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Mon 23rd Apr 2012 - Stonegate, Young's and Soho House

Story of the day:

Stonegate Pub Company plans first ‘new generation’ locals' pub: Managed operator Stonegate Pub Company is set to open its first “new generation” locals' pubs this week. The Red Lion on Amos Lane, Wednesfield, Staffordshire, has closed for an investment of £200,000 that will see the venue upgrade its offer – it re-opens this coming Friday (27 April). Gary Eddington, general manager of the Red Lion, said: “The Red Lion is to be the very first of a new breed of “locals pubs” across the country for Stonegate. The aim is to create a pub that is the heart and soul of the community, somewhere for customers to meet and make friends, enjoy a bite to eat and drink and have fun and be entertained. But aside from that, we hope to be home from home for many, by providing Wi-Fi, having a dedicated personal computer for customers to use and even be a delivery point for parcels during times when are customers aren’t at home. By offering above and beyond the pub norm The Red Lion really will be a true locals’ pub.” The refurbishment will see the introduction of the latest information screens, a staging area with state of the art lighting and cameras for bands and entertainment nights and even a fully interactive camera-linked darts board. “The pub will be well and truly a modern local,” added Eddington. 

Propel Opinion: There’s no doubt that a future can be found for the traditional local. Greene King has been successfully re-inventing a number of sites as neighbourhood diners. Better quality, good value food is one answer but a local pub should provide its customers with a range of amenities, ideally better or different to the ones they have at home. The new-look Red Lion, a community pub in a busy village with a population of 33,500 two miles from Wolverhampton, will do just that, providing state-of-the art experiences in everything from darts through to live music.

Weekend catch-up:

ALMR – “shock” over pub beer sales drop: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has expressed shock at the extent of the beer sales drop suffered by pubs in the first quarter of 2012. The British Beer and Pub Association’s (BBPA) Beer Barometer, published last Friday, showed a six per cent drop in volumes compared to a five per cent increase in the off-trade. Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director of the ALMR, said: “There is little surprise that beer sales in pubs have once again fallen - this is part of a long term trend – the shock is how far, how fast and where those sales are going. The Great British Public clearly hasn’t lost its appetite for beer, but not at the prices pubs are having to charge – and all thanks to the Chancellor. “There is no doubt that customer tastes and preferences for what and where they drink are being driven by a toxic shock of beer duty, machine taxes and the late night levy, which make pubs simply uncompetitive compared to the off trade. Supermarkets are using their tax free status on food to subsidise loss leading and pocket money pricing of alcohol.”

Double-dip recession missed by a whisker: A double-dip recession is expected to have been missed by a whisker when growth figures are published this Wednesday. Economists are forecasting the economy grew by 0.3 per cent although there remains a ‘big risk’ of a slide into negative territory.

Late-night levy may only leave casinos and strip clubs: The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has warned that the planned late-night levy, due to be introduced in October, may reduce the options for a late-night drink. David Wilson, director of public affairs at the BBPA, has warned that some local authorities are proving over-eager to get their hands on a new ‘stealth tax’: “Local councils are trying to get their hands on the money way ahead of time. It’s going to generate a lot of ill-feeling and it’s also illogical to charge a rural pub the same way as you would charge a town centre one.” The possible exemption of restaurants, casinos and private clubs from the levy “could well mean that the only places left on the High Street for people to drink later on at night will be gambling haunts or members’ strip clubs”, he added.

Legal high party drugs to be banned: The Government is expected to announce today that two legal high party drugs will be made illegal. The drugs are Ivory Wave and Bonsai, which cause hallucinations and paranoia. Ivory Wave, which has been legally available to buy online for about £15 for 500mg, led to 34 hospital admissions within a particular fortnight. A Home Office spokesman said: “So-called legal highs are frequently toxic chemicals and sometimes contain illegal drugs. They are not safe.”

Retail sales rise in March: Panic buying of petrol in March helped lift retail sales for the month. The Office of National Statistics reported that sales rose by 1.8 per cent in the month. Sales in clothing and shoe shops were up by 2.8 per cent on the year before. Head of retail at Barclays Richard Lowe said: “The tide may finally be turning on the high street and with unemployment falling, there is certainly a feeling that the stability of the past few months is here to stay.”

Men abandon bad habits to outlive women: The abandonment of unhealthy lifestyles means that boys born at the start of the millennium can expect to live to 81.7 years – catching up with girls of the same age. Longer longevity for men only kicks in when they reach 30 – otherwise life expectancy at birth is much better for baby girls than baby boys. The latest ONS figures show at the moment a girl can expect to live to 82.3 years, four years more than a boy at 78.2 years.

Cider maker Julian Temperley criticises minimum pricing: Craft cider maker Julian Temperley has claimed that minimum pricing will “rip the heart out” of 500 West Country businesses like his. “Our cider in Somerset does not fuel inner city riots,” he said. He sells a four-litre container for £5.80 – the minimum price of 40p a unit will take the price to more than £11. “We’ll be forced into the living death of National Trust shops,” he told the Times. 

Alcohol Concern claims hosts in Wales support minimum pricing: Alcohol Concern Cymru has reported a survey of 600 licensees in Wales found 77 per cent in favour of minimum pricing. A total of 48 per cent of licensees said their sales had dropped in the last year and 61 per cent said they expected that to continue over the next 12 months.

Starbucks to end use of cochineal: Starbucks in the US is to end the use of cochineal – a colourant used from the crushed bodies of dried bugs – by June this year after a customer backlash. Items in the US made with the extract include strawberries and crème Frappuccino, strawberry smoothie, raspberry swirl cake, birthday cake pops, mini donuts with pink icing and red velvet whoopee pies.

Chipotle reports 35 per cent rise in profit: Mexican food chain Chipotle, the best-performing restaurant stock in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index last year, has reported first-quarter profit rose 35 percent as US consumers dined out more. The company, which has 1,200 sites and opened its third UK site in Wardour Street on Friday, reported profit up to $62.7 million in its first quarter compared to $46.4 million a year go. Chipotle, which will open 165 sites this year, has sought to attract customers by stressing its locally sourced meat and vegetables as Americans become more concerned with food provenance.

Jamie Oliver – restaurant profits will go towards shaping public opinion: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has suggested that the money generated from his restaurants business will go towards creating public awareness programmes. He told Observor Food Monthly: “Part of what I am trying to do now is create some really sustainable businesses so I can hive off some cash into pots to prove some of (my) ideas about children and food – school gardens, fresh and healthy eating, cooking skills – to a point where public opinion is so strong that no politician dare argue.”

Company news:

Greene King reports strong trading: Suffolk-based brewer and retailer has reported like-for-like sales rose 4.6 per cent in the 50 weeks to 15 April. Food like-for-likes were up 6.3 per cent and 6.7 per cent in the most recent 13 weeks. Average Ebitda in the tenanted estate rose 3.8 per cent. Rooney Anand, chief executive, said: "Our strong trading momentum continued through the final quarter of our financial year, with particularly good growth in our key business, Greene King Retail. Our focus on delivering unrivalled value, service and quality to our customers continues to drive our growth. Following a record Christmas, we achieved very strong like-for-like sales growth on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and St. Patrick's Day. On Mother's Day, we sold 220,000 meals, up 16 per cent on the previous year, with wine sales up 18 per cent. Easter sales this year, despite more mixed weather, were in line with Easter last year. Our success at big events and our performance in London, where like-for-like sales are up 6.7 per cent, bode well for the upcoming summer as we are well placed to benefit from the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 and the Olympics."

Nourish Catering to open site in Ripley as Nourish at 44: A couple who run Nourish Catering – a company that provides catering services to blue chip firms and the education sector – are to re-open the former Imperial Vaults in Ripley, a Greene King site, next month as a bistro called Nourish at 44. Ali and Perry Nadin are planning to incorporate a chef’s larder and al-fresco dining, as well as running cookery classes. Perry worked as an executive chef in a number of well-known restaurants, including one run by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.

Pub People Company launches its own beer today: Pub People Company, the 46-strong East Midlands company led by Kevin Sammons, launches its own beer today at its flagship cask ale house, The Lion, in Basford, near Nottingham. Sir Blondeville 1194 has been brewed exclusively for Pub People by Nottingham Brewery will only be available in around 25 Pub People sites.

JD Wetherspoon plans new Bristol opening: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon has lodged a planning application to convert The Dragon Kiss bar on Whiteladies Road into a new venue called Dorset and Gloster. The site was a Rat and Parrot pub before Dragon Kiss took it over.

Bettys staff share £2.1m pay-out: Staff at the Bettys & Taylor business, the Harrogate-based business that runs tearooms, have shared a £2.1m slice of company profits in the most recent year – the pay-out is worth £1,750 a head for the company’s 1,200 staff. Turnover rose from £102.7m to £117.3m in the most recent year to 31 October 2011. However, profits dipped to £7.8m from £9.4m the year before after a steep rise in costs. The founding Belmont family shared a £1.2m dividend.

Admiral Taverns completes three freehold option leases: Tenanted pub company Admiral Taverns has now completed three freehold option leases, including two sites let to an unnamed multiple operator. The deal allows licensees to buy the freehold of their pub for a set price at the end of three years as tenants. In one of the deals, a family of experienced hoteliers comprising three generations has taken the three-year tenancy of the Beef & Barge, a pub in Bradford on Avon. The two parties signed the deal with a view to Eve Zambo and her family buying the freehold of the premises in three years, at a price already agreed by both parties. The Beef & Barge has also benefitted from a substantial joint investment totalling £90,000 by the Zambo family and Admiral Taverns.

De Vere to sell two hotels to Britannia: De Vere Hotel group is expected to sell two hotels to rival Britannia for £20m – the Riyal Bath in Bouremout and the De Vere Darsbury Park in Warrington, Cheshire. Two more are on the market – The University Arms in Cambridge and the Grand Habour, Southampton. De Vere is also converting around 20 per cent of its rooms to a more upmarket design called Upper Deck.

Pret A Manger expands share scheme: Sandwich and soup chain Pret A Manger is to expand its management and employee share incentive scheme in a move to encourage applicants to the company. Earlier this month, the company extended the number of apprentice places available to the homeless from 40 to 70.

Couple open French boutique hotel and pub hybrid: Licensees Sharon and Tony Stevens have opened a venue, No64 at The Joiners, in West Malling, Kent that combines a pub downstairs with French-style boutique hotel accommodation upstairs. Sharon said: “Lots of smaller places are dying but West Malling is growing.”

Costa to start Tassimo home coffee maker trial: Costa, the coffee shop brand owned by Whitbread, is to start a trial selling Tassimo home coffee makers, made by Kraft, in 40 outlets in the South of England next month. Three types of Costa coffee will be available to use in the machines. Market leader Nespresso saw sales rise 20 per cent last year to £2.4bn after actor George Clooney featured in television adverts.

Young’s aims to break St George’s Day record: London pub operator Young’s aims to break the world record for the most number of people toasting St George in Shakespeare’s words: “Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George” today. The toast will take place at The Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall where customers taking part will be offered a free pint or glass of wine.

Nick Jones opens Little House in Mayfair today: Nick Jones opens the latest branch of his growing Soho House Group in Mayfair today – Little House. The £2.5m opening is in Curzon Street on the site of a former estate agency. Soho House Group sold a 60 per cent stake to California-based investor Ron Buckle earlier this year, reducing Jones’s stake by half to 10 per cent and Richard Caring’s stake from 80 per cent to 30 per cent. Jones told the Sunday Times: “We didn’t have to do the deal. In fact Richard was quite reluctant. I had to persuade him it was just a good option, a good offer.” Soho House openings are scheduled for Toronto, Chicago, Istanbul, Barcelona and Mumbai. 

Barclays introduce stick-on credit card: Barclays has launched a stick-on credit card that can be attached to the back of a mobile phone to allow contactless payments. Millions of Barclaycard customers will be able to sign up for a free PayTag, which can be held against tap-and-go terminals in pubs and restaurants to pay without the need for a PIN. The sticker is about a third of the size of a normal credit card and is linked to a Barclaycard account. It can be put anywhere, but the idea is that fixing it to a mobile phone is the most convenient. The first customers will get the stick-on cards within six weeks.

Mitchells & Butlers to build first new-build Harvester in the north-east: Mitchells & Butlers will open its first new-build Harvester in the north-east at the forthcoming Metroasis development being built at the Metrocentre in Gateshead. The 15,000 square foot development between the Metrocentre and the Metro Retail Park will also house a 4,000 square foot Toby Carvery. Krispy Kreme will open a 4,000-sqaure foot drive through Hotlight store, where customers will be able to see the doughnut-making process taking place from start to finish. Metroasis will be finished in the autumn.

The UK and Russia drive McDonald’s Europe performance: The UK and Russia led McDonald’s European sales growth of five per cent in the quarter to the end of March. A company statement said: “Europe’s emphasis on everyday affordability, premium product innovation and restaurant reimaging continued to provide an appealing restaurant experience and contributed to the segment’s quarterly results.” Overall, company sales grew by seven per cent in the quarter.

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