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Thu 10th May 2012 - Mitchells & Butlers, Diageo and Costa

Story of the day:

Mitchells & Butlers evolves Browns and O’Neill’s design: Managed operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is rolling out evolved versions of two of its oldest brands – Browns and O’Neill’s. The company has opened five new Browns, its bar brasserie brand, in recent months, with a number of design elements updated. The most recent opening was in Newcastle but there have also been new venues in Bluewater, Birmingham, Nottingham and Reading. The Birmingham opening was in the Bullring, contained within a very modern glass building with a curved zinc roof. It was a radical departure from the brand’s traditional use of historic buildings – and embraced modern design cues like exposed ducts. Philip Harrison, of design and brand development company Harrison, said: “It was important that we didn’t create a pastiche. “I think this a future trend for brands – to not be quite so hide-bound, to show more flex. Nando’s is a past master of this – there’s never two that are the same.” Meanwhile, M&B is to open its second new generation O’Neill’s in Sutton this Saturday. The venue is re-badged as O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Kitchen, after being transformed into a lighter, brighter modern interpretation of the brand – the trademark dark blues of O’Neill’s have been replaced by lighter colours inside and out. This will be the second Irish Pub & Kitchen to have been opened by M&B – the first was in Oxford at the end of September 2011.

Industry news:

American restaurant brands dominate list of world’s top 200 franchises: A list of the world’s top 200 franchise systems by sales is dominated by US restaurant chains, with 75 on the list. There are 41 US restaurant brands in the top 100, with six in the top ten – McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s. A report by Franchise Times stated: “It remains easier to grow internationally where many countries are hungry for US franchise brands even if their economies are weak.” Best-performing franchise has been better burger chain Five Guys, which jumped 25 spots to reach Number 97 position in the most recent list. Five Guys has now sold out all its franchise rights in the US and is targeting the UK for expansion. 

Americans gained an average of 25lbs in 50 years: A health researcher has reported that the US Coast Guard assumes the average US boat passenger now weighs 185lbs, up from 160lbs in 1960. Gary Taubes also notes that a quarter of all Americans aged 17-24 are unqualified for military service because of their weight. Taubes reports the latest clinical tests show that the best diet involves fewer, if any, sugars, fewer refined grains (bread, pasta) and starchy vegetables (potatoes). Meanwhile, experts have warned that around half of all UK men will be obese within 30 years, with women not far behind.

Prince Charles – fish and chips under threat: Prince Charles has issued a warning that the British staple of fish and chips is under threat unless fish stocks are managed more sustainably. He told the World Fisheries Congress: “Fish and chips are part of British culture, one of our iconic national dishes. But I wonder if it is an aspect of our national life that we can safely say can be sustained.”

BBPA thanks chairman Mark Hunter as he steps down: Molson Coors chief executive Mark Hunter has been thanked for his contribution as chairman of the British Beer & Pub Association in the wake of his decision to step down. Hunter is to become head of the company’s Europe-based business unit following Molson Coors’ acquisition of StarBev. The BBPA will be discussing with its board the appointment of a new Chairman over the coming weeks. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “(Mark) has given clear leadership for our strategic objectives, especially on how to persuade policy makers we need a growth agenda for the brewing and hospitality industry.” Meanwhile, JD Wetherspoon has joined the BBPA. Chairman Tim Martin said: “Given the pressures we face, the industry needs a strong and united voice in its dealings with Government.”

London is tenth most expensive city in the “club sandwich index”: London has ranked as the tenth most expensive city in the world for a club sandwich with an average cost of £11.55, according to a survey across 30 hotels in each of 26 major cities around the world. The classic chicken, bacon, egg, lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich costs £20.43 in Paris, where prices range from £33.44 in a five-star hotel to £13.72 in a two-star hotel. The second most expensive city was Geneva, where a sandwich costs £20.10 on average. This compares with an average £10.45 sandwich in New York and a £10.11 one in Moscow. London is cheaper than the cities of Copenhagen, Rome and Tokyo but more expensive than Hong Kong, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Red lipstick is the key to good tips: French researchers have found that waitresses wearing red lipstick are two-thirds more like to be tipped from customers – provided they are men. The researchers concluded red lips are “associated with an indication of oestrogen levels, sexual arousal and health”.

The downside of free Wi-Fi: Researchers have found a new breed of laptop-carrying “café conquerors” are taking up tables in places offering free Wi-Fi, causing arguments with fellow customers because of their prolonged presence. The outcome is that staff are having to resolve rows over territorial disputes.

Company news:

Diageo apologises to Brewdog: Diageo has been forced to apologise to bar operator and brewer Brewdog after “abusing” its position as the principle sponsor for the BII Scotland annual awards to strip BrewDog of the title, ‘Bar Operator of the Year 2012’. Diageo staff applied pressure on the BII to switch the winner of the category at the last minute. But events took a further twist when the people who were given the award refused to accept it, as it clearly had ‘BrewDog’ engraved on the trophy as winners. A Diageo spokesman said: “There was a serious misjudgement by Diageo staff at the awards dinner on Sunday evening in relation to the Bar Operator of the Year Award, which does not reflect in anyway Diageo’s corporate values and behaviour. “We would like to apologise unreservedly to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgement and we will be contacting both organisations imminently to express our regret for this unfortunate incident.” BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Two days after the award, I took a phone call from Kenny Mitchell, chairman of the BII and Award Committee. He told me directly, “We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner. Diageo, the main sponsor, approached us at the start of the meal and said under no circumstances could the award be given to BrewDog. They said if this happened they would pull their sponsorship from all future BII events and their representatives would not present any of the awards on the evening. We were as gobsmacked as you by Diageo’s behaviour. We made the wrong decision under extreme pressure. We were blackmailed and bullied’.”

Douglas Jack raises Enterprise Inns Target Price: Douglas Jack, analyst at Numis Securities, has increased his Target Price for Enterprise Inns shares from 60p to 100p ahead of next Tuesday’s results. He said: “Tuesday’s first half results, for which we are forecasting profit before tax to be down 6.6 per cent to £69.1m (consensus £68.6m), should emphasise estate/operational improvements (to enable like-for-like net income to stabilise), debt reduction and progress on efforts to stop the Unique bond entering cash trap in 2014. Here, success should point towards financial stability, which is why our stance remains Buy and our Target Price is increasing to 100p, from 60p.”

McDonald’s plan a drink providing kids with one-a-day content: McDonald's is to introduce a fizzy drink for children that promises one of their five-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables. The new drink, called Fruitizz, is part of the company’s efforts to improve the health credentials of its children's meals and follows the introduction of carrot sticks, fruit bags, mineral water and organic semi-skimmed milk to its Happy Meal menu. The “fizzy treat” will be served from the central drinks tower at the counter, alongside other soft drink staples, as research had found children found this “more exciting and desirable”, according to the chain. The drink contains no added sugars, artificial colours or flavours and blends 60 per cent fruit juice from grapes, apples and raspberries with natural sparkling water, giving one of the five-a-day portions, it said.

McMeeking re-opens Cannock pub: Black Country Traditional Inns boss Angus McMeeking has re-opened a closed pub he acquired at an auction. The Crystal Fountain in St John’s Road, which has been closed for a year after claims it was used as a swingers’ pub, has undergone a £60,000 refurbishment. The venue has been bought through Fireside, a company McMeeking runs with Clive Clinton, who said: “This is a now a community pub selling real ales.”

Stew & Oyster opens second pub: The Leeds-based Stew & Oyster concept has opened its second site – The Stew & Oyster Oakwood in the Roundhay area of the city. The original site Calls Landing Stew & Oyster Bar pioneered the concept’s distinctive offer with a wide choice of craft beer and a menu that features the eponymous stew and oysters. Of the new site, one reviewer said: “The bar itself is beautiful. Spacious and light, airy but intimate and has the same stripped wooden floors and exposed brickwork as the first, Calls Landing.”

Farm shop owners re-open historic Flintshire coaching inn: The owners of the award-winning Hawarden Estate Farm shop are re-opening the historic Glynne Arms coaching inn after a refurbishment costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. The venue is expected to become a magnet for foodies across Flintshire when it opens its doors today. Owner Charlie Gladstone, who has renovated the pub with his wife Caroline, is the great-great grandson of former Prime Minister William Gladstone. Gladstone said: “We have the opportunity to build upon the farm shop's success in curating and showcasing wonderful local produce and artisan products.”

Vimac Leisure loses 4.30am opening bid: Vimac Leisure has lost in a bid to open a re-refurbished nightclub venue in Chester-le-Street until 4.30am. Front Street venue Studio, recently renamed Onyx after a refurbishment, applied to close at 4.30am instead of 3am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Vimac commercial director Rob Smith said the 850-capacity venue had hosted one-off events until 4am that showed there was a demand for later opening. He said they had been trouble-free and told councillors that “staggered’’ closing among Front Street’s outlets could help reduce disorder. But licensing officer sergeant Tim Robson said that drinkers would simply head for the venue that stayed open the longest.

Turner Contemporary Art Museum allows Margate pub to re-open: A pub has re-opened in Margate’s Old Town after an entrepreneur decided the Turner Contemporary Art Museum had provided the area with a “buzz”. The Doggett Coat And Badge has reopened 18 months after it was shuttered. New owner Ashley Doyle said: “I love Thanet and it seemed like the right time to come back.” The long-term plan for The Doggett is to open a seafood restaurant and serve fresh fish alongside the wide range of bottled beer and cider.

Barracuda set to sell Wolverhampton Varsity: A pub in Wolverhampton owned by Barracuda looks set to be sold to the University of Wolverhampton and turned into a reception area. The pub is separated from the university building by an alleyway. Last year, Barracuda postponed a planned £150,000 refurbishment of the bar despite it being granted a licence to open an extra hour until 2.30am. The company was fined £25,000 earlier this year after the Varsity was forced to close its kitchen because of a rat infestation.

A pub re-opens with a vision for the future: A pub in Uxbridge has re-opened with a “vision for the future” after a £200,000 refurbishment. The Black Horse in Eastcote High Road has undergone a major renovation, with the aim of keeping regulars while attracting a new generation of pub-goers who want a bit more with their pint. Gone is the pool table and in has come a restaurant area and menu inspired by Kenya and India. In the expanded garden, there is decking with a barbecue, as well as an outdoor television ready for a summer of sport. Landlord Nick Kharbanda said: “You can’t run a pub now without decent food. We’ve kept the bar menu but there is a restaurant and a take-away menu as well.” On the same page as steaks, pies and burgers, customers are offered saag paneer, mushroom masala and Chinese stir-fry.

Punch country pub operates bakery and deli after £500,000 refurb: A local village pub is breaking new ground by opening a deli that will be stocked with local produce, freshly-baked bread and European delicacies. The deli is the latest phase in a restoration programme that has been going on at The Queens in Selborne, Hampshire, for the past 15 months. So far, licensees Nick Montlake and Erick Chobert together with owner Punch Taverns have invested nearly £500,000 on transforming the pub. Just over one year ago, The Queens re-opened after an extensive 10-week building programme that saw the creation of a bistro restaurant, seven en-suite letting bedrooms, and new lounge and bar areas. The new deli is housed in a 100-year-old barn. Montlake said there would be a wide range of produce on offer including 30 different cheeses, hams and other cooked meats, French sausages, conserves, pasta, and virgin olive oil. He added: “We want to stock as much produce as possible from local suppliers.” A new £11,000 oven will be used to bake bread, croissants and baguettes every morning. The pub’s kitchens will supply ready meals that have been par-cooked so that customers can call in and select what they want on their way home.

Former Moorhouses brewer sets up his own micro brewery: The former chief brewer at Moorhouses in Burnley has set up his own micro-brewery. Peter Gouldsbrough has set up the Reedley Hallows Brewing Company together with business partner Roy Dixon. Gouldsbrough almost left brewing altogether after finishing at Moorhouses six years ago to take up a new trade. But after he helped set up Cross Bay Brewery in Morecambe and Pennine Brewery in Batley, he decided to start up Reedley Hallows.

Costa signs Wi-Fi deal with 02: Costa customers will soon be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi thanks to a new deal with O2. Customers will only need to sign-up once and can then use service in any Costa store, or at any of O2’s Wi-Fi hotspots. The Costa contract follows a similar deal with Mitchells & Butlers last month.

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