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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Tue 18th Dec 2012 - Best Place Inns, Loungers and Wagamama

Story of the day:

Propel to launch conference series in 2013: Propel Hospitality, the publisher of the Propel Morning Briefing, is to launch a free-to-attend conference series for operators in 2013. The conference series, called The Propel Multi-Club, will offer operators up-to-the-minute briefings on trends and innovations within the multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice arena. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We launched our magazine, Propel Quarterly, last month and have had tremendous feedback from readers who say they appreciate its operational focus. The feedback for our daily briefings has also been very strong with thousands and thousands of operators now receiving it on a daily basis and reporting that they enjoy and appreciate its focus. The natural next step is to produce a conference series that provides operators with insights on innovation and trends in the marketplace. The first event takes place at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA on Tuesday 19 March and multi-site companies can book two free places each on a first come, first serve basis. We will we be unveiling the speaker list next month but would like to thank our sponsors for the tremendous support they are giving in helping us to produce these very high quality events.” E-mail to book places.

Propel Quarterly magazine available online: The winter 2012 edition of Propel Quarterly magazine is now available to view online at

A Christmas message from Propel: Propel Morning Briefing began publishing each day at the end of February this year – and has grown its distribution by 450 per cent since. But with newsflow starting to diminish in the run-up to Christmas, it’s a good time to take a short break before we return in the New Year, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The Propel staff would like to wish all our readers a happy and prosperous Christmas and New Year trading period.
Paul, Jo, Jonathan, Sharon, Graham and Ian

Industry news:

Kate Nicholls – tax burden hard to justify; PPL threat will be resolved in court: The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls has described the tax burden on the sector as “bordering on madness”. She told last week’s annual Christmas lunch, which attracted 1,100 attendees: “The sector pays just below 50 per cent of its revenue in tax to the Chancellor and it’s going up - in particular the ‘duty escalator’ is hard to justify. It misses its target of super cheap booze (mainly sold in supermarkets) and is causing real issues in the on trade. The ALMR will forcefully continue to take that message into Westminster, though there is no easy win. We are supporting the campaign for a VAT reduction on food sold in bars, restaurants and pubs. It happens in France, with restaurants only charging five per cent VAT on food. It was done to stimulate growth, help small businesses and protect the French cafe. Why not here? At the end of the day, parity with supermarkets, who don’t charge any VAT on food, is hardly an unreasonable ask.” Nicholls reported that the ALMR would also continue to campaign against PPL’s “abuse of monopoly power” in threatening increases of 4,000 per cent. She said: “The proposals are a massive threat to all types of leisure business and nothing more than a crude and damaging ‘money grab’. If PPL is successful, many businesses will simply close and it will establish a damaging precedent, encouraging other monopoly holders to attempt something similar. The trade bodies have come together to fight this with one voice, operators have contributed hundreds of thousands of pounds to fund an extended campaign and legal challenge. The power of the response from the trade has stopped PPL in their tracks and the changes they planned to the tariff have been delayed by 18 months so far. However, the threat will be there for at least a year - until the matter is resolved in court.”

Ritz Hotel latest to receive tax scrutiny: The five-star Ritz hotel in London has become the latest business to receive scrutiny over its tax affairs after BBC’s Panorama programme revealed last night that it had not paid tax in 17 years – it was bought by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay in 1995. The programme claimed that the 135-bedroom hotel has used a series of legal tax relief schemes to avoid paying the tax. Stephen Boxall, managing director of the Ritz, said: “Since the Hotel was acquired in 1995, in excess of £50m has been spent on refurbishment, whilst maintaining the standards of excellence and quality. These costs are lawfully off-settable against trading profits. During the period since 1995, the Ritz has not paid dividends to its shareholders.”

Hartnett – leave our burgers alone: Chef Angela Hartnett has hit out at the Westminster crackdown on rare burgers. Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett, chef patron at Murano in Mayfair and York & Albany gastropub, said Westminster city council should stop meddling and concentrate on “bigger issues”. She told the London Evening Standard: “I’ve eaten raw meat, well-done meat — it has never done me any harm. Why not sort out the bike lanes or the traffic?”. She added that “it should not be up to a council” to say what people can and can’t eat.

Camden cracks down on rare and medium rare burgers: Environmental health officers in Camden have followed Westminster’s lead in cracking down on medium and medium rare burgers. Yummy Pub Company’s Somerstown venue had a visit a few weeks ago from the local authority in which it was told not to serve burgers cooked less than medium. Founder Tim Foster told Morning Briefing: “We’ll stick to the rules – but sometime it feels like rules are made up on the spot. If you can serve steak off the back of a cow, why can’t you do the same with a burger?”

Starbucks suffers social media backlash: Campaigners have hi-jacked Starbucks’ #spreadthecheer hashtag to criticise its tax arrangements and spread support for local coffee shops and small business, Marketing Week has reported. Tweets using the brand’s #spreadthecheer hashtag are also being projected unmoderated on a giant screen at the Natural History Museum, London, which is part of Starbucks’ sponsorship of the Christmas ice rink there.

More top operators lined up for Hospitality Show: More top operators have been lined up to pass on business advice at the UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality exhibition, The Hospitality Show, which takes place between 21 and 23 January at the NEC Birmingham. The event offers visitors free bookable one-to-one mentoring sessions. Those taking part include chef patron of Luke’s Dining Room, Luke Thomas, and Aktar Islam, winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu and head chef at Birmingham’s Lasan, as well as creative chef for Pret A Manger, Nick Sandler. Others taking part are front of house consultancy guru and star of BBC’s The Restaurant, David Moore, UK Chocolate Master and owner of CocoaBlack, Ruth Hinks and regional executive chef at contract caterer BaxterStorey, Hayden Groves. They will be appearing on the new Business Briefing Stage. Live audience panel sessions, featuring the Business Mentors, kick off the mentoring sessions covering topics including: making the successful transition from kitchen to boardroom, how to reinvent your food offer, and managing your own pub business. This last segment features Grand Union managing director Adam Marshall, TLC Inns founder Steve Haslam, and founder of Bulldog Hotel Group, Kevin Charity, providing insights on how to build a multi-site business. The booking form for one-to-one mentoring sessions is now live - go to and select the mentor of your choice. Show visitors will also be able to book any remaining slots at the show in January. Visitors can also register now at for a free ticket saving the £20 entry fee.

Company news:

Whitbread sells and leases back seven sites for £51m: Whitbread has undertaken a sale and leaseback on seven Premier Inns and co-located pub restaurant sites with NFU Mutual and Standard Life Assurance for £51.04m. Whitbread will sign 25-year leases to operate the properties - the net initial yield is under 5.3 per cent. The price of £51.04 million represents a profit over book value, as at 29 November 2012, of £19.6 million and is 95 per cent of the 2007 valuation of the individual properties, which includes a lotting premium. Nicholas Cadbury, group finance director of Whitbread, said: “This sale and leaseback is a continued evolution of our overall funding portfolio, and follows our successful 2011 US private placement and bank refinancing. The significant book profit is a useful reminder of the value we create from our freehold developments, and the strong asset backing to Whitbread’s balance sheet.”

Best Place Inns mulls options after private equity approaches: Best Place Inns, the five-strong pub and hostel provider led by Ben Stackhouse, is understood to be considering its options after receiving a number of unsolicited approaches from private equity firms. The company, which provides hostel accommodation over traditional pubs in London, is thought to be looking at a number of funding options as it plans up to three new openings next year with a possible move outside London to open a site in Cambridge. Stackhouse told Morning Briefing earlier this year: “This year we are focused on consolidation but we are breaking weekly sales records as our sites continue to build.” Best Place Inns’ most recent opening was The Crown in Lavendar Hill, an Enterprise Inns pub, which now offers 60 beds taking the estate total to 305.

Convivial London Pubs reports full pay-back on micro-brewery in the first year: Convivial London Pubs, headed by Kris Gumbrell, has reported that it has achieved full pay-back on the microbrewery at its Botanist pub in Kew Green in the first year of operation. The microbrewery was opened in September 2011 and the pub saw Ebitda at the pub double from £81,000 to £160,000 for the year to September 2012 – the microbrewery cost £85,000 to install. The company opened its second microbrewery at the Barley Mow on Chiswick High Street in October. Gumbrell told Morning Briefing: “We’ve changed 80 per cent of our marketplace at the Barley Mow and we were up 20 per cent in like-for-like terms last week.” Other successes during the year saw the company’s Mitre pub in Greenwich, which has 24 boutique bedrooms after a refurbishment, play host to the Saudi Arabian equestrian team during the Olympics, producing takings of £111,000 for each of the two weeks of the Olympics – compared to £22,000 for the same weeks the year before.

Mitchells & Butlers Tuk Cho to face Ealing competition from Wagamama: Mitchells & Butlers’ Tuk Cho Asian food concept is to face fresh competition in Ealing almost exactly a year after the site opened. Japanese noodle bar Wagamama is opening in the London suburb’s Broadway Shopping Centre on 20 December. Tuk Cho had been due to expand to a second site in Chiswick in August, taking over an All Bar One site, a move that was aborted a few weeks before it was due to happen. Industry sources suggest takings per week at the Tuk Cho in Ealing have been as low as £9,000 but have recovered somewhat to hit the £12,000 per week mark. Meanwhile, today Mitchells & Butlers will open its last new Harvester and Toby Carvery of 2012 at Aldershot’s £65 million Westgate leisure development, which includes a multiplex cinema, restaurants, a hotel and Morrisons food store. The seven-screen Cineworld cinema and Travelodge hotel are already open. The development’s eight restaurants, including Frankie and Benny’s, PizzaExpress, Prezzo, Subway, Nando’s and Mimosa, will all be open before Christmas.

Loungers set for last opening of 2012: Loungers, the café bar operator headed by Alex Reilley, will open its ninth and last site of 2012 at the Marine Point development in New Brighton, The Wirral tomorrow (Wednesday 19 December). The 3,000 square foot site will be the group’s 24th Lounge site and will be called Marino Lounge – its take the total estate size to 29, including six Cosy Club sites. The new site has been fitted out at a cost of £380,000 and also has 70 covers externally split over two terraces – one in the front and one in the back – with views over a marine lake and the sea beyond.

Harden’s – Jamie’s Italian “deteriorating fast”: Restaurant reviewer Harden’s has claimed that Jamie’s Italian is seeing a drop in standards as it expands. Reviewing the new Alan Yau’s new restaurant Naamyaa Cafe, Harden’s wrote: “ The original Jamie’s Italians were much better in its early days when star-chef Gennaro Contaldo (whose protégé Jamie once was) was actively involved. That chain is deteriorating fast as it dashes for growth.” 

Residents – we wanted a Costa in Totnes: Some residents in Totnes, the Devon town which forced Costa Coffee to abandon plans for a café, have claimed they were not represented in the row. Costa withdrew from Totnes after 5,750 signatures were collected against it. The firm said it “recognised the strength of feeling” against brands. But Matt Trant, who chairs the residents group Totnes Voice, said hundreds who wanted the chain had not been heard – and they had assumed that its arrival was an inevitability.

Brewdog to retain former brewery to brew ‘house beers’ for its bars: Scottish brewer and retailer Brewdog is to retain its former Fraserburgh brewery as its “new home of innovation, pilot brewing and concept testing” – the company moved to state-of-the art brewery at Ellon earlier this year. The company, which now operates ten bars, stated: “It will be our own little brewing laboratory where we can let our imaginations run even more wild than they usually do. Fraserburgh has been our home for the last five years and it would have been a shame to leave it completely. Brewing in small batches is central to what we do and retaining the Fraserburgh site will enable us to do this as well as produce larger batches of our core range beers at our awesome new Ellon brewery. Beers we have lined up to brew at the Fraserburgh site include house beers for all our bars which are to be designed and brewed by the individual bar teams, even more barrel aged beers and we are also going to start experimenting with sour beers and wild yeast strains.”

McMullen’s opens £5m Baroosh in Marlow: Hertfordshire brewer and retailer McMullen’s opened its seventh Baroosh café bar in Marlow yesterday morning, a high street brand that has shown longevity since it was launched over a decade ago. The Baroosh opening ends a protracted three-year delay. Last year, two years after the initial planning application, the company was granted planning permission to convert the Lloyds Bank building on Marlow High Street.

Inventive Leisure to open £800,000 Bournemouth site with 3am licence: Inventive Leisure will open its new £800,000 Bournemouth site, which combines a Revolution vodka bar and Revolucion de Cuba rum bar, on 21 December. The new site occupies the former Sherberts Lounge and has capacity for 800 people – it has a 3am licence. General Manager Will Daw said: “We’re very excited to be launching a site that combines both the vodka and rum bars within one venue. We’re entirely transforming the site with elements of authentic Cuban-style interior so that customers walking through the door are instantly transported to our glorious world of vodka and rum.”

Farming family buy local pub to preserve it: The Shadforth Plough public house and restaurant, in the village of Shadforth near Durham city, has been bought by a local farming family to preserve it. Christie + Co associate director and pubs negotiator Mark Worley said: “Our client was a well-known, regional multi-site licensed operator and the buyer was a local family whose background is in farming. They purchased the building to ensure that it remained as a quality village pub. It is hugely encouraging for the pub industry that buyers are prepared to go to such lengths to protect their village local.”

Restaurant, bar and coffee shop set for Hoxton opening: A new restaurant, bar and coffee shop called Beagle is set to open in Hoxton Geffrye Street in March next year. The restaurant, bar and coffee shop will take over three renovated railway arches right next door to Hoxton Station. It’ll have room for 55 covers and the bar a further 45. Chef will be James Ferguson, formerly head chef at Rochelle Canteen.

Former Mood manager opens nightclub in Carlisle: Jamie Macie, who formerly worked at Mood nightclub in Carlisle, has re-opened the former Kiss and Terminal dual scene nightclubs in Carlisle’s Englishgate Plaza as Rumours. Business partner Daryl Thomas, who has a background in media, said: “James used to work at Mood and he came back to Carlisle for a night out and was amazed at the bar culture here. Friday tends to be quite quiet. We want to give people a reason to come out and listen to a different type of music that’s not the same week in week out. At the weekend we are aiming at the 30+ market.”

PizzaExpress opens first site in India: PizzaExpress has opened its first restaurant in India this week. The restaurant is located in Colaba, Mumbai and is a joint venture partnership between the company and the Bharti family. This latest opening means that PizzaExpress is now operating in 11 countries outside the UK.

Head of Steam opens bar with 150 bottled beers; records highest day’s takings: North east multiple Head of Steam, led by Tony Brookes re-opened Tilleys Bar in Westgate Road, Newcastle, on Saturday (15 December), offering the largest choice of unusual bottled beers in the region. The re-launched venue chalked up its highest single day’s takings on Saturday since Head of Steam took it over eight years ago. “We have always wanted to have a beer range far exceeding that of any other pub in Newcastle,” said Anthony Ellis, assistant manager of Tilleys Bar. “We have 150 different bottled beers on sale all at the same time, from local breweries and around the world – some exceptionally rare in the north east. Customers went mad for the beers - we had a lot of interest and anticipation from customers leading up to the 15th but we didn’t expect quite such a demand.”

Charles Wells reports sales up, profits down: Brewer Charles Wells has reported sales up £1m to £189m with profit after tax of £6m in the year to 29 September - down from £6.6m the previous year. EBITDA was up four per cent to £17.4m. The company reported it anticipated a fall in overall profit as the full effect of losing income from Red Stripe and Corona was felt. However, the decline was mitigated with the acquisition of the McEwan’s and Younger’s brands in October 2011. The brewing company now owns 80 per cent of its brands, as opposed to 2005 when the portfolio consisted of 80 per cent licensed brands – the company grew owned beers by 2.1 per cent in the financial year. International sales recorded another year of double-digit sales growth and an increased margin growth, up 27.7 per cent on the year. The wine company, Cockburn & Campbell, saw overall sales growth of six per cent, with wine volume rising 2.8 per cent in an on trade market declining five per cent. Charles Wells Pub Company bought four high quality sites, integrating them into the estate with minimum disruption - all four licensees already ran other Charles Wells brewery pubs. Turnover decreased by 4.9 per cent but like for like sales were up 1.2 per cent, with EBITDA per pub up 3.8 per cent. The business continued its planned disposal strategy with the sale of 22 pubs. The John Bull managed house operations in France saw operating profit rise 38 per cent, with EBITDA close to breaking the €1m mark. An eighth pub – The King Arthur in Lyon – was acquired and the company remains on target to achieve an estate of 16 pubs by 2016. To help achieve the company’s strategic objectives for growth in 2013, Charles Wells has made two new appointments. Justin Phillimore has been appointed to the role of managing director of Wells & Young’s Brewing Company, the brewing and brands division of the company. Phillimore has been with the company for six years and is moving from his current role as group finance director of Charles Wells. The company stated: “He brings strong strategic and international expertise having previously worked for a GE joint venture in a global strategic role and for eight years with Seagram, latterly in Prague as regional finance director for Seagram for Central and Eastern Europe.” Andrea Holton joins as human resources director for Charles Wells, overseeing all the company’s trading divisions. Holton joins from DHL where she was most recently vice president human resources for UK and Ireland. Paul Wells, chairman of Charles Wells, said: “Our performance this year has been in line with expectations and we have invested for the future through acquisition of beer brands and high quality pubs in the UK and France. Our international sales and pub operations have demonstrated that growth is possible at home and overseas, despite the difficulties of the global economy and our wine company has also delivered excellent growth. It’s good to see that so many licensees who run a Charles Wells brewery pub are outperforming the market and within our core estate we have seen some exceptional achievements. Our support packages have helped us to attract some of the highest calibre licensees and help them be successful in their pub and this has contributed to lifting the average length of tenure over six years.”

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.

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