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Wed 10th Sep 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

McDonald’s reports worst monthly sales in a decade: McDonald’s has reported its worst monthly global sales decline in more than a decade. Like-for-like sales at restaurants open at least 13 months were down 3.7% in August. The month marked the fourth consecutive month of declines for sales in the US. The UK was a bright spot, helping stem weak sales in Europe, which was down 0.7%. Like-for-like sales in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region dropped 14.5% last month, mostly due to the supplier controversy in China that McDonald’s said is impacting sales in Japan as well. In July, McDonald’s comparable sales in the segment fell 7.3%. “In both of those major countries, the consumers immediately reacted negatively. Now we can see that the issue persisted into August,” said Mark Kalinowski, a restaurant analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott. McDonald’s president and chief executive Don Thompson said: “As a system, we are diligently working to effectively navigate the current market conditions to regain momentum.” US like-for-like sales dropped 2.8% in August. McDonald’s cited “sluggish industry growth in a highly competitive marketplace”. As a result, the company said it will address its service and menu to boost customer loyalty. “Limited time offerings are not resonating with customers,” Kalinowski said. “We’d like to see them simplify the menu. Part of McDonald’s challenges is the menu got too complicated. It leads to complexity in stores and slower service.” Kalinowski argued that McDonald’s needs to simplify its operations so restaurants can serve customers more quickly and increase throughput, thereby improving sales. In Europe, the company was unable to fully offset difficulties in Russia, where McDonald’s was forced to close some restaurants amid tensions between Russia and the US over fighting in Ukraine. Russian regulators conducted inspections in the wake of Western sanctions. McDonald’s recently said officials were inspecting more than 100 of the company’s 440 restaurants in the country.

Industry News:

Luke Johnson – Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are facing existential threats: Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued that Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are facing “what may be existential threats”. In his Financial Times column this morning, he wrote: “Both are in pronounced decline in their home country, and it appears these slumps are not temporary. Coca-Cola sales have been falling for a decade in the US, according to Euromonitor – supplanted by everything from iced tea and sports drinks to coffee and fruit juices. Sugary, carbonated beverages are seen by the younger generation as unhealthy. Once such trends become established, they are difficult to reverse. And fizzy drinks still make up three quarters of the company’s overall sales. Meanwhile McDonald’s restaurants are losing their appeal among millennials, according to recent research. More than 40% of the company’s 35,000 restaurants are in the US, but younger customers are visiting McDonald’s less, and going instead to rival fast-casual chains. Diners want fresher, healthier food and a more bespoke offering. And what happens in America is likely to be followed in other territories.”

EasyProperty.com launches £1m fund-raising on Crowdcube: EasyProperty.com has launched a £1m fund-raising on crowd-sourcing platform Crowdcube, offering 1.5% of its equity in return for the money. EasyProperty.com intends be the flag bearer for change across the European estate agent and property market. Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who built up a £5.4m listed company between 1995 and 2013 with easyJet, which set out to transform short-haul European air travel, has now teamed up with Rob Ellice, a veteran of the property market, to bring “meaningful and lasting change” to the way people buy, sell, let and rent property. EasyProperty is due to launch this month in the UK, initially focusing on lettings before offering sales in the summer of 2015 and then expanding internationally across Europe. The FT describes the venture as “easily the biggest brand name yet to enter the online [estate agent] business”.

Anheuser-Busch and Facebook test online beer gifts: Anheuser-Busch and Facebook are testing online sales and gifting of Budweiser and Bud Light, starting in Chicago and Denver, USA Today has reported. They are teaming up on two new programmes expected to eventually be rolled out across the United States next year. The Buds for Buds programme lets consumers buy a friend a Budweiser, while the Bud Light Birthday promotion lets someone earn a friend a free Bud Light on their birthday using Facebook posts. Recipients redeem an online voucher at a bar or restaurant, and show their ID to prove they are of drinking age. Those who want to gift a Bud enter their credit card information before sending the gift. Lucas Herscovici, Anheuser-Busch’s vice-president of consumer connections, told the newspaper: “The programme was born of A-B’s desire to remain relevant with millennial consumers of legal drinking age and strengthen our position as the perfect beer for connecting with friends around any occasion. By leading the way in offering consumers the ability to send their friends a beer on the internet, we give them yet another reason to consider our beer brands.”

McDonald’s help clean up with free food incentive: McDonald’s outlets in Stockholm are running a campaign to accept used cans in payment for burgers. In a joint venture with the communications company DDB Stockholm, people can take black plastic bags from poster displays around the city and bring them to a McDonald’s outlet filled with cans, to get one cheeseburger for ten cans or a Big Mac for 40 cans.

Raspberry gelato beats 10,000 products to Great Taste top award: Raspberry Sorbetto made by Snowflake Luxury Gelato, London, has been declared the Great Taste Supreme Champion 2014. Out of 10,000 products entered into Great Taste 2014, the Raspberry Sorbetto took the highest accolade at the Great Taste Golden Forks Dinner, where more than 300 guests from the world of fine food gathered to hear the result. John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, the organiser of Great Taste, said: “This year’s Great Taste, our 20th year of the competition, was the biggest, with more entries than ever before. As always, our judges had the task of finding the most exquisite food by blind tasting and conferring over each individual entry. We know that the Great Taste logo is an established and trusted mark; for producers it reflects their hard work and commitment to making superb tasting food and drink, and for consumers it is a recognisable, simple and clear logo that confirms they are buying the most outstanding products on the shelf.”

Company News:

Voodoo Doll secures funding to expand Mojo bar chain into London: Voodoo Doll, which runs rock-themed cocktail bars in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, is targeting its first bar in London in the next 12 months, and plans to open a further two venues in the capital before branching out to other major UK cities. Managing director Martin Greenhow said: “Having organically grown to cover three major northern cities in England, London is the natural progression for the business and we are confident that there is a strong market waiting for Mojo in London. If you look at our customer database, a third of the existing customers have London addresses. The reasons for that are due to the migration between the south east and the north (and vice versa) of our core customer demographic. People from Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester head to London for work after university, and of course the north also benefits from many students from the south coming to study in the north. Of course, the majority then return once they have completed their degree, taking with them an affinity for Mojo. We are looking at three bars in London and will then look to extend the brand into other UK cities.” Voodoo Doll, which was founded in 2002, has been allocated £700,000 in funding for the expansion drive by HSBC’s South Yorkshire Commercial Centre. The company currently generates annual sales of £4m, which it wants to grow to £16m.

Richard Corrigan reports profit rise at London restaurants: Richard Corrigan Restaurants Holdings Ltd, the group of restaurants owned by the Irish celebrity chef Richard Corrigan, has posted a 3.9% rise in turnover to £9.39m in the year to the end of December 2013 with its pre-tax profit up to £696,000 from £545,000 in 2012. Operating profit rose to £700,000 from £560,000 the year before. Shareholders’ funds rose to £1.9m at the year-end from £1.3m in the previous 12 months. Net current liabilities fell to £181,000 from £334,000 previously. In spite of the improved trading performance, no dividend was paid by the group last year, unlike 2012 when a payment of £125,000 was made to Corrigan and a fellow shareholder. The employment costs associated with the group’s 140 staff amounted to £3.65m last year, up marginally on the previous reporting period. The restaurant group’s debts fell to £231,000 last year from £583,000 in 2012. The company closed the year with cash on its books of just more than £1m. Corrigan has three restaurants in London: Corrigan’s in Mayfair, Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, and Bentley’s Sea Grill at Harrods.

Chapel Down more than 82% funded in crowd-sourcing fund-raising after two days: Wine maker Chapel Down has raised more than 82% of the £1.67m it is looking to raise in return for 6.48% of its equity through the crowd-funding website Seedr in just two days. The company had raised £1,138,674, or 82.9% of the total, with 57 days of the offer still to run. For investors who invest more than £560 there are a range of benefits on offer, including a 33% discount on the standard price list of Chapel Down wines, 25% off its beers and a 25% discount of food purchases at Chapel Down’s restaurant, The Swan at Chapel Down, in Tenterden, Kent.

Gaucho Holdings reports sales rise: Gaucho Holdings has reported a 3% rise in sales in the year to 31 December to around £55m. Ebitda for the year was £9.6m compared to 2012 of £10.0m. The difference was driven by pre-opening costs of new CAU openings and investment in central costs ahead of the CAU roll out in 2014.“2014 is proving to be an exciting year with three CAU sites successfully opened (Tunbridge Wells, Kingston and Bristol) and two more to open before 31 December (in Wimbledon Village and Henley-On-Thames),” said finance director Gary Mann. He added that 2015 key activity for the Gaucho group will be: the continued roll out of the CAU brand in the UK (At least five locations including; Liverpool, Reading and London); investment in the evolution of the Gaucho brand (the first step was the 2014 refurbishment of our flagship restaurant in London). The first Gaucho in the Far East in Hong Kong is to open mid-October 2014.

Tim Lowther steps down at Steak ’n’ Shake: Industry veteran Tim Lowther has stepped down from his role as senior director of business development at Steak ’n’ Shake. He told Propel: “I have decided not to renew my contract with Steak ’n’ Shake and, having set the ball rolling here in the UK, I have now left the business. I am exploring a number of options at the moment as well as offering my services to the industry as an operations and development consultant and somewhat of a burger expert, having launched Shake Shack in London, Five Guys in the north of England and the initial groundwork for Steak ’n’ Shake. In addition to this, I am considering launching my own concept and am working through plans for this.”

Coca Cola Enterprises reports UK profit dip: Coca Cola Enterprises has reported that pre-tax profit in the UK dropped to £236.9m in 2013 from £261.6m in 2012. Turnover fell 0.4% to £1.787bn from £1.794bn the year before. Operating profit dropped 8.5% to £230.6m. The company said: “Turnover decreased by 0.4% during the year as a result of business performance. The shareholders’ funds have increased by 4.2%, mainly due to the realised profit after tax of £204m and the fact the company paid less dividends in 2013 (£175m). In the current year, the shareholders funds (of £497.6m, up 4.2%) were not affected by an unfavourable movement in the pension scheme (2012: loss of £35m).”

Michael Caines lends name and expertise to new bar and restaurant: Michael Caines, the two-Michelin-star chef who gave his name to the restaurants in Andrew Brownsword’s Abode chain of hotels, is to oversee the launch of a new bar and restaurant in Oswestry, Shropshire, The Townhouse in Willow Street. The new venue will be known as The Townhouse – A restaurant by Michael Caines, and is due to open in October or early November. Its owners, Mike Scott and Ollie Jackson, said the agreement will see Michael Caines Limited overseeing the appointment of key staff, kitchen design and layout, menu creation and online reservation systems, among other things. Scott and Jackson said: “We are so pleased that Michael is sharing his experience and expertise with us to make the Townhouse a true dining destination. Michael’s team will be overseeing the creation of all menus, including some of our own signature dishes, designed to fit with the local market using the best local ingredients. We hope that it will be a massive boost for the town’s restaurants, as a Michael Caines restaurant will really put Oswestry on the food map.” Caines, the executive chef at the two-Michelin-star restaurant at Gidleigh Park in Devon, said: “The Townhouse is a really exciting project to have become involved with. It is really refreshing to open a restaurant of this nature away from a city, in a more rural location and we are sure that it will attract people from far and wide.”

Baltic Yards granted planning permission at Cains Brewery: Baltic Yards Ltd’s proposal for an “urban bazaar” in the warehouse at the Cains Brewery site in Liverpool has been granted planning permission. It will create a new independent retail offer as part of an advanced phase of the multi-million pound Brewery Village development project. Sudgahara Dusanj, director of Cains Brewery Village, said: “The bazaar will be a massive boost for the area and we look forward to developing attractions around the market-style offering that Baltic Yards will bring.” Baltic Yards Ltd is now in discussion with Liverpool City Council about obtaining the relevant licences, and seeks to be open in November.

Turtle Bay to make London debut in October: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant chain, will make its London debut on 3 October, opening a site in the Ealing Broadway Centre in West London. The chain currently has ten sites around the UK, with the Ealing branch the first venture into the capital. Turtle Bay’s founder, Ajith Jayawickrema, said: “We can’t wait to throw the doors open to Ealing. It’s a restaurant as vibrant as the community we’re serving.”

Iso Sushi to open third site in Wolverhampton: Iso Sushi is to open its fourth UK site, in Wolverhampton ,next month. The venue will open in Tettenhall Road, Chapel Ash, in the first week of October as Wolverhampton’s first sushi restaurant. A large extension at the back of the building is already complete, allowing the restaurant to seat 40 customers at full capacity. It will be the Wolverhampton-based firm’s third restaurant in the UK, with branches already open in Twickenham and Isleworth in West London. A fourth restaurant is due to open in London later this year. Director Yusuf Ahmed said: “This is a great area with a lot going on. Wolverhampton lacks places to eat compared to other cities and towns. The city doesn’t have a sushi restaurant. We aim to provide something a bit different.”

Nando’s extends agency brief with £4m global account: Nando’s Grocery has appointed 18 Feet & Rising to its £4m global advertising account, without a pitch, Campaign magazine has reported. The agency is tasked with developing a global brand platform for the company’s grocery range and will begin with its peri-peri sauces. The platform will initially launch in Australia later this year. Activity in the UK, South Africa and North America will follow soon after. 18 Feet & Rising will be responsible for leading creative communications and supporting online content. The agency won the £2m account for Nando’s restaurant chain in April 2013. The full Nando’s Grocery range, which includes sauces, spices and marinades, is currently stocked in 23 countries.

Zonal doubles office space in Edinburgh: The epos provider Zonal, led by Stuart Mclean, is doubling its office space with new headquarters in Edinburgh having taken on an extra 100 staff in the past year to lift its total workforce to 344. The company is 1,100 sites into a roll-out of its epos systems across the 1,600-strong Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) estate, while integrating the Orchid Group epos system, also Zonal-provided, into the M&B estate. The company provides epos to Greene King, JD Wetherspoon, Spirit and Stonegate and claims 75% of the top 40 managed pub companies. Zonal was founded in the mid-1970s when the McLean family owned a hotel in Scotland and wanted a till that prevented staff stealing. In 2013, Zonal invested £500,000 in an innovation centre in Oxford and now has 85 staff working in development. Asked for his number one prediction for the sector in the next ten years, Mclean told Propel: “Customers will decide how they want to interact with brands and there will be a few surprises.”

Teenage millionaire plans London’s largest shisha bar: A teenage millionaire is planning to invest £500,000 to turn the old Royal Oak pub site in South London into the biggest shisha bar in London. The pub, on the Brighton Road roundabout between South Croydon and Purley, has been empty for around ten years. Hashim Haq, an 18-year-old foreign exchange trader, wants to create somewhere for young people in Purley to relax and spend time with friends. Haq started his job as a trader two and a half years ago when a friend of his father showed him the ropes while he was studying at Trinity School, in Shirley. He told The Croydon Advertiser: “I’ve been quite successful so I wanted to invest my money in something else. I spend all day sat behind my desk so I wanted to invest in something that would get me out, and where better than Purley. I’ve grown up here. Most of my life I have spent here and there’s not much for people like me to do. I like smoking shisha and my friends like it too and we wanted somewhere to chill and it just grew from there.” Hashim plans to turn the former pub into a two-floor shisha and dessert bar called Aroma Shisha Lounge, with 6,000 sq ft of floor space to seat 200 people.

Wadworth – ‘we beat Roosters by 23 years’: Wadworth, the Devizes-based brewer and retailer has rebutted a claim by the Yorkshire-based brewer Roosters to be the first to produce a brew, Fresh Hop, using hops harvested a mere six hours before they were put into the brewery copper. Wadworth head brewer Brian Yorston told Propel: “I would like to point out that Wadworth have produced a hop harvest ale since 1992 now called the Original Green Hop Brew. This year I had the pleasure of collecting the hops from Richard Powell of Newnham Farm near Tenbury Wells and brewing a beer hours after picking. I think Roosters is some 23 years too late.” Robert Wicks, of Westerham Brewery, said: “For ten years we have brewed a green hop beer collecting hops from the National Trust’s Scotney Castle hop garden. They are picked in the morning, collected by me at 10am and are in the brew by 2pm. Our first collection was actually on the fourth day of the harvest, on 1 September, as well. We also have the advantage of being only 40 minutes from the hop garden. This year’s first batch is made with Goldings. The second brewed yesterday is with WGV.” Nearly every brewery in Kent makes a green hop beer (using fresh, undried hops) as part of Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight. The previous “bine to brew” record, set by the Canterbury Ales, stood at one hour 40 minutes. A spokeswoman for Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight said: “We have no beef with Rooster’s because we have first-hand experience of how green hop brewing gets everyone carried away with excitement!”

Starbucks shifts UK PR and ad campaigns to new agencies: Starbucks has moved a big slice of its UK consumer brief to a partnership of two agencies, 3 Monkeys and Cavendish Place Communications, after a pitch shoot-out. Starting in October, 3 Monkeys will look after UK consumer and local corporate campaigns, while Cavendish will handle local stakeholder and public affairs activity. The UK brief is thought to be worth around £250,000. RLM Finsbury will continue to handle Starbuck’s government affairs and corporate relations at a national level in the UK. The incumbent agency in the UK, Edelman, will continue as Starbucks’ global partner, providing strategic direction across the cafe chain’s European hub, including markets such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as France.

Liberation Group signs up for new Jersey site: The Liberation Group has agreed terms with local property developer Comprop, which will see the opening of a new venue in Jersey’s historic Weighbridge area. The new bar and eaterie forms part of the redevelopment of the former Southampton Hotel and Traders bar site. While exact plans for the new venue are still being finalised, it will include the ground floor and basement of the building, with an al fresco area to the south. A separate entrance, facing Liberation Square, will also lead to four floors of high-quality office accommodation. The new development will collectively be known as Weighbridge House. Liberation Group is the leading Channel Islands’ bar, eaterie and drinks distribution business. Its current investment programme has seen the refurbishment of the White Horse at Le Dicq and the transformation of Dix Neuf in St Helier into Hugo’s, a contemporary bar and diner. The company has also recently acquired the Old Court House Inn at St Aubin. The ex-Southampton building closed in 2013 and has been completely demolished except for the historic façade, which is being preserved and restored as part of the development. The group’s plans include the reinstatement of the famous “Ask for Mary Ann” signage on the entrance to the bar and restaurant.

Former Trainspotting pub reopens as upmarket spirits outlet: A former spit-and-sawdust Edinburgh pub made famous in Irving Welsh’s novel Trainspotting as the hangout of Renton, Spud, Sickboy and Begbie has reopened as an upmarket whisky bar. The Volunteer Arms in Leith Walk, nicknamed “the Volley”, is now the Cask and Still, and reopened last week with a fine ale sommelier, a fresh batch of gin distilled on-site and prime sushi. Ian Pert, of the bar’s new owner, I@G Events, said: “We’ve completely refurbished the interior, and have made quite a few changes to the business. One of the biggest differences is that, unlike The Volunteer Arms, we don’t plan on opening from 7am. We’ll be keeping more normal hours from now on.” The Cask and Still is one of several Star Pubs & Bars outlets now run by I@G, including The Spider’s Web in Morrison Street, renamed the Jolly Botanist, which has also undergone a refurbishment to turn it into a food and gin-led outlet.

Keheller Gourmet Cuisine to open second site: Keheller Gourmet Cuisine is to open a second site in Portsmouth, a family-friendly restaurant on the site of the former Bamboo restaurant in Palmerston Road. Portsmouth Council’s licensing sub-committee gave the venture the green light this week. The company will invest £150,000 into refurbishing the empty venue, which has been closed for around a year, and have it open by Christmas. It intends to run the venue in a similar vein to its other restaurant, The Belle Isle, in Osborne Road. “We love the area,” said Keheller director James Ralls. “We had been looking at places in Southampton to expand but thought we would expand first in our home city. We want to bring something new to this area.” A name for the restaurant, near the bottom of the street’s southern precinct, has not yet been decided.

TGI Friday’s launches pulse app: Following on from its successful launch in April of Pulse, a social platform that allows team members to connect and communicate with each other, TGI Friday’s has brought the tool out in a mobile app version. The platform, much like a “Facebook for Friday’s”, allows members of the “Friday’s Family” to post pictures, tell other members what they are up to, and communicate with everyone in the family. Since launch, over half of team members at Friday’s have used the desktop platform, which received 250,000 views in just three months. The company said recognition for team members was of one of the key aspects of the “Friday’s Family”, and the platform enabled and encouraged team members to upload great stories and memorable guest and team experiences. So far, more than 1,500 pieces of recognition, support and encouragement have been posted, along with 2,500 photos. This has expanded with the launch of the mobile app on 4 September. Jacqui McManus, director of culture and people development at Friday’s, said: “Pulse was a way of helping the entire Friday’s family easily communicate with each other. Having witnessed the huge success of the desktop platform, we decided as a company to invest in a Pulse mobile app to make it even easier for team members to access it and take advantage of its benefits.”

Wetherspoon applies for outdoor bar at King and Castle in Windsor: An outdoor bar could be built at the King and Castle in Windsor if a planning application by JD Wetherspoon is approved. The pub chain is hoping to build the bar at the site in Thames Street, and fit an opening and closing roof system and seating area. A decision on the application is due by 16 October.

Wyn Ellis – Whitbread second quarter results may lead to upgrades: Numis Securities’ leisure analyst Wyn Ellis, who has increased his target price for Whitbread shares to 4500p from 4300p, has forecast that yesterday’s second quarter results may lead to upgrades. He said: “Whitbread’s half year pre-close update is very strong and may lead to some upgrades in consensus numbers. Total sales growth in Q2 was 12.7% with like-for-like sales growth of 6.8% (Premier Inn 9.2%. Restaurants 1.7% and Costa 7.3%). Management says that Whitbread remains on track for another good year. We concur and expect the shares to respond positively today. Premier Inn grew total sales by 14.7% and like-for-like sales by 9.2% in the quarter, benefiting from gains in market share, a buoyant hotel market especially in the UK regions, the Farnborough Airshow and; the Commonwealth Games (which, together, added circa 1% to RevPAR). There was a 5.6% increase in UK rooms, an 8.6% growth in RevPAR and a record 87.0% occupancy. In the regions total RevPAR grew by 10.1%. In London total RevPAR grew by 1.5% as Premier Inn expanded rapidly (total sales up 10.6%.) Restaurants performed relatively well, and ahead of the market, with like-for-like sales growth of 1.7%. This represented a slowdown after a strong Q1. This slowdown is likely to have worsened slightly as the weather deteriorated in the second half of August, including a washout bank holiday. Costa had a strong summer, with total sales growth of 17.8% and like-for-like UK sales growth of 7.3%, aided by weak comps. Costa Enterprises (including Costa Express) delivered system sales up 19.1%. International system sales grew by 9.3%. We have increased our FY15E Ebit forecast by 3% to £508.6m (previously £495.1m) on the back of today’s very encouraging update. We have increased our price target to £45 (from £43) and leave our recommendation on ‘hold’.”

Yogurt producer secures contract with Costa Coffee: Northern Ireland’s only yogurt producer has secured an order with Costa Coffee. Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, launched in 2007, will supply its Greek-style yogurt to Costa’s stores in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. Costa has 87 stores across Ireland and the Clandeboye Estate Greek yoghurt will be part of a new breakfast menu featuring “mix and match” yogurt pots, crunchy granola and berry compotes. The Clandeboye Estate yogurt range is the brainchild of the estate’s owner, Lady Dufferin, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava. The yogurts are made in the traditional way using milk from Lady Dufferin’s prize-winning pedigree herd of Holstein and Jersey cows.

Town council votes OK to Marston’s pub in grounds of college: Newbury Town Council in Berkshire has said it has no objection to a plan to build a Marston’s pub-restaurant in the grounds of Newbury College. The company is seeking permission to build a family-focused pub and restaurant on land at the Monks Lane site, Greenham, adjacent to the Just Learning nursery on the fringe of the proposed Sandleford development. The pub would have space for 180 covers, a terrace, garden, and children’s play area with equipment, 59 car parking spaces and 12 cycle stands. One councillor, Julian Swift-Hook, said that while he could understand the public’s concerns at having a pub in such close proximity to a college and nursery, it was likely to be a great benefit to Greenham: “Greenham is the only ward in West Berkshire which doesn’t have a pub.” If approved, the pub is expected to create around 50 jobs. Greenham Parish Council has objected to the plans, saying that the licence application did not address the issue of unacceptable behaviour, such as drunkenness through binge drinking, and that a licensed premises in close proximity to an educational establishment, which includes a nursery school, was “inappropriate”. A final decision is expected from West Berkshire Council by 16 September.

Fifteen breweries make special beers for Bristol Beer Week: Fifteen local breweries have made special brews for this year’s Bristol Beer Week, which starts on Friday, 12 September. The one-off beers include Pero’s Beer from Wiper & True, brewed with sugar as a nod to the product that brought riches to Bristol; Vanilla Porter from the Gloucester Brewery; and a 9% brown ale from Dawkins of Timsbury called Albion. Bristol Beer Week includes beer festivals, meet-the brewer-events, food and beer tastings, a guided walking tour around a selection of the pubs on the Bristol Heritage Taverns Trail, one-off food offerings such as a special Bristol Beer Week burger at Three Brothers, on Welsh Back, beer-inspired dinners at Flinty Red and Bishopston Supper Club and the launch of the 2015 Good Beer Guide at the Beer Emporium.

Dunkin’ Donuts introduces almond milk: Dunkin’ Donuts has introduced almond milk as a “premium nondairy option” at three quarters of its more than 7,500 restaurants in the United States. The chain has suggested a 50-cent (31p) surcharge for adding almond milk instead of dairy to hot or iced coffee, although pricing is at the discretion of franchisees. Almond milk is seeing rapidly growing popularity in the United States, with consumption rising at an average annual rate of 66% since 2010, and the product now accounts for 46.4%t of all milk alternatives, which also includes soy milk and coconut milk, according to the Almond Board of California. Dunkin’ Donuts and its almond milk supplier, Blue Diamond, promoted the introduction of the product with a Twitter Sweepstakes competition in which participants could win a $100 Dunkin’ Donuts mobile gift card and a $500 grand prize.

Coconut milk tested by Starbucks as dairy alternative: Starbucks is testing coconut milk in stores in Los Angeles, Cleveland and Oregon as an alternative to traditional dairy products. However, the coffee chain is not testing almond milk, because of the “critically important safety of our customers with nut allergies”, the company said. Starbucks began offering soy milk in 1997. Overall sales of dairy milk products and nondairy alternatives in the United States grew just 1.8%to $24.5bn between 2011 and 2013, according to the market research firm Mintel. Within that grouping, the “alternative milk” category was the fastest growing, with sales rising 33% to nearly $2bn.

Pizza Hut offers one million free pizzas to customers who use online payment platform: Pizza Hut is offering one million free pizzas to customers in the United States who use its new online payment platform, Visa Checkout. The first one million customers who order a large pizza on Pizza Hut’s and pay with Visa Checkout will receive a coupon for a free one-topping pizza, redeemable on their next order. The coupon is valid for 14 days. Pizza Hut is Visa’s launch partner for the new online payment service, which was launched in July. A national TV advertising campaign for the offer show the professional surfer Kolohe Andino using Visa Checkout to pay for his delivery, mid-ocean, using a mobile device. Pizza Hut said it viewed the online payment platform as a necessity, especially as multi-channel consumers increasingly demand consistent ease of payment across all of a brand’s channels. The chain said it had been laying the groundwork to deliver on that this year. Approximately 50% of Pizza Hut’s overall online orders in 2013 originated from its mobile app, according to the chain.

M&C Report and Restaurant magazine publisher reports bumper year: M&C Report and Restaurant magazine publisher William Reed Business Media, led by Charles Reed, has reported pre-tax profit of £5.55m in the year to 31 March 2014, up from £358,000 the year before. Turnover rose to £31.79m from £22.26m the year before. A dividend of £4.2m was paid, down from £12m the year before. Of total turnover, £11.49m came from magazines (2013: £12.35m), £15.39m from face-to-face events such as conferences, events and exhibitions (2013: £6.96m), £3.57m from digital (2013: £2.60m), £490,000 came from “insight” (2013: £213,000) and £834,000 from “licensing and other” (2013: £121,000). A total of £2.3m came from international activities, thought to relate primarily to the company’s French Decision News Media business. The company bought insights and research firm Allegra Strategies and Allegra Events in December 2013 for £1.19m and associated costs of £61,000. The William Reed figures were flattered by the timing of annual and biennial exhibitions. When revenue from these is apportioned annually, turnover still grew 8% to £28m, underlying Ebitda grew by 46% to £4.4m and underlying Ebitda margin grew to 16% from 12% in 2013. The company, which also publishes Publican’s Morning Advertiser and organises the World’s 50 Best Restaurants event, had net cash of £12.22m at the end of the financial year (2013: £11m). The highest paid director earned £478,000 plus a pension contribution of £48,000. In a Companies House filing, William Reed said its risks were mitigated by a “clear commitment to invest in digital and face-to-face events to manage the transition away from magazine revenues”.

Spirit launches Fayre & Square menu chosen by children: Fayre & Square, the 159-outeletfamily pub brand from Spirit Pub Company, has launched its new children’s menu, the first to be chosen by children themselves. The ten children, who won a national competition to win a place as a Little Leader, had the decisions to make regarding the menu’s theme, new dishes, and which board game should be featured on the menu. The “mini-directors” spent the day at the brand’s support centre in Burton-upon-Trent where they picked the Under the Sea theme for the menu, voted Four in a Row as the menu’s board game, and taste-tested all the new dishes, such as chocolate brownie Noughts & Crosses and Pancake Face desserts. Helen Wallace, brand manager for Fayre & Square, said: “We’re thrilled with the menu our Little Leaders have helped create – it looks amazing and features some fantastic dishes. Initial feedback from our trials has been really positive. We see real potential in offering guest involvement in helping to shape our menus, after all they know what they want – and our Little Leaders were definitely not shy it letting us know their thoughts!” As well as the children’s menu there is also a new main and desserts menu available in pub. The menus feature dishes such as the Cheeseburger Dog, a grilled beef burger dog, “A Pie of Two Halves”, a giant pie filled with minced beef and vegetable on one side and chicken and mushroom on the other, and “Share the Square”, four desserts in one – apple crumble, spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding and chocolate sponge.

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