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Tue 6th Jan 2015 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Britons take 17 days to fall off the wagon in January: Britons who go teetotal for January fall off the wagon after an average of just 17 days, according to new research. Most people who pledge to stay dry for a month in new year resolutions succumb to their first alcoholic drink a little over two weeks later. A study found that 17 January was the most common date when drinks orders begin picking up among those who had shunned booze for the new year. Figures from nearly 40,000 drinkers also found that 6.04pm is the average time when the first drink is bought on a night out in the UK. The average round consists of four drinks, including two beers, a glass of red wine and a gin and tonic. The average cost of a night out comes to £32. The research into the drinking habits of the nation was commissioned by the smartphone app drinks order service Orderella. It also found that many drinkers were frustrated at the long queues they face at busy pubs and nightclubs, with a total of 19 minutes spent waiting at the bar for drinks. Pet peeves while include people pushing in (71%), being ignored by bartenders (63%), slow bar staff (58%) and people not moving away from a bar after being served. Queuing is also making us miss out on key moments with one in six Britons saying they had missed a football goal or a potential date because they were waiting to be served. Jamal Hirani, chief operating officer of Orderella said: "Our comprehensive look at the UK’s drinking habits shows the role that socialising in bars and pubs plays in our day-to-day lives. However, what’s clear is that queuing can hugely impact our enjoyment on a night out, meaning we can miss out on key moments and time with friends and loved ones."

Industry News:

Davis Coffer Lyons issues 2015 predictions: The property agent Davis Coffer Lyons has issued its predictions for 2015, which include rental values and premiums for units requiring late night licences and other statutory consents increasing dramatically, even beyond existing record levels. It also predicts that funds will pay premiums for investment property with index-linked growth; investment yields for leisure related properties of all description, including those with what would have previously been known as poorer covenants (that is, less substantial companies), will be very low due to exceptionally high demand; gin will make a big resurgence and more craft producers will emerge; there will be a marked increase in the number of new pub brands that will be rolling out and an expansion of established, well-funded groups; turnover rents will become more prevalent on the high street and non-estate properties; the new generation food courts within shopping centres will grow in importance as an anchor to provide an affordable shared dining experience often appealing to not just the shopper, so bringing a different demographic into the shopping environment; increases in labour costs and potential skills shortages will impact restaurant roll-outs, particularly in areas of lower unemployment; the proposed change to the pub tie will have a dramatic effect on the market one way or another with more managed pubs, as pubcos follow Enterprise Inns' lead, establishing a managed business in preparation for any change in legislation; and pub rental levels are going to change as the market tries to pre-empt the calculation for pubs that "break the tie" and how pubcos will maximise revenue. In the restaurant sector the agent predicted that Malaysian food concepts will flourish; there will be a continuing increase in the number of bespoke restaurants, cafés and bars in high-end retail stores; the number of restaurants that do not accept reservations (queuing) will decline; and an increase in finger food restaurants and a huge growth in the healthy eating industry.
Jamie Oliver – sugar should be taxed like tobacco: The celebrity chef and restaurant entrepreneur Jamie Oliver has argued that sugar is “definitely the next evil” and should be taxed the same way as tobacco He said foods high in sugar were causing a public health crisis and that Britain should follow France in taxing sugary drinks. “Sugar’s definitely the next evil. It’s the next tobacco, without doubt, and that industry should be scared. And it should be taxed, just like tobacco and anything else that can, frankly, destroy lives,” he told the Daily Mail.

Micropub numbers reach 100 mark: The total of micropubs operating in the UK has reached the 100 mark, after numbers doubled during 2014. The country's 100th micropub, The Lanes, opened just before Christmas in Dover, Kent. Martyn Hillier, co-founder of the Micropub Association and the father of the micropub movement, said: “There were 50 micropubs trading at the end of 2013 and to see the number now topping 100 is truly remarkable." Hillier opened the original micropub, the Butchers Arms in Herne, Kent, in 2005 by Martyn Hillier after several years as an off-licence. A micropub, according to the Micropub Association, is defined as a small freehouse that "listens to its customers", mainly serves cask ales, "promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks". The Micropub Association was created in June 2012 by Hillier and Stu Hirst and Martyn Hillier. There were still fewer than ten micropubs operating in Britain at the time, but within a year numbers had risen to 30, and since then openings have been taking place at an average of around four a month.

Labour Party – VAT rise to 20% has cost families £450 a year: The rise in VAT to 20% has cost UK families as much as £1,800 since its introduction four years ago, Labour has claimed. The shadow treasury minister, Shabana Mahmood, said the 2.5% increase in the rate of VAT from 17.5% to 20%, which took effect on January 4 2011, had cost families with children £450 a year on average, according to Treasury figures. "Before the last election David Cameron and George Osborne said they had no plans to raise VAT, but that's exactly what they did after they got in," she said. "Raising VAT on families and pensioners is what Tory governments always do. The truth is that the only people who have got a big tax cut under this government are those earning over £150,000."

Company News:

FrogPubs acquires one of oldest pubs in Paris, plans four openings this year: FrogPubs, the group of bars, restaurants and micro-breweries launched in Paris in 1993 by the Englishman Paul Chantler, has acquired of one of the oldest Irish pub in France, Kitty O'Shea's. Kitty O'Shea's was opened in Paris in 1986 by the Loughney brothers, and based on the original Kitty O'Shea's pub, trading in Dublin since the early 1980s. Over the last few years, Kitty's O'Shea's, near the Opera in Paris, has lacked investment and management energy, leading to steadily declining sales, its new owner said The business will be re-named the Frog Hop House and will re-open on Tuesday 13 January after minor renovations and maintenance work. The Frog Hop House will be open all day serving artisan craft beers – FrogPubs has brewed its own craft beer for 21 years in central Paris – better burgers and its new American BBQ & Soul Food menu. A spokesman said: “FrogPubs brew more than 1.5 million pints of beer per year and serve more than 500,000 meals, including 1,000 'genuinely good burgers' a day, in their 11 sites – nine FrogPubs and two FrogBurgers – across Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse. The company employs 300 staff and generates €16m of sales per year. Due to its long history of expertise in brewing and hospitality, FrogPubs is enjoying strong and steady growth and expect to open four new establishments over the next year in France.”

Rose becomes managing director of All Star Lanes: All Star Lanes has hired Christian Rose as managing director. Rose, who has worked as managing director at Searcy’s and chief executive of Chicago Leisure, will oversee the business as it prepares to move into a new phase of growth. The appointment comes as the premium bowling, dining and bar concept hit annualised net turnover of £14m at the end of 2014. Rose completed the sale of Chicago Leisure for Sun European Capital (with Deloitte) towards the end of 2014. He said: “All Star Lanes is an exciting and dynamic proposition – the product it offers is truly unique. I see huge potential within existing sites and serious opportunities to expand the, already well-established, estate. I look forward to working with the team to design and implement strategy that will allow the group to realise its full potential.” All Star Lanes currently have five venues in their portfolio having opened a site in Manchester in 2013, its first foray outside of the capital.

Novus venues launch Jason Manford comedy nights: New Jason Manford Comedy Club nights are to be launched at two Novus venues this month – Tiger Tiger at the Printworks in Manchester and Tiger Tiger at Greyfriars Place in Cardiff city centre. Jason Manford launched a series of affordable comedy nights across the UK in February last year to encourage audiences to visit local comedy clubs. Manford’s Comedy Club features a selection of the Salford-born comedian’s favourite acts who are currently working on the comedy circuit to encourage audiences to go to see comedians other than those they recognise from television. Manford wrote last year: “There is a circuit of comics in this country who haven’t been on telly for a number of reasons, maybe they’re up and coming and haven’t made it yet.”
La Tasca and Draft House report strong December like-for-likes: La Tasca has reported a December like-for-like sales rise by 7.4%. The company said that it saw its highest ever sales day in its 21-year history on Saturday 29 November. Seven sites had their highest ever sales day during the period and New Year’s Eve saw like-for-like sales up 8.3% compared to 2013, with the prior year up 12.3%. Saturday 20 December was up by 14.7%, with the prior year up 19.2%. Chief executive Simon Wilkinson described December as a “very strong performance”. Meanwhile, Draft House reported that December saw like-for-likes up by 8.8% with all sites trading up.

Pizza Hut to upgrade Strand restaurant to new 'flagship' standard: Pizza Hut has applied to Westminster Council for permission for a complete revamp at its store in the Strand in central London. The company told the council that the premises, with trading floors on ground and basement levels, "have been occupied and operated as a Pizza Hut restaurant/fast food offering for many years," but while the decor and furnishings have been kept fully in order, "the premises suffer from an outdated and slightly cluttered layout. Customer expectations and demands have also changed considerably, and the company wishes to bring this unit, in this prestigious area, up to its new flagship standards both in design and some aspects of its offer." The revamp is part of a £60m boost to the chain's UK outlets aimed at give its flagship venues a more “American” theme, introducing a desserts and drinks bar, serving US-style waffles, shakes, and draught Budweiser beer, and introducing such items as ribs, wings and fries.

Spirit Pub Company re-opens Northampton pub closed for two years as Flaming Grill:
Spirit Pub Company has re-opened a former grill house in Northampton, which has been closed for more than two years, as a Flaming Grill site after a £325,000 investment. The Walter Tull was formerly known as West Coast Grill and is on Walter Tull Way at Sixfields Leisure Park. The pub has been named after Walter Tull, who played more than 100 matches for Northampton Town and became the first African Caribbean outfield player in the top division of English football. He has also been commemorated in a statue outside the club. Lee O’Donnell, general manager at the Walter Tull, said: “The opening has been a real success with great feedback from regulars and visitors alike on the delicious new menu and the fantastic interiors. My team and I look forward to welcoming more guests in the coming weeks.”

Rhubarb opens Heathrow restaurant inspired by 1950s travel: The contract caterer Rhubarb has opened Pilots Bar & Kitchen in London Heathrow Airport's Terminal Five. The all-day menu, created by Stephen Templeton, Rhubarb's culinary director, includes American pancakes, breakfast pizza, a traditional cooked English breakfast, freshly made pastries and muffins, soups, sandwiches, salads and mains and a classic club sandwich. The interiors, designed by 01 Creative, include "aeronautical" features from an oversized jet engine air intake on the ceiling and glass hangar-style doors through to executive club armchairs upholstered in baseball glove leather and antique searchlight fittings. Seating options include stools at the bar, poseur tables, lounge seating and traditional banquettes. Helen Bowey, Rhubarb's retail director, said: "We wanted to create a chic and visually entertaining environment that complemented an inspiring food offer with plenty of points of interest that referenced the golden, post-war aviation era when international air travel was portrayed as stylish and glamorous.”

BrewDog founders – we misled the bank to get a loan: The founders of the iconoclastic Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog, James Watt and Martin Dickie have told BBC News that they had to lie to a bank in order to get a loan needed to install new beer production equipment in 2008. Describing the decision to mislead the lender, Watt said: “You have got to do what you have to do.” The expansion funding was needed after a year of “selling a couple of cases on a good day and losing money” according to Watt, meaning the pair were failing to meet repayments for an initial £20,000 loan they secured to set up the company. When BrewDog came first, second, third and fourth in a beer competition run by Tesco in 2008, the supermarket said it wanted to stock BrewDog products in 500 of its stores, which meant Watt and Dickie had to ramp up production quickly. Going to their bank, Bank of Scotland, to ask for another £150,000, they were turned down because of their past missed payments, so the partners went to another bank. Watt said: “We said that our bank had offered us an amazing deal, but that if you can match it we’ll switch, and they went for it. You have got to do what you have to do.”

Marston’s new-build pub restaurant set for Dalgety Bay: Dalgety Bay, a coastal commuter town with a population of 10,000, will get a new-build Marston’s pub restaurant as part of a £4m gateway development approved by Fife Council. There will also be a drive-through coffee shop, 205 car-parking spaces and up to 130 new positions created in Donibristle Industrial Estate. Councillors approved the plans to demolish the existing buildings and allow development despite fears it could create a “second town centre” and draw customers away from existing shops. In a report, council service manager Mary Stewart admitted there was a “difficult balance between competing issues” but that the “economic benefits of the scheme are significant”. She said: “Given the undisputed importance of the Hillend and Donibristle industrial estates to both the local and the wider Fife economy, the balance here must lie in securing the future of employment on the estates. The site is currently dilapidated and presents a poor entrance, making it difficult to attract new business to the estate.”
Las Iguanas celebrates Sunday Times Top 100 employer ranking: The Latin American restaurant group Las Iguanas is celebrating making the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the second time. Rankings will be announced at the official award ceremony in February, with the full list, which celebrates the UK companies with the highest levels of staff engagement, published on 1 March 2015. Chief executive Mos Shamel said: “This is an amazing accolade and we are all immensely proud to be on the list for the second time. When the news that we had made the Top 100 came through I was very nearly knocked off my chair by the huge cheer around the office. That’s typical of the spirit of the whole team at Las Iguanas. We are first and foremost a people business and this achievement reinforces that.” Las Iguanas also holds the Investors in People Gold Award and was a recipient of the Excellence in Reward & Recognition award at the inaugural IiP Awards 2014. Its incentive programme includes annual staff trips to Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Guyana, competitions to get dishes and drinks on to the menu and the Iguana Awards ceremony. Three new restaurants are due to open by March in Torquay, Woking and Swansea creating 120 new jobs and bringing the total estate to 41, with a fast-growing pipeline in place from April 2015.

Douglas Jack – December trading was strong in the second half:
Numis Securities' leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast that trading in December was strong in the second half of the month. He said: “According to numerous private operators, like-for-like trading was strong in the pub sector during the second half of December, following a tentative first couple of weeks. Venues oriented towards eating out outperformed, aided by strong levels of Christmas and new year pre-bookings and milder year-on-year weather. Almost all managed operators were trading ahead of like-for-like sales expectations prior to the festive trading period, with Domino's Pizza ('Buy', 710p) and Fuller, Smith and Turner ('Add', 1100p) having the greatest margin of safety. With trading becoming increasingly event-driven, Christmas/new year like-for-like sales have become more important. Overall, we expect to hold forecasts through the Christmas trading statement season, anticipating tough weather comps for pubs offsetting improving consumer prospects in 2015.”

McDonald’s stresses upbeat message in new advertising campaign: McDonald's in the United States has unveiled a new marketing strategy and ads it says will emphasize the "love" in its long-running "I'm Lovin' It" slogan. As part of the push, McDonald's new TV ads, called “Arch Enemies”, include an animated video where the Joker and Batman, a postman and a dog, a blue donkey and a red elephant (symbols of the two main US political parties) and Smurfs and Gargamel show affection to each other and share McDonald's products. The spot ends with the words "Choose Lovin'", encompassed by a ring of hearts. While the revamp currently only affects the US business, the new messaging may move to other markets as McDonald’s looks to slow global sales declines.

Red’s urges customers to seek ‘self help’ in January: Red’s True Barbecue is launching its Nottingham restaurant with an unconventional approach: an online self help guide. The "True You Programme" is a series of 30 individual films, fronted by company founders Scott Munro and James Douglas, and features the pair lampooning self-improvement mantras using dishes from the menu. The tongue-in-cheek programme promises to "banish the January blues", and urges viewers to follow the advice for chances to win launch-night tickets. Each new 15-second film, released daily, will be published on the brand’s Instagram and Facebook pages in the lead-up to opening. Munro said: “Most people come back after Christmas with new goals, new aspirations, new year’s resolutions. We’re answering those needs with the True You Programme – meat really will ‘set you free’. We always like to do things differently and try out new ways of marketing the Red’s brand. Video is a great way for us to tell that story in an engaging, irreverent and funny way. But people just don’t have much time these days, so we set ourselves the discipline of 15 seconds, the maximum duration for an Instagram video, to bring the narrative to life. The campaign launched on 1 January and we’re already receiving some great feedback and engagement. Whether that will still be the case when they see me in gold lamé shorts, only time will tell.” Red’s Nottingham, on Queen Street, opens its doors 30 January.
Kerbisher & Malt to open fifth site this month: The award-winning chain Kerbisher & Malt is due to open a fifth fish and chip shop on 20 January on Rosebery Avenue, off Exmouth Market, North London. The new site will be called Kerbisher EC1 and will be the first of a number of planned openings of the smaller, predominantly take-away-focused offshoot of the main Kerbisher & Malt brand. The menu will be a reduced version of the one in its sister restaurants, but will still focus on fresh, sustainably sourced fish. Favourites such as fish finger butties, pickled onion rings, calamari and fresh pork sausages will also feature. A range of lunch-time specials and online ordering is aimed at the busy lunchtime market on Exmouth Market. A selection of English craft beers will be available for eat-in customers. The site, primarily a take-away, will have 12 seats, making it one of London’s smallest eat-in chippies. The company said the "in and out" dining and relaxed, urban design of the new Kerbisher reflects the diminutive size of the space and also the EC1 neighbourhood. Nick Crossley, Kerbisher's co-founder, said: “We wanted to do a slightly different take on our Kerbisher & Malt restaurants, and this is the perfect area to launch.”

Fuller's drops 'overage' charge in negotiations to sell pub to community: The London brewer and pub operator Fuller, Smith & Turner has dropped its demand for an "overage" charge – the right to a share of any profit made from the future sale of the building – in its negotiations with villagers in Bloxham, Oxfordshire over their local pub, which closed in August 2013. However, Fuller's has increased the price it wants for the pub from £300,000 to £400,000. The village has raised £400,000 but if it bought at that price it would have nothing left for renovation. Colin Challenger, chairman of the Red Lion Hub, the campaigning group seeking to buy the pub on behalf of the village, said: “The rot, damp and damage caused by 18 months of being boarded up means the property value is much lower. They’re assuming we’ll get planning permission and sell it but we are only interested in a pub, restaurant and hub.” Peter Turner, property director at Fuller’s, said: “I’d love to sell it to the community and am looking to find ways to do that. We offered it to the hub at £300,000 with the overage, but put that up to £400,000 without the charge, which would only apply to profit over the purchase price.” A public meeting is due to be held in early February to seek extra cash pledges and decide a workable plan. Campaigners hope to develop and convert the Red Lion’s buildings as a community resource with pub, restaurant, coffee bar, meeting rooms and other facilities.

Vapiano to expand to Manchester: Vapiano, the Italian fresh casual dining restaurant is to open its fourth restaurant and the first outside London. The new restaurant will open in Manchester’s historic Corn Exchange in the city centre. The company is investing £2m to develop the restaurant in the new Exchange Square development. The restaurant is due to open mid-2015 and will have a customer area of 10,000 sq ft and room for 350 guests. It will be spread over two floors and include two bars and two lounge areas. The restaurant will employ 80 staff. The company’s existing restaurants in London are on Great Portland Street, Wardour Street and Bankside. Vapiano’s managing director, Phil Sermon,  said: “We are thrilled to have secured such a fantastic site in Manchester. Many of our guests have requested that we open in the north of England and it is exciting that we can now deliver this. Manchester is a vibrant city and I am confident that Vapiano will prove popular and be a great addition to the city’s social scene. This highlights our intent to open many more Vapiano restaurants in prime positions across the UK.” Vapiano serves homemade fresh pasta, pizza, salad and dolci, all prepared and made in house to order by chefs cooking in front of the guests. The restaurants offer 11 different types of pasta which are made daily in the bespoke pasta machine. Basil plants decorate the restaurant to emphasise the freshness of ingredients. Its restaurants offer a relaxed open space with a mix of large and small sharing tables. The Manchester restaurant will be designed by Felix Finkernagle Ross, who was responsible for the design of Vapiano in Wardour Street, Soho. The developer is Queensbury Real Estate.

Nando’s eyes India expansion with appointment of chief executive: Nando's has announced the appointment of Sumeet Yadav as chief executive of its operations in India with effect from February. Yadav joins Nando's from Reliance Brands where he most recently held the position of business head for the Superdry, Brooks Bros, Diesel and Kenneth Cole brands. He will assume responsibilities in February 2015, with an immediate focus on operations, brand building and customer service. The company added that the appointment represented a commitment by the Nando's Group to building the Nando's brand in the country, which it described as an exciting market that offered significant opportunities for growth and development. The restaurant chain has seven restaurants in India.
KFC plans upmarket Australia store selling beer and cider: KFC is planning to sell beer and cider at a new concept story in western Sydney. The company has applied for a liquor licence for the new store on Church Street, Parramatta The move comes after McDonald’s began trialling a new, upmarket concept known as The Corner in Sydney’s inner west just before Christmas. Fairfax Media reports the store will be named KFC Urban, and in a statement the company confirmed it “hopes to introduce a new KFC experience in Parramatta’s CBD in the near future, serving beer and cider as part of its menu”. The store will have a modern, sleek interior by Australian retail design firm The Great Indoors with timber-lined windows and exposed ceiling beams. The move comes after two pilots launched last year by the chain's Canadian operations selling beer and wine.

Fuller’s licensee makes tourism superstar shortlist: Licensee Gerry O’Brien, who oversees The Churchill Arms in Kensington, West London for Fuller Smith & Turner, has been short-listed for Visit England’s Tourism Superstar shortlist. The tourism accolade was launched three years ago as part of English Tourism Week (this year running 14-22 March) and is supported by the Daily Mirror. The campaign recognises the dedication and passion of those working in the tourism industry, and is awarded to an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure visitors to England have an unforgettable experience. The chairman of English Tourism Week, David Curtis-Brignell, said: “Tourism Superstar 2015 serves to highlight the passion and dedication that abounds in the tourism industry. This award recognises the people on the front-line who meet and greet visitors on a daily basis, and whose unfailing hard work and creativity ensures that visitors to England have an unforgettably wonderful experience.” The Daily Mirror will host an online public vote from 31 January which shows a short film of all nominees. Readers will be able to vote for their favourite on The winner will be announced on March 14, the first day of English Tourism Week and will be invited to attend VisitEngland’s Awards for Excellence held in May this year.
Brewer's Fayre pays family's £400 'fine' after parking overstay: The Whitbread-owned Brewer's Fayre chain has announced it will be covering the £400 excess parking charge imposed on a family of diners itself, as " a gesture of goodwill". The fines arose after 24 members of the Hoskins family dined at the Concorde, a Brewer's Fayre outlet in Filton, Bristol. By the time the family had finished their lunch, four of the seven drivers in the party had overstayed the three-hour limit in the pub's car park and had been fined £100 each. One of the party, Tina Hoskins, said the family had pre-ordered their food but it was still delayed by nearly an hour. By the time they finished their food and paid up, they had been in the pub’s car park for longer than the permitted three hours. Hoskins said: “I was livid when the [parking] bill came through. I am outraged that they can charge you to park, especially considering the amount the party spent. I will not be paying this parking fine as I believe it to be a disgrace. Instead I will advise my family of a more friendly establishment for next year.” The pub operates a system where drivers using the car park must enter their registration number on a device at the bar, but Hoskins claimed nobody in the party was made aware of this. A spokesperson for Brewer’s Fayre said: “We were sorry to hear about the car parking fines faced by Ms Hoskins and her party while visiting the Bristol Concord Brewers Fayre. Whilst there is signage in the shared car park – which is managed by a third party – as well as our restaurant, which clearly states the maximum length of stay and also highlights the option to sign-up for a further two hours of free parking for our guests, we appreciate this is a substantial fine that has marred an otherwise enjoyable dining experience. With this in mind, in this particular instance we would like to cover the cost of the fines as a gesture of goodwill to the party and look forward to welcoming them back to the restaurant in 2015.”
Brewery's bid to open micropub hits opposition: An application by the Northumberland-based brewery Acton Ales to open a micropub in the Grade II-listed early 19th century Toll House in Morpeth has brought opposition from the local town council, the head teacher of a local school, and neighbouring residents. The micropub, called The Office, is already open, after winning temporary event notices and subsequently a premises licence from Northumberland County Council. Now Andrea and Paul Johnson, from Acton at Felton, who run Acton Ales, have applied for permanent planning permission to convert the premises. Residents have voiced concern over the potential for noise and disorder related to the pub, while the headteacher at Morpeth First School voiced concerns over people smoking outside the pub, which is on the walking route of children from her nursery. Mr Johnson said he and his wife simply wanted an old fashioned establishment where people could gather to chat, with no music or noise from a television. He said he understood people’s concerns, but The Office “not that sort of pub. We will never be applying for a late licence, there is no music, no TVs. It is for people who want to come out and appreciate a pint and a chat, not to be in a rowdy atmosphere.” Johnson stressed that the pub would only be open five-and-a-half hours a day. The county council’s North area planning committee is being recommended to approve the scheme when it meets on Thursday.
£1m-a-year turnover Inverness pub for sale: The Castle Tavern pub and restaurant in Inverness, a magnet for the thousands of tourists who flock to Inverness Castle every year, as well as being close to two busy backbackers’ hostels, is going on sale this month as owner George MacLean concentrates on his other business in the city, the Phoenix Ale House. MacLean said: ” I may lease or sell, but with an ever-expanding Inverness, and the castle itself set to become a tourist attraction rather than a courthouse as at present, the business can only grow further. After 50 years in the licensed trade I am planning to slow down a bit, but not fully retire from the licensed trade. Earlier this year I bought back the Phoenix Bar in Academy Street, now called The Phoenix Ale House, and it’s my intention to upgrade the entire building and that will be this year’s project. Next door, the old AI Welders HQ is about to be developed into a flagship bar by Cairngorm Brewery, while across the road a good friend of mine is about to put a Thai restaurant into existing premises. Further down at the end of Academy Street another operator in the licensed trade has got plans to create a cellar bar which can only provide healthy footfall for the area.”
Wendy’s sues fourth largest franchisee: Wendy’s has filed a lawsuit in the United States to terminate its fourth largest franchisees. It claims that DavCo Restaurants refuses to meet company requirements to remodel restaurants and install a new point-of-sale system. DavCo operates 152 locations in Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia. The lawsuit could force the operator to sell or close those restaurants. “DavCo, a long-time franchisee of Wendy’s, apparently believes that the guidelines announced by Wendy’s, to be followed by all US and Canadian franchisees, simply do not apply to it,” Wendy’s states in the introduction to its complaint.

Liberation Group buys Somerset-based Butcombe: The Channel Islands brewer and retailer Liberation Group has acquired the Somerset-based Butcombe Brewery, creating a business that operates 94 pubs, bars and eateries, two breweries brewing more than 30,000 barrels of beer and retail and wholesale operations employing more than 750 staff, with plans to expand the pub estate. The Liberation Group was formed in 2008 after a management buy-out backed by LGV Capital supporting a management team led by Mark Crowther. The company has 75 predominantly freehold pubs, the Liberation Brewery (formerly the Jersey Brewery) and two retail and wholesale drinks supply businesses. Butcombe Brewery was founded in 1978 and operates 19 managed pubs. In a statement, Liberation said the combined business will benefit from stronger buying power and supply opportunities, enabling Liberation Group to sell Butcombe beers in the Channel Islands, while exporting Liberation ales on draught and in bottles into UK pub chains and supermarkets "with whom Butcombe already has excellent relationships". Mark Crowther, chief executive of Liberation Group, said: “We have been looking for some time for the right UK business to acquire as part of our longer-term growth strategy. This marks the start of the exciting next chapter for Liberation and Butcombe both of whom share the same passion for quality beers and great pubs. The enlarged group provides the perfect bridge head platform for further future growth in the UK market.” Guy Newell, managing director of Butcombe Brewery, said: “We have had significant interest from several UK pub and drinks businesses, but for us Liberation Group was by far the best fit with our business. They share our ethos for high-quality products and service and have proved, as we have, that being independent does not necessarily prevent you from being recognised for excellence alongside some of the biggest global names in the industry. This is a new chapter for both businesses and all of the team here is looking forward to being a part of that.” Steven Phillips, director at LGV Capital, said: “This is an exciting development for Liberation and Butcombe and we are delighted to support a first-class management team to continue the development and growth of the group.” Liberation Group said it intends to invest in Butcombe Brewery’s existing pubs and seek brand consistency across the group and plans to refresh the food offering with more local produce and recipes. Expansion is planned to build a portfolio of food-led managed and high quality tenanted pubs, while continuing the growth and development of the Butcombe beer and cider range. In its most recent result, Butcombe reported that sales rose £300,000 to £18,280,000 in the year to 28 February 2014. Ebitda fell 6% to £2.1m and pre-tax profit was £1.02m, up from £561,000 the year before.

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