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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Wed 18th Jul 2012 - Soho House, Fuller’s and Castle Rock

Story of the day:

McDonald’s most astute user of social media: A survey of social media usage by top US chains has found McDonald’s is the most astute user. The conclusion, contained within Unmetric’s Fast Food Report, ranked Taco Bell a close second. McDonald’s has a dedicated corporate Twitter team of six people and has the fastest corporate reply time on Twitter – 29 minutes - with Chipotle second fastest (37 minutes). McDonald’s has seen 118 per cent follower growth on Twitter since January. Burger King is the slowest of all chains measured (60 hours, 29 minutes). The report found quick-service chains post on Facebook most often on Thursdays. More tweets appear between 3pm and 6pm than any other three-hour span - linked to when dinner decisions are being made. Burger King, which really became active in social media less than a year ago, ranks as the fastest-growing chain on Facebook, with a 105 per cent increase in fans between January and April. Chipotle tops the list of most tweets (15,002) and scores a survey-best 100 per cent on replies to tweets, using Twitter as a conversational tool to connect with followers, replying to 100 per cent of its followers’ 15,002 tweets. Overall, 61 per cent of fast food fans on Facebook are female. “Large fast food chains have long dominated commercial airwaves but in the era of social media these restaurants have a new opportunity to directly engage with fans and seek out a competitive edge,” said Unmetric chief executive Lux Narayan.

Industry news:

Pub and restaurant operators saw 1.3 per cent sales rise in June: UK pub and restaurant groups saw a collective 1.3 per cent increase in like-for-like sales in June, according to latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker data. But a combination of rain, football and the Jubilee produced contrasting fortunes for pub and restaurant operators. “While drink-led pubs saw a healthy jump in like-for-likes, casual restaurant chains suffered a corresponding fall against June last year,” said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the sector Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and UBS. “The market overall was up on last June. But the wet weather, sport and the Jubilee celebrations affected businesses in very different ways,” Martin added. “That was particularly apparent in London, where pub trading was especially strong, but casual dining brands had a tough month. Competition inside the M25 is also fiercer than elsewhere in the country, and the distractions of football on TV, in particular, just added to that,” he said. Much of the increased competition is coming from the chains themselves, reflected in the fact that total sales reported by the Tracker, which include the effects of new openings, were up five per cent on the same period last year, and were positive across all parts of the market. Overall, chains saw more growth in June outside of London than inside. The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses monthly performance data from 25 operating groups. “The eating and drinking-out market has been volatile, like the weather, for most of this, although the overall picture is of a steadily expanding branded sector, driven, by new openings, but with like-for-like growth essentially flat,” added Martin. “Tracker data shows the annualised like-for-like sales growth rate for the leading groups is currently running at around 1.5 per cent, with total sales running at around 5.6 per cent,” he added. Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “We are seeing a change in the pattern of trade in the hospitality sector. Pubs are outperforming restaurants and the provinces are trading better than London. While the weak euro is currently affecting tourist trade in London, the Olympics will be the greatest ever advertisement for London and the UK and we expect to see significant long term benefits for the whole sector especially in areas that traditionally benefit from tourism.” 

Wet weather leads to sharp dip in inflation: The very wet weather has caused inflation to fall to 2.4 per cent. The Office of National Statistics reported that high street shops started their sales early because shoppers weren’t buying items like sunglasses, deodorant and meat for barbecues in the usual numbers. Inflation has fallen by half since November last year.

On-trade drinks market sees polarisation: The 2012 First Drinks Market Report has claimed consumers are either trading up and buying less or trading down and buying more. The report suggests that the trends mean growth in premium and discount brands but that the mid-market will become an “increasingly uncomfortable” part of the sector. One growth area is cocktails which have seen a 26 per cent sales rise but at the moment only one if five outlets offer them.

MPs back duty fraud task force: MPs on the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group have called for the establishment of a new joint government and industry anti-fraud task force with expert stakeholders rather than the introduction of beer duty stamps. This should be set up as soon as possible, to make existing policies work better and to build on the current anti-fraud strategy, the British Beer & Pub Association has argued. BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “I want to thank Andrew Griffiths, John Healey and the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, who have jointly undertaken a very thorough investigation, and have concluded that the time is not right for the introduction of beer tax stamps or supply chain legislation. They are right to be concerned over the very damaging effect these plans would have on the UK brewing and pub industry, and of equal importance, the reduced choice this would mean for beer drinkers.”

US restaurants report good June sales increase: The Nations Restaurant News-Miller Pulse survey found that like-for-like sales rose 3.2 per cent in June within the US restaurant sector compared with 3.1 percent in May. Sales at quick-service restaurants, which include both fast-food and fast-casual brands, rose 3.9 per cent in June, down from a 4.8 per cent increase in May. Full-service restaurants, which include both fine-dining and casual-dining brands, reported a 2.2 per cent gain in like-for-like sales compared with a 0.9 per cent increase, with both sub-segments showing improvement.

New York trans fats ban produces health benefits: New York City's ban on all but the smallest amounts of trans fats in restaurant food in 2008 has led to a significant reduction in consumption. Diners consumed 2.4 fewer grams of trans fat per lunch after the ban went into effect, according to their study published in Tuesday's edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Company news:

Fuller’s reports one per cent decline in managed like-for-likes: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has reported total sales for its managed pubs and hotels grew by eight per cent, but the persistent rain has affected sales in a large number of pubs with gardens, causing like-for-like sales to decline by 1.1 per cent in the 15 weeks to 14 July. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Euro 2012 benefited the other parts of the business more noticeably, with tenanted inns like-for-like profits up one per cent and The Fuller’s Beer Company total beer volumes growing by one per cent, helped by the launch of Hope and Glory in May and Wild River in June, which have both proved “very popular”. Fuller’s stated: “The 30 pubs we acquired last year are performing well and achieving our anticipated sales targets, providing a strong foundation for growth. Six of the 13 managed pubs acquired have now been refurbished and the rest will receive investment during the remainder of this financial year. Refurbishments to existing pubs continue to be successful with sales growing 13 per cent as a result of the investments and we are planning increased expenditure this year. We remain focused on investing for the long term in quality pubs, in premium markets.” Chairman Michael Turner said: “With the opening ceremony a mere nine days away and as the Olympic Torch weaves its way closer to the capital, past a growing number of our pubs and hotels, we can see the excitement building. The Brewery is running at full tilt to ensure that everyone can celebrate with a pint of London Pride.” Nigel Atkinson steps down from the board after today’s annual general meeting.

Ever So Sensible Bars opens twelfth venue: Ever So Sensible Bars, the Midlands-based multiple headed by Chris Bulaitis has opened its twelfth site. The company and the pub’s owner Everards have undertaken a £100,000 retro refurbishment of The Globe in Leicester’s Silver Street. Original gas wall lamps at The Globe, in Silver Street – which opened in 1720 – have been brought back into use. General manager Tom Lawton said: “I think there are only four pubs in the UK with gas-powered lighting.” A second stage of the works will see a bistro venue open upstairs in September - it will use ingredients bought at Leicester Market.

Beds and Bars to trial glasses-free 3D across European sites: Hostel provider Beds and Bars will trial Stream TV Networks glasses-free 3D at its London, Edinburgh, Prague, Berlin and Paris locations this summer. Matt Young, Streams representative in London, said: “The change that Ultra-D brings from all the other 3DTVs is mind-blowing.” Beds and Bars group operations director Eddy Passey told Morning Briefing: “Having had 3D Sky in two bars for two years, the barrier to mass use is wearing glasses so this technology could be a game- changer – that’s why we are delighted to participate in the launch trial.” 

Mitchells & Butlers plans new-build Toby Carvery for Hemel Hempstead: Mitchells & Butlers is to open a new-build Toby Carvey next to the Marylands roundabout in Hemel Hempstead. A 108-bedroom Travelodge will also open at the site.

Soho House Group to open first Chicken Shop next month: Soho House Group has revealed that its new restaurant concept, Chicken Shop, will open in Kentish Town on 20 August. Chicken Shop is a restaurant dedicated to serving rotisserie chicken, utilising a brand-new cooking method developed in-house. Located in the basement space of Highgate Studios, the design of Chicken Shop takes inspiration from a 1950s General Store, and will serve free-range chicken quartered, halved or whole with secret recipe marinades and simple sides. 

Diageo sponsors CPL Guide to Licensing: Leading licensed retail training company CPL Training has created “A Pocket Guide to Licensing”, a passport-sized guide to reinforce personal licence training. Spirits giant Diageo has sponsored CPL to produce the guide. CPL Training, which now trains one in four of all people seeking the Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders (APLH), has created a pocket guide that covers 16 core topics that all licensed retail managers and their staff should know about. Mark Baird, head of industry affairs and alcohol policy at Diageo GB, comments in the Introduction to the guide: “This passport-sized guide gives licensed retail staff a quick, easy source of reference for the main points of licensing law and social responsibility in relation to the retail sale of alcohol. It reinforces the more formal training that staff and personal licence holders undergo.” CPL Training’s head of compliance Paul Chase said: “It’s important that managers and staff keep in mind the four licensing objectives when operating their premises. A handy, compact source of reference makes it easy for staff to reference those objectives, as well as information on a wealth of other topics.” “A Pocket Guide to Licensing” is available to purchase from the CPL Training website for just £2.50. It can be bought at

Domino’s Pizza celebrates 15 years in Wales: Domino’s Pizza has marked 15 years of operating in Wales by holding a commemorative event at its first Welsh store, located on Cryws Road, in Cardiff. Domino’s 28 stores across Wales came together to mark the occasion by offering £15 meal deals on their current menus. 

Bakewell rejects Costa Coffee: A plan by Costa Coffee to open in Bakewell has been refused by the Peak District National Park Authority amid concerns that the establishment would harm the town’s character and put jobs at risk. The company hoped to convert the former Bennetts store on King Street, Bakewell, into a 54-seater coffee shop. A representative for Costa Coffee made an appearance at the planning meeting to defend the application and pointed out that the planning system is not ‘set up to discriminate against big companies’ and argued that the ‘character of Bakewell will not be affected’ by the proposed coffee shop.

Scottish pub becomes the first in Scotland to achieve sustainability top score: Aberdeen pub The Mains of Scotstown Inn, owned by Punch taverns, has become the first pub restaurant in Scotland to be awarded three stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. This makes the pub restaurant one of only ten in the UK to be granted three star sustainability status, the highest rating by the scheme. Other winners of the award include Raymond Blanc and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The rating was awarded by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), a not-profit organisation that assesses how sustainable restaurants are. The sustainability rating looks at restaurants’ sourcing and its social and environmental impact. The pub, which is run by licensee Martin Young, was examined by expert SRA assessors in 14 key focus areas. “Keeping food miles down and using locally sourced produce is a priority for me,” said Martin. “Both myself and my fiancé Tracey visit all of our food suppliers, making sure that the food produce are freedom foods, organic and free-range where possible.”

Wellington Pub Company pub re-opens after four year closure: The Rising Sun, in Bridge Street, Winchester will re-open this coming Friday (20 July) after four years of closure – as a traditional alehouse. Experienced licensees Alex Bell and Nicola Ramshaw have agreed a 23-year lease with Wellington Pub Company and plan to turn the building into a traditional alehouse. Bell said: “It’s going to be a pub for locals. I don’t think there is a really traditional pub in Winchester where you can just go for a drink with your mates. We aren’t going to do food, we will make it a real alehouse.”

Castle Rock Brewery reports beer gong led to 122 per cent volume boost: Castle Rock Brewery has reported that winning the CAMRA Supreme Champion award for its Harvest Pale led to a 122 per cent increase in like-for-like sales over the past two years. Managing director Colin Wilde said: “The supreme award came just before the completion of our new brewery, an investment we had planned to ‘grow into’ over the coming decade. I'm pleased to say that by the end of year two, we've far exceeded the most optimistic of our forecasts. The challenge still remains to grow sales to match our full capacity of 18,000 barrels per annum, even though we're well on track to do this a lot earlier than we thought possible. Sales of our other beers have risen by 47 per cent in the same years' comparison meaning aggregate sales have approximately doubled in the two-year period. And while trading since this year has been a lot tougher than we'd like, and our growth rates have inevitably slowed, we have to wonder where we'd be if we were not in the middle of the wettest summer in living memory.”

Caldmore Taverns re-opens Stoke’s worst pub as family venue: Shropshire-based Caldmore Taverns has invested £200,000 in the former Foaming Tankard in Fenton – once branded as “one of the worst” in Stoke – as a family venue called Darcy’s. It has reopened after an eight-month closure. Licensee Gary Fullerton said: “The new venue is so light now, where before it was dark and dingy. We really want to turn this into a family pub so we’ve reclaimed a lot of the older parts of the building to try to get back to its roots.” Improvements include the introduction of oak floorboards, an old pew and a working grandfather clock.

Brakspear buys first Cotswold pub: Henley-based Brakspear has completed the purchase of its third pub in as many weeks, taking the tenanted operator’s total estate to 144 and giving it a foothold in the heart of the Cotswolds. The Royalist in Stow-on-the-Wold has been bought out of administration – it is reputed to be England’s oldest inn, with parts of the building dating back to the 10th century. Grade II listed, it currently houses a separate restaurant as well as 14 recently modernised letting rooms. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “The Royalist has enormous potential thanks to its outstanding location and rich heritage. We are looking forward to making it the first choice for drinking, dining and overnight destination for the many visitors to Stow from both the UK and abroad.” Brakspear has invested significantly in its pubs with letting rooms. The White Hart at Nettlebed near Henley received a £250,000 refurbishment in spring 2011, followed by additional letting rooms this year to take the total to 19. The Crown at Playhatch also received a £500,000 remodelling, including an upgrade of its ten bedrooms. The Royalist is currently operating with an interim Brakspear tenant while the company considers longer-term options. Brakspear will be investing substantially in the pub to ensure it is able to deliver on its potential. 

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