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Thu 10th Jul 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

JD Wetherspoon buys second Dublin pub: JD Wetherspoon has bought its second Dublin pub, the former Forty Foot restaurant and bar in Marine Road in the suburb of Dun Laoghaire. It is understood the asking price for the currently closed site, which has more than 10,000 ft of space and previously included a nightclub, was around €1.5m, the same price that the chain paid for its site in nearby Blackrock, which opened on Tuesday. Wetherspoon has confirmed that no nightclub will operate at the Dun Laoghaire site. Company spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Irish Post that as yet there was no on-site or opening date for the Forty Foot (which was named after a local swimming spot), saying that Wetherspoon opens around 40 pubs a year across the UK and “it will fall into its openings schedule in due course”. He added that following on from the success of the first day at the new Blackrock pub, the Three Tun Tavern, the company would be keen to open other pubs in the Republic of Ireland “sooner rather than later”. Wetherspoon’s regional manager for Ireland, Alistair Broome, said: “We are delighted to have purchased the former pub in Dun Laoghaire. We are looking forward to redeveloping the site and creating jobs in the area.” The Three Tun is offering its cheapest pint for €3.75 (£2.98), and “bottomless” coffees for €1.50. It is not be selling Guinness after Wetherspoon was unable to agree a deal with Diageo that would allow it to sell the drink at what it felt was a fair price. The pub will sell Cork stouts Beamish and Murphy’s instead. The new Dublin pub will be the company’s third in the Republic, with another currently being converted in Cork.

Industry News:

Future High Street Summit plans second conference: The Future High Street Summit, which was launched in March this year with a conference in Nottingham attended by local authorities, regeneration experts, property developers, landlords, agents and retailers, is organising a second conference in 2015. Campaigner Clare Rayner, who founded the event, said: “This year’s Future High Street Summit was hugely successful. Next year, we want to make a bigger impact and reach as many people as possible. It’s a must-attend event where retailers and associations can share their expertise to improve the retail industry and continue the growing popularity of our high streets.” A survey by Experian presented at the 2014 conference showed that between 2004 and 2012, while the number of pubs in town centres fell by 8% and the number of off licences fell by 21%, the numbers of restaurants rose 20%, fast food outlets rose 30%, cafes rose 75% and convenience stores rose 153%. The next conference will again be at the Nottingham Conference Centre, on 25 and 26 March 2015. Would-be delegates can register at the Future High Street Summit website, www.futurehighstreet.co.uk.

Firm offers smaller restaurant operators ‘one-time fee’ takeaway ordering program: A company from Berkshire is offering smaller restaurant operators an automatic online food-ordering program for their websites it says will let them compete with the likes of Domino’s Pizza at a fraction of the cost. Denis Kondopoulos, project manager at Food-Ordering.co.uk of Reading, said: “The market share for take away continues to increase by over 2% each year, according to a report from EuroMonitor. Online ordering has become the industry standard, allowing customers to order dinner via their computer or smart phone. Large chains, like Domino’s Pizza, use this type of ordering to great success. For smaller establishments, online ordering can have a few drawbacks. The most significant is the fees and commissions that larger online ordering services charge. With razor-thin profit margins, an ongoing monthly fee and a percentage of each transaction being taken by the order-taking service can be cost prohibitive. For smaller food establishments, a stand-alone ordering program like ours on their website is the perfect solution. With one fee and a single installation, restaurants are able to give their customers a simple, fast way to order take away or delivery food. And for the restaurant, there is no labour expense in taking the order itself.”

New reservation website causes outrage in the US: A new “reservation scalping” website which makes last-minute restaurant bookings under false names before selling them for up to $12 each has caused outrage in the United States. ReservationHop.com is the latest entrant in the pay-to-play booking wars, buying up tables at popular San Francisco restaurants and selling them back to customers for a $5 to $12 fee. While the creator says he is helping users get a spot at in-demand eateries, critics claim the site is unethical because it makes money off a free service and could damage businesses if bookings aren’t sold.

BII launches new online Pre-Entry Awareness Training (PEAT) course: The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has unveiled details of its new, improved, PEAT course, a comprehensive e-learning package aimed at giving those thinking of taking a tenancy or leased pub all the knowledge and skills they need to make that leap. This updated version of PEAT has been launched in Westminster at an event co-hosted by training provider CPL which will offer the course via the CPL e-learning platform. BII chief executive Tim Hulme described the new course as “representing a truly comprehensive learning package for anyone thinking of taking on a pub” and as “setting a new benchmark for our industry”. Daniel Davies, chief executive of CPL, said: “We are delighted to be working with the BII on the PEAT project which is very important if the industry is to be seen to take its responsibility for supporting new entrants seriously. Our e-learning system is the perfect platform for the new PEAT, making it easily accessible to anyone thinking of taking on a pub and we have developed the PEAT modules specifically for this online environment.”

London tops list as world’s most-visited city: London has topped the list as most-visited city for international visitors in 2014, according to the latest MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index. This will boost the UK economy by £11bn and see 18.7 million visitors come to the capital, the company said. It is the second consecutive year that London has topped the list. The figures put visitor numbers at 300,000 more than the next city on the list, Bangkok, whose tourists will spend just £7.6bn in comparison. Paris, Singapore and Dubai were also in the top five most-visited world cities.

Camra chairman – statutory tenanted pub company regulation should be extended to Scotland: The chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale, Colin Valentine, has called for the statutory regulation of tenanted pub companies to be extended to Scotland. Writing in the Scotsman, Valentine said: “While a Scottish government spokesman said that Scottish ministers were willing to consider further evidence on this issue, that sounds a lot like they are not really that bothered. What is required is a Legislative Consent Motion (formerly known as a Sewell Motion), more than 30 of which have been passed under the current Scottish government since 2011. This means that, if the political will is there, then the legislation, when passed, can apply to Scotland as well. Camra is calling on the minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, Fergus Ewing, under whose remit this falls, to introduce a Legislative Consent Motion when the legislation has worked its way through Westminster. This will ensure that entrepreneurial Scottish publicans can benefit from any Act that is passed and get on with running successful pubs, without constantly having to count every penny and keep their rapacious landlords off of their backs.”

Keith Knowles bridge walk raises £90,000: The London bridge walk, organised by Beds and Bars’ managing director, Keith Knowles, which saw participation from 65 industry members, has raised more than £90,000 without gift aid. Knowles said: “It would be wonderful to break through the £100,000 net and get it to £125,000, which would be the biggest total the walk has ever done, which I think we can be collectively very proud of.” GOSH, Delete Blood Cancer and the Martini family, whose daughter Margot has been suffering from a rare form of leukaemia, are the beneficiaries.

Company News:

‘Waste-free’ restaurant planned for Brighton: A former Young BBC Chef of the Year is opening a “zero waste” restaurant in Brighton, home to the country’s only Green Party MP, in September. All produce used by the restaurant, Silo, in Upper Gardner Street, including wine, wheat, meat and vegetables, will be delivered package and bottle-free. The restaurant will use no chemicals, including handwash, bleach or washing-up liquid. Instead, it will use “Jesus water”, which is electrolysed and oxidised using a £30,000 machine, rendering water into a natural non-toxic anti-bacterial disinfectant claimed to be more effective than soap and bleach. In addition, there will be no waste bins: a £22,000 composting machine has been installed capable of reducing 640kg of organic matter into compost in 24 hours. Silo’s founder and chef, Douglas McMaster, said it will be the first time such a piece of kit will be used in a UK commercial kitchen. The concept is based on a smaller version successfully set up by McMaster in Melbourne. The toilets at Silo will be flushed using waste water from the coffee machine. The layout will feature innovative recycling materials such as the galvanised temporary flooring tiles that will be used in the construction of table tops. McMaster, who has experience at more than 100 restaurants, including St John in Clerkenwell, London and Noma in Copenhagen, was Young British Chef of the Year in 2009 and voted Best Irreverent Chef at the Young British Chef awards in 2012. The menu will include build-your-own breakfast from sourdough toast, baked beans, slow cooked eggs, confit tomatoes, oyster mushrooms and bacon at £2 each item; lunch with roast chicken, walnut pesto, buckwheat and turnip tops for £14, and confit rabbit, nettles, parsnip and barley for £12; and dinner dishes yet to be announced. McMaster said: “I like to think this is an ideas environment, a hub of creative thinking. I want people to be inspired by the way we do things and see that considering how transparent our system will be, it’s not unrealistic.”

Marston’s trials street food-style barbecue concept: Marston’s is installing fast casual barbecue units in a number of its beer gardens designed by the company behind Red’s True Barbecue. The Bell at Tong, near Shifnal, Shropshire, is the first pub to feature the new ‘pop-up’ style concept, called the Garden Grill Company. There will be a further half a dozen sites around the country by mid-July. All the Garden Grill Company venues were designed by JMDA, the creative team behind the pioneering Red’s True Barbecue design concept in Leeds. The Garden Grill Company menu is based on the principal that there are two BBQ tribes: there are those that want to customise every last detail and those that want to pick the signature dish that turns heads. The bar is self-contained within the grill kitchen and stocked with a range of bottled beers and ciders that will be new to many pub-goers – Mahou, Shipyard and Old Mout. With such variable weather in the UK, the Garden Grills have been designed to respond to last minute opportunities, so they can be up and running exceptionally quickly. Una Beck Johnson, commercial marketing director at Marston’s Inns & Taverns said: “We are currently trialing this concept at a number of our pubs over the summer – we have some great gardens and the new Garden Grill Company concept makes the most of them, while also capitalising on the trend towards BBQ and ‘street’ food. We are always looking at ways to provide our customers with different and interesting eating out occasions – the Garden Grill is another way to add both flexibility and theatre to the dining experience in our pubs.”

British Country Inns 1 and 2 reports disposals: British Country Inns 1 and 2, part of a group of EIS-funded companies that acquired around 28 pubs at the top of the market shortly after raising funds in 2006, has reported success with disposals. The company has sold the Old Barn Owl in Westport, Somerset, for £320,000 and close to concluding a sale of the Woodfalls, near Salisbury, at £435,000. Another site, the Ponda Rosa, on the Isle of Wight, has been converted to tenancy. British Country Inns 2 said: “Once these disposals clear, (we) will be close to eliminating all debt and we will be able to focus on the five remain pubs in the company’s estate.” These five pubs are: the Lime Kiln, Knole, The Beambridge, Sampford Arundell, The Huntspill Arms, Huntspill, The George Donyatt, Donyatt, and The Ponda Rosa, all in Somerset. The company made a loss of £1.01m on turnover of £2.23m after an impairment charge of £774,000 following a valuation by Christie + Co at the end of 2013. British Country Inns 2 reported it has now had five consecutive trading periods with turnover and trading profit ahead of budget. British Country Inns 1 has also sold two pubs and has one up for sale, leaving it, potentially, debt free and with four pubs remaining.

Smokestop brand opens in Shropshire pub: A new concept called Smokestop has opened in a former pub, Ye Olde Cross Gates Inn, in Ford, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. It is owned by the former manager of Shrewsbury Town and Telford United, Jake King. It will be managed by his son Ryan King, who said: “It was previously an old-style country pub doing traditional English food, a carvery on a Sunday, so we’ve completely changed it. Now it’s got a real American feel to it and we are thrilled with the results. I love eating with my hands, food like chicken wings, so the inspiration for this has really come from laid-back, casual dining. And we’re so glad that we’re the first ones to do American food like this in Shropshire. I think our burgers will go down really well with people and also the big ribs, which are smoked for eight hours. They’re cooked low and slow, so they are delicious and tender.”

Greene King to launch first railway station pub at Euston: Greene King will launch its first station pub as part of the balcony development scheme at Euston Station in London. The contract, won through competitive tender, was awarded to Greene King by Network Rail Property and will run for nine years. Greene King plans to investing a seven-figure sum to create what it said would be a “unique pub experience for visitors to the station”. The pub, which will be known as the Duke of Grafton, named after the owner of the land that the original Euston station was built on, and whose home is Euston Hall, near Thetford, in Greene King’s home county of Suffolk, will open after a major fit-out based on Greene King’s successful Metropolitan Pub Company format. The scheme will also feature a vertical garden. Rooney Anand, Greene King’s chief executive, said: “It is an exciting time to be developing a pub in a station, with rail passenger numbers growing every year and investment in rail network and the major stations also increasing. Stations are a hub of activity and we want to offer rail users a place to eat, drink, meet and work in a relaxed atmosphere where they can enjoy a quality pub experience. This latest development will provide a ‘home from home’ for those living in London as well as those working or visiting the capital.”

JD Wetherspoon acquires Devon coaching inn: JD Wetherspoon has bought the 21-bedroom Brown’s Hotel, a 17th century coaching inn in Tavistock, Devon to add to its now 30-plus strong, hotel brand. In addition to being Grade II Listed, Brown’s Hotel holds a 4-Star Gold Award from Visit Britain, two AA Rosettes for food quality and a host of other awards given to both the hotel and its team in recent year. It was bought through the property agent Christie + Co off a £1.5m asking price. Matthew Smith, a director at Christie’s, said: “Brown’s Hotel is an excellent acquisition for JD Wetherspoon and fits well with its growing hotel portfolio. The hotel has a long history of offering high standards of service to corporate and leisure clients, who return time-after-time to sample both the hotel’s high quality service and the obvious delights of the surrounding area.”

Marketing Week – Jamie Oliver group seeking brand partners: The Jamie Oliver Group is looking for “four or five” brands with global presence to underpin its partnership strategy and be “part of the family”, Marketing Week has reported. The international company founded by Oliver includes the Youtube Food Tube channel, book and magazine publishing, restaurants and websites. Previous partnerships have included Sainsbury’s and the insurer Liverpool Victoria. However, the group would like to establish some long-term partnerships “for a better, deeper relationship”. The company’s head of commercial, Lisa Tookey, told Marketing Week it recently signed a three-year deal with Bacardi for its Drinks Tube channel and “that was the first of those kind of partnerships. Now we are seeking to do three or four of those – where the brand become part of the family. The challenge is that everyone wants a piece of Jamie because they understand the value they get from him as a brand. We have a filtering process and due diligence to make sure any partnerships are not brand-damaging. Our brand values are to inspire people to live a better life thorough engaging with food. We want to own food wherever that is – we want to be the world’s best authority on it.”

Travelodge seeks ten new Scotland sites: Travelodge is targeting ten new sites in Scotland in an investment worth £75m. Peter Gowers, Travelodge’s chief executive, said: “There is a big opportunity to further expand in Scotland. At present, the value hotel market in Scotland stands at 14%, compared to 18%t in England and more than 30% in the US. By 2030, the budget hotel sector could account for almost a quarter of the UK market, with a similar level of growth expected in Scotland.” Locations include the fifth Travelodge in the city of Aberdeen, as well as popular tourist locations such as Oban, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and St Andrews. The new hotels will boost the Scottish economy by £16m as a result of consumers spending with local businesses while staying in a Travelodge hotel, the company estimated.

Glendola Leisure launches premium City bar: Glendola Leisure, led by Alex Salussolia, has opened Silk & Grain on Cornhill in the City of London. The 163 sq m, two-floor venue, previously The Door, will specialise in “aged cocktails” and steaks. A range of classic cocktails is made using spirits aged in different materials including oak barrels, metal, leather and glass before mixing and muddling. Salussolia said: “We’re incredibly excited to be launching a premium City venue. It’s a key site for us and we think that our unique aged cocktails will excite both the consumer and industry.”

Pub-owning partners reopen Cheltenham hotel: The former Gloucester rugby player Sam and Georgie Pearman, who run the Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach, Gloucestershire, the Tavern in the centre of Cheltenham, and the Chequers in Churchill, Oxfordshire, have reopened one of Cheltenham’s most prestigious hotels after a major refurbishment. The 13-bedroom No 38 The Park closed in February last year after the previous owners went into administration but was bought by one of Cheltenham’s richest inhabitants, Julian Dunkerton, the founder of Superdry clothing brand, and the Pearmans. It had a £2.6m price tag and has reopened after months of restoration. The hotel has been re-branded as No 38 The Park, to fit in with Dunkerton and the Pearmans’ other business venture, the hotel and bar No131 and Crazy Eights, in the Promenade, Cheltenham.

Actor Rupert Hill adds fifth pub to Manchester empire: The former Coronation Street actor Rupert Hill has added a fifth pub to his growing empire in Manchester. Hill and his business partners Jonny Booth and Jamie Langrish have taken on the Bakers Vaults in Stockport, a pub and live music venue that shut last Christmas, and reopened it after a makeover with the help of Robinsons Brewery. Hill and his partners already run Gullivers and The Castle in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the Eagle Inn in Salford and the Parlour in Chorlton. A new kitchen has been put in at the Bakers Vaults, which will be serving up gourmet hotdogs in the style of Parlour Dogs, the Parlour’s street food stall. Langrish said: “We have gone back to the Bakers Vault’s roots and re-established it as a great pub with a huge range of craft beers, spirits and ales.”

McDonald’s develops practical tool to help dairy farmers: McDonald’s has joined forces with the Food Animal Initiative (FAI) to develop a practical tool to help dairy farmers deal with lameness in their herds. The Mobility Score Decision Tree, which is free to download, has been designed to aid mobility scoring and reduce production losses in their cattle. Lindsey Carnell, from North Somerset, is one of the first farmers to put the tool to the test. Carnell, who is a student on McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer training programme, is collecting data on a dairy farm in Staffordshire to see what impact housing and location can have on lameness within a herd.

Norfolk multi-siter opens the SugarBeat Eating House: The Norfolk multi-site pub operator Henry Watt has opened the SugarBeat Eating House on the A140 at Swainsthorpe, near Norwich. The outlet was formerly known as the Dun Cow and has been closed for two years. The building has seen a complete facelift since it was bought two years ago by Simon and Hazel Cruickshank. It offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has a large lawned area for wedding parties and corporate events, a function room, plus four bedrooms. Watt, who operate sites such as the Wildebeest Arms in Stoke Holy Cross, Norwich and Mackintosh’s Canteen in Norwich, said: “Much has changed over the last couple of years in terms of what an eating and drinking venue needs to be able to offer its customers. It’s not good enough to be serving great food and a reasonable selection of beers, wines and spirits. Customers want to know you completely understand them inside and out, so that’s why we’ve tailored SugarBeat to meet people’s needs. I’ve run a number of eateries in my career, but it is giving me a huge sense of satisfaction to know we’re breathing life into a landmark venue so close to Norwich. We’re certainly not a gastro-pub. We’re an all-day eating house delivering great food, a dose of fun, and a venue where you’ll always feel at home.”

Bay Horse owner opens third restaurant: Marcus Bennett, chef at the award-winning gastro-pub The Bay Horse in Hurworth, near Darlington, is opening a third restaurant in Yarm, near Stockton on Tees. Bennett, who owns the Bay Horse and the Muse Continental Cafe in Yarm with his business partner Jonathan Hall, is investing £300,000 with Hall in opening an Italian restaurant called Cena on Yarm High Street. Two other partners also have stakes in the business: Adrian Rummel, who manages Muse, and Peter Huggins, who has managed a number of businesses in Yarm over the years including McQuay’s, Cafe 85 and Everly’s. Bennett said: “We have tried to create three completely different experiences. The Bay Horse is a gastro pub with ale, open fires, dimple pint glasses and what I call gutsy comfort food that’s beautifully presented. Muse is a European cafe with a buzz about it, just like Yarm. Cena is something else again – and we hope the three complement rather than compete with each other.” The Bay Horse, which opened in 2008, has achieved a yearly turnover of £900,000 and Muse has turned over £1.5m. Cena is predicted to reach £1m turnover in its first year. The Bay Horse has been given a Michelin Bib Gourmand for the fifth year running, one of just three eating places in the north of England to be given the accolade.

Hotcha hires franchise consultancy: The independent franchise consultancy Platinum Wave has been appointed to help develop a UK franchise network for the Chinese takeaway food franchise Hotcha. Hotcha has ambitious plans to open over 100 stores within the next five years through franchising. The chain, which serves freshly-made Chinese dishes for collection or delivery, was founded two years ago by entrepreneur James Liang, who had a vision to create the UK’s first national Chinese takeaway brand. There are currently nine company-owned Hotcha stores in the south west of England with three more set to be opened in the coming months. The company aims to open one owned store a month on average in future with the ultimate goal of listing within the next few years. Suzie McCafferty, managing director of Platinum Wave, said: “Hotcha has a brilliant business model which it has proven in its existing outlets. They have a very slick centralised food preparation, call centre and operations infrastructure, which means franchisees do not have to have Chinese cooking experience.”

Douglas Jack – Wetherspoon sales ahead but margins behind (again): Numis Securities’ leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a price target of 900p for Wetherspoon shares after noting sales are ahead but margins are behind (again). He said: “Like-for-like sales rose 4.9% in Q4 and are up 5.4% after 49 weeks. like-for-like sales are ahead, but this is offset by margins being near the bottom end of the previous guidance range. As a result, we are holding our £77.6m 2014E PBT forecast (consensus: £78.5m), but are downgrading 2015E PBT by 2% (£86.5m from £88.5m/consensus: £89.6m) to reflect lower guidance. Ebit margins are down 60bps to 8.1% after 49 weeks (previous guidance: 8-8.3%), with Q4 margins at 8.1% (down 140bps). Net cost inflation is running at c.3%, with labour rising and food slowing. Margin guidance for 2015E is 7.7-8.1%, below previous expectations. For 2015E, we now target 7.9%, down from 8.15% (consensus: 8.25%). We are holding our 2014E forecasts, but are cutting our 2015E PBT forecast by 2%, on assumptions of 3.5% like-for-like sales growth and 20bps margin decline. The shares are on a 9% EV/Ebitda, a premium relative to their historical average, versus a sector premium of 6%. Our revised 12-month target price of 900p, down from 950p, is equivalent to 16.2x P/E on 2015E’s earnings. It reflects our forecast of 15% earnings growth, supported by faster expansion and falling swap costs.”

Agent markets Birmingham restaurant opportunity: The property agent Christie + Co is marketing a seafood and steak speciality restaurant, Lavish, in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham’s most affluent suburb. The property is in a popular restaurant quarter on the busy Birmingham Road, close to the Empire cinema. Paul Reilly of Christie + Co said: “The location is good and would suit a branded operator for a Mexican, pizza or upmarket Chinese/Thai operation opening it up to the family market.” Christie + Co is seeking £65,000 for the leasehold interest.

AG&G – Carluccio’s has bagged a much better Oxford site this time around: The property agent AG&G has claimed that Carluccio’s has found a much better site for its second attempt at cracking the Oxford market. The company has taken a former Strada site on Little Clarendon Street. AG&G director Richard Negus said: “This will be Carluccio’s second attempt in the city, having closed their restaurant in Oxford Castle back in 2010, and this is believed to be a much better location for them. The street is very close to a number of colleges and is home to some of the university’s offices, including admissions, so there is a lot of passing trade. Many people from across the city come to Little Clarendon Street specifically to shop or go to one of the many eateries. The road is an Oxford institution and Carluccio’s will fit in well.”

JW Lees launches direct-to-consumer service: The north west of England brewer and retailer JW Lees & Co has launched a new online platform to sell beer directly to the consumer. The independent family brewery, based in Manchester, has teamed up with the online craft beer retailer Ales by Mai, to sell its bottled beers to market via the web. Fifteen beers will be available to buy, including the recent launch Manchester Pale Ale (MPA), The Governor, a beer created by the brewery with Marco Pierre White, and vintage bottles of its Harvest Ale dating back to 2001. Jonathan Lloyd, marketing manager at JW Lees, said: “We want to offer our customers fantastic beers and quality service combined. We chose Ales by Mail to work with us on our web shop because they offered the best service to meet our needs and those of our customers. Throughout the venture, Ales by Mail has worked well with our web agency, Esvelte, ensuring smooth integration, which for us was an important aspect of the project.”

3Sixty restaurants picks up former Wabi site: 3Sixty Restaurants, led by James Horler and backed by Luke Johnson, has completed the acquisition of a new site for Rocket in Holborn, Central London, the former Wabi site. The venue at 36-38 Kingsway is below the Club Quarters Hotel and will open in early September. For the year to March 2014, the group, which consists of two brands, Ego and Rocket, saw sales increase to £13.1m, with like-for-like sales up 9.6%. The company has a strong balance sheet after the sale of the Rocket Mayfair lease in November 2012. Horler said “We have been looking for suitable investment opportunities to expand the group and I am delighted that we have secured the new site for Rocket in Holborn. We had a very successful trading year with positive growth across the board. This has given the board confidence to expand.” Luke Johnson, chairman of 3Sixty, said: “The business has performed well during the last two years and it is a good time to invest sensibly and wisely in expanding the brands.” 3Sixty Restaurants runs eight Ego restaurants in the Midlands and north west England and four Rocket restaurants, three in Central London and one in Nottingham.

Revolution founders raise £4m to roll out two brands: Roy Ellis and Neil Macleod, founders of the Revolution vodka bar operator Inventive Leisure, and their business partner, the chef Simon Rimmer, have raised £4m from seven investors in an EIS-qualifying business, Flying Pig and Lobster, to roll out two new brands. Ellis told Propel that the cash will allow the company to open its first six sites. The two brands will launch this summer in two adjacent sites at the same location, The Elephant a Star Pubs & Bars venue in the Woolton Village neighbourhood of Liverpool. Takings at the site were “not far off” £2m when it was acquired and Ellis estimates turnover will rise to between £2.5m and £3m when both brands are launched. The company has developed a modern British pub concept and an American comfort brand, the Liberty Tavern. Refurbishment work costing around £600,000 is currently under way converting an old stable behind The Elephant into a modern American tavern and dining room to create the first Liberty Tavern. The US-style brand will “bring a slice of America to the UK”. Inspiration comes from the founders’ long love affair with and respect for all aspects of the American hospitality industry, they said. The trio have undertaken a series of recent culinary, cocktail and design-dedicated road trips to the US over the past year to fine-tune their ideas. The described the food in Liberty Tavern as a “melting pot” of recipes from colonial dining rooms of the 1890s, contemporary taverns and brasseries of the great metropolitan cities, BBQ pits of the deep south, crab-shacks, food trucks and diners the length and breadth of the US. The menu includes belly ribs, thick-cut steaks, meatballs, Texas chilli and fried chicken Miami-style. The bar in Liberty Tavern is described as “a neighbourhood place for local people to gather and for visitors to seek”. The drinks offer includes classic Prohibition cocktails, frozen margaritas, American craft beers, boilermakers and house-bottled cocktails. Ellis said: “Service will be our biggest differentiator. We aim to hit the heights of the best and friendliest American eateries. We want visitors to Liberty Tavern to feel as though they are in America, not an American-themed restaurant.” Liberty Tavern is expected to open in early September. The company is investing a further £500,000 in its modern British pub concept, which will open at The Elephant in early August. The concept aims to give “local people a real reason to get out and be entertained or socialise with friends and family”. There will be garden parties, food and drink festivals, cheese nights, a house band, quiz nights and open mike nights. Rimmer has developed a menu of “modern takes on pub classics” as well as a range of artisan pizzas. “We will be baking our own bread and cakes as well as making fresh slow-proved pizza dough every day,” he said. Local cask ale will be supported by Cheshire craft beers from a 30-mile radius and specially imported German beers, some unusual ciders and an eclectic wine list developed by Boutinot Wines. Macleod is describing himself as “head of drinks and excitement”. He said “We will be championing different spirits for each season, kicking off with gin. Our customers can look forward to gin cocktails, master classes and general ‘gin-ification’ of all sorts throughout the summer until we turn our attention to bourbon for the winter season. We will be seeking out the best local partners to support us in achieving our goals. Currently we have more than 30 local suppliers and aim to grow this as we grow.” Ellis said: “We believe there is a huge opportunity to develop a great local pub business. The major pub companies are stuffed full of great retail assets that benefit from being partnered by quality operators and ideas. We have a well-funded company and aim to be part of the solution to this opportunity.” He told Propel that the company had “quite a few sites lined up and ready to go” but would bed down the first to opening before looking to open further sites next. Ellis said Star Pubs & Bars had already proven “great as partners” and that Enterprise Inns had also put forward a couple of potential site opportunities.

Star Pubs & Bars calls for better Valuation Office Agency resourcing after two-year delays: Star Pubs & Bars is calling for better resourcing of the Valuation Office Agency and a simplification of the business rates appeal process when changes come into force in October as analysis of 500 of its appeals reveals the average time taken to settle an appeal is two years two months and the maximum to be four years. 16% of Star Pubs & Bars appeals delays were compounded by postponement and rescheduling of appeals by the Valuation Office. Star Pubs & Bars believes delays could be worse for other licensees as it was one of the first to review its pubs ratings assessments when the Rating List came out in April 2010 and therefore has only 1% of its original appeals outstanding, whereas some operators still have 25% unresolved. Nearly half of appeals made by Star Pubs & Bars’ chartered surveyors, Gerald Eve, are successful, resulting in average savings of £2,500 per year for lessees whilst one sixth cut lessees’ bills by over £10,000 a year. Said Star Pubs & Bars trading director Chris Jowsey: “These are considerable sums of money especially where the charges date back over a number of years, money that could have been invested back into businesses to grow and develop them for the future. In a difficult economic climate when licensees are doing all they can to reduce their overheads, it is unacceptable that so much of their money is tied up with their local Councils and for rebates to take so long. Changes to the appeals process are especially vital given the increasing length of time between rates revaluations.” Added Charles Wilford from rating experts Gerald Eve: “Appeal negotiations require a two way dialogue. There is an increasing trend for the Valuation Office to play their cards close to their chest, often refusing to show their hand or provide information they are relying upon until they are on the steps of the Tribunal. Furthermore, where licensees have suffered declining trade for genuine valuation reasons, all too often the response from the Valuation Office is to simply blame recession, relying too heavily on desk based computer generated answers rather than getting out to see for themselves – the response: ‘the computer says no’ but without the reasons behind this is simply not acceptable.”

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