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Thu 3rd Jul 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

TripAdvisor names top ten UK burger restaurants: Independent burger restaurants has taken the top three places in a TripAdvisor list of the top ten burger operations in the UK according to the reviews and opinions of TripAdvisor travellers. The UK’s number 1 spot went to a two-man operation in Brighton, Burger Brothers, which scores an average of 4.5 out of 5 in 339 TripAdvisor reviews. The restaurant’s buns are made from a Challah bread recipe, a Jewish bread usually plaited and eaten on special occasions. Burger Brothers burger options include the Bennetton (stilton, pancetta and wasabi mayo) and The Favourite (goat cheese, roast peppers and secret sauce). Nadz Nwokoro, co-owner of Burger Brothers, located in Brighton’s North Laine area, said: “Myself and my business partner Pip always had a passion for food and since opening in April 2013, with our bold strategy of no “paid-for” promotion, our success is largely due to the word-of-mouth of the local Brighton community and, of course, TripAdvisor.” A TripAdvisor reviewer said: “Tastiest and most mouth-watering burger that will ever grace your mouth. Went for one and came back for two more within one week.” The Burger Joint, Bristol came second. Opened in 2009, the venue serves its burgers in specially made ciabatta and brioche buns. The Burger Joint offers Welsh lamb, chicken, venison, wild boar and two types of vegetarian burgers. Patrons here get to choose their meat base, followed by the toppings and sides to compete their Burger Joint burger. The Dorset Burger Company, Weymouth came third. Its burgers are made from beef, lamb and chicken sourced from local Dorset farms. The Dorset Burger Company’s burgers include The Mexican (beef burger with a delicious Mexican cheese and salsa topping), The American (burger topped with American cheese, bacon, gherkin, onion and mustard) and The Brie and Bacon (beef burger topped with local brie, Denhay bacon and cranberry sauce). Patty & Bun, London came fourth followed by The Burger Brothers, Deal (5), Blas Burgerworks, St Ives (6), Burger Meats Bun, Glasgow (7), Burger Off, Hove (8), Hub Box, Exeter (9) and Real Burger, Cheltenham (10).
   

Industry News:

Propel conference and summer party today: The Propel Multi-Club Conference and summer party takes place today at the Oxford Belfry. Speakers include Barburrito's founder Morgan Davies, Las Tasca's chief executive Simon Wilkinson, TCG's chief operating officer Nigel Wright, Luminar's chief executive Peter Marks, JD Wetherspoon's founder Tim Martin, Whiting & Hammond's founder Brian Whiting, Bulldog Hotel Group's founder Kevin Charity, Mecca Bingo's managing director Mark Jones, British Street Food's chief executive Richard Johnson and Lifestyle Hospitality Group's founder James Eyre.
  
Online takeaway service Just Eat to open technology centre in Bristol: The online takeaway ordering service Just Eat is opening a technology hub in Bristol in order, it said, to help it stay ahead of the game in an increasingly competitive sector. Just Eat runs the biggest online marketplace for delivering takeaway food, operating in 13 countries and working with 36,000 takeaways. It is based in London, but has chosen a site at the Engine Shed in Temple Meads, Bristol to create a tech hub employing an initial 15 people, with the aim of increasing that to 30 by the end of next year. Just Eat's group chief technology officer, Carlos Morgado, said: “Over the past 12 months, Just Eat’s technology team has been working hard to deliver everything from new mobile apps to new electronic point of sale technology for our restaurant partners. The pool of excellent engineering talent in Bristol, Bath and the South West provides us with an ideal base to build on this success and drive the next wave of invention and innovation for our customers around the world.” The inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath is supporting Just Eat's Bristol expansion plan.
   
Noodles & Company evolves to high-end fast casual:
The American fast-casual chain Noodles & Company is to move its offer to high-end fast casual by adding a free-floating server whose job is to tempt customers to order dessert, beer, wine, and coffee. The server will stop at customers' tables when they are nearly finished with their meal, ask if they would like to order anything else, and bring the extra items to the table, with no tip required. Noodles' chief executive, Kevin Reddy, said he expected the new staff role would result in a 3% boost to like-for-like sales. Reddy said it was time for fast-casual to compete on service and not just on speed: “It’s a blend of service methodologies.” Noodles has been testing the “upsell” service in a few of its nearly 400 restaurants for about two years and started expanding it at the end of 2013. The chain intends to have "upsell" waiters in all locations by 2016. Reddy said: “I think it’s going to create a new niche at the high end of fast casual that allows us to get some of the most important consumer needs from casual dining, a little elevated service, into a fast-casual concept.”
  
Street food entrepreneur branches out into office food delivery service: A leader of the street food scene in Bristol has moved into creating a range of meal pots to workers in the city. Navina Bartlett ran the Coconut Chilli stall, part of Bristol’s StrEAT Food Collective, which took part in a number of night street food markets last year. She said: “Street food is a passion of mine and I loved the vibe at the events, but vendors have a short season in which to trade and I need to generate custom every week of the year. I have spent the last few months developing a range of dishes that can be bought chilled and heated at work or home.” The ready meals are made in small batches by hand in Yate, and include spicy lamb and black pepper keema meatballs in spicy coconut gravy and creamy shrimp and coconut milk korma with crunchy cashews. The recipes are inspired by ingredients from the Coorg region, above Bangalore, India. At least five companies in Bristol have now tried the lunches.
   

Company News:

Hotcha blitzes local press in hunt for franchisees and sites: The ambitious Chinese takeaway chain Hotcha is blitzing local newspapers across the country in its hunt for new franchisees and new sites. Last month, the Bristol-based chain unveiled plans to open more than 100 stores within the next five years through the launch of a new franchise scheme. Now it has been planting stories in local newspapers from Devon to Sheffield in an attempt to find franchisees and fast food managers to run the franchises, who will need to raise £75,000 in personal funds, and flush out suitable sites. Each newspaper story has carried lists of target towns and streets in its area, so that, for example, readers of the Exeter Express and Echo were told Hotcha is looking for sites in Mutley Plain or North Hill, Plymouth; Torwood Street, Torquay; Heavitree, Exeter; and Sidwell Street, Exeter, while the Manchester Evening News reported that the chain was looking for sites in Didsbury, Fallowfield, Chorlton and Wilmslow. Other areas targeted include Three Bridges in Sussex, Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire, Friar Gate in Derby, and Fareham in Hampshire. Hotcha's founder, James Liang, said: "We are looking for experienced franchisees with strong knowledge of their local markets, a successful track record in business or the food sector and the ambition to launch Hotcha stores in due course." Last month Hotcha appointed Andrew Emmerson, previously business development director at Domino's Pizza, managing director of Millie's Cookies and international brand director at Upper Crust, as a non-executive director to support the company's national expansion programme. All Hotcha's current 13 franchises are in the south west of England, in Bristol, Swindon, and Stroud and Yate in Gloucestershire.
  
TLC Inns lines up largest Grand Central opening so far: Award-winning pub and restaurant operator TLC Inns, led by Steve and Jo Haslam, is planning to open its third and largest Grand Central bar and grill in a circa 6,000 square foot site in an unnamed East Anglian location. The opening comes after the second Grand Central, opened in Ely, Cambridgeshire, has beaten budget by 70% since opening two months ago. Steve Haslam told Propel: “Whilst trading overall was fairly flat in June versus a strong period last year, sales grew by 1.6% across the estate on a like-for-like basis but 20% up with the inclusion of Grand Central, Ely. We expect to be on site before the end of this month to create our biggest Grand Central to date, with a budget of £700,000 to complete works on the circa 6,000 square foot unit. We are also pursuing other sites in a couple of areas within our region. We expect sales for Grand Central to exceed an annualised £5m per annum once we have reached four units this summer.  We are planning to double in size Grand Central in the next two years, to at least six units. In addition, we are still actively looking for good pub opportunities but these appear to be in short supply.” 
   
Luke Johnson becomes brand ambassador for Maserati: Sector investor Luke Johnson has become brand ambassador for the car manufacturer Maserati. He has taken delivery of the latest Maserati Quattroporte Diesel to travel between appointments. Johnson said: “All entrepreneurs dream of turning their ideas into a successful business so I look forward to working with Maserati – a company celebrating its centenary this year. Reaching such a milestone is an impressive achievement and with products like the new Quattroporte and Ghibli, Maserati clearly has an exciting future.” Maserati will also be supporting the Centre for Entrepreneurs, an independent think-tank that was co-founded and is chaired by Johnson. The organisation researches and promotes the positive impact of entrepreneurs on the economy and society. The first example of this collaboration saw Maserati support the Nation of Angels Research Campaign, undertaken by the Centre for Entrepreneurs in partnership with the UK Business Angels Association, by providing incentive prizes including the loan of a Maserati Ghibli.
   
Owner of Norfolk’s best-known coaching inn promises improvements after one-star hygiene rating: The owner of the Hoste Arms, in Burnham Market, Norfolk, the county best’s known coaching inn, has promised improvements after a one-star food hygiene rating. The Hoste is due to be re-inspected within the next two weeks, at the request of owner Brendan Hopkins, who said he aimed to achieve the highest possible rating. Hopkins said: “The issues raised by the council in the inspection three months ago relate particularly to documentation and training and not the quality of the food. We are working closely with the council officials to ensure our re-inspection in the next two weeks achieves the highest possible rating.” The council’s inspection report concluded that it had some confidence in management but that food hygiene and safety were bad and structural compliance was poor. It said that soap and hand drying materials were missing at hand basins and risk of cross-contamination was posed by the same work surface being used to prepare raw and ready-to-eat foods, and raw and ready-to-eat foods being stored together in the chiller and freezer.
   
Ex-Harvey Nicks head chef opens 'high-class chicken & chips' brand in Leeds: A 100-cover restaurant specialising in chicken has been launched in Leeds by Simon Shaw, currently chef/proprietor of El Gato Negro in Ripponden, West Yorkshire and formerly head chef at the Harvey Nichols department store's Fifth Floor restaurant in Knightsbridge, London. Shaw said the new restaurant, called Bird and Beast, "is a wonderfully simple concept where we aim to deliver simply wonderful chicken to Leeds diners. We've taken the popular British staple of chicken and chips and elevated it to the next level. It's high quality flavour without any fuss – we cater for everyone and, since opening, the feedback from Leeds diners has been fantastic." Shaw, who was also executive chef at Harvey Nichols Leeds, said the 4,000 sq ft restaurant, on Central Road, which has an open rotisserie kitchen, was "in a great location in the heart of the bar scene. We’ve just started work on adding our own signature to this buzzing Leeds scene with our own adjoining bar, ‘Bird and Beats’, set to launch this autumn." All Bird and Beast's produce is supplied by Sykes House Farms, based in the Yorkshire Wolds, where it raises premium free-range chicken. El Gato Negro was recently awarded one of only three Michelin Bibs Gourmand in Yorkshire.
  
Greene King seeks to open bedrooms above Kentish Town pub: Greene King, which owns the Grade II-listed Assembly House bar on the corner of Leighton Road and Kentish Town Road in North London, has asked for planning permission to install a lift and a fire escape so that it can convert seven rooms into guest bedrooms. In a planning application, the consultancy John Rowan and Partners said using the upper floors for guest rooms would help secure the pub’s future. Its report said: “The conversion of the underused space also improves the functionality and safeguards the viability of the public house as a community use.”
   
Pint Shop to open alleyway shop: Pint Shop, the highly rated Cambridge-based operator that specialises in British meat and beer, is opening an alleyway shop during the Tour de France to cater for the thousands of people visiting the city for the day. The shop, in an alleyway with heavy footfall, will offer a variety of snacks, many with a nod to France, including beer sticks, Toulouse sausage scotch eggs, and steamed buns with devilled chicken and roast garlic aioli. Richard Holmes, co-owner of Pint Shop, said: “The arrival of the Tour de France in Cambridge presents a real opportunity for us to have some fun with our menu and present our customer with some French classics, Pint Shop-style – incorporating our love of good meat, hearty, flavoursome ingredients and locally sourced produce, yet with a continental feel. We also saw it as a chance to take our food to the street and entice those who may not have visited us before – we’re expecting to be very busy.”
   
NewRiver Retail – we’re confident of converting more Marston’s pubs to convenience stores: NewRiver Retail, which bought 202 Marston’s tenanted pubs in November, has said it is confident that more sites can be converted to convenience stores. At its AGM yesterday, chairman Paul Roy said: “A distinctive highlight of the year was the purchase of 202 public houses from Marston's, through which the team saw an opportunity to offer well-located convenience store space to major food store operators. Subsequently, the company announced that the Co-operative Group had signed a conditional agreement for leases on 54 of these properties. The board is confident that further similar agreements will be completed in due course, and that this portfolio acquisition will achieve its highly profitable potential. Our active asset management programme has continued with great success, delivering a total of 141 leasing events, 99 of which were new lettings and lease renewals at an average of 1.7% above ERV [estimated rental value]. The portfolio continues to attract high quality national retailers and our strategy to enhance the food, beverage and leisure positioning of our assets is progressing well.”
   
Snug reports record trading at sixth opening: The Snug, the restaurant and cocktail bar chain led by Giles Fry, has reported record trading in the first six weeks of opening at its sixth site. The Snug opened its doors in Hitchin, Hertfordshire on Friday 16 May the venue has more than doubled its sales expectation, with 2,000 covers, for example, served at the 60-cover site in week one and 1,500 cocktails sold in the first week.  Giles Fry, owner and managing director of The Snug, said: “We’re thrilled with the sales figures that we have seen this first month in Hitchin. The town has taken to The Snug as much as we’ve taken to it. We are receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback on the bar environment, our cocktails and food offer, both on site and over social media. Given the success of the launch and the month that followed, we have high expectations for the summer months and we fully expect the site to continue trading at this level.”
   
Geof Collyer – Wetherspoon needs to report solid all-round performance next week to lift share price: Deutsche Bank's leisure analyst Geof Collyer has forecast that JD Wetherspoon will need to report a solid all-round performance when it provides a trading update to lift its share price. Collyer said: “We expect JDW to broadly maintain its top line momentum in FY’15 (4.5% higher average pubs, circa 3% higher LFLs). However, management’s concern on input cost inflation and central overheads could mean margins remain flat – a rare occurrence for the group. Around half of our FY’15 EPS forecast (up 16.4%) is driven by the first full benefit of a new swap contract and the ongoing share buyback, with the balance being top-line growth. The shares have fallen by over 9% since 9m’14 IMS on 7 May, underperforming the travel & leisure sector index by 9%, and now stand at broadly our price target of 785p. It would need a solid all-round performance for the stock to pick up from here, we believe. On an EV/ebitda of 12.7x for FY’15E, we see the stock at fair value."
   
New Marston’s pub in Staffordshire faces stiff opposition: Residents fighting plans for a new Marston’s pub have won the backing of councillors in a Staffordshire town. The brewer and retailer wants to create 50 jobs by opening a pub and restaurant on the Churnet Works site, off Macclesfield Road, Leek. But more than 200 people have signed a petition objecting to the scheme over concerns that it would damage the trade of other businesses in the town. Now members of Leek Town Council have recommended that the scheme should be refused because of a lack of parking, access issues and the loss of 39 houses originally planned for the site.
   
Burning Night Group to trial Orderella: Burning Night Group, the operator of 5,000-barrels-a-year multi-concept venues, is trialing Orderella, the leading mobile ordering app that allows its customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone. The app is now available at all ten Burning Night Group venues, located in the three Bierkeller complexes in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. This includes the popular Around the World in 80 Beers, Shooters Sports Bars and The Ski Lodge. Alex Hazzard, managing director at the Burning Night Group, said: “We’re thrilled to be launching Orderella at the Bierkeller in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool and think it will prove invaluable at these sites, which are located in prime city locations and get incredibly busy. We want our customers to really have a great experience at our bars and Orderella takes the effort out of ordering food and the next round every time, so look out for this great new addition at our other venues in the coming months.”
   
Whitbread plans to open Bury Premier in spring 2015: Work has begun at the former Suffolk County Council offices in Bury St Edmunds, which will open as a Premier Inn hotel in spring 2015. Barnes Construction, based in Ipswich, is carrying out the work at New Shire Hall in Raingate Street, where planning permission was granted in January for a 75-bedroom hotel. David Harris, of the scheme's project manager, M & D Developments, said his company will rent the site to Premier Inn.
   
Caffe Nero faces Irish boycott: The coffee chain Caffe Nero has been warned by locals that it will be boycotted if it opens in the town of Dalkey in the Irish Republic. The company has received planning permission for an outlet on the Dublin suburb's main street, but an appeal will now be lodged. A similar tactic was used against Starbucks after it began selling coffee in Dalkey in 2008, leading to the closure of the outlet after 13 months. Caffe Nero announced earlier this year that it would invest €20m (£15.9m) in Ireland over five years and create 350 jobs across 40 stores. The company pointed out to protestors that it was an independent, family-run business and would be looking to address the concerns that have been raised by residents in Dalkey. Planners at Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council granted permission to Caffe Nero after determining that an outlet “would not diminish the vitality and viability of the traditional character of the street”.
   
Spirit marks 20th birthday of Wacky Warehouse: Spirit Pub Company has marked the 20th anniversary of Wacky Warehouse by hosting a free "big birthday bash". All 77 Wacky Warehouses from across the UK took part in the giant party and more than 5,000 children were invited to join the fun. Spirit’s Support Centre also got in on the birthday celebrations with chief executive Mike Tye cutting the birthday cake with Wacky Warehouse's brand manager, Carol Rhead. The first Wacky Warehouse opened in 1994. Since then Wacky Warehouse has opened 77 outlets nationwide, becoming the UK’s largest soft play and activity centre for children aged up to 12, hosting more than 400,000 children's parties in the process. Five lucky children received a limited edition Wacky Platinum Card, which entitles them to unlimited free entry to Wacky Warehouses across the UK until their 12th birthday.
   
Tahola to offer Propel attendees free business analytics evaluation:
Tahola, the UK’s leading provider of business analytics solutions to the hospitality sector, is offering attendees at the Propel Multi Club Conference today the opportunity to evaluate their business analytics system completely free of charge. Attendees at the event will have the chance to win a proof of concept delivered by one of Tahola’s hospitality specialists, to see how Tahola analytics would benefit their business and support their growth aspirations. Cards will be available on every table for attendees to complete and return to the Tahola stand. Attendees will be able to select which area of their business they would like Tahola to focus on, including basket analysis, marketing analytics, operator performance and loss prevention, or they have the option to discuss with Tahola a completely different area. Simon Blackbourne, Tahola's commercial director, said: “The aim is to allow Propel Multi Club attendees to evaluate our solution with minimal impact on their time and at no cost.”
   
Rhodes @ the Dome plans bar changes: Rhodes @ the Dome in Plymouth, the only UK restaurant the celebrity chef Gary Rhodes has left, is planning changes in its bar area to bring it up to the level of the rest of the operation. The 105-cover restaurant, on Plymouth Hoe, opened last year, and has enjoyed a successful 2014 after a troubled start due to the storms which battered the city, along with the rest of the country. The restaurant was forced to close temporarily in March because of storm damage. However, the restaurant's director, Ed Steven said, "since then it's been really good. We are doing 1,200 covers a week and it's constantly going up. But while the restaurant is going well, the bar has room for improvement, so we are planning changes." Rhodes, who was in Plymouth this week to train chefs at the restaurant, said he had given up his four London restaurants to concentrating on his four venues in Dubai, where he now lives, and Plymouth. He said: "I had four operations in London, two with Michelin stars, but things were great in the Middle East so when the contracts came up I decided to shut them down. I could not put the commitment into them and wanted to leave on top."
   
TCG reports 20% Gay Pride sales boost: The managed pub and bar operator TCG has reported record-breaking sales at its three Soho sites supporting Pride in London over the weekend of 28 and 29 June. Bucking the industry trend which has seen a drop in sales for many pubs after England’s early exit from the World Cup, the TCG pubs – the Duke of Wellington, Admiral Duncan and King’s Arms – reported sales up 20% on the same weekend in 2013. The Duke of Wellington’s position as a hub for the event got off to a flying start with its appearance on the BBC soap EastEnders on the Friday before Pride, in a storyline featuring several regular characters. Matthew Evans, general manager at the Duke of Wellington, said: “The place of all three pubs at the heart of Pride is the result of our years of commitment to the event, which is a fantastic celebration of London’s LGBT culture."
   
Meantime launches virtual sommeliers’ app: The London-based craft brewer Meantime Brewing Company is offering consumers the ultimate in hyper-immersive marketing – using the Blippar experience to create an innovative augmented reality (AR) app for the beer connoisseur. Using Blippar, a free app that can be downloaded on smartphones and tablet devices, customers can "blipp" the Meantime logo on labels and beer font badges to reveal a menu of interactive options, including 30-second mini-videos by expert sommeliers imparting tasting notes and food matching advice. Additional features include a range of beer-based recipes as well as news and information, competitions and offers. Richard Myers, marketing director at Meantime, said: “Since Meantime opened its doors in 2000, we’ve set the bar in terms of our use of innovation and tech, employing it to great effect in instilling our unique sense of invention in creating truly original, world-beating brews that have led the way in terms of British craft beer. Roll forward almost 14 years and innovation remains at our core, utilising rich digital platforms like AR to communicate to consumers on their own terms, in their own time and in the settings where they feel most at home."
   
Catering entrepreneur Simon Rigby to buy Preston's Guild Hall and Charter Theatre: The Lancashire entrepreneur Simon Rigby, whose Villa Group runs a growing catering and entertainment empire in the North West of England, is set to buy the Guild Hall and Charter Theatre in Preston and install a restaurant, coffee shop and conference facilities there. Preston Council is recommending the sale of the venue to Rigby, who intends spending £1m on developing the venue, and his plans will be discussed by the council's cabinet on Friday, 5 July. Rigby said: "Preston Guild Hall is a wonderful opportunity and I am thrilled the council is set to accept my offer. The building oozes potential. It’s a rough diamond that needs some polishing, but with love, care and attention it will truly sparkle as Lancashire’s premier entertainment venue. Obviously, we need to invest in the building and that is exactly what we will do with over £1m of immediate investment. This will transform the Guild Hall into a fabulous live entertainment venue for Preston, which will include community use of the building." Preston Council's leader, Peter Rankin, said: "Simon has put forward exciting and ambitious proposals. As well as a new restaurant, banqueting and conference facilities, Simon is to improve entertainment at the Guild Hall." Rigby currently runs two hotels, a restaurant and an outside catering company.
   
Ice-cream maker opens second parlour with corset-themed sundae:
The Northampton-based ice-cream maker Gallone's is opening its second ice-cream parlour this month, in a former corset factory in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The branch is opening on 12 July in the newly refurbished Symington Building in Market Harborough, the original home of corset maker R & WH Symington, and owner Aldo Gallone has created a special corset-themed ice-cream sundae to celebrate the opening. He said: "As we are situated in the building where Symington's employed more than 1,600 people to make corsets, it seemed fitting to invent our very own sundae to reflect the town's heritage and industry." The parlour will stock 32 of Gallone's ice-cream flavours, which are made at the company's factory in Northampton. The Market Harborough site is the second Gallone's parlour, with the first opening in Kingsthorpe, Northampton, in 2013. Gallone's has been making and selling ice-cream in Northampton since 1935.
   
Fuddruckers creator launches fast-casual potato restaurant: The American restaurant impresario Phil Romano, whose creations include the burger chain Fuddruckers and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, has launched a new concept, Potato Flats, with a menu based on white potatoes and sweet potatoes that are smashed into a flat plate and topped with a variety of toppings. Romano said he had looked at the success of Chipotle putting prepared ingredients on a tortilla and saw a similar construct with a flattened potato as the base. “I thought, we could do that out of frying pans on a potato,” Romano said. “It’s gluten-free and has great nutritional value. We’ve smashed the potato down flat, and people can put it together.” A choice of white or sweet potato with one protein (turkey, chicken breast, sausage, meat loaf, chilli, minced beef, steak or fish chowder) and a choice of three vegetables, including carrots, peas, broccoli, sweetcorn and mushrooms, is priced at $9.75 (£5.69). Regular potatoes are priced at $5.75. The white potato is served with butter, sour cream, chives and cheese; the sweet potato is served with caramel, pecan and marshmallow. A fried baked potato is priced at $5.75 and served in American, Mexican and Italian versions. The first Potato Flats restaurant has opened at the Trinity Groves restaurant incubator test site in Dallas, Texas. It is the tenth restaurant on the site, and Romano, who is an investor in Trinity Groves, as well as Potato Flats, said he expects the incubator site to have 18 to 19 restaurants by the end of this year.
   
Village pub opens tearooms: A Norfolk village licensee couple have opened a "vintage" tearooms at the back of their pub in the hope of attracting daytime visitors keen to enjoy tea, cakes, fresh sandwiches and home-made scones, with the regular pub crowd returning in the evenings. Delia Perry and her husband Nick spent £4,000 creating the Acorn tearooms at the back of the Royal Oak pub in The Street, Poringland, five miles south of Norwich. Delia Perry said she hoped the new signage at the tearooms and the kitsch Cath Kidston-style interior will pull in the crowds. She said: “Lunchtime trade is dying, although night trade is still fine. That’s why I am opening tearooms at the pub, during the day, as we can no longer sustain just wet-led sales. The afternoon tea phenomenon is growing and we hope the village will benefit from the new wave of enthusiasm for all things nostalgic. The more people that see what we are trying to do, the better, perhaps just word of mouth might help us along. It’s been a tough old year one way or another and this is a do or die for us. We’ve always been a 100% wet-led pub that specialises in real ale and we hold a thrice-yearly beer festival. But we have now had to think outside the box and this seemed the best course of action for us because we didn’t want to go the traditional pub food route, because that would make us no different to the other pubs around us.” The Perrys have owned and run the Royal Oak for 15 years.
   
Douglas Jack – Restaurant Group set for two blockbuster years: Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast two blockbuster years for The Restaurant Group as the economy improves. He has issued a "Buy" note and a price target of 725p. Jack said: “The Restaurant Group should be one of the sector’s main beneficiaries from an improving economy. We believe there is upside to our forecasts, which already anticipate ebitda growth, debt reduction and dividends growing equity value by an estimated 14% per annum. More competitors are targeting the Restaurant Group’s captive market locations, but mostly without both the brand and site pipeline to concern it. Historically, we have been over-concerned by this emerging threat and continue to be surprised how badly the competition is falling short. This scenario is unlikely to change in the near future, in our view. Restaurant supply grew by an unsustainable 6% (versus 2% demand growth) in 2013, but most of this expansion occurred in high street locations where barriers to entry are lowest. Restaurant Group's expansion is in airports (with high barriers to new entrants) and leisure parks (where it has a competitive advantage), locations that benefit from better footfall trends than on the high street. Its strategy of expanding into attractive captive markets and avoiding high streets has helped it to achieve cash returns averaging 40-50% for Frankie & Benny's, 30-35% for Chiquito, 30-35% for Coast to Coast, 20-40% for Brunning & Price, circa 50% for Concessions, and even higher returns for Garfunkels. The site pipeline is sufficient to cover 40-plus openings over the next three to four years. Like-for-like sales are the most likely source of forecast upgrades, even though they are likely to have slowed from the 4% that was achieved over the first 19 weeks (to 11 May). We believe weather/cinema attendance comps are relatively easy in H2 2014E and that the company can look forward to a very strong cinema release schedule in 2015E and 2016E. The greatest threat to margins is labour costs, in our view. We believe the Restaurant Group’s share price does not fully reflect the value of its three-to-four-year site pipeline. This is arguably considerable given that the average opening has historically created £1.7m of value (£2.5m equity value less £0.8m cost). Reflecting this, the company’s growth (assuming the size of the site pipeline is retained), we are retaining our 725p 12-month target price. Due to recent weakness, we upgrade our recommendation to "Buy".
   
Tim Bacon reveals cancer fight: Tim Bacon, chief executive and co-founder of Living Ventures Group, has talked publicly for the first time since he was diagnosed earlier this year with advanced melanoma of his long fight against cancer. Bacon, 50, who has grown Living Ventures into a business turning over £65m a year and employing 1,300 staff, has been fighting lymphoma for 14 years. In January this year he was diagnosed with melanoma as well. In an interview published in the July edition of North West Business Insider, Bacon said: “I got lymphoma in 2000. You get lumps and bumps, basically. It’s slow-growing. It’s not going to kill me, that one. I’ll die an old man. When I got that one, it’s a bit shocking to begin with. The first lump I got was in my groin. I kept going to the doctor and didn’t feel well. Eventually I had it removed and it came back as lymphoma. I was 36 and when you first get cancer you think that’s the end of the world and I’ll be dead in a year. As it turned out, it was a non-Hodgkin lymphoma vernacular. Nothing much happened for 11 years. They did a bit of radiotherapy on a lump. I did some chemo a couple of years back. Then I had a lump under my arm on holiday last October. In January, I got diagnosed with melanoma, which is a whole lot more serious. It’s internal, so it’s not on the skin, so they can’t get rid of it. It’s a stage three-plus melanoma and I’m fortunate to be treated by the highly respected Dr Paul Lorigan, at The Christie [the largest cancer centre in Europe, based in Manchester]. It is assumed it started as skin cancer but we can’t find the entry point. There’s no cure for it at the moment. At the time I had two other lumps, but it turned out to be lymphoma. When we thought they were all melanoma my wife and I were warned I had six months, which was a bit of a reality check.” Bacon told the magazine he was trialling a drug called Ipilimumab, which is used to treat advanced melanoma. “I lost 10kg in the space of six weeks,” he said. “I had three major operations in four weeks. They’ve got some new stuff coming through, so there is a path. It’s like a high-wire trapeze act without a safety net. I refuse to get fazed by it. It’s one of those things in life. You do what you do. I’ve changed my diet. I’ve changed my fitness regime.”

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