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Wed 2nd May 2012 - LT Management, Marston’s and Loungers

Story of the day:

JD Wetherspoon tax bill to rise by £11m: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon has revealed its tax bill for the coming year will rise by £11m thanks to extra taxes in March’s budget. AWP machine taxes will cost £2m per annum, the late-night levy will also cost £2m, with extra excise duty making up the rest. The company stated: “The extra taxes on fruit/slot machines and the late-night levy are not applicable to supermarkets, so the tax disparity between supermarkets and pubs has been further increased. “The total tax bill for Wetherspoon in the current financial year, including VAT, excise duty, corporation and other taxes will be approximately half a billion pounds - about a £50 million increase - compared with the previous financial year. We have also created approximately 3,000 jobs in the same period, but all of the economic benefits of our expansion are currently being levied by the government as taxes - an unsustainable situation. “Many companies in the pub and catering industry, including Fuller’s, Robinsons, Shepherd Neame and Thwaites, for example, have joined the ‘VAT Club’, headed by Jacques Borel, and are urging the government to reduce VAT for our industry, along with many other countries, in order to generate additional jobs and taxes for their economies. The current tax system, whereby pubs pay 20 per cent VAT on food sales, while supermarkets pay virtually nothing, is bad for jobs and taxes.” For the 13 weeks to 22 April 2012, like-for-like sales increased by two per cent. The company forecast it would open 20 to 30 pubs next year, down from 40 this year. 

Industry news:

Northern Ireland pub face penalty points system: A penalty points system to deal with underage drinking in pubs and clubs throughout Northern Ireland was introduced yesterday. As part of the proof of age scheme, bars have been issued with an official list of identification cards acceptable by law. Any establishments found to be in breach of the guidelines will be issued with 'penalty points'. Bars and clubs accumulating ten penalty points in a three year period will have their licence revoked for a minimum of one week and maximum of three months.

The Manchester derby breaks Sky viewing record: The Manchester derby title showdown set a new record for Sky Sports, with the audience peaking at 4.2m viewers on Monday night. The previous record dates back to September 2003, when Sky had the rights to show an Euro 2004 qualifier between England and Turkey.

Norfolk bucks pub closures trend: The county of Norfolk has bucked the pub closures trend with six net openings between September last year and March this year. Rita McCluskey, landlady at The Adam and Eve pub in Bishopgate, told the Norwich Evening News: “The quality and quantity of local real ales is exceptional. There’s been a huge rise in the number of places brewing, and they are all hitting the right formula and finding a market.”

Beer duty petition hits 35,000 signatures: The CAMRA petition aiming to force a debate on Parliament in relation to the beer duty escalator has passed 35,000 signatures. A total of 100,000 signatures are required to prompt the debate. JD Wetherspoon has added details of the petition to its website. 

Moody’s – Olympics unlikely to provide long-term boost: Credit agency Moody’s has argued that the Olympics are “unlikely” to provide a substantial boost to the economy. Spokesman Richard Morawetz said: “The net impact of the Olympics on UK tourism will be positive overall, but far less than gross visitor numbers would suggest.”

Garlic better than antibiotics: A compound in garlic is 100 times better than two well-known antibiotics at fighting a leading cause of food poisoning – and takes a fraction of the time to work. The discovery could lead to new ways of treating raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces.

Company news:

Whiting & Hammond works on “exciting starters”: Whiting & Hammond, the six-strong operator led by Brian Whiting, is focused on creating exciting starters to increase spend-per-head. Yesterday, its Mark Cross Inn, near Tunbridge Wells, introduced a range of innovative items to the menu - smoke salmon and fried quails eggs (£6.50), potted pork belly (£6.95) and potted confit of duck (£7.95). Whiting told Morning Briefing: “We’ve given our chefs a bit of a free run on starters – we’ve made a concerted effort at both ends of the menu to get up-sell. We’re also focused on more staff training with CPL Training. I want my staff to be much more knowledgeable when talking to customers – so they know not only how the mackerel is prepared but where it comes from.”

Draft House reports Royal Wedding Week anniversary bounce: Draft House, the London operator headed by Charlie McVeigh, has reported that the anniversary of the Royal Wedding provided a like-for-like sales bounce. McVeigh told Morning Briefing: “Last week we were up 27 per cent like-for-like at existing sites after a great week and an appalling one last year due to London being empty.” The Royal Wedding in 2011 provided mixed fortunes for London pubs with streets around the route packed but wedding-watchers often bringing their own food and drink. Other parts of London were quiet because it was a Bank Holiday and many people took extended breaks.

LT Management appointed to provide field operational support at Little Chef: Road side restaurant business Little Chef has appointed LT Management Services as its field operational support provider. The move comes as the business restructures under the leadership of recently appointed chairman Graham Sims and the continued ownership of the turnaround investment specialists RCapital. Little Chef now operates 95 sites across the country and the role of LT Management Services will be to support the company as it aims to return to former glories. The role will be to offer full operational support across the estate as well as complete office support. LT Management Services is a subsidiary of LT Pub Management and provides expert management services for pubs, restaurants, hotels and the wider leisure industry. Members of the senior management team, led by chief executive Billy Buchanan, are known in the industry for their in-depth experience of multi-site management, which has led to the company becoming the largest of its kind in the UK. Little Chef chairman Graham Sims said: “The appointment of LT Management Services is part of a wider plan to return Little Chef to where it rightly deserves to be as a brand and as a business. From an operational point of view their unrivalled multi-site experience will prove invaluable to Little Chef going forward.” LT Pub Management chief executive Billy Buchanan added: “We look forward to working with everyone in the Little Chef business, assisting them in achieving their goals.”

Marston’s trials turnover lease: Wolverhampton-based brewer and retailer Marston’s is trialing a new turnover lease, called Pegasus, at around 90 pubs. The company is looking for multi-site companies to partner it as it trials the scheme. The company stated in a Press Release: “The new Pegasus Agreement enables us to work in partnership to firmly establish these pubs into the heart of the community before our new tenant takes over.” A company spokesman told Morning Briefing: “The Pegasus agreement is very much in its infancy and currently being trialed in a small number of pubs. In essence it is a tenancy tracker agreement, where in exchange for running some centrally set elements, such as a wet and dry consumer offer, the tenant receives greater cost support.” Marston’s was one of the first companies in the sector to trial a quasi-franchise tenancy - the company currently has more than 400 sites on its Retail Agreement.

Loungers to appeal Christchurch refusal: The Loungers café bar chain, headed by Alex Reilley, is to appeal a decision in Christchurch to refuse planning consent to convert a shop into a new site. Reilley said the company was “dismayed and frustrated” by the decision to refuse permission to convert a former Superbuys store. The company was refused planning consent last December but advised by the planning department of the local authority to apply again after a similar scheme was given the go-ahead. The application was refused because of a planning policy that states no more than 20 per cent non-retail use be allowed in the town – a survey last year found the level is already 25 per cent.

Former SABMiller marketer sets up co-operative micro-brewer: A former marketing executive for SABMiller is to set up his own microbrewery in Surrey – and will donate half of all profits to charity. The Little Beer Corporation aims to produce ten different varieties of premium bottled beers. The founder is Jim Taylor, who previously worked as a global marketer for SABMiller in Woking. Taylor will collect the names of those wishing to become members and it will transform into a co-operative in January. He said: “I’m banking on a second career – having spent years doing Powerpoints I’m quite keen to make a product and do something very different. The company is totally focused on serving the Guildford market. “We want to be a couple of thousand Guildfordians, working in a co-operative structure, buying our own beer.”

Landmark Burton cinema set to become nightclub and restaurant: Work has begun on converting Burton’s landmark Robins Cinema into a restaurant and nightclub. Owner Dilraj Sandhu, who runs Derby-based SPS Commercial Property, reports that he is in talks with two as-yet-unnamed companies to run the restaurant and nightclub elements of the scheme.

Mitchells & Butlers Harvester signs for Liverpool’s Central Village scheme: Harvester, the 200-strong brand owned by Mitchells & Butlers, has signed to occupy 4,446 square feet at Liverpool’s £160m Central Village development. The venue will be alongside the 14,000 sq ft independent pan-Asian restaurant Cosmo and a 135-seat Prezzo restaurant around a new square. The Mitchells & Butlers deal is the eleventh pre-let at the scheme. The deal follows news that Indian restaurant Zouk Tea Bar & Grill will take 7,640 sq ft in the 75,000 sq ft Boardwalk building above Central Station. Boardwalk will house a new six-screen Odeon cinema, Handmade Burger Co, Chiquito and Frankie & Benny's.

Wagamama to open in Lincoln: Wagamama will open a restaurant in Lincoln’s Brayford Waterfront before Christmas. The new building will replace the Old Harbourmaster’s Office on Brayford Wharf North – work will start in July. Meanwhile, Wagamama has opened its 82nd UK site in Ellesmere Port’s Cheshire Oaks outlet park.

Mitchells & Butlers converts Covent Garden O’Neill’s to Nicholson’s: Managed operator Mitchells & Butler, is investing an estimated £650,000 converting its O’Neill’s venue in Covent Garden to a Nicholson’s, its 80-strong chain of classic City pubs – the venue will be re-named The White Swan. The new Nicholson’s is set to re-open on Friday (4 May) – it hosts the launch of Nicholson’s own-branded pale ale on 10 May.

Jamie’s Italian reduces covers in Norwich: A plan to open a Jamie’s Italian in Norwich has revised downwards the numbers of covers it will provide. Basement development difficulties at the site in Norwich has led to revised plans being lodged. Plans for the venue in the Royal Arcade, in the former Waterstone’s bookshop, were approved by the city council’s planning committee last September. As work has gone on, it has been deemed that it will not be viable to bring the basement in the Grade II* listed building back into use. The number of covers has reduced from the original 284 to 258.

SSP unveils £1.2m Liverpool Street Station pub: Travel concessionaire SSP UK has launched its new-build Liverpool Street Station pub – The Merchant of Bishopsgate. Menu items include homemade free range Scotch eggs with black pudding, mini Lincolnshire Poacher Welsh rarebit on crumpets and cocktail Cumberland sausages with Colman's mustard mayonnaise dip. Snacks include homemade cheese scones with smoked Scottish salmon and lemon crème fraiche, pork pie wedges, and homemade giant pork scratchings. Sarah Jezard, chief marketing officer at SSP UK, said: “The cask ale range includes local, regional and national choices, which will be available with rotating guest ales interspersed throughout the year. Ale sampler 'flights' offer added choice, with one third of a pint glass allowing customers to sample and experiment with something new.” 

Irish restaurant Group to open at Exeter airport: Irish restaurant group Mount Charles Group is to open a new restaurant at Exeter Airport after winning the contract to be the airport's exclusive food and drink provider. The company is to launch its first Fed & Watered bistro outside of Northern Ireland at the airport after the contract win. The business said it will invest more than £250,000 in the new venture.

Spirit Pub Company boosts online bookings: Spirit Pub Company has increased bookings, and expanded its customer database, after adopting the online reservation solution from online booking and customer marketing specialist liveRES. Spirit’s Chef & Brewer pub restaurant brand has been taking online bookings using liveRES since January 2012, which saw the launch of the brand’s new website. Online bookings now play a major role in Chef & Brewer’s advance table bookings across the brand’s 130-plus outlets, while key occasions marketed to customers, such as Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, have seen 20 per cent of all bookings made online this year.

International news:

Yum Brands offers “entry-level” pizza: Pizza firms are driving sales in the Indian market by offering rock-bottom prices. Last week, Yum Restaurants India-owned Pizza Hut rolled out five inch pizzas in select markets at entry-level prices of 29 rupees (around 45p) – it’s the lowest in the Indian market by any player and the lowest for any of 117 countries where Louisville-based $12 billion Yum Brands operates. “Access to a wider base of consumers and driving volumes further is what led us to launch the new range,” says Sandeep Kataria, chief marketing officer at Yum! Restaurants India. Pizza Hut has positioned its latest offering as a 'snacking option' rather than a full-meal. Yum Restaurants India plans to invest $100 million in India by 2015 and double its stores to at least 1,000.

Smashburger enters Canadian market: Smashburger, America’s fastest growing “better burger” chain, opens its first Canadian site today – in Calgary. A second Calgary location is scheduled to open in June 2012. Each Calgary Smashburger location will feature a regional Alberta-inspired menu to showcase local suppliers and flavours.

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