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Tue 24th Apr 2012 - Living Room, TCG and Norman Musa

Story of the day:

Family appeal and high quality food leading to more pub visits: A survey of 1,000 UK consumers by food service research company Technomic has found nearly a fifth (18 per cent) visiting the pub more often than a year ago. Half of young consumers, aged 18 to 24, reported they are visiting pubs more often that a year before. One third of the total group attributes their increased pub patronage to the higher-quality food options available. In addition, roughly a quarter of consumers who are visiting pubs more often cite an improved atmosphere and stronger family appeal as the reasons for increased patronage. Technomic’s Menumonitor survey shows that 26 per cent of UK pubs now offer breakfast. Pub main dishes with the greatest growth on menus in the past two years are: burgers (nine per cent), combo plates (21 per cent), pizza (61 per cent), vegetable dishes (74 per cent) and Asian offers (183 per cent). The Technomic report states: “These main dishes show the versatility with which pub operators are developing lunch and dinner menus in order to give guests more variety.” The report found that 62 per cent of pubs serving food now have a kids’ menu, up from 48 per cent in 2009. Items with particular appeal to kids – pasta, burgers and ice cream – have increased on menus by 15 per cent in the past two years. The Technomic report added: “Food is a driver for growth on non-alcoholic beverages at pubs. Over the past two years, breakfast has fuelled the addition of speciality coffees and juices, and “mocktails” or signature fruit-based “fizz” and “cooler” drinks that complement expanding food menus.” To buy a copy of the Technomic report, contact David Wilkinson on dwilkinson@technomic.com

Industry news:

Grocer magazine warns drinkers of £1 a bottle rise: The Grocer magazine has reported that a poor grape harvest in a number of regions has caused trade concern that there could be a global shortage. Vineyards in the US have been affected by colder weather while Italian producers have also seen a below-par harvest. The net effect is that wine could rise in price by as much as £1 a bottle. 

London transport chiefs warn of 15 million journeys a day during Olympics: There is likely to be an extra three million journeys a day during the Olympics and Paralympics. Tube and mainline rail bosses combined to warn the transport network could be just as busy on some days during the Paralympics as during the Games. The warnings came as Transport for London (TfL) published a list of congestion “hotspot” stations across the capital. But there are far more “hotspots” - where congestion is expected to be so severe commuters are being advised to avoid them at all costs - than first forecast. Transport bosses say the impact will only be eased if commuters stay away - either taking annual holidays, working from home, staggering their usual hours or even cycling or walking instead of taking the Tube.

McDonald’s president provides overview of the way ahead: Don Thompson, president and chief operating for McDonald’s, has suggested learning from the European business and focusing on healthy menu items are key parts of future planning at the company. He said: “When we talk about modernising the customer experience, technology will play a big role in that, and so will the new look of McDonald’s. When we talk about optimising the menu, we’ll be more focused on nutrition-based products, as well as our core items and premium products like those coming out of Europe. We’ve proven that we can scale products and learn from our other areas of the world, and we’ll do that at an accelerated pace.”

Small businesses hit by high interest rates and low levels of lending: Small businesses are being hit by the highest interest rates in three years and plunging levels of lending. Bank of England figures have shown that lending to small companies has been dropping for nearly three years. At the moment, small firms in Britain are paying an average interest rate of 4.83 per cent, almost ten times the base rate. Since October 2009, lending to small firms has dropped every single month compared with the same month in the previous year.

Eating at the table leads to healthier, slimmer, smarter kids: Partaking in family meal times at the table leads to healthier children who are less likely to be overweight. Researchers at the State University of New Jersey found that children from families that regularly gathered around the dinner table tended to eat more fruit and vegetables than families who had less structured meal times. Children in families with structured meal times tended to do better at school as well. 

Weightwatchers to sell “grab and go” meals on the high street: Weightwatchers is to open Lifestyle Centres in high street shops selling “grab and go” meals. The first site has opened in Reading selling meal deals and 150 other food products. From a starting price of £3.50, shoppers can get a healthy wrap, sandwich, or a chilled ready meal plus fruit and a drink – food items have a calorie count provided. Weightwatchers already has stand-alone stores in the US, Australia and China.

Company news:

Greene King doubles Hungry Horse estate in four years: Greene King has virtually doubled its Hungry Horse estate in four years. The company now runs 180 Hungry Horses compared to the 95 sites it had in April 2008. Last year, the company shifted its focus to building Hungry Horse sites on green-field sites – earlier openings focused on conversions of pubs from within the estate. Hungry Horse was originally a concept developed by veteran leisure entrepreneur Michael Cannon. In recent years, its focus on value-food has seen it provide double digit sales growth for Greene King.

Mitchells & Butlers lines up three more new-build Harvesters: Managed operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has three more new-build Harvester sites lined up. The sites are in York, Halifax and Aintree, Liverpool. All three are scheduled to open before a fourth new-build site mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Briefing – a site in Gateshead. The company’s only other north-east Harvester is a Brewers Fayre conversion in Sunderland which is understood to have seen very strong growth since it opened four years ago. M&B opened its 200th Harvester, a site in Peterborough, earlier this month.

JD Wetherspoon gets the go-ahead in Selby: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon has been given the green light for a £1 million plan to open its first outlet in Selby. The district council has granted planning permission for the company to convert the former Everatts furniture store in Gowthorpe, which closed in October last year after 75 years. A number of restrictions have been put in place after neighbour concerns were raised. Use of the beer garden, which will be created to the rear of the pub, has been restricted to no earlier than 11am and no later than 9pm on Monday to Saturdays.

The UK’s youngest landlord takes on second pub: A budding actor and the UK’s youngest licensee has taken on his second pub – a Punch Taverns site. Thomas O’Toole, who has appeared in Hollyoaks, has been running Madison’s Wine Bar, in Burnley Road, Rawtenstall, for seven months. Now he has added The Bridge End Hotel, in Helmshore to his business interests. Thomas said: “Punch Taverns offered me a really good deal on the rent of The Bridge End. If I’m honest the opportunity was just too good to turn down. The pub trade is definitely picking up, there is no doubt about that.”

Popstar Peter Andre to open second coffee shop in Brighton - despite hygiene problems at first: Celebrity Peter Andre is to press ahead with plans to open a second coffee shop in Brighton despite a poor food hygiene report on his first New York Coffee Club site in East Grinstead. When council inspectors visited the pop-star's cafe in East Grinstead, West Sussex, they found a number of hygiene issues, including dirty floors, overflowing bins and chicken being thawed unsafely. In a statement on his website Peter Andre wrote: “I am a new business owner and we got a couple of things wrong, However, this has all now been sorted and I can't wait to open up the new store in Brighton later this year.”

Stonegate re-opens Canterbury pub with a pizza offer: Managed operator Stonegate has re-opened a Scream student venue, the Penny Theatre pub, after a £200,000 refurbishment, with a £4.75 pizza offer. Craig Coppen, manager of the Penny Theatre, said: “We’ve introduced new, large tables in the centre of what used to be the pit area and they are great for people meeting up for studying or discussing projects during the daytime, particularly as we have free WiFi. In the evening they create the perfect setting for large groups of friends looking to have a drink or two and a bite to eat. Along with the new look, we’ve also got some new offers including our pizza selection which are cooked to order using freshly made dough and a range of toppings – the quality of pizzas that start at £4.75 are just fantastic.” The venue has also added two cask ales to its offer.

Bracknell couple open second pub: Bracknell couple Steve and Janine Holden have opened their second site in the town. They already operate the Golden Farmer pub in Easthampstead and have now re-opened The Red Lion in Bracknell High Street. Steve Holden said he thought it was a good time to take on a property in the town centre, to be in a prime position when it is regenerated. The couple have turned The Red Lion into a gastro-pub and restaurant. Steve said: “We just think there’s a market for dining in Bracknell, somewhere if people want to go for a real ale, for steaks and English food.”

Orchid’s Living Room launches new menu: Living Room, the brand operated by Orchid, has launched a new menu that features low calorie badging, home-made desserts, free gourmet butter and sauces and fixed-price offers. Maria Williams, marketing manager at The Living Room, said: “The new seasonal menu focuses on the key trends that we are seeing when it comes to dining out – from healthy options to making the most of fresh produce.”

Malaysian chef to open second restaurant in York: A top Malaysian chef is set to open a second UK restaurant. The venue, in York, will eventually house a cookery school as well. Norman Musa, who has his own TV show in Malaysia and formerly catered to the Lotus Formula 1 team, is converting the former Jade Garden Cantonese restaurant in Tower Street into a Malaysian restaurant called Ning. The restaurant will open on 1 May, with the cookery school due to open at the restaurant later in the year. Musa’s Ning Cookery School in Manchester – where his first restaurant is based – has taught hundreds of amateur cooks since 2007 and he said he hoped to emulate that in York. He said he was a “chef on a mission to make Malaysian food widely known”. He added: “It’s diverse and delicious, bringing together the culinary influences of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Arab and Portuguese cooking from my country’s heritage.”

TCG to launch Wok Out menu concept: Managed pub and bar group TCG is launching an innovative food concept, Wok Out, at the end of April. Quick to serve and offering great value for money, Wok Out is intended to drive incremental food sales during traditionally drink-led occasions. At more than 30 TCG venues, customers will be able to buy cartons of hot, freshly-cooked snack meals from front-of-house serving stations, or served at their tables by waiting staff from usherette-style trays. Wok Out will be available in four flavours: sweet chilli chicken or vegetable chow mein with noodles; chicken curry with rice; and meatballs with pasta. Cooking times start at just two minutes, making them ideal impulse orders for customers when watching sport or live music, or when exiting the pub. Nick Francis, commercial director of TCG, said: “Wok Out is a great opportunity to build food trade in our pubs and bars, and we expect it to be a popular addition during the Euro 2012 finals and Olympics this summer. Starting at just £2.95 a carton, it’s a value for money way for consumers to fill the ‘hunger gap’. Too many licensees are familiar with the sight of customers deserting them for the nearest takeaway once the final whistle has blown. Wok Out will keep customers in the pub, and secure a share of the spend currently going to local food outlets.”

Pub in Southampton relaunches as The Titanic: A pub in Southampton has relaunched as The Titanic to mark the link between the ill-fated liner and the city – it called in at the city before its collision with an iceberg. It is believed to be the only pub in the country to carry the name of the White Star liner. The pub, formerly the Endeavour, has been refurbished and decked out with replica memorabilia from the ship and a picture of Titanic and the White Star flag appear on the pub sign.

Family to bring German-style ice cream parlour to Stamford: A service family that has spent time in Germany is to introduce a German-style ice cream parlour to Stamford, Lincolnshire. Mark and Amanda Bladen will open The Ice Cream Café in Star Lane. Amanda said: “As an RAF family we have spent a lot of time in Germany which has some wonderful ice cream parlours. “We moved here in 1997 and have always thought something similar would do well in Stamford and have finally decided to go for it.” The venue is expected to open on 12 May.

Heineken unveils London 2012 Holland Heineken House at Alexandra Palace: Heineken has provided the first glimpse of Heineken House, the official home of the Dutch Olympics team at Alexandra Palace. Entertainment at the venue will be varied with bars and restaurants as well as sport activities and appearances by top DJs and performers from the Netherlands. Holland Heineken House is due to open on 26 July, the day before the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Stratford. Holland Heineken House welcomed 100,000 fans in Beijing 2008. London 2012 will see Holland Heineken House in operation for the 11th consecutive Olympics after it first appeared at the Barcelona 1992 Games while Alexandra Palace is set to provide the backdrop for the biggest edition of the venue to date. Entrance to Holland Heineken House during the Olympics is by ticket only. The venue will be open from 10.30am to 2am every day until it closes on 12 August following the Olympic Closing Ceremony.

Vianet reports profits on track: Vianet, the company formerly known as Brulines, has reported it expects to hit full-year profits of around £4m. The company said: “The re-launch of i-draught and the introduction of the Group's Nucleus Smart Tills were received very positively by customers, many of whom have been carrying out extensive evaluations of i-draught on new sites and as a replacement for standard beer monitoring. Increased i-draught penetration is being achieved across the on-premise draught beer market, where it now accounts for over ten per cent of the group's installation base.”

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