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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 26th Jul 2012 - Thwaites, Pret A Manger, Ed’s Easy Diner

Story of the day:

TGI Friday’s eyes Brighton post office in major UK expansion push: TGI Friday’s has submitted a planning application to convert the old post office in Brighton into a restaurant. The site is in Brighton’s prime restaurant area The Old Town and is close to Mitchells & Butlers’ Browns venue. The company, which operates 51 sites and is headed by Karen Forrester, recently reported eight per cent like-for-like sales growth – and is on track to have its biggest year of openings since it was established in the UK 26 years ago. It is planning to open at least seven sites in the second half of 2012 – and could get to eight openings. These will include new restaurants in Wembley, Manchester, Leeds, Halifax and Blackpool. The company is also eyeing an opening in Liverpool for late 2012. It also acquired the second floor of its Glasgow site and will expand upstairs in October. The bar at the new TGI Friday’s planned for Manchester, set to open shortly, will be the biggest in the world. The venue, to be housed in the city’s Royal Exchange, will create 140 jobs and have 318 covers on the ground floor and a further 100 on a mezzanine floor. Chief executive Karen Forrester told Morning Briefing: “(It) will be the biggest Friday’s bar in the world and we will have a master mixologists’ bar upstairs.” The new TGI Friday’s in Manchester will primarily occupy the ground floor of the Royal Exchange, a Grade II-listed building previously occupied by RBS. Darrell Wade, TGI Friday’s commercial director, said: “The new Manchester restaurant will be something special and we’ve put a huge amount of effort into the plans to make sure that it is a fresh new concept for the city.” TGI Friday’s has also taken the ground floor of a new development in Blackpool that will occupy the landmark site formerly occupied by Yates’s Wine Lodge on Clifton Street.

Industry news:

New York holds hearings on proposed super-sized soft drinks ban: Doctors lined up at a public hearing on Tuesday to speak in favour of a proposed ban on giant-sized sugary drinks at New York City restaurants, cafeterias and snack trucks, while opponents decried the plan as an assault on personal freedom and wondered what tasty but unhealthy foods might be targeted next. New York City’s health board heard hours of testimony on a proposed rule that would limit soft-drink cup and bottle sizes at food service establishments to no larger than 16 ounces. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan on 13 September.

Duty escalator e-petition ranks fifth: The beer duty escalator e-petition, which aims to force a House of Commons debate by gathering 100,000 signatures, currently has 68,000 which means it is currently the fifth largest e-petition.

Luke Johnson – private equity background may leave Mitt Romney unsuited to US presidency: Luke Johnson, the private equity investor, has argued that it is a “leap” for Mitch Romney to move from private equity to becoming US president. In his latest Financial Times column, he said: “Most private equity leaders are fairly discreet and prefer to keep their activities and wealth hidden from the media. Rather the opposite of the life any politician must be willing to lead – this is, after all, the age of complete transparency. Because private equity deals take time to mature and carry is hard to value, many of the industry’s tycoons are worth much more than their magazine rich-list rankings suggest. And those who rise to the top in the profession need to be ferociously interested in accumulating money. By contrast, I would suggest that those who succeed best in politics are much more interested in prizes such as fame and power – and perhaps, who knows, even a belief in doing good.”

Cambridge councillor– “why don’t we buy pubs”: A Cambridge councillor has suggested the local authority buys threatened pubs and lets them at affordable rents. Coun Simon Brierley said the city council could use its role as owner to turn pubs into community hubs. “We could change the focus of pubs from purely drinking to more social and drinking,” he added. Coun Brierley made his suggestion as councillors discussed a new law proposed by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, which would require planning permission to be granted before a pub or independent shop can be demolished. The council passed a motion calling on Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who represents South Cambs, to support the legislation.

FSA appoints new chief executive: The Food Standards Authority has named Catherine Brown as its new chief executive. Brown is currently the chief executive of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Catherine Brown will take up the post in October. She will succeed Tim Smith, who has been chief executive since March 2008. The post carries a salary of £140,000 per annum and is a three-year appointment.

Less than a third of adults hit fruit and veg target: Under a third of adults and only one in ten children are eating their “five-a-day” portions of fruit and vegetables, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. The average adult eats four portions with children further away from the goal with 11 per cent of boys and eight per cent of girls hitting the target.

Bacon is the UK’s favourite food: A survey commissioned by Food Network UK has ranked the banana as the UK’s favourite fruit and ice cream as its favourite dessert. Top ten overall were, in descending order: Bacon, chicken, chocolate, steak, beef, lamb, bread, bananas, baked beans and apples.

Company news:

Mitchells & Butlers appoints new chief information officer: M&B has appointed Martin Taylor as its chief information officer. Taylor, who has worked at M&B since 2007 replaces Mike Sackman who left for Argos in March. Since Sackman's departure, the role has been filled on an interim basis by Tony Bentham, who will stay on until November. Taylor currently has responsibility for infrastructure and services delivery and has been involved in the deployment of Wi-Fi services to M&B customers and staff. M&B chief operating officer Robin Young said: “One of the long term strengths of Mitchells & Butlers is its commitment to people development. Weather, trends, economic changes and demographics move constantly and we continue to succeed because our teams are able to adapt and learn very quickly. The core of our people plan is built around proper succession planning, providing our internal talent with the missing pieces of their armour to grow into bigger roles. Martin has been one of our up and coming superstars and, with the opportunity of the CIO vacancy, we have invested the time and effort into getting him 100 per cent ready for the next level. Nothing beats internal, long term business experience and relationships coupled with great coaching and training.”

Thwaites buys two Spirit pubs: Brewer and retailer Thwaites has bought two Spirit Pub Company sites from its leasehold estate. The Blackburn-based company has bought The Little B in Sale and The Red Lion in Stockton Heath, Warrington. Both will see their cask ale ranges extended while The Little B, which is run by Ann and Steve Gagon, will step up its food offering and have its outdoor drinking facilities upgraded. Thwaites owns and operates more than 340 pubs. Andrew Buchanan, director of pub operations at Thwaites said: “Both The Little B and Red Lion are established, successful pubs and we were keen to work with (the licensees) to respectively develop their pubs and maximise potential. The acquisitions are part of our ongoing strategy to gain the very best pubs and successfully grow our estate.”

Kit Chapman opens new restaurant in Taunton: Restaurateur Kit Chapman has opened a new venue, The Castle Bow Bar & Grill, at The Castle Hotel in Taunton. The venue has its own street entrance to make it appear as a stand-alone restaurant. It’s located next to Brazz, the Castle’s town centre brasserie. 

French – Marston’s has 20 per cent upside potential: Simon French, leisure analyst at Panmure Gordon, has re-iterated his “Buy” recommendation on Marston’s shares. He said: “We reiterate our “Buy” recommendation and 130p Target Price, implying circa 20 per cent upside potential.” Paul Hickman, of Peel Hunt, has a Target Price of 127p. He said: “Stronger than expected managed trading in the last difficult quarter heads a robust result that gives an encouraging account of Marston’s hold on its value market. Our Year Two upgrade for 53 weeks puts FY2013E earnings growth into double-digits and underpins our forecast dividend growth with increased cover.” 

Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights club becomes a pub: The social club in Bolton used for filming of comedian Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights has become a pub. St Gregory’s Social Club, in Farnworth, has surrendered its club licence and is now effectively a pub. The venue can host music until 11.45pm and can sell alcohol, to be consumed on the premises, until 1am. There must be doormen when functions are held there.

New Pub Company expands award-winning pub: New Pub Company, the operator of seven tied Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company leases led by Peter Linacre, has expanded the trading space of its award-winning Camden Eye pub by 40 per cent. The pub, which has a turnover of £1m a year and is run by current BII Licensee of the Year Mahdis Neghabian, has had its toilet re-located to the basement of the pub. Linacre said: “There is wasted space in the gable that would be perfect for a roof terrace and that’s next on the agenda.”

Imbiba investment deadline extended: The deadline to invest in the Imbiba London Bar & Restaurant EIS Fund, headed by City analyst Mark Brumby and John Connell, has been set for 10 August. The fund is looking to raise £10m – the management team has achieved an average compound rate of return for each EIS project in excess of 35 per cent over the last 15 years. Imbiba intends to create a number of bar-restaurant companies in central London including in affluent central London ʻvillagesʼ such as Islington, Camden, Hampstead, Chelsea, Fulham and Notting Hill. Its prospectus states: “These bar-restaurant groups will be separately managed in order to preserve within their management a sense of ownership and the variety of offers, wet-led or food-led, Mediterranean or East Asian cuisine.” Its live projects are Darwin & Wallace, looking to acquire iconic pub sites in west London and Camm and Hopper, an events space company.

Korean fast food company to open in Soho: Korean fast food company Bibigo is to open a restaurant in London’s Soho area in September. The company is owned by CJ Group, Korea’s biggest food company. It has quick service restaurants in Korea, China, Los Angeles and Singapore. The Soho venue will be called Bibigo Bar and Dining and will focus on showing off Korean cooking in a formal setting.

Ed’s Easy Diner to open in designer shopping outlet: Ed’s Easy Diner, which is led by Andrew Guy and backed by Rankvale, will open this Saturday (28 July) in The Cheshire Oaks designer shopping outlet, located just off the M53 motorway near Elsmere Port. The opening is one of six expected in the UK this year - the company had ten sites prior to The Cheshire Oaks opening. Turnover in the year to end of September 2011 stood at £5.95m, a 44 per cent increase on the year before – pre-tax profit was £109,000 compared to a loss of £140,000 the year before.

CG Restaurants buys The Kingly Club: CG Restaurant, which runs the Fire and Stone pizza chain, Tuttons and Dirty Martini cocktail bars, has bought the lease on the iconic Kingly Club in London, according to The Telegraph. The site, sold by Davis Coffer Lyons, has a rent of £52,000 per annum and a 3am licence. Famously, Cabinet minister John Profumo met call girl Christine Keeler at the club. 

Las Iguanas targets 40-site estate: Latin American restaurant chain Las Iguanas plans to expand from 27 sites to 40 in the next two years. New openings in October are planned for Aberdeen, its first venue in Scotland, and The Royal William Yard in Plymouth. 

Nightclub fails to sell at auction: A former nightclub in Middleborough has failed to be snapped up at auction. Cassidy’s Bar and Nightclub on Grange Road, Middlesbrough, went under the hammer this week at an auction run by Pugh and Company in Newcastle. The town centre bar was available with a guide price of £125,000-plus. A spokeswoman for Pugh and Company said no acceptable bid was made and the venue will now be marketed for sale for an eight-week period. If it remains unsold following the two-month spell it will then be for the owner to decide whether it should be auctioned again.

Pret A Manger opens first in-store site in the US: Pret A Manger has opened its first US in-store site – at a new City Target site in Chicago’s Sullivan Centre. The opening is the first retail partnership of its kind for Pret A Manger US and includes a move from its traditional stand-alone sites. President of Pret A Manger US Martin Bates said: “Both Pret and Target customers seek out value, convenience and quality, so this partnership reflects a strong synergy between the two brands.” Target senior vice president Annette Miller said: “By partnering with Pret A Manger in our new CityTarget location, we are able to bring a wide range of delicious, healthy breakfast and lunch choices to urban dwellers, commuters and tourists in downtown Chicago. We're excited that Pret's food offerings will complement the Chicago City Target's unique, one-stop shopping experience.” Target has 1,763 stores.

JD Wetherspoon scoops Bramley apple award: Managed company JD Wetherspoon has won a gong for “Best foodservice product” for its Bramley apple, pear and raspberry crumble, which won over judges with its strong taste and texture. The awards, The Brammeys, recognise businesses that support the Bramley apple. The Bramley crop is down this year due to weather conditions and lack of producer profitability in the previous three years - crops of apples and pears across Europe are down 30 per cent.

Christie & Co offers Bristol boat for £325,000: The Oliver Cromwell Paddle Wheeler, currently moored in West Quay at Bristol’s Gloucester Docks, has come on the market through Christie & Co with a price of £325,000. It was built from a Dutch freight barge in the early 1990s and became the highest capacity cruising hotel boat in Britain. It is not currently trading but could be used as a hotel, restaurant, bar or events venue. Jonathan Hill, Director of Christie + Co in Bristol, said: “The Oliver Cromwell Paddle Wheeler is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon business opportunities. Not only does it benefit from its unique environment and positioning, but it presents the potential investor with a variety of business or residential, uses.”

Prime Bath freehold pub on the market for £500,000: A former gay friendly pub in Bath has been put up for sale with a price of £500,000. The former Bath Tap, on St James’s Parade, is on the market after shutting its doors in April. “The entire property offers the opportunity for an existing public house use or conversion to restaurant or coffee house,” said agent James A Baker. Enterprise Inns initially announced it was looking for a new licensee to take it over.

Winchester’s main nightclub on the market: Winchester’s main nightclub, Porthouse, is on the market with an asking price of £875,000. Keith Goodwin, of Christie’s pubs and restaurants department, based in Staple Gardens, Winchester: said: “There is quite a lot of interest. There are offers on the table from good experienced late-night bar operators, entrepreneurs with other similar businesses. The new owners are expected to refurbish and invest quite a lot of money in the property.” The Porthouse is currently mainly aimed at students. The sale is for the freehold, of building and business, which is currently owned by TSG.

McDonald’s trials deep-fried chick wings (again): McDonald’s is trialing deep-fried chicken wings, Mighty Wings, in selected stores in Atlanta. McDonald’s has tried the Mighty Wings product in the US before, in the 1990s. It branded them as Chicken McWings when offered last year in Australia. They’re currently on the menu in Spain simply as Alitas de Pollo or chicken wings.

Individual Restaurants to invest £1m on site: Individual Restaurants is to invest £1m expanding its Restaurant Bar and Grill site on John Dalton Street in Manchester. The company will open a new 80-seat, south-facing terrace on the first floor of the site, which has been open for 12 years, this summer. In Spring 2013, the company will add a Sky Bar & Grill on the roof of the restaurant, with a wood-burning oven and a charcoal grill.

Jamie’s Italian to open in Norwich next Monday: Jamie’s Italian will open in Norwich’s Royal Arcade - in the former Waterstone’s bookshop - next Monday (30 July). The two-storey restaurant seats more than 250 people and the designers have tried to echo the Art Nouveau style of The Royal Arcade, which was built in 1899 by architect George J Skipper. A private dining room is likely to be added later.

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