Story of the Day:
Ten sector firms in list of 1,000 companies that inspire Britain: The London bar operator Drake and Morgan, Oakman Inns and Restaurants, Busaba Eathai, Cote, Wahaca, Ed’s Easy Diner, Loungers, Patisserie Valerie, Just-Eat, the online takeaway food service, and Peyton & Byrne have been named by The Daily Telegraph, in conjunction with HSBC and Growth Intelligence, as some of the 1,000 companies that inspire Britain. Tom Gatten, chief executive of Growth Intelligence, said: “We were looking for companies that were growing much faster than their peers.” Growth Intelligence uses a sophisticated system to track, in real time, the signals of three million UK businesses. An army of web crawlers is used to gather “exhaust data”, the traces that are left behind whenever a company is mentioned or carries out activities online. “We pull in about a quarter of a million pieces of text that appear on the web, new, every day,” Gatten said. “Blog articles, news articles, companies’ own web sites, social media posts – all sorts of stuff. And then we have a system that reads the articles and understands them. You can’t look solely at turnover growth, or all the companies on your list will be recruitment firms.” There are some entries on this list whose numbers are less immediately impressive than those with the largest annual turnover, the Telegraph says. But, it says, by comparing the statistics for each company to those in the same industry, Growth Intelligence was able to find the most successful, fastest-growing businesses for each sector: “Their final list highlights the firms that are spearheading the UK’s economic recovery – the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain.”
Multi-site operators hail improved working relationship with tenanted pub companies: A survey of leading multi-site operators, included in the current edition of Propel Quarterly magazine, has found an improved relationship with tenanted pub companies. Brian Whiting, founder of Whiting & Hammond, said: “At Whiting & Hammond we’ve found that a lease is a very good, economical route to market. The pubcos certainly have the desirable sites that are most attractive to our type of operation. We’ve noticed over the latter years of our ten in the business that there’s been a definite change in attitude to multiple operators. Gone is the worry that the pubcos might be making less money out of a site than the operator – at least with most pubcos – which has kept our appetite strong to have more dealings in the future. On our most recent site, we have been very impressed with Punch Taverns in their hunger to work with us: they’ve pulled out all the stops. Although this site is not open yet or under construction, we feel confident that we’re on to a winner.” Hamish Stoddart, co-founder of Peach Pub Company, said: “One bad experience harks back to the days of our first ever rent review, when an infamous landlord of ours offered a doubling of rent to be fixed and applied one year in advance. It was a blatant attempt to con an inexperienced operator. Those days, thankfully, have gone. We’ve had good experiences from all our landlords in the past year – Charles Wells, Greene King, Spirit and Enterprise. The most memorable time was when we were doing a deal with Enterprise that gave us a style of lease that is pure free-of-tie, and then, once we’d signed that, being offered the chance to buy the freehold at a multiple which we could afford. Eventually we got Alan Sugar as our landlord. This just goes to show there’s opportunity to create value in this market with the right partnership between multiple tenant and landlord.” (See the Winter edition of Propel Quarterly magazine for the full article.)
Landlady erects tents in pub garden: A pub is offering free overnight accommodation to prevent drinking and driving. The Drum and Monkey, near Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire, has erected tents so drinkers who have an extra pint do not take to the road. Landlady Lizzie Jennings said she wanted to offer customers a free service because it is the season of goodwill. The tents will come down again on 1 January.
Consortium move to block Irish bank selling loans: A consortium that owns some of Cork’s best-known pubs has initiated proceedings aimed at preventing Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) selling its loans to Nama. Benny McCabe said his companies are the largest pub group outside Dublin and their bars are among the best performing and prestigious licensed premises in Cork City, employing over 255 people with a turnover of €12m annually. In an affidavit, McCabe said the bars have “a thriving trade” but he is concerned IBRC is considering selling their loans to Nama prior to the hearing of his action against IBRC alleging overcharging of interest and the mis-selling of derivatives dating from 2006.
Applebee’s to roll out 100,000 tabletop tablets to end payment pinch-point: Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar is rolling out the use of touch-screen tablets to its 1,865 US restaurants next year with the goal of putting guests more in control of their dining experience. The year-long rollout is scheduled to begin in March and will include about 100,000 tabletop tablets. Applebee’s president, Mike Archer, said the primary goal of the rollout was to eliminate a common “pain point” that can hinder the overall guest experience: finding your server to pay the bill. Fundamentally, he said: “It’s about putting more control into guests’ hands.”
Charlie Bigham’s launch £314 pie: A fish pie billed as “the world’s most expensive ready meal” has gone on sale for £314.16. The dish, which contains white alba truffle and is sprinkled with 24ct gold crumb, comes hand delivered by a security guard on a gilded tray in an aluminium case. Other ingredients include Balik salmon, Cornish lobster tail, salted oysters, wild turbot and lobster poached in vintage Dom Perignon 2003. Customers place their order for Charlie Bigham’s Swish Pie online and it arrives in the hands of a security guard who will be handcuffed to the meal until it has been delivered to the correct person. Bigham said: “What we’re always trying to do is make things taste fantastic. We’ve deliberately included in one dish a lot of ingredients that are exclusive, that are not used in everyday cooking.”
Yum! reports first China l-f-l increase in eight months: Yum! Brands has reported its first like-for-like sales increase, of 1%, since February this year. The figures included flat sales at KFC and a 7% increase at Pizza Hut. The company said that a “half-priced bucket” promotion at KFC drove a 16% increase in like-for-likes sales for the duration of the promotion, ten days, before sales plummeted 8% for the rest of November.
More than 500 apply for Yummy Pub general manager equity scheme: A total of 550 people have applied to be chosen by Yummy Pub Company for its innovative general manager fast-track scheme, which will see talented youngsters groomed to become general mangers of forthcoming Yummy sites with a 15% equity stake. Yummy bosses Tim Foster and Anthony Pender will begin the interview process in the new year. Foster told Propel: “We’ve had a massive spread of people including existing GMs, lots of whom have read about the scheme in the Propel Newsletter. The chosen candidates will learn every aspect of running the business, taking the short-term pain of not earning a £35,000 GM salary but trained in every skill.” Meanwhile, Yummy reports that the opening of its Cosy Kettle cake and cocktail lounge beneath its Somerstown Coffee House in King’s Cross, North London has led to a 40% boost to Christmas bookings. Yummy Pub Company was advised to not open the site at weekends because of a lack of trade, but the venue took £17,000 on a recent Saturday. Foster said: “We had around 450 people move through the site yesterday. We had people on all three floors on the pub and the whole pub was buzzing.”
Fay Maschler reviews Russell Norman’s first pub: The London Evening Standard’s food critic, Fay Maschler, has reviewed Polpo founder Russell Norman’s first pub, the Ape and Bird in Cambridge Circus, central London. She wrote: “The Ape and Bird comes self-styled as ‘a pub for people who don’t much like pubs’ and I endorse that. As well as an imaginative modern British meal, it also provides Welsh rarebit on English muffin, salt beef sandwich, pork pie and piccalilli, eggs Florentine (made with kale, of course), craft beers and cunning cocktails. In a part of London you might before have hurried away from, it is a refuge. You can even imagine some of the old Soho characters in Neal Fox’s mural on the first floor, such as Francis Bacon, George Melly and Jeffrey Bernard, stumbling through the door.”
JD Wetherspoon lines up opening in Huntingdon: JD Wetherspoon has secured a site in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire (population: 19,830). The company is in the final stages of acquiring the Old Post Office and George Hall, in George Street, Huntingdon. Phil Halmshaw, a commercial property consultant with the St Neots firm Barford & Co director told the Hunts Post: “Contracts were exchanged the previous Friday for the sale of the property to Wetherspoon. Completion will take place before Christmas. The property has been sold unconditionally, and it is understood that JD Wetherspoon will be submitting planning and listed building applications in the spring of 2014. After ten years of decline, there is now a genuine prospect that these impressive buildings will be restored to their former glory.” Wetherspoon is understood to want to link the 4,623 square feet Grade II-listed Old Post Office to the George Hall, which sits on the corner of the site, to create a single large pub and dining area.
Shepherd Neame to complete £1.4m refurbishment of former Thorley Taverns site by Easter: Shepherd Neame is aiming to complete the refurbishment of the Fayreness Hotel in Thanet, a former Thorley Taverns site it acquired in September 2011. Apart from the refurbishment of the rooms and restaurants, the hotel, which overlooks Botany Bay at Kingsgate, will also be renamed the Botany Bay Hotel, in honour of its location. Shepherd Neame’s retail director, Nigel Bunting, said: “Botany Bay is probably the finest beach in Kent and a stunning location. It makes sense to rename and redevelop the hotel as a favourite choice for the many local residents to drop in for a meal or a drink and as a great venue for short breaks, weddings and functions.” Work began on the hotel this autumn, with the 30 bedrooms refurbished and decorated to reflect the coastal setting, using a palette of sand and blue-green, together with artefacts and artwork of local scenes. The hotel has remained open during this time but will close for ten weeks in January to replace the two UPVC conservatories at the front of the building with an orangery, while the existing brick exterior will be clad in traditional Kentish weatherboarding. The new-look hotel will also have a wrap-around deck for better sea views. Walkers will have an area to wash their boots in the revamped garden, which will also feature a bicycle park. All work on the hotel should be completed in time for a re-opening at Easter.
Analyst increases Whitbread price target to 3400p: Numis Securities leisure analyst Wyn Ellis has increased his price target for Whitbread shares to 3400p. He said: “Investors get a double shot of Whitbread next week with the Q3 (Sept-Nov) update due on Tuesday and a Costa Investor Day planned for Thursday. The shots had better be strong: with the shares having powered ahead over the past year and now trading on a FY15E (Feb) P/E of over 20x, we believe that they need an upgrade to sustain their upward momentum. Recent positive data from the hotel sector suggests that this is a possibility. Costa, we estimate, has now had 46 consecutive quarters of LFL revenue growth in the UK and we expect another positive update for 3Q14E with l-f-ls up c.3.5%. We expect the tone at the Investor Day to be positive, with a focus on the developing international business, the UK roll-out and Costa Express.”
Giraffe trials ‘daily treat’ technology: London Giraffe sites are trialing Near Field Communication (NFC) technology on tabletalkers allowing customers to interact with their smartphones and receive a daily ‘treat-a-day giveaway’ as part of an online advent calendar campaign. The tabletalkers contain an NFC tag, alongside a QR code, enabling all smartphone users to tap or scan, then retrieve their different treat every day throughout December. Treats include offers, Christmas tips, free chocolates, ebooks and toys. Tamoco, a leading provider of NFC and proximity based marketing solutions, analytics and data, worked together with Giraffe to implement the campaign. Juliette Joffe, co-founder of Giraffe, said: “As early adopters of QR code technology and now with our loyalty app reaching its 15,000th member, working with NFC was a natural step forward for us. If this trial at our London sites is a success, we will look to bring NFC into future marketing campaigns going into 2014.”
Activ Group to open £1.25m nightclub next week: Nightclub operator Activ Group, led by Matt Clark, will re-open the Assembly Rooms in Boston, Lincolnshire as a nightclub next week after £1.25m refurbishment. Clark said: “Boston may only be a small market town but we are delivering something on a scale that hasn’t been seen before and something the town desperately needs. Hopefully this will be a venue strong enough to keep people in the town.” The venue will include private rooms for hire, with separate bars and toilets, champagne tables, flat-screen televisions and games consoles. A second smaller bar will offer themed nights, such as R&B, northern soul, and retro nineties. There is also a rustic VIP lounge area built in a ‘New York loft-style’ with exposed brickwork. Across from this room, past an open fire, customers will be able to access the ‘hidden garden’ on a roof terrace facing the Stump, the church that dominates the market square in Boston.
Starbucks needs to be more flexible in Europe: Starbucks’ European chief, Kris Engsov, has argued that the coffee shop company needs to be more flexible in Europe, with franchising and new formats high on the agenda. One of its new licensed stores in Europe is on a Swiss commuter train. The cafe, operated by Switzerland’s national railway company, reflects Starbucks’s strategy of getting its brand in front of customers wherever they are. Engsov said: “It’s clear to us that we need to be more flexible in how we come to market in Europe. We’ve been traditionally known as a high street retail store, but people expect high-quality coffee wherever they go and that’s a big opportunity for us.”
Buyer of Marston’s community pubs adds three shopping centre to portfolio: NewRiver Retail, the UK REIT that specialises in value-creating retail property investment and which bought 202 Marston’s community pubs for £90m last week, has acquired a portfolio of three shopping centres for £24m from Zolfo Cooper, acting as administrator on behalf of special purpose vehicles controlled by Clydesdale Bank. The portfolio was acquired at a net initial yield of 10.4% and comprises the 99,500 sq ft Newkirkgate shopping centre in Edinburgh; the 183,046 sq ft Beacon Centre in North Shields, Tyne and Wear; and the 25,000 sq ft La Porte Precinct in Grangemouth, near Falkirk. The portfolio offers combined weighted average lease expiry of approximately 5.3 years and a total lettable area in excess of 300,000 sq ft. The three shopping centres have 77 tenants.
Young’s to re-open jazz pub as Geronimo Inns site next week: London pub retailer Young’s will re-open The Bull’s Head pub in Barnes, south west London, a famous jazz venue, as a Geronimo Inns site next week after a £1m refurbishment. The site has been transferred from the company’s tenanted division. The company promises the work at The Bull’s Head will create a beautiful pub “and a music venue that will ensure the next 50 years of live jazz in Barnes”. A centrally located trade kitchen has been added to service the pub, plus a first floor dining room and a new music room.
Byron expands craft beer range: Better burger brand Byron has expanded its range of craft beers to 11 and introducing a number of canned beer it sees as the ideal match for a burger. It is offering eight canned beers, as it believes cans protect beer from UV light better than bottles and help keep the beer fresh and retain the flavour more. They are also easier to chill, store and transport and good for the environment. Founder Tom Byng said: “We’re delighted to see craft beer strike a real chord with customers and see this is as a growing trend which is here to stay. The next challenge is to convince people of the merits of cans as a better quality, more sustainable form of packaging than bottles.” Its canned beer range includes Byron’s own pale ale, brewed exclusively for the chain by Camden Town Brewery, which was previously only available by the bottle. It is also moving Camden Hells Lager and Brooklyn Lager from bottle to cans while new cans on the list include Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale Ale, SKA Brewing’s special edition Euphoria (both from Colorado) and Brutal Brewing’s Pistonhead Kustom lager (from Sweden). Byron’s Beak Street outlet in London is also offering a number of tap beers from the local Kernel Brewery. Five of Kernel’s brews, including the Kernel Table Beer and the Kernel IPA, will be served by the half and full pint, with a “draught flight” of all five priced at £9.
Domino’s parodies British Airways advert: Domino’s has launched a billboard campaign that parodies a British Airways advert. The tongue-in-cheek #Lookdown outdoor ad takes a child pointing its finger in a parody of the British Airways #Lookup campaign featuring outdoor posters delivering realtime information about a plane when it flies overhead. The Domino’s strapline reads: “Look It’s a large Pepperoni Passion for Simon in Acton”.
Wetherspoon buys more of its own shares: JD Wetherspoon has acquired 47,000 of its own shares. The highest price paid was 692.34p, while the lowest price paid was 689.63p. The purchase represented an average price of 691.3519p per share. The purchased shares will be cancelled. After this purchase, the total number of voting shares in JD Wetherspoon is 125,668,739.
Iberica set to replace Redhook in Farringdon: The Spanish restaurant group Iberica is in negotiations to open in what is currently the restaurant, cocktail and oyster bar Redhook in Turnmill Street, Farringdon, central London in the spring. Redhook is part of the Rushmore Group, which also owns Giant Robot around the corner on Clerkenwell Road, Milk & Honey and The Player in Soho, Danger of Death on Brick Lane, East London, and Rotary Bar & Diner and the Rotary Room members’ lounge near Old Street in the City. However, Rushmore boss Jonathan Downey said reports that a deal had been completed were “jumping the gun”, adding: “I’m looking at lots of options for Redhook.” The 3,455 sq ft outlet area would be Iberica’s fourth site opening, if the deal goes ahead. The managing director of Iberica Restaurants, Marcos Fernandez Pardo, said: “Farringdon is a very exciting project for Iberica, as it is the most established restaurant area we have opened in to date. We are approaching it with a fresh design to support the more varied concept, which includes a stronger bar offering and an authentic breakfast menu serving homemade Spanish churros.” A month ago, Iberica revealed that it would be opening a new site at Land Securities’ Zig Zag building in Victoria Street, South West London. The Farringdon deal was brokered by Restaurant Property, Iberica’s retained agent. Director Jason Grant said: “It’s important for Iberica to not only be a part of newly regenerating areas such as Victoria, but also position itself in well-established and trendy areas of London. Farringdon offers exactly this.” Lazaro Rosa Violan, a graphic and interior designer based in Barcelona, will again help design the new restaurant. Meanwhile, Iberica’s executive head chef, Nacho Manzano, has been awarded a Michelin star for La Salgar in Gijon, northern Spain, the sister restaurant of Casa Marcial in Asturias, for which he already has two Michelin stars.
Enterprise Inns put set to become a Co-op: An Enterprise Inns pub in the West Sussex village of Cowfold looks set to become a Co-op. The Coach House in The Street closed abruptly nearly a year ago and has been boarded up ever since. The Mayfair-based investment firm Evolve Estates has bought the pub and is seeking planning consents to allow a Co-op to be built. On its website, under the subheading “convenience store” and accompanied by a photo of the building, a small description reads: “Pre-let to Co-op, plus further development.” A spokesperson for Co-operative Food said: “We are in discussions with the developer of the former Coach House pub in Cowfold about opening a store on the site, but this is subject to a number of planning considerations. Therefore it is too early to confirm any details.”
Wagamama’s fourth US opening taps into affluent Boston suburb: Wagamama’s fourth opening in the United States, in the Boston suburb of Lynnfield, taps into an affluent and under-provided community. Its location is part of the new MarketStreet development, an open-air shopping centre that officially opened for business over the summer. Lynnfield is “a relatively untapped, affluent market,” said town administrator William Gustus. “There were only a handful of Lynnfield restaurants prior to this development, and the addition of the new restaurants at MarketStreet will attract many new customers to the development.” Until recently, the town of about 12,000 people had only three full-service restaurants. Now, Wagamama, Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse and Yard House are among the high-profile newcomers to town.
Orchid Group wins Large Employer of the Year at Apprenticeship Awards: The managed pub company Orchid has won the Large Employer of the Year award at the Hospitality Guild’s Young Hall of Fame and Apprenticeship Awards. The Nottingham-based Moleface Pub Company won the SME of the Year award, sharing it with The Bonnington (Cavendish Hotel) Ltd. In addition, 27 new inductees into the Young Hall of Fame and seven Apprentice Awards category winners were announced at the event, held at the Tower of London. Michel Roux Jr, chef patron at Le Gavroche, and judge and presenter of BBC Masterchef: the Professionals, was keynote speaker and co-host. Roux said: “I am very pleased to see so many talented young people here today. As a former apprentice myself, I know how important this training is for producing the hospitality leaders of tomorrow. These awards are crucial for the industry and I commend the Hospitality Guild and People 1st for this important initiative. I congratulate all the winners and wish them every success in their careers.”
The House Collection opens second boutique hotel: The House Collection has opened its second boutique hotel, the 15-bedroom Paddocks House, after a refurbishment of the former Swynford Paddocks hotel, near Newmarket, Suffolk. The company already operates Poets House in Ely, Cambridgeshire, which opened in April. Paddocks House is an 18th-century country house that was once owned by the sister of the poet Lord Byron. The House Collection has been established by David Toulson-Burke, Ian Cross and Jonathan Baker, who all previously worked in the senior management team at the Belfry, near Birmingham.
Cinnamon Club operator Indian Restaurants reports turnover up, profit down: Indian Restaurants has reported turnover rose 9.5% to £5.46m in the year to 31 March, up from £4.98m the year before. Profit before tax dropped to £296,000 from £608,000 the year before. The company bought the entire share capital of Indian Restaurants (City) for £1.46m on 31 March. Shareholders funds rose 70% to £3.98m.
Abokado holds charity coffee event: Abokado, the healthy eating brand headed by Mark Lilley and backed by Kings Park Capital, will be holding its fourth annual charity coffee day tomorrow (Friday) with all proceeds from coffee sales donated to St Mungo’s to support their work with London’s homeless. It starts at 7.30am across all 18 Abokado stores.
South Wales businessman become McDonald’s UK’s largest franchisee: The South Wales McDonald’s franchisee Ron Mounsey has become the largest franchise operator in the UK, after acquiring six restaurants in and around Newport. The acquisition, which was supported by HSBC’s South West Wales Commercial team, takes his portfolio to 15 restaurants across South Wales. As a result of acquiring the new restaurants and their 400 staff, Mounsey now employs 1,100 across his restaurants. His franchise turnover is expected to grow from £21m to more than £30m in the next year. Mounsey became a McDonald’s franchisee in 1998 after a career in dairy farming in the North West of England and South Wales. He opened his first restaurant in Carmarthen and has steadily increased his portfolio over the past 15 years. Mounsey said: “I’m extremely proud to be the largest conventional McDonald’s franchise operator in the UK. I’ve got a really strong team in place and we’re looking forward to operating the business in a new market in South Wales; getting to know the employees and local communities.”
Camerons buys Head of Steam pub group: Camerons Brewery of Hartlepool, County Durham has added seven new outlets to its retail pub estate with the purchase of The Head of Steam pub group, which takes the Camerons estate to more than 75 sites. The company plans to grow to an estate of 200 pubs within five years. The new outlets, including three of The Head of Steam sites in Newcastle, Durham and Huddersfield, along with the iconic Newcastle pubs The Cluny, The Cluny 2, Tilley’s and Central in Gateshead, were purchased by Camerons as it looks to develop its retail pub business across the North of England. Camerons’ director and general manager, Christopher Soley, said: “We are delighted with these new additions. As a board, one of our key strategic investment areas is the development of a quality, sustainable estate in both our managed and tenanted pub divisions. These new sites fit the criteria that we targeted, offering traditional cask ales, craft beers and world lagers. The seven outlets will form part of our managed group of pubs. There are no imminent plans to change the great offer radically at these sites and we will be looking to adopt many of their principles into our current estate. This is the first step in developing our estate in size, quality and geography and we are looking for further sites that fit a similar model to the Head of Steam group both within our current estate and new opportunities.” The purchase of the sites has been supported by brewing partner Carlsberg UK as the two companies look to increase business together. The deal was facilitated by Newcastle advisors Watson Burton and UNW. Head of Steam was founded by Tony Brookes. Camerons reported ebitda of £5.8m in the year to 28 April although it posted a pre-tax loss of £100,000 after impairment costs of £500,000 linked to a debt refinance and a £1.8m impairment charge relating to four sites. Turnover dropped from £21.8m to £19.8m. It reported a pre-tax profit of £1.9m in 2012. Soley said in August: “2015 will see the company celebrate 150 years in business, and our plan is to see our brands dominate our north east heartland area and see our products available to suppliers and customers nationwide.” In its annual report, the company said: “Pubs remain a core element of our business, and therefore, in parallel with the disposal of non-core assets, we have invested in an improved operational pub management team and embarked upon an acquisition strategy to acquire additional freehold and leasehold sites. Our ambitions for growth are to achieve a combined pub estate of around 200 pubs in the next five years. The contract brewing business remains robust and we see a significant opportunity for expanding our contract volumes in the forthcoming years. Whilst our accounts show a reduction in turnover, this is as a result of a change to the beer production mix. There has been a movement in volumes from packaged to bulk sales within the 12 months to April 2013 and these sales are moved excise duty suspended, resulting in a significantly reduced turnover.”