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Mon 16th Dec 2013 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

CGA Peach – customers getting more adventurous: Pub customers have become more adventurous with an increasing desire to try brands that are linked to innovation or quality, CGA Peach director Scott Elliott has told the Intertain Suppliers’ Conference. One in four customers now have a repertoire of ten or more brands, while one in four of a brand’s consumers on an annual basis are first-time users. Categories linked with innovation and quality are driving growth, Elliott said. The CGA Brand Index shows craft beer volumes up 55% in the year to April, premium bourbon up 40%, packaged cider up 14.2% and world lager up 5%. Meanwhile, standard lager was down 3.7%, standard vodka down 8%, keg ale down 11.7% and draught cider down 6.7%. The spirits sector, he said, was showing a shift to premiumisation across the majority of categories, as mainstream brands, although still dominant, declined nearly everywhere. The result was that in mainstream bars, premium spirits were outperforming by 31%, with a 16% increase in mainstream outlets serving cocktails, and 5,000 pubs putting cocktails on the menu in the last year alone, while 50% of mainstream outlets now stocked premium spirits and 23% of brands on mainstream bars are premium ones. Another megatrend was the rise in flavoured alcoholic drinks, with 40% of bottled cider now fruit variants, flavoured spirits sales up 14% year-on-year and flavoured beer sales now 5% of the total, up 42% year-on-year. A third trend was provenance and heritage, with craft beer expected to be in 9,000 outlets by 2016, and 26% of all cask beer now from a microbrewery.

Company News:

Ottolenghi reports big profit boost: Ottolenghi, the four-strong London restaurant company headed by Yotam Ottolenghi, has reported a big profit boost in its most recent financial year to 31 March this year. The company saw turnover climb to £12,236,555 from £11,356,556 the year before. Pre-tax profit jumped to £1,818,944 compared to £925,001 the year before. Sales at its flagship Nopi restaurant in Soho grew by 10% and by 8% at its other three restaurants. An interim dividend of £900,000 was paid. After its year-end, operations ceased at it Kensington branch. 

Thorley Taverns moves into profit; sites on the market: Kent-based pub operator Thorley Taverns, headed by Frank and Phil Thorley, has moved back into the black in its most recent financial year. The company reported turnover of £11,511,218 in the year to 30 June, down from £12,341,415 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £194,986 compared to a loss of £422,783 the year before. The company reported that a new freehold, The Charles Dickens in Broadstairs, saw its first full year of ‘excellent trading’ with directors ‘confident that it will return even better trading results in the current year’. A Companies House filing added: “A number of less successful outlets are being marketed for sale. Should the company be able to achieve these sales, this will have a positive effect on trading results going forward.” 

West Cornwall Pasty Company could go up for sale: West Cornwall Pasty Company has hired adviser BDO in a move that could lead to a sale of the company, which is thought to be worth circa £30m. The company, which sells eight million pasties a year, is owned by Gresham Private Equity. It 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. 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. 

Balthazar opens private dining room: The Balthazar restaurant in Covent Garden, London, opened earlier this year by restaurateur Keith McNally and investor Richard Caring, has added a private dining room on the first floor, with its own entrance on Wellington Street. The room, which can host 60 guests for dining or 75 for a reception, features antique timber flooring, art deco detailing, deep red leather banquettes and a lounge area with a pewter-topped bar. Menus start at £45 for three courses, coffee and petits fours. 

Wetherspoon looks at Limerick for pub purchase: JD Wetherspoon has confirmed that it is looking at a possible site in Limerick, in south-west Ireland, as it expands across the Irish Sea. The chain has already acquired one pub in Dublin and one in Cork, the Irish republic’s second-largest city, with another purchase just outside the Irish capital rumoured to be on the cards. The Limerick Leader newspaper has now reported that “high-level executives” from the Watford-based budget pub chain have been “engaging with local auctioneers” in Limerick in an effort to find suitable premises. Although Wetherspoon has yet to identify a site in the city, a spokesperson for the chain confirmed to the newspaper that Limerick was firmly on the radar. “It is an area we want to find a site in and purchase a building,” he said. The Limerick Leader also reported that an unnamed American microbrewery was in talks with Limerick City Council to open a bar and restaurant operation in the former Quin’s pub in Ellen Street, currently closed and empty.

Mama sells Edinburgh Picture House: Live music business Mama and Company has sold the iconic Edinburgh Picture House, a former cinema turned live music venue, and it will shut at the end of this year. The vendor has accepted an offer for the 1,500-capacity venue, with the final gig due to be held on New Year’s Eve. It is understood that the new owners will close the building for refurbishment and are not thought to be reopening it as a music venue. The B-listed building was bought in March 2008 from Luminar and opened as a live music venue in September that year.

Hall & Woodhouse to open £2.4m new-build pub in June 2014: Hall & Woodhouse will open a £2.4m new-build pub restaurant, on the outskirts of Melksham in June 2014. It will be named The Milk Churn after local resident Jeanette Nash won a competition to suggest a suitable name. She said: “I chose ‘The Milk Churn’ because it is believed that the ‘melk’ part of the name Melksham came from the old English word for milk spelled ‘meolc’, and the second part ‘ham’ was the old English word for village. It’s known that the town had roots in dairy farming, so this is probably how the name Melksham came about.” The public house will have the look and feel of a traditional country pub and has been designed with the area’s farming heritage in mind. The interior will be constructed from traditional materials including oak beams, timber joists and flagstone floors to create a public house that wears in, not out.

Nepalese restaurant group expands to five: The Butchers Arms in Banbury’s Corn Street, owned by Enterprise Inns, which closed in November last year, has reopened as the Himalayan Spice, the fifth Nepalese restaurant operated by Prakash Sharma and Puru Sitaula. They run four other Nepalese restaurants in Oxfordshire: Gurkha Village in Kidlington, Gurkha Spice, in Banbury, and two in Oxford, Everest in Howard Street, and Kadai and Naan in Cowley Road. Tony Goulding, of Camra, said Witney was bucking the pub closure trend and The Butchers Arms was only the second town pub to close in 25 years. He said: “The rest of the pubs in Witney appear to be doing well and the town has gained a JD Wetherspoon, which has helped draw more drinkers in.”

Fundraising for UK’s first “palaeo restaurant” heads towards target: A bid to open what would be the UK’s first “palaeolithic restaurant”, serving food that cavemen would have eaten, is more than 60% of the way to its initial fundraising target. The woman behind the plan, chef Holly Redman, told The Huffington Post: “Palaeolithic diets mimic the types and quantities of foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate: meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, eggs and plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. The basic premise is that this way of eating suits our genetics much better than the grains, dairy and processed foods that have arisen since the agricultural revolution. I’ve been running a monthly pop-up restaurant in Sussex called Pure Taste for the last ten months, specialising in gluten-free and paleo-diet friendly food and it’s been so successful I want to expand the business into a full time restaurant in London.” Redman has begun a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to open a permanent Pure Taste restaurant in London, which had raised more than £18,000 of the £30,000 initial target.

ZaZa Bazaar Newcastle opens to sounds of vegetable orchestra: The second outlet for the ZaZa Bazaar “world food buffet” concept has opened in Newcastle upon Tyne, with entertainment provided by the London Vegetable Orchestra, whose members make their instruments out of fresh vegetables such as carrots, squash and cucumbers. The 500-seat restaurant, which opened at the Gate in Newcastle after a £3m spend, serves food from around the world and has created 75 new jobs including 31 chefs. The original The Bristol ZaZa Bazaar opened in 2011 and can seat up to 1,000 diners, Nitin Bhatnagar, director of kitchen operations for the company, said: “The idea is a setting of a night market in Hong Kong or Malaysia and with fresh food from all around the world, China, Thailand, Italy, Mexico and South American food and it is all cooked in front of you.”

Carvery Heaven opens seventh site in two years: Carvery Heaven, named within the last month as Star Pubs & Bars best multiple operator, has opened its seventh site in two years – it has opened The Pullman at Widmerpool, Nottinghamshire. Owner Michael Perry said: “Our business model is based on picking pubs that are struggling, giving them a facelift and putting in our distinct carvery and introducing high service standards. We’re better than chains, because in addition to a full menu we offer the widest choice of carvery – roast meats, casseroles, suet puddings and sausages and ten different vegetables and potatoes. We also offer a full waitress service – all for £6.65. We offer wholesome, feel-good food and competitively priced drinks that people can afford in a welcoming environment. We’re always on the look-out for suitable sites to expand further, but for now we’re concentrating on the festive season.”

Harvey Nicks seeks to extend Leeds restaurant: The luxury department store Harvey Nichols is seeking planning permission to extend the fourth-floor restaurant at its site in Leeds into space currently used as a roof terrace. Harvey Nichols, which has been in Leeds since 1996, said the roof terrace, while designated as an alfresco dining area, is redundant for most of the year because of the weather in Leeds. Plans drawn up by Brooker Flynn Architects show the fourth floor extended to give restaurant patrons improved views down to the Briggate street life and surrounding buildings, while at the same time increasing pedestrian visibility of the restaurant.

D&D relaunches Avenue with American look and taste: D&D London’s Avenue restaurant in St James’s in the centre of the capital is to be relaunched in February with new look and an American-inspired food and drinks menu. The restaurant will have interiors designed by Russell Sage Studio, whose projects include the Grain Store at King’s Cross, and a menu focusing on dishes and produce from the United States. It will stock an extensive range of well-known and lesser-known American wines, while the bar will feature cocktails and US and UK craft beers. The new interior will seek to echo the look of a Manhattan loft, with exhibitions of works from new and upcoming artists, wooden floor and floor-to-ceiling white walls, plus an “eclectic” mix of furniture and sculptural art installations, and a unique chandelier made from wine glasses above a stunning gold decanting station in the middle of the dining room. The menu will feature “contemporary” American dishes such as clam chowder served in sourdough with littleneck clams and paper bag ‘crumbled’ bay crackers and 45-day-aged flat iron steak with pastrami butter, celeriac fries and dill mayo, and sharing dishes from a Josper Grill such as Brooklyn Rooster chicken prime cuts, wings and oysters with a buffalo sauce.

Carlsberg names new chief executive: Carlsberg sales director James Lousada is to take over from Benet Slay as chief executive of Carlsberg UK on 1 January 2014. Benet will remain with Carlsberg UK until the end of January 2014 to ensure a smooth handover. Lousada, who joined Carlsberg UK in January 2013 as sales director, previously worked for Anheuser-Busch, Fosters Group, Constellation and most recently prior to Carlsberg UK, was general manager, Accolade Wines Europe.

McDonald’s launches McD app in the US: McDonald’s is testing a new app in 1,000 US stores as it tries to lure younger diners at a time when US sales are struggling. Called the McD, the app sends customers offers they can redeem with their phones at participating stores, Lisa McComb, a company spokeswoman, said. Users can’t order or pay with the McD app. The world’s largest burger chain has been experimenting with various mobile programs as it seeks to compete with chains such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Chipotle Mexican Grill, which both offer mobile ordering apps and attract a generally younger and higher-income crowd.

Amans chain on way to five outlets: The upmarket Amans chain of restaurants in the north west of England has opened its third venue on the way to a target of five within the next six months. The latest outlet is at the refurbished Queens Arms on Chaddock Lane in Worsley, Salford. Samsul Hoque, the co-owner of the chain, and his partner Abdul Alim spent £750,000 in a restoration and transformation of the building into a 130-cover restaurant serving traditional and modern Indian cuisine with a traditional bar section at the front. The two other Amans restaurants, named after Hoque’s son, are in Bramhall, Salford, which opened in 2012, and Lowton, between Wigan and Warrington, which opened in 2008. Two more are planned for Congleton and Newton-le-Willows in Cheshire.

Punch Taverns invests £10m in five months: Punch Taverns have invested £10 million in its estate since August, with a £40m investment planned for this financial year. The County Hotel in Hexham received the biggest spend on a single Punch site, with a cash investment of almost £700,000 in partnership with Priestpopple Partnerships to completely transform the hotel into a stylish, welcoming venue. Ben Robson, managing director of Priestpopple Partnerships Limited said: “Customer feedback has been exceptional and we believe that the investment has positioned The County as a local community, family-friendly, real ale pub with stylish letting rooms.” Punch has invested £1.2 million into its pubs across the Stoke-on-Trent area, such as The Rigger in Newcastle – a rock venue which received a £200,000 joint investment.

Hereford multi-site buys seventh venue: Hereford multi-site operator Steve Harrison has added a seventh venue – Fusion nightclub in Commercial Road. Harrison plans to re-position the nightclub to attract an older crowd who, for whatever reason, do not go out in Hereford as much as they used to. The venue will remain a nightclub on Saturday nights, but bespoke events will be run on other nights of the week.

Belfast restaurateur calls time on Belfast bar – six months after opening it: Time will be called on one of Belfast’s newest bars this weekend after a disastrous six months trading period. Chalco’s Cantina at Tilt on the busy Ormeau Road will serve last orders to its clientele today after racking up losses of £33,000 in under six months. Pub owner Gerardo Jimenez, a restaurateur, said it was no longer viable to run the pub in the current economic climate.

‘Silicon Roundabout’ burger bar accepts Bitcoin payments: A burger bar by London’s “Silicon Roundabout”, the area around Shoreditch famous for being home to large numbers of hi-tech companies, has begun taking payments in Bitcoins, the controversial computer-based virtual currency. The street food vendor Burger Bear, which started near the Old Street roundabout in Shoreditch in 2011, sold its first Bitcoin burger last week for 0.0131 Bitcoins, currently worth about £7.50. Since then, the stall has seen huge levels of interest from other people who want to spend their virtual currency. Burger Bear’s founder, Tom Reaney, said: “Many people from the technology scene are really keen to make transactions. I’ve got people from all around the world now wanting to buy my burgers. There aren’t many things you can physically spend your coins on, so people want to come and play with their imaginary money.” Reaney became interested in Bitcoin earlier this year, and bought a Bitcoin for around $100 (£61). Since then, the value of the virtual currency has soared. Customers wishing to purchase a burger with Bitcoin conduct the entire transaction via mobile devices. Using a Bitcoin digital wallet, they scan Burger Bear’s QR code and transfer payment.

Northern Monk Brew secures cash for brewery plant: The currently “cuckoo” brewer Northern Monk Brew, based in Bradford, has secured a £100,000 investment from an unnamed local businessman to help it obtain its own brewing plant. Northern Monk , which began earlier this year, currently brews its beers at Hambleton Ales, near Ripon. However, founder Russell Bisset said the company has now shortlisted properties across West Yorkshire to house its own brewery plant and on-site tap room, with the first beers due out of the dedicated plant in spring 2014. Bisset said: “We’re delighted with the start that we’ve had, what began as a very small operation with me delivering out of the back of my parent’s car now has the right foundations in place to achieve our global ambitions and allow more people to get their hands on our beer. We’ve got a great team of people behind us bringing a wealth of knowledge in the world of beer and business as well as some very supportive investors who are keen for us to continue on the path that we started, producing progressive, bold beers. We are delighted that so many people have felt an affinity with our brand and we’ve got the backing we need to let us grow to new levels.”

Wyn Ellis – jury remains out on profitable expansion of Costa outside the UK: Numis Securities analyst Wyn Ellis has issued a note after the Costa Coffee investor day last week, arguing that questions remain over Costa’s profitable expansion outside the UK. He stated: “Costa continues to put the building blocks in place and, whilst there are a number of positive indicators, the jury remains out. Costa is now present in 30 countries with 625 franchise stores (projected to grow at 10% pa) and 437 joint venture/equity stores. Management made clear that the growth path would not be linear and that development would take time, with continued investment in infrastructure. We remain positive about the long term potential but do not expect material profits in the short-to-medium term.”

Lindley Group to change name: Contract catering company Lindley Group is to adopt the name of its American parent, Centerplate. The name change and re-branding comes eight months after Centerplate, North America’s leading event hospitality partner, acquired The Lindley Group business. Combined, the new company will serve more than 115 million guests annually across more than 350 venues worldwide.

Benugo wins Wellcome Collection contract: Award-winning British restaurant, cafe and catering group Benugo has won the competitive tender for a five-year catering contract at the Wellcome Collection, the London Museum and exhibition venue of global charity the Wellcome Trust. Wellcome Collection will be the 14th concession within a museum or public space won by Benugo and follows recent contracts with Great Court Restaurant at The British Museum opening in January 2014, and at other notable sites such as The V&A Museum, Westminster Abbey and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Benugo have been tasked to create two distinct food offerings that will appeal to the diverse range of visitors walking through the doors; The Wellcome Café opening December 2013 and a yet unnamed restaurant, which will open in June 2014. 

Whyte and Brown rejigs beer menu: The chicken specialist Whyte and Brown, based just off Carnaby Street in central London, has rejigged its extensive craft beer menu since it opened in the summer, dropping some ciders and bringing in more dark beers for the winter months. The 16-strong craft beer list now includes Moor Beer’s Hoppiness, Totty Pot, a porter from Cheddar Ales, Holy Cow, a milk stout from the Ilkley Brewery, and Cool Fusion lager from the Hardknott Brewery in Cumbria. London-brewed craft beers include Gamma Ray from Beavertown in the East End. They sit alongside the restaurant’s two house draught beers, Whyte & Brown Whyte, a wheat beer, and Whyte & Brown Brown, a pale ale, exclusively developed for the restaurant by the Red Willow brewery in Macclesfield. 

Marc Craddock takes Charnwood managing director job: Marc Craddock, the former operations manager of Timothy Taylor, has become the new managing director at Charnwood Pub Company. He replaces Daryl Cockerill at the nine-strong pub company, which is backed by Albion Ventures. Cockerill will focus on his free-of-tie pub company Hillary & Scott, which runs The Star in West Leake, Leicestershire and The Punch Bowl, in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Drugs activist plans cannabis cafe: The man who opened the UK’s first ever cannabis cafe, in Stockport in 2001, is planning another, this time in Tariff Street, central Manchester. Colin Davies, 56, who was jailed for drug trafficking for three years in 2002, intends to open the New Way Cafe on Tariff Street in January. Davis said cannabis would not be traded on the property, which would be run as a members’ club with a £35 membership fee, although members would be invited to bring their own drugs for personal consumption. Davies said: “There will be tea and coffee and smokers will be welcome. We’re just providing a meeting point for people. There will be no sales of cannabis until the government says it is legal to do so. Manchester is full of it anyway down Oldham Street and Piccadilly Gardens. It’s everywhere. There will be no alcohol. People can come, have a coffee, play chess, chat and smoke.” When Davis opened Dutch Experience in Stockport, amid huge publicity in September 2001, Police raided it within ten minutes. In court, prosecutors said the cafe was a smokescreen for the trafficking of drugs from the Netherlands. “The world has changed a little bit since then. I think the time is right now,” said Davies, who described the current law on cannabis as “ridiculous”. Chief Inspector Gareth Parkin from North Manchester Division told The Manchester Evening News: “We are aware of the proposed use of the premise and if we identify any offences, we will take the appropriate action.”

Domino’s beats Pizza Hut to new Reading store: After both Domino’s and Pizza Hut were both given planning permission to open in a disused Blockbuster store in Reading, only Domino’s is going ahead. The pair were each granted permission for change of use at the unit, in Cavendish Road, Emmer Green, at the same planning committee meeting, each with a condition attached for a litter management strategy. Subsequently, however, Pizza Hut dropped out of the fight to secure a lease on the premises. The new takeaway store will be next door to a rival independent pizza operator, Geezers Pizza, and in competition with four other food outlets in a parade of 13 shops.

Domino’s launches £27 wagyu beef pizza: Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, the Australian wing of the takeaway giant, is launching an A$50 (£27.50) pizza product topped with wagyu beef. It is actually two pizzas in a specially-designed box. The company said in a statement that it was “taking restaurant-quality food to the masses by launching their best value pizza to date – an indulgent $50 pizza – Domino’s Wagyu Duet.” Domino’s Group’s chief executive and managing director, Don Meij, told Marketing magazine in Australia that the new pizza was another example of great value for customers and an extension of the company’s premium product offering. Wagyu beef bought from butchers and in restaurants costs a reported average of A$100 per kilogram. Meij said he was challenging people to find the same amount of quality wagyu for the value: “It’s rare to get the same quantity of quality wagyu, grade of six-plus marble score, from any leading restaurant for the same price. In most cases you’ll pay over $50 for a restaurant quality cut of wagyu – and that’s just for the steak alone!”, he said. “The Wagyu Duet is incredible value and can feed over four people at $14 per head.”

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