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Tue 2nd Jul 2013 - Beds and Bars, Hard Rock, Harris + Hoole and Pret

Story of the day:

Whitbread launches new budget hotel brand: Whitbread has launched a new hotel concept, ‘Hub by Premier Inn’. The new concept will target major UK city centres such as London and Edinburgh, with the first ‘hub by Premier Inn’ to open on St Martin’s Lane in London in summer 2014. ‘Hub by Premier Inn’ is a new generation of compact, city centre hotel with ingenious, contemporary room design and excellent connectivity that will offer good value for money and appeal to customers who value price, location and design over space. At 11.4 square metres a ‘hub’ room is compact, and thanks to its innovative design every centimetre is optimised with a desk that folds into the Hypnos pocket-sprung bed, luggage storage under the bed, an en suite bathroom with power shower, free Wi-Fi and a 40” inch smart screen TV. ‘Hub by Premier Inn’ will be the UK’s first hotel with its own app letting customers control their hotel experience. The ‘hub’ app means customers can book and check in online, as well as pre-select their room temperature and light settings. They can even choose which TV or radio channel they want playing in their room when they arrive and stream content from their phone or tablet direct to their TV. When it comes to drinking and dining, ‘hub by Premier Inn’ will have its own deli-style restaurant with plans to source produce from local suppliers. Guests will be able to pre-order breakfast using their ‘hub’ app. Patrick Dempsey, managing director, Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, said: “Premier Inn has played a leading role in shaping the budget hotel market and we believe ‘hub’ will do the same for a new generation of compact city centre hotels. ‘hub’ will work in tandem with Premier Inn, appealing to more price sensitive customers seeking quality accommodation in the heart of a city. It will enable us to broaden our customer appeal and further strengthen our competitive edge.” Whitbread has secured five sites (around 1,000 rooms) to open in the next three years and is targeting to have around 40 ‘hub by Premier Inn’ hotels (6,000 rooms) opened or in the pipeline by 2018. ‘Hub by Premier Inn’ will have 25% lower build and operating costs compared to a Central London Premier Inn, and its smaller room format gives access to a broader range of buildings in city centres. Andy Harrison, chief executive of Whitbread, said: “’Hub by Premier Inn’ will reinforce the achievement of our 75,000 UK rooms milestone by 2018 and provide us with another exciting new growth platform. With substantial operating and commercial synergies from the Premier Inn network, we are confident that ‘hub’ will deliver good returns for our shareholders.” Over two years in the making, ‘Hub’ has been shaped by customers. Since June 2012, five prototype rooms have been on sale every night at the Premier Inn Kings Cross and during that time 1,825 guests have given individual feedback on everything from having two showerheads, (one on the wall so customers can avoid getting their hair wet) to the high absorbency, fast-drying micro fibre towels meaning no more soaking wet towels hanging around the bathroom for hours. The result has been seven iterations of the ‘hub’ experience to ensure it reflects all key customer needs.

Industry news:

Adam Hyman – eight new London openings put strain on recruitment: Industry commentator Adam Hyman has noted that eight new restaurant openings in London this week is putting a strain on recruitment. He wrote: “This thriving industry is currently suffering from a recruitment problem. I understand that all eight openings had difficulties finding suitable staff. Richard Gladwin owns The Shed, a successful neighbourhood restaurant in Notting Hill. He wrote to me about his struggle to find the right people: “It has put strain on our concept and business. We have been searching for a sous chef and additional chefs de partie since January and have interviewed over 40 applicants without a successful new appointment. What has happened to our industry? We pay well and are offering a great opportunity. What do great, passionate chefs do now?” It is a sad irony that the surge in the London restaurant scene should have made it more difficult to find the right people. This rewarding industry needs to work harder than ever to attract the best talent.”

Iqbal Wahhab – business will support the arts if the arts adopt a business-like approach: Roast founder Iqbal Wahhab has argued that business will support the arts if the case for support is made in a business-like fashion. In his column for the Institute of Directors, magazine he wrote: “Businesses will happily get involved if we’re approached properly, which means neither begging letters nor patronisingly assuming that we might write cheques to fill our perceived cultural voids. I don’t expect a government grant to build my next business – I’ll secure one by convincing financiers of the merits of my case. It’s a process that makes my model even more robust because of the scrutiny. If the arts sector came to the business world with their ears rather than their mouths, it could listen and learn from this message.”

Coffee and tea drinkers have lower blood pressure: A survey has found that those who drink tea and coffee have lower blood pressure. Researcher Bruno Pannier argued that the benefits may derive flavonoids – health-boosting plant compounds that help relax blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily. Those who consumed the most hot drinks had the best results and tea drinker fared slightly better than coffee drinkers.

Teenagers beat alcohol laws by ordering online: Teenagers are circumventing alcohol laws by buying alcohol online from supermarkets that do not check ages on delivery, a survey has shown. The study of teenagers in Wales by the charity Alcohol Concern found 15% of 14 to 17-year-olds had bought alcohol online and 44% had not had their ages verified. 

Pub sector needs to target older clientele: NPD Group has argued that a good target for pub seeking to increase business on weekday lunchtimes is the 50-to-64 age group and the over 65s. Sales to these segments declined in 2012 versus 2011 and in the case of the 50-64 age group there was a sharp sales drop of -5.8% for the same period. The research company stated: “The enduring popularity of deals and promotions makes for an excellent overlay on any initiatives they take for building weekday business. Publicans should strive for ‘meal value’ rather than ‘value meals’, which means promotions must drive loyalty and repeat purchases so they can build a base for their business.”

Dryburgh Research praises coherency of ALMR in tenanted pub company debate: Dryburgh Research analyst Nigel Parson has praised the coherency of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) in its contribution to the debate over statutory regulation of the relationship between licensees and tenanted pub companies. Parson said: “The ALMR is to our mind, the most articulate, considered and coherent advocate for change among the campaign groups. The ALMR comprises 153 member companies operating circa 13,000 outlets but few of these are from tenanted pubcos (ALMR members have just 117 pubs in the Enterprise Inns estate). It does not represent landlords or brewers. This group is not against the tie, but instead focuses on the regulation of the rent assessment process. We surmise that the ALMR will be pressing hard for the case for a statutory code and adjudicator as well as for further changes to weaken the onerous nature of leases. The last ALMR Benchmarking Survey (in 2012) concludes that tied rents are higher than rents for free of tie pubs. Submissions for the 2013 survey closed on 14 March and the results will be part of its submission to BIS.”

Kolvin – pubs and restaurants are subject to unlawful licence fees: Barrister Philip Kolvin has claimed that pubs and restaurants are subject to unlawful licensing fees. Last month, he won a landmark victory against Westminster City Council, which forced the return of up to £2 million in unlawful licensing fees to a group of Soho shops. The Court of Appeal ruling means that businesses are paying unlawful licence fees because they include elements that are additional to the cost of the authorisation process itself. Philip Kolvin QC said: “In Britain, licence fees were set by the government in 2005, but European legislation introduced in 2006 has made the Fees Regulations unlawful. This is because Europe said such charges should only include the basic costs of the process. However, the fees in Britain contain far more than this, such as elements covering the cost of the enforcement regime. While a small pub may only pay £350 for its annual drinks licence and be entitled to a relatively modest recovery, large venues pay up to £32,000 each per year, even though it is basically the same process.”

Company news:

Bed and Bars to open flagship 38 million Euros site this Thursday: Bed and Bars, the pan-European hostel provider led by Keith Knowles, will open a flagship 38 million Euros site opposite the Gare du Nord in Paris this Thursday (4 July). It will offer 600 beds, with 50 of these private rooms. The remaining 550 beds will be in shared dorms of various sizes with all dorms featuring sleeper-carriage pod beds with privacy curtains, power points, reading lights and lockers. Beds and Bars already operates a site in Paris on St Christopher’s Canal that contains a Belushi’s bar and a St Christopher’s Inns hostel, offering 368 beds. The St Christopher’s Gare du Nord project is a partnership between Beds and Bars, Cofitem-Cofimur and its French director Romain Viennois. The Gare du Nord hostel will also have an on-site Belushi’s bar and a French cafe. Prior to this development, the Gare du Nord site was used as an office building.

Starbucks begins US trial of hand-crafted soft drinks: Starbucks in the US has begun a trial of hand-made carbonated soft drinks at outlets in Atlanta and Austin. The Seattle-based coffee chain has been testing made-to-order lemon ale, spiced root beer and ginger ale. Wall Street analyst Mark Kalinowski of Janney Capital Markets wrote in a report that Starbucks first tested three types of sodas at a few locations near Seattle in mid-April. Starbucks is also testing a cold-foam mocha. The drink is described as including a special cold foam, which is prepared in advance in whipped cream canisters. Shots of espresso are poured into milk steam pitchers with ice, then stirred. The cold espresso is poured over the foam with mocha flavoring. In the cup, the drink appears to be half foam, half espresso. The company was also looking at carbonating other beverages, like the new Cool Lime Refreshers rolled out last year. Hand-crafted soft drinks is Starbucks’ latest venture outside the coffee category. Others include the juice-based Refreshers line and the chain’s juice bar concept, Evolution Fresh.

ALMR chief executive – we plan to invest in our 12 hotel bedrooms as the next step: Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive David McHattie has reported he plans to invest in the 12 en-suite bedrooms at his Punch Taverns pub, The Devonshire Arms in Baslow, Derbyshire as the next stage in developing the site. The pub re-opened last year after a £350,000 co-investment with owner Punch Taverns. McHattie, who became chief executive of the ALMR in May, told the Propel Multi Club Conference: “It was one of the worst performing Punch properties and it was soulless. We had to turn it around but also change people’s perception of the venue.” One of the key elements in this was to understand that “we are in the experience business”, he explained. “We can’t compete on price so we have to add value,” he said. “People are the critical factor – it either makes or breaks a business.” The venue is near Chatsworth House – popular with tourists – so McHattie also created an in-house tea, coffee and cake venue called Hatties. “There are also 12 en-suite bedrooms, which we will invest in due course,” he said. “We have to keep moving forwards and evolving.”

Two Wetherspoon pubs short-listed in design awards: Two JD Wetherspoon pubs have been shortlisted in an international design competition. The Picture House in Waterloo, Merseyside and The Cribbar in Newquay, Cornwall, have won recognition in The Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. The awards “celebrate the best food and beverage spaces from around the globe.” Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “We place great emphasis on the design of our pubs, with the aim of giving each one its own individual feel. We are delighted that our pubs have been recognised for the quality of their design in these prestigious awards.” The award winners will be named in September.

Loch Fyne fined £15,000 over health and safety breaches: The Loch Fyne restaurant chain, owned by Greene King, has been fined £15,000 after a window cleaner was filmed balancing precariously on a ledge outside one of its buildings. Loch Fyne admitted one breach of health and safety law and was also ordered to pay costs of £3,023. Self-employed window cleaner Wayne Mallon was fined £2,000. He was seen climbing along the ledges of the third floor of the Milsoms Hotel building – owned by Loch Fyne – in Bath without ladders or safety equipment. Mallon pleaded guilty to three health and safety charges at Bath Magistrates’ Court.

Harris + Hoole ups game at latest London opening: Coffee shop chain Harris + Hoole has been praised for adopting higher design standards at its third London opening in Cannon Street. The first two openings, at Tooley Street Tesco Metro and London Wall have been described as uninspiring. The third opening, on Cannon Street, is in an old bank building. The Good for Lunch blog stated: “It has been turned into a modern-retro, spacious, high tech, high ceiling, money-no-object version of a trendy side street coffee shop – the influences are everywhere. Tattooed hipster service, brown paper menus on hanging clipboards, filament bulbs, expensive cakes. There’s also shades of Drake & Morgan-style City bars in the sandwiches presented on wooden chopping boards. No trick has been missed. The high tech is in the way orders are entered into hand held tablets and sent to overhead monitors at state-of-the-art coffee making stations and the cash till. The open coffee stations are one of the best features as the absence of a dividing counter encourages chitchat with the staff, who are noticeable by their numbers and enthusiasm. The old fashioned seating is relatively limited for such a large room, but this, along with the jazz music background, adds to the sense of space and calm. It was a pleasant change from Pret, who may offer spacious booths and comfier seats, but do have significant water temperature consistency issues.”

Hard Rock brand wins award for achievements in brand expansion: The Hard Rock Cafe brand, founded in the UK, has won a prestigious award for its achievements in international brand expansion – it has been named the 2013 RLI Global Leisure Operator. Hard Rock International is growing through a strategy of both geographic diversity and expansion in the gaming hospitality industry. Further brand expansion in gaming includes new casino projects planned in Hungary and Northfield, Ohio, USA. Upcoming Hard Rock Hotel projects include Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Daytona Beach, Palm Springs, Riviera Maya, Haikou and Shenzhen in China. Additionally, the company opened new cafes in 2013 including locations in Guatemala City, Ibiza and Melaka, with plans for additional cafe locations in Santa Cruz, Kota Kinabalu, Colombo, San Jose, Chennai, Doha and Tahiti.

Loungers to open Gloucester Quay site this Saturday: Loungers, the café bar concept headed by Alex Reilley, will open Portivo Lounge this Saturday on the Gloucester Quays complex. Reilley told the local newspaper: “We don’t use any CGI designs. We like to get a feel for the place when we are in there to help us decorate.” The company has sourced 12 industrial-looking green lights from a Wolverhampton factory, brass shipping lights and reclaimed timber to create ‘docks feel’ to the new site. Some 200 applications were received for the 30 jobs Portivo Lounge is creating.

Pret A Manger makes recyclable and shakeable salad adaptation to US market: Pret A Manger has re-launched its US salad offer in shakeable plastic container after finding US customers disliked the former cardboard boxes because they couldn’t be shaken to ensure dressing is equally distributed. The new containers hit US stores at the end of last month, along with four new salads: beet & berry, prosciutto & quinoa, falafel and market fresh. They’re accompanied by a small sign that extols them as “100% Recyclable, 100% Shakeable.” Brad Herron, vice president of purchasing, said: “Everybody sees these things and thinks, that’s a lot of plastic, that must be worse for the environment than the old boxes. But these are 100% recyclable – we made sure of that. And the old boxes were lined with plastic, so, to recycle them, you’d have to take them apart first, which just doesn’t happen.”

Living Ventures opens new Manchester bar: Living Ventures opened a new bar in Manchester yesterday linked to its modern Australian restaurant Australasia. The Grand Pacific Bar and Garden opened directly behind the Armani store in the city and serve a cocktail-focused drinks menu. A discreet staircase connects the bar to the Australasia restaurant.

Premier Inns targets new Southend site: Whitbread’s hotel brand Premier Inn has submitted plans to demolish a derelict building on Southend seafront and build a five-storey hotel. Esplanade House, a half demolished office block that towers over Eastern Esplanade, will be flattened if Premier Inn’s plans for the five-storey hotel on the neighbouring former gasworks site get the green light. The development should also reignite long-dormant plans for a separate hotel, restaurant, shops, 216 flats and 50 affordable homes on the Esplanade House site.

Well-known Somerset restaurant is sold: The freehold of The Rock Inn at Waterrow, near Taunton, widely regarded as one of Somerset’s best dining experiences and one of the best pubs in the south west, has been sold by agent Christie + Co off an undisclosed asking price. The family management team – mother and son Joanna Oldman (chef) and Matt Harvey (front of house) had owned and operated the business for many successful years. The new owners are recently married Daren and Ruth Barclay.

Britvic to axe Drench and Pennine Spring brands: Soft drinks company Britvic is to set to axe its Drench and Pennine Spring water brands when it closes its Huddersfield factory. A consultation is currently underway which is due to end in a month’s time. Britvic is tipped to focus all its energies on building up the Ballygowan water brand in the UK – it is the number one brand in the Republic of Ireland.

Village London hires executive chef: Three-strong London-based restaurant group Village London has hired Toby Stuart as its executive chef to oversee its three sites – The Riding House Café, Village East and The Garrison. Stuart has just returned from a gastronomic tour of Chicago in readiness for his new post, and previously in his career spent a year at Michel Troisgros’ three Michelin-starred La Maison Troisgros in Roanne, France, a season at Troisgros’ Paris restaurant at The Hotel Lancaster and nearly two years at Richard Neat’s Restaurant Neat, in Cannes.

Mercure unveils plans to double in size in four years: Mercure Hotels, part of the French hotel group Accor, has announced plans to grow its core business and re-establish its place in the mid-scale market. The hotel brand has set out plans to double the size of the network by 2016 and roll out a new design across the world, with the introduction of a new reception check-in and check-out process, work areas, locally sourced produce and tapping into its mid-scale customers’ expectations. The announcement came from Jonathan Sheard, senior vice president of Mercure, Northern Europe, at the launch of the brand’s UK flagship London Bridge hotel, the first of its hotels to pilot and present the new look and services introduced by the global hotel group. Sheard said that Mercure is one of the top three mid-scale hotel brands in the UK, alongside Best Western and Holiday Inn and the new revamp of the brand will help it stand out from its competitors. The new design focuses on six key areas: a public area that is based on, “La Table d’hôtes”: a concept that enables a sense of togetherness, an expected arrival, a feature wall, work space, and free web service with fibre optic Wi-Fi. Commenting on the UK in particular, Sherd said: “Our ambitions, especially here in the UK, are to continue the expansion and double the size of the network by 2016. This means that when we do, we will have 10,000 people working within our Mercure community and will be welcoming more than six million guests a year within Northern Europe. Our ambition is based around consolidating our presence in key cites such as London, but also to develop our strong positioning in intensive markets.”

Coca-Cola expands names on bottles marketing strategy: Coca-Cola is launching an experiential tour. In the latest phase of the Share a Coke campaign, the brand will tour the country offering an on-site printing service through kiosks and vending machines offering a free personalised bottle of Coca-Cola, Coke Zero or Diet Coke. To prevent potential abuse of the initiative, the brand has put in place a system to avoid names or slogans that will “cause offence to any individual or group”. Available names will come from a database and proof of ID may be required for any names not recognised.

Cockermouth pub plans to relaunch brewery: Cockermouth’s Bitter End pub plans to re-launch its micro brewery at the pub by the start of August. The Kirkgate pub moved its brewing operation to the Derwent Mills Commercial Park in 2009 as it wanted to concentrate more on its food offer. The brewery closed in 2011 and sold its equipment to a London pub, but landlord Mike Askey has now decided to relaunch the business at its original location, building it all again from scratch. He hopes to bring out the first beer by 5 August, marking his 18th anniversary of taking over at the pub.

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