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Mon 12th Jan 2015 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Losses reduce at Corbin & King: Losses have dropped at high-profile London restaurant operators Corbin & King, who are backed by private equity firm Graphite Capital. Turnover rose 23.8% to £35,401,901 in the year ended 30 March 2014. The company made an operating profit of £198,491 (2013: loss of £1,103,893) but after interest payments of £1,977,176 it made a pre-tax loss of £1,778,685 (2013: loss of £2,383,907). Adjusted Ebitda was £2,331,179 compared to £757,23 the year before, an increase of 308%. The company stated: “The Wolseley closed for refurbishment in January which resulted in sales falling to £11,633,830 (2013: £11,767,753). However, for the period excluding the refurbishment revenues increased 4.5% year-on-year. In its second full year of trading, The Dalaunay solidified its position as a leading London restaurant increasing revenues by 11.9% to £9,099,124. A full financial year’s trading saw revenue increase to £8,406,556 (2013: £5,856,961) at Brasserie Zedel and £6,262,391 (2013: £2,831,715) at Colbert.” Since the year-end Corbin & King has opened Fischer’s on Marylebone High Street and The Beaumont Hotel on Brown Hart Gardens. The company renewed its debt facilities with HSBC in May 2014, comprising a £10m debt term facility and a £1m overdraft facility. The highest paid director earned £220,370 (2013: £230,713). The group has losses of £6,156,384 (2013: £5,719,669) to carry forward against future trading profits. 
 

Industry News:

Pod founder to present at Propel Multi-Club Conference: Tim Hall, founder of leading healthy eating brand Pod, will present at the Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 12 March at the Lancaster Hotel in London. He sets out the journey from founding Pod to the current development and potential of the brand, which last year formed a partnership with Starbucks. Multi-site operators can book up to two free tickets by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com
 
Arc Inspirations founder decries trade-backed licence objections: Martin Wolstencroft, founder of award-winning bar and restaurant operator Arc Inspirations, has decried a trade-backed license objection last week to a move to add an hour to trade at the company’s Pit site in Harrogate. Wolstencroft told Propel: “(Last week) we gained an extra hour on our license in Harrogate for the Pit to sell alcohol to 1.30am on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. Our solicitor was Paddy Whur from Woods Whur and we won against a solicitor from Poppleston Allen called Jonathan Smith. Jonathan was representing a few local residents but his fee was being paid by two of our competitors – Rift bar, the new Revolution concept and Paul Kinsey an experienced nightclub operator who owns Viper rooms. It was like going back 15 years with trade-backed objections.”
 
The Prince’s Countryside Fund allows Pub is The Hub’s move into the Scottish Borders: The Prince’s Countryside Fund has announced a £25,000 grant for Pub is The Hub as part of a £650,000 investment in rural initiatives for 2015. The funding will create a new pilot project for 12 months in the Scottish Borders to identify priority areas and rural service needs with the aim to work with at least eight rural pubs. Then Pub is The Hub will establish an information hub for the whole of Scotland, inviting participation and support from interested regions. John Longden, chief executive for Pub is The Hub, said: “We are thrilled to receive this grant from The Prince’s Countryside Fund as it gives us the opportunity to start some diversification initiatives in Scotland working with the Scottish Borders Council to enhance essential community services.”
 
Sustainable Restaurant Awards introduce consumer choice category: For the first time in their four-year history, diners will have their say at next month’s Sustainable Restaurant Awards. The People’s Favourite Award, sponsored by Bookatable and being run in partnership with The Independent on Sunday, is a new category at the awards, which will be presented at a gala lunch at Oval Space in East London. The theme of the event is the Future of Food and James Golding, chef director of The Pig, will be working with a team of graduates from The Clink Charity to prepare the meal for the 250 guests at the innovative and eco-friendly venue. Guests at the awards lunch, which is double the size of last year’s event, will be also able to view some of the most cutting edge initiatives in the sector in a Future Showcase.
 
Jamie Oliver launches small eggs campaign: Chef Jamie Oliver and celebrity farmer Jimmy Doherty are targeting pullet eggs in their latest campaign to stamp out waste in the food chain. In last Friday’s episode of Friday Night Feast they visited The Mac’s Farm in Ditchling, East Sussex, to find out more about the production and use of so-called “mini-eggs”. According to the programme, up to a billion of these eggs are “knocked back” each year by UK supermarkets for being too small, because most consumers only want medium and large eggs. “It’s unthinkable that every day in the UK more than 1.5 million small eggs are thrown on the scrapheap or sold for peanuts to be turned into liquid egg,” said Jimmy Doherty in the programme. Oliver added: “The great British public are missing out on a premium, seasonal product and worse, farmer’s livelihoods are on the line. We want to kick start a mini-egg revolution. The supermarkets may not want them, but I reckon farmers could find a market for their huge volume of pullet eggs by selling them to restaurants and pubs.”

Company News:

Burning Night Group wins Cardiff go-ahead: Burning Night Group, led by Alex Hazzard and Alan Harper, has won licensing consent to open it fourth Bierkeller site, this time a 1,000 capacity venue located at Cardiff’s National Stadium. Represented by Paddy Whur, of Leeds firm Woods Whur, the application, within the Cumulative Impact Area, beat objections from police, the licensing authority, the Welsh Rugby Union and elected counsellors among others on account of being a “genuinely exceptional application”. Alex Hazzard, told the Propel Multi Club Conference last year that the company’s three existing multi-themed 15,000 to 20,000 sq ft sites, in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, are selling the equivalent of 15,000 brewers’ barrels of beer (24,500 hectolitres) a year each. The company offers three brands within the same building: Around the World in 80 beers, Bierkeller and Shooters Sports Bar. Turnover per site ranges from £75,000 per week off-season to £200,000 per week per site during peak season. Hazzard said the company is aiming for five more sites within the next three years, which would push Ebitda to £5m a year.

Prezzo shareholders vote for TPG Capital offer: Prezzo shareholders have voted in favour of the recommended bid for the company by the US buyout specialist TPG Capital’s vehicle Papa Bidco. The bid needed the support of 75% of voting shareholders, and a total of 79.26% of shareholders who voted supported the bid, with 20.74% voting against. The number of shares voted for and against the resolution to approve the scheme at the court meeting represented 68.65% and 17.97% of the total scheme shares respectively and represented 66.45% and 17.39% of the total Prezzo shares in issue respectively. The last day of trading in Prezzo shares will be 29 January. The recommended 126.5p-a-share cash bid from TPG Capital values the group at £303.7m. TPG’s victory comes despite an attempt by the activist fund Elliott International, which believed the US company’s offer undervalued the restaurant chain, to derail the bid by buying shares in Prezzo itself. Prezzo was founded in 2000 by chief executive Jonathan Kaye, and the Kaye family owns around 48.5% of the shares. TPG said in November that its offer valued the business at 9.2 times Prezzo’s adjusted earnings of £31m for the 12 months to the end of June.
 
Aspall Cyder reports rise in turnover and profit: Aspall Cyder, the Suffolk cider maker owned by the Chevalier Guild family, has reported turnover of £22,853,944 in the year to 29 March 2014, up from £19,848,070 the year before. Profit before tax was £526,830 compared to £523,474 the year before.
 
JD Wetherspoon acquires former cinema in Midsomer Norton: A former cinema in Midsomer Norton, Somerset (population 10,997) has been acquired by JD Wetherspoon, which is now looking to obtain licensing and planning permission for the site. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are pleased to have acquired a site in Midsomer Norton. Our aim is to open a Wetherspoon pub in the town; however, we will have to wait to see if planning and licensing permission is granted.” Gershon said the estimated projected development cost was £2m and the pub is expected to employ 45 people. Before it became a cinema the building was part of a brewery. In 1892 the building was owned by the Welton Old Brewery Company. The neighbouring Savoy Rooms were the brewery and the cinema buildings held the vats. It opened as the Empire cinema in 1913, changing its name to the Palladium Electric in 1915. After its closure in 1993 the Palladium was bought by Moonjuice nightclub owner Martin Sawyer, who died in a car crash in 2004. In 2008 Bath and North East Somerset Council gave planning permission for the change of use of the Palladium to a club and shops.
 
Handmade Burger Co gets go-ahead to convert Peterborough pub closed since 2009: Handmade Burger Co has been granted planning permission for the conversion of The Old Still pub, at the heart of the Queensgate Centre, Peterborough, which shut in 2009. An opening date has not yet been confirmed but is expected to be in March or April. Brand founder Chris Sargeant said: “I can’t wait to open our 23rd restaurant at The Old Still in Peterborough. It’s an amazing pub and we are so proud to have secured such an historic location. Our plans for The Old Still include maintaining the charm, look and feel of this much-loved pub. We are looking at bringing The Old Still back to life by creating something special for the people of Peterborough to be proud of.” Handmade Burger Co was launched in 2006 and offers more than 40 varieties of burger.
 
Glasgow club and restaurant operator closes one venue, opens another: Michele Paglioacca, who runs the Shed nightclub in Shawlands, Glasgow and two restaurants in the city operating under the Butterfly and the Pig fascia, is to open another Butterfly and Pig in the recently closed Corona bar in Shawlands. At the same time, however, the Partick Cross Butterfly and Pig will be closing down. Pagliopacca, who opened the first Butterfly and Pig in Bath Street, Glasgow in 2005, said the company had been unable to reach a deal over the lease of the Partick Cross site with a third party. He said he was looking to return to Glasgow’s West End some time in the future. Meanwhile, he said: “We are absolutely delighted to be bringing The Butterfly and the Pig to the south side and thrilled to be located in such an iconic building. I have no doubt our new bar and restaurant will be a welcome addition to the great offerings currently available in the south side.” The listed Corona, built in 1912 to a design by Glasgow architect James H Craigie, will be refurbished for £200,000 and reopen on 30 January.
 
Historic Spaghetti House restaurant to close after 46 years: The Spaghetti House restaurant in Knightsbridge, Central London is to close after 46 years after its landlord, Cheval Property Holding, confirmed that it is redeveloping the whole block where the outlet is based. The restaurant was the scene in 1975 of the Spaghetti House Siege, after an attempted armed robbery when managers of the chain had assembled to pay in the week’s takings of approximately £13,000. The robbers led nine Italian staff members down into the basement, but another staff member escaped and raised the alarm, leading to a siege of six days before the robbers surrendered. The events of the siege were later turned into a film. The restaurant now has 19 staff, and Spaghetti House said it was working to find them jobs around the rest of its 11 branches, from Holborn to Westfield London and the West End. Spaghetti House’s chief executive and managing director, Luigi Lavarini, son of the founder, Simone Lavarini, said: “Obviously this is not a happy time for us, there is no denying that as we lose not only a very successful branch, but one we are particularly fond of because of its rich history. However, it is also a time to celebrate an incredible 46 years of business in Knightsbridge, something that very few restaurants can do. Over the years customers have become friends, we will not lose them altogether because they will visit our nearby branches, while we continue to look for an alternative location in the area.”

B&T Brewery abandons lease on Charles Wells pub after a year: The B&T Brewery is giving up the lease on a pub in Hitchin, Hertfordshire owned by the Bedford brewer Charles Wells after just over 12 months, declaring: “It just hasn’t worked out”. B&T, which is based in Shefford, Bedfordshire, has six other pubs of its own in towns such as Bedford, Cambridge, Rugby and Dunstable. It took on The Bricklayers Arms in Queen Street, Hitchin in November 2013, leasing it from Charles Wells, with the pub undergoing a refurbishment. However, although has won widespread praise from the town’s drinkers, Mike Desquesnes, co-owner of the B&T Brewery, told The Hitchin Comet newspaper: “It just hasn’t worked out. Whether it was to do with the pub being in the wrong location or lots of competition in the town I don’t know – but we leave with happy memories.” A spokesman for Charles Wells confirmed: “As the current operators will be leaving The Bricklayers Arms we are looking for new licensees to run this great local pub. It will remain open in the meantime, and anyone who would like to find out more about the business opportunity can do so on our website or get in touch with us directly.” 
 
Leon reports 30% like-for-like sales increases in annual accounts: The healthy eating brand Leon has reported that like-for-like sales growth in the first six months of 2014 was 30% after hitting 20% like-for-like growth in the months leading up to end of December 2013 – the company achieved 22% like-for-like growth for the whole of 2014 and an operating profit of £1.9m. The company saw turnover of £12,466,000 in the year ended 29 December 2013, down from £12,772,000 the year before. It had an operating loss of £1,555,000 against £726,00 the year before, but made a gain of £447,000 on the disposal of a site. Losses before tax were £830,000, down from £861,000 for the same period in 2013. There are plans for 12 openings this calendar year – there are currently a total of 21 Leon sites.
 
Burger King offers customers free smartphones: Burger King is offering free subsidised smartphones via its website to consumers in the United States. The phones, which include the Samsung Galazy S4, LG G3 and Galaxy S4 Mini, are sold through the US networks Verizon and Sprint and come with a two-year contract. The phones promotion is linked to Burger King’s new app, available in Apple and Android versions, which enables customers to log in for exclusive offers and promotions.
 
Starbucks to debut in Cork: Starbucks is to open its first Cork City centre store, at no 39 Princes Street, a few doors away from the famed English Market. Starbucks first came to Ireland in 2005, opening in the Dundrum Town Centre. It later opened on Dublin’s College Green, and has expanded slowly since in Ireland. It had a concession in Cork Airport for several years, and has a presence in UCC – but, until now, has not had a Cork City centre foothold. A spokesman for the agent said: “There was significant interest in the property, from fashion, accessories and footwear users. Starbucks really liked the shape of the building and its quirks, and were very pleased to locate on pedestrianised Princes Street.” The site offers 1,660 square foot of space – rent sought had been circa €55,000 per annum.

Taylor Street Baristas coffee bond hits 95% funded mark: The nine-strong coffee shop chain Taylor Street Baristas, led by Richard Shaer, has hit the 90% funded mark in cash raised through its mini-bond on Crowdcube. It is seeking to raise a £1.5m minimum through an 8% yield bond – a total of £1,426,000 has been raised from 402 investors. The offer has another eight days left to run. This year, the company’s unaudited accounts show turnover of £3,337,000 from nine shops in the most recent year, with shop pre-central overhead Ebida of £278,000 and actual Ebitda of £110,000, producing an overall loss of £276,000. Like-for-like sales rose by 14% between April and September this year.
 
JD Wetherspoon asked for more detail on Douglas pub plan: JD Wetherspoon has been asked to submit more information on its plans to convert the former Permanent/TSB premises in Douglas into a new bar. It is the second planned venue for Cork for the company. Its proposal to convert the former Newport Cáfe on Paul Street into a bar called The Linen Weaver is also awaiting a planning decision. Wetherspoon has sought planning permission to convert the former bank at East Douglas Street into a bar serving drink and food with a beer garden to the rear. The premises also hosted Bank of Ireland on a temporary basis while Douglas Village Shopping Centre was re-developed. Some residents in Douglas have lodged objections to the Wetherspoon development saying it would not be beneficial to the long-term development of Douglas, that the promotion of cheap alcohol would cause anti-social behaviour, added traffic congestion, the impact of the planned rear beer garden on nearby apartments. Just before Christmas planners in County Hall asked Wetherspoon to provide more information on their application including a noise impact report, odour management plan and a travel plan. Wetherspoon has six months to comply with the further information request. A planning decision on the former Newport Café on Paul Street is expected next month.
 
Mint and Mustard to open Chai Street street food concept in Cardiff: Multiple operator Mint and Mustard’s award-winning Indian street food restaurant Chai Street, is returning to Cardiff. The restaurant has been looking for a new home since it was temporarily closed to allow the expansion of Mint and Mustard’s flagship restaurant in Whitchurch Road in Gabalfa. Situated on Cowbridge Road East, the fifth outlet from Mint and Mustard is just doors away from the Purple Poppadom, Anand Geroge’s award-winning nouvelle cuisine Mecca. Mint and Mustard was name-checked as one of the most important pioneers of modern Indian cuisine by The Independent newspaper last year and was included as one of the UK’s top Indian restaurants in the 2015 edition of the Good Food Guide, sponsored by Waitrose – its sixth year in the guide. Chai Street’s snacks and main dishes are inspired by the same philosophy that is behind the Mint and Mustard menu, using fresh, light and authentic ingredients to create dishes that redefine Indian cuisine. The venue is set to be unveiled on 15 January.

Dutch-based sushi restaurant operator opens in Birmingham: An all-you-can-eat fixed-price Japanese sushi buffet operator based in the Netherlands has opened its first UK restaurant in the Arcadian Centre in Birmingham. The Hurst Street restaurant will bring up to 30 full and part-time jobs to the city. The owners of Kyoto Sushi and Grill have been operating in the Netherlands for the past five years and now run outlets in Amsterdam and The Hague. Johnny Wong, one of the restaurant’s owners, said: “We know Birmingham is the right place to come to open our first venue and as soon as we saw the Arcadian Centre, we felt it would be right at home, being in the heart of the lively Chinese Quarter.” The restaurant will sell more than 70 dishes including sushi, hand made rolls, noodles, soup and salads. At the Arcadian Centre, which is owned and managed by London & Cambridge Properties, centre manager Lina Higuita said: “It’s very exciting to welcome a new tenant to the Arcadian. We already boast a range of restaurants that serve food from around the world and the addition of Kyoto Sushi and Grill will add another rich seam of great cuisine here.”

Chef closes Aumbry fine-dining restaurant for good: Prestwich fine dining restaurant Aumbry has closed for good with chef and owner Mary-Ellen McTague planning to open a new restaurant in Manchester city centre in the spring. Award-winning Aumbry, based in a small converted cottage on Church Lane, originally closed for refurbishment back in August. McTague launched a pop-up venture in the run up to Christmas, 4244, in the Northern Quarter while the Aumbry works were due to take place. But agreement couldn’t be reached over a new lease. She said: “We aren’t renewing the lease for Aumbry, and we’re very sad about it. We had big plans for the place but just couldn’t agree terms. But we’re still looking for somewhere in Prestwich for our bakery/cafe idea, while we press on for a new site in the city centre for a restaurant. We won’t leave Prestwich fully, and of course it remains my home so I always want the best for the village.” While McTague hopes to secure a city centre site to open by the spring, she has confirmed it won’t be called Aumbry. Aumbry, which had just 28-covers in the restaurant, won huge acclaim during its five years in Prestwich including twice winning the title of Restaurant of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards, and McTague was twice named Chef of the Year.

Britvic lines up Bob Ivell successor: Britvic has lined up the successor to Bob Ivell with the appointment of John Daly as an independent non-executive director of the company. Daly is currently a non-executive director of Wolseley, a position he has held since May 2014 and where he serves on the audit, remuneration and nomination committees. Prior to this, he held various executive leadership positions over the course of 20 years at British American Tobacco. Britvic said it is intended that Daly will become senior independent director of the company and chairman of the remuneration committee following the ultimate retirement from the board of Bob Ivell, who has held both positions since the company’s flotation in 2005. Commenting on the appointment Gerald Corbett, chairman, said: “We continue to evolve the Britvic board as we execute our strategy to drive growth in both our core markets and internationally. John Daly has extensive international experience, combined with a deep understanding of global leadership in a number of sectors, and is well placed to add value to Britvic. We are delighted to welcome him to the board.”

Chameleon Bar & Dining reports profit lift: Chameleon Bar & Dining, the north of England operator led by Phil Strong and chaired by Alistair Arkley, has reported pre-tax profit rose by 37% to £115,411 in the year ended 31 March 2014. Turnover was £4,407,667, down 2% on the year before, which was a 53-week year. The company said profit increased after the disposal, in 2013, of the Cottage, which was unprofitable. The company stated: “(We have) the capacity to run a slightly bigger estate and will endeavour to acquire new freeholds or take leaseholds on a short-term basis to meet the strategic objective.”

Old Welsh coaching inn bought by returning expats: A couple returning from Spain, where they have been running a luxury villa rental business in Sotogrande, Andalusia, have bought The Bell at Skenfrith in Monmouthshire, South Wales, a former 17th century coaching inn with 11 en-suite bedrooms and a two-rosette restaurant. Peter Brunt, of Colliers International, who set up the deal, said: “Overseas investors and returning ex-pats are particularly active in the hospitality sector at the moment. The UK is once again being regarded as a safe haven.” Since it was restored and refurbished in 2001, The Bell has won awards for its accommodation, food and wine list, both nationally and internationally. Brunt said: “The Bell at Skenfrith is a well-known business with an enviable reputation in the hospitality world and has long been a favourite haunt of Londoners looking to get away from a busy city life.”

MP calls on Carlsberg to save Draught Burton Ale: Andrew Griffiths, the MP for Burton upon Trent, is calling on Carlsberg to invite other brewers to take on the making of Draught Burton Ale, after the company announced that it was axing the cask ale brand. Griffiths said: “Just because Carlsberg doesn’t understand the value of the Draught Burton Ale brand, I know that Britain’s drinkers do. I am sure that other brewers will be interested in revitalising the brand.” Beer writer Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, said: “The death of Draught Burton Ale is an appalling blunder by Carlsberg UK and a misreading of the state of the beer market. DBA is a much-loved beer and would have benefited from a relaunch.” The beer was introduced 29 years ago under the name Ind Coope Burton Ale and was one of the pioneers of the return of cask ale to thousands of British pubs. It was the only beer produced by a national brewer to win the Campaign for Real Ale’s Champion Beer of Britain award, in 1990. It ended up in Carlsberg’s possession and production was switched from Burton to Leeds and then to JW Lees in Manchester. However, last week Carlsberg said demand for the beer had fallen to a level that was “unsustainable”. Andrew Roache, external communications manager for Carlsberg UK, said: “This was a decision we took last year, with brewing ending around four months ago. Demand for the beer had dropped to a level that was unsustainable. This was despite the beer having a prominent and year-round listing in our Tapster’s Choice range of cask ales, meaning it was available to order by 8,000 pubs in the UK.”

Smallest pub in Britain closes after asbestos find: The Nutshell pub in Bury St Edmunds, believed to be the smallest in the country, has been closed while asbestos has been removed from the building. The specialist environmental company Forest Environmental has been removing the material, which was uncovered during refurbishment at the pub. Greene King, which owns the pub, in The Traverse, said: “As is often the case with older buildings, asbestos had been used in parts of the pub. Independent surveyors have deemed there was no risk to customers, but as a precaution the material is being removed and the pub temporarily closed while this work is safely carried out. Bury’s most famous pub should be back to business as normal [this] week.”

Consumers are ‘in love with KFC food but not in love with the brand’, chain’s UK marketing chief admits: Consumers are, in love with KFC food but they are not in love with the brand, the chain’s chief marketing officer for UK and Ireland, David Timm, has admitted in his first interview since taking the job in December 2013. Timm said his priority was to bridge the gap and broaden the appeal of KFC beyond high-frequency fried chicken fans. In September the chain saw the biggest overhaul to its menu in 20 years, adding a non-fried pulled chicken range, and an important innovation because it is not fried. But speaking to Marketing magazine, Timm said the fight was also a marketing-led one, and KFC has made a step-change in its marketing strategy beyond tactical product ads towards emotionally led campaigns designed to drive emotional engagement with the brand. KFC’s ad agency, BBH, has been briefed to focus on creating brand campaigns that tug at the heart strings, rather than focus exclusively on price or product, as it looks to connect with its customers. The strategy is to make KFC a brand “available for everybody”. Timm says, rather than focussing on a “narrow appeal”. The most recent ads, featuring love and family, are emotive and sentimental and aimed at positioning KFC as a family meal time option. Timm also wants to do more with digital. KFC’s advertising model and approach to media “has changed completely”, Timm told Marketing, and with that the marketing mix has also been put under the microscope “philosophically and practically”, with the brand spending more on digital. Converting the “love of our product into the love of our brand” is KFC’s “biggest challenge” and its biggest opportunity. Timm was interviewed in KFC’s redesigned Bracknell branch, which includes a large coffee bar, with breakfast muffins and pastries on display, taking up a third of the counter space. It is part of KFCs plans to win some of the breakfast market and win sales from coffee-loving customers. Timm refused to reveal the plans to celebrate KFC’s 50th anniversary, this year, saying only that there will be a heritage campaign this year, and Colonel Sanders, a “fundamental” part of KFC’s history, will be “part of the story” – though he will not be making a comeback. 

Turtle Bay lines up March opening in Cheltenham: Caribbean-themed Turtle Bay, the brand backed by Piper Private Equity, is lining up an opening in Cheltenham for March. The company is looking to open in Pittville Street where Embassy nightclub used to be. The brand has 13 restaurants in the UK with another 12 due to open this year.

Punch applies to build shops in grounds of pubs in Sussex and Oxfordshire: Punch Taverns has applied to build shops in the grounds of two of its pubs, in Portslade, Sussex, and Didcot, Oxfordshire. It wants to build a 4,000 sq ft single-storey retail unit as an extension to The Mile Oak Inn in Mile Oak Road, Portslade, on land currently used as a patio space and pub lawn. The proposals include the relocation of the existing pub kitchen from the basement to the ground floor to overcome an ongoing flooding problem. Punch said in its submission to the council that the addition of the shop will strengthen the existing public house community facility and help to safeguard its long-term future. A decision on the proposals is due to be made by the local council early next month. At the same time the company has put forward a proposal for a convenience store in the gardens of The Wheatsheaf, in Wantage Road, Didcot. The single-storey shop would be separate from the pub, with opening hours between 8am and 10pm, Monday to Sunday. Punch said it was in talks with a company to run the shop, but would not reveal which firm it was. Punch spokesman Dave Pawson said: “As part of our strategy for The Wheatsheaf and the surrounding land, we have earmarked a spend of over £170,000 to refurbish and develop the pub in the first quarter of 2015. We have also submitted a planning application for the development of a retail unit on part of our land, which will be entirely separate to the pub. We are in advanced negotiations with a potential operator of the retail unit, but at the moment the detail of those negotiations will remain private and confidential.” Councillors are again expected to make a decision on the plan next month. 
 
Pub runs for almost 20 years without premises licence: A pub in Port Glasgow, Scotland has been running for almost 20 years without anybody noticing that it did not have a premises licence. The premises licence for The Comet Bar in King Street ceased to exist when the company whose name was on it was dissolved 20 years ago. A transfer of the licence to a new company was due to go through but the paperwork was never completed, Inverclyde’s licensing board was told last week, when the pair who run it, Carol Robertson and her father Donnie McPherson, applied for a temporary occasional licence in order to keep the premises open until a proper premises licence can be obtained. The board was told that the building is owned by Greenock councillor Ciano Rebecchi, who used to run the premises himself. Lawyer Archie Maciver, acting on behalf of Ms Robertson and her father, said: “As far as the technical failings on the company side of things, that was completely without the knowledge of the McPhersons. My understanding, however, is that steps have been taken or are in the process of being taken for a new licence for the premises. This is to allow the premises to re-open.” Police Scotland raised “serious concerns” over a number of incidents, including two alleged serious assaults. However, the occasional licence was unanimously approved by the board’s members.

A total of £23,900 raised for Real Junk Food Project cafe: A voluntary payment cafe in Leeds that faced possible closure looks set to be saved after a fundraising drive netted more than £23,000 in just six weeks. The team behind the Real Junk Food Project cafe on Chapel Lane, Armley, revealed in November that they were seeing to raise £130,000 to buy the building. The cafe has fed 10,000 people 20 tonnes of food that would otherwise go to waste on a voluntary payment basis since it opened in December 2013. Around 350 customers a week use the cafe and pay what they feel by putting money in a box or volunteering to donate their time to help the project in payment. Leeds-based Geldards Coaches own the cafe building, which was a former fruit and florist’s shop, and have been supportive of the project. But Geldards are seeking to sell the building and have given tenants the Real Junk Food Project the first option to buy it. The project’s co-founder and co-director Adam Smith, 29, said the £23,000 raised has helped persuade private investors to fund the remaining cost of buying the cafe via social loans. Negotiations on the sale of the building are ongoing.

Vanessa Hall and Steve Cash to take part Professor Chris Edger to hold Multi-Site Management Masterclass: YO! Sushi chief executive Vanessa Hall and former Harvester brand director Steve Cash are to feature in live sessions held within Professor Chris Edger’s Multi-Site Management Masterclass, being held in partnership with Propel, on Tuesday 24 February at One Moorgate Place, in the City of London. Professor Edger, who has just published his latest book, Leading at a Distance in Multi-Unit Enterprises, will focus on how area managers can create organic growth through the three-step process of engagement, execution and evolution. Professor Edger currently teaches at City University, Birmingham, where a number of the sector’s leading companies send their general managers to be taught. Darren King, last month’s winner of 2014 ALMR Operations Manager award, graduated from its post-graduate Level 7 Multi-Unit Leadership and Strategy course in 2014 – as did the 2013 ALMR Operations Manager winner Barrie Robinson in 2013. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel, said: “This is a great chance for multi-site companies to refresh their thinking – and the thinking and expertise of key staff – as 2015 gets under way.” Tickets are £295 plus VAT for ALMR members and £345 for non-ALMR members. For more details or to book tickets email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

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