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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 23rd Aug 2012 - Stonegate, Oak Taverns and Nando’s

Story of the day:

Stonegate Pub Company plans second ‘new generation’ locals' pub: Managed operator Stonegate Pub Company is set to begin work on its second “new generation” locals' pub after the success of the first, The Red Lion on Amos Lane, Wednesfield, Staffordshire – the second site will be The Sutton Fields in Hull. The Red Lion, where takings have hit £20,000 a week since it re-opened at the end of April, provides Wi-Fi, has a dedicated personal computer for customers to use and provides a delivery point for parcels during times when customers aren’t at home. The pub has information screens and a staging area with state-of-the-art lighting. Cameras relay entertainment and action at an interactive darts board to the rest of the pub. Stonegate chairman Ian Payne told Morning Briefing: “In many ways it’s like going back to the old days with a games area, a drinking area and a food area with a stage for entertainment, but with the whole pub linked by television, so, for example, customers can watch the darts area anywhere in the pub.” One change at the second new-generation locals’ pub will be to place the personal computer in a more prominent position – Stonegate feels the computer was too tucked away at The Red Lion. Meanwhile, Stonegate has reported that the Olympics had a broadly neutral impact on trade. Added Payne: “The city of London was destroyed in the first week of the Games, but the West End did very well. Yates’s in Leicester Square had its best week in two years.”

Industry news:

Loungers joins the ALMR: Loungers, the café bar brand headed by Alex Reilley that is targeting 250 sites eventually, has joined the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Loungers, which employs 550 people, has won a host of awards for its innovative all-day trading style and design standards. ALMR chief executive Nick Bish said: “Any concerns about industry closures should be set against the many openings of new sites, new concepts and new jobs led by a new generation of entrepreneurial operators. Loungers is leading the charge in these exciting developments and I am delighted that ALMR can add Alex and his team to the array of great companies that we represent”. Reilley said: “Loungers is delighted to have joined the ALMR particularly as every operator you speak to doesn't seem to be able to speak highly enough about Nick Bish and his team. Such glowing endorsements, in addition to the ALMR being increasingly recognised as the stand out voice of the industry, made our decision to join a bit of a no-brainer.” In the past year, the ALMR has emerged as the leading trade body for multi-site pub and restaurant operators. Among the major managed operators to join are Spirit Pub Company, TGI Friday’s, JD Wetherspoon, La Tasca, Mitchells & Butlers, Amber Taverns, LT Pub Management and Walkabout operator Intertain, as well as a host of up-and-coming smaller multiples such as Knightwood Leisure, Absolute Pubs and Noble Inns. The ALMR also absorbed the late-night trade body Beda in May. Meanwhile, Loungers opens the doors to its Salisbury Cosy Club this morning at 9am, with a Lounge opening to follow in Christchurch next week. Of the Salisbury site, managing director Alex Reilley said that it could be the company’s “best-looker to date.”

Four US restaurant companies reveal their best-selling healthy dishes: Four US restaurant companies have revealed to Nation’s Restaurant News which of their healthy menu items are company best-sellers. The Cheesecake Factory, which has a SkinnyLicious menu section with all items under 590 calories, reports its SkinnyLicious Burger line, featuring beef, grilled turkey and veggie options, racks up the most sales. Corner Bakery cites its half BBLT (bacon with more bacon and an arugula salad) tops the sales figures. For Denny’s, it’s the Fit Slam that pulls in most sales – eggs whites scrambled with fresh spinach and grape tomatoes, two bacon strips, an English muffin and a side of seasonal fruit. Einstein Bagels reports its Bagel Thin, an egg white sandwich with asparagus, mushroom and Swiss cheese tops the sales figures.

Pubs and clubs in Norwich curtail opening hours: Pubs and nightclubs in Norwich Prince of Wales Road going-out circuit have voluntarily agreed to stop selling alcohol at 4am in support of police efforts to reduce night-time offences. Paul Marks, of three-strong Peri’s Leisure, said: “It’s just a gesture from us to keep everyone happy and if it helps in the bigger picture then we will help out where we can. We’re team players.”

Beer writer ticks off Marston’s for puerile pump clips: Beer writer Melissa Cole, who has more than 6,000 followers on Twitter, has written a stinging rebuke to brewers that regularly use sexist imagery to promote beers. In an open letter to the brewing fraternity, and paying particular attention to Jennings Slap & Tickle, Cole writes: “From a professional standpoint, I get more than a bit ticked off when I seek to engage with you about this issue quietly and politely in the background (I’m looking at you, Marston’s). I feel ignoring my efforts is pretty rude to be honest, so I’m going to say it publicly instead! Some of your range of seasonal pump clips for the Wychwood and Jennings brands are depressing at best and, at worst, simply puerile. Are you honestly proud that your products have joined the beer equivalent of the rogue’s gallery”. Her blog adds: “I could draw your attention to the fact that research by Molson Coors shows that 42 per cent of women are put off beer by the macho marketing.”

Police reduce weekend presence in Lincolnshire town: Police in Grantham are to reduce their visibility at the weekend to encourage licensees of pubs and clubs to take more responsibility for tackling alcohol-related crime. The police force said it wanted the “root causes of crime tackled” rather than having to deal with the symptoms. 

Company news:

Yummy Pub Company unveils details of cinema plan: Yummy Pub Company, the three-strong multiple headed by Tim Foster and Anthony Pender, has revealed further details of its plan to build a cinema in the basement of its fourth pub, The Gorringe Park in Tooting, a former Young’s pub acquired by Charles Wells that’s set to see a £500,000 refurbishment. The cinema will be based on an independent cinema Foster discovered during his travels on New Zealand’s South Island. The New Zealand cinema had created a huge following among a community of like-minded people interested in mainstream and alternative cinema. Décor was shabby chic with mix and match seating sourced from airlines and railways carriages. Films were stopped once each screening at a random point to serve fresh-baked cookies. Foster said: “We’re talking to a well-known film college about showing student films and a well-placed film distributor in relation to screening a range of early release films, exclusive previews and classics. The idea of a cinema in the basement has already produced a lot of interest in Tooting where people have to travel into the West End to go to the cinema. The more outside interest we’ve had in this, the more we’ve come to regard it as something we should focus on.” The Gorringe Park cinema will house between 50 and 75 seats, depending on the result of discussions on structural work. The Gorringe Park is expected to open in late November – it is Yummy’s second Charles Wells site.

Nando’s and Costa Coffee place in top five international growth brands: Nation’s Restaurant News has named Nando’s and Costa Coffee as two of the five brands based outside of the US and Canada with the biggest sales. Costa came second with sales growth of 16.95 per cent between 2010 and 2011 to hit sales of $1.44bn with Nando’s third, adding 16.48 per cent sales growth to hit $1.02bn. In first place is Taiwanese chicken fast food company Changhua with $1.12bn of sales and 20.4 per cent sales growth. Fourth is Asian fast food company concept Sukiya with 12 per cent growth to produce $2.13bn of sales and in fifth place is budget sushi firm Akindo Sushiro, with 11.01 per cent of sales growth to achieve $1.01bn of worldwide sales.

Oak Taverns signs up Punch Taverns site for third brew-pub: Oak Taverns, the multiple headed by Simon Collinson that operates 25 pubs, has signed for its first Punch Taverns pub, The Black Horse in Barnet, which will be run as a brew-pub. The pub, described as a classic Victorian pub in Barnet’s golden triangle, is understood to be in line for a £350,000 investment from Punch Taverns. Oak Taverns already operates two brew-pubs in its subsidiary Ridgeway Pub Company - The Swan Inn at Faringdon and The Cross Key at Thame. Director Simon Collinson told Morning Briefing earlier this year that the company is enjoying “good growth” at the two venues. Oak Taverns also has a 50 per cent stake in a company called Recovery, which currently operate three leased pubs in Norfolk in partnership with Eddie Scott. 

Top chef re-opens second pub after £400,000 Punch investment: Chef Ricardo Victor, who has worked at The Ritz in London and boutique hotel Cotswold 88, has re-opened the Golden Cock in Farnley Tyas, a Punch Taverns pub that has seen a £400,000 investment. The investment has created an extension to the dining room to develop a brasserie at the site. Victor said: “Having started my gastro venture at The Bull’s Head Pub & Bistro in Blackmoorfoot, I have been looking for an additional business to run in conjunction with The Bull’s Head. This gives me the opportunity to develop a different concept of brasserie and fine dining, whilst maintaining a traditional village pub.”

Diageo - minimum pricing would not tackle alcohol misuse among the minority: Drinks producer Diageo has argued, in written evidence to the health select committee, that minimum pricing would disproportionately penalise responsible drinkers who make up the overwhelming majority of drinkers (78.5 per cent of the adult population). The company stated: “The relationship between price and consumption is complex, as are the causes of alcohol misuse. For instance, the price of alcohol is largely the same in Scotland as it is in England, however alcohol health harms in Scotland are far higher than in England. There is little evidence to support a direct correlation between the level of alcohol price in a country and the level of drinking. Studies have shown that consumers respond differently to price changes in different countries and recent empirical evidence from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden indicates that despite predictions to the contrary, the lowering of the price of alcohol did not lead to increased consumption. Furthermore, there is no strong evidence on the effectiveness of minimum pricing as a policy to reduce alcohol-related harm and indeed some evidence to suggest that decreases in population consumption do not lead to a reduction in alcohol related harm.”

Dylan Thomas hotel to fully re-open next month with help from Welsh government: The hotel that was like a second home to Dylan Thomas will be fully open next month when the final seven of 14 bedrooms are complete – the hotel stopped taking guests in 1959. Around £2m of refurbishment work has been made possible with £230,000 of grant funding help from the Welsh government. The pub part of the business was run by a company owned by Neil Morrissey for a few years – the company collapsed with £2.5m of debt in 2009.

Adnams – no further Adnams Cellar & Kitchen stores planned: Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Adnams has no current plans to add to its 13-strong Adnams Cellar and Kitchen business. The company stated: “The wine and shops business again showed good turnover growth assisted by the contribution from the new stores opened in the second half of 2011 and also by the new shop in Norwich which opened at the end of May. Shop sales were 7.5 per cent ahead of last year and on a like-for-like basis were 5.4 per cent ahead. The bottom line was, however, slightly behind 2011. The costs of the new stores played a part in this. We have taken the difficult decision to scale back overheads and not to renew the lease on the shop that we opened in Spitalfields last year. Having opened in Norwich we are not planning any further openings at the present time.” 

Chelmsford multi-site operator buys another freehold: Three-strong Chelmsford pub and restaurant operator David Smith has bought the freehold of The Dog and Gun, Little Waltham, Chelmsford, through agent Christie + Co – the venue was owned by Close Asset Management. It’s Smith’s second acquisition in less than a year. He bought The White Horse in Chelmsford off an asking price of £400,000, also through Christie + Co, from Foundation Inns in October 2011 in partnership with Phil Cunningham, their first joint venture. The White Horse was refurbished as a traditional pub with a contemporary twist. Bill Colquhoun, of Christie + Co, said: “The Dog and Gun currently trades as a destination food-led pub and restaurant, attracting custom from the local villages and wider catchment area. We believe it will complement David’s existing bars and restaurants in and around Chelmsford.”

Nathan Outlaw new restaurant in Looe to open early in 2013: Cornish two-starred chef Nathan Outlaw has won planning consent to open a seafood restaurant in Looe. Outlaw won the go-ahead to turn a Buller Quay fish-processing unit into a new restaurant. He opens his first restaurant in London, at The Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge, in October, which will use fish sourced from Looe.

Head of Steam boss steps up campaign against the late-night levy: Tony Brookes, chief executive of north east multiple Head of Steam, has stepped up his campaign against a late-night levy being introduced. In an open letter to councillors, MPs and licensing officers, Brookes has argued the levy would simply drive more drinkers to supermarkets. “We all know that binge drinking and subsequent public disorder on the streets, as well as high hospital admissions, is primarily caused by very cheap, often very strong alcohol bought from the off trade, particularly supermarkets,” writes Brookes. “They are the cause of the problem – the public generally could not afford the cost of getting into that state just drinking in pubs, where prices are much higher.”

Maschler reviews Draft House: Doyenne of food critics, the London Evening Standard’s Faye Maschler, has described staff at the new Draft House opening on Goodge Street as “charming” and the beer list as “impressive”. She said: “I liked the photograph of Frank Zappa and John Lennon, the Hot 8 Brass Band cover of Sexual Healing on the soundtrack and didn’t feel too sad about the demise of the little corner pub, The Northumberland Arms. At (Charlie McVeigh’s) Draft House, where the USP is British craft beers that can be served by the third of a pint, burgers are the heartbeat of the menu.”

InnBrighton opens Dissenting Academy pub in Newington Green: InnBrighton, the 50-strong Brighton-based multiple headed by Gavin George, opens the Dissenting Academy pub in Newington Green tomorrow (Friday 24 August). General manager Ben King said “I love art and music that challenges convention, and I want to reflect this in the environment created in the pub. I want our customers to step out of conventional society and celebrate the avant-garde over a pint of gorgeous local ale and some great tasting food. The name of the pub celebrates the importance of the original academy to the whole of society but also how important Newington Green has been throughout history as a destination for free-thinking individuals. We hope our new pub will continue that tradition.” The Dissenting Academy is the third site launched in the capital by pub operator InnBrighton. InnBrighton’s regional operations director Dan Hills said: “We expect the music, art and performance at The Dissenting Academy to be as stimulating a reason for people to come out to see us as the food and drink, and hope that the pub will be a popular destination for the free-thinking people of this historically important north London village.” 

Costa Coffee moves into sports sponsorship: Costa has made its first move into sports sponsorship by is backing Olympic medallist Ed Clancy's team, Rapha Condor Sharp, during the Tour of Britain in September. The Costa Express brand, which was renamed after the company's acquisition of Coffee Nation, and not the over-arching Costa brand, is sponsoring the team. Costa Express branding will appear on the team clothing and on their bikes during the Tour of Britain. Costa Express will be available during the tour and at the finish. Costa Enterprises marketing director Caroline Harris said: “Cyclists love their coffee so it’s a natural fit for Costa Coffee as we grow around the UK and are providing more consumers with the chance to grab a coffee on the go.”

Pizza Hut Delivery has launched a new mobile version of its UK website: Pizza Hut has launched a mobile-optimised version of the main Pizza Hut website. The new version of the site enables customers to pick the Pizza Hut they want to order from, and gives them the ability to place future orders, see the latest deals and promotions and share their orders with their friends by linking directly to social media. Pizza Hut chief marketing officer Mags Dixon said: “The customer experience is always a priority for us, so we’re delighted to be able to give people the opportunity to order online from any mobile device in such an innovative way. We’re giving our customers exactly what they told us they wanted, and we’re expecting a large proportion of our sales to now come from mobile.”

Whole Food Market poised to open in Cheltenham: US-based deli, café and supermarket chain Whole Food Market is set to open its seventh UK site in Cheltenham. The new opening, where recruitment has begun ahead of opening next month, will add to five sites in London and one in Glasgow. Whole Food Market head of human resources Suzie Deverall said: “Gloucestershire has a wealth of great food and drink producers and suppliers and a passion for good food which the new store will reflect.” Whole Food Market will open on the Gallagher Retail Park.

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