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Mon 25th Nov 2013 - La Sala, Greene King, Fuller's, JDW, VAT Club

Story of the Day:

JD Wetherspoon exchanges on first pub in Eire: Pub operator JD Wetherspoon has exchanged contracts to purchase its first pub in the Republic of Ireland. The Watford-based company has purchased The Tonic Bar in Temple Road, Carydfort Avenue, Blackrock. It expects to complete the purchase in the next ten days. Wetherspoon is to invest £1.5 million euros developing the site, making a total investment of three million euros, including the purchase. At present there are no on site or opening dates, however, Wetherspoon aims to have the new-look pub open by April 2014. Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: “I am delighted that we have secured our first site in the Republic of Ireland and am looking forward to opening our first pub there in the near future. Our aim is to invest up to 50 million euros in the Republic of Ireland over the next five to ten years, opening between ten and 20 pubs. Each pub will create approximately 50 jobs.”

Industry News:

ALMR National Restaurant Association Study Tour to Chicago open to bookings: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2014 Chicago Study Tour is now open for bookings. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training, takes place between Thursday 15 May and Monday 19 May. The ALMR launched its first study tour trip to the NRA show in 2012, with the trip led by Propel Morning Briefing managing director Paul Charity. The NRA draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, all seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides: insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues – with 70 free education sessions; involves a tour of Chicago’s hottest concepts and a market overview briefing sessions from US experts. The group is staying at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel Info, said: “The NRA show is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, e-mail

C&C Group join VAT Club Jacques Borel: C&C Group, the producer of Magners, the well-known Irish cider and Tennent’s, the iconic Scottish lager, has joined the VAT Club Jacques Borel. It has put its weight behind the campaign to reduce the level of VAT on drink and food in the hospitality sector in the UK from 20% to 5%. Paul Bartlett, director of corporate affairs at C&C, said: “Pubs and bars are vital to the social and economic fabric of the UK. We believe that it is important for suppliers like us to support the VAT campaign and show that we are standing side by side with licensees. The rate of VAT in Ireland in the sector was reduced in 2011 and we have seen the beneficial effect on the hospitality industry there, safeguarding jobs and neighbourhoods. The UK should follow suit.” Jacques Borel said: “I’m delighted to welcome C&C as new members to the campaign and look forward to many other high profile companies joining in the coming weeks and months. The campaign is gaining great traction within the hospitality industry and with the public too.” Magners Original is the UK’s no.1 packaged cider, stocked in more than 60,000 pubs and bars across the UK. Tennent’s Lager is Scotland’s iconic lager and is stocked throughout Scottish pubs. C&C’s affiliate Tennent Caledonian Breweries runs the Tennent’s Training Academy, providing training for thousands of new entrants into the hospitality industry.

Study – licensed premises are a “healthier” place to drink alcohol: An academic study ‘Planning Theory & Practice’ has found that licensed premises provide a “relaxed” and socially regulated environment for alcohol consumption and that the rise of out-of-home drinking is associated with numerous health harms which could be avoided by drinking in pubs. ‘Young adults and the decline of the urban English pub: issues for planning’ found that 18-24 year olds drink on average 8.5 units on a weekend night out but 12.5 units at house parties. Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director for the ALMR, said: “The ALMR strongly believes that the supervision provided by staff in licensed premises makes them the safest and best place to drink and we will be including details in our forthcoming briefing to MPs.”

180,000 businesses in rates appeals: More than 180,000 businesses are currently involved in business rates appeals worth £2bn. Business rate specialist CVS estimates it will take two years for the Valuation Office Agency to hear all the appeals. CVS regional director David Ford said: “It is clear that the current business rate system, and particularly the processes for hearing and clearing appeals, are not working as well as they should.”

Displaying hygiene score compulsory in Wales this week: Displaying hygiene scores on the doors of pubs, restaurants and takeaways will become compulsory in Wales this week. In England, the British Hospitality Industry is campaigning against a nationwide compulsory scheme because the scheme isn’t consistently implemented. The county of Rutland is declining to take part in the scheme on the basis that it lacks the necessary resources.

Company News:

James Horler to chair Spanish restaurant chain: Industry veteran James Horler is to chair the UK arm of La Sala, the Spanish restaurant in Puerto Banus used by celebrities. Horler said: “The La Sala brand already has international recognition, celebrity status and is a firm favourite with Britons who holiday in southern Spain. We are aiming to bring a little bit of sunshine to these shores, transferring the La Sala blend of atmosphere, quality, exceptional service and value that is part of the proven formula for success. I am really excited about this opportunity as this a totally different concept and the right brand to bring to the UK at this time. Our first site is likely to be in Essex to attract the celebrities and footballers, and will have valet parking as well as the same great food as the Spanish restaurant. We’re planning to roll-out two sites in the first 12 months with a third to follow, maybe in the West End. It’s great timing for this sort of brand.” La Sala in Spain operates casual premium restaurants frequented as much by the rich and rare celebrities as by families and caters for a mix of ages and clientele, offering the “ultimate social and dining experience”, day and night. Customers can choose from the varied menu offering a range of international and Spanish favourites. Around £3.5m to £4.5m is being sought from investors through an Enterprise Investment Scheme. Horler, who grew La Tasca from 16 restaurants in 2001 to 74 in 2007, is also currently chief executive of 3Sixty Restaurants and non-executive director at Red Hot World Buffet, both of which are backed by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners. He will be joined by Steve Tatlock as finance director and Barry Aldridge to guide on licensor conditions and strategies.

Brasserie Blanc in negotiations on three pubs: Brasserie Blanc is in negotiations on three pubs within the M25 – with two planned to be open by mid-2014. Raymond Blanc said: “I want to see a food revolution in pubs across the country.” Pubs are an institution comparable to “the London taxi”, he added. Mark Derry, who runs Brasserie Blanc operator Brasserie Bar Co, told Propel in April that building a pub estate will be the focus of the company for the next three years as it plans to expand to 20 sites in affluent suburbs from its current two. The company opened two Enterprise Inns tied pubs, in Weybridge and Teddington, under the White Brasserie banner, in late 2010. Both pubs take £30,000 per week net “comfortably” and were enjoying 11% like-for-like sales growth in the Spring of this year. Derry told The Telegraph today: “We all feel that the pub area is the place we should develop more. There’s a real opportunity. We’ve taken these pubs from just £8,000-a-week turnover to £35,000 to £40,000 turnover.”

7,500-capacity nightclub get go-ahead: A plan to turn a disused Manchester railway station into a venue including Britain’s “largest nightclub” have been approved. The Mayfield Depot Management Company wants to use the space for arts, music events and club nights. Manchester City Council licensing committee granted a licence but with 79 conditions attached. The next stage for the venture, which could open in summer 2014, is to obtain planning permission. The depot on Fairfield Street will need safety and soundproofing work to transform it into a 7,500 capacity venue. But it would only be used for five years when the former railway station is to be demolished as part of the area’s regeneration. The company wants to use it for events such as a food festival, concerts, fashion shows, film screenings, as well as a club venue.

Fuller’s paid £400,000 over the asking price to buy The Distillers: The freehold interest on The Distillers on Fulham Palace Road has been sold for £3.4m to Fullers after agent Davis Coffer Lyons (DCL) secured the deal on behalf of Hammersmith Tavern. The sale was achieved following competitive bidding, off an asking price of £3m. DCL has also sold the leasehold interest in The Distillers in Clerkenwell for £250,000 and a passing rent of £115,000. Paul Tallentyre, director at DCL said: “There is a distinct lack of good freehold properties coming to the market. This means that when they do we receive a great deal of interest. To have achieved £400,000 over asking price is a great result.”

Eclectic ‘not interested’ in any PBR sites: Eclectic Bars, which has £1.8m to spend on organic growth and new site acquisitions after its £15m float on AIM has declared itself “not interested” in any of the sites owned by PBR Leisure, which went into administration last week. Reuben Harley, Eclectic’s chief executive, said: “We are not interested in any of the PBR Leisure portfolio. We purchased Coyote Wild from PBR, but we cannot see any further opportunities in its sites.” Harley said that Eclectic was looking at expansion, particularly in the north of England, focusing on the growth of its Sakura and Lola Lo brands: “We are a national business and if you look across the UK we are not represented in places like Leeds and Liverpool.” The company is also reviewing sites for expansion potentially in Exeter and the south west, Guildford and around the M25 in locations such as Kingston and the West End of London, he said. However, Harley said, Eclectic would not alter its current plan of opening two to three new venues a year. Up to last month, when the contract ended, PBR’s sites were being run for it by Eclectic. The PBR sites still open include The Lodge, a 450-capacity bar in a three-storey freehold former bullion bank in central Newcastle upon Tyne; the two-storey Boathouse pub in the heart of Durham city centre, a favourite with Durham University students; Riverside in Newcastle; and the 24-bedroom Waterside Hotel, a grade II-listed Georgian building on Newcastle’s Quayside. Administrators at Zolfo Cooper have closed two PBR outlets, Blu Bambu in Newcastle and Beach in Belfast.

Geof Collyer – M&B needs significant outperformance for share price to move: Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer has argued that Mitchells & Butlers will need to report significant outperformance in its full-year results tomorrow for the share price to move up. He said: “Recent trading has picked up for some of M&B’s peer group, however the Coffer Peach Business Tracker in October was just +1.0%, with London +3.7% and restaurants -0.7%. Given M&B’s food focus, we expect the current trading commentary to be closer to 2% than the 4% of Wetherspoon and Spirit. Management has given muted guidance for 2014 (flat margins with an increase in like-for-like growth). With the weak revenues in FY’13 and muted FY’14 guidance, we remain cautious for FY’14E with sales growth of +3.8% (like-for-like sales +2.0%) and EBITA of just 3% that assumes 13bps lower margins than 2013. Stock is down 5% since (its) trading update, (and there’s) no sign of near term recovery. The shares in the company have fallen circa 5% since its last trading update. It will take a significant outperformance over management’s expectations for the stock to move up from here, which is too uncertain under the given circumstances. Hold.”

PizzaExpress, Prezzo, Wetherspoon and Loungers for Solihull: PizzaExpress, Prezzo, JD Wetherspoon and Loungers have been confirmed as tenants for the Parkgate scheme in Solihull, which will open in April next year. More than 60% of the scheme is now let or under offer. Jonathan Cox, of Shirley Advance, said: “We are pleased to be announcing these initial lettings and we are in discussions with a number of other national and regional retailers in respect of the remaining space.”

Craft beer pop-up pops up in Shoreditch: The Craft Beer Social Club, a beer tasting and education company based in East London, is organising its second pop-up bar, at the aptly named Shoreditch-based co-working space The Brew. The pop-up will open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12pm to 12am at 232 Shoreditch High Street, East London. Tables should be booked in advance, but “walk-ins” are accepted. Table service is by beer sommeliers, who will talk about the beers, answer beer questions and help educate guests about Britain’s beer heritage. Food will be provided by a selection of street food chefs, with Colonel Tom’s Gumbo, a Louisiana-style street caterer, already confirmed. The pop-up at The Brew will also feature a series of beer tasting events, and lunchtime roundtables. The Craft Beer Social Club was founded by Justina Cruickshank in 2012, and its previous pop-up, this autumn, was held in London Fields, East London. The Brew is an office space provider with, currently, four co-working shared offices around Shoreditch.

Flagship Harry Ramsden’s wins award: Harry Ramsden’s in Bournemouth, the flagship site that claims to be the world’s largest fish and chip restaurant, has been crowned Restaurant of the Year at the annual Bournemouth Tourism Awards. Joe Teixeira, chief executive of Harry Ramsden’s, said: “We are thrilled to win this award, especially as it further underpins our belief that our restaurant in Bournemouth is a true showcase as we move Harry Ramsden’s forward. To be recognised in this way also indicates that we are not only popular with our traditional customer base, but that our ambition for Harry Ramsden’s is also winning a whole new generation of fans.”

Greene King to open King’s Lynn Hungry Horse next week: Greene King is to open a new-build Hungry Horse, The Gatehouse, in South Lynn next week. The Hungry Horse pub has been built in the Nar Ouse Regeneration Area, near Hardwick Road and the town’s historic South Gate. The site was formerly a lorry park. A Greene King spokesperson said: “The brand new Gatehouse is set to open on Monday, December 2, creating 75 new local jobs with our family-friendly, great value Hungry Horse restaurant.” The pub is part of a £5m development at Kellard Place, which also includes a 68-bedroom Travelodge hotel.

Stonegate names Carlsberg “Supplier of the Year”: Stonegate Pub Company has named Carlsberg UK its Supplier of the Year at its annual supplier conference. Voted for by Stonegate pubs and the support team at head office, Carlsberg was credited with offering category insight and best service provider to the estate. The Drinks Innovation award went to First Drinks Brands while the Supplier Partnership Award was presented to Chilli Marketing and a special award, the Stonegate Icon, was given to Les Murphy, Heineken trading director, for his contribution to the industry ahead of his retirement later this year.

Luminar to appeal against ASA ruling: Nightclub company Luminar is to appeal against an Advertising Standards Authority ruling that upheld a complaint over a piece of direct mail advertising party deals with alcohol at its Kuda site in Leeds that was received by a 12 year-old. Tim Howard, head of marketing for Luminar, said: “We do not, under any circumstances, promote alcohol or club events to minors. It would appear that a minor’s name was incorrectly added to the electoral register and, as a result, promotional material was distributed in error and we have apologised for any offence caused. In our defence, the data was sourced from one of the country’s largest and most reputable companies, and as such Luminar cannot be held responsible. We will, therefore, be appealing the ASA’s ruling.”

Micro-pub opens under former Conservative club: The first micro-pub in Belper, Derbyshire is opening under the town’s former Conservative club. Arkwrights Bar is situated in a disused function room under the club, which is now called the Strutt Club. It has been started by Paul Carroll, 46, who has been steward at the Strutt Club for the past five years. He said: He said: “The room used to be a little disused function room under the club which people weren’t very keen on hiring. So we’ve gutted the whole room and we’ve got a new bar, new beer cellar and a little kitchen in the back. We’re going to have six real ales on, some from local brewers and others from all over the country. We’re also going to be stocking a craft beer, lager and stout as well as traditional ciders and perry.” The micro-pub is the second in the area to open in the past fortnight, after the Cask and Pottle in Tutbury, East Staffordshire, 16 miles away. An application is currently in front of East Staffordshire Council to turn a former coal yard office into the first micro-pub in Burton upon Trent. The proposed micro-pub will be next door to a Travelodge hotel at The Midland Grain Warehouse in Derby Street, Burton.

Fuller’s Parcel Yard to add 1,500 square foot of space by Christmas: Fuller’s busiest site, the Parcel Yard in King’s Cross, which has 10,000 square feet of trading space, will add another 1,500 square foot of space by Christmas with the conversion of empty Network Rail space to meeting rooms. Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny told Propel: “It’s our biggest pub on almost every measure – cask ales sales, beer sales in general and sales of Frontier lager. There is huge demand in the area for event and meeting rooms.”

Fuller’s tenants staying for 6.3 years on average: Fuller’s has reported that the average length of tenure for its tenants is 6.3 years, which means an average of around 15% of its tenants leave each year – exactly in line with the level of departures that Enterprise Inns claimed as optimal last week. “We have wonderful long-term relationships with our tenants,” said Emeny. The company is selling ten tenanted pubs that do not fit company criteria, with two sites already sold with an exceptional profit of £1.4m. Chief executive Simon Emeny told Propel it was likely that many of these pubs would go to alternate use such as housing, as have the first two located in Feltham and Acton.

Fuller’s now exporting to 68 countries: Fuller’s is exporting one in five of the barrels it brews to a total of 68 countries around the world, with Sweden its biggest market and Russia doing ”particularly well”. The company stated: “We continue to see growing interest in British craft beers around the world.”

26 “service coaches” appointed at Fuller’s: A total of 26 internal “service coaches” have been appointed at Fuller’s. The service coaches promote Fuller’s values, share new ideas and provide feedback to the business. The company has also launched the “Engaging Service Passport” and five golden rules of service, which encourage staff to take ownership of their customers’ satisfaction.

Former Thai freehold in Leicester offered for £350,000: The freehold of a former Thai restaurant in Rutland Street, Leicester, adjacent to the renowned Curve Theatre in the cultural quarter, is being offered through agent Christie + Co, for £350,000. Nick Greaves from Christie + Co’s Nottingham office, said: “The cultural quarter is a hive of activity in Leicester’s city centre and the arrival of a new eating venue would be a great addition to the area.”

Punch and Pub People Company report success at £400,000 investment pub: Punch Taverns and East Midlands operator Pub People Company have reported the success of a £400,000 co-investment at The Keywoth Taverns in Keyworth. A new kitchen was installed and the pub is now serving home-made, locally sourced food. Like the drinks, the food also has a local flavour and features a new menu containing plenty of chef-prepared dishes and beef sourced from farms near Worksop. Pub People operations director Andrew Crawford said: “Both the drinks and food have been very popular, especially the cask ales. Customers also like the new choice and quality of wine, exceeding many customers’ expectations and they have been enthusiastic about trying different varieties. The new kitchen team have worked very hard to develop an interesting menu full of traditional pub favourites and home-made specials. The response to the food has been excellent and is growing in popularity week by week. The local steaks are proving to be among the most popular dishes in the evening and in the daytime the really good value, two meals for £10, has attracted large groups of older customers, who have been impressed with the choice.”

Simon French – current trading expected to be strong at Marston’s: Panmure Gordon leisure analyst Simon French has issued a note saying he expects “few surprises” when Marston’s announces its Full Year 2013 results this Thursday (28 November). He said: “We expect few surprises in the numbers following the detailed pre-close trading update and consensus expectations are for £88.9m profit before tax and a 6.4p dividend. Current trading should be relatively strong and we estimate circa 2.5% like-for-like sales growth in Premium & Destination pubs. The group’s strategy of accelerating disposals of bottom-end wet-led pubs whilst allocating more capital to new-build food-focussed managed pubs remains relatively risky in our view given the step up in industry supply. The stock is not expensive, trading on a CY 2014E adjusted EV/EBITDAR of 8.6x and the yield remains an attractive 4.3%. We reiterate our ‘Hold’ recommendation and 135p Target Price.”

Grand Hotel to go on the market for circa £50m: The 201-bedroom Grand Hotel in Brighton is to go on the market for an estimated £50m. Owner De Vere Group, which is controlled by Lloyds Banking Group, is understood to have appointed agent Christie + Co to sell the site as part of move to reduce its £1bn of debts. A sale of the company’s conference and training business to US property investment firm Starwood Capital for circa £230m is also underway.

Greene King wins second place in National Apprencticeship Awards: Greene King has been named runner up in the ‘Macro Employer of the Year’ category at this year’s National Apprenticeships awards, securing its position in the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers List. The pub company and brewer went through to the national finals after winning the Central Eastern region’s ‘Macro Employer of the Year’, in September. The macro employer category is for English employers from all industry sectors, which have over 5,000 employees. It recognises companies’ support for developing employees’ careers through apprenticeships. Since the Bury St Edmunds-based pub company and brewer signed up to the government’s apprenticeship scheme in 2011, over 3,000 employees from across the business have joined the programme, with more than 1,500 completing their training. John Smith, group HR director for Greene King, said: “To be recognised by the National Apprenticeship Service in this way is a great achievement.”

Lucky Voice signs deal with Luminar: Karaoke business Lucky Voice has signed a deal with nightclub operator Luminar to install the first Lucky Voice pod within its estate – at its Kingston nightclub Pryzm as part of a £1m re-launch of the site. The brand’s custom-built touch-screen karaoke software has been installed in the private VIP room at the refurbished Pryzm, turning the space into a private karaoke booth available for hire by the hour. The Luminar Group’s chief executive Peter Marks said: “As we create a new, high quality clubbing experience under the Pryzm banner, we want our customers to experience the very best in cutting edge design, technology and entertainment. Lucky Voice is widely recognised in the industry as the original and best karaoke solution for entertainment providers and we are delighted to introduce the concept of private booth karaoke to our customers in Kingston.” Nick Thistleton, managing director, Lucky Voice, said: “Demand for our ‘powered by’ karaoke platform continues to flourish across all sectors of the entertainment industry and now extends to a wide range of leisure businesses including bars, clubs, restaurants, bowling alleys and entertainment parks both in the UK and overseas. Our clients report that Lucky Voice Enterprise is proven to be both popular with customers and a lucrative means of generating engagement and interest. We are extremely excited to partner with The Luminar Group as they look to appeal to a wider audience with its new Pryzm nightclub concept.” Co-founded by founder Martha Lane Fox and Nick Thistleton, the Lucky Voice business started with a premium private room karaoke venue in Soho, London, and has expanded to three owner-operated venues and five franchised operations across the UK.

Fuller’s expects to launch stand-alone coffee shop in 2014: London brewer and pub operator Fuller’s expects to launch a stand-alone coffee shop, bearing its Brewer Street coffee offer branding, in 2014. The company has identified an empty property next to its Plough pub in Ealing that will be converted to a branded coffee shop offer. Earlier this year, Emeny told Propel: “We are really pleased with the course we took on coffee. The branded route wasn’t right for us – we decided we’d try to be different and have found a fantastic coffee blend.” Fuller’s serves its Brewer Street brand in eye-catching crockery with a menu offering all the popular variants and indulgent snacks, such as “delicious chocolate brownie”.

Searcys placed on the market: Bar and restaurant operator Searcys has been put up wit a price-tag of £25 to £30m. The company was bought by its management in 2010 with backing from serial investor Harish Patel. Underlying earnings are £2.4m on turnover of £46m. The Sunday Times argued that the business could be split with a number of individual sites sold to restaurateurs. This week, Searcys opened a “fashionably British” bar and brasserie on the fourth floor of the Selfridges store in Birmingham. The new restaurant, to be called The Balcony, is billed as serving food and drinks with a “playful twist” in a “stylish and contemporary environment”. Earlier this year, Searcys was appointed to manage Birmingham’s new Rep Bar. Its other outlets include the St Pancras Grand Brasserie and a private members’ club at the top of the Gherkin, the skyscraper in St Mary Axe, in the City of London.

Castle Rock buys Gedling club: Nottingham-based Castle Rock Brewery has bought the long-established Willowbrook Club on Main Road, Gedling, in the north east of the city. No details of the price have been released, but Castle Rock is to invest £200,000 to update the dining, food preparation, bar and toilet areas of the club. As a pub, open to all, it will follow the established Castle Rock style. Castle Rock Brewery operates Nottingham’s largest real ale brewery and over 20 pubs in Nottingham, the East Midlands and Yorkshire. Managing director, Colin Wilde, said: “For some years, we’ve been asked if we’d consider opening a Castle Rock pub in the Gedling area and the Willowbrook stood out as an opportunity that we’ve been able to grab.” Last month, Propel reported that Ever So Sensible Restaurants, the company formed by the former Mitchells & Butlers executive Chris Bulaitis, had partnered Castle Rock to turn Nottingham’s Castle pub into the city’s premier fish and chip venue. In addition, an innovative Castle Rock Taproom and Kitchen is scheduled to open at East Midlands Airport as part of the £12 million redevelopment. The move to open a Castle Rock Taproom and Kitchen stems from a desire by Autogrill Catering UK to showcase regional operators.

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