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Tue 16th Dec 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Angela Malik seeks £350,000 to expand Modern Asian Deli: The entrepreneur Angela Malik has launched a fund-raising push on Crowdcube to raise £350,000 to expand her Modern Asian Deli concept in return for 18.9% of the equity. Her pitch says: “The business was re-defined in mid-2011 with guidance and angel funding from Oscar Tymon and Dennis Hallahane, who brought with them experience of helping young companies like mine. The new direction of the business was into an 'eat-shop-cook' format with revenue generation from each of these elements and pushing cross-selling opportunities. In April 2013, Angela Malik received additional investment from the EIS Fund managed by the venture capital house Downing. Tymon and Hallahane co-invested further. The principal use of funds was to provide working capital for further proof of concept and to open a second deli eatery in Ealing under the deli eatery brand of Modern Asian Deli (MAD). After six months of operating in Ealing and Acton, the MAD template has taken on greater precision. In September 2014 new menus were introduced and a cooking school calendar through [to] 31 March 2015 announced. MAD is now poised for a roll out in both London and elsewhere. Funds of £350,000 to £500,000 are being sought to support the opening of the next MAD location(s), recruit a chief operating officer  and provide working capital for the business.” Total investment in the business is £832,000 to date. A third site is due to open in May 2015. The company forecast Ebitda of £2.227m by the end of financial year 2018 assuming 12 MAD sites are open and operating. In the current year to March 2015, total sales are forecast to be £357,000 with a net loss of £328,000.

Industry News:

Out-of-home tea sales worth £300m a year: Tea sales in the out-of-home coffee shop market are estimated at £300m a year, according to a new report on tea drinking by Allegra World Coffee Portal. Consumers drink on average 11 cups of tea a week at home, five at work and just half a cup a week, on average, in coffee shops. However tea consumption in coffee shops has risen 3% in the past two years, from 14% in 2012 to 17% in 2014. More than one in seven – 15% – of consumers intend to increase tea consumption in the upcoming year, against nearly four in five – 77% –who expect to maintain their current tea consumption frequency. Almost two thirds – 62% – of consumers consider a premium brand such as Twinings or Teapigs to be the most important factor when ordering tea out of home. Just over half, or 53%, of consumers indicated they would spend more on a premium tea. Consumers spend on average £1.68 on a cup of tea out of home, against £2.31 for a latte or cappuccino. This price difference means that almost two in five consumers, 38%, consider tea to be good value for money in a coffee shop. Two thirds of tea drinkers would like to see specialised tea chains on the High Street. Starbucks’ launch of Teavana Tea Shops in the United States in 2013 is a strong indicator that a similar concept could launch in the UK. Allegra expects this to be a catalyst for other specialised tea shops.

McDonald’s to grow digital team from 20 to 200 as it admits being late to the party:
McDonald’s in the United States is to boost its digital team ten-fold-from 20 staff to more than 200 as it seeks to catch up on digital technology. Technology is playing a big role in what McDonald’s is calling its Experience of the Future. A large part of the effort involves using mobile and web ordering and payment along with kiosks to speed service. It is opening a new corporate office in Chicago to house its digital team. Pizza chains in the US are regarded as having leadership on the digital front. Papa John’s recently became the first chain in the industry to get more than 50% of its sales through digital channels. “We were late coming to the party,” McDonald’s chief executive, Don Thompson, said. “But we will catch up and accelerate.”

Marcus Brigstocke to host ALMR Christmas lunch: The comedian and entertainer Marcus Brigstocke will host the 2014 Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) Christmas lunch this Thursday (18 December). Brigstocke will take to the stage in front of 1,200 of the sector’s most influential operators on at Old Billingsgate in London. The ALMR's chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “The ALMR’s Christmas lunch is the culmination of a year of hard work and a chance to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past twelve months. We have seen major ALMR wins such as a root and branch review of business rates, a 50% increase in rate relief for pubs and restaurants and cuts in the job tax for under-25s, plus the ALMR has continued to broaden and strengthen its voice with a 30% increase in membership. We will be unveiling some exciting new initiatives for the coming year to deliver ever-improved benefits to members.”
 
New table-finding app launched: A new app, CityHawk, has been launched which finds tables in rated and recommended restaurants within a two-mile radius of the user's destination, checking real-time availability. It enables venues to create instant deals, and users to discover new restaurants, with a service individually tailored to each user. Using smart technology, habits are recorded and remembered so dining choices get more personal every time the app is used. CityHawk has been set up by Aaron Ross and Laurence Carver, and investors include the founder of TopTable, Karen Hanton and TopTable investor Mark Ferguson, a businessman and son of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Company News:

Anglian Country Inns reports 8% rise in Ebitda: Anglian Country Inns, the award-winning pub and restaurant company led by James Nye, has reported strong sales growth for the past financial year. Like-for-like sales rose 11.7% to £6,725,000 in the year to 31 March 2014. The company also saw a 1% improvement on gross profit margin to 69.5%. Pre-tax profit was up 6% on the previous year. Ebitda was £688,000, up 8% on last year. Anglian said: “The directors are pleased to see strong like-for-like sales growth in this period combined with improved gross margins. During the financial year, the company has invested in infrastructure to establish a foundation for further growth and expansion. Considering this investment, Ebitda was in line with expectations. Since the year-end, Anglian Country Inns has opened two new venues, Water Lane Bar & Restaurant, Bishops Stortford and the Cricketers, Weston.” Sales growth was particularly strong at the company’s Hermitage Road site in Hitchin, increasing by 18%, driven in the main by seven-day opening and the launch of a brunch menu. Operating profit before tax was £315,500, 5% of turnover and £18,000 (6%) up on 2013. Pre-tax profit was £216,000, down from £245,000 the year before. There were operating losses of £39,000 arising from the initial set–up and running costs of the Water Lane Bar and Restaurant.
 
Leon opens 21st site, at Stansted Airport: Leon opened its 21st restaurant yesterday at Stansted Airport in Essex. More than 70 food and drink businesses competed for the 12 units in Stansted’s revamp, which aims to make the airport the best in London. Leon's co-founder and chief executive John Vincent said: “This year marks our 10th birthday, and opening in Stansted is a big part of our celebrations. When we opened in Carnaby Street in 2004 and first started working out how to make and serve naturally fast food, this is exactly what we dreamt of creating.” Jo Macey, head of retail food and beverage for Manchester Airport Group, which owns Stansted, said: "Leon is a very exciting concept in the healthy fast food market and their arrival into Stansted is another stepping stone on the £80m transformation taking place to improve facilities for our passengers." The outlet is operated by HMS Host. Leon’s expansion is due to continue, with 12 new openings planned for 2015, creating around 800 new jobs.
 
Giles Hargreave tips Patisserie Valerie as a share worth holding for 'quite some number of years': Respected investor Giles Hargreave, whose fund Marlborough UK Micro-Cap Growth has almost quadrupled over the past decade, rising by 285% over the past decade, nearly twice the 151% return achieved by the average UK smaller companies fund, has tipped Patisserie Valerie as shares he plan to retain for a “number of years, perhaps even ten years." Asked to recommend a share, he named Patisserie Valerie first, citing “experienced management, a sensible balance sheet, good cashflow, a niche position and a successful roll-out plan that a quite a long way to go”. Hargreave said: “Quite a lot of people are scared about investing on the Aim market because when these shares go wrong they do not fall by, say, 5pc or 10pc – they can halve or worse. The key is to avoid companies with management teams that are out for themselves and not for the shareholders.” He also mentioned Cello Group, a marketing company, and the security firm Cohort as shares he still expected to own in ten years’ time.
 
Thai Leisure Group reports 9% like-for-like sales growth: Thai Leisure Group, which operates 11 restaurants and four cocktail bars, has reported 9% like-for-like sales growth in the past year. The company, led by Martin Stead, has hit annualised turnover of £25m a year and is serving 20,000 customers a week. Thai Leisure Group, which claims to be the leading Thai restaurant brand outside London, plans a further six sites in 2015. Kevin Bacon, for eight years a main board director of the Restaurant Group, has become a non-executive director. Martin Stead, who co-owns the business with Kim Kaewraikhot, said: “This really is an exciting time for Thai Leisure Group. Kevin’s appointment comes on the verge of a significant multi-million pound investment, which places us in a strong position to be able to open six sites next year and seven the year after. 2015 is set to be an amazing year for us – it’s really a case of watch this space.” The Thai Leisure Group operates the Chaophraya chain. Kaewraikhot started off cooking food on the streets of Bangkok and eventually opened her own small restaurant in Leeds.

Robinsons unveils company-wide rebrand: Stockport-based brewer and retailer Robinsons has announced a company-wide rebrand commencing with a new logo design by Truth Creative; an award winning design agency based in Manchester. The brand revamp comes as Robinsons prepares for their biggest pub investment commitment to date, which includes fresh pub signage throughout the estate to reflect the sleek new look, and over the coming months new pump clips, bottle labels, merchandise and literature, together with a newly designed corporate website, will be updated to reflect the new brand identity. “We have a wonderful tradition of strong brand identity that stems over the last 176 plus years,” said Oliver Robinson; joint managing director (beer division) of Robinsons Brewery. “As custodians of our family business we have reached a point to move forward with its development and in doing so take a tighter control of our image, how we portray ourselves and importantly our tone of voice. Following heavy investment in our pubs, brewery and beers, we felt it was the perfect time to brew a new look and redefine our positioning.”
 
McRib to return to UK for just five weeks: McDonald's is putting the McRib back on its menu in the UK for just five weeks, between 31 December and 3 February. The McRib is a barbecue sauce-infused pork patty in a long bun that first arrived in the United States in 1981, only to disappear in 1985 after poor sales. It was reintroduced and, since around 2006, has reappeared and disappeared apparently at random, generally in the late autumn or winter. The first UK sales of the McRib were in 1998. Last year McDonald's did not offer the McRib nationally in the United States, preferring to promote McWings. The McRib was apparently being tested in Sheffield in June this year, , though that was for a limited run of two weeks. McDonald's UK has now confirmed the return of the McRib on Twitter, while anyone who searches for "McRib" on Google will see a paid search result saying: "The McRib is back (Soon)".

Castle Rock's head of sales turns pub into a monument to Hardys and Hansons:
Scott Ryder, who works as head of sales at the Nottingham-based Castle Rock Brewery, has turned the pub he runs with his wife Sue into a monument to the former Nottinghamshire brewery Hardys & Hansons, which was acquired by Greene King eight years ago. Ryder has decorated the Three Horseshoes, in Ilkeston, Derbyshire with a mass of memorabilia. He spent seven years with Kimberley and was head of sales when the brewery was sold to Greene King in 2006 for £271m. When the brewery closed, much of the memorabilia now in the  pub was destined for the skip, so Ryder rescued it and initially used it to decorate a bar at his home. He said: "I wanted to keep the history of the brewery alive. It's got a really strong following locally. We get quite a lot of people come over to see what we've got on display. It's nice that people can come in and relive their youth from when they first started drinking."

Pizza Hut introduces 'subconscious menu': Pizza Hut has introduced a "Tobii" menu, which tracks a customer's eyes when looking at the menu to create the pizza they "really" want to eat. According to the chain's commercial for the new product, "our brand new subconscious menu" mean that "by the time you think you've chosen, your subconscious has already done it for you." The menu used by the pizza chain restaurant was built by Tobii Technology, a Swedish eye-tracking firm. The six-month project was put together by using retina-scanning technology and psychological research. The menu consists of 20 toppings and creates a pizza depending on how long a customer looks at a certain topping. If the customer wants to restart their order, all they have to do is glance at the restart icon. Pizza Hut said: "Finally the indecisive orderer and the prolonged menu peruser can cut time and always get it right, so that the focus of dining can be on the most important part – the enjoyment of eating." The product is only being tested in the UK at the moment.

Wetherspoon to open third pub in Gloucester: Contracts have been exchanged and planning permission granted for JD Wetherspoon to open its third outlet in Gloucester (population: 121,900), in the former Coots Cafe building, next to the Waterways Museum in Gloucester Docks. The company is now waiting to be granted a licence for the site, which closed in August 2012. It already runs the Regal at the former cinema in King's Square, Gloucester and the Water Poet in Eastgate Street. The new outlet at Gloucester Docks will join TGI Friday’s, Ed’s Easy Diner, Zizzi, Loungers' Portivo Lounge, Dr Foster's, Chimichanga and Coal Grill and Bar. At the same time, Gloucester Brewery, which is currently housed next door to the Coots Cafe building, has unveiled plans to move its production and visitor centre into the nearby Fox’s Malthouse. Its current home could then become its own pub and restaurant. Paul James, the leader of Gloucester city council, said the new additions should answer calls for more bars at the Docks. “The new leisure quarter at Gloucester Quays has been a great success,” he said. “But anyone queuing at the bar at Portivo Lounge on a Saturday night would testify the area needs more places to get a drink. This news will help to address those concerns. The Docks and Quays are building critical mass to enable them to become a regional visitor and leisure destination and stopping the leakage of evening economy spend to other towns and cities." Emma Joyce, general manager of the Portivo Lounge, said: “It is more the merrier as far as we are all concerned at Portivo Lounge. The extra competition is good, as it brings more people into the Docks, and that increases the footfall, which is good for all of the businesses that are here.

Loungers’ Cosy Club and M&B’s Miller & Carter set for Worcester’s Cathedral Square development: Loungers' Cosy Club brand and Mitchells and Butlers' Miller and Carter steakhouse brand will be joining Byron at the Cathedral Square development in Worcester. Nick Webb of Salmon Harvester Opportunity Fund said: “We have now signed three fantastic restaurant brands at Cathedral Square who will provide a varied and exciting food offer. We are in discussions with a number of other good quality restaurant and retail businesses new to Worcester and the West Midlands.” Work will begin at the shopping centre next year with plans to open at the end of 2016. Cosy Club has taken a 4,904 sq ft unit, while Miller and Carter will be based in a 5,661 sq ft unit. Both have 25-year leases and are located on the proposed new terrace level at Cathedral Square.

Angela Hartnett becomes Home Grown Hotels director: Chef Angela Hartnett has been made a director of Lime Wood Hotel and Home Grown Hotels, the parent company of the award-winning New Forest hotel The Pig. Chairman and chief executive Robin Hutson said she would bring a “vital female perspective to a male-dominated board”. She said: “I’m never going to stop cooking but I’m really excited by the challenge of moving a business forward.”

Wright Brothers to share seafood expertise: The seafood wholesaler and restaurateur Wright Brothers is to launch Counter Culture, a series of specialist seafood masterclasses, on Tuesday 24 February 2015. The Counter Culture masterclasses, which will be held in Wright Brothers' London restaurants, in Soho, Borough Market and Old Spitalfields Market, aim to demystify the process of buying and preparing fish and shellfish, while celebrating some of the British Isles’ finest, native seafood. The fortnightly masterclasses will take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout the year. The Counter Culture series will start with masterclasses hosted by Wright Brothers’ resident oyster experts, "The World’s Your Oyster", focusing on the art of shucking and tasting oysters, and "Oysters, Sashimi and Sake", which will be inspired by Eastern fusion cuisine and hosted by Wright Brothers Soho head chef, Sasha Ziverts, (formerly of Eight over Eight). "The World’s Your Oyster" costs £50 per person and includes a glass of champagne, two glasses of wine and a dozen oysters. "Oysters, Sashimi and Sake" costs £95 per person and includes a glass of sparkling saké, a dozen oysters and a selection of sashimi, accompanied by a saké pairing.

Wadworth supplies two M&B brands with chilli and chocolate ale: The winter offering in pubs run by two Mitchells and Butlers brands, Nicholson and Castle, has been given a spicy kick with the addition of chilli and chocolate ale made by the Wiltshire brewer Wadworth. Ellie Alderton, Wadworth's marketing product manager, said: “We are delighted that our chilli and chocolate premium ale has been chosen by Mitchells and Butlers to feature in their winter ale programme. We have developed this beer especially to create a really unusual ale that is uniquely suited to winter drinking and offers an exciting new taste to the customers of the principally urban pubs run by these Mitchells and Butlers brands.” The beer is brewed with cocoa and laced with smokey chipotle and Habanero chillies to create what Wadworth calls "a smooth, dark and delicious beer with a late kick of chilli".
 
Hotel assets come to market: RBS and the private equity firm Patron Capital have appointed agents to sell a 31-strong portfolio of UK hotels. It is thought CBRE has been tasked with finding a buyer for the Jupiter portfolio, a 50:50 joint venture between RBS’s restructuring unit, West Register, and Patron Capital. The regional mid-market hotels operate under the Mercure brand and total 3,177 rooms in total. City analysts have suggested the chain’s value is around the £100m mark. The portfolio of 26 Mercure sites is operated under a franchise agreement with Accord, the brand’s French owner. The business was seeded with the £111m, 26-strong portfolio which RBS and Patron acquired in 2011 from administrators. A further five Choice hotels in East Anglia were added to the portfolio in March this year, including the Cromwell Hotel in Stevenage, and the Quality Hotels in Bury St Edmunds, Peterborough, Colchester and Kings Lynn. Management of all five hotel, which had been facing administration, has since passed to Jupiter. RBS said that “the bank has taken the decision to wind down and sell assets in West Register”.
 
Societe General reaffirms buy on Whitbread stock: Whitbread stock had its “buy” rating reaffirmed by equities research analysts at Societe Generale in a research note issued to investors on Thursday. The firm has a 5,000p target price, which indicates a potential upside of 9.43% from the stock’s previous close on Wednesday. Whitbread has a 52-week low of 3464p and a 52-week high of 4990p. The stock has a 50-day moving average of 4433.22p and a 200-day moving average of 4301.83p.

Costa Coffee opens in former Buckinghamshire pub: Costa Coffee is opening its latest branch in a disused pub, the Crown in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, this Friday, December 19. The pub, in the High Street, closed in October last year, 50 years after it was converted from a bank into licensed premises. It featured in the 1971 film Dad’s Army, an episode of Hammer House of Horror in 1980 and Big Job, a 1965 film starring Sid James which starts off with a bank robbery in the mocked-up pub. The reopening has created ten jobs.

Largest US coffee retailer moves buying operation to Switzerland:
The Vermont-based coffee roaster and brewing technology maker Keurig Green Mountain will move most of its US coffee buying operation to Switzerland, following rivals who have already moved to the country, a global hub for commodities trading. Moving purchasing from Vermont to French-speaking Lausanne in  Switzerland, will establish Green Mountain, the largest US coffee retailer by value, as a "global beverage player", a company spokeswoman told Reuters. This autumn, Green Mountain formed a new corporate entity in Switzerland, called Keurig Trading GmbH. It expects to move a group of buyers currently in the United States to its new Swiss entity in Spring 2015, the spokeswoman said. Other major coffee houses, including US-based Mondelez International, Strauss Coffee, based in Israel, and Nestle have buying operations in Switzerland. Green Mountain will join Starbucks in Lausanne, which moved there more than a decade ago. Green Mountain became the largest coffee retailer by value in the United States in 2013, leading JM Smucker, Starbucks and Kraft, according to data from the market research firm Euromonitor.
 
Draft House reports 6.9% like-for-like growth last week, Birdcage 25% ahead of budget: Draft House, the craft beer pub company led by Charlie McVeigh, has reported 6.9% like-for-like sales growth last week with its latest site, the Birdcage in Bethnal Green, London around 20 to 25% ahead of budget since it opened a fortnight ago. McVeigh, who is expecting to unveil a seventh site “imminently”, said: “I think it’s going to be a very strong Christmas. The Birdcage is more than slightly ahead of budget already. We installed a very simple pie kitchen and sold 186 pies on a recent Sunday. The quality of the pies is great, supplied by Martin Dewey’s Square Pie., with fast serve time of five to eight minutes." The freehold of the Birdcage is owned by John and Teresa Farnham, who live next door.

Clifton Sausage roll-out planned by new owner: A roll-out to other towns and cities is being planned by the new owner of the Clifton Sausage restaurant in Bristol. The restaurant, on Portland Street, which specialises in sausages such as Gloucester Old Spot pork, Beef and Butcombe Ale, pork, cider and mustard, Cotswold lamb, mint and apricot and – for Christmas – Reindeer and cranberry, has been bought by Simon Quarrie, previously operations director at the Clifton Sausage, with help from NatWest, which provided a £100,000 loan. Quarrie said: "We think this is a really strong concept. The idea of a restaurant serving British food, with an emphasis on sausages, is quite unique, So many people say to us, 'I wish we had one in Cardiff, Bath or Cheltenham.' So we will be looking for the next place to open our doors." He has been joined in the business by his wife Joy, who is now general manager. The couple have retained the 20 staff who were already working at the restaurant. Quarrie, who has worked at the venue for the past ten years, said: "If you’re going to buy a business, the most sensible thing to do is to buy something you know. I know all the staff, all the equipment, the building, the suppliers and how the systems work. That continuity and stability has been really good."

Elysium Group to make London debut this week: The Essex-based Elysium Group has unveiled further details for its first London venue, Zinnia, which will open in Chelsea on Thursday. Zinnia, in the Fulham Road, West London, will be a "modern Japanese fusion restaurant and lounge" spread over three floors. On the ground floor, the main bar area will have reclaimed timber-topped tables and leather banquette seating for drinking and dining, as well as a long bar with a stone counter and oak legs. The more formal restaurant area will be spread over the ground floor and mezzanine level, with a black and gold décor, a large feature fireplace, suede banquettes and a large sharing table. Elysium, founded by Ash Afzainia in 2002, has six venues in Colchester. Its sixth site, Hudson House, opened last month.
 
Spirit plans to re-open Wilmslow town centre pub: Spirit Pub Company’s leased division is to re-open a town centre pub in Wilmslow, Cheshire that closed in September, after giving it a complete refurbishment. The company has submitted an application for a variation to the premises licence for the Swan, on Swan Street, to enable it to change the layout and design of the premises. A spokesperson for Spirit said "There is currently a planning application being processed. We hope that following this process we will be able to do a full internal and external refurbishment of the pub with the intention to re-open in early spring with new highly regarded local licensees." The operating times and licensable activities authorised by the existing premises licence are to remain unaltered.

Burger King to open second site in Bangor: Burger King is to open a second restaurant in Bangor, North Wales, in the former Animal clothes shop and the empty adjacent Unit 11 opposite Marks and Spencer in Garth Road It already operates a fast food restaurant and takeaway at the Bangor Service Station on the city’s outskirts. Developer Indigo Planning, who handled the application to move into the unit on Burger King’s behalf, said: “This is positive news given the historic lack of occupier activity.” Animal closed earlier this year after the firm entered administration, while Unit 11 has remained empty since it was built as part of the Menai Centre in 2007. A sign has been placed in the empty unit confirming the new restaurant, and a spokesperson confirmed the company will reveal more details of its plans and potential job creation over the next few weeks.

Work to begin on Uxbridge Premier Inn and Beefeater Grill before Christmas: Work on the new Premier Inn hotel and Beefeater Grill restaurant in Riverside Way, Uxbridge, Middlesex is due to begin before Christmas, according to the developer, Segro. The 80-bedroom hotel and restaurant will create 60 jobs when they open, with half to be filled by unemployed Hillingdon residents. Alan Holland, the company's business unit director for Greater London, said: “We’re proud of the contribution that Riverside Way is going to make to Hillingdon, boosting employment and training opportunities for residents and further supporting the local economy.” The four-acre site sits on an island between arms of the River Colne, off St John’s Road. Jonathan Langdon, acquisitions manager for Premier Inn, said: “We are delighted work has started on site."

McDonald's opens in Stretford with Samsung tablets and self-order kiosks: A new McDonald's has opened its doors on the site of a former pub in Stretford, Manchester, with innovations including five Samsung tablets on the restaurant tables, free wi-fi and self order kiosks for customers. The two-storey restaurant, which has a drive-through and will be open 24 hours a day, opened on Chester Road, creating 90 new jobs. The site was previously home to the Drum pub, which had stood empty for more than a year after being closed. A local councillor, Dolores O’Sullivan said: "I am delighted that McDonald's are returning to Stretford. The restaurant is warmly welcomed by the local community. It's another step in the development of the ambitious plans for the future of Stretford and surrounding area, and I am pleased it will bring new investment and much needed employment to our area."

Developer wins appeal to built Costa and KFC outlets in Hampshire town: A decision by New Forest Council not to allow restaurants and drive-through facilities for KFC and Costa Coffee to be built next to the Rushington roundabout in Totton, Hampshire has been overturned by a government planning inspector. Objectors had claimed that the scheme would create traffic problems as well as litter, smells and anti-social behaviour. The developer involved, Gentian Developments, lodged an appeal after its latest application was rejected by councillors, and now planning inspector Michael Boniface has overturned the council's decision. He ruled that the scheme would not damage road safety, or the character and appearance of the area. The development, which was first mooted in January 2013, is expected to create 65 jobs.

Starbucks and Coffee Republic lined up for new Northampton station: Starbucks and Coffee Republic have been named as two of the occupants of units at the new £20m railway station in Northampton, due to open in January. The new building, twice the size of the old station, covering 27,000 sq ft, was due open on 6 October, but the opening was delayed while Network Rail worked through a "snagging list". Train operator London Midland has now said the station will open "no later than 12 January". It was also revealed that shortly after the station opens, more features will be added, including outlets for Starbucks and Coffee Republic and a WH Smith store.

Wetherspoon buys Ireland’s largest homeless hostel: JD Wetherspoon has acquired Ireland’s largest homeless hostel and is to open a 100-room hotel and pub on the site. The company, which plans to open 30 outlets across the Republic, said it will invest more than €4m developing the pub and hotel at Camden Hall on Camden Street in Dublin and create up to 75 new jobs. As well as the hostel, the dilapidated building also houses a boxing gym and a garage. Wetherspoon said all three will remain in the building until development work starts on the project. The site has planning permission for a 165 room hotel. Wetherspoon said it will be applying for revised planning and licensing permission for the hotel and pub shortly. Chairman Tim Martin said: “We are pleased to have acquired this excellent building in the heart of Dublin. Our aim is to build a pub and hotel on the site and we believe both will be assets to the city.” The Peter McVerry Trust announced plans to close the hostel in May 2013, less than a year after it took it over. A former backpackers hostel, Camden Hall was brought into commission as emergency homeless accommodation by Dublin City Council in mid-2011 in response to a sudden rise in the numbers sleeping rough in the city. The trust took over the running of the facility in October 2012 at the request of the council, after complaints from a number of charities and agencies in the homeless sector and those using the service.
 
Matthew Clark and Miller Brands launch beer academy: The drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark has started a "beer academy" in partnership with Miller Brands as part of its staff-training programme. The aim of the "beer academy" will be to ensure all members of the sales team are knowledgeable within the growing beer category and equipped to offer expertise to customers. With 200 new microbreweries within the UK opening their doors over the past year, Matthew Clark has seen a 28% rise in the number of outlets stocking its Boutique Beers and the team is able to offer clear guidance to its customers across its full, diverse beer range. This year, Matthew Clark updated its range of Boutique Beers in response to the rising popularity of craft beer which is now the fastest growing category in the on-trade beer market. The beer academy has been in development within Matthew Clark for 12 months and it plans to send its entire regional and national sales force through the training programme over the next year. Justin Wylde, Matthew Clark’s category manager for beers, ciders and soft drinks, said: “As a business we’ve recognised that it is key for our sales teams to be fully equipped with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the rich world of beer. The beer academy is a hugely useful and informative experience for our staff and will enable them to keep up with the growing consumer demand for this category. The training they will receive will make them completely comfortable in getting customers to try new and different beers and encourage them to match beer with food, which is another trend which continues to grow in popularity. It’s about igniting passion, building on the love for the category with the confidence and knowledge to talk about it.”

Greggs – LFLs are ahead of expectations:
Greggs, the operator of 1,700 bakery outlets, has reported like-for-like sales grew 5.2% in the 24 weeks to 13 December , a leap from lfl growth of just  0.7% for the same period in 2013. Year-to-date own-shop like-for-like sales are up 4.2%, against a decline in 2013 of 1.1%. Total sales growth is 3.6% up in the year to date, against 3.7% in 2013. The company said like-for-like performance was ahead of expectations, particularly given comparison with a strong Quarter Four in 2013 and customers >continue to respond well to products, value, service and investment in shops". Greggs said it was seeing a favourable trading environment, with weather generally helpful and now anticipated full year profits for the 53 weeks to 3 January 2015 would be ahead of analysts' expectations. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: "The strong performance that we reported in our September IMS has continued. Trading conditions have remained helpful but there is no doubt that customers are also responding to improvements in our product and service offer and to the investment we are making in the shop environment. Whilst there is still much to play for over the final few weeks of the year we currently anticipate that full year profits will be ahead of analysts' expectations. We expect to make a further update on trading over the Christmas period in early January."

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