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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 12th Feb 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pub and restaurant like-for-likes rose 1.4% in January: Restaurant and managed pub groups saw collective like-for-like sales edge up 1.4% in January, despite the impact of the snow and cold weather that gripped much of Britain during the month. Latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker showed that the public continued to go out and especially to eat at branded restaurant chains. Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS, said: “Trading in the early part of the month suggested that January might have finished down on the same month last year, but a late surge in business saw the sector remain in positive growth. Perhaps it was down to the pay-day effect or just people tiring of ‘dry’ January, but the sector and in particular restaurants saw the benefit.” January became the 22nd consecutive month of positive like-for-like growth recorded by the tracker. Martin said: “The bad weather obviously had an impact, with sales only just ahead of last January, but the positive sales momentum remains there. Pub group sales were essentially flat for the month, up just 0.2%. However, restaurant groups, perhaps not as badly affected by weather, enjoyed a 4.1% like-for-like increase for the month, with particularly strong trading outside of London. It’s clear that eating out is now engrained in the British way of life, and among the pub groups in our sample, food sales outstripped drink in January – up 2.8% against a 1.2% fall in drinks sales.” Total sales, which include the impact of new openings, were up 5.8% against last January across the 30 restaurant, bar and pub companies in the tracker sample. Trading in London was only marginally ahead of the rest of the country during January, up 1.8% against 1.3% outside the M25. David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: “These figures reflect the continuing demand for drink-led venues to include a substantial food offer and that these are becoming more sophisticated with increasingly interesting food and also drinks menus. The quality of product now available across a wide range of operations, especially in central London, and to an ever greater extent outside of London, is galvanising the public’s interest in one-stop venues. We believe this will continue until ultimately there will be a virtually comprehensive merge of both. Demand for premises both in the capital and in important suburban and provincial centres is at an unprecedented level – the highest in our 50 years involvement in the market.”
 

Industry News:

More than 340 booked in for Propel Multi Club Conference in March, eight places left: More than 340 places are now booked for the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2015 held on Thursday 12 March at the Lancaster Hotel, London – CLICK HERE  to see the full programme and timings. There are just eight places left. Operators of multi-site companies can claim two free places by emailing adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com

McDonald’s attempts to block 37-year-old Irish firm Supermac’s EU expansion:
McDonald's has lodged a 41-page objection to the Irish restaurant chain Supermac's plan to use the Supermac's name across the EU. Supermac’s runs 100 family restaurants in Ireland serving chicken and burgers. A number of sites also serve Papa John’s pizza. McDonald's has lodged the objection to the EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market against Supermac's (Holdings)'s application to register the Supermac's trademark in the EU. McDonald's has also put on hold plans by the Galway-based firm to use the Supermac's name in Australia by objecting to its trademark there. Pat McDonagh started his fast food business in 1978 in Galway and has since launched the Mighty Mac double burger and the Chicken Snack Box. McDonald's claims that the Irish firm using the name Supermac's in the EU would "take unfair advantage of the distinctive character and repute of" McDonald's earlier-won trademarks. McDonagh said: “I am surprised by the points submitted by McDonald’s in objection to our expansion into the EU. The strongest point they make is that there may be confusion between the Supermac’s name and their own name. Supermac’s and McDonald’s have grown and coexisted together within the family restaurant business in Ireland since 1978. As two very distinctive brands with immediately identifiable menus and a clear difference in ingredients and taste there has never been any confusion for our customers.”

Domino’s Pizza UK predicts 26% Valentine’s Day sales surge: Domino’s Pizza UK has predicted a 26% sales uplift on Valentine’s Day this Saturday. An estimated four million slices of pizza will be delivered, with the busiest time for orders is expected to be around 7pm. Simon Wallis, marketing director at Domino’s Pizza UK, said: “Over the past few years, we’ve noticed customers across the country are shunning overpriced and overcrowded restaurants in favour of staying indoors to enjoy a night of ‘pepperoni passion’ with their special someone.”
 
Operators warned of dangers in 'breathalyse all customers' schemes: Schemes where pubs and clubs voluntarily sign up to breathalyse their customers on entry and refuse admission to anyone who fails the test set a dangerous precedent, operators have been warned. More than 40 pubs have signed up to such a scheme in Birmingham, after trials in Norwich, Durham and elsewhere. However, licensing solicitor John Gaunt said: "To us, this seems a dangerous precedent. It removes the discretion on admission from door staff, it could be a catalyst for confrontation, a failure to pass the test should not necessarily lead to a presumption of being drunk – and whereas the threshold is currently set at twice the drink drive limit, what is to prevent this being reduced once a scheme is established? Operators should proceed with care, and with the benefit of legal advice if desired, in contemplating the introduction or imposition of breathalysers at their premises."
 
Tesco moves back into sales growth: The supermarket chain Tesco has recorded sales growth for the first time since January last year. Sales at Tesco increased by 0.3% for the 12 weeks to 1 February, the first growth since January 2014, according to Kantar Worldpanel. The grocer attracted 236,000 shoppers into its stores over the past 12 weeks, in fresh evidence that the efforts by new chief executive Dave Lewis to overhaul the chain is beginning to pay off. However, Tesco's overall market share fell to 29%, down by 0.2% on the year before.
 
Plan submitted for central London’s first 24-hour casino: Central London could have its first Las Vegas-style 24-hour casino, under plans that have left residents furious. Genting Casinos wants to create a 30,000 sq ft venue at the Holiday Inn on Cromwell Road, South Kensington, which is bordered on three sides by homes. A local group, the Thurloe Residents’ Association, said there was “bound to be a detrimental impact” on those who live nearby.
 

Company News:

Snug Bars targets 15 sites a Kevin Bacon joins the board: Giles Fry, managing director of the Snug chain of all-day bars, has hailed new board member Kevin Bacon, who ran Frankie & Benny's, Chiquitos, Garfunkles and Brunning and Price for the Restaurant Group, for giving the company the confidence to believe it can put on a spurt of growth as it celebrates its tenth anniversary. Snug, which now has six outlets, has another two lined up, with two more on the horizon, and is hoping to hit ten venues by the end of this year. Fry told Propel: "It would be great, as we celebrate our tenth anniversary year, to get to ten sites. One of the main reasons why we feel confident about this growth spurt is that we've now got an industry mentor on our board, Kevin Bacon, who is a great sounding board for us. He's a  really fantastic mentor. He's dealing with projects that are way above what we would necessarily be doing, but he has very graciously agreed to come and join us, sit on our board and offer advice." Fry said this financial year Snug should be able to break the £4m turnover barrier, "with every intention of extending that by at least £1.5m in the following year." Twelve months of refurbishment work at the company's second site in Cambridge ended with it reopening earlier this month, "and we've had a roaring success at that particular site over the past week and a half," he said. Currently all the company's sites are leasehold, a mixture of pubco leases – Enterprise and Hawthorne Leisure – and private leases, he said, and as Snug grows "we certainly feel that between now and 15 units, they'll all be along the lines of the leasehold model, so that we can expand using our own cashflow and also bank finance to get us into the position that we're looking for. So we wouldn't be looking to get in to any bricks-and-mortar or freehold site." The company is looking to concentrate its expansion on the area within a 40-minute drive of its HQ in St Albans, "but if something came up that was a bit more of a stretch, over to the west of the country, or perhaps down further south, then we would certainly consider that, and certainly we're in a flexible enough position to be able to consider them quite seriously," Fry said.

Burger King UK – ‘we’ve refranchised all our UK restaurants to close the sales gap with competitors’: Burger King UK has belatedly filed accounts for 2013, the year after it refranchised its entire estate of circa 520 sites. The company reported a loss of £3m, down from £4m the year before. The company had income of £12.6m from property rental and service charges. The company had a vacant property provision of £2.7m relating to vacant property costs (£2.3m) and store closure provision of £399,000. The company has net current liabilities of £26m (2012: £22.5m) and is “dependent on the continued support provided by its parent company to enable it to continue trading as going concern”. The accounts state: “We refranchised all our company restaurants by 30 October 2012. Burger King believes that a franchise-dominated business model will increase profitability and cash flow since the capital required to expand the restaurant portfolio and re-image and maintain existing Burger King restaurants will principally be provided by its franchisees. Further, Burger King believes a shift away from significant restaurant ownership will permit (us) to focus on narrowing the average restaurant sale gap with peers, through menu innovation, franchisee operational support and brand development.”

BrewDog opens site in Spain, readies second Leeds site: The Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its first bar in Spain with launch of BrewDog Barcelona. The Spanish site is also the first bar to be launched by the maverick brewery this year, bringing the total bar count to 26. The site, on Carrer de Casanova, Barcelona, is in a former bank building, and the bulletproof glass showcase serves as a vestige of the building’s prior use. The bar has capacity for 100 people and will serve 20 beers on tap. It will give a nod to its host city, serving a selection of craft beers from Barcelona and the rest of Spain, as well as renowned breweries from around the world. Regular “Meet the Brewer” events will also be held in the bar, allowing customers the chance to meet some brewers from Spain and the rest of the world. BrewDog's co-founder, James Watt, said: “The demand for craft beer in Spain has been growing year on year, and our exports to the country also reflect this trend. We have listened to the fans and set up our first outpost in the Iberian peninsula.” Meanwhile, BrewDog has signed a 25-year lease on a 4,060 sq ft unit at Crispin Lofts in Leeds city centre. The bar is arranged over two floors, and has a prominent curved glass front that spans its entire corner position. BrewDog already has a bar in Leeds, at White Cloth Hall, which opened in March 2013. Watt said: "Leeds city centre has a strong brewing history of its own, and the response to BrewDog's existing bar in the city has been awesome. The Crispin Lofts unit occupies a prominent position in a historic building and gives us a brilliant blank canvas to launch our second craft beer venue in Leeds, making it a very exciting prospect for both BrewDog and the city's drinks scene as a whole."
 
Wetherspoon submits plans for £1m Beverley pub redevelopment: JD Wetherspoon has submitted plans for a £1m refurbishment of one of the most popular pubs in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The plans include converting the Cross Keys pub and Siam Star restaurant, in Lairgate, into one building. Wetherspoon confirmed it had leased the Cross Keys in December 2013, after months of speculation. An application was delayed due to concerns over the company's plans for the grade two listed buildings. A revised application has now been submitted and welcomed by East Riding councillor Kerri Harold, who represents the Minster and Woodmansey area. Harold said: "The Cross Keys is not only a listed building, but it is in a conservation area and, therefore, Wetherspoon has had to make sure all its alterations are in keeping with the area and will not have a detrimental impact on the building, hence the delay.

Coffee shop hybrid plans fourth opening, this time in Cardiff: Artigiano, which runs three coffee bars in the City of London, Reading and Exeter that transforms into wine bars in the evenings, plans to open in two premises in Cardiff city centre. It has submitted plans to Cardiff Council to take over an empty retail unit in Queen Street, opposite the Capitol Shopping Centre. As well as coffee, teas, juices and pastries, the chain also sells a range of cocktails and craft beers, and hosts live acoustic music and DJ sessions in the evenings. Artigiano’s Stephen Keough said: “We sometimes have local musicians in and this has worked well in Exeter and Reading.” Artigiano said it wants to undertake a complete refit of the inside of the property and also open up the first floor to customers.
 
PizzaExpress to open flagship Leicester Square site tomorrow: PizzaExpress is to open a new 146-cover flagship site in Leicester Square, Central London tomorrow (13 February). The company said the new outlet "introduces new stylistic elements, while staying true to the principles set out by its first interior designer, Enzo Apicella. The internal design is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the traditional London pub.” PizzaExpress's head of design, Jonathan Griffiths, said: “We’ve always viewed ourselves as the custodians of the fantastic buildings we work in, creating designs that celebrate the space as well as their heritage. Our Leicester Square restaurant is a great example of how we’ve married the needs of the building with Enzo’s eye for creating spaces that people want to inhabit.”

New World Trading Company to open in Birmingham in March: New World Trading Company is set to arrive will open it’s the Botanist site in Birmingham in March. Located on Temple Street, the 5,000 sq ft pub and restaurant will create 100 new jobs in the region – with an £80,000 investment in staff training. Serving botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales along with deli and rotisserie inspired food, the Birmingham venue is the UK’s sixth Botanist and will mark the company’s expansion into the Midlands, alongside its offerings in Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Chester and Alderley Edge. New World Trading Company managing director Chris Hill said: “The eclectic food and drink offering in Birmingham has a great reputation, which is why we’ve chosen to make the city the newest destination for The Botanist. We’ve had great success in the north east and north west and are looking forward to making our mark in the second city.”

New Inventive attempts to get Revolucion de Cuba pipeline started by conceding an hour at new Reading site: New Inventive Bar Company was hoping yesterday that a plan for a new Revolucion de Cuba site in Reading, part of new pipeline of sites, in this case a conversion of a former HMV shop, would be backed by planners. Reading Council's planning committee deferred the application for the change of use of the building from a shop to a bar to try to persuade the applicants to cut the opening hours back from 2am to midnight. Members were concerned the premises in Friar Street "should not be or become a nightclub". Inventive originally proposed opening hours of 10am to 2am. A report to the planning committee reveals the applicants have made a concession and are suggesting closing at 1am from Sunday to Wednesday, remaining open until 2am over the weekend. The company argued that a midnight closing was too early.
 
Punch reports 250th new licensee support launch: Punch Taverns’ new business team has now supported its 250th licensee with a new business launch. When Trish and Jonny Smith took over the Coachmakers Arms in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire  in October last year, they were industry newcomers. Support from Punch Taverns began with n reinvestment in their premises of more than £125,000. However, Punch said, it was the high levels of support the couple got from the new business team, led by operations director Paul Pavli, that got their business off to a flying start. Recent figures show sales are 34% higher than projected. Pavli said: “Our recruitment process is successfully identifying people who have the potential to be great partners – whether or not they have experience. Trish and Jonny are a great example of this. Since we set it up in 2013, the new business team has proved that if you support partners in those critical early months, it makes a significant difference. We oversee the reinvestment works, assist with the launch, help partners get their catering offer, marketing and merchandising right – and crucially make sure they get off to a strong start with their financial controls."

Entrepreneur partners college at new restaurant: Entrepreneur Lee Gigney has partnered East Berkshire College to open Gigney’s in Windsor, Berkshire, which will be staffed in part by apprentices who will combine work with studying at the college’s hospitality and catering academy. Gigney said: “Confidence is key with these young chefs and working under an experienced team they are only going to get better and better. Gigney’s and EBC have partnered the likes of Stoke Park, Oakley Court Hotel, Macdonald Windsor Hotel, Savill Court, and the Sir Christopher Wren hotel in Windsor, among others, which will monitor the young staff, give them shifts in their kitchens and, hopefully, recruit them, making space at Gigney’s for the next batch of youngsters to go through. The restaurant will also plough 30% of its profits back into EBC. The restaurant, based at the former Crème site on a 10-year lease, can sit between 40 and 50 people and will use locally sourced produce and products as much as possible.
 
Greene King to open £2m Hungry Horse in Inverclyde today: Greene King is to open a £2m new-build Hungry Horse site, called Tail O the Bank, in Greenock, Inverclyde today. The Rue End Street pub restaurant, on land between East India and Victoria harbours, has created 40 new full and part-time jobs. Its interior will pay homage to people who worked on the waterfront in the past during the town’s trading and maritime boom. Meanwhile, Greene King has opened a Hungry Horse pub, The Hardy Pick, on a former brownfield site Broadfields Business Park, Broadfield Road, Heeley, Sheffield. The new building sits on land formerly occupied by the Hardy Patent Pick company, which manufactured high-class machines and tools for the mining and railway industries. As a consequence the brownfield site required work to remove asbestos and contaminated ground before construction and the interior fit-out of the pub could begin.
 
Star Pubs and Bars lessee takes on second site with planned transformational refurbishment: After a "transformational" investment in the Yew Tree in Preston, Lancashire in 2013, which has seen trade increase fivefold, Star Pubs & Bars lessee Mike Reeve plans to repeat his success with a second Star pub, the Plough at Euxton, near Chorley, Lancashire, which also has a refurbishment planned. The Plough will see a joint £270,000 investment to turn it into what Punch claims will be "one of the best food pubs in the area", as well as screening live sport. Work on the Plough has begun and it will re-open early March creating 25 new jobs. Chris Jowsey, trading director of Star Pubs & Bars, said: “We’re delighted that an experienced and successful pub operator like Mike has taken on the Plough and that together we are investing in its long term future. Mike was chosen as a runner-up not just once but twice at the national Star awards at the end of last year out of 1,100 pubs, for the 'Best Use of Social Media' and 'Best Team Training' awards in recognition of his high standards and great marketing skills. The Plough is a wonderful pub with lots of potential. With Mike at the helm together with great quality food, beer, cider and coffee, it will, I am sure, become a much visited pub.”
 
Hickory's Smokehouse eyes takeover of Chef & Brewer pub: Hickory’s Smokehouse, which has restaurants in Chester, West Kirby and Rhos-on-Sea in North Wales and saw investment from Piper Private Equity last year, is in negotiations to take on a Chef & Brewer outlet, the Unicorn Inn on Adlington Road, Wilmslow, Cheshire, and extend it to create a new branch of the business. Gary Carter, one of Hickory’s directors, said: “I’m from Wilmslow and still have family in the area so know how important it is that the pub remains a hub for the community. We want to maintain the integrity of the original building.” However, there has been opposition from locals, who want to keep a traditional pub and protect the 300-year-old building. A petition on change.org has been signed by more than 80 people. Joanne Waggitt, also from Wilmslow, said an American restaurant would not meet the needs of the community, adding: “Why remove yet another traditional, semi-rural pub and replace it with an American concept – this is not America.” Hickory's Smokehouse has now met residents at a meeting of Wilmslow Town Council’s planning committee, which was discussing a planning application for the proposal. Spirit Pub Company, which owns the Unicorn Inn, said: “We are currently investigating a number of potential business opportunities for the Unicorn. As we are in the very early stages it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time. We would like to reassure all guests that, until further notice, it is business as usual at the pub.”
 
Hopcraft-Pixie Spring brewery to open Hopbunker craft beer bar in Cardiff: The Hopcraft-Pixie Spring brewery in Pontyclun, South Wales is to open its own craft beer bar under the name Hopbunker in Cardiff. The site, in a concrete basement under student flats by Cardiff Castle, was previously the Barfly rock club, which closed in 2010, to be replaced by another club, Bogiez, which closed in 2013. Gazza Prescott of Hopcraft-Pixie Spring said the brewery had been looking for a suitable venue for a bar in Cardiff for a while due to the difficulty in getting their beers into a city which is “almost locked down” by “the Brains monolith”. He said: “After a few false starts and letdowns, the old Barfly/Bogiez rockclub was identified as a potential location and, after a bit of negotiation, we signed on the line in late 2014. “Numerous problems followed, from late-running builders, faulty drains, access problems and disputes of various types, but we are now fitting out the bar and hope to be in a position to open in late March 2015 although, as is the way of these things, this date may slip a bit. The name of the bar, Hopbunker, sprung to mind as soon as we saw the place – it really is like a concrete nuclear bunker down there, which we think gives it a lot of character and a big difference to other bars in town. We’re hoping to add to Cardiff’s burgeoning beer scene which has come on apace in the last five years, with small brewers now challenging the dominance of Brains and, more importantly, people choosing to drink craft beer rather than sticking with the same old beers."
 
McDonald’s reduces calories and salt content in India: McDonald’s is cutting the amount of calories and salt on its Indian menu as it fights to hold on to customers in a rapidly growing developing market where newer, healthier fast-food options are just starting to catch on. Amit Jatia, vice-president of one of India's two main McDonald's franchisees, said that changes to reduce sodium and calories in fries, buns and sauces had been done gradually, and were subtle enough to keep taste consistent and customers happy. McDonald's in India has cut sodium in its sauces and buns by 10% and in fries by 20%t, Jatia said. Calories in sauces are down by 30 to 40% over the past six months. Jatia heads the south and western McDonald's franchisees in India, running 202 stores and 30 cafes. Another group controls the north and east, with 166 restaurants.

Hard Rock Café ticked off over Twitter competitions: The Hard Rock Café in London has been ticked off by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over its use of Twitter competitions. The brand drew three complaints to the ASA over two promotional tweets that it sent out. The first post read: “@HardRockLondon A cheeky #WinWednesday for you – tell us your dream Burger topping to #WIN a meal for 2 @HardRockLondon #HappyHumpDay”. While the second post that received complaints stated: “@HardRockCafeMRC RT & follow @HardRockCafeMCR to win this T signed by @Slash & tix to see him @Phones4uArena #Manchester 28 Nov!” The complaints centred around the claim that conditions of promotions should have been provided, that some were omitted from posts and that the prizes were not awarded with the law of chance or by random results. The company claimed that it was operating under US or global Twitter guidelines and that because of the limited number of characters offered by the platform, it was unable to include terms and conditions. It added that it had halted Twitter prize promotions until the requirements of the CAP Code could be met and acknowledged that no closing date was included in the first promotion, but that another winner at random was selected and announced through Twitter.

Starbucks expands transport hub presence with Chatham opening: Starbucks is to expand its transport hub presence with an opening at Chatham railway station in Kent in the next couple of months, replacing Whistlestop newsagents. The company has begun the hiring process and is looking for permanent full-time staff. It will be open from 6am to 8pm, with a standard salary of £6.50 an hour. The opening is part of a swath of foodservice opening in the Medway towns that are seeing retail sector contraction. The move into Chatham comes after news that Tesco in The Brook is to close, with the loss of 120 jobs, as well as WH Smith in the Pentagon Centre. Other openings this year are the vintage tea room As Time Goes By, Brettingtons Steak and Lobster House and Crepe and Co Pancake Parlour, all in Rochester High Street.

Premier Inn wins permission for 127-room hotel on site of bowling alley: Whitbread's Premier Inn has been granted planning permission to build a 127-room hotel and a restaurant on the site of the Superbowl bowling alley in Sutton town centre, Surrey. The three-storey bowling alley building in St Nicholas Way will be torn down and replaced with a five-storey building with the ground floor in restaurant use. John Rumsey, acquisitions manager for Premier Inn, said the new hotel would deliver more than £13m in fresh investment for the area and employ up to 70 people. Richard Clifton, chairman of Sutton's planning committee, said: “There is a shortage of hotel accommodation in the town centre and this will go some way towards improving the attractiveness of the area for business and leisure visitors."
 
Barnaby Meredith plans May opening for new pizza concept: The multi-site pub operator Barnaby Meredith will open his new pizza concept PizzaBuzz in the Alphabeta development on Worship Street in the City of London in May. Meredith’s company, the Meredith Group, operates two Central London pubs, the Portman in Marylebone and the Only Running Footman in Mayfair. The new 3,500 sq ft, 85-cover restaurant will serve customised pizzas, salads and drinks to eat in, take-away or have delivered to desk or dining table. Meredith said: “The Alphabeta building is rapidly becoming internationally recognised as the centre for creative and commercial innovation in London and we are excited to be part of this process. Our wood-fired pizzas will offer a quick, delicious slice of awesomeness throughout the day and we can’t wait to open our doors.”
 
Restaurant company launches digital guide to Japanese food: The London-based Japanese restaurant group Shoryu Ramen has released A Guide to Japanese Food in 90 seconds, a series of short digital films which provide key facts, information and trivia. The videos are available to view on Shoryu Ramen’s website, and through its Facebook page and can be downloaded on iTunes. A Guide to Japanese Food in 90 Seconds has been produced by the multi-media agency Me:Mo Interactive, and its digital content arm Me:Mo TV, whose clients include Channel 4 television, and is one of iTunes UK’s featured producers. The Shoryu Ramen restaurant group was launched in 2012 and is owned by the Japan Centre’s chief executive, Tak Tokumine. Shoryu Ramen has three sites in Central London, in Regent Street, Soho and Kingly Court, as well as Shoryu Go, a tonkotsu ramen take-out bar on Air Street, Soho.

Wetherspoon seeks outdoors bar at Kettering pub:
JD Wetherspoon wants to convert the car park and outbuildings at the Earl of Dalkeith, in Dalkeith Place, Kettering, Northamptonshire into an external seating area which will have its own outside bar. The planning application element of the scheme, which has been recommended for approval by planning officers, is due to be considered by Kettering Council’s planning committee this week. A separate licensing application last month, seeking permission to sell alcohol at the external bar, ran into objections from Kettering Council’s environmental health team and Northamptonshire Police. At the time, police said they did not believe the pub employed enough door staff in the evenings and that people banned from other town premises by the Pubwatch scheme, of which the Earl of Dalkeith is a member, had been seen drinking at the venue. However, a fresh licensing application has now been submitted, and Wetherspoon said: “We are pleased however that we have reached agreement with Northamptonshire Police, who are now happy with our plans.”
 
Huddersfield pub sells Polish real ale brewed by Englishman: A pub in Huddersfield, the Dusty Miller, is selling cask beer from what is believed to be the only real ale brewery in Poland. The beer comes from the TEA Time Brewpub in Krakow, Poland, which is run by James Eastwood, brewer Jacek Spiewak and his wife Sylwia. Eastwood, whose father John Eastwood used to brew at the Dusty Miller, on Gilead Road, Longwood, said: “Many people in England were disappointed when my dad John retired from brewing a few years ago. Now we are re-creating those legendary beers, this time in Poland. Traditional real ale is the best beer in the world, but it was not being brewed in Poland. No other type of beer allows the drinker to enjoy the full range of flavours and aromas, so we wanted to change that situation”. The first beer from the TEA Time brewery – which stands for "traditional English ale" – to go on sale at the Dusty Miller is Black Prince, a 5.8% porter.
 
Nick Batram – Domino’s Poland has reached the point of inflection: Peel Hunt's leisure analyst Nick Batram has argued that Domino’s Pizza’s Polish business has now reached the point of inflection. He said: "2014 looks as if it was a point of inflection for DP Poland. The decision temporarily to slow the roll-out, to focus on getting the core proposition right, has been vindicated by accelerated top-line growth and mature stores moving into profitability. Furthermore, a franchisee base has now been established, essential if the long-term potential is to be captured. There is still much to be done but today’s update shows promising progress. Total system sales in local currency were up 35% to 20.4m zloty, with LFLs up 19%, representing an increase on the 13% reported at the half year. LFL sales were driven by a 19% increase in volumes, again an improvement on H1 (up 11%). Q4 represented the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit LFL sales growth. Current trading is also strong, with LFL system sales up 18% in January. In total, including franchisees, the overall store portfolio traded profitably at the Ebitda level in Q4. This is the first time this has happened and is partly a reflection of the top-line expansion, but also a tighter focus on costs. The top three stores returned an average Ebitda of £24,000 over 2014 and we believe the Q4 run-rate would have been close to £40,000. The decision to slow the roll-out in order to focus on getting the core proposition right meant that just two new stores were opened in 2014. However, the subsequent performance of the business means management is confident of stepping up the roll-out from here. We now expect around nine new openings in 2015, with the assumption that these are corporate stores. The view is that the franchisees will bed in the recently acquired (from DPP) stores before taking on more in 2016 and beyond. The slowing of the roll-out and the disposal of stores to franchisees meant that the shape of the business at the end of 2014 was very different from what we expected at the beginning of the year; hence we suspended our forecasts post the stores disposal. We have always been confident that Domino’s Pizza will succeed in Poland and that it was merely a question of how long and how much it would cost to get there. DPP has made real progress through 2014 and, while there are still many challenges, the business is much closer to proving itself both in terms of the Polish consumer and as an investment proposition. We continue to see the potential for up to 200 stores and this should be seen in the context of a current equity value of just £9m.”

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