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Mon 12th Mar 2012 - Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Thornbridge Brewery

Story of the Day:

Nightclub veteran Bob Senior targets Newcastle opening with his own cash: Bob Senior, the former boss of nightclub company Ultimate Leisure who now leads Utopian Leisure, is planning to invest £700,000 of his own money in opening a Fat Buddha nightclub in Newcastle. Senior is opening the site outside of Utopian Leisure despite not being able to find a bank that would provide an additional £100,000 facility. He has, however, had special permission to open the site with his own money from Utopian’s bank Barclays. He told Morning Briefing: “Barclays has been supportive in allowing me to use my own money – it’s exciting and scary in equal measure.” Utopian currently runs the Box in Belfast, Durham Live Club, Fat Buddha, Love Shack in Durham and Sam Jack’s in Newcastle. The Newcastle Fat Buddha will open in April on the site of Bar 55 with a 500 capacity, including a 130-seat mezzanine dining area. Last November, Senior grabbed publicity by mounting a two-day-a-week “trial” whereby he allowed customers to bring their own alcohol to the Durham Live Lounge although they had to pay an entry fee. The initiative, now ended, was aimed at highlighting the disparity in price between supermarket and on-trade alcohol. “We’ll have achieved some kind of balance when 26 supermarkets a week are closing.”

Propel Opinion:

Bob Senior, battled-hardened nightclub veteran, reports more evidence of banks shriveled into a state of inertia by the fear of risk. He visited a number of banks to arrange a £100,000 facility to put alongside the £700,000 of his own money he’s investing into a new opening, the Fat Buddha in Newcastle. Each and every would-be lender found the ratios of debt to personal cash acceptable but all wanted a dreaded Personal Guarantee. “I don’t know how you are expected to grow a company,” says Bob.

Tell us: Has your bank been supportive in the current climate? Responses will be used anonymously where requested.

Weekend news catch-up:

Starbucks opens “concept shop” in Amsterdam: Coffee giant Starbucks opened its European “concept shop” in Amsterdam on Friday. It will test new coffee, design and food ideas for the European market at the site. The venue will have its own in-store bakery, which will tweet when baked items emerge from the oven. Starbucks concept store is located in an old bank vault in Rembrandt Square and was transformed with the help of 35 local artists, who added design touches like coating one wall with recycled bicycle tubes. In the US, the coffee company will start to trial beer and wine at a handful of locations in Chicago later in 2012.

Consumption of alcohol drops again: The consumption of alcohol in the UK dropped by two per cent in 2011, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. It is the fifth annual fall in the past seven years.

Corporation tax to drop to 20 per cent: Chancellor George Osbourne is to signal a drop in corporation tax to 20 per cent in the budget, according to The Sunday Times. Corporation tax was 28 per cent when Osbourne took power, it is 25 per cent currently and is due to drop to 23 per cent over the course of this parliament. Osbourne is also expected to give details of credit-easing measures outlined in his autumn statement. These take the form of a government guarantee that will make available, and cut the cost of, loans to small and medium-sized businesses. The scheme is reportedly ready to start from budget day on Wednesday 21 March.

Krispy Kreme to double UK outlets by 2015: Upmarket doughnut company Krispy Kreme is to double the number of outlets in the UK to 100 by 3015 after selling 50 million doughnuts and one million cups of coffee last year in the UK. It has 40 branded cabinets in UK service stations, which helped drive sales to £42m for the year – like-for-likes rose 3.5 per cent.

Wetherspoon tax plea captures newspaper headlines: The spotlight placed by Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin on the UK’s unfair tax burden for pubs – and the reason for the trimming of its expansion plans - captured headlines on Saturday. The Daily Mail said: “A thirsty taxman drained JD Wetherspoon’s ambitions after a hefty tab forced the pub giant to scale back expansion plans.” The Times stated: “Mr Martin renewed his attack on the disparity between the 20 per cent VAT that pubs pay and the treatment of the supermarkets which pay virtually nothing.”

Water shortage affects vegetable harvest: The UK faces a shortage of key vegetables – potatoes, carrots, onions, cauliflowers, broccoli and lettuce – if low rainfall in the south-east persists. The prediction of dire problems for fresh food supplies is expected to appear in a report to be published by the Environment Agency on Tuesday.

Eating breakfast reduces stress: Making time to eat breakfast improves mental and physical performance and reduces stress, according to a report by the Mindlab laboratory in Brighton. Volunteers who ate breakfast were found to have an 89 per cent reduction in stress levels.

Starwood plans more hotels for W chain: Hotel company Starwood is planning to build more boutique W hotels in London neighbourhoods after the success of its first site, which opened in Leicester Square last year. The company believes the lower proportion of branded hotels in the UK compared with other parts of the world provides an opportunity to expand.

Four suspected illegal staff held at Artubus: UK border officials have been held four kitchen workers at Michelin-starred Artubus, according to the Mail on Sunday. A Borders Agency spokesman said: “Those held were from India and Sri Lanka. All of the offenders have been detained.”

Coke dispenser could revolutionise beverage industry: Coca-Cola has produced a new dispense machine that offers customers a single self-serve dispense and a computerized touch screen that offers more than 100 varieties of drinks to choose from. The machine, on trial in US restaurant chain Five Guys, is called the Freestyle and is protected by more than 70 different patents. It has software that collects data on customer choices, which is provided to the local restaurant manager and Coca-Cola headquarters for analysis. Coca-Cola can add or remove products remotely.

Irish Environment Minister warns pubs and clubs: Alex Atwood, Northern Ireland Minister for the Environment, has warned pub trade representatives that cheap drinks promotions must end. The trade in Northern Ireland is under scrutiny after 20-year-old Joby Murphy died after he fell into a river and drowned – he had been drinking vodka priced at £1 in a nightclub.

Survey shows young drinkers prefer schooner: A survey of consumers has shown younger drinkers prefer the schooner-sized glass. The study, by brewer Molson Coors, showed that 18 to 34-year-olds preferred the price and ease of consumption, suggesting they wanted to "break from tradition". The schooner measure has been available since last year, but only one in ten knew it was available, according to a survey of 2,000 adults. Chris McDonough, of Molson Coors, said: "Consumer insight highlights demand for this new measure and presents an opportunity for pubs and bars to increase their sales".

Company news:

Thornbridge Brewery founder secures fourth Brewkitchen site: Brewkitchen, the partnership between Richard Smith’s restaurant group, which runs three pubs, and Thornbridge Brewery, headed by Jim Harrison, will re-open the landmark Beauchief Hotel in Sheffield next month. The site will offer a “classic cellar bar”, restaurant, function room eight bedrooms and offices. Other sites in the Brewkitchen stable are Artisan at Crosspool, the Cricket Inn at Totley and Relish in Sheffield’s Ecclesall Road.

Meantime to open London’s largest craft brewery: Meantime is to expanding its Greenwich facility to create London’s most advanced and largest craft brewery. Production capacity will quadruple and the site will host a brand new visitor’s centre and shop. These changes will be complete in May 2012. The brewery will feature London’s most comprehensive visitor and education centre, which Meantime hopes will become a major attraction for Londoners, tourists and trade customers. The new centre will be fully operational in time for the London Olympics. Nick Miller, chief executive of Meantime, said: “We want to challenge the notion that beers made in the craft tradition can only be made by small-scale brewers.”

Property firm creates East Kent Pub Company: Kent-based property company Priory Land is looking to buy eight pubs in East Kent over the next three years because prices are so low. It has created a new pub company with a further £100,000 of outside investment. Kevin Dougall, boss of Priory Land, bought the freehold of the Red Lion in St Margaret’s last year for £200,000 and spent £90,000 on a refurbishment. It now has a dining area bedecked with James Bond memorabilia. It is negotiations to buy a second pub. Dougall said: “Having cut our teeth on the Red Lion we have got to know the East Kent pub market particularly well and there are plenty of opportunities to acquire other pubs at attractive prices.”

Marston’s close to pub go-ahead in Bourne, Lincolnshire: A Marston’s plan to open a pub in Bourne, which has been eight years in the planning process, is close to getting the go-ahead. A decision was due to be made by planners last week but it has been deferred for a bit more information on landscaping and hours of opening.

Pub People re-opens Dukeries Lodge under “Fresh & Local” brand: Pub People Company, the 46-strong East Midlands operator led by Kevin Sammons, has re-opened Dukeries Lodge in Edinstowe under its “Fresh & Local” brand. The branding of the venue, which has 17 bedrooms and has undergone a £250,000 refurbishment, reflects the emphasis on food freshly prepared on the site using ingredients sourced wherever possible from local suppliers. The pub features a new chargrill with 17 different steaks and steak dishes on the menu.

Lessees lined up for all but one Clover Taverns site: Sources close to Clover Taverns administrators report that new lessees are lined up for all but one of the ten sites in administration. A source told Morning Briefing: “These are good quality pubs, formerly managed sites.” Clover Taverns, which operated ten Spirit Pub Company leases, ran into cashflow problems before administrator Duff & Phelps was called in. One manager of a Clover Taverns site is sanguine about the administration. Stan Eaton, who runs The Black Bull in Preston’s, Friargate, said: “I have worked for eight different companies in this pub in 22 years and I am not worried because there is no way they would close the Old Black Bull.”

JD Wetherspoon is well-placed to increase dividends: Analyst Geof Collyer, of Deutsche Bank, has forecast that Wetherspoon will be in a good position to increase dividends to shareholders as openings drop by ten this year to 40 and halve to 25 next year. He said: “The lower opening programme should allow for more buy-backs next year or a big hike in the dividend.”

Blue Moon Pub Company buys sixth site: Blue Moon Pub Company, the Yorkshire multiple headed by former JD Wetherspoon managers Lee Roberts and Sarah Dinning, have bought the freehold of the Fleece Inn, Barkisland, near Halifax. Agent Christie + Co report the venue received multiple bids and it sold for “in excess of the asking price of £375,000”. Roberts has previously stated that the company has done well in the recession as people “have traded down from fine dining restaurants and turned to pubs for more value”

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