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Fri 8th Mar 2013 - ATM Group, Pub People Company and TGI Friday’s

Story of the day:

AMT Coffee reports large profit increase after founder returns; subject to a VAT enquiry: Pioneering family-run coffee operator AMT Coffee, which runs concessions at major train stations in the UK plus sites in Belgium, Ireland and Germany, has reported a jump in pre-tax profit to £1,377,962 in the 26 December 2011, up from £725,579 the year before. Turnover climbed to £22,952,397 from £21,002,819 the year before. Consolidated Ebitda hit £2,773,406 compared to £1,850,567 the year before. In March 2011, founder Alistair McCallum-Toppin returned to the business as managing director after an 18-month absence. The company reported, in a Companies House filing, that a number of members of the senior management team were replaced to focus on quality coffee products. The company’s sites saw a 3.3% like-for-like sales increase in the year. AMT Coffee generates £18,879,053 (£18,177,768 in 2010) on turnover in the UK with £3,073,344 coming from overseas sites (£2,825,051 in 2010). The company reported that it had a HMRC enquiry underway relating to a potential under declaration of £244,018 in VAT. AMT’s filing states: “The directors are of the view that the likelihood of the enquiry resulting in any liability is remote and therefore have not recognised a provision in relation to this claim.” AMT Coffee was founded in 1992 by Alistair McCallum-Toppin and his two brothers Angus and Alan. Their first shop opened in Oxford City Centre but saw success from 1994 when it opened its first train station site. AMT was the first coffee company in the UK to use 100% Fairtrade coffee and 100% organic milk in 2004. It runs around 68 concessions, with 37 of these in UK train stations - and sells 240,000 cups of Fairtrade coffee a week. The business was set up after Alistair returned from a trip to Seattle and realised that there was an opportunity to launch a higher quality coffee offer. It struggled at first because high quality coffee takeaway was not part of everyday life in the early 1990s.

Industry news:

Heavy drinking in sharp decline: The General Lifestyle Survey, produced by the Office of National Statistics, has found that heavy drinking is in sharp decline with the number of people who drink every day down by a third since the 1990s. The survey has also found that drinking is going out of fashion among the young - the report suggests that heavy alcohol consumption is now following smoking as a social and personal habit that is becoming increasingly uncommon among the young. The survey found that in 1998 some 23% of men and 13% of women were drinking on five or more days a week. By 2011 this had dropped to 16% of men and 9% of women. It found that the people most likely to drink five days a week or more were over 45 and that younger people drink less.

WSTA calls for VAT cut in the budget: The Wine Spirit and Trade Association (WSTA) has called for VAT to be cut to 5% on food and accommodation for pubs, restaurants and hotels in the Budget to help create thousands of jobs. The hospitality sector needs urgent help to survive the downturn, the WSTA said. Chief executive Miles Beale added: “The government should do something positive and radical to support the hospitality sector by cutting VAT on food and accommodation. This has been highly effective in other countries and will help to create jobs and stimulate the economy in the UK. The last thing the Chancellor should be doing is increasing the tax burden on the hospitality sector.” But a Treasury aide told The Sun: “We inherited a massive deficit that must be dealt with.”

Luke Johnson – traditional media a good example of high margins breeding complacency: Restaurant investor Luke Johnson, of Risk Capital Partners, has argued that traditional media is a good example of high margins breeding complacency. In his FT column, he argued: “High margins can make industries complacent, bloated and unprepared for leaner times. It corrupts the psychology of management and breeds arrogance. Traditional media players suffered from this disease. Successful broadcasters and publishers enjoyed 20 per cent plus operating margins for decades. Then the internet arrived, and Google and others ate their lunch. Now they face an existential threat; but they did not anticipate or invest during the years of plenty, and are struggling to cope with the more typical margins and returns available in 2013.”

Consumers prove huge demand for flexible restaurant vouchers: An offer of flexible restaurant vouchers that can be used any time at 1,000 restaurants, offered by Restaurant Choice on highstreetvouchers.com, sold out in 48 hours. In fact, consumer demand for the restaurant vouchers pushed the Restaurant Choice voucher offer into the top ten list of UK vouchers. Available in denominations of £10 or £25, the gift vouchers can be spent at any time, on anything (including set menus, drinks and deli purchases) in the 1,000 restaurants, including Nando’s, Jamie’s Italian, The Real Greek, YO! Sushi, Strada, Café Rouge and Bella Italia. Restaurant Choice director Jenny Cuthbert said: This proves to us how important eating out is to consumers. Restaurant Choice not only works for consumers, but on so many other levels. In the wake of the economic downturn, were seeing a strong trend towards businesses using our gift vouchers to reward and incentivise staff or to use as part of a customer loyalty programme. For restaurateurs it works because they know were not yet another discount scheme and will not de-value their brand in fact, quite the opposite. They choose us because we can introduce them to a new target audience and, in turn, get more customers through the door.

Company news:

Pub People Company re-positions Derbyshire pub as “premium value”: Pub People Company, the East Midlands operator led by Kevin Sammons, has invested £275,000 in re-positioning The Plug and Feathers, Glapwell, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire with a “premium value” offer under the “fresh & local” tagline. The pub offers two meals for £10 at selected times. Its website states: “We pride ourselves on only using origin-assured fresh English beef from locally sourced suppliers in all our homemade and grill dishes. All our beef is sourced from local farms in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The meat is hung for 28 days which helps to provide the exceptional and consistent quality product.” Operations director Andy Crawford said: “We’re completely re-positioned it and it looks spectacular - early trading has been well above expectations.” The pub is a freehold run as part of Pub People’s joint venture with fund manager Downing. Pub People has also recruited Neil Birkumshaw, formerly of Marston’s, as its new acquisitions manager.

InnBrighton applies Italian approach to Three Graces pub: InnBrighton, the south east regional pub operator led by Gavin George and Gary Pettet, has infused its Three Graces pub in Hove with an Italian flavour with a refurbishment and re-launch carried out in partnership with Italian beer Birra Moretti. Said chief executive Gavin George: “We worked with Birra Moretti last summer to promote the Italian tradition of ‘aperitivo’ in our Brighton and Hove pub estate and the response from our customers was so encouraging, we’ve decided to bring more aspects of Italian culture into the offering at The Three Graces.” The beer choice is led by Birra Moretti and Moretti La Rossa, and the wines are drawn from every region of the peninsular. Italian specialities such as Disaronno and, Brighton staple, Tuaca, join Grappa on the spirit menu and, as an homage to Harry’s Bar, the signature cocktail is the Bellini. A menu of rustic Italian dishes has been created to satisfy a range of appetites, including a tapas menu to compliment a refreshing glass of Birra Moretti during the afterwork aperitivo hour. Italian themes such as checked tiled flooring, renaissance art and Romanesque sculpture have been added to the décor of the pub, which re-opened last night.

Antic London opens second pub in less than a month: Antic London has opened its second pub in less than a month. Last night saw the opening of The Chequers in Walthamstow – previously closed for eight months. Its previous owners closed the pub ahead of a license review called by police amid allegations it was a hotbed for drug dealing, a claim they strongly denied. Antic London opened the Efra Social in Brixton last month. Antic London is now the brand name for a total of 35 pubs, including 12 Antic Limited sites that were bought out of administration last month by new company Gregarious headed by Max Alderman, who was previously company secretary of Antic Limited.

Administrator Zolfo Cooper reports likely shortfall on £3.25m owed to Barclays by Churchill Inns and Clementine Taverns: Administrator Zolfo Cooper has reported that Barclays Bank is set for a shortfall on the £3.25m it is owed in the wake of the administration of Churchill Inns and Clementine Taverns, formerly headed by Fred Ward. Clementine Taverns ran five freehold pubs. Agent Fleurets has sold The Plume of Feathers, The Kings Head and Raffertys for a combined £878,998. An offer on another freehold The Sun Inn has been accepted and the fifth, The Olde Victoria, is still being marketed. Churchill operated six leased pubs – two, The Globe and The Kings Arms, were sold for £69,000 while three others were surrendered or closed after administration. The last leased site, the Bold Dragon, is under offer. Zolfo Cooper has charged circa £269,000 so far. Ward was disqualified from acting as a director for four years in December 2012. It followed an investigation by The Insolvency Service after he had failed to pay Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs almost £1 million in taxation liabilities.

Frederic Robinson to open visitor’s centre and conference facilities on 21 March: North west brewer and retailer Frederic Robinson is to open its new visitor’s centre and conference facilities on Thursday 21 March. The company was founded 175 years ago.

Tim Martin - motorway move a natural step: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has argued that the plan to open a pub at Beaconsfield service station of the M40, broken by Propel on Wednesday morning, is a natural step following on from rising food, tea and coffee sales. He said: “These days in our new pubs, 35%-60% of our sales are food, coffee and tea. It is not too extravagant a move to go to that sort of position and we are obviously on a lot of roads around the country already.”

Michel Roux Jr looks to recruit young Scottish chef for Dunblane restaurant: Chef Michel Roux Jr has reported that he and his father Albert Roux OBE are looking to recruit young Scots chefs to help them run the restaurant in the hotel bought by Andy Murray near his home town of Dunblane. Murray has bought the Cromlix House Hotel and it will offer a fine dining Chez Roux restaurant offering locally sourced produce when it re-opens after extensive refurbishment next spring. He said: “We’re expanding our little empire here with Cromlix House Hotel and it will be staffed by Scots chefs and front of house. My father adores Scotland and has recruited several young Scots chefs in his Chez Roux restaurants.”

Jarrow Brewery to invest £500,000 in expansion: Jarrow Brewery, which runs four pubs, is set to recruit more than a dozen staff to produce 70,000 pints a week as part of £500,000 expansion plans. A new brewing plant is set for Aidan Court, Bede Industrial Estate, Jarrow. The new brewing base comes after plans to expand operations at historic St Andrew’s Church on Hebburn collapsed because of residents’ objections and planning issues. The plant is being partly-funded with a £140,000 grant from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), which was agreed on the understanding that Jarrow Brewery would invest in excess of £500,000 over three years.

Hungry Horse offers free branded Baileys glass for mums on Mothering Sunday: Hungry Horse, the Greene King brand that’s nearing 200 sites across the UK, is offering a free branded Baileys glass for mums on Mothering Sunday – the glass carries the inscription “Best Mum in the World”. Customers receive the free Bailey’s glass when they order any main meal from the Big Value Menu and a 50ml measure of Baileys. The brand has also introduced a new coffee, “Big Bean” with a “big taste”, for 99p to drink in or takeaway. It is also offering children’s meals for £1 until the end of the weekend.

Balthazar moves to next stage of opening: Balthazar, the Covent Garden restaurant opened by Keith McNally and Richard Caring, has moved to the next stage of its staggered opening by offering lunch service. The restaurant began by only offering dinner to ensure staff were fully trained. It will move to offer breakfast, weekend brunch and afternoon tea in the next stage of its opening.

Everards Project Artisan baker wins recognition: The Loaf Bakery in Stirchley, the first project in Everards Project Artisan scheme that supports craft producers, has been named one of the UK’s top five bakeries in the Sunday Telegraph. A spokesman said: “We’re honoured to have been mentioned, as there are now so many amazing bakeries popping up across the UK who deserve recognition too.” Everards has invested £250,000 in converting a former pool table supply shop into Stirchley Village Store and Bakery in the Bourneville area of Birmingham. The venue serves as an artisan bakery, co-operative food store, cookery school and craft beer outlet. It’s overseen by Tom Baker, a former NHS dietician who set up Loaf, a commercial maker of artisan bread, a few years ago. Baker has invested £20,000 in the venture, raising the money through a community bond, with 20 investors contributing £1,000 each and paid a six per cent rate of interest in fortnightly loaves of bread. The wholefood shop is run by unpaid volunteers South Birmingham Food Co-operative, who receive discounts on goods sold by the venture.

Duncan Pitfield becomes Hakkasan director of operations: Duncan Pitfield has been recruited as the new director of operations for Hakkasan. Prior to join Hakkasan, he was senior general manager for Quaglino’s operator D&D London for two-and-half years and executive director of Company of Cooks for seven months. Niall Howard stepped down as chief executive at Hakkasan in December. His departure came a month after Nick Cowley, chief financial officer, left the company to join the Institute of Directors. The company’s UK sites are understood to be trading well. Hakkasan, reported turnover up 35 per cent to £20.93m in the year to 28 May 2011 from £15.54m the year before. It reported an operating loss of £634,111 compared to a profit of £1,190,389 the year before, but booked a profit before tax of £58,355 after shareholders waived exceptional interest on their loans to the company.

TCG pledges support to Cancer Research UK: Managed pub and bar operator TCG has selected Cancer Research UK as its nominated charity for the next 12 months, setting a fundraising target of £70,000. Along with co-ordinated fundraising activity across the business such as ‘bucket shakes’ on Bank Holidays and other high footfall dates, an Easter Egg Hunt and Beach Parties, each of TCG’s 75 sites will organise local events including barbecues, band nights and family fun days to support the charity. Last year, TCG supported Help for Heroes. Despite customers continuing to watch their expenditure, and poor weather on potential big fundraising days such as the Diamond Jubilee, the business managed to donate a total of £60,000 – ahead of its £50,000 target. Chief operating officer Nigel Wright said: “The fact that we managed to smash our fundraising goal last year speaks volumes for the enthusiasm and commitment of our pub and bar teams.”

Michelin-starred restaurant closes after January snow clips takings: The award-winning Crown at Whitebrook in Monmouthshire, ranked by some as the top restaurant in Wales, has closed after takings took a hit from harsh January weather. The Michelin-starred restaurant, whose head chef is James Sommerin, was named best restaurant in Wales in the Sunday Times’ Food List 2012. Reports suggest that heavy snow after the Christmas holiday had caused cashflow problems. It holds three AA rosettes and gained a Michelin star in 2007 which it has held ever since, longer than any other Welsh restaurant. Its website states: “Set in five acres of tranquil, landscaped gardens in the beautiful Wye Valley, five miles from Monmouth and just an hour from Bristol and Cardiff, The Crown at Whitebrook is a haven from the stresses of modern day life.”

Squatters delay TGI Friday’s opening in Brighton: Squatters continue to cause delays to a planned TGI Friday’s opening at the iconic former post office in Brighton. Now Hove MP Mike Weatherley has called on the squatters to clear out of the site where TGI plans a 274-cover restaurant. TGI Friday’s has struggled for months to put together an application for the Old Post Office in Ship Street, Brighton, because it is occupied by squatters. Last week they resubmitted for planning permission although developers say they are still unable to get inside the building. Mike Weatherley MP for Hove, who last year pushed a squatting law through parliament, said: “Yet again, we see anarchistic squatters disrupting the everyday processes of normal society. They continue to peddle their myth about highlighting problems with empty properties and homeless issues when in reality they have no concern for either and are just doing it to cause a nuisance.” Mark Thackeray, of Walsingham Planning, said: “This shows the commitment of the chain to bring the restaurant to Brighton. We don’t know what state the place is in but have put aside £750,000 to fix it up.”

James Martin restaurant in Leeds forced to close: A flagship restaurant in Leeds run by celebrity chef James Martin has closed after a Leeds casino shut its doors. Alea, based at Clarence Dock, announced immediate closure, with both Leeds Kitchen, run by Martin, and The Bird, run by Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia, shutting down as a result. London Clubs International (LCI), which runs Alea, also announced it was withdrawing from the competitive process to run a large casino in Leeds. The city was one of eight chosen by the Government as potential venues for a major casino nearly five years ago but Leeds Council has not yet finalised plans.

Punch Taverns pub wins national pie award: A Punch Taverns pub, Shovels Inn in Poulton-le-Fylde, Hambleton, has been awarded the Best Pub Pie accolade by Jus-Rol. As a prelude to British Pie Week 2013 (4-10 March), the Lancastrian chef from the Shovels, Jon Reading, saw off the challenge of entries from pub chefs nationwide to win the award. Alongside the accolade he also wins £500 in cash and a personalised chef’s jacket. Reading’s recipe for pie success, the Cheesey Drunken Swine - succulent slow roasted pork shoulder cooked in pear cider with Garstang blue cheese and toasted walnuts - was a focus on top quality and locally sourced ingredients.

Belly Full takes second Chester site: Caribbean bar and restaurant concept Belly Full has taken a second site in Chester at the former Games Workshop unit in Foregate Street. Belly Full already has a bar and restaurant in City Road at 112 Foregate Street. The new unit extends to 1,877 sq ft and Belly Full is paying rent of £30,000 a year. Kenneymoore advised the landlord Parkdale Estates.

Three craft brewers invite other craft brewers to use their new bottling plant: Three UK brewers, Sambrook’s, Ramsgate and Westerham, have teamed up to launch their own bottling plant as demand for bottled craft beer rises. The plant will be based in Broadstairs, Kent, and is due to open in June this year. The project has been funded by Kent County Council’s “Grow for it in East Kent” campaign, which encourages businesses to invest in the area. Ten jobs will be created by the plant’s opening. For Sambrook’s, the venture will allow it to double its bottle production by the end of the year and widen its portfolio – new products are due to be launched this summer and autumn. The brewery’s founder, Duncan Sambrook, said: “We are excited at the prospect of having our own bottling facilities and see this as a fantastic step forward for Sambrook’s, allowing us to sell our bottled products outside of our core local markets. It is well known that the UK has experienced a huge growth in craft brewers across the country, but it’s less well known that bottling capacity for these brewers has not kept pace and there is real demand for quality bottling facilities to service the smaller producers needs. South East Bottling will not only be able to service our own needs, but other craft breweries around the UK.” Sambrook’s, Ramsgate and Westerham are inviting other small brewers from across the UK to use the plant.

Deep Blue Restaurants reports profit: Deep Blue Restaurants, the company founded in 2003 that operates 18 fish and chip shops in the south east, has reported a profit before tax of £1.6m in the year ended 25 September 2012 after £2.5m of existing loan notes were swapped for new shares thanks to ‘an agreement with Rapid Realisation Fund’. It has reported that £450,000 of new funding was secured in September 2012. Turnover dropped to £5.4m from £6.8m the year before after the disposal of loss-making sites - the company lost £1,018, 977 in the prior year.

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