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Mon 30th Apr 2012 - Hoste Arms, Little Chef and Costa Coffee

Story of the day:

Iconic Hoste Arms, Burnham Market is sold to media entrepreneur: The iconic Hoste Arms in Burnham Market, North Norfolk, has been sold, two years after the death of its owner Paul Whittome, for an undisclosed sum. The coaching inn has been sold to the former chief executive of the second largest Australian media company, Brendan Hopkins and his wife, Bee. Hopkins ran APN News & Media for ten years, but has recently returned to the UK to live near Wells, a few miles from Burnham Market. Paul Whittome and his wife Jeanne turned the Hoste Arms from a neglected village inn into a £7m turnover-a-year business. The coaching inn helped transform Burnham Market and the north Norfolk coast into a fashionable visitor attraction – Burnham Market has been dubbed Chelsea-on-Sea. Paul Whittome died in 2010 and since then the venue has been run by Jeanne. The Hoste Arms was completely full for 151 nights last year without discounts. Jeanne said: “Since 2010 I have received several offers for The Hoste, but I was determined to continue with the developments that Paul and I planned and instigated together; the Beauty Spa was opened more than a year ago and it has been a great success, proving popular with both hotel guests and locals. I was never tempted to sell The Hoste. until I received the right offer from the right people.” The business includes The Hoste Arms Hotel, Vine House, The Railway Inn, The Hoste Beauty and Wellness Spa and the company’s Burnham Market holiday cottages. Hopkins said: “Bee and I are taking over one of the finest boutique hotels in the UK. Many people will remember the humble village inn that Paul Whittome bought in 1990. Over 20 years, he successfully developed it, with the unfailing support of Jeanne and the team, to create the award-winning hotel and restaurant we know and love today.” He added: “The Hoste is a great Norfolk business, well-known nationwide and overseas. Our experience in business in general and travel and tourism in particular, makes us ideal owners of Norfolk’s best-loved hotel.” The new owners plan to build a new function room and an open kitchen.

Weekend catch-up:

School eating much improved in seven years: A report by the Children Food Trust has found that pupils are swapping chips, hamburgers and sweets for soup, sandwiches and fruit juice in the wake of campaigning by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The study found that the proportion of teenagers having chips at lunchtime has dropped from 43 per cent in 2004 to just seven per cent now. The percentage of pupils who are consuming starchy foods cooked in oil or fat is down from 50 per cent to 17 per cent. The number of schools offering pizza every day has fallen from 66 per cent to 50 per cent. Those eating vegetables and salads every day has doubled albeit only to 12 per cent. The percentage of schools offering vegetables and salad four or five days a week is now 98 per cent – up from 60 per cent in 2004. Oliver said the research shows the “huge progress that schools have been making across the country”.

Austerity to lead to a lost decade for the economy: Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has claimed that the British economy risks a lost decade of Japanese-style stagnation unless the government tempers its austerity drive with a strategy for jobs and growth. Balls argues that the economy risks dipping in and out of recession as Japan did in the 1990s. His remarks come as a poll shows consumers are feeling “increasingly anxious”. Two out of five people feel the economy will worsen in the next year and their incomes will drop.

KFC ordered to make £5m payout: An Australian judge has ordered KFC to pay £5.1m to the family of a Sydney girl who suffered brain damage after eating one of the company’s chicken wraps. Monika Samaan ate the wrap in 2005 and was in coma for months and left with brain damage.

Pub owner Chris Evans calls for re-think on opening hours: Celebrity disc jockey Chris Evans, who owns The Mulberry pub in Chiddingfold, has argued that longer licensing hours may have been counter-productive for pubs. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: “Pub all-day opening means less of an event and more of an amorphous splurge. Dare I say, bring back licensing hours? Then pubs wouldn’t need to employ staff to stay open serving no one during quieter times – and then have to close down because costs have risen and revenue is nowhere near what it used to be.”

Cheesecake Factory – numbers still not hit pre-recession levels: Cheesecake Factory, the US brand looking at a UK opening, has reported a 1.9 per cent increase in like-for-likes. However, overall trade levels have still not recovered to pre-recession levels when restaurants were recording average unit volumes of circa $11 million. Today, average unit volumes are just over $10 million.

Holland judge upholds ban on tourists entering dope cafes: A judge in the Netherlands has upheld a new law to ban foreign tourists from entering cannabis cafes. While soft drugs are tolerated, there is growing concern at tourists visiting just for drugs, and foreign dealers selling illegally at home. The ban is due to start in three southern provinces next month, and go nationwide by the end of the year.

Stringfellow’s lapdancer wins right to sue for unfair dismissal: Nadine Quashie has won the right to sue Stringfellow’s for unfair dismissal. She claims she was wrongly dismissed in 2008 over drug-dealing allegations. She had been refused permission to bring the case because she was self-employed. Now a judge has ruled she was employed because the club imposed contractual obligations.

Industry news:

Branded restaurants set to grow by 22 per cent: A new report by Allegra Strategies and Barclays forecasts that sales across the UK’s branded restaurants are set to grow by 22 per cent to £13.6bn by 2015 as dining out becomes increasingly ingrained in consumer behaviour. The research consultancy, which quizzed 300 industry leaders and over 12,000 consumers for its Project Restaurant 2012 report, forecasts that sales in the sector will grow by 5.6 per cent this year to a total of £11.1bn. In the next 12 months, 70 per cent of consumers expect to dine out at the same rate as they have done in the past year, the report showed. But hard-pressed consumers are still hunting out affordable treats, with more than half of those surveyed saying they regularly use discount vouchers. Some 17 per cent of consumers said they would stop going to a restaurant regularly if discounting stopped being offered there. “As discretionary spend continues to come under pressure, consumers are taking active steps to switch their spending towards more affordable restaurants,” Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, said. “As a result there has been a clear shift by operators to meet these price sensitive needs,” he added. Around 45 per cent of restaurant operators expect discounting to become more widespread in future. Almost half of those businesses attributed a boost of up to five per cent in sales to these offers.

Company news:

Little Chef to develop takeaway: All 95 Little Chefs will have takeaway areas by June this year and a new menu offering better value, according to The Daily Telegraph. There will also be unlimited coffee or tea included with the Olympic breakfast for the first time. In addition, more offers will be bundled such as a free KitKat with a takeaway coffee. Chairman Graham Sims reports he is also considering a return to motorway service stations, an arena it left in 1998.

ETM Group’s Jugged Hare receives warm words from food critic Giles Coren: Giles Coren, the food critic of The Times, has praised the Jugged Hare, the tenth opening from ETM Group, the gastro-pub operator owned by Ed and Tom Martin. Coren said: “The Jugged Hare is a very good addition to a good chain of pubs. We are very lucky in London that a place a good as The Jugged Hare is no longer something special in itself.” 

Banwell House to re-open a Red Oak Taverns site: Banwell House Pub Company, the three-strong company headed by Toby Brett, is to re-open The Globe Inn in Priest Row, Wells, Somerset, next month after a refurbishment. The pub is one of 32 pubs that Red Oak Taverns, headed by former Robert Tchenguiz associates Aaron Brown and Mark Grunnell, bought from the former R&L Properties estate that went into administration. He said: “We will get The Globe trading to a good level and then Red Oak will look for a tenant to take it over permanently.” Banwell House also operates The Duke of Cumberland at Holcombe, The Three Horseshoes at Chapmanslade and The Rose and Crown in Trowbridge. 

Greene King plans Hungry Horse for Carlisle: Greene King has started work converting its Turf Tavern, off Hardwicke Circus, in Carlisle to its Hungry Horse brand. The pub is set to reopen in June. Last week, Greene King revealed Hungry Horse has grown to 180 sites, a near doubling of the brand footprint since 2008 when it had 95 sites.

Former Marco Pierre White chef plans Nottingham opening: Chef Craig Thomas, who has worked for Terence Conran, Marco Pierre White and Jean-Christophe Novelli, is to open a restaurant called Aurora, serving “modern eclectic British cooking” in Nottingham’s Lace Market. The venue occupies the basement location of the former Scuffy’s restaurant. Of his time working for Marco Pierre White he says: “Working for Marco was one of the best jobs I ever had. Everything was standardised - he wanted perfection. If you kept your head down and laughed at his jokes, you were fine.”

Well-known Liverpool nightclub closes: A well-known Liverpool nightspot has been shuttered. The closure of Le Bateau, in Duke Street, follows the recent shutting down of two other well-known Liverpool nightspots - The Masque and The Jacaranda. The building, which is understood to have been up for sale for the past year, was home to long-running alternative club night Liquidation.

Costa Coffee approval rating increases: A survey by YouGov in which consumers where asked which of Costa, Starbucks or Coffee Nero they would choose if they were next to each other has found has placed Costa Coffee first with 30 per cent of the vote (up one per cent since the last survey), Starbucks second with 24 per cent (down three points) and Café Nero third with ten per cent of the vote. The poll was conducted on behalf of Whitbread. The company has also revealed that like-for-like growth at its stores remains remarkably consistent despite the age of the venue or region: sites open less than a year have had nine per cent sales growth; sites open for two years or less are reporting six per cent sales growth; sites that have been open for three years or less report six per cent sales growth; even older sites have had five per cent sales growth.

Collyer - Whitbread should keep Costa: Deutsche Bank analyst Geof Collyer has argued that “the greatest value creation would be achieved over the next three to five years by retaining Costa within the Whitbread family”. He added: “Last year, Whitbread’s new milestones were established for Costa to make £100m of EBITA in the 2016 financial year. We are already looking for 24 per cent more than that following (Thursday’s) upgrade and we still believe that Costa forecasts are on the conservative side, with China a big potential swing factor. “By the end of the current financial year, Costs should have hit 75 per cent of last year’s 350 store target for China which could be significantly exceeded if the new 100 stores this year is repeated over the following three years.”

Quality Inns re-opens Four Mile House with new name: Quality Inns, the five-strong pub company founded Easton and Alison Hogben, has re-opened The Four Mile House in Brookthorpe, Gloucestershire, with a new name – Fagin’s. The pub, which is a coaching inn that dates back to 1856, was closed in January by a fire. A Sunday carvery has been introduced, with a cold carvery throughout the week. 

Simon French – Wetherspoon has upside potential: Leisure analyst Simon French, of Panmure Gordon, has reiterated a buy recommendation on JD Wetherspoon. He said: “We estimate the group could buy a further 14.6m shares (circa £60m at the current share price) on share buybacks before Tim Martin’s shareholding (currently 25.7 per cent) gets over 29 per cent and uncomfortably close to the mandatory takeover threshold of 30 per cent. Consequently, we think over the medium-term a rebasing upwards of the dividend (current cash cost of circa £15m per annum) is likely. We reiterate our Buy recommendation and 475p Target Price, implying 17 per cent upside potential.”

Café Rouge plans second Norwich site: Cafe Rouge, the chain owned by Tragus, is applying for a premises licence for one of the units in Chapelfield shopping centre in Norwich. A Cafe Rouge spokesman told The Eastern Daily Press: “We are currently looking into opening a second Café Rouge restaurant in Norwich. We are unable to comment further at this time.” The existing Café Rouge in Norwich in located Exchange Street. A provisional opening date of September has been scheduled for the new site.

Brain’s chief executive appointed as Wales Commissioner: Scott Waddington, the chief executive of Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain, has been appointed Wales Commissioner to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The appointment runs for three years to 31st March 2015. Jeff Cuthbert, Welsh Deputy Minister for Skills said: “The appointment will ensure that the Welsh skills agenda and Welsh employers’ needs are recognised across the UK, and, at the same time, Scott will play a key role in championing the UK Commission’s aim to raise employer ambition and investment in skills.”

Seventeenth Coffee #1 opens: Coffee #1, the coffee chain acquired by Brain’s last October, has opened its newest branch on Cardiff’s Cathedral Road. Three of the chain’s outlets are in Cardiff, and others across Wales and South West England. The Cathedral Road coffee shop is on the site of the former Ballantyne’s wine merchant, and is creating seven new jobs. Coffee #1’s managing director Philip Lay said: “(It’s) a charming area where café culture is part of the swing of life for the vibrant urban demographic. What’s unique about Coffee #1, which sets us apart from other cafes, is our relentless pursuit of excellence in our coffee.”

Domino’s scoops Best App award: Domino’s Pizza has won the Best Food & Cooking award in the prestigious Carphone Warehouse Appys 2012, which celebrates development and innovation in app technology. Dave Masters, online features editor of The Sun and Appys judge, said: “Domino’s Pizza is how takeaway apps on your iPad should be - mouthwatering menus with a slick and simple display. It should be used along with a screen cover as it may induce dribbling.”

Market Town Taverns founder unveils new beer for Roosters Brewery: The founder of Market Town Taverns, Ian Fozard has unveiled a new beer for the Roosters Brewery business, based in Knaresborough, that he acquired last year. Buckeye, a pale session ale, brewed at 3.5 per cent abv, has been added to the brewery’s regular brood of beers permanently on offer. The beer has been designed to offer both landlords and customers a lower strength beer that’s packed full of hop character and aromas. Fozard sold Market Town Taverns to Isle of Man based Heron and Brearley last year and will continue running the business until the end of 2012. 

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