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Tue 28th Feb 2012 - Salisbury and Hales, Hooters and Pesto

Story of the Day

Salisbury and Hales plan new concept roll-out: The businessmen who partnered Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) to open 90 Premium Country Dining (PCD) sites in a decade are looking to roll out a new concept with a partner after their joint venture involvement with M&B ended.

Paul Salisbury and Paul Hales, who also run six-strong Lovely Pubs, worked with M&B to roll-out PCD sites across the UK. The pair opened their last PCD site, the Queen & Castle in Kenilworth, last year. Paul Salisbury's wife Sue is still contracted to do PCD design work until October this year.

Paul Salisbury told Morning Briefing: “It’s been great fun working with M&B. We’ve parted on very amicable terms – all good things have to come to an end.”

The pair have invested £200,000 on a refurbishment of the Orange Tree, Chadwick End, Solihull and have developed a new concept around the tagline: Hoof, Fin, Feather and Fur. The new-look Orange Tree features stone-fired ovens and an open kitchen. Its menu features “casual things like pizza, steak and pasta” – the fur section offers rabbit, venison and bison burger, for example.

Salisbury said: “We started with a completely blank sheet of paper to create a new version of the Orange Tree. We’re looking to roll it out with a partner and we’re talking to a couple of people.”

The Orange Tree has seen sales grow by 25% since it re-opened. Salisbury and Hales are also looking to open one or two more Farm venues – the format that some have dubbed “posh Harvester”. Lovely Pubs owns the freehold of five of its six sites.

Other news:

Young people ignorant of how much they drink:  Lots of young people underestimate their consumption of alcohol even if they are aware of government guidelines, according to a new study.  A study by the University of Sussex asked young people to pour their normal measure of wine, beer and vodka and were asked how many they thought they’d served themselves. Nearly two in three underestimated the unit content.

Beer and skittles make a comeback: Old-fashioned bar games such as dominoes, darts, bar billiards, table skittles and cribbage are making a big comeback in pubs.  Greene King has sent its licensees more than one thousand game kits to encourage take-up. A spokesman for CAMRA said: “These games are part of our heritage and can be enjoyed by large numbers of people at little or no extra cost.”

Licensing crackdown “unprecedented”:  Saturday’s licensing enforcement crackdown involving 5,000 premises in London is “unprecedented”, according to licensing solicitor John Gaunt. The firm said: “With a number of pubs and clubs apparently closed (and given the ‘occasional’ misapplication of Section 19 closure notices) it will be interesting to see the basis on which such closures were effected. Incidentally, the original Operation Condor was a campaign of political repression and terror carried out in the 1970s in South America.”

Marston’s targets Aberystwyth: Marston’s has submitted a planning application to build a new pub and hotel in Aberystwyth. The company wants to build its new site on land next to the Welsh Government office in Boulevard St Brieuc.  A company spokesman said: “If planning permission is granted, work on the new community facility is expected to begin the Spring, with hope that it will be completed and open by Christmas or early 2013.

Costa Coffee trades strongly: Whitbread has reported like-for-like growth of 6.2 per cent at Costa Coffee in its fourth quarter. Premier Inn growth was 0.7 per cent while its pub restaurants strengthened to show 2.2 per cent growth.

Multi-site operator news

La Tasca founder to focus on pub openings: The founders of the Pesto restaurant chain are planning three more pub openings in the next six months after successfully opening Pesto in the Pub at the Cabbage Hall in Tarporley, Cheshire, a Punch Taverns pub.

Neil Gatt, who founded Spanish tapas chain La Tasca, operates four Pesto restaurants with business partner Sara Edwards - they opened their first pub site at the end of November last year.  The venue, which combines a “fresh original piattini menu with a selection of real ales in a traditional pub environment”, has won rave reviews on Trip Advisor since it re-opened. A typical review states: “The best Italian food in Cheshire – the food was fantastic, the service spot on and great value-for-money.” 

Said Neil: “We’re absolutely delighted with the Cabbage Hall. This was a bit of an experiment for us but the feedback is excellent – it’s been very well received. Customers at our restaurant in the Trafford Centre tend to want to be in and out quickly. The dwell time at the Cabbage Hall is longer which means spend per head is around £18 to £20 compared to £12 to £15 at our restaurants.”

The return on capital at the Cabbage Hall, which now employs 25 people, has been so strong that Gatt and Edwards are now planning to trial the concept at a further three pubs in the six months. Several sites are being lined up, including a second Punch Taverns venue. 

Private equity firm set to buy stake in Pho: Isis Equity Partners is thought to be planning to buy a stake in Vietnamese chain Pho worth £8m, according to The Times. The deal will allow the expansion of the company. Pho was founded by Stephen and Juliette Wall and the founders of London-based gastro-group ETM, Ed and Tom Martin, hold a 50% stake.

Kent Pubs invests in Lincolnshire: The eight-strong Kent Pubs group is understood to have acquired the Grosvenor Hotel in Skegness, a venue previously owned by the Spence family for 83 years. The venue is undergoing a £250,000 refurbishment to restore it to its former glory.

Multi-operator to open deli: Three-site operator CM Hospitality is planning to open a deli at the Fleece Inn in Addingham, Bradford, a Punch Taverns pub they re-opened at the end of last year. The deli is expected to open its doors in March. CM Hospitality, run by father-and-son team Ian and Craig Minto, also operate the Sun Inn in Edinburgh and the Gray Fox, Harsthead, near Huddersfield.

Third Fat Cat pub for Norwich: Entrepreneur Colin Keatley has bought the freehold of the Mustard Pot in Norwich’s Thorpe Road. He founded the original Fat Cat in West End Street 20 years ago and he also operates the Fat Cat Brewery Tap – both are well-known for their vast range of Fat Cat and other real ales. He told Eastern Daily Press: “I always fancied the pub. I approached the then owner Adnams about three years ago, but they were not interested then. I asked them for first refusal.” The property was sold off an asking price of £225,000 by agent Fleurets.

Lincolnshire multi-site operator plans VW-themed pub: Michael Thurlby, whose company runs award-winning pubs in Lincolnshire, including four sites in and around Stamford, is to re-open his Bourne pub as the Jubilee Garage – it was formerly known as the Jubilee.  The new-look venue will feature a 1970s Volkwagen camper van as the bar, garage signs, petrol pumps and vehicle seating. The pub will also be showing Sky Sports on six new screens. The theme was chosen because the pub was a garage for 30 years between the 1920s and 1950s. A spokesperson said: “We decided to make it more of a pub so it has a bit of identity. At the moment it’s a restaurant during the day, a pub in the evening and a nightclub at night.”  Meanwhile, Thurlby has submitted plans to open a micro-brewery in Bourne. He operates Ufford Ales out of his pub in Ufford, Lincolnshire, the White Hart. Thurlby and his head brewer Simon Raines had previously considered opening the brewery in a former tyre and exhaust centre in Stamford. They abandoned the plan after deciding the building was unsuitable.

East Yorkshire Pub of the Year to start brewing: The Goodmanham Arms in Goodmanham, run by chef Vito Logozzi and his wife Abbie, have picked up the award of East Yorkshire Pub of the Year from CAMRA.  The couple stock beers from Yorkshire breweries and serve an unusual range of dishes, including gipsy hotpot and meat roasted on a spit over an open fire.  Abbie has taken a brewing course and will soon start brewing at the pub using East Riding malt and borehole water from a local farm.

Across the pond 

Research reveals consumer approach to menu-reading:  A new study has found that consumers read menus in much the same way as they read books. A San Francisco state professor has found that customers move their eyes left to right down the page of a two-page menu. Professor Sybil Yang said: “The good news for restaurants is that people are reading the menus carefully and that they seem to be choosing an entrée and then building a meal around it.” Previously, it was been accepted wisdom among restaurant designers that there is a proverbial “sweet spot” that lies just above the midline on the right hand side of the page.

Breastaurant sector pioneer Hooters has a face-lift: The Original Hooters restaurant, opened in Clearwater, Florida in 1983, has had a re-model to make it more contemporary. The 2012 version has an indoor/outside bar, a museum and merchandising area, a more expansive indoor bar, a new open kitchen and 35 flat-screen televisions. Founder Ed Drose says the brand's success is related to consistency. “We’ve dabbled with changes, we’ve tweaked the shorts a little to make them more comfortable. But the Hooters girls are iconic for one reason – it’s their wholesome surfer-girl-next-door look.”

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