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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 3rd Oct 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

TGI Friday’s UK sale process kicks off: The American buyout firms Sentinel Capital and TriArtisan Partners have begun the sale of TGI Friday’s UK business, according to Financial News. Rothschild has been chosen to sell the restaurant chain’s UK operation after a beauty parade of financial advisers. Teaser information has been sent out to a wide range of interested parties including private equity companies and trade buyers. The sale of the UK arm of TGI Friday’s looks well-timed with strong private equity interest in the restaurant sector evident in the sale of Strada, PizzaExpress and The Real Greek recently. TGI Friday’s owners are looking to simplify the business by converting the majority of the 243 managed sites in the US to franchise whilst selling the UK business. The UK company grew turnover to £166.8m in the 53 weeks to 30 December 2013, from £147.7m the year before. Ebitda climbed to £19.9m from £17.2m in 2012. Five new sites were opened in the period, “which are performing in excess of expectations and the company is actively seeking new sites,” it said. The latest profit increase at TGI Friday’s in the UK has paved the way for an increase in new openings in 2014. Its earnings for 2014 are forecast to reach more than £25m, which could mean the company is worth north of £200m. The expected sale of TGI Friday’s UK business comes only months after Sentinel and TriArtisan bought the global chain for a reported sum of $800m to $900m in May.

Industry News:

Marston’s double-siter wins Young Franchisee of the Year award: Aaron Stewart, franchisee at The Fairways, Sheffield and The Rufford, Mansfield has won the British Franchise Association’s HSBC Young Franchisee of the Year award after just two years. Aaron, 28, was chosen from the largest number of entries in the events 25-year history. He received his accolade at the BFA’s annual awards ceremony in Birmingham last night (Thursday). Running his own business was a long-held dream after he spent a number of years as manager of well-known chains. Franchising gave him the opportunity to build a business quickly and efficiently. He said: “Franchising has helped me grow fast because I can focus on working on the business not always in it.” Dave Price, franchise operations manager at Marston’s said: “We are delighted that Aaron has won the award, and particularly proud of his achievements – he is a hard-working and totally committed to his work with a real passion and dedication to delivering success.” Stewart started in the Fairways in 2013 and has doubled turnover in a year, he took on his second pub The Rufford this year.

Pizza Hut expands pizza by the slice trial: Pizza Hut has expanded a US trial selling pizza by the slice to Ohio after the introduction of the “Slice Bar” in Nebraska, New York and Massachusetts earlier this year. Customers also have the option of getting breadsticks, cheesesticks, and cookies from the Slice Bar, where they are served in less than two minutes. Slices are cut off of an 18-inch New York style pizza, then baked in a 550-degree oven. The trial is attracting customers who don’t think of the brand as a place for a quick meal. Profits on a slice of pizza are also greater than on whole pizzas.

Crowd-funding grows in popularity among entrepreneurs: A third of entrepreneurs claim that crowd-funding will be the most likely option for raising finance within their business in the next 12 months, according to a survey by Irwin Mitchell. The law firm conducted the survey among entrepreneurs and business leaders and found that 32% said they were likely to use crowd-funding to raise money for their business in the next 12 months, against 17% for peer-to-peer lending and 13% for angel investment. Almost two in five – 38% – said they would use more traditional means such as bank loans or grant funding. Over three quarters (77%) said that they would consider investing through an equity crowd-funding site. Andrea Cropley, corporate partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: "Although many entrepreneurs have not yet used alternative forms of funding, it is clear that many are happy to do so and will in the next year. As with all finance options, whether mainstream or less traditional, it is vital that businesses explore all options and take the appropriate advice from specialists.”

Company News:

Prezzo confirms £300m private equity approach: Prezzo, led by Jonathan Kaye, has confirmed it has received preliminary proposals from private equity companies Advent International and TPG Capital in relation to a possible offer for the company. The company said that “indications are that any offer is unlikely to be at a premium to the share price at the close of business on 1 October 2014 of 135p per ordinary share”. Some observers have speculated the suggested offer price, with no substantial premium, may mean the move has the support of the Kaye family, which holds a 57% stake in the business. At 135p per share, the debt-free company is valued at £317m. The Kaye family attempted to take the company private around six years ago when its share price was in the doldrums but was thwarted by the unavailability on debt funding. The two suitors have until 5pm on 30 October to either announce a firm intention to make an offer for the company or announce that they do not intend to make an offer. Prezzo operates almost 250 Italian restaurants across the UK and floated on the mid-cap London market in 2002. Its brands are Prezzo, Chimichanga and Cleaver. Last month, the group reported half-year pre-tax profits of £14.6m, up 17% on the same period a year earlier as the improving UK economy boosted the number of visitors to its restaurants. Its share price reached a peak of 164p in March.

Hillary & Scott to open flagship marina site: Hillary & Scott, the four-strong pub and restaurant operator led by Daryl Cockerill and Shane Holland, will open a flagship site at Mercia Marina, between Burton and Derby, on Monday (6 October). Cockerill said: “The site, called the Boardwalk, forms part of the new £1.7m development which we share with independent retail outlets. Our bar and restaurant is over two floors and has 190 covers inside and outside. We’ll be serving a menu that’s somewhere between gastro-food and mainstream pub food. There was a lot of competition for this site but the developers wanted an independent operator.” Mercia Marina is the largest inland marina in Europe, with 585 berths. Cockerill reported that Hillary & Scott has enjoyed a solid summer, with like-for-like sales up 7%. The company is currently looking at a sixth site, a destination country pub similar to its Star Inn in West Leake, Leicestershire. 
Lloyds Bank back Punch Taverns restructure: Lloyds Bank, a liquidity facility provider to the Punch A securitisation, has received credit committee approval and consented to the restructuring proposals at the company. Completion of the restructuring remains subject to the consent of the Royal Bank of Scotland (a liquidity provider to the Punch A and Punch B securitisations and provider of hedging arrangements to the Punch A securitisation). Subject to the receipt of this consent, completion of the restructuring is expected to become effective on 8 October 2014.
Wetherspoon spending £30,000 per pub on better lighting in older pubs: JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has told customers that the company is spending £30,000 a pub to improve lighting. He said in the in-house magazine: “Lighting is a vexed issue. A low level of background lighting is often thought to be atmospheric (the candles-on-the-table syndrome). However, some people like more lighting to read the newspaper or the menu – or they just like more light. We’ve been all around the houses on this and even tried dimmers in individual seating booths at our pub in Highgate, over 20 years ago. They did not last long. We are now rolling out a scheme, in many of our older pubs, of carefully directed down-lighters, so that the background lighting remains low, but you can read your newspaper or the menu. It costs about £30,000 per pub, believe it or not.”
Lucky Voice launches pop-up karaoke: Lucky Voice, the UK’s leading supplier of high quality karaoke solutions, and the UK-based video booth technology company VideoBooth Systems have combined their market insight, industry knowledge and design expertise to launch Lucky Voice Pop-up Karaoke. The pod’s interior layout is configured to fit three to four people at a time and can be set up and taken down in hours, making it useful for temporary events. Nick Thistleton, managing director of Lucky Voice, said: “We have witnessed an increase in demand from event organisers to provide a portable, temporary Lucky Voice karaoke solution for one-off events. By collaborating with VideoBooth Systems, we’ve been able to recreate the premium singing experience customers expect when they visit any of our bars while ensuring brands and event organisers can maximise the chance to promote products and messages to guests through our sophisticated, built-in touch screen technology”.
Nick Batram – Domino’s UK performance stunning but Germany a grim tale:
Nick Batram, leisure analyst at Peel Hunt, has described Domino’s UK performance in its latest quarter as stunning but argued that its German business performance is getting worse. He said: “The performance from the UK in Q3 was truly stunning. Even allowing for a boost from the World Cup, LFL sales growth of 12.9% in Q3 was impressive. The three main drivers remain strong promotions (meal deals in particular), the continued shift to online ordering, and the improvement in the underlying economic backdrop. In many respects the performance in Switzerland was equally impressive, where LFL sales rose 7.6%. Store refurbishments and relocations are clearly working well and the Swiss business looks on target to hit profitability in Q4. The Republic of Ireland also saw good progress, with LFL sales up 5.3%. Unfortunately, Germany is not such a positive story.” Describing its German business as a “grim tale”, he said: “While we expected a decline in like-for-like sales in Germany because of a significant cut to marketing spend and reduced delivery areas, the 9.9% fall was worse than anticipated. Management admits the turnaround is taking longer than expected. The reality is that Germany appears to be getting worse, not better. Ultimately, it is the UK that is the main driver of value and it is clearly in rude health. While there is room to nudge our 2014 forecast higher, it is less than we had hoped for. Hold.”
Former Luminar site in Leeds badly damaged by fire: A fire has badly damaged the former Majestyk nightclub in Leeds. The sit was recently refurbished by its current owner, Rushbond, with a view to it re-opening as a live music venue. Propel is aware of a well-known operator that was close to signing up to occupy the site prior to the fire. The roof has partially collapsed but the "iconic" building has been saved, firefighters said. Mark Finch, director of real estate at Rushbond, which owns the building and carried out its recent restoration, said: "We're absolutely devastated by what's happened to the Majestic. We hope to progress with repairing the damage as soon as practically possible."

Turtle Bay makes London debut today: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant chain backed by Piper Private Equity, make its London debut today (3 October), opening a site in the Ealing Broadway Centre in West London. The brand currently has ten sites around the UK, with the Ealing branch the first venture into the capital. Its most recent previous opening was in Crawley, West Sussex. 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.”

Krispy Kreme to open second Scottish site after serving 4m doughnuts in a year in Edinburgh: Krispy Kreme is to open a new store in Livingston by the end of this year, its second Scottish site. The first site in Edinburgh saw a million visitors in its first year and sold four million doughnuts. Judith Denby, chief marketing officer at Krispy Kreme UK, said: “The reception we received when we arrived in Scotland last year was overwhelming so we’re really looking forward to open our second store in Livingston later this year. We’re also actively looking for further sites in Scotland. We will keep our fans updated as and when we secure sites.” Krispy Kreme’s first outlet in Scotland caused mayhem when it opened its doors in February last year. Diners queued for days in order to be first to sample the wares, and travellers faced gridlock traffic surrounding the doughnut shop for weeks.

Boston Tea Party wins top UK cafe chain award: Boston Tea Party (BTP) has been named the Cafe Life Awards’ Cafe/Coffee Bar Chain Award winner for 2014. BTP, which beat Costa Coffee, Coffee #1 and Harris and Hoole for the award, was praised for the breadth of its menu, from coffee and cakes to more substantial meals, and range of wines and craft beers. Sam Roberts, managing director of BTP, said: “It gives me immense pleasure that BTP scooped the much-coveted Cafe/Coffee Bar Chain of the year at the Cafe Life Award ceremony in London. Despite lots of external evidence to the contrary, I have always believed it is possible to get better as you get bigger, a challenge I often frame as the ‘scale verses soul’ debate. This year we opened our 15th cafe and for the first time received this accolade, which is hopefully a good sign that our soul is in good shape.”
Red Hot World Buffet heroes recognised: Two heroes who ran into the Northampton Red Hot World Buffet restaurant when a fire broke out to try to rescue people have received awards for their bravery. When a huge blaze started in the roof of the Red Hot Buffet restaurant in Sixfields on December 18 last year, David Emery and PC Rob Welsford went in to get people out. Emery has now been awarded a Royal Humane Society testimonial on parchment and PC Welsford is in line for a Force Bravery Award and Chief Constable’s Commendation. Dick Wilkinson, secretary of the Royal Humane Society, said: “The seat of the fire was in a roof space above the restaurant, and because of that the people in there had not been aware of the danger. Mr Emery and PC Welsford searched the store rooms, kitchens and lavatories before going outside themselves. Whilst they were still inside they heard a loud crack from above, implying that something was giving way. Shortly after they left the building, it was burnt to the ground. It takes enormous courage to even approach a burning building, let alone go in and search it.”

Charnwood Training Group enters Company Voluntary Arrangement:
The sector training company Charnwood Training Group has entered into a Company Voluntary Agreement in relation to debts of around £840,000. The training company, led by Jeremy Scorer and Stephen Smith, owes £529,000 to HMRC, £37,000 to the BII and £127,000 to IT Skills Management. A total of 98.7% of the creditors voted to accept the CVA scheme.

Hotel chain Tune to open sixth site in Newcastle, charging as little as £15 a night: Budget hotel chain is to open its fifth site on Newcastle’s Quayside in a fortnight, charging from just £15 a night. The brand is opening a 104-bed facility in the heart of the Quayside conservation area, creating 18 new jobs. The chain has invested more than £8m on renovating Proctor House, an Edwardian building last used as a restaurant, the Kublai Khan. The building has been extended several times to include a large decorative shop, warehouse and office space but it was vacant for two years before work began. Tune Hotels are promising potential guests "5-star beds at great value prices", with travellers able to take on rooms from just £15 a night through an early-bird booking scheme. The cheapest rooms have no windows, and TV, wi-fi access and towels cost extra, though all have en-suite bathrooms. The global chain, which already has four hotels in London and is soon to open in Canary Wharf, as well as in Edinburgh, confirmed Newcastle as its sixth property in the UK as it looks to expand its no-frills, value concept to capitalise on the city’s growing leisure tourism market.

Gordon Ramsay Group hires Roche Communications: Gordon Ramsay Group has hired the public relations firm Roche Communications to look after its UK restaurants and bars. A spokesman for Roche said: “From the Michelin-starred tables of Petrus and Maze through to the cool and casual Union Street Cafe and Bar, the iconic Savoy Grill to the most recent opening, London House, we'll be working alongside the renowned restaurant group on bringing the properties, the people and the dishes to the forefront of London's ever-competitive dining scene.”

Snaps and Rye to open in North Kensington this month: A "contemporary Danish eatery" called Snaps & Rye is opening on Tuesday 28 October on the Golborne Road in North Kensington, West London. It is the first culinary venture by Kell and Jacqueline Skött and takes its name from the main elements of the menu, snaps, a drink served traditionally with meals, and rye, the grain used to make the bread  in smørrebrød, Danish open sandwiches. Chef Trine Vennerstrøm Eriksen-Johnson, formally of Paternoster Chop House, is spearheading the quintessentially Danish menu, which will focus on organic, seasonal and sustainable foods.
Raymond Blanc visits refurbished Cheltenham outlet and declares himself 'very happy':
Raymond Blanc has paid a visit to Cheltenham to inspect his newly-refurbished Brasserie Blanc restaurant in the Promenade, which has undergone a three-week makeover to give it a more contemporary and relaxed feel, and declared himself "very happy". Speaking about the refurbishment at the venue, which was only the second Brasserie Blanc in the country when it opened in 1999, Blanc told the local newspaper: “I think we have got it right. The first thing we wanted to do was refresh this place and secondly to ensure that we keep our loyal customers but also appeal to new guests – that’s what it’s all about. We want to attract the younger generation. It looked a little fuddy duddy before and perhaps a bit too masculine and cliche. I love the idea of a modern classic. This refurbishment has created a new environment which has got a bit more modernity but without being extreme. The food is good, the staff are smiling, I’m very happy. Cheltenham is one of our best brasseries. It goes on to be successful despite of all the new challenges, like Jamie’s Italian and others opening. We’re still packed, so we must be doing something right."

Enterprise to invest £1.2m to rebuild fire-damaged pub: Enterprise Inns has confirmed it is to spend an estimated £1.2m to rebuild a fire damaged pub, the Tayleur Arms, in Longdon-upon-Tern, near Telford, Shropshire, which was destroyed in April this year. Landlord Richard Harvey, who ran the pub with his wife, Sue, told the Shropshire Star: “Enterprise and the architects have drawn up a timeline and the plan is to open this time next year. But if they come across problems it could be put back by a week here and there. We have handed over old photos of the pub and the architect is from Tettenhall. Enterprise wanted him to be local so we could continue to work closely on the project. The pub will not have the 300-year history because that went with the fire but the rebuild will be a traditional family pub again. This is the first time we have been told something is definitely happening to rebuild the pub.”

McMullen grabs three of  top five places for Welwyn and Hatfield’s favourite pubs: A McMullen pub, The Cowper Arms, in Digswell, Hertfordshire, has been named as the Welwyn and Hatfield area's favourite local pub in a competition organised by the local MP, Grant Shapps. Two of the other pubs named in the top five were also McMullen sites. The competition was organised by Grant Shapps as a way of supporting and recognising the important role pubs play in the community, and the overall winner was announced at a awards ceremony held for the publicans of the top five pubs at the Houses of Parliament. As well as the Cowper Arms, the McMullen sites The Long Arm & The Short Arm and The Harrier, were recognised, coming in second and fifth place respectively. The Cowper Arms is one of two pubs run by Franko Mutinelli with McMullen as business partner under the Pub Operator Agreements (POAs).
Whitbread in advanced talks to buy Indian mid-market hotel portfolio: Media reports suggest Whitbread is in talks to acquire or merge the portfolio of Berggruen Hotels in India. The company is reported to be in a very advanced stage of negotiations with Berggruen Hotels to either acquire or merge or enter into a joint venture arrangement for India operations. The deal, if struck, would mark a consolidation in the Indian mid-market/budget hotel accommodation space. The eight-year-old Berggruen Hotels, backed by the New York-based Nicolas Berggruen's investment firm Berggruen Holdings, currently operates 14 mid-market hotels under the Keys Hotels brand and one five-star hotel under the Klub Keys brand.

Romsey operator takes third pub: Multiple operator Carol Rickman has taken the lease of the Tavern in Romsey, Hampshire, with Star Pubs & Bars. The site will be Rickman’s third leased pub in Romsey and her first with business partner Liz Surplice. The pub, which reopens this week after a five-week ,£210,000 joint refurbishment, is being renamed the Phoenix Bar & Eatery and will be "a high quality pub designed to appeal to the whole community", the partners said. The project has seen an upgrade for the kitchen and a dining area created, along with the installation of a barista coffee bar. Rickman has been a leased pub operator since 2000.  Her two other Romsey pubs and the Hunters, a community sports led pub, and the Sun, a New York-style bar. Rickman said: “There was a real gap in the market for a quality contemporary pub in the centre of Romsey. The pub is a fantastic building in the best location in town and I feel very optimistic about its potential. It has been a major project getting the building right. I’ve been amazed at all the support Star Pubs & Bars has given us, from the planning right through to staff training, their help has made it so much easier.”

Ex-Holland’s Pies chief reports progress for new Indian street food concept: Neil Court-Johnston, who formerly ran Holland’s Pies, has reported strong progress for his recently launched Mumbai Street Food brand, co-owned with the country’s leading Indian wedding caterer, Raj Somaiya. Mumbai Street Food aims to provide 100% authentic Indian cuisine at mobile pop-up kitchens. The pair employ 35 people at a 5,000 sq ft unit in Wythenshawe, Manchester, ten of whom are Indian chefs trained in Delhi. Court-Johnston told the Manchester Evening News the firm was were on the brink of securing an agreement with Pret A Manger to have products such as Popcorn Pakora in all of the firm’s 280 UK shops. He is also planning pop-ups on matchdays at Manchester United’s Old Trafford and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. “This is an exciting time for me and Raj,” he said. “We are on the winter menu in 39 out of the 173 JW Lees pubs in the north west so it has been quite a launch. Mumbai Street Food is about bringing the authentic flavours of India to the UK.”
Enterprise inns recognises 18 licensees for local community work: Licensees from 18 Enterprise Inns pubs have been recognised for the work they do to benefit their local communities, from fundraising to food banks, community shops to Christmas dinners for the elderly. The  Enterprise Community Heroes awards, launched in 2012, are designed to recognise and reward publicans who "go the extra mile to improve the lives of local people", while celebrating the hugely significant role pubs play in their communities, Enterprise said. Eighteen regional winners each won £5,000 to put towards further community projects. The winning pubs were: Bristol & South Wales, the Lion Hotel; Cumbria & Lancashire, the Arion; East Anglia, the Three Jays; East Midlands, the Bottle and Glass; Greater London, the Hare and Hounds; Greater London, the Grafton; Hull and Yorkshire, the Beggar & Gentleman; Leeds and Bradford, the Myrtle Tavern; Manchester and North Wales, the Red Lion; North East, the Keel Row; Sheffield and Grimsby, the Merrie Monk; South Coast, the Rose in June; South East, the Jolly Sailor; South Midland, Crosswells Inn; South West, the Maypole Inn; Sussex and Surrey, the Cross Keys; Thames Valley, the Old George Inn; West Midlands, the Bell Inn. They will all now gather on 22 October, at the Enterprise pub the Berkeley, near Evesham, in Worcestershire, to see who scoops the £10,000 national winner prize.

Starbucks marketing chief – new campaign is about deepening customer engagement: Starbucks' European marketing chief, Ian Cranna, has told Marketing Week that the company’s new marketing campaign, "Meet me at Starbucks", is aimed a depending emotional engagement with the brand. “We noticed that our customers were already arranging to meet up at our stores everyday on social media”, Cranna said. "The ‘Meet me at Starbucks’ campaign was born out of that insight and the ability it gave us to talk about those moments of human connection at a global scale. It’s not about product marketing being replaced [by brand-led activations] but rather creating a deeper level of engagement from the moments of connection between our customers around the world.”

Burger King begins search for new leadership talent: Burger King has begun a search for new leadership talent with a leadership and development programme. The company's people and IT director, Theo Camurca, said the programme will help grow its “iconic brand” around the world. As part of the programme, the chain has announced that the application process for 20 positions at HQ locations in Spain, Germany, the UK and Switzerland is now open. Selected candidates will work at all levels of the company over a six-month period. During this time, participants will undertake one week of training at Burger King’s global headquarters in Miami and eight weeks of further training at a Burger King restaurant. They will also shadow a franchise business leader for one month and spend three months at the company’s European HQ working on different departmental projects. Camurca said: “As our brand and business grow, the leadership development programme provides recent graduates with new opportunities and challenges that will make a real difference in the company. Furthermore, it provides us with a steady pipeline of potential leaders to drive our culture of meritocracy, ownership and excellence.”

Brakspear hires first executive chef
: The Henley brewer and pub operator Brakspear has appointed Antony Ely as its first executive chef, to develop food sales in its managed estate. Ely will work with the head chefs at each of Brakspear’s four managed pubs to develop their food business, including menu development, sourcing products, and sharing best practice across all sites. Ely joins Brakspear from the Lucky Onion Group, which runs pubs, restaurants and hotels in the Cotswolds, including the Wheatsheaf at Northleach. He previously held executive chef roles at Bibury Court Hotel in Gloucestershire and the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, and has also worked in restaurants and hotels in London, including The Square in Mayfair. Brakspear's chief executive, Tom Davies, said: “We’re delighted that Antony is joining us and confident that he will add tremendous value to the food business across our managed division. He is clearly a gifted and innovative chef with many years of experience in running high quality food operations and will be able to raise skill and creativity within our existing, talented kitchen teams.” Earlier this month, Brakspear added the Chequers in Marlow to its managed division, which takes in the Bull on Bell Street in Henley, the Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold and the Running Horses in Mickleham, Surrey. All four sites are overseen by operations manager Mat Aket.

Wetherspoon to offer host of international beer at 17-day festival: JD Wetherspoon pubs across the UK will each be serving a range of ten real ales from around the world, alongside beers from the UK, during a 17 day festival (Friday October 17 to Sunday November 2 inclusive). The overseas beers have been sourced from brewers in New Zealand, the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and Belgium. They will complement up to 40 beers from UK brewers being served in the pubs during the festival. Five of the international beers are being brewed by women, with two beers brewed by female brewers in the UK. The overseas beers are: Village Elder (Ian Ramsay, New Zealand); Night Owl Pumpkin Ale (Elysian Brewery, United States); Freak of Nature (Wicked Weed Brewery, United States); Ligera (Birrificio Lambrante, Italy); Golden Ale (Two Birds Brewery, Australia); Abbaye Blonde (Abbaye du Val-Dieu, Belgium); Bklyn Bitter (Sixpoint Brewery, United States); Real Antipodean Ale (Brew Moon Brewery, New Zealand); OG IPA (10 Barrel Brewing Company, United States) and India Session Ale (Brouwerij ’t IJ, Netherlands). The UK beers include Crimson King (Butcombe), Golden Tipple (Long Man), Artisan Cluster Nut (Evan Evans), Toffee Bitter (Coach House), Old Engine Oil (Harviestoun), Old Hoppy Hen (Greene King), Hobnobber (Thwaites) and Colonel’s Whiskers (Batemans). The pubs will serve new, seasonal and speciality beers, including some flavoured with ginger, heather and honey, toffee, herbs and spices and cinnamon and nutmeg. Customers will be able to sample any three of the real ales in special third-of-a-pint glasses for the price of a pint.
Russian beer market drops by 30% in four years: Brewers in Russia are streamlining operations and lowering production volumes amid high excise duty, government overregulation and decreased consumer spending caused by the overall economic slump. Baltika, one of Russia's four largest beer producers, said it has halted operations at two of the ten breweries it operates in the country. Baltika's president, Isaak Sheps said : "The idea was certainly on the table as the current situation on the beer market is not getting any better." According to the Russian statistics agency Rosstat, beer consumption last year fell overall by 8% and was down another 7% in the first half of 2014. "First half of this year included, the market has dropped by close to 30% in the last four years," Sheps said.
Tragus completes restructuring: Tragus Group has reported the successful completion of three Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA) over the summer to "establish a proper footprint for growth", with group debt significantly reduced from £258m to £91m. Capex funding of £110m in place to invest in the existing estate and acquire a significant number of new sites. Tragus's chief executive, Steve Richards, said: “The restructuring and refinancing phase has been successfully completed and we have transformed Tragus into a focused and financially sound group with a compelling buy and build strategy. Bella Italia and Café Rouge will now benefit from substantial investment and innovation as we develop and scale these two well-loved brands.” Martin Robinson, the company's newly appointed chairman, said: “Tragus is now in great shape and it has ambitious growth plans. I am looking forward to working with the team as the business begins its next stage of development”.
Hydes reports sharp rise in profits after restructuring: T
he North West of England brewer and retailer Hydes has reported pre-tax profits rose to £1.61m in the year to 30 March, up from £1.07m the year before, which saw a major restructuring that involved the sale of Hydes’ free trade business, the closure of its Moss Side brewery and the establishment of a new brewery and head office at MediaCityUK in Salford. Turnover rose 9.5% to £18.55m and operating profit was up 25% to £1.76m. The company said: “The results represent good progress in delivering the cost savings related to the restructure and the trading benefits of increased focus on core activities. The turnover growth was primarily driven by successful managed house refurbishments and the conversion of selected sites from tenanted to managed house operation. There were no new site acquisitions during the year. The major developments that drove turnover in the year were undertaken at the Jolly Thresher, Lymm (re-opening February 2013), the Fletcher Moss, Didsbury (July 2013), the Coach and Four, Wilmslow (August 2013) and the Pack Horse, Affetside (February 2014). The Crown in Cheadle, the Grey Horse in Central Manchester and the Bulls Head in Lymm were transferred from tenanted to managed house operation during the year. The restructuring has streamlined the company’s operations. Our strategy is to invest in developing the quality of our pub estate, the transfer of selected tenancies to managed operations and the acquisition of good quality pub sites in areas with strong demographics and high disposable income, whilst disposing of unsustainable sites. The new brewery is producing a wide range of outstanding cask beers including old Hydes favourites such as Original and Manchester’s Finest and a range of LS Lowry-inspired beers, featuring the artist’s work on the pumpclips, reproduced with the kind permission of the Lowry Centre Limited.” Managing director Chris Hopkins said: “This was a very encouraging year for the business following the major changes that were implemented in 2012. Those changes were designed to streamline the company and prepare Hydes for the future. The performance in the last financial year endorses the difficult decisions that were taken. We now have clear plans in place and a strong management team to deliver them.” The company reported that trading during the first half of the new financial year has continued to be positive, with similar trends to those seen in the previous year. Three sites have been acquired during this period, one of which has now commenced trading while the other two are expected to open towards the end of this year after "significant" refurbishment.

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