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Tue 16th Sep 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Administrator hires LT to run Rileys Sports Bars: Administrator Deloitte has hired LT Pub Management to operate the 44 Rileys Sports Bars that remain open after the company went into administration yesterday. The administrator will continue to trade the sites as it seeks the best outcome for creditors – but closed 15 of the company’s 59 sites within hours of being called in. This resulted in 104 redundancies at those sites, with a further 20 at the company’s head office in Milton Keynes. Rob Harding, Deloitte partner and joint administrator, said: “Following our appointment it has been necessary for us to implement certain cuts immediately. We are now working to stabilise the business following our appointment whilst we consider our options for securing the best outcome for the company’s creditors. The remaining sites continue to trade as normal and we appreciate the co-operation and support of the company’s employees, landlords, customers and other key stakeholders.” A total of 44 sites in the Rileys estate are still open. The administration comes just two months after its owner Greybull Capital, which acquired the business through a pre-pack administration less than two years ago, was reported to be considering its options for the business after a sharp rebound in profit. The chain, which took over the running of the Sports Cafe on Haymarket in the West End of London last year, had gone from making less than £1m of pre-tax profit to more than £2m.

Industry News:

Innovative London gastro-pub operator to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference: One of London’s leading gastro-pub operators is to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 November at the Lancaster Hotel in London. Simon Holroyd, managing director of London’s most innovative gastro-pub operator, Noble Inns, talks about what the company’s journey, its food offer, approach to design – and its new concept, developed with executive chef Neil Rankin. Operators can book up to two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Deadline looms for sector benchmarking survey: This is the final week for operators to take part in the haysmacintyre Propel Benchmarking survey, which has a deadline for entries of Monday 21 September. Propel is partnering chartered accountant and tax advisors haysmacintyre to produce the most comprehensive benchmarking survey ever undertaken in the hospitality sector. Those taking part will have access to the full results. Propel managing director Paul Charity said: “We think the results will prove invaluable in allowing sector businesses to understand how they compare to industry averages in key areas of the business. All information provided to us will be treated in strictest confidence – and the results go straight to haysmacintyre without Propel seeing them. However, we would like to simply list the companies who took part in the study (if you wish to be kept totally anonymous please tick the box at the end of the survey).” To take part in the survey go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZKBXRRR

Punch Taverns to hold networking event for multi-site operators: Punch Taverns is to hold a networking event for multi-site operators to discuss opportunities within the estate. The event takes place on Monday 3 November at Fuller’s Parcel Yard in Kings Cross. London, starting at 5.30pm. Any multiple operator that would like to attend e-mail Punch partner resourcing consultant James Watts on james.watts@punchtaverns.com

Survey shows hospitality firms not happy with staff customers skills levels: The latest research insight report from People 1st has suggested that customer service skills are still not up to the standard that employers in the hospitality industry would like to see. The report found that while 87% of businesses said that customer service would be important for them in the next three to five years, 53% of employers believe that their employees lacked these vital skills. The insight report found that the case was even worse for sales and customer service roles, where 70% of employees were believed not to have the right skills. Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st, said that while a lot of work had been done in the past few years to address customer service needs, there was clearly a lot more work to be done.

Company News:

Red’s True Barbecue plans four openings in 2015, close to unveiling investment: Red’s True Barbecue is planning to open four sites in 2015 with the first one scheduled for Nottingham in January. The company is also close to unveiling fresh investment. Founders James Douglas, a former property entrepreneur, and Scott Munro, a one-time sales director, launched their first outlet in Leeds in 2012. “There’s no way we’d be as big as we are now without social media,” Douglas told The Daily Telegraph. “We’re getting 50,000 unique sessions on our website each month as a result. That’s astronomical for a start-up restaurant business.” Turnover at the company hit £2.5m last year but sales across its four sites now top £600,000 every month. About 45,000 tonnes of meat are served across the company’s restaurants each month. Red’s is close to unveiling a major investment deal involving eight angel investors, chairmen and chief executives from within the restaurant and leisure industries. The deal amount is undisclosed but Douglas told The Telegraph: “It’ll be enough cash to launch all our sites next year, and possibly last us into 2016.” Each site costs between £1.1m and £1.5m on average to launch. The goal is a total of 20 sites within the next three years. To help accelerate Red’s growth plans, the pair have already brought in Brandon Stephens, the founder of Tortilla, as non-executive director.

Little Gems Country Dining places freehold on the market to release expansion cash: Little Germs Country Dining, led by Steve Wilkins, has placed the freehold of The Howard Arms in Lower Green, Ilmington, Gloucestershre, on the market through agent Colliers International for £1.25m. It offers eight letting bedrooms and produces profit in the region of £148,000. Peter Brunt, of Colliers, said: “The Howard Arms is a superb pub. Little Gems bought the Howard Arms in July 2008 and developed many of the quite delightful letting bedrooms while continuing the excellent reputation the business had for its food and beverage offering. However, the Cotswolds are now outside (the company’s) preferred geographical trading area as they have expanded with more pubs further south. The sale is a strategic move for them to release capital to invest in leasehold properties which is their preferred way forward – and offers a rare opportunity to acquire one of this region’s best presented and trading residential inns.”

Spearmint Rhino survives licence challenge – at least until next month: Spearmint Rhino has survived a licensing challenge as councillors rejected calls to shut down its flagship venue in Tottenham Court Road. Neighbours had urged the local authority to turn down the club’s bid to renew its sexual entertainment licence on the grounds that the club caused late-night disturbance and no longer fitted into the changing character of Bloomsbury. But after a four-hour meeting, Camden’s licensing committee agreed to allow the club to keep operating, until next month at least. Under licensing rules, the club has to renew its licence every year. On this occasion, it has taken Spearmint Rhino nearly 11 months to obtain after long negotiations over whether the club should be allowed to make amendments to its licence, such as the introduction of 24-hour opening hours, a move the club abandoned earlier this year. The delay means the licence granted will only apply until the end of October when the process starts all over again. As part of the new arrangements, the club is reducing the size of walls in private dance areas to ensure greater visibility for security. 

Bourgee opens first site: A new chain of affordable luxury steak and lobster restaurants, Bourgee, headed up by a Great British Menu chef Mark Baumann, has opened in Southend, Essex. Since bookings began to be taken in the week leading up to launch, over 500 tables have already been reserved. Owners plan 20 Bourgee restaurants across the UK within a few years. Baumann said: “Most people’s experience of steak is cheap rubbish cuts in a supermarket that are badly cooked or the occasional standard steak in a restaurant. In a few places in the big cities the steaks are good – but the majority of us have to put up with rubbish. So we are going to change that. We have spent a year sourcing the perfect meat, and I’m proud to say we are one of the only restaurants in the UK to import our meat from a specialist cattle farm in Northern Spain. The cattle are reared in perfect lush conditions, with the famous Spanish meat expert Luismi hand selecting the faultless cuts for Bourgee, leaving a steak that is amazingly succulent and tasty. Following this we hang the meat for the perfect amount of time and then our slightly obsessive and crazed head chef Ben Wells cooks the meat on a specialist Josper grill.”

Coal Bar and Grill lines up Telford opening: Coal Grill and Bar, led by founder and chief executive John Gater and backed by private equity firm Beringea, will open its ninth restaurant in the £250m Southwater development in Telford town centre. The new restaurant is expected to open mid November and will be the third opening in 2014 for this fast-expanding national chain. Coal Grill and Bar will invest over £700,000 in creating the stylish, contemporary restaurant and will service over 100 covers. Coal Grill and Bar’s signature cocktail bar will be located at the front of the 3500 square feet restaurant which will overlook the water and the park. Gater said: “We consider our locations carefully when opening a new restaurant. The location of our latest restaurant opening in Telford provides us with the perfect mix of shopping and leisure facilities. We have experienced great success in opening in locations with the combination of the two which provides a platform for trading across the day. We have a further six restaurants due to open in 2015 taking the total number of units to 16.”

Elgoods pledges support for Tax Equality Day: Wisbech-based brewer and retailer Elgoods, which has 35 tenanted pubs across West Norfolk and the Fens, has pledged its support for Tax Equality Day on Wednesday 24 September. Kate Pateman, directors’ secretary at Elgoods, said: “What they’re looking for is parity with supermarket food to encourage people to go out to eat more often. Anything we can do to bring down the cost of eating out down we hope will help the pub industry.”

Hydes unveils name for Manchester boutique hotel and pub: The Manchester brewer Hydes has revealed the name for the boutique hotel, pub and restaurant it is set to open in the city’s Northern Quarter district – it will be called the Abel Heywood Boutique Hotel and will open in November. Abel Heywood was an English publisher, radical and mayor of Manchester. He set up a penny reading room in Manchester in 1831 and went on to set up bookselling business in Oldham Street. The company is planning to convert five buildings on the corner of Turner Street and Red Lion Street, opposite the Solita restaurant, into a large gastro-pub with 14 hotel rooms and space for private dining.

Jamie Rollo – Whitbread has increased lead over Travelodge on room revenue generation: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has reported that Whitbread’s Premier Inn budget hotel brand has increased its lead over Travelodge in terms of revenue generated per room per annum. He said: “Whitbread’s Premier Inn generated circa £18,000 revenue per UK room in the year to February 2014, circa 60% higher than Travelodge (just filed for the year ended December 2013). This gap was 40% as recently as 2009, and Premier Inns’ strong outperformance reflects its higher quality product, which has seen far greater investment, leading to a higher corporate mix and higher RevPAR, as well as higher restaurant income. Premier Inn will continue to invest and churn its tail, but its RevPAR growth is circa 400bps weaker than its segment as Travelodge recovers some share. This does not really matter while UK hotel demand remains robust (and Premier Inn reported a strong Q2; we upped EPS 1%), but with tougher comps coming, London weak, and Premier Inns expansion targets now looking a little ambitious, there could be a better entry point for Whitbread shares.”

JD Wetherspoon reports Good Beer Guide progress: JD Wetherspoon has reported that 315 of its pubs are included in the 2015 Camra Good Beer Guide, which is 34% of the estate and compares with 20% of the estate that was included in 2007. The company also reported that staff retention is at its highest ever level with the average length of service for pubs managers now at ten years and one month and six years and six months for kitchen managers. The company paid bonuses of £29.2m in its latest financial year (2013: £28.1m) with 82% of bonus awards made to employees in pubs. More than 10,000 employees are shareholders in the company out of a total workforce of 34,000 employees, with more than 3,000 of these jobs created in the past 12 months.

Korean brand opens in Leeds: A sales director has partnered a German businessman to bring a Korean brand to Leeds. Adam Harris has opened Bulgogi Grill at the Merrion Centre in partnership with business partner Jason Kim Lee, creating ten jobs – Kim Lee operates the brand at a site in Cologne, Germany. Harris said: “The amazing flavours and tastes are what attracted me to Korean food.”

Furniture shop boss steps away from Farnham site: The ‘furniture shop’ known as Innsatiable in Farnham is to become an official nightclub and bar after its controversial owner walked away from the premises. In 2012, Simon Atkins opened what he claimed was a furniture shop where alcohol was given away free but furniture was sold. He circumvented licensing laws for several months by providing alcohol in return for the purchase of beer mats. Atkins announced he had relinquished the lease of the Woolmead venue so he can focus on making his unlicensed model a success in London. The lease has been taken over by brothers Ollie and George Moore, who run a DJ, sound and light company called Licked. Starting on 20 September, they will open the premises at 12 and 13 East Street on Friday and Saturday nights. Under the terms of a licence granted to Mr Atkins during his final days as proprietor last month, the venue may stay open only until 12.30am. The brothers intend to apply to Waverley Borough Council for a permanent licence that would allow them to remain open until 3am on Saturdays and 1am on Fridays all year round.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen to trial LiveRES: Leading online booking system LiveRES has announced it is partnering with Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) to offer online reservations for its customers. GBK was founded in 2001 by a trio of New Zealanders and now has more than 60 restaurants across the UK. The adoption of online reservations is a further attempt to set the brand apart from its competition and allow more customers to plan their evening around a visit to GBK. The LiveRES system will be trialed during the pre-Christmas peaks of November and December. LiveRES managing director Samantha Grocott said: “This deal with GBK is a great coup for LiveRES. We are creating a bespoke system, which will easily integrate with GBK’s existing infrastructure and allow management to get maximum results from minimum effort. Our systems ensure that marketing data is retained by GBK alone allowing them to develop a one-to-one relationship with each customer.” GBK marketing director Katie McDermott added: “More and more customers are choosing to book online either at home on their PC or on the move over a mobile device. We are pleased to be working with LiveRES on a reservations system that works well for both our staff and our customers.”

Scottish pizza company signs healthy product deal with Spirit Fayre and Square brand: A Scottish pizza company has signed a major deal with Spirit’s Fayre and Square brand. Eat Balanced, which aims to make its products healthier than alternatives already on the market, declined to specify the exact value of the contract but indicated the agreement with Spirit Pub Group was likely to be worth more than six figures. Eat Balanced’s new Pizza Power Kids brand will be on the menu in Spirit’s outlets with the Glasgow-based business, hoping it could sell up to 500,000 of the cheese and tomato product. The pizza includes seaweed among the ingredients in its base ,which has allowed the company to lower the levels of sodium to 3.5%, which compares favourably to the 40% present in some other brands. The seaweed also provides vitamins such as iron. It is also said to be lower in saturated fat than other competitors while the red pepper puree sauce contains a dose of vitamins A and C. The company stated its five-inch children’s pizzas provide around 15% of the guideline daily amounts of nutrients a child needed.

MEATliquor publishes cookbook on Thursday: MEATliquor, the company led by Yianni Papoustis and Scott Collins, publishes its first cookery book, this Thursday (18 September) through Faber and Faber, costing £25. The blurb for the book states: “Starting out with the adventures had in the original MEATwagon, back in 2009, The MEATliquor Chronicles lays disrespectful waste to the accepted notion of what a cookbook associated with a famous restaurant can and might be. Yes, there are food and cocktail recipes that you can make at home. But this is a book, too, with a story and a mission. Yianni and Scott have welcomed Booker Prize-winning author DBC Pierre in-house to help reconstruct their intoxicating and intoxicated journey from South London reprobates to gastronomic enfants terribles. Lavishly illustrated and designed, and with contributions from a host of bleeding-edge chefs, The MEATliquor Chronicles is the Unholy Cow of all cookery books, and a manifesto of true pleasure.”

Mary Berry sells food firm for £2.5m: Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry has earned £2.5 million after selling her food firm. She set up Mary Berry & Daughter with her younger child Annabel Bosher 20 years ago. It produces salad dressings, sauces and chutneys and made £200,000 profit in the last 18 months. But latest records show it was renamed MBD Foods earlier this year and sold to one of Britain’s biggest grocery firms, RH Amar & Co. It is understood the deal allows the new owners to carry on using Mary’s name to sell goods. Annabel, 43, Mary’s son Thomas, a 46-year-old tree surgeon, and her husband Paul Hunnings will all receive cash windfalls.

Top fish and chip shop supplier takes West Midlands site for distribution presence: F Smales & Son, which supplies more than 3,000 of the country’s fish and chip shops, has taken 6,000 sq ft of space at the City Park Trading Estate site in Stoke-on-Trent in order to have a regional presence. It will use the site to distribute its range of frozen fish and food products. The 75-year-old family-owned company, which grew out of a market stall in Hull, has signed a three-year lease and will create six new jobs with the opening of the new distribution centre. Robin Orr, financial director at F Smales, said: “The City Park Trading Estate is an ideal location for a cross-docking operation to service fish and chip shops in the West Midlands region.”

McDonald’s UK extends Scottish grassroots football partnership: Hundreds of grassroots football clubs in Scotland are set to benefit from a renewed partnership between McDonald’s UK and The Scottish Football Association. The new four-year programme will focus on supporting Quality Mark clubs and their volunteers to help raise the standards of grassroots football across Scotland and improve the experience for everyone involved. As part of the programme, McDonald’s will be giving over 350 Quality Mark clubs with a junior team the opportunity to order a brand new Adidas strip every year for the next four seasons with the potential for over 4,500 strips to be distributed to clubs across Scotland in the first year.

UBS downgrades Whitbread over shared accommodation threat: UBS has downgraded leisure group Whitbread from ‘neutral’ to ‘sell’, saying that the hotel industry is “under threat”. The bank has trimmed its target price for the stock from 4,450p to 4,200p, saying that the current valuation is “full”. UBS said that increased supply from shared accommodation is likely to affect the hotel industry, “especially those hotels with a low business mix and operate in the economy/budget sectors”. It said that Airbnb, through which people can rent out spare rooms or even entire homes, has a “sweet spot” in the single-room occupancy market. “While we estimate 55% of Whitbread clients travel for business and the company operates in the UK midscale and economy segment we do not think they will be immune from some of the impact from shared accommodation,” analysts stated. It estimates that Airbnb currently has a 3% share of accommodation supply currently in London, an important market for Whitbread.

Wyn Ellis – SABMiller now in play after failed Heineken approach: Numis Securities leisure analyst Wyn Ellis has argued that SABMiller is now in play after its failed approach to merge with Heineken – he has a Target Price of 4100p on SABMiller shares and a buy recommendation. He said: “SABMiller had (in the last two weeks) made a preliminary offer for Heineken, which had been rejected by the family that controls Heineken. The Heineken family, which owns circa 50% of Heineken, confirmed that an offer did take place, but it intends “to preserve the heritage and identity of Heineken as company.” Heineken has said that does not intend to make any further public statements in relation to this. We believe SABMiller could now be considered to be “in play” and view AB InBev is a potential acquirer. The two companies have complementary geographical footprints, although there would be obvious competition concerns. We believe AB InBev management would be excited by the prospect of achieving dominant global leadership via a deal with SABMiller. The potential for synergies would also be very substantial. We would expect SABMiller to shares to trade better on this news and we move from Add to Buy and increase our target price to 4,100p from 3,500p.”

Marston’s new-build in Berkshire takes step forward: A Marston’s pub restaurant in the grounds of Newbury College in West Berkshire came a step closer last week as Newbury Town Council voted to pass the scheme. The company is seeking permission to build a family-focused pub and restaurant on land at the Monks Lane site, adjacent to the Just Learning nursery on the fringe of the proposed Sandleford development. Coun 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.

Daily Express – Wagamama is targeting 50 openings: Wagamama is planning to open 50 more restaurants, creating up to 2,000 jobs, as it ramps up its expansion plans, The Daily Express has claimed. Owned by private equity firm Duke Street Capital, the company has asked property agents to find appropriate locations. The company, which has just opened its 110th site in the UK, is targeting London and the South-east. Sales rose 13.5% last year to £141.2 million, while pre-tax profits nudged up 1% to £17.6 million.

Andy Murray hotel fails heath inspection: A hotel owned by tennis star Andy Murray has been criticised by inspectors after failing a food hygiene inspection. Chez Roux, the restaurant at five-star Cromlix House, has been told improvements are needed before it’s approved by the Food Standards Agency. But bosses at the hotel, near Kinbuck, Perthshire, have stated the problems stemmed from an isolated issue with a handwash sink, which has been fixed. The £1.8 million venue – named Scotland’s Hotel of the Year just 27 days after it opened in April – was inspected in July by Stirling Council and issued with an “improvement required” rating. The FSA said the classification means that the restaurant “has not achieved an acceptable level of compliance with requirements of food hygiene law”.

Burger King launching loan package: Burger King is launching a $7.25 billion loan package to finance its $11.5 billion acquisition of Canadian quick service restaurant chain Tim Hortons. The loan package includes a $6.75 billion, seven-year term loan B and a $500 million, five-year revolver. Burger King is backed by private equity firm 3G Capital, which is its majority shareholder owning 70% of the restaurant chain. Conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway is also providing $3 billion of preferred equity financing for the transaction.

UK craft brewers hampered by lack of canning capacity: UK craft brewers are in a foot race to put beer in cans, but cost of entry and a lack of canning facilities are seriously hampering progress, according to Paul Kruzycki, managing director of leading online beer retailer, Ales by Mail. He said: “For many, craft beer in cans is sacrilege, but the reality is that cans not only keep beer in great condition and protect the beer from the likes of light strike. We’re seeing this new found love of canned craft beer in our sales numbers – the demand for cans is off the charts and is only hampered by the availability, or should I say the lack of availability of UK craft beer in cans – pioneered by Camden and more recently, Beavertown. The success of craft beer in cans across the pond has been vast, with likes of Oskar Blues and Ska Brewing putting out great beer in cans for years now.”

Fuller’s launches Made of London initiative in partnership with The London Evening Standard: Fuller’s is to bring five inspirational speakers to a series of events in Fuller’s pubs across the capital as part of its London Pride Made of London campaign. Names from sport, exploration and music will entertain small audiences with a discussion and Q&A session. The activity will be supported with a series of articles on other inspirational Londoners who may not be so well known, but who pay an active role in the rich fabric of London life. The speaker programme starts today (16 September) with world champion boxer David Haye taking up residence at The Parcel Yard in King’s Cross. The event is limited to an audience of 45 people and tickets will be available through The Evening Standard. This will be followed by English rugby superstar Jason Leonard at The Counting House on 7 October, Alex James – cheesemaker and Blur bassist – on 4 November at The Admiralty and Radio One’s Jo Whiley on 11 November at The Tokenhouse. The line-up is completed with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the UK’s leading explorer, on 19 November at The Counting House.

Olympic winner Kelly Holmes set to open her own cafe: Double gold Olympic winner Dame Kelly Holmes is set open her own coffee shop, Café 1809 Hildenborough. She said: “People don’t often realise how committed I am to Hildenborough and Tonbridge and I wanted to do something which other people would enjoy and I hope they are a bit surprised about it. It’s been a journey and I’ve project managed the whole thing myself. I would rather give this place a go and think I’ve followed my heart because I would have regretted it. I don’t like what ifs and I’m glad I’ve tried and this is the outcome.” John Barnett, an interior designer from Tunbridge Wells, helped bring Dame Kelly’s vision to life through the use of different materials and textures to create the “relaxed warehouse” vibe she was after. The café also features a self-serve frozen yoghurt machine and plans to have meeting rooms and a beauty therapy room upstairs.

ALMR honours the best of the late-night sector: The best in the late-night hospitality sector were honoured on Sunday night as the Late Night Awards were dispensed at the second annual Dusk ‘til Dawn ceremony at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham. Manchester-based operator of Manchester House restaurant and the Australasia and Alchemist brands, Living Ventures took home the award for best food offer. London cocktail chain, Be At One was crowned best drinks winner, while Luminar, the owner of the Liquid, Oceana and Fictions brands was named best for entertainment. Operator of the Belushi’s chain, Beds and Bars was named best for late-night marketing, while Stonegate won the award for best service and team development. Harewood Group’s Viper Room nightclubs were also honoured for their work developing and refining their hospitality.

TGI Friday’s set open eighth Scottish site next month: TGI Friday’s plans to open an outlet in the Silverburn shopping centre on the south side of Glasgow next month, creating 90 jobs. The business said it expects the restaurant will open on Wednesday, 22 October. It will seat up to 234 guests. Mark McGettigan, general manager for TGI Friday’s Silverburn, said: “There is a huge appetite for Fridays in Glasgow and we’re extremely excited to be opening our fourth restaurant here.” TGI Friday’s has 64 restaurants in the UK, including seven in Scotland.

Hospitality Guild executive join PR agency: Sophie Roberts-Brown, operations director of the Hospitality Guild, has been appointed as associate director at William Murray Communications. She joins the agency with more than 16 years’ experience in the hospitality sector on Monday 6 October 2014. Her brief includes developing the digital side of the business. Anita Murray, joint chief executive, William Murray Communications, said: “We’re thrilled Sophie is joining the team. We’ve grown our business by more than 40% over the last couple of years through organic growth and key strategic client wins. We’ve moved to new offices and have invested in our team. Sophie’s experience and network will play a key role helping us continue with our ambitious plans.”

Luke Johnson – treating the public like infants on alcohol is not the answer: Sector investor Luke Johnson has criticised the current debate on alcohol consumption. In his Management Today column, he states: “Recently, the All Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse published a series of recommendations to stem what it described as a ‘pandemic’ of alcoholism. Among its suggestions were further restrictions on the marketing of booze, minimum pricing of alcohol, drinks carrying health warnings, and cutting the drink-drive limit. The usual chorus from the medical do-gooders chimed in supporting these moves. To me such initiatives are all evidence of a nanny state that has little trust in the judgement of its citizens, and condescends to them with ever more rules and laws. I have direct personal experience of problem drinkers, have read about the subject widely, and even served as chairman of an addiction charity for a while. I do not minimise the health risks of the demon drink. But treating the public like infants is not the answer. Moreover, the problem is receding. Of course, this inconvenient fact does not suit the puritanical interests who would love to see us all become teetotal. Overall alcohol sales are down over 20% since 2004 and continue to decline every year. Binge drinking, the monster which took over Britain’s town centres in the 1990s, is estimated to have fallen far more – by perhaps as much as half from its peak. Over 80% of drinkers consume alcohol well within the advised limits. A recent book, Cultural Wars and Moral Panic by Paul Chase, describes the campaigning by anti-alcohol zealots and rehearses the arguments over the subject well”.

Survey finds diners maintain alcohol consumption: A survey by mystery dining company Hospitality GEM has found nine out of ten respondents said they drink alcohol when eating out, with the same figure stating that their consumption has not declined in the past year. The majority drink in moderation, with 46% consuming two drinks per meal, and only 1% drinking four or more. The biggest influence on the amount drunk according to diners is a special occasion, with price and drink drive limits following close behind. While it is perhaps no surprise that Friday and Saturday are the most popular days to drink alcohol, the survey also showed that 34% of respondents are most likely to drink on a Sunday – perhaps demonstrating the long-lasting appeal of a relaxed Sunday lunch with a bottle of wine. In terms of drinking companions, it is our spouses/partners who are the most popular, with 74% saying these are who they are most likely to drink with. This is followed by friends (52%), although colleagues lag far behind on 17% – perhaps indicating after-work socialising is not a popular choice. The research found that guests are more likely to be susceptible to upselling on Fridays and Saturdays, as they are already drinking more at these times. Therefore, if staff pay attention to the guests that are drinking more and upsell accordingly, there may be greater opportunities for increased sales. Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGEM, said: “It’s certainly interesting to see that people are not choosing to drink less alcohol with their meals, which seems to indicate that it is the causal drinker who is in decline. For the operator, our research demonstrates the importance of encouraging staff to pay close attention to their individual customers rather than adopting a cookie cutter approach. If one table is drinking wine, while another is sticking to soft drinks, it makes more sense to focus on upselling alcohol to the first – perhaps offering coffees or additional sides to the other table.”

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