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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 18th Sep 2012 - Maxwells, Benugo and Brasserie Blanc

Story of the day:

ALMR – Government is moving the goalposts on minimum pricing with annual indexing: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has accused the government of moving the goalposts on minimum pricing. Commenting on the government’s response to the health select committee report on minimum pricing, strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “The government’s response is disappointing on two counts – not only does it promote minimum pricing as the primary solution to this problem but it also significantly moves the goal-posts. The suggestion that any minimum price may be subject to indexation prejudges the public consultation on pricing promised for the Autumn and there is no doubt that this will significantly weaken retailer support for the measure. Although the government has promoted this as a pub-friendly policy, the jury is still out for many within the trade and this will raise fears of greater government control of pricing generally, not just problem pricing.” She added: “The government was quite clear in their Alcohol Strategy that this was to be a measure to tackle the plethora of pocket money priced alcohol promotions by supermarkets which are now acknowledged as the root cause of the problem. If minimum pricing is to be introduced, it must be a floor below which prices cannot fall, not something which is subject to automatic indexation, if it is to tackle the irresponsible minority, not the responsible majority. Pubs are already penalised by annual above-inflation increases in the beer excise duty escalator, which has seen pub prices soar over the past five years and we need a second annual price increase like a hole in the head.”

Did you know that Prezzo is only marginally most profitable than Wagamama despite having twice as many sites? The Propel Info Hospitality Sector Turnover and Profits Blue Book ranks the 200 leading pub, restaurant and foodservice companies in the UK by turnover and profit, provides a five-year overview of performance and lists directors’ salaries. To buy a copy e-mail Jo Charity or Sharon Dickinson on or

Industry news:

Franchising still a powerful agent of US restaurant expansion: A new report by research company Technomic has found franchising of restaurant brands continues to be a major growth avenue pursued by chains in the US. Many operators are signing new franchise agreements to open new stores or acquiring pre-existing locations to expand their unit counts while also enhancing brand development and marketing. “Restaurant companies are shifting towards a franchise growth model by selling company-owned stores to raise money and reduce capital expenditures, focusing more on the brand and less on operations,” said Technomic executive vice president Darren Tristano. “The fast-casual and quick-service segments in particular are seeing higher levels of appeal based on lower costs of entry and strong unit economic models.” The top 400 restaurant franchise companies generated an estimated $34 billion in sales in 2011 and accounted for almost ten percent of the total commercial restaurant industry’s sales of $370 billion. Total units from the top 400 came to 27,206, comprising nearly five percent of the commercial restaurant industry’s units.

Krispy Kreme runs “Talk like a Pirate Day”: Doughnut company Krispy Kreme in the US is running a free doughnut offer tomorrow on “Talk like a pirate day”. On Wednesday, 19 September, any customer at a Krispy Kreme location talking like a pirate, or wearing an eye patch, gets one free glazed doughnut. Those wearing a full pirate costume can claim a dozen free doughnuts.

Online site launched for real ale fans: Yorkshire businessmen Mark Roberts and Chris France have launched a new online site,, targeting “real ale aficionados”. The e-commerce website has a stock list of over 200 speciality beers from breweries across the globe, and it is said to be the first to offer free delivery to UK customers opting to buy beer online. also offers regular deliveries of unusual brews on a ‘beer club’ basis, and hand-selected gift packs for beer lovers. Roberts and France left senior positions with Laithwaites Wines and Proctor & Gamble earlier in the year to launch the venture and they have secured deals with brewers all over the world.

Customers unhappy with restaurant websites: A YouGov poll has found customers are unhappy with common restaurant website features although 70 per cent of Brits regularly research restaurants online. More than 30 per cent say it’s important to view a restaurant’s website before visiting it, and 20 per cent of people in the 35 to 44 age group say they would never book somewhere without first looking at the website. But 50 per cent find issues with the menu the most irritating thing about restaurant websites. The poll found also found that diners were put off by no menu online at all (31 per cent). Of the other bugbears, 17 per cent said a menu that was hard to access – such as a downloadable PDF – was an annoyance.

New York City approves soft drinks ban: New York City has approved the plan to ban sales of “supersized” sugary drinks. The city’s board of health voted to approve a proposal announced in May by Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor. The decision means restaurants, theatres and stadiums will be unable to sell sugary drinks in portions bigger than 16 ounces (475ml). Diet sodas or drinks containing milk will be exempt, and restaurants can still offer free refills. Bloomberg called the policy the “single biggest step any government has taken to curb obesity” on Thursday and said that the city would be a healthier place in six months when the rule takes effect.

Restaurant fined £10,000 for employing illegal workers: A Camborne restaurant, The Spice Cottage, has been fined £10,000 after the UK Border Agency found two illegal workers employed there. Immigration checks revealed that one of the men had stayed in the UK illegally after his visa expired, while his colleague had entered the country illegally. Spice Cottage was issued with a potential fine notice for employing illegal workers and given an opportunity to prove that the correct right-to-work checks were made before the men were taken on. They failed to do so and have now been handed a fine of £10,000.

Duty escalator e-petition moves to within 1,500 signatures of target: The beer duty escalator e-petition is now within 1,500 signatures of reaching its 100,000 target to force a House of Commons debate. The e-petition now has 98,596 signatures and could reach its target within a week.

London’s first female beer sommelier is accredited: London’s first female beer sommelier has been accredited by the Beer Academy. Jane Peyton is a beer writer, trainer and principal of a corporate events company that organises beer, cider and wine tastings. Peyton said: “I’m part of a campaign to change people’s perception of beer. Beer is Britain’s national drink and brewers here make some of the best beer in the world. My ambition is for all good restaurants to provide extensive beer lists alongside their wine lists. Serve the beer in 250ml crystal wine glasses and suddenly beer becomes elegant enough for even the finest establishment.”

Company news:

D&D London reports profit at £4.2m: Restaurant company D&D London, formerly known as Conran Restaurants, has reported pre-tax profit of £4.2m, up four per cent, with turnover up 2.5 per cent to £75.5m. Ebitda was up three per cent to £6.7m. Chief executive Des Gunewardena said: “In the context of the current economic climate I am particularly encouraged by the excellent trading performance of our London restaurants during the year. Most notably, we have seen strong growth from Blueprint Café, (up 15 per cent), Sartoria (up 11 per cent), Bluebird (up ten per cent) and Skylon (up ten per cent). On a like-for-like basis, our London based restaurant grew by four per cent demonstrating that consumers will continue to dine in high quality venues.” The release of D&D’s result came as it opened its Old Bengal Warehouse site which combines a restaurant, grill, bar and wine shop. D&D’s turnover places it 43rd in the Propel Hospitality Sector Turnover and Profits Blue Book, one place below Carluccio’s.

Bar Sports completes fourth acquisitions in 12 months: Bar Sports, the company founded by Scott Murray in 1998, is in negotiations to franchise the brand in Greater London and Leicester after opening sites in Loughborough, Ipswich, Maidenhead and Croydon in the past 12 months. Chris Whirledge, of Pub Innsite, a Midlands-based specialist chartered surveyor retained by Bar Sport, said: “We’ve completed four acquisitions in 12 months and we hope to complete on a further two by the end of the year. We will certainly be looking to build on this momentum next year.” This company is looking for quality franchisees to take the concept to the next level. Anyone is interested in finding out more about taking on a Bar Sport Franchise please contact Jeff Rafftree on 07766 442434.

Deli, restaurant and contract caterer Benugo reports three-fold profit jump: Benugo, which operates coffee shops, delis and restaurants, has reported pre-tax profits jumped to £2,187,117 in 2011 from £756,832 the year before. Turnover rose 22 per cent to £44,080,317 from £36,033,009 in 2010. The company stated: “When we founded Benugo we had a vision of not just creating superb, natural food, but something that was a real experience. This vision holds true today. The Benugo brand now stretches from our award-winning high street stores to concessions within some of the world’s largest and most respected corporate organisations and public spaces. What makes Benugo unique is that we have combined the flexibility of a contract caterer with the consistency and commercial focus of a high street brand.” Benugo provides catering at the V&A Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum. It also operates restaurants such as Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, The Riverside Café Bar and Kitchen, Benugo Cafe and Deli and Bishopsgate Kitchen. 

Former All Bar One operations director opens second site: Alastair Scott, who was previously the operations director for Mitchells & Butlers’ All Bar One bar chain, opened his second Punch Taverns pub, The Square and Compass, at North Righton near Harrogate last Friday. The venue has opened after a £250,000 investment by Scott’s Malvern Inns business, which he runs with former Mitchells & Butlers colleague David Roffe. The new venue includes a smokery. Scott said: “It’s opened and the smokery has gone down a storm. Generally, business has been very steady with 150 covers for Sunday lunch.” The new site comes just over 12 months after Scott re-opened The George at Backwell, near Bristol, in a £360,000 joint investment with Punch. The Square and Compass will carry a Village Pub and Dining sub-head and is located between two Premium Country Dining venues run by Mitchells & Butlers. The new pub is serving Yorkshire ale – Theakstons Best Bitter, Copper Dragon Golden Pippen and Leeds Brewery Pale Ale.

Maxwells Restaurants reports profit lift: Restaurant operator Maxwells has reported pre-tax profits climbed to £2,052,245 in the year to 31 October 2011 from £1,695,604 the year before. Turnover declined slightly to £24,285,946 from £24,309,892 the year before. The company stated: “By focusing our attention on our guests experience we were able to maintain levels of business at a time when competition is extremely keen and the general economic situation far from ideal. Cost pressures continue with increases seen from government, landlords and suppliers. Early in 2012 the group acquired Beauquest, which trades as Guanabara. The initial trading and profit has been encouraging and it is hoped that this latest addition will contribute to the group’s continued success in 2012 and beyond.”

Former Novus digital manager launches venue-finding service: Former Novus Leisure digital marketing manager Simon Gaske, who oversaw the company’s, has launched a new venue-finding service, Gaske has teamed up with Helen Pearce, hospitality veteran and former central reservations manager for Barracuda Group. Gaske said: “The website has only been live for two months and we are already working with some amazing venues across the country such as The Anthologist, part of the Drake & Morgan estate, Middle Temple, Red Carnation Hotels, Lucky Voice, Be@One, D&D Restaurants, Tiger Tiger and Varsity Bars. Our clients have certainly shown they’re pleased with the website and venues as the Christmas enquiry cup runneth over.” A key feature of the website is the venue locations tab, allowing for easy browsing of venues for their clients. The public can search all venues, London, broken into popular areas and UK, via towns. Gaske added: “A fun feature is the interactive map. You can click on the area you are in for a list of relevant venues.”

Greene King to turn Cambridge’s Portland Arms into mid-sized gig venue: Suffolk-based Greene King is to turn The Portland Arms in Cambridge, renowned for its live music but under threat at one stage, into a mid-sized live music venue. The capacity of its gig room is being doubled to 200, by knocking through a wall into a barn previously used for storage. Landlord Steve Pelligrini said: “Over the last few years there have been various bids to buy the pub from Greene King and there have been successful campaigns, but the brewery isn’t interested in any of that now. Our existing gig room is always quite cosy and we’re now one of the few places left for live music, so Cambridge desperately needs a mid-sized venue and this will allow us to develop one.”

Stonegate re-opens Yates’s in Manchester’s Portland Street with more light: Managed company Stonegate has re-opened its Yates’s in Manchester’s Portland Street with a re-design that allows more light to flood in. The new-look Yates’s, which has seen a £200,000 investment, has an opened-up front to enable people to see into the pub from the street and encourage new customers in. The venue has also introduced a new VIP booth. The venue is still value-focussed with selected dishes for £2.99 on Mondays; curry and a drink for £5.85 on Wednesday and Grill Night on Thursday where customers can order grill menu items such as steak or BBQ chicken and a drink for £7.95.

JD Wetherspoon plans Norfolk charge: JD Wetherspoon is planning to ratchet up its presence in Norfolk with three openings to add to its nine sites in the county. New outlets are planned for Cromer, Diss and Lowestoft as part of a strategy to expand in market towns. Chief executive John Hutson said: “At Fakenham we are going to go on site soon and we have opened in Thetford, and there will be other opportunities coming along.”

Brasserie Blanc hits turnover of £20m: Brasserie Blanc, headed by Mark Derry, hit turnover of £20.3m in the year to June 2012, The Financial Times has reported. Turnover was £13,539,244 the year before. In 2006, Derry and Raymond Blanc led a management buy-out of Le Petit Blanc for an estimated £3m, and rebranded it as Brasserie Blanc.The company has £20m backing from key investor Core Capital and bought Chez Gérard sites out of administration in late 2011, instantly giving Brasserie Blanc a significant London presence. The Opera Terrace site in Covent Garden is forecast to achieve a turnover of £6m-£7m this year alone.

Orchid targets Halloween as third biggest calendar spend: Managed operator Orchid’s Free House Dining pubs is targeting a 12 per cent sales uplift at Halloween, the third largest spend occasion behind only Christmas and Easter. Bella Kirkton, marketing executive for Free House Dining, said: “The influence of popular occult TV programmes, films and books such as Twilight, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and the Harry Potter films is huge and has really helped take Halloween’s popularity to new heights. Add to that the large volume of people staying home over the summer to watch the Olympics on TV, we’re confident Britons will make up for the lack of summer partying this Halloween.” The key to Orchid’s Halloween success lies in a range of parties and activities that are hands-on and encourage customers to stay in the pub for longer. This results in a lift in sales. For example, Bostin Fittle’s Halloween disco last year increased sales by 39.5 per cent. And The Grapes Inn in Shrewsbury held a weekend of events including a ghost hunt, spooky games and fancy dress disco, which saw sales rise by 57.7 per cent over the previous weeks. The Coulby Farm always gets right into the spirit – it is rumoured to be haunted – so Halloween efforts there focus on tempting the ghoul to come out and say hello. Last year the pub was packed with ghost hunters, and food sales were up 35.6 per cent. At The Hobby Horse in Chesterfield last year, Halloween ran for a whole week, with all sorts of ghoulish activities. “We had face painting, find the wizard, find the fangs, paint a ghost competition and our finale fancy dress disco,” said general manager Brian Henderson.

Costa Coffee opens new branch - at a college: Costa Coffee has opened a new outlet, branded Reading Lounge, at Crewe’s South Cheshire College. A range of drinks and snacks are available at the new outlet, on the ground floor of the college library. Emma Smith, regional account manager for Costa Coffee, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many staff and students using this new facility already. It’s a great opportunity for staff and students to come and enjoy the Costa Coffee brand on campus and see what we’ve got to offer.”

Whitbread registers Premier Inn logo in Ukraine: Whitbread’s Britain’s Premier Inn has registered its logo in the Ukraine. The logo was registered on September 10, 2012, while the application was submitted on November 11, 2011. The expected term of the certificate is until November 11, 2021.

Factory House to open in Leadenhall Market: A restaurant inspired by the Victorian age of empire and exploration is to open in Leadenhall Market. The Factory House will feature décor that pays homage to Victorian innovation and industry, with a spiral staircase taking guests into its 180-cover dining room. An open-grill, foraged food options and gourmet bar snacks compliment the main menu. Executive chef is Sean Davies, who previously worked at the Tate restaurant. From September to November, many of the dishes on offer will incorporate wild ingredients such as cob nuts, medlar plums, damsons, wood pigeon, guinea fowl and partridge.

Wagamama, Las Iguanas and Le Bistrot Pierre join Loungers pioneering Seco Lounge in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard: Wagamama is to open in a 4,750 square foot site at the Brewhouse building in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard by next Spring. Sharon Cawthorne, Wagamama’s director of property, said: “The opportunity at Royal William Yard was too good to miss. It’s a stunning environment and great location. We hope Wagamama can add to the high-quality food and community offer.” Las Iguanas will open a 6,234 square foot site this Autumn at the complex while Le Bistrot Pierre is expected to open in a 3,800 square foot site next February. The three brands join a Prezzo and a pioneering Loungers site, Seco, which was one of the first to start trading at the site.

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