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Wed 25th Sep 2013 - Burger King, Glendola, M&B, Pret and Tax Parity Day

Story of the day:

Geof Collyer – Mitchells & Butlers Crown Carveries’ estate could be down in like-for-like terms by double digits: Deutsche Bank analyst Geof Collyer has claimed that the performance of Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) could be getting dragged down by the 120-strong budget Crown Carveries estate where like-for-like sales may be down by 10% plus. Collyer, issuing a ‘Hold’ note ahead of a trading update tomorrow, said: “M&B’s estate split is as follows – within the M25 circa 35% and within London and south east circa 45%. We would expect that this section of the portfolio would have performed in a similar way to the London-centric groups like Greene King (mid-to-high single digit like-for-like growth). However, the drag on M&B’s overall performance has been the Crown Carveries estate, which has been too skewed to food and away from its community pub roots. The negative impact here is equivalent to around -100 bps off group like-for-likes. So for a brand of fewer than 120 pubs, this would imply like-for-likes down in double-digits. Turning this part of the estate around should, in our view, be a priority for the group and a real test of the cultural engineering (the new ‘ways of working’) that is underway.” Collyer noted M&B’s shares have been the best performers among pub retailers over the past quarter (+18%) and second best since the new chief executive Alistair Darby was announced on 9 September 2012. He added: “Over a year on from joining, we believe that the market will be looking for some concrete developments and targets to go with the expectation that has been built into the share price. Unfortunately, we do not believe that he will be in a position to deliver on the dividend reinstatement just yet, as at the last time of discussion, there appeared to be too much clear water between the company and the pension trustees. Agreement here is essential before reinstatement can be contemplated, and it could be end mid-2014 before it is achieved.”

Industry news:

Propel Multi Club Conference sells out seven weeks ahead of date: The next Propel Multi Club Conference sold out last week, seven weeks ahead of its date on Thursday 7 November. The event features Risk Capital Partners founder Luke Johnson, Orchid chief executive Rufus Hall, Intertain chief executive John Leslie, Deterministics founder Brian Sill, Crowdcube founder Luke Lang, Loungers co-founder Alex Reilley, Bramwell Pub Company commercial director Sarah Weir, Sapient Corporate Finance founder Peter Hansen, Yummy Pub Company co-founders Tim Foster and Anthony Pender plus haysmacintyre’s Andrew Ball and Mark Allwood. To go on the waiting list for tickets, e-mail jo.charity@propelinfo.com

More than ten thousand pubs and restaurants cut prices today: An estimated 10,000 plus pubs and restaurants will cut their prices by 7.5% today for Tax Parity Day, which attempts to show consumer the benefits of lower VAT in the pub and restaurant sector. Campaigner Jacques Borel will start the day with a breakfast with JD Wetherspoon’s founder Tim Martin and Pizza Hut chief executive Jens Hofma in a Wetherspoon’s pub in Brighton. Martin expects Wednesday to be one of the busiest days of 2013 for the company. An 18% boost in takings would allow them to break even, he said. He added: “But it’s not about making money and it’s not just a stunt. It’s about making the intellectual argument for a cut.”

ALMR gives tentative welcome to Miliband’s promise on business rates: A promise by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, yesterday to cut business rates when his party came into power, which could save pubs and other small businesses an average of almost £450 over two years, was tentatively welcomed yesterday by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). However, Kate Nicholls, the organisation’s strategic affairs director, said the ALMR wanted to discuss with Miliband how he sees business rates reform working, and she agreed with the British Retail Consortium that the business rates system was no longer “fit for purpose”. Miliband’s plan, announced at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, is to reverse the rise in business rates due in 2015, just before the likely date of the next election, and freeze rates for two years, paying for this by reversing the planned cut in corporation tax also due to take effect in April 2015. However, Nicholls told Propel that while Miliband’s proposals were “interesting, we need to go much further, and have a fundamental review of the whole system.”

Stout sales rise 15%: Research house Kantar World Panel has reported a revival in the popularity of stout with sales rising 15% in the past year. New versions of stout, such as St Peter’s Cream Stout and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, are attracting a new generation of drinkers, with Tesco now stocking 23 varieties. Tesco’s beer buyer Chiara Nesbitt said: “The general quality of stouts has improved so much that they now offer drinkers with a discerning palate the same degree of sophistication and satisfaction they get from wines.”

New York cracks down on fake reviews: New York regulators have unveiled a comprehensive crackdown to date on deceptive reviews on the internet. Agreements have been reached with 19 companies to cease their misleading practices and pay a total of $350,000 in penalties. The year-long investigation encompassed companies that create fake reviews as well as the clients that buy them. Agreements have also been struck with several reputation-enhancement firms that place fraudulent reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, Citysearch and Yahoo. Investigators posed as the owners of a Brooklyn yogurt shop that was the victim of unfair reviews. The investigation found reviewers in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Eastern Europe produced, for as little as a dollar a review, praise for places they had never seen in countries where they had never been.

Burger King introduces low-calorie french fries: Burger King rolled out “healthier” french fries to all its 7,200 outlets in the United States yesterday. The new “Satisfries” contain 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories than traditional fries, and 25% less fat and 20% fewer calories than standard Burger King fries. However, Satisfries will sell for $1.79 to $1.99 a serving, up to 25% more than the $1.59 charged for basic fries, which remain on the Burger King menu. Eric Hirschhorn, Burger King’s chief marketing officer, North America, said fries were the one quick-serve category that had not seen “breakthrough innovation”. “We’re not replacing our current french fries. We’re just giving [customers] a new option,” Hirschhorn said. “We’re giving people an option to make small changes.” He said french fry consumption was declining, even though about half of the 100 million consumers who stop at a Burger King in the US each month order fries. Satisfries, which according to a Burger King spokeswoman contain “the same ingredients as the classic fries, just in smaller quantities”, will be supported by a full marketing campaign, but will initially be a “limited time offering”, Hirschhorn said.

Switzerland votes against minimum pricing: Plans for a minimum unit price in Switzerland have been rejected by the country’s National Council. Members of Switzerland’s lower house in its federal assembly voted against the measure last week (19 September), first proposed by the upper house, the Council of States, in March this year. No level had yet been set for a minimum price.

Company news:

Mitchells & Butlers appeals for new Harvester and Toby Carvery sites through Propel: Mitchells & Butlers has appealed for new Toby Carvery and Harvester site through Propel. The company sent a sponsored HTML message to the Propel database yesterday in which it said it was looking for high profile suburban, arterial or edge-of-town locations on development sites of 0.8 acres. Existing businesses will be considered if they provide a minimum of 4,000 square feet of space. Freeholds are preferred and sites need a minimum of 60 car parking spaces. The latest M&B campaign through Propel follows a successful campaign a fortnight ago in which the company appealed for Nicholson’s, Vintage Inns and Village Pub and Kitchen sites.

Best Place Inns puts two pubs on the market: Best Place Inns, which runs traditional London pubs that feature backpacker accommodation upstairs, has put two of its five outlets on the market as it looks to generate capital to power its expansion. The company has appointed Davis Coffer Lyons to market The Crown in Clapham, south London, an Enterprise site, and The Great Eastern on the Isle of Dogs, in London’s Docklands, a Punch Taverns site. Ben Stackhouse, Best Place Inns’ managing director, said: “These are really exciting times for us. Off the back of a solid year, we are now looking to take the company to the next level and, as such, we are currently on the lookout for a large Zone 1 (central London) property. This will become our flagship, and what we hope will be the first of many larger format operations. In order to make this step forward, we will need to generate additional capital. As well as exploring options with new investors and private equity firms, we are also testing the market with these two properties to see whether the funds, if required, can be generated from within our existing portfolio.”

Boost Juice looks for new Trafford winner: Boost Juice is looking to reproduce the enormous success of its outlet in the Trafford Centre, Manchester, with a second outlet at the other side of the mall. The current unit at the Trafford Centre opened in 2007 as the first Boost Juice in the UK and has consistently been one of the best performing Boost Juice outlets in the world. The new store opens next month near the Marks & Spencer store on Peel Avenue, the opposite end of the centre to the existing unit. Richard O’Sullivan, the former managing director of Millies Cookies, who bought the Boost Juice concept to the UK from Australia, and his wife Dawn said: “The popularity of our existing Trafford Centre store is growing all the time. It’s incredibly busy and we simply need to ensure that we’re able to cater for the increasing demand from the Boost fans. Seven years after Boost first launched in the Trafford Centre it’s still one of the top three, out of nearly 300 Boost stores, across 16 countries.” Boost Juice, based in Cheshire, won £2.5m from the Business Growth Fund last year, which took a minority stake in the company, to help pay for its growth from ten sites to 40 over the next three years. The O’Sullivans have now opened 13 stores nationwide and plan to hit 20 sites over the next few months. In the financial year to September 2012 the UK business generated turnover of £4m. Boost was founded in 2003 and has nearly 200 sites throughout Australia, plus other sites in countries including South Africa, Chile, Estonia, Germany, Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, China and Russia.

Glendola to invest in its first City of London site in the New Year: Rainforest Café operator Glendola Leisure, headed by Alex Salussolia, will invest in its new acquisition, The Door Oyster Bar & Grill at 33 Cornhill, its first City of London site, in the new year after a period trading at the site. Glendola bought a 17-year unexpired lease on the site with a rent for the 4,500 sq ft site of £144,000 a year. Managing director Alex Salussolia said: “We completed the middle of last week and are running the business format as inherited until we fully understand it. The plan will be to invest further in the business in the New Year.”

Flagship £3m Walkabout in Blackpool will be rebuilt with greater focus on food: A flagship Walkabout in Blackpool, destroyed by fire in June, will re-open in a month’s time in a £3m project that will see a greater focus on food. A wall along the ground floor will be filled with authentic Australian beers and the majority of the downstairs will be used for seating for food and drinks. Where the first-floor bar balcony area used to look over the ground floor, the area has now been covered over to create a dancefloor on the first floor, and the large windows looking out over Queen Street are set to be replaced with an open balcony area, protected from the elements by a wall onto The Strand. The once two-storey high sports screens are being replaced with ten screens showing a selection of Australian themed images, with other televisions around the venue to show sports. A spokesman for Walkabout owner Intertain said: “Upstairs will be party, downstairs will be a lot cooler. We’re going for a more aspirational feel.”

New coffee shop brand goes crowd-funding route: A new coffee shop brand, Deluxe Coffee, has chosen to go the crowd-funding route through Crowdcube to finance its first opening. It is looking to raise £107,000 in return for 15% of its equity. In its pitch it states: “The coffee that is currently offered in the high street coffee shops is average and there is no hot food served. The UK coffee shop market grew by 7.5% in 2012 and is now worth £5.8bn and continues to grow. Despite our company being a start-up, with the Deluxe Coffee package we are confident about our success. Deluxe Coffee aspires to be very different, if not revolutionising what is currently offered by high street coffee houses. Deluxe Coffee aims to be a combination of café, bar and a restaurant within its four walls. The business is based around the theme of an elegant modern coffee dark wood décor and vibrant place to eat and drink with the option to take away. We have taken elements from various locations and combined a mixture of European cuisine snacks and hot meals with traditional coffees, specialised coffees and alcoholic drinks served in an elegant and vibrant atmosphere. Our cafe bar restaurant intend have a far more wide-ranging product choice than the branded coffee shops. Our plan is to open many Deluxe Coffees in the UK and the first of which will be in the capital, London. The London cafe bar restaurant will be our flagship and go towards advertising our intent for Deluxe Coffee.” 

Brakspear restructures ops team: The pub operator Brakspear has restructured its operations team and recruited a business development managing from Heineken’s Star Pubs &Bars. The company has moved Mat Aket, who joined in 2011 as a BDM managed the redevelopment of both Brakspear’s managed pubs: the Bull on Bell Street in Henley and the Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold, to the new role of operations manager. At the same time it has hired Lee Taylor from Star Pubs & Bars, where he was a business development manager for five years, reaching the finals of the ALMR Operations Manager of the Year Awards 2012. Brakspear’s chief executive, Tom Davies, said: “These appointments give us the structure we need to move forward as a strong estate of tenanted, leased and managed pubs. Our tenants and lessees will benefit from the support of an outstanding BDM in Lee, while our small managed estate is in very capable hands with Mat.”

Partners behind £1m pub revamp want to build ‘small group’ of venues: Partners who have opened their third pub, the Orange Tree, in Trent Vale, Stoke on Trent have declared their intention to built “a small group of pubs and restaurants”. Richard Colclough and his three business partners, old school friends Philip Sharp, David Myers and James Keates, partners in the Parogon Pub Company, already own The Wayfarer in Stone, and The Swan With Two Necks, at Blackbrook, Newcastle under Lyme, spent £1m on a 12-month refurbishment at The Orange Tree, formerly The Springfield Hotel. Colclough, a former pharmacist, said The Orange Tree was “a steakhouse and a bar and grill, rather than the more traditional pub menus at our other pubs.” He said the partners in Paragon were still looking for new sites and would consider expanding. “But we’re quite a cautious business because we want to be here for the long term. We want to build a small group of pubs and restaurants, not finance a big chain and sell it off. We want to be around for the next 25 years.”

First all-Vegetarian Society-approved brewery in London opens: The first brewery in London to have all its beers accredited by the Vegetarian Society opens in London this week. Clarkshaws, based in East Dulwich, South London, does not use isinglass, made from fish, to fine its beers, which currently include Gorgon’s Alive, a golden ale made with Challenger and Progress hops, and Phoenix Rising, a session ale made with Phoenix hops. The couple behind the company, which takes the number of breweries in London close to 50, are Ian Clark and Lucy Grimshaw. Their beers will be on sale at The Harp in Covent Garden and The Cherry Tree and The Herne Tavern in East Dulwich.

Tiny Rebel Brewery opens site in Cardiff: Newport brewery Tiny Rebel has launched its first bar, Urban Tap in Cardiff creating 30 to 40 jobs. The Maesglas-based brewery, which already has a small on-site bar in Newport and has spent three months refurbishing the new premises, aimed to create a contemporary venue to match the changing face of real ale. A spokesman said: “We will be focusing on the craft beer scene, but we will also be having a specific wine list and a cider bar. There are big double fridges which sell beers from around the world as well as rare beers, which gives people the option to choose what they want without clogging up the bar. They can then choose to drink it at the bar or take it away with them.” The bar will also provide food, including gourmet bar snacks such as cheese platters, sourced locally.

Pret to sell free-range turkey for first time at Christmas: Pret A Manger is to sell free-range turkey for the first time this Christmas, as part of its commitment to ethical food sourcing. The revelation came from Pret’s chief executive, Clive Schlee, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper’s Sustainable Business section yesterday (Tuesday). Schlee also revealed that, with customers “increasingly” showing a desire for healthier eating, “we’re already seeing that the amount of vegetarian food that’s eaten is increasing steadily. Our top-selling salad is Green and Grains, which would never have made it into the top three salads five years ago.” Schlee told the Guardian that “consumer research shows that what fast food customers value is cleanliness, convenience, the taste of the food and the quality of the service. Very soon after that comes, particularly among female customers, the ethical perception of the company.” Pret sends left-over food at the end of the day to homeless hostels in London, and Schlee said the move was not just to impress customers: “Food for the homeless has remained a competitive advantage to this day for the staff. They come from Spain or Colombia or Poland, and we need do all we can to show them that they’re part of a bigger thing than just collecting their hourly pay. So, for us sustainability is not an add-on thing.” Schlee also revealed that the company’s biggest “green” challenge was reducing energy consumption: “Customers are demanding more hot food and more space to sit down, so the shops are getting bigger. We don’t say we’re going to reduce our overall energy consumption, because with an annual growth rate of 15%, increasing energy use by, say 5% is a heroic effort. What we’re doing is measuring and reporting everything, and then we’ll try to work out where we can reduce it.”

PizzaExpress, Nando’s, Starbucks and Mimosa signed up for Loughborough site: Plans have been drawn up to redevelop a derelict former hospital site in Loughborough, Leicestershire, with PizzaExpress, Nando’s, Starbucks and the Asian buffet and bar Mimosa chain already committed, according to the developer. Two public exhibitions are to be held to gauge local people’s views on the scheme, which includes an eight-screen cinema, before a planning application is submitted to Charnwood Council. Oliver de Chalus, from the developer, Citygrove, told The Loughborough Echo: “A planning application is being prepared to develop a leisure scheme on the former hospital site off Baxter Gate, which has been derelict since 2003. The scheme comprises an eight-screen multiplex cinema which will be operated by Cineworld, and eight family-orientated restaurants. Restaurant operators committed to the scheme include PizzaExpress, Nando’s, Starbucks and Mimosa. The scheme will provide a significant investment for Loughborough as well as the creation of new jobs for the town and if granted planning permission could be completed by late 2015.” David Slater, leader of Charnwood Council, told The Echo: “Having seen the visuals I am quite excited to see that part of the town regenerated in such a positive way.” The council has been trying to persuade Waitrose to join a wider development for the site.

Randall’s scraps new-build pub plan: Randall’s Brewery has scrapped plans to redevelop Le Coq du Nord pub in Guernsey, and instead wants to knock it down and build 12 homes. In February, the brewery announced plans to demolish the Braye Road establishment and build a new pub, with a separate lounge and public bar. Eight homes would also be built under the scheme, which would help fund the redevelopment. But this application was withdrawn before the planners could make a ruling. This week a new application has been submitted, which excludes any form of pub. Randall’s managing director, Ian Rogers, said the business had not been thriving for many years. “Unfortunately, following an investment in Le Coq du Nord in 2006, the existing pub has not prospered and it made commercial sense for us to look at the redevelopment of the site,” he said.

Wildwood operator looking for acquisitions: Wildwood operator Tasty is looking for new acquisitions as it reports turnover for the 26 weeks ended 30 June 2013 was £10.98m, up 24% on 2012’s £8.87m. The operating profit, before pre-opening costs, share based payments and interest, was £1.05m on 2012. Pre-opening costs have been highlighted in the income statement as they are necessarily incurred in the period prior to a new unit being opened and are specific to the opening but are not part of the group’s normal ongoing trading performance. The statutory profit before tax for the period was £787,000 (2012 - £360,000). During the period capital expenditure of £2.51m (2012 - £2.45m) was incurred. Two new Wildwood restaurants were opened, at South Woodford and Newmarket in April, plus a Wildwood Kitchen at Didcot in March. A further Wildwood Kitchen was opened in July in Barnes, South West London. To finance the growth, the group drew down a further £1.5m of its bank loan facility taking the balance to £2.5m. As at 30 June 2013, the group had net cash balances of £1.56m (2012 - £1.45m). Tasty said: “The new openings during the period, reported above, bring the number of restaurants to 27, consisting of six Dimts, 17 Wildwoods and four Wildwood Kitchens. The group continues to look at new sites and has the resources for further acquisitions.”

Classic Inns pub introduces cask ale ‘collector’s card’: The Greyhound in Ash, Surrey, part of Stonegate Pub Company’s Classic Inns estate, which has just reopened after a £125,000 refurbishment, is introducing a special collector’s card for cask ale enthusiasts where for every six pint purchased, the seventh will be free. The pub serves a range of cask ales including Tea, from the nearby Hogsback brewery in Tongham. It was closed for ten days for the refurbishment, and reopened with offers including two meals for £10.25 on selected dishes, two for the price of one cocktails every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 5pm and 8pm and a special Tuesday evening offer of £10.45 per bottle from the majority of the wine list.

Hall & Woodhouse brings out new beer for Cask Ale Week: Hall & Woodhouse, the Dorset-based family brewer and pub owner, is bringing out an autumn seasonal beer called Hopeful Hop for Cask Ale Week, which begins on September 27. Hopeful Hop is brewed solely with Celeia hops, which are named for the town of Celje, in Styria, the hop-growing region of Slovenia, and are a hybrid between Savinjski Golding, Aurora and Slovenian wild hops. The hop is said to give a powerful citrus hop aroma and a subtle bitter finish. The head brewer at Hall & Woodhouse’s Badger brewery, Toby Heasman, said: “Celeia is a hop we have experience with and felt it would make for a good single variety hop beer. We have been a little bit playful and added it at five different occasions in the brewing process to maximise the flavours and essential oils from the hop, thus giving a complexity to the beer from myriad flavours.” The theme for Cask Ale Week this year is “Introduce a Friend”. Paul Nunny, executive director of Cask Marque, which supports Cask Ale Week, said: “A huge 47% of British adults have never tried cask ale, including many who are regular pub-goers. Extraordinarily, nearly 30% of them can’t even give a reason why they’ve never tried it. Presumably no one has ever introduced them to the delights of a perfect pint.”

Community pub purchase plan gets two third of the way to target: A share issue campaign by residents who are trying to buy their village pub and reopen it for the community has entered its final phase, with £95,000 already in the bank. Villagers at Shouldham, Norfolk started to sell shares in The King’s Arms, which they hope to buy from landlord Punch Taverns, as a way of raising the current £260,000 asking price. As villagers go into the final ten days before the end of the share issue on September 30, the campaign has raised two thirds of the £150,000 it needs to raise from the public, which group members hope will be matched by cash they are applying for through the Social Investment Business. “I think other community pub campaigns have found that people often delay until the last minute before buying shares,” said John McGourty, chairman of the Save Our King’s Arms (SOKA) campaign. “Hopefully, it will be the same with Shouldham.”

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