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Tue 5th Mar 2013 - JW Lees, M&B and KFC

Story of the day:

Bob Ivell – Miller & Carter has lots of potential; Tuk Cho is ‘work in progress’: Mitchells and Butlers chairman Bob Ivell has named Miller & Carter as the brand that he feels has the most untapped potential at the company. In an interview for the Spring edition of Propel Quarterly, he said: “(Miller & Carter) has produced some really great results and steak houses are again coming to the fore. Some sites are doing big numbers. I think it can grow into a fair-sized brand and we will continue to look for sites for it. I think the Leeds opening is going to be fascinating because it will be a pure restaurant site without too much of a bar there.” Ivell argued that the main priority for M&B is developing its existing brands. “We’ve got 16 brands and there is actually a lot of work going on in each of those to move them forward. People talk about us having mature brands but we have 27 Miller & Carters and we have only got about 46 All Bar Ones. I have said that if they are real brands they should have 75 or 100 sites. Browns is a good example. We have moved away from traditional buildings and opened in modern sites in Bluewater, Newcastle and Nottingham - they are doing extraordinarily well.” Ivell also described the development of its Asian brand Tuk Cho as ‘work in progress’. He said: “In my view, (developing Tuk Cho) was a bit of reaction to not buying Wagamamma. I think it is clearly a marketplace that has got potential. I think there’s a lot of work to be done on Tuk Cho. Is it a priority for us? Probably not. But we will work on it and see if we can get it to the point that we want. Opening new sites was running before it could walk – and the one thing this business does not particularly need is more brands. I did look at Tuk Cho in around April of last year and I had a sort of review. There were a few fundamentals that I felt were wrong with it. So there has been a plan put in place to have a look at those and I think we will see where we get to. If we did not think that it had some sort of potential we would have canned it ages ago. So we are still working on it.”

Industry news:

Propel Quarterly Spring edition hits desks: The Spring edition of Propel Quarterly hits desks this week. Content includes: Mitchells and Butlers chairman Bob Ivell on changes at the company; Marston’s Colin Sadler on the Revere Pub Company project; Market Town Taverns founder Ian Fozard setting out his business philosophy; Luminar chief executive Peter Marks on what he learnt going back to the floor; Eren Ali on the journey so far at Las Iguanas; Kevin Todd on life in Russia at Rosinter; and operators revealing their big business ideas for 2013.

Alcohol consumption drops again: New figures for UK alcohol consumption in 2012 show that the amount Britons drink has fallen yet again – for the sixth year out of the past eight. Consumption per head is now 16% lower than it was in 2004 when the current trend began, said the British Beer & Pub Association, which has compiled the new data based on HMRC alcohol tax returns. 2012 was the first year since 1998 that alcohol consumption has dropped below eight litres per head, per year (7.99 litres). Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Total alcohol consumption is now 16% lower per head than in 2004, when this trend began. While alcohol misuse remains a problem for a minority that we must all work to tackle, it is also important that the debate is fully informed by the latest facts on levels of consumption.”

First Craft Beer Rising event a big success: The first Craft Beer Rising event held the weekend before last was a big success, with tickets sold out for all sessions. Organisor Daniel Rowntree said: “Total through the door was 3,670, with 700 for the trade day. The average brewer took £900, 12 brewers took over £1,000, and three brewers took over £2,500. So we very nearly delivered a cost neutral experience for everyone and a very good couple of days for some.”

Marston’s – consumers looking for a more rewarding drinking experience in pubs and restaurants: Marston’s Cask Ale Report 2013 has found cask ale now has a 15% share of all on-trade beer, increasing distribution by 1.6% to 56% of all on-trade venues in the last year. The report also finds that outlets with a cask ale offer are more resistant to closure across all trading formats and that cask ale is recruiting more drinkers looking for a quality experience on their beer drinking occasions with appeal driven by enhanced flavour, craft credentials and brewer provenance. Marston’s beer style analysis reveals that lighter golden beers are increasingly popular with younger drinkers. James Coyle, Marston’s sales director, said: “Cask ale is becoming increasingly popular and is attracting new drinkers looking for a more premium experience on their beer drinking occasions. Consumers are rejecting beers that have been commoditised by cheap supermarket pricing and are looking for a more rewarding drinking experience when they visit a pub or restaurant. This represents a great opportunity for the on trade as cask ale is a unique experience that cannot be replicated at home.” 

Tortillas triple in popularity on menus: Research by insights firm Technomic, commissioned by Mission Foods, has found tortillas tripled in frequency of appearance on full service restaurant sandwich menus between 2010 and 2011. Health continues to drive the purchase of wraps across the market and is one of the most important attributes consumers look for in sandwiches they purchase. 34% of consumers polled cited ‘healthy ingredients used’ as a lead consideration for sandwich purchase. This trend for healthier options represents significant opportunity for caterers to capitalise by developing innovative menu offering selections beyond traditional fare. Other popular trends noted by Technomic include mini-sandwiches, more innovative fillings or toppings and the arrival of high-quality signature breakfast sandwiches. The research reveals that sandwiches are ripe for flavour experimentation, as consumers accept unique ingredients within a known platform. Younger consumers are drawn to globally inspired sandwiches, 62% of 18-24 year olds would like to see more restaurants offering ethnic sandwiches and ingredients. Speciality breads provide a strong avenue for sandwich differentiation, with 41% of men, aged between 35-44, agreeing they like speciality breads for their sandwiches.

Chicago Eataly hits a roadblock: The planned Chicago site for restaurant phenomenon Eataly has hit problems. The brand, whose New York sites takes $80m a year, is planning a two-story, 63,000 square-foot, $20 million Eataly branch in The Shops at North Bridge, in the city’s upmarket River North neighborhood. Part of the plan involves taking over a 35,000 square-foot former ESPN Zone in the mall and a 24,000 square foot steakhouse called Texas de Brazil. Texas de Brazil is arguing the terms of its lease allow it to stay in the mall until 2018. The mall owner is suing to evict the operator. Eataly is also looking for a site in London’s Covent Garden.

CPL Training sets new market share record: CPL Training Group has achieved its highest-ever market share for the Award for Personal Licence Holders qualification – the APLH. In the fourth quarter of 2012, Ofqual figures revealed that there were 12,875 APLH qualifications awarded, of which CPL trained 3,589 or 27.8% of the total. With the exception of an 1% uplift in Q4 2010, BIIAB’s market share has fallen for 15 consecutive quarters from Q2 2009 to an all-time low of 57.3% of the market in Q4 2012. CPL chief executive Daniel Davies said: “CPL provides unrivalled geographical coverage with 72 training venues nationwide at which we conduct nearly 1,000 scheduled APLH courses every year. Our learners come from licensed retail businesses large and small that use us regularly because they know they can rely on us for a top quality course and a reliable personal licence application service.”

£5.5bn scheme for Liverpool get the go-ahead: Peel Group’s £5.5bn Liverpool Waters scheme has been given the green light by the government. Communities secretary Eric Pickles confirmed the project would not be called in for a public inquiry. It means Peel Holdings and Liverpool City Council can now officially begin work on the plans. Over the next 30 years Liverpool Waters is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs, deliver 9,000 houses and three million square feet of commercial development. The project will also include hundreds of offices, a cruise liner terminal, hotels, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This is fantastic news for Liverpool. I’m absolutely delighted that the secretary of state shares the confidence we have in our ability to deliver this vitally important regeneration scheme, while protecting our architectural heritage.”

Bridget Ware gets her first pub – aged 75: Great grandmother Bridget Ware has taken on her first pub – at the age of 75. Ware has just taken over at The College Arms, in Hall Green, Birmingham, an Enterprise Inns pub. “I worked for other people for years but I always wanted to be in charge,” Bridget said. “So I jumped at the chance when I had the opportunity to take over here. I love meeting people and I will try to establish a rapport with the drinkers to make sure business booms. I hope to be around for a few more years yet.” She has worked in the pub trade for 55 years after arriving in Birmingham from Wexford in 1957.

Company news:

Will Self launches stinging attack on Wetherspoon: Writer and food critic Will Self has launched a scathing attack on JD Wetherspoon in The News Statesman. He describes Wetherspoon pubs as “brown dollops of establishments smeared incontinently across our cities” and savages a meal he eats at the Victoria branch. “My battered cod was at the nadir for this dish: the casing hard, the interior mush. At least it was hot – unlike the chips, which were like cardboard but not as tasty,” he states. However, many readers, commenting on Self’s column, defend Wetherspoon. One states: “This article is loathsome, smug and snobby. Wetherspoon are dependable good value. They are a friendly and unthreatening home-from-home on every high street - great for low income, low pretension people out for the day, like me for instance. They go the extra mile to make their premises attractive as well as cheap, see the Chepstow or the Weston-Super-Mare establishments. They are not intended for the literary upper class. And their curries are excellent value. One bad and, I think, untypical experience and Mr Self writes this self-important nonsense, because nothing in the world seems more important to him right now than deriding the cheap eating establishments dear to many.” In his column for CPL Training, sector journalist Phil Mellows describes Self’s column as “good writing, funny and clever’. He adds: “But in delivering entertaining copy Self is not just laying into Wetherspoon, he is attacking the hundreds of thousands of people who use it, people who obviously haven’t got Self’s high standards. One of them is me. True, if there is a nicer, cosier pub nearby that serves a decent pint I wouldn’t give the ‘Spoons a second glance. But quite often when I’m in an unfamiliar town I’m grateful to spot the ‘W’ sign that tells me there’s a place I can go that will give me cask beer in good condition, free Wi-Fi and something okay to eat if I’m hungry and can’t find a curry house.”

River Cottage Canteen opens Bristol site: The latest River Cottage Canteen, operated by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, opened yesterday in the Grade II listed 19th Century hall in Whiteladies Road near Blackboy Hill in Bristol. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s opened his first site in Axminster back in 2008. Up to 90% of the produce will be coming from within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant. The Chew Magna based Community Farm will provide the restaurant’s organic vegetables. Development chef Andrew Green said: “The Community Farm excites chefs in this area and that excitement aligns with what we want to create here. The fact that they look to put back into the community and produce their produce on site is very important to us. It would be far easier for me to pick up the phone and source from other places but that is not what we are all about. We want to work with the community.”

Master & Servant opens in Hoxton: Master & Servant, the first solo venture by Matt Edwards, the former Masterchef finalist who has worked for both St John Hotel and Hix Soho, opened in Hoxton, London, yesterday. Head chef is Luke Cleghorn, formerly of St John Bread & Wine and St John Hotel. The restaurant aims to “bring a slice of Manhattan style to the burgeoning Hoxton dining scene”. It features a dining bar in the basement overlooking the open kitchen.

Greene King opens Hungry Horse in Llanelli: Suffolk-based Greene King has opened a new Hungry Horse in Llanelli’s £60 million leisure quarter. The opening ribbon at the 220-cover venue was cut by Councillor Jim Jones, executive board member for public protection at Carmarthenshire Council. Mr Jones said: “It’s lovely to have a facility in Llanelli such as The Hungry Horse - I look forward to the success it shall bring over the coming years.” The Hungry Horse joins a Nando’s and a Costa on the East Gate Leisure scheme in Llanelli.

KFC launches food to fork reassurance adverts: Kentucky Fried Chicken has launched an advertising campaign that seeks to stress the quality, sourcing and freshness and preparation of its chicken. The campaign has been created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty and the £2.5 million TV and online campaign follows the journey of KFC’s chicken from farm to fork. James Mercer, marketing director KFC UK, said: “Consumers are more focused on quality and provenance than ever before, and we felt that this was the time to communicate the care we put into sourcing our chicken, as well as preparing it. We’re really proud of the fact that our Original Recipe chicken on the bone is, and always has been, fresh and British, and this advert communicates to our customers that we’re serious about the quality of our food and where we source it from.”

AB Inbev counters watered down beer claims with humour: Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s is countering reports that it is being sued in the US for selling watered down beer with a humorous advertising campaign. A national print campaign cites the 71 million cans of water it has donated to relief efforts around the world as the drink the watery beer claims have been mistaken for. “They must have tested one of these”, the ad says showing a picture of the drink. It then goes on to assure readers that the ‘Anheuser-Busch logo is our ironclad guarantee that the beer in your hand is the best beer we know how to brew’.

Young’s to re-open The Ship in Wandsworth with new menu, bar and outside area: Young’s pub The Ship in Wandsworth is to re-open this Friday (8 March) after a two-month refurbishment that’s seen the rebuilding of the outside bar area, fronting the Thames, a new BBQ and a new menu. The website states: “Inside, we’ve moved our function room to make more space for a much-needed extension of both the ladies’ and gents’ toilets; both are being completely re-plumbed and will gain several extra cubicles. Speaking of toilets, the restaurant will also be getting its own set of them, so even on the busiest nights in the pub the restaurant can maintain a calmer atmosphere for its diners and act as a separate entity. The restaurant itself is being extended to make extra room for tables, and when we launch our new-look menu we’re expecting it to be packed full every night. The extension will also give the option for two private dining rooms to replace the former function room.”

Harris & Hoole instructs Brecker Grossmith to find sites: Coffee shop Harris + Hoole, which is 49% owned by Tesco, has instructed Brecker Grossmith to find central London sites. A Brecker Grossmith spokesman said: “We are seeking Central London - West End, City and City Fringe ground floor sites - ideally with excellent footfall, white collar locations, near to other coffee chains, and also ideally located next to underground or train station exits. Sizes can be from 750 – 2,500 square foot ideally with return frontages.” Yesterday, Propel reported that Morgan Williams has been instructed to find six sites in the City of London.

Flaming Grill launches search for deserving mums: Pub brand Flaming Grill is on a mission to find mums who go the extra mile and is offering a pampering session and a family meal as a reward this Mother’s Day. The Spirit Pub Company brand is encouraging fans on its Facebook page to nominate a mum that is ‘One in a Grillion.’ Judges will pick 100 lucky winners to receive a family meal and one national winner will win a pampering session on top. Rachel Bailey, brand manager for Flaming Grill, said: “All mums are special but we’re looking for those who go above and beyond for their children and really have a special story to tell. It could be your own mum, your wife or just a friend but what better way to thank a special mum for being so Flaming Grilliant?”

JW Lees looks to recruit a ‘retail superstar’: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees is looking to recruit a new director of retail operations. The job involves ‘leading and developing a high-performing team of over 900 colleagues’. The company states: “We have an opening for a superstar to be the next JW Lees director of retail operations, heading up managed houses and sitting on the JW Lees’ management board. Chris Connolly, who is the incumbent, is retiring and has said that his only regret in his career is that he did not join JW Lees earlier. We currently have 36 managed houses, turning over £30 million split 55/40/5 wet/dry/other and have ambitious plans for growth.” Applicants have until 29 March to apply.

Sam’s to focus on single Brighton site: Sam Metcalfe is to close one of his two Brighton restaurants - Sam’s of Seven Dials. Metcalfe, who opened the Seven Dials restaurant in 2001 on the site of a Burger King outlet, will focus on his Sam’s of Brighton restaurant in Kemp Town. The restaurant in Seven Dials will serve customers for the last time on 24 March. Metcalfe, who owns the building, said he is looking for a new tenant. He said: “Our food and staff costs have doubled since we opened but people these days are only prepared to pay half of what they would have done ten years ago.”

Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Ale unveils partnership with Armstrong and Miller: Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Ale has announced a new partnership with comedy duo Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller in the guise of their popular RAF airmen characters. Continuing the beer’s strong tradition of tongue-in-cheek British humour, Spitfire’s new partnership will see the pair take part in TV advertising and wider on-trade and off-trade initiatives.

Donald Trump revises downwards cost of Scottish hotel: Tycoon Donald Trump has revised downwards the cost of the hotel he plans to build in Scotland. Eighteen months ago, he said he expected to spend up to £280 million on developing the five-star hotel, which will be a major landmark at the Menie estate golf resort. But the cost of the project has now been cut to $150 million - £99.4 million. The new design for the hotel is markedly different from the original design concept - replacing the Victorian-inspired six storey structure with a three storey building to be sited on a prominent hill overlooking the two championship courses at the Menie estate.

Luminar chooses Limegreen Communications: Birmingham-based Limegreen Communications has won a competitive pitch to secure the PR account for Luminar Group, the UK’s largest nightclub operator. Limegreen founders, Sarah Perrins and Jo Mathers, previously worked for Punch Taverns and Spirit Pub Company. Limegreen will be providing a 24/7 press office function as well as proactive PR support for Luminar’s 56 club portfolio, which includes market leading brands such as Oceana, Liquid and Lava & Ignite. Mathers, managing director of the firm, said: “We are obviously thrilled to be working with Luminar, who join our growing client list in the leisure sector which includes cocktail bar operator, Be At One and Burton Breweries Charitable Trust.”

Gloucester ski centre to add restaurant: The Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre, in Matson Lane, has been granted planning permission for a restaurant set to open by the end of 2014. The centre already has a small cafe, but it is hoped the new development, which also includes outside seating on a raised decking area overlooking the slopes, will attract more visitors. Clive Hamilton-Davies, operations director at OpalTec, which bought the centre last May, said: “The improvements will raise the status of the ski centre as a tourist destination. Working in partnership with local schools and businesses, the development will have a positive effect on Gloucester as it will improve the quality of tourist attractions in the area, thus bringing more money and worth into the area.” There will also be a meeting room large enough to accommodate 80 people, the kitchen area will increase to 400 sq ft, and a new cellar area of 400 sq ft will also be created.

CBRE seeks to raise £8.25m through sale of ten Barracuda freehold investments: Leisure agent CBRE has put ten pub freeholds tenanted by Bramwell Pub and Bars, worth a total of £8,250,000, on the market on behalf of Barracuda Propco 2 Limited. Bramwell Pubs and Bars Limited was formed in October 2012 following the operational and financial restructuring of Barracuda. As part of the restructuring, the operating company and property company were separated. The operating company was renamed The Bramwell Pub Company and benefited from a credit facility of up to £10 million from Värde Partners, which is a privately held investment manager specialising in alternative investments. CBRE stated: “This has put the tenant on a more firm financial footing allowing planned investment in service, training and refurbishment. A new management team was appointed with Adam Fowle, ex Mitchells and Butlers’ chief executive as chairman and Roger Moxham as chief executive. Roger had previously been managing director of the Town Centre and Value division within Mitchells and Butlers where he worked for 25 years.” The pubs are: Bird In Hand, Forest Hill (rent is £36,000 per annum, producing a 7.60% yield on a guide price of £450,000), The Graduate, York (rent is £152,553 per annum producing a 9% yield on a guide price of £1,600,000), Hornblower Tavern, Ripon (rent is £40,773 per annum producing a yield of 8.70% on an asking price of £450,000), Ketton Ox, Yarm (rent is £77,682 per annum producing a yield of 9% on an asking price of £820,000), the Lamb, Edmonton (rent is £30,000 per annum producing a 7.10% yield on an asking price of £400,000), the Old Crown Royston rent is £79,894 producing a 8.1% yield on an asking price of £930,000), Proverbial, Harbourne (rent is £96,372 per annum producing a 9.1% yield on an asking price of £1,000,000), Psalter Tavern, Sheffield (rent is £71,392 producing a 9% yield on an asking price of £750,000), Travellers Friend, Woodford Green (rent is £36,204 producing a 7.60% yield on asking price of £450,000) and Varsity, Durham rent is £136,930 per annum, producing a yield of 9.25% on an asking price of £1,400,000). Bramwell chief executive Roger Moxham told Propel: “Barracuda propco, which is a separate and independent company to Bramwell, is marketing these freehold disposals. We are not impacted by this process and will remain as tenants under the existing terms of our lease.”

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