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Thu 1st Mar 2012 - Pub of the Future, Innventure and Pub People

Story of the Day

South-west London multiple opens “pub of the future”: A renowned beer writer has described the Sussex Arms in Twickenham as setting a course for pubs in the future. The pub, opened by Twickenham Taverns, is a modern re-invention of the classic Ale and Pie house. Martyn Cornell, a past winner of British Beer Writer of the Year award and author of books on beer and pubs, has praised the “huge bank of handpumps” behind the bar at the Sussex Arms.  In his widely-read blog he has claimed that the Sussex Arms provides “what seems to me to be the direction of the 21st century pub”. His comments come after a £150,000 refurbishment of the pub by Punch and three-strong pub operator Twickenham Taverns, led by Dick and James Morgan. The entrepreneurs have signed up to a new Punch lease agreement that provides much more flexibility on draught beers and ciders – they can source half their range from the free trade. Now the Sussex Arms offers 12 cask ales and six cider products on draught, with all of them offered at a standard £3 a pint. The beer and cider range is supplemented by offering a choice of six wines – three white, three red – at a standard £13 a bottle. Dick and James Morgan also operate ten pubs through their Butcher and Barrel business. The Sussex Arms has been a change of style for them because it’s a modern take on a pub that centres on drink sales – their other pubs tend to be food-focused. The menu at the Sussex Arms, which is on Staines Road, majors on five different types of pie each day, with three types of sausage. It also has home-made pork pies and scotch eggs.

Industry news

Tax anomaly threatens pubs: A Cambridge property expert has claimed that a tax anomaly is threatening the future of pubs. Will Mooney, joint head of Cater Jonas’s commercial division in the Eastern region, said: “The anomaly means that while 50 per cent of sales of beer go through supermarkets, they pay no VAT on food. Yet pubs that serve food pay the full 20 per cent VAT on sales, with no equivalent tax concession on their main trade of serving alcohol. “Effectively this means that the supermarkets can use their food sales to subsidise the low prices for their alcohol sales and pubs can’t.”

Hotel chain warns of UK skills shortage: Hotel chain Malmaison and Hotel Du Vin has joined the growing band of employers who have claimed many UK job applicants are unemployable because they lack basic skills. Just 40 per cent of the group’s 2,300 jobs in the UK are held by British nationals. The rest of the workforce is made up largely of Eastern Europeans from Latvia, Slovakia and Poland.

The deconstruction of breakfast in the US: The Washington Post reports a survey by NDP Group that has found more and more Americans are skipping breakfast to eat a series of snacks. Liz Sloan, president of Sloan Trends, said: “It’s breakfast in stages. They’ll eat something at home, then stop at Starbucks or a convenience store for coffee and maybe a little snack.”

JD Wetherspoon wins further property agent case: JD Wetherspoon has been awarded damages after being the victim of “fraud and dishonest breach of duty” by its property agent. The company has been awarded damages from the beneficiaries of five of the property transactions involved in an earlier case in 2009, according to Property Week. Paul Ferrari, a property agent, has agreed to pay Wetherspoon a total of £50,000 in monthly instalments and Peachy Investments, a trust of which he was a beneficiary, has transferred to the company a property worth £500,000. The case relates to an earlier one in which Wetherspoon agent Van de Berg diverted five freehold properties to Ferrari’s company.

Consumers tempted to restaurants by interactive menus: A US firm is offering restaurants a digital menu service that allows customers to scroll down menus on the net that have digital images of mouth-watering menu items popping up. Research shows 42 per cent of Americans now rely on digital media to make dining-out decisions.

Company news

Former Mitchells & Butlers executive unveils sixth site: The man who developed the Vintage Inns brand at Mitchells & Butlers has lined up his sixth site. Chris Gerard’s Innventure is to re-open the landmark Cross Keys in Saffron Walden. The site is to undergo a £600,000 joint investment with its owner Bedford brewer Charles Wells. Innventure has won a reputation for undertaking sympathetic restorations of historic buildings. The company successfully refurbished the medieval Wellington in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, which has won a glowing review from Sunday Times food critic Michael Winner. Innventure also revitalised the old Cambridge Brewery in Kings Street, Cambridge, converting it into a business called d’Arrys.

Celebrity chef lines up third pub: Celebrity chef Richard Phillips, who appears on Ready Steady Cook and Celebrity Kitchen, looks set to take on his third pub. Phillips, who already runs Hengist on Aylesford High Street, and the Pearson’s Arms in Whitstable, is in contention to take over the Windmill in Hollingbourne, an Enterprise Inns site that has been closed since September last year. Phillips won a Michelin star at Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells before he turned 30. 

South Wales multiple takes on fourth venue: Business partners Bruno Nunes and Mike Griffiths are set to open their fourth venue in South Wales. The pair have taken over the So Bar in Swansea’s Wind Street – last year they re-opened the Wig pub in St Helen’s Road. Nunes and Griffiths also run the Peppermint bar in Sawnsea and a second Peppermint bar in Cardiff.  Three of the sites are leased from Enterprise Inns. Griffiths told the South Wales Evening Post:  “In this business when things start to turn down it is easy to get caught up in the trap of trying to cut back investment. It is all about staying mentally strong and being passionate about your business.”

Lancashire Taverns re-opens Shoulder of Mutton: Four-strong Lancashire Taverns, led by father-and-son team Craig and Chris Yates, re-open the Shoulder of Mutton, at Holcombe Village, Ramsbottom, tomorrow after a refurbishment. They have invested £50,000 in an eco kitchen that will cook food in water baths on stoves. The system increases cooking speed while reducing energy use by more than 50 per cent.

Brakspear bags star business development manager: Henley-base Brakspear has recruited top business development manager Gerard Winder, who worked at Greene King previously. Winder made the finals of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers business development awards in 2008 and 2010. He replaces Peter Capon, who has retired.

JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin joins ITV panel: Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has joined the ITV News Business Club. He will be one of 12 panel members from diverse areas of business who have been invited by the broadcaster to provide feedback on what is actually happening in business in 2012.

“Energetic pies” launched containing Red Bull: Pie company Peter’s Pies has partnered energy drink Red Bull to create a deep-filled meat pie, which is infused with the energy drink. The pies are being tested by the company’s 13,000 existing customers. 

Pub People Company re-opens Dukeries Lodge: Pub People Company, the 46-strong East Midlands operator led by Kevin Sammons, is re-opening its Dukeries Lodge venue at Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire, today after a £250,000 refurbishment. It will trade as a destination family food pub and feature beef from Nottinghamshire farms and beer from Welbeck Family Brewery.

Greene King receives stiff opposition to Cloverleaf plan: Suffolk-based Greene King has met strong opposition from residents in Havant to its plan to build a new 300-cover Cloverleaf restaurant on a roundabout next to the A27. A residents meeting claimed the venue, to be built with an 80-bedroom Travelodge alongside, would lead to congestion and noise pollution.

Exclusive Inns adds second site: Exclusive Inns, the company led by Philip Griffiths, has acquired its second site, the Anchor Inn in Nayland, Suffolk. It bought its first site, The Angel Inn two miles away in Stoke by Nayland, in March last year – Christie & Co was agent for both. The company’s strategy is to acquire exclusive pub and country inn businesses in areas such as Suffolk, the Cotswolds, the Home Counties and the London area.

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues eyes sixth site: Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues, the five-strong Birmingham pub and bar operator founded by Matt Scrivens, is eyeing a sixth site. The entrepreneur is looking to open a steakhouse concept at an unnamed site in the city. His last opening was the Rose Villa Tavern, a Punch Taverns venue in the city’s up-and-coming jewellery quarter. Scrivens, a former chartered accountant, operates five cutting edge venues in the city, including Bodega Bar & Canteen and Jekyll & Hyde.

Multi-operator Fountain opens Muldoons: Yorkshire multi-site operator Shaun Fountain is to re-open Punch’s Star in Keighley, Yorkshire as an Irish-themed venue called Muldoons this Saturday (3 March). Fountain, who runs eight Punch pubs and six Spirit leased sites, is re-naming the venue, which has seen a £125,000 joint investment, after his manager Claire Muldoon, who has run the site for almost ten years.

Numbers Works Pub Company grabs sixth site: Number Works Pub Company, run by Martyn Hathaway and his family, has unveiled a sixth site. The company, which is pioneering a new take on the value food offer with four fixed price points of £2, £4, £6 and £8, is to re-open the Salwey Arms in Woofferton, on the outskirts of Ludlow, Shropshire. Martyn said: “We are big enough to compete price-wise but small enough to keep on top of service.” The pub, understood to have come from the Punch disposal estate, will re-open in June after a refurbishment.

Cheshire micro brewer goes multi-site: A Cheshire micro brewer is set to open its second pub, The Olde Barbridge just outside Nantwich, after a £260,000 joint investment with owner Punch Taverns. Woodlands Brewing Company is now looking to build its pub estate to seven sites in the next couple of years. The Olde Barbridge is to re-open next month after a three-month refurbishment that has transformed the pub inside and out. It will re-open with six Woodlands cask ales on the bar thanks to Punch’s lease that allows the company complete freedom to sell its own beers on a free-of-tie basis. Woodlands already has its sights set on a third pub, The Romping Donkey in Hassell Green, near Sandbach, Cheshire. It’s a pub acquired freehold from Punch’s disposal estate that is due to open in May this year. Woodland founder John Skeaping told Morning Briefing: “I’m 68 and I hope my legacy for Woodlands when I retire is to leave the company with an estate of six or seven successful pubs,”

Brewdog drags sixth site into kennel: Scottish independent brewer Brewdog has bagged its sixth site – in Newcastle. It’s bought the leasehold on the Hoko 10 in the city centre. Other Brewdog sites are in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Nottingham and Camden deal. Agent for the deal was Christie & Co.

Flagstone Cask & Grill identifies first site: The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) company set up by Ian Grundy and Gavin Drew, of Foundation Inns, has identified its first site. The unnamed venue in Essex is ear-marked for acquisition this month or next.  The company held its first fund-raising open day yesterday at the Apollo pub in Marylebone. Flagstone plans to roll-out a concept that features stone-baked pizza, a micro brewery and a range of American-style keg beers. Its first-round fund-raising is targeting £2m but the long-term plan is to expand to 15 to 20 venues.

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