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Fri 31st Aug 2012 - Restaurant Group, Young's and August trading

Story of the day:

Restaurant Group reports like-for-likes up by 3.25 per cent; avoiding deep discounting: The Restaurant Group, which operates 406 pubs and restaurants, has reported like-for-like sales rose by 3.25 per cent and total revenue was up by 7.5 per cent to £252m in the 26 weeks ending 1 July. The company said it was “eschewing the deep discounting that has become commonplace in our sector”. Profit before tax climbed seven per cent to £26.1m.

Frankie & Benny's (209 units):
The company stated: “Frankie & Benny's traded strongly during the first half of the year delivering excellent results. Our focus on offering a broad range of choice across all day parts at a variety of price points has continued to attract an increasing number of customers into our restaurants. This, combined with careful control of costs, has helped to deliver a strong performance and a modest improvement in margins. We opened two new restaurants during the first half and have opened a further two restaurants since the half year. These are trading well and are set to deliver strong returns. During 2012 we expect to open a total of between 11 and 14 Frankie & Benny's restaurants.”

Chiquito (69 units):
The company stated: “Chiquito delivered a good first half performance with increased revenue and profits. Considerable focus has been directed towards consistency of service and standards and this, combined with careful control of costs, has yielded good results.”

Pub Restaurants (42 units):
The company stated: “Our pub restaurants business has traded well during the first six months delivering good levels of sales and profits. The conversion of the ex-Blubeckers estate into the Brunning & Price model was completed during 2011 and this has yielded good results. During the first half year we opened one new pub restaurant and have subsequently opened a second pub restaurant and we expect to open 4-5 during 2012. The new openings are performing considerably ahead of our expectations and are expected to deliver strong returns.”

Garfunkel's (25 units):
The company stated: Garfunkel's traded well during the first half producing good levels of sales and profits. During the first half we opened two new Garfunkel's restaurants - Burleigh House at the eastern end of the Strand and at St. Martin's Lane in the West End of London and we expect to generate strong returns from the new openings. Trade during July and August has been reasonably solid, largely reflecting the visitor patterns and traffic impact of the Olympic Games.”

Coast to Coast (1 unit):
The company stated: “In November 2011 we opened our first Coast to Coast restaurant at Brighton Marina, positioned adjacent to our Frankie & Benny's restaurant. This was the product of a two-year project to devise and develop a new, third, leisure brand that was scaleable and suitable for rollout alongside new and existing Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito restaurants. Coast to Coast is designed and themed as an American restaurant and bar, taking inspiration from the journey along the Lincoln Highway. It has broad appeal across the age ranges and is designed to sit at a price point which will yield a mid-teen average spend per head. We are delighted with the performance of our Brighton restaurant, which has traded strongly over the past ten months. Equally pleasing is the very limited negative impact that it has had on the adjacent Frankie & Benny's restaurant which also continues to trade strongly. Since the half year we have opened a second Coast to Coast restaurant at The Gate in Newcastle and, during October, a third restaurant will open in Stevenage alongside an existing Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito. We believe that this brand has good potential, is scaleable and capable of delivering strong returns.”
 

Industry News:

Camra takes on Tesco: The Bristol branch of the Campaign for Real Ale has written to Tesco calling on it to stop converting pubs into stores. Camra wants assurances that the supermarket chain won’t convert the Bristol House in Weston-super-Mare and the Foresters in Westbury-on-Trym. The Bristol House in Milton Road, which is owned by Enterprise Inns, has been closed since last month and local residents have mounted a campaign to block its conversion. Camra claimed that Tesco had applied for planning permission to install air-conditioning equipment at the Foresters. Last week, Propel Info reported that Tesco had filed an unprecedented number of minor alterations applications to convert pubs to convenience stores.

Smoking ban rebel closes pub: The first person to be jailed for flouting the smoking ban has suddenly closed his present pub – the Swan with Two Necks in Chorley, Lancashire. Licensee Nick Hogan was sentenced to six months in jail after refusing to pay a fine of £3,000 and £7,236 in costs imposed after he allowed people to smoke in the Swan and Barristers in Bolton following the introduction of the ban in July 2007. Hogan was released after 11 days into his sentence after supporters raised money to pay the fine and costs. Hogan told the Chorley Guardian: “There’s nothing sinister, it’s just one of those things. We’ve just decided we’ve had enough.” 

Max Property plans to transform St Katherine Docks into a food and leisure destination:  Max Property Group is looking for innovative food and drink concepts to help transform St Katharine Docks central marina, next to London's Tower Bridge, into a food and drink-led leisure destination. Davis Coffer Lyons has been appointed to source a range of innovative, independent food concepts for the scheme’s Ivory House, as well as tenants for two larger A3 units, plus a 20,000 square foot health and fitness operator at Commodity Quay. Max Property is investing £20million to transform St Katharine Docks, overseen by Max’s external managers Prestbury Investments, to become a weekend and evening destination for the London community and visitors. Five or six bar/restaurant concepts will be recruited for elsewhere on the development, which will play on the unique selling point of its marina environment. Completion for the strategy is expected by September 2013, but with many of the food and beverage units available prior to that time.

Company News: 

Former Mill House Inns chairman to open deli-restaurant concept: Bob Williams, the former chairman of Mill House Inns, is to re-open The Crooked Billet in Kingswood, Alysebury, Buckinghamshire, as The Crooked Fillet. The new concept is a restaurant and multi-faceted farm shop on the same premises. The shop will combine a butcher’s shop, deli and bakery, with customers of the restaurant able to purchase the food they have eaten to take home. Williams founded Mill House Inns in 1995 by buying 12 unwanted pubs. With co-founder Chris Parratt, he refurbished the 12 pubs and targeted the family dining market. Mill House Inns was eventually sold to Punch Taverns for £164m. As GrandMet’s property chief in the 1990s, Williams played a lead role in restructuring the group’s 8,450-strong Inntrepreneur pub joint venture with Fosters. Williams started Mill House with 12 pubs sold off by Phoenix Inns, which bought a large slice of the Inntrepreneur estate. The Crooked Fillet is understood to be a private free-of-tie lease with a rent of £50,000 per annum. 

Young’s to open £1.45m pub in Putney Heath: London pub retailer Young’s is to open the Kings Head next to Putney Heath after a £1.45m investment – it will be a premium destination pub located alongside a brand new residential development. A Young’s spokesman said: “There is currently limited competition in the area so we believe the Kings Head is going to make a massive impact – the nearest pubs of interest are in East Sheen and Putney. The pub is going to be famous for its seasonal food, great hospitality and service, with award-winning beers and wines to ensure all discerning residents and visitors to the area have a local pub to be proud of.”

Richoux Group reports a £390,000 operating profit: Richoux Group, which operates 12 restaurants, has reported turnover of £5.14m and an operating profit of £390,000 in the 28 weeks ending 8 July. Chairman Philip Shotter said: "The group is pleased to report improved results, having now completed the disposal of the remaining underperforming sites and are continuing to focus on improving the offer at the Dean's Diner and Villagio sites".
 
New Moon Pub Company secures third site; appoints an operations manager: New Moon Pub Company, led by David Mooney and Paul Newman, has secured its third pub – The Hanging Gate in Weaverham, near Northwich. The company has also appointed Neil Gazzard to the role of senior operations manager. He joins New Moon from Zizzi where he carved out a successful career in restaurant management. New Moon’s second pub, The Old Sessions House in Knutsford, opens on 10 September.

Pesto in the Pub to open third site in mid-October: Pesto in the Pub, the pub variant of the Pesto Italian restaurant business run by Neil Gatt, will open its third site in mid-October.  The third venue will on Prune Park, Allerton Bradford. The first Pesto in a Pub opened at Punch’s Cabbage Hall in Tarporley, Cheshire and was followed by a second Pesto in a Pub in Farnworth, Widnes. Gatt also runs Pesto restaurants in Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Former Pontin’s chairman appointed to find operator for high-profile Preston venue: Former Pontin’s chairman Graham Parr has been appointed to find a top operator for a high-profile Preston site, a multi-story Grade II-listed building. Local businessman Edgar Wallace, who took control of Fives on Guildhall Street earlier this year, has appointed former Pontin’s chairman Graham Parr to find a top quality tenant. Parr said: “A modern city needs a diverse leisure offer, and there are all sorts of opportunities for a city like Preston. I know about what is occurring in London, and if you look at what is happening around the West End and Mayfair, I see things which could be adapted to fit a city centre like Preston.” 
 
Cavalier adds third site; starts brewing: Cavalier Inns, the Home Counties operator headed by Matthew O’Keefe, has added a third site – the Red Lion in Penn, Buckinghamshire to its estate. The pub is owned by Enterprise Inns and O’Keefe has negotiated a guest ale provision and a free-of-tie clause for ciders. The Red Lion lies close to O’Keefe’s two freehold sites in Buckinghamshire – the multi-award winning Royal Standard of England in Beaconsfield and the Harte & Magpie in Coleshill. O’Keefe said the Red Lion will be operated as ‘a true village pub’. He added: “I want it to be cheap enough for people to use every day. They can get a pint of Chiltern Ale for £2.90 or a pint of cider for the same amount.” O’Keefe also revealed that he has opened a brewery in a garage at the Royal Standard. Called the Britannia Brewery, the one-barrel plant produces two real ales Britannia Pale and Britannia Gold, both in the 4.0 to 4.2 per cent ABV range. O’Keefe employs two gap-year students to help with the brewing, which is running currently at 36 gallons per week. O’Keefe said he hoped to double brewing capacity in the near future with the aim of producing ales that he can sell for £2.50 per pint. “First it was the national brewers that progressively pushed up their prices, then it was the regional brewers, now it is the local breweries that are asking prices that I think are too high.”
 
Marston’s to open new-build in Wincanton next week: Midlands-based Marston’s will open a new-build pub in Wincanton next Monday (3 September).  The Marston's pub follows the opening of a Travelodge hotel on the same site last month. A KFC outlet is scheduled to be open by mid-September.

Mitchells & Butlers opens Toby and Harvester at MetrOasis: The 15,000 square foot MetrOasis “meet and eat” catering development on Tyneside  has opened. It’s within walking distance of the three and a half miles of Metrocentre malls and the family entertainment attractions at Metrocentre Qube. Mitchells & Butlers has opened Harvester and Toby Carvery units and there’s a drive-thru Starbucks and Krispy Kreme unit producing 100,000 doughnuts a week.

Jam Tree to open third pub: Jam Tree, the London-based gastropub operator, is to open a third outlet next month. The company, led by Yann Roberts and Ashley Letchford, will launch a new venue on the site of the Grafton House in Clapham Old Town on 26 September. Jam Tree also operates venues in Kensington and Fulham.

Tennent’s prepares major marketing push: Scottish lager brand Tennent’s is to launch its first major marketing campaign since the liquidation of Rangers, one of the Scottish football teams it sponsors, in July. The lager brand will tour Scotland as part of the campaign to discover what makes its countrymen proud to be Scottish. It will visit six cities and ask drinkers to express their views on video. Tennent’s will launch a range of pint glasses featuring the six most eye-catching comments it receives in time for St Andrew’s Day on 30 November. This follows a campaign last year to produce pint glasses for six cities across the country.
 
Ginger & White opens third site: Ginger & White, an artisan British food and coffee brand based in London, has opened its third shop in Soho. Owned by food stylist, Tonia George and restaurant managers, Emma and Nicholas Scott, Ginger & White also has outlets in Hampstead and Belsize Park. Ginger & White aims to celebrate the artisan produce of British farmers alongside coffee sourced seasonally from around the globe but hand-roasted in east London.
 

News focus: How was trade in August?

Anglian boosted by quirky weather patterns: “We’ve had a great August,” reported James Nye, director of Anglian Country Inns. He said the weather had provided the catalyst for an increase in like-for-like trade of 14 per cent compared with the previous August. He explained: “East Anglia seemed to get the best of the weather.” He also noticed trade was driven by people visiting the North Norfolk coast, perhaps spending their holidays in this country rather than going abroad. Nye said the Olympic Games didn’t appear to have had any influence over footfall and he thought the same would be true during the current Paralympic Games. He thought trade in September should hold up well. “The wheels aren’t going to stop turning – if the value is there, people will still be attracted (to our outlets).” He said the only dampener might be the weather if it contrasts with the good weather experienced last September.

Bad weather suits Pleisure: Nick Griffin, managing director of Brighton-based operator Pleisure, said week-by-week takings varied greatly during the month with one week showing sales 8 per cent down on last August while for other weeks sales up between 12 per cent and 15 per cent. Overall, Pleisure is 8 per cent ahead of August 2011’s turnover. Griffin said: “As a business, we are a bit bombproof with the weather.” He remarked that trade in all but three of the eight outlets in the estate stands up well when the weather is bad. These three outlets all lie outside Brighton and are more summer trade based. Towards the end of the last football season, Griffin installed Sky Sports in the three venues to “enhance winter trade”. He said the start of the current Premiership season on 18 August had helped increase business at the three pubs. Griffin said this August’s trading figures were even more impressive when compared with last August’s results, which included the massive boost to business during the Brighton Pride celebrations. This year, the event is scheduled for September, which should help swell Pleisure’s takings that month.

Rained-off workers help McGowan’s: North London and Hertfordshire operator McGowan’s enjoyed a good month. Founder John McGowan explained: “Bad weather suits us. After March, when the weather turned bad, things really picked up for us.” The operator’s returns for August were 15 per cent higher than one year ago across the 16-strong estate. The estate comprises traditional wet-led community pubs and only two have a beer garden of any size to attract alfresco drinking. McGowan said many of the pubs are frequented by “thirsty” construction workers and building tradesmen. “When they are laid off work because the weather is bad, they come to us.” McGowan said the start of the football season helped trade in the second half of the month. Of the Olympics, he said: “I don’t think the Games helped us or affected us.” The outlets will be showing all the events at the Paralympics, but again McGowan thinks there will be no discernible increase or decrease in trade.

Bravo posts slight increase in sales: North West community pub operator Bravo Inns managing director Ken Buckley reported like-for-like sales were “up a couple of per cent” compared to the year before.  “I’m okay with that considering how bad the weather has been up here,” he said. Buckley described the weather in August “has been the worst I can remember in my entire career, so I’m quietly pleased with how things have been going”. He said one of his managers reported that it had rained on 23 of the first 27 days in the month. Bravo operates 30 community pubs and televised sport forms an important part of the business model. Although the pubs covered the Olympics, Buckley said: “The Olympics didn’t do anything for us as a business.” A key factor in getting people into the pubs despite the weather was the return of Premiership football on the third weekend in the month.

Extra Friday helps Whiting & Hammond: Brian Whiting, co-founder of Whiting & Hammond, reported a healthy 14 per cent increase in like-for-like sales at the six pub restaurants within the South East England-based group. The company added another venue during the year, Stanmer House – a conference, restaurant, banqueting centre near Brighton, which boosted total turnover by 20 per cent compared with August 2011. Whiting said there were two factors that helped increase takings. “Last August, there were five Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the month. This August, there were five Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday, which lead to extra custom – that extra Friday really helped.” Whiting said events, such as a beer festival at the Cricketers in Meopham, Kent also helped. “The Cricketers was up 25 per cent on last year.” Trade suffered on the Sunday night of the closing ceremony for the Olympics. He added: “We also had Olympic judo and athletics competitors visit some of our pubs in Kent and Sussex – not a massive number, but welcome nevertheless. Overall, we were not hurt nor helped by the Olympics.”

TLC scores when it doesn’t rain: TLC Inns, the multi-award winning group run by Steve Haslam and Jo Drain, experienced mixed fortunes during the month. Haslam said: “We have 2,000 outdoor seats, so if it’s wet and windy that doesn’t help us.”  In spite of the “dreary summer weather”, he said August produced the best figures for any month so far this year. He said takings across the six-strong estate increased by £30,000 per week when the weather improved enough to tempt people away from home. “I thought the Olympics would be broadly neutral in business terms and this has proved to be the case. We could do with an Indian summer – it will boost everyone in the trade.”

Olympics do nothing for Southern Counties: Bert Johnson, founder of Southern Counties Taverns, said: “Trade in August hasn’t been too bad and was slightly better than last year by a couple of per cent. We got nothing out of the Olympics and, if anything, the bad weather probably helped us.” The company specialises in wet-led community pubs and most within the 14-strong estate use televised sport to boost revenue and the start of the football season was welcomed by Johnson. “We are very reliant on football and takings per session can be 50 per cent higher when a Premiership match is on.” In pubs that didn’t previously show football, Johnson has installed Sky Sports on a trial basis to gauge the effect on trade. “We have a number on a 30-day contract to see how things go. It’s better than forking out up to £10,000 per year and finding it is uneconomical.”

JW Bassett welcomes return of football: Jon Bassett, proprietor of Wales and West Country operator JW Bassett Pubs & Bars, said revenue “picked up nicely” with the start of Sky’s coverage of the Premiership. “We are up between six per cent and seven per cent on last year.” He said a particularly encouraging trait was higher than normal trade on Sundays. The eight pubs in the estate are geared around sports with football the top attraction. One of the company’s sites is right next to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, which hosted some of the Olympic football matches. Bassett said: “There were 12 games at the stadium, but only two provided any real increase in footfall. There just didn’t seem to be a great deal of interest in the matches. Premiership matches are a much bigger draw for us than internationals even when the home countries are playing.”   

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