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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Mon 2nd Jul 2012 - Bill’s, Hawksmoor and Byron

Story of the day:

Multi-site operator – we were mis-sold swaps: A well-known multi-site operator has told Morning Briefing that he was forced to take interest rate swaps against his better judgement as a condition of being loaned money. The operator, who asked not to be named, said: “Our two interest rate swaps were pretty much a condition of getting two loans. My bank told me it was a kind of insurance policy. I didn’t like it and I didn’t want it but the selling tactic was to link it in a subtle way to getting the loan. I was asked where I thought interest rates were going over the coming years. The truth is that nobody knew for sure what was going to happen to interest rates. It’s a prime example of why you can’t really trust your bank – this expensive product must have earned somebody very good commission and it’s cost us a lot of money over the years. It was totally unsuited to our needs and impossible to understand. It’s not a very good so-called insurance policy where what you really need is another insurance policy against the original one.” The multi-site operator still remains with the same bank, which is why he asked for anonymity. The interest rate swaps have not jeopardised his business but have cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds of extra payments over the years. Last month, Sarumdale, the multi-site pub company headed by Mike Lloyd and Rodney Hall, was forced into administration after an interest rate swap cost the company around £2m over six years. On Friday, the Financial Services Authority found the big four banks had mis-sold interest rate swaps to around 28,000 small businesses. One finding was that swap agreements were often sold for a much longer period than the actual loan it was attached to. Businesses are in line for compensation if they fit two of three criteria – employ fewer than 50 people, have an annual turnover under £6.5m or a balance sheet of less than £3.3m when they took out the their loan. Of the 28,000 firms sold swaps, 12,000 were with RBS, 7,000 with HSBC, 5,000 with Barclays and 4,000 with Lloyds.

Propel Opinion: The various types of interest rate swap products sold to small businesses in the past ten years amount to a fairly crude attempt to generate revenue by the banks. These complex products came loaded-up with unexplained risks for businesses – and were often sold in as an unstated pre-condition of receiving loans. A financial instrument supposedly designed to reduce businesses’ risk turned out to one of the biggest risks many businesses took. For some, the burden became too much. It is another shameful chapter for the banks.

Industry news:

Duty escalator debate in the House of Commons: The House of Commons will consider the duty escalator today (2 July) after Gavin Williamson, Conservative MP for South Staffordshire, secured a debate on the issue. ALMR strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “The debate will not go to a vote but a Treasury representative, most likely Economic Secretary Chloe Smith, will respond on behalf of the government to the issues raised by members.” The escalator currently sees duty on beer increase annually by two per cent plus the rate of inflation. A petition to remove the escalator has 60,000 signatures. The ALMR called for the escalator to be frozen in its submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group’s Alcohol Fraud Inquiry, as was the case when fiscal marking was introduced for spirits in 2006.
Houston applies $5 levy on all customers of the city’s 30 license strip bars: Houston council has voted to apply a $5 levy – being dubbed a “pole tax” - on all customers of the city’s 30 strip clubs. The money will be used to fund the analysis of forensic evidence gathered from rape victims. There is a backlog of 6,000 unprocessed evidence bundles from alleged rape attacks in the city.

Nation’s Restaurant News reports top 100 brands added 4.47 per cent of sales in 2011: US magazine Nation’s Restaurant News has reported the top one hundred foodservice brands in the US added 4.47 per cent to sales in 2011, producing a total of $205.72 billion in sales. It is the first time sales growth has been above four per cent since 2007. Sales growth was driven by unit growth rate of 1.31 per cent and an average rate of growth in sales per unit of 2.91 per cent.

70 per cent of diners tip less than ten per cent of bill: Despite the tough economic climate, many consumers remain defiant about enjoying a meal out with family and friends. Whilst the frequency of eating out has risen in the last six months, the majority of Britons are making sure they monitor their spending on alcohol, food and tips. In the latest Livebookings Dining Index, restaurants report that seven out of every ten customers (73 per cent) tip less than ten per cent of their bill, and 82 per cent of restaurants feel that consumers are generally tipping less than they did six months ago. The findings show that, on average, Brits spend between £11 and £20 on food, and less than £10 each on alcohol when dining out. This means UK diners often leave as little as £1.50 to tip for the service they receive.

Research finds a coffee a day helps fight skin cancer: Research published in the journal Cancer Research has found that a cup of coffee a day can prevent the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma. The researchers, who looked at data from studies involving 112,897 participants over 20 years, found similar links with other dietary sources of caffeine, such as tea and chocolate. Caffeine consumption has already been linked to reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Department of Health claims teenage girls in the UK top European binge-drinking league: A 33-page submission by the Department of Health to the Commons health select committee has claimed teenage girls in the UK top the European league table of binge-drinking. More than half of girls aged 15 and 16 report they drink to excess at least once a month. However, the information is taken from research undertaken in 2007.

Company news:

Orchid improves carvery offer: Managed operator Orchid has moved to improve its King Carvery offer across 55 sites. As part of the new carvery offering, topside beef is now available to all pubs and raw weight portions have been increased. Turkey will be available seven days a week, with lamb, beef, gammon and pork belly on offer throughout the week. A homemade pie will be available every day as part of the carvery offer and customers can have a small piece of pie as well as meat if they wish. Customers can choose from at least two types of potatoes every day, as well as a variety of different vegetables. Both meat and onion gravies will be available at all times, with homemade Yorkshire puddings, oven-baked chipolatas and stuffing balls and fresh sauces rounding off the meal. For those with bigger appetites, the option to Go Large and Beef Up Your Roast can be added on for just £1.50. This means more meat and an additional Yorkshire pudding, chipolata and stuffing ball. Orchid said the move will give it the opportunity to increase spend per head.

Hickman - Fuller’s to benefit from Olympics at train station pubs: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Paul Hickman has argued that Fuller’s nine station pubs, which have a combined turnover of £16m, are likely to benefit from an “explosively busy period over the Olympics”. Referring to an analysts’ field trip around Fuller’s station pubs, Hickman said: “This trip demonstrated some new directions available to the pub industry being actively explored by Fuller’s. Whatever other uncertainties surround the Olympics, they are likely to be an explosively busy period for Fuller’s station pubs. With rail volumes increasing remorselessly on modal shift, and a growing market for value food and drink on the move, this is a promising strategic path, which is about to emerge in high relief during the intensive Olympic period.”

Molson Coors reports good year at Sharp’s Brewery: Sharp’s Brewery, the Cornish brewery acquired by Molson Coors in February last year, has seen sales increase by 22 per cent, with Doom Bar accounting for 88 per cent of volumes, according to The Times. Doom Bar has risen from tenth to third biggest cask beer by volume, behind Greene King IPA and Fuller’s London Pride.

Bill’s Produce opens eighth site today: Bill’s Produce and Grocery store opens its eighth site today, a former Edwards venue in Wimbledon’s Hartfield Road. The ninth site is set to open in Soho in a fortnight’s time, replacing the two venues previously run by Aldo Zilli. These two London openings will double Bill’s London presence. There are further openings lined up for Horsham, Chichester, Guildford and Cardiff this year which will push estate size up to 13.

Shepherd Neame buys four Enterprise pubs: Shepherd Neame, the Kent-based brewer and pub operator, has bought four freehold pubs from Enterprise Inns. The company stated; “These high quality pubs are all located within the company’s heartland of east Kent and further strengthen the company's footprint in this area. The pubs are based in Canterbury, Deal, and Whitstable. All are character pubs with good outside space and three enjoy excellent coastal locations.” The four new pubs will be operated under existing lease arrangements and bring Shepherd Neame's total estate to 354 pubs comprising 44 managed pubs and 310 tenanted and leased pubs. These selective additions follow the acquisition of two hotels in the first half of the year and a further inn purchased in February 2012. The company reported that for the 48 weeks to 26 May 2012 total beer volume grew by 3.8 per cent, like-for-like sales in managed houses grew by 7.7 per cent and average EBITDA per tenanted pub grew by 2.8 per cent.

Norwich entrepreneur takes over second pub: Norwich entrepreneur Lauren Gregory has taken over her second pub. She will-re-open the Sir Garnet Wolseley in Norwich market place with a new name - Sir Garnet – and a focus of handmade burgers and real ales sourced from Norfolk breweries. Gregory also owns The Birdcage and the pub will be managed by Hollie West. She said: “Sir Garnet Wolseley is a bit of a mouthful and everyone keeps spelling it wrong. We are also calling it The Birdcage’s older brother.”

Abbey Ales plans fourth pub in Bath: Abbey Ales, the brewer and pub retailer headed by Alan Morgan, will open its fourth pub in Bath, The Trinity, in middle of next month. It will offer the award-winning brewer's own range of cask beers, including its flagship brand, Bellringer and offer British classics such as home-made pies with mash, fish and chips, roast beef sandwiches, and traditional Sunday lunch. Morgan said: “The Trinity is another Bath city centre pub for us and we believe city centre pubs are the way forward - we are considering more outlets as and when they become available in the city.” The pub has been closed for two months for planning and refurbishment in partnership with owner Punch Taverns.

Winchester multi-site operator plans £600,000 B&B: Winchester pub and restaurant operator David Nicholson plans to build a £600,000 bed and breakfast next to his Black Boy pub in Wharf Hill – it will be called The Black Hole. It would have nine bedrooms and share the same kitchen as the pub. Nicholson said: “I decided to go for a B&B because I think we are short of rooms in Winchester.” He also operates The Black Rat restaurant and Black Bottle wine bar in the city.

Bubbleology to target Latin America expansion next: Bubbleology, the concept that sells fruit-infused Taiwanese tea and which debuted in Soho last year, is to target expansion in Latin America, according to The Mail on Sunday. The concept opened a new site in Notting Hill yesterday – and will look at Latin American expansion in 2013 after opening in Europe and the Middle East this year. Turnover for 2013 is forecast to hit £3.5m.

Byron opens 24th site: The better burger concept Byron opened its 24th site on Saturday in Notting Hill’s Westbourne Grove. Another opening is scheduled for the middle of July in Oxford. Founder Tom Byng has described his competition as “anybody who is competing for customers who have £15 to spend”.

Punch chairman takes hospital chairman role: Punch Taverns chaiman Stephen Billingham has succeeded Colin Maclean as chairman of Royal Berkshire Hospital. He is also a government-appointed non-executive member of the board of URENCO, an independent, global energy and technology group with a key role in the nuclear fuel supply chain, and chairs its audit committee. Billingham is also the chairman of support services company Fountains.

Sound nightclub comes on the market: A new operator is being sought for the 10,000 sq ft Sound nightclub in London’s Leicester Square. The 1,000-capacity venue, which has a 3am licence, is being offered on a new 25-year lease at nil premium. The move comes after Leicester Square underwent a £15.3m revamp to regenerate the area. Jonathan Moradoff, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “This is an exceptional opportunity for a flagship site for a new overseas operator looking to make its London debut, or an established market player looking for a prominent central London base. Its unrivalled positioning benefits from the highest daily footfall in Europe with up to 80,000 people every day, 35 million per year.” Criterion Capital has appointed Davis Coffer to market the site.

McDonald's unveils details of £10m Olympics campaign: McDonald’s has revealed details of its £10m Olympic and Paralympic campaign, which will run for six weeks over the summer. It will be called '“We All Make The Games” and will involve guerrilla film crews and a TV campaign that will celebrate the people and moments of the games.

Gastro-pub kicks off Mersey coastline regeneration plan: A £250,000 investment has seen the re-opening of the former Admiral Pub on the Rock Ferry coastline near Liverpool as a gastro-pub called The Refreshment Rooms. It’s the first project in a plan to regenerate a neglected part of the Mersey coastline. Members of the nearby Royal Mersey Yacht Club formed a consortium to buy the pub, which had been empty for 18 months. It has now been taken over by businessmen Alan Tuohey, Ian Gibbon and Ged Williams.

Hawksmoor secures fourth site: Steak house operator Hawksmoor, owned by Underdog Restaurants, has signed to open its fourth London restaurant - it will be located on Regent Street. However, the new restaurant will feature a menu that gives as much weight to seafood as it does to their famous steaks. Hawksmoor has agreed a deal with Ignite Group to take an assignment of the lease for its 235-cover Senkai restaurant at 65-84 Regent Street. The 10,000 sq ft first-floor restaurant — formerly Cocoon — was assigned on a 26-year lease from 25 March 2004 for an undisclosed premium. Josh Leon, associate director at agent Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “We originally let this unusual space to Ignite Group and their ‘Cocoon’ restaurant was a success for nearly a decade. Recently they reopened it as Senkai, which didn’t work quite so well, but as experienced restaurateurs know, licensed leaseholds can in some cases command substantial premiums even when the business inside is no longer thriving.” Will Beckett, co-founder of Underdog Group, said: "Bruno and Catherine Loubet were kind enough to walk around the restaurant with us before we decided to take it on, and helped us imagine it as it might have been in its glory days - beautifully designed, bustling and exciting. We've never taken on a space with this kind of history before and it definitely adds to the pressure.”

Travelodge to open four London sites this month: Budget accommodation provider Travelodge will open four new sites in London this month to make it the biggest operator in the city for the Olympics with 54 sites. The new openings are in Balham, Enfield, Woolwich and ExCel in Docklands. Chief executive Grant Hearn told The Mail on Sunday that he thought the Olympics would have a neutral effect on occupancy levels because some tourists would stay away from the capital. He told the newspaper: “We always thought it would be difficult – the groups that would usually come to London are going to Paris or Rome instead.”

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