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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Thu 1st Nov 2012 - City Pub Company, Gondola and YO! Sushi

Story of the day:

Urban & Country Leisure plans AIM listing in two years’ time after reaching ten Lazy Cow sites target: Urban & Country Leisure (UCL), the company that operates the nascent Lazy Cow brand that is led by Ross Sanders, will explore a listing on the junior AIM market in two years’ time. The company added two more Lazy Cow sites to its existing two this week and is in negotiations for a site in Chester, which, once secured, is likely to open in Spring 2013. The two existing Lazy Cow sites are producing ten per cent like-for-like sales growth this year and have had 93 per cent occupancy of their 32 bedrooms. The new high-profile sites are: Cox’s Yard in Stratford-upon-Avon, a prime riverside located next to The Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, and the Townhouse in Solihull – both sites will re-open by the start of December. The Stratford venue is owned by the local authority, which has granted a 115-year head lease to Charles Wells, with a sub-lease operated by Brixton Academy entrepreneur Ian Howard – there is an option to buy the head lease from Charles Wells. Enterprise Inns owns the Townhouse and negotiations are underway to buy the freehold – the tenant is a property investor who has entered a joint venture on the site with UCL and is exploring other investment opportunities with the company. Sanders told Morning Briefing: “My chairman Sir Aubrey Brocklebank has an AIM listing as a goal in two years’ time. We’re looking at steady growth of the Lazy Cow model over the next two years to get to eight or ten sites.” Sanders said the Lazy Cow brand would be “stretched” at Cox’s Yard to include a butcher’s, an ice cream parlour and a coffee shop – the tagline will be changed from “ale, steaks and rooms” to “ale, steaks and cocktails”. UCL’s acquisition of two new sites comes as Downing Finance, alongside Bridgehouse Capital, invest £2.7m in the company. The first Lazy Cow was opened in Warwick in October 2010 at the former Globe Hotel - the site has been averaging around £50,000-a-week in takings. The company opened a second TLC site in Salisbury in September 2011. UCL also operates four destination country food pubs and plans to exit two of the sites as part of a long term strategy to reduce exposure to this part of the market – like-for-likes dropped by five per cent over the summer although Christmas bookings are up by 20 per cent on last year.

Industry news:

Four supermarkets in Northampton sign-up to pre-loading crackdown: Four major supermarkets in Northampton have signed up to a police campaign aimed at cracking down on revellers “pre-loading” with alcohol before coming in to Northampton town centre. Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are taking part in the campaign that will promote an ‘Are You Thinking About Drinking’ message at their sites in December. Chief Inspector Fay Tennet, who oversees community safety initiatives, reported it costs almost £1.5 million every year to put police officers and staff on town centre streets during weekend evenings. She said: “Pre-loading is a big issue for us. By and large it is those who have pre-loaded alcohol and are drunk by the time they get into town that cause us the problems with violence, disorder and anti-social behaviour.”

The Hospitality Show to take place in Birmingham, 21 to 23 January, 2013: The UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality exhibition, The Hospitality Show, will take place at the NEC Birmingham between 21 and 23 January next year. Toby Wand, managing director of Fresh Montgomery, said: “The Hospitality Show really will be the only place in 2013 that you will find a comprehensive mix of the latest, most innovative professional kitchen solutions under one roof. With a host of products that could change your business for the better, we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to Birmingham for an invaluable snapshot of the market.” Visitors to the Hospitality Show 2013 can register now for their free ticket saving the £20 entry fee at

France pushes up beer duty: France is to increase beer duty by 160 per cent to help fund social programmes. The move is expected to lead to a 20 per cent increase in the price of beer in bars and supermarkets. A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: “Under these plans, it looks as if French beer tax will increase from six pence per pint, to around 16 pence. It’s a hefty increase, but it still leaves French beer duty at around one quarter of the rate here in the UK. A ten pence increase is what the UK brewing industry has received in the last two years alone – around half the damaging tax hike we’ve had since the beer duty escalator began in 2008.”

Using Costa Coffee rather than Starbucks is a vote for efficiency: Marketer Helen Edwards, who is a partner at Passionbrand, has argued that using Costa Coffee rather than Starbucks, in the light of coverage of the latter’s tax affairs, is a vote for “simple self-interest and efficiency”. She wrote: “Buy your latte at Costa and some of that £2.35 comes back to you – albeit diffusely – in the form of tax contribution, either lowering the eventual burden for you, or enhancing what can be achieved with the common pool. The beauty of this approach is that no one has to wait for the verdict on aggressive tax-avoidance, nor engage in anything as dramatic as a veto. It is simply a vote for efficiency, a nod to the brand that somehow does enough things right to turn a decent profit, where the other, from similar sales, does not.”

Starbucks boss – we weren’t doing enough on healthy products: Starbucks boss Howard Shultz has admitted the introduction of fruit juices and Evolution Fresh branded food was a direct result of the company deciding it was deficient in the provision of healthier food and drinks. He told Bloomberg: “We have to look in the mirror and say: ’We were not providing as healthy products as we could have’. So as the result of that, we began a significant mission within the company to look at health and wellness. The health and wellness opportunity we have - this is just the beginning of what we think we can do.”

SIBA – lots of MPs parroting threadbare line on the beer duty escalator: Many Coalition MPs are continuing to defend the Beer Duty Escalator on the basis that it provides revenue needed to pay down the deficit – despite the fact that the Treasury’s own figures show this not to be the case. Ahead of tomorrow’s Parliamentary debate on beer duty, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has undertaken a mass lobbying exercise, through its membership of 500-plus brewers. SIBA chairman Keith Bott said: “We were surprised at how many Coalition MPs, in their reply to our members, claimed that the escalator needed to stay in place. The standard response seems to be that ‘revenues from alcohol excise duty make an important contribution to reducing the deficit we inherited from the last government’. However, according to Treasury estimates, the Exchequer will receive just £35m in additional duty from the escalator in 2013-14. This amount would be largely offset by the boost in sales and employment related taxes that a beer duty freeze would create – Oxford Economics calculates that this would save 10,000 jobs by 21014/15, mainly in pubs.” Bott added: “We are nonetheless heartened by the support from many MPs who are sympathetic to our cause - because they have seen the ruinous effect of the escalator on pubs in their constituency. We look forward to seeing them in the House.”

Livebookings and Urbanspoon link up: Livebookings, the real-time reservations and online marketing service for restaurants, and Urbanspoon, the mobile restaurant discovery application and reservation management system, have teamed up to add Livebookings’ reservations capabilities to Urbanspoon’s website and mobile apps. Urbanspoon will add 5,000 bookable restaurants in the UK to their website from the Livebookings inventory, offering consumers more reservation choices and providing thousands of restaurants with an extra channel to drive covers.

Company news:

The Restaurant Group reports 3.5 per cent like-for-like sales growth: Frankie & Benny’s operator The Restaurant Group, which operates 400 restaurants and serves 39 million meals a year, has this morning reported 3.5 per cent sales growth for the 43 weeks to 28 October – total sales climbed 8.25 per cent. The company has opened 16 new sites in 2012 to date. It stated: “These openings are performing well and are set to deliver strong returns. A second Coast to Coast restaurant at The Gate in Newcastle opened in August and two weeks ago we opened a third Coast to Coast in Stevenage. All three Coast to Coast restaurants are trading strongly and we expect to have five Coast to Coast restaurants in total by the end of this year. Across the group we expect to open a total of between 26 and 29 new restaurants in 2012 and we have a good pipeline developing for 2013 and beyond.”

Gondola Group addressing underperforming Ask sites by installing main brand PizzaExpress: Gondola Group is moving to improve performance at underperforming Ask sites by installing its main brand PizzaExpress. The company had been planning to open a PizzaExpress in Witney at the Marriotts Walk shopping centre but has now decided to open the brand at its Ask site in the Market Square. Gondola is also swapping its Ask site in Market Hill, Sudbury, Suffolk for a PizzaExpress. The Sudbury site has been one of 15 Asks on the market with property agent Fleurets, with premiums of up to £150,000 sought. The Sudbury restaurant, which has a rent of £62,227 per annum, had a premium of £45,000 suggested in sale details.

City Pub Company recruits brewer for two planned brewpubs: City Pub Company, the new company run by Capital Pub Company founder Clive Watson and David Bruce, has recruited its own brewer, James Godman, who used to work at Hopback Brewery in Salisbury, to oversee brewing at its two brewpubs – he starts work today (1 November). The company expects to open the Henley Brewhouse in a converted police station in mid-November, which will house the five-barrel Henley Brewing Company. A second brewpub, the Cambridge Brewhouse, will open in January on the site of the Jolly Scholar pub. Godman, who has a PhD in biochemistry, will divide his time between the two brewpubs. The Henley site will offer high quality food and retains two police cells as semi-private dining areas. Former Fuller’s beer division John Roberts is a non-executive director and is overseeing beer branding. “I’ll be using some of my old experience to help James,” said Roberts. City Pub Company, which has five pubs open, has raised just under £8m in two tranches so far under an EIS scheme – its second tranche of fund-raising was hugely over-subscribed. The company will look to raise a further £10m next year.

YO! Sushi launches first ever television advertising to publicise addition of five ramen dishes: YO! Sushi is to launch its first ever television advertising campaign to underscore the introduction of five ramen dishes on the menu. The television advertising campaign, which has the tagline Ramen v Hunger, starts next week (5 November) and runs until the middle of February, screening across Channel 4’s E4, More 4 and Dave. Designed to be a meal in itself and served in an extra large bowl, YO! Sushi executive chef Mike Lewis has created five ramen dishes - Five Spice Gyū Ramen (beef), Miso-Dare Chicken Ramen, Kaisen Ramen (fishcake), all priced at £8, whilst Chāsiū Pork Ramen and Kitsune Ramen (vegetable) will be £7. Dishes are now available at all 64 UK YO! restaurants. In keeping with Japanese tradition, guests will be able to add chilli oil, garlic and sesame to taste. Dedicated to sustainability and sourcing local and ethical produce, YO! Sushi has ensured that the majority of ingredients are British, whilst the fish is sustainable and the eggs are free-range.

Marston’s – we want to build as many as five pubs a year in Scotland but we’ll be serving Irn Bru: Marston’s wants to build between three and five new pub restaurants a year in Scotland, managing directors of the Inns and Taverns division Peter Dalzell has told the BBC. Work has begun on its first new-build in Dunbar with four more to follow in the coming year. Dalzell said three to five new openings a year, from a schedule of 25, would be in Scotland where Marston’s had “a pipeline of sites”. He said research has shown Scottish customers’ needs are the same as English with one caveat: “The one product they say we must have in our pubs is Irn Bru.”

Chipotle begins craft beer experiment: In a break with tradition, US Mexican chain Chipotle has begun to stock two craft beers at 15 sites in Chicago. The company’s beer offer has previously been very traditional - Corona, Pacifico and Miller Lite. The Chipotle sites are stocking a golden ale called 5 Rabbit that is similar to Corona, and 5 Vulture, a dark ale brewed with spices. If sales are brisk, Chipotle said, it could expand 5 Rabbit to its approximately 75 Chicago area outlets, as well as add other craft brands. Technomic executive vice president Darren Tristano said: “Craft beer has become a pretty big driver, and especially for a more affluent crowd,” he said.

Ed’s Easy Diner plans ten more sites as it celebrates a quarter century: Ed’s Easy Diner, celebrating its 25t birthday this month, is planning to open ten more sites in the coming year. The brand has grown from eight to 12 sites this year by opening in Basingstoke, Leicester and Cheshire Oaks and Swindon Outlet Malls - and opens in Southside in Wandsworth, the Bridgend Outlet Mall, and in West Quay, Southampton before the end of the year. In addition, Ed’s Shake Stands, a new brand extension, opened in Birmingham airport in July followed by Bullring, Birmingham and more recently as Ed’s Hot Dogs & Shakes which opened in Bluewater at the beginning of October. Finally, Ed’s opened as “Joe’s Easy Diner” in the Blue Route Mall in Cape Town in September, with further international expansion planned. Managing Director Andrew Guy said: “The original Ed’s Easy Diner has been a Soho legend for 25 years. Now, in the last few years, the Board and the team at Ed’s have taken this iconic concept to 12 locations across the UK. Looking ahead, our 2013 plans are for around ten new Diners and maybe three to four more Shake Stands.”

Entrepreneurs plan New York style nightclub: Two entrepreneurs, Jad Lahoud and Alex Brocket, son of Lord Brocket, will open a new New York-style nightclub called Upper West on the King’s Road in Chelsea. Lahoud has a decade’s worth of experience in the nightclub industry while for Brocket the opening represents his first sector venture. The new venue, occupying the former site of the King’s Club, opens later this month.

JD Wetherspoon to add 20 bedrooms to planned Whitby site: JD Wetherspoon is to add 20 bedrooms to a hotel it plans to refurbish and open in Whitby next Spring. The former Angel Inn is a four-storey building that will be renovated into a 34-bedroom JD Wetherspoon hotel in a £2m refurbishment. It is scheduled to open in spring 2013. There will be significant internal remodelling to include the creation of 20 additional hotel bedrooms on the building’s third and fourth floors.

Enterprise sends countdown-to-Christmas marketing material: Enterprise Inns has sent a free “Countdown to Christmas” marketing pack to its licensees across the country. The aim is to encourage licensees to drive footfall and keep the momentum going throughout this period. The pack includes a host of promotional material including banners, posters, menus and decorations (estimated to be worth over £400) for a total of seven occasions across the ten-week period.

Punch invests £350,000 in Abbots Langley pub: Punch Taverns has invested £350,000 in the Royal Oak, Kitters Green, Abbots Langley. Work has included landscaping of the two pub gardens, including a heated smoking area and children’s play area plus doubling the size of the kitchen. Licensee Richard Morgan said: “The pub looks fantastic. Before it looked dated and bare and the new traditional interior gives the pub a cosy feel to match the friendly service we offer.” The refurbishment, has created 15 jobs. 

Craft Beer Company to open fourth site in mid-November: Craft Beer Company, headed by Martin Hayes, will open its fourth site, the former Lord Wolsley, a free-of-tie Greene King lease in Islington opposite Angel station, on Friday 16 November. The company operates sites in Brixton, Clerkenwell and Brighton, the first of which, Clerkenwell, only opened last year. All sites trade under The Craft Beer Company moniker – the most recent opening was the former Hive on Brixton’s Station Road. 

UK restaurant export success to open San Francisco site this month: Hakkasan, the Chinese restaurant brand founded in the UK by Alan Yau, will open a site in San Francisco this month. The opening comes as the New York site earned a Michelin star this week. The San Francisco site will occupy a 10,000 square foot space on the second floor of the wedge-shaped One Kearny Building. It will have 170 covers and a 25-seat bronze, V-shaped bar. There will also be a “Sommelier Bar” with four seats at the bar for guests to have an “intimate experience” with the sommelier.

Robinson near completion of multi-million pound visitor centre; partners Manchester FA: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has revealed it is close to completing its new multi-million pound visitor centre, event and training centre. The opening follows the unveiling of a new brewhouse earlier this year. Meanwhile, Robinsons has signed a three-year deal to partner adult grassroots football in Greater Manchester with Manchester FA, the guardian of the national game in Greater Manchester. The sponsorship includes several direct marketing opportunities to the extensive player and fan database, and the naming rights will provide Manchester’s six adult cup competitions with a brand new identity. Oliver Robinson, joint managing director at Robinsons, said: “Like Manchester FA – an established, progressive and evolving organisation – we are passionate about ensuring the survival of our ‘sport’. The beer market is changing fast and, with more UK breweries now than any other time since the First World War, it is becoming increasingly challenging to stand out from the crowd.”

Brewdog appoints senior Mitchells & Butlers executive: Scottish brewer and retailer Brewdog has recruited senior Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) executive Caroline Morris as its operations director. She will oversee its nine-strong estate of Brewdog bars. Morris was new concept development manager at M&B, working on concepts such as pan-Asian restaurant concept Tuk Cho and was previously senior marketing manager for M&B’s unbranded Castle pubs. Brewdog also has openings lined up for Birmingham’s John Bright Street before January next year and Leeds. 

Pret A Manger agrees to rerun sacked worker’s disciplinary hearing: Soup and sandwich chain Pret A Manger has reinstated a sacked worker Andrej Stopa and agreed to rerun his disciplinary hearing tomorrow (Friday 2 November). Supporters claim the original disciplinary hearing was re-arranged a number of times and eventually Stopa was given just 24 hours’ notice. An appeal hearing against his dismissal took place at Pret A Manger’s headquarters on Monday (29 October). Activists from a variety of unions and campaign organisations held picket outside the offices, distributing leaflets, collecting signatures on a petition in support for Stopa. The case attracted substantial trade union and other interest - Pret A Manger has been accused of “union-busting”.

SA Brain’s licensee goes multi-site at the age of 23: A SA Brain’s tenant has taken on a second pub within the estate at the age of 23 - after winning the award for best tenanted pub within the estate at his first pub. Matthew Randall was 18 when he took on the Half Moon in Wern Road, Llanelli - he now runs the Greenfield Inn. On his second pub he said: “The time was right as I have managed to get a manageress in place at the Half Moon and the place is holding its own, so I will be able to oversee both of the pubs.”

Food customisation is key emerging menu trend: Food cooked to order the way the customer wants it is emerging as one of the key trends in Horizons’ latest Menurama survey, which tracks new foods and dishes from the menus of high street pubs, restaurants, quick service outlets and hotels. While steaks, burgers and sandwiches have generally been served prepared to order, other dishes such as pasta, salads, melts, Mexican dishes, and pizzas are now being offered with a greater element of choice.“ Increased customisation of dishes is something we are starting to see more of,” said Horizons’ director of services Paul Backman. “It is a great marketing tool and puts the customer in control of what they are eating. It costs operators very little in terms of time or additional food cost but could give them the edge over their competition. The ultimate build-you-own cuisine is Mexican street food, which we have seen growing in popularity in the UK with Mexican-themed restaurants expanding fairly rapidly. Fajitas, burritos and wraps all give the customer greater choice, which is what today’s consumer enjoys.” Horizons’ latest Menurama survey also revealed: increasing premiumisation of dishes, particularly desserts. Examples include ‘luxury chicken tikka masala’ at Wetherspoon, ‘luxury fruit bread’ at Starbucks, and ‘chocolate lover’s delight’ – a choice of three tasters at Beefeater; growing popularity of sliders – plates of bite-sized portions for sharing such as mini-burgers, sausages on sticks, or salmon fishcakes; Innovative desserts such as ‘lemon ice cream cake’ at Sizzling Pubs, ‘tuckshop ice cream cake’ at Greene King, ‘millionaires shortbread ice cream cake’ at Little Chef, ‘salted caramel cheesecake’ at Browns, ‘salted caramel and chocolate tart’ at M&B metro professionals pubs, and ‘salted pecan bar’ at Starbucks. The Menurama survey found that meal prices are slowly rising. Year-on-year an average adult non-meal deal dish price increased one per cent from £6.23 to £6.33. Over the past six months the average cost of a starter rose by 2.4 per cent, while main courses rose just 0.3 per cent, and desserts were up 0.5 per cent.

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