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Fri 14th Jun 2013 - Bramwell, PizzaExpress and JD Wetherspoon

Story of the day:

Bramwell Pub Company eyes dramatic repositioning for 100 pubs: Bramwell Pub Company, the 181-strong operator of managed pubs led by Roger Moxham, is hoping that it can move 100 of its town centre sites to its new ‘aspirational’ brand Wild Lime Bar and Kitchen within three or four years to produce ‘spectacular’ investment returns. The company launched its first Wild Lime Bar & Kitchen last night in Southampton and will open further trial sites in Banbury on 10 July and Reading on 1 August. Bramwell has chosen three very different pilot locations in the belief that the format will suit a range of demographic and trading situations. It researched the market and found a large group of consumers who want a town centre offer that’s innovative, aspirational, differentiated but still offers value. Moxham told Propel last night: “We have big, capable competition in JD Wetherspoon, which is now doing both late-night and sport, which means our traditional position has come under pressure. There is a second set of customers who are looking for more than value – value is very important to them but they also want innovation. There are a half a dozen businesses in the sector looking at variants of this – Pitcher & Piano, Loungers and Be At One, for example. The high street market is starting to re-energise itself with innovation. We have identified 100 sites in Bramwell that are suitable for Wild Lime and the sensible capital budget (for these sites) gives us the confidence to start talking about 100 potential sites.” Moxham said that the big prize was the potential of ‘spectacular returns’ on investment if Wild Lime Bar succeeds as opposed to the ‘great returns’ the company is achieving with less ambitious renewal investments. Wild Lime Bar moves firmly into premium design with a high quality, stripped back menu focused on fresh stone-baked pizza and stacked burgers, with a particular emphasis on ‘beautiful’ presentation of food. There’s table service available, a mixture of premium and mainstream drinks brands with no live sport nor AWP machines. Bramwell commercial director Sarah Weir said: “One interesting part of our research is that customers want value delivered in an intelligent, engaging way. Wild Lime Bar & Kitchen has been born from a passion to bring a modern, aspirational and innovative brand to the high street.”

Industry news:

Enterprise Inns multiple lessee speaks out on behalf of the company: An Enterprise Inns multiple lessee, Steve Haslam, whose TLC Inns operates three Enterprise Inns pubs out of a group of six, has submitted evidence supporting Enterprise Inns to the consultation on statutory regulation of large tenanted pub companies. It comes after industry expert Phil Dixon told the Business Innovation and Skills Committee on Tuesday that there was complete lack of “champions” advocating Enterprise Inns, unlike the old Bass Leased company which had many tenant supporters. Haslam said: “Our company has been very successful thanks to a good working relationship with Enterprise and because I believe our retail offer has looked to the future. Enterprise has provided us with good properties where we have been able to put our retail skills to work. In a complex business environment where parties willingly contract, a landlord like Enterprise Inns can only take so much of the blame when things don’t work out. We have entered into a contractual relationship with Enterprise three times – and have made good profits at every site, each and every year.” (See separate Propel Friday Opinion e-mail for the full Steve Haslam article) 

Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin warns again on the Euro project: Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has warned again on the undemocratic danger of the Euro project. In the current Wetherspoon magazine, he said: “The Euro may yet survive, although no one I have heard has identified the reason – slowly, slowly, democracy is being subverted in Europe and replaced by diktat from Brussels. The Greeks, Italians and southern Europeans are libellously alleged to lack discipline, so their economic policies (90% of political power) are now subject to Brussels’ approval. Rule from Brussels, with unelected officials calling the tune, amounts, in effect, to the beginning of a single government – the essential precondition for a viable currency. So, provided that democracy is sufficiently reduced in Europe, creating effective government control from Brussels, the Euro may work, after all. What a depressing mess. The subversion of democracy in Europe is a big deal. Left to their own devices, the countries of Europe, including southern Europe, are more than capable of looking after themselves – just compare their abilities at making cars or playing football, if you have any doubts. Even the less-well-off European countries had created huge increases in their standards of living and personal freedoms in the years running up to the creation of the Euro – advances which are now being rapidly lost.”

Horizons – eating out times have shifted: Insights firm Horizons has reported that one of the key developments in foodservice during the past few years has been a shift in eating out times. The consultancy stated: “Our latest Market Structure and Trends data shows that both breakfast and snacking (as a day part) are showing the strongest growth. Longer working hours, a seemingly endless love of coffee and eating on the move are likely to be key drivers – as is the increase of better and healthier options on the high street. According to our latest Ones to Watch survey, operators such as Harris & Hoole’s, Pod, Abokado and Tossed are currently reaping the rewards of these changing consumer habits.” Horizons reports dinner sales are down 2.1%, lunch is up 0.6%, breakfast up 4.4% and snacking also up 4.4%. 

CGA – on trade universe to shrunk by 7,704 outlets in the next five years: Insights firm CGA has forecast there will be 7,704 fewer on trade outlets in five years’ time but café-wine bars, cask ale and premium spirits will be the key market share winners. Last year, the UK on trade was worth a combined £39 billion in food and drink retail sales with £24 billion delivered by wet sales alone. CGA’s Alex Eyre said: “On trade volumes may be declining more quickly than off trade volumes, but the on trade still represents 61% of the value of alcohol sales in UK and is growing value share. Yet operating in the market is not all smooth sailing. Whilst operational excellence is apparent the length and breadth of Britain, so too is its polar opposite. And in the context of declining consumer engagement it’s these less evolved venues that are informing the market and drinks sector performance trends of overall decline. The on-trade universe will shrink by a further 7,704 outlets over the next five years with the majority of the closures coming within the next two years. Challenging trading over the next two years will disproportionately affect those outlets that have not adapted to capitalise on emergent consumer trends and consequently find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. On the retail side we’re seeing a multiplicity of successful retail models, from the slick operational excellence of the major national chains to entrepreneurial and creative dynamism of emerging local talent both continuing to drive onward growth. On the supply side, a proliferation of new premium brands and products feed and cultivate demand from consumers. It’s the consumer’s thirst for discovery and experience that will drive the on trade forward sustainably.”

UK restaurants are becoming more creative on dessert: UK restaurants are dialing up the complexity of their desserts, using familiar, craveable sweet treats as a platform for showing off creative flavour pairings and complementary textures, insights firm Technomic has reported. Technomic’s Christine Lafave Grace said: “Indulgence abounds—the number of cheesecake desserts on offer at UK chain and independent restaurants and pubs, for example, climbed 21.7% to 140 in the first quarter of 2013 from 107 in the same period last year, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor database. But operators also are increasingly conscious of meeting guests’ diverse dietary needs, touting assorted dessert selections as gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free, nut-free and/or vegetarian.”

Mike Palmer – bread is hot in the US: Industry consultant Mike Palmer, formerly of Mitchells & Butlers but now advising a variety of restaurant brands, has named bread as one of the key US food trends at the moment. He stated: “The hottest thing since sliced bread is, you guessed it, bread. At the top end, Bon Appetit is reporting that we are beginning to see ‘bread programs’. In Atera, New York City bread gets its own course with a sourdough fried in pork fat and served with house-made butter. Bread courses have popped up at Houston’s Oxheart, Blanca in Brooklyn, and Maaemo in Oslo. Generally speaking we’re seeing more elaborate breads as businesses seek to strengthen in-house and artisan signaling – and you’re having to pay for it a lot more than you used to. (See next month’s Peach Report for Mike Palmer’s full article on US food trends)

Sky Sports to launch stand-alone Ashes channel: Sky Sports will dedicate an entire channel to cricket this summer, providing coverage of men’s, women’s and youth matches including this summer’s Ashes series. Sky will commit one channel – Sky Sports Ashes HD – to cricket offering 63 days of action between 30 June and 31 August, including ball-by-ball coverage of the Investec Ashes. The channel will also screen live county fixtures, highlights and various support shows. Sky Sports 2 HD will dedicated to cricket – there’s no extra cost to customers.

Company news:

JD Wetherspoon airs customer brickbats and bouquets: JD Wetherspoon has again aired the compliments and complaints it has been receiving from customers in its in-pub magazine. The company reports that its customers have vented anger at cold plates (‘it seems like this hot topic is resurfacing’), missing directories in pubs (‘sorry, they really are in the pubs now’), international brewers (‘yes, you like them in the beer festivals, but you don’t want too many when we have great British breweries to showcase’) and website information (‘your eagle eyes have been spotting out-of-date information on our website’). Customers wrote to the company in praise of its new menu (‘lots of great new choices and it seems the hot dogs are a firm favourite’), new openings (‘helping to revitalise communities and create jobs’), new hotels (‘our new hotels and their high quality bedrooms have been grabbing your attention’) and local ales (‘our support of local breweries has you raising your glasses’) One customer complained that McCoys crisps are very hard and fatty and called for the return of Walkers crisps. Founder Tim Martin said: “We had a long debate about this before introducing McCoys and actually asked pub managers to vote. The result is obvious but, like you, I’m a Walkers fan so will ask the question again.”

Byron sale halted: The sale of better burger chain Byron has been halted by owner Gondola Group, The Times has reported. The newspaper reports that Gondola has decided to accelerate the growth of the business after a sale process did not deliver against price expectations. The auction attracted interest from Lord Rothschild’s RIT Capital Partners, TDR Capital and Searchlight Capital. A source close to the sale told The Times: “It has become clear that bidders were not going to reach a value that fairly reflected such a high-quality, high-growth business.” Byron, led by Tom Byng, opened its 34th restaurant, in Liverpool, yesterday and is on course to operate 45 by the end of next year. The Times reports that the halting sale of Cote may have clipped price expectations. There were early offers of £120m for Cote but now a sale to Bridgepoint in the £100m to £110m range is thought to be under negotiation.

Carluccio’s refused planning consent in Harrogate: Carluccio’s has been refused planning consent to redevelop the former Optical Express site on Station Square in Harrogate. A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said: “The site lies on a principal shopping street within the Conservation Area and main shopping area. In the opinion of the Local Planning Authority, the loss of most of this retail establishment and its replacement by an A3 use would result in a dilution of the retail uses in a shopping area.”

PizzaExpress trials bring your wine on Sundays evenings in Edinburgh restaurants: PizzaExpress is trialing bring your own wine on Sunday evenings in its eight Edinburgh restaurants. Head of business innovation at PizzaExpress Rebecca Farrer said: “We decided to follow the international trends in restaurants and dining as the ‘bring your own wine’ concept is massive in Australia and has recently been adopted in London and Paris. We want people to bring their favourite wine for their meal and enjoy it with friends stretching their weekend out for another few hours. We are hoping to get people off the sofa and go out with their friends to stop that down feeling people get towards Monday morning. We noticed it was working overseas and thought Edinburgh was the ideal city to launch the scheme in. It’s the perfect place and it is very much a foodie city – people are really keen to dine out there. It’s an Edinburgh only initiative and we plan to run it until the end of July in our eight restaurants. But we will extend the offer if the demand is there.” PizzaExpress is also offering customers free corkage to try out the new initiative.

Jamie’s Italian accounts show £924,828 royalty payment to Jamie Oliver company: The accounts for 31-strong restaurant company Jamie’s Italian, filed yesterday at Companies House, show that a royalty payment of £924,828 was paid to Jamie Oliver Enterprises in the year to 30 December 2012, up from £690,790 the year before. Sales increased 30.3% to £93.9m and Ebitda jumped 19.3% to £13.2m. Four franchise agreements were signed in the year – Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Russia. A site in Aberdeen has opened since the year-end and three more openings are planned this year. Pre-tax profit was £7,763,224 compared to £7,225,726 the year before. The company, which employs 2,314 staff, earned £92.5m of its revenue inside the UK and £1.25m outside of the UK.

Truro family double up with New York offering: The family behind a successful restaurant in Truro are about to open another eatery in the city. Tom Hancock, the son of the owner of Bustopher Jones on Lemon Street, is to open Mustard and Rye, an American styled Bar and Grill due to open at the former Pippa’s Steakhouse premises on Calenick Street in three months’ time. He said: “Mustard & Rye will draw inspiration from a host of New York associated food outlets from the classic deli and hot dog stand to ice cream parlour and all day BBQ diner. The emphasis will be on big bold flavours and exciting ingredients. We plan to open all day and have a late licence for a speakeasy bar serving classic prohibition-era cocktails.” The deal to lease the premises was negotiated by Chartered Surveyors Miller Commercial from a guide price rental of £40,000 per annum. Partner at Miller Commercial Mike Nightingale said: “Truro’s restaurant offering has improved in recent years despite the economic downturn. We continue to receive enquiries from restaurant operators who want to open up in Truro.”

Marston’s gets Cadle go-ahead: Midlands-based brewer and retailer Marston’s has been granted planning permission to develop a pub and restaurant on Pontardulais Road in Cadle. A spokesman for the chain told the local newspaper: “Key operators such as Marston’s, responding to the market, tend now to concentrate on the provision of food-led outlets with fewer wet-led public house developments.”

Jamie Rollo – hotel operators confident about London and the provinces: Morgan Stanley research analyst Jamie Rollo led a tour of four central London hotels yesterday and reports a confident tone around the prospects for the UK market. He said: “The first quarter was weak for London, with revenue per available room down 7%, but all operators said that trading trends had improved sharply in the last seven weeks. Some warned this could reflect easy comps (Diamond Jubilee) and the benefit of the Champions League final. While comps appear tough from last summer with the Olympics and the Farnborough Air Show, the operators were confident that the remainder of the year would be positive as a whole. Occupancy levels remain high (London 82% last year), and all four hotels we visited were completely full. Average rates are around the £100-120 level, but close-in bookings were around the £200 level in all four hotels. Probably more encouraging were the comments on the regional UK market, where years of oversupply seems to be finally working its way out of the system, and all operators were optimistic that the recent encouraging trading trends (with the provinces outperforming London for once) would continue. All operators were bullish about the potential to add new rooms in London. Significant supply growth over the last two years ahead of the Olympics seems to have been absorbed already, and Premier Inn was particularly bullish about expansion in London. It suggested it needs around 1,000 more rooms even in the area of the South Bank we were visiting, despite already having a big share (it has 3,000 rooms in Central London).”

Just Falafel hires consultant chef to add lighter meals: Just Falafel, the largest falafel chain in the world, has appointed consultant chef Gerard Murphy, from Visionary Gourmet, to expand its UK menu with a range of lighter meal solutions. Murphy’s role will focus on introducing a new range of fresh, nutritious salads and creating a full range of mini-wraps and lighter sandwiches to offer lower calorie meal options to health conscious consumers, which will be available in-store from July 2013. Murphy will be also leading the charge on reviewing the current menu and updating existing recipes. Additionally, his role will involve developing a range of a healthy desserts and breakfasts, due to launch in October 2013. Murphy was previously Food Development and Application Chef at Kerry Foodservice, creating and developing menus for a global customer base.

SA Brain & Co to create three new divisions as it confirms departure of marketing director: Brewer and retailer SA Brain & Co has announced a new corporate structure that will see the creation of three divisions. The company’s retail division will manage all pubs, restaurants and hotels, as well as coffee shop chain Coffee#1. A commercial division will manage the brewery operations and sales – creating an integrated beer company. The restructuring will also see a reconfigured finance and business process division, which will manage all support processes across the business. At board level the restructure will see Richard Davies, currently sales and marketing director, leaving the business at the end of the month. The company will be recruiting a new head of marketing who will report directly to chief executive Scott Waddington, but not in a director capacity. Waddington said: “It is important that we develop a structure and processes that support and meet the needs of the retail team as they focus on improving the experiences for our customers.”

Roast beef concept to debut in Los Angeles: A new concept is to launch in Los Angeles called Top Round Roast Beef. It plans to put a new spin on a retro quick-service favorite — the roast beef sandwich. The concept, which will offer a menu of roast beef sandwiches, curly fries and frozen custard, will debut on 17 June.

Former McDonald’s global communications chief launches healthy eating concept: Former McDonald’s global communications chief Michael Donaghue has launched a healthy eating concept – he has opened Lyfe Kitchen at sites in Culver City and Palo Alto, California. He has plans to open 250 locations in the next five years nationwide. All items on the menu come in at less than 600 calories and 1,000 milligrams of sodium such as the unfried or gardein chicken with roasted asparagus, cauliflower, capers, chives and dijon vinaigrette for $13, or the grilled barramundi with soba noodles edamame, baby spinach, shiitake, scallions in a kimchi broth for $14.

New York restaurateur plans £4m Mayfair restaurant: New York restaurateur Nello Balan is to open a £4 million Italian restaurant in Mayfair. He has taken a 20-year lease on a Mount Street site previously occupied by Serafino – closing after 40 years. His New York restaurant has a reputation for very high prices. David Rawlinson, director of Restaurant Property, which brokered the deal, told The London Evening Standard: “It’s a cafe for the super-rich. It’s not for the price-sensitive yet it’s always full.”

Basingstoke to invest in Costa Coffee freehold: Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council has voted to press ahead with investing £786,000 of council taxpayers’ money in buying a Costa Coffee restaurant at Basingstoke Leisure Park. Deputy council leader Cllr Ranil Jayawardena said the borough council will bank £65,000 a year in rent, and the investment will be paid off after 11 years.

Dunkin’ Donuts apes Starbucks in radical re-design: Coffee and donuts chain Dunkin Donuts has launched a radical re-design to persuade customers to stay longer. The new design features earth tones, a jazz soundtrack and soft seating. Chief executive Nigel Travis said: “We haven’t always been conducive to that relaxed environment. So soft seating, the ability to watch TV, to listen to appropriate music and just do things slightly slower than you would in the morning is what we think we’ve been missing.”

Spirit to invest £240,000 in two more John Barras conversions: Spirit Pub Company is to invest £240,000 on converting two pubs in Benfleet, Essex, to its John Barras brand. The Hoy and Helmet in the High Street, Benfleet will undergo a £140,000 refurbishment. The Zach Willsher in Church Road will see £100,000 invested.

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