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Tue 23rd Apr 2013 - Rushmore, Tossed and Turtle Bay

Story of the day:

Punch chairman – ‘we are concerned that Vince Cable has decided to abolish the tie’: Punch chairman Stephen Billingham has defended the company’s business model in the wake of moves unveiled yesterday to set up a statutory code of practice aimed at transferring £100m of value from landlords to tenants. He also expressed concern that Business Secretary Vince Cable has already decided to abolish the tie. Billingham, writing in The Telegraph, said: “We all love the Great British Pub. Yet pub companies are more hated than ever before. It is quite an achievement that the businesses behind one of our best-loved institutions are held in such low esteem. While the heyday for pubs may have looked like the 1950s and 1960s, in reality most of the pubs of the past would not survive today. The only reason they endured for so long was that people had little choice where to spend their leisure time. Thankfully, those days are behind us. By the time the recession began to bite in 2008 too many pubs looked too similar to the way they did in 1968, with a limited choice of food and drink and lack of investment in the pubs themselves. Rightly, people are more demanding these days. Changing tastes and an unchanging sector meant that most of our pubs were quite unprepared for the recession. So, why are pub companies unpopular? The “beer tie” is at the heart of objections to the sector. Put simply, the tie is a promise by the tenant to buy beer through a pub company so the company can benefit from bulk purchasing. In turn, we give them the chance to set up a new business with no capital investment and a lower market rent. Without us, a new pub operator would find it almost impossible to set up a new business, given the difficulty of borrowing from the banks. Landlords also benefit from our advice and support. However, critics argue the tie allows pub companies to lock unwitting landlords into contracts that force them to pay rents which go only one way and to buy a small range of beers at an excessive mark-up. At Punch, we have a balanced relationship with our tenants: we give them an option of buying beer at market prices but without a subsidised rent; tenants no longer face upward-only rent reviews. There has been a marked decline in complaints; the performance of our pubs is stabilising and, in many cases, improving. Vince Cable’s proposals would create a state-backed quango with the power to interfere with long-standing contracts. We are concerned he may have made up his mind to abolish the tie, which, we believe, has protected pubs, not accelerated their decline. The government has previously acknowledged that, since 2008, free-of-tie pubs have been more likely than tied pubs to close so we cannot understand why the Business Secretary is keen to further expose pubs to this tough environment. It would be a great pity to see government red tape lead to more closures. For the sake of the Great British Pub, we hope more sober heads will prevail.”

Industry news:

Horizons Emma Read to present at the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 June at Oxford Belfry: Emma Read, of foodservice insights firm Horizons, looks at the winners and losers in the UK eating out market – and where the opportunities are at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 June at the Oxford Belfry. Operators can obtain up to two free tickets by e-mailing jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Coffee sales beat tea sales at UK pubs: Research from food & drink research consultancy CGA Strategy shows an average pub food outlet serves 235 coffees a week and that one in four of these is a cappuccino. Coffee outsells tea by 6.5 cups to one in UK managed food pubs. Coffee sales in pubs are growing in all but one region throughout the UK, with Scotland and Yorkshire showing the greatest increases. The premiumisation trends prevalent across all drink categories in the on trade are also evident in the coffee market. Cappuccinos and lattes are far and away the most popular categories in pubs and out-sell the more standard Americano serve. CGA spokesman Scott Elliott said: “The battle for footfall on the high street is more intense than ever, and for pubs to gain share from the coffee specialists there are a few things which they must get right. Offering comparable product quality is a given, as is the provision of a bright, clean and airy space with appropriate dwell time facilities - comfortable chairs, Wi-Fi and the like.”

Wine drinkers opt for more expensive bottles: Bottles of wine costing £8 or more have recorded a big increase in sales, while sales of cheaper bottles are falling. Sales of wine under £5 per bottles have fallen by 8.4% in the past year while sales of those costing £5 or more have increased by 13%, according to figures from market analyst Nielsen. Sales of bottles costing £8 or more have increased by 17% while those costing £10 or more have gone up by 20%. The Grocer has reported that Tesco saw a 49% year-on-year rise in sales of wine costing £15 or more last Christmas.

Model village at Punch Taverns pub is listed: A model village behind a Punch Taverns pub in the Cotswolds, The Old New Inn, has been given Grade II listed status. Built in 1936, the model village is an exact replica of Bourton-on-the-Water, which is home to a number of listed buildings itself, some dating back as far as the 17th century. Since it was first opened in 1937, to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI, it has become one of the most popular places to visit in the Cotswolds. Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This may be a highly unusual listing but it is no less worthy of its Grade II listed status. The craftsmanship involved in creating what is a hugely loved family attraction is second to none and I’m delighted that in listing we have preserved the work of the local people who built the model village and protected its history for future generations.”

McDonald’s – ‘we’re willing to sacrifice margin to win market share’: McDonald’s chief financial officer Pete Bensen has reported that the company in the US, which saw restaurant margins decrease 1.4% during the most recent quarter to 16.2%, is willing to sacrifice margin to grow sales. “In this environment, with cost pressures like commodities and labour rates going up, yet you have a soft economy and a declining-to-flat (informal-eating-out market), that market share becomes so critical to business. We’re willing to sacrifice a little margin to gain market share,” Bensen said. “If the industry isn’t growing, taking share means we’re taking guests from other restaurants, and in that environment, that’s what we have to do to win. Would we love higher margins? Yes. Would (the owner-operators) love higher cashflow? Yes. But this is what we have to do to get market share.”

Company news:

Beringea exits Tossed in secondary management buy-out: Beringea, the growth capital investor that manages the Proven Venture Capital Trusts, has sold 11-strong healthy eating chain Tossed, the healthier eating group, to management with the support of private investment for an undisclosed sum. Beringea invested in Tossed in April 2010 and during the investment period has supported growth with the addition of six outlets. Investment Director Karen McCormick said: “We are delighted with the progress Tossed has made since our initial investment, and excited for Vincent and Neil, who have been fantastic managers, as the new investment will facilitate the next stage of growth. We congratulate all the team on their hard work. The Proven funds have received a strong return on investment, and we look forward to seeing Tossed on every corner in future.” Vincent Mckevitt, founder of Tossed, said: “Our management team is committed to unlocking Tossed’s considerable potential. Beringea’s support allowed us to double in size and improve on our model, and we now look forward to even faster growth.” Advisors on the transaction included Camerons (Tossed Limited), Harbottle & Lewis (Gemini Restaurants Limited), and Osbourne Clarke (Beringea).

Drake & Morgan plans eight more sites in next two years: Five-strong bar and restaurant operator Drake & Morgan has revealed that it has identified eight more openings in the next two years after receiving investment from private equity firm Bowmark Capital. Sales at the company have grown at over 75% per annum over the past three years to their current level of £18 million. Bowmark has committed further funds to support the roll-out strategy, alongside a debt package from RBS Financial Sponsors. John Connell of Imbiba, which has sold its stake to Bowmark, will continue in his role as chairman of Drake & Morgan. He and his fellow Imbiba partners, Simon Wheeler and Mark Brumby, are retaining a minority stake, alongside Jillian MacLean and her management team.

Las Iguanas founder opens fourth Turtle Bay in Bristol this week: Ajith Jaywickrema, who founded Las Iguanas, will open the latest Turtle Bay, offering a range of Caribbean food and drink, in Bristol this Friday. Turtle Bay Bristol, the fourth in the chain, is a £900,000 investment and offers 120 covers. More than 1,300 people applied for its 60 positions. Jaywickrema said: “The menu will be bursting with traditional ingredients native to the Caribbean with lunch and evening dishes ranging from beach food, inspired by beach shacks and street hawkers across the islands, to meat from the wood-fired BBQ and one pot dishes such as Bob Marley’s reported favourite Rastafari Itah Run Down and Blue Mountain Goat Curry,” he said.

Whitbread unveils £8m plan for hotel and pub restaurant in Cleethorpes: Whitbread has unveiled a £8m plan for a Brewer’s Fayre and 80-bedroom Premier Inn in Cleethorpes. The development is planned for the Meridian Park development site. Senior acquisition manager for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants Kevin Murray said: “Cleethorpes has been on our target list for a long time. The site is an ideal location for a Premier Inn and restaurant. We are sure it will support the increasing number of tourists who are visiting Cleethorpes and boost spending in the local economy.” The plan will create 70 new jobs.

Pret A Manger – we’re looking at opening in Shanghai next year: Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee has stated that the company will “consider opening in Shanghai early next year”. He said: “We have to take it carefully and take our time to learn how the Chinese market works. Pret is very steady and we’ll take it shop by shop but I’m sure we’ll have a very good business there in ten years’ time.” Schlee also reported that the company encouraged staff to give food and coffee away to customers at their own discretion rather than operate a loyalty scheme that can be ‘mechanistic’.

Pickles Business Management starts work on fifth pub: Pickles Business Management is co-investing £280,000 on The Glen in Bingley with Punch Taverns. Building work starts this week to transform the site. Pickles Business Management operates five sites across Yorkshire and The Glen is the company’s third Punch pub. Director Neil Pickles said: “I could see the pub’s potential and shared Punch’s vision of creating a destination serving home made food and quality drinks for the local community to enjoy. The pub was looking very tired and with the investment, it will be restored back to its former glory with a more contemporary look and welcoming feel.”

High profile Teeside hotel considers closure: One of Teesside’s best-known hotels could close as it is ‘not compatible’ with today’s market. The future of Tall Trees, in Yarm, is currently under review, its owner has confirmed. A spokesman for owner Javid Majid said the hotel was “one of the landmark venues of the 1980s and 1990s” and had been visited by Prime Ministers and pop stars. “However, the style of the hotel is not compatible with today’s market, which is focused on either smaller boutique hotels and fine dining or express hotels at budget prices. Therefore, we are considering options for the hotel, which includes the potential for closure.” The hotel is losing £20,000-a-week.

Smashburger signs deal for Panama: QSR International, the master franchisee of Smashburger fast-casual branded restaurants in Central America and the Caribbean, has entered into a development agreement with Inversiones Platinum Brands SA to develop five Smashburger restaurants in the Central American country of Panama. Following a highly successful market launch in Costa Rica in November 2012, Panama will mark the second country opening for Smashburger in the Latin American marketplace.

Missoula unveils hanging skewers in menu change: Missoula, the 13-strong brand owned by Stonegate Pub Company, Missoula, has introduced an innovative new hanging skewer dish as part of a menu change that goes live today. With a choice of beef and pepper, chicken and pepper or chargrilled vegetables, the skewers are all served with shoestring fries and a choice of either garlic & herb or a sweet chilli drizzle. Nicola Stuart, brand development manager at Stonegate Pub Company said: “We’ve kept our signature dishes such as our freshly rolled pizzas made with our secret tomato house sauce and classic, succulent all-American style burgers whilst at the same time, enhancing the menu with these great new dishes. The hanging skewers really create a sense of theatre and are visually impactful as well as tasting great. The Home Comforts section on the menu had also been added to with a luxury fish pie packed with haddock, salmon and prawns in a creamy leek sauce.”

Top 50 gastro-pubs chef to open new restaurant: Chef Tim Bilton, who secured a Top 50 Gastropubs placing for his Butchers Arms pub in Hepworth and has starred in two series of Great British Menu, is to set up a new restaurant and leave his pub after five years of trading. He has bought The Hepworth Restaurant in nearby Sheffield Road and will re-open it early next month as The Spiced Pear Hepworth. It will include a vintage tearoom and an open-plan fine dining area where guests can see their meals being prepared. Bilton, who published his first cookery book, Bilton Basics, earlier this year and won Best Gastro Pub in the Great British Pub Awards in 2010, worked for two years at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons earlier in his career. He will leave The Butchers Arms, an Enterprise Inns pub, in September.

Leeds drinks wholesaler buys Punch pub in Otley: Leeds wine and spirits wholesaler Cornertrack has bought Otley’s Ring O’ Bells pub from Punch Taverns. Otley Pub Club manager Peter Jackson and his wife, Fiona, who have 25 years experience in the trade, have been appointed as the licensees. Jackson said: “The refurbishment will take place within the next four weeks and will take about a fortnight to complete. It will involve repositioning the bar area and the entrance. This marks a complete fresh start for the pub. We’ll be introducing cask ales after the refurbishment, and will also be bringing in food and live music, looking to build the trade back up.”

Norfolk multi-site operator plans microbrewery: South Norfolk multi-site pub operator Chris Burnard is planning a microbrewery. After receiving the planning go-ahead from local authority last week. Burnard and his wife Morag have owned The Greyhound in Botesdale for eight years and took over The Nag’s Head in East Harling at the end of 2010, renaming it The George and Dragon. The green light has been given for a microbrewery to be built behind The Greyhound and a part-time brewer will be recruited to produce beers for both pubs. Burnard said he was keen to target the emerging female market with a beer to suit more feminine tastes. “There is a female student group that use the pub which now all drink real ale, so we’d like to produce a more female-friendly beer and also a mid-market one and a stronger one,” he added.

Yellowhammer Bars thought to have closed Northampton site: Yellowhammer Bars is thought to have closed its Groove nightclub in Northampton town centre. The club opened in January 2009 on a vacant site at the top of Gold Street after being given a £500,000 refurbishment. The venue is owned by Yellowhammer Bars, run by Volante Management, which recently closed down sites in Banbury, Swindon and Barnstaple following trading results which reported an 18% drop in sales. Local media report the telephone line of the bar in Northampton is unobtainable and the website of the premises has not been updated for more than a week.

Rushmore Group raises £500,000 in two weeks through crowd-funding: Rushmore Group, the six-strong London bar operator led by Jonathan Downey, has raised £500,000 in 15 days through crowd-funding on website Crowdcube. The latest round of fund-raising means the company, which operates Milk & Honey and Giant Robot, has raised a total of £2m since November 2011 through crowd-funding. Rushmore Group, which has now sold just under 20% of its equity to around 300 investors, is currently is negotiations on three sites in the east area of London – a 6,000 square foot site, a 7,000 square foot site and a 26,000 square foot site. Rushmore is no looking at raising up to a further £1m via a bond – investors are likely to receive a 20% coupon each year in the form of a bar tab and can opt to be repaid at either three or five years. Of the latest fund-raising, Downey told Propel: “I think it shows a lot of faith from the Rushmore Group membership. We now have town hall meetings rather than a formal annual general meeting.” Rushmore Group originally opted to take the crowd-funding route in November 2011 and raised a remarkable £1m in a month – one of the most successful ever examples of crowd-funding. At the time, the company stated: “Our aim is to attract up to 200 new shareholders from our existing membership who are each prepared to invest £5,000 or more in to the Group. We are an industry leader with a thirst for expansion. We have been held back by a fire that destroyed our acclaimed club, The East Room, in 2010 but we now have the opportunity to create an even more extensive and exciting space in the heart of Soho, early next year.” The Soho site has become the subject of litigation by Rushmore Group but the company has opened the Rotary Bar and Diner in Shoreditch. One blogger stated: “Rotary features a members’ only subterranean cocktail lounge that’s straight out of Mad Men with pressed tin ceilings and bar panelling, art deco light fixtures, tessellated geometric carpeting and South American inspired drinks.”

Greene King offers 25,000 free cups of coffee at Hungry Horse brand: Greene King is marking national coffee week by offering customers of Hungry Horse brand 25,000 free cups of coffee. Customers are invited to visit the brand’s Facebook page to claim a voucher.

Salisbury Pubs site hosts BBC1 filming: Four-strong Salisbury Pubs, led by David and Becky Salisbury, have hosted filming of a new food programme at their Sawn Inn site in Denham. Celebrity chefs John Burton-Race and Paul Rankin filmed ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ at the site. The programme pitches two chefs against each other in different catering venues to create menus and see what the public order – with the winner earning money for their chosen charity. The Swan’s manager, Mark Littlewood, ran the front of house for Burton-Race and Rankin with head chef, Mark Snelling and sous chef, David Wilkerson supporting the two celebrities in the kitchen. Diners chose their preferred menu without knowing who the chef was – Burton-Race won. Littlewood said: “Denham is renowned for being home to some of the most iconic faces on the screen, including the late Sir John Mills, and we were delighted to be asked to be the venue for this TV show. Our staff loved the experience and we hope that the show attracts a few more visitors to this lovely village and the attractions around it.”

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