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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 16th Apr 2012 - Draft House, Fiesta World Buffet and Ormond

Story of the day:

Draft House set for fifth site; considers larger sites: Draft House, the London concept founded by Charlie McVeigh that secured a personal investment from Pizza Express entrepreneur Luke Johnson last year, is “inches away” from securing its fifth site, understood to be in the West End. The news on the fifth site comes as Draft House prepares to open its fourth site, Draft House Lordship. McVeigh told Morning Briefing the company was considering a change to its current strategy of running low-risk smaller venues, in the 750 to 1,200 square foot region in trading space terms. He said: “We’ve gone the very low-risk capital outlay route but there are some interesting shell opportunities. Next year, in particular, there are a few things coming on stream that are larger in scale.” The company would like to add another nine sites by the end of 2015, which would create total turnover in the region of £12m to £15m. But the target could be met by opening fewer but larger sites if the possible strategy change is adopted. McVeigh says the investment from Johnson is working well. “I didn’t know what to expect but we speak almost daily. The level of involvement is high but welcome. (In operational terms) the business has been just me – so it’s great (to have others involved).” Draft House is currently 60 per cent wet and 40 per cent dry but each business is operating with its own trading profile, with wide variations in the sales of wine and cask ale. “All three existing sites are different,” McVeigh told Morning Briefing. “We don’t want to become a ‘beer-geek’ paradise – we’re increasingly marketing our food as an accompaniment to a drink.” 

Weekend catch-up:

Doctors call on government to tackle “obesity epidemic”: The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has called on the government to take “bold and tough” measures to end the role of irresponsible marketing by major drinks and food firms in fuelling an obesity crisis. The academy’s vice-president Terence Stephenson has likened food and drinks firms to tobacco companies that stalled over action that could have saved lives. The academy has called for a ban on firms like McDonalds and Coca-Cola sponsoring major sports events such as the Olympics and for a safe area around schools where fast food outlets are not allowed. It has also called for a ban on the use of celebrities and cartoon figures to sell unhealthy food and drink to children and a requirement that food and drink manufacturers print clear guidelines on products in relation to the amount of calories, sugar, fat and salt they contain. The academy also wants consideration of the introduction of “fat taxes”, like the ones being introduced in Scandinavia, that penalise the buyers of food and drink high in salt, sugar and fat. 

Treasury admits “questions” over minimum pricing: Senior Treasury officials concede there are questions over the legality of the government’s plan to introduce minimum pricing, according to drinks industry sources. The sources claim the concerns were raised at a Whitehall meeting. Treasury officials dispute this version of events, saying that they merely laid out the legal issues. 

Dress maker joins minimum price protests: Dress maker Alice Temperley, whose parents produce cider, has joined the protest against minimum pricing. She said: “It is a crippling tax that would make local cider bought from farms like my parents’ three times more expensive, so ruining the livelihood I grew up with and England’s beautiful orchards.” 

Alcohol smuggling figures “all at sea”: Different government departments have wildly different figures for the scale of alcohol smuggling in the UK. Revenue & Customs believes that lost taxes amount to £1.2bn because of smuggling whereas the Office of National Statistics believes the figure is more like £80m a year. The Revenue’s figures are being used for a new crackdown that would include “tax paid” marks on beer cans and bottles.

Huge public support for plain cigarette packs: Almost two-thirds of consumers support plans to sell cigarettes in plain packets, according to a YouGov survey of 10,000 adults. A total of 62 per cent of respondents support the plan while only 11 per cent oppose it. The poll comes ahead of the publication of a government consultation today on the plan.

Supermarket bargain wine “dull and lacking in character”: Wine expert Graham Mitchell, whose family once ran the El Vino wine bar in Fleet Street, has described most bargain basement supermarket wine as “incredibly dull”, lacking in character, blended and bland. He urged shoppers to avoid £2.99 “bargains” and spend at least £9.99. “Although it’s only three times the price you are getting eight times the quality.”

Double dip avoided but “dismal” growth: The UK has narrowly avoided a double-dip recession but will grow by a “dismal” 0.4 per cent this year, according to the Ernst & Young ITEM club. Unemployment will continue to rise until the middle of this year – it is expected to peak at 9.3 per cent and end up close to three million. Growth is forecast to remain weak this year and end up at around half the 0.8 per cent predicted by the Treasury’s independent forecaster. ITEM said that the economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the three months to March, so narrowly avoiding a double dip recession. 

Barclays admits second mistake on swap sales: Barclays Bank has admitted another serious error in selling interest rate swaps to small and medium-sized business customers. The bank has admitted it mistakenly sold interest rate hedges to small business clients, including a small hotelier, using a presentation that had only been authorised to be shown to “investment professionals”.

Worst drought since 1976: Half of the UK is now officially suffering drought conditions, according to the Environment Agency. The country is now facing its worst water shortages since 1976 with more than 35 million people now living in drought-affected areas. Water shortages will today be declared for the Midlands and the South West - drought has already been declared across London, East Anglia and the South. Plans are being drawn up to trade water between badly affected areas and less badly affected parts of the UK.

Company news:

Four firms appear in Sunday Times private company profit tracker: Four businesses have appeared in a league table produced by the Sunday Times that lists the private companies with the fastest growing profits. Drinks wholesaler Cellars Trends rose from 32nd last year to 21st this year, with annual profit up 85.87 per cent to £7.6m on sales of £86m. Crabbie’s ginger beer maker Halewood International saw profits jump 70.76 per cent to £17.6m on sales of £264m. Patisserie Valerie, the company part-owned by private equity firm Risk Capital Partners, saw profits jump 48.37 per cent to £5.6m on sales of £40.4m. Beer and cider brewer Aston Manor Brewery reported a 47.57 per cent rise in profit to £6.1m on sales of £79.2m.

Diners queue around the block for new restaurant concept: Hungry customers formed a long queue in anticipation of the opening of the first Fiesta World Buffet and Bar in Walsall, a 300 cover restaurant which has created 50 new jobs. Scores of people turned up to take advantage of the first night offer of a 99p meal for the first 99 customers. The £1.2 million restaurant has been launched in the former Chicago Rock Cafe in Lichfield Street, serving an international mix of dishes, among them Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Indian and English food.

Ormond Hospitality Group to open £500,000 sushi and chips restaurant in Brixham: Ormond Hospitality Group is to open a £500,000 restaurant in Brixham’s Fish Quay. Ormond Hospitality Group already operates the successful Glassblowing House Restaurant. Ormond founder John Steven, whose son Ed will run the new eatery, said: “To invest £500,000 in this kind of difficult market you must be pretty confident. We are. The key to the restaurant is its location as well as a tried and tested product in Plymouth, which has been really successful. We understand what people want. It will mainly focus on fish, available at really good value. We know it will work.” The new restaurant, overlooking the inner Brixham harbour and fish quay facility, will create 22 full and part-time jobs. The 100-cover restaurant, would also include a wet fish shop, a sushi bar and a fish and chip counter.

Bitters ‘n’ Twisted set to open top-end steakhouse: Bitters ‘n’ Twisted, the five-strong company led by Matt Scrivens, is to open a steakhouse in Birmingham at Marston’s New Inn in Harborne – its sixth venue will be called New Inn Steak and Ale House. Scrivens, whose existing portfolio includes a traditional pub, a gin bar and a South American cantina, will source all steak from organic Longhorn cattle, reared on natural grassland and dry aged for 28 days. The steaks will be cooked on a charcoal grill to give them a “smoky” edge. New Inn Steak and Ale House will open on 27 April and provide a “compemporary lodge feel”. Last year, Scrivens re-opened Punch Taverns’ Rose Villa Tavern in Birmingham’s up-and-coming Jewellery Quarter. The Rose Villa is described by Britters ‘n’ Twisted as a “grand old boozer given a contemporary twist”. The company was founded in 2006 and its venues include Bodega Bar & Canteen and Jekyll & Hyde.

Companies re-franchise to reduce risk: Reduced sales since the recession has led many big fast-food chains to adopt leaner business models by unloading company-owned outlets to franchisees. The strategy is based on the idea that franchisees will tend to run a tighter ship than a company-owned operation. Since 2007, McDonald’s has reduced its share of company-run restaurants to 19 per cent from 23 per cent. The company operates 6,435 of its 33,510 restaurants world-wide. “It’s making the company more profitable,” says Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s executive who runs a San Diego-based consulting company for McDonald’s franchisees. William Ackman, a hedge-fund founder who is soon to be one of Burger King’s newest investors through his fund’s interest in UK-listed investment vehicle Justice Holdings, said that if “a franchisee has more skin the game, he’s going to put his heart and soul into it”.

Chef & Brewer offers 25 per cent off food bill for two weeks: Chef & Brewer, the food-led 138-strong chain owned by Spirit Pub Company, is running national print adverts offering customers 25 per cent off their food bill until 28 April. The discount coincides with the launch of the brand’s Spring & Summer menu – it applies to food bills of more than £20 and no more than £80. Chef & Brewer currently averages 1,000 covers a week per site, with an average spend-per-head of £11.30. Chief executive Mike Tye has stated that the brand can grow to at least 200 sites and that food occasions drive 85 per cent of all revenue. 

Landlords across Cheltenham have vowed to unite: Licensees in Cheltenham have met to work out ways of sharing best practice and boosting profits. Matt Birch, who runs The Wheatsheaf and Brown Jug, called a meeting of landlords last Wednesday night to fight back against the downturn. He said: “We have a common goal of keeping pubs open and communicating and sharing advice. There must be some way of improving our profits and keeping these doors open.” Martin Horwood MP attended the meeting to give his backing to landlords.

Dancing Duck Brewery franchises food offer at new pub: Dancing Duck Brewery has franchised the food offer at the its new Derby pub, The Exeter Arms, to Martin Roper, who reached the finals of Britain’s Best Dish on TV with his take on the Bakewell Tart. Roper’s franchise goes by the name of The Secret Dining Company. Dishes include scotch ‘n’ roll: a scotch egg, two sausage rolls and hand-cut chips.

Loungers names Hove opening date: Loungers, the café bar concept that received £16m investment from Piper Private Equity last week, has set an opening date for its Hove venue – Wednesday 25th April. The site will be the twenty-first Lounge venue – and it also operates three Cosy Club sites. Piper Private Equity bought a 43.5 per cent stake in the business with founder Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop retaining 50 per cent. The company plans to open 30 to 50 venues in the coming three years.

Abbey Ales to refurbish new Bath venue: Abbey Ales is set to refurbish its new city centre pub in Bath, The Trinity Arms – the work will take two months. Abbey Ales managing director Alan Morgan said he had been keen to buy the pub because of its potential and good location. He said: “I have always thought it could do a lot more. It has a lot of potential and there’s a lot of development in that area. There are some really lovely takeaways, cafés, shops and hotels, and people coming to Bath from the Lower Bristol Road on the bus will soon see it is the place to be.” It will be run by Tycjan Zaleski, who is currently the manager of La Tasca in Broad Street.

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