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Thu 21st Nov 2013 - Bramwell, Greene King, KFC, Polpo, Tuk Cho

Story of the Day:

Eight in ten hospitality operators use Twitter and Facebook: A survey by Propel Info in partnership with iTradeNetwork has found that more than eight out of ten hospitality operators use Twitter and Facebook to promote their businesses. The survey also found that almost two thirds – 63% – used the internet to order from their suppliers, with the result that nearly half – 49% – spent 12 hours or more a week on the internet for work purposes, with a quarter spending six to 12 hours a week working on the net and only one in a hundred saying they spent less than an hour a week on the net for work. The survey found that while 65% of respondents still used the telephone for at least part of their ordering from suppliers, with reasons against using the net ranging from suppliers not offering it to online ordering being too complicated and online ordering taking too long, 100% of respondents that did not already order online said they would try it, if offered by a supplier or wholesaler. Three out of five respondents said the main barrier to using new technology more was the cost of implementing it and then of keeping it maintained and upgraded. However, the report suggests, these particular concerns are likely to reduce in the coming years with the wider introduction of cloud based software, which gives customers a solution without the need for new hardware and usually with low monthly fees. While Facebook and Twitter are the most used social media for promoting hospitality businesses by respondents to the survey, a growing number of businesses are using a range of other techniques, including video (with 27% using YouTube) and blogging, as well as review sites such as Tripadvisor (38%). The most popular purchasing method was through a sales rep, with 83% using that route, followed by the telephone, at 74%, and online, at 70%. More than nine out of ten respondents use the internet to look for news and trends and eight out of ten use it for research. Three quarters use it to find products, services and suppliers, and half use the internet to find business advice. Only a third use it for career and job research. The full results can be obtained here https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Survey-Request

Industry News:

Propel Multi-Site Management Masterclass sold out: The Propel Multi-Site Management Masterclass, launched last Thursday in partnership with Professor Christian Edger, has now sold out. To get on the waiting list, e-mail jo.charity@propelinfo.com. The event will be held at Tanner & Co, 50 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 on Thursday 9 January.

Black Country politicians ask for more powers to protect pubs: Black Country politicians have backed greater powers to stop community pubs being sold off or redeveloped as superstores, housing or fast food restaurants. Walsall Council approved a motion which also called on the government to hand down more planning powers to the local authority to protect the local pub from redevelopment. The motion was put forward by the council’s Lib Dem deputy leader, Ian Shires, who also urged community groups to list their locals as official assets of community value, which would make it more difficult for owners to sell them.

Hippodrome Casino seeks to add spectacle to Leicester Square with dwarf bouncers: The Hippodrome Casino is advertising for “Door Dwarfs” as it seeks to put together a team of “Britain’s smallest bouncers”. The venue, in Leicester Square, central London, wants people under the height of 4’10” to help look after customers and nip any trouble in the bud. An advert in the Metro newspaper read: “Door Dwarfs required for The Hippodrome Casino, London. The Hippodrome is seeking to create a team of Britain’s smallest bouncers – Door Dwarfs – for its new entrance in Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square. Duties include door control and customer relations. We welcome applications from those under 4ft 10 inches.” The team of “Door Dwarfs” should be in place by December. Simon Thomas, the owner of the Hippodrome Casino, told LBC: “We wanted to add some extra spectacle to Leicester Square.”

Café Rouge diner pays it forward: A mystery diner at Café Rouge in Wokingham, Berkshire has “paid it forward” this week. The unknown man picked up the tab for three other tables as well as his own at Cafe Rouge because he “wanted to do something good that day”. The unselfish act stunned other diners – with one woman initially believing it was a prank being filmed for a television show. Abdul Sadri, manager of the Market Place restaurant, said the man instructed staff not to tell the customers until he had left. Sadri said: “He just said he wanted to do something good that day, they were his words.”

Smashburger chief executive steps down: Dave Prokupek has stepped down as chief executive of the Denver, Colorado-based Smashburger better-burger chain. He has been replaced by the chain’s president Scott Crane. Initially, Prokupek served as chairman, but he was named chief executive in 2010. In addition to his role at Smashburger, Prokupek was a managing partner and chief investment officer for Consumer Capital Partners, which was created by Quiznos’ former chair and chief executive, Rick Schaden. Smashburger operates more than 230 company-owned and franchise locations in 30 states and four countries, and is looking to open in the UK.

Sky partners BoxNation: Sky has signed a new partnership deal with BoxNation, the UK’s only dedicated 24/7 boxing channel. David Rey, managing director of Sky Business, said: “Our partnership with BoxNation provides pubs and clubs with more boxing content than ever before and an even wider choice of live sport to drive value for their businesses. In addition to these two BoxNation fights, Sky is also offering the Froch v Groves pay-per-view fight through Sky Box Office, which is also set to pull in the crowds and keep them in the venues for longer.”

Company News:

Mitchells & Butlers ends Tuk Cho brand expertiment: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has called time on its single Tuk Cho site in Ealing by selling it to Richard Caring’s Bill’s chain. The sale comes slightly less than two years after the company launched Tuk Cho, featuring Asian street food, in the wake of deciding against buying Wagamama and Tampopo. But M&B chairman Bob Ivell made it clear earlier this year that the embryonic brand was not first priority for the company – and a planned second opening in August last year, converting an All Bar One site in Chiswick, was scrapped. Ivell told Propel at the start of this year: “In my view, (developing Tuk Cho) was a bit of reaction to not buying Wagamama. I think it is clearly a marketplace that has got potential. I think there’s a lot of work to be done on Tuk Cho. Is it a priority for us? Probably not. But we will work on it and see if we can get it to the point that we want. Opening new sites was running before it could walk – and the one thing this business does not particularly need is more brands. I did look at Tuk Cho in around April of last year and I had a sort of review. There were a few fundamentals that I felt were wrong with it.” Earlier this month, Propel reported that Tuk Cho had begun to earn very high scores on TripAdvisor, with an average of 4.5 out of five for the last ten most recent customer visits. Bill’s, which currently operates 27 sites, has openings planned for Leamington Spa, Bury St Edmunds, Manchester and Worcester.

Another 67 Bramwell Pub Company sites hit the market: Another 67 former Bramwell Pub Company sites have come on the market though agent Christie + Co. The latest batch of Bramwell pubs are in addition to the 35 sites that Christie + Co is already marketing. The pubs and bars are situated throughout England, Scotland and Wales and include four in London, with others in major cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Cardiff. Christie + Co is requesting interested parties submit premium offers by 5pm Thursday 28 November 2013. The 67 pubs include eight Varsity sites, Cape in Nesham Street London, The Longroom in London – and all three Wild Lime Bar and Kitchen sites. Highest turnover site is Abbey in Liverpool, which had turnover of £1,051,296 in its most recent year.

Orchid launches new loyalty drive offering four families a free Christmas: Orchid Group is offering four customers a free Christmas. The loyalty drive will give four families £2,000 in cash in time for the festivities. According to the BBC the average family can spend £700 on festivities, and research from the charity Family Action says most spend between £530 and £682. “The cost of Christmas can easily add up and these figures may be on the conservative side, so we want to give four of our loyal customers the chance to enjoy the festive season on us this year,” said Simon Dodd, commercial and people director at Orchid Group. “All our pubs are taking part in the competition and all customers have to do is swipe their loyalty card for a free entry. Not all pubs offer a loyalty scheme, so where this is the case, there is a “text to win” alternative. There are four prizes of £2,000 cash – three for a lucky customer of each of Orchid’s three loyalty schemes – Our Family card, Slice and Diamond Club– and one for a customer who enters the text competition in any of Orchid’s Independent Local pubs.”

Costa trials big data initiative: Costa is to trial a big data initiative across its network of more than 1,600 coffee shops in the UK. The Whitbread subsidiary has signed an agreement with the analytics firm APT (Applied Predictive Technologies) to test its cloud-based Test & Learn management system throughout its UK stores. Other APT customers include McDonald’s, Subway and the big US restaurant chain Olive Garden, which use the software to evaluate things such as menu strategies, pricing, marketing and media, labour and operations, and capital investments. Matthew Price, Costa’s finance director, said: “It is critical for Costa to have the best tools in place to rapidly generate insights that create value for our business. The ability to automate complex analytic processes has not only provided more accurate decisions, but it has significantly decreased the time required to understand the impact of each new idea.”

Greene King opens £750,000 brewhouse: Greene King opened its £750,000 new brewhouse in Bury St Edmunds yesterday. Chris Houlton, managing director of Greene King Brewing and Brands, said: “We are listening to our customers and investing in innovation. It is a real chance to put into practice some of the ideas we have had before but until now not had been able to turn into reality. It is the start of an exciting new chapter four our business.”

Wetherspoon lines up Beverley pub: JD Wetherspoon is understood to be set to acquire one of the best-known pubs in the wealthy East Yorkshire enclave of Beverley (population: 29,100). The Cross Keys in Lairgate closed at the weekend after landlord and landlady Brian and Sharon Brooks, who own the site, decided to give themselves s non-pub Christmas. JD Wetherspoon has been search for a site in the town for a time. The company previously submitted a planning application to convert the disused Agriculture House in New Walkergate, Beverley, into one of its pubs. However, plans were rejected by East Riding Council, which said the development would be detrimental and out of character.

Polpo founders to open first pub next week: Polpo founders Russell Norman and Richard Beatty will launch their first pub next week when the former Marquis of Granby at Cambridge Circus, Covent Garden, will re-open as the Ape and Bird. It will retain a pub atmosphere while providing all-day dining. Its 120-cover restaurant will focus on British dishes including mince and dumplings, Scotch egg with celeriac fries, devilled kidneys on toast and whole poached trout with cobnuts and watercress. Kate Taylor, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, which acquired the site for Polpo, said: “We can’t wait to see the results of Russell and Richard’s first foray into the pub market; it may be a far cry from Venetian cicchetti but we’d expect the same level of innovation, excitement and attention to detail that has defined the pair’s other venues to date. This is a key gateway to Seven Dials and a very important addition to its eclectic eating and drinking offer.” The Ape & Bird opens on 28 November for its first of two preview days, when food prices will be discounted 50%.

Lord Somerleyton steps in to take over pub and hotel on his estate: Lord Somerleyton has stepped in to directly take over a pub and hotel on his Suffolk estate after their tenant leaseholder left by mutual agreement. The Duke’s Head in Somerleyton and Fritton House at Fritton Lake are in the hands of Lord Somerleyton, Hugh Crossley, and his wife Lara after the estate took back the lease for them from Norwich businesswoman Sarah-Jane Roberts. Fritton House, which dates back to the 15th century, has now been closed for refurbishment until April, when it will re-open. Lord Somerleyton said when it re-opens it will no longer do weddings and will have a new name to reflect a new “more pub-led hostelry” ethos. The Duke’s Head is also being refurbished and its new look will be unveiled in January. Roberts took over the leases for pub and hotel in March 2012 after the company that previously ran them, HFOB, which was owned by Lord Somerleyton and David Moss, went into voluntary liquidation.

Costa opens three new stores in Northern Ireland: Costa Coffee is opening three new stores in Northern Ireland this month. The new stores, which add to the 18 the chain already has in the province after arriving in 2004, are at the Kennedy Centre, Belfast, which opened on November 15, the Lisburn Omniplex, which opens on November 30 and the Holywood Exchange, Belfast, which will open in early December. Dervla Arthurs, marketing manager for Costa Ireland, said all new starters will be offered training. “Not only will we be offering a top-quality product and service but anyone who joins our team will benefit from our excellent staff training which includes a dedicated core skills trainer and the opportunity to train at our barista academies in Dublin and Cork,” she said.

Ministry of Sound ‘decision’ delayed for a month: London mayor Boris Johnson has again delayed a decision on whether to give Allies & Morrison’s plans for a 41-storey tower in Elephant & Castle the green light. The Ministry of Sound nightclub opposite has been mounting a campaign to stop the residential scheme from going ahead, claiming that noise complaints from nearby residents will force the venue to shut down. It is the second time the decision on Eileen House has been put back, with Johnson having been due to rule on it over the summer. The mayor has now said he will make a decision on the scheme in a month, after he adjourned a public hearing on this week.

KFC ad banned over franchisee price variations: The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertisement for the KFC Family Burger Box because 15 outlets out of 850 in the Kentucky Fried Chicken UK store estate sold the item for more than the £14.99 given in the ad. The voice-over for the TV ad said: “The new KFC Family Burger Box – a choice of four fillet or zinger burgers, large popcorn chicken and fries. Feed the family and save a fiver – just £14.99”. On-screen text said: “Item shown £20.51 if bought individually. Prices may vary.” After a member of the public complained, KFC told the ASA that prices varied between stores, as it was legally unable to fix the pricing within all of its franchisee stores and could only recommend pricing. It said the Family Burger Box sold for between £14.99 and £16.99, but adjusted individual menu prices meant that the saving was always over £5, as claimed in the ad. The ASA said it was satisfied that most Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants sold the Family Burger Box at the price quoted in the ad, and that the saving in all stores was over £5. However, it concluded that it was not sufficiently clear that “prices may vary” referred to all prices quoted in the ad and ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form. 

McDonald’s apologises over rap music soundtrack: McDonald’s has issued an apology after “pornographic” and explicit music featuring underage sex and violent rape was played in its Haverfordwest restaurant in West Wales. Pub landlord Steve Davidson was eating breakfast with his 20-month-old grandson, Charlie, when the explicit lyrics in a song by Rucka Rucka Ali called Only 17 began to be played at 9.30am. The lyrics included detailed references to extreme sex acts, rape and prison violence.

Starbucks, Cornish Pasty, Hotel Chocolat for Reading station: Starbucks, Cornish Pasty Company and Hotel Chocolat will open at the expanded Reading railway station in April next year. Hamish Kiernan, Network Rail’s interim commercial director, said: “Reading station is bigger and better than ever, but we know passengers want more retail choices in the new part of the station.”

Steam and Rye opens with investment from Kelly Brook: Steam and Rye, which has seen investment from actress Kelly Brook, has open on Leadenhall Street in the City of London. The venue, which once housed the Bank of New York, comes with high ceilings and neo-gothic pillars, ideal for the 1925 Hollywood glamour the operator is trying to portray. Steam and Rye has been refurbished in imitation of New York’s Grand Central Station and features a first-class cocktail carriage.

Karaoke bar blames Trinity Leeds for move: The first bespoke karaoke bar outside London is looking for new premises after its owner claimed that its current location has been hit by the opening of Trinity Leeds. OK Karaoke was opened in East Parade, opposite Greek Street, in Leeds in 2007 by a team involving the restaurant and bar owner Steve Hawkins. However, it has now closed after Hawkins said the business could not come to an agreement with its landlord about new terms. The Garage nightclub, below OK Karaoke, will also relocate. Hawkins said: “Greek Street is really struggling. This area needs investment and has struggled since the opening of Trinity. We are currently looking for new premises for both OK Karaoke and Garage nightclub.” Hawkins, who also owns the Oracle Bar in Leeds, said he hopes to relocate both venues before the end of the year. “Garage will be relocating with a bit of a bang,” he said.

Buffet concept opens third site at Manchester Printworks: A new buffet brand, Peachy Keens, has opened in Manchester Printworks. It offers Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, Thai and British dishes as well as salads and sushi. Peachy Keens also operates in Nottingham and Birmingham.

PizzaExpress, Nando’s, Starbucks and Mimosa line up for Loughborough: PizzaExpress, Nando’s, Starbucks and Asian buffet concept Mimosa are to take four of the seven new restaurant spaces created at a proposed multi-million pound development to revamp Baxter Gate in Loughborough, on the site of a former hospital. Harbourside Investments and Domain Baxtergate Partnership have submitted a planning application to Charnwood Borough Council to create an eight-screen cinema with 1,118 seats, seven family restaurants and a coffee shop.

Norfolk villagers raise money to buy Punch pub: Villagers in Shouldham, Norfolk have been given a grant that matches the £150,000 they have campaigned to raise in order to buy their village pub and run it as a community venture. The team behind the Save Our King’s Arms (SOKA) campaign reached an agreement with Punch Taverns over the price of the pub after confirmation that they had been awarded a grant by Social Investment Business. Phil Harriss, the secretary of SOKA, said: “The grant from the Social Investment Business more than matches what we got from selling the shares, which gives us enough to buy and refurbish the pub. We’re planning on having a party to celebrate before the hard work starts on refurbishing it next year in time to open in early spring.” The village hope to have access to the pub soon, with plans to carry out refurbishments from January to March, and an opening in early April.

Figtree Prophet explains thinking behind new GBK identity: Figtree Prophet has explained the thinking behind a new identity for 59-strong better burger chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which aims to reflect the brand’s “obsessiveness about burgers”. The consultancy was brought in at the end of last year after a pitch, and asked to “rearticulate and reaffirm their sense of purpose”, according to Figtree Prophet partner Simon Myers. Myers said: “They were the first original gourmet burger [the chain was founded in 2001], before that there wasn’t a lot of choice. In the last five years, though, the burger market has really exploded. GBK are really quite obsessive about their burgers. They’re also very relaxed and unstuffy – these are the two things we wanted to reaffirm.” The new identity concept references the “great team spirit” of the brand, with visual nods and school or team badges, according to Myers. This also comes through with the brand language. Figtree Prophet also worked on employee engagement for GBK as part of the rebrand. Myers says, “ultimately, people are key to deliver an outstanding and consistent brand experience.”

Ed Passey to join Red Hot World Buffet next month: Eddy Passey, group operations director at the pan-European hostel provider Beds and Bars, will join Red Hot World Buffet on 9 December. The buffet chain saw investment from Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital earlier this year. James Horler, who is interim chief executive at Red Hot World Buffet, told Propel at the time of recruitment: “We are strengthening the management team to get ready for expansion – Eddy will be joining Red Hot World Buffet as a board director.”

Shepherd Neame to invest £100,000 in Sheerness hotel: Shepherd Neame is to invest £100,000 in refurbishing the Royal Hotel in Sheerness, Kent. It was built in 1825 by Sir Edward Banks, who also designed Sheppey Dockyard and Southwark and Waterloo Bridges. As well as the renovation, Shepherd Neame is looking for a new licensee to run the business, which has 13 letting rooms and a function room. The works, set to begin next year, will give the hotel and pub in Broadway contemporary decor, highlighting traditional features such as its bar counter and back bar.

Fast food ‘doesn’t have to look like the ads’: The real-life appearance of fast food does not have to match up with how it looks in advertisements, New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled. It said in a decision that as long as the products were well-made, chains were entitled to show them in their “best light” in advertising, a practice which was not misleading. The ruling was in response to a complaint to the authority that Subway’s sandwiches did not look like the ones in a Subway television advert, which “falsely represents the size, filling, and quality of actual sandwiches”. However, the ASA said that advertisements for fast food often “employed hyperbole in order to demonstrate the range of ingredients available to consumers and showed them or the food product in their best light.” It pointed to a previous ruling which said that a burger advert which presented a burger in its best light was not misleading, and ruled the Subway advert fell under the same category. The ASA said the issue “was how the product was made at the particular Subway outlet, and not with the advertisement,” and said it was a service issue.

Kamps to open first UK sites before Christmas: Kamps, one of Germany’s leading bakery businesses, is to bring the German tradition of fine baking, with a modern London twist, to the capital. The first two UK Kamps Bäckerei Cafes will open in Tottenham Court Road and High Street Kensington Underground station before Christmas.

Administrators in at PBR Leisure: Administrators have shut two sites run by PBR Leisure after being called in as a result of the company hitting cash flow problems. The administrators, from Zolfo Cooper, said the company’s remaining five sites would continue to trade while “a range of options” was explored, including the sale of the individual sites as a going concern. Up to last month, when the contract ran out. PBR’s sites were being run for it by the bar operator Eclectic. Until August this year, PBR Leisure owned the Living Room premium bar and restaurant brand, with a total of 14 sites, which it sold that month to Stonegate Pub Company. Last month it transferred the management of eight late-night venues to LT Pub Management. In February it had gone through a refinancing deal that reduced its debt by about two thirds via a debt-for-equity swap with its RBS-led banking group. The deal left it with debt of £20m, down from £61.1m at the end of 2011. Until last week, PBR still ran bars and hotels in the North East of England and Belfast and employed a total of 153 staff, of whom 54 have now been made redundant. Peter Saville, a partner at Zolfo Cooper, and one of the administrators, said: “It is regrettable that there was no alternative but to close two of the sites resulting in a number of redundancies, however, we will continue to trade the remaining business while exploring all possible options for its future including a sale of the sites and welcome expressions of interest from third parties.” PBR began life as Premium Bars and Restaurants, a renaming of Ultimate Leisure in 2007, but first went into administration in 2009, when it was rescued by Orchid.

Eclectic floats on AIM in £15m fundraising: The premium bar operator Eclectic and its backer Avanti Capital have raised £15m in a float that will see the company’s shares traded on AIM from 28 November. The float is the first by a bar operator for six years. Eclectic, which currently runs some 20 outlets under brand names including Lola Lo, Sakura, Po Na Na and Fez Club, has conditionally placed more than 6.52 million shares at 160p each to raise £10.5m, giving it a market capitalisation of approximately £20.6m. At the same time, Avanti is selling another 2.85m shares for £4.5m to sell down completely its shareholding in Eclectic. The bar company will use the net proceeds of the placing to repay a £7.3m loan to Avanti, with the remaining £1.8m used to fund organic growth and new site acquisitions. Eclectic’s management will be left with 27% of the ordinary shares, which will be subject to a 12-month lock-in period. Reuben Harley, Eclectic’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted with the support and reception that we have received from investors, resulting in additional funds being raised, allowing Avanti to exit completely and Eclectic to begin life on AIM with a larger free float and a supportive institutional shareholder base.” Earlier this month, Harley told the Financial Times that he thinks the company could have as many as 50 outlets over the next decade. In October it reported sales up 7% to £21.197m in the 12 months to the end of June 2013, with company Ebitda 2% higher at £2.92m.

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