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Wed 9th Apr 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Downing invests in Modern Asian Deli brand: Investment fund Downing LLP, which has sizeable co-investments with pub operators Antic London and East Midlands-based Pub People Company, has provided development capital for Modern Asian Deli, a new concept opened by Angela Malik in Ealing this week, it has emerged. Malik, who has been running a successful cookery school and Asian delicatessen in Acton for over three years opened Modern Asian Deli on Monday on the site of the former Budgens store overlooking Ealing Green. The brand offers Brit-Asian salads, curries, pastries and desserts and will even offer a ‘Lassi Bar’ – a selection of Indian-inspired smoothies and shakes. Downing invested through its Growth EIS Fund. Tom Phillips, investment manager at Downing, told Propel: “We invested into the business to provide it with development capital to open additional sites and to build its operational infrastructure. We have been really impressed with Angela and her team and look forward to supporting the continued expansion of the company, following the successful opening of the Ealing site.” Of the Ealing opening, Malik said: “I’ve long been a resident of the borough and I am so proud to be opening in the heart of Ealing. I am passionate about good, clean, great-tasting food.” Modern Asian Deli is open for breakfast and serves through until early evening, where customers can come in and pick up food to take home for supper.
   

Industry News:

Luke Johnson – focus should be placed on how much stock the board of quoted companies own and not salaries: Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued that the key focus of attention should be on how much stock the boards of quoted companies own, not salary levels. In his Financial Times column this morning, he wrote: “Ultimately, when I look at a public company annual report, I rarely get worked up about how much the board are paid: what interests me is how much stock they own. I am deeply underwhelmed by executives who earn millions but have very little invested in their own business’s shares. If they have such modest confidence in the enterprise they actually run full time, then why should I? I am exploring the idea of taking one of my companies public: as part of the preparations, experts were brought in to benchmark the CEO and finance director salaries against comparable executives in similar publicly traded firms. Their report suggested possible immediate pay increases of as much as 200%. They failed to realise that my partners in this venture are co-owners, not employees. That is the private equity model – and partly why so much talent had defected from public markets to do buyouts.”
   
Cafe using leftover food opens in Leeds: A cafe that uses leftover food thrown out by restaurants and supermarkets to create meals has opened. The Real Junkfood Project in Leeds, West Yorkshire, only serves meals created from food destined for landfill. Restaurants, supermarkets and cafes in the city have now got behind the scheme and donate food on a daily basis. Unwanted food donated so far ranges from bread and broccoli to caviar, truffles, a kilo of smoked salmon, luxury cheeses, extravagant veg and spices. Customers at the restaurant, thought to be the first in the country, are allowed to pay what they want for the food. The cafe was founded by chef Adam Smith, who opened it in December.
   
Yum! Brands launches Chick-fil-A style brand: Yum! Brands has launched a new chicken brand which observers claim apes premium rival Chick-fil-A, which has overtaken its KFC brand in the US market. SuperChix sells a limited range of chicken, with the focus on “premium” and “hand-breaded”. It sells hand-cut fires and frozen yoghurt and has opened in Arlington, Texas. “This is an exploratory concept that may in the future be considered for international purposes,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “It is only in its infancy stage. We’ve explored other concepts over the years and they provide interesting learnings.” The brand website and menu make no mention of its link with Yum!.
   
Government minister praises McDonald’s factory in Scunthorpe: A senior member of the government has praised a Scunthorpe company for its role in maintaining Britain’s reputation in food production. Owen Paterson MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, paid tribute to OSI Food Solutions on a visit to its site on Luneburg Way. The minister was given a guided tour of the Scunthorpe site, which provides McDonald’s with its 100% beef burgers. He also spoke with students on the McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmers programme, which aims to give young people thinking of a career in agriculture a complete picture of the supply chain.
   
Coffee bean prices jump amid concerns about production: Coffee prices climbed Monday on renewed concerns about production in Brazil, the world’s top grower and exporter. Forecasts for more dry weather in Brazil’s coffee belt and lower production estimates from the country’s National Coffee Council have boosted Arabica prices nearly 11% since Thursday, the biggest two-session percentage jump since mid-February. Brazil produces more than half of the world’s Arabica beans and a decline in production would affect global supplies. Prices are up nearly 75% since the beginning of this year.
   
Maida Vale takeaway voted the UK’s best: Lebanese diner The Cedar, in Maida Vale, has been voted the UK’s best takeaway. It received the most positive votes from millions of reviews of more than 9,000 eateries posted by users of online delivery website hungryhouse.co.uk. Owner Sami Khoueiry said: “All my recipes are 100% home-made and my mum has given her seal of approval – I go back to her now and then for tips.” He turned down a job at The Dorchester in Park Lane three years ago to take the business over from his cousin. Khoueiry had previously spent five years as sous chef at the Marriott Hotel in Mayfair as their Lebanese specialist.
   
TripAdvisor reviewers name London as the third best destination in the world: Travellers have voted London the third best destination in the world, with only Istanbul and Rome rated higher. London beat last year’s top two destinations – Paris and New York – which dropped to 7th and 12th places respectively. Fourth in the world list was Beijing, with Prague fifth and Marrakech in Morocco sixth. TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay said: “These awards are based on millions of reviews and ratings by those that really matter – travellers themselves. There is no doubt the birth of the royal baby helped keep the eyes of the world on London in 2013, but the capital’s continued appeal among travellers around the world surpasses any one event.”
   
Newcastle theatre launches campaign to block two nightclubs: The Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne has launched a campaign to stop two new nightclubs opening directly opposite its historic city-centre home. Theatre management argued that the venues would bring an additional 2,000 late-night revellers into an area famed for its architecture and would “add to problems caused by existing bars and restaurants”. An email to supporters of the Theatre Royal signed by staff and the board of trustees said: “The after-effects of late-night drinking are commonplace in Newcastle and theatre staff regularly have to clean the entrances to the theatre of vomit, urine and litter, in addition to the occasional broken windows – this will only increase with two nightclubs in such close proximity.”
   

Company News:

Pug Pubs aims for ten sites in three years: Pug Pubs, the company re-inventing the community pub that is led by Nigel Pinegar, who oversaw the modernisation of Ember Inns at Mitchells and Butlers, and Matthew Crowther, who has held operations roles at M&B and Paramount, is aiming to run an estate of ten pubs within three years. The company opened its first site The Fat Pug, a Punch Taverns pub in Leamington Spa in March 2012 and increased takings at the 50-seat venue from £3,000-a-week to £20,000-a-week. Their second pub, The Royal Pug, a Punch Taverns also in Leamington Spa, opens for Easter. Pinegar told Propel: “We’d like to get to ten pubs in three years. We’re already looking at pub number three which we’d like to have open by the end of the year – and then look at three or four openings in 2015.” The Pug Pubs ethos is the creation of a “neighbourhood pub and kitchen”. Pinegar added: “It is important to keep up with what people want and pubs that continue to resist change will find it increasingly difficult to survive. We want our pubs to offer something different and unique but still retain the charm and personality of a local neighbourhood pub. The Royal Pug has a vintage style pop-up barber’s shop in the corner, a potting shed conservatory and a piano by the bar.”
   
New Whiting & Hammond site gets off to a flyer: The new Whiting & Hammond gastro-pub, The King’s Head at Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, a co-investment with Punch Taverns, took just below £30,000 in its first full week of trading. Brian Whiting told Propel: “It was a little bit more money than I wanted. I like to build sites up slowly – rather that go out roaring. It was also our busiest site on Monday with takings of £3,000.” The site is the company’s eighth pub and is managed by Paul Giles, who transferred across from the company’s Cricketers venue.
   
Harvester, Bella Italia, Zizzi and Chimichanga confirmed for Bedford scheme: Four leading brands, Mitchells & Butlers’ Harvester, Zizzi, Chimichange and Bella Italia have signed to occupy Bedford’s new Riverside North scheme. Building of the development is set to get underway this summer and is expected to be completed within 18 months. The project will provide a second cinema in the town, a new public space, and new pedestrian footbridge. Colin McQueston, director of Bedford Riverside Regeneration Limited, said: “We are delighted to have secured these operators for the scheme, which demonstrates that, in a challenging economic climate, there is real interest from new occupiers to come to Bedford, and specifically to the Riverside North scheme.”
   
Premier Inn targets 14 hotels in the Gulf over the next three years: Whitbread’s budget hotel brand Premier Inn will open 14 hotels in the Gulf over the next three years. The company plans one hotel each in Sharjah, Riyadh, Dammam, Jubail, Manama, two each in Muscat, Doha, and Jeddah, and three hotels in Dubai. Premier Inn managing director Darroch Crawford said: “We are targeting a minimum of 30 hotels in the (Gulf) by 2020.” Four of the upcoming properties – one in Jeddah, Dubai, Sharjah and Manama – will be built by Action Hotels at a cost of $103 million. Crawford revealed the hotel chain is also considering opening properties in Thailand, Malaysia, India, Singapore, and Indonesia.
   
The Noodle House unveils UK opening date: South-east Asian casual dining brand The Noodle House is opening its first UK restaurant in central London on the 17 April. The Jumeirah Restaurants brand opened its first site in Dubai at Jumeirah Emirates Towers in 2002 and has expanded to 22 restaurants in iconic cities including Abu Dhabi, Doha and Moscow. The Noodle House takes inspiration from the ‘vibrancy of South-east Asia’s buzzing street food stalls and the tranquillity of its teahouses’. South-east Asian dishes include nasi goreng from Indonesia, curry laska from Malaysia, green curry from Thailand and Cantonese roasted duck with pancakes. The London restaurant is the first in the UK under a master franchise agreement with affiliates of EQ Group. The restaurant is located Shaftesbury Avenue.
   
Charles Wells opens first managed pub: Bedford-based Charles Wells quietly opened its first managed pub, The Salisbury Arms in Cambridge, around a fortnight ago. The pub was previously in its tenanted division and is now operated under a new vehicle called Seadog Inns. So far, TripAdvisor reviews have been mixed with several customers accusing the company of stripping the pub of its former character. One critical reviewer stated: “Gone are the days of the punt, the hanging bicycle and the folk festival posters. If you like white paint and plenty of it then you’ll love this place. Prices on the ales have gone up yet the lager gone down. They have coffee shop type dome things with cake.” A second, more positive review stated: “We have found the staff very welcoming and friendly and love the changes to the décor. My opinion is that you don’t need a Cambridge theme when you are in Cambridge – simple and tasteful is good. Loving the cushions and I am sure other touches will be added as things bed in. They have been open a week and a half, we have been in four times and have eaten twice – very nice veggie burgers!” Charles Wells transferred its original 15-strong managed division, Eagle Inns, to lease in 2006.
   
Spirit chooses ten ‘little leaders’ to advise on Fayre and Square/Wacky Warehouse: Spirit Pub Company has chosen ten children from across the UK to sit on a board of executive ‘little leaders’, aged between five and eight years old, to help it develop its new children’s menu created for kids by kids – as well as helping to influence future ideas for Wacky Warehouse and Fayre & Square. The board of ten little leaders, who were chosen from almost 200 applicants, will come together at Spirit headquarters in Burton upon Trent to spend a day working with chefs to taste new dishes, design the look and style of the menu and test out new play equipment for Wacky Warehouse. They’ll also meet senior managers in the company. Each of the ten little leaders has also won a Merlin Annual Pass, a family party at their local Fayre & Square pub restaurant, and a Wacky VIP Gold Card, which entitles them to unlimited access to the play centre for 12 months.
   
Black Country Ales gets go-ahead for bank conversion: Brewer and retailer Black Country Ales, led by Angus McMeeking, has been granted planning permission by Sandwell Council to transform the derelict former HSBC Bank, in Bearwood, Smethwick. The refurbishment, which has begun, is expected to cost a six-figure sum and finish in time for a July opening. The conversion was supported by more than 70 people who wrote to Sandwell Council to back the new venture. McMeeking said: “We are very grateful to the many local residents who spoke in favour of a new pub to bring a grand old building back into use and provide more choice for drinkers on Bearwood Road.” This is the company’s first pub in Bearwood, although it runs 20 others around the Black Country and Birmingham and has won CAMRA Pub of the Year Awards in Birmingham, Kidderminster, Walsall and Wolverhampton recently. The Black Country Arms in Walsall and The Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton were also voted Best Local Pubs in the West Midlands ahead of CAMRA’s Community Pub Month.
   
Prezzo sets opening date for Milton Keynes: Prezzo has announced it will open a site in Milton Keynes on Friday 18 April, located at The Kingston Centre. Prezzo at Kingston, which cost £500,000 to develop, will have seating for 130 diners, 114 in the main restaurant and a further 16 either side of the main entrance. It will also have a separate bar with seating at the front, with diners able to view the feature pizza oven and kitchen from each of the seats.
   
New nightclub opens in former Chicago Rock site in Manchester: A new nightclub, Club Liv, has been unveiled in the former Chicago Rock Café premises on Manchester’s Peter Street. The venue has opened by Mo Mohamud, formerly manager of private members bar The Circle, which closed last year. Opening night on Saturday saw a host of Manchester United celebrating a 4-0 victory over Newcastle. 
   
The UK’s best Thai restaurant comes on the market: Award-winning St Andrew’s restaurant, Nahn-Jim, is on the market through agent Christie + Co. The restaurant featured on Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Ramsay’s Best Restaurants’ – he named Nahn-Jim the best Thai restaurant in the UK. In 2008, the restaurant was also named the UK’s number one Thai restaurant by The Sunday Times. Barry McNeil, of Christie + Co, said: “There is a lack of good quality restaurant space available in St Andrews and I am sure the opportunity of Nahn-Jim will attract significant interest from local and corporate operators.” Offers are invited for the leasehold interest with a rent of £97,000 per annum.
   
New food and drink concept set to open in Islington next month: A new food and drink concept, Jenuis Social, is set to open in Islington, north London next month. The social hub, to be launched by former banking consultant Jennifer Yong, plans to get London ‘talking, sharing and connecting’ through food, allowing everyone from beginner to gourmand to indulge their food and drink dreams. Jenius Social will host a range of daily food adventures from supper clubs, cookery classes and experiences to special events with industry experts and select food producers from around the UK. The venue also features an on-site deli and shop filled with an array of hand-picked items sourced from the best producers, plus a selection of kitchen accessories to enable foodies to recreate new talents at home.
   
Carluccio’s to open in Shrewsbury this Friday: Carluccio’s will open a site in Shrewsbury this Friday (11 April), occupying the former Jane Dyas building in the Square. Simon Kossoff, chief executive officer of Carluccio’s, said: “We have been keen to open in Shrewsbury for a number of years now and are delighted to have finally found the right site for us.”
   
Chef John Burton Race confirms return to London: Chef John Burton Race has confirmed that he is returning to London after 12 years absence to open a 54-cover restaurant, The New Angel in Notting Hill. The venue will take the place of Colchis on Chepstow Place and offer a contemporary European menu. Burton Race held two Michelin stars at the Landmark Hotel. He ran the New Angel in Dartmouth which won a Michelin star but was closed by his estranged wife while he was taking part in a reality TV show.
   
JD Wetherspoon unveils Bishops Stortford opening date: JD Wetherspoon is to open its new pub in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, called The Port Jackson, next Tuesday (15 April) – the population is 38,202. The company has spent £1.65 million developing the outlet in a unit at Riverside Piazza and has created 80 new jobs. It will feature one bar on the ground floor, a first floor mezzanine and an outside terrace overlooking the River Stort, where smoking will be permitted in a designated area.
   
Restaurant Group opens Frankie & Benny’s in Wisbech: The Restaurant Group has opened a branch of Frankie & Benny’s in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. The restaurant is part of the new Tesco Extra and Light Cinema complex on Cromwell Road and is the first of three to open there. A total of 50 jobs have been created.
   
Burger King decides it wants a global agency rather than just a UK-focused one: Burger King has shifted strategy and is looking for an agency to handle its global advertising account. The UK business, worth £9m, is currently handled by CHI & Partners. In the US, Mother New York most recently worked on the business. Burger King initiated and then aborted a review of its UK business at the beginning of the year. However, the company has now decided to move to a different structure with a global agency. CHI picked up the UK and Ireland account in August 2011 after Burger King’s split with its previous agency of record for five years, Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
   
Great Yarmouth licenses convert bingo hall into bar and nightclub: Father and son licensees Ian and Adam Bromwich are to re-open the former Mecca Bingo hall in Great Yarmouth’s Regent Road as a bar and nightclub called Stars this weekend. When the scheme was granted planning permission by Great Yarmouth Borough Council earlier this year, councillors argued that a new bar would help keep a night-time economy in town when much of it is migrating to Norwich. The club, which boasts two bars and VIP areas, has a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.
   
Barnet Council revokes nightclub licence: A nightclub in Whetstone has had its licence revoked by Barnet Council following complaints from residents. Sequoia, in High Road, Whetstone, had its premises licence rescinded following a meeting of the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee in Hendon Town Hall. The committee took the decision after the police requested a licence review, which was supported by representations from residents and a ward councillor. Sequoia’s website states that it aims to be a “gem to the local community and a premium offering to London’s socialites”.
   
Batemans wins Manchester ‘Beer of the Festival’: Batemans, the family brewer based in Lincolnshire, has received the award for ‘Beer of the Festival’ at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival organised by the Greater Manchester branches of CAMRA, for its new Mocha Amaretto beer, from the Bohemian Brews range. The ‘Beer of the Festival’ was voted for by customers at the festival, and the Batemans Mocha Amaretto proved so popular that it completely sold out on the second day of the event. The Mocha Amaretto beer has an ABV of 6.5%, and is available in 330ml bottles, and by cask for a limited period. A dark beer which undergoes extended maturation to ensure its quality, it is a blend of coffee, almond and chocolate, with an appetising coffee aroma and a delicious, sweet taste.
   
Brown-Foreman eyeing Whyte & Mackay whiskey business: US drinks company Brown-Forman is one of several parties considering second-round bids for the Whyte & Mackay whisky business, expected to fetch around £350m, according to Reuters. The bulk of Whyte & Mackay is being sold by United Spirits to satisfy antitrust concerns arising from Diageo’s purchase of a controlling stake in the Indian drinks firm. Diageo is already the leader in the UK Scotch market, where Whyte & Mackay’s business is centred. Also expected to move into the second round of bidding is private equity firm Lion Capital. There are thought to be five parties in the second round, sources told Reuters.
   
Developer buys high profile Devon pub: Developer ID Estates has bought the high profile The Deer Park Inn on the outskirts of Dartmouth, Devon off a guide price of £575,000 plus VAT. The company plans to develop the existing trading area and retain the current residential element above. Richard Wood, of Christie + Co’s Exeter office, said: “Following a comprehensive regional and local advertising campaign, a number of offers were received demonstrating a real demand for high quality, substantial public houses in aspirational areas of the south west.”
   
Eden Hotel Collection plans Salcombe opening: A Midlands business group that already has a portfolio of aviation and leisure businesses in the West Country has announced that it is investing £12 million in a new boutique hotel that will create 100 jobs. The Coventry-based Rigby Group has acquired the 35-bedroom Tides Reach Hotel in Salcombe from the Edwards family, who have owned it for 47 years. The family-owned business, founded by entrepreneur Sir Peter Rigby, intends to redevelop the site to create a waterfront, boutique hotel under its Eden Hotel Collection portfolio. Mark Chambers, managing director of the hotel business, said: “Our ambition is to grow our Eden Hotel Collection into the largest boutique hotel portfolio in the south west and Tides Reach will be a perfect fit with our philosophy of offering guests an outstanding visitor experience in stunning locations.”
   
Gusto secures second site for craft beer pub: Gusto, the Newcastle based bar and coffee shop company, has acquired a second site for a craft beer pub. The company opened Datbar in March and will now open a second site called Bierrex in early June on Pilgrim Street in the centre of the city. Bierrex will have 24 taps with 24 kegs of beer on rotation and will serve Carolinian barbecue food.
   
Sandwich chain Eat reports dive into losses: Sandwich chain Eat, which has more than 100 sites and was founded by Niall and Faith MacArthur, has reported lower turnover and a dive into the red for its most recent financial year. The company saw turnover of £93,595,652 in the year to 27 June 2013, down from £94,950,620 the year before. The company lost £521,567 compared to a pre-tax profit of £1,114,011 the year before. There was an operating loss of £385,452 compared to an operating profit of £1,846,895 the year before. Ebitda was £5,484,420 compared to £7,922,484 the year before. Capital expenditure was £2,506,493 compared to £7,240,582 the year before. The company stated: “Management continues to focus on initiatives that drove like-for-like sales. During the year a range of new hot food offerings was launched under the “fork it bun it” campaign. This offering has proved very successful in driving top line sales. Similarly, a re-brand initiative, including redesigned product packaging and “wow” service training, have had a positive effect. Further to the store initiatives, a fresh re-invigorated brand proposition has been trialed in five stores. This, together with front of house service and operational improvements, has also produced encouraging results. The company’s investors have committed to fund further store rebrands in the new financial year. The directors consider that a rebrand programme, together with continued product innovation and extended opening hours, will reignite positive like-for-like growth and offers the business considerable upside opportunity from the existing estate. The business boasts a quality-led brand and proposition, together with a strong and creative board, and investment partners that believe in and are prepared to fund the group through an exciting new rebrand programme. Food cost inflation continued to place pressure of margins during the year. Despite this, active mitigation including product innovation, process improvements and procurements gains, enabled management to maintain full year gross profit margins in line with last year.” A total of £3.3m of senior debt was repaid in the year. The company was founded in 1996.

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