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Wed 21st Nov 2012 - Luminar, No Saints and Pret A Manger

Story of the day:

Licence is revoked at Luminar’s flagship Oceania in Kingston: Councillors have revoked the licence at Luminar’s flagship Oceania site in Kingston in the wake of a fatal stabbing - the club will stay open pending an appeal. Chair of the licensing committee Coun Liz Green said: “After hearing the evidence from the police, residents, and the license holders the committee feels that the revocation of the licence is the only appropriate response.” The club topped a poll of the most crimes in London nightclubs for two years running and accounts for almost a quarter of crimes in Kingston, an all-day hearing heard yesterday. Police told the licence hearing that a security lapse had allowed a knife to be brought into the nightclub that was used in the fatal stabbing of Jamie Sanderson - the weapon had been taken into Oceana through the Woo Woo feeder bar, which does not have metal detectors. Documents submitted to the court by the police showed 250 cases of theft in 2012, eight cases of grievous bodily harm and the alleged rape of a 19-year-old girl. Kingston’s borough commander Martin Greenslade said the death was the “defining moment” in the decision to call for the club to be closed. A spokesman for Luminar said: “The death of a customer in our club was tragic, but the safety and security of our customers is and always has been our main priority and that’s why the outcome of today’s licensing hearing decision is so disappointing. We will be considering our position; in the meantime the club remains open. We would like to stress that the club has one of the most sophisticated search and security procedures in the UK, which proved invaluable to the police investigation and led to the arrest and charging of three people. Since the incident, we have conducted a further review of security systems and look forward to continuing to work closely with the local Kingston community, licensing and police teams to maintain the safest possible environment for our customers. Over 300,000 people visit Oceana every year, making it one of the most popular venues in the UK. It’s so sad that the few spoil it for the majority.” Oceania in Kingston has been the company’s most profitable venue – its freehold was sold and leased back at the start of October for £7.5m.

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:

NDP Group reports out-of-home lunch visits down as part of mid-day dip, but breakfast usage and early evening in growth: Foodservice insights and research firm NPD Group has reported the out-of-home visits for lunch and afternoon snacks have dropped by three per cent each. The latest research from NPD Group reveals annual per capita visits to out-of-home eating destinations for meals and snacks continued to decline with 179 visits per capita in 2012, down six visits compared to a couple of years ago. However, breakfast has seen a six per cent visit growth year-on-year (year ending September 2012 compared to year ending September 2011 for all figures), and morning snack visits up three per cent. Evening snacking is up with visits increasing 12 per cent year-on-year whilst dinner is static for the same period. Guy Fielding, director of business development for The NPD Group, said: “As these figures show, breakfast is growing at the expense of other meal occasions – in this case lunch and afternoon snacks. This is particularly alarming for those channels that are heavily reliant on mid-day trade, but it does also signal the opportunity - and provides the motivation - for both operators and manufacturers to diversify into breakfast and evening snack occasions. One of the drivers of this mid-day dip is time-pressed consumers increasingly looking for food on-the-go that is both fast and fresh. To this end, we expect to see the struggling full service sector start to deploy a more flex-casual approach by adopting a quick-service style at lunch and off-peak periods, and offering the core full service delivery at dinner. Likewise, QSR operators are focusing more and more on building a bigger on-the-go business for both lunch and snacking, by introducing new products and greater focus on portion, portability and packaging. There has been a good deal of activity around the morning meal over the last year, and we fully expect this mid-day dip to shift the focus onto the important lunch and afternoon snacking occasion.” Consumers are continuing to manage spending by trading down from full service restaurants pubs and café/bistro segments into quick service restaurants, NDP Group reported.

Supermarkets accused of fuelling obesity crisis: Supermarkets have been accused of fuelling an obesity crisis on account of skewing buy one, get one free deals towards unhealthy products. The University of East Anglia studied 6,000 food and drink items sold at major supermarkets. Professor Paul Dobson said: “We found a bias towards sugary products for price promotions and that straight price discounts are on average more skewed towards unhealthy products.”

Guinness sales drop 15.8 per cent in the off-trade: Figures released by research firm Nielsen indicates that sales of Guinness dropped 15.8 per cent in the off-trade in the past year with Guinness Original sales down five per cent. The drop has been linked to hard-up shoppers reluctant to buy four-packs which offer less value-for-money. Guinness owner Diageo is introducing eight-packs that have a lower price per can and spending £33m on marketing.

Company news:

Starboard to open 240-bed five star backpacker hostel in Liverpool’s Cavern Quarter: Starboard Hotel is to develop the former Kansas Buildings in Liverpool’s Cavern Quarter into a 240-bed backpacker hostel under the “Smart City” brand – the company is already trading the brand in Edinburgh and plans a central London site in 2013. The Liverpool site, for which planning consent has already been obtained, is a seven-storey, 21,550 square foot property, which was formerly used as retail premises – it will open in the first quarter of 2013. Starboard’s planning consent includes a restaurant and bar on the lower and upper ground floors. Kate Taylor, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, which sold the site on behalf of Quintain, said: “Starboard Hotels has already carved out a niche for purchasing distressed commercial assets and implementing a change-of-use redevelopment through the acquisition, planning and construction stages. This is an excellent site in which to ramp up its expansion, given its great positioning within Liverpool city centre opposite the Met Quarter retail scheme and close to the Liverpool One shopping centre.” Already trading in Edinburgh, the company’s hostel in Liverpool will offer en suite dorms, high levels of guest amenities and a fully licensed food and beverage operation for guests and non-residents.

Wagamama opens today in Watford Met Quarter: Wagamama will open in Watford’s Met Quarter today, the first of a group of new restaurant brand arrivals. The brand will be followed by Zizzi, Carluccio’s, Chimichanga, Nando’s and Jimmy’s World Grill and Bar. Ingrid Williamson, director of marketing at Wagamama, said: “We are thrilled to be expanding further. The Met Quarter is a fantastic new location to be in and we look forward to welcoming both new and existing noodles fans to the restaurant”.

McDonald’s recycling 5,500 items from Olympics restaurants: McDonald’s has applied to use outdoor furniture from one of the restaurants built for this summer’s Olympics at the new site in Whitchurch, set to open next year. The new restaurant and drive-thru at the former Little Chef on Wrexham Road was given the go ahead in August. The layout of the outdoor patio area has been changed to incorporate a shelter and terrace furniture from the Olympic Village. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said: “We had four restaurants on the Olympic Park and during the 29 days of the Games the restaurants served over 1.75 million meals. We constructed all of the equipment, furniture and signage with maximum re-use in mind. For example, the counter was built in sections so it can be broken up and re-used in other restaurants. We identified almost 5,500 individual items from air conditioning units and furniture to light bulbs and switches, and planned a new home for each of them.”

More details emerge of Banwell House’s fourth pub: More details have emerged of Banwell House Pub Company’s fourth pub, the former New Westhall in Bath, which will be re-named Victoria Pub and Kitchen. Banwell founder Toby Brett has bought the freehold from his former employer, brewer and retailer Wadworth’s. Brett said: “The New Westhall is a great-sized site in a great location; it just needed to direct itself towards the target demographic of the area.” The bar has been relocated to be more welcoming when customers walk in and a theatre kitchen installed so customers can see their food being prepared. It will specialise in the “best steaks that won’t break the bank”. The Bath site joins The Rose & Crown, Trowbridge, Three Horseshoes, Chapmanslade and The Duke of Cumberland, Holcombe within the estate. In addition, Banwell House manages, under contract, The Globe Inn, Wells and The Fleece Inn, Hillesley, which is a community-owned pub with 120 shareholders.

Enterprise Inns reports 19 out of 21 latest regional manager recruits from a retail background: Enterprise Inns has reported that 19 of its 21 most recent regional manager appointments have been people from a managed pub or retail background. Chief operating officer Simon Townsend told Morning Briefing that there had not been a change of recruitment policy but the company had become more interventionist and this had begun to attract applicants from a retail background who “found the opportunity to make a difference quite satisfying”. One example is Mark McGinty, an Enterprise divisional director who was previously head of commercial operations at Wetherspoon’s Lloyds No 1 brand. “He’s had a great impact on the business,” said Townsend. Enterprise had left a key role in the East Midlands vacant for almost six months, looking at and rejecting 32 candidates before the right person was found, Townsend added. (See bottom of Propel Morning Briefing for more Enterprise news)

Gordon Ramsay trademarks Spotted Pig name in the UK: Chef Gordon Ramsay has moved to trademark The Spotted Pig name in the UK. The Spotted Pig is the name of the gastro-pub in New York, run by April Bloomfield, that has a Michelin star. Gordon Ramsay Holdings International submitted the application on 2 October and it was published for comment on 9 November, according to the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office website. The application was earlier reported by the Sunday Mail in Scotland, which quoted an unidentified spokesman for the chef’s company as saying it regularly seeks trademarks and there were no current plans beyond that.

No Saints to open fourteenth nightclub site on Friday: No Saints, the nightclub company led by former Luminar chief executive Stephen Thomas, will open its fourteenth site this Friday – Wonderland in Maidstone, Kent. It’s one of three former Luminar sites that was passed in the direction of No Saints by Luminar landlord X-Leisure. The Maidstone site has seen a £800,000 investment – it traded as Liquid and Envy under Luminar. No Saints has two more possible acquisitions lined up before the end of 2012, one that is already trading as a nightclub. The company’s financial year started in September and company sources report it is now profitable. It lost £2.2m in the year to 2 October 2011, around 50 per cent of which related to the closure of its Greene Room burlesque cabaret bar concept in Milton Keynes.

Nightclub plan for South Wales town turned down: A plan to open a new nightclub in Ammanford, South Wales, have been rejected - the planned nightclub in Wind Street would have been Ammanford’s first nightclub since Eriskay closed down in 1976. Plans for the new club, which was to be placed in the old snooker hall above Shoppers World, were refused by Carmarthenshire Council. Graham Noakes, Carmarthenshire Council senior development management officer, said: “It was concluded that the potential for disturbance to the occupiers of nearby houses and flats at times when they could reasonably expect peace and quiet outweighed the potential benefits in terms of the evening economy of the town centre.”

Georgie Porgies World Buffet eyes up second site in Reading: George Porgies World Buffet is planning to open its second site. The company has won planning consent to create a four-floor buffet restaurant in a former bank, the Grade II listed Simonds Bank building, in King Street. Georgie Porgies Buffet World offers cuisine ranging from Chinese to Italian – its first site was opened in Pole, Dorset in May 2011. Listed building consent was granted in March 2010 for the conversion of the ground floor to a restaurant with the upstairs remaining as offices. But the new permission allows dining on all floors with the basement used as the kitchen, storage and staff facilities.

Pret A Manger denies Morning Star claim of union busting: Pret A Manger has told Marxist newspaper The Morning Star that it denies it is anti-union. The Morning Star has reported that dozens of workers rallied outside a Pret A Manger site in London’s St Pancras station to demand the firm reinstate a sacked union organiser. Protesters claimed the company had “smashed” a new union by disciplining its two founders. Andrej Stopa told the Morning Star he had worked at the St Pancras shop for two and a half years before launching the Pret A Manger staff union to raise complaints. The Morning Star claimed Stopa was called to a disciplinary hearing shortly after launching the union and sacked for non-attendance - although Stopa said he had been given the wrong date and had taken sick leave in the original incident. A Pret A Manger spokeswoman told the newspaper that it had “a free and open relationship” with staff. “Pret A Manger staff are free to form a union if they wish,” she added.

Las Iguanas to open first Scottish site this week: Las Iguanas will open its first Scottish restaurant in Aberdeen’ Union Square this week. Chief executive Eren Ali said: “In our quest to find a location for our first Scottish venture, Union Square in Aberdeen seemed the perfect setting. Not only does Aberdeen have a buoyant economy, but Union Square provides an unrivalled dining experience for people across the city, and we wanted to be part of that.” Las Iguanas, established in Bristol in 1991, will open in Plymouth next. 

Seafood Pub Company adds third site: Seafood Pub Company, based in the North West, has added a third gastropub to its estate. A refurbishment is set to start soon on its latest acquisition, the Farmers Arms in Great Eccleston. The pub will re-open, under a new name, next March. The opening will come two years after its first site opened at Feniscowles, Blackburn. Seafood Pub Company beat celebrity chef Marco Pierre White to acquire the lease of The Assheton Arms in the village of Downham, located within The Ribble Valey, earlier this year.

Costa Coffee to step into Starbucks shoes in Penarth: Costa Coffee is to occupy the premises in Penarth that Starbucks has vacated after five years of trading. Starbucks moved out of its Penarth coffee shop at the end of last month – now Costa Coffee has applied for planning consent for its own signage at the property. A spokesperson for Starbucks said it had been a ‘difficult decision’ to leave the town. “Like many other retailers, and as part of the normal course of our business over the year, we regularly review our stores to ensure they’re contributing to a sustainable business for the future.” The withdrawal by Starbucks from the town follows a closure in Horsham last month.

Stonegate converts Goose site to “new-style” traditional pub: Stonegate Pub Company, the managed operator led by Toby Smith, will re-open a Goose site in Aldershot, one of the 333 pubs it acquired from Mitchells & Butlers, as a pub called The George tomorrow. Stonegate has invested £140,000 on the refurbishment with a new style of traditional pub is planned for the site, offering quality food, real ales and a wide selection of wine and spirits. “The pub was originally named The George so it seems fitting for it to return to its proper name. The George will be a traditional pub, echoing all that is best about the British high street pub – value for money, quality food, friendly welcome and a packed schedule of entertainment”, said Michaela O’Connell, general manager of The George.

Cambridge’s only lap-dancing club hit by new rules: The only lap-dancing club in Cambridge, Talk of the Town, has closed its doors after new licensing rules came into force. The club boasted a fully licensed bar seating up to 70, six booths, a VIP dungeon room and private dance areas. It was dealt a blow last year when the city council’s licensing committee voted to implement a previously proposed scheme which states such clubs will not normally be allowed near homes, schools or churches. The club was near Christ Church in Christchurch Street and surrounded by residential properties.

Thwaites reports wet summer has adversely affected half-year performance; residual interest rate swaps hit by low rates of LIBOR: Blackburn based brewer and retailer Thwaites has reported its performance has been adversely impacted by the very wet weather conditions which have had a significant effect on summer trading. Group turnover for the six months to 30 September was £71.1m (2011: £70.9m) and is broadly flat compared to the same period last year but operating profit (before exceptional items) of £6.6m (2011: £7.6m) is down 13 per cent on last year. Chairman Ann Yerburgh said: “We continue to act decisively in response to the current market conditions and we are committed to creating a prosperous and sustainable business for the future. The announcement of our intention to relocate our brewery operations to a new site has had an impact on contract volumes, and therefore we have taken steps to restructure our brewery operations to reduce our costs, which resulted in an exceptional provision for redundancy costs of £400,000 during the period. At 31 March 2012 we made provision to settle up to £50m of interest rate swap contracts, and so far we have paid £9m to settle £40m of these swaps. Interest costs are now reducing as a result of this decision, although the unprecedented low rate of LIBOR is having an adverse impact on the residual swaps cost.” The settlement of the swaps and the share buyback has resulted in net debt increasing to £62.7m (2011: £45.8m), still well within its banking facilities. Operating profit in the beer company and pubs was £4m in the first half of the year (2011: £5.0m), a decrease of 20 per cent. The company said continued poor weather has particularly impacted on seasonal pubs in rural and seaside locations, and free trade supply to sporting clubs, as many cricket, golf and other sporting fixtures have been cancelled.

Enterprise Inns to invest £180m in estate over next three years: Enterprise Inns, which owns around 12 per cent of the total UK pub stock, is to invest £180m in its estate over the next three years. Chief executive Ted Tuppen said around £10m would be spent on larger schemes worth £250,000 or more in the coming year, focused on pubs in good locations and with high quality licensees. The company, which plans to reduce estate size by 700 pubs to 5,200 over the next three years, has also identified 700 pubs where the external condition is “poor”, all of which will be addressed in the next 12 months. Tuppen said that the company would have achieved flat like-for-like income in the second half of its latest financial if it hadn’t have been for the Olympics where volumes were similar to mid-January – Tuppen estimated that the company lost 12,000 barrels of beer volume during the two weeks of the Olympics. “Sales were close to mid-January levels during the two weeks,” he told City analysts. Tuppen estimated that average licensee income is around £45,000 per annum, including the £10,000-a-year so-called live-in benefit. He reported that the company had transferred £54m of income to licenses since 2008 through average lower rents, down 12 per cent since 2008, and increased beer discounts – the benefit transfer has been worth an average of £9,000 per pub per year. “Despite this our business remains robust,” said Tuppen, who reported Enterprise income per pub stands at £65,000 per annum while the government takes an annual £145,000 in VAT, duty and other taxes for each pub in the estate. Tuppen reported that beer and cider volumes were up by 6.7 per cent in value terms and down three per cent in volume terms, which is “slightly better than the on-trade market”.

WaverleyTBS costs Enterprise up to £2m: Entrerprise Inns has reported that collapse of its wine and spirits distributor WaverleyTBS is likely to cost the company between £1m and £2m after licensees exercised the contractual right to source supplies from elsewhere, depriving the company of income.

Assignment market drops by half: Chief executive Ted Tuppen has reported that the company saw 140 assignments of leases in the past year, which reflects the fact that “the number of assignments has halved over the last couple of years”. He added: “The premiums being paid are not significant.” Tuppen argued that the collapse of the assignment market was a good thing since it meant that Enterprise was not coming across licensees who had spent a couple of hundred thousand pounds on an assignment premium just to start trading a pub. But some “high values” are still being paid to buy Enterprise leases in the south with demand generally high. “We had 26 highly qualified applicants with fully-funded business plans applying to take over a pub in Islington,” said Tuppen. Of the 800 pubs owned by Enterprise within the Greater London area, less than ten of them are available to let.

A thousand pubs worth more than £1m: The latest valuation of the Enterprise estate has shown it owns 1,049 pubs worth more than £1m, with a further 1,430 pubs worth between £750,000 and £1m. The average pub value within the Enterprise estate is £720,000. The most recent revaluation has produced a two per cent drop in estate value with it worth a total of £4.341bn. The Net Asset Value is £3-a-share. 

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