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Fri 27th Apr 2012 - TLC Inns, Titanic and Loungers

Story of the day:

Whitbread targets pub breakfasts and plans to ramp up “coffee-to-go” machines: Whitbread has reported 23 per cent growth in breakfast sales after it opened all its pub restaurant sites for breakfast. The company reversed a decline of 1.6 per cent in sales at its pub restaurants in the first half of its financial year to post a 1.2 per cent increase for the second half. Sales were boosted by the expansion of its “all-you-can-eat” Buffet Place concept to a further 71 Brewers Fayre sites to bring the total to 95 – average sales uplift is six per cent on conversion and a further 25 will open. Chief executive Andy Harrison said that “value offer” meals now account for 39 per cent of all meal sales, a rise of five per cent in a year. Buffet Place sites serve a Chinese Buffet on Mondays from 5pm, a Curry Buffet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm, a Mexican Buffet on Wednesdays from 5pm, a Chip Shop Buffett on Fridays from 5pm and a two-course Sunday Carvery on the Sabbath. Whitbread reported that it had appointed a dedicated management team, both centrally and at site level, which helped drive sales – pubs and Premier Inn management were merged previously. Meanwhile, Whitbread will add 1,000 Costa Express coffee machines to its network in the coming year – there are currently 1,192 Costa Express machines in the UK. The growth of its network will be helped by a contract with Shell to install 500 machines. The Costa Express business, which has a target of 3,000 machines by 2016, builds on the acquisition of the Coffee Nation business – coffee sales rise by 20 per cent when machines are converted from Coffee Nation to Costa Express. Meanwhile, Whitbread has identified 70 locations where it can build a Costa Coffee Drive Thru – it has five open at the moment. The company has also installed Costa “bean to cup” machines across its 387-strong pub restaurant division, which has led to 15 per cent growth in coffee sales. Costa will launch its new Ice Cold Costa range at the start of next month.

Industry news:

Bakers mount pasty tax protest: Several hundreds bakers have staged a protest at Downing Street against plans to tax hot takeaway foods such as pasties. Almost 500,000 people have signed petitions against the proposals, campaigners said. The bakers say taxing fresh, hot food will be unmanageable, difficult to implement and is unfair on customers.

Pinkberry moves into India: Frozen yoghurt firm Pinkberry is set to open its first site in India after signing a franchise agreement with Mumbai-based JSM Corporation, a franchise group that also operates other brands, such as California Pizza Kitchen, Trader Vic’s and Hard Rock Café in India. The franchise group will open its first Pinkberry in Mumbai later this year. Pinkberrry, launched in 2005, has a site in Westfield Stratford City.

Company news:

Starbucks posts nine per cent cappuccino sales lift in the UK: The decision by Starbucks to offer an extra shot of espresso to met UK tastes seems to have paid dividends with a nine per cent rise in sales of cappuccinos and lattes.  Kris Engskov, managing director for Starbucks UK, said: “There’s no doubt that British consumers are under real pressure right now so offering more value when it’s needed most has proved very popular. We can see that changes have struck a chord.” Starbucks is planning to roll out a new franchising model in the UK this year.  The company has 740 UK sites and is planning to open 60 more this year.

Whitbread – no plans to demerge Costa: Whitbread chief executive Andy Harrison has dismissed speculation that he is planning to demerge the company’s Costa Coffee arm as “erroneous”. He insisted he was “concentrating 100 per cent” on growing Costa “for the benefit of Whitbread shareholders”.   

Steve Ford opens his fourth pub - Paddy McGinty’s: South-east businessman Steve Foot has opened his fourth venue – an Irish pub in St Leonards, near Hastings, called Paddy McGinty’s. Foot has partnered with digital display advertising executive Colin Brighton to open the venue. The pair bought the pub for £145,000 and have spent £140,000 on a refurbishment. Ford already operates French’s, The Kings Head and the London Trader in the area.

Nelson Hotels buys third pub: Cheshire-based Nelson Hotels has bought The Fishpool Inn in Delamere, Cheshire, and plans a £1m refurbishment.  The investment will create an extension that will see the venue trade as a gastro-pub when it re-opens in September. Nelson Hotels also operates The Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa near Chester, The Bear’s Paw in Warmingham, and The Pheasant Inn in Higher Burwardsley.

JD Wetherspoon to open in St Ives, Cornwall, next week: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon will open its next pub in St Ives, Cornwall, a town with a population of 11,116, next Tuesday (1 May). The company has spent £1.28 million redeveloping the former Iso Bar in Tregenna Place into a venue that will trade as The Hain Line, named after the Hain Steamship Company.

Two TLC Inns sites to feature in The Only Way is Essex: Two venues operated by award-wining TLC Inns, the six-strong multiple run by Steve Haslam and Jo Drain, has had two venues chosen for location shots in the current series of The Only Way is Essex. Its White Horse pub at Ramsden Heath and Grand Central in Basildon have been chosen for filming – The White Horse featured as a location for the first time on Wednesday night. Haslam told Morning Briefing: “There are a number of other filming days lined up. There was a lot of tweeting going on after Wednesday night’s episode and we’re hoping this will be good for business.” The Sugar Hut in Brentwood saw turnover double after it started to feature in the reality television show.

Former Luminar nightclub in Leeds set to become restaurant complex: The Majestyk nightclub in Leeds, a site previously owned by Luminar and which had a 3,310 capacity, is set to be converted into a restaurants, gym and cinema complex, with a live music venue in the basement. Leeds developer Rushbond has started work on the site having won planning consent for the project. The nightclub closed in 2006 and Luminar attempted unsuccessfully to win a licence to convert it into a casino. Its application was rejected, as was its appeal in 2010.

Mitchells & Butlers to provide 20 “hockey houses”: Managed operator Mitchells & Butlers is to provide 20 official “hockey houses” for the Olympics. The venues will allow fans to congregate to watch the two British hockey teams compete in the games. Hockey Houses will pop up at 20 Mitchells & Butlers pubs, including the O’Neill’s chain, with a further 11 hockey clubs confirmed as Hockey Houses. The Hockey Houses will be dressed in British bunting with life-sized cut-outs of GB players, information on match times, results tables, inflatable hockey sticks & balls, beer mats, drip mats, external branding, and GB Hockey give-aways.

Titanic Brewery reports “phenomenal” April: Titantic Brewery, the brewery that operates six pubs headed by Keith Bott, has reported a “phenomenal” April as demand for its beer soared. Bott told Morning Briefing: “It’s been absolutely phenomenal - an extremely busy first quarter for us. We haven’t missed a single brewing day and had to schedule in extra brewing shifts at weekends.” Titanic has exported large amounts of bottled beer as well producing a range of special commemorative ales. These have included “1912” for Punch and JD Wetherspoon and “Centenary”  ale for Greene King. The company also produced a collaborative brew called “Ship of Dreams” in partnership with New York-based Chelsea Brewing Company for JD Wetherspoon. Each of Titanic’s pubs also staged a week-long series of events to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic. The Bull’s Head in Burslem, for example, sold Titanic iceberg for £1.30 a pint - the price of a 1912 pint in today’s money – or just 3d if customers had the old coins. “It was surprising how many people were hoarding old coins,” said Bott.

Thai chef to re-open pub with an oriental flavour: Thai chef Ooy Rigg and her husband John are re-opening The Old King’s Head in Broughton, a pub that closed last year. John said: “This is our 18th project – we have had takeaways and food nights but this is the first time we’ve tried to run a pub. We’ve refurbished the rooms and painted the place – it looks spectacular. We’re turning part of it into a Thai restaurant but we’re still doing pub food.” The pub re-opens next Tuesday (1 May).

Loungers opens twentieth Lounge in Hove: Loungers, the café bar operated headed by Alex Reilley, has opened its twentieth Lounge site, Modelo Lounge –a former Woolwich Building Society venue in Church Road. Reilley told Morning Briefing: “We’ve gone with a different style shopfront - the site has a deckchair and spider awning as part of the seaside influence. We’ve used a dirty pink colour on the fascia as well - it’s a fairly pink city.” Loungers, which saw a £16m investment from Piper Private Equity earlier this month, also operates three Cosy Club venues. Its next opening will be in Wild Green, Sutton Coldfield, on 23 May. 

Enterpreneur Alex Clarke plans to open second pub in June: Businessman Alex Clarke will fully re-open his second pub, The Black Bull, in Balsham, Cambridgeshire, in June. The pub, which was acquired a year ago, has remained open while Clarke undertakes a refurbishment of the restaurant. A spokesman said: “The renovation has turned into a restoration. At the moment the restaurant has no roof and only two and a half walls. It’s been a lot of hard work and heartache. Fortunately, it is a good-sized pub and the separate bar restaurant can cope with the trade while the restaurant renovation continues.” Clarke’s other pub is The Red Lion in Hinxton.

Faucet Inns applies to create upper floor flats at Camden Town gay bar: Faucet Inns, the London operator led by Steve Cox, has applied to concert the first-floor bar and roof terrace to flats at its Black Cap venue in Camden Town. Locals fear the loss of one of the “best pub food offerings for miles”. A spokesman said: “Faucett are very committed to this pub. It is one of the most iconic venues in London’s gay scene. They are not closing it, merely looking at ways to increase income.”

Slug and Lettuce launches spring/summer menu: Slug & Lettuce, the 73-strong high street brand owned by Stonegate Pub Company, has launched its new spring/summer menus for 2012 with eleven new dishes, including summer holiday favourite calamari served with a sweet chilli dip and lemon and a fisherman’s platter to share, comprising British wholetail scampi, sautéed king prawns in garlic butter, calamari and haddock goujons and served with chips, ciabatta bread strips and garlic Marie Rose and tartare sauces. Chicken, bacon and avocado combinations have been introduced as both a salad and a wrap whilst there are three new tosada flatbreads - spicy beef bean and sour cream; pesto parma ham and mozzarella; and mushrooms goats cheese and onion marmalade.

Couple open their second pub – previously closed for five years: Paul and Fiona Newton have re-opened The Royal Standard at Mary Tavy, which has been shut for five years. They already run The Drewe Arms at Drewsteignton. They regularly passed the Royal Standard while on the school run and visiting family, and after viewing the property became convinced that there was scope to build and develop a flourishing business. The Newtons plan to apply their quality food offer from The Drewe Arms to the new site. The pub had been refurbished by its previous owners in 2007, but was never opened for business. It was on the market through Stonesmith of Exeter with an asking price of £345,000.

Chipotle Mexican Grill lines up two more openings: Chipotle, which currently runs three sites in the UK, has openings lined up for Covent Garden and Islington – its current sites are in Charing Cross, Marylebone and Wardour Street. The company has also started a fax ordering service. Victoria Steward, writing in the London Evening Standard, said: “If it sounds a bit retro, bear with me. Chipotle might be a mega chain in the US but there are only three stores in London currently, and they’re already buzzing. The burritos they make are delicious, bulging, foil-packed food bombs made with Freedom Foods chicken, pork from free-range pigs and locally sourced veg.”

Stonegate issues an “invite to pitch”: Stonegate Pub Company, the 560 strong national pub group, is inviting potential suppliers to pitch their products to them in a bid to find the latest innovation in food, drinks and services. The company, which owns high street brands Yates’s and Slug and Lettuce as well as Scream, Missoula and several non-branded pubs, is hoping to discover the next drinks, food or service craze to storm the industry with its initiative ‘Stonegate Pub Company Challenge’. Businesses and individuals wanting to secure a contract to supply to Stonegate can book themselves a fifteen minute meeting or presentation slot with the group’s purchasing team on the first Wednesday of each month. “There are a lot of great products out there but it’s about finding ones that are different, unique and will fit into our businesses”, said Miles Selby, head of purchasing.

Auctioneer - landmark Ashbourne coaching inn will sell: Two trade buyers are in advanced negotiations to buy the landmark 18-bedroom Green Man coaching inn in Ashbourne, Derbyshire – despite it failing to reach its £450,000 reserve price at auction. The site is currently being run in administration by insolvency firm Cooper Parry. Matt Hilton, of auctioneer HEB, told Morning Briefing: “Ultimately it’s got to sell because it’s in receivership – it’s all about price.”

Chester Race Company opens off-site bar and restaurant: Chester Race Company has opened an off-site bar and restaurant called The Weighing Room, a site in the city formerly known as The Pelican. The opening follows the creation of The Race Company’s 1539 restaurant four years ago which recently picked up a Gold Award at the Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Awards. Chester Race Company spokesman Richard Thomas, said: “The Weighing Room is a great opportunity for us to expand our business and to provide Chester with a new and unique bar concept.” The Weighing Room features a European-themed menu with Tapas-style small plates. Catering manager Phil Doherty said the company had to expand since the race course only had 15 race days a year.

“Filthy” Toby Carvery costs M&B £22,000: A “filthy” Toby Carvery in Enderby, Leicestershire has cost Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) £22,000 in fines and court costs. M&B admitted to three food hygiene lapses at Leicester Magistrates' Court in a case brought by Blaby District Council. During an inspection at the Leicester Road pub in November 2010, environmental health officers found "extremely poor" standards. Dirty pots were piled high on the kitchen floor, with dried food stuck to preparation areas. A spokesman for the Toby Carvery said: “These incidents took place more than 16 months ago and we acted quickly at that time to rectify them.”

Enterprise Inns introduces new communications framework: Enterprise Inns has introduced a new weekly e-mail to licensees and a monthly publication called Empower as part of a new communications framework. Chief operating officer Simon Townsend told Pub and Bar magazine that the company might not have been “as effective as we needed to be in getting (company initiatives) in front of publicans so they could use them.” Chief executive boss Ted Tuppen has told his licensees that the company will be placing a renewed focus on “empowering” its licensees. In an Empower article, Tuppen states: “Let’s be clear – at the heart of everything we do is and must be an absolute passion to empower the great British publican. “Our dialogue with our publicans will, from now on, be even more relevant and informative. We will be communicating more consistently and using modern communication methods. We should be proud of what we have achieved: we are on the front foot for the first time in three years and are determined to make a successful future together.”

Friday opinion:

Subjects: Area managers, the importance of recruiting multiples

Authors: Nick Bish, Giles Kendall

Why we look for excellence in operations managers by Nick Bish: Our industry is more fast-moving, more diverse and commercially more sophisticated than it’s ever been. But the eternal truth for multiple operators in the managed and in the leased sectors is that there must be an effective link between the company’s head office and the individual sites where the money is made. The company makes its profits from profitable businesses and those businesses are only successful if they are run skillfully and professionally; but neither works independently of the other. The connection is the area manager who, on behalf of the company, appoints good licensees and then supports, advises and cajoles their success. At the same time the good area manager is the pub’s champion in head office - insisting on an affordable rent or squeezing capital investment from a tight budget. The ALMR has long noted that this level of management is under-recognised and in many cases under-developed. The Operations Managers Awards sets out first to find and spotlight the seriously good examples of the type, first class managers who thoroughly understand the pub business – often having done the job themselves – and who go many extra miles to coach their new licensees or resolutely underpin the skill of the more experienced ones. The awards have been going 15 years now and have reflected the changing fortunes, style and construction of the industry. We have observed area managers who are utterly competent and experienced but who have become very comfortable in their skill-set and authority, and who will probably never set the retail world on fire. But we are now increasingly seeing individuals who are impressively sophisticated in their business understanding and match that with a field based 24/7 engagement with their pubs and bars - something their predecessors could only marvel at, with their own history of afternoon closing and a headquarters mentality being the comfortable routine. The key element is leadership – easy to say, less easy to do – and for an area manager this is more sophisticated than he or she might care to acknowledge. It’s not about on site, ever present command; it’s about creating an environment of confidence, knowledge and direction that remains in place and effective even when the area manager is elsewhere and may not be back for days or even weeks. It is leaving the certainty that the support, advice and (yes) authority are still there for the licensee facing the day to day rigours of running a pub or bar in these challenging times. Many companies do appreciate this. But if they don’t and just train their area managers in the skills and knowledge about beer and marketing and legal obligations then they will fail to get the best out of their businesses, be they managed or leased. The extra mile in effort has always been a good investment, but the ultimate objective is to believe in your team and to realise that to serve them is to lead them. So the ALMR’s Operations Managers Awards set out to be more than a ‘beauty contest’ of innate talent. The finalists are all involved in the MasterClass delivered by Ashridge Consulting and this three day course is absolutely not designed to enhance ops managers competence or commercial awareness; it’s to make them reassess themselves as managers and leaders; it ‘messes with their brains’ and invites them to look at their world and their responsibilities in a wholly different way. The career curve of MasterClass graduates is self-evidently exponential and a real investment for those companies with the imagination to hire, develop and boost some really good people that make the difference between good and great.
Nick Bish is chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers 

Why Punch Taverns wants more multi-site operators by Giles Kendall: For a tenanted pub company to succeed, it has to attract the best quality retailers it can. It’s an oft-repeated truism, I know. But how do you go about materially improving the quality of the retailers that you attract into a business like Punch Taverns? Well, the starting point for us was listening hard to our existing licensees – and those outside the business we wanted to attract. The outcome has been the introduction of leases that offer flexibility and certainty – and the opportunity for a retailer to earn much bigger discounts if they out-perform at one of our pubs. One example is that we have abandoned rent reviews in our new leases – unless a licensee requests one. The message we wanted to put out was a simple one: Punch is open for business. We want to attract the best multi-site pub retailers in the UK into the estate and we want to forge long and mutually profitable relationships. Part of our approach has been about making sure the message got out. So we’ve sponsored some of the forums where multi-site companies meet – The Publican’s Morning Advertiser MA250 club, where we have been involved for three years now, is an example. A year or so since our new leases were rolled out, the response from the marketplace has been encouraging – at our recent results we were able to report a double digit increase in the number of multiple operators who have decided to partner with us at one of our pubs. We have around £38m to invest in 400 pubs within the estate in the coming year – and we recognise the money is potentially best-spent where we have motivated and experienced multi-siters in place. Looking across our estate of 3,000 core pubs, we now have dozens and dozens of top quality multi-site companies in situ. And many are choosing to expand within the estate as a preferred option. It’s fascinating to see how broadly the retail offers of our multiples range – but with retail excellence the shared underpinning. Neil’s Gatt’s Pesto in the Pub concept, opening at its second Punch pub this month, provides a quality Italian tapas offer in a pub environment. Twickenham Taverns has pioneered a modern re-invention of the traditional Pie and Pint pub at our Sussex Arms in Twickenham. Martyn Hathaway’s Number Works Pub Company has introduced an excellent evolution of the value-food offer at two of our pubs. Leanne Langman’s Cozy Pub Company has introduced the principles of the outstanding Peach Pub Company offer – she worked there for a number of years alongside her brother Lee Cash - at two of our sites in East Anglia. In the past, the attitude of some tenanted pub companies may have been a little ambivalent to these kinds of companies. This is not the case at Punch. We’re been keen to develop our outstanding single site licensees and, when they’re ready, support them in opening second sites and beyond. This month, James Bull and Ross Tunaley, who run Distinctive Inns, have started work on their second Punch pub, a site in Nottingham where we are making a £500,000 joint investment after the runaway success of their first site Punch venue, The Riverside Pub & Kitchen in Farndon. Likewise, Daren Seager, an interior designer by trade whose gift for hospitality is evident at his first pub, The Pear Tree in Hammersmith, will be taking on his second Punch pub shortly. We recognise that our multi-site tenants have their own distinct requirements and we have worked hard – and will work hard – to meet them. The future of the tenanted trade will be all about dynamic retailers – the challenge for Punch is about matching that dynamism.
Giles Kendall is regional operations director at Punch Taverns

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