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Wed 27th Aug 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Three restaurants score perfect ten in Good Food Guide: For the first time in 15 years, three restaurants have scored ten out of ten in the Good Food Guide, published by Waitrose and now in its 64th year. In another first, Clare Smyth, chef/proprietor at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road, West London, has become the first female chef in 15 years to be awarded a perfect ten score by the best-selling guide, as it publishes its 2015 ranking of the UK’s Top 50 restaurants on 8 September. For the second year running, Simon Rogan’s Cumbrian restaurant, L’Enclume, has achieved the top spot. At number two is Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, in Bray, Berkshire, which has now scored a perfect ten for seven years in a row, longer than any other restaurant since the guide adopted its current scoring system. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay achieved third place with its top score, rising two places from last year. Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor at the Waitrose Good Food Guide, said: “After a break of a decade, Gordon Ramsay’s Chelsea flagship has once again been awarded a perfect ten. Now the domain of Clare Smyth, with support from what is, without doubt, one of the best front-of-house teams in the UK, this most impressive of London’s premier restaurants is back in that elite club. Further congratulations, too, for Smyth is the first female chef to achieve our top score in 15 years. With her brilliantly artistic, elegant, modern French cooking, she perfectly complements the witty, cerebral Fat Duck and the sensual farm-to-table delights of L’Enclume at the pinnacle of our Top 50 list.” Smyth said: “This is incredible, I’m absolutely overjoyed, we all are. I have personally referenced the Good Food Guide for places to eat for years and value their opinion, as it’s the customers’ opinion. It makes it so much more significant when you know it’s through customer feedback. Like all restaurants, we are one big team, and my team here is tremendous, so a huge thank you from every one of us.” This year’s Top 10, with last year’s ranking is shown in brackets, are: 1, L’Enclume, Cumbria (1st); 2, The Fat Duck, Berkshire (2nd); 3, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (5th); 4, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall (3rd); 5, Hibiscus, London (7th); 6, Pollen Street Social, London (6th); 7, Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottinghamshire (4th); 8, The Square, London (8th); 9, Le Champignon Sauvage, Gloucestershire (11th); 10, The Ledbury, London (9th) .

Industry News:

Costa launches ‘rewards’ app: Costa Coffee has launched a mobile phone app that ends the need for reward cards. The Coffee Club application, available for iPhone and Android smartphones, allows users to collect points for each purchase they make at the vendor’s outlets on their handset. The software also helps users find their nearest Costa stores, giving directions and details of opening times and facilities, and provides them with news about the chain. Costa said in a statement: “We’re very excited to announce our new Coffee Club app, the easiest way to find a store, collect points, and learn about exclusive rewards and offers. With all your Coffee Club details in the palm of your hand, there’s no need to carry your card. Simply scan your phone at the till whenever you make a purchase. You also have instant access to your balance, updated in real time.” The Coffee Club app is available as a free download from Google Play and the App Store.

Luke Johnson – lots of positives for entrepreneurs at the moment: Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued that there are lots of positives currently to support anyone starting a business. In his Financial Times column, where he also listed some negative factors, he wrote: “The support for entrepreneurs has never been greater – from banks being bullied by government to lend to small businesses, to the torrents of advice online, to armies of mentors, to crowd-funding, peer-to-peer lending and other forms of finance. Interest rates are at record lows, so debt – if you can get it – is cheap by historic standards. There are more angel investors than in the past, and the overall risk appetite among investors seems strong, as witnessed by this year’s busy IPO market and punchy asset valuations. The digital revolution has made it cheaper, quicker and easier to test an idea and discover what succeeds, and what fails. Indeed, the attitude towards failure has changed significantly: honest bankrupts are discharged much quicker than they used to be, and insolvency is not the disgrace it once was. This encourages people to take risks, and may be one factor behind the rise in self-employment in places such as the UK, which has risen from 8.7% to 15% of people in work since 1975.”

McDonald’s faces promiscuous generation challenge: McDonald’s customers in their 20s and 30s are leaving the brand for fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Five Guys, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Generation Y diners want fresher and healthier options that they can customise for a little more than an average meal at McDonald’s. The company’s monthly visits by 19 to 21-year-olds have dropped 12.9% since 2011, according to the restaurant consultancy Technomic. That statistic remained stagnant for customers between the ages of 22 and 37. Steven Easterbrook, McDonald’s global chief brand officer, told the Wall Street Journal: “The millennial generation has a wider range of choices than any generation before them. They’re promiscuous in their brand loyalty. It makes it harder work for all of us to earn the loyalty of the millennial generation.”

Record 320 entries for Enterprise Inns Community Heroes awards: The Enterprise Community Heroes awards, an award-winning scheme that recognises and rewards publicans who have gone the extra mile to benefit local people, has attracted a record number of entries this year. A total of 320 pubs put forward entries, up from 192 last year and 132 entries in 2012. Each entrant is hoping to claim the top prize of £10,000 to invest in a project to boost community spirit. Head of marketing at Enterprise, James Armitage, said: “We are delighted to see such a phenomenal rise in the level of entrants this year, which reflects the increasing number of our publicans who are doing a fantastic job at running great pubs at the heart of their communities. Many of our publicans have presented inspirational stories, from raising impressive sums for charitable causes to offering services not traditionally found in pubs to help local people in rural areas. They’re showing how they’re putting local people first and truly making their pubs the hub of their communities. Selecting the winners this year will be no easy task.” The Enterprise Community Heroes awards is an ongoing commitment from Enterprise which has earmarked more than £1 million over ten years for the project. The 2014 regional winners will be announced on 24 September 2014, with the overall national winner set to take their title at an awards ceremony on 22 October 2014.

Company News:

Sports Bar and Grill to open fifth site in West End: The award-winning Sports Bar & Grill will launch its fifth prime London site in the West End this September on Rupert Street. Just a short walk from Piccadilly Circus, sports enthusiasts, hungry and thirsty punters will be able to enjoy a variety of international live sports on the 20 large Sony plasma screens whilst enjoying classic pub dishes including traditional beer battered fish & chips, sharing platters, award winning burgers, prime steaks and the bars’ renowned Classic American Hot Dogs selection, all prepared in the bar’s open kitchen. Sports Bar & Grill managing director, David Evans said: “To operate in the heart of London’s vibrant West End has always been my vision for the Sports Bar & Grill and I am delighted we can now offer our local and international customers and sport fans alike with a top notch bar experience, whilst showcasing the best live sports available.”

Novus Leisure develops bespoke HR solution with CPL Online: CPL Online, a division of CPL Training Group, the hospitality sector’s leading training provider, has created a Novus Leisure-branded “Console”, which is its “Learning Management System” product. The Console, which is now operational, allows Novus Leisure to host and deliver a suite of CPL-developed eLearning courses covering everything from compliance to soft skills training to all its 2,500 employees. As well as the ability to upload any number of documents, videos and podcasts to the bookshelf, the Console can also be accessed online via a secure log-in. Once the employee is logged in, the correct information based on the individual’s job role, is delivered in simple, short bursts of training, making it flexible for busy employees to fit training around their job. As well as accommodating all historical training data from previous systems and training records, the Console hosts secure company-wide employee data and provides a daily automatic payroll import, adding new starters and removing leavers. CPL Online’s director David Dasher said: “As a busy operator with more than 2,500 employees based across the UK, Novus Leisure was looking for a training solution for its employees that not only would deliver compliant courses, but could host the wealth of training-related data and accurately maintain its necessary management reports. By creating a branded console, we have brought together in one product a number of training-related HR solutions for Novus Leisure.”

Fuller’s to re-open Bristol site with pizza oven: The London brewer and pub operator Fuller, Smith & Turner is to re-open the Old Fish Market pub on Baldwin Street, Bristol next week (5 September) with a pizza oven. Tom Tucker, the manager of the Old Fish Market, said: “We’ve got a great craft beer and ale selection, our wine list is full-bodied and our new menu is great either for sharing or enjoying a quick lunch or dinner. We are bringing a fresh approach to one of the neighbourhood’s most traditional pubs.”

Carluccio’s eyes Cheltenham site: Carluccio’s is eyeing a site in Cheltenham for its latest branch. The company is laying the groundwork for a possible move to the Regent Arcade and has submitted a licensing application to sell alcohol from what is now the Mothercare store. While Cheltenham Council has given the company permission to do so, John Forward, centre director for the arcade said nothing was set in stone. He said: “Nothing has been confirmed yet. We are still in the discussion stage with a number of other interested parties.” The restaurant would be the first in the arcade. The owner of the shopping centre, Canada Life Assurance Company, believes this would stop shoppers leaving the vicinity in search of lunch and dinner.

Leon introduces milk-free shakes: Leon, the healthy eating brand, has introduced a new range of “milk-free shakes”. Made with unsweetened almond milk, they are dairy, gluten and wheat-free. Leon has developed a vanilla and date base that naturally sweetens the drinks. There will be three flavours on offer; Original Vanilla, Banana & Cinnamon, and Flaked Chocolate, made with Montezuma chocolate flakes. They range in price from £1.95 to £2.25. Toph Ford, Leon’s head of food and marketing, said: “We love that we’re able to introduce such a traditional fast-food menu item that turns the whole category on its head. We’re very happy to be the first restaurant to bring dairy-free almond milk to the high street. We think [the shakes] are going to be a huge hit, not just with those folk avoiding dairy and those aware of the trend, but with anyone after a nostalgic treat.”

Wright Brothers open Cage private dining room: The oyster specialist, wholesale seafood supplier and restaurant company Wright Brothers has opened its first private dining area, in Wright Brothers Soho, Kingley Street, in central London. The semi-private dining room, called The Cage, is special, supersized industrial structure modelled on the lobster cages, used by Wright Brothers on its own oyster farm. The cage walls can be folded into different configurations, creating either a more intimate dining party space for the evening, or a party space for drinks. The space can accommodate 20 guests for seated dining or 35 for a standing event. Wright Brothers sources oysters directly from its own Duchy Oyster Farm, part of the private estate of the Prince of Wales on the Helford river in Cornwall. Wright Brothers was established by brothers-in-law Ben Wright and Robin Hancock in 2002, and now supplies more than 150 restaurants and chefs across the UK.

Burger & Lobster owner puts in Manchester planning application: Goodman Restaurant Group has put in a planning application to Manchester city council for the conversion of most of the vacant ground floor of Ship Canal House in King Street into an outlet for the chain. The company wants to open a 167-cover restaurant alongside a 45-cover bar in the Grade II listed building, on the corner of King Street and Brown Street. Goodman Restaurants opened the first Burger & Lobster in Clarges Street, Mayfair, London in 2011 and now has five other London sites, in Dean Street, Soho; St John’s Street, Smithfield; Bread Street in the City; Harvey Nicholls in Knightsbridge; and Little Portland Street in Fitzrovia. A New York site, on West 19th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, is due to open this autumn, and the company has said it believes there could be room for up to 100 Burger & Lobster outlets in the UK alone. It is said to be close to securing a franchise partner in Dubai. Average spend is around the £25 to £27 mark, and director George Bukhov has predicted that the company would hit a turnover of £27m at the end of this calendar year. The company is thought to be the largest importer of live lobster in Europe and has a storage tank at Heathrow Airport capable of holding 33 tonnes.

Batemans sales director sets up micro-brewery: Andrew Reed, the long-serving sales director at the Lincolnshire brewer and retailer Batemans, has left to set up a microbrewery. The Charnwood Brewery, which is due to open in the autumn, is based in Loughborough, Leicestershire and will serve “quality craft ales to the beer lovers of Charnwood and beyond”.

Controversial Wolverhampton nightclub to re-open: The controversial former Uberra and Canal Club on Broad Street in Wolverhampton will re-open as The Boatyard next month with an over-25s policy. The Grade II-listed building closed its doors in March this year and the owner, Dale Investment, had hoped that it might be taken on as a restaurant. But a deal has been struck with unknown tenants that would see the club brought back into use as a venue playing house music.

Whitbread opens Premier Inn close to Alton Towers in Leek: Whitbread opened a Premier Inn site in Leek, Staffordshire last Monday with 63 bedrooms. Premier Inn’s opening manager, Victoria Smith, said: “We had 180 guests on our first night. Tuesday is also booked and most rooms are full for the rest of the week. All rooms are also full at the weekend. We are really pleased. People have come from all over the country with many families going to Alton Towers.”

Nando’s to join £20m eating and leisure extension at Intu Potteries Centre: Nando’s is to open its first Stoke-on-Trent outlet, in the £20m catering and leisure extension at the Intu Potteries Centre in Hanley. The chain has signed a lease on a 5,500 sq ft site in the development, which is due to open in August next year. It will join Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, PizzaExpress and Cineworld in the extension, where construction work has already began. Peter Atkinson, senior acquisitions manager at Nando’s Restaurants, said: “It will be a great meeting place for the people of Staffordshire and surrounding areas. The location adds to our wide coverage of the UK.” Paul Francis, general manager of Intu Potteries, said: “Stoke-on-Trent is a rapidly changing area. With Staffordshire University moving 2,500 students to the city, and a catchment for Intu Potteries of 850,000, Nando’s will be a buzzing place and a welcome addition to the range of top brands at the centre.”

Planning inspector gives permission for KFC next to junior school: A planning inspector has overturned the refusal by Solihull Council to allow a KFC restaurant to be built next door to a junior school. The company applied to build a drive-through restaurant on a disused site at in Stratford Road, Shirley, close to the entrance to Shirley Heath Junior School. After a petition from locals and a protest from the school, the application was turned down by Solihull’s planning committee over the risk of increased accidents and injuries and the adverse impact on amenities of nearby residents. However, the company appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, and an officer has now given the development the green light. KFC told the Solihull Observer: “We’re committed to being a responsible neighbour and have worked closely with the local authorities to ensure they are satisfied that all concerns raised have been addressed. Our restaurant will create 40 career opportunities locally and we will continue to work closely with the community in Shirley to ensure KFC is a positive addition to the local area in all respects.”

Bill’s wins planning go-ahead in Marlow: Bill’s has won planning approval to open in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. The brand was granted permission to open in empty office premises at 48 West Street last week and is due to open early 2015. Bill’s brand manager, Sheridan McCoid, said: “We are, of course, delighted to be opening in Marlow. It’s such a pretty town and we hope Bill’s will fit right in and become popular with the locals.”

£200,000 expansion planned for former Asset of Community Value pub: A pub that was on the brink of closure before being deemed a “community asset” is looking to expand. Residents near the Hare and Hounds in Lammack Road, Blackburn, started a petition to save their local when Enterprise Inns announced plans to sell it last year. The pub was successfully registered as an “asset of community value” after an application was sent to the council, in part because it was the last surviving former Duttons Brewery establishment in the country. Ian Robertson, a local for 30 years, bought the pub, his first foray into the industry, and it is now thriving. Robertson has now submitted plans for a £200,000 expansion, including a new kitchen, lounge area, side entrance, plus an upstairs bar. He said: “It has been fabulous and it is much better than we could have hoped for. Because it is a free house the prices are low and we have refurbished it. It is a lovely building and the regulars are great.”

Greene King passes £1m charity fund-raising target eight months ahead of schedule: Pub retailer and brewer Greene King has exceeded its £1m target and raised £1.2m for its charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, eight months ahead of schedule. Employees across the company have been busy fundraising through bespoke campaigns, including “Macmillan May” and “Tour de Horse”, and through participation in Macmillan’s flagship fundraiser the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, as well as through individual fundraising events. This year, Greene King also completed its first ever cross-business challenge. More than 160 employees from across all areas of the Greene King business, from managers and employees in pubs to chefs at Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill restaurants, to head office employees and those working in breweries, took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge in May. Rooney Anand, chief executive at Greene King, said: “Our employees and customers have worked tirelessly with real passion and enthusiasm to raise much needed funds for Macmillan. I think it is truly inspirational that they have managed to smash our target and raise £1.2m with eight months of our partnership still to go.”

Gala Coral Group start bingo business sale process: Gala Coral Group has hired bankers at Lazard to find a buyer for its 135 bingo clubs in a move that is expected to clear the way for a £2bn-plus flotation of its remaining betting and gaming business. The company, which is the biggest bingo operator in Britain, ahead of Rank Group, confirmed that it has “commenced a process to explore the possibility of a disposal” of the venues. Analysts expect that a sale of Gala Bingo, which is estimated to be worth more than £250m, will eventually lead to an initial public offering of Gala Coral’s dominant bookmaking business.

Historic Spirit Pub Company freehold goes on the market for £325,000: A historic pub in Ormskirk, Lancashire owned by Spirit Pub Company has been put up for sale. The Buck i’th Vine on Burscough street in Ormskirk town centre was listed for sale at £325,000 last week, with several people already showing an interest in purchasing the building. The pub, currently owned by Spirit Pub Company, is being marketed by leisure property specialist Fleurets. Ian Taylor at Fleurets said: “We’re very pleased with the level and the quality of interest we have already received, as we only commenced marketing last week.”

KFC franchisee adds Starbucks franchise to Worthing business: Cobra Restaurants, headed by Simon Coates and Michael Bradley, has added a new Starbucks franchised site in Worthing to its estate. The site will open in Broadwater, creating 20 jobs in the process, and adding to its current presence in Broadwater Street West, as it also own the KFC restaurant opposite. Coates said: “I am thrilled to be opening a Starbucks here. We have great faith in the future of Broadwater and we love being part of the local community. Starbucks is an iconic global brand which has a proven track record of creating jobs, supporting local suppliers and community projects and serving great coffee.”

Spirit buys in Chef and Brewer freehold: Agent Fleurets has acted for the Spirit Pub Company in the acquisition of the freehold interest of The Tigers Head, Chislehurst, where it was the incumbent tenant. Ed Sandall, associate at Fleurets London Office, said: “The site is a high quality managed house in a strong drive-to location. We constructed an ‘off-market’ deal, leveraging our relationship with the both the freehold owner and the Spirit Pub Company to the mutual benefit of both parties.”

Tesco adds to retail offer with garden centre: One of Cambridgeshire’s biggest villages, Bar Hill, is to get a new garden centre, creating 14 jobs, alongside its existing Tesco. A new Dobbies Garden Centre will open its doors on the Tesco site, selling gardening products, gifts, and homeware. It will also have a small pet and aquatics store. Dobbies’ regional manager, Nick Anderson, said: “We’re really looking forward to coming to Cambridge and are currently recruiting. Gardening enthusiasts should visit our website to find out about the full range of opportunities.” Roger Hall, who represents Bar Hill on South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “A lot of big companies like Tesco are widening out what they offer, and this is another example of that. The Bar Hill site has opened a Timpson outlet for shoe and watch repairs, for example.”

Former Spirit pub to be converted to restaurant and takeaway: A former Spirit Pub Company site, the White Rose, on Marton Road, near Middlesbrough town centre, is to be converted into a restaurant and takeaway. Middlesbrough Council’s planning committee has granted permission for the proposals. The pub became vacant in January and work has now started on site. The application, which could now create up to 30 jobs, was recommended for approval with conditions. The building, at the junction of Marton Road and Egmont Road in Longlands, covering 0.4 acres, was sold for the asking price of £375,000 to Ali Mourzzam. The sale was handled by the property agent Fleurets.

Douglas Jack upgrades Greene King to buy after recent weakness: Numis Securities’ leisure analyst Douglas Jack has upgraded Greene King to ‘Buy’ with a target price of 975p after recent weakness. He said: “Greene King’s Q1 IMS is due on Wednesday, 10 September. We expect growth to be muted in 2015E, a year in which: all the company’s divisions face tough comps (particularly in Q1); and the dilution from the disposal to Hawthorne Leisure should have its maximum impact. However, we believe the long-term strategy is right and would now use recent weakness as a buying opportunity. Managed like-for-like sales rose by just 1.1% during the first eight weeks. The Q1 comp, at 4.6%, is challenging. During the summer months, sector like-for-like sales tend to be more correlated to weather than consumer confidence. Although this summer has been good, May-July experienced 4% less sunshine and 7% more rainfall than last year. We expect to maintain our 2% full-year like-for-like sales assumption. The company achieved 4.1% in 2014 (vs. 2.3% in 2013), encouragingly with food (up 5.0%) and accommodation (up 6.8%) continuing to outperform drink (up 3.2%). These underlying trends indicate that like-for-like sales should pick up in Q2 and Q3, when comps ease (to 2.5% and 4.4%, respectively) and the weather becomes less influential. Managed expansion should peak this year. Whereas 48 new managed pubs opened in 2014; 2015E guidance is for 68 new sites (30 to 40 new builds, mostly Farmhouse Inns and Hungry Horse; 10-20 single sites; 10-20 leaseholds, mostly Hungry Horse in leisure parks; and five to ten transfers from tenanted). This, combined with falling food price inflation, should support margins. We expect to hold our 2015E forecast of 4% PBT growth (£180.3m; consensus £179.8m), versus the 8% recent annual historic average. The limited growth in 2015E reflects 3% dilution from the Hawthorn Leisure disposal and 2.5% dilution from the 53rd week in the comp. We believe this has now been priced in; we are upgrading to ‘Buy’ to reflect faster expansion and progress with the company’s repositioning towards food-led managed pubs.”

New Blackpool Wetherspoon to be named the Velvet Coaster: The new JD Wetherspoon pub in Blackpool, due to open after a £2.2m conversion of the Lucky Star Amusement Arcade that will include a roof garden, is to be called the Velvet Coaster. The name, one of four put up for a public vote in The Blackpool Gazette newspaper, comes from one of the earliest rides built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the early 1900s. Its open carriages, with velvet seats, climbed a white wooden structure before sweeping down humps and around curves on two circuits of the track. The Velvet Coaster was rebuilt in 1933, and was known simply as Roller Coaster, until 2010. It is now named Nickleodeon Streak. The new pub was granted outline planning permission earlier this year. More detailed proposals have now been submitted for consideration by Blackpool Council, which show a roof garden.

Wagamama lines up second Milton Keynes opening: Wagamama is to open at Milton Keynes’s Xscape complex on 17 September, its second site in the town. The restaurant is creating 40 new jobs for the local area. General manager Sean McGuirk said: “We are very excited to be opening our second restaurant in Milton Keynes in the lively Xscape destination. There’s a vast range of entertainment at the centre, which sees lots of visitors every week, so we’re hoping that Wagamama can provide the perfect place to take a break and enjoy some delicious food, before the next fun-packed activity.” The Wagamama in Xscape will have space for 154 diners. For groups of six or more coming to the centre to enjoy an activity, areas can also be booked to ensure diners bag their space to eat in advance.

Welsh pub company teams up with local brewer for exclusive beers: The South Wales pub company Knife & Fork Food has collaborated with Otley Brewing Co on a series of exclusive ales for its pubs in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. The first in the series of Otley and Knife & Fork Food ales is Phil’s Beardy Brew, a 4.3% American Pale Ale, named for the manager of the Pilot in Penarth, one of Knife & Fork’s four pubs, Phil Newbould in honour of the fact that the pub held an American Beer Festival in collaboration with the barbecue specialist Hang Fire Smokehouse over the August Bank Holiday weekend, and will be the location for a new Hang Fire Smokehouse pop-up from September to November. The next beer in the series will be Murphy’s Law, named for Knife & Fork’s food director, Sean Murphy, which will be launched across the group in October.

Rotisserie chicken and pizza concept launches in Nottinghamshire: A pizza and rotisserie chicken concept, Pilot, has opened in the Nash Interiors building in Hockley, Nottingham. Head chef Simon Sharer said: “The main concept is a restaurant which focuses on pizza, prosecco and poultry. Rotisserie chicken is popular in France, but we are not doing it in a traditional French way – we are taking influences from all over the world. It’s a casual dining concept. I think dining out is becoming more popular and people have become more interested in food generally.” The restaurant has a capacity for 80 covers inside and a further 30 customers to sit outside. Joe Barron and Luke Comer, the former management team behind the Brass Monkey bar in High Pavement, Nottingham, are directors of the new business. Barron said: “Pilot is an urban, casual dining experience with a prosecco bar and a rotisserie-led kitchen.”

Russia orders closure of fifth McDonald’s: Russia’s food safety watchdog has ordered the temporary closure of one of McDonald’s restaurants in Yekaterinburg in the Urals region, the fifth such closure in recent weeks. The restaurant was closed as a result of mass unscheduled inspections by Rospotrebnadzor, the regulator, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s in Russia said. The state watchdog agency previously closed three McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow and one in Stavropol and unveiled sweeping checks at its outlets across the country.

Good Beer Guide licensee takes on second pub: The licensee of a pub that has appeared in the Good Beer Guide for the past 12 years has taken on a second outlet bought from Greene King. Andy Rawnsley, who runs the Our Mutual Friend in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, is now also running the Plough in the nearby village of Datchworth Green, which was bought by local businessman Nick Collingridge and his wife Diana from Greene King in July. The pub was closed for two weeks for a refurbishment, and reopened by local celebrity Barry Norman, the film critic. Collingridge said: “It is great that we have been able to secure this pub which had been somewhat unloved in recent times, and I know from many conversations with locals that its rebirth is warmly welcomed. Business has been fantastic since reopening.” Rawnsley said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to run the Plough and will work hard to deliver a welcoming pub that is a focal point for the village.”

Called-in loan sinks popular brewery: A popular Cumbrian brewery has been forced into administration after a joint venture partner called in a loan, it has been revealed. Geltsdale Brewery, which was set up in 2006 by Fiona Deal, was based in Brampton, near Carlisle and sold its craft beers, including Cold Fell, across the UK and beyond. The brewery made a loan agreement with a company called PHI Ltd which saw PHI and Geltsdale create a joint venture to set up a bottling plant. But in April, PHI, whose address is listed care of a law firm in Australia, requested full repayment of the £130,000 loan. Geltsdale Brewery was unable to comply, and it was decided to put the company into administration on 25 July, with Gordon Goldie and Matthew Higgins of Tait Walker appointed administrators. The business ceased trading with all five staff made redundant. Publicans who sold the brewery’s beers said they were “gutted” by the closure. Mark Harper, who runs The Stag at Crosby-on-Eden, outside Carlisle, told the News and Star newspaper: “I am absolutely gutted, Cold Fell was by far our biggest seller. We sold more of that than we did of other real ales.” Nigel Tarn, who runs the Moo Bar in Penrith, was full of praise for the brewery. He said: “I am massively disappointed, they made some wonderful beers.”

Eataly owners in the US plan new restaurant: Chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, who operate Eataly in New York and Chicago, will open a new restaurant in New York City. The pair have signed a deal to “take over the entire food and beverage programme” at the Maritime Hotel. They will replace the hotel’s current restaurant, La Bottega, with a place that centres on the food of the “Italian coast and islands.” It is their first major restaurant project in New York City, aside from their Italian megastore Eataly, since Del Posto, which they opened in 2006. The pair are also busy with other new projects including a Babbo Pizzeria in Boston. Their Italian mega-marketplace Eataly is also planned for expansion to a variety of cities across the United States including Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Douglas Jack – we are a ‘Buy’ on Spirit: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note, with a Target Price of 110p on Spirit Pub Company shares. He said: “Spirit’s full year trading statement is due on Wednesday, 3 September. In our view, consensus forecasts and the valuation (2015E EV/Ebitda: 7.2x) anticipate a sharp trading slowdown in Q4 due to tough comps. We expect to at least hold our PBT forecasts (2014E: £57.4m / consensus: £56.2m) and believe there should be upward pressure on consensus. The Flaming Grill conversion programme is accelerating, with 50 projects due for completion by spring 2015. These lower-capex investments should boost cash returns, which averaged 28% in the 42 months to February 2014. This process should benefit from the possible acquisition of 19+ sites from Orchid’s administrator. According to the trade press, Spirit has already started acquiring and converting these profitable sites, from which we estimate it could achieve a 50%+ cash return post-rebranding. Despite generating the strongest earnings growth over the last two years, Spirit has the lowest valuation in the licensed retail sector. In our view, this reflects limited understanding of the company’s growth prospects, which are underpinned by falling net debt/Ebitda (to c.4x) and growing cash reserves, including cash in the Spirit debenture, which the company has full access to.”

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