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Thu 27th Nov 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

C&C Group puts its weight behind 'market rent only' option: C&C Group, the drinks producer that launched an unsuccessful bid last month to buy Spirit Pub Company, which owns 400 tenanted pubs, has thrown its weight behind moves to allow pub tenants to buy their beer outside the tie. John Gilligan, managing director of the C&C subsidiary Tennent Caledonian, brewer of Scotland's most popular lager brand, told Propel that the company would be campaigning to see the free market rent option for pub licensees passed into law in England and Wales, and it wants to see similar legislation in Scotland. Gilligan said that the move to introduce a free market rent option for pub licensees was "the most exciting development to hit the business in the last 21 years". The amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment bill to introduce a free market rent option was passed last week in the House of Commons after a defeat for the government. Gilligan said: "The current model has served its purpose. It's now not working very well, and now's the time to free the business up and allow people to make their own choices." He said there had been "no real voice come out in total support of this from suppliers so we want to make it clear as a supplier to the industry that we're in favour of it. We're a regional brewer, and we see this as freeing the market up for us. It's all about an entrepreneurial, open market. We've been locked out of England because of some of the things that have been going on, and we think it would be better for the industry overall if it was more open for the whole of the UK. The world is changing, pubs are under pressure, there are 30 closures a week. This step will allow pubs to dictate their own future, generate value in the business, and drive property values for pubs back up again." Gilligan said that the company was making its support for the "market rent only" (MRO) amendment known because "this is still not law yet, so we're very keen to make sure MPs in Westminster and MSPs in Edinburgh know that we're supporting this, and it's important that it now passes the House of Lords. It's an element in a much bigger small business bill that is about reducing red tape and the administrative burden on small businesses, and as a small, entrepreneurial business that's another reason why we're keen to see this bill happen." The MRO provision in the bill would not apply to Scotland, but Tennent's is going to be contacting MSPs and members of the Scottish cabinet to encourage the Scottish government to bring in a similar law – "we'd like Scotland to follow suit" – and the company was encouraged to see that SNP MPs in Westminster voted for the MRO amendment. Gilligan revealed that Tennent's resigned from the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) 18 months ago in part because of the BBPA's stance on the pubco tie issue. He said: "We're meaningful in Scotland and Ireland, but we're still a relatively small company. Our competitors are 50 to 100 times bigger than us, on average. They're global brewers. We don't want to be involved in trade bodies where their voice is louder than ours, we want to say our own thing." Tennent's has 36.4% of the Scottish on-trade lager market. C&C, which bought Tennent's in 2009 and also owns the Magners cider brand, made an approach to buy Spirit, which owns 400 leased and tenanted pubs and 770-plus managed ones, in October, after Greene King had made an approach that was ultimately backed by the board.
 

Industry News:

New York restaurant markets £22,300 Thanksgiving package: A New York restaurant, Old Homestead Steakhouse, in the meatpacking district, is offering a $35,000 (£22,300) feast for four –£5,500 a head. The package includes four grandstand seats at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; a $6,000 gift card to Bloomingdale's and dancing lessons at Fred Astaire dance studios to learn the Turkey Trot, a popular dance from the early 20th century. The nine-course meal will include squab stuffed with foie gras and soaked in Courvoisier L'Esprit Cognac ($5,000 a bottle) followed by roasted organic turkey stuffed with seven pounds of ground Japanese Wagyu filet mignon, and gravy made with Château Mouton Rothschild ($1,750 a bottle), widely regarded as one of the word's finest clarets.
 
Research finds there is less chance of having to cry over spilt beer: Research has found that a glass of beer is less likely to spill than the same glass filled with coffee, because bubbles cause friction that prevent the beer from sloshing. Just like a collection of tiny shock absorbers, liquid foam reduces movement by absorbing energy and the thicker the foam, the greater the effect. Alban Sauret of Princeton University, who led the study, said: "Our study has shown that you only need a few layers of bubbles to damp sloshing significantly. Once the foam thickness reaches a certain value, the damping is so strong that the surface of the liquid barely moves upon impact. So an impact that would make your coffee spill barely disturbs the surface of the beer."
 
Luke Johnson – young people make me optimistic: Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued that younger people are more resourceful than older generations, which is a source of optimism. In his Management Today column, he argued: “I am optimistic because the younger generation in Britain are economic liberals. They realise that the future lies with individuals taking control of their own destiny, rather than relying on jobs for life with the state or welfare payments. They are dramatically less collectivist than previous cohorts, and more resourceful, international and flexible than their predecessors. Accordingly to an RSA/Populus survey, more than 80% of self-employed people say they are more satisfied than they would be in a conventional job, and many even feel more secure. We cannot pretend globalisation and the digital revolution away: citizens and policymakers must adapt, rather than cling to old ideologies and outdated structures.”

Company News:

Patisserie Valerie – we paid £6.3m for sandwich maker Philpotts: Yesterday’s maiden result from Patisserie Valerie revealed that the company paid £6.3m for the 23-site sandwich maker Philpotts in February 2014, including £2.2m to settle debt obligations and fees of £300,000. The company said: “With our expertise, as we modify the offering and incorporate the group's purchasing power, we expect further synergies and gross profit efficiencies as the entity is fully integrated into the group. The goodwill arising of £3.6m from the acquisition consists largely of the synergies and economies of scale expected from combining the operations of the group and Philpotts. The revenue included in the consolidated statement of comprehensive income since 28 February 2014 contributed by Philpotts was £6.3m.”

Costa Coffee named best coffee chain in Europe for fourth year: Costa Coffee has been named best coffee shop operator in Europe for the fourth year in a row in the annual Allegra Group European Coffee Awards. The independent operator Timberyard, which is based in the UK, was named as Best Independent Coffee Shop – Europe. Five individual awards were given out to people identified for their outstanding contribution to the coffee industry’ in their country or across Europe: Mario Pascucci, managing director of Caffe Pascucci; Nick Tolley, co-founder of Harris & Hoole; Tim Sturk, head of training at BaxterStorey; John Nylon, chief executive of Espresso House; and Gennaro Pelliccia, production technical manager at Costa Coffee. The awards culminated with a lifetime achievement award being handed to Andy Marshall, managing director of Costa Coffee. Companies and individual award winners were recognised through a voting campaign run by Allegra from July to October 2014, with more than 1,000 senior industry executives taking part.

Mitchells & Butlers convicted over food poisoning death: Mitchells & Butlers has been convicted of serving unsafe food after a woman died following a Christmas turkey dinner at one of its pubs. Della Callagher, 46, died two days after eating the meal at the Railway Hotel, Hornchurch, east London, and dozens of others fell ill. Callagher was one of 33 diners who became ill after having a meal at the pub near her home in December 2012. A year-long investigation by Havering Council found the illness was the result of food poisoning caused because the turkey was either not cooked or reheated properly. Mitchells & Butlers, which owns around 1,700 restaurants and pubs across the UK, admitted selling food unfit for human consumption but argued that it took reasonable precautions to prevent the offence. However, a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court took 15 hours to return a unanimous verdict that the company failed to comply with the requirements. A Havering councillor, Osman Dervish, said: “We have put a lot of time into investigating this offence, which has shown that the company did not do everything they could to prevent this outbreak from happening.” A Mitchells & Butlers spokeswoman said: “Mitchells & Butlers respects the court’s decision. We also note that Anne-Marie McSweeney and Memhet Kaya were found guilty of perverting the course of justice. We have taken this matter extremely seriously, and have co-operated fully with the local authority throughout their investigations. Food safety is our highest priority and our employees are required to adhere to these stringent procedures at all times. Our thoughts remain with the Callagher family during this difficult time.” The company will be sentenced next month. The end of the court case could leave it open to civil litigation from the families affected.
 
Prezzo takes over former Smith & Jones premises in Lytham:
Prezzo has taken over a former Smith & Jones outlet in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Building work is currently taking place at the venue, in St Annes Square, which shut almost a year ago when it was known as the Sandhills Bar. A spokesman for Prezzo said: “Located 200m from the train station and seafront, Prezzo Lytham St Annes has a great location for travel and views." The Sandhills shut its doors at a day’s notice last December after the Smith and Jones chain's parent company, the Bramwell Group, went into administration. The new restaurant is due to open on Tuesday 16 December. This week Prezzo hits the 250-restaurant mark with the opening of its latest outlet in Newcastle upon Tyne city centre.
 
Pub owner – Gordon Ramsay must have been aware of personal guarantee during six months of negotiation: Pub owner Gary Love has described Gordon Ramsay's claims that he was the victim of fraud over a £640,000-a-year annual rent bill at the York & Albany pub near Regent's Park in Central London as "absurd". Ramsay is accusing his father-in-law, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to forge his signature on the lease, which had a personal guarantee by Ramsay. Ramsay is asking a judge to grant a declaration that the rental guarantee is not binding because his signature was used without his knowledge and authorisation when the 25-year lease was signed in 2007. Love said "celebrity chefs were circling like vultures" back in September 2007 when he was offering the 25-year lease, but the current Ramsay litigation "has really made a mess of my life". He said it was "difficult to comprehend how Gordon Ramsay can have been unaware of the fact that he had agreed to provide a personal guarantee on July 19 2007, following which there had then been almost six months of discussions between the parties' respective lawyers concerning the terms of the guarantee, and its limits, so that the original unqualified guarantee was watered down." Love said all Ramsay had to was deposit £1.28m, under the watered-down agreement, "and the guarantee falls away. I can think of no reason why he is going to such lengths to challenge the guarantee, save that he intends to let the two corporate parties to the lease go into liquidation rather than pay the high rent."

Entrepreneurs converts Greene King pub into Japanese-style cocktail bar for second site: A quartet of entrepreneurs who took over a pub in Witney, Oxfordshire and turned it into an American barbecue outlet have taken over a second pub in the town and transformed it into a Japanese-style eaterie and cocktail bar. The Greene King-owned Red Lion in Corn Street, a weekly live music venue which closed in July after neighbours’ complaints over noise, has now been refurbished and taken over by Sam Halsey, Tom Long, Martin Ogden and Sian Ogden and renamed Koi. It has a Japanese-themed interior, including Asian-style graffiti artwork, and will continue as a live music venue with open mic nights, bands and DJs. Ogden and Long are the head chefs and have been trained in Japanese cooking, while Halsey and Ogden run the front of house. Halsey, 31, said: “This is a completely fresh start. We are all from Witney and still live locally so we know that lots of people in the area tend to head into Oxford rather than staying in Witney for a meal or night out. With Koi we wanted to provide good food, cocktails and music – somewhere to have a great night out without having to go too far.” The quartet, took over the Chequers Inn in the same street and renamed it the Chequers Smoke House in December last year, serving burgers, chilli, pulled pork, and smoked ribs.

London’s first Lombardy restaurant starts crowd-funding to create communal outdoor space: Il Cudega, a deli, wine bar and restaurant dedicated entirely to the flavours and produce of Italy’s Lombardy region, is opening in London Fields, North London in March 2015. Il Cudega , run by Italians Giovanni Brighi, a Hackney resident of 20 years, and his Milanese business partner Luca Gaggioli, will be open from breakfast through to dinner serving dishes such as Risotto Giallo and Rustin Nega (veal roasted in white wine). Funding for the restaurant site is secured but the pair have just launched a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo to raise £18,000 for the creation of a communal outdoor space that Il Cudega will share with two adjoining railway arches that are being developed just off Westgate Street. With the funds raised they hope to create a courtyard with a fruit and vegetable garden, seating areas, bike racks and an outdoor food stall cooking risotto all day. Those who contribute to the campaign will be entitled to different rewards ranging from charcuterie hampers to cooking courses.
 
Wonderlounge site in Banbury sold: Max Bars Ltd has sold Wonderlounge, the late bar in Banbury, Oxfordshire in a former cinema formerly operated by No Saints, through the Bristol Office of leisure property specialist Fleurets. Chris Irving, from Fleurets, said: “The opportunity to acquire a freehold in the town centre of Banbury appealed to a range of prospective purchasers including developers and restaurateurs. The property was finally sold to a developer looking to convert the upper parts to residential and retain licensed, retail or restaurant use on the ground floor. The premises were sold off an asking price of £400,000.”
 
Artisan pizza and burger concepts to open in Sheffield’s Kelham Island area: A new artisan pizza concept and an artisan burger brand are due to open in the Kelham Island area of Sheffield, the city’s old industrial quarter. Matt Bigland owner of the local gastro-pub the Milestone, is opening an artisan pizzeria called Craft & Dough on Green Lane. “It will be an all-day operation serving pizzas for breakfast through to dinner,” said Bigland, who also owns Fancie on Ecclesall Road and the Wig and Pen on Campo Lane. “We’re pushing  Luke [group head chef Luke French] to come up with some interesting toppings. There may well be a nose-to-tail pork pizza.” The restaurateur and chef Stuart Baker, who runs the Roast cafe in Howard Street, Sheffield, is to open an "artisan British better burger brand" called Urban Quarter. Baker plans to hand-make burgers from Yorkshire beef and brioche buns from the Sheffield craft baker Roses. Select craft beers will be on the menu and cocktails will be overseen by Adam Clark, this year’s bartender of the year in the Eat Sheffield Awards.
 
Opening of new £2m buffet concept by former Red Hot management in Cardiff delayed: The opening of a new buffet brand, FED, in Cardiff has been delayed. The site, next to Cineworld at the rear of St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff, has been due to open this month but has been delayed to Monday 15 December. FED is a project from brothers Sachin and Sal Bajpai, former management team members at Red Hot World Buffet, who picked Cardiff for their chain’s first location because of its cosmopolitan culture. They describe the two-storey building as "many restaurants within a restaurant". It will have seven kitchens, giving diners the opportunity to sample up to nine different cuisines from a variety of cultures. Unlike in a traditional buffet, diners at FED will interact with chefs one-on-one to create a meal specifically made to their taste. There is no set menu: instead, customers will chat with the chefs about their personal preferences, and receive suggestions as they travel from kitchen to kitchen. The new 13,000 sq foot, restaurant will serve more than 300 diners at a time including 50 covers on the top-floor mezzanine, which will be available for private hire. Once launched, the restaurant aims to deliver 5,000 covers a week.

Rum Kitchen eyes Brixton for third site: Caribbean food and cocktail concept Rum Kitchen is eyeing a site in Coldharbour Lane, Brixton Village, South London for its third opening. It plans to convert a premises formerly occupied by Brixton Cycles on the ground floor of the Lexadon-owned unit opposite the Prince Albert pub, at 435-437 Coldharbour Lane. Opening hours in its licensing application are listed as 10am to midnight Sunday to Wednesday, and 10am to 2am Thursday to Saturday. The company already runs two other sites in London, in All Saints Road in Notting Hill and in Carnaby Street.

Wagamama franchisee opens first new Dublin hotel in two years: The Wagamama franchisee Press Up Entertainment Group has opened the first new hotel in Dublin in two years. It has invested €5.5m (£4.36m) in converting three Georgian terraces in Harcourt Street, once the offices of the ICC Bank, into the Dean Hotel, with 52 bedrooms. Press Up Entertainment Group also operates the Bison Bar & BBQ and the Liquor Rooms in Dublin. The new hotel will include the ground-floor Dean Bar, a first-floor “event space” and a rooftop New York-style Italian restaurant called Sophie’s, with views over the city. The cheapest rooms featuring “punk bunks” and many are kitted out with turntables, vinyl collections and Marshall guitar amps. The 1,400 sq ft two-bedroom penthouse has a loft and its own cocktail bar, a 70in TV, a football table and an eight-seat poker table.
 
Sheffield multi-siter gives up pub to focus on Champs sports bar brand: The Sheffield multi-site operator Danny Grayson has given notice on his pub the White Lion in Heeley, Sheffield to focus on the Champs sports brand, which he operates at Punch Taverns sites. Grayson said: “After careful consideration, I feel that I can no longer give the pub my full attention due to my focus on promoting and expanding my successful sports bars in the Champs brand. It wasn’t an easy decision as the White Lion is very close to my heart, being one of the first pubs I owned, but in order to take its real ale roots forward in the future it needs someone who can devote time that I sadly cannot. I wish the pub every success in the future and will certainly be keeping it as one of my favourite haunts in Sheffield as it’s an amazing traditional pub full of character.” Anyone interested in the White Lion should contact Punch.
 
De Vere Hotels completes sale of Urban Village Resorts: De Vere Hotels has completed the sale of Village Urban Resorts, 25 properties with a further three under construction, to an affiliate of the American private equity firm KSL Capital Partners. JP Morgan Cazenove acted on behalf of De Vere. The disposal marks the completion of the "build and crystallise value" strategy at De Vere, formerly one of the UK's largest independent leisure and hospitality businesses. De Vere said the strategy has delivered sale proceeds in excess of £1bn and effectively also saved several thousand jobs. Chief executive Andrew Coppel said: "We are delighted to have achieved this overall result following the financial restructuring in 2010 and the creation of a new board in 2011. The support of Lloyds Bank in particular from late 2011 was critical, as this enabled the team to build value within three quality businesses and realise premium prices on disposal. To generate over £1bn of sale proceeds in challenging market conditions reflects well on the team. It represents a vindication of our strategy and Lloyds Bank's confidence in the company. [Village Urban Resorts] is now in great shape and has forward momentum with the openings in December and the new year of properties in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Its future is positive, undoubtedly enhanced by KSL's commitment to invest substantially in the existing portfolio and pipeline."
 
Yum! looks to sell KFC managed sites in India to franchisees: Yum! Brands has put its company-owned KFC business in western India up for sale. The American operator chain, which has 700 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell stores in India through a mix of company-owned stores and franchisee outlets, wants to sell the business to a franchisee to reduce overheads. Yum! directly operates 18 stores in the western region. The earnings statement of Yum! Restaurants for the quarter ended September shows a 14% increase in sales in its India division, driven by 26% unit growth. But like-for-like sales fell 4% and the operating loss stood at $3m.
 
Greene King stresses craft credentials of Old Speckled Hen: Greene King has rebranded the packaging for its ale brand Old Speckled Hen to “put the craft back” back into the drink and reach a new generation of beer drinkers. First brewed in 1979, Old Speckled Hen has in recent years widened its reach beyond its core customer base with the launch of new products, including a golden ale and a hoppy pale ale, and has looked to "soften" its long-running TV ad campaign, which features a fox seeking out an elusive hen. The new design, created by the branding consultancy Ziggurat Brands, aims to represent the fox as a symbol of the quality of the product, which can be seen chasing a hen, which makes its first appearance on pack. Dom South, marketing director at Greene King, said: “This packaging redesign will help take the Old Speckled Hen family to younger beer enthusiasts while retaining the loyalty of existing drinkers. It was important that we evolved to stay relevant in what has become an incredibly competitive marketplace.”

Former Luminar nightclub to re-open with a social mission: A former Luminar nightclub in Shrewsbury will reopen this week after a £100,000 refit, with a social mission to involve community groups. The venues, formerly known as Tiffinys, the Fridge, Park Lane, Liberty’s, Liquid & Diva and, most recently, Onyx and Blu, which closed over a year ago, have been named Trade and Niche, with Trade, the larger of the two venues, covering four rooms, opening first, this Friday, 28 November. The venues originally closed because of a planned re-development of the Riverside Shopping Mall, but "re-analysis" and delays with the project meant a window for new social projects and shops to occupy the empty space has opened up. The reopening of the nightspots will create more than 50 full and part-time jobs and support a network of thousands of people. A Community Interest Company (CIC) has been established called the Shrewsbury Arts and Communities Collective. Club manager Dene Edwards said: “What is set to be unique and exciting about Trade and Niche is the social mission we have set out to achieve during the daytime. The project will offer up a space for community groups and musicians alike to meet, work and rehearse.”

Tahola becomes first UK to win Qlik UK accreditation:
Tahola, the leading provider of business analytics solutions to the UK hospitality sector, is the first company in the UK to be awarded "Expertise Accreditation" by Qlik UK, a leader in data discovery. Simon Blackbourne, Tahola's commercial director, said: “We are absolutely committed to the hospitality sector and to Qlik Data Discovery solutions. Qlik provides us with a solution that enables hospitality operators to understand their businesses in a much more agile and easy way than other methods allow. This accreditation adds further strength to our proposition and demonstrates to our prospective customers that we have the necessary credentials to help support the growth of their business.”
 
Cleethorpes multi-siters open craft beer and stone-baked pizza brand: Cleethorpes multi-siters Elaine and David Fryman ha opened a new site, the Bobbin, offering craft beer and stone-baked pizzas. The operation occupies a site that formerly traded as a Turkish restaurant called Meze. The Frymans and their son Carl Hardy already operate Gypsy Tears and the Scratching Post in the Lincolnshire town. Stone-baked pizzas, prepared by the venue's in-house newly launched R&R Pizza Company, will dominate the menu, with speciality toppings including hoisin duck and feta with caramelised onion. The bar will offer a variety of cocktails, all made with fresh fruit; draught beer; and a selection of craft and world beers. Hardy said: "Every time as a family we have opened a bar we have tried to add something a little bit different to the area."
 
Lancashire pub turns spare room into barber's salon: A Star Pubs & Bars outlet in Leyland, Lancashire is leasing out one of its spare rooms to a homeless barber to run a hairdressing salon. The Fox & Lion in Towngate, Leyland, near Preston, invited Frank Collinson in after the lease ran out on his hairdressing premises. Licensee Alison Sharples said: “He is well-liked in Leyland and he is one of the locals. It started as a joke. I said to him one night: ‘You could always come and use that front room’, and it’s stemmed from there.” Collinson, who has taken over a small pool room in the pub, which he is transforming into a salon, said: “My lease came up on the shop – my family had been there for 50 years, we are a family full of gentlemen’s hairdressers, but it just wasn’t viable. We sorted it out with the area manager and it is up and running. I love my job, but as a one-man band it doesn’t pay. But this should work.”
 
Hungry Horse planned for Cowley yards from pub shut after violence and drug incidents:
Greene King is planning to open a Hungry Horse pub-restaurant in Between Towns Road, Cowley, Oxford just yards from the site of a former Spirit Pub Company outlet that closed for ever in September after a series of incidents involving violence and drugs. The Hungry Horse is planned for one of three restaurant sites in the Templars Shopping Park in Cowley that has stood empty since September 2013. A spokeswoman for Quadrant Estates, owner of the shopping park, said: “A Hungry Horse family pub/restaurant will be an excellent addition to Templars Shopping Park and we look forward to our planning application being considered.” Quadrant said the firm had been unable to attract any interest in the spaces from restaurant companies and had turned to pubs. It said in a letter to Oxford Council that a Hungry Horse pub would improve footfall and the time people spent at the retail park. A Hungry Horse spokeswoman said the company had been given positive feedback from residents at a public consultation. She said: “Hungry Horse is famous for its family-friendly attitude and great-value pub food, and we hope our plans will bring greater choice to Cowley residents and families wanting to dine out, including the option of a full English breakfast for early risers.” The Nelson pub, on the opposite side of Between Towns Road, closed a few months after police found substances believed to be illegal drugs on the premises. In February last year, a man was arrested on suspicion of affray after a brawl at the pub.

Nando’s posts half-billion UK turnover: Nando’s Group Holdings has reported that turnover in the UK has hit £534.9m in the 52 weeks to 23 February, up 10.26% from £485.1m the year before. Profit before tax was £30.4m, down 9% from £33.4m in 2012/13. The number of restaurants increased 8% to 370 from 343 the year before, with five new Gourmet Burger Kitchen openings. The gross profit margin was 29%, a fall from the 31% achieved in 2012/13. Administrative expenses rose to £85.4m from £74.5m the year before. Net debt fell to £357m from £375.6m the year before after £32.5m of loans were repaid. The company said: “The average result for the 52-week period has been satisfactory – however, we always aim to improve performance. The company operates in a very competitive and fragmented market, which is constantly bringing new concepts and products to the expanding customer base. However, we believe Nando’s offers a unique product that gives us a competitive advantage.” A dividend of 12p per share was paid in the yea, down 57% on 2012/13's 28p per share). The highest paid director earned £302,000 (2013: £287,000). The company has 10,993 staff, up 7.3% from 10,245 the year before. A royalty payment of £24.3m (2013: £22.2m) was paid to a related party, Tortolli, in relation to a 5% charge on net turnover for the use of Nando’s global brand and concept.
 
Davy’s of London reports turnover and profit boost: The London wine bar and restaurant operator Davy’s has reported turnover increased to £12,293,000 in the year to 29 March 2014, up 3.9% from £11,831,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit climbed 15% to £813,000 from £706,488 in 2012/13. The year saw Sarah Weir join the board of directors in January in the role of commercial director. An ordinary dividend of £193,440 was paid and a final ordinary dividend of £290,000.

Benito’s Hat to launch street food pod and Bromley site in 2015: The Mexican kitchen and bar group Benito’s Hat is to open in two new locations in London at Liverpool Street Station and in Bromley, in January and February respectively. The latest additions will bring a street food pod and a suburban high street location in to the Benito’s portfolio to take the group to a total of eight sites, which also includes Goodge Street, New Row, Great Castle Street, Leadenhall Market, Covent Garden and Kings Cross. Benito’s Hat will launch its first-ever street food pod outside the Broadgate entrance to Liverpool Street Station. In Bromley it is opening a 2,000 sq foot restaurant on Market Square, part of the newly developed North Village area. The single-storey restaurant, with interiors designed by Cantor Masters, will have seating for 60 customers inside and 24 outside. Ben Fordham, managing director of Benito’s Hat, said: “We’re looking forward to getting back to our street food roots and feeding commuters at Liverpool Street Station by offering a fun and accessible all-day menu. It allows us to simplify things but also gives us the freedom to experiment with some new ideas as well. We’re also delighted to launch our first venture south of the river. it’s an area we’ve wanted to explore for a long time and are thrilled to be bringing our brand to a whole new audience."

Cafe Rouge hires new brand and marketing director: After the recent appointment of James Spragg as managing director of Cafe Rouge, owner Tragus has appointed Georgia Hall to the chain's board as brand and marketing director. Hall’s experience includes working for Tower Records when it was the world’s largest record retailer, YO! Sushi (taking it to its £52m sale in 2008), Virgin Atlantic, Sony, Vodafone and Chelsea FC. She was also the founder of the digital agency Zinc in 2002. Hall said: “I intend to capitalise on our brand’s real heritage and make it shine again. It's all about the food, wine, service and the decor, so I'll be working with James Spragg to ensure that all touch points are absolutely delivering to the highest brand standards, from signage that oozes Parisian chic to the most fantastic red wine. After many years agency-side, I'm looking forward to having a focus on one brand, especially when it’s one with such fantastic, nostalgic potential. I’ve been on the look-out for an opportunity to work on the next big thing and I relish the idea of refreshing Cafe Rouge. Ultimately, my goal is make us all remember why we once fell in love with it, and fall in love all over again." Spragg said: “What we’ll see from Georgia is an injection of energy and creative brilliance that’s going to transform our marketing efforts and put Cafe Rouge back on top. I am very optimistic about the future of Cafe Rouge and making the next chapter our most exciting yet.”
 
Britvic reports 2.4% growth: Britvic has reported revenue growth of 2.4% to £1,344.4m in the year to 28 September, with volume growth of 1.5%. Group ebit was £158.1m, up 17.6% on last year and ahead of previous guidance, driven by what the company said was "disciplined revenue growth and accelerated delivery of the strategic cost initiatives". Chief executive Simon Litherland said: "This is a strong set of results and we have made excellent progress during the year implementing our new strategy. We have delivered revenue and margin growth, and profit significantly ahead of last year, despite challenging trading conditions in each of our markets. Our international operations are also progressing encouragingly and we anticipate the launch of Fruit Shoot multi-packs in the United States in the second half of 2015. In addition we continue to invest in our people and our infrastructure to ensure we are well placed to deliver the growth opportunities available to us. The year has begun slowly, reflecting the increasingly challenging trading conditions. However we are confident of further improving our profitability in 2015, as we bring to market our strong innovation and marketing plans and benefit from the delivery of the cost savings programme. The board is proposing a final dividend per share of 14.8p, up 13.8% on last year. This reflects the board's confidence in the future prospects of our business, the robust free cash-flow generation and our stated progressive dividend policy.”

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