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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Wed 23rd Jan 2013 - Antic, Fuller's and Spirit

Story of the day:

Spirits makes 17 redundancies as it re-shapes for the future: Managed pub company Spirit is making 17 head office redundancies as part of a re-organisation to make it the UK’s “Number One Hospitality Company”. The changes, which were unveiled yesterday, mean a number of senior departures and as well as a host of promotions. Food and supply chain director Kevin Harper is leaving Spirit with the food team now led by Kevin Steppe. Among other departures are property director Rob Godwin-Bratt, head of hotels Angela Fairgreave and head of commercial contracts Di Worley. Meanwhile, Dominic Monkman is moving from his current role of head of machines to operations manager for Local Pubs and Karen Turton is promoted from senior BDM to operations manager for Fayre & Square (North). Dan Robinson is taking on a new role of central operations director and will be responsible for machines, operations activity planning and communications, and the final integration of Pub in a Box. Chief executive Mike Tye told staff: “We need to ensure that our team structures are such that we identify and utilise the talent in the organisation – in other words everyone is enabled to deliver their maximum contribution. With this in mind, we have reviewed our overall structure and cost base to ensure we are as efficient and effective as possible, whilst this refinement provides some overhead cost savings it also supports our desire to retain a flatter structure with broader accountabilities. Following these changes we will be conducting a full review of our key business processes to gain an understanding of the changes to ways of working that need to take place in order to improve operational effectiveness and realise the benefits of any new systems. This year we have made a significant investment in training for both pub teams and support teams and (our) Training Tree has been well received. We have also developed the leadership behaviours and all the leadership team have completed their 360 feedback. This focus on leadership and talent development will continue with a new leadership programme about to start.” Head of brand roles have also been realigned to reflect a reduction in Spirit segments from five to four. The head of brand positions are: Beth McDonald – Chef & Brewer; Sally Wainwright – PLPR; Martin Braisby – Metropolitan; and Sebastian Leheup-Jones – Local Pubs. (See bottom of the e-mail for the full story)

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Industry news:

Operators warn of epidemic of mobile phone thefts prompting police licence reviews: Operators have reported to Propel Morning Briefing that venues are suffering from an epidemic of mobile phone thefts, with police forces around the country using reported thefts as a reason to call for licence reviews. One operator told Propel: “This is a real worry – we are seeing an epidemic of organised theft of mobile phones which end up reported to the police and counted as incidents.” Another operator with sites around the country said: “This is a real threat to every operator – there is a prospect that these widespread mobile telephone thefts, often undertaken by groups from Eastern Europe, end up regularly as licence reviews. If licences are revoked because of this, it’s difficult to imagine who would want to invest in the sector.” 

Cheesecake Factory dish added to food porn list: A Cheesecake Factory pasta dish that contains 3,120 calories – the equivalent of more than a day-and-a-half of the recommended calory intake for an average adult – has been added to an Xtreme Eating list of the most unhealthy dishes at US chain restaurants. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit group that promotes healthier eating, compiles an annual list of “food porn” to alert consumers to menu items with unusually high levels of calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

Starbucks causes anger with plan for Montmartre site in Paris: Starbucks has angered local traders with a plan to open a site in the famed bohemian quarter of Paris, Montmartre - it hopes to open one of its outlets next month after buying up a longstanding brasserie. Pierre Brabant, from the association Paris Fierté (Paris Pride), said the arrival of Starbucks in the artistic epicentre of Paris would be fought against. A petition has been launched by Monsieur Brabant and the local shopkeepers’ association of Upper Montmartre - and there are plans to protest against Starbucks this week.

Wychwood launches campaign to put pressure on MPs: Wychwood Brewery has launched a new ‘British Pubs Need You!’ portal at that hosts an ‘unfair tax letter’ for concerned pub fans to email or text their MP direct. The website names and shames MPs who aren’t supporting the campaign to abolish the duty escalator and displays how many letters they’ve been sent without acting on constituents requests to remove the escalator. Wychwood brewery manager Chris Keating said there was no better way to pursue the campaign than to target the MPs who have ignored constituents. He said: “Once again we are calling on everybody who values the Great British pub and everyone connected with the drinks industry to take action.” Hobgoblin’s ‘British Pub Needs You!’ epetition to remove the unfair beer duty raised over 105,000 signatures, which resulted in a House of Commons debate.

Hotelympia moves to April 2014: The high profile event for the hospitality industry, Hotelympia, will take place at London’s ExCel in a new month next year – 28 April – 1 May 2014. The event moves to a new four-day format and be situated in one extended hall making it even easier for visitors to navigate the attractions without the disruption of the central boulevard.

Company news:

Antic London plans three pubs as administrator reports Antic Limited collapsed over unpaid tax bill: Antic London, which operates 24 pubs, is planning three more despite a subsidiary, Antic Limited, being forced into administration over an unpaid tax bill. A Grove Park pub, The Baring Hall Hotel, which was saved from demolition, is due to be reopened by Antic London later this year. Antic London has also applied for a licence to open the old Deptford Job Centre as a pub, while Greenwich Council officers have approved its licensing application for a pub at Equitable House, Woolwich, with the deal currently being finalised and an opening planned later this year. Antic London operations manager Max Alderman said Antic Limited pubs would remain open while parent company Antic London was completely unaffected. He said: “It doesn’t really affect any of the pubs to be honest. We’re hoping that we can bring them out the other side. They’re all still trading.” Antic Limited, which runs 14 leasehold pubs, went into administration after it failed to pay a tax bill from HMRC. Administrators Richard Toone, David Oprey and Kevin Murphy, of Chantrey Vellacott, were appointed on 14 January. A total of 12 of its 14 continue to trade with one (Brockley’s Jam Circus) closed due to a fire that occurred in December 2012 and another where the company had not begun to trade. “All 12 pubs continue to trade as normal and we are confident of securing the future of the business with either a CVA or a sale of the business and assets out of administration,” said Toone. “We are welcoming offers on each of the individual leaseholds, and the company’s business and assets as a whole. The main factor behind the business going into administration is due to a HMRC bill it has struggled to resolve. The pubs are very popular and the business should be profitable and the substantial interest and offers which have been made reflect this.” Antic London includes 11 freeholds where Antic is a co-investor with investment company Downing.

Frankie & Benny’s site to be replaced by Tesco Express: A Frankie & Benny’s in Dorking is to be replaced by a Tesco convenience store, which is due to open this summer. A spokesman for the Restaurant Group, which owns the Frankie & Benny’s brand, said it decided to close its Dorking branch after receiving an offer for the site.

Greene King applies to open new build pub restaurant in Tyneside: Suffolk-based Greene King has applied to open a new-build pub restaurant in Tyneside. Greene King Developments has submitted proposals to build the venue on land in front of the Safestore building, on Middle Engine Lane, in Wallsend. The site is currently disused. The plans also include residential accommodation on the first floor, a children’s play area outside and car parking spaces.

House Collection buys second site: Boutique hotel group House Collection has bought the former Swynford Paddocks Hotel at Six Mile Bottom near Newmarket. The hotel will be re-named Paddocks House and is the second hotel acquisition for the group after the Poets House in Ely. Both hotels are due to open in the spring. David Toulson-Burke, managing director of The House Collection, said: “Injecting fresh investment into Paddocks House presents a wonderful opportunity to revive the property to its former glory. It will be a fabulous place for local people to enjoy and an asset that will strengthen the wider appeal of the mid-Anglia region, whilst also supporting local employment.” Part of the planned redevelopment of the hotel will see the creation of a new 60-cover restaurant, two private dining rooms as well as an extension to the existing conservatory to cater for circa 150 guests at weddings and special events.

Punch licensees win community support with £100,000 makeover diary: Punch licensees at a Buckinghamshire pub have built up some fantastic community support thanks to their innovative blog documenting the site’s recent makeover. Steve and Jo Macken have been running the Squirrel in Amersham for seven years. Whilst they enjoyed excellent trade in the summer months with a huge garden, family activities and renowned beer festivals, they needed a way to draw in the trade during the winter. Punch worked with them on a £100,000 investment project to transform the pub, which included fresh new décor throughout and the addition of an exterior decked area, with a huge log burner right in the middle complete with red chesterfield sofas. Licensees Steve and Jo had the idea to write ‘The Make-Over Diaries’ documenting each day of the renovation so that regulars would stay interested in the pub whilst it was closed. Steve said: “The Squirrel is our livelihood, our home, and our future - for us and our children. This isn’t just a refurbishment to do because we want it - it has great importance to us to create a great pub that can be the heart of our community and somewhere people really want to be.”

Indian restaurant receive £1.4m loans from Lloyds commercial: A new Indian restaurant has opened in Wolverhampton thanks to a £1.4m loan from Lloyds TSB Commercial. Lakshmi Sweets and Restaurant is located over three floors with an Indian sweet shop and restaurant capable of serving 70 customers on the lowest level and a restaurant which can hold upwards of 200 along with a function room on the second floor. The new venue has been built on a derelict petrol station site. Owner Major Singh Jawanda said: “The sweet centre has traded successfully in Wolverhampton for many years, but the time felt right to expand into the restaurant sector and invest in the area by building new larger premises.”


English Wine Centre and Cuckmere Barns comes on the market trough Christie + Co: The English Wine Centre and Cuckmere Barns, which has a hotel, restaurant and the English Wine Centre on site, has come on the market through agent Christie + Co. The centre, which is set in 2.5 acres in East Sussex next to Drusillas Zoo Park, is on the market for £2,150,000.

Fuller’s finds bonus function room at flagship London pub: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has found an extra function room at its Counting House pub in London’s Cornhill – after studying blueprints. Counting House manager Colin George said: “We always knew there had been a room up there but it took a fresh pair of eyes from our operations manager for us to have a really close look. The room was formerly a plant room from the 1960s and 1970s, where machines pumped fresh air in from the outside and removed the smoke from the building, but since then it has sat unused. Due to the amount of old equipment, it was impossible to see into the room, but after looking at the original bank blueprints it became evident it was a good-sized room. As the building was Grade II listed, it took quite a lot of discussions with the council to get planning permission.” Eventually, Fuller’s was able to get all the old equipment out and knock the wall through to the mezzanine balcony, which meant it could create a modern, spacious function room which can hold either 26 people seated in complete privacy with the concertina doors closed, or up to 50 people with the exclusive use of a private balcony. The room was renamed The Partner’s Room, after the four partners of the original Prescott bank, and was opened in late November - getting booked steadily ever since. Added Colin: “It’s a fantastic and popular addition to one of our flagship pubs in the centre of London.”

Britvic and AG Barr merger date set for 26 February: Britvic has reported that, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, including approval by the Office of Fair Trading, the expected effective date of its merger with AG Barr is 26 February 2013. Meanwhile, the company has announced that, following successful Fruit Shoot trials in nine states with PAB (PepsiCo Americas Beverages) and independent Pepsi bottlers, an agreement with PAB has been reached to accelerate US Fruit Shoot distribution. The agreement provides for the roll out of Fruit Shoot into the convenience and petrol station channel in an additional 21 states, resulting in Fruit Shoot being available in a total of 30 states by summer 2013. An agreement has also been signed with PepsiCo South West Europe for the national distribution of Fruit Shoot in Spain. In its first quarter, UK revenue grew 5.4% with volume and ARP (average realised price) increasing by 2.1% and 3.2% respectively. By comparison, Nielsen reports that during this period the take-home soft drinks market grew in value by 1.3% but declined in volume by 2.4%.


Couple plan brewery at re-opened Mumbles pub: Swansea couple Richard and Jo Bennett have re-opened one of the oldest pubs in Mumbles as a real ale venue – and plan a microbrewery on the site. The Pilot Inn overlooking Swansea Bay had been closed for much of 2012. The Bennetts hope their plan for a new Mumbles brewery will take advantage of a surge in interest in real ales. The ancient inn, whose neighbours include Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, who have a house close by in Limeslade, and singer Bonnie Tyler, who lives on Mumbles Road, was first licensed in 1849. Jo Bennett said: “We have renovated the pub as a cosy traditional drinking establishment. We wanted to create the sort of pub that we like. Concentrating on a warm welcome, great drinks and a comfortable environment without meals getting in the way.”

Welsh government launches mephedrone campaign in partnership with Wetherspoon: The Welsh government has launched a campaign warning about the former legal high, mephedrone. The white powder, known commonly as ‘meow meow’, appeared on the internet in 2009 and 2010 as “plant food”. It was sold for around £10 a gram in little brightly coloured packets and consisted of tiny white crystals that, when taken, were said to feel like a mix between amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy. The pub chain JD Wetherspoon is putting beer mats in all of its Welsh bars with details of the campaign, in the hope it will get the message across during the traditionally busy period of the Six Nations rugby tournament.

Jamie’s Italian to open in Aberdeen next month: Jamie’s Italian is set to open a site in Aberdeen on 18 February. The venue was due to open in June last ear but has been hit by a series of delays.

Creditors of Shropshire landmark hotel extend IVA: Creditors of the landmark Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury have backed proposals to give the owner more time to find a buyer amid a financial crisis - an auction of Shrewsbury’s Lion Hotel has been postponed in an attempt to sell the property on the open market. Howard Astbury, who runs the hotel, owes more than £140,000 to 90 businesses, plus a further £138,000 to HM Revenue and Customs. He had been ordered to secure the sale of the hotel this month or a public auction would be called. But his Individual Voluntary Arrangement has now been extended by nine months to 8 October, with a requirement to sell the hotel by 8 July. If the hotel is not sold by this point, it will be put up for public auction. John Whitfield, who is supervising the IVA, said: “We held the meeting and the variation was accepted. It was 100% in favour of the people who voted.” The Lion Hotel was initially put on the market with a price tag of £2.95 million when it was put up for sale in late 2011. But its price was reduced last year to £2.495 million to attract more interest.

Michelin-starred chef takes Harrogate site: Michelin-starred Jonathan Elvin is to open The Pantry on the site of the former Claret restaurant in Harrogate – it is located 50 metres from Betty’s tea rooms in the heart of Harrogate. Elvin has worked at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges and Fischer’s at Baslow Hall. The Pantry will offer “quintessential British brunches, lunches and afternoon tea”. Extensive refurbishments are now underway and the restaurant is scheduled to launch next month. Agent was CBRE.

Yellowhammer subsidiary set for administration: A subsidiary of late-night company Yellowhammer Bars, Yellowhammer Trading, is to appoint administrators - Patrick Ellward and Dilip Dattanti of RSM Tenon. One supplier, though, is understood to be owed a six-figure sum. It is understood the company’s Bournemouth site is now closed A notice to appoint the administrators was filed on 16 January. The notice says: “The chairman reported that, in view of the ongoing financial difficulties being experienced by the company, the company has consulted with RSM Tenon Recovery to take advice in connection with the financial position of the company and the options available. It was proved to the satisfaction of the meeting that the company is experiencing financial difficulties and is insolvent as defined in the Insolvency Act 1986.” Last month, Propel Morning Briefing reported that Yellowhammer, which operates Groove and Bliss nightclubs and three style bars branded as Chilli White, had undertaken a strategic review that has seen it dispose of sites in Banbury, Barnstaple and Swindon. The move came after the company saw like-for-like sales drop by 18% across its 20 sites in the year to 29 February 2012. The company was focused on five freehold and 12 leasehold units. Turnover dropped 18% to £20,537,857 in the most recent year, which followed a year that had seen turnover drop by 13%. The company made a pre-tax profit of £1,978,477 in the most recent year compared to £4,080,866 the year before. A statement to Companies House said: “Reduced consumer spending has continued to hit the sector quite hard and we report a 18% decline in year on year same outlet sales. Since the year-end, a strategic review has been undertaken to ensure that all units to remain in the group are profitable or of strategic importance to the long term viability of the group.” Yellowhammer is owned by private equity firm Agilo, which is a specialist in buying distressed assets, and is run by Volante Management, which was awarded the contract to run the business in March 2011. The company is made up of three Agilo acquisitions – Candu Entertainment, Future 3000 and the four-strong Sports Café business. Its chairman is industry veteran Derek Parfitt, who has previously held directorships with Morrells, Greene King and the Magic Pub Company.

Spirit unveils major changes to become UK’s number one hospitality company; scraps Original Pub Company brand; Local pubs to report into head of leased Chris Welham: Managed operator Spirit Pub Company has unveiled major changes today as it sets its sights on becoming the “The Number One Hospitality Company in the UK”. The company is to scrap its Original Pub Company brand, thought to have grown to around 64 sites, in order to strengthen others. Chief executive Mike Tye told staff: “We have made a lot of progress in the last couple of years and I am very proud of our achievements. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that our competitors have also improved in many areas and, as we have become more successful and better known, the expectations of all three of our stakeholders – team, guest and investor have also risen. Because of the nature of our brands and the diversity of the market we are operating in we have recognised that we compete in a far broader market than “pubs” alone. As a result, we are “raising the bar” of our ambition so that rather than focusing on the pub market alone, we want Spirit to become “The Number One Hospitality company in the UK”. We know times are tough at present; and, as a result, some people may be lacking the energy and excitement right now that I want to see and feel in the business. But I don’t feel this way. I’m actually looking forward to what lies ahead. I see today as an opportunity - a “new beginning”. This is the kind of future we aim to create - a business where: The best people want to work for Spirit because they can fulfil their dreams; people are listened to for great new ideas; everyone is enabled to deliver their maximum contribution; there is freedom, within a framework, to ensure every guest leaves with a smile on their face – everywhere and every time; guests are clamouring to get a table / licensees are clamouring for one of our pubs – because what we deliver is always so good; there is always something exciting going on, both in our pubs and in the support centre; we are growing faster than anyone else and our investors are delighted by our performance; we are all proud to be part of Spirit. We have taken a long hard look at the way we are currently operating and identified four areas for improvement: compelling brands and pubs; consistent operational execution; the skills and talent of our teams; and the quality of Spirit’s leadership. We have reviewed our brands and their position in the market and we have made the decision to lose our Original Pub Company (OPC) brand in order to strengthen others. OPC is the brand with the least guest awareness and the most variety in pub size, format and location. OPC shares many common features with John Barras and the neighbourhood estate so the decision has been to combine these two brands into one, within a new sector called Local Pubs.” Spirit is to move from five sectors to four: Metropolitan (to include Taylor Walker and Premium Pubs) will be overseen by David Crabtree; Fayre & Square and Flaming Grill will be looked after by Nick Young; Kate Wilton will oversee Chef & Brewer and Jackie Cupper will be in charge of Local Pubs (to include John Barras and Neighbourhood). Whilst the Local Pubs sector will still be operated as managed pubs, Jackie Cupper will report to Chris Welham in the leased division. Tye added: “The change in reporting line will enable us to optimise our asset base as pubs within the Locals sector share many similarities to pubs within our Leased estate. Some areas are being realigned to accommodate sites and BDM geography but the majority of pubs will maintain their current line manager relationship – there is no planned reduction in BDM numbers. We need to ensure that our team structures are such that we identify and utilise the talent in the organisation – in other words everyone is enabled to deliver their maximum contribution. With this in mind, we have reviewed our overall structure and cost base to ensure we are as efficient and effective as possible, whilst this refinement provides some overhead cost savings it also supports our desire to retain a flatter structure with broader accountabilities. We will be making changes which will take place by the end of February at the latest though some will happen sooner.” Spirit is consulting over a number of redundancies.

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