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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 16th Jul 2013 - Giggling Squid, Itsu, Loungers and Robert Breare

Story of the day:

Industry veteran Robert Breare found dead at home: Industry veteran Robert Breare has been found dead at his home in Ascot at the age of 60. Breare, once described as “Britain’s most shambolic corporate raider”, had a varied career in the sector that included a spell spent as chairman of Bank Restaurant Group, setting up Noble House Leisure and founding Merchant Inns. He was never far from controversy. Breare, who also spent a year as chief executive of Innspired, launched an unsuccessful bid in 2001 for Wolverhampton & Dudley in a deal that would have seen him retain the company’s managed pubs while selling its tenanted division on. In 2002, as chairman of Scotsman Hotels, he was linked with a bid to buy Malmaison, the hotel company he co-founded but had left in 1999. Most recently he founded portable hotel operator Snoozebox. His former wife Susie told The Times: “Robert was always chasing a dream and, in many ways, was an absolute genius, but you needed to harness that enthusiasm. He was like a runaway train. If he could have found a way to channel that energy, he could have been the next Richard Branson.” Richard Pope, who now runs The Bull’s Head in Repton, told Propel: “I worked with Robert in Pioneer Pub Company. He was a larger than life character with a clear passion for hospitality and fine dining. Always a man for a deal, he had a talent for creative problem solving. Without him, the industry has lost some colour.” Breare left Merchant Inns in 2009 and went on to found Snoozebox, a specialist in providing temporary hotel accommodation for major events such as the Edinburgh Festival and the Silverstone Grand Prix. He resigned from that business in May this year after it made a £4.4m loss in 2012, having failed to capitalise on its London Olympic Games village contract. Earlier in his career, Breare was the last of his family to own The Harrogate Advertiser and other local newspapers. He ran the business for eight years from 1975 before selling the company to United Newspapers, thus ending the family’s involvement.

Industry news:

Asian trade bodies urge members to back Tax Parity Day: The Federation of Bangladeshi Caterers (FoBC), the Asian Caterers Federation (ACF) and Malaysian Restaurant Association (MRA) are urging their members to back ‘Tax Parity Day’ on Wednesday 25 September, which is being organised by the VAT Club Jacques Borel in support of reducing VAT from 20% to 5% in the sector. Leaders of the three trade bodies have held a meeting with Borel to plan a joint strategy. “The restaurant business is labour intensive – when more people eat out, restaurateurs take on more staff,” said Yawar Khan, chairman of FoBC. “The move will create jobs that are most needed – for the young, the low skilled, part-timers and single mothers. Let’s get people off benefits and into work.” The FoBC hopes to gain the 100,000 signatures needed to spark a parliamentary debate on the VAT issue for its online petition at To promote the campaign, the FoBC and ACF will supply over 100,000 ‘Polling Cards’ to the country’s Indian, Bangladeshi and Asian restaurants to encourage customers to vote online in this year’s Asian Curry awards – run jointly by the FoBC and ACF.

New research show more businesses displaying hygiene ratings: New research shows the number of food businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland displaying Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) stickers and certificates has increased significantly for those with the top two ratings. For those with the bottom ratings of zero to two, the number displaying these remains low. The results showed that the number of businesses displaying their rating at their premises had increased significantly since 2011/12 to about a half – from 43% to 52% in England, from 31% to 47% in Wales and from 50% to 57% in Northern Ireland.

UK enjoying post-Olympics tourism boost: Figures from the ONS International Passenger Survey have revealed that tourists visiting Britain are continuing to break spending records as a result of the Olympic legacy. The first five months of 2013 have delivered the best start to a year since 2008. There was a 4% rise in the number of visits during May and a 5% increase in spend during the month. Overall, £6.88 billion has been generated in the first five months of 2013, which is an all-time record. The month of May also saw a record number of visits with 3.08 million tourists enjoying Britain, beating the previous best held since 2008 – these visitors spent £1.67 billion. Holiday visitors increased to 1.35 million during May, 7% higher than 2012 and the business travel market was up 4%. Patricia Yates, VisitBritain director of strategy and communications, said: “The Olympic bounce has well and truly sprung with the best start to a year since 2008. This has seen us achieve record breaking spend figures for 2013 to date and record visitor numbers for May and is proof that tourism continues to deliver the economic legacy of hosting the Games last year.”

International demand for US foodservice franchises hits record level: International demand for franchising of US foodservice brands has reached record levels with one in five attendees at this year’s franchise expo in New York City coming from abroad. At Subway alone, annual inquiries from foreigners have doubled in five years to 200,000. A CNN Money analysis stated: “The flood of demand has given US companies an upper hand. Even smaller franchises can demand more satisfying terms, such as requiring franchisees to open several locations at once. This reduces the headache of expansion. Entering a new country generates the need to establish new supply chains. The more locations there are, the more sensible that new supply line is.”

Company news:

Loungers – we think we will hit 80 sites by April 2017: Loungers, the Bristol-based cafe bar operator led by Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop, has raised its target for site numbers to 80 plus by April 2017 – the new target is an increase of ten on the previous one. It has just opened it 35th site in Gloucester Quays and will follow it up this week with the opening of a 36th site in Didsbury, Manchester. Reilley said: “Our forecast of having 70 sites by April 2017 was very much based on an initial slower rate of growth to that which we are currently enjoying and the business feels very able to cope with even more acceleration to the roll-out should we deem it appropriate. We currently have enough sites in the pipeline or in advanced negotiation to take us beyond 50 sites so finding the sites doesn’t present too significant a challenge. We therefore feel that 80+ by April 2017 is well within our reach.” The Gloucester site, called Portivo Lounge, is in the Peel Holdings-owned Gloucester Quays development and is located in a building that was built as a corn mill in 1894. Loungers have invested £300,000 into the 4,350 square foot site, which is split over three levels and comprises of 130 covers internally with a further 40 covers externally. The Didsbury site, called Expo Lounge, opens on Thursday and is the first site in Manchester for Loungers. The 3,000 square foot site on Wilmslow Road, which was previously a furniture shop, was secured following a successful planning application for change of use. Loungers has invested £425,000 into converting the site, which comprises of 80 covers internally with a further 25 covers externally. Of the new openings, Reilley said: “It’s been a very busy couple of weeks for us with opening two new sites in as many weeks. The sites are very different to each other with Portivo being a historic building in a mixed-use scheme compared to Expo, which fits our more traditional brief of converting former retail units on secondary, suburban high streets. Clearly there are a lot of secondary high streets in the UK where we see ourselves potentially opening but it’s also very encouraging to see how well the Lounge model performs in mixed-use schemes. And whilst not every scheme will be our cup of tea our success in the right kind of mixed used scheme has given us another growth avenue”. Next up for Loungers are openings in Market Harborough (August) and Aigburth, Liverpool (September) with openings in Formby, Heswall and Truro all anticipated by the end of the year.

No Saints acquires second Oceana site: No Saints, the nightclub company headed by Stephen Thomas, has acquired its second Oceana nightclub site, formerly run by Luminar. The deal follows the acquisition of the Milton Keynes Oceana site last year. The former Wolverhampton Oceana site will re-launch in September after a £500,000 refurbishment. Thomas, who now operates ten nightclub sites, said that the site won’t just be a nightclub but will host live music acts, comedy nights and offer free hire for charities to host fundraisers.

Papa John’s to leverage football sponsorship: Pizza delivery Papa John’s is to launch its biggest UK marketing campaign to leverage its sponsorship of the Football League as it looks to increase awareness. The business will target football supporters with bespoke promotions through its franchisees as part of its one year deal with the League to become its official pizza provider. It will offer thousands of match tickets and promotions in partnership with the League’s 72 member clubs from next month when it kicks off a nationwide campaign to mark the start of the football season. The sponsorship will also promote the brand’s loyalty scheme, launched at the start of the year, in a bid to push its online delivery service.

Itsu to open first site outside of London: Itsu, the sushi brand that was set up by Pret A Manger founder Julian Metcalfe, is to open its first site outside of London – an opening in Oxford is planned for September. The brand operates 39 sites in London and two flagship Itsu (dining) sites. The brand, which was founded in Chelsea in 1997, has opened sites on New Oxford Street, Old Broad Street, Chancery Lane and Bankside most recently. Julian Metcalfe states on the company website: “Much of the ‘best of Pret’ learning has been woven into the fabric of our company. Itsu’s managing director Gerard Loughran spent years building, coaching and developing parts of the Pret empire.”

Hippodrome Casino reports record first year: The Hippodrome Casino, in Leicester Square, has reported a record first year with turnover of £40m. The Hippodrome is attracting 30,000 customers a week – twice its original forecast. Owner Simon Thomas told The Times: “We targeted 2,500 visitors a day. But we are getting 4,000 admissions a day – and we know we can do more.”

Cornish pub to re-open as a gastro-pub after six year closure: Marketing entrepreneur Lucy Cokes, co-founder of the Neutralize marketing agency, has acquired The Old School Pub in Mount Hawke, Cornwall, which will re-open after six years of closure as a gastro-pub with a £500,000 investment. The former school, built in 1874, was turned into a pub in 1988 but closed six years ago. David and Jenny Clilverd, from Illogan, have teamed up Martine and Alan Derry, from Weybridge, in Surrey to run the pub, which they want to see become the hub of the village. They have so far invested £100,000 installing their own kitchen and bar and appointing their own chef, Jan Wilhelm, who worked as head chef at The Headland Hotel in Newquay.

Costa set for tenth site in Gloucester: Costa Coffee is set to build its tenth coffee shop in Gloucester at the Railway Triangle – a drive-thru site. But city centre traders are worried it could have a detrimental impact on them. Ian Spencer, of the Oasis Cafe in Southgate Street, who formed the Glosta Coffee campaign to keep independent traders in the spotlight, said. “If you can go shopping and not even get out of your car for a coffee, why visit the city centre?”

Mitchells & Butlers to mark 40 years of Browns with a book: Mitchells & Butlers is to mark 40 years since its Browns bar and brasserie brand was founded by publishing a book later this month. The publication has a tagline of ’40 years in the making’ and will detail the evolution of the brand from its beginnings to the present day. A launch party will be held at the flagship Covent Garden branch at the end of the month with food-matching and cocktail demos.

Brewer and businessman plan Wiltshire’s first micro-pub: Entrepreneur Malcolm Shipp plans to open Wiltshire’s first micro-pub, in Devizes, with his business partner Chaz Hobden, brewer at Wessex Brewery at Longbridge Deverell. They have applied for planning permission and a premises licence to turn the Lignum antiques shop in St John’s Street, Devizes, into a micro-pub. Lignum is closing at the end of the month, and before it opened the premises, used to be an off-licence. Shipp said: “Micro-pubs are quite a new thing that are sweeping the country but have not made it into Wiltshire yet. They are a one-room bar, like an Irish-style pub, and are being opened in former shops. People are loving them – there’s not one micro-pub that’s failed. The Lignum premises is perfect. It has a huge cellar downstairs where we plan to have a bottled beer shop. The ambient temperature down there is perfect to store the barrels.”

Vineyard Group adds to management portfolio: The Vineyard Group, who owns and operates the Vineyard in Stockcross, has been awarded the management contract to run The King’s Head Hotel in Cirencester. The 45-bedroom hotel is due to re-open next year after a six-year refurbishment programme that has involved an archaeological excavation of its cellars. Vineyard Group owns two hotels and manages seven for sister company Sonoma. It will manage the hotel for owner Wildmoor Group when it opens its doors next March.

Four-star hotel with 500 bedrooms planned next to Olympic park: Starboard Atlantic Hotels has bought a 275,000 square foot hotel site at The International Quarter in the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. Starboard Hotels and Union Hanover are buying the site with backing from BridgePoint Ventures. Starboard plans to build a 500-bedroom, four-star hotel and luxury serviced flats.
Brothers add Pizza Hut delivery franchise to Subway site: Two brothers who used to run a chip shop have bought a pizza delivery franchise in South Lanarkshire as part of their plan to develop a group of catering businesses. Daljit and Amandip Khaira acquired a Pizza Hut delivery franchise in East Kilbride for an undisclosed sum. The brothers, who run a Subway sandwich outlet in Glasgow on a franchise, are looking to grow their group to about ten businesses. They believe there are opportunities to expand in the pizza delivery market.

Royal Bank of Scotland £80m out-of-pocket in Robert Tchenguiz Welcome Break deal: The Times has reported that The Royal Bank of Scotland has been left more than £80m out-of-pocket in Robert Tchenguiz’s investment in nine Welcome Break motorway service stations. The portfolio was sold in March for £250m. Tchenguiz’s Rotch property company bought the service stations for £270m in 2004. RBS put up £240m, which ballooned to circa £345m after an interest-rate swap was put in place. RBS received £249m from the sale in March.

BT to roll-out free Wi-Fi at 140 Young’s pubs: Visitors to Young’s and Geronimo pubs are set to get free Wi-Fi, following a new five-year partnership between Young’s and BT Wi-Fi. The new service will be rolled out to 140 pubs and bars in London and the south east over the next five months. Customers will be able to get online quickly with any wireless mobile device, tablet or PC. The deal comes as research conducted by BT and ICM has revealed that 87% of consumers have accessed the internet whilst at an eating or drinking site, and 55% accessed Wi-Fi using a smartphone, tablet or laptop in a food and beverage site. Andy Maynard, of Young’s, said: “Increasing amounts of customers keep in touch with the office or hold work meetings at our pubs during the day. On evenings and weekends, visitors are catching up on the days’ goings on or keeping a check on the sports. Free Wi-Fi ticks the box on all counts and adds to the already social atmosphere.”

St Peter’s Brewery reports much-reduced profit – decides to cut-back ‘significantly’ on discounts: St Peter’s Brewery has reported a pre-tax profit of just £1,561 on turnover of £4,212,415 in the year to 28 February. The year before the company had pre-tax profit of £161,839 on turnover of £4,149,331. Chairman John Murphy, who founded the Interbrand consultancy, said: “Our adjusted Ebitda of £264,729, including the salaries of major shareholders, is somewhat more flattering though, as a principle, we try to avoid seeking more comfortable numbers. The reason for the lacklustre result was mainly the parlous state of the world economy and resultant downward pressures on household incomes. This was particularly true of the UK (the UK market comprises a little over 50% of brewery sales) where, in the supermarkets (our main outlets), discounting was rife and most alcoholic beverages, ours included, were sold on special offers. As a result, it proved extremely difficult to maintain margins even with our improved brewery efficiencies. We have made the decision to cut back significantly on discounts and promotions in the home market in order to maintain margins. Exports remain strong and brewery efficiencies have been further improved so, overall, we expect a reasonable outcome for the year.” 

JD Wetherspoon to open Bideford pub next Tuesday: JD Wetherspoon will open The Rose Salterne in Bideford (population: 14,599) next Tuesday, a conversion of the former Bideford Carpet and Furnishing Centre in Bridgeland Street. The pub name refers to the heroine of the historical novel Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley, in which Rose Salterne was described as ‘a beautiful girl of 18, that half North Devon was mad about’.

Greene King submits plan for Hartlepool Hungry Horse: Greene King has submitted plans to build a Hungry Horse on a derelict site next to a main road into Hartlepool, on the corner of Belle Vue Way and Brenda Road. The company already has a pipeline of 114 Hungry Horse developments to expand its 200-strong estate. Chief executive Rooney Anand has indicated that he believes an estate of 500 sites might be possible in time. The Hartlepool plan is out to consultation with a decision expected before the end of August.

Spirit sells two Norwich Riverside leases: Spirit Pub Company has sold its two leased sites in Norwich’s Riverside Leisure Park. The lease for Norwegian Blue has been taken by The Restaurant Group, which plans to open its American-themed Coast to Coast restaurant on the site. And the lease for Square’s has been acquired by TGI Friday’s. Anthony Jenkins, associate director of agent Christie + Co, said: “Both restaurants occupy prime locations on the Riverside Leisure Park, close to Norwich railway station, with views overlooking the River Wensum and with excellent passing trade from the cinema and Norwich City FC’s Carrow Road ground. These advantages, plus the strength of each of the incoming restaurant brands, should see them have successful futures on Riverside Leisure Park.”

Chiquito and TGI Friday’s open at Glasgow Fort: Chiquito and TGI Friday’s have opened at the expanded Glasgow Fort leisure complex. Harvester and PizzaExpress are due to open later in the month with Prezzo opening in August. Next month will also see the opening of an eight-screen Vue cinema as part of the £9 million expansion. Fort manager Phil Goodman said: “This is a really exciting time for us here at Glasgow Fort. The opening of the new restaurants means that shoppers can relax and enjoy a bite to eat with some of the best-known brands in the UK.”

Giggling Squid opens sixth site tomorrow: Giggling Squid, the fast-growing Thai restaurant chain founded in 2009, is to open its sixth site, a 98-seat venue, in Reigate, Surrey tomorrow (17 July). The latest opening comes after sites in Brighton, Hove and Crawley in Sussex, Tunbridge Wells in Kent and Henley in Oxfordshire. A seventh Giggling Squid is scheduled to open later in the year in Marlow in Buckingahmshire. Giggling Squid owners husband-and-wife team Andrew and Pranee Laurillard have invested £350,000 in the site of the former Puccino Café on Reigate High Street, having first viewed the location three years ago.

Punch unveils Roadshow dates: Punch Taverns have unveiled its Roadshow dates for 2013 and includes new venues and an additional event. In their tenth year, the Punch Roadshows will be starting on 1 October in Newcastle and running up until 31 October where they finish at Chester. Andy Slee, external affairs and central operations director said: “We are delighted to be in our tenth year of the Punch Roadshows. Over the last nine years, we have seen 60,000 publicans through the doors and around 900,000 food and drink products sampled.” The Roadshows take place nationwide and each event will open at 10:30am and finish at 4pm. The dates are as follows: 1 October at Newcastle Racecourse; 3 October at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh; 8 October at Wembley stadium; 10 October at Elland Road in Leeds; 15 October at the Birmingham Motorcycle Museum; 17 October at Sandown Park; 22 October at Ashton Gate in Bristol; 24 October at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton; 29 October at Donnington Park and 31 October at Chester Racecourse.

Everards set for go-ahead on £25m food village: Leicestershire brewer and retailer Everards is set to get go-ahead for a £25m food village and visitor centre. Blaby District Council is expected to back plans for a major complex for the Soar Food and Drink Park, on land between Soar Valley Way and the police headquarters in Enderby, which would include a brewery, units for food and drinks companies, restaurants, parking and sports facilities. It is estimated 300 to 400 jobs could be created. The plans also include opening up the River Soar flood plain at the rear of the development to more cyclists and walkers, with a new footbridge across the river. The £25 million scheme on a greenfield site has been submitted by Everards, which wants to relocate from its existing brewery on the edge of nearby Fosse Park. The company wants to build a new craft brewery, “brew-pub” and visitor centre on a 13-acre site next to its existing Castle Acres brewery, with access to a further 73 acres of recreational land that is part of the River Soar flood plain. Due to the scale of the site and the fact it is outside the brief of the Blaby district long-term planning framework, the council is set to refer it for government consideration. Should the Secretary of State decide not to intervene, planning officers are recommending the development goes ahead subject to certain conditions. Chief executive Stephen Gould told Propel recently: “If we secure outline planning consent we will look to attract a number of established restaurant operators to work as an anchor for the site and then we will work closely with a number of local food and drink businesses to occupy the site. We are looking for restaurant operators that complement the style of what we are trying to deliver – offering quality, made-on-the-premises food.”

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