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Thu 27th Jun 2013 - SA Brain, Costa, No Saints, Stonegate and Strada

Story of the day:

Bulldog Hotel Group adds seventh coaching inn site in Market Harborough – largest site yet: Bulldog Hotel Group, the award-winning operator of coaching inns headed by Kevin Charity, has added a seventh site – and its largest site so far. The company has acquired the 61-bedroom Three Swans Hotel in Market Harborough. The property was marketed through Christies at an asking price of £2,750,000. Charity told Propel: “We plan to carry out refurbishment works in early 2014 to add a coffee shop and patisserie, double the size of the present bistro and to add an additional 100 covers in a new outside area scheme.” This new addition brings total bed stock within the estate to 232 bedrooms. All six hotels in its existing estate have been awarded the certificate of excellence, which puts the whole estate in the top 10% of all businesses on TripAdvisor. Added Charity: “We hope to push The Three Swans to this level within the first few months.” The company’s “treesleep” initiative, where it donates the cost of a tree to a local woodland trust for every bedroom it sells, has provided over 80,000 new tree plantings since the scheme was set up in 2006. The company won an AA Rosette for its Talbot Hotel, Eatery and Coffee House in Oundle, Northamptonshire just three months after being re-opened in May 2012. The Rosette came in the wake of The Talbot being re-opened as a “new generation” coaching inn with a £1.3m investment. The Talbot was acquired by Bulldog from Greene King in 2009. Two years were spent getting the necessary planning consents to completely re-model the Grade one listed venue. It re-opened, after an eight-month refurbishment, as a radical re-invention of the coaching inn with an offer that combines quality bedrooms and a mix of elements of pub, restaurant and coffee shop – the venue has a Patisserie Valerie-style serving counter that offers made-on-the-premises cakes, muffins, Danishes and other pastries.

Industry news:

Gastro operator Whiting & Hammond pledges support for Tax Parity Day: Whiting & Hammond, the award-winning gastro operator led by Brian Whiting, has pledged its support for Tax Parity Day on Wednesday 25 September. Whiting said: “Whiting and Hammond are strong supporters of Jacques Borel’s VAT club and the plans for Tax Parity Day. Hopefully, if as many food operators as possible stand together by supporting Tax Parity Day then the UK government will finally take notice. With the money earned by reduced VAT levels the foodservice industry will be able to provide more jobs to the thousands of unemployed people in this country which, given the way things are in this current financial climate, in my eyes, is a no brainer.”

McDonald’s removes halal items from US menus: McDonald’s has removed halal items from its menu in the US just two months after reaching a six-figure settlement in a lawsuit alleging that not all of the chicken was prepared according to Islamic law. For more than a decade, two McDonald’s franchises in Dearborn, Michigan served halal chicken McNuggets and a halal McChicken sandwich in order to please the large Muslim population in the area. “Those items have been discontinued as a result of our continued efforts to focus on our national core menu,” a McDonald’s spokesman said.

Company news:

Fat Cat received offer of £1m subject to a pre-pack administration: The Fat Cat bar business, led by Matt Saunders and Simon Patterson, was subject to an offer of £1m to buy it from a third party, but subject to pre-pack administration prior to its eventual administration in April. Colliers International was unable to recommend the offer to the company’s bank without a comprehensive approach to possible trade buyers. This led to a withdrawal of the offer and the company went into administration. Unsecured creditors are set to be £2.6m out of pocket. Offers from different buyers for the business and its assets have been accepted in principle by administrator Cooper Parry but sales contracts have yet to be completed. Fat Cat’s secured creditors – Lloyds and Heineken – will have to wait until the sales process completes to find out how much of the more than £1m they are owed will be recovered. Fat Cat lost £67,000 on turnover of £8,195,000 in the year to 29 February 2012 and then lost £313,000 on turnover of £6,819,000 in the year to 28 February 2013. Bad weather and snow hit trading in January 2013 and resulted in a £150,000 loss for that month leading the company seeking financial advice. The Wrexham and Cardiff operations were closed shortly after to reduce costs and three senior staff were made redundant at the head office in Derby.

Councillors slate police in £1m Wonderland licence review: Councillors on Sutton’s licensing sub-committee have heavily criticised police evidence in a licence review carried out on No Saints £1m Wonderland nightclub site in Sutton. The sub-committee reported: “A slanted view of the evidence was presented by reason of unsatisfactory editing of the CCTV (footage), to give only a picture which appeared to support the application and omitting footage which showed a truer picture of incidents. The language in the (police) narrative was exaggerated and unnecessarily emotive. We were presented with 1,800 pages of documents by the police - substantial numbers of those pages contained no evidence whatsoever. Police evidence contained little or no recognition of actions taken by the premises licence holder in response to police concerns. The staff witnesses for Wonderland were found to be enthusiastic, professional and passionate about their jobs. The CCTV evidence showed the door staff to be vigilant, to deal with any trouble in a calm manner and to show concern for vulnerable customers.” The sub-committee also noticed that neither police officers who gave evidence “had ever visited the inside of the premises during operating hours.”

Costa Coffee hires agency to raise awareness of opening programme: Costa Coffee has appointed retail and shopper marketing agency Howell Penny to raise awareness of its UK new site opening programme, through dedicated web pages and new marketing collateral. Costa aims to grow its estate by targeting potential landlords with smarter, bespoke marketing activity, which conveys the ‘breadth and variety’ of Costa store formats. Costa has a variety of store formats including metropolitan stores, rapid service express bars and the ‘drive-thrus’. Marc Rigby, Howell Penny client director, said: “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, we’re looking forward to developing better-targeted, smarter marketing resource which not only highlights Costa’s unique position in coffee-lovers’ lives, but also the sheer range of different outlets the brand operates.”

SA Brain reports sales and profit growth: Cardiff-based brewer and retailer SA Brain has reported sales up 6% to £120.7m in the year to 30 September 2012. Ebitda grew 2.5% to £11.9m and underlying operating profit was £4.5m. Brains managed pubs saw like-for-like sales growth of almost 6%. Cask ale sales grew 1.8%. The company’s coffee chain saw a 21% rise in total sales with like-for-like growth of 3.2%. Chief executive Scott Waddington said: “Despite the economic climate we have continued to take the business forward delivering a strong growth in turnover and a creditable improvement of Ebitda.” Of the current year, he said: “Trading to date has been difficult, but broadly to our expectations. We will therefore continue to focus on controlling costs and driving growth through our core pub business.”

Starbucks plans bespoke site-by-site design in the UK: Starbucks plans to ensure store design is unique to each location in the UK to differentiate itself in the crowded coffee shop market. Starbucks’ design director Tom Breslin said current London refurbishments aimed to make sites more relevant to the areas they are in. A site in Mayfair includes the features of the original building, St John’s Wood now has muted branding in dark colours and the Westfield Stratford shop uses prominent images of the brand’s ‘siren’ logo to match the shop’s ‘bling’ audience, he said. “I want to design every single Starbucks store differently. When you’re in a crowded market it allows you to stand out,” he told Marketing Week. The brand now does research at each location it is in. It is planning to roll out drive-thrus in retail parks by the end of 2014, starting with 15 to 20 across the UK.

Freehold of Holloway pub sells for £800,000: The freehold of The Plough in Holloway has sold for circa £800,000, which is ahead of the asking price. Agent AG&G reports there were seven unconditional offers. Under the new ownership of a local developer, the ground floor of the three-storey building, which dates from 1851, will remain as a pub/restaurant, while it is intended that the two upper floors will be converted into residential accommodation. “This is an attractive period building close to Arsenal’s Emirates football ground, just ten minutes walk from several tube and railway stations and in a mixed residential and retail area, so it has a lot to offer,” said AG&G’s Panayiotis Themistocli.

Subway opens first site in a Lidl supermarket: The first Subway franchise has opened in a Lidl supermarket. The 800 square foot sandwich shop is operated by Subway franchisee Raj Rao at a Lidl just outside Cromer in Norfolk. Subway is looking to open in non-traditional locations such as forecourt sites, convenience stores and colleges. Subway area development manager for the UK and Ireland Trevor Haynes said: “The simple operations that are running a Subway franchise and the convenience offer make it a perfect fit for these style locations.”
 
Quantock Brewery crowd-funding hits £120,000: Quantock Brewery in Somerset has now raised £120,000 through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The business plans to use the funds to increase its capacity, as well as for sales and marketing growth. A further expansion plan is targeted for export. Founder Rob Rainey said: “This is fantastic news and our investors will provide us with a loyal following. We will be able to expand our brewing volumes and continue to promote our range of beers.” Fredrik Domellof, sales and marketing director, added: “With the support of our investors against the difficulties in obtaining finance through the constraints in conventional banking, we will boost employment and our local economy.” Quantock Brewery was founded in 2007.

Spirit pub in Cumbernauld sold: A Spirit Pub Company site in Cumbernauld, The Kingfisher, has been sold to a private buyer off an £225,000 asking price. Alan Creevy, director of agent CDLH, said: “As the Kingfisher became non-core to Spirit’s operation, we placed it on the market in the latter part of 2012 at offers over £225,000. CDLH said the property has been sold to a private bar and restaurant operator.”

DiMaggios lines up Aberdeen opening – eighth site: Scottish restaurant Italian chain DiMaggios is seeking a licence to sell alcohol at the site of a new restaurant called Amarone in Aberdeen city centre – it will be its eighth site in Scotland. If plans are approved it would open on Union Street in what was once the G-Star Raw clothing store.

Luminar to invest £500,000 in Lincoln site: Nightclub company Luminar is to invest £500,000 in a refurbishment of its Ritzy site in Lincoln, which will be renamed Boogies and Moka, with the changes creating 30 new jobs. Ritzy will close this Saturday, (29 June), before reopening with the new brand in mid-August. Boogies and Moka manager Paul Oloo said it was the first time the property had received a refurbishment in 15 years. “It’s time to reward our loyal customers with an exciting, state-of-the-art club and bar that will literally have the wow factor, securing our title as the most prestigious venue in town. Not only is our name changing but everything internally is changing too, from new dance floors to extra seating areas, raised VIP booths and a stylish bar called Moka.” The new employees will be added to the existing 60-strong workforce.

Stonegate pub re-opens with breakfast offer, new name and twice the number of handpulls: Stonegate Pub Company re-opens its former Beech Tree pub in Bromley today (27 June) with a new name, Hop and Rye, and the addition of a breakfast offer and enhanced cask ale choice. Manager Sue Quinn said: “Perhaps the biggest change will be the extension of opening hours to allow us to serve breakfast daily from 8am and continuing through until 9pm offering evening meals and light snacks. It will mean customers who walk past the pub on the way to work can stop for breakfast or to pick up a coffee at better value for money than even in the coffee shops. We are also doubling the number of handpull pumps at the bar so that we can offer a greater selection of award-winning national and locally brewed cask ales. Both breakfast diners and cask ale enthusiasts can benefit from the introduction of a new breakfast loyalty card scheme as well as a real ale collectors card.”

Nightclub company 241 Leisure plans coffee shop underneath new nightclub in Taunton: 241 Leisure is planning to open a coffee shop called Rivieria underneath its Okoko nightclub in Taunton’s Bridge Street. Stephen Smele, partner of 241 Leisure, which also runs the former Bliss nightclub site put into administration by Yellowhammer Bars earlier this year, said it would be a family venue. He added: “It is a good site because of the number of people who walk over the bridge and it is a nice sun trap. There is no actual outdoor sitting for anyone to have a coffee on the river so this would bring a new idea to the town. We are trying to bring an element of the West End and the city back to Taunton.”

Villagers raise £300,000 in 48 hours to save pub: Villagers have raised £300,000 in just 48 hours to save their only pub. The Red Lion in Arlingham was bought for £225,000 the day before the Grade II building was due to be sold at auction by Enterprise Inns. Resident Edward Davies, who has led the campaign, said the pub, which dates from 16th Century, is regarded as the focal point of the village. “Everyone in the village was quite upset when we found out the pub was going to be sold. We can’t have a village like Arlingham without a pub,” said Davies, who works as a solicitor for businesses and has lived in the village for 11 years.

Strada appoints new executive chef: Italian restaurant chain Strada has appointed Nico Tortorelli as its new executive chef. Formerly a regional chef, Tortorelli has been with Strada since 2008: “I am delighted to be leading the development of our menus and to differentiating our product as the freshest and most authentic. We are passionate about Italian food, and I am looking forward to asserting Strada’s presence as the home of traditionally cooked Italian food in the UK.”

Dusanj family – brewery winding up order will not affect Brewery Village plan: The Dusanj family has insisted the winding-up of the Cains brewing business will not affect plans to transform the site into a £50m “brewery village”. RC Brewery is being wound up after a successful petition by HM Revenue and Customs. A family spokesman said: “The winding up of the RC Brewery business in no way impacts on our plans for the redevelopment of the brewery site to ensure it is fit for the future. The physical assets – the buildings and land – are not affected by this development. Since rescuing Cains more than a decade ago the staff and management of the business have worked extremely hard to keep the brewery going. Competition from large, purpose-build breweries, the general economic outlook and decline in beer sales, plus the diminishing margins associated with the supermarket canning part of our business, created a perfect storm which we simply couldn’t weather. We do believe, however, that our Brewery Village plan will ensure that Liverpool retains a successful and profitable Cains brewery for decades to come. Reinventing the site in this way is the best way forward for us and for the city.” 

Hall & Woodhouse – 98% of licensees now making it through their first year: Dorset based family brewers Hall & Woodhouse has reported a 98% retention rate for licensees making it past their first year. According to Business Link, the average number of UK businesses that fail in their first year is 20%. A total of 40% of Hall & Woodhouse licensees have been in the same public house for over three years – the standard timescale of their business partnership contract. A bonus of the contract is that it allows licensees to renew with no rent review. Matt Kearsey, of Hall & Woodhouse, said: “We are delighted to have seen this level of retention in year one and also going forward. We introduced our Business Partnerships Agreement in 2010 to offer (licensees) support aimed at building their profits. I believe we have succeeded in making running a pub a desirable career/life style choice. We took the decision to remove the rent review to make it absolutely clear that we are committed to sustaining not penalising our Business Partner’s success so that they can operate public houses in which we can all take pride.”

Simon Rimmer to open restaurant in home town of Liverpool: Chef Simon Rimmer is to open a restaurant in his home town of Liverpool. Simon Rimmer at Layla Brasserie will be located within the new DoubleTree by Hilton Liverpool, which is housed in a Grade II listed building near Dale Street. The partnership sees Rimmer involved at every level of Layla Brasserie, from the development of the concept, the team selection, creation of the menu and the values of the restaurant, which is scheduled to open late 2013.

Prezzo makes first public comment on new brand Cleaver: Restaurant chain Prezzo has made its first public comment on its new brand, Cleaver, a “better burger, ribs and chicken” concept, that opened in Cobham, Surrey, a fortnight ago. The company stated: “The design of the restaurant means that the divisions between bar, kitchen and seating area have disappeared and the kitchen is now part of the restaurant with the chefs as part of the theatre. The restaurant layout makes a central feature of the cooking with the chicken rotisserie clearly visible to the guests. Its interior is clad in salvaged and reclaimed materials, including a gymnasium floor on the ceiling and 200 year old French oak on some of the walls.” Prezzo chief executive, Jonathan Kaye, said: “We are an innovative company and are always looking at new ideas for restaurants. We have placed a heavy emphasis on the provenance of the meat and poultry on offer at Cleaver as well as design and overall look of the restaurant. We will explore further opportunities to open more Cleaver restaurants in the future.” The menu offers five variants on chicken, burgers and ribs, with an open kitchen showcasing chefs cooking on charcoal and a rotisserie chicken operation. Design is a radical departure for Prezzo with the entire restaurant clad externally with wooden boarding. Inside, the Mid-Western wood shack theme is continued with extensive use of reclaimed material, most notably different types of distressed and less distressed wood but also corrugated iron and concrete. A large floor-to-ceiling menu board is the actual wall in the foyer to make a firm statement – we do a limited but high quality menu that is unchanging.

Smashburger agrees $35m of new finance: US burger restaurant Smashburger, which is looking to open in the UK, has agreed a $35m credit line with mid-market financing group Golub Capital. The company said it intends to finance its ongoing growth plans, which include anticipated 30% new unit growth for 2013, with 50 to 60 company and franchise locations this year. It is anticipating having over 300 units by the end of 2014. Smashburger was launched in 2007 with an investment from Consumer Capital Partners, which has continued to invest in the company. “We have known the Smashburger team for several years and believe the company is well positioned to become the industry leader in the better burger category and in the fast casual sector overall,” said Charles Riceman, managing director at Golub Capital.

Hooters reveals new restaurant prototype design: Hooters, the US restaurant chain with 412 sites averaging $2m of sales per annum each, has unveiled a new restaurant prototype in Slidell, Louisiana. The new design has 55 televisions throughout the restaurant, including a 165-inch video wall that is made up of four 70-inch televisions. Chief marketing officer Dave Henninger said: “You can see multiple TVs from any angle. People come to us for sports.” The centrally located bar was a key design change, Henninger said. Previously, most Hooters bars faced the kitchen and seated six to eight customers. Now, it’s designed to accommodate more customers in a more inviting atmosphere. The company also added more plush seating for booths. The idea is to accommodate different types of customers all in one restaurant: booths for families or quieter outings, and a big bar area for Millennials and sports viewers.

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