Story of the Day:
Vince Cable – “we needed time to consider pubco regulation but we are nearly there”: Business Secretary Vince Cable has told MPs that the government needs time to consider pubco regulation evidence properly – although statutory regulation is “necessary” and MPs would “soon hear” the government’s plans. He said: “We received about 9,000 responses, more than 1,000 of which were very specific – they were often written communications with nuanced arguments, which we must try to address. We are trying to look at the evidence in an objective way. The evidence may well point in one direction, but there are competing studies; the London Economics survey has been mentioned, but another good study has been done by the Federation of Small Businesses. Such studies do give different arguments, which we must evaluate. Let us also remember that the industry is a complex one, and it was not a simple “yes or no” issue. The consultation also covered a set of other issues, including flow monitoring, guest beer and the gaming tie, each of which must be examined properly, not to mention its open question, which was about the mandatory free-of-tie option and open market rent review. Everybody concerned with the matter knows that is the core issue, on which, although there was strong opinion, there was less unanimity. We must respond to those issues and try to come forward with a proposal that carries the House and as many of the stakeholders as possible. I am very conscious of the legislative timetable and there is no attempt to delay on those grounds. We want to see action, but first we must provide a thorough and proper response to the consultation.” Adrian Bailey MP stated: “I cannot help but feel that the lack of progress demonstrates something more profound than just sympathy for publicans – tensions within the government and a lack of political will to translate promises into legislative action. The result of that will be disillusionment among the public and the tenants who need reforms, and above all, disillusionment with Parliament as an institution, which has demonstrated that it cannot make its will prevail over the government.”
First Propel Multi Club Conference of 2014 open to bookings:
The first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2014, to be held on Thursday 13 March at the Lancaster London Hotel, Lancaster Gate, central London, is now open for bookings. Multi-site pub, restaurant and foodservice companies can claim up to two free places each. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
to reserve places.
Propel Quarterly Spring edition out first week in March:
The Spring edition of the must-read-and-keep Propel Quarterly magazine is published in the first week of March. To advertise, e-mail Sharon Dickinson on email@example.com
MP calls for VAT cut for hospitality in Commons debate: Margaret Ritchie, MP for South Down, called for Chancellor George Osborne to “give full consideration in advance of the Budget to a reduction in VAT on the hospitality industry” during the Commons debate on pub company regulations yesterday. Business Secretary Vince Cable responded by saying: “I have met the hospitality industry and it has set out its case for a VAT reduction. As the hon. Lady will know, I do not make the decisions on what goes into the Budget on tax measures. I am sure that there are many other claims on the Budget in terms of tax reduction and spending. Certainly, the hospitality industry has been very effective in making its case.”
SSP hires Lazard to advise on float: Transport hub foodservice specialist SSP has hired investment firm Lazard to advise on a float – it is thought a float would value SSP at £2bn. SSP, headed by former WH Smith boss Kate Swann and owned by Swedish private equity firm EQT, serves one million customers a day with the UK making up 40% of its £1.83bn of annual sales. It operates 400 food outlets across airports and train stations in 30 countries and its brands include Café Ritazza, Millie’s Cookies and Upper Crust.
Subway plans major UK expansion: Sandwich chain Subway is planning to expand its UK store network from the current 1,731 sites to 3,000 by 2020. The UK is the company’s biggest market outside of the US and it has been opening an average of 150 stores a year in the UK and Ireland. The opening rate will now be ramped up to 170 sites a year. Mike Charest, assistant regional manager for Europe, said: “The UK and Irish markets have been fantastic success stories for the Subway brand and we see opportunities for further growth.”
Restaurateur Keith Floyd remembered with hometown plaque: Restaurant operator and TV chef Keith Floyd has been given a permanent memorial in his home town of Wiveliscombe in Somerset. A bas relief plaque of the chef has been put on a wall at the top of Silver Street, where he lived as a child. It is the work of Wiveliscombe sculptor John Alder, who spent years fundraising through the Keith Floyd Memorial Project after the chef’s death in 2009. Marco Pierre White said: “He was a great supporter of the culinary industry, inspiring many – myself included – to pursue cooking.”
On-line wholesaler for craft keg beer launches: An online wholesale operation for craft keg beer has been launched. CraftKeg.com provides a range of UK keg beers to the on-trade. The company says it can deliver a range of craft keg beers direct from any participating brewer to any UK mainland pub, hotel or restaurant in 48 hours with no minimum order quantity. All beers are supplied in the “one-way keg” format in 30L and smaller sizes, allowing outlets that are unable to sell larger volumes to stock “real beer” with reduced risk. According to CraftKeg.com, the product shelf life is longer and there are no return cost as the used containers are 100% recyclable. Founder Terry Dicks said: “It’s perfect timing, as one-way kegs are gaining acceptance just as the UK craft beer market is seeing a significant expansion.” The company says that it has seen explosive growth of keg beers in major cities, but not yet to the rest of the country.
McDonald’s signs peace deal with ‘table-hogging’ pensioners: A months-long battle between a McDonald’s franchisee and elderly customers accused of hogging tables for hours appears to have finally been settled peacefully. The McDonald’s restaurant, in Flushing, Queens, New York, complained that the pensioners, mostly Korean or Mandarin-speaking Chinese, were driving away business by spending hours at tables, buying nothing but cheap coffee and packets of small fries. Some customers, finding nowhere to sit, have asked for refunds on their meals, it was claimed. An attempt by the restaurant to impose a 20-minute seating rule failed to solve the problem. Now a local politician has struck a deal in which the restaurant will loosen the 20-minute seating rule during off-peak hours in return for the pensioners agreeing to give up their seats between10am and 3pm if asked by diners. In addition, the restaurant will look into hiring employees who speak Korean and Mandarin, and a group will start providing transport to a local old people’s centre to alleviate congestion in the restaurant.
Strong valuations spur US mergers and acquisitions: Several full-service casual dining chains are looking to sell themselves, hoping that strong valuations from companies such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread Co mean that deals could be accomplished at favourable prices this year. Casual dining chains exploring sale include Ruby Tuesdays, TGI Friday’s, Dave & Busters and Darden’s. Bob Derrington, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities, told Reuters: “The valuations for these brands appear pretty lofty in contrast to a pretty crummy operating environment for many of these companies which are rumoured to be for sale.” The stock prices of fast casual chains have soared, with companies trading at 23 times their last 12 months’ earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation. Even casual dining chains whose operating performances have deteriorated over the past few years have seen a rise in their valuations. These chains, which traded at roughly nine times their last 12 month’s Ebitda five years ago, are now trading at around 12 times, according to market data.
Stonegate Pub Company starts work on second Living Room conversion to premium Missoula: Stonegate Pub Company has begun work on converting its second former Living Room site to a premium version of its bar brand Missoula. The latest conversion is in York and comes after the opening of a former Living Room in Milton Keynes as the first premium Missoula in December. A spokesperson said: “We’re delighted to be bringing Missoula – Montana Bar & Grill to York. Over 30 jobs will be created and £240,000 will be invested into the site, which is one of the best locations in the city.” The food and drink menus include USDA grade beef steaks, fine wines, world beers and an extensive list of “signature cocktails”.
Douglas Jack issues ‘Buy’ note after Marston’s results: Numis Securities’ leisure analyst, Douglas Jack, has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Marston’s shares with a target price of 185p a share after yesterday’s trading update. He said: “We are holding our forecasts even though trading is ahead of our full year assumptions of 2.5% like-for-like sales in Premium & Destination, flat like-for-like sales in Taverns and lower average profits in leased. This allows for tougher comps in H2. Marston’s is repositioning its estate, selling wet-led pubs and recycling the capital into food-led new builds. Although this should result in 2014E being a flat year for earnings, we expect the attractive dividend payout to remain progressive, the balance sheet and earning quality to strengthen, leading to double-digit earnings growth in 2015E and 2016E.”
Wetherspoon opens in Wells and Oban: JD Wetherspoon has opened a new site in Wells, Somerset (population: 10,536). The company has spent £1.6m redeveloping the outlet on the site of the old Wells Emporium for antiques and interiors, in Priory Road. The pub is called The Quarter Jack after the astronomical clock in the north transept of Wells Cathedral, which is considered to be the second oldest clock in the British Isles. Wetherspoon also open the Corryvreckan pub in Oban in Argyll yesterday (population: 8,500). The company has developed the former home of Caithness Glass on Railway Pier, currently occupied by the outdoor clothing store Wilderness.
Young’s buys Islington pub: Young & Co, the London-based premium pub company, has bought the King’s Head Theatre Pub in Upper Street, Islington, North London from a private vendor, Stephanie Sinclaire. Stephen Goodyear, chief executive of Young’s, said: “We have long been looking for a high quality site in Islington, and so we are delighted to have been able to acquire the iconic King’s Head Theatre pub in Upper Street. We place a great emphasis on working with the local communities in which our pubs operate to ensure that we are doing everything we can to meet their needs. We are looking forward to building on the existing offering at The King’s Head – as a pub and a theatre.”
Simon French – we still recommend buying Restaurant Group shares despite Andrew Page’s retirement: Panmure Gordon’s leisure analyst, Simon French, has reiterated his buy recommendation on Restaurant Group shares despite yesterday’s announcement that chief executive Andrew Page will retire in August. French said: “The search process has begun to find his replacement with both internal and external candidates to be considered. Whilst there will undoubtedly be a long queue of applicants to take the helm of the UK’s best – on any number of measures – casual dining company, Andrew will be a difficult act to follow, with over a 1500% increase in the market cap achieved and over £200m of dividends paid in his tenure. He will leave the group in excellent shape, with strong sales momentum, easing cost pressures and a pipeline of new sites that has never been better; the group can double in size organically over the next eight to ten years. We reiterate our ‘buy’ recommendation and 684p target price. Andrew’s decision to retire is a loss to the group and the wider UK leisure industry but it does not alter our investment thesis on the stock. It remains a compelling organic growth story with solid LFL sales growth and a strong new site opening programme into an improving UK economy with easing cost pressures. Earnings should grow at CAGR of at least 10% over the next three years. The stock trades on a 2014E adjusted EV/Ebitdar of 9.9x and yields 2.5%.”
Luminar manager avoids jail for stealing after repaying debts: The former manager of two Luminar nightclubs in Cambridge who stole almost £8,000 from his employers has avoided jail after repaying the cash. Mark Kingerley appeared in Cambridge Crown Court a year after he pleaded guilty to stealing £7,833 from Luminar while working at Ballare and The Place – now known as Kuda. At a hearing in August, Recorder John Foy QC postponed sentencing to allow Kingerley, 35, to pay back the money with the promise that if he did so he would avoid an immediate prison term. The court had heard Kingerley was responsible for providing alcohol and staff for two Cambridge University Suicide Sunday events in June of 2012. The first was the Wyverns’ Garden Party in which students attending could pay an extra £5 on their £12 ticket to get free entry into the clubs after the event. But instead of delivering the cash to Luminar, he put the £5,570 raised into his own account. The second event saw Kingerley charge organisers of the Squire’s Garden Party £2,263 for alcohol, but this money also went straight to his bank. He was later sacked for unrelated reasons.
BrewDog co-founder – we would never sell to a larger company: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has insisted the company will never be sold to a major brewer. Watt said: “Anyone who knows me could anticipate the answer that they would get. It is not why we do it. Our motivation has never been financial. We want to change the face of the beer industry in the UK. We want to get more and more people excited about good beer. That’s what motivates us, that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning, that’s what excites our team. To sell it to a bigger company would just be the complete opposite of that. I can think of nothing worse than sitting on a beach somewhere watching a big, monolithic, evil company tearing to pieces everything our team has worked so hard to do.”
Nando’s – we were early Jelly adopters because we’re not afraid of social media: Nando’s has argued that it is important to get involved early on in emerging social media such as Jelly, the new social media app allowing users to submit questions along with pictures that could be answered by Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Nando’s head of digital, Jonathan Hopkins, told the marketing magazine The Drum: “We’d rather get stuck in than sit on the sidelines. We’d been having a poke around with Jelly and decided that we should get involved early on, as it looked like fun. We’re a fast-moving brand and aren’t afraid of getting stuck in. It’s important for us to experience the same things as our fans – it helps us get closer to them, understand what’s important in their lives and what they’d like from us as a brand. The social communities which we belong to enable us to do just that, so if something new comes along, it’s an opportunity for us to explore.”
Enterprise pub re-opens after community campaign: An 82-year-old pub in Weston super Mare, Somerset, the Bristol House, has re-opened after more than a year of campaigning by regulars. The temporary managers, Martin Jones and Judy Pellow, say they want to put their own stamp on the pub, which has been declared a community asset, and “keep the beer flowing”. The pub was shut last year after its owner, Enterprise Inns, lost an appeal against North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to extend the building. Customers saw this plan as a back-door way for supermarket giant Tesco to move in and open an Express store, and councillors rejected what they called a “Trojan Horse” application. The pub is currently being advertised on the owners’ site with an annual rental figure of £17,000. The pub will be run by the Pellows until someone takes over the lease from Enterprise Inns.
Heston Blumenthal ‘to open restaurant in Melbourne’: Heston Blumenthal is set to open a restaurant in the Crown casino and hotel complex in Melbourne, Australia, according to the local newspaper, the Herald Sun. The newspaper said Blumenthal has been in negotiations with Crown for some time, and “if a deal is not done already, it is very close. An announcement is expected soon”. A source told the newspaper that Blumenthal was at Crown just before Christmas and had meetings with Crown staff. According to the newspaper, he is good friends with Crown’s culinary director, Neil Perry, who has three restaurants in the complex: Rockpool, Rosetta and Spice Temple. If Blumenthal opens a restaurant in Crown, he will be the first international masterchef to have a presence there since 2011, when Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant closed. In September it was reported that Blumenthal was planning to open branches of his London restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, which is based at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, in India, Australia and the Americas. Menus, it was said, would reflect dishes eaten by British expatriates at the time of the empire.
SSP to invest up to £90m this year: The UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP is to invest a much as £90m this year in opening new restaurants and cafes around the world. Chief executive Kate Swann, who took over as CEO last year after a decade at WH Smith, said: “This year, (investment) will be well into the 80 millions and heading to £90m. We would expect another year of good growth. We’re in a very decent position from a financing point of view.” SSP runs franchises for brands including Starbucks, Burger King and WH Smith, and operates its own brands, which include Upper Crust and Millie’s Cookies. It operates in more than 140 airports and more than 250 railway stations. Swann said: “We opened 90 [new units] in total last year. We’ve already announced a couple of new wins this year – Beijing was one of them, Bordeaux was another – so we expect it to be another year of new openings as well as refurbishing what we already have.”
Whyte & Mackay profits soar: Pre-tax profit at Whyte & Mackay soared 27.4% to £33.9m last year. Revenues at the spirits business rose 15.9% year-on-year to £263m, according to accounts for the year ended March 31. Whyte & Mackay has been put on the market after the effective takeover of its Indian parent United Spirits by the world’s largest spirits company, Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker. Competition authorities are concerned there is too great an overlap in the UK between Diageo’s Bell’s brand and Whyte & Mackay’s eponymous blend and its supermarket own-brand interests. In the 2013 financial year, Whyte & Mackay booked £1.9m in charges from exceptional items, down from £2.9m in 2012. These included a £1.4m charge largely relating to registering its Whyte & Mackay Americas subsidiary and £1.4m in onerous lease provisions as the use of more space led to a drop in rates relief. Offsetting this was an £843,000 gain as the company’s pension scheme cut death-in-service spouses’ pensions.
Costa expands agency relationship for French campaign: Costa, the coffee shop chain, has extended its relationship with Karmarama by hiring the agency to create a campaign to support the brand’s roll-out in the French market. Karmarama won the UK account for Costa in 2006. It will now create Costa’s first advertising campaign in France, to introduce the brand to the country. Costa launched in France at the end of last year and currently has a minimal presence but plans to expand. Caroline Harris, marketing director for Costa Enterprises, said: “Following a successful partnership with Karmarama in the UK over the past seven years, we’re pleased to expand this relationship into new equity-led markets that will focus on both Costa Coffee shops and Costa Express.”
Thwaites to press on with new brewery plan; 60 staff in consultation process: Daniel Thwaites, the Lancashire brewer and pub operator, is to press ahead with plans for a new brewery despite failing to finalise plans with the local authority and the supermarket chain J Sainsbury for its existing site. Thwaites’ chief executive, Rick Baileys said: “We have been clear about our plans for the brewery for over two years now and have been working to reinvest in a new brewery, alongside finding a solution to the redevelopment of our current site. We have not been able to make the progress that we had hoped with Sainsbury’s and Blackburn with Darwen Council, although we continue to pursue all options. We always said that we thought this move would take us three to four years and the time has now come for us to move on. Our current brewery is old, oversized for our current needs and reaching a point of obsolescence; it is inefficient for the demands of today’s market and is reaching the end of its economic life. We are therefore proposing today, a further restructuring of our brewing operations, the next stage in seeing through our commitment to reinvesting in a new brewery locally, that is more efficient and more suitable for the future. That will allow us to do what we do best, which is to brew Thwaites’ delicious beers for our wide range of customers. This proposed restructuring and the closure of parts of our old brewery will see the company continue to brew at our Blackburn site in our modern craft brewery, which we installed in 2011. During this transitional phase we will be at full capacity, and to the extent that we have capacity constraints, we will be helped by some of our beers being brewed by external partners. Unfortunately we are not currently in a position to make public where the new brewery will be located, but hope to be able to do so shortly.” The company has entered a consultation process with 60 of its employees. Thwaites employs a total of 350 people in its brewery, distribution operations, sales force and head office. Other parts of the business are not affected by the changes. Bailey added: “We are absolutely committed to brewing beer, which will remain at the heart of the hospitality we provide and whilst it is incredibly hard to lose colleagues, we believe this is best way forward for the company.”
Starbucks begins new drink trial in the US: Starbucks has begun testing tiramisu lattes in select markets, in keeping with the theme of transforming sweet desserts into even sweeter drinks. The coffee chain is trialing the drink in St Louis, Missouri and Jacksonville, Florida. Reception so far via Twitter has been mostly positive. The drink is described as “our signature espresso with hints of creamy mascarpone flavour and a delicate dusting of rich cocoa espresso powder.”
New River Retail raises £75m through placing: The property firm New River Retail is to raise up to £75m through a placing at 265p. The property group has already received firm commitments for £50m of the money, which chief executive David Lockhart said would be used on a number of attractive opportunities currently available. New River has purchased 202 pubs for £90m from Marston’s, which it intends to turn into convenience stores and restaurants.
PizzaExpress affected by goats’ cheese shortage: PizzaExpress has been affected by the shortage of goats’ cheese. The shortage is due to a growing gulf between supply and demand across Europe. PizzaExpress, whose goats’ cheese and red onion pizza Padana is one of its best sellers, has struggled to supply it in a number of branches and has had to offer an “alternative cheese” to customers. A PizzaExpress spokeswoman said: “The goats’ cheese dishes we serve are very popular with our guests and they’re still available in our restaurants but, due to the temporary industry-wide shortage across Europe, we have experienced a few pockets of limited availability of goats’ cheese on certain days in a handful of restaurants. In these cases, we are of course happy to offer an alternative cheese. We envisage this being a short-term issue and are continuing to work closely with our supplier to ensure full availability at all times.”
Fuller’s pub given asset of community value status: A pub owned by the London brewer Fuller Smith & Turner has been designated an asset of community value which will allow villagers a chance to buy it. The Red Lion in Bloxham, Oxfordshire closed in August and is now boarded up and on the market. Villagers say they have more than £100,000 pledged towards the £400,000 asking price. Residents have until 17 February to tell the council they want to bid. If this is the case, the parish council will have a further six months to put a bid together, though the final decision rests with Fuller’s. Colin Challenger, a barrister and pub regular for 25 years who is helping put together the bid, said Bloxham once had seven pubs but now has only The Joiners Arms and The Elephant and Castle. Challenger told the local newspaper: “The Red Lion is the best site. It is on the main road and it has a big car park.”
St Austell head brewer given coveted fellowship after five-fold volume increase: St Austell Brewery’s head brewer, Roger Ryman, has been awarded with one of the most prestigious honours in the industry – Fellowship of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. Simon Jackson, the executive director of the IBD, presented Ryman with the fellowship in recognition of his dedication to the industry and commitment to training and development of younger members. Fellowship is the highest membership grade of the IBD and is only awarded to distinguished members with substantial experience and responsibility, who have contributed consistently to the brewing and distilling industry. Since joining St Austell Brewery in 1999, Ryman has overseen a fivefold increase in volume of beer sales and investment in capital projects worth £7.5m. In 2013, the brewery’s beer sales increased by 14% to 86,500 barrels, and saw another record year for its flagship ale, Tribute, both on draught and in bottles. There was also a marked increase in export and off-trade sales compared to 2012.
Cotswold pub sells off £1.5m asking price: The Old Stocks in Stow-on-the-Wold has been sold by Colliers International off an asking price of £1.5m. The 18-bedroom Old Stocks Hotel had been sold to the hospitality sector veteran Jim Cockell, who will be running the hotel as a family business. He said: “I have worked in the Cotswolds before and know the area. Stow-on-the-Wold is a great town in a fantastic location close to the principal Cotswolds attractions. There is always plenty going on and there is a lot of tourism in and around the area, but there is also an expectation of quality, which we aim to deliver.” Peter Brunt, of Colliers, said: “Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the prime Cotswolds destinations and with revenue showing steady growth and excellent profits the Old Stocks had generated a great deal of interest. After a couple of disappointments, it was great to finally push the sale over the line at the turn of the year.”
Ice-cream firm to open four more cafes: Cadwaladers Ice Cream, which currently runs 11 shops and cafes in England and Wales, plans to open four cafes across South Wales in 2014 with the aid of a £750,000 finance package from HSBC through the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme. The company launched its first new cafe at the New Eastgate Leisure Quarter in Llanelli this month, where it employs six permanent members of staff. It intends to open three more cafes, one at Mumbles in Swansea, and two in Cardiff, later this year. Cadwaladers’ managing director, Diane Brierley, said: “We are excited by what 2014 has in store, and we are looking forward to bringing our award-winning products to new locations across Wales, together with refurbishing some of our other shops.”
Stonegate opens new generation student pubs: Stonegate Pub Company is opening two next generation Scream student pubs in Sheffield and Leeds this week under the internal banner of Common Room, after the successful opening of a first site in Southfields, Middlesbrough at the end of last year. The pubs offer the latest in craft beers, super-fast broadband connections, interactive digital entertainment and “student-friendly” offers including a coffee shop-style grab-and-go counter serving tea, coffee and snacks from 8am to eat in or take-away. The pubs, which Stonegate says aim to change the face of student pub-going, will open as a brighter, lighter contemporary environments offering “quality and generosity at every turn”, the company says. The free super-fast broadband will be available with places to work from and a complimentary Wi-Fi-linked printer will be on hand for printing off last-minute documents. An abundance of plugs and USB connections are fitted to tables for phone and computer charging. The food and drink offer, designed to try to offer choice, quality and value, includes burgers and hot dogs, loaded with chilli, macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, bacon sandwiches, tray-baked cakes and sharer trays. Each pub will have five regularly rotating craft beers on tap, with third-pint taster trays and two or three pint flagons available. To reward regular customers, the pubs will be launching a new loyalty card scheme which will offer points for purchases or for just posting about the pub on Twitter or logging onto its Facebook page. The layout of the pubs will be flexible, with furniture that can be moved around to accommodate big group seating. There will be areas with large trestle-style tables as well as armchairs for lounging. Pin boards dotted around the pub and a giant floor-to-ceiling blackboard highlight the latest sports games to be shown across the screens, display the pub’s favourite Tweet of the day or invite customers to vote in the poll of the day or pop messages on post-it notes to stick on the walls. A dedicated games area with a pool table and board games whilst giant drop-down screens as well as smaller TV screens are dotted around the pub. The venues also feature “Secret DJ”, an interactive jukebox system that allows the customer to digitally select a track from their phone or instantly download a song they have just heard.