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Wed 30th Oct 2013 - Bramwell, Stonegate, Greene King, Prezzo, Tragus

Story of the Day:

Stonegate owner eyes Bramwell estate: Stonegate Pub Company, the UK’s largest privately owned managed pub company, is understood to be in talks to acquire a portion of the 180-strong Bramwell Pub Company. Stonegate, which is owned by private equity firm TDR Capital, is understood to be interested in acquiring the best 80 sites in the Bramwell estate, which is leasehold. It has been suggested that the sites could be acquired through a pre-pack administration – Zolfo Cooper has been hired to oversee a review of Bramwell’s strategic options. The news that Bramwell might be sold comes as a surprise 13 months after the company was formed in the wake of the administration of Barracuda Pub Company, a deal that saw 18 sites left behind in administration. If a deal was completed, Stonegate’s estate would expand to around 650 sites, leaving it 230 or sites behind JD Wetherspoon, but in clear second place in the high street wet-led market. But a deal would also confirm Stonegate’s position as the key force for consolidation in the managed pub market where a number of smaller operators are owned either by banks or private equity firms. In August, Stonegate’s chairman, Ian Payne, told Propel that the company’s backer, the private equity firm TDR Capital, has funding in place to grow the business further, and the company was looking at every package of pub sites that comes on the market. Stonegate has grown to 573 sites after the acquisition in August of the 13-strong Living Room brand. Payne told Propel at the time: “We’ve looked at every single deal on the market in depth, and we will continue to do that. We have the finance in place to grow, although we’ve never had a numerical target: it is about acquiring the right quality.” Bramwell, which is led by Roger Moxham and chaired by Mitchells & Butlers’ former chief executive, Adam Fowle, emerged from the administration of Barracuda Pub Company in October 2012. The company was split into an operating company (opco) and property company (propco). It benefited from a credit facility of £10m from its new backer, Varde Partners. A spokesman for Stonegate declined to comment on the situation.

Company News:

BrewDog seeks new bar and bottle shop sites: BrewDog, the Aberdeenshire-based brewer and bar owner, has launched another campaign to find new bar sites and, for the first time, off-licence premises as well. The company is asking the public to find sites that fit its criteria, and promising to send a case of beer to anyone sending a suggestion that is followed up, and pay £1,000 in cash plus a lifetime discount at the new bar to anyone whose suggestion results in a new outlet being opened. For its first Bottle Dog shops, which will carry "a huge range of beers from the best breweries from around the world", together with home-brewing equipment and ingredients, the company is looking for sites in London "to start with", which must have A1 or A3 planning, ideally 50 to 100 square meters in size, with, ideally, space for offices above or below. For new BrewDog bars, the company says the venue "will ideally have previously been a bar and have both a cellar and a valid licence." It should be "a reasonably small venue – 80 to 130 capacity", and 150 to 200 sq m in size, and "corner units are preferable but we will take all applications into consideration." Target locations are South London, Central London, Brighton, Cardiff, Cambridge, Oxford, Dundee and Norwich. BrewDog is also still looking for a site for its BrewDog Academy, which, it says, should be in London, preferably with A3 or A4 planning and ideally 300 to 600 sq m in size. The company is due to open its 11th bar in the UK in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, while work has started on a site in Sheffield which is due to open early 2014. BrewDog has also announced a site in Liverpool that is currently in the planning stages.

Champneys seeks £130,000 a year managing director: Champneys, the operator of four 5-star health spa resorts and eight retail day spas across central and southern England owned by the Purdew family, is looking to recruit a new managing director on a salary of £130,000 a year plus car and benefits. The company said: “The owners are looking for a managing director to lead the strategic and operational development of the business and build on its success to date. The role is based in Tring, Hertfordshire, with travel across the group as well as attending networking events and conferences representing the organisation.”
Greene King invests six-figure sum in former theatre: Greene King has invested a six-figure sum in its Rep pub and restaurant in Ipswich to allow it to feature live entertainment. The Rep, formerly the town’s repertory theatre, in Tower Street, became a pub after the new Wolsey Theatre was built. A new lighting and music system has been installed for live music and comedy events. At least five taps will serve locally brewed ales, alongside Greene King brands. Richard Lewis, managing director for Greene King Local Pubs, said: “It is always exciting when the doors to a newly transformed pub are once again opened to the public. This is a huge change to The Rep, but one I am sure the local people of Ipswich will thoroughly endorse.” Meanwhile, Greene King has won consent for a new-build Hungry Horse in Thornton, on the Fylde coast, Lancashire. The pub is the second in the chain to come to the Fylde coast after the Cherry Tree opened on Vicarage Lane, in Marton, Blackpool in August. Work is due to begin building the new two-storey pub, on Fleetwood Road North, before the end of the year.

Marco Pierre White to open first Wheeler’s of St James's in Scotland: Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White is to launch his first restaurant in Scotland next month. White will partner the Aston Hotel in Dumfries to bring his Wheeler's of St James's brand north of the border in November. The restaurant is a £400,000 investment and is expected to create 10 new jobs. White said he had been looking for a Scottish site for some time but it had to be "just right". There are currently nine Wheelers-branded restaurants in the south of England, seven in the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire/Gloucestershire/North Hampshire area, with two more in East Anglia. Rudloe Hall in Corsham, Wiltshire was formally re-launched under the new name of the Rudloe Arms as a Wheeler's outlet earlier this month.

Prezzo aims to move into ex-Pizza Hut site: Prezzo has put in a licensing application with South Ribble Council to open in a currently empty building formerly used by Pizza Hut at the Capitol Centre retail park in Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire. The chain, run by Jonathan Kaye, has spent £500,000 on the building, next to the cinema on the park, and wants to open on November 28. It will be the fourth food outlet at the retail park, alongside Frankie and Benny’s, McDonald’s and Subway.

Gourmet burger concept Hub to open in Exeter: The Cornish-based gourmet burger-and-craft beer operator Hub is looking to open a third outlet in Exeter. Hub, founded by Richard Boon, currently runs a restaurant in St Ives and a "pop-up" outlet, Hubbox, operating from a 30-foot shipping container on Lemon Quay in Truro. It has now put in a planning application to convert the former Ivor Dewdney pasty shop in Sidwell Street, Exeter to a restaurant and take-away operation. The outlets sell burgers made from Cornish rare breed beef and New York-style hot dogs made in the UK from free-range pork sold in buns made by an artisan baker, craft beers and cocktails.

Wetherspoon signs up Bodswap: The London-based mobile app provider HG Apps Store is partnering with J D Wetherspoon to promote its latest mobile game, Bodswap. Jamie Vaughan, chief executive of HG Apps Store, said: "Bodswap is a family-based drawing game designed to keep the entire family unit entertained while out for a meal. As a parent myself, I understand the difficulties, particularly with younger children, so wanted to create something that was engaging for all. I was also keen to find a partner who values the family experience.” Wetherspoon's marketing manager, Mac Saunders, said: “Food is an important part of our offering and we have seen fantastic growth in our ‘Kids' Menu’ meals. Nowadays it’s hard to find a family group where someone is not using a mobile phone or tablet, so anything we can do to help them enjoy their experience with us, the better.” Bodswap is a free game, which can be accessed via a QR code on the front page of the Kids Menu in each of the company’s pubs. Bodswap can be played currently on an iPad, with the iPhone version available in November and an Android one later in the year.
Amber places Keighley site on the market: A pub and nightclub in Keighley, Yorkshire have been put up for sale by Amber Taverns. Berlins club and Last Orders in North Street are being marketed for £295,000. Amber Taverns has about 85 pubs across the North, Midlands and Wales. The sale is being handled by Leeds-based CBRE. “We are seeking to sell the premises as a going concern,” a spokesman said. CBRE is also joint selling agent, with Westlake & Co, for Steeton Hall, which closed on August 30. The ten-bedroom hotel, owned by Punch Taverns, had been run under temporary management since April after the sudden departure of the previous tenant.

Welcome Break hires new PR agency:
Welcome Break, the country's second largest motorway service area operator, has hired a new lead PR agency, Elliotts. A new PR campaign is being designed to "connect with the diverse range of Welcome Break’s customers and underpin the group’s investment in strong high street brands", the firm said. Account director Liz Bartlett, previously PR manager at TUI will direct the account. Elliotts' chief executive, Ann Elliott, said: “We’re ecstatic to be working with Welcome Break. It is a beloved British brand, and we can’t wait to start generating coverage for their 29 sites across the country.” Welcome Break's chief executive, Rod McKie, said: “The Elliotts team really understand our brand and what we’re trying to achieve. They share our commitment to fresh thinking, which will serve them well as they raise awareness of Welcome Break.”

Blackpool entrepreneur opens 'posh beach bar':
Blackpool entrepreneur Simon Moppett has opened a “posh beach bar" in Hanley, Stoke on Trent called Tahiti Rocks. Moppett said: "This place will breathe a bit of fresh air into Hanley's nightlife. All of the bar staff will be in bikinis or board shorts and it's all about having a good time. This is something completely new and different for Hanley. It's a posh beach bar." The venue underwent a £150,000 renovation that took two months to complete. The club, which can cater for 500 people, has formerly been known as Fluid, Zenn, Rush, Foxy's and Barasti.
UK barista third in global Costa competition: Barista Tatum Clews, who works at Costa Coffee’s Bridgwater, Somerset site, scooped third place in an international competition that attracted 3,000 entries from 29 countries. The eight finalists were tested on their ability to produce a technically perfect cup of handmade coffee, and their knowledge and understanding of the industry. First prize went to Tony Huang from China, while Szilard Hathazi from the Isle of Man won second prize.

Tragus e-voucher system comes top at Retail Systems Awards: Cafe Rouge operator Tragus has picked up a gong at the Retail Systems Awards for "Retail Security Initiative of the Year" for its single-use voucher system powered by technology from Eagle Eye Solutions. The single-use voucher system was introduced in 2012 and allows Tragus to manage and control promotions, reduce fraud and enable more personalised promotions. The voucher holds a unique code which can be validated by the EPOS system to ensure it is only used once. The unique code can also be used to link the customer to the EPOS transaction and allow Tragus to track the customer journey. Derek Risk, IT director at Tragus, said: “We are thrilled to have won the award for Retail Security Initiative of the Year for our e-vouchering system. Fraud reduction and prevention are essential in the increasingly high-paced digital world and we are proud to be at the forefront of industry development as the market continues to evolve.”
Starbucks lets customers tweet a coffee to a friend: Starbucks has launched a beta version in the United States of a programme that allows people to tweet a $5 gift voucher to a friend. The "Tweet-a-coffee" service requires users to go to, log in with their Starbucks account, put in the Twitter handle of their friend and hit the "Tweet Your eGift" button. Starbucks then tweets the friend with a link to a $5 gift voucher. The friend can then redeem the $5 Starbucks Card at Starbucks stores in the US either by printing out the voucher, showing it directly on their mobile device, or by loading it to their Starbucks mobile app. To encourage take-up, Starbucks is offering the first 100,000 customers to tweet-a-coffee between now and 6 November using a Visa card a free $5 Starbucks Card eGift. Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks, said: “What’s so exciting about extending our eGifting platform to Twitter is the open and real time nature of the platform. Tweet-a-coffee allows us to do something quite different in eGifting in that people can now give the gift of Starbucks to anyone on Twitter in the moment. This can be between the closest of friends, the most distant of colleagues, or even between people who have not even had the chance to meet yet in person, but have connected in some way on Twitter. We love the possibilities that the Twitter community can unlock to share acts of kindness with one another.”

Punch invests £200k in Newcastle live music venue: Punch Taverns has invested £200,000 in a live music venue in Newcastle upon Tyne, The Rigger. New licensee Tami Gomez said: "Everyone loves the new look, the makeover has been well received ,with many commenting on the quirky features, like the skateboards and alternative wall art.” Inside, the pub has been completely redecorated with new furniture, lighting and flooring in a modern, industrial style, with walls and ceiling using band art and skateboards to reflect a "quirky and unique" feel.

Developer buys Rotherhithe pub for just under £1m: The Clipper pub in Rotherhithe, South London less than 100 metres from the Thames has been bought buy a developer for just under £1m to turn into upmarket apartments. Panayiotis Themistocli of the agent AG&G said: “There was a lot of interest, with 14 offers – it lies opposite the Hilton Rotherhithe and has good transport links, including the Thames Clipper river boat. The Clipper was always going to appeal to developers.”

Irish chocolatier opens second cafe at Dublin airport:
The Irish chocolatier Butlers Chocolates has opened its second cafe at Dublin Airport. It now has outlets in T1 and T2. The new T2 Butlers Chocolate Cafe sells a full range of hot and cold beverages including lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas, as well as hot chocolate. All drinks come with a free Butlers chocolate. Gourmet food, including sandwiches and sweets, is also available.
Footballer’s bar business goes into voluntary liquidation:
Jamie Carragher's two Liverpool city centre bars have gone bust after racking up debts of more than £1m. The operation, which ran the Cafe Sports England restaurant in Stanley Street restaurant and the Moments cocktail bar, originally Cafe Sports Express, in Thomas Steers Way in Liverpool One, collapsed owing nearly £1.2m. Most of the debts were owed to the Flanagan Group, parent company of City Life Projects which owned the restaurants with Carragher. Paul Flanagan, managing director of the Flanagan Group, said the firm had done everything it could to try to save the restaurants. Documents show the list of creditors includes Carragher, who was owed £102,000.

Works starts on Marston’s Southend new-build after archaeological dig ends:
A Marston’s Milestone rotisserie will open yards from a Saxon king’s burial chamber in Southend, Essex next spring after an archaeological dig failed to unearth any new finds. Excavators have started tearing up the former Toomey Renault car showroom site in Priory Crescent, Southend, ready for a new 180-seat pub and restaurant. Archaeology experts dug three boreholes to test if the site, yards from where the remains of a Saxon king were unearthed in 2003, held any more finds before workmen moved in. Local historians claim this was insufficient for the one-acre site and fear valuable artefacts will be forever buried under the 2,000 sq ft pub. Marston’s Inns and Taverns, which is building the pub, said: “We have satisfied our obligations under the planning permission for the site.”

McDonald's restaurant doubles drive-in capacity:
A McDonald's restaurant in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire has spent £160,000 installing a dual-line drive-through, at the same time increasing staff numbers from 90 to 100. The new side-by-side drive-through at the Enstone Court outlet allows two orders to be taken simultaneously. McDonald's franchisee Perry Akhtar said: “As a local businessman I’m keen to continue to invest in the area and ensure every customer receives the best service possible. This is a significant investment, through which I expect to create 10 additional jobs; reduce waiting times, noise and congestion; and improve the overall customer experience.”
Eight bids for Dagenham pub sees it exceed asking price: The Bull in Dagenham, Essex, on a large site of around 0.6 acres with a telecoms agreement and a shellfish kiosk bringing in additional income has attracted eight bids and sold for in excess of its asking price to an investor. Panayiotis Themistocli of the agent AG&G said: “The new owner exchanged within 24 hours of receiving the contract – he’s bought pubs as an investment before and is keeping the Bull open while he decides the best use for the building.”

Soho leasehold restaurant goes on the market for £1m: The leasehold interest in Elena’s L’Etoile, the Charlotte Street restaurant which has served a celebrity clientele since 1896, is being put up for sale for £1m by agent Co. The restaurant is named after the renowned eponymous maitre d’ Elena Salvoni, affectionately known as the Queen of Soho, who managed the restaurant up to her 90s. Elena, who managed the upstairs room at sister restaurant the Gay Hussar in Greek Street, retired from L’Etoile in 2010.?The leasehold to Elena’s L’Etoile is available for offers in the region of £1m.??Simon Chaplin, director and head of restaurants for Christie & Co, said: “Like its sister restaurant, the Gay Hussar, whose leasehold Christie & Co also took to market last week, Elena’s L’Etoile enjoys an enviable reputation amongst the London dining set.” Both restaurants are currently owned by Corus Hotels.

ETM Group opens £2m flagship Canary Wharf site: The restaurant and bar operator ETM Group has opened its flagship £2m restaurant One Canada Square site in Canary Wharf, London. The letting on the ground floor at the UK’s second tallest building was secured by agent Davis Coffer Lyons earlier this year and came after three years of negotiations. Paul Tallentyre, a director at DCL, said: “This bar is in one of the most iconic buildings in London and needed a top quality operator to deliver the necessary high standard. ETM Group does this perfectly. It was a particularly complex deal which took over three years to complete and we are delighted that they have now opened. Given the company’s track record, we have no doubt that their new operation will be a success.”

Stonegate relaunches pub with 'lighter bite' menu: Stonegate Pub Company is relaunching the Ferryboat Inn, Hayling Island, near Portsmouth after a £250,000 refurbishment with a new menu that will focus on meals that are 500 calories or fewer. The 19-day overhaul of the pub will see its interior refurbished from top to toe, while the waterfront outside area will be extended to seat 50 customers, with glass windbreakers. General manager Peter McLaughlin said: "Its location makes the Ferryboat Inn such an iconic pub. There’s something quite special about the pub being on the beach. Those who have frequented the Ferryboat Inn over the years will notice quite a significant change when it reopens. We wanted to retain its charm, but at the same time give it a contemporary, stylish look." Stonegate's low-calorie menus include chicken and roasted pepper salad at 400 calories and smoky three-bean chilli at 455 calories.

Welsh brewpub serves beer made with oysters: A seaside pub in Wales with its own brewery is producing beer made with oysters. The Pilot Inn overlooking Swansea Bay in Mumbles first opened its doors in 1849 when initial owner Sam Ace named it after the heroic small boats which led big ships through the dangerous Swansea Bay sandbanks. Now, the inn is aiming to help a planned revival of the traditional oyster industry in Mumbles by serving up a new brew made with “essence of oyster”. The head brewer at the pub’s Mumbles Brewery, Rob Turner, said: “Contrary to the modern day perception of oysters as the food of the rich or as a rare treat, in Victorian times oysters were an everyday food for people living around British coasts." A number of beers have been made in the past that contained oysters.

Heathrow pub bought by developer for above £850,000 asking price: The Three Crowns in Stanwell, Middlesex, close to Heathrow Airport, has been sold for above its £850,000 asking price to a developer who wants to clear the site to make way for family houses. Panayiotis Themistocli of the agent AG&G, who brokered the deal, said: “It’s an attractive, half-timbered building that could easily have remained as a pub but the buyer has experience of buying pubs for development and recognised the opportunity this 2,425 square metre site presents. It’s always sad when a pub is demolished but the site will fulfill a pressing need for housing in the area, and it should be noted that there are five other pubs in the Stanwell Village area.”

Technomic – service is key restaurant differentiator: Patrick Noone, vice-president of the research and insights firm Technomic, has argued that service is the key differentiator in the restaurant sector. Noone said: “Among all businesses with which consumers interact regularly, often several times a week, restaurants stand out because consumers use them by choice, and generally to treat themselves or to make something about their day a little easier. No one goes to the bank because he or she wants to, or expects a particularly pleasant experience at the post office. Consumers use restaurants as a break. Whether they’re conscious of it or not, they go into a restaurant expecting to feel a little better when they leave than they did when they entered. And the memory of the tone of their interaction with staff members is as likely to linger as is the memory of what they ordered. Restaurant operators that put this idea at the forefront for their staff stand poised to earn the trust, and the repeat business, of their customers. And in an extremely competitive foodservice landscape, that’s absolutely invaluable.”

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