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Wed 14th Nov 2012 - Brasserie Blanc, InnBrighton and Market Town Taverns

Story of the day:

Industry like-for-like sales dip by 1.7 per cent in October: Later school half-term holidays caused sales in Britain’s leading pub and restaurant groups to dip in October. Collective like-for-like sales were down 1.7 per cent on the same month last year, according to latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, the industry’s sales barometer. Total sales were up 1.6 per cent, reflecting continued new outlet openings by the leading operators, but were still behind the current year-on-year growth trend. “School half terms, usually a good week for eating-out sales, were generally a week later this year. In many parts of the country they fell within the November sales period, hence the dip in October numbers against last year. The benefit will not be seen until the next set of figures,” said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the sector Tracker, the sector’s biggest and most comprehensive performance barometer, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS. Underlying figures for the 12 months to the end of September, show combined total sales for the 25 companies providing data for the Tracker were up 5.7 per cent on the previous 12 months, with combined year-on-year like-for-likes running ahead 1.5 per cent. “That gives a more accurate picture of the health of the eating and drinking-out market,” said Martin. “There is modest like-for-like growth, but the chains are continuing to expand total sales by opening new sites and that way are gaining market-share.” Bad weather at the end of September held back sales growth in the previous month, with collective like-for-likes up just 0.7 per cent. That followed a 2.1 per cent like-for-like increase for the sector in August. “It reminds us that just like the weather, holiday periods remain a major influence on trading patterns for the eating and drinking out sector,” Martin added. Regionally, the Coffer Peach figures showed the London market trading more strongly than outside the M25 during October, with pubs doing particularly well. The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses monthly performance data from 25 operating groups, representing combined annual turnover of over £6 billion.

ALMR National Restaurant Show Study Tour in Chicago open for bookings: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has opened its study tour to the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago in May 2013 for bookings. Next year’s visit takes place between Thursday 16 May and Monday 20 May. The ALMR launched its first study tour trip to the NRA show this year, with the trip led by Propel Morning Briefing managing director Paul Charity. The NRA draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, all seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions; involves a tour of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. ALMR chief executive Nick Bish said: “Our first trip in May this year was a tremendous success with our attendees reporting they had benefited enormously from the visit to the Show and the chance to study the key trends in the innovative US market.” Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To book a place, e-mail Jo Charity on or call her on (01444) 810304. Places are limited.

Industry news:

MP to call for review of pub conversion laws: North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox is to call for a review of legislation that allows supermarket chains to open shops in empty pubs. He will write to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, following a move by Tesco to take over the former Royal Oak pub in West Hill, Portishead, and turn it into an Express outlet. Under current legislation, supermarkets do not need permission to convert a pub to a store. A petition containing more than 2,000 names objecting to the plan has already been collected and a Tesco Action Group set up. Dr Fox said: “We do not need a Tesco in West Hill, Portishead. We already have a local store that serves the area perfectly well. “I am going to write to the Secretary of State asking whether there is a need to review this legislation which allows stores to take over pubs without a change of use application.”

Britvic and AG Barr complete merger: The merger of Britvic and AG Barr has been completed with the new company to be called Barr Britvic Soft Drinks. The merger will create one of the leading soft drinks companies in Europe, with annual sales of over £1.5 billion, a portfolio of strong brands and significant prospects for future growth. Britvic shareholders will hold approximately 63 per cent of the merged company.

Brasserie Blanc takes liver off all menus in wake of a prohibition order: Brasserie Blanc has taken liver off the menu at all sites in the wake of a prohibition order related to two customers at Blanc Brasserie, in Covent Garden, becoming ill after eating pink lamb’s liver which was not cooked thoroughly enough. The restaurant has now been banned from serving the dish, after failing to heed a warning from council environmental health officers, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard. Brasserie Blanc will pay £3,103 in costs and has confirmed they will comply with the order. “Brasserie Blanc has not contested the EHO enforcement and will no longer serve liver in any of its restaurants,” a spokeswoman said. “In order to serve liver and comply with Westminster Council, it would need to be overcooked to such an extent that our customers just won’t eat it.”

Pizza Hut opens first stand-alone chicken operation: Pizza Hut has opened its first stand-alone chicken restaurant Wingstreet, in Dallas – ten years after starting to offer chicken wings in its pizza restaurants. “It’s not a field that we’re entering for the first time. We have been a pretty significant player for a long time,” said Doug Terfehr, a Pizza Hut spokesman. “This is an opportunity for us to learn a lot more, focus a lot more, on what we offer in terms of our chicken option. It gives us the opportunity to interact with a customer who is choosing us solely for chicken.”

Lap-dancer employment rights case goes to appeal: Appeal judges have begun hearing a test case that will decide what employment rights lap-dancers enjoy. Lap-dancer Nadine Quashie’s is claiming that she was an employee of Stringfellows and can therefore make a claim for unfair dismissal after being sacked for gross misconduct. Stringfellows argues Quashie was self-employed and cannot therefore make a claim. Employment law specialist David von Hagen said a ruling in favour of Ms Quashie could mean that lap dancers working in clubs across the country would be eligible for “full employment rights”.

Last few tables available for the ALMR Christmas lunch: There are just a few more places left for the best-attended December event in the industry, the ALMR Christmas lunch on Thursday 13 December, which draws around 1100 people each year –there are only around 30 places before the event reaches capacity. Ticket prices are £169 plus VAT for a ticket or £1640 plus VAT for a table of ten. To book a table, e-mail Matt Steinhofel on Strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “The Christmas lunch will put the icing on what has been an outstanding twentieth anniversary year for the Association – membership has increased by more than a third as we have reached out to casual dining, late night and new entrepreneurs to truly become the voice of the sector.”

Company news:

InnBrighton reports turnover and Ebitda rise: InnBrighton, the 50-strong south east regional pub group led by Gary Pettet and Gavin George, has reported turnover increased by 11 per cent to £23m and Ebitda rose 17.7 per cent to £3m in the year ending in June. Chairman Gary Pettet said: “(It’s) has been a very positive year for the company. Two new acquisitions in London during the period have added to an excellent performance, but what is most pleasing is that like-for-like EBITDA has improved by 13.8 per cent showing that, despite a difficult trading environment, the underlying business is in solid growth. We are very pleased with the trade at our four pubs in London and are building up an excellent pipeline of future acquisitions here.” Chief executive Gavin George said: “These are exciting times for InnBrighton as we both expand our London estate and invest in our Brighton pubs to create ever more interesting places for our customers to enjoy their social time. The popularity of our Laine’s cask ale and Alchemist coffee brands coupled with improved food offerings across the estate have added to the appeal of our highly individualistic pub offerings and helped achieve the underlying growth that the company is enjoying. Aggregating social media content through our and websites has contributed significantly to the effectiveness and focus of our digital marketing activity. Close working relationships with Heineken and Diageo on bespoke brand campaigns has helped create some very unique and appealing customer activity. We are pleased with the company’s progress and look forward to continued organic and acquisitional growth this year.” Recent additions to the InnBrighton estate include The Candlemaker in Battersea, The Great Exhibition in East Dulwich, The Dissenting Academy in Newington Green, plus The North Laine and The Mesmerist, both in Brighton. The company wants to build an estate of 25 pubs in London. 

Shepherd Neame boss voices Starbucks tax complaint: Kent-based brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame yesterday tweeted his displeasure at Starbucks low tax bill in the UK. Jonathan Neame, who is chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association, wrote: “Starbucks tax bill nil, Shepherd Neame’s £35m and rising but less than half the size. When will Osborne back British business?”

Mighty Pub Company owner take on fourth site: Mighty Pub Company, the three-strong East Midlands multiple headed by Mats Hartling, has expanded into London with the acquisition of the Herbert Chapman pub on Holloway Road, London, acquired through its Rock Entertainment subsidiary. A new 25-year lease has been granted at a passing rent of £60,000 per annum exclusive. The Herbert Chapman is a 1,152 sq ft property close to the Emirates Stadium that be fully renovated and operate as a wet-led venue in the New Year. Charlotte Wild, of Davis Coffer Lyons’ pubs and bars team, which sold the site, said: “We have brokered a number of property transactions in the Islington borough throughout 2012 including the acquisition of Keston Lodge for 580 Limited, the sale of The Albert & Pearl to House of Wolf, the leasehold assignment of The Compass to Bar Chocolate, and The Horatia on Holloway Road is also under offer. As we have reported before, there is an exceptional demand for good quality free of tie sites in this area.” Mighty Pub Co operates the After Dark venues in Cleethorpes, Boston and Peterborough.

Distinctive Inns starts the search for its third site: Distinctive Inns, the operator of food-led pubs in the East Midlands led by James Bull and Ross Tunaley, has begun to search for its third site after the successful launch of their second pub, Nuthall Pub and Kitchen in Nottingham, five months ago. Bull, who spent 13 years as business development manager for Mike Staniforth’s Probably a Pub Company before launching Distinctive with a Punch Taverns pub near Newark, Nottinghamshire, told Morning Briefing: “The Nuthall has exceeded our expectations. Punch Taverns has been very positive with its commitment to invest – the investment was £350,000 at the Nuthall – and we’re starting to look for our third site.”

CD Pub Company to open chicken concept at the end of this month: Classic Developments (CD) Pub Company will open its third site in Stratford-upon-Avon later this month, with the launch of its new concept Flat Chicken, which will offer a simple menu of rotisserie chickens available in quarter, half, and whole varieties, priced at £4.50, £8 and £16 respectively. The new opening occupies the former Bernadette’s site, an oyster and champagne bar that closed a year ago. CD Pub Company is run by Charles and Christine Harris, who also operate The Stag at Offchurch and The Moorings, Myton, near Leamington. Harris said: “We’ve been trying to find the right type of venue in Stratford for over 12 months and the decision to launch The Flat Chicken as a unique dining concept from this quirky building with its roof top garden in Guild Street is just perfect. The hardest thing for us has actually been being really brave with the menu - I’ve rewritten it so many times and put loads of different stuff on there. But I think it is just about simplicity, so we’ll just have the chicken and steak option.”

Fuller’s looks to convert famous Coach & Horses in Soho to managed; sells Northolt pub destroyed by fire: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s is reported to be looking at converting the famous Coach & Horses in Soho, the venue for Private Eye lunches that the company bought from Punch for £3m, to its managed division. Licensee Alastair Choat told the Evening Standard: “Fuller’s bought the freehold from Punch Taverns last year for £3 million and now it wants to make it into a Fuller’s branded pub and fill it with tourists. Our ten-year lease ran out in March and we’ve said we want to renew it but Fuller’s has made objections to us renewing it, so now it’s up to a judge to decide.” A petition has been drawn up that has gained 400 signatories and calls on Fuller’s to “protect a true Soho institution from corporate homogeneity” and adds: “The Coach has always been a boozer, a little rough around the edges. That’s what makes it tick and separates it from the other chain pubs now taking over central London.” Meanwhile, Fuller’s has sold the site of a pub in Northolt destroyed by fire three years ago to a developer. The site of the demolished pub in the middle of Northolt Village has been bought by a developer First Urban Group three years after it was burned down. Jason Harris, acquisitions and investment director of First Urban, said: “We’ve only just got our feet under the table and are formulating our own plans.”

Marco Marco to open third site of 2012 at the end of this month: Marco Marco, the Italian fine dining concept, will open its fourth site – and third site of 2012, in Stockbroom on Thursday 29 November. Marco Marco’s first site was its Northwich branch, launched in 2009 in Acton Bridge, Northwich, Cheshire. In February 2012, Marco Marco launched a site in Lymm before opening in Marple Bridge, a stone-built village situated on the banks of the River Goyt, just to the north east of Marple in Cheshire in July.

Opening date for Urban and Country Leisure Lazy Cow site revealed: Urban & Country Leisure will open the first of its two new Lazy Cow sites on Friday 23 November. The site for the first new Lazy Cow Steakhouse in the former Townhouse in Solihull, an Enterprise Inns pub that the company has co-developed with property investor Harry Kenth. The next site to open will be Cox’s Yard in Stratford-upon-Avon, a prime riverside located next to The Royal Shakespeare Company theatre.

Nightclub site in Stroud to become a restaurant: A former nightclub in Stroud has been converted into a two-storey restaurant and eight flats. The former Splash nightclub, which was previously The Maltings, off Merrywalks, is nearing the end of its conversion. The historic former Stroud Brewery maltings building is in a central and prominent position on Stroud’s busiest main road.

Daniel Thwaites adds York site to Inns of Character division: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has added the 14-bedroom Judges Lodgings in York to its Inns of Character portfolio. A Grade 1 listed building, the Judges Lodgings occupies a prime city centre site – just three minutes’ walk from York. It was transformed into a hotel in 1976 and was re-developed in 2007, by a private entrepreneur, into a ‘boutique’ hotel with cellar bar and restaurant. Thwaites plans to re-develop its historic cellar bar and extensive outdoor terraces, but in the interim the property will continue to trade as a townhouse hotel offering a good quality bed and breakfast experience for guests. Antony Spencer, managing director of Shire Hotels, said: “We are delighted to have secured a foothold for Thwaites in such a fantastic location and are very optimistic about the future for The Judges Lodgings. It’s such an integral part of the history of the city, and we want to ensure that we develop and refurbish the property in such a way that it will be a prime city centre destination that visitors to York will want to try and one that the people of York can be proud of once more.”

Marston’s to invest £3m in Motherwell site: Midlands-based Marston’s will invest £3 million in a new-build at the Ravenscraig development in Lanarkshire. The company will build their new outlet on the site of the former steelworks in Motherwell. Ravenscraig, the company behind the redevelopment of the site, has sold a 1.1 acre site to Marston’s.

Diageo and C&C Group join Ooberstock: Ooberstock, the online wholesale business, has further enhanced its drinks portfolio with the addition of brands from Diageo, the world’s biggest drinks company, and the C&C Group, the UK’s leading cider company. The new partnerships mean that consumer favourites Guinness and Magners Cider are now available through Ooberstock. Arran Heal, managing director of Ooberstock, said: “Securing listings from these two major drinks companies is a significant step forward for us, and means that we are now rivalling the most established ‘bricks and mortar’ wholesalers in terms of our offering. We are delighted with the first few months of trading and our growing customer numbers show the industry is embracing a more transparent, lower-cost and more flexible service. We are confident that increasing numbers of licensees will make the switch to our service.”

New licensee of historic Enterprise Inns looks to turn it into a “major tourist attraction”: The new licensee of one of the UK’s most historic pubs, Ye Olde Man and Scythe in Bolton’s Churchgate, wants to turn it into a major tourist attraction. The pub dates back to 1251 and is thought to be one of the four oldest pubs in the country. Former bar and hotel consultant Richard Greenwood has taken the site over and is talks with the local authority about promoting it as a major tourist attraction.

Chef Peter Weeden to open Newman Street Tavern: Chef Peter Weeden, formerly of the Paternoster Chop House, opens his first pub, the Newman Street Tavern, at the end of November. The venue’s website states: “We will be serving the very finest British shellfish, the best free range quails & chickens, properly hung game, unparalleled day boat , beautiful vegetables and herbs, not to mention wild produce at its peak. Our wines come from small producers who share our values of excellence and integrity in their product and our locally brewed beers share the bar with a classic cocktail list.”

Greene King wins Testwood planning appeal: Greene King has won a planning appeal after Hampshire councillors refused retrospective planning consent to six-figure improvements to its Testwood pub in Totten, Hampshire. Greene King will not now be forced to demolish a timber-framed building used as an outdoor dining area. Other new facilities have also been given the go-ahead but the pub has been told to remove a “ jumbrella” shelter. Councillors rejected a retrospective application after residents complained about noise, extra traffic and light pollution. Planning inspector Roger Clews has allowed the company to keep almost all the improvements but ruled that Greene King must install sound-proofing panels in the new oak-framed building and prevent it being used after 10pm.

Cairngorm Brewery unveils £1.6m expansion plan: The Cairngorm Brewery has unveiled an ambitious £1.6m expansion plan. The brewery raised £665,000 from Bank of Scotland, £150,000 from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and £100,000 from the European Regional Development Fund to finance the project. Managing director Samantha Faircliff, of Cairngorm, which turns over £1.5m a year, said: “It is a huge step in our business life but one we felt we had to take. Our business has grown considerably since our early days and it makes sense to do our own bottling here.” Cairngorm’s plans were announced to coincide with a visit from chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander – his visit was marked with the launch of a new beer, “Ginger Rodent”, the name MP Harriet Harman gave Alexander at Labour Party conference in Oban in 2010. 

£1m turnover Edwards café, bar and nightclub goes on the market: Edwards Cafe Bar on West High Street in the centre of Inverurie, north-west of Aberdeen, which has gone on the market through agent Christie & Co with an asking price of £295,000 for the leasehold interest. Ken Sims, director at Christie + Co’s Edinburgh office, said: “Edwards Cafe Bar is an excellent opportunity. The owner has invested in a new media system throughout, which allows the business to run its own karaoke as well as video jukebox. With a 2:00am licence for the cafe bar and 3:00am licence for the nightclub, there is the potential for further growth with a hands-on operator or manager.”

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