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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 21st Aug 2012 - Greene King, Jam House and Domino’s UK

Story of the day:

Greene King – alcohol education needs to be added to the curriculum; minimum price should be 45 to 50p: Suffolk-based Greene King has called for alcohol education to be added to the school curriculum in written evidence supporting minimum pricing submitted to the health select committee. The Suffolk-based brewer, which was the only managed pub or restaurant retailer to submit evidence, said that 40p per unit is too low a level to have “enough of an impact on public health”, backing the 45 to 50p level proposed by the Scottish government. Greene King, the UK’s second largest managed pub operator, called for minimum pricing to be introduced alongside other “measures including restrictions on the availability of alcohol in unsupervised environments and specific restrictions on promotions, alcohol displays, time of sale and better health education”. The company said: “We believe that the government should work with the industry, health groups and other stakeholders to develop an effective code on these measures to tackle the problem.” Greene King called for all government departments to be involved in shaping and implementing alcohol policy but that the process should be led by the Home Office. The company also claimed that the shift in consumption to stronger wines, spirits and ciders, increasingly consumed at home, continues to compound the UK’s alcohol-related problems. It said: “We believe that (minimum pricing), rather than further penal duty increases, would go a long way to addressing this problem. The government has to set a (minimum price) that positively impacts on the public health without meaningfully distorting the market in order not to fall foul of competition law. We believe this is achievable at 45–50p. Whilst overall alcohol consumption has fallen recently, it is still at a very high level by historical standards. There appears to be a strong correlation between the increase in alcohol related harm and the shift in consumption away from beer to higher abv drinks such as cider, wine and spirits. In fact the entire decline in alcohol consumption in the last ten years consisted of beer. The combination of a (minimum price) and duty transfer would encourage a switch in purchasing and consumption from the unregulated off-trade to the highly regulated on-trade, and from higher abv cider, wines and spirits to lower abv beer. Both trends would help to address the impact of binge drinking and would materially lower the cost to government particularly in relation to the current excessive NHS and policing costs, from alcohol related harm and disorder. These trends would also increase overall VAT receipts for government.” Greene King added that it would like to see “the introduction of alcohol education in all UK schools as a fundamental part of the curriculum alongside other forms of personal, social and health education”.

Industry news:

Technomic – Pret a Manger earns top marks for quality and freshness: A report on the UK sandwich market by research house Technomic, surveying 1,000 customers, founds Greggs leads all other companies measured for overall sandwich patronage, with more than half of consumers polled (52 per cent) reporting that they purchase sandwiches at Greggs at least occasionally. The Technomic report also found more restaurant operators are taking culinary cues from abroad by introducing new sandwich-style handhelds with flavour cues stretching from the Americas to Asia. In addition, a trend toward “mini-foods” is showing no signs of slowing down, with consumers increasingly preferring downsized sandwiches. A further trend is towards “next-level sandwich builds” featuring eclectic ingredients and toppings. Contact David Wilkinson on to buy the report or call him on (07715) 291530.

Restaurateurs in running for best convenience store in the world gong: A branch of Spar in London, run by four entrepreneurs who also run a restaurant, is on the shortlist to be named best convenience store in the world. The Village Stores in Walthamstow is in next month’s final with five other international businesses. James Brundle, 28, and three other young entrepreneurs took over the run-down off-licence in 2010 and turned it into a gourmet food shop with an in-store organic bakery, a pizzeria run by two Sicilian brothers, and hundreds of artisan products. The store has already been named the best convenience shop in the UK. Brundle said: “We’ve worked hard to create the ultimate local shop. We feel strongly about working with British producers and endeavour to keep our offering interesting and make our locals proud to shop with us.” Brundle, his stepbrothers Chris and Daniel O’Connor and Daniel’s partner Siobhan O’Donnell run the business as well as the restaurant in Walthamstow.

Britons increase willingness to spend on wine: The number of British consumers willing to spend more than £7 for a bottle of wine has doubled in the past four years. Consultancy group Wine Intelligence found sixteen per cent of shoppers are willing to spend at least £7 compared to less than eight per cent in 2008 despite the recession. The percentage of those who typically spend below £5 for a bottle has fallen from 65 per cent in 2008 to 45 per cent.

Healthy eating costs rise because of poor summer: The cost of healthy eating is on the rise as poor weather has seen the cost of vegetables and salad items soaring. Tomato prices have risen by almost half with runner beans almost doubling in price. Carrots, cucumbers and onions have also become much more expensive. Foodservice companies are expected to have to pass on the price increases to the consumer before supermarkets. Wet weather in the UK and a drought in the US is also expected to add 10p to the price of a loaf of bread. 

Company news:

Jam House seeks extra £3m funding: Jam House, the Enterprise Investment Scheme qualified live music concept that is run by former Luminar chief executive Steve Thomas’s No Saints business, is seeking up to £3m of extra funding. The money is to be invested in creating a Jam House in Cambridge, converting the former Gala Bingo House in the city into a £2.5m Jam House in time for Christmas. Thomas told Morning Briefing: “Nobody in the late-night sector has the debt facility to drive on – expansion’s got to be done through cashflow.” Meanwhile, No Saints has begun converting the former Luminar-owned Project nightclub in Norwich into its Wonderland concept. The company is investing £450,000 and hopes to re-open on 22 September. Project was opened after a £2 million investment in early 2011 when Simon Douglas was running Luminar. “It’s the worst designed nightclub on the planet,” said Thomas. “Whoever designed it knew nothing about nightclubs.” Elsewhere, Thomas reports that the re-opened former Oceania in Milton Keynes, now trading as Wonderworld is “beating margin and turnover projections”.

Rex Restaurants set for third opening in a year: Rex Restaurants, headed by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, is planning its third London opening in less than a year for late September. The company will open Colbert in Sloane Square on the site of the former Oriel restaurant. Colbert will be in the tradition of St Germain brasserie cafes. Rex Restaurants opened Brasserie Zedel off Piccadilly a few months ago and The Delauney just before Christmas 2011. A luxury hotel is planned for Mayfair’s Balderton Street in 2014.

Best Place Inns reports “disappointing” Olympics: London hostel provider Best Place Inns, which runs five hostels that offer a traditional London ambience downstairs, has reported a disappointing Olympics thanks to low levels of demand and saturation of the hostel market in the capital. Boss Ben Stackhouse reports that as many as 100 new hostelproviders emerged in the run-up to the Olympics, which led to some leading hostels having to offer beds in the £4.99 to £9.99 range during the Games when a £20-plus price-point might have been expected. “We were full but nothing on what we expected,” said Stackhouse. “Early bookings at strong prices were cancelled out by later bookings at lower rates. The hostel market became very saturated in the run-up to the Olympics – and two new hostels opened in London last week. The biggest thing, though, was the scare-mongering which kept people away from London. I think the market will be back to normal by October.” Earlier this year, Morning Briefing reported Best Place Inns was in talks about possible private equity – the talks are due to resume in October.

Former BII Licensee of the Year confirms second site; plans ten: Darren Lingley, who runs the freehold Eight Bells in Colne Engaine, Essex and was voted the UK’s best licensee last year, has confirmed his second pub. He has acquired the freehold of The Lion in Earls Colne, a freehold pub previously owned by Punch Taverns and acquired for around £390,000. The pub is three-quarters of a mile from his first pub and will re-open mid-October after a £140,000 refurbishment. Lingley will create a completely different offer at his second pub, with a central wood-fired oven. It will be used for a wide range of purposes, including a core flatbread menu offer but also for baking bread to eat on the premises and for customers to pop in and buy. It is understood that Lingley is looking at a third pub acquisition. He told Morning Briefing recently: “We’d like to be running ten sites within five years.”

Punch Taverns pub wins best burger gong: A Punch Taverns near Worksop, Nottinghamshire, has been crowned home of the best burger in Britain after a nationwide competition run by Heinz. The Elm Tree, situated in Elmton and run by Chris and Jean Norfolk, took part in an ultimate burger cook-off on 3 August. Judges, who included Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, gave the top award to The Elm Tree’s ‘31-day matured steak burger with stilton and jalapenos’. 

South Wales hotel and spa on the market for a third of acquisition price: The freehold of the 45-bedroom Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel and Spa is on the market for £1.75m through Christie + Co after its owner Lester Hotels (Usk) fell into administration at the end of last month. Fraser Guy, of administrator Zolfo Cooper, said: “Unfortunately the hotel was acquired shortly prior to the downturn in the economy and as a result, the recent economic conditions have led to increased financial pressures on the company.” The venue was acquired in 2008 off an asking price of £6m. 

York licensee takes on second pub: York licensee Jason Hawkins has taken on a second pub in the city. Jason Hawkins, who runs the Three Tuns in Coppergate, has signed up for The Little John in Castlegate, an Enterprise Inns pub. Hawkins said Enterprise Inns, which owns The Little John, would completely refurbish it over the coming months, and it would then reopen as The Blue Boar in mid to late November. He said he planned to turn it back into a traditional English pub with real ales and locally-sourced food.

Snug Bars introduces 8am opening: Snug Bars, the five strong multiple headed by Giles Fry, is to start opening for breakfast at 8am across its sites. “The bars already run an excellent coffee offering, so we thought why not open the doors early and grab those early birds with a cup of fresh, authentic Italian coffee to drink in a relaxed no rush environment?” said Fry. “We will also be running an offer of free toast to all our guests from 8am to 11am because let’s face it, who doesn’t love free toast!”. Snug Bars operates two sites in Cambridge plus venues in St Albans, Hertford and High Wycombe.

The Wicker Man pub is sold without Britt Ekland included: The freehold of the nine-bedroom Ellangowan Hotel in Creetown, Dufries and Galloway - better known to film buffs as the fictional “Green Man” from the iconic 1973 film “The Wicker Man” – has been bought by Derrick Jobb who also owns The Bank of Fleet Hotel in the nearby village of Gatehouse of Fleet. Spokesman for agent Colliers International, Alistair Letham said: “New owner Derrick Jobb will undoubtedly develop the business creating a good community village pub whilst catering to the many visiting tourists to Dumfries & Galloway although it must be said that a naked Britt Ekland was not included in the fixtures and fittings of the hotel.” 

Two Stow-on-the-Wold sites go on the market: Two freehold sites in the honeypot Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold have gone on the market. The 18-bedroom Old Stocks, in The Square, owned privately by Jason and Helen Allen, is up for sale for £1.5million and the freehold of The Bell Inn, owned by Enterprise Inns, is on the market for £350,000. Agent Colliers International spokesman Peter Brunt said: “The Allens are only leaving as it suits their life choice now. And Enterprise Inns just haven't found the right tenants for a long-term relationship at The Bell, so it wants to sell the freehold. It has been in corporate hands for a long time now – passing through the Whitbread, Laurel and now Enterprise Inns.”

Plan lodged to convert The Castle, Castle Eden into a boutique hotel: A plan has been lodged to convert a private home, The Castle, an 18th Century home in Castle Eden, near Sunderland into a boutique hotel. Its restaurant will source supplies locally, and visitors would help to support the area’s shops, pubs, services and attractions.

Three brands takes sites in St Neots cinema development: PizzaExpress, Prezzo and Frankie and Benny’s have all signed up for 25-year leases on sites at the £8m Turnstone development in St Neots, which is to house a six-screen Cineworld cinema and theatre. PizzaExpress and Prezzo have acquired 3,000 square foot units at the site and Frankie and Benny’s will occupy a 3,600 square foot building. Opening dates for the restaurants and the cinema have not been given yet, but it is understood it is likely to be in the second half of next year. The development has been aided by a £1m donation from US-based millionaire Peter Rowley, who has links with the town and wanted to fund a leisure facility in the town.

Domino’s UK debuts menu items with a preview for Facebook followers: Domino’s is introducing twisted dough balls to its menu by offering its Facebook fans the chance to try them for a week before they go on general sale. Twisted dough balls are served as a portion of six - in a choice of cheese and herb, ham and pepperoni. Facebook followers can order a portion for £2.99 by following a tab from the Facebook page. Twisted dough balls go on general sale on Tuesday 28 August.

Trocadero to be converted to a pod hotel: The Troacerdo, off Picaddilly Circus, is to be converted into a pod-style hotel after Westminster City Council gave the scheme planning consent. The historic site will be converted into a hotel and residential complex that offers 583 bedrooms, eight residential flats, and a rooftop bar. The majority of the bedrooms will be windowless pods. The site was previously home to the UK’s first 3D IMAX cinema and the Segaworld arcade.

Former Orchid Pub Company site to become a KFC: The Organ and Dragon, a pub in Ewell previously operated by Orchid Pub Company and owned by Punch Taverns, is to be converted into a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The venue, a Thai restaurant and pub on London Road in Ewell, closed down on 17 July after its owner Punch Taverns sold the freehold. Although planning permission is not required for the building to continue as a restaurant, it is necessary for it be turned into a takeaway.

InnBrighton applies to convert Brighton nightclub into a pub: InnBrighton, the 50-strong multiple headed by Gavin George and backed by Graphite Capital, has submitted a planning application to convert the old Gloucester nightclub – more recently the Barfly – in Gloucester Place into a pub. The company confirmed last week that it had acquired its fourth pub in London, The Bellevue in Battersea High Street, as it seeks to build an estate of 25 pubs in London.

HR boss – employers can learn a lot from Pret A Manger: The boss of Russell HR Consulting, Kate Russell, has argued that employers can learn a lot from the recruitment methods of Pret A Manger, which has developed the idea of “organisational fit”. She told Management Today: “It is important to identify the behaviours you are looking for (and interestingly the ones you are not looking for). Being a bit creative with your recruitment process can also help to attract the right kind of people. You may have seen Pret’s ‘Good jobs for good people’ posters around. The message is clear, and Pret also includes expected salaries on its advertising, which confirms its honest image. We (along with Pret and companies like them) look for the right raw materials. I wouldn’t recruit a staff member who doesn’t share our ethics. It would destroy what we’ve laboured for and succeeded in building.”

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