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Thu 7th Mar 2013 - Alex, Brasserie Blanc and Jamie Oliver

Story of the day:

Bob Ivell - ‘we’re really pleased with Alex in Germany and looking to expand’: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) chairman Bob Ivell has reported that the company’s 40-plus Alex brand is performing well in Germany – and the company is now looking at expansion. The turn-around in its fortunes comes after several attempts by M&B to sell the brand. Of Alex, Ivell told the Spring edition of Propel Quarterly: “We are really pleased. The team over there has done extremely well. We have places like the site in Hamburg that does fantastic business – it’s got 1,000 seats outside. We went through a phase in the industry where we talked about chameleon bars and pubs. That was about, ‘How do you make your assets sweat all through the day?’ That’s where they got to in Germany. The market there is much more conservative than we are and what we have done is a fantastic job on breakfast. We are doing really good business on breakfast now - they have an amazing buffet breakfast that they lay out in Alex. There is clearly a culture in Germany where you drop the kids off at school and then the mums meet up for breakfast - and business people meet for breakfast when they don’t want to go to a big hotel - that Alex has picked up. The team has simplified things again, made the menus work, really understood how to make the different day-parts work. We have opened three new sites - including one in Frankfurt airport. The German market is very fragmented, very regionalised and tastes vary dramatically from one part to another. But we are looking for more sites in Germany.” The German out-of-home market does not have a single quoted restaurant company and eating out frequency and spend per head well below UK levels. 

Industry news:

Consumers to be consulted on ‘acceptable’ levels of meat contamination: Consumers are to be asked how much horse meat or other species of animal is ‘acceptable’ in their food products as part of the government’s response to the horse meat scandal. The Food Standard Agency will be setting up citizens’ forums to find out what level of contamination of meat is “achievable, detectable and acceptable”. It comes after several cases of ‘trace contamination’ where low levels of other species, including pork and horse, were found in beef products. Catherine Brown, the FSA’s chief executive, said: “We need to have a better understanding of how consumers view trace contamination. Is it acceptable at certain low levels? If not, what are the trade-offs between costs and trace?”

Liverpool clubs trial £40 ‘cocaine torch’: Liverpool bars and clubs have been given a revolutionary £40 torch that enables cocaine-users to be identified. The ultra-violet torch, which makes tiny particles of cocaine appear bright green, will be shone in customers by door staff. The devices make it easy to spot the faintest traces – even remnants of powder on nasal hairs. Police have issued torches to city centre bars free of charge in a bid to combat the scourge of cocaine use.

Study shows Canadians drink 50% more than global average: A study in Addiction magazine has found Canadians drink 50% more than the global average, which undermines claims that minimum pricing in Canada has had a beneficial effect. The study reveals vast differences by geographical region in the numbers of people who consume alcohol, the amount they drink, and general patterns of drinking. Findings include: drinkers in Europe and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa are the world’s heaviest consumers of alcohol, on average; people in Eastern Europe and Southern Sub-Saharan Africa consumed alcohol in the unhealthiest manner, as they frequently consumed large quantities, drank to intoxication, engaged in prolonged binges, and consumed alcohol mainly outside of meals; people in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia consumed the least amount of alcohol. North Americans in general, and Canadians in particular drink more than 50% above the global average, and show a more detrimental drinking pattern than most EU countries.

Company news:

Shepherd Neame reports turnover up and profits down; accommodation a key driver of growth: Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame has reported turnover up 2.6% to £69.2m in the 26 weeks ended 29 December 2012. Profit before tax was £4.5m, compared to £4.8m the year before. Chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “I am pleased to report a solid performance for the 26 weeks to 29 December 2012 with robust Christmas trading following the exceptional comparable period in 2011. Our performance reflects the underlying strength and resilience of our business as we have invested consistently in our brands and pubs over the long term.” Managed pub like-for-like sales rose 2.9% with liquor up 2.4%, food up 3.5% and accommodation up 5.8%. Tenanted average EBITDAR per pub rose 3.9%. Chairman Miles Templeman said: “Recent market conditions have been particularly challenging with industry on trade beer sales down 4.7% for the 12 months to the end of December 2012 and off trade sales down 7.5% in the final quarter. Factors that have contributed to this are unremittingly wet and dull weather, disappointing trade during August, as the much-anticipated boost to tourism from the London 2012 Olympics did not materialise, and increasing caution from the consumer as the economy continues to falter. We have invested consistently in our brands and pubs over the long term and have continually driven to improve our offer and level of service. A key driver for growth continues to be increased occupancy rates and revenue per available room (RevPAR) in our inns and hotels. During the period, we have carried out a refurbishment of bedrooms at The Sun Inn, Faversham and Royal Hotel, Deal. The Marine Hotel, Tankerton, is due to re-open in March after an extended period of closure.”

Food and Fuel reports turnover and profit increase: Food and Fuel, the operator of 11 London pubs led by former Spirit chief executive Karen Jones, has reported turnover increased by 12.7% to £10,070,467 in the year to the end of May 2012. Ebitda increased by 7.6% to £636,923 in the year. Pre-tax profit rose to £219,494 from £65,304 the year before. The company stated: “The increase arose primarily as a result of improved trading from several outlets and 18 weeks of trading from a new outlet.” Food and Fuel, which bought The Prince of Wales in Putney, London, from pub company Etive in January 2012, operates six gastro-pub, four café bars and a sports bar. Food and Fuel was founded by Jones in partnership with Roger Myers, with whom she founded the Café Rouge chain, and Jo Cumming who worked on brand development at Spirit.

Inova Group unveils third Bed opening: Nightclub company Inova Group will open a new its third Bed venue on 16 March on Victoria Parade, Torquay. The Torquay premises were originally built as a dance hall at the beginning of the 20th Century and have been subject to a complete £500,000 refurbishment. Whilst the venue will offer state-of-the-art sound, lighting and furnishings, the company has enhanced much of the original architecture of the building including the 40 foot domed ceiling in the main room. In addition to the main room, the venue incorporates the Mirror Lounge with its own retro music bar and bookable VIP areas and rooms offering table service and party booking. The venue has several feature beds for guests to enjoy. A spokesman told Propel: “The company does not offer highly discounted drinks or encourage excessive drinking and operates a strict behaviour code, which results in guests being permanently excluded in the event of inappropriate behaviour. As a further indication of the company’s commitment to the local community, we have paid for a defibrillator unit to be installed on the harbourside to enable emergency services to provide immediate cardiac treatment.” The company is currently negotiating acquisitions and hopes to open further venues later this year.

KFC partners The Cloud to install Wi-Fi: KFC has partnered with The Cloud to provide free Wi-Fi to its outlets in the UK. The deal will go live following a short roll-out period. Customers accessing the service will be directed to a KFC-branded landing page, which will contain restaurant information, menus and special offers. KFC UK brand experience senior manager Nathan James said: “We are operating in a highly competitive industry and are always looking for ways to improve our restaurants. As more and more of our customers are using smart devices, we know internet connectivity is fast becoming a key part of the restaurant experience. Diners want to be able to browse, access social networks, search for retail outlets around them to plan their day, or access KFC-related information and special offers. The new Wi-Fi service offers exactly this and helps ensure we provide an enjoyable dining experience.”

The Times - Bowmark in exclusivity on Drake & Morgan: The Times has reported that private equity firm Bowmark Capital is in exclusive talks to buy London bar operator Drake & Morgan. The news comes despite weekend reports that Drake & Morgan, owned by Imbiba Partnership and led by Jillian MacLean, had been withdrawn from sale. A sale process has been overseen by PricewaterhouseCoopers with The Times suggesting this morning that the business is likely to sell for less than £20 million.

Jamie Oliver takes 7,700 square foot Victoria site: Land Securities has signed two high profile restaurants to occupy space in Victoria as the company aims to fulfil’s the area’s potential as one of London’s most exciting neighbourhoods. Jamie Oliver is taking 7,700 sq ft across the ground and first floor of Kings Gate, SW1 whilst The Royal Quarter Café will be taking the 2,800 sq ft retail unit at Wellington House, SW1. This will be The Quarter Group’s fourth premises in London, and will expand upon the highly successful Chelsea Quarter Café on the King’s Road, The River Quarter Kitchen in Battersea, Plantation Wharf, on the Thames, and the recently opened café in Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. Colette O’Shea, head of development in London at Land Securities, said: “We are very excited to welcome Jamie Oliver’s and The Royal Quarter Café to Victoria. In the heart of SW1, Victoria is returning to its rightful place at the centre of London life – a place where people want to live, work, shop and socialise. The two restaurants will be a great addition to the area, catering to local residents, visitors and world-leading firms such as Microsoft, Jimmy Choo, Tom Ford and Burberry, which already call Victoria home.”

Turkish restaurant to open in Harrogate: Businessman Konak Meze is to open Harrogate’s first Turkish restaurant at the former Sage Bistro on Mount Parade in Harrogate. The letting, by CBRE, was secured on behalf of a private landlord. It is understood the new restaurant will be known as Konak Meze. Sam Frankland, director at CBRE’s Leeds office, said: “We are confident that it will be a success, offering something new and fresh to the Harrogate dining market.” The property, which is located close to Harrogate’s Conference Centre and Theatre, will undergo a refurbishment programme and will reopen for business in April 2013.

Hull operators take second site – away from the city centre circuit: Hull operators Andrian Blake and Andrew Westerdale have taken on their second site in the city. They will re-open The Old Zoological, in Princes Avenue, as Pearsons. The pair already operate Garbutts on Princes Avenue. Westerdale said: “We’ve looked at sites before in the city centre but it really struggles in the night-time economy. People like the café culture down here, where you can sit outside and enjoy a couple of drinks. This area works for us because we have a more mature clientele.”

Indian Summer Brewing backer opens Greene King pub: Chris Stringer, a backer of the Indian Summer Brewing company in Saffron Walden, has re-opened Greene King’s Axe pub in Saffron Walden. He plans to fit a new kitchen so food can be served in the summer. Stringer said: “We have one of the best beer gardens in Saffron Walden and it would be such a pity if we didn’t make the most out of it. Saffron Walden has lost too many pubs and The Axe needs to serve its community as a good pub should do.” Two beers from the local brewery are on sale along with four real ales.

Coca-Cola airs anti-obesity advert: Coca-Cola has launched a UK TV ad campaign and extended its Responsibility Deal commitments to highlight the action it is taking to help solve the global obesity problem. The brand aired a two minute advert last night (6 March) on ITV and Channel 4, entitled “Coming Together”, aiming to remind viewers to watch their calories when managing their weight - including those in Coca-Cola’s products. A second advert, called “Be OK”, aired later in the evening offering more detailed information about the number of calories in a can of Coca-Cola and how much physical activity consumers would need to do to burn those calories. It will also highlighted the company’s no calorie alternative Coke Zero.

Crowd-funded restaurant opens at Shoreditch Town Hall: The Clove Club Restaurant and Bar, the business headed by chef Isaac McHale and funded in part through crowd-funding website Crowdcube, has opened at Shoreditch Town Hall. The venue is being regenerated to create a theatre, arts space and creative hub. The venue was due to open last November but faced planning and licensing issues. Around 25% of the set-up costs has come from crowd-funding.

Rushmore Group launches pop-up: Rushmore Group, the London operator of Milk and Honey, Giant Robot and The Player, has leased 5,277 square foot of ‘pop-up’ space and opened The Rotary Bar & Diner at 70-74 City Road, London. Carl Clarke is running the main kitchen, which will serve fish tacos, chicken rolls, the famous Rotary burger, as well as steaks and grills. There will additionally be a members only space operating from the basement. Camilla Topham, of agent Shelley Sandzer said: “Pop-up restaurants continue to do extremely well in London. They provide an opportunity for existing operators to trial a concept and flexible terms for street food operators. For landlords they provide a short-term solution and help to set the tone where there is a planned redevelopment. Rotary Bar & Grill is an incredibly exciting new concept in an increasingly popular location which has already received a lot of buzz and critical acclaim.” Rents are withheld. The landlord is Derwent London and was represented by Shelley Sandzer. 

Brasserie Blanc takes on 18 apprentices: Brasserie Blanc has promised to take on 18 apprentices as part of The Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plan to create 250,000 apprenticeships in London. Aged between 16 and 19, the apprentices will be assigned a mentor within the business and will also be assessed and supported by the De Vere Training Academy, representatives from which will meet with them on a monthly basis. Raymond Blanc said: “As an employer I want to provide a nurturing, caring environment to give young people the very best chance to succeed. I know that many of my colleagues also believe that it is vital that the restaurant and hospitality sector has home-grown talent to develop the necessary skills for the future - long-term our businesses will gain from it. I am self-taught and it was hard - I longed for a mentor to guide me through my career - so I am 100% behind the Mayor’s drive to bring as many young people into our business and to give them the best chance to excel.”

O’Neill’s set to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with Guinness world record challenge: O’Neill’s, the Irish pub chain owned by Mitchells & Butlers, is make a Guinness world record attempt on Thursday 14 March as part of St Patrick's Day celebrations. All 48 sites are inviting customers to help break the record for the most people doing a jig at the same time. The current record, set in 2007, saw 10,036 people doing the jig at the Dublin Irish Festival in Ohio, USA. Customers are being incited to arrive at O’Neill’s sites at 7pm, ready to begin at 8pm and be prepared to dance for five minutes.

Powder Train pub introduces more traditional pub food: A pub operated by Powder Train, The Chequers in Maresfield, which carried Marco Pierre White branding and operated under his Wheeler’s of St James’s brand but is now in administration, has introduced a more mainstream menu. The Grade II listed building is on the market for £995,000 but the pub remains open and offers a cheaper, more traditional food menu.

Costa Coffee opens controversial Burnham site: Costa Coffee has opened another site that was mired in controversy during the planning process- a site on Burnham high street. A planning application to transform the former Lloyds Pharmacy shop to a Costa Coffee were submitted to South Bucks District Council last October. The council received letters of objection from six sources, along with 16 duplicate letters and three petitions from business owners and Burnham residents. Meanwhile, Margate’s Edwardian Post Office is set to become a Costa. Developers are in talks with Costa to convert the building which Thanet council sold last year at auction for £361,000. Businessman Peter McDonnell, who owns the building said: “We think Margate needs something like that.”

Parsons Bakery plans to double store count: Bristol-based Parsons Bakery plans to double in size of its store network to 70 sites over the next three years in a £1.7m expansion plan. The strategy has been developed in the wake of a new seven-figure finance agreement with Santander Corporate & Commercial banking. Parsons, founded more than 100 years ago and currently managed by the fourth generation of the Parsons family, operates from one central bakery in Ashton Vale, where it bakes bread, cakes and pastries, and ships them out every day to 34 stores around Bristol, the south west and south Wales. The new stores will all be in Bristol and the surrounding area. 

Knops Beer Company plans new brewery - targets £7m turnover: Knops Beer Company is to move into a new brewery on the Archerfield estate in East Lothian this month in the latest expansion for Scotland’s fast-growing craft beer industry. The Edinburgh-based brewer, which was launched in 2010 by industry veteran Bob Knops, has been making its beers at Traditional Scottish Ales (TSA) in Stirling but will now lease the purpose-built plant from the estate. Owner Bob Knops - who worked at Bass, Molson Coors, Stewart Brewing and Whitbread before setting up his own brewery - has been in talks for the past two years to take over the site. He told Scotland on Sunday: “Longer-term, we aim to turn over between £5m and £7m, although that will take perhaps five to seven years, by which point Archerfield will be at capacity.”

JD Wetherspoon to serve exclusive beer on St Patrick’s Day: JD Wetherspoon pubs will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day by serving a new and exclusive beer. The real ale, Irish Red (4.5 per cent ABV), will be available in the pubs for one day only (Sunday March 17). The beer is a collaboration between Suffolk-based brewer Adnams and Dungarvan-based Dungarvan Brewing Company. Irish Red is described as ‘a copper/red colour, with a toffee aroma and slight roasted note, balanced by a good herbal bitterness’. Adnams master brewer Fergus Fitzgerald and Dungarvan Brewing Company’s head brewer Cormac O’ Dwyer brewed the beer.

Three restaurants open in Vegas aiming to appeal to women: Las Vegas is seeing three restaurants opening that aim to broaden restaurant demographics by appealing to women. Heraea, has opened at the Palms with tagline “where girls go to play” while Xishi, opening in May, is named for one of the four beautiful women in ancient China who were said to be sufficiently powerful to bring down kingdoms and empires. A restaurant called She has already opened. The One Group chief executive Jonathan Segal, operator of Heraea and Xishi, said the group originally turned its focus to women with STK, a steakhouse that opened in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. “We’ve been very successful in changing the paradigm of restaurants that were traditionally male-dominated,” Segal said. The average American steakhouse, he said, is dark, with lots of leather and wood paneling, and attracts a clientele of about 70% men. STK, on the other hand, has a lighter atmosphere, with a big bar scene and a DJ for energy, and dishes that are available in small, medium and large portions.

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