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Thu 24th Jan 2013 - Black Sheep Brewery, McDonald’s and PizzaExpress

Story of the day:

Roger Whiteside quits as chief executive of Punch to take top job at Greggs; chief executive role to be left vacant for the time being: Punch Taverns chief executive Roger Whiteside is to leave the company to become chief executive of Greggs. Whiteside, who is already a non-executive director of Greggs, told Morning Briefing last month that he had not applied for the top job at Greggs, leaving open the possibility that he has been approached directly and offered the job. Whiteside steps down from the Punch board on Friday 1 February 2013. Punch stated: “To ensure continuity in the leadership of Punch, particularly during the ongoing capital structure discussions, Stephen Billingham has been appointed as executive chairman and Neil Griffiths has been appointed as chief operating officer, with immediate effect. Consequently, a new chief executive will not be appointed at this time.” Stephen Billingham has been non-executive chairman since September 2011. Neil Griffiths has been Punch’s property and turnaround director and has been with the group since 2001. He has 25 years’ experience in the leisure and hospitality industry having held senior management roles in Warner Brothers and Bass. Punch’s “current trading performance remains in line with the board’s expectations”. Led by finance director, Steve Dando, the group is continuing its discussions with significant stakeholders and expects to make another announcement about its capital structure in due course. Billingham said: “I would like to thank Roger for his significant contribution to the group over the last four years. Roger and the board have set out a clear operational plan to return the core estate to growth and maximise value from our non-core assets. I am confident that with the appointment of Neil Griffiths as chief operating officer and with the experienced management team in place at Punch we will continue with the progress we are making in delivering on these key strategic goals. The board wishes Roger every success in his new role.” Ken McKeikan has left Greggs to become chief executive of Brakes. 

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:

Minimum price for alcohol is too low: The Alcohol Health alliance has argued that the proposed 45p price a unit for alcohol is too low, arguing instead for 50p. Chairman Sir Ian Gilmore said unit pricing is the “fairest and most targeted way of helping those most at risk of damage to their health.” He argued that research suggested that a minimum of 50p would reduce consumption by 6.7% and prevent 20,000 hospital admissions in the first year.

Crawley plans new £200m shopping street with six or seven restaurants: plans have been put forward for a new £200m shopping street in Crawley, The Boulevard, that would feature six or seven restaurants and a cinema. John Lewis is in negotiations to move into the building which is home to Crawley’s post office. Other big name stores, including Zara, Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Cath Kidston are also being lined up. Martyn Chase, from developer Stanhope, said: “Crawley needs to take a quantum leap forward to be able to compete with the major shopping destinations in the south east. We want to create a new shopping street (The Boulevard) which will also provide an environment for evening activities, so that the area is not only alive between 9am and 5.30pm.”

McDonald’s pays out $700,000 in Halal compensation: McDonald’s has paid out $700,000 to members of the Muslim community in the US after one of its franchise sites in Michigan falsely advertised its food had been prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. A Muslim Detroit resident, Ahmed Ahmed, claimed he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald’s but found it was not halal - meaning it did not meet Islamic requirements for preparing food. The restaurant is one of two in Dearborn that sells halal products to cater for an area with one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim communities.

US restaurant customers traded down in 2012: Restaurant customers in the US traded down in 2012 — from entrées down to appetisers, from bottles of wine down to glasses, and from expensive entrées down to cheaper ones — according to point-of-sale data surveyed by research firm GuestMetrics. The company looked at more than 250 million bills at full-service restaurants. During the course of 2012, the number of entrées ordered declined by 1.5%, while orders of appetisers and sides grew by 2.8%.

Company news:

McDonald’s to add 2,500 jobs in the UK this year: McDonald’s UK is to create at least 2,500 new jobs this year, taking its UK workforce to 93,500 by the end of 2013. The new jobs build on 3,500 jobs that McDonald’s created in 2012 – 1,000 more than estimated – of which 70 per cent were taken by young people under the age of 21. A major UK employer, McDonald’s has added more than 20,000 people to its workforce during the last five years as a result of its sustained business growth and long-term investment in recruitment and training. The company’s growth has been driven by investment in its restaurants and technology, new restaurants and extended opening hours and menu choice and innovation. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “A highly-skilled workforce is an important part of any growing business. That’s why I am pleased to see how McDonald’s is providing training and apprenticeships in a range of skills. McDonald’s is also to be applauded for helping adult employees get qualifications in maths and English. Poor literacy and numeracy skills can hold people back in the workplace, which is why the government has doubled the funding for these core subjects.” McDonald’s chief executive Jill McDonald said: “These remain challenging economic conditions but I’m pleased that, together with our franchisees, our continued focus on serving quality, affordable food and giving our customers a great experience is enabling us to keep investing in our business and creating jobs. Whilst today’s job market is hugely competitive, we offer many people their first experience of work and we’re focused on doing what we can to help more young people get into quality jobs and careers. To help young people get on in life, it’s crucial for major employers like us to keep investing in training and people development, because companies like ours can make a big difference through the jobs we create and the support we provide.” Yesterday, McDonald’s reported sales edged up 0.1% in the fourth quarter. Europe like-for-like sales declined 0.6 %, reflecting negative comparable guest counts and strong prior year performance. However, the segment’s operating income increased 5%, with the UK and Russia being key contributors.

Fuller’s reports like-for-likes up 4.5% in managed: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has reported managed like-for-like sales grew 4.5% in the nine weeks to 19 January 2013. Like-for-like profits in the tenanted Inns division grew 1% for the 42 weeks, having been level after 33 weeks. Total beer volumes in the Fuller’s Beer Company remained level, as they were after 33 weeks. The company bought two managed pubs in Bath on 1 November for £7.5m. Chairman Michael Turner said: “UK consumers enjoyed themselves in our pubs and hotels over the festive period. Whilst the economic outlook for 2013 remains uncertain, our long term strategy and focus on quality continue to serve us well and the strong performance of our acquisitions and refurbishments give us confidence to keep on investing for the future.”

Yellowhammar Bars closes Bliss in Taunton: Yellowhammer Bars, which has placed a trading subsidiary in administration, has closed its Bliss venue in Taunton, part of a package of sites originally bought as part of the acquisition of Candu Entertainment. Manager Dave Brayley said he was ‘in the dark’ as to the future of Bliss and directed the local newspaper to speak to management company Volante Management. The company has also closed its Bliss and Chilli White venues in Bournemouth.

Black Sheep Brewery finds its holy grail (is a big hit): A beer produced by Black Sheep Brewery and inspired by Monty Python’s Holy Grail film has become a West End smash - after fans of the cult TV comedy troupe drank the bar dry at performances of the hit show Spamalot. Black Sheep Brewery bosses and management at the Playhouse Theatre were taken aback at the popularity of the North Yorkshire brew Holy Grail, which was put on sale especially for Spamalot’s residency at the venue. In just two weeks Python fans wiped out the theatre’s supply of the bottled beer. Brewery chairman Paul Theakston said: “For Holy Grail to have been so enthusiastically embraced by the Spamalot audience is wonderful. Spamalot and Holy Grail are a perfect combination for comedy and beer fans and we are looking forward to keeping supplies coming throughout the show’s residency at the Playhouse Theatre.”

Marston’s start work on north Norfolk site: Work is well under way on the north Norfolk coast’s first managed pub in Hunstanton, with the development set to open its doors this summer. The Marston’s pub, which will be called Honeystone, is set to create around 45 jobs when it opens in Southend Road, opposite Tesco, in July. The scheme was given the go-ahead by West Norfolk Council in October, amid concerns from transport campaigners and community groups. Critics said the government should have had the final say on the planning application as the borough council, as owners of the site, would benefit financially if approved.

AB Inbev wins Bud trademark battle: Budweiser brewer AB InBev has won the sole legal right to use the trademark Bud in Europe after the Czech company Budejovicky Budvar got a legal challenge at the EU General Court. A spokesman for the Czech brewer said: “This little action can be regarded as nothing more than a skirmish in our 106 year old war – and in any event its far from being the final say even on this relatively minor issue. At the very best AB InBev can take this decision as a tiny compensation prize for the humiliation they must have felt over Budvar’s UK trademark victory earlier this month.”

Former BII Licensee of the Year takes over third pub: Darren Lingley, who was voted the UK’s best licensee in 2011 when running The Five Bell in Colne Engaine, has taken on a third pub - The Griffin in Parsonage Street, Halstead, which is being run as a local’s pub. Last July, he also acquired the freehold of The Lion in Earls Colne, a freehold pub previously owned by Punch Taverns for around £390,000, which is due to open in March this year after £140,000 refurbishment. The second pub was three-quarters of a mile from his first pub and Lingley has travelled to Italy to acquire the right wood-fired oven for the pub. Lingley told Morning Briefing last year: “We’d like to be running ten sites within five years.”

NDP figures show online pizza dominance by big three in the US: NPD Group data has shown found Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s take in 85 percent of all online sales of pizza in the United States. Domino’s US chief executive Patrick Doyle reports that the largest number of staff at its headquarters work in the IT department, which would allow it to win market share. “The three of us absolutely dominate (online). This is a very tough place for the regional chains and mom-and-pops to play.” The company’s emphasis on technology also allows for digital promotions like this year’s Domino’s Dollars offer, which worked like a “classic packaged-good bounce-back coupon,” Doyle said. “We tried to drive more people to online ordering, because any time we can convert primarily phone-based customers to digital, it’s a win for us,” he said. “It also added more value to that first order … and since the $5 coupon off the second order was good only for ten days, that added frequency.” 

Former Dhillon Hotels site on the market for £6m: The freehold of the Grade II listed Paragon Hotel in Birmingham , formerly owned by the Dhillon Group but now in administration, is on the market through agent Christie + Co for £6m. The 250-room hotel (207 of which are currently in use) is based in the city’s Alcester Street, close to the Bullring Shopping Centre, Birmingham International Airport and The NEC. It has 13 function rooms with capacities up to 600. Gavin Wright, director of Christie + Co, said: “As part of the Dhillon Hotels group, the Paragon Hotel benefited from investment and development, with improvements to public areas and bedrooms.” 

Poulet Rouge joins chicken rush: A new restaurant to be opened by the founders of Cattle Grid, Steve Novak and Shaun Gray, will join the trend for rotisserie chicken - Poulet Rouge will open in March 2013 in Balham. Said Novak: “We’re big fans of steak and ribs, and Cattle Grid proves that’s a popular option, but increasingly we’ve seen a gap in the market for really good, barn-reared chicken, served in the traditional rotisseries style that has proved so popular in France forever. We want to create a family-friendly environment, serving the best chickens we can source, and delivering them freshly roasted to the plate. This is a restaurant that will serve a family of four a whole chicken and sides for a really great price.” The first Poulet Rouge will be located close to Balham tube station, with seating for 40-50 people.

Former Charles Wells marketing executive joins Whitbread: Chris Lewis, who oversaw marketing at Charles Wells before leaving last May, has been named head of marketing at Whitbread’s Brewers Fayre brand. Lewis has also worked in senior marketing roles at Carlsberg UK, Weetabix, HP Bulmer, Reckitt & Colman and Hoover.

PizzaExpress denied again in Cheshire town of Alderley Edge: Another planning application to allow PizzaExpress to open a restaurant in Alderley Edge has been refused. Cheshire East Council has refused to grant a change of use for premises on London Road from retail to restaurant. This second application for the change of use of the ground floor was declined on the grounds that it would have a negative impact on the vitality of the shopping area and was ‘unneighbourly’. This is a resubmission of the September 2012 application, which was declared invalid because the applicant did not pay the application fee. In May 2012, Cheshire East Council also refused to grant a change of use for premises that has been empty since Wine Rack closed over three years ago.

Prezzo gets the go-ahead to convert shop in Felixstowe: Prezzo has won planning consent to convert a former furniture store in Felixstowe to a new site. The company is taking over the old Candlers store in the town centre and has been granted permission by planners for a restaurant for 110 people on the ground floor, 44 upstairs, and a small courtyard seating area for fine weather.

Marston’s to open new-build Wales pub next Monday: Midlands-based Marston’s will open a new-build pub restaurant in Carmarthen on Monday, The Caraway in Pensarn. It will be the third business to open at the Pensarn site following KFC fast food restaurant drive-thru and Farm Foods supermarket in October. James Ace, who has run pubs across south Wales for the past 15 years, has been appointed manager.

Punch Taverns supports national ale festival with a free drink promotion: The four-day National Winter Ale Festival, which kicks off in Manchester from Wednesday 23rd January, has teamed up with Punch Taverns to offer visitors a free half pint at participating pubs when they pick up a voting form. As one of the main festival sponsors, Punch is supporting this year’s Consumer’s Choice Award, where visitors can vote for the best beer, cider and perry at the festival. Voting forms will be handed out on arrival at the festival, where visitors will find a voucher at the bottom of the form. The voucher will entitle festival-goers a free half pint when they purchase a half pint at any of the five participating Punch pubs across Manchester and the surrounding areas up until Sunday 10 February. Punch have provided participating pubs with a POS kit, including posters to display outside the pub, so customers can easily recognise where their vouchers can be redeemed. “We’re keen to support CAMRA with the 2013 festival as we recognise the importance of cask ale in our pubs. Cask is a genuine unique selling point for pubs over drinking at home – it is something that can’t be replicated outside the pub environment,” said Stephen Martin, drinks category manager at Punch Taverns. “We are leading the way with cask ales, with one in three of our cask ale pubs accredited with Cask Marque. We also have 850 pubs that are active members of our rotational cask ale programme, Finest Cask, and encourage our licensees to offer a selection of cask ale and rotate where possible.

Nando’s to open Teddington site at the end of the month: Chicken restaurant chain Nando’s will open in Teddington at the end of the month. The Station Road venue, which will seat 100 people and bring 30 jobs to the area, will open its doors on Wednesday, 30 January. Nicola Pegues, regional managing director of Nando’s, said: “We’re extremely excited about opening our new restaurant in Teddington, and I know the team can’t wait to get started and open its doors to the public. The Station Road site is a fantastic location, and will offer locals and visitors a great experience.”

Plan for Harvester and Nando’s in Teesside blocked on appeal: Developers have lost their appeal against Stockton Council’s decision to block plans for a Travelodge, Harvester and Nando’s on Teesside Park. The authority rejected the £7.5m scheme to transform the derelict Springs health club, at the entrance to the park, for the second time last year. A planning inspector has now upheld that decision. Stockton’s planning officers raised “significant concerns” that the proposed development could impact on the council’s £20m regeneration of Stockton town centre. Independent Thornaby Councillor Steve Walmsley said: “It’s madness. If that’s the message that Stockton is sending out to would-be investors I despair.”

Stonegate Pub Company site starts carvery due to customer demand: Stonegate Pub Company’s Elephant & Castle on Deansgate in Bolton, has started serving freshly cooked hand carved roast dinners at the pub seven days a week for £4.25 or £7.95 if two people are dining. The decision was driven by customer demand. Manager Steve Coyle said: “We’ve got a fantastic menu here at the pub with all the pub classics you’d expect. However, a few years back we offered our customers a carvery which was really popular but for various reasons the offer was put on hold. Over Christmas, in addition to our existing menu, we offered freshly cooked hand carved roast dinners every day and our customers loved it with many of the joints of meat selling out quickly, so we thought we’d introduce the roasts permanently. One of the great things about offering freshly cooked hand carved dinners is once all the hard work is done; the gentle roasting of the meat, it’s simple and easy to prepare once the orders come in. People can order a hand carved roast dinner at lunchtime safe in the knowledge that they’ll be back in the office within their lunch hour.”

Wetherspoon bows to public pressure and names new Deal pub The Sir Norman Wisdom: JD Wetherspoon has bowed to local opinion and agreed to call its proposed new pub in Deal, Kent The Sir Norman Wisdom. It was originally planning to call it The Five Bells with graffiti style signage. A date for the opening of the new pub will be given after formal planning procedures.

Brasserie Blanc lines up Farnham opening: Brasserie Blanc, which operates 18 sites, is lining up an opening in Farnham, Hampshire. Opening in mid February, Brasserie Blanc will be located in a three-storey listed building on Castle Street, just minutes walk from Farnham Castle. It will offer 100 covers.

Orchid teams up with Coca Cola and Merlin for two-for-one discounts: Orchid Group’s Free House Dining division has teamed up with two major brands for a February offer to help families cut the costs of days out. The partnership with Coca Cola and Merlin will give customers the chance to earn 2-4-1 entry vouchers for theme and wildlife parks across the UK in one simple step. All customers purchasing a Coca Cola product at any Free House Dining pub will receive a voucher for discounted entry to Chessington World of Adventures and Sea Life centres. “We know that days out as a family can really stretch the budget, so with this month-long offer we can help our customers get out and about with the kids for a fun day without worrying about the purse strings,” said FHD Marketing Executive Amy Garrett. “Our customers often tell us that they have to spend their money wisely when it comes to treating their family, and value is one of the main reasons they come to our FHD pubs for a meal out, so we’re rewarding their loyalty with this fantastic promotion.” To receive a voucher, all customers have to do is purchase any Coca Cola product, including Diet Coke, Schweppes lemonade, Oasis and Capri Sun. The vouchers are valid until the end of 2013.

First Costa Coffee drive-thru in the south planned for Hampshire site: Hampshire-based Gentian Developments is seeking consent to redevelop a site next to the Rushington roundabout at Totton into a shopping centre with the south of England’s first drive-thru Costa Coffee – the development will also feature a KFC. The application coincides with plans to build a McDonald’s restaurant and drive-thru in Commercial Road, Totton.


Little Chef appoints Dunlop Heywood: Little Chef has appointed Manchester-based property consultancy Dunlop Heywood as rating consultant for its nationwide portfolio. Director Stuart Hicks said: “The company has had to respond to increasing competition from high street supermarkets and coffee chains at service stations and motorists’ tastes have altered dramatically over recent years. Customers now expect far more than just food, they require a whole customer experience which is why it is so important that Little Chef has the right sites to compete in this competitive market where there is pressure to maximise revenue.”

Subway takes VAT campaign to Downing Street with 150,000 signature petition: Subway has stepped up its campaign to reverse the government’s position in imposing VAT on toasted sandwiches by delivering a 150,000-name petition to Downing Street. Representatives from Subway, which is also a supporter of the Jacques Borel campaign to reduce VAT to 5% in the hospitality industry, delivered a petition calling for equal tax treatment for its toasted sandwiches. Subway’s toasted subs, like all toasted sandwiches, are currently subject to a 20% VAT, in contrast to freshly-baked takeaway pies and pasties that are not kept hot after baking, which avoided the imposition of 20% VAT after the government undertook a U-turn on the move last May. Trevor Haynes, Subway UK and Ireland area development manager, said: “It would appear that this application of VAT is being specifically targeted at Subway stores, which is concerning when franchisees work hard to maintain their business and the brand is the only quick-service restaurant to support all relevant key government health pledges.” Subway said it welcomed the government’s move to “introduce greater clarity and a level playing field” for all hot foods, after the 2012 Budget was announced by George Osborne three months ago. However, the firm argued that changes to the rules meant that as of 1 October 2012 a “cooling down” test was incorporated to address practical concerns with hot bakery products. The company added: “Government legislation still fails to create a legal framework which applies only an objective test, which the Subway brand understands is required by European law.” Subway stated that it believed that this was “a potential breach of the EU principles of equality of treatment and fiscal neutrality among retailers selling similar products that fulfil the same purpose”. Among those representing Subway at Downing Street was David Cameron, a Subway franchisee, who said: “My staff and I work very hard to offer our customers freshly made, low-calorie subs, which include one of your five-a-day vegetable portions from our salad bar, yet I am penalised because some of the items are toasted. It seems unfair that hot pasties can enjoy a tax break, while low-calorie sandwiches supplied by small businesses like mine are penalised.” The petition contained 152,015 signatures and were collected in store and online between April 2012 and December 2012. The five franchises handing in the petition were David Cameron (Yorkshire), Harvey Brown (south west), Jitin Dixit (London), Rachana Pancholi (Derby) and Maureen Hibbens (Scotland). 

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