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Fri 27th Jun 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Harry Ramsden’s signs first international franchisee in a decade: Fish and chip brand Harry Ramsden’s has signed its first international franchisee in a decade. The new franchisee is Ahmed Hassan Bilal Trading and Contracting Company (AHB), a Qatari business operating in the hospitality segment. Terms of the franchise agreement allow for five new outlets to open across Qatar within the next five years. It is has been confirmed by AHB that the first opening will take place in early 2015 at The Pearl, the Riviera-style man-made island developed in Doha. Harry Ramsden’s chief executive Joe Teixeira said: “This is a hugely significant step in our ambitions to both re-position and re-invigorate the Harry Ramsden’s brand. Fish and chips are arguably the UK’s favourite takeaway, selling over 255 million portions each year. However, the international appeal of the dish cannot be underestimated. As we continue to move the brand forward, we are confident that we will be in a position to increase our international presence even further in the coming months.” This latest agreement is the brand’s third major franchise signing in just nine months. In October 2013 it was announced that Harry Ramsden’s would return to the roots of its eponymous founder, with the signing of a franchise agreement that will see 50 new outlets open in Yorkshire and create up to 500 jobs within five years. More recently, a franchise deal for Scotland was agreed which will see a further 50 new outlets open and a similar number of new jobs created by 2019.
   

Industry News:

Brakspear renews support for the Jacques Borel VAT Club campaign: Pub operator and brewer Brakspear has pledged funds to the Jacques Borel-led VAT Club, continuing its support for the campaign for a further year. Brakspear has been a supporter of the VAT Club since 2011. Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said: “We joined the VAT Club in 2011 because we saw how the high level of VAT was damaging our pubs. Nothing has fundamentally changed in the last three years – for many customers, the additional 20% on pub food means they are instead choosing to eat supermarket-bought food at home. The disparity makes it hard for pubs to attract the regular food trade which so many of them need as alcohol consumption continues to decline. With a VAT rate at 5% rather than 20%, we would see more ‘can’t be bothered to cook’ customers eating in the pub more frequently. Just as importantly, this additional trade would create an estimated minimum of 290,000 jobs in our industry, many of them for the young adults whose employment prospects are causing such public concern. We are therefore delighted to be pledging our continued support for the VAT Club and will be encouraging our tenants and lessees to again support the Tax Equality Day in September.”
   
Consumers turn to digital to make buying decisions: The vast majority of people (62%) are now digital consumers, adept at using technology to filter information and make purchasing decisions, according to the second Ernst & Young survey of 30,000 consumer in 34 countries. Compared with the findings from 2012, this latest research additionally shows that although consumers consider social media to be a good source of information, there is a rise in the number of people that see social media as a new way of communicating dissatisfaction (moved from 5.7 to 6.0 on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 = disagree and 10 = completely agree) and also a rise in those considering social media to be a waste of time (increased from 4.9 to 5.4 on the same scale). Patrick James, EY Advisory Service Partner, said: “Social media has provided consumers with a platform for their views and their creativity. It has changed attitudes and opened doors. Companies must address consumer concerns about the security of their personal data by prioritising cyber security and ensuring they monitor consumer sentiment on social media to prevent damaging comments from gaining traction.”
   
US restaurant sector reports first quarter increase in spend, but decline in footfall: The restaurant sector in the US saw a first-quarter decrease in traffic but a 1.7% increase in total consumer spending, lagging the growth of many other major markets, The NPD Group has reported. The market research firm also said the growth in total spending at US restaurants came from an increase in the industry-wide average check to $6.62 per person, offsetting a total first-quarter decline in traffic of about 1%. The researcher said this past winter’s severe weather drove much of the declines in traffic throughout the country in the first quarter.
   

Company News:

Liverpool bar entrepreneur opens new US southern cuisine brand: Liverpool bar entrepreneur Rob Gutmann, who operates Liverpool bars Korova and Motel, has opened a new concept, Yardbird, on the corner of Berry Street and Duke Street, specialising in fried chicken, doughnuts and cocktails. Yardbird’s food menu takes its cue from traditional US Southern cuisine. Gutmann said the inspiration behind Yardbird is to “reclaim fried chicken from the take-aways and bring it to a quality restaurant environment”.’ He added: “As Malcom X says in his autobiography ‘Everybody loves Chicken’. Yardbird wants to give the people the best fried chicken in the best setting. We’ve seen a swathe of great new burger operations opening across the country, and I felt that fried chicken equally deserved to be ‘re-invented’.”
   
Best Place Inns changes name to Pub Love: Best Place Inns, the London-based pub and hostel group led by Ben Stackhouse, has changed its name to Pub Love. The award-winning company launched the new brand at its summer party on Monday following months of submissions from staff. Working with creative agency Lunar Lemon Productions, Pub Love was chosen from over 400 suggestions with the contributing staff members receiving £500 cash. The new company brand was kept secret until Monday evening where it was unveiled in a fanfare of mariachi bands, award-winning burgers, and branded t-shirts for every staff member. Founded in 2007, the company operates boutique hostels above classic London pubs and serves handcrafted artisan burgers under the Burger Craft brand in three of their sites. “Pub Love is about creating that unforgettable experience for our customers, guests and staff – one that they will fall in Pub Love with,” said Stackhouse. The company also opened its latest Burger Craft kitchen in Victoria yesterday. Burger Craft’s signature burger, The Juicy Bastard, was voted one of the top five burgers in London by Twenty Something London. This is the company’s fourth London burger kitchen opening in under six months.
   
Oakman Inns unveils partnership on £2.5m Essex acquisition: Oakman Inns, the award winning Tring-based pub company led by Peter Borg-Neal, has announced the acquisition of a new site in Chipping Ongar, Essex. The Kings Inn is a Grade II listing coaching inn and Oakman Inns is investing alongside local entrepreneur Paul Thornton with the joint cost exceeding £2.5 million. Borg-Neal said: “We’re delighted to be moving into Essex for the first time. Chipping Ongar is a fabulous market town and we believe that the local population will appreciate our commitment to quality. We are hoping to have completed our fit out by early October and to be opening shortly afterwards. We were flattered to be chosen by Paul from a number of interested operators and we are determined to deliver a first class operation.” Thornton’s spokesman John Molloy added: “We have been committed from day one to ensuring that Ongar gets the high quality operation it deserves. We have invested heavily in financial terms but have put equal effort into finding the right operator to work with. We believe that Oakman Inns is the best pub company in the country and we look forward to a long and happy association with Peter and his team.”
   
Marco Pierre White restaurant to open in Stratford upon Avon: A fourth Marco’s New York Italian restaurant is due to open in Stratford upon Avon this August. It will be Marco Pierre White’s second West Midlands restaurant, after the opening of Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar & Grill at The Cube in Birmingham. The new restaurant, on Chapel Street in Stratford, is targeting a launch date of around 17 August. Mark Nesbitt, a spokesman for Marco’s New York Italian, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to bring Marco’s cuisine to Stratford-upon-Avon. With the location of the restaurant on Chapel Street being in such a prime spot within the town and within close proximity to all the theatres, we look forward to welcoming visitors in for pre-and post-performance dining.” The other branches of the chain are in Exeter, Hoylake and Sheffield. It serves “Italian-American” cuisine including traditional Italian pasta and pizza dishes, alongside American-style hotdogs, burgers, ribs and steaks.
  
Street food plan unveiled for Cains site in Liverpool: A plan has been proposed for an “urban bazaar” street food market at the Cains Brewery site in Liverpool. Organisers say the Sunday-only market, called the Baltic Yards, will feature independent retailers and food producers and be inspired by “some of the world’s most famous and visited city bazaars”. Cains first unveiled plans for a food market, boutique hotel and apartments last year as a rescue plan for the site when it was struggling with low margins from supermarket contracts. Baltic Yards director Mo Maghazachi said: “From the outset we have seen this project as the logical next step in the evolution of the Baltic area. We need attractions and activity that will radically increase footfall and help the area to grow and develop. The idea of an independent retail bazaar on a city scale is the obvious solution. There is already a wealth of creativity and independent enterprise in the area. It has a unique buzz and energy that is perfect for a venture like this.” Baltic Yards is in discussion with Liverpool City Council planners.
   
D&D Restaurants to refurbish Quaglino’s: D&D Restaurants is to close Quaglino’s in July for a major refurbishment. The iconic venue will re-open in October this year with a completely new look. Terence Conran bought a 99-year lease on the site in 1992 and developed it into one of his first big restaurants in London. In a statement, D&D London said: “This major new chapter for Quaglino’s will celebrate its iconic heritage and glamour, whilst creating a new venue for future generations of Londoners to enjoy as Quaglino’s moves into its own second century.”
   
Marston’s reports directors exercised share options and sell portion: Marston’s has reported a group of executives including chief executive Ralph Findlay have exercised options under a long term share plan at an option price of 97.5p per share and sold a portion of the shares at £1.44 each on Tuesday. Findlay sold 97,345 shares, finance director Andrew Andrea sold 58,858 shares and Inns and Taverns boss Peter Dalzell sold 8,551 shares.
   
Habgood criticises lack of women of Bank of England board: Anthony Habgood, the former Whitbread chairman who takes over as chairman of the Bank of England next week, has argued it is ‘extraordinary’ that the Bank has no women members on its Court of Directors. “It is extraordinary that the current board of the Bank of England doesn’t have any women on it,” he told the Treasury Select Committee. “We should have more women. The most crying gap right now is a gender gap.”
   
BrewDog launches Sepp Blatter bribery beer: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has launched a beer designed to ‘convince’ FIFA President Sepp Blatter to select the brewery’s native Scotland as hosts for the 2022 World Cup. Following accusations of corruption and bribery within FIFA, ongoing demonstrations and flashpoints surrounding this year’s World Cup tournament in Brazil and the widespread questioning of Qatar’s suitability to host the competition in 2022, Vote Sepp “seizes the opportunity to offer Scotland as an alternative to Qatar and sweeten the deal for FIFA officials at the same time”, BrewDog stated. According to the Vote Sepp label, the 5% ABV hibiscus wit beer is ‘best served from brown envelopes to aid drinking with greased palms’ and the artwork features a likeness of the FIFA President in the style of Barack Obama’s iconic 2008 campaign posters. The brewery has sent a case of ‘Vote Sepp’ to the FIFA President in Zurich, along with an invitation to discuss their bid at the BrewDog bar in Sao Paulo, which opened in January this year.
   
Nando’s sets deadline for customers to use its paper loyalty cards: Nando’s has set a deadline of 30 June for customers to use their paper-based loyalty cards as credits expire when the company switches to plastic cards on that day. Customers have been told that the credits can’t be transferred to the new system and Nando’s has faced some criticism from those who are close to claiming free meals.
   
Costa Coffee franchisee opens sixth site on Malta in two years: Costa Coffee franchisee, The Costa Company Malta, has opened its sixth site on the island in two years. The latest opening is in Valletta on the ground floor entrance to the Embassy Shopping Complex. Next to the newly-opened Valletta store, Costa Coffee operates from various locations around Malta, including three outlets at Malta International Airport, as well as two other recently opened outlets in Balzan and at the Point in Sliema.
   
Maclay Inns opens slow-cooked meats venue: Maclay Inn has opened The Raven in Glasgow’s Renfield Street, specialising in meats slow-cooked in a smoker. There are four craft and three cask beers on tap and a range of craft beers. The menu includes classic American favourites including racks of ribs, chicken wings and chilli dogs with slow-cooked smoked food a specialty. General manager Shaun Donnellan said: “We’re sure our mouth-watering menu of slow-smoked food will be a crowd pleaser but what we’ve really focused on is making sure everyone feels really welcome.”
   
Carluccio’s tipped for High Barnett: Carluccio’s is tipped to open at High Barnet’s Spires Shopping Centre, which will be refurbished in autumn. The rotunda over the entrance will be removed to create a more open gateway to the shopping centre, and one of the front units will be taken over by Carluccio’s, according to local media reports.
   
Cornish pub and restaurant company goes under: Brooks Hotels and Leisure Ltd, which runs the Barclay House Hotel, Trawlers restaurant and the Plough public house in Looe, Cornwall, has gone into administration. Michelle Weir, of Lameys Business Recovery, who has been appointed administrator, is carrying out a review of the company’s trading activities and said she was confident a buyer would be found quickly. “There has already been significant interest shown in the three establishments and I’m confident of attracting a serious buyer for one or all of the trades over the coming weeks,” she said. “Whilst a review of trading operations will be necessary, it is hoped that the business will continue with as little disruption as possible whilst discussions are held with interested parties. At this stage it is not possible to state the level of return to the company’s creditors, however, based on the current expressions of interest, I’m hopeful creditors may receive a dividend in due course.” The company employed 60 staff.
   
Steakhouse chain confirms date for eighth opening: The Argentine steakhouse brand Buenos Aires has confirmed that it will open its eighth site in Horsham’s Market Square, opposite Bill’s, next week, on Wednesday 2 July. The opening takes place in the former Octopus bar site and adds to existing sites in Fulham, Chiswick, Purley, Winbledon, Reigate, Maidstone, Richmond and the City of London.
   
Stonegate to re-open fire-hit Edinburgh pub: Stonegate Pub Company will re-open the fire-hit Amber Rose pub in Edinburgh next week after nine months of closure. The pub was forced to shut after the building was damaged during a fire in TGI Friday’s above. The Amber Rose opens next Wednesday (2 July) with 30 new positions. Said general manager Arron Gibbons: “As well as the obvious physical refurbishment of the pub, we’ve made some changes to our offer so the Amber Rose will be even better than before. We will be opening now daily from 8am serving breakfast and will also be hosting live music three nights a week. Another change is to our food and drinks menu – adding to our great quality traditional dishes with some Scottish favourites and introducing craft beer.”
   
Calculus Capital confirms £2m Chop’d investment: Private equity fund manager Calculus Capital has confirmed a £2m investment in Chop’d, the salad bar chain with nine sites across London. The investment will be used to expand the chain from nine to at least 30 within five years. The expansion will include sites outside London for the first time. The business was founded in 2004 by Jasper Wight, former management consultant and gastro-pub owner and Eddie Holmes, former Lloyds bank manager and head chef for the YO! Sushi group, plus marketing executive Simon Baker. The team opened its first site in Leadenhall Market in December 2004 and has since expanded the chain to nine outlets across London, including Canary Wharf, St Pancras International Station and in the flagship retailer Selfridge’s. Eddie Holmes said: “We are passionate about healthy eating and only using the freshest, tastiest and highest quality ingredients in all of our recipes. Finding and sourcing healthy and simple ingredients is very much central to the philosophy of the chain. We are looking forward to working with Calculus Capital to further expand Chop’d whilst maintaining our high standards of quality.”
   
Greene King pays to have defibrillator installed at side of pub as landlord leaves: Greene King has paid to have a defibrillator installed at the side of a village pub in Nottinghamshire as one of its landlords steps down. Ken Kelly, licensee of the King’s Head in Woodborough, has raised nearly £70,000 for charity in his 11 years at the site. As a final act of generosity he bought the defibrillator as a farewell gift to the local community – with a contribution from Greene King.
   
Whitbread is planning Premier in opening in Skegness: Whitbread’s Premier Inn brand is planning to build a hotel on Pier Field at Skegness. Residents have already started a petition to ‘Save Skegness Foreshore’ after East Lindsey District Council confirmed Whitbread is proposing a multi-million pound development at the site. The company would need to win planning permission and buy the land before any development could go ahead. Kevin Murray, senior acquisitions manager for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, said: “We are pleased to confirm that we will be working on proposals with KCS Developments to bring a new Premier Inn to Skegness. This exciting new scheme will drive fresh new investment in Skegness and attract new visitors to the town – generating new business and boosting the local economy.”
   
Newcastle bar bids to establish itself as live music venue: The three-year-old Ware Rooms bar in Newcastle upon Tyne has formed a partnership with the North East of England music agency AMV Live to try to establish itself as a music venue. The venue, on the site of the former Newcastle Prison on Carilol Square, will now host live bands and solo artists, as well as staging a weekly open mic night. Paul Smith, the Ware Rooms’ general manager, said the move was at attempt to offer something “a bit different”. He said: “Having been open three years now, we have listened to what our customers want and with our new state-of-the-art sound equipment and a spacious venue, we felt we had an ideal opportunity to launch ourselves as a music venue and play host to some amazing talent in the region.” The bar is next to the Euro Hostel budget hotel in Newcastle.
   
Costa, Subway, Marston’s and Premier Inn lined up for Cheshire business park development: Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning committee has given approval for plans to build a 63-bed hotel, family pub restaurant, drive-thru cafe, office and industrial space and up to 250 houses near to the M6 in Sandbach. Costa, Subway, Marston’s and Premier Inn would all occupy sites at the development, the Capricorn Business Park, under the proposals. The project is on 31 acres of open farmland which has been earmarked for development for a number of years. The scheme could create more than 775 new jobs.
   
One of Cornwall’s best-known inns comes on the market: The freehold of one of Cornwall’s best-known inns, Penzance’s Admiral Benbow Inn, has come on the market through agent Christie + Co for £650,000. In 2008, a series of tunnels, thought to date back 200 years, were discovered leading into The Admiral Benbow Inn. It is believed that the 19th century smuggling gang The Benbow Brandy Men used the tunnels to sneak brandy, gin and tobacco from the harbour under the noses of the authorities. The Admiral Benbow is owned by Alan and Trish McGregor, who have run the Inn for the last seven years. Richard Wood, of Christie + Co, said: “With its unique history and its location in one of the premier towns on Cornwall’s rugged south coast, The Admiral Benbow Inn is a popular destination for both locals and visitors to the area. All of this is reflected in excellent historic trading numbers.” 
   
Meantime Brewing Company launches beer recipe collaboration: London-based craft brewer Meantime Brewing Company and Great British Chefs, the UK’s fastest growing recipe website, have launched a range of seasonal recipes in collaboration with some of the UK’s most exciting and innovative culinary talent. Celebrating the unique flavour and versatility of modern craft beer and brewing, craft beer lovers can visit www.greatbritishchefs.com and http://www.meantimebrewing.com/beer-blog/ from 26 of June to learn how to cook a range of fine dining dishes centred around Meantime’s core brews. Collaborations include wheat beer infused BBQ pork belly from Skylon’s Adam Gray; a unique Yakima Red enriched Lancashire hotpot by Paris House’s Phil Fanning and a twist on the classic seafood dishes by head chef at Nathan Outlaw’s London restaurant; Pete Biggs – modernising monkfish scampi and cured bass with the subtle flavourings of Meantime’s flagship London Lager. 
   
Belfast multiple to reopen landmark music pub: Jar, the Belfast-based tenanted pub company that currently runs eight venues in the city, is to reopen Auntie Annie’s, four years after the music venue’s owners went into administration. The pub, known for its contribution to Belfast’s live music scene, has been on the market, originally with an asking price of £650,000, since former owner CDC Leisure collapsed in 2010. Paul Camplisson, who runs Jar, said his company was taking on the management of the pub, with a view to buying it in the not-too-distant future. Camplisson said: “Jar has entered a management agreement to reopen the former Auntie Annie’s with an option to purchase. We are keen to add further bars to our portfolio and are in talks about potential future acquisitions.” Exercising the option to purchase the pub would depend on the pub’s licence being transferred, he said. Camplisson added: “It’s a shame that it closed in the first place but that’s the way of the world. We are hoping to bring it back to where it was, but also have more live music and a craft beer element.” Camplisson said Jar was planning a ninth purchase for coming weeks, in addition to its hopes of buying Auntie Annie’s. 
   
Hardknott Brewery opens railway station craft beer bar: The Hardknott Brewery in Millom, Cumbria is opening its own craft beer bar at the town’s railway station today (Friday). Dave Bailey, who runs the brewery with his partner Ann Wedgwood, said the bar, called Hardknott OnTrack, was meant to showcase Hardknott’s beers and also guest beers that had never been seen in Cumbria before. The bar was designed to have a contemporary feel, he said: “Hardknott OnTrack is intended to be an entirely different concept to the tired and stuffy pub packed with ubiquitous brands – we will be offering something very radical and unique to Cumbria. Everything we serve, from our own beers to the guest beers we source from Cumbria, the UK and around the world, will be something new and different.”
   
One Group signs Milan deal: One Group Hospitality has signed a hospitality services agreement with Meliá Hotels International for the operation of an STK restaurant, a rooftop bar and food/beverage services at the new ME Milan Il Duca hotel in Milan, Italy. Said Jonathan Segal, chief executive of The One Group: “Given our collective knowledge of the European market, we knew that the STK brand and our One experience would translate extremely well from its home market of the US, and are delighted with the subsequent success of our operations at ME London – in partnership with Melia – paving the way for our expansion into mainland Europe. It is very pleasing to be announcing another European hospitality deal incorporating our signature STK restaurant.” The One Group develops and operates upscale, high-energy restaurants and lounges and provides “ONExperience”, a turn-key food and beverage service for hospitality venues including boutique hotels, casinos and other high-end locations in the United States and United Kingdom.
   
Motley Fool – early World Cup exit provides Wetherspoon, Greene King and Marston’s buy opportunity: The share-tipping website Motley Fool has argued that the short-term disappointment of England’s World Cup exit could provide a buying opportunity in the shares of Wetherspoon, Greene King and Marston’s. Motley Fool columnist Peter Stephens stated: “Shares in JD Wetherspoon were making strong progress in 2014, but over the last week that has been reversed as they have fallen by 9% – at least partly owing to England’s exit from the World Cup. This means that they are now more attractively priced and trade on a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of 16.2. This may not sound hugely impressive, but when you consider that JD Wetherspoon is forecast to increase earnings per share (EPS) by 16% next year, it means that shares in the company trade on a price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio of one. This is the sweet-spot for the PEG ratio and shows that JD Wetherspoon could be a winning pub play. As with JD Wetherspoon, shares in Greene King have fallen over the last couple of weeks. Indeed, now that they are 4.5% lower they trade on a P/E of just 13. This is below the FTSE 100 P/E of 14.1 and shows that there is good value in the pub sector – even more so now that shares have pulled back following England’s early exit. In addition, Greene King is expected to deliver a healthy level of bottom-line growth, with EPS expected to increase by 4% in its current year and by 11% next year. Although lower than that of sector peer, JD Wetherspoon, the lower P/E ratio still makes Greene King attractive at current levels. Trading on a P/E of just 11.7, Marston’s looks good value at current levels. Although it is forecast to deliver a fall in EPS of 3% this year, it is set to bounce back next year with growth of 11% – in-line with its two previously mentioned sector peers. As with those peers, shares in Marston’s have experienced short term weakness as the market expects fewer sales during the World Cup than had previously been priced in. However, for medium to long-term investors, Marston’s could prove to be a strong performer, while its yield of 4.8% easily beats its two peers, which yield 1.7% (JD Wetherspoon) and 3.7% (Greene King).”
   
Wadworth reports profit boost in consolidation year: Devized-based brewer and retailer Wadworth has reported a rise in pre-tax profit to £3,987,000 in the year to 30 September 2013, up from £3,438,000 the year before. Turnover climbed £880,000 to £56,111,000 and operating profit before exceptional items rose 1.4% to £4,205,000. Chairman Charles Bartholomew said: “Investments we made at the end of last year and during the early part of this year have given good returns in both managed and tenanted estates. The Wadworth pub estate is predominantly country destination food-led and as such is very weather dependent. To reduce this reliance, a large proportion of the pub investment planned for next year is to create more internal covers plus the upgrade and addition of letting rooms. The three pubs we purchased last year, The Hedley Bowling Green near Worcester (managed), the Fish Inn at Ringwood (tenanted) and the Green Dragon at Brook in the New Forest (tenanted) have all traded well and are ahead of expectations. Beer sales remain challenging but we continue to outperform the market. As planned, our distribution agreement with KNDL, which started in November 2012, has provided substantial savings in costs and overheads and given us the ability to extend our free trade base into London and across the whole of the south east.” The company runs 45 managed pubs and 190 tenanted sites, selling seven pubs in the year. Its managed pubs, where it invested £2,116,000 in the year, had a “poor first half”, down 17.1% but the second half was “much better” and ended up “just slightly behind 2012”. Wadworth refurbished 45 bedrooms at three of its managed pubs – and, most recently, added nine bedrooms to its Crown at Tolldown, just off the M4, opening the rooms in April this year. The company said it had focused on three initiatives: increased training in coffee delivery, which has produced a 14% increase in sales, training to improve the customer experience and a segmentation exercise of the managed estate to allow a more focused food and drink offering. Wadworth’s tenanted estate saw a 1.3% increased contribution, mainly attributable to “a stable estate with fewer changes and some excellent appointments”. Rental income grew by over 2% and £1,516,000 was invested. On the beer side, 150 new accounts were opened in the year. The company added: “Corvus stout continues to makes strides in the market, gaining distribution with a number of independent customers and is on trial in national pub companies.” It concluded: “This has been a year of consolidation and with improved trade we have increased our investment in our core estate. We have a further five tenanted pubs for sale and two more to transfer from management to tenancy. Our aim is to have a smaller tenanted estate of better quality pubs.”

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