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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 23rd Oct 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Lack of transparency distorting rental market, Fleurets warns: A lack of transparency over some of the incentives included in new lettings has the potential to distort the market, the property agent Fleurets has warned in its latest Rental Survey. The prime evidence at rent reviews has always been the rental levels established at new lettings. However, the company said: “We are seeing many new lettings lacking a degree of transparency. A tenant, particularly in the restaurant or high street bar sector, may be seen to be paying a high rent. [But] we are becoming increasingly aware of situations where landlords are extending rent-free periods or contributing towards a tenant’s fit-out costs, thus creating a form of reverse premium. This type of deal has the potential to distort the market. If an inflated rent is accepted at face value, this can impact on other operators. This can also impact on high street bars, which may have wider user clauses in their leases allowing use as a restaurant. These deals may be regarded as one-offs. However, we have witnessed unrepresented operators falling into the trap of believing that these types of deal now represent the market norm.” Looking at the overall rental market, Fleurets said: “Over the past 18 months we have started to see a slow recovery from the recessionary pressures that dominated the British and world economies from 2008 onwards. During this period London has seen the greatest increase in market activity in all property sectors, not just the leisure sector. This growth has started to filter out to the rest of the country.” 

Industry News:

ALMR National Restaurant Association study tour to Chicago three quarters full: The Propel Info and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) 2015 Chicago Study Tour is now three quarters full after opening officially for bookings on Monday this week. The trip, sponsored by CPL Training, takes place between Thursday 14 May and Monday 18 May. The ALMR launched its first study tour trip to the National Restaurant Association show in 2012, with the trip led by Propel Info's managing director, Paul Charity. The NRA draws 58,000-plus industry professionals from all 50 US states and 100 countries, all seeking the newest innovations and up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues. The ALMR trip provides insights from industry experts on the rise in fast-casual dining, social media, new and emerging brands, menu development, staff management and a host of other issues; 70 free education sessions; two tours of Chicago’s hottest concepts; and a market overview briefing sessions from American experts. Charity said: “The NRA show is a fantastic opportunity to find fresh inspiration and understand the emerging trends shaping the fast-changing US market.” To get more information or to book, email

Company News:

Geronimo Inns reports 4.8% like-for-likes: Documents filed at Companies House show that Geronimo Inns, the London gastro-pub business owned by Young’s and led by Ed Turner, saw like-for-like sakes growth of 4.8% in the year to 31 March 2014. Turnover rose to £41.47m from £39.92m the year before. Ebitda was £7.38m, up from £6.73m in the year to 31 March 2013. Pre-tax profit was £4.96m, up from £3.31m when there was an impairment charge of £616,000, mainly resulting from the Cow and the East Hill. The company opened the Bull’s Head in Barnes, South London in December 2013, a site transferred from Young’s tenanted division. The accounts show that Jo Clevely Design, owned by Geronimo co-founder Jo Clevely, was paid £122,000 (2013: £131,000) for design services provided to Geronimo in the year.

Former Red Hot World Buffet ops director converts original Red Hot site to smokehouse concept: The former operations director of Red Hot World Buffet, Phrasant Jaiswal, has converted the original Red Hot World Buffet site in the Nottingham to a smokehouse concept called Jim’s Smokehouse. Barbecue ribs, chicken, beef and pork are dry-rubbed, left overnight, and smoked on hickory wood for 12 to16 hours. The restaurant is based in the first home of Red Hot World Buffet, in Goose Gate, before its move, which was overseen by Jaiswal, to Cornerhouse in Nottingham. Last year, he opened his first solo venture, Rakono, a multi-cuisine grill offering Chinese, Indian, Thai and Italian. Of Jim's Smokehouse, Jaiswal said: "I believe Nottingham was waiting for something like this. I have been in this industry for the last 13 to 14 years, working for big hotel chains and restaurant groups, and I was looking for something quite unique in terms of the taste. Smoking the meat is very different to grilling it. There is a lot of depth – it's a completely different taste."

Hawthorn buys 25-strong Nectar estate:
Hawthorn Leisure has acquired a portfolio of 25 pubs in the North West of England from Nectar Taverns. The Nectar pubs, which include 24 freeholds and one long leasehold, will continue to operate under their current centrally managed business model. The transaction comes after acquisitions by Hawthorn Leisure earlier in 2014 of 363 leased and tenanted pubs, including 275 pubs from Greene King and 88 pubs from R&L. Gerry Carroll, chief executive at Hawthorn, said: "The Nectar pubs are a perfect fit for Hawthorn Leisure. Our strategy of acquiring and investing in community pubs across the UK, providing them with both the capital and management support they need to thrive, will secure the continued future success of the Nectar pubs. We look forward to welcoming them to Hawthorn Leisure." Hawthorn Leisure is backed by Avenue Capital Group, May Capital and management. The terms of the Nectar acquisition have not been disclosed.
Brasserie Blanc to undergo brand refresh: Brasserie Blanc, the 20-strong French restaurant group led by chief executive Mark Derry and chef Raymond Blanc, is to undergo a transformation as it rebrands and begins an extensive refurbishment programme. The restaurant group, working with the award-winning branding and interior design agency Blacksheep, is looking to build upon its success with a new, understated and stripped-back identity, designed to respect the character and history of each site. The new branding, which has been applied across the board, including the logo and menus, has already been introduced to the brasseries in Cheltenham and Winchester, with Oxford and Bristol scheduled for early 2015. Marble counters, antique French dressers displaying fresh produce, glassware and kitchenalia provide a visual backdrop as chefs prepare cheese platters, bread and bar snacks in the restaurant. Derry said: “Our aim is to reinvigorate the brand so it appeals to a broader audience and to create spaces that encourage relaxed all-day eating and drinking. We've worked closely with Blacksheep to ensure this has been achieved – the refurbished Brasserie Blancs reflect our passion for honest French cooking and an everyday, welcoming ambience.”

Alan Miller to close Vibe Bar in Brick Lane because of over-strict licensing laws: Entrepreneur Alan Miller is to close his Vibe bar in Brick Lane, East London, credited with the transformation of the area, because of over-strict licensing that have turned nightclubs into “prisons with airport-style security”. Miller said that “petty-minded” licensing rules in Tower Hamlets had turned Brick Lane into a quieter place. He said compulsory security measures, including ID scans, large security teams and extensive CCTV networks, had driven up costs. He also said Tower Hamlets council had clamped down on one-off licence extensions for special events, causing a 30% drop-off in business last year. Miller, whose bar will close on 11 November, told the London Evening Standard: “You go to these venues and there is airport-style security – it’s almost like the council expects you to run a prison.”

Kerridge makes new restaurant walk-in only 'to give something back to locals':
The Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge is making his new outlet the Coach in West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire walk-in only to "give something back" to the community. Kerridge, proprietor of the two-Michelin-stars Hand & Flowers in Marlow, told the Maidenhead Advertiser newspaper that the non-reservation policy at the Coach was "for everybody that lives around here. People can come eat with us and not have to worry about people from all over the world booking in advance.” The chef said he finds it humbling that the Hand & Flowers is booked so far advance. He revealed that he could not even squeeze his family in at short notice: "Three weeks ago my in-laws came down and I couldn't get them a table at my own place." Kerridge said the focus at the Coach would be on being "completely flexible", with breakfast, lunch and dinner all on the menu. About 38 diners can be accommodated during a service. He said: "It's a very small space and the kitchen is behind the bar so the chefs and waiting staff will be talking to you. For the last 16 years it ran as a Chinese takeaway. I actually bought my Chinese from there so I'm at a little bit of a loss if I have a night off!"

Liverpool Chinese brand to double up: The Liverpool Chinese restaurant Chy, in Lark Lane, Aigburth, is to open a sister venue in the city centre. Brothers Neil and Adam Wan, who run Chy with partner Scott Martin, say the restaurant’s expansion to its new Renshaw Street site owes a lot to its popularity. Adam Wan told the Liverpool Echo: "We've built up a very loyal customer base at our restaurant on Lark Lane and word has spread. We get lovers of Chinese food visiting from all over the city and beyond. I really hope that our new venue will have the same appeal. Chy is a different type of Chinese restaurant. We've got traditional Chinese chefs who have developed a delicious, wide-ranging menu that is bursting with flavour and provides a real, authentic taste of the Orient. At the same time, we offer a sophisticated dining and a higher-end service. I'm confident that we can become the best Chinese restaurant in Merseyside."

Jamie Rollo – Whitbread is getting bigger AND better: Morgan Stanley's leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has argued that Whitbread is getting bigger and better. In a note published yesterday, he said: “Whitbread’s product investment and strong brands are driving solid like-for-likes and unit expansion remains strong. This powerful combination drove H1 EPS up 23%, and we upgrade estimates 1%. But tougher comps and bold targets suggest EPS growth will slow (13% 15-18e CAGR), so the 20x FY15 P/E looks fair. Whitbread is focused as much on improving its existing businesses as on expanding them. Relatively high and rising maintenance capex and opex are creating leading KPIs for customer preference and brand perception, with Whitbread clearly cognisant of what happens to underinvested multi-site retailers. Meanwhile, it is expanding both divisions rapidly, and while some of the growth targets look ambitious, it is making up for these in other areas, and risks are more timing than achievability. We expect the company to roll forward its 2018 targets to 2020 with its FY15 results.”
Nick Batram – Spirit results show there could be an independent future: Peel Hunt's leisure analyst Nick Batram has argued that yesterday’s results from Spirit show the company has an independent future should the current Greene King bid fall away. He said: “In what could be the last set of figures as an independent company, Spirit hasn’t disappointed with results slightly ahead of our expectations. Group sales for the 53-week period rose 5.6% to £800.9m, with ebitda 7% (4% on a 52-week basis) higher at £159.4m. A 9% reduction in nominal net debt to £641m was much better than we expected, partly helped by a £22.4m positive movement in working capital. There was a net exceptional profit of £50m, predominantly representing a £71.6m uplift from the revaluation of properties. Managed sales grew 5.9% (lfl up4.4%) to £718m, with ebitda of £126.1m (£116.6m) around £2m higher than we expected. At the operating level, profits improved 9% to £90m with margins nudging higher to 12.5% (12.2%), with higher bonus costs and BT Sport more than offset. Results came in slightly ahead of forecasts and reflect the progress being made at Spirit. These results also show that in the event a Greene King bid does not proceed, there is still a future for the group as an independent company. These were a solid set of numbers and reflect both the progress made and opportunity at Spirit. There is greater financing flexibility which will support a more ambitious expansion programme. Assuming the Greene King deal goes ahead, it will be getting a business in good shape with significant synergy benefits and more optionality. If for some reason the bid falls away, the share price will rebase but these results show that Spirit still has its attractions as an independent business.”
Juice bar concept opens in Hove: The raw cold-pressed juice bar Youjuice has opened its first shop on Montpelier Place, Hove. Owner Anita Drozd-Alkin said: “My brand is all about health, there’s a big difference between supermarket juices in cartons and raw juices freshly pressed on the day.” The shop uses local and organic fruit and vegetables for its drinks, which are not pasteurised. Juices are made in small batches every day and stay fresh for 72 hours. The venue also sells organic fruit and vegetables for people who juice at home.

Coventry names brands it would most like to see open in new development: A poll of readers by the Coventry Telegraph has produced a top five wish-list of brands residents would like to see open in the proposed city centre Cathedral Lanes development. The pan-Asian restaurant chain Wagamama came top with Handmade Burger Company second. The better burger brand Five Guys was third, with Yo! Sushi and Pret A Manger fourth and fifth respectively.

Russia steps up pressure on McDonald’s with 200 restaurant inspections: Russia has expanded inspections at McDonald's restaurants around the country as the stand-off between the Kremlin and the West worsens. The latest round of inspections will take in more than 200 of the fast-food chain's outlets, nearly half of all McDonald's in Russia, and will probe hygiene and finance. Russian courts have already closed nine McDonald's restaurants across the country since Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March, sparking widespread international condemnation and a wave of economic sanctions from Western powers. Russia's consumer safety regulators cited sanitary violations at the restaurants that have already been closed down, which include the country's first outlet, in Pushkin Square, Moscow. The branch first opened in 1990, while Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. There are around 450 McDonald's restaurants in Russia. More than 100 are located in the Moscow region, while more than 60 are in the St Petersburg region.

Restaurant seeks to expand into flat upstairs to cope with deman
d: A restaurant in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter is seeking planning permission to expand into the three-bedroom flat above its existing premises to cope with customer demand. Pasta di Piazza, in Brook Street, Birmingham, can currently seat around 100 customers in the building, which is a former factory dating back to the 1870s, but the renovation is expected to add a further 80 covers and create up to five new jobs. It is also seeking planning permission to extend the kitchen on the first floor and install a new staircase to be the main circulation between the basement and first floor. Owner Roni Ferro told the Birmingham Post: "We do get extremely busy, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, and find we are turning people away because we don't have the space so we definitely need this extension. It's hard to put any dates on it until we receive that permission but we hope to start the redevelopment next year and have it ready for Christmas 2015." The restaurant has been trading since 1995.

Original Balti Triangle restaurant to close after 45 years: One of Birmingham's original Balti Triangle restaurants, which includes Robert Plant, UB40 and Fairport Convention among its fans, is closing after nearly 45 years and blaming chain franchises for its demise. Saleem's in Ladypool Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham was opened in 1971 by Abdul Waheed. His son Saleem told the Birmingham Post the closure was "like a bereavement", adding: "We were the very first Balti Triangle restaurant in the Ladypool Road and ten to 15 years later others started opening up. There were 25 to 30 at one time but now there are only seven or eight left. We built up a real following, with customers from all over the world. We have a UK-wide following. We have international customers who come back straight back here when they visit the area. We have had a great time with very loyal customers." Waheed, who runs the restaurant alongside his brother Rafique, blamed the move on declining trade and the recession. "There's too much competition – you get a lot of franchises around here now and they are putting on cheap and cheerful food," he said. "The trade around here is mostly clothing shops and it doesn't bring the customers in. The area has declined in recent years and customers are going to Moseley village." However, he said, he was considering re-opening elsewhere: "Give me six months or so and we may relocate."

Hickory's fans vote on favourite sites for chain's expansion: Around 150 fans of the Hickory's Smokehouse chain, which has received a £6m investment from the private equity firm Piper to open a further 10 restaurants in the next three to five years, have voted in a newspaper poll for the place they would most like to see a new branch of the chain. Bangor, put forward by 39 people, was the most popular choice for a new outlet for the barbecue restaurant operator, which was founded in 2010 by Neil McDonnell and currently operates from three sites in Chester, West Kirby and Rhos-on-Sea. It was followed by Wrexham, with 30 votes, Rhyl (26), Anglesey (21), Prestatyn (16) and Caernarfon (13). Ten people called for Hickory's to come to Y Felinheli, , with several fans of the chain putting forward the former Halfway House pub as the ideal place. Another specific location mentioned was the former Clwyd Gate restaurant near Ruthin. One fan, Amanda Hilton, told the Daily Post newspaper that the first destination should be "definitely Bangor. [They would] make a fortune here. Spoken to so many people who would love to go but can't get there. [They] would more than double takings, especially with excellent food at good prices."

Entrepreneur Rigby to open tapas restaurant in Preston Guild Hall: The Lancashire entrepreneur Simon Rigby, whose Villa Group runs a growing catering and entertainment empire in the North West of England, is opening a tapas restaurant at Preston's Guild Hall, which he acquired from Preston Council this summer. The 1,700 sq ft venue, to be called Mundo Tapas, will be inside the Guild Hall ground floor entrance way on a site formerly occupied by Cassandra's Cafe, which closed in January. Richard Simkin, who is managing the Guild Hall complex, said the menu would not just be traditional tapas. He said: “We will have Spanish tapas but also tapas from Italy, Japan and further afield. It’s a mixture of foods but in a tapas style. It’s all about creating a different offering within the Guild Hall. We ultimately want to have five different places for people to eat before or after a show.” Simkin said Mundo Tapas would be open from early December and will eventually be able to seat around 200 diners. A first phase of development has already begun, with the opening pending the change of use application being confirmed. The restaurant is part of a £1m investment in the Guild Hall. Rigby formally took over the venue on Monday. Proposals for an Italian restaurant on the ground floor in the current tourist information offices have already been approved by the city council’s planning committee.

Harbour & Jones tops list of fastest-growing foodservice companies:
The independent advisory and restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper has named Harbour & Jones as the UK’s top-performing foodservice company, with compound annual profit growth of 46.5% (turnover of £33m and profit of £2.4m) over the past three years. The company, which moved up from third place last year, provides services to business and industry clients as well as concessions. Recently Harbour & Jones also launched a front-of-house service. In second position was the Crown Group, which grew profits by 43.3% (turnover of £33.1m and profit of £5.1m). It is a family of 12 separate trading companies which delivers a multi-service offering. Third place was taken by Dine Contract Catering at 42.7% (with turnover of £23.3m and profit of £1.5m), a family-run business which competes successfully in the business and industry, education and welfare sectors and continues to add to its portfolio. Graeme Smith, a corporate finance partner and head of the hospitality sector at Zolfo Cooper, said: “The foodservice sector is showing greater confidence, particularly among the independent companies. The trend towards outsourcing continues, companies are spending more on discretionary events and also food is being used more and more as a point of differentiation by venue owners and companies. Independent operators have been quick to take advantage of these trends and major on their ability to be very responsive to their clients’ needs”.

LiveRES passes million bookings mark at half-year point: The leading online booking system LiveRES passed the million-booking mark six months earlier this year than last. The company is expecting to double the number of bookings it handles as more and more pubs and restaurants turn to online reservations systems. Last year, LiveRES completed 1,013,000 bookings between January and December, while the millionth reservation this year was made in June. The North West of England-based technology company is already managing systems for the Spirit pub chain, Living Ventures and Giraffe. Recent additions to the fold include Gourmet Burger Kitchen which will be running a LiveRES bespoke system in November and December. Managing director Samantha Grocott said: “LiveRES is a small but fast-growing company and it is amazing to see this rapid growth in the market and be part of an emerging trend. To break the million-booking barrier so quickly this year is staggering and it’s an indicator of real growth in the UK market. It is clear to us that more and more customers prefer to go online to secure a table at their favourite eatery, and hospitality businesses need to get ahead of the game to exploit this trend.”

Cambridge multi-siter launches own taxi service: A Cambridge multi-site pub operator, Dave Utting, who operates the Empress in Thoday Street and the Emperor in Hills Road, has launched his own taxi service for customers better service. His firm Town and Gown began about three months ago and already has 45 taxis on the road. Utting told the Cambridge News: "As a local businessman and an ex-copper I wanted to have my own cab company as I got sick of the service of a few taxi drivers. They didn't open the door for customers, wouldn't come into the pub and look for them and would take them the long way around just to get more money. I am sure some taxi drivers in Cambridge are excellent, but there are some who are not and I wanted to provide a good service for my customers. Business is booming. We are a great service and we are called Town and Gown because we are the townies and we work closely with the colleges, with many students and tutors being our customers. The public love the service we provide. We only have radios, so our drivers must have a good level of English. We have Turkish, Bangladeshi and drivers from all over. They do need to have a good grasp of English."

Pub to be transformed into 'open fire' restaurant: A former pub on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent is being turned into a restaurant where all the food will be cooked on open fires. Mark Seabrook, 60, a builder/developer from Queenborough, Sheppey is planning on opening Banks Restaurant with Rooms next year in the former Prince of Waterloo pub in Minster. He said: “It’s going to be a restaurant where we only cook on open fires, just like in Henry VIII’s time. We think we’ll be the only place in the South East to cook in this way. I’m really excited by it, but we’re doing the building up slowly, taking our time to get it right.” The enterprise, which will include accommodation in three en-suite rooms, has seen a large inglenook fireplace replace the old bar area, while an open-plan kitchen will be installed, along with a “proper bar with cellar”, and the opening up of two wells in the garden. The restaurant is named in honour of Sir Edward Banks, who designed the building and two other sites in Sheppey, Naval Terrace in Blue Town and Neptune Terrace in Sheerness.

Beer distribution firm moves to larger premises after quadrupling turnover: The beer distribution company Beer Hawk has moved to new premises after quadrupling its turnover in its last financial year as it anticipates increased trade ahead of the Christmas period. Beer Hawk, which distributes premium speciality bottle beers from breweries around the globe, was set up in 2012 and rapidly outgrew its previous premises in Harrogate. The company now occupies 2,268 sq ft at Saltergate business park just outside Harrogate. Chris France, director of Beer Hawk, said: "We pride ourselves on hunting down the word’s very best beer, stocking more than 300 delicious ales from across the globe to offer to beer lovers in their own homes nationwide. Consumer demand and interest in the craft beer market has seen us grow rapidly in size over the past 12 months. This move means that we are perfectly positioned – in every sense – to quench the thirst of Britain’s beer lovers."
Papa John’s UK reports profit and extra 34 sites: Papa John’s has reported that its UK business grew by 34 stores to hit 246 sites in 2013. A further 11 sites had been added by the end of July this year. Its turnover grew by 15.2% to £32.72m and pre-tax profit was £523,000, up from £102,000 the year before. The turnover growth in 2013 followed growth of 23.9% in 2012 and 21.4% in 2011. The company said: “During 2013 like-for-like retail sales from continuing operations in the franchised Papa John’s store network grew significantly. The pizza market does, however, remain intensely competitive with significant promotional discounting continuing to take place in 2013 as in prior years.” Loans to its franchisees rose to £1.79m, a £630,000 increase on the year before as the network grew. Papa John's reported that Friday and Saturday nights account for 45% of its business. The UK saw its contribution to turnover increase from £27.27m to £31.79m in the year, with its much smaller Irish business seeing a decline in turnover to £935,000 from £1.15m the year before. Papa John’s said it "continues to invest heavily in marketing activities to build further on brand recognition and investing in becoming the 'official pizza partner of the Football League', leading to increased brand recognition but also leading to an increase in the number of enquiries from potential franchisees looking to open sites to trade as Papa John’s. The directors remain confident that the Papa John’s brand has made strides to emulate the brand’s success in the US, where the commitment to superior product quality has seen Papa John’s become the third largest pizza company in the world. Papa John’s is the third largest pizza delivery operator in the UK by a clear margin.”

KFC uses football rivalries to promote new Colonel's Brownie Bucket: KFC is launching a TV ad campaign for its new Colonel's Brownie Bucket – six or ten pieces of chicken, two large sides and four regular fries, plus brownies with Rolos – that purports to show how two young football fans who support opposing teams can still agree on KFC. Shot in Scotland on a real match day between Stirling Albion and Dunfermline the film depicts the parallel stories, intercutting between the two young fans. When both arrive home to the same house after the game, hostilities are dissolved as they tuck into a KFC bucket. The crowds shown are real fans with the boys cast from local football academies. Peter Cattaneo of Academy Films directed the advert, which was created by BBH London.

‘Four in a Bed’ slot for Absolute Pubs: Absolute Pubs founder Simon Bailey is appearing on Channel 4’s ‘Four in a Bed’ programme all this week, as the Flower Pot Hotel in Sunbury competes against three other B&B and hotel operators. Bailey and Pierre Cudon, general manager at The Flower Pot, are shown hosting guests at The Flower Pot for an overnight stay with dinner. As required by the show format, Bailey and Cudon visited the three guesthouses and hotels run by the other contestants on the programme, before the final ‘payment day’ episode where everyone pays what they consider fair for their stay. “When the programme makers approached us, our initial response was to politely decline the offer,” said Bailey. “But when we thought about it, we realised it was a great opportunity, not just to generate some publicity for The Flower Pot, but also to benchmark our standards. We run a mystery customer programme at all our pubs. To receive detailed feedback from three other operators adds a different dimension, which we found invaluable.” Bailey says filming was ‘hugely enjoyable’ and that all the contestants were genuinely trying to help each other to improve. He added: “The final edit presents a more entertaining version of events, but what matters is that we gained some great feedback and advice, and learned from other hoteliers. It was a valuable experience and I’d recommend it to any operator.”

Restaurant customers reveal how much they hate waiting: Restaurant customers hate waiting around, either for their order to be taken, their food to arrive or their bill to be brought, new research by CGA Peach and Zonal Retail Data Systems has shown. Nearly half (47%) of all consumers said food not arriving quickly enough was their biggest frustration when going out for a meal. One in six (17%) of 25 to 34-year-olds said that not being able to pay quickly and move on was a major frustration. Another 24% said that their order being taken incorrectly was their leading complaint. However, a third of consumers (34%) in the survey said they would be interested in using their mobile devices to speed up ordering, a figure that rose to more than half (54%) among 18 to 24-year-olds. Half (51%) of 18 to 44-year-olds said they were ready to use a mobile to speed up payment. The study of 5,000 people found fewer than one in 16 (6%) of restaurant customers said they had already used their smartphones or tablets to either speed up ordering or payment. Stuart McLean, chief executive of Zonal Retail Data Systems, a leading provider of integrated hospitality management solutions to more than 6,000 leisure and hospitality businesses across the UK, said: “What is crystal clear from this research is that consumers won’t wait. Competition is fierce, and people know that if their restaurant or pub doesn’t give them speed and convenience, there are plenty of others who will. We need to make life for our customers as easy as possible, and the brands that identify the systems and processes to achieve that will be the ones that win the race.”

Spirit sets out potential of independent future: The Spirit Pub Company's chief executive, Mike Tye, has set out how an independent Spirit will expand its managed estate to its potential of 1,200 pubs from the current 774 sites. The company has grown average weekly sales within its managed division by 25% since 2010 to £18,100 a week. Overall, Spirit had achieved a 31% cash-on-cash return from investment since 2010. Tye made no reference to the current bid by Greene King in a webcast to investors but focused on the bright growth potential for Spirit through internal investment and acquisitions. Tye said the company has around 100 high quality pubs within the estate that still represent investment opportunities, with £40m to be spent each year on organic capital expenditure – the remaining 100 pubs would see investment within the next 18 months. The company has seen “terrific returns to date” on its first seven Golden Oak Inns, slightly smaller pubs than suit its Flaming Grill brand but with a good quality demographics. He cited the example of two Golden Oaks, in Lymm, Cheshire, a 1,800 sq ft site now produced £18,000 a week of sales from a previous figure of £12,800 a week, and Solihull, a 1,500 sq ft site now producing £12,800 a week of sales from a previous figure of £7,800 a week, which were producing a £5,000 a week sales uplift on an investment of around  £200,000. Tye said that Golden Oak was an “outstanding concept – not a gastro-pub but a high quality local”. Spirit now believes the concept, which originated in the leased division but which has been "stolen" by the managed division, had the potential to be expanded to between 150 and 200 sites. There is an immediate roll-out to 60 sites. The company foresees its John Barras community pub estate reducing from the current 230 sites to 70 sites as sites are converted to Golden Oak, Flaming Grill and Fayre and Square. Tye said that there was potential to add around 61 sites from internal conversions to its Flaming Grill estate of 109 sites to create an estate of 170 pubs, with the full market potential with acquisitions at 250 to 275 sites. He cited the example of a Flaming Grill in Derby that had added £6,000 of sales to hit £22,500 a week after a £135,000 investment. A 5,100 sq ft freehold acquisition site in Birmingham, a failed Chinese restaurant acquired and refurbished for £1.2m, was achieving sales of £26,900 a week. Similarly, Spirit has the opportunity to add 22 sites to its Fayre and Square estate from internal conversions to create a total of 170 sites, with full market potential at 225 to 250 venues. Wacky Warehouse was another brand with substantial internal potential with the possibility of adding 75 to its current 95 sites to create around 170, with full market potential with conversions of around 225 to 250 sites, he said. Taylor Walker has seven more internal conversion opportunities to create an estate of around 120 sites but the market potential was between 150 and 200 venues. Overall, Tye said, the strategy would be to increase the value of existing brands and acquire more pubs to leverage its fixed costs, brands and skills. He said that in a large and fragmented market there would be “winners and losers” and Spirit had a significant opportunity to steal market share. Tye added that Spirit was so confident of its brand portfolio that it was prepared to trade new sites in close proximity with competitors. “We’re confident our brands can go head-to-head,” he said. The company has £75m to spend on acquisitions this year and there are ten sites where the company is currently bidding and 20 further sites “ready to go”. It acquired 22 pubs in the last financial year. The opportunity, Tye said, was existing sub-optimised pub assets, conversion on non-licensed premises and new-build opportunities. Within the company’s 444-strong leased division, now a source of income growth, there were further investment opportunities, with only 63% of the estate currently invested, up from 33% in 2012. Finance director Paddy Gallagher said the average Spirit managed pub was now worth £1.5m, up from £1.3m in 2012 and the average leased pub was worth £600,000 up from £560,000 in 2012.

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