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Tue 22nd Jan 2013 - Costa, Marston's and Tavistock

Story of the day:

Marston’s reports like-for-likes up 5.8% in three key Christmas weeks; chairman David Thompson presides over last board meeting today: Midlands-based Marston’s has reported like-for-like sales were up 5.8% in the three Christmas weeks to 5 January with sales on Christmas Day up 10%. Its managed pubs, “despite the significant impact of snow in the week ended 19 January”, saw like-for-like sales for the 16 week period to 19 January up 1.2% compared to last year. Like-for-like sales for the 15-week period to 12 January were 2.1% ahead of last year, including like-for-like food sales growth of 3.5% and like-for-like wet sales growth of 1.0%. In Marston’s tenanted and franchised pubs, profits for the 16 week period are estimated to be around 2% above last year reflecting the continuing success of its franchise model, now operating in around 550 pubs, and stability in the traditional tenanted estate. In brewing, own-brewed beer volumes are 5% above last year driven by significant growth in the off-trade. Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: “The results for the year to date are further evidence that our strategy is appropriate for the current environment and is generating consistent and encouraging results. We expect economic pressures to continue to constrain consumer confidence, and see no evidence that the government recognises the damage being caused to pubs by high taxation and over-regulation. Nevertheless, we are confident of making further progress towards our objectives of sustainable growth, higher return on capital and reduced leverage.” Today’s board meeting also marks the end of an era at Marston’s as chairman David Thompson oversees his last board meeting as chairman. Thompson has been on the board at Marston’s for 33 years. He was appointed managing director in 1986 and became chairman in 2001. He oversaw the acquisition of Marston, Thompson and Evershed as well as Mansfield Brewery.

Bookings for Spring edition of Propel Quarterly: The Spring 2013 edition of Propel Quarterly is now open for advertising bookings. Contact either or to book space.

Propel Multi-Club conference: The first Propel Multi-Club conference 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 - more than 100 places have already been booked so far. The speaker list will be unveiled later this month. E-mail to book places.

Industry news:

Prince Charles pops into Liverpool pub for a half: Prince Charles popped into a run-down Liverpool pub yesterday, The Wellington Vaults, for half a pint of stout after regulars invited him in. The Prince made the unscheduled stop after visiting a community centre in Toxteth. Last month, the Prince voiced his on-going support for the Pub is The Hub diversification scheme he founded ten years ago. He said: “When I first conceived the idea of Pub is The Hub more than ten years ago, who would have thought that, from such humble beginnings, the initiative would grow into quite such a substantial, national voluntary movement? In these challenging economic times, rural pubs are still at risk and the work of Pub is The Hub is as important as ever.”

Cask Marque – 57% of drinkers recognise our plaque: A NOP Survey has found 57% of cask ale drinkers recognise the Cask Marque plaque and 62% related the sign to beer quality. Awareness is higher, 67%, in the 21 to 44 year-old-category, which the organisation to the CaskFinder app, which is used over 60,000 times per month to find Cask Marque pubs. The region with the most awareness of Cask Marque is the west Midlands; 75%, followed by the south west; 68% and Yorkshire and Humberside; 65%. The lowest awareness was in Scotland; 40%. This awareness has a significant effect on footfall in Pubs, as indicated in the licensee survey undertaken in 2012, which showed that: 88% of Cask Marque Licensees have seen an increase in cask ale sales since accreditation; 98% of Licensees would recommend the scheme to other licensees. Miles Selby, head of purchasing at Stonegate Pub Company, said: “As the popularity of cask ale continues to grow within our estate it is important to have a badge of quality that consumers can recognise and trust. Over 85% of the Stonegate cask ale houses have Cask Marque accreditation and the performance of cask can be partly attributed to the award. When an assessor visits from Cask Marque, as well as checking beer quality, they also undertake a cellar audit, ensuring that all elements in the serving and dispensing of cask ale are checked and verified.”

MP joins campaign to save historic Ipswich pub from conversion to supermarket: An Ipswich MP has given his backing to a campaign mounted to stop Tesco moving into a treasured town pub. The supermarket giant has its sights set on The Emperor Inn in Norwich Road and a planning application has been submitted to Ipswich Borough Council to extend the first floor and alter the access to the building and car park. Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has written to the case officer, stating: “I understand that there are over two hundred members of a Facebook group dedicated to The Emperor’s preservation and that a paper petition has attracted over three hundred signatures.”

School becomes first in London to ban fizzy drinks: A school is thought to be the first in London to ban fizzy drinks for pupils – and impose a water-only policy. Acland Burghley school in Camden is setting out to improve health and has even banned fruit juice and diet drinks. The school hopes its water-only policy will boost grades by children to concentrate better. But the move has led to claims from pupils and parents that it is becoming like a “diet camp”. Fruit juice was banned on the grounds that coloured liquids could confuse staff, who want to “avoid having to examine drinks”.

Lesley Cuggy joins SSE Audio Group: Former ALMR membership manager Lesley Cuggy has joined SSE Audio as customer support and business development manager. She said: “I’m really looking forward to the challenge at SSE. I was impressed by the company when I was dealing with them in my role at ALMR, as they’re a dynamic group of people who are making real inroads into the venue install market in audio, lighting and vision. They are at the leading edge of technology and have a can-do attitude, probably because of their vast experience in the live sound industry, and we’re planning to build on the success in the growing installation department.”

McDonald’s launches app in Australia that pinpoints source of ingredients: McDonald’s has launched an app in Australia called TrackMyMacca’s -using the Aussie nickname for McDonald’s - that can be downloaded via Facebook or iTunes. The app reads code on food packaging, which uses GPS tracking to identify in which McDonald’s restaurant a diner has purchased the food. Image-activation software identifies the specific food purchased and this information, combined with the date and time, is cross-referenced with McDonald’s supply-chain data. The app then pinpoints where (the bakery, ranch, farm and canner, often by name) the ingredients in the food about to be consumed originated.

Company news:

Costa Coffee boss – Ripon is no Totnes: Costa Coffee’s managing director Chris Roger has rejected a plea by the Mayor of Ripon for the company not to open an outlet in the city. Rogers told the Mayor is a letter: “Our experience is that branded chains and independent coffee shops can happily co-exist, as is already happening with the existing Caffè Nero. Our offer is predominantly drink-led (some 80 per cent of our sales) and so we do not see ourselves to be a direct threat to existing local coffee shop businesses which have a far broader and considerably more comprehensive offer.” Rogers added that comparisons could not be drawn between Ripon and Totnes, where campaigners blocked a store from opening in the Devon town in October. “We see a significant difference between the two towns. Ripon has welcomed a number of national brands into its high street over the years, such as Dorothy Perkins, Boots, Caffè Nero and Greggs.” Mayor of Ripon Andrew Williams said: “I am not satisfied with the response, Costa Coffee will not do anything to enhance the city, although I accept the argument it will fill empty premises.” Coun Williams originally wrote to Rogers last month inviting him to reconsider Costa’s planning application, which was approved by Harrogate Borough Council in October.

Tavistock Leisure set to open four brewpubs in 2013; first one to open in March: Tavistock Leisure, which operates hotels, bars and restaurants in the north east, is to re-open the former Lambton Worm pub at North Road, Chester-le-Street as the Lambton Worm Sonnet 43 Brew Pub and Restaurant in early March after a £500,000 refurbishment – it is the first of four planned for 2013. Said Jonathan Graham, director of Tavistock Leisure: “This will be a traditional English style pub with first class food using ingredients sourced from local suppliers wherever possible.” The pub will offer Sonnet 43 brewery’s six ales, a range of guest ales which will change on a regular basis and some lagers. Tavistock runs the Best Western Grand Hotel Hartlepool and the Best Western Roker Hotel in Sunderland along with a number of Italian restaurants under the Tavistock Retro Restaurant brand. The company also operates a variety of outlets under its Pub Partnership scheme, which include Italian eateries and an Indian restaurant.

PizzaExpress Irish subsidiary reports profit of 2.81m euros: The Irish subsidiary of PizzaExpress, which runs ten restaurants under the Milano brand, has reported a marginal decrease in pre-tax profits in its most recent financial year, according to newly- filed accounts. Latest figures for Agenbite Ltd show a €42,000 fall in profits from €2.85m to €2.81m. The company’s revenues decreased by 1.5% from €17m, over the course of the 53 weeks to the beginning of last July. PizzaExpress opened its first outlet in Ireland on Dublin’s Dawson St in 1995. Along with several restaurants in Dublin, the company also operates outlets in Cork, Killarney, Galway, Limerick, and Ennis.

Pizza Hut research suggests 26 January is the day New Year dieters return to pizza: New research from Pizza Hut reveals that Saturday 26th January is the day that Britons are most likely to fall off the wagon and break New Year’s resolutions. Statistics indicate that pizza and other treats are off the menu throughout the month, with guilty-feeling diners flocking back to their favourite foods at the end of January once they realise their goals are just not achievable. Pizza Hut is running ‘Saint or Sinner’ promotion this month that offers saintly diners a Saintly Pizzetta at 50% off – its under 500 calories. For sinners, there is also 50% off regular stuffed crust pizzas. Dr Christy Fergusson, of The Food Psychologist, said: “No one enjoys being a saint all the time, sometimes you need to snap off that halo and let yourself flirt with the odd tasty treat when the moment takes you.”

Belhaven invests £1m in brewery; welcomes Princess Anne: Belhaven, the Scottish subsidiary of Greene King, has invested £1m in new brewing equipment. The investment includes a state-of-the-art mash conversion vessel, which processes malted barley and work to reduce energy costs. The Princess Royal was given a tour around some of the new facilities at Belhaven’s 300-year-old brew house in Dunbar, during an official visit to East Lothian last week.

Brewdog opens £7m brewery: Scottish brewer and retailer Brewdog has opened its new £7m Aberdeenshire brewery. The new brewery at Ellon which will allow the company to produce six million bottles of beer a month. The company marked the opening by allowing members of its Equity for Punks shareholder scheme to tour the facility – investors injected £2.2m into the company to help fund the new brewery. Co-owner Martin Dickie said: “(Our guests) get to taste the first beer that is coming out of the system, have a tour around the brewery and see the difference that their investment has made from the Fraserburgh site to the new site here in Ellon. We have 7,500 investors and to have so many come along to the opening at such short notice is fantastic.”

JW Lees appoints new operations director: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees has appointed Chris Moulson as its new director of pub operations, succeeding Mark Welch. Moulson was until recently the operations director (north) of Spirit Leased Pub Company after spending ten years at Punch Taverns where he started as a business relationship manager. William Lees-Jones, managing director of JW Lees, said: “We advertised the position and were impressed with the calibre of most of the 100 or so applications. We are looking forward to Chris joining us and making his mark on the JW Lees pub business. We won The Publican award for being the best community pub operator of the year in 2012 and believe that community is at the heart of every JW Lees pub.”

Poncho8 unveils partnership with Fitness First: Restaurant chain Poncho8 has secured a partnership with health club group Fitness First - its members will be able to receive ongoing discounts on Poncho8’s health-focused food items. In return, customers at Poncho8 St. Paul’s will receive a week’s membership free when signing up at Fitness First. Poncho8 has three sites in London with a fourth to open in the City by the end of March. Its website features a unique calorie calculator that allows customers to analyse their meal. Recently named as London’s best burrito by London Evening Standard Magazine, Poncho8 has secured investment to open 20 stores by the end of 2014. “We’re delighted to be furthering our health benefits this year,” said Poncho8 co-founder Nick Troen. “Already boasting London’s healthiest burrito, we’re proud to offer our customers a discount at such a respected gym as Fitness First.”

Moorgate Bars to re-open iconic Sunderland venue: Moorgate Bars is to re-open the iconic Glass Spider pub and club in Sunderland, which has stood empty for the past year. Moorgate will open the venue as Life of Riley in March – it runs a Life of Riley venue in Shields. The company also runs Dusk, Viva, The Mile and The Rattler in the South Tyneside town. Daniel Whale, marketing manager for Moorgate Bars, said: “The location is a prime spot and is a perfect opportunity for us to bring Life of Riley to Sunderland. The aim is to create a venue where food is served every day - somewhere where people can listen to live acoustic acts, not unknowns from outside the area, but strong local acts.” Glass Spider was operated by Wylam Leisure, but closed in January last year.

Vanessa Hall leaves Mitchells & Butlers: Highly regarded brand operations director Vanessa Hall is leaving Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) after 20 years with the company. Most recently, Hall has been responsible for 140 pubs across three premium food-led brands: Premium Country Dining Group (PCDG), which has grown over the last five years at the rate of circa 15 pubs per annum and is now at 82 sites; Browns, which has doubled in size over the past 15 months and is now at 26 sites; and Village Pub & Kitchen, which has grown to 38 sites. Hall originally worked for eight years at M&B as director of finance. M&B’s Operations Director, Robin Young, said: “Vanessa has made a significant contribution over the years in both finance and brand operations director roles and also to the evolution and results of the many brands and formats she has led. Her passion for her people and her businesses has been second to none and we wish her all the very best for the future. On a personal level, I will miss Vanessa’s drive, energy, enthusiasm and passion for our business. I wish her every success for the future and hope she really enjoys spending time with her family over the coming months.”

Mitchells & Butlers converts Keynsham pub to Vintage Inns format: Mitchells & Butlers has converted the The Brassmill on Avon Mill Lane in Keynsham to its Vintage Inns brand. Landlord Paul Coates said: “We have totally revamped the interior to introduce the Vintage Inns premium dining offering. This means we will offer formal dining within the traditional pub environment – for a more refined eating out experience that will set us apart from the normal country pub.”

Steamin’ Billy buys Marston’s pub: The Steamin’ Billy Brewing Company has bought The Railway free house, in Hinckley, from Marston’s for £200,000, taking the number of pubs in the company’s estate to eight. The pub, opposite the town railway station, will now have a £100,000 refurbishment before reopening in April or May. Bill Allingham, managing director of Steamin’ Billy, said: “As most of the current choice in Hinckley is Marston’s, we feel that customers will benefit from an independent operator. Trading conditions continue to be difficult within the pub sector. But we continue to grow turnover at our pubs by giving the customer a quality experience and a great product.”

New company buys pub and microbrewery with plans to re-locate brewery: New company MY500, led by Stewart Robertson and Andrew Anderson, has bought The Fox & Hounds and microbrewery in Houston, Renfrewshire, a former coaching inn built around 1779 that has been in the ownership of the Wengel family for approximately 34 years. Anderson said: “Stewart and I have always been interested in acquiring The Fox & Hounds and when we heard it was on the market, we made moves to secure the necessary funding. We view the business as a ‘sleeping giant’ and, with a bit of ‘TLC’, we are confident that it will be a success. We plan to start a refurbishment programme this month and, in the next 18 months, we are looking to relocate the brewery to larger premises in the same area.”

Fast casual chain in the US ramp up their alcohol offer in line with quick-service restaurants: US fast casual restaurant chains such as Smashburger, Noodles & Co and Pitfire Artisan Pizza are ramping up their alcohol offer. Last year, Smashburger launched a new craft beer pairings program that matches local brews with burgers on its menu. The Denver-based chain plans to bring the program to six markets this year. Chipotle Mexican Grill is also testing the offer of local craft beers in Chicago in partnership with the 5 Rabbit brewery. The Dallas-based Snappy Salads chain is seeking approval to add beer and wine for the first time at a unit in Richardson, Texas. The move is being driven, in part, because some quick-service competitors are also experimenting with adult beverages. Sonic, Burger King, Johnny Rockets and Burgerville have been testing beer and wine additions, and Starbucks is increasingly adding alcohol to certain markets to build sales later in the day.

Greene King stands alone in objection to Farnham redevelopment: Greene King remains the sole objector to a scheme in Farnham, Hampshire to redevelop the East Street area by building 239 new homes, a multi-screen cinema, a new town square with landscaped gardens, a tennis club, shops, restaurants and cafés. The council wants a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to pave the way for its planned East Street development. A ten-day public inquiry into the land sale began last week and government-appointed inspector Colin Ball said Greene King, which owns the Marlborough Head pub, was the only remaining objector to the CPO. He added the company was set to give evidence at the inquiry but had now decided not to, although its objection remained. Chief planning officer Matthew Evans said the pub land was needed to provide the main pedestrian access into the site and that without it the current plan would have to be re-designed.

Hooters unveils new restaurant design: Atlanta breastaurant chain Hooters of America has debuted its new restaurant prototype in Kirby, Texas. The new Hooters look includes a high exposed ceiling, painted ductwork and cypress wood walls. It also has a more centrally located and prominently placed bar.“ Hooters is exceptionally proud to reveal this design concept, reinvigorating the look and feel of our traditional restaurants without losing the essence of our iconic brand that the world has loved for 30 years,” said Dave Henninger, chief marketing officer for Hooters of America. “Hooters is turning 30 this year, so it seems only fitting to refresh and modernise our restaurants during this milestone anniversary.”

Asda wins planning consent to use part of former Carlsberg brewery site as research centre: Supermarket Asda has won planning consent to use part of the former Carlsberg brewery in Leeds for a market research and test centre. A spokeswoman for Carlsberg UK said: “Carlsberg UK and Asda have a long and strong trading relationship and have had for many years. As neighbours on the South Bank, this relationship will continue.” She said Carlsberg still owns the entirety of the site and will do so “for the foreseeable future” but there have been discussions with interested parties for various sections of it, though none have progressed into formal sale negotiations.

Peyton & Byrne wins prestigious Brighton contract: Peyton and Byrne, the venue, retail and events caterers founded by restaurateur Oliver Peyton, has won the contract to run catering across Brighton’s Royal Pavilion & Museums and at Brighton Dome. Peyton & Byrne will start trading at the sites, which include the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum, Hove Museum and Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall, Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre, in March. In total, 22 companies enquired about the contract from which nine were invited to pitch their ideas. Each tender submission was evaluated on experience, capability, sustainability, price and quality. Bidders were also expected to show how they would incorporate local suppliers and seasonal produce into their plans along with effective ways to manage waste, minimise packaging and reduce energy consumption. Oliver Peyton said: “I am delighted to be returning to Brighton, which we feel is the perfect location for our first out-of-London launch. We look forward to flying the flag for quality British food in this creative and dynamic area, alongside both Brighton Dome & Festival and the Royal Pavilion & Museum.”

Amber Taverns reports 16% increase in like-for-like sales over 12-day festive period; looking to add ten sites in 2013: Amber Taverns, the fast-growing wet-led pub company based in Preston and backed by LGV Capital, has reported like-for-like sales rose 16% for the 12-day festive period in December and were up by 4.4% for the whole month. Actual sales in December were £3.6m net, an increase on last December of 23%. On trading, chairman Clive Preston told Morning Briefing: “It took our breath away a bit – it really was exceptional. If a pub doesn’t work over Christmas, it’s never going to work. It started on mad Friday – and didn’t stop.” Preston reported that the sale increases came despite a sluggish start to December. “The first week in December is really no different in trading terms to the last week in November,” he said. Preston reported the company would like to add ten sites to the estate in 2013. “We’ve moving to add slightly bigger sites. We’ve got three sites in the pipeline that we’re hoping to pull off. We’re negotiating on a couple of sites that offer in excess of 5,000 square foot.” The company has also reported the acquisition of its 81st unit, the Black Bull in Doncaster, which it will continue to trade for a few weeks before commencing a major refit with a further investment of £300,000. On the 29 January, Amber will open its 82nd unit, The Bull in Morecambe, following a £350,000 refit. Amber Taverns agreed a £24m funding deal with Lloyds Bank Wholesale Banking & Markets in October 2012. This facility enabled the company to add 11 new pubs last year to its existing pub portfolio as it continues to progress its expansion plans. Preston added: “Once again we have shown the viability and popularity of well run wet led pubs. We will add even more of the same to our existing estate over the year ahead as we continue to progress our strategy of building a quality pub portfolio.” Founded in 2005, Amber Taverns specialises in running wet-led pubs located at the heart of communities which are refurbished to the highest standards with full access to major televised sporting events. The company, which has banked with Lloyds Bank since it was founded in 2005, has said that it would continue to take advantage of reduced borrowing costs to maximise future growth. Preston said last year: “We are on course to own 100 pubs within two years and then we will see just how far we can go after that. At Amber Taverns, we’ve proved conclusively that the ‘wet led pub’ can thrive with a quality offering in the right location. We are succeeding by giving our customers what they want – value-for-money and the best sporting events in some terrific venues. As a result, each of our pubs now has an average profit of over £100,000 per annum. A major part of our success has been the on-going support and guidance we’ve received from Lloyds Bank’s Liverpool office which has an outstanding knowledge of this sector and the requirements of our business.”

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