeling about the company. “Growth for McDonald’s is over,” one franchisee wrote. “I am just hoping to be flat (on sales),” another franchisee said. “[The] customer has lost faith in the brand. We are leaderless,” said a third. A fourth franchisee complained: “They are being successful in bankrupting us.” A half dozen franchisees said they were counting on the company’s Monopoly promotion to revive sales. “Everything depends on Monopoly,” one franchisee said. “I am counting on Monopoly to stop the bleeding,” said another. Most of the franchisees surveyed were extremely negative about the future of the company. “Nothing positive to say about McDonald’s or its future,” one respondent said. “We just have nothing new to offer our customers,” said another. A third complained: “Even remodels and rebuilds don’t build sales anymore,” while a fourth said: “Just hoping we’ve hit bottom.” Many complained that the company hadn’t followed through on its promise to simplify the menu.

Heritage railway ‘in talks’ about Marston’s new build: Elsecar heritage railway in Barnsley is in talks with Marston’s about building a 160-cover pub restaurant at Cortonwood. The Coalfields line, which links the old Elsecar Main and Cortonwood collieries, is poised to achieve recognition as a nationally important steam railway. It has gone from strength to strength after winning £50,000 from the People’s Millions Big Lottery Fund in 2013. Chairman and managing director Del Tilling said: “It is our best ever year. We are in preliminary talks with Barnsley Council and Marston’s about the possibility of constructing a 160-cover pub diner at Cortonwood Station. Topographical surveys and other feasibility considerations are pending before any formal planning application is submitted.”

Café Rouge to leave Sevenoaks after 17 years of trading: Tragus Group is close its Café Rouge site in Sevenoaks on 9 November. The Sevenoaks Chronicle has reported that staff were informed of the closure this week but have been told they can transfer to other locations. Café Rouge began trading in the town in 1997.

Inception Group lines up seventh opening: Bar company Inception Group is to open its seventh site, Beaver Lodge, in the Chelsea, London this winter. The “cabin bar and dance saloon” is based on the log cabins found in Wyoming. Inception Group, founded by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, also runs venues including Bunga Bunga on the Battersea Bridge Road, and Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair. There will be a wood-burning stove, cowhide and furs. Cowboy memorabilia, old wagon wheels and antler-horned hanging lamps will create the authentic feel of Wyoming. Beaver Lodge’s Bulleit Bourbon bar will feature American-style drinks including boilermakers, hardshakes and single serves, alongside Samuel Adams Beer. Charlie Gilkes said: “Beaver Lodge is an original tongue-in-cheek concept Duncan and I are bringing to London, inspired, in particular, by Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We’re offering both a cowboy saloon and mountainside cabin rolled into one, with, as ever, an emphasis on fun.”

Jamie Oliver opens first restaurant in home county of Essex: Chef Jamie Oliver has opened his first restaurant in his home county of Essex. Jamie’s Trattoria has opened in a former Barclays Bank building in Chelmsford. Trattoria is smaller and more rustic than the Jamie’s Kitchen outlets. The Chelmsford site is the second in the UK to open – the first was in Richmond.

Highly regarded Londonderry street food operator looks to upgrade to a shipping container: Kevin Pyke, owner of the highly regarded Pyke N Pommes street food operation on Londonderry Quay, is seeking planning permission to upgrade to a shipping container along the Foyle. The mobile restaurateur has submitted an application for a two-year temporary outlet along Queen’s Quay. In a letter of support, tourist development officer at Derry City Council, Mary Blake, stated: “Kevin has spoken to us about his proposed new venture using a suitably modified container, which will be more sympathetic to the maritime location as it will be housed in a shopping container.”

Britvic reports full year revenue up 2.4%: Britvic has reported its full year revenue increased by 2.4%, with both volume and price growth, and that strategic cost initiatives were successfully implemented with a slightly higher in-year benefit than anticipated. The company said: “As a result we now expect that full year Ebit will be marginally ahead of the top end of our previous guidance range of £148m to £156m and well ahead of last year.” Chief executive Simon Litherland said: “We have delivered a strong performance despite the poorer summer weather and the continued challenging trading environment. We now expect operating profit marginally ahead of the top end of the guidance range we outlined at the start of the year. Full year revenue grew 2.4% and the accelerated delivery of our strategic cost initiatives pulled the in-year savings ahead of our original plan. I am especially pleased that we have delivered a strong set of results, with profits well ahead of last year, at the same time as undertaking a significant internal change programme. We are now set up to take advantage of the growth opportunities ahead of us.”

Award-winning real ale freehold on the market: The freehold of the award-winning real ale pub, the Stanley Arms, situated in a residential area of Portslade just a few miles from Brighton City Centre, is on the market through agent Fleurets for £425,000. Steve Bennett, who owns the pub with his wife Barbara, said: “Having spent 12 years at The Stanley, and in the process, winning The Brighton and Southdowns Camra Pub of the Year eight times, we are now looking to semi retire and concentrate on our other smaller businesses. It’s a fantastic opportunity for a new operator to build on our success and take the Stanley to the next level.” 

20 pubs sign up for Brakspear Jazz & Blues Festival: A total of 20 Brakspear pubs have signed up to take part in the company’s second annual Jazz & Blues Festival, running next month. Each participating pub will host at least one jazz or blues performance during the Festival, taking place from 7 to 16 November. With more than 30 gigs in total, the Festival will showcase a diverse range of music from trad jazz and R&B covers to original material, performed by up and coming artistes as well as seasoned entertainers. The Festival spreads beyond Brakspear’s Henley heartland, with pubs in Richmond, Banbury and the Cotswolds taking part this year. Brakspear has helped some tenants to find appropriate artistes and stage their gig, while all participating pubs are being supported with tickets, posters, a Facebook advertisement and a section for their concert on the dedicated website www.brakspear.co.uk/jazzandblues. All pubs hosting performances will be selling Top Notch, Brakspear’s seasonal ale brewed at its Bell Street Brewery to support the Festival, with a jazz-themed pump clip. Last year, Brakspear sold 11,500 pints of Top Notch and supplies ran out well before the end of November. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “The gigs, most of them free to customers, add value to their experience of the pub, and for our tenants they provide a traffic driver during November, which can be a challenging trading period. Last year’s Festival was a great success and we learned much from it to make this year’s event even better, including upping our production of Top Notch. Jazz and blues fans are clearly a thirsty crowd!”

Unprecedented butter and dairy price increases in the US hit Cheesecake Factory: US-based Cheesecake Factory, whose 173 eponymous sites average just over $10m of sales per annum per site, has reported a 6% drop in net income for the third quarter ended 30 September, as costs for butter and dairy rose. The operator said some cost increases were “unprecedented”, as it saw third-quarter profit decline to $24.2 million, or 48 cents per share, from $27.5 million the previous year. “There are clearly some significant external cost headwinds in our current environment, including unprecedented increases in butter and related dairy prices during the third quarter, resulting in about $4.3 million of additional expense compared to the third quarter of 2013,” Cheesecake Factory chief executive David Overton said. Those increases, Overton added, are “beginning to correct”. The company also has 11 restaurants under the Grand Lux Café brand and one RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen location.

Fuller’s opens The Fields coffee shop: Fuller’s opened its first stand-alone coffee shop, The Fields, in Ealing yesterday morning. Earlier this year, Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny told Propel that coffee sales at the company have now hit almost one million cups a year, a four times increase in the figure of four or five years ago. The company, which introduced its own coffee brand, Brewer Street, a couple of years ago, is opening the coffee shop unit next to one of its pubs, the Plough in Ealing, primarily to be used for training staff. Yesterday morning, Emeny told Propel: “The coffee shop is using a piece of property we already own – it’s not an acquisition. It’s an opportunity to test our breakfast ideas, and train staff in making outstanding coffee.” The 1,000 square foot site is close to Northfields tube station and has high footfall. “We will not be rolling out a coffee shop chain,” Emeny stressed. The Fields website states: “It’s rare to discover a place where you can be free from the stress of home or work. Whether it’s the whole afternoon or just five minutes, everyone needs to escape sometimes. With its classy shabby urban interior design, The Fields coffee shop in Ealing will be that place to be!” Of the offer, the website states: “We will be serving freshly cooked pastries and cakes, sandwiches and soups, plus more, including gluten free options. If you’re running late, on-the-go or simply need a long-awaited catch up with friends and family, we will be offering eat in or take away options. Look out for our different origins and blends of coffee beans, including guest beans, all served with some beautiful latte art and range of milks. We will also be serving drip and filter coffees, perfect for mild coffee drinkers or ladies that lunch. For the caffeine free amongst you, we have a great range of hand-blended loose leaf teas and infusions plus a great range of soft drinks and juices.” It opens from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday, between 8am and 6pm on a Saturday and 8am and 5pm on a Sunday. The site offers “comfy sofas, Wi-Fi and USB ports”.

 
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