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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Tue 2nd Oct 2012 - Pret A Manger, WaverleyTBS and Costa

Story of the day:

Alan Yau – a fast food concept or hotel would be a “nice way” to complete my career: Wagamama creator Alan Yau has told delegates at the European Foodservice Summit in Zurich that a “fast food concept or a hotel” would be a “nice way” to finish his career. Yau, whom Propel Info reported on Friday is currently working on a new prototype for Rosinter’s Planet Sushi chain in Russia, provided delegates with insights on the incredibly detailed way in which he puts together a new concept. He described and gave specifics on how he has very strong views on angle and power of lighting, table sizes, rectangular design, kinsthetics, the need for two rounds of feng shui, plus the perfection of olfactory and auditory elements of the restaurant experience – and praised his early career training at McDonald’s for teaching him a systemised approach to foodservice delivery. Asked about how he considered risk in opening new brands, he said: “For me, risk is not risk once I have all the facets within the idea. And I can’t bring a concept alive until I have the full picture.” He also criticised the introduction of sushi at Wagamama because it goes against something sacrosanct – “the total focus on and commitment to ramen noodles”. He said: “I don’t usually comment but I think (the introduction of sushi) is a shame. It’s sacrosanct to the overall main strategy. (Wagamama) is a brand with a core product.” Yau added that the introduction of sushi was probably driven by somebody deciding, “Sushi is hot – we should serve sushi”. Propel Info’s visit to the European Foodservice Summit was in association with the ALMR and CPL Training.

Propel Opinion: The intense and studied Alan Yau, who has risen from humble beginnings as the son of parents running a takeaway in King’s Lynn to one of the UK’s most influential restaurateurs, had his audience spell-bound with his description of the sheer quantity of thought that goes into each of his concepts – Wagamama, Hakkasan, Cha Cha Moon, Yauatcha, Sake No Hana and Busaba Eathai. He ticked off each and every holistic consideration that comes together to form the “emotional architecture” of a restaurant. Yau, for example, believes that there are perfect dimensions for table size and height to create the optimal dining experience based on the dimensions used by Harry’s Bar in Venice. Tables should be 680 in height and 600mm in depth, with seat height at a fixed and unchanging 380mm. Nothing else, in dimension terms, will do the job, according to Yau. 

Did you know that there are four regional family brewers with near identical turnover of around £54m? 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:

Administrator set to arrive at wholesaler WaverleyTBS: Industry sources report administrators are set to arrive today at Hemel Hempstead-based wholesaler WaverleyTBS after a rapid deterioration in its performance. The company, which has been up for sale for the past three months, called in administrators yesterday – they are due to arrive today. Booker is already being tipped as a possible buyer of the business. One source told Morning Briefing: “The company has never really been strong in national accounts and if there is growth in our industry it's with the well-managed nationals and high street chains. Waverley is very much the independent free trade wholesaler.” The collapse of the company into administration comes after a much-improved performance in 2011, following on from re-organisation in 2010. It reported a pre-tax profit of £3,285,000 on turnover down around £40.5m to £309.4m in the year to 31 December 2011. The company lost £6,986,000 the year before after a £10,815,000 redundancy and re-organisation exceptional item. In Companies House documents, the company stated: “Market conditions remain difficult with another year of volume decline across all the main drinks categories in the on trade channel. But the business has performed well under these challenging conditions with an improvement in profitability and net operating margin. Competitive market pressures resulted in a one-point reduction in gross margin to 14.5 per cent but this was more than compensated for in reduced distribution and administration costs as the company was successfully repositioned to meet the continued challenging market conditions. As expected, the business returned to year-on-year growth in the third quarter and that year-on-year improvement continues through the fourth quarter and into the new financial year.” Heineken UK sold WaverleyTBS (WTBS) to investment and advisory firm Manfield Partners for an undisclosed sum in 2010.

Seven new companies join the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers: Seven new companies have joined the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). The new members are Banwell House, the Somerset venture with three sites; Bar Fever, a late-night operator with 16 venues; DHP Group, with five sites including music venues; Luminar, the 57-strong national late-night group; Rendezvous, an independent night-time operator; Utopian, with three late-night sites; and World HQ, the independent late-night operator.

Jamie Oliver hailed a one of three foodservice game-changers: European Foodservice editor Gretel Weiss has hailed celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver has been one of three key foodservice game-changers in Europe. Weiss, speaking at the European Foodservice Summit in Zurich, named Oliver alongside Oscar Farinetti and Danish chef Claus Meyer. Farinetti is an Italian businessman and originator of the first Eataly site in Turin in January 2007, where he converted a closed vermouth factory in Turin into the first location of Eataly. The New York Times describes it as a “megastore” that “combines elements of a bustling European open market, a Whole-Foods-style supermarket, a high-end food court and a New Age learning centre”. Claus Meyer co-founded Noma, voted World’s Best Restaurant, and is a cookbook author and runs a cookery school. Weiss said that for all three “it’s about improving life through better food”.

Technomic – quick service restaurant customers value food first and cleanliness second: Research company Technomic has found that the average US quick service restaurant customer is male, Caucasian, between 25 and 34 years old, accompanied by his spouse or significant other. They rank the following in order of importance: food (91 per cent); cleanliness (88 per cent); service (86 per cent); value (84 per cent); beverage (78 per cent) and atmosphere (61 per cent). “The quick-service restaurant segment includes some of the largest and most innovative companies in the US, as well as some interesting up-and-comers,” says Technomic executive vice president Darren Tristano. “But at the same time, increasing competition means that it’s more important than ever to understand what consumers value about fast food and where QSRs have opportunities to improve.”

Dave & Buster’s to become fourth US restaurant Initial Public Offering this year: Dave and Buster’s, the entertainment-meets-food chain that saw Bass franchised versions in the UK in the 1990s, will launch its Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the US this week. Dave & Buster’s IPO follows strong industry performance, with Bloomin’ Brands and Chuy’s Holdings have climbed 50 per cent and 89 per cent since their respective August and July offerings. Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which also went public in July, is up 15 per cent. Dave & Buster’s operates 59 stores in 25 states and Canada. “It’s unique, but they could benefit to some degree from the great reception from other restaurant IPOs,” said Greg Leffert, analyst at Renaissance Capital, an IPO advisory firm. Dave & Buster’s is using its IPO to pay down some $80 million in senior debt held by private-equity owner Oak Hill Capital Partners, which will retain control of about two-thirds of the total share count after the sale. Oak Hill bought the chain from another private-equity firm Wellspring Capital Management for $570 million in 2010.

Company news:

Pret A Manger opens latest iteration of coffee shop format: Sandwich and soup chain Pret A Manger has opened the most advanced iteration of its coffee shop format for provincial towns in Horsham. The company is holding five days of coffee and cake giveaways in Horsham to introduce itself. Horsham is the company’s third opening in the new format and is the most evolved yet. The site is around twice the square footage of a traditional Pret and offers much more seating and a generally more relaxed atmosphere. There is a larger hot food section, iced coffees and a range of three smoothies on offer. The coffee recipe has been tweaked to provide a lighter and less bitter taste experience, with a coffee machine towards the back of a service line to encourage customers into the seating area at the rear of the premises. Design has been evolved with extensive use of natural materials; wood flooring, exposed brickwork, and wooden signage are much in evidence with ceramic tiling less obvious. The site’s product range is displayed on hessian sacking and there’s repeated use of three key words in wooden signage around the store – natural, ethical and sustainable. There’s an informal seating area at the front and extensive use of full-length windows that open to create a sense of airy space. A Pret spokesman told Morning Briefing: “Pret is good at fast service in urban sites. The Horsham site is the most advanced attempt yet to create a more relaxed coffee shop environment.” Pret’s fourth coffee shop-style opening will be in Tunbridge Wells. 

Marston’s plans pub in Launceton, Cornwall: A Marston’s new-build is planned as part of new mixed-use development at Launceston. Development Securities and Wessex Investors (DSW), based in Plymouth, has submitted the detailed planning application to Cornwall Council for a foodstore, a Premier Inn, a Marston's family pub and 275 homes on a site off the town's Link Road. More than 600 local people attended a two-day public consultation earlier this year in the Launceston Guildhall.

Original Miller & Carter site to be expanded: One of the very first sites to be opened by Mitchells & Butlers as a Miller & Carter steakhouse is to be expanded. The company closed the Miller & Carter in Penn on Sunday night for a two-week build programme that will see an extra 35 covers added in an upstairs area to its existing 165 seats with a kitchen revamp. One source told Morning Briefing: “This is testament to the strength of the Miller & Carter brand, which has now grown to 26 sites across the UK. The Penn site is one of the busiest in the estate, a full six years after it first opened.”

Nightclub property landlord decides to change nightclub venue name and run it itself: Property company Dale Investments has decided to run a city centre nightclub, Uberra, itself under its original name, Canal Club, after the Uberra name was sullied by a stabbing outside. Property owner Dale Investments has taken back the lease to run the club, which will re-open its doors at the end of October. A company spokesman said: “We want to bring a bit of luxury to the night scene in Wolverhampton. The old name Uberra is gone and we are going back to the original name of Canal Club.”

Costa Coffee opens site in Mothercare flagship: Costa Coffee has opened a site in the new 30,000 square foot flagship Mothercare venue, which has opened just off the A406 in Edmonton, north London. Retail Week stated: “What matters about this branch is the fact that it is home to new elements and store design features that are intended to provide a clue about the future of the beleaguered chain. Looking to the right, it’s easy to spot the first of these as there is a full-size Costa Coffee implant. It is full of mothers, fathers and pushchairs, as those who have braved the North Circular take the weight off their feet after the rigours of the journey.”

Innis & Gunn reports turnover up 62 per cent to £7.5m: Scottish beer producer Innis & Gunn has reported turnover rose 62 per cent to £7.5m in the most recent year, with 77 per cent of its sales from overseas. Finance director David Cockburn told The Daily Telegraph: “Companies that start exporting and look at it as just moving product overseas will get it wrong. What we’re trying to do is build consumer interest in our business and our brand in the market.” 

Livelyhood Pubs to stage theatrical production at three pubs: Livelyhood Pubs, the highly regarded London multiple headed by Sarah Wall, is to stage RSH Theatre Company’s Riot Night theatre production at three pubs between 8 and 15 November. Written by critically acclaimed playwright Hugh James and directed by Bafta award winning director Robert Young, the interactive play will force the audience out of their comfort zones as actors take them physically through a series of chaotic events. Starring Lizzie Stables (of the Inbetweeners, 2011), Riot Night tells the true story of a pub in Clapham; its manager, its regulars and their collective night of terror as south west London descended into anarchy on the third night of the London riots. Set in The Royal Oak Pub, Riot Night explores the people and events that took place on the significant night of Monday 8 August 2011. Having only just been made aware of the uncontrollable disorder that had broken out in Tottenham, the police were telling the pub manager and his regulars that the riots were coming that way and that there was nothing they could do. While some fled, others stayed to protect their local pub. This new style of pub theatre will ask the audience to barricade the doors, gaffer tape the windows, hide the alcohol and prepare to make a decision that challenges the ideals and rules of the society we live in. Riot Night will take at The Old Frizzle (Wimbledon), The Regent (Balham) and Riot Night’s original setting, The Royal Oak (Clapham).

Former Mitchells & Butlers manager has nightclub plan turned down: Former Mitchells & Butlers manager Kevin Spencer, who runs Wakefield-based M&S Leisure, has had a plan to convert a curry house in Wakefield into a nightclub turned down. M&S Leisure operates Tequila, Boomerangs and Mex Bar and wanted to turn Mumbai Curry restaurant building on Westgate into another Tequila nightclub. Spencer, who previously ran Reflex and Flares, said he would be appealing the decision. He said: “I was very disappointed by the outcome and the reason for the decision. The building was previously closed during the day when it was a restaurant and we already run a successful Tequila nightclub in Bradford, where we have no complaints over crime or disorder.

Rock ‘n’ roll steakhouse to open in Cambridge: A rock ‘n’ roll steakhouse is to open on Cambridge’s Mill Road this Thursday. Owner George Bhangoo said: “The theme is rock and the walls are adorned with memorabilia from rock music’s greatest artists, we have guitars signed by the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and AC/DC.” 

PizzaExpress walks away from Witney opening: PizzaExpress has decided to walk away from opening at Witney’s Marriotts Walk Shopping Centre, despite winning planning permission to double the size of the unit last year. PizzaExpress property director Mark Jones said: “We were very interested in opening a restaurant in the shopping centre and were in advanced talks with the previous owners of the shopping centre about taking space. Due to our requirements in terms of space, we made enquiries about extending the unit. Unfortunately, when the new landlords took ownership, we found they were unable to accommodate our request.”

First Catalonian restaurant opens in Wales: The first Catalonian restaurant and deli has opened in Wales. Husband-and-wife team Richard Edwards and Montserrat Prat, along with chef Pablo Melillo, have opened Cuina, in Canton, Cardiff.

Bath Ales signs for flagship site: Independent brewer Bath Ales has signed a lease for a new venue in Bath that will be its biggest outlet yet and one set to become a flagship for the dynamic business. At just over 5,000 square foot, the new site, which is next to Bath Spa train station, is double the size of any of the South West brewers other pubs. Bath Ales plans to open the venue as Graze Bar, Brewery and Chophouse, before Christmas. Robin Couling, Bath Ales’ retail director, said: “This is a really exciting development for us. The existing Graze locations in Bristol and Cirencester have been fantastically well received and with a central location attracting both visitors and residents we are confident that Graze will be a welcome addition to the city of Bath.” Bath Ales has already opened two new venues this year in Oxford and Cirencester, and this largest pub investment is made in the city that is so integral to the identity of the award-winning brewer. The premises is part of a new food quarter in the final phase of a £360 million shopping centre being built in the city and is being created in and around the arches of the 19th century railway station. Bath Ales’ new bar and restaurant will take up the entire first floor and has two large outside areas for al fresco dining. When opened there will be capacity for around 140 diners. In addition it will have a large open plan kitchen, a meat hanging room and a small micro-brewery producing specialist craft beers. Bath Ales currently operates The Hop Pole on the Upper Bristol Road and The Salamander in the heart of the city on John Street. This will be third in the series of Graze Bar & Chophouses owned by Bath Ales; the first was launched in Bristol’s Queen Square in 2009. The new site takes Bath Ales tally of managed sites to 11.

Brewdog plans craft brewery in Dalston library: Scottish craft brewer and retailer Brewdog is planning a craft brewery and Beer Academy in Dalston library. The company would like to open a 10HL craft brewery with open brewing sessions and beer tasting and home-brewing classes. A pop-up space would showcase local food producers with live music on weekend evenings. The company stated: “It would be all about education and getting hands-on with malt and hops.”

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