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Wed 24th Sep 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Spirit rejects 100p a share offer from Greene King: Spirit Pub Company has rejected a 100p a share offer from brewer and retailer Greene King, worth £660.5m. A deal would create the UK’s biggest managed pubs group, with brands that include Hungry Horse, Loch Fyne, Fayre and Square, Taylor Walker and Chef & Brewer. In addition, a combined Greene King and Spirit would operate around 1,300 tenanted and leased pubs, the third largest estate in the UK behind Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns. A leak to The Financial Times yesterday prompted Greene King to confirm in a statement it had approached the board of Spirit “in relation to a potential combination of the two companies”. Observers believe Greene King is set to return with a revised bid of 110p. It has a deadline of 21 October to make a firm offer. Spirit said its board had received “a highly preliminary and conditional approach” from Greene King on 15 September of 100p a share in Greene King shares, which it rejected three days later. It said it noted Greene King’s statement about a possible offer, adding the board “remains fully confident in the ongoing execution of Spirit’s strategy as an independent company”. Spirit’s share price rose nearly 18% on its closing share price on Monday of 75p. Greene King shares were up 0.8% to 800p. Greene King’s bid to buy Spirit comes after the company withdrew from the auction to buy Orchid Group in June, which was won by Mitchells & Butlers. However, a successful acquisition of Spirit would catapult Greene King to the top of the managed pub rankings. The Greene King approach is testament to the progress made at Spirit under chief executive Mike Tye. He has overseen the creation of the Flaming Grill, Taylor Walker and Flaming Grill brands with site Ebitda pushing above £200,000 per managed, broadly in line with JD Wetherspoon.

Industry News:

Piper Private Equity executive to present at Propel Multi Club Conference: A Piper Private Equity executive is to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 20 November at the Lancaster Hotel, London W2. Yasha Estraikh will explain how the firm uses CACI market analysis and consultancy as part of assessing the viability of potential investments and the successful expansion of their existing brands. Operators can claim two free operator places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

Greene King Tracker shows August increase in household leisure spend: The latest Greene King Leisure Spend Tracker reports a 2% year-on-year rise in the amount British households spent on leisure during August. Household spend was up £5 to £247 on total leisure spending last month, driven by eating out. The average household spent 11% more on eating out compared to the same month last year, which was led by households with children, indicating the importance of dining out for Britons. Steve Jebson, Greene King’s commercial director, said: “With eating out up 11% compared to last year, it is clear this activity is becoming an increasingly important part of the British household’s leisure repertoire, particularly in family households. We believe the disappointing August weather drove customers to eat inside restaurants rather than in pub beer gardens. It would also appear that eating out is becoming less of a luxury, but increasingly the preferred way for people to spend their time with friends and family.” There was also year-on-year growth in total leisure spend across households across the whole of Great Britain, revealing that the whole country is showing positive signs of growth as the economy recovers.

Orderella covers the cost of Tax Equality Day: Orderella, the market leading mobile ordering app, has pledged its support for the 15,000 pubs and restaurants taking part in Tax Equality Day today (Wednesday 24 September) by announcing it will cover the cost of the reduction for all operators using its app. On Tax Equality Day, all food and drink ordered through Orderella, at any of the 100 sites currently using the app, including the Porterhouse, Bar Sport and Oakman Inns, will be discounted by 7.5%. This will demonstrate to the customer the impact a VAT cut would have on prices. In an unprecedented move, Orderella will cover the cost of the price deduction for all orders, at all venues using the app. This means the operator’s bottom line will not be affected in any way by Orderella’s decision to support this campaign. Dennis Collet, Orderella’s chief executive, said: “We’re passionate about the hospitality industry and very keen to support it in any way we can; the campaign to reduce the VAT rate at restaurant, hotels, pubs and bars is one we feel particularly strongly about. By offering a price cut of 7.5% on all food and drink ordered through our app on 24 September, we hope to help demonstrate the value of a cut in the VAT rate, without passing on any costs to the operator.” Jacques Borel, of VAT Club Jacques Borel, said: “We are delighted and very grateful that Orderella will be taking part in Tax Equality Day and their decision to cover the cost of the price reduction demonstrates their confidence in our determination to bring about change that will benefit the whole industry.”

Luke Johnson – Tesco obsessed over small financial and legal issues when sold Giraffe: Sector investor Luke Johnson has claimed that Tesco is hooked on unsustainable profit margins. In his Financial Times column, he writes: “I don’t know Tesco as a business that well, but I did sell them a business last year for £49m. I found them to be mostly straightforward dealers, albeit they tended to obsess over small financial and legal issues – sometimes missing the wood for the trees. Hence I’m as shocked as many in the investment community at the announcement of a £250m accounting misstatement on Monday. This is a very large sum to get wrong, even for a company as big as Tesco. Unfortunately, I think the problems at Tesco are not simply the single issue of this profit exaggeration. Possibly the root of the problem is that the business is hooked on unsustainable operating margins. It is undergoing a painful readjustment to its trading model as it tries to cope with ferocious competition – particularly from low-cost rivals. I also believe the stewardship at Tesco has been woeful. The board of directors must accept responsibility for the way the organisation has been led and governed. This enormous error has occurred under their watch: they cannot pretend it is someone else’s fault.”

Dagenham and Barking local authority adopts powers to protect pubs: Powers to try and stem the tide of the borough’s pubs being sold off or left to ruin have been agreed by councillors in Barking and Dagenham in East London. A report highlighting the decline of Barking and Dagenham’s pub stock put before councillors showed that within the last quarter of a century they have fallen from 48 down to 28, mostly in the past decade. After a six-month consultation at the start of this year, the report recommended the council approve a supplementary planning order (SPO) that will see the authority resist the loss, change of use, redevelopment or demolition of a pub. The SPO states that a pub must have been marketed for a year as a pub at a council-agreed price and that there has been “no interest in the free or leasehold as a pub” with evidence showing it is not “economically viable” for community use before a change of use application will be permitted.

HospitalityGEM – customers feedback shows drop in service standards over Christmas: The guest experience management expert HospitalityGEM has revealed that service standards drop significantly over the Christmas period. From hundreds of responses that are received each month on “benchmark” questions, the patterns suggest a potential impact on service and a cost in terms of lost opportunities over the festive period. It was discovered that manager presence on the restaurant floor dropped by 22% over Christmas, while the number of diners who were wished goodbye dropped by 27%. This suggests a risk that some restaurants will take their eye off the ball when it comes to managing individual experiences, seeing it as a mass-production operation instead. This is supported by figures which show that the number of diners who receive a check-back dropped by 20% during the Christmas period, and staff offering customers a second drink dropped by a massive 40%. This suggests there is a potentially significant loss of opportunity when it comes to revenue too. The guest’s likelihood to return or recommend also falls over the festive period – by 10%.

Company News:

JW Lees appoints Roy Ellis to its management board: JW Lees has appointed Inventive Leisure founder Roy Ellis to its management board as an external adviser as Sally Hopson steps down following the Pets at Home IPO. Ellis will support the JW Lees management team as JW Lees accelerates its growth plans. William Lees-Jones, managing director of JW Lees, said: “We first met Roy nearly 20 years ago when we were supplying Inventive Leisure with wines and spirits through our Willoughby’s subsidiary. Roy is one of the finest operators of our generation and we are lucky to have him on board. Watch this space.”

La Tasca launches new menu, reports 88% rise in Half Year Ebitda: La Tasca has launched its new menu, which sees its biggest change since it switched from 85% frozen to 85% fresh in a radical menu overall of October 2012. The new menu sees many improvements including a premium section featuring hand-carved Iberico meat as well as a signature Spanish lemon chicken brochetta. Chief executive Simon Wilkinson said: “We are very excited about the new food menu which follows the successful launch of our own dedicated sangria menu last month which features over 14 different sangria cocktails. August saw the half-way point of our financial year and, with like-for-like UK Ebitda up 88% after six months, the business continues to flourish and grow ahead of expectations. We are very close to adding more new sites following the Leadenhall acquisition and the site at the NIA Birmingham, which is due to open in December. Christmas bookings are currently well ahead of the same point last year and we have just signed a deal to put a range of over 14 different products across over 300 supermarket stores, so the business is very buoyant.”

Marston’s to rebuild Wolverhampton headquarters: Brewer and retailer Marston’s is to undertake a multi-million pound re-build of its headquarters in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton. The company will replace its existing 1960s office block with a modern building on the same site, overlooking the city’s ring road. The work will involve the demolition and rebuilding of the Marston’s House office, the management hub for the brewer and its 1,800 pubs nationwide. While that is going on, the 500 office staff will move across the road to Coniston House, where they will work for the 12 months it is expected to take to have the new offices completed. A planning application was submitted this week.

Clink to open first restaurant in a UK women’s prison: The first public restaurant to be established in a UK women’s prison is to open in Cheshire. The eatery, designed to help improve ex-offenders’ employment prospects, will open at HMP Styal in 2015. Governor John Hewitson said it would let people “see first-hand how we’re helping to prepare women for release”. It will be the fourth such establishment set up by the Prison Service and the charity Clink. The other three are in male prisons. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the restaurant would allow inmates to “gain food preparation, food service and cleaning City and Guilds NVQ qualifications”, as well as experience working within a real business. Clink’s chief executive, Chris Moore, said opening at Styal meant the charity could “increase our training efforts to continue to bridge the skills gap in the hospitality industry” and hopefully “continue seeing a decrease in reoffending rates with support from businesses and the public”.

Rosa’s secures its fifth site: Thai Café concept Rosa’s has secured it fifth site after agent Davis Coffer Lyons completed the letting at 246 Fulham Road on behalf of City Heritage Ltd. Rosa’s has taken a new lease at a rent rising to £70,000 per annum. From its beginnings as a street food stall at Truman Brewery’s Sunday UpMarket in Spitalfields, Rosa’s Thai Café has grown to a successful chain with a book value of £5m. It now operates cafes in Spitalfields, Soho, Westfield Stratford City and Carnaby with a further opening in Islington due later this year. City Heritage Ltd, owned by Julian Pycraft, is a niche development company which specialises in regenerating obsolete commercial buildings and converting them into useable space for London’s thriving leisure and business communities. Rob Meadows, leisure property consultant at Davis Coffer Lyons, said: “This is the third site we have found for Rosa’s and we are thrilled to have played such a central role in rolling the brand out across London. It is a great operation, which is incredibly popular with diners across the Capital and we look forward to assisting them with further sites in the future.”

Chapel Down hits £3.9m in crowd-funding investment: Wine maker Chapel Down has smashed crowd-funding records by raising £3,909,403 through more than 1,000 investors in just 12 days, more than three times its original target. Chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “Our smaller investors are more like pilgrims in their passion and commitment to Chapel Down.” The crowd-funding initiative is still open to investors on Seedrs and Chapel Down will accept up to £3.95m. Thompson said: “There is no doubt that there is the appetite for crowd-funding on this scale. We are democratising share ownership and giving benefits to all shareholders. Those who benefit most are those who support us most. We think that’s a great proposition and attractive to a very wide range of investors. The future for English wines in general and Chapel Down in particular is very bright.” Chapel Down is planning to use the money raised to plant more vines to meet demand, build a new winery and a brewery as well as extending its Tenterden hospitality facility.

Wagamama decides against Telford opening, Coal Bar and Grill to take site instead: Wagamama is no longer planning to open a branch at Southwater in Telford, Shropshire. The brand was one of a number of new restaurants due to open in the multi-million pound development. The decision has reportedly been made as part of a national review of all of the chain’s new openings. The vacant premises will, instead, be taken over by Coal Bar and Grill, the company backed by the private equity firm Beringea. A spokesman for Telford and Wrekin Council said: “We are obviously disappointed that Wagamama has decided not to open a restaurant in the new £250m Southwater development, which has transformed Telford town centre. We initially announced Wagamama with their agreement along with the other restaurants and leisure facilities and up until very recently we believed they would still be opening. However, we are delighted that we are able to welcome Coal Grill and Bar in to the unit that Wagamama were due to occupy.”

Darden Restaurant faces lawsuit over ‘mis-timed’ sale: The company that owns the Olive Garden restaurant chain in the United States is being sued by shareholders over its recent sale of another chain, Red Lobster. The lawsuit alleges that Darden Restaurants’ board of directors misled shareholders by claiming that the seafood chain was in decline and needed to be spun off, when in fact the business was poised for a rebound. The suit cites a confidential debt offering document from June in which Red Lobster, then part of Darden, assures potential investors that business is expected to improve. “The management team believes that each of these issues are temporary in nature, correctable, and that they have plans in place to return the business to historic levels of profitability,” the document said. The memorandum was used to market a $425m loan. The lawsuit, which was filed by Teamsters Local 443 Health Services and Insurance Plan of Connecticut, claims that Darden leadership misled shareholders in order to protect their roles on the board.

Jamie’s Italian to take former Strada unit in Exeter: Jamie’s Italian is to move into the former Strada unit in Exeter’s Princesshay. The chains has 35 outlets across the UK, but the new restaurant in Princesshay will be a first for the West Country. The Exeter restaurant is due to open in early 2015 and will occupy the Strada unit between Coal Grill & Bar and Café Rouge. It was confirmed early last month that Strada will close in Exeter. Wayne Pearce, the director of the Princesshay Centre, said: “We’re excited to announce the latest addition to our dining line up and think Jamie’s Italian will prove popular with shoppers in Exeter. This latest signing adds to our recent launches of both Byron and Joules in Princesshay.”

Italian wine cafe Veeno launches fund-raising on Crowdcube: Veeno, which operates wine cafes in Manchester and Leeds and is led by Nino Caruso and Andrea Zechchino, is looking to raise £210,000 on Crowdcube in return for 18% of its equity, to create the first national wine cafe brand. The pitch states: “Our aim is to be the first national wine cafe chain in the United Kingdom. We plan to grow as quickly as possible to become recognised as the ‘go-to’ place for experiencing authentic Italian traditions: drink, snack and enjoy. Our wine is family-produced from Sicily: it’s a tradition of four generations and today our family winery, Caruso & Minini, has been making award-winning wine for four generations and is recognised around the world. This privileged relationship allows us to offer excellent quality wines at competitive prices with control on margins and supply and a deep knowledge of the products. Our plan is to have ten locations by the end of 2015 as a minimum target and then keep growing. For our first round of funding, we are looking for £210,000 to open four new locations in 2015. The funding requirement to open each new wine cafe is approximately £50,000 to be used for refurbishment, fit-out, equipment, marketing and general start-up expenses.”

Spirit Pub Company hosts sustainability forum: Spirit Pub Company, supported by Corporate Sustainability Champion Footprint, has assembled leaders from the pub industry supply chain for the sector’s first Green Day. The Green Day signals the start of Spirit’s sustainability campaign and is the first in a series of planned events, including a Footprint Forum in February. Spirit said its overall objective was to engage its supply chain to create momentum behind the drive. To achieve this, Spirit is partnering Footprint, whose track record has been collaborative supply chain progress on the high street and in contract catering. Spirit Pub Company has already established itself as an industry leader on environmental initiatives such as food waste. The introduction of waste recycling via Kuehne & Nagel has already reduced waste costs by 30% by means of recycling 16,000 tonnes of tin, oil, card, plastic and food waste last year alone. Spirit has also had considerable engagement from its outlets by introducing a credit incentive, so pubs get a financial credit to their own P&L based on recycling rates. The objective now, the company said, was to mirror similar initiatives in energy and natural resource with the same success rate.

Agent offers Tamworth pub on nil premium to re-establish it: The property agent Christie + Co is offering the leasehold of the Moat House pub in Tamworth, Staffordshire on a nil premium. The handsome Tudor mansion was built by the Comberford family in 1572. It has served as a “lunatic asylum” for women and a luxury restaurant and it is now available on a new lease with vacant possession. Paul Reilly of Christie + Co’s Birmingham office said: “This is a great building full of character and offers a blank canvas to a new operator to put a mark on the building. There is potential to develop letting accommodation either in the existing building, or a separate hotel on the grounds which our clients would be keen to support.”

Italian restaurant to scale up offer at new site: The long-established Italian restaurant Lepone’s, based in Oswestry, Shropshire is to scale up at a new site, a former 18th century church in Oswald Road. Owners Paolo and Caroline Lepone say that their new premises will also house an Italian deli, a coffee shop and a wine bar. They are also creating an outdoor seating area and there will be a mezzanine within the historic building. Paolo Lepone said he fell in love with the former Presbyterian church immediately he stepped inside. He said: “I love old buildings and the architecture of this building is beautiful. We hope to be open in time for Christmas.”

Prezzo helping to turn Penarth into a Mecca for discerning diners: Plans to bring the Italian restaurant chain Prezzo to Penarth in Glamorgan (population: 22,083) has been welcomed by the town council’s planning committee. The company has applied to change the old Spar shop premises on Windsor Road into a restaurant. Councillors agreed that the chain’s arrival in town was a boost to Penarth. The planned restaurant, between the Bar 44 tapas restaurant and Costa Coffee, would have up to 70 covers, with an outside area in the rear courtyard. Opening hours are planned to be 12pm to 11.30pm Sunday to Thursday and 12pm to 12.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The committee showed some concern about the planning late opening hours, which it will ask Vale of Glamorgan Council to consider. One councillor, Phillip Rapier, said: “I am delighted that a national restaurant chain is coming here and have sufficient faith in Penarth’s tourist economy to do what they’re doing.” He said he hoped the town centre would become a “Mecca for discerning diners and tourists”.

Bibendum offers saké training: Bibendum Wine is introducing saké training sessions for its trade customers. The one-day session, delivered by Bibendum’s in-house training team, alongside the UK’s leading saké consultant, Natsuki Kikuya, will include an introduction to saké; the production process; an exploration of the various styles; service and storage; and food and saké matching suggestions. The in-depth training day will include a study of serving temperatures for different styles of saké, to challenge the preconceptions that saké has to be served warm. It will also include a food-matching seminar to offer alternative food matching ideas, including pairing saké with red meat and cheese, traditionally foods matched with red and sweet wines. Michael Saunders, managing director for Bibendum, said: “Saké is really taking off in this country and we have seen incredible interest in the category from our trade customers since we launched our range in July. Saké training is a natural extension of our existing wine and spirits education programmes and demonstrates our commitment to helping our customers understand and sell top quality drinks.”

Scottish coffee shop brand Beanscene to open 12th site: A Scottish coffee shop brand, Beanscene, is to open its 12th site in Perth, central Scotland, inside the St John’s Shopping Centre. All the chain’s branches are in Scotland, with two in Edinburgh. Earlier this year, Scottish businesswoman Fiona Hamilton scrapped her ambitious attempt to grow the Beanscene into a UK-wide business, selling it to leisure trade veteran Stuart Mckenzie. He was one of a number of bidders for the business that Hamilton bought out of administration in 2008.

Central Perk replica draws nostalgic fans of Friends: Fans of the American sitcom Friends are flocking to a pop-up replica of the show’s coffee shop, Central Perk, in New York City as Friends prepares for its 20th anniversary. The pop-up shop opened its doors last week and has already been visited by thousands of viewers eager to pose for a snap on the famous orange couch the Friends cast lounged on for ten years. The pop-up is a treasure trove of memories for fans, as it houses ten years of memorabilia from the show, including costumes, Monica and Chandler’s handwritten wedding vows and a copy of Joey’s Soap Digest cover.

Businessman opens gastro-pub after 20 years out of the trade: Newport businessman Richard Hamer, who runs a haulage firm but previously owned seven pubs in the south of England, is returning to the leisure sector after a 20 year absence by transforming the former Rock and Fountain Pub and Riverside Restaurant, at Woodfieldside, Blackwood, Caerphilly into Bistro 8. He said: “The name of the new place is because of three coincidences. My daughter Lisa was born on the eighth, this is the eighth pub I have opened and I played at number eight for Wales at junior level in my first appearance, which was against Northern Ireland. I live locally so I’ve known the pub all my life. In fact it was the first pub that I had a drink in, illegally mind, when I was 16.” The pub, which had been closed since last year, now has a menu with Welsh and Spanish influences.

Greene King launches limited edition cask ale to mark Cask Ale Week: Brewer Greene King has launched a new cask ale, Old Nutty Hen, to mark Cask Ale Week (25 September to 5 October). Old Nutty Hen is a limited edition 4.5% cask ale and joins the successful hen range, which includes Old Speckled Hen, the UK’s number one premium ale brand, Old Golden Hen, Old Crafty Hen and Old Hoppy Hen. The new chestnut-coloured ale is brewed with speciality malts and traditional English hops. It will be available in many Greene King pubs as part of the company’s cask ale beer festival, which runs throughout Cask Ale Week. Greene King’s master brewer, John Bexon, said: “This new brew has a unique nutty character to it and it really stands out among our Hen range. It has a clean, sweet taste with a subtle, bitter hit at the end, and makes for an ideal rich and warming drink to enjoy as the evenings start drawing in.” To mark the launch of Cask Ale Week, cask ale fans will have the opportunity to quiz Bexon on his brewing expertise on Thursday 25 September, when he will be hosting a Twitter Q&A on the Old Speckled Henry page. Twitter uses are invited to tweet @speckledhenry now using the hashtag #AskTheBrewer and John will answer as many as he can on Thursday.

Amber Taverns re-opens colliery pub: Amber Taverns has re-opened a boarded-up colliery pub in County Durham with a name that pays tribute to the area’s mining heritage. The Black Bull on Main Street, Ferryhill, was rundown and almost derelict when it was bought by Amber Taverns. The architecture and interior design company Innex Design was employed to refurbish the building in a £400,000 project that took eight weeks to complete. It recently reopened as the Dean and Chapter, named after the town’s old coal mine, which employed thousands of boys and men between 1902 and 1966. The name was chosen to honour the 75 miners who lost their lives at Dean and Chapter Colliery, and the interior features pictures of the old colliery. The two-room pub has been converted into one open-plan area with an internal courtyard with glazed sides.

Market Town Taverns offers customers free pint of champion beer for Cask Ale Week: The Yorkshire-based pub chain Market Town Taverns and the Keighley brewery Timothy Taylor are celebrating Cask Ale Week this year with a joint promotion inviting customers at all 15 Market Town Taverns sites to enjoy a free pint of Boltmaker 4% abv, the recently crowned Campaign for Real Ale Champion Beer of Britain. Any customer ordering a beef & Boltmaker speciality pie during Cask Ale Week (25 September to 5 October) will receive a free pint of Boltmaker. Market Town Taverns’ managing director, Simon Midgley, said: “We are thrilled to be teaming up with Timothy Taylor to mark this year’s Cask Ale Week. Our commitment to cask ale and Yorkshire beer remains as strong as ever and to be able to offer our customers a complimentary pint of the Champion Beer of Britain is something we are really excited about.” The Boltmaker promotion will be available at all Market Town Taverns pub across North and West Yorkshire for the whole of Cask Ale Week.

Second micropub opens in Bexley: A second micro-pub has opened in Bexley, Kent. Bob and Bev Baldwin opened the one-room Penny Farthing in Bexley’s Waterside area. The pub, in a former children’s craft shop, is the borough’s second micropub, after the Door Hinge opened in Welling in June last year. It has no fruit machines, television or music and customers are asked that mobile phones are switched to silent. Bev Baldwin said: “Our aim is to have a friendly atmosphere where people chat to each other and make new friends whilst enjoying a good real ale.” The couple formerly ran the One Bell in Crayford for five years, winning the Burton brewery’s master cellarman title in the process, before they gave it up to have daughters Cheryl and Victoria.

Chef plans to bring taste of Manchester dining scene to York: A new chicken restaurant is opening in York after a chef decided there was an opportunity to bring a taste of the Manchester dining scene to the city. Winner Winner is opening on Friday in the former Waterfront Hotel restaurant in King’s Staith. The new restaurant specialises in chicken dishes and also has a Hawaiian-style Tiki bar. The business is being launched by chef Michael Shepherd, in partnership with his mother, who used to own Potter Hill Fish Shop in Pickering. He said: “I have spent the last five years working in Manchester as a chef for a variety of restaurants. When I moved back home to York I noticed there was a gap in the market to recreate some of the food offerings that had been popular in Manchester.” The Waterfront Hotel, which previously operated the restaurant, will continue to run the hotel business on the upper floors. The hotel had rebranded its restaurant last year under the name The Lazy Cow Steakhouse, but was threatened with legal action by a chain in the south of England which ran four restaurants under the same name. The Lazy Cow Group said its legal team had taken civil action over a case of infringement against the York restaurant.

Celebrity chef to open Norwegian-style pop-up to Horwich: A pop-up “Norwegian-style” outdoor winter restaurant is set to open in Horwich, Bolton later this year. Diners at the pop-up restaurant at Chill at the Cowshed will be kept warm by heat lamps and animal hides. The idea is the brainchild of Bolton chef Debbie Halls-Evans, who won the Nigella Lawson cookery show The Taste earlier this year. She said: “I want it to be an event for people. We want to create something special for people. The idea for winter dining comes from that.”

Admiral Taverns launches unique ‘brewed-for-you’ pub scheme: Admiral Taverns is to roll out an exclusive scheme to provide each of its licensees with a cask beer unique to their pub. The tenanted pub company has teamed up with Marston’s to offer the service to all its licensees, after an impressive pilot saw more than 1,000 firkins of beer, or 72,000 pints, poured in Admiral outlets. The “Brewed for You” scheme gives Admiral Taverns licensees the chance to offer a uniquely presented beer to their customers, with a personalised pump-clip that either takes the pub name or relates to the pub in some other way. The concept, which initially started as a trial in selected pubs earlier this year, received so much positive feedback from licensees and from within Admiral that Brewed for You has been made a permanent part of the pub company’s licensee support package. Admiral Taverns’ chief executive, Kevin Georgel, said: “We’re delighted with the success of the scheme, which has really taken off with our licensees. It has created a real talking point; serving a beer unique to the pub is proving a fantastic way to engage with customers. Many of our participating pubs are seeing a significant uplift in sales, which is what it’s all about – genuine business-building support for our licensees, which gives their customers more to reasons to visit.” In addition to adopting the actual pub, inspiration for naming the beers in the Brewed For You scheme is also stemming from pub sports teams, the licensee’s name and from customers’ nicknames. The scheme is based on a classic 3.6% abv English bitter. The turnaround time from a licensee order to the beer and unique pump-clips being delivered to individual pubs is just four days.

TCG bring back cask ale promotion that leads to 30% boost in volumes: The managed pub and bar group TCG is bringing back its successful Proud of Our Ale campaign this month, this time with an added drive to engage consumers through social media. Proud of Our Ale, now in its fourth year, has proved highly effective in building TCG’s cask volumes, with a 30% uplift achieved across the six weeks of last year’s campaign. This year, Proud of Our Ale is running from 25 September with the launch of Cask Ale Week, through to 9 November, and involving 39 sites. The most popular elements of previous years will be at the heart of the campaign, including a “buy six ales, get one free” offer; a 20% discount for Campaign for Real Ale members and a “taster pint”, three thirds of different cask ales, to encourage customers to try new ales. In recognition of the growing number of younger, social media-savvy cask ale drinkers, Facebook and Twitter updates are an important part of the Proud of Our Ale marketing campaign this year. Pubs will tweet every time they add a new beer to their bar, and a campaign Twitter page has been set up. All participating pubs will extend their cask range for the duration of the campaign, while a number of larger sites will stage a beer festival on the first weekend, offering up to 14 ales at a time. Pubs are encouraged to sell as wide a variety as possible, changing them frequently to keep consumers interested and including local breweries in the mix. TCG’s chief operating officer, Nigel Wright, said: “Proud of Our Ale has become more successful every year, as we’ve learned from each and improved it for the next time. We’re confident that this will be another enjoyable celebration of cask ale which will generate sales growth beyond the seven weeks of the campaign, as our pubs position themselves in their locality as the best place to enjoy an interesting range of well-kept ales.”

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