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Tue 26th Mar 2013 - Langan’s, JW Lees and Pret A Manger

Story of the day:

Admiral Taverns ‘sells’ six pubs with an innovative freehold option lease: Tenanted pub operator Admiral Taverns, led by Kevin Georgel, has ‘sold’ six pubs to Weston Castle, led by Chris Tulloch, in a deal that deploys an innovative freehold option lease. The deal means that Weston Castle can exercise an option to buy the freeholds of the six pubs for a set price at any point in the coming three years - and pays rent in the meantime. The transaction means that Weston Castle can use capital to invest in the pubs, knowing it can buy the freeholds further down the line. For Admiral Taverns, the deal will ensure that the six pubs are open and receiving investment, which produces income in the short-term whilst also providing the prospect of selling the pubs for above book value – pubs are priced at around ten to 15% above book value. Admiral Taverns completed its first freehold option lease deal a year ago having launched the scheme in November 2011 – but the Weston Castle deal is thought to be the largest such deal it has completed. Admiral Taverns property and strategy director Andy Clifford, who has overseen the Weston Castle deal, told Propel last year: “It’s clearly an incentive for a tenant to invest in one of our pubs and the more successful the tenant is, the more likely they are to buy the pub freehold for the agreed price. In the meantime, Admiral gets a better return and the prospect of a sale above book value.” This is the second major freehold option lease deal for Weston Castle. In 2011, the company negotiated the freehold option on a group of six Thwaites pubs – three pubs were closed and the three others close to closure. It allowed Weston Castle to invest in the pubs with the knowledge that it can buy the freeholds for a set price – £200,000 each - at a point in the future. The value of the Admiral Taverns deal is understood to be in excess of £1m. The Admiral Taverns pubs involved are: The Church, Stalybridge; Derby Arms, Garston; Dunkirk Tavern, Dunkirk; The George, Liverpool; The Marlborough Hotel, Barnsley; The Old Cock, Halifax.

Industry news:

Mike Palmer – ‘hipster pizza’ on the rise: Industry consultant Mike Palmer, who opened Lucky Beach in Brighton last Friday, has reported that “hipster pizza” is on the rise. He said: “Lots of trends are impacting this one - demand for artisan produce, simplicity, umami (pizza’s full of the stuff!) and price. And from the operator’s viewpoint, the gross profit’s good as protein costs are relatively low and it’s simpler to produce than a lot of different cuisines. We’ll see more and more coming through, and in provincial cities too. Entry level’s easy on this one and there’s a huge population of potential recipients. And expect to see it replicated on the menus of the big brands as they begin to acknowledge (and head off) this latest take. In the US the nuance is slightly different. At the moment, the innovation is more centred around customisation which is much further down the road than in the UK, and that’s driving change in the category. Two out of the four Nation’s Restaurant News Hot Concepts were customisable pizza offers - Pie Five and Stacked.”

Spring edition of Propel Quarterly available on online: The Spring edition of the Propel Quarterly magazine is now available online. The edition contains a detailed look at Marston’s Revere Pub Company project, an interview with Mitchells & Butler chairman Bob Ivell plus interviews with Las Iguanas founder Eren Ali, Luminar chief executive Peter Marks - and Market Town Taverns founder Ian Fozard sets out his business philosophy. To read the magazine click here

Mango Tree in Qatar falls victim to alcohol ban: Thai restaurant The Mango Tree, located at Qatar’s Pearl-Qatar development, has closed after falling victim to an alcohol ban. The ban was introduced at the end of 2011 and caused a slump in revenues for a number of restaurants and subsequent closures. In January, Gordon Ramsay weighed into the row over alcohol on the development, which led to the closure of his Maze restaurant in March 2012 after just two years of operation. Ramsay said; “I think the legislation in terms of operating restraints - going out for dinner and not being allowed to have a glass of wine - I think it’s a turn-off for any local.” 

Luke Johnson to become chairman of The Institute of Cancer Research: Sector investor Luke Johnson has been appointed chairman of The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London. Johnson will take over as Chairman on 1 August from Lord Ryder of Wensum, former Acting Chairman of the BBC and Conservative Chief Whip, who has led the ICR for the last seven and a half years.

Turkish restaurant ranks second in London TripAdvisor reviews: Review website TripAdvisor is placing little-known Turkish restaurant Gokyuzu in Haringey second among 11,038 restaurants reviewed in London - Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus in number one and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea is third. London Evening Standard reviewer David Sexton said: “This place really does offer the best value eating out I know anywhere in London - wonderfully delicious Turkish food for amazingly low prices, £4.50 a starter, around £9-£10 for a giant main course. Gokyuzu was founded in 1999 by Hassan Yavuz, a farmer from Maras in central Turkey. It is now run by his 31-year-old son, Veysel Yavuz, and a couple of years ago expanded into “double-shop” premises and is still constantly being improved. Nonetheless, it is more or less continuously full these days, with locals and visitors queuing for tables.”

Chris Edgar reports outcomes of multi-site managers who attend Academy of Multi-Unit Leadership: Professor Chris Edgar, the former Mitchells & Butlers human resources director who now teaches at Birmingham City University, has reported the career outcomes of the multi-sites managers from the ten UK companies who have sent staff to attend his multi-site leadership programme. He told last week’s Propel Multi Club Conference that companies have seen an extra 2.2% like-for-like sales performance with 97% of graduates retained by their employers and 30% achieving promotions. 

Company news:

JW Lees to open second Duttons: North west brewer and retailer JW Lees will create around 50 jobs when it opens a second site for its Duttons brand in Manchester in June - it will be located in a 7,000 square foot unit on Albert Square opposite Manchester Town Hall. Albert Square is undergoing a revival - The Victorian Chop House Company recently opened the Albert Square Chop House in the historic Memorial Hall Building, while Piccolino is set to expand into the former Gusto site on the corner of Clarence Street. Lees-Jones said: “Duttons has performed really strongly for us in Chester and we have been looking for other locations for some time. Manchester is obviously a place we know well. The site (formerly Prezzo and before that Chez Gerard) has previously been a bit of a doomed location, but I am confident we can make a really strong success of it.” He described the Duttons concept as “a chameleon bar”, serving breakfasts, good quality tea and coffee all day, lunch and food and drink in the evening. “It’s not a nightclub or a Michelin Star restaurant, but a friendly, informal location for good quality food and drink.” In January, JW Lees agreed a £10m funding deal with Royal Bank of Scotland to expand its estate. Lees-Jones told Propel: “Duttons is a successful bar restaurant in Chester and after ten years of success we thought it was time for site number two.”

The Times confirms Whitbread budget hotel brand: The Times has this morning confirmed a report in Propel yesterday morning suggesting that Whitbread is considering the launch of a budget hotel brand. The company has registered a number of trademark names including Mypad, Qube and Thyme although no final decision has been made on the name. The Times suggests that bedrooms would be priced at a £15 to £20 discount to Premier Inn bedrooms. An industry sources told The Times that the concept would be similar to Moxy, the stylish but cheap hotel brand launched by Marriott in partnership with furniture group Ikea. Whitbread is thought to be considering a modular construction that allows the hotel to be built off site then pieced together in situ. Bedrooms would be smaller at around 15 square metres compared to the Premier Inn average of 21 square metres. 

No Saints gets winding up petition withdrawn: No Saints, the nightclub company headed by Stephen Thomas, had a winding up petition against the company withdrawn yesterday after agreeing a deal with the petitioner. The company, which operates ten nightclubs, has also handed back a site in Cambridge, where a Jam House opening was planned, to its landlord after deciding it is not in a position to develop the site at present.

Mitchells & Butlers Crown Carveries brand offers five types of discount: Crown Carveries, the 118-strong budget carvery brand owned by Mitchells & Butlers, is offering customer five types of Spring discount until 4 May. The brand is offering vouchers that: provide15% off the bill when a group of five each buys a meal; two Crown Carveries for £7 when each person buys a drink; free kids’ meals on Sundays; free bottomless ice cream when a group of five has a carvery meal; and a carvery meal for £3.99 (usually £4.19). Sundays and Bank Holidays are excluded.

McDonald’s open first two-storey drive-thru in the UK tomorrow: McDonald’s will open its first two-storey drive-thru restaurant in Bognor Regis tomorrow. The new restaurant seats 130 people and has been built using steel-framed modules with a concrete floor. The off-site method of construction enables the building to be manufactured in a factory controlled environment and take just five weeks to build on-site. Paul Lang, managing director of Elliott Off-Site, said: “The new format store at Bognor Regis will be the first two-storey drive-thru location in the UK. Our specialist team worked very closely with McDonald’s to develop a bespoke off-site solution for this exciting new store format.”

Langan’s Restaurants closes three restaurant sites: Langan’s Restaurants has closed three of its restaurants to focus on its flagship business, Langan’s Brasserie. Langan’s Bistro and Odin’s, which opened in 1967 and 1972 respectively, are thought to be on the verge of being sold – Cote is rumoured to have bought the Odin’s site. Shepherd’s, which was launched in 1993, is expected to be redeveloped as flats. The rationalisation of Langan’s Restaurants follows the departure of Richard Shepherd from the day-to-day running of the group and the appointment of Brian Clivaz, formerly managing director of the Arts Club, as chief executive.

Hall & Woodhouse installs new communications network: Brewer and retailer Hall and Woodhouse has selected NextiraOne, a leading expert in communications services, to deploy a new communications infrastructure. The new platform will introduce faster, more efficient communications including Voice and Video over IP. Steven Skakel, managing director UK and Ireland at NextiraOne, said: “Hall & Woodhouse has a wonderful reputation for good quality ales and great hospitality. This innovative deployment will bring better communications and boost Hall and Woodhouse’s productivity. Effective communication is crucial as this will allow them to continue to deliver high quality services at a reasonable price.”

Antic London to open Brixton site tomorrow: Antic London, the 25-strong company led by Anthony Thomas, will open Gremio Brixton tomorrow in The Crypt at St Mahhews Church, Brixton.

Head of Steam pub to run beer and pie festival: Head of Steam’s Central pub in Half Moon Lane, Gateshead is to run a beer and pie festival over Easter, in association with the New Zealand Gourmet Pie Company of Corbridge. The pub will offer forty different kinds of savoury pie, many as one-off creations by the pie company. Manager Gavin Sinclair said: “The pie company thought we were joking when we asked them to produce 40 different pies, but once they realised we were serious, they became really enthusiastic and creative. Some of the pies sound fantastic - I can’t wait to taste the Venison and Sloe Gin pie,” he said. Customers would have a fighting chance of working their way through the full range of pies as there are specially-made small versions of the company’s normal size of pies. The pub will feature a ‘Top of the Hops’ beer festival of forty of the best selling beers it has had on sale. “It’s a weekend for gourmet real ale drinkers as well as gourmet pie eaters,” added Sinclair.

Late Knights to open tap house in Brockley: Late Knights, the microbrewery set up by former Fuller’s craft beer bar mastermind Steve Keegan, is to open a new tap house in Crofton Park. Keegan said: “The craft beer bar will serve most of the Late Knights beers, which we make in our brewery in Penge, and others craft beers. The majority, if not all, will be from London.” Keegan said the company is hoping to open within the next six to eight weeks. The bar will also offer a range of other drinks and will especially focus on whisky, and serve food. He added: “I think people want to be a bit more adventurous nowadays. They want to do the work instead of buying from producers. There is more that small breweries can do because they can move really quickly - they can make a new ale and have it in pubs in a couple of weeks, maybe. Plus, they offer good value, and equal if not better quality.”

KFC wins top employer award: KFC has won first place overall in the large organisation category at the Britain’s Top Employer awards, the first time a company has achieved the honour in consecutive years. The awards recognise companies that have the highest standards and best employment practices, and KFC scored the maximum possible five stars in four out of the five of the awards categories: primary benefits, secondary benefits and working conditions, training and development and culture management. James Watts, vice president of human resources at the company, said: “We’re very proud to have won this award back-to-back as it highlights the consistently great work we’re doing with our people. We are striving to become the best company in the UK for training and development, and to be famous as a great place to work. Winning this award again will encourage and motivate us to keep reaching for this goal.”

Pret A Manger boosts UK workforce: The number of British nationals working at the Pret a Manger sandwich chain has increased by 18% over the past year after the company responded to criticism that it was not giving enough opportunities to UK applicants. The company said it employed an additional 180 British workers last year, driving up the proportion of UK nationals in its workforce from 17% to 20%. Chief executive Clive Schlee said: “We are pleased that we have seen some encouraging signs and that the number of British workers at Pret has increased. But this is not a Pret issue, this is an industry-wide issue and there is no quick fix. We are expanding our School Leavers Programme this coming year and will continue to do all that we can to attract more British applicants. We will always employ the very best people at Pret and we celebrate the rich diversity of our workforce and the atmosphere that brings to our shops.”

Cornwall hotel to re-open with a grill restaurant after £1.6m investment: A hotel in Cornwall will re-open in May after a £1.6 million refurbishment. The 23-bedroom Hebasca Stay, along with an on-site restaurant, Hebasca Grill, is will re-open in what was formerly the Camelot Hotel. It was acquired by Bude-based Wayne Van Rensburg and two private investors after it fell into administration last year. The hotel was sold off an asking price of £695,000 by Colliers International on behalf of administrator Begbies Traynor. Van Rensburg said: “We’ve invested a great deal of time, money and effort to ensure that the hotel and grill is very different from anything else in Cornwall. Hebasca is about taking the best of Bude, and Cornwall as a whole, re-packaging it and showing the world how we do things around here.”

Critic Jay Rayner reviews Bramwell Pub Company’s Longroom pub in Farringdon: Food critic Jay Rayner has written a warm review of Bramwell Pub Company’s Longroom pub in Farringdon which focuses on craft beer and salt beef: He writes in The Observer: “The narrow food offering is in the service of beer drinking, in that it’s a bunch of big, male, fatty, salty things. There is, behind the bar, a jar of pork scratchings the size of grizzly bear claws. The rest of it comes down to salt beef, which they make on the premises, grilled cheese sandwiches and pickles. At the risk of coming over all Julie Andrews these really are a few of my favourite things. Someone has thought seriously about what food the beer needs. They’ve focussed on the essentials.”

TripAdvisor acts over Tom Kitchin trolls: TripAdvisor has acted to remove critical reviews by chef Tom Kitchin after internet trolls used his name to slate rival restaurants. The Michelin-starred cook complained to online review site TripAdvisor after an impersonator criticised other Edinburgh chefs and restaurants on the website. The bogus reviews have since been removed. Kitchin tweeted: “Someone is writing bogus TripAdvisor reviews in my name. I have never and will never ever write anything to harm fellow hospitality peers.” A spokeswoman for TripAdvisor said: “Two suspicious reviews were reported to us and after investigation, both were removed within 24 hours. TripAdvisor has a zero-tolerance policy on fraudulent reviews. If a review is found to be in breach of our guidelines, it will be removed from the site.”

Manor House Hotel sells off £1.85m asking price: The Manor House Hotel, a Best Western site in the Potteries village of Alsager, on the Staffordshire/Cheshire border, has been sold by Christie + Co to an experienced hotel operator. The freehold to the 57-bedroom hotel, created and extended around a 17th century farmhouse, has been acquired off an asking price of £1.85 million. The vendors were Manor House (Alsager) Ltd, a subsidiary of Compass Hotels. The hotel has four function and conference suites with a total capacity of 250, an 80-cover restaurant, two bars and leisure facilities which include an indoor swimming pool and sauna. Gavin Wright, director of agent Christie + Co, said: “The Best Western Manor House Hotel is situated in a strong trading location and has established itself over many years as a popular business and leisure destination.”

JD Wetherspoon opens two today: Managed operator JD Wetherspoon is opening two pubs today. The first is in Selby, north Yorkshire today (population: 13,012). The pub is called ‘The Giant Bellflower’ and is named in recognition of Selby-born botanist, Thomas Johnson, who described finding the plant at locations on the banks of the River Ouse at Selby. The second pub is Seaham, County Durham (population: 21,714) - the former M&Co shop in Church Street, has been turned into The Hat and Feathers. The pub has been called The Hat and Feathers because the name was once above the door of a bar which stood on the outskirts of the town and part of the building it has moved into was once Doggarts department store, which sold millinery decorated with feathers.

Cirrus Inns buys Guy Ritchie’s pub: Film director Guy Ritchie has sold his pub The Punch Bowl in Mayfair, a Star Pubs and Bars freehold, to Cirrus Inns led by Alexander Langlands Pearse, whose company operates 12 pubs. Pearse set up Longshot in 1994 in order to buy the Fulham Road pub The Goat in Boots. Ritchie purchased The Punch Bowl for a reported £2.5m in 2008. 

Coca-Cola extends Olympic Games legacy efforts: Coca-Cola has launched a new campaign that builds on its commitment to delivering a London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy of increased sport participation for young people in the UK. The campaign, ‘Legacy 365’, will see Coca-Cola extend its partnership with the national sports charity StreetGames for another three years, helping to deliver an improved sporting experience to hundreds of thousands of youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds, improving the health and prospects of traditionally ‘hard to reach’ young people in the UK. 

Shangri-La at The Shard to open with four food and beverage options: The UK’s first elevated hotel - the 202-bedroom Shangri-La at the Shard – will offer four food and beverage options when it opens at the end of July. The hotel is located between floors 34 and 52 of Europe’s tallest building and will feature a cake shop, a restaurant serving locally inspired dishes, a lounge with an Asian-focused menu and a destination bar. The Gourmet cake shop and delicatessen will be on the ground floor at the hotel’s entrance on St Thomas Street. It will serve a host of sandwiches, pastries and cakes - to eat-in and take-out - which will emulate Shangri-La’s successful cake shops in Hong Kong and Beijing. Level 35 is where the 90-seat Shard 35 restaurant, serving a European-inspired menu using produce from local markets, and the 30-seat Lobby lounge is situated. As well as light meals and afternoon tea, the Lobby Lounge will feature one of the largest selection of Chinese teas in London, with an emphasis on Asian inspired dishes. The 80-seat capacity Gong bar on the 52nd floor will be open for evenings only and will specialise in Champagne and cocktails. 

Mitchells & Butlers O’Neill’s site hosts rugby show: An O’Neill’s pub in central Cardiff, owned by Mitchells & Butlers, has hosted a group of British and Irish rugby legends for the filming of Sky Sports Rugby Club show. Host Alex Payne was joined by former players Will Greenwood, JJ Williams, Paul Wallace and Dean Ryan, while Scott and Derek Quinnell were given a heroes welcome by the Welsh fans in attendance. The show centred around the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour, which gets underway in June, live on Sky Sports, with the panel answering questions on who they would pick for the tour on the back of the recent RBS 6 Nations tournament.

Wetherspoon to knock 5p off the price of a pint: Pub operator JD Wetherspoon is to lower the price of a pint across its pubs from tomorrow (Tuesday 26 March). It is reducing the price of a pint of Ruddles Bitter and Greene King IPA to a maximum of £1.99 a pint in its pubs. The company’s pubs that already serve the two beers at £1.99, or less, will reduce the price by 5p. This will apply to 845 of its 870 pubs, with just Wetherspoon’s central London and airport pubs excluded. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “In our recent interim results we pointed out that our taxes increased by £23.4 million to £273.5 million in the six months to 27 January 2013, even though our profits declined. The effect of the budget has been to increase our excise duty costs by approximately £1.5 million, since the rise in duty for wine, spirits and cider was greater than the decline in beer duty. Other tax increases in the pipeline for rates, fruit machines and the late night levy will cost an additional £6 million. However, Wetherspoon warmly welcomes the concession from the Chancellor in respect of beer and, as a result, we are reducing our prices. We also urge the Chancellor to consider the advice of Jacques Borel’s “VAT Club”, supported by Fullers, Young’s, Heineken and many others, to reduce VAT for pubs and restaurants to supermarket levels. This will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and will increase government revenue. Each new Wetherspoon pub produces approximately £650,000 per annum for the government in taxes, as well as the creation of 45 jobs. Tax parity with supermarkets, will therefore, also provide a massive shot in the arm for declining high streets, where pubs, coffee shops and restaurants will help to fill empty buildings.”

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