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Mon 24th Sep 2012 - Everards, Shepherd Neame and Punch

Story of the day:

Everards to submit ambitious plan for £20m Leicester food and drink quarter: Everards, the innovative Midlands brewer and retailer led by Stephen Gould, is to submit an application next month for outline planning consent to build an ambitious new food and drink cluster – The Soar Food and Drink Park - on the outskirts of Leicester. Everards wants to build a new craft brewery, “brew-pub” and visitor centre on a 13-acre site next to its existing Castle Acres brewery, with access to a further 73 acres of recreational land that is part of the River Soar flood plain. Chief executive Stephen Gould told Morning Briefing: “If we secure outline planning consent we will look to attract a number of established restaurant operators to work as an anchor for the site and then we will work closely with a number of local food and drink businesses to occupy the site. We are looking for restaurant operators that compliment the style of what we are trying to deliver – offering quality, made-on-the-premises food. We want to attract operators who make from fresh, who believe in sourcing food from the local supply chain. We are going to open up the flood plain to the general public for wildlife observation, cycle paths and pony trekking. One of our challenges is that the whole area is designated green wedge. To develop it, we have to offer enhancement: better access and usage for the community, which we believe this does.” The craft brewery will brew short runs of unusual beers and the visitor centre, will be licensed to sell Everards beers. Added Gould: “People will be able to connect to Everards, its history and its future and the plan is to have a view of the mash tuns from the visitor centre so it’s a brew pub feel that has visitors at its heart. We also intend to have the offices there and to develop the old offices at some stage in the future. The brew pub would be the flagship Everards’ managed pub with offices upstairs with views of the flood plain.”

Did you know there are 95 businesses in the sector with a turnover of £20m or more? 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com or sharon.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Industry news:

New Pub Company joins the ALMR: New Pub Company, the London-based operator of seven pubs led by Peter Linacre, has become the latest company to join the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Chief executive of the ALMR Nick Bish said: “Peter Linacre has always had a passion to see our industry succeed and for its success to be acknowledged. It's very good to see New Pub Company fully engaged with the ALMR.” Linacre, whose Camden Eye pub hosts the current BII Licensee of the Year, said: “The ALMR has become the dominant, clear voice of the sector. We finally have the focus to make the case for our important and increasingly successful sector and The New Pub Company wants to play a full part in this momentum.”

Pressure in Scotland to review the smoking ban: A lobby group is calling on the Scottish Government to review the smoking ban amid claims that new developments in ventilation and clean air technology should see it relaxed. Lobby group Freedom to Choose Scotland claims that European Air Quality standards on indoor areas back up the case for ending the ban. Scotland led the way in banning smoking in enclosed public spaces like bars and restaurants in 2006, with the rest of the UK following this path a year later.

Punch Taverns teams up with The Telegraph to offer a free pint in Cask Ale Week: Punch Taverns has teamed up with The Sunday Telegraph to offer a free pint of cask ale at 770 of its pubs during Cask Ale Week, which runs from 28 September to 7 October. Ales on offer include Bombardier, Doom Bar, Greene King IPA, London Pride, Pedigree, Southwold and Tribute. The promotion involves cutting out a voucher and presenting it at one of the 770 Punch pubs participating, findable through a search facility on www.freedrinkpubs.co.uk

Sir Richard Branson – small brands need to adopt a sense of humour: Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson has argued that small brands must be “willing to have a sense of humour” and should adopt “newsroom marketing” in order to be successful. Branson, speaking at a conference in San Francisco, said his airline, in its early days, had to try to try to punch above its weight in marketing terms by being willing “to pull the tail” of larger competitors. He cited as an example British Airways launch of its sponsorship of the London Eye which found technical problems meant the wheel could not be erected. Virgin scrambled an air ship in the direction of the press launch, bearing a banner that read, “BA can’t get it up”.

Darden reports first Olive Branch sales growth in 18 months: US restaurant giant Darden has reported the first sales growth in 18 month at its Olive Branch brand with a “two dinners for $25” promotion. Chief executive Clarence Otis said the company would build on this success with more healthy menu items, more affordable choices and additional lunchtime options. He added that more guests at Olive Branch are choosing to order appetisers, instead of entrées, as a full meal. Across Darden’s brands, with include Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse, Otis noted that there appears to be a “growing guest need for greater affordability, guest interest in safe experimentation and increasing interest in smaller portions”.

“Home-finding” app launched at Munich Beer Festival: An app that guides drinker’s home has been unveiled at this year’s Munich Beer Festival. Drinkers enter their hotel address before starting out and the app guides them back at the end of the night. The app is particularly targeted at women. “It’s often female tourists who underestimate how much they can drink and after the third tankard they don’t know where they’re sleeping,” a spokesman for the local women’s emergency hotline stated.

One in three skip breakfast: Around 30 per cent of Britons report that they skip breakfast and ate during their commute to work. A survey, commissioned by electrical good firms Philips, also found that 70 per cent of families never sit down together to eat breakfast. The survey found it takes an average of eight and a half minutes to eat breakfast.

Company news:

Wildwood operator Tasty reports 30 per cent turnover jump: Wildwood operator Tasty has reported turnover climbed 30 per cent to £8,868,000 in the 26 weeks to 1 July. Operating profit, before pre-opening costs, share based payments and interest, was £752,000 (2011 - £526,000). During the period capital expenditure of £2,450,000 (2011 - £537,000) was incurred. Four new Wildwood restaurants were opened: at Epping in March; Market Harborough in April; and Ely and Bow Street in May. A site in Cambridge acquired in December 2011 was rebranded in February into a Wildwood and re-opened in March. The group successfully negotiated a bank loan facility of £2,500,000. Of this the first £1,000,000 was called down during the period. The company added: “The Group continues to focus on means of taking the business forward in terms of increasing sales by updating the menus and improving the food and labour margins, all of which are continually reviewed. The new openings during the period bring the number of restaurants to 22, consisting of six Dim T sites, 14 Wildwoods and two other restaurants. The group continues to actively look for new sites and has the resources for further acquisitions.”

Stuart Neame takes Shepherd Neame to task (again): Stuart Neame, a prominent Shepherd Neame shareholder and former company vice-chairman, has again criticised the management of the company, according to The Mail on Sunday. He has filed a member’s resolution ahead of the company’s annual meeting on 19 October in which he blamed the board for reducing profits, mis-spending money and overseeing a fall in the share price. Neame told Financial Mail: “The profits have been pretty grim for the past five years and it is due to management. Management has been terrible. There has been a gross failure on their part to take the company where it should be and they have made decisions such as spending £5m on a new computer system, which is hell of a lot of money and is just £5m straight down the drain.”

Living Ventures to open proper village pub next week: Living Ventures, led by Tim Bacon, will open a 'proper village pub' in Cheshire’s Alderley Edge next week. The Botanist will open on Monday 1 October, on the site of the former Number 15 Wine Bar, which closed in March 2009. The venue will be part of Living Ventures’ New World Pub Company division, which runs The Oast House in Spinneyfields Manchester. Living Ventures director Jeremy Roberts said: “It will be a similar offering with an enhanced restaurant menu and a few more bespoke cocktails, but the local real ales and the almanac of bottled beers, featuring more than 40 types, plus key menu items such as the infamous hanging kebabs will all be there.”

JD Wetherspoon airs its customer complaints: JD Wetherspoon has repeated a feature listing the issues that are causing complaints from customers in its latest in-pub magazine. The company reported that customers: feel music is too loud during daytime sessions at Lloyds No 1; fruit machines are encroaching into drinking areas; some Wetherspoon pubs are too dark, even during summer months; and a coffee collectors card has been withdrawn with insufficient notice. One couple told the company that they had written last year, in the context of reading about a £40m refurbishment programme, to report that the Wetherspoon site in East Grinstead is overdue an overhaul with “the carpet stuck together with duct tape, the tables and chairs very grubby and the décor very dull”. They added: “Is there any chance this pub could be in line for a refurb?” Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, responded: “From your description the time is now and I will meet the chaps to discuss.” 

Winchester man launches microbrewery: Businessman Steve Haigh has launched a new microbrewery, Alfred’s Brewery at a base in Winnall Valley Road. Mayor Frank Pearson was on hand to sample the first official glass of Saxon Bronze and said it was high time there were more microbreweries in Winchester. He said: “If anyone asks me what is the brew of Winchester, I will now say: Saxon Bronze. The mass market lagers that have marginally more taste than water - that’s not what we’re here for. People have voted with their stomachs.” Haigh trained as a brewer at the Hampshire Brewery in Romsey, The Flowerpots in Cheriton and Hogs Back in Surrey.

Norwich pair plan second site: Norwich businessmen Jonathon Powley and Steven King plan to open a second site in the city after the successful £800,000 launch of Bar 11, a high-end bar, at a former office building in Upper King Street a year ago. The number of people it employs has nearly doubled to about 60, and the pair plan to open another, as yet unnamed, venue in the city next Easter. King said: “We have had an astonishing 12 months, and it shows that two local guys with a winning formula can compete with the big companies such as Luminar, Revolution and All Bar One.”

Sporting Lodge Inns operator hit by Yorkshire Bank loan restructuring: Sporting Lodge Inns operator Here For You Hospitality has reported that Yorkshire Bank restructured its loans to the company, based in the north west, last year with higher capital repayments, higher interest rates and a quarterly monitoring fee. The move “wiped out the savings” the company expected last year and “has had a considerable negative effect on the company’s profitability”. It stated: “As a result the company has taken steps to dispose of a number of properties and reduce borrowings. In October 2011 the company sold its properties in Heanor (the funds received were used to reduce bank borrowings_ and is in negotiation on several properties.” The Sporting Lodge Inns concept combines pub, hotel and gym within the same building. Turnover rose £390,613 to £8,701,743 in the year to 31 December, 2011. Pre-tax profit was £399,222 compared to £277,800 the year before.

Soho House eyes Kettners: Soho House Group, headed by Nick Jones, is eyeing the Kettners restaurant site next to its Soho venue for a possible expansion, according to The Sunday Telegraph. Kettners is owned by PizzaExpress operator Glendola, which has denied receiving a formal approach.

InnBrighton to open first brew-pub: InnBrighton, the operator of 50 pubs led by Gavin George and backed by Graphite Capital, opened its first brew-pub on Friday. The company has converted the former Gloucester nightclub into The North Laine brew-pub - Brighton once housed ten independent breweries. George said: “This is an exciting project for us not only because we will be brewing our own beer for the first time, but because it is a significant regeneration of a fabulous old building and a transformation we hope will be welcomed by the city. The Gloucester nightclub was never that easy on the eye nor particularly popular with the local residents, and so we are pleased to have been able to put back something that is more in keeping with the aesthetic and vibrancy of the North Laine.” He added: “It’s good to be bringing a new pub to life when the trend generally in the UK has been the opposite over the last five years and more than 5,000 pubs have been lost. The burgeoning beer taxes and red tape of successive governments have had a big hand in that. To highlight just how much of the price of a pint goes directly to the Chancellor, whilst rewarding our early customers with a great offer, we’ll be selling our Laine’s Best ale throughout October at a price that is equivalent to VAT and duty paid.” The North Laine is the third new venture for InnBrighton this year, following the opening of The Dissenting Academy in Newington Green last month and The Great Exhibition in East Dulwich last March. Work begins on a further London site next month when the recently acquired Bellevue in Battersea is given a makeover. 

Trust Inns reports £6m drop in value of the estate and dip in operating profits: Trust Inns, the 500-strong pub estate owned by Isle of Man-based Trevor Hemmings and headed by Lynn D’Arcy, has reported the value of its estate has dipped by just over £6m to £237,886,000 – the company has bank debt of £143.8m. Turnover rose to £43,248,000 in the year to 31 March 2012 from £36,054,000 the year before. But a £2,620,000 drop in operating profit and a £1,865,000 exceptional item related to the drop in the value of the estate saw pre-tax profit drop to £2,118,000 from £9,142,000 the year before. Trust Inns, which runs a small managed estate of around eight pubs, saw staff numbers drop to 170 from 190 in 2011.

Starbucks launches online store: Starbucks UK has launched an online store where customers can buy their favourite Starbucks coffees, teas and its new Verismo machines and pods. Customers who sign up to its e-mail newsletter save ten per cent on their first order. Starbucks launched online stores in Germany, Canada and the US on the same day. The UK website is www.starbucksstore.co.uk.

Ed’s Easy Diner opens in Leicester: Ed’s Easy Diner has opened its latest site at the Highcross shopping centre Highcross in Leicester. The restaurant, which has 53 seats including six stools around the kitchen counter, will open daily from 9am serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Balthazar opening delayed until 2013: The eagerly anticipated opening of Balthazar, the London version of the highly-rated New York eatery Balthazar set to open in Russell Street, Covent Garden, has been pushed back to early 2013. The venue, a joint venture between owner Keith McNally and Richard Caring was due to open this autumn but has been delayed to allow a bakery to be built next to the restaurant in line with how the operation works in New York. McNally was born in London and lived in the city until he was in his early 20s – he now owns nine of New York’s best-regarded venues. He credits Paris cafes that he visited in his late teens as the inspiration for his restaurants. He told Esquire a few month ago: “I’d always hated pubs and pubs life and suddenly here were cafes with decent food and great coffee, where one could sit for hours and read and see attractive women and not be threatened by louts. To a degree my restaurants are an extension of this early experience.”

Halifax Broad Street plaza hit mid-point occupancy with Nando’s opening: Nando’s opens in the Halifax Broad Street Plaza this coming Wednesday, marking the mid-point of occupancy at the scheme. Frankie and Benny’s, Harvester and TGI Friday’s have already opened at the complex. Due to open shortly are Pizza Express, JD Wetherspoon, Chinese Buffet, and a 100-bed Premier Inn with a related Beefeater Restaurant.

Douglas Jack – Mitchells & Butlers share rating doesn’t reflect progress: Numis Securities analyst Douglas Jack, who has a buy recommendation on M&B’s shares, has claimed its current share price doesn’t reflect its progress. He said: “We expect trading to be at least in line, supported by reasonable like-for-like trading against easy comparatives in its fourth quarter. Combined with easing cost pressure, this should have enabled margins to be at least flat in the second half. In our view, M&B’s rating does not reflect the progress that is being made, nor the quality and potential of its estate.” The company is due to provide a trading update on Friday.

Birmingham’s only brewery tap closes: The only brewery tap in Birmingham has closed. The Brown Lion, in the Jewellery Quarter, opened just 18 months ago to serve beers produced by the nearby Two Towers brewery. Two Towers was started by real ale enthusiasts Mark Arnott-Job and Trevor Harris, who jointly invested £250,000 into the pub. A Two Towers spokesman said: “We have had a major cash injection into the brewery and it was very difficult to keep both concerns operating at the same time so it was decided to concentrate on Two Towers.”

Oxford operators to launch third site - “The Big Society”: Oxford operators Matthew Davies and Tim Fitz-Gibbon, who already run two successfully venues, Raoul’s Cocktail Bar and The Victoria, in the Jericho area of Oxford, are to re-open a former Chinese restaurant as a pub and restaurant called The Big Society. A section of The Big Society will be offered out to “pop-up” businesses, for people struggling to afford rents or find a platform to launch their idea. Fitz-Gibbon said: “It can be for pop-up shops, people selling vintage clothes, handmade jewellery, anything. As long as they are not selling food or drink, we would like as many people as possible to get involved.”

Basil opens second site: Julia Ehren has opened a second Basil coffee shop in Tunbridge Wells. She said: “Coffee shops are the new pubs. I think it’s the last thing people will tighten their belts on. It's relatively inexpensive to go and have a quick catch up with friends, a little cake and a coffee.”

McDonald’s UK signs deal to ensure fast restaurant build: McDonald’s has signed a two-year contract with construction firm Elliott to design and build new restaurants for the burger giant across the UK. The restaurants will be built at Elliott’s 13-acre production plant in Carnaby, North Yorkshire and can be assembled and completed on site within four weeks. The McDonald’s deal will help Elliott hit its target of doubling turnover next year.

A total of 16 La Tascas to close: The Daily Telegraph reports that La Tasca is set to complete its company voluntary agreement under which a total of 16 of its sites will close – the sites were generating annual losses of £2m.

TGI Friday’s barman win UK best cocktail maker crown: Russ Ward, 30, who learnt cocktail flaring at a branch of TGI Friday’s, has been crowned the UK’s best cocktail maker. He is now one of only eight master bartenders in the world. He will now travel to the World Bartender Championships in Dallas Texas next March.

Von Essen Hotels realises half of £300m debt: The prestigious 28-strong Von Essen Hotels collection, put together by Andrew Davis, has realised total proceeds of £144.5m, less than half the £300m it owed its banks, according to The Times. Experts told The Times that around £40m to £50m in catch-up capital expenditure is needed to restore various sites. Agent Christie & Co originally valued the portfolio at around £200m. 

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