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Wed 30th May 2012 - Redcomb, Wellington Pub Company, Pret A Manger

Story of the day:

Redcomb Pubs targets 15 sites by end of 2013; plans £1m investment at next pub: Redcomb Pubs, the six-strong multiple headed by former Mitchells & Butlers marketing executive Dan Shotton, has signed up its sixth site. The company is to take a long lease on The Station Hotel in Hither Green, South London, with a co-investment of just under £1m planned with owner Spirit Pub Company. Phase One will be a complete overhaul and repositioning of the pub, creating a “fabulous suburban local pub” with a simple, fresh-cooked food offer, converting the currently unused back yard into a “garden haven”, with mature trees, decking and “beach huts” for groups to hold private gatherings. Phase Two, due to start in November, will involve redevelopment of two upstairs floors to create seven letting rooms and three serviced apartments. Shotton told Morning Briefing: “The site is fantastic – it’s huge, right next to the train station and only ten minutes from London Bridge and The Shard, and we can’t wait to get the job done to return the site to its former glory – a great local pub serving the Hither Green community, tourists visiting London and business people commuting in and out of town. It’s our second site with Spirit, and we’re working closely with them to identify more sites that fit our operation. It’s a six-week building programme, and we hope to be opening to the public at the beginning of August.” Redcomb has two more sites close to completion of heads of terms. Shotton added: “We will fulfil our roll-out plan for 2012 – and we’re currently working on a pipeline of five to seven new sites for 2013.”

Free Report: Paul Charity has written a report on menu trends, the drivers of US dining occasions, the franchise business model and other key areas of the US foodservice market and their significance to the UK market. The report, based on a visit to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago, is produced in conjunction with the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and sponsored by CPL Training. It is free and is available by e-mailing Paul Charity on paul.charity@propelinfo.com.

“The report on the NRA is excellent. I have been going back and forward to the US a lot in the last two years (plus I lived in the US from 1992 to 2000 working in the restaurant business) and your insight is spot on. Thanks for sharing.” 
Alison Vickers,
Business Development Director, YO! Sushi

Company news:

Bath Ales opens second Graze: Independent brewer and pub operator Bath Ales has opened its second Graze, this time in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Bath Ales already has a Graze in Bristol, which has built up a reputation for serving delicious steaks. Graze Cirencester will focus on the same steak offer, cooked on a Josper charcoal oven. Bath Ales appointed Simple Simon Design, who also designed the brewer’s recently-opened venues Beerd in Bristol and The Grapes in Oxford, to create a sophisticated ambience in keeping with the period building. Bath Ales retail director Robin Couling said: “We’ve taken inspiration from the great steak restaurants in London and New York and given the bar a modern make-over to offer customers a great pint of cask ale and the best quality dining under one roof.” Graze Cirencester is Bath Ales’ tenth venue. It currently operates eight pubs and bars in Bristol and Bath - The Hare on the Hill, The Hop Pole, The Live and Let Live, The Salamander, The Swan, The Wellington, Beerd and Graze Bar & Chophouse and recently opened a new pub, The Grapes, in Oxford.

Site guaranteed by Blanc Brasseries fails to sell: A restaurant site in Tunbridge Wells sub-let to an independent restaurant but with a lease guaranteed by Blanc Brasseries and ultimately Loch Fyne Group, has failed to sell with a guide price of £900,000 at an Allsop auction. Occupant Dame Tartine is paying a rent of £60,000 per annum but Blanc Brasseries, guaranteed by Loch Fyne, is paying a higher rent of £81,300 per annum on a 25-year lease that started in August 2004.

Pubs have been beating restaurants – but April was “sticky”: Deutsche Bank analyst Geof Collyer has argued that managed pubs have outperformed restaurants in the past two years. Collyer said: “Greene King and Spirit Pub Co have been leading the way – partly down to their London performance. Looked at over the past two years, it is clear to us that the pubs and restaurants have outperformed the general high street, with pubs – driven by better and more widely available food offerings – outperforming restaurants. We have just had a very strong couple of months trading from The Restaurant Group (TRG), in stark contrast to most of the pub sector – which enjoyed strong trading last April with the double bank holiday weeks around Easter and the Royal Wedding. The trading footprint of TRG is more geared to retail leisure parks than any other quoted stock, so what would any frustrated family do on a rainy day – go to the cinema and then out to eat? This is indicative of the trading benefits that Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) want to capture with its leasehold retail park rollout strategy. Young’s, Marston’s and M&B all had sticky April trading, with Marston’s showing in its interim presentation that the last two weeks of April were down 11 per cent. Greene King surprised us with its (Quarter Four results). We were forecasting a flat fourth quarter but the like-for-likes in the end were +4.6 per cent. We shall see on 12 June how Spirit – Greene King’s neighbour on the leaderboard - has performed over the same period, when Spirit publishes its (third quarter results).”

Travelodge – Spanish and Italian visitors down: Grant Hearn, the boss of budget accommodation firm Travelodge, has claimed that the Euro crisis has already affected the number of visitors from Spain and Italy coming to London. Hearn told The Sun: “It’s a trend we’ve seen since last autumn when the crisis went up a level. “There are fewer Spanish and Italians travelling to cities such as London.” Hearn said talks over a deal to restructure Travelodge’s £850 million debts were “ongoing”.

Waterstones to roll-out Café W coffee shops: Waterstones is planning to boost its newly unveiled digital offer by rolling out its own-brand coffee shop, Café W, to as many as 130 stores, according to The Bookseller trade magazine. Managing director James Daunt has reported that the company will partner with Amazon to provide digital zones in stores and this will increase the sales of physical books. Waterstones’ Russian billionaire oligarch owner Alexander Mamut is putting "tens of millions of pounds" into a store refurbishment programme, which will see roughly 100 of its stores refitted this year.

JW Lees managed pubs receive massive sunshine boost: North-west brewer and retailer JW Lees, which has 32 managed pubs and around 140 tenanted pubs, has reported the warm weather provided a 35 per cent boost for like-for-like sales in the managed estate last week, with total sales up 48 per cent year-on-year. Managing director William Lees-Jones told Morning Briefing: “Maybe us Northerners are so unused to good weather that we benefited from a sharper sales spike.”

Wellington Pub Company reports 7.1 per cent rental uplift in the year: Wellington Pub Company, the free-of-tie estate of 810 pubs run by Criterion Asset Management and owned by the Reuben brothers, has reported to bondholders that the average level of rental uplift achieved on review in the year to 31 March 2012 was 7.1 per cent. The company said its disposal strategy “remains to sell bottom-end pubs and those that have a higher alternative value”. A total of 688 pubs – 85 per cent of the total - are let on long leases. Six properties were re-let on a long lease during the most recent quarter and there were 17 lease forfeitures. The estate is producing an annual income of £27.7m, which is 1.4 per cent below last year – the annualised EBITDA for the 12 months to the end of March this year was £19.9m. Wellington retains circa £11m of cash on deposit.

SA Brains to open coffee shop in Gloucester: Cardiff-based SA Brain is to open a Coffee #1 in Gloucester. Last week, the company revealed plans to open 30 coffee shops in south Wales and the south west of England in the next three years. In autumn 2011, Brains bought Coffee #1, which comprised 15 high street shops in south Wales and the south west of England, and since then, it has opened three more. 

Thwaites micro brewery pub opens on Friday: North-west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites will re-open The Foresters Arms this Friday (1 June), in partnership with Wigan microbrewery Prospect Brewery, after a £80,000 refurbishment. The pub, near Wigan, was acquired from the Punch Taverns disposal estate off an asking price of £225,000. The pub will be called The Silver Tally, the name of Prospect Brewery's best-selling beer. The pub is the first for Prospect Brewery and as its official brewery tap will stock a rotating range of Thwaites and Prospect cask ales, cask ciders and bottled beers.

Exclusive Inns opens second pub: Exclusive Inns has re-opened The Anchor, in Nayland, Suffolk, after a £120,000 refurbishment. Director Philip Griffiths said: “We want to make The Anchor part of the village, because it’s lost its way.” The pub will be offering pay and go picnics for couples and families to enjoy by the River Stour. Last year, Exclusive Inns bought The Angel Inn, in Stoke-by-Nayland and spent £600,000 on a refurbishment. Exclusive Inns’ sister company, Exclusive Locations, owns and operates The Sail Lofts in St Ives, Cornwall, twelve award-winning, self-catering boutique apartments and spa, close to Porthmeor Beach in the heart of old St Ives.

Jujipish Leisure plans live music venue for former Heathcote restaurant: Bolton-based Jujipish Leisure has submitted a plan to turn the former Olive Press restaurant, operated by restaurateur Paul Heathcote, into a live music venue in the centre of Bolton. The venue is expected to benefit from a new student halls of residence built across the square in the former Pack Horse Hotel. The Olive Press restaurant has been empty since it closed in 2010. Heathcote sold off several of the Olive Press chain to concentrate on running his core restaurants, including the flagship Longridge restaurant, but he failed to find a buyer for the Bolton venue. Harvey Nichols occupied the premises during last year’s Bolton Food and Drink Festival with a pop-up restaurant.

Pret A Manger reports £50m of Ebitda: Soup and sandwich chain Pret A Manger has reported a 13 per cent increase in turnover to £316.9m in the year to 31 December 2011. The company opened 22 new outlets in the UK to bring the total to 236 and refurbished 70 with a new, lighter design. Ebitda increased by 12 per cent to £50m and pre-tax profit was £34.6m, up from £31.9m the year before. During 2011, Pret raised £791,000 to fund work helping the homeless, including donating 25p for every Christmas sandwich and gingerbread man sold. The Pret Foundation Trust distributed 2.4 million sandwiches and salads to homeless charities last year. Sales growth was 6.5 per cent. Accounts for the Pret’s holding company PAM Group showed a pre-tax loss of £30.2m for 2011 after payment of £34m interest to private shareholders and £9m in interest to lenders – although external debt fell eight per cent to £123.9m. Private equity fund Bridgepoint owns 66 per cent of Pret – management owns the rest.

Marston’s opens pub in Wichelstowe, Swindon: Midlands-based Marston’s has opened a new-build pub in Wichelstowe, an urban extension to Swindon. The Bayberry opened its doors on Monday as the community of Wichelstowe starts to take shape. The development, which saw its first home built in 2008, has waited four years to have its first pub. The pub has 180 covers and has created 40 new jobs in the area. Wichelstowe, located north of the M4 between Junction 16 and Croft Road, Wichelstowe, will have up 4,500 new homes by 2020.

Barracuda bar in Newquay not received a single offer: A venue in Newquay that earned national publicity when Prince William visited has not received a single “solid offer” to buy it since it closed in 2009. Barracuda bar was Newquay’s premier nightclub with an imposing position in the town. Owner Barracuda's national development manager Brendan Brammer told the Cornish Guardian: “We believe that the site has the potential for the right operator at the right deal, but generating the initial interest is difficult in the current market place. I think there are number of reasons for this, but mainly it's due to the national economic climate and the lack of available funds to invest in what is a substantial site. I also believe the seasonal nature of the town may be a contributing factor. Most operators like year-round business.”

Intertain invests £750,000 in Liverpool: Walkabout operator Intertain has invested £750,000 in a refurbishment of its Liverpool site. This takes the total number of major refurbishments completed by Intertain to eight. The refurbishment incorporates a full re-design of the main Walkabout bar, the formation of a brand new ‘Beach Club’ on the upstairs balcony and the redevelopment of the outside terrace. The Walkabout venue has seen the installation of the new contemporary ‘wave design’ bar that has created an impact in Blackpool, Leeds, Hanley, Watford and Temple. Chief executive John Leslie said: “We know how significant Concert Square is in the Liverpool nightlife scene, so it was important to us to give our customers a fantastic new venue. Liverpool is the latest Walkabout to be refurbished, and so far, all of the refurbished venues have shown great returns on investment.”

Diamond couples offered a free carvery at Crown Carveries: Mitchells & Butlers budget carvery chain Crown Carveries, with 119 sites, is celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by treating ‘diamond customers’ - those celebrating 60 years of marriage - to a free carvery between Monday 4 and Saturday 9 June. Couples just need to bring their wedding certificate proving they were married in 1952.

Overseas news:

US noodle chain Noodles & Co grows by discouraging tips: The US restaurant chain Noodles & Co, which has doubled in size to 284 restaurants since 2006, has claimed it has grown quickly in part because of its strict no-tipping policy. Chief executive Kevin Reddy told Fox Business: "You can get in and out of our restaurants for 25 per cent less than a Chili's or an Applebee's. Our prices are lower to begin with, and you don't have to put a 15 per cent to 20 per cent tip on it. One of our beliefs is that you have to appreciate and value serving others and not expect something extra for it.” The company is currently expanding table service after 4.30pm.

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