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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 12th Jun 2012 - Ruby Tuesday, Hooters and Lifestyle Group

Story of the day:

Mixed fortunes for US franchise chains in the UK: There are mixed fortunes for US restaurant franchises this week as one expands and a second contracts. Ruby Tuesday, the US chain with 800 locations worldwide, is to open its second UK franchised site today (Tuesday) in Cheltenham. The restaurant concept has taken a 4500 sq ft unit in the centre of The Brewery development. Stephen Mayo, operations director for Ruby Tuesday UK, said: “We are delighted to open our second UK restaurant in Cheltenham, and we look forward to welcoming guests soon to sample our great service, outstanding value for money and unique dining experience.” Already established in Cardiff, Ruby Tuesday is named after the Rolling Stones song of the same name. The brand was founded in 1972 with a branch in Nashville, Tennessee USA. Meanwhile, Hooters in Cardiff has closed four months after the Bristol site was shuttered. The Cardiff branch has been re-branded as a Sport Café venue in a two-day refurbishment. The Mary Ann Street venue, which opened in November 2010, is to operate under the same staff and management as Hooters. The closure of the Hooters’ branch in Cardiff follows the shutting down of the Bristol outlet in February this year, 18 months after it opened. Of the new offer, Pete Griffiths, manager of the new Sports Café, said: “We believe it’s going to be better value for money. We were quite restricted with what we could and couldn’t do with Hooters. They were quite restrictive with what we could do in terms of menu promotion and things like that.” Only one UK Hooters site remains – in Nottingham.

Industry news:

Alcohol Alliance calls for annual review of minimum pricing: A submission to the House of Commons health select committee by the Alcohol Alliance, a group of more than 30 medical bodies and charities, has called for annual review of minimum pricing – and an initial minimum level of 50p per unit. Its submission states: “Once it has been implemented it will be essential to establish an effective mechanism for reviewing and adjusting the minimum unit price over time to account for inflation and rising disposable incomes. The AHA recommends this occurs on an annual basis as a minimum. Robust independent evaluation of the impact of the minimum unit price will be essential. Further consultation should also be taken on how best to use the additional profits generated by retailers through a minimum unit price, which are estimated at several hundred million pounds. Given the limited investment in alcohol treatment services as previously identified by the health select committee and National Audit Office, the AHA would like the government to explore introducing a levy that would see the funds reinvested in specialist alcohol treatment services.”

Northampton considers a £160,000 per annum charge: Councillors in Nottingham will consider later this month whether to levy pubs and nightclubs £160,000 per annum towards the cost of policing. Officials from the local authority have worked out that a total of 178 pubs and clubs across Northampton would be eligible for the charge. Between them, they would pay a combined total of more than £164,000 a year, with more than £111,000 going to the police and almost £50,000 going to the council.

London road curbs for Olympics could start on 1 July: Road restrictions along the Olympic Route Network in central London could begin as early as 1 July. Routes in the capital could start to get clogged within three weeks as 1,300 sets of traffic lights are adjusted to ensure quick traffic flow on the network. Seven days later the Kingsway tunnel at Aldwych will be reversed to allow traffic to flow southbound to allow the world’s media a faster journey to the Olympic Park. Motorists are being told to avoid central London from mid-July.

Machine tax bills to rise by 18 per cent: Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has released technical information on the implementation of and expected revenues from the proposed Gaming Machine Duty (GMD). Kate Nichols, strategic affairs director at the ALMR, said: “The Treasury assumptions imply that the pub sector will be beneficiaries of the new 20 per cent GMD rate, but this is because it fails to account for the adverse impact of the VAT change and the extension of the GMD regime to include SWP machines. ALMR research suggests that the proposals will increase machine tax bills by an average of 18 per cent.” 

Company news:

Spirit Pub Company reports third quarter like-for-likes up 3.7 per cent: Managed operator Spirit has revealed its third quarter like-for-like sales rose 3.7 per cent, with food sales up 6.8 per cent and drink sales up 1.1 per cent in its 850 managed pubs. Of the 12 weeks to 26 May, the company stated: “Our managed pubs division delivered another quarter of good growth against tough prior year comparatives with drink sales growth especially impacted by the warm weather and additional bank holiday in April 2011. We continue to significantly outperform the market and remain pleased by the continuation of our strong food sales growth, which reflects the ongoing evolution of our offer across our managed brands.” Like-for-like income in the 550-strong leased division declined by eight per cent. It stated: “The proportion of pubs on a substantive agreement has already increased by three per cent from the half year to 87 per cent and we have significantly reduced discounts and concessions to our licensees. As expected, the process of stabilising income is taking time. It has been a challenging quarter set against strong trading comparatives and the impact of current year rent rebasing.” The number of leased pubs it plans to divest has risen to 100 – 27 have been sold and ten converted to managed.

Lifestyle Group to launch franchise package: Lifestyle Group, the nine-strong south-west operator of pubs and restaurants founded in 2004 by James Eyre, is to launch a franchise package for its Bombay Bills and Tiger Bills concepts next month. Both are neighbourhood dining concepts – Bombay Bills is described as “Indian cuisine meets American grill” while Tiger Bills is described as “Thai cuisine meets American grill”. The company operates Tiger Bills in Torquay and Exeter. The company is also finalising plans for a hospitality school in collaboration with Exeter College. Among the diverse portfolio of businesses run by the company are Cafe Mambo in Taunton, The Gissons pub and hotel at Kennford, The Queen's Hall cafe bar in Minehead and The Apple and Parrot cider bar in Taunton.

Domino’s launches new football app: Pizza delivery firm Domino’s has launched a new app, Domigoals, that gives football fans the chance to win prizes when goals are scored. The app is downloadable for free and invites users to “tap the app” once a goal has been scored to be in with the chance of winning Domino’s vouchers. Simon Wallis, sales and marketing director of Domino’s Pizza, said: “We know how much everyone’s looking forward to the football this summer so we wanted to launch a new app, which means that wherever fans are, they’ll be able to keep up to speed with all the scores. Pizza and football are a match made in heaven so we wanted to inject a bit of fun and competition into the app too with prizes for fans who have the fastest fingers when the goals are scored.”

Tokyo Industries to make further £250,000 investment in Lincoln site: Tokyo Industries, the nightclub operator headed by Aaron Mellor, has closed its Lincoln site to implement phase two of an investment programme. The company opened Tokyo Lincoln last autumn after a £1.5 million makeover of the old Constitutional Club, which had been left derelict for more than 15 years. The planned work includes turning the ground floor into an American-style pool hall and structural work in the basement, which has been used as a separate venue for the past three months. Tokyo Lincoln, in the city's Silver Street, will reopen again in time for the new student intake in September. Joanna Simpson, spokesman for Tokyo Lincoln, said: “The club will be closing, as planned, during the summer slow-down to allow for phase two of the continuing development and building works.”

Nicholson’s launches brews created by its own managers: Nicholson’s, the 81-string chain owned by Mitchells & Butlers, has launched a range of unique beers created by its own staff. A number of managers from the chain were chosen to visit a group of breweries across the UK to create one-off beers that are only available at its sites. Among the brews is Hawaii 340 from Cropton Brewery, Natural Beauty from Moor Beer Company, Sunshine and LolliHops from Thwaites, and Lavender Ale from Sambrooks. The beers are available from 11 June for three months. Retail Insider magazine stated: “Not only does it help create unique products - an increasingly vital element of the industry - but it leads to great employee engagement.”

Holiday Inn opens Starbucks and a sports bar: A Holiday Inn in Lincoln’s Brayford Pool area is maximising the use of its square footage by opening a sports bar – after opening a Starbucks. The 97-bedroom hotel is located close to a major eating and drinking out area that hosts a multiplex cinema and operators such as JD Wetherspoon. A sports bar is the latest addition to the city centre hotel's £1.2 million refurbishment. Food and beverage manager David Corrin said: “A sports bar is an ideal addition to the hotel because there is nowhere in Brayford that specialises in sport. We also wanted to create somewhere comfortable for the guests to enjoy a drink.”

Multi-site operators set for Vodka One trial: A number of multi-site operators are set to trial the UK’s first draft vodka after it was successfully launched in a Chichester pub. Customers of the multi-award winning Globe Inn can now get a shot of ice-cold vodka straight from a font rather than waiting for a member of staff to dispense their drink from a spirits optic. The Vodka One font dispenses a calibrated 25ml measure in one second and at a temperature of one degree centigrade. The Globe’s manager Roger Nessling said: “It’s a brilliant idea and everyone who has tried it has loved it. Customers say their drinks are colder and a lot smoother than from a bottle. It is a lot quicker and easier for us to serve them, especially when we are busy.” The system has an under-the-counter fridge that holds two, five-litre plastic containers of vodka and the flow line is also chilled to ensure the drink is served at the ideal temperature. The ten-litre capacity of the unit means members of staff don’t have to abandon customers while going to the cellar to get another bottle of vodka. Another time-saving idea was mounting the Vodka One font next to the cola and lemonade dispense machine. Nessling said so much Vodka One had been consumed during the first few weeks that the pub is considering installing a second font. Eastbourne-based drinks supplier HT White has liaised with The Globe and Hi-Spirits to get the system installed. Other installations have since taken place in Brighton, Spalding, Walsall, London, Manchester and Glasgow.

Robot Pub Group in talks to licence its technology: Robot Pub Company is in talks to licence its technology to other companies after the successful launch of The Thirsty Bear in south London, according to The Financial Times. Customers can pour their own pints from table-side taps, text for waiter service and use the iPads provided to order food or update their social network profile. Revenue at The Thirsty Bear has risen 78 per cent since installation of the new technology, boosted by an internet pub quiz and a jukebox app. “If one table is getting lots more revenue than another we can try and figure out why and do something about it,” Phil Neale told The FT. He launched the concept with Ali Rees after returning from a trip to Middleborough where they spent the evening queuing for service. The Robot Pub Group is in talks with other pub companies, cinemas, cafés and restaurants to license its technology.

Ramsay’s Maze in Qatar closed: Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in Qatar has closed in the wake of an alcohol ban on the Pearl-Qatar complex where it was located. The decision to close the restaurant also follows the termination last October of the British celebrity chef's partnership with Verre in the Hilton Dubai Creek hotel, which was Ramsay's first overseas restaurant. However, two new Ramsay restaurants have opened in recent weeks in Doha in a St Regis hotel. “We continue to invest in the area with the exciting recent openings of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Doha and Opal by Gordon Ramsay, Doha at St Regis,” a spokeswoman for the group said.

Saltaire Brewery invests £200,000 in extra brewing capacity: Bradford micro brewer Saltaire has invested £200,000 in extra brewing capacity and has also expanded into 4,000 sq ft premises next door to its brewhouse in a former Victorian electricity generating station. The extra space will be used for offices and chilled storage. Saltaire Brewery is now increasing beer production from 400 casks a week to 500, driven by rising demand for its best selling product, Saltaire Blonde.

Enterprise Inns puts iconic Camden Town pub used by The Pogues on the market: The Hobgoblin pub in Kentish Town Road, better known as The Dev from its days as The Devonshire Arms - regarded as the best-known “alternative pub” in the area – is being sold by Enterprise Inns. In the 1980s, Irish rock band The Pogues drank in the pub.

Fleet Street Communications hires Richmond Towers executive: Fleet Street Communications, the PR and marketing firm set up by former M&C Report editor Mark Stretton, has hired Michelle Williams as an account director. Williams, who joins the business from Richmond Towers, has a track record working within the sector, particularly with big drinks brands, such as Courvoisier, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Jameson. Stretton said: “We are delighted to have secured someone of Michelle's calibre and experience.”

Stonegate pub starts seven-day trading at East End pub for the Olympics: A Stonegate Pub Company site in London’s East End is to start seven-day trading for the Olympics after a £120,000 refurbishment. In addition, an outside bar has been installed on the forecourt of Aldgate’s remodelled Duke of Somerset, which re-opened at the weekend. The pub in Little Somerset Street, off Aldgate High Street, was previously closed at weekends because of its reliance on City workers. But the advent of Euro 2012 and the Olympics has persuaded the company to start seven-day trading.

JD Wetherspoon eyes Pembroke – after local MP asks it to open: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon is looking to open a pub in Pembroke, with a population of 7,214, after the local MP made a direct appeal for it to come to the town. The company is looking at re-opening The Middlegate Hotel in Pembroke. Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “We appreciate the fact that MP Simon Hart is keen for Wetherspoon to open in Pembroke.”

ETM Group launches “gastro race” to coincide with the Olympics: Gastro-pub operator ETM Group is holding a ‘gastro race’ to coincide with the Olympic Games (Friday 27th July – Sunday 12th August). Customers are invited to pick up a ‘Gastro Race’ card from any ETM pub from Friday 27 July and visit four sites up until Sunday 12 August to win. The fastest to complete their challenge wins a complimentary meal for six people, with other prizes for second and third. All competitors who finish, regardless of their time, will be awarded with a drink on the house.

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