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Wed 27th Nov 2013 - Craft beer, Leon, JW Lees, Greene King, JD Wetherspoon

Story of the Day:

Casual dining operators told to look at engaging women with craft beer: Savvy casual dining operators may want to explore ways to engage women with craft beer, according to the American beverage industry newsletter Vibe. The newsletter bases its recommendation on the findings of two studies suggesting craft beer is more appealing to women than other types of beer. The latest BarTab Report from Technomic, looking at US consumers, found that more women (21%) than men (17%) ordered a craft beer during their most recent visit to a bar or restaurant. The report also found that three in ten women (29%) reported that they are ordering craft beer in bars and restaurants more often now than they did three years ago, which is on a par with the number of men ordering craft beer more often (30%). Another study by Technomic, On-Premise Craft Beer & Cider: Opportunities, Challenges and Innovations, found that six in ten women (60%) report ordering a craft beer at least once a month in a bar or restaurant, against seven in ten (69%) men. The newsletter suggested: “Given its broad spectrum of flavours and styles and its food friendliness, craft [beer] certainly presents unique ways to engage women. The gender-neutral marketing of most craft brands may be another element in its favour. The lack of images involving women either in bikinis or depicted as serving beer to men (or, at worst, bikini-clad servers), positions craft beer as not only approachable and interesting to women, but also welcoming.” Vibe continued that, in the US, “numerous women-focused beer organisations often seek beer-friendly locations to host events. Girls Pint Out, for example, is a national craft beer organisation for women with local chapters around the country that organises meet-ups at restaurants and bars to taste and talk about beer, often with a charitable element.” 

Industry News:

ALMR National Restaurant Association study tour to Chicago three-quarters full: The Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2014 Chicago Study Tour has had 75% of its places booked, after launching on Monday. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training, takes place between Thursday 15 May and Monday 19 May. 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 offer 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 jo.charity@propelinfo.com.

Women directors improve company performance: A new study has found women directors are better for companies because they are less likely to engage in over-priced takeovers. The Journal of Corporate Finance found that the cost of acquisitions is reduced by more than 15% for every female director on the board. For every female board member, companies also attempted 7.6% fewer takeover bids. The study was based on a large sample of acquisitions made by companies listed on the S&P 1500 in the US between 1997 and 2009. To work out the cost of each acquisition, they examined the bid premium, or the difference between the final offer price and the stock price of the firm being targeted before the deal had been signed off. Prof Kai Li, co-author of the report, said: “Our findings show that the prudence exhibited by women directors in negotiating mergers and acquisitions has had a substantial positive effect on maintaining firm value.”

Crowd-funding website Crowdcube expands international presence: The British crowd-funding website Crowdcube is to launch its next international operation in Italy, after its most recent agreements to open in New Zealand and Spain. It will launch operations in all three countries in early 2014. Crowdcube has now signed seven partnership agreements. The joint venture approach gives it a strong local presence, facilitates contact and approval with the local regulator, and firmly embeds it in the country’s investor and entrepreneur communities. The expansion is funded with £1.5 million growth capital raised in just three days earlier this year using its own equity crowdfunding website. Crowdcube has already established joint venture agreements in Brazil, Sweden, Dubai and Poland, highlighting the interest and demand for alternative sources of funding around the world. Crowdcube Sweden launched earlier in 2013 and operations in Brazil, Poland and Dubai are expected to go live early in 2014.

Banning multi-buys in Scotland fails to cut alcohol sales: Banning multi-buy promotions for alcohol, implemented in Scotland in October 2011 as part of the Alcohol Act 2010, failed to reduce the amount of alcohol purchased, according to a new study. The research, conducted by the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, a collaboration between the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge, is published in the academic journal Addiction. The researchers found that the data as of June 2012 showed no evidence that the ban on multi-buys reduced the purchasing of beer, cider, wine, spirits, and flavoured alcohol drinks. In addition, it did not reduce the total amount of units of alcohol purchased. They also found that the policy influenced shopping patterns of beer and cider, for which multi-buys had been used intensively. Scottish consumers started buying fewer products per shopping trip than they would have without the ban, but went out to buy beer and cider more frequently, leaving the overall amount purchased unchanged. Lead author Dr Ryota Nakamura, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “The industry appears to have responded to the ban by replacing multi-buy with simple price reduction, which made it possible for Scottish consumers to buy alcohol at a discounted price but with a smaller financial outlay. This might have mitigated the intended effects of the policy.” Professor Theresa Marteau, from the University of Cambridge, said: “This study provides timely evidence on the seeming ineffectiveness of an intervention designed to reduce alcohol consumption.”

Pal’s Sudden Service reports success with Facebook contest: Pal’s Sudden Service, which operates 25 units in the state of Tennessee, has reported success with a “Come Home to Pal’s” contest in early October. The Facebook contest called for people to nominate their far-flung friends to win a free trip home to Tennessee for the holidays, as well as a homecoming party at the nearest Pal’s for them and 25 of their friends. It received 2,400 entries. The company said: “What excited us about the campaign was the buzz going on around here. You have to be in our stores to hear how exited our customers were for this promotion.” The average Pal’s customer visits the restaurant chain three times per week.

Company News: 

JW Lees has £20m set aside for acquisitions: JW Lees’ managing director, William Lees-Jones, has revealed that he is keen to add to the Manchester brewer’s estate, with the Fylde Coast and the affluent Manchester suburb Didsbury, two areas of particular interest. Lees-Jones said: “We are keen to grow. We have a £10m facility from RBS for acquisitions and £10m in cash as well. We’ll start to have a serious look in the New Year after the Christmas rush.” He said the company was looking at a couple of pubs owned by Bramwell, the 185-strong chain that went into administration in October. “We are not afraid of buying unloved premises – and we have bought from the big pub companies like Punch and Spirit which have been unable to invest, whereas we can and have. The model is very much around adding food where we can. I get the impression that as consumers have had less cash to spend they have switched to pubs from restaurants as they feel we provide better value.” Lees-Jones said the rise in property values was a concern, however: “If asset values go up I’d be wary, particularly as fixed costs are forever increasing – energy, auto-enrolment for pensions, and so on.” In the year to the end of March, profits rose 23% from £4.8m to £5.9m as turnover climbed from £56.3m to £59.2m. Over the 12 months, JW Lees invested £10.4m in buying four new pubs and refurbishing other parts of the estate.

Las Iguanas reports 8.5% like-for-likes: Las Iguanas, headed by Erin Ali, has reported 8.5% like-for-like sales growth in the six months to the end of September – overall sales grew by 18%. The company has opened sites in Wembley (Designer Outlet), Exeter (Queen Street) and Bristol (Cribbs Causeway) since the start of October.

Leon to open 12 sites in a year: Leon, the high-quality fast-food restaurant chain, has opened the first of a planned 12 sites over the next year. The new format restaurant in More London, on the south bank of the Thames near City Hall and HMS Belfast, started its first week as one of the three highest taking sites in the portfolio. Co-founder John Vincent said: “What has always driven us is the belief that we can create fast food as it might be in Heaven. This beautiful new restaurant is the closest we have yet come to achieving this dream.” The site opened shortly after Heathrow announced that it has chosen Leon as the only fast food restaurant in its new Terminal 2. Vincent said: “Over the last year we have improved our offer. We believe our food is better than ever and we now have dishes at prices to fit all budgets. It is time to take Leon to more people.” Leon was founded in 2004 by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby with the aim to make it easy for everybody to eat good food. Since opening its first site in Carnaby Street, central London, the company has grown steadily and currently has 13 restaurants in London, including one in Heathrow Terminal 3.

Douglas Jack – M&B medium-term prospects are good: Numis Securities’ leisure analyst, Douglas Jack, has argued there is good scope over the medium term for Mitchells & Butlers’ shares to pick up. He said: “Full year PBT rose 14% to £184m (our forecast was £179.8m; consensus £179.6m) despite LFL sales growing by just 0.4%. Earnings grew 17%, mostly through margins rising 45bps and as a result of net debt and interest cost reduction. We are holding our forecasts, with the 2013 forecast beat and management’s 2014E target of holding margins offsetting only 0.1% LFL sales in recent trading and a £2m increase in operating costs due to IAS 19. Despite having arguably one of the best managed pub estates in the sector, M&B shares trade at a 5% EV/ebitdar discount to the peer group, reflecting operational under-performance. Over the medium term, we believe there is good scope for the shares to recover through LFL sales picking up, expansion accelerating, dividends resuming and the £600m pension deficit falling.”

Intertain completes Lincoln refurbishment: Walkabout operator Intertain has completed a £400,000 refurbishment of its site in Lincoln city centre. Following on from the recent refurbishments of the Walkabout venues in Derby, Carlisle and Blackpool, the Lincoln refurbishment sees a complete redesign of the venue and the introduction of the new food and drink menu that has recently been rolled out successfully across the rest of the estate. The refurbishment has led to the creation of 20 new bar, kitchen and management jobs. Chief executive John Leslie said: “We’re finishing 2013 with another really strong refurbishment, and we have high hopes that it will show the strong return on investment shown by the other sites we’ve invested in. We have more refurbishments planned for 2014 and in due course, we will also be looking to acquire new sites.”

Tim Martin – we will be up to 20% cheaper than Republic of Ireland pubs: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has told the Financial Times that openings in the Republic of Ireland will have prices up to 20% cheaper than existing rivals. He said: “With our strong buying power, we expect to provide good value with 10 to 20% cheaper prices than most Irish pubs.” Martin said Ireland was still a more expensive market than Britain in which to operate pubs, but after the crisis it was now “do-able”, providing a good opportunity to get into a new market. “Ireland has a robust pub culture, and Irish pubs have a deservedly good reputation. We will probably offer something a little different,” he said. “All competition is good competition.”

Rumours link Wetherspoon to sale of North Dublin pub: Rumours in Ireland have linked JD Wetherspoon to the reported sale of a pub in Swords, North Dublin to “a very big English name”. The owners of The Slaughtered Lamb in Swords, County Dublin told followers on its Facebook page, in a posting later removed, that “We can confirm that the refurb. to The Lamb has stopped and that an offer from a very big English name has being made to buy the pub. After great thought from the owners of The Lamb the offer has being [sic] accepted and is going through the process. The owners of The Slaughtered Lamb would like to thank all the people of Swords and the surrounding area for their support over the past 12 years. We wish the pub every success trading under its new name.” Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon declined to make any comment, saying: “We will only make announcements when deals are agreed.” However, commenters on Twitter based in Ireland claimed it was “99% certain” the “big English name” buying the pub was JDW, and suggested that the pub would be renamed. The rumours come after Wetherspoon announced it had exchanged contracts to buy its first pub in the Republic of Ireland, The Tonic Bar in Blackrock, South Dublin for €1.5m (£1.26m). The company said it planned to invest a further €1.5m developing the site and have it reopen open by April next year. Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, Tim Martin, said the aim was to “invest up to €50 million in the Republic of Ireland over the next five to ten years, opening between ten and 20 pubs”.

City Pub Company aims for 20 by the end of 2014: City Pub Company, the company founded in December 2011 by Clive Watson, David Bruce and John Roberts, is to grow its estate to at least 20 pubs by the end of 2014. It started the financial year with five sites and currently has 13 sites. During the first eight months ended 31 August 2013, City Pub Company has generated total sales of £4.64m and an operating profit of £618,000. Chief executive Watson said: “In the short time that we have been operating, we have built an estate of really high quality pubs in fantastic locations across the south of England. The EIS scheme has enabled us to bring in investors who share our passion for great pubs and recognise the opportunity for City Pub Company going forward. We look forward to continuing to acquire and develop pubs that give customers access to great well-refurbished free houses.”

Five restaurant brands line up for Milton Keynes scheme: British Land and Tesco have pre-let a new £4m, 20,500 sq ft leisure terrace comprising five restaurants and two smaller units at the 275,000 sq ft Kingston Centre in Milton Keynes. The extension has been pre-let to Frankie & Benny’s (3,727 sq ft), Nandos (3,017 sq ft), Chiquito (3,530 sq ft), Prezzo (3,017 sq ft), Giraffe (3,795 sq ft) and Caffé Nero (1,800 sq ft). The extension, which is due to open in early 2014, will be located on the southwest corner of the scheme and replaces a derelict former public house. One small unit remains but is already under offer and will conclude the full pre-let of the scheme. John Maddison, head of retail park asset management for British Land, said: “We are delighted that the leisure extension has let so well and once again, we have secured a new entrant to one of our out-of- town destinations in Giraffe. The new restaurants and café will reinforce and enhance the overall attraction of the park, providing a family dining offer for the first time.”

Burger King plans major expansion in France: Burger King plans to capture 20% of the French fast food market with a major expansion plan – France is McDonald’s second-largest European market. Burger King is forming a joint venture with Groupe Olivier Bertrand, which operates around 250 restaurants in France, and private equity firm Naxicap Partners. Burger King, which currently has three French sites, said the partnership would create 1,200 new jobs in its first year. McDonald’s operates nearly 1,300 restaurants in France and controls around 46% of the French fast food market, according to Euromonitor.

Two more Roka restaurants due in London: Chef Rainer Becker is to open two more outlets for his currently three-strong Roka chain of contemporary Japanese robatayaki restaurants in London next year. Roka Mayfair will open in February in North Audley Street, followed by Roka Aldwych in the summer. The Aldwych restaurant will “deliver a new dynamic altogether”, with unique design elements in both the restaurant and bar, the group said. The restaurants feature the charcoal robata grill. Becker opened the first Roka restaurant in Charlotte Street, central London in 2004, followed by openings in Hong Kong in 2008 and in Canary Wharf, London in 2009. Becker also founded the Zuma chain of Japanese izakaya restaurants in 2002, with the first opening in Knightsbridge, London, followed by others in Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, Miami and Bangkok. Two more Zumas are due to open in Abu Dhabi and New York next year.

DT Inns opens sixth Punch site: The Highbury Inn in Birmingham has been re-opened by DT Inns, its sixth Punch site, after a joint £260,000 investment with Punch. Brian Roach, operations director of DT Inns, said: “As a multiple operator we are always looking for opportunities to expand. We operate five other Punch sites and we took the opportunity to work in partnership with Punch again as we could see the pub’s potential and shared their vision to create a family-friendly venue serving quality food and drink for the whole community to enjoy.”

Geof Collyer – Greene King well-placed to outperform in the next three years: Deutsche Bank leisure analyst Geof Collyer has argued that Greene King, due to report half-year numbers next week, is set to out-perform in the next three years. He said: “The group remains our favoured UK pub retail play, given its track record and benign geographical exposure. The stock has been flat over the past quarter since the Q1 update – something that should be corrected, given the quality of the performance and the outlook. Greene King should still be generating the best CAGR in sales, ebitda, profit before tax and dividend in the sector over the next three years. Much of the strong momentum after 18 weeks should have been sustained. At the 18-week stage, like-for-likes were up 4.6%, following some acceleration in the 9 to 18-week period. This was vs. a tough comp (u+5.1%). At the H1 stage last year, like-for-likes were up 5.1%, so the comp remains a tough ask. On the back of some strong recent like-for-likes for the group’s London-based peers, we estimate that the H1 like-for-likes will still be up circa 4%. The summer performance was aided by the drinks-led focus in the Locals estate. We expect most of the 18 week trends to have been sustained for H1, with food and accommodation also up by circa 5%. Pub Partners delivered like-for-like ebitda growth at the 16-week stage. Some of this was driven by the more wet-led nature of the tenanted estate through the summer. If this performance has continued for the whole of H1, then its tenanted and leased division will be the best performing of the sector’s pubco estates. We would settle for stability and modest growth. Brewing was the surprise package at the 18-week point, with cask ale sales up (contra to the normal summer sales mix), and 7.9% volume growth from Old Speckled Hen. We forecast H1 volumes and profits both up versus a torrid H1/13.”

Woodroffe wins Yotel permission in Manchester: Simon Woodroffe, founder of the YO! Sushi chain, has been given planning approval to build one of his Yotel hotels in Manchester. The 258-bed hotel will occupy the former Union Bank Building at 12 Piccadilly, opposite Manchester Piccadilly railway station, and a new, 20-storey tower on a vacant adjacent plot at 14-16 Piccadilly. Both sites are owned by the Manchester-based MCR Property. Yotel has sites at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in the UK and Schiphol in Amsterdam. It also has a building near Times Square in New York. The Manchester Yotel was designed by Stephenson:ISA Studio.

Lindley Heritage wins £3m Henley contract: The River and Rowing Museum in Henley has selected Lindley Heritage, the heritage, arts and leisure venue division of the Lindley Group, as its partner in a seven year catering deal expected to generate a turnover in excess of £3m over the term of the hospitality and foodservice contract. Lindley Heritage has been brought on board to enhance the visitor experience at the River and Rowing Museum’s Terrace Cafe and conference and banqueting facilities. The appointment is Lindley Heritage’s second museum contract win, with the caterer having staved off competition from 19 potential contenders to be awarded a seven-year, £5m-plus catering contract by the RAF Museum in Colindale, North London this summer.

Greene King publicans to get help from cellar expert: Licensee partners in all Greene King tenanted and leased pubs will be visited by a cellar expert who will offer advice on the storage and serve of cask ales, in a new bid to improve quality. The visit by the Greene King Brewing and Brands dispense team will ensure tenants are offered the best advice and support in their own cellar on how to improve and maintain beer quality. Simon Longbottom, managing director for Greene King Pub Partners, said: “With our brewing roots, it should come as no surprise how seriously we take cask ales. Looking at our draught products, we have a strong ale ratio and are determined to improve it further. These visits give our tenants the perfect opportunity to tap up some expert advice, there and then in their own cellar. Our tenants know, as we do, how critical it is that real ales are served exactly as they should be, keeping their customers happy and coming back for more. This programme will benefit our tenants and help continue our growth in the cask ale category.”

Second branch for award-winner: An award-winning restaurant in Birmingham’s Chinatown is opening a second branch, in the city’s Colmore business district. Chung Yin Central will occupy a site at 126 Colmore Row which was formerly home to the Saffron Indian restaurant and, before that, a branch of the Italian chain Caffe Uno. It will offer dim sum, pan-Asian noodle dishes, Chinese beer and cocktails, with a cake offering at breakfast and an a la carte menu in the evenings. Owner James Wong said: “I am so excited that we finally get to bring a slice of Chinatown to the Colmore business district.” The opening, due before the end of the month, will create 15 to 20 jobs. Earlier this year, Chung Ying won the Best Chinese Restaurant in the Midlands category at the Tsingtao Legacy of Taste awards.

TCG invests £225,000 in community pub: The managed pub and bar operator TCG has invested £225,000 in one of its flagship community pubs, the Fatling in Hornchurch, Essex. The refurbishment is designed to develop the pub’s daytime trade, while ensuring it remains the town’s top evening destination. The redesign mixes “traditional alehouse features” such as barrels used as tables with “softer” elements such as bunting and feature wallpaper in an attempt to boost the pub’s daytime appeal to local workers and shoppers wanting a quick lunch or coffee. The Fatling’s new food menu offers pub favourites such as burgers and fish and chips alongside sharing platters, salads and panini. Food offers include a “Two mains for £9” and a two-for-one on desserts, while children’s meals at £3.95 have been introduced for the first time. A bank of handpulls dispenses a rotating selection of local and regional ales, including a £2.50 pint from the local Brentwood Brewery. Spitfire is also on permanently, in a nod to Hornchurch airfield, where the fighter planes were stationed. A new wine list has been introduced, retaining the pub’s best-selling offer of a bottle of Prosecco for £9.95.

West Cornwall Pasty Company reports turnover down, losses up: West Cornwall Pasty Company has reported a fall in turnover of 11.1%, to £21.22m in the 53 weeks ended 1 March this year, from £23.99m the year before. Ebitda before exceptional costs was down 26,7% to £1.65m from £.26m the year before. Losses on ordinary activities before tax were up 37.3% to £833,000 from £606,000 the year before. There was an exceptional cost of £1.52m, which was lower than the £1.97m booked the year before. The company said: “The reduction in turnover was due principally to the imposition for a standard rate of VAT on hot takeaway products but also due to exits from a number of loss-making sites. We had no alternative but to pass most of the VAT levy imposed by the Chancellor in the budget of early 2012 on to our customers in the form of a selling price increase. In turn, this led to a decrease in consumer demand, and impacted sales and margins in the last five months of the year. The board is implementing an innovative plan to overcome the issues created by the imposition of VAT, including an accelerated programme of new product development, updating the brand identity and a focus on operational excellence.” The company reported the opening of 14 franchised sites within the Moto Hospitality portfolio, plus three units operating at Twickenham Rugby Ground. It is also supplying ten other Twickenham units and has as secured second trading unit at the Oval cricket ground. 

Nando’s reports turnover and profit up: Nando’s Group Holdings, the parent company of Nando’s and Gourmet Burger Holdings, has reported turnover rose to £485.2m in the 52 weeks to 24 February, up 15,8% from £419.2m the year before. Pre-tax profit climbed to £33.4m, compared to £12.7m the year before. The number of restaurants rose in the year to 343, an increase of 31 on the year before, including five new Gourmet Burger Kitchen sites. Net assets were worth £7.5m, against net liabilities of £800,000 the year before. Group operating profit was £58.2m, up from £41.8m the year before. A royalty payment of £22.2m was paid, 5% of net turnover, for the use of the Nando’s brand. A dividend of 28p per share was paid, amounting to £14.2m. A Companies House filing stated: “The company operates in a very competitive and fragmented market which is constantly bringing new concepts and products to the expanding customer base. However, we believe Nando’s offers a unique product that gives us a competitive advantage. The newly acquired GBK restaurants offer superior quality products that separate them from their competitors.”

Alistair Darby – ‘we lost 20% of volumes at Crown Carveries’: Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Alistair Darby has reported that moving the cost of the best-value main meal at the 110-strong Crown Carveries estate above £4 cost the budget carvery chain 20% of its volumes. The company’s weak like-for-like performance has been linked to its performance in the value market, with like-for-like sales at Crown Carveries, which sells 30 million meals a year, down by around 15%, according to industry sources. Darby told City analysts that volumes were in growth at Crown Carveries in November 2011 when the best-priced main meal was £3.89. Volumes turned negative in May 2012 when the best-priced main meal rose to £3.99 after the company increased prices as a result of food price inflation. Volumes declined further in the period between November 2012 and May 2013 when the best-priced main meal was £4.19. This month, the best-priced main meal has been reduced in price to £3.69. Darby said: “Going beyond £4 was a big problem for these cash-strapped customers – Crown Carveries’ customers are incredibly aware of how much cash they have. Now the best-priced main meal is £3.69. We’re pretty confident that is going to make a difference. And it’s just the beginning of the journey to drive value and volume.” Darby reported that the company had also extended Sky and BT Sports to 260 “heartland” pubs, in its Sizzling Pub Company and Oak Taverns estate. Carlsberg is being offered for £1.95. “That’s five pints for £10,” he said. More broadly, M&B reported food volumes down 4.3% and drink volumes down 4.4% in the full year to 28 September, offset by price increases, although “volume declines have been moderating in recent weeks”. Darby reminded analysts that M&B is ten years’ old this year, with average weekly turnover per pub rising from £14,300 in 2003 to £22,900 this year. Food percentage of total sales has risen from 30% in 2003 to 51% this year. “We are 75% food-led, a dramatic transformation. We are third to The Restaurant Group and JD Wetherspoon [in takings per site terms].” Darby said the object for the future was to achieve like-for-like sales growth while maintaining margin. “We’re now back ahead of the market in terms of guest-facing research,” said. Staff turnover has decreased from 85% in 2011 to 78% this year. Guest net promoter scores have risen 4% in the past year to 59% and guest satisfaction scores are up 3% to 62%. “The best operators are achieving 70% net promoter scores,” he said. M&B will look to open around 35 new pubs in 2014, rising to 50 new sites the next year. Expansion capital will increase to within the range of £50m to £80m depending on the freehold and leasehold mix. All Bar One, which opens a new site in Euston railway station, London tomorrow, Harvester, Toby Carvery and Miller and Carter will be the main focus for new site openings. The company reported a 13% return on investment (ROI) from the four freehold sites it opened in 2013 and 18% ROI from 12 leasehold sites it opened. M&B’s chairman, Bob Ivell, said: “Alistair Darby has done a great job in his first year and we have had a board of directors working extremely well together for the past year. The [board] shouldn’t be an issue that people are even talking about going forward.”

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