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Wed 21st Jan 2015 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Starbucks launches wireless charging at ten London stores: Starbucks is launching Powermat wireless charging zones in ten central London Starbucks stores, claiming to be “the first on the high street to offer this technology”. Customers collect a ‘Ring’ at the till point, connect it to their phone and place their device on tables and counters that have Powermat wireless charging technology built in – clearly marked with a circular ‘Spot’. According to research, 92% of people in the UK experience varying levels of stress if their smartphone battery runs out of power. This wireless charging deployment is part of Starbucks continued commitment to investing in digital innovations that improve its customers’ overall in-store experience. Having introduced free Wi-Fi to all UK customers in 2011, Starbucks now hopes to do for wireless power what it did for wireless data: solve a real problem for customers. “We have always tried to anticipate our customers’ needs and innovate with technology to provide even more convenience,” said Ian Cranna, vice-president marketing and category, Starbucks EMEA. “Our partnership with Powermat demonstrates Starbucks response to an increasing need to stay connected whilst on the go. We’re delighted to be the first to launch Powermat wireless charging in ten London stores and look forward to customers being able to charge their phones wirelessly in many more stores soon.” The initial ten installations will be available in the following central London stores by the end of January 2015: Princes Street, Kingsway, Wardour Street, Pentonville Road, Harewood Place, Berkeley Street, Great Portland Street, Moorgate, Fleet Street, and Euston Tower.
 

Industry News:

Jonathan Doughty to present at Propel Multi Club Conference in March: Coverpoint head of European consulting Jonathan Doughty is to present at the next Propel Multi Club Conference on Thursday 12 March, held at the Lancaster Hotel, London. He looks at the changing dynamics within the foodservice industry, opportunities for new fast food and game-changers in food and restaurants. Operators of multi-site companies can book up to two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

French better burger brand set for London opening: French better burger brand Big Fernand is set to open its first UK restaurant in London in mid-March, giving a French makeover to the UK’s up-market burger trend. Located on Percy Street near Charlotte Street, the 2,100 square foot, self-service, fully licensed venue will specialise in gourmet ‘hamburgés’, with unpasteurised cheeses imported from France, such as Tomme de Savoie and Fourme d’Ambert. Friends Steve Burggraf, Alexandre Auriac and Guillaume Pagliano first launched Big Fernand in Paris in 2012. Their aim was to take the burger back to basics, with the focus placed on the ingredients and artisanal cooking. It has eight sites now open including restaurants in Paris, Lille and Lyon and 20 further sites set to open in the next twelve months. Big Fernand’s “ambassador to the UK” Mathieu Durand said: “We are very excited to bring our Hamburgés to London, where burger lovers are real connoisseurs! This is a great opportunity for us to challenge our Frenchness with local products and propose a version of a classic dish done our way.” The Grade II listed, 60-seat dine-in and take-away venue will feature traditional rustic interiors complete with stonewalls and wood cladding. Staff will be serving customers dressed in traditional French ‘tenue de travail’ attire of berets and chequered shirts and their best English accents.

Shake Shack to be valued at $568m in IPO: Shake Shack has stated that it expected its Initial Public Offering to be priced at $14-$16 per share, valuing the company at up to $568 million. Its offering of five million class A shares is expected to raise up to $80 million. The offering follows a number successful IPOs by casual dining chains in the US last year, including Habit Restaurants, El Pollo Loco Holdings and Zoe’s Kitchen. Shake Shack has 63 outlets, including 36 in the United States. The company’s international outlets include those in Dubai, Istanbul, London and Kuwait. Shake Shack’s net income fell 20% to $3.6 million in the 39 weeks ended 24 September. Revenue rose 41% to $83.8 million.
 
Harvard research – alcohol in moderation is good for the heart: Alcohol drunk in moderation could prevent heart failure, a new Harvard study suggests. Middle-aged men who have up to seven drinks a week are 20% less likely to develop heart failure later in life compared to teetotallers, the Harvard research found. The same drinking levels – equivalent to a small glass of wine or a half pint of beer a day – were also associated with a 16% reduced risk in women. Even those drinking two or three drinks a day had the same rate of heart failure as non-drinkers, according to the research published in the European Heart Journal online. The researchers who carried out the study defined a drink as one that contains 14g of alcohol- equivalent to one small glass of wine, a little over half a pint of beer or less than one shot of a short such as whisky or vodka. Professor Scott Solomon, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, said: “These findings suggest drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of heart failure and may even be protective.”
 
Crowdcube hires chief financial officer: Equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube has appointed the former Ask.com and MySpace executive Bill Simmons as its chief finance officer. He will focus on managing growth and ensuring money recently raised by the company in its own funding round (£3.8m via Balderton Capital and £1.2 on Crowdcube’s own platform) is invested to ensure manageable growth. He said: “Crowdcube is an incredibly dynamic environment, which has doubled in size in recent months. Having worked at a number of start-ups and high growth businesses, I know that managing such rapid growth is one of the most challenging but exciting parts of the job.”

Big Lottery Fund extends support for Pub is the Hub: Pub is The Hub has received confirmation that funding for its popular advice, guidance and training service for England has been secured for a further three years by the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme. The organisation will receive £452,000 over the next three years enabling its regional advisors to continue work with interested local authorities whereby they match community priority needs with additional services which can be provided by the local pub and a good licensee. This new funding follows the success of the first three-year programme launched in 2011, which inspired a variety of projects around England across 11 local authorities which resulted in a range of 27 different services from shops and libraries to help for elderly residents. Inspired by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2001, Pub is The Hub operates as a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation dedicated to offering advice and support to licensees, rural pubs and community services as well as to communities considering the options for acquiring their local pub and the range of responsibilities involved. John Longden, chief executive of Pub is The Hub said: “We are so delighted to have the recognition and support from the Big Lottery Fund which will help the organisation to fill a very important role in advising great licensees to provide a variety of much-needed and vital services within their small local communities. We only exist through donations and grants such as this, so fundraising is always uppermost in our thoughts. To have this long term support also gives us the confidence and ability to continue to raise funds directly for good licensees who just need that small financial leg-up to diversify their services. We will continue use our experience gained from 14 years’ work to help identify priority services needs by working closely with individual communities and their local authorities.”
 
PUB15 unveils top speaker line-up: Leading entrepreneurs and industry experts are confirmed as headline speakers and panellists at this year’s PUB15, the new trade show dedicated to the UK pub industry. It takes place at Olympia on 18 and 19 February 2015. Two Michelin star pub operator Tom Kerridge tops the bill, sharing the secrets of taking the successful Hand and Flowers to Michelin success. Managing director of Whiting & Hammond Brian Whiting reviews the sector landscape in a session led by ALMR (Association of Licenced Multiple Retailers) chief executive Kate Nicholls, whilst Lee Cash, founder of Peach Pubs, joins the debate on career opportunities in the pub business, revealing how he keeps his 500 strong staff motivated. In addition Nick Miller, chief executive of Meantime Brewery, talks craft and beer positioning with leading beer journalists and bloggers Sophie Atherton and Pete Brown. Co-founder of Yummy Pub Company Tim Foster, explores the virtues of premium products to improve pub margins in a session led by InaPub editor, Matt Eley. Propel founder Paul Charity heads up two sessions focused on propelling pub business success. Helping publicans find the perfect pitch for their new business, he’ll be joined by Ben Stackhouse of London-based multiple PubLove along with associate partner of Caci, Nielsen Harrap, who specialises in location planning to the leisure and retail sectors and Neil Morgan, of property agent Christie + Co. On the second day, he’ll be offering an insider’s view to investment in the pub sector, with contributions from mainstream financial institutions such as Barclays and Liberis as well as popular, alternative equity generating initiatives such as the crowd sourcing route .For the full schedule of seminars, details of all speakers and to reserve your space visit www.thepubshow.co.uk.

Company News:

Seafood Pub Company adds seventh site: The Seafood Pub Company is expanding into West Lancashire with the acquisition of its seventh pub site, in a deal brokered by agent Christie + Co. The Lancashire-based pub company has acquired the Town Green Inn in Aughton, Ormskirk from Punch Taverns. It follows closely on the heels of the group’s acquisition and refurbishment of the Derby Arms in Thornley, Longridge and the Barley Mow in Barley, Pendle last year. Work is now underway on refurbishing the new acquisition, which will re-open at Easter, rebranded as the Town Green Brasserie. Seafood Pub Company managing director Joycelyn Neve, who was named Lancashire and Cheshire Life’s Food Hero of the Year in 2014, said: “The acquisition of the Town Green Inn offered us the perfect opportunity to expand into West Lancashire. We’re proud of the reputation we have for delivering great food, great service and great surroundings. Opening the Barley Mow last year allowed us to launch our brand and this is where the Town Green will fit in well.” Tom Hodgson, of Christie + Co, added: “We had numerous parties interested with a view to changing it to a variety of uses from residential to a convenience store! We were delighted to find an operator that wanted to transform the pub in to a thriving food-led establishment and the Seafood Pub Company is perfect for this site.”
 
Thorley Taverns reports profit boost: Thorley Taverns, the Kent pub operator led by Frank and Phil Thorley, has reported a profit boost. The company saw pre-tax profit rise to £409,911 in the year ended 30 June 2014, up fro £108,919 the year before. Turnover was £11,533,463 compared to £11,511,218 in the year prior. The company stated: “Turnover and gross profit has continued at similar levels to the previous year but reductions in overheads and the reversal of impairment charges on property values have resulted in an increase in operating profit from £198,986 to £484,786. Of the increase, £177,042 relates to the impairment adjustment, but, even without this, operating profit is 58% higher than the previous year.”
 
Stonegate Pub Company converts another Bramwell site to Slug & Lettuce brand: Stonegate Pub Company is converting another former Bramwell Pub Company site, acquired in November 2013, to its Slug & Lettuce brand. The former Proverbial in Harborne high street, three miles south-east of Birmingham city centre, will re-open as a Slug on Friday 30 January. The new bar, which is right in the centre of the busy high street, will open daily from 8am serving a selection of breakfast choices from muffins topped with smoked salmon and scrambled egg, porridge served with honey or classics such as Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale. Traditional toasted bacon or sausage sandwiches and full English dishes are on the menu too, as are a wide selection of traditional, herbal and fruit teas and coffees from Costa Coffee.
 
Gordon Ramsay loses High Court battle over £640,000 a year rent: Chef Gordon Ramsay has lost a High Court battle over being held personally liable for the rent on a London pub he bought – he has also been ordered to pay legal costs estimated to be around £1m. The pub deal took place when his father-in-law Christopher Hutcheson was running the business. Ramsay accused Hutcheson in court of using a ghost writer machine, more commonly used by authors to sign books and photographs automatically, to forge his signature on a document which made him the personal guarantor for the £640,000 annual rent of the York & Albany pub near Regent’s Park. However, Mr Justice Morgan, has refused to grant a declaration that the rental guarantee was not binding because Mr Ramsay’s signature “was not lawfully authorised” when the 25 year lease was signed in 2007. The judge said: “I find that when Mr Hutcheson committed Mr Ramsay to the guarantee in the lease of the premises, Mr Hutcheson was acting within the wide general authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsay at all times until Mr Hutcheson’s dismissal in October 2010.” Previously, film director Gary Love, who owns the York & Albany, described Ramsay’s allegation as an “absurd” attempt to wriggle out of his rental commitments.

Damon’s aims to turn three restaurants into six: The three-strong Damon’s Steakhouse chain is looking to add a Japanese Steakhouse inside each off its sites, effectively creating six restaurants. The first Damon’s Japanese Steakhouse would sit inside the Lincoln Damon’s off the A46.Work is due to start in March, if planning is approved, and should be completed by late autumn. Within three months of finishing, a further £750,000 would be spent replicating this at the company’s locations in Liverpool and Sheffield. Work will open up a currently unused and hidden part of the Damon’s Restaurant building, to create two restaurants in one, with a single main entrance. A glass partition will separate the two and diners at Damon’s Japanese Steakhouse will be able to have food prepared for them at their tables using hot plates. The outer side of the Japanese steakhouse will be glass, giving diners an all-round view. The new Japanese Steakhouse in Lincoln will have 96 seats, on top of 150 inside Damon’s Restaurant. It means 30 new jobs on the steakhouse side adding to 140 current staff at Damon’s, and 340 over its four sites. Director Stuart Carey said: “Within three months of opening in Lincoln if it’s successful we will go to Sheffield and do the same. Then we’d look at Liverpool. We have three restaurants, so potentially within two years we would be looking at six in total. All of them would be two restaurants in one building. It will be unique.”

Restaurant operators line up for Soho Square bunker letting: Three restaurant groups are among those who have already shown an interest in occupying a former World War Two air raid shelter beneath Soho Square. The 3,200 square foot brick and concrete shell is on the market for £175,000 – Westminster Council is offering a long lease on the shelter. David Hooper of agents GVA, which is handling the letting, told the London Evening Standard: ”The restaurant market in central London is so hot at the moment that anything new and interesting is going to be well-received. It’s going to need a couple of millions spent on a fit out but people don’t seem to be put off by that. The floor to ceiling height is incredibly good.”

Mitchells & Butlers to open Miller & Carter in Bromley next month: Mitchells & Butlers is to open a new Miller & Carter site in Bromley next month – on Friday 27 February. Situated on Pickhurst Lane, the Miller & Carter is located near both West Wickham & Hayes – the pub previously traded as a carvery when it was part of the Orchid Pub Company estate. The new steakhouse will create over 45 jobs. Miller & Carter Bromley will accommodate dining for over 184 guests, with room for a further 58 guests in the bar. There is also a private dining room, which can accommodate up to 12 guests for those extra special occasions. The entire team attend a bespoke butchery demonstration to ensure they are complete steak experts and ready to serve the best 30-day aged British steak.

Coal Shed owner to open second Brighton restaurant: The owner of the award-winning Coal Shed restaurant in Brighton, Razak Helelat, is opening a sister site next month. The Salt Room will be located on the seafront and will be focused on delivering the finest seafood. Menu items will include lobster, scallops, crab and their signature steaks grilled on a Josper.

Upham Brewery look to increase production five-fold: Upham Brewery wants to increase its production five-fold with plan for a new brewery. The firm, which employs five full-time members of staff, is currently based in agricultural buildings at Stakes Farm at the junction of Stakes Lane and Cross Lane near Upham. Plans to move across the field towards Bishop’s Waltham, with access from Ashton Lane, will mean the company can still access the area’s water – something it says is crucial to the unique taste of its products. But people living nearby are worried the new site will cause problems on the already-busy Winchester Road, decrease house prices and potentially give developers a “green light” to build on the rest of the green field.
 
Coffee#1 plan in Bristol meets local opposition: Traders in Southville, Bristol have criticised plan to create a new Coffee#1, the coffee shop brand owned by SA Brain, by converting a shop. Nearby traders and residents submitted more than 60 objections to the planning application, which is for 247-249 North Street, claiming it will cause competition problems for independent coffee shops just a few doors away. Alan Baker, of Garnet Street, said: “In general terms, this change of use from retail to a coffee shop is not a welcome one as it adds to the increasingly unbalanced mix of businesses on North Street.”

Fourth PoundPub open at 9am this morning: The fourth PoundPub and first in Merseyside opens its doors at 9am this morning. Half pints will be available from £1 and pints from £1.50 when the former Cuffs Bar on High Street, Wavertree re-opens. Manager Mike Dring said: “It’s not a pound a pint as some people seem to think. And it’s not all about cheap beer because we are selling non-alcoholic drinks at £1. It’s a no frills business, that’s the best way to describe it. There will be no Sky Sports, karaoke or DJs, which a lot of pubs round here have. We are not trying to encourage alcoholism or binge-drinking. It’s about people who might only have £10 being able to have a good night out. We know money is tight and people are on a budget, while this is not a high income area.” Other Pound Pubs – which are run by Here For Your Hospitality of Leigh, Greater Manchester – operate in Atherton, Greater Manchester, Stockton on Tees and Newark in Nottinghamshire. The pub has three dart boards, a pool table, jukebox, gaming machine and (terrestrial) TV. 

Douglas Jack forecasts ‘positive trading ‘at Marston’s: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast “positive trading” at Marston’s he issued a ‘Buy’ note with a 180p price target. He said: “Marston’s AGM statement is due on Tuesday. We expect trading to have remained positive in all divisions, resulting in forecasts being held. We forecast a return to double-digit earnings growth this year, driven by new build expansion, in addition to which the dividend is yielding circa 5%. Premium & Destination (P&D) like-for-like sales were up 2.1% after seven weeks, with margins also up. Even though Marston’s faced tough Christmas trading comps (+3.3%; +9% on a two-year basis), we expect like-for-like sales to have strengthened slightly, aided by a positive sector backdrop. This, avoiding discounting and the opening of higher-margin new builds should have kept margins on the increase.25 new builds are forecast to open this year, on a freehold build cost multiple of 6-7x Ebitda. Marston’s has an additional opportunity to drive growth through increasing its number of co-located lodges (from 22) through developing 15 existing sites, which have a lodge opportunity, in addition to a pipeline that offers three to five lodge opportunities pa. Within Taverns (974 pubs), managed and franchised like-for-like sales rose 2.0% in the first seven weeks and subsequent trading should have been supported by ongoing investments and disposals. Leased and Brewing should be up, having traded positively during the first seven weeks. Partly due to the proposed Market Rent Option (MRO), we expect Marston’s to sell 200 Taverns’ pubs and convert 239 others to franchised (recently at 535 pubs). Only half of Leased profit, or 7.5% of company profit, is exposed to the MRO, for which downside risk should be minimal: only six lessees (out of 343) have opted for free-of-tie pricing in the last six years. We expect to hold our 2015E forecasts (PBT £91.8m; consensus £91.6m) which assume 2.5% like-for-like sales growth in P&D, 2% like-for-like sales growth in Taverns, 1% like-for-like profit growth in Leased and slightly positive Brewing volumes. Cost pressures are sufficiently benign such that they can be offset by a 1% price increase. We forecast a return to double-digit earnings growth this year, with net debt/Ebitda falling 0.3x despite the attractive dividend, yielding circa 5%. Although comps will be tough in H1, they ease in H2 and the consumer backdrop is favourable, with Longview forecasting a 5.0% increase in household cash flow this year.”

Wetherspoon to open in Bloxwich next week: JD Wetherspoon will open a new site in Bloxwich, Walsall next Tuesday (population: 40,000). The Bloxwich Showman – which has been named after Pat Collins, a former Mayor and MP and known for his involvement in the funfair industry – will open its doors on Tuesday, 27 January. It will be housed in the former Electric Palace, which was previously used as a cinema. The move has brought £1.5 million investment into the town and a total of 45 jobs are being created. John Hutson, chief executive of Wetherspoon, said: “We believe that people in the town will welcome the investment and transformation of the building and that the pub will prove a great asset to the town. Hopefully it will also act as a catalyst for other businesses to invest in the town itself.”

Prezzo lines up Harlow opening: Prezzo, the company led by Jonathan Kaye whose shareholders voted this month to take it private, is set to open a restaurant in the Harvey Centre, Harlow. The restaurant has applied to Harlow Council for a late-night licence to sell alcohol at the restaurant, which will be located in the refurbished section of the centre above Tesco.

Luminar Gives a Kid £15,000: Luminar Group, the UK’s largest nightclub operator, is celebrating after its festive fundraising campaign raised more than £15,000 for its nominated charity, the Echo Trust. Clubs nationwide asked their customers to Give A Kid A Quid over the festive season to raise funds for the Echo Trust, a charity originally established by Luminar in 2002 to grant awards to local children’s charities. Over the past 12 years, the Echo Trust has raised nearly £3 million and supported a huge range of causes ranging from children’s hospitals to charity groups. The top three fundraising clubs were Liquid Leicester, Liquid Wrexham and Pryzm Cardiff, which claimed the number one spot, collecting over £1,600 for the charity. Russell Margerrison, Luminar’s chief financial officer said: “Our Give A Kid A Quid campaign really touched the hearts of our customers this year, who dug deep and helped raised this impressive amount for the Echo Trust. The money will be distributed to worthy local causes that are important to our customers; it’s a great way for our clubs to make a simple difference to the communities they operate in.”

Liverpool Craft Beer Co to open bar and bottle shop next month: Liverpool Craft Beer Co is to move to a new brewery and open its own bar. Paul Seiffert and Terry Langton opened their business in 2011 in a railway arch just north of the city centre. In February, the firm will start its move to a new home in the Baltic Triangle. Seiffert said: “It’s going to include a brewery, a bar, and a visitor centre and a bottle shop. We’ve had the building since May, but we’ve been waiting to structural work to finish. We want to be more public-facing and more visible in the city centre.”

Champagne bar/Italian takes former La Tasca site in Leicester: Champagne bar Mr Bojangles and Italian restaurant Vitruvius have opened in the former La Tasca site in Leicester’s Granby Street. Alexandra Marcu and Tony Singh, who own Vitruvius restaurant in Mountsorrel, opened the second branch of the restaurant earlier this month. Singh said: “We found there is nowhere in Leicester to take middle-aged people, especially when it comes to hosting celebrations. So we decided to open our own restaurant and champagne bar. We’re trying not to get the younger crowd in because they have a wide selection of different places they can go already. We’re aiming for the middle-aged customers at the moment.” Meanwhile Bally Pottiwal and Dr Rajiv Wadhwa are to open Whipee Gelato, in Granby Street, next month. About £300,000 has been spent refitting the former Jessops store. Around 25 jobs have been created. Pottiwal said: “Rajiv and I are good friends and have been investing in property together for the last ten years. We decided to open our first Whipee Gelato because of our love for traditional Italian gelato. We believe gelato is the next coffee-like craze. Having seen the success of how Starbucks Americanised coffee, we thought we could do the same with gelato. We decided to open Whipee Gelato in Leicester because it is a thriving city.”

Pan Chai opens at Bicester Village: Pan Chai, the healthy Asian food offer located at Harrods, has opened a pop-up at the Bicester shopping village. The brand has opened a down-sized version called Pan Chai Petite.

Euro Garages boosted by foodservice expansion: Euro Garages, the petrol forecourt and service station operator, has reported a £200m boost to turnover, aided by expansion to its foodservice offer and acquisitions. The company, which last year bought 48 sites from Esso, has also increased pre-tax profit by 80% as a rising number of drivers buy food and drink from forecourt brands such as Subway and Greggs. In the year to 31 July 2014, turnover grew to £646.3m, up from £438.5m a year earlier. Fuel sales made up the bulk of total sales at £540m, although there was a rise of £33m to £106.2m in shop and food revenues. The growth in turnover came as pre-tax profit jumped from £8.5m to £15.3m. Operating profit grew from £12.4m to £20.2m. In recent years, it has expanded its offer by adding food outlets such as Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and Greggs to its forecourts. The business has also completed two substantial deals in the past two years, buying a total of 93 sites from Esso. Writing in its annual report, the company stated that Euro Garages had made “excellent progress” in growing sales from its existing estate and improving margins. The company added: “This is underpinned by the ongoing quality of our forecourt offering, the strength of partnership brands, value for money proposition and the standard of customer service delivered by our people on the front line. Innovations on the forecourt and the introduction of new service offerings together with the growing local convenience market assist the business to expand the estate across the UK.”

Planning granted for three new hotels in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter: Major hotel operators could add more than 500 new rooms to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter with the development of three new hotels. Planning permission has been granted for the hotels in the vicinity of the city’s flagship waterside tourist attraction, Titanic Belfast. The largest is for a 244-bedroom location. The other successful applications also include 155 and 120-room hotels – both in the vicinity of Titanic Belfast. It could increase the number of beds in the city by a fifth and see hundreds of jobs being created once building gets under way. The successful planning applications for the developments were made by Titanic Quarter – with the new hotels set to range from three to five-star hotels. It’s understood a number of major international companies are in early discussions to take on the three hotel sites.

Multi-site companies sign up for Professor Chris Edger’s Multi-Site Management Masterclass: A host of multi-site companies have signed up for Professor Chris Edger, Multi-Site Management Masterclass, being held in partnership with Propel, on Tuesday 24 February at One Moorgate Place, in the City of London. They include: Wahaca, Boston Tea Party, Burger & Lobster, Paul UK, Beds and Bars, Columbo Group, McMullen, McManus Pub Company, Meatailer, Intertain, Eddie Rockets, Amber Taverns, City Pub Company, Jamie Oliver, Rhode Island Coffee, My Lahore, Little Gems Country Dining, Porkys, Antic London, Star Pubs and Bars and Bill’s. 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. CLICK HERE for more details or email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com to book.
 
G1 Group repays £411,000 of training cash after irregularities: G1 Group, Scotland’s largest independent managed operator led by Stefan King, has admitted financial irregularities in respect of public money claimed for training and repaid a sum of £411,000, The Herald Scotland has reported. An investigation by funder Skills Development Scotland discovered large sums of money that had been incorrectly paid to G1’s training company. Alex Johnstone, Scottish Conservative MSP, told the newspaper: “This is a shocking revelation which begs more questions than it answers. How was this company able to make ineligible claims for public funding for so long? And, more worryingly, is this happening elsewhere? The Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland need to assure the public that this outrageous episode is a one-off, and not something more endemic.” A spokesman for Skills Development Scotland (SDS) added: “A recent investigation into the G1 Group identified that they had made a total of £411,834 of incorrect claims. Following the investigation, during which time all contracts were suspended, SDS secured repayment of the entire £411,834. In line with SDS protocols, in the current financial year no contracts for new activity were awarded to the G1 Group. SDS has a robust compliance system in place to monitor training providers to ensure value for money for the public purse.” A spokesman for G1 told the Herald Scotland: “In early 2013, G1 fully co-operated with an investigation carried out by Skills Development Scotland. The outcome of this investigation showed that our training company, Host plc, had trained candidates in 2012 across Scotland and claimed funding from SDS when some of these candidates did not meet the criteria and therefore were ineligible for funding. The investigation highlighted some areas in which our business didn’t have full operational oversight which could allow for an environment for a rogue employee to operate without knowledge of senior management. As part of the conclusion of the investigation G1 Group Plc agreed to fully repay all monies wrongly claimed and have since continued to operate our training business in accordance to the recommended changes.” G1 Group reported pre-tax profit of £11,208,983 in the year to 31 March 2014, up from £10,874,798 the year before. Turnover grew to £67,352,319 from £66,317,891 the year before. Ebitda was up by £900,000 to £17,200,000. Chairman Brian McGhee reported in October that acquisition activity is now picking up for the company. In September 2014, the company bought four restaurants in St Andrew including the House Group’s Doll’s House, The Grill House and the Glass House – to add to its existing three there – plus a site in Stirling at a cost of “in excess of £2m”. 

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