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Fri 28th Jun 2013 - Abokado, Greene King, Harvester, Patisserie Valerie and TCG

Story of the day:

Greene King reports food sales up 75% in five years: Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Greene King has reported food sales have increased 75% in the past five years and now average £6,700 per week per managed site. Overall, food sales are now £337m per annum and account for 40% of total managed sales. Meanwhile, wines sales have grown 62% in the past five years and coffee sales, 76% of hot beverage sales, are up 61% over the half-decade. On the alcohol sales side, Greene King revealed that world beer is in rapid growth, now accounting for 48% of premium lager sales compared to 30% just two years ago. The company told City analysts that cautious UK consumers are engaged in a “flight to value” with better pubs benefiting from downtrading. It also reported more volatile trading with the pace of change quickening in terms of customer loyalty and habits. Chief executive Rooney Anand told Propel: “The value part of our business is performing very strongly – and the like-for-likes at the premium side of the business are very strong. It’s in the middle part of the market where you have to be at the top of your game.” Anand also told Propel that since 2008 the peak and troughs of trade have become accentuated. “There was traditionally an industry bedrock of sales and there would be a spike on special occasions. Since 2008, we’ve seen getting much bigger spikes and troughs, which makes management a lot more tricky.” The company now operates six segments in its 504 destination pubs and restaurants division: Hungry Horse, Old English Inns, Loch Fyne Restaurants, Eating Inn, Farmhouse Inns (formerly called Cloverleaf) and Premium Rural Inns. Hungry Horse will open 25 sites in the 2014 financial year – around one a fortnight. Each new-build site is seeing 800 job applicants on average, while overall staff turnover is down 8%.

Industry news:

In today’s separate Friday Opinion e-mail: Paul Charity examines the major pinch-points to growth at JD Wetherspoon, Paul Chase looks at political interference in the sector and Kevin Todd provides insights on how the foodservice market in Russia compares to the UK.

Technomic – 2012 was a good year for UK coffee operators: Research firm Technomic has reported that 2012 was a good year for UK coffee cafes. Among the leading 100 UK chains, the coffee cafe segment grew sales 12.2%, due largely to Costa Coffee (sales up 18.5%) and Starbucks (sales up 6.1%). Together, these two brands made up over 80% of coffee cafes sales within the top 100, while the remainder came from Caffe Nero, Wacky Warehouse (Corner Coffee) and AMT Coffee Bars. Technomic stated: “New players to the category, however, are expected to heat up competition. Harris + Hoole, the coffee shop concept backed by UK retail-giant Tesco, has opened seven stores since the start of the year (for a total of 17). The popularity of high quality coffee in the UK has also gotten the attention of brands in other categories. Wanting to take its own share of the market, KFC UK rolled out Lavazza coffee at its outlets nationwide earlier this year.”

Howard Shultz – Starbucks still in its early days of growth: Starbucks founder and chief executive Howard Shultz has claimed that the company is still in an early stage of its development. He said: “Despite being a public company for 20 years Starbucks is in the early days of its growth and development. We have 1,000 stores already in China and in years to come we will have thousands more.” Shultz also reported that the price of coffee has come down 30% from its highs earlier this year. “What was once a major headwind is now a major tailwind.”

Sky drives pub footfall with Sun advert: Sky placed an advert in yesterday’s issue of The Sun to drive footfall into pubs to watch The Lions play tomorrow. The move, which is part of Sky’s commitment to investing in supporting its licenced customers, will reach more than seven million readers, helping to drive sales for Sky Sports-subscribing pubs. A spokesman said: “Sky is also investing in increasing covert checks made by security firm G4S for the 2013/2014 football season by 45% to protect the investment hardworking licensees make in Sky Sports to build their businesses and entertain their customers.”

Company news:

Luminar considers changing name of Oceana Kingston: Nightclub company Luminar is considering changing the name of its Oceana venue in Kingston, where the licence was saved last week after a host of new conditions were agreed. Luminar is now planning a large-scale refurbishment of the club, included converting the Woo Woo Bar, on the ground floor of the club, into a new “seated music lounge”. The Woo Woo sign has already been removed. A Luminar spokeswoman told the local newspaper: “We are currently reviewing plans for the future of Oceana Kingston which include a refurbishment and potential name change. Oceana has always been at the heart of the Kingston late night economy. Now that we have certainty over the licence, we have a great opportunity to invest in the club to create a stylish new venue for our customers.”

BRGR.CO to open second site: BRGR.CO, the Beirut-based burger restaurant business, is to open its second site in London’s Chelsea. The brand’s first UK site opened in Soho in December 2012 on Wardour Street. The concept offers a choice of 4oz, 6oz and 8oz customised burgers with customers able to build them as they wish. The new 100-cover Chelsea site will feature dark oak tables and chairs with the main restaurant on the ground floor, a “relaxed” upstairs space and a terrace seating area on the King’s Road.

Jason Katz – Abokado poised for rapid growth: Healthy food chain Abokado is poised for rapid UK expansion, according to Jason Katz, founder of investor private equity firm Kings Park Capital. At last week’s Propel Multi Club conference, Katz explained that his firm invested in the quick restaurant (QSR) concept three years ago and had helped expand the estate from five to 15 units. “From now on there will be one a month opening across the UK,” he said. “It is focused on the lunchtime office market and we think it has a differentiated range of products.” Kings Park Capital has invested in just two food and drink concepts to date but Katz revealed some insights into what businesses it looks to invest in. “Management is important – we look to see strength and depth in a team and we like companies with clear division of responsibility,” he said. He also advised that a differentiated product is critical. “It is very competitive and there are a lot of me-too brands out there,” he said. “It can be a combination of factors that makes it different – such as atmosphere, locations and design.” Generally the firm likes to see at least three units in operation to get an idea of its growth potential, he explained. “You also want to know that people have given real thought to business plans.” And finally, he noted, private equity companies want to link with a management team that they can align their interests with. “You have one shared objective and that is to grow the business and then later sell it for as much as possible,” he said.

Richard and Loren Pope set to sign second site: Richard Pope, who with his wife Loren runs the multi-award winning Bull’s Head in Repton, Derbyshire, is set to secure his second site – an unnamed Enterprise lease. Pope, who opened the Bull’s Head six years ago with Loren, told delegates at Propel’s Multi Club conference last week that he is now ready to expand his portfolio. “We have aspirations of running more than one pub and we have spent a long time now with processes and systems making sure we can manage the Bull’s Head without having to be there every day,” he said. “We want to get two sites performing well and then we want to go all the way to 12 sites.” The Bull’s Head, which was closed when the Popes took it on, has a team of 90 staff and has 1,500 to 1,600 bookings each week. In addition, the website gets 200 to 400 visits per day. Pope told delegates he invested in a wood fired oven imported directly from Italy, from where he also imports the pizza flour. “We sold 700 pizzas last Saturday and Sunday, and now pizza is about a third of our food offer.” The pub also makes its own ice cream, gelato, sorbet, chocolate and bread. Gelato now accounts for around 70% of puddings sold. He also explained that he has tried to manage the pub as a multi-site brand, by introducing elements such as branded pizza boxes and burger buns.

David Singleton – running a premium multi-site pub offer requires a different mindset: David Singleton, who expanded Premium Country Dining Group at Mitchells & Butlers to 83 sites and now works in Russia for Rosinter, has argued that running a premium multi-site pub offer requires a different mindset. Presenting at the Propel Multi Club Conference, he said: “Running these kind of pubs requires fanatical attention to detail and quality. General managers have to create a deeper relationship with their guests. Innkeepers in these premium pubs have to have a ‘make it happen’ mentality – challenging the unwieldy corporate process if they are lucky enough to work for one of the big guys. It’s a tough ask, but with a strong shared culture, beliefs and ways of working it can be done, but requires humility – a willingness to change and learn.”

Morton Brewery to open Wolverhampton’s first micro-pub: Morton Brewery is to open the first micro pub in Wolverhampton or the West Midlands after council chiefs gave the go-ahead for the project – despite concern from nearby residents. There will be space for 30 drinkers in the new venue, which will be opening in an old furniture shop in Pendeford Avenue in Aldersley. It will serve up local real ales as well as cider and wine. Although there are none in the West Midlands there are currently 18 micro-pubs across the country. The former Anything Goes furniture shop, which closed in November, has been taken over by Morton Brewery which is based in Coven.

Cheltenham boutique hotel sold out of administration: A boutique hotel in Cheltenham has been sold after entering administration. The Hotel, formerly known as The Hotel on the Park, has been sold to an undisclosed local businessman for £2.6m. The business entered administration in February after being put on the market last November. The Grade II listed property dates back to the 1830s and has 12 bedrooms.

JD Wetherspoon and Everards get Oakham go-ahead: JD Wethespoon has won approval to open a pub in Oakham, Rutland (population: 9,975). It will convert the former Royal British Legion building in the High Street. The development will cost £1.8m and create about 35 part-time and 15 full-time jobs. Councillors also approved Everards plans to turn The Horseshoe Inn, in Braunston Road, into a convenience store, despite a petition against it which received more than 600 signatures.

Ed’s Easy Diner to open at Gloucester Quays next Tuesday: Ed’s Easy Diner is set to open at Gloucester Quays next Tuesday. A spokesman said: “Ed’s Easy Diner is on the sunny side of the quay this summer by opening their 19th feel-good restaurant at the Gloucester Quays Outlet offering an exciting new 1950s retro diner with classic American food and drink.”

Wagamama owner sells 35% stake in itself: Duke Street Capital, the UK-based private equity group that owns Wagamama, has agreed to sell a 35% stake in itself to French fund manager Tikehau. Duke Street will use the proceeds of the capital increase to seed a new buyout fund, which will seek as much as £150m in commitments in total.

Patisserie Valerie opens Leeds business district site: Patisserie Valerie, the high street café chain owned by Risk Capital, has opened its third store in Leeds – and its first in a business district. The brand already has outlets at the White Rose shopping centre and on Albion Street. The 2,000 square foot unit in the heart of the city’s financial centre on St Paul’s Street marks a step change for the company away from the high street. Richard Padley, of GVA, said Leeds was an ideal location for Patisserie Valerie’s move into a more corporate location. He said: “This is an exciting acquisition for Patisserie Valerie and its first outside of London where it has ventured away from the high street. I’m confident that St Paul’s will be a success as it’s in the heart of the business district with a heavy footfall through the week, while also busy at the weekend.” Andy Singleton, head of real estate at Patisserie Valerie, said: “As a business we’ve experience significant growth and success over the last two years and are always looking for new locations in which to open.”

Blue Bee Brewery to open Punch Taverns site in Sheffield: Sheffield’s Blue Bee Brewery is to open a Punch Taverns site in a £250,000 co-investment. The Closed Shop, situated in Sheffield’s Commonside area, will re-open at the end of July. It’s the company’s second pub in Sheffield – it also operates The Rutland Arms. Andy Stephens, co-founder for Sheffield-based Blue Bee Brewery, said: “There will be major work conducted throughout the pub but we want to keep the traditional look and feel of a local, community pub. The plans look fantastic; we will be able to offer locally-sourced and high quality pub food as well as a range of craft beers and real ales so that there is a range of facilities to suit and appeal to all.” Punch Taverns’ partnership development manager Andy Longley said: “It’s great that Punch can invest in their pubs and we essentially want to restore The Closed Shop back to its former glory and position it as one of the leading pubs that can provide quality food and drink and great live entertainment for residents in Sheffield.”

TCG signs new coffee partner: Managed pub and bar group TCG has selected Cafeology as its new coffee partner. The ethical beverage company will supply coffee to the majority of TCG’s sites, and the launch will be supported with ‘hands on’ barista training for all operational staff, marketing materials and in-house merchandising as it rolls out over the next three months. Cafeology has direct supply agreements in place with Fairtrade-audited coffee producers in Central and South America and has recently formulated a new blend especially for TCG, which includes coffee from a new producer, Coope Dota of Costa Rica. TCG chief operating officer Nigel Wright said: “Working with Cafeology, an independently owned British company, will give us a point of difference in the competitive coffee market. The partnership puts us on a strong footing to develop our coffee sales and daytime business. Increasingly our venues are trading for longer hours. Coffee is a growing part of the sales mix, particularly during the day and alongside food.” Support for the introduction of Cafeology will vary from site to site, but all will receive Cafeology signage with its ‘Great Coffee, Great Cause’ strapline, branded crockery and barista training.

Ponti’s Italian Kitchen is awarded TripAdvisor certificate of excellence for two sites: Point’s Italian Kitchen has won a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence, awarded only to the top-performing 10% of businesses listed on TripAdvisor. Jennifer Payne, marketing manager, Ponti’s Italian Kitchen, said: “We are overjoyed to have received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the second year in a row at our Oxford Circus and Duke Street restaurants, as this clearly demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring our customers have a superb dining experience with us.”

Harvester offers customers two takeaways for £10: Harvester, the Mitchells & Butlers brand that is set to move through the 30 million meals sold a year mark at some point this summer, has emailed its customer database to offer two takeaway meals for £10. The deal lasts until 22 July and is subject to conditions.

Homeslice gets positive review from The Evening Standard: Homeslice, the pop-up pizza offer now based at a permanent site in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, has had a positive review from The London Evening Standard. The venue is run by New Zealand chef Ry Jessup and ex-Carluccio’s and ex-Groucho Club chef Mark Wogan, son of Terry. Food writer Victoria Stewart said: “Together they have kept the cheerful, low-key feel that characterised the mobile operation. Next to us, a little girl licked her plate clean, a blogger blogged and a chef we recognised tucked into a hefty slice. Everything feels on-trend (the odd distressed mirror, ex-factory lights, cute Polpo-esque Italian tiles) but none of it nauseatingly so. From this we had a bottle of very hoppy Partisan Bermondsey craft beer; we could also have had prosecco or draught beer by the glass. But alongside pizza – £4 per slices - you also pay for your wine by the centimetre.”

Raymond Blanc’s  Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons wins Square Best Restaurant award: Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons has been named BMW Square Meal Best UK Restaurant for 2013. Le Manoir clinched the prestigious award.“ Le Manoir is the quintessential out-of-London restaurant,” said Square Meal’s editor Ben McCormack. “Blanc set the bar high when he opened Le Manoir almost 30 years ago and no one has managed to surpass it since then. It is the go-to destination for celebratory meals because it offers the complete package.”

Voujon family opens ninth site: A family-owned Indian restaurant chain is opening its ninth site today in Corby. Voujon, in Rockingham Road, is part of a family-run business with Indian restaurants in Long Buckby, Stamford, Oakham, Wellingborough, Essex and three in Birmingham. Manager Anwar Ali said: “We have been looking at Corby for a number of years. It’s an up-and-coming town, with a rail station, new properties going up and lots going on. We want to give people here a fine-dining experience.”

Sam’s to open third site – with innovative recruitment method: Award-winning Cornish restaurant business Sam’s is opening its third permanent site, Sam’s in The City in Truro. Sam’s already runs successful restaurants in Fowey and Polkerris. The business won Employers of the Year at the Cornwall Business Awards and has a rather innovative method of recruiting its new staff. They have launched Sam’s Vans, which has taken them all over Cornwall and Devon with a pop-restaurant. Interviews for their new site take place on Lemon Quay, Truro, where Sam’s Vans two VW campers will be parked. Potential employees will be interviewed in the ‘Cocktail Van’ and interviewees will have the opportunity to leave a video message, stating why they should be part of the team, in the video booth in the Champagne van.

Phanthong lines up second site: The owners of the Phanthong Thai restaurant in Altincham are to open a second site in Wilmslow town centre. The new Phanthong will be opening on Hawthorn Lane in late June or early July. The brand’s vision is to “offer authentic Thai food at prices that are a fair balance between the need to be profitable yet to use the best quality and freshest ingredients that we can possibly lay our hands on”. Phanthong is the maiden name of one of the partners, but it also means ‘gold leaf’ in Thai – applying a sheet of gold leaf onto a Buddha is a symbolic gift in Thailand.

London’s smallest fine-dine restaurant set to open: London’s smallest fine dining restaurant opens in Notting Hill in September, serving dishes such as courgette soufflé, steamed turbot with girolles and fines herbes hollandaise, and rhubarb tarte tatin to just 14 guests on five tables at each sitting. Marianne, at 104 Chepstow Road, will take its place among the country’s micro-diners alongside Sushi Tetsu in the City, which has seven seats, and the Michelin-starred Harry’s Place in Grantham, which has ten. The new restaurant is being opened by Marianne Lumb, 38, a runner-up on ‘Masterchef: the Professionals in 2009’, who has cooked at Le Gavroche and the River Café,

Darden reports traffic not margins best health indicator: Restaurant traffic, not margins, will continue to be the “best measure of brand health” for Darden Restaurants’ three largest brands, said chief executive Clarence Otis during an earnings call with analysts. Darden’s three largest brands — Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster – have struggled throughout the past year to maintain casual-dining market share. The fourth quarter, however, marked a slight uptick in like-for-like sales.

Taco Bell swaps meat for protein in the US: US chain Taco Bell is to swap “meat” for “protein” in its menu descriptions to appeal to health conscious taco fans. The move, which is also being introduced to distance the Tex-Mex restaurant from the horsemeat and ‘pink slime’ scandals, will see diners offered “Power Protein” meals with 20 grams of meat in a less than 450 calorie serving. The menu was introduced in 40 Ohio outlets on Tuesday after being tested in the company’s California restaurants, but there is no confirmation yet that it will come to the UK’s three sites in Manchester and Essex. The announcement comes three months after the company was at the centre of the horsemeat scandal when ground beef was found to be contaminated at all of its UK locations. The company subsequently promised to test every batch of ground beef when it arrives at its processor and again before it is delivered to restaurants to ensure it is 100% beef.

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