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Thu 29th Aug 2013 - Brunning & Price, Fuller's, Hawksmoor, Punch and Salisbury Pubs

Story of the day:

Good Pub Guide 2014 – it’s good that bad pubs are closing; awards for Salisbury Pubs, Brunning & Price, ETM Group and Fuller’s: The Good Pub Guide 2014, the most highly rated guide to the UK’s pubs, has argued the closure of pubs is good news for the industry. It predicted between 2,500 and 4,000 pubs will close in the coming year but 1,000 new ones will open. The guide argued that too many pubs are ‘stuck in the 1980s’, situated in poor locations and chasing the wrong market. Closing ‘bad pubs’ that offer unimaginative food and drink will give visionary and energetic licensees a chance to open new ones, it states. “The bad pubs are still being culled, just like lions pick off the slowest of the herd,” said a successful landlord quoted in the latest edition. “It makes the pub industry more robust and better placed for the future.” The cheapest pint in Britain can be found in Staffordshire and the most expensive in London, with the average pint across the nation costing £3.20. Salisbury Pubs, the operator of four pubs in the Chilterns led by Becky and David Salisbury, have won the coveted Pub Group of the Year award. The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland, which has held a Michelin star since 2004 was named Pub of the Year – the owners, Olive Inns, operate a second site, The Red Lion in Stathern, Leicestershire that has a Bib Gourmand. Meanwhile, Fuller’s been named Brewery of the Year. Referencing Fuller’s, the 2014 guide states: “It’s still very much a family-run company, and has combined traditional virtues (it has a very good tenanted pub estate) with a go-ahead attitude to modern conditions. Their beers are top-notch. One in twelve good pubs now stocks at least one of these (and many also stock good farm cider from Cornish Orchards, recently bought by Fuller’s.)” ETM Group’s Docklands gastropub, The Gun, was awarded London Dining Pub of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. Brunning & Price, the Restaurant Group gastro brand, won the Best New Pub award for The Bull’s Head, Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire, which was converted from an Italian restaurant called Osteria Mauro at the start of this year.

Industry news:

Risk Capital Partners buys majority stake in online cruise holiday website: Risk Capital Partners has acquired a majority stake in, the owner of the UK’s largest online cruise holiday websites and, making the firm’s first move into the online travel market. This deal follows news earlier this week that it has taken a majority holding in UK restaurant chain Red Hot World Buffet. Luke Johnson, chairman of Risk Capital Partners, said: “It’s been a significant few days following the completion of both acquisitions and I am delighted that Risk Capital Partners can look forward to shaping the future of both and Red Hot World Buffet. The travel market is an exciting opportunity for us and as more people research online, leading websites have engaged with users and harnessed social media techniques. has a wealth of content in addition to market leading prices. There is a great opportunity to replicate this model into international markets where cruising and online research are growing rapidly.” Cruise holidays have been the fastest growing leisure market worldwide over the past ten years, with first-time cruisers accounting for 40% of the UK market each year. Risk Capital Partners said it would provide additional capital to support’s growth ambitions, particularly the Irish and US markets.

Restaurant owner bites back on TripAdvisor with 1,500-word response: Restaurant owner Kiren Puri has hit back on a TripAdvisor review that criticised his food with a 1,500 word response that has attracted thousands of viewings. Puri, who has trained in Michelin-starred restaurants and owns The Bladebone Inn in Bucklebury, Berkshire, wrote: “You claim to be foodies. I have never met a self-professed foodie start his meal with a bowel of chips.” Puri argued that the diner had targeted other restaurants in the same way and was seeking “freebies and money”.

Post-Olympics comedown sees London hotel profits drop 14%: Profits and revenue both fell for London’s hotels year-on-year in July, reflecting the comedown from the boost to business given by the 2012 Olympics in the capital, according to the latest HotStats survey. Profits for the month were down 14.6% on July last year, as revenue fell 6.7%, the survey found. The only bright note was a leap in occupancy of 7.1 percentage points to 87.9% over July last year, with this July’s occupancy figure 6.2 percentage points higher than the rolling 12 months. However, as occupancy rose, the average room rate dropped by 12.9%, giving revenue per available room (RevPAR) 5.2% down at £130.59, against £137.78 last year.

Burger King to introduce a $1 French Fry burger: Burger King in the US is to offer a new $1 French Fry Burger starting 1 September. The new item sandwiches four fries into a burger with a standard beef patty. Leslie Kerr, president and founder of Intellaprice, a Boston-based restaurant-pricing advisory firm, said: “The dollar remains the most common price point on the menu by far. Quick-service restaurants consider it a staple on the menu.”

Sector ‘worst’ at recycling waste: Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are the worst in the industrial and service sectors for recycling their waste, according to Staff often fail to separate their rubbish at all, meaning that some businesses only manage to recycle about a third of their waste. At least 30% of all restaurant waste is incorrectly sorted.

Company news:

Hawksmoor operator Underdog Restaurants reports turnover and profit rise: Hawksmoor operator Underdog Restaurants has reported that turnover rose to £18,070,000 in the year to the end of 2012, compared to £10,627,000 the year before. Underlying Ebitda rose to £2,686,000 from £1,716,00 the year prior. The company stated: “The primary driver of the improved performance came from strong like-for-like sales in the existing restaurants together with the inclusion of new restaurants at Guildhall and Air Street in late 2011 and 2012 respectively.” The company made an operating profit of £1,421,000 (2011: £1,187,000). Its balance sheet showed net current liabilities of £2,245,000 (2011: £715,000) “chiefly due to continued investment in existing and new restaurants and the timing of the working capital cycle”. Pre-tax profit was £1,346,000 compared to £1,187,000 in the year previous. The highest paid director earned £120,000, up from £90,000.

More than 50 operators respond to Punch Taverns invite ‘to meet innovative operators’: More than 50 sector executives have taken up a Punch Taverns invitation to innovative and ambitious operators to meet senior staff of the company at a networking event to discuss how the company can work with them. The purpose of the evening is to create relationships and allow Punch to discuss their site opportunities in Herts, Beds, Bucks, East Anglia and London and discuss their investment plans for the next year. The networking evening we will be held next Wednesday, 4 September at The Cock & Lion, 62 Wigmore Street, London starting at 5.30pm. Regional operations director John Price added: “The purpose of the evening is to talk through our lease options with prospective partners to highlight the benefits of them to their business. We really do want to get the message out to as many great, innovative operators as possible that our leases really could work for them.” If you do have any enquiries or would like to be sent an invite please call Vicky Brown on 01283 523648 or e-mail on

Boutique coffee shop and brewery both launch crowd-funding: A boutique coffee shop and a small London brewery have both launched crowd-funding appeals through Crowdcube. Scooby’s is a planned boutique coffee bar in Hackney, north London, founded by Lisa Owen-Jones, that aims to offer a dog-friendly coffee shop. The inspiration behind the business came about because of the lack of venues offering indoor space to enjoy great coffee, meet friends and take the dog. The new business will be set up in an upscale residential suburb of north London close to the famous Alexandra Palace and neighbour to Highgate Woods. The business will look to franchise in five years’ time. Four investors have so far offered £3,000 towards the target of £25,000 in return for 20% of the equity. Meanwhile, brewer Stuart Small is looking to raise £100,000 for 20% of the equity at his Little Brew business, which is based in London but will relocate to York shortly. He estimates £500,000 net profit by Year Five – so far 12 investors have invested £5,900.

Novus head of acquisitions steps down: Kevin Norman has stepped down from his position as head of acquisitions at London bar operator Novus Leisure. His departure is understood to be part of a number of redundancies at the company.

Star Pubs & Bars invests £200,000 in Durham pubs: Star Pubs & Bars, Heineken’s pub business, is spending over £200,000 refurbishing pubs in Durham in the next few months to broaden their appeal and ensure they remain at the heart of their communities. Work started this week on a £157,000 complete interior and exterior refurbishment of The City on the junction of New Elvet and Old Elvet. The improvements to The City will transform it from a drinking establishment to a great quality pub providing excellent drinks, a new food offer and comfortable accommodation.

Kevin Todd – response to our new-look Il Patio is positive: Rosinter chief executive Kevin Todd, a former Mitchells & Butlers executive, has reported progress with the evolution of its two key restaurant concepts – Il Patio and Planet Sushi. The company, Russia’s largest operator, has had input from UK restaurant operators. Lovely Pubs’ Paul and Sue Salisbury and their partner Paul Hales have contributed ideas to the evolution of Italian brand Il Patio and Wagamama founder Alan Yau has been involved in evolving Planet Sushi. Writing for Propel Quarterly magazine, Todd stated: “We now have our prototype Il Patio store up and trading. It feels good finally to have a product that we can touch and feel that gives us confidence in our forward journey. Initial reaction is positive from all areas. The existing guests are delighted with the improvements, it is beginning to attract new guests and importantly the operators from around our trading regions that have come to visit the store are impressed and want to have one for themselves. So with positive trading and strong support, it feels like we are making progress on our evolution journey. We have worked closely on this project with Sue and Paul Salisbury of Lovely Pubs, Warwickshire fame. Their design company in the UK, Sarum Design, has been super and we are delighted with their input so far. There is still much to do and improve – it’s only the prototype after all. As we work on the brand positioning and the offer detailing we are learning all the time of the further improvements we want to make. Our plan now is to open another site by late summer to refine our learning’s and also importantly to cost engineer the offer so that it is more affordable for scale roll out. The prototype development for our second core brand – Planet Sushi – is ready to start construction now, which means that soon we will have prototypes open for our two core concepts.” See this week’s Propel Quarterly magazine for Kevin Todd’s full article.

Craft Beer Social Club switches venue for pop-up pub: The Craft Beer Social Club, the organisation founded last year to promote British craft beer, has switched the venue for its pop-up pub, due to open at the end of September, from Commercial Road, London E1 to a warehouse in London Fields, Hackney. The move, due to “circumstances beyond its control”, will see the Craft Beer Social Club Pop-up Pub launch on Friday 20 September and run every Friday and Saturday until mid-December at 2 Tudor Grove, London Fields, London. The 60-seat venue will feature a weekly changing menu of British beers, “delicious food served up by up-and-coming London chefs” and “live entertainment from Britain’s hottest acts”.

Block on Caffe Nero outlet ‘damaging to Glasgow’ says SNP: Glasgow Council’s decision to reject a planning application for a Caffe Nero outlet in the heart of the city has been attacked by the Scottish Nationalist Party as “damaging”. The application by St Enoch Centre Investors and Caffe Nero to open a coffee house on the ground floor of the Buck’s Head building at 63 Argyle Street was rejected as “contrary to planning polices”. However, Graeme Hendry, leader of the opposition SNP group on Glasgow Council, told The Glasgow Herald that the decision could drive away future potential investment from the city.

Dyson takes non-executive role at hotel group: Former Punch Taverns chief executive Ian Dyson is to be appointed as a non-executive director at Intercontinental Hotels Group. Dyson is currently a non-executive director of Punch Taverns and the Audit Committee of Betfair Group and will be made senior independent and non-executive director at online clothing retailer ASOS in October. His previous roles have included group finance and operations director for Marks and Spencer, chief executive of Punch Taverns and financial controller and finance director for the hotels division of the Hilton Group.

Structural damage delays opening on Prezzo in Witham, Essex: Prezzo has been forced to delay the opening of a new restaurant in Witham, Essex. The company was given permission by Braintree Council to open on the site of a former discount store in Newland Street in March and had hoped the restaurant would already be open. However, closer inspection of the building revealed substantial damage to the original roof and wall timbers, which must now be fixed. Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye said: “We are disappointed that our new restaurant in Witham has been delayed, however, this is out of our control. We will undertake the necessary work and our aim is to have the restaurant open late September, early October.”

£3m investment to expand Roomzzz: The 14-suite Roomzzz aparthotel in Newcastle is to expand to 76 suites after a £3m investment – the original investment was £5m. Mark Walton, head of Roomzzz, said: “Our further investment into Newcastle illustrates our commitment to provide quality across the board for both the city and our guests. Phase two will allow us to attract more visitors and to meet demand from current customers to provide more high quality affordable accommodation in the city.”

Former Marston’s pub reopens under Hull club owner: One of the best-known pubs in Hull reopens this week after being acquired from Marston’s by the man who runs the Welly Club and Fruit outlets in the city. Dave Mays told The Hull Daily Mail he had been trying to buy the Grade II-listed Polar Bear from Marston’s for some time. He said: “We’ve been looking at the pub for three years and we’ve finally been able to do a deal with the brewery. It’s a beautiful building with a lot of history behind it. It’s an iconic Hull pub. We want to take it back to its former glory. Everybody else is opening bars at the moment – let’s get back to the original boozer.” Mays said that the pub was in an area that was increasingly becoming Hull’s entertainment hub: “This is the town centre now, really. If you look at what old, traditional pubs are left in town, there are very few. The HU5 postcode area is the hub for musicians and artists in the city and we’re right on the corner.” The pub is known for features including a curved ceramic bar, believed to be one of only 14 in the country. Its name comes from when it was opposite Hull’s old zoo.

Free-range chicken restaurant set for Belfast: The owner of two restaurants in Belfast is preparing to open a third, Le Coop, specialising in free-range chicken dishes. Emma Bricknell already runs the Made in Belfast restaurants in Wellington Street and Talbot Street, Belfast, which source all their meat from Ireland. Le Coop “will be serving French-Creole and French-Canadian cuisine – all the specialisms, like crinkly-cut chips and succotash,” she told The Belfast Telegraph. Bricknell said she could not confirm the exact venue as negotiations were still taking place. The new venture was “self-funded because the bankers are lending bugger all”, she said. Bricknell also told The Telegraph she hoped to open an Australian-style coffee shop on the Lisburn Road and a venue in east Belfast.

Park Lane hotel investment sells for well in excess of £40m asking price: A Park Lane freehold investment comprising the majority of The Metropolitan by Como hotel owned by Canada Life has been sold to a UK-based investor for well in excess of the £40 million asking price. This prime piece of London real estate, adjacent to both Park Lane and Piccadilly, also houses the Colony Club Casino and Nobu Restaurant. The investment comprises 102 of the hotel’s 144 guest-rooms and suites and 9 guest apartments. Director and head of investment at Christie + Co, Jonathan Parrish, said: “This prime investment opportunity generated considerable interest from both domestic and overseas investors, with well over 100 enquiries coming into Christie + Co within a week of the launch. The exchange of contracts with the new owner took place within two weeks of agreeing a sale. The speed of the sale, and the achievement of a sale price in excess of asking price, emphasises what a rare opportunity this was, and confirms the strength of the investment market in London.”

Work finally starts on Yates replacement for Blackpool: Building work on the £3m project to replace the Yates’s Wine Lodge in Blackpool, which burned to the ground four and a half years ago, is due to start next month, it has finally been announced. The first floor of the new building will be occupied by a branch of Cosmo, the pan-Asian buffet restaurant chain, with the ground floor partly taken up by a Tesco supermarket. The news that Cosmo and Tesco would be taking over the site was revealed in February this year, and locals have been protesting at the length of time it has taken for rebuilding to begin.

New-build Marston’s pub to open in Diss in October: Marston’s Inns and Taverns is due to start recruitment in mid-September for its new pub and restaurant, The Thatcher’s Needle, currently being built in Diss, Norfolk. The venue is expected to open in October. It will have room for 180 diners and create 50 new jobs. The pub is on the site of a former electronics factory and is one of 25 to be opened by Marston’s this year.

Geof Collyer – we’re expecting Greene King to report like-for-likes up 6% in most recent ten weeks: Deustsche Bank analyst Geof Collyer has reported that he expects Greene King to report like-for-likes up circa 6% when the company reports its First Quarter results on 3 September. He said: “Recent industry data suggests that pub trading has benefitted from hot weather in July (managed pubs like-for-likes +2.9% with drink-led pubs +5.7%) and weaker comps are likely to continue in August. Though Greene King reported no significant impact from the Olympics last year, a rebound in the London market (from weak July and August in 2012) should have a positive impact on retail drinks sales as Greene King is the most exposed to this region of the major pub retailers. The aggregate of the first eight weeks this year and last year was +10.4%, so we are forecasting like-for-likes in the latest ten week period to be circa 6%, making +5.5% for the 18 week period.” 

Over the Moon Hospitality co-invests £420,000 with Punch: Over The Moon Hospitality is co-investing £420,000 to convert The Hunloke Arms in Wingerworth, Chesterfield, into The Wingerworth Pub and Kitchen, planned to open in November. Company director Andrij Jurkiw said: “We will be introducing a fantastic new locally-sourced food menu as well as an extensive range of quality wines and cask ales, alongside daily events and entertainment for our patrons. The plans look fantastic and we look forward to seeing the end result in November.”

Greene King adds Marco Pierre White site to Old English estate; adds two more in August: Suffolk-based Greene King has added a former flagship Powder Train pub, the 11-bedroom Chequers in Maresfield, East Sussex – linked to celebrity chef Marco Pierre White – to its expanding 108-strong Old English Inns estate of classic coaching inns. The business went on the market earlier this year at £995,000 after Powder Train went into administration. A four-bedroom coach house to the rear of the property is currently used for staff accommodation but has potential to convert into further letting accommodation. Greene King has also acquired The Weld Blundell in Ince Blundell, in Formby, Merseyside, which is currently closed for an extensive refurbishment – it’s a former Orchid pub. The site is set to re-open as Old English Inns site in late September. Greene King also added The Fox in Eastgate Street, Bury St Edmunds to its Old English Inns estate – it re-opened this month after a refurbishment. New managers are Bob Hackett and Tracy Harrison. It will close briefly in the autumn for further refurbishment. Greene King has invested £4.8m in the past year within its Old English estate improving 190 bedrooms at seven sites. The company stated at its most recent results that it would look to acquire quality single sites to add to its Hungry Horse, Old English Inns and Metropolitan estates – Metropolitan is the name given to its premium, largely London-based, segment that include Realpubs and Capital Pub Company acquisitions. 

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