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Mon 2nd Apr 2012 - McDonald’s, Enterprise and Heston Blumenthal

Story of the day:

ALMR set to expand with addition of BEDA members: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is set to absorb the smaller trade body for late-night venues BEDA in a move that will increase member companies of the ALMR to around 140 from the current 101. Among the late night operators represented by BEDA is Luminar, the UK’s largest nightclub company. The move, which will be ratified by BEDA members at an Extraordinary General Meeting in April, will mean that the ALMR represents companies employing an estimated 285,000 staff in the pub, bar and restaurant sector in the UK. The move follows extensive collaboration between the two trade bodies in the past year on late night licensing and entertainment. The two organisations hope the move will allow a pooling of “resources and expertise”. ALMR chairman Steve Richards said: “I am thrilled to see BEDA join forces with our organisation. ALMR already operates across all segments of the market and the new combined group will give us greater strength in depth. Crucially, for the first time, government will have one single, clear retail voice to listen to which represents the whole of our vibrant and diverse industry. One trade body dedicated to representing all operator interests – from casual dining to late night bars – not only makes sense, it gives us an informed and effective platform better to influence policy.” Nick Bish, chief executive of the ALMR, said: “Separately, BEDA and ALMR have a track record of delivering for operators; together now we will provide an even better service - clear, authoritative representation for all retailers across all segments of the eating and drinking out market. That united position is needed more than ever given the economic, political and regulatory climate.” BEDA chairman John Hayes will head-up the late night division of the ALMR. The BEDA office in Stockport will become the ALMR office in the North.

Propel Opinion: The absorption of BEDA members within the ALMR is one more step in the direction of creating a powerful single voice for those who retail in the on-trade and food service sectors. The past year has seen a host of new members join the ALMR for the first time. Among the bigger new members have been Spirit Pub Company, JD Wetherspoon, TGI Friday, Stonegate Pub Company, Intertain, Amber Taverns and LT Pub Management, between them running around 3,700 pubs and restaurants. 

People:

Enterprise Inns hires Diageo man as commercial director: Enterprise Inns is set to appoint a senior Diageo executive to the post of commercial director, Morning Briefing has learnt. The tenanted operator is thought to have recruited Diageo’s Western Europe head of customer collaboration Ed Cottrell as its new commercial director. Cottrell conceived and built the company’s new European Customer Collaboration Centre, a facility for joint customer planning, innovation and execution across all channels. The centre is regarded as the best facility of its type in the industry. Cottrell has also served as global marketing manager at Diageo and fine wine director at Bibendum. He is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and served for three years in the Coldstream Guards. The announcement of Cottrell’s appointment could come as soon as this week.

Weekend catch-up:

Pubs are fighting back: Pubs are staging a wide variety of different events as part of Camra’s Community Pubs Month initiative to boost trade, according to The Independent. These include pig-racing, medieval banquets and an “Enter the Dragon” event at The Nelson Inn in Ludlow – customers who bring their mother-in-law to the pub can claim a free drink. A new survey of 1,000 people by CAMRA, due to be released today, has found the pub remains a core part of British life for than three-quarters of those surveyed, although 35 per cent said a pub had closed in their area in the past 12 months.

“Beer goggles” based on scientific fact: Scientists have found a scientific underpinning for “beer goggles” – the loss of discernment in choosing a partner under the influence of alcohol. Test by researchers at Roehampton University found that even a little alcohol reduced the ability to assess facial symmetry, which plays a key role in human mate selection. The effect was found to be particularly pronounced in women, with female drinkers less able to distinguish between attractive and less attractive men after just a few drinks.

Motorway service station becomes first to win five stars: Tebay Services southbound, between junctions 39 and 38 of the M6 in Cumbria, has become the first service station in the UK to win top marks – five stars – in an internal motorway service station scheme that checks standards at the country’s 107 motorway service stations. The scheme, paid for by the six major service station operators, will allow service stations to display their star rating.

Drunken yobs to face swift justice: Magistrates’ courts are to be ordered to sit in the early evenings, mornings and at weekends as part of a plan to deliver “short, sharp shocks” to offenders who commit offences when drunk. The scheme, which builds on the experience of last summer’s riots, when courts opened at unusual hours to deal with offences swiftly, will see up to 100 magistrates’ courts begin extended opening later this year.

Asparagus is four weeks early: Unusually warm March weather has meant that asparagus has ripened four weeks ahead of schedule. Farmers in Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, have been harvesting the crop this week – almost a month before St George’s Day on 23 April when the vegetable is due to be harvested. The British Asparagus Association says it is the earliest recorded harvest for asparagus and it will be on shelves within days. Asparagus consumption has risen from 2.1 per cent of British households in 2001 to 16.5 per cent last year. 

Chip shop owners join VAT revolt: Hundreds of chip shop owners are taking legal action against Her Majesty’s Revenues & Customs (HMRC) claiming that VAT should not be charged at 20 per cent on their takeaway food. A test case is to be brought on behalf of the National Federation of Fish Friers in the wake of success by a German sausage seller, Manfred Bog, who won a VAT refund because his sausages required so little preparation they did not constitute a catering service. Fish and chip shop owners will argue that they are not providing a service, but simply supplying goods to be taken away.

Micro-clubbing is on the rise: More and more clubs are staging events earlier in the evening and not charging for entry. The rise of “micro-clubbing “ sees events fitted into the hours before midnight, but often starting from late afternoon. Kate Hutchinson, clubs editor at Time Out London, describes it as “commuter raving”.

Breakfast is McDonald’s secret weapon: Influential business magazine Forbes has reported that the proportion of McDonald’s restaurants that open early is rising with 40 per cent of its outlets in the US open 24-hours-a-day and 89 per cent of its outlets open by 5 am. The magazine stated: “A major reason why the average number of customers at a McDonald’s restaurants in a year keeps creeping up is because of the restaurant chain’s ability to attract customers at time slots which would otherwise be considered unusual.”

Balthazar set for autumn opening in Covent Garden: The London version of the highly-rated New York eatery Balthazar is set to open in Russell Street in the autumn in a joint venture between owner Keith McNally and Richard Caring. McNally was born in London and lived in the city until he was in his early 20s – he now owns nine of New York’s best-regarded venues. He credits Paris cafes that he visited in his late teens as the inspiration for his restaurants. He told Eqsuire: “I’d always hated pubs and pubs life and suddenly here were cafes with decent food and great coffee, where one could sit for hours and read and see attractive women and not be threatened by louts. To a degree my restaurants are an extension of this early experience.”

C&C offers Scottish landlords £10m: Tennent Caledonian is understood to have set up a £10m fund to lend to Scottish landlords to refurbish their premises and make acquisitions, up from £6m last year. The firm has hired Kenny Barclay, a corporate finance specialist from “big four” accountancy firm PwC as its trade investment manager to ramp up the programme, alongside head of business development Jim Young. In the latest deal, Tennent’s is lending an undisclosed sum to Maclay Group to refit its 26 pubs – including Bert’s Bar in Edinburgh and Lansdowne Bar in Glasgow – and to make acquisitions.

Company news:

Quaglino’s owner D&D London set to hire sale advisor: D&D London, the restaurant company founded by Sir Terence Conran that operates Pont de la Tour, is set to appoint Rothschild to advise on the sale of a majority stake, according to the Sunday Times. The company wants to find an investor to buy Conran’s 51 per cent stake and the 18 per cent owned by Caird Capital. The rest of the company will be retained by D&D’s executives who want a backer to fund an expansion plan that starts with the opening this summer of the company’s first hotel. Sales at D&D London are around £74m per annum.

Lincolnshire multi-site operator gets brewery go-ahead: Highly rated Lincolnshire multi-site pub operator Michael Thurlby has won planning consent to open a micro-brewery in Bourne, Lincolnshire. His brewing business will be called Stamford and Bourne Brewing Company. Thurlby and business partner Simon Raines submitted the plans to revamp an industrial premises in The Arena, off Roman Bank in Bourne, saying they had outgrown their current premises at Ufford Ale at the White Hart in Ufford. The pair had originally planned to open in a former tyre and exhaust centre in St Leonard’s Street, Stamford, but ditched the plans after they ran into problems on the site. Thurlby runs seven pubs in Lincolnshire and won a Camra Design Award for the conversion of the Tobbie Norris from a non-licensed premises. His other pubs include the Crown Hotel and the Periwig in Stamford. Thurlby is also currently undertaking a major refurbishment of his Jubilee pub in North Street, Bourne, which will re-open this coming Friday 6 April (Good Friday) with a garage theme – he is installing a VW themed bar. The pub will also revert to a former name – Jubilee Garage.

Greggs opens 200th London bakery: Newcastle-based bakery chain Greggs opened its 200th site in London on Friday – a venue in Cheapside in the City. Chief executive Kennedy McMeikan has launched a petition protesting at the proposed increase in VAT on hot takeaway food. He said: “Within a few hours the branch had 500 signatures. I may get to present it to the Prime Minister in May. I’ll take some freshly baked savouries for the chancellor.” 

Masterchef winner opens Oxton restaurant: Masterchef winner Claire Lara has opened a restaurant, the Riverhill in Oxton. Guest of honour was Master Chef judge Michel Roux Jnr. He said: “Claire is such a talented chef. When she won the show I promised her that I would be at the launch whenever and wherever she chose to open her restaurant. The Master Chef winners don’t just win a trophy – they win my heart and none more so than Claire. She makes the most exquisite food.”

Oasby Pub Company takes second site: Oasby Pub Company, led by former Marco Pierre White chef John Blenkiron, has taken on a second pub, The Houblon Arms in Oasby, near Grantham, Lincolnshire. Oasby’s first pub in The Tally Ho in Aswarby. Blenkiron has worked for Ainsley Harriott at London West India Gentlemans Club and opened The Sugar Reef in Piccadilly Circus for White. The Houblon Arms will serve “modern cuisine with a Mediterranean feel”.

Consortium to re-open Wirral pub: A consortium is to re-open The Admiral pub in Rock Ferry after a £200,000 refurbishment. Members of the nearby Royal Mersey Yacht Club (RMYC) formed a consortium to buy The Admiral, which had lain empty for 18 months, and it has now been taken over by a team of new owners including Alan Tuohey, former owner of Villa Jazz in Oxton and Pollards in Willaston. Tuohey said: “It’s going to be a good local pub with real ale, a decent food offering and live music.” A tentative re-opening date for The Admiral – which will be renamed The Admiral Refreshment Rooms – is Monday, 11 June.

Heson Blumenthal starts live music at his pub: Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal has started hosting live music nights at his Bray pub, The Crown. The live music nights take place every Monday from 8pm in an evening called I Crown Mondays. There is the house band twice a month, but on each second Monday the pub hosts an open mic night for aspiring singers to share their talents. Performers are free to perform songs of their choice. The final Monday of the month sees a Live and Unsigned night.

Ask to open in Horsham: Ye Old King’s Head pub in Horsham re-opens as an Ask this week. The venue, which was a hotel with restaurant and coffee shop, was abruptly closed by its owners in 2004 and subsequently boarded up. The venue re-opens tomorrow (Tuesday 3 April).

Number Works Pub Company set to open sixth site: Number Works Pub Company, the fast-expanding multiple led by Martyn Hathaway that is pioneering a new value-offer based around the fixed price points of £2, £4, £6 and £8, is to open its sixth site this Wednesday (4 April). The Full Pitcher in Ledbury will open after a £100,000 refurbishment. A seventh pub, The Salway Arms in Ludlow is due to open in June. Hathaway, who opened two Punch Taverns pubs last year, told Morning Briefing: “I’m interested in franchising my offer – I just need to find someone who is experienced in franchising so we can get it right.”

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