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Wed 3rd Dec 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Hummus Bros hits 350-pop-up milestone within a year: Hummus Brothers has hit the milestone of operating 350 pop-ups within a year of its first pop-up at the offices of Goldman Sachs in London. The company hit the 350 mark with a pop-up at the ITV studios on the Southbank in London, and pop-ups now account for around 20% of total turnover. Founder Christian Mouysset said of the first pop-up at Goldman Sachs "“We had no idea what to expect and it seemed rather strange why the contract caterer would allow us onto their patch. Our sales on the first day surpassed our wildest expectations and we ran out of food. It was one of those moments in business when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you realise there is a serious opportunity." According to the company, dwindling footfall and lack of variety can be a real headache for facilities management companies running large corporate restaurants, but it became clear from the data that the Hummus Brothers pop-up was creating a win-win situation, with Hummus Brothers growing sales while the contract caterer was seeing higher footfall and sales too. "The corporate canteen became ‘cool’ and customer feedback ranged from excitement to downright ecstasy at having Hummus Brothers on site every week," it said. The fixture became a permanent weekly event at Goldman Sachs and Hummus Brothers now runs more than 50 corporate canteens per month in large investment banks, legal, accountancy and media firms. The business expects to double the number of pop-ups next year. “There are now five pop-up teams in place and opportunities to run pop-ups at concerts and sporting events at the weekend,” it said. On the back of increased brand footprint, Hummus Brothers has also seen what it says is spectacular growth in other non-traditional retail channels, such as deliveries through its own website or specialist services such as Deliveroo and City Pantry, the corporate versions of Just Eat. Mouysset said: “It’s not for the faint-hearted, because the corporate clients demand excellence in all areas, but if you’re prepared to invest in your brand, production processes and training, then working in partnership with the contract caterers can be very successful. It really is a case of thinking outside the shop.”

Industry News:

ONS figures reveal Britons spending more on rent and home entertainment: British households are spending less on eating out, hotels, alcohol and smoking, according to the annual Office of National Statistics (ONS) survey of family budgets, which also reveals how rent, gas and electricity are taking up an ever larger proportion of spending. Spending on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs fell from £18.20 a week at the start of the century to £12 in 2013. Although spending rose last year compared with the previous one, much of the increase was taken up by rent payments as the property boom ate into household expenditure. Austerity-hit Britons are choosing to stay in, with fewer trips to restaurants and weekends away, while splashing out more on home entertainment. Spending on TV packages, games and gardening rose, while the number of families connected to the internet has hit almost saturation point at 98%. The ONS also found disparities between the lowest and highest earners – with the richest 10% spending three times as much on food as the bottom 10%. Total average spending by families in 2013 was £517.30 a week, an increase from £501 the year before, the ONS said, but remains substantially below the 2006 peak of £539.80, and is now lower than average spending at the end of the 1990s. All figures are adjusted for inflation.
 
Record number of London restaurant openings: The 2015 edition of Harden’s London Restaurants has reported that there have been 148 London restaurant openings in the last year and 47 closures to produce a new growth of 101 restaurants – the previous record was 75 in 2006. The Times reports the guide’s editor Peter Harden forecasting that “such high points have often heralded more competitive times ahead”.

World’s largest rollercoaster restaurant opens: The world’s largest rollercoaster-themed restaurant, Rogo’s, has opened in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The venue transports food to customers along looping and twisting tracks. Jessica Wadih al-Absi, chief executive of the restaurant operator Group JWA, said: "Each table has its own individually designed roller coaster track and a unique silent delivery system that thrills diners as they get to watch their food make a gravity-defying 360-degree journey to their table." More than 30 roller coaster tracks transport food and drinks, kept in closed pots to prevent spilling, around "multispiral, double loop and tornado tracks," al-Absi said. The 14,000-square-foot establishment in Yas Mall seats 378 people, making it the largest roller-coaster-themed restaurant, according to its creators. The venue is so popular, especially with its tornado spiral ride, with the option to order using handheld devices, that there are often waiting times of more than 30 minutes. There are rollercoaster restaurants in Germany, Kuwait and Russia. Branches are planned to open in the United Kingdom, China and Poland.

‘Open brewery’ launches on Crowdcube: A new open brewery business, Ubrew, founded by Matthew Denham and Wilf Horsfall, has launched a crowd-funding push on Crowdcube, and is looking to raise £75,000 in return for 10% of its equity. It has raised £30,060 already. The pitch says: “Ubrew is an open brewery, where you brew the beer. Simply put, that means you join as a member, turn up, and brew your own beers with our professional equipment and a community of like-minded beer lovers. Ubrew has achieved over £12,000 in pre-sales prior to launch, secured a 2,650 sq ft property for the brewery on the Bermondsey Beer Mile [in South London] and has over 60 group memberships. UK craft beer sales have reached £225m with growth of 79% in 12 months. [The business has] a monthly recurring income of over £2500 prior to launch. In late November, [we] relaunched presales through our website, achieving over £2,000 in new sales.”
 
Starbucks offers 14 customers free Starbucks for life as a Christmas prize: Starbucks is offering 14 customers, including someone from the UK, the chance to win Starbucks for life. The Ultimate Starbucks Card is worth $54,000,and one of the 14 will go to a UK customer. From now until 5 January 2015, customers who pay using a Starbucks Card (registration not required) or their Starbucks mobile app can enter the Starbucks It’s a Wonderful Card Ultimate Giveaway for a chance to win one of 482,000 instant prizes, with the ultimate prize being "Starbucks for Life", which is one free food or beverage item from participating stores every day for the next 30 years. Sharon Rothstein, Starbucks' global chief marketing officer, said: “Starbucks for Life is truly the ultimate gift of the season, and we are thrilled to make that a reality for a special group of Starbucks customers. And, the prizes will keep coming throughout the holiday season with more than 482,000 instant winners.”
 

Company News:

Overseas investor buys freehold of Notting Hill restaurant site for £2m: An unnamed overseas investor has acquired the freehold of the Loading Bay in Notting Hill, West London for £2m in a sale arranged by the property agent AG&G. AG&G’s Anthony Alder said: “We brought our expertise to bear on the existing Italian restaurant in the basement and ground floor and were able to advise on the level of rent the buyer could expect. There’s already a two-bed flat above the restaurant and there is planning permission to add a third storey and a rear extension the full height of the building, which the new owner hopes to build, adding a further 54 square metres to this substantial 19th century terrace.” The Loading Bay, owned privately previously, is at the junction of Westbourne Park Road and Chepstow Road, less than half a mile from Westbourne Park tube.

Zero-waste restaurant seeks crowd-funding to pay for zero-carbon food imports: The zero-waste restaurant and coffee house Silo, which opened in Upper Gardner Street, Brighton, six weeks ago, is looking to raise £40,000 through crowd-funding to help it achieve a "zero carbon delivery system", importing items such as coffee beans, red wine and cacao by sailing ship. The restaurant's founder and chef, Douglas McMaster, said: “It’s financially sensible as well as enormously productive in moving towards ‘future proof food systems’. " The money would also be used to pay for general expansion of the restaurant, McMaster said: "We need a new dishwasher.” Silo describes itself as a “hub of alternative innovation”. It brews its own beer and cider in the basement and grows mushrooms from used coffee. All bread is baked on site with heritage wheat varieties. Silo also uses pH neutral electrolysed water, claimed to be a more powerful disinfectant than soap or bleach. It is believed to be the first zero-waste food business in the country, with most off-cuts composted. The business is co-owned by David Wickes, managing director of European Recruitment, which had £7m turnover in 2013 and has offices above Silo, and his partner Sarah Bennett.

Alistair Darby – ‘consumers will punish brands if you don’t get your price points right’: Mitchells & Butlers' chief executive, Alistair Darby, has argued that consumers will punish brands at the value-end that do not get their price points right. He said: "Demand for value is so strong that if you don’t get your price point right, then you are going to get hurt by consumers. Equally, if you do get it right, I think we have made a huge amount of progress in the last year, then those guests will come back, because they are incredibly aware and sensitive to price. I think one of the things that is really striking from whenever we do consumer groups with people who use Miller & Carter or people who use our Heartland pubs, when it comes to people who really know the cost of everything and budget most accurately, it is absolutely consumers in our Heartland estate. You ask somebody who is using Miller & Carter what the price of a pint of milk is, they might not know. Ask somebody in the Heartland pubs such as Sizzling and Crown Carveries, they will tell you what the price of a pint of milk is in four supermarkets. In fact we had a consumer group recently where one guest was able to tell us what the price of fish and chips was in eight competing brands. So where we have been investing back in value, you can see a particular effect in those more value-led brands, but it is broad-based.”
 
Wigan brewery opens real ale and cider bar: The Prospect brewery, based in Standish, Wigan, is opening a real ale and cider bar in a railway arch on Queen Street, Wigan tomorrow (Thursday). NatWest has provided £65,000 towards the bar, called Wigan Central, which will create six jobs. Prospect Brewery was started seven years ago as a part-time venture for John Slevin and his wife Patsy, who run the Silver Tally in Shevington Moor, Standish, a pub owned jointly with the Blackburn brewery Daniel Thwaites. Patsy Slevin said: "We are proud of the products we make and we want people to come in and enjoy our beers in a unique setting. The arch will make a distinctive space for people to come and enjoy their drinks." NatWest's relationship manager Jamie Grimshaw said: "I was delighted to support Patsy and John with funding for their new bar. They have developed a great product and are passionate about their business and industry, and I wish them every success for the future."
 
YO! Sushi partners Disney to launch healthy children’s bento boxes: YO! Sushi has partnered Disney UK to create six new healthy children’s bento box meals inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ next animated blockbuster Big Hero 6, which topped the US charts on its opening. The film, released in UK and Ireland cinemas from 30 January, is the latest animation from Disney after the global success of Frozen. The co-branded collaboration will be promoted through a national advertising campaign that includes TV, digital, PR, social media and point of sale activity across 76 YO! Sushi UK restaurants. Graham Hawkey-Smith of YO! Sushi said: “We are delighted to be working with Disney in bringing a new generation of YO! Sushi fans into our restaurants. Big Hero 6 has so many wonderful links back to our brand, it was great fun for our exec chef, Mike Lewis, to create six bento box meals inspired by the film. As you'd expect from YO! Sushi the meals are delicious, fun, fresh and healthy, using a combination of dishes we know are already big hits with our younger customers. We look forward to adding to filmgoers’ Big Hero 6 experience at their nearest YO! Sushi.” As part of the wider campaign, the restaurant chain will be offering customers the chance to win Big Hero 6 merchandise and a holiday to Japan.
 
Spirit launches 'Little Box of Big Deals’ for tenanted division: The leased and tenanted pub company Spirit Leased Pubs has launched a new initiative to extend the benefits offered to its licensees, the "Little Box of Big Deals". It has been developed to try to provide Spirit Leased Pubs licensees with the purchasing power of a managed house, with offers from 14 major suppliers on offer to the whole the Spirit Leased Pubs estate. In the Little Box of Big Deals are special offers across key services such as gardening and planting, waste management, hot drinks equipment, fire prevention and clothing. Notable suppliers involved include BT Sport, SL Audio Visual, Pestokill, abbeyFIRE and Rock and Roll Bingo. Spirit Leased Pubs' managing director, Chris Welham, said: “We’re thrilled to be delivering the Little Box of Big Deals to our licensees. With such an array of excellent deals on offer to our managed sites, we offer these benefits to our loyal licensees.” More deals will be added every month as new suppliers come on board.

Tesco picks Northern Irish coffee chain for new County Down hypermarket: Tesco has chosen the Coleraine-based coffee chain Ground Espresso Bars to run the cafe at one of the largest Tesco Extras in Northern Ireland, its new store in Bridgewater Park, Banbridge, County Down. Ground Espresso Bars was established in 2001 and employs more than 120 staff in 11 stand-alone stores and concessions in Northern Ireland. The chain said it had carried out "significant investment" in the 1,800 sq ft coffee shop. Ground Espresso director Karen Gardiner said the Tesco venture was a "great sign of confidence" in what the company has achieved in Northern Ireland and will "hopefully spur us on to future expansion and job creation". She said: "Tesco is trialling new concepts that will focus on delivering more for their local communities and we hope we can supply more than a little bit extra to our customers in Banbridge and beyond." The latest venture from the family-owned business will also include a sizeable children's play area.

Camerons looks to expand Head of Steam brand further into Yorkshire: The Hartlepool-based brewer Camerons is looking to expand the Head of Steam chain of pubs it acquired in 2013 further into Yorkshire, with Harrogate and York among the targets. Camerons director Christopher Soley said the company had a five-year strategy to open five or six pubs a year. "We are now looking at primary town and city centre locations, including Harrogate and York. We are working outwards from our core North East geography and will keep doing so to develop the brand. We will focus on geography we can control," Soley told the regional business news website Insider. He said that if an opportunity arose outside the brewery's core geography to acquire a number of pubs at once, then it would be willing to take that leap to expand the Head of Steam brand. "We have just signed off spending £750,000 on refurbishing our entire pub estate, the majority of which has been spent on developing the Head of Steam brand," he said. Since acquiring the brand, Camerons has increased the number of outlets under the Head of Steam name to ten, with the latest, a 4,000 sq ft outlet on Mill Hill in Leeds city centre, due to open just before Christmas. Soley said that the past 12 months have been a "big learning curve" for the company. "It's obviously been a different set of pubs for us so it's brought a lot of good lessons to the business, which we are now implementing each time we open somewhere new," he said.

Robinson to send 300,000 cans of Trooper to the US: The Stockport-based brewer and retailer Robinsons is producing a 500ml "Tall Boy" can of Trooper for the first time in January 2015 to try to gain a foothold in the growing US canned craft beer market. The first order is currently in production and 300,000 cans of Trooper will be shipped to the US in the new year. Sales of craft beer cans in the US are up 89% year on year, while bottles are only up a meagre 9%. In the UK, sales growth is even more dramatic, with specialist beer distributors, such as James Clay, seeing sales of canned beer rocket by more than 250% this year. Oliver Robinson, managing director of the beer division at Robinsons Brewery, said: “At the start of the millennium only a handful of small North American producers were canning their beers. Today, it’s the biggest growth area in the US craft industry, with more than 400 US craft breweries, double the amount there was just five years ago, all electing to can their beers rather than bottle, and I have a sneaky suspicion that a canned comeback could be on the cards for the UK as well. There are many reasons for the rise in canned beers, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that there’s something rather cool about a premium beer in a can!”
 
'World's most expensive mulled wine' on sale at St Pancras for £60 a glass: What is claimed to be the world's most expensive glass of mulled wine, at £60 a time, has gone on sale at Searcys Restaurant & Champagne Bar in St Pancras International station in London. The drink consists of Lanson Champagne, Muscat De Beaumes de Venise dessert wine and Blanche de Normandie Calvados added to a base of Chateau des Gravieres Bordeaux wine, along with mulling spices such as cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. It has been specially developed by the bar’s senior mixologists and the food and drink writer Matthew Fort. Peter Alderin, general manager of Searcys at St Pancras International, said: “Mulled wine is a staple of the festive period but this year we wanted to create something slightly different that brought together the finest ingredients from France and the UK." The drink is on sale until 31 December.
 
Rank Group becomes first to sign for Milestone Passion Project: Milestone, the AIM-quoted provider of digital media and technology solutions, has signed the Rank Group as both a corporate member of the Passion Project and an employment provider to the programme. The Passion Project is a "digital youth engagement platform", which helps 16 to 24-year-olds explore employment opportunities by identifying and developing their skills and passions and providing meaningful employment opportunities. Rank has been appointed as the lead employer of Passion Project's participants in the leisure, hospitality and entertainment sector and will be making a wide range of digital and venue-based roles available for application by participants. Rank is set to provide around 1,500 employment opportunities over the coming 12 months across a range of venues and locations nationally. Sue Waldock, group HR director of the Rank Group, said: "Rank views the partnership with the Passion Project as a fantastic opportunity for engaging with young people in the community through an innovative and relevant medium that reflects our own approach to the importance of employability. We believe that with a structured support and training programme, we can offer young people a route to launching a career in one of the most dynamic and exciting industries around. We look forward to engaging with many rising stars and giving young people the opportunity to be part of our exciting multi-channel growth plans as we work towards our aim to be the UK's leading multi-channel gaming operator."
 
Hawthorne Leisure and Wadworth signs up for Vianet beer monitoring: Vianet, the operator of the iDraught beer monitoring system, has reported 268 new beer monitoring installations in its first half, thanks to new contracts with Hawthorne Leisure and Wadworth. The company said: “The underlying performance of the group's core beer monitoring business remained robust over the period, with a pickup in growth in iDraught sales offset by continued pub closures. Over the period, the division made 268 new beer monitoring installations, of which 261 were higher-value iDraught installations. This compares to 150 new installations in the corresponding period in 2014, including 79 for iDraught. Despite this good growth year-on-year, this number still illustrates the hangover effect of the impact of the statutory code for pub companies and their investment expenditure. Furthermore, the industry has continued to see pub closures and disposals, which have resulted in a net reduction of just over 300 sites to approximately 16,100 sites in the core leisure installation base. For now however, this is a marked slowdown in the pace of reduction from the experience of the previous financial year. Vianet remains confident for the future growth prospects for iDraught in the UK, both in new installations for new customers and replacement systems for existing beer monitoring customers. However, the group is equally mindful of the impact of continued uncertainty arising from Parliamentary deliberations on the statutory code." Sales were up 1.44% to £9.14m from £9.01m in the first half of 2013 and operating profit up 16.9% to £1.52m from £1.3m.
 
Toby Carvery site installs ice-rink: The Toby Carvery in Eastleigh, Southampton has installed an ice-rink it the pub's car park for the Christmas season. The rink was installed by the company Blades Skating, run by a Southampton businessman, James Hickman, who brought the rink back from the Canary Isles. The landlord at the Mitchells & Butlers-owned Toby Carvery, Allan Ince, said: “I wanted something for families to do and give something for the kids to do over the Christmas period. I would like to think this is the only pub to have one. I think it’s quite unique. I think the punters are going to love it. I’ve had so many enquiries for it and a lot of people are coming up because of it, so there’s been a really positive response.” The ice rink will be open from 10am to 10pm every day, and until 3pm on Christmas Day, until January 3. Father Christmas will be joining skaters on the ice every Saturday and on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Cafe chain's coffee grounds used to grow mushrooms in prison: The Boston Tea Party cafe chain is supplying its used coffee grounds to a project that sees mushrooms grown by prisoners in disused cells at Dartmoor Prison. Used grounds from the chain's 15 coffee shops in the South West of England are collected every evening and driven to Dartmoor Prison in Devon. There prisoners and members of the Green Shoots Associates organisation, which runs the scheme, mix the coffee grounds with compost and mushroom spores. The mixture is then bagged, watered and left in one of several unused cell at the prison to grow into oyster mushrooms, which are sold to restaurants. A spokesman for Boston Tea Party said: “The success of the project could be measured by it having picked recently won a European Sustainability award, or by the fact that several other UK prisons are looking into replicating it. But its success is best shown by the passion the inmates have for it. We serve a lot of coffees, and this means a lot of coffee waste. We try where we can to reuse and recycle our grounds, as when coffee grounds are dumped into landfill they create methane, a greenhouse gas more harmful than carbon dioxide. So by sending our grounds to HMP Dartmoor, we’re not just helping the Green Shoots project, but reducing our waste. And, as a bonus, the fabulous oyster mushrooms the inmates have grown have been added to the menu at our Gloucester Road cafe.”
 
Stella runs first beer ads on Instagram: The AB Inbev brand Stella Artois is running the first beer ads on Instagram as the brewing giant seeks to refresh its brands for younger drinkers and tap into the popularity of food and drink pictures that Instagram users share with one another. The ads, which depict the beer alongside food in festive settings, are running in the United States and targeted to over-21 users using Instagram data. The Instagram ads are part of Stella Artois’ wider festive activity, making them AB InBev’s biggest push around food to date, after a smaller effort in the UK for its Leffe Blond beer. Lucas Herscovici, vice-president of consumer connections at AB InBev, said: “Reaching and engaging legal-drinking-age millennial consumers is critical for all of our brands. As a leading social platform for 21-plus consumers, Instagram is a very important channel for us. We are excited to work with Instagram as they seek to integrate advertising into the consumer experience, which is as high quality and beautiful as the images users would normally see in their feeds. Given the commitment to artistry and sophistication that defines the Stella Artois brand, we thought featuring imagery supporting the brand's holiday campaign, 'Give Beautifully', would be the perfect fit.” Instagram adverts launched in the US in November 2013 and arrived in the UK in September.
 
Restaurant owner acquires second venue: Entrepreneur Caren Jones has acquired the bar, restaurant and function venue Celtic Lodge in Cimla, Neath with a £500,000 investment. Jones said: "I already have another restaurant in Cimla, T Bones, together with a bed and breakfast, Battlefield Live, and the Cimla Equestrian Centre but I have always wanted to acquire this building, so when Celtic Lodge came up for sale, I felt the price and the potential offered a genuine business opportunity. The building was in very bad condition and we had to carry out extensive refurbishment with a great bunch of local tradesmen, and the whole team turned the building around in 77 days." The venue, which has been derelict and empty since 2013, was acquired with support from Barclays, creating 11 jobs. Barclays business manager John Curtis said that the business was already exceeding projections, with the function room in great demand.
 
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee named a Europe’s best coffee roaster: Union Hand-Roasted Coffee has been voted Best Coffee Roaster – Europe and highly commended as Most Ethical Brand – Europe at the European Coffee Awards 2014. Founder Jeremy Torz said: “As a roaster, we are the link between the producer and consumer, we created Union Hand Roasted to be the bridge of knowledge and passion that exists at both ends of the chain. We are delighted that after pursuing our vision for 13 years that we have built amazing relationships and produced quality coffee. To be recognized among our peers within the industry is an honour. We remain committed to creating better outcomes for farms and great coffee for consumers. We thank our colleagues for voting for us and look forward to bringing even more exciting coffees and stories to our customers.” Companies and individual award winners were recognised through a targeted voting campaign run by Allegra from July to October 2014, where more than 1,000 senior industry executives took part.
 
YO! Sushi hires first creative brand director: YO! Sushi has hired the former global marketing director at Le Pain Quotidien restaurants, Liz Norris, as its first creative brand director. Norris has more than 15 years’ experience working across hospitality, leisure, retail and FMCG brands, both from an agency perspective for companies such as McCann Erickson as well in-house for brands including Hertz and Zizzi. Her experience spans both the UK and international markets and she was most recently based in New York for Le Pain Quotidien. She will join YO! Sushi as an executive director on 5 January. YO! Sushi's chief executive, Vanessa Hall, said: “Given the attested strength of YO! Sushi as a lifestyle brand, we want to take a different approach to how we increase our share of voice and awareness. Liz’s creativity, sense of fun and energy makes her ideally placed to take up the role as our first creative brand director. This is an exciting development for YO! Sushi. Liz’s experience and expertise will support us in driving the growth strategy by further building YO! Sushi’s lifestyle credentials and attracting more guests to become YO! Sushi lovers, both in the UK and internationally.”

TV cook to run pop-up restaurant inside motorway Starbucks: The television cook Debbie Halls-Evans, winner of the cookery show The Taste, will be transforming the Starbucks coffee shop at Rivington service station, between junctions 6 and 8 on the M61 motorway near Bolton, into a unique dining experience for one evening as part of her series of pop-up restaurant events. Halls-Evans said: "My husband knows the woman who runs the Starbucks and she said she'd like to pair up and do something different. I know it's a service station and it's completely off the wall to try and turn it into somewhere to dine, but I promise everyone will forget where they are once they step through the door. The challenge for me here is to make a coffee shop into a restaurant, but keeping the menu true to the location. So there will be chicken poached in coffee, and I will be using hibiscus tea in one of the starters. The pop-ups are about me generating a restaurant feel in a place which isn't a restaurant. There are logistical things that I have to think about but my aim is to bring the customers a unique environment which they won't get anywhere else. I'm so excited. I'm pulling out all the stops for this one, and I can't wait to blow the socks off everyone who comes." Hannah Kinlock, the manager at the Starbucks, said: "I have known the family for years and I saw Debbie on The Taste, so asked her husband if she'd like to collaborate with us. We got together and threw a few ideas back and forth and came up with this. I especially love that we are putting the tea and coffee into the dishes. It's never been done before, so I'm looking forward to seeing the transformation." The event is taking place from 7pm on 18 December, and those who manage to get hold of the 50 tickets available will be served a specially made three-course menu, which also includes two bread dishes, keeping in with the coffee shop theme.
 
Spirit Pub Company appoints official ale taster: Jane Peyton, 43, from Fulham, West London, has been appointed an official ale tester by Spirit Pub Company’s national pub chain Taylor Walker after her YouTube video review was voted top by beer lovers across the UK. Peyton, who beat off stiff competition to secure the role, will now be tasked with visiting some of London’s most historic pubs, to taste different ales and submit her reviews online to the Taylor Walker website. She said: “Being a life-long evang-ale-ist, I am so pleased to have been selected for the Ale Tester position at Taylor Walker. It is a truly fantastic opportunity to enthuse about something that Britain does so brilliantly – beer and pubs!” As well as her recent appointment as Taylor Walker’s Ale Tester, Jane is also the author of several books, including 'Beer o' Clock,' and  Britain's Beer Sommelier of the Year, as well as being the driving force behind Britain's first annual national beer day, Beer Day Britain, which will take place from June 15 2015.
 
Cote reports 27.2% rise in ebitda: The Cote restaurant chain has reported that turnover grew by 31% to £84.8m in the year to 27 July 2014. Adjusted Ebitda rose 27.2% to £16.2m. Adjusted ebitda margin was 19.2%, down by 0.8 percentage points on the year before. A total of nine restaurants opened in the year to bring the estate to 52 restaurants. The company said it had 55 restaurants open as of 28 November, with builders on site at a six further locations. Accounts filed at Companies House said Cote had “positive like-for-likes sales during the period primarily driven by additional cover growth”. New bank loans secured at the time of the management buy-out in September 2013 include a £15m capital expenditure facility. Pre-tax profit rose to £11.5m from £8.8m the year before. The company said: “With many sites requiring change of use, the expansion during the year has been slower than in previous period. However there are five new openings due [before] Christmas 2014.” Cote has 1,866 staff, up from 1,479 the year before. Its bank loan facility has £47.8m outstanding. An amount of £8.1m owed to Richard Caring was settled in full during the period. Meanwhile, a sum of £11.2m owed by Bill’s Stores to Cote was also settled in full. CBPE Capital is Cote’s ultimate controlling party.

Harris & Hoole reports £11.2m operating loss: Harris & Hoole, the coffee shop business in which Tesco owns a stake, has reported an operating loss of £11.2m in the 52 weeks to 23 February 2014.  The operating loss was £5.4m for the 38 weeks previous. Turnover was £6,648,000, up from £785,186 in the 38-week period. The company opened 18 shops and closed one in the period, taking site numbers to 30. It said: “The operating loss reflects the early life cycle stage of a number of the shops open at the end of 52 weeks and also the early development costs of the business.” In August 2014, Harris & Hoole announced the closure of six shops in addition to one shop closure previously announced.

Trophy Soho restaurant freehold sold for £4.35m: The virtual freehold of 68-70 Wardour Street in Soho, central London, home to MasQMenos, the Spanish restaurant concept that operates more than 20 sites around the world, has been acquired by Coffer Corporate Leisure on behalf of London and Strategic Estates for £4.348m. The deal, which reflects a net initial yield of 5%, includes an option to acquire the freehold after the development of the upper parts to provide four New York-style loft apartments. Jack Silvani at Coffer Corporate Leisure said: “The property occupies one of the most sought-after leisure pitches in London. The area benefits from a huge volume of footfall, all day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Our sister company, Davis Coffer Lyons, has been involved in numerous letting transactions nearby and were able to draw upon their unparalleled understanding of the market and demand for this location. This transaction is the latest in a swathe of over a dozen leisure investment deals we have completed within the capital this year. The market is exceptionally buoyant and we would encourage holders of such property to consider their options.” James Millar, of London and Strategic Estates, a subsidiary of the property developer Sapcote Group, said: “This property lies in the very heart of Soho and represented an unmissable opportunity to add to our central London leisure portfolio. When Coffer Corporate Leisure informed us there was an opportunity to acquire the property at a 5% yield, we moved swiftly to facilitate a transaction.”

Costa Coffee ranked second fastest-growing non-US foodservice chain: Costa Coffee has been ranked as the second fastest-growing foodservice chain outside the US and Canada in 2013, with growth of 12.15%, behind the Taiwanese chicken restaurant chain Dicos at 31.3% growth over the same period, but ahead of the convenience store chain 7-Eleven with 10.2% growth and the Japanese casual dining chain Gusto with 9.7% growth. Both Dicos and Costa Coffee also posted double-digit gains in their numbers of global outlets, up 27.4% for the Taiwanese chain and 11.2% for the Whitbread-owned coffee operator. The research, by the market research firm Euromonitor International and Nation’s Restaurant News in the US, found that the top 25 foodservice chains based outside the United States and Canada outperformed their much larger American and Canadian competitors in 2013, stealing sales share from them as well. Euromonitor found that in 2013 the top 25 non-US and Canadian chains saw aggregate sales growth of 7.5% to $55.4bn, up from growth of 7% a year earlier. In comparison, the top 25 US or Canada-based chains had an average of 2.9% growth in latest-year global sales, to $267.8bn, a slowdown from growth of 5.3% in the previous year and 8.9% growth two years ago. In the overall rankings of foodservice operators outside the US and Canada, JD Wetherspoon came a perhaps surprising fifth, with worldwide sales of $1.9bn and sales per unit of $2.2m, behind Dicos and three Japanese convenience store operators, with Costa 11th, on worldwide sales of $1.4bn and estimated sales per unit of $595,000. Nando's was 18th, with worldwide sales of $1.2bn and estimated sales per unit of $1.3m, and Greggs 21st, with worldwide sales of $1bn and estimated sales per unit of $619,600.

Survey shows online communication needs to be improved: A new survey by the guest experience management company HospitalityGEM has revealed that 80% of diners do not communicate with restaurants online, with this figure even higher in the Midlands. Even though the majority of diners do not communicate with restaurants through social media, 42% said that they still keep up to date with their activity online. This is supported by 83% of those surveyed, who agreed that it was important for them to feel well informed before they visited a restaurant, potentially because diners want to guarantee they have a great experience. To further ensure that they are happy with their choice of restaurant, 94% of people actively search online for a review first. Using online reviews to vet a restaurant before dining is a necessity for two thirds of those surveyed, with the 18-30 and 60-plus age brackets utilising this facility the most. This suggests that those between these age brackets, who are likely to have more time pressures from work or family, are perhaps more inclined to go to brands or places that they know and trust. All diners surveyed said that they would be more inclined to communicate with the restaurant if they offered more deals online for their guests. Males are more likely to communicate directly with restaurants online, but only if they are addressing a personal profile of a chef or owner, rather than the restaurant or brand as a whole. This implies that although restaurants have an online presence, they may not be communicating the right content, in the right way to their target markets – perhaps focusing too much on selling their brand, rather than interacting with customers. Steven Pike, managing director of HospitalityGEM, said: “Even though the use of social media has surged in the UK hospitality sector, it appears that this only works when using a specific type of post to a specific target market, with online reviews seen as being most reliable. Restaurants now need to apply their personal approach of engaging with guests to their online communications.”

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