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Thu 12th Sep 2013 - Benugo, Cote, McDonald's, Stonegate and YO! Sushi

Story of the day:

Indian restaurants in crisis over immigration rules: As the government announced changes to UK immigration rules to make them more business-friendly, entrepreneurs running Indian restaurants say the existing rules are preventing them from hiring the chefs they need. The rules say migrants have to have a certain proficiency in English before they can be allowed to work in the UK. But restaurant owners say this has stopped them from employing kitchen porters who can learn English on the job while getting trained up in-house in how to cook Indian food for customers. Mannan Abdul, chief executive of the Brasserie Group, which owns seven restaurants including the Indian Brasserie in Cheltenham, said he worried about the future of the industry. Urging the government to relax its immigration policy for skilled workers, he said: “It’s very difficult to find qualified staff in this country and when you do demand for them is so high,” he said. “In this current economic situation and with the restrictions on immigration we struggle for staff.” Many qualified Indian chefs are being poached by hotels, as smaller restaurants struggle and cannot match the salaries they offer, according to insiders. Chorlan Dharumalingam, manager of the Aroma restaurant in Gloucester, told The Gloucester Citizen that he needs five chefs to run his restaurant, but has only three at present. “We have been searching for two new Indian chefs for six months now with no luck,” he said. “It is putting huge pressure on our business. Indian chefs now need to be paid £10,000 extra a year and pass other tests to work in the kitchen. This is creating big problems, as only the big hotels can afford to pay these kind of salaries. I worry that a lot of smaller restaurants will go out of business because of this.” On Friday the government announced changes to immigration rules that will give greater flexibility to business visitors and businesses sponsoring international migrants.

Industry news:

Bramwell commercial director Sarah Weir to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference: Sarah Weir, commercial director at Bramwell Pub Company, is to present at the next Propel Multi Club conference on 7 November. She will talks about how the company is creating a premium offer at its London pubs and explains the re-shaping of its high street offer under its new Wild Lime Bar and Kitchen brand. Operators can claim two free places by e-mailing The event takes place at One Moorgate place, London.

Good Beer Guide 2014 reports record number of UK breweries: The Good Beer Guide 2014, published today and edited by Roger Protz, has reported that the number of breweries in the UK has risen to 1,147, up from 1,009 last year, and a 70-year high. In London, the number of breweries has doubled in a year with 23 new ones, while eight more in West Yorkshire took its total to 57 – the highest of any region in Britain. The Guide also reports that female brewers, known historically as “brewsters”, are rising through the ranks at some of Britain’s biggest breweries as well as opening new ones of their own in response to a rise in interest in ales by women. Emma Gilleland, head of supply at Marston’s in Wolverhampton, said: “These days brewers are far more experimental and this has led to lighter beers with new aromas and tastes which are attracting more women.”

B&Q looks to follow Tesco route in buying Giraffe: DIY chain B&Q is looking at enhancing the attraction of its sites by adding small cafés and restaurants. Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “We might do something more radical and take smaller businesses and bring them into the business – a bit like Phil Clarke (the chief executive of Tesco) has done with Giraffe.”

Intu submits plan for £100m Lakeside development with restaurant focus: Intu has submitted an outline planning application to create a £100m leisure development at intu Lakeside, its market leading centre in Thurrock. The leisure proposals mark the continuing evolution of the centre, building upon existing plans for a £180m expansion of the centre’s retail offer that would bring 30 to 40 new stores and a substantial investment in local community infrastructure. The exciting new leisure development will create a series of outdoor spaces, the focal point of which will be a large town square around which a wide range of new leisure and restaurant uses will be provided over two levels. Discussions are progressing with potential tenants with a view to securing such uses as ten-pin bowling, family restaurants, a health and fitness centre, a nightclub, a comedy venue and a hotel.

Crowdcube raised £2.27m in August: Crowd-funding website Crowdcube raised £2.27m in August, with £3,240 as the average amount invested by 701 investors. The largest single amount raised was £1.3m. The total number of investments made in the month was 987 and it took 42 days on average for companies to raise the amount they were seeking. Crowdcube co-founder Luke Lang will speak at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 7 November.

Stella Artois launches ‘gift a pint’ app: AB InBev is launching an app that will allow drinkers to gift their Facebook friends a pint of Stella Artois to be drunk at participating bars. The app has been created by the mobile commerce start-up InVibe as a result of a result of AB InBev’s investment in The Bakery, an accelerator programme based in the East End of London designed to introduce technology to leading brands and their agencies. Phil Pick, Stella Artois’s marketing manager, said the gifting app’s objective was to help drive value for “the growing online Stella Artois community of fans”, while “bringing these fans from the online world into the real world to enjoy our beer”.

Company news:

Stonegate Pub Company moves into profit: Stonegate Pub Company, the UK’s largest privately owned managed pub operator, backed by private equity firm TDR Capital, has reported sales rose 83% to £484.3m in the 53 weeks to 30 September 2012, the first full year after the merger of Town and City Pub Company with 333 wet-led pubs acquired from Mitchells & Butlers. The company made a pre-tax profit of £14.6m compared to a pre-tax loss of £24.4m the year before. A capital expenditure budget of £1.5m produced a return of investment of 35.1% compared to 44.9% the year before. Like-for-likes sales grew 1.8% on an underlying basis. Stonegate had an operating profit of £22.2m compared to an operating loss of £1.1m the year prior. The company bought the 14-strong Living Room business last month.

William Pears Group in exclusive talks to buy 300 Greene King tenanted pubs: Private property company William Pears Group is in exclusive talks to buy circa 300 Greene King tenanted pubs, which were placed on the market at the start of this year. It is understood that industry veteran Ted Kennedy, who currently oversees the GRS Inns and Pubfolio estates, has been lined up to manage the pubs if the deal completes. The sale process follows Greene King’s decision to focus on growing its managed estate to 1,100 pubs whilst running its tenanted pubs for cashflow.

CBPE completes acquisition of Cote: Private equity firm CBPE Capital has completed the acquisition of Cote, the 45-strong French brasserie chain owned by Richard Caring, in a deal that values the company at £100m. Caring is understood to be selling his 51% stake. The current management team of Alex Scrimgeour and Harald Samuelsson, joint managing directors, will remain in place. Cote was founded in 2007 by Andy Bassadone, Chris Benians and Nick Fiddler after the sale of Strada to Tragus for £140m. The company currently has underlying earnings of circa £14m. 

Piers Morgan pub signs new lease: The Hansom Cab pub, which is owned by Convivial Pub Company and tenanted at one stage by a consortium that included journalist Piers Morgan, has been let on a new lease. Convivial is currently subject to a sale process but The Hansom Cab is its one tenanted pub. Indicative bids for Convivial were due on Monday at 12 noon. Since circulation of the Information Memorandum, the tenant at The Hansom Cab has formally entered in to a new free-of-tie lease for a term of 19 years. The rent is £60,000 per annum.

YO! Sushi abandons Washington Chinatown site as second US opening: YO! Sushi has abandoned a plan to open its second site in the Chinatown district of Washington DC, which had been due to open in April this year. The site had been forecast to open earlier this year but the development of a Walgreens net door meant the site became unviable because it lost covers. YO! Sushi opened its first US site in Washington’s Union Station in July 2012. The Washington franchisee will open at least ten restaurants in the mid-Atlantic corridor between Washington and Philadelphia. Operations in the United States and UK are very similar, but the menu had to be adapted for the US to have more rolls and spice. Free refills on soft drinks and iced tea were added to meet US consumer demands.

Mitchells & Butlers opens Harvester in Aylesbury ahead of planned Giraffe: Mitchells & Butlers has opened its latest Harvester at Broadfields Retail Park in Aylesbury. It replaces a Pizza Hut. Meanwhile the Tesco-owned Giraffe restaurant chain has announced a “late autumn” opening date for its outlet on the same retail development. The latest restaurant for the chain, its 48th in the UK, is being built in the car park of the town’s Tesco supermarket. The company is asking its Twitter followers to say how they feel about the new opening, with the chance for the best commenters to appear in Giraffe’s advertisements.

McDonald’s adds steak breakfast sandwich and KFC-style meal bundle box in US: McDonald’s has added a breakfast steak sandwich and testing a KFC-style bundled meal box at sites in the US. It launched Mighty Wings on Monday and added the choice of steak in its breakfast sandwiches and the test in one market of a KFC-style $14.99 meal bundle. According to a Bloomberg News report, McDonald’s USA has begun introducing steak as an option on breakfast sandwiches and will offer the thicker protein at about 9,600 units in the United States, about two thirds of its total in the US of more than 14,100 restaurants. McDonald’s has also initiated a test of a bundled meal, the “Blitz Box,” in Kansas City, Missouri, marketed as a tie-in with the Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football League. USA Today reported that the $14.99 Blitz Box includes two Quarter Pounders with Cheese, two medium orders of French fries and ten Chicken McNuggets with dipping sauces.

Benugo wins £20m Regents Park contract: The restaurant, cafe and catering group Benugo has unveiled plans for a collection of restaurants, bars and kiosks in Regent’s Park, North London, including Primrose Hill, after winning a competitive tender. The five-year contract with the Royal Parks is worth an estimated £20m, and refits will begin in November, with the work completed by spring 2014. The new concepts have been developed and created by the Benugo team, led by founder Ben Warner and managing director Guy Kellner, and the company says they are “designed to revolutionise the catering offering across the 197 hectare space”. The Regent’s Bar & Kitchen (formerly the Garden Cafe) will be “a family-friendly restaurant that celebrates the best of British ingredients”, serving dishes including wood-fired pizzas, salads and a selection of take away foods. A second park restaurant (currently The Honest Sausage) will be given a BBQ menu, available to eat in or take away in biodegradable packaging. The Hub sports facility in the area by the sports fields will be given a smoothie and shake bar. An espresso bar will take over the current Chester Road Kiosk, serving coffees, cakes, sandwiches and baked goods. A kiosk on Marylebone Green and a food truck on Primrose Hill will serve hot dogs, sandwiches, ice cream and coffee.

Wetherspoon unveils opening date for revamped Blackpool pub: Wetherspoon is looking to reopen the Edge bar in the Blackpool suburb of Poulton-le-Fylde, which it acquired in the summer two years after the pub closed, on December 17. The company has spent £1.4m on revamping the two-storey town centre building in its own style. John Hutson, chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, told The Blackpool Evening Gazette: “We are delighted that we have now started building work at Poulton and are looking forward to opening the new pub before Christmas. We believe it will be a good addition to the town and hopefully act as a catalyst for other businesses to invest in the area.”

All Bar One launches new seasonal menu: All Bar One has unveiled its autumn menu, with new mains including a quinoa salad with butternut squash, and harissa lamb cutlets. Other changes include new lighter dishes, such as salmon and haddock fishcakes, from £6.50, new tapas dishes, including chorizo, tomato and olive bruschetta, and updated sharing plates, such as a whole baked Camembert. The chain is also now offering a sharing platter plus a bottle of wine for £15.

Douglas Jack – Coffer Peach Tracker figures favour London pubs and value food-led pubs outside of London: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has argued that the Coffer Peach tracker figures produces clear favourities to out-perform the market He said: “Although the economic outlook has improved, consumer cashflow remains flat and competition is unlikely to ease (particularly with supermarket and cinema chains entering casual dining). This backdrop favours London pubs (Fuller Smith & Turner / Add, 950p TP), which are also benefiting from a 10% increase in inbound tourist expenditure given that half of inbound tourist do not travel outside London. It also favours value food-led pubs outside London, based on strong market positioning and above-average barriers to entry (in suburban locations). For food-led pubs, we expect the benefit of easy weather-related comps though to March 2014 to exceed the challenge of tougher comps in April-August 2014. Our preferred food-led pub operator is Spirit Pub Company (Buy, 90p TP).”

Pie & Pint Inns beer achieves distribution across Essex supermarkets and Punch estate: A beer called Golden Crust, first brewed specifically for The Hare at Roxwell, a Punch Taverns site operated by Gary Downham’s Pie & Pint Inns, has achieve distribution across Essex an is now offered in the Punch Taverns estate. The draught beer is used in many of the recipes at the pub. After strong draught sales, it was bottled and is now available in 26 Tesco sites and 25 Co-op stores in Essex. 

Daily Mirror – David Beckham pulled out of Gordon Ramsay partnership a fortnight ago: The Daily Mirror has claimed that David Beckham has pulled out of his much-hyped London restaurant venture with pal Gordon Ramsay. Union Street Cafe is due to open next week but Beckham decide to withdraw from the business partnership two weeks ago. A source close to both parties told The Mirror: “They may be best friends, but they are also very astute businessmen and both wanted different things. Becks was ready to make an investment and had visited the site. But they both talked long and hard and have decided not to work together on this occasion.”

Eurogarages to open 100 Starbucks sites in the UK: Eurogarages has signed to open 100 Starbucks franchised site in the UK. One of the first will open in Mirfield, Dewsbury on the A62 Leeds Road, a drive-thru, in October. This store will create around 15 jobs for the local area. A spokeswoman for Starbucks said: “We can confirm that a new store is due to open in October on the A62 Leeds Road in Mirfield, in partnership with Eurogarages. This store will create around 15 jobs for the local area. We know that our customers expect the best possible coffee wherever they are and the success of our drive-thru and motorway stores show that this is a big opportunity.”

Wagamama and TGI Friday’s sign for Cabot Circus: Wagamama and TGI Friday’s have signed to take sites at the Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol. TGI Friday’s has taken 7,500 sq ft in a brand new unit. It will provide seating for 270 diners and feature an open kitchen allowing guests to see their food being cooked. Wagamama has taken a 3,459 sq ft site.

Enterprise Inns pub back on the market after failure of community buy-out: An Enterprise Inns pub in Headington, Oxfordshire that was listed as a community asset is back on the market. Oxford City Council designated the Fairview Inn as a community asset on July 16 after residents launched a campaign to save the pub. The residents then had six weeks to submit a notification that they wished to become a preferred bidder. But this did not happen and so the pub is now available to buy on the open market again after residents were unable to find the £385,000 needed to purchase it.

Kopparberg reveals extraordinary 2013 sales success: Independent Swedish cider brand Kopparberg has revealed significant on-trade sales growth over the summer months, with the brand experiencing a 79% increase in sales in July compared with 2012, and a 55% increase in August. The continued growth in the UK on-trade has seen Kopparberg Mixed Fruit become the best-selling packaged cider variant in the industry for the first time, according to new statistics from CGA, and the company expects the sales growth to continue in September and beyond. Adrian Hirst, sales director at Kopparberg UK, said: “2013 has already proved to be an extraordinary year for us, with our new above-the-line campaign, enhanced public relations activity and the great weather combining to break records within the business. This success is not possible however without the continued support of our on-trade customers who have helped Kopparberg establish and maintain its position as the leading fruit cider brand in the country.”

Five Guys hires music specialist to create soundtrack for UK sites: Better burger concept Five Guys has appointed the music and video technology specialist, PlayNetwork, to create a unique music experience for its UK restaurants. Five Guys opened its first UK outlet on 4 July in Covent Garden, London – its first restaurant outside North America. The chain opened its second location in Reading last week. Five Guys selected PlayNetwork to design the same experience found in its US restaurants. PlayNetwork’s technology allows brands to deliver music messaging content. The company has developed a rock sound for Five Guys, which is claimed to have a distinguished affiliation with rock and roll music. Playlists, designed by PlayNetwork, allow Five Guys to adjust sounds to mirror the atmosphere and time of day.

Domino’s Pizza launches new advert campaign: Domino’s Pizza has created a new ad campaign using the line “Greatness from Domino’s”. The 30-second ad focuses on a Domino’s delivery driver and his mission to bring quality pizza to the people of Great Britain and Ireland no matter what. Simon Wallis, sales and marketing director at Domino’s Pizza, said: “I am delighted with this campaign execution. You are left in no doubt at all that Domino’s delivers greatness. Our bold tone of voice is back. We know our customers won’t settle for ordinary and demand great so that is what we do.”

Work starts on £3m Blackpool Cosmo site: Work has started on the £3m redevelopment of the fire-damaged former Yates’s Wine Lodge building in Blackpool. A new 26,000 sq ft leisure and retail project is to be created on the site. Cosmo, the Pan Asian banquet chain, has signed a lease for the entire first floor and Tesco is expected to use the retail space for an Express store. TGI Friday’s has also shown interest.

Tummies goes on the market: Tummies, a restaurant in Cippenham, near Slough, with a cookery school and events team attached, is up for sale after its owners, Claude and Tammy Mariaux, appointed Davis Coffer Lyons to find a buyer. A 20-year lease is being offered on the business for £500,000, a circa 2x multiple of Ebitda. The business, founded in 1988, has evolved over the years and now occupies more than 3,200 sq ft, including a newly refurbished bar area, a large outdoor terrace, private dining rooms and a deli serving fresh salads and sandwiches. 

Highwayman in St Neots first Brewers Fayre to see Scooby-Doo live: The Highwayman in St Neots, Cambridgeshire will be the first call for Scooby-Doo this Saturday, September 14, on a nationwide tour of Brewers Fayre outlets for the cartoon character, part of a tie-up between Whitbread and Warner Brothers. Scooby-Doo will be at The Highwayman from 12pm to 5.40pm, with customers getting the chance to have their photographs taken with the sleuthing canine. From 9am on the day, families will also be able to have a professional shot taken in front of one of several classic Scooby-Doo scenes featuring his famous friends and crime-solving sidekicks Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne. The shots will be printed on-site and given to families in a photo-frame. Andy Hewson, general manager at the Highwayman, said: “We’re thrilled to be the first Brewers Fayre to welcome Scooby-Doo to our restaurant as part of his nationwide tour and can’t wait to have families from all over St Neots in to see him.” The Scooby-Doo promotion includes Scooby-Doo themed activity packs, re-designed party packs and new internal POS at all 147 Brewers Fayres. Chris Lewis, head of marketing at Brewers Fayre said: “Offering entertainment in the form of activity and party packs is not a new concept for us, but we feel that by teaming up with Warner Bros. and the incredibly popular Scooby-Doo, we can truly deliver a fun and enjoyable experience for adults and children-alike.”

Pub entrepreneur becomes chairman of Truman’s brewery: Malcolm Heap, founder and former managing director of Realpubs, which was sold to Greene King for £53.1m in 2011, is now chairman of one of London’s newest brewers. Heap, who is a silent partner in the pub company London Ordinaries, led by Michael Buurman, has joined Truman’s, which has opened a brewery in Hackney Wick. James Morgan, managing director of Truman’s, which has taken the name of a former London brewery that closed in 1989, said: “With Malcolm’s arrival, we have the team to make Truman’s a great name in British brewing once again. Malcolm’s industry experience is immense and, most importantly, he shares my passion for Truman’s and everything that it stands for.” Morgan said Heap’s experience building and leading fast-growing companies would prove invaluable as Truman’s embarks on the next great stage of its history. The team behind the revived Truman’s started operations in 2010, having beers brewed under the Truman’s names at other breweries, before opening their own £1m 40-barrel brewhouse, The Eyrie, earlier this year. Heap and his partner at Realpubs, Nick Pring, stayed with Realpubs until April this year, two years after its acquisition by Greene King, driving it up from 14 to 22 sites. Truman’s is currently developing a new cask beer with the help of customers of the pub chain. The Great Truman’s Taste Test sees two competing beers continuously refined according to drinkers’ feedback, is taking place throughout the autumn, with the winning beer eventually joining the brewery’s permanent line-up alongside its two other regular beers, Runner and Swift. 

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