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Tue 31st Jul 2012 - TLC Inns, Little Chef and Dishoom

Story of the day:

Good weather produces record sales weeks: Companies have reported that the belated arrival of good weather in the last two weeks of July has led to record sales weeks. TLC Inns, the award-winning six-strong operator founded by Steve Haslam and Jo Drain, has reported warm weather last week led to a record sales of £170,000, a £20,000 increase on the previous best sales week. Haslam said: “The Olympics had no bearing on it – in fact the weakest day was the opening ceremony day on Friday. It was all weather-related. It restores your confidence that if you do have a period of positive weather then the sales will roll-in.” Bulldog Hotel Group, the six-strong coaching inn operator led by Kevin Charity, has reported two record weeks – a £176,000 week followed by a £160,000. The sales outcome was achieved despite one site, the Admiral Rodney in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, still suffering from flood damage. He said: “The sun arrived and people started coming out – it makes a big, big difference. This week already looks really good as well. However, this weather will not make up for what amounted to eight awful weeks with the weather.” Anglian Country Inns, the four-strong operator led by James Nye, reported takings of just over £160,000 last week. He said: “These last two weeks have been fantastic. In the first half of July we were minus ten per cent on like-for-likes compared to last year. But overall we finished five per cent up on last year after business really started motoring. Our Jolly Sailors in Brancaster, Norfolk, broke three records last week, including serving 307 covers in three hours.” Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars, the three-strong company run by Tim Bird, said the company’s Red Lion in Weymouth had its busiest week ever and The Bull’s Head in Mobberley, Cheshire, had the second busiest week ever. Bird said: “The Bull’s Head would have had the busiest week ever but for the Olympics opening ceremony although a lot of people ate early and Saturday was busier than normal. There’s definitely a feel-good factor out there.” Innventure, the six-strong group led by Chris Gerard, saw sales up 35 per cent year-on-year, with country pubs such as the Foresters, Church Crookham, Hampshire and The Rusty Gun in St Ippolyts, Hertfordshire leading the way. 

Industry news: 

London is congestion-free on Olympics Monday: The first working day of the Olympics, long-regarded as the first big test of transport systems in London, was congestion-free yesterday as workers heeded warnings and took holidays or worked from home.  Usually jammed roads such as London Bridge and The Embankment saw light traffic during the day and major underground stations were largely clear during peak travel times. 
 
Westfield plans further £3bn investment: Westfield, the Australian shopping centre developer, is to invest £3bn on further projects in the UK. These include an extension to its west London site, building a delayed shopping centre in Bradford and a new £1b centre in Croydon where it will redevelop the Whitgift shopping centre.

Nation’s Restaurants News names its four US hot concepts: US foodservice magazine Nation’s Foodservice News has named its four “2012 Hot Concepts”. The winners are: CoolHaus, a food truck fleet that customises ice cream sandwiches – there’s a choice of six cookie bases and 25 ice cream flavours; Del Frisco’s Grille, a smaller, more casual offshoot of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse; Pie Five Pizza Co., a fast-casual, make-your-own pizza chain that cooks to order in less than five minutes; and Stacked, a full-service brand that focuses on customised food and uses iPads to allow customers to order, customise and pay. “This year’s winners are moving foodservice forward by embracing today’s changing consumer landscape, from their use of technology and social media to their customer-friendly service styles and menu choices,” said Randall Friedman, publisher of Nation’s Restaurant News.

Company news:

Avenue Capital loads up on Punch and Travelodge debt: US-based hedge fund Avenue Capital has raised $3bn as part of a strategy to invest in the debt of companies in the healthier countries in Europe, which it feels offer good value amid fears about the future of the Euro. The biggest chunk of the fund’s assets have been invested in Britain. The fund sees opportunity as banks in Europe come under pressure from regulators to shrink their balance sheets and unload debt at deep discounts. In Britain, Avenue’s bets include the debt of Punch Taverns as well as Travelodge. “Travelodge is a good business but they’re having trouble in the current economic environment,” said Marc Lasry. Punch’s debt was purchased from British insurance companies while Travelodge’s debt was acquired from banks in Britain, Italy and Ireland. “Europe isn’t going away, and the companies aren’t going away,” Lasry added. “You can never time a bottom. What you can do is a time a cycle and five years from now, people will say, ‘Why didn’t I buy?’ ”

YO! Sushi makes “very encouraging” start in Washington DC: Conveyor belt sushi concept YO! Sushi has got off to a good start in its first week of opening at its debut site in Washington DC. Business development director Alison Vickers said: “We have had a very encouraging start in our first week at YO! Sushi, Union Station in Washington DC. We had a “soft opening” on Monday 23rd and then a press launch on Tuesday evening. We have had some excellent feed-back from guests, as well as food bloggers and social network sites. Union Station is an iconic building and with a wide range of restaurant and food choices, we believe we have provided quality sushi, Asian salads and hot Japanese classics at a reasonable price in a sleek designed restaurant for time starved workers and travellers, as well as a great selection of to go boxes which are proving very popular too.”

Costa Coffee to launch retail extension in the next couple of weeks: Costa Coffee is to launch Costa Roast and Ground Coffee, its retail brand extension, in the next couple of weeks. The brand, which is launched in a collaboration between Kraft Foods and Costa, is Costa’s first venture into retail products. Its branded items will also be available in the Costa Coffee shops. Alan Gilbody, creative director of Slice Design, which worked on the packaging, said: “A big part of the Costa experience is the skill of the barista. We wanted to capture this on pack by introducing some of the tips and tricks that the baristas use in store every day so that coffee lovers can now enjoy the prefect cup of Costa coffee at home.”

Former Mitchells & Butlers director of operations joins Selfridges: Former Mitchells & Butlers director of operations Brian Hannon has joined Selfridges as its director of food and restaurants. Hannon, who worked at M&B for 18 years, oversaw the development and roll-out of a number of brands at the company including Ember Inns, O’Neill’s, Nicholson’s and the Metro Professionals brand. Hannon replaces Ewan Venters who is set to join Fortnum & Mason next month. Hannon was most recently divisional director at its London-based metropolitan pubs division. He takes up his new role on 29 October.

Enterprise licensee faces estimated £100,000 legal bill: Enterprise licensee Daniel Dempsey of The Green Tavern Croydon, who was represented by solicitors Ferdinand Kelly, faces an estimated £100,000 bill over a failed High Court challenge to Enterprise Inns’ right to install an iDraught monitoring system. Costs were awarded in favour of Enterprise and an order has been issued for a substantial initial first payment to be made within 14 days – believed to be around £20,000. This is in addition to the licensee’s own significant legal costs. Enterprise chief executive Ted Tuppen said: “Regrettably, this was another expensive and unnecessary legal excursion. Publicans who do not breach the purchasing obligations in agreements freely entered into have nothing to fear from technology installed at thousands of public houses in the UK where there is a clear and express agreement that the equipment selected by Enterprise can be installed. In light of the reasoned judgment in this case, and previous cases, this should now draw a line under the issue. Further proceedings would be a distraction from focussing on the real issues facing the pub industry in terms of taxation, red tape and supermarket pricing.”

Norfolk couple add second pub: Karl and Kath Long have doubled up by taking over the reins at The Anvil in Congham, Norfolk, their second pub. They also run The London Porterhouse in London Road, Kings Lynn.

Greene King – wet trade fell at pub by 71 per cent in five years: Greene King has applied to convert a village pub, The Rose and Crown in Holmsey Green, Beck Row, into six houses. A spokesperson for Greene King said: “Unfortunately, due to declining sales, the pub became unviable as a business and was closed more than a year ago. We have since been unable to re-open the site and, as such, we took the decision to apply to change the pub into housing.” The pub was closed in July 2011 and within the planning application it is stated that in the five years before the pub’s closure wet trade fell by 71 per cent.

Scottish Borders Brewery opens first pub: Scottish Borders Brewery has bought its first pub – The Cross Key in Ancrum. Scottish Borders Brewery, founded on boss John Henderson’s 1,800-acre Chesters Estate, plans to turn the venue into a Mecca for real ale enthusiasts. The brewery supplies more than 200 outlets across central Scotland and the north of England with its cask ales, all of which are created using the brewery’s own home-grown barley and spring water. Earlier this year it scooped two top regional business awards at the Scottish Borders Business Excellence Awards.

Coca-Cola – our Olympics tickets are being used: Coca-Cola has insisted its allocation of tickets for the Olympics is being used. The company stated: “At Coca-Cola, we have given the majority of the London 2012 tickets that we were able to purchase as a worldwide partner away to the public via competitions and promotions that allowed them to choose the event they really wanted to attend, giving thousands of people the opportunity to participate in the greatest show on earth. In addition to consumers, we have also invited some long-standing partners, employees, and customers to attend the Games. All of our guests are incredibly excited to be able to be a part of London 2012 and we believe that usage levels of our tickets have been extremely high so far.”

Pod founder aims for 1,000 Pods within the M25: Tim Hall, founder of healthy eating concept Pod, aims to have 1,000 units located within the M25 eventually, according to The Daily Telegraph. The estate is set to expand to 23 units by September this year – turnover is expected to rise to £14m this year.

Marston’s applies to build 300 homes: Midlands-based brewer and retailer Marston’s is applying for planning consent to build 300 homes on unused land it owns. Dozens of people have attended a public exhibition at the brewery to examine the plans to build 300 new homes on land owned by Marston’s brewery. Marston’s wants to win planning permission for the development of the grazing land off Forest Road.

St Austell signs up to paperwork-busting scheme: Cornish brewer and retailer St Austell Brewery has become the first business in Cornwall to sign up to a “one-stop-shop” scheme in setting food hygiene standards. It has signed Cornwall Council's Primary Authority partnership agreement. The partnership, which covers environmental health, licensing and trading standard issues, means the county authority will be the first point of contact for other councils on such topics. It means that St Austell Brewery's 170 pubs and hotels across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, will no longer have to provide a plethora of paperwork and details to a number of different local councils.

Top chef adds basement restaurant to Cornish pub: Licensee Tim Robinson, who trained under Gary Rhodes at his Michelin-starred Rhodes 24 has opened a fine-dining restaurant, Quills, in the basement of his Wig & Pen pub in Truro, a St Austell’s pub. The kitchen also employs Johnnie Mountain, who appeared in the Great British Menu. Landlady Georgie Robinson said: “We're proud that The Wig & Pen is already well established for its food offering and we’re aiming for Quills to take this one step further. Diners can expect a fine dining restaurant with a twist; no two items of furniture are the same.” The restaurant was launched with a “pay what you think it’s worth” event.

Dishoom to open second site: Dishoom, the Indian restaurant located in Covent Garden, is to open a second venue in Shoreditch’s Boundary Street in the autumn. The Dishoom concept recreates The Irani cafés that were formerly a feature of life in Bombay. The new site will feature a 110-seat café, 40-cover bar, 50-seat kitchen and a 30-cover outside courtyard.

New Farnenheit restaurant opens at Genting casino: An upscale restaurant Farenheit, with 80 covers and a Josper grill, has opened in The Genting Club, on Manchester’s Portland Street. The food and drink at the Genting Club Manchester has been masterminded by ex-head chef at Claridge’s, Paul Farr. Paul joined Genting earlier this year after nine years at the famous London hotel.

Little Chef starts takeaway at 11 sites: Roadside eatery Little Chef has launched a takeaway concept called Little Chef Express at 11 sites. The sites, in existing Little Chef locations, will offer barista coffee, tea, soft drinks and a range of meal deals including a breakfast bap and a hot drink for £2.69. All 11 Little Chef Express restaurants have been completely re-decorated with a focus on bright, simple decor and to champion Charlie, the Little Chef mascot who features prominently on takeaway cups and packaging. An additional 12 restaurants across the UK will also serve up the takeaway option, co-existing alongside Little Chef's traditional eat-in space. Graham Sims, chairman of Little Chef, said: “The birth of Little Chef Express marks a radical move away from the historic ‘sit down and dine’ option for which Little Chef became famous. Today we will break that historic mould by offering customers quality food quickly via our Little Chef Express restaurants. From today we aim to serve up the best taste, best quality and best value that can be found on our A road network.”

Anglesey restaurant boom creates 100 jobs: Anglesey has seen four restaurants open in multi-million pound investments - with around 100 new hospitality jobs created in the last eight weeks. Every new eating place is committed to buying locally from farmers and others producers. This weekend saw the latest opening when The Black Lion opened in Llanfaethlu after being closed for seven years. Other openings include Dylan’s on the edge of the Menai Strait six weeks ago and the £3m opening of The Oyster Catcher at the former Maelog Lake Hotel site in Rhosneigr bringing another 40 catering jobs at its 200-cover restaurant.

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