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Thu 11th Oct 2012 - Inventive, Tragus and All Star Lanes

Story of the day:

Inventive Leisure off the market after “offers not sufficiently attractive”: Revolution vodka bar operator Inventive Leisure, owned by private equity firm Alchemy Partners and led by Roy Ellis, has come off the market after bidders failed to meet price expectations. Ellis told Morning Briefing: “There’s been a sale process and a good number of offers but none of them were sufficiently attractive.” The latest set of accounts for Inventive show an exceptional item of £740,000 in relation to the costs of Inventive’s advisor in the process.  The company which operates 63 Revolution vodka bars and four stand-alone Revolucion de Cuba venues reported underlying Ebitda of £13.8m in the year to the end of June 2012, up from £12.3m the year before but subject to the aborted sale process costs and a £1.3m onerous lease charge on a property in Chiswick. Turnover rose from £94,899,000 in the year to June 2011 to £109,090,000 in the most recent year. Operating profit dipped to £4,721,000 from £4,971,000. An interest bill of £7,864,000 up from £7,450,000 pushed the company to a nominal pre-tax loss of £2,924,000 compared to £3,140,000 in 2011. Ellis reported that the company has seen flat sales in the three months after its year-end. The company has openings lined up for Bournemouth, Macclesfield and Derby where it will open its fifth stand-alone Revolucion de Cuba in a 10,000 square foot former Barracuda site. Another opening for early 2013 is planned for Coventry and there are “four or five sites” currently in legals. Ellis said its first four Revolucion de Cuba sites, making rum rather than vodka the focus, were performing in line with average site takings at vodka bars – around £35,000 per week of turnover each. The new Manchester site, which saw a soft opening last Friday and formally opens this Friday, occupies 15,000 square foot of trading space and is expected to take around £60,000 per week.

Did you now Wagamama and McDonald’s convert turnover to profit at broadly the same level? 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:

Bombardier advert’s last hurrah on Dave:  Ofcom has ruled that a sponsorship advert for Charles Wells Bombardier on Dave featuring Rik Mayall as the Bombardier breach guidelines. An advert suggested that Rik Mayall received an intimate act from a woman named Summer in a “Sweet Kiss of Summer” ad campaign. Advertising rules ban the linking of alcohol and sexual attractiveness or success. UKTV argued that the post-9pm campaign was ‘cartoonish’ and that the character didn’t consume any alcohol. However, Ofcom found that Dave had still breached the rules as the character was ‘intrinsically linked’ with alcohol. Bombardier sponsors Prime Time on the channel.

Garelli and Johnson – digital media given young people employment options: Stephane Garelli, the renowned economist, has told the Zurich Foodservice Summit that there will be many more young people choosing to be self-employed in the future. He said: “There will be a lot of economic activity outside of traditional companies with young people becoming self-employed - technology enables them to do it.” Meanwhile, Luke Johnson, in his FT column, noted: “There is an explosion of students and twentysomethings everywhere channelling their creativity into new companies, in industries ranging from fashion to food to transport to software – almost all taking maximum advantage of digital technology. So the millennials have staked out Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, iPhones and all the other tech innovations as their hip territory. Their parents don’t really get social media and the digital revolution – they are excluded from the party. And the heroes of this particular revolution are not musicians, alternative authors, or radical politicians – but start-up entrepreneurs.” urges pub-goers to declare “Puboclock”:, the consumer-facing website backed by Heineken UK, has launched an initiative to drive customer footfall by encouraging friends to gather at their local to share some “Puboclock” time. founder Stuart Mills said: “Declaring Puboclock could not be simpler. Pub goers simply find their pub of choice at and follow the links to invite friends via Facebook and Twitter to stop what they are doing and make their way to the pub - because it’s Puboclock! With close to 300,000 visitors every month, can harness the power and immediacy of social media to bring people together to share and enjoy one of this country’s greatest assets - the Great British Pub. The nation’s love affair with social media is often cited as a reason for the decline in pub visits. Rather neatly, Puboclock utilises these same social media channels to turn this on its head.”

Wet weather to hit food prices in the medium term: Farmers and retailers have warned that the second wettest summer on record has blighted UK harvests and will lead to food price rises. Wheat yields in England are down by almost 15 per cent on the five-year average, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has reported. The price of grain on world markets has already been rising in recent months following a heatwave in Russia and the worst drought in 50 years in the US, which destroyed 45 per cent of corn and 35 per cent of the soya bean crop. Richard Dodd, of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Our own figures for shop price inflation for food show that it has been very, very stable – it has been 3.1 per cent up for the last three months, which is actually a two-year low. There is no food price explosion going on but there are pressures in the system that will work through.”

Paramount Pictures allows Kent theme park to carry its name: Developers plan to build an 872-acre theme park on Kent’s Swanscombe Peninsula. The proposed development would create up to 27,000 jobs and transform an undeveloped 872-acre site. The ‘world-class’ venue will feature Europe’s largest indoor water park, theaters, live music venues, attractions, cinemas, restaurants, event space and hotels and, if given the green light, will be twice the size of Olympic Park in East London.  The scheme is Britain’s biggest post-Olympic project and will take six years to build.

Price Chopper Supermarket to open 16 quick service dining areas at concept store: Price Chopper Supermarket is to re-invent the giant supermarket by opening a 90,000 square foot concept store in Latham, New York that will feature 16 quick service dining areas as well as a cooking school and on-site garden. Planned dining concepts include Ben & Bill’s NYC-Style deli, a Mexican-themed restaurant, a pizzeria, a sub shop, a New England-style fish fry, a full-service salad bar and a Chef’s Grill serving steak and seafood. There will be in-store seating for 140 as well as seasonal outdoor seating. “We intend to make this the store against which all other supermarkets in the area will be judged,” said Neil Golub, Price Chopper’s executive chairman. “Each of the concepts that we’ll be previewing here has been designed to add a distinctive and dynamic new dimension to the marketplace.”

Top English winemaker scraps grape harvest: Nyetimber, the award-winning West Sussex winemaker, has scrapped its entire 2012 grape harvest in the wake of the poor summer weather. Cherie Sprigg, Nyetimber’s wine-maker, said: “The quality is just not there. I don’t know what (the wine) would taste like but I know it would not be good.”

Company news:

Wetherspoon confirms Holmfirth negotiations:  JD Wetherspoon is close to signing a deal for premises in Holmfirth, it’s been confirmed. The company is hoping to take over the top two floors of the Riverside Shopping Centre off Huddersfield Road. Owner of the building Afzal Khan confirmed yesterday he had been in talks with Wetherspoon  for four months and had agreed to their plan. He said: “The contract is about to be exchanged. They approached me and came up with the proposal.” The news comes five years after the company backed out of a bid to take over the Picturedrome cinema in the Last of the Summer Wine town following massive public opposition to the plan. Holmfirth has a population of 1,980, swollen by tourists at weekends. Meanwhile, Wetherspoon has taken a step closer to opening a site in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, after winning a licence to sell alcohol at a site in Jackson Wharf in the town.

Greggs reports like-for-like sales down 2.6 per cent in 14 weeks to 6 October: The 1,600-strong bakery chain Greggs has this morning reported sales down 2.6 per cent in the 14 weeks to 6 October. Total sales grew by 5.9 per cent year-on-year driven by 75 new shops and success in wholesaling and franchising. The 2.6 per cent decline was an improvement on the 3.5 per cent decline in its second quarter but the company said it was “a smaller recovery than we had anticipated”.  The company added: “Consumers continued to show restraint in their spending and the adverse weather in July, followed by flooding in parts of the country at the end of September, also impacted sales in the period.”

Two Domino’s directors sells £10m of shares: Domino’s non-executive Nigel Wray has sold a million shares in the company to net £5m. Meanwhile, chairman Stephen Hemsley sold 1,065,521 shares for £5.5m. Wray has earned nearly £80m over the past four years selling shares in Domino’s.

Antica Sambuca company Hi-Spirits passes £10m turnover mark: Antica Sambuca company Hi-Spirits, led by Jeremy Hill, has reported its fifth consecutive year of double digit growth with sales passing the £10m mark for the first time. The company saw sales climb from £8,1444,80 in 2010 to £10,732,151 in 2011. Pre-tax profit more than doubled to £396,080 from £165,687 the year before. Hi-Spirits, whose brands include Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Fireball Whiskey and Bullet Shots, is 20.3 per cent up in sales terms year-on-year for the first nine months of 2012. The company launched the innovative Vodka One draft vodka mount earlier this year and already has 201 installations. Chief executive Jeremy Hill said: “We have increased our marketing spend and built our sales force throughout the recession and this has definitely worked for us, not least because customers have been keen to stock innovative and characterful brands.” Hi-Spirits also has “World Spirit of the Year” George T Stagg and “World Whiskey of the Year” Thomas H Handy in its portfolio.

Two Michelin starred chef confirms London restaurant: Chef Eric Chavot, who previously held two Michelin stars, is opening Brasserie Chavot in mid-January, occupying the Gallery next to the Westbury hotel in Mayfair, which was previously occupied by the Connolly shop on Conduit Street.

De Vere to sell the Grand in Brighton: De Vere is to sell the Grand Hotel in Brighton as it focuses on expanding its mid-market range of hotels in an attempt to return to the London stock exchange. The company is spending £4m to refurbish the 250-bedroom Grand. The hotel was the site of an IRA bomb attack on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

Brewdog reveals Bristol open date; opening new brewery: Scottish brewer and retailer Brewdog has reported that its Bristol site will open on 27 October.  Meanwhile, Brewdog is preparing to move its brewing from Fraserburgh to a new site in Ellen, which is 25 miles away. The company stated: “After 2017 days, 25.6 million bottles, three world records, 29 new fermentation tanks, three new brewhouses, two world beer cup golds, seven stuffed stoats, 95 tons of hops and a lot of load music on a crackly stereo, we get ready to say goodbye to our Fraserburgh brewery. From brewing tiny batches and filling bottles by hand we have grown to be the largest independent brewery in Scotland and have sent our beers to 31 countries in the process. Our brewery in Fraserburgh is a ramshackle DIY brewery that we put together ourselves. It is from this base that we have been able to grow our business, work with great people and strive to put the flavour and diversity back into the glasses of beer drinkers.”

All Star Lanes starts work on fifth site: All Star Lanes, the boutique bowling alley operator, has started work on its fifth site. The venue, similar in size to its flagship Brick Lane operation, is located in the Great Northern building off Manchester’s Deansgate and will feature eight bowling lanes, a cocktail bar and restaurant, plus a private room complete with two further lanes and its own bar - the opening is scheduled for January 2013. Founder and chief executive Mark von Westenholz said: “After six successful years in London we feel the time is right to expand. Manchester has always been top our list - we’re confident the city will welcome us with enthusiasm.’ Meanwhile, non-executive director Adam Breeden has resigned from the board of All Star Lanes. Westenholz said: “Adam played a key role in establishing All Star Lanes. However, he has been with us in a non-executive capacity for the past couple of years in order to focus on other projects. With the current opening of his Ping Pong concept Bounce he feels he won’t be able to devote enough time to All Star Lane to justify his directorship and has decided to step down. We wish him every success in the future.”

Beds and Bars to officially opens Barcelona later this month: Pan-European hostel provider Beds and Bars, headed by Keith Knowles, is to officially open its new Barcelona site later this month with a provisional date of 22 October set.  The 26 million Euros hostel offers 415 beds and has been achieving 85 per cent occupancy and 16,000 Euros of net takings during its first few weeks of soft opening. The new site has been part-funded by two Spanish banks, which will take a 20 per cent equity stake in the Barcelona venture. The next new Beds and Bars site to open will be a second St Christopher’s Inns hostel and Belushi’s bar in Paris in May 2013.

Epic Group nightclub in Aberdeen receives licence suspension: Epic Group’s Pearl Lounge nightclub in Aberdeen has been hit with a two-week licence suspension after police detailed incidents of under-age drinking and violent behaviour. Mike Wilson, boss of the Epic Group, which owns the venue, located in Dee Street, said an appeal would be lodged – and he was “confident” of overturning the ruling. Members of the city’s licensing board unanimously imposed the sanction, which is due to take effect on 24 October.

Living Ventures opens second pub: Living Ventures, headed by Tim Bacon, has opened its second pub, The Botanist, in the affluent east Cheshire village of Alderley Edge. It follows the successful opening of the Oast House in Manchester. Bacon said: “The Oast House in Manchester has established a very strong following in a short space of time so I’m confident we will achieve the same with The Botanist and bring No 15 back to life.” The Botanist offers a “deli-style smokehouse menu with rotisserie and external barbecue” and a walled garden.

Four Newcastle community locals bought by local operators: Four community locals’ pubs in Newcastle - The Joiners Arms in Blyth, The Percy Arms in Bedlington, Magnesia Bank in North Shields and The Albert in North Shields - have been sold by agent Christie + Co to local buyers. Mark Worley, of Christie + Co, said: “We have sold all these pubs since June. Usually, the vast majority of the freehold pubs we sell from our Newcastle Office are south of the River Tyne, in areas such as Gateshead, South Shields and the towns and villages of County Durham, Wearside and Teesside. It’s very pleasing to be able to report significant sales activity in North Tyneside. It’s very much becoming a high demand hot-spot, and we’d very much like more pubs to sell in the area. All of these pubs were similar types of operation, and each one was a well-known community local. What is even more encouraging is that they were all bought by local buyers who intend to continue them as licensed businesses.”

Planning inspectorate rules in favour of Greene King and Sainsbury’s plan: The Planning Inspectorate has ruled in favour of a plan by Greene King and Sainsbury’s to build a Sainsbury’s Local Store in the car park of the Red Cat pub in Greasby, Bristol, a site owned by Greene King. Two protest meetings about the plan were attended by more than 500 people - and hundreds of letters of objection have been written. A Greene King spokesman said: “We believe this will help cement the area firmly at the heart of the community, attracting jobs and providing more amenities for the benefit of local people.”

Marston’s applies to build pub in Crawley’s Maidenbower suburb: Midlands-based Marston’s has applied to open a new-build pub restaurant in the Maidenbower Business Park, located opposite the Audi garage on Crawley’s Balcombe Road. The company stated: “The proposed public house/restaurant, with an orientation towards family use and food-led offer, is wholly appropriate. In a predominantly residential area, with a wide customer base within walking distance, the opportunity exactly meets the requirements of Marston’s for a site in the Crawley area.” Orchid operates the Frogshole Farm pub in Maidenbower.

Colliers - strong demand from microbrewers for pubs with out-buildings: Property agent Colliers has reported that pub premises offering old skittle alleys and redundant outbuildings were proving particularly attractive to would-be brewers. Hotel and pub trade team director Peter Brunt said: “Buyers contacting us are certainly bearing out CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) announcements regarding the increasing popularity of real ales and the local microbreweries which are springing up to meet this demand. The typical rural pub often comes with a range of buildings that can be converted to brew the beers sold next door. We see this as part of an industry-wide trend away from the big national chains and back towards the traditionally close local pub–local brewery relationship. Many of them are on the lookout for the ideally placed pub with outbuildings or spare accommodation where they can launch their own brewery hand in hand with the pub business. We have also seen several new owners buy pubs with planning consents to turn redundant outbuildings into extra accommodation.” Colliers acted for the National Trust in letting The Radnor Arms, near Swindon, to Alan Watkins, who opened The Old Forge Brewery there in an old out-house in June 2010. Watkins also brews at The Crown Inn, Lechlade.

SA Brain produces all-Welsh line-up for Glastonbury: Cardiff-based brewer and retailer SA Brain has produced a spoof leak of the line-up for next year’s Glastonbury festival. The supposed line up for the Pyramid Stag is entirely made up of 16 Welsh performers: Charlotte Church, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals, Aled Jones and others. The spoof carries the tagline: “More positive thinking from Brains.”

Luke Johnson – “Strada was an incremental innovation” on PizzaExpress: Private equity investor Luke Johnson has argued that his Strada restaurant group was successful because it was an “incremental innovation” on his first pizza business Pizza Express. Johnson, in his Financial Times column, argued that “incremental innovation” carries customers with you. He said: “I realised how profitable and popular pizza was while growing a previous business, PizzaExpress, in the 1990s. So with new partners we developed a more authentic, wood-fired pizza and broader menu to capture more sophisticated tastes in 2001 – and it worked. Enough of the dishes were new to make our offering distinctive, but we included plenty of familiar items, so as to overcome the threshold resistance to trying a new concept.”

Aim advisory pair earn roast accolade: Adam Wilson and Peter Shea, who work for Alternative Investment Market advisory Daniel Stewart, has won the Best British Roast Dinner title at their Punch Taverns pub in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, The Phoenix Inn.  Manager Sisi Ryder said: “We’ve been working so hard for the last three years and have always been particular about provenance, seasonality and freshness.”

Balans reports turnover up, pre-tax profit down: Balans, the seven strong London café bar and restaurant operator, has reported turnover climbed to £9,757,470 in 2001 from £9,147,050. Pre-tax profit dropped to £472,882 from £488,046 the year before 

Café Rouge operator reports turnover up but pre-tax losses increase to £19.7m; operating profit stable at just under £40m; Giles Thorley leaves the board: Café Rouge, Strada and Bella Italia operator Tragus, the UK’s second largest privately owned licensed restaurant company with 299 sites in the UK, has reported turnover increased 3.2 per cent to £286.2m in the year to 27 May 2012 but like-for-likes sales declined by 0.9 per cent due to increased promotional activity during the period. The company’s losses increased to £19,318,000 from £14,546,000 the year before. The company opened 15 new restaurants, refurbished 29 units and closed 11 sites that were underperforming or reached the end of their lease term – the company plans to open ten sites in the current year. Operating profit stood at £39,714,000 compared to £40,847,000 the year before as interest costs increased to £24.1m compared to £21.1m the year before. Net debt stood at £314.9m compared to £324.4m the year before. Tragus stated in Companies House documents: “The group continued to grow sales in a difficult economic climate. In addition, investment was made in the refurbishment of the Strada brand and customer service initiatives. During the period the group agreed amendments to its banking facilities – as a result of this amendment the group has geared the appropriate level of funds to invest in its business and brand until the refinancing of facilities in mid-2015.” The company reported that “investment into growing the estate has proved successful” with average Cash Return on Investment in line with expectations on new sites opened during the last three years which have been trading for more than six months. Tragus chief executive Graham Turner, who spent seven years in the role, was replaced in August by former managing director of Costa Coffee John Derkach. Turner oversaw operating profit growth from £17m to last year’s £40.8m during his time at the company, which has been owned by private equity firm Blackstone since 2006. Tragus refinanced its debt in March this year with Blackstone investing a further £15m in the company. Meanwhile, former Punch Taverns chief executive Giles Thorley has stepped down from the board along with Joseph Baratta. Andrea Haleri has joined the board.

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