Story of the Day:
Marston’s seeks £60m a year of pub disposals to pay for new-builds: Marston’s intends making around £60m a year of wet-led pub disposals over the next two years as it seeks to improve its return on capital employed (ROCE) and raise money to go towards the investment needed for 25 to 30 new-build freehold pub-restaurants a year, the company’s chief executive, Ralph Findlay, said yesterday. Speaking at a seminar in London on the leisure sector organised by the City firm Numis Securities, he said the company had increased its ROCE from 9.6% in 2010 to 10.8% in 2013 through three main strategies. The first was building new pubs, “and this year we will build somewhere close to 30 new pub restaurants and will invest something close to £80m in the process. When we do that we are typically seeing cash returns of about 16.5% on the cash capital we invest – higher than the average for the estate.” The second, he said, was selling bottom-end pubs at high multiples. The third is a steady process of replacing tenanted pubs with franchises, which improves profitability and increases ROCE within what used to be the tenanted estate. That process should be complete, Findlay said, by the end of 2015. The company is seeing “significantly more interest” from property investors in pubs, Findlay said, something which started midway through 2013. Putting aside the sale to New River Retail of 202 pubs to be turned into stores for £90m, at 7.6 times Ebitda, Marston’s sold about £50m of pubs in 2013, Findlay said, and it expects to sell a further £60m this year and again in 2015. The pubs being sold are “by and large” ones with low Ebitdas, not generating a lot of profit, which are being sold at Ebitda multiples “in the mid-teens – 14 or 15”. In a number of cases, Findlay said, Marston’s would arrange with a supermarket chain such as Sainsbury’s to built a supermarket on the pub site to Sainsbury’s design, let the new store to Sainsbury’s and sell the rent on in the market. “That’s been very successful and we’ll do more of that this year,” he said. The pubs sold to New River last year, Findlay said were “not bottom-end”, and were making around £50,000 a year each on average, but in Marston’s view were “challenged” in the long term in that they did not have, for example, big enough car parks, or big enough kitchens, “enough amenity to mean that in five or six years’ time we would be confident of their position in the market”. The money from the New River sale, he said, was used to pay off the most expensive securitisation bond that Marston’s had on its balance sheet.
Douglas Jack – capital should be flowing into food-led pubs: Numis Securities analyst Douglas Jack has argued that food-led pubs should be attracting capital because they are out-performing the restaurant sector. He said: “The sector’s trading backdrop has improved to the point where consumer confidence is positive and growing, yet cost and regulatory pressures are benign. Longview Economics is forecasting a 1.8% real increase in discretionary post tax income and credit growth in 2014 (+4.3% nominal) versus 2013’s slight real terms fall. This reflects faster economic growth, rising private sector employment and low cost-inflation/mortgage service costs. Also, record inbound tourist expenditure is providing an additional boost for London in particular. Food-led pubs are materially outperforming the sector. For example, their drink volumes rose 3.4% in 2013 despite the number of food-led pubs increasing by just 0.2%. In comparison, restaurant drink volumes grew by just 0.9% despite a 6.0% increase in restaurant supply. In addition, pubs have been able to raise menu prices more than restaurants over the last year, reflecting competitive advantages in location and amenity. Capital should be flowing into food-led pubs, in our view. This segment should be expanding more rapidly than restaurants, reflecting overwhelming trends in consumer demand.”
Luminar finance director – nightclub operators did not change fast enough as the market evolved: Luminar finance director Russell Margerrison has argued that the nightclub market failed to evolve fast enough – and that remains the key challenge. Writing for Propel Friday Opinion, he stated: “The market has changed and nightclub operators did not change fast enough. Not all clubs will survive and the poorer operators will fall by the wayside but it was ever thus and not just in nightclubs. We have to be sure we are located in the right areas and be prepared to take the tough decisions when we have to if a club does become unsustainable. But for sure the beauty of our sector is that the next generation of 18 year olds is already here and ready to party. The future is loud and now but you have to invest and be prepared to evolve your offer to be credible. The young people of today still want a great night out and so will the young people of tomorrow.” See the 11am Propel Friday Opinion e-mail, for the full article plus opinion pieces by Propel Info managing editor Martyn Cornell, ALMR non-executive director Nick Bish and Elliott’s James Hacon.
Bacon sandwich tops Britain’s Top 10 breakfast favourites: Industry figures from the NPD Group show that burgers are fast becoming a British breakfast staple out of home. In the year ending December 2013, consumers ate more than 100 million burgers when having breakfast away from home, up more than +6% on 2012. Around one in 12 out-of-home burger servings (8.6%) were consumed before 11am compared to one in 16 (6.2%) five years ago (to year ending December 2008). Groups with kids up to 17 years of age are playing an important role in the growing popularity of burgers as a breakfast item. Five years ago, adults unaccompanied by kids consumed more than 67% of burger servings eaten away from home in the 6am to 10:59am breakfast time slot. Groups with kids up to 17 years of age ate the remaining 33%. Fast forward five years to 2013 and the adult share of breakfast burgers is down eight percentage points (at just over 59%), while groups with kids now get through nearly 41% of Britain’s breakfast burger servings – more than 40 million each year. The NPD Group data reveals there’s no beating the bacon sandwich, which took first place in the league table of favourite breakfast food items eaten out of home. Britons munched through more than 268 million bacon sandwiches when they ate breakfast away from home in 2013. Taking second, third, fourth and fifth places; toast, eggs, sausage and baked beans accounted for a further 793 million servings combined in the ‘out of home’ British Breakfast Top 10. Croissants came tenth – right at the bottom of the British Breakfast Top 10 – with little more than 91 million servings, indicating that UK tastes at breakfast time are distinctly ‘uncontinental’. NPD Group’s figures suggest Britons would rather have a breakfast sandwich – meaning any sandwich with a breakfast-type filling – than a croissant. UK consumers ate close to 117 million breakfast sandwich servings in 2013, over 25% more than for croissant servings.
Microsoft Venture accelerator company offers restaurants £1,000 to allow site trial:
PandaPay, a payments app company based in the Microsoft Ventures accelerator in Whitechapel, is offering restaurants a “no-strings” spend of between £500 and £1,000 to allow it to test its bill-splitting and payment application, which integrates with EPoS providers to increase table turnover by up to 18 minutes. Spokesman Steve Feeney told Propel: “At present we are not partnering with any restaurants or seeking integration, we are merely testing the app and the user experience. We have a fairly sizable investment fund to cover focus testing in restaurants. Essentially we want to test 12 diners using the app in a restaurant on their slowest night. We cover table costs of anywhere between £500-£1000 per customer focus test. The table would be made up of journalists, tech alumni and food bloggers.” Feeney can be contacted on email@example.com
Fleurets – average price of a freehold pub was £282,000 last year: The number of freehold pubs sold by agent Fleurets last year for continued pub use increased for the second year running to 56%. However, the percentage of ‘bottom end’ pubs sold in the year that stayed as pubs reduced to 50% down from 52%. These figures suggest that it is the lower quality pubs that are more often being sold for other uses. The average sale price of freehold pubs sold by Fleurets nationally last year was £282,000, which was 7% higher than for alternative use. However, in the south sales the average sale price for a freehold pub use was £365,000, which was 6% lower than for alternative use. In the north, the average freehold sale price for pub use was £230,000, which was 33% higher than sales for alternative use. A Fleurets spokesman said: “This suggests that in the north more pubs are closing and selling for alternative use because they are no longer viable as pubs, but in the south there are more pub sales going for alternative use because of the higher values being generated. At only +6% higher, however, it is not a significant amount and it may well be attributable to a few very high value alternative use sales in central London.”
Five restaurants to feature in £12m Grimsby leisure centre: Five restaurants will feature in a £12 million leisure complex that includes a cinema in Grimsby’s Freshney Place. The new complex in Grimsby town centre could be completed within two years. Construction of an eight to ten-screen multiplex cinema and five restaurants is expected to begin within 12 months and take about a year to complete. The development by the owners of Freshney Place will create 100 permanent jobs and about the same in construction.
Subway begins low-key trial of mobile ordering and payment app: Subway began a low-key mobile ordering and payment app trial at 2,000 sites in California a whole year ago, it has been revealed. Around 400,000 customers have downloaded it and it is available for both iPhone and Android. The free app was developed by California-based ZippyYum, a software company that is owned by Subway franchisee Daniel Riscalla.
Technomic and Propel Info partner to launch UK and US foodservice perspectives conference:
Leading insights and research firm Technomic has partnered Propel Info to launch the first ever full-day conference that compares and contrasts current eating out trends in the UK and the US. The day will look at some of the most innovative foodservice launches in the US in the past year – and provide analysis of the US brands currently looking to enter the UK market. Technomic’s vice-president Darren Tristano will examine best practice in menu, concept and service among growth concepts. There will also be insights on today’s foodservice consumer, current key UK industry metrics and forecasts and beverage trends in the UK and the US. Panel discussions include leading UK and US culinary directors and consumer insights directors, as well as a case study of a new beverage menu roll-out. Technomic’s Patrick Noone will provide insights on current UK trending menu flavours and preparations and consumer priorities and attitudes. Don Fox, chief executive of Firehouse Subs, the 750-strong US-based, fast casual restaurant chain that specialises in hot subs, will offer lessons from a leading US growth chain. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “The conference offer a great way to understood both UK and US foodservice trends, with panel discussions involving leading operators from both countries.” The conference takes place on Tuesday 10 June at Stationer’s Hall, Ave Marie Lane, London and tickets are priced at £345 for operators and £395 for suppliers. Those attending will also get a free copy of a Technomic report on the performance of the 250 leading US restaurant companies and the UK’s leading 100 foodservice brands. To book a place e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Tye – Spirit is looking to double Flaming Grill estate: Spirit Pub Company is looking to double the number of its Flaming Grill pubs over the next few years to more than 180, after the brand grew at a rate of almost four outlets a month in its first two years. Spirit’s chief executive, Mike Tye, speaking at a conference on the hospitality sector organised by the City firm Numis Securities in London yesterday, said the expansion would be based on a smaller-footprint Flaming Grill concept with a reduced menu at half the capital cost of the original outlets, to give a bigger potential pipeline of new openings. Spirit is also rebalancing the menu with lower-entry price points, and re-emphasising the “pub” element of Flaming Grill outlets, rolling out Sky and BT Sport across the estate. Tye said the Flaming Grill estate, now up to 93 outlets, had an even split of “source” pubs between local wet-led sites and outlets that were originally food-led. Locals were slower to build sales since they typically started with food sales of just 20% to 30%, but ultimately offered more long-term upside, he said, as food sales across the Flaming Grill estate grew to just over 50% of turnover. Explaining the birth of the brand, he said: “At the back end of 2009, we realised, along with many others, that the local pub market would need a more compelling reason to visit in the future than just drink occasions, which were almost certainly going to continue to decline. Looking at our estate and a myriad of options we could pursue, we landed on steak as the product and a sizzling skillet to create some theatre and to make these pubs compelling again.” The first two pilot sites for Flaming Grill “taught us an awful lot”, Tye said, with customers worried that the low entry price meant poor-quality food, problems with strong aromas from the cooking, and existing drinkers being deterred by the introduction of food. Spirit tackled those problems by dialling up the emphasis on the quality of the food, selecting trial pubs that could be effectively “zoned” between the foods and drink offers, installing much-improved kitchen and extraction equipment and accepting that a change in the customer base of the pubs concerned was necessary to reposition the business for the future. Spirit is now looking at the possibility of franchising the Flaming Grill brand, as well as converting some of its leased pubs to Flaming Grills and acquiring under-performing suburban pubs to turn them into Flaming Grill outlets as well, Tye said.
Alistair Darby – we’re expanding four key brands: Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is looking to move its rate of new openings to 40 to 50 a year, and basing its future expansion on four key brands, Toby Carvery, Miller & Carter, All Bar One and Harvester, the company’s chief executive, Alistair Darby, revealed yesterday. One reason for concentrating on those brands, Darby told a conference in London organised by the City firm Numis Securities, was that the company was able to look at both freehold and leasehold sites, which allowed for opportunistic acquisition. “That gives us the opportunity to look across the whole space – and in the case of All Bar One, you’ll never get the opportunity to buy the freehold unless you buy the entire office block on top,” he said. The other was that the four brands sat in three market spaces with a combined value of £35bn, of which M&B currently has a less than 4% market share. Darby also revealed that M&B is moving away from recruiting brand-by-brand and instead recruiting centrally. “We’ve found that the attractions of joining M&B are far more powerful than we might have thought,” Darby said. “That starts to allow us real efficiency in terms of recruitment. That’s terribly important in an industry that turns over 60% of its staff per year.” M&B is looking to add 1,000 new apprentices to the 1,600 it already has. However, he said, one of the company’s biggest challenges for the future was “the availability of great people”. As unemployment fell, “by definition this sector will become a less attractive place to work. So we have to work doubly hard to make this sector more attractive, help people to understand that there is a fantastic career journey in the industry, which I think is generally misunderstood. Apprenticeships are crucial, but there are a whole load of other initiatives we’ve got to keep banging away at.”
Domino’s FD – UK sales have been spectacular but we’ve learned hard lessons in Germany: Domino’s Pizza saw “spectacular” like-for-like trading in the UK for the first seven weeks of 2014, up 14.6%, the company’s chief finance officer, Sean Wilkins, said yesterday. However, he said, the company was “lapping the snow last year, while it was warm and wet this year, so we had a real kicker from the weather.” The company also ran a “winter survival deal” of a large pizza and three sides for £14.99, which was the most successful bundled deal it had ever done. For 2014, Domino’s intends focusing on improved returns to its franchisees in the UK, Speaking at a conference organised by the City firm Numis Securities, Wilkins said the company will “continue to innovate for the customer”, after the introductions in 2013 of chicken tikka, potato wedges, stiffed crusts and desserts. It will also be reducing costs, especially in the support centre, and focus on improving franchisees’ profitability via the food costs it charges them, At the same time it will continue expanding the number of stores in the UK, with a more “collaborative” approach, and a particular focus on London, “where we think there really is a good opportunity to drive more growth”. Speaking of the company’s plans in Germany, Wilkins said: “We’ve learned some hard lessons.” Mistakes included having a corporate-owned network, too rapid expansion, a lack of full control, over-sized stores, excessive overheads, a weak e-commerce platform, and pricing that tried to undercut independent local competitors. For 2014 in Germany, Domino’s will be going for an emphasis on franchised operations, just five store openings, a reduction in support centre numbers, a new e-commerce platform and premium pricing with aggressive, regular, deep promotions and a “relentless” approach to store-level economics.
McDonald’s to auction Hampstead murals it commissioned to “fit in”: McDonald’s is to auction six murals it commissioned in 1993 for its Hampstead branch to fit in with the local community after beating fierce “Burger off” campaign to block it. The site was acquired by Le Pain Quotidien after McDonald’s lease expired. As part of its attempts to become a little “more Hampstead”, McDonald’s asked renowned muralist Kate Lovegrove to produce a set of paintings of Hampstead. The results featured such well-known places as Kenwood House and The Spaniards Inn, and they remained on the walls until the branch closed last November. McDonald’s also played classical music, erected an English Heritage-approved facade and installed chairs worth £100 each, as well as getting its garden landscaped for the benefit of any overlooking neighbours.
Gordon Ramsay buys Aubergine site: Chef Gordon Ramsay has acquired the former site of Aubergine, the restaurant where he began his career and won his first Michelin stars, for £1.2m. A 60-seater restaurant is planned by August, although not under the Aubergine name. Ramsay was 26 when he arrived at the restaurant following an introduction by Marco Pierre White to owners Claudio Pulze, Franco Zanelleto and Guiliano Lotto. He told The London Evening Standard: “It will be 21 years this October since I started. I remember walking through the doors for the first time with Claudio and Marco and I thought, “Wow”. But the food was dreadful. After I got dropped off at home, I walked back and sat outside until 4am, imagining what it would be like. We had a £10,000 budget and on the first day, our only outside line was an old phone you had to put the money into. We had to finish crème brûlées on pilot lights and we had to go begging to The Canteen [a restaurant in Chelsea Harbour] to send lemon tarts over.”
Premier Inn development to bring three new restaurants to Yeovil: Construction of the new Premier Inn-anchored leisure development on Middle Street will bring the biggest boost to Yeovil’s leisure sector since the opening of the town’s Leisure Park in 2002, according to Peveril Securities, developers for the new scheme. Work started this month and, in addition to a new 80 bedroom Premier Inn and linked Beefeater Restaurant, the project will provide space for three more restaurant units. Collectively, this represents a total of 17,000 sq ft of new restaurant space across the four restaurants. The Premier Inn and Beefeater Grill will create circa 50 new jobs with the potential for a further 60 new jobs across the three additional restaurants.
Carluccio’s to open in Fenwick department store in York: Carluccio’s is to open in the Fenwick department store in York’s Coppergate Centre, with a June unveiling scheduled. The new restaurant will form part of a larger refit at Fenwick, which is transforming its current restaurant on the first floor into extra retail space. Neil Setterfield, store director at Fenwick in York, said: “We are converting the existing restaurant space into additional fashion space, bringing some new brands into Fenwick. We will then be converting a lot of our back of house area, which will become Carluccio’s, a 98-cover restaurant with a small deli. We are very excited about it. It is something we have been looking to do to for some time. In any retail business it is essential to keep moving forward and introduce new ideas. The opportunity came about to work with Carluccio’s and we have taken it. We are hoping Carluccio’s will open in June, and the newly extended fashion offering on the first floor will be ready for the Autumn lines.”
Wagamama targets 20 new openings a year for three years with Jones Lang LaSalle appointment: Wagamama, which operates 100 sites in the UK and is owned by Duke Street Capital, is targeting 20 new openings a year for the next three years – and has hired Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) as its restaurants acquisition advisor. Rob Howarth, director in JLL’s leisure team, said: “The leisure and restaurant industry is seeing improving trading and there are strong requirements for this year. More operators are moving out of town and we have the expertise to ensure that Wagamama is located in the best schemes and can benefit from the most footfall.”
SSP to open Smashburger site at Phoenix airport: UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist SSP is to open a Smashburger at Phoenix Sky Harbor international airport. Smashburger will partner with T&T Pho and master concessionaire SSP to open the first Smashburger location at airport’s Terminal 4, in late spring 2014. The new opening, along with two more airport locations, Washington and Dallas, brings Smashburger’s non-traditional unit count to eight.
Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill expands into England: A Cardiff restaurant group has chosen Birmingham as the location for its first site in England. Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill, which currently trades from Cardiff’s St Mary Street is investing £400,000 in the new restaurant in Brindleyplace. The restaurant, set to open in May, is situated in a former office unit above Cafe Rouge on the corner of Central Square and The Water’s Edge. Le Monde general manager Simon Howard said: “We looked at several cities as sites for a new Le Monde, but Birmingham impressed us because of the tremendous culinary reputation it has established and its ever growing business community.” The business was founded in Cardiff almost 30 years ago. It will serve a wide range of fresh fish and steaks cooked to order. Diners will be able to view the shellfish, fish, poultry and steaks on display and then choose exactly which cut / weight / fish / quantity they like. There will be an open kitchen where customers can see their meals being prepared. The restaurant will have 150 covers and many of the tables will be large to encourage groups out celebrating to eat, as well as more traditional twos and fours.
Glasgow restaurant entrepreneur plans £1.3m opening: Edinburgh restaurant operator James Rusk is to invest £1.3m transforming the city’s distinctive Hutchesons’ Hall into an upmarket cafe, bar and restaurant. The National Trust for Scotland owns the site, which has an eye-catching white facade, clock tower and large stained glass windows – and has been trying to find a new tenant for several years. Rusk already operates city steakhouse The Butchershop Bar & Grill in Sauchiehall Street. The businessman, who is vice chairman of the Glasgow Restaurant Association, plans to create at least 50 jobs when he launches in a few weeks’ time. His venture is backed by Gordon Matheson, the local councillor and leader of Glasgow City Centre who also chairs the city’s marketing bureau. He said: “Hutchesons will be a welcome addition to the city’s impressive gastronomic scene, providing a unique dining experience and creating jobs for the city.”
Douglas Jack – we expect strong trading from Domino’s next week: Numis Securities analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Domino’s shares, with a Price Target of 710p, ahead of next Wednesday First Quarter trading update. He said: “UK like-for-like sales rose 14.6% during the first seven weeks of the three month period. During the last six weeks to the end of March, the like-for-like comp is c.12%, so one should expect like-for-like sales to have slowed from 14.6%, yet still remain impressive. like-for-like sales are benefiting from improving consumer confidence in the UK (still an immature market), improving product range, increased marketing/advertising scale and successful bundle sales. UK margins (up 74bps in 2013) should continue to grow even though management intends to boost franchisee profitability (franchisee Ebitda/store was £107,000 in 2013) through Domino’s maintaining food gross margins. Otherwise, the company’s operational gearing is intact and should benefit store expansion and like-for-like sales growth. Domino’s has reiterated its 1,200-store target for the UK, from a current position that is immature relative to the US and Australia based on store count and household penetration. Increasing franchisee profitability should encourage stronger expansion and marketing, driving up system sales, which boost the advertising fund, which benefits like-for-like sales, in a virtuous circle. Domino’s Pizza is valued on an 11% discount to historical average, excluding Europe, which should be considered as a valuable long-term option. Excluding Europe, and valuing the company in line with the sector’s current 14% EV/Ebitda premium to historical average, would equate to £6.90/share on forecasts that have good upgrade potential, in our view.”
Beds and Bars group HR and training manager to step down: Beds and Bars group human relations and training manager Donna Hewitson is stepping down next month. Human resources director Karen Davies will take over Hewitson’s responsibilities whilst a replacement is recruited. Hewitson said: “The last 18 months have been an absolute joy.”
KFC in Southampton closes for a day after unsatisfactory inspection: A KFC in Southampton closed for a day after “unsatisfactory” levels of cleaning were identified during an inspection. Council environmental health officers visited the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) branch in Portswood Road on Monday to carry out a routine inspection of the premises. A spokesman for the council said that the inspection uncovered “unsatisfactory levels of cleaning in the premises, including in the food preparation areas.” He added: “KFC management decided to close the restaurant voluntarily in order to undertake cleaning before reopening later in the day.”
Michelin-starred Skye Gyngell to open site at Somerset House: Chef Skye Gyngell, who has a Michelin-star when she worked at Petersham Nurseries restaurant, is to open her first solo restaurant at Somerset House in late September 2014. The menu will be seasonally-driven and the restaurant itself will be in Somerset House’s “New” Wing – the first time that this space will have been open to the public for over 150 years.
Hummus Brothers introduces new breakfast menu: Hummus Brothers has introduced a new breakfast menu at its Exmouth Market restaurant with Cheapside, Soho and Holborn to follow shortly. In addition to an all new coffee and hot drink menu, traditionally thick Greek yoghurt is being served with a variety of high quality toppings including wild herbs & white thyme Cretan honey, crushed walnuts, Chios sour cherry compote and freshly prepared fruit salads. Jon Hassall, managing director, said: “Our customers are already used to selecting delicious toppings to be served in a bowl (of hummus), so it felt natural to develop a breakfast range that followed a similar style. Once we had found our Greek yoghurt base we invested significant time and effort to find a range of high quality and unique toppings that standout as a point of difference in the highly competitive and busy breakfast marketplace”. Prices for the new yoghurt menu start at £2.70 and customers can customise with one or more toppings.
Spirit’s Chef & Brewer brand launches new training academy: Spirit’s pub restaurant brand Chef & Brewer has launched a new training academy dedicated to developing the skill-sets within its kitchen teams. Following the launch of a new menu across the estate, the Chef & Brewer brand is now putting the emphasis behind developing its back of house team to consistently deliver fresh dishes to the highest of standards, while also offering development for those who are keen to progress and further their careers. The Chef Academy, which is open to all its kitchen team leaders looking to progress, will provide candidates with the essential foundation kitchen skills needed to become a head chef. Lynne Kennedy, senior food quality manager, said: “We’re proud to launch this innovative new training scheme that specialises in developing our kitchen teams. We see the Chef Academy as a stepping stone between team player and head chef – it provides candidates with a comprehensive learning programme that enables them to reach their professional career goals. For the company, investing in our team is one of our key values, and this academy supports retention and progression and creates a strong pipeline of future head chefs.”
Matthew Clark reports 65% increase in turn-out for tasting event: Wholesaler Matthew Clark has reported a 65% increase in turn-out for its ‘Discover the Unexpected’ tasting at Tobacco Dock in London’s Docklands last week compared to the year before. The new format encouraged visitors to step outside their comfort zones and try something new. Steve Thomson, Matthew Clark chief executive, said: “The event itself was a fantastic success based on customer and supplier reaction, and, of course, visitor numbers. I think the scale and diversity of the tasting along with unique access to world-class winemakers at the stands or in master classes has created a new standard in wine tastings. Whilst some of our smaller competitors are being forced to reduce spend in this area, Matthew Clark will continue to fund scale regional tastings along with a large number of more intimate and bespoke events across the rest of this year and beyond.”
Cafe bakery segment leader unveils technology changes to improve customer experience: Panera Bread, which led sales growth in the US cafe bakery segment last year, has unveiled a radical technology initiative, called Panera 2.0, to improve customer experience. A two-pronged plan will see the addition of “Rapid Pick-Up” mobile and online ordering in some sites, and for others an in-store kiosk ordering system. Panera will invest $42 million on technology alongside franchisees, who operate about half of the company’s 1,777 units, at a cost per unit of per bakery-cafe unit of circa $125,000.“Panera 2.0 is a vision how we evolve the guest experience at Panera,” said chief executive Ron Shaich. “It’s how we care for the individual needs, the specific needs, of our to-go customers, of our eat-in customers and those customers who want it wherever they are, not where we are.” Rapid Pick-Up iOS mobile or web ordering allows customers to order, select a time and pick up from shelves. Enhanced To-Go and Eat-In involves in-store kiosk ordering. Shaich said in test units that 20% to 30% of orders are through the kiosk, web and mobile platforms. “The numbers out of the kiosks are something we are extremely excited about,” chief technology officer Blaine Hurst said, indicating guest frequency has increased. “All of this is without mobile, which is just starting to roll out to the market.” Sales can reach $2,000 an hour in Panera locations and the new systems allow workers to focus and reach those levels. In addition, Panera has created a “kiosk ambassador” to help customers unfamiliar with the technology. In addition, Shaich said the technology helps increase order accuracy, which in many restaurant operations can have one out of seven orders coming out wrong.
Grand Union to add 20 sites in three years: Grand Union, the London bar company led by Adam Marshall, is to add 20 sites in the next three years. Backed by industry investor Luke Johnson, who owns a 50% share in the cocktail and burger concept, Grand Union currently operates eight sites throughout London, and is now looking for new venues throughout the capital and nationwide. Grand Union will focus on high footfall, high density, commercial locations, concentrating on sites between 4,000 sq ft and 10,000 sq ft. Highly visible prime sites are preferred close to leisure, office and residential areas and sites with alfresco spaces are strongly desired. London locations under consideration include Central London and Soho, Balham, Battersea and Ealing in the south and the City, Dalston, Shoreditch and Hackney to the east. Grand Union is also considering expanding nationwide to sites in Brighton, Cambridge, Bath, Cardiff, Oxford, Canterbury, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Guildford and Leeds. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, post-work, dinner and late night cocktails, private parties and events with a great value offer and quirky old English vintage design, Grand Union has quickly established itself as a strong brand in a very competitive market. Adam Marshall, chief executive of Grand Union, said: “Despite challenging trading conditions, we have grown steadily since the launch of our first site in Camden in 2006. We look forward to building on our success to date and accelerating the growth of the company in London and beyond.”
Heron & Brearley to begin Market Town Taverns expansion this year: Isle of Man-based Heron & Brearley is to begin an expansion drive at its UK arm, Yorkshire-based Market Town Taverns, which it acquired in 2012 and is currently led by Simon Midgley. In Companies House documents, the company stated: “New site acquisitions are planned for the back half of the forthcoming year. We are currently working on a detailed document brief for local and national agents to help identify suitable sites. We hope to identify and secure at least a couple of sites a year.” The company reported turnover of £7,251,980 in the year to 1 February 2014 and pre-tax profit of £334,089. Like-for-like sales rose 3.8% compared to the previous financial period, which covered 16 months. The company has developed a concept called PubCraft, which was applied a refurbishment of the Cooper in Guiseley. The brand will be the “backbone of the company ethos going forward”. The company reported a 2.1% increase in labour costs at tavern level.