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Mon 9th Jul 2012 - Brakspear, Hakkasan and Leon

Story of the day:

Brakspear buys two Enterprise pubs; Simon and Kate Daws also buy their Enterprise pub: Henley-based tenanted pub operator Brakspear has bought two Enterprise Inns freeholds for an undisclosed price. The move, the first pub acquisition by the company in six years, reflects Brakspear’s ambition to enhance its pub portfolio with strategic purchases and further acquisitions are likely later this year. The pubs are located in Englefield Green and Sunbury, falling within Brakspear’s current trading area. One of the new pubs is a destination food outlet, the other is a wet-led operation. Both are a “perfect fit” to Brakspear’s existing estate, according to chief executive Tom Davies. He said: “Brakspear is definitely in the market for the right pubs, in the right places. Both these purchases are quality sites, run by talented retailers with whom we are looking forward to building successful partnerships. We have acquired these outlets because we believe they will deliver long-term returns for us and our tenants. They fit perfectly with our strategy of acquiring and investing in quality pubs, and attracting the best retailers to run them with us. We believe Brakspear already has one of the best tenanted-only estates in the business and are looking forward to strengthening it even further.” Meanwhile, Simon and Kate Daws have bought the freehold of Enterprise Inns’ Royal Oak in Prestbury, Cheltenham, a pub they have run for 12 years. Simon said: “The Royal Oak has been a very kind business to us, and we love the pub in every sense of the word. We have such great customers and we owe them all a huge vote of thanks for their loyalty over the years. Without that support we simply could not have purchased the pub.” The Royal Oak is well-known for being the closest inn to Cheltenham Racecourse and serving ale and food. Simon and Kate run a second Enterprise Inns pub, The Gloucester Old Spot, on Cheltenham’s Tewkesbury Road. The acquisition comes from the top-end Enterprise pubs that are being sold by the company on a multiple of 12 to 14 times earnings.

Propel Opinion: Brakspear has become the third tenanted company to announce it has bought a package of Enterprise Inns top-end pubs – Fuller’s and Shepherd Neame were the first. Other family regional brewers, including St Austell and Charles Wells, are understood to be in negotiations to buy pubs from Enterprise. Enterprise is selling pubs from its top-end to reduce bank debt while buyers are improving the average quality of their tenanted estates. Bruce Bars and Thorley Taverns have also bought sites from Enterprise in the past six months. Meanwhile Simon and Kate Daws have become the first known sitting tenants to have succeeded in buying their pub. 

Industry news:

Government’s appointment of Leon founders is a Jamie Oliver snub: The decision to appoint Leon founders John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby to review the provision of school food is being seen as a snub for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Vincent and Dimbleby met Oliver twice before agreeing to take on their new role. A source close to Oliver told The Sunday Times: “I think the emotion is disenchantment. He hopes for action.”

Silk Cut producer sets £2m aside to fight plain packaging: The owner of Silk Cut, Benson & Hedges, Camel and Winston cigarette brands, Japanese Tobacco International, has set aside £2m to fight Department of Health proposals to force tobacco manufacturers to use plain packaging.

Mulholland tables Commons motion criticising Heineken Games sponsorship: Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland has tabled a House of Commons motion criticising Heineken’s sponsorship of the Olympic Games. “A British beer would have been far more appropriate than a Dutch beer for the Olympic Games,” he argued.

Marco Pierre White – industry faces shortage of experienced chefs: Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has claimed that the restaurant industry faces a lack of qualified staff because of a boom in restaurant numbers. He said: “The world moves so quickly now compared to how it moved in the 1970s when I was a boy. If you look at how the restaurant industry is expanding enormously, there’s all these opportunities, and there’s a shortage of chefs.”

Charles Wells charts in International Track 200: Bedford-based Charles Wells has featured in a Sunday Times list of UK private firms with the fastest growing overseas sales. The company, which has eight pubs in France, has posted 22 per cent sales growth since 2009, growing revenue to £10.9m a year. 

US restaurants create 116,000 jobs in first half of 2012:  The US foodservice sector added a net 116,000 jobs in the first half of 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). “Our industry has continually been at the forefront of job creation for the last two years,” said NRA chief executive Dawn Sweeney. Since the employment recovery began in March 2010, US restaurants have added more than 575,000 jobs. The restaurant industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million, or almost 10 per cent of the US workforce.

Company news:

Sugar Hut operator to bid for Enterprise freehold: The operator of The Sugar Hut in Brentwood in Essex, which features in reality TV show 'The Only Way is Essex', is to bid to buy the freehold from operator Enterprise Inns this Wednesday. Mick Norcross has confirmed he will attend an Allsop auction in Piccadilly to try and buy the freehold, which has a guide price of between £1.25 million and £1.35 million. Norcross pays rent of just over £70,000 per annum on the site with a 21-year lease that started in September 2004. He said: “We have tried to negotiate the purchase over the last 12 months but it would seem that our success and goodwill has thwarted negotiations and now the landlord feels the auction room will be the best gauge to determine the price.”

Wetherspoon - 90 per cent of jobs are going to UK citizens: Most of the jobs created by pubs giant Wetherspoon in the past two years have gone to Britons, debunking the myth that workers from this country are losing out to immigrants. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said he believed some of the statistics covering the employment of immigrants compared with British-born workers were “dodgy”. In the past two years, the company has opened around 100 new pubs, creating 3,300 jobs, with 90 per cent going to British-born applicants. Martin stressed that Wetherspoon was open to applications from anyone, and employed a number of non-British born staff. “I have read reports that most jobs being created have gone to immigrants, which seem to be accepted as the truth. But that is not my experience - in fact the difference is startling,” he told the Press Association. “I am definitely not saying that UK workers are great and foreign workers are bad. We have fantastic candidates from foreign (applicants), but they are equalled by UK-born employees. There are a lot of dodgy statistics flying around. There is no question that UK workers can compete with the best in the world.”

Spirit Pub Company celebrates Flaming Grill two year anniversary: Spirit Pub Company has celebrated the two year anniversary of launching Flaming Grill, the brand that grown to 81 sites. Beth Wilcock, concept manager for Flaming Grill, said: “We’re extremely proud of what we have achieved with Flaming Grill over the past two years.” Geof Collyer, analyst at Deutsche Bank, estimates that Flaming Grill sites average turnover of £932,360 per annum (or £17,930 per week).

Simon French reiterates Young’s buy recommendation: Panmure Gordon leisure analyst Simon French has re-iterated a “Buy” recommendation ahead of tomorrow’s Young’s annual general meeting with a “Target Price” of 615p for the shares. He said: “Despite the terrible weather, London pubs should have traded relatively well over the last six weeks given the Diamond Jubilee and Euro 2012. We forecast one per cent sales growth for the first quarter compared to 2.7 per cent last year and - two per cent after seven weeks. London pubs should trade exceptionally well over the next two months and Young's is our favoured way of capitalising on the Olympics. Over the medium-term the group is well positioned to make single site or package acquisitions whilst adding bedrooms where appropriate at existing London pubs. With circa 90 per cent of group earnings coming from managed pubs within the M25 we think Young's also has appealing defensive characteristics underpinned by a forecast Net Asset Value per share of 685p reflecting 2012’s property revaluation (excluding a lotting premium).”

Leon starts customer bonds scheme with a giveaway: Healthy eating chain Leon has launched its customer bond using a £1,000 give-away with a twist. A customer was picked at random last week at Leon’s branch on the Strand and was served up a tray of £eon Pounds, worth £1,000 to spend in the restaurant. This give-away was part of the launch of Leon’s bond scheme which will support the expansion of the chain and help to set up the not-for-profit Leon foundation, dedicated to making it easy for everyone to eat good, healthy food. In return for investing, customers are paid interest in the form of £eon Pounds. A £eon £1,000 give-away will take place every Thursday at a random Leon restaurant until applications for the bond close at 5pm on 31 July. Henry Dimbleby, co-founder, said: “As trust in the banks dives to ever deeper levels, the age of people power is upon us, where consumers trust their favourite brands above the banks. We love the idea of businesses and customers interacting for both to benefit. Leon can grow and our regulars receive returns that would normally go to a bank.” Fellow co-founder John Vincent added: “Savers can't get the rates. Banks aren't lending to businesses. And this is despite the government giving them money to do so. So let's cut out the middle man.” Rates of return for bondholders are impressive compared to bank interest rates - customers will enjoy a gross return of 10 per cent for £1,500 rising to 15 per cent for an investment of £5,000 and repayment after three years.

West Cornwall Pasty Company plunges to £2m loss: West Cornwall Pasty Company has booked a £1,970,000 loss after “proactive tidying up of under performing stores in the estate”. The company has turnover of £23,994,550m in the year to 24 February 2012, down from £26,801,486 the year before. Edbita was £2,258,742 compared to £2,365,036 the year before. The company reported it had a franchise agreement with Moto Hospitality, which has now grown to 14 motorway sites since it started in January 2011. Its stadium operation at Twickenham now has four units and it is in discussions with a number of contract caterers. The company wants to “significantly expand outlets both in High Street locations and travel hubs” this year. A unit in the Shard will be operational this October and a second site in Windsor is due to open in the middle of this month.

Hakkasan - small profit after shareholders waive exceptional interest payments: Hakkasan, the upmarket restaurant group that includes the Michelin-starred Hakkasan off Tottenham Court Road and Yauatcha in Soho, has reported turnover up 35 per cent to £20.93m from £15.54m. It reported an operating loss of £634,111 in the year to 28 May 2011 compared to a profit of £1,190,389 the year before, but booked a profit before tax of £58,355 after shareholders waived exceptional interest of their loans to the company. The year saw the opening of Hakkasan in Mayfair, helped by a loan of £11.6m “from a third party related to its shareholder” to provide working capital and build the Mayfair site. The company has net accumulated losses of £12.8m and net current assets of £8.19m. All three UK restaurants have “traded well”. Hakkasan also has sites in Miami and Abu Dhabi operating under management agreements - and has opened venues in Dubai, Mumbai and New York in the past seven months. Profit was also helped in the most recent year by victory against HRMC over the company’s Tronc system that allowed the release of a £546,210 provision. Hakkasan, founded by Wagamama creator Alan Yau and owned by Abu Dhabi based Rasameem Real Estate, bought Japanese company Sake No Hana last year.

Handpicked Hotel posts £7m loss; interest rate swap liability is £27m: Handpicked Hotels, which is owned by Guy and Julia Hands and operates 18 high quality hotels, with 949 bedrooms, in the UK, has posted a £7m loss on turnover of £60.3m in the year to 24 November 2011. The company made a £7.3m loss on turnover of £59.2m the year before. Ebitda was £8.8m compared to £9m the year before and operating profit stood at £730,000, up from £660,000 the year prior. Guy and Julia Hands have lent the company a combined £25m and it has bank debt of £95m. The company interest rate swap liability is £27.8m, an increase of £9.5m over the year before.

Shard attracts Zuma for Spring 2013 opening: The owner of the Shard skyscraper has attracted the owner of Zuma, the Japanese restaurant, to open at the site in Spring 2013, according to The Sunday Times. Zuma is expected to open a New York-style grill. Three floors of the building, levels 31 to 33, will be given over to restaurants. 

Benito’s Hat founder plans three more restaurants: Benito’s Hat, the four-strong Tex-Mex operator founded by Ben and Kaylee Fordham, hopes to open three more restaurants in the coming year. The company, reports The Sunday Times, is trying to raise £1.5m from angel investors. 

UK dining club signs 70 new operators in June: UK dining club The Gourmet Society has signed over 70 top-quality restaurant, pub and bar partners in June, including the award-winning fine-dining restaurant, Colette's at the Grove, recipient of three prestigious AA Rosettes. The spike comes as Allegra’s Project Restaurant 2012 report reveals that 60 per cent of diners are now spending cautiously. Other new signings include the two AA Rosette Forbury’s French Restaurant and Wine Bar, Four Seasons Restaurant at the Wynnstay Hotel, Chaophraya Fine Thai Dining and, London-based Swizzle-Stick Bars venues, Clause, Pause and Patch. Launched in 2004 to help restaurants, pubs and bars drive covers, The Gourmet Society offers flexible dining promotions, allowing operators to choose the type and availability of the incentive.

Villagers club together to buy pub: A total of 100 villagers in Hillesley, Gloucestershire, have clubbed together to buy The Fleece Inn in the village. The Fleece, along with 36 other pubs across the country, went up for sale last October when Retail and Licensed Properties No6 went into administration - the pub closed in April. Nigel Vaughan, spokesman for the pub’s new owner Hillesley Community Pub Ltd, said: “The whole aim is to have a traditional English village country pub. Affordable is key, we’re not going to be one of those expensive gastro pubs. Emphasis will be on fresh local produce.”

JD Wetherspoon to reopen fire-hit Woolwich pub: JD Wetherspoon will re-open its The Great Harry pub in Woolwich, south London, tomorrow (Tuesday) – 11 months after the original pub on the site was destroyed by fire during the riots of August 2011. It has spent £1.3 million redeveloping The Great Harry. Chief executive John Hutson said: “The pub plays an important role in the Woolwich community. In the days following the disturbances, the hoardings around the burnt out pub became a ‘tribute wall’ for people to leave messages and comments of support, which showed the importance of the pub to them and the local community.”

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