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Fri 23rd Nov 2012 - Fuller’s, Spirit and Thorley Taverns

Story of the day:

Fuller’s posts profit growth despite “incessant rain”; Olympics will provide an enduring boost: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has reported sales up eight per cent to £137.9m in the 26 weeks to 29 September with profit before tax up four per cent to £17.1m. The results came despite the company being affected by the wettest summer in 100 years – half of its pubs are outside London in largely rural locations with beer gardens. Like-for-like sales grew 1.6 per cent in the managed division in the six months and have bounced back to circa 4.5 per cent since the weather became more consistent at the start of August. Group managing director Simon Emeny told Morning Briefing: “We had beer gardens under water until the start of August. We have a large estate in Hampshire and camping wasn’t being permitted at one stage in the New Forest. Our like-for-likes have progressed since the incessant rain stopped at the start of August.” Michael Turner, chairman of Fuller’s, said: “Despite what has been an extraordinary six months, I am pleased to announce a strong set of results, driven by a very encouraging performance from the exciting acquisitions we have made over the past year and a half. Managed pubs and hotels, our largest division, has delivered a robust performance against the backdrop of a unique combination of events in London and the wettest summer in 100 years. The 13 managed pubs purchased last year have seen considerable focus and investment in this period and their performance in recent months has been particularly encouraging. There is gathering momentum as these pubs climb towards their full trading potential. Whilst the economic outlook remains uncertain, we are confident that the business is well placed for the future, with a healthy balance sheet and a successful long-term strategy. The 2012 London Olympic Games showcased our vibrant capital city and generated fantastic goodwill and publicity around the world. We have no doubt that Fuller’s historic London heritage and iconic brands will receive an enduring boost for many years to come from this unique summer.”

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:

Consumers want more ethnic choice: Foodservice insights firm Technomic has reported that three out of four consumers (77 per cent) say they order ethnic foods and flavours away from home at least once a month, and 38 per cent report that they do so weekly. Technomic added: “Data indicates ample room for operators to leverage consumer interest in ethnic foods and beverages. Just roughly a quarter of consumers are satisfied with the availability of ethnic offerings at limited-service (23 per cent) and full-service (28 per cent) chains.” To obtain the report contact David Wilkinson on

Research reveals Scotland’s favourite pub food: Research commissioned by Molson Coors has revealed Scots’ favourite pub food -prawn cocktail, fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding emerged clear winners in the poll of 1,000 Scots. The Carling brewer then asked Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart to give the dishes a modern twist, to include in his latest seasonal recipe book, which Molson Coors is making freely available to pubs across Scotland. Phil Whitehead, managing director of Molson Coors Scotland, said: “The research just goes to show that old favourites remain as popular as ever. When you go to a pub for a meal, what you want is comfort food, well cooked with fresh ingredients.”

The Sun reveals impact of beer duty inflation on other commodities: The Sun has published a list of how much groceries would now cost if they had been subject to the same price increase seen by beer since 1990. A bag of sugar would cost £2.14) actual price: 95p), a pint of milk would be 98p (actual cost: 46p), a loaf of bread would be £2.28 (actual cost: £1.26) and a pound of cheese would be £15.44 ( actual cost: £7.94). Miller Brands UK chief executive Gary Haigh told The Sun: “It’s changing beer from an affordable treat at the end of the working day to a luxury.”

Company news:

Thorley Taverns reports reduced losses; expects much better results in 2013 after renegotiating loans: Thorley Taverns, the 25-strong operator of pub in Kent led by Frank and Phil Thorley, has reported losses of £422,783 for the year to 30 June 2012, with an exceptional item of £423,500 arising from a “breakage charge” triggered by the early repayment of loans to RBS – the company lost £832,530 the year before. Turnover was £12,341,415 compared to £13,496,977 the year before. The company reported that it has sold its prime site, The Fayreness Hotel plus two other small freeholds and one tied site, which had allowed the purchase of a prime seafront freehold and the freehold interest of two other sites previously leased from Enterprise Inns. It added: “All the outstanding (loans) were repaid to RBS. Two new loans were negotiated with interest rates much improved against the old agreements. There was a breakage charge paid to the bank of £423,500 for early repayment of their loans. The main competition to the business continues to come from supermarkets who are constantly selling alcohol at cheap prices to attract customers into their stores so they can purchase other goods on which the supermarkets enjoy a much bigger mark up. The company continues to maintain its outlets to a high standard. The two main hotels have continued to enjoy excellent room occupancy. Despite the challenging conditions, the company still shows an operating profit of £35,395 with gross profits increased to 65.16 per cent from the previous year’s 64.74 per cent. With sales and purchase of outlets and the new improved interest rate the directors anticipate a much better performance in the year to 30 June 3013.”

Atmosphere Bars and Clubs issues target list of towns as it seeks to expand by ten sites in two years: Atmosphere Bars and Clubs, the operator of the Chicago’s brand led by Paul Harbottle, has issued a list of target towns as it steps up expansion. The company, which opened a site in Stourbridge last month, is looking to open as many as ten Chicago’s in the next two years with a focus on leasehold sites. Its target towns are: Aylesbury, Tamworth, Hereford, Coventry, Bristol (suburbs) Solihull, Shrewsbury, Sutton Coldfield, Worcester Bromsgrove, Droitwich, Lichfield and Hinckley. A spokesman said: “Our conservative plans are to open 10 more Chicago’s over the next two years. Ideally, we are looking to take on leases of up to 15 years for a square box of circa 10,000 square foot ground floor premises in a town centre and high street location. The towns that we have identified is not a comprehensive list and the general principle that we have applied is market towns, satellite to either Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol or London with a student population.” Details of suitable property should be sent to

Spirit launches sport-based semi-franchise site: Spirit Pub Company has launched a sports–based unbranded franchise at The Quadrant pub in Stretford, Manchester, which re-opened this week after a £130,000 refurbishment. The pub will feature a lot more live sports with new sports zones and entertainment all week. Leigh Davies, head of agreement innovation for Spirit Pub Company, said: “This is our first investment to create ‘a Great British Sports Local’ which will serve all its sports fans in the area alongside the rest of the community with its entertainment and new menu.” Operator of the pub is Mitchells Pub Management Services, the management arm of Mitchells of Lancaster. The opening comes around a month after Spirit launched a franchise of its John Barras brand at The Heartsease pub in Plumstead Road, Norwich, which had a £200,000 investment and is being run by franchisees Michael Bream and Rebecca Barker. The Stretford site looks to be a semi-franchise trial where lessees will be given the full benefit of managed division expertise and wherewithal with a percentage of sales passing to Spirit to encourage both sides “to strive for sales growth”. A Spirit source told Morning Briefing: “This is a unbranded version (of John Barras) leveraging our scale on a trial.”

Marston’s opens first two Revere Pub Company sites: Midlands-based Marston’s has opened its first two upscale premium destination pub under the Revere Pub Company banner – The Hogshead in Westbourn, near Bournemouth, has re-opened as The Libertine and the Ye olde Sacracen’s Head at Balsall Common in the West Midlands opened this week. The pubs are part of a trial aimed at developing ten pubs into a more premium, unbranded experience. The move is being compared to the development of Mitchells & Butlers’ Premium Country Dining pubs. Marston’s has asked its Hammersmith Brands division, headed by Colin Sadler, which looks after Pitcher & Piano and Bluu sites, to oversee development of the pubs. Other pubs will be considered for conversion in the New Year after results of the first two conversions have been reviewed.

Redcomb Pubs re-opens Punch Taverns site after £650,000 refurbishment: Redcomb Pubs, the multiple led by former Mitchells and Butlers marketing executive Dan Shotton, will re-open Punch’s Crown and Horns in West Berkshire on 5 December after a £650,000 refurbishment. The 11 letting rooms have also been upgraded, each one en-suite and individually designed with bespoke digital wallpaper using images of the local area, such as the Newbury Racecourse and Donnington Castle. Shotton said: “We could recognise the pub’s potential for providing local residents with hearty meals and quality ales in a homely and friendly environment as well as offering boutique rooms for business and leisure travellers. We now have an extensive menu, with premium dining options through to lunch-time sandwiches, sharing platters and pizzas.”

Market Towns Taverns boss to launch experimental brews: Ian Fozard, who steps down as managing director of Market Town Taverns at the end of this year, is to launch an experimental beer brand through his family-owned microbrewery Roosters. The first brew will be a collaboration with well-known beer writer Melissa Cole. Fozard told Morning Briefing: “This brew is a “Jasmine Green Tea IPA” and we have collaborated with Taylors of Harrogate who are highly acclaimed premium tea and coffee merchants - most famous for their Yorkshire Tea. This is the first of what will become a regular release of cutting edge beers brewed under the Outlaw brand, which will sit alongside the established Rooster beers.”

Antic buys £1m Colliers Wood pub, one of four in the pipeline: Fast-expanding London pub company Antic, which operates a total of 11 freeholds with fund manager Downing LLP out of an estate of 30 pubs, has bought The Prince in Colliers Wood off a guide price of £1m and plans to refurbish it and call it Provenance. “Antic bought the property off a guide price of £1 million. It is one of four properties Antic is currently buying,” said Michael Penfold of licensed leisure specialists AG&G, who marketed the Prince. “Antic, who also own the nearby Tooting Tram and Social, are hoping to move in shortly but will wait until the New Year before they give it what they call the full Antic treatment. They have however let on that they will be turning the back bar into a dining room, so expect some changes.” The Prince, which was previously known as GJ’s, is a detached, two-storey property on the High Street, a few minutes walk from Colliers Wood tube station.

Restaurant entrepreneur buys former White Elephant Club: Restaurant entrepreneur Charles Gabriel, who owns the Stockpot chain of restaurants, has acquired a 20-year lease on the former White Elephant Club in the West End. Now called StMart House, the building comprises five floors above a dual level basement with designated bar and dining areas and six apart-hotel rooms. “This was a very rare opportunity,” says AG&G director James Grimes, who negotiated the deal. “You can’t get more West End than this. It is literally opposite the Coliseum and backs onto the Garrick Theatre. It’s a perfect location for a high-end members’ club with a huge choice of dining and entertainment nearby and the new tenants can make their own mark in the final fitting-out.”

High-end bar to open in Barrow: A new late-night high-end bar, The Drawing Room, will open in the former Legends nightclub in Barrrow, occupying the ground floor of the Lord Ramsden building on the corner of Duke Street and Abbey Road. The new bar is set to be opened on 7 December by local businessmen Liam Smyth and Stephen Metcalfe. They describe the venture as falling somewhere between a high-end bar and classy late night venue inspired by the Northern Quarter area of Manchester.

JW Lees search for a pub operations “superstar” closes today: Today is the closing date for applications to become the new director of pub operations overseeing 130 tenanted pubs at JW Lees. The company states it has an opening for a “superstar” who combines personal genius with inspiring and genuine leadership. CVs should be sent in confidence to

City Pub Company opens Henley brewhouse: City Pub Company, the new company run by Capital Pub Company founder Clive Watson and David Bruce, has opened the Henley Brewhouse in a converted police station, which will house the five-barrel Henley Brewing Company. James Godman, who used to work at Hopback Brewery in Salisbury, is overseeing brewing at the pub and will also oversee the brewing at the company’s next brewhouse in Cambridge.

Le Bistro Pierre launches online feedback: Le Bistrot Pierre has launched an online feedback system for customers. The new system, in partnership with The Mystery Dining Company, allows customers to post comments from their phones or laptops. Rob Beacham, co-owner of Le Bistrot Pierre said: “The new system means that customer feedback is processed to our restaurant managers almost immediately. Therefore we can respond to comments and deliver the best service possible to our customers.”

British Larder pub launches cookbook: The British Larder pub, a Punch Taverns site based in Bromeswell, Suffolk and run by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel and Ross Pike, launched its cookbook last night, “The British Larder Cookbook: A book of Seasonal British Recipes.” The book aims to bring Bonvini-Hamel “passion for seasonal, locally-sourced produce to the fore, aiding her crusade to convert all who love food to thinking and eating seasonally”.

New Truman’s brewery to open in east London: A historic London brewing name is to be revived with the opening of Trumans Brewery in Spring 2013. Twenty-three years after the famous Truman’s Brewery on Brick Lane closed, the New Truman’s Brewery is opening in Hackney Wick, east London. The first Truman’s beers brewed at the new site are expected to hit London’s pubs early in 2013. James Morgan, one of the founders of the New Truman’s Brewery, said: “We are delighted to be bringing 346 years of brewing heritage back to the local community. This is the biggest brewing investment in East London in several decades. The site is in Hackney Wick, one of the most exciting areas in London. You can see the Olympic Stadium from the front door.”

New Italian restaurant Primo to open in Soho: Primo, a new Italian restaurant, will open in Soho next month, with executive chef Claudio Barchieri, previously the executive chef at No5 Cavendish Square, overseeing the kitchen. The Shaftesbury Avenue venue is to offer a menu of classic Italian dishes. Primo, which is situated on the former Incognico site, will act as the “primary exhibition space” for Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s artwork.

Spaghetti House and Prezzo win awards: Spaghetti House and Prezzo have both won recognition at the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Foods Association (PAPA) industry awards. Simone Lavarini, 83, who founded the Spaghetti House was given with the Operator of the Year Award, with Prezzo winning Pizza Chain of the Year. Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye said: “It is wonderful to be recognised for the quality of our restaurants and the food and service on offer.”

Douglas Jack - Mitchells & Butlers making good progress operationally: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued an add recommendation on M&B shares with a target price of 400p ahead of full year results next Tuesday. He said: “We believe that M&B is making good progress operationally, but this is unlikely to shine through in recent trading, which has been tough for the industry (as indicated by restaurant voucher promotion activity reaching an all-time high in October), especially outside London. Nevertheless, we believe there is potential for forecast upgrades and a resumption of dividends in 2013. The recruitment of independent non-executives should be the next step in re-rating the stock.”

Douglas Jack – Marston’s set to beat profit forecast: Douglas Jack has issued an add recommendation on Marston’s shares ahead of full year results next Thursday (29 November) with a target price of 145p for the shares. He said: “Due to slightly better than expected trading in the managed estate, the company is well placed to slightly beat 2012 estimated profit-before tax, which we forecast to be up eight per cent to £87.0m (consensus £86.9m). Either way, we expect to hold our 2013 forecasts, which are supported by positive trends in all three divisions and strong growth/returns from new builds and Franchise Agreements. We estimate Marston’s self-financed earnings growth and attractive dividend yield are capable of generating a 24 per cent increase in equity value in 2013. Despite the recent share price recovery, we would add to holdings at these levels.”

McDonald’s launches digital play at 150 UK sites: Restaurant chain McDonald’s has introduced digital play elements into more than 150 of its outlets. It is designed to “enhance the Happy Meal experience, and to increase kids’ interaction with their favourite Happy Meal characters”. McDonald’s began trialing ceiling mounted projectors to create this digital floor play in 2010 with the content projected onto the floor. The gesture-controlled principle is based on overhead tracking cameras and infra-red emitters, projecting straight onto the tiled floor, creating “an immersive environment with which the clientele can engage”. A spokesperson for McDonald’s UK said: “The restaurant re-imaging programme, and the testing of new design and technology innovations, is all about creating an eating-out experience that is fun, entertaining and a treat for every member of the family.”

Cheesecake Factory expands into Kuwait: The Cheesecake Factory, the US brand looking for a site in the UK, has opened its new restaurant in Avenues Mall, Kuwait – the site was opened by franchisee Alshaya. The opening follows on the brand’s Middle East launch in Dubai in August 2012. The restaurant occupies 131,60 square feet with 475 seats. “The Cheesecake Factory’s arrival in the Gulf has been overwhelmingly positive, reflecting our great potential in the region and affirming our decision to expand into the Middle East as part of our global expansion. Our reputation and brand awareness are far-reaching, and we are delighted to be growing The Cheesecake Factory with Alshaya, which has a remarkable legacy of retail leadership,” said David Overton, Cheesecake Factory chief executive.

Macrus Wareing – PizzaExpress one of my five favourites: Chef Marcus Wareing has named PizzaExpress as one of his five favorite restaurants – the other four were independents. Wareing told High Net Worth magazine: “This may be a surprise but I am a regular at our local PizzaExpress with our children and I think it is a fantastic business. I have tried other pizza restaurants but the service is lacking. When I go here I know what I am getting, how long it will take, the kids love it and it gives me a day off from cooking.”

Further news from Young’s: 

Young’s Olympic venues The Cow and the Calf took a combined £332,000 in second week on the Olympics: The Cow and the Calf, the pubs operated by Young’s situated next to the Olympic Park, took a combined £332,000 in the second week of the Olympics, with the sites taking £202,000 and £130,000 each. Otherwise, chief executive Stephen Goodyear referred to the Olympics as an “incredibly mixed bag”. “We never had high hopes for it – the City of London and the West End was just awful.”

One more tenanted pub expected to convert to Geronimo: Young’s has converted three pubs from its tenanted estate – The Half Moon, Putney, The Chelsea Ram and the Princess of Wales, Clapton – to be run under its Geronimo Inns division, headed by Rupert Clevely. The company said it expects to switch one more unnamed tenanted pub into Geronimo. The Geronimo division saw like-for-like sales up by 4.5 per cent and overall sales up 32.7 per cent with new sites The Oyster Shed and The Cow and the Calf, both in Westfield Shopping centre opening.

Goodyear – we hope the Clevelys stay with us for 100 years: Stephen Goodyear insisted that there are no plans for Geronimo founder Rupert and Jo Clevely to leave Young’s – the second anniversary of the £60m acquisition of the company falls net month. Asked how long he expected the couple to stay with the company, Goodyear said: “I hope another 100 years or so – it’s been a very happy coming together.”

Young’s to re-open Borough pub after three-year closure: Young’s will re-open The Wheatsheaf in Borough Market in the next couple of weeks – after a three-year closure due to Crossrail developments within the vicinity. Goodyear said: “It will be a completely refurbished site within the managed division.” The opening has been delayed by about a month because of power supply problems.

Scotch eggs and rapid plates: Young’s reported success with creating special events to drive footfall at its pubs. These have included wine and food matching dinners, beer and cider tastings, film nights and a scotch egg challenge. The scotch egg competition, in its second year and held at The Ship in Wandsworth, saw 60 entries cooked by gastro-pub teams including Cinnamon in Soho and the Cock Tavern in Fulham, the Opera Tavern, Covent Garden and Duck & Waffle in Bishopsgate. The scotch eggs were judged by Fortnum & Mason consultant chef Shaun Hill, celebrity chef Gizzi Erskine, host of Channel 4’s ‘Barking Mad’ Eric Lanlard and Tom Parker-Bowles. High footfall sites have also seen the introduction of an idea that Rupert Clevely came across while skiing – three courses served on a tray at the same time for time-pressed travellers.

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